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Title: Hildegarde's Home
Author: Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe, 1850-1943
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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HILDEGARDE'S HOME

[Illustration: HILDEGARDE AND THE CHINA POTS.--_Frontispiece._]



HILDEGARDE'S HOME

BY

LAURA E. RICHARDS

AUTHOR OF "QUEEN HILDEGARDE," "HILDEGARDE'S HOLIDAY," "CAPTAIN JANUARY,"
ETC.

ILLUSTRATED

          BOSTON
          ESTES AND LAURIAT
          PUBLISHERS



          COPYRIGHT, 1892,
          BY ESTES AND LAURIAT.
          TYPOGRAPHY BY J. S. CUSHING & CO., BOSTON.



CONTENTS.


          CHAPTER                         PAGE
             I. THE HOME ITSELF             11
            II. A DISH OF GOSSIP            33
           III. MORNING HOURS               51
            IV. A WALK AND AN ADVENTURE     71
             V. UNCLE AND NEPHEW           100
            VI. COUSIN JACK                120
           VII. MISS AGATHA'S CABINET      137
          VIII. THE POPLARS                155
            IX. THE COUSINS                179
             X. BONNY SIR HUGH             198
            XI. A CALL AND A CONSPIRACY    216
           XII. THE SECOND ACT             234
          XIII. A PICNIC                   255
           XIV. OVER THE JAM-POTS          281
            XV. AT THE BROWN COTTAGE       292
           XVI. GOOD-BY!                   309



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                           PAGE
  HILDEGARDE AND THE CHINA POTS                   _Frontispiece_
  "IT WAS VERY PLEASANT UP IN THIS AIRY BOWER"               81
  "JACK FERRERS APPEARED CARRYING A HUGE BUNCH OF ROSES"    121
  "HILDEGARDE HAD BEEN MAKING FRIENDS WITH MERLIN"          175
  HILDEGARDE FINDING HUGH AND MERLIN BY THE BROOK           201
  HUGH AND COLONEL FERRERS                                  249
  OVER THE JAM POTS                                         280
  "HE GAVE ME A LUNGE IN QUART"                             301



HILDEGARDE'S HOME.



CHAPTER I.

THE HOME ITSELF.


IT was a pleasant place. The house was a large, low, old-fashioned one,
with the modern addition of a deep, wide verandah running across its
front. Before it was a circular sweep of lawn, fringed with trees;
beside it stood a few noble elms, which bent lovingly above the gambrel
roof. There were some flower-beds, rather neglected-looking, under the
south windows, and there was a kitchen-garden behind the house. This was
all that Hildegarde Grahame had seen so far of her new home, for she had
only just arrived. She stood now on the verandah, looking about her
with keen, inquiring eyes, a tall, graceful girl, very erect, with a
certain proud carriage of the head. Her dress of black and white
shepherd's plaid was very simple, but it fitted to perfection, and there
was a decided "air" to her little black felt hat.

Hildegarde's father had died about six months before the time our story
opens. He had been very wealthy, but many of his investments had shrunk
in value, and the failure of a bank whose cashier had proved dishonest
entailed heavy losses upon him; so that, after his death, it was found
that the sum remaining for his widow and only child, after all debts
were paid, was no very large one. They would have enough to live on, and
to live comfortably; but the "big luxuries," as Hildegarde called them,
the horses and carriages, the great New York house with its splendid
furniture and troops of servants, must go; and go they did, without
loss of time. Perhaps neither Hildegarde nor her mother regretted these
things much. Mrs. Grahame had been for years an indefatigable worker,
giving most of her time to charities; she knew that she should never
rest so long as she lived in New York. Hildegarde had been much in the
country during the past two years, had learned to love it greatly, and
found city life too "cabined, cribbed, confined," to suit her present
taste. The dear father had always preferred to live in town; but now
that he was gone, they were both glad to go away from the great,
bustling, noisy, splendid place. So, when Mrs. Grahame's lawyer told her
that an aged relative, who had lately died, had left his country house
as a legacy to her, both she and Hildegarde said at once, "Let us go and
live there!"

Accordingly, here they were! or to speak more accurately, here
Hildegarde was, for she and auntie (auntie was the black cook; she had
been Mrs. Grahame's nurse, and had been cook ever since Hildegarde was a
baby) had come by an early train, and were to have everything as
comfortable as might be by the time Mrs. Grahame and the little
housemaid, who had stayed to help her pack the last trifles, should
arrive in the afternoon.

It was so pleasant on the wide verandah, with the great elms nodding
over it, that Hildegarde lingered, until a mellow "Miss Hildy, chile!
you comin'?" summoned her in-doors. Auntie had already put on her white
jacket and apron, without which she never considered herself dressed,
and her muslin turban looked like a snow-drift on an ebony statue. She
had opened the door of a large room, and was peering into it, feather
duster in hand.

"'Spose this is the parlour!" she said, with a glance of keen
observation. "Comicalest parlour ever I see!"

Hildegarde stepped lightly across the threshold. It _was_ a singular
room, but, she thought, a very pleasant one. The carpet on the floor was
thick and soft, of some eastern fabric, but so faded that the colours
were hardly distinguishable. Against the walls stood many chairs,
delicate, spider-legged affairs, with cushions of faded tapestry. The
curtains might once have been crimson, when they had any colour. A table
in the exact centre of the room was covered with a worked cloth of
curious and antique pattern, and on it were some venerable annuals, and
"Finden's Tableaux," bound in green morocco. In a dim corner stood the
great-grandmother of all pianos. It was hardly larger than a spinnet,
and was made of some light-coloured, highly polished wood, cunningly
inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl. Over the yellow keys was a
painting, representing Apollo (attired, to all appearance, like the "old
man on a hill," in his grandmother's gown), capering to the sound of his
lyre, and followed by nine young ladies in pink and green frocks. The
last young lady carried a parasol, showing that the Muses thought as
much of their complexions as other people do. At sight of this venerable
instrument Hildegarde uttered a cry of delight, and, running across the
room, touched a few chords softly. The sound was faint and tinkling, but
not unmusical. Auntie sniffed audibly.

"Reckon my kittle makes a better music 'an that!" she said; and then,
relenting, she added, "might ha' been pooty once, I dassay. That's a
pooty picture, anyhow, over the mankel-piece."

Hildegarde looked up, and saw a coloured print of a lady in the costume
of the First Empire, with golden ringlets, large blue eyes,
particularly round rosy cheeks, and the most amiable simper in the
world. Beneath was the inscription, "Madame Récamier, Napoleon's first
love."

"Oh!" cried Hildegarde, half-laughing, half-indignant, "how ridiculous!
She wasn't, you know! and she never looked like that, any more than I
do. But see, auntie! see this great picture of General Washington, in
his fine scarlet coat. I am sure you must admire that! Why!--it cannot
be--yes, it is! it is done in worsted-work. Fine cross-stitch, every
atom of it. Oh! it makes my eyes ache to think of it."

Auntie nodded approvingly. "That's what I call work!" she said. "That's
what young ladies used to do when I was a gal. Don't see no sech work
nowadays, only just a passel o' flowers and crooked lines, and calls it
embr'idery."

"Oh! you ungrateful old auntie," cried Hildegarde, "when I marked your
towels so beautifully last week. Here! since you are so fond of
cross-stitch, take this dreadful yellow sofa-pillow, with pink roses
worked on it. It will just fit your own beloved rocking-chair, with the
creak in it, and you may have it for your very own."

The pillow flew across the room, and auntie, catching it, disappeared
with a chuckle, while Hildegarde resumed her examination of the quaint
old parlour. The "cross-stitch" was everywhere: on the deep, comfortable
old sofa, where one leaned against a stag-hunt, and had a huntsman
blowing his horn on either arm; on the chairs, where one might sit on
baskets of flowers, dishes of fruit, or cherubs' heads, as one's fancy
dictated; on the long fender-stool, where an appalling line of dragons,
faintly red, on a ground that had been blue, gaped open-mouthed, as if
waiting to catch an unwary foot.

"Oh! their _poor_ eyes!" cried Hildegarde. "How _could_ their mothers
let them?" She passed her hand compassionately over the fine lines of
the stag-hunt. "Were they girls, do you suppose?" she went on, talking
to herself, as she was fond of doing. "Girls like me, or slender old
spinsters, like the chairs and the piano? Mamma must have known some of
them when she was a child; she said she had once made a visit here. I
must ask her all about them. Uncle Aytoun! what a pity he isn't alive,
to show us about his house! But if he were alive, we should not be here
at all. So nice of you to leave the house to mamma, dear sir, just as if
you had been her real uncle, instead of her father's cousin. You must
have been a very nice old gentleman. I like old gentlemen." The girl
paused, and presently gave an inquiring sniff. "What is it?" she said
meditatively. "Not exactly mould, for it is dry; not must, for it is
sweet. The smell of this particular room, for it, suits it exactly. It
is"--she sniffed again--"it is as if some Aytoun ladies before the flood
had made _pot-pourri_, and it had somehow kept dry. Let us examine this
matter!" She tiptoed about the room, and, going round the corner of the
great chimney, found a cupboard snugly tucked in beside it. She opened
it, with a delightful thrill of curiosity. Hildegarde did love
cupboards! Of course, there might be nothing at all--but there was
something! On the very first shelf stood a row of china pots, carefully
covered, and from these pots came the faint, peculiar perfume which
seemed so to form part of the faded charm of the room. The pots were of
delicate white porcelain, one with gold sprigs on it, one with blue
flowers, and one with pink. "Belonging to three Aytoun sisters!" said
Hildegarde. "Of course! dear things! If they had only written their
names on the jars!" She lifted the gold-sprigged jar with reverent
hands. Lo, and behold! On the cover was pasted a neat label, which said,
"Hester's recipe, June, 18--." She examined the other two jars eagerly.
They bore similar legends, with the names "Agatha" and "Barbara." On all
the writing was in minute but strongly marked characters; the three
hands were different, yet there was a marked resemblance. Hildegarde
stood almost abashed, as if she had found herself in presence of the
three ladies themselves. "The question is"--she murmured
apologetically--and then she stooped and sniffed carefully, critically,
at the three jars in turn. "There is no doubt about it!" she said at
last. "Hester's recipe is the best, for it has outlived the others, and
given its character to the whole room. Poor Miss Agatha and Miss
Barbara! How disappointed they would be!" As she closed the cupboard
softly and turned away, it almost seemed--almost, but not quite, for
though Hildegarde had a lively imagination, she was not at all
superstitious--as though she heard a faint sigh, and saw the shadowy
forms of the three Aytoun sisters turning away sadly from the cupboard
where their treasure was kept. The shadow was her own, the sigh was that
of an evening breeze as it stole in between the faded curtains; but
Hildegarde had a very pretty little romance made up by the time she
reached the other side of the long room, and when she softly closed the
door, it was not without a whispered "good evening!" to the three ladies
whom she left in possession.

Shaking off the dream, she ran quickly up the winding stairs, and turned
into the pleasant, sunny room which she had selected as the best for her
mother's bedchamber. It was more modern-looking than the rest of the
house, in spite of its quaint Chinese-patterned chintz hangings and
furniture; this was partly owing to a large bow-window which almost
filled one side, and through which the evening light streamed in
cheerfully. Hildegarde had already unpacked a trunk of "alicumtweezles"
(a word not generally known, and meaning small but cherished
possessions), and the room was a pleasant litter of down pillows,
cologne-bottles, work-implements, photograph cases and odd books. Now
she inspected the chairs with a keen and critical eye, pounced upon one,
sat down in it, shook her head and tried another. Finding this to her
mind, she drew it into the bow-window, half-filled it with a choice
assortment of small pillows, and placed a little table beside it, on
which she set a fan, a bottle of cologne, a particularly inviting little
volume of Wordsworth (Hildegarde had not grown up to Wordsworth yet, but
her mother had), a silver bonbonnière full of Marquis chocolate-drops,
and a delicate white knitting-basket which was having a little sunset of
its own with rose-coloured "Saxony." "There!" said Hildegarde, surveying
this composition with unfeigned satisfaction. "If that isn't attractive,
I don't know what is. She won't eat the chocolates, of course, bless
her! but they give it an air, and I can eat them for her. And now I must
put away towels and pillow-cases, which is not so interesting."

At this moment, however, the sound of wheels was heard on the gravel,
and tossing the linen on the bed, Hildegarde ran down to welcome her
mother.

Mrs. Grahame was very tired, and was glad to come directly up to the
pleasant room, and sink down in the comfortable chair which was holding
out its stout chintz arms to receive her.

"What a perfect chair!" she said, taking off her bonnet and looking
about her. "What a very pleasant room! I know you have given me the
best one, you dear child!"

"I hope so!" said Hildegarde. "I meant to, certainly-- Oh, no!" she
started forward and took the bonnet which Mrs. Grahame was about to lay
on the table; "this table is to take things from, dear. I must give you
another to put things on."

"I see!" said her mother, surveying the decorated table with amusement.
"This is a still-life piece, and a very pretty one. But how can I
possibly take anything off it? I should spoil the harmony. The
straw-covered cologne-bottle makes just the proper background for the
chocolates, and though I should like to wet my handkerchief with it, I
do not dare to disturb--"

"Take care!" cried Hildegarde, snatching up the bottle and deluging the
handkerchief with its contents. "You might hurt my feelings, Mrs.
Grahame, and that would not be pleasant for either of us. And you know
it is pretty, _quand même_!"

"It is, my darling, very pretty!" said her mother, "and you are my dear,
thoughtful child, as usual. The Wordsworth touch I specially appreciate.
He is so restful, with his smooth, brown covers. Your white and gold
Shelley, there, would have been altogether too exciting for my tired
nerves."

"Oh! I have nothing to say against Mr. W.'s _covers_!" said Hildegarde
with cheerful malice. "They are charming covers. And now tell me what
kind of journey you had, and how you got through the last agonies, and
all about it."

"Why, we got through very well indeed!" said Mrs. Grahame. "Janet was
helpful and quick as usual, and Hicks nailed up all the boxes, and took
charge of everything that was to be stored or sold. Sad work! but I am
glad it is done." She sighed, and Hildegarde sat down on the floor
beside her, and leaned her cheek against the beloved mother-hand.

"Dear!" she said, and that was all, for each knew the other's thoughts.
It was no light matter, the breaking up of a home where nearly all the
young girl's life, and the happiest years of her mother's, had been
passed. Every corner in the New York house was filled with memories of
the dear and noble man whom they so truly mourned, and it had seemed to
them both, though they had not spoken of it, as if in saying good-by to
the home which he had loved, they were taking another and a more final
farewell of him.

So they sat in silence for a while, the tender pressure of the hand
saying more than words could have done; but when Mrs. Grahame spoke at
last, it was in her usual cheerful tone.

"So at last everything was ready, and I locked the door, and gave the
keys to the faithful Hicks" (Hicks had been the Grahames' butler for
several years), "and then Hicks came down to the station with me, and
did everything that was possible to secure a comfortable journey for
me--and Janet."

"Poor Hicks!" said Hildegarde, smiling. "It must have been very hard for
him to say good-by to you--and Janet."

"I think it was!" said Mrs. Grahame. "He asked me, very wistfully, if we
should not need some one to take care of the garden, and said he was
very fond of out-door work; but I had to tell him that we should only
need a 'chore-man,' to do odds and ends of work, and should not keep a
gardener. At this he put on a face like three days of rain, as your
Grimm story says, and the train started, and that was all.

"And now tell me, Sweetheart," she added, "what have been your
happenings. First of all, how do you like the house?"

"Oh, it's a jewel of a house!" replied Hildegarde with enthusiasm. "You
told me it was pleasant, but I had no idea of anything like this. The
verandah itself is worth the whole of most houses. Then the parlour!
such a wonderful parlour! I am sure you will agree with me that it would
be sacrilege to put any of our modern belongings in it. I did give
auntie one hideous sofa-pillow, but otherwise I have touched nothing. It
is a perfect museum of cross-stitch embroidery, sacred to the memory of
Miss Barbara, Miss Agatha, and Miss Hester."

Mrs. Grahame smiled. "How did you discover their names?" she asked. "I
was saving them for an after-supper 'tell' for you, and now you have
stolen my thunder, you naughty child."

"Not a single growl of it!" cried Hildegarde eagerly. "I am fairly
prancing with impatience to hear about them. All I know is their names,
which I found written on three bow-pots in the cupboard. I went mousing
about, like little Silver-hair, and instead of three porridge-pots,
found these. Miss Hester's was the only pot that had any 'sniff' left to
speak of; from which I inferred that she was the sprightliest of the
three sisters, and perhaps the youngest and prettiest. Now _don't_ tell
me that she was the eldest, and lackadaisical, and cross-eyed!"

"I will not!" said Mrs. Grahame, laughing. "I will not tell you anything
till I have had my tea. I had luncheon at one o'clock, and it is now--"

"Seven!" cried Hildegarde, springing up, and beating her breast. "You
are starved, my poor darling, and I am a Jew, Turk, infidel, and
heretic; I always was!"

She ran out to call Janet; when lo, there was Janet just coming up to
tell them that tea was ready. She was the prettiest possible Janet, as
Scotch as her name, with rosy cheeks and wide, innocent blue eyes, and
"lint-white locks," as a Scotch lassie should have. "No wonder," thought
Hildegarde, "that Hicks looked like '_drei Tage Regenwetter_' at parting
from her."

"Tea is ready, you say, Janet?" cried Hildegarde. "That is good, for we
are 'gay and ready,' as you say. Come, my mother! let us go and see what
auntie has for us."

Mother and daughter went down arm-in-arm, like two school-girls. They
had to pick their way carefully, for the lamps had not been lighted, and
there was not daylight enough to shed more than a faint glimmer on the
winding stairs; but when they reached the dining-room a very blaze of
light greeted them. There were no less than six candles on the table,
in six silver candlesticks shaped like Corinthian columns. (Auntie had
hidden these candlesticks in her own trunk, with a special eye to this
effect.) On the table also was everything good, and hot blueberry cake
beside; and behind it stood auntie herself, very erect and looking so
solemn that Mrs. Grahame and Hildegarde stopped in the doorway, and
stood still for a moment. The black woman raised her head with a gesture
of tenderness, not without majesty.

"De Lord bless de house to ye!" she said solemnly. "De Lord send ye good
victuals, and plenty of 'em! De Lord grant ye never want for nothin',
forever an' ever, give glory, amen!"

And with an answering "amen!" on their lips, Hildegarde and her mother
sat down to their first meal in their new home.



CHAPTER II.

A DISH OF GOSSIP.


THE evening was too lovely to spend in the house, so Mrs. Grahame and
Hildegarde went from the tea-table out on the verandah, where some low,
comfortable straw chairs were already placed. It was June, and the air
was full of the scent of roses, though there were none in sight. There
was no moon, but it was hardly missed, so brilliant were the stars,
flashing their golden light down through the elm-branches.

They sat for some time, enjoying the quiet beauty of the night. Then--"I
think we shall be happy here, dear!" said Hildegarde softly. "It feels
like home already."

"I am glad to hear you say that!" replied her mother. "Surely the place
itself is charming. I hope, too, that you may find some pleasant
companions, of your own age. Yes, I can see you shake your head, even in
the dark; and of course we shall be together constantly, my darling; but
I still hope you will find some girl friend, since dear Rose (Rose was
Hildegarde's bosom friend) cannot be with us this summer. Now tell me,
did you find Mrs. Lankton here when you arrived? We don't seem to have
come down to details yet."

Hildegarde began to laugh.

"I should think we did find her!" she said. "Your coming put it all out
of my head, you see. Well, when auntie and I drove up, there was this
funny little old dame standing in the doorway, looking so like Mrs.
Gummidge that I wanted to ask her on the spot if Mr. Peggotty was at
home. She began shaking her head and sighing, before we could get out
of the wagon. 'Ah, dear me!' she said. 'Dear me! and this is the young
lady, I suppose. Ah! yes, indeed! And the housekeeper, I suppose. Well,
well! I'm proper glad to see you. Ah, dear, dear!' All this was said in
a tone of the deepest dejection, and she kept on shaking her head and
sighing. Auntie spoke up pretty smartly, 'I'm de cook!' she said. 'If
you'll take dis basket, ma'am, we'll do de lamintations ourselves!' Mrs.
Lankton didn't hear the last part of the remark, but she took the
basket, and auntie and I jumped out. 'I suppose you are Mrs. Lankton,
the care-taker,' I said, as cheerfully as I could. 'Ah, yes, dear!' she
said, mournfully. 'I'm Mrs. Lankton, the widow Lankton, housekeeper to
Mr. Aytoun as was, and care-taker since his dee-cease. I've took care,
Miss Grahame, my dear. There ain't no one could keep things more car'ful
nor I have. If I've had trouble, it hasn't made me no less car'ful. Ah,
dear me! it's a sorrowful world. Perhaps you'd like to come in.' This
seemed to be a new idea to her, though we had been standing with our
hands full of bundles, only waiting for her to move. She led the way
into the hall. 'This is the hall!' she said sadly; and then she stood
shaking her head like a melancholy mandarin. 'I s'pose 'tis!' said
auntie, who was quite furious by this time, and saw no fun in it at all.
'And I s'pose dis is a door, and I'll go t'rough it.' And off she
flounced through the door at the back of the hall, where she found the
kitchen for herself, as we could tell by the rattling of pans which
followed. 'She's got a temper, ain't she?' said Mrs. Lankton sadly.
'Most coloured people has. There! I had one myself, before 'twas took
out of me by trouble. Not that I've got any coloured blood in me, for my
father was Nova Scoshy and my mother State of New York. Shall I take
you through the house, dear?'"

"Poor Mrs. Lankton!" said Mrs. Grahame, laughing. "She is the very
spirit of melancholy. I believe she has really had a good deal of
trouble. Well, dear?"

"Well," resumed Hildegarde, "I really could not have her spoil all the
fun of going over the house for me; though of course she was great fun
herself in a way. So I thanked her, and said I would not give her the
trouble, and said I supposed she lived near, and we should often call on
her when we wanted extra help. 'So do, dear!' she said, 'so do! I live
right handy by, in a brown cottage with a green door, the only brown
cottage, _and_ the only green door, so you can't mistake me. You've got
beautiful neighbours, too,' she added, still in the depths of
melancholy. 'Beautiful neighbours! Mis' Loftus lives in the stone house
over yonder. Ah, dear me! She and her darter, they don't never set foot
to the ground, one year's eend to the other.' 'Dear me!' I said. 'Are
they both such invalids?' 'No, dear!' said she, sighing as if she wished
they were. 'Carriage folks; great carriage folks. Then there's Colonel
Ferrers lives in the brick house across the way. Beautiful man, but set
in his ways. Never speaks to a soul, one year's eend to the other, in
the way o' talk, that is. Ah! dear me, yes!'"

"It sounds like Alice in Wonderland!" exclaimed Mrs. Grahame. "In that
direction lives a Hatter, and in that direction lives a March Hare.
Visit either you like! they're both mad."

"Oh, Mammina, it is exactly like it!" cried Hildegarde, clapping her
hands. "You clever Mammina! I wonder if Colonel Ferrers has long ears,
and if his roof is thatched with fur."

"Hush!" said her mother, laughing. "This will not do. I know Colonel
Ferrers, and he is an excellent man, though a trifle singular. Well,
dear, how did you part with your melancholy dame?"

"She went away then," said Hildegarde. "Oh, no, she didn't. I forgot!
she did insist upon showing me the room where Uncle Aytoun died;
and--oh! mamma, it is almost too bad to tell, and yet it was very funny.
She said he died like a perfect gentleman, and made a beautiful remains.
Then, at last, she said good-night and charged me to send for her if any
of us should be ill in the night. 'Comin' strange in,' she said, 'it's
likely to disagree with some of you, and in spasms or anything suddint,
I'm dretful knowin'.' So she went off at last, and it took me a quarter
of an hour to get auntie into a good temper again."

They laughed heartily at Mrs. Lankton's idea of "the parting word of
cheer"; and then Hildegarde reminded her mother of the "tell" she had
promised her. "I want to know _all_ about the three ladies," she said.
"They seem more real than Dame Lankton, somehow, for they belong here,
and she never could have. So 'come tell me all, my mother, all, all that
ever you know!'"

"It is not so very much, after all," replied Mrs. Grahame, after a
moment's thought. "I came here once with my father, when I was about ten
years old, and stayed two or three days. Miss Hester was already dead;
she was the youngest, the beauty of the family, and she was still young
when she died. Miss Barbara was the eldest, a tall, slender woman, with
a high nose; very kind, but a little stiff and formal. She was the head
of the family, and very religious. It was Saturday, I remember, when we
came, and she gave me some lovely Chinese ivory toys to play with, which
filled the whole horizon for me. But the next morning she took them
away, and gave me Baxter's 'Saint's Rest,' which she said I must read
all the morning, as I had a cold and could not go to church."

"Poor Mammina!" said Hildegarde.

"Not so poor," said her mother, smiling. "Miss Agatha came to the
rescue, and took me up to her room, and let me look in the drawers of a
wonderful old cabinet, full of what your dear father used to call
'picknickles and bucknickles.'"

"Oh! I know; I found the cabinet yesterday!" cried Hildegarde in
delight. "I had not time to look into it, but it was all drawers; a
dark, foreign-looking thing, inlaid with ivory!"

"Yes, that is it," said her mother. "I wonder if the funny things are
still in it? Miss Agatha was an invalid, and her room looked as if she
lived in it a good deal. She told me Bible stories in her soft, feeble
voice, and showed me a very wonderful set of coloured prints
illustrating the Old Testament. I remember distinctly that Joseph's coat
was striped, red, green, yellow, and blue, like a mattress ticking gone
mad, and that the she-bear who came to devour the naughty children was
bright pink."

"Oh! delightful!" cried Hildegarde, laughing. "I must try to find those
prints."

"She told me, too, about her sister Hester," Mrs. Grahame went on; "how
beautiful she was, and how bright and gay and light-hearted. 'She was
the sunshine, my dear, and we are the shadow, Barbara and I,' she said.
I remember the very words. And then she showed me a picture, a miniature
on ivory, of a lovely girl of sixteen, holding a small harp in her arms.
She had large grey eyes, I remember, and long fair curls. Dear me! how
it all comes back to me, after the long, long years. I can almost see
that miniature now. Why--why, Hilda, it had a little look of you; or,
rather, you look like it."

The girl flushed rosy red. "I am glad," she said softly. "And she died
young, you say? Miss Hester, I mean."

"At twenty-two or three," assented her mother. "It was consumption, I
believe. Cousin Wealthy Bond once told me that Hester had some sad love
affair, but I know nothing more about it. I do know, however, that Uncle
Aytoun (he was the only brother, you know, and spent much of his life at
sea), I do know that he was desperately in love with dear Cousin Wealthy
herself."

"Oh!" cried Hildegarde. "Poor old gentleman! She couldn't, of course;
but I am sorry for him."

"He was not old then," said Mrs. Grahame, smiling. "He knew of Cousin
Wealthy's own trouble, but he was very much in love, and hoped he could
make her forget it. One day--Cousin Wealthy told me this years and
years afterward, _à prôpos_ of my own engagement--one day Captain Aytoun
came to see her, and as it was a beautiful summer day, she took him out
into the garden to see some rare lilies that were just in blossom. He
looked at the lilies, but said little; he was a very silent man.
Presently he pulled out his card-case, and took from it a visiting-card,
on which was engraved his name, 'Robert F. Aytoun.' He wrote something
on the card, and handed it to Cousin Wealthy; and she read, 'Robert F.
Aytoun's heart is yours.'"

"Mammina!" cried Hildegarde. "Can it be true? It is _too_ funny! But
what could she say? Dear Cousin Wealthy!"

"I remember her very words," said Mrs. Grahame. "'Captain Aytoun, it is
not my intention ever to marry; but I esteem your friendship highly, and
I thank you for the honour you offer me. Permit me to call your
attention to this new variety of ranunculus.' But the poor captain
said,--Cousin Wealthy could hardly bring herself to repeat this, for she
thought it very shocking,--'Confound the ranunculus!' and strode out of
the garden and away. And Cousin Wealthy took the card into the house,
and folded it up, and wound pearl-coloured silk on it. It may be in her
work-basket now, for she never destroys anything."

"Oh! that was a most delightful 'tell'!" sighed Hildegarde. "And now go
on about Miss Agatha."

"I fear that is all, dear," said her mother. "I remember singing some
hymns, which pleased the kind cousin. Then Miss Barbara came home from
church; and I rather think her conscience had been pricking her about
the 'Saint's Rest,' for she took me down and gave me some delicious
jelly of rose leaves, which she said was good for a cold. We had
waffles for tea, I remember, and we put cinnamon and sugar on them; I
had never tasted the combination before, so I remember it. It was in a
glass dish shaped like a pineapple. And after tea Miss Barbara tinkled
'Jerusalem, the Golden' on the piano, and we all sang, and I went to bed
at nine o'clock. And that reminds me," said Mrs. Grahame, "that it must
now be ten o'clock or after, and 'time for all good little
constitutional queens to be in bed.'"

"Oh! must we go to bed?" sighed Hildegarde. "It is so very particularly
lovely here. Well, I suppose we should have to go some time. Good-night,
dear stars! good-night, all beautiful things that I know are there,
though I cannot see you!"

Hildegarde helped her mother to lock up the house, and then, after a
parting word and caress, she took her candle and went to the room she
had chosen for her own. It opened out of her mother's dressing-room, so
that by setting the doors ajar, they could talk to each other when so
minded; and it had a dressing-room of its own on the other side, from
which a flight of narrow, corkscrew stairs descended to the ground
floor. These stairs had attracted Hildegarde particularly. It seemed
very pleasant and important to have a staircase of one's own, which no
one else could use. It is true that it was very dark, very crooked and
steep, but that was no matter. The bedroom itself was large and airy; a
little bare, perhaps, but Hildegarde did not mind that. The white paint
was very fresh and clean, and set off the few pieces of dark old
mahogany furniture well,--a fine bureau, with the goddess Aurora
careering in brass across the front of the top drawer; a comfortable
sofa, with cushions of the prettiest pale green chintz, with rosebuds
scattered over it; a round table; a few spider-legged chairs; and a
nondescript piece of furniture, half dressing-table, half chest of
drawers, which was almost as mysteriously promising as the inlaid
cabinet in Miss Agatha's room. The bed was large and solemn-looking,
with carved posts topped by pineapples. The floor was bare, save for a
square of ancient Turkey carpet in the middle. Hildegarde held the
candle above her head, and surveyed her new quarters with satisfaction.

"Nice room!" she said, nodding her head. "The sort of room I have been
thinking of ever since I outgrew flounces, and bows on the chairs. Dear
papa! When I was at the height of the flounce fever, he begged me to
have a frock and trousers made for the grand piano, as he was sure it
must wound my sensibilities to see it so bare. Dear papa! He would like
this room, too. It is a little strange-garrety to-night, but wait till I
get the Penates out to-morrow!"

She nodded again, and then, putting on her wrapper, proceeded to brush
out her long, fair hair. It was beautiful hair; and as it fell in
shining waves from the brush, Hildegarde began to think again of the
dead Hester, who had had fair hair, too, and whom her mother had thought
she resembled a little. She hoped that this might have been Hester's
room. Indeed, she had chosen it partly with this idea, though chiefly
because she wished to be near her mother. It certainly was not Miss
Agatha's room, for that was on the other side of the passage. Her
mother's room had been Miss Barbara's, she was quite sure, for "B" was
embroidered on the faded cover of the dressing-table. Another large room
was too rigid in its aspect to have been anything but a spare room or a
death chamber, and Mr. Aytoun's own room, where he had died like a
gentleman and become a "beautiful remains," was on the ground floor.
Therefore, it was very plain, this must have been Hester's room. Here
she had lived her life, a girl like herself, thought Hildegarde, and had
been gay and light-hearted, the sunshine of the house; and then she had
suffered, and faded away and died. It was with a solemn feeling that the
young girl climbed up into the great bed, and laid her head where that
other fair head had lain. Who could tell what was coming to her, too, in
this room? And could she make sunshine for her mother, who had lost the
great bright light which had warmed and cheered her during so many
years? Then her thoughts turned to that other light which had never
failed this dear mother; and so, with a murmured "My times be in thy
hand!" Hildegarde fell asleep.



CHAPTER III.

MORNING HOURS.

          "The year's at the spring,
           And day's at the morn:
           Morning's at seven;
           The hill-side's dew-pearled:
           The lark's on the wing;
           The snail's on the thorn;
           God's in his heaven--
           All's right with the world!"


THESE seemed the most natural words to sing, as Hildegarde looked out of
her window next morning; and sing them she did, with all her heart, as
she threw open the shutters and let the glad June sunlight stream into
the room. All sad thoughts were gone with the night, and now there
seemed nothing but joy in the world.

"Where art thou, tub of my heart?" cried the girl; and she dived under
the bed, and pulled out the third reason for her choosing this room. Her
mother, she knew, would not change for anything the comfortable "sitz,"
the friend of many years; so Hildegarde felt at full liberty to enjoy
this great white porcelain tub, shallow, three feet across, with red and
blue fishes swimming all over it. She did not know that Captain Robert
Aytoun had brought it in the hold of his ship all the way from
Singapore, for his little Hester, but she did know that it was the most
delightful tub she had ever dreamed of; and as she splashed the crystal
water about, she almost ceased, for the first time, to regret the blue
river which had been her daily bathing-place the summer before. Very
fresh and sweet she looked, when at last the long locks were braided in
one great smooth braid, and the pretty grey gingham put on and smoothed
down. She nodded cheerfully to her image in the glass. It was, as dear
Cousin Wealthy said, a privilege to be good-looking, and Hildegarde was
simply and honestly glad of her beauty.

"Now," she said, when the room was "picked up," and everything aërable
hung up to air, "the question is, Go out first and arrange the Penates
after breakfast, or arrange the Penates now and go out later?" One more
glance from the window decided the matter. "They must wait, poor dears!
After all, it is more respectful to take them out when the room is made
up than when it is having its sheet and pillow-case party, like this."

She went down her own staircase with a proud sense of possession, and
opening the door at its foot, found herself in a little covered porch,
from which a flagged walk led toward the back of the house. Here was a
pleasant sort of yard, partly covered with broad flags, with a grassy
space beyond. Here were clothes-lines, well, and woodshed; and here was
auntie, standing at her kitchen door, and looking well satisfied with
her new quarters.

"What a pleasant yard, auntie!" said Hildegarde. "This is your own
domain, isn't it?"

"Reckon 'tis!" replied the good woman, smiling. "Jes' suits me, dis
does. I kin have some chickens here, and do my washin' out-doors, and
spread out some, 'stead o' bein' cooped up like a old hen myself."

A high wall surrounded auntie's domain, and Hildegarde looked round it
wonderingly.

"Oh! there is a door," she said. "I thought mamma said there was a
garden. That must be it, beyond there. Call me when breakfast is ready,
please, auntie." Passing through the door, she closed it after her, and
entered--another world. A dim, green world, wholly different from the
golden, sunny one she had just left; a damp world, where the dew lay
heavy on shrubs and borders, and dripped like rain from the long,
pendent branches of the trees. The paths were damp, and covered with
fine green moss. Great hedges of box grew on either side, untrimmed,
rising as high as the girl's head; and as she walked between them their
cool glossy leaves brushed against her cheek. Here and there was a
neglected flower-bed, where a few pallid rosebuds looked sadly out, and
pinks flung themselves headlong over the border, as if trying to reach
the sunlight; but for the most part the box and the great elms and
locusts had it their own way. Hildegarde had never seen such
locust-trees! They were as tall as the elms, their trunks scarred and
rough with the frosts of many winters. No birds sang in their green,
whispering depths; the silence of the place was heavy, weighted down
with memories of vanished things.

"I have no right to come here!" said Hildegarde to herself. "I am sure
they would not like it." Something white glimmered between the bending
boughs of box which interlaced across her path. She half expected to see
a shadowy form confront her and wave her back; but, pushing on, she saw
a neglected summer-house, entirely covered with the wild clematis called
virgin's-bower. She peeped in, but did not venture across the threshold,
because it looked as if there might be spiders in it. Through the
opposite door, however, she caught a glimpse of a very different
prospect, a flash of yellow sunlight, a sunny meadow stretching up and
away. Skirting the summer-house carefully, she came upon a stone wall,
the boundary of the garden, beyond which the broad meadow lay full in
the sunlight. Sitting on this wall, Hildegarde felt as if half of her
were in one world, and half in the other; for the dark box and the
drooping elm-branches came to the very edge of the wall, while all
beyond was rioting in morning and sunshine.

          "The new world and the old one,
           The green world and the gold one!"

she murmured, and smiled to find herself dropping into poetry, like
Silas Wegg.

At this moment a faint sound fell on her ear, a far-away voice, which
belonged wholly to the golden world, and had nothing whatever to do with
the green. "Hi-ya! Miss Hildy chile!" the mellow African voice came
floating down through the trees with an imperious summons; and
Hildegarde jumped down from her stone perch, and came out of her dream,
and went in to breakfast.

"And what is to be done, Mammina?" asked Hildegarde, when the "eggs and
the ham and the strawberry jam" were things of the past, and they were
out on the piazza again. "Do you realise, by the way, that we shall live
chiefly on this piazza?"

"It is certainly a most delightful place," said Mrs. Grahame. "And I do
realise that while it would be quite out of the question to change
anything in Miss Barbara's sacred parlour, it is not exactly the place
to be cosy in. But, dear child, I shall have to be in my own room a good
deal, as this arranging of your dear father's papers will be my chief
work through the summer, probably."

"Oh, of course! and I shall be in my room a good deal, for there is
sewing, and all that German I am going to read, and--oh, and quantities
of things to do! But still we shall live here a great deal, I am sure.
It is just a great pleasant room, with one side of it taken off. And it
is very quiet, with the strip of lawn, and the ledge beyond. One cannot
see the road, except just a bit through the gate. Sometimes you can
bring your writing down here, and I can grub in the flower-bed and
disturb you."

"Thank you!" said her mother, laughing. "The prospect is singularly
attractive. But, dear, you asked me a few minutes ago what was to be
done. I thought it would be pleasant if we took out our various little
belongings, and disposed them here and there."

"Just what I was longing to do!" cried Hildegarde. "All my precious
alicumtweezles are crying out from the trunk, and waiting for me. But
don't you want me to see the butcher for you, love, or let auntie tell
me what she is going to make for dessert, or perform any other sacred
after-breakfast rites?"

Mrs. Grahame shook her head, smiling, and Hildegarde flew upstairs,
like an arrow shot from a bow.

In her room stood a huge trunk, already unlocked and unstrapped, and a
box whose aspect said plainly that it contained books. All the dresses
had been taken out the day before and hung in the roomy closet, pretty,
simple gowns, mostly white or grey, for the dear father had disliked
"mourning" extremely. Now Hildegarde took out her hats, the
broad-brimmed straw with the white daisy wreath, the pretty white
shirred mull for best, the black "rough and ready" sailor for common
wear. These were laid carefully on a shelf in the closet, and covered
with a light cloth to keep them from dust. This done as a matter of
duty, the pleasant part began. One after another, a most astonishing
array of things were taken from the trunk and laid on the bed, which
spread a broad white surface to receive them: a trinket-box of ebony
and silver; a plaster cast of the Venus of Milo, another of the
Pompeian Psyche, both "treated" in some way that gave them the smooth
lustre of old ivory; a hideous little Indian idol, carved out of dark
wood, with eyes of real carbuncle; a doll's tea-set of exquisite blue
and white china, brought to Hildegarde from Pekin by a wandering uncle,
when she was eight years old; a stuffed hawk, confidently asserted by
its owner to be the original "jolly gosshawk" of the Scottish ballad,
which could "speak and flee"; a Swiss cuckoo clock; several great
pink-lipped shells; a butterfly net; a rattlesnake's skin; an exquisite
statuette of carved wood, representing Theodoric, King of the
Ostrogoths, a copy of the famous bronze statue at Innsbruck; a large
assortment of pasteboard boxes, of all sizes and shapes; three or four
work-baskets; last of all, some framed photographs and engravings, and a
number of polished pieces of wood, which were speedily put together
into a bookcase and two or three hanging shelves. On these shelves and
on the mantel-piece the various alicumtweezles were arranged and
re-arranged, till at length Hildegarde gave a satisfied nod and
pronounced them perfect. "But now comes the hard part!" she said. "The
pictures! Who shall have the post of honour over the mantel-piece? Come
here, dear persons, and let me look at you!" She took up two engravings,
both framed in gilt laurel leaves, and studied them attentively. One was
the portrait of a man in cavalier dress, strikingly handsome, with dark,
piercing eyes and long, curling hair. The expression of the face was
melancholy, almost sombre; yet there was a strange fascination in its
stern gaze. On the margin was written,--

          "John Grahame of Claverhouse,
                "Viscount Dundee."

The other portrait showed an older man, clad in a quaint dress, with a
hat that would have been funny on any other head, but seemed not out of
place here. The face was not beautiful, but calm and strong, with
earnest, thoughtful eyes, and a firm mouth and chin. The legend bore, in
curious black-letter, the words,--

                    "William of Orange Nassau,
          "Hereditary Grand Stadt-holder of the Netherlands."

No one save Hildegarde knew that on the back of this picture, turned
upside down in perpetual disgrace and ridicule, was a hideous little
photograph of Philip II. of Spain. It was a constant gratification to
her to know that it was there, and she occasionally, as now, turned it
round and made insulting remarks to it. She hoped the great Oranger
liked to know of this humiliation of his country's foe; but William the
Silent kept his own counsel, as was always his way.

And now the question was, Which hero was to have the chief place?

"You are the great one, of course, my saint!" said Hildegarde, gazing
into the calm eyes of the majestic Dutchman, "and we all know it. But
you see, he is an ancestor, and so many people hate him, poor dear!"

She looked from one to the other, till the fixed gaze of the pictured
eyes grew really uncomfortable, and she fancied that she saw a look of
impatience in those of the Scottish chieftain. Then she looked again at
the space above the mantel-piece, and, after measuring it carefully with
her eyes, came to a new resolution.

"You see," she said, taking up a third picture, a beautiful photograph
of the Sistine Madonna, "I put _her_ in the middle, and you on each
side, and then neither of you can say a word."

This arrangement gave great satisfaction; and the other pictures, the
Correggio cherubs, Kaulbach's "Lili," the Raphael "violin-player," and
"St. Cecilia," were easily disposed of on the various panels, while over
the dressing-table, where she could see it from her bed, was a fine
print of Murillo's lovely "Guardian Angel."

Hildegarde drew a long breath of satisfaction as she looked round on her
favourites in their new home. "So dear they are!" she said fondly. "I
wish Hester could see them. Don't you suppose she had _any_ pictures?
There are no marks of any on the wall. Well, and now for the books!"

Hammer and screwdriver were brought, and soon the box was opened and the
books in their places. Would any girls like to know what Hildegarde's
books are? Let us take a glance at them, as they stand in neat rows on
the plain, smooth shelves. Those big volumes on the lowest shelf are
Scudder's "Butterflies," a highly valued work, full of coloured plates,
over which Hildegarde sighs with longing rapture; for, from collecting
moths and butterflies for her friend, Bubble Chirk, she has become an
ardent collector herself, and in one of the unopened cases downstairs is
an oak cabinet with glass-covered drawers, very precious, containing
several hundred "specimens."

Here is "Robin Hood," and Gray's Botany, and Percy's "Reliques," and a
set of George Eliot, and one of Charles Kingsley, and the "Ingoldsby
Legends," and Aytoun's "Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers," which looks as
if it had been read almost to pieces, as indeed it has. (There is a mark
laid in at the "Burial March of Dundee," which Hildegarde is learning by
heart. This young woman has a habit of keeping a book of poetry open on
her dressing-table when she is doing her hair, and learning verses while
she brushes out her long locks. It is a pleasant habit, though it does
not tend to accelerate the toilet.)

On the next shelf is "Cranford," also well thumbed, and everything that
Mrs. Ewing ever wrote, and "Betty Leicester," and Miss Yonge's
historical stories, and the "Tales of a Grandfather," and "Lorna Doone,"
and the dear old "Days of Bruce," and "Scottish Chiefs," side by side
with the "Last of the Barons," and the "Queens of England," and the
beloved Homer, in Derby's noble translation, also in brown leather.
Here, too, is "Sesame and Lilies," and Carlyle on Hero-Worship.

The upper shelf is entirely devoted to poetry, and here are Longfellow
and Tennyson, of course, and Milton (_not_ "of course"), and Scott (in
tatters, worse off than Aytoun), and Shelley and Keats, and the Jacobite
Ballads, and Allingham's Ballad Book, and Mrs. Browning, and "Sir
Launfal," and the "Golden Treasury," and "Children's Garland." There is
no room for the handy volume Shakespeare, so he and his box must live on
top of the bookcase, with his own bust on one side and Beethoven's on
the other. These are flanked in turn by photographs of Sir Walter, with
Maida at his feet, and Edwin Booth as Hamlet, both in those pretty glass
frames which are almost as good as no frame at all.

"And if you are not a pleasant sight," said Hildegarde, falling back to
survey her work, and addressing the collection comprehensively, "then I
never saw one, that's all. _Isn't_ it nice, dear persons?" she
continued, turning to the portraits, which from their places over the
mantel-piece had a full view of the bookcase.

But the persons expressed no opinion. Indeed, I am not sure that William
the Silent could read English; and Dundee's knowledge of literature was
slight, if we may judge from his spelling. I should not, however, wish
Hildegarde to hear me say this.

Failing to elicit a response from her two presiding heroes, our maiden
turned to Sir Walter, who always knew just how things were; and from
this the natural step was to the "Lay of the Last Minstrel" (which she
had not read so _very_ lately, she thought, with a guilty glance at the
trunk and box, which stood in the middle of the room, yawning to be put
away), and there was an end of Hildegarde till dinner-time.

"And that is why I was late, dear love!" she said, as after a hasty
explanation of the above related doings, she sank down in her chair at
the dinner-table, and gave a furtive pat to her hair, which she had
smoothed rather hurriedly. "You know you would have brained me with the
hammer, if I had not put it away, and that the tacks would have been
served up on toast for my supper. Such is your ferocious disposition."

Mrs. Grahame smiled as she helped Hildegarde to soup. "Suppose a
stranger should pass by that open window and hear your remarks," she
said. "A pretty idea he would have of my maternal care. After all, my
desire is to keep tacks _out_ of your food. How long ago was it that I
found a button in the cup of tea which a certain young woman of my
acquaintance brought me?"

"Ungenerous!" exclaimed Hildegarde with tragic fervour. "It was only a
glove-button. It dropped off my glove, and it would not have disagreed
with you in the least. I move that we change the subject." And at that
moment in came Janet with the veal cutlets.



CHAPTER IV.

A WALK AND AN ADVENTURE.


ONE lovely afternoon, after they were well settled, and all the
unpacking was done, Hildegarde started out on an exploration tour. She
and her mother had already taken one or two short walks along the road
near which their house stood, and had seen the brand-new towers of Mrs.
Loftus's house, "pricking a cockney ear" on the other side of the way,
and had caught a glimpse of an old vine-covered mansion, standing back
from the road and almost hidden by great trees, which her mother said
was Colonel Ferrers's house.

But now Hildegarde wanted a long tramp; she wanted to explore that sunny
meadow that lay behind the green garden, and the woods that fringed the
meadow again beyond. So she put on a short corduroy skirt, that would
not tear when it caught on the bushes, slung a tin plant-box over her
shoulder, kissed her mother, who had a headache and could not go, and
started off in high spirits. She was singing as she ran down the stairs
and through auntie's sunny back yard, and the martial strains of "Bonny
Dundee" rang merrily through the clear June air; but as she closed the
garden door behind her, the song died away, for "one would as soon sing
in a churchyard," she thought, "as in the Ladies' Garden." So she passed
silently along between the box hedges, her footsteps making no sound on
the mossy path, only the branches rustling softly as she put them aside.
The afternoon sun sent faint gleams of pallid gold down through the
branches of the great elm; they were like the ghosts of sunbeams. Her
ear caught the sound of falling water, which she had not noticed before;
she turned a corner, and lo! there was a dusky ravine, and a little dark
stream falling over the rocks, and flowing along with a sullen murmur
between banks of fern. It was part of the green world. The mysterious
sadness of the deserted garden was here, too, and Hildegarde felt her
glad spirits going down, down, as if an actual weight were pressing on
her. But she shook off the oppression. "I will not!" she said. "I will
not be enchanted to-day! Another day I will come and sit here, and the
stream will tell me all the mournful story; I know it will if I sit long
enough. But to-day I want joy, and sunshine, and cheerful things.
Good-by, dear ladies! I hope you won't mind!" and grasping the hanging
bough of a neighbouring elm, she swung herself easily down into the
meadow.

It was a very pleasant meadow. The grass was long, so long that
Hildegarde felt rather guilty at walking through it, and framed a mental
apology to the farmer as she went along. It was full of daisies and
sorrel, so it was not his best mowing-field, she thought. She plucked a
daisy and pulled off the petals to see whether Rose loved her, and found
she did not, which made her laugh in a foolish, happy way, since she
knew better. Now she came to a huge sycamore-tree, a veritable giant,
all scarred with white patches where the bark had dropped off. Beside it
lay another, prostrate. The branches had been cut off, but the vast
trunk showed that it had been even taller than the one which was now
standing. "Baucis and Philemon!" said Hildegarde. "Poor dears! One is
more sorry for the one who is left, I think, than for the fallen one. To
see him lying here with his head off, and not to be able to do anything
about it! She cannot even 'tear her ling-long yellow hair'--only it is
green. I wonder who killed him." And she went on, murmuring to
herself,--

          "They shot him dead on the Nine-Stane Rigg,
             Beside the Headless Cross.
           And they left him lying in his blood
             Upon the moor and moss,"

as if Barthram's Dirge had anything to do with the story of Baucis and
Philemon. But this young woman's head was very full of ballads and
scraps of old songs, and she was apt to break into them on any or no
pretext. She went on now with her favourite dirge, half reciting, half
chanting it, as she mounted the sunny slope before her.

          "They made a bier of the broken bough,
             The sauch and the aspen grey,
           And they bore him to the Lady Chapel
             And waked him there all day.

          "A lady came to that lonely bower,
             And threw her robes aside.
           She tore her ling-long yellow hair,
             And knelt at Barthram's side.

          "She bathed him in the Lady-Well,
             His wounds sae deep and sair,
           And she plaited a garland for his breast,
             And a garland for his hair.

          "They rowed him in a lily-sheet
             And bare him to his earth,
           And the grey friars sung the dead man's mass,
             As they passed the Chapel Garth.

          "They buried him at the mirk midnight,
             When the dew fell cold and still;
           When the aspen grey forgot to play,
             And the mist clung to the hill.

          "They dug his grave but a bare foot deep
             By the edge of the Nine-Stane Burn,
           And they covered him o'er with the heather flower,
             The moss and the lady fern.

          "A grey friar stayed upon the grave
             And sung through the morning tide.
           And a friar shall sing for Barthram's soul
             While Headless Cross shall bide."

Now she had reached the fringe of trees at the top of the slope, and
found that it was the beginning of what looked like a considerable wood.
"A pine wood!" said Hildegarde, sniffing the spicy perfume with delight.
"Oh, pleasant place! No plants, but one cannot have everything. Oh! how
good it smells! and hark to the sound of the sea! I shall call this
Ramoth Hill." She walked along, keeping near the edge of the wood, where
it was still warm and luminous with sunshine. Now she looked up into the
murmuring cloud of branches above her, now she looked down at the
burnished needles which made a soft, thick carpet under her feet; and
she said again, "Oh, pleasant place!" Presently, in one of the upward
glances, she stopped short. Her look, from carelessly wandering, became
keen and intent. On one of the branches of the tree under which she
stood was a small, round object. "A nest!" said Hildegarde. "The
question is, What nest?" She walked round and round the tree, like a
pointer who has "treed" a partridge; but no bird rose from the nest, nor
could she see at all what manner of nest it was. Finding this to be the
case, she transferred her scrutiny from the nest to the tree. It was a
sturdy pine, with strong, broad branches jutting out, the lowest not so
very far above her head, a most attractive tree, from every point of
view. Hildegarde leaned against the trunk for a moment, smiling to
herself, and listening to the "two voices." "You are seventeen years
old," said one voice. "Not quite," said the other. "Not for a month yet.
Besides, what if I were?" "Suppose some one should come by and see you?"
said the first voice. "But no one will," replied the second. "And
perhaps you can't do it, anyhow," continued the first; "it would be
ridiculous to try, and fail." "Just wait and see!" said the second
voice. And when it had said that, Hildegarde climbed the tree.

I shall not describe exactly how she did it, for it may not have been in
the most approved style of the art; but she got up, and seated herself
on the broad, spreading branch, not so very much out of breath, all
things considered, and with only two scratches worth mentioning. After a
moment's triumphant repose, she worked her way upward to where the nest
was firmly fixed in a crotch, and bent eagerly over it. A kingbird's
nest! this was great joy, for she had never found one before. There were
five eggs in it, and she gazed with delight at the perfect little
things. But when she touched them gently, she found them quite cold. The
nest was deserted. "Bad little mother!" said Hildegarde. "How could you
leave the lovely things? Such a perfect place to bring up a family in,
too!" She looked around her. It was very pleasant up in this airy bower.
Great level branches stretched above and below her, roof and floor of
soft, dusky plumes. The keen, exquisite fragrance seemed to fold round
her like a cloud; she felt fairly steeped in warmth and perfume. Sitting
curled up on the great bough, her back resting against the trunk, the
girl fell into a pleasant waking dream, her thoughts wandering idly here
and there, and the sound of the sea in her ears. She was an enchanted
princess, shut in a green tower by the sea. The sea loved her, and sang
to her all day long the softest song he knew, and no angry waves ever
came to make clamour and confusion. By and by a rescuer would come,--

          "A fairy prince, with joyful eyes,
           And lighter-footed than the fox."

[Illustration: "IT WAS VERY PLEASANT UP IN THIS AIRY BOWER."]

He would stand beneath the green tower, and call to her:--

"Hallo, there! you young rascal, come down! How dare you rob birds'
nests in my woods?"

The voice was deep and stern, and Hildegarde started so violently that
she nearly fell from her perch. She could not speak for the moment, but
she looked down, and saw a fierce-looking old gentleman, clad in a black
velvet coat and spotless white trousers, brandishing a thick stick, and
peering with angry, short-sighted eyes up into the tree.

"Come down, I say!" he repeated sternly. "I'll teach you to rob my
nests, you young vagabond!"

This was really not to be endured.

"I am _not_ robbing the nest, sir!" cried Hildegarde, indignation
overcoming her alarm. "I never did such a thing in my life. And I--I am
not a boy!"

"Harry Monmouth!" exclaimed the old gentleman. "I beg ten thousand
pardons! What are you?"

Hildegarde's first impulse was to say that she lived in Alaska (that
being the most distant place she could think of), and was on her way
thither; but fortunately the second thought came quickly, and she
replied with as much dignity as the situation allowed:--

"I am the daughter of Mrs. Hugh Grahame. I live at Braeside" (I have
forgotten to mention that this was the name of the new home), "and have
wandered off our own grounds without knowing it. I am extremely sorry to
be trespassing, but--but--I only wanted to see what kind of nest it
was."

She stopped suddenly, feeling that there was a little sob somewhere
about her, and that she would die rather than let it get into her voice.
The old gentleman took off his hat.

"My dear young lady," he said, "the apologies are all on my side. Accept
ten thousand of them, I beg of you! I am delighted to make the
acquaintance of Mrs. Grahame's daughter, under--a--any circumstances."
(Here he evidently suppressed a chuckle, and Hildegarde knew it, and
hated him.) "Permit me to introduce myself,--Colonel Ferrers.

"I have been annoyed lately," he added kindly, "by thieving boys, and,
being near-sighted, did not distinguish between a persecutor and a
protector of my birds." He bowed again. "And now I will continue my
walk, merely remarking that I beg you to consider yourself entirely free
of my grounds, in any and every part. I shall do myself the honour of
calling on your mother very shortly. Good-morning, my dear Miss
Grahame!" and, with another bow, Colonel Ferrers replaced his felt
wide-awake, and strode off across the meadow, flourishing his stick,
and indulging in the chuckle which he had so long suppressed.

"Harry Monmouth!" he said to himself, as he switched the daisy-heads
off. "So we have a fair tomboy for a neighbour. Well, it may be a good
thing for Jack. I must take him over and introduce him."

Now Hildegarde was not in the least a tomboy, as we know; and the
intuitive knowledge that the old gentleman would think her one made her
very angry indeed. She waited till he was out of sight, and then slid
down the tree, without a second glance at the kingbird's nest, the
innocent cause of all the trouble. She had meant to take one egg, to add
to her collection; but she would not touch one now, if there were a
thousand of them. She ran down the long sunny slope of the meadow, her
cheeks glowing, her heart still beating angrily. She was going straight
home, to tell her mother all about it, and how horrid Colonel Ferrers
had been, and how she should never come downstairs when he came to the
house--never! "under any circumstances!" How dared he make fun of her?
She sat down on the stone wall to rest, and thought how her mother would
hear the tale with sympathetic indignation. But somehow--how was
it?--when she conjured up her mother's face, there was a twinkle in her
eye. Mamma had such a fatal way of seeing the funny side of things.
Suppose she should only laugh at this dreadful adventure!
Perhaps--perhaps it _was_ funny, from Colonel Ferrers's point of view.

In short, by the time she reached home, Hildegarde had cooled off a good
deal, and it was a modified version of the tragedy that Mrs. Grahame
heard. She found this quite funny enough, however, and Hildegarde was
almost, but not quite, ready to laugh with her.

That evening, mother and daughter were sitting on the broad verandah as
usual, playing Encyclopædics. This was a game of Mrs. Grahame's own
invention, and a favourite resource with her and Hildegarde in darkling
hours like this. Perhaps some of my readers may like to know how the
game is played, and, as the Dodo says of the Caucus Race, "the best way
to explain it is to play it."

They began with the letter "A," and had already been playing some time,
turn and turn about.

"Aphrodite, goddess of Love and Beauty."

"Ahasuerus, king of Persia, B.C. something or other, afflicted with
sleeplessness."

"Alfred the Great, unsuccessful tender of cakes."

"Æneas, pious; from the flames of Troy did on his back the old Anchises
bear; also deserted Dido."

"Ananias, liar."

"Anacreon, Greek poet."

"Allan-a-dale, minstrel and outlaw."

"Andromache, wife of Hector."

"Astyanax, son of the same."

"Oh--don't you think it's time to go on to B?" asked Hildegarde.

"I have several more A's," replied her mother.

"Well, my initials are not 'B. U.,'" said the girl, "but perhaps I can
manage one or two more."

"B. U.?"

"Yes! Biographic Universelle, of course, dear. Artaxerxes, also king of
Persia."

"Anne of Geierstein."

"Arabella Stuart."

"Ap Morgan, Ap Griffith, Ap Hugh, Ap Tudor, Ap Rice, quoth his
roundelay."

"Oh! oh! that was one of my reserves. Azrael, the angel of death."

"Agamemnon, king of men."

"Alecto, Fury."

"Agag, who came walking delicately."

"Addison, Joseph, writer."

"Antony, Mark, Roman general, lover of Cleopatra."

"'Amlet, Prince of--"

"Hilda!" cried Mrs. Grahame. "For shame! It is certainly high time to go
on to B, if you are going to behave in this way, and I shall put _e d_
after it."

"Oh, no!" said Hildegarde, "I will be good. It isn't nine o'clock yet, I
know. Buccleugh, Bold, Duke of, Warden here o' the Scottish side. I was
determined to get him first."

"Balaam, prophet."

"Beatrice, in 'Much Ado about Nothing.'"

"Beatrix Esmond."

"Bruce, Robert, King of Scotland."

"Burns, Robert, King of Scottish poets."

"Oh! oh! well, I suppose he is!" Hilda admitted reluctantly. "But Sir
Walter makes an admirable viceroy. I think--who is that? Mamma, there is
some one coming up the steps."

"Mrs. Grahame?" said a deep voice, as two shadowy forms emerged from the
darkness. "I am delighted to meet you again. You remember Colonel
Ferrers?"

"Perfectly!" said Mrs. Grahame, cordially, advancing and holding out her
hand. "I am very glad to see you. Colonel Ferrers,--though I hardly do
see you!" she added, laughing. "Hildegarde, here is Colonel Ferrers,
whom you met this morning."

"Good evening!" said Hildegarde, thinking that mamma was very cruel.

"Delighted!" said Colonel Ferrers, bowing again; and he added, "May I be
allowed to present my nephew? Mrs. Grahame, Miss Grahame, my nephew,
John Ferrers."

A tall figure bowed awkwardly, and a voice murmured something which
might have been a greeting in English, Choctaw, or pure Polynesian, as
it was wholly unintelligible.

"It is too pleasant an evening to spend in the house," said Mrs.
Grahame. "I think you will find chairs, gentlemen, by a little judicious
groping. Oh! I trust you are not hurt, Mr. Ferrers?" For Mr. Ferrers had
tumbled over his chair, and was now sprawling at full length on the
piazza. He gathered himself up again, apparently too much abashed to say
a word.

"Oh! he's all right!" said Colonel Ferrers, laughing. "He's always
tumbling about; just got his growth, you see, and hasn't learned what to
do with it. Well, many things have happened since we met, Mrs. Grahame;
we won't say how many years it is."

"Many things, indeed!" said Mrs. Grahame with a sigh.

"Yes! yes!" said Colonel Ferrers. "Poor Grahame! met him last year in
town; never saw him looking better. Well, so it goes. Changing world, my
dear Madame! Poor Aytoun, too! I miss him sadly. My only neighbour. We
have been together a great deal since his sisters died. Yes! yes! very
glad I was to hear that he had left the property to you. Not another
soul to speak to in the neighbourhood."

"Who lives in the large new house across the way?" asked Mrs. Grahame.
"I know the name of the family is Loftus, but nothing more."

"Parcel of fools, I call 'em!" said Colonel Ferrers, contemptuously.
"New people, with money. Loftus, sharp business man, wants to be a
gentleman farmer. As much idea of farming as my stick has. Wife and
daughters look like a parcel o' fools. Don't know 'em! don't want to
know 'em!" Mrs. Grahame, finding this not an agreeable subject, turned
the conversation upon old friends, and they were soon deep in matters of
twenty years ago.

Meanwhile Hildegarde and the bashful youth had sat in absolute silence.
At first Hildegarde had been too much discomposed by her mother's
allusion to the morning's adventure to speak, though she was able to see
afterwards how much better it was to bring up the matter naturally, and
then dismiss it as a thing of no consequence, as it was, than to let it
hang, an unacknowledged cloud, in the background.

As the moments went on, however, she became conscious that it was her
duty to entertain Mr. Ferrers. He evidently had no idea of saying
anything; her mother and Colonel Ferrers had forgotten the presence of
either of them, apparently. The silence became more and more awkward.
What could she say to this gawky youth, whose face she could not even
see? "What a lovely day it has been!" she finally remarked, and was
startled by the sound of her own voice, though she was not usually shy
in the least.

"Yes," said Mr. Ferrers, "it has been a fine day."

Silence again. This would never do! "Do you play tennis?" she asked
boldly.

"No--not much!" was the reply. "Doesn't pay, in hot weather."

This was not encouraging, but Hildegarde was fairly roused by this time,
and had no idea of being beaten. "What _do_ you do?" she said.

Mr. Ferrers was silent, as if considering.

"Oh--I don't know!" he said finally. "Nothing much. Poke about!" Then,
after a pause, he added in explanation, "I don't live here. I only came
a few days ago. I am to spend the summer with my uncle." Apparently this
effort was too much for him, for he relapsed into silence, and
Hildegarde could get nothing more save "Yes!" and "No!" out of him. But
now Colonel Ferrers came to the rescue.

"By the way, Mrs. Grahame," he said, "I think this boy must be a
relation of yours, a Scotch cousin at least. His mother was a Grahame,
daughter of Robert Grahame of Baltimore. His own name is John Grahame
Ferrers."

"Is it possible?" cried Mrs. Grahame, greatly surprised. "If that is the
case, he is much more than a Scotch cousin. Why, Robert Grahame was my
dear husband's first cousin. Their fathers were brothers. Hugh often
spoke of his cousin Robert, and regretted that they never met, as they
were great friends in their boyhood. And this is his son! is it
possible? My dear boy, I must shake hands with you again. You _are_ a
boy, aren't you, though you are so big?"

"To be sure he is a boy!" said Colonel Ferrers, who was highly delighted
with his discovery of a relationship. "Just eighteen--a mere snip of a
boy! Going to college in the autumn."

"Hildegarde," continued Mrs. Grahame, "shake hands with your cousin
John, and tell him how glad you are to find him."

Hildegarde held out her hand, and John Ferrers tried to find it, but
found a hanging-basket instead, and knocked it over, sending a shower of
damp earth over the other members of the party.

"I must take him home," exclaimed Colonel Ferrers, in mock despair, "or
he will destroy the whole house. Miss Hildegarde," he added, in a very
kind voice, "you probably thought me an ogre this morning. I am
generally regarded as such. Fact is, you frightened me more than I
frightened you. We are not used to seeing young ladies here who know
how to climb trees. Harry Monmouth! Wish I could climb 'em myself as I
used. Best fun in the world! Come, Jack, I must get you home before you
do any more mischief. Good-night, Mrs. Grahame! I trust we shall meet
often!"

"I trust so, indeed!" said Mrs. Grahame heartily. "We shall count upon
your being neighbourly, in the good old country sense; and as for John,
he must do a cousin's duty by us, and shall in return receive the
freedom of the house."

"Hum mum mum!" said John; at least, that is what it sounded like; on
which his uncle seized him by the arm impatiently, and walked him off.

"Well, Mammina!" said Hildegarde, when the visitors were well out of
hearing.

"Well, dear!" replied her mother placidly. "What a pleasant visit! The
poor lad is very shy, isn't he? Could you make anything out of him?"

"Why, Mammina, he is a perfect goose!" exclaimed Hildegarde, warmly.
"_I_ don't think it was a pleasant visit at all. As to making anything
out of that--"

"Fair and softly!" said Mrs. Grahame quietly. "In the first place, we
will not criticise the guests who have just left us, because that is not
pretty-behaved, as auntie would say. And in the second place--your dear
father was just eighteen when I first met him, Hildegarde; and he put
his foot through the flounce of my gown, upset strawberries and cream
into my lap, and sat down on my new ivory fan, all at one tea-party."

"Good-night, dear mamma!" said Hildegarde meekly.

"Good-night, my darling! and don't forget that barn-door rent in your
corduroy skirt, when you get up in the morning."



CHAPTER V.

UNCLE AND NEPHEW.


COLONEL FERRERS and his nephew walked away together, the former with a
quick, military stride, the latter shambling, as lads do whose legs have
outgrown their understanding of them.

"Don't hunch, sir!" exclaimed the Colonel, throwing his broad shoulders
back and his chin to the position of "eyes front." "Put your chin in and
your chest out, and don't hunch! You have about as much carriage, my
nephew Jack, as a rheumatic camel. Well!" (as poor Jack straightened his
awkward length and tried to govern his prancing legs). "So Mrs. Grahame
is a connection, after all; and a very charming woman, too. And how
did you find the young lady, sir? Did she give you any points on
tree-climbing? Ho! ho! I was wrong, though, about her being a tomboy.
She hasn't the voice of one. Did you notice her voice, nephew? it is
very sweet and melodious. It reminded me of--of a voice I remember."

"I like her voice!" replied Jack Ferrers. By the way, his own voice was
a very pleasant one, a well-bred and good-tempered voice. "I couldn't
see her face very well. I can't talk to girls!" he added. "I don't know
what to say to them. Why did you tell them about mother, Uncle Tom?
There was no need of their knowing."

"Why did I tell them?" exclaimed Colonel Ferrers. "Harry Monmouth! I
told them, you young noodle, because I chose to tell them, and because
it was the truth, and a mighty lucky thing for you, too. What with your
poor mother's dying young, and your father's astonishing and
supernatural wrong-headedness, you have had no bringing up whatever, my
poor fellow! Talk of your going to college next year! why, you don't
know how to make a bow. I present you to two charming women, and you
double yourself up as if you had been run through the body, and then
stumble over your own legs and tumble over everything else. Shade of
Chesterfield! How am I to take you about, if this is the way you
behave?"

"It was dark," said poor Jack. "And--and I don't want to be taken about,
uncle, thank you. Can't I just keep quiet while I am here, and not see
people? I don't know how to talk, really I don't."

"Pooh! pooh! sir," roared the Colonel, smiting the earth with his stick.
"Have the goodness to hold your tongue! You know how to talk nonsense,
and I request you'll not do it to me. You are my brother's son, sir,
and I shall make it my business to teach you to walk, and to talk, and
to behave like a rational Christian, while you are under my roof. If
your father had the smallest atom of common sense in his composition--"

"Please don't say anything against father, Uncle Tom," cried the lad. "I
can't stand that!" and one felt in the dark the fiery flush that made
his cheeks tingle.

"Upon my soul!" cried Colonel Ferrers (who did not seem in the least
angry), "you are the most astounding young rascal it has ever been my
good fortune to meet. Are you aware, sir, that your father is my
brother? that I first made the acquaintance of Raymond Ferrers when he
was one hour old, a squeaking little scarlet wretch in a flannel
blanket? Are you aware of this, pray?"

"I suppose I am," answered the lad. "But that doesn't make any
difference. Nobody body must say anything against him, even if it is
his own brother."

"Who is saying anything against him?" demanded Colonel Ferrers,
fiercely. "He is an angel, sir; every idiot knows that. A combination of
angel and infant, Raymond Ferrers is, and always has been. But the
combination does not qualify him for bringing up children. Probatum est!
Here we are! Now let me see if you can open the gate without fumbling,
sir. If there is one thing I can_not_ endure, it is fumbling."

Thus adjured, Jack Ferrers opened the heavy wooden gate, and the two
passed through a garden which seemed, from the fragrance, to be full of
roses. The old house frowned dark and gloomy, with only one light
twinkling feebly in a lower window. When they had entered, and were
standing in the pleasant library, book-lined from floor to ceiling,
Colonel Ferrers turned suddenly to his nephew, who was in a brown
study, and dealt him a blow on the shoulder which sent him staggering
half-way across the room, unexpected as it was.

"You're right to stand up for your father, my lad," he said, with gruff
heartiness. "It was unnecessary in this case, for I would be cut into
inch pieces and served up on toast if it would do my brother Raymond any
good; but you are right all the same. If anybody else ever says he
hasn't common sense, knock him down, do you hear? A blow from the
shoulder, sir! that's the proper answer."

"Yes, uncle," said the boy demurely; but he looked up with a twinkle in
his eye. "It's lucky for me that I _don't_ have to knock you down, sir,"
he added. "You're awfully strong, aren't you? I wish I were!"

"You, sir!" rejoined the Colonel. "You have the frame of an ox, if you
had any flesh to cover it. Exercise is what you need, Nephew Jack!
Fencing is what you want, sir! Take that walking-stick! Harry Monmouth!
I'll give you a lesson, now. On guard! So! defend yourself! Ha! humph!"
The last exclamation was one of disgust, for at the Colonel's first
thrust, Jack's stick flew out of his hand, and knocked over a porcelain
vase, shattering it in pieces, Jack, meanwhile, standing rubbing his arm
and looking very foolish.

"Humph!" repeated Colonel Ferrers, looking rather disconcerted himself,
and all the more fierce therefore. "That comes of trying to instruct a
person who has not been taught to hold himself together. You are a
milksop, my poor fellow! a sad milksop! but we are going to change all
that. There! never mind about the pieces. Giuseppe will pick up the
pieces. Get your supper, and then go to bed."

"I don't care about supper, thank you, uncle," said the lad.

"Pooh! pooh! don't talk nonsense!" cried the Colonel. "You don't go to
bed without supper."

He led the way into the dining-room, a long, low room, panelled with
dark oak. Walls, table, sideboard, shone like mirrors, with the polish
of many years. Over the sideboard was the head of a gigantic moose, with
huge, spreading antlers. On the sideboard itself were some beautiful
pieces of old silver, shining with the peculiar blue lustre that comes
from long rubbing, and from that alone. A tray stood on the table, and
on it was a pitcher of milk, two glasses, and a plate of very
attractive-looking little cakes. The colonel filled Jack's glass, and
stood by with grim determination till he had drunk every drop.

"Now, a cake, sir," he added, sipping his own glass leisurely. "A plummy
cake, of Mrs. Beadle's best make. Down with it, I insist!" In the
matter of the plum cake, little insistence was necessary, and between
uncle and nephew both plate and pitcher were soon empty.

"There," said the good Colonel, as they returned to the library, "now
you have something to sleep on, my friend. No empty stomachs in this
house, to distract people's brains and make mooncalves of them. Ten
minutes' exercise with the Indian clubs--you have them in your
room?--and then to bed. Hand me the 'Worthies of England,' will you?
Bookcase on the right of the door, third shelf from the bottom, fifth
book from the left. Thomas Fuller. Yes, thank you. Good-night, my boy!
don't forget the clubs, and _don't_ poke your head forward like a
ritualist parson, because you are not otherwise cut out for one."

Leaving his uncle comfortably established with his book and
reading-lamp, Jack Ferrers took his way upstairs. It was not late, but
he had already found out that his uncle had nothing to say to him or any
one else after the frugal nine o'clock supper, and his own taste for
solitude prompted him to seek his room. As he passed along a dark
corridor, a gleam of light shot out from a half-open door.

"Are you awake, Biddy?" he asked.

"Yes, dear!" answered a kind, hearty voice. "Come in, Master Jack, if
you've a mind."

The room was so bright that Jack screwed up his eyes for a moment. The
lamp was bright, the carpet was bright, the curtains almost danced on
the wall from their own gayety, while the coloured prints, in shining
gilt frames, sang the whole gamut of colour up and down and round and
round. But brighter than all else in the gay little room was the gay
little woman who sat by the round table (which answered every purpose
of a mirror), piecing a rainbow-coloured quilt. Her face was as round
and rosy as a Gravenstein apple. She had bright yellow ribbons in her
lace cap, and her gown was of the most wonderful merino that ever was
seen, with palm-leaves three inches long curling on a crimson ground.

"How very bright you are in here, Biddy!" said Jack, sitting down on the
floor, with his long legs curled under him. "You positively make my eyes
ache."

"It's cheerful, dear," replied the good housekeeper. "I like to see
things cheerful, that I do. Will you have a drop of shrub, Master Jack?
there's some in the cupboard there, and 'twill warm you up, like, before
going to bed."

Then, as Jack declined the shrub with thanks, she continued, "And so you
have been to call on the ladies at Braeside, you and the Colonel. Ah!
and very sweet ladies, I'm told."

"Very likely!" said Jack absently. "Do you mind if I pull the cat's
tail, Biddy?"

He stretched out his hand toward a superb yellow Angora cat which lay
curled up on a scarlet cushion, fast asleep.

"Oh! my dear!" cried Mrs. Beadle. "Don't you do it! He's old, and his
temper not what it was. Poor old Sunshine! and why would you pull his
tail, you naughty boy?"

"Oh! well--no matter!" said Jack. "There's a fugue--that's a piece of
music, Biddy--that I am practising, called the 'Cat's Fugue,' and I
thought I would see if it really sounded like a cat, that's all."

"Indeed, that's not such music as I should like your uncle to hear!"
exclaimed Mrs. Beadle. "And what did you say to the young lady, Master
Jack?" she added, as she placed a scarlet block against a purple one.
"I'm glad enough you've found some young company, to make you gay, like.
You're too quiet for a young lad, that you are."

"Oh, bother!" responded Jack, shaking his shoulders. "Tell me about my
father, Biddy. I don't believe he liked g--company, any better than I
do. What was he like when he was a boy?"

"An angel!" said Mrs. Beadle fervently. "An angel with his head in his
pocket; that is what Mr. Raymond was like."

"Uncle Tom called him an angel, too!" said the lad. "Of course he is; a
combination of angel and--why did you say 'with his head in his pocket,'
Biddy?"

"Well, dear, it wasn't on his shoulders," replied the housekeeper. "He
was in a dream, like, all the time; oh, much worse than you are
yourself, Master Jack."

"Thank you!" muttered Jack.

"And forgetful! well! well! he needed to be tied to some one, Mr.
Raymond did. To see him come in for his luncheon, and then forget all
about it, and stand with a book in his hand, reading as if there was
nothing else in the world. And then Mr. Tom--dear! dear! would put his
head down and run and butt him right in the stomach, and down they would
go together and roll over and over; great big lads, like you, sir, and
their father would take the dog-whip and thrash 'em till they got up.
'Twas all in sport like, d'ye see; but Mr. Raymond never let go his
book, only beat Mr. Tom with it. Dear! dear! such lads!"

"Tell me about his running away," said Jack.

"After the fiddler, do you mean, dear? That was when he was a little
lad. Always mad after music he was, and playing on anything he could
get hold of, and singing like a serup, that boy. So one day there came
along an Italian, with a fiddle that he played on, and a little boy
along with him, that had a fiddle, too. Well, and if Mr. Raymond didn't
persuade that boy to change clothes with him, and he to stay here and
Mr. Raymond to go with the fiddler and learn to play. Of course the man
was a scamp, and had no business; and Mr. Raymond gave him his gold
piece to take him, and all! But when the old Squire--that's your
grandfather, dear!--when he came in and found that little black-eyed
fellow dressed in his son's clothes, and crying with fright, and not a
word of English--well, he was neither to hold nor to bind, as the saying
is. Luckily Mrs. Ferrers--that's your grandmother, dear! she came in
before the child was frightened into a fit, though very near it; and she
spoke the language, and with her quiet ways she got the child quiet,
and he told her all about it, and how the fiddler beat him, and showed
the great bruises. And when she told the Squire, he got black in the
face, like he used, and took his dog-whip and rode off on his big grey
horse like mad; and when he came back with Mr. Raymond in front of him,
the whip was all in pieces, and Mr. Raymond crying and holding the
little fiddle tight. And the Italian boy stayed, and the Squire made a
man of him, from being a Papist outlandish-man. And that's all the
story, Master Jack."

"And he is Giuseppe?" asked Jack.

"And he is Jew Seppy," Mrs. Beadle assented. "Though it seems a hard
name to give him, and no Jew blood in him that any one can prove, only
his eyes being black. But he won't hear to its being shortened. And now
it is getting to be night-cap time, Master Jack," said the good woman,
beginning to fold up her work, "and I hope you are going to bed, too,
like a good young gentleman. But if you don't, you'll shut the door
careful, won't you dear?"

"Never fear," said the boy, gathering himself up from the floor. "I'm
sleepy to-night, anyhow; I may go straight to bed. Good-night, Biddy.
You're quite sure you like me to call you 'Biddy'?"

"My dear, it makes me feel five-and-twenty years younger!" said the good
woman; "and I seem to see your dear father, coming in with his curls
a-shaking, calling his Biddy. Ah, well! Good-night, Master Jack, dear!
Don't forget to look in when you go by."

"Good-night, Biddy!"

The lad went off with his candle, fairly stumbling along the corridor
from sheer sleepiness; but when he reached his own room, which was
flooded with moonlight, the drowsiness seemed to take wings and
disappear. He sat down by the open window and looked out. Below lay the
garden, all black and silver in the intense white light. The smell of
the roses came up to him, exquisitely sweet. He leaned his head against
the window-frame, and felt as if he were floating away on the buoyant
fragrance--far, far away, to the South, where his home was, and where
the roses were in bloom so long that it seemed as if there were always
roses.

The silver-lit garden vanished from his sight, and he saw instead a
long, low room, half garret, half workshop, where a man stood beside a
long table, busily at work with some fine tools. The spare, stooping
figure, the long, delicate hands, the features carved as if in ivory,
the blue, near-sighted eyes peering anxiously at the work in his
hands,--all these were as actually present to the boy as if he could put
out his own hand and touch them. It was with a start that he came back
to the world of tangible surroundings, as a sudden breath of wind waved
the trees below him, and sent whisperings of leaf and blossom through
his room.

"Daddy!" he said half to himself; and he brushed away something which
had no possible place in the eyes of a youth who was to go to college
next year. Giving himself a violent shake, Jack Ferrers rose, and, going
to a cupboard, took out with great care a long, black, oblong box. This
he deposited on the bed; then took off his boots and put on a pair of
soft felt slippers. His coat, too, was taken off; and then, holding the
black box in his arms, as if it were a particularly delicate baby, he
left the room, and softly made his way to the stairs which led to the
attic. There was a door at the foot of the stairs, which he opened
noiselessly, and then he stopped to listen. All was still. He must have
been sitting for some time at the window, for the light in the hall was
extinguished, which was a sign that his uncle had gone to bed. In fact,
as he listened intently, his ear caught a faint, rhythmic sound, rising
and falling at regular intervals, like the distant murmur of surf on the
sea-shore; his uncle was asleep. Closing the door softly after him, and
clasping the black box firmly, Jack climbed the attic stairs and
disappeared in the darkness.



CHAPTER VI.

COUSIN JACK.


THE next day, as Hildegarde was arranging flowers on the piazza, with a
table before her covered with bowls and vases, and a great basket of
many-coloured blossoms beside her, Jack Ferrers appeared, evidently in
the depths of misery, carrying a huge bunch of roses. He stumbled while
coming up the steps, and dropped half the roses, which increased his
discomfort so much that Hildegarde was really sorry for him. Moreover,
when seen by daylight, he was a very pleasant-looking fellow, with curly
brown hair and great honest blue eyes very wide open. He was over six
feet tall, and as awkward as a human being could be, but of course he
could not help that.

[Illustration: "JACK FERRERS APPEARED CARRYING A HUGE BUNCH OF ROSES."]

"Good-morning, Cousin Jack!" said Hildegarde pleasantly. "What lovely
roses! Are they from Colonel Ferrers's garden?"

"Yes," replied Jack Ferrers. "Uncle sends them with his compliments. I'm
sorry I knocked over the basket last night. Good-by."

He was about to fling himself down the steps again, but Hildegarde,
controlling her desire to laugh, said cordially: "Oh, don't go! Sit down
a moment, and tell me the names of some of these beauties."

"Thank you!" muttered the youth, blushing redder than the roses. "I--I
think I must go back."

"Are you so very busy?" asked Hildegarde innocently. "I thought this was
your vacation. What have you to do?"

"Oh--nothing!" said the lad awkwardly. "Nothing in particular."

"Then sit down," said Hildegarde decidedly.

And Jack Ferrers sat down. A pause followed. Then Hildegarde said in a
matter-of-fact tone, "You have no sisters, have you, Cousin Jack?"

"No," was the reply. "How did you know?"

"Because you are so shy," said Hildegarde, smiling. "Boys who have no
sisters are apt to regard girls as a kind of griffin. There used to be a
boy at dancing-school, two or three years ago, who was so shy it was
really painful to dance with him at first, but he got over it after a
while. And it was all because he had no sisters."

"Did you like dancing-school?" Jack inquired, venturing to look up at
her shyly.

"Yes, very much indeed!" replied Hildegarde. "Didn't you?"

"No; hated it."

Then they both laughed a little, and after that things went a good deal
better. Jack came up on the piazza (he had been sitting on the steps,
shuffling his feet in a most distressing manner), and helped to clip the
long stems of the roses, and pulled off superfluous leaves. It appeared
that he did not care much for flowers, though he admitted that roses
were "pretty." He did not care for fishing or shooting; tennis had made
his head ache ever since he began to grow so fast. Did he like walking?
Pretty well, when it wasn't too hot. Reading? Well enough, when the book
wasn't stupid.

"Wot are we to do with this 'ere 'opeless chap?" said Hildegarde to
herself, quoting from "Pinafore."

As a last resort she asked if he were fond of music. Instantly his face
lighted up.

"Awfully fond of it," he said with animation, and the embarrassed
wrinkle disappeared as if by magic from between his eyebrows.

"Oh, I am so glad!" cried Hildegarde. "I haven't had any music the last
two summers. I had everything else that was nice, but still I missed it,
of course. Do you play, or sing?"

"A little of both," said Jack modestly.

"Oh, how delightful! We must make music together for mamma sometimes. My
own piano has not come yet, but there is the dearest old funny thing
here which belonged to the Misses Aytoun."

"Uncle Tom has no piano," said Jack, "but I have my violin, so I don't
mind."

"Oh, a violin!" said Hildegarde, opening her eyes wide. "Have you been
studying it long?"

"Ever since I was six years old," was the reply. "My mother would not
let me begin earlier, though my father said that as soon as I could hold
a knife and fork I could hold a bow. He's a little cracked about
violins, my father. He makes them, you know."

"I _don't_ know," cried Hildegarde. "Tell me about it; how very
interesting!"

"Well--I don't mean that it's his business," said Jack, who seemed to
have forgotten his shyness entirely; "he's a lawyer, you know. But it's
the only thing he really cares about. He has a workshop, and he has
made--oh, ever so many violins! He went to Cremona once, and spent a
year there, poking about, and he found an old church that was going to
be repaired, and bought the sounding-board. Oh, it must have been a
couple of hundred years old. Then he moused about more and found an old
fellow, a descendant of one of Amati's workmen, and I believe he would
have bought him, too, if he could; but, anyhow, they were great chums,
and he taught my father all kinds of tricks. When he came home he made
this violin out of a piece of the old sounding-board, and gave it to me
on my birthday. It's--oh, it's no end, you know! And he made another for
himself, and we play together. Do you know the Mozart Concerto in F, for
two violins? It begins with an allegro."

And being fairly mounted on his hobby, Jack Ferrers pranced about on it
as if he had done nothing but talk to Hildegarde all his life.
Hildegarde, meanwhile, listened with a mixture of surprise, amusement,
and respect. He did not look in the least like a musical genius, this
long-legged, curly-haired lad, with his blue eyes and his simple, honest
face. She thought of the lion front of Beethoven, and the brilliant,
exquisite beauty of Mozart, and tried to imagine honest Jack standing
between them, and almost laughed in the midst of an animated description
of the andante movement. Then she realised that he was talking
extremely well, and talking a great deal over her head.

"I am afraid you will find me very ignorant," she said meekly, when her
cousin paused, a little out of breath, but with glowing cheeks and
sparkling eyes. "I have heard a great deal of music, of course, and I
love it dearly; but I don't know about it as you do, not a bit. I play
the piano a little, and I sing, just simple old songs, you know, and
that is all."

Hildegarde might have added that she had a remarkably sweet voice, and
sang with taste and feeling, but that her cousin must find out for
himself; besides, she was really over-awed by this superior knowledge in
one whom the night before she had been inclined to set down as a booby.
"Shall I ever learn," she thought remorsefully, "not to make these
ridiculous judgments of people, before I know anything about them?"

Just then Mrs. Grahame came out and asked her new-found nephew, as she
called him, to stay to dinner; but at sight of her the lad's shyness
returned in full force. His animation died away; he hung his head, and
muttered that he "couldn't possibly, thank you! Uncle Tom--stayed too
long already. Good-by!" and, without even a farewell glance at
Hildegarde, went down all the steps at once with a breakneck plunge, and
disappeared.

"Tragedy of the Gorgon's Head! Medusa, Mrs. Grahame," said that lady,
laughing softly. "Has my hair turned to snakes, Hilda, or what is there
so frightful in my appearance? I heard your voices sounding so merrily I
thought the ice was completely broken."

"Oh, I think it is," said Hildegarde. "You came upon him suddenly, that
was all."

"Next time," said her mother, "I will appear gradually, like the
Cheshire Cat, beginning with the grin."

Hildegarde laughed, and went to pin a red rose on her mother's dress.
Then she said: "I was wrong, Mammina, and you were right, as usual. It
is a tiresome way you have, so monotonous! But really he is a very nice
boy, and he knows, oh! ever so much about music. He must be quite a
wonder." And she told her mother about the violin, and all the rest of
it.

Mrs. Grahame agreed with her that it would be delightful to have some
musical evenings, and Hildegarde resolved to practise two hours a day
regularly.

"But there are so few hours in the day!" she complained. "I thought
getting up at seven would give me--oh! ever so much time, and I have
none at all. Here is the morning nearly gone, and we have had no
reading, not a word." And she looked injured.

"There is an hour before dinner," said Mrs. Grahame, "and the 'Makers of
Florence' is lying on my table at this minute. Come up, and I will read
while you--need I specify the occupation?"

"You need not," said Hildegarde. "I really did mean to mend it this
morning, love, but things happened. I had to sew on boot-buttons before
breakfast, three of them, and then Janet wanted me to show her about
something. But now I will really be industrious."

This was destined to be a day of visits. In the afternoon Mrs. Loftus
and her daughter called, driving up in great state, with prancing horses
and clinking harness. Hildegarde, who was in her own room, meditated a
plunge down her private staircase and an escape by way of the back door,
but decided that it would be base to desert her mother; so she smoothed
her waving hair, inspected her gown to make sure that it was spotless,
and came down into the parlour.

Mrs. Loftus was a very large lady, with a very red face, who talked
volubly about "our place," "our horses," "our hot-houses," etc., etc.
Miss Loftus, whose name was Leonie, was small and rather pretty, though
she did not look altogether amiable. She was inclined to patronise
Hildegarde, but that young person did not take kindly to patronage, and
was a little stately, though very polite, in her manner.

"Yes, it is pretty about here," said Miss Loftus, "though one tires of
it very quickly. We vegetate here for three months every summer; it's
papa's" (she pronounced it "puppa") "whim, you see. How long a season do
you make?"

"None at all," said Hildegarde quietly. "We are going to live here."

Miss Loftus raised her eyebrows. "Oh! you can hardly do that, I should
think!" she said with a superior smile. "A few months will probably
change your views entirely. There is no life here, absolutely none."

"Indeed!" said Hildegarde. "I thought it was a very prosperous
neighbourhood. All the farms look thrifty and well cared for; the crops
are alive, at least."

"Oh, farmers and crops!" said Miss Loftus. "Very likely. I meant social
life."

"I don't like social life," said Hildegarde.

This was not strictly true, but she could not help saying it, as she
told her mother afterward.

Miss Loftus passed over the remark with another smile, which made our
heroine want to pinch her, and added, "You must consider us your only
neighbours, as indeed we really are."

"Yes, indeed!" said Mrs. Loftus, who was now rising ponderously to
depart. "We shall hope to see you often at The Poplars, Mrs. Grahame.
There is not another house within five miles where one can visit. Of
course I don't include that old bear, Colonel Ferrers, who never speaks
a civil word to any one."

Hildegarde flushed and looked at her mother, but Mrs. Grahame said very
quietly, "I have known Colonel Ferrers for many years. He was a friend
of my husband's."

"Oh, I beg your pardon!" said Mrs. Loftus, looking scared. "I had no
idea--I never heard of _any one_ knowing Colonel Ferrers. Come, Leonie,
we must be going."

They departed, first engaging Hildegarde, rather against her will, to
lunch with them the following Friday; and the grand equipage rolled
clinking and jingling away.

"We seem to have fallen upon a Montague and Capulet neighbourhood," said
Mrs. Grahame, smiling, as she turned to go upstairs.

"Yes, indeed!" said Hildegarde. "Shall we be Tybalts or Mercutios?"

"Neither, I hope," said her mother, "as both were run through the body.
Of course, however, there is no question as to which neighbour we shall
find most congenial. And now, child, get your hat, and let us take a
good walk, to drive the cobwebs out of our brains."

"Have with you!" said Hildegarde, running lightly up the stairs; "only,
darling, _don't_ be so--so--incongruous as to call Mrs. Loftus a
cobweb!"



CHAPTER VII.

MISS AGATHA'S CABINET.


"MAMMINA! I have found them! I have found them!" cried Hildegarde,
rushing like a whirlwind into her mother's room, and waving something
over her head.

"What have you found, darling?" asked Mrs. Grahame, looking up from her
writing. "Not your wits, for example? I should be so glad!"

"One may not shake one's mother," said Hildegarde, "but beware, lest you
'rouse an Indian's indomitable nature.' I have found the keys of Miss
Agatha's cabinet."

"Really!" cried Mrs. Grahame, laying down her pen. "Are you sure? where
were they?"

"In that old secretary in Uncle Aytoun's room," said Hildegarde. "You
know you said I might rummage in it some day, and this rainy afternoon
seemed to be the very time. They were in a little drawer, all by
themselves; and see, they are marked, 'Keys of the cabinet in my sister
Agatha's room, containing miniatures, etc.'"

"This is indeed a discovery!" said Mrs. Grahame, rising. "We will
examine the cabinet together, dear; as you say, it is just the day for
it."

Hildegarde led the way, dancing with excitement and pleasure; her mother
followed more slowly. There might be sadness, she thought, as well as
pleasure, in looking over the relics of a family which had died out,
leaving none of the name, so far as she knew, in this country at least.
Miss Agatha's room did not look very cheerful in the grey light of a
wet day. The prevailing tint of walls and ceiling was a greyish yellow;
the faded curtains were held back by faded ribbons; the furniture was
angular and high-shouldered. On the wall was a coloured print of "London
in 1802," from which the metropolis would seem to have been a singular
place. The only interesting feature in the room was the cabinet which
they had come to explore, and this was really a beautiful piece of
furniture. It stood seven feet high at least, and was apparently of
solid ebony, inlaid with yellow ivory in curious spiral patterns. In the
centre was a small door, almost entirely covered with the ivory tracery;
above, below, and around were drawers, large and small, deep and
shallow, a very wilderness of drawers. All had silver keyholes of
curious pattern, and all were fast locked, a fact which had seriously
interfered with Hildegarde's peace of mind ever since they came to the
house. Now, however, that she actually stood before it with the "Open
sesame," this bunch of quaint silver keys in her hand, she shrank back,
and felt shy and afraid.

"You must open it, mamma," she said. "I dare not."

Mrs. Grahame fitted a key to one of the larger drawers, and opened it. A
faint perfume floated out, old roses and lavender, laid away one knows
not how many years. Under folds of silver paper lay some damask towels,
fine and thick and smooth, but yellow with age. They were tied with a
lilac ribbon, and on the ribbon was pinned a piece of paper, covered
with writing in a fine, cramped hand.

"Lift them out carefully, dear," said Mrs. Grahame, "and read the
label."

Hildegarde complied, and read aloud: "These towels were spun and woven
by my grandmother Grahame in Scotland, before she came to this country.
Her maiden name was Annot McIntosh."

"What beautiful linen!" said Mrs. Grahame, smoothing the glossy folds
with the hand of a housewife. "I always wished I had learned to spin and
weave. Linen that one buys has no feeling in it. Lay it back reverently,
degenerate daughter of the nineteenth century, and your degenerate
mother will open another drawer."

The next drawer contained several sets of baby-clothes, at sight of
which Hildegarde opened her eyes very wide indeed. Her mother was an
exquisite needle-woman, so was her cousin Wealthy Bond, and she herself
had no need to be ashamed of the "fine seam" she could sew; but never
had she seen such needlework as this: tiny caps, wrought so thick with
flower and leaf that no spot of the plain linen could be seen; robes of
finest lawn, with wonderful embroidered fronts; shawls of silk flannel,
with deep borders of heavy "laid work." One robe was so beautiful that
both Hildegarde and her mother cried over it, and took it up to examine
it more carefully. On the breast was pinned a piece of paper, with an
inscription in the same delicate hand: "Hester's christening-robe. We
think it was in consequence of this fine work that our dear mother lost
her eyesight."

"I should think it highly probable," said Mrs. Grahame, laying the
exquisite monument of folly back in the drawer. "I did not know that old
Madam Aytoun was blind. What is written on that tiny cap, in the corner
there? It must be a doll's cap; no baby could be so small."

Hildegarde read the inscription: "Worn by our uncle Hesketh, who weighed
two pounds at birth. He grew to be six feet and six inches in height,
and weighed three hundred pounds."

"What a wonderful person Miss Agatha must have been!" said Hildegarde.
"Who else would think of all these pleasant bits of information? And now
for the next drawer!"

She opened it, and gave a little shriek of delight. Here truly were
beautiful things, such as neither she nor her mother had ever seen
before: three short aprons of white silk, trimmed with deep gold lace,
and covered with silk-embroidered flowers of richest hues, one with
tulips, another with roses, a third with carnations. Folds of tissue
paper separated them from each other, and the legend told that they had
been worn by "our great-grandmother Ponsonby, when she was Maid of
Honour to Queen Caroline. She was an Englishwoman."

Then came a tippet of white marabou feathers, buttoned into a silk
case, and smelling faintly of camphor; a gown of rose-coloured satin,
brocaded with green, and one of ruby-coloured velvet, which bore the
inscription: "This was the gown on which our great-grandmother Ponsonby
wore the diamond buttons which have since been divided among her
descendants. A sinful waste of money which might have been put to good
purpose."

"How _very_ frivolous Great-grandmother Ponsonby must have been!" said
Hildegarde. "I think Miss Agatha is rather hard on her, though. Perhaps
the buttons were wedding presents. I wonder what has become of them all!
See, Mammina, here are her red shoes--just like Beatrix Esmond's, aren't
they? My foot would not begin to go into them. And here--oh! the lace!
the lace!" For there was a whole drawer full of lace, all in little
bundles neatly tied up and marked. Here was Madam Aytoun's wedding veil,
Grandmother This One's Mechlin tabs, Aunt That One's Venetian flounces.
It would take pages to describe all the laces, and the pleasure that
mother and daughter had in examining them. What woman or girl does not
love lace? Finally, in a corner of the drawer, was a morocco box
containing a key, whose ivory label said: "Central compartment.
Miniatures."

"This will be the best of all!" cried Hildegarde, eagerly. "Perhaps we
shall find Great-grandmother Ponsonby herself. Who knows?"

The ivory door flew open as the key turned, and revealed a space set
round with tiny drawers. Each drawer contained one or more miniatures,
in cases of red or green morocco, and Hildegarde and her mother examined
them with delight. Here, to be sure, was Great-grandmother Ponsonby; in
fact, she appeared twice: first, as a splendid young matron, clad in
the identical ruby velvet with the diamond buttons, her hair powdered
high and adorned with feathers; and, again, as a not less superb old
lady, with folds of snowy muslin under her chin, and keen dark eyes
flashing from under her white curls, and a wonderful cap. Here was
Grandfather Aytoun, first as a handsome boy, with great dark eyes, and a
parrot on his hand, then as a somewhat choleric-looking gentleman with a
great fur collar.

"How they do change!" said Hildegarde. "I am not sure that I like to see
two of the same person. Let me see, now! He married--"

"The daughter of Great-grandmother Ponsonby," replied Mrs. Grahame.
"Here she is! Caroline Regina Ponsonby, _æt._ 16. Named after the royal
patroness, you see. What a sweet, gentle-looking girl! I fear her
magnificent mother and her decided-looking husband may have been too
much for her, for I see she died at twenty-three."

"Oh! and he married again!" cried Hildegarde, opening another case. "See
here! Selina Euphemia McKenzie, second wife of John Aytoun. Oh! and here
is a slip of paper inside the frame.

          "'Sweet flower, that faded soon
            In Rapture's fervid noon.
                                   'J. A.'

"Dear me! he must have written it himself!" she added. "It is not like
Miss Agatha's handwriting. Why, she only lived three months, poor dear!
He makes very sure about the rapture, doesn't he?"

"I think he does," said her mother, smiling, "considering that he
married a third time, inside a year from the fading of the sweet flower.
Look at this aquiline dame, with the remarkably firm mouth, and the
bird of paradise in her turban. 'Adelaide McLeod, third wife of John
Aytoun. She survived him.' I'll warrant she did!" said Mrs. Grahame.
"She carries conquest in her face. All the children were of the first
marriage, and I fear she was not a gentle stepmother. I wonder who this
may be!" She took up a heavy bracelet of dark hair, with a small
miniature set in the clasp. "What a pretty, pretty child! Good Miss
Agatha has surely not left us in the dark concerning him. 'Little John
Hesketh, 1804.' That is all."

"Why Hesketh?" asked Hildegarde. "I have never heard of any Heskeths."

Mrs. Grahame was about to plunge into genealogical depths, when
Hildegarde, who had been opening a case of purple morocco, carefully
secured with silver clasps, gave an exclamation of pleasure.

"Hester!" she cried. "This is Hester, I know."

Her mother looked, and nodded; and they both gazed in silence at the
lovely face, with its earnest grey eyes.

"The dear!" murmured Hildegarde. "How I should have loved her! I am sure
we should have liked the same things. I wish she had not died."

"You must remember that she would be a dear old lady now, were she
alive, and not a young lassie. What does the slip say, darling? Miss
Agatha's hand is rather trying for my eyes."

"'Our dearest Hester,'" Hildegarde read. "'A duplicate of the one
painted for Robert Ferrers.' Robert Ferrers!" she repeated thoughtfully.
"Is that Colonel Ferrers? and do you suppose--"

At this moment came a knock at the door, and Janet informed them that
Mrs. Lankton was in the hall, and would like to speak to one of the
ladies.

"I will go," said Hildegarde, laying down the miniature reluctantly.

"We will both go," said her mother. "The poor old dame! We have
neglected her all these days."

They locked the drawer of the treasure-cabinet, and Hildegarde ran to
put the precious keys in a safe place, while her mother went directly
downstairs. By the time Hildegarde appeared, Mrs. Lankton was launched
on the full tide of her woes, and was sailing along with a good breeze.

"And it's comin' in, Mis' Grahame--I'd say like a house afire, if
'twa'n't that 'twas wet. Dreepin' all down the chimbley, and runnin'
over the floor in streams. I stepped into a pool o' water with my bar'
feet, gittin' out o' bed; likely I caught my death, but it's no great
matter. Ah! Mis' Grahame, I've seen trouble all my life. Mr. Aytoun, he
was like a father to me. He wouldn't never ha' let me go bar'foot in
water if he'd ben alive. I've ben a hard-workin' woman all my life, and
he knowed it. I hope your own health is good, dear?"

"What can I do for you, Mrs. Lankton?" asked Mrs. Grahame, kindly, as a
moment's pause gave her a chance to get in a word. "Does the roof need
shingling?"

"Mr. Aytoun was goin' to have it shingled for me last Janooary," said
Mrs. Lankton, with a sigh that was almost a groan; "and he was called on
to die in Febooary. Jest afore he passed away, he was tryin' dretful
hard to say somethin', and I ain't no manner o' doubt myself but what
'twas 'Shingle!' He had it on his mind; they needn't tell me. But nobody
seemed to feel a call after he was gone. Ah, dear me! You don't know
nothin' about it, Mis' Grahame. You ain't never stepped bar'foot out o'
your bed into a pool o' water, and you all doubled up with neurology in
your j'ints. Ah, well, 'twon't be long now that I shall trouble
anybody."

"Which is your house, Mrs. Lankton?" asked Mrs. Grahame. "I will try to
have something done about the roof at once."

"I know!" said Hildegarde, quickly. "It is a brown cottage with a green
door."

"See how she knows!" exclaimed Mrs. Lankton, with a sad smile. "Ain't
that thoughtful? Ah! she'll be a comfit to you, Mis' Grahame, if you've
luck to raise her, but there's no knowin'. Don't you set your heart on
it, that's all. Ah! I know what trouble is."

"Don't you think I am 'raised' already, Mrs. Lankton?" Hilda asked,
smiling down on the weazened face that did not reach to her shoulder.

"So fur ye be, dear!" replied the widow, with a doleful shake of the
head. "So fur ye be, but there's no knowin'. My Phrony was jest like
you, hearty and stout, and she's gone. Ah! dear me! She had a store
tooth, where she knocked out one of hers, slidin', and she swallered it
one night, and she never got over it. Lodged on her liver, the doctor
said. He went down and tried to fetch it up, but 'twa'n't no use. She
was fleshy, same as you be. Yes, gals is hard to raise."

At this, Hildegarde retreated suddenly into the parlour, and Mrs.
Grahame, in a voice which shook a little, expressed proper regret and
sympathy, and repeated that she would have the roof attended to.

"And now," she added, "go into the kitchen, and auntie shall give you a
cup of hot tea. You must dry your feet, too, before you go out again."

"The Lord'll reward you, dear!" said Mrs. Lankton, turning with a faint
gleam of cheerfulness toward the kitchen door. "It ain't long before I
shall go the way of all, but it doos seem as if I mought go dry, 'stead
o' dreepin'. But _you_'ll be rewarded, Mis' Grahame. I felt as if you'd
be a mother to me, soon as I sot eyes on ye. _Good_-mornin', dear!" and
with a groan that ended in a half-chuckle, she disappeared.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE POPLARS.


PUNCTUALLY at half-past one on Friday, Hildegarde walked up the avenue
which led to "The Poplars." It was a broad avenue, and the steps to
which it led were broad, and the whole house had an air of being spread
out. "But Mrs. Loftus needs a good deal of room!" said Hildegarde to
herself, and then cuffed herself mentally for wickedness.

Very fair and sweet she looked, our Hildegarde, in her white serge gown,
with the pretty hat of white "chiffon" which "Mammina" had made only the
evening before. Standing on the verandah, with eyes and cheeks brilliant
from walking, she met the entire approval of a young gentleman who was
reclining behind the hedge. He was a _very_ young gentleman. He wore
corduroy knickerbockers, and he was lying flat on his stomach, with his
heels in the air, sucking a large bull's-eye. The sudden apparition of a
tall maiden in white, with shining eyes, nearly caused him to swallow
the bull's-eye, but he recovered himself, and gazed steadfastly at her.
When the door opened to admit her, the young gentleman sighed, and
considered that it was not so fine a day as he had thought it. "She is a
beautiful girl!" he said to himself with fervour; "she is a Purple
Maid!" and then he rolled over on his back, to see if the bull's-eye
would taste as good in that position.

Hildegarde, meanwhile, unconscious of the approving scrutiny of the
infant connoisseur, was ushered by a stately butler through room after
room, until she came to one where Mrs. and Miss Loftus were waiting to
receive her. They were both very cordial, one in a ponderous, the other
in an airily patronising way.

"But I did not hear you drive up," said Mrs. Loftus, "and we have been
listening every moment; for I said to Leonie, 'Suppose she should not
come, after all!' And so you must have driven up very quietly, you see."

"I walked," said Hildegarde, smiling; "so there were no wheels to hear,
Mrs. Loftus."

"Walked! Is it possible?" cried Mrs. Loftus, while her daughter raised
her eyebrows and regarded Hildegarde with languid curiosity. "My dear,
you must be terribly heated. Let me ring for some Florida water. No, I
insist!" as Hildegarde made a gesture of protest. "It is _so_ dangerous
to walk in the heat of the day. The brain, you know, becomes heated, and
it does something to the spinal marrow. Do you feel any dizziness?
Really, the best thing would be for you to lie down at once for half an
hour. I will darken the room, and--"

"Nonsense, mamma!" said Miss Loftus, "I don't believe Miss Grahame wants
to lie down."

"Oh, no, indeed!" cried Hildegarde, thankful for the interruption. "I am
used to walking, you know, Mrs. Loftus. I always walk, everywhere. I
like it very much better than driving; besides," she added, "we have no
horses, so I should have to walk in any case."

"I think it so dangerous!" said Mrs. Loftus, with a compassionate shake
of the head. "In the heat of the day, as I said, the spinal marrow; so
important, my dear! and towards evening there is a chill in the air,
malaria, all kinds of dreadful things. I shall make a point of picking
you up whenever I am driving by--I drive by nearly every day--and taking
you out."

"Oh--thank you!" cried poor Hildegarde, an abyss opening at her feet.
"You are very kind, but I could not! I am so busy--and walking is my
delight."

The announcement of lunch created a diversion, to the great relief of
our heroine. Mr. Loftus appeared, a small, shrivelled man, with sharp
eyes, whose idea of making himself agreeable was to criticise each
article of food as it came on the table.

"Very weak bouillon, Mrs. Loftus" (he called it "bullion"). "Very weak!
greasy, too! Not fit to put on the table. What's this? chicken? Fowl, I
should say! Rooster, Mrs. L.! Is this your twelve-dollar cook? Not a
thing Miss Grahame can eat! She'll go and tell old Ferrers how we gave
her roast rooster, see if she don't! I hear you're very thick with old
Ferrers, Miss Grahame. Old Grizzly Bruin, _I_ call him. Good name, too!
he! he!"

Hildegarde blushed scarlet, and wondered what her mother would say in
her place. All she could do was to murmur that the chicken was very nice
indeed, and to hope that she did not show more of her disgust than was
proper. The luncheon was very fine, in spite of Mr. Loftus's
depreciation; and when it came to the dessert, he changed his tune, and
descanted on the qualities of "my peaches," "my nectarines," and "my
gardener."

"You don't eat enough, Miss Grahame!" was his comment. "No need to stint
yourself here; plenty for all, and more where that came from."

But here Miss Loftus came to the rescue, and with a "Don't be tiresome,
puppa!" changed the conversation, and began to talk of the Worth gowns
she had seen in New York, on her last visit.

"Which do you admire most, Worth or Felix?" she asked, after a graphic
description of some marvellous gown which fitted the fortunate owner
"as if she had been poured into it. Absolutely _poured_, Miss Grahame!"

"I--I really don't know," Hildegarde confessed meekly. "I never can tell
one dressmaker's style from another. If a gown is pretty, that is all I
think about it."

"Oh! if you have never studied these things, of course!" said the fair
Leonie indulgently. "I went to Madame Vivien's school, you see, and we
had a regular hour for studying fashions. I can tell a Worth or a Felix
or a Donovan gown as far as I can see it."

"Did you like Madame Vivien's school?" asked Hildegarde.

"She ought to!" exclaimed Mr. Loftus. "It cost enough, I can tell you."

"Oh, it is the best school in the city, of course," said Leonie
complacently. "We had a very good time, a set of us that were there.
They called us the Highflyers, and I suppose we had rather top-lofty
notions. Anyway, we were Madame's favourites, because we had _the air_,
she always said. She couldn't endure a dowdy girl, and she dressed
beautifully herself. There were two or three girls that were regular
digs, with their noses always in their books, and Madame couldn't bear
them. 'Miss Antrim,' she was always saving to one of them, 'it is true
that you know your lesson, but your gown is buttoned awry, and it fits
as if the miller had made it.' He! he!"

"And--and did you care for study?" Hildegarde asked, mentally
sympathising with Miss Antrim, though conscious that she would never
have been allowed to go to school with a gown buttoned awry.

"Oh! I liked French," said Miss Loftus, "and history pretty well, when
it wasn't too poky. But you didn't have to study at Madame Vivien's
unless you wanted to."

"What Leonie went most for was manners," explained Mrs. Loftus, taking a
large mouthful of mayonnaise, and continuing her remarks while eating
it. "Elegant manners they teach at Madame Vivien's."

"How to enter a room well,"--Leonie enumerated the points on her taper
fingers,--"how to salute and take leave of a hostess, how to order a
dinner,--those were some of the most important things. We took turns in
making up _menus_, and prizes were given for the best."

"Leonie took the prize for the best minew!" exclaimed Mrs. Loftus,
triumphantly. "Tell Miss Grahame your prize minew, Leonie."

Nothing loth, Leonie described the dinner at length, from little-neck
clams to coffee; and a very fine dinner it was.

"Hm!" grunted Mr. Loftus, "better dinner than we ever get from your
twelve-dollar cook, Mrs. L. Hm! Fine dinners on paper, I dare say. Hand
me that salad! Why don't you give Miss Grahame some more salad? She
ain't eating anything at all."

"Then we had lectures on the Art of Dress," continued the fair student
of Madame Vivien's. "Those were very interesting."

"Well, dress does change, the most of anything!" exclaimed Mrs. Loftus.
"To see the difference now from when I was a girl! Why, when I was
married I had thirty-five yards of silk in my wedding dress, and now
nobody don't have more than ten or twelve. Almost too scant to cover
'em, it seems sometimes."

"Thirty-five yards, mamma!" exclaimed her daughter. "You're joking!"

"Not a mite!" Mrs. Loftus said firmly. "Thirty-five yards of white
satin, and trimmed with four whole pieces of lace and three hundred and
eighty-two bows." The two girls exclaimed in wonder, and Mrs. Loftus
continued in high good-humour. "Yes, a dress was a dress in those days.
Why, I had one walking dress, a brown silk it was, with fifty yards in
it."

"But how was it possible?" cried Hildegarde. "Did you wear crinoline?"

"No," was the reply, "not a mite of hoop-skirt; but things were very
full, you see, Miss Grahame. That brown dress, now; it had a deep
side-plaiting all round, and an overskirt, very full too, and the back
very deep, flounced, scalloped, and trimmed with narrow piping, looped
in each corner with scallops. There was a deep fringe round the basque
and overskirt, and coming up from the postilion (that was deep, too), to
loop on the left shoulder."

"Well, it sounds _awful_!" said Leonie frankly. "You must have been a
perfect sight, mamma!"

"She was better-looking than you are, or ever will be!" snarled Mr.
Loftus. "Are you goin' to sit here all day talkin' about women's
folderols? I have to pay for 'em, and I guess that's all I want to know
about 'em."

Glad enough was Hildegarde when four o'clock came, and she could plead
an appointment to meet her mother at a certain turn of the road, as they
were going for a walk together.

"More walking!" cried Mrs. Loftus. "You'll have a fever, I'm certain of
it. I don't think girls ought _ever_ to walk, unless it's a little turn
in the park while the horses are waiting, or something of that sort."
She begged Hildegarde to wait till the horses were harnessed, but our
heroine was firm, and finally departed, leaving her good-natured
hostess shaking her head in the doorway, like a mandarin in
wine-coloured satin.

As she turned the corner by the gilded iron gates, Hildegarde was
startled by the apparition of a small boy in brown corduroy, sitting on
a post and swinging his legs.

Hildegarde was fond of boys. One of her two best friends was a boy, and
she had a little sweetheart in Maine, whose name was Benny, and who
loved her with all the ardour of four years old. This boy must be six or
seven, she thought. He had red hair, a round, rosy, freckled face, and
two eyes so blue and so bright that the very meeting them made her
smile. Her smile was answered by a flash, which lighted up the whole
face, and subsided instantly, leaving preternatural gravity.

"How do you do?" said Hildegarde. "Is it fun sitting there?"

"No!" said the boy; and down he came. Then shyness seized him; he hung
his head and considered his toes attentively.

"My name is Hilda," continued our heroine. "Do you think it is a nice
name?"

He nodded, still intent on the boots.

"But I don't know what your name is," she went on sadly. "I should like
to tell you about my puppy, if you would walk along by me, but you see I
can't, because I don't know your name."

"Hugh Allen," said the lad briefly.

"Hugh!" cried Hildegarde, her cheek flushing and her eyes softening.
"That was my dear father's name. We must be friends, Hugh, for the
name's sake. Come along, laddie!"

The boy came, and walked in silence by her side, occasionally stealing a
glance at the kind, bright face so much higher up than his own.

"Well, my puppy," said Hildegarde, as if she were continuing a
conversation. "His name was Patsy, and he was such a funny puppy,--all
white, with a great big head, and paws almost as big, and a mouth large
enough to swallow--oh! I don't know what! a watermelon, perhaps. I loved
him very much. He used to gnaw my boots, and nibble the skirt of my
dress; but, of course, I didn't mind, for I knew he was cutting his
teeth, poor dear, and couldn't help it. But when he gnawed all the
corners off the leather chairs in the dining-room, my mother dear didn't
like it, and she said Patsy must go. Then my father said he would take
him to his office every day, and keep him out of mischief, and then I
could take the dear for a good walk in the afternoon, and have a
comfortable time with him, and he could sleep in the shed. Well, I
thought this was a delightful plan, and the next day Patsy went off with
papa, as pleased and happy as possible. Oh, dear! Hugh, what do you
think that puppy did?"

"Perhaps he bit his legs," suggested Hugh, with a gleam of delight in
his blue eyes.

"Oh, no!" said Hildegarde. "He wouldn't have dared to do that, for he
was a sad coward, my poor Patsy. My father left him shut up in the
office while he went to lunch; and as the day was mild (though it was
winter), he left his new ulster on a chair, where he had laid it when he
first came in. Hugh, when he came back, he found the ulster--it was a
stout heavy one--he found it all torn into little pieces, and the pieces
piled in a heap, and Patsy lying on top of them."

"Oh-ee!" cried the boy. "And _then_ what happened? Did he smite him hip
and thigh, even unto the going down of the sun?"

Hildegarde opened her eyes a little at this scriptural phrase, but
answered: "Yes, I am afraid papa gave him a pretty severe whipping. He
had to, of course. And then he sent him away, and I never saw poor Patsy
again. Don't you think that was sad, Hugh?"

"It was sad for you," replied the boy, "but sadder for Patsy. Would you
like to be a dog?" he added, looking up suddenly into Hildegarde's face.

"I--think--not!" said that young woman meditatively. "I should have to
eat scraps and cold bones, and that I could not endure. Besides, you
couldn't read, or play on the piano, or anything of that sort. No, I am
quite sure I should not like it, Hugh."

"But you would have a tail!" cried the boy, with kindling eyes. "A tail
to wag! And--and just think how you would _go_ with four legs!" he
added, giving a jump with his two stout little limbs. "And never to have
to sit up straight, except for fun sometimes; and no boots to lace, and
not to have to cut up your dinner. Oh! it would be such fun!"

"Yes, and never to be able to change your clothes when they are wet or
muddy," replied the girl, "and to have to lie on the floor"--"I like to
lie on the floor," put in Hugh--"and to have unnatural people, who don't
like dogs, say, 'There! there! get away, dog!' when you are trying to
make yourself agreeable."

"Yes, that is bad!" Hugh admitted. "Aunt Loftus beat Merlin yesterday
when he hadn't done anything, just not anything at all. Just he wagged
his tail to tell me something, and there was an old jug in the way, and
it fell over and broke. And now he isn't to come into the house any
more. I felt like 'many oxen come about me, fat bulls of Basan compass
me on every side,' when she glared at me and said that."

Hildegarde turned her face away, and was silent for a minute.

"Merlin is your dog?" she asked presently, with a suspicious quiver in
her voice.

"Would you like to see him?" cried the lad joyfully. "He stayed behind
with a bone, but I'll call him." He gave a long, clear whistle, and a
superb collie came bounding down the avenue, and greeted his master with
violent affection.

"Down, Merlin!" said Hugh Allen gravely. "This is the Purple Maid I told
you about, but her real name is Hilda. A Purple Maid was what I called
you when I saw you coming up the steps," he explained, turning to
Hildegarde. "I didn't know any other name, you see."

"But why 'Purple Maid'?" asked Hildegarde, feeling more and more that
this was a very queer little boy. "I had been walking fast, but was I
actually purple, Hugh?"

"Oh, no!" said the boy. "It wasn't that at all. Your cheeks were like
the rosy eve. But 'purple' has a nice sound, don't you think so? a kind
of rich sound. Do you mind my calling you a Purple Maid?"

Hildegarde assured him that she did not, and then, from mere idle
curiosity, as she afterwards assured herself, she added, "And what do
you call your cousin Leonie?"

"A vinegar cruet!" replied Hugh promptly. "And Aunt Loftus is a fat--"

"Oh, hush! hush! my dear little boy!" cried Hildegarde hastily. "You
must not say such things as that."

"You asked me," replied Hugh simply. "That is what I do call them when I
think about them."

"But it is not nice to think rude and unkind things," said the Purple
Maid, reprovingly.

"Then I won't think about them at all," said the boy. "For they really
are, you know. I'd rather think of you, anyhow, and mamma, and Merlin."

[Illustration: "HILDEGARDE HAD BEEN MAKING FRIENDS WITH MERLIN."]

While this dialogue was going on, Hildegarde had been making friends
with Merlin, who responded with cheerful cordiality to her advances. He
was a beautiful creature, of true collie brown, with a black nose, and
the finest white waistcoat in the world. His eyes were wonderful, clear,
deep, and intelligent, in colour "like mountain water when it's flowing
o'er a rock."

"Dear lad!" said Hildegarde, taking his black paw and pressing it
affectionately. "I know you are as good as you are handsome. Will you be
my friend, too? Hugh is going to be my friend."

"He will!" cried Hugh eagerly. "We always like the same people, and
_almost_ always the same things. He won't eat apples, and I don't chase
cats; but those are nearly the only things we don't like together."

At a turn in the road, Hildegarde saw in the distance a black figure
walking toward them.

"There is my mother dear!" she exclaimed. "She said she would come and
meet me. Will you come and see her, Hugh?--she is _very_ nice!" she
added, seeing that the boy hung back. But Hugh studied his boots again
with rapt attention, and apparently read in them a summons back to The
Poplars.

"I think I have to go back!" he said. "I love you, and you are my Purple
Maid. May I come to see you once?"

"You may come fifty times, dear little lad!" cried Hildegarde warmly.
"Come as often as you like."

But Hugh Allen shook his head sagely. "Maybe once will be enough," he
said. "Come, Merlin! Good-by, Purple Maid!" And he and Merlin
disappeared in a cloud of legs and dust.



CHAPTER IX.

THE COUSINS.


HILDEGARDE and her cousin Jack soon became fast friends. His fear of
Mrs. Grahame vanished the first time he saw her smile, and he found, to
his great amazement, that a girl was not necessarily either "dreadful"
or stupid; moreover, that a girl's mother might be a very delightful
person, instead of a mixture of harpy and Gorgon. He was invited to come
to tea and bring his violin. Colonel Ferrers was invited, too, but
promptly declined.

"A fiddling nephew, dear madam," he said, "is a dispensation to which I
resign myself, but I do not wish to hear him fiddle."

Mrs. Grahame suggested that the fiddle might be left at home.

"No, no! Let him bring it! by all means let him bring it! if you can
really endure it without discomfort, that is. It will be the greatest
pleasure to the lad, who is a good lad, though a deplorable milksop."

So Jack came with the precious black box under his arm. Tea was set out
on the verandah, a symphony in white and gold,--golden croquettes,
butter, honey, snowy rolls, and cream cheese,--and Hildegarde pouring
the tea, in white with gold-coloured ribbons at waist and throat.

Jack Ferrers had never seen anything of this sort. "Daddy" and he had
always been together, and neither of them had ever cared or thought how
anything looked. He wondered if his cousin Hildegarde was very
frivolous. Girls were, of course; and yet--she was certainly very
pretty; and, if she really cared for music--and then, being eighteen
and hungry, he gave his undivided attention to the croquettes, which
truly deserved it.

And after tea, when they had sat quiet in the twilight for a little,
Hildegarde said softly, "Now, Cousin Jack!" And Jack took his violin and
began to play.

At the first note Mrs. Grahame laid down her knitting; at the second,
she and Hildegarde exchanged glances; at the third, they forgot each
other and everything else save the music. First came a few simple
chords, melting into a soft harmony, a prelude as low and sweet as the
notes of the mother-bird brooding over her nest; then, suddenly, from
this soft cloud of peaceful harmony there leaped a wonderful melody,
clear and keen as the same bird's song at daybreak,--a melody that
mounted higher and higher, soaring as the lark breasts the blue morning,
flight upon flight of golden notes pouring out as if the violin were a
living thing, a breathing, singing creature, with heart and soul filled
and brimming over with love and joy and beauty.

On and on the boy played, while the two women listened spellbound,
feeling that this was no ordinary playing; and as he played his whole
aspect seemed to change. He straightened himself and stood erect, save
for the loving bend of the head over the beloved instrument. His blue
eyes flashed, his whole countenance grew luminous, intense. The gawky,
listless, indolent lad was gone; and one saw only the musician rapt in
his art.

When it was over, they were all silent for a moment. Then Mrs. Grahame
held out her hand. "My dear boy!" she said. "My dear Jack, you ought to
be the happiest fellow in the world. To be able to give and to enjoy
such pleasure as this, is indeed a great privilege."

Hildegarde could only look her thanks, for the music had moved her
deeply; but her smile told Jack all that he wanted to know, and it
appeared that girls were not all frivolous; also that it must be very
nice to have a mother.

Then he played again. Indeed, they left him no choice,--the Mozart
concerto, of which he had spoken, and then one lovely thing after
another, barcarolle and serenade and fairy dance, melting finally into
the exquisite melody of an old Gaelic lullaby.

"Oh!" said Hildegarde, under her breath; and then, as her mother bade
her, she sang softly the words she loved,--

          "Slumber sweetly, little Donald."

Such a happy evening it was, on the wide verandah, with the moon shining
down, softening everything into magical wonders of ivory and silver!

It was the first of many such evenings, for soon Jack came to spending
half his time at Braeside. At nine o'clock Colonel Ferrers would come
striding up the gravel walk, swinging his big stick; and then the violin
would be tenderly laid away, and half an hour of pleasant chat would
follow, after which uncle and nephew would go off together, and the last
the two ladies heard of them would be passionate adjurations from the
former to "step out," and not to "poke your head forward like an army
mule following a grain-cart, sir!"

One day the two cousins were taking a walk together. At least they had
been walking, and now had sat down to rest on the mossy trunk of a
fallen tree,--in fact, of the same great sycamore which Hildegarde had
christened Philemon, on the memorable day of the tree-climbing. They had
been talking about everything and nothing, when suddenly Jack shook his
head and began earnestly, "Did your mother mean that the other night?"

Hildegarde simply looked at him, and raised her eyebrows.

"I mean about my being happy," the boy continued. "Because I'm not
happy, and I never expect to be."

"What is it?" Hildegarde asked, seeing that a confidence was coming.

"There is only one thing in the world that I want," cried the boy, "and
that is just what I cannot have. I want to go to Leipsic, and Uncle Tom
won't hear of it; calls it nonsense, and is going to send me to Harvard.
We are poor, you know; Daddy doesn't know anything about money, and--and
who cares about it, anyhow, except for--for things one wants? Uncle Tom
says I can't make a bow, and--oh, all kinds of rubbish! What's the use
of making a bow? I'm not going to be a dancing-master, Hildegarde!"

"Indeed, you would not be a good one!" his cousin said; "but,
considering that one must make bows, Jack, isn't it just as well to do
it well as to do it badly?"

"Who cares?" cried the boy, shaking his head wildly. "If a man is going
to _be_ anything, who cares how he bows? And--oh, of course that is one
item. I am to go to Harvard, and learn to bow and to dance, and to be a
classical scholar, and to play base-ball. I _hate_ base-ball, Hilda!
it's perfect idiocy, and it makes my head ache, and any one can see that
I'm not cut out for athletics. Are you laughing at me?"

"Indeed I am not!" said Hildegarde, heartily. "But, tell me! you want to
go to Leipsic, to study music?"

"Of course!" was the reply. "And Daddy wants me to go, and Herr Geigen
is going over in the autumn, and he would place me, and all; but Uncle
Tom hates music, you know, and if I speak of it he goes off in a rage,
and talks about rascally Dutch fiddlers, and says I walk like a giraffe
with the palsy. At least, that was the animal this morning. Yesterday I
was a gouty ostrich, and I suppose we shall go through the whole
menagerie."

"You like him?" Hildegarde said interrogatively.

"He is _very_ kind, in his way," replied Jack. "Awfully kind, and he
loves my father, and I know he wants to do things for me; but--it all
has to be done in his way, don't you see? And--well, there isn't
anything in me except music. I know that, you see, Hildegarde. Just
nothing!"

"I don't feel so sure of that!" Hildegarde said. "Perhaps you never
tried to develop the other side of you. There must be other sides, you
know."

"No, there aren't!" said Jack positively. "None at all!"

"But that is nonsense!" cried Hildegarde impatiently. "Do you mean to
say that you are a flat surface, like a playing-card, with 'music'
painted on you?"

"I didn't know I was flat!" rather stiffly.

"You see, you are not! then why not try to care for something else
_beside_ music, without caring any the less for that?"

"What is there to care for? a parcel of musty old books, such as Uncle
Tom is forever reading."

"Oh! oh! you Goth! As if it were not a rapture simply to look at the
outside of your uncle's books. To see my heart's own Doctor in dark blue
calf, with all that beautiful tooling--"

"What Doctor? what are you talking about, Hildegarde?"

"Johnson, of course! Is there another? as the man in _Punch_ says about
his hatter. And even in your own line, you foolish boy! Have you never
read that beautiful 'Life of Handel'? I looked into it the other day,
and it seemed delightful."

"No," said Jack, looking blank. "Where is it? I never saw it."

"Bookcase between the south windows, fourth shelf, about the middle;
three fat volumes in green morocco. And you never saw it, because you
never look at the books at all. What _do_ you look at, Jack, except your
music and your violin? For example, do you ever look in the glass? I
know you don't."

"How do you know?" and Jack blushed hotly.

"Because--you won't mind? I am your cousin, you know!--because your
necktie is so often crooked. It is crooked now; a little more to the
right! that's it! And--and you ought to brush that spot off your coat.
Now, if you made it a point always to look in the glass before leaving
your room--"

"Is that one of the sides you want me to develop?" asked Jack slowly.
"Caring about dress, and looks, and that sort of thing? I didn't know
you were of that kind, Hildegarde."

"Of what kind?" cried our heroine, blushing furiously in her turn, and
feeling that she was in great danger of losing her temper. "I certainly
do care about my dress and looks, as every one ought to do. Suppose the
next time you came to tea, you found me with my hair tumbling down, and
a great spot of ink on my gown, and my ruffles torn! Is that the kind of
person you like to see? I always thought Herrick's Julia was a most
untidy young woman, with her shoe-strings, and her 'erring lace' and
all."

"I don't know who she is," said Jack meekly. "But I beg your pardon if I
was rude, Hilda; and--and I will try to 'spruce up,' as Uncle Tom is
always trying to make me. You see," he added shyly, "when _you_ look in
the glass you see something nice, and I don't!"

"Nonsense!" said Hildegarde, promptly. "And then, Jack--that is only one
thing, of course. But if you had the habit of using your eyes! Oh! you
don't know what a difference it would make. I know, because I used to be
as blind as you are. I never looked at anything till about two years
ago. And now--of course I am only learning still, and shall be learning
all my life, I hope; but--well, I do see things more or less. For
example, what do you see at our feet here?"

"Grass!" said Jack, peering about. "Green grass. Do you think I don't
know that?"

Hildegarde laughed, and clapped her hands.

"Just what I should have said two years ago!" she cried. "There are
twelve different plants that I know--I've been counting them--and
several more that are new to me."

"Well, they're all green, anyhow!" said Jack. "What's the difference?"

Hildegarde scorned a direct reply, but went on, being now mounted on her
own hobby.

"And as for moths, Jack, you can have no idea of what my ignorance was
in regard to moths."

"Oh, come!" said Jack. "Every one knows about moths, of course. They eat
our clothes, and fly into the lamps. That is one of the things one finds
out when one is a baby, I suppose."

"Indeed!" cried Hildegarde. "And that is all there is to find out, I
suppose. Why--" she stopped suddenly; then said in a very different
tone, "Oh, Jack! this is a wonderful coincidence. Look! oh, _will_ you
look? oh! the beautiful, beautiful dear! Get me something! anything!
quick!"

Jack, who was not accustomed to feminine ways, wondered if his fair
cousin was going out of her mind. She was gazing intently at a spot of
lighter green on the "grass" at her feet. Presently the spot moved,
spread; developed two great wings, delicate, exquisite, in colour like a
chrysoprase, or the pure, cold green one sometimes sees in a winter
sunset.

"What is it?" asked Jack, in wonder.

"A Luna!" cried Hildegarde. "Hush! slip off on the other side, quietly!
_Fly_ to the house, and ask auntie for a fly-screen. _Quick_, Jack!"

Jack, greatly wondering, ran off none the less, his long legs scampering
with irreverent haste through the Ladies' Garden. Returning with the
screen, which auntie gave him without question, being well used to the
sudden frenzies of a moth-collector, he found Hildegarde on her knees,
holding her handkerchief over the great moth, which fortunately had
remained quiet, being indeed stupid in the strong light. The girl's face
was all aglow with triumph and delight.

"A perfect specimen," she cried, as she skilfully conveyed the great
moth under the screen. "I have two, but the tails are a little broken.
Isn't he glorious, Jack? Oh, happy day! Come, good cousin, and let us
take him home in a triumphal procession."

Jack looked rather blank. "Are you going home now?" he asked.

"Of course, to put my beauty in the ammonia jar."

"What is it?" she added, seeing that her cousin looked really vexed.

"Oh--nothing!" said Jack. "Nothing of any consequence. I am ready."

"But _what_ is it?" Hildegarde repeated. "You would a great deal better
tell me than look like that, for I know I have done something to vex
you."

"Well--I am not used to girls, you know, Hildegarde, and perhaps I am
stupid. Only--well, I was going to ask you seriously what you thought
about--my music, and all that; and first you tell me to look in the
glass, and then you go to catching moths and forget all about me. I
suppose it's all right, only--"

He blushed, and evidently did not think it _was_ all right. Hildegarde
blushed, too, in real distress.

"My _dear_ Jack," she cried, "how shall I tell you how sorry I am?"

She looked about for a suitable place, and then carefully set down the
fly-screen with its precious contents.

"Sit down again," she cried, motioning her cousin to take his place on
the fallen tree, while she did the same. "And you will not believe now
how interested I really am," she said. "Mamma would never have been so
stupid, nor Rose either. But you must believe me. I _was_ thinking about
you till--till I saw the Luna, and you don't know what a Luna means when
one hasn't a perfect specimen. But now, tell me, do you think it would
be quite impossible to persuade your uncle? Why, you _must_ go to
Leipsic, of course you must. He--has he ever heard you play, Jack?"

Jack laughed rather bitterly. "Once," he said. "He cried out that when
he wanted to listen to cats with their tails tied together, he would tie
them himself. Since then I always go up into the garret to practise, and
shut all the doors and windows."

"What a pity! and he is so nice when one knows him. I wonder--do you
know, Jack, what I am thinking of?"

Her face was so bright that the boy's face brightened as he looked at
it.

"I hope it is what I was thinking of," he said; "but I didn't dare--"

"Mamma," cried Hildegarde.

He nodded in delight, colouring with pleasure.

"She is just the person."

"Of course she is; but will she?"

"Of course she will. I am sure of it. Your uncle shall come to tea some
evening, and you shall stay at home. I will go away to write letters,
and then--oh, you see, Jack, no one can resist mamma."

"What a good fellow you are, Hildegarde! Oh, I _beg_ your pardon!"

"Never mind!" cried Hildegarde merrily. "I did climb the tree, you know.
And now, come along. I must take my beauty, my love, my moonlight
rapture, up to his death."



CHAPTER X.

BONNY SIR HUGH.


MEANWHILE Hildegarde had not lost sight of little Hugh Allen, the one
link of interest which connected her with The Poplars. He, too, had been
won by Mrs. Grahame's smile, and had learned the way to Braeside; and
the more they saw of him, the more Hildegarde and her mother felt that
he was a very remarkable little boy.

Much of the time he seemed to be lost in dreams, wrapped in a cloud of
silent thought; and, again, from this cloud would flash out the
quaintest sayings, sudden outbursts of passionate feeling, which were
startling to quiet, every-day people. When he had been walking with
Mrs. Grahame, as he was fond of doing (sneaking out by the back gate
from his prison-place, as he called it, and making a _détour_ to reach
the road where she most often walked), and when she said, "Now, dear, it
is time to say good-by, and go home," he would throw himself on his
knees, and hold up his clasped hands, crying, "How can I leave thee?" in
a manner which positively embarrassed her.

Now it happened one day that Hugh was sitting with Merlin beside the
brook that flowed at the foot of the Ladies' Garden. Hildegarde had told
him to come through the garden and wait for her, and it was his first
visit to the lovely, silent place. The child went dreaming along between
the high box hedges, stopping occasionally to look about him and to
exchange confidences with his dog. Merlin seemed to feel the influence
of the place, and went along quietly, with bent head and drooping tail.
When the murmur of the hidden streamlet first fell upon his ear, "It is
like the fishpools of Heshbon," said the boy dreamily. "Isn't it,
Merlin? I never understood before." Merlin put his cool black nose in
his master's hand, and gave a little sympathetic shake.

And now the pair were sitting on a bank of moss, looking down into the
dark, clear water, which moved so swiftly yet so silently, with only a
faint sound, which somehow seemed no louder than when they were at a
distance.

[Illustration: HILDEGARDE FINDING HUGH AND MERLIN BY THE BROOK.]

"Do you see that dark round place where it is deep, Merlin?" said the
child. "Do you think that under there lives a fair woman with green
hair, who takes a person by the hand, and kisses him, and pulls him
down? Do you think that, Merlin?" But Merlin sneezed, and shook his
head, and evidently thought nothing of the kind. "Then do you think
about fishes?" the boy went on. "Dark little fishes, with gleaming
eyes, who are sad because they cannot speak. I wish I knew your
thoughts, Merlin."

"Wuff!" said Merlin, in his voice of welcome, raising his head, and
becoming instantly a living image of cheerfulness. Hugh looked, and
there was his Purple Maid, all bright and shining, standing among the
green trees, and smiling at him. The child's face flushed with such
vivid light that the place seemed brighter. He held out his arms with a
passionate gesture that would have been theatrical if it had not been so
real, but remained silent.

"Dear!" said Hildegarde. "How quiet you are, you and Merlin! I could not
tell whether it was your voice or the brook, talking." The boy and dog
made room for her between them, and she sat down. "Aren't you going to
speak to me, Hugh?" she continued, as he still said nothing.

"I spoke to myself," said the boy. "When I saw you stand there, angelic,
in the green, 'Blessed heart of woman!' I said to myself. Do you like
the sound of that?"

"My bonny Sir Hugh!" said Hildegarde, laying her hand caressingly on the
red-gold hair. "I do like the sound of it. And do you like this place? I
want you to care for it as I do."

The boy nodded. "It is the place of dead people," he said. "We are too
alive to be here."

"I call it the Ladies' Garden," said Hildegarde softly. "Fair, sweet
ladies lived here once, and loved it. They used to sit here, Hugh, and
wander up and down the green paths, and fill the place with sweet,
gentle words. I don't believe they sang; Hester may have sung, perhaps."

"Were they fair as the moon, clear as the sun?" asked the child.

"Where did you find those sweet words, Sir Hugh?"

"In the Bible. 'Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army
with banners.' And 'thy neck is a tower of ivory.' Were they terrible,
do you think?"

"Oh, no! they were very gentle, I think, very soft and mild, like folds
of old soft cashmere; only Hester was blithe and gay, and she died,
Hugh, when she was just my age. Think of it! to die so young and go away
out of all the sunshine."

The child looked at her with strange eyes. "Why do you be sad?" he said.
"Don't you know about your Mother dear Jerusalem?"

"A little," said Hildegarde. "Tell me what you are thinking, Sir Hugh."

"It is greener there," said the child, "and brighter. Don't you know,
blessed heart? 'Where grow such sweet and pleasant flowers as nowhere
else are seen.' And more coloured words. Don't you love coloured
words?" The girl laid her hand on his lightly, but said nothing, and he
went on as if in a dream.

          "'Thy houses are of ivory,
              Thy windows crystal clear,
            Thy streets are laid with beaten gold--
              There angels do appear.'

"Two of them are papa and mamma," he added after a pause. "Do you think
they mind waiting for me very much? At first I wanted to go to them--oh,
so badly! because those people are devils, and I would rather die; but
now I have you, Purple Maid, and your mother is like balm dropping in
the valley, and I don't mind waiting, if only I thought _they_ didn't
mind it too much." He looked up wistfully, and Hildegarde bent to kiss
him.

"How long is it, dear?" she asked softly.

"A year now, a very long year, only I had Merlin. And Uncle Loftus took
me out of charity, he said; but mamma said I was to go to Aunt Martha,
so that makes me feel wrong, even if I wanted to stay with them, and it
is the pains of hell to me."

"Aunt Martha?" asked Hildegarde, willing to ask more, yet dreading to
rouse the boy's scriptural eloquence on the subject of his relatives at
The Poplars.

Hugh nodded. "Mamma's aunt," he said. "She lives somewhere, not far from
here, but I don't know where; and Uncle Loftus won't tell me, or let me
see her, 'cause she is a menial. What is a menial, dearly beloved?"

"Did your uncle say that to you?" Hildegarde asked, waiving the
question.

"He said it _at_ me!" was the reply. "At my back, but I heard it. She
was a menial, and he wasn't going to have folks saying that his aunt was
housekeeper to a stuck-up old bear, just because she was a fool and had
no proper spirit. And the others said 'hush!' and I went away, and now
they won't let me speak about her."

"Housekeeper to a--why!" began Hildegarde; and then she was silent, and
smoothed the child's hair thoughtfully. An old bear! that was what Mr.
Loftus had vulgarly called Colonel Ferrers. Could it be possible
that--Jack had told her about dear, good Mrs. Beadle, who had been nurse
to his father and uncle, and who was so devoted to them all, and such a
superior woman. She had been meaning to go to see her the next time she
was at Roseholme. Was there a mystery here? was Mrs. Beadle the plump
and comfortable skeleton in the Loftus closet? She must ask Jack.

As she mused thus, the child had fallen a-dreaming again, and they both
sat for some time silent, with the soft falling of the water in their
ears, and all the dim, shadowy beauty of the place filling their hearts
with vague delight.

Presently, "Beloved," said Hugh (he wavered between this and "Purple
Maid" as names for Hildegarde, wholly ignoring her own name), "Beloved,
there is an angel near me. Did you know it?"

"There might well be angels in this place," said Hildegarde, looking at
the boy, whose wide blue eyes wore a far-away, spiritual look.

"I don't mean just here in this spot. I mean floating through the air at
night. I hear him, almost every night, playing on his harp of gold."

"Dear Hugh, tell me a little more clearly."

"Sometimes the moon shines in at my window and wakes me up, you know.
Then I get up and look out, for it is so like heaven, only silver
instead of gold; and then--then I hear the angel play."

"What does it sound like?"

"Sometimes like a voice, sometimes like birds. And then it sobs and
cries, and dies away, and then it sounds out again, like 'blow up the
trumpet in the new moon,' and goes up, up, up, oh, so high! Do you think
that is when the angel goes up to the gate, and then is sorry for people
here, and comes back again? I have thought of that."

"My bonny Sir Hugh!" said Hildegarde gently. "Would you care less about
the lovely music if it was not really made by an angel? if it was a
person like you and me, who had the power and the love to make such
beautiful sounds?"

The child's face lightened. "Was it you?" he said in an awe-struck
voice.

"Not I, dear, but my cousin, my cousin Jack, who plays the violin most
beautifully, Hugh. He practises every night, up in the garret at
Roseholme, because--only think! his uncle does not like to hear him."

"The ostrich gentleman!" cried Hugh, bursting into merry laughter. "Is
it the ostrich gentleman?"

Hildegarde tried to look grave, with moderate success. "My cousin is
tall," she said, "but you must not call names, little lad!"

"Never any more will I call him it," cried Hugh, "if he is really the
angel. But he does look like one. Must we go?" he asked wistfully, as
Hildegarde rose, and held out her hand to him.

"Yes, dear, I am going to the village, you know. I thought we would come
this way because I wanted you to see the Ladies' Garden. Now we must go
across the meadow, and round by the back of Roseholme to find the road
again."

They crossed the brook by some mossy stepping-stones, and climbed the
dark slope on the further side, thick-set with ferns and dusky
hemlock-trees. Then came the wall, and then the sudden break into the
sunny meadow. Hugh threw off his grave mood with the shadow, and danced
and leaped in the sunshine.

"Shall I run with Merlin?" he asked. "You have never seen us run,
Beloved!"

Hildegarde nodded, and with a shout and a bark the two were off. A
pretty sight they were! the boy's golden head bobbing up and down in
full energy of running, the dog bounding beside him with long, graceful
leaps. They breasted the long, low hill, then swept round in a wide
circle, and came rushing past Hildegarde, breathless and radiant. This
was more than our heroine could bear. With a merry "Hark, follow!" she
started in pursuit, and was soon running abreast of the others, with
head thrown back, eyes sparkling, cheeks glowing.

"Hurrah!" cried Hugh.

"Hurrah it is!" echoed the Purple Maid.

"Wow, _wow_!" panted Merlin, ecstatically.

As the chase swept round the hill the second time, two gentlemen came
out of the woods, and paused in amazement at the sight. Hildegarde's
long hair had come down, and was flying in the wind; her two companions
were frantic with delight, and bobbed and leaped, shouting, beside her.
So bright was the sunshine, so vivid in colour, so full of life the
three runners, they seemed actually to flash as they moved.

"Harry Monmouth!" cried Colonel Ferrers. "Here is a girl who knows how
to run. Look at that action! It's poetry, sir! it's rhythm and metre and
melody.

          "'Nor lighter does the swallow skim
            Along the smooth lake's airy rim.'

After her, Master Milksop, and let me see what your long legs can do!"

Jack Ferrers needed no second bidding, and though his running was not
graceful, being rather a hurling himself forward, as if he were
catapult and missile in one, he got over the ground with great rapidity,
and caught his cousin up as she came flying round the meadow for the
third time. Hildegarde stopped short, in great confusion.

"Jack!" she faltered, panting. "How--where did you come from? You must
have started up out of the earth."

Turning to capture her flying tresses, she caught sight of Colonel
Ferrers, and her confusion was redoubled.

"Oh!" she cried, the crimson mounting from her cheeks to her forehead,
bathing her in a fiery tide. "Oh! how could you? He--he will be _sure_ I
am a tomboy now."

"Nothing of the kind, my fair Atalanta!" exclaimed the Colonel, who had
the ears of a fox. He advanced, beaming, and flourishing his stick.
"Nothing of the kind!" he repeated. "He is delighted, on the contrary,
to see a young creature who can make the free movements of nature with
nature's grace and activity. Harry Monmouth! Miss Hildegarde, I wish I
were twenty years younger, and I would challenge you to a race myself!"



CHAPTER XI.

A CALL AND A CONSPIRACY.


"AND you really seriously intend passing the winter here?" asked Miss
Leonie Loftus.

This young lady had come to make a parting call at Braeside. It was near
the end of August, and three months of country life were all that she
could possibly endure, and she was going with her mother to Long Branch,
and thence to Saratoga.

"You really mean it?" she repeated, looking incredulous.

"Assuredly!" replied Hildegarde, smiling. "Winter and summer, and winter
again, Miss Loftus. This is our home now, and we have become attached
to it even in these few months."

"Oh, you look at it in a sentimental light," said Miss Loftus, with a
disagreeable smile. "The domestic hearth, and that sort of thing. Rather
old-fashioned, isn't it, Miss Grahame?"

"Possibly; I have never thought of it as a matter of fashion," was the
quiet reply.

"And how do you expect to kill time in your wilderness?" was the next
question.

"Kill him?" Hildegarde laughed. "We never can catch him, even for a
moment, Miss Loftus. He flies faster at Braeside than even in New York.
I sometimes think there are only two days in the week, Monday and
Saturday."

"I hear you have a sewing-school in the village. I suppose that will
take up some time."

"I hope so! The children seem interested, and it is a great pleasure to
me. Then, too, I expect to join some of Miss Wayland's classes in the
fall, and that will keep me busy, of course."

"Miss Wayland, over in Dorset? Why, it is three miles off."

"And even if so? I hear it is a delightful school, and Miss Wayland
herself is very lovely. Do you know her?"

"No!" said Miss Loftus, who had been "dying" as she would have put it,
to get into Miss Wayland's school three years before. "A country
boarding-school isn't _my_ idea of education."

"Oh!" said Hildegarde civilly. "But to go back for a moment, Miss
Loftus. Your speaking of the children reminds me to ask you, is little
Hugh going with you to Long Branch?"

Miss Loftus coloured. "Oh, dear, no!" she replied. "A child at such
places, you know, is out of the question. He is to be sent to school. He
is going next week."

"But--pardon me! are not all schools in vacation now?"

"I believe so! But these people--the Miss Hardhacks--are willing to take
him now, and keep him."

"Poor little lad!" murmured Hildegarde, regardless of the fact that it
was none of her business. "Will he not be very lonely?"

"Beggars must not be choosers, Miss Grahame!" was the reply, with
another unamiable smile. Miss Loftus really would not have smiled at
all, if she had known how she looked.

No sooner was the visitor gone, than Hildegarde flew up to her mother
with the news. The Loftuses were going away; they were going to send
Hugh to school. What was to be done? He could not go! He _should_ not
go.

She was greatly excited, but Mrs. Grahame's quiet voice and words
restored her composure. "'Can't' and 'shan't' never won a battle!" said
that lady. "We must think and plan."

Hildegarde had lately discovered, beyond peradventure, from some chance
words let fall by little Hugh, that his mother had been the sister of
Mr. Loftus; and she felt no doubt in her own mind that good Mrs. Beadle
was aunt to both. The sister had been a school teacher, had married a
man of some education, who died during the second year of their
marriage, leaving her alone, in a Western town, with her little baby.
She had struggled on, not wishing to be a burden either on her rich
brother (who had not approved her marriage) or her aunt, who had nothing
but her savings and her comfortable berth at Roseholme. At length,
consumption laying its deadly hand on her, she sent for her brother, and
begged him to take the boy to their good aunt, who, she knew, would
care for him as her own. "But he didn't!" said Hugh. "He did not do
that. He said he would make a man of me, but I don't believe he could
make a very good one, do you, Beloved?"

Now the question was, how to bring about a meeting between the boy and
his great-aunt, if great-aunt she were.

No child was allowed to enter the sacred precincts of Roseholme, for
Colonel Ferrers regarded children, and especially boys, as the
fountain-head of all mischief, flower-breaking, bird-nesting,
turf-destroying. His own nephew had had to wait eighteen years for an
invitation. How could it be possible to introduce little Hugh, a boy and
a stranger, into the charmed garden?

If "Mammina" could only take him! No one could resist her mother,
Hildegarde thought; certainly not Colonel Ferrers, who admired her so
much. But this dear mother had sprained her ankle a week before,
slipping on a mossy stone in the garden, and was only now beginning to
get about, using a crutched stick.

Mrs. Grahame and Hildegarde put their heads together, and talked long
and earnestly. Then they sent for Jack, and took counsel with him; and a
plan was made for the first act of what Hildegarde called the Drama of
the Conspirators.

A day or two after, when Mrs. Beadle drove to the town of Whitfield,
some miles off, on her weekly marketing trip, it was Jack Ferrers,
instead of Giuseppe, the faithful manservant, who held the reins and
drove the yellow wagon with the stout brown cob. He wanted to buy some
things, he said: a necktie, and some chocolate, and--oh, lots of things;
and Mrs. Beadle was only too glad of his company. The good housekeeper
was dressed, like Villikins' Dinah, in gorgeous array, her cashmere
shawl being of the finest scarlet, her gown of a brilliant blue, while
her bonnet nodded with blue and yellow cornflowers. Not a tradesman in
Whitfield but came smiling to his door when he saw Mrs. Beadle's yellow
cart; for she was a good customer, and wanted everything of the best for
her Colonel. When they at last turned Chow-chow's head homeward, the
wagon was nearly filled with brown-paper parcels, and Jack's pockets
bulged out in all directions. As they drove along the pleasant road,
fringed with oaks and beeches, Jack broke silence with, "Biddy, did you
ever have any children?"

"Bless me, Master Jack, how you startled me!" cried Mrs. Beadle, who was
deep in a problem of jelly and roly-poly pudding. "No, dear! no jelly--I
should say, no chick nor child had I ever. I wasn't good enough, I
suppose."

"Nonsense. Biddy!" said Jack. "But you must have had some relations;
some--nieces or nephews, or something of that sort."

Mrs. Beadle sighed, and fell straightway into the trap.

"I had, dear! I had, indeed, once upon a time. But they're no good to me
now, and never will be."

She sighed again.

"How no good to you?" queried this artful Jack.

"Oh, 'tis a long story, dear, and you wouldn't care for it at all. You
would? Well! well! there's no harm that I know of in speaking of it.
I've nothing to be ashamed of. I had a niece, Master Jack, and a dearer
one never was, nor married to a finer young man. But they went out West,
and he died, and left her with a baby. I wrote again and again, begging
her to come home, but she was doing well, she said, and felt to stay,
and had friends there, and all. Oh, dear! and last year--a year ago it
is now, she died." Mrs. Beadle drew out a handkerchief and wiped her
eyes. "She died, my dear; and--I didn't ought to speak of this, Master
Jack, it do upset me so--I don't know where the child is to this day."

"Her child?" asked Jack, with a guilty consciousness of his ears being
red.

"My own dear niece Martha's child!" repeated the good woman sorrowfully.
"A boy it was, as should be seven years old by this time. I've wrote,
and I've wrote, but no answer could I get. And whether he is dead, too,
or whether his father's people have him, or what, is darkness to me."

"The brute!" exclaimed Jack Ferrers vehemently. "The cold-hearted,
odious brute!"

"What is it, my dear?" cried Mrs. Beadle, drying her tears, and looking
with alarm at the pony. "His tail over the reins, is it? Well, he will
do that, but 'tis only play. He means no harm."

"Oh, I know!" cried Jack in confusion. "I didn't mean--that is--and is
that all the relatives you have, Biddy?"

"Why, boys do love questions, don't they?" the good woman said. "I have
a nephew living, Master Jack; and if you guessed from now till Sunday
week, you never would guess his name."

"Solomon Grundy" rose to Jack's lips, he could not in the least tell
why. He did his best to look unconscious, but it was perhaps fortunate
that Mrs. Beadle was so absorbed in her own troubled thoughts that she
did not look at him.

"Who is it?" he asked. "Do tell me. Biddy! Is it any one I ever heard
of?"

"Hush, my dear! don't tell a soul that I mentioned it. I am not one to
force myself on them as has got up in the world, and think honest
service a disgrace. It's Ephraim Loftus!"

"Not Mr. Loftus at the Poplars?"

"Mr. Loftus at the Poplars! The very same. My own sister's son, and
little credit he is to either of us. Don't ask me how he made his money,
for I don't know, and don't want to know. When he was a little boy, his
pockets were always full of pennies that he got from the other boys,
trading and the like, and nobody had a kindness for him, though they
loved Martha. Not a soul in the village but loved Martha, and would do
anything for her. So when Ephraim was fourteen or so, he went away to
New York, and we never heard anything more till he came back three or
four years ago, a rich man, and built that great house, and lived there
summers. I've never seen him but once; I don't go out, only just in the
back garden, except when I drive to town. And that once he looked me
all over, as if I was a waxwork in a glass case, and never stopped nor
spoke a word. That's Ephraim Loftus! He needn't have been afraid of my
troubling him or his, I can tell him. I wouldn't demean myself." Mrs.
Beadle's face was red, and her voice trembled with angry pride.

"And--" Jack wished Hildegarde were speaking instead of himself; she
would know what to say, and he felt entirely at a loss. "Do you--do you
suppose he knows anything about--about his sister's little boy?"

Mrs. Beadle looked as if some one had struck her a blow. "Ephraim
Loftus!" she cried. "If I thought that, Master Jack, I'd--I'd--why,
what's the matter, sir?" For Jack had risen in his seat, and was waving
the whip wildly round his head.

"It's my cousin," he said. "Don't you see her coming?"

"Oh, the dear young lady! yes, to be sure. Walking this way, isn't she?
Never mind me. Master Jack!" said the good woman, striving for
composure. "I was upset by what you said, that's all. It gave me a
thought--who is the little boy with Miss Grahame, dear?"

"He? oh--he's a boy," said Jack, rather incoherently. "His name is Hugh.
Good-morning, Hildegarde! Hallo, Hugh! how are you?"

"Good-morning!" cried Hildegarde, as the wagon drew up beside her.
"Good-morning, Mrs. Beadle. Isn't it a lovely day? Will the pony stand,
Jack?"

"Like a rock!" and Jack, obeying the hint, leaped to the ground.

Mrs. Beadle had turned very pale. She was gazing fixedly at Hugh, who
returned the look with wide blue eyes, shining with some strong emotion.

"Dear Mrs. Beadle," said Hildegarde gently, taking the housekeeper's
hand in hers as she leant against the wagon, "this is a very dear little
friend of mine, whom I want you to know. His name is Hugh; Hugh Allen;
and he is staying with his uncle, Mr. Loftus."

"I knew it!" cried Mrs. Beadle, clapping her hands together. "I knew it!
And I am going to faint!"

"No, don't do that!" said Hugh, climbing up into the seat beside her.
"Don't do that. You must be calm, for you are my great-aunt, and I am
your little nephew. How do you do? I am very glad to see you."

"You are sure he will stand?" whispered Hildegarde.

"Look at him! he is asleep already."

"Then come along!" and the two conspirators vanished among the trees.

They pushed on a little way through the tangle of undergrowth, and
paused, breathless and radiant, under a great beech-tree.

"Jack," said Hildegarde, "you are a dear! How did you manage it?"

"I didn't manage it at all. I am a stupid ninny. Why, I've thrown her
into a fit. Do you think it's safe to leave her alone?"

"Nonsense! a joy fit does not hurt, when a person is well and strong.
Oh! isn't it delightful! and you have enjoyed it, too, Jack, haven't
you? I am sure you have. And--why, you have a new hat! and your necktie
is straight. You look really very nice, _mon cousin_!"

"_Mille remerciments, ma cousine_!" replied Jack, with a low bow, which,
Hildegarde noticed, was not nearly so like the shutting-up of a
jackknife as it would have been a few weeks ago. "Am I really improving?
You have no idea what I go through with, looking in the glass. It is a
humiliating practice. Have some chocolates?" He pulled out a box, and
they crunched in silent contentment.

"Now I think we may go back," said Hildegarde, after her third bonbon.
"But I must tell you first what Hugh said. I told him the whole story as
we walked along; first as if it were about some one else, you know, and
then when he had taken it all in, I told him that he himself was the
little boy. He was silent at first, reflecting, as he always does. Then
he said: 'I am like an enchanted prince, I think. Generally it is fair
ones with golden locks that take them out of prison, but at my age a
great-aunt is better. Don't you think so, Beloved?' and I did think so."

"But it _was_ a fair one with golden locks who planned it all!" Jack
said, with a shy look at his cousin's fair hair.

"Jack, you are learning to pay compliments!" cried Hildegarde, clapping
her hands. "I believe you will go to Harvard after all, and be a
classical scholar."

"I would never pay another," said Jack seriously, "if I thought it would
have that effect."

When they returned to the wagon, they found Mrs. Beadle still wiping
away joyful tears, while Hugh was apparently making plans for the
future. His voice rang out loud and clear. "And we will dwell in a
corner of the house-top, and have a dinner of herbs!" said the child.
"They may have _all_ the stalled oxes themselves, mayn't they,
great-aunt? And you will clothe us in scarlet and fine wool, won't you,
great-aunt?"

"Bless your dear heart!" cried Mrs. Beadle. "Is it red flannel you mean?
Don't tell me those heathen haven't put you into flannels!" And she wept
again.



CHAPTER XII.

THE SECOND ACT.


COLONEL FERRERS was taking his afternoon stroll in the garden. Dinner
was over; for at Roseholme, as at Braeside, country hours were kept,
with early dinner, and seven o'clock tea, the pleasantest of all meals.

With a fragrant Manilla cigar between his lips, and his good stick in
his hand, the Colonel paced up and down the well-kept gravel paths, at
peace with all mankind. The garden was all ablaze with geranium and
verbena, heliotrope and larkspur. The pansies spread a gold and purple
mantle in their own corner, while poppies were scattered all about in
well-planned confusion. All this was Giuseppe's work,--good, faithful
Giuseppe, who never rested, and never spoke, save to say "Subito,
Signor!" when his master called him. He was at work now in a corner of
the garden, setting out chrysanthemums; but no one would have known it,
so noiseless were his motions, so silent his coming and going.

The Colonel, though pleasantly conscious of the lovely pomp spread out
for his delight, was thinking of other things than flowers. He was
thinking how his nephew Jack had improved in the last two months.
Positively, thought the Colonel, the boy was developing, was coming out
of the animal kingdom, and becoming quite human. Partly due to the
Indian clubs, no doubt, and to his, the Colonel's, wholesome discipline
and instructions; but largely, sir, largely to feminine influence. Daily
intercourse with women like Mrs. Grahame and her daughter would civilise
a gorilla, let alone a well-intentioned giraffe who played the fiddle.
He puffed meditatively at his cigar, and dwelt on a pleasant picture
that his mind called up: Hildegarde as he had seen her yesterday,
sitting with a dozen little girls about her, and telling them stories
while they sewed, under her careful supervision, at patchwork and dolls'
clothes. How sweet she looked! how bright her face was, as she told the
merry tale of the "Midsummer Night's Dream." "Harry Monmouth, sir! she
was telling 'em Shakespeare! And they were drinking it in as if it had
been Mother Goose." The Colonel paused, and sighed heavily. "If Hester
had lived," he said, "if my little Hester had lived--" and then he drew
a long whiff of the fragrant Manilla, and walked on.

As he turned the corner by the great canna plant, he came suddenly upon
Mrs. Beadle, who was apparently waiting to speak to him. The good
housekeeper was in her state dress of black silk, with embroidered apron
and lace mitts, and a truly wonderful cap; and Colonel Ferrers, if he
had been observant of details, might have known that this portended
something of a serious nature. Being such as he was, he merely raised
his hat with his grave courtesy, and said: "Good-afternoon, Mrs. Beadle.
Is it about the yellow pickles? The same quantity as usual, ma'am, or
perhaps a few more jars, as I wish to send some to Mrs. Grahame at
Braeside."

Mrs. Beadle shivered a little. She had made the yellow pickles at
Roseholme for five and twenty years; and now,--"No, sir," she said
faintly. "It is not the pickles." She plucked at the fringe of her
shawl, and Colonel Ferrers waited, though with a kindling eye. Women
were admirable, but some of their ways were hard to bear.

Finally Mrs. Beadle made a desperate effort, and said, "Do you think,
sir, that you could find some one to take my place?"

Colonel Ferrers fixed a look of keen inquiry on her, and instantly felt
her pulse. "Rapid!" he said, "and fluttering; Elizabeth Beadle, are you
losing your mind?"

"I have found my little boy, sir," cried Mrs. Beadle, bursting into
tears. "My dear niece Martha's own child, Colonel Ferrers. He is in the
hands of heathen reprobates, if I do say it, and it is my duty to make a
home for him. I never thought to leave Roseholme while work I could, but
you see how it is, sir."

"I--see how it is?" cried the Colonel, with a sudden explosion. Then
controlling himself by a great effort, he said with forced calmness,
"I will walk over to the end of the garden, Elizabeth Beadle, and
when I return I shall expect a sensible and coherent--do you
understand?--_coherent_ account of this folderol. See how it is,
indeed!"

The Colonel strode off, muttering to himself, and poor Mrs. Beadle wiped
her eyes, and smoothed down her apron with trembling hands, and made up
her mind that she would not cry, if she should die for it.

When the grim-frowning Colonel returned, she told her story with
tolerable plainness, and concluded by begging that her kind friend and
master would not be angry, but would allow her to retire to a cottage,
where she could "see to" her niece's child, and bring him up in a
Christian way.

"Pooh! pooh! my good Beadle!" cried the Colonel. "Stuff and nonsense, my
good soul! I am delighted that you have found the child; delighted, I
assure you. We will get him away from those people, never fear for that!
and we will send him to school. A good school, ma'am, is the place for
the boy. None of your Hardhacks, but a school where he will be happy and
well-treated. In vacation time--hum! ha!--you might take a little trip
with him now and then, perhaps. But as to disturbing your position
here-- Pooh! pooh! stuff and nonsense! Don't let me hear of it again!"

Mrs. Beadle trembled, but remained firm. "No school, sir!" she said.
"What the child needs is a home, Colonel Ferrers; and there's nobody but
me to make one for him. No, sir! never, if I gave my life to it, could I
thank you as should be for your kindness since first I set foot in this
dear house, as no other place will ever be home to me! but go I must,
Colonel, and the sooner the better."

Then the Colonel exploded. His face became purple; his eyes flashed
fire, and, leaning upon his stick, he poured out volley upon volley of
reproach, exhortation, argument. Higher and higher rose his voice, till
the very leaves quivered upon the trees; till the object of his wrath
shook like an aspen, and even Giuseppe, in the north corner of the
garden, quailed, and murmured "Santa Maria!" over his chrysanthemums.

How much more frightened, since theirs was the blame of all the
mischief, were two guilty creatures who at this moment crouched,
concealed behind a great laurel-bush, listening with all their ears!

Jack and Hildegarde exchanged terrified glances. They had known that the
Colonel would be angry, but they had no idea of anything like this. He
was in a white heat of rage, and was hurling polysyllabic wrath at the
devoted woman before him, who stood speechless but unshaken, meekly
receiving the torrent of invective.

Suddenly, there was a movement among the bushes; and the next moment a
small form emerged from the shade, and stood in front of the furious old
gentleman. "Is your name Saul?" asked Hugh quietly.

The two conspirators had forgotten the child. They had brought him with
them, with some faint idea of letting the Colonel see him as if by
accident, hoping that his quaint grace might make a favourable
impression; but in the stress of the occasion they had wholly forgotten
his presence, and now--now matters were taken out of their hands.
Hildegarde clutched her parasol tight; Jack clasped his violin, and both
listened and looked with all their souls.

"Is your name Saul?" repeated the boy, as the Colonel, astonishment
choking for an instant the torrent of his rage, paused speechless.
"Because if it is, the evil spirit from God is upon you, and you should
have some one play with his hand."

"What--what is this?" gasped the Colonel. "Who are you, boy?"

"I am my great-aunt's little nephew," said Hugh. "But no matter for me.
You must sit down when the evil spirit is upon you. You might hurt some
one. Why do you look so at me, great-aunt? Why don't you help Mr. Saul?"

"Come away, Hughie, love!" cried Mrs. Beadle, in an agony of terror.
"Come, dear, and don't ever speak to the Colonel so again. He's only a
babe, sir, as doesn't know what he is saying."

"Go away yourself!" roared the Colonel, recovering the power of speech.
"Depart, do you hear? Remove yourself from my presence, or--" he moved
forward. Mrs. Beadle turned and fled. "Now," he said, turning to the
child, "what do you mean, child, by what you said just now? I--I will
sit down."

He sank heavily on a garden seat and motioned the child before him.
"What do you mean, about Saul--eh?"

"But you know," said Hugh, opening wide eyes of wonder,--"are you so
old that you forget?--how the evil spirit from God came upon King Saul,
and they sent for David, and he played with his hand till the evil
spirit went away. Now you remember?" He nodded confidently, and sat down
beside the Colonel, who, though still heaving and panting from his
recent outburst, made no motion to repel him. "I said _Mr._ Saul," Hugh
continued, "because you are not a king, you see, and I suppose just
'Saul' would not be polite when a person is as old as you are. And
_what_ do you think?" he cried joyously, as a sudden thought struck him.
"The ostrich gentleman plays most _beautifully_ with his hand. His name
isn't David, but that doesn't matter. I am going to find him."

"Play, Jack," whispered Hildegarde. "Play, _quick_! Something old and
simple. Play 'Annie Laurie.'"

Obeying the girl's fleeting look, Jack laid fiddle to bow, and the old
love tune rose from behind the laurel-bush and floated over the garden,
so sweet, so sweet, the very air seemed to thrill with tenderness and
gentle melody.

Colonel Ferrers sank back on the seat. "Hester's song," he murmured.
"Hester's song. Is it Hester, or an angel?"

The notes rose, swelled into the pathetic refrain,--

          "And for bonny Annie Laurie,
           I'd lay me down and die."

Then they sank away, and left the silence still throbbing, as the hearts
of the listeners throbbed.

"_I_ thought it was an angel," cried Hugh, "when I first heard him, Mr.
Saul. But it isn't. It is the ostrich gentleman, and he has to play up
in the attic generally, because his uncle is a poor person who doesn't
know how to like music. I am _so_ sorry for his uncle, aren't you?"

"Yes," said Colonel Ferrers gruffly. "Yes, I am. Very sorry."

A pause followed. Then Hugh asked cautiously: "How do you feel now, Mr.
Saul? Do you feel as if the evil spirit were going away?"

"I've got him," said the Colonel, in whose eyes the fire of anger was
giving place to something suspiciously like a twinkle. "I've got
him--bottled up. Now, youngster, who told you all that?"

"All what?" asked Hugh, whose thoughts were beginning to wander as he
gazed around the garden. "About the poor person who doesn't know how
to--"

"No, no," said the Colonel hastily, "not that. About Saul and David, and
all that. Who put you up to it? Hey?"

His keen eyes gazed intently into the clear blue ones of the child. Hugh
stared at him a moment, then answered gently, with a note of
indulgence, as if he were speaking to a much younger child: "It is in
the Bible. It is a pity that you do not know it. But perhaps there are
no pictures in your Bible. There was a big one where I lived, all _full_
of pictures, so I learned to read that way. And I always liked the Saul
pictures," he added, his eyes kindling, "because David was beautiful,
you know, and of a ruddy countenance; and King Saul was all hunched up
against the tent-post, with his eyes glaring just as yours were when you
roared, only he was uglier. You are not at all ugly now, but then you
looked as if you were going to burst. If a person _should_ burst--"

Colonel Ferrers rose, and paced up and down the path, going a few steps
each way, and glancing frequently at the boy from under his bushy
eyebrows. Hugh fell into a short reverie, and woke to say cheerfully:--

"This place fills me with heavenly joys. Does it fill you?"

"Humph!" growled the Colonel. "If you lived here, you would break all
the flowers off, I suppose, and pull 'em to pieces to see how they grow;
eh?"

Hugh contemplated him dreamily. "Is that what you did when you were a
little boy?" he answered. "I love flowers. I don't like to pick them,
for it takes their life. I don't care how they grow, as long as they
_do_ grow."

"And you would take all the birds' eggs," continued the Colonel, "and
throw stones at the birds, and trample the flower-beds, and bring mud
into the house, and tie fire-crackers to the cat's tail, and upset the
ink. _I_ know you!"

[Illustration: HUGH AND COLONEL FERRERS.]

Hugh rose with dignity, and fixed his eyes on the Colonel with grave
disapproval. "You do _not_ know me!" he said. "And--and if that is the
kind of boy you were, it is no wonder that the evil spirit comes upon
you. I shouldn't be a bit surprised if you did burst some day. Good-by,
Mr. Saul! I am going away now."

"Hold on!" cried the Colonel peremptorily. "I beg your pardon! Do you
hear? Shake hands!"

Hugh beamed forgiveness, and extended a small brown paw, which was
shaken with right good will.

"That's right!" said Colonel Ferrers, with gruff heartiness. "Now go
into the house and find your great-aunt, and tell her to give you some
jam. Do you like jam?" The boy nodded with all the rapture of seven
years. "Give you some jam, and a picture-book, and make up a bed in the
little red room. Can you remember all that?"

"Yes, Mr. Saul!" cried Hugh, dancing about a little. "Nice Mr. Saul!
Shall I bring you some jam? What kind of jam shall I say?"

"What kind do you like best?"

"Damson."

"Damson it is! Off with you now!"

When the boy was gone, the Colonel walked up and down for a few moments,
frowning heavily, his hands holding his stick behind him. Then he said
quietly, "Jack!"

Jack came forward and stood before him, looking half-proud,
half-sheepish, with his fiddle under his arm.

The Colonel contemplated him for a moment in silence. Then, "Why in the
name of all that is cacophonous, didn't you play me a tune at first,
instead of an infernal German exercise? Hey?"

Jack blushed and stammered. He had played for his uncle once only, a
fugue by Hummel, of which his mind had happened to be full; he felt that
it had not been a judicious choice.

"Can you play 'The Harp of Tara'?" demanded the Colonel; and Jack
played, with exquisite feeling, the lovely old tune, the Colonel
listening with bent head, and marking the time with his stick. "Harry
Monmouth!" he said, when it was over. "Because a man doesn't like to
attend the violent ward of a cats' lunatic asylum, it doesn't follow
that he doesn't care for music. Music, sir, is melody, that's what it
is!"

Jack shuddered slightly, and did silent homage to the shade of Wagner,
but knew enough to keep silence.

"And--and where did you pick up this child?" his uncle continued. "I
take it back about his having been put up to what he did. He is true
blue, that child; I shouldn't wonder if you were, too, in milksop
fashion. Hey?"

"Skim-milk is blue, you know, uncle," said Jack, smiling. "But I didn't
discover Hugh. Isn't he a wonderful child, sir? Hildegarde discovered
him, of course. I believe Hildegarde does everything, except what her
mother does. Come here, Hildegarde! Come and tell Uncle Tom about your
finding Hugh."

But Hildegarde was gone.



CHAPTER XIII.

A PICNIC.


"MY dear Colonel, I congratulate you most heartily! Indeed, I had little
doubt of your success, for this was a case in which Reynard the Fox was
sure to have the worst of it. But I am very curious to know how you
managed it."

"Nothing could be simpler, my dear madam. I went to the fellow's house
yesterday morning. 'Mr. Loftus, your little nephew is at my house. Your
aunt, Mrs. Beadle, has taken charge of him, according to his mother's
wish, and I undertook to inform you of the fact.' He turned all the
colours of the rainbow, began to bluster, and said he was the boy's
nearest relation, which is very true. 'I want him to grow up a
gentleman,' said he. 'Precisely,' said I. 'He shall have a chance to do
so, Mr. Loftus.' The fellow didn't like that; he looked black and green,
and spoke of the law and the police. 'That reminds me,' I said, 'of a
story. About twenty-five years ago, or it may be thirty, a sum of money
was stolen from my desk, in what I call my counting-room in my own
house. Am I taking up too much of your valuable time, sir?' He choked
and tried to speak, but could only shake his head. 'The thief was a mere
lad,' I went on, 'and a clumsy one, for he dropped his pocketknife in
getting out of the window,--a knife marked with his name. For reasons of
my own I did not arrest the lad, who left town immediately after; but I
have the knife, Ephraim, in my possession.' I waited a moment, and then
said that I would send for the little boy's trunk; wished him good-day,
and came off, leaving him glowering after me on the doorstep. You see,
it was very simple."

"I see," said Mrs. Grahame. "But is it possible that Mr. Loftus--"

"Very possible, my dear Mrs. Grahame. As I told him, I have the knife,
with his name in full. One hundred dollars he stole; for Elizabeth
Beadle's sake, of course I let it go. Her peace of mind is worth more
than that, for if she's thoroughly upset, the dinners she orders are a
nightmare, positively a nightmare. That is actually one reason why I
planned this picnic for to-day, because I knew I should have something
with cornstarch in it if I dined at home. Why cornstarch should connect
itself with trouble in the feminine mind, I do not know; but such seems
to be the case."

Mrs. Grahame laughed heartily at this theory; then, in a few earnest
words, she told Colonel Ferrers how deeply interested she and her
daughter were in this singular child, and how happy they were in the
sudden and great change in his prospects.

"And I know you will love him," she said. "You cannot help loving him,
Colonel. He is really a wonderful child."

"Humph!" said the Colonel thoughtfully. Then after a pause, he
continued: "I thought I had lost the power of loving, Mrs. Grahame; of
loving anything but my flowers, that is, any living creature; lost it
forty years ago. But somehow, of late, there has been a stirring of the
ground, a movement among the old roots--yes! yes! there may be a little
life yet. That child of yours--you never saw Hester Aytoun, Mrs.
Grahame?"

"Never," said Mrs. Grahame softly. "She died the year before I came here
as a child."

"Precisely," said Colonel Ferrers. "She was a--a very lovely person.
Your daughter is extremely like her, my dear madam."

"I fancied as much," said Mrs. Grahame, "from the miniature I found in
Uncle Aytoun's collection."

"Ah! yes! the miniature. I remember, there were two. I have the mate to
it, Mrs. Grahame. Yes! your daughter is very like her. There was a
strong attachment between Hester and myself. Then came a mistake, a
misunderstanding, the puff of a feather, a breath of wind; I went away.
She was taken suddenly ill, died of a quick consumption. That was forty
years ago, but it changed my life, do you see? I have lived alone.
Robert Aytoun was a disappointed man. Wealthy Bond,--you know the old
story,--Agatha an invalid, Barbara a rigorous woman, strict Calvinist,
and so forth. We all grew old together. The neighbours call me a
recluse, a bear--I don't know what all; right enough they have been.
But now--well, first the lad, there, came--my brother's son. Duty, you
know, and all the rest of it; father an unsuccessful genius, angel and
saint, with an asinine quality added. That waked me up a little, but
only made me growl. But that child of yours, and your own society, if
you will allow me to say so--I see things with different eyes, in short.
Why, I am actually becoming fond of my milksop; a good lad, eh, Mrs.
Grahame? an honest, gentlemanly lad, I think?"

"Indeed, yes!" cried Mrs. Grahame heartily. "A most dear and good lad,
Colonel Grahame! I cannot tell you how fond Hilda and I are of him."

"That's right! that's right!" said the Colonel, with great heartiness.
"You have done it all for him, between you. Holds up his head now, walks
like a Christian; and, positively, I found him reading 'Henry Esmond,'
the other day; reading it of his own accord, you observe. Said his
cousin Hilda said Esmond was the finest gentleman she knew, and wanted
to know what he was like. When a boy takes to 'Henry Esmond,' my dear
madam, he is headed in the right direction. Asked me about Lord Herbert,
too, at dinner yesterday; really took an interest. Got that from his
cousin, too. How many girls know anything about Lord Herbert? Tell me
that, will you?"

"Hildegarde has always been a hero-worshipper!" said Mrs. Grahame,
smiling, with the warm feeling about the heart that a mother feels when
her child is praised. "You make me very happy, Colonel, with all these
kind words about my dear daughter. What she is to me, of course, I
cannot tell. 'The very eyes of me!' you remember Herrick's dear old
song. But I think my good black auntie put it best, one day last week,
when Hildegarde had a bad headache, and was in her room all day. 'Miss
Hildy,' said auntie, 'she's de salt in de soup, she is. 'Tain't no good
without her.' But hark! here they come back, with the water; and now,
Colonel, it is time for luncheon."

The speakers were sitting under a great pine tree, one of a grove which
crowned the top of a green hill. Below them lay broad, sunny meadows,
here whitening into silver with daisies, there waving with the young
grain. In a hollow at a little distance lay a tiny lake, as if a
giantess had dropped her mirror down among the golden fields; further
off, dark stretches of woodland framed the bright picture. It was a
scene of perfect beauty. Mrs. Grahame sat gazing over the landscape, her
heart filled with a great peace. She listened to the young voices, which
were coming nearer and nearer. She was so glad that she had made the
effort to come. It had been an effort, even though Colonel Ferrers's
thoughtfulness had provided the most comfortable of low phaetons, drawn
by the slowest and steadiest of cobs, which had brought her with as
little discomfort as might be to the top of the hill. But how well worth
the fatigue it was to be here!

"And do you love me, Purple Maid?" It was Hugh's clear treble that
thrilled with earnestness.

"I love you very much, dear lad! What would you do if I did not, Hugh?"

"Oh! I should weep, and weep, and be a _very_ melancholy Jaques,
indeed!"

"Melancholy Jaques!" muttered Colonel Ferrers. "Where on earth did he
get hold of that? Extraordinary youngster!"

"He loves the Shakespeare stories," said Mrs. Grahame. "Hilda tells them
to him, and reads bits here and there. Oh, I assure you, Colonel
Ferrers, Hugh is a revelation. There never was a child like him, I do
believe. But, hush! here he is!"

The boy's bright head appeared, as he came up the hill, hand in hand
with Hildegarde. They were laden with ferns and flowers, while Jack
Ferrers, a few steps behind, carried a pail of fresh water.

"Aha!" said the Colonel, rubbing his hands. "Here we are, eh? What! you
have robbed the woods, Hildegarde? Scaramouche, how goes it, hey?"

"It goes very well!" replied Hugh soberly, but with sparkling eyes. "I
am going to call him 'Bonny Dundee,' because his name is John Grahame,
you see; and she says, perhaps he _may_ be a hero, too, some day; that
would be _so_ nice!"

"Come, Hugh!" said Hildegarde, laughing and blushing. "You must not tell
our secrets. Wait till he _is_ a hero, and then he shall have the hero's
name."

"What!" cried the Colonel. "You young Jacobite, are you instilling your
pernicious doctrines into this child's breast? Bonny Dundee, indeed!
Marmalade is all that I want to know about Dundee. Bring the hamper,
Jack! here, under this tree! You are quite comfortable here, Mrs.
Grahame?"

"Extremely comfortable," said that lady. "Now, you gentlemen may unpack
the baskets, while Hilda and I lay the cloth."

All hands went to work, and soon a most tempting repast was set out
under the great pine tree. Colonel Ferrers's contribution was a triumph
of Mrs. Beadle's skill, and resembled Tennyson's immortal

                "Pasty costly made,
          Where quail and pigeon, lark and linnet lay,
          With golden yolks imbedded and injellied."

Indeed, the Colonel quoted these lines with great satisfaction, as he
set the great pie down in the centre of the "damask napkin, wrought
with horse and hound."

"That is truly magnificent!" exclaimed Mrs. Grahame. "And I can match it
with 'the dusky loaf that smells of home,'" she added, taking out of her
basket a loaf of graham bread and a pot of golden butter.

"Here is the smoked tongue," cried Hildegarde; "here is raspberry jam,
and almond cake. Shall we starve, do you think, Colonel Ferrers?"

"In case of extreme hunger, I have brought a few peaches," said the
Colonel; and he piled the rosy, glowing, perfect globes in a pyramid at
a corner of the cloth.

"Cloth of gold shall be matched with cloth of frieze," said Mrs.
Grahame, and in the opposite corner rose a pyramid of baked potatoes,
hot and hot, wafting such an inviting smell through the air that the
Colonel seized the carving-knife at once.

"Are you ready?" he demanded. "Why--where is Jack? Jack, you rascal!
where have you got to?"

"Here!" cried a voice among the bushes; and Jack appeared, flushed with
triumph, carrying a smoking coffee-pot. "This is my contribution," he
said. "If it is only clear! I think it is."

Hildegarde held out a cup, and he poured out a clear amber stream, whose
fragrance made both potatoes and peaches retire from the competition.

"You really made this?" Colonel Ferrers asked. "You, sir?"

"I, sir," replied Jack. "Biddy taught me. I--I have been practising on
you for a couple of days," he added, smiling. "You may remember that
your coffee was not quite clear day before yesterday?"

"Clear!" exclaimed the Colonel, bending his brows in mock anger. "I
thought Lethe and Acheron had been stirred into it. So that is the kind
of trick Elizabeth Beadle plays on me, eh? Scaramouche!" addressing
Hugh, "you must look after this great-aunt of yours, do you hear?"

"She made the pie," said Hugh diplomatically.

"She did! she did!" cried Hildegarde, holding out her cup. "Let no one
breathe a word against her. Fill up, fill up the festal cup! drop
Friendship's sugar therein! two lumps, my mother, if you love me!"

"Somebody should make a poem on this pie," said Mrs. Grahame. "There
never was such a pie, I believe. Hilda, you seem in poetic mood. Can you
not improvise something?"

Hildegarde considered for a few minutes, making meanwhile intimate
acquaintance with the theme of song; then throwing back her head, she
exclaimed with dramatic fervour:--

                "I sing the pie!
                 The pie sing I!
          And yet I do not sing it; why?
                 Because my mind
                 Is more inclined
          To eat it than to glorify."

Anything will make people laugh at a picnic, especially on a day when
the whole world is aglow with light and life and joy. One jest followed
another, and the walls of the pie melted away to the sound of laughter,
as did those of Jericho at the sound of the trumpet. Merlin, who had
stayed behind to watch a woodchuck, came up just in time to consume the
last fragments, which he did with right good will. Then, when they had
eaten "a combination of Keats and sunset," as Mrs. Grahame called the
peaches, the Colonel asked permission to light his cigar; and the soft
fragrance of the Manilla mingled with odours of pine and fir, while
delicate blue rings floated through the air, to the delight of Hugh and
Merlin.

"This is the nose dinner," said the child. "It is almost better than the
mouth dinner, isn't it?"

"Humph!" said the Colonel, puffing meditatively. "If you hadn't had the
mouth dinner first, young man, I think we should hear from you shortly.
Hest--a--Hildegarde, will you give us a song?"

So Hildegarde sang one song and another, the old songs that the Colonel
loved: "Ben Bolt," and "The Arethusa," and "A-hunting we will go"; and
then, for her own particular pleasure and her mother's, she sang an old
ballad, to a strange, lovely old air that she had found in an
Elizabethan song-book.

          "When shaws been sheene, and shraddes full faire,
             And leaves are large and long,
           It is merry walking in the fair forest,
             To hear the small birds' song.

          "The woodwele sang, and would not cease,
             Sitting upon the spray,
           Soe loud, he wakened Robin Hood,
             In the greenwood where he lay."

It was the ballad of Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne; and when she sang
the second verse her mother's sweet alto chimed in; and when she sang
the third verse, Jack began to whistle a soft, sweet accompaniment, the
effect of which was almost magical; and when she sang the fourth
verse,--wonder of wonders! here was the Colonel humming a bass, rather
gruff, but in perfect tune.

When the ballad was over, there was a chorus of surprise and
congratulation. "Colonel Ferrers! why didn't you tell us you sang?"

"I say, Uncle Tom, you've been regularly humbugging us. The idea of your
turning out a _basso profundo_!"

The Colonel looked pleased and conscious.

"Saul among the prophets, eh?" he said. "This little rascal calls me
Saul, you know, Mrs. Grahame; caught me in a temper the other day, and
set Jack on me with his fiddle. Ha! hum! Why, I used to sing a little,
duets and so forth, forty years ago. Always fond of singing; fond of
anything that has a tune to it, though I can't abide your Dutch noises.
Where's your fiddle, Jack?"

Jack had not brought his fiddle; but he whistled a Scotch reel that
Colonel Ferrers had not heard since before the flood, he said; and then
Hildegarde sang "Young Lochinvar," and so the pleasant moments went.

By and by, when the dishes were burned (such a convenience are the paper
dishes, removing the only unpleasant feature of a picnic, the washing of
dishes or carrying home of dirty ones), and everything neatly packed
away, Hugh challenged Hildegarde to a race down the hill and across the
long meadow to the sunk wall beyond. Jack claimed a place in the
running, but the Colonel insisted that he and Merlin should give the
others odds, as ostriches and quadrupeds had an unfair advantage over
ordinary runners. Mrs. Grahame, after hunting in her reticule, produced
a prize, a rouleau of chocolate; positions were taken, and Colonel
Ferrers gave the signal--one, two, three, and away! Away went Hildegarde
and the boy, Jack holding Merlin, who was frantic with impatience, and
did not understand the theory of handicaps. As the first pair reached
the bottom of the hill, the Colonel again gave the signal, and the
second two darted in pursuit. "Away, away went Auster like an arrow from
the bow!"

Hildegarde was running beautifully, her head thrown back, her arms close
at her sides; just behind her Hugh's bright head bobbed up and down, as
his little legs flew like a windmill. But Jack Ferrers really merited
his name of the ostrich gentleman, as with head poked forward, arms
flapping, and legs moving without apparent concert, he hurled himself
down the hill at a most astonishing rate of speed. The Colonel and Mrs.
Grahame looked on with delight, when suddenly both uttered an
exclamation and rose to their feet.

What was it?

From behind a clump of trees at a little distance beyond Hildegarde, a
large animal suddenly appeared. It had apparently been grazing, but now
it stopped short, raised its head, and gazed at the two figures which
came flying, all unconscious, towards it.

"John Bryan's bull!" cried Mrs. Grahame. "Oh! Colonel Ferrers, the
children! Hildegarde!"

"Don't be alarmed, dear madam!" said the Colonel hastily, seizing his
stick. "Remain where you are, I beg of you. I will have John Bryan
hanged to-morrow! Meanwhile"--and he hastened down the hill, as rapidly
as seventy years and a rheumatic knee would permit.

But it was clear that whatever was to be done must be done quickly.
Hildegarde and Hugh had seen the bull, and stopped. He was well known as
a dangerous animal, and had once before escaped from his owner, a
neighbouring farmer. Mrs. Grahame, faint with terror, saw little Hugh,
with a sudden movement, throw himself before Hildegarde, who clasped her
arms round him, and slowly and quietly began to move backwards. The bull
uttered a bellow, and advanced, pawing the ground; at first slowly, then
more and more rapidly as Hildegarde increased her pace, till but a short
distance intervened between him and the two helpless children. Colonel
Ferrers was still a long way off. Oh! for help! help! The bull bellowed
again, lowered his huge head, and rushed forward. In a moment he would
be upon them. Suddenly--what was this? A strange object appeared,
directly between the bull and his helpless victims. What was it? The
bull stopped short, and glared at his new enemy. Two long legs, like
those of a man, but no body; between the legs a face, looking at him
with fiery eyes. Such a thing the bull had never seen. What was it? Men
he knew, and women, and children; knew and hated them, for they were
like his master, who kept him shut up, and sometimes beat him. But this
thing! what was it? The strange figure advanced steadily towards him;
the bull retreated--stopped--bellowed--retreated again, shaking his
head. He did not like this. Suddenly the figure made a spring! turned
upside down. The long legs waved threateningly in the air, and with an
unearthly shriek the monster came whirling forward in the shape of a
wheel. John Bryan's bull turned and fled, as never bull fled before.
Snorting with terror, he went crashing through the woods, that wild
shriek still sounding in his ears; and he never stopped till he reached
his own barnyard, where John Bryan promptly beat him and tied him up.

Hildegarde, pale and trembling, held out her hand as Jack, assuming his
normal posture, came forward. She tried to speak, but found no voice,
and could only press his hand and look her gratitude.

Colonel Ferrers, much out of breath, came up, and gave the lad's hand a
shake that might almost have loosened his arm in the socket. "Well done,
lad!" he cried. "You are of the right stuff, after all, and you'll hear
no more 'milksop' from me. Where did you learn that trick? Harry
Monmouth! the beast was frightened out of his boots! Where did you learn
it, boy?"

"An Englishman showed it to me," said Jack modestly. "It's nothing to
do, but it always scares them. How are you now, Hildegarde? Sit down,
and let me bring you some water!"

But Hugh Allen clasped the long legs of his deliverer, and cried
joyously, "I knew he was a David! he is a double David now, isn't he,
Beloved?"

"Yes," said Hildegarde, smiling again, as she turned to hasten up the
hill to her mother, "but _I_ shall call him 'Bonny Dundee,' for he has
won the hero's name."

"It was the ostrich that won the day, though," said Jack, looking at his
legs.

[Illustration: OVER THE JAM POTS.]



CHAPTER XIV.

OVER THE JAM-POTS.


ONE bright September morning Hildegarde was sitting in the dining-room,
covering jam-pots. She had made the jam herself--peach marmalade it was,
the best in the world, all golden-brown, like clear old amber--a day or
two before, and now it was firm enough to cover. At her right hand was a
pile of covers, thick white paper cut neatly in rounds, a saucer full of
white of egg, another full of brandy, an inkstand and pen. At her left
was an open book, and a large rosy apple. She worked away busily with
deft fingers, only stopping now and then for a moment to nibble her
apple. First a small cover wet in brandy, fitting neatly inside the
jar; then a large cover brushed over with white of egg, which, when dry,
would make the paper stiff, and at the same time fasten it securely
round the jar. And all the time she was murmuring to herself, with an
occasional glance at the volume beside her,--

          "'Sabrina fair, listen where thou art sitting,
             Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
           In twisted braids of lilies knitting
             The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair.
           Listen for dear honour's sake,
           Goddess of the silver lake,
               Listen and save!
           Listen and appear to us,
           In name of great Oceanus.'"

Here she stopped to write on several jars the paper on which was dry and
hard; a bite at her apple, and she continued,--

          "'By the earth-shaking Neptune's crook'--"

"No," glancing at the book. "Why do I always get that wrong?

          "'By the earth-shaking Neptune's _mace_,
            And Tethys' grave majestic pace;
            By hoary Nereus' wrinkled look,
            And the Carpathian'--"

At this moment a shadow fell on the table, as of some one passing by the
window, and the next moment Jack entered.

"What are you doing?" he asked, after the morning greetings, sitting
down and scowling at the unoffending jam-pots. "Can't you come out in
the garden? It's no end of a day, you know!"

"No end?" said Hildegarde. "Then I shall have plenty of time, and I must
finish my jam-pots in any case, and my poetry."

"Poetry? are you making it?"

"Only learning it. I like to learn bits when I am doing things of this
sort.

          "'By Leucothea's lovely hands,
            And her son that rules the strands'--

"Wait just a moment, Jack. I think I know it all now.

          "'By Thetis' tinsel-slippered feet,
            And the songs of Sirens sweet'--

Isn't that lovely, Jack?"

"Oh, yes," answered Jack absently. "What _have_ you been doing here,
Hilda?" He was studying the jars that were already marked, and now read
aloud,--

          "'William the Conqueror, his Jam, 1066.'

                  "'Peach Marmalade.
           Put up by Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,
                   For his own use.'

"What an extraordinary girl you are, Hildegarde!"

"Not at all extraordinary!" cried Hildegarde, laughing and blushing.
"Why shouldn't I amuse myself? It hurts no one, and it amuses me very
much."

Jack laughed, and went on,--

          "'Marmaladus Crabappulis.
              C. J. Cæsar fecit.
                  Jam satis.'

                "'Crab-apple Jelly.
          Macbeth, Banquo & Co., Limited.'

                    "'Peach Marmalade.
                          Made by
          John Grahame, Viscount Dundee. Gold Medal.'

"This ought to be mine."

"It shall be yours, greedy viscount. Get a spoon and eat it at once, if
you like."

"Thank you so much. I would rather take it home, if I may. I say, what
is that brown stuff out on the porch, with mosquito netting over it?
Nothing very valuable, I hope?"

"Oh, _Jack_!" cried Hildegarde, springing up, "my peach leather! What
have you--did you fall into it? Oh, and I thought you were improving so
much! I must go--"

"No, don't go," said her cousin. "I--I only knocked down one plate.
And--Merlin was with me, you know, and I don't believe you would find
any left. I am very sorry, Hilda. Can I make some more for you?"

"I think not, my cousin. But no matter, if it is only one plate, for
there are a good many, as you saw. Only, do be careful when you go home,
that's a good boy."

"What is it, anyhow?"

"Why--you cook it with brown sugar, you know."

"Cook what? Leather?"

"Oh, dear! the masculine mind is _so_ obtuse--peaches, O sacred bird of
Juno!"

"The eagle?"

"The goose. You really _must_ study mythology, Jack. You cook the
peaches with brown sugar, and then you rub them through a sieve,--it's
a horrid piece of work!--and then spread them on plates, just as you saw
them, and cover them to keep the flies off."

"And leave long ends trailing to trip up your visitors."

"One doesn't expect giraffes to make morning calls. So after a few days
it hardens, if it has the luck to be left alone, and then you roll it
up."

"Plates and all?"

"Of course! and sprinkle sugar over it, and it is really delicious. I
might have given you that plate you knocked over, but now--"

"It was the smallest, I remember."

"And, Jack, I made it all myself. No one else touched it. And all this
marmalade, and three dozen pots of currant jelly, and four dozen of
crab-apple."

"Sacred bird of Juno!" ejaculated her cousin.

"Do you dare call _me_ a goose, sir?"

"She drove peacocks, didn't she? I do know a _little_ mythology.

"But, Hildegarde, be serious now, will you? I'm in a peck of trouble, as
Biddy says. I want consolation, or advice, or something."

"Sit down, and tell me," said Hildegarde, full of interest at once.

Jack sat down and drummed on the table, a thing that Hildegarde had
never been allowed to do.

"I got a letter from Daddy, yesterday," he said, after a pause. "Herr
Geigen is going to Germany now, in a week, and Daddy says I may go if
Uncle Tom is willing."

"And he isn't willing?" Hilda said. "Oh!"

Jack got up and moved restlessly about the room, laying waste the chairs
as he went. "Willing? He only roars, and says, 'Stuff and nonsense!'
which is no answer, you know, Hilda. If he would just say 'No,'
quietly, I--well, of course you can make up your mind to stand a thing,
and stand it. But he won't listen to me for five minutes. If he could
realise--one can get as good an education at Leipsic as at Harvard. But
his idea of Germany is a country inhabited by a crazy emperor and a
'parcel of Dutch fiddlers,' and by no one else. I shall have to give it
up, I suppose."

"Oh, no!" cried Hildegarde hopefully. "Don't give it up yet. You know
when mamma spoke to him, he didn't absolutely say 'No.' He said he would
think about it. Perhaps--she might ask him if he had thought about it.
Wait a day or two, at any rate, Jack, before you write to your father.
Can you wait?"

"Oh, yes! but it won't make any difference. I suppose it's good for me.
You say all trouble is good in the end. Have you ever had any trouble, I
wonder, Hilda?"

"My father!" said Hildegarde, colouring.

"Forgive me!" cried her cousin. "I am a brute! an idiotic brute! What
shall I do?" he said in desperation, seeing the tears in the girl's
clear eyes. "It would do no good if I went and shot myself, or I would
in a minute. You will forgive me, Hilda?"

"My dear, there is nothing to forgive!" said Hildegarde, smiling kindly
at him. "Nothing at all. I shouldn't have minded--but--it is his
birthday to-morrow," and the tears overflowed this time, while Jack
stood looking at her in silent remorse, mentally heaping the most
frantic abuse upon himself.

The tears were soon dried, however, and Hildegarde was her cheerful self
again. "You must go now," she said, "for I have all these jam-pots to
put away, and it is nearly dinner-time. See! this jar of peach marmalade
is for Hugh, because he is fond of it. Of course Mrs. Beadle can make it
a great deal better, but he will like this because his Purple Maid made
it. Isn't he a darling, Jack?"

"Yes, he's a little brick, certainly. Uncle Tom calls him the Phoenix,
and is more delighted with him every day. Now _there's_ a boy who ought
to go to Harvard."

"He will," said Hildegarde, nodding sagely. "Good-by, Jack dear!"

"It is very early. I don't see why I have to go so soon! Can't I help
you to put away the jam-pots?"

"You can go home, my dear boy. Good-by! I sha'nt forget--"

"Oh, good-by!" and Jack flung off in half a huff, as auntie would have
said.

Hildegarde looked after him thoughtfully. "How young he is!" she said to
herself. "I wonder if boys always are. And yet he is two years older
than I by the clock, if you understand what I mean!" She addressed the
jam-pots, in grave confidence, and began to put them away in their own
particular cupboard.



CHAPTER XV.

AT THE BROWN COTTAGE.


HILDEGARDE'S mind was still full of her cousin and his future, as she
sat that afternoon in Mrs. Lankton's kitchen, with her sewing-school
around her. The brown cottage with the green door had been found the
most central and convenient place for the little class, and it was an
object of absorbing interest to Mrs. Lankton herself. She hovered about
Hildegarde and her scholars, predicting disease and death for one and
another, with ghoulish joy.

"Your ma hadn't ought to let you come out to-day, Marthy Skeat. You
warn't never rugged from the time you was a baby; teethin' like to have
carried you off, and 'tain't too late now. There's wisdom teeth, ye
know. Well, it's none o' my business, but I hope your ma's prepared.
Good-mornin', Miss Grahame! I'm tellin' Marthy Skeat she ain't very
likely to see long skirts, comin' out in this damp air. You're peart,
are ye? That's right! Ah! they can look peart as ain't had no troubles
yet. I was jist like you oncet, Miss Grahame. I've had a sight o'
trouble! no one don't know what I've ben through; don't know nothin'
about it. You've fleshed up some since ye came here, ain't ye? Well,
they do flesh up that way sometimes, but 'tain't no good sign. There's
measles about, too, they say."

"How bright and pretty your plants are, Mrs. Lankton!" said Hilda,
trying to make a diversion. "No, Jack!--I mean Jenny! you will have to
take that out again. See those long stitches! They look as if they were
all running after each other, don't they? Take them out, dear, and make
me some nice, neat little stitches, stepping along quietly, as you do
when you have on those new shoes you were telling me about. Lizzie, I
wonder what turns your thread so dark? See how white my seam is! What do
you suppose is the matter with yours?"

Lizzie giggled and hung her head. "Forgot to wash my hands!" she
muttered.

"That was a pity!" said Hildegarde. "It spoils the looks of it, you see.
I am sure Mrs. Lankton will let you wash your hands in that bright tin
basin. Vesta Philbrook, where is your violin?"

"Ma'am?" said Vesta Philbrook, opening her mouth as wide as her eyes.

"Your thimble I mean, of course!" said Hildegarde, blushing violently,
and giving herself a mental shake. "Now go to work, like a good girl.
Mary, here is the patchwork I promised you, already basted. See, a pink
square, a blue square, a white one, and a yellow one. They are all
pieces of my dresses, the dresses I wore last summer; and I thought you
would like to have them for your quilt."

"Oh, thank you!" cried the child, delighted. "Oh, ain't them pretty?"

"Handsome!" said Mrs. Lankton, peering over the child's shoulder. "Them
is handsome. Ah! I pieced a quilt once, with nine hundred and
ninety-nine pieces into it. Good goods they was; I had good things then;
real handsome calico, just like them. Ah, I didn't know what trouble was
when I was your age, children. Wait till you've had lumbago, an'
neurology, an' cricks in your necks so's't you can't stand straight, not
for weeks together you can't, and your roof leakin', an' dreepin' all
over yer bed, an'--"

"Why, Mrs. Lankton!" exclaimed Hildegarde. "Surely the roof is not
leaking again, when it was all shingled this summer!"

"Not yet it ain't, dear!" sighed the widow. "But I'm prepared for it,
and I don't expect nothin' else, after what I've been through. I was
fleshy myself, once, though no one wouldn't think it to look at me."

"I wonder, Mrs. Lankton," began Hildegarde gently.

"You may wonder, dear!" was the reply. "Folks do wonder when they think
what I've bean through. Fleshy was no name for it. There! I was fairly
corpilent when I was your age."

"Oh!" said Hildegarde, in some confusion. "I meant--I am very thirsty,
Mrs. Lankton, and if you _could_ give me a glass of your delicious
water--"

"Suttingly!" exclaimed the widow with alacrity. "Suttingly, Miss
Grahame! I'll go right out and pump ye some. It _is_ good water," she
admitted, with reluctant pride. "I've been expectin' it would dry up,
right along, lately!" and she hastened out into the yard.

"Now, children," said Hildegarde hastily, "I will go on with the story I
began last time. 'So Robert Bruce was crowned king of Scotland; and no
sooner was he king than'--"

By the time Mrs. Lankton returned with the water, every child was
listening spellbound to the wonderful tale of Bruce at the ford, and no
one had an eye or an ear for the doleful widow, save Hildegarde, whose
"Thank you!" and quick glance of gratitude lightened for a moment the
gloom of her hostess's countenance.

So deep were teacher and pupils in Bruce and patchwork that none of them
heard the sound of wheels, or the sudden cessation of it outside the
door, till Mrs. Lankton exclaimed with tragic unction: "It is Colonel
Ferrers! driving hisself, and his hoss all of a sweat. I hope he ain't
the bearer of bad news, but I should be prepared, if I was you, Miss
Grahame. Poor child! what would you do if your ma was took?" Hildegarde
hastened to the door, but was instantly reassured by the old gentleman's
cheery smile.

"Why did you move?" he said. "I stopped on purpose to have a look at
you, with your flock of doves around you. Hilda and the doves, hey? you
remember? 'Marble Faun!' yes, yes! But since you have moved, shall I
drive you home, Miss Industry?"

Hildegarde glanced at the clock. "Our time is over," she said to the
children. "Yes, Colonel Ferrers, thank you! I should enjoy the drive
very much indeed. Can you wait perhaps five minutes?"

The Colonel could and would; and Hildegarde returned to see that all
work was neatly folded and put away.

"And, Annie, here is the receipt I promised you. Be sure to mix the meal
thoroughly, and have a good hot oven, and you will find them very nice
indeed, and your mother will be so pleased at your making them
yourself!"

"Vesta, did you try the honey candy?"

"Yes, 'm! 'twas dretful good. My little brother, he like t'ha' died, he
eat so much."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Hilda, rather alarmed at this result of her neat
little plan of teaching the children something about cookery, without
their finding out that they were being taught.

"But you must see to it, Vesta, that he doesn't eat too much. That is
one of the things an elder sister is for, you know.

"Now, whose turn is it to sweep up the threads and scraps? Yours,
Euleta? Well, see how careful you can be! not a thread must be left on
Mrs. Lankton's clean floor, you know."

Soon all was in order, workbags put away, hats and bonnets tied on; and
Hildegarde came out with her doves about her, all looking as if they had
had a thoroughly good time. With many affectionate farewells to
"Teacher," the children scattered in different directions, and Colonel
Ferrers chirruped to the brown cob, which trotted briskly away over the
smooth road. The Colonel was deeply interested in the sewing-school.
Hester Aytoun had had one for the village children, and there had been
none from her death until now. He asked many questions, which Hildegarde
answered with right good will. They were dear children, she said. She
was getting to know them very well, for she tried to see them in their
homes once a fortnight, and found they liked to have her come, and
looked forward to it. Some of them were very bright; not all, of course,
but they all _tried_, and that was the great thing. Yes, she told
them all the stories they wanted, and they wanted a great many.

[Illustration: "HE GAVE ME A LUNGE IN QUART."]

"Speaking of stories," said the Colonel, "I find I have work laid out
for the rest of _my_ life."

"Hugh?" said Hildegarde, smiling.

"Most astonishing child I ever saw in my life!" the Colonel cried. "Most
amazing child! to see how he flings himself on books is a wonder. I
don't let him keep at 'em long, you understand. A brain like that needs
play, sir, play! I've bought him a little foil, and--Harry Monmouth! he
gave me a lunge in quart that almost broke my guard, last night. But
stories! 'More about kings, please, Sire!'--he's got a notion of calling
me Sire--ho! ho! can't get Saul out of his head, d'ye see? I feel like
Charlemagne, or Barbarossa, or some of 'em. 'More about kings when they
were in battle.' He's learned 'Agincourt' by heart, just from my
reading it to him. 'Fair stood the wind for France,' hey? Finest ballad
in the English language. Says you read it to him, too. And if I am busy
he goes to Elizabeth Beadle and frightens her out of her wits with
sentences out of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Now this boy--mark me,
Hildegarde!--will turn out something very uncommon, if he has the right
training. That scoundrelly knave, Ephraim Loftus, wanted to make a
gentleman of him! Ho! Ephraim doesn't know how a gentleman's shoes look,
unless he has been made acquainted with the soles of them. I kicked him
myself once, I remember, for beating a horse unmercifully. This boy will
be a great scholar, mark my words! And whatever assistance I can give
him shall be cheerfully given. Why, the lad has genius! positive
genius!"

"Oh!" said Hildegarde, her heart beating fast. "Then you think, Colonel
Ferrers, that a--a person should be educated for what seems to be his
natural bent. Do you think that?"

"Harry Monmouth! of course I do! Look at me! D'ye think I was fitted for
a mercantile life, for example? Never got algebra through my head, and
hate figures. The army was what I was born for! Born for it, sir!
Shouldered my pap-spoon in the cradle, and presented arms whenever I was
taken up. Ho! ho! ho!"

Hildegarde began to tremble, but her courage did not fail. "And--and
Jack, dear Colonel Ferrers," she said softly. "He was born for music,
was he not?"

The Colonel turned square round, and gazed at her from under brows that
met over his hooked nose. "What then?" he said slowly, after a pause.
"If my nephew was born for a fiddler, what then, Miss Hildegarde
Grahame? Is it any reason why he should not be trained for something
better? I like the boy's playing very well, very well indeed, when he
keeps clear of Dutch discords. But you would not compare playing the
fiddle with the glorious Art of War, I imagine?"

"Not for an instant!" cried Hildegarde, flushing deeply under the
Colonel's half-stern, half-quizzical gaze. "Compare music, lovely music,
that cheers and comforts and delights all the world, with fierce, cruel,
dreadful war? Look at Jack, with his mind full of beautiful harmonies
and--and 'airs from heaven'--they really are! making us laugh or cry, or
dance or exult, just by the motion of his hand. Look at him, and then
imagine him in a red coat, with a gun in his hand--"

"Red is the British colour," said the Colonel.

"Well, a blue coat, then. What difference does it make?--a gun in his
hand, shooting people who never did him any harm, whose faces he had
never even seen. Oh, Colonel Ferrers, I would not have believed it of
you!"

"And who asked you to believe it of me, pray?" asked the Colonel, as he
drove up to the door of Braeside. "To tell the truth, young lady, war is
very much more in your line than in my nephew's. Harry Monmouth! Bellona
in person, I verily believe. My compliments to your mother, and say I
shall call her Madam Althæa in future, for she has brought forth a
firebrand."

Instantly Hildegarde's ruffled plumes drooped, smoothed themselves down;
instead of the flashing gaze of the eagle, a dove-like look now met the
quizzical gaze of the old gentleman. "Dear Colonel Ferrers!" this
hypocritical girl murmured, as, standing on the verandah steps, she laid
her hand gently on his arm. "Thank you so _very_ much for driving me
home. You are always so kind--to me! And--and--I want to ask one
question. Can you tell me the first lines of Dryden's 'Song for St.
Cecilia's Day'?"

"Of course!" said the simple Colonel.

          "'From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
               This universal frame began.'

Why do you--oh! you youthful Circe! you infant Medea, you--" he shook
his whip threateningly.

"Good-by, dear Colonel Ferrers!" cried Hildegarde. "I am so glad you
remembered the lines. Aren't they beautiful? Good-by!"



CHAPTER XVI.

GOOD-BY!


"I HAVE come to say good-by!" cried Jack Ferrers, rushing up the steps,
as Hildegarde was sitting on the piazza, with Hugh curled up at her
feet. "Uncle Tom will come for me with the wagon. Oh, Hilda, it doesn't
seem possible, does it? It is too good to be true! and it is all your
doing, every bit. I sha'n't forget it. I say! I wish you were coming
too!"

"Oh, no, you don't!" said Hildegarde, speaking lightly, though her
cheeks were flushed and her eyes bright with real feeling. "You would
send me back by express, labelled 'troublesome baggage.'

"Dear old Jack! You know how glad I am, without my saying it. But, oh!
how we shall miss you! Your uncle--"

"Oh! Hugh will take care of Uncle Tom, won't you, Hugh? Hugh suits him
down to the ground--I beg pardon, I mean through and through, and they
will have fine times together."

"I will try!" said the child. "But we shall be like a pelican in the
wilderness, I am afraid."

"You go straight home now?" Hildegarde asked.

"Straight home! five days with Daddy--bless him! and then he goes to New
York with me, and sees me off. Oh! see here!" he began fumbling in his
pockets. "I have a keepsake for you. I--of course you know I haven't any
money, Hilda, or I would have bought you something; but Uncle Tom gave
it to me on purpose to give to you; so it's partly from him, too. Here
it is! It belonged to our great-grandmother, he says."

Such a lovely ring! A star of yellow diamonds set on a hoop of gold.
Hildegarde flushed with delight. "Oh, Jack! how kind of him! how dear of
you! Oh! what an exquisite thing! I shall wear it always."

"And--I say! how well it looks on your hand! I never noticed before what
pretty hands you have, Hilda. You are the prettiest girl I ever saw,
altogether."

"And Rose?" asked Hildegarde, smiling.

Jack blushed furiously. He had fallen deeply in love with Rose's
photograph, and had been in the habit of gazing at it for ten or fifteen
minutes every day for the past fortnight, ever since it arrived. "That's
different!" he said. "She is an angel, if the picture is like her."

"It isn't half lovely enough!" cried loyal Hildegarde. "Not half! You
don't see the blue of her eyes, or her complexion, just like 'a warm
white rose.' Oh! you _would_ love her, Jack!"

"I--I rather think I do!" Jack confessed. "You might let me have the
photograph, Hildegarde."

But this Hildegarde wholly refused to do. "I have something much more
useful for you!" she said; and, running into the house, she brought out
a handkerchief-case of linen, daintily embroidered, containing a dozen
fine hemstitched handkerchiefs. "I hemstitched them myself," she said;
"the peacock still spreads its tail, you observe. And--see! on one side
of the case are forget-me-nots--that is my flower, you know; and on the
other are roses. I take credit for putting the roses on top."

"Dear Hilda!" cried her cousin, giving her hand a hearty shake. "What a
good fel--what a jolly girl you are! You ought," he added shyly, "to
marry the best man in the world, and I hope you will."

"I mean to," said Hildegarde, laughing, with a happy light in her eyes.

Hildegarde had never seen her "fairy prince, with joyful eyes, and
lighter-footed than the fox"; but she knew he would come in good time.
She knew, too, very much what he was like,--a combination of Amyas
Leigh, Sir Richard Grenville, Dundee, and Montrose, with a dash of the
Cid, and a strong flavour of Bayard, the constancy of William the
Silent, the kindness of Scott, and the eyes of Edwin Booth. Some day he
would come, and find his maiden waiting for him. Meantime, it was so
very delightful to have Jack fall in love with Rose. If--she thought,
and on that "if" rose many a Spanish castle, fair and lofty, with
glittering pinnacle and turret. But she had not the heart to tell Jack
of the joyful news she had just received, dared not tell him of the
letter in her pocket which said that this dearest Rose was coming soon,
perhaps this very week, to make her a long, long visit. If she could
only have come earlier!

But now Jack was taking his violin out of his box. "Where is your
mother?" he said. "This is my own, this present for you both. It is
'Farewell to Braeside!'"

Hildegarde flew to call her mother, and met her just coming downstairs.
"Jack has composed a farewell for us," she cried. "All for us, mamma!
Come!"

Farewell! the words seemed to breathe through the lovely melody, as the
lad played softly, sweetly, a touch of sadness underlying the whole.
"Farewell! farewell! parting is pain, is pain, but Love heals the wound
with a touch. Love flies over land and sea, bringing peace, peace, and
good tidings and joy." Then the theme changed, and a strain of triumph,
of exultation, made the air thrill with happiness, with proud delight.
The girl and her mother exchanged glances. "This is his work, his life!"
said their eyes. And the song soared high and higher, till one fine,
exquisite note melted like a skylark into the blue; then sinking gently,
gently, it flowed again into the notes of the farewell,--

"Parting is pain, is pain, but Love is immortal."

Both women were in tears when the song died away, and Jack's own eyes
were suspiciously bright.

"My dear boy," said Mrs. Grahame, wiping her eyes, "I do believe you are
going to a life of joy and of well-earned triumph. I do heartily believe
it."

"It is all Hilda's doings," said Jack, "and yours. All Hilda's and
yours, Aunt Mildred. I shall not forget."

Here Hugh, who had been listening spellbound, asked suddenly, "What was
the name of the boat which the gentleman who begins with O made to go
swiftly over the sea when he played with his hand?"

"The _Argo_, dear," said Hildegarde.

"It is that boat _he_ should go in," nodding to Jack. "It would leap
like an unicorn, wouldn't it, if he played those beautiful things which
he just played?"

And now Colonel Ferrers drove up to the door, with the brown cob and the
yellow wagon. The last words were said; the precious violin was
carefully stowed under the seat. Jack kissed Mrs. Grahame warmly, and
exchanged with Hildegarde a long, silent pressure of the hand, in which
there was a whole world of kindness and affection and comradeship. Boys
and girls can be such _good_ friends, if they only know how!

"Boot and saddle!" cried the Colonel.

"Good-by!" cried the lad, springing into the wagon. "Good-by! Don't
forget the ostrich gentleman!"

"Good-by, dear Jack!"

"God bless you, my dear lad! Good-by!" and the wheels went crashing over
the gravel.

At the end of the driveway the Colonel checked his horse for a moment
before turning into the main road. "Look back, boy," he said.

Jack looked, and saw Hildegarde and her mother standing on the verandah
with arms entwined, gazing after them with loving looks. The girl's
white-clad figure and shining locks were set in a frame of hanging vines
and creepers; her face was bright with love and cheer. The slender
mother, in her black dress, seemed to droop and lean towards her; on the
other side the child clasped her hand with fervent love and devotion.

"My boy," said Colonel Ferrers, "take that picture with you wherever you
go. You will see many places and many people, good and bad, comely and
ill-favoured; but you will see no sight so good as that of a young
woman, lovely and beloved, shining in the doorway of the home she makes
bright."

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.





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