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´╗┐Title: Frederica and her Guardians - The Perils of Orphanhood
Author: Robertson, Margaret M. (Margaret Murray), 1821-1897
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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Frederica and her Guardians
The Perils of Orphanhood
By Margaret Robertson
Published by Hodder and Stoughton.
This edition dated 1881.

Frederica and her Guardians, by Margaret Robertson.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
FREDERICA AND HER GUARDIANS, BY MARGARET ROBERTSON.

CHAPTER ONE.

The Perils of Orphanhood.

The house in which the Vanes lived stood in a large and beautiful
garden, and both were enclosed by a high brick wall, over which only the
waving tops of the trees could be seen from the street.  There were a
good many such houses in M. at the time my story opens.  They were
originally built in the country, amid green fields and orchards, where,
on summer days, one might sit and look at country sights and listen to
country sounds, and quite forget that the hum and bustle of a great town
sounded close at hand.

As time went on, and commerce prospered, the town extended itself in all
directions.  Houses, some large and some small, were built near those
pleasant country homes, and in a few years stretched far beyond them.
Sometimes the gardens were encroached upon, and streets were opened, and
building lots laid out and occupied close to the house itself, till only
a narrow strip of dusty lawn was left.  But in some streets the high
brick garden-walls made a blank between great blocks of stores and
terraces of dwellings for a good many years, and in some streets there
are high brick garden-walls still.

The house in which the Vanes lived was a long time before it yielded up
a foot of its large garden which the wall shut in.  This wall was broken
on two sides by gates.  In a narrow street which led down towards the
river were two heavy wooden doors, one large enough to admit a carriage,
the other smaller, for the convenience of those who entered on foot.  On
another side, from one of the great thoroughfares of the city, the
grounds were entered by handsome iron gates.  A clump of evergreens and
ornamental shrubs in part hid the house, even when the gates, were open,
and a low cedar hedge and a fence of iron network separated the lawn and
the carriage-drive from the more extensive grounds behind the house.

The house itself had no particular claim to be called handsome, except
that it was large and well built of grey hewn stone.  It was high and
square, and on one side a wing had been thrown out, which rather spoiled
the appearance of the original building; but, standing back from the
bustle and dust of the street, behind the green, lawn and pebbly
carriage-drive, and partly hidden by the trees and shrubs, it looked a
very pleasant and pretty place for a home.

This house was built and occupied many years by Mr St. Hubert, an
immigrant from France, and at his death it was left to his only child,
Mrs Vane, with a condition that neither it nor a foot of the land about
it should be sold during her life-time.  A great many tales might be
told of what happened in that house from first to last--most of them
sorrowful tales enough--but it is only the story of poor Mrs Vane and
her children that is to be told here.

Almost every one spoke of this lady as "poor Mrs Vane."  Her friends
had all said, "Poor Theresa," when it was first known that she was to be
married to Mr Vane; for he was a poor man, and a widower with three
children, who, they all said, wished to marry her because she was the
daughter of a man who was supposed to be rich.  Her father would have
given half of what he possessed, rather than that she should have
married Mr Vane; but he had never crossed a wish of hers during all the
eighteen years of her life, and it was too late to begin then.  So,
though he did not like him, he gave his consent to the marriage, on
condition that he should leave the army, and accept a situation in a
public office, which he, being a man of wealth and influence, was able
to obtain for him.  It did not cost Mr Vane much self-denial to do
this--though he used afterwards to declare that it did--for he was a man
who first of all considered what was for his own ease and pleasure.  Nor
did it trouble him much to send his children from him.  His eldest
daughter was adopted by his first wife's mother, who resided in the town
of M.; and his other children--a boy and girl--were sent home to be
cared for and educated by their father's friends in England; and he took
up his residence in the luxurious home of his father-in-law with very
good will.

It did not prove a happy marriage.  It might have done so, perhaps, if
after a few years Mrs Vane's health had not failed.  If she could have
continued the gay life to which she had been introduced, and could have
shone a belle among her husband's friends, as she had done in her own
smaller circle while a girl, she might have had a sort of happiness,
while it lasted, and so might he.  But after awhile her health failed,
and at the time of her father's death, which happened when her eldest
child was thirteen years of age, she was a confirmed invalid.

She was "poor Mrs Vane" indeed then.  A suffering, solitary, forsaken
woman she felt herself to be the day her dead father was carried away
from the house he had built.  Not that her husband had ever been unkind
to her, or even openly neglectful.  But he had never cared for her as
she had cared for him; and it was not in his nature to understand the
wants or cravings of a sick unsatisfied heart like hers, much less to
minister to them.  He was sorry that she could no longer go into the
society she had always adorned, and he often told her so; but he never
gave up a pleasure which society could offer to him for her sake.  He
grieved for her sufferings, and did what might be done during a brief
visit or two each day to relieve them; but long before her father's
death she had come to feel that his grief was of a kind that could very
well be left in her chamber when he went away.  After a time the vain
craving for his sympathy, which made the first years of her illness so
miserable, wore away, and a kind of dull content, growing gradually out
of an interest in other things, took its place; but she was "poor Mrs
Vane" still to the few friends who had not forgotten her already in her
enforced retirement.

And her husband was "poor Mr Vane" to himself and everybody else when
Mr St. Hubert died.  The old man had treated him shamefully, he thought
and declared, for his name was not mentioned in his will.  The house and
a certain income was insured to his wife while she lived, and at her
death all the property was to be divided between the children, and given
up to them as each came of age.  But he had nothing; and even his wife's
income was not allowed to pass through his hands.

It was not a very large income.  It would not have sufficed for her and
her children, had they been living in the gay world, entertaining and
being entertained.  But living quietly, as her health obliged them to
live, it might be considered ample for them all.  At any rate, she knew
it would have to suffice; for Mr Vane, having always spent his own
income on his own pleasures, was ill prepared to give up any part of it.

They did not grow happier together after this.  Some time before Mr St.
Hubert's death the care of household affairs had been committed by him
into the hands of a relative of his own--a widow of the name of Ascot;
and during his life-time nothing transpired to occasion any doubt as to
her entire fitness for the position he had given her.  She was a French
woman by birth, and spoke English very imperfectly, though her deceased
husband had been an Englishman.  She was a very quiet, firm person,
faithful in the performance of all her duties, and careful and exact in
the management of the household expenses.  She never presumed on her
relationship in any way that was disagreeable to Mr St. Hubert, and, by
her attention to himself and her kindness to Mrs Vane, won his
confidence entirely; and his anxiety as to the future of his daughter
and her children was in a great measure allayed by the promise she made
never to leave them while they needed her care.

But after his death matters were not so well managed.  At least, they
were not managed to the satisfaction of poor Mrs Vane.  In a very short
time an entire change was effected in the household.  Mr Vane found it
an improvement as far as _his_ comfort was concerned, or probably Mrs
Ascot's stay in the house would have been short.  But it was not so with
Mrs Vane.  Mrs Ascot was very quiet, very reasonable, and, above all,
very firm.  "Nothing was so necessary for Mrs Vane as entire quiet,"
she declared; and the poor mother had not the strength or courage to
carry on a battle with her stronger will.  So her two little daughters
were sent to school, and her two little sons, with their nurse, were
banished to the part of the house most distant from their mother's room,
and were only permitted to visit it at certain times.  They would have
been sent to school, too, if Mrs Ascot could have accomplished it; but,
as the eldest was only four years of age at the time of his
grandfather's death, this she could hardly do.

Only one thing saved Mrs Vane from falling into hopeless fretfulness or
helpless imbecility--this was the constant presence of her eldest and
dearest child, Selina.  Even Mrs Ascot's cold-heartedness could not
separate these two.  Even Mr Vane's selfishness was not equal to
planning or permitting anything that could come between the mother and
her child.  For the little girl was blind,--had been blind from her
seventh year, and since that time she had never once been beyond the
sound of her mother's voice.

A great many of God's best blessings come to us disguised as sorrows.
It seemed to this mother, when she could no longer doubt that the light
of heaven was to be denied to her child, that God could deal no harder
blow, and in her wild angry way she prayed that the little creature
might die.  She thought of all that had made life sweet to herself, from
all which her child must be shut out for ever, and she utterly refused
to be comforted.

And yet, as the years went on, the affliction of the child did more for
the mother than all the blessings that had been showered on her youth,
than all the trials that had fallen on her later years--it made her
forget herself.  In seeking to brighten her little daughter's life, her
own was brightened.  She suffered herself to be beguiled into exertions
for her sake, that would have seemed impossible for her own.  She
welcomed the few visitors that came, because Selina liked to hear new
voices and make new friends.  The daily walk in the garden or the drive
in the carriage sometimes seemed a weariness to her; but they deepened
the rose on the little girl's cheek, and she went for her sake.  She
recalled the little songs and tales of her childhood for her pleasure,
and took pains to learn such simple fancy work as the blind child could
be taught to do.

In her little daughter the mother found solace for many a sorrow.  She
was a fair, slender child, more like her father than her mother, but
like neither in disposition.  She was sweet and cheerful always, even
merry in her quiet way.  She knew her blindness was a great misfortune,
but it did not press upon her as such.  She never repined under it, nor
murmured that she was not like the rest; but rather comforted herself
and her mother, saying that no schools nor visits could ever take her
from her and from home; and after a time her mother was comforted and
reconciled to her affliction.

"For after all," she thought, "what has life to give to any one?  Far
better that she should live here always, safe, and ignorant of the world
and its ways, than that she should taste of pleasure only to have it
turn to bitterness on her lips, as it has done on mine.  If she could
only be always a child!  What will become of my darling when I must go
and leave her?"

Poor Mrs Vane!  She sought refuge in the present, from the griefs of
the past, and the fears for the future; for she was one of those who
have no safe place to which they can flee from trouble.  She had
scarcely even a form of religion.  She had been altogether untaught as
regards sacred things.  Her mother had been a Jewess, and had died
young, and her father had had no religion.  Her husband troubled himself
very little about these things, either for her or himself.  He had
chosen godfathers and godmothers for his children, and had them
baptised, and then his duty was done.  And the poor, solitary, suffering
mother knew not where to betake herself in her time of need.  Her fears
for the future of all her children pressed on her heavily often, and she
longed sadly and earnestly for some true friend to whom she might trust
them.

And so the months and years passed, with nothing to break the monotony
of their life but the monthly visits of the two school girls, Frederica
and Theresa.  Very pleasant breaks they were.  The girls always came
into the still sunshine of their mother's pretty room like a fresh sweet
breeze from the outer world, bringing health and fragrance on its wings.
They were bright days indeed.  Selina lived another life in the tales
told by the school girls; and even their mother forgot her cares and
ailments for the time as she listened to their merry talk.  They were
not at all alike: Selina was growing up tall and fair, like an English
girl, her blind beautiful eyes clear and cloudless as the summer heaven;
Frederica was small and dark, as much a Jewess in appearance as ever her
grandmother had been; Theresa was more like Frederica than Selina, but
plainer than either.  But they were all alike in one thing: they loved
each other and their mother dearly, and longed earnestly for the time
when their school days should be over, and they should be happy
together.

So poor Mrs Vane, who had comfort in so few things, had much comfort in
her daughters and their love.  And she needed all their comfort, poor
soul! for some troubles, hard to bear, fell to her lot at this time--
troubles which she could not let them share with her, and which need not
be told here.

CHAPTER TWO.

A whole week of holidays!--unexpected, unhoped-for holidays!  For Mrs
Glencairn was a Scotch lady, and had small respect for days "appointed
by men."  All the days in the year were good days to a Godfearing
people, said she; and as a general thing, Easter passed in their school
just like any other time.  But this year there was to be a whole week of
holidays, whatever might be the reason.  The pupils who stayed wearied
themselves with conjectures as to why it had so happened; but the happy
little girls who could go home to enjoy them, accepted the boon without
a question, content with the fact itself.

Content!  That hardly expresses the feelings of the little Vanes as they
went dancing down the street, unconsciously jostling the many
church-goers in their joyful excitement.  Perfect happiness was in their
hearts, shone in their faces, and rang out in their voices, and people
as they passed turned again to look at them, so charming was the sight
to see.  They were happy in their own holiday, and happy in the thought
that their coming home would make a holiday for their mother and Selina
and their little brothers.

"And I am sure there will be some flowers out in the garden," said
Theresa,--"hyacinths or snowdrops, at least.  And all the walks will be
so neat and the borders.  That is one good thing about Mrs Ascot, she
does see that the garden is beautifully kept."

"Yes, very.  But I only hope mama will be well.  It is so lovely to-day;
and we must have a drive.  It will make no difference though Dixen be
busy in the garden, because I shall drive myself."

"But will mama like that, do you think?" asked Theresa doubtfully.

"Of course she will like it, and Selina too.  They have perfect
confidence in me," said Frederica firmly.  "And as for Prickly Polly,"--
she shrugged her shoulders.

"But no, my children!  What shall I say to your papa when you shall be
brought home in little morsels, and the carriage, and your dear mama!"
And Theresa clasped her hands, and threw back her head with an air so
ludicrously like Mrs Ascot, that her sister laughed merrily.

"She will go to church to-day.  What if we should meet her?"

"Oh! she would be sure to go back with us.  Let us go down the other
way!"

Laughing and running, the girls turned into a narrow street.  In their
haste they ran against a little old gentleman just stepping out from an
office door.  They did not quite overturn him, but they startled him out
of his good manners, and he uttered an angry exclamation in French.
Then, as they turned to apologise, he exclaimed, "The young ladies Vane!
What next, I wonder?"

"Mr St. Cyr! a thousand pardons."  They had been speaking English all
the way down the street, but they spoke French to him, and both the
girls dropped their very best curtseys.

"It must be that my little cousins have come to get their wills made, or
their marriage contracts drawn, in all this haste."

Mr St. Cyr was the gentleman to whom their grandfather had committed
the arrangement of his affairs; it was he who still managed the
property; and through his hands their mother's income came still.

"I was going to church this morning, but I shall be happy to defer it
for you.  You need not have been in such haste, however."

The girls laughed, and apologised again.

"We were running away from Prickly Polly," said Theresa.

"From Madame Marie Pauline Precoe Ascot," explained Frederica.

"Is she coming after you?  You had much better come in here," said Mr
St. Cyr, pretending great fright.

"Oh, no!  But she is sure to go to church today, and we thought we might
meet her.  And if she knew we were going home, it might shorten her
devotions."

"If she knew we had a holiday, she would want to come home to vex us.
We are not among her favourites--especially Fred."

"Ah! that is it, is it?" said Mr St. Cyr.  "She is hard on you, is she?
I hope you do not let her trouble you too much."

"By no means," said Frederica with dignity.  "On the contrary, I think I
trouble her far more."

"I can conceive it possible," said Mr St. Cyr with a shrug.  "But are
you sure you can find your way home by these streets?  See, I will go
with you, and show you past the corner below.  And let us hope that
Madame Pauline will confess all her sins to-day; and I fancy that might
ensure her absence till nightfall at least.  And my young ladies, the
next time you come to me in your troubles, pray don't begin by knocking
me down."

"Pardon us, Cousin Cyprien.  It was very careless," said Frederica,
eagerly.  "But really and truly, may I come to you with my troubles?  I
mean, of course, when I have any.  I have none now," she added,
laughing.

Mr St. Cyr did not laugh.  He looked gravely into the bright face
before him, so gravely that the laughing eyes looking up at him grew
grave too.

"I hope it will be a long time before you need my help in trouble,
little cousin.  How old are you now?  Let us see."

Instead of turning at the corner, as he meant to do, he walked on with
them.

"I shall be fifteen my next birthday.  It comes in August," said
Frederica.

"Fifteen!" repeated Mr St. Cyr.  "But what a little creature you are!
It is a pity."

"I am as tall as mama," said Frederica with dignity.

"Yes, I suppose so.  She was just such another child.  Ah! how the years
pass!"

"I shall grow yet, I have no doubt," said Frederica.

"Ah! well! we will hope so.  And be quick about it.  If you were only as
tall as your sister at home now, we might strain a point, and call your
education finished, and send you home to your mother.  You must have
learned quantities of things all these years, eh?"

"Oh! quantities!" said Frederica gravely.  "But, Mr St. Cyr, I am not
very big, I know.  Still I could be a comfort to mama all the same."

"And she needs comfort you think?"

"It gives her pleasure to have us at home."

"And she has not so many pleasures, these days," said Mr St. Cyr.  "But
it would not do, I fear, not yet.  Why, you are a mere child!  I had no
idea!  Not nearly so mature as her mother was at her age," continued he,
not to her, but to himself.  "Well, so much the better.  The more a
child the better.  The longer a child the better.  She is so like her
mother, too.  The same sweet smiling eyes.  Ah! there are so great
mistakes made in this life!"

"Mr St. Cyr," said Frederica in a moment, "I am very little, I know,
but Mrs Glencairn says I have a great deal of good sense, if I would
only use it; and I daresay if you were to tell papa that I have learned
enough of things, and that I ought to stay at home with mama and Selina,
I don't think he would object."

Mr St. Cyr only answered by that wonderful shrug of his shoulders,
which he could make to express anything--surprise, doubt, utter
disbelief; and Frederica went on:

"Indeed, Mrs Glencairn thinks I am very sensible, and so does Miss
Robina.  Will you tell papa to let me stay at home, Mr St. Cyr?"

"And you think he would do it for me?" said he with an odd smile.  "You
are too young--much too young.  If I had my way, you should remain a
happy child for years and years yet--no millinery, no balls, no
admiration, for seven years at least.  Ah! when I think of your mother,
and see you looking at me with her happy eyes!  But what is the use of
going over all this?  I shall, be late for church, and I must bid you
good day.  And if I shall see--what is this you call her, little one?--
Prickly Polly!--I shall send her wool-gathering, shall I?  And then you
can pass the day without her."

They all laughed.

"Oh!  I am not the least afraid of her; though I am not very big," said
Frederica.

"But you may send her to gather wool, all the same," said Theresa.

Then they went quietly on their way.  There was no dancing along the
street after that, as Mr St. Cyr saw when he turned at the corner of
the square to look after them.

"She is like her mother," said he to himself, "but more like her
grandmother, that shrewd little Jewess, with her `good sense,' as madame
the schoolmistress says.  Ah! if she had lived, that poor foolish child
would not have been suffered to make that great mistake in life.  But I
must go to church.  How many times have I said that I would not permit
myself to care for her children as I have cared for her, to have my
heart torn by ingratitude, or by indifference, which is as ill to bear.
If, indeed, through them I could wound the self-love and vanity of their
father, and so avenge the wrongs of my friend's child, the poor
Theresa--ah! then I might care for them, and fight for them against him
to the death."  And with this Christian sentiment in his heart, the
little man went up the great cathedral steps to pray.

In the meantime the two girls were walking slowly down the street.

"I like Cousin Cyprien very much," said Frederica, gravely.

"Yes, so do I," said her sister.  "But then he is not our cousin, you
know."

"Well, he was grandpapa's cousin; and if he is not ours, we have none.
I like him."

"Madame Ascot is our cousin quite as much as he."

"Madame Ascot, indeed!  Don't be silly, Tessie;" and she shrugged her
shoulders in Mr St. Cyr's fashion.  "I wish I had gone to church with
Mr St. Cyr.  I mean I wish I had offered to go.  He would have been
pleased."

"But papa would not have been pleased, Fred."

"He would not have cared about my going to church.  He would not have
been pleased that I should go to give pleasure to Mr St. Cyr.  He does
not like him; I wonder why."

"Oh! you know very well.  It is because of grandpapa's will."

"Mama likes him.  She says he is a good and just man.  He is very
religious."

"So is Madame Ascot," said Tessie.  "I don't admire religious people."

"But then there are so many ways of being religious.  Miss Baines'
religion made her strong and patient to bear pain.  And she was good and
kind always."

"Miss Pardie is very religious--the cross thing," said Theresa, "and so
is Fanny Green.  But she listens to the girl's conversation while she
says her prayers.  And Mattie Holt tells tales, and is very
disagreeable.  I don't admire religious people."

"But then their religion cannot be of the right kind.  There must be
some good in the right religion, if we only could be sure what the right
is."

"Oh, I daresay they are all good after a fashion.  One kind is good for
one, and another kind for another."

"But, Tessie, that is nonsense.  How can things be equally good that are
exactly opposite?  And I know that Mrs Ascot thinks papa and the rest
of us all wrong.  And you should have seen her scornful look, when I
told her once that Miss Baines was a religious woman.  And I know that
Mrs Glencairn and Miss Robina, among themselves, call Mrs Ascot `a
poor benighted creature.'  They cannot all be right."

"Oh! well! what does it matter?" said her sister, impatiently.  "Why
should you care what Mrs Ascot thinks, or Mrs Glencairn either?"

"Still, one would like to know.  Mr St. Cyr is good, but then Mrs
Ascot is not; and they have just the same religion, though I don't
suppose Mr St. Cyr goes so often to church, or to confession, as she
does.  And Miss Baines was good, and her religion was quite different.
As for papa and the rest of us, I don't think we have any at all."

"Well, that shows that it doesn't matter about religion.  I am sure mama
is much nicer than Madame Ascot, and she has no religion at all you say,
and Madame says the same."

"Mama is a Jewess, at least her mother was," said Frederica; "but she is
certainly not religious in her way.  One ought to have a religion of
some kind, only how is one to know when one has that which is right?"

"There is the Bible," said Tessie, hesitating.

"Yes, Miss Baines says it is the book of books, and mama approves of it
too.  She has one, you know, only it is in Hebrew.  I shall ask some one
about it,--which is the right kind I mean."

"Papa, for instance, or Mr St. Cyr.  But one would tell you one thing,
and the other another, and you would be just in the same place.  Only I
think papa would just laugh at you."

"I suppose so.  But there must be some way of finding out the truth."

"Better go and ask the bishop," said Tessie, laughing.  "But then there
are two bishops, and which is the right?  Don't be a goose, Fred."

"I am quite serious, I assure you, for the moment," added she.  "And
indeed, it is a thing to be quite serious about."

"If we had gone to the convent, as Mr St. Cyr and Madame Ascot wished,
instead of to Mrs Glencairn's, we should have known all about it.  But
then it is quite right that we should be of the same religion as papa.
Still I think he did not care himself, only he wished to vex Mr St.
Cyr."

Frederica said nothing for a minute, and her sister added--

"We ought to learn about it in church: that is what we go to church for,
I suppose."

"Yes, and I like to go very well, but I get very sleepy during the
sermon, especially when we go with Miss Robina.  I try to listen
sometimes; but of course all that is meant for grown-up people, and I
don't understand it."

"Were you not just telling Mr St. Cyr that you are grown up?  But I
think you are very stupid to bother about it.  If people say their
prayers and are nice and obliging, and all that, I think that is quite
enough.  I am sure mama is good, and so is Selina, and what is the use
talking so much about religion, _as_ though that would make any
difference?"

"Yes, mama is good, and Selina, but I am not, at least very often I am
not.  And there must be some way of finding out what is wrong and what
is right."

"Of course there is--your own conscience," said Tessie, triumphantly.
"Hasn't Mrs Glencairn often told you?"

Frederica shook her head.

"But there must be something more than that.  I wish I knew."

"Say your prayers and go to church, that is religion, everybody knows.
But to be good and nice is something quite different.  I think you are
very silly, with all your wishes and talking, and I beg you won't say
anything to Selina about it.  She thinks of things afterwards, and you
are not to vex her.  And don't look like that, or I shall wish you had
gone to church with Mr St. Cyr.  But you will forget all about it
before to-morrow.  That is one comfort."

"Very likely; but that does not prove anything;" said Frederica.
"Everybody ought to have some kind of religion; and sometimes, when I
used to see Miss Baines so happy in the midst of all her pain and
trouble, I thought of poor mama, and wished that she could know all
about it.  But I won't say anything to Selina just yet."

"No, nor ever, unless you are a goose.  Here we are at home.  Won't they
be glad?"  And the little girl ran up the broad stone steps, and danced
out her impatience while she was made to wait for the opening of the
door.

"No," said Frederica, as she stood at her side; "I am not going to spoil
our visit with religion, at any rate; and I daresay you are right,
Tessie, and I may forget all about it before the week is over."

CHAPTER THREE.

Easter fell late this year.  The grass on the sheltered lawn was already
green, and there were many budding things in the borders; and with the
sunshine falling on them so warm and bright, it almost seemed to the
children like a summer day.  Tessie could not resist the temptation to
run down the steps again, to peep through the wires and over the low
cedar hedge at the crocuses and snowdrops beyond:

"We shall have cold days enough yet," she said as she came back; "but I
need not spoil to-day thinking about them.  It is just like summer
to-day."

"We shall make a summer day in the house to mama and Selina, that is--
and to the children--and to Madame Marie Pauline Precoe Ascot, too, if
she will let us; to the rest, whether she will or not."

The coming in of the two children brightened their mother's dim room
like sunshine, and the more this time that they were not expected.  It
was early yet, and their mother was not dressed; but their sister sprang
to meet them with a glad cry, and in a minute they were all rejoicing
round their mother's couch.

"A week of holidays, mama!  Think of it, Lina! a whole week.  I don't in
the least know how it happened.  Somebody is going away or somebody is
coming.  It doesn't matter; here we are.  Isn't it nice?"

And so they chattered on for a time, while their mother listened.

"Lina," said Frederica, in a little, "stand up, and let me see how tall
you are."

Seeing her there in her mother's room, you would never have supposed
that Selina Vane was blind.  Her eyes were a clear and lovely blue, well
opened and bright.  She walked about the room, not rapidly, but still
lightly; not at all like one afraid.  While going about the house and
garden, she bent slightly forward, and walked with one hand held a
little out before her; but here, in her mother's dressing-room, she had
no look of blindness.  Her face was as bright and happy as her sister's,
and she rose at Frederica's bidding, laughing and wondering a little.
Her sister placed herself beside her, and measured the difference in
their height with her hand.  She shook her head gravely.

"There _is_ a dreadful difference.  I am a shockingly little creature;
am I not, mama?"

She put on such a face of ludicrous dismay, that her mother could not
but laugh.

"Mama, I am nearly fifteen.  I ought to be a woman by this time, and
really I am nothing but a child."

She stood before a large dressing-glass, and surveyed herself
discontentedly.

"These curls have something to do with it, and this short dress.  That
can be remedied, however."

In a moment she had obtained a dressing-gown of her mother's, and,
drawing the silken cord tightly round her waist, she walked up and down,
looking over her shoulder to see herself in the glass.  The whole thing
was done in a manner so childish, and so amusing, that her mother
laughed merrily; and her little brother who had come in with Tessie,
clapped their hands.  Frederica laughed too.

"I am afraid it is not the dress, mama; I am only a child."

"My darling! a happy child is a very good thing to be.  I hope it will
be a long time before you are anything but a happy child.  The longer
the better," added she, with a sigh.

"That is what Cousin Cyprien said, mama," said Frederica, gravely.

"Yes; it was Mr St. Cyr that put all that nonsense in her head about
being a woman and grown up," said Tessie, severely; "and she told him
she had a deal of sense, though she was so little.  For my part, I am
very well content to be a child."

"But you have a child, you know, dear; only thirteen, or is it twelve,
mama?  A precocious child certainly, but still a child," said Frederica,
with an air.

"Mama, look at her.  She must be forty, at least," exclaimed Tessie.
"She must be considerably older than Mrs Ascot--ever so much older than
Lina."

"What is it all about?" asked Selina, gently.

"Never mind.  Don't ask her, Lina.  She is so dreadfully wise and clever
that she is quite too much for me sometimes.  I should not wonder if
Mrs Glencairn would wish to engage her to supply Miss Robina's place
when she is married."

"Tessie, that is a secret.  You promised not to tell--about Miss Robina,
I mean."

"How prudent, too?" said Tessie.  "Mama, we are not crazy; only we are
so glad to get home."

"And indeed, mama, I am very willing to be a child for a long time yet,"
said Frederica, and seizing her little brother Hubert, she danced with
him round the room to music of her own making.  Catching Charlie's
hands, Tessie followed, while Selina, laughing, joined in the music,
though not in the dance.

"Mama," said she, softly, "is it the same house do you think?"

The boys might have grown too noisy, but Frederica brought their play to
an end presently.

"Mama," said she, "it is the loveliest of spring days.  You think it
cold, I daresay, as you have a fire, but it is just like summer, and I
am going to drive you and Selina; and afterwards I will drive the boys,
if they are very good.  We will go very slowly; not in the streets, but
away in the country.  Mama, you are not afraid of my driving?"  Mrs
Vane shook her head.  "No, love; I am not afraid.  I am sure you can
drive the ponies; but it is a long time since I was out.  Selina will
like to go, however."

"And you too, mama--just a little way.  Are you not so well, mama?  You
are tired.  Something has tired you.  Ah! these papers.  I see.  She
could not have gone to church, and said her prayers quite happily,
unless she had left you something to vex yourself with while she was
away.  Where are they?  Why, mama, these are the very same I saw at
Christmas--some of them at least," added she, after turning over a
bundle of papers that lay on the dressing-table.  "I see butcher's
bill--baker's bill--grocer's bill.  What quantities you and Selina must
eat, mama!  I don't understand them in the least.  Were not all these
things paid before, mama?"

"Some of them must have been," replied Mrs Vane, wearily; "but I do not
understand them."

"And why should you be vexed?  Is not Mrs Ascot here for no other
reason than to save you all this trouble?  And surely papa--"

Mrs Vane made a sudden impatient gesture.  "Papa can do nothing.  There
is nothing to be done but pay the bills, and he cannot pay them."

"Has anything happened since we were at home?" asked Frederica
anxiously.  "Have we grown poor?"

"No, no.  Everything is as usual.  Indeed, Mr St. Cyr gave me more
money than usual.  Rents have risen, he says.  He was here not a month
since, but the money has all gone--`to pay servants' wages and old
debts,' Mrs Ascot says.  I do not understand how it can be."

"But, mama, there must be some mistake.  I wish I knew about bills and
things.  Papa ought to examine these.  He would understand them.  Why
should you be vexed about them?"

"My love, there is nothing to understand, he says, but that the bills
must be paid; and he says I must ask Mr St. Cyr for more money--that we
have not enough to live upon.  I cannot do it.  It is not in his power
to increase it.  He gave me more once, but I think, it was his own.  It
was for Mrs Glencairn.  I could not bear that she who is so good to you
should be without her money.  But I could not ask him again."

"But, mama," said Frederica, hesitating, "has papa no money?  He goes to
the office, and all that--and has he no salary, like other gentlemen?"

"There is many a family kept on less than his income, Mr St. Cyr told
me; but the keeping up of the place is expensive; and I cannot ask him.
And oh, darling, to think that I should have spoiled your holiday with
all this!"

"Mama, don't you remember how you put these bills away at Christmas, not
to vex yourself and us?  And here they are again.  It is right that I
should be vexed with what vexes you, although I am a child."

"Yes, if you could help me, dear."

The children had gone out to the garden by this time.  Selina sat
holding her mother's hand, listening with a grave face to all that
passed.

"Mama," said she, "Frederica ought to know.  She is a child, but she has
sense; and, with her to help us, we might be able to understand.  Have
you the papers, Frederica?  Mama read them all at Christmas after you
went away, and she gave Madame Ascot money to pay some of them at least,
and it cannot be right that they all should come back.  There must be
some mistake."

Frederica opened a great many papers and read patiently through long
household accounts, and in a little while became utterly bewildered.
Nothing but the grave looks of her mother and Selina prevented her from
bursting into childish laughter, so comical did the going over and over
the same thing seem to her.  The grocer's bill was the most amusing.
"Tea, sugar, coffee, soap, candles, salt," and so on, over again.

"Dear me, mama, how many things people need?"

Then there were other bills, the butcher's, the baker's, and then a wine
merchant's bill.  There was one which had "paid M. Leroy" at the end of
it, and Frederica said--

"Madame Ascot did not intend you should have this, mama.  However, we
may as well put it with the rest."

Selina listened earnestly, but said nothing.  Indeed, when they had all
wearied themselves, they were no wiser, and no nearer the end of their
trouble.

"Mama, ought people to have bills?" said Frederica; "ought not people to
pay when they buy things?  It would save a great deal of trouble."

"I think they ought; but Mrs Ascot seems to have fallen into this way.
It was not done when I was well.  Oh, if I were only able to attend to
these things myself!  It is quite wrong that things should have fallen
into such a state.  I do not believe there is any need that it should be
so.  Everything is wrong, and I can do nothing.  I do not trust Madame
Ascot: and your father,--there is no use speaking to him."

She was getting excited, and would be ill soon, her daughters knew,
unless this could be put out of her mind.

"I will tell you what we must do, mama.  We will take all these papers
to Mr St. Cyr--not to ask more money.  But he will understand them, and
he will help us.  Mama, he was quite nice to-day, not at all cross,
though we nearly knocked him down; and he said I was to come to him when
I was in trouble, and I am sure this is dreadful trouble.  Selina, don't
you think we might go to Mr St. Cyr?"

Selina waited for her mother to speak.

"I don't think Mrs Ascot would like it, nor papa.  He says Mr St. Cyr
must advance the money to pay the bills, that is all."

"Oh! as for papa, he won't trouble himself; and I think I should rather
like to vex madame.  She need not be vexed if she has made no mistakes,
and if she is quite to be trusted," said Frederica, with some
hesitation.

"There is no good in struggling against Mrs Ascot," said Mrs Vane
hopelessly; "I have tried often, and there is no use.  I have not the
strength nor the courage."

The papers fell to the floor, as Frederica started up suddenly.

"Mama, I have strength and courage to tear Madame Ascot into fifty
thousand little pieces, if she dares to trouble you," cried she; and
then, as she saw her mother's face, she hung her head, adding, "I beg
your pardon, mama: that was very foolish and wicked."

"My darling, there is no use in doing anything that Mrs Ascot will not
like.  I have tried to bring things right often."

"Because you are not strong.  Papa ought to do it," said Frederica.

"And, mama, this cannot go on always.  There must come an end some time,
and I think Frederica is right, and these papers should be sent to Mr
St. Cyr."  Selina spoke very quietly.

"And why should Madame Ascot care?" said Frederica.  "I hope she will
care.  I should like to see her face when she knows Mr St. Cyr has got
those disagreeable papers.  I have a fancy that their only use is to
make you uncomfortable, you and Selina.  Now I shall put them away, and
you must promise not to think of them again, till Cousin Cyprien shall
make them all right.  And I will order the ponies, and drive you first,
mama, and Lina, and afterwards Tessie and the boys, if they are very
good."

"Mama," said Selina, "I think this is quite the best way--about the
papers, I mean.  You know you have thought about giving them to him
before.  And he will be quite willing to take the trouble, and he will
know what to do; he is wise.  Say that this is right, mama."

"Indeed, love, I do not know what is right; but we will send them: I can
do nothing else."

"And it will all be made easy, mama.  I only wonder we have not sent
them long ago.  And you are really not to think about them--promise,
dear mama."

And so the disagreeable subject was put away for that time.

CHAPTER FOUR.

The orders were given, and all preparations made, and in a little time
the pony carriage stood at the door.  It was a carriage which Mr St.
Hubert had had made for his daughter's use, after she became an invalid.
It was open and quite low, and large enough to hold two persons,
besides the fortunate ones who should occupy the luxurious chief seats.
But the boys were restless, and sometimes noisy, and Tessie was to stay
at home with them, so that their mother and Selina might sit in state
and comfort.  Frederica, on the high front seat, acted as driver, and
enjoyed it well.  Dixen was there beside her, so that her mother need
not have the least cause for being frightened or nervous, and so lose
the pleasure of the drive.

Dixen had once been a soldier, and Mr Vane's servant while he was in
the army, and had lived with him since his marriage in various
capacities.  Lately he had been called the coachman; but to take Mrs
Vane and Selina out to their unfrequent drives, was only a small part of
what was expected from him.  He waited on Mr Vane, he worked under the
gardener, and held himself ready to do whatever else might be found for
him to do.  The other servants had got into the fashion of calling him
old and good for little; but none of them all worked so faithfully for
their wages as he.

He did not feel affronted that the reins were taken out of his hands on
this occasion; for the young lady had been taught to drive by him, and
he was proud of her skill and success in the art.

They left the city streets, and passing the toll-gate, soon found
themselves with the river on one side and the dull grey fields and
leafless trees on the other, with nothing to hinder the putting of the
ponies to their speed.  It was a summer day for brightness and mildness,
but Mrs Vane drew her fur cloak close around her, as the breeze from
the river reached her; for she had made herself a prisoner in the house
for a long time, and the keen air made her shiver.  Selina smiled with
pleasure as she felt the wind on her face, and drew in long breaths of
the sweet refreshing air.

"Is not this nice, mama?" asked she, laying herself back among the
cushions with a sigh of satisfaction.

"Very nice and pleasant," said her mother, touching her hand gently.
This stood to the blind girl for a smile.

"And you are glad you came, mama?"

"Very glad, love.  You have quite a colour already."

"And so have you, mama," said Frederica, glancing round.  "When were you
out last?"

"Not for a long time--not since we went in a sleigh," said Selina,
answering for her.  "We thought the roads could not be quite good yet.
And mama is afraid of the cold."

"Not since sleighing!" exclaimed Frederica: "you don't know your
privileges.  Dixen, I am surprised at you."

"It has no' been my fault, Miss Frederica, I can assure you," said Dixen
gravely.

"I have not felt inclined to go out," said Mrs Vane; "and, indeed,
there is little pleasure in going when one has to be so muffled from the
cold."

"But, mama, you thought you could not come to-day.  You thought it would
be too much for you, and now you enjoy it.  It is just what you need,
and Selina too.  You want me to be at home to take care of you both."

"And indeed, Miss, that's a true word of yours," said Dixen in a
whisper.

Frederica looked up quickly.

"Mama, I am going to ask Dixen.  He is a man of sense.  Dixen, don't you
think it is quite time that I should be considered a grown-up young
lady?  I am fifteen, and mama needs me at home.  I am very little, I
know," added she, deprecatingly, as the old man let a queer glance rest
on her.  He answered with great gravity, however.

"Good gear is ay in small bundles; and one does not need to be a
giantess to be a comfort to one's mother."

"Just so," Said Frederica, nodding well pleased.  "I am fifteen, and one
ought to have some sense at fifteen.  Mama, are you keeping your
promise?  You know you are only to think of pleasant things.  You are
sure you are glad you came?"

"Very glad, dear."

"And not all for Lina's sake?"

"No," said her mother, laughing; "a little for your sake."

"Oh, I hope it will be fine every day while we are at home.  We shall
drive every day.  Do you like it, Lina?"

"Yes," said Selina softly.  Selina's "yes" said more than other people's
protestations.

It was very pleasant to them all.  It was not in appearance only that
Mrs Vane had put away all unhappy thoughts; she had really put them
away.  It was not that she had much hope that her cousin could put
everything right, as Frederica had said, or that she had much faith in
her little daughter's "good sense."  But she had great faith in her
loving heart and happy temper, and it was a wonderful break in the dull
life led by her and Selina to have the merry little creature with them,
and she yielded entirely to the charm of her lively loving ways, and for
the time was well and happy.  They only reached home in time for their
two o'clock dinner, which they enjoyed all the more for their drive, and
then Mrs Vane and Selina were left to rest, while Frederica went out
with Tessie and the children.

"It will not be too much for Jack and Jill, I hope," said Frederica, as
she stood stroking the ponies before they set off.

"Not if you drive gently," said Dixen.  "And I think, Miss Frederica,
the mistress would be more at her ease if I were to go with you.  Not
that there's any need of it, but she's nervous-like, you know."

"And can you be spared?  You seem to be in such demand."

"We'll no' ask," said Dixen.  "If you're wanting me, that is all that
need be said.  Duty doesn't call two ways at once, they say; and if it's
for pleasure, why should not I have a holiday as well as the rest?  And
madame's no' here to hinder or to try it even."

Frederica laughed.

"And besides, Miss," continued Dixen, "it is more seemly for a young
lady like you to have your servant with you.  It may do for children and
common folk to go here and there by themselves, but a young lady like
you--"

Frederica opened her eyes.  This was a new light to see the matter in;
she was by no means sure that it was a pleasant one.  But if it pleased
Dixen to be responsible for her dignity and propriety, she would not
object, at least on this occasion.

So away they went through the streets first, and then round the
mountain, to the great enjoyment of them all.  Not one of them enjoyed
it less, and Dixen I am assured enjoyed it all the more, that they met
Mrs Ascot not far from the house, and knew by the look she gave them
that she would have liked to turn them back.

"Her smile was out of the wrong side of her mouth," muttered Dixen.  He
knew that she had ordered the carriage for herself at four, and they
could not go for her pleasure that afternoon.

"I only hope she will not disturb mama till we come home," said
Frederica.

The drive was charming, but even Frederica confessed to being a little
tired when they reached home.  It was five and after.  Madame Ascot met
them at the door.  It puts the best-tempered people out to be kept
waiting, and her face was not an agreeable one to see at the moment.

"Did you not understand that I said four?" asked she sharply.

"Miss Frederica," began Dixen, touching his hat to the young lady.

"Did I not say four?" repeated Mrs Ascot.

"But, madame, it would have been quite impossible.  We did not leave
home till nearly three," said Tessie.

"Don't let it happen again," said Mrs Ascot; taking no notice of the
child.

Frederica was patting her favourites, calling them, all sorts of pet
names.  She turned as Mrs Ascot attempted to pass her.

"It is a pity, madame.  You should have sent, for a carriage.  It is
quite impossible that the ponies should be taken out again to-night, you
know," she added as Mrs Ascot seemed to be preparing to enter the
carriage.  It is likely madame would have proved it quite possible, had
not Mr Vane entered the garden at the moment Tessie ran down the steps
to meet him.

"Oh, papa, we are to have a whole week of holidays.  Are you not glad?"

"Papa, I am so sorry we did not drive round by the office and take you
up.  I thought you must have been home.  Yes, they are rather warm, and
tired too, but they will be none the worse, will they, Dixen?  And I am
to drive mama every fine day and you must come too, papa.  I shall be
charmed to drive you."

Mr Vane laughed.

"My neck is too valuable," said he:

"Not more valuable than mama's; and we can take Dixen if you are afraid.
Now you must be kind to them, Dixen, and rub them well down," added
she, as the old man prepared to lead them away.

"Never fear, Miss Frederica," said Dixen.

"But I thought Mrs Ascot was going out;" said Mr Vane.

"It is too late now," said that lady angrily.

"Quite too late, and the ponies are tired.  It is quite impossible,"
said Tessie, with irritating dignity.

"All right," said Mr Vane, indifferently.

"Papa, we are going to have a party in the drawing-room to-night.  We
are all going, and mama and Selina and you must come too, just after
dinner.  Will you come, papa?" pleaded both girls, hanging on his arms.

"Certainly, with great pleasure," said their father, pleased to be thus
entreated; "but you must let me go now."

"It is not summer to madame to-night," whispered Tessie, laughing.

"We will invite her to our party, and that will comfort her," said her
sister, and then she went upstairs to give private instructions to the
boys' maid, that they were not to be put to bed at their usual early
hour.

Mrs Ascot did not honour them with her presence, but the party was very
successful notwithstanding.  Mr and Mrs Vane were becoming quite
indifferent to each other by this time; that is to say, no part of the
happiness of either was of the other's giving.  Mrs Vane was long past
resenting the open indifference that had hurt her so much at first, and
her husband never brought so much brightness with him in his brief
visits, as to cause her to regret his absence very bitterly.  She had
quite resigned herself to the knowledge that it could not be otherwise
now.

Still they had one interest in common.  They cared for their children,
each in a different way, and took a little pleasure in each other's
society when their children were with them.  Mr Vane was not a fond
father, but his children were pretty and bright, and he had the selfish
man's satisfaction in the possession of what other people admired.  They
were fond of him, and not in the least afraid of him.  He never reproved
or punished them, and was rarely impatient with them, for they were
never long enough in his presence to weary him, or to interfere in any
way with his comfort.  So when the girls welcomed him to the
drawing-room, he was quite prepared to enjoy an hour or two with them.

They all enjoyed it.  They had much to say for awhile, and then they
danced and sang, that is, the little boys danced with Tessie, and then
they all sang, and doubtless a much larger and more discriminating
audience would have been delighted with this part of the entertainment;
for they all had sweet voices, especially Selina, and her sisters had
been well taught; and two hours passed away very quickly, Mr Vane
thought.

After the little boys went to bed, the conversation somehow turned again
on the subject of Frederica's young-ladyhood, and she once more
suggested the question whether she had not learned "enough of things,"
and whether it was not time that she were leaving school.

"For indeed, papa, I have gone through all the books the girls ever go
through at Mrs Glencairn's, and she has given me quite new books
lately, French history, and a book about animals; but I could read these
just as well at home."

"How very clever you must be!" said her father.

"No, papa, not particularly clever? at least, cleverness has nothing to
do with it.  But you know their French takes the other girls for ever to
learn, and French is nothing to us who speak it at home.  So I have just
the dictation now, and learning poetry and easy things like that.
Indeed, I think it is just wasting money for me to go longer to school,"
added she, instinctively feeling that that argument her father might be
brought to consider.

"I am afraid it would lead to wasting much more if you were to leave
school," said her father, laughing.  "To be sure you are such a child
you could not be taken into society for a while yet, school or no
school."

"Oh! as to that, I am in no haste about going into society; I only wish
to be at home to take care of mama and Selina.  Would it not be nice,
mama?"

"It would not be nice for me to be left at school alone," said Tessie;
"and as for you, I am afraid you would not have everything your own way.
Madame Ascot would spoil your pleasure a little."

"Oh! we could dispense with Mrs Ascot, if I were at home," said
Frederica with dignity.  "I could take charge of the house, and make
less fuss about it than she does.  Papa, won't you take it into your
serious consideration?  I have had enough of school."

"You have had enough of Mrs Glencairn I daresay.  I think I must take
into serious consideration whether it will not be better to send you to
England for a year or two.  I think it is the best thing I can do for
you."

That was the last word spoken on the subject Mrs Vane was too startled
by her husband's words to reply to them, and she touched Selina's lips
to stay the exclamation that rose to them.  Frederica and Theresa
exchanged looks of dismay, but admonished by a look from their mother,
neither of them spoke, and in a little time their father bade them
good-night and went out.

"He did not mean anything, mama," said Frederica.

"He had not thought of it a minute before he said it, and he will forget
it in a day.  He often does forget things," said Tessie.

"We must not say anything to make him remember it," said their mother;
"and for the present we may hear no more about it."

"And I must stay at school," said Frederica, pouting a little.  "Mama,
you don't know how nice it would be for you and Lina, if I were always
at home."

"I can imagine it, dear.  But we will not speak of it, lest I should
have to lose you altogether for years to come."

CHAPTER FIVE.

The happy holidays passed all too soon away, and it was not till the
very last of them that Frederica went with her bundle of papers to the
office of Mr St. Cyr.

"Mama could write a note and send Dixen, of course," said she to
Theresa.  "But in a matter so troublesome every care should be taken,
and I shall go myself."

She almost wished she had not, however, when she reached his house.  The
outer door was standing open, and instead of ascending a step or two as
to most other houses in the street, one went down a step to the
threshold, and when that was passed, the dark and gloomy hall looked not
at all inviting to Frederica's eyes.  It was too late to think of
running away now, however, and she sat down in the dingy outer office to
wait till her name was taken in to Mr St. Cyr.  Her courage revived
when he came out to her; for he welcomed her warmly, and asked her into
his private office with great ceremony, quite as if she had been a
grownup young lady, she told Theresa afterwards.

He took the papers, which the made haste to present as an excuse for her
coming, and examined them carefully for a minute or two.  He nodded his
head and shrugged his shoulders, and said mademoiselle should have no
more trouble with them, unless he were much mistaken.  And then
Frederica knew that the right thing for her to do would be to rise and
thank him, and go away.  But she did not.  She sat looking round the dim
room upon the numberless shelves and drawers and pigeon-holes, and then
through the dusty window into a narrow court shut in by high Walls--as
dismal a place as one could imagine.  Her eyes were very grave when they
came back again to Mr St. Cyr's face.

"Well, my little cousin, what do you think of it all?" asked he.  "Do
you live here always, Mr St. Cyr?"

"Yes; here by day, and upstairs at night."

"And do you live alone?  Have you no one else in this house?"

"I have old Babette, whom you saw at the door."

"And no one else?"

"Is not that enough?"

"And has there never been any one else?  And are you happy here?" asked
Frederica, wonder struggling with the gravity in her face.

"Ah, well! as to that--like the rest of the world, I suppose," said Mr
St. Cyr, with his wonderful shrug; but there came a look of pain over
his face that startled the little girl, and made her wish that she had
gone away before, so she rose hastily, and said,--

"Adieu--and--pardon me, Cousin Cyprien."

"To meet soon, my little cousin," said he, bowing over her offered hand,
"as if I were quite grown up," thought Frederica again, in the midst of
her confusion.

He went with her through the outer room and through the dim hall to the
street door, and then a new thought seemed to strike him.

"You will think I am a wicked old spider sitting here in the dark to
catch unwary flies, if I let you go so.  You shall come upstairs to see
that the sun shines here too, and that I am not altogether unlike my
fellow-men, though I am quite alone.  Come upstairs, my child."

Frederica gave one glance upward, and another into the sunny street.
She would much rather have gone away, but Mr St. Cyr was half-way up by
this time, and so she could only follow.  The stairs were as dim as the
hall, and she saw nothing distinctly till she found herself in a large
but not very lofty room.  Mr St. Cyr drew aside the heavy curtains, and
let in the sunshine.

"And now you shall sit here till I see what my Babette can find for your
refreshment;" said he.

There were a great many beautiful things in the room.  Though the
furniture _was_ dark and old-fashioned, it was very rich and handsome of
its kind.  The curtains were of the richest damask, of a shade between
crimson and brown, and the carpet was of the same colours, and so thick
and soft that never a foot-fall could be heard in the room.  There were
vases and other ornaments on the mantel-piece, and a quaintly carved
cabinet opposite, whose open doors showed many strange and beautiful
things.  There were pictures on the walls which made Frederica think of
the great churches in which she had sometimes been.

It was not a pleasant room, notwithstanding all these beautiful things;
but quite as gloomy, though in a different way, as the office
downstairs.  She did not move about to examine any of them, but sat
looking at a lovely picture of a woman with a child in her arms, over
which the morning sunshine fell.  By-and-by Mr St. Cyr came in,
followed by a little old woman in an odd dress, who carried a silver
tray in her hand.  On the tray was a china plate, with a bunch of
grapes, which she set down on a little table at her master's bidding,
and then left the room.

"And so you do not think it well to be alone, my little cousin," said
Mr St. Cyr, when he had given the grapes into Frederica's hand.  "Will
you not come and stay with me then?"

Frederica did not answer for a moment.  "You have learned enough of
things you know," said he, with his odd smile.  "If we can persuade Mr
Vane to let you leave school, will you come and stay here with me?"

Frederica shook her head.

"I could not leave mama.  She needs me."

"But she has your sisters, and I am quite alone.  Your mother used to
come here when she was a child."

"Did she?  Yes, she told us so.  That must have been a long time ago."

"A long time ago!  And so you will not come?"

"Papa says he will send me home to England to school for a year or two,
after I am done with Mrs Glencairn."

"And would you like that?"

"No, not at all.  Mama would miss me so much, and Selina.  But I don't
intend to make myself unhappy about it.  Very likely papa may forget all
about it again."

"He forgets with ease some things," said Mr St. Cyr: "let us hope he
may forget this."

"I should not like to go, because of mama," repeated Frederica.

"And that is a good reason why you will not come and stay with me.  Ah,
well!  I do not blame you.  This is not the place for a bright little
flower like you to bloom in.  I must still be alone, I suppose."

"But I will come sometimes and see you, and so will Tessie, if you would
like us to do so," said Frederica, rising to go: "and I shall certainly
come if I fall into any more troubles.  You said I was to do so, did you
not, Cousin Cyprien?"

"Surely, I shall expect you."

"And I have come already with these tiresome papers.  And ah!  I had
forgotten.  There were several things I wished to say about them."

"You need not say them," said Mr St. Cyr: "I shall understand them
perfectly, I do not doubt, and they shall not trouble you any more, nor
your mama either.  I only wish all her troubles could be as easily ended
as these shall be."

"But, Mr St. Cyr," said Frederica, pausing at the door, and growing
very red, "mama does not wish that you should pay these things.  Has not
mama enough of money?"

"Assuredly, she has ample means.  I have no thought of paying these
debts.  Do not alarm yourself."

"You are not angry with me, are you, Cousin Cyprien?" asked Frederica,
wistfully.

"Angry!  By no means, my little cousin.  Why should I be angry?  And
now, remember you are to come again, you and your sister.  Ah! how
bright the sunshine is!" added he, as he opened the door.

Yes, it was almost dazzling at first, after the dimness within.
Frederica walked slowly home, not able, even in the bright sunshine, to
shake _off_ the quieting influence of the old man's solitary home.

"I wonder why it seemed so strange?" said she to herself, "it must have
been the silence.  I wonder if any other voice is ever heard in that
room.  He must have visitors.  And mama used to go there when she was a
little girl, with grandpapa, I suppose.  If I were to do anything wrong,
or were afraid of an enemy, I think I would go there to hide myself.
But to live there always!--no, I could not do that; it is too silent and
sad."

"Mama," she asked that night when she had told them of her visit, "was
it always so still and gloomy at Cousin Cyprien's when you used to go
there?  Was he always alone in those days?"

"I do not remember it as gloomy or silent.  Mr St. Cyr's mother lived
there then, and there were a great many beautiful things in the house.
His brother was there too sometimes, but he was not a cheerful person."

"There are beautiful things there now.  The cabinet is full of them, and
there are the pictures on the walls," and she went on to name other
things she had seen: "but still I wonder that he can content himself
there, it is so solitary and silent."

"Mama," said Tessie, "I don't think it says much for Fred's good sense
that she should talk in that way about Mr St. Cyr and his home.  Very
likely there are crowds of visitors there every night, though there was
no one there then."  Frederica shook her head.  "No, you would not say
so if you went there.  Only very old people or shadows could ever be
content there."

"Mama, listen to her!  Is she sensible?"

"Well, perhaps it is foolish," said Frederica candidly.  "But all the
same I cannot help being sorry for Cousin Cyprien.  What does he take
pleasure in, mama?"

"My dear, a man like Mr St. Cyr has many sources of interest and
pleasure that a young girl like you cannot be supposed to know anything
about, or even to understand, if you knew them.  I do not think he needs
your pity or sympathy very much.  He is very religious, I believe."

"And religion is enough to content some people," said Tessie flippantly.
"You know you told me the other day that Miss Baines' religion made her
quite patient and happy, even when she was in great suffering, and not
afraid even of death; and perhaps it suits Mr St. Cyr to be religious
too."

"Yes; but then his religion must be quite different from Miss Baines'."

"Oh, well! it may be just as good, or it may suit him just as well.  I
think you are very foolish, and so does Selina."

But Selina said nothing.  She listened always to her sister's talk, and
"thought about it afterwards," as Tessie had said.  Now she was
repeating to herself, "Patient and happy even in great suffering; that
must be a good and beautiful thing."  And many thoughts did she give to
Miss Baines and her sufferings, and her patience, before she saw her
sisters again.

It was a beautiful sight, if there had been anyone to see it--the mother
and her daughters as they sat there together on that last night before
Frederica and Theresa went back to school.  And yet it would have been a
sorrowful sight to one who knew their history and their affairs, and who
loved them and wished them well.  For, except the dear love they bore to
one another, there was not a single element of permanence in the
happiness they enjoyed together.

That the hour of separation was drawing near, none who looked in Mrs
Vane's face could fail to see.  It was coming slowly, so slowly that
she, who had almost forgotten what it was to be quite well and free from
pain, had come to think that her illness was not of a kind that sooner
or later ends in death.  The thought that it might be so--that she must
leave her children, young, without experience, every danger doubled by
their own beauty and their grandfather's wealth, was a very painful one,
but she put it from her, whenever it could be put away.  Death was
terrible to think of for their sakes.  Yes, and terrible for herself
too; for of the hope which sustains the Christian alike in life and in
death, she knew nothing.

It is difficult to conceive of ignorance so utter as hers on all
religious subjects.  Her mother had not lived long enough to teach her
the little that she herself understood of the religion of her people,
and her father had had no religion.  During the first years of her
married life, she had sometimes gone to church with her husband, but she
had never been much interested in what she heard, or tried to understand
it.  It had been a mere form with her; as indeed it had been always with
her husband.  She knew nothing of the way in which a sinner must be
prepared for death, that must come some time, and which might be near,
and there were times when the thought of this made her afraid.

Her daughters knew little more than she did.  When the idea of sending
them to school was first proposed, Mrs Ascot desired that it should be
to one of the convents of the city, and probably there they would have
been sent, had not Mr St. Cyr earnestly desired it too.  His wish was
enough to make Mr Vane decide against it, so bitter was his dislike,
and they were sent to Mrs Glencairn's instead.  Their religions
teaching while there was, at their father's request, committed to the
charge of the English teacher, Miss Pardie, and her instructions were
not of a kind to make much impression on the minds of volatile girls,
with whom she was not a favourite.  The Scripture lessons which they
shared with the other pupils, were too often learned and repeated as a
task, and forgotten.

So neither the mother nor the children had any knowledge of the true way
to find happiness, either in this world or the next.  A vague dread and
fear had come to Mrs Vane now and then during all the years of her
illness, but she had tried to put them from her.  They had come oftener
of late, but she strove to put them from her still.

"Patient and happy in the midst of great suffering, and not afraid even
of death."  Many, many times in the days when the two girls had gone,
and she was left to the quiet of their solitary days, did these words
come back to her again.

CHAPTER SIX.

The reluctance with which the sisters always left home to return to
school, was usually forgotten by them as soon as they found themselves
among their companions, and busy with their lessons again.  But this
time it was not so with Frederica.  She was restless and unhappy,
finding it quite impossible to interest herself in her school-work, or
to settle quietly to anything.

It was all the more difficult for her to do so, that she was in few
regular classes in the school.  It was quite true as she had told her
father, she had gone through and through all the books generally used by
Mrs Glencairn's pupils.  This was not saying much, for few of the girls
stayed in school so long as they ought to have done--none had been so
long as Frederica.  Under the guidance of Miss Robina Glencairn, a
clever and cultivated woman, she had gone far beyond the usual routine
of school lessons, and had taken much pleasure in her reading, though
she had read alone, but she could not interest herself in it now.  It
seemed foolish and wrong for her to be at school, learning things that
she could very well do without, when her mother and Selina needed her so
much at home.  They _did_ need her, she was sure; and she grew irritable
and impatient under the restraint that kept her from them, till she was
in danger, her sister told her, of losing the reputation for politeness
and amiability, which she had been all those years acquiring.

"And where is the good of fretting?  If you can end it at the summer
holidays, you may be very glad.  You may be sure that Prickly Polly will
not hear of your coming home just now.  If I were you, I would learn the
dictionary from the beginning to the end, or do something else to pass
the time.  Or you might ask Miss Robina for a story-book.  She will give
you one--you are such a pet of hers, I'm sure."

"It wouldn't be a bad idea," said Frederica.

There was to be no walking that day, because of the rain, and her book
would have been little pleasure to her in the large schoolroom, where
the girls usually passed the recreation hour on rainy days.  But she
knew where to find a refuge, to which, without special permission, even
Tessie could not follow her.  Frederica, because of Miss Robina's
favour, and for some other reasons, was permitted to go to it if she
chose, provided her presence was not required elsewhere.  So she was
soon knocking at the door of a room at the head of a dim staircase that
led to no other room in the house.

"May I come in, Mistress Campbell?" said she, pausing on the threshold.

"Is it you, missy?" said a voice from behind a great basket of clothes
that was standing on the floor.  "Who would have expected to see you at
this hour?  Have you no' got the play?  It canna be that you have a
lesson to get over again!"

"No," said Frederica.  "This is not a lesson book.  But I have got a
headache, and I am cross, and I can't be bothered with the girls; but I
shall be very quiet and good, and not be in the way, if you will let me
stay."

"Well, if you'll promise no' to fash me with your foolish talk while I
am busy, you may stay."

"Shall I fash you here?" said Frederica, laughing, and springing up into
the wide seat of one of the large dormer windows by which the room was
lighted.

"Whisht now, and no' put me out of my count," said Mistress Campbell.

She was sitting on a low stool, sorting and laying out on large trays at
her side the clothes of pupils and teachers that had just come up from
the laundress, a work which needed both patience and care, and Frederica
knew that she must not be disturbed.  Instead of opening her book, she
sat for a moment watching her.  She was a small, bowed woman, crippled
by rheumatism, with a thin brown face, and deep-set, sharp, grey eyes.
She wore a dark linsey gown, with a shawl of Campbell tartan over her
shoulders, and she had a "mutch" with two or three rows of stiff borders
on her head.  She sung at her work, or rather chanted an old ballad
which Frederica had heard before; but every now and then, as she counted
and folded, and laid the different garments aside, she put their numbers
and the names of their owners, and her thoughts about them, into the
tune, without a pause; and Frederica knew by this that she had quite
forgotten her presence in the room.

"A droll little person," she called her to herself, and then she thought
how strange a being "old Eppie" would seem to her mama and Selina, and
wondered how it was that she had never told them about her.  She had
mentioned her to them, but now she looked at her, and around the low,
wide room, with eyes that meant to see everything for their benefit.  It
was a large room, which yet did not seem very large, because of the many
things crowded into it, and because of the sloping roof which on three
sides came almost to the floor.  It was the attic of the wing in which
the large classroom and dining-room were.  The walls were roughly
plastered and whitewashed, and underneath were arranged old bureaux and
boxes and chests of drawers, filled with such clothing as was not often
needed, and under Eppie's particular care.  Besides these, there were
articles of furniture, broken or out of use, such as will accumulate in
a house where many people live--chairs and tables, pictures, and faded
ornaments of all kinds.

There was a bed at that side of the room where the roof did not slope,
but at this moment it was almost hidden by the great piles of linen
arranged upon it.  There was a small open stove, in which a coal fire
smouldered, and over that part of the floor which was unencumbered by
furniture a faded carpet was spread.  There was not one beautiful thing
in the room, Frederica thought, except a rose tree covered with buds and
blossoms, that stood in the window opposite.

The windows were pleasant, but from them Eppie could only see the sky,
they were so high above her.  From the one on the high seat of which she
sat, Frederica could see thousands and thousands of city roofs, with
bits of open space here and there, and the river beyond.  But it was not
a fair sight under drizzling rain and a leaden sky, and so she turned
her eyes into the room again.  Order was gradually coming out of the
confusion of the innumerable white garments by which the little old
woman had been surrounded.  One after another the great trays were
carried and emptied, into the many drawers beneath the eaves; and then
coming back to place her empty baskets in a recess made beneath the high
window, Eppie saw Frederica.

"Preserve us a' lassie!  I had no mind o' your being here.  It is time
for playing yourself now.  Why should you be here at this hour?"

"I don't care to play with children any more," said Frederica gravely.

"Eh, sirs!  You'll be growing ower-womanly for the like of that, I
suppose.  Weel, weel!  But you shouldna sit so quiet as to make me
forget that you are here.  I might be saying things that it wouldna be
wise to say in your hearing.  Are you no coming down out of that?"

"Yes, I am coming, Mrs Campbell.  Don't you ever get tired of this
place?  Is it not awfully dull?"

"Dull!" repeated Eppie, "and tired of it!  Is it this chamber you mean?
Where could I go if I tired of it?  I am very thankful to bide in it, I
can tell you."

"Yes, I suppose so.  But don't you get tired of it all the same?  What
do you look forward to?  There is nothing in your life but mending, and
keeping count, and--"

"Hear the disrespectful lassie!  Folding and keeping count, said she.
That's but for one day in the week.  The mending whiles takes two or
three, and there's many a thing besides that I canna be speaking to the
likes of you about."

"Yes; but not pleasant things, Eppie."

"Pleasant things, quo' she!  They're my duty.  What other would I hae?"

"But, Mistress Campbell, dear, if I thought I had to live all my life
here, even in this house, I should be miserable."

"But then it's no your duty to live here all your life, and that makes
the difference.  If I were to make myself miserable as you call it, it
would be for fear that I mightna get leave to bide here all my life, but
I daresay it will be time enough to fret when I'm bidden go."

"That will never be.  What would Mrs Glencairn and Miss Robina do
without you?"

"There's no telling," said Eppie, nodding her head many times; "but
we'll say no more about it.  Are you no coming down from that cold
window when I bid you?"

"Yes, I'm coming.  But, Eppie, how can you be content?  Are your father
and mother dead?  Have you any brothers and sisters?  Will it be just
the same all your life till you die?"

"Now, missy, come down this moment when I bid you.  That's an
unwholesome book you've been reading, to put thoughts like that into
your mind.  It's no me that's like to grow discontented, it's you.  And
I was just thinking of inviting you to tea."

Frederica sprang down from the window so suddenly as to make the old
woman start.

"Oh, do, Eppie dear," cried she eagerly, "that is just the thing I
should like.  I want to speak to you, and I don't want to go down to
that rubbishing history; and I'll read to you.  I have not read a page
yet, and it's a very nice book they say."

"Is it a story book?  But I would far rather hear about the wee beasties
out of your lesson book.  And I'm no just sure that Miss Robina would be
pleased that you should take tea with me so soon again, and I'm no sure
that I hae scones enew."

"Oh!  Miss Robina will be sure to let me; and never mind the scones.
I'll go down for whatever we need, and I'll ask Miss Robina.  Let me
stir the fire."

Frederica had forgotten the gloomy day, and the nun, and all imaginable
subjects of discontent.  She urged her petition eagerly; for she knew
that Eppie liked to be entreated.

"Let be the fire, missy.  You'll do mischief, and spoil your hands.  You
may bide if you get leave.  But I doubt your sister will no be well
pleased.  It is `making fish o' the one and flesh o' the other,' I
doubt."

But Frederica did not stay to listen.  It was a great honour and an
exceptional one, to be asked to tea by Mrs Campbell.  No other girl now
in school, except Tessie and one or two of the elder pupils, had ever
been asked to drink tea in the garret.  Except for the fun of the thing,
or for the sake of a change from the dreary school routine, few of them
would have cared to do so.  For Eppie was only a little old woman, bowed
and lame, who even in her best days had only been a sort of upper
servant in Mrs Glencairn's house.  The present race of girls did not
often see her.  Some of them had never seen her; for her daily journey
to the lower part of the house to get what she needed was accomplished
with much labour and effort at time when the girls were sure to be in
school.

Frederica was often in the garret.  Miss Robina, whose pet, as Tessie
had said, she was, seldom refused her permission when she wished to
escape from the other girls, few of whose lessons she shared, either for
work or amusement.  But taking tea there was another matter; and
Frederica, rather tired of being dismal, entered eagerly into the
preparations.  Miss Robina did not object; on the contrary, she was very
glad to let her have the pleasure, heartily wishing that she might share
it.  She did share it for a little while, and added to it.  For she came
upstairs, carrying in her own hands a tray, on which were some fresh
"scones" and a bit of "paddie," each wrapped up in a snowy napkin, as
was absolutely necessary to their perfection.  She could not stay long--
only long enough to be thanked and petted, and called "bonny bird" and
"good bairn" by Mistress Campbell.  She had a beautiful and good face,
though it was rather pale and tired-looking, Frederica thought, as she
sat for a moment smiling in the flickering firelight; and the first
thing she said, when she and Eppie were left alone, was,--

"How pretty and nice Miss Robina is!  What a pity it is that she has to
keep a school?"

To this no reply was given.

"It must be so tiresome to do the same thing over and over again every
day of the year," added she.

"There are worse things than that in Miss Robina's life, I'm thinking,"
said Eppie gravely.

"Are there?  Tell me about them," said Frederica, eager for a story.

"I doubt you are no speaking with your usual discretion," said Mistress
Campbell gravely.  "We'll take our tea, and not meddle with what doesna
concern us.  There are few lives in which there are no troubles.  Let us
be thankful for our mercies."

It was a very nice tea.  Scones and fresh butter and honey, to say
nothing of "paddies" and other nice things.  And such delicious tea made
in a funny little black teapot with a broken spout.  Everything was
charming, Frederica thought and declared.  The novelty would have made
it charming to her, though there had been nothing else to do so.  They
did not fall out of talk.  Eppie asked questions about the holidays they
had enjoyed; and entered with great interest into all the details
Frederica gave her about her mother and Selina, and the drives they had
had, and all they had enjoyed together.  She grew grave as she went on
to tell that her mother was not strong, but easily tired and troubled,
and to wish that she could leave school, and stay at home with her
always.  Eppie was grave too, and occupied with her own thoughts for a
little while; and as Frederica sat looking into the fire in silence, the
unhappy feeling that had passed away in the interest of tea-drinking in
such pleasant circumstances came back again.

"Are you no going to wash the cups?" asked Eppie in a little.

This was always in the evening's entertainment, and to-night it was
happily accomplished, inasmuch as it dispelled the cloud which had hung
for a moment over them.

"It must be nice to have things to do--useful things I mean," said
Frederica.

"I doubt it is a liberty in me to let you wash my cups, or even to ask
you to your tea," said Eppie.  "For you are no longer the wee missy that
came creeping up the stairs the first day you came to the school.  You
are growing a young lady now."

"That is just what I was telling mama," said Frederica eagerly.  "I
ought to have done with school now, and stay at home, ought I not?  I
don't suppose I should wash cups; but there are a great many things I
could do for mama and Lina.  Do you really think I am growing a young
lady, Eppie?  I am such a little thing, you know," said Frederica; "but
I am nearly fifteen."

An odd smile flickered for a moment on Eppie's small wrinkled face.

"You needna be in any great hurry about being a young leddy.  I doubt
you're but a bairn to the most o' folk yet," said she.

"Not for myself--I am in no hurry to be grown up for myself; but for
mama's sake."

"But there must be a heap o' things for you to learn yet," said Eppie
gravely.  "There's time enough."

"But I don't see the good of learning so many things, and I have gone
through all the books the girls learn here.  And mama does need me, I am
sure of that."

Then Eppie went on to say how important the season of youth is, and how
she had no doubt but Mrs Vane would rather deny herself the happiness
of her little daughters' company for the sake of having them become wise
and accomplished women, and so on.  But Frederica did not seem to be
noticing what she was saying; for she asked suddenly,--

"Eppie, do you know where Miss Baines is now?  Will she ever come back
again, do you think?"

Eppie shook her head.

"Have you not heard?  She is dead, my dear."

"Dead!" repeated Frederica.

"Yes.  She has gone to a better world, I have little doubt."

"To heaven!"

"Ay, I am sure of it, as far as a body can be sure of such a thing.  She
was a good woman.  She had some curious notions about things, but she
was a good woman."

"She was very religious," said Frederica.

"Yes, she was religious.  She was a good woman."

"But then there are so many kinds of religion," said Frederica.

"But there is but one right kind I doubt," said Mistress Campbell
gravely.

"And Miss Baines' was the right kind?  It made her patient and gentle
with us girls, even when we were naughty.  And after her fall, when she
suffered so much, it made her patient to bear her pain.  And once she
told me that she was not afraid to die.  I wish I had asked her more
about it.  I don't know, but I am almost sure mama would be afraid to
die."

Eppie gave her a startled glance; but Frederica did not look as though
she had said anything to excite surprise.

"But your mama is a good woman.  I have always heard you say that."

"Yes.  She is very good and dear.  But then we have no religion in our
house--except Mrs Ascot; and I am afraid hers is not the right kind.
It is _not_ at all like Miss Baines', at any rate.  But then how is one
to know?"

"But I hope there are good people among all kinds," said Eppie, not
knowing very well what to say.

"Yes.  Mr St. Cyr is good, though Mrs Ascot is not.  That is true.
And it does not matter so much, so that we have a religion of some kind.
Though, of course, one would wish to have the best."

"You are wrong there, missy.  It matters much.  And you should be
thankful that you were sent here to the school, where the Bible is read,
and where you may learn your duty to God and man.  That is the best
religion."

"But I have not learned it very well," I fear.

"Maybe that is your own fault.  I have heard you say that you are not
very fond of going to the kirk and reading your Bible."

"That is quite true.  And that is the right way, is it?  Were you fond
of going to the kirk when you were young?  We go to the church, you
know."

"I would be very thankful to be able to go to the kirk," said Eppie
evasively:

"And is your religion just like Miss Baines'?  Hers must have been
right, because it made her happy when she was in great trouble, and it
made her not afraid to die.  Is yours the same, Mistress Campbell?"

Eppie looked at her, wondering a little at her persistency, and then she
said, "Ay is it--the very same.  The same in kind, though not in degree.
Miss Baines was a good woman, a far better woman than the like of me."

"Tell me about it," said Frederica.

Mistress Campbell looked sadly at a loss.

"How did they teach you to be religious when you were young?"

"We were taught to read our Bibles and to say the catechism, and to go
to the kirk.  And my father had worship morning and evening, and we were
bidden do our duty, and be content with our lot."

Eppie hesitated, by no means satisfied with her attempt to make the
matter clear, and then she said,--

"To be religious is to be good, and to do our duty to God and our
fellow-creatures.  Don't you mind what the Bible says?  `Thou shalt love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.'  And
in another place it says, `Pure religion and undefiled is this, to visit
the fatherless and the widow in their affliction.'  That is religion,"
said Eppie, with a pleased sense of having got well out of a difficulty.

Frederica nodded.

"Yes, I have read that.  That is the way is it?  Do good people all do
that?  But then they must begin at the very beginning of their lives."

Eppie shook her head.

"We are poor imperfect creatures at the best," said she.  "But God's
ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.  We are
unprofitable servants.  If we got what we deserve, it would go ill with
us.  But He is merciful and gracious, and full of compassion, and of
tender mercy."

Frederica considered gravely for a little while.

"And is that all?  I think I could manage to do all that, except perhaps
to love my neighbour as myself," said she, thinking of Prickly Polly.

"But you would need to do that too, I doubt," said Eppie, not wishing to
make religion seem a thing too easy.  "And you would need to say your
prayers, for the best of us need to be forgiven, and the strongest and
wisest need to be helped and guided, and the Lord is good."

"And if I don't know very well at first.  He will help me.  But, Eppie
dear, I think Miss Baines must have had something more than this.  I
wish I had asked her about it," said Frederica, regarding the old woman
with wistful eyes.

"Dear me, lassie," said Eppie, at a loss what to say to her; "what has
putten such like thoughts into your head? you are not an ill bairn, and
you will learn as you grow older.  You have no call to vex yourself with
such thoughts more than usual."

"But, Eppie, it is for mama.  She is ill, and suffers a great deal, and
she has only Selina with her; and if I only knew what made Miss Baines
so happy, I could tell mama.  But mama could not begin at the beginning,
and go to church, and visit poor and sick people.  There must be some
other away for her.  For, Eppie, I am almost sure that mama would be
afraid to die."

There were no tears in the great wistful eyes turned towards her, but
there was something which the old woman found it quite as hard to meet.

"Poor body," murmured she; "the Lord help her!"

"And, Eppie, Miss Baines said something about the Lord Jesus caring for
her.  And He died, you know.  It is in the service, `Crucified, dead,
and buried,' and in the Bible there is something about it."

"Surely," said Eppie, eagerly, "that is just it.  We are sinners, both
by Adam's fall and by actual transgression.  And God sent His Son to die
in our room and stead.  And we must lippen to Him.  He will save us."

"And it would not make any difference because mama is a Jewess, would
it?"

"Preserve us a'!  What will the lassie say next?" muttered the
bewildered Eppie.  "No difference but what would be in her favour, I
would think.  In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, the Word says,
and the apostles were bidden begin at Jerusalem," said she, the
long-forgotten words coming back to her in the exigency of the moment.
"And they are all to be gathered in, Paul says.  I mind weel my father
and our minister ay used to pray for the ingathering of the Jews.  No,
I'm sure it would be in her favour rather than the contrary," repeated
Eppie confidently, growing more assured as she went on.  "They were a
grand people, the Jews--God's own chosen people.  They did ill things.
They killed our Lord, and I canna just reconcile it all, but I'm sure
the Lord loves them yet."

Frederica did not reply, but sat gazing in among the dying embers in the
grate.  As she sat watching her abashed but anxious face, a great
longing to help and counsel her came over the poor old woman's kind
heart, but there came also sharply a sense of her utter inability to do
so, a vague but painful doubt whether she had ever seen clearly the way
of safety herself.

"I'm but a poor ignorant sinfu' woman, my dear bairn," said she humbly;
"I havna lived up to the little light I have, and it's no for me to
teach you.  But one thing I can tell you: read your Bible, and ask the
Lord Himself to teach you, and you'll need no other teaching, or if you
do He'll provide it.  But see, the fire's near out, and it's more than
time you were down the stair, and I must go to my bed.  So good night to
you, and mind your prayers."

"Good night," said Frederica, and she went downstairs pondering many
things.

CHAPTER SEVEN.

Attached to the large old-fashioned house in which Mrs Glencairn lived
were a garden and orchard of very large old apple trees, which now in
the spring time were full of wonderful possibilities for enjoyment and
amusement to children who had for the most part been obliged to find
amusement within doors during the long winter.  And so no wonder that
Frederica, without whom no game was complete, should forget her serious
thoughts, and her troubles, and even her mother's doubtful state, unless
something particularly recalled them to her mind.  She was such a little
creature, that, though she led the elder girls in their lessons, and was
indeed far before them, she did not seem to be at all out of place when
she led the plays and games of the little girls too.

Even in her visits to the garret, with her "Animated Nature" in her
hand, she and Eppie kept to the safe subject of beasts and birds and
creeping things, in the discussions into which they fell.  She had taken
up botany, too, in a less elementary form than had been given her
before, and her interest was greatly quickened, and her attention
happily given to it.  And strange to say, Eppie, the recluse of the
garret, who had not set her foot on a green thing growing beyond the
orchard for many a year and day, even she gave eager interest and
stimulus to the girl's pursuit, and with spectacles on nose peered into
triticums and anemones brought from the mountain, and into apple
blossoms, and even into dandelions and buttercups gathered in the
orchard, for want of rarer flowers.

"And what for no," said Eppie, "when Solomon himself, the wisest of
kings and men, spoke about green growing things from the cedar of
Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall?  And God made them a'.  They mind me
of my father's house and the fir belting, and the heather hills beyond.
And they mind me o' the days o' my youth, that are gone like a blink,"
added she with a sigh.

"Yes," said Frederica, turning compassionate eyes on the kindly wrinkled
old face.

"I'm no complainin' you'll understand.  I hae had my day as you'll
have," said Eppie, nodding her head gently a great many times.  "But I
was ay fond o' flowers.  I liked to notice their likeness, and their
difference, though I didna ken that they were a' written down in books.
Eh! it's just wonderful how true nature is to herself.  That bonny
yellow flower might be the one that grew on the bush beside my father's
door, and yon rosebush that Miss Robina brought up the stairs to-day is
the very marrow o' the one that Sandy Gow the laird's gardener brought
down and gave to my sister Annie more than fifty years ago.  It's like a
dream to look back upon."

"But, Eppie, I have often wondered that you only care for one or two
flowers at a time, when you are so fond of them; you could have quite a
greenhouse of them in this south window.  I could bring you dozens of
them," said Frederica.

But Eppie shook her head.

"I tried it, my dear, when sore against my will I had to betake myself
to this place--a dismal place it seemed for a while.  I tried having
many flowers.  Miss Isabel was here then, and she and Miss Robina took
great pains to get me the best and the bonniest.  But I soon saw that it
wouldna do.  I couldna get them kepit to my mind without troubling
somebody.  They were ay needing something done, and I couldna even get a
spadeful of earth without another pair of hands.  I was more helpless
then than I am now, and even the bringing of water for them up the
stairs was more than I could ay manage; so I just gave them up; for
unless a body can do justice to the bonny things, they are more pain
than pleasure.  And I couldna bide to fash other folk.  So now Miss
Robina brings me one as it blooms, and I hae been few days without a
flower all the seven years I have been in this room.  I aye hae my
wallflowers, and once I had heather, but it didna thrive, and I thought
a pity to have it dying before my eyes, so I got no more."

It was growing too dark by this time to pore over either books or
flowers.  Eppie had had her tea, Frederica knew, because she saw the
tray with the dishes standing near the door, and she knew that she would
be welcome to stay till the school bell rang again for prayers.  So she
sat in the window watching the clouds that were still bright, though the
sun had disappeared.  By-and-by she said,--

"Tell me something that happened when you were young, something that you
never told me before."

Eppie took up the stocking on which she could work as well in the dark
as in the light.

"There was many a thing happened to me when I was young that I never
told anybody, but I might happen on an old story that you have heard
before, as is the way with old bodies like me.  And I hae no feast o'
tellin' bits out o' my own life just for folk's diversion."

But Frederica knew that she would have a story for all that; she was not
so sure that it would be a new one.

"Were there many flowers in your garden when you were a little girl?"
asked she after a pause.

"Weel! there were na just so many, but eh, missy! they were awfu' bonny
flowers.  But I mind the flowers among the hills, and by the burn sides
best.  The names of them?  I canna mind a' the names, and if I could
they would seem like common flowers to you, but they gave us just a
wonderful delight.  And there were other things besides the flowers.  We
got many a day's pleasure out of the rushes by the burn, and the
brackens in the wood, and we ay had the heather.  And, oh! wasna it a
bonny sight to see when the summer began to wear over!  Flowers!  High
above the glen where my father's house stood, there whiles were miles
and miles o' the purple blossom.  I can see it now when I shut my eyes,"
said Eppie, leaning back in her chair, and letting her stocking fall
upon her lap.

"And then there were the daisies that you told me about," suggested
Frederica in the pause that followed.

"Yes, the gowan, and the blue bell, and many a one beside.  And I hae
seen the hills in a bleeze o' gold with the yellow broom.  Though a
broom bush is no' to call a bonny thing, except a bit away.  But a'
things are bonny to young happy eyes, and I daresay they are bonnier to
me now, looking back to them over all the long years."

And on she rambled, as she had done many a time before, on the very same
theme, and if there had been an hour to spare, or if Frederica had been
inclined, this was the time when she would have asked for a song, and
the chances were she would have got ten of them chanted in a voice that
had once been sweet, but which failed now both in sweetness and in
power.  Frederica always liked the songs, though she did not always like
the singing, but there was something else in store for her tonight--
something which she had ceased to expect, a bit out of Eppie's life.
She knew it was coming when the old woman went on to speak about the
hills, and the grassy nooks hidden between them, and the days when she
used to go out with her father, who was a shepherd, among them.

"And I mind one day we were sitting on the lowne side o' a hill, and
there came over it and down upon us, two lads with packs on their backs,
and one of them with a book in his hand.  When they saw us, they stopped
to ask the road to the next town, for they had got in among the morning
mists, having risen early for their journey, and so had lost their way.
I mind how they both looked, as well as if I had seen them yesterday,
and maybe better.  One of them was shame-faced about having lost the
way, which he said he had been over many a time before; but the other
only laughed and said it was a good thing to be mistaken whiles, and for
his part he was glad to lie down and rest.  And so he lay down among the
heather, and turned a thin fair face to the sky.  He was an English lad,
I think.  His tongue was English any way.  My father bade me take a
plaid I had brought with me, and spread it over him, for there was a
cold breath creeping now and then round the hill; and when I went and
did what I was bidden, the lad gave me first a surprised look, and then
a smile that made his eyes and his whole face beautiful.  I see it now,
though I have hardly thought of it these thirty years," said Eppie with
a sigh.  "And I mind his deep sweet voice, and the sound of the smooth
English words he used when he thanked me, and bade me sit down beside
him, and tell him my name.  I sat down as he bade me, but he took little
heed of me for a while.  For he looked sore weary and spent with more
than just the tramp over the hills, and his eyes had a look as if they
were seeing things far, far away.

"The other was a fine lad too, I daresay, though o' a commoner nature.
He and my father got very friendly together, he telling and my father
listening to all they were doing out in the great world, whose voice
came to our glen, not like a real voice, but like an echo casten back
from the hills.  And by-and-by the English lad's eyes came back to mine,
and what he saw in them I canna say, but he gave me the same smile that
lighted his face in a way that was just wonderful--I can see it now--and
he bade me look up to the sky, and see a ship that was sailin', sailin'
away to the west, and what did I think it was carrying there?  There was
nothing in the sky that I could see, but a long trail of grey cloud,
with here and there an edge of light upon it, and he only gave a bit
laugh when I looked back at him again wondering.  And then he plucked a
wee curled head o' the bracken that grew at his hand, and bade me look
at it.  Naught could I see but just a bit o' bracken.  I said not a
word, only looked from it to his fair smiling face.  But then he took
out of his pouch a case, and out of the case a glass, and put it between
the bracken and my eyes.  And I thought, surely a great magician had
come to our hills, for it was a bit o' bracken no longer, but a
wonderful network of cells, and veins, and feathery fringes, like
nothing I had ever seen before.  And next it was a bit of brown heather
he took, and then a nodding bluebell, and then the wing of a May fly
that had lighted on his hand.

"I looked and looked, and at last I cried out to my father to come and
see.  Even my father wondered.  Ilken leaf and blade o' grass, and even
the wee stones that we took from the path were wonderful to see.  And
then he put the glass on my mother's plaid, and on his own fine kerchief
of lawn, and bade us see the difference between God's works and man's--
how poor, and coarse, and common was the best that man could do, and how
the more and the closer we looked into the works of God, the more worthy
of admiration we should see them to be.

"And then him, and my father, and the other lad had things to say that I
couldna make much of.  He was a man of excellent understanding, my
father.  But just one thing I mind.  It was the English lad that said it
with a smile, and a great longing in his bonny een.  `It may be,' he
said, `that when we get home to heaven, our glorified eyes shall see the
mysteries of beauty hidden in even the least of the things that God has
made without a glass between.'  And when my father shook his head,
saying that there was no such word in the Bible, and that there was such
a thing as being wise above what is written, he smiled, and `Ah well!'
he said, `our eyes will be opened to see the wonders of grace and the
beauty of holiness, for we shall see our Lord Himself, and that will be
enough.'

"I mind the words, because I heard my father telling them to my mother
that night as they were sitting by the fireside.  They come back to me
now, as other words come, that I havena thought of for many a year and
day, a sure sign that I am no' far from the foot o' the brae."

"And was that all?" asked Frederica softly, after a long pause, in which
Eppie had taken up her knitting again.

"That was all, except that they wouldna go to my father's to bide all
night, because they were expected elsewhere, they said; and then I ran
home as my father bade me, and brought them milk and oaten cakes, which
they ate to their refreshment, doubtless, and to our pleasure, and then
they went away."

"And who were they?  And did you never see them again?"

"We never saw nor heard of them, though doubtless they crossed our hills
again.  They were just two lads on their way home from the college in
the north.  We used whiles to see such, though our glen was a bit out of
the way for most of them.  But we never saw them again.  It must be
fifty years and more since then.  It had gone clean out of my head, till
your flowers and your pleasure in them brought it all back again."

There was nothing heard for a while but the "click, click," of Mistress
Campbell's "wires," as she went on with her knitting.  The old woman and
the little girl were thinking their own thoughts.

"Eppie, dear," said Frederica, as she slipped from her high seat to the
floor, "I like that about `glorified eyes,' and one seeing hidden
things; I mean things that are hidden from us now."

"Ay, the eyes o' man are never satisfied with seeing, nor his ears with
hearing," said Eppie: "I doubt that is but a carnal notion o' heaven.
This is what David says about it--

  "`But as for me, I Thine own face
      In righteousness shall see;
  And with Thy likeness when I wake,
      I satisfied shall be.'"

"Satisfied!" repeated she; "ay, doubtless, they'll be satisfied that win
there.  But, eh me!  `Strait is the gate, and narrow the way, that leads
to life,' and I doubt there will be some awfu' disappointments at that
day."

"If one only knew just what to do," said Frederica gravely.

"Be a good bairn, and ay read your Bible, and mind your prayers," said
Eppie.  "But there's your bell, and you will need to go."

And so Frederica went downstairs with the grave thoughts that Eppie's
words had awakened, stirring at her heart again.  She read her Bible as
Eppie had bidden her, and sometimes she read it with delight, because of
the elevation of the thoughts and the beauty of the language; but she
came upon nothing in these readings that touched her heart, or that she
felt to be suited to her.  She read the Old Testament, as the history of
her mother's people.  She had been often told of late that she was a
Jewess in appearance, like her mother, and she took a real interest in
the history of her people, and began to feel pride in being descended
from a "nation of heroes."  But pre-occupied with thoughts of this kind,
she read on from day to day, seeing nothing in the wonderful words she
read to enlighten her on all that she so much needed, and which she
believed she so much desired to know.

She listened now with attention to such Bible lessons and readings as
entered into the regular routine of school work, but the instructions
connected with them were often of a kind to influence the reason and
affect the imagination, rather than to touch the heart; and though her
attention and interest enlarged her knowledge of the letter of
Scripture, and won her many good marks and the chance of a prize at the
end of the year, the lessons brought her no answer to the question as to
which was the right religion, or how one was to get the good of it in
the time of trouble, as Miss Baines had done.

Indeed, if it had not been for one thing, the grave and anxious thoughts
that had been for some time occupying her mind might have passed away,
as they pass from the mind and heart of so many of the young and
thoughtless, leaving no trace in her life, no influence for good, either
to herself or to others.  If her mother had been well and happy, if
there had been no shadow of dark days and painful nights hanging over
her future, if she had not longed so earnestly to learn for her sake the
secret of peace and joy, over which these have no power, she might have
put all anxious thoughts away from her.  But all her thoughts of her
mother were anxious thoughts now; for in the only visit they had made
since Easter, they had found her no better, but rather worse.

CHAPTER EIGHT.

Spring was passing into the loveliest part of summer.  The school girls
were beginning to count the days that must pass before the midsummer
holidays; and none counted them more earnestly than did Frederica and
her sister.  What was to follow the holidays they did not know.  There
had been nothing more said about sending them to England.  But whether
they were to be sent there, or to come back again to Mrs Glencairn's,
there were two months of holidays on which they might safely count, and
no one knew what might happen before they were over.

Their one short visit since Easter had not been a very successful one.
Their mother had been ill and Mrs Ascot had been cross, and there was
to be no other visit till holiday time.  Dixen had come once or twice
with a message from Selina, but the tidings he brought were neither very
cheerful nor very definite; and no wonder that Frederica longed for
more, and would not lose a chance to get them.

And so one morning, as Mr Vane and some of his friends were riding
through one of the wide upper streets, which at that time looked more
like the country than the town, they were startled by a voice calling,
"Papa, papa," and out from a straggling line of school girls there
sprang a little figure gesticulating eagerly.  Mr Vane turned round,
and so did the others.

"It is you, Fred, is it?" said he in surprise.

"Yes, papa, I beg your pardon for calling you, but it is so stupid
walking along all in a row, and I want to ask you how mama is, and
Selina."

"Oh! they are very well--just as usual.  But what will madame the
schoolmistress say to your escapade?"

"I am very naughty I know, papa, but I did so want to hear about mama.
Is she really better?  Why! here she is," said Frederica in surprise.
"Here are Jack and Jill at any rate."

Yes, there were Jack and Jill, but there was not Mrs Vane nor Selina.
A very pretty lady--two of them indeed--leaned back in the carriage.
Frederica turned astonished and indignant eyes from them to her father
as the carriage stopped.

"Your mama gave herself the pleasure of lending her carriage to Mrs
Clifford to-day," said Mr Vane, and Frederica knew by his tone and
manner that he was annoyed, though it would not have done to show it to
the rest of the party.

"Let Miss Vane come with us," said one of the ladies.  "We can easily
make room for her, can we not, Mrs Clifford?"

Mrs Clifford was not quite sure, but Frederica declined the invitation
with a stately little curtsey, and turned to her father again.

"Do come with us, Miss Frederica," said Major Hargrave, a gentleman whom
Frederica had several times seen before: "the day is lovely, and you
will enjoy it."

"Is it a pic-nic?  Thank you.  It would be very nice, I daresay, but I
would rather not.  Good-bye, papa; I am afraid Miss Pardie will be very
angry with me."

"And no wonder," said her father, laughing.  The admiring glances which
he saw exchanged quite dispelled his momentary vexation.

"We could manage to soothe her, I think," said he.  "Would you like to
go, Fred?  Where is Tessie?"

"Tessie is not walking to-day.  She was naughty, and remained at home.
No, I thank you, papa.  If there were no other reason, I could not go
because of Tessie.  It would be too cruel to go and leave her."

"Naughty! what has she done?  It would serve her right to leave her if
she has been naughty."

"Oh! as to that, yes.  She was very wrong.  She was playing Madame
Bulbat for the girls, and Madame heard her, and was in a rage of course.
And Miss Robina was obliged to be very severe with the child to keep
the peace.  I cannot go, papa; but I daresay, if you were to ask her,
Miss Pardie would let me go and see mama for a little while."

But Mr Vane shook his head with sufficient decision.

"No: mama is all right.  You are far better at school.  She does not
need you."

But pleased with the whispered admiration of the foolish people who were
with him, and willing to prolong the pleasure, he moved away with his
little daughter in the direction of the line of returning school girls,
saying he must make the child's peace with her teacher; and he quite won
Miss Pardie's heart by his manner of entreating it at her hands.

"Was that your mama in the carriage, and your sister?" asked one of her
companions, as they went on together.  "I think they might have asked
you to go with them."

"My mama, indeed!  That great red woman!" said Frederica scornfully.

"She was very pretty," said her friend.  "That is because she did not
ask you to go with them."

"She did ask me.  I did not choose to go."

"Because of your print dress?  Of course you could not have gone in
that."

Thus her friend chattered on, and Frederica answered at random or not at
all, thinking of other things.  For it did not make her sure that her
mother was well again, that her father had said so.  And though it was
no new thing to her knowledge that her father should seek his own
pleasure, without giving a thought to her mother in her enforced
retirement, it struck her with new and sharp pain to-day, and her
anxious and unhappy thoughts came back again with double force.

"I have a great mind to go home without asking anybody," she said to
herself.  But she knew she must not.

She was, for the moment, very unhappy, and it was with a slow step and a
sad face that she went to make her confession to Miss Robina.  For
though Miss Pardie had graciously accepted Mr Vane's apologies for his
daughter's behaviour, that was only as far as he was concerned.  She had
her confession to make to Miss Robina all the same; and it is possible
that Miss Pardie was not without hope that, for the moral effect of the
thing, she would not be permitted to escape without punishment, or at
least without reproof.  She got no punishment, however, and Miss
Robina's reproof was of the gentlest, when it was explained to her that
"she had been so anxious to hear about mama."

"And I am afraid it was not good news you heard, from the sad face I
see," said Miss Robina, kissing her.

"Papa said she was well, so I suppose she is at least not worse.  Am I
to be punished, Miss Robina?  I think Miss Pardie expects it."

"You mean you think you deserve it.  Well, you must be sent upstairs for
a while.  Take these strawberries to Eppie, and save me the stairs, and
you need not hasten down again."

So Frederica went slowly upstairs, believing herself to be very unhappy,
little thinking how much more unhappy she was to be before she came down
again.  Eppie was not in her room, which was an unusual circumstance at
that hour of the afternoon, and Frederica set down the tiny basket of
strawberries on the table, and went to her favourite seat in the west
window, with her lesson-book in her hand.  In a little while she heard
the slow, unequal steps of Eppie on the stairs, and saw her come in with
a great bundle in her arms, and watched her as she carefully laid each
garment in its place.  She did not speak, and in a minute there were
other footsteps on the stairs, and Mrs Glencairn came into the room.

Frederica ought to have spoken then.  She ought to have made them aware
of her presence in the room.  But almost the first words she heard
startled her so much, as to take away her power of speech, and to make
her forget how wrong it was for her to listen to that which was not
meant for her ears.

She did not hear all that was said, nor did she know how long it had
taken to say it, but when she saw the door close, and heard Mrs
Glencairn's footsteps going slowly down the stairs, she slid from her
seat on the window, and confronted Eppie with a white face and angry
eyes.  The old woman uttered an exclamation, and drew back with uplifted
hands.

"Tell me what she meant, Eppie."

"Miss Frederica!  Who would think that you would come and frighten a
body out of their wits in that wild way?  You have given me a turn that
I winna get over this while."

"Tell me what she said," repeated Frederica.

But Eppie, hoping that she might have heard little, had no mind to tell
her what her mistress had said.

"I would hae thought it o' any o' our young leddies rather than of you,
pussy.  Eh, fie! to be hearkening to what other folk are saying!  What
think you Miss Robina would say gin I were to tell her?"

But Frederica put her words aside with an impatient gesture.

"Tell me, or I will go to Mrs Glencairn."

"'Deed you'll do nothing of the kind.  She has had trouble enew already,
and it just needs you to go with thae bleezing een o' yours to upset her
altogether.  Bide still where you are, like a good bairn."

Frederica sat down, and neither of them spoke for a while.

"Eppie," said she at last, "I think I understand, but I am not quite
sure.  Tell me, so that I need not make a mistake, or bring any one into
trouble."

"Whisht, lassie!  It's a matter you hae nothing to do with, and I
counsel you no' to make nor meddle in it."

"You are mistaken, Eppie; there is no one but me to put this right,
unless mama is to be troubled.  And she shall not be troubled.  Is this
it?  For more than a year and a half Mrs Glencairn has received
nothing--absolutely nothing--for all that she has done for Tessie and
me.  She has asked for it more than once, but she has received nothing.
I wish to understand."

Eppie looked at her, but did not answer.  The shrewd old woman had
seldom been so utterly at a loss before.

"My dear," said she, "it might have happened to anybody."

"And we have been living on charity--Tessie and I?"

"Hoot, lassie! dinna speak nonsense.  It is all to the fore.  And it is
a good thing, for it might have been spent, and now it is waiting for
Miss Robina to do what she likes with; to go and see her sister, maybe.
It's a good thing that it's to the fore."

Frederica looked at her without a word.

"I would advise you no' to meddle in the matter.  It will be all settled
as it ought to be, and Miss Robina would be ill pleased that you should
ken.  And it will be all right, you may be sure," said Eppie cheerfully.

"It would do no good to go to-day, because papa Is away, and mama is not
to be troubled.  But to-morrow--Has Mrs Glencairn been very much in
need of it; Eppie?  Why did they not send us away?"

"My dear, that's nonsense!  What difference would one, or even two, make
in a family like this?  She would rather have you here than not, though
she were never to see the colour of your father's money.  And as for
Miss Robina!  But the money is safe enough; so just you sit down, and
put the thought of it out of your head."

There was not another word said about it, and Mistress Campbell rejoiced
in the readiness with which her counsel had been taken.  But Frederica
had no thought of "putting it out of her head" in the sense that Eppie
hoped.  The first sudden shock of anger and shame passed, but it was
followed by a pain and doubt not more easily borne.  She had only just
been able to shut her lips closely, when the name of Mrs Ascot had
risen to them; but as she sat there in silence, seeming to read quietly,
her thoughts went beyond Mrs Ascot.  They followed her father and his
gay friends; away into the sunshine of the pleasant fields, and they
went to her mother left solitary and suffering, with only Selina to
comfort her, and with Mrs Ascot to vex her with cares which she ought
never to know.

"It is not kind of papa," she said, over and over again.

She did not get further than this; for hitherto she had looked at their
life and their household ways and cares with the unreasoning eyes of a
child.  Her father was gay and careless, and apt to forget about things
that did not specially concern himself, even a child could see that; but
she had never regarded all this as worthy of blame.  She had not thought
about it in that way at all.  But she thought about a great many painful
things as she sat with her head bent over her book in Eppie's garret
that night.

There was nothing to be said by anybody.  Frederica did not even tell
Tessie, as she was almost sure to tell anything that vexed her, in the
few minutes that were allowed them for talk before silence was commanded
for the night.  Tessie could not help her to do as she had determined to
do, and Tessie was rather apt to exclaim about things, and to take other
girls into her confidence, and such a thing was not to be thought of
now.

It would not be easy for her to obtain permission to go home next day,
she knew, but she determined to go all the same, whether she got
permission or not.  But something in the girl's face made Robina pause
before she answered her in one way or the other.

"Has anything happened, love?  You have heard no bad news, I hope," said
she kindly.

Frederica did not find it easy to answer.

"Your mama is not worse, I hope."

"She is not better," said Frederica huskily.  "Won't you let me go home,
Miss Robina?  I might go with Nora when she goes to the market, and
Dixen will bring me back.  Please do, dear Miss Robina, for a little
while."

"I am by no means sure that I ought to say `yes,'" said she; but she
kissed the sweet pleading face and said it, notwithstanding.

Frederica did not go home first.  She took Nora some distance out of her
way to her father's office, and bade her good-bye at the door.

"Thank you, Nora, don't wait.  Papa will take care of me now."

Her father looked surprised, and not very well pleased to see her.  Not
that she was interrupting his business, for she saw that he was only
reading the newspaper.  She did not give him time to express his
surprise in words, nor did she greet him in her usual fashion, but said
hurriedly, "I came on business, papa."  She did not find it easy to say
more for a minute; and something which he saw in her face kept her
father silent also.

"Papa, do you know that Mrs Glencairn has not been paid for more than a
year and a half? for Tessie and me, I mean."

Her father stared at her in astonishment, not understanding for the
moment what she meant.

"What nonsense, Frederica!" said he: "and what have you to do with it?"

"It is quite true, papa, and of course I have to do with it.  Mrs
Glencairn must be paid."

"And did she send you here to say that to me?  She has been paid.  I
cannot say that I admire either her taste or her judgment.  I think we
have had almost enough of madam the schoolmistress."

"I think she must have had quite enough of us, papa.  But she did not
send me.  She is not aware that I know about it.  I overheard her
speaking about it to Mistress Campbell."

"Overheard! and you have been suffering the usual penalty of listeners."

"No, papa, and I did not mean to listen.  But I was so shocked.  Mrs
Glencairn and Miss Robina have been very kind to us, papa, and they must
be paid."

"I have not the least doubt that they have been paid, over and over
again.  Let them alone for that!"

"Did you pay them, papa?"

"No.  I did not give the money to them, but I have a distinct
recollection of its being provided."

"So have I, papa.  Mama was obliged to ask Mr St. Cyr for more money,
and she said it was very painful, and she could not do it again."

"All that relates to Mr St. Cyr's connection with our affairs is
painful.  You are old enough now, Frederica, to understand that it was
never with my consent that he had to do with--with our affairs--with
your grandfather's property.  I can do nothing.  If things go wrong, it
is not my fault.  I protested against such an arrangement at the time,
and--and washed my hands of them.  And it is a matter with which you can
have nothing to do."

"Except about Mrs Glencairn's money, papa.  I _must_ have to do with
that, you know.  Tell me what I must do, papa."

"You can do nothing.  There must be some mistake.  A year and a half!
It would be a large sum."

"Yes, indeed!  But, papa, don't you think it possible that--that Mrs
Ascot may have made some mistake?"

"She may certainly have made a mistake.  I will see that it is put
right.  But you can do nothing, and you must not try.  You will only
make matters worse."

There was silence for some time, and then Frederica said hesitatingly,--

"I am afraid, papa--that Mrs Ascot is not a very good woman."

Mr Vane looked at her without speaking.

"I mean that she is too clever to make mistakes--that she must know if--
if there is anything wrong about the money."

"She is clever, but she is not too clever to make mistakes.  She has
made one now--she will find."

"I think so, papa.  Mrs Glencairn could not have been mistaken.  She
must know, of course.  And, papa--it is not pleasant to speak about--but
I don't think Mrs Ascot is nice with mama and Lina.  I mean she is not
considerate."

"That will do, Fred.  We won't discuss Madame Ascot.  It was not by my
will that she was brought into the house.  Your grandfather--but I can't
speak to you about all that.  Go home, or go back to your school.  This
matter shall be cleared up and put right."

"To-day, papa?  Papa, I shall be ashamed to look at Miss Robina till
this money is paid.  Can you not give it to me to take back to-day?
Please do, dear papa."

Mr Vane laughed a very unpleasant laugh.

"Don't be foolish, Fred.  I have not the money to give you to-day, or
any day.  I must speak to Mrs Ascot: there must be some mistake.  She
and your mother have always managed these things, with Mr St. Cyr's
help.  I can do nothing."

"But, papa--" entreated Frederica.

"Hush, say nothing more.  As Mrs Glencairn said nothing to you, you are
not supposed to know anything about the matter.  Go back to school at
once.  Or are you going home for the day?"

"I meant to do so, but I don't wish to trouble mama.  I might speak to
Mrs Ascot."

"Much good that would do," said her father, with his unpleasant laugh.
"No, I will speak to her.  Go now, there are people coming in."

As the door opened to admit some one, Frederica passed out, but she did
not turn her face towards home, nor towards school.

"I will go to Cousin Cyprien," said she to herself.  "I cannot trouble
mama, and I cannot go back to Mrs Glencairn's without some hope that it
will all be set right.  Papa so soon forgets."

And not giving herself time to lose courage by thinking about the
difficulties before her, she hastened away.  But when she found herself
in the dismal hall into which Mr St. Cyr's office opened, and from
which the staircase to his house led, she wished herself well away
again.  It was late in the morning by this time, but Mr St. Cyr had not
come down to his office, the man who opened the door told her, and
Frederica went upstairs with a beating heart.  She thought she had come
at a wrong time, when she opened the door, and found that Mr St. Cyr
was not alone.  But her friend hastened to welcome her, and though he
expressed some surprise at the sight of her, he expressed pleasure also.

"Only I fear you must be in trouble again," said he, kindly.  "Is it
something very serious this time?  Ah! yes, your face says so.  It is
not--is it Prickly Polly?  But first let me introduce my brother to you,
whom you ought to know.  Jerome, this is Theresa's daughter--Mr St.
Hubert's grandchild."

"It must be Theresa herself, I think," said the dark man, who rose and
held out his hand.

"No, I am Frederica.  Theresa is younger than I."

"She is very like her, is she not?  Just the same bright little
creature.  But she is not bright to-day.  Tell me what is the matter, my
little cousin."

Frederica hesitated.  She did not like to speak before Mr St. Cyr's
brother.  She would not have liked to speak before anyone, but, as she
told Tessie afterwards, the Reverend Mr St. Cyr had not a nice face.
It was a face that somehow made her think of a mask, and she looked with
a little startled curiosity at him, wondering what might be behind it.

"It brings back your youth, does it not?  She is very like what her
mother was in those days.  But her mother is changed.  Ah! so sadly
changed," said Mr St. Cyr, with a sigh.

But the priest did not answer a word.

"Well, what can I do for you?" said Mr St. Cyr, turning to Frederica.
"Who has been troubling you this time?  Not Prickly Polly, sorely?  I
thought I had settled her affairs the other day.  What is it now?"

"Did you?" said Frederica, eagerly.  "And was it very disagreeable?"

"Well, for her, rather so, I fancy.  What is it now?  Is it a secret?
And does Madame the Schoolmistress let you go here and there about the
city by yourself?  She thinks you `sensible,' I suppose?"

Frederica shook her head.

"I was not alone.  Nora took me to papa's office, and then I came here.
It is not a secret, but--"

The Rev. Mr St. Cyr sat down, and took up a book.

"Regard him as if he were made of wood," said Cousin Cyprien, laughing;
"and now tell me all your trouble."

"I don't know whether I ought to tell you, but I don't know what else to
do."

And then she told him all her trouble; how she had heard by accident
that Mrs Glencairn had received nothing for their board and education
for a long time, and how she had gone to her father, and he had been
angry, and said he could do nothing, and then she added,--

"I think Mrs Ascot, must know.  Do you think Madame Ascot is a
trustworthy person, Cousin Cyprien?  Of course she is disagreeable, and
cross, and all that; but not to be trustworthy is something quite
different.  And papa says it was not his fault that she came to our
house.  Do you think her a good woman.  Mr St. Cyr?  Is she
trustworthy?"

He listened to her story without a word, only smiling and nodding now
and then till she came to the end and asked those questions about Mrs
Ascot.  Then he looked uneasily towards his brother, but his brother
never lifted his eyes from his book, nor seemed to hear a word.

"We must not speak evil of her, nor accuse her without sufficient
grounds," said he gravely.

"No," said Frederica faintly.  "But I do not mean because of this
altogether.  She is not always considerate towards mama, I am afraid,
and mama is ill, and--alone.  But I need not trouble you about it.
Pardon me if I ought not to have come to you."

"You did right to come to me.  I can set right all this mysterious
affair.  You shall not hear of it again.  Of course you are to come to
me."

"But, Cousin Cyprien," said Frederica, taking courage from his kindness,
"ought I to need to come to you always?  Is there not something wrong
that might be remedied?"

"My dear child, almost everything in the world is wrong, and I very much
fear must always remain so.  But this can be remedied, and it shall be
on one condition.  You are not to trouble yourself about it.  Are you
the little girl who the other day nearly overturned me?  You look like
an old woman with that naughty wrinkle in your forehead."

Frederica laughed.

"What should I do, if I might not come to you?  And yet I ought not to
need to come.  There must be something wrong," added she, the naughty
wrinkle coming to her forehead again.  "Was it grandpapa who put it all
wrong, as papa says? or is it Madame Ascot? or perhaps papa himself?"
added she, with some hesitation.

Mr St. Cyr answered her gravely.

"My little girl, we will not ask.  I will set this matter right--no, not
to-day, but soon, and you must not think of it any more."

His promise sounded very different in Frederica's ears, from the promise
her father had made.  Mr St. Cyr did not forget.  Still she lingered as
if she had more to say, and as if she were not quite sure whether she
ought to say it.

"Do you wish Mrs Ascot to stay in our house, Cousin Cyprien?  Papa said
to-day it was not by his wish that she ever came.  Do you like her, Mr
St. Cyr?  Have you confidence in her?  I am quite sure I could make mama
and Selina much happier than she makes them."

"This terrible Madame Ascot!" said Mr St. Cyr with a shrug.  "No, I
don't think I like her very much, or have much confidence in her.  But
we will not speak of her.  When you are old enough and wise enough to
take care of your mama and your sister, and the housekeeping, and all
that, we shall dispense with madame altogether, I fancy.  But this must
be a secret till the right time comes, and we shall say no more about
it."

"I am almost old enough, am I not?  Well, I will wait patiently."

"Good child! that will be best," said Mr St. Cyr.

Then he showed her several curious things that were in the cabinet, and
a fine picture he had lately purchased, and then he rang for some fruit,
and was very attentive and full of ceremony in serving her; and then he
went downstairs with her, when she went away.

"Good day, my little cousin," said he.  "Be sure you come to me always.
I wish I could put aside all trouble from you as easily as I can put
aside this one.  Though, indeed, I may have vexation more than enough,
before I am done with it," he muttered, as he went upstairs to his
brother again.

And he did have vexation, and so had Mrs Ascot, and Mr Vane did not
escape without his share.  But Frederica had no more.  In a day or two
she gathered from various sources that Mrs Glencairn had been paid in
full, and with interest, and that was enough for her.  She never heard
another word more about the matter.

CHAPTER NINE.

Mr St. Cyr's vexation began the moment he went upstairs again into the
room where his brother was sitting.  A good many years before this time,
Mr Jerome St. Cyr had known the St. Huberts, and had looked upon
Theresa's marriage with Mr Vane, as almost all her friends had done, as
a terrible sacrifice.  He had been a young man then, he was much younger
than his brother.  He had gone to Europe to pursue his studies soon
after that, and had remained there after they were finished.  His
correspondence with his brother had not been very regular or frequent,
and he knew little of what was passing among his friends all that time.
He had only lately returned home, and he showed great interest in the
Vane family, and asked his brother many questions concerning them.  Mr
St. Cyr gave him some particulars of them and their manner of life; of
Mrs Vane's ill-health, and the quiet way in which she and her blind
daughter lived together.

"But, my brother," said Jerome St. Cyr, "I do not understand how you
should have permitted affairs to take such a course, you who have so
long had the power in your own hand.  Why should these girls be losing
their time at a second or third-rate school, as seems to be the case?
Why have they not been all these years with the Sisters of the Sacred
Heart?  And the boys, too!  Think of them wasting their time with some
foolish young person who goes to them daily!  It is little less than
disgraceful."

"You mistake," said Mr St. Cyr quietly.  "I have had the management of
their grandfathers property for their mother's use, but I have had no
power--no, nor the shadow of power, nor of influence, where Mr Vane's
children are concerned."

"Then permit me to say that you have been very culpable in this matter,
I should have obtained influence and power too."

Mr St. Cyr shrugged his shoulders, but said nothing.

"And all this immense property that has been accumulating since Mr St.
Hubert's death, this rascally Englishman is to have?"

"No, his children are to have it--Theresa St. Hubert's children.  It has
made the Englishman sufficiently miserable thus far--the sight of I
mean, without the power to use it.  Not but that he has had some good of
it too."

"But to think of these poor children growing up without Christian
instruction!  Did Mr St. Hubert make no condition as to their
education--their religion?  I cannot imagine how you and Pauline Precoe
can reconcile it to your sense of duty, to your conscience, that it
should be as it is with them.  With Pauline Precoe's help, I should have
made it quite otherwise."

Mr St. Cyr laughed in a way which was not pleasant to hear.

"You have not forgotten Pauline Precoe, it seems," said he.

"I must see her," said Jerome.  "It may not be too late yet.  These
children must be saved."

"It is too late to think of availing yourself of Pauline Precoe's help
in your good work, however.  She is now in Mrs Vane's house, but she
shall not be there long.  I have no influence with Mr Vane--he hates me
like poison; but I think he may be made to see that it will not be for
his interest that Madame Ascot should stay much longer in his family."

"Why?  What has she done, poor Pauline?  You did not use to hate her
so."

"I never respected her.  She was never worthy of respect.  She was and
is an utterly unscrupulous person.  I say to you what I mean to say to
her soon--she is a dishonest person.  I might even say worse than that."

"She has not been under right direction," said his brother.

"And you would like to be her director henceforth.  I wish you joy of
the office.  But you must not hope through her to gain influence over
Theresa St. Hubert and her children."

"And they and their wealth must be lost to the Church?  You are not so
good a Christian as you once were, Cyprien," said his brother.

"That is as may be.  I do not think it is my Christian duty, or yours,
to seek to obtain possession of Mr St. Hubert's wealth, or any part of
it, by any means, or for any purpose whatever."

"I seek nothing for myself," said his brother; "and we will discuss the
subject no more."

"There is just this to be said more," said Mr St. Cyr, gravely and
firmly: "Do not meddle with their affairs, my brother.  No good can come
of it, to you or to any one.  You wish none of it for yourself?  To wish
for it for any purpose--yes, even to build churches, or to feed and
clothe your orphans--is covetousness.  To obtain possession of it would
be dishonesty.  Put it altogether from your thoughts."

There was a silence of several minutes, and Mr St. Cyr rose to leave
the room.

"Brother," said Jerome, meekly, "I had hoped that after all these years
of separation we might at least have lived in peace together--the last
of our race as we are."

"With all my heart, let it be peace.  Only there must be no meddling
with this matter, or with any matter in which my honour as a gentleman
and a man of business is involved.  That must be clearly understood."

"I must be faithful with you," said Jerome, still speaking softly: "I
consider that you have been Culpably negligent with regard to these
children.  It is their souls for which I am anxious, not their wealth.
It is for you to render an account of them--not me."

"So be it!  I will answer," said Mr St. Cyr.  After a moment he added,
"Do not, my brother, let us become unfriendly over this matter.  When
Mr St. Hubert left his property to me, in trust for his daughter and
her children, I did all that was permitted me to do to have these
children placed under Christian influence and teaching.  In fact, I
would have confided them to the care of the ladies of the Sacred Heart,
as you suggest, if I had been consulted.  Mr Vane had other plans, and
I had no right to interfere.  I cannot say that I now regret that my
plans for them failed.  They are good and sweet children, frank and
loving, and conscientious, with far more strength of character and
truthfulness, than would have been developed in them had they been
educated within convent walls.  And they will need these qualities, poor
children."

"All that sounds strangely from the lips of one who has the reputation
of being a religious man," said his brother gravely.

"Have I that reputation?  Well, we will say no more, lest your next word
be not so flattering.  And now I must leave you to amuse yourself, while
I without loss of time attend to this unpleasant business.  We shall see
each other again soon."

It truly was an unpleasant business to all concerned; and all the more
so, that instead of shutting his eyes, and seeming not to see what was
wrong, as he had often done before, in matters where Mr Vane was
concerned, he was determined to search to the bottom the affair of the
misappropriated money.  He had no expectation that it would be restored;
he did not care about that: the result he desired to bring about was the
departure of Mrs Ascot from the house.  She would have been sent away
long before, if Mrs Vane in her ill-health could have found courage to
dissent from the will of her dead father who had placed her there, or to
oppose the expressed will of her husband, whose ease and interest Mrs
Ascot in all things studied.

So Mr St. Cyr did his best to make it unpleasant business to both Mrs
Ascot and Mr Vane, and they did the same for each other.  With the
details our story has nothing to do, but the result was matter of
rejoicing to the Vanes.  The very first thing that Fred and Tessie heard
when they came home for the holidays was that Madame Ascot was going to
be married!  It was madame herself who told them.  She was to many her
own cousin, Mr Joseph Precoe, who was a merchant in the city.  It would
have happened long ago, only she had never been able to induce herself
to forsake dear Mrs Vane, who had been so much in need of her.  But now
in justice to Mr Precoe, who had waited so long, she must wait no
longer.

Madame was determined to part in friendship with everybody, it seemed,
and she would not see the joyful looks the girls exchanged, nor any
other indications of delight at the prospect of her departure.  She not
only did not resent these things, but took the utmost pains to
conciliate the young people and their mother as well.  There was to be a
fine wedding, and Mrs Ascot's earnest wish was that she should go
directly from Mrs Vane's house to the church, and that her dear little
cousins should go with her as bridesmaids; and she had so much to say
about the charming dresses and ornaments that would be required, that
they desired it too.

Their mother did not desire it and their father, with more decision than
he usually displayed in matters that did not particularly affect his own
comfort, put an end to the discussion of the subject at once.  Madame
Ascot, an inmate of their house, had been a person of some importance,
but Madame Precoe would be like any other common person with whom they
had nothing at all to do.  This was made quite clear to the children by
him, and there was no reason, except the pretty bridesmaids' dresses,
why they should regret his decision.  Madame was disappointed and angry.
She showed her disappointment, but she did not show her anger.  She was
determined to part in friendship with them all, and she promised to come
and see them often, and to render them assistance in all matters where
assistance was needed.

"There must be none of that, however," said Mr Vane, when Frederica
told him of Mrs Ascot's kindness.  "It would suit her purpose, I
daresay, to make good her position here, and it would suit other
people's also; but it will not suit me; and she is not to be encouraged;
remember that, Fred."

Frederica opened her eyes in astonishment at her father's unwonted
warmth.

"It would not suit mama, if that is what you mean, papa--nor any of us.
We are very glad to part with her, and Mr St. Cyr does not like her at
all, I am sure."

"He may wish to make use of her, though he does not like her.  But she
is not to be encouraged to come here."

"Very well, papa," said Frederica: but she by no means understood what
her father meant, nor did it matter much that she did not.

The girls saw the wedding after all.  They went to the church in the
early morning, and saw madame in her fine dress and veil, and her
bridesmaids, who were much better suited to the office than they would
have been.  Madame did not see them.  They kept out of sight, and
watched the ceremony with great interest, rather pitying the
good-natured-looking bridegroom, and exchanging serious doubts as to his
chances of good times in madame's hands.  The usual carriages drawn by
white horses awaited them at the door; and as they watched them driving
away, Tessie said,--

"There! she has really gone at last.  I have been afraid all along that
Mr Precoe would repent, or that somebody would do something to put a
stop to it, and that we should have Prickly Polly back again.  I should
like to dance and sing for thankfulness."

But Frederica had no thought of dancing and singing.

"There is always, some drawback," said she gravely.  "If everything does
not go on well in the house,--dinners, and servants, and all that,--papa
will not be pleased."

"Oh, well!  Why should they not go on well?  You are so sensible, you
know," said Tessie, laughing.  "You are equal to Mrs Ascot, surely."

"I mean to be good, and try to do everything right, and then all will go
well.  That is what Miss Robina said to me--at least, she said I must
always try to do right, whatever happened.  If one could always know
what is right!"

Tessie laughed.

"I wonder if it was right for us to come and see the last of Madame
Ascot, after what papa said."

"Oh! our coming in this way was quite different.  We were not guests,
and she did not see us.  And after the first moment I daresay papa did
not think about it."

"That is true.  Papa does not mind about things."

"But he minds about his dinner, and about everything being right when
his friends come to the house, and all that; and perhaps he might mind
about our coming here too.  I think I shall tell him that we were in the
church."

Tessie said he would be sure not to care, and Frederica thought so too,
or perhaps she would not have been so ready to tell him about it.  It is
possible he did not care very much; but he was rather cross about it,
Frederica confessed, when she told Tessie afterward.  His comfort had
already been interfered with since Mrs Ascot's departure, for the
affairs of the house did not go on very well for a while, and he had
other causes for embarrassment which he could not tell to her.  He only
said it was not a proper thing for her to be going about the streets
alone, or with no one but Tessie, and insisted that an end should be put
to it.

"You are no longer a child," said he; "you are almost a woman."

"But surely, papa, I should be all the fitter to go about for that,"
said she, laughing.

"That is your idea, is it?  Well, it is not mine.  You must amuse
yourselves within the bounds of the garden, while your vacation lasts."

"But, papa," said Frederica, with dignity, "it is not a question of
amusement: you forget that I am housekeeper."

"No, I am not likely to forget that," said her father drily.  "If you
must go out, you must go in the carriage, or take Dixen with you.  I
cannot have you going here and there by yourself."

"Very well, papa: I will remember."

It was very agreeable to her that her father should acknowledge that she
was no longer a child, but she was by no means sure that all the
consequences of being almost a woman would be agreeable.  However, she
was determined to make the best of it.

"I am going to be very busy," said she.  "You shall see what a
housekeeper I shall be.  I shall have no time to be going here and
there.  I shall like it, I am quite sure, better than school."

But Frederica had all her housekeeping to learn yet.  She did not know
what she was saying when she was speaking in this way to her father.  It
is not to be supposed that an inexperienced young girl like her could at
once have rightly governed and guided so large a household, even had she
set herself to the work with a full sense of its responsibility and
difficulty.  She had some misgivings in the direction of "papa," but all
the rest seemed easy and pleasant.  Indeed, she considered it "great
fun" to keep the keys, and order dinner, and hold consultations with the
cook over courses, and dishes, and sauces, of which she knew nothing at
all.

It was "great fun" to the cook too, but she tired of it after a while,
and so did Frederica.  As a general thing, the cook heard the orders and
took her own way about obeying them, which, on the whole, answered
everybody's purpose best.  But sometimes the young mistress forgot her
orders, or did what was worse, issued orders which were contradictory or
impossible to obey.  And sometimes, in her ignorance, she was arbitrary
and unreasonable, and assumed dignified "airs," and asserted her
authority at wrong times, and made "no end" of trouble.  "And as for
standing the like of that from a child that didn't know white sauce from
butter, it was not to be thought of for a minute," cook said, with
sufficient emphasis.

It was the cook who was Frederica's greatest trouble, because she was
the only servant in the house, except Dixen, who could in any measure
interfere with the comfort or temper of her father; and in trying to
keep things right for him, she put them often woefully wrong.  So
domestic affairs were in rather a troubled state for a while.  Tessie
was not altogether wrong, when she asserted that it would have been much
more comfortable for everybody if she had left the servants of the house
to do things in their own way, and of course it came to that at last.

Frederica grew tired of being anxious, and dignified, and out of temper,
and by-and-by let the cook and all the rest of them take their own
plans, and fell into the usual holiday ways, and devoted herself to her
mother and Selina.  She kept the keys still, and ordered dinner; but
very often the store-room door was open, while the keys were safe in her
little basket, and her orders for dinner were very apt to degenerate
into amiable and undignified coaxings for certain favourite dishes at
the cook's hands.  This was a great deal more agreeable for all
concerned, and was quite as well every way.  For the servants had been
well trained by Mrs Ascot, and they sufficiently appreciated the
advantages of a good place and good wages, to be reasonably faithful in
the performance of their duties.  And besides, in a little time they
grew quite fond and proud of their merry and pretty young mistress, and
took pains to please her, when it did not involve too much trouble to
themselves.

And so Mrs Ascot was less missed in the house than she would have
believed possible.  Even "papa" ceased to be critical and vexatious when
he found that his dinner, and his boots, and his fine linen seemed to
make their appearance at proper times with no trouble to himself.
Household affairs settled into their new grooves quietly and regularly,
and the young housekeeper gave herself not much trouble about them for a
while.  She had enough to do without them.  Even in the busiest of
housekeeping times, the sisters had never neglected their mother and
Selina.

The presence of the girls in the house made a joyful difference to them.
The sound of their voices, as they danced out and in the rooms, usually
so silent and lonely, was music and medicine to their mother.  She grew
better and stronger in these weeks, and made efforts that she would have
believed impossible before they came home.

Mr Vane's desire that the girls should confine themselves to the garden
for their walks and amusements was not so disagreeable to them as it
might have been.  For the summer proved to be hot and dry, and the
streets were dusty and close, and the large and beautiful garden, with
its walks, and soft green turf and shady trees, was as pleasant a place
as could well be imagined in which to pass the sultry days.

From the first day of her return home Frederica had been faithful with
regard to the reading of the Bible with her mother and Selina.  Eppie
had said that this was one of the ways by which she had been taught to
be religious.  She knew that other good people valued the Bible for the
wisdom it contained, or for the comfort it could give.  She had heard it
spoken of as the rule of life, and as the guide to heaven, and she
determined to know what it contained, and to get the good of it for
herself and for those she loved.  So, beginning at the beginning, she
read regularly a portion every day.  She might have grown tired of it
after a while, for though she found some of it full of interest, it was
not all so, and she did not find in it what she had hoped to find.  It
did not tell her directly and plainly what she must do.  She did not see
the way to be good and serve God pointed out in words that she could
understand, and she might have been tempted to betake herself to other
books for instruction and amusement, if it had not been for Selina.  But
there was no doubt about her interest in what she heard.

Selina's life had been quiet and untroubled.  There had been her
mother's ill-health, and the occasional irritability and despondency
consequent upon it, and there had been the vexations that from time to
time had come on them through the agency, direct or indirect, of Mrs
Ascot.  But there had been nothing else to disturb in any painful way
the uneventful days to her.  And there had been as little to heighten
beyond its usual quiet flow the contented current of daily occupation
and pleasure.  There had been her little brothers' daily visit to their
mother's room, and the infrequent joyful holidays of her sisters, but
her life had been still and monotonous.  Her interests and occupations
had not been of a kind to take her thoughts out of the house where she
had always lived.  Their few visitors brought little to her but the
usual commonplace talk and superficial sympathy, and even the books that
were read, and the tales that were told her, were not of a kind to move
the unawakened heart and mind of one withdrawn by her blindness and
isolation from a young girl's interest in the world around her.

And so when Frederica came with her eager interest in the reading, and
her vague but joyful hopes of all that might spring out of it, Selina
did not know what it meant, but prepared herself to take pleasure in the
pleasure of her sisters, as she had often done before.  But this state
of mind did not survive even the first day's reading.  All the wonderful
new things to which she listened were for her, as well as for Frederica
and the rest.  They were not new to Frederica.  She had often read
before how in the beginning the heavens and the earth were made.  The
mother, too, had some vague remembrance of what the Book contained, for
during the first years of her married life she had gone to church with
her husband.  But strange as it may seem, all was new to Selina, and to
all that her sister read she listened eagerly, and thought and spoke of
it afterwards with a wonder and delight that encouraged her sister to
persevere in the reading; and whatever else was neglected or hurried
over, to the reading was always given its full share of time and
attention.

This was the beginning of a new life to Selina.  If her beautiful blind
eyes had been suddenly opened on the world around her, it could hardly
have made a more entire change in her thoughts and feelings and
enjoyments, than did this daily reading of the Bible.  She did not say
much about it.  It had always been her way to listen to the others
rather than to speak, and it was her way still.  But a great many new
thoughts came to her, and the knowledge of many wonderful truths.  Her
thoughts were often confused, and her reception of truth partial and
imperfect, but her interest and enjoyment were real and deep.  All that
came to her through the reading did not come at once, and the best did
not come first.  The blessing for which Frederica hoped, and looked, and
sometimes prayed, did not come in its fulness to any of them for a good
while after that, but from the first the reading was a source of
happiness to them, and most of all to Selina.

Mrs Vane's enjoyment of it was in the enjoyment of her children.  To be
sitting, free from pain, in the garden, where she had played as a child,
with her own children around her, and with no care or fear pressing
immediately upon her, was enough to satisfy her.  Their delight in the
reading, and in the talk that often grew out of it, she did not share.
She did not understand it, nor cared to do so at first.  To watch her
blind darling's bright absorbed face, and to see her sisters' tender
affection, and their desire to give her a part in the pleasure from
which her affliction tended to debar her, was happiness to the mother,
who had grieved so much over her in the past.

Mrs Vane was not a very wise mother, nor indeed a very wise woman in
any relation of life, and she wished nothing more for herself nor for
her children than a continuation of just such days as these.  She felt
so safe and at rest in the sunshine of the dear old garden, shut in from
the world, where trouble was, and danger.  It was a new experience to
her to have them all around her, with no one to interfere with their
plans and pleasures, and she desired nothing beyond.

Mr Vane had gone away, as he always did for a month or two in the
summer, and there were few interruptions in the quiet of their lives.
Once or twice Frederica and Tessie went to visit their half-sister Mrs
Brandon, who lived in a pretty house near the mountain.  They went
because they knew their father wished them to go, but they did not enjoy
going very much.  Their sister Caroline was very pretty and good, they
thought, and she meant to be very kind to them; but she had a way of
looking at them and listening to them as though she thought them odd
little creatures, different from other young girls, which was not
agreeable to them; and she had a way of speaking of their father as
"poor papa" or "poor dear papa," which was especially distasteful to
Frederica, and which she resented, not for her father's sake, but for
her mother's, and she did not always conceal her displeasure.  So they
did not go often, nor stay long.

They drove out in the carriage when the days were clear and cool, and
once or twice they had a visit from Madame Precoe.  Mr St. Cyr's
brother came several times; but for the most part they were alone, and
the days passed quietly away.  They read other books as well as the
Bible.  Selina took pleasure in them all, and Frederica promised, when
her holidays were over, seriously to attend to her sister's neglected
education, and even now favoured her with scraps of information
remembered from her own lessons, historical and geographical facts, and
bits of botany, and even grammatical rules.  Selina declared herself
ready to be taught all that her sister knew, but in the meantime it was
the reading of the Bible about which she cared most.

Many grave discussions grew out of the reading.  They made mistakes
often, and said foolish things, and any one listening to them must have
been sometimes amused and sometimes pained by the ignorance they
displayed, and by the opinions they expressed; but no one could have
failed to discern in them an eager desire to know the truth and to obey
it.  And they who earnestly desire to know the truth have an infallible
teacher and guide, and it is certain of such, for He says it, that "they
shall know the truth, and the truth shall make them free."

"I have heard that before, more than once," said Selina one day, when
Frederica had read the promise of God to Isaac in Gerar: "And I will
make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy
seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the
earth be blessed."

"Yes, we have had it before," said Frederica.  "The same promise was
given to Abraham, you know."

"What does it mean, I wonder?" asked Selina.  "Oh! it means that the
children of Abraham were to become a great people, as they did
afterwards.  They were God's own chosen people.  All the Bible is
written about them, you know."

"Yes, but how are all the nations of the earth to be blessed through
them?"

"I have heard something about it," said Frederica meditatively.  "Let me
think a minute.  Oh, yes! it was because the Saviour was to come among
them.  The Bible is all about the Jewish people, because Jesus was a
Jew."

"Was He?" said Selina wistfully.

"Yes, and of course that is what it means.  Jesus died for all men.
Jesus is the Son of God, and the son of Mary, you know."

"No," said Selina gravely; "I don't know."

"Well, never mind, we can read about it," said Frederica, turning the
leaves of the Bible till she came to the first chapter of Matthew.  "It
is all here, and we will read it."

Going rapidly over the first verses to herself, till she came to the
eighteenth, she then read, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this
wise," and so on.  "Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save
His people from their sins.  And they shall call His name Emmanuel,
which being interpreted is, God with us."

Frederica lingered over these passages, reading them many times, and
trying to remember all that she had heard about them.

"Jesus is God, you know, and He became man that He might die for us, and
save us from our sins, as the verse says; and we ought to love Him, and
obey Him, and serve Him."

"Yes," said Selina, "if we only knew the way.  If we had any one to
teach us."

"We are going to learn the way.  It is all here; in the Bible, I mean,"
said Frederica.

"They all say that--Miss Robina, and Miss Pardie, and all of them.  And
the clergymen say it in church.  And Mrs Glencairn said always that we
must not mind what people say about religion, unless it is in the Bible.
And Eppie told me once that God Himself would teach us."

"And do you think He will?"

"Yes, if we ask Him--when we say our prayers, you know."

"When we say `Our Father,' you mean?"

Every night and morning since she was a little child, Selina had said
"Our Father."

"Yes, and we may ask for other things, and God will give them.  We
learned texts about it once, only I can't quite remember them.  This is
one--`Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it
you.'  Jesus Himself says that."

"And will He?" asked Selina.

"Yes," said Frederica, with a little hesitation, "if we ask right
things, I suppose."

"And would He make me see, if I were to ask Him?  Oh, mama I only think
if He would!"

Mrs Vane clasped the eager little hand that touched hers, and sighed.

"But, mama, He could do it.  He opened blind eyes many times while He
was on earth, and His being in heaven now would make no difference.  He
_could_ do it, I suppose," said Frederica, not knowing very well what to
say.

"And will He, do you think, if I ask Him?  Mama will ask Him too, and
you and Tessie."

"He could do it if He chose.  But perhaps it means not such things we
are to ask for, but that He would teach us, and make us wise and good,
and forgive us our sins, and take us to heaven when we die," said
Frederica.  "And you are very happy as you are, dear!  You don't care
very much about it, do you?" said she, kissing softly the beautiful
blind eyes that were wet, though they were smiling, too.

"Frederica, love, you are making your sister unhappy, I fear," said her
mother anxiously.  "My darling, come to me!"

Selina kissed her mother gently two or three times.  "Unhappy! no, mama.
It was only for a moment, and it was for you that I wished it, mama,
more than for myself."

Her mother could only murmur fond words over her, as she caressed her
tenderly.

"But it cannot be true, all that Fred has been saying," broke in Tessie.
"It is a pity.  But it is only one of Fred's ideas."

"But it must be true, because Jesus said those very words, only I
suppose we do not understand it yet," said Frederica.  "We will read
more.  And, mama, Selina will see when she gets to heaven."

Mrs Vane uttered an exclamation of impatience and astonishment.

"Frederica! why do you say such things?"

"Let us read more," said Selina, for she saw that her mother was
troubled at the discussion.

And so they read on.  Not in the Old Testament, but in the New.  They
read of the wonderful words and deeds of our Lord, and Selina drank in
the strange glad tidings with awe and delight.  She never in her
mother's presence said anything more about her wish to see.  She spoke
of it to her sisters, and for a little while the desire disturbed the
gentle current of her thoughts and enjoyments.  But it passed away, and
the sweet content that had brightened all these years to her mother came
back again.  She listened, and mused, and wondered at all she heard, and
by-and-by, as her mind opened, and she understood better the nature of
those things that are promised without reserve to those who ask for them
aright, she never ceased to ask humbly yet undoubtingly that to her and
to those whom she loved, they might be given in due time.

CHAPTER TEN.

And so the untroubled days passed, till Mr Vane came home again.  They
were glad to see him, and indeed made a jubilee of the day of his
return.  But there was an unconfessed fear in the heart of each that a
change was at hand, and that their untroubled days were at an end.

But the holidays were over, and nothing was said about the girls' return
to Mrs Glencairn's.  If Mrs Ascot had been among them, that would have
been settled long ago, but there was no one now eager to get them away,
and no one to make the necessary arrangements, except their father, and
so Tessie comforted herself with the thought that "there was always a
chance that he would forget all about it."  Still she rejoiced with
trembling, and went softly through the house, and kept out of sight,
that he might not be unpleasantly reminded of his neglected duty.  This
was not difficult to do, for their early breakfast was over before he
came down in the morning, and he did not return to dinner till the hour
at which the children took tea in their mother's parlour, and except
during his brief visit after dinner, there was little chance of his
seeing any of them.  And when one week was safely passed, and then
another, Tessie began to think the danger of going back to school was
over.

Frederica had not shared her anxiety as far as being sent to Mrs
Glencairn's was concerned, and the possibility of going to England
involved so much more that would need consideration, and care, and
expense, that she was not much afraid that her father would decide upon
it at present.  So she took no pains to keep out of the way, but, on the
contrary, assumed again the responsibility and dignity of housekeeper,
and wore her key-basket at her waist, and made grave suggestions about
housekeeping matters for his benefit.  She tried to amuse him, too, on
such evenings as he did not go out after dinner, and had no one with
him, and she succeeded so well that he missed her greatly when she did
not come to him; and if it had not been for one unfortunate
circumstance, a quiet winter might have followed the pleasant summer,
and they might have all been at home together for a little longer.

One night Mr Vane told Frederica that there was on the next day to be a
grand review of troops at L--farm, and to her delight he promised to
take her with him.  Unfortunately, however, as had happened before, the
promise of the night was forgotten in the morning.  Frederica was
disappointed of course, and a little angry, but she recovered her good
temper immediately when Tessie suggested that she might go still, and
take them all with her.  To be sure she could, and she congratulated
herself on her father's forgetfulness; for now the pleasure would be
doubled, and more than doubled; for not only Tessie and Selina could go,
but their little brothers as well.  So Dixen, nothing loth, had the
carriage at the door in less time than usual.  They did not even have
the thought of leaving their mother alone to mar the prospect of their
enjoyment; for Miss Grant, having given the boys a holiday, kindly
offered to stay with Mrs Vane till they all came home again.

It never came into their minds that they might be doing wrong, or that
their father might be displeased with them for venturing into such a
crowd, or they might have placed themselves in a less conspicuous
position, and at a greater distance from that part of the grounds where
many of the fashionable people of the town had stationed themselves.  It
never occurred to them either, that while they found so much interest
and amusement in watching and commenting upon the people and the
equipages crowded so closely round them, others might find the same
interest in regarding them.  Indeed, they made rather a remarkable
group, the young girls and their brothers, and old Dixen, and Jack and
Jill together, and it is not likely that Mr Vane and his daughter Mrs
Brandon, or the party of equestrians who were with them, would have
passed without observing them, even if little Hubert had not at the
sight of them called out,--

"Papa, papa, here we are! come this way, papa."

The little boy had clambered up on the high seat of the carriage beside
Dixen.  Tessie was leaning over them, and Frederica was standing on the
low step of the carriage, eagerly describing to Selina all that was
going on around them.  But it was Selina who was the central figure of
the group, to which all eyes turned.  The younger girls were simply and
quietly dressed in proper school-girl fashion, but they had decked their
fair blind sister in beautiful and costly things; and her bright serene
face, and her long golden curls shading it, made a very lovely picture.
No one would have imagined that those clear sweet eyes were blind,
except that she sat so still and so unconscious of the looks that were
bent upon her.

"Hush, Hubert?" whispered Tessie.  "Do not call again.  Papa does not
look pleased."

He looked by no means pleased.  Unfortunately for his good temper, he
did not hear the murmur of surprise and admiration that rose from some
of the party, because he was listening to Mrs Brandon, who was
saying,--

"How foolish and wrong, and what bad taste, for these girls to be here
alone!  Papa, I am surprised that you should allow it!  The horses are
not taken from the carriage.  There will be an accident certainly."

Mr Vane laughed.

"With Jack and Jill!  Hardly, while old Dixen is by them."

"But they ought not to have come without a gentleman to take care of
them.  You should send them home."

"Through this crowd?  They are safer where they are at present."

A movement in the throng of people permitted a nearer approach to the
carriage.  Tessie, who had seen her father's face, seated herself to
watch him as he came near, but Frederica was still talking rapidly and
eagerly to Selina.  She started as he touched her on the shoulder with
the end of his riding-whip, but she did not look at all as if she
expected to be reproved.  She smiled and nodded gaily to him and Mrs
Brandon.

"You see we are all here, papa.  I wish they would begin."

There was some delay in the bringing up of the soldiers.  The crowd was
getting impatient, and moved to and fro about them; and in the movement,
some of Mr Vane's friends, having dismounted and given their horses
into safe keeping, came round the carriage, and, as Mr Vane whispered
to Mrs Brandon, there were soon gentlemen enough about them.  Frederica
had seen most of them before, but they were not people that she cared
for, and she whispered to Selina that she was sadly afraid their
pleasure was to be spoiled.  She greeted them politely, however, and
mentioned their names to Selina.

"But you need not mind them," added she, in a whisper.  "They'll go away
directly, I daresay.  Now the soldiers are ready to begin, and I will
tell you what they do."

And so she did.  Standing on the seat where her sister sat, that she
might see the better, she described in a low rapid voice the marching
and countermarching, and all the movements of the men; and when she
became silent, Tessie spoke, and the boys sometimes broke eagerly in.
And through all, Selina listened and smiled with a face of such sweet
content, such seeming unconsciousness of misfortune or loss, that tears
came to the eyes of some that were looking on.  Even her father saw her
wonderful beauty and sweetness, and her affliction, with a new sense of
surprise and pain, and sighed as he regarded her.

It grew tiresome at last to those who did not understand the movements
of the soldiers, or the skill and drill needed to ensure success in all
the wonderful evolutions through which they were put; and so, when at
length a clear space was made near the carriage, they began to speak of
going home.

"Mama will be getting anxious," said Selina softly to one who urged them
to stay longer.

"And there will be nothing more.  It will be the same thing over and
over again," said Tessie.  "There will be music, I suppose, and you will
like that, Lina."

"Still, if Hubert and Charlie are ready, I think we should go," said
Selina.

The boys were by no means ready to go, but their indignant outcry was
interrupted by their father.

"Now that the way is clear you must go," said he, "or you may get
entangled among the carriages and be hurt."

And then the misfortune of the day happened.  Mrs Brandon, meaning to
be very kind, and meaning also to gratify the curiosity of some of her
friends, who had been expressing a wish to see more of her young
sisters, invited them all to luncheon before they should return home.
Frederica politely but promptly declined for them all.

"We said we should be home to dinner, and mama will be anxious," said
she.

"But the boys can tell her that you have stayed with me.  Papa is
coming, and several others.  She will not care."

"No, I suppose not, but we are tired, and it will be much nicer to visit
you some time when you are alone.  Excuse me.  It is quite impossible,"
added Frederica, as Mrs Brandon continued to urge her.

Her last words were spoken in an air and manner "not in the least like
Fred," her father said to himself, as he listened.  But Mrs Brandon
thought it was exactly like Fred--"the naughty little thing."  She had
more than once noticed this disagreeable manner in her intercourse with
her younger sister, and had spoken of it to her father, and to him she
now turned her disapproving eyes.  So Mr Vane interposed.

"Nonsense, Fred!  What difference can it make?  Stay of course--not you,
Tessie, nor the boys!  Dixen can come for you later.  Now, Dixen, take
care."

Frederica was indignant, and said quite enough to her sisters on their
way down, but to her father she only said, "Very well, papa," with an
air of offended dignity that made him laugh.

"However," added she, when she had said all that was necessary, and a
little more, "I may as well make the best of it, and amuse myself as
well as I can."

So when Mrs Brandon arrived a little while afterwards, they found her
walking about on the lawn, quite ready to amuse, and to be amused.  But
her troubles were not over.  It was Selina especially, it seemed, whom
Mrs Brandon had wished to stay, and she had gone home.  There were many
regrets expressed by her and by the others.  They had been so desirous
to know Miss Vane, and to hear her sing, and so on.

"It is a pity you were not more explicit, Caroline," said Frederica.
"However, it would have made no difference.  Selina's staying was quite
out of the question."

"I am sure I can't understand why," said Mrs Brandon.

"Can you not?  It is quite true, however."

Mrs Brandon turned her eyes on her father, who had just entered the
room.  It must be acknowledged that Fred was not behaving well.  Her
manner was by no means respectful to her elder sister, and her tones and
the flash of her eye showed that she was out of temper.

"What is the matter, Fred?" asked her father.

"We are all disappointed that Miss Vane did not stay," said some one,
with the kind intention of smoothing matters for Fred.

"Fred thinks Selina would not have enjoyed it," said Mrs Brandon.

"Mama would not have wished it," said Frederica, walking away, as though
there was nothing more to be said.

Of course, it was all a failure after this, as far as Frederica was
concerned.  At another time she would have looked and listened, and
amused herself with all that was going on.  But she felt cross; and what
was worse, she knew that all these people must be thinking her very rude
and ill-bred.  No one noticed her much nor spoke to her, and though she
knew she deserved it, she was indignant at being treated like an
ill-tempered child.  Especially was she indignant with her sister for
bringing all this upon her.  So at the first possible moment she excused
herself from the table, at which the rest seemed inclined to linger, and
went out into the garden.

Her ill-temper and discomfort did not trouble her after that.  She
forgot it utterly; for here she found the nurse with her sister's
beautiful baby, and every trace of annoyance vanished at the sight.
Here her sister found her in a little while.  She had come in search of
her, intending to speak a few serious words to her about her foolish
conduct.  But when she saw the girl's bright face as she kneeled on the
grass, clasping and kissing the pretty boy, she too forgot her vexation.

"O Caroline I was there ever so lovely a child before?  How happy you
must be?"

And then she wondered over him--his beauty, his murmuring and cooing,
and pretty baby ways, and her delight was perfect, when he refused to go
to his mother from her arms.  Was there ever such a triumph?  The baby
was a very pretty baby, and the young girl's delight over him was pretty
too, and in the midst of it Dixen came for her, and Mrs Brandon had no
time for the serious words which she felt it to be her duty to speak,
"for poor papa's sake."  But she set her conscience at rest by saying
all the more to papa himself, and the immediate result of her advice was
that Tessie was sent at once back to Mrs Glencairn's, and Frederica was
advised to prepare herself to be sent elsewhere very soon.

Poor Tessie thought it rather hard that she should be made to suffer for
Fred's faults.  That was the way she put the matter to herself, but it
was a very good thing for her to be sent to school again.  She begged
hard to go with her sister, wherever she should be sent, but this could
not be; and her dissatisfaction did not continue long after she was
fairly back at school, for Mrs Glencairn's house was a very good place
to be in, and Tessie was reasonable, and by-and-by content.

As for Frederica, it would have been as well for her if she had been
sent to Mrs Glencairn's too, for she and her mother and Selina made
themselves unhappy in their uncertainty as to where she was to be sent.
But when week after week passed, and nothing more was said on the
subject, they began to take courage again, and to hope that she might
not be sent away at all.  And she was not, but it would have been much
better for her if she had.

For this was not a profitable winter to Frederica.  They had a happy
month or two, she and her mother and Selina; they lived the same
uneventful quiet life that the summer had brought them, and every little
pleasure they enjoyed was doubled to Mrs Vane and Selina, because
Frederica enjoyed it with them.  They went on faithfully and regularly
with their reading of the Bible, and for a time Frederica fulfilled her
promise; and went over her old school lessons with her sister, and took
great pride and pleasure in the progress that she made.  They practised
their music together, and a teacher came to give them lessons; and
Frederica assured her father, that instead of losing her time, as Mrs
Brandon had declared, she had never been so well and so happily employed
as now.  Whether he thought so too, or whether he was prevented by other
reasons besides indolence from deciding on a proper school for her,
could not be told, but the winter was nearly over before another word
was said about her going away.

It was near Christmas time that Frederica began to be a good deal at the
house of her half-sister, Mrs Brandon, and to go with her a good deal
to other houses, and then the tenor of her life for a time was quite
changed.  It began very naturally and simply.  There was a children's
party at Mrs Brandon's house, to celebrate the first birthday of her
little boy.  Frederica was asked, and her brothers, and they all went
and enjoyed it.  Frederica threw herself into the pleasure of amusing
the little people with all her heart.  It was a delight to her, and her
success was entire.  The enjoyment was perfect to them all.  The evening
passed without one of the unfortunate incidents so likely to occur on
such occasions, and no child enjoyed it better than Frederica.

It was called a children's party, but there were many people there
besides children, and it is not surprising that the bright young girl,
"with the playfulness of a child and the sense of a woman," should
attract admiring attention.  She threw herself so heartily and prettily
into the amusement of the little ones, they said to one another and to
Mrs Brandon.  She was so clever and charming, and so unconscious of it.
A great many foolish things were said, and some of them were said to
Frederica.  Of course she thought it all very agreeable, and showed
herself equal to the entertainment of grown people as well as children,
and enjoyed it all.

This "children's party" led to others, and to parties of grown people as
well, and by-and-by the character of these gay doings changed
altogether.  The simple dresses and ornaments that had at first been
considered quite sufficient were laid aside for dresses of a different
kind.  Her mother's long-neglected treasures of laces, and silks, and
other fine things, were turned over in search of materials for her
adornment, and even her jewel cases were examined, and certain of their
contents appropriated for the same purpose.

Frederica had always taken pride in knowing that Mrs Glencairn spoke of
her as "sensible" and as "a discreet young person," and she had been
very much in earnest to prove to her father and mother that Mrs
Glencairn was right.  But notwithstanding her sense and her discretion,
no one will be surprised to hear that for a time she enjoyed greatly the
excitement and gaiety of her life.  For though it is quite true that no
real and lasting happiness can be obtained in the pursuit of pleasures
such as these, yet it cannot be denied that to a young girl like
Frederica, the first experience of a life of this kind gives a delight
which seems real, and sweet, and satisfying, and which, in a certain
sense, is so while it lasts.  And so she threw herself into all these
things with all her heart, and enjoyed them, without a thought that she
was in danger from such a life.

Her mother, remembering her own youth, her brief triumphs, and long
disappointments, sent her thoughts after her into those gay scenes with
vague but painful anxiety.  But this always vanished in Frederica's
presence.  If she made a feeble attempt now and then to remonstrate with
her, or with her father, against such constant gaiety, it was only
because the child was so young, and not at all because she thought such
a life of pleasure wrong in itself.  She knew of no other kind of life
for the rich and well-born; and though she could not look forward to
such a life for her daughters without anxiety, yet she was incapable of
planning, or even of imagining, any other for them.  If they all could
have remained together content with the quiet enjoyments that had come
to them in the past summer, while their father was away, she would have
sought no other life for them.  But that was quite impossible, she
thought with a sigh.

There was no one to tell Frederica that she was in danger.  All her
mother's fears were vague and indistinct.  They seemed to her daughter,
and even to herself, when she spoke of them, to be nervous fancies,
natural enough in her state of illness and seclusion, a natural
shrinking from any possible cause of change or pain.  And so they both
put away such thoughts, and the mother strove to take pleasure in the
many costly and beautiful things brought for her approval for the
adornment of her daughter.

Even Selina listened happily to her sister's merry recitals of all she
saw and heard and enjoyed, and offered her soft touch to the rich and
delicate fabrics, to the laces and flowers and jewels that she wore,
without a thought of trouble or danger to the sister whom she loved so
well.

But Frederica was in danger all the same.  She was in danger of losing
that sweet naturalness and girlish simplicity which even to the worldly
people with whom she mingled made her chief charm; she was in danger of
growing vain and frivolous and foolish, of forgetting all the serious
views of life that had so filled her thoughts, of ceasing to strive for,
or to value, a knowledge of those truths which were to bring such peace
and patience; such blessed hopes to her suffering mother, and such
happiness to them all.  Nay, she was in danger even of neglecting her
mother and her blind sister, of giving up the sweet office so eagerly
coveted and claimed, of being their comforter and guardian, and of
living to herself and her own selfish enjoyment.

All this has happened to others who have given themselves up to a life
of worldly pleasure, and this must have been the end to Frederica, if
such a life had continued long.

CHAPTER ELEVEN.

In the beginning of March, there came a letter to Mr Vane, announcing
the approaching marriage of his second daughter Cecilia, and begging him
to be present at the ceremony, which was to take place at the end of
April.  Something had been said by Mr Vane, every year for the last
ten, about going home to England; but sometimes for one reason, and
sometimes for another, he had never carried out his design.  This
announcement and invitation induced him to take the matter into serious
consideration this time, and Mrs Brandon's suggestion that the
opportunity would be a good one to take Frederica home for the
completion of her education, decided him to make arrangements at once
for going.  Indeed, he by-and-by convinced himself, and endeavoured to
convince others, that it was for Frederica's sake, and not at all for
his own pleasure, that the voyage was to be undertaken, and thus
especially was it represented to Mr St. Cyr.

Frederica was not so pained by her father's sudden determination as she
would have been in the autumn.  Of course, the thought of school was not
quite agreeable to her after the winter she had spent, but there was the
voyage, and possibly a gay wedding to come first; and if it had not been
for the thought of leaving her mother and Selina, the prospect would not
have been disagreeable.  And she could not help thinking that they would
miss her less than they would have done six months before.

But it did not seem so to them.  The thought of losing her was almost
more than her mother could bear.  But there was nothing to be said:
discussion would make no difference to Mr Vane's decision.  There was
little time for discussion or preparation.  All that Frederica needed,
could be got as well in England, her father said, and there was no time
to lose.

A suitable person to take charge of the home, and of all household
matters during the year, had to be sought, and through the kind
exertions of Mr Jerome St. Cyr, such a one was found, a very pleasing
person she seemed, and she came highly recommended.  She was a large
fair woman, with a pale face that was very pleasing when she smiled, and
her eyes were at the same time kind and searching.  Her voice in
speaking, and her manner and movements, were very soft and gentle, and
she was, Frederica though the very opposite of Mrs Ascot in all
respects.

But her gentleness did not give one the idea that she was weak.  On the
contrary, she was very strong and firm, as well as gentle, as they all
had an opportunity of seeing, even the first day of her coming among
them.  For the two boys were ill when she came.  They had taken cold, it
was supposed, and little Hubert, from his persistent refusal to take his
medicine, seemed to be becoming very ill indeed.  But there was an end
to all this, as soon as ever Miss Agnace understood the matter.  In a
moment the refractory little lad was placed in her lap, and by some
extraordinary exertion of skill and will on her part, the bitter draught
was swallowed by him, and he was laid quietly and comfortably in bed
again.  Frederica looked on with mingled astonishment and admiration.

"I have been accustomed to be with sick children," said Miss Agnace
quietly.

"I wonder if that is the way she would take with mama or Selina," said
Frederica to herself.  "I can easily imagine her taking me up and
dealing with me in that peremptory way; but mama, who must be so gently
managed--oh! how can I ever go away, and leave her? oh!  I cannot?" and
though she knew her tears were vain, she wept bitterly for a long time.

She had an opportunity very soon of knowing how Miss Agnace would deal
with her in little Hubert's place.  For the illness of her brothers
proved to be not mere colds, as was at first supposed, but a severe form
of one of those diseases of childhood, which generally pass through a
whole household when one has been seized.  In a few days Frederica was
very ill, much more ill than either of the boys had been, and helpless,
and miserable, she was entirely given up to the care of Miss Agnace; for
neither her mother nor Selina was permitted to enter her room.

Gentle and firm.  That exactly described her nurse's treatment.  She was
taken entirely out of her own hands, which was indeed the very best
thing that could have happened to her, and found herself yielding in all
things to the firm and gentle rule of Miss Agnace.  She was not always
quite herself, and slept and woke, and tossed and murmured, with the
vaguest possible idea of what was happening around her, or how the time
was passing.  She had the strangest dreams and fancies, and said things,
and asked questions, which her nurse could only meet by her calm
surprised look and silence.

Once she saw, just within the door of her room, some one whom she at
first supposed was the doctor, but then it seemed to be Mr St. Cyr's
brother who was speaking with Miss Agnace, and she thought she heard him
say that she must not go to England with her father, and that God had
sent this sickness to keep her at home.  She said to herself she was
surely dreaming, and shut her eyes; and when she opened them again,
there was only Miss Agnace offering her the bitter medicine with a
smile.

And so one day passed after another, till the day fixed for their
departure drew near.  Nothing could be clearer, however, than that no
departure was possible for Frederica.  Nor was there much hope of her
being so far recovered as to be able to leave at the latest day that
would admit of their reaching England in time for the wedding.  So Mr
Vane spoke rather vaguely of making arrangements for her to go by some
other opportunity, and set out alone.  Frederica did not know whether
she was glad or sorry at being left at home.  She was too restless and
weak to take pleasure in anything, and longed so for a change of some
kind, that she could very easily have persuaded herself that she was
disappointed at being left.  But she had no thought to think about it or
about anything for a time.  She could only toss restlessly on her bed,
or sit listlessly in the large easy-chair, when she was at last
permitted to rise.

Her little brothers were well and strong by this time, and came to see
her every day.  They tried to wait upon her, and to amuse her gently and
quietly, but they tired her inexpressibly, and she could not endure them
long.  Her mother came ice a day to see her, but she was only allowed to
remain a few minutes with her, and Selina was not permitted to come near
her, lest she also should take the disease.  So she was left almost
entirely with Miss Agnace, who was very kind to her, she told her
mother, who never failed to ask the question when she came.

Yes, she was very kind; that did not prevent the days from being long
and tedious; and Frederica, forgetting that she had been counted a young
lady all the winter, grew childish, and petulant, and ill to please.
But Miss Agnace never lost patience, and was never otherwise than gentle
with her, even when she was most firm in making her do all that the
doctor desired.

Books were entirely forbidden.  The doctor said her eyes were quite too
weak to be used, and that her sight might be permanently injured if she
were to read much now.  Miss Agnace in this matter obeyed the doctor to
the letter, and carried every book--even little Hubert's large-print
Testament--away.

Now and then, as she grew stronger, Miss Agnace told her stories, to
which she liked to listen.  They were almost all about _very_ good
people who lived a great many years ago--wonderful stories some of them
were, "If one only could believe them," Frederica used to say to
herself.  One day she said it to Miss Agnace, and for the first time her
fair still face lost its calm, and looked angry.

"Well, but that does sound rather like a fairy story, now doesn't it?"
said Frederica, moved from her usual indifference by the unwonted sight
of the nurse's indignation.  "Of course it does not really mean that the
loaves of bread all turned to roses in the lady's lap, when her cruel
husband made her afraid.  It is an allegory, is it not?  Not exactly to
be received as having really happened.  It is a very pretty story, and
you must not be angry, because I did not mean to offend you."

All this was not said at once, but with a pause now and then.

"Angry! no, why should I be angry?  You know no better, poor child, poor
unhappy child!"

Frederica did not consider herself particularly happy just at this time,
but it was not at all for the reason that Miss Agnace seemed to
intimate.

"Why do you say so?  Why am I so unhappy?" asked she.

"Because you have no religion," said Miss Agnace solemnly; "because you
do not believe."

It was perfectly true, and Frederica acknowledged in her heart, but not
in the sense or for the reason that Miss Agnace seemed to imagine; so
she said lightly,--

"A great many religious people refuse to believe such tales as these.
They are very pretty, you know, and perhaps they have valuable lessons,
but as for having, really happened!  Such things don't happen now."

"That is not true.  Such things do happen still.  Not frequently, but
when God has a purpose to accomplish, a blessing to convey."

"Tell me something that has happened lately," said Frederica, forgetting
all else in her eagerness for a story.

And so she did, and sometimes Frederica was interested, and sometimes
she was amused.  She heard of lame people who had been made to walk, of
pictures which had spoken, of images which had wept, and many more of
the same kind.

"But I don't quite see the good of it, even if these things were all
true," she said at last.

"My child," said Miss Agnace gravely, "they are true.  We have for their
truth the authority of men to whom a lie is impossible.  Do not say, `If
they are true.'"

"And does it make you happy to believe these things?" asked Frederica.

"Happy?" repeated Miss Agnace; "can any one be happy who does not
believe?  Are you happy?  Were you happy when you were so ill, when you
thought you might die?  Were you not afraid?"

"Was I so ill as that?" asked Frederica, startled.  "I never thought of
dying.  If I had, I daresay I should have been afraid.  Did mama think
so, and Selina?  How sorry they must have been!  And papa went away all
the same."

She had no heart for any more wonderful stories that day.  She lay quite
silent for a long time after that, but she was not resting or at ease,
for her face was flushed, and she grew restless and impatient; nothing
pleased her, and she thought the day would never be done.  She had all
the impatience to herself, however, for Miss Agnace was as gentle and
helpful as ever, and bathed her hot hands and head, and soothed her till
she lost the sense of her troubles in sleep.

But another day came after that, and many days that had to be got
through somehow.  Her mother could not be much with her, and her
brothers tired her.  The cold March winds made it not safe for her to
drive out, and poor Fred longed for Tessie, and would have given half
her treasures to be transported to Mistress Campbell's garret for a
single day.  And thus thinking of Eppie, and of "the days of her youth,"
of which she used to tell her, it came into Frederica's mind to wonder
what had happened to Miss Agnace when she was a child.  For though she
had talked much with her, both by night and by day, she had a way of
falling back on one theme--the good deeds which the saints had done, and
which all people ought to strive to do: and all this grew tedious when
it was repeated over and over again, and Frederica longed for something
else, and so she asked her,--

"When were you born, Miss Agnace?  Have you brothers and sisters?  Tell
me about the days when you were young, as Eppie used to do.  Has
anything wonderful ever happened to you?"

Miss Agnace looked at her in smiling surprise.

"I have nothing to tell.  Nothing wonderful ever happened to me."

"But still tell me about your childhood."

Miss Agnace told her a good many things, but certainly nothing
wonderful.  She was one of a large family.  She had been sent to a
convent school at the age of nine, and remained a pupil till she was
nearly seventeen.  There had been no incidents in her school life.
Everything went on quietly, and happily that was all.  Yes, she had
favourite companions.  One died, and one married, and the best loved one
of all was lost on a steamer on one of the great lakes.  She could tell
no more than that.

"And since you left school?" asked Frederica.

"Nothing has happened to me since then.  I have had a busy life, and
have been content with it," said Miss Agnace, rising to leave the room.
She was away a good while; but when she came back, carrying Frederica's
tea on a tray, the young girl said, as though there had been no pause,--

"Well, and what have you been busy about and content with since then?"

Miss Agnace did not answer immediately.  It was evident that she did not
wish to continue the conversation, only she did not know how to help it.
She was not a clever person, and she could not "make up" an answer in a
moment.  So she said,--"I have been nursing sick people much of the
time--sometimes in one place and sometimes in another.  Yes, I have been
a good deal in St. P.'s Hospital."

"Oh!" said Frederica eagerly, "you are one of the sisters?"

"I am a nursing sister, yes."

"And were they willing to let you come here?  You do not wear the
sisters' dress.  It was a very good thing you came here.  What should we
have done all this time?  Was it Mr St. Cyr who sent you?  Do you like
to stay here, better than in the Hospital?"

Frederica could not expect that all her questions should be answered.
Miss Agnace looked relieved as she listened to her.

"Yes, it was Mr St. Cyr who sent me.  I like to stay here very well.  I
am glad to be of use."

"You are very kind.  I ought to call you Sister Agnace, ought I not? or
`Ma tante,' as the convent girls do?  How odd that you should be here!
And have you been nursing sick people all your life?  You must have seen
a great many sorrowful sights."

"Yes, a great many sorrowful sights," repeated Miss Agnace gravely; "but
not all sorrowful.  I have seen the joyful ending of many a troubled
life, which is a happy thing to see."

And she told her that night, and afterwards, about many sorrowful and
joyful things, sickness and pain, grief and disappointment, and the
blessed endings of all these; and a new view of life was presented to
Frederica as she listened.  She was getting better by this time, but not
rapidly, and she did not grow cheerful and bright, as she ought to have
done, when she was able to go out with her little brothers in the fine
April days.  Mrs Brandon came to see her, and would have taken her home
with her for a few days, for a change, but because of baby it was not
considered safe to do so, and she was obliged to content herself with
the company of Miss Agnace and an hour's reading now and then.

She was not very happy these days.  She did not look back with much
satisfaction on the winter.  It had been agreeable enough in passing,
and she had not been taught that such a life was wrong, or might lead to
wrong--that "she who liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth."  But
somehow she was not content with herself.  She had a feeling that she
had "been weighed in the balance, and found wanting;" that she had not
proved herself wise, or sensible, or discreet, as she had sometimes been
called; that she had been seeking her own pleasure rather than the
comfort of her mother and Selina.  She had even been able to look
forward to the prospect of leaving them for a long time, not without
pain, certainly, but still with a vague expectation of enjoying the
change for herself.  She had failed them, and thinking about it made her
more unhappy than she had ever been in all her life before.

But the root of her trouble lay deeper than any of these things.  A year
ago she had pleased herself with the thought that she wished to become
religious, to become a Christian, not in name merely, but in reality.
She then wished this less for herself than for her mother.  She had felt
the need less for herself, because she was young, and strong, and happy.
But she had been near death, they told her, since then; and now, as her
thoughts went back to that time, she could not but ask herself, What if
she had died? would it have been the end of all trouble to her, as Miss
Agnace said it was to so many of the suffering poor creatures, whose
eyes she had closed?  She hoped so.  She had never done anything very
wrong.  She wished to be good.

But she was not religious.  At least, she had not the religion that
would make her happy in the midst of suffering and in the prospect of
death.  And when she thought of it in this way, she was not so sure that
it would have been well with her if she had died.

"But how am I to know?" said she, as she had many times said before.
"People think so differently.  Eppie said, If I asked Him, God would
teach me, or send me a teacher.  I have asked Him, though not so often
as I might have done.  But I will ask Him.  Perhaps He has sent Miss
Agnace."

She sat up in the easy-chair in which she had been reclining.

"Miss Agnace, tell me about your religion.  There are so many different
sorts, you know; and I want to know about yours."

Miss Agnace shook her head gravely.

"There is only one true religion--one true Church.  There are many
sects, but there is but one Church."

"And that is yours?  Eppie thought it was hers.  But tell me about
yours."

She had plenty to tell her, such as it was.  She told her about the only
true Church, the only place of happiness and safety.  She told her about
its ceremonies, and worship, and sacraments.  She told her about
confession and penance, and of the blessedness of those who have their
sins forgiven.  She told her about Mary and the saints in heaven, and
about our blessed Lord who may be approached through them.  She said a
great deal about the good works of all kinds that would win the favour
of these.  Above all, she insisted on the necessity of submitting
implicitly to the requirements of the Church, of having no will of one's
own in such matters, and spoke severely of the pride and folly of those
who ventured to take the law of God, and interpret it for themselves,
without availing themselves of the teaching of those whom God had
appointed for the work.  She grew very earnest as she went on, but she
did not speak very wisely.  She certainly did not say anything that
touched the heart, or gave light to the eyes of Frederica.

It is possible that if the Rev Mr St. Cyr had known the state of
Frederica's mind, or if he could have contemplated the possibility of
such an opportunity occurring for influencing her heart or her opinions,
it would not have been Sister Agnace who would have been sent to Mrs
Vane's house.  It would have been some one whose natural powers and
acquirements better fitted her for the work of proselytism, which was,
indeed, the work he had in view.  But that was to come later, as time
and events might permit.  In the meantime Miss Agnace was a perfect
instrument for the work he had given her to do.  She was a born nurse,
with strong nerves and a tender heart, gentle, patient, and firm.  She
was disciplined, experienced, and skilful, just the nurse to make life
tolerable, even pleasant, to a confined invalid like Mrs Vane, and this
was the office for which she was intended.

She was not clever, nor intelligent, nor very devout, but she had
learned obedience.  She was not her own.  She had no will or judgment of
her own on many matters.  Her confessor was her conscience.  Her idea of
right was implicit obedience to him, and to the Superior of her order.
Whatever they required her to do was right in her esteem, and hitherto
nothing had been required of her likely to suggest questions to her
mind.  Her life had hitherto been so busy and so useful as to leave her
no time for questioning; and in coming to Mrs Vane's, she was conscious
only of a wish to do her duty to her employer on the one hand, and to
those who had sent her on the other, without an idea that it might be
difficult to do both.

She grew very fond of Frederica during these days.  Frederica was
impatient often, and grew tired alike of her silence, and of her soft
voice murmuring on about the blessed saints; but Miss Agnace never lost
patience with her.  She saw that the young girl was not at rest, and
that she wished for something else, even more than she longed for health
or society; and she longed to lead her into those paths where alone, she
believed, true happiness could be found--the paths of entire submission
of heart and will and judgment to the only true Church.  But she did not
succeed, and she was not surprised.  She was a humble woman, with no
wise words on her tongue, by which she might convince or teach one
brought up in error, or bring her into the right way, and one day she
told her so, and added,--

"But you should let me send for some one who is wise, and who has
authority; and when you are well, you must go with me to church, and
tell all your troubled thoughts to the blessed Mother.  You should let
me ask the Rev Mr St. Cyr to come and talk with you."

"I should like to see almost any one, it is so dull," said Frederica
with a sigh, "but I don't like the Rev Mr St. Cyr.  Oh!  I daresay he
is very good and all that," added she, as she saw that Miss Agnace
looked displeased, "but I don't know him, and he certainly has not a
nice face."

"But that is a small matter," said Miss Agnace severely.  "He is wise,
and he has authority, and he would know what to say to you.  He would
show you the truth."

Frederica was by no means sure that she cared about having the truth
shown to her by Mr Jerome St. Cyr, or that her father would be pleased
to have him visit her.

"I like you to teach me far better than I should like Mr Jerome St.
Cyr," said Frederica, "because, I know you believe what you say; and
besides, I can trust you.  And I always feel uncomfortable with Mr
Jerome."

"You may trust Mr Jerome.  He loves you dearly," said Miss Agnace, but
she said no more at that time.

She quite believed that Mr Jerome loved them, and sought their good.
Was he not interested in all that took place among them?  It never came
into her thoughts that she was betraying confidence, or acting in any
way unworthily, by telling him every incident of their daily life.  She
was not always aware how much, in answer to his apparently careless
questioning, she made known; for there was little to tell--trifling
details of their daily life, incidents that had no significance, except
as they tended to show the tastes or tempers of the children of the
house, which could only interest one who loved them, as she was sure he
did.

By-and-by he permitted her to see that he had a definite motive and plan
in listening to all the details which seemed so trifling.  He wished to
gather from them some means of judging in what manner they might best be
influenced in the right direction, should an opportunity to do so
present itself at some future time.

Miss Agnace strongly desired for these children and their mother, that
they should be brought to a knowledge of the truth, and she assented
when the priest told her that it was a blessed thing for her to be
permitted to aid, even indirectly, in this good work.  She did not doubt
the excellence of his motives, or his right to claim her help, and she
never thought of refusing obedience to his lightest word.  But when
Frederica said, "I can trust _you_," a painful sense of being not worthy
of the girl's confidence came upon her for a moment.  It was only for a
moment, however; at least, it was only till she spoke to Father Jerome
about it--then she believed, as he told her, that it was a temptation of
Satan to hinder her from doing God's work, and she prayed and strove
against it with success.

Soon after this Mr Jerome came to see Frederica, but he brought none of
the strong arguments, none of the words of wisdom, that Miss Agnace had
promised.  He made himself very agreeable to the young girl, told her
amusing tales of the lands in which he had travelled, and made an
attempt at teaching her the interesting game of "Tric trac," before he
went away.  Frederica acknowledged that he was agreeable, and that his
face was not so bad when he was speaking and smiling, as when it was
quite at rest.  He came often after that; but Frederica was soon able to
leave her room and become one of the family again, so that she only
shared his visits with the rest.  He made himself very agreeable to them
all.  He was a fine musician, and proposed to teach Selina to play, as
he had seen the blind taught in Europe; and of course this gave pleasure
to them all.  He laid himself out especially to please the boys, Charles
and Hubert, and succeeded.  Even Tessie who was inclined to be critical
and even rude to him at first, yielded to his determined attempts to
please.

Frederica would have liked him too, if it had not come into her mind
that he was taking all this pains for some other reason than the mere
wish to be agreeable.  And the same thought came into the mind of her
mother.  Mrs Vane had some unpleasant remembrances of him, in the days
when she had known him better than she did now, and his visits did not
give her unmingled satisfaction.  But they did not speak to one another
about him for a long time.  They enjoyed Selina's pleasure, and the
pleasure of the little boys, who shared his attention, and went with him
on expeditions of various kinds.  They had a very quiet time till Tessie
came home for the holidays.  Frederica was not long in throwing off all
invalid habits, and growing well and strong again, but she was quieter
and graver than she used to be before her illness, and the summer did
not, even after Tessie's returning, promise to be so merry or so idle as
the last had been.

CHAPTER TWELVE.

Mr Vane's first letter brought an account of the wedding, and of the
gaieties attending it, and his next told them that he had made up his
mind to pass the summer on the Continent, returning to spend a month in
England in the autumn, before he went home.  They heard afterwards from
Paris, and then from Rome, but for a time nothing more was said about
Frederica's going to England.

As for Frederica, she said less than she used to do about being "grown
up" and "sensible," but she was more thoughtful and quiet than she had
ever been before; and, with the advice and assistance of Miss Robina,
laid out for herself a regular course of reading, which she pursued with
praiseworthy diligence, considering all things.  The reading of the
Bible with her mother and Selina was commenced again, and nothing was
permitted to interfere with it.  She began also to take her little
brothers regularly to church, and to listen and try to understand all
that she heard there.  She did not get discouraged, though there was not
much to interest or to instruct in the sermons she often heard.

There was little hope of a happy summer to them, as the days went on.
The heat which last year seemed to bring healing to Mrs Vane, brought
this year weakness and nervous prostration painful to see.  And
something even worse than these came with them, to make the days and
nights terrible to her--the fear of death,--death, which she knew to be
drawing near.  It had come to her in former illnesses, but never as it
came now.

Mr Jerome.  St. Cyr never spoke many words to her in private, but they
had been strong words that she could not forget, about her godless
marriage and her godless life, which had brought on her, he said, the
double curse of ill-health and neglect, and which must end in still
deeper misery.  She could not forget them, and they woke terrible fears
for the future.  She told her fears to her children, hoping that they
might chase them away as they had chased so many troubles of hers in
past years, with playful or loving words, but they knew not what to say,
for they too were afraid.

"God is good, and Christ died for us," repeated Selina many times.
"Surely that is enough, mama."

They read the Testament daily to her still, and Frederica searched it
carefully for her sake, bringing to her such sweet words as these:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest.

"For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

"Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death! where is thy sting?  O
grave! where is thy victory?  The sting of Death is sin, and the
strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who giveth us the
victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ."

The clergyman of the church they attended came to see her, and read
prayers solemnly and tenderly, and answered the appeal of her anxious
eyes with vague words about God's goodness and compassion, and how He
would save all who came to Him.  But his words did not comfort her.

"How can I come to Him?  I do not know the way."

"Mama, Jesus is the way--He says it," said Selina, who never seemed to
forget the words she heard.

"But I do not know Him; I have not thought about Him all my life; I have
done nothing good, and it is too late now."

"But the thief on the cross had done nothing good, even to the very
last, and yet Jesus says to him, `To-day shalt thou be with me in
paradise,'" said Selina.

"Yes; let me read it for you," said Frederica eagerly.

"But he could do nothing, and Mr Jerome says I could give money to
clothe the naked and feed the hungry, and that I could give my children
to the Church, and then I should be safe.  But I never trusted Mr
Jerome; I am afraid of him; and yet he may be right."

"Miss Agnace says something like that too," said Tessie, "and I think we
ought to ask Mr St. Cyr to give some money, if it would set mama's mind
at rest."

"But it does not say that is the way in the Bible," said Frederica
gravely.

"Yes, it says something like that.  Some one was told to sell all his
goods to give to the poor.  Don't you remember?"

"But it says, `Thanks be to God, who _giveth_ us the victory!'" said
Selina.  "And there must be some people so poor that they have nothing
to give Him back."

"Yes, and in another place He says, `I _give_ unto my sheep eternal
life,'" said Frederica.  "It cannot be that one can buy it."

"And in another place it says, `He that believeth shall be saved,'" said
Selina.

The mother's eyes turned eagerly from one to another.  They knew little,
but they knew far more than she did about that which she was so anxious
to learn.

"Miss Agnace always says I must send for a priest, and confess to him,
but my father hated all that, and your father would be very angry."

"But mama, if it would make you happy, he need not be told," said
Tessie; "and we might send for some one else than Mr St. Cyr's
brother."

"But that would be giving up what the Bible says; for it does not tell
us to confess to priests, or that they can pardon us," said Frederica.

"It says something, I think," said Selina, "`Whosesoever sins ye remit,
they shall be remitted.'  Oh, if we only had some one to tell us what we
ought to do?"

And was there no one among a whole cityful to tell these children and
their mother how they might be saved?  Doubtless there were many who
would gladly have pointed them to Jesus as the only hope of the sinner,
if they had made known their need to such.  But it was quite true of
those with whom they came in contact, the way was not clear to them.

"I spoke to Caroline about it," said Frederica, "and she said we must be
good, and say our prayers, and go to church, and do our duty always.
But there must be some other way; for mama can do nothing now.  She
cannot even give money, unless Mr St. Cyr is willing; and it would do
no good, if she could."

"Miss Agnace says that she knows a sister who Is very good and wise, and
who would gladly teach us.  Mama, shall we send for Sister Magdalen?"
asked Selina.

But Mrs Vane was less able to say what should or what should not be
done, than the youngest child among them.  No one sent for Sister
Magdalen, unless Miss Agnace did, which was very likely; for she seemed
always to know what they wished for, whether they told her or not; but
she came.  A very different woman she was from Miss Agnace.  A thin,
dark, thoughtful woman, with a face which was calm now, but which
suggested thoughts of troubles passed through, and struggles encountered
in past days.

She came to see Miss Agnace at first, or she said so; but she had some
beautiful specimens of needlework which she wished the young ladies to
see, and while they were admiring it she was speaking gentle and
sympathising words to their mother.

She came a good many times after that, and by-and-by she had much to say
to them all about the peace and rest that were to be found in the bosom
of the true Church, and of the safety and happiness that were to be
purchased by the performance of such good works as the Church commanded.
She told them how, by penance, and prayer, and the confession of sin,
pardon might be obtained, and how, through the intercession of Mary and
the saints, they might hope to get safe to heaven.

She was a wiser woman than Miss Agnace, and knew how to put all these
things in the fairest light, so as not to startle them.  But she was as
grieved and indignant as Miss Agnace had been at the pride and self-will
of children who ventured to read, and who strove to understand, the
Bible for themselves.  It was just Miss Agnace's teaching over again,
except that all was more clearly and firmly announced, and more
decidedly pressed home, by Sister Magdalen.

If Mrs Vane had been left a little while to her instructions and
influence, she might have led her where she would, and induced her, in
the hope of finding peace, to give herself altogether into the guidance
of those who believe that they have the keys of heaven in their keeping.
But her children never left her side when Sister Magdalen was there,
and there was no assent in Frederica's anxious watchful eyes, and Selina
was always ready with some word from the Book, which even Sister
Magdalen could not but acknowledge was the very word of God.  Nor did it
avail for her to say that God had other words than were written there,
and other ways of teaching those who wished to know His will.  If
Frederica had learned little else from the Scriptural lessons of Mrs
Glencairn and Miss Pardie, she had learned this, that the Bible is the
only source of our knowledge of God as the Saviour of sinners, and to
distrust all other teaching.

"What you say may be true, I cannot tell, but it is not here in the
Gospels.  And surely there is all here that is necessary, if we could
only understand," said Frederica gently.  And Selina added,--

"_I_ know we are very ignorant; but I do not think it is wrong in us to
read and to try to understand God's Word for ourselves, and I believe
God will teach us, and mama too.  We will not fear."

In the meantime Mr Jerome had still been making frequent visits to Mrs
Vane's house, where he made himself very agreeable to the children.
Selina's music progressed rapidly, and she had increasing pleasure in
it.  The boys and even Tessie welcomed him with the indiscriminating
liking which children bestow on those who take pains to please and win
them.  Frederica said to herself, that this liking and Selina's progress
ought to be sufficient reason for her liking him too.  And it might have
been so if the priest had been content to treat her as a child.

But she was not a child, and he touched with her on graver matters than
a child could comprehend.  He was aware of her reading the Bible with
her mother and the rest, and of her anxious questionings of Sister
Agnace, and her wish to be religious and do right, and he was more than
willing to give counsel and direction with regard to these matters.  But
on these things Frederica would never enter with him.  At first she
could give no better reason for this, than that "he had not a nice
face," which she acknowledged was a very foolish reason.  But afterwards
she had a reason which was all-powerful with her: he made her mother
unhappy.  He spoke softly and soothingly to her, as far as words and
manners went: but he never came but he said some words that left her
anxious and troubled either for herself or her children.  He intimated
his belief that she had forsaken the true Church--the Church of her
fathers--when she married Mr Vane, and that all her ill-health and
unhappiness had come upon her as a punishment for this wrong step.  He
never said all this to her in words at one time; but he uttered a word
now and then, breathed a sigh, spoke a soft regret, or as soft a
warning, that left the poor soul never quite at ease.  He never spoke
thus to her in the presence of her children.  Without them there is
little doubt that he could easily have bent the poor broken-spirited
woman to his will--brought her to repentance and a better mind, he would
have called it.  But Selina's gentleness, and Frederica's sense of her
mother's helplessness and dependence, were a strong defence to their
mother.  At this time Frederica saw that she was unhappy a good while
before she knew that the priest had anything to do with it.  When she
did know it, she resented it angrily, and told him with more than
sufficient warmth, that it was neither kind nor wise of him to come with
his hard words and harder judgments, to unsettle and perplex the mind of
one so tender and delicate.

"Perhaps you mean it kindly, but it is not real kindness to make poor
mama unhappy and afraid.  You have your religion, and we have ours.  We
will not interfere with each other," said Frederica, with trembling
dignity.

"Have you then any religion?" asked the priest.  "Because it has been
intimated to me that you are in search of one, and know not where it is
to be found.  Is your mother then happier than you?"

Frederica looked at him in amazement and anger, yet other feelings also
were in her heart.

"Mama is good," said she.  "One does not need to be very wise, or to
have fine words to offer, in order to be a Christian."

"And you? are you a Christian, dear?"

"I am not good," said Frederica humbly; "but I wish to be, and God will
teach me, and mama also."

"And how long will it take you to learn? a year? two years?  And the
chances are your mother will not live many months.  Will it be well with
her, do you think, when she shall go away into another world alone?"

Frederica turned upon him a white face and wide-open eyes of horror.

"Yes," said Selina's soft voice behind them, "it will be well.  God is
good, and Christ has died."

Frederica uttered a glad cry, and clasped her sister in her arms.

"Yes," said the priest, "God is good, and Christ has died.  This is our
only hope.  But then all these years have you been thinking of this?
You have been forgetting God, and even now you are trusting to your own
wisdom to find Him.  You are refusing counsel.  You are walking in your
own ways.  Oh! poor ignorant erring children, it is because I love you
so much, you and your mother, that I dare to make you unhappy by telling
you the truth.  I would gladly lead you in the right way."

"Is mama so very ill?" said Frederica, forgetting everything else, in
the misery that his words had suggested.

"Do you not see yourselves that she is very ill?  Dear children, death
is a happy change to those who have the care and blessing of the Church.
Death is nothing of which a Christian need be afraid."

He spoke gently and tenderly, and laid his hand softly on the blind
girl's head; but his eyes were hard and angry, and Frederica shrank from
him with a repugnance which she did not try to conceal.

"I would so gladly help you," said he again.  "It is your happiness I
seek, and the happiness of your dear mistaken mother."  And in a little
he added, "God bless you with humble minds."  And then went silently
away.

And he left two very unhappy girls behind him.  Could it be that their
mother was going to die; and that she had cause to be afraid?

"I never wish to see him again," said Frederica.  "He shall never see
mama again, if I can prevent it."

But her anger went away with the departure of the priest, and now she
was very miserable.

"But, Fred, if it is true that we are all wrong, and that mama is going
to die before--"

Selina shuddered.

"Selina!  God is good, and Christ has died; you said it yourself."

"Yes, God is good.  He will teach us."

"And He will take care of mama and all of us.  And if mama does not go
to heaven, I am sure I do not care to go there either," said Frederica,
with a great bout of weeping.

"God is good, and Christ has died," repeated Selina softly.  "He will
teach us."

"But I never wish to see Mr Jerome St. Cyr again," said Frederica.

But he came again, just as usual, in a day or two.  Mr St. Cyr was
there with the mother and the children when he came in, and the brothers
exchanged looks of surprise at the encounter, for they had never met in
Mrs Vane's house before.  Mr St. Cyr looked on with a little amused
curiosity to see how his brother would be received.

Very cordially by the young people it seemed, but he noticed a troubled
look pass over the face of their mother; and Frederica rose and went
over to her sofa, and took her seat beside her, with an air that seemed
to say she needed protection, and she was there to give it.  Mr Jerome
took no notice of the movement, but occupied himself with Selina and her
music, and with the little boys, who soon came in.

Mr St. Cyr asked Frederica about her illness, and her employments and
amusements, and she told him about Miss Agnace, and how much nicer she
was than Mrs Ascot used to be.

"And we all hope she will stay," said Tessie.  "But they don't usually
let the sisters stay long out of their convents.  Do you think they will
let her stay?" asked Tessie, addressing Mr Jerome.  "Fred did not know
she was a sister at first, but she found it out from something she said.
She is very nice, however, and we all hope she may stay."

Mr St. Cyr asked no questions about Miss Agnace; but when his brother
rose to go, he rose also.  He had something to say to him.

"Who is Sister Agnace? and why is she here?" asked he.  "It is not wise
in you to wish to make any change in Mrs Vane's family affairs, my
brother.  You will not succeed."

"I have succeeded already.  Miss Agnace has made a great change for the
better in this ill-regulated household, especially in the comfort of
Mrs Vane.  Your little friend is a clever child, but she cannot be
expected to act with sense or judgment in certain affairs.  She has not
been complaining of Miss Agnace has she?"

"By no means.  On the contrary, they seem to value her highly.  But who
is she?  Why is she here?"

"Do you not know!  Mr Vane advertised for a housekeeper, and she
applied.  She has excellent references, and he was fortunate in getting
her."

"Still you have not answered my question.  The sisters are not permitted
to answer advertisements, and take situations, without some special
purpose in view.  What was your motive in placing her among these
children?"

"A desire to serve them would not seem to you a sufficient motive, I
suppose?"

"No," said Mr St. Cyr, with a shrug, "not in your case.  You may wish
to serve them, but you have another motive.  Who is Sister Agnace?"

"A simple, pious, affectionate creature, just the nurse for a nervous
invalid like Mrs Vane.  See her, and satisfy yourself with regard to
her."

"I shall do so," said Mr St. Cyr; "and, my brother, let me say one word
to you.  Nothing good will come of your trying to gain influence in this
house.  Mrs Vane has nothing in her power as to the disposal of her
father's wealth.  All that is quite beyond her power."

"Don't you remember you told me all that long ago?  Is it not
conceivable that for other reasons I might wish to influence that
unhappy woman, who is so near death, and who is so unprepared to meet
it?  What is her wealth to me, who am not permitted to possess aught
beyond the necessaries of life?  Why should I wish to influence her,
except to turn her thoughts to the God whom she must soon meet, and of
whom she knows nothing?  And these poor neglected children!  Brother
Cyprien, it is terrible to me to see you so indifferent to their highest
interests, and your own."

"Let all that pass.  What I wish to say is this--No influence that you
may bring to bear on her can possibly make any change in the arrangement
of her affairs.  The guardians of her children's interests are already
chosen by my advice, and with her husband's consent, and they are such
men as will not please you.  She might change them, it is true, but she
will not without my advice.  You have already made her unhappy, I think.
It is cruel, and will avail you nothing.  This is what I wish you to
understand."

"I clearly understand.  You will not see that it is only their good I
wish for.  They have no religion.  They are ignorant of the first
principles of truth.  These young girls are neither fit for this world
nor the next.  And St. Hubert's grandsons are losing the best years of
their life, under the foolish teaching of an ignorant woman."

"That is your opinion," said Mr St. Cyr coldly.  "Well, you are not
responsible, and need not interfere.  No good can come of it to any one
concerned."

But he had no fault to find with Miss Agnace when he saw her.  She was
simple and affectionate, and as far as he could judge, faithful.  She
was eager for the spiritual good of Mrs Vane and her children, and
prayed for them, and told them tales of the saints, and of miracles
performed by their relics even at the present day.  She took the
children with her to mass, on high days and holidays, and evidently had
full faith in the success of her efforts in their behalf at last.  But
of all this Mr St. Cyr had no fear.  Indeed, he might have rejoiced
over the prospect of the spiritual change, for which Sister Agnace and
his brother were so anxious, in poor Mrs Vane and her children,
provided it were a real change, and that no wrong influence were brought
to bear upon them to bring it about.

But though Mr St. Cyr was looked upon as a very religious man, he was
far more liberal in his opinions, and charitable in his judgments, than
the greater number of those who admired his devotion.  It did not seem
impossible to him that beyond the pale of his own church there might be
truth and safety.  He knew that Mr Vane was not a religious man.  He
gave him no credit for religious motives, or even for conscientious
motives, in the care with which, in the education of his daughters, he
had tried to keep them away from Roman Catholic influence; and it would
have troubled him very little on his account that they should leave
their father's church.  He would not have pitied him, but he would have
dreaded the pain to them, the discomfort which their father's anger
would bring upon them.

But he was not anxious for them to change.  They were good little
things, he thought, desirous to do right, and quite as likely to do
right by themselves as they would be under such guidance as a change
might involve,--such guidance, for instance, as that of his brother
Jerome.  He did not wish to be hard on his brother, even in his
thoughts, but he did not trust him.  He did not trust him, either as
regarded the means he might use to influence the delicate nervous mother
and her children towards a change of faith, or as regarded the end he
had in view in desiring such a change.

He cared for their souls, doubtless, and believed them to be in danger,
but he cared for something else more.  He knew that he coveted some part
of the wealth that Mr St. Hubert had left, and which had been
accumulating since his death, for his own purposes; that is, for the
purposes of the Church; and he feared that he would not be scrupulous as
to the means he made use of to obtain it.

So he went oftener to see them than he had been accustomed to do, and
assured himself of the good faith of Miss Agnace, and listened to the
earnest talk of the sisters, and sometimes even to the reading of the
Bible.  He was amused sometimes, but oftener he was moved and
interested, and in his heart prayed to Him whom he believed to be the
God of all who sincerely sought to serve and honour Him, that He might
guard, and guide, and keep safe from all evil, these children whom he
was learning to love so well.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

September was not a pleasant month this year.  There were not the usual
clear, bright days, all the lovelier and more enjoyable that the frost
in the morning air, and a tinge of brilliant colour here and there among
the trees, gave warning that there could not be many more of them in the
season.  They were hot, oppressive days.  The air was close, and the sky
was hidden by a thick haze, which told of the coming of a storm.

It was no wonder, the children said, that their mother was worse than
usual.  Every one felt dull, and languid, and out of sorts.  They would
all feel better when the rain which had been gathering so many days
should come, and it could not be long now.  This was what Frederica said
to her sister, Mrs Brandon, when she came to see them after her return
from the seaside, where she had passed the summer.  Mrs Brandon
assented, and regretted for baby's sake that she had returned home so
soon.  She regretted it for another reason.  She did not know how to
tell the business that had brought her to them that day.  Their father
had decided not to return home till spring, and had written to her to
say that there would be an opportunity for Fred to travel with a Mrs
Bury, who was about to return to England, and he wished her to hasten
her preparations.  Mrs Brandon was to tell Mrs Vane of the change of
plan, and to help Fred in all necessary arrangements.

She did not like the task he had assigned her, and she liked it less
when she saw the mother and her daughters together.  She could not but
feel that her father was exposing himself to remark--nay, to just
censure--by remaining away so long in the circumstances of his family;
and she felt the greatest unwillingness to say a word to Fred about
leaving home.  But Fred did not even take the matter into consideration.
She dismissed the subject with a single word.

"I'm not going," said she quietly.  But an angry spot burned on her
cheek.  She would not say to Mrs Brandon, or even to Selina, that she
thought it unkind of their father to ask such a thing--more than unkind
to remain longer away.  She checked the hasty words of blame that rose
to.  Tessie's lips in Caroline's presence.  But she was grieved and
vexed too.

"I am not going," said she, "and nobody must tell mama that papa, wished
it.  He ought to know that--"

She stopped suddenly, not sure of her voice.

"She has been ill so long," said Mrs Brandon.  "I suppose papa thinks
she is as she always has been, now a little better, now worse.  He
thinks you are over-anxious, and I am afraid he does not understand.
What does Dr Gerard say?"

"If you were to tell him, Caroline, he might understand," said Selina.
"Will you not write and tell him how we all want him home?"

"I will write certainly, and I will also see Mrs Bury.  It would make
you too unhappy to leave now, though I trust your mother is not really
worse."

"Thank you.  No, I could not go now.  Even Mr St. Cyr is ill, and they
have no one but me--" said Fred, speaking with difficulty.

"My darling," said Mrs Brandon, moved to unwonted tenderness by the
sight of Frederica's tears, "you are not to be discouraged.  Remember
how often your mother has been worse than she is now; and papa will be
sure to come when I write and tell him how much you all want him.  And,
dear, if you break down, what will become of the rest?"

"I am not going to break down," said Fred, swallowing her tears, and
trying to smile.  "Be sure and bring baby next time, and hasten now, for
the rain is near.  Good-bye?"

She went to the gate, and stood looking after the carriage for a minute
or two.  Then, instead of going into the house, she walked round the
garden several times, telling herself that there was no one but her to
care for the rest, and that she must be strong and not discouraged for
their sake.  But for the moment she was utterly discouraged and afraid.

Though it was still early in the afternoon, it had grown very dark, and
there was first the silence, and then the low sighing of the wind among
the trees, that tells of the near approach of a storm; and the sudden
recollection that her little brothers had not returned from their walk
hastened Frederica's footsteps again to the gate.  A few large drops of
rain fell before she reached it, and as she looked out a cloud of dust
and leaves came whirling down the street, and a strong gust of wind made
it necessary for her to cling for a moment to the gate, lest she should
be thrown down.

There was nothing to be seen of her brothers; but, fighting against the
wind, and shielding his eyes from the clouds of dust which it bore, came
a slender bowed figure that made her forget them.  For just a moment she
thought it was Mr St. Cyr, but even before he came near, she saw it was
not he, but an older man.  His hair was snowy white, and he walked with
a great effort, bowing his head low to meet the blast.  Opposite the
gate, a sudden gust nearly overthrew him.  He let fall a book which he
carried in his hand, and in stooping to recover it his cane slipped from
his grasp.  Frederica sprang forward to lift it for him; and when she
met the sweet, grave smile that thanked her, she quite forgot that the
face was the face of a stranger.

"Come in," said she eagerly.  "You are not strong enough to meet this
terrible wind.  And see, the rain has begun to fall already.  Come in
and rest."

"I shall be glad to rest," said the stranger; and so, at Frederica's
bidding, there passed over their threshold an angel unawares.

The brothers came home with a run and a shout, only in time to escape
the rain that soon fell in torrents.  In the house it grew as dark as
night for a little while, and then the lightning flashed, and the
thunder broke over the roof with a peal that seemed to shake the
foundations.  The servants of the house, awed and anxious, flocked into
the hall where the stranger sat, and where the children had gathered.
Their mother was there too, trembling and white with nervous terror.
For a minute or two the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled
continuously, and for a time not a word was spoken.  Then that cloud
passed, and it grew light.

"You are not afraid," said Hubert, looking up into the face of the
stranger.

"No," said he gently, "I have no cause."

"But we are afraid, except Selina," said the boy, looking round on the
terrified faces.  "Selina does not see the lightning.  But why are not
you afraid?"

"`God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble.
Therefore shall not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the
mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.'  No, I am not afraid."

"But the lightning might kill you."

"Yes, it might kill me."

"And yet you are not afraid!  Why are you not afraid?"

"Because I hope--yes, I believe, that when death shall come to me, it
will be as God's messenger, not to hurt, but to take me beyond all reach
of hurt for ever and for ever.  Truly, my little lad, death is the last
thing of which one whom God loves need be afraid."

Another cloud was passing, and Hubert's face was hidden in his sister's
lap as once more the thunder broke over them.  But the worst of the
storm was over.  There were now longer pauses between the gradually
receding peals, and in the silence of one of them Selina asked softly,--

"Frederica, who is he that is not afraid of death?"

And Frederica answered in the same tone, "One whom God loves, he says."

"And surely He loves us all."

Gradually the storm passed over.  The servants went away to their
duties, and Miss Agnace took the little boys to change their coats,
which she only now discovered were quite wet.  The girls helped their
mother into her room again, and Tessie opened the window.  There were
clouds heavy and dark still in the sky, but beyond the clouds there was
brightness, and the cool sweet air brought refreshment to them all.  The
stranger stood on the threshold, regarding with grave, compassionate
eyes the group which the mother and daughters made.

"Mama," said Frederica, answering her mother's look of surprise, "I
brought him in because of the rain."

"Who is it?" said Selina eagerly.  "Is it he whom God loves, and who has
no cause to be afraid of death?  Frederica, ask him why he is not
afraid.  And does not God love us all?"

"God is our Father.  Truly He loves all His children."

Drawn by his voice, Selina approached, and took in both hers his
outstretched hand.  Not once in a hundred times did the blind girl seek
to get by the sense of touch a knowledge of strangers.  But now she
gently passed her hand over his, and over his face, and his soft white
hair; and then she drew him gently into the room, and over towards her
mother's chair.

"Come and tell mama why you are not afraid."

"Because `God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting
life.'  No one need fear death, who has the promise of life
everlasting."

"No," said Selina.  "And have you that promise?  And is it for us too?
for mama, and all of us?"

For answer, the old man repeated the text again, "God so loved the
world," and so on to the end.

"It is the world He loves; and the promise is to whosoever believeth."

"Do you hear, mama?  It says, `Whosoever believeth.'  Are you listening,
mama?" said Selina eagerly.

"My darling, I know not what to believe, or what to do," said Mrs Vane
sadly.  "I have never in all my life thought about these things."

"No," said Selina, turning her eager face towards the stranger.  "We
have never thought about these things.  Could we begin now, do you
think? and what must we do?"

Frederica and Tessie looked and listened in amazement.  It was so unlike
Selina to have anything to say to a stranger.  Their mother looked as
eager as she did, and very anxious; and she said, before the stranger
could reply,--

"Yes, the children might begin now.  As for me, I can do nothing."

"But," said the old man gently, "it does not say _do_, but believe."

"Surely, mama, `Whosoever believeth.'  And what are we to believe?"

"The text says, `Whosoever believeth in Him'."

"Yes--that is Jesus.  And what are we to believe?"

"All that the Bible says of Him.  Have you heard about Him at all, my
child?"

"Yes.  In the New Testament.  We believe all that.  What is the first,
Fred?  Oh!  I remember: `Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall
save His people from their sins.'"

And Frederica added, "`And they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is,
being interpreted, God with us.'"

"We are to believe that He saves His people from their sins," said
Selina.  "Does that mean us too?  Who are God's people?"

"They who seek to know Him.  They who love Him, and do His will.  They
whom He loves and will save."

There was a pause of some minutes; then Selina said,--

"We seek to know Him, and--I love Him.  I do not know how to do His
will."

"His will is written in His Word, and He Himself will teach you," said
the stranger.

Then Tessie broke in flippantly,--

"But how are we to know?  Some say one thing, and some another.  Father
Jerome says it is the last thing we should do--to read the Bible for
ourselves.  And how are we to know?"

"But we do read it," said Frederica.  "And there is no use in asking
what Mr Jerome St. Cyr would wish us to do."

"But for my part, I think he is quite as likely to be right as those
others," said Tessie.  "There are many more who are of his opinion than
of ours.  And it would be a shocking thing to say that all the crowds of
people who go to his church are all wrong."

"Hush, Tessie dear, and listen," said Selina.  "Mama dear, are you very
tired?  Would you like to hear more?"

If Selina could have seen her mother's face, she would not have asked.

"Tell us more!" said she.

"Begin at the beginning," said Fred, and she read, "Now the birth of
Jesus Christ was on this wise."

But the beginning was before that, he showed them.  The beginning was
when, because of sin, man's need began--when the first promise was
given, and God said "that the woman's seed should bruise the head of the
serpent."  He showed them how, the Divine law being broken, Divine
justice required satisfaction, and how One had said, "Lo!  I come to do
Thy will, O God!"  He went on from promise to promise, from prophecy to
prophecy, showing how all that went before was but a preparation for the
coming of Him who was promised, who was "to save His people from their
sins."

Much that had been mysterious, even meaningless, in the things which
they had read--the sacrifices, the ceremonies, the prophecies--became
significant and beautiful as types of Him who was both sacrifice and
priest, dying that His people might live.  The old man did not use many
words, and almost all of them were words with which the reading of the
Bible had made them familiar, but they came to them with new meaning and
power from his lips.

He told them how the ages had been waiting for Him who was called
"Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the
Prince of Peace;" and how, "when the fulness of the time was come, God
sent forth His Son;" how "He bare our griefs, and carried our sorrows;
He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities;
the chastisement of our peace was on Him, and by His stripes we are
healed."

He spoke to them of Him as the son of Mary, as the babe in Bethlehem,
and yet the Leader and Commander of His people.  He reminded them how He
lived and suffered; how He spake wonderful words, and did wonderful
works; how He pitied, and taught, and healed the people; how He loved
them, and how He died for them at last.

At last?  No, that was not the last.  He told them how the grave, that
had held in bonds all the generations that had passed away, had no power
to hold Him; how He had broken the chains of death, nay, had slain
death, and how He had ascended up to heaven, to be still the Priest of
His people, and their King.  He told them that it was His delight to
pardon and receive sinners who came to Him; that He would not only
pardon and save from the punishment of sin, but take away the power of
sin over the heart; so that instead of loving it, and yielding to it,
sin would become hateful to the forgiven child of God, because God hated
it.  He told them how God kept His people safe in the midst of a world
at enmity with Him, and how all things were theirs, because they were
Christ's; and how nothing, "neither life, nor death, nor things present,
nor things to come, can separate them from the love of God which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord."

He told them that He was preparing a place for those who had loved Him,
and that Death--no longer an enemy--was to come as His messenger to take
them into His presence, there to dwell for evermore.  And most
wonderful, all this was God's free gift.  None were too sinful, or weak,
or wayward, to be saved by Him, who asked only to be trusted and loved
by those to whom He freely offered so much.  Wonderful indeed, beyond
the power of words to utter.

"Mama," said Selina, touching her mother's hand, "I think I see it now."

The mother turned her eyes from the radiant face of the blind girl to
the face of the stranger again.

"Will you trust Him?" asked he gently.  "He is able and willing to
save."

"May I?" said she eagerly; "I, who can do nothing?  I, who have never in
all my life thought about these things?  Ah! if it were possible!"

"Believe it.  It is true."

"But is there nothing we must do?" said Frederica doubtfully.

"There is nothing you need do to win His love.  There is much you can do
to prove your love to Him.  `If ye love me, keep my commandments,' He
said.  And `we love Him because He first loved us.'"

"And is there no good in all that Miss Agnace has told us?" said Tessie.
"Indeed, Fred, it is not that I wish to be disagreeable.  But Miss
Agnace prays to the Virgin and to the saints, and she goes to
confession.  She says that is the only right way, and you know Miss
Agnace is a good woman.  And Mr Jerome--"

Mrs Vane's eyes and Frederica's were turned on the stranger; and Miss
Agnace, who had been listening unseen, came forward at the sound of her
name.  The old man looked gravely from one to the other, and said,--

"`He that believeth on the Son hath life.'  Of Him it is said, `Neither
is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name given under
heaven among men, whereby we can be saved.'  Of Him it is said, that He
`hath redeemed us not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but
with His precious blood.  Who His own self bore our sins in His own body
on the tree.'  Of Him it is said, `In Whom we have redemption through
His blood, the forgiveness of sins.'  Truly He is able to save to the
uttermost them that come unto Him by faith.  They who put their trust in
Him need no other saviour.  `Other foundation can no man lay, than is
laid down, which is Jesus Christ.'

"This is God's truth, taught us in His Word.  I do not desire to judge
those of whom you speak.  It is through Christ, once offered for sins,
that they too can be saved."

Mrs Vane made a movement to enjoin silence when Miss Agnace would have
spoken; and then the stranger, kneeling down, said, "Let us pray;" and
Mrs Vane and Selina for the first time heard the pouring out of a good
man's heart to God.  What he asked for them need hardly be told: that
Christ might reveal Himself to them as one mighty to save; that He might
dwell in them by His Spirit, to make them holy and happy, and ready for
an entrance into "the inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled,
and which fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for those who love Him;"
that even _now_, believing in Him, they might have "joy unspeakable and
full of glory."

Every heart went up with his as he prayed.  Even Miss Agnace listened
and joined in supplication, wondering and moved.

"And shall we never see you again?" said Frederica, as he took her
mother's hand to say farewell.

"I cannot tell.  I am only passing through the town, and but for the
storm I should have been already on the way.  I shall never forget you."

"I think God sent you to us," said Selina.

Once more the blind girl touched softly his hand, and his face, and his
silver hair.  Praying, "God bless all beneath this roof," he went away.

But they never forgot him, nor the words he had spoken to them.

For Selina after that there was neither doubt nor fear.  The way which
God has opened for the return of sinners to Himself was clearly revealed
to her.  She had much to learn yet, with regard to His will and His
dealings in providence; but this she knew and declared, "I love Him
because He first loved me."

There were for her no anxious questionings, no groping in the dark,
after that.  Day by day the light grew clearer and brighter to the eyes
of her soul, and she saw "wondrous things out of His law."  She was at
peace, and with all the power of her loving and gentle nature she set
herself to help her mother toward the same peace.  There was the daily
reading still, and daily also, kneeling by her mother's bed, Selina
asked for the blessing of peace to her mother's heart.  And she did not
ask in vain.  As the days went on the blessing came--God gave His own
answer of peace.

Peace with God!  That which all those weary years of sickness and
solitude this poor soul had needed came to her at last, and all was
changed.  Her waiting for the end, that was slowly, but surely drawing
near, was peaceful, at times it was joyful.  Even Miss Agnace saw the
change, and thanked God for it.  Sister Magdalen saw it, and doubted its
reality and its sufficiency.  But she was suffered to utter no word of
doubt in Mrs Vane's hearing.  Indeed, she hardly wished to do so.

"God may have ways of dealing with sinners of which we do not know,"
said she, in answer to Miss Agnace's anxious looks, not knowing what to
say.

"Yes, truly," said Miss Agnace to herself, with a sigh of relief and
comfort.

It had come to her many times of late, that the dying mother's peace
must be from God, even though it had not come to her through the Church
or its ministers; but she had hardly dared to believe it possible.  She
needed Sister Magdalen's confirming word, and took more comfort from it
than Sister Magdalen had meant it to convey.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

Frederica was the least happy of them all at this time.  They had heard
nothing as yet about Mr Vane's return; and, as must be the case in
every household at every changing season, there were many things to be
arranged, and some of them required a decision which Frederica was
neither old enough nor wise enough to exercise; and she was troubled in
various ways.  She rejoiced in the new rest and peace that had come to
her mother and Selina, and said to herself often, that all the rest
mattered little, since it was well with them; but other things sometimes
pressed on her heavily.

Tessie had grown impatient under the restraint of circumstances, and
also under the control which Frederica, not always with the best
judgment, sought to exercise over her for her good.  She was wilful, and
sought the companionship of young people whom her sister did not Know,
or of whom she did not approve.  Madame Precoe, who as Mrs Ascot had
been Tessie's pet aversion, invited her often; and she liked going there
better than to the house of her sister, Mrs Brandon, who did not ask
her very often.

Her little brothers, too, were getting beyond her control.  The lady who
had taught them daily for some years, being obliged, for family reasons,
to leave them, her place was not found easy to supply, and it was
decided that it was best to send them to school.  Not to a day-school;
that would not have answered in the circumstances.  They were sent to a
school which Mrs Brandon recommended, and which Frederica had heard her
father mention with favour.  It was a small private school in the
village of T., at some distance from M.  But the little lads went
willingly enough, eager as children usually are for change, and for a
time Frederica was quite at rest about them.

All this time she could not avail herself of the doubtful help which the
telling of her troubles to Mr St. Cyr would have given her; for he was
ill.  She went to see him more than once, but they would not let her in,
and Mr Jerome's grave looks and assurances that the sight of her old
friend would be no pleasure to her now, filled Frederica with sorrow,
and with a dread of what might happen to them all when Mr St. Cyr
should be no more.

But over the sea there were coming, even then, tidings that made all
else seem of little moment to Frederica and them all.  One mail brought
word that Mr Vane was coming home; but the next brought word that made
it doubtful whether he ever would come home again.  At the first
reading, the tidings of evil seemed scarcely to admit of hope.  Still
they tried to speak hopefully in their mother's presence, and none more
hopefully than Frederica.  But enclosed in the letter of her English
brother, telling them of the accident and danger of her father, were a
few lines to Frederica written by his own hand, that left little room
for hope in her heart.

"My darling," he wrote, "they will have no one but you.  I cannot recall
the past.  You must stand by your mother, and make her understand that I
would like Colonel Bentham to be appointed your guardian in my stead.
He is an honourable and upright man, and he is about to return to Canada
to remain; and I do not think Mr St. Cyr, who knows him well, will
object.  Do not lose a day after you receive this.  If I live, it need
make no difference.  I trust to you, Frederica, in all things.  Lose no
time.  Oh, if I could only recall the past!"

That was all.  Not even his name was written after it.

"Oh! papa! papa!" sobbed the girl, as she lay alone in the darkness.
"Shall I never see you any more?  And how shall I ever tell mama?"

Mrs Vane was at first only told that an accident had happened to her
husband, which would probably delay his return for a little while.  He
had been thrown from his horse while riding.  They could only wait for
another mail to hear more, and the first telling alarmed her less than
they had feared it might do.

One good thing came out of this sad event to Tessie.  Startled by
Frederica's giving way so utterly at the news of their father's danger,
and conscience-stricken at the knowledge that she had been disobeying
his known wishes all these weeks she at once proposed to return to Mrs
Glencairn's, and all agreed that there was no better thing for her to
do.  So that anxiety was set at rest.

To no one, not even to Mrs Brandon, did Frederica show her father's
letter.  Moved by a fear which she could not put in words, she kept
secret the commission he had given her, and at the first moment that it
was possible for her to do so, took her way to Mr St. Cyr's house.  She
had not seen him for a long time.  He was not well enough to see any
one, she had always been told whenever she had called to enquire for
him, and yet she had heard by chance of others who had been allowed to
enter his room.  Miss Agnace had been there, and Sister Magdalen; and
she had heard indirectly of his being able to transact business of
importance, and she went determined to see him, if it were possible to
do so.

She entered the outer door with some one who was going into the office,
and went upstairs unquestioned.  She opened one door, and then another,
and there sat Mr St. Cyr, looking ill and changed certainly, but with
his papers about him, not at all as though he were unequal to any work.
He greeted her with a pleased exclamation, and then playfully reproached
her with having forgotten him in his illness.

"But I have been here often, Cousin Cyprien," said she, eagerly; "and
they would not let me come up to you.  Did they not tell you?  Mr
Jerome always said you were too ill to be disturbed.  Are you better,
Cousin Cyprien?"

"Yes, I am better.  And did they let you come up now?"

"I did not ask.  I came up and opened the door.  I left Mr Jerome at
our house."

"Ah, my dear!  I fear your trouble is beyond my power to remove this
time.  I have heard of your father.  Let us hope the accident to him was
not so serious as was feared."

"It is very serious, I am afraid.  But, Mr St. Cyr, you _can_ help me,
and him;" and she offered him her father's letter.

"Is it so bad?" said he, when he had read it, and he said nothing more
for a long time.

"I have not told mama yet," said Frederica.

"Will you do as papa wishes, Cousin Cyprien?  Is it necessary?"

"Since he wishes it, the change may be made.  It will be better."

"But whoever may be appointed, you will always take care of mama and us
all?"

"While I live, dear child, yes; so help me God.  But I have had a
warning, too; and I must leave you in good hands.  There is no time to
lose."

No time was lost.  The proper steps were at once taken, and the
necessary papers prepared in the shortest time possible.  At some risk
to himself, Mr St. Cyr went to Mrs Vane's house, and the whole affair
was arranged to his satisfaction.  It was all done during a temporary
absence of Mr Jerome from the city, and Mr St. Cyr did not see it
necessary to intimate to him that any change had been made in regard to
Mrs Vane's children.  But one night Mr Jerome found on the table,
among other papers, one which he did not think it beneath him to glance
at--a paper properly drawn, and signed, and witnessed, by which Mrs
Vane and Mr St. Cyr had appointed three trustees, who were to have the
oversight of the property left to Mr St. Hubert's grandchildren till
they should come of age.  But it was torn across.  It was dated several
years back; and seeing it, Mr Jerome said to himself, "There is another
to be prepared."

Strangely enough, it never occurred to him that this had been already
done.  He did not speak to his brother about it; but he kept the matter
in his thoughts, and watched the course of events.  It was a matter in
which he took much interest; and when his brother grew worse, and day
after day passed without anything being done or even said with regard to
it, he was surprised; but he was not sorry at the delay.  He had by this
time become convinced that no influence of his could move Mr. St. Cyr in
the arrangement of the Vanes' affairs, and he wisely refrained from
attempting it.  If trustees were not appointed for carrying out the will
of Mr St. Hubert in the manner specified by himself, there must still
be guardians appointed for the Vane children, should they be left
orphans, and it must be done by a power possibly more open to such
influence as his, and it would be far better to say no word to remind
his brother, but, let things take their course.  He brooded over this in
his silent way, till something like a plan for changing all the future
relations of these children wrought itself out in his mind, and he
prepared himself, and, as far as he could venture to do so, endeavoured
to prepare others, to act on this plan when the right time should come.

The next mail brought no good news from England.  Colonel Bentham wrote
to Mrs Vane, telling her of her husband's wishes with regard to their
children, and saying that, should she see fit to name him as one of
their guardians, he would faithfully fulfil the duties of the trust.
This letter, through means of Miss Agnace, Mr Jerome read, and it
confirmed him in the opinion that nothing had been done to supply the
place of the legal document which had been destroyed.

Frederica also received a letter from her sister Cecilia, who had
married Colonel Bentham's son.  It was a very kind letter, but over it
Frederica shed many tears.  It told her how her father longed for them
all; and the poor girl blamed herself that she had not obeyed his wish,
and gone home with Mrs Bury, so that she might have been with him now.
But for the sake of her mother and the rest, Frederica had done well to
stay at home.

For every day made it more plain to them all that Mrs Vane's death was
near.  Sorrowful days they were; but joy mingled with their sorrow; for
her peace flowed still and deep.

She had never been a person of strong mind, and the training of her
early days had not been of a kind to strengthen her mentally or morally.
Out of the pain and weariness of these last years there had come no
strength, but a great longing for rest, and a fear, vague but horrible,
of death, and the unknown future beyond.

And so the words of peace, spoken by the old man whom Frederica had
brought in for shelter, had come as a message from God to her soul.  To
the trembling hope of a Saviour which it awakened she clung, as a child
in the dark clings to the unseen hand that holds it; and by-and-by, as
the light of truth grew clearer to her eyes, she knew the hand she held
was the hand of Jesus, strong and tender, with power to hold her safe
for ever, and then she was at rest.

From the very first the light had been clear to Selina, and she was
never weary of telling the wondrous story of Christ's love and life and
death to her mother.  Over and over daily, sometimes hourly, the same
words were repeated with patient, nay, with joyful iteration, and Selina
became God's messenger to her mother.  He spake to the dying woman
through her child's voice; and peace, beyond all power of earthly things
to trouble, rested on her.  In her state of weakness she was less
capable than ever of continued thought on any subject; but she saw
clearly, and held firmly to this, "He loved _me_, and gave Himself for
_me_" and His promise was made good to her, "My peace I leave with you."

What strange, still, dream-like days they were which followed till the
end came!  Frederica, standing, in her care for them all, a little apart
from her mother and sister, looked on with wonder.  Selina was doing for
her mother all that she used to dream of doing.  She was comforting,
sustaining, and showing her the way to heaven, which was drawing near.
She did not grudge Selina this joy.  Far from that!  Seeing their
mother's constant peace; seeing the sudden sweet gleams of something
that was more than peace that shone sometimes in the beautiful wasted
face, Frederica was ready to say that nothing else mattered much.  In
the certainty of her mother's blessedness, she wished to forget--she did
forget at times--all else that could trouble her.

"If only papa could come home," she said a hundred times a day to
herself.  To her mother she spoke hopefully and cheerfully of his
return.  The tidings that came mail by mail varied.  Sometimes he was
better, and sometimes worse, and the time seemed long to them all.

"We shall meet again," said his wife often; and once she added, "and we
shall not misunderstand or vex one another any more."  But whether she
meant in this world or in heaven, her children did not know.

So day after day they waited.  Miss Agnace, strong, and gentle, and
patient, with watchful eyes and silent lips, went in and out among
them--an angel of help and kindness.  To her, even more than to
Frederica, the change that had come over the dying woman was wonderful.

"She is no longer the same," said she, in one of her many confidences to
Father Jerome.  "They were reading about `a new creature' the other day.
That is what she has become.  `Old things have passed away, all things
have become new.'  I do not understand it.  Is it well with her, think
you, father?  If at the end you are with her, to lay hands on her and
touch her with the oil of blessing, do you not think it may be well with
her?  It is Jesus on whom she relies.  Is that enough, father?"

"Let us wait until the end," said Father Jerome gravely, and to Sister
Agnace he would say no more.

Nor did he say a word now to disturb the peace of the dying woman.  He
could hardly have done so; for whenever he came he found one or both of
the girls sitting by her side, and they would suffer no word to be
uttered to trouble her.  Indeed, he seemed to have no wish to utter any
such word, and he came but seldom as the end drew near.

His brother was ill again, "failing fast," he told Frederica, when she
enquired.  It was Mr Jerome who did for them all that Mr St. Cyr would
have done, had he been well.  He sent for their brothers when their
mother grew worse.  He was kind and thoughtful for them in many ways,
and said never a word to remind them that he believed them to be all
wrong, or that their mother, dying out of the true Church, was going to
no certainty of rest or happiness.

Did he doubt it?  Who can tell?  He stood beside the dying bed in
wonder.  "A new creature!"  Yes, there was no better word for it than
that.  She was changed.  Instead of the fears, and cares, and anxious
questionings of former days, there was in her heart and in her face "the
peace that passeth understanding," "the joy unspeakable," which is
theirs whom God loves.

"I am not afraid.  `He loved me, and gave Himself for me,'" she said
with difficulty, as he stooped for a moment over her.

Afraid!  No.  There was no shadow of fear on the radiant face turned
towards him, and in his heart, for the moment at least, he acknowledged
that she had no cause for fear.  That there was need or room for any man
to come between this passing soul and the Saviour who loved her, whom
she loved, whom she hoped so soon to behold, could not surely be.  It
was as though she already beheld Him, he could not but acknowledge.  But
looking up, and meeting the gaze of Sister Agnace's asking eyes, he
spoke no such word to her.

"Is she safe?" asked she eagerly.  "Will you let her die unblessed of
the Church? and must she perish?"

But he did not answer.

"May God have mercy on us all," said he solemnly.

"Amen!" said Miss Agnace, crossing herself.  "Is it enough, I wonder?
`He loved us, and gave Himself for us.'  `The blood of Jesus Christ His
Son cleanseth us from all sin.'  That is what these children are always
saying to her and to one another.  And surely she is cleansed and saved.
Ah, well!  I will send at the very last for Father Jerome, and for
Sister Magdalen, and it will be well, let us hope.  It ought to be
enough, the blood of Jesus Christ."

But neither Father Jerome nor Sister Magdalen was with her at the end.
A very peaceful end to a troubled life it was.  Her children were all
there, and Mr and Mrs Brandon.  They thought her dying early in the
afternoon, but she revived again, and spoke to them all, and sent a
message to their father.

"Tell him I shall be waiting for him till he comes.  Are you here,
Frederica?  Write it now beside me, that no time may be lost.  Tell him,
`He loved us, and gave Himself for us.'"

If she spoke after that, they did not catch the words.  They waited on,
hour after hour, and so gently came the messenger, they scarce knew the
moment when she was called.

  "They thought her dying when she slept,
  And sleeping when she died."

Then "a change" came over the beautiful worn face.  Tessie uttered a
startled cry, and Selina laid down her face on the hand growing cold in
hers, Frederica, taking a step toward the door, said, "Now I must go to
papa."  But she would have fallen, had not Miss Agnace put her arm
around her.

Then there were long, long days of waiting.  Awed by the remembrance of
their mother's face, and the unwonted quiet of the house, the little
boys now and then broke into momentary tears, and Tessie gave way
sometimes, and cried bitterly.  Selina comforted them all.  She hardly
realised yet what had befallen her.  She only thought that her mother
was at rest--that the weariness of earth was over, and the joy of heaven
begun, and she said to the others how blessed their mother was now, how
safe, and satisfied, and how she was waiting for them all there.
Frederica listened as the rest did, and watched with grave, attentive
eyes all that was done in preparation for the funeral, but she hardly
ever spoke a word.

So Mrs Vane was carried away from the house where she was born, and
where she had lived all her life.  Her little sons followed her to the
grave, but her daughters remained at home, as is the custom in M. among
people of their class.  They sat silent in the room where their mother
had lain, refusing to leave it till their brothers came home.  Mrs
Brandon was with them, and by-and-by Miss Agnace came and sat down by
the door.  It grew dark, for the days were at the shortest, and it
seemed a long time before the little boys came home.

"And now I must go to papa," said Frederica that night, before Mrs
Brandon went away.  Mrs Brandon looked in perplexity at Miss Agnace,
who whispered,--

"Say nothing to-night.  Look at her eyes and her changing colour.  She
is not fit to be spoken to to-night.  Poor child!  There are weary days
before her."

CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

Miss Agnace was right.  The next day Frederica began with her own hands
the preparations for the voyage she was determined to make, and Miss
Agnace, going up in a little while to her room, found her lying on the
floor, among the garments she had gathered together, quite insensible.
She had come to the end of her strength now.  For the next few weeks she
knew little of what was going on in the house.  Except that Selina was
with her now, as well as Miss Agnace, the days passed very much as they
had done after her father went away.

Tessie went willingly back to school, for Madame Precoe's presence in
the house was altogether distasteful to her.  Madame had taken up her
abode with them, no one knew at whose request or suggestion.  Her stay
gave pleasure to no one.  Mrs Brandon was more than displeased, she was
indignant.  But there was no one to whom appeal could be made.  It was
to be presumed that Mr Jerome was carrying out the plans of Mr St.
Cyr, who was the proper person to act for Mrs Vane's children, and Mr
Jerome approved of Madame's residence with them.  There was nothing to
be done therefore but to wait patiently till their father came home.

The boys were sent to school again within a few days after their
mother's funeral.  Mr Jerome took them away, saying that school was the
best place for them, and so no doubt it was.  The boys went away
willingly, for their home was altogether changed now.

For a good while Frederica was not sufficiently able to notice what was
going on about her, to be unhappy because of these things.  Selina was
constantly saying to herself and her sister, that it would be well with
them, and they need not fear, and she believed it, and Frederica came to
believe it too.

But whether it was to be well with them or not, Frederica knew there was
nothing she could do to help it.  What a poor weak little creature she
felt herself to be!  Even Selina, whom she had meant to care for and
comfort, was stronger than she--stronger and wiser, and more to be
relied on in a time of trouble; and she found it difficult sometimes not
to murmur at her weakness.

She was very weak.  The slightest exertion tired her.  A word brought
tears to her eyes.  She needed quite another kind of discipline than
that which she was getting at the hands of her sister and Miss Agnace,
Madame Precoe hinted to Mr Jerome, and she also hinted what sort of
discipline it ought to be.  But either he did not agree with her, or had
not the power to put her plans in practice, for the girls were left
undisturbed together under Miss Agnace's care.

"Selina," said Frederica one day, after a hint from Madame Precoe, "I
had forgotten how very disagreeable Mrs Ascot used to be.  Her visit
has taken away all the good effect of Miss Agnace's medicine."

"Don't be foolish, Fred dear," said her sister.

"Oh! you did not see her face, or the horrible shrug of her shoulders.
You cannot know.  Has she quite taken possession of us and the house.  I
wonder what her beloved Precoe can do without her!"

"Fred," said Selina, laughing, and kissing her, "you are almost your old
self again.  It delights me to see you vexed with Prickly Polly."

Frederica laughed, partly at the old nickname, and partly at Selina's
way of saying it; for French had always been Selina's language with her
mother, and she spoke English with an accent not at all like the rest.

"But she is not `Prickly Polly' now.  She is not easily offended as she
used to be.  I have not tried certainly; but she has a grand and
satisfied air, as though she had but to speak to put things on a
pleasant footing--for herself at least."

"You must rise, Fred, and sit on this chair.  You are quite well, I am
sure.  She was not ten minutes in the room, and you saw all that."

"Oh!  Selina," said Frederica, with a sigh, "it is very sad to think now
of the days when we were young and had no trouble."

"But then, we are still rather young, are we not?" said Selina gravely.
"And if you remember, there never was a time when we were quite without
trouble.  Always mama was ill, and there were other things sometimes."

"Yes, that is true."

"Mama will not suffer any more, and I am glad for her."

But it was a tearful smile that bore witness to her gladness, and
Frederica broke into weeping as she looked at her sister's face.

"Oh!  Lena!  Lena!" she gasped, "are we never to have her with us any
more? nor papa--"

"Hush, Fred!  Don't cry like that," said Selina, crying herself, but
more gently.  "Think how well she is, and how satisfied.  And papa may
come home; but I don't think he will: I think he will go to mama.  He
has had all this long time to think, and to be sorry.  And Jesus loves
him too.  He gave Himself for _him_."

"Oh!  Lena!  Lena!" was all that Frederica could say.

"And, darling, think how glad mama will be! and nothing shall grieve
them any more.  We shall be with them there; and you may go very soon,
for you are not strong."

Frederica was startled by her sister's words.

"No.  I am not strong: but to die!  Lena, I must not die.  I must live
to take care of you all.  Oh! what a foolish girl I am!  As though I
could do anything!" and her tears fell fast as her sister tried to
soothe her.

"And, Lena, I would not like to die yet, even to see mama.  I am not
good like you."

"Hush, dear.  I think God will let you live to take care of us all.  And
you are not to cry any more to-night.  For indeed, except that you are
weak and tired, there is no cause."

But Frederica was weak in body and mind, and cried herself to sleep, and
Miss Agnace saw with anxiety her flushed wet cheeks when she came in.

"I almost wish she might have her desire, and go away to England," said
she as she stood looking at her.  "She needs something to rouse and
interest her.  But perhaps Madame's plan for her would be best."

"What is her plan?" asked Selina quickly.  "My child, Madame has given
me no authority to speak of any plan of hers.  But I wish there could
come a change of some kind for this poor Miss Frederica."

"She is better, and I don't know why Madame Precoe should take trouble
in making plans for us.  What has she to do with us, or our plans?"

"Nay, my child!  It is not well to say anything in that voice and
manner.  It is not like you.  It will all be well, as you often say.
Why should you be afraid?"

"Yes, it will be well," said Selina, and she thought so still, though
she felt that her sister's eyes were wet beneath her kiss.  "We must
have patience a little while.  It will all be well."

"Yes, it will be well," said Miss Agnace, thinking how Father Jerome had
set himself to the work of saving these children.  Yet she sighed, too;
for she had learned to love them dearly, and she longed that they should
be happy, as well as safe.  If Father Jerome were permitted to have his
will as to their future life, she feared that suffering must come before
the happiness.  She could not help them much, she knew, still she gave
them good counsel, repeated her little legends, and prayed earnestly to
Mary and the saints in their behalf.  In her heart she believed it would
be well with them in the end, and in the meantime she longed to comfort
them and to teach them as well.  So that night, as the young girls sat
in the darkening room a little sad and dreary, with the tears not very
far from the eyes of either of them, she said softly,--

"My children, do you never comfort yourselves and one another by praying
for your dear mother's soul?"

Frederica looked at her in astonishment, not quite free from anger.

"I do not understand you, Miss Agnace," said Selina gently.

"It would soothe and comfort you, would it not, to feel that you might
still do something for your dear mama?"

"We do what we think would please her by loving one another, and caring
for our brothers and Tessie.  We can do nothing more," said Selina.

"Ah! who knows?" said Miss Agnace.  "It is dark beyond the grave."

"The grave is dark, but beyond the grave is heaven.  Do you know what is
said of it, Miss Agnace?  `And the city had no need of the sun neither
of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and
the Lamb is the light thereof.'  Frederica, read about it to Miss
Agnace."

But Frederica made no movement.

"Miss Agnace does not care for the Bible.  Father Jerome is her Bible.
I am glad he is not mine," said Frederica contemptuously; for she was
not pleased with what Miss Agnace had said.  Miss Agnace took no notice.

"We know so little," said she.  "But the Church teaches us that there
are purifying fires through which some, even some of the saints, have
had to pass to heaven.  Every day I pray that if your dear mother is not
yet safe and happy, the time may be hastened."

Frederica uttered an angry cry.

"Nay, but I fear Father Jerome would say all that was wrong--to pray for
the soul of a heretic."

"Fred dear, that is quite wrong," said Selina, but she was herself very
pale.  "If you please, Miss Agnace will not speak of these things on
which we do not think alike.  But, Frederica, it is foolish to be
angry."

"But, my dear children, though we may keep silence, or forget, that will
change nothing.  And the Church teaches no doctrine more clearly than
that some must enter heaven through purifying fires."

"We will not talk about it," said Frederica.

If they had talked all night about it, Miss Agnace could have said no
more.  The Church taught the doctrine--none more plainly--and there were
examples enough, of which she could have told them.

"No, we will speak no more," said Selina.  "Only this, Miss Agnace.
There is a word which you believe as well as we: `The blood of Jesus
Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.'  Now surely those who are
cleansed in this precious blood need no purifying fires.  And there is
nothing else.  The Book of God tells of no other way."

"Yes, I know it is the blood of Jesus.  Still the Church is clear in her
teaching, and it would do no harm to ask.  It might comfort you, and who
knows--?"

"It would be mockery; for we do not believe in it," said Frederica.

"It would be wrong," said Selina.  "It would dishonour the Lord Jesus.
He has done all for His people.  He saves to the uttermost, He needs no
help from purifying fires.  Could any one say, could even David have
said, `Yea, though I walk through the valley and shadow of death, I will
fear no evil, for Thou art with me,' if there had been any danger that
after all he might be left behind?  And the old man told us, `Death is
swallowed up in victory.'"

"The Bible is what we go by," said Frederica, "and we do not mind what
else is said."

"But, dear child," said Miss Agnace, showing no anger, though
Frederica's manner might well have provoked it, "you have not read even
all the Bible carefully; and besides, how can children like you
interpret what is written there?  Indeed, it is because I love you that
I speak of these things."

"We know you love us," said Selina.  "But there is only this to be said:
Jesus died that we might live for ever.  This is for you, and for us,
and for all who believe on Him and love Him.  All other words are vain."

Nothing more was said; but that Miss Agnace was grieved and anxious
about them, they could plainly see.

"Selina," said Frederica, when they were left alone, "did her words make
you afraid?"

"No," said Selina slowly, "I am not afraid."

"But how did you know how to answer her?  I could only be angry.  But we
will not speak about it.  Oh, dear!  I am so tired of Miss Agnace and
her teaching.  I wish--"

"But you like her better than Madame Precoe."

"Much better, but why should we have either?"

"I do not know.  But now we have both, and there seems to be no one
else," said Selina, with a sigh.

"Oh! if papa could only come!  We should have no more of Madame Precoe,
or Father Jerome, or any of them.  Everybody seems to have forsaken us."

"No.  A great many people have called.  But you have been so ill--and
Madame does not care to have even Miss Robina come up.  Oh!  Fred dear,
if you were only quite well again?"

"I shall be well, I am determined.  I shall be equal to Madame Precoe
very soon."

"I do not know why she is here.  We do not need her more than we did
before.  When you are well, you must ask Mr St. Cyr."

"I shall be well I feel quite strong when I think of Madame Ascot
Precoe.  And we can get Tessie home."

"But that is not a very sure strength, I am afraid.  And the best way
will be to wait patiently till papa comes home, or till--"

Selina stopped suddenly, and Frederica, notwithstanding her boasted
strength, burst into tears.  They felt very forlorn and friendless,
these young girls.  There were many in M--who cared for them, and who
would gladly have come to them with help and counsel.  But they seemed
to be under other guardianship.  No offered kindness to them was well
received either by Mr Jerome St. Cyr, or by Madame Precoe.  To the
young people themselves there was little chance of access, and those who
felt kindly towards them had no opportunity of showing their feelings.
Even Mrs Brandon was kept at home by the care of an infant daughter,
and no wonder that they began to feel their loneliness press sadly on
them.

"We can have Tessie home for awhile.  I will write a note to Miss
Robina, and she will let her come.  Then she can read to us, and go out
in the sleigh with you."

The note was written, and Tessie came home, well pleased to be made
useful, and they brightened up a little.  Frederica grew better, and was
soon able to drive with her sisters.  She made several attempts, more or
less successful, to let Madame Precoe see that she was not the mistress
of the house, nor even the housekeeper, as she once had been.  She was
too well bred, and heeded too entirely the peacemaking suggestions of
Selina, to say or do anything to make her aware that she was not
altogether a welcome visitor.  To all appearance Madame was quite
content with her ill-defined position in the house, and willing to be on
the best of terms with them all.  Tessie took less pains than the rest
to be agreeable to her, but Madame would take no offence; and beyond a
suggestion, that it was not wise to have Tessie losing so much of her
time from school, she did not interfere with their arrangements with
regard to her.

But though there was nothing to disturb the outward quiet of the time,
it was a time of trial to them all.  There was in every one of them a
feeling that they were waiting for something--a sense of dread and
doubt, that went deeper than the fear that they might never see their
father again.  Of that there was little hope.  The tidings that came
from him varied with every mail, and did not become more hopeful.  There
never had been much hope that he would be quite well, and now it seemed
doubtful whether he would be able to return home again; and gradually,
as the winter wore away, there fell on them a dread of what might follow
his death to them all.

Mr St. Cyr was still an invalid, quite confined to the house.  They
used to go round that way when they went to drive, and several times
Frederica had made an attempt to see him.  But he was able to see no
one, she was always told: His brother seemed to have taken his place
with them, as far as the guidance of their affairs was concerned; but
they did not trust Mr Jerome as they had been taught to trust Mr St.
Cyr.  He was kind in many ways, granting without hesitation almost all
the requests made to him, and refusing, when he was obliged to refuse,
in a way which ought not to have offended them.  But it was not clear to
them, that he had a right to assume any guardianship or authority over
them, and they made one another unhappy, and sometimes angry, by
discussing his possible motives, and the designs he might have with
regard to them.

If there had been nothing else, the stand he took with regard to Madame
Precoe's residence with them would have made them dislike him.  He said
decidedly, when appealed to, that she must remain.  A family of young
girls in their circumstances could not well be left without some
responsible person to take charge of them.  There was no one so well
fitted for the position as Madame.  Her former residence in the house
made this evident.  Her society was not, it seemed, indispensable to the
happiness of Mr Precoe.  At least, she could be spared, and was willing
to devote herself to their interests.  What complaint had they against
her?

They had no complaints, except that Tessie detested her, and Frederica
did not trust her; but neither the one nor the other could give any
satisfactory reason for the feelings entertained toward her, and she
remained.

She had taken the affairs of the house into her own hands from the very
first.  There were changes made in various respects.  Old servants were
dismissed for reasons which commended themselves to her judgment and the
judgment of Mr Jerome, and she did not trouble the young ladies about
the matter.  Still she was not unreasonable with regard to this, nor
arbitrary, as the priest took pains to point out to them.  For when they
indignantly exclaimed against the dismissal of old Dixen, Madame
certainly did not look pleased, but she did not insist.  Dixen still
kept his place in the house, and came and went at everybody's bidding,
but he was no longer permitted to drive the young ladies as he had
always done before.  It was dangerous in the crowded streets, Madame
said, for Dixen was getting both deaf and blind, and his place was given
to one whom she considered in every way worthy of confidence.

Madame did not trouble herself to answer expostulations or objections.
She did not resent Frederica's but half-concealed distrust, or Tessie's
open impertinence.  Like every one else in the house, she seemed waiting
for something--"biding her time," as Tessie said, and knowing her as
they did, they were hardly to be blamed for looking forward with dread,
and for the determination, daily strengthening, to resist her influence
and interference when the time for change should come.

Miss Agnace was with them still, but she was very grave and silent at
this time.  Any day or hour she might be recalled to her hospital and
her sick people again, and she was sad at the thought of leaving the
children whom she had learned to love so well.  But she was sad for
another reason too--a reason which ought _not_ to have troubled her.
This silent, patient, humble woman, who had long ago forgotten what it
was to have hopes, or fears, or wishes of her own, had her heart stirred
to its utmost depths for the sake of these orphan children.  She was
afraid for them.  And yet, why should she be afraid?  Why should she
look forward with such dread to the change and separation that sooner or
later must come to them?  Were they not to be in good keeping?  Had not
Father Jerome given himself to the work of caring for their souls, of
bringing them into the true Church? thus ensuring their happiness, both
in this world and the next.  They must suffer a little while, being
separated from each other; but with such good and gentle children the
struggle would not be long.  Why should she fear for them?  So blessed
an end would justify the use of any means, and who was she that she
should judge the actions of one like Father Jerome?

But in spite of her confidence in the priest, in spite of her reasonings
and her indignation at herself because of her misgivings, she had
painful sinkings of heart for the children's sakes.  Sometimes, as she
sat listening to their conversation, or watched Frederica writing to
their little brothers letters which would never reach them, because she
knew they must be given by her into Father Jerome's hands, to be read
and smiled at, and put into the fire, she had a feeling of pain and
shame which no confidence in the priest, no belief in the good work he
was to do in the saving of these children's souls, could quite put away.
She knew that, with the will of Father Jerome, the sisters would not
for years see their brothers again.  She knew that into his plans for
them the entire separation of the sisters entered.  It might be best for
them, she acknowledged, but it was very, very sad.

The boys had not been sent back to the school from which they had been
brought at the time of their mother's death.  They were in one of the
great Catholic schools of the city, where hundreds of boys of all ages
and classes were taught.  It was a good school, Miss Agnace believed,
and they would be well taught and well disciplined, and where no evil
could befall them.  It was the best place in the world for them, she was
sure.  But she shrank with a feeling of pain and shame from the thought
that their sisters were being deceived with regard to them.  And if it
was wrong for Father Jerome and Madame Precoe, what was it for her, whom
they loved and trusted, to deceive them?  Many a painful question, which
she could not answer, came into Miss Agnace's thoughts during these days
of waiting--questions which she called sinful--but which she could
neither answer nor put quite away.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

The winter wore slowly away.  The snow was fast disappearing from
mountain and fields, and the streets were growing dirty and uneven, as,
under the influence of the sun in the lengthening days of March, the ice
began to yield, and an early spring was anticipated.

Except for the sunshine, which is usually bright, this is not a pleasant
time of the year in the city of M--.  It is a time for high winds, and
the streets are rough when the frost is strong, and very wet and
slippery when the thaw sets in; and people who are not obliged to go
out, usually keep within doors for a week or two, till the season
advances, and the streets are cleared.  But when, as happens in most
seasons, a heavy fall of snow comes to restore for a day the reign of
winter, few fail to avail themselves of the opportunity to renew the
winter's chief enjoyment.  Sleigh bells tinkle merrily, and the streets
are full of gay equipages gliding smoothly and noiselessly to and fro.

Such a day came after a week of alternate rain and wind and sleet, and
the sisters gladly found themselves speeding away from home and from the
city streets.  The fresh air, the sunshine, and the rapid motion had an
exhilarating effect upon their spirits after the confinement of the last
few days, and the burden of doubt and dread that had fallen on them grew
lighter.  The last English letter had been less discouraging than the
former ones; Frederica was growing better and stronger, and they were
more cheerful and lively than they had been for a long time.  Neither
Madame Precoe nor Miss Agnace was with them, and they amused themselves
with making plans as to what they were to do when their father came
home.  For a long time it had been, "If papa comes home," but to-day
they said cheerfully, "When papa comes home."

"Oh, how glad papa will be to see us all again!" said Frederica.  "And,
Lena and Tessie, I think he must have changed in some things."

"He will be glad to get home, I am sure; but as to his being changed--I
don't know about that," said Tessie.

"He has suffered so much," said Frederica; "and God sends suffering to
do people good.  And besides, Cecilia's letters make me think so."

"And his little letters to us," said Selina.

"Oh! if he were only safe home with us again!" said Frederica.  "This
has been such a long winter, and I am afraid to think of the summer
without papa or any one."

"Any one!  We have only too many people;" and Tessie went on to say
something not at all polite about Madame and Father Jerome, and they
were in danger of taking up their burden again as they came back to the
town.

"Where are we?" asked Selina as the street noises told her they were
near home.

"We are in M--Street, near where the tall poplars are.  They are
building a new house, and the fence has fallen down, and there are a
great many sleighs passing along," said Frederica, as her manner was,
using her eyes for her sister's benefit; and then Tessie went on,--

"And here are school-boys, hundreds of them, I should think.  Listen to
the noise as they pass.  A shabby lot they are.  The Brothers should
dress their boys in uniform--they would look much nicer.  One would
think all the old clothes in the town had been collected for their
benefit."

"Listen," said Selina suddenly, "Some one is calling Fred."

They listened, but amid the jingling of bells and the trampling of feet
nothing was heard.

"It was Charlie's voice.  I am quite sure it was Charlie's voice," said
Selina.

"But Lena dear, it is quite impossible," said Tessie.  "Charlie is far
away."

"It was Charlie's voice.  First he called `Fred,' and then `Lena,
Lena.'"

The horses' heads were turned, and they drove slowly along by the line
of boys.  There was noise enough, laughing, talking, and exclaiming, but
no voice called `Fred' or `Lena.'  When they had passed, they turned
again, and waited as the boys moved on, and both Fred and Tessie eagerly
scanned each face as it came near.  There were all sorts of faces, dark
and fair, handsome and ugly, bright, eager, laughing faces, and faces
stupid, dull, and unhappy.  But the face of Charlie was not among them.

"It was Charlie's voice," said Selina, and nothing could move her from
that.

They went home full of wonder and anxiety.  They told Miss Agnace about
the voice that Selina had heard, but Miss Agnace said nothing.  They
told Madame Precoe, when she came in, and she expressed more surprise
than she needed to have expressed, seeing she had already heard all
about the incident from Louis the coachman, as indeed, she generally
heard of the incidents, and even of the conversations, that attended
their drives, when she was not with them.

By-and-by Mr Jerome came in, and he was interested too, but laughed a
little at Selina's fancy.

"You were thinking of your brother, and imagined the voice," said he.

Selina said nothing.

"Or rather, you heard many voices, and the names were a fancy, or why
should not your sisters have heard them also?  It is nothing to look so
grave about, my child."

"It was Charlie's voice," said Selina.

"And we were not thinking of our brothers, but looking and talking.  And
Selina hears much more readily than we do," said Tessie.

Frederica said nothing.  She was not strong yet, and she was in that
nervous anxious state when nothing in the way of trouble seems
impossible, and she looked pale and unhappy.

"Could we not go to the school and ask if Charlie was among the boys?"
said Tessie.

"We could certainly do that," said Father Jerome, "if it would set your
minds at rest.  Shall we go at once?"

But Madame said the girls needed rest, and they must wait till
to-morrow, or at least till afternoon, and this was acquiesced in by
them all.

Of course, when they went there, they found no Charlie.  They found a
great many boys, who scanned them with sharp, attentive eyes, as they
passed down the long class-room.  They heard them sing and do some of
their lessons, and they saw them file down to the long dining-hall to
their supper of dry bread and pease coffee.  Then they went through
other long rooms, and through the great dormitory, where the little grey
beds stood close together in long rows, and where nothing else was seen.
They went up many stairs, and looked down on numberless city roofs, and
that was all.

Everybody was polite and attentive, and thanked them for coming, and
asked them to come again.  Then Madame Precoe and each of the girls put
a piece of money in the charity box that hung on the wall near the door,
and then they went away.

That was all.  Of course it had been very foolish in them to expect to
see their brother, Fred and Tessie said to one another as they walked
down the stairs; but when they came home and saw Selina's expectant
face, they looked at one another in doubt again.

Madame sat with them that evening, and exerted herself to amuse them and
to withdraw their thoughts from their brother, and from Selina's foolish
fancy about the voice she had heard.  Miss Agnace was rarely with them
when Madame was there, and when she went upstairs with them she would
not linger to talk with them as she sometimes did.

"You are not to listen to them or speak about this foolish fancy, and
they will forget it," said Madame to her.  "In a few days it will not
matter what they know.  But in the meantime they might complicate
matters by discussing their affairs with other people.  And remember,
should any one call when I am out, the young ladies are engaged.  And
should it be impossible to deny any one, remember you must know all that
may be said."

Miss Agnace assented silently.

"And when you go as usual to Mr St. Cyr's, remember you are to say
nothing of this foolish fancy of Miss Selina's.  He could do nothing,
even if he understood; and they will soon be out of his hands, and the
sooner the better for all concerned.  You understand what I wish, do you
not?"

Again Miss Agnace assented in silence.  She was by no means sure how all
this would seem to her, when she should have time to think it over, but
there was nothing to be said.  She was not bound to obey blindly Madame
Precoe's commands, except as they expressed the will of Father Jerome
also; and in the single moment in which she permitted herself to
question, a great many unhappy thoughts rushed into her mind.  And they
would not be put away, even when it became clear to her that for the
plans with regard to the future of these children, and all that they
involved, Father Jerome was responsible.  Madame Precoe was but an
instrument in his hands, as she herself was.  Father Jerome must not be
accused of doing wrong--at least, the end he had in view was right, and
that ought to be enough.

Ought it to be enough?  Poor Sister Agnace had never been in the habit
of deciding between right and wrong for herself, and she was sadly
puzzled now.  It was such a pity, she thought, that it was necessary to
deceive these children for their good.  There would be strong resistance
on their part, she began to fear, to the power that was shaping their
fate.

"And they will suffer.  Oh! how they will suffer?" said the poor anxious
creature to herself.  "But it is for their souls' sake, and their
suffering will only be for this world; and surely, Mary and the saints
will soften their trouble, poor darlings!  Father Jerome must, of
course, be right.  But it hurts me to deceive them, because they love me
a little, and trust me."

She went that night to pay her usual monthly visit to Mr St. Cyr.  She
answered his questions.  She told him no lie, but she kept silence, as
Madame had bidden her, about all that could have awakened the anxiety of
their friend and guardian on their account.  Unintentionally she made
him aware that Madame Precoe was living with them; but he said nothing.

He thanked Miss Agnace for her care of the girls and their mother, and
for her love and faithfulness to them, and expressed a hope that as long
as they should need her, she might be permitted to remain with them.
Poor Miss Agnace!  She went into a church on her way home, and knelt for
a long hour or two in the cold and darkness, but she carried still her
burden of doubt and care when she went away.

A few more weeks passed away.  Frederica said nothing now about going to
her father, for they were not without hope that when the spring came he
might return home.  He longed very much to come, they knew, and they
permitted themselves to hope, almost to believe, that they would see him
again, and waited for his coning with what patience they could command.

Tessie went to school again after the Easter holidays, and they missed
her sadly.  But they both strove conscientiously, not only to be
patient, but to be happy, in the great lonely house that had so changed
to them.  But waiting is weary work to young and eager hearts, and time
passed slowly.

The day for Tessie's first visit came, and they amused themselves making
preparations for her entertainment.  But hour after hour passed, and she
did not appear.  Instead of Tessie, came Madame with her work-basket in
her hand, and with the evident intention of remaining.  It was not a
pleasant prospect, and it is to be feared they were not quite able to
hide their discomfort under it.

"Frederica," said Madame, "pray do not be so restless--so unsettled.
You had much better take your work, and be content to sit still."  But
Frederica could settle to nothing till Tessie came.

"Expect Tessie?  Nay, you need not do that Tessie is not coming home."

"Excuse me, Madame, but it was certainly to-day that we agreed on for
her visit, and Miss Glencairn will be sure to allow her."

"But unfortunately it is not a question of Miss Glencairn's kindness.
It has long been evident that Miss Tessie has got beyond Miss Glencairn
and her little attempts at education; and she has been sent elsewhere--
to the ladies of the Sacred Heart, where you all should have been sent
long ago.  I have no doubt she will be quite happy there.  She will, at
all events, be judiciously dealt with."

Astonishment kept the sisters silent, and Madame went on--

"A most necessary and important step, I consider it.  It is only to be
regretted that so much time has been lost."

Frederica so trembled with indignation, that she could not speak.
Selina made a movement toward her, and holding her hand firmly, said,--

"Remember, Fred, nothing can really harm Tessie, or any of us.  And,
Madame, you will excuse us from discussing this matter with _you_.  It
is painful to us, and it cannot concern you."

"Except as I approve of it entirely.  You do me injustice.  I take the
greatest possible interest in this matter, and in you."

"And who took the responsibility to advise such a step?" asked
Frederica.  "Does Mr St. Cyr know it?  What do you suppose papa will
say?"

"I advised it, and Mr Jerome St. Cyr saw the propriety of it.  Mr St.
Cyr is in no state of health to say anything about such a matter.  As
for Mr Vane--" added Madame, and paused, with a look that sent a chill
to the girls' hearts.  There had no letter come to them by the last
mail.

"What of papa?" said Selina, "Have you heard anything that we do not
know?"

"As to this affair of Tessie?  No, I have heard nothing.  Should he ever
return, he will doubtless recall her, unless she should wish to remain.
I dare say she is quite happy there by this time."

"Fred, love, do not let us vex ourselves.  Tessie is at least quite safe
there.  But, Madame, why was it thought necessary to conceal her going
there from us?  Why did you deceive us?"

"Nay, you forget--I have nothing to do in this affair.  I suppose Father
Jerome feared that you might make yourselves unhappy.  It was for your
sakes that his intentions were not explained to you.  Now that your
sister is there, you must acknowledge that the convent is quite the best
place for her.  At all events, no change will be made now."

Frederica was sick at heart.  If she were to utter the angry words that
rose to her lips, she knew it would do no good.  She knew not what to
do.

"Fortunately, here comes Father Jerome; you may discuss the matter with
him, and I will leave you;" and Madame rose to leave the room.

"At this moment it would not be agreeable to us," said Selina.  "He has
deceived us, and we decline to see him just now."

"What right has he to intermeddle in our affairs?" burst in Frederica;
"a man whom neither our father nor mother ever trusted."

Madame laughed.

"It is as well to decline his visit at this moment.  Later he will, I
think, make you understand his right to meddle in your affairs, and his
power to do so," said Madame, as she left the room.

"Selina, what shall we do?  Selina, I am beginning to be afraid."

"But then you know, dear, nothing can really harm us.  You read it
yesterday--`Who is he that can harm you, if ye be followers of that
which is good?'"

"Oh!  I don't remember, and that may not mean us.  Selina, I am afraid."

"But, Fred, love, it must mean us, I think.  We must not let the promise
go, as though God would change.  Read it, dear--to please me;" and she
put the Bible into her sister's hand.  "And in another place it is said,
`All things shall work together for good to them that love God.'  We
love Him, Fred.  He has been very good to us."

Frederica took the Bible and read,--

"`For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open
unto their prayers.  But the face of the Lord is against them that do
evil.

"`And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is
good?'"

Selina's face grew bright as she listened.

"Fred, love, why should we be afraid?  It is wrong to be afraid."

"Well," said Frederica, with a long breath, "I will not be afraid.  I
think I am more angry than afraid."

"But anger will not help us.  Read what you read yesterday," said
Selina.

Frederica read on to the end of the chapter, and then turned back to the
one before it, the second of First Peter.  They could not have explained
all those beautiful and wonderful words--nay, they knew that most of
them they understood very imperfectly.  But they could take comfort from
them, lingering over a verse here and there, and speaking to one another
words which might not have been very wise, but which were always
reverent and trustful.

"It is `as new-born babes' that He speaks to us.  And babes are neither
wise nor strong.  But He cares for them all the same, and surely we
`have tasted that the Lord is gracious,'" said Selina.

And so she went on to the end.  It quieted them, and they went out to
the garden to get the good of the sunshine, not less cheerfully than
usual.  The faces that the priest caught sight of as they passed were
brighter than he had seen them for a good while.

"See, they have forgotten their troubles already," said he, smiling.
"You are mistaken in thinking they will resist.  Sister Agnace is
mistaken in thinking they will suffer.  They will yield to circumstances
and a strong will.  From whom could they have inherited strength?
Neither from father nor mother."

"Frederica is like the little Jewess her grandmother.  She may have
inherited her strength," said Madame.  "I wish you could have seen her
as I saw her a little while ago."

"Ah, well!  She has forgotten her anger already.  See the little
butterfly flitting about in the garden.  There is nothing to fear from
her."

"I will send Sister Agnace to keep an eye on your butterfly.  It is not
necessary that they should tell their affairs to old Dixen who is
there."

She returned immediately.

"Of what are you then afraid, if not of the `little Jewess'?" asked she.

"There is nothing to fear.  Everything is prospering beyond my hopes."

"And your brother?"

"He is better.  But I do not think he will seriously object to the plans
I have in view for these children.  Indeed, I have no plans for them.
That will be for those who are to be appointed as their guardians.  I
hope to name these guardians.  Cyprien may not agree with me, but still
I think it can be arranged to suit us both."

"And are you sure that their mother and your brother did not appoint
them, even after you found the torn paper on your brother's table?"

"It is impossible.  If indeed there were any guardians legally
appointed, that might make the work I have set myself more difficult.
Other means would have to be used."

"Ah, well!  I doubt if ever you can make a nun of `the little Jewess,'"
said Madame.

"Nothing is farther from my wish than to do that.  Her sister shall be a
nun and a saint, and if by any miracle of science and skill her
blindness may be cured, it shall be so done, that even by that the
Church shall receive honour, and her power be extended and strengthened.
Your `little Jewess,' your `butterfly,' shall be allowed to shine in
society, and to take her fill of the pleasure she tasted last year.  A
few years with the good sisters first will do much for her.  When she is
properly submissive to those who have a right to direct her, she shall
have her own way.  I am not afraid."

"And her brothers: what are they to be?"

"After ten, or even seven years with the good fathers, they shall choose
for themselves."

"And if Mr Vane should return?  It is not impossible."

"It _is_ impossible.  Mr Vane is dead."

"Dead!" repeated Madame.  Even she was shocked at the tidings, or the
suddenness of the announcement.

"I have known it for a week.  Cyprien does not know it yet, but all must
know it soon."

"And have you come to tell these girls?"

"No.  They will probably have letters to-night,--the steamer has
arrived, I see,--and then no time must be lost.  They must not have a
chance to talk over their affairs with all the world, who will come to
condole with them."

"And will you not see them?"

"You forget.  They decline to see me," said the priest laughing.  "I
hope to find them in better humour another time."

Madame did not laugh.

"It is not impossible that all your plans for them may be frustrated
after all," said she.

"For the moment, it is not impossible.  But I shall never, while I live,
give up the hope of making them and their wealth of use to the Church,
and when I die others will take up the work.  There is nothing
impossible.  They, or their children, or their children's children--and
their wealth must be ours."

"There is only God Himself stronger than you and the Church, and these
children believe Him to be on their side."

"They are but children," said the priest, but he frowned darkly at her
words, as he turned to go away.

Madame sat still, looking after him in silence, Mr Jerome's tidings had
moved her more than she would have thought possible.  She sat lost in
painful thoughts till Miss Agnace came in.  She felt that she could not
yet meet the questioning eyes of these orphan girls.

"I am going out," said she, rising hastily.  "If any one calls, the
young ladies are not to be seen."

She went out immediately and Miss Agnace did not follow her to say to
her what she had come to say.

"It will keep.  Perhaps she need not be told," said she to herself.

It seemed that Miss Agnace had not been needed in the garden, or rather
the need for her was past, before she had been sent out.  She met the
girls returning to the house.  They were very quiet but there was some
restrained excitement in their manners, as she remembered afterwards.
They went to their own room, where she had supposed they both remained
till she went to tell them that luncheon was served.  But only Selina
was there.  Frederica had gone to see their sister Caroline, she told
Miss Agnace.

"But my dear, should she not have asked permission, or at least have
said that she was going, or have taken the carriage.  It is not well
that a young lady should go out alone, and she is not strong."

"Of whom should she ask permission?" said Selina coldly.

And so Miss Agnace had gone to let Madame know, as Madame expected her
to let her know everything that went on in the house.  But she had not
waited to hear, and Frederica had been allowed to have her own way.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

Madame Precoe's care in sending Sister Agnace into the garden because of
old Dixen, had been more needed than she supposed, but it came too late
to be of use.  The old man had been busy near one of the walks as they
entered, and he had answered their greeting very briefly.  But as he
stooped again he said hurriedly,--

"She thinks I am blind, but I can see her and the priest at the window
looking out.  Go round to the other side behind the hedge, young ladies
dear, for I have something to tell you."

He worked on for a little while after they had disappeared.  He worked
his way along the walk till he was out of sight of the windows, then
coming close to them he said in a whisper, as though he feared to be
overheard,--

"I have seen the little lads.  Mrs Hearn told me something that made me
think they were at the school with her boys.  I never let on that it was
not all right, and I watched afterwards, and saw them walking with the
rest.  But they do not always walk, and they are well watched."

"I knew it was Charlie's voice," said Selina.

"Oh!  Lena!  Oh!  Dixen!  What shall we do?" said Frederica, clasping
her hands.

"Fred love!  God will take care of them."  But Selina herself grew pale.

"And is it true that Miss Tessie was sent away to the convent without a
word to you two?" went on Dixen.  "I'm sore feared that something must
have happened to the master, or they would never have dared to do that."

"But it cannot be that, Dixen.  For the boys must have been there a long
time.  They were never sent back, I suppose," said Frederica.

"And we have heard nothing from papa for a fortnight," said Selina.

"It does not look well," said Dixen.  "But, children dear, you are not
to fret.  The boys are safe enough.  No harm can come to them.  We are
living in the Queen's dominions, thank God, and evil things can only be
done in secret.  And, Miss Fred dear, you should go to Mrs Brandon, and
tell her about Miss Tessie and the little lads.  And somebody that is
wise in the law should be told.  I would have gone myself, but nobody
would heed such a story from the like of me.  I am sore feared that no
good is meant to you all.  And the priests are everywhere, and have the
means of making men do their will, that we know nothing of.  Only here
they must keep things quieter than in some places.  But don't let them
smuggle you all off without a word.  They will tell you it is your souls
they would save, but it is your grandfather's money they want as well.
And here is that soft-spoken nun coming to hear what I may be saying.
Be sure you go to your sister this very day."

In his increasing excitement the old man used some words that are not
put down, and he went muttering to himself away.

"Here is Miss Agnace," said Frederica.

"We must be very quiet, and let her see nothing.  Let us walk round the
other way to the house," said Selina.

"And I will go to Caroline.  Anything is better than to sit still and
think about it," said Frederica excitedly.

They walked very quietly into the house, and went to their room.

"I will go at once, as Dixen said," and Frederica's preparations were
soon made.

The room where Madame and the priest were sitting looked back upon the
garden, so she got away without being seen.  She had gone but a few
steps, when she heard Dixen's voice behind her.

"You are but weakly yet, Miss Frederica," said he, when she waited for
him, "and I will come with you.  Just you go on without heeding me.  I
will keep in sight.  Can you walk all the way, think you?"

Frederica was doubtful about it.  She was excited, and trembling, hot
and cold by turns.  She was not very hopeful as to any help she could
get from her sister.  She was ill, and her husband was cautious, and not
easily moved, and above all averse to interfere in matters where his
right to do so was not acknowledged.

"And he will say it is Mr St. Cyr that is doing all this--and it is not
impossible," said Frederica, with a new pang of terror.  "But I don't
think he would deceive us.  I will go to the school myself.  I will take
them by surprise, and they will not have time to hide them as they must
have done before, and I will take them away."

It was not a very wise idea.  Dixen shook his head, but Frederica
persisted, and the old man followed her up the street.  But before they
had gone far they heard the hum of many voices, and the long line of
boys came in sight.  Frederica turned into a doorway, and waited till
they passed, scanning each face eagerly.  They were for the most part
bigger boys than her brothers.  She looked in vain for the face of
either of them, and stood gazing blankly after the long line as it
passed down the street.  The gate stood open, and she went and looked
in.  The side door stood open also.

"Dixen," said she hurriedly, "I am going in.  They cannot do me any
harm, and I may see Charlie, or little Hubert."

But this seemed a dreadful thing to Dixen.

"Miss Frederica, I cannot think it would be well to go.  No one knows
what might happen," said he in distress.

"I am not afraid, Dixen.  Yes, I am a little afraid.  But I have prayed
to God, and so has Selina, and He will take care of me.  Wait at the
corner; and if I don't come out in half an hour; you must tell some one,
and come for me."

But she did not keep him half that time.  She went slowly up the steps
and in at the door.  She did not go forward into the wide hall as she
had done when they came with Father Jerome, but turned at once, and went
up a narrow stair, down which the sound of voices came.  Still following
the sound, she came to a room where a score or two of little boys were
amusing themselves.  They did not see her at first, and she stood
watching them for a little while.  She did not see her brothers, but she
called softly several times,--

"Charlie!  Hubert! are you here?"  And as she spoke, a little hand
touched hers, and she turned to meet the wondering eyes of her youngest
brother.  Without a word, she drew him outside of the room, and along
the passage toward the stairs.

"Where is Charlie?" uttered she with difficulty.  "No, we must not look
for him.  I have one safe, and I can come again for Charlie."

It does not sound possible that this should have happened, but it is
perfectly true.  The stairs were passed, and the hall, and they ran
across the yard, and into the street, and no eye had seen them.  At
least, no hand had stopped them.  It would not have been easy to stop
them, Frederica thought; for her courage rose to the occasion the moment
she felt the touch of her little brother's hand.  It was a happy thing
that no one tried.  Dixen rubbed his eyes as they passed him without a
word, but he lost not a moment in following them.  After they had
crossed a good many streets, they paused, and he overtook them.

"Where shall we go?  Not home.  To Mrs Brandon's?  Yes.  And you must
go home and tell Selina.  Go quickly, Dixen, before you are missed."

In her haste she had not noticed the way she was taking.  The streets
were not familiar to her and as she hurried on, hardly daring to speak
to her brother, or even to look at him, she became bewildered and
anxious, and her courage failed a little.

"I am afraid Caroline will think I have been foolish.  And they will be
sure to look in her house, as they will not find him at home.  Oh! if I
only had a safe place in which to hide him for a few days!"

She thought of Mr St. Cyr's house.  But then she was not sure that
their old friend had remained true to them.  And besides, he was ill,
and Father Jerome was often there, and the house was no place for
Hubert.

"A safe place," repeated she, and then there came into her mind the
thought of Mistress Campbell and her garret, where there never entered a
creature, but Eppie herself.  Without a moment's hesitation, she turned
her steps in the direction of Mrs Glencairn's house.

"Hubert dear," said she coaxingly, "you will be very good, won't you,
and stay with Mistress Campbell till I know what I ought to do.  No one
will think of looking for you there."

"But are we not going home?  Why should we not go home?" demanded
Hubert.

"It is quite impossible to-night," said Fred firmly.  "Father Jerome
would have you back at school again this very night.  You cannot go
home."

"Father Jerome?  What has he to do with it?  I don't know what you mean,
Fred."

"Was it not he who took you there, when he should have taken you back to
your former school again?"

No, Hubert thought not.  He did not remember very well about it.  But
Father Jerome had nothing to do with their going to school.  But
Frederica had her doubts about it all the same, and hurried on.

"But we cannot go home, because mama is not there, nor papa.  But Madame
is there, and you may be sure she would not let you even stay one night,
but send you back at once, and they would be sure to punish you for
coming without leave."

"It is you they ought to punish, Fred, I think," said Hubert.

"Ah! wouldn't they.  If they could!  And tell me about about Charlie.
Where was he?"

"But Hubert knew very little about his brother.  They very seldom saw
each other.  They were not in the same class."

"And are they good to you?  Are you glad to come away?"

It was not so, bad as it might be.  Still, Hubert was very glad to get
away.  Some of the boys were not nice, and they had queer ways there.
But of his life there he had no complaint to make.  In the midst of his
talk they reached Mrs Glencairn's house.  They went round to the door
at the wing at which the pupils entered.  They stumbled over a
scrubbing-brush and a pail of water at the open door, but they saw no
one; and went up till they reached the attic unseen.

"Where are we going?" said Hubert, holding fast his sister's hand in the
dimness, of the little passage.  "Into the spider's parlour, I think."

"By no means," said Frederica, as she knocked.  "We are going to see
Mistress Campbell; who used to be so good to Tessie and me when we were
at school.  And you must not look surprised at anything you may see.
And, Hubert dear, you will be a good boy, won't you?"

"Oh, yes, of course.  Why should I not be good?" said Hubert
impatiently.

"Eh, Missy! is this you?" exclaimed the old woman, holding up her hands
in astonishment.  "And this is your wee brother?--a bonny laddie, but--"

Mistress Campbell could not finish her sentence; for, excited and tired
beyond her strength, Frederica burst into tears.

"My bairn! what is it?" said Eppie.  "To think of my folly in speiring
that I after all that has come to you and yours, since we saw you here.
But, my dear, you have no cause to grieve--for your mama--"

Frederica put up her hand to stop her.

"No--I am glad for mama--but--I am frightened--and tired."

"Sit down and rest you, my bairn," said her old friend tenderly.  "Go
away yonder to your window, and I'll make acquaintance with your brother
here--a fine lad he is."

Hubert, though a little startled at the sight of Frederica's tears, had
never taken his eyes from the small brown wrinkled face of the old
woman, and he met her look with an undisguised curiosity and wonder that
amused her.

"Your wee brother, did I say?  No, this must be the elder of the two--
and a fine well-grown lad he is," said Mistress Campbell admiringly.

"No, Charlie is bigger than I am," said Hubert gravely.

"Dear me!  I ay thought Miss Frederica's brothers were but wee boys; but
you have had time to grow, it's true, since I have been in the way of
hearing about you.  You're near hand as big as Miss Frederica herself."

This was not saying very much, but it won the good-will of Hubert,
whether she meant it to do so or not.  And some interesting confidences
followed on his part, in the midst of which his sister found him, when
she recovered herself.

"And you'll bide to your tea with me," said Mistress Campbell.  "I'm
sore failed since you were here, Miss Frederica, but I am not altogether
helpless yet.  So you'll bide still a wee while."

But Frederica was not sure that they ought to stay.

"First, I must tell you why we came," said she.

She told the story hurriedly, and it was doubtful whether Mrs Campbell
followed her closely through it all.  She understood, however, that Miss
Tessie had been "spirited away," as she called it, and that from some
dread mysterious fate Frederica had courageously rescued her little
brother, and that in some way she was relied on for help.

"But I thought the days for such things were long past, and that they
only whiles happen in books," said he wondering.  "But dear! dear!  What
is the like o' me to ken about what is going on in the world?  And one
has but to look out, first at one window and then another, at the great
buildings that are rising up on every hand, to be sure that the `scarlet
woman' has this for a favoured abiding-place.  And I doubt she's no'
much changed since the old days, though her hands are a wee tied.  And
you rescued your brother, did you?  'Deed you're a brave lassie."

But Hubert had no idea of being looked on as rescued.

"If I had known you cared about it, Fred, I could have run away any
time--I could have done it quite easily."

"I'm no' just so sure o' that," said Mistress Campbell gravely.  "If
these long-coated gentry had a motive for keeping you, they wouldna have
let you go, or they would have had you back again."

"Yes, and no one must know where he is," said Frederica anxiously.  "I
could think of no other safe place to bring him to.  And, Hubert dear,
if Mistress Campbell will have you, you will stay here quietly till I
can see Caroline and Mr Brandon, or till papa comes home."

"There has nothing happened to your papa, has there?  They're bold,
these folk, or they're sure o' their ground," said Mistress Campbell
gravely.

"Dixen said that about papa.  But we have had no more news.  We had no
letter last mail."

"Oh well!  No news is good news, they say; and it's utter nonsense to
think that anything can really happen to harm you in a Christian country
like this."

"And in the Queen's dominions, as Dixen said," echoed Frederica
hopefully.

"And I'll keep the laddie safe, though the whole Inquisition were after
him.  That's no' just the name they get here, I daresay; but I'll keep
the laddie, if he'll bide."

"You cannot go home, Hubert dear; for Madame Precoe is there, and Father
Jerome; and though he is so smooth and pleasant, I do not trust him;
and, indeed, I don't know what to do.  Will you stay, dear Hubert?"

"Oh, yes, I'll stay, if you make a point of it.  But there is no danger
for me," said Hubert loftily.

"Did you like staying at the school, my lad?  Were they good to you?"

"At first I did not like it.  Oh, yes, they were kind enough.  They're a
rough lot, however, and I would not like to go back, since Fred objects
to it."

The door opened, and Frederica uttered a cry.  It was only Miss Robina,
however, not one of the servants, as she had feared.  Of course there
were more exclamations, and the story was told again, but the part dwelt
on now was the taking away of Tessie from Mrs Glencairn's, and sending
her to the convent, without even telling her sisters.

"We did not know it till this morning, and I was angry and frightened.
We could have done nothing, even if we had known.  There is no one but
Mr Brandon who has a right to say anything, and he does not like to
interfere with Mr St. Cyr.  But I think that has been done by Mr
Jerome and Madame Precoe, and not Mr St. Cyr.  I should be in despair
if I thought Mr St. Cyr had turned against us."

"Have they heard that Mr Vane is worse?" asked Miss Robina anxiously.

Frederica turned pale: "They all ask that.  Dear Miss Robina, do you
think he is really worse.  What must we then do?"

"My darling, don't be troubled.  No harm can really come to you.  It is
not to be believed.  Have you seen Mr St. Cyr?  He is a man of high
character.  He will do nothing wrong--nothing unlawful, surely."

"He has been ill.  They thought him dying.  I have not seen him for a
long time.  Oh! if papa would only come home!  No, I am not going to
cry.  But I am tired, and--yes--I am afraid."

"When had you your dinner?" asked Mistress Campbell gravely.  Frederica
laughed.

"I don't know; I don't think I had any."

"And no wonder you are faint-hearted.  Just you lie down and rest you,
and you will be another creature when you get your tea."

But Frederica was too excited and anxious to rest.  She enjoyed her tea,
however, and so did Hubert.  He had evidently not been used to dainty
fare of late, and he yielded to Mistress Campbell's entreaties to eat,
with entire willingness and enjoyment Fred found her strength and
courage renewed when she rose to go.  "I will come again soon, if I am
not carried away too," said she laughing.

"My dear, it is no laughing matter," said Mistress Campbell gravely.
"May the Lord preserve you all?"

"He will, Selina says.  She is not afraid.  Selina is better than I am,"
said Fred humbly.

"But then it's no' our deserts we are to lippen to.  You'll be cared
for, never fear.  He'll give His angels charge, and He'll no' leave it
altogether to them either.  He'll raise some one up to take the orphan's
part."

Miss Robina promised to come and see her soon, and bring her tidings of
Hubert, who was already so sound asleep, that he could not be awakened
to say good-bye; and somewhat reassured and comforted, Frederica went
away.

But how lonely and friendless she felt, as she went down the familiar
street!  By some association, which it would not have been easy to
trace, there came back to her the remembrance of their unexpected
holiday at Easter.  Oh, how long it seemed, since these two happy
children had gone dancing down the street!  How light-hearted they had
been! how fearless of all possible evil!

At the corner of the street down which she and Tessie had run to avoid
the chance of meeting Mrs Ascot, she paused a moment.  Could it be
possible that their old friend who had been so kind to them that day,
should have turned against them?  She remembered how he had walked on
with them, and the promise he had made to help her if ever she were in
trouble.

"And he did help me ever so many times.  I cannot believe that he knows
all that is making us unhappy and afraid.  I will go and see him now."

In a minute she was standing on the steps that went down to the wide
door of the house.  It was not open as she had found it once before,
when she came to him with her troubles.  But when it opened at the sound
of the bell, she gave the servant no time to say as usual, that her
master could see no one; but passing her softly and quickly, sprang
upstairs like a bird.  It was still quite light out of doors, but the
passage was dark, and so was the room into which she went.  There was a
fire in the grate, however; and before she saw Mr St. Cyr, she saw his
shadow on the wall, and paused a moment to get breath.  Then as she
heard a footstep at the door, she came forward.  Mr St. Cyr must have
been asleep, she thought, for at first he looked at her in a wondering
way, as though he did not know her, and she therefore hastened to speak.

"Are you better, Cousin Cyprien?"

"It is not Theresa--is it?" said he, with little pauses between the
words, as though he did not find it easy to utter them.

"Not Theresa, but Fred.  Are you better, cousin?"

"Ah! my little cousin--who comes to me--in her trouble--but who does not
come to me in mine."

"I have been here often, but you were too ill to see me, they said
always.  Are you better now?"

"Yes--I am better, I think.  Once they told me--I was dying--" He
paused.

"And were you afraid, Cousin Cyprien?" said Frederica, looking with awe
into his changed face.

"Was it fear that I felt?  There was fear, and a thrill of something
that was not fear.  Now--I said--I shall know the mystery of death--and
the beyond."

"Cousin, mania was not afraid.  Even at the last, when death was very
near, she was not afraid, because--"

In her earnestness she had knelt down beside the old man; and now, as
her voice failed, she laid her face down on his knee.  His trembling
right hand was laid on her head.

"So--she has gone!  She has solved the mystery."

"Did you not know, Cousin Cyprien?  Did not Mr Jerome tell you?  He
feared to grieve you."

"Doubtless--it was for that or for some other good reason.  I am glad I
did not die."

"But mama was not afraid, after she knew how Jesus loved us and came to
die for us."

"Tell me of your mother, and the end."

"She was not afraid," repeated Frederica.  "Miss Agnace was afraid for
her, and Mr Jerome and Sister Magdalen came often, and told her many
things she ought to do.  But she was never afraid, after the old man
told us how `the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all
sin.'  It is in the Bible, you know, and God taught her, I think God and
Selina.  And it is for us all--the blood of Jesus--for those who think
as Miss Agnace does, and you, and all of us.  Selina will tell you.  May
I bring Selina, Mr St. Cyr?"

"Tell me about your mother," said he.

Frederica told him about how afraid her mother had been, and how she
longed to know the way to heaven.  And then she told how she had brought
the old man in from the storm, never thinking what wonderful things he
was to tell them, and how after that her mother was at rest.  She told
him how she had grown weaker, so slowly that they could see no change in
her from day to day, and how calm and peaceful she was through all the
time.

"Not even the thought of leaving us alone, when we feared papa was
dying, made her unhappy; for she said, `God will take care of my
children, against all who would do them harm.'  And so He will," added
Frederica earnestly; and as she raised her eyes, they fell on the face
of Mr Jerome, standing in the shadow of the door.  She rose hastily.

"Must you go?  Sit by me for a little while," said her old friend.

The door closed softly, shutting out the priest, as she believed, and
Frederica sat down at the old man's feet again.

"Does the time seem long, Cousin Cyprien?" asked she.

"It seemed long in passing, but to look back on, it seems like a blank.
I must get strong again.  Is your father dead too?"

"Papa!  Oh, no!  He was better when we heard last, but it is a long time
now.  You have not heard that papa is worse?"

"I have heard nothing, and I can do nothing.  Why have you come to-day?
Is it because of some new unhappiness?  Madame Ascot is with you, I
hear.  Are you unhappy, my child?"

Frederica paused a moment before she answered.

"Mama is gone, and papa, and sometimes we are afraid.  But I did not
come because of Madame.  I thought that you had forgotten us, and I came
to see.  I am not afraid now that you are getting well."

"Ah! we will trust so.  And have you nothing to tell me?--no trouble to
be helped through?"

"No," said Frederica thoughtfully.  "I will wait till you are quite well
again, and then I will tell you all.  And will you tell Babette that we
may come upstairs--Selina and I?  I may bring Selina, may I not?"

"By all means, and I will warn Babette, you may be sure.  Must you go
how?"

"It is growing dark, I think.  Yes, I must go.  So good night, Cousin
Cyprien."

"Are you alone?  My child, it is not well for you to be alone in the
street at this hour."

"It was not dark when I came.  It is only a little way.  I am not
afraid."

"Well, be sure and come again.  Good night, my child."

"I will see Miss Vane safely home, I have something to say to her," said
a voice from the darkness.  Frederica with great difficulty suppressed a
cry as Mr Jerome stepped forward.

"Is it you, my brother?  Ah, well, she need not be in haste, though it
is growing dark.  You will see her safely home."

But Frederica bent hastily over Mr St. Cyr's hand.

"Good night, Cousin Cyprien.  I do not fear the dark," said she; "but I
do fear Mr Jerome," added she, in an undertone, as she sprang out of
the room and down the stairs.  She sped along the street like one
pursued by an enemy.  But Mr Jerome did not follow her across the
threshold.  He lingered a moment, looking out after her, and then went
up through the darkness to his brother's room.

"And so Theresa St. Hubert is gone!" said Mr St. Cyr, as he entered the
room, which was no longer dark.

"Yes," said his brother; "she is gone, and so is her husband."

"Dead!  His daughter does not know."

"No.  Why tell her sooner than needful?  He, at least, is no loss to his
children."

"And yet they loved him, and they ought to know."

"They will be told when the right time comes."

"There will be much to do.  There are many documents relating to their
affairs that must be looked over and arranged, and I have still so
little strength."

"My strength is yours in their cause;" said Mr Jerome.

"Brother," said Mr St. Cyr, "why did you not tell me of poor Theresa's
death?"

"Did I not tell you?  Did not Sister Agnace?  You were too ill at that
time to be told, I suppose.  Or you have forgotten.  Your memory fails
you at times, I fear, my brother."

"It may be," said Mr St. Cyr, after a moment's thought.  "And yet I
think I should not have forgotten this."

"There is no time to be lost in the settlement of their affairs, you
must see," said Jerome.

"No, certainly."

"There must be guardians appointed."

"They are appointed."

"In your illness, having to act for them, I examined such papers
relating to their affairs as I had access to.  I found none having
reference to what was to follow the death of their mother.  None entire,
I mean.  Was there not to be some change? some new choice?  I found some
torn morsels of paper, a cancelled instrument of some sort.  It is quite
as well.  The court will be happier in the selection of guardians than
that unhappy woman was."

"There are guardians appointed!" repeated Mr St. Cyr.

"You have forgotten.  Your illness has impaired your memory.  There was
to be a change of names.  The former appointment was set aside.  You
yourself must have had some knowledge of it.  You have forgotten."

Mr St. Cyr looked at his brother with a strange emotion visible in his
face.

"My brother, you are not glad of my weakness, are you?  Have patience
with me.  I _am_ weak."

"That is easily seen.  Yes, I will be gentle with you, but I must be
faithful too: your weakness shall be helped and shielded by my
strength."

"Yes, but not to-night.  I am tired to-night," said Mr St. Cyr, leaning
back wearily in his chair.

"You shall not be troubled.  See, I have thought of the men whose names
are written here, and at an early day I shall see the judges as to their
legal appointment.  And you shall not be troubled.  If you are not
satisfied with my suggestions, of course you are at liberty to make what
change in the names you please."

"But their mother, by my advice, appointed their guardians in the manner
prescribed by Mr St. Hubert's will; and nothing can supersede that
appointment, you are aware."

"If any trace of such an instrument is to be found," said Mr Jerome.

"It is to be hoped it is to be found, or it may go badly with some of
us," said Mr St. Cyr gravely.

"As to that I cannot say.  But the court, under your direction and mine,
can do all that is necessary, without reference to documents of doubtful
justice."

"The appointment must stand as it is," said Mr St. Cyr impatiently.

"It is time you were retiring, is it not?  You seem tired.  Shall I help
you?"

"Thanks, I am not inclined to go yet."

"Still I think you had better go.  I shall speak to Babette, shall I
not?"

There was no reply; and he left the room.  Listening intently to his
receding footsteps, Mr St. Cyr rose with difficulty, and holding by the
furniture, crossed the room to the cabinet in which Frederica, on her
first visit, had seen so many beautiful and curious things.  From a
hidden compartment in one of its sides, he drew forth several papers,
and looked eagerly and attentively over them.  He had only time to
replace them and return to his seat, before his brother came in again.

"Your fire is bright in yon chamber.  My brother, I entreat you to allow
me to assist you thither, before I leave.  I cannot divest myself of a
feeling of responsibility with regard to that foolish young girl
lingering in the street at this unseemly hour.  I must see that she is
safe at home.  And I must hasten."

"Thanks," said Mr St. Cyr, rising meekly.  "You are most kind, but pray
do not stay.  Babette can do all that is necessary for me.  I fancy
myself better to-night."

"Better," repeated his brother, as he went down the stairs.  "I do not
see it.  For the present it is not necessary that you should be better.
I can do your work for you, better than you can do it yourself.  I have
succeeded beyond hope--unless indeed, by some unimaginable chance, there
should exist such an instrument as Cyprien asserts.  Even then something
might be done to put matters right, should I, and not Cyprien, guide
them.  We shall see."

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

Frederica reached home excited and breathless, and sat down to rest for
a moment on the steps, before she went in.

"Miss Frederica--Thank God," said old Dixen, coming out of the shadow
where he had been waiting for the return of his young mistress in great
anxiety.

"All right, Dixen--only I am so tired, I cannot tell you about it now."

The hall door opened, and Miss Agnace came out.  She, too, was watching,
it seemed.  Dixen fell back into the shadow again.

"My child, is it you?  Where have you been?  Not at Mrs Brandon's, for
she has been here.  We have been in such terror for you."

"You need not have been," said Frederica.  "Where is Selina?  No, Miss
Agnace, I am not going in there, for I am very tired."

She paused a moment at the foot of the stairs, looking up.  A kind,
half-familiar face looked down on her from above.

"Is it Col. Bentham?" said she, going up slowly.  "And papa has come.
Oh! papa! papa?"

Was it her father's face she saw?  It was such a face as her father's
might have been in his youth, a nobler and better face than his had ever
been to her knowledge, though no such thought came into Frederica's mind
as she gazed.  And who was this beside him, looking at her with Selina's
eyes, smiling on her with Selina's smile, and calling her sister?
Frederica grew pale, and trembled more and more.

"Lena," she faltered.  "Lena, is it that I am going to be ill again? or
am I dreaming?"

"Fred love," said Selina, putting her arms around her, "it is our elder
brother Edgar, who has come, and our sister Cecilia, and poor papa--"

But Frederica heard no more, for there was a mist before her eyes, and a
buzzing in her ears, and by-and-by she found that Miss Agnace was
bathing her face, and Selina was holding her hand, with a pale anxious
face.  Then she heard a strange voice say,--

"She must drink this, and go to bed at once and no one is to talk to her
to-night."  And that was almost the last thing she knew, till she awoke
next morning with the sunshine on her face.

It was well that the rest of the night came before the excitement of the
day that awaited her.  For poor Fred had yet to be told that she would
never see her father on earth again.  Col. Bentham told her first, and
then her sister Cecilia told her about his last days; and as she
listened, Frederica's thought was--

"Now he is with mama, and nothing will ever happen to make them grieve
one another any more."

This thought softened her grief, and made her tears flow gently, as
Cecilia went on to tell how sorry he had been about some things; and how
he had longed to return to his children and their mother, when it was no
longer possible to do so; and how unwillingly he resigned himself to the
sad necessity at last.

She told them how his restlessness and impatience went away, and a great
change came over him towards the end.  He longed to live for his
children's sake, but he ceased to be afraid of death, nay, he welcomed
the messenger of the King as he drew near.

"Papa must have known all along what mama only learned towards the last,
that Jesus died to save His people," said Selina.  "Was it that which
made him not afraid?"

"He learned it in a new way as he lay upon his bed," said Cecilia.  "It
was that from which he took comfort at the last.  Many a time he said to
me, he had nothing else in which to trust."

"And, Fred love, we must not grieve too much.  Think how glad mama must
be to see him there," said Selina.

All this, and more, was told on that first Sunday morning, but Frederica
was not told that day that they had brought her father's body home.
Careless as he had in the old days been about all that did not minister
to his own pleasure, in the time of suffering his heart turned with
longing unspeakable to those he had left behind, and strange to say, he
had entreated to be taken back, to be laid by the side of the wife he
had too often neglected and forgotten.  And so they had brought him
home.

"And did papa ask you to come and take care of us?  It was very good in
you to come."

"Col. Bentham came to take care of you, and Edgar is to help him.  My
husband and I came because we wished so much to see you, and because we
hoped we might have you home with us for a little while.  But that will
be decided later."

Frederica had not spoken all this time.  She was afraid if she said a
word she would break into tears and sobs beyond her power to stay, as
had happened once or twice before.  But when their brother Edgar came
in, she gave a cry, and clasped her sister's hand.

"He is so like papa," she uttered faintly.

"Is he?" said Selina.  "I have not seen him yet."

She took her brother's hand, pressing her own small fingers softly and
rapidly over it, and then over his face and hair.  "Is he like papa?"
asked she doubtingly.

"Like, and yet not like," said Cecilia, and Frederica said the same.
But neither of them said that the likeness was of features only, or of
expression.

"Are you better?" asked he of Frederica.  "Do you know that it was I who
prescribed for you last night?"

"Are you a physician?" asked she.

"I hope to be one some day.  Indeed, I am one already, in a way.  I am
going to take you into my special care, till you are the rosy little
girl we used to hear of long ago."

Frederica shook her head sadly.  "I am quite changed.  I never used to
know what it was to be tired.  Now I can do nothing, and I am so
foolish, that the least thing makes me cry.  I am quite ashamed."

"But all that is to be changed now that I am come to take care of you.
You will soon be well and strong again."

And so they talked on, till they were on friendly and familiar terms
with each other; and Frederica, reassured and comparatively cheerful,
was able without undue excitement to make the acquaintance of Cecilia's
husband, when later he and Col. Bentham came in together.

"Fred love," said Selina, "tell them about Charlie and Hubert."

"Ought I, Selina? must I?  I am afraid everybody will think I have been
very foolish--perhaps wrong."

"We were alone, and frightened," said Selina.  "And there was no one to
tell us what we ought to do."

"Of course, if we had known that you were all coming to take care of us,
it would not have mattered.  We could have waited; but we did not know,"
said Fred deprecatingly.

And then the story was told, partly by one, and partly by the other, how
startled they had been when Selina had heard Charlie's voice calling to
her in the street.  They told of their visit to the school out of which
the long procession of boys had come, with Madame Precoe and Father
Jerome, and how the people there had been so polite and kind, and how
they had put all thoughts of the boys being there out of their minds,
till Dixen had told them yesterday that he had seen one of them in the
long procession of boys again going up the street.

"Was it yesterday, Lena?  It seems a long time ago, since Dixen spoke to
us in the garden."

"And the foolish part of the matter is yet to be told," said her
brother.

"Then Fred ran away to tell Caroline.  But she did not go there, and I
only know that she told Dixen it was `all right,'" said Selina.

"It was foolish, I suppose, but then I did not know what else to do."

They listened to the account she gave them of little Hubert's `rescue,'
with mingled astonishment and amusement, at a loss, when all was told,
to decide whether Fred had been very brave or very foolish--inclined
rather to agree with the child himself, that no "rescue" had been
needed, yet admiring the courage which had accomplished it, and the
modesty which deprecated blame rather than claimed admiration for what
she had done.

"I daresay Hubert thinks himself a prisoner now, and that he needs to be
rescued much more than he did before," said she doubtfully.

"But, indeed, if you knew how anxious and unhappy we had sometimes been
about some things, you would not call us altogether foolish," said
Selina.

"And it came so suddenly upon us.  First we heard that Tessie had been
to the convent, and then Dixen told us he had seen Charlie, and then I
went away."

"But who has taken the ordering of all these matters?" said Col.
Bentham.  "Where is the responsibility?  Mr St. Cyr must have known the
wishes of your father and mother with regard to these children."

"It was not Mr St. Cyr," said Frederica eagerly.  "At least, I don't
think it was he.  That was worst of all when we thought that he had
turned against mama's wishes, because he had always been so kind to us
before.  But last night I went to see him."

"What! more adventures!" said Edgar.  "You went to beard another lion in
his den?"

"Oh!  I have been there before.  But he has been very ill this winter,
and they would not let us in.  But last night I did not ask leave.  I
ran upstairs and into the room where he was sitting."

"And was he glad to see you?" asked Selina eagerly, "and did you tell
him about Tessie and the boys?"

"No, Lena.  He looked so changed and weak, I could not ask him.  Was I
very foolish?  But then I am quite sure he knew nothing about them.
And, Lena, he did not know about mama, though it was so long ago--Mr
Jerome had not told him."

"And was he very kind still?"

"Very kind, and he asked about papa, and said he hoped he would come
home soon.  And he asked about mama--and by-and-by I saw that Mr Jerome
had come in, and then I came home."

"And now it does not matter since you have all come to take care of us,"
said Selina.

That their coming would put an end to all cause for apprehension in the
settlement of these children's affairs, did not seem by any means
certain to those who listened.  However, nothing was said to lessen
their confidence.  Nothing could be certainly known till Col. Bentham
should see Mr St. Cyr, and as the arrangements for Mr Vane's burial
must be made at once, he determined to lose no time in visiting him, and
Edgar Vane went with him.

The interview was necessarily short, but it made Edgar quite sure that
Mr St. Cyr knew nothing of the change of arrangements for the children
after their mother's death.  He spoke as though he supposed the boys to
be at a distance, and requested Mr Jerome to take the necessary steps
for bringing them home.  Mr Jerome assented at once, but said very
little during their stay.

"I wish I could be as sure of his good faith as I am of Mr St. Cyr's,"
said Edgar, when he spoke to his sisters about it afterward.  "However,
it signifies little to us, as now he need have little to do with their
affairs."

"But did he say nothing about the boys being in town when you spoke of
their coming home?" asked Mrs Brandon.

"Nothing--and we said nothing to him.  But I cannot help wondering what
he will say, when little Hubert shall not be forthcoming to-morrow."

"I confess I should like to see that man put to confusion, if such a
thing were possible," said Mrs Brandon.

"Which is doubtful," said her husband.

"Still, he will have to account for his non-appearance in some way,
which will be rather difficult, I imagine," said Edgar.

But Mr Jerome was not destined to be put to confusion by the
non-appearance of little Hubert; for, as they were speaking, he walked
in among them.

"You did not come for me, Fred, as you promised.  And I thought your old
woman had had enough of me, and so I came away," said he.

Mr Jerome had no account to render to any of them.  Whatever he said on
the subject was said to Mr St. Cyr, not that he considered it necessary
to give an account of his actions even to him.  He was accountable only
to a tribunal, which would acquit him of all wrong-doing in the matter.
He uttered some angry and bitter words, because of his brother's
weakness and folly, where poor Mrs Vane and her children were
concerned.  The children were, in his opinion, in a fair way to be
ruined.  The only hope for them, both for this world and the next, lay
in the proper choice of guardians.

"And for you to tell Colonel Bentham, even before he alluded to the
subject, that he was one of the three persons charged with the
responsibility of their future welfare was monstrous.  If any instrument
appointing him to this office exists, you should never let it see the
light.  I do not believe it exists.  It is one of the many dreams of
your illness.  Why did you not produce it to-day, if it is here?"

"It will be produced at the right time.  I scarcely think you know what
you are counselling, my brother," said Mr St. Cyr, gravely.  "I could
not, without committing a villainy, do as you bid me do in this."

"I will take the responsibility.  You are not capable of deciding such a
question.  Your illness has weakened your mind, as well as your body.
You will be wise to let yourself be guided by me!"

"You forget we did not agree about this thing before my illness.  I am
weak, I know, but I am not weak enough for your purpose.  And my
yielding would avail nothing.  The business is known to others, as well
as to me."

Mr Jerome gave him an evil look.  Mr St. Cyr was much weakened by his
illness, and a terrible thought, that he was not safe in his brother's
hands, came into his mind, and showed in his face.

"The business is now in other hands," said he feebly.

"I do not believe you," said Jerome, restraining himself with a great
effort.  The look of terror in his brother's face shocked him.  The
tacit accusation was an awful one, but that it was not altogether
unjust, he could not but acknowledge.  For in his heart at that moment
he was saying, "If Cyprien had died, all might have been made to go
well."

"A further discussion of this subject can do no good now.  But I warn
you that whatever can be done to save these children and their wealth to
the Church shall be done.  It is not I who say it.  A power which it is
impossible to defeat or circumvent, stands pledged for a successful
issue.  It will be wise for you to yield before a heavy hand is laid
upon you."

"An idle threat," said Mr St. Cyr.

"No threat, my brother.  That power, as you know, never yields.  Its
triumph is certain.  It may come to-morrow, or ten years hence, or
twenty, but ultimate triumph is certain."

"An idle threat," repeated Mr St. Cyr.

And probably it was only a threat.  If anything was done to bring into
the life and destiny of these children the change which Father Jerome so
earnestly desired, it was done in secret, and it failed.  If the
"power," with whose heavy hand he had been threatened ever touched him
to his hurt, Mr St. Cyr never complained of it, or revealed it.
Certainly he never yielded to it, in the matter of the trust which Mrs
Vane had given him.

With more promptness and decision than he might have considered
necessary had he been in perfect health, or had the circumstances been
different, he transferred to the guardians whom the mother had appointed
for her children, all the responsibility which their acceptance of the
office involved.  The responsibility was not a light one, but it was
assumed cheerfully and faithfully, and successfully borne; and as yet no
harm has come, either from Father Jerome, or from the power he serves,
to Mrs Vane's children.

But all this took time, and of the details they who were most interested
in the matter knew nothing, and thought nothing, except that it was a
happy thing for them that to Colonel Bentham, and not to Father Jerome,
the arrangement of their affairs had been committed.

Tessie came home from the convent none the worse for her fortnight's
seclusion.  For a little while his sisters found that the same thing
could not be said of Charlie.  Poor Charlie had rebelled, and had been
hardly dealt with, though he said little about it for a time.  Into his
eyes came now and then the look, half-deprecating, half-defiant, which
they have who are only learning to yield obedience to the government of
a strong hand and will, which no love softens.

He had gone into the strange uncongenial world of the great school, with
his heart sore with the thought of his mother's death, and angry with
the suspicion that he who had brought them there had done so less for
their good than for his own pleasure; and, child though he was, he
suffered terribly.  Grief, and home sickness, and disgust at many things
which now became part of his daily experience, made him irritable and
rebellious, and would have made him difficult to manage anywhere else.
There the "strong hand" touched him, and a few months longer of the
discipline he underwent would doubtless, in all things, have moulded him
to the will of those who taught and governed him.  As it was, those at
home believed that he had come back to them none too soon for his good.

As for Tessie, though she indignantly resented having been taken away
without her own consent, she had nothing to complain of with regard to
the treatment she had received.  Indeed, she had been flattered and made
much of by all with whom she had come in contact, and doubtless would,
in time, have yielded with passable grace to the necessity of
submission, and contented herself with her circumstances.  But she was
glad enough to find herself at home again, and to make the acquaintance
of their elder brother and sister, whose coming was as joyful an event
to her, and as unexpected as it had been to them all.

CHAPTER NINETEEN.

The brothers followed their father to the grave, and the sisters sat at
home waiting, as they had done when their mother was carried away.  But
this time Cecilia was with them, and that made a wonderful difference.
She read with them the beautiful burial service of their Church, and
comforted them sweetly with words which were not her own, showing them
how they, being fatherless and motherless, could claim in a new way the
love and care of their Father in Heaven, because of His promise to the
orphan.  There was no room for fear, or even for doubt, in their future,
she told them, because of this; and it was the easier for them to
believe it, and rejoice in it; coming from her loving lips.

Before they saw the graves of their father and mother, they were
beautiful with soft green turf and the fairest of spring flowers.

They all went there together, on one of the loveliest and last of the
April days; and though their tears fell fast for a little while, there
was no bitterness in them; and the elder brother and sisters, sitting a
little apart, saw smiles on their faces before their tears were dry.

"It is all past for them," said Frederica; "the troubles of their life,
I mean.  And now mama is as strong and well as the other happy people up
there, and not anxious or afraid any more."

"And papa is satisfied, and does not mind things now, I suppose," said
Tessie.  "For my part, I cannot think what heaven is like."

"Jesus is there, we know," said Selina, "and that is enough."

"Yes, I suppose so.  But still mama must have been glad to see papa
coming in through the gate.  But, as Tessie says, we cannot tell what
heaven is like, or how it seems to them there."

"Jesus is there," repeated Selina, "and they are like Him.  `And there
shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying;' and they shall go
no more out.  We know a little, Tessie dear, I think."

"But I cannot think of mama being quite happy without you, Lena.  And
has she forgotten us all, do you think?"

"She knows that I shall be coming by-and-by," said Selina, with a smile,
wonderful for its sweet content.  "Yes, and all of us--`to go no more
out.'  She will not think the time long, we may be sure of that.  And I
shall _see her face there_?"

"If mama could have known about Cecilia and Edgar, and how good they
would be to us, before she went away."

"Papa knew," said Tessie, "and he will tell her."

"And, Fred love, mama was not afraid for us at the last," said Selina.
"She did not know that they would care for us and love us, but she knew
that Jesus would; and I daresay He has told her about our brother and
sister also."

"And we needn't fret about Madame Precoe or Father Jerome any more,"
said Tessie.

"No; but we will not speak of them _here_," said Selina gently; "and we
need not be afraid of anything any more."

By-and-by there was a little movement among them, and then the others
heard Selina say,--

"Tell me about it, so that I may know the place where they lie."

So one told her one thing, and one told her another, about the lonely
spot where the two graves were side by side.  Tessie told of the green
turf and the lovely flowers that covered them, and of the budding trees,
and the dark shadows which the evergreens made, and the many, many
graves and white monuments that could be seen.  And then Frederica told
her of the far-away view, of the great level over which they could look
to the river and the hills beyond.  And they both said how peaceful the
place was, and how fair and sweet, till Selina smiled, saying,--"_I_
think I can see it all now."

"And, please God, she shall see it yet as clearly as it lies before us
all," said Edgar softly.

"Do you mean it, Edgar?  Can such a thing be possible?" said Mrs
Brandon in amaze.

"Please God, she may yet see," said the young man gravely.

"Ah I do not disturb the sweet quiet of her heart by a hope that may
never be realised," said Cecilia.

"By no means at present," said her brother; "there is no need for that."

"It would be a miracle," said Mrs Brandon.

"A miracle of science and skill," said Edgar.  "We will not speak of
this to her, or to any of them, yet; but I cannot but hope that she may
see, even before she enters the city by the gates of pearl."

After that they had a very quiet summer.  Madame Precoe went home to her
own house, and they did not see her very often.  But Miss Agnace was
allowed still to remain with them, and the affairs of the household went
well and smoothly in her hands.  Mr Jerome they never saw, for he had
been sent on a mission to a distant city, and they only heard of him now
and then through Mr St. Cyr; but they were none the less happy that he
was away.

Mr St. Cyr did not grow strong very fast.  It was, indeed, doubtful
whether he would ever be very strong again; and so all through the
summer he was making arrangements to give up his business for a while
into the hands of his partner, and he purposed to take a long holiday,
to go to Paris, where he had not been since he was a young man, and
perhaps to Rome, where he had never been.  But he found time, amid all
his preparations, to come often to see the young people; for he still
considered himself their guardian, and in a certain sense responsible
for their well-being.  And besides, he loved them dearly, and they
trusted him, and depended on him as they had always done, and loved him
better every day.

Edgar and young Mr Bentham, Cecilia's husband, had much to do, and many
places to visit, before the time set for their return to England, and
sometimes Cecilia went with them.  But it generally pleased her best to
stay quietly at home with her young sisters, and it pleased them also.

It was a very quiet summer, but it was a very busy one.  For it had been
decided that when their elder brother and sister went back to England,
they should all go with them; and there was much to be thought of, and
much to be done, in preparation.  To say that they were glad at the
prospect, would be saying little.  To go anywhere with the brother and
sister who had been so kind to them, and whom they had learned to love
so dearly, would have been pleasant; but to go to England, the country
of which they had heard so much, where there were so many wonderful and
beautiful things to see, was more than pleasant.

"And papa's home was there, and it was the last place he saw," said
Selina, who had no hope of beholding the beautiful and wonderful things
of which her brother and Tessie were never weary of talking.  "And the
kind people who cared for him are there.  Yes, I am glad to go."

"And we shall come home again.  I am glad to go away for a while,
because there are some things here I want to forget," said Frederica, a
little tremulously.  "But we must come home again by-and-by, and begin
all over again."

"Unless we should like England best," said Tessie.  "I should not be at
all surprised."

But Frederica said that would be quite impossible.  When their brothers
should be quite grown up, and able to take care of themselves, they
would all come back and be happy at home.  They made many plans as to
what they were to do and enjoy, but Frederica's plans all had reference
to their return home, and the life they were to live afterwards.  She
was as glad to go as any of them, but it was always with thought of
coming home again.

They had not many friends to whom it was sad to say good-bye.  Mr St.
Cyr was going with them, on his way to Paris.  Miss Agnace was going
with them too, to be Selina's special attendant and friend.  For though
little was said about it, it was more for Selina's sake than for
anything else that they were going to England.  Edgar had taken Mr St.
Cyr into his confidence as to the hope he entertained of bringing back
the light, to her sweet eyes, and so all plans with regard to their
going were made easy by him.

They went to school to say good-bye to Miss Robina and her mother, and
Cecilia went with them to thank them for all their kindness to her
little sisters.  But this was not Frederica's last visit.  She went
again with Selina, and Mistress Campbell made tea for them in her room,
as she used to do when Frederica was a child.  It was not so very long
ago, but it seemed a great while to her, and she was very quiet and
grave all the afternoon.  Selina had more to say than she had, and asked
many questions about what her sister used to do when she was a pupil in
the school.

"A bonny bit wilful creature she was," said Mistress Campbell, "very
wilful whiles.  But it was just a pleasure to see her for all that.
Many a good advice I had occasion to give her at one time and another,
but she did me more good than ever I did to her, I think.  She is one of
His little lambs, as you are yourself doubtless, and none shall pluck
you out of His hand.  You are ay safe with Him, but still it is a grand
thing to have a brother and sister like those you have found to trust
to, and to be obedient to.  You'll ay mind that, Miss Frederica, my
dear, when you are far away."

"I shall never be wilful or disobedient any more, Mistress Campbell,"
said Fred gravely, quite believing it.

Mistress Campbell nodded her head a good many times.

"You are in God's keeping, my bairn.  That's ay a comfort.  But walk
softly, my lammie, when your light heart comes back again.  And mind the
rest will ay look to you for an example, and so on."  Mistress Campbell
had "many an advice" to give still, and Frederica received them more
meekly than she used sometimes to do in the old times.

"And though I never see you more on earth, we'll meet in a better place,
my bonny bairns, and God go with you wherever you go," said the old
woman, kissing them when they were ready to go away.  "And there is
nothing to grieve about, though it is the last time."

Nothing to grieve about.  It could not be long that the kind old woman
would have to stay in her garret, and there were no partings where she
was going to dwell.

After that they spent a day with their sister Caroline and her little
children, and this was the saddest parting of all.  But even this was
not so very sad, for they were coming back again by-and-by to their home
and their friends, and the graves of their father and mother, and there
was no bitterness in the tears they shed when the day of departure came.

The summer was quite over by that time.  The sun of a bright still
autumn day was near its setting as they stood on the deck of the steamer
to take their last look of the city, and of the mountain which makes so
grand a background to the view.  Grand indeed it was that night, for the
frost spirit had breathed on the unfallen leaves, and changed their
summer green to colours wonderful for glory and beauty, and few words
were spoken for a good while as they gazed.

"Tell me about it," said Selina softly.

So one told her about the bright clouds in the west, and the mountain
growing dim already in the distance, and another told of the gleaming
city roofs and spires; and the great cathedral towers looking down upon
them all, and little Hubert told her of the long shaft of light that the
sun sent over the water, and of the white sails that were passing out of
sight.

"Which of us all is so happy as she?" said Cecilia softly, as she
watched the smile of sweet content on the blind girl's listening face.

"But please God, when she comes home again, she shall see it all," said
her brother.  And so she did.

CHAPTER TWENTY.

Cecilia's home was in London, and there until Christmas-time her
brothers and sisters remained.  It was not the best season of the year
for sight-seeing, but by taking advantage of such gleams of sunshine as
now and then came to brighten the general dulness, a good deal was
enjoyed even in that way.  Nothing came amiss in the way of amusement to
any of them.  Everything was new and full of interest, and in their eyes
wonderful.  A drive through London streets gave matter for discussion
for days afterwards.

It was all new and strange to them, the crowds of people hurrying to and
fro, the great dingy houses, the queer narrow courts into which they
sometimes peeped, the splendour of the shop windows, the monuments and
public buildings afforded never-ending themes for talk, and the bright
quaint remarks which were now and then made, amused their elders
greatly.

But there were many dull days during that autumn, when all things were
seen dimly through rain or fog, and there were some days when nothing at
all could be seen, when the gas burned at noon, and when the carts and
carriages that rumbled through the streets all day long, were quite
invisible to the eager eyes of the little boys.  On such days, no wonder
that they grew impatient and even fretful, now and then, or that their
sisters were not always so bright and cheerful themselves, as to be able
to beguile their brothers back to cheerfulness and good-humour again.
They were all a little homesick on such days; and so, when the time came
to accept Col. Bentham's invitation for Christmas, they were glad to
leave the dull dark streets behind them, and to get a glimpse of blue
sky and green fields again.

For in sheltered places the fields were green still, almost with the
greenness of summer.  In their own country at Christmas-time the snow
lies thick on the ground, and the smaller streams, and sometimes even
the great rivers, are covered with ice.  Not a leaf is to be seen or a
blade of grass, but great snowdrifts on the hill-sides, and icicles
hanging from the bare boughs of the trees.

The skaters are out on the ice, and the snow-shoe clubs are beginning to
think of long tramps over the fields.  Hundreds of sleighs are gliding
along the city streets, and over the country roads, and the air is full
of the music of sleigh-bells, and the merry voices of people enjoying
the holidays.

And Jack and Jill used to be out with the rest, with a sleighful of
happy children behind them.  The children's faces grew grave as they
told one another of all this.  How bright it used to be!  How
delightful!  Oh, yes!  Of course it was cold sometimes, but who would
mind the cold, with furs and wraps, great buffalo robes, and bearskins
to keep them warm!

No, it did not seem like Christmas-time to them here.  In some of the
sunny glades of Eastwood Park, the little Canadians could have forgotten
that it was not summer, except when they looked up at the great leafless
oaks and elms and beeches, which made a wide dark network of boughs
between them and the sky.  There were no flowers in the open park, but
the grass was green, and there was ivy on the wall, and there were great
holly bushes and laurels, and in Grandmamma Bentham's garden, shut in
from the winds, and having the sunshine full upon it, there were
heartsease and Christmas roses.  It was all very different, out of
doors, from Christmas time at home.  But within doors it was like the
best of Christmas-times.

There was a large party assembled at Eastwood Park--sons and daughters
of Col. Bentham, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, and friends of the
family.  Their brother Edgar was there for a few days, and his friend
Captain Clare.  Everard Bentham, the Colonel's youngest son, was Edgar's
dear friend, though they were not at all alike in most respects.
Everard was gay and inclined to be idle, and had caused his father some
anxiety during the last year or two.  But of all this nothing was known
to the young Vanes.  He was very kind to them, very merry and
light-hearted, and they liked him dearly--almost as well as they liked
Captain Clare, who was a very different sort of man.

He was older than their other friend, though not so much older as they
fancied, because his hair was a little grey, and he was often grave and
silent when there were others besides the children present.  He was a
soldier, and had been in battle many times, and had the Victoria cross
and medals to show that he had done his duty on the field.  He had other
tokens as well.  There was a faintly traced scar extending along his
temple, which his hair only partially concealed, and he always wore a
glove on his left hand to hide the traces of another wound.

He had much to tell the little lads about many things.  He had been in
their own country, had spent a winter in their own city.  He had known
their father and their mother, and remembered Jack and Jill, and never
tired listening to all they had to tell about them, and this was one
secret of his popularity doubtless.

The sisters liked him also, for similar reasons, and for better reasons.
For he was a true soldier of Christ, as well as of the Queen, and had
fought and won battles for Him in his day, and the very first words that
he spoke to them, as he came upon them one day in old Mrs Bentham's
garden, made Selina and Frederica glad in the hope of having him for
their friend.

All who came to Eastwood Park were interested in these children and very
kind to them.  They were kind, and they were a little curious also--that
is, they watched with interest, and sometimes with amusement, the words
and ways of these young Canadians, who were not in all respects just
like English children.  I speak of them all as children, for with all
their womanliness and decision of manner, the sisters were in some
respects quite as childlike as were little Hubert and Charlie.  Selina
was like no one else in her never-failing sweetness and cheerfulness.
Tessie's frankness and independence of speech might, under the
encouragement of amused listeners, have fallen into undesirable
freeness, had it not been for the gentle check of her eldest sister's
influence.  She rebelled sometimes under Fred's rather imperative hints
as to what was desirable and right or otherwise, but Selina's lightest
half-spoken remonstrance never passed unheeded.

It was the same with the little lads.  It was Frederica who assumed
authority over them; and her little motherly ways and words, at once
coaxing and determined, generally answered well with them.  They were
obedient and teachable usually; but they now and then appealed from her
rather arbitrary rule to the gentler rule of Selina; and the way in
which she used to soften and modify her sister's decisions, while she
gravely and firmly upheld her sister's authority with their brothers,
was a pretty thing to see.  Frederica was careful and troubled over them
and their future often; Selina was trustful and cheerful always, and not
afraid.

Everybody was kind to them, and much was done to make their Christmas,
not only a merry one, but a happy one.  Everybody was kind to them; but,
after Cecilia and her husband and their brother Edgar, they liked no one
so well as Captain Clare.  A good many people went away when the
holidays ended, but Captain Clare stayed on, and so did Everard Bentham.
Everard had been thrown from his horse, and so seriously hurt, that,
much against his will, he was obliged to remain at home several weeks
longer than it had been his intention to stay.  He made the best of it,
and amused himself as well as he could, and by-and-by got "great fun,"
as he called it, out of the little Canadians.  But he gave them quite as
much as he got from them in the way of amusement; for he was kind as
well as merry.  In the way of real and lasting benefit, his intercourse
with these young people did much to change his character, and influence
his future life; but all this came later.

In the meantime Captain Clare was their dearest friend after their
brother Edgar went away; and it was in this way that their friendship
began: They were sitting--Selina and Frederica--one day in old Mrs
Bentham's garden, where the sunshine made it, to Selina at least, just
like a summer day.  Frederica had been reading a word or two, as her
sister liked to have her do when they were alone together; and to-day it
had been the first verses of the twelfth of Hebrews that she had chosen.
They had not gone beyond the first two or three verses; there was
enough in them to talk and wonder over.

"Perhaps it means this, Fred," said Selina, after a minute's silence;
"these people, `so great a cloud of witnesses'--the people in the last
chapter, you know--are all looking at us, and so we must `run with
patience the race set before us.'  Or is it that all these people looked
to Jesus, and so got strength and patience to `subdue kingdoms,' to
`stop the mouths of lions'?  Don't you remember?  They were `destitute,
afflicted, tormented,--of whom the world was not worthy.'  Oh!  Fred
dear, how little we know!"

But it was not Fred that answered her, but Captain Clare.  Fred had gone
down the garden path, not caring less than her sister for the reading,
or for the meaning of what they read, but less intent upon it for the
moment, because she could see so much that was beautiful around her.
For even in winter Grandmamma Bentham's garden was beautiful, and not
every visitor at Eastwood Park was admitted to it.  But when Captain
Clare took up the book which Frederica had laid down, and reading over
again the words Selina had found so difficult, added afterwards a few
words of his own, she came back again, and leaned on the garden chair on
which her sister sat.

It was nothing very new or very wonderful that he said to them.  He only
told them in a few clear words what he thought the apostle meant in
writing thus to the suffering Hebrews, touching incidentally on other
points of interest in other parts of the Bible, over which the sisters
had pondered together with varying interest and profit.  Selina listened
eagerly, only saying now and then with smiling lips, "Do you hear,
Frederica?"

"Are you listening, dear Fred?"

Fred was listening, forgetting the holly leaves and the bright berries
with which she had filled her apron to make wreaths for some young
friends in the house.  She listened silently.  She had less to say on
all subjects than she used to have in the old days, before care had been
laid so heavily upon her.  But she listened earnestly, for she knew that
all would have to be gone over again with her sister when they were
alone.  They listened till Miss Agnace came to warn them that the sun
had gone behind the clouds, and that they must return to the house.

"But you will tell us more," said Selina, softly passing her fingers
over the hand that had taken hers in saying good-bye.  "Another day you
will tell us more."

It was an easy promise to make, and a pleasant promise to keep.

"We know so little," said Frederica, as, with Captain Clare, she
followed her sister and Miss Agnace up the avenue to the other side of
the house.  "We had no one to teach us, and at first we did not care to
learn," added she humbly.  "It was for mama's sake at first--because--
she was going to die--and--she was afraid--" and the tears rushed to her
eyes.

She hardly ever spoke of her mother to any one but her sisters, and she
wondered a little at herself that she should do so now.  She wondered
less when she looked up and met the kind eyes looking down upon her.

"Some day you must tell me more about your mother," said Captain Clare.

This was the beginning.  After that, while they were at Eastwood, not a
day passed in which Captain Clare did not pass an hour with them.  When
the weather did not allow them to go out of doors, they sat in the
library or in one of the deep windows of the hall.  The party was
variable as to numbers; but Selina was always there, and almost always
Miss Agnace.  She was never far away from her charge, unless her sisters
were with her; and although she would sit with her face averted,
apparently absorbed with her work, she never lost a word which Captain
Clare said about the truth which she was beginning to love, though she
hardly knew it yet.  She was never in the way, and because of Selina's
blindness it did not seem out of place that she should be constantly
with her.  Besides, her service was a service of love.

She did not listen now as she had done at first to the reading and the
talk, that she might detect errors, and warn these children against
them.  She said little to them now of the "true Church," or its
teachings.  She only listened, saying to herself, that however at
variance with these teachings some things which she heard might seem to
be, there could not be any real difference, seeing the same fruits of
the Spirit--love, peace, joy--which flourished and showed in the life of
many a saint of old, showed fair and sweet in the lives of these
children growing so dear to her.  So she always listened when she could,
and Selina made it easy for her to be near her at such times.

Cecilia was with them often, and Edgar, but most of their intercourse
with Captain Clare as a near friend and teacher took place after Edgar
went away.  Mr Everard Bentham, when he began to limp about the house
again after his hurt, found his time pass more rapidly among these young
people, who asked questions, and discussed subjects as little likely to
interest young people as could well be imagined, he thought.  It seemed
to him the oddest fancy in the world that kept these girls intent on
Captain Clare's words, as he made clear to them how the Old Testament
and the New were one, how the truths dimly foretold in the one found
fulfilment in the other, and showed how in all things written in both
Christ appeared.  What could it matter to them to be wise about such
things? he questioned laughing.  But he never laughed at them.  It might
be odd and foolish, but at the same time he liked to see it all; and
though he listened for a while, that he might catch the wonderful
brightness on the blind girl's face, as some new thought was made clear
to her; and though he asked questions in his turn, that he might provoke
Frederica's eager defence of her opinions and beliefs, the Word did not
"return void," as far as he was concerned.  Now and then a bow drawn at
a venture sent an arrow home to his conscience, and none of them had
better reason to remember those days than the hitherto careless Everard
Bentham.

Sometimes the little lads heard tales of marches and battles, of
suffering bravely borne, of good work well done for the sake of duty.
But rarely a day passed in which there did not fall to the share of the
sisters some good word about the Lord they loved, and about whom they
longed to know more.  These children knew already that Christ was the
only Saviour from sin, and from its consequences,--the Friend of
sinners--the Conqueror of death.  They knew and they rejoiced in all
that He had done for them and for all, and in all that He had promised
still to do.  They knew what they owed Him, but they knew less of what
He expected from them.  They loved Him, and for His sake they loved His
friends and followers.  But they had never been taught the duty of
self-denial for His sake, the blessedness of a life given up to Him in
the doing of service to His little ones.

Of all this Captain Clare told them, and they were apt scholars.
Frederica displayed something like her old bright eagerness in
explaining some of the plans of usefulness which her imagination
suggested as wise and possible to be carried out in the future.  Some
foolish things might have been done, if they had been left to their own
counsels.  But it did not need severity, nor even great firmness, to
check Frederica now.  She was not unwilling to acknowledge that they
were yet too young and inexperienced to undertake on their own
responsibility any of the schemes of usefulness so well carried out for
the benefit of the ignorant and the suffering by others who were wiser
and fitter for the work than they.

All this might come later.  In the meantime Frederica had her brothers
and sisters to live for and to influence.  She had her own education to
complete.  She laughed now at the remembrance of the time when she had
boasted of having "gone through all the books" in Miss Robina's class.
There was enough to do for herself, as well as for the others, she
acknowledged; and she listened earnestly when Colonel Bentham, as her
guardian, spoke to her of the serious responsibilities which the
possession of wealth would involve in her case, and that of them all.

In the meantime she and Selina had much to say between themselves of all
they meant to do when they should go home.  Selina's wish was to gather
together all the blind people who were poor, and who needed a home--the
old people and little children--and teach them about Jesus, and about
the land where all shall see His face.  In this work her sister was to
help her, and Miss Agnace.  In all her plans for the future Miss Agnace
had a place.

In her heart Miss Agnace knew that in such a home as these young girls
were planning she would be suffered to have no part, unless, indeed,
Father Jerome, or others who thought as he did, should have the guidance
of it all.  But she did faithfully her duty to her blind friend and
mistress, loving her more dearly every day, content with the present,
and willing to accept without question whatever the future might bring.

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

After Christmas the boys went to school--to the great public school
where their father and their elder brother had been educated, and a
great quietness fell on the sisters after they went away.  It was their
first separation since the day their father had been, laid beside their
mother on the hillside far away, and they missed them sadly for awhile.
They all missed them, but Frederica especially felt lost without the
constant sense of responsibility which had rested on her with regard to
them since that day.  It was well that they still lingered in beautiful
Eastwood.  Cecilia did not like to think of how dull the days would have
been in London at this time.  But every one in the large and happy
household of Colonel Bentham strove more than ever to interest and amuse
them, so as to beguile them from regretful thoughts; and when there came
first one letter and then another from the little lads, showing that
they were falling more easily and happily than could have been supposed
into their right places, and taking the good of the pleasant things in
school, even Frederica became content about them, and confessed that it
was a relief to know that they were safe and well, and to let the sense
of responsibility slip from her for a time.

But a greater trial was before her than the parting from their brothers.
By-and-by they returned to London, and she and Tessie were soon as
earnestly engaged with lessons and masters as could be desired.  It was
partly from a sense of duty, and from a desire to make the most of the
exceptional advantages afforded them, that they worked so well, but they
also enjoyed their work.  It was made pleasant to them, and they were
not allowed to do too much.  Walks and drives, visits and sight-seeing
prevented their work from becoming monotonous, or from injuring them in
any way, and the time to them passed quickly.

But Selina drooped.  She missed her brothers, and though she shared
Frederica's reading as far as was possible, and enjoyed the sight-seeing
at second-hand, still she was not so bright and cheerful as usual; and
strange to say, Frederica was not the first to see it Selina's best time
was when they were all together, so that this was not surprising; but
Cecilia became anxious about her, and longed for the time when their
brother Edgar should be at home again.

He came at Easter, and in a day or two declared himself at liberty to do
as he pleased for three months at least.  After that he was to settle
down to the practice of his profession in another part of London, and
then there would be no more leisure days for him.

"And you are going to make the most of these three months," said Tessie,
"and have a great deal of pleasure."

"I hope so," said Edgar, but he looked more grave than people usually do
who are anticipating three months of pleasure; and when Tessie went on
to suggest, that instead of going away by himself, as he had proposed,
he should take them all with him, he looked grave still, and said that
would be impossible.  He could not take them all at this time, but it
was his intention to take Selina away for a little while.  They all
looked grave at that, and there came a look over Frederica's face which
neither he nor Cecilia had ever seen before, but which made Tessie think
of the rule of Madame Ascot, and the days when Fred took her own way in
spite of her.  It would not be right, Edgar went on to say, to interrupt
the studies of the others so happily and successfully commenced, for
though their company might be agreeable to Selina, it was not necessary
to her, as he would care for her, and Miss Agnace was to go with her.

Frederica uttered an impatient exclamation.  "Studies!  In comparison
with Selina's happiness her studies and masters counted for nothing.
Selina must come first always.  They had never been separated since--
since--" Fred could get no further.  It was only by a great effort that
she kept back her tears.  And her brother said gently,--

"But if it were to be for Selina's good that she should go away for a
little while, and that you should remain at home, surely you would be
willing to deny yourself?  At this time it is better for our sister to
be in my care, and in the care of Miss Agnace."

"That is because you do not know," broke in Frederica.  "Ask Selina.
Let her decide."

"No, we will not ask Selina this time.  Of course it will be a trial for
her to leave you both; but still it is best."

"And, Fred darling, you will not make the trial harder for her by
objecting," said Cecilia.  "Believe me, dear, Edgar is right.  You must
trust him."

"Edgar does not know," persisted Frederica.  "Selina cannot go alone.
It would break her heart.  Selina alone! without me or mama--"

Frederica was determined she would not cry, and she stopped suddenly.
Edgar was very gentle with her, but he was very firm also, and when he
forbade her or Tessie alluding to the subject in Selina's presence till
he should give them leave, Frederica rose and walked out of the room,
carrying her head very highland with a look on her face that made
Cecilia regard her brother anxiously as the door closed upon her.  Edgar
smiled reassuringly.  He was surprised, but he was amused also, Tessie
could see as she rose to follow her sister.  He looked grave enough in a
moment.

The case stood thus.  Selina was not looking well, and the change was
necessary for her, but that was not all.  It was of the utmost
importance that she should be strong and cheerful just now, because the
time had come when her brother hoped to get the opinion of a friend of
his, a celebrated oculist who resided in a German city, as to the state
of her eyes, and the possibility of something being done to restore to
her some measure of sight.  The prospect of success was not so assured
as to make it wise to say anything about his plans and wishes to his
sisters.  The suspense would not be good for them, and the trial of
remaining behind would be all the greater to Frederica, should she be
made aware that her sister might have doubt and anxiety, and perhaps
pain and disappointment, to undergo alone.  Her being with her sister at
such a time would not be good for either of them, he thought; and should
his brotherly influence fail, her guardian's authority must be exercised
over Frederica.

"But Colonel Bentham's authority will not be needed.  Fred will think
better of it; and be reasonable."

But Cecilia was not so sure.  "You give her no reasons," said she.  And
then she went on to repeat some instances of Frederica's wilfulness in
the old days, of which their sister Caroline had told her, how she used
to rule the household, and set Madame Ascot at defiance.  Some of these
it was not easy to believe, in view of Frederica's almost uniform
gentleness and sweetness since they had known her, but they were
doubtless quite true; and remembering her face and air as she walked out
of the room, some trouble with her seemed not impossible.

"But all the same she must yield," said her brother.

But it was not the wilful little Fred of the old days that had walked
out of the room with her head held high and haughtily.  She was as angry
and indignant as ever the Fred of those days could have been, so angry
that she utterly forgot for the moment how dear was the love that had
grown up during the last year between her and her brother, or how
perfect the confidence she had had in his affection and wisdom until
now.  She was so angry that she would not let the tears come even when
she was alone; and when Tessie ran in upon her, exclaiming indignantly
about their brother's unkindness, Frederica sat with a face that changed
from red to white and from white to red every moment, but she did not
utter a word.  As she listened to her sister, she grew less angry and
more unhappy, for there was an echo of triumph mingling with Tessie's
indignation, that smote painfully on Frederica's heart.

"I have been wondering for a long time when all this was to come to an
end--your `docility and humility,' your `sweet bright gentleness,' as
your friend Captain Clare calls it.  Oh, yes, I have been expecting it.
It is all very well within reasonable limits, obedience and submission,
and all that; but Edgar has not a particle of authority over us, and you
can wind Colonel Bentham round your finger, as you used to do with Mr
St. Cyr.  It is just as well to make a stand about Selina as anything.
It must have come some time, and now we shall have the pleasant old days
back again."  And so on.  Yes, she grew very unhappy as she listened.
Were the old times coming back again?--the times when she did not know
where to turn to find a friend when anxiety for her little brothers and
Tessie made her heart-sick.  Obedience! submission!  She had not been
conscious of any such thing all this time.  She had felt so safe, so
comforted, so at home with her brother and sister.  They had no
authority certainly.  But would it be a wise or happy thing to take even
the smallest of these affairs out of their hands into her own?

If only Edgar would be reasonable about Selina!  No, she could not part
from her.  She could bear it for herself; but what could Selina do
without her?

"I cannot, cannot let her go."

Tessie's voice startled her again.  She was laughing merrily.

"I declare, Fred, I could quite have fancied myself at home again.  I
had forgotten how _grand_ you could be;" and she threw back her head
with an air, and marched to the door as her sister had done.  "You quite
frightened Cecilia, I could see.  As for Edgar, I think he was laughing
a little.  He cannot be harder to overcome than Madame Ascot.  This
`turning the other cheek' is all very well to talk about; but Edgar has
no real authority over us, and if you are firm now, Fred, we shall have
it all our own way."

Did she want to have it all her own way?  Had Edgar no authority over
them?  Would her father have said that?  And without him what was to be
done with the brothers or with Tessie, should she grow wilful, as she
used to be?  And as to "the other cheek"!  Had Edgar smitten her on the
one cheek?  Was she right in resenting what he had planned and what he
had said to her?  And now here was Tessie laughing and delighted at her
anger and her pride.  Poor Fred!  The very foundations seemed to be
removing.  The tears she had kept back with such difficulty flowed
freely; but all this time she had never uttered a word.

"I thought it was all over and at an end, my foolish anger and pride and
disobedience, and now, at the very first word of opposition, I am as bad
as ever.  Oh! if it were anything else, I would give up, and not mind!
Hush, Tessie," she said aloud, "you do not understand.  No, you are not
to speak to Selina.  I must think about it first.  Edgar never was
unkind before.  Perhaps to-morrow he may change his plans."

To-morrow found Frederica not at all well; a restless night had given
her a headache; and when she did not appear at breakfast, Edgar went up
to see her, only half convinced that real illness was keeping her in her
room.  She was ill certainly, and very silent, but she was not angry any
longer.  Selina was with her, and Edgar knew in a moment that nothing
had been said between them with regard to the coming separation.  He was
very gentle and kind, but Fred could not look up and meet his eye,
because she had not fought out the battle with herself yet.  She had got
so far as to acknowledge that it was very ungrateful in her to act and
speak as though Edgar had no right to interfere in their affairs, after
all his kindness to them.  Every hour she had felt more deeply how
dearly she loved him, and how entirely she trusted him, and how terrible
a thing it would be for them if their brother were to leave them to
their own guidance, as she had yesterday wished him to do.

But she had not been able during the wakeful night to persuade herself
that he was right with regard to Selina.  She had thought of many things
that she would like to say to him about her to make him change his mind;
but when she saw his face in the morning, so kind and yet so firm in its
expression, she doubted whether her words would avail, and so she did
not look up, and scarcely uttered a word.  Tessie waited eagerly to hear
what might be said, but she heard nothing, and their brother took her
and Selina away with him, leaving Frederica to Miss Agnace's care.  So
she had time to think over her trouble, and the longer she thought the
more clearly she saw how foolish had been her anger, and how wrong her
example to Tessie.

Still she could not yield the point in question.  Edgar could not know
as well as she what was best for Selina.  It would be like forsaking her
sister, were she to consent to his plan.  It would be breaking her
promise to her mother, that Selina should always be considered before
herself.  She could not do it.

And yet something made her feel sure that she must do as her brother
wished, and feeling confidence in his love and in his wisdom, she
thought if it had been anything else she would have yielded to him so
gladly.  But she lay and turned about restless and feverish, more
unhappy than she had ever been since the days of her illness after her
father went away.  Miss Agnace came in and went out softly, saying
little, but very gentle and kind.

"Is it something that you cannot tell to your best friend?" she said at
last, as she bathed her hot brow with cool water, and smoothed the hair
that lay in confusion on the pillow.

Frederica gave her a quick look.  She longed to ask her about her
brother's plans, but it would not be right to do so.  And besides, Miss
Agnace might not know, and might not tell her if she did.

"After all He has brought you through to these happy days, you are
surely not forgetting to bring your trouble to Him, are you?"

It was not just the way Miss Agnace was wont to speak; but even Miss
Agnace was beginning to see things differently, in the new light that
was shining on them, and for a minute Frederica forgot her own trouble,
looking at her wistfully.

"Are you glad to be here, Miss Agnace?  Are you happy here?" said she.
"Will you never go away from us any more?"

"Oh! as to going away--no, while my young lady needs me," said Miss
Agnace.

"Not even if Father Jerome said you must?"

The name had not been mentioned for a long time between them.  An odd
look came over Miss Agnace's face.

"He will not say it," said she.

"Did he wish you to come?  I am very glad you came; but was he not
afraid to let you come?  Was it for our sakes?" said Frederica, wishing
to get away from her own troubled thoughts, and speaking very much at
random.

"My dear, Father Jerome loved you, though you doubted it, and he wished
you well always, though perhaps he made mistakes," said Miss Agnace;
"but you are to rest, and not think of anything to vex you, and I will
leave you for a little while."

But though Miss Agnace went, Frederica's troubled thoughts stayed with
her, and she said to herself she must find courage to write to Colonel
Bentham, and ask him to interfere between her and her brother.  Could
she ask it? would it do? oh! how helpless and miserable she felt!
Suddenly there came into her mind Miss Agnace's question: "Is it then
anything you cannot carry to your best Friend?--to Him who has brought
you through all to such happy days?"

Had she brought it to Him?  Could she bring it?  Not her anger, and her
pride, and her determination to rebel--to have her own way; but her
trouble--her fear for Selina being far away and unhappy.  If Edgar did
not know what would be best for her, surely Jesus did, and He would help
them.  But then it might not be in her way.  They might have to be
separated all the same.  Frederica cried bitterly as she thought about
it; but she did bring her trouble to her Friend, and the bitterness had
all gone out of her tears, and out of her heart too, before she fell
asleep.  When she woke, her brother was looking down upon her with a
very grave face.  Frederica smiled, though her tears came again.

"I am going to be good," said she, and she took the hand that rested on
hers, and Carried it to her lips.

"My darling! my precious little sister!" said her brother, moved by her
gentleness as her anger could not move him.  "It grieves me sorely to
have to grieve you; but trust me, Frederica, this once."

"Ah! must you grieve us?  I do trust you: I could bear it, but Selina!
I do not think I am vain, but I cannot think what she will do without
me," she pleaded.  "No, I am not going to be naughty, and I do trust
you--"

Edgar soothed her with his touch and his voice.  He was very gentle with
her.

"If I were sure--"

"But, darling, if you were sure, there would be no need to trust me.
And our Elder Brother--do you think He will forget Selina and you?"

"Oh, no," said Fred, but her tears fell fast.  He was very tender with
her, and firm too, telling her that he depended on her to make the
parting easy to her sister, saying it would only be for a little while,
and in the meantime she could not be very unhappy, having many and
pleasant duties, and a willing mind.  And then there was Tessie, who
needed her more even then Selina.  And Frederica's conscience told her
that Tessie had been none the better for her influence for the last two
days at least.

"I will try and be good," she said, and her brother could not but wonder
at her gentleness; and as he went out he said softly to himself,
"`Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into
the kingdom of heaven.'"

In one sense Frederica's trouble was over now.  Her anger was over, and
her rebellion; and in trying to speak cheerfully of their separation,
for Selina's sake, she did much to strengthen herself for the trial.
Selina was startled and grieved at the thought of going away from her
sisters, but she was gentle and yielding, as she always had been, and
never doubted that their brother was wise and right in the plans he had
made for them.

So she said "Good-bye," cheerfully enough, and so did the others for
that matter; but when she was gone, and Frederica found herself standing
looking after the departing carriage, it seemed to her that the feeling
of loss and loneliness was more than she could bear.

"And now we shall have our drive in the Park," said Colonel Bentham
cheerfully, as though nothing particular had happened, and Selina's
going away was an event of every-day occurrence.  But Frederica stood
very white and still.

"I am--tired--I think.  If Tessie would go without me to-day," said she
with difficulty, but she walked very quietly by Captain Clare's side
till they came to the drawing-room door.  "I think I must--rest for a
little while.  Will you excuse me to Colonel Bentham?"

She spoke quietly; but when she looked up and met the kind eyes that
were looking down on her, she gave a little cry, and ran upstairs into
her room, not at all sure that she was not rebellious and angry still.
Tessie came in soon, all ready for the drive, and found her sister
crying on the bed.  She was quite inclined to feel aggrieved at the
delay.  She went at her sister's entreaty to carry her excuses to
Colonel Bentham.  Her guardian seemed quite to understand, and they went
out without her.

True to her determination to be good, Frederica did not long indulge her
tears, and within the hour she came downstairs, and walking sedately
into the drawing-room, found Captain Clare waiting for her.  Her
elaborate cheerfulness was quite as pathetic, he thought, as her grief
had been, and so were her fears that her guardian might believe her to
be ungrateful for his kindness.  Captain Clare laughed at her a little.

"You speak as though you were a child to be punished for being naughty
by being put in a corner," said he.  "Shall we go and walk? we may meet
the carriage, and you can still have your drive."

Frederica hesitated, but only a moment.

"You were reading," said she.

"I was waiting for you, and now we must hasten, for the best of the
afternoon is passing."

They did not meet the carriage, though they went a long way round,
hoping to do so.  Frederica was not sorry: she never forgot that walk
home in the twilight.  As it grew dark she put her hand into that of her
friend, as simply as a little child might have done, and for a while she
had most of the talk to herself.  She told him more than she had ever
told any one before about their mother, and their old home and their way
of life; and sometimes he smiled, and sometimes he was deeply touched,
as she dwelt with quite unconscious pathos on some of the incidents of
those days.  Her face clouded as they drew near the house.

"I am almost afraid to go in," said she.

"Lest you should be naughty again?  No, you will not," said her friend.
"See, I will give you something to prevent it: `Thou shalt keep him in
perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in
Thee.'"

"Thank you," said Frederica, without looking up.  "A month is a long
time, two months perhaps."

"But it will soon pass, and summer will soon be here, and who knows what
summer may bring?"

"And this afternoon has not been so bad," said Frederica.

No time after that was so very bad.  Frederica kept herself
conscientiously busy for one thing, and she kept Tessie busy also.
Their friends made pleasures for them.  They had walks with Captain
Clare which were always delightful, and drives with their sister
Cecilia, and one day they went with them to visit their brothers, whose
school was not so very far away, and this they enjoyed wonderfully.
Frederica, who had had few letters in the course of her life, took great
delight in those of her brother Edgar.  Besides bringing good news of
her sister's health and happiness, they were full of interest for other
reasons, and they never failed to contain just a word or two to remind
the sisters at home that all were alike safe in the best keeping.

And better than all other helps towards patience and content was the
young girl's trust in Him who had brought them to a safe place.  On Him
she was learning to rest more lovingly every day.  She suffered a good
deal at first; but peace came and stayed, not quite the perfect peace
promised to them whose trust is entire and full, but even that came
later.

Tessie watched her sister narrowly, and expressed her opinion of her way
of taking it all by little shrugs and laughing protests, in which
Frederica sometimes fancied there was a contemptuous echo.  But Tessie
was subdued at last by her sister's never-failing gentleness and
sweetness, and showed it by devotion to her duties, and by deference to
her sister's wishes in little things.

The time of Selina's absence extended beyond what was first planned.
But this was not so great a trial as it seemed beforehand Spring passed
into summer before a word was said of their going home, and the time
came to leave hot and dusty London, and to return to Eastwood Park
again, and the sisters went gladly, though they had no thought of the
joyful surprise awaiting them there.

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

If Eastwood had been beautiful to the eyes of the sisters when seen
under Christmas skies, what was it now in the prime of summer?  The pony
carriage awaited them at the station, and in it they drove to the Park
the nearest way through the loveliest lanes, in the hedges of which
Tessie counted nearly a score of different green growing things besides
honeysuckle and foxgloves and bluebells and many a flower that she could
not name.  How wide and still the Park was, with only green grass and
great trees to see at first, and by-and-by shrubbery, and then flowers,
and then the house itself came in sight.  There were open doors and
windows, and people coming and going over the lawn, and Grandmamma
Bentham sitting in a garden chair, in full sight of the gate.

Some one was coming to meet them, as the carriage stopped at the east
gate, and they came in.  Some one!  There were many people.  Colonel
Bentham was there, and Captain Clare, and Everard, and their brothers
Charlie and Hubert.  But "some one" was Selina, not led by Miss Agnace,
as might have seemed natural, not led by any one, though Everard Bentham
walked at a little distance from her, regarding her with the strangest
wondering smile upon his face.  Their brother Edgar was there too, a
little in advance of the rest.  But Selina walked alone, and came
forward to them, holding her hand a little out before her, as she always
used to do, walking softly and slowly to the very gate, for Frederica
stood still and waited.  Tessie waited too a moment, and then sprang
forward with a cry.

"Selina!  Do you see me?  Oh!  Fred.  Oh! mama! mama?"

And then she clasped and kissed her, clinging to her, and sobbing
wildly, moved as no one had ever seen the sharp little Tessie moved
before.

"Gently, Tessie love," said her guardian, putting his arms about her,
and drawing her aside from the rest.  Frederica stood still and white at
the gate, so still and white that her brother Edgar drawing near looked
anxiously at her.  But she only looked at Selina, who paused at a little
distance.

"Frederica," she said, "I can see you."

Then Frederica awoke out of her dream; but before she sprang forward to
clasp her sister, she turned and kissed the hand her brother had laid on
her shoulder.  She did not cry out as Tessie had done, nor speak a word,
but she held her sister's hand firmly as they walked towards the house,
looking at her with eyes in which the wonder hardly left room for the
pleasure to appear.

The meeting had not happened just as their elder brother had desired and
planned.  He had meant to prepare his sisters for the happy change in
Selina, but perhaps it happened just as well.  They were left very much
to themselves for the rest of the day; and as their way was at such
times, they talked in their mother tongue fast and eagerly.  That is,
Tessie and the little brothers talked, and Selina also, who had much to
tell them, though she told it in few words.  The beginning and the end
of all was her brother Edgar's kindness to her during the time she had
been away.

As to how it all came about--how through the wonderful skill, and
unfailing gentle care of her brother's friend, and of her brother as
well, the blessed gift of sight was restored to her, need not be told
here.  The sweet blue eyes looked just as they had always looked, but
there was light in them now.  Her face was changed.  It was not so
peaceful and serener--it could hardly be brighter than it used to be.
But it had an expectant look, and its expression varied every moment.
Her constant movements towards this and that, in her attempts at a
nearer acquaintance with things which she had hitherto only known by
touch or by sound, gave her an air of restlessness not at all like
Selina, and for a little while Frederica watched her doubtfully.  But
when Edgar came among them, hushing the eager buzz of talk, and saying
gently to Selina that she had seen enough for one day, the old look came
back, sweet and serene, and she lay down at his bidding, with closed
eyes and a smile on her lips that reassured her sisters.  And then Edgar
said in response to the brightening of Frederica's face,--

"Yes, it is a new world to her.  But she has had the best things all
along--the peace and the joy--and she is not going to lose them because
she can see.  I think you may let yourself be glad for her."

"Yes, I am glad! for her," said Frederica gravely, "very glad, I think;
or I shall be glad by-and-by."

"Are you sure you are glad now?" said Captain Clare to her when a few
days had passed, and they had in some measure become accustomed to the
knowledge that Selina could see; "because I do not think you always look
very glad."

"I am glad for Selina, I am glad for us all: But then, you see, I do not
quite know what I am going to do with myself and my life now," said she
gravely.  "I have it all to plan over again, now that Selina will not
need me to take care of her."

"You need not be afraid, I think," said her friend.  "Your work will
come to you; and indeed, your sister needs you as much as ever.  She
does not seem to be able to do without you."

"She likes to look at me, because I am like mama, she says.  She has not
forgotten mama all these years since she was a little child.  And I am
to teach her all I know; and that will not take me long," added she,
laughing.  "And besides, she has been learning all the time, though not
with her eyes.  Oh, yes!  I am glad!"

In the midst of their rejoicing Mr St. Cyr came to Eastwood Park; and
if Frederica had had her choice of all the pleasant things that might
happen to them, she would certainly have chosen this.  It was almost
like being at home again, and having the old times back.  Not but that
they were all quite content at Eastwood; but their old friend, who had
also been their mother's friend, was very welcome and dear.  They had
some things to say to him that it would not have been easy to say to any
one else; and his odd ways with them, sometimes merry and sometimes
grave, always old-fashioned and friendly, had a wonderful charm for them
all, and even for those who were looking on.

Frederica no longer doubted her joy over her sister when she presented
her to Mr St. Cyr.  Her tears fell, it is true, in a sudden shower, as
she said to him, "If mama had only known!"  But her tears were soon dry;
and in his society, responding to his quaint ways and speeches, she grew
more talkative and merry than ever her English friends had seen her
before.  She was more like the Fred who used to drive "Jack and Jill,"
and amuse the children in Miss Robina's orchard, than like the grave
little monitress of her brothers and Tessie, inclined to be careful and
troubled about many things.

Mr St. Cyr stayed at Eastwood till the summer days began to grow short,
and then he went away, not to Canada, but to some mild climate, for
another winter, till his health should be more firmly re-established.
It was quite as well, for the peace of mind of the young people, that he
should have so decided; for they might have longed to return with him,
had he been going home.

If I were to carry my story over the next three years, I should have
little more to say than this: they were happy and profitable years for
them all.  Selina learned all that Frederica could teach her, and some
things besides.  Sometimes they were in London, and at Christmas times
and during the summer they were at beautiful Eastwood.  They went
through some of the prettiest parts of England with their brothers, to
their great delight; and after a time their travels extended beyond
England.  They saw just what other travellers see, and enjoyed it more
than most travellers do, being young and full of life, with no weight of
care pressing upon them.

And after their travels were over they began seriously to consider and
plan what their life-work was to be, and on which side of the sea it was
to be done.  Selina still spoke of the blind old people and little
children whom she would like to gather into their old home, to care for
and to teach.  But her plans went farther than these now.

"For surely," said she, "if we were to tell our people about Jesus and
all He has done for them, they would turn to Him rather than to those
who bid them look to Mary and the Saints in time of need.  It is because
they do not know Him that they look to be saved in some other way, and I
would like to teach them.  It is at home that we ought to be, Miss
Agnace, is it not?"

But Miss Agnace had little to say, knowing better than they all that
would make it impossible for these young girls to influence directly any
one among a people so docile in the hands of their spiritual guides.

"God will prepare your work for you," said Miss Agnace gravely.  "It
matters little where it is, so that it is done for Him.  We must wait
and see."

Selina's work came to her in an unexpected way, but by a sure token she
knew it to be God-given work when it came.  It was no new work.  Ever
since the happy Christmas-time when the blind girl went softly about the
great house at Eastwood, and sat in the sunshine in Grandmamma Bentham's
garden, she had been doing a good work for Everard Bentham.  Her
influence was exerted quite unconsciously.  She did not know how much
every gentle word of hers meant to him, how dear she became to him day
by day.  But when he left his father's house after that time, it was
with a new resolve for the future--to the living of a new life, to a new
end.  Three years of earnest devotion to the duties of his profession,
and to the still higher duties of a Christian gentleman, had placed him
on different ground from that which he had occupied in the days when his
father had suffered deep anxiety with regard to him.  Edgar Vane had
always loved him, now he respected and trusted him; and when he found
courage to ask Selina to become his wife, neither her guardian nor her
brother said him nay.  Selina had no doubt then on which side of the sea
her work was to lie.

All their friends were surprised when it came to be known that Captain
Clare had persuaded Frederica to share a soldier's fortunes as his wife.
Not that it needed much persuasion.  For though he was older and graver
than she, one who might be thought little likely to take a young girl's
fancy, Frederica knew his worth, and had long loved him, first as her
brother's friend, and then as her own.  Her husband took her to Canada
for a time, where his regiment was stationed, and Tessie accompanied
them.  Selina and her husband also went with them for a summer holiday.

And so Selina saw her old home, as Edgar had foretold.  It was she who,
through the lifting morning mists, first caught sight of the city roofs
and the cathedral towers, and the mountain beyond, beautiful with the
level light of the sunrise on them.  She saw her old home, and the two
graves, and the faces of some people who had only been as names to her
in the old days.  She saw her home, and for a time she wished she had
not seen it, but that she had allowed it still to stand in her memory as
the sweetest and loveliest spot on earth, made beautiful in her thought
by the remembrance of her mother and of all they had been to each other
there.

For the old home was changed.  The great warehouses pressed closer and
closer upon it.  The garden had been encroached upon, and the shadows of
great chimneys and workshops darkened the lawn.  It was very little like
the home she had been remembering so lovely all these years.  It was
little like home to many of them now.

There were few people that they remembered well.  They saw Miss Robina
again, but her mother was dead, and so was Mistress Campbell.  Madame
Precoe was very friendly with them, in her unpleasant way.  She smiled,
and was polite, and spoke softly to them, but she never allowed them to
forget that she believed them to have wandered far from the truth, and
that days of darkness awaited them.

Father Jerome did not come to see them, but one day Frederica met him in
the street.  He had grown very old and bowed, and walked wearily, with
his eyes fixed upon the ground, so that he did not see her when she
passed.  For the moment she was glad, but afterwards she could not
forget his face, nor the look it wore,--a look not peaceful, but
silent--blank--unresponsive.

Mr St. Cyr was home by this time, and they saw him often.  But he would
not speak much about his brother.

"He is not happy," said he; "but that is a small matter.  I pray God to
give him His peace."

And these young people, who had only just escaped great suffering and
sorrow at his hand, remembering all the way by which they had been led
and guided since then, could only join heartily in the prayer that God's
peace might indeed come upon him, and God's light as well.

Selina and her husband had only a summer holiday to give to her native
country, and they did not linger long in M--.  Selina had been glad to
come, but she was not sorry to go.  On the spot she did not find it easy
to identify herself with the little blind child who had lived so happily
with her mother there.  She seemed to herself to be a different person
now.  She might have been quite content to remain, if her lot had been
cast in her old home, but she returned gladly to the land of her
adoption.  Miss Agnace returned with her.  Whether she asked and
obtained leave from those whom in former days she had vowed to obey, or
whether she broke her bonds of her own free will, no one asked her.  She
is happy in the loving service of one whom she so faithfully cared for
when she was in need of care, and happier still in the higher service of
a Lord and Master whom she has better learned to know.

Tessie stayed in Canada with her sister Caroline; and when the brothers
have thoroughly prepared themselves for the work that awaits them, one
or both of them may join her there.  They both give fair promise that
they mean to do faithfully that which is given them to do.

Frederica's work lies wherever her husband's duty calls him.  It is
among the women and the little children of the regiment, who need her
care; and the same gentle brightness that endeared her to her friends in
the old days, makes her a messenger of blessing to many a suffering
soul.  The message that brought peace to the troubled heart of her
mother, when the shadows of the valley of death began to darken around
her, has--spoken by Frederica's lips--brought peace to many a troubled
heart since then.

This is her work, and her happiness as well, and it does not matter on
which side of the sea such work is done.





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