Part 1 out of 5
Prepared by David Reed email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
by Louisa M. Alcott
The Author is quite aware of the defects of this little story, many
of which were unavoidable, as it first appeared serially. But, as
Uncle Alec's experiment was intended to amuse the young folks,
rather than suggest educational improvements for the
consideration of the elders, she trusts that these shortcomings will
be overlooked by the friends of the Eight Cousins, and she will try
to make amends in a second volume, which shall attempt to show
The Rose in Bloom.
Chapter 1 - Two Girls
Rose sat all alone in the big best parlor, with her little
handkerchief laid ready to catch the first tear, for she was thinking
of her troubles, and a shower was expected. She had retired to this
room as a good place in which to be miserable; for it was dark and
still, full of ancient furniture, sombre curtains, and hung all around
with portraits of solemn old gentlemen in wigs, severe-nosed
ladies in top-heavy caps, and staring children in little bob-tailed
coats or short-waisted frocks. It was an excellent place for woe;
and the fitful spring rain that pattered on the window-pane seemed
to sob, "Cry away: I'm with you."
Rose really did have some cause to be sad; for she had no mother,
and had lately lost her father also, which left her no home but this
with her great-aunts. She had been with them only a week, and,
though the dear old ladies had tried their best to make her happy,
they had not succeeded very well, for she was unlike any child they
had ever seen, and they felt very much as if they had the care of a
They had given her the freedom of the house, and for a day or two
she had amused herself roaming all over it, for it was a capital old
mansion, and was full of all manner of odd nooks, charming
rooms, and mysterious passages. Windows broke out in
unexpected places, little balconies overhung the garden most
romantically, and there was a long upper hall full of curiosities
from all parts of the world; for the Campbells had been
sea-captains for generations.
Aunt Plenty had even allowed Rose to rummage in her great china
closet a spicy retreat, rich in all the "goodies" that children love;
but Rose seemed to care little for these toothsome temptations;
and when that hope failed, Aunt Plenty gave up in despair.
Gentle Aunt Peace had tried all sorts of pretty needle-work, and
planned a doll's wardrobe that would have won the heart of even
an older child. But Rose took little interest in pink satin hats and
tiny hose, though she sewed dutifully till her aunt caught her
wiping tears away with the train of a wedding-dress, and that
discovery put an end to the sewing society.
Then both old ladies put their heads together and picked out the
model child of the neighbourhood to come and play with their
niece. But Ariadne Blish was the worst failure of all, for Rose
could not bear the sight of her, and said she was so like a wax doll
she longed to give her a pinch and see if she would squeak. So
prim little Ariadne was sent home, and the exhausted aunties left
Rose to her own devices for a day or two.
Bad weather and a cold kept her in-doors, and she spent most of
her time in the library where her father's books were stored. Here
she read a great deal, cried a little, and dreamed many of the
innocent bright dreams in which imaginative children find such
comfort and delight. This suited her better than anything else, but
it was not good for her, and she grew pale, heavy-eyed and listless,
though Aunt Plenty gave her iron enough to make a cooking-stove,
and Aunt Peace petted her like a poodle.
Seeing this, the poor aunties racked their brains for a new
amusement and determined to venture a bold stroke, though not
very hopeful of its success. They said nothing to Rose about their
plan for this Saturday afternoon, but let her alone till the time
came for the grand surprise, little dreaming that the odd child
would find pleasure for herself in a most unexpected quarter.
Before she had time to squeeze out a single tear a sound broke the
stillness, making her prick up her ears. It was only the soft twitter
of a bird, but it seemed to be a peculiarly gifted bird, for while she
listened the soft twitter changed to a lively whistle, then a trill, a
coo, a chirp, and ended in a musical mixture of all the notes, as if
the bird burst out laughing. Rose laughed also, and, forgetting her
woes, jumped up, saying eagerly
"It is a mocking-bird. Where is it?"
Running down the long hall, she peeped out at both doors, but saw
nothing feathered except a draggle-tailed chicken under a burdock
leaf. She listened again, and the sound seemed to be in the house.
Away she went, much excited by the chase, and following the
changeful song, it led her to the china-closet door.
"In there? How funny!" she said. But when she entered, not a bird
appeared except the everlastingly kissing swallows on the Canton
china that lined the shelves. All of a sudden Rose's face
brightened, and, softly opening the slide, she peered into the
kitchen. But the music had stopped, and all she saw was a girl in a
blue apron scrubbing the hearth. Rose stared about her for a
minute, and then asked abruptly
"Did you hear that mocking-bird?"
"I should call it a phebe-bird," answered the girl, looking up with a
twinkle in her black eyes.
"Where did it go?"
"It is here still."
"In my throat. Do you want to hear it?"
"Oh, yes! I'll come in." And Rose crept through the slide to the
wide shelf on the other side, being too hurried and puzzled to go
round by the door.
The girl wiped her hands, crossed her feet on the little island of
carpet where she was stranded in a sea of soap-suds, and then, sure
enough, out of her slender throat came the swallow's twitter, the
robin's whistle, the blue-jay's call, the thrush's song, the
wood-dove's coo, and many another familiar note, all ending as
before with the musical ecstacy of a bobolink singing and
swinging among the meadow grass on a bright June day.
Rose was so astonished that she nearly fell off her perch, and when
the little concert was over clapped her hands delightedly.
"Oh, it was lovely! Who taught you?"
"The birds," answered the girl, with a smile, as she fell to work
"It is very wonderful! I can sing, but nothing half so fine as that.
What is your name, please?"
"I've heard of phebe-birds; but I don't believe the real ones could
do that," laughed Rose, adding, as she watched with interest the
scattering of dabs of soft soap over the bricks, "May I stay and see
you work? It is very lonely in the parlor."
"Yes, indeed, if you want to," answered Phebe, wringing out her
cloth in a capable sort of way that impressed Rose very much.
"It must be fun to swash the water round and dig out the soap. I'd
love to do it, only aunt wouldn't like it, I suppose," said Rose, quite
taken with the new employment.
"You'd soon get tired, so you'd better keep tidy and look on."
"I suppose you help your mother a good deal?"
"I haven't got any folks."
"Why, where do you live, then?"
"I'm going to live here, I hope. Debby wants some one to help
round, and I've come to try for a week."
"I hope you will stay, for it is very dull," said Rose, who had taken
a sudden fancy to this girl, who sung like a bird and worked like a
"Hope I shall; for I'm fifteen now, and old enough to earn my own
living. You have come to stay a spell, haven't you?" asked Phebe,
looking up at her guest and wondering how life could be dull to a
girl who wore a silk frock, a daintily frilled apron, a pretty locket,
and had her hair tied up with a velvet snood.
"Yes, I shall stay till my uncle comes. He is my guardian now, and
I don't know what he will do with me. Have you a guardian?"
"My sakes, no! I was left on the poor-house steps a little mite of a
baby, and Miss Rogers took a liking to me, so I've been there ever
since. But she is dead now, and I take care of myself."
"How interesting! It is like Arabella Montgomery in the 'Gypsy's
Child.' Did you ever read that sweet story?" asked Rose, who was
fond of tales of found-lings, and had read many.
"I don't have any books to read, and all the spare time I get I run
off into the woods; that rests me better than stories," answered
Phebe, as she finished one job and began on another.
Rose watched her as she got out a great pan of beans to look over,
and wondered how it would seem to have life all work and no play.
Presently Phebe seemed to think it was her turn to ask questions,
and said, wistfully
"You've had lots of schooling, I suppose?"
"Oh, dear me, yes! I've been at boarding school nearly a year, and
I'm almost dead with lessons. The more I got, the more Miss
Power gave me, and I was so miserable that I 'most cried my eyes
out. Papa never gave me hard things to do, and he always taught
me so pleasantly I loved to study. Oh, we were so happy and so
fond of one another! But now he is gone, and I am left all alone."
The tear that would not come when Rose sat waiting for it came
now of its own accord two of them in fact and rolled down her
cheeks, telling the tale of love and sorrow better than any words
could do it.
For a minute there was no sound in the kitchen but the little
daughter's sobbing and the sympathetic patter of the rain. Phebe
stopped rattling her beans from one pan to another, and her eyes
were full of pity as they rested on the curly head bent down on
Rose's knee, for she saw that the heart under the pretty locket
ached with its loss, and the dainty apron was used to dry sadder
tears than any she had ever shed.
Somehow, she felt more contented with her brown calico gown
and blue-checked pinafore; envy changed to compassion; and if
she had dared she would have gone and hugged her afflicted guest.
Fearing that might not be considered proper, she said, in her
"I'm sure you ain't all alone with such a lot of folks belonging to
you, and all so rich and clever. You'll be petted to pieces, Debby
says, because you are the only girl in the family."
Phebe's last words made Rose smile in spite of her tears, and she
looked out from behind her apron with an April face, saying in a
tone of comic distress
"That's one of my troubles! I've got six aunts, and they all want me,
and I don't know any of them very well. Papa named this place the
Aunt-hill, and now I see why."
Phebe laughed with her as she said encouragingly,
"Everyone calls it so, and it's a real good name, for all the Mrs.
Campbells live handy by, and keep coming up to see the old
"I could stand the aunts, but there are dozens of cousins, dreadful
boys all of them, and I detest boys! Some of them came to see me
last Wednesday, but I was lying down, and when auntie came to
call me I went under the quilt and pretended to be asleep. I shall
have to see them some time, but I do dread it so." And Rose gave a
shudder, for, having lived alone with her invalid father, she knew
nothing of boys, and considered them a species of wild animal.
"Oh! I guess you'll like 'em. I've seen 'em flying round when they
come over from the Point, sometimes in their boats and sometimes
on horseback. If you like boats and horses, you'll enjoy yourself
"But I don't! I'm afraid of horses, and boats make me ill, and I hate
boys!" And poor Rose wrung her hands at the awful prospect
before her. One of these horrors alone she could have borne, but
all together were too much for her, and she began to think of a
speedy return to the detested school.
Phebe laughed at her woe till the beans danced in the pan, but tried
to comfort her by suggesting a means of relief.
"Perhaps your uncle will take you away where there ain't any boys.
Debby says he is a real kind man, and always bring heaps of nice
things when he comes."
"Yes, but you see that is another trouble, for I don't know Uncle
Alec at all. He hardly ever came to see us, though he sent me
pretty things very often. Now I belong to him, and shall have to
mind him, till I am eighteen. I may not like him a bit, and I fret
about it all the time."
"Well, I wouldn't borrow trouble, but have a real good time. I'm
sure I should think I was in clover if I had folks and money, and
nothing to do but enjoy myself," began Phebe, but got no further,
for a sudden rush and tumble outside made them both jump.
"It's thunder," said Phebe.
"It's a circus!" cried Rose, who from her elevated perch had caught
glimpses of a gay cart of some sort and several ponies with flying
manes and tails.
The sound died away, and the girls were about to continue their
confidences when old Debby appeared, looking rather cross and
sleepy after her nap.
"You are wanted in the parlor, Miss Rose."
"Has anybody come?"
"Little girls shouldn't ask questions, but do as they are bid," was all
Debby would answer.
"I do hope it isn't Aunt Myra; she always scares me out of my wits
asking how my cough is, and groaning over me as if I was going to
die," said Rose, preparing to retire the way she came, for the slide,
being cut for the admission of bouncing Christmas turkeys and
puddings, was plenty large enough for a slender girl.
"Guess you'll wish it was Aunt Myra when you see who has come.
Don't never let me catch you coming into my kitchen that way
again, or I'll shut you up in the big b'iler," growled Debby, who
thought it her duty to snub children on all occasions.
Chapter 2 - The Clan
Rose scrambled into the china-closet as rapidly as possible, and
there refreshed herself by making faces at Debby, while she settled
her plumage and screwed up her courage. Then she crept softly
down the hall and peeped into the parlor. No one appeared, and all
was so still she felt sure the company was upstairs. So she skipped
boldly through the half-open folding-doors, to behold on the other
side a sight that nearly took her breath away.
Seven boys stood in a row all ages, all sizes, all yellow-haired and
blue-eyed, all in full Scotch costume, and all smiling, nodding, and
saying as with one voice, "How are you, cousin?"
Rose gave a little gasp, and looked wildly about her as if ready to
fly, for fear magnified the seven and the room seemed full of boys.
Before she could run, however, the tallest lad stepped out of the
line, saying pleasantly
"Don't be frightened. This is the Clan come to welcome you; and
I'm the chief, Archie, at your service."
He held out his hand as he spoke, and Rose timidly put her own
into a brown paw, which closed over the white morsel and held it
as the chief continued his introductions.
"We came in full rig, for we always turn out in style on grand
occasions. Hope you like it. Now I'll tell you who these chaps are,
and then we shall be all right. This big one is Prince Charlie, Aunt
Clara's boy. She has but one, so he is an extra good one. This old
fellow is Mac, the bookworm, called Worm for short. This sweet
creature is Steve the Dandy. Look at his gloves and top-knot, if you
please. They are Aunt Jane's lads, and a precious pair you'd better
believe. These are the Brats, my brothers, Geordie and Will, and
Jamie the Baby. Now, my men, step out and show your manners."
At this command, to Rose's great dismay, six more hands were
offered, and it was evident that she was expected to shake them
all. It was a trying moment to the bashful child; but, remembering
that they were her kinsmen come to welcome her, she tried her
best to return the greeting cordially.
This impressive ceremony being over, the Clan broke ranks, and
both rooms instantly appeared to be pervaded with boys. Rose
hastily retired to the shelter of a big chair and sat there watching
the invaders and wondering when her aunt would come and rescue
As if bound to do their duty manfully, yet rather oppressed by it,
each lad paused beside her chair in his wanderings, made a brief
remark, received a still briefer answer, and then sheered off with a
Archie came first, and, leaning over the chair-back, observed in a
"I'm glad you've come, cousin, and I hope you'll find the Aunt-hill
"I think I shall."
Mac shook his hair out of his eyes, stumbled over a stool, and
"Did you bring any books with you?"
"Four boxes full. They are in the library."
Mac vanished from the room, and Steve, striking an attitude which
displayed his costume effectively, said with an affable smile
"We were sorry not to see you last Wednesday. I hope your cold is
"Yes, thank you." And a smile began to dimple about Rose's
mouth, as she remembered her retreat under the bed-cover.
Feeling that he had been received with distinguished marks of
attention, Steve strolled away with his topknot higher than ever,
and Prince Charlie pranced across the room, saying in a free and
"Mamma sent her love and hopes you will be well enough to come
over for a day next week. It must be desperately dull here for a
little thing like you."
"I'm thirteen and a half, though I do look small," cried Rose,
forgetting her shyness in indignation at this insult to her newly
"Beg pardon, ma'am; never should have guessed it." And Charlie
went off with a laugh, glad to have struck a spark out of his meek
Geordie and Will came together, two sturdy eleven and twelve
year olders, and, fixing their round blue eyes on Rose, fired off a
question apiece, as if it was a shooting match and she the target.
"Did you bring your monkey?"
"No; he is dead."
"Are you going to have a boat?"
"I hope not."
Here the two, with a right-about-face movement, abruptly marched
away, and little Jamie demanded with childish frankness
"Did you bring me anything nice?"
"Yes, lots of candy," answered Rose, whereupon Jamie ascended
into her lap with a sounding kiss and the announcement that he
liked her very much.
This proceeding rather startled Rose, for the other lads looked and
laughed, and in her confusion she said hastily to the young usurper
"Did you see the circus go by?"
"When? Where?" cried all the boys in great excitement at once.
"Just before you came. At least I thought it was a circus, for I saw
a red and black sort of cart and ever so many little ponies, and "
She got no farther, for a general shout made her pause suddenly, as
Archie explained the joke by saying in the middle of his laugh
"It was our new dog-cart and the Shetland ponies. You'll never
hear the last of your circus, cousin."
"But there were so many, and they went so fast, and the cart was so
very red," began Rose, trying to explain her mistake.
"Come and see them all!" cried the Prince. And before she knew
what was happening, she was borne away to the barn and
tumultuously introduced to three shaggy ponies and the gay new
She had never visited these regions before, and had her doubts as
to the propriety of her being there now, but when she suggested
that "Auntie might not like it," there was a general cry of
"She told us to amuse you, and we can do it ever so much better
out here than poking round in the house."
"I'm afraid I shall get cold without my sacque," began Rose, who
wanted to stay, but felt rather out of her element.
"No, you won't! We'll fix you," cried the lads, as one clapped his
cap on her head, another tied a rough jacket round her neck by the
sleeves, a third neatly smothered her in a carriage blanket, and a
fourth threw open the door of the old barouche that stood there,
saying with a flourish
"Step in, ma'am, and make yourself comfortable while we show
you some fun."
So Rose sat in state enjoying herself very much, for the lads
proceeded to dance a Highland Fling with a spirit and skill that
made her clap her hands and laugh as she had not done for weeks.
"How is that, my lassie?" asked the Prince, coming up all flushed
and breathless when the ballet was over.
"It was splendid! I never went to the theatre but once, and the
dancing was not half so pretty as this. What clever boys you must
be!" said Rose, smiling upon her kinsmen like a little queen upon
"Ah, we're a fine lot, and that is only the beginning of our larks.
We haven't got the pipes here or we'd
'Sing for you, play for you
A dulcy melody."'
answered Charlie, looking much elated at her praise.
"I did not know we were Scotch; papa never said anything about it,
or seemed to care about Scotland, except to have me sing the old
ballads," said Rose, beginning to feel as if she had left America
behind her somewhere.
"Neither did we till lately. We've been reading Scott's novels, and
all of a sudden we remembered that our grandfather was a
Scotchman. So we hunted up the old stories, got a bagpipe, put on
our plaids, and went in, heart and soul, for the glory of the Clan.
We've been at it some time now, and it's great fun. Our people like
it, and I think we are a pretty canny set."
Archie said this from the other coach-step, where he had perched,
while the rest climbed up before and behind to join in the chat as
"I'm Fitzjames and he's Roderick Dhu, and we'll give you the
broadsword combat some day. It's a great thing, you'd better
believe," added the Prince.
"Yes, and you should hear Steve play the pipes. He makes 'em skirl
like a good one," cried Will from the box, eager to air the
accomplishments of his race.
"Mac's the fellow to hunt up the old stories and tell us how to dress
right, and pick out rousing bits for us to speak and sing," put in
Geordie, saying a good word for the absent Worm.
"And what do you and Will do?" asked Rose of Jamie, who sat
beside her as if bound to keep her in sight till the promised gift had
been handed over.
"Oh, I'm the little foot-page, and do errands, and Will and Geordie
are the troops when we march, and the stags when we hunt, and
the traitors when we want to cut any heads off."
"They are very obliging, I'm sure," said Rose, whereat the "utility
men" beamed with modest pride and resolved to enact Wallace
and Montrose as soon as possible for their cousin's special benefit.
"Let's have a game of tag," cried the Prince, swinging himself up to
a beam with a sounding slap on Stevie's shoulder.
Regardless of his gloves, Dandy tore after him, and the rest
swarmed in every direction as if bent on breaking their necks and
dislocating their joints as rapidly as possible.
It was a new and astonishing spectacle to Rose, fresh from a prim
boarding-school, and she watched the active lads with breathless
interest, thinking their antics far superior to those of Mops, the
dear departed monkey.
Will had just covered himself with glory by pitching off a high loft
head first and coming up all right, when Phebe appeared with a
cloak, hood, and rubbers, also a message from Aunt Plenty that
"Miss Rose was to come in directly."
"All right; we'll bring her!" answered Archie, issuing some
mysterious order, which was so promptly obeyed that, before Rose
could get out of the carriage, the boys had caught hold of the pole
and rattled her out of the barn, round the oval and up to the front
door with a cheer that brought two caps to an upper window, and
caused Debby to cry aloud from the back porch
"Them harum-scarum boys will certainly be the death of that
delicate little creter!"
But the "delicate little creter" seemed all the better for her trip, and
ran up the steps looking rosy, gay, and dishevelled, to be received
with lamentation by Aunt Plenty, who begged her to go and lie
down at once.
"Oh, please don't! We have come to tea with our cousin, and we'll
be as good as gold if you'll let us stay, auntie," clamoured the boys,
who not only approved of "our cousin" but had no mind to lose
their tea, for Aunt Plenty's name but feebly expressed her bountiful
"Well, dears, you can; only be quiet, and let Rose go and take her
iron and be made tidy, and then we will see what we can find for
supper," said the old lady as she trotted away, followed by a volley
of directions for the approaching feast.
"Marmalade for me, auntie."
"Plenty of plum-cake, please."
"Tell Debby to trot out the baked pears."
"I'm your man for lemon-pie, ma'am."
"Do have fritters; Rose will like 'em."
"She'd rather have tarts, I know."
When Rose came down, fifteen minutes later, with every curl
smoothed and her most beruffled apron on, she found the boys
loafing about the long hall, and paused on the half-way landing to
take an observation, for till now she had not really examined her
There was a strong family resemblance among them, though some
of the yellow heads were darker than others, some of the cheeks
brown instead of rosy, and the ages varied all the way from
sixteen-year-old Archie to Jamie, who was ten years younger.
None of them were especially comely but the Prince, yet all were
hearty, happy-looking lads, and Rose decided that boys were not as
dreadful as she had expected to find them.
They were all so characteristically employed that she could not
help smiling as she looked. Archie and Charlie, evidently great
cronies, were pacing up and down, shoulder to shoulder, whistling
"Bonnie Dundee"; Mac was reading in a corner, with his book
close to his near-sighted eyes; Dandy was arranging his hair before
the oval glass in the hat-stand; Geordie and Will investigating the
internal economy of the moon-faced clock; and Jamie lay kicking
up his heels on the mat at the foot of the stairs, bent on demanding
his sweeties the instant Rose appeared.
She guessed his intention, and forestalled his demand by dropping
a handful of sugar-plums down upon him.
At his cry of rapture the other lads looked up and smiled
involuntarily, for the little kinswoman standing there above was a
winsome sight with her shy, soft eyes, bright hair, and laughing
face. The black frock reminded them of her loss, and filled the
boyish hearts with a kindly desire to be good to "our cousin," who
had no longer any home but this.
"There she is, as fine as you please," cried Steve, kissing his hand
"Come on, Missy; tea is ready," added the Prince encouragingly.
"I shall take her in." And Archie offered his arm with great dignity,
an honour that made Rose turn as red as a cherry and long to run
It was a merry supper, and the two elder boys added much to the
fun by tormenting the rest with dark hints of some interesting
event which was about to occur. Something uncommonly fine,
they declared it was, but enveloped in the deepest mystery for the
"Did I ever see it?" asked Jamie.
"Not to remember it; but Mac and Steve have, and liked it
immensely," answered Archie, thereby causing the two mentioned
to neglect Debby's delectable fritters for several minutes, while
they cudgelled their brains.
"Who will have it first?" asked Will, with his mouth full of
"Aunt Plenty, I guess."
"When will she have it?" demanded Geordie, bouncing in his seat
"Sometime on Monday."
"Heart alive! what is the boy talking about?" cried the old lady
from behind the tall urn, which left little to be seen but the
topmost bow of her cap.
"Doesn't auntie know?" asked a chorus of voices.
"No; and that's the best of the joke, for she is desperately fond of
"What colour is it?" asked Rose, joining in the fun.
"Blue and brown."
"Is it good to eat?" asked Jamie.
"Some people think so, but I shouldn't like to try it," answered
Charlie, laughing so he split his tea.
"Who does it belong to?" put in Steve.
Archie and the Prince stared at one another rather blankly for a
minute, then Archie answered with a twinkle of the eye that made
Charlie explode again
"To Grandfather Campbell."
This was a poser, and they gave up the puzzle, though Jamie
confided to Rose that he did not think he could live till Monday
without knowing what this remarkable thing was.
Soon after tea the Clan departed, singing "All the blue bonnets are
over the border," at the tops of their voices.
"Well, dear, how do you like your cousins?" asked Aunt Plenty, as
the last pony frisked round the corner and the din died away.
"Pretty well, ma'am; but I like Phebe better." An answer which
caused Aunt Plenty to hold up her hands in despair and trot away
to tell sister Peace that she never should understand that child, and
it was a mercy Alec was coming soon to take the responsibility off
Fatigued by the unusual exertions of the afternoon, Rose curled
herself up in the sofa corner to rest and think about the great
mystery, little guessing that she was to know it first of all.
Right in the middle of her meditations she fell asleep and dreamed
she was at home again in her own little bed. She seemed to wake
and see her father bending over her; to hear him say, "My little
Rose"; to answer, "Yes, papa"; and then to feel him take her in his
arms and kiss her tenderly. So sweet, so real was the dream, that
she started up with a cry of joy to find herself in the arms of a
brown, bearded man, who held her close, and whispered in a voice
so like her father's that she clung to him involuntarily
"This is my little girl, and I am Uncle Alec."
Chapter 3 - Uncles
When Rose woke next morning, she was not sure whether she had
dreamed what occurred the night before, or it had actually
happened. So she hopped up and dressed, although it was an hour
earlier than she usually rose, for she could not sleep any more,
being possessed with a strong desire to slip down and see if the big
portmanteau and packing cases were really in the hall. She seemed
to remember tumbling over them when she went to bed, for the
aunts had sent her off very punctually, because they wanted their
pet nephew all to themselves.
The sun was shining, and Rose opened her window to let in the
soft May air fresh from the sea. As she leaned over her little
balcony, watching an early bird get the worm, and wondering how
she should like Uncle Alec, she saw a man leap the garden wall
and come whistling up the path. At first she thought it was some
trespasser, but a second look showed her that it was her uncle
returning from an early dip into the sea. She had hardly dared to
look at him the night before, because whenever she tried to do so
she always found a pair of keen blue eyes looking at her. Now she
could take a good stare at him as he lingered along, looking about
him as if glad to see the old place again.
A brown, breezy man, in a blue jacket, with no hat on the curly
head, which he shook now and then like a water dog;
broad-shouldered, alert in his motions, and with a general air of
strength and stability about him which pleased Rose, though she
could not explain the feeling of comfort it gave her. She had just
said to herself, with a sense of relief, "I guess I shall like him,
though he looks as if he made people mind," when he lifted his
eyes to examine the budding horse-chestnut overhead, and saw the
eager face peering down at him. He waved his hand to her,
nodded, and called out in a bluff, cheery voice
"You are on deck early, little niece."
"I got up to see if you had really come, uncle."
"Did you? Well, come down here and make sure of it."
"I'm not allowed to go out before breakfast, sir."
"Oh, indeed!" with a shrug. "Then I'll come aboard and salute," he
added; and, to Rose's great amazement, Uncle Alec went up one of
the pillars of the back piazza hand over hand, stepped across the
roof, and swung himself into her balcony, saying, as he landed on
the wide balustrade: "Have you any doubts about me now, ma'am?"
Rose was so taken aback, she could only answer with a smile as
she went to meet him.
"How does my girl do this morning?" he asked, taking the little
cold hand she gave him in both his big warm ones.
"Pretty well, thank you, sir."
"Ah, but it should be very well. Why isn't it?"
"I always wake up with a headache, and feel tired."
"Don't you sleep well?"
"I lie awake a long time, and then I dream, and my sleep does not
seem to rest me much."
"What do you do all day?"
"Oh, I read, and sew a little, and take naps, and sit with auntie."
"No running about out of doors, or house-work, or riding, hey?"
"Aunt Plenty says I'm not strong enough for much exercise. I drive
out with her sometimes, but I don't care for it."
"I'm not surprised at that," said Uncle Alec, half to himself, adding,
in his quick way: "Who have you had to play with?"
"No one but Ariadne Blish, and she was such a goose I couldn't
bear her. The boys came yesterday, and seemed rather nice; but, of
course, I couldn't play with them."
"I'm too old to play with boys."
"Not a bit of it; that's just what you need, for you've been
molly-coddled too much. They are good lads, and you'll be mixed
up with them more or less for years to come, so you may as well
be friends and playmates at once. I will look you up some girls
also, if I can find a sensible one who is not spoilt by her
"Phebe is sensible, I'm sure, and I like her, though I only saw her
yesterday," cried Rose, waking up suddenly.
"And who is Phebe, if you please?"
Rose eagerly told all she knew, and Uncle Alec listened, with an
odd smile lurking about his mouth, though his eyes were quite
sober as he watched the face before him.
"I'm glad to see that you are not aristocratic in your tastes, but I
don't quite make out why you like this young lady from the
"You may laugh at me, but I do. I can't tell why, only she seems so
happy and busy, and sings so beautifully, and is strong enough to
scrub and sweep, and hasn't any troubles to plague her," said Rose,
making a funny jumble of reasons in her efforts to explain.
"How do you know that?"
"Oh, I was telling her about mine, and asked if she had any, and
she said, 'No, only I'd like to go to school, and I mean to some
"So she doesn't call desertion, poverty, and hard work, troubles?
She's a brave little girl, and I shall be proud to know her." And
Uncle Alec gave an approving nod, that made Rose wish she had
been the one to earn it.
"But what are these troubles of yours, child?" he asked, after a
minute of silence.
"Please don't ask me, uncle."
"Can't you tell them to me as well as to Phebe?"
Something in his tone made Rose feel that it would be better to
speak out and be done with it, so she answered, with sudden colour
and averted eyes
"The greatest one was losing dear papa."
As she said that, Uncle Alec's arm came gently round her, and he
drew her to him, saying, in the voice so like papa's
"That is a trouble which I cannot cure, my child; but I shall try to
make you feel it less. What else, dear?"
"I am so tired and poorly all the time, I can't do anything I want to,
and it makes me cross," sighed Rose, rubbing the aching head like
a fretful child.
"That we can cure and we will," said her uncle, with a decided nod
that made the curls bob on his head, to that Rose saw the gray ones
underneath the brown.
"Aunt Myra says I have no constitution, and never shall be strong,"
observed Rose, in a pensive tone, as if it was rather a nice thing to
be an invalid.
"Aunt Myra is a ahem! an excellent woman, but it is her hobby to
believe that everyone is tottering on the brink of the grave; and,
upon my life, I believe she is offended if people don't fall into it!
We will show her how to make constitutions and turn pale-faced
little ghosts into rosy, hearty girls. That's my business, you know,"
he added, more quietly, for his sudden outburst had rather startled
"I had forgotten you were a doctor. I'm glad of it, for I do want to
be well, only I hope you won't give me much medicine, for I've
taken quarts already, and it does me no good."
As she spoke, Rose pointed to a little table just inside the window,
on which appeared a regiment of bottles.
"Ah, ha! Now we'll see what mischief these blessed women have
been at." And, making a long arm, Dr. Alec set the bottles on the
wide railing before him, examined each carefully, smiled over
some, frowned over others, and said, as he put down the last: "Now
I'll show you the best way to take these messes." And, as quick as a
flash, he sent one after another smashing down into the posy-beds
"But Aunt Plenty won't like it; and Aunt Myra will be angry, for
she sent most of them!" cried Rose, half frightened and half
pleased at such energetic measures.
"You are my patient now, and I'll take the responsibility. My way
of giving physic is evidently the best, for you look better already,"
he said, laughing so infectiously that Rose followed suit, saying
"If I don't like your medicines any better than those, I shall throw
them into the garden, and then what will you do?"
"When I prescribe such rubbish, I'll give you leave to pitch it
overboard as soon as you like. Now what is the next trouble?"
"I hoped you would forget to ask."
"But how can I help you if I don't know them? Come, let us have
"It is very wrong, I suppose, but I do sometimes wish I had not
quite so many aunts. They are all very good to me, and I want to
please them; but they are so different, I feel sort of pulled to pieces
among them," said Rose, trying to express the emotions of a stray
chicken with six hens all clucking over it at once.
Uncle Alec threw back his head and laughed like a boy, for he
could entirely understand how the good ladies had each put in her
oar and tried to paddle her own way, to the great disturbance of the
waters and the entire bewilderment of poor Rose.
"I intend to try a course of uncles now, and see how that suits your
constitution. I'm going to have you all to myself, and no one is to
give a word of advice unless I ask it. There is no other way to keep
order aboard, and I am captain of this little craft, for a time at
least. What comes next?"
But Rose stuck there, and grew so red, her uncle guessed what that
"I don't think I can tell this one. It wouldn't be polite, and I feel
pretty sure that it isn't going to be a trouble any more."
As she blushed and stammered over these words, Dr. Alec turned
his eyes away to the distant sea, and said so seriously, so tenderly,
that she felt every word and long remembered them
"My child, I don't expect you to love and trust me all at once, but I
do want you to believe that I shall give my whole heart to this new
duty; and if I make mistakes, as I probably shall, no one will grieve
over them more bitterly than I. It is my fault that I am a stranger to
you, when I want to be your best friend. That is one of my
mistakes, and I never repented it more deeply than I do now. Your
father and I had a trouble once, and I thought I could never forgive
him; so I kept away for years. Thank God, we made it all up the
last time I saw him, and he told me then, that if he was forced to
leave her he should bequeath his little girl to me as a token of his
love. I can't fill his place, but I shall try to be a father to her; and if
she learns to love me half as well as she did the good one she has
lost, I shall be a proud and happy man. Will she believe this and
Something in Uncle Alec's face touched Rose to the heart, and
when he held out his hand with that anxious troubled look in his
eyes, she was moved to put up her innocent lips and seal the
contract with a confiding kiss. The strong arm held her close a
minute, and she felt the broad chest heave once as if with a great
sigh of relief; but not a word was spoken till a tap at the door made
Rose popped her head through the window to say "come in," while
Dr. Alec hastily rubbed the sleeve of his jacket across his eyes and
began to whistle again.
Phebe appeared with a cup of coffee.
"Debby told me to bring this and help you get up," she said,
opening her black eyes wide, as if she wondered how on earth "the
sailor man" got there.
"I'm all dressed, so I don't need any help. I hope that is good and
strong," added Rose, eyeing the steaming cup with an eager look.
But she did not get it, for a brown hand took possession of it as her
uncle said quickly
"Hold hard, my lass, and let me overhaul that dose before you take
it. Do you drink all this strong coffee every morning, Rose?"
"Yes, sir, and I like it. Auntie says it 'tones' me up, and I always
feel better after it."
"This accounts for the sleepless nights, the flutter your heart gets
into at the least start, and this is why that cheek of yours is pale
yellow instead of rosy red. No more coffee for you, my dear, and
by and by you'll see that I am right. Any new milk downstairs,
"Yes, sir, plenty right in from the barn."
"That's the drink for my patient. Go bring me a pitcherful, and
another cup; I want a draught myself. This won't hurt the
honeysuckles, for they have no nerves to speak of." And, to Rose's
great discomfort, the coffee went after the medicine.
Dr. Alec saw the injured look she put on, but took no notice, and
presently banished it by saying pleasantly
"I've got a capital little cup among my traps, and I'll give it to you
to drink your milk in, as it is made of wood that is supposed to
improve whatever is put into it something like a quassia cup. That
reminds me; one of the boxes Phebe wanted to lug upstairs last
night is for you. Knowing that I was coming home to find a
ready-made daughter, I picked up all sorts of odd and pretty trifles
along the way, hoping she would be able to find something she
liked among them all. Early to-morrow we'll have a grand
rummage. Here's our milk! I propose the health of Miss Rose
Campbell and drink it with all my heart."
It was impossible for Rose to pout with the prospect of a delightful
boxful of gifts dancing before her eyes; so, in spite of herself, she
smiled as she drank her own health, and found that fresh milk was
not a hard dose to take.
"Now I must be off, before I am caught again with my wig in a
toss," said Dr. Alec, preparing to descend the way he came.
"Do you always go in and out like a cat, uncle?" asked Rose, much
amused at his odd ways.
"I used to sneak out of my window when I was a boy, so I need not
disturb the aunts, and now I rather like it, for it's the shortest road,
and it keeps me limber when I have no rigging to climb. Good-bye
till breakfast." And away he went down the water-spout, over the
roof, and vanished among the budding honey-suckles below.
"Ain't he a funny guardeen?" exclaimed Phebe, as she went off
with the cups.
"He is a very kind one, I think," answered Rose, following, to
prowl round the big boxes and try to guess which was hers.
When her uncle appeared at sound of the bell, he found her
surveying with an anxious face a new dish that smoked upon the
"Got a fresh trouble, Rosy?" he asked, stroking her smooth head.
"Uncle, are you going to make me eat oatmeal?" asked Rose, in a
"Don't you like it?"
"I de-test it!" answered Rose, with all the emphasis which a
turned-up nose, a shudder, and a groan could give to the three
"You are not a true Scotchwoman, if you don't like the 'parritch.'
It's a pity, for I made it myself, and thought we'd have such a good
time with all that cream to float it in. Well, never mind." And he
sat down with a disappointed air.
Rose had made up her mind to be obstinate about it, because she
did heartily "detest" the dish; but as Uncle Alec did not attempt to
make her obey, she suddenly changed her mind and thought she
"I'll try to eat it to please you, uncle; but people are always saying
how wholesome it is, and that makes me hate it," she said,
half-ashamed at her silly excuse.
"I do want you to like it, because I wish my girl to be as well and
strong as Jessie's boys, who are brought up on this in the good old
fashion. No hot bread and fried stuff for them, and they are the
biggest and bonniest lads of the lot. Bless you, auntie, and good
Dr. Alec turned to greet the old lady, and, with a firm resolve to
eat or die in the attempt, Rose sat down.
In five minutes she forgot what she was eating, so interested was
she in the chat that went on. It amused her very much to hear Aunt
Plenty call her forty-year-old nephew "my dear boy"; and Uncle
Alec was so full of lively gossip about all creation in general, and
the Aunt-hill in particular, that the detested porridge vanished
without a murmur.
"You will go to church with us, I hope, Alec, if you are not too
tired," said the old lady, when breakfast was over.
"I came all the way from Calcutta for that express purpose, ma'am.
Only I must send the sisters word of my arrival, for they don't
expect me till to-morrow, you know, and there will be a row in
church if those boys see me without warning."
"I'll send Ben up the hill, and you can step over to Myra's yourself;
it will please her, and you will have plenty of time."
Dr. Alec was off at once, and they saw no more of him till the old
barouche was at the door, and Aunt Plenty just rustling downstairs
in her Sunday best, with Rose like a little black shadow behind
Away they drove in state, and all the way Uncle Alec's hat was
more off his head than on, for everyone they met smiled and
bowed, and gave him as blithe a greeting as the day permitted.
It was evident that the warning had been a wise one, for, in spite of
time and place, the lads were in such a ferment that their elders sat
in momentary dread of an unseemly outbreak somewhere. It was
simply impossible to keep those fourteen eyes off Uncle Alec, and
the dreadful things that were done during sermon-time will hardly
Rose dared not look up after a while, for these bad boys vented
their emotions upon her till she was ready to laugh and cry with
mingled amusement and vexation. Charlie winked rapturously at
her behind his mother's fan; Mac openly pointed to the tall figure
beside her; Jamie stared fixedly over the back of his pew, till Rose
thought his round eyes would drop out of his head; George fell
over a stool and dropped three books in his excitement; Will drew
sailors and Chinamen on his clean cuffs, and displayed them, to
Rose's great tribulation; Steve nearly upset the whole party by
burning his nose with salts, as he pretended to be overcome by his
joy; even dignified Archie disgraced himself by writing in his
hymn book, "Isn't he blue and brown?" and passing it politely to
Her only salvation was trying to fix her attention upon Uncle Mac
a portly, placid gentleman, who seemed entirely unconscious of
the iniquities of the Clan, and dozed peacefully in his pew corner.
This was the only uncle Rose had met for years, for Uncle Jem and
Uncle Steve, the husbands of Aunt Jessie and Aunt Clara, were at
sea, and Aunt Myra was a widow. Uncle Mac was a merchant, very
rich and busy, and as quiet as a mouse at home, for he was in such
a minority among the women folk he dared not open his lips, and
let his wife rule undisturbed.
Rose liked the big, kindly, silent man who came to her when papa
died, was always sending her splendid boxes of goodies at school,
and often invited her into his great warehouse, full of teas and
spices, wines and all sorts of foreign fruits, there to eat and carry
away whatever she liked. She had secretly regretted that he was
not to be her guardian; but since she had seen Uncle Alec she felt
better about it, for she did not particularly admire Aunt Jane.
When church was over, Dr. Alec got into the porch as quickly as
possible, and there the young bears had a hug all round, while the
sisters shook hands and welcomed him with bright faces and glad
hearts. Rose was nearly crushed flat behind a door in that
dangerous passage from pew to porch; but Uncle Mac rescued her,
and put her into the carriage for safe keeping.
"Now, girls, I want you to come and dine with Alec; Mac also, of
course. But I cannot ask the boys, for we did not expect this dear
fellow till tomorrow, you know, so I made no preparations. Send
the lads home, and let them wait till Monday, for really I was
shocked at their behaviour in church," said Aunt Plenty, as she
In any other place the defrauded boys would have set up a howl; as
it was, they growled and protested till Dr. Alec settled the matter
"Never mind, old chaps, I'll make it up to you to-morrow, if you
sheer off quietly; if you don't, not a blessed thing shall you have
out of my big boxes."
Chapter 4 - Aunts
All dinner-time Rose felt that she was going to be talked about,
and afterward she was sure of it, for Aunt Plenty whispered to her
as they went into the parlour
"Run up and sit awhile with Sister Peace, my dear. She likes to
have you read while she rests, and we are going to be busy."
Rose obeyed, and the quiet rooms above were so like a church that
she soon composed her ruffled feelings, and was unconsciously a
little minister of happiness to the sweet old lady, who for years had
sat there patiently waiting to be set free from pain.
Rose knew the sad romance of her life, and it gave a certain tender
charm to this great-aunt of hers, whom she already loved. When
Peace was twenty, she was about to be married; all was done, the
wedding dress lay ready, the flowers were waiting to be put on, the
happy hour at hand, when word came that the lover was dead.
They thought that gentle Peace would die, too; but she bore it
bravely, put away her bridal gear, took up her life afresh, and lived
on a beautiful, meek woman, with hair as white as snow and
cheeks that never bloomed again. She wore no black, but soft, pale
colours, as if always ready for the marriage that had never come.
For thirty years she had lived on, fading slowly, but cheerful, busy,
and full of interest in all that went on in the family; especially the
joys and sorrows of the young girls growing up about her, and to
them she was adviser, confidante, and friend in all their tender
trials and delights. A truly beautiful old maiden, with her silvery
hair, tranquil face, and an atmosphere of repose about her that
soothed whoever came to her!
Aunt Plenty was utterly dissimilar, being a stout, brisk old lady,
with a sharp eye, a lively tongue, and a face like a winter-apple.
Always trotting, chatting, and bustling, she was a regular Martha,
cumbered with the cares of this world and quite happy in them.
Rose was right; and while she softly read psalms to Aunt Peace,
the other ladies were talking about her little self in the frankest
"Well, Alec, how do you like your ward?" began Aunt Jane, as they
all settled down, and Uncle Mac deposited himself in a corner to
finish his doze.
"I should like her better if I could have begun at the beginning, and
so got a fair start. Poor George led such a solitary life that the child
has suffered in many ways, and since he died she has been going
on worse than ever, judging from the state I find her in."
"My dear boy, we did what we thought best while waiting for you
to wind up your affairs and get home. I always told George he was
wrong to bring her up as he did; but he never took my advice, and
now here we are with this poor dear child upon our hands. I, for
one, freely confess that I don't know what to do with her any more
than if she was one of those strange, outlandish birds you used to
bring home from foreign parts." And Aunt Plenty gave a perplexed
shake of the head which caused great commotion among the stiff
loops of purple ribbon that bristled all over the cap like crocus
"If my advice had been taken, she would have remained at the
excellent school where I placed her. But our aunt thought best to
remove her because she complained, and she has been dawdling
about ever since she came. A most ruinous state of things for a
morbid, spoilt girl like Rose," said Mrs. Jane, severely.
She had never forgiven the old ladies for yielding to Rose's
pathetic petition that she might wait her guardian's arrival before
beginning another term at the school, which was a regular Blimber
hot-bed, and turned out many a feminine Toots.
"I never thought it the proper school for a child in good
circumstances an heiress, in fact, as Rose is. It is all very well for
girls who are to get their own living by teaching, and that sort of
thing; but all she needs is a year or two at a fashionable finishing
school, so that at eighteen she can come out with eclat," put in
Aunt Clara, who had been a beauty and a belle, and was still a
"Dear, dear! how short-sighted you all are to be discussing
education and plans for the future, when this unhappy child is so
plainly marked for the tomb," sighed Aunt Myra, with a lugubrious
sniff and a solemn wag of the funereal bonnet, which she refused
to remove, being afflicted with a chronic catarrh.
"Now, it is my opinion that the dear thing only wants freedom,
rest, and care. There is look in her eyes that goes to my heart, for it
shows that she feels the need of what none of us can give her a
mother," said Aunt Jessie, with tears in her own bright eyes at the
thought of her boys being left, as Rose was, to the care of others.
Uncle Alec, who had listened silently as each spoke, turned
quickly towards the last sister, and said, with a decided nod of
"You've got it, Jessie; and, with you to help me, I hope to make the
child feel that she is not quite fatherless and motherless."
"I'll do my best, Alec; and I think you will need me, for, wise as
you are, you cannot understand a tender, timid little creature like
Rose as a woman can," said Mrs. Jessie, smiling back at him with
a heart full of motherly goodwill.
"I cannot help feeling that I, who have had a daughter of my own,
can best bring up a girl; and I am very much surprised that George
did not entrust her to me," observed Aunt Myra, with an air of
melancholy importance, for she was the only one who had given a
daughter to the family, and she felt that she had distinguished
herself, though ill-natured people said that she had dosed her
darling to death.
"I never blamed him in the least, when I remember the perilous
experiments you tried with poor Carrie," began Mrs. Jane, in her
"Jane Campbell, I will not hear a word! My sainted Caroline is a
sacred object," cried Aunt Myra, rising as if to leave the room.
Dr. Alec detained her, feeling that he must define his position at
once, and maintain it manfully if he hoped to have any success in
his new undertaking.
"Now, my dear souls, don't let us quarrel and make Rose a bone of
contention though, upon my word, she is almost a bone, poor little
lass! You have had her among you for a year, and done what you
liked. I cannot say that your success is great, but that is owing to
too many fingers in the pie. Now, I intend to try my way for a year,
and if at the end of it she is not in better trim than now, I'll give up
the case, and hand her over to someone else. That's fair, I think."
"She will not be here a year hence, poor darling, so no one need
dread future responsibility," said Aunt Myra, folding her black
gloves as if all ready for the funeral.
"By Jupiter! Myra, you are enough to damp the ardour of a saint!"
cried Dr. Alec, with a sudden spark in his eyes. "Your croaking
will worry that child out of her wits, for she is an imaginative puss,
and will fret and fancy untold horrors. You have put it into her
head that she has no constitution, and she rather likes the idea. If
she had not had a pretty good one, she would have been 'marked
for the tomb' by this time, at the rate you have been going on with
her. I will not have any interference please understand that; so just
wash your hands of her, and let me manage till I want help, then
I'll ask for it."
"Hear, hear!" came from the corner where Uncle Mac was
apparently wrapt in slumber.
"You were appointed guardian, so we can do nothing. But I predict
that the girl will be spoilt, utterly spoilt," answered Mrs. Jane,
"Thank you, sister. I have an idea that if a woman can bring up two
boys as perfectly as you do yours, a man, if he devotes his whole
mind to it, may at least attempt as much with one girl," replied Dr.
Alec, with a humorous look that tickled the others immensely, for
it was a well-known fact in the family that Jane's boys were more
indulged than all the other lads put together.
"I am quite easy, for I really do think that Alec will improve the
child's health; and by the time his year is out, it will be quite soon
enough for her to go to Madame Roccabella's and be finished off,"
said Aunt Clara, settling her rings, and thinking, with languid
satisfaction, of the time when she could bring out a pretty and
"I suppose you will stay here in the old place, unless you think of
marrying, and it's high time you did," put in Mrs. Jane, much
nettled at her brother's last hit.
"No, thank you. Come and have a cigar, Mac," said Dr. Alec,
"Don't marry; women enough in the family already," muttered
Uncle Mac; and then the gentlemen hastily fled.
"Aunt Peace would like to see you all, she says," was the message
Rose brought before the ladies could begin again.
"Hectic, hectic! dear me, dear me!" murmured Aunt Myra, as the
shadow of her gloomy bonnet fell upon Rose, and the stiff tips of a
black glove touched the cheek where the colour deepened under so
"I am glad these pretty curls are natural; they will be invaluable by
and by," said Aunt Clara, taking an observation with her head on
"Now that your uncle has come, I no longer expect you to review
the studies of the past year. I trust your time will not be entirely
wasted in frivolous sports, however," added Aunt Jane, sailing out
of the room with the air of a martyr.
Aunt Jessie said not a word, but kissed her little niece, with a look
of tender sympathy that made Rose cling to her a minute, and
follow her with grateful eyes as the door closed behind her.
After everybody had gone home, Dr. Alec paced up and down the
lower hall in the twilight for an hour, thinking so intently that
sometimes he frowned, sometimes he smiled, and more than once
he stood still in a brown study. All of a sudden he said, half aloud,
as if he had made up his mind
"I might as well begin at once, and give the child something new to
think about, for Myra's dismals and Jane's lectures have made her
as blue as a little indigo bag."
Diving into one of the trunks that stood in a corner, he brought up,
after a brisk rummage, a silken cushion, prettily embroidered, and
a quaint cup of dark carved wood.
"This will do for a start," he said, as he plumped up the cushion
and dusted the cup. "It won't do to begin too energetically, or Rose
will be frightened. I must beguile her gently and pleasantly along
till I've won her confidence, and then she will be ready for
Just then Phebe came out of the dining-room with a plate of brown
bread, for Rose had been allowed no hot biscuit for tea.
"I'll relieve you of some of that," said Dr. Alec, and, helping
himself to a generous slice, he retired to the study, leaving Phebe
to wonder at his appetite.
She would have wondered still more if she had seen him making
that brown bread into neat little pills, which he packed into an
attractive ivory box, out of which he emptied his own bits of
"There! if they insist on medicine, I'll order these, and no harm
will be done. I will have my own way, but I'll keep the peace, if
possible, and confess the joke when my experiment has
succeeded," he said to himself, looking very much like a
mischievous boy, as he went on with his innocent prescriptions.
Rose was playing softly on the small organ that stood in the upper
hall, so that Aunt Peace could enjoy it; and all the while he talked
with the old ladies, Uncle Alec was listening to the fitful music of
the child, and thinking of another Rose who used to play for him.
As the clock struck eight, he called out
"Time for my girl to be abed, else she won't be up early, and I'm
full of jolly plans for to-morrow. Come and see what I've found for
you to begin upon."
Rose ran in and listened with bright attentive face, while Dr. Alec
"In my wanderings over the face of the earth, I have picked up
some excellent remedies, and, as they are rather agreeable ones, I
think you and I will try them. This is a herb-pillow, given to me by
a wise old woman when I was ill in India. It is filled with saffron,
poppies, and other soothing plants; so lay your little head on it
to-night, sleep sweetly without a dream, and wake to-morrow
without a pain."
"Shall I really? How nice it smells." And Rose willingly received
the pretty pillow, and stood enjoying its faint, sweet odour, as she
listened to the doctor's next remedy.
"This is the cup I told you of. Its virtue depends, they say, on the
drinker filling it himself; so you must learn to milk. I'll teach you."
"I'm afraid I never can," said Rose; but she surveyed the cup with
favour, for a funny little imp danced on the handle, as if all ready
to take a header into the white sea below.
"Don't you think she ought to have something more strengthening
than milk, Alec? I really shall feel anxious if she does not have a
tonic of some sort," said Aunt Plenty, eyeing the new remedies
suspiciously, for she had more faith in her old-fashioned doses
than all the magic cups and poppy pillows of the East.
"Well, ma'am, I'm willing to give her a pill, if you think best. It is a
very simple one, and very large quantities may be taken without
harm. You know hasheesh is the extract of hemp? Well, this is a
preparation of corn and rye, much used in old times, and I hope it
will be again."
"Dear me, how singular!" said Aunt Plenty, bringing her spectacles
to bear upon the pills, with a face so full of respectful interest that
it was almost too much for Dr. Alec's gravity.
"Take one in the morning, and a good-night to you, my dear," he
said, dismissing his patient with a hearty kiss.
Then, as she vanished, he put both hands into his hair, exclaiming,
with a comical mixture of anxiety and amusement
"When I think what I have undertaken, I declare to you, aunt, I feel
like running away and not coming back till Rose is eighteen!"
Chapter 5 - A Belt and a Box
When Rose came out of her chamber, cup in hand, next morning,
the first person she saw was Uncle Alec standing on the threshold
of the room opposite, which he appeared to be examining with
care. When he heard her step, he turned about and began to sing
"Where are you going, my pretty maid?"
"I'm going a-milking, sir, she said," answered Rose, waving the
cup; and then they finished the verse together in fine style.
Before either spoke, a head, in a nightcap so large and beruffled
that it looked like a cabbage, popped out of a room farther down
the hall, and an astonished voice exclaimed
"What in the world are you doing about so early?"
"Clearing our pipes for the day, ma'am. Look here, auntie, can I
have this room?" said Dr. Alec, making her a sailor's bow.
"Any room you like, except sister's."
"Thanks. And may I go rummaging round in the garrets and
glory-holes to furnish it as I like?"
"My dear boy, you may turn the house upside down if you will
only stay in it."
"That's a handsome offer, I'm sure. I'll stay, ma'am; here's my little
anchor, so you will get more than you want of me this time."
"That's inpossible! Put on your jacket, Rose. Don't tire her out with
antics, Alec. Yes, sister, I'm coming!" and the cabbage vanished
The first milking lesson was a droll one; but after several scares
and many vain attempts, Rose at last managed to fill her cup, while
Ben held Clover's tail so that it could not flap, and Dr. Alec kept
her from turning to stare at the new milkmaid, who objected to
both these proceedings very much.
"You look chilly in spite of all this laughing. Take a smart run
round the garden and get up a glow," said the doctor, as they left
"I'm too old for running, uncle; Miss Power said it was not
lady-like for girls in their teens," answered Rose, primly.
"I take the liberty of differing from Madame Prunes and Prisms,
and, as your physician, I order you to run. Off with you!" said
Uncle Alec, with a look and a gesture that made Rose scurry away
as fast as she could go.
Anxious to please him, she raced round the beds till she came back
to the porch where he stood, and, dropping down upon the steps,
she sat panting, with cheeks as rosy as the rigolette on her
"Very well done, child; I see you have not lost the use of your
limbs though you are in your teens. That belt is too tight; unfasten
it, then you can take a long breath without panting so."
"It isn't tight, sir; I can breathe perfectly well," began Rose, trying
to compose herself.
Her uncle's only answer was to lift her up and unhook the new belt
of which she was so proud. The moment the clasp was open the
belt flew apart several inches, for it was impossible to restrain the
involuntary sigh of relief that flatly contradicted her words.
"Why, I didn't know it was tight! it didn't feel so a bit. Of course it
would open if I puff like this, but I never do, because I hardly ever
run," explained Rose, rather discomfited by this discovery.
"I see you don't half fill your lungs, and so you can wear this
absurd thing without feeling it. The idea of cramping a tender little
waist in a stiff band of leather and steel just when it ought to be
growing," said Dr. Alec, surveying the belt with great disfavour as
he put the clasp forward several holes, to Rose's secret dismay, for
she was proud of her slender figure, and daily rejoiced that she
wasn't as stout as Luly Miller, a former schoolmate, who vainly
tried to repress her plumpness.
"It will fall off if it is so loose," she said anxiously, as she stood
watching him pull her precious belt about.
"Not if you keep taking long breaths to hold it on. That is what I
want you to do, and when you have filled this out we will go on
enlarging it till your waist is more like that of Hebe, goddess of
health, and less like that of a fashion-plate the ugliest thing
"How it does look!" and Rose gave a glance of scorn at the loose
belt hanging round her trim little waist. "It will be lost, and then I
shall feel badly, for it cost ever so much, and is real steel and
Russia leather. Just smell how nice."
"If it is lost I'll give you a better one. A soft silken sash is much
fitter for a pretty child like you than a plated harness like this; and
I've got no end of Italian scarfs and Turkish sashes among my
traps. Ah! that makes you feel better, doesn't it?" and he pinched
the cheek that had suddenly dimpled with a smile.
"It is very silly of me, but I can't help liking to know that" here she
stopped and blushed and held down her head, ashamed to add,
"you think I am pretty."
Dr. Alec's eyed twinkled, but he said very soberly
"Rose, are you vain?"
"I'm afraid I am," answered a very meek voice from behind the veil
of hair that hid the red face.
"That is a sad fault." And he sighed as if grieved at the confession.
"I know it is, and I try not to be; but people praise me, and I can't
help liking it, for I really don't think I am repulsive."
The last word and the funny tone in which it was uttered were too
much for Dr. Alec, and he laughed in spite of himself, to Rose's
"I quite agree with you; and in order that you may be still less
repulsive, I want you to grow as fine a girl as Phebe."
"Phebe!" and Rose looked so amazed that her uncle nearly went
"Yes, Phebe; for she has what you need health. If you dear little
girls would only learn what real beauty is, and not pinch and starve
and bleach yourselves out so, you'd save an immense deal of time
and money and pain. A happy soul in a healthy body makes the
best sort of beauty for man or woman. Do you understand that, my
"Yes, sir," answered Rose, much taken down by this comparison
with the girl from the poor-house. It nettled her sadly, and she
showed that it did by saying quickly
"I suppose you would like to have me sweep and scrub, and wear
an old brown dress, and go round with my sleeves rolled up, as
"I should very much, if you could work as well as she does, and
show as strong a pair of arms as she can. I haven't seen a prettier
picture for some time than she made of herself this morning, up to
the elbows in suds, singing like a blackbird whilst she scrubbed on
the back stoop."
"Well, I do think you are the queerest man that ever lived!" was all
Rose could find to say after this display of bad taste.
"I haven't begun to show you my oddities yet, so you must make up
your mind to worse shocks than this," he said, with such a
whimsical look that she was glad the sound of a bell prevented her
showing more plainly what a blow her little vanities had already
"You will find your box all open up in auntie's parlor, and there
you can amuse her and yourself by rummaging to your heart's
content; I've got to be cruising round all the morning getting my
room to rights," said Dr. Alec, as they rose from breakfast.
"Can't I help you, uncle?" asked Rose, quite burning to be useful.
"No, thank you, I'm going to borrow Phebe for a while, if Aunt
Plenty can spare her."
"Anybody anything, Alec. You will want me, I know, so I'll give
orders about dinner and be all ready to lend a hand"; and the old
lady bustled away full of interest and good-will.
"Uncle will find that I can do some things that Phebe can't, so
now!" thought Rose, with a toss of the head as she flew to Aunt
Peace and the long-desired box.
Every little girl can easily imagine what an extra good time she
had diving into a sea of treasures and fishing up one pretty thing
after another, till the air was full of the mingled odours of musk
and sandalwood, the room gay with bright colours, and Rose in a
rapture of delight. She began to forgive Dr. Alec for the oatmeal
diet when she saw a lovely ivory workbox; became resigned to the
state of her belt when she found a pile of rainbow-coloured sashes;
and when she came to some distractingly pretty bottles of attar of
rose, she felt that they almost atoned for the great sin of thinking
Phebe the finer girl of the two.
Dr. Alec meanwhile had apparently taken Aunt Plenty at her word,
and was turning the house upside down. A general revolution was
evidently going on in the green-room, for the dark damask curtains
were seen bundling away in Phebe's arms; the air-tight stove
retiring to the cellar on Ben's shoulder; and the great bedstead
going up garret in a fragmentary state, escorted by three bearers.
Aunt Plenty was constantly on the trot among her store-rooms,
camphor-chests, and linen-closets, looking as if the new order of
things both amazed and amused her.
Half the peculiar performances of Dr. Alec cannot be revealed; but
as Rose glanced up from her box now and then she caught
glimpses of him striding by, bearing a bamboo chair, a pair of
ancient andirons, a queer Japanese screen, a rug or two, and finally
a large bathing-pan upon his head.
"What a curious room it will be," she said, as she sat resting and
refreshing herself with "Lumps of Delight," all the way from
"I fancy you will like it, deary," answered Aunt Peace, looking up
with a smile from some pretty trifle she was making with blue silk
and white muslin.
Rose did not see the smile, for just at that moment her uncle
paused at the door, and she sprang up to dance before him, saying,
with a face full of childish happiness
"Look at me! look at me! I'm splendid I don't know myself. I
haven't put these things on right, I dare say, but I do like them so
"You look as gay as a parrot in your fez and cabaja, and it does my
heart good to see the little black shadow turned into a rainbow,"
said Uncle Alec, surveying the bright figure before him with great
He did not say it, but he thought she made a much prettier picture
than Phebe at the wash-tub, for she had stuck a purple fez on her
blonde head, tied several brilliant scarfs about her waist, and put
on a truly gorgeous scarlet jacket with a golden sun embroidered
on the back, a silver moon on the front, and stars of all sizes on the
sleeves. A pair of Turkish slippers adorned her feet, and necklaces
of amber, coral, and filigree hung about her neck, while one hand
held a smelling-bottle, and the other the spicy box of oriental
"I feel like a girl in the 'Arabian Nights,' and expect to find a magic
carpet or a wonderful talisman somewhere. Only I don't see how I
ever can thank you for all these lovely things," she said, stopping
her dance, as if suddenly oppressed with gratitude.
"I'll tell you how by leaving off the black clothes, that never should
have been kept so long on such a child, and wearing the gay ones
I've brought. It will do your spirits good, and cheer up this sober
old house. Won't it, auntie?"
"I think you are right, Alec, and it is fortunate that we have not
begun on her spring clothes yet, for Myra thought she ought not to
wear anything brighter than violet, and she is too pale for that."
"You just let me direct Miss Hemming how to make some of these
things. You will be surprised to see how much I know about piping
hems and gathering arm-holes and shirring biases," began Dr.
Alec, patting a pile of muslin, cloth and silk with a knowing air.
Aunt Peace and Rose laughed so that he could not display his
knowledge any farther, till they stopped, when he said
"That will go a great way toward filling out the belt, so laugh
away, Morgiana, and I'll go back to my work, or I never shall be
"I couldn't help it, 'shirred biases' were so very funny!" Rose said,
as she turned to her box after the splendid laugh. "But really,
auntie," she added soberly, "I feel as if I ought not to have so many
nice things. I suppose it wouldn't do to give Phebe some of them?
Uncle might not like it."
"He would not mind; but they are not suitable for Phebe. Some of
the dresses you are done with would be more useful, if they can be
made over to fit her," answered Aunt Peace in the prudent,
moderate tone which is so trying to our feelings when we indulge
in little fits of charitable enthusiasm.
"I'd rather give her new ones, for I think she is a little bit proud and
might not like old things. If she was my sister it would do, because
sisters don't mind, but she isn't, and that makes it bad, you see. I
know how I can manage beautifully; I'll adopt her!" and Rose
looked quite radiant with this new idea.
"I'm afraid you could not do it legally till you are older, but you
might see if she likes the plan, and at any rate you can be very kind
to her, for in one sense we are all sisters, and should help one
The sweet old face looked at her so kindly that Rose was fired
with a desire to settle the matter at once, and rushed away to the
kitchen, just as she was. Phebe was there, polishing up the antique
andirons so busily that she started when a voice cried out: "Smell
that, taste this, and look at me!"
Phebe sniffed attar of rose, crunched the "Lump of Delight" tucked
into her mouth, and stared with all her eyes at little Morgiana
prancing about the room like a brilliant paroquet.
"My stars, ain't you splendid!" was all she could say, holding up
two dusty hands.
"I've got heaps of lovely things upstairs, and I'll show them all to
you, and I'd go halves, only auntie thinks they wouldn't be useful,
so I shall give you something else; and you won't mind, will you?
because I want to adopt you as Arabella was in the story. Won't
that be nice?"
"Why, Miss Rose, have you lost your wits?"
No wonder Phebe asked, for Rose talked very fast, and looked so
odd in her new costume, and was so eager she could not stop to
explain. Seeing Phebe's bewilderment, she quieted down and said,
with a pretty air of earnestness
"It isn't fair that I should have so much and you so little, and I want
to be as good to you as if you were my sister, for Aunt Peace says
we are all sisters really. I thought if I adopted you as much as I can
now, it would be nicer. Will you let me, please?"
To Rose's great surprise, Phebe sat down on the floor and hid her
face in her apron for a minute without answering a word.
"Oh, dear, now she's offended, and I don't know what to do,"
thought Rose, much discouraged by this reception of her offer.
"Please, forgive me; I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, and hope
you won't think " she faltered presently, feeling that she must undo
the mischief, if possible.
But Phebe gave her another surprise, by dropping the apron and
showing a face all smiles, in spite of tears in the eyes, as she put
both arms round Rose and said, with a laugh and sob
"I think you are the dearest girl in the world, and I'll let you do
anything you like with me."
"Then you do like the plan? You didn't cry because I seemed to be
kind of patronising? I truly didn't mean to be," cried Rose,
"I guess I do like it! and cried because no one was ever so good to
me before, and I couldn't help it. As for patronising, you may walk
on me if you want to, and I won't mind," said Phebe, in a burst of
gratitude, for the words, "we are sisters" went straight to her lonely
heart and nestled there.
"Well, now, we can play I'm a good sprite out of the box, or, what
is better, a fairy godmother come down the chimney, and you are
Cinderella, and must say what you want," said Rose, trying to put
the question delicately.
Phebe understood that, for she had a good deal of natural
refinement, though she did come from the poor-house.
"I don't feel as if I wanted anything now, Miss Rose, but to find
some way of thanking you for all you've done," she said, rubbing
off a tear that went rolling down the bridge of her nose in the most
"Why, I haven't done anything but given you a bit of candy! Here,
have some more, and eat 'em while you work, and think what I can
do. I must go and clear up, so good-bye, and don't forget I've
"You've given me sweeter things than candy, and I'm not likely to
forget it." And carefully wiping off the brick-dust, Phebe pressed
the little hand Rose offered warmly in both her hard ones, while
the black eyes followed the departing visitor with a grateful look
that made them very soft and bright.
Chapter 6 - Uncle Alec's Room
Soon after dinner, and before she had got acquainted with half her
new possessions, Dr. Alec proposed a drive, to carry round the first
instalment of gifts to the aunts and cousins. Rose was quite ready
to go, being anxious to try a certain soft burnous from the box,
which not only possessed a most engaging little hood, but had
funny tassels bobbing in all directions.
The big carriage was full of parcels, and even Ben's seat was
loaded with Indian war clubs, a Chinese kite of immense size, and
a pair of polished ox-horns from Africa. Uncle Alec, very blue as
to his clothes, and very brown as to his face, sat bolt upright,
surveying well known places with interest, while Rose, feeling
unusually elegant and comfortable, leaned back folded in her soft
mantle, and played she was an Eastern princess making a royal
progress among her subjects.
At three of the places their calls were brief, for Aunt Myra's
catarrh was unusually bad; Aunt Clara had a room full of
company; and Aunt Jane showed such a tendency to discuss the
population, productions, and politics of Europe, Asia and Africa,
that even Dr. Alec was dismayed, and got away as soon as
"Now we will have a good time! I do hope the boys will be at
home," said Rose, with a sigh of relief, as they wound yet higher
up the hill to Aunt Jessie's.
"I left this for the last call, so that we might find the lads just in
from school. Yes, there is Jamie on the gate watching for us; now
you'll see the Clan gather; they are always swarming about
The instant Jamie saw the approaching guests he gave a shrill
whistle, which was answered by echoes from meadow, house and
barn, as the cousins came running from all directions, shouting,
"Hooray for Uncle Alec!" They went at the carriage like
highwaymen, robbed it of every parcel, took the occupants
prisoners, and marched them into the house with great exultation.
"Little Mum! little Mum! here they are with lots of goodies! Come
down and see the fun right away! Quick!" bawled Will and
Geordie amidst a general ripping off of papers and a reckless
cutting of strings that soon turned the tidy room into a chaos.
Down came Aunt Jessie with her pretty cap half on, but such a
beaming face below it that one rather thought the fly-away
head-gear an improvement than otherwise. She had hardly time to
greet Rose and the doctor before the boys were about her, each
clamouring for her to see his gift and rejoice over it with him, for
"little Mum" went halves in everything. The great horns
skirmished about her as if to toss her to the ceiling; the war clubs
hurtled over her head as if to annihilate her; an amazing medley
from the four quarters of the globe filled her lap, and seven excited
boys all talked to her at once.
But she liked it; oh dear, yes! and sat smiling, admiring, and
explaining, quite untroubled by the din, which made Rose cover up
her ears and Dr. Alec threaten instant flight if the riot was not
quelled. That threat produced a lull, and while the uncle received
thanks in one corner, the aunt had some little confidences made to
her in the other.
"Well, dear, and how are things going with you now? Better, I
hope, than they were a week ago."
"Aunt Jessie, I think I'm going to be very happy, now uncle has
come. He does the queerest things, but he is so good to me I can't
help loving him"; and, nestling closer to little Mum, Rose told all
that had happened, ending with a rapturous account of the splendid
"I am very glad, dear. But, Rose, I must warn you of one thing;
don't let uncle spoil you."
"But I like to be spoilt, auntie."
"I don't doubt it; but if you turn out badly when the year is over he
will be blamed, and his experiment prove a failure. That would be
a pity, wouldn't it? when he wants to do so much for you, and can
do it if his kind heart does not get in the way of his good
"I never thought of that, and I'll try not to be spoilt. But how can I
help it?" asked Rose anxiously.
"By not complaining of the wholesome things he wants you to do;
by giving him cheerful obedience as well as love; and even making
some small sacrifices for his sake."
"I will, I truly will! and when I get in a worry about things may I
come to you? Uncle told me to, and I feel as if I shouldn't be
"You may, darling; this is the place where little troubles are best
cured, and this is what mothers are for, I fancy"; and Aunt Jessie
drew the curly head to her shoulder with a tender look that proved
how well she knew what medicine the child most needed.
It was so sweet and comfortable that Rose sat still enjoying it till a
little voice said
"Mamma, don't you think Pokey would like some of my shells?
Rose gave Phebe some of her nice things, and it was very good of
her. Can I?"
"Who is Pokey?" asked Rose, popping up her head, attracted by the
"My dolly; do you want to see her?" asked Jamie, who had been
much impressed by the tale of adoption he had overheard.
"Yes; I'm fond of dollies, only don't tell the boys, or they will laugh
"They don't laugh at me, and they play with my dolly a great deal;
but she likes me best"; and Jamie ran away to produce his pet.
"I brought my old doll, but I keep her hidden because I am too big
to play with her, and yet I can't bear to throw her away, I'm so fond
of her," said Rose, continuing her confidences in a whisper.
"You can come and play with Jamie's whenever you like, for we
believe in dollies up here," began Aunt Jessie, smiling to herself as
if something amused her.
Just then Jamie came back, and Rose understood the smile, for his
dolly proved to be a pretty four-year-old little girl, who trotted in
as fast as her fat legs would carry her, and making straight for the
shells, scrambled up an armful, saying, with a laugh that showed
her little white teeth
"All for Dimmy and me, for Dimmy and me!"
"That's my dolly; isn't she a nice one?" asked Jamie, proudly
surveying his pet with his hands behind him and his short legs
rather far apart a manly attitude copied from his brothers.
"She is a dear dolly. But why call her Pokey?" asked Rose,
charmed with the new plaything.
"She is such an inquisitive little body she is always poking that
mite of a nose into everything; and as Paul Pry did not suit, the
boys fell to calling her Pokey. Not a pretty name, but very
It certainly was, for, having examined the shells, the busy tot laid
hold of everything she could find, and continued her researches till
Archie caught her sucking his carved ivory chessmen to see if they
were not barley sugar. Rice paper pictures were also discovered
crumpled up in her tiny pocket, and she nearly smashed Will's
ostrich egg by trying to sit upon it.
"Here, Jim, take her away; she's worse than the puppies, and we
can't have her round," commanded the elder brother, picking her
up and handing her over to the little fellow, who received her with
open arms and the warning remark