Part 4 out of 5
neck, and when she took this base advantage of them they could
only squirm with dismay. "Yes, right behind the back log," she
continued, energetically. "There, my hearties (you like sea slang,
so I'll give you a bit) now, I want you to promise not to read any
more stuff for a month, and I'll agree to supply you with
"Oh, mother, not a single one?" cried Will.
"Couldn't we just finish those?" pleaded Geordie.
"The boys threw away half-smoked cigars; and your books must go
after them. Surely you would not be outdone by the 'old fellows,' as
you call them, or be less obedient to little Mum than they were to
"Course not! Come on, Geordie," and Will took the vow like a
hero. His brother sighed and obeyed, but privately resolved to
finish his story the minute the month was over.
"You have laid out a hard task for yourself, Jessie, in trying to
provide good reading for boys who have been living on sensation
stories. It will be like going from raspberry tarts to plain bread and
butter; but you will probably save them from a bilious fever," said
Dr. Alec, much amused at the proceedings.
"I remember hearing grandpa say that a love for good books was
one of the best safeguards a man could have," began Archie,
staring thoughtfully at the fine library before him.
"Yes, but there's no time to read nowadays; a fellow has to keep
scratching round to make money or he's nobody," cut in Charlie,
trying to look worldly-wise.
"This love of money is the curse of America, and for the sake of it
men will sell honour and honesty, till we don't know whom to
trust, and it is only a genius like Agassiz who dares to say, 'I cannot
waste my time in getting rich,' " said Mrs. Jessie sadly.
"Do you want us to be poor, mother?" asked Archie, wondering.
"No, dear, and you never need be, while you can use your hands;
but I am afraid of this thirst for wealth, and the temptations it
brings. O, my boys! I tremble for the time when I must let you go,
because I think it would break my heart to have you fail as so
many fail. It would be far easier to see you dead if it could be said
of you as of Sumner 'No man dared offer him a bribe.' "
Mrs. Jessie was so earnest in her motherly anxiety that her voice
faltered over the last words, and she hugged the yellow heads
closer in her arms, as if she feared to let them leave that safe
harbour for the great sea where so many little boats go down. The
younger lads nestled closer to her, and Archie said, in his quiet,
"I cannot promise to be an Agassiz or a Sumner, mother; but I do
promise to be an honest man, please God."
"Then I'm satisfied!" and holding fast the hand he gave her, she
sealed his promise with a kiss that had all a mother's hope and
faith in it.
"I don't see how they ever can be bad, she is so fond and proud of
them," whispered Rose, quite touched by the little scene.
"You must help her make them what they should be. You have
begun already, and when I see those rings where they are, my girl
is prettier in my sight than if the biggest diamonds that ever
twinkled shone in her ears," answered Dr. Alec, looking at her
with approving eyes.
"I'm so glad you think I can do anything, for I perfectly ache to be
useful; everyone is so good to me, especially Aunt Jessie."
"I think you are in a fair way to pay your debts, Rosy, for when
girls give up their little vanities, and boys their small vices, and try
to strengthen each other in well-doing, matters are going as they
ought. Work away, my dear, and help their mother keep these sons
fit friends for an innocent creature like yourself; they will be the
manlier men for it, I can assure you."
Chapter 18 - Fashion and Physiology
"Please, sir, I guess you'd better step up right away, or it will be too
late, for I heard Miss Rose say she knew you wouldn't like it, and
she'd never dare to let you see her."
Phebe said this as she popped her head into the study, where Dr.
Alec sat reading a new book.
"They are at it, are they?" he said, looking up quickly, and giving
himself a shake, as if ready for a battle of some sort.
"Yes, sir, as hard as they can talk, and Miss Rose don't seem to
know what to do, for the things are ever so stylish, and she looks
elegant in 'em; though I like her best in the old ones," answered
"You are a girl of sense. I'll settle matters for Rosy, and you'll lend
a hand. Is everything ready in her room, and are you sure you
understand how they go?"
"Oh, yes, sir; but they are so funny! I know Miss Rose will think
it's a joke," and Phebe laughed as if something tickled her
"Never mind what she thinks so long as she obeys. Tell her to do it
for my sake, and she will find it the best joke she ever saw. I
expect to have a tough time of it, but we'll win yet," said the
Doctor, as he marched upstairs with the book in his hand, and an
odd smile on his face.
There was such a clatter of tongues in the sewing-room that no one
heard his tap at the door, so he pushed it open and took an
observation. Aunt Plenty, Aunt Clara, and Aunt Jessie were all
absorbed in gazing at Rose, who slowly revolved between them
and the great mirror, in a full winter costume of the latest fashion.
"Bless my heart! worse even than I expected," thought the Doctor,
with an inward groan, for, to his benighted eyes, the girl looked
like a trussed fowl, and the fine new dress had neither grace,
beauty, nor fitness to recommend it.
The suit was of two peculiar shades of blue, so arranged that
patches of light and dark distracted the eye. The upper skirt was
tied so lightly back that it was impossible to take a long step, and
the under one was so loaded with plaited frills that it "wobbled" no
other word will express it ungracefully, both fore and aft. A bunch
of folds was gathered up just below the waist behind, and a great
bow rode a-top. A small jacket of the same material was adorned
with a high ruff at the back, and laid well open over the breast, to
display some lace and a locket. Heavy fringes, bows, puffs, ruffles,
and revers finished off the dress, making one's head ache to think
of the amount of work wasted, for not a single graceful line struck
the eye, and the beauty of the material was quite lost in the
profusion of ornament.
A high velvet hat, audaciously turned up in front, with a bunch of
pink roses and a sweeping plume, was cocked over one ear, and,
with her curls braided into a club at the back of her neck, Rose's
head looked more like that of a dashing young cavalier than a
modest little girl's. High-heeled boots tilted her well forward, a
tiny muff pinioned her arms, and a spotted veil, tied so closely
over her face that her eyelashes were rumpled by it, gave the last
touch of absurdity to her appearance.
"Now she looks like other girls, and as I like to see her," Mrs.
Clara was saying, with an air of great satisfaction.
"She does look like a fashionable young lady, but somehow I miss
my little Rose, for children dressed like children in my day,"
answered Aunt Plenty, peering through her glasses with a troubled
look, for she could not imagine the creature before her ever sitting
in her lap, running to wait upon her, or making the house gay with
a child's blithe presence.
"Things have changed since your day, Aunt, and it takes time to
get used to new ways. But you, Jessie, surely like this costume
better than the dowdy things Rose has been wearing all summer.
Now, be honest, and own you do," said Mrs. Clara, bent on being
praised for her work.
"Well, dear to be quite honest, then, I think it is frightful,"
answered Mrs. Jessie, with a candour that caused revolving Rose
to stop in dismay.
"Hear, hear," cried a deep voice, and with a general start the ladies
became aware that the enemy was among them.
Rose blushed up to her hat brim, and stood, looking, as she felt,
like a fool, while Mrs. Clara hastened to explain.
"Of course, I don't expect you to like it, Alec, but I don't consider
you a judge of what is proper and becoming for a young lady.
Therefore, I have taken the liberty of providing a pretty street suit
for Rose. She need not wear it if you object, for I know we
promised to let you do what you liked with the poor dear for a
"It is a street costume, is it?" asked the Doctor, mildly. "Do you
know, I never should have guessed that it was meant for winter
weather and brisk locomotion. Take a turn, Rosy, and let me see
all its beauties and advantages."
Rose tried to walk off with her usual free tread, but the under-skirt
got in her way, the over-skirt was so tight she could not take a long
step, and her boots made it impossible to carry herself perfectly
"I haven't got used to it yet," she said, petulantly, kicking at her
train, as she turned to toddle back again.
"Suppose a mad dog or a runaway horse was after you, could you
get out of the way without upsetting, Colonel," asked the Doctor,
with a twinkle in the eyes that were fixed on the rakish hat.
"Don't think I could, but I'll try," and Rose made a rush across the
room. Her boot-heels caught on a rug, several strings broke, her
hat tipped over her eyes, and she plunged promiscuously into a
chair, where she sat laughing so infectiously that all but Mrs. Clara
joined in her mirth.
"I should say that a walking suit in which one could not walk, and
a winter suit which exposes the throat, head, and feet to cold and
damp, was rather a failure, Clara, especially as it has no beauty to
reconcile one to its utter unfitness," said Dr. Alec, as he helped
Rose undo her veil, adding, in a low tone, "Nice thing for the eyes;
you'll soon see spots when it's off as well as when it's on, and, by
and by, be a case for an oculist."
"No beauty!" cried Mrs. Clara, warmly, "Now, that is just a man's
blindness. This is the best of silk and camel's hair, real ostrich
feathers, and an expensive ermine muff. What could be in better
taste, or more proper for a young girl?"
"I'll shew you, if Rose will go to her room and oblige me by
putting on what she finds there," answered the Doctor, with
"Alec, if it is a Bloomer, I shall protest. I've been expecting it, but I
know I cannot bear to see that pretty child sacrificed to your wild
ideas of health. Tell me it isn't a Bloomer!" and Mrs. Clara clasped
her hands imploringly.
"It is not."
"Thank Heaven!" and she resigned herself with a sigh of relief,
adding plaintively, "I did hope you'd accept my suit, for poor Rose
has been afflicted with frightful clothes long enough to spoil the
taste of any girl."
"You talk of my afflicting the child, and then make a helpless guy
like that of her!" answered the Doctor, pointing to the little fashion
plate that was scuttling out of sight as fast as it could go.
He closed the door with a shrug, but before anyone could speak,
his quick eye fell upon an object which caused him to frown, and
demand in an indignant tone
"After all I have said, were you really going to tempt my girl with
those abominable things?"
"I thought we put them away when she wouldn't wear them,"
murmured Mrs. Clara, whisking a little pair of corsets out of sight
with guilty haste. "I only brought them to try, for Rose is growing
stout, and will have no figure if it is not attended to soon," she
added, with an air of calm conviction that roused the Doctor still
more, for this was one of his especial abominations.
"Growing stout! Yes, thank Heaven, she is, and shall continue to
do it, for Nature knows how to mould a woman better than any
corset-maker, and I won't have her interfered with. My dear Clara,
have you lost your senses that you can for a moment dream of
putting a growing girl into an instrument of torture like this?" and
with a sudden gesture he plucked forth the offending corsets from
under the sofa cushion, and held them out with the expression one
would wear on beholding the thumbscrews or the rack of ancient
"Don't be absurd, Alec. There is no torture about it, for tight lacing
is out of fashion, and we have nice, sensible things nowadays.
Everyone wears them; even babies have stiffened waists to support
their weak little backs," began Mrs. Clara, rushing to the defence
of the pet delusion of most women.
"I know it, and so the poor little souls have weak backs all their
days, as their mothers had before them. It is vain to argue the
matter, and I won't try, but I wish to state, once for all, that if I ever
see a pair of corsets near Rose, I'll put them in the fire, and you
may send the bill to me."
As he spoke the corsets were on their way to destruction, but Mrs.
Jessie caught his arm, exclaiming merrily, "Don't burn them, for
mercy sake, Alec; they are full of whalebones, and will make a
dreadful odour. Give them to me. I'll see that they do no harm."
"Whalebones, indeed! A regular fence of them, and metal
gate-posts in front. As if our own bones were not enough, if we'd
give them a chance to do their duty," growled the Doctor, yielding
up the bone of contention with a last shake of contempt. Then his
face cleared suddenly, and he held up his finger, saying, with a
smile, "Hear those girls laugh; cramped lungs could not make
hearty music like that."
Peals of laughter issued from Rose's room, and smiles
involuntarily touched the lips of those who listened to the happy
"Some new prank of yours, Alec?" asked Aunt Plenty, indulgently,
for she had come to believe in most of her nephew's odd notions,
because they seemed to work so well.
"Yes, ma'am, my last, and I hope you will like it. I discovered what
Clara was at, and got my rival suit ready for to-day. I'm not going
to 'afflict' Rose, but let her choose, and if I'm not entirely mistaken,
she will like my rig best. While we wait I'll explain, and then you
will appreciate the general effect better. I got hold of this little
book, and was struck with its good sense and good taste, for it
suggests a way to clothe women both healthfully and handsomely,
and that is a great point. It begins at the foundations, as you will
see if you will look at these pictures, and I should think women
would rejoice at this lightening of their burdens."
As he spoke, the Doctor laid the book before Aunt Plenty, who
obediently brought her spectacles to bear upon the illustrations,
and after a long look exclaimed, with a scandalised face
"Mercy on us, these things are like the night-drawers Jamie wears!
You don't mean to say you want Rose to come out in this costume?
It's not proper, and I won't consent to it!"
"I do mean it, and I'm sure my sensible aunt will consent when she
understands that these well I'll call them by an Indian name, and
say pajamas are for underwear, and Rose can have as pretty frocks
as she likes outside. These two suits of flannel, each in one piece
from head to foot, with a skirt or so hung on this easily-fitting
waist, will keep the child warm without burdening her with belts,
and gathers, and buckles, and bunches round the waist, and leave
free the muscles that need plenty of room to work in. She shall
never have the back-ache if I can help it, nor the long list of ills
you dear women think you cannot escape."
"I don't consider it modest, and I'm sure Rose will be shocked at
it," began Mrs. Clara, but stopped suddenly, as Rose appeared in
the doorway, not looking shocked a bit.
"Come on, my hygienic model, and let us see you," said her uncle,
with an approving glance, as she walked in, looking so
mischievously merry, that it was evident she enjoyed the joke.
"Well, I don't see anything remarkable. That is a neat, plain suit;
the materials are good, and it's not unbecoming, if you want her to
look like a little school-girl; but it has not a particle of style, and
no one would ever give it a second glance," said Mrs. Clara,
feeling that her last remark condemned the whole thing.
"Exactly what I want," answered the provoking Doctor, rubbing his
hands with a satisfied air. "Rosy looks now like what she is, a
modest little girl, who does not want to be stared at. I think she
would get a glance of approval, though, from people who like
sense and simplicity rather than fuss and feathers. Revolve, my
Hebe, and let me refresh my eyes by the sight of you."
There was very little to see, however, only a pretty Gabrielle dress,
of a soft warm shade of brown, coming to the tops of a trim pair of
boots with low heels. A seal-skin sack, cap, and mittens, with a
glimpse of scarlet at the throat, and the pretty curls tied up with a
bright velvet of the same colour, completed the external
adornment, making her look like a robin redbreast wintry, yet
"How do you like it, Rosy?" asked the Doctor, feeling that her
opinion was more important to the success of his new idea than
that of all the aunts on the hill.
"I feel very odd and light, but I'm warm as a toast, and nothing
seems to be in my way," answered Rose, with a skip which
displayed shapely gaiters on legs that now might be as free and
active as a boy's under the modest skirts of the girl.
"You can run away from the mad dogs, and walk off at a smart
pace without tumbling on your nose, now, I fancy?"
"Yes, uncle! suppose the dog coming, I just hop over a wall so and
when I walk of a cold day, I go like this "
Entering fully into the spirit of the thing, Rose swung herself over
the high back of the sofa as easily as one of her cousins, and then
went down the long hall as if her stout boots were related to the
"There! you see how it will be; dress her in that boyish way and
she will act like a boy. I do hate all these inventions of
strong-minded women!" exclaimed Mrs. Clara, as Rose came back
at a run.
"Ah, but you see some of these sensible inventions come from the
brain of a fashionable modiste, who will make you more lovely, or
what you value more 'stylish' outside and comfortable within. Mrs.
Van Tassel has been to Madame Stone, and is wearing a full suit
of this sort. Van himself told me, when I asked how she was, that
she had given up lying on the sofa, and was going about in a most
astonishing way, considering her feeble health."
"You don't say so! Let me see that book a moment," and Aunt
Clara examined the new patterns with a more respectful air, for if
the elegant Mrs. Van Tassel wore these "dreadful things" it would
never do to be left behind, in spite of her prejudices.
Dr. Alec looked at Mrs. Jessie, and both smiled, for "little Mum"
had been in the secret, and enjoyed it mightily.
"I thought that would settle it," he said with a nod.
"I didn't wait for Mrs. Van to lead the way, and for once in my life
I have adopted a new fashion before Clara. My freedom suit is
ordered, and you may see me playing tag with Rose and the boys
before long," answered Mrs. Jessie, nodding back at him.
Meantime Aunt Plenty was examining Rose's costume, for the hat
and sack were off, and the girl was eagerly explaining the new
"See, auntie, all nice scarlet flannel, and a gay little petticoat, and
long stockings, oh, so warm! Phebe and I nearly died laughing
when I put this rig on, but I like it ever so much. The dress is so
comfortable, and doesn't need any belt or sash, and I can sit
without rumpling any trimming, that's such a comfort! I like to be
tidy, and so, when I wear fussed-up things, I'm thinking of my
clothes all the time, and that's tiresome. Do say you like it. I
resolved I would, just to please uncle, for he does know more
about health than anyone else, I'm sure, and I'd wear a bag if he
asked me to do it."
"I don't ask that, Rose, but I wish you'd weigh and compare the two
suits, and then choose which seems best. I leave it to your own
commonsense," answered Dr. Alec, feeling pretty sure he had won.
"Why, I take this one, of course, uncle. The other is fashionable,
and yes I must say I think it's pretty but it's very heavy, and I
should have to go round like a walking doll if I wore it. I'm much
obliged to auntie, but I'll keep this, please."
Rose spoke gently but decidedly, though there was a look of regret
when her eye fell on the other suit which Phebe had brought in;
and it was very natural to like to look as other girls did. Aunt Clara
sighed; Uncle Alec smiled, and said heartily
"Thank you, dear; now read this book and you will understand why
I ask it of you. Then, if you like, I'll give you a new lesson; you
asked for one yesterday, and this is more necessary than French or
"Oh, what?" and Rose caught up the book which Mrs. Clara had
thrown down with a disgusted look.
Though Dr. Alec was forty, the boyish love of teasing was not yet
dead in him, and, being much elated at his victory, he could not
resist the temptation of shocking Mrs. Clara by suggesting dreadful
possibilities, so he answered, half in earnest, half in jest,
"Physiology, Rose. Wouldn't you like to be a little medical student,
with Uncle Doctor for teacher, and be ready to take up his practice
when he has to stop? If you agree, I'll hunt up my old skeleton
That was too much for Aunt Clara, and she hastily departed, with
her mind in a sad state of perturbation about Mrs. Van Tassel's
new costume and Rose's new study.
Chapter 19 - Brother Bones
Rose accepted her uncle's offer, as Aunt Myra discovered two or
three days later. Coming in for an early call, and hearing voices in
the study, she opened the door, gave a cry and shut it quickly,
looking a good deal startled. The Doctor appeared in a moment,
and begged to know what the matter was.
"How can you ask when that long box looks so like a coffin I
thought it was one, and that dreadful thing stared me in the face as
I opened the door," answered Mrs. Myra, pointing to the skeleton
that hung from the chandelier cheerfully grinning at all beholders.
"This is a medical college where women are freely admitted, so
walk in, madam, and join the class if you'll do me the honour,"
said the Doctor, waving her forward with his politest bow.
"Do, auntie, it's perfectly splendid," cried Rose's voice, and Rose's
blooming face was seen behind the ribs of the skeleton, smiling
and nodding in the gayest possible manner.
"What are you doing, child?" demanded Aunt Myra, dropping into
a chair and staring about her.
"Oh, I'm learning bones to-day, and I like it so much. There are
twelve ribs, you know, and the two lower ones are called floating
ribs, because they are not fastened to the breastbone. That's why
they go in so easily if you lace tight and squeeze the lungs and
heart in the let me see, what was that big word oh, I know thoracic
cavity," and Rose beamed with pride as she aired her little bit of
"Do you think that is a good sort of thing for her to be poking
over? She is a nervous child, and I'm afraid it will be bad for her,"
said Aunt Myra, watching Rose as she counted vertebr‘, and
waggled a hip-joint in its socket with an inquiring expression.
"An excellent study, for she enjoys it, and I mean to teach her how
to manage her nerves so that they won't be a curse to her, as many
a woman's become through ignorance or want of thought. To make
a mystery or terror of these things is a mistake, and I mean Rose
shall understand and respect her body so well that she won't dare
to trifle with it as most women do."
"And she really likes it?"
"Very much, auntie! It's all so wonderful, and so nicely planned,
you can hardly believe what you see. Just think, there are
600,000,000 air cells in one pair of lungs, and 2,000 pores to a
square inch of surface; so you see what quantities of air we must
have, and what care we should take of our skin so all the little
doors will open and shut right. And brains, auntie, you've no idea
how curious they are; I haven't got to them yet, but I long to, and
uncle is going to show me a manikin that you can take to pieces.
Just think how nice it will be to see all the organs in their places; I
only wish they could be made to work as ours do."
It was funny to see Aunt Myra's face as Rose stood before her
talking rapidly with one hand laid in the friendliest manner on the
skeleton's shoulder. Every word both the Doctor and Rose uttered
hit the good lady in her weakest spot, and as she looked and
listened a long array of bottles and pill-boxes rose up before her,
reproaching her with the "ignorance and want of thought" that
made her what she was, a nervous, dyspeptic, unhappy old woman.
"Well, I don't know but you may be right, Alec, only I wouldn't
carry it too far. Women don't need much of this sort of knowledge,
and are not fit for it. I couldn't bear to touch that ugly thing, and it
gives me the creeps to hear about 'organs,' " said Aunt Myra, with a
sigh and her hand on her side.
"Wouldn't it be a comfort to know that your liver was on the right
side, auntie, and not on the left!" asked Rose with a naughty laugh
in her eyes, for she had lately learnt that Aunt Myra's liver
complaint was not in the proper place.
"It's a dying world, child, and it don't much matter where the pain
is, for sooner or later we all drop off and are seen no more," was
Aunt Myra's cheerful reply.
"Well, I intend to know what kills me if I can, and meantime, I'm
going to enjoy myself in spite of a dying world. I wish you'd do so
too, and come and study with uncle, it would do you good, I'm
sure," and Rose went back to counting vertebr‘ with such a happy
face, that Aunt Myra had not the heart to say a word to dampen her
"Perhaps it's as well to let her do what she likes the little while she
is with us. But pray be careful of her, Alec, and not allow her to
overwork," she whispered as she went out.
"That's exactly what I'm trying to do, ma'am, and rather a hard job
I find it," he added, as he shut the door, for the dear aunts were
dreadfully in his way sometimes.
Half an hour later came another interruption in the shape of Mac,
who announced his arrival by the brief but elegant remark
"Hullo! what new game is this?"
Rose explained, Mac gave a long whistle of surprise, and then took
a promenade round the skeleton, observing gravely
"Brother Bones looks very jolly, but I can't say much for his
"You mustn't make fun of him, for he's a good old fellow, and
you'd be just as ugly if your flesh was off," said Rose, defending
her new friend with warmth.
"I dare say, so I'll keep my flesh on, thank you. You are so busy
you can't read to a fellow, I suppose?" asked Mac, whose eyes
were better, but still too weak for books.
"Don't you want to come and join my class? Uncle explains it all to
us, and you can take a look at the plates as they come along. We'll
give up bones today and have eyes instead; that will be more
interesting to you," added Rose, seeing no ardent thirst for
physiological information in his face.
"Rose, we must not fly about from one thing to another in this
way," began Dr. Alec, but she whispered quickly, with a nod
towards Mac, whose goggles were turned wistfully in the direction
of the forbidden books
"He's blue to-day, and we must amuse him; give a little lecture on
eyes, and it will do him good. No matter about me, uncle."
"Very well; the class will please be seated," and the Doctor gave a
sounding rap on the table.
"Come, sit by me, dear, then we can both see the pictures; and if
your head gets tired you can lie down," said Rose, generously
opening her little college to a brother, and kindly providing for the
weaknesses that all humanity is subject to.
Side by side they sat and listened to a very simple explanation of
the mechanism of the eye, finding it as wonderful as a fairy tale,
for fine plates illustrated it, and a very willing teacher did his best
to make the lesson pleasant.
"Jove! if I'd known what mischief I was doing to that mighty
delicate machine of mine, you wouldn't have caught me reading by
firelight, or studying with a glare of sunshine on my book," said
Mac, peering solemnly at a magnified eye-ball; then, pushing it
away, he added indignantly, "Why isn't a fellow taught all about
his works, and how to manage 'em, and not left to go blundering
into all sorts of worries? Telling him after he's down isn't much
use, for then he's found it out himself and won't thank you."
"Ah, Mac, that's just what I keep lecturing about, and people won't
listen. You lads need that sort of knowledge so much, and fathers
and mothers ought to be able to give it to you. Few of them are
able, and so we all go blundering, as you say. Less Greek and Latin
and more knowledge of the laws of health for my boys, if I had
them. Mathematics are all very well, but morals are better, and I
wish, how I wish that I could help teachers and parents to feel it as
"Some do; Aunt Jessie and her boys have capital talks, and I wish
we could; but mother's so busy with her housekeeping, and father
with his business, there never seems to be any time for that sort of
thing; even if there was, it don't seem as if it would be easy to talk
to them, because we've never got into the way of it, you know."
Poor Mac was right there, and expressed a want that many a boy
and girl feels. Fathers and mothers are too absorbed in business
and housekeeping to study their children, and cherish that sweet
and natural confidence which is a child's surest safeguard, and a
parent's subtlest power. So the young hearts hide trouble or
temptation till the harm is done, and mutual regret comes too late.
Happy the boys and girls who tell all things freely to father or
mother, sure of pity, help, and pardon; and thrice happy the parents
who, out of their own experience, and by their own virtues, can
teach and uplift the souls for which they are responsible.
This longing stirred in the hearts of Rose and Mac, and by a
natural impulse both turned to Dr. Alec, for in this queer world of
ours, fatherly and motherly hearts often beat warm and wise in the
breasts of bachelor uncles and maiden aunts; and it is my private
opinion that these worthy creatures are a beautiful provision of
nature for the cherishing of other people's children. They certainly
get great comfort out of it, and receive much innocent affection
that otherwise would be lost.
Dr. Alec was one of these, and his big heart had room for every
one of the eight cousins, especially orphaned Rose and afflicted
Mac; so, when the boy uttered that unconscious reproach to his
parents, and Rose added with a sigh, "It must be beautiful to have a
mother!" the good Doctor yearned over them, and, shutting his
book with a decided slam, said in that cordial voice of his
"Now, look here, children, you just come and tell me all your
worries, and with God's help, I'll settle them for you. That is what
I'm here for, I believe, and it will be a great happiness to me if you
can trust me."
"We can, uncle, and we will!" both answered, with a heartiness
that gratified him much.
"Good! now school is dismissed, and I advise you to go and refresh
your 600,000,000 air cells by a brisk run in the garden. Come
again whenever you like, Mac, and we'll teach you all we can
about your 'works,' as you call them, so you can keep them running
"We'll come, sir, much obliged," and the class in physiology went
out to walk.
Mac did come again, glad to find something he could study in spite
of his weak eyes, and learned much that was of more value than
anything his school had ever taught thim.
Of course, the other lads made great fun of the whole thing, and
plagued Dr. Alec's students half out of their lives. But they kept on
persistently, and one day something happened which made the
other fellows behave themselves for ever after.
It was a holiday, and Rose up in her room thought she heard the
voices of her cousins, so she ran down to welcome them, but found
no one there.
"Never mind, they will be here soon, and then we'll have a frolic,"
she said to herself, and thinking she had been mistaken she went
into the study to wait. She was lounging over the table looking at a
map when an odd noise caught her ear. A gentle tapping
somewhere, and following the sound it seemed to come from the
inside of the long case in which the skeleton lived when not
professionally engaged. This case stood upright in a niche between
two book-cases at the back of the room, a darkish corner, where
Brother Bones, as the boys would call him, was out of the way.
As Rose stood looking in that direction, and wondering if a rat had
got shut in, the door of the case swung slowly open, and with a
great start she saw a bony arm lifted, and a bony finger beckon to
her. For a minute she was frightened, and ran to the study door
with a fluttering heart, but just as she touched the handle a queer,
stifled sort of giggle made her stop short and turn red with anger.
She paused an instant to collect herself, and then went softly
toward the bony beckoner. A nearer look revealed black threads
tied to the arm and fingers, the ends of threads disappearing
through holes bored in the back of the case. Peeping into the dark
recess, she also caught sight of the tip of an elbow covered with a
rough gray cloth which she knew very well.
Quick as a flash she understood the joke, her fear vanished, and
with a wicked smile, she whipped out her scissors, cut the threads,
and the bony arm dropped with a rattle. Before she could say,
"Come out, Charlie, and let my skeleton alone," a sudden irruption
of boys, all in a high state of tickle, proclaimed to the hidden rogue
that his joke was a failure.
"I told him not to do it, because it might give you a start,"
explained Archie, emerging from the closet.
"I had a smelling bottle all ready if she fainted away," added Steve,
popping up from behind the great chair.
"It's too bad of you not to squawk and run; we depended on it, it's
such fun to howl after you," said Will and Geordie, rolling out
from under the sofa in a promiscuous heap.
"You are getting altogether too strong-minded, Rose; most girls
would have been in a jolly twitter to see this old fellow waggling
his finger at them," complained Charlie, squeezing out from his
tight quarters, dusty and disgusted.
"I'm used to your pranks now, so I'm always on the watch and
prepared. But I won't have Brother Bones made fun of. I know
uncle wouldn't like it, so please don't," began Rose just as Dr. Alec
came in, and, seeing the state of the case at a glance, he said
"Hear how I got that skeleton, and then I'm sure you will treat it
The boys settled down at once on any article of furniture that was
nearest and listened dutifully.
"Years ago, when I was in the hospital, a poor fellow was brought
there with a rare and very painful disease. There was no hope for
him, but we did our best, and he was so grateful that when he died
he left us his body that we might discover the mysteries of his
complaint, and so be able to help others afflicted in the same way.
It did do good, and his brave patience made us remember him long
after he was gone. He thought I had been kind to him, and said to a
fellow-student of mine, 'Tell the Doctor I lave him me bones, for
I've nothing else in the wide world, and I'll nos be wanting 'em at
all, at all, when the great pain hat kilt me entirely.' So that is how
they came to be mine, and why I've kept them carefully, for,
though only a poor, ignorant fellow, Mike Nolan did what he could
to help others, and prove his gratitude to those who tried to help
As Dr. Alec paused, Archie closed the door of the case as
respectfully as if the mummy of an Egyptian king was inside; Will
and Geordie looked solemnly at one another, evidently much
impressed, and Charlie pensively remarked from the coal-hod
where he sat
"I've often heard of a skeleton in the house, but I think few people
have one as useful and as interesting as ours."
Chapter 20 - Under The Mistletoe
Rose made Phebe promise that she would bring her stocking into
the "Bower," as she called her pretty room, on Christmas morning,
because that first delicious rummage loses half its charm if two
little night-caps at least do not meet over the treasures, and two
happy voices Oh and Ah together.
So when Rose opened her eyes that day they fell upon faithful
Phebe, rolled up in a shawl, sitting on the rug before a blazing fire,
with her untouched stocking laid beside her.
"Merry Christmas!" cried the little mistress smiling gaily.
"Merry Christmas!" answered the little maid, so heartily that it did
one good to hear her.
"Bring the stockings right away, Phebe, and let's see what we've
got," said Rose, sitting up among the pillows, and looking as eager
as a child.
A pair of long knobby hose were laid out upon the coverlet, and
their contents examined with delight, though each knew every
blessed thing that had been put into the other's stocking.
Never mind what they were; it is evident that they were quite
satisfactory, for as Rose leaned back, she said, with a luxurious
sigh of satisfaction, "Now, I believe I've got everything in the
world that I want," and Phebe answered, smiling over a lapful of
treasures, "This is the most splendid Christmas I ever had since I
was born." Then she added with an important air
"Do wish for something else, because I happen to know of two
more presents outside the door this minute."
"Oh, me, what richness!" cried Rose, much excited. "I used to wish
for a pair of glass slippers like Cinderella's, but as I can't have
them, I really don't know what to ask for."
Phebe clapped her hands as she skipped off the bed and ran to the
door, saying merrily, "One of them is for your feet, anyway. I don't
know what you'll say to the other, but I think it's elegant."
So did Rose, when a shining pair of skates and a fine sled
"Uncle sent those; I know he did; and, now I see them, I remember
that I did want to skate and coast. Isn't it a beauty? See! they fit
nicely," and, sitting on the new sled, Rose tried a skate on her little
bare foot, while Phebe stood by admiring the pretty tableau.
"Now we must hurry and get dressed, for there is a deal to do
to-day, and I want to get through in time to try my sled before
"Gracious me, and I ought to be dusting my parlors this blessed
minute!" and mistress and maid separated with such happy faces
that anyone would have known what day it was without being told.
"Birnam Wood has come to Dunsinane, Rosy," said Dr. Alec, as he
left the breakfast table to open the door for a procession of holly,
hemlock, and cedar boughs that came marching up the steps.
Snowballs and "Merry Christmases!" flew about pretty briskly for
several minutes; then all fell to work trimming the old house, for
the family always dined together there on that day.
"I rode miles and mileses, as Ben says, to get this fine bit, and I'm
going to hang it there as the last touch to the rig-a-madooning,"
said Charlie, as he fastened a dull green branch to the chandelier in
the front parlor.
"It isn't very pretty," said Rose, who was trimming the
chimney-piece with glossy holly sprays.
"Never mind that, it's mistletoe, and anyone who stands under it
will get kissed whether they like it or not. Now's your time, ladies,"
answered the saucy Prince, keeping his place and looking
sentimentally at the girls, who retired precipitately from the
"You won't catch me," said Rose, with great dignity.
"See if I don't!"
"I've got my eye on Phebe," observed Will, in a patronising tone
that made them all laugh.
"Bless the dear; I shan't mind it a bit," answered Phebe, with such a
maternal air that Will's budding gallantry was chilled to death.
"Oh, the mistletoe bough," sang Rose.
"Oh, the mistletoe bough!" echoed all the boys, and the teasing
ended in the plaintive ballad they all liked so well.
There was plenty of time to try the new skates before dinner, and
then Rose took her first lesson on the little bay, which seemed to
have frozen over for that express purpose. She found tumbling
down and getting up again warm work for a time, but with six boys
to teach her, she managed at last to stand alone; and, satisfied with
that success, she refreshed herself with a dozen grand coasts on the
Amazon, as her sled was called.
"Ah, that fatal colour! it breaks my heart to see it," croaked Aunt
Myra, as Rose came down a little late, with cheeks almost as ruddy
as the holly berries on the wall, and every curl as smooth as
Phebe's careful hands could make it.
"I'm glad to see that Alec allows the poor child to make herself
pretty in spite of his absurd notions," added Aunt Clara, taking
infinite satisfaction in the fact that Rose's blue silk dress had three
frills on it.
"She's a very intelligent child, and has a nice little manner of her
own," observed Aunt Jane, with unusual affability; for Rose had
just handed Mac a screen to guard his eyes from the brilliant fire.
"If I had a daughter like that to show my Jem when he gets home, I
should be a very proud and happy woman," thought Aunt Jessie,
and then reproached herself for not being perfectly satisfied with
her four brave lads.
Aunt Plenty was too absorbed in the dinner to have an eye for
anything else; if she had not been, she would have seen what an
effect her new cap produced upon the boys. The good lady owned
that she did "love a dressy cap," and on this occasion her head gear
was magnificent; for the towering structure of lace was adorned
with buff ribbons to such an extent that it looked as if a flock of
yellow butterflies had settled on her dear old head. When she
trotted about the rooms the ruches quivered, the little bows all
stood erect, and the streamers waved in the breeze so comically
that it was absolutely necessary for Archie to smother the Brats in
the curtains till they had had their first laugh out.
Uncle Mac had brought Fun See to dinner, and it was a mercy he
did, for the elder lads found a vent for their merriment in joking
the young Chinaman on his improved appearance. He was in
American costume now, with a cropped head, and spoke
remarkably good English after six months at school; but, for all
that, his yellow face and beady eyes made a curious contrast to the
blonde Campbells all about him. Will called him the "Typhoon,"
meaning Tycoon, and the name stuck to him to his great disgust.
Aunt Peace was brought down and set in the chair of state at table,
for she never failed to join the family on this day, and sat smiling
at them all, "like an embodiment of Peace on earth," Uncle Alec
said, as he took his place beside her, while Uncle Mac supported
Aunt Plenty at the other end.
"I ate hardly any breakfast, and I've done everything I know to
make myself extra hungry, but I really don't think I can eat straight
through, unless I burst my buttons off," whispered Geordie to Will,
as he surveyed the bounteous stores before him with a hopeless
"A fellow never knows what he can do till he tries," answered
Will, attacking his heaped-up plate with an evident intention of
doing his duty like a man.
Everybody knows what a Christmas dinner is, so we need waste no
words in describing this one, but hasten at once to tell what
happened at the end of it. The end, by the way, was so long in
coming that the gas was lighted before dessert was over, for a
snow flurry had come on and the wintry daylight faded fast. But
that only made it all the jollier in the warm, bright rooms, full of
happy souls. Everyone was very merry, but Archie seemed
particularly uplifted so much so, that Charlie confided to Rose that
he was afraid the Chief had been at the decanters.
Rose indignantly denied the insinuation, for when healths were
drunk in the good old-fashioned way to suit the elders, she had
observed that Aunt Jessie's boys filled their glasses with water, and
had done the same herself in spite of the Prince's jokes about "the
But Archie certainly was unusually excited, and when someone
remembered that it was the anniversary of Uncle Jem's wedding,
and wished he was there to make a speech, his son electrified the
family by trying to do it for him. It was rather incoherent and
flowery, as maiden speeches are apt to be, but the end was
considered superb; for, turning to his mother with a queer little
choke in his voice, he said that she "deserved to be blessed with
peace and plenty, to be crowned with roses and lads'-love, and to
receive the cargo of happiness sailing home to her in spite of wind
or tide to add another Jem to the family jewels."
That allusion to the Captain, now on his return trip, made Mrs.
Jessie sob in her napkin, and set the boys cheering. Then, as if that
was not sensation enough, Archie suddenly dashed out of the
room, as if he had lost his wits.
"Too bashful to stay and be praised," began Charlie, excusing the
peculiarities of his chief as in duty bound.
"Phebe beckoned to him; I saw her," cried Rose, staring hard at the
"Is it more presents coming?" asked Jamie, just as his brother
re-appeared, looking more excited than ever.
"Yes; a present for mother, and here it is!" roared Archie, flinging
wide the door to let in a tall man, who cried out
"Where's my little woman? The first kiss for her, then the rest may
come on as fast as they like."
Before the words were out of his mouth, Mrs. Jessie was
half-hidden under his rough great-coat, and four boys were
prancing about him clamouring for their turn.
Of course, there was a joyful tumult for a time, during which Rose
slipped into the window recess and watched what went on, as if it
were a chapter in a Christmas story. It was good to see bluff Uncle
Jem look proudly at his tall son, and fondly hug the little ones. It
was better still to see him shake his brothers' hands as if he would
never leave off, and kiss all the sisters in a way that made even
solemn Aunt Myra brighten up for a minute. But it was best of all
to see him finally established in grandfather's chair, with his "little
woman" beside him, his three youngest boys in his lap, and Archie
hovering over him like a large-sized cherub. That really was, as
Charlie said, "A landscape to do one's heart good."
"All hearty and all here, thank God!" said Captain Jem in the first
pause that came, as he looked about him with a grateful face.
"All but Rose," answered loyal little Jamie, remembering the
"Faith, I forgot the child! Where is George's little girl?" asked the
Captain, who had not seen her since she was a baby.
"You'd better say Alec's great girl," said Uncle Mac, who professed
to be madly jealous of his brother.
"Here I am, sir," and Rose appeared from behind the curtains,
looking as if she had rather have stayed there.
"Saint George Germain, how the mite has grown!" cried Captain
Jem, as he tumbled the boys out of his lap, and rose to greet the
tall girl, like a gentleman as he was. But, somehow, when he shook
her hand it looked so small in his big one, and her face reminded
him so strongly of his dead brother, that he was not satisfied with
so cold a welcome, and with a sudden softening of the keen eyes
he took her up in his arms, whispering, with a rough cheek against
her smooth one
"God bless you, child! forgive me if I forgot you for a minute, and
be sure that not one of your kinsfolk is happier to see you here than
That made it all right; and when he set her down, Rose's face was
so bright it was evident that some spell had been used to banish the
feeling of neglect that had kept her moping behind the curtain so
That everyone sat round and heard all about the voyage home how
the Captain had set his heart on getting there in time to keep
Christmas; how everything had conspired to thwart his plan; and
how, at the very last minute, he had managed to do it, and had sent
a telegram to Archie, bidding him keep the secret, and be ready for
his father at any moment, for the ship got into another port, and he
might be late.
Then Archie told how that telegram had burnt in his pocket all
dinner-time; how he had to take Phebe into his confidence, and
how clever she was to keep the Captain back till the speech was
over and he could come in with effect.
The elders would have sat and talked all the evening, but the
young folks were bent on having their usual Christmas frolic; so,
after an hour of pleasant chat, they began to get restless, and
having consulted together in dumb show, they devised a way to
very effectually break up the family council.
Steve vanished, and, sooner than the boys imagined Dandy could
get himself up, the skirl of the bag-pipe was heard in the hall, and
the bonny piper came to lead Clan Campbell to the revel.
"Draw it mild, Stenie, my man; ye play unco weel, but ye mak a
most infernal din," cried Uncle Jem, with his hands over his ears,
for this accomplishment was new to him, and "took him all aback,"
as he expressed it.
So Steve droned out a Highland reel as softly as he could, and the
boys danced it to a circle of admiring relations. Captain Jem was a
true sailor, however, and could not stand idle while anything lively
was going on; so, when the piper's breath gave out, he cut a
splendid pigeon-wing into the middle of the hall, saying, "Who can
dance a Fore and After?" and, waiting for no reply, began to
whistle the air so invitingly that Mrs Jessie "set" to him laughing
like a girl; Rose and Charlie took their places behind, and away
went the four with a spirit and skill that inspired all the rest to "cut
in" as fast as they could.
That was a grand beginning, and they had many another dance
before anyone would own they were tired. Even Fun See
distinguished himself with Aunt Plenty, whom he greatly admired
as the stoutest lady in the company; plumpness being considered a
beauty in his country. The merry old soul professed herself
immensely flattered by his admiration, and the boys declared she
"set her cap at him," else he would never have dared to catch her
under the mistletoe, and, rising on the tips of his own toes,
gallantly salute her fat cheek.
How they all laughed at her astonishment, and how Fun's little
black eyes twinkled over this exploit! Charlie put him up to it, and
Charlie was so bent on catching Rose, that he laid all sorts of
pitfalls for her, and bribed the other lads to help him. But Rose
was wide-awake, and escaped all his snares, professing great
contempt for such foolish customs. Poor Phebe did not fare so
well, and Archie was the only one who took a base advantage of
her as she stood innocently offering tea to Aunt Myra, whom she
happened to meet just under the fatal bough. If his father's arrival
had not rather upset him, I doubt if the dignified Chief would have
done it, for he apologized at once in the handsomest manner, and
caught the tray that nearly dropped from Phebe's hands.
Jamie boldly invited all the ladies to come and salute him; and as
for Uncle Jem, he behaved as if the entire room was a grove of
mistletoe. Uncle Alec slyly laid a bit of it on Aunt Peace's cap, and
then softly kissed her; which little joke seemed to please her very
much, for she liked to have part in all the home pastimes, and Alec
was her favourite nephew.
Charlie alone failed to catch his shy bird, and the oftener she
escaped the more determined he was to ensnare her. When every
other wile had been tried in vain, he got Archie to propose a game
"I understand that dodge," thought Rose, and was on her guard so
carefully that not one among the pile soon collected belonged to
"Now let us redeem them and play something else," said Will,
quite unconscious of the deeply-laid plots all about him.
"One more round and then we will," answered the Prince, who had
now baited his trap anew.
Just as the question came to Rose, Jamie's voice was heard in the
hall, crying distressfully, "Oh, come quick, quick!" Rose started
up, missed the question, and was greeted with a general cry of
"Forfeit! forfeit!" in which the little traitor came to join.
"Now I've got her," thought the young rascal, exulting in his
"Now I'm lost," thought Rose, as she gave up her pin-cushion with
a sternly defiant look that would have daunted anyone but the
reckless Prince. In fact, it made even him think twice, and resolve
to "let Rose off easy,'' she had been so clever.
"Here's a very pretty pawn, and what shall be done to redeem it?"
asked Steve, holding the pin-cushion over Charlie's head, for he
had insisted on being judge, and kept that for the last.
"Fine or superfine?"
"Hum, well, she shall take old Mac under the mistletoe, and kiss
him prettily. Won't he be mad, though?" and this bad boy chuckled
over the discomfort he had caused two harmless beings.
There was an impressive pause among the young folks in their
corner, for they all knew that Mac would "be mad," since he hated
nonsense of this sort, and had gone to talk with the elders when the
game began. At this moment he was standing before the fire,
listening to a discussion between his uncles and his father, looking
as wise as a young owl, and blissfully unconscious of the plots
Charlie expected that Rose would say, "I won't!" therefore he was
rather astonished, not to say gratified, when, after a look at the
victim, she laughed suddenly, and, going up to the group of
gentlemen, drew her uncle Mac under the mistletoe and surprised
him with a hearty kiss.
"Thank you, my dear," said the innocent gentleman, looking much
pleased at the unexpected honour.
"Oh, come; that's not fair," began Charlie. But Rose cut him short
by saying, as she made him a fine courtesy
"You said 'Old Mac,' and though it was very disrespectful, I did it.
That was your last chance, sir, and you've lost it."
He certainly had, for, as he spoke, Rose pulled down the mistletoe
and threw it into the fire, while the boys jeered at the crestfallen
Prince, and exalted quick-witted Rose to the skies.
"What's the joke?" asked young Mac, waked out of a brown study
by the laughter, in which the elders joined.
But there was a regular shout when, the matter having been
explained to him, Mac took a meditative stare at Rose through his
goggles, and said in a philosophical tone, "Well, I don't think I
should have minded much if she had done it."
That tickled the lads immensely, and nothing but the appearance of
a slight refection would have induced them to stop chaffing the
poor Worm, who could not see anything funny in the beautiful
resignation he had shown on this trying occasion.
Soon after this, the discovery of Jamie curled up in the sofa corner,
as sound asleep as a dormouse, suggested the propriety of going
home, and a general move was made.
They were all standing about the hall lingering over the
good-nights, when the sound of a voice softly singing "Sweet
Home," made them pause and listen. It was Phebe, poor little
Phebe, who never had a home, never knew the love of father or
mother, brother or sister; who stood all alone in the wide world,
yet was not sad nor afraid, but took her bits of happiness
gratefully, and sung over her work without a thought of discontent.
I fancy the happy family standing there together remembered this
and felt the beauty of it, for when the solitary voice came to the
burden of its song, other voices took it up and finished it so
sweetly, that the old house seemed to echo the word "Home" in the
ears of both the orphan girls, who had just spent their first
Christmas under its hospitable roof.
Chapter 21 - A Scare
"Brother Alec, you surely don't mean to allow that child to go out
such a bitter cold day as this," said Mrs. Myra, looking into the
study, where the Doctor sat reading his paper, one February
"Why not? If a delicate invalid like yourself can bear it, surely my
hearty girl can, especially as she is dressed for cold weather,"
answered Dr. Alec with provoking confidence.
"But you have no idea how sharp the wind is. I am chilled to the
very marrow of my bones," answered Aunt Myra, chafing the end
of her purple nose with her sombre glove.
"I don't doubt it, ma'am, if you will wear crape and silk instead of
fur and flannel. Rosy goes out in all weathers, and will be none the
worse for an hour's brisk skating."
"Well, I warn you that you are trifling with the child's health, and
depending too much on the seeming improvement she has made
this year. She is a delicate creature for all that, and will drop away
suddenly at the first serious attack, as her poor mother did,"
croaked Aunt Myra, with a despondent wag of the big bonnet.
"I'll risk it," answered Dr. Alec, knitting his brows, as he always
did when any allusion was made to that other Rose.
"Mark my words, you will repent it," and with that awful prophecy,
Aunt Myra departed like a black shadow.
Now it must be confessed that among the Doctor's failings and he
had his share was a very masculine dislike of advice which was
thrust upon him unasked. He always listened with respect to the
great-aunts, and often consulted Mrs. Jessie; but the other three
ladies tried his patience sorely, by constant warnings, complaints
and counsels. Aunt Myra was an especial trial, and he always
turned contrary the moment she began to talk. He could not help it,
and often laughed about it with comic frankness. Here now was a
sample of it, for he had just been thinking that Rose had better
defer her run till the wind went down and the sun was warmer. But
Aunt Myra spoke, and he could not resist the temptation to make
light of her advice, and let Rose brave the cold. He had no fear of
its harming her, for she went out every day, and it was a great
satisfaction to him to see her run down the avenue a minute
afterward, with her skates on her arm, looking like a rosy-faced
Esquimaux in her seal-skin suit, as she smiled at Aunt Myra
stalking along as solemnly as a crow.
"I hope the child won't stay out long, for this wind is enough to
chill the marrow in younger bones than Myra's," thought Dr. Alec,
half an hour later, as he drove toward the city to see the few
patients he had consented to take for old acquaintance' sake.
The thought returned several times that morning, for it was truly a
bitter day, and, in spite of his bear-skin coat, the Doctor shivered.
But he had great faith in Rose's good sense, and it never occurred
to him that she was making a little Casabianca of herself, with the
difference of freezing instead of burning at her post.
You see, Mac had made an appointment to meet her at a certain
spot, and have a grand skating bout as soon as the few lessons he
was allowed were over. She had promised to wait for him, and did
so with a faithfulness that cost her dear, because Mac forgot his
appointment when the lessons were done, and became absorbed in
a chemical experiment, till a general combustion of gases drove
him out of his laboratory. Then he suddenly remembered Rose,
and would gladly have hurried away to her, but his mother forbade
his going out, for the sharp wind would hurt his eyes.
"She will wait and wait, mother, for she always keeps her word,
and I told her to hold on till I came," explained Mac, with visions
of a shivering little figure watching on the windy hill-top.
"Of course, your uncle won't let her go out such a day as this. If he
does, she will have the sense to come here for you, or to go home
again when you don't appear," said Aunt Jane, returning to her
"Watts on the Mind."
"I wish Steve would just cut up and see if she's there, since I can't
go," began Mac, anxiously.
"Steve won't stir a peg, thank you. He's got his own toes to thaw
out, and wants his dinner," answered Dandy, just in from school,
and wrestling impatiently with his boots.
So Mac resigned himself, and Rose waited dutifully till
dinner-time assured her that her waiting was in vain. She had done
her best to keep warm, had skated till she was tired and hot, then
stood watching others till she was chilled; tried to get up a glow
again by trotting up and down the road, but failed to do so, and
finally cuddled disconsolately under a pine-tree to wait and watch.
When she at length started for home, she was benumbed with cold,
and could hardly make her way against the wind that buffeted the
frost-bitten rose most unmercifully.
Dr. Alec was basking in the warmth of the study fire, after his
drive, when the sound of a stifled sob made him hurry to the door
and look anxiously into the hall. Rose lay in a shivering bunch
near the register, with her things half off, wringing her hands, and
trying not to cry with the pain returning warmth brought to her
"My darling, what is it?" and Uncle Alec had her in his arms in a
"Mac didn't come I can't get warm the fire makes me ache!" and
with a long shiver Rose burst out crying, while her teeth chattered,
and her poor little nose was so blue, it made one's heart ache to see
In less time than it takes to tell it, Dr. Alec had her on the sofa
rolled up in the bear-skin coat, with Phebe rubbing her cold feet
while he rubbed the aching hands, and Aunt Plenty made a
comfortable hot drink, and Aunt Peace sent down her own
foot-warmer and embroidered blanket "for the dear."
Full of remorseful tenderness, Uncle Alec worked over his new
patient till she declared she was all right again. He would not let
her get up to dinner, but fed her himself, and then forgot his own
while he sat watching her fall into a drowse, for Aunt Plenty's
cordial made her sleepy.
She lay so several hours for the drowse deepened into a heavy
sleep, and Uncle Alec, still at his post, saw with growing anxiety
that a feverish colour began to burn in her cheeks, that her
breathing was quick and uneven, and now and then she gave a
little moan, as if in pain. Suddenly she woke up with a start, and
seeing Aunt Plenty bending over her, put out her arms like a sick
child, saying wearily
"Please, could I go to bed?"
"The best place for you, deary. Take her right up, Alec; I've got the
hot water ready, and after a nice bath, she shall have a cup of my
sage tea, and be rolled up in blankets to sleep off her cold,"
answered the old lady, cheerily, as she bustled away to give orders.
"Are you in pain, darling?" asked Uncle Alec, as he carried her up.
"My side aches when I breathe, and I feel stiff and queer; but it
isn't bad, so don't be troubled, uncle," whispered Rose, with a little
hot hand against his cheek.
But the poor doctor did look troubled, and had cause to do so, for
just then Rose tried to laugh at Dolly charging into the room with a
warming-pan, but could not, for the sharp pain took her breath
away and made her cry out.
"Pleurisy," sighed Aunt Plenty, from the depths of the bath-tub.
"Pewmonia!" groaned Dolly, burrowing among the bedclothes with
the long-handled pan, as if bent on fishing up that treacherous
"Oh, is it bad?" asked Phebe, nearly dropping a pail of hot water in
her dismay, for she knew nothing of sickness, and Dolly's
suggestion had a peculiarly dreadful sound to her.
"Hush!" ordered the Doctor, in a tone that silenced all further
predictions, and made everyone work with a will.
"Make her as comfortable as you can, and when she is in her little
bed I'll come and say good-night," he added, when the bath was
ready and the blankets browning nicely before the fire.
Then he went away to talk quite cheerfully to Aunt Peace about its
being "only a chill"; after which he tramped up and down the hall,
pulling his beard and knitting his brows, sure signs of great inward
"I thought it would be too good luck to get through the year
without a downfall. Confound my perversity! Why couldn't I take
Myra's advice and keep Rose at home. It's not fair that the poor
child should suffer for my sinful over-confidence. She shall not
suffer for it! Pneumonia, indeed! I defy it," and he shook his fist in
the ugly face of an Indian idol that happened to be before him, as
if that particularly hideous god had some spite against his own
In spite of his defiance his heart sunk when he saw Rose again, for
the pain was worse, and the bath and blankets, the warming-pan
and piping-hot sage tea, were all in vain. For several hours there
was no rest for the poor child, and all manner of gloomy
forebodings haunted the minds of those who hovered about her
with faces full of the tenderest anxiety.
In the midst of the worst paroxysm Charlie came to leave a
message from his mother, and was met by Phebe coming
despondently downstairs with a mustard plaster that had brought
"What the dickens is the matter? You look as dismal as a
tombstone," he said, as she held up her hand to stop his lively
"Miss Rose is dreadful sick."
"The deuce she is!"
"Don't swear, Mr. Charlie; she really is, and it's Mr. Mac's fault,"
and Phebe told the sad tale in a few sharp words, for she felt at war
with the entire race of boys at that moment.
"I'll give it to him, make your mind easy about that," said Charlie,
with an ominous doubling up of his fist. "But Rose isn't
dangerously ill, is she?" he added anxiously, as Aunt Plenty was
seen to trot across the upper hall, shaking a bottle violently as she
"Oh, but she is though. The Doctor don't say much, but he don't
call it a 'chill' any more. It's 'pleurisy' now, and I'm so afraid it will
be pewmonia to-morrow," answered Phebe, with a despairing
glance at the plaster.
Charlie exploded into a stifled laugh at the new pronunciation of
pneumonia, to Phebe's great indignation.
"How can you have the heart to do it, and she in such horrid pain?
Hark to that, and then laugh if you darst," she said with a tragic
gesture, and her black eyes full of fire.
Charlie listened and heard little moans that went to his heart and
made his face as sober as Phebe's. "O uncle, please stop the pain,
and let me rest a minute! Don't tell the boys I wasn't brave. I try to
bear it, but it's so sharp I can't help crying."
Neither could Charlie, when he heard the broken voice say that;
but, boy-like, he wouldn't own it, and said pettishly, as he rubbed
his sleeve across his eyes
"Don't hold that confounded thing right under my nose; the
mustard makes my eyes smart."
"Don't see how it can, when it hasn't any more strength in it than
meal. The Doctor said so, and I'm going to get some better," began
Phebe, not a bit ashamed of the great tears that were bedewing the
"I'll go!" and Charlie was off like a shot, glad of an excuse to get
out of sight for a few minutes.
When he came back all inconvenient emotion had been disposed
of, and, having delivered a box of the hottest mustard procurable
for money, he departed to "blow up" Mac, that being his next duty
in his opinion. He did it so energetically and thoroughly that the
poor Worm was cast into the depths of remorseful despair, and
went to bed that evening feeling that he was an outcast from
among men, and bore the mark of Cain upon his brow.
Thanks to the skill of the Doctor, and the devotion of his helpers,
Rose grew easier about midnight, and all hoped that the worst was
over. Phebe was making tea by the study fire, for the Doctor had
forgotten to eat and drink since Rose was ill, and Aunt Plenty
insisted on his having a "good cordial dish of tea" after his
exertions. A tap on the window startled Phebe, and, looking up,
she saw a face peering in. She was not afraid, for a second look
showed her that it was neither ghost nor burglar, but Mac, looking
pale and wild in the wintry moonlight.
"Come and let a fellow in," he said in a low tone, and when he
stood in the hall he clutched Phebe's arm, whispering gruffly,
"How is Rose?"
"Thanks be to goodness, she's better," answered Phebe, with a
smile that was like broad sunshine to the poor lad's anxious heart.
"And she will be all right again to-morrow?"
"Oh, dear no! Dolly says she's sure to have rheumatic fever, if she
don't have noo-monia!" answered Phebe, careful to pronounce the
word rightly this time.
Down went Mac's face, and remorse began to gnaw at him again as
he gave a great sigh and said doubtfully
"I suppose I couldn't see her?"
"Of course not at this time of night, when we want her to go to
Mac opened his mouth to say something more, when a sneeze
came upon him unawares, and a loud "Ah rash hoo!" awoke the
echoes of the quiet house.
"Why didn't you stop it?" said Phebe reproachfully. "I dare say
you've waked her up."
"Didn't know it was coming. Just my luck!" groaned Mac, turning
to go before his unfortunate presence did more harm.
But a voice from the stair-head called softly, "Mac, come up; Rose
wants to see you."
Up he went, and found his uncle waiting for him.
"What brings you here at this hour, my boy?" asked the Doctor in a
"Charlie said it was all my fault, and if she died I'd killed her. I
couldn't sleep, so I came to see how she was, and no one knows it
but Steve," he said with such a troubled face and voice that the
Doctor had not the heart to blame him.
Before he could say anything more a feeble voice called "Mac!"
and with a hasty "Stay a minute just to please her, and then slip
away, for I want her to sleep," the Doctor led him into the room.
The face on the pillow looked very pale and childish, and the smile
that welcomed Mac was very faint, for Rose was spent with pain,
yet could not rest till she had said a word of comfort to her cousin.
"I knew your funny sneeze, and I guessed that you came to see how
I did, though it is very late. Don't be worried, I'm better now, and it
is my fault I was ill, not yours; for I needn't have been so silly as to
wait in the cold just because I said I would."
Mac hastened to explain, to load himself with reproaches, and to
beg her not to die on any account, for Charlie's lecture had made a
deep impression on the poor boy's mind.
"I didn't know there was any danger of my dying," and Rose looked
up at him with a solemn expression in her great eyes.
"Oh, I hope not; but people do sometimes go suddenly, you know,
and I couldn't rest till I'd asked you to forgive me," faltered Mac,
thinking that Rose looked very like an angel already, with the
golden hair loose on the pillow, and the meekness of suffering on
her little white face.
"I don't think I shall die; uncle won't let me; but if I do, remember I
She looked at him with a tender light in her eyes, and, seeing how
pathetic his dumb grief was, she added softly, drawing his head
down, "I wouldn't kiss you under the mistletoe, but I will now, for I
want you to be sure I do forgive and love you just the same."
That quite upset poor Mac; he could only murmur his thanks and
get out of the room as fast as possible, to grope his way to the
couch at the far end of the hall, and lie there till he fell asleep,
worn out with trying not to "make a baby" of himself.
Chapter 22 - Something to do
Whatever danger there might have been from the effects of that
sudden chill, it was soon over, though, of course, Aunt Myra
refused to believe it, and Dr. Alec cherished his girl with
redoubled vigilance and tenderness for months afterward. Rose
quite enjoyed being sick, because as soon as the pain ended the fun
began, and for a week or two she led the life of a little princess
secluded in the Bower, while every one served, amused, and
watched over her in the most delightful manner. But the doctor
was called away to see an old friend, who was dangerously ill, and
then Rose felt like a young bird deprived of its mother's sheltering
wing; especially on one afternoon when the aunts were taking their
naps, and the house was very still within while snow fell softly
"I'll go and hunt up Phebe, she is always nice and busy, and likes to
have me help her. If Dolly is out of the way we can make caramels
and surprise the boys when they come," Rose said to herself, as she
threw down her book and felt ready for society of some sort.
She took the precaution to peep through the slide before she
entered the kitchen, for Dolly allowed no messing when she was
round. But the coast was clear, and no one but Phebe appeared,
sitting at the table with her head on her arms apparently asleep.
Rose was just about to wake her with a "Boo!" when she lifted her
head, dried her wet eyes with her blue apron, and fell to work with
a resolute face on something she was evidently much interested in.
Rose could not make out what it was, and her curiosity was greatly
excited, for Phebe was writing with a sputtering pen on some bits
of brown paper, apparently copying something from a little book.
"I must know what the dear thing is about, and why she cried, and
then set her lips tight and went to work with all her might,"
thought Rose, forgetting all about the caramels, and, going round
to the door, she entered the kitchen, saying pleasantly
"Phebe, I want something to do. Can't you let me help you about
anything, or shall I be in the way?"
"Oh, dear no, miss; I always love to have you round when things
are tidy. What would you like to do?" answered Phebe, opening a
drawer as if about to sweep her own affairs out of sight; but Rose
stopped her, exclaiming, like a curious child
"Let me see! What is it? I won't tell if you'd rather not have Dolly
"I'm only trying to study a bit; but I'm so stupid I don't get on
much," answered the girl reluctantly, permitting her little mistress
to examine the poor contrivances she was trying to work with.
A broken slate that had blown off the roof, an inch or two of
pencil, an old almanac for a reader, several bits of brown or yellow
paper ironed smoothly and sewn together for a copy-book, and the
copies sundry receipts written in Aunt Plenty's neat hand. These,
with a small bottle of ink and a rusty pen, made up Phebe's outfit,
and it was little wonder that she did not "get on" in spite of the
patient persistence that dried the desponding tears and drove along
the sputtering pen with a will.
"You may laugh if you want to, Miss Rose, I know my things are
queer, and that's why I hide 'em; but I don't mind since you've
found me out, and I ain't a bit ashamed except of being so
backward at my age," said Phebe humbly, though her cheeks grew
redder as she washed out some crooked capitals with a tear or two
not yet dried upon the slate.
"Laugh at you! I feel more like crying to think what a selfish girl I
am, to have loads of books and things and never remember to give
you some. Why didn't you come and ask me, and not go struggling
along alone in this way? It was very wrong of you, Phebe, and I'll
never forgive you if you do so again," answered Rose, with one
hand on Phebe's shoulder, while the other gently turned the leaves
of the poor little copy-book.
"I didn't like to ask for anything more when you are so good to me
all the time, miss, dear," began Phebe, looking up with grateful
"O you proud thing! just as if it wasn't fun to give away, and I had
the best of it. Now, see here, I've got a plan and you mustn't say no,
or I shall scold. I want something to do, and I'm going to teach you
all I know; it won't take long," and Rose laughed as she put her
arm around Phebe's neck, and patted the smooth dark head with
the kind little hand that so loved to give.
"It would be just heavenly!" and Phebe's face shone at the mere
idea; but fell again as she added wistfully, "Only I'm afraid I ought
not to let you do it, Miss Rose. It will take time, and maybe the
Doctor wouldn't like it."
"He didn't want me to study much, but he never said a word about
teaching, and I don't believe he will mind a bit. Anyway, we can
try it till he comes, so pack up your things and go right to my room
and we'll begin this very day; I'd truly like to do it, and we'll have
nice times, see if we don't!" cried Rose eagerly.
It was a pretty sight to see Phebe bundle her humble outfit into her
apron, and spring up as if the desire of her heart had suddenly been
made a happy fact to her; it was a still prettier sight to see Rose
run gaily on before, smiling like a good fairy as she beckoned to
the other, singing as she went
"The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And many are the curious things I'll show you when you're there.
Will you, will you walk in, Phebe dear?"
"Oh, won't I!" answered Phebe fervently, adding, as they entered
the Bower, "You are the dearest spider that ever was, and I'm the
"I'm going to be very strict, so sit down in that chair and don't say a
word till school is ready to open," ordered Rose, delighted with the
prospect of such a useful and pleasant "something to do."
So Phebe sat demurely in her place while her new teacher laid
forth books and slates, a pretty inkstand and a little globe; hastily
tore a bit off her big sponge, sharpened pencils with more energy
than skill, and when all was ready gave a prance of satisfaction
that set the pupil laughing.
"Now the school is open, and I shall hear you read, so that I may
know in which class to put you, Miss Moore," began Rose with
great dignity, as she laid a book before her scholar, and sat down
in the easy chair with a long rule in her hand.
Phebe did pretty well, only tripping now and then over a hard
word, and pronouncing identical "identickle," in a sober way that
tickled Rose, though never a smile betrayed her. The spelling
lesson which followed was rather discouraging; Phebe's ideas of
geography were very vague, and grammar was nowhere, though
the pupil protested that she tried so hard to "talk nice like educated
folks" that Dolly called her "a stuck-up piece who didn't know her
"Dolly's an old goose, so don't you mind her, for she will say
'nater,' 'vittles,' and 'doos' as long as she lives, and insist that they
are right. You do talk very nicely, Phebe, I've observed it, and
grammar will help you, and show you some things are right and
others ain't are not, I mean," added Rose, correcting herself, and
feeling that she must mind her own parts of speech if she was to
serve as an example for Phebe.
When the arithmetic came, the little teacher was surprised to find
her scholar quicker in some things than herself, for Phebe had
worked away at the columns in the butcher's and baker's books till
she could add so quickly and correctly that Rose was amazed, and
felt that in this branch the pupil would soon excel the teacher if
she kept on at the same pace. Her praise cheered Phebe
immensely, and they went bravely on, both getting so interested
that time flew unheeded till Aunt Plenty appeared, exclaiming, as
she stared at the two heads bent over one slate
"Bless my heart, what is going on now?"
"School, aunty. I'm teaching Phebe, and it's great fun!" cried Rose,
looking up with a bright face.
But Phebe's was brighter, though she added with a wistful look
"Maybe I ought to have asked leave first; only when Miss Rose
proposed this, I was so happy I forgot to. Shall I stop, ma'am?"
"Of course not, child; I'm glad to see you fond of your book, and to
find Rose helping you along. My blessed mother used to sit at
work with her maids about her, teaching them many a useful thing
in the good old fashion that's gone by now. Only don't neglect your
work, dear, or let the books interfere with the duties."
As Aunt Plenty spoke, with her kind old face beaming approvingly
upon the girls, Phebe glanced at the clock, saw that it pointed to
five, knew that Dolly would soon be down, expecting to find
preparations for supper under way, and, hastily dropping her
pencil, she jumped up, saying
"Please, can I go? I'll clear up after I've done my chores."
"School is dismissed," answered Rose, and with a grateful "Thank
you, heaps and heaps!" Phebe ran away singing the multiplication
table as she set the tea ditto.
That was the way it began, and for a week the class of one went on
with great pleasure and profit to all concerned; for the pupil
proved a bright one, and came to her lessons as to a feast, while
the young teacher did her best to be worthy the high opinion held
of her, for Phebe firmly believed that Miss Rose knew everything
in the way of learning.
Of course the lads found out what was going on, and chaffed the
girls about the "Seminary," as they called the new enterprise; but
they thought it a good thing on the whole, kindly offered to give
lessons in Greek and Latin gratis, and decided among themselves
that "Rose was a little trump to give the Phebe-bird such a capital
Rose herself had some doubts as to how it would strike her uncle,
and concocted a wheedlesome speech which should at once
convince him that it was the most useful, wholesome, and
delightful plan ever devised. But she got no chance to deliver her
address, for Dr. Alec came upon her so unexpectedly that it went
out of her head entirely. She was sitting on the floor in the library,
poring over a big book laid open in her lap, and knew nothing of
the long-desired arrival till two large, warm hands met under her
chin and gently turned her head back, so that someone could kiss
her heartily on either cheek, while a fatherly voice said, half
reproachfully, "Why is my girl brooding over a dusty Encyclopedia
when she ought to be running to meet the old gentleman who
couldn't get on another minute without her?"
"O uncle! I'm so glad! and so sorry! Why didn't you let us know
what time you'd be here, or call out the minute you came? Haven't
I been home-sick for you? and now I'm so happy to have you back
I could hug your dear old curly head off," cried Rose, as the
Encyclopedia went down with a bang, and she up with a spring
that carried her into Dr. Alec's arms, to be kept there in the sort of
embrace a man gives to the dearest creature the world holds for
Presently he was in his easy chair with Rose upon his knee smiling
up in his face and talking as fast as her tongue could go, while he
watched her with an expression of supreme content, as he stroked
the smooth round cheek, or held the little hand in his, rejoicing to
see how rosy was the one, how plump and strong the other.
"Have you had a good time? Did you save the poor lady? Aren't
you glad to be home again with your girl to torment you?"
"Yes, to all those questions. Now tell me what you've been at, little
sinner? Aunty Plen says you want to consult me about some new
and remarkable project which you have dared to start in my
"She didn't tell you, I hope?"
"Not a word more expect that you were rather doubtful how I'd
take it, and so wanted to 'fess' yourself and get round me as you
always try to do, though you don't often succeed. Now, then, own
up and take the consequences."
So Rose told about her school in her pretty, earnest way, dwelling
on Phebe's hunger for knowledge, and the delight it was to help
her, adding, with a wise nod
"And it helps me too, uncle, for she is so quick and eager I have to
do my best or she will get ahead of me in some things. To-day,
now, she had the word 'cotton' in a lesson and asked all about it,
and I was ashamed to find I really knew so little that I could only
say that it was a plant that grew down South in a kind of a pod, and
was made into cloth. That's what I was reading up when you came,
and to-morrow I shall tell her all about it, and indigo too. So you
see it teaches me also, and is as good as a general review of what
I've learned, in a pleasanter way than going over it alone."
"You artful little baggage! that's the way you expect to get round
me, is it? That's not studying, I suppose?"
"No, sir, it's teaching; and please, I like it much better than having
a good time by myself. Besides, you know, I adopted Phebe and
promised to be a sister to her, so I am bound to keep my word, am
I not?" answered Rose, looking both anxious and resolute as she
waited for her sentence.
Dr. Alec was evidently already won, for Rose had described the
old slate and brown paper copy-book with pathetic effect, and the
excellent man had not only decided to send Phebe to school long
before the story was done, but reproached himself for forgetting
his duty to one little girl in his love for another. So when Rose
tried to look meek and failed utterly, he laughed and pinched her
cheek, and answered in that genial way which adds such warmth
and grace to any favour
"I haven't the slightest objection in the world. In fact, I was
beginning to think I might let you go at your books again,
moderately, since you are so well; and this is an excellent way to
try your powers. Phebe is a brave, bright lass, and shall have a fair
chance in the world, if we can give it to her, so that if she ever
finds her friends they need not be ashamed of her."
"I think she has found some already," began Rose eagerly.
"Hey? what? has anyone turned up since I've been gone?" asked
Dr. Alec quickly, for it was a firm belief in the family that Phebe
would prove to be "somebody" sooner or later.
"No, her best friend turned up when you came home, uncle,"
answered Rose with an approving pat, adding gratefully, "I can't
half thank you for being so good to my girl, but she will, because I
know she is going to make a woman to be proud of, she's so strong
and true, and loving."
"Bless your dear heart, I haven't begun to do anything yet, more
shame to me! But I'm going at it now, and as soon as she gets on a
bit, she shall go to school as long as she likes. How will that do for
"It will be 'just heavenly,' as Phebe says, for it is the wish of her
life to 'get lots of schooling,' and she will be too happy when I tell
her. May I, please? it will be so lovely to see the dear thing open
her big eyes and clap her hands at the splendid news."
"No one shall have a finger in this nice little pie; you shall do it all
yourself, only don't go too fast, or make too many castles in the air,
my dear; for time and patience must go into this pie of ours if it is
to turn out well."
"Yes, uncle, only when it is opened won't 'the birds begin to sing?"'
laughed Rose, taking a turn about the room as a vent for the joyful
emotions that made her eyes shine. All of a sudden she stopped
and asked soberly
"If Phebe goes to school who will do her work? I'm willing, if I
"Come here and I'll tell you a secret. Dolly's 'bones' are getting so
troublesome, and her dear old temper so bad, that the aunts have
decided to pension her off and let her go and live with her
daughter, who has married very well. I saw her this week, and
she'd like to have her mother come, so in the spring we shall have
a grand change, and get a new cook and chamber-girl if any can be
found to suit our honoured relatives."
"Oh, me! how can I ever get on without Phebe? Couldn't she stay,
just so I could see her? I'd pay her board rather than have her go,
I'm so fond of her."
How Dr. Alec laughed at that proposal, and how satisfied Rose
was when he explained that Phebe was still to be her maid, with no
duties except such as she could easily perform between
"She is a proud creature, for all her humble ways, and even from
us would not take a favour if she did not earn it somewhere. So
this arrangement makes it all square and comfortable, you see, and
she will pay for the schooling by curling these goldilocks a dozen
times a day if you let her."
"Your plans are always so wise and kind! That's why they work so
well, I suppose, and why people let you do what you like with
them. I really don't see how other girls get along without an Uncle
Alec!" answered Rose, with a sigh of pity for those who had
missed so great a blessing.
When Phebe was told the splendid news, she did not "stand on her
head with rapture," as Charlie prophesied she would, but took it
quietly, because it was such a happy thing she had no words "big
and beautiful enough to thank them in," she said; but every hour of
her day was brightened by this granted wish, and dedicated to the
service of those who gave it.
Her heart was so full of content that if overflowed in music, and
the sweet voice singing all about the house gave thanks so blithely
that no other words were needed. Her willing feet were never tired
of taking steps for those who had smoothed her way; her skilful
hands were always busy in some labour of love for them, and on
the face fast growing in comeliness there was an almost womanly
expression of devotion, which proved how well Phebe had already
learned one of life's great lessons gratitude.
Chapter 23 - Peace-Making
"Steve, I want you to tell me something," said Rose to Dandy, who
was making faces at himself in the glass, while he waited for an
answer to the note he brought from his mother to Aunt Plenty.
"P'raps I will, and p'raps I won't. What is it?"
"Haven't Arch and Charlie quarrelled?"
"Dare say; we fellows are always having little rows, you know. I
do believe a sty is coming on my star-board eye," and Steve
affected to be absorbed in a survey of his yellow lashes.
"No, that won't do; I want to know all about it; for I'm sure
something more serious than a 'little row' is the matter. Come,
please tell me, Stenie, there's a dear."
"Botheration! you don't want me to turn telltale, do you?" growled
Steve, pulling his top-knot, as he always did when perplexed.
"Yes, I do," was Rose's decided answer for she saw from his
manner that she was right, and determined to have the secret out of
him if coaxing would do it. "I don't wish you to tell things to
everyone, of course, but to me you may, and you must, because I
have a right to know. You boys need somebody to look after you,
and I'm going to do it, for girls are nice peacemakers, and know
how to manage people. Uncle said so, and he is never wrong."
Steve was about to indulge in a derisive hoot at the idea of her
looking after them, but a sudden thought restrained him, and
suggested a way in which he could satisfy Rose, and better himself
at the same time.
"What will you give me if I'll tell you every bit about it?" he asked,
with a sudden red in his cheeks and an uneasy look in his eyes, for
he was half ashamed of the proposition.
"What do you want?" and Rose looked up rather surprised at his
"I'd like to borrow some money. I shouldn't think of asking you,
only Mac never has a cent. since he's set up his old chemical shop,
where he'll blow himself to bits some day, and you and uncle will
have the fun of putting him together again," and Steve tried to look
as if the idea amused him.
"I'll lend it to you with pleasure, so tell away," said Rose, bound to
get at the secret.
Evidently much relieved by the promise, Steve set his top-knot
cheerfully erect again, and briefly stated the case.
"As you say, it's all right to tell you, but don't let the boys know I
blabbed, or Prince will take my head off. You see, Archie don't
like some of the fellows Charlie goes with, and cuts 'em. That
makes Prince mad, and he holds on just to plague Arch, so they
don't speak to one another, if they can help it, and that's the row."
"Are those boys bad?" asked Rose, anxiously.
"Guess not, only rather wild. They are older than our fellows, but
they like Prince, he's such a jolly boy; sings so well, dances jigs
and breakdowns, you know, and plays any game that's going. He
beat Morse at billiards, and that's something to brag of, for Morse
thinks he knows everything. I saw the match, and it was great fun!"
Steve got quite excited over the prowess of Charlie, whom he
admired immensely, and tried to imitate. Rose did not know half
the danger of such gifts and tastes as Charlie's, but felt
instinctively that something must be wrong if Archie disapproved.
"If Prince likes any billiard-playing boy better than Archie, I don't
think much of his sense," she said severely.
"Of course he doesn't; but, you see, Charlie and Arch are both as
proud as they can be, and won't give in. I suppose Arch is right, but
I don't blame Charlie a bit for liking to be with the others
sometimes, they are such a jolly set," and Steve shook his head
morally, even while his eye twinkled over the memory of some of
the exploits of the "jolly set."
"Oh, dear me!" sighed Rose, "I don't see what I can do about it, but
I wish the boys would make up, for Prince can't come to any harm
with Archie, he's so good and sensible."
"That's the trouble; Arch preaches, and Prince won't stand it. He
told Arch he was a prig and a parson, and Arch told him he wasn't
a gentleman. My boots! weren't they both mad, though! I thought
for a minute they'd pitch into one another and have it out. Wish
they had, and not gone stalking round stiff and glum ever since.
Mac and I settle our rows with a bat or so over the head, and then
we are all right."
Rose couldn't help laughing as Steve sparred away at a fat
sofa-pillow, to illustrate his meaning; and, having given it several
scientific whacks, he pulled down his cuffs and smiled upon her
with benign pity for her feminine ignorance of this summary way
of settling a quarrel.
"What droll things boys are!" she said, with a mixture of
admiration and perplexity in her face, which Steve accepted as a
compliment to his sex.
"We're a pretty clever invention, miss, and you can't get on without
us," he answered, with his nose in the air. Then, taking a sudden
plunge into business, he added, "How about that bit of money you
were going to lend me? I've told, now you pay up."