Part 3 out of 6
mother's attempts to silence him.
Even the stout man clapped, and Rose could only laugh
delightedly as she turned to look at Archie, who seemed to have let
himself loose at last and was stamping with a dogged energy funny
So Phebe had to come, and stood there meekly bowing, with a
moved look on her face that showed how glad and grateful she
was, till a sudden hush came; then, as if inspired by the memory of
the cause that brought her there, she looked down into the sea of
friendly faces before her, with no trace of fear in her own, and
sang the song that never will grow old.
That went straight to the hearts of those who heard her, for there
was something inexpressibly touching in the sight of this
sweet-voiced woman singing of home for the little creatures who
were homeless, and Phebe made her tuneful plea irresistible by an
almost involuntary gesture of the hands which had hung loosely
clasped before her till, with the last echo of the beloved word, they
fell apart and were half outstretched, as if pleading to be filled.
It was the touch of nature that works wonders, for it made full
purses suddenly weigh heavily in pockets slow to open, brought
tears to eyes unused to weep, and caused that group of red-gowned
girls to grow very pathetic in the sight of fathers and mothers who
had left little daughters safe asleep at home. This was evident from
the stillness that remained unbroken for an instant after Phebe
ended; and before people could get rid of their handkerchiefs she
would have been gone if the sudden appearance of a mite in a
pinafore, climbing up the stairs from the anteroom with a great
bouquet grasped in both hands, had not arrested her.
Up came the little creature, intent on performing the mission for
which rich bribes of sugarplums had been promised, and trotting
bravely across the stage, she held up the lovely nosegay, saying in
her baby voice, "Dis for you, ma'am." Then, startled by the sudden
outburst of applause, she hid her face in Phebe's gown and began
to sob with fright.
An awkward minute for poor Phebe, but she showed unexpected
presence of mind and left behind her a pretty picture of the oldest
and youngest orphan as she went quickly down the step, smiling
over the great bouquet with the baby on her arm.
Nobody minded the closing piece, for people began to go, sleepy
children to be carried off, and whispers grew into a buzz of
conversation. In the general confusion Rose looked to see if Steve
had remembered his promise to help Phebe slip away before the
rush began. No, there he was putting on Kitty's cloak, quite
oblivious to any other duty. Turning to ask Archie to hurry out,
Rose found that he had already vanished, leaving his gloves behind
"Have you lost anything?" asked Dr. Alec, catching a glimpse of
"No, sir, I've found something," she whispered back, giving him
the gloves to pocket along with her fan and glass, adding hastily as
the concert ended, "Please, Uncle, tell them all not to come with
us. Phebe has had enough excitement and ought to rest."
Rose's word was law to the family in all things concerning Phebe.
So word was passed that there were to be no congratulations until
tomorrow, and Dr. Alec got his party off as soon as possible. But
all the way home, while he and Aunt Plenty were prophesying a
brilliant future for the singer, Rose sat rejoicing over the happy
present of the woman. She was sure that Archie had spoken and
imagined the whole scene with feminine delight how tenderly he
had asked the momentous question, how gratefully Phebe had
given the desired reply, and now how both were enjoying that
delicious hour which Rose had been given to understand never
came but once. Such a pity to shorten it, she thought, and begged
her uncle to go home the longest way the night was so mild, the
moonlight so clear, and herself so in need of fresh air after the
excitement of the evening.
"I thought you would want to rush into Phebe's arms the instant she
got done," said Aunt Plenty, innocently wondering at the whims
girls took into their heads.
"So I should if I consulted my own wishes, but as Phebe asked to
be let alone I want to gratify her," answered Rose, making the best
excuse she could.
"A little piqued," thought the doctor, fancying he understood the
As the old lady's rheumatism forbade their driving about till
midnight, home was reached much too soon, Rose thought, and
tripped away to warn the lovers the instant she entered the house.
But study, parlor, and boudoir were empty; and, when Jane
appeared with cake and wine, she reported that "Miss Phebe went
right upstairs and wished to be excused, please, being very tired."
"That isn't at all like Phebe I hope she isn't ill," began Aunt Plenty,
sitting down to toast her feet.
"She may be a little hysterical, for she is a proud thing and
represses her emotions as long as she can. I'll step up and see if she
doesn't need a soothing draft of some sort." And Dr. Alec threw off
his coat as he spoke.
"No, no, she's only tired. I'll run up to her she won't mind me and
I'll report if anything is amiss."
Away went Rose, quite trembling with suspense, but Phebe's door
was shut, no light shone underneath, and no sound came from the
room within. She tapped and receiving no answer, went on to her
own chamber, thinking to herself: "Love always makes people
queer, I've heard, so I suppose they settled it all in the carriage and
the dear thing ran away to think about her happiness alone. I'll not
disturb her. Why, Phebe!" said Rose, surprised, for, entering her
room, there was the cantatrice, busy about the nightly services she
always rendered her little mistress.
"I'm waiting for you, dear. Where have you been so long?" asked
Phebe, poking the fire as if anxious to get some color into cheeks
that were unnaturally pale.
The instant she spoke Rose knew that something was wrong, and a
glance at her face confirmed the fear. It was like a dash of cold
water and quenched her happy fancies in a moment; but being a
delicate-minded girl, she respected Phebe's mood and asked no
questions, made no comments, and left her friend to speak or be
silent as she chose.
"I was so excited I would take a turn in the moonlight to calm my
nerves. Oh, dearest Phebe, I am so glad, so proud, so full of
wonder at your courage and skill and sweet ways altogether that I
cannot half tell you how I love and honor you!" she cried, kissing
the white cheeks with such tender warmth they could not help
glowing faintly as Phebe held her little mistress close, sure that
nothing could disturb this innocent affection.
"It is all your work, dear, because but for you I might still be
scrubbing floors and hardly dare to dream of anything like this,"
she said in her old grateful way, but in her voice there was a thrill
of something deeper than gratitude, and at the last two words her
head went up with a gesture of soft pride as if it had been newly
Rose heard and saw and guessed at the meaning of both tone and
gesture, feeling that her Phebe deserved both the singer's laurel and
the bride's myrtle wreath. But she only looked up, saying very
wistfully: "Then it has been a happy night for you as well as for
"The happiest of my life, and the hardest," answered Phebe briefly
as she looked away from the questioning eyes.
"You should have let us come nearer and help you through. I'm
afraid you are very proud, my Jenny Lind."
"I have to be, for sometimes I feel as if I had nothing else to keep
me up." She stopped short there, fearing that her voice would
prove traitorous if she went on. In a moment she asked in a tone
that was almost hard: "You think I did well tonight?"
"They all think so, and were so delighted they wanted to come in a
body and tell you so, but I sent them home because I knew you'd
be tired out. Perhaps I ought not to have done it and you'd rather
have had a crowd about you than just me?"
"It was the kindest thing you ever did, and what could I like better
than 'just you,' my darling?"
Phebe seldom called her that, and when she did her heart was in
the little word, making it so tender that Rose thought it the
sweetest in the world, next to Uncle Alec's "my little girl." Now it
was almost passionate, and Phebe's face grew rather tragical as she
looked down at Rose. It was impossible to seem unconscious any
longer, and Rose said, caressing Phebe's cheek, which burned with
a feverish color now: "Then don't shut me out if you have a
trouble, but let me share it as I let you share all mine."
"I will! Little mistress, I've got to go away, sooner even than we
"Because Archie loves me."
"That's the very reason you should stay and make him happy."
"Not if it caused dissension in the family, and you know it would."
Rose opened her lips to deny this impetuously, but checked herself
and answered honestly: "Uncle and I would be heartily glad, and
I'm sure Aunt Jessie never could object if you loved Archie as he
"She has other hopes, I think, and kind as she is, it would be a
disappointment if he brought me home. She is right, they all are,
and I alone am to blame. I should have gone long ago I knew I
should, but it was so pleasant, I couldn't bear to go away alone."
"I kept you, and I am to blame if anyone, but indeed, dear Phebe, I
cannot see why you should care even if Aunt Myra croaks and
Aunt Clara exclaims or Aunt Jane makes disagreeable remarks. Be
happy, and never mind them," cried Rose, so much excited by all
this that she felt the spirit of revolt rise up within her and was
ready to defy even that awe-inspiring institution "the family" for
her friend's sake.
But Phebe shook her head with a sad smile and answered, still
with the hard tone in her voice as if forcing back all emotion that
she might see her duty clearly: "You could do that, but I never can.
Answer me this, Rose, and answer truly as you love me. If you had
been taken into a house, a friendless, penniless, forlorn girl, and
for years been heaped with benefits, trusted, taught, loved, and
made, oh, so happy! could you think it right to steal away
something that these good people valued very much? To have
them feel that you had been ungrateful, had deceived them, and
meant to thrust yourself into a high place not fit for you when they
had been generously helping you in other ways, far more than you
deserved. Could you then say as you do now, 'Be happy, and never
Phebe held Rose by the shoulders now and searched her face so
keenly that the other shrank a little, for the black eyes were full of
fire and there was something almost grand about this girl who
seemed suddenly to have become a woman. There was no need for
words to answer the question so swiftly asked, for Rose put herself
in Phebe's place in the drawing of a breath, and her own pride
made her truthfully reply: "No I could not!"
"I knew you'd say that, and help me do my duty." And all the
coldness melted out of Phebe's manner as she hugged her little
mistress close, feeling the comfort of sympathy even through the
blunt sincerity of Rose's words.
"I will if I know how. Now, come and tell me all about it." And,
seating herself in the great chair which had often held them both,
Rose stretched out her hands as if glad and ready to give help of
But Phebe would not take her accustomed place, for, as if coming
to confession, she knelt down upon the rug and, leaning on the arm
of the chair, told her love story in the simplest words.
"I never thought he cared for me until a little while ago. I fancied it
was you, and even when I knew he liked to hear me sing I
supposed it was because you helped, and so I did my best and was
glad you were to be a happy girl. But his eyes told the truth. Then I
saw what I had been doing and was frightened. He did not speak,
so I believed, what is quite true, that he felt I was not a fit wife for
him and would never ask me. It was right I was glad of it, yet I was
proud and, though I did not ask or hope for anything, I did want
him to see that I respected myself, remembered my duty, and could
do right as well as he. I kept away. I planned to go as soon as
possible and resolved that at this concert I would do so well, he
should not be ashamed of poor Phebe and her one gift."
"It was this that made you so strange, then, preferring to go alone
and refusing every little favor at our hands?" asked Rose, feeling
very sure now about the state of Phebe's heart.
"Yes, I wanted to do everything myself and not owe one jot of my
success, if I had any, to even the dearest friend I've got. It was bad
and foolish of me, and I was punished by the first dreadful failure.
I was so frightened, Rose! My breath was all gone, my eyes so
dizzy I could hardly see, and that great crowd of faces seemed so
near, I dared not look. If it had not been for the clock I never
should have gotten through, and when I did, not knowing in the
least how I'd sung, one look at your distressed face told me I'd
"But I smiled, Phebe indeed I did as sweetly as I could, for I was
sure it was only fright," protested Rose eagerly.
"So you did, but the smile was full of pity, not of pride, as I wanted
it to be, and I rushed into a dark place behind the organ, feeling
ready to kill myself. How angry and miserable I was! I set my
teeth, clenched my hands, and vowed that I would do well next
time or never sing another note. I was quite desperate when my
turn came, and felt as if I could do almost anything, for I
remembered that he was there. I'm not sure how it was, but it
seemed as if I was all voice, for I let myself go, trying to forget
everything except that two people must not be disappointed,
though I died when the song was done."
"Oh, Phebe, it was splendid! I nearly cried, I was so proud and glad
to see you do yourself justice at last."
"And he?" whispered Phebe, with her face half hidden on the arm
of the chair.
"Said not a word, but I saw his lips tremble and his eyes shine and
I knew he was the happiest creature there, because I was sure he
did think you fit to be his wife and did mean to speak very soon."
Phebe made no answer for a moment, seeming to forget the small
success in the greater one which followed and to comfort her sore
heart with the knowledge that Rose was right.
"He sent the flowers, he came for me, and, on the way home,
showed me how wrong I had been to doubt him for an hour. Don't
ask me to tell that part, but be sure I was the happiest creature in
the world then."
And Phebe hid her face again, all wet with tender tears that fell
soft and sudden as a summer shower.
Rose let them flow undisturbed while she silently caressed the bent
head, wondering, with a wistful look in her own wet eyes, what
this mysterious passion was which could so move, ennoble, and
beautify the beings whom it blessed.
An impertinent little clock upon the chimneypiece striking eleven
broke the silence and reminded Phebe that she could not indulge in
love dreams there. She started up, brushed off her tears, and said
resolutely: "That is enough for tonight. Go happily to bed, and
leave the troubles for tomorrow."
"But, Phebe, I must know what you said," cried Rose, like a child
defrauded of half its bedtime story.
"I said, 'No.'"
"Ah! But it will change to 'yes' by and by, I'm sure of that so I'll let
you go to dream of him. The Campbells are rather proud of being
descendants of Robert the Bruce, but they have common sense and
love you dearly, as you'll see tomorrow."
"Perhaps." And with a good night kiss, poor Phebe went away, to
lie awake till dawn.
Chapter 8 BREAKERS AHEAD
Anxious to smooth the way for Phebe, Rose was up betimes and
slipped into Aunt Plenty's room before the old lady had gotten her
"Aunty, I've something pleasant to tell you, and while you listen,
I'll brush your hair, as you like to have me," she began, well aware
that the proposed process was a very soothing one.
"Yes, dear only don't be too particular, because I'm late and must
hurry down or Jane won't get things straight, and it does fidget me
to have the saltcellars uneven, the tea strainer forgotten, and your
uncle's paper not aired," returned Miss Plenty, briskly unrolling the
two gray curls she wore at her temples.
Then Rose, brushing away at the scanty back hair, led skillfully up
to the crisis of her tale by describing Phebe's panic and brave
efforts to conquer it; all about the flowers Archie sent her; and
how Steve forgot, and dear, thoughtful Archie took his place. So
far it went well and Aunt Plenty was full of interest, sympathy, and
approbation, but when Rose added, as if it was quite a matter of
course, "So, on the way home, he told her he loved her," a great
start twitched the gray locks out of her hands as the old lady turned
around, with the little curls standing erect, exclaiming, in
undisguised dismay: "Not seriously, Rose?"
"Yes, Aunty, very seriously. He never jokes about such things."
"Mercy on us! What shall we do about it?"
"Nothing, ma'am, but be as glad as we ought and congratulate him
as soon as she says 'yes.'?
"Do you mean to say she didn't accept at once?"
"She never will if we don't welcome her as kindly as if she
belonged to one of our best families, and I don't blame her."
"I'm glad the girl has so much sense. Of course we can't do
anything of the sort, and I'm surprised at Archie's forgetting what
he owes to the family in this rash manner. Give me my cap, child I
must speak to Alec at once." And Aunt Plenty twisted her hair into
a button at the back of her head with one energetic twirl.
"Do speak kindly, Aunty, and remember that it was not Phebe's
fault. She never thought of this till very lately and began at once to
prepare for going away," said Rose pleadingly.
"She ought to have gone long ago. I told Myra we should have
trouble somewhere as soon as I saw what a good-looking creature
she was, and here it is as bad as can be. Dear, dear! Why can't
young people have a little prudence?"
"I don't see that anyone need object if Uncle Jem and Aunt Jessie
approve, and I do think it will be very, very unkind to scold poor
Phebe for being well-bred, pretty, and good, after doing all we
could to make her so."
"Child, you don't understand these things yet, but you ought to feel
your duty toward your family and do all you can to keep the name
as honorable as it always has been. What do you suppose our
blessed ancestress Lady Marget would say to our oldest boy taking
a wife from the poorhouse?"
As she spoke, Miss Plenty looked up, almost apprehensively, at
one of the wooden-faced old portraits with which her room was
hung, as if asking pardon of the severe-nosed matron who stared
back at her from under the sort of blue dish cover which formed
"As Lady Marget died about two hundred years ago, I don't care a
pin what she would say, especially as she looks like a very
narrow-minded, haughty woman. But I do care very much what
Miss Plenty Campbell says, for she is a very sensible, generous,
discreet, and dear old lady who wouldn't hurt a fly, much less a
good and faithful girl who has been a sister to me. Would she?"
entreated Rose, knowing well that the elder aunt led all the rest
more or less.
But Miss Plenty had her cap on now and consequently felt herself
twice the woman she was without it, so she not only gave it a
somewhat belligerent air by setting it well up, but she shook her
head decidedly, smoothed down her stiff white apron, and stood up
as if ready for battle.
"I shall do my duty, Rose, and expect the same of others. Don't say
any more now I must turn the matter over in my mind, for it has
come upon me suddenly and needs serious consideration."
With which unusually solemn address she took up her keys and
trotted away, leaving her niece to follow with an anxious
countenance, uncertain whether her championship had done good
or ill to the cause she had at heart.
She was much cheered by the sound of Phebe's voice in the study,
for Rose was sure that if Uncle Alec was on their side all would be
well. But the clouds lowered again when they came in to breakfast,
for Phebe's heavy eyes and pale cheeks did not look encouraging,
while Dr. Alec was as sober as a judge and sent an inquiring
glance toward Rose now and then as if curious to discover how she
bore the news.
An uncomfortable meal, though all tried to seem as usual and
talked over last night's events with all the interest they could. But
the old peace was disturbed by a word, as a pebble thrown into a
quiet pool sends telltale circles rippling its surface far and wide.
Aunt Plenty, while "turning the subject over in her mind," also
seemed intent on upsetting everything she touched and made sad
havoc in her tea tray; Dr. Alec unsociably read his paper; Rose,
having salted instead of sugared her oatmeal, absently ate it,
feeling that the sweetness had gone out of everything; and Phebe,
after choking down a cup of tea and crumbling a roll, excused
herself and went away, sternly resolving not to be a bone of
contention to this beloved family.
As soon as the door was shut Rose pushed away her plate and,
going to Dr. Alec, she peeped over the paper with such an anxious
face that he put it down at once.
"Uncle, this is a serious matter, and we must take our stand at
once, for you are Phebe's guardian and I am her sister," began Rose
with pretty solemnity. "You have often been disappointed in me,"
she continued, "but I know I never shall be in you because you are
too wise and good to let any worldly pride or prudence spoil your
sympathy with Archie and our Phebe. You won't desert them, will
"Never!" answered Dr. Alec with gratifying energy.
"Thank you! Thank you!" cried Rose. "Now, if I have you and
Aunty on my side, I'm not afraid of anybody."
"Gently, gently, child. I don't intend to desert the lovers, but I
certainly shall advise them to consider well what they are about.
I'll own I am rather disappointed, because Archie is young to
decide his life in this way and Phebe's career seemed settled in
another fashion. Old people don't like to have their plans upset,
you know," he added more lightly, for Rose's face fell as he went
"Old people shouldn't plan too much for the young ones, then. We
are very grateful, I'm sure, but we cannot always be disposed of in
the most prudent and sensible way, so don't set your hearts on little
arrangements of that sort, I beg," And Rose looked wondrous wise,
for she could not help suspecting even her best uncle of "plans" in
"You are quite right-we shouldn't, yet it is very hard to help it,"
confessed Dr. Alec with a conscious air, and, returning hastily to
the lovers, he added kindly: "I was much pleased with the
straightforward way in which Phebe came to me this morning and
told me all about it, as if I really was her guardian. She did not
own it in words, but it was perfectly evident that she loves Archie
with all her heart, yet, knowing the objections which will be made,
very sensibly and bravely proposes to go away at once and end the
matter as if that were possible, poor child." And the tenderhearted
man gave a sigh of sympathy that did Rose good to hear and
mollified her rising indignation at the bare idea of ending Phebe's
love affairs in such a summary way.
"You don't think she ought to go, I hope?"
"I think she will go."
"We must not let her."
"We have no right to keep her."
"Oh, Uncle, surely we have! Our Phebe, whom we all love so
"You forget that she is a woman now, and we have no claim on
her. Because we've befriended her for years is the very reason we
should not make our benefits a burden, but leave her free, and if
she chooses to do this in spite of Archie, we must let her with a
Before Rose could answer, Aunt Plenty spoke out like one having
authority, for old-fashioned ways were dear to her soul and she
thought even love affairs should be conducted with a proper regard
to the powers that be.
"The family must talk the matter over and decide what is best for
the children, who of course will listen to reason and do nothing ill
advised. For my part, I am quite upset by the news, but shall not
commit myself till I've seen Jessie and the boy. Jane, clear away,
and bring me the hot water."
That ended the morning conference. And, leaving the old lady to
soothe her mind by polishing spoons and washing cups, Rose went
away to find Phebe while the doctor retired to laugh over the
downfall of brother Mac's matchmaking schemes.
The Campbells did not gossip about their concerns in public, but
being a very united family, it had long been the custom to "talk
over" any interesting event which occurred to any member thereof,
and everyone gave his or her opinion, advice, or censure with the
utmost candor. Therefore the first engagement, if such it could be
called, created a great sensation, among the aunts especially, and
they were in as much of a flutter as a flock of maternal birds when
their young begin to hop out of the nest. So at all hours the
excellent ladies were seen excitedly nodding their caps together as
they discussed the affair in all its bearings, without ever arriving at
any unanimous decision.
The boys took it much more calmly. Mac was the only one who
came out strongly in Archie's favor. Charlie thought the Chief
ought to do better and called Phebe "a siren who had bewitched
the sage youth." Steve was scandalized and delivered long orations
upon one's duty to society, keeping the old name up, and the
danger of mésalliances, while all the time he secretly sympathized
with Archie, being much smitten with Kitty Van himself. Will and
Geordie, unfortunately home for the holidays, considered it "a jolly
lark," and little Jamie nearly drove his elder brother distracted by
curious inquiries as to "how folks felt when they were in love."
Uncle Mac's dismay was so comical that it kept Dr. Alec in good
spirits, for he alone knew how deep was the deluded man's chagrin
at the failure of the little plot which he fancied was prospering
"I'll never set my heart on anything of the sort again, and the young
rascals may marry whom they like. I'm prepared for anything now--
so if Steve brings home the washerwoman's daughter, and Mac
runs away with our pretty chambermaid, I shall say, 'Bless you my
children,' with mournful resignation, for, upon my soul, that is all
that's left for a modern parent to do."
With which tragic burst, poor Uncle Mac washed his hands of the
whole affair and buried himself in the countinghouse while the
About this time Archie might have echoed Rose's childish wish,
that she had not quite so many aunts, for the tongues of those
interested relatives made sad havoc with his little romance and
caused him to long fervently for a desert island where he could
woo and win his love in delicious peace. That nothing of the sort
was possible soon became evident, since every word uttered only
confirmed Phebe's resolution to go away and proved to Rose how
mistaken she had been in believing that she could bring everyone
to her way of thinking.
Prejudices are unmanageable things, and the good aunts, like most
women, possessed a plentiful supply, so Rose found it like beating
her head against a wall to try and convince them that Archie was
wise in loving poor Phebe. His mother, who had hoped to have
Rose for her daughter not because of her fortune, but the tender
affection she felt for her put away her disappointment without a
word and welcomed Phebe as kindly as she could for her boy's
sake. But the girl felt the truth with the quickness of a nature made
sensitive by love and clung to her resolve all the more tenaciously,
though grateful for the motherly words that would have been so
sweet if genuine happiness had prompted them.
Aunt Jane called it romantic nonsense and advised strong
measures "kind, but firm, Jessie." Aunt Clara was sadly distressed
about "what people would say" if one of "our boys" married a
nobody's daughter. And Aunt Myra not only seconded her views by
painting portraits of Phebe's unknown relations in the darkest
colors but uttered direful prophecies regarding the disreputable
beings who would start up in swarms the moment the girl made a
These suggestions so wrought upon Aunt Plenty that she turned a
deaf ear to the benevolent emotions native to her breast and, taking
refuge behind "our blessed ancestress, Lady Marget," refused to
sanction any engagement which could bring discredit upon the
stainless name which was her pride.
So it all ended where it began, for Archie steadily refused to listen
to anyone but Phebe, and she as steadily reiterated her bitter "No!"
fortifying herself half unconsciously with the hope that, by and by,
when she had won a name, fate might be kinder.
While the rest talked, she had been working, for every hour
showed her that her instinct had been a true one and pride would
not let her stay, though love pleaded eloquently. So, after a
Christmas anything but merry, Phebe packed her trunks, rich in
gifts from those who generously gave her all but the one thing she
desired, and, with a pocketful of letters to people who could
further her plans, she went away to seek her fortune, with a brave
face and a very heavy heart.
"Write often, and let me know all you do, my Phebe, and
remember I shall never be contented till you come back again,"
whispered Rose, clinging to her till the last.
"She will come back, for in a year I'm going to bring her home,
please God," said Archie, pale with the pain of parting but as
resolute as she.
"I'll earn my welcome then perhaps it will be easier for them to
give and me to receive it," answered Phebe, with a backward
glance at the group of caps in the hall as she went down the steps
on Dr. Alec's arm.
"You earned it long ago, and it is always waiting for you while I
am here. Remember that, and God bless you, my good girl," he
said, with a paternal kiss that warmed her heart.
"I never shall forget it!" And Phebe never did.
Chapter 9 NEW YEAR'S CALLS
"Now I'm going to turn over a new leaf, as I promised. I wonder
what I shall find on the next page?" said Rose, coming down on
New Year's morning with a serious face and a thick letter in her
"Tired of frivolity, my dear?" asked her uncle, pausing in his walk
up and down the hall to glance at her with a quick, bright look she
liked to bring into his eyes.
"No, sir, and that's the sad part of it, but I've made up my mind to
stop while I can because I'm sure it is not good for me. I've had
some very sober thoughts lately, for since my Phebe went away
I've had no heart for gaiety, so it is a good place to stop and make a
fresh start," answered Rose, taking his arm and walking on with
"An excellent time! Now, how are you going to fill the aching
void?" he asked, well pleased.
"By trying to be as unselfish, brave, and good as she is." And Rose
held the letter against her bosom with a tender touch, for Phebe's
strength had inspired her with a desire to be as self-reliant. "I'm
going to set about living in earnest, as she has; though I think it
will be harder for me than for her, because she stands alone and
has a career marked out for her. I'm nothing but a commonplace
sort of girl, with no end of relations to be consulted every time I
wink and a dreadful fortune hanging like a millstone round my
neck to weigh me down if I try to fly. It is a hard case, Uncle, and I
get low in my mind when I think about it," sighed Rose, oppressed
with her blessings.
"Afflicted child! How can I relieve you?" And there was
amusement as well as sympathy in Dr. Alec's face as he patted the
hand upon his arm.
"Please don't laugh, for I really am trying to be good. In the first
place, help me to wean myself from foolish pleasures and show me
how to occupy my thoughts and time so that I may not idle about
and dream instead of doing great things."
"Good! We'll begin at once. Come to town with me this morning
and see your houses. They are all ready, and Mrs. Gardner has half
a dozen poor souls waiting to go in as soon as you give the word,"
answered the doctor promptly, glad to get his girl back again,
though not surprised that she still looked with regretful eyes at the
Vanity Fair, always so enticing when we are young.
"I'll give it today, and make the new year a happy one to those poor
souls at least. I'm so sorry that it's impossible for me to go with
you, but you know I must help Aunty Plen receive. We haven't
been here for so long that she had set her heart on having a grand
time today, and I particularly want to please her because I have not
been as amiable as I ought lately. I really couldn't forgive her for
siding against Phebe."
"She did what she thought was right, so we must not blame her. I
am going to make my New Year's calls today and, as my friends
live down that way, I'll get the list of names from Mrs. G. and tell
the poor ladies, with Miss Campbell's compliments, that their new
home is ready. Shall I?"
"Yes, Uncle, but take all the credit to yourself, for I never should
have thought of it if you had not proposed the plan."
"Bless your heart! I'm only your agent, and suggest now and then.
I've nothing to offer but advice, so I lavish that on all occasions."
"You have nothing because you've given your substance all away
as generously as you do your advice. Never mind you shall never
come to want while I live. I'll save enough for us two, though I do
make 'ducks and drakes of my fortune.'"
Dr. Alec laughed at the toss of the head with which she quoted
Charlie's offensive words, then offered to take the letter, saying, as
he looked at his watch: "I'll post that for you in time for the early
mail. I like a run before breakfast."
But Rose held her letter fast, dimpling with sudden smiles, half
merry and half shy.
"No thank you, sir. Archie likes to do that, and never fails to call
for all I write. He gets a peep at Phebe's in return and I cheer him
up a bit, for, though he says nothing, he has a hard time of it, poor
"How many letters in five days?"
"Four, sir, to me. She doesn't write to him, Uncle."
"As yet. Well, you show hers, so it's all right and you are a set of
sentimental youngsters." And the doctor walked away, looking as
if he enjoyed the sentiment as much as any of them.
Old Miss Campbell was nearly as great a favorite as young Miss
Campbell, so a succession of black coats and white gloves flowed
in and out of the hospitable mansion pretty steadily all day. The
clan was out in great force, and came by in installments to pay
their duty to Aunt Plenty and wish the compliments of the season
to "our cousin." Archie appeared first, looking sad but steadfast,
and went away with Phebe's letter in his left breast pocket feeling
that life was still endurable, though his love was torn from him, for
Rose had many comfortable things to say and read him delicious
bits from the voluminous correspondence lately begun.
Hardly was he gone when Will and Geordie came marching in,
looking as fine as gray uniforms with much scarlet piping could
make them and feeling peculiarly important, as this was their first
essay in New Year's call-making. Brief was their stay, for they
planned to visit every friend they had, and Rose could not help
laughing at the droll mixture of manly dignity and boyish delight
with which they drove off in their own carriage, both as erect as
ramrods, arms folded, and caps stuck at exactly the same angle on
each blond head.
"Here comes the other couple Steve, in full feather, with a big
bouquet for Kitty, and poor Mac, looking like a gentleman and
feeling like a martyr, I'm sure," said Rose, watching one carriage
turn in as the other turned out of the great gate, with its arch of
holly, ivy, and evergreen.
"Here he is. I've got him in tow for the day and want you to cheer
him up with a word of praise, for he came without a struggle
though planning to bolt somewhere with Uncle," cried Steve,
falling back to display his brother, who came in looking
remarkably well in his state and festival array, for polishing had
begun to tell.
"A happy New Year, Aunty, same to you, Cousin, and best wishes
for as many more as you deserve," said Mac, heeding Steve no
more than if he had been a fly as he gave the old lady a hearty kiss
and offered Rose a quaint little nosegay of pansies.
"Heart's-ease do you think I need it?" she asked, looking up with
"We all do. Could I give you anything better on a day like this?"
"No thank you very much." And a sudden dew came to Rose's
eyes, for, though often blunt in speech, when Mac did do a tender
thing, it always touched her because he seemed to understand her
moods so well.
"Has Archie been here? He said he shouldn't go anywhere else, but
I hope you talked that nonsense out of his head," said Steve,
settling his tie before the mirror.
"Yes, dear, he came but looked so out of spirits I really felt
reproached. Rose cheered him up a little, but I don't believe he will
feel equal to making calls and I hope he won't, for his face tells the
whole story much too plainly," answered Aunty Plenty, rustling
about her bountiful table in her richest black silk with all her old
"Oh, he'll get over it in a month or two, and Phebe will soon find
another lover, so don't be worried about him, Aunty," said Steve,
with the air of a man who knew all about that sort of thing.
"If Archie does forget, I shall despise him, and I know Phebe won't
try to find another lover, though she'll probably have them she is so
sweet and good!" cried Rose indignantly, for, having taken the pair
under her protection, she defended them valiantly.
"Then you'd have Arch hope against hope and never give up,
would you?" asked Mac, putting on his glasses to survey the thin
boots which were his especial abomination.
"Yes, I would, for a lover is not worth having if he's not in
"Exactly. So you'd like them to wait and work and keep on loving
till they made you relent or plainly proved that it was no use."
"If they were good as well as constant, I think I should relent in
"I'll mention that to Pemberton, for he seemed to be hit the hardest,
and a ray of hope will do him good, whether he is equal to the ten
years' wait or not," put in Steve, who liked to rally Rose about her
"I'll never forgive you if you say a word to anyone. It is only Mac's
odd way of asking questions, and I ought not to answer them. You
will talk about such things and I can't stop you, but I don't like it,"
said Rose, much annoyed.
"Poor little Penelope! She shall not be teased about her suitors but
left in peace till her Ulysses comes home," said Mac, sitting down
to read the mottoes sticking out of certain fanciful bonbons on the
"It is this fuss about Archie which has demoralized us all. Even the
owl waked up and hasn't got over the excitement yet, you see. He's
had no experience, poor fellow, so he doesn't know how to
behave," observed Steve, regarding his bouquet with tender
"That's true, and I asked for information because I may be in love
myself someday and all this will be useful, don't you see?"
"You in love!" And Steve could not restrain a laugh at the idea of
the bookworm a slave to the tender passion.
Quite unruffled, Mac leaned his chin in both hands, regarding
them with a meditative eye as he answered in his whimsical way:
"Why not? I intend to study love as well as medicine, for it is one
of the most mysterious and remarkable diseases that afflict
mankind, and the best way to understand it is to have it. I may
catch it someday, and then I should like to know how to treat and
"If you take it as badly as you did measles and whooping cough, it
will go hard with you, old fellow," said Steve, much amused with
"I want it to. No great experience comes or goes easily, and this is
the greatest we can know, I believe, except death."
Something in Mac's quiet tone and thoughtful eyes made Rose
look at him in surprise, for she had never heard him speak in that
way before. Steve also stared for an instant, equally amazed, then
said below his breath, with an air of mock anxiety: "He's been
catching something at the hospital, typhoid probably, and is
beginning to wander. I'll take him quietly away before he gets any
wilder. Come, old lunatic, we must be off."
"Don't be alarmed. I'm all right and much obliged for your advice,
for I fancy I shall be a desperate lover when my time comes, if it
ever does. You don't think it impossible, do you?" And Mac put the
question so soberly that there was a general smile.
"Certainly not you'll be a regular Douglas, tender and true,"
answered Rose, wondering what queer question would come next.
"Thank you. The fact is, I've been with Archie so much in his
trouble lately that I've gotten interested in this matter and very
naturally want to investigate the subject as every rational man
must, sooner or later, that's all. Now, Steve, I'm ready." And Mac
got up as if the lesson was over.
"My dear, that boy is either a fool or a genius, and I'm sure I should
be glad to know which," said Aunt Plenty, putting her bonbons to
rights with a puzzled shake of her best cap.
"Time will show, but I incline to think that he is not a fool by any
means," answered the girl, pulling a cluster of white roses out of
her bosom to make room for the pansies, though they did not suit
the blue gown half so well.
Just then Aunt Jessie came in to help them receive, with Jamie to
make himself generally useful, which he proceeded to do by
hovering around the table like a fly about a honey pot when not
flattening his nose against the windowpanes to announce excitedly,
"Here's another man coming up the drive!"
Charlie arrived next in his most sunshiny humor, for anything
social and festive was his delight, and when in this mood the
Prince was quite irresistible. He brought a pretty bracelet for Rose
and was graciously allowed to put it on while she chid him gently
for his extravagance.
"I am only following your example, for you know 'nothing is too
good for those we love, and giving away is the best thing one can
do,'" he retorted, quoting words of her own.
"I wish you would follow my example in some other things as well
as you do in this," said Rose soberly as Aunt Plenty called him to
come and see if the punch was right.
"Must conform to the customs of society. Aunty's heart would be
broken if we did not drink her health in the good old fashion. But
don't be alarmed I've a strong head of my own, and that's lucky, for
I shall need it before I get through," laughed Charlie, showing a
long list as he turned away to gratify the old lady with all sorts of
merry and affectionate compliments as the glasses touched.
Rose did feel rather alarmed, for if he drank the health of all the
owners of those names, she felt sure that Charlie would need a
very strong head indeed. It was hard to say anything then and there
without seeming disrespect to Aunt Plenty, yet she longed to
remind her cousin of the example she tried to set him in this
respect, for Rose never touched wine, and the boys knew it. She
was thoughtfully turning the bracelet, with its pretty device of
turquoise forget-me-nots, when the giver came back to her, still
bubbling over with good spirits.
"Dear little saint, you look as if you'd like to smash all the punch
bowls in the city, and save us jolly young fellows from tomorrow's
"I should, for such headaches sometimes end in heartaches, I'm
afraid. Dear Charlie, don't be angry, but you know better than I that
this is a dangerous day for such as you so do be careful for my
sake," she added, with an unwonted touch of tenderness in her
voice, for, looking at the gallant figure before her, it was
impossible to repress the womanly longing to keep it always as
brave and blithe as now.
Charlie saw that new softness in the eyes that never looked
unkindly on him, fancied that it meant more than it did, and, with a
sudden fervor in his own voice, answered quickly: "My darling, I
The glow which had risen to his face was reflected in hers, for at
that moment it seemed as if it would be possible to love this
cousin who was so willing to be led by her and so much needed
some helpful influence to make a noble man of him. The thought
came and went like a flash, but gave her a quick heartthrob, as if
the old affection was trembling on the verge of some warmer
sentiment, and left her with a sense of responsibility never felt
before. Obeying the impulse, she said, with a pretty blending of
earnestness and playfulness, "If I wear the bracelet to remember
you by, you must wear this to remind you of your promise."
"And you," whispered Charlie, bending his head to kiss the hands
that put a little white rose in his buttonhole.
Just at that most interesting moment they became aware of an
arrival in the front drawing room, whither Aunt Plenty had
discreetly retired. Rose felt grateful for the interruption, because,
not being at all sure of the state of her heart as yet, she was afraid
of letting a sudden impulse lead her too far. But Charlie, conscious
that a very propitious instant had been spoiled, regarded the
newcomer with anything but a benignant expression of
countenance and, whispering, "Good-bye, my Rose, I shall look in
this evening to see how you are after the fatigues of the day," he
went away, with such a cool nod to poor Fun See that the amiable
Asiatic thought he must have mortally offended him.
Rose had little leisure to analyze the new emotions of which she
was conscious, for Mr. Tokio came up at once to make his
compliments with a comical mingling of Chinese courtesy and
American awkwardness, and before he had got his hat on Jamie
shouted with admiring energy: "Here's another! Oh, such a swell!"
They now came thick and fast for many hours, and the ladies stood
bravely at their posts till late into the evening. Then Aunt Jessie
went home, escorted by a very sleepy little son, and Aunt Plenty
retired to bed, used up. Dr. Alec had returned in good season, for
his friends were not fashionable ones, but Aunt Myra had sent up
for him in hot haste and he had good-naturedly obeyed the
summons. In fact, he was quite used to them now, for Mrs. Myra,
having tried a variety of dangerous diseases, had finally decided
upon heart complaint as the one most likely to keep her friends in
a chronic state of anxiety and was continually sending word that
she was dying. One gets used to palpitations as well as everything
else, so the doctor felt no alarm but always went and prescribed
some harmless remedy with the most amiable sobriety and
Rose was tired but not sleepy and wanted to think over several
things, so instead of going to bed she sat down before the open fire
in the study to wait for her uncle and perhaps Charlie, though she
did not expect him so late.
Aunt Myra's palpitations must have been unusually severe, for the
clock struck twelve before Dr. Alec came, and Rose was preparing
to end her reverie when the sound of someone fumbling at the hall
door made her jump up, saying to herself: "Poor man! His hands
are so cold he can't get his latchkey in. Is that you, Uncle?" she
added, running to admit him, for Jane was slow and the night as
bitter as it was brilliant.
A voice answered, "Yes." And as the door swung open, in walked,
not Dr. Alec, but Charlie, who immediately took one of the hall
chairs and sat there with his hat on, rubbing his gloveless hands
and blinking as if the light dazzled him, as he said in a rapid,
abrupt sort of tone, "I told you I'd come left the fellows keeping it
up gloriously going to see the old year out, you know. But I
promised never break my word and here I am. Angel in blue, did
you slay your thousands?"
"Hush! The waiters are still about. Come to the study fire and
warm yourself, you must be frozen," said Rose, going before to roll
up the easy chair.
"Not at all never warmer looks very comfortable, though. Where's
Uncle?" asked Charlie, following with his hat still on, his hands in
his pockets, and his eye fixed steadily on the bright head in front of
"Aunt Myra sent for him, and I was waiting up to see how she
was," answered Rose, busily mending the fire.
Charlie laughed and sat down upon a corner of the library table.
"Poor old soul! What a pity she doesn't die before he is quite worn
out. A little too much ether some of these times would send her off
quite comfortably, you know."
"Don't speak in that way. Uncle says imaginary troubles are often
as hard to bear as real ones," said Rose, turning around displeased.
Till now she had not fairly looked at him, for recollections of the
morning made her a little shy. His attitude and appearance
surprised her as much as his words, and the quick change in her
face seemed to remind him of his manners. Getting up, he hastily
took off his hat and stood looking at her with a curiously fixed yet
absent look as he said in the same rapid, abrupt way, as if, when
once started, he found it hard to stop, "I beg pardon only joking
very bad taste I know, and won't do it again. The heat of the room
makes me a little dizzy, and I think I got a chill coming out. It is
cold I am frozen, I daresay though I drove like the devil."
"Not that bad horse of yours, I hope? I know it is dangerous, so late
and alone," said Rose, shrinking behind the big chair as Charlie
approached the fire, carefully avoiding a footstool in his way.
"Danger is exciting that's why I like it. No man ever called me a
coward let him try it once. I never give in and that horse shall not
conquer me. I'll break his neck, if he breaks my spirit doing it. No I
don't mean that never mind it's all right," and Charlie laughed in a
way that troubled her, because there was no mirth in it.
"Have you had a pleasant day?" asked Rose, looking at him
intently as he stood pondering over the cigar and match which he
held, as if doubtful which to strike and which to smoke.
"Day? Oh, yes, capital. About two thousand calls, and a nice little
supper at the Club. Randal can't sing any more than a crow, but I
left him with a glass of champagne upside down, trying to give
them my old favorite:
"'Tis better to laugh than be sighing,"
and Charlie burst forth in that bacchanalian melody at the top of
his voice, waving an allumette holder over his head to represent
Randal's inverted wineglass.
"Hush! You'll wake Aunty," cried Rose in a tone so commanding
that he broke off in the middle of a roulade to stare at her with a
blank look as he said apologetically, "I was merely showing how it
should be done. Don't be angry, dearest look at me as you did this
morning, and I'll swear never to sing another note if you say so. I'm
only a little gay we drank your health handsomely, and they all
congratulated me. Told 'em it wasn't out yet. Stop, though I didn't
mean to mention that. No matter I'm always in a scrape, but you
always forgive me in the sweetest way. Do it now, and don't be
angry, little darling." And, dropping the vase, he went toward her
with a sudden excitement that made her shrink behind the chair.
She was not angry, but shocked and frightened, for she knew now
what the matter was and grew so pale, he saw it and asked pardon
before she could utter a rebuke.
"We'll talk of that tomorrow. It is very late. Go home now, please,
before Uncle comes," she said, trying to speak naturally yet
betraying her distress by the tremor of her voice and the sad
anxiety in her eyes.
"Yes, yes, I will go you are tired I'll make it all right tomorrow."
And as if the sound of his uncle's name steadied him for an instant,
Charlie made for the door with an unevenness of gait which would
have told the shameful truth if his words had not already done so.
Before he reached it, however, the sound of wheels arrested him
and, leaning against the wall, he listened with a look of dismay
mingled with amusement creeping over his face. "Brutus has
bolted now I am in a fix. Can't walk home with this horrid
dizziness in my head. It's the cold, Rose, nothing else, I do assure
you, and a chill yes, a chill. See here! Let one of those fellows
there lend me an arm no use to go after that brute. Won't Mother
be frightened though when he gets home?" And with that empty
laugh again, he fumbled for the door handle.
"No, no don't let them see you! Don't let anyone know! Stay here
till Uncle comes, and he'll take care of you. Oh, Charlie! How
could you do it! How could you when you promised?" And,
forgetting fear in the sudden sense of shame and anguish that came
over her, Rose ran to him, caught his hand from the lock, and
turned the key; then, as if she could not bear to see him standing
there with that vacant smile on his lips, she dropped into a chair
and covered up her face.
The cry, the act, and, more than all, the sight of the bowed head
would have sobered poor Charlie if it had not been too late. He
looked about the room with a vague, despairing look, as if to find
reason fast slipping from his control, but heat and cold, excitement
and reckless pledging of many healths had done their work too
well to make instant sobriety possible, and owning his defeat with
a groan, he turned away and threw himself face-downward on the
sofa, one of the saddest sights the new year looked upon as it came
As she sat there with hidden eyes, Rose felt that something dear to
her was dead forever. The ideal, which all women cherish, look
for, and too often think they have found when love glorifies a
mortal man, is hard to give up, especially when it comes in the
likeness of the first lover who touches a young girl's heart. Rose
had just begun to feel that perhaps this cousin, despite his faults,
might yet become the hero that he sometimes looked, and the
thought that she might be his inspiration was growing sweet to her,
although she had not entertained it until very lately. Alas, how
short the tender dream had been, how rude the awakening! How
impossible it would be ever again to surround that fallen figure
with all the romance of an innocent fancy or gift it with the high
attributes beloved by a noble nature!
Breathing heavily in the sudden sleep that kindly brought a brief
oblivion of himself, he lay with flushed cheeks, disordered hair,
and at his feet the little rose that never would be fresh and fair
again a pitiful contrast now to the brave, blithe young man who
went so gaily out that morning to be so ignominiously overthrown
Many girls would have made light of a trespass so readily forgiven
by the world, but Rose had not yet learned to offer temptation with
a smile and shut her eyes to the weakness that makes a man a
brute. It always grieved or disgusted her to see it in others, and
now it was very terrible to have it brought so near not in its worst
form, by any means, but bad enough to wring her heart with shame
and sorrow and fill her mind with dark forebodings for the future.
So she could only sit mourning for the Charlie that might have
been while watching the Charlie that was with an ache in her heart
which found no relief till, putting her hands there as if to ease the
pain, they touched the pansies, faded but still showing gold among
the somber purple, and then two great tears dropped on them as
she sighed: "Ah, me! I do need heart's-ease sooner than I thought!"
Her uncle's step made her spring up and unlock the door, showing
him such an altered face that he stopped short, ejaculating in
dismay, "Good heavens, child! What's the matter?" adding, as she
pointed to the sofa in pathetic silence, "Is he hurt? ill? dead?"
"No, Uncle, he is--" She could not utter the ugly word but
whispered with a sob in her throat, "Be kind to him," and fled
away to her own room, feeling as if a great disgrace had fallen on
Chapter 10 THE SAD AND SOBER PART
"How will he look? What will he say? Can anything make us
forget and be happy again?" were the first questions Rose asked
herself as soon as she woke from the brief sleep which followed a
long, sad vigil. It seemed as if the whole world must be changed
because a trouble darkened it for her. She was too young yet to
know how possible it is to forgive much greater sins than this,
forget far heavier disappointments, outlive higher hopes, and bury
loves compared to which hers was but a girlish fancy. She wished
it had not been so bright a day, wondered how her birds could sing
with such shrill gaiety, put no ribbon in her hair, and said, as she
looked at the reflection of her own tired face in the glass, "Poor
thing! You thought the new leaf would have something pleasant on
it. The story has been very sweet and easy to read so far, but the
sad and sober part is coming now."
A tap at the door reminded her that, in spite of her afflictions,
breakfast must be eaten, and the sudden thought that Charlie might
still be in the house made her hurry to the door, to find Dr. Alec
waiting for her with his morning smile. She drew him in and
whispered anxiously, as if someone lay dangerously ill nearby, "Is
he better, Uncle? Tell me all about it I can bear it now."
Some men would have smiled at her innocent distress and told her
this was only what was to be expected and endured, but Dr. Alec
believed in the pure instincts that make youth beautiful, desired to
keep them true, and hoped his girl would never learn to look
unmoved by pain and pity upon any human being vanquished by a
vice, no matter how trivial it seemed, how venial it was held. So
his face grew grave, though his voice was cheerful as he answered:
"All right, I daresay, by this time, for sleep is the best medicine in
such cases. I took him home last night, and no one knows he came
but you and I."
"No one ever shall. How did you do it, Uncle?"
"Just slipped out of the long study window and got him cannily off,
for the air and motion, after a dash of cold water, brought him
around, and he was glad to be safely landed at home. His rooms
are below, you know, so no one was disturbed, and I left him
"Thank you so much," sighed Rose. "And Brutus? Weren't they
frightened when he got back alone?"
"Not at all. The sagacious beast went quietly to the stable, and the
sleepy groom asked no questions, for Charlie often sends the horse
round by himself when it is late or stormy. Rest easy, dear no eye
but ours saw the poor lad come and go, and we'll forgive it for
"Yes, but not forget it. I never can, and he will never be again to
me the Charlie I've been so proud and fond of all these years. Oh,
Uncle, such a pity! Such a pity!"
"Don't break your tender heart about it, child, for it is not
incurable, thank God! I don't make light of it, but I am sure that
under better influences Charlie will redeem himself because his
impulses are good and this his only vice. I can hardly blame him
for what he is, because his mother did the harm. I declare to you,
Rose, I sometimes feel as if I must break out against that woman
and thunder in her ears that she is ruining the immortal soul for
which she is responsible to heaven!"
Dr. Alec seldom spoke in this way, and when he did it was rather
awful, for his indignation was of the righteous sort and such
thunder often rouses up a drowsy soul when sunshine has no
effect. Rose liked it, and sincerely wished Aunt Clara had been
there to get the benefit of the outbreak, for she needed just such an
awakening from the self-indulgent dream in which she lived.
"Do it, and save Charlie before it is too late!" she cried, kindling
herself as she watched him, for he looked like a roused lion as he
walked about the room with his hand clenched and a spark in his
eye, evidently in desperate earnest and ready to do almost
"Will you help?" he asked, stopping suddenly with a look that
made her stand up straight and strong as she answered with an
eager voice: "I will."
"Then don't love him yet."
That startled her, but she asked steadily, though her heart began to
beat and her color to come: "Why not?"
"Firstly, because no woman should give her happiness into the
keeping of a man without fixed principles; secondly, because the
hope of being worthy of you will help him more than any prayers
or preaching of mine. Thirdly, because it will need all our wit and
patience to undo the work of nearly four and twenty years. You
understand what I mean?"
"Can you say 'no' when he asks you to say 'yes' and wait a little for
"And will you?"
"Then I'm satisfied, and a great weight taken off my heart. I can't
help seeing what goes on, or trembling when I think of you setting
sail with no better pilot than poor Charlie. Now you answer as I
hoped you would, and I am proud of my girl!"
They had been standing with the width of the room between them,
Dr. Alec looking very much like a commander issuing orders,
Rose like a well-drilled private obediently receiving them, and
both wore the air of soldiers getting ready for a battle, with the
bracing of nerves and quickening of the blood brave souls feel as
they put on their armor. At the last words he went to her, brushed
back the hair, and kissed her on the forehead with a tender sort of
gravity and a look that made her feel as if he had endowed her
with the Victoria Cross for courage on the field.
No more was said then, for Aunt Plenty called them down and the
day's duties began. But that brief talk showed Rose what to do and
fitted her to do it, for it set her to thinking of the duty one owes
one's self in loving as in all the other great passions or experiences
which make or mar a life.
She had plenty of time for quiet meditation that day because
everyone was resting after yesterday's festivity, and she sat in her
little room planning out a new year so full of good works, grand
successes, and beautiful romances that if it could have been
realized, the Millennium would have begun. It was a great comfort
to her, however, and lightened the long hours haunted by a secret
desire to know when Charlie would come and a secret fear of the
first meeting. She was sure he would be bowed down with
humiliation and repentance, and a struggle took place in her mind
between the pity she could not help feeling and the disapprobation
she ought to show. She decided to be gentle, but very frank; to
reprove, but also to console; and to try to improve the softened
moment by inspiring the culprit with a wish for all the virtues
which make a perfect man.
The fond delusion grew quite absorbing, and her mind was full of
it as she sat watching the sun set from her western window and
admiring with dreamy eyes the fine effect of the distant hills clear
and dark against a daffodil sky when the bang of a door made her
sit suddenly erect in her low chair and say with a catch in her
breath: "He's coming! I must remember what I promised Uncle and
be very firm."
Usually Charlie announced his approach with music of some sort.
Now he neither whistled, hummed, nor sang, but came so quietly
Rose was sure that he dreaded this meeting as much as she did
and, compassionating his natural confusion, did not look around as
the steps drew near. She thought perhaps he would go down upon
his knees, as he used to after a boyish offense, but hoped not, for
too much humility distressed her, so she waited for the first
It was rather a shock when it came, however, for a great nosegay
dropped into her lap and a voice, bold and gay as usual, said
lightly: "Here she is, as pretty and pensive as you please. Is the
world hollow, our doll stuffed with sawdust, and do we want to go
into a nunnery today, Cousin?"
Rose was so taken aback by this unexpected coolness that the
flowers lay unnoticed as she looked up with a face so full of
surprise, reproach, and something like shame that it was
impossible to mistake its meaning. Charlie did not, and had the
grace to redden deeply, and his eyes fell as he said quickly, though
in the same light tone: "I humbly apologize for coming so late last
night. Don't be hard upon me, Cousin. You know America expects
every man to do his duty on New Year's Day."
"I am tired of forgiving! You make and break promises as easily as
you did years ago, and I shall never ask you for another," answered
Rose, putting the bouquet away, for the apology did not satisfy her
and she would not be bribed to silence.
"But, my dear girl, you are so very exacting, so peculiar in your
notions, and so angry about trifles that a poor fellow can't please
you, try as he will," began Charlie, ill at ease, but too proud to
show half the penitence he felt, not so much for the fault as for her
discovery of it.
"I am not angry I am grieved and disappointed, for I expect every
man to do his duty in another way and keep his word to the
uttermost, as I try to do. If that is exacting, I'm sorry, and won't
trouble you with my old-fashioned notions anymore."
"Bless my soul! What a rout about nothing! I own that I forgot I
know I acted like a fool and I beg pardon. What more can I do?"
"Act like a man, and never let me be so terribly ashamed of you
again as I was last night." And Rose gave a little shiver as she
thought of it.
That involuntary act hurt Charlie more than her words, and it was
his turn now to feel "terribly ashamed," for the events of the
previous evening were very hazy in his mind and fear magnified
them greatly. Turning sharply away, he went and stood by the fire,
quite at a loss how to make his peace this time, because Rose was
so unlike herself. Usually a word of excuse sufficed, and she
seemed glad to pardon and forget; now, though very quiet, there
was something almost stern about her that surprised and daunted
him, for how could he know that all the while her pitiful heart was
pleading for him and the very effort to control it made her a little
hard and cold?
As he stood there, restlessly fingering the ornaments upon the
chimneypiece, his eye brightened suddenly and, taking up the
pretty bracelet lying there, he went slowly back to her, saying in a
tone that was humble and serious enough now: "I will act like a
man, and you shall never be ashamed again. Only be kind to me.
Let me put this on, and promise afresh this time I swear I'll keep it.
Won't you trust me, Rose?"
It was very hard to resist the pleading voice and eyes, for this
humility was dangerous; and, but for Uncle Alec, Rose would have
answered "yes." The blue forget-me-nots reminded her of her own
promise, and she kept it with difficulty now, to be glad always
afterward. Putting back the offered trinket with a gentle touch, she
said firmly, though she dared not look up into the anxious face
bending toward her: "No, Charlie I can't wear it. My hands must be
free if I'm to help you as I ought. I will be kind, I will trust you, but
don't swear anything, only try to resist temptation, and we'll all
stand by you."
Charlie did not like that and lost the ground he had gained by
saying impetuously: "I don't want anyone but you to stand by me,
and I must be sure you won't desert me, else, while I'm mortifying
soul and body to please you, some stranger will come and steal
your heart away from me. I couldn't bear that, so I give you fair
warning, in such a case I'll break the bargain, and go straight to the
The last sentence spoiled it all, for it was both masterful and
defiant. Rose had the Campbell spirit in her, though it seldom
showed; as yet she valued her liberty more than any love offered
her, and she resented the authority he assumed too soon resented it
all the more warmly because of the effort she was making to
reinstate her hero, who would insist on being a very faulty and
ungrateful man. She rose straight out of her chair, saying with a
look and tone which rather startled her hearer and convinced him
that she was no longer a tenderhearted child but a woman with a
will of her own and a spirit as proud and fiery as any of her race:
"My heart is my own, to dispose of as I please. Don't shut yourself
out of it by presuming too much, for you have no claim on me but
that of cousinship, and you never will have unless you earn it.
Remember that, and neither threaten nor defy me anymore."
For a minute it was doubtful whether Charlie would answer this
flash with another, and a general explosion ensue, or wisely
quench the flame with the mild answer which turneth away wrath.
He chose the latter course and made it very effective by throwing
himself down before his offended goddess, as he had often done in
jest. This time it was not acting, but serious, earnest, and there was
real passion in his voice as he caught Rose's dress in both hands,
saying eagerly: "No, no! Don't shut your heart against me or I shall
turn desperate. I'm not half good enough for such a saint as you,
but you can do what you will with me. I only need a motive to
make a man of me, and where can I find a stronger one than in
trying to keep your love?"
"It is not yours yet," began Rose, much moved, though all the
while she felt as if she were on a stage and had a part to play, for
Charlie had made life so like a melodrama that it was hard for him
to be quite simple even when most sincere.
"Let me earn it, then. Show me how, and I'll do anything, for you
are my good angel, Rose, and if you cast me off, I feel as if I
shouldn't care how soon there was an end of me," cried Charlie,
getting tragic in his earnestness and putting both arms around her,
as if his only safety lay in clinging to this beloved fellow creature.
Behind footlights it would have been irresistible, but somehow it
did not touch the one spectator, though she had neither time nor
skill to discover why. For all their ardor the words did not ring
quite true. Despite the grace of the attitude, she would have liked
him better manfully erect upon his feet, and though the gesture
was full of tenderness, a subtle instinct made her shrink away as
she said with a composure that surprised herself even more than it
did him: "Please don't. No, I will promise nothing yet, for I must
respect the man I love."
That brought Charlie to his feet, pale with something deeper than
anger, for the recoil told him more plainly than the words how
much he had fallen in her regard since yesterday. The memory of
the happy moment when she gave the rose with that new softness
in her eyes, the shy color, the sweet "for my sake" came back with
sudden vividness, contrasting sharply with the now averted face,
the hand outstretched to put him back, the shrinking figure, and in
that instant's silence, poor Charlie realized what he had lost, for a
girl's first thought of love is as delicate a thing as the rosy morning
glory, which a breath of air can shatter. Only a hint of evil, only an
hour's debasement for him, a moment's glimpse for her of the
coarser pleasures men know, and the innocent heart, just opening
to bless and to be blessed, closed again like a sensitive plant and
shut him out perhaps forever.
The consciousness of this turned him pale with fear, for his love
was deeper than she knew, and he proved this when he said in a
tone so full of mingled pain and patience that it touched her to the
heart: "You shall respect me if I can make you, and when I've
earned it, may I hope for something more?"
She looked up then, saw in his face the noble shame, the humble
sort of courage that shows repentance to be genuine and gives
promise of success, and, with a hopeful smile that was a cordial to
him, answered heartily: "You may."
"Bless you for that! I'll make no promises, I'll ask for none only
trust me, Rose, and while you treat me like a cousin, remember
that no matter how many lovers you may have you'll never be to
any of them as dear as you are to me."
A traitorous break in his voice warned Charlie to stop there, and
with no other good-bye, he very wisely went away, leaving Rose to
put the neglected flowers into water with remorseful care and lay
away the bracelet, saying to herself: "I'll never wear it till I
feel as I did before. Then he shall put it on and I'll say 'yes.'"
Chapter 11 SMALL TEMPTATIONS
"Oh, Rose, I've got something so exciting to tell you!" cried Kitty
Van Tassel, skipping into the carriage next morning when her
friend called for her to go shopping.
Kitty always did have some "perfectly thrilling" communication to
make and Rose had learned to take them quietly, but the next
demonstration was a new one, for, regardless alike of curious
observers outside and disordered hats within, Kitty caught Rose
around the neck, exclaiming in a rapturous whisper: "My dearest
creature, I'm engaged!"
"I'm so glad! Of course it is Steve?"
"Dear fellow, he did it last night in the nicest way, and Mama is so
delighted. Now what shall I be married in?" And Kitty composed
herself with a face full of the deepest anxiety.
"How can you talk of that so soon? Why, Kit, you unromantic girl,
you ought to be thinking of your lover and not your clothes," said
Rose, amused yet rather scandalized at such want of sentiment.
"I am thinking of my lover, for he says he will not have a long
engagement, so I must begin to think about the most important
things at once, mustn't I?"
"Ah, he wants to be sure of you, for you are such a slippery
creature he is afraid you'll treat him as you did poor Jackson and
the rest," interrupted Rose, shaking her finger at her prospective
cousin, who had tried this pastime twice before and was rather
proud than otherwise of her brief engagements.
"You needn't scold, for I know I'm right, and when you've been in
society as long as I have you'll find that the only way to really
know a man is to be engaged to him. While they want you they are
all devotion, but when they think they've got you, then you find out
what wretches they are," answered Kitty with an air of worldly
wisdom which contrasted oddly with her youthful face and giddy
"A sad prospect for poor Steve, unless I give him a hint to look
well to his ways."
"Oh, my dear child, I'm sure of him, for my experience has made
me very sharp and I'm convinced I can manage him without a bit
of trouble. We've known each other for ages" Steve was twenty
and Kitty eighteen "and always been the best of friends. Besides,
he is quite my ideal man. I never could bear big hands and feet,
and his are simply adorable. Then he's the best dancer I know and
dresses in perfect taste. I really do believe I fell in love with his
pocket handkerchiefs first, they were so enchanting I couldn't
resist," laughed Kitty, pulling a large one out of her pocket and
burying her little nose in the folds, which shed a delicious
fragrance upon the air.
"Now, that looks promising, and I begin to think you have got a
little sentiment after all," said Rose, well pleased, for the merry
brown eyes had softened suddenly and a quick color came up in
Kitty's cheek as she answered, still half hiding her face in the
beloved handkerchief: "Of course I have, lots of it, only I'm
ashamed to show it to most people, because it's the style to take
everything in the most nonchalant way. My gracious, Rose, you'd
have thought me a romantic goose last night while Steve proposed
in the back parlor, for I actually cried, he was so dreadfully in
earnest when I pretended that I didn't care for him, and so very
dear and nice when I told the truth. I didn't know he had it in him,
but he came out delightfully and never cared a particle, though I
dropped tears all over his lovely shirtfront. Wasn't that good of
him? For you know he hates his things to be mussed."
"He's a true Campbell, and has got a good warm heart of his own
under those fine fronts of his. Aunt Jane doesn't believe in
sentiment, so he has been trained never to show any, but it is there,
and you must encourage him to let it out, not foolishly, but in a
way to make him more manly and serious."
"I will if I can, for though I wouldn't own this to everybody, I like
it in him very much and feel as if Steve and I should get on
beautifully. Here we are now, be sure not to breathe a word if we
meet anyone. I want it to be a profound secret for a week at least,"
added Kitty, whisking her handkerchief out of sight as the carriage
stopped before the fashionable store they were about to visit.
Rose promised with a smile, for Kitty's face betrayed her without
words, so full was it of the happiness which few eyes fail to
understand whenever they see it.
"Just a glance at the silks. You ask my opinion about white ones,
and I'll look at the colors. Mama says satin, but that is out now,
and I've set my heart on the heaviest corded thing I can find,"
whispered Kitty as they went rustling by the long counters strewn
with all that could delight the feminine eye and tempt the feminine
"Isn't that opal the loveliest thing you ever saw? I'm afraid I'm too
dark to wear it, but it would just suit you. You'll need a variety,
you know," added Kitty in a significant aside as Rose stood among
the white silks while her companion affected great interest in the
delicate hues laid before her.
"But I have a variety now, and don't need a new dress of any sort."
"No matter, get it, else it will be gone. You've worn all yours
several times already and must have a new one whether you need it
or not. Dear me! If I had as much pocket money as you have, I'd
come out in a fresh toilet at every party I went to," answered Kitty,
casting an envious eye upon the rainbow piles before her.
The quick-witted shopman saw that a wedding was afoot, for when
two pretty girls whisper, smile, and blush over their shopping,
clerks scent bridal finery and a transient gleam of interest
brightens their imperturbable countenances and lends a brief
energy to languid voices weary with crying, "Cash!" Gathering
both silks with a practiced turn of the hand, he held them up for
inspection, detecting at a glance which was the bride-elect and
which the friend, for Kitty fell back to study the effect of silvery
white folds with an absorbing interest impossible to mistake while
Rose sat looking at the opal as if she scarcely heard a bland voice
saying, with the rustle of silk so dear to girlish ears: "A superb
thing, just opened; all the rage in Paris; very rare shade; trying to
most, as the lady says, but quite perfect for a blonde."
Rose was not listening to those words but to others which Aunt
Clara had lately uttered, laughed at then, but thought over more
than once since.
"I'm tired of hearing people wonder why Miss Campbell does not
dress more. Simplicity is all very well for schoolgirls and women
who can't afford anything better, but you can, and you really ought.
Your things are pretty enough in their way, and I rather like you to
have a style of your own, but it looks odd and people will think
you are mean if you don't make more show. Besides, you don't do
justice to your beauty, which would be both peculiar and striking if
you'd devote your mind to getting up ravishing costumes."
Much more to the same effect did her aunt say, discussing the
subject quite artistically and unconsciously appealing to several of
Rose's ruling passions. One was a love for the delicate fabrics,
colors, and ornaments which refined tastes enjoy and whose
costliness keeps them from ever growing common; another, her
strong desire to please the eyes of those she cared for and gratify
their wishes in the smallest matter if she could. And last, but not
least, the natural desire of a young and pretty woman to enhance
the beauty which she so soon discovers to be her most potent
charm for the other sex, her passport to a high place among her
She had thought seriously of surprising and delighting everyone by
appearing in a costume which should do justice to the loveliness
which was so modest that it was apt to forget itself in admiring
others what girls call a "ravishing" dress, such as she could
imagine and easily procure by the magic of the Fortunatus' purse in
her pocket. She had planned it all, the shimmer of pale silk
through lace like woven frostwork, ornaments of some classic
pattern, and all the dainty accessories as perfect as time, taste, and
money could make them.
She knew that Uncle Alec's healthful training had given her a
figure that could venture on any fashion and Nature blessed her
with a complexion that defied all hues. So it was little wonder that
she felt a strong desire to use these gifts, not for the pleasure of
display, but to seem fair in the eyes that seldom looked at her
without a tender sort of admiration, all the more winning when no
words marred the involuntary homage women love.
These thoughts were busy in Rose's mind as she sat looking at the
lovely silk and wondering what Charlie would say if she should
some night burst upon him in a pale rosy cloud, like the Aurora to
whom he often likened her. She knew it would please him very
much and she longed to do all she honestly could to gratify the
poor fellow, for her tender heart already felt some remorseful
pangs, remembering how severe she had been the night before. She
could not revoke her words, because she meant them every one,
but she might be kind and show that she did not wholly shut him
out from her regard by asking him to go with her to Kitty's ball and
gratify his artistic taste by a lovely costume. A very girlish but
kindly plan, for that ball was to be the last of her frivolities, so she
wanted it to be a pleasant one and felt that "being friends" with
Charlie would add much to her enjoyment.
This idea made her fingers tighten on the gleaming fabric so
temptingly upheld, and she was about to take it when, "If ye
please, sir, would ye kindly tell me where I'd be finding the flannel
place?" said a voice behind her, and, glancing up, she saw a meek
little Irishwoman looking quite lost and out of place among the
luxuries around her.
"Downstairs, turn to the left," was the clerk's hasty reply, with a
vague wave of the hand which left the inquirer more in the dark
Rose saw the woman's perplexity and said kindly, "I'll show you
"I'm ashamed to be throublin' ye, miss, but it's strange I am in it,
and wouldn't be comin' here at all, at all, barrin' they tould me I'd
get the bit I'm wantin' chaper in this big shop than the little ones
more becomin' the like o' me," explained the little woman humbly.
Rose looked again as she led the way through a well-dressed
crowd of busy shoppers, and something in the anxious, tired face
under the old woolen hood the bare, purple hands holding fast a
meager wallet and a faded scrap of the dotted flannel little
children's frocks are so often made of touched the generous heart
that never could see want without an impulse to relieve it. She had
meant only to point the way, but, following a new impulse, she
went on, listening to the poor soul's motherly prattle about "me
baby" and the "throuble" it was to "find clothes for the growin'
childer when me man is out av work and the bit and sup
inconvaynient these hard times" as they descended to that
darksome lower world where necessities take refuge when luxuries
crowd them out from the gayer place above.
The presence of a lady made Mrs. Sullivan's shopping very easy
now, and her one poor "bit" of flannel grew miraculously into
yards of several colors, since the shabby purse was no lighter when
she went away, wiping her eyes on the corner of a big, brown
bundle. A very little thing, and no one saw it but a wooden-faced
clerk, who never told, yet it did Rose good and sent her up into the
light again with a sober face, thinking self-reproachfully, "What
right have I to more gay gowns when some poor babies have none,
or to spend time making myself fine while there is so much bitter
want in the world?"
Nevertheless the pretty things were just as tempting as ever, and
she yearned for the opal silk with a renewed yearning when she got
back. It is not certain that it would not have been bought in spite of
her better self if a good angel in the likeness of a stout lady with
silvery curls about the benevolent face, enshrined in a plain
bonnet, had not accosted her as she joined Kitty, still brooding
over the wedding gowns.
"I waited a moment for you, my dear, because I'm in haste, and
very glad to save myself a journey or a note," began the newcomer
in a low tone as Rose shook hands with the most affectionate
respect. "You know the great box factory was burned a day or two
ago and over a hundred girls thrown out of work. Some were hurt
and are in the hospital, many have no homes to go to, and nearly
all need temporary help of some sort. We've had so many calls this
winter I hardly know which way to turn, for want is pressing, and
I've had my finger in so many purses I'm almost ashamed to ask
again. Any little contribution ah, thank you, I was sure you
wouldn't fail me, my good child," and Mrs. Gardener warmly
pressed the hand that went so quickly into the little porte-monnaie
and came out so generously filled.
"Let me know how else I can help, and thank you very much for
allowing me to have a share in your good works," said Rose,
forgetting all about gay gowns as she watched the black bonnet go
briskly away with an approving smile on the fine old face inside it.
"You extravagant thing! How could you give so much?" whispered
Kitty, whose curious eye had seen three figures on the single bill
which had so rapidly changed hands.
"I believe if Mrs. Gardener asked me for my head I should give it
to her," answered Rose lightly, then, turning to the silks, she asked,
"Which have you decided upon, the yellow white or the blue, the
corded or the striped?"
"I've decided nothing; except that you are to have the pink and
wear it at my ahem! ball," said Kitty, who had made up her mind,
but could not give her orders till Mama had been consulted.
"No, I can't afford it just yet. I never overstep my allowance, and I
shall have to if I get any more finery. Come, we ought not to waste
time here if you have all the patterns you want." And Rose walked
quickly away, glad that it was out of her power to break through
two resolutions which hitherto had been faithfully kept one to
dress simply for example's sake, the other not to be extravagant for
As Rosamond had her day of misfortunes, so this seemed to be one
of small temptations to Rose. After she had set Kitty down at home
and been to see her new houses, she drove about doing various
errands for the aunts and, while waiting in the carriage for the
execution of an order, young Pemberton came by.
As Steve said, this gentleman had been "hard hit" and still hovered
mothlike about the forbidden light. Being the most eligible parti of
the season, his regard was considered a distinction to be proud of,
and Rose had been well scolded by Aunt Clara for refusing so
honorable a mate. The girl liked him, and he was the suitor of
whom she had spoken so respectfully to Dr. Alec because he had
no need of the heiress and had sincerely loved Rose. He had been
away, and she hoped had gotten over his disappointment as happily
as the rest, but now when he saw her, and came hurrying up so
hungry for a word, she felt that he had not forgotten and was too
kind to chill him with the bow which plainly says "Don't stop."
A personable youth was Pemberton, and had brought with him
from the wilds of Canada a sable-lined overcoat which was the
envy of every masculine and the admiration of every feminine
friend he had, and as he stood at her carriage window Rose knew
that this luxurious garment and its stalwart wearer were objects of
interest to the passersby. It chanced that the tide of shoppers
flowed in that direction and, as she chatted, familiar faces often
passed with glances, smiles, and nods of varying curiosity,
significance, and wonder.
She could not help feeling a certain satisfaction in giving him a
moment's pleasure, since she could do no more, but it was not that
amiable desire alone which made her ignore the neat white parcels
which the druggist's boy deposited on the front seat and kept her
lingering a little longer to enjoy one of the small triumphs which
girls often risk more than a cold in the head to display. The sight
of several snowflakes on the broad shoulders which partially
obstructed her view, as well as the rapidly increasing animation of
Pemberton's chat, reminded her that it was high time to go.
"I mustn't keep you it is beginning to storm," she said, taking up
her muff, much to old Jacob's satisfaction, for small talk is not
exciting to a hungry man whose nose feels like an icicle.
"Is it? I thought the sun was shining." And the absorbed gentleman
turned to the outer world with visible reluctance, for it looked very
warm and cozy in the red-lined carriage.
"Wise people say we must carry our sunshine with us," answered
Rose, taking refuge in commonplaces, for the face at the window
grew pensive suddenly as he answered, with a longing look, "I
wish I could." Then, smiling gratefully, he added, "Thank you for
giving me a little of yours."
"You are very welcome." And Rose offered him her hand while
her eyes mutely asked pardon for withholding her leave to keep it.
He pressed it silently and, shouldering the umbrella which he
forgot to open, turned away with an "up again and take another"
expression, which caused the soft eyes to follow him admiringly.
"I ought not to have kept him a minute longer than I could help, for
it wasn't all pity; it was my foolish wish to show off and do as I
liked for a minute, to pay for being good about the gown. Oh, me!
How weak and silly I am in spite of all my trying!" And Miss
Campbell fell into a remorseful reverie, which lasted till she got
"Now, young man, what brought you out in this driving storm?"
asked Rose as Jamie came stamping in that same afternoon.
"Mama sent you a new book thought you'd like it. I don't mind
your old storms!" replied the boy, wrestling his way out of his coat
and presenting a face as round and red and shiny as a well-polished
"Much obliged it is just the day to enjoy it and I was longing for
something nice to read," said Rose as Jamie sat down upon the
lower stair for a protracted struggle with his rubber boots.
"Here you are, then no yes I do believe I've forgotten it, after all!"
cried Jamie, slapping his pockets one after the other with a
dismayed expression of countenance.
"Never mind, I'll hunt up something else. Let me help you with
those your hands are so cold." And Rose good-naturedly gave a tug
at the boots while Jamie clutched the banisters, murmuring
somewhat incoherently as his legs flew up and down: "I'll go back
if you want me to. I'm so sorry! It's very good of you, I'm sure.
Getting these horrid things on made me forget. Mother would
make me wear 'em, though I told her they'd stick like like
gumdrops," he added, inspired by recollections of certain dire
disappointments when the above-mentioned sweetmeat melted in
his pockets and refused to come out.
"Now what shall we do?" asked Rose when he was finally
extricated. "Since I've nothing to read, I may as well play."
"I'll teach you to pitch and toss. You catch very well for a girl, but
you can't throw worth a cent," replied Jamie, gamboling down the
hall in his slippers and producing a ball from some of the
mysterious receptacles in which boys have the art of storing
rubbish enough to fill a peck measure.
Of course Rose agreed and cheerfully risked getting her eyes
blackened and her fingers bruised till her young receptor gratefully
observed that "it was no fun playing where you had to look out for
windows and jars and things, so I'd like that jolly book about
Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, please."
Being gratified, he spread himself upon the couch, crossed his legs
in the air, and without another word dived Twenty Thousand
Leagues Under the Sea, where he remained for two mortal hours,
to the general satisfaction of his relatives.
Bereft both of her unexpected playfellow and the much desired
book, Rose went into the parlor, there to discover a French novel
which Kitty had taken from a library and left in the carriage among
the bundles. Settling herself in her favorite lounging chair, she
read as diligently as Jamie while the wind howled and snow fell
For an hour nothing disturbed the cozy quiet of the house for Aunt
Plenty was napping upstairs and Dr. Alec writing in his own
sanctum; at least Rose thought so, till his step made her hastily
drop the book and look up with very much the expression she used
to wear when caught in mischief years ago.
"Did I startle you? Have a screen you are burning your face before
this hot fire." And Dr. Alec pulled one forward.
"Thank you, Uncle. I didn't feel it." And the color seemed to
deepen in spite of the screen while the uneasy eyes fell upon the
book in her lap.
"Have you got the Quarterly there? I want to glance at an article in
it if you can spare it for a moment," he said, leaning toward her
with an inquiring glance.
"No, sir, I am reading." And, without mentioning the name, Rose
put the book into his hand.
The instant his eye fell on the title he understood the look she wore
and knew what "mischief" she had been in. He knit his brows, then
smiled, because it was impossible to help it Rose looked so
conscience-stricken in spite of her twenty years.
"How do you find it? Interesting?"
"Oh, very! I felt as if I was in another world and forgot all about
"Not a very good world, I fancy, if you were afraid or ashamed to
be found in it. Where did this come from?" asked Dr. Alec,
surveying the book with great disfavor. Rose told him, and added
slowly, "I particularly wanted to read it, and fancied I might,
because you did when it was so much talked about the winter we
were in Rome."
"I did read it to see if it was fit for you."
"And decided that it was not, I suppose, since you never gave it to
"Then I won't finish it. But, Uncle, I don't see why I should not,"
added Rose wistfully, for she had reached the heart of the romance
and found it wonderfully fascinating.
"You may not see, but don't you feel why not?" asked Dr. Alec
Rose leaned her flushed cheek on her hand and thought a minute,
then looked up and answered honestly, "Yes, I do, but can't explain
it, except that I know something must be wrong, because I blushed
and started when you came in."
"Exactly." And the doctor gave an emphatic nod, as if the
symptoms pleased him.
"But I really don't see any harm in the book so far. It is by a
famous author, wonderfully well written, as you know, and the
characters so lifelike that I feel as if I should really meet them
"I hope not!" ejaculated the doctor, shutting the book quickly, as if
to keep the objectionable beings from escaping.
Rose laughed, but persisted in her defense, for she did want to
finish the absorbing story, yet would not without leave.
"I have read French novels before, and you gave them to me. Not
many, to be sure, but the best, so I think I know what is good and
shouldn't like this if it was harmful."
Her uncle's answer was to reopen the volume and turn the leaves
an instant as if to find a particular place. Then he put it into her
hand, saying quietly: "Read a page or two aloud, translating as you
go. You used to like that try it again."
Rose obeyed and went glibly down a page, doing her best to give
the sense in her purest English. Presently she went more slowly,
then skipped a sentence here and there, and finally stopped short,
looking as if she needed a screen again.
"What's the matter?" asked her uncle, who had been watching her
with a serious eye.
"Some phrases are untranslatable, and it only spoils them to try.
They are not amiss in French, but sound coarse and bad in our
blunt English," she said a little pettishly, for she felt annoyed by
her failure to prove the contested point.
"Ah, my dear, if the fine phrases won't bear putting into honest
English, the thoughts they express won't bear putting into your
innocent mind! That chapter is the key to the whole book, and if
you had been led up, or rather down, to it artfully and artistically,
you might have read it to yourself without seeing how bad it is. All
the worse for the undeniable talent which hides the evil so subtly
and makes the danger so delightful."
He paused a moment, then added with an anxious glance at the
book, over which she was still bending, "Finish it if you choose
only remember, my girl, that one may read at forty what is unsafe
at twenty, and that we never can be too careful what food we give
that precious yet perilous thing called imagination."
And taking his Review, he went away to look over a learned article
which interested him much less than the workings of a young mind
Another long silence, broken only by an occasional excited bounce
from Jamie when the sociable cuttlefish looked in at the windows
or the Nautilus scuttled a ship or two in its terrific course. A bell
rang, and the doctor popped his head out to see if he was wanted.
It was only a message for Aunt Plenty, and he was about to pop in