Part 5 out of 6
Campbell tribe for summer holidays. That spring it was set to
rights unusually early, several women installed as housekeeper,
cook, and nurses, and when the May days grew bright and warm,
squads of pale children came to toddle in the grass, run over the
rocks, and play upon the smooth sands of the beach. A pretty sight,
and one that well repaid those who brought it to pass.
Everyone took an interest in the "Rose Garden," as Mac named it,
and the womenfolk were continually driving over to the Point for
something for the "poor dears." Aunt Plenty sowed gingerbread
broadcast; Aunt Jessie made pinafores by the dozen while Aunt
Jane "kept her eye" on the nurses, and Aunt Myra supplied
medicines so liberally that the mortality would have been awful if
Dr. Alec had not taken them in charge. To him this was the most
delightful spot in the world and well it might be, for he suggested
the idea and gave Rose all the credit of it. He was often there, and
his appearance was always greeted with shrieks of rapture, as the
children gathered from all quarters creeping, running, hopping on
crutches, or carried in arms which they gladly left to sit on "Uncle
Doctor's" knee, for that was the title by which he went among
He seemed as young as any of his comrades, though the curly head
was getting gray, and the frolics that went on when he arrived were
better than any medicine to children who had never learned to
play. It was a standing joke among the friends that the bachelor
brother had the largest family and was the most domestic man of
the remaining four, though Uncle Mac did his part manfully and
kept Aunt Jane in a constant fidget by his rash propositions to
adopt the heartiest boys and prettiest girls to amuse him and
On one occasion Aunt Jane had a very narrow escape, and the
culprit being her son, not her husband, she felt free to repay herself
for many scares of this sort by a good scolding, which, unlike
many, produced excellent results.
One bright June day, as Rose came cantering home from the Point
on her pretty bay pony, she saw a man sitting on a fallen tree
beside the road and something in his despondent attitude arrested
her attention. As she drew nearer he turned his head, and she
stopped short, exclaiming in great surprise: "Why, Mac! What are
you doing here?"
"Trying to solve a problem," he answered, looking up with a
whimsical expression of perplexity and amusement in his face
which made Rose smile till his next words turned her sober in a
twinkling: "I've eloped with a young lady, and don't know what to
do with her. I took her home, of course, but mother turned her out
of the house, and I'm in a quandary."
"Is that her baggage?" asked Rose, pointing with her whip to the
large bundle which he held while the wild idea flashed through her
head that perhaps he really had done some rash deed of this sort.
"No, this is the young lady herself." And, opening a corner of the
brown shawl, he displayed a child of three so pale, so thin and tiny
that she looked like a small scared bird just fallen from the nest as
she shrank away from the light with great frightened eyes and a
hand like a little claw tightly clutched a button of Mac's coat.
"Poor baby! Where did it come from?" cried Rose, leaning down to
"I'll tell you the story, and then you shall advise me what to do. At
our hospital we've had a poor woman who got hurt and died two
days ago. I had nothing to do with her, only took her a bit of fruit
once or twice, for she had big, wistful sort of eyes that haunted me.
The day she died I stopped a minute, and the nurse said she'd been
wanting to speak to me but didn't dare. So I asked if I could do
anything for her and, though she could hardly breathe for pain
being almost gone she implored me to take care of baby. I found
out where the child was, and promised I'd see after her for the poor
soul couldn't seem to die till I'd given her that comfort. I never can
forget the look in her eyes as I held her hand and said, 'Baby shall
be taken care of.' She tried to thank me, and died soon after quite
peacefully. Well, I went today and hunted up the poor little wretch.
Found her in a miserable place, left in the care of an old hag who
had shut her up alone to keep her out of the way, and there this
mite was, huddled in a corner, crying 'Marmar, marmar!' fit to
touch a heart of stone. I blew up at the woman and took the baby
straightaway, for she had been abused. It was high time. Look
there, will you?"
Mac turned the little skinny arm and showed a blue mark which
made Rose drop her reins and stretch out both hands, crying with a
tender sort of indignation: "How dared they do it? Give her to me,
poor little motherless thing!"
Mac laid the bundle in her arms, and Rose began to cuddle it in the
fond, foolish way women have a most comfortable and effective
way, nevertheless and baby evidently felt that things were
changing for the better when warm lips touched her cheeks, a soft
hand smoothed her tumbled hair, and a womanly face bent over
her with the inarticulate cooings and purrings mothers make. The
frightened eyes went up to this gentle countenance and rested there
as if reassured; the little claw crept to the girl's neck, and poor
baby nestled to her with a long sigh and a plaintive murmur of
"Marmar, marmar" that certainly would have touched a stony
"Now, go on. No, Rosa, not you," said the new nurse as the
intelligent animal looked around to see if things were all right
before she proceeded.
"I took the child home to mother, not knowing what else to do, but
she wouldn't have it at any price, even for a night. She doesn't like
children, you know, and Father has joked so much about 'the
Pointers' that she is quite rampant at the mere idea of a child in the
house. She told me to take it to the Rose Garden. I said it was
running over now, and no room even for a mite like this. 'Go to the
Hospital,' says she. 'Baby isn't ill, ma'am,' says I. 'Orphan Asylum,'
says she. 'Not an orphan got a father who can't take care of her,'
says I. 'Take her to the Foundling place, or Mrs. Gardener, or
someone whose business it is. I will not have the creature here,
sick and dirty and noisy. Carry it back, and ask Rose to tell you
what to do with it.' So my cruel parent cast me forth but relented as
I shouldered baby, gave me a shawl to put her in, a jumble to feed
her with, and money to pay her board in some good place.
Mother's bark is always worse than her bite, you know."
"And you were trying to think of the 'good place' as you sat here?"
asked Rose, looking down at him with great approval as he stood
patting Rosa's glossy neck.
"Exactly. I didn't want to trouble you, for you have your house full
already, and I really couldn't lay my hand on any good soul who
would be bothered with this little forlornity. She has nothing to
recommend her, you see not pretty; feeble; shy as a mouse; no end
of care, I daresay yet she needs every bit she can get to keep soul
and body together, if I'm any judge."
Rose opened her lips impulsively, but closed them without
speaking and sat a minute looking straight between Rosa's ears, as
if forcing herself to think twice before she spoke. Mac watched her
out of the corner of his eyes as he said, in a musing tone, tucking
the shawl around a pair of shabby little feet the while, "This seems
to be one of the charities that no one wants to undertake, yet I can't
help feeling that my promise to the mother binds me to something
more than merely handing baby over to some busy matron or
careless nurse in any of our overcrowded institutions. She is such a
frail creature she won't trouble anyone long, perhaps, and I should
like to give her just a taste of comfort, if not love, before she finds
her 'Marmar' again."
"Lead Rosa I'm going to take this child home, and if Uncle is
willing, I'll adopt her, and she shall be happy!" cried Rose, with the
sudden glow of feeling that always made her lovely. And gathering
poor baby close, she went on her way like a modern Britomart,
ready to redress the wrongs of any who had need of her.
As he led the slowly stepping horse along the quiet road, Mac
could not help thinking that they looked a little like the Flight into
Egypt, but he did not say so, being a reverent youth only glanced
back now and then at the figure above him, for Rose had taken off
her hat to keep the light from baby's eyes and sat with the sunshine
turning her uncovered hair to gold as she looked down at the little
creature resting on the saddle before her with the sweet
thoughtfulness one sees in some of Correggio's young Madonnas.
No one else saw the picture, but Mac long remembered it, and ever
after there was a touch of reverence added to the warm affection
he had always borne his cousin Rose.
"What is the child's name?" was the sudden question which
disturbed a brief silence, broken only by the sound of pacing hoofs,
the rustle of green boughs overhead, and the blithe caroling of
"I'm sure I don't know," answered Mac, suddenly aware that he had
fallen out of one quandary into another.
"Didn't you ask?"
"No, the mother called her 'Baby,' and the old woman, 'Brat.' And
that is all I know of the first name the last is Kennedy. You may
christen her what you like."
"Then I shall name her Dulcinea, as you are her knight, and call
her Dulce for short. That is a sweet diminutive, I'm sure," laughed
Rose, much amused at the idea.
Don Quixote looked pleased and vowed to defend his little lady
stoutly, beginning his services on the spot by filling the small
hands with buttercups, thereby winning for himself the first smile
baby's face had known for weeks.
When they got home Aunt Plenty received her new guest with her
accustomed hospitality and, on learning the story, was as warmly
interested as even enthusiastic Rose could desire, bustling about to
make the child comfortable with an energy pleasant to see, for the
grandmotherly instincts were strong in the old lady and of late had
been beautifully developed.
In less than half an hour from the time baby went upstairs, she
came down again on Rose's arm, freshly washed and brushed, in a
pink gown much too large and a white apron decidedly too small;
an immaculate pair of socks, but no shoes; a neat bandage on the
bruised arm, and a string of spools for a plaything hanging on the
other. A resigned expression sat upon her little face, but the
frightened eyes were only shy now, and the forlorn heart evidently
"There! How do you like your Dulce now?" said Rose, proudly
displaying the work of her hands as she came in with her habit
pinned up and carrying a silver porringer of bread and milk.
Mac knelt down, took the small, reluctant hand, and kissed it as
devoutly as ever good Alonzo Quixada did that of the Duchess
while he said, merrily quoting from the immortal story: "'High and
Sovereign Lady, thine till death, the Knight of the Rueful
But baby had no heart for play and, withdrawing her hand, pointed
to the porringer with the suggestive remark: "Din-din, now."
So Rose sat down and fed the Duchess while the Don stood by and
watched the feast with much satisfaction.
"How nice she looks! Do you consider shoes unhealthy?" he asked,
surveying the socks with respectful interest.
"No, her shoes are drying. You must have let her go in the mud."
"I only put her down for a minute when she howled, and she made
for a puddle, like a duck. I'll buy her some new ones clothes too.
Where do I go, what do I ask for, and how much do I get?" he said,
diving for his pocketbook, amiably anxious but pitiably ignorant.
"I'll see to that. We always have things on hand for the Pointers as
they come along and can soon fit Dulce out. You may make some
inquiries about the father if you will, for I don't want to have her
taken away just as I get fond of her. Do you know anything about
"Only that he is in State Prison for twenty-one years, and not likely
to trouble you."
"How dreadful! I really think Phebe was better off to have none at
all. I'll go to work at once, then, and try to bring up the convict's
little daughter to be a good woman so that she will have an honest
name of her own, since he has nothing but disgrace to give her."
"Uncle can show you how to do that if you need any help. He has
been so successful in his first attempt, I fancy you won't require
much," said Mac, picking up the spools for the sixth time.
"Yes, I shall, for it is a great responsibility, and I do not undertake
it lightly," answered Rose soberly, though the double-barreled
compliment pleased her very much.
"I'm sure Phebe has turned out splendidly, and you began very
early with her."
"So I did! That's encouraging. Dear thing, how bewildered she
looked when I proposed adopting her. I remember all about it, for
Uncle had just come and I was quite crazy over a box of presents
and rushed at Phebe as she was cleaning brasses. How little I
thought my childish offer would end so well!" And Rose fell
a-musing with a happy smile on her face while baby picked the last
morsels out of the porringer with her own busy fingers.
It certainly had ended well, for Phebe at the end of six months not
only had a good place as choir singer but several young pupils and
excellent prospects for the next winter.
"Accept the blessing of a poor young man,
Whose lucky steps have led him to your door,
and let me help as much as I can.
Good-bye, my Dulcinea."
And, with a farewell stroke of the smooth head, Mac went away to
report his success to his mother, who, in spite of her seeming
harshness, was already planning how she could best befriend this
Chapter 17 AMONG THE HAYCOCKS
Uncle Alec did not object and, finding that no one had any claim
upon the child, permitted Rose to keep it for a time at least. So
little Dulce, newly equipped even to a name, took her place among
them and slowly began to thrive. But she did not grow pretty and
never was a gay, attractive child, for she seemed to have been born
in sorrow and brought up in misery. A pale, pensive little creature,
always creeping into corners and looking timidly out, as if asking
leave to live, and, when offered playthings, taking them with a
meek surprise that was very touching.
Rose soon won her heart, and then almost wished she had not, for
baby clung to her with inconvenient fondness, changing her former
wail of "Marmar" into a lament for "Aunty Wose" if separated
long. Nevertheless, there was great satisfaction in cherishing the
little waif, for she learned more than she could teach and felt a
sense of responsibility which was excellent ballast for her
Kitty Van, who made Rose her model in all things, was
immediately inspired to go and do likewise, to the great
amusement as well as annoyance of her family. Selecting the
prettiest, liveliest child in the Asylum, she took it home on trial for
a week. "A perfect cherub" she pronounced it the first day, but an
"enfant terrible" before the week was over, for the young hero
rioted by day, howled by night, ravaged the house from top to
bottom, and kept his guardians in a series of panics by his
hairbreadth escapes. So early on Saturday, poor exhausted Kitty
restored the "cherub" with many thanks, and decided to wait until
her views of education were rather more advanced.
As the warm weather came on, Rose announced that Dulce needed
mountain air, for she dutifully repeated as many of Dr. Alec's
prescriptions as possible and, remembering how much good Cozy
Corner did her long ago, resolved to try it on her baby. Aunt Jessie
and Jamie went with her, and Mother Atkinson received them as
cordially as ever. The pretty daughters were all married and gone,
but a stout damsel took their place, and nothing seemed changed
except that the old heads were grayer and the young ones a good
deal taller than six years ago.
Jamie immediately fraternized with neighboring boys and devoted
himself to fishing with an ardor which deserved greater success.
Aunt Jessie reveled in reading, for which she had no time at home,
and lay in her hammock a happy woman, with no socks to darn,
buttons to sew, or housekeeping cares to vex her soul.
Rose went about with Dulce like a very devoted hen with one
rather feeble chicken, for she was anxious to have this treatment
work well and tended her little patient with daily increasing
satisfaction. Dr. Alec came up to pass a few days and pronounced
the child in a most promising condition. But the grand event of the
season was the unexpected arrival of Phebe.
Two of her pupils had invited her to join them in a trip to the
mountains, and she ran away from the great hotel to surprise her
little mistress with a sight of her, so well and happy that Rose had
no anxiety left on her account.
Three delightful days they spent, roaming about together, talking
as only girls can talk after a long separation, and enjoying one
another like a pair of lovers. As if to make it quite perfect, by one
of those remarkable coincidences which sometimes occur, Archie
happened to run up for the Sunday, so Phebe had her surprise, and
Aunt Jessie and the telegraph kept their secret so well, no one ever
knew what maternal machinations brought the happy accident to
Then Rose saw a very pretty, pastoral bit of lovemaking, and long
after it was over, and Phebe gone one way, Archie another, the
echo of sweet words seemed to linger in the air, tender ghosts to
haunt the pine grove, and even the big coffeepot had a halo of
romance about it, for its burnished sides reflected the soft glances
the lovers interchanged as one filled the other's cup at that last
Rose found these reminiscences more interesting than any novel
she had read, and often beguiled her long leisure by planning a
splendid future for her Phebe as she trotted about after her baby in
the lovely July weather.
On one of the most perfect days she sat under an old apple tree on
the slope behind the house where they used to play. Before her
opened the wide intervale, dotted with haymakers at their
picturesque work. On the left flowed the swift river fringed with
graceful elms in their bravest greenery; on the right rose the purple
hills serene and grand; and overhead glowed the midsummer sky,
which glorified it all.
Little Dulce, tired of play, lay fast asleep in the nest she had made
in one of the haycocks close by, and Rose leaned against the
gnarled old tree, dreaming daydreams with her work at her feet.
Happy and absorbing fancies they seemed to be, for her face was
beautifully tranquil, and she took no heed of the train which
suddenly went speeding down the valley, leaving a white cloud
behind. Its rumble concealed the sound of approaching steps, and
her eyes never turned from the distant hills till the abrupt
appearance of a very sunburned but smiling young man made her
jump up, exclaiming joyfully: "Why, Mac! Where did you drop
"The top of Mount Washington. How do you do?"
"Never better. Won't you go in? You must be tired after such a
"No, thank you. I've seen the old lady. She told me Aunt Jessie and
the boy had gone to town and that you were 'settin' round' in the
old place. I came on at once and will take a lounge here if you
don't mind," answered Mac, unstrapping his knapsack and taking a
haycock as if it were a chair.
Rose subsided into her former seat, surveying her cousin with
much satisfaction as she said: "This is the third surprise I've had
since I came. Uncle popped in upon us first, then Phebe, and now
you. Have you had a pleasant tramp? Uncle said you were off."
"Delightful! I feel as if I'd been in heaven, or near it, for about
three weeks, and thought I'd break the shock of coming down to
the earth by calling here on my way home."
"You look as if heaven suited you. Brown as a berry, but so fresh
and happy I should never guess you had been scrambling down a
mountain," said Rose, trying to discover why he looked so well in
spite of the blue flannel suit and dusty shoes, for there was a
certain sylvan freshness about him as he sat there full of reposeful
strength the hills seemed to have given, the wholesome cheerful
days of air and sunshine put into a man, and the clear, bright look
of one who had caught glimpses of a new world from the
"Tramping agrees with me. I took a dip in the river as I came along
and made my toilet in a place where Milton's Sabrina might have
lived," he said, shaking back his damp hair and settling the knot of
scarlet bunchberries stuck in his buttonhole.
"You look as if you found the nymph at home," said Rose,
knowing how much he liked the "Comus."
"I found her here," and he made a little bow.
"That's very pretty, and I'll give you one in return. You grow more
like Uncle Alec every day, and I think I'll call you Alec, Jr."
"Alexander the Great wouldn't thank you for that," and Mac did
not look as grateful as she had expected.
"Very like, indeed, except the forehead. His is broad and
benevolent, yours high and arched. Do you know if you had no
beard, and wore your hair long, I really think you'd look like
Milton," added Rose, sure that would please him.
It certainly did amuse him, for he lay back on the hay and laughed
so heartily that his merriment scared the squirrel on the wall and
"You ungrateful boy! Will nothing suit you? When I say you look
like the best man I know, you gave a shrug, and when I liken you
to a great poet, you shout. I'm afraid you are very conceited, Mac."
And Rose laughed, too, glad to see him so gay.
"If I am, it is your fault. Nothing I can do will ever make a Milton
of me, unless I go blind someday," he said, sobering at the thought.
"You once said a man could be what he liked if he tried hard
enough, so why shouldn't you be a poet?" asked Rose, liking to trip
him up with his own words, as he often did her.
"I thought I was to be an M.D."
"You might be both. There have been poetical doctors, you know."
"Would you like me to be such a one?" asked Mac, looking at her
as seriously as if he really thought of trying it.
"No. I'd rather have you one or the other. I don't care which, only
you must be famous in either you choose. I'm very ambitious for
you, because, I insist upon it, you are a genius of some sort. I think
it is beginning to simmer already, and I've got a great curiosity to
know what it will turn out to be."
Mac's eyes shone as she said that, but before he could speak a little
voice said, "Aunty Wose!" and he turned to find Dulce sitting up in
her nest staring at the broad blue back before her with round eyes.
"Do you know your Don?" he asked, offering his hand with
respectful gentleness, for she seemed a little doubtful whether he
was a friend or stranger.
"It is 'Mat,'" said Rose, and that familiar word seemed to reassure
the child at once, for, leaning forward, she kissed him as if quite
used to doing it.
"I picked up some toys for her, by the way, and she shall have
them at once to pay for that. I didn't expect to be so graciously
received by this shy mouse," said Mac, much gratified, for Dulce
was very chary of her favors.
"She knew you, for I always carry my home album with me, and
when she comes to your picture she always kisses it, because I
never want her to forget her first friend," explained Rose, pleased
with her pupil.
"First, but not best," answered Mac, rummaging in his knapsack
for the promised toys, which he set forth upon the hay before
Neither picture books nor sweeties, but berries strung on long
stems of grass, acorns, and pretty cones, bits of rock shining with
mica, several bluebirds' feathers, and a nest of moss with white
pebbles for eggs.
"Dearest Nature, strong and kind" knows what children love, and
has plenty of such playthings ready for them all, if one only knows
how to find them. These were received with rapture. And leaving
the little creature to enjoy them in her own quiet way, Mac began
to tumble the things back into his knapsack again. Two or three
books lay near Rose, and she took up one which opened at a place
marked by a scribbled paper.
"Keats? I didn't know you condescended to read anything so
modern," she said, moving the paper to see the page beneath.
Mac looked up, snatched the book out of her hand, and shook
down several more scraps, then returned it with a curiously
shamefaced expression, saying, as he crammed the papers into his
pocket, "I beg pardon, but it was full of rubbish. Oh, yes! I'm fond
of Keats. Don't you know him?"
"I used to read him a good deal, but Uncle found me crying over
the 'Pot of Basil' and advised me to read less poetry for a while or I
should get too sentimental," answered Rose, turning the pages
without seeing them, for a new idea had just popped into her head.
"'The Eve of St. Agnes' is the most perfect love story in the world,
I think," said Mac, enthusiastically.
"Read it to me. I feel just like hearing poetry, and you will do it
justice if you are fond of it," said Rose, handing him the book with
an innocent air.
"Nothing I'd like better, but it is rather long."
"I'll tell you to stop if I get tired. Baby won't interrupt; she will be
contented for an hour with those pretty things."
As if well pleased with his task, Mac laid himself comfortably on
the grass and, leaning his head on his hand, read the lovely story as
only one could who entered fully into the spirit of it. Rose watched
him closely and saw how his face brightened over some quaint
fancy, delicate description, or delicious word; heard how smoothly
the melodious measures fell from his lips, and read something
more than admiration in his eyes as he looked up now and then to
mark if she enjoyed it as much as he.
She could not help enjoying it, for the poet's pen painted as well as
wrote, and the little romance lived before her, but she was not
thinking of John Keats as she listened; she was wondering if this
cousin was a kindred spirit, born to make such music and leave as
sweet an echo behind him. It seemed as if it might be; and, after
going through the rough caterpillar and the pent-up chrysalis
changes, the beautiful butterfly would appear to astonish and
delight them all. So full of this fancy was she that she never
thanked him when the story ended but, leaning forward, asked in a
tone that made him start and look as if he had fallen from the
clouds: "Mac, do you ever write poetry?"
"What do you call the song Phebe sang with her bird chorus?"
"That was nothing till she put the music to it. But she promised not
"She didn't. I suspected, and now I know," laughed Rose, delighted
to have caught him.
Much discomfited, Mac gave poor Keats a fling and, leaning on
both elbows, tried to hide his face for it had reddened like that of a
modest girl when teased about her lover.
"You needn't look so guilty; it is no sin to write poetry," said Rose,
amused at his confession.
"It's a sin to call that rubbish poetry," muttered Mac with great
"It is a greater sin to tell a fib and say you never write it."
"Reading so much sets one thinking about such things, and every
fellow scribbles a little jingle when he is lazy or in love, you
know," explained Mac, looking very guilty.
Rose could not quite understand the change she saw in him till his
last words suggested a cause which she knew by experience was
apt to inspire young men. Leaning forward again, she asked
solemnly, though her eyes danced with fun, "Mac, are you in
"Do I look like it?" And he sat up with such an injured and
indignant face that she apologized at once, for he certainly did not
look loverlike with hayseed in his hair, several lively crickets
playing leapfrog over his back, and a pair of long legs stretching
from tree to haycock.
"No, you don't, and I humbly beg your pardon for making such an
unwarrantable insinuation. It merely occurred to me that the
general upliftedness I observe in you might be owing to that, since
it wasn't poetry."
"It is the good company I've been keeping, if anything. A fellow
can't spend 'A Week' with Thoreau and not be the better for it. I'm
glad I show it, because in the scramble life is to most of us, even
an hour with such a sane, simple, and sagacious soul as his must
help one," said Mac, taking a much worn book out of his pocket
with the air of introducing a dear and honored friend.
"I've read bits, and like them they are so original and fresh and
sometimes droll," said Rose, smiling to see what natural and
appropriate marks of approbation the elements seemed to set upon
the pages Mac was turning eagerly, for one had evidently been
rained on, a crushed berry stained another, some appreciative
field-mouse or squirrel had nibbled one corner, and the cover was
faded with the sunshine, which seemed to have filtered through to
the thoughts within.
"Here's a characteristic bit for you: 'I would rather sit on a
pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet
cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an oxcart, with free
circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion
train, and breathe malaria all the way.'
"I've tried both and quite agree with him," laughed Mac, and
skimming down another page, gave her a paragraph here and there.
"'Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read
them at all.'
"'We do not learn much from learned books, but from sincere
human books: frank, honest biographies.'
"'At least let us have healthy books. Let the poet be as vigorous as
the sugar maple, with sap enough to maintain his own verdure,
besides what runs into the trough; and not like a vine which, being
cut in the spring, bears no fruit, but bleeds to death in the endeavor
to heal its wounds.'"
"That will do for you," said Rose, still thinking of the new
suspicion which pleased her by its very improbability.
Mac flashed a quick look at her and shut the book, saying quietly,
although his eyes shone, and a conscious smile lurked about his
mouth: "We shall see, and no one need meddle, for, as my Thoreau
"Whate'er we leave to God, God does
And blesses us: The work we choose should be our own
God lets alone."
Rose sat silent, as if conscious that she deserved his poetical
"Come, you have catechized me pretty well; now I'll take my turn
and ask you why you look 'uplifted,' as you call it. What have you
been doing to make yourself more like your namesake than ever?"
asked Mac, carrying war into the enemy's camp with the sudden
"Nothing but live, and enjoy doing it. I actually sit here, day after
day, as happy and contented with little things as Dulce is and feel
as if I wasn't much older than she," answered the girl, feeling as if
some change was going on in that pleasant sort of pause but unable
to describe it.
"As if a rose should shut and be a bud again," murmured Mac,
borrowing from his beloved Keats.
"Ah, but I can't do that! I must go on blooming whether I like it or
not, and the only trouble I have is to know what leaf I ought to
unfold next," said Rose, playfully smoothing out the white gown,
in which she looked very like a daisy among the green.
"How far have you got?" asked Mac, continuing his catechism as if
the fancy suited him.
"Let me see. Since I came home last year, I've been gay, then sad,
then busy, and now I am simply happy. I don't know why, but seem
to be waiting for what is to come next and getting ready for it,
perhaps unconsciously," she said, looking dreamily away to the
hills again, is if the new experience was coming to her from afar.
Mac watched her thoughtfully for a minute, wondering how many
more leaves must unfold before the golden heart of this human
flower would lie open to the sun. He felt a curious desire to help in
some way, and could think of none better than to offer her what he
had found most helpful to himself. Picking up another book, he
opened it at a place where an oak leaf lay and, handing it to her,
said, as if presenting something very excellent and precious: "If
you want to be ready to take whatever comes in a brave and noble
way, read that, and the one where the page is turned down."
Rose took it, saw the words "Self-Reliance," and turning the
leaves, read here and there a passage which was marked: "'My life
is for itself, and not for a spectacle.'
"'Insist on yourself: never imitate. That which each can do best,
none but his Maker can teach him.'
"'Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope or dare
Then, coming to the folded page, whose title was "Heroism," she
read, and brightened as she read:
"'Let the maiden, with erect soul, walk serenely on her way;
accept the hint of each new experience; search in turn all the
objects that solicit her eye, that she may learn the power and the
charm of her newborn being.'
"'The fair girl who repels interference by a decided and proud
choice of influences inspires every beholder with something of her
own nobleness; and the silent heart encourages her. O friend, never
strike sail to a fear! Come into port greatly, or sail with God the
"You understand that, don't you?" asked Mac as she glanced up
with the look of one who had found something suited to her taste
"Yes, but I never dared to read these Essays, because I thought
they were too wise for me."
"The wisest things are sometimes the simplest, I think. Everyone
welcomes light and air, and cannot do without them, yet very few
could explain them truly. I don't ask you to read or understand all
of that don't myself but I do recommend the two essays I've
marked, as well as 'Love' and 'Friendship.' Try them, and let me
know how they suit. I'll leave you the book."
"Thanks. I wanted something fine to read up here and, judging by
what I see, I fancy this will suit. Only Aunt Jessie may think I'm
putting on airs if I try Emerson."
"Why should she? He has done more to set young men and women
thinking than any man in this century at least. Don't you be afraid
if it is what you want, take it, and go ahead as he tells you
"Without halting, without rest,
Lifting Better up to Best."
"I'll try," said Rose meekly, feeling that Mac had been going ahead
himself much faster than she had any suspicion.
Here a voice exclaimed "Hallo!" and, looking around, Jamie was
discovered surveying them critically as he stood in an independent
attitude, like a small Colossus of Rhodes in brown linen, with a
bundle of molasses candy in one hand, several new fishhooks
cherished carefully in the other, and his hat well on the back of his
head, displaying as many freckles as one somewhat limited nose
could reasonably accommodate.
"How are you, young one?" said Mac, nodding.
"Tip-top. Glad it's you. Thought Archie might have turned up
again, and he's no fun. Where did you come from? What did you
come for? How long are you going to stay? Want a bit? It's jolly
With which varied remarks Jamie approached, shook hands in a
manly way, and, sitting down beside his long cousin, hospitably
offered sticks of candy all around.
"Did you get any letters?" asked Rose, declining the sticky treat.
"Lots, but Mama forgot to give 'em to me, and I was rather in a
hurry, for Mrs. Atkinson said somebody had come and I couldn't
wait," explained Jamie, reposing luxuriously with his head on
Mac's legs and his mouth full.
"I'll step and get them. Aunty must be tired, and we should enjoy
reading the news together."
"She is the most convenient girl that ever was," observed Jamie as
Rose departed, thinking Mac might like some more substantial
refreshment than sweetmeats.
"I should think so, if you let her run your errands, you lazy little
scamp," answered Mac, looking after her as she went up the green
slope, for there was something very attractive to him about the
slender figure in a plain white gown with a black sash about the
waist and all the wavy hair gathered to the top of the head with a
little black bow.
"Sort of pre-Raphaelite, and quite refreshing after the furbelowed
creatures at the hotels," he said to himself as she vanished under
the arch of scarlet runners over the garden gate.
"Oh, well! She likes it. Rose is fond of me, and I'm very good to
her when I have time," continued Jamie, calmly explaining. "I let
her cut out a fishhook, when it caught in my leg, with a sharp
penknife, and you'd better believe it hurt, but I never squirmed a
bit, and she said I was a brave boy. And then, one day I got left on
my desert island out in the pond, you know the boat floated off,
and there I was for as much as an hour before I could make anyone
hear. But Rose thought I might be there, and down she came, and
told me to swim ashore. It wasn't far, but the water was horrid
cold, and I didn't like it. I started though, just as she said, and got
on all right, till about halfway, then cramp or something made me
shut up and howl, and she came after me slapdash, and pulled me
ashore. Yes, sir, as wet as a turtle, and looked so funny, I laughed,
and that cured the cramp. Wasn't I good to mind when she said,
"She was, to dive after such a scapegrace. I guess you lead her a
life of it, and I'd better take you home with me in the morning,"
suggested Mac, rolling the boy over and giving him a good-natured
pummeling on the haycock while Dulce applauded from her nest.
When Rose returned with ice-cold milk, gingerbread, and letters,
she found the reader of Emerson up in the tree, pelting and being
pelted with green apples as Jamie vainly endeavored to get at him.
The siege ended when Aunt Jessie appeared, and the rest of the
afternoon was spent in chat about home affairs.
Early the next morning Mac was off, and Rose went as far as the
old church with him.
"Shall you walk all the way?" she asked as he strode along beside
her in the dewy freshness of the young day.
"Only about twenty miles, then take car and whisk back to my
work," he answered, breaking a delicate fern for her.
"Are you never lonely?"
"Never. I take my best friends along, you know," and he gave a
slap to the pocket from which peeped the volume of Thoreau.
"I'm afraid you leave your very best behind you," said Rose,
alluding to the book he had lent her yesterday.
"I'm glad to share it with you. I have much of it here, and a little
goes a great way, as you will soon discover," he answered, tapping
"I hope the reading will do as much for me as it seems to have
done for you. I'm happy, but you are wise and good I want to be
"Read away, and digest it well, then write and tell me what you
think of it. Will you?" he asked as they paused where the four
"If you will answer. Shall you have time with all your other work?
Poetry I beg pardon medicine is very absorbing, you know,"
answered Rose mischievously, for just then, as he stood
bareheaded in the shadows of the leaves playing over his fine
forehead, she remembered the chat among the haycocks, and he
did not look at all like an M.D.
"I'll make time."
Chapter 18 WHICH WAS IT?
Rose did read and digest, and found her days much richer for the
good company she kept, for an introduction to so much that was
wise, beautiful, and true could not but make that month a
memorable one. It is not strange that while the young man most
admired "Heroism" and "Self-Reliance," the girl preferred "Love"
and "Friendship," reading them over and over like prose poems, as
they are, to the fitting accompaniment of sunshine, solitude, and
sympathy, for letters went to and fro with praiseworthy regularity.
Rose much enjoyed this correspondence, and found herself
regretting that it was at an end when she went home in September,
for Mac wrote better than he talked, though he could do that
remarkably well when he chose. But she had no chance to express
either pleasure or regret, for the first time she saw him after her
return the great change in his appearance made her forget
everything else. Some whim had seized him to be shaven and
shorn, and when he presented himself to welcome Rose, she hardly
knew him. The shaggy hair was nicely trimmed and brushed, the
cherished brown beard entirely gone, showing a well-cut mouth
and handsome chin and giving a new expression to the whole face.
"Are you trying to look like Keats?" she asked, after a critical
glance, which left her undecided whether the change was an
improvement or not.
"I am trying not to look like Uncle," answered Mac coolly.
"And why, if you please?" demanded Rose in great surprise.
"Because I prefer to look like myself, and not resemble any other
man, no matter how good or great he may be."
"You haven't succeeded then, for you look now very much like the
young Augustus," returned Rose, rather pleased on the whole to
see what a finely shaped head appeared after the rough thatch was
"Trust a woman to find a comparison for everything under the
sun!" laughed Mac, not at all flattered by the one just made. "What
do you think of me, on the whole?" he asked a minute later, as he
found Rose still scrutinizing him with a meditative air.
"Haven't made up my mind. It is such an entire change, I don't
know you, and feel as if I ought to be introduced. You certainly
look much more tidy, and I fancy I shall like it when I'm used to
seeing a somewhat distinguished-looking man about the house
instead of my old friend Orson," answered Rose, with her head on
one side to get a profile view.
"Don't tell Uncle why I did it, please he thinks it was for the sake
of coolness and likes it, so take no notice. They are all used to me
now, and don't mind," said Mac, roving about the room as if rather
ashamed of his whim after all.
"No, I won't, but you mustn't mind if I'm not as sociable as usual
for a while. I never can be with strangers, and you really do seem
like one. That will be a punishment for your want of taste and love
of originality," returned Rose, resolved to punish him for the slight
put upon her beloved uncle.
"As you like. I won't trouble you much anyway, for I'm going to be
very busy. May go to L this winter, if Uncle thinks best, and then
my 'originality' can't annoy you."
"I hope you won't go. Why, Mac, I'm just getting to know and
enjoy you, and thought we'd have a nice time this winter reading
something together. Must you go?" And Rose seemed to forget his
strangeness, as she held him still by one button while she talked.
"That would be nice. But I feel as if I must go my plans are all
made, and I've set my heart on it," answered Mac, looking so eager
that Rose released him, saying sadly: "I suppose it is natural for
you all to get restless and push off, but it is hard for me to let you
go one after the other and stay here alone. Charlie is gone, Archie
and Steve are wrapped up in their sweethearts, the boys away, and
only Jamie left to 'play with Rose.'?
"But I'll come back, and you'll be glad I went if I bring you my--"
began Mac with sudden animation, then stopped abruptly to bite
his lips, as if he had nearly said too much.
"Your what?" asked Rose curiously, for he neither looked nor
acted like himself.
"I forgot how long it takes to get a diploma," he said, walking
"There will be one comfort if you go you'll see Phebe and can tell
me all about her, for she is so modest, she doesn't half do it. I shall
want to know how she gets on, if she is engaged to sing ballads in
the concerts they talk of for next winter. You will write, won't
"Oh, yes! No doubt of that," and Mac laughed low to himself as he
stooped to look at the little Psyche on the mantelpiece. "What a
pretty thing it is!" he added soberly as he took it up.
"Be careful. Uncle gave it to me last New Year, and I'm very fond
of it. She is just lifting her lamp to see what Cupid is like, for she
hasn't seen him yet," said Rose, busy putting her worktable in
"You ought to have a Cupid for her to look at. She has been
waiting patiently a whole year, with nothing but a bronze lizard in
sight," said Mac with the half-shy, half-daring look which was so
new and puzzling.
"Cupid fled away as soon as she woke him, you know, and she had
a bad time of it. She must wait longer till she can find and keep
"Do you know she looks like you? Hair tied up in a knot, and a
spiritual sort of face. Don't you see it?" asked Mac, turning the
graceful little figure toward her.
"Not a bit of it. I wonder whom I shall resemble next! I've been
compared to a Fra Angelico angel, Saint Agnes, and now 'Syke,' as
Annabel once called her."
"You'd see what I mean, if you'd ever watched your own face when
you were listening to music, talking earnestly, or much moved,
then your soul gets into your eyes and you are like Psyche."
"Tell me the next time you see me in a 'soulful' state, and I'll look
in the glass, for I'd like to see if it is becoming," said Rose merrily
as she sorted her gay worsteds.
"Your feet in the full-grown grasses,
Moved soft as a soft wind blows;
You passed me as April passes,
With a face made out of a rose,"
murmured Mac under his breath, thinking of the white figure going
up a green slope one summer day; then, as if chiding himself for
sentimentality, he set Psyche down with great care and began to
talk about a course of solid reading for the winter.
After that, Rose saw very little of him for several weeks, as he
seemed to be making up for lost time and was more odd and
absent than ever when he did appear.
As she became accustomed to the change in his external
appearance, she discovered that he was altering fast in other ways
and watched the "distinguished-looking gentleman" with much
interest, saying to herself, when she saw a new sort of dignity
about him alternating with an unusual restlessness of manner, and
now and then a touch of sentiment, "Genius is simmering, just as I
As the family were in mourning, there were no festivities on Rose's
twenty-first birthday, though the boys had planned all sorts of
rejoicings. Everyone felt particularly tender toward their girl on
that day, remembering how "poor Charlie" had loved her, and they
tried to show it in the gifts and good wishes they sent her. She
found her sanctum all aglow with autumn leaves, and on her table
so many rare and pretty things, she quite forgot she was an heiress
and only felt how rich she was in loving friends.
One gift greatly pleased her, though she could not help smiling at
the source from whence it came, for Mac sent her a Cupid not the
chubby child with a face of naughty merriment, but a slender,
winged youth leaning on his unstrung bow, with a broken arrow at
his feet. A poem, "To Psyche," came with it, and Rose was much
surprised at the beauty of the lines, for, instead of being witty,
complimentary, or gay, there was something nobler than mere
sentiment in them, and the sweet old fable lived again in language
which fitly painted the maiden Soul looking for a Love worthy to
Rose read them over and over as she sat among the gold and
scarlet leaves which glorified her little room, and each time found
new depth and beauty in them, looking from the words that made
music in her ear to the lovely shapes that spoke with their mute
grace to her eye. The whole thing suited her exactly, it was so
delicate and perfect in its way, for she was tired of costly gifts and
valued very much this proof of her cousin's taste and talent, seeing
nothing in it but an affectionate desire to please her.
All the rest dropped in at intervals through the day to say a loving
word, and last of all came Mac. Rose happened to be alone with
Dulce, enjoying a splendid sunset from her western window, for
October gave her child a beautiful good night.
Rose turned around as he entered and, putting down the little girl,
went to him with the evening red shining on her happy face as she
said gratefully: "Dear Mac, it was so lovely! I don't know how to
thank you for it in any way but this." And, drawing down his tall
head, she gave him the birthday kiss she had given all the others.
But this time it produced a singular effect, for Mac turned scarlet,
then grew pale, and when Rose added playfully, thinking to relieve
the shyness of so young a poet, "Never again say you don't write
poetry, or call your verses rubbish I knew you were a genius, and
now I'm sure of it," he broke out, as if against his will: "No. It isn't
genius, it is love!" Then, as she shrank a little, startled at his
energy, he added, with an effort at self-control which made his
voice sound strange: "I didn't mean to speak, but I can't suffer you
to deceive yourself so. I must tell the truth, and not let you kiss me
like a cousin when I love you with all my heart and soul!"
"Oh, Mac, don't joke!" cried Rose, bewildered by this sudden
glimpse into a heart she thought she knew so well.
"I'm in solemn earnest," he answered steadily, in such a quiet tone
that, but for the pale excitement of his face, she might have
doubted his words. "Be angry, if you will. I expect it, for I know it
is too soon to speak. I ought to wait for years, perhaps, but you
seemed so happy I dared to hope you had forgotten."
"Forgotten what?" asked Rose sharply.
"Ah! You all will insist on believing that I loved him better than I
did!" she cried, with both pain and impatience in her voice, for the
family delusion tried her very much at times.
"How could we help it, when he was everything women most
admire?" said Mac, not bitterly, but as if he sometimes wondered
at their want of insight.
"I do not admire weakness of any sort I could never love without
either confidence or respect. Do me the justice to believe that, for
I'm tired of being pitied."
She spoke almost passionately, being more excited by Mac's
repressed emotion than she had ever been by Charlie's most
touching demonstration, though she did not know why.
"But he loved you so!" began Mac, feeling as if a barrier had
suddenly gone down but not daring to venture in as yet.
"That was the hard part of it! That was why I tried to love him,
why I hoped he would stand fast for my sake, if not for his own,
and why I found it so sad sometimes not to be able to help
despising him for his want of courage. I don't know how others
feel, but, to me, love isn't all. I must look up, not down, trust and
honor with my whole heart, and find strength and integrity to lean
on. I have had it so far, and I know I could not live without it."
"Your ideal is a high one. Do you hope to find it, Rose?" Mac
asked, feeling, with the humility of a genuine love, that he could
not give her all she desired.
"Yes," she answered, with a face full of the beautiful confidence in
virtue, the instinctive desire for the best which so many of us lose
too soon, to find again after life's great lessons are well learned. "I
do hope to find it, because I try not to be unreasonable and expect
perfection. Smile if you will, but I won't give up my hero yet," and
she tried to speak lightly, hoping to lead him away from a more
"You'll have to look a long while, I'm afraid," and all the glow was
gone out of Mac's face, for he understood her wish and knew his
answer had been given.
"I have Uncle to help me, and I think my ideal grew out of my
knowledge of him. How can I fail to believe in goodness, when he
shows me what it can be and do?"
"It's no use for me to say any more, for I have very little to offer. I
did not mean to say a word till I earned a right to hope for
something in return. I cannot take it back, but I can wish you
success, and I do, because you deserve the very best." And Mac
moved as if he was going away without more words, accepting the
inevitable as manfully as he could.
"Thank you that makes me feel very ungrateful and unkind. I wish
I could answer you as you want me to for, indeed, dear Mac, I'm
very fond of you in my own way," and Rose looked up with such
tender pity and frank affection in her face, it was no wonder the
poor fellow caught at a ray of hope and, brightening suddenly, said
in his own odd way: "Couldn't you take me on trial while you are
waiting for a true hero? It may be years before you find him;
meantime, you could be practicing on me in ways that would be
useful when you get him."
"Oh, Mac! What shall I do with you?" exclaimed Rose, so
curiously affected by this very characteristic wooing that she did
not know whether to laugh or cry, for he was looking at her with
his heart in his eyes, though his proposition was the queerest ever
made at such a time.
"Just go on being fond of me in your own way, and let me love you
as much as I like in mine. I'll try to be satisfied with that." And he
took both her hands so beseechingly that she felt more ungrateful
"No, it would not be fair, for you would love the most and, if the
hero did appear, what would become of you?"
"I should resemble Uncle Alec in one thing at least fidelity, for my
first love would be my last."
That went straight to Rose's heart, and for a minute she stood
silent, looking down at the two strong hands that held hers so
firmly yet so gently, and the thought went through her mind, "Must
he, too, be solitary all his life? I have no dear lover as my mother
had, why cannot I make him happy and forget myself?"
It did not seem very hard, and she owned that, even while she told
herself that compassion was no equivalent for love. She wanted to
give all she could, and keep as much of Mac's affection as she
honestly might, because it seemed to grow more sweet and
precious when she thought of putting it away.
"You will be like Uncle in happier ways than that, I hope, for you,
too, must have a high ideal and find her and be happy," she said,
resolving to be true to the voice of conscience, not be swayed by
the impulse of the moment.
"I have found her, but I don't see any prospect of happiness, do
you?" he asked wistfully.
"Dear Mac, I cannot give you the love you want, but I do trust and
respect you from the bottom of my heart, if that is any comfort,"
began Rose, looking up with eyes full of contrition for the pain her
reply must give.
She got no further, however, for those last words wrought a
marvelous change in Mac. Dropping her hands, he stood erect, as
if inspired with sudden energy and hope, while over his face there
came a brave, bright look, which for the moment made him a
nobler and comelier man than ever handsome Prince had been.
"It is a comfort!" he said, in a tone of gratitude that touched her
very much. "You said your love must be founded on respect, and
that you have given me why can I not earn the rest? I'm nothing
now, but everything is possible when one loves with all his heart
and soul and strength. Rose, I will be your hero if a mortal man
can, even though I have to work and wait for years. I'll make you
love me, and be glad to do it. Don't be frightened. I've not lost my
wits I've just found them. I don't ask anything I'll never speak of
my hope, but it is no use to stop me. I must try it, and I will
With the last words, uttered in a ringing voice while his face
glowed, his eyes shone, and he looked as if carried out of himself
by the passion that possessed him, Mac abruptly left the room, like
one eager to change words to deeds and begin his task at once.
Rose was so amazed by all this that she sat down trembling a little,
not with fear or anger, but a feeling half pleasure, half pain, and a
sense of some new power subtle, strong, and sweet that had come
into her life. It seemed as if another Mac had taken the place of the
one she had known so long an ardent, ambitious man, ready for
any work now that the magical moment had come when everything
seems possible to love. If hope could work such a marvelous
change for a moment, could not happiness do it for a lifetime? It
would be an exciting experiment to try, she thought, remembering
the sudden illumination which made that familiar face both
beautiful and strange.
She could not help wondering how long this unsuspected
sentiment had been growing in his heart and felt perplexed by its
peculiar demonstration, for she had never had a lover like this
before. It touched and flattered her, nevertheless and she could not
but feel honored by a love so genuine and generous, for it seemed
to make a man of Mac all at once, and a manly man, too, who was
not daunted by disappointment but could "hope against hope" and
resolve to make her love him if it took years to do it.
There was the charm of novelty about this sort of wooing, and she
tried to guess how he would set about it, felt curious to see how he
would behave when next they met, and was half angry with herself
for not being able to decide how she ought to act. The more she
thought, the more bewildered she grew, for having made up her
mind that Mac was a genius, it disturbed all her plans to find him a
lover, and such an ardent one. As it was impossible to predict what
would come next, she gave up trying to prepare for it and, tired
with vain speculations, carried Dulce off to bed, wishing she could
tuck away her love troubles as quietly and comfortably as she did
her sleepy little charge.
Simple and sincere in all things, Mac gave Rose a new surprise by
keeping his promise to the letter asked nothing of her, said nothing
of his hope, and went on as if nothing had happened, quite in the
old friendly way. No, not quite, for now and then, when she least
expected it, she saw again the indescribable expression on his face,
a look that seemed to shed a sudden sunshine over her, making her
eyes fall involuntarily, her color rise, and her heart beat quicker for
a moment. Not a word did he say, but she felt that a new
atmosphere surrounded her when he was by, and although he used
none of the little devices most lovers employ to keep the flame
alight, it was impossible to forget that underneath his quietude
there was a hidden world of fire and force ready to appear at a
touch, a word from her.
This was rather dangerous knowledge for Rose, and she soon
began to feel that there were more subtle temptations than she had
expected, for it was impossible to be unconscious of her power, or
always to resist the trials of it which daily came unsought. She had
never felt this desire before, for Charlie was the only one who had
touched her heart, and he was constantly asking as well as giving,
and wearied her by demanding too much or oppressed her by
offering more than she could accept.
Mac did neither; he only loved her, silently, patiently, hopefully,
and this generous sort of fidelity was very eloquent to a nature like
hers. She could not refuse or chide, since nothing was asked or
urged; there was no need of coldness, for he never presumed; no
call for pity, since he never complained. All that could be done
was to try and be as just and true as he was, and to wait as
trustfully for the end, whatever it was to be.
For a time she liked the new interest it put into her life, yet did
nothing to encourage it and thought that if she gave this love no
food it would soon starve to death. But it seemed to thrive on air,
and presently she began to feel as if a very strong will was slowly
but steadily influencing her in many ways. If Mac had never told
her that he meant to "make her love him," she might have yielded
unconsciously, but now she mistook the impulse to obey this
undercurrent for compassion and resisted stoutly, not
comprehending yet the reason for the unrest which took possession
of her about this time.
She had as many moods as an April day, and would have much
surprised Dr. Alec by her vagaries had he known them all. He saw
enough, however, to guess what was the matter, but took no notice,
for he knew this fever must run its course, and much medicine
only does harm. The others were busy about their own affairs, and
Aunt Plenty was too much absorbed in her rheumatism to think of
love, for the cold weather set in early, and the poor lady kept her
room for days at a time with Rose as nurse.
Mac had spoken of going away in November, and Rose began to
hope he would, for she decided that this silent sort of adoration
was bad for her, as it prevented her from steadily pursuing the
employments she had marked out for that year. What was the use
of trying to read useful books when her thoughts continually
wandered to those charming essays on "Love" and "Friendship"?
To copy antique casts, when all the masculine heads looked like
Cupid and the feminine ones like the Psyche on her mantelpiece?
To practice the best music if it ended in singing over and over the
pretty spring song without Phebe's bird chorus? Dulce's company
was pleasantest now, for Dulce seldom talked, so much meditation
was possible. Even Aunt Plenty's red flannel, camphor, and Pond's
Extract were preferable to general society, and long solitary rides
on Rosa seemed the only thing to put her in tune after one of her
attempts to find out what she ought to do or leave undone.
She made up her mind at last, and arming herself with an unmade
pen, like Fanny Squeers, she boldly went into the study to confer
with Dr. Alec at an hour when Mac was usually absent.
"I want a pen for marking can you make me one, Uncle?" she
asked, popping her head in to be sure he was alone.
"Yes, my dear," answered a voice so like the doctor's that she
entered without delay.
But before she had taken three steps she stopped, looking rather
annoyed, for the head that rose from behind the tall desk was not
rough and gray, but brown and smooth, and Mac, not Uncle Alec,
sat there writing. Late experience had taught her that she had
nothing to fear from a tete-a-tete and, having with difficulty taken
a resolution, she did not like to fail of carrying it out.
"Don't get up, I won't trouble you if you are busy, there is no
hurry," she said, not quite sure whether it were wiser to stay or run
Mac settled the point by taking the pen out of her hand and
beginning to cut it, as quietly as Nicholas did on that "thrilling"
occasion. Perhaps he was thinking of that, for he smiled as he
asked, "Hard or soft?"
Rose evidently had forgotten that the family of Squeers ever
existed, for she answered: "Hard, please," in a voice to match. "I'm
glad to see you doing that," she added, taking courage from his
composure and going as straight to her point as could be expected
of a woman.
"And I am very glad to do it."
"I don't mean making pens, but the romance I advised," and she
touched the closely written page before him, looking as if she
would like to read it.
"That is my abstract on a lecture on the circulation of the blood,"
he answered, kindly turning it so that she could see. "I don't write
romances I'm living one," and he glanced up with the happy,
hopeful expression which always made her feel as if he was
heaping coals of fire on her head.
"I wish you wouldn't look at me in that way it fidgets me," she said
a little petulantly, for she had been out riding, and knew that she
did not present a "spiritual" appearance after the frosty air had
reddened nose as well as cheeks.
"I'll try to remember. It does itself before I know it. Perhaps this
may mend matters." And, taking out the blue glasses he sometimes
wore in the wind, he gravely put them on.
Rose could not help laughing, but his obedience only aggravated
her, for she knew he could observe her all the better behind his
"No, it won't they are not becoming, and I don't want to look blue
when I do not feel so," she said, finding it impossible to guess
what he would do next or to help enjoying his peculiarities.
"But you don't to me, for in spite of the goggles everything is
rose-colored now." And he pocketed the glasses without a murmur
at the charming inconsistency of his idol.
"Really, Mac, I'm tired of this nonsense, it worries me and wastes
"Never worked harder. But does it really trouble you to know I
love you?" he asked anxiously.
"Don't you see how cross it makes me?" And she walked away,
feeling that things were not going as she intended to have them at
"I don't mind the thorns if I get the rose at last, and I still hope I
may, some ten years hence," said this persistent suitor, quite
undaunted by the prospect of a "long wait."
"I think it is rather hard to be loved whether I like it or not,"
objected Rose, at a loss how to make any headway against such
"But you can't help it, nor can I so I must go on doing it with all
my heart till you marry, and then well, then I'm afraid I may hate
somebody instead," and Mac spoilt the pen by an involuntary slash
of his knife.
"Please don't, Mac!"
"Do which, love or hate?"
"Don't do either go and care for someone else; there are plenty of
nice girls who will be glad to make you happy," said Rose, intent
upon ending her disquiet in some way.
"That is too easy. I enjoy working for my blessings, and the harder
I have to work, the more I value them when they come."
"Then if I suddenly grew very kind, would you stop caring about
me?" asked Rose, wondering if that treatment would free her from
a passion which both touched and tormented her.
"Try and see." But there was a traitorous glimmer in Mac's eyes
which plainly showed what a failure it would be.
"No, I'll get something to do, so absorbing I shall forget all about
"Don't think about me if it troubles you," he said tenderly.
"I can't help it." Rose tried to catch back the words, but it was too
late, and she added hastily, "That is, I cannot help wishing you
would forget me. It is a great disappointment to find I was
mistaken when I hoped such fine things of you."
"Yes, you were very sure that it was love when it was poetry, and
now you want poetry when I've nothing on hand but love. Will
both together please you?"
"Try and see."
"I'll do my best. Anything else?" he asked, forgetting the small task
she had given him in his eagerness to attempt the greater.
"Tell me one thing. I've often wanted to know, and now you speak
of it I'll venture to ask. Did you care about me when you read
Keats to me last summer?"
"When did you begin?" asked Rose, smiling in spite of herself at
his unflattering honesty.
"How can I tell? Perhaps it did begin up there, though, for that talk
set us writing, and the letters showed me what a beautiful soul you
had. I loved that first it was so quick to recognize good things, to
use them when they came, and give them out again as
unconsciously as a flower does its breath. I longed for you to come
home, and wanted you to find me altered for the better in some
way as I had found you. And when you came it was very easy to
see why I needed you to love you entirely, and to tell you so. That's
A short story, but it was enough the voice that told it with such
simple truth made the few words so eloquent, Rose felt strongly
tempted to add the sequel Mac desired. But her eyes had fallen as
he spoke, for she knew his were fixed upon her, dark and dilated,
with the same repressed emotion that put such fervor into his quiet
tones, and just as she was about to look up, they fell on a shabby
little footstool. Trifles affect women curiously, and often most
irresistibly when some agitation sways them. The sight of the old
hassock vividly recalled Charlie, for he had kicked it on the night
she never liked to remember. Like a spark it fired a long train of
recollections, and the thought went through her mind: "I fancied I
loved him, and let him see it, but I deceived myself, and he
reproached me for a single look that said too much. This feeling is
very different, but too new and sudden to be trusted. I'll neither
look nor speak till I am quite sure, for Mac's love is far deeper than
poor Charlie's, and I must be very true."
Not in words did the resolve shape itself, but in a quick impulse,
which she obeyed certain that it was right, since it was hard to
yield to it. Only an instant's silence followed Mac's answer as she
stood looking down with fingers intertwined and color varying in
her cheeks. A foolish attitude, but Mac thought it a sweet picture
of maiden hesitation and began to hope that a month's wooing was
about to end in winning for a lifetime. He deceived himself,
however, and cold water fell upon his flame, subduing but by no
means quenching it, when Rose looked up with an air of
determination which could not escape eyes that were growing
wonderfully farsighted lately.
"I came in here to beg Uncle to advise you to go away soon. You
are very patient and forbearing, and I feel it more than I can tell.
But it is not good for you to depend on anyone so much for your
happiness, I think, and I know it is bad for me to feel that I have so
much power over a fellow creature. Go away, Mac, and see if this
isn't all a mistake. Don't let a fancy for me change or delay your
work, because it may end as suddenly as it began, and then we
should both reproach ourselves and each other. Please do! I respect
and care for you so much, I can't be happy to take all and give
nothing. I try to, but I'm not sure I want to think it is too soon to
Rose began bravely, but ended in a fluttered sort of way as she
moved toward the door, for Mac's face though it fell at first,
brightened as she went on, and at the last word, uttered almost
involuntarily, he actually laughed low to himself, as if this order
into exile pleased him much.
"Don't say that you give nothing, when you've just shown me that
I'm getting on. I'll go; I'll go at once, and see if absence won't help
you 'to think, to know, and to be sure' as it did me. I wish I could
do something more for you. As I can't, good-bye."
"Are you going now?" And Rose paused in her retreat to look back
with a startled face as he offered her a badly made pen and opened
the door for her just as Dr. Alec always did; for, in spite of
himself, Mac did resemble the best of uncles.
"Not yet, but you seem to be."
Rose turned as red as a poppy, snatched the pen, and flew upstairs,
to call herself hard names as she industriously spoiled all Aunt
Plenty's new pocket handkerchiefs by marking them "A.M.C."
Three days later Mac said "good-bye" in earnest, and no one was
surprised that he left somewhat abruptly, such being his way, and a
course of lectures by a famous physician the ostensible reason for
a trip to L----. Uncle Alec deserted most shamefully at the last
moment by sending word that he would be at the station to see the
traveler off, Aunt Plenty was still in her room, so when Mac came
down from his farewell to her, Rose met him in the hall, as if
anxious not to delay him. She was a little afraid of another
tete-a-tete, as she fared so badly at the last, and had assumed a
calm and cousinly air which she flattered herself would plainly
show on what terms she wished to part.
Mac apparently understood, and not only took the hint, but
surpassed her in cheerful composure, for, merely saying
"Good-bye, Cousin; write when you feel like it," he shook hands
and walked out of the house as tranquilly as if only a day instead
of three months were to pass before they met again. Rose felt as if
a sudden shower bath had chilled her and was about to retire,
saying to herself with disdainful decision: "There's no love about it
after all, only one of the eccentricities of genius," when a rush of
cold air made her turn to find herself in what appeared to be the
embrace of an impetuous overcoat, which wrapped her close for an
instant, then vanished as suddenly as it had come, leaving her to
hide in the sanctum and confide to Psyche with a tender sort of
triumph in her breathless voice: "No, no, it isn't genius that must
Chapter 19 BEHIND THE FOUNTAIN
Two days after Christmas a young man of serious aspect might
have been seen entering one of the large churches at L----. Being
shown to a seat, he joined in the services with praiseworthy
devotion, especially the music, to which he listened with such
evident pleasure that a gentleman who sat nearby felt moved to
address this appreciative stranger after church.
"Fine sermon today. Ever heard our minister before, sir?" he
began, as they went down the aisle together among the last, for the
young man had lingered as if admiring the ancient building.
"Very fine. No, sir, I have never had that pleasure. I've often
wished to see this old place, and am not at all disappointed. Your
choir, too, is unusually good," answered the stranger, glancing up
at several bonnets bobbing about behind the half-drawn curtains
"Finest in the city, sir. We pride ourselves on our music, and
always have the best. People often come for that alone." And the
old gentleman looked as satisfied as if a choir of cherubim and
seraphim "continually did cry" in his organ loft.
"Who is the contralto? That solo was beautifully sung," observed
the younger man, pausing to read a tablet on the wall.
"That is Miss Moore. Been here about a year, and is universally
admired. Excellent young lady couldn't do without her. Sings
superbly in oratorios. Ever heard her?"
"Never. She came from X, I believe?
"Yes, highly recommended. She was brought up by one of the first
families there. Campbell is the name. If you come from X , you
doubtless know them."
"I have met them. Good morning." And with bows the gentlemen
parted, for at that instant the young man caught sight of a tall lady
going down the church steps with a devout expression in her fine
eyes and a prayer-book in her hand.
Hastening after her, the serious-minded young man accosted her
just as she turned into a quiet street.
Only a word, but it wrought a marvelous change, for the devout
expression vanished in the drawing of a breath, and the quiet face
blossomed suddenly with color, warmth, and "the light that never
was on sea or land" as she turned to meet her lover with an
answering word as eloquent as his.
"The year is out today. I told you I should come. Have you
"No I knew you'd come."
"And are you glad?"
"How can I help it?"
"You can't don't try. Come into this little park and let us talk." And
drawing her hand through his arm, Archie led her into what to
other eyes was a very dismal square, with a boarded-up fountain in
the middle, sodden grass plots, and dead leaves dancing in the
But to them it was a summery Paradise, and they walked to and fro
in the pale sunshine, quite unconscious that they were objects of
interest to several ladies and gentlemen waiting anxiously for their
dinner or yawning over the dull books kept for Sunday reading.
"Are you ready to come home now, Phebe?" asked Archie tenderly
as he looked at the downcast face beside him and wondered why
all women did not wear delightful little black velvet bonnets with
one deep red flower against their hair.
"Not yet. I haven't done enough," began Phebe, finding it very hard
to keep the resolution made a year ago.
"You have proved that you can support yourself, make friends, and
earn a name, if you choose. No one can deny that, and we are all
getting proud of you. What more can you ask, my dearest?"
"I don't quite know, but I am very ambitious. I want to be famous,
to do something for you all, to make some sacrifice for Rose, and,
if I can, to have something to give up for your sake. Let me wait
and work longer I know I haven't earned my welcome yet,"
pleaded Phebe so earnestly that her lover knew it would be in vain
to try and turn her, so wisely contented himself with half, since he
could not have the whole.
"Such a proud woman! Yet I love you all the better for it, and
understand your feeling. Rose made me see how it seems to you,
and I don't wonder that you cannot forget the unkind things that
were looked, if not said, by some of my amiable aunts. I'll try to be
patient on one condition, Phebe."
"And what is that?"
"You are to let me come sometimes while I wait, and wear this lest
you should forget me," he said, pulling a ring from his pocket and
gently drawing a warm, bare hand out of the muff where it lay
"Yes, Archie, but not here not now!" cried Phebe, glancing about
her as if suddenly aware that they were not alone.
"No one can see us here I thought of that. Give me one happy
minute, after this long, long year of waiting," answered Archie,
pausing just where the fountain hid them from all eyes, for there
were houses only on one side.
Phebe submitted and never did a plain gold ring slip more easily to
its place than the one he put on in such a hurry that cold December
day. Then one hand went back into the muff red with the grasp he
gave it, and the other to its old place on his arm with a confiding
gesture, as if it had a right there.
"Now I feel sure of you," said Archie as they went on again, and no
one the wiser for that tender transaction behind the ugly pyramid
of boards. "Mac wrote me that you were much admired by your
church people, and that certain wealthy bachelors evidently had
designs on the retiring Miss Moore. I was horribly jealous, but now
I defy every man of them."
Phebe smiled with the air of proud humility that was so becoming
and answered briefly: "There was no danger kings could not
change me, whether you ever came or not. But Mac should not
have told you."
"You shall be revenged on him, then, for, as he told secrets about
you, I'll tell you one about him. Phebe, he loves Rose!" And Archie
looked as if he expected to make a great sensation with his news.
"I know it." And Phebe laughed at his sudden change of
countenance as he added inquiringly, "She told you, then?"
"Not a word. I guessed it from her letters, for lately she says
nothing about Mac, and before there was a good deal, so I
suspected what the silence meant and asked no questions."
"Wise girl! Then you think she does care for the dear old fellow?"
"Of course she does. Didn't he tell you so?"
"No, he only said when he went away, 'Take care of my Rose, and
I'll take care of your Phebe,' and not another thing could I get out
of him, for I did ask questions. He stood by me like a hero, and
kept Aunt Jane from driving me stark mad with her 'advice.' I don't
forget that, and burned to lend him a hand somewhere, but he
begged me to let him manage his wooing in his own way. And
from what I see, I should say he knew how to do it," added Archie,
finding it very delightful to gossip about love affairs with his
"Dear little mistress! How does she behave?" asked Phebe, longing
for news, but too grateful to ask at headquarters, remembering how
generously Rose had tried to help her, even by silence, the greatest
sacrifice a woman can make at such interesting periods.
"Very sweet and shy and charming. I try not to watch but upon my
word I cannot help it sometimes, she is so 'cunning,' as you girls
say. When I carry her a letter from Mac she tries so hard not to
show how glad she is that I want to laugh and tell her I know all
about it. But I look as sober as a judge and as stupid as an owl by
daylight, and she enjoys her letters in peace and thinks I'm so
absorbed in my own passion that I'm blind to hers."
"But why did Mac come away? He says lectures brought him, and
he goes, but I am sure something else is in his mind, he looks so
happy at times. I don't see him very often, but when I do I'm
conscious that he isn't the Mac I left a year ago," said Phebe,
leading Archie away, for inexorable propriety forbade a longer
stay, even if prudence and duty had not given her a reminding
nudge, as it was very cold, and afternoon church came in an hour.
"Well, you see Mac was always peculiar, and he cannot even grow
up like other fellows. I don't understand him yet, and am sure he's
got some plan in his head that no one suspects, unless it is Uncle
Alec. Love makes us all cut queer capers, and I've an idea that the
Don will distinguish himself in some uncommon way. So be
prepared to applaud whatever it is. We owe him that, you know."
"Indeed we do! If Rose ever speaks of him to you, tell her I shall
see that he comes to no harm, and she must do the same for my
That unusual demonstration of tenderness from reserved Phebe
very naturally turned the conversation into a more personal
channel, and Archie devoted himself to building castles in the air
so successfully that they passed the material mansion without
either being aware of it.
"Will you come in?" asked Phebe when the mistake was rectified
and she stood on her own steps looking down at her escort, who
had discreetly released her before a pull at the bell caused five
heads to pop up at five different windows.
"No, thanks. I shall be at church this afternoon, and the oratorio
this evening. I must be off early in the morning, so let me make the
most of precious time and come home with you tonight as I did
before," answered Archie, making his best bow, and quite sure of
"You may." And Phebe vanished, closing the door softly, as if she
found it hard to shut out so much love and happiness as that in the
heart of the sedate young gentleman who went briskly down the
street humming a verse of old "Clyde" like a tuneful bass viol:
"Oh, let our mingling voices rise
In grateful rapture to the skies,
Where love has had its birth.
Let songs of joy this day declare
That spirits come their bliss to share
With all the sons of earth."
That afternoon Miss Moore sang remarkably well, and that
evening quite electrified even her best friends by the skill and
power with which she rendered "Inflammatus" in the oratorio.
"If that is not genius, I should like to know what it is?" said one
young man to another as they went out just before the general
crush at the end.
"Some genius and a great deal of love. They are a grand team, and,
when well driven, astonish the world by the time they make in the
great race," answered the second young man with the look of one
inclined to try his hand at driving that immortal span.
"Daresay you are right. Can't stop now she's waiting for me. Don't
sit up, Mac."
"The gods go with you, Archie."
And the cousins separated one to write till midnight, the other to
bid his Phebe good-bye, little dreaming how unexpectedly and
successfully she was to earn her welcome home.
Chapter 20 WHAT MAC DID
Rose, meantime, was trying to find out what the sentiment was
with which she regarded her cousin Mac. She could not seem to
reconcile the character she had known so long with the new one
lately shown her, and the idea of loving the droll, bookish,
absentminded Mac of former times appeared quite impossible and
absurd, but the new Mac, wide awake, full of talent, ardent and
high-handed, was such a surprise to her, she felt as if her heart was
being won by a stranger, and it became her to study him well
before yielding to a charm which she could not deny.
Affection came naturally, and had always been strong for the boy;
regard for the studious youth easily deepened to respect for the
integrity of the young man, and now something warmer was
growing up within her; but at first she could not decide whether it
was admiration for the rapid unfolding of talent of some sort or
love answering to love.
As if to settle that point, Mac sent her on New Year's Day a little
book plainly bound and modestly entitled Songs and Sonnets.
After reading this with ever-growing surprise and delight, Rose
never had another doubt about the writer's being a poet, for though
she was no critic, she had read the best authors and knew what was
good. Unpretentious as it was, this had the true ring, and its very
simplicity showed conscious power for, unlike so many first
attempts, the book was not full of "My Lady," neither did it indulge
in Swinburnian convulsions about
"The lilies and languors of peace,
The roses and raptures of love.";
or contain any of the highly colored medieval word pictures so
much in vogue. "My book should smell of pines, and resound with
the hum of insects," might have been its motto, so sweet and
wholesome was it with a springlike sort of freshness which plainly
betrayed that the author had learned some of Nature's deepest
secrets and possessed the skill to tell them in tuneful words. The
songs went ringing through one's memory long after they were
read, and the sonnets were full of the subtle beauty, insight, and
half-unconscious wisdom, which seem to prove that "genius is
divine when young."
Many faults it had, but was so full of promise that it was evident
Mac had not "kept good company, read good books, loved good
things, and cultivated soul and body as faithfully as he could" in
vain. It all told now, for truth and virtue had blossomed into
character and had a language of their own more eloquent than the
poetry to which they were what the fragrance is to the flower.
Wiser critics than Rose felt and admired this; less partial ones
could not deny their praise to a first effort, which seemed as
spontaneous and aspiring as a lark's song; and, when one or two of
these Jupiters had given a nod of approval, Mac found himself, not
exactly famous, but much talked about. One set abused, the other
set praised, and the little book was sadly mauled among them, for
it was too original to be ignored, and too robust to be killed by
hard usage, so it came out of the fray none the worse but rather
brighter, if anything, for the friction which proved the gold
This took time, however, and Rose could only sit at home reading
all the notices she could get, as well as the literary gossip Phebe
sent her, for Mac seldom wrote, and never a word about himself,
so Phebe skillfully extracted from him in their occasional meetings
all the personal news her feminine wit could collect and faithfully
It was a little singular that without a word of inquiry on either side,
the letters of the girls were principally filled with tidings of their
respective lovers. Phebe wrote about Mac; Rose answered with
minute particulars about Archie; and both added hasty items
concerning their own affairs, as if these were of little consequence.
Phebe got the most satisfaction out of the correspondence, for soon
after the book appeared Rose began to want Mac home again and
to be rather jealous of the new duties and delights that kept him.
She was immensely proud of her poet, and had little jubilees over
the beautiful fulfillment of her prophecies, for even Aunt Plenty
owned now with contrition that "the boy was not a fool." Every
word of praise was read aloud on the housetops, so to speak, by
happy Rose; every adverse criticism was hotly disputed; and the
whole family was in a great state of pleasant excitement over this
unexpectedly successful first flight of the Ugly Duckling, now
generally considered by his relatives as the most promising young
swan of the flock.
Aunt Jane was particularly funny in her new position of mother to
a callow poet and conducted herself like a proud but bewildered
hen when one of her brood takes to the water. She pored over the
poems, trying to appreciate them but quite failing to do so, for life
was all prose to her, and she vainly tried to discover where Mac
got his talent from. It was pretty to see the new respect with which
she treated his possessions now; the old books were dusted with a
sort of reverence; scraps of paper were laid carefully by lest some
immortal verse be lost; and a certain shabby velvet jacket fondly
smoothed when no one was by to smile at the maternal pride with
filled her heart and caused her once severe countenance to shine
with unwonted benignity.
Uncle Mac talked about "my son" with ill-concealed satisfaction,
and evidently began to feel as if his boy was going to confer
distinction upon the whole race of Campbell, which had already
possessed one poet. Steve exulted with irrepressible delight and
went about quoting Songs and Sonnets till he bored his friends
dreadfully by his fraternal raptures.
Archie took it more quietly, and even suggested that it was too
soon to crow yet, for the dear old fellow's first burst might be his
last, since it was impossible to predict what he would do next.
Having proved that he could write poetry, he might drop it for
some new world to conquer, quoting his favorite Thoreau, who,
having made a perfect pencil, gave up the business and took to
writing books with the sort of indelible ink which grows clearer
The aunts of course had their "views," and enjoyed much prophetic
gossip as they wagged their caps over many social cups of tea. The
younger boys thought it "very jolly," and hoped the Don would "go
ahead and come to glory as soon as possible," which was all that
could by expected of "Young America," with whom poetry is not
usually a passion.
But Dr. Alec was a sight for "sair een," so full of concentrated
contentment was he. No one but Rose, perhaps, knew how proud
and pleased the good man felt at this first small success of his
godson, for he had always had high hopes of the boy, because in
spite of his oddities he had such an upright nature, and promising
little, did much, with the quiet persistence which foretells a manly
character. All the romance of the doctor's heart was stirred by this
poetic bud of promise and the love that made it bloom so early, for
Mac had confided his hopes to Uncle, finding great consolation
and support in his sympathy and advice. Like a wise man, Dr. Alec
left the young people to learn the great lesson in their own way,
counseling Mac to work and Rose to wait till both were quite
certain that their love was built on a surer foundation than
admiration or youthful romance.
Meantime he went about with a well-worn little book in his
pocket, humming bits from a new set of songs and repeating with
great fervor certain sonnets which seemed to him quite equal, if
not superior, to any that Shakespeare ever wrote. As Rose was
doing the same thing, they often met for a private "read and
warble," as they called it, and while discussing the safe subject of
Mac's poetry, both arrived at a pretty clear idea of what Mac's
reward was to be when he came home.
He seemed in no hurry to do this, however, and continued to
astonish his family by going into society and coming out brilliantly
in that line. It takes very little to make a lion, as everyone knows
who has seen what poor specimens are patted and petted every
year, in spite of their bad manners, foolish vagaries, and very
feeble roaring. Mac did not want to be lionized and took it rather
scornfully, which only added to the charm that people suddenly
discovered about the nineteenth cousin of Thomas Campbell, the
poet. He desired to be distinguished in the best sense of the word,
as well as to look so, and thought a little of the polish society gives
would not be amiss, remembering Rose's efforts in that line. For
her sake he came out of his shell and went about seeing and testing
all sorts of people with those observing eyes of his, which saw so
much in spite of their nearsightedness. What use he meant to make
of these new experiences no one knew, for he wrote short letters
and, when questioned, answered with imperturbable patience:
"Wait till I get through; then I'll come home and talk about it."
So everyone waited for the poet, till something happened which
produced a greater sensation in the family than if all the boys had
simultaneously taken to rhyming.
Dr. Alec got very impatient and suddenly announced that he was
going to L to see after those young people, for Phebe was rapidly
singing herself into public favor with the sweet old ballads which
she rendered so beautifully that hearers were touched as well as
ears delighted, and her prospects brightened every month.
"Will you come with me, Rose, and surprise this ambitious pair
who are getting famous so fast they'll forget their homekeeping
friends if we don't remind them of us now and then?" he said when
he proposed the trip one wild March morning.
"No, thank you, sir I'll stay with Aunty; that is all I'm fit for and I
should only be in the way among those fine people," answered
Rose, snipping away at the plants blooming in the study window.
There was a slight bitterness in her voice and a cloud on her face,
which her uncle heard and saw at once, half guessed the meaning
of, and could not rest till he had found out.
"Do you think Phebe and Mac would not care to see you?" he
asked, putting down a letter in which Mac gave a glowing account
of a concert at which Phebe surpassed herself.
"No, but they must be very busy," began Rose, wishing she had
held her tongue.
"Then what is the matter?" persisted Dr. Alec.
Rose did not speak for a moment, and decapitated two fine
geraniums with a reckless slash of her scissors, as if pent-up
vexation of some kind must find a vent. It did in words also, for, as
if quite against her will, she exclaimed impetuously: "The truth is,
I'm jealous of them both!"
"Bless my soul! What now?" ejaculated the doctor in great
Rose put down her water pot and shears, came and stood before
him with her hands nervously twisted together, and said, just as
she used to do when she was a little girl confessing some misdeed:
"Uncle, I must tell you, for I've been getting very envious,
discontented, and bad lately. No, don't be good to me yet, for you
don't know how little I deserve it. Scold me well, and make me see
how wicked I am."
"I will as soon as I know what I am to scold about. Unburden
yourself, child, and let me see all your iniquity, for if you begin by
being jealous of Mac and Phebe, I'm prepared for anything," said
Dr. Alec, leaning back as if nothing could surprise him now.
"But I am not jealous in that way, sir. I mean I want to be or do
something splendid as well as they. I can't write poetry or sing like
a bird, but I should think I might have my share of glory in some
way. I thought perhaps I could paint, and I've tried, but I can only
copy I've no power to invent lovely things, and I'm so discouraged,
for that is my one accomplishment. Do you think I have any gift
that could be cultivated and do me credit like theirs?" she asked so
wistfully that her uncle felt for a moment as if he never could
forgive the fairies who endow babies in their cradles for being so
niggardly to his girl. But one look into the sweet, open face before
him reminded him that the good elves had been very generous and