Part 6 out of 6
he answered cheerfully: "Yes, I do, for you have one of the best
and noblest gifts a woman can possess. Music and poetry are fine
things, and I don't wonder you want them, or that you envy the
pleasant fame they bring. I've felt just so, and been ready to ask
why it didn't please heaven to be more generous to some people, so
you needn't be ashamed to tell me all about it."
"I know I ought to be contented, but I'm not. My life is very
comfortable, but so quiet and uneventful, I get tired of it and want
to launch out as the others have, and do something, or at least try.
I'm glad you think it isn't very bad of me, and I'd like to know what
my gift is," said Rose, looking less despondent already.
"The art of living for others so patiently and sweetly that we enjoy
it as we do the sunshine, and are not half grateful enough for the
"It is very kind of you to say so, but I think I'd like a little fun and
fame nevertheless." And Rose did not look as thankful as she
"Very natural, dear, but the fun and the fame do not last, while the
memory of a real helper is kept green long after poetry is forgotten
and music silent. Can't you believe that, and be happy?"
"But I do so little, nobody sees or cares, and I don't feel as if I was
really of any use," sighed Rose, thinking of the long, dull winter,
full of efforts that seemed fruitless.
"Sit here, and let us see if you really do very little and if no one
cares." And, drawing her to his knee, Dr. Alec went on, telling off
each item on one of the fingers of the soft hand he held.
"First, an infirm old aunt is kept very happy by the patient, cheerful
care of this good-for-nothing niece. Secondly, a crotchety uncle,
for whom she reads, runs, writes, and sews so willingly that he
cannot get on without her. Thirdly, various relations who are
helped in various ways. Fourthly, one dear friend never forgotten,
and a certain cousin cheered by praise which is more to him than
the loudest blast Fame could blow. Fifthly, several young girls find
her an example of many good works and ways. Sixthly, a
motherless baby is cared for as tenderly as if she were a little
sister. Seventhly, half a dozen poor ladies made comfortable; and,
lastly, some struggling boys and girls with artistic longings are put
into a pleasant room furnished with casts, studies, easels, and all
manner of helpful things, not to mention free lessons given by this
same idle girl, who now sits upon my knee owning to herself that
her gift is worth having after all."
"Indeed, I am! Uncle, I'd no idea I had done so many things to
please you, or that anyone guessed how hard I try to fill my place
usefully. I've learned to do without gratitude now I'll learn not to
care for praise, but to be contented to do my best, and have only
"He knows, and He rewards in His own good time. I think a quiet
life like this often makes itself felt in better ways than one that the
world sees and applauds, and some of the noblest are never known
till they end, leaving a void in many hearts. Yours may be one of
these if you choose to make it so, and no one will be prouder of
this success than I, unless it be Mac."
The clouds were quite gone now, and Rose was looking straight
into her uncle's face with a much happier expression when that last
word made it color brightly and the eyes glance away for a second.
Then they came back full of a tender sort of resolution as she said:
"That will be the reward I work for," and rose, as if ready to be up
and doing with renewed courage.
But her uncle held her long enough to ask quite soberly, though his
eyes laughed: "Shall I tell him that?"
"No, sir, please don't! When he is tired of other people's praise, he
will come home, and then I'll see what I can do for him," answered
Rose, slipping away to her work with the shy, happy look that
sometimes came to give to her face the charm it needed.
"He is such a thorough fellow, he never is in a hurry to go from
one thing to another. An excellent habit, but a trifle trying to
impatient people like me," said the doctor and, picking up Dulce,
who sat upon the rug with her dolly, he composed his feelings by
tossing her till she crowed with delight.
Rose heartily echoed that last remark, but said nothing aloud, only
helped her uncle off with dutiful alacrity and, when he was gone,
began to count the days till his return, wishing she had decided to
He wrote often, giving excellent accounts of the "great creatures,"
as Steve called Phebe and Mac, and seemed to find so much to do
in various ways that the second week of absence was nearly over
before he set a day for his return, promising to astonish them with
the account of his adventures.
Rose felt as if something splendid was going to happen and set her
affairs in order so that the approaching crisis might find her fully
prepared. She had "found out" now, was quite sure, and put away
all doubts and fears to be ready to welcome home the cousin
whom she was sure Uncle would bring as her reward. She was
thinking of this one day as she got out her paper to write a long
letter to poor Aunt Clara, who pined for news far away there in
Something in the task reminded her of that other lover whose
wooing ended so tragically, and opening a little drawer of
keepsakes, she took out the blue bracelet, feeling that she owed
Charlie a tender thought in the midst of her new happiness, for of
late she had forgotten him.
She had worn the trinket hidden under her black sleeve for a long
time after his death, with the regretful constancy one sometimes
shows in doing some little kindness all too late. But her arm had
grown too round to hide the ornament, the forget-me-nots had
fallen one by one, the clasp had broken, and that autumn she laid
the bracelet away, acknowledging that she had outgrown the
souvenir as well as the sentiment that gave it.
She looked at it in silence for a moment, then put it softly back
and, shutting the drawer, took up the little gray book which was
her pride, thinking as she contrasted the two men and their
influence on her life the one sad and disturbing, the other sweet
and inspiring "Charlie's was passion Mac's is love."
"Rose! Rose!" called a shrill voice, rudely breaking the pensive
reverie, and with a start, she shut the desk, exclaiming as she ran
to the door: "They have come! They have come!"
Chapter 21 HOW PHEBE EARNED HER WELCOME
Dr. Alec had not arrived, but bad tidings had, as Rose guessed the
instant her eyes fell upon Aunt Plenty, hobbling downstairs with
her cap awry, her face pale, and a letter flapping wildly in her hand
as she cried distractedly: "Oh, my boy! My boy! Sick, and I not
there to nurse him! Malignant fever, so far away. What can those
children do? Why did I let Alec go?"
Rose got her into the parlor, and while the poor old lady lamented,
she read the letter which Phebe had sent to her that she might
"break the news carefully to Rose."
DEAR MISS PLENTY, Please read this to yourself first, and tell
my little mistress as you think best. The dear doctor is very ill, but
I am with him, and shall not leave him day or night till he is safe.
So trust me, and do not be anxious, for everything shall be done
that care and skill and entire devotion can do. He would not let us
tell you before, fearing you would try to come at the risk of your
health. Indeed it would be useless, for only one nurse is needed,
and I came first, so do not let Rose or anybody else rob me of my
right to the danger and the duty. Mac has written to his father, for
Dr. Alec is now too ill to know what we do, and we both felt that
you ought to be told without further delay. He has a bad malignant
fever, caught no one can tell how, unless among some poor
emigrants whom he met wandering about quite forlorn in a strange
city. He understood Portuguese and sent them to a proper place
when they had told their story. But I fear he has suffered for his
kindness, for this fever came on rapidly, and before he knew what
it was I was there, and it was too late to send me away.
Now I can show you how grateful I am, and if need be give my life
so gladly for this friend who has been a father to me. Tell Rose his
last conscious word and thought were for her. "Don't let her come;
keep my darling safe." Oh, do obey him! Stay safely at home and,
God helping me, I'll bring Uncle Alec back in time. Mac does all I
will let him. We have the best physicians, and everything is going
as well as can be hoped till the fever turns.
Dear Miss Plenty, pray for him and for me, that I may do this one
happy thing for those who have done so much for
Your ever dutiful and loving
As Rose looked up from the letter, half stunned by the sudden
news and the great danger, she found that the old lady had already
stopped useless bewailing and was praying heartily, like one who
knew well where help was to be found. Rose went and knelt down
at her knee, laying her face on the clasped hands in her lap, and for
a few minutes neither wept nor spoke. Then a stifled sob broke
from the girl, and Aunt Plenty gathered the young head in her
arms, saying, with the slow tears of age trickling down her own
withered cheeks: "Bear up, my lamb, bear up. The good Lord won't
take him from us I am sure and that brave child will be allowed to
pay her debt to him. I feel she will."
"But I want to help. I must go, Aunty, I must no matter what the
danger is," cried Rose, full of a tender jealousy of Phebe for being
first to brave peril for the sake of him who had been a father to
"You can't go, dear, it's no use now, and she is right to say, 'Keep
away.' I know those fevers, and the ones who nurse often take it,
and fare worse for the strain they've been through. Good girl to
stand by so bravely, to be so sensible, and not let Mac go too near!
She's a grand nurse Alec couldn't have a better, and she'll never
leave him till he's safe," said Miss Plenty excitedly.
"Ah, you begin to know her now, and value her as you ought. I
think few would have done as she has, and if she does get ill and
die, it will be our fault partly, because she'd go through fire and
water to make us do her justice and receive her as we ought," cried
Rose, proud of an example which she longed to follow.
"If she brings my boy home, I'll never say another word. She may
marry every nephew I've got, if she likes, and I'll give her my
blessing," exclaimed Aunt Plenty, feeling that no price would be
too much to pay for such a deed.
Rose was going to clap her hands, but wrung them instead,
remembering with a sudden pang that the battle was not over yet,
and it was much too soon to award the honors.
Before she could speak Uncle Mac and Aunt Jane hurried in, for
Mac's letter had come with the other, and dismay fell upon the
family at the thought of danger to the well-beloved Uncle Alec.
His brother decided to go at once, and Aunt Jane insisted on
accompanying him, though all agreed that nothing could be done
but wait, and leave Phebe at her post as long as she held out, since
it was too late to save her from danger now and Mac reported her
quite equal to the task.
Great was the hurry and confusion till the relief party was off.
Aunt Plenty was heartbroken that she could not go with them, but
felt that she was too infirm to be useful and, like a sensible old
soul, tried to content herself with preparing all sorts of comforts
for the invalid. Rose was less patient, and at first had wild ideas of
setting off alone and forcing her way to the spot where all her
thoughts now centered. But before she could carry out any rash
project, Aunt Myra's palpitations set in so alarmingly that they did
good service for once and kept Rose busy taking her last directions
and trying to soothe her dying bed, for each attack was declared
fatal till the patient demanded toast and tea, when hope was again
allowable and the rally began.
The news flew fast, as such tidings always do, and Aunt Plenty
was constantly employed in answering inquiries, for her knocker
kept up a steady tattoo for several days. All sorts of people came:
gentlefolk and paupers, children with anxious little faces, old
people full of sympathy, pretty girls sobbing as they went away,
and young men who relieved their feelings by swearing at all
emigrants in general and Portuguese in particular. It was touching
and comforting to see how many loved the good man who was
known only by his benefactions and now lay suffering far away,
quite unconscious how many unsuspected charities were brought
to light by this grateful solicitude as hidden flowers spring up
when warm rains fall.
If Rose had ever felt that the gift of living for others was a poor
one, she saw now how beautiful and blessed it was how rich the
returns, how wide the influence, how much more precious the
tender tie which knit so many hearts together than any breath of
fame or brilliant talent that dazzled but did not win and warm. In
after years she found how true her uncle's words had been and,
listening to eulogies of great men, felt less moved and inspired by
praises of their splendid gifts than by the sight of some good man's
patient labor for the poorest of his kind. Her heroes ceased to be
the world's favorites and became such as Garrison fighting for his
chosen people; Howe restoring lost senses to the deaf, the dumb,
and blind; Sumner unbribable, when other men were bought and
sold and many a large-hearted woman working as quietly as Abby
Gibbons, who for thirty years had made Christmas merry for two
hundred little paupers in a city almshouse, besides saving
Magdalens and teaching convicts.
The lesson came to Rose when she was ready for it, and showed
her what a noble profession philanthropy is, made her glad of her
choice, and helped fit her for a long life full of the loving labor and
sweet satisfaction unostentatious charity brings to those who ask
no reward and are content if "only God knows."
Several anxious weeks went by with wearing fluctuations of hope
and fear, for Life and Death fought over the prize each wanted, and
more than once Death seemed to have won. But Phebe stood at her
post, defying both danger and Death with the courage and devotion
women often show. All her soul and strength were in her work,
and when it seemed most hopeless, she cried out with the
passionate energy which seems to send such appeals straight up to
heaven: "Grant me this one boon, dear Lord, and I will never ask
another for myself!"
Such prayers avail much, and such entire devotion often seems to
work miracles when other aids are in vain. Phebe's cry was
answered, her self-forgetful task accomplished, and her long vigil
rewarded with a happy dawn. Dr. Alec always said that she kept
him alive by the force of her will, and that, during the hours when
he seemed to lie unconscious, he felt a strong, warm hand holding
his, as if keeping him away from the swift current trying to sweep
him away. The happiest hour of all her life was that in which he
knew her, looked up with the shadow of a smile in his hollow eyes,
and tried to say in his old cheery way: "Tell Rose I've turned the
corner, thanks to you, my child."
She answered very quietly, smoothed the pillow, and saw him drop
asleep again before she stole away into the other room, meaning to
write the good news, but could only throw herself down and find
relief for a full heart in the first tears she had shed for weeks. Mac
found her there, and took such care of her that she was ready to go
back to her place now indeed a post of honor while he ran off to
send home a telegram which made many hearts sing for joy and
caused Jamie, in his first burst of delight, to propose to ring all the
city bells and order out the cannon: "Saved thanks to God and
That was all, but everyone was satisfied, and everyone fell
a-crying, as if hope needed much salty water to strengthen it. That
was soon over, however, and then people went about smiling and
saying to one another, with handshakes or embraces, "He is better
no doubt of it now!" A general desire to rush away and assure
themselves of the truth pervaded the family for some days, and
nothing but awful threats from Mac, stern mandates from the
doctor, and entreaties from Phebe not to undo her work kept Miss
Plenty, Rose, and Aunt Jessie at home.
As the only way in which they could ease their minds and bear the
delay, they set about spring cleaning with an energy which scared
the spiders and drove charwomen distracted. If the old house had
been infected with smallpox, it could not have been more
vigorously scrubbed, aired, and refreshed. Early as it was, every
carpet was routed up, curtains pulled down, cushions banged, and
glory holes turned out till not a speck of dust, a last year's fly, or
stray straw could be found. Then they all sat down and rested in
such an immaculate mansion that one hardly dared to move for
fear of destroying the shining order everywhere visible.
It was late in April before this was accomplished, and the
necessary quarantine of the absentees well over. The first mild
days seemed to come early, so that Dr. Alec might return with
safety from the journey which had so nearly been his last. It was
perfectly impossible to keep any member of the family away on
that great occasion. They came from all quarters in spite of express
directions to the contrary, for the invalid was still very feeble and
no excitement must be allowed. As if the wind carried the glad
news, Uncle Jem came into port the night before; Will and
Geordie got a leave on their own responsibility; Steve would have
defied the entire faculty, had it been necessary; and Uncle Mac and
Archie said simultaneously, "Business be hanged today."
Of course the aunts arrived in all their best, all cautioning
everybody else to keep quiet and all gabbling excitedly at the least
provocation. Jamie suffered the most during that day, so divided
was he between the desire to behave well and the frantic impulse
to shout at the top of his voice, turn somersaults, and race all over
the house. Occasional bolts into the barn, where he let off steam by
roaring and dancing jigs, to the great dismay of the fat old horses
and two sedate cows, helped him to get through that trying period.
But the heart that was fullest beat and fluttered in Rose's bosom as
she went about putting spring flowers everywhere; very silent, but
so radiant with happiness that the aunts watched her, saying softly
to one another, "Could an angel look sweeter?"
If angels ever wore pale green gowns and snowdrops in their hair,
had countenances full of serenest joy, and large eyes shining with
an inward light that made them very lovely, then Rose did look
like one. But she felt like a woman and well she might, for was not
life very rich that day, when Uncle, friend, and lover were coming
back to her together? Could she ask anything more, except the
power to be to all of them the creature they believed her, and to
return the love they gave her with one as faithful, pure, and deep?
Among the portraits in the hall hung one of Dr. Alec, done soon
after his return by Charlie in one of his brief fits of inspiration.
Only a crayon, but wonderfully lifelike and carefully finished, as
few of the others were. This had been handsomely framed and now
held the place of honor, garlanded with green wreaths, while the
great Indian jar below blazed with a pyramid of hothouse flowers
sent by Kitty. Rose was giving these a last touch, with Dulce close
by, cooing over a handful of sweet "daffydowndillies," when the
sound of wheels sent her flying to the door. She meant to have
spoken the first welcome and had the first embrace, but when she
saw the altered face in the carriage, the feeble figure being borne
up the steps by all the boys, she stood motionless till Phebe caught
her in her arms, whispering with a laugh and a cry struggling in her
voice: "I did it for you, my darling, all for you!"
"Oh, Phebe, never say again you owe me anything! I never can
repay you for this," was all Rose had time to answer as they stood
one instant cheek to cheek, heart to heart, both too full of
happiness for many words.
Aunt Plenty had heard the wheels also and, as everybody rose en
masse, had said as impressively as extreme agitation would allow,
while she put her glasses on upside down and seized a lace tidy
instead of her handkerchief: "Stop! All stay here, and let me
receive Alec. Remember his weak state, and be calm, quite calm,
as I am.'
"Yes, Aunt, certainly," was the general murmur of assent, but it
was as impossible to obey as it would have been to keep feathers
still in a gale, and one irresistible impulse carried the whole
roomful into the hall to behold Aunt Plenty beautifully illustrating
her own theory of composure by waving the tidy wildly, rushing
into Dr. Alec's arms, and laughing and crying with a hysterical
abandonment which even Aunt Myra could not have surpassed.
The tearful jubilee was soon over, however, and no one seemed
the worse for it, for the instant his arms were at liberty, Dr. Alec
forgot himself and began to make other people happy by saying
seriously, though his thin face beamed paternally, as he drew
Phebe forward: "Aunt Plenty, but for this good daughter I never
should have come back to be so welcomed. Love her for my sake."
Then the old lady came out splendidly and showed her mettle, for,
turning to Phebe, she bowed her gray head as if saluting an equal
and, offering her hand, answered with repentance, admiration, and
tenderness trembling in her voice: "I'm proud to do it for her own
sake. I ask pardon for my silly prejudices, and I'll prove that I'm
sincere by where's that boy?"
There were six boys present, but the right one was in exactly the
right place at the right moment, and, seizing Archie's hand, Aunt
Plenty put Phebe's into it, trying to say something appropriately
solemn, but could not, so hugged them both and sobbed out: "If I
had a dozen nephews, I'd give them all to you, my dear, and dance
at the wedding, though I had rheumatism in every limb."
That was better than any oration, for it set them all to laughing,
and Dr. Alec was floated to the sofa on a gentle wave of
merriment. Once there, everyone but Rose and Aunt Plenty was
ordered off by Mac, who was in command now and seemed to
have sunk the poet in the physician.
"The house must be perfectly quiet, and he must go to sleep as
soon as possible after the journey, so all say 'good-bye' now and
call again tomorrow," he said, watching his uncle anxiously as he
leaned in the sofa corner, with four women taking off his wraps,
three boys contending for his overshoes, two brothers shaking
hands at short intervals, and Aunt Myra holding a bottle of strong
salts under his devoted nose every time there was an opening
With difficulty the house was partially cleared, and then, while
Aunt Plenty mounted guard over her boy, Rose stole away to see if
Mac had gone with the rest, for as yet they had hardly spoken in
the joyful flurry, though eyes and hands had met.
Chapter 22 SHORT AND SWEET
In the hall she found Steve and Kitty, for he had hidden his little
sweetheart behind the big couch, feeling that she had a right there,
having supported his spirits during the late anxiety with great
constancy and courage. They seemed so cozy, billing and cooing in
the shadow of the gay vase, that Rose would have slipped silently
away if they had not seen and called to her.
"He's not gone I guess you'll find him in the parlor," said Steve,
divining with a lover's instinct the meaning of the quick look she
had cast at the hat rack as she shut the study door behind her.
"Mercy, no! Archie and Phebe are there, so he'd have the sense to
pop into the sanctum and wait, unless you'd like me to go and
bring him out?" added Kitty, smoothing Rose's ruffled hair and
settling the flowers on the bosom where Uncle Alec's head had lain
until he fell asleep.
"No, thank you, I'll go to him when I've seen my Phebe. She won't
mind me," answered Rose, moving on to the parlor.
"Look here," called Steve, "do advise them to hurry up and all be
married at once. We were just ready when Uncle fell ill, and now
we cannot wait a day later than the first of May."
"Rather short notice," laughed Rose, looking back with the
doorknob in her hand.
"We'll give up all our splendor, and do it as simply as you like, if
you will only come too. Think how lovely! Three weddings at
once! Do fly round and settle things there's a dear," implored Kitty,
whose imagination was fired with this romantic idea.
"How can I, when I have no bridegroom yet?" began Rose, with
conscious color in her telltale face.
"Sly creature! You know you've only got to say a word and have a
famous one. Una and her lion will be nothing to it," cried Steve,
bent on hastening his brother's affair, which was much too dilatory
and peculiar for his taste.
"He has been in no haste to come home, and I am in no haste to
leave it. Don't wait for me, 'Mr. and Mrs. Harry Walmers, Jr.,' I
shall be a year at least making up my mind, so you may lead off as
splendidly as you like and I'll profit by your experience." And Rose
vanished into the parlor, leaving Steve to groan over the perversity
of superior women and Kitty to comfort him by promising to
marry him on May Day "all alone."
A very different couple occupied the drawing room, but a happier
one, for they had known the pain of separation and were now
enjoying the bliss of a reunion which was to last unbroken for their
lives. Phebe sat in an easy chair, resting from her labors, pale and
thin and worn, but lovelier in Archie's eyes than ever before. It was
very evident that he was adoring his divinity, for, after placing a
footstool at her feet, he had forgotten to get up and knelt there with
his elbow on the arm of her chair, looking like a thirsty man
drinking long drafts of the purest water.
"Shall I disturb you if I pass through?" asked Rose, loath to spoil
the pretty tableau.
"Not if you stop a minute on the way and congratulate me, Cousin,
for she says 'yes' at last!" cried Archie, springing up to go and bring
her to the arms Phebe opened as she appeared.
"I knew she would reward your patience and put away her pride
when both had been duly tried," said Rose, laying the tired head on
her bosom with such tender admiration in her eyes that Phebe had
to shake some bright drops from her own before she could reply in
a tone of grateful humility that showed how much her heart was
touched: "How can I help it, when they are all so kind to me? Any
pride would melt away under such praise and thanks and loving
wishes as I've had today, for every member of the family has taken
pains to welcome me, to express far too much gratitude, and to beg
me to be one of you. I needed very little urging, but when Archie's
father and mother came and called me 'daughter,' I would have
promised anything to show my love for them."
"And him," added Rose, but Archie seemed quite satisfied and
kissed the hand he held as if it had been that of a beloved princess
while he said with all the pride Phebe seemed to have lost: "Think
what she gives up for me fame and fortune and the admiration of
many a better man. You don't know what a splendid prospect she
has of becoming one of the sweet singers who are loved and
honored everywhere, and all this she puts away for my sake,
content to sing for me alone, with no reward but love."
"I am so glad to make a little sacrifice for a great happiness I never
shall regret it or think my music lost if it makes home cheerful for
my mate. Birds sing sweetest in their own nests, you know." And
Phebe bent toward him with a look and gesture which plainly
showed how willingly she offered up all ambitious hopes upon the
altar of a woman's happy love.
Both seemed to forget that they were not alone, and in a moment
they were, for a sudden impulse carried Rose to the door of her
sanctum, as if the south wind which seemed to have set in was
wafting this little ship also toward the Islands of the Blessed,
where the others were safely anchored now.
The room was a blaze of sunshine and a bower of spring freshness
and fragrance, for here Rose had let her fancy have free play, and
each garland, fern, and flower had its meaning. Mac seemed to
have been reading this sweet language of symbols, to have guessed
why Charlie's little picture was framed in white roses, why pansies
hung about his own, why Psyche was half hidden among feathery
sprays of maidenhair, and a purple passion flower lay at Cupid's
feet. The last fancy evidently pleased him, for he was smiling over
it, and humming to himself as if to beguile his patient waiting, the
burden of the air Rose had so often sung to him:
"Bonny lassie, will ye gang, will ye gang
To the birks of Aberfeldie?"
"Yes, Mac, anywhere!"
He had not heard her enter, and wheeling around, looked at her
with a radiant face as he said, drawing a long breath, "At last! You
were so busy over the dear man, I got no word. But I can wait I'm
used to it."
Rose stood quite still, surveying him with a new sort of reverence
in her eyes, as she answered with a sweet solemnity that made him
laugh and redden with the sensitive joy of one to whom praise
from her lips was very precious: "You forget that you are not the
Mac who went away. I should have run to meet my cousin, but I
did not dare to be familiar with the poet whom all begin to honor."
"You like the mixture, then? You know I said I'd try to give you
love and poetry together."
"Like it! I'm so glad, so proud, I haven't any words strong and
beautiful enough to half express my wonder and my admiration.
How could you do it, Mac?" And a whole face full of smiles broke
loose as Rose clapped her hands, looking as if she could dance
with sheer delight.
"It did itself, up there among the hills, and here with you, or out
alone upon the sea. I could write a heavenly poem this very
minute, and put you in as Spring you look like her in that green
gown with snowdrops in your bonny hair. Rose, am I getting on a
little? Does a hint of fame help me nearer to the prize I'm working
for? Is your heart more willing to be won?"
He did not stir a step, but looked at her with such intense longing
that his glance seemed to draw her nearer like an irresistible
appeal, for she went and stood before him, holding out both hands,
as if she offered all her little store, as she said with simplest
sincerity: "It is not worth so much beautiful endeavor, but if you
still want so poor a thing, it is yours."
He caught her hands in his and seemed about to take the rest of
her, but hesitated for an instant, unable to believe that so much
happiness was true.
"Are you sure, Rose very sure? Don't let a momentary admiration
blind you I'm not a poet yet, and the best are but mortal men, you
"It is not admiration, Mac."
"Nor gratitude for the small share I've taken in saving Uncle? I had
my debt to pay, as well as Phebe, and was as glad to risk my life."
"No it is not gratitude."
"Nor pity for my patience? I've only done a little yet, and I am as
far as ever from being like your hero. I can work and wait still
longer if you are not sure, for I must have all or nothing."
"Oh, Mac! Why will you be so doubtful? You said you'd make me
love you, and you've done it. Will you believe me now?" And, with
a sort of desperation, she threw herself into his arms, clinging
there in eloquent silence while he held her close; feeling, with a
thrill of tender triumph, that this was no longer little Rose, but a
loving woman, ready to live and die for him.
"Now I'm satisfied!" he said presently, when she lifted up her face,
full of maidenly shame at the sudden passion which had carried
her out of herself for a moment. "No don't slip away so soon. Let
me keep you for one blessed minute and feel that I have really
found my Psyche."
"And I my Cupid," answered Rose, laughing, in spite of her
emotion, at the idea of Mac in that sentimental character.
He laughed, too, as only a happy lover could, then said, with
sudden seriousness: "Sweet soul! Lift up your lamp and look well
before it is too late, for I'm no god, only a very faulty man."
"Dear love! I will. But I have no fear, except that you will fly too
high for me to follow, because I have no wings."
"You shall live the poetry, and I will write it, so my little gift will
celebrate your greater one."
"No you shall have all the fame, and I'll be content to be known
only as the poet's wife."
"And I'll be proud to own that my best inspiration comes from the
beneficent life of a sweet and noble woman."
"Oh, Mac! We'll work together and try to make the world better by
the music and the love we leave behind us when we go."
"Please God, we will!" he answered fervently and, looking at her
as she stood there in the spring sunshine, glowing with the tender
happiness, high hopes, and earnest purposes that make life
beautiful and sacred, he felt that now the last leaf had folded back,
the golden heart lay open to the light, and his Rose had bloomed.