by Louisa M. Alcott
The Author is quite aware of the defects of this little story, many
of which were unavoidable, as it first appeared serially. But, as
Uncle Alec's experiment was intended to amuse the young folks,
rather than suggest educational improvements for the
consideration of the elders, she trusts that these shortcomings will
be overlooked by the friends of the Eight Cousins, and she will try
to make amends in a second volume, which shall attempt to show
The Rose in Bloom.
Chapter 1 - Two Girls
Rose sat all alone in the big best parlor, with her little
handkerchief laid ready to catch the first tear, for she was thinking
of her troubles, and a shower was expected. She had retired to this
room as a good place in which to be miserable; for it was dark and
still, full of ancient furniture, sombre curtains, and hung all around
with portraits of solemn old gentlemen in wigs, severe-nosed
ladies in top-heavy caps, and staring children in little bob-tailed
coats or short-waisted frocks. It was an excellent place for woe;
and the fitful spring rain that pattered on the window-pane seemed
to sob, "Cry away: I'm with you."
Rose really did have some cause to be sad; for she had no mother,
and had lately lost her father also, which left her no home but this
with her great-aunts. She had been with them only a week, and,
though the dear old ladies had tried their best to make her happy,
they had not succeeded very well, for she was unlike any child they
had ever seen, and they felt very much as if they had the care of a
They had given her the freedom of the house, and for a day or two
she had amused herself roaming all over it, for it was a capital old
mansion, and was full of all manner of odd nooks, charming
rooms, and mysterious passages. Windows broke out in
unexpected places, little balconies overhung the garden most
romantically, and there was a long upper hall full of curiosities
from all parts of the world; for the Campbells had been
sea-captains for generations.
Aunt Plenty had even allowed Rose to rummage in her great china
closet a spicy retreat, rich in all the "goodies" that children love;
but Rose seemed to care little for these toothsome temptations;
and when that hope failed, Aunt Plenty gave up in despair.
Gentle Aunt Peace had tried all sorts of pretty needle-work, and
planned a doll's wardrobe that would have won the heart of even
an older child. But Rose took little interest in pink satin hats and
tiny hose, though she sewed dutifully till her aunt caught her
wiping tears away with the train of a wedding-dress, and that
discovery put an end to the sewing society.
Then both old ladies put their heads together and picked out the
model child of the neighbourhood to come and play with their
niece. But Ariadne Blish was the worst failure of all, for Rose
could not bear the sight of her, and said she was so like a wax doll
she longed to give her a pinch and see if she would squeak. So
prim little Ariadne was sent home, and the exhausted aunties left
Rose to her own devices for a day or two.
Bad weather and a cold kept her in-doors, and she spent most of
her time in the library where her father's books were stored. Here
she read a great deal, cried a little, and dreamed many of the
innocent bright dreams in which imaginative children find such
comfort and delight. This suited her better than anything else, but
it was not good for her, and she grew pale, heavy-eyed and listless,
though Aunt Plenty gave her iron enough to make a cooking-stove,
and Aunt Peace petted her like a poodle.
Seeing this, the poor aunties racked their brains for a new
amusement and determined to venture a bold stroke, though not
very hopeful of its success. They said nothing to Rose about their
plan for this Saturday afternoon, but let her alone till the time
came for the grand surprise, little dreaming that the odd child
would find pleasure for herself in a most unexpected quarter.
Before she had time to squeeze out a single tear a sound broke the
stillness, making her prick up her ears. It was only the soft twitter
of a bird, but it seemed to be a peculiarly gifted bird, for while she
listened the soft twitter changed to a lively whistle, then a trill, a
coo, a chirp, and ended in a musical mixture of all the notes, as if
the bird burst out laughing. Rose laughed also, and, forgetting her
woes, jumped up, saying eagerly
"It is a mocking-bird. Where is it?"
Running down the long hall, she peeped out at both doors, but saw
nothing feathered except a draggle-tailed chicken under a burdock
leaf. She listened again, and the sound seemed to be in the house.
Away she went, much excited by the chase, and following the
changeful song, it led her to the china-closet door.
"In there? How funny!" she said. But when she entered, not a bird
appeared except the everlastingly kissing swallows on the Canton
china that lined the shelves. All of a sudden Rose's face
brightened, and, softly opening the slide, she peered into the
kitchen. But the music had stopped, and all she saw was a girl in a
blue apron scrubbing the hearth. Rose stared about her for a
minute, and then asked abruptly
"Did you hear that mocking-bird?"
"I should call it a phebe-bird," answered the girl, looking up with a
twinkle in her black eyes.
"Where did it go?"
"It is here still."
"In my throat. Do you want to hear it?"
"Oh, yes! I'll come in." And Rose crept through the slide to the
wide shelf on the other side, being too hurried and puzzled to go
round by the door.
The girl wiped her hands, crossed her feet on the little island of
carpet where she was stranded in a sea of soap-suds, and then, sure
enough, out of her slender throat came the swallow's twitter, the
robin's whistle, the blue-jay's call, the thrush's song, the
wood-dove's coo, and many another familiar note, all ending as
before with the musical ecstacy of a bobolink singing and
swinging among the meadow grass on a bright June day.
Rose was so astonished that she nearly fell off her perch, and when
the little concert was over clapped her hands delightedly.
"Oh, it was lovely! Who taught you?"
"The birds," answered the girl, with a smile, as she fell to work
"It is very wonderful! I can sing, but nothing half so fine as that.
What is your name, please?"
"I've heard of phebe-birds; but I don't believe the real ones could
do that," laughed Rose, adding, as she watched with interest the
scattering of dabs of soft soap over the bricks, "May I stay and see
you work? It is very lonely in the parlor."
"Yes, indeed, if you want to," answered Phebe, wringing out her
cloth in a capable sort of way that impressed Rose very much.
"It must be fun to swash the water round and dig out the soap. I'd
love to do it, only aunt wouldn't like it, I suppose," said Rose, quite
taken with the new employment.
"You'd soon get tired, so you'd better keep tidy and look on."
"I suppose you help your mother a good deal?"
"I haven't got any folks."
"Why, where do you live, then?"
"I'm going to live here, I hope. Debby wants some one to help
round, and I've come to try for a week."
"I hope you will stay, for it is very dull," said Rose, who had taken
a sudden fancy to this girl, who sung like a bird and worked like a
"Hope I shall; for I'm fifteen now, and old enough to earn my own
living. You have come to stay a spell, haven't you?" asked Phebe,
looking up at her guest and wondering how life could be dull to a
girl who wore a silk frock, a daintily frilled apron, a pretty locket,
and had her hair tied up with a velvet snood.
"Yes, I shall stay till my uncle comes. He is my guardian now, and
I don't know what he will do with me. Have you a guardian?"
"My sakes, no! I was left on the poor-house steps a little mite of a
baby, and Miss Rogers took a liking to me, so I've been there ever
since. But she is dead now, and I take care of myself."
"How interesting! It is like Arabella Montgomery in the 'Gypsy's
Child.' Did you ever read that sweet story?" asked Rose, who was
fond of tales of found-lings, and had read many.
"I don't have any books to read, and all the spare time I get I run
off into the woods; that rests me better than stories," answered
Phebe, as she finished one job and began on another.
Rose watched her as she got out a great pan of beans to look over,
and wondered how it would seem to have life all work and no play.
Presently Phebe seemed to think it was her turn to ask questions,
and said, wistfully
"You've had lots of schooling, I suppose?"
"Oh, dear me, yes! I've been at boarding school nearly a year, and
I'm almost dead with lessons. The more I got, the more Miss
Power gave me, and I was so miserable that I 'most cried my eyes
out. Papa never gave me hard things to do, and he always taught
me so pleasantly I loved to study. Oh, we were so happy and so
fond of one another! But now he is gone, and I am left all alone."
The tear that would not come when Rose sat waiting for it came
now of its own accord two of them in fact and rolled down her
cheeks, telling the tale of love and sorrow better than any words
could do it.
For a minute there was no sound in the kitchen but the little
daughter's sobbing and the sympathetic patter of the rain. Phebe
stopped rattling her beans from one pan to another, and her eyes
were full of pity as they rested on the curly head bent down on
Rose's knee, for she saw that the heart under the pretty locket
ached with its loss, and the dainty apron was used to dry sadder
tears than any she had ever shed.
Somehow, she felt more contented with her brown calico gown
and blue-checked pinafore; envy changed to compassion; and if
she had dared she would have gone and hugged her afflicted guest.
Fearing that might not be considered proper, she said, in her
"I'm sure you ain't all alone with such a lot of folks belonging to
you, and all so rich and clever. You'll be petted to pieces, Debby
says, because you are the only girl in the family."
Phebe's last words made Rose smile in spite of her tears, and she
looked out from behind her apron with an April face, saying in a
tone of comic distress
"That's one of my troubles! I've got six aunts, and they all want me,
and I don't know any of them very well. Papa named this place the
Aunt-hill, and now I see why."
Phebe laughed with her as she said encouragingly,
"Everyone calls it so, and it's a real good name, for all the Mrs.
Campbells live handy by, and keep coming up to see the old
"I could stand the aunts, but there are dozens of cousins, dreadful
boys all of them, and I detest boys! Some of them came to see me
last Wednesday, but I was lying down, and when auntie came to
call me I went under the quilt and pretended to be asleep. I shall
have to see them some time, but I do dread it so." And Rose gave a
shudder, for, having lived alone with her invalid father, she knew
nothing of boys, and considered them a species of wild animal.
"Oh! I guess you'll like 'em. I've seen 'em flying round when they
come over from the Point, sometimes in their boats and sometimes
on horseback. If you like boats and horses, you'll enjoy yourself
"But I don't! I'm afraid of horses, and boats make me ill, and I hate
boys!" And poor Rose wrung her hands at the awful prospect
before her. One of these horrors alone she could have borne, but
all together were too much for her, and she began to think of a
speedy return to the detested school.
Phebe laughed at her woe till the beans danced in the pan, but tried
to comfort her by suggesting a means of relief.
"Perhaps your uncle will take you away where there ain't any boys.
Debby says he is a real kind man, and always bring heaps of nice
things when he comes."
"Yes, but you see that is another trouble, for I don't know Uncle
Alec at all. He hardly ever came to see us, though he sent me
pretty things very often. Now I belong to him, and shall have to
mind him, till I am eighteen. I may not like him a bit, and I fret
about it all the time."
"Well, I wouldn't borrow trouble, but have a real good time. I'm
sure I should think I was in clover if I had folks and money, and
nothing to do but enjoy myself," began Phebe, but got no further,
for a sudden rush and tumble outside made them both jump.
"It's thunder," said Phebe.
"It's a circus!" cried Rose, who from her elevated perch had caught
glimpses of a gay cart of some sort and several ponies with flying
manes and tails.
The sound died away, and the girls were about to continue their
confidences when old Debby appeared, looking rather cross and
sleepy after her nap.
"You are wanted in the parlor, Miss Rose."
"Has anybody come?"
"Little girls shouldn't ask questions, but do as they are bid," was all
Debby would answer.
"I do hope it isn't Aunt Myra; she always scares me out of my wits
asking how my cough is, and groaning over me as if I was going to
die," said Rose, preparing to retire the way she came, for the slide,
being cut for the admission of bouncing Christmas turkeys and
puddings, was plenty large enough for a slender girl.
"Guess you'll wish it was Aunt Myra when you see who has come.
Don't never let me catch you coming into my kitchen that way
again, or I'll shut you up in the big b'iler," growled Debby, who
thought it her duty to snub children on all occasions.
Chapter 2 - The Clan
Rose scrambled into the china-closet as rapidly as possible, and
there refreshed herself by making faces at Debby, while she settled
her plumage and screwed up her courage. Then she crept softly
down the hall and peeped into the parlor. No one appeared, and all
was so still she felt sure the company was upstairs. So she skipped
boldly through the half-open folding-doors, to behold on the other
side a sight that nearly took her breath away.
Seven boys stood in a row all ages, all sizes, all yellow-haired and
blue-eyed, all in full Scotch costume, and all smiling, nodding, and
saying as with one voice, "How are you, cousin?"
Rose gave a little gasp, and looked wildly about her as if ready to
fly, for fear magnified the seven and the room seemed full of boys.
Before she could run, however, the tallest lad stepped out of the
line, saying pleasantly
"Don't be frightened. This is the Clan come to welcome you; and
I'm the chief, Archie, at your service."
He held out his hand as he spoke, and Rose timidly put her own
into a brown paw, which closed over the white morsel and held it
as the chief continued his introductions.
"We came in full rig, for we always turn out in style on grand
occasions. Hope you like it. Now I'll tell you who these chaps are,
and then we shall be all right. This big one is Prince Charlie, Aunt
Clara's boy. She has but one, so he is an extra good one. This old
fellow is Mac, the bookworm, called Worm for short. This sweet
creature is Steve the Dandy. Look at his gloves and top-knot, if you
please. They are Aunt Jane's lads, and a precious pair you'd better
believe. These are the Brats, my brothers, Geordie and Will, and
Jamie the Baby. Now, my men, step out and show your manners."
At this command, to Rose's great dismay, six more hands were
offered, and it was evident that she was expected to shake them
all. It was a trying moment to the bashful child; but, remembering
that they were her kinsmen come to welcome her, she tried her
best to return the greeting cordially.
This impressive ceremony being over, the Clan broke ranks, and
both rooms instantly appeared to be pervaded with boys. Rose
hastily retired to the shelter of a big chair and sat there watching
the invaders and wondering when her aunt would come and rescue
As if bound to do their duty manfully, yet rather oppressed by it,
each lad paused beside her chair in his wanderings, made a brief
remark, received a still briefer answer, and then sheered off with a
Archie came first, and, leaning over the chair-back, observed in a
"I'm glad you've come, cousin, and I hope you'll find the Aunt-hill
"I think I shall."
Mac shook his hair out of his eyes, stumbled over a stool, and
"Did you bring any books with you?"
"Four boxes full. They are in the library."
Mac vanished from the room, and Steve, striking an attitude which
displayed his costume effectively, said with an affable smile
"We were sorry not to see you last Wednesday. I hope your cold is
"Yes, thank you." And a smile began to dimple about Rose's
mouth, as she remembered her retreat under the bed-cover.
Feeling that he had been received with distinguished marks of
attention, Steve strolled away with his topknot higher than ever,
and Prince Charlie pranced across the room, saying in a free and
"Mamma sent her love and hopes you will be well enough to come
over for a day next week. It must be desperately dull here for a
little thing like you."
"I'm thirteen and a half, though I do look small," cried Rose,
forgetting her shyness in indignation at this insult to her newly
"Beg pardon, ma'am; never should have guessed it." And Charlie
went off with a laugh, glad to have struck a spark out of his meek
Geordie and Will came together, two sturdy eleven and twelve
year olders, and, fixing their round blue eyes on Rose, fired off a
question apiece, as if it was a shooting match and she the target.
"Did you bring your monkey?"
"No; he is dead."
"Are you going to have a boat?"
"I hope not."
Here the two, with a right-about-face movement, abruptly marched
away, and little Jamie demanded with childish frankness
"Did you bring me anything nice?"
"Yes, lots of candy," answered Rose, whereupon Jamie ascended
into her lap with a sounding kiss and the announcement that he
liked her very much.
This proceeding rather startled Rose, for the other lads looked and
laughed, and in her confusion she said hastily to the young usurper
"Did you see the circus go by?"
"When? Where?" cried all the boys in great excitement at once.
"Just before you came. At least I thought it was a circus, for I saw
a red and black sort of cart and ever so many little ponies, and "
She got no farther, for a general shout made her pause suddenly, as
Archie explained the joke by saying in the middle of his laugh
"It was our new dog-cart and the Shetland ponies. You'll never
hear the last of your circus, cousin."
"But there were so many, and they went so fast, and the cart was so
very red," began Rose, trying to explain her mistake.
"Come and see them all!" cried the Prince. And before she knew
what was happening, she was borne away to the barn and
tumultuously introduced to three shaggy ponies and the gay new
She had never visited these regions before, and had her doubts as
to the propriety of her being there now, but when she suggested
that "Auntie might not like it," there was a general cry of
"She told us to amuse you, and we can do it ever so much better
out here than poking round in the house."
"I'm afraid I shall get cold without my sacque," began Rose, who
wanted to stay, but felt rather out of her element.
"No, you won't! We'll fix you," cried the lads, as one clapped his
cap on her head, another tied a rough jacket round her neck by the
sleeves, a third neatly smothered her in a carriage blanket, and a
fourth threw open the door of the old barouche that stood there,
saying with a flourish
"Step in, ma'am, and make yourself comfortable while we show
you some fun."
So Rose sat in state enjoying herself very much, for the lads
proceeded to dance a Highland Fling with a spirit and skill that
made her clap her hands and laugh as she had not done for weeks.
"How is that, my lassie?" asked the Prince, coming up all flushed
and breathless when the ballet was over.
"It was splendid! I never went to the theatre but once, and the
dancing was not half so pretty as this. What clever boys you must
be!" said Rose, smiling upon her kinsmen like a little queen upon
"Ah, we're a fine lot, and that is only the beginning of our larks.
We haven't got the pipes here or we'd
'Sing for you, play for you
A dulcy melody."'
answered Charlie, looking much elated at her praise.
"I did not know we were Scotch; papa never said anything about it,
or seemed to care about Scotland, except to have me sing the old
ballads," said Rose, beginning to feel as if she had left America
behind her somewhere.
"Neither did we till lately. We've been reading Scott's novels, and
all of a sudden we remembered that our grandfather was a
Scotchman. So we hunted up the old stories, got a bagpipe, put on
our plaids, and went in, heart and soul, for the glory of the Clan.
We've been at it some time now, and it's great fun. Our people like
it, and I think we are a pretty canny set."
Archie said this from the other coach-step, where he had perched,
while the rest climbed up before and behind to join in the chat as
"I'm Fitzjames and he's Roderick Dhu, and we'll give you the
broadsword combat some day. It's a great thing, you'd better
believe," added the Prince.
"Yes, and you should hear Steve play the pipes. He makes 'em skirl
like a good one," cried Will from the box, eager to air the
accomplishments of his race.
"Mac's the fellow to hunt up the old stories and tell us how to dress
right, and pick out rousing bits for us to speak and sing," put in
Geordie, saying a good word for the absent Worm.
"And what do you and Will do?" asked Rose of Jamie, who sat
beside her as if bound to keep her in sight till the promised gift had
been handed over.
"Oh, I'm the little foot-page, and do errands, and Will and Geordie
are the troops when we march, and the stags when we hunt, and
the traitors when we want to cut any heads off."
"They are very obliging, I'm sure," said Rose, whereat the "utility
men" beamed with modest pride and resolved to enact Wallace
and Montrose as soon as possible for their cousin's special benefit.
"Let's have a game of tag," cried the Prince, swinging himself up to
a beam with a sounding slap on Stevie's shoulder.
Regardless of his gloves, Dandy tore after him, and the rest
swarmed in every direction as if bent on breaking their necks and
dislocating their joints as rapidly as possible.
It was a new and astonishing spectacle to Rose, fresh from a prim
boarding-school, and she watched the active lads with breathless
interest, thinking their antics far superior to those of Mops, the
dear departed monkey.
Will had just covered himself with glory by pitching off a high loft
head first and coming up all right, when Phebe appeared with a
cloak, hood, and rubbers, also a message from Aunt Plenty that
"Miss Rose was to come in directly."
"All right; we'll bring her!" answered Archie, issuing some
mysterious order, which was so promptly obeyed that, before Rose
could get out of the carriage, the boys had caught hold of the pole
and rattled her out of the barn, round the oval and up to the front
door with a cheer that brought two caps to an upper window, and
caused Debby to cry aloud from the back porch
"Them harum-scarum boys will certainly be the death of that
delicate little creter!"
But the "delicate little creter" seemed all the better for her trip, and
ran up the steps looking rosy, gay, and dishevelled, to be received
with lamentation by Aunt Plenty, who begged her to go and lie
down at once.
"Oh, please don't! We have come to tea with our cousin, and we'll
be as good as gold if you'll let us stay, auntie," clamoured the boys,
who not only approved of "our cousin" but had no mind to lose
their tea, for Aunt Plenty's name but feebly expressed her bountiful
"Well, dears, you can; only be quiet, and let Rose go and take her
iron and be made tidy, and then we will see what we can find for
supper," said the old lady as she trotted away, followed by a volley
of directions for the approaching feast.
"Marmalade for me, auntie."
"Plenty of plum-cake, please."
"Tell Debby to trot out the baked pears."
"I'm your man for lemon-pie, ma'am."
"Do have fritters; Rose will like 'em."
"She'd rather have tarts, I know."
When Rose came down, fifteen minutes later, with every curl
smoothed and her most beruffled apron on, she found the boys
loafing about the long hall, and paused on the half-way landing to
take an observation, for till now she had not really examined her
There was a strong family resemblance among them, though some
of the yellow heads were darker than others, some of the cheeks
brown instead of rosy, and the ages varied all the way from
sixteen-year-old Archie to Jamie, who was ten years younger.
None of them were especially comely but the Prince, yet all were
hearty, happy-looking lads, and Rose decided that boys were not as
dreadful as she had expected to find them.
They were all so characteristically employed that she could not
help smiling as she looked. Archie and Charlie, evidently great
cronies, were pacing up and down, shoulder to shoulder, whistling
"Bonnie Dundee"; Mac was reading in a corner, with his book
close to his near-sighted eyes; Dandy was arranging his hair before
the oval glass in the hat-stand; Geordie and Will investigating the
internal economy of the moon-faced clock; and Jamie lay kicking
up his heels on the mat at the foot of the stairs, bent on demanding
his sweeties the instant Rose appeared.
She guessed his intention, and forestalled his demand by dropping
a handful of sugar-plums down upon him.
At his cry of rapture the other lads looked up and smiled
involuntarily, for the little kinswoman standing there above was a
winsome sight with her shy, soft eyes, bright hair, and laughing
face. The black frock reminded them of her loss, and filled the
boyish hearts with a kindly desire to be good to "our cousin," who
had no longer any home but this.
"There she is, as fine as you please," cried Steve, kissing his hand
"Come on, Missy; tea is ready," added the Prince encouragingly.
"I shall take her in." And Archie offered his arm with great dignity,
an honour that made Rose turn as red as a cherry and long to run
It was a merry supper, and the two elder boys added much to the
fun by tormenting the rest with dark hints of some interesting
event which was about to occur. Something uncommonly fine,
they declared it was, but enveloped in the deepest mystery for the
"Did I ever see it?" asked Jamie.
"Not to remember it; but Mac and Steve have, and liked it
immensely," answered Archie, thereby causing the two mentioned
to neglect Debby's delectable fritters for several minutes, while
they cudgelled their brains.
"Who will have it first?" asked Will, with his mouth full of
"Aunt Plenty, I guess."
"When will she have it?" demanded Geordie, bouncing in his seat
"Sometime on Monday."
"Heart alive! what is the boy talking about?" cried the old lady
from behind the tall urn, which left little to be seen but the
topmost bow of her cap.
"Doesn't auntie know?" asked a chorus of voices.
"No; and that's the best of the joke, for she is desperately fond of
"What colour is it?" asked Rose, joining in the fun.
"Blue and brown."
"Is it good to eat?" asked Jamie.
"Some people think so, but I shouldn't like to try it," answered
Charlie, laughing so he split his tea.
"Who does it belong to?" put in Steve.
Archie and the Prince stared at one another rather blankly for a
minute, then Archie answered with a twinkle of the eye that made
Charlie explode again
"To Grandfather Campbell."
This was a poser, and they gave up the puzzle, though Jamie
confided to Rose that he did not think he could live till Monday
without knowing what this remarkable thing was.
Soon after tea the Clan departed, singing "All the blue bonnets are
over the border," at the tops of their voices.
"Well, dear, how do you like your cousins?" asked Aunt Plenty, as
the last pony frisked round the corner and the din died away.
"Pretty well, ma'am; but I like Phebe better." An answer which
caused Aunt Plenty to hold up her hands in despair and trot away
to tell sister Peace that she never should understand that child, and
it was a mercy Alec was coming soon to take the responsibility off
Fatigued by the unusual exertions of the afternoon, Rose curled
herself up in the sofa corner to rest and think about the great
mystery, little guessing that she was to know it first of all.
Right in the middle of her meditations she fell asleep and dreamed
she was at home again in her own little bed. She seemed to wake
and see her father bending over her; to hear him say, "My little
Rose"; to answer, "Yes, papa"; and then to feel him take her in his
arms and kiss her tenderly. So sweet, so real was the dream, that
she started up with a cry of joy to find herself in the arms of a
brown, bearded man, who held her close, and whispered in a voice
so like her father's that she clung to him involuntarily
"This is my little girl, and I am Uncle Alec."
Chapter 3 - Uncles
When Rose woke next morning, she was not sure whether she had
dreamed what occurred the night before, or it had actually
happened. So she hopped up and dressed, although it was an hour
earlier than she usually rose, for she could not sleep any more,
being possessed with a strong desire to slip down and see if the big
portmanteau and packing cases were really in the hall. She seemed
to remember tumbling over them when she went to bed, for the
aunts had sent her off very punctually, because they wanted their
pet nephew all to themselves.
The sun was shining, and Rose opened her window to let in the
soft May air fresh from the sea. As she leaned over her little
balcony, watching an early bird get the worm, and wondering how
she should like Uncle Alec, she saw a man leap the garden wall
and come whistling up the path. At first she thought it was some
trespasser, but a second look showed her that it was her uncle
returning from an early dip into the sea. She had hardly dared to
look at him the night before, because whenever she tried to do so
she always found a pair of keen blue eyes looking at her. Now she
could take a good stare at him as he lingered along, looking about
him as if glad to see the old place again.
A brown, breezy man, in a blue jacket, with no hat on the curly
head, which he shook now and then like a water dog;
broad-shouldered, alert in his motions, and with a general air of
strength and stability about him which pleased Rose, though she
could not explain the feeling of comfort it gave her. She had just
said to herself, with a sense of relief, "I guess I shall like him,
though he looks as if he made people mind," when he lifted his
eyes to examine the budding horse-chestnut overhead, and saw the
eager face peering down at him. He waved his hand to her,
nodded, and called out in a bluff, cheery voice
"You are on deck early, little niece."
"I got up to see if you had really come, uncle."
"Did you? Well, come down here and make sure of it."
"I'm not allowed to go out before breakfast, sir."
"Oh, indeed!" with a shrug. "Then I'll come aboard and salute," he
added; and, to Rose's great amazement, Uncle Alec went up one of
the pillars of the back piazza hand over hand, stepped across the
roof, and swung himself into her balcony, saying, as he landed on
the wide balustrade: "Have you any doubts about me now, ma'am?"
Rose was so taken aback, she could only answer with a smile as
she went to meet him.
"How does my girl do this morning?" he asked, taking the little
cold hand she gave him in both his big warm ones.
"Pretty well, thank you, sir."
"Ah, but it should be very well. Why isn't it?"
"I always wake up with a headache, and feel tired."
"Don't you sleep well?"
"I lie awake a long time, and then I dream, and my sleep does not
seem to rest me much."
"What do you do all day?"
"Oh, I read, and sew a little, and take naps, and sit with auntie."
"No running about out of doors, or house-work, or riding, hey?"
"Aunt Plenty says I'm not strong enough for much exercise. I drive
out with her sometimes, but I don't care for it."
"I'm not surprised at that," said Uncle Alec, half to himself, adding,
in his quick way: "Who have you had to play with?"
"No one but Ariadne Blish, and she was such a goose I couldn't
bear her. The boys came yesterday, and seemed rather nice; but, of
course, I couldn't play with them."
"I'm too old to play with boys."
"Not a bit of it; that's just what you need, for you've been
molly-coddled too much. They are good lads, and you'll be mixed
up with them more or less for years to come, so you may as well
be friends and playmates at once. I will look you up some girls
also, if I can find a sensible one who is not spoilt by her
"Phebe is sensible, I'm sure, and I like her, though I only saw her
yesterday," cried Rose, waking up suddenly.
"And who is Phebe, if you please?"
Rose eagerly told all she knew, and Uncle Alec listened, with an
odd smile lurking about his mouth, though his eyes were quite
sober as he watched the face before him.
"I'm glad to see that you are not aristocratic in your tastes, but I
don't quite make out why you like this young lady from the
"You may laugh at me, but I do. I can't tell why, only she seems so
happy and busy, and sings so beautifully, and is strong enough to
scrub and sweep, and hasn't any troubles to plague her," said Rose,
making a funny jumble of reasons in her efforts to explain.
"How do you know that?"
"Oh, I was telling her about mine, and asked if she had any, and
she said, 'No, only I'd like to go to school, and I mean to some
"So she doesn't call desertion, poverty, and hard work, troubles?
She's a brave little girl, and I shall be proud to know her." And
Uncle Alec gave an approving nod, that made Rose wish she had
been the one to earn it.
"But what are these troubles of yours, child?" he asked, after a
minute of silence.
"Please don't ask me, uncle."
"Can't you tell them to me as well as to Phebe?"
Something in his tone made Rose feel that it would be better to
speak out and be done with it, so she answered, with sudden colour
and averted eyes
"The greatest one was losing dear papa."
As she said that, Uncle Alec's arm came gently round her, and he
drew her to him, saying, in the voice so like papa's
"That is a trouble which I cannot cure, my child; but I shall try to
make you feel it less. What else, dear?"
"I am so tired and poorly all the time, I can't do anything I want to,
and it makes me cross," sighed Rose, rubbing the aching head like
a fretful child.
"That we can cure and we will," said her uncle, with a decided nod
that made the curls bob on his head, to that Rose saw the gray ones
underneath the brown.
"Aunt Myra says I have no constitution, and never shall be strong,"
observed Rose, in a pensive tone, as if it was rather a nice thing to
be an invalid.
"Aunt Myra is a ahem! an excellent woman, but it is her hobby to
believe that everyone is tottering on the brink of the grave; and,
upon my life, I believe she is offended if people don't fall into it!
We will show her how to make constitutions and turn pale-faced
little ghosts into rosy, hearty girls. That's my business, you know,"
he added, more quietly, for his sudden outburst had rather startled
"I had forgotten you were a doctor. I'm glad of it, for I do want to
be well, only I hope you won't give me much medicine, for I've
taken quarts already, and it does me no good."
As she spoke, Rose pointed to a little table just inside the window,
on which appeared a regiment of bottles.
"Ah, ha! Now we'll see what mischief these blessed women have
been at." And, making a long arm, Dr. Alec set the bottles on the
wide railing before him, examined each carefully, smiled over
some, frowned over others, and said, as he put down the last: "Now
I'll show you the best way to take these messes." And, as quick as a
flash, he sent one after another smashing down into the posy-beds
"But Aunt Plenty won't like it; and Aunt Myra will be angry, for
she sent most of them!" cried Rose, half frightened and half
pleased at such energetic measures.
"You are my patient now, and I'll take the responsibility. My way
of giving physic is evidently the best, for you look better already,"
he said, laughing so infectiously that Rose followed suit, saying
"If I don't like your medicines any better than those, I shall throw
them into the garden, and then what will you do?"
"When I prescribe such rubbish, I'll give you leave to pitch it
overboard as soon as you like. Now what is the next trouble?"
"I hoped you would forget to ask."
"But how can I help you if I don't know them? Come, let us have
"It is very wrong, I suppose, but I do sometimes wish I had not
quite so many aunts. They are all very good to me, and I want to
please them; but they are so different, I feel sort of pulled to pieces
among them," said Rose, trying to express the emotions of a stray
chicken with six hens all clucking over it at once.
Uncle Alec threw back his head and laughed like a boy, for he
could entirely understand how the good ladies had each put in her
oar and tried to paddle her own way, to the great disturbance of the
waters and the entire bewilderment of poor Rose.
"I intend to try a course of uncles now, and see how that suits your
constitution. I'm going to have you all to myself, and no one is to
give a word of advice unless I ask it. There is no other way to keep
order aboard, and I am captain of this little craft, for a time at
least. What comes next?"
But Rose stuck there, and grew so red, her uncle guessed what that
"I don't think I can tell this one. It wouldn't be polite, and I feel
pretty sure that it isn't going to be a trouble any more."
As she blushed and stammered over these words, Dr. Alec turned
his eyes away to the distant sea, and said so seriously, so tenderly,
that she felt every word and long remembered them
"My child, I don't expect you to love and trust me all at once, but I
do want you to believe that I shall give my whole heart to this new
duty; and if I make mistakes, as I probably shall, no one will grieve
over them more bitterly than I. It is my fault that I am a stranger to
you, when I want to be your best friend. That is one of my
mistakes, and I never repented it more deeply than I do now. Your
father and I had a trouble once, and I thought I could never forgive
him; so I kept away for years. Thank God, we made it all up the
last time I saw him, and he told me then, that if he was forced to
leave her he should bequeath his little girl to me as a token of his
love. I can't fill his place, but I shall try to be a father to her; and if
she learns to love me half as well as she did the good one she has
lost, I shall be a proud and happy man. Will she believe this and
Something in Uncle Alec's face touched Rose to the heart, and
when he held out his hand with that anxious troubled look in his
eyes, she was moved to put up her innocent lips and seal the
contract with a confiding kiss. The strong arm held her close a
minute, and she felt the broad chest heave once as if with a great
sigh of relief; but not a word was spoken till a tap at the door made
Rose popped her head through the window to say "come in," while
Dr. Alec hastily rubbed the sleeve of his jacket across his eyes and
began to whistle again.
Phebe appeared with a cup of coffee.
"Debby told me to bring this and help you get up," she said,
opening her black eyes wide, as if she wondered how on earth "the
sailor man" got there.
"I'm all dressed, so I don't need any help. I hope that is good and
strong," added Rose, eyeing the steaming cup with an eager look.
But she did not get it, for a brown hand took possession of it as her
uncle said quickly
"Hold hard, my lass, and let me overhaul that dose before you take
it. Do you drink all this strong coffee every morning, Rose?"
"Yes, sir, and I like it. Auntie says it 'tones' me up, and I always
feel better after it."
"This accounts for the sleepless nights, the flutter your heart gets
into at the least start, and this is why that cheek of yours is pale
yellow instead of rosy red. No more coffee for you, my dear, and
by and by you'll see that I am right. Any new milk downstairs,
"Yes, sir, plenty right in from the barn."
"That's the drink for my patient. Go bring me a pitcherful, and
another cup; I want a draught myself. This won't hurt the
honeysuckles, for they have no nerves to speak of." And, to Rose's
great discomfort, the coffee went after the medicine.
Dr. Alec saw the injured look she put on, but took no notice, and
presently banished it by saying pleasantly
"I've got a capital little cup among my traps, and I'll give it to you
to drink your milk in, as it is made of wood that is supposed to
improve whatever is put into it something like a quassia cup. That
reminds me; one of the boxes Phebe wanted to lug upstairs last
night is for you. Knowing that I was coming home to find a
ready-made daughter, I picked up all sorts of odd and pretty trifles
along the way, hoping she would be able to find something she
liked among them all. Early to-morrow we'll have a grand
rummage. Here's our milk! I propose the health of Miss Rose
Campbell and drink it with all my heart."
It was impossible for Rose to pout with the prospect of a delightful
boxful of gifts dancing before her eyes; so, in spite of herself, she
smiled as she drank her own health, and found that fresh milk was
not a hard dose to take.
"Now I must be off, before I am caught again with my wig in a
toss," said Dr. Alec, preparing to descend the way he came.
"Do you always go in and out like a cat, uncle?" asked Rose, much
amused at his odd ways.
"I used to sneak out of my window when I was a boy, so I need not
disturb the aunts, and now I rather like it, for it's the shortest road,
and it keeps me limber when I have no rigging to climb. Good-bye
till breakfast." And away he went down the water-spout, over the
roof, and vanished among the budding honey-suckles below.
"Ain't he a funny guardeen?" exclaimed Phebe, as she went off
with the cups.
"He is a very kind one, I think," answered Rose, following, to
prowl round the big boxes and try to guess which was hers.
When her uncle appeared at sound of the bell, he found her
surveying with an anxious face a new dish that smoked upon the
"Got a fresh trouble, Rosy?" he asked, stroking her smooth head.
"Uncle, are you going to make me eat oatmeal?" asked Rose, in a
"Don't you like it?"
"I de-test it!" answered Rose, with all the emphasis which a
turned-up nose, a shudder, and a groan could give to the three
"You are not a true Scotchwoman, if you don't like the 'parritch.'
It's a pity, for I made it myself, and thought we'd have such a good
time with all that cream to float it in. Well, never mind." And he
sat down with a disappointed air.
Rose had made up her mind to be obstinate about it, because she
did heartily "detest" the dish; but as Uncle Alec did not attempt to
make her obey, she suddenly changed her mind and thought she
"I'll try to eat it to please you, uncle; but people are always saying
how wholesome it is, and that makes me hate it," she said,
half-ashamed at her silly excuse.
"I do want you to like it, because I wish my girl to be as well and
strong as Jessie's boys, who are brought up on this in the good old
fashion. No hot bread and fried stuff for them, and they are the
biggest and bonniest lads of the lot. Bless you, auntie, and good
Dr. Alec turned to greet the old lady, and, with a firm resolve to
eat or die in the attempt, Rose sat down.
In five minutes she forgot what she was eating, so interested was
she in the chat that went on. It amused her very much to hear Aunt
Plenty call her forty-year-old nephew "my dear boy"; and Uncle
Alec was so full of lively gossip about all creation in general, and
the Aunt-hill in particular, that the detested porridge vanished
without a murmur.
"You will go to church with us, I hope, Alec, if you are not too
tired," said the old lady, when breakfast was over.
"I came all the way from Calcutta for that express purpose, ma'am.
Only I must send the sisters word of my arrival, for they don't
expect me till to-morrow, you know, and there will be a row in
church if those boys see me without warning."
"I'll send Ben up the hill, and you can step over to Myra's yourself;
it will please her, and you will have plenty of time."
Dr. Alec was off at once, and they saw no more of him till the old
barouche was at the door, and Aunt Plenty just rustling downstairs
in her Sunday best, with Rose like a little black shadow behind
Away they drove in state, and all the way Uncle Alec's hat was
more off his head than on, for everyone they met smiled and
bowed, and gave him as blithe a greeting as the day permitted.
It was evident that the warning had been a wise one, for, in spite of
time and place, the lads were in such a ferment that their elders sat
in momentary dread of an unseemly outbreak somewhere. It was
simply impossible to keep those fourteen eyes off Uncle Alec, and
the dreadful things that were done during sermon-time will hardly
Rose dared not look up after a while, for these bad boys vented
their emotions upon her till she was ready to laugh and cry with
mingled amusement and vexation. Charlie winked rapturously at
her behind his mother's fan; Mac openly pointed to the tall figure
beside her; Jamie stared fixedly over the back of his pew, till Rose
thought his round eyes would drop out of his head; George fell
over a stool and dropped three books in his excitement; Will drew
sailors and Chinamen on his clean cuffs, and displayed them, to
Rose's great tribulation; Steve nearly upset the whole party by
burning his nose with salts, as he pretended to be overcome by his
joy; even dignified Archie disgraced himself by writing in his
hymn book, "Isn't he blue and brown?" and passing it politely to
Her only salvation was trying to fix her attention upon Uncle Mac
a portly, placid gentleman, who seemed entirely unconscious of
the iniquities of the Clan, and dozed peacefully in his pew corner.
This was the only uncle Rose had met for years, for Uncle Jem and
Uncle Steve, the husbands of Aunt Jessie and Aunt Clara, were at
sea, and Aunt Myra was a widow. Uncle Mac was a merchant, very
rich and busy, and as quiet as a mouse at home, for he was in such
a minority among the women folk he dared not open his lips, and
let his wife rule undisturbed.
Rose liked the big, kindly, silent man who came to her when papa
died, was always sending her splendid boxes of goodies at school,
and often invited her into his great warehouse, full of teas and
spices, wines and all sorts of foreign fruits, there to eat and carry
away whatever she liked. She had secretly regretted that he was
not to be her guardian; but since she had seen Uncle Alec she felt
better about it, for she did not particularly admire Aunt Jane.
When church was over, Dr. Alec got into the porch as quickly as
possible, and there the young bears had a hug all round, while the
sisters shook hands and welcomed him with bright faces and glad
hearts. Rose was nearly crushed flat behind a door in that
dangerous passage from pew to porch; but Uncle Mac rescued her,
and put her into the carriage for safe keeping.
"Now, girls, I want you to come and dine with Alec; Mac also, of
course. But I cannot ask the boys, for we did not expect this dear
fellow till tomorrow, you know, so I made no preparations. Send
the lads home, and let them wait till Monday, for really I was
shocked at their behaviour in church," said Aunt Plenty, as she
In any other place the defrauded boys would have set up a howl; as
it was, they growled and protested till Dr. Alec settled the matter
"Never mind, old chaps, I'll make it up to you to-morrow, if you
sheer off quietly; if you don't, not a blessed thing shall you have
out of my big boxes."
Chapter 4 - Aunts
All dinner-time Rose felt that she was going to be talked about,
and afterward she was sure of it, for Aunt Plenty whispered to her
as they went into the parlour
"Run up and sit awhile with Sister Peace, my dear. She likes to
have you read while she rests, and we are going to be busy."
Rose obeyed, and the quiet rooms above were so like a church that
she soon composed her ruffled feelings, and was unconsciously a
little minister of happiness to the sweet old lady, who for years had
sat there patiently waiting to be set free from pain.
Rose knew the sad romance of her life, and it gave a certain tender
charm to this great-aunt of hers, whom she already loved. When
Peace was twenty, she was about to be married; all was done, the
wedding dress lay ready, the flowers were waiting to be put on, the
happy hour at hand, when word came that the lover was dead.
They thought that gentle Peace would die, too; but she bore it
bravely, put away her bridal gear, took up her life afresh, and lived
on a beautiful, meek woman, with hair as white as snow and
cheeks that never bloomed again. She wore no black, but soft, pale
colours, as if always ready for the marriage that had never come.
For thirty years she had lived on, fading slowly, but cheerful, busy,
and full of interest in all that went on in the family; especially the
joys and sorrows of the young girls growing up about her, and to
them she was adviser, confidante, and friend in all their tender
trials and delights. A truly beautiful old maiden, with her silvery
hair, tranquil face, and an atmosphere of repose about her that
soothed whoever came to her!
Aunt Plenty was utterly dissimilar, being a stout, brisk old lady,
with a sharp eye, a lively tongue, and a face like a winter-apple.
Always trotting, chatting, and bustling, she was a regular Martha,
cumbered with the cares of this world and quite happy in them.
Rose was right; and while she softly read psalms to Aunt Peace,
the other ladies were talking about her little self in the frankest
"Well, Alec, how do you like your ward?" began Aunt Jane, as they
all settled down, and Uncle Mac deposited himself in a corner to
finish his doze.
"I should like her better if I could have begun at the beginning, and
so got a fair start. Poor George led such a solitary life that the child
has suffered in many ways, and since he died she has been going
on worse than ever, judging from the state I find her in."
"My dear boy, we did what we thought best while waiting for you
to wind up your affairs and get home. I always told George he was
wrong to bring her up as he did; but he never took my advice, and
now here we are with this poor dear child upon our hands. I, for
one, freely confess that I don't know what to do with her any more
than if she was one of those strange, outlandish birds you used to
bring home from foreign parts." And Aunt Plenty gave a perplexed
shake of the head which caused great commotion among the stiff
loops of purple ribbon that bristled all over the cap like crocus
"If my advice had been taken, she would have remained at the
excellent school where I placed her. But our aunt thought best to
remove her because she complained, and she has been dawdling
about ever since she came. A most ruinous state of things for a
morbid, spoilt girl like Rose," said Mrs. Jane, severely.
She had never forgiven the old ladies for yielding to Rose's
pathetic petition that she might wait her guardian's arrival before
beginning another term at the school, which was a regular Blimber
hot-bed, and turned out many a feminine Toots.
"I never thought it the proper school for a child in good
circumstances an heiress, in fact, as Rose is. It is all very well for
girls who are to get their own living by teaching, and that sort of
thing; but all she needs is a year or two at a fashionable finishing
school, so that at eighteen she can come out with eclat," put in
Aunt Clara, who had been a beauty and a belle, and was still a
"Dear, dear! how short-sighted you all are to be discussing
education and plans for the future, when this unhappy child is so
plainly marked for the tomb," sighed Aunt Myra, with a lugubrious
sniff and a solemn wag of the funereal bonnet, which she refused
to remove, being afflicted with a chronic catarrh.
"Now, it is my opinion that the dear thing only wants freedom,
rest, and care. There is look in her eyes that goes to my heart, for it
shows that she feels the need of what none of us can give her a
mother," said Aunt Jessie, with tears in her own bright eyes at the
thought of her boys being left, as Rose was, to the care of others.
Uncle Alec, who had listened silently as each spoke, turned
quickly towards the last sister, and said, with a decided nod of
"You've got it, Jessie; and, with you to help me, I hope to make the
child feel that she is not quite fatherless and motherless."
"I'll do my best, Alec; and I think you will need me, for, wise as
you are, you cannot understand a tender, timid little creature like
Rose as a woman can," said Mrs. Jessie, smiling back at him with
a heart full of motherly goodwill.
"I cannot help feeling that I, who have had a daughter of my own,
can best bring up a girl; and I am very much surprised that George
did not entrust her to me," observed Aunt Myra, with an air of
melancholy importance, for she was the only one who had given a
daughter to the family, and she felt that she had distinguished
herself, though ill-natured people said that she had dosed her
darling to death.
"I never blamed him in the least, when I remember the perilous
experiments you tried with poor Carrie," began Mrs. Jane, in her
"Jane Campbell, I will not hear a word! My sainted Caroline is a
sacred object," cried Aunt Myra, rising as if to leave the room.
Dr. Alec detained her, feeling that he must define his position at
once, and maintain it manfully if he hoped to have any success in
his new undertaking.
"Now, my dear souls, don't let us quarrel and make Rose a bone of
contention though, upon my word, she is almost a bone, poor little
lass! You have had her among you for a year, and done what you
liked. I cannot say that your success is great, but that is owing to
too many fingers in the pie. Now, I intend to try my way for a year,
and if at the end of it she is not in better trim than now, I'll give up
the case, and hand her over to someone else. That's fair, I think."
"She will not be here a year hence, poor darling, so no one need
dread future responsibility," said Aunt Myra, folding her black
gloves as if all ready for the funeral.
"By Jupiter! Myra, you are enough to damp the ardour of a saint!"
cried Dr. Alec, with a sudden spark in his eyes. "Your croaking
will worry that child out of her wits, for she is an imaginative puss,
and will fret and fancy untold horrors. You have put it into her
head that she has no constitution, and she rather likes the idea. If
she had not had a pretty good one, she would have been 'marked
for the tomb' by this time, at the rate you have been going on with
her. I will not have any interference please understand that; so just
wash your hands of her, and let me manage till I want help, then
I'll ask for it."
"Hear, hear!" came from the corner where Uncle Mac was
apparently wrapt in slumber.
"You were appointed guardian, so we can do nothing. But I predict
that the girl will be spoilt, utterly spoilt," answered Mrs. Jane,
"Thank you, sister. I have an idea that if a woman can bring up two
boys as perfectly as you do yours, a man, if he devotes his whole
mind to it, may at least attempt as much with one girl," replied Dr.
Alec, with a humorous look that tickled the others immensely, for
it was a well-known fact in the family that Jane's boys were more
indulged than all the other lads put together.
"I am quite easy, for I really do think that Alec will improve the
child's health; and by the time his year is out, it will be quite soon
enough for her to go to Madame Roccabella's and be finished off,"
said Aunt Clara, settling her rings, and thinking, with languid
satisfaction, of the time when she could bring out a pretty and
"I suppose you will stay here in the old place, unless you think of
marrying, and it's high time you did," put in Mrs. Jane, much
nettled at her brother's last hit.
"No, thank you. Come and have a cigar, Mac," said Dr. Alec,
"Don't marry; women enough in the family already," muttered
Uncle Mac; and then the gentlemen hastily fled.
"Aunt Peace would like to see you all, she says," was the message
Rose brought before the ladies could begin again.
"Hectic, hectic! dear me, dear me!" murmured Aunt Myra, as the
shadow of her gloomy bonnet fell upon Rose, and the stiff tips of a
black glove touched the cheek where the colour deepened under so
"I am glad these pretty curls are natural; they will be invaluable by
and by," said Aunt Clara, taking an observation with her head on
"Now that your uncle has come, I no longer expect you to review
the studies of the past year. I trust your time will not be entirely
wasted in frivolous sports, however," added Aunt Jane, sailing out
of the room with the air of a martyr.
Aunt Jessie said not a word, but kissed her little niece, with a look
of tender sympathy that made Rose cling to her a minute, and
follow her with grateful eyes as the door closed behind her.
After everybody had gone home, Dr. Alec paced up and down the
lower hall in the twilight for an hour, thinking so intently that
sometimes he frowned, sometimes he smiled, and more than once
he stood still in a brown study. All of a sudden he said, half aloud,
as if he had made up his mind
"I might as well begin at once, and give the child something new to
think about, for Myra's dismals and Jane's lectures have made her
as blue as a little indigo bag."
Diving into one of the trunks that stood in a corner, he brought up,
after a brisk rummage, a silken cushion, prettily embroidered, and
a quaint cup of dark carved wood.
"This will do for a start," he said, as he plumped up the cushion
and dusted the cup. "It won't do to begin too energetically, or Rose
will be frightened. I must beguile her gently and pleasantly along
till I've won her confidence, and then she will be ready for
Just then Phebe came out of the dining-room with a plate of brown
bread, for Rose had been allowed no hot biscuit for tea.
"I'll relieve you of some of that," said Dr. Alec, and, helping
himself to a generous slice, he retired to the study, leaving Phebe
to wonder at his appetite.
She would have wondered still more if she had seen him making
that brown bread into neat little pills, which he packed into an
attractive ivory box, out of which he emptied his own bits of
"There! if they insist on medicine, I'll order these, and no harm
will be done. I will have my own way, but I'll keep the peace, if
possible, and confess the joke when my experiment has
succeeded," he said to himself, looking very much like a
mischievous boy, as he went on with his innocent prescriptions.
Rose was playing softly on the small organ that stood in the upper
hall, so that Aunt Peace could enjoy it; and all the while he talked
with the old ladies, Uncle Alec was listening to the fitful music of
the child, and thinking of another Rose who used to play for him.
As the clock struck eight, he called out
"Time for my girl to be abed, else she won't be up early, and I'm
full of jolly plans for to-morrow. Come and see what I've found for
you to begin upon."
Rose ran in and listened with bright attentive face, while Dr. Alec
"In my wanderings over the face of the earth, I have picked up
some excellent remedies, and, as they are rather agreeable ones, I
think you and I will try them. This is a herb-pillow, given to me by
a wise old woman when I was ill in India. It is filled with saffron,
poppies, and other soothing plants; so lay your little head on it
to-night, sleep sweetly without a dream, and wake to-morrow
without a pain."
"Shall I really? How nice it smells." And Rose willingly received
the pretty pillow, and stood enjoying its faint, sweet odour, as she
listened to the doctor's next remedy.
"This is the cup I told you of. Its virtue depends, they say, on the
drinker filling it himself; so you must learn to milk. I'll teach you."
"I'm afraid I never can," said Rose; but she surveyed the cup with
favour, for a funny little imp danced on the handle, as if all ready
to take a header into the white sea below.
"Don't you think she ought to have something more strengthening
than milk, Alec? I really shall feel anxious if she does not have a
tonic of some sort," said Aunt Plenty, eyeing the new remedies
suspiciously, for she had more faith in her old-fashioned doses
than all the magic cups and poppy pillows of the East.
"Well, ma'am, I'm willing to give her a pill, if you think best. It is a
very simple one, and very large quantities may be taken without
harm. You know hasheesh is the extract of hemp? Well, this is a
preparation of corn and rye, much used in old times, and I hope it
will be again."
"Dear me, how singular!" said Aunt Plenty, bringing her spectacles
to bear upon the pills, with a face so full of respectful interest that
it was almost too much for Dr. Alec's gravity.
"Take one in the morning, and a good-night to you, my dear," he
said, dismissing his patient with a hearty kiss.
Then, as she vanished, he put both hands into his hair, exclaiming,
with a comical mixture of anxiety and amusement
"When I think what I have undertaken, I declare to you, aunt, I feel
like running away and not coming back till Rose is eighteen!"
Chapter 5 - A Belt and a Box
When Rose came out of her chamber, cup in hand, next morning,
the first person she saw was Uncle Alec standing on the threshold
of the room opposite, which he appeared to be examining with
care. When he heard her step, he turned about and began to sing
"Where are you going, my pretty maid?"
"I'm going a-milking, sir, she said," answered Rose, waving the
cup; and then they finished the verse together in fine style.
Before either spoke, a head, in a nightcap so large and beruffled
that it looked like a cabbage, popped out of a room farther down
the hall, and an astonished voice exclaimed
"What in the world are you doing about so early?"
"Clearing our pipes for the day, ma'am. Look here, auntie, can I
have this room?" said Dr. Alec, making her a sailor's bow.
"Any room you like, except sister's."
"Thanks. And may I go rummaging round in the garrets and
glory-holes to furnish it as I like?"
"My dear boy, you may turn the house upside down if you will
only stay in it."
"That's a handsome offer, I'm sure. I'll stay, ma'am; here's my little
anchor, so you will get more than you want of me this time."
"That's inpossible! Put on your jacket, Rose. Don't tire her out with
antics, Alec. Yes, sister, I'm coming!" and the cabbage vanished
The first milking lesson was a droll one; but after several scares
and many vain attempts, Rose at last managed to fill her cup, while
Ben held Clover's tail so that it could not flap, and Dr. Alec kept
her from turning to stare at the new milkmaid, who objected to
both these proceedings very much.
"You look chilly in spite of all this laughing. Take a smart run
round the garden and get up a glow," said the doctor, as they left
"I'm too old for running, uncle; Miss Power said it was not
lady-like for girls in their teens," answered Rose, primly.
"I take the liberty of differing from Madame Prunes and Prisms,
and, as your physician, I order you to run. Off with you!" said
Uncle Alec, with a look and a gesture that made Rose scurry away
as fast as she could go.
Anxious to please him, she raced round the beds till she came back
to the porch where he stood, and, dropping down upon the steps,
she sat panting, with cheeks as rosy as the rigolette on her
"Very well done, child; I see you have not lost the use of your
limbs though you are in your teens. That belt is too tight; unfasten
it, then you can take a long breath without panting so."
"It isn't tight, sir; I can breathe perfectly well," began Rose, trying
to compose herself.
Her uncle's only answer was to lift her up and unhook the new belt
of which she was so proud. The moment the clasp was open the
belt flew apart several inches, for it was impossible to restrain the
involuntary sigh of relief that flatly contradicted her words.
"Why, I didn't know it was tight! it didn't feel so a bit. Of course it
would open if I puff like this, but I never do, because I hardly ever
run," explained Rose, rather discomfited by this discovery.
"I see you don't half fill your lungs, and so you can wear this
absurd thing without feeling it. The idea of cramping a tender little
waist in a stiff band of leather and steel just when it ought to be
growing," said Dr. Alec, surveying the belt with great disfavour as
he put the clasp forward several holes, to Rose's secret dismay, for
she was proud of her slender figure, and daily rejoiced that she
wasn't as stout as Luly Miller, a former schoolmate, who vainly
tried to repress her plumpness.
"It will fall off if it is so loose," she said anxiously, as she stood
watching him pull her precious belt about.
"Not if you keep taking long breaths to hold it on. That is what I
want you to do, and when you have filled this out we will go on
enlarging it till your waist is more like that of Hebe, goddess of
health, and less like that of a fashion-plate the ugliest thing
"How it does look!" and Rose gave a glance of scorn at the loose
belt hanging round her trim little waist. "It will be lost, and then I
shall feel badly, for it cost ever so much, and is real steel and
Russia leather. Just smell how nice."
"If it is lost I'll give you a better one. A soft silken sash is much
fitter for a pretty child like you than a plated harness like this; and
I've got no end of Italian scarfs and Turkish sashes among my
traps. Ah! that makes you feel better, doesn't it?" and he pinched
the cheek that had suddenly dimpled with a smile.
"It is very silly of me, but I can't help liking to know that" here she
stopped and blushed and held down her head, ashamed to add,
"you think I am pretty."
Dr. Alec's eyed twinkled, but he said very soberly
"Rose, are you vain?"
"I'm afraid I am," answered a very meek voice from behind the veil
of hair that hid the red face.
"That is a sad fault." And he sighed as if grieved at the confession.
"I know it is, and I try not to be; but people praise me, and I can't
help liking it, for I really don't think I am repulsive."
The last word and the funny tone in which it was uttered were too
much for Dr. Alec, and he laughed in spite of himself, to Rose's
"I quite agree with you; and in order that you may be still less
repulsive, I want you to grow as fine a girl as Phebe."
"Phebe!" and Rose looked so amazed that her uncle nearly went
"Yes, Phebe; for she has what you need health. If you dear little
girls would only learn what real beauty is, and not pinch and starve
and bleach yourselves out so, you'd save an immense deal of time
and money and pain. A happy soul in a healthy body makes the
best sort of beauty for man or woman. Do you understand that, my
"Yes, sir," answered Rose, much taken down by this comparison
with the girl from the poor-house. It nettled her sadly, and she
showed that it did by saying quickly
"I suppose you would like to have me sweep and scrub, and wear
an old brown dress, and go round with my sleeves rolled up, as
"I should very much, if you could work as well as she does, and
show as strong a pair of arms as she can. I haven't seen a prettier
picture for some time than she made of herself this morning, up to
the elbows in suds, singing like a blackbird whilst she scrubbed on
the back stoop."
"Well, I do think you are the queerest man that ever lived!" was all
Rose could find to say after this display of bad taste.
"I haven't begun to show you my oddities yet, so you must make up
your mind to worse shocks than this," he said, with such a
whimsical look that she was glad the sound of a bell prevented her
showing more plainly what a blow her little vanities had already
"You will find your box all open up in auntie's parlor, and there
you can amuse her and yourself by rummaging to your heart's
content; I've got to be cruising round all the morning getting my
room to rights," said Dr. Alec, as they rose from breakfast.
"Can't I help you, uncle?" asked Rose, quite burning to be useful.
"No, thank you, I'm going to borrow Phebe for a while, if Aunt
Plenty can spare her."
"Anybody anything, Alec. You will want me, I know, so I'll give
orders about dinner and be all ready to lend a hand"; and the old
lady bustled away full of interest and good-will.
"Uncle will find that I can do some things that Phebe can't, so
now!" thought Rose, with a toss of the head as she flew to Aunt
Peace and the long-desired box.
Every little girl can easily imagine what an extra good time she
had diving into a sea of treasures and fishing up one pretty thing
after another, till the air was full of the mingled odours of musk
and sandalwood, the room gay with bright colours, and Rose in a
rapture of delight. She began to forgive Dr. Alec for the oatmeal
diet when she saw a lovely ivory workbox; became resigned to the
state of her belt when she found a pile of rainbow-coloured sashes;
and when she came to some distractingly pretty bottles of attar of
rose, she felt that they almost atoned for the great sin of thinking
Phebe the finer girl of the two.
Dr. Alec meanwhile had apparently taken Aunt Plenty at her word,
and was turning the house upside down. A general revolution was
evidently going on in the green-room, for the dark damask curtains
were seen bundling away in Phebe's arms; the air-tight stove
retiring to the cellar on Ben's shoulder; and the great bedstead
going up garret in a fragmentary state, escorted by three bearers.
Aunt Plenty was constantly on the trot among her store-rooms,
camphor-chests, and linen-closets, looking as if the new order of
things both amazed and amused her.
Half the peculiar performances of Dr. Alec cannot be revealed; but
as Rose glanced up from her box now and then she caught
glimpses of him striding by, bearing a bamboo chair, a pair of
ancient andirons, a queer Japanese screen, a rug or two, and finally
a large bathing-pan upon his head.
"What a curious room it will be," she said, as she sat resting and
refreshing herself with "Lumps of Delight," all the way from
"I fancy you will like it, deary," answered Aunt Peace, looking up
with a smile from some pretty trifle she was making with blue silk
and white muslin.
Rose did not see the smile, for just at that moment her uncle
paused at the door, and she sprang up to dance before him, saying,
with a face full of childish happiness
"Look at me! look at me! I'm splendid I don't know myself. I
haven't put these things on right, I dare say, but I do like them so
"You look as gay as a parrot in your fez and cabaja, and it does my
heart good to see the little black shadow turned into a rainbow,"
said Uncle Alec, surveying the bright figure before him with great
He did not say it, but he thought she made a much prettier picture
than Phebe at the wash-tub, for she had stuck a purple fez on her
blonde head, tied several brilliant scarfs about her waist, and put
on a truly gorgeous scarlet jacket with a golden sun embroidered
on the back, a silver moon on the front, and stars of all sizes on the
sleeves. A pair of Turkish slippers adorned her feet, and necklaces
of amber, coral, and filigree hung about her neck, while one hand
held a smelling-bottle, and the other the spicy box of oriental
"I feel like a girl in the 'Arabian Nights,' and expect to find a magic
carpet or a wonderful talisman somewhere. Only I don't see how I
ever can thank you for all these lovely things," she said, stopping
her dance, as if suddenly oppressed with gratitude.
"I'll tell you how by leaving off the black clothes, that never should
have been kept so long on such a child, and wearing the gay ones
I've brought. It will do your spirits good, and cheer up this sober
old house. Won't it, auntie?"
"I think you are right, Alec, and it is fortunate that we have not
begun on her spring clothes yet, for Myra thought she ought not to
wear anything brighter than violet, and she is too pale for that."
"You just let me direct Miss Hemming how to make some of these
things. You will be surprised to see how much I know about piping
hems and gathering arm-holes and shirring biases," began Dr.
Alec, patting a pile of muslin, cloth and silk with a knowing air.
Aunt Peace and Rose laughed so that he could not display his
knowledge any farther, till they stopped, when he said
"That will go a great way toward filling out the belt, so laugh
away, Morgiana, and I'll go back to my work, or I never shall be
"I couldn't help it, 'shirred biases' were so very funny!" Rose said,
as she turned to her box after the splendid laugh. "But really,
auntie," she added soberly, "I feel as if I ought not to have so many
nice things. I suppose it wouldn't do to give Phebe some of them?
Uncle might not like it."
"He would not mind; but they are not suitable for Phebe. Some of
the dresses you are done with would be more useful, if they can be
made over to fit her," answered Aunt Peace in the prudent,
moderate tone which is so trying to our feelings when we indulge
in little fits of charitable enthusiasm.
"I'd rather give her new ones, for I think she is a little bit proud and
might not like old things. If she was my sister it would do, because
sisters don't mind, but she isn't, and that makes it bad, you see. I
know how I can manage beautifully; I'll adopt her!" and Rose
looked quite radiant with this new idea.
"I'm afraid you could not do it legally till you are older, but you
might see if she likes the plan, and at any rate you can be very kind
to her, for in one sense we are all sisters, and should help one
The sweet old face looked at her so kindly that Rose was fired
with a desire to settle the matter at once, and rushed away to the
kitchen, just as she was. Phebe was there, polishing up the antique
andirons so busily that she started when a voice cried out: "Smell
that, taste this, and look at me!"
Phebe sniffed attar of rose, crunched the "Lump of Delight" tucked
into her mouth, and stared with all her eyes at little Morgiana
prancing about the room like a brilliant paroquet.
"My stars, ain't you splendid!" was all she could say, holding up
two dusty hands.
"I've got heaps of lovely things upstairs, and I'll show them all to
you, and I'd go halves, only auntie thinks they wouldn't be useful,
so I shall give you something else; and you won't mind, will you?
because I want to adopt you as Arabella was in the story. Won't
that be nice?"
"Why, Miss Rose, have you lost your wits?"
No wonder Phebe asked, for Rose talked very fast, and looked so
odd in her new costume, and was so eager she could not stop to
explain. Seeing Phebe's bewilderment, she quieted down and said,
with a pretty air of earnestness
"It isn't fair that I should have so much and you so little, and I want
to be as good to you as if you were my sister, for Aunt Peace says
we are all sisters really. I thought if I adopted you as much as I can
now, it would be nicer. Will you let me, please?"
To Rose's great surprise, Phebe sat down on the floor and hid her
face in her apron for a minute without answering a word.
"Oh, dear, now she's offended, and I don't know what to do,"
thought Rose, much discouraged by this reception of her offer.
"Please, forgive me; I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, and hope
you won't think " she faltered presently, feeling that she must undo
the mischief, if possible.
But Phebe gave her another surprise, by dropping the apron and
showing a face all smiles, in spite of tears in the eyes, as she put
both arms round Rose and said, with a laugh and sob
"I think you are the dearest girl in the world, and I'll let you do
anything you like with me."
"Then you do like the plan? You didn't cry because I seemed to be
kind of patronising? I truly didn't mean to be," cried Rose,
"I guess I do like it! and cried because no one was ever so good to
me before, and I couldn't help it. As for patronising, you may walk
on me if you want to, and I won't mind," said Phebe, in a burst of
gratitude, for the words, "we are sisters" went straight to her lonely
heart and nestled there.
"Well, now, we can play I'm a good sprite out of the box, or, what
is better, a fairy godmother come down the chimney, and you are
Cinderella, and must say what you want," said Rose, trying to put
the question delicately.
Phebe understood that, for she had a good deal of natural
refinement, though she did come from the poor-house.
"I don't feel as if I wanted anything now, Miss Rose, but to find
some way of thanking you for all you've done," she said, rubbing
off a tear that went rolling down the bridge of her nose in the most
"Why, I haven't done anything but given you a bit of candy! Here,
have some more, and eat 'em while you work, and think what I can
do. I must go and clear up, so good-bye, and don't forget I've
"You've given me sweeter things than candy, and I'm not likely to
forget it." And carefully wiping off the brick-dust, Phebe pressed
the little hand Rose offered warmly in both her hard ones, while
the black eyes followed the departing visitor with a grateful look
that made them very soft and bright.
Chapter 6 - Uncle Alec's Room
Soon after dinner, and before she had got acquainted with half her
new possessions, Dr. Alec proposed a drive, to carry round the first
instalment of gifts to the aunts and cousins. Rose was quite ready
to go, being anxious to try a certain soft burnous from the box,
which not only possessed a most engaging little hood, but had
funny tassels bobbing in all directions.
The big carriage was full of parcels, and even Ben's seat was
loaded with Indian war clubs, a Chinese kite of immense size, and
a pair of polished ox-horns from Africa. Uncle Alec, very blue as
to his clothes, and very brown as to his face, sat bolt upright,
surveying well known places with interest, while Rose, feeling
unusually elegant and comfortable, leaned back folded in her soft
mantle, and played she was an Eastern princess making a royal
progress among her subjects.
At three of the places their calls were brief, for Aunt Myra's
catarrh was unusually bad; Aunt Clara had a room full of
company; and Aunt Jane showed such a tendency to discuss the
population, productions, and politics of Europe, Asia and Africa,
that even Dr. Alec was dismayed, and got away as soon as
"Now we will have a good time! I do hope the boys will be at
home," said Rose, with a sigh of relief, as they wound yet higher
up the hill to Aunt Jessie's.
"I left this for the last call, so that we might find the lads just in
from school. Yes, there is Jamie on the gate watching for us; now
you'll see the Clan gather; they are always swarming about
The instant Jamie saw the approaching guests he gave a shrill
whistle, which was answered by echoes from meadow, house and
barn, as the cousins came running from all directions, shouting,
"Hooray for Uncle Alec!" They went at the carriage like
highwaymen, robbed it of every parcel, took the occupants
prisoners, and marched them into the house with great exultation.
"Little Mum! little Mum! here they are with lots of goodies! Come
down and see the fun right away! Quick!" bawled Will and
Geordie amidst a general ripping off of papers and a reckless
cutting of strings that soon turned the tidy room into a chaos.
Down came Aunt Jessie with her pretty cap half on, but such a
beaming face below it that one rather thought the fly-away
head-gear an improvement than otherwise. She had hardly time to
greet Rose and the doctor before the boys were about her, each
clamouring for her to see his gift and rejoice over it with him, for
"little Mum" went halves in everything. The great horns
skirmished about her as if to toss her to the ceiling; the war clubs
hurtled over her head as if to annihilate her; an amazing medley
from the four quarters of the globe filled her lap, and seven excited
boys all talked to her at once.
But she liked it; oh dear, yes! and sat smiling, admiring, and
explaining, quite untroubled by the din, which made Rose cover up
her ears and Dr. Alec threaten instant flight if the riot was not
quelled. That threat produced a lull, and while the uncle received
thanks in one corner, the aunt had some little confidences made to
her in the other.
"Well, dear, and how are things going with you now? Better, I
hope, than they were a week ago."
"Aunt Jessie, I think I'm going to be very happy, now uncle has
come. He does the queerest things, but he is so good to me I can't
help loving him"; and, nestling closer to little Mum, Rose told all
that had happened, ending with a rapturous account of the splendid
"I am very glad, dear. But, Rose, I must warn you of one thing;
don't let uncle spoil you."
"But I like to be spoilt, auntie."
"I don't doubt it; but if you turn out badly when the year is over he
will be blamed, and his experiment prove a failure. That would be
a pity, wouldn't it? when he wants to do so much for you, and can
do it if his kind heart does not get in the way of his good
"I never thought of that, and I'll try not to be spoilt. But how can I
help it?" asked Rose anxiously.
"By not complaining of the wholesome things he wants you to do;
by giving him cheerful obedience as well as love; and even making
some small sacrifices for his sake."
"I will, I truly will! and when I get in a worry about things may I
come to you? Uncle told me to, and I feel as if I shouldn't be
"You may, darling; this is the place where little troubles are best
cured, and this is what mothers are for, I fancy"; and Aunt Jessie
drew the curly head to her shoulder with a tender look that proved
how well she knew what medicine the child most needed.
It was so sweet and comfortable that Rose sat still enjoying it till a
little voice said
"Mamma, don't you think Pokey would like some of my shells?
Rose gave Phebe some of her nice things, and it was very good of
her. Can I?"
"Who is Pokey?" asked Rose, popping up her head, attracted by the
"My dolly; do you want to see her?" asked Jamie, who had been
much impressed by the tale of adoption he had overheard.
"Yes; I'm fond of dollies, only don't tell the boys, or they will laugh
"They don't laugh at me, and they play with my dolly a great deal;
but she likes me best"; and Jamie ran away to produce his pet.
"I brought my old doll, but I keep her hidden because I am too big
to play with her, and yet I can't bear to throw her away, I'm so fond
of her," said Rose, continuing her confidences in a whisper.
"You can come and play with Jamie's whenever you like, for we
believe in dollies up here," began Aunt Jessie, smiling to herself as
if something amused her.
Just then Jamie came back, and Rose understood the smile, for his
dolly proved to be a pretty four-year-old little girl, who trotted in
as fast as her fat legs would carry her, and making straight for the
shells, scrambled up an armful, saying, with a laugh that showed
her little white teeth
"All for Dimmy and me, for Dimmy and me!"
"That's my dolly; isn't she a nice one?" asked Jamie, proudly
surveying his pet with his hands behind him and his short legs
rather far apart a manly attitude copied from his brothers.
"She is a dear dolly. But why call her Pokey?" asked Rose,
charmed with the new plaything.
"She is such an inquisitive little body she is always poking that
mite of a nose into everything; and as Paul Pry did not suit, the
boys fell to calling her Pokey. Not a pretty name, but very
It certainly was, for, having examined the shells, the busy tot laid
hold of everything she could find, and continued her researches till
Archie caught her sucking his carved ivory chessmen to see if they
were not barley sugar. Rice paper pictures were also discovered
crumpled up in her tiny pocket, and she nearly smashed Will's
ostrich egg by trying to sit upon it.
"Here, Jim, take her away; she's worse than the puppies, and we
can't have her round," commanded the elder brother, picking her
up and handing her over to the little fellow, who received her with
open arms and the warning remark
"You'd better mind what you do, for I'm going to 'dopt Pokey like
Rose did Phebe, and then you'll have to be very good to her, you
"'Dopt away, baby, and I'll give you a cage to keep her in, or you
won't have her long, for she is getting worse than a monkey"; and
Archie went back to his mates, while Aunt Jessie, foreseeing a
crisis, proposed that Jamie should take his dolly home, as she was
borrowed, and it was time her visit ended.
"My dolly is better than yours, isn't she? 'cause she can walk and
talk and sing and dance, and yours can't do anything, can she?"
asked Jamie with pride, as he regarded his Pokey, who just then
had been moved to execute a funny little jig and warble the
"'Puss-tat, puss-tat, where you been?'
'I been Lunnin, to saw a Tween."'
After which superb display she retired, escorted by Jamie, both
making a fearful din blowing on conch shells.
"We must tear ourselves away, Rose, because I want to get you
home before sunset. Will you come for a drive, Jessie?" said Dr.
Alec, as the music died away in the distance.
"No, thank you; but I see the boys want a scamper, so, if you don't
mind, they may escort you home, but not go in. That is only
allowed on holidays."
The words were hardly out of Aunt Jessie's mouth when Archie
said, in a tone of command
"Pass the word, lads. Boot and saddle, and be quick about it."
"All right!" And in a moment not a vestige of boy remained but the
litter on the floor.
The cavalcade went down the hill at a pace that made Rose cling
to her uncle's arm, for the fat old horses got excited by the antics
of the ponies careering all about them, and went as fast as they
could pelt, with the gay dog-cart rattling in front, for Archie and
Charlie scorned shelties since this magnificent equipage had been
set up. Ben enjoyed the fun, and the lads cut up capers till Rose
declared that "circus" was the proper name for them after all.
When they reached the house they dismounted, and stood, three on
each side the steps, in martial attitudes, while her ladyship was
handed out with great elegance by Uncle Alec. Then the Clan
saluted, mounted at word of command, and with a wild whoop tore
down the avenue in what they considered the true Arab style.
"That was splendid, now it is safely ended," said Rose, skipping up
the steps with her head over her shoulder to watch the dear tassels
"I shall get you a pony as soon as you are a little stronger," said Dr.
Alec, watching her with a smile.
"Oh, I couldn't ride one of those horrid, frisky little beasts! They
roll their eyes and bounce about so, I should die of fright," cried
Rose, clasping her hands tragically.
"Are you a coward?"
"About horses I am."
"Never mind, then; come and see my new room"; and he led the
way upstairs without another word.
As Rose followed she remembered her promise to Aunt Jessie, and
was sorry she had objected so decidedly. She was a great deal
more sorry five minutes later, and well she might be.
"Now, take a good look, and tell me what you think of it," said Dr.
Alec, opening the door and letting her enter before him, while
Phebe was seen whisking down the backstairs with a dust-pan.
Rose walked to the middle of the room, stood still, and gazed
about her with eyes that brightened as they looked, for all was
This chamber had been built out over the library to suit some
fancy, and had been unused for years, except at Christmas times,
when the old house overflowed. It had three windows one to the
east, that overlooked the bay; one to the south, where the
horse-chestnuts waved their green fans; and one to the west,
towards the hill and the evening sky. A ruddy sunset burned there
now, filling the room with an enchanted glow; the soft murmur of
the sea was heard, and a robin chirped "Good-night!" among the
Rose saw and heard these things first, and felt their beauty with a
child's quick instinct; then her eye took in the altered aspect of the
room, once so shrouded, still and solitary, now so full of light and
warmth and simple luxury.
India matting covered the floor, with a gay rug here and there; the
antique andirons shone on the wide hearth, where a cheery blaze
dispelled the dampness of the long-closed room. Bamboo lounges
and chairs stood about, and quaint little tables in cosy corners; one
bearing a pretty basket, one a desk, and on a third lay several
familiar-looking books. In a recess stood a narrow white bed, with
a lovely Madonna hanging over it. The Japanese screen half-folded
back showed a delicate toilet service of blue and white set forth on
a marble slab, and near by was the great bath-pan, with Turkish
towels and a sponge as big as Rose's head.
"Uncle must love cold water like a duck," she thought, with a
Then her eye went on to the tall cabinet, where a half-open door
revealed a tempting array of the drawers, shelves and "cubby
holes," which so delight the hearts of children.
"What a grand place for my new things," she thought, wondering
what her uncle kept in that cedar retreat.
"Oh me, what a sweet toilet table!" was her next mental
exclamation, as she approached this inviting spot.
A round old-fashioned mirror hung over it, with a gilt eagle a-top,
holding in his beak the knot of blue ribbon that tied up a curtain of
muslin falling on either side of the table, where appeared little
ivory-handled brushes, two slender silver candle-sticks, a porcelain
match-box, several pretty trays for small matters, and, most
imposing of all, a plump blue silk cushion, coquettishly trimmed
with lace, and pink rose-buds at the corners.
That cushion rather astonished Rose; in fact, the whole table did,
and she was just thinking, with a sly smile
"Uncle is a dandy, but I never should have guessed it," when he
opened the door of a large closet, saying, with a careless wave of
"Men like plenty of room for their rattle-traps; don't you think that
ought to satisfy me?"
Rose peeped in and gave a start, though all she saw was what one
usually finds in closets clothes and boots, boxes and bags. Ah! but
you see these clothes were small black and white frocks; the row
of little boots that stood below had never been on Dr. Alec's feet;
the green bandbox had a gray veil straying out of it, and yes! the
bag hanging on the door was certainly her own piece-bag, with a
hole in one corner. She gave a quick look round the room and
understood now why it had seemed too dainty for a man, why her
Testament and Prayer Book were on the table by the bed, and what
those rose-buds meant on the blue cushion. It came upon her in
one delicious burst that this little paradise was all for her, and, not
knowing how else to express her gratitude, she caught Dr. Alec
round the neck, saying impetuously
"O uncle, you are too good to me! I'll do anything you ask me; ride
wild horses and take freezing baths and eat bad-tasting messes, and
let my clothes hang on me, to show how much I thank you for this
dear, sweet, lovely room!"
"You like it, then? But why do you think it is yours, my lass?"
asked Dr. Alec, as he sat down looking well pleased, and drew his
excited little niece to his knee.
"I don't think, I know it is for me; I see it in your face, and I feel as
if I didn't half deserve it. Aunt Jessie said you would spoil me, and
I must not let you. I'm afraid this looks like it, and perhaps oh me!
perhaps I ought not to have this beautiful room after all!" and Rose
tried to look as if she could be heroic enough to give it up if it was
"I owe Mrs. Jessie one for that," said Dr. Alec, trying to frown,
though in his secret soul he felt that she was quite right. Then he
smiled that cordial smile, which was like sunshine on his brown
face, as he said
"This is part of the cure, Rose, and I put you here that you might
take my three great remedies in the best and easiest way. Plenty of
sun, fresh air, and cold water; also cheerful surroundings, and
some work; for Phebe is to show you how to take care of this
room, and be your little maid as well as friend and teacher. Does
that sound hard and disagreeable to you, dear?"
"No, sir; very, very pleasant, and I'll do my best to be a good
patient. But I really don't think anyone could be sick in this
delightful room," she said, with a long sigh of happiness as her eye
went from one pleasant object to another.
"Then you like my sort of medicine better than Aunt Myra's, and
don't want to throw it out of the window, hey?"
Chapter 7 - A Trip to China
"Come, little girl, I've got another dose for you. I fancy you won't
take it as well as you did the last, but you will like it better after a
while," said Dr. Alec, about a week after the grand surprise.
Rose was sitting in her pretty room, where she would gladly have
spent all her time if it had been allowed; but she looked up with a
smile, for she had ceased to fear her uncle's remedies, and was
always ready to try a new one. The last had been a set of light
gardening tools, with which she had helped him put the
flower-beds in order, learning all sorts of new and pleasant things
about the plants as she worked, for, though she had studied botany
at school, it seemed very dry stuff compared with Uncle Alec's
"What is it now?" she asked, shutting her work-box without a
"How must I take it?"
"Put on the new suit Miss Hemming sent home yesterday, and
come down to the beach; then I'll show you."
"Yes, sir," answered Rose obediently, adding to herself, with a
shiver, as he went off: "It is too early for bathing, so I know it is
something to do with a dreadful boat."
Putting on the new suit of blue flannel, prettily trimmed with
white, and the little sailor-hat with long streamers, diverted her
mind from the approaching trial, till a shrill whistle reminded her
that her uncle was waiting. Away she ran through the garden,
down the sandy path, out upon the strip of beach that belonged to
the house, and here she found Dr. Alec busy with a slender red and
white boat that lay rocking on the rising tide.
"That is a dear little boat; and 'Bonnie Belle' is a pretty name," she
said, trying not to show how nervous she felt.
"It is for you; so sit in the stern and learn to steer, till you are ready
to learn to row."
"Do all boats wiggle about in that way?" she asked, lingering as if
to tie her hat more firmly.
"Oh, yes, pitch about like nutshells when the sea is a bit rough,"
answered her sailor uncle, never guessing her secret woe.
"Is it rough to-day?"
"Not very; it looks a trifle squally to the eastward, but we are all
right till the wind changes. Come."
"Can you swim, uncle?" asked Rose, clutching at his arm as he
took her hand.
"Like a fish. Now then."
"Oh, please hold me very tight till I get there! Why do you have the
stern so far away?" and, stifling several squeaks of alarm in her
passage, Rose crept to the distant seat, and sat there holding on
with both hands and looking as if she expected every wave to bring
a sudden shipwreck.
Uncle Alec took no notice of her fear, but patiently instructed her
in the art of steering, till she was so absorbed in remembering
which was starboard and which larboard, that she forgot to say
"OW!" every time a big wave slapped against the boat.
"Now where shall we go?" she asked, as the wind blew freshly in
her face, and a few, long swift strokes sent them half across the
"Suppose we go to China?"
"Isn't that rather a long voyage?"
"Not as I go. Steer round the Point into the harbour, and I'll give
you a glimpse of China in twenty minutes or so."
"I should like that!" and Rose sat wondering what he meant, while
she enjoyed the new sights all about her.
Behind them the green Aunt-hill sloped gently upward to the grove
at the top, and all along the seaward side stood familiar houses,
stately, cosy, or picturesque. As they rounded the Point, the great
bay opened before them full of shipping, and the city lay beyond,
its spires rising above the tall masts with their gay streamers.
"Are we going there?" she asked, for she had never seen this aspect
of the rich and busy old city before.
"Yes. Uncle Mac has a ship just in from Hong Kong, and I thought
you would like to go and see it."
"Oh, I should. I love dearly to go poking about in the warehouses
with Uncle Mac; everything is so curious and new to me; and I'm
specially interested in China because you have been there."
"I'll show you two genuine Chinamen who have just arrived. You
will like to welcome Whang Lo and Fun See, I'm sure."
"Don't ask me to speak to them, uncle; I shall be sure to laugh at
the odd names and the pig-tails and the slanting eyes. Please let me
just trot round after you; I like that best."
"Very well; now steer toward the wharf where the big ship with the
queer flag is. That's the 'Rajah,' and we will go aboard if we can."
In among the ships they went, by the wharves where the water was
green and still, and queer barnacles grew on the slippery piles. Odd
smells saluted her nose, and odd sights met her eyes, but Rose
liked it all, and played she was really landing in Hong Kong when
they glided up to the steps in the shadow of the tall "Rajah." Boxes
and bales were rising out of the hold and being carried into the
warehouse by stout porters, who tugged and bawled and clattered
about with small trucks, or worked cranes with iron claws that
came down and clutched heavy weights, whisking them aloft to
where wide doors like mouths swallowed them up.
Dr. Alec took her aboard the ship, and she had the satisfaction of
poking her inquisitive little nose into every available corner, at the
risk of being crushed, lost, or drowned.
"Well, child, how would you like to take a voyage round the world
with me in a jolly old craft like this?" asked her uncle, as they
rested a minute in the captain's cabin.
"I should like to see the world, but not in such a small, untidy,
smelly place as this. We would go in a yacht all clean and
comfortable; Charlie says that is the proper way," answered Rose,
surveying the close quarters with little favour.
"You are not a true Campbell if you don't like the smell of tar and
salt-water, nor Charlie either, with his luxurious yacht. Now come
ashore and chin-chin with the Celestials."
After a delightful progress through the great warehouse, peeping
and picking as they went, they found Uncle Mac and the yellow
gentlemen in his private room, where samples, gifts, curiosities,
and newly arrived treasures of all sorts were piled up in pleasing
pro-fusion and con-fusion.
As soon as possible Rose retired to a corner, with a porcelain god
on one side, a green dragon on the other, and, what was still more
embarrassing, Fun See sat on a tea-chest in front, and stared at her
with his beady black eyes till she did not know where to look.
Mr. Whang Lo was an elderly gentleman in American costume,
with his pig-tail neatly wound round his head. He spoke English,
and was talking busily with Uncle Mac in the most commonplace
way so Rose considered him a failure. But Fun See was
delightfully Chinese from his junk-like shoes to the button on his
pagoda hat; for he had got himself up in style, and was a mass of
silk jackets and slouchy trousers. He was short and fat, and
waddled comically; his eyes were very "slanting," as Rose said; his
queue was long, so were his nails; his yellow face was plump and
shiny, and he was altogether a highly satisfactory Chinaman.
Uncle Alec told her that Fun See had come out to be educated and
could only speak a little pigeon English; so she must be kind to the
poor fellow, for he was only a lad, though he looked nearly as old
as Mr. Whang Lo. Rose said she would be kind; but had not the
least idea how to entertain the queer guest, who looked as if he had
walked out of one of the rice-paper landscapes on the wall, and sat
nodding at her so like a toy Mandarin that she could hardly keep
In the midst of her polite perplexity, Uncle Mac saw the two young
people gazing wistfully at one another, and seemed to enjoy the
joke of this making acquaintance under difficulties. Taking a box
from his table, he gave it to Fun See, with an order that seemed to
please him very much.
Descending from his perch, he fell to unpacking it with great
neatness and despatch, while Rose watched him, wondering what
was going to happen. Presently, out from the wrappings came a
teapot, which caused her to clasp her hands with delight, for it was
made in the likeness of a plump little Chinaman. His hat was the
cover, his queue the handle, and his pipe the nose. It stood upon
feet in shoes turned up at the toes, and the smile on the fat, sleepy
face was so like that on Fun's when he displayed the teapot, that
Rose couldn't help laughing, which pleased him much.
Two pretty cups with covers, and a fine scarlet tray completed the
set, and made one long to have a "dish of tea," even in Chinese
style, without cream or sugar.
When he had arranged them on a little table before her, Fun
signified in pantomime that they were hers, from her uncle. She
returned her thanks in the same way, whereupon he returned to his
tea-chest, and, having no other means of communication, they sat
smiling and nodding at one another in an absurd sort of way till a
new idea seemed to strike Fun. Tumbling off his seat, he waddled
away as fast as his petticoats permitted, leaving Rose hoping that
he had not gone to get a roasted rat, a stewed puppy, or any other
foreign mess which civility would oblige her to eat.
While she waited for her funny new friend, she improved her mind
in a way that would have charmed Aunt Jane. The gentlemen were
talking over all sorts of things, and she listened attentively, storing
up much of what she heard, for she had an excellent memory, and
longed to distinguish herself by being able to produce some useful
information when reproached with her ignorance.
She was just trying to impress upon her mind that Amoy was two
hundred and eighty miles from Hong Kong, when Fun came
scuffling back, bearing what she thought was a small sword, till he
unfurled an immense fan, and presented it with a string of Chinese
compliments, the meaning of which would have amused her even
more than the sound, if she could have understood it.
She had never seen such an astonishing fan, and at once became
absorbed in examining it. Of course, there was no perspective
whatever, which only gave it a peculiar charm to Rose, for in one
place a lovely lady, with blue knitting-needles in her hair, sat
directly upon the spire of a stately pagoda. In another charming
view a brook appeared to flow in at the front door of a stout
gentleman's house, and out at his chimney. In a third a zig-zag wall
went up into the sky like a flash of lightning, and a bird with two
tails was apparently brooding over a fisherman whose boat was
just going aground upon the moon.
It was altogether a fascinating thing, and she would have sat
wafting it to and fro all the afternoon, to Fun's great satisfaction, if
Dr. Alec's attention had not suddenly been called to her by a
breeze from the big fan that blew his hair into his eyes, and
reminded him that they must go. So the pretty china was repacked,
Rose furled her fan, and with several parcels of choice teas for the
old ladies stowed away in Dr. Alec's pockets, they took their leave,
after Fun had saluted them with "the three bendings and the nine
knockings," as they salute the Emperor, or "Son of Heaven," at
"I feel as if I had really been to China, and I'm sure I look so," said
Rose, as they glided out of the shadow of the "Rajah."
She certainly did, for Mr. Whang Lo had given her a Chinese
umbrella; Uncle Alec had got some lanterns to light up her
balcony; the great fan lay in her lap, and the tea-set reposed at her
"This is not a bad way to study geography, is it?" asked her uncle,
who had observed her attention to the talk.
"It is a very pleasant way, and I really think I have learned more
about China to-day than in all the lessons I had at school, though I
used to rattle off the answers as fast as I could go. No one
explained anything to us, so all I remember is that tea and silk
come from there, and the women have little bits of feet. I saw Fun
looking at mine, and he must have thought them perfectly
immense," answered Rose, surveying her stout boots with sudden
"We will have out the maps and the globe, and I'll show you some
of my journeys, telling stories as we go. That will be next best to
doing it actually."
"You are so fond of travelling, I should think it would be very dull
for you here, uncle. Do you know, Aunt Plenty says she is sure you
will be off in a year or two."
"Oh, me! what shall I do then?" sighed Rose, in a tone of despair
that made Uncle Alec's face brighten with a look of genuine
pleasure as he said significantly
"Next time I go I shall take my little anchor with me. How will that
Rose gave a little bounce of rapture which caused the boat to
"wiggle" in a way that speedily quieted her down. But she sat
beaming joyfully and trying to think which of some hundred
questions she would ask first, when Dr. Alec said, pointing to a
boat that was coming up behind them in great style
"How well those fellows row! Look at them, and take notes for
your own use by and by."
The "Stormy Petrel" was manned by half a dozen jaunty looking
sailors, who made a fine display of blue shirts and shiny hats, with
stars and anchors in every direction.
"How beautifully they go, and they are only boys. Why, I do
believe they are our boys! Yes, I see Charlie laughing over his
shoulder. Row, uncle, row! Oh, please do, and not let them catch
up with us!" cried Rose, in such a state of excitement that the new
umbrella nearly went overboard.
"All right, here we go!" and away they did go with a long steady
sweep of the oars that carried the "Bonnie Belle" through the water
with a rush.
The lads pulled their prettiest, but Dr. Alec would have reached
the Point first, if Rose, in her flurry, had not retarded him by
jerking the rudder ropes in a most unseamanlike way, and just as
she got right again her hat blew off. That put an end to the race,
and while they were still fishing for the hat the other boat came
alongside, with all the oars in the air, and the jolly young tars ready
for a frolic.
"Did you catch a crab, uncle?"
"No, a blue-fish," he answered, as the dripping hat was landed on a
seat to dry.
"What have you been doing?"
"Good for you, Rose! I know what you mean. We are going to have
him up to show us how to fly the big kite, for we can't get the hang
of it. Isn't he great fun, though?"
"No, little Fun."
"Come, stop joking, and show us what you've got."
"You'd better hoist that fan for a sail."
"Lend Dandy your umbrella; he hates to burn his pretty nose."
"I say, uncle, are you going to have a Feast of Lanterns?"
"No, I'm going to have a feast of bread and butter, for it's tea-time.
If that black cloud doesn't lie, we shall have a gust before long, so
you had better get home as soon as you can, or your mother will be
"Ay, ay, skipper. Good-night, Rose; come out often, and we'll
teach you all there is to know about rowing," was Charlie's modest
Then the boats parted company, and across the water from the
"Petrel's" crew came a verse from one of the Nonsense songs in
which the boys delighted.
"Oh, Timballoo! how happy we are,
We live in a sieve and a crockery jar!
And all night long, in the starlight pale,
We sail away, with a pea-green sail,
And whistle and warble a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong.
Far and few, far and few
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a sieve."
Chapter 8 - And what came of it
"Uncle, could you lend me a ninepence? I'll return it as soon as I
get my pocket-money," said Rose, coming into the library in a
great hurry that evening.
"I think I could, and I won't charge any interest for it, so you need
not be in any hurry to repay me. Come back here and help me
settle these books if you have nothing pleasanter to do," answered
Dr. Alec, handing out the money with that readiness which is so
delightful when we ask small loans.
"I'll come in a minute; I've been longing to fix my books, but didn't
dare to touch them, because you always shake your head when I
"I shall shake my head when you write, if you don't do it better
than you did in making out this catalogue."
"I know it's bad, but I was in a hurry when I did it, and I am in one
now." And away went Rose, glad to escape a lecture.
But she got it when she came back, for Uncle Alec was still
knitting his brows over the list of books, and sternly demanded,
pointing to a tipsy-looking title staggering down the page
"Is that meant for 'Pulverized Bones,' ma'am?"
"No, sir; it's 'Paradise Lost.' "
"Well, I'm glad to know it, for I began to think you were planning
to study surgery or farming. And what is this, if you please?
'Babies' Aprons' is all I can make of it."
Rose looked hard at the scrawl, and presently announced, with an
air of superior wisdom
"Oh, that's 'Bacon's Essays.' "
"Miss Power did not teach anything so old-fashioned as writing, I
see. Now look at this memorandum Aunt Plenty gave me, and see
what a handsome plain hand that is. She went to a dame-school
and learnt a few useful things well; that is better than a smattering
of half a dozen so-called higher branches, I take the liberty of
"Well, I'm sure I was considered a bright girl at school, and learned
everything I was taught. Luly and me were the first in all our
classes, and 'specially praised for our French and music and those
sort of things," said Rose, rather offended at Uncle Alec's
"I dare say; but if your French grammar was no better than your
English, I think the praise was not deserved, my dear."
"Why, uncle, we did study English grammar, and I could parse
beautifully. Miss Power used to have us up to show off when
people came. I don't see but I talk as right as most girls."
"I dare say you do, but we are all too careless about our English.
Now, think a minute, and tell me if these expressions are correct
'Luly and me,' 'those sort of things,' and 'as right as most girls.' "
Rose pulled her pet curl and put up her lip, but had to own that she
was wrong, and said meekly, after a pause which threatened to be
"I suppose I should have said 'Luly and I,' in that case, and 'that sort
of things' and 'rightly,' though 'correctly' would have been a better
word, I guess."
"Thank you; and if you will kindly drop 'I guess,' I shall like my
little Yankee all the better. Now, see here, Rosy, I don't pretend to
set myself up for a model in anything, and you may come down on
my grammar, manners or morals as often as you think I'm wrong,
and I'll thank you. I've been knocking about the world for years,
and have got careless, but I want my girl to be what I call
well-educated, even if she studies nothing but the three 'Rs' for a
year to come. Let us be thorough, no matter how slowly we go."
He spoke so earnestly and looked so sorry to have ruffled her that
Rose went and sat on the arm of his chair, saying, with a pretty air
"I'm sorry I was cross, uncle, when I ought to thank you for taking
so much interest in me. I guess no, I think you are right about
being thorough, for I used to understand a great deal better when
papa taught me a few lessons than when Miss Power hurried me
through so many. I declare my head used to be such a jumble of
French and German, history and arithmetic, grammar and music, I
used to feel sometimes as if it would split. I'm sure I don't wonder
it ached." And she held on to it as if the mere memory of the
"jumble" made it swim.
"Yet that is considered an excellent school, I find, and I dare say it
would be if the benighted lady did not think it necessary to cram
her pupils like Thanks-giving turkeys, instead of feeding them in a
natural and wholesome way. It is the fault with most American
schools, and the poor little heads will go on aching till we learn
This was one of Dr. Alec's hobbies, and Rose was afraid he was off
for a gallop, but he reined himself in and gave her thoughts a new
turn by saying suddenly, as he pulled out a fat pocket-book
"Uncle Mac has put all your affairs into my hands now, and here is
your month's pocket money. You keep your own little accounts, I
"Thank you. Yes, Uncle Mac gave me an account book when I
went to school, and I used to put down my expenses, but I couldn't
make them go very well, for figures are the one thing I am not at
all clever about," said Rose, rummaging in her desk for a
dilapidated little book, which she was ashamed to show when she
"Well, as figures are rather important things to most of us, and you
may have a good many accounts to keep some day, wouldn't it be
wise to begin at once and learn to manage your pennies before the
pounds come to perplex you?"
"I thought you would do all that fussy part and take care of the
pounds, as you call them. Need I worry about it? I do hate sums,
"I shall take care of things till you are of age, but I mean that you
shall know how your property is managed, and do as much of it as
you can by and by; then you won't be dependent on the honesty of
"Gracious me! as if I wouldn't trust you with millions of billions if
I had them," cried Rose, scandalised at the mere suggestion.
"Ah, but I might be tempted; guardians are sometimes; so you'd
better keep your eye on me, and in order to do that you must learn
all about these affairs," answered Dr. Alec, as he made an entry in
his own very neat account-book.
Rose peeped over his shoulder at it, and then turned to the
arithmetical puzzle in her hand with a sigh of despair.
"Uncle, when you add up your expenses do you ever find you have
got more money than you had in the beginning?"
"No; I usually find that I have a good deal less than I had in the
beginning. Are you troubled in the peculiar way you mention?"
"Yes; it is very curious, but I never can make things come out
"Perhaps I can help you," began Uncle Alec, in the most respectful
"I think you had better, for if I have got to keep accounts I may as
well begin in the right way. But please don't laugh! I know I'm very
stupid, and my book is a disgrace, but I never could get it straight."
And with great trepidation, Rose gave up her funny little accounts.
It really was good in Dr. Alec not to laugh, and Rose felt deeply
grateful when he said in a mildly suggestive tone
"The dollars and cents seem to be rather mixed, perhaps if I just
straightened them out a bit we should find things all right."
"Please do, and then show me on a fresh leaf how to make mine
look nice and ship-shape as yours do."
As Rose stood by him watching the ease with which he quickly
brought order out of chaos, she privately resolved to hunt up her
old arithmetic and perfect herself in the four first rules, with a
good tug at fractions, before she read any more fairy tales.
"Am I a rich girl, uncle?" she asked suddenly, as he was copying a
column of figures.
"Rather a poor one, I should say, since you had to borrow a
"That was your fault, because you forgot my pocket-money. But,
really, shall I be rich by and by?"
"I am afraid you will."
"Why afraid, uncle?"
"Too much money is a bad thing."
"But I can give it away, you know; that is always the pleasantest
part of having it I think."
"I'm glad you feel so, for you can do much good with your fortune
if you know how to use it well."
"You shall teach me, and when I am a woman we will set up a
school where nothing but the three R's shall be taught, and all the
children live on oatmeal, and the girls have waists a yard round,"
said Rose, with a sudden saucy smile dimpling her cheeks.
"You are an impertinent little baggage, to turn on me in that way
right in the midst of my first attempt at teaching. Never mind, I'll
have an extra bitter dose for you next time, miss."
"I knew you wanted to laugh, so I gave you a chance. Now, I will
be good, master, and do my lesson nicely."
So Dr. Alec had his laugh, and then Rose sat down and took a
lesson in accounts which she never forgot.
"Now come and read aloud to me; my eyes are tired, and it is
pleasant to sit here by the fire while the rain pours outside and
Aunt Jane lectures upstairs," said Uncle Alec, when last month's
accounts had been put in good order and a fresh page neatly begun.
Rose liked to read aloud, and gladly gave him the chapter in
"Nicholas Nickleby" where the Miss Kenwigses take their French
lesson. She did her very best, feeling that she was being criticised,
and hoping that she might not be found wanting in this as in other
"Shall I go on, sir?" she asked very meekly, when the chapter
"If you are not tired, dear. It is a pleasure to hear you, for you read
remarkably well," was the answer that filled her heart with pride
"Do you really think so, uncle? I'm so glad! Papa taught me, and I
read for hours to him, but I thought perhaps, he liked it because he
was fond of me."
"So am I; but you really do read unusually well, and I'm very glad
of it, for it is a rare accomplishment, and one I value highly. Come
here in this cosy, low chair; the light is better, and I can pull these
curls if you go too fast. I see you are going to be a great comfort as
well as a great credit to your old uncle, Rosy." And Dr. Alec drew
her close beside him with such a fatherly look and tone that she
felt it would be very easy to love and obey him, since he knew how
to mix praise and blame so pleasantly together.
Another chapter was just finished, when the sound of a carriage
warned them that Aunt Jane was about to depart. Before they
could go to meet her, however, she appeared in the doorway
looking like an unusually tall mummy in her waterproof, with her
glasses shining like cat's eyes from the depths of the hood.
"Just as I thought! petting that child to death and letting her sit up
late reading trash. I do hope you feel the weight of the
responsibility you have taken upon yourself, Alec," she said, with a
certain grim sort of satisfaction at seeing things go wrong.
"I think I have a very realising sense of it, sister Jane," answered
Dr. Alec, with a comical shrug of the shoulders and a glance at
Rose's bright face.
"It is sad to see a great girl wasting these precious hours so. Now,
my boys have studied all day, and Mac is still at his books, I've no
doubt, while you have not had a lesson since you came, I suspect."
"I've had five to-day, ma'am," was Rose's very unexpected answer.
"I'm glad to hear it; and what were they, pray?" Rose looked very
demure as she replied
"Navigation, geography, grammar, arithmetic, and keeping my
"Queer lessons, I fancy; and what have you learned from this
remarkable mixture, I should like to know?"
A naughty sparkle came into Rose's eyes as she answered, with a
droll look at her uncle
"I can't tell you all, ma'am, but I have collected some useful
information about China, which you may like, especially the teas.
The best are Lapsing Souchong, Assam Pekoe, rare Ankoe,
Flowery Pekoe, Howqua's mixture, Scented Caper, Padral tea,
black Congou, and green Twankey. Shanghai is on the Woosung
River. Hong Kong means 'Island of Sweet waters.' Singapore is
'Lion's Town.' 'Chops' are the boats they live in; and they drink tea
out of little saucers. Principal productions are porcelain, tea,
cinnamon, shawls, tin, tamarinds and opium. They have beautiful
temples and queer gods; and in Canton is the Dwelling of the Holy
Pigs, fourteen of them, very big, and all blind."
The effect of this remarkable burst was immense, especially the
fact last mentioned. It entirely took the wind out of Aunt Jane's
sails; it was so sudden, so varied and unexpected, that she had not
a word to say. The glasses remained fixed full upon Rose for a
moment, and then, with a hasty "Oh, indeed!" the excellent lady
bundled into her carriage and drove away, somewhat bewildered
and very much disturbed.
She would have been more so if she had seen her reprehensible
brother-in-law dancing a triumphal polka down the hall with Rose
in honour of having silenced the enemy's battery for once.
Chapter 9 - Phebe's Secret
"Why do you keep smiling to yourself, Phebe?" asked Rose, as
they were working together one morning, for Dr. Alec considered
house-work the best sort of gymnastics for girls; so Rose took
lessons of Phebe in sweeping, dusting and bed-making.
"I was thinking about a nice little secret I know, and couldn't help
"Shall I know it, sometime?"
"Guess you will."
"Shall I like it?"
"Oh, won't you, though!"
"Will it happen soon?"
"Sometime this week."
"I know what it is! The boys are going to have fireworks on the
fourth, and have got some surprise for me. Haven't they?"
"Well, I can wait; only tell me one thing is uncle in it?"
"Of course he is; there's never any fun without him."
"Then it's all right, and sure to be nice."
Rose went out on the balcony to shake the rugs, and, having given
them a vigorous beating, hung them on the balustrade to air, while
she took a look at her plants. Several tall vases and jars stood
there, and a month of June sun and rain had worked wonders with
the seeds and slips she had planted. Morning-glories and
nasturtiums ran all over the bars, making haste to bloom. Scarlet
beans and honeysuckles were climbing up from below to meet
their pretty neighbours, and the woodbine was hanging its green
festoons wherever it could cling.
The waters of the bay were dancing in the sunshine, a fresh wind
stirred the chestnut-trees with a pleasant sound, and the garden
below was full of roses, butterflies and bees. A great chirping and
twittering went on among the birds, busy with their summer
house-keeping, and, far away, the white-winged gulls were dipping
and diving in the sea, where ships, like larger birds, went sailing to
"Oh, Phebe, it's such a lovely day, I do wish your fine secret was
going to happen right away! I feel just like having a good time;
don't you?" said Rose, waving her arms as if she was going to fly.
"I often feel that way, but I have to wait for my good times, and
don't stop working to wish for 'em. There, now you can finish as
soon as the dust settles; I must go do my stairs," and Phebe trudged
away with the broom, singing as she went.
Rose leaned where she was, and fell to thinking how many good
times she had had lately, for the gardening had prospered finely,
and she was learning to swim and row, and there were drives and
walks, and quiet hours of reading and talk with Uncle Alec, and,
best of all, the old pain and ennui seldom troubled her now. She
could work and play all day, sleep sweetly all night, and enjoy life
with the zest of a healthy, happy child. She was far from being as
strong and hearty as Phebe, but she was getting on; the once pale
cheeks had colour in them now, the hands were growing plump
and brown, and the belt was not much too loose. No one talked to
her about her health, and she forgot that she had "no constitution."
She took no medicine but Dr. Alec's three great remedies, and they
seemed to suit her excellently. Aunt Plenty said it was the pills;
but, as no second batch had ever followed the first, I think the old
lady was mistaken.
Rose looked worthy of her name as she stood smiling to herself
over a happier secret than any Phebe had a secret which she did
not know herself till she found out, some years later, the magic of
"'Look only,' said the brownie,
'At the pretty gown of blue,
At the kerchief pinned about her head,
And at her little shoe,"'
said a voice from below, as a great cabbage-rose came flying
against her cheek.
"What is the princess dreaming about up there in her
hanging-garden?" added Dr. Alec as she flung back a
"I was wishing I could do something pleasant this fine day;
something very new and interesting, for the wind makes me feel
frisky and gay."
"Suppose we take a pull over to the Island? I intended to go this
afternoon; but if you feel more like it now, we can be off at once."
"I do! I do! I'll come in fifteen minutes, uncle. I must just scrabble
my room to rights, for Phebe has got a great deal to do."
Rose caught up the rugs and vanished as she spoke, while Dr. Alec
went in, saying to himself, with an indulgent smile
"It may upset things a trifle, but half a child's pleasure consists in
having their fun when they want it."
Never did duster flap more briskly than the one Rose used that
day, and never was a room "scrabbled" to rights in such haste as
hers. Tables and chairs flew into their places as if alive; curtains
shook as if a gale was blowing; china rattled and small articles
tumbled about as if a young earthquake was playing with them.
The boating suit went on in a twinkling, and Rose was off with a
hop and a skip, little dreaming how many hours it would be before
she saw her pretty room again.
Uncle Alec was putting a large basket into the boat when she
arrived, and before they were off Phebe came running down with a
queer, knobby bundle done up in a water-proof.
"We can't eat half that luncheon, and I know we shall not need so
many wraps. I wouldn't lumber the boat up so," said Rose, who
still had secret scares when on the water.
"Couldn't you make a smaller parcel, Phebe?" asked Dr. Alec,
eyeing the bundle suspiciously.
"No, sir, not in such a hurry," and Phebe laughed as she gave a
particularly large knob a good poke.
"Well, it will do for ballast. Don't forget the note to Mrs. Jessie, I
beg of you."
"No, sir. I'll send it right off," and Phebe ran up the bank as if she
had wings to her feet.
"We'll take a look at the lighthouse first, for you have not been
there yet, and it is worth seeing. By the time we have done that it
will be pretty warm, and we will have lunch under the trees on the
Rose was ready for anything, and enjoyed her visit to the
lighthouse on the Point very much, especially climbing up the
narrow stairs and going inside the great lantern. They made a long
stay, for Dr. Alec seemed in no hurry to go, and kept looking
through his spy-glass as if he expected to discover something
remarkable on sea or land. It was past twelve before they reached
the Island, and Rose was ready for her lunch long before she got it.
"Now this is lovely! I do wish the boys were here. Won't it be nice
to have them with us all their vacation? Why, it begins to-day,
doesn't it? Oh, I wish I'd remembered it sooner, and perhaps they
would have come with us," she said, as they lay luxuriously eating
sandwiches under the old apple-tree.
"So we might. Next time we won't be in such a hurry. I expect the
lads will take our heads off when they find us out," answered Dr.
Alec, placidly drinking cold tea.
"Uncle, I smell a frying sort of a smell," Rose said, pausing
suddenly as she was putting away the remains of the lunch half an
"So do I; it is fish, I think."
For a moment they both sat with their noses in the air, sniffing like
hounds; then Dr. Alec sprang up, saying with great decision
"Now, this won't do! No one is permitted on this island without
asking leave. I must see who dares to fry fish on my private
Taking the basket on one arm and the bundle on the other, he
strode away towards the traitorous smell, looking as fierce as a
lion, while Rose marched behind under her umbrella.
"We are Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday going to see if the
savages have come," she said presently, for her fancy was full of
the dear old stories that all children love so well.
"And there they are! Two tents and two boats, as I live! These
rascals mean to enjoy themselves, that's evident."
"There ought to be more boats and no tents. I wonder where the
"There are traces of them," and Dr. Alec pointed to the heads and
tails of fishes strewn on the grass.
"And there are more," said Rose, laughing, as she pointed to a
scarlet heap of what looked like lobsters.
"The savages are probably eating their victims now; don't you hear
the knives rattle in that tent?"
"We ought to creep up and peep; Crusoe was cautious, you know,
and Friday scared out of his wits," added Rose, still keeping up the
"But this Crusoe is going to pounce upon them, regardless of
consequences. If I am killed and eaten, you seize the basket and
run for the boat; there are provisions enough for your voyage
With that Uncle Alec slipped round to the front of the tent and,
casting in the big bundle like a bomb-shell, roared out, in a voice
A crash, a shout, a laugh, and out came the savages, brandishing
knives and forks, chicken bones, and tin mugs, and all fell upon
the intruder, pommelling him unmercifully as they cried
"You came too soon! We are not half ready! You've spoilt it all!
Where is Rose?"
"Here I am," answered a half-stifled voice, and Rose was
discovered sitting on the pile of red flannel bathing clothes, which
she had mistaken for lobsters, and where she had fallen in a fit of
merriment when she discovered that the cannibals were her merry
"You good-for-nothing boys! You are always bursting out upon me
in some ridiculous way, and I always get taken in because I'm not
used to such pranks. Uncle is as bad as the rest, and it's great fun,"
she said, as the lads came round her, half scolding, half
welcoming, and wholly enjoying the double surprise.
"You were not to come till afternoon, and mamma was to be here
to receive you. Everything is in a mess now, except your tent; we
got that in order the first thing, and you can sit there and see us
work," said Archie, doing the honours as usual.
"Rose felt it in her bones, as Dolly says, that something was in the
wind, and wanted to be off at once. So I let her come, and should
have kept her away an hour longer if your fish had not betrayed
you," explained Uncle Alec, subsiding from a ferocious Crusoe
into his good-natured self again.
"As this seat is rather damp, I think I'll rise," said Rose, as the
excitement lessened a little.
Several fishy hands helped her up, and Charlie said, as he scattered
the scarlet garments over the grass with an oar
"We had a jolly good swim before dinner, and I told the Brats to
spread these to dry. Hope you brought your things, Rose, for you
belong to the Lobsters, you know, and we can have no end of fun
teaching you to dive and float and tread water."
"I didn't bring anything " began Rose, but was interrupted by the
Brats (otherwise Will and Geordie), who appeared bearing the big
bundle, so much demoralised by its fall that a red flannel tunic
trailed out at one end and a little blue dressing-gown at the other,
while the knobs proved to be a toilet-case, rubbers, and a silver
"Oh, that sly Phebe! This was the secret, and she bundled up those
things after I went down to the boat," cried Rose, with sparkling
"Guess something is smashed inside, for a bit of glass fell out,"
observed Will, as they deposited the bundle at her feet.
"Catch a girl going anywhere without a looking-glass. We haven't
got one among the whole lot of us," added Mac, with masculine
"Dandy has; I caught him touching up his wig behind the trees
after our swim," cut in Geordie, wagging a derisive finger at Steve,
who promptly silenced him by a smart rap on the head with the
drum-stick he had just polished off.
"Come, come, you lazy lubbers, fall to work, or we shall not be
ready for mamma. Take Rose's things to her tent, and tell her all
about it, Prince. Mac and Steve, you cut away and bring up the rest
of the straw; and you small chaps, clear off the table, if you have
stuffed all you can. Please, uncle, I'd like your advice about the
boundary lines and the best place for the kitchen."
Everyone obeyed the chief, and Rose was escorted to her tent by
Charlie, who devoted himself to her service. She was charmed
with her quarters, and still more so with the programme which he
unfolded before her as they worked.
"We always camp out somewhere in vacation, and this year we
thought we'd try the Island. It is handy, and our fireworks will
show off well from here."
"Shall we stay over the Fourth? Three whole days! Oh, me! what a
frolic it will be!"
"Bless your heart, we often camp for a week, we big fellows; but
this year the small chaps wanted to come, so we let them. We have
great larks, as you'll see; for we have a cave and play Captain
Kidd, and have shipwrecks, and races, and all sorts of games. Arch
and I are rather past that kind of thing now, but we do it to please
the children," added Charlie, with a sudden recollection of his
"I had no idea boys had such good times. Their plays never seemed
a bit interesting before. But I suppose that was because I never
knew any boys very well, or perhaps you are unusually nice ones,"
observed Rose, with an artless air of appreciation that was very
"We are a pretty clever set, I fancy; but we have a good many
advantages, you see. There are a tribe of us, to begin with; then our
family has been here for ages, and we have plenty of 'spondulics,'
so we can rather lord it over the other fellows, and do as we like.
There, ma'am, you can hang your smashed glass on that nail and
do up your back hair as fine as you please. You can have a blue
blanket or a red one, and a straw pillow or an air cushion for your
head, whichever you like. You can trim up to any extent, and be as
free and easy as squaws in a wigwam, for this corner is set apart
for you ladies and we never cross the line uncle is drawing until
we ask leave. Anything more I can do for you, cousin?"
"No, thank you. I think I'll leave the rest till auntie comes, and go
and help you somewhere else, if I may."
"Yes, indeed, come on and see to the kitchen. Can you cook?"
asked Charlie, as he led the way to the rocky nook where Archie
was putting up a sail-cloth awning.
"I can make tea and toast bread."
"Well, we'll shew you how to fry fish, and make chowder. Now
you just set these pots and pans round tastefully, and sort of tidy up
a bit, for Aunt Jessie insists on doing some of the work, and I want
it to be decent here."
By four o'clock the camp was in order, and the weary workers
settled down on Lookout Rock to watch for Mrs. Jessie and Jamie,
who was never far from mamma's apron string. They looked like a
flock of blue-birds, all being in sailor rig, with blue ribbon enough
flying from the seven hats to have set up a milliner. Very tuneful
blue-birds they were, too, for all the lads sang, and the echo of
their happy voices reached Mrs. Jessie long before she saw them.
The moment the boat hove in sight up went the Island flag, and the
blue-jackets cheered lustily, as they did on every possible
occasion, like true young Americans. This welcome was answered
by the flapping of a handkerchief and the shrill "Rah! Rah! Rah!"
of the one small tar who stood in the stern waving his hat
manfully, while a maternal hand clutched him firmly in the rear.
Cleopatra landing from her golden galley never received a heartier
greeting than "Little Mum" as she was borne to her tent by the
young folk, for love of whom she smilingly resigned herself to
three days of discomfort; while Jamie immediately attached
himself to Rose, assuring her of his protection from the manifold
perils which might assail them.
Taught by long experience that boys are always hungry, Aunt
Jessie soon proposed supper, and proceeded to get it, enveloped in
an immense apron, with an old hat of Archie's stuck atop of her
cap. Rose helped, and tried to be as handy as Phebe, though the
peculiar style of table she had to set made it no easy task. It was
accomplished at last, and a very happy party lay about under the
trees, eating and drinking out of anyone's plate and cup, and quite
untroubled by the frequent appearance of ants and spiders in places
which these interesting insects are not expected to adorn.
"I never thought I should like to wash dishes, but I do," said Rose,
as she sat in a boat after supper lazily rinsing plates in the sea, and
rocking luxuriously as she wiped them.
"Mum is mighty particular; we just give 'em a scrub with sand, and
dust 'em off with a bit of paper. It's much the best way, I think,"
replied Geordie, who reposed in another boat alongside.
"How Phebe would like this! I wonder uncle did not have her
"I believe he tried to, but Dolly was as cross as two sticks, and said
she couldn't spare her. I'm sorry, for we all like the Phebe bird, and
she'd chirp like a good one out here, wouldn't she?"
"She ought to have a holiday like the rest of us. It's too bad to leave
This thought came back to Rose several times that evening, for
Phebe would have added much to the little concert they had in the
moonlight, would have enjoyed the stories told, been quick at
guessing the conundrums, and laughed with all her heart at the fun.
The merry going to bed would have been the best of all, for Rose
wanted someone to cuddle under the blue blanket with her, there
to whisper and giggle and tell secrets, as girls delight to do.
Long after the rest were asleep, Rose lay wide awake, excited by
the novelty of all about her, and a thought that had come into her
mind. Far away she heard a city clock strike twelve; a large star
like a mild eye peeped in at the opening of the tent, and the soft
plash of the waves seemed calling her to come out. Aunt Jessie lay
fast asleep, with Jamie rolled up like a kitten at her feet, and
neither stirred as Rose in her wrapper crept out to see how the
world looked at midnight.
She found it very lovely, and sat down on a cracker keg to enjoy it
with a heart full of the innocent sentiment of her years.
Fortunately, Dr. Alec saw her before she had time to catch cold,
for coming out to tie back the door-flap of his tent for more air, he
beheld the small figure perched in the moonlight. Having no fear
of ghosts, he quietly approached, and, seeing that she was wide
awake, said, with a hand on her shining hair
"What is my girl doing here?"
"Having a good time," answered Rose, not at all startled.
"I wonder what she was thinking about with such a sober look."
"The story you told of the brave sailor who gave up his place on
the raft to the woman, and the last drop of water to the poor baby.
People who make sacrifices are very much loved and admired,
aren't they?" she asked, earnestly.
"If the sacrifice is a true one. But many of the bravest never are
known, and get no praise. That does not lessen their beauty, though
perhaps it makes them harder, for we all like sympathy," and Dr.
Alec sighed a patient sort of sigh.
"I suppose you have made a great many? Would you mind telling
me one of them?" asked Rose, arrested by the sigh.
"My last was to give up smoking," was the very unromantic answer
to her pensive question.
"Why did you?"
"Bad example for the boys."
"That was very good of you, uncle! Was it hard?"
"I'm ashamed to say it was. But as a wise old fellow once said, 'It is
necessary to do right; it is not necessary to be happy.' "
Rose pondered over the saying as if it pleased her, and then said,
with a clear, bright look
"A real sacrifice is giving up something you want or enjoy very
much, isn't it?"
"Doing it one's own self because one loves another person very
much and wants her to be happy?"
"And doing it pleasantly, and being glad about it, and not minding
the praise if it doesn't come?"
"Yes, dear, that is the true spirit of self-sacrifice; you seem to
understand it, and I dare say you will have many chances in your
life to try the real thing. I hope they won't be very hard ones."
"I think they will," began Rose, and there stopped short.
"Well, make one now, and go to sleep, or my girl will be ill
to-morrow, and then the aunts will say camping out was bad for
"I'll go good night!" and throwing him a kiss, the little ghost
vanished, leaving Uncle Alec to pace the shore and think about
some of the unsuspected sacrifices that had made him what he
Chapter 10 - Rose's Sacrifice
There certainly were "larks" on Campbell's Island next day, as
Charlie had foretold, and Rose took her part in them like one
intent on enjoying every minute to the utmost. There was a merry
breakfast, a successful fishing expedition, and then the lobsters
came out in full force, for even Aunt Jessie appeared in red
flannel. There was nothing Uncle Alec could not do in the water,
and the boys tried their best to equal him in strength and skill, so
there was a great diving and ducking, for every one was bent on
Rose swam out far beyond her depth, with uncle to float her back;
Aunt Jessie splashed placidly in the shallow pools, with Jamie
paddling near by like a little whale beside its mother; while the
lads careered about, looking like a flock of distracted flamingoes,
and acting like the famous dancing party in "Alice's Adventures in
Nothing but chowder would have lured them from their gambols in
the briny deep; that time-honoured dish demanded the
concentrated action of several mighty minds; so the "Water
Babies" came ashore and fell to cooking.
It is unnecessary to say that, when done, it was the most
remarkable chowder ever cooked, and the quantity eaten would
have amazed the world if the secret had been divulged. After this
exertion a siesta was considered the thing, and people lay about in
tents or out as they pleased, the boys looking like warriors
slumbering where they fell.
The elders had just settled to a comfortable nap when the
youngsters rose, refreshed and ready for further exploits. A hint
sent them all off to the cave, and there were discovered bows and
arrows, battle clubs, old swords, and various relics of an
interesting nature. Perched upon a commanding rock, with Jamie
to "splain" things to her, Rose beheld a series of stirring scenes
enacted with great vigour and historical accuracy by her gifted
Captain Cook was murdered by the natives of Owhyhee in the
most thrilling manner. Captain Kidd buried untold wealth in the
chowder kettle at the dead of night, and shot both the trusting
villains who shared the secret of the hiding place. Sinbad came
ashore there and had manifold adventures, and numberless wrecks
bestrewed the sands.
Rose considered them by far the most exciting dramas she had
ever witnessed; and when the performance closed with a grand
ballet of Feejee Islanders, whose barbaric yells alarmed the gulls,
she had no words in which to express her gratification.
Another swim at sunset, another merry evening on the rocks
watching the lighted steamers pass seaward and the pleasure-boats
come into port, ended the second day of the camping out, and sent
everyone to bed early that they might be ready for the festivities of
"Archie, didn't I hear uncle ask you to row home in the morning
for fresh milk and things?"
"Please, may I go too? I have something of great importance to
arrange; you know I was carried off in a hurry," Rose said in a
confidential whisper as she was bidding her cousins good night.
"I'm willing, and I guess Charlie won't mind."
"Thank you; be sure you stand by me when I ask leave in the
morning, and don't say anything till then, except to Charlie.
Promise," urged Rose, so eagerly, that Archie struck an attitude
and cried dramatically
"By yonder moon I swear!"
"Hush! it's all right, go along"; and Rose departed as if satisfied.
"She's a queer little thing, isn't she, Prince?"
"Rather a nice little thing, I think. I'm quite fond of her."
Rose's quick ears caught both remarks, and she retired to her tent,
saying to herself with sleepy dignity
"Little thing, indeed! Those boys talk as if I was a baby. They will
treat me with more respect after to-morrow, I guess."
Archie did stand by her in the morning, and her request was readily
granted, as the lads were coming directly back. Off they went, and
Rose waved her hand to the islanders with a somewhat pensive air,
for an heroic purpose glowed within her, and the spirit of
self-sacrifice was about to be illustrated in a new and touching
While the boys got the milk Rose ran to Phebe, ordered her to
leave her dishes, to put on her hat, and take a note back to Uncle
Alec, which would explain this somewhat mysterious
performance. Phebe obeyed, and when she went to the boat Rose
accompanied her, telling the boys she was not ready to go yet, but
they could, some of them, come for her when she hung a white
signal on her balcony.
"But why not come now? What are you about, miss? Uncle won't
like it," protested Charlie, in great amazement.
"Just do as I tell you, little boy; uncle will understand and explain.
Obey, as Phebe does, and ask no questions. I can have secrets as
well as other people"; and Rose walked off with an air of lofty
independence that impressed her friends immensely.
"It's some plot between uncle and herself, so we won't meddle. All
right, Phebe? Pull away, Prince"; and off they went to be received
with much surprise by the islanders.
This was the note Phebe bore:
"Dear Uncle, I am going to take Phebe's place to-day, and let her
have all the fun she can. Please don't mind what she says, but keep
her, and tell the boys to be very good to her for my sake. Don't
think it is easy to do this; it is very hard to give up the best day of
all, but I feel so selfish to have all the pleasure and Phebe none,
that I wish to make this sacrifice. Do let me, and don't laugh at it; I
truly do not wish to be praised, and I truly want to do it. Love to all
"Bless the little dear, what a generous heart she has! Shall we go
after her, Jessie, or let her have her way?" said Dr. Alec, after the
first mingled amusement and astonishment had subsided.
"Let her alone, and don't spoil her little sacrifice. She means it, I
know, and the best way in which we can show our respect for her
effort is to give Phebe a pleasant day. I'm sure she has earned it";
and Mrs. Jessie made a sign to the boys to suppress their
disappointment and exert themselves to please Rose's guest.
Phebe was with difficulty kept from going straight home, and
declared that she should not enjoy herself one bit without Miss
"She won't hold out all day, and we shall see her paddling back
before noon, I'll wager anything," said Charlie; and the rest so
strongly inclined to his opinion that they resigned themselves to
the loss of the little queen of the revels, sure that it would be only
a temporary one.
But hour after hour passed, and no signal appeared on the balcony,
though Phebe watched it hopefully. No passing boat brought the
truant back, though more than one pair of eyes looked out for the
bright hair under the round hat; and sunset came, bringing no Rose
but the lovely colour in the western sky.
"I really did not think the child had it in her. I fancied it was a bit
of sentiment, but I see she was in earnest, and means that her
sacrifice shall be a true one. Dear little soul! I'll make it up to her a
thousand times over, and beg her pardon for thinking it might be
done for effect," Dr. Alec said remorsefully, as he strained his eyes
through the dusk, fancying he saw a small figure sitting in the
garden as it had sat on the keg the night before, laying the
generous little plot that had cost more than he could guess.
"Well, she can't help seeing the fireworks, any way, unless she is
goose enough to think she must hide in a dark closet and not look,"
said Archie, who was rather disgusted at Rose's seeming
"She will see ours capitally, but miss the big ones on the hill,
unless papa has forgotten all about them," added Steve, cutting
short the harangue Mac had begun upon the festivals of the
"I'm sure the sight of her will be better than the finest fireworks
that ever went off," said Phebe, meditating an elopement with one
of the boats if she could get a chance.
"Let things work; if she resists a brilliant invitation we give her she
will be a heroine," added Uncle Alec, secretly hoping that she
Meanwhile Rose had spent a quiet, busy day helping Dolly,
waiting on Aunt Peace, and steadily resisting Aunt Plenty's
attempts to send her back to the happy island. It had been hard in
the morning to come in from the bright world outside, with flags
flying, cannon booming, crackers popping, and everyone making
ready for a holiday, and go to washing cups, while Dolly grumbled
and the aunts lamented. It was very hard to see the day go by,
knowing how gay each hour must have been across the water, and
how a word from her would take her where she longed to be with
all her heart. But it was hardest of all when evening came and
Aunt Peace was asleep, Aunt Plenty seeing a gossip in the parlor,
Dolly established in the porch to enjoy the show, and nothing left
for the little maid to do but sit alone in her balcony and watch the
gay rockets whizz up from island, hill, and city, while bands
played and boats laden with happy people went to and fro in the
Then it must be confessed that a tear or two dimmed the blue eyes,
and once, when a very brilliant display illuminated the island for a
moment, and she fancied she saw the tents, the curly head went
down on the railing, and a wide-awake nasturtium heard a little
"I hope someone wishes I was there!"
The tears were all gone, however, and she was watching the hill
and island answer each other with what Jamie called "whizzers,
whirligigs and busters," and smiling as she thought how hard the
boys must be working to keep up such a steady fire, when Uncle
Mac came walking in upon her, saying hurriedly
"Come, child, put on your tippet, pelisse, or whatever you call it,
and run off with me. I came to get Phebe, but aunt says she is
gone, so I want you. I've got Fun down in the boat, and I want you
to go with us and see my fireworks. Got them up for you, and you
mustn't miss them, or I shall be disappointed."
"But, uncle," began Rose, feeling as if she ought to refuse even a
glimpse of bliss, "perhaps "
"I know, my dear, I know; aunt told me; but no one needs you now
so much as I do, and I insist on your coming," said Uncle Mac,
who seemed in a great hurry to be off, yet was unusually kind.
So Rose went and found the little Chinaman with a funny lantern
waiting to help her in and convulse her with laughter trying to
express his emotions in pigeon English. The city clocks were
striking nine as they got out into the bay, and the island fireworks
seemed to be over, for no rocket answered the last Roman candle
that shone on the Aunt-hill.
"Ours are done, I see, but they are going up all round the city, and
how pretty they are," said Rose, folding her mantle about her, and
surveying the scene with pensive interest.
"Hope my fellows have not got into trouble up there," muttered
Uncle Mac, adding with a satisfied chuckle, as a spark shone out,
"No; there it goes! Look, Rosy, and see how you like this one; it
was ordered especially in honour of your coming."
Rose looked with all her eyes, and saw the spark grow into the
likeness of a golden vase, then green leaves came out, and then a
crimson flower glowing on the darkness with a splendid lustre.
"Is it a rose, uncle?" she asked, clasping her hands with delight as
she recognised the handsome flower.
"Of course it is! Look again, and guess what those are," answered
Uncle Mac, chuckling and enjoying it all like a boy.
A wreath of what looked at first like purple brooms appeared
below the vase, but Rose guessed what they were meant for, and
stood straight up, holding by his shoulder, and crying excitedly
"Thistles, uncle, Scotch thistles! There are seven of them one for
each boy! Oh, what a joke!" and she laughed so that she plumped
into the bottom of the boat and stayed there till the brilliant
spectacle was quite gone.
"That was rather a neat thing, I flatter myself," said Uncle Mac, in
high glee at the success of his illumination. "Now, shall I leave you
on the Island or take you home again, my good little girl?" he
added, lifting her up with such a tone of approbation in his voice
that Rose kissed him on the spot.
"Home, please uncle; and I thank you very very much for the
beautiful firework you got up for me. I'm so glad I saw it; and I
know I shall dream about it," answered Rose steadily, though a
wistful glance went toward the Island, now so near that she could
smell powder and see shadowy figures flitting about.
Home they went; and Rose fell asleep saying to herself, "It was
harder than I thought, but I'm glad I did it, and I truly don't want
any reward but Phebe's pleasure."
Chapter 11 - Poor Mac
Rose's sacrifice was a failure in one respect, for, though the elders
loved her the better for it, and showed that they did, the boys were
not inspired with the sudden respect which she had hoped for. In
fact, her feelings were much hurt by overhearing Archie say that
he couldn't see any sense in it; and the Prince added another blow
by pronouncing her "the queerest chicken ever seen."
It is apt to be so, and it is hard to bear; for, though we do not want
trumpets blown, we do like to have our little virtues appreciated,
and cannot help feeling disappointed if they are not.
A time soon came, however, when Rose, quite unconsciously, won
not only the respect of her cousins, but their gratitude and
Soon after the Island episode, Mac had a sunstroke, and was very
ill for some time. It was so sudden that everyone was startled, and
for some days the boy's life was in danger. He pulled through,
however; and then, just as the family were rejoicing, a new trouble
appeared which cast a gloom over them all.
Poor Mac's eyes gave out; and well they might, for he had abused
them, and never being very strong, they suffered doubly now.
No one dared to tell him the dark predictions of the great oculist
who came to look at them, and the boy tried to be patient, thinking
that a few weeks of rest would repair the overwork of several
He was forbidden to look at a book, and as that was the one thing
he most delighted in, it was a terrible affliction to the Worm.
Everyone was very ready to read to him, and at first the lads
contended for this honour. But as week after week went by, and
Mac was still condemned to idleness and a darkened room, their
zeal abated, and one after the other fell off. It was hard for the
active fellows, right in the midst of their vacation; and nobody
blamed them when they contented themselves with brief calls,
running of errands, and warm expressions of sympathy.
The elders did their best, but Uncle Mac was a busy man, Aunt
Jane's reading was of a funereal sort, impossible to listen to long,
and the other aunties were all absorbed in their own cares, though
they supplied the boy with every delicacy they could invent.
Uncle Alec was a host in himself, but he could not give all his time
to the invalid; and if it had not been for Rose, the afflicted Worm
would have fared ill. Her pleasant voice suited him, her patience
was unfailing, her time of no apparent value, and her eager
good-will was very comforting.
The womanly power of self-devotion was strong in the child, and
she remained faithfully at her post when all the rest dropped away.
Hour after hour she sat in the dusky room, with one ray of light on
her book, reading to the boy, who lay with shaded eyes silently
enjoying the only pleasure that lightened the weary days.
Sometimes he was peevish and hard to please, sometimes he
growled because his reader could not manage the dry books he
wished to hear, and sometimes he was so despondent that her heart
ached to see him. Through all these trials Rose persevered, using
all her little arts to please him. When he fretted, she was patient;
when he growled, she ploughed bravely through the hard pages not
dry to her in one sense, for quiet tears dropped on them now and
then; and when Mac fell into a despairing mood, she comforted
him with every hopeful word she dared to offer.
He said little, but she knew he was grateful, for she suited him
better than anyone else. If she was late, he was impatient; when
she had to go, he seemed forlorn; and when the tired head ached
worst, she could always soothe him to sleep, crooning the old
songs her father used to love.
"I don't know what I should do without that child," Aunt Jane often
"She's worth all those racketing fellows put together," Mac would
add, fumbling about to discover if the little chair was ready for her
That was the sort of reward Rose liked, the thanks that cheered
her; and whenever she grew very tired, one look at the green
shade, the curly head so restless on the pillow, and the poor
groping hands, touched her tender heart and put new spirit into the
She did not know how much she was learning, both from the
books she read and the daily sacrifices she made. Stories and
poetry were her delight, but Mac did not care for them; and since
his favourite Greeks and Romans were forbidden, he satisfied
himself with travels, biographies, and the history of great
inventions or discoveries. Rose despised this taste at first, but soon
got interested in Livingstone's adventures, Hobson's stirring life in
India, and the brave trials and triumphs of Watt and Arkwright,
Fulton, and "Palissy, the Potter." The true, strong books helped the
dreamy girl; her faithful service and sweet patience touched and
won the boy; and long afterward both learned to see how useful
those seemingly hard and weary hours had been to them.
One bright morning, as Rose sat down to begin a fat volume
entitled "History of the French Revolution," expecting to come to
great grief over the long names, Mac, who was lumbering about
the room like a blind bear, stopped her by asking abruptly
"What day of the month is it?"
"The seventh of August, I believe."
"More than half my vacation gone, and I've only had a week of it! I
call that hard," and he groaned dismally.
"So it is; but there is more to come, and you may be able to enjoy
"May be able! I will be able! Does that old noodle think I'm going
to stay stived up here much longer?"
"I guess he does, unless your eyes get on faster than they have yet."
"Has he said anything more lately?"
"I haven't seen him, you know. Shall I begin? this looks rather
"Read away; it's all one to me." And Mac cast himself down upon
the old lounge, where his heavy head felt easiest.
Rose began with great spirit, and kept on gallantly for a couple of
chapters, getting over the unpronounceable names with unexpected
success, she thought, for her listener did not correct her once, and
lay so still she fancied he was deeply interested. All of a sudden
she was arrested in the middle of a fine paragraph by Mac, who sat
bolt upright, brought both feet down with a thump, and said, in a
rough, excited tone
"Stop! I don't hear a word, and you may as well save your breath to
answer my question."
"What is it?" asked Rose, looking uneasy, for she had something
on her mind, and feared that he suspected what it was. His next
words proved that she was right.
"Now, look here, I want to know something, and you've got to tell
"Please, don't " began Rose, beseechingly.
"You must, or I'll pull off this shade and stare at the sun as hard as
ever I can stare. Come now!" and he half rose, as if ready to
execute the threat.
"I will! oh, I will tell, if I know! But don't be reckless and do
anything so crazy as that," cried Rose, in great distress.
"Very well; then listen, and don't dodge, as everyone else does.
Didn't the doctor think my eyes worse the last time he came?
Mother won't say, but you shall."
"I believe he did," faltered Rose.
"I thought so! Did he say I should be able to go to school when it
"No, Mac," very low.
That was all, but Rose saw her cousin set his lips together and take
a long breath, as if she had hit him hard. He bore the
disappointment bravely, however, and asked quite steadily in a
"How soon does he think I can study again?"
It was so hard to answer that! Yet Rose knew she must, for Aunt
Jane had declared she could not do it, and Uncle Mac had begged
her to break the truth to the poor lad.
"Not for a good many months."
"How many?" he asked with a pathetic sort of gruffness.
"A year, perhaps."
"A whole year! Why, I expected to be ready for college by that
time." And, pushing up the shade, Mac stared at her with startled
eyes, that soon blinked and fell before the one ray of light.
"Plenty of time for that; you must be patient now, and get them
thoroughly well, or they will trouble you again when it will be
harder to spare them," she said, with tears in her own eyes.
"I won't do it! I will study and get through somehow. It's all
humbug about taking care so long. These doctors like to keep hold
of a fellow if they can. But I won't stand it I vow I won't!" and he
banged his fist down on the unoffending pillow as if he were
pommelling the hard-hearted doctor.
"Now, Mac, listen to me," Rose said very earnestly, though her
voice shook a little and her heart ached. "You know you have hurt
your eyes reading by fire-light and in the dusk, and sitting up late,
and now you'll have to pay for it; the doctor said so. You must be
careful, and do as he tells you, or you will be blind."
"Yes, it is true, and he wanted us to tell you that nothing but entire
rest would cure you. I know it's dreadfully hard, but we'll all help
you; I'll read all day long, and lead you, and wait upon you, and try
to make it easier "
She stopped there, for it was evident that he did not hear a sound;
the word "blind" seemed to have knocked him down, for he had
buried his face in the pillow, and lay so still that Rose was
frightened. She sat motionless for many minutes, longing to
comfort him, but not knowing how, and wishing Uncle Alec would
come, for he had promised to tell Mac.
Presently, a sort of choking sound came out of the pillow, and
went straight to her heart the most pathetic sob she ever heard, for,
though it was the most natural means of relief, the poor fellow
must not indulge in it because of the afflicted eyes. The "French
Revolution" tumbled out of her lap, and, running to the sofa, she
knelt down by it, saying, with the motherly sort of tenderness girls
feel for any sorrowing creature
"Oh, my dear, you mustn't cry! It is so bad for your poor eyes. Take
your head out of that hot pillow, and let me cool it. I don't wonder
you feel so, but please don't cry. I'll cry for you; it won't hurt me."
As she spoke she pulled away the cushion with gentle force, and
saw the green shade all crushed and stained with the few hot tears
that told how bitter the disappointment had been. Mac felt her
sympathy, but, being a boy, did not thank her for it; only sat up
with a jerk, saying, as he tried to rub away the tell-tale drops with
the sleeve of his jacket, "Don't bother; weak eyes always water. I'm
But Rose cried out, and caught his arm, "Don't touch them with
that rough woollen stuff! Lie down and let me bathe them, there's a
dear boy; then there will be no harm done."
"They do smart confoundedly. I say, don't you tell the other fellows
that I made a baby of myself, will you?" he added, yielding with a
sigh to the orders of his nurse, who had flown for the eye-wash and
linen cambric handkerchief.
"Of course I won't; but anyone would be upset at the idea of being
well troubled in this way. I'm sure you bear it splendidly, and you
know it isn't half so bad when you get used to it. Besides, it is only
for a time, and you can do lots of pleasant things if you can't study.
You'll have to wear blue goggles, perhaps; won't that be funny?"
And while she was pouring out all the comfortable words she
could think of, Rose was softly bathing the eyes and dabbing the
hot forehead with lavender-water, as her patient lay quiet with a
look on his face that grieved her sadly.
"Homer was blind, and so was Milton, and they did something to
be remembered by, in spite of it," he said, as if to himself, in a
solemn tone, for even the blue goggles did not bring a smile.
"Papa had a picture of Milton and his daughters writing for him. It
was a very sweet picture, I thought," observed Rose in a serious
voice, trying to meet the sufferer on his own ground.
"Perhaps I could study if someone read and did the eye part. Do
you suppose I could, by and by?" he asked, with a sudden ray of
"I dare say, if your head is strong enough. This sunstroke, you
know, is what upset you, and your brain needs rest, the doctor
"I'll have a talk with the old fellow next time he comes, and find
out just what I may do; then I shall know where I am. What a fool I
was that day to be stewing my brains and letting the sun glare on
my book till the letters danced before me! I see 'em now when I
shut my eyes; black balls bobbing round, and stars and all sorts of
queer things. Wonder if all blind people do?"
"Don't think about them; I'll go on reading, shall I? We shall come
to the exciting part soon, and then you'll forget all this," suggested
"No, I never shall forget. Hang the old 'Revolution'! I don't want to
hear another word of it. My head aches, and I'm hot. Oh, wouldn't I
like to go for a pull in the 'Stormy Petrel!"' and poor Mac tossed
about as if he did not know what to do with himself.
"Let me sing, and perhaps you'll drop off; then the day will seem
shorter," said Rose, taking up a fan and sitting down beside him.
"Perhaps I shall; I didn't sleep much last night, and when I did I
dreamed like fun. See here, you tell the people that I know, and it's
all right, and I don't want them to talk about it or howl over me.
That's all; now drone away, and I'll try to sleep. Wish I could for a
year, and wake up cured."
"Oh, I wish, I wish you could!"
Rose said it so fervently that Mac was moved to grope for her
apron and hold on to a corner of it, as if it was comfortable to feel
her near him. But all he said was
"You are a good little soul, Rosy. Give us 'The Birks'; that is a
drowsy one that always sends me off."
Quite contented with this small return for all her sympathy, Rose
waved her fan and sang, in a dreamy tone, the pretty Scotch air, the
burden of which is
"Bonny lassie, will ye gang, will ye gang
To the Birks of Aberfeldie?"
Whether the lassie went or not I cannot say, but the laddie was off
to the land of Nod, in about ten minutes, quite worn out with
hearing the bad tidings and the effort to bear them manfully.
Chapter 12 - "The Other Fellows"
Rose did tell "the people" what had passed, and no one "howled"
over Mac, or said a word to trouble him. He had his talk with the
doctor, and got very little comfort out of it, for he found that "just
what he might do" was nothing at all; though the prospect of some
study by and by, if all went well, gave him courage to bear the
woes of the present. Having made up his mind to this, he behaved
so well that everyone was astonished, never having suspected so
much manliness in the quiet Worm.
The boys were much impressed, both by the greatness of the
affliction which hung over him and by his way of bearing it. They
were very good to him, but not always particularly wise in their
attempts to cheer and amuse; and Rose often found him much
downcast after a visit of condolence from the Clan. She still kept
her place as head-nurse and chief-reader, though the boys did their
best in an irregular sort of way. They were rather taken aback
sometimes at finding Rose's services preferred to their's, and
privately confided to one another that "Old Mac was getting fond
of being molly-coddled." But they could not help seeing how
useful she was, and owning that she alone had remained faithful a
fact which caused some of them much secret compunction now
Rose felt that she ruled in that room, if nowhere else, for Aunt
Jane left a great deal to her, finding that her experience with her
invalid father fitted her for a nurse, and in a case like this, her
youth was an advantage rather than a drawback. Mac soon came to
think that no one could take care of him so well as Rose, and Rose
soon grew fond of her patient, though at first she had considered
this cousin the least attractive of the seven. He was not polite and
sensible like Archie, nor gay and handsome like Prince Charlie,
nor neat and obliging like Steve, nor amusing like the "Brats," nor
confiding and affectionate like little Jamie. He was rough,
absent-minded, careless, and awkward, rather priggish, and not at
all agreeable to a dainty, beauty-loving girl like Rose.
But when his trouble came upon him, she discovered many good
things in this cousin of hers, and learned not only to pity but to
respect and love the poor Worm, who tried to be patient, brave,
and cheerful, and found it a harder task than anyone guessed,
except the little nurse, who saw him in his gloomiest moods. She
soon came to think that his friends did not appreciate him, and
upon one occasion was moved to free her mind in a way that made
a deep impression on the boys.
Vacation was almost over, and the time drawing near when Mac
would be left outside the happy school-world which he so much
enjoyed. This made him rather low in his mind, and his cousins
exerted themselves to cheer him up, especially one afternoon when
a spasm of devotion seemed to seize them all. Jamie trudged down
the hill with a basket of blackberries which he had "picked all his
ownself," as his scratched fingers and stained lips plainly testified.
Will and Geordie brought their puppies to beguile the weary hours,
and the three elder lads called to discuss baseball, cricket, and
kindred subjects, eminently fitted to remind the invalid of his
Rose had gone to drive with Uncle Alec, who declared she was
getting as pale as a potato sprout, living so much in a dark room.
But her thoughts were with her boy all the while, and she ran up to
him the moment she returned, to find things in a fine state of
With the best intentions in life, the lads had done more harm than
good, and the spectacle that met Nurse Rose's eye was a trying
one. The puppies were yelping, the small boys romping, and the
big boys all talking at once; the curtains were up, the room close,
berries scattered freely about, Mac's shade half off, his cheeks
flushed, his temper ruffled, and his voice loudest of all as he
disputed hotly with Steve about lending certain treasured books
which he could no longer use.
Now Rose considered this her special kingdom, and came down
upon the invaders with an energy which amazed them and quelled
the riot at once. They had never seen her roused before, and the
effect was tremendous; also comical, for she drove the whole flock
of boys out of the room like an indignant little hen defending her
brood. They all went as meekly as sheep; the small lads fled from
the house precipitately, but the three elder ones only retired to the
next room, and remained there hoping for a chance to explain and
apologise, and so appease the irate young lady, who had suddenly
turned the tables and clattered them about their ears.
As they waited, they observed her proceedings through the
half-open door, and commented upon them briefly but
expressively, feeling quite bowed down with remorse at the harm
they had innocently done.
"She's put the room to rights in a jiffey. What jacks we were to let
those dogs in and kick up such a row," observed Steve, after a
"The poor old Worm turns as if she was treading on him instead of
cuddling him like a pussy cat. Isn't he cross, though?" added
Charlie, as Mac was heard growling about his "confounded head."
"She will manage him; but it's mean in us to rumple him up and
then leave her to smooth him down. I'd go and help, but I don't
know how," said Archie. looking much depressed, for he was a
conscientious fellow, and blamed himself for his want of thought.
"No, more do I. Odd, isn't it, what a knack women have for taking
care of sick folks?" and Charlie fell a-musing over this undeniable
"She has been ever so good to Mac," began Steve, in a
"Better than his own brother, hey?" cut in Archie, finding relief for
his own regret in the delinquencies of another.
"Well, you needn't preach; you didn't any of you do any more, and
you might have, for Mac likes you better than he does me. I always
fret him, he says, and it isn't my fault if I am a quiddle," protested
Steve, in self-defence.
"We have all been selfish and neglected him, so we won't fight
about it, but try and do better," said Archie, generously taking
more than his share of blame, for he had been less inattentive than
either of the others.
"Rose has stood by him like a good one, and it's no wonder he likes
to have her round best. I should myself if I was down on my luck
as he is," put in Charlie, feeling that he really had not done "the
little thing" justice.
"I'll tell you what it is, boys we haven't been half good enough to
Rose, and we've got to make it up to her somehow," said Archie,
who had a very manly sense of honour about paying his debts,
even to a girl.
"I'm awfully sorry I made fun of her doll when Jamie lugged it out;
and I called her 'baby bunting' when she cried over the dead kitten.
Girls are such geese sometimes, I can't help it," said Steve,
confessing his transgressions handsomely, and feeling quite ready
to atone for them if he only knew how.
"I'll go down on my knees and beg her pardon for treating her as if
she was a child. Don't it make her mad, though? Come to think of
it, she's only two years or so younger than I am. But she is so small
and pretty, she always seems like a dolly to me," and the Prince
looked down from his lofty height of five feet five as if Rose was
indeed a pygmy beside him.
"That dolly has got a real good little heart, and a bright mind of her
own, you'd better believe. Mac says she understands some things
quicker than he can, and mother thinks she is an uncommonly nice
girl, though she don't know all creation. You needn't put on airs,
Charlie, though you are a tall one, for Rose likes Archie better than
you; she said she did because he treated her respectfully."
"Steve looks as fierce as a game-cock; but don't you get excited,
my son, for it won't do a bit of good. Of course, everybody likes
the Chief best; they ought to, and I'll punch their heads if they
don't. So calm yourself, Dandy, and mend your own manners
before you come down on other people's."
Thus the Prince with great dignity and perfect good nature, while
Archie looked modestly gratified with the flattering opinions of his
kinsfolk, and Steve subsided, feeling he had done his duty as a
cousin and a brother. A pause ensued, during which Aunt Jane
appeared in the other room, accompanied by a tea-tray
sumptuously spread, and prepared to feed her big nestling, as that
was a task she allowed no one to share with her.
"If you have a minute to spare before you go, child, I wish you'd
just make Mac a fresh shade; this has got a berry stain on it, and he
must be tidy, for he is to go out to-morrow if it is a cloudy day,"
said Mrs. Jane, spreading toast in a stately manner, while Mac
slopped his tea about without receiving a word of reproof.
"Yes, aunt," answered Rose, so meekly that the boys could hardly
believe it could be the same voice which had issued the stern
command, "Out of this room, every one of you!" not very long ago.
They had not time to retire, without unseemly haste, before she
walked into the parlour and sat down at the work-table without a
word. It was funny to see the look the three tall lads cast at the
little person sedately threading a needle with green silk. They all
wanted to say something expressive of repentance, but no one
knew how to begin, and it was evident, from the prim expression
of Rose's face, that she intended to stand upon her dignity till they
had properly abased themselves. The pause was becoming very
awkward, when Charlie, who possessed all the persuasive arts of a
born scapegrace, went slowly down upon his knees before her,
beat his breast, and said, in a heart-broken tone
"Please forgive me this time, and I'll never do so any more."
It was very hard to keep sober, but Rose managed it and answered
"It is Mac's pardon you should ask, not mine, for you haven't hurt
me, and I shouldn't wonder if you had him a great deal, with all
that light and racket, and talk about things that only worry him."
"Do you really think we've hurt him, cousin?" asked Archie, with a
troubled look, while Charlie settled down in a remorseful heap
among the table legs.
"Yes, I do, for he has got a raging headache, and his eyes are as red
as as this emery bag," answered Rose, solemnly plunging her
needle into a fat flannel strawberry.
Steve tore his hair, metaphorically speaking, for he clutched his
cherished top-knot, and wildly dishevelled it, as if that was the
heaviest penance he could inflict upon himself at such short
notice. Charlie laid himself out flat, melodramatically begging
someone to take him away and hang him; but Archie, who felt
worst of all, said nothing except to vow within himself that he
would read to Mac till his own eyes were as red as a dozen emery
Seeing the wholesome effects of her treatment upon these culprits,
Rose felt that she might relent and allow them a gleam of hope.
She found it impossible to help trampling upon the prostrate
Prince a little, in words at least, for he had hurt her feelings oftener
than he knew; so she gave him a thimble-pie on the top of his
head, and said, with an air of an infinitely superior being
"Don't be silly, but get up, and I'll tell you something much better
to do than sprawling on the floor and getting all over lint."
Charlie obediently sat himself upon a hassock at her feet; the other
sinners drew near to catch the words of wisdom about to fall from
her lips, and Rose, softened by this gratifying humility, addressed
them in her most maternal tone.
"Now, boys, if you really want to be good to Mac, you can do it in
this way. Don't keep talking about things he can't do, or go and tell
what fun you have had batting your ridiculous balls about. Get
some nice book and read quietly; cheer him up about school, and
offer to help him study by and by; you can do that better than I,
because I'm only a girl, and don't learn Greek and Latin and all
sorts of headachy stuff."
"Yes, but you can do heaps of things better than we can; you've
proved that," said Archie, with an approving look that delighted
Rose, though she could not resist giving Charlie one more rebuke,
by saying, with a little bridling of the head, and a curl of the lip
that wanted to smile instead
"I'm glad you think so, though I am a 'queer chicken."'
This scathing remark caused the Prince to hide his face for shame,
and Steve to erect his head in the proud consciousness that this
shot was not meant for him. Archie laughed, and Rose, seeing a
merry blue eye winking at her from behind two brown hands, gave
Charlie's ear a friendly tweak, and extended the olive-branch of
"Now we'll all be good, and plan nice things for poor Mac," she
said, smiling so graciously that the boys felt as if the sun had
suddenly burst out from behind a heavy cloud and was shining
with great brilliancy.
The storm had cleared the air, and quite a heavenly calm
succeeded, during which plans of a most varied and surprising sort
were laid, for everyone burned to make noble sacrifices upon the
shrine of "poor Mac," and Rose was the guiding star to whom the
others looked with most gratifying submission. Of course, this
elevated state of things could not endure long, but it was very nice
while it lasted, and left an excellent effect upon the minds of all
when the first ardour had subsided.
"There, that's ready for to-morrow, and I do hope it will be
cloudy," said Rose, as she finished off the new shade, the progress
of which the boys had watched with interest.
"I'd bespoken an extra sunny day, but I'll tell the clerk of the
weather to change it. He's an obliging fellow, and he'll attend to it,
so make yourself easy," said Charlie, who had become quite perky
"It is very easy for you to joke, but how would you like to wear a
blinder like that for weeks and weeks, sir?" and Rose quenched his
rising spirits by slipping the shade over his eyes, as he still sat on
the cushion at her feet.
"It's horrid! Take it off, take it off! I don't wonder the poor old boy
has the blues with a thing like that on"; and Charlie sat looking at
what seemed to him an instrument of torture, with such a sober
face that Rose took it gently away, and went in to bid Mac
"I shall go home with her, for it is getting darkish, and she is rather
timid," said Archie, forgetting that he had often laughed at this
"I think I might, for she's taking care of my brother," put in Steve,
asserting his rights.
"Let's all go, that will please her"; proposed Charlie, with a burst
of gallantry which electrified his mates.
"We will!" they said with one voice, and they did, to Rose's great
surprise and secret contentment; though Archie had all the care of
her, for the other two were leaping fences, running races, and
having wrestling matches all the way down.
They composed themselves on reaching the door, however; shook
hands cordially all round, made their best bows, and retired with
great elegance and dignity, leaving Rose to say to herself, with
girlish satisfaction, as she went in
"Now, that is the way I like to be treated."
Chapter 13 - Cosey Corner
Vacation was over, the boys went back to school, and poor Mac
was left lamenting. He was out of the darkened room now, and
promoted to blue goggles, through which he took a gloomy view of
life, as might have been expected; for there was nothing he could
do but wander about, and try to amuse himself without using his
eyes. Anyone who has ever been condemned to that sort of
idleness knows how irksome it is, and can understand the state of
mind which caused Mac to say to Rose in a desperate tone one day
"Look here, if you don't invent some new employment or
amusement for me, I shall knock myself on the head as sure as you
Rose flew to Uncle Alec for advice, and he ordered both patient
and nurse to the mountains for a month, with Aunt Jessie and
Jamie as escort. Pokey and her mother joined the party, and one
bright September morning six very happy-looking people were
aboard the express train for Portland two smiling mammas, laden
with luncheon baskets and wraps; a pretty young girl with a bag of
books on her arm; a tall thin lad with his hat over his eyes; and two
small children, who sat with their short legs straight out before
them, and their chubby faces beaming with the first speechless
delight of "truly travelling."
An especially splendid sunset seemed to have been prepared to
welcome them when, after a long day's journey, they drove into a
wide, green door-yard, where a white colt, a red cow, two cats,
four kittens, many hens, and a dozen people, old and young, were
gaily disporting themselves. Everyone nodded and smiled in the
friendliest manner, and a lively old lady kissed the new-comers all
round, as she said heartily
"Well, now, I'm proper glad to see you! Come right in and rest, and
we'll have tea in less than no time, for you must be tired. Lizzie,
you show the folks upstairs; Kitty, you fly round and help father in
with the trunks; and Jenny and I will have the table all ready by the
time you come down. Bless the dears, they want to go see the
pussies, and so they shall!"
The three pretty daughters did "fly round," and everyone felt at
home at once, all were so hospitable and kind. Aunt Jessie had
raptures over the home-made carpets, quilts and quaint furniture;
Rose could not keep away from the windows, for each framed a
lovely picture; and the little folks made friends at once with the
other children, who filled their arms with chickens and kittens, and
did the honours handsomely.
The toot of a horn called all to supper, and a goodly party,
including six children besides the Camp-bells, assembled in the
long dining-room, armed with mountain appetites and the gayest
spirits. It was impossible for anyone to be shy or sober, for such
gales of merriment arose they blew the starch out of the stiffest,
and made the saddest jolly. Mother Atkinson, as all called their
hostess, was the merriest there, and the busiest; for she kept flying
up to wait on the children, to bring out some new dish, or to banish
the live stock, who were of such a social turn that the colt came
into the entry and demanded sugar; the cats sat about in people's
laps, winking suggestively at the food; and speckled hens cleared
the kitchen floor of crumbs, as they joined in the chat with a
Everybody turned out after tea to watch the sunset till all the lovely
red was gone, and mosquitoes wound their shrill horns to sound
the retreat. The music of an organ surprised the new-comers, and
in the parlor they found Father Atkinson playing sweetly on the
little instrument made by himself. All the children gathered about
him, and, led by the tuneful sisters, sang prettily till Pokey fell
asleep behind the door, and Jamie gaped audibly right in the
middle of his favourite
"Coo," said the little doves: "Coo," said she,
"All in the top of the old pine-tree."
The older travellers, being tired, went to "bye low" at the same
time, and slept like tops in home-spun sheets, on husk mattresses
made by Mother Atkinson, who seemed to have put some soothing
powder among them, so deep and sweet was the slumber that
Next day began the wholesome out-of-door life, which works such
wonders with tired minds and feeble bodies. The weather was
perfect, and the mountain air made the children as frisky as young
lambs; while the elders went about smiling at one another, and
saying, "Isn't it splendid?" Even Mac, the "slow coach," was seen
to leap over a fence as if he really could not help it; and when
Rose ran after him with his broad-brimmed hat, he made the
spirited proposal to go into the woods and hunt for a catamount.
Jamie and Pokey were at once enrolled in the Cosey Corner Light
Infantry a truly superb company, composed entirely of officers, all
wearing cocked hats, carrying flags, waving swords, or beating
drums. It was a spectacle to stir the dullest soul when this gallant
band marched out of the yard in full regimentals, with Captain
Dove a solemn, big-headed boy of eleven issuing his orders with
the gravity of a general, and his Falstaffian regiment obeying them
with more docility than skill. The little Snow children did very
well, and Lieutenant Jack Dove was fine to see; so was Drummer
Frank, the errand-boy of the house, as he rub-a-dub-dubbed with
all his heart and drumsticks. Jamie had "trained" before, and was
made a colonel at once; but Pokey was the best of all, and called
forth a spontaneous burst of applause from the spectators as she
brought up the rear, her cocked hat all over one eye, her flag
trailing over her shoulder, and her wooden sword straight up in the
air; her face beaming and every curl bobbing with delight as her
fat legs tottered in the vain attempt to keep step manfully.
Mac and Rose were picking blackberries in the bushes beside the
road when the soldiers passed without seeing them, and they
witnessed a sight that was both pretty and comical. A little farther
on was one of the family burial spots so common in those parts,
and just this side of it Captain Fred Dove ordered his company to
halt, explaining his reason for so doing in the following words
"That's a graveyard, and it's proper to muffle the drums and lower
the flags as we go by, and we'd better take off our hats, too; it's
more respectable, I think."
"Isn't that cunning of the dears?" whispered Rose, as the little troop
marched slowly by to the muffled roll of the drums, every flag and
sword held low, all the little heads uncovered, and the childish
faces very sober as the leafy shadows flickered over them.
"Let's follow and see what they are after," proposed Mac, who
found sitting on the wall and being fed with blackberries luxurious
So they followed and heard the music grow lively, saw the banners
wave in the breeze again when the graveyard was passed, and
watched the company file into the dilapidated old church that
stood at the corner of three woodland roads. Presently the sound of
singing made the outsiders quicken their steps, and, stealing up,
they peeped in at one of the broken windows.
Captain Dove was up in the old wooden pulpit, gazing solemnly
down upon his company, who, having stacked their arms in the
porch, now sat in the bare pews singing a Sunday-school hymn
with great vigour and relish.
"Let us pray," said Captain Dove, with as much reverence as an
army chaplain; and, folding his hands, he repeated a prayer which
he thought all would know an excellent little prayer, but not
exactly appropriate to the morning, for it was
"Now I lay me down to sleep."
Everyone joined in saying it, and it was a pretty sight to see the
little creatures bowing their curly heads and lisping out the words
they knew so well. Tears came into Rose's eyes as she looked; Mac
took his hat off involuntarily, and then clapped it on again as if
ashamed of showing any feeling.
"Now I shall preach you a short sermon, and my text is, 'Little
children, love one another.' I asked mamma to give me one, and
she thought that would be good; so you all sit still and I'll preach it.
You mustn't whisper, Marion, but hear me. It means that we
should be good to each other, and play fair, and not quarrel as we
did this very day about the wagon. Jack can't always drive, and
needn't be mad because I like to go with Frank. Annette ought to
be horse sometimes and not always driver; and Willie may as well
make up his mind to let Marion build her house by his, for she will
do it, and he needn't fuss about it. Jamie seems to be a good boy,
but I shall preach to him if he isn't. No, Pokey, people don't kiss in
church or put their hats on. Now you must all remember what I tell
you, because I am the captain, and you should mind me."
Here Lieutenant Jack spoke right out in meeting with the
"Don't care if you are; you'd better mind yourself, and tell how you
took away my strap, and kept the biggest doughnut, and didn't
draw fair when we had the truck."
"Yes, and you slapped Frank; I saw you!" bawled Willie Snow,
bobbing up in his pew.
"And you took my book away and hid it 'cause I wouldn't go and
swing when you wanted me to," added Annette, the oldest of the
"I shan't build my house by Willie's if he don't want me to, so
now!" put in little Marion, joining the mutiny.
"I will tiss Dimmy! and I tored up my hat 'tause a pin picked me,"
shouted Pokey, regardless of Jamie's efforts to restrain her.
Captain Dove looked rather taken aback at this outbreak in the
ranks; but, being a dignified and calm personage, he quelled the
rising rebellion with great tact and skill, by saying, briefly
"We'll sing the last hymn; 'Sweet, sweet good-by' you all know
that, so do it nicely, and then we will go and have luncheon."
Peace was instantly restored, and a burst of melody drowned the
suppressed giggles of Rose and Mac, who found it impossible to
keep sober during the latter part of this somewhat remarkable
service. Fifteen minutes of repose rendered it a physical
impossibility for the company to march out as quietly as they had
marched in. I grieve to state that the entire troop raced home as
hard as they could pelt, and were soon skirmishing briskly over
their lunch, utterly oblivious of what Jamie (who had been much
impressed by the sermon) called "the captain's beautiful teck."
It was astonishing how much they all found to do at Cosey Corner;
and Mac, instead of lying in a hammock and being read to, as he
had expected, was busiest of all. He was invited to survey and lay
out Skeeterville, a town which the children were getting up in a
huckleberry pasture; and he found much amusement in planning
little roads, staking off house-lots, attending to the water-works,
and consulting with the "selectmen" about the best sites for public
buildings; for Mac was a boy still, in spite of his fifteen years and
his love of books.
Then he went fishing with a certain jovial gentleman from the
West; and though they seldom caught anything but colds, they had
great fun and exercise chasing the phantom trout they were bound
to have. Mac also developed a geological mania, and went tapping
about at rocks and stones, discoursing wisely of "strata, periods,
and fossil remains"; while Rose picked up leaves and lichens, and
gave him lessons in botany in return for his lectures on geology.
They led a very merry life; for the Atkinson girls kept up a sort of
perpetual picnic; and did it so capitally, that one was never tired of
it. So their visitors throve finely, and long before the month was
out it was evident that Dr. Alec had prescribed the right medicine
for his patients.
Chapter 14 - A Happy Birthday
The twelfth of October was Rose's birthday, but no one seemed to
remember that interesting fact, and she felt delicate about
mentioning it, so fell asleep the night before wondering if she
would have any presents. That question was settled early the next
morning, for she was awakened by a soft tap on her face, and
opening her eyes she beheld a little black and white figure sitting
on her pillow, staring at her with a pair of round eyes very like
blueberries, while one downy paw patted her nose to attract her
notice. It was Kitty Comet, the prettiest of all the pussies, and
Comet evidently had a mission to perform, for a pink bow adorned
her neck, and a bit of paper was pinned to it bearing the words,
"For Miss Rose, from Frank."
That pleased her extremely, and that was only the beginning of the
fun, for surprises and presents kept popping out in the most
delightful manner all through the day, the Atkinson girls being
famous jokers and Rose a favourite. But the best gift of all came
on the way to Mount Windy-Top, where it was decided to picnic in
honour of the great occasion. Three jolly loads set off soon after
breakfast, for everybody went, and everybody seemed bound to
have an extra good time, especially Mother Atkinson, who wore a
hat as broad-brimmed as an umbrella, and took the dinner-horn to
keep her flock from straying away.
"I'm going to drive auntie and a lot of the babies, so you must ride
the pony. And please stay behind us a good bit when we go to the
station, for a parcel is coming, and you are not to see it till
dinner-time. You won't mind, will you?" said Mac, in a
confidential aside during the wild flurry of the start.
"Not a bit," answered Rose. "It hurts my feelings very much to be
told to keep out of the way at any other time, but birthdays and
Christmas it is part of the fun to be blind and stupid, and poked
into corners. I'll be ready as soon as you are, Giglamps."
"Stop under the big maple till I call then you can't possibly see
anything," added Mac, as he mounted her on the pony his father
had sent up for his use. "Barkis" was so gentle and so "willin',"
however, that Rose was ashamed to be afraid to ride him; so she
had learned, that she might surprise Dr. Alec when she got home;
meantime she had many a fine canter "over the hills and far away"
with Mac, who preferred Mr. Atkinson's old Sorrel.
Away they went, and, coming to the red maple, Rose obediently
paused; but could not help stealing a glance in the forbidden
direction before the call came. Yes, there was a hamper going
under the seat, and then she caught sight of a tall man whom Mac
seemed to be hustling into the carriage in a great hurry. One look
was enough, and with a cry of delight, Rose was off down the road
as fast as Barkis could go.
"Now I'll astonish uncle," she thought. "I'll dash up in grand style,
and show him that I am not a coward, after all."
Fired by this ambition, she startled Barkis by a sharp cut, and still
more bewildered him by leaving him to his own guidance down
the steep, stony road. The approach would have been a fine
success if, just as Rose was about to pull up and salute, two or
three distracted hens had not scuttled across the road with a great
squawking, which caused Barkis to shy and stop so suddenly that
his careless rider landed in an ignominious heap just under old
Sorrel's astonished nose.
Rose was up again before Dr. Alec was out of the carryall, and
threw two dusty arms about his neck crying with a breathless voice
"O uncle, I'm so glad to see you! It is better than a cart-load of
goodies, and so dear of you to come!"
"But aren't you hurt, child! That was a rough tumble, and I'm afraid
you must be damaged somewhere," answered the Doctor, full of
fond anxiety, as he surveyed his girl with pride.
"My feelings are hurt, but my bones are all safe. It's too bad! I was
going to do it so nicely, and those stupid hens spoilt it all," said
Rose, quite crestfallen, as well as much shaken.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I asked 'Where is Rose?' and Mac
pointed to the little Amazon pelting down the hill at such a rate.
You couldn't have done anything that would please me more, and
I'm delighted to see how well you ride. Now, will you mount again,
or shall we turn Mac out and take you in?" asked Dr. Alec, as Aunt
Jessie proposed a start, for the others were beckoning them to
"Pride goeth before a fall better not try to show off again, ma'am,"
said Mac, who would have been more than mortal if he had
refrained from teasing when so good a chance offered.
"Pride does go before a fall, but I wonder if a sprained ankle
always comes after it?" thought Rose, bravely concealing her pain,
as she answered, with great dignity
"I prefer to ride. Come on, and see who will catch up first."
She was up and away as she spoke, doing her best to efface the
memory of her downfall by sitting very erect, elbows down, head
well up, and taking the motion of the pony as Barkis cantered
along as easily as a rocking-chair.
"You ought to see her go over a fence and race when we ride
together. She can scud, too, like a deer when we play 'Follow the
leader,' and skip stones and bat balls almost as well as I can," said
Mac, in reply to his uncle's praise of his pupil.
"I'm afraid you will think her a sad tomboy, Alec; but really she
seems so well and happy, I have not the heart to check her. She has
broken out in the most unexpected way, and frisks like a colt; for
she says she feels so full of spirits she must run and shout whether
it is proper or not," added Mrs. Jessie, who had been a pretty
hoyden years ago herself.
"Good good! that's the best news you could tell me," and Dr. Alec
rubbed his hands heartily. "Let the girl run and shout as much as
she will it is a sure sign of health, and as natural to a happy child
as frisking is to any young animal full of life. Tomboys make
strong women usually, and I had far rather find Rose playing
football with Mac than puttering over bead-work like that affected
midget, Ariadne Blish."
"But she cannot go on playing football very long, and we must not
forget that she has a woman's work to do by and by," began Mrs.
"Neither will Mac play football much longer, but he will be all the
better fitted for business, because of the health it gives him. Polish
is easily added, if the foundations are strong; but no amount of
gilding will be of use if your timber is not sound. I'm sure I'm right,
Jessie; and if I can do as well by my girl during the next six
months as I have the last, my experiment will succeed."
"It certainly will; for when I contrast that bright, blooming face
with the pale, listless one that made my heart ache a while ago, I
can believe in almost any miracle," said Mrs. Jessie, as Rose
looked round to point out a lovely view, with cheeks like the ruddy
apples in the orchard near by, eyes clear as the autumn sky
overhead, and vigour in every line of her girlish figure.
A general scramble among the rocks was followed by a regular
gypsy lunch, which the young folks had the rapture of helping to
prepare. Mother Atkinson put on her apron, turned up her sleeves,
and fell to work as gaily as if in her own kitchen, boiling the kettle
slung on three sticks, over a fire of cones and fir boughs; while the
girls spread the mossy table with a feast of country goodies, and
the children tumbled about in everyone's way till the toot of the
horn made them settle down like a flock of hungry birds.
As soon as the merry meal and a brief interval of repose were over,
it was unanimously voted to have some charades. A smooth, green
spot between two stately pines was chosen for the stage; shawls
hung up, properties collected, audience and actors separated, and a
word quickly chosen.
The first scene discovered Mac in a despondent attitude and
shabby dress, evidently much troubled in mind. To him entered a
remarkable creature with a brown paper bag over its head. A little
pink nose peeped through one hole in the middle, white teeth
through another, and above two eyes glared fiercely. Spires of
grass stuck in each side of the mouth seemed meant to represent
whiskers; the upper corners of the bag were twisted like ears, and
no one could doubt for a moment that the black scarf pinned on
behind was a tail.
This singular animal seemed in pantomime to be comforting his
master and offering advice, which was finally acted upon, for Mac
pulled off his boots, helped the little beast into them, and gave him
a bag; then, kissing his paw, with a hopeful gesture, the creature
retired, purring so successfully that there was a general cry of "Cat,
"Cat is the word," replied a voice, and the curtain fell.
The next scene was a puzzler, for in came another animal, on
all-fours this time, with a new sort of tail and long ears. A gray
shawl concealed its face, but an inquisitive sunbeam betrayed the
glitter as of goggles under the fringe. On its back rode a small
gentleman in Eastern costume, who appeared to find some
difficulty in keeping his seat as his steed jogged along. Suddenly a
spirit appeared, all in white, with long newspaper wings upon its
back and golden locks about its face. Singularly enough, the beast
beheld this apparition and backed instantly, but the rider evidently
saw nothing and whipped up unmercifully, also unsuccessfully, for
the spirit stood directly in the path, and the amiable beast would
not budge a foot. A lively skirmish followed, which ended in the
Eastern gentleman being upset into a sweet-fern bush, while the
better bred animal abased itself before the shining one.
The children were all in the dark till Mother Atkinson said, in an
"If that isn't Balaam and the ass, I'd like to know what it is. Rose
makes a sweet angel, doesn't she?"
"Ass" was evidently the word, and the angel retired, smiling with
mundane satisfaction over the compliment that reached her ears.
The next was a pretty little scene from the immortal story of
"Babes in the Wood." Jamie and Pokey came trotting in, hand in
hand, and, having been through the parts many times before, acted
with great ease and much fluency, audibly directing each other
from time to time as they went along. The berries were picked, the
way lost, tears shed, baby consolation administered, and then the
little pair lay down among the brakes and died with their eyes wide
open and the toes of their four little boots turned up to the daisies
in the most pathetic manner.
"Now the wobins tum. You be twite dead, Dimmy, and I'll peep in
and see 'em," one defunct innocent was heard to say.
"I hope they'll be quick, for I'm lying on a stone, and ants are
walking up my leg like fury," murmured the other.
Here the robins came flapping in with red scarves over their
breasts and leaves in their mouths, which they carefully laid upon
the babes wherever they would show best. A prickly blackberry
leaf placed directly over Pokey's nose caused her to sneeze so
violently that her little legs flew into the air; Jamie gave a startled
"Ow!" and the pitying fowls fled giggling.
After some discussion it was decided that the syllable must be
"strew or strow" and then they waited to see if it was a good guess.
This scene discovered Annette Snow in bed, evidently very ill;
Miss Jenny was her anxious mamma, and her merry conversation
amused the audience till Mac came in as a physician, and made
great fun with his big watch, pompous manner, and absurd
questions. He prescribed one pellet with an unpronounceable
name, and left after demanding twenty dollars for his brief visit.
The pellet was administered, and such awful agonies immediately
set in that the distracted mamma bade a sympathetic neighbour run
for Mother Know-all. The neighbour ran, and in came a brisk little
old lady in cap and specs, with a bundle of herbs under her arm,
which she at once applied in all sorts of funny ways, explaining
their virtues as she clapped a plantain poultice here, put a pounded
catnip plaster there, or tied a couple of mullein leaves round the
sufferer's throat. Instant relief ensued, the dying child sat up and
demanded baked beans. The grateful parent offered fifty dollars;
but Mother Know-all indignantly refused it and went smiling
away, declaring that a neighbourly turn needed no reward, and a
doctor's fee was all a humbug.
The audience were in fits of laughter over this scene, for Rose
imitated Mrs. Atkinson capitally, and the herb cure was a good hit
at the excellent lady's belief that "yarbs" would save mankind if
properly applied. No one enjoyed it more than herself, and the
saucy children prepared for the grand finale in high feather.
This closing scene was brief but striking, for two trains of cars
whizzed in from opposite sides, met with a terrible collision in the
middle of the stage, and a general smash-up completed the word
"Now let us act a proverb. I've got one all ready," said Rose, who
was dying to distinguish herself in some way before Uncle Alec.
So everyone but Mac, the gay Westerner, and Rose, took their
places on the rocky seats and discussed the late beautiful and
varied charade, in which Pokey frankly pronounced her own scene
the "bestest of all."
In five minutes the curtain was lifted; nothing appeared but a very
large sheet of brown paper pinned to a tree, and on it was drawn a
clock-face, the hands pointing to four. A small note below
informed the public that 4 A.M. was the time. Hardly had the
audience grasped this important fact when a long waterproof
serpent was seen uncoiling itself from behind a stump. An
inch-worm, perhaps, would be a better description, for it travelled
in the same humpy way as that pleasing reptile. Suddenly a very
wide-awake and active fowl advanced, pecking, chirping, and
scratching vigorously. A tuft of green leaves waved upon his crest,
a larger tuft of brakes made an umbrageous tail, and a shawl of
many colours formed his flapping wings. A truly noble bird, whose
legs had the genuine strut, whose eyes shone watchfully, and
whose voice had a ring that evidently struck terror into the
catterpillar's soul, if it was a catterpillar. He squirmed, he
wriggled, he humped as fast as he could, trying to escape; but all in
vain. The tufted bird espied him, gave one warbling sort of crow,
pounced upon him, and flapped triumphantly away.
"That early bird got such a big worm he could hardly carry him
off," laughed Aunt Jessie, as the children shouted over the joke
suggested by Mac's nickname.
"That is one of uncle's favourite proverbs, so I got it up for his
especial benefit," said Rose, coming up with the two-legged worm
"Very clever; what next?" asked Dr. Alec as she sat down beside
"The Dove boys are going to give us an 'Incident in the Life of
Napoleon,' as they call it; the children think it very splendid, and
the little fellows do it rather nicely," answered Mac with
A tent appeared, and pacing to and fro before it was a little
sentinel, who, in a brief soliloquy, informed the observers that the
elements were in a great state of confusion, that he had marched
some hundred miles or so that day, and that he was dying for want
of sleep. Then he paused, leaned upon his gun, and seemed to
doze; dropped slowly down, overpowered with slumber, and
finally lay flat, with his gun beside him, a faithless little sentinel.
Enter Napoleon, cocked hat, gray coat, high boots, folded arms,
grim mouth, and a melodramatic stride. Freddy Dove always
covered himself with glory in this part, and "took the stage" with a
Napoleonic attitude that brought down the house; for the
big-headed boy, with solemn, dark eyes and square brow, was "the
very moral of that rascal, Boneyparty," Mother Atkinson said.
Some great scheme was evidently brewing in his mighty mind a
trip across the Alps, a bonfire at Moscow, or a little skirmish at
Waterloo perhaps, for he marched in silent majesty till suddenly a
gentle snore disturbed the imperial reverie. He saw the sleeping
soldier and glared upon him, saying in an awful tone
"Ha! asleep at his post! Death is the penalty he must die!"
Picking up the musket, he is about to execute summary justice, as
emperors are in the habit of doing, when something in the face of
the weary sentinel appears to touch him. And well it might, for a
most engaging little warrior was Jack as he lay with his shako half
off, his childish face trying to keep sober, and a great black
moustache over his rosy mouth. It would have softened the heart of
any Napoleon, and the Little Corporal proved himself a man by
relenting, and saying, with a lofty gesture of forgiveness
"Brave fellow, he is worn out; I will let him sleep, and mount
guard in his place."
Then, shouldering the gun, this noble being strode to and fro with
a dignity which thrilled the younger spectators. The sentinel
awakes, sees what has happened, and gives himself up for lost. But
the Emperor restores his weapon, and, with that smile which won
all hearts, says, pointing to a high rock whereon a crow happens to
be sitting, "Be brave, be vigilant, and remember that from yonder
Pyramid generations are beholding you," and with these
memorable words he vanishes, leaving the grateful soldier bolt
upright, with his hand at his temple and deathless devotion
stamped upon his youthful countenance.
The applause which followed this superb piece had hardly
subsided, when a sudden splash and a shrill cry caused a general
rush toward the waterfall that went gambolling down the rocks,
singing sweetly as it ran. Pokey had tried to gambol also, and had
tumbled into a shallow pool, whither Jamie had gallantly followed,
in a vain attempt to fish her out, and both were paddling about half
frightened, half pleased with the unexpected bath.
This mishap made it necessary to get the dripping infants home as
soon as possible; so the wagons were loaded up, and away they
went, as merry as if the mountain air had really been "Oxygenated
Sweets not Bitters," as Dr. Alec suggested when Mac said he felt
as jolly as if he had been drinking champagne instead of the
current wine that came with a great frosted cake wreathed with
sugar roses in Aunt Plenty's hamper of goodies.
Rose took part in all the fun, and never betrayed by look or word
the twinges of pain she suffered in her ankle. She excused herself
from the games in the evening, however, and sat talking to Uncle
Alec in a lively way, that both amazed and delighted him; for she
confided to him that she played horse with the children, drilled
with the light infantry, climbed trees, and did other dreadful things
that would have caused the aunts to cry aloud if they knew of
"I don't care a pin what they say if you don't mind, uncle," she
answered, when he pictured the dismay of the good ladies.
"Ah, it's all very well to defy them, but you are getting so rampant,
I'm afraid you will defy me next, and then where are we?"
"No, I won't! I shouldn't dare; because you are my guardian, and
can put me in a strait-jacket if you like;" and Rose laughed in his
face, even while she nestled closer with a confiding gesture
pleasant to see.
"Upon my word, Rosy, I begin to feel like the man who bought an
elephant, and then didn't know what to do with him. I thought I
had got a pet and plaything for years to come; but here you are
growing up like a bean-stalk, and I shall find I've got a
strong-minded little woman on my hands before I can turn round.
There's predicament for a man and an uncle!"
Dr. Alec's comic distress was mercifully relieved for the time
being by a dance of goblins on the lawn, where the children, with
pumpkin lanterns on their heads, frisked about like
will-o'-the-wisps, as a parting surprise.
When Rose went to bed, she found that Uncle Alec had not
forgotten her; for on the table stood a delicate little easel, holding
two miniatures set in velvet. She knew them both, and stood
looking at them till her eyes brimmed over with tears that were
both sweet and sad; for they were the faces of her father and
mother, beautifully copied from portraits fast fading away.
Presently, she knelt down, and, putting her arms round the little
shrine, kissed one after the other, saying with an earnest voice, "I'll
truly try to make them glad to see me by and by."
And that was Rose's little prayer on the night of her fourteenth
Two days later the Campbells went home, a larger party than when
they came; for Dr. Alec was escort and Kitty Comet was borne in
state in a basket, with a bottle of milk, some tiny sandwiches, and
a doll's dish to drink out of, as well as a bit of carpet to lie on in
her palace car, out of which she kept popping her head in the most
There was a great kissing and cuddling, waving of handkerchiefs,
and last good-byes, as they went; and when they had started,
Mother Atkinson came running after them, to tuck in some little
pies, hot from the oven, "for the dears, who might get tired of
bread and butter during that long day's travel."
Another start, and another halt; for the Snow children came
shrieking up to demand the three kittens that Pokey was cooly
carrying off in a travelling bag. The unhappy kits were rescued,
half smothered, and restored to their lawful owners, amid dire
lamentation from the little kidnapper, who declared that she only
"tooked um 'cause they'd want to go wid their sister Tomit."
Start number three and stoppage number three, as Frank hailed
them with the luncheon basket, which had been forgotten, after
everyone had protested that it was safely in.
All went well after that, and the long journey was pleasantly
beguiled by Pokey and Pussy, who played together so prettily that
they were considered public benefactors.
"Rose doesn't want to go home, for she knows the aunts won't let
her rampage as she did up at Cosey Corner," said Mac, as they
approached the old house.
"I can't rampage if I want to for a time, at least; and I'll tell you
why. I sprained my ankle when I tumbled off of Barkis, and it gets
worse and worse; though I've done all I know to cure it and hide it,
so it shouldn't trouble anyone," whispered Rose, knitting her brows
with pain, as she prepared to descend, wishing her uncle would
take her instead of her bundles.
How he did it, she never knew; but Mac had her up the steps and
on the parlour sofa before she could put her foot to the ground.
"There you are right side up with care; and mind, now, if your
ankle bothers you, and you are laid up with it, I am to be your
footman. It's only fair, you know; for I don't forget how good you
have been to me." And Mac went to call Phebe, so full of gratitude
and good-will that his very goggles shone.
Chapter 15 - Ear-Rings
Rose's sprain proved to be a serious one, owing to neglect, and Dr.
Alec ordered her to lie on the sofa for a fortnight at least; whereat
she groaned dismally, but dared not openly complain, lest the boys
turn upon her with some of the wise little sermons on patience
which she had delivered for their benefit.
It was Mac's turn now, and honourably did he repay his debt; for,
as school was still forbidden, he had plenty of leisure, and devoted
most of it to Rose. He took many steps for her, and even allowed
her to teach him to knit, after assuring himself that many a brave
Scotchman knew how to "click the pricks." She was obliged to
take a solemn vow of secrecy, however, before he would consent;
for, though he did not mind being called "Giglamps," "Granny"
was more than his boyish soul could bear, and at the approach of
any of the Clan his knitting vanished as if by magic, which
frequent "chucking" out of sight did not improve the stripe he was
doing for Rose's new afghan.
She was busy with this pretty work one bright October afternoon,
all nicely established on her sofa in the upper hall, while Jamie
and Pokey (lent for her amusement) were keeping house in a
corner, with Comet and Rose's old doll for their "childerns."
Presently, Phebe appeared with a card. Rose read it, made a
grimace, then laughed and said
"I'll see Miss Blish," and immediately put on her company face,
pulled out her locket, and settled her curls.
"You dear thing, how do you do? I've been trying to call every day
since you got back, but I have so many engagements, I really
couldn't manage it till to-day. So glad you are alone, for mamma
said I could sit awhile, and I brought my lace-work to show you,
for it's perfectly lovely." cried Miss Blish, greeting Rose with a
kiss, which was not very warmly returned, though Rose politely
thanked her for coming, and bid Phebe roll up the easy chair.
"How nice to have a maid!" said Ariadne, as she settled herself
with much commotion. "Still, dear, you must be very lonely, and
feel the need of a bosom friend."
"I have my cousins," began Rose, with dignity, for her visitor's
patronising manner ruffled her temper.
"Gracious, child! you don't make friends of those great boys, do
you? Mamma says she really doesn't think it's proper for you to be
with them so much."
"They are like brothers, and my aunts do think it's proper," replied
Rose, rather sharply, for it struck her that this was none of Miss
"I was merely going to say I should be glad to have you for my
bosom friend, for Hatty Mason and I have had an awful quarrel,
and don't speak. She is too mean to live, so I gave her up. Just
think, she never paid back one of the caramels I've given her, and
never invited me to her party. I could have forgiven the caramels,
but to be left out in that rude way was more than I could bear, and
I told her never to look at me again as long as she lived."
"You are very kind, but I don't think I want a bosom friend, thank
you," said Rose, as Ariadne stopped to bridle and shake her flaxen
head over the delinquent Hatty Mason.
Now, in her heart Miss Blish thought Rose "a stuck-up puss," but
the other girls wanted to know her and couldn't, the old house was
a charming place to visit, the lads were considered fine fellows,
and the Campbells "are one of our first families," mamma said. So
Ariadne concealed her vexation at Rose's coolness, and changed
the subject as fast as possible.
"Studying French, I see; who is your teacher?" she asked, flitting
over the leaves of "Paul and Virginia," that lay on the table.
"I don't study it, for I read French as well as English, and uncle and
I often speak it for hours. He talks like a native, and says I have a
remarkably good accent."
Rose really could not help this small display of superiority, for
French was one of her strong points, and she was vain of it, though
she usually managed to hide this weakness. She felt that Ariadne
would be the better for a little crushing, and could not resist the
temptation to patronise in her turn.
"Oh, indeed!" said Miss Blish, rather blankly, for French was not
her strong point by any means.
"I am to go abroad with uncle in a year or two, and he knows how
important it is to understand the languages. Half the girls who
leave school can't speak decent French, and when they go abroad
they are so mortified. I shall be very glad to help you, if you like,
for, of course, you have no one to talk with at home."
Now Ariadne, though she looked like a wax doll, had feelings
within her instead of sawdust, and these feelings were hurt by
Rose's lofty tone. She thought her more "stuck up" than ever, but
did not know how to bring her down, yet longed to do it, for she
felt as if she had received a box on the ear, and involuntarily put
her hand up to it. The touch of an ear-ring consoled her, and
suggested a way of returning tit for tat in a telling manner.
"Thank you, dear; I don't need any help, for our teacher is from
Paris, and of course he speaks better French than your uncle."
Then she added, with a gesture of her head that set the little bells
on her ears to tingling: "How do you like my new ear-rings? Papa
gave them to me last week, and everyone says they are lovely."
Rose came down from her high horse with a rapidity that was
comical, for Ariadne had the upper hand now. Rose adored pretty
things, longed to wear them, and the desire of her girlish soul was
to have her ears bored, only Dr. Alec thought it foolish, so she
never had done it. She would gladly have given all the French she
could jabber for a pair of golden bells with pearl-tipped tongues,
like those Ariadne wore; and, clasping her hands, she answered, in
a tone that went to the hearer's heart
"They are too sweet for anything! If uncle would only let me wear
some, I should be perfectly happy."
"I wouldn't mind what he says. Papa laughed at me at first, but he
likes them now, and says I shall have diamond solitaires when I
am eighteen," said Ariadne, quite satisfied with her shot.
"I've got a pair now that were mamma's, and a beautiful little pair
of pearl and turquoise ones, that I am dying to wear," sighed Rose.
"Then do it. I'll pierce your ears, and you must wear a bit of silk in
them till they are well; your curls will hide them nicely; then,
some day, slip in your smallest ear-rings, and see if your uncle
don't like them."
"I asked him if it wouldn't do my eyes good once when they were
red, and he only laughed. People do cure weak eyes that way, don't
"Yes, indeed, and yours are sort of red. Let me see. Yes, I really
think you ought to do it before they get worse," said Ariadne,
peering into the large clear eye offered for inspection.
"Does it hurt much?" asked Rose, wavering.
"Oh dear, no; just a prick and a pull, and it's all over. I've done lots
of ears, and know just how. Come, push up your hair and get a big
"I don't quite like to do it without asking uncle's leave," faltered
Rose, when all was ready for the operation.
"Did he ever forbid it?" demanded Ariadne, hovering over her prey
like a vampire.
"Then do it, unless you are afraid," cried Miss Blish, bent on
accomplishing the deed.
That last word settled the matter, and, closing her eyes, Rose said
"Punch!" in the tone of one giving the fatal order "Fire!"
Ariadne punched, and the victim bore it in heroic silence, though
she turned pale and her eyes were full of tears of anguish.
"There! Now pull the bits of silk often, and cold-cream your ears
every night, and you'll soon be ready for the rings," said Ariadne,
well pleased with her job, for the girl who spoke French with "a
fine accent" lay flat upon the sofa, looking as exhausted as if she
had had both ears cut off.
"It does hurt dreadfully, and I know uncle won't like it," sighed
Rose, as remorse began to gnaw. "Promise not to tell, or I shall be
teased to death," she added, anxiously, entirely forgetting the two
little pitchers gifted with eyes as well as ears, who had been
watching the whole performance from afar.
"Never. Mercy me, what's that?" and Ariadne started as a sudden
sound of steps and voices came up from below.
"It's the boys! Hide the needle. Do my ears show? Don't breathe a
word!" whispered Rose, scrambling about to conceal all traces of
their iniquity from the sharp eyes of the Clan.
Up they came, all in good order, laden with the proceeds of a
nutting expedition, for they always reported to Rose and paid
tribute to their queen in the handsomest manner.
"How many, and how big! We'll have a grand roasting frolic after
tea, won't we?" said Rose, plunging both hands into a bag of glossy
brown nuts, while the Clan "stood at ease" and nodded to Ariadne.
"That lot was picked especially for you, Rosy. I got every one
myself, and they are extra whackers," said Mac, presenting a
bushel or so.
"You should have seen Giglamps when he was after them. He
pitched out of the tree, and would have broken his blessed old
neck if Arch had not caught him," observed Steve, as he lounged
gracefully in the window seat.
"You needn't talk, Dandy, when you didn't know a chestnut from a
beech, and kept on thrashing till I told you of it," retorted Mac,
festooning himself over the back of the sofa, being a privileged
"I don't make mistakes when I thrash you, old Worm, so you'd
better mind what you are about," answered Steve, without a ray of
proper respect for his elder brother.
"It is getting dark, and I must go, or mamma will be alarmed," said
Ariadne, rising in sudden haste, though she hoped to be asked to
remain to the nut-party.
No one invited her; and all the while she was putting on her things
and chatting to Rose the boys were telegraphing to one another the
sad fact that someone ought to escort the young lady home. Not a
boy felt heroic enough to cast himself into the breach, however;
even polite Archie shirked the duty, saying to Charlie, as they
quietly slipped into an adjoining room
"I'm not going to do all the gallivanting. Let Steve take that chit
home and show his manners."
"I'll be hanged if I do!" answered Prince, who disliked Miss Blish
because she tried to be coquettish with him.
"Then I will," and, to the dismay of both recreant lads, Dr. Alec
walked out of the room to offer his services to the "chit."
He was too late, however, for Mac, obeying a look from Rose, had
already made a victim of himself, and trudged meekly away,
wishing the gentle Ariadne at the bottom of the Red Sea.
"Then I will take this lady down to tea, as the other one has found
a gentleman to go home with her. I see the lamps are lighted
below, and I smell a smell which tells me that auntie has
something extra nice for us to-night."
As he spoke, Dr. Alec was preparing to carry Rose downstairs as
usual; but Archie and Prince rushed forward, begging with penitent
eagerness for the honour of carrying her in an arm-chair. Rose
consented, fearing that her uncle's keen eye would discover the
fatal bits of silk; so the boys crossed hands, and, taking a good grip
of each curly pate, she was borne down in state, while the others
followed by way of the banisters.
Tea was ordered earlier than usual, so that Jamie and his dolly
could have a taste, at least, of the holiday fun, for they were to stay
till seven, and be allowed twelve roasted chestnuts apiece, which
they were under bonds not to eat till next day.
Tea was despatched rapidly, therefore, and the party gathered
round the wide hearth in the dining-room, where the nuts were
soon dancing gaily on hot shovels or bouncing out among the
company, thereby causing delightful panics among the little ones.
"Come, Rosy, tell us a story while we work, for you can't help
much, and must amuse us as your share," proposed Mac, who sat
in the shade pricking nuts, and who knew by experience what a
capital little Scheherazade his cousin was.
"Yes, we poor monkeys can't burn our paws for nothing, so tell
away, Pussy," added Charlie, as he threw several hot nuts into her
lap and shook his fingers afterwards.
"Well, I happen to have a little story with a moral to it in my mind,
and I will tell it, though it is intended for younger children than
you," answered Rose, who was rather fond of telling instructive
"Fire away," said Geordie, and she obeyed, little thinking what a
disastrous story it would prove to herself.
"Well, once upon a time, a little girl went to see a young lady who
was very fond of her. Now, the young lady happened to be lame,
and had to have her foot bandaged up every day; so she kept a
basketful of bandages, all nicely rolled and ready. The little girl
liked to play with this basket, and one day, when she thought no
one saw her, she took one of the rolls without asking leave, and put
it in her pocket."
Here Pokey, who had been peering lovingly down at the five warm
nuts that lay at the bottom of her tiny pocket, suddenly looked up
and said, "Oh!" in a startled tone, as if the moral tale had become
intensely interesting all at once.
Rose heard and saw the innocent betrayal of the small sinner, and
went on in a most impressive manner, while the boys nudged one
another and winked as they caught the joke.
"But an eye did see this naughty little girl, and whose eye do you
think it was?"
"Eye of Dod," murmured conscience-stricken Pokey, spreading
two chubby little hands before the round face, which they were not
half big enough to hide.
Rose was rather taken aback by this reply, but, feeling that she was
producing a good effect, she added seriously
"Yes, God saw her, and so did the young lady, but she did not say
anything; she waited to see what the little girl would do about it.
She had been very happy before she took the bandage, but when it
was in her pocket she seemed troubled, and pretty soon stopped
playing, and sat down in a corner looking very sober. She thought
a few minutes, and then went and put back the roll very softly, and
her face cleared up, and she was a happy child again. The young
lady was glad to see that, and wondered what made the little girl
put it back."
"Tonscience p'icked her," murmured a contrite voice from behind
the small hands pressed tightly over Pokey's red face.
"And why did she take it, do you suppose?" asked Rose, in a
school-marmish tone, feeling that all the listeners were interested
in her tale and its unexpected application.
"It was so nice and wound, and she wanted it deffly," answered the
"Well, I'm glad she had such a good conscience. The moral is that
people who steal don't enjoy what they take, and are not happy till
they put it back. What makes that little girl hide her face?" asked
Rose, as she concluded.
"Me's so 'shamed of Pokey," sobbed the small culprit, quite
overcome by remorse and confusion at this awful disclosure.
"Come, Rose, it's too bad to tell her little tricks before everyone,
and preach at her in that way; you wouldn't like it yourself," began
Dr. Alec, taking the weeper on his knee and administering
consolation in the shape of kisses and nuts.
Before Rose could express her regret, Jamie, who had been
reddening and ruffling like a little turkey-cock for several minutes,
burst out indignantly, bent on avenging the wound given to his
"I know something bad that you did, and I'm going to tell right out.
You thought we didn't see you, but we did, and you said uncle
wouldn't like it, and the boys would tease, and you made Ariadne
promise not to tell, and she punched holes in your ears to put
ear-rings in. So now! and that's much badder than to take an old
piece of rag; and I hate you for making my Pokey cry."
Jamie's somewhat incoherent explosion produced such an effect
that Pokey's small sin was instantly forgotten, and Rose felt that
her hour had come.
"What! what! what!" cried the boys in a chorus, dropping their
shovels and knives to gather round Rose, for a guilty clutching at
her ears betrayed her, and with a feeble cry of "Ariadne made me!"
she hid her head among the pillows like an absurd little ostrich.
"Now she'll go prancing round with bird cages and baskets and
carts and pigs, for all I know, in her ears, as the other girls do, and
won't she look like a goose?" asked one tormentor, tweaking a curl
that strayed out from the cushions.
"I didn't think she'd be so silly," said Mac, in a tone of
disappointment that told Rose she had sunk in the esteem of her
"That Blish girl is a nuisance, and ought not to be allowed to come
here with her nonsensical notions," said the Prince, feeling a strong
desire to shake that young person as an angry dog might shake a
"How do you like it, uncle?" asked Archie, who, being the head of
a family himself, believed in preserving discipline at all costs.
"I am very much surprised; but I see she is a girl, after all, and
must have her vanities like all the rest of them," answered Dr.
Alec, with a sigh, as if he had expected to find Rose a sort of
angel, above all earthly temptations.
"What shall you do about it, sir?" inquired Geordie, wondering
what punishment would be inflicted on a feminine culprit.
"As she is fond of ornaments, perhaps we had better give her a
nose-ring also. I have one somewhere that a Fiji belle once wore;
I'll look it up," and, leaving Pokey to Jamie's care, Dr. Alec rose as
if to carry out his suggestion in earnest.
"Good! good! We'll do it right away! Here's a gimlet, so you hold
her, boys, while I get her dear little nose all ready," cried Charlie,
whisking away the pillow as the other boys danced about the sofa
in true Fiji style.
It was a dreadful moment, for Rose could not run away she could
only grasp her precious nose with one hand and extend the other,
"O uncle, save me, save me!"
Of course he saved her; and when she was securely barricaded by
his strong arm, she confessed her folly in such humiliation of
spirit, that the lads, after a good laugh at her, decided to forgive
her and lay all the blame on the tempter, Ariadne. Even Dr. Alec
relented so far as to propose two gold rings for the ears instead of
one copper one for the nose; a proceeding which proved that if
Rose had all the weakness of her sex for jewellery, he had all the
inconsistency of his in giving a pretty penitent exactly what she
wanted, spite of his better judgment.
Chapter 16 - Bread and Button-Holes
"What in the world is my girl thinking about all alone here, with
such a solemn face?" asked Dr. Alec, coming into the study, one
November day, to find Rose sitting there with folded hands and a
very thoughtful aspect.
"Uncle, I want to have some serious conversation with you, if you
have time," she said, coming out of a brown study, as if she had
not heard his question.
"I'm entirely at your service, and most happy to listen," he
answered, in his politest manner, for when Rose put on her
womanly little airs he always treated her with a playful sort of
respect that pleased her very much.
Now, as he sat down beside her, she said, very soberly
"I've been trying to decide what trade I would learn, and I want you
to advise me."
"Trade, my dear?" and Dr. Alec looked so astonished that she
hastened to explain.
"I forgot that you didn't hear the talk about it up at Cosey Corner.
You see we used to sit under the pines and sew, and talk a great
deal all the ladies, I mean and I liked it very much. Mother
Atkinson thought that everyone should have a trade, or something
to make a living out of, for rich people may grow poor, you know,
and poor people have to work. Her girls were very clever, and
could do ever so many things, and Aunt Jessie thought the old lady
was right; so when I saw how happy and independent those young
ladies were, I wanted to have a trade, and then it wouldn't matter
about money, though I like to have it well enough."
Dr. Alec listened to this explanation with a curious mixture of
surprise, pleasure, and amusement in his face, and looked at his
little niece as if she had suddenly changed into a young woman.
She had grown a good deal in the last six months, and an amount
of thinking had gone on in that young head which would have
astonished him greatly could he have known it all, for Rose was
one of the children who observe and meditate much, and now and
then nonplus their friends by a wise or curious remark.
"I quite agree with the ladies, and shall be glad to help you decide
on something if I can," said the Doctor seriously. "What do you
incline to? A natural taste or talent is a great help in choosing, you
"I haven't any talent, or any especial taste that I can see, and that is
why I can't decide, uncle. So, I think it would be a good plan to
pick out some very useful business and learn it, because I don't do
it for pleasure, you see, but as a part of my education, and to be
ready in case I'm ever poor," answered Rose, looking as if she
rather longed for a little poverty so that her useful gift might be
"Well, now, there is one very excellent, necessary, and womanly
accomplishment that no girl should be without, for it is a help to
rich and poor, and the comfort of families depends upon it. This
fine talent is neglected nowadays, and considered old-fashioned,
which is a sad mistake, and one that I don't mean to make in
bringing up my girl. It should be a part of every girl's education,
and I know of a most accomplished lady who will teach you in the
best and pleasantest manner."
"Oh, what is it?" cried Rose eagerly, charmed to be met in this
helpful and cordial way.
"Housekeeping!" answered Dr. Alec.
"Is that an accomplishment?" asked Rose, while her face fell, for
she had indulged in all sorts of vague, delightful dreams.
"Yes; it is one of the most beautiful as well as useful of all the arts
a woman can learn. Not so romantic, perhaps, as singing, painting,
writing, or teaching, even; but one that makes many happy and
comfortable, and home the sweetest place in the world. Yes, you
may open your big eyes; but it is a fact that I had rather see you a
good housekeeper than the greatest belle in the city. It need not
interfere with any talent you may possess, but it is a necessary part
of your training, and I hope that you will set about it at once, now
that you are well and strong."
"Who is the lady?" asked Rose, rather impressed by her uncle's
"Is she accomplished?" began Rose in a wondering tone, for this
great-aunt of hers had seemed the least cultivated of them all.
"In the good old-fashioned way she is very accomplished, and has
made this house a happy home to us all, ever since we can
remember. She is not elegant, but genuinely good, and so beloved
and respected that there will be universal mourning for her when
her place is empty. No one can fill it, for the solid, homely virtues
of the dear soul have gone out of fashion, as I say, and nothing new
can be half so satisfactory, to me at least."
"I should like to have people feel so about me. Can she teach me to
do what she does, and to grow as good?" asked Rose, with a little
prick of remorse for even thinking that Aunt Plenty was a
commonplace old lady.
"Yes, if you don't despise such simple lessons as she can give. I
know it would fill her dear old heart with pride and pleasure to
feel that anyone cared to learn of her, for she fancies her day gone
by. Let her teach you how to be what she has been a skilful, frugal,
cheerful housewife; the maker and the keeper of a happy home,
and by and by you will see what a valuable lesson it is."
"I will, uncle. But how shall I begin?"
"I'll speak to her about it, and she will make it all right with Dolly,
for cooking is one of the main things, you know."
"So it is! I don't mind that a bit, for I like to mess, and used to try
at home; but I had no one to tell me, so I never did much but spoil
my aprons. Pies are great fun, only Dolly is so cross, I don't believe
she will ever let me do a thing in the kitchen."
"Then we'll cook in the parlour. I fancy Aunt Plenty will manage
her, so don't be troubled. Only mind this, I'd rather you learned
how to make good bread than the best pies ever baked. When you
bring me a handsome, wholesome loaf, entirely made by yourself,
I shall be more pleased than if you offered me a pair of slippers
embroidered in the very latest style. I don't wish to bribe you, but
I'll give you my heartiest kiss, and promise to eat every crumb of
the loaf myself."
"It's a bargain! it's a bargain! Come and tell aunty all about it, for
I'm in a hurry to begin," cried Rose, dancing before him toward the
parlor, where Miss Plenty sat alone knitting contentedly, yet ready
to run at the first call for help of any sort, from any quarter.
No need to tell how surprised and gratified she was at the
invitation she received to teach the child the domestic arts which
were her only accomplishments, nor to relate how energetically
she set about her pleasant task. Dolly dared not grumble, for Miss
Plenty was the one person whom she obeyed, and Phebe openly
rejoiced, for these new lessons brought Rose nearer to her, and
glorified the kitchen in the good girl's eyes.
To tell the truth, the elder aunts had sometimes felt that they did
not have quite their share of the little niece who had won their
hearts long ago, and was the sunshine of the house. They talked it
over together sometimes, but always ended by saying that as Alec
had all the responsibility, he should have the larger share of the
dear girl's love and time, and they would be contented with such
crumbs of comfort as they could get.
Dr. Alec had found out this little secret, and, after reproaching
himself for being blind and selfish, was trying to devise some way
of mending matters without troubling anyone, when Rose's new
whim suggested an excellent method of weaning her a little from
himself. He did not know how fond he was of her till he gave her
up to the new teacher, and often could not resist peeping in at the
door to see how she got on, or stealing sly looks through the slide
when she was deep in dough, or listening intently to some
impressive lecture from Aunt Plenty. They caught him at it now
and then, and ordered him off the premises at the point of the
rolling-pin; or, if unusually successful, and, therefore, in a milder
mood, they lured him away with bribes of ginger-bread, a stray
pickle, or a tart that was not quite symmetrical enough to suit their
Of course he made a point of partaking copiously of all the
delectable messes that now appeared at table, for both the cooks
were on their mettle, and he fared sumptuously every day. But an
especial relish was given to any dish when, in reply to his honest
praise of it, Rose coloured up with innocent pride, and said
"I made that, uncle, and I'm glad you like it."
It was some time before the perfect loaf appeared, for
bread-making is an art not easily learned, and Aunt Plenty was
very thorough in her teaching; so Rose studied yeast first, and
through various stages of cake and biscuit came at last to the
crowning glory of the "handsome, wholesome loaf." It appeared at
tea-time, on a silver salver, proudly borne in by Phebe, who could
not refrain from whispering, with a beaming face, as she set it
down before Dr. Alec
"Ain't it just lovely, sir?"
"It is a regularly splendid loaf! Did my girl make it all herself?" he
asked, surveying the shapely, sweet-smelling object with real
interest and pleasure.
"Every particle herself, and never asked a bit of help or advice
from anyone," answered Aunt Plenty, folding her hands with an air
of unmitigated satisfaction, for her pupil certainly did her great
"I've had so many failures and troubles that I really thought I never
should be able to do it alone. Dolly let one splendid batch burn up
because I forgot it. She was there and smelt it, but never did a
thing, for she said, when I undertook to bake bread I must give my
whole mind to it. Wasn't it hard? She might have called me at
least," said Rose, recollecting, with a sigh, the anguish of that
"She meant you should learn by experience, as Rosamond did in
that little affair of the purple jar, you remember."
"I always thought it very unfair in her mother not to warn the poor
thing a little bit; and she was regularly mean when Rosamond
asked for a bowl to put the purple stuff in, and she said, in such a
provoking way, 'I did not agree to lend you a bowl, but I will, my
dear.' Ugh! I always want to shake that hateful woman, though she
was a moral mamma."
"Never mind her now, but tell me all about my loaf," said Dr. Alec,
much amused at Rose's burst of indignation.
"There's nothing to tell, uncle, except that I did my best, gave my
mind to it, and sat watching over it all the while it was in the oven
till I was quite baked myself. Everything went right this time, and
it came out a nice, round, crusty loaf, as you see. Now taste it, and
tell me if it is good as well as handsome."
"Must I cut it? Can't I put it under a glass cover and keep it in the
parlor as they do wax flowers and fine works of that sort?"
"What an idea, uncle! It would mould and be spoilt. Besides,
people would laugh at us, and make fun of my old-fashioned
accomplishment. You promised to eat it, and you must; not all at
once, but as soon as you can, so I can make you some more."
Dr. Alec solemnly cut off his favourite crusty slice, and solemnly
ate it; then wiped his lips, and brushing back Rose's hair, solemnly
kissed her on the forehead, saying, heartily
"My dear, it is perfect bread, and you are an honour to your
teacher. When we have our model school I shall offer a prize for
the best bread, and you will get it."
"I've got it already, and I'm quite satisfied," said Rose, slipping into
her seat, and trying to hide her right hand which had a burn on it.
But Dr. Alec saw it, guessed how it came there, and after tea
insisted on easing the pain which she would hardly confess.
"Aunt Clara says I am spoiling my hands, but I don't care, for I've
had such good times with Aunt Plenty, and I think she has enjoyed
it as much as I have. Only one thing troubles me, uncle, and I want
to ask you about it," said Rose, as they paced up and down the hall
in the twilight, the bandaged hand very carefully laid on Dr. Alec's
"More little confidences? I like them immensely, so tell away, my
"Well, you see I feel as if Aunt Peace would like to do something
for me, and I've found out what it can be. You know she can't go
about like Aunty Plen, and we are so busy nowadays that she is
rather lonely, I'm afraid. So I want to take lessons in sewing of her.
She works so beautifully, and it is a useful thing, you know, and I
ought to be a good needlewoman as well as housekeeper, oughtn't
"Bless your kind little heart, that is what I was thinking of the
other day when Aunt Peace said she saw you very seldom now,
you were so busy I wanted to speak of it, but fancied you had as
much on your hands as you could manage. It would delight the
dear woman to teach you all her delicate handicraft, especially
button-holes, for I believe that is where young ladies fail; at least,
I've heard them say so. So, do you devote your mind to
button-holes; make 'em all over my clothes if you want something
to practice on. I'll wear any quantity."
Rose laughed at this reckless offer, but promised to attend to that
important branch, though she confessed that darning was her weak
point. Whereupon Uncle Alec engaged to supply her with socks in
all stages of dilapidation, and to have a new set at once, so that she
could run the heels for him as a pleasant beginning.
Then they went up to make their request in due form, to the great
delight of gentle Aunt Peace, who got quite excited with the fun
that went on while they would yarn, looked up darning needles,
and fitted out a nice little mending basket for her pupil.
Very busy and very happy were Rose's days now, for in the
morning she went about the house with Aunt Plenty attending to
linen-closets and store-rooms, pickling and preserving, exploring
garret and cellar to see that all was right, and learning, in the good
old-fashioned manner, to look well after the ways of the
In the afternoon, after her walk or drive, she sat with Aunt Peace
plying her needle, while Aunt Plenty, whose eyes were failing,
knitted and chatted briskly, telling many a pleasant story of old
times, till the three were moved to laugh and cry together, for the
busy needles were embroidering all sorts of bright patterns on the
lives of the workers, though they seemed to be only stitching
cotton and darning hose.
It was a pretty sight to see the rosy-faced little maid sitting
between the two old ladies, listening dutifully to their instructions,
and cheering the lessons with her lively chatter and blithe laugh. If
the kitchen had proved attractive to Dr. Alec when Rose was there
at work, the sewing-room was quite irresistible, and he made
himself so agreeable that no one had the heart to drive him away,
especially when he read aloud or spun yarns.
"There! I've made you a new set of warm night-gowns with four
button-holes in each. See if they are not neatly done," said Rose,
one day, some weeks after the new lessons began.
"Even to a thread, and nice little bars across the end so I can't tear
them when I twitch the buttons out. Most superior work, ma'am,
and I'm deeply grateful; so much so, that I'll sew on these buttons
myself, and save those tired fingers from another prick."
"You sew them on?" cried Rose, with her eyes wide open in
"Wait a bit till I get my sewing tackle, and then you shall see what
I can do."
"Can he, really?" asked Rose of Aunt Peace, as Uncle Alec
marched off with a comical air of importance.
"Oh, yes, I taught him years ago, before he went to sea; and I
suppose he has had to do things for himself, more or less, ever
since; so he has kept his hand in."
He evidently had, for he was soon back with a funny little
work-bag, out of which he produced a thimble without a top; and,
having threaded his needle, he proceeded to sew on the buttons so
handily that Rose was much impressed and amused.
"I wonder if there is anything in the world that you cannot do," she
said, in a tone of respectful admiration.
"There are one or two things that I am not up to yet," he answered,
with a laugh in the corner of his eye, as he waxed his thread with a
"I should like to know what?"
"Bread and button-holes, ma'am."
Chapter 17 - Good Bargains
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, and four boys were trying to
spend it quietly in the "liberry," as Jamie called the room devoted
to books and boys, at Aunt Jessie's. Will and Geordie were
sprawling on the sofa, deep in the adventures of the scapegraces
and ragamuffins whose histories are now the fashion. Archie
lounged in the easy chair, surrounded by newspapers; Charlie
stood upon the rug, in an Englishman's favourite attitude, and, I
regret to say, both were smoking cigars.
"It is my opinion that this day will never come to an end," said
Prince, with a yawn that nearly rent him asunder.
"Read and improve your mind, my son," answered Archie, peering
solemnly over the paper behind which he had been dozing.
"Don't you preach, parson, but put on your boots and come out for
a tramp, instead of mulling over the fire like a granny."
"No, thank you, tramps in an easterly storm don't strike me as
amusing." There Archie stopped and held up his hand, for a
pleasant voice was heard saying outside
"Are the boys in the library, auntie?"
"Yes, dear, and longing for sunshine; so run in and make it for
them," answered Mrs. Jessie.
"It's Rose," and Archie threw his cigar into the fire.
"What's that for?" asked Charlie.
"Gentlemen don't smoke before ladies."
"True; but I'm not going to waste my weed," and Prince poked his
into the empty inkstand that served them for an ash tray.
A gentle tap at the door was answered by a chorus of "Come in,"
and Rose appeared, looking blooming and breezy with the chilly
"If I disturb you, say so, and I'll go away," she began, pausing on
the threshold with modest hesitation, for something in the elder
boys' faces excited her curiosity.
"You never disturb us, cousin," said the smokers, while the readers
tore themselves from the heroes of the bar-room and gutter long
enough to nod affably to their guest.
As Rose bent to warm her hands, one end of Archie's cigar stuck
out of the ashes, smoking furiously and smelling strongly.
"Oh, you bad boys, how could you do it, to-day of all days?" she
"Where's the harm?" asked Archie.
"You know as well as I do; your mother doesn't like it, and it's a
bad habit, for it wastes money and does you no good."
"Fiddlesticks! every man smokes, even Uncle Alec, whom you
think so perfect," began Charlie, in his teasing way.
"No, he doesn't! He has given it up, and I know why," cried Rose
"Now I think of it, I haven't seen the old meerschaum since he
came home. Did he stop it on our account?" asked Archie.
"Yes," and Rose told the little scene on the seashore in the
Archie seemed much impressed, and said manfully, "He won't
have done that in vain so far as I'm concerned. I don't care a pin
about smoking, so can give it up as easy as not, and I promise you I
will. I only do it now and then for fun."
"You too?" and Rose looked up at the bonny Prince, who never
looked less bonny than at that moment, for he had resumed his
cigar just to torment her.
Now Charlie cared as little as Archie about smoking, but it would
not do to yield too soon: so he shook his head, gave a great puff,
and said loftily
"You women are always asking us to give up harmless little things
just because you don't approve of them. How would you like it if
we did the same by you, miss?"
"If I did harmful or silly things, I'd thank you for telling me of
them, and I'd try to mend my ways," answered Rose heartily.
"Well, now, we'll see if you mean what you say. I'll give up
smoking to please you, if you will give up something to please
me," said Prince, seeing a good chance to lord it over the weaker
vessel at small cost to himself.
"I'll agree if it is as foolish as cigars."
"Oh, it's ever so much sillier."
"Then I promise; what is it?" and Rose quite trembled with anxiety
to know which of her pet habits or possessions she must lose.
"Give up your ear-rings," and Charlie laughed wickedly, sure that
she would never hold to that bargain.
Rose uttered a cry and clapped both hands to her ears where the
gold rings hung.
"Oh, Charlie, wouldn't anything else do as well? I've been through
so much teasing and trouble, I do want to enjoy my pretty
ear-rings, for I can wear them now."
"Wear as many as you like, and I'll smoke in peace," returned this
"Will nothing else satisfy you?" imploringly.
Rose stood silent for a minute, thinking of something Aunt Jessie
once said "You have more influence over the boys than you know;
use it for their good, and I shall thank you all my life." Here was a
chance to do some good by sacrificing a little vanity of her own.
She felt it was right to do it, yet found it very hard, and asked
"Do you mean never wear them, Charlie?"
"Never, unless you want me to smoke."
"I never do."
"Then clinch the bargain."
He had no idea she would do it, and was much surprised when she
took the dear rings from her ears, with a quick gesture, and held
them out to him, saying, in a tone that made the colour come up to
his brown cheek, it was so full of sweet good will
"I care more for my cousins than for my ear-rings, so I promise,
and I'll keep my word."
"For shame, Prince! let her wear her little danglers if she likes, and
don't bargain about doing what you know is right," cried Archie,
coming out of his grove of newspapers with an indignant bounce.
But Rose was bent on showing her aunt that she could use her
influence for the boys' good, and said steadily
"It is fair, and I want it to be so, then you will believe I'm in
earnest. Here, each of you wear one of these on your watch-guard
to remind you. I shall not forget, because very soon I cannot wear
ear-rings if I want to."
As she spoke, Rose offered a little ring to each cousin, and the
boys, seeing how sincere she was, obeyed her. When the pledges
were safe, Rose stretched a hand to each, and the lads gave hers a
hearty grip, half pleased and half ashamed of their part in the
Just at that moment Dr. Alec and Mrs. Jessie came in.
"What's this? Dancing Ladies' Triumph on Sunday?" exclaimed
Uncle Alec, surveying the trio with surprise.
"No, sir, it is the Anti-Tobacco League. Will you join?" said
Charlie, while Rose slipped away to her aunt, and Archie buried
both cigars behind the back log.
When the mystery was explained, the elders were well pleased,
and Rose received a vote of thanks, which made her feel as if she
had done a service to her country, as she had, for every boy who
grows up free from bad habits bids fair to make a good citizen.
"I wish Rose would drive a bargain with Will and Geordie also, for
I think these books are as bad for the small boys as cigars for the
large ones," said Mrs. Jessie, sitting down on the sofa between the
readers, who politely curled up their legs to make room for her.
"I thought they were all the fashion," answered Dr. Alec, settling in
the big chair with Rose.
"So is smoking, but it is harmful. The writers of these popular
stories intend to do good, I have no doubt, but it seems to me they
fail because their motto is, 'Be smart, and you will be rich,' instead
of 'Be honest, and you will be happy.' I do not judge hastily, Alec,
for I have read a dozen, at least, of these stories, and, with much
that is attractive to boys, I find a great deal to condemn in them,
and other parents say the same when I ask them."
"Now, Mum, that's too bad! I like 'em tip-top. This one is a regular
screamer," cried Will.
"They're bully books, and I'd like to know where's the harm,"
"You have just shown us one of the chief evils, and that is slang,"
answered their mother quickly.
"Must have it, ma'am. If these chaps talked all right, there'd be no
fun in 'em," protested Will.
"A boot-black mustn't use good grammar, and a newsboy must
swear a little, or he wouldn't be natural," explained Geordie, both
boys ready to fight gallantly for their favourites.
"But my sons are neither boot-blacks nor newsboys, and I object to
hearing them use such words as 'screamer,' 'bully,' and 'buster.' In
fact, I fail to see the advantage of writing books about such people
unless it is done in a very different way. I cannot think they will
help to refine the ragamuffins if they read them, and I'm sure they
can do no good to the better class of boys, who through these
books are introduced to police courts, counterfeiters' dens,
gambling houses, drinking saloons, and all sorts of low life."
"Some of them are about first-rate boys, mother; and they go to sea
and study, and sail round the world, having great larks all the
"I have read about them, Geordie, and though they are better than
the others, I am not satisfied with these optical delusions, as I call
them. Now, I put it to you, boys, is it natural for lads from fifteen
to eighteen to command ships, defeat pirates, outwit smugglers,
and so cover themselves with glory, that Admiral Farragut invites
them to dinner, saying, 'Noble boy, you are an honour to your
country!' Or, if the hero is in the army, he has hair-breadth escapes
and adventures enough in one small volume to turn his hair white,
and in the end he goes to Washington at the express desire of the
President or Commander-in-chief to be promoted to no end of stars
and bars. Even if the hero is merely an honest boy trying to get his
living, he is not permitted to do so in a natural way, by hard work
and years of patient effort, but is suddenly adopted by a millionaire
whose pocket-book he has returned; or a rich uncle appears from
sea just in the nick of time; or the remarkable boy earns a few
dollars, speculates in pea-nuts or neckties, and grows rich so
rapidly that Sinbad in the diamond valley is a pauper compared to
him. Isn't it so, boys?"
"Well, the fellows in these books are mighty lucky, and very smart,
I must say," answered Will, surveying an illustration on the open
page before him, where a small but virtuous youth is upsetting a
tipsy giant in a bar-room, and under it the elegant inscription,
"Dick Dauntless punches the head of Sam Soaker."
"It gives boys such wrong ideas of life and business; shows them
so much evil and vulgarity that they need not know about, and
makes the one success worth having a fortune, a lord's daughter, or
some worldly honour, often not worth the time it takes to win. It
does seem to me that some one might write stories that should be
lively, natural and helpful tales in which the English should be
good, the morals pure, and the characters such as we can love in
spite of the faults that all may have. I can't bear to see such crowds
of eager little fellows at the libraries reading such trash; weak,
when it is not wicked, and totally unfit to feed the hungry minds
that feast on it for want of something better. There! my lecture is
done; now I should like to hear what you gentlemen have to say,"
and Aunt Jessie subsided with a pretty flush on the face that was
full of motherly anxiety for her boys.
"Tom Brown just suits mother, and me too, so I wish Mr. Hughes
would write another story as good," said Archie.
"You don't find things of this sort in Tom Brown; yet these books
are all in the Sunday-school libraries" and Mrs. Jessie read the
following paragraph from the book she had taken from Will's hand
" 'In this place we saw a tooth of John the Baptist. Ben said he
could see locust and wild honey sticking to it. I couldn't. Perhaps
John used a piece of the true cross for a tooth-pick.' "
"A larky sort of a boy says that, Mum, and we skip the parts where
they describe what they saw in the different countries," cried Will.
"And those descriptions, taken mostly from guidebooks, I fancy,
are the only parts of any real worth. The scrapes of the bad boys
make up the rest of the story, and it is for those you read these
books, I think," answered his mother, stroking back the hair off the
honest little face that looked rather abashed at this true statement
of the case.
"Anyway, mother, the ship part is useful, for we learn how to sail
her, and by and by that will all come handy when we go to sea,"
put in Geordie.
"Indeed, then you can explain this man uvre to me, of course " and
Mrs. Jessie read from another page the following nautical
"The wind is south-south-west, and we can have her up four points
closer to the wind, and still be six points off the wind. As she luffs
up we shall man the fore and main sheets, slack on the weather,
and haul on the lee braces."
"I guess I could, if I wasn't afraid of uncle. He knows so much
more than I do, he'd laugh," began Geordie, evidently puzzled by
"Ho, you know you can't, so why make believe? We don't
understand half of the sea lingo, Mum, and I dare say it's all
wrong," cried Will, suddenly going over to the enemy, to Geordie's
"I do wish the boys wouldn't talk to me as if I was a ship," said
Rose, bringing forward a private grievance. "Coming home from
church this morning, the wind blew me about, and Will called out,
right in the street, 'Brail up the foresail, and take in the flying-jib,
that will ease her.' "
The boys shouted at the plaintive tone in which Rose repeated the
words that offended her, and Will vainly endeavoured to explain
that he only meant to tell her to wrap her cloak closer, and tie a
veil over the tempest-tossed feathers in her hat.
"To tell the truth, if the boys must have slang, I can bear the 'sea
lingo,' as Will calls it, better than the other. It afflicts me less to
hear my sons talk about 'brailing up the foresail' than doing as they
'darn please,' and 'cut your cable' is decidedly preferable to 'let her
rip.' I once made a rule that I would have no slang in the house. I
give it up now, for I cannot keep it; but I will not have rubbishy
books; so, Archie, please send these two after your cigars."
Mrs. Jessie held both the small boys fast with an arm round each
neck, and when she took this base advantage of them they could
only squirm with dismay. "Yes, right behind the back log," she
continued, energetically. "There, my hearties (you like sea slang,
so I'll give you a bit) now, I want you to promise not to read any
more stuff for a month, and I'll agree to supply you with
"Oh, mother, not a single one?" cried Will.
"Couldn't we just finish those?" pleaded Geordie.
"The boys threw away half-smoked cigars; and your books must go
after them. Surely you would not be outdone by the 'old fellows,' as
you call them, or be less obedient to little Mum than they were to
"Course not! Come on, Geordie," and Will took the vow like a
hero. His brother sighed and obeyed, but privately resolved to
finish his story the minute the month was over.
"You have laid out a hard task for yourself, Jessie, in trying to
provide good reading for boys who have been living on sensation
stories. It will be like going from raspberry tarts to plain bread and
butter; but you will probably save them from a bilious fever," said
Dr. Alec, much amused at the proceedings.
"I remember hearing grandpa say that a love for good books was
one of the best safeguards a man could have," began Archie,
staring thoughtfully at the fine library before him.
"Yes, but there's no time to read nowadays; a fellow has to keep
scratching round to make money or he's nobody," cut in Charlie,
trying to look worldly-wise.
"This love of money is the curse of America, and for the sake of it
men will sell honour and honesty, till we don't know whom to
trust, and it is only a genius like Agassiz who dares to say, 'I cannot
waste my time in getting rich,' " said Mrs. Jessie sadly.
"Do you want us to be poor, mother?" asked Archie, wondering.
"No, dear, and you never need be, while you can use your hands;
but I am afraid of this thirst for wealth, and the temptations it
brings. O, my boys! I tremble for the time when I must let you go,
because I think it would break my heart to have you fail as so
many fail. It would be far easier to see you dead if it could be said
of you as of Sumner 'No man dared offer him a bribe.' "
Mrs. Jessie was so earnest in her motherly anxiety that her voice
faltered over the last words, and she hugged the yellow heads
closer in her arms, as if she feared to let them leave that safe
harbour for the great sea where so many little boats go down. The
younger lads nestled closer to her, and Archie said, in his quiet,
"I cannot promise to be an Agassiz or a Sumner, mother; but I do
promise to be an honest man, please God."
"Then I'm satisfied!" and holding fast the hand he gave her, she
sealed his promise with a kiss that had all a mother's hope and
faith in it.
"I don't see how they ever can be bad, she is so fond and proud of
them," whispered Rose, quite touched by the little scene.
"You must help her make them what they should be. You have
begun already, and when I see those rings where they are, my girl
is prettier in my sight than if the biggest diamonds that ever
twinkled shone in her ears," answered Dr. Alec, looking at her
with approving eyes.
"I'm so glad you think I can do anything, for I perfectly ache to be
useful; everyone is so good to me, especially Aunt Jessie."
"I think you are in a fair way to pay your debts, Rosy, for when
girls give up their little vanities, and boys their small vices, and try
to strengthen each other in well-doing, matters are going as they
ought. Work away, my dear, and help their mother keep these sons
fit friends for an innocent creature like yourself; they will be the
manlier men for it, I can assure you."
Chapter 18 - Fashion and Physiology
"Please, sir, I guess you'd better step up right away, or it will be too
late, for I heard Miss Rose say she knew you wouldn't like it, and
she'd never dare to let you see her."
Phebe said this as she popped her head into the study, where Dr.
Alec sat reading a new book.
"They are at it, are they?" he said, looking up quickly, and giving
himself a shake, as if ready for a battle of some sort.
"Yes, sir, as hard as they can talk, and Miss Rose don't seem to
know what to do, for the things are ever so stylish, and she looks
elegant in 'em; though I like her best in the old ones," answered
"You are a girl of sense. I'll settle matters for Rosy, and you'll lend
a hand. Is everything ready in her room, and are you sure you
understand how they go?"
"Oh, yes, sir; but they are so funny! I know Miss Rose will think
it's a joke," and Phebe laughed as if something tickled her
"Never mind what she thinks so long as she obeys. Tell her to do it
for my sake, and she will find it the best joke she ever saw. I
expect to have a tough time of it, but we'll win yet," said the
Doctor, as he marched upstairs with the book in his hand, and an
odd smile on his face.
There was such a clatter of tongues in the sewing-room that no one
heard his tap at the door, so he pushed it open and took an
observation. Aunt Plenty, Aunt Clara, and Aunt Jessie were all
absorbed in gazing at Rose, who slowly revolved between them
and the great mirror, in a full winter costume of the latest fashion.
"Bless my heart! worse even than I expected," thought the Doctor,
with an inward groan, for, to his benighted eyes, the girl looked
like a trussed fowl, and the fine new dress had neither grace,
beauty, nor fitness to recommend it.
The suit was of two peculiar shades of blue, so arranged that
patches of light and dark distracted the eye. The upper skirt was
tied so lightly back that it was impossible to take a long step, and
the under one was so loaded with plaited frills that it "wobbled" no
other word will express it ungracefully, both fore and aft. A bunch
of folds was gathered up just below the waist behind, and a great
bow rode a-top. A small jacket of the same material was adorned
with a high ruff at the back, and laid well open over the breast, to
display some lace and a locket. Heavy fringes, bows, puffs, ruffles,
and revers finished off the dress, making one's head ache to think
of the amount of work wasted, for not a single graceful line struck
the eye, and the beauty of the material was quite lost in the
profusion of ornament.
A high velvet hat, audaciously turned up in front, with a bunch of
pink roses and a sweeping plume, was cocked over one ear, and,
with her curls braided into a club at the back of her neck, Rose's
head looked more like that of a dashing young cavalier than a
modest little girl's. High-heeled boots tilted her well forward, a
tiny muff pinioned her arms, and a spotted veil, tied so closely
over her face that her eyelashes were rumpled by it, gave the last
touch of absurdity to her appearance.
"Now she looks like other girls, and as I like to see her," Mrs.
Clara was saying, with an air of great satisfaction.
"She does look like a fashionable young lady, but somehow I miss
my little Rose, for children dressed like children in my day,"
answered Aunt Plenty, peering through her glasses with a troubled
look, for she could not imagine the creature before her ever sitting
in her lap, running to wait upon her, or making the house gay with
a child's blithe presence.
"Things have changed since your day, Aunt, and it takes time to
get used to new ways. But you, Jessie, surely like this costume
better than the dowdy things Rose has been wearing all summer.
Now, be honest, and own you do," said Mrs. Clara, bent on being
praised for her work.
"Well, dear to be quite honest, then, I think it is frightful,"
answered Mrs. Jessie, with a candour that caused revolving Rose
to stop in dismay.
"Hear, hear," cried a deep voice, and with a general start the ladies
became aware that the enemy was among them.
Rose blushed up to her hat brim, and stood, looking, as she felt,
like a fool, while Mrs. Clara hastened to explain.
"Of course, I don't expect you to like it, Alec, but I don't consider
you a judge of what is proper and becoming for a young lady.
Therefore, I have taken the liberty of providing a pretty street suit
for Rose. She need not wear it if you object, for I know we
promised to let you do what you liked with the poor dear for a
"It is a street costume, is it?" asked the Doctor, mildly. "Do you
know, I never should have guessed that it was meant for winter
weather and brisk locomotion. Take a turn, Rosy, and let me see
all its beauties and advantages."
Rose tried to walk off with her usual free tread, but the under-skirt
got in her way, the over-skirt was so tight she could not take a long
step, and her boots made it impossible to carry herself perfectly
"I haven't got used to it yet," she said, petulantly, kicking at her
train, as she turned to toddle back again.
"Suppose a mad dog or a runaway horse was after you, could you
get out of the way without upsetting, Colonel," asked the Doctor,
with a twinkle in the eyes that were fixed on the rakish hat.
"Don't think I could, but I'll try," and Rose made a rush across the
room. Her boot-heels caught on a rug, several strings broke, her
hat tipped over her eyes, and she plunged promiscuously into a
chair, where she sat laughing so infectiously that all but Mrs. Clara
joined in her mirth.
"I should say that a walking suit in which one could not walk, and
a winter suit which exposes the throat, head, and feet to cold and
damp, was rather a failure, Clara, especially as it has no beauty to
reconcile one to its utter unfitness," said Dr. Alec, as he helped
Rose undo her veil, adding, in a low tone, "Nice thing for the eyes;
you'll soon see spots when it's off as well as when it's on, and, by
and by, be a case for an oculist."
"No beauty!" cried Mrs. Clara, warmly, "Now, that is just a man's
blindness. This is the best of silk and camel's hair, real ostrich
feathers, and an expensive ermine muff. What could be in better
taste, or more proper for a young girl?"
"I'll shew you, if Rose will go to her room and oblige me by
putting on what she finds there," answered the Doctor, with
"Alec, if it is a Bloomer, I shall protest. I've been expecting it, but I
know I cannot bear to see that pretty child sacrificed to your wild
ideas of health. Tell me it isn't a Bloomer!" and Mrs. Clara clasped
her hands imploringly.
"It is not."
"Thank Heaven!" and she resigned herself with a sigh of relief,
adding plaintively, "I did hope you'd accept my suit, for poor Rose
has been afflicted with frightful clothes long enough to spoil the
taste of any girl."
"You talk of my afflicting the child, and then make a helpless guy
like that of her!" answered the Doctor, pointing to the little fashion
plate that was scuttling out of sight as fast as it could go.
He closed the door with a shrug, but before anyone could speak,
his quick eye fell upon an object which caused him to frown, and
demand in an indignant tone
"After all I have said, were you really going to tempt my girl with
those abominable things?"
"I thought we put them away when she wouldn't wear them,"
murmured Mrs. Clara, whisking a little pair of corsets out of sight
with guilty haste. "I only brought them to try, for Rose is growing
stout, and will have no figure if it is not attended to soon," she
added, with an air of calm conviction that roused the Doctor still
more, for this was one of his especial abominations.
"Growing stout! Yes, thank Heaven, she is, and shall continue to
do it, for Nature knows how to mould a woman better than any
corset-maker, and I won't have her interfered with. My dear Clara,
have you lost your senses that you can for a moment dream of
putting a growing girl into an instrument of torture like this?" and
with a sudden gesture he plucked forth the offending corsets from
under the sofa cushion, and held them out with the expression one
would wear on beholding the thumbscrews or the rack of ancient
"Don't be absurd, Alec. There is no torture about it, for tight lacing
is out of fashion, and we have nice, sensible things nowadays.
Everyone wears them; even babies have stiffened waists to support
their weak little backs," began Mrs. Clara, rushing to the defence
of the pet delusion of most women.
"I know it, and so the poor little souls have weak backs all their
days, as their mothers had before them. It is vain to argue the
matter, and I won't try, but I wish to state, once for all, that if I ever
see a pair of corsets near Rose, I'll put them in the fire, and you
may send the bill to me."
As he spoke the corsets were on their way to destruction, but Mrs.
Jessie caught his arm, exclaiming merrily, "Don't burn them, for
mercy sake, Alec; they are full of whalebones, and will make a
dreadful odour. Give them to me. I'll see that they do no harm."
"Whalebones, indeed! A regular fence of them, and metal
gate-posts in front. As if our own bones were not enough, if we'd
give them a chance to do their duty," growled the Doctor, yielding
up the bone of contention with a last shake of contempt. Then his
face cleared suddenly, and he held up his finger, saying, with a
smile, "Hear those girls laugh; cramped lungs could not make
hearty music like that."
Peals of laughter issued from Rose's room, and smiles
involuntarily touched the lips of those who listened to the happy
"Some new prank of yours, Alec?" asked Aunt Plenty, indulgently,
for she had come to believe in most of her nephew's odd notions,
because they seemed to work so well.
"Yes, ma'am, my last, and I hope you will like it. I discovered what
Clara was at, and got my rival suit ready for to-day. I'm not going
to 'afflict' Rose, but let her choose, and if I'm not entirely mistaken,
she will like my rig best. While we wait I'll explain, and then you
will appreciate the general effect better. I got hold of this little
book, and was struck with its good sense and good taste, for it
suggests a way to clothe women both healthfully and handsomely,
and that is a great point. It begins at the foundations, as you will
see if you will look at these pictures, and I should think women
would rejoice at this lightening of their burdens."
As he spoke, the Doctor laid the book before Aunt Plenty, who
obediently brought her spectacles to bear upon the illustrations,
and after a long look exclaimed, with a scandalised face
"Mercy on us, these things are like the night-drawers Jamie wears!
You don't mean to say you want Rose to come out in this costume?
It's not proper, and I won't consent to it!"
"I do mean it, and I'm sure my sensible aunt will consent when she
understands that these well I'll call them by an Indian name, and
say pajamas are for underwear, and Rose can have as pretty frocks
as she likes outside. These two suits of flannel, each in one piece
from head to foot, with a skirt or so hung on this easily-fitting
waist, will keep the child warm without burdening her with belts,
and gathers, and buckles, and bunches round the waist, and leave
free the muscles that need plenty of room to work in. She shall
never have the back-ache if I can help it, nor the long list of ills
you dear women think you cannot escape."
"I don't consider it modest, and I'm sure Rose will be shocked at
it," began Mrs. Clara, but stopped suddenly, as Rose appeared in
the doorway, not looking shocked a bit.
"Come on, my hygienic model, and let us see you," said her uncle,
with an approving glance, as she walked in, looking so
mischievously merry, that it was evident she enjoyed the joke.
"Well, I don't see anything remarkable. That is a neat, plain suit;
the materials are good, and it's not unbecoming, if you want her to
look like a little school-girl; but it has not a particle of style, and
no one would ever give it a second glance," said Mrs. Clara,
feeling that her last remark condemned the whole thing.
"Exactly what I want," answered the provoking Doctor, rubbing his
hands with a satisfied air. "Rosy looks now like what she is, a
modest little girl, who does not want to be stared at. I think she
would get a glance of approval, though, from people who like
sense and simplicity rather than fuss and feathers. Revolve, my
Hebe, and let me refresh my eyes by the sight of you."
There was very little to see, however, only a pretty Gabrielle dress,
of a soft warm shade of brown, coming to the tops of a trim pair of
boots with low heels. A seal-skin sack, cap, and mittens, with a
glimpse of scarlet at the throat, and the pretty curls tied up with a
bright velvet of the same colour, completed the external
adornment, making her look like a robin redbreast wintry, yet
"How do you like it, Rosy?" asked the Doctor, feeling that her
opinion was more important to the success of his new idea than
that of all the aunts on the hill.
"I feel very odd and light, but I'm warm as a toast, and nothing
seems to be in my way," answered Rose, with a skip which
displayed shapely gaiters on legs that now might be as free and
active as a boy's under the modest skirts of the girl.
"You can run away from the mad dogs, and walk off at a smart
pace without tumbling on your nose, now, I fancy?"
"Yes, uncle! suppose the dog coming, I just hop over a wall so and
when I walk of a cold day, I go like this "
Entering fully into the spirit of the thing, Rose swung herself over
the high back of the sofa as easily as one of her cousins, and then
went down the long hall as if her stout boots were related to the
"There! you see how it will be; dress her in that boyish way and
she will act like a boy. I do hate all these inventions of
strong-minded women!" exclaimed Mrs. Clara, as Rose came back
at a run.
"Ah, but you see some of these sensible inventions come from the
brain of a fashionable modiste, who will make you more lovely, or
what you value more 'stylish' outside and comfortable within. Mrs.
Van Tassel has been to Madame Stone, and is wearing a full suit
of this sort. Van himself told me, when I asked how she was, that
she had given up lying on the sofa, and was going about in a most
astonishing way, considering her feeble health."
"You don't say so! Let me see that book a moment," and Aunt
Clara examined the new patterns with a more respectful air, for if
the elegant Mrs. Van Tassel wore these "dreadful things" it would
never do to be left behind, in spite of her prejudices.
Dr. Alec looked at Mrs. Jessie, and both smiled, for "little Mum"
had been in the secret, and enjoyed it mightily.
"I thought that would settle it," he said with a nod.
"I didn't wait for Mrs. Van to lead the way, and for once in my life
I have adopted a new fashion before Clara. My freedom suit is
ordered, and you may see me playing tag with Rose and the boys
before long," answered Mrs. Jessie, nodding back at him.
Meantime Aunt Plenty was examining Rose's costume, for the hat
and sack were off, and the girl was eagerly explaining the new
"See, auntie, all nice scarlet flannel, and a gay little petticoat, and
long stockings, oh, so warm! Phebe and I nearly died laughing
when I put this rig on, but I like it ever so much. The dress is so
comfortable, and doesn't need any belt or sash, and I can sit
without rumpling any trimming, that's such a comfort! I like to be
tidy, and so, when I wear fussed-up things, I'm thinking of my
clothes all the time, and that's tiresome. Do say you like it. I
resolved I would, just to please uncle, for he does know more
about health than anyone else, I'm sure, and I'd wear a bag if he
asked me to do it."
"I don't ask that, Rose, but I wish you'd weigh and compare the two
suits, and then choose which seems best. I leave it to your own
commonsense," answered Dr. Alec, feeling pretty sure he had won.
"Why, I take this one, of course, uncle. The other is fashionable,
and yes I must say I think it's pretty but it's very heavy, and I
should have to go round like a walking doll if I wore it. I'm much
obliged to auntie, but I'll keep this, please."
Rose spoke gently but decidedly, though there was a look of regret
when her eye fell on the other suit which Phebe had brought in;
and it was very natural to like to look as other girls did. Aunt Clara
sighed; Uncle Alec smiled, and said heartily
"Thank you, dear; now read this book and you will understand why
I ask it of you. Then, if you like, I'll give you a new lesson; you
asked for one yesterday, and this is more necessary than French or
"Oh, what?" and Rose caught up the book which Mrs. Clara had
thrown down with a disgusted look.
Though Dr. Alec was forty, the boyish love of teasing was not yet
dead in him, and, being much elated at his victory, he could not
resist the temptation of shocking Mrs. Clara by suggesting dreadful
possibilities, so he answered, half in earnest, half in jest,
"Physiology, Rose. Wouldn't you like to be a little medical student,
with Uncle Doctor for teacher, and be ready to take up his practice
when he has to stop? If you agree, I'll hunt up my old skeleton
That was too much for Aunt Clara, and she hastily departed, with
her mind in a sad state of perturbation about Mrs. Van Tassel's
new costume and Rose's new study.
Chapter 19 - Brother Bones
Rose accepted her uncle's offer, as Aunt Myra discovered two or
three days later. Coming in for an early call, and hearing voices in
the study, she opened the door, gave a cry and shut it quickly,
looking a good deal startled. The Doctor appeared in a moment,
and begged to know what the matter was.
"How can you ask when that long box looks so like a coffin I
thought it was one, and that dreadful thing stared me in the face as
I opened the door," answered Mrs. Myra, pointing to the skeleton
that hung from the chandelier cheerfully grinning at all beholders.
"This is a medical college where women are freely admitted, so
walk in, madam, and join the class if you'll do me the honour,"
said the Doctor, waving her forward with his politest bow.
"Do, auntie, it's perfectly splendid," cried Rose's voice, and Rose's
blooming face was seen behind the ribs of the skeleton, smiling
and nodding in the gayest possible manner.
"What are you doing, child?" demanded Aunt Myra, dropping into
a chair and staring about her.
"Oh, I'm learning bones to-day, and I like it so much. There are
twelve ribs, you know, and the two lower ones are called floating
ribs, because they are not fastened to the breastbone. That's why
they go in so easily if you lace tight and squeeze the lungs and
heart in the let me see, what was that big word oh, I know thoracic
cavity," and Rose beamed with pride as she aired her little bit of
"Do you think that is a good sort of thing for her to be poking
over? She is a nervous child, and I'm afraid it will be bad for her,"
said Aunt Myra, watching Rose as she counted vertebr‘, and
waggled a hip-joint in its socket with an inquiring expression.
"An excellent study, for she enjoys it, and I mean to teach her how
to manage her nerves so that they won't be a curse to her, as many
a woman's become through ignorance or want of thought. To make
a mystery or terror of these things is a mistake, and I mean Rose
shall understand and respect her body so well that she won't dare
to trifle with it as most women do."
"And she really likes it?"
"Very much, auntie! It's all so wonderful, and so nicely planned,
you can hardly believe what you see. Just think, there are
600,000,000 air cells in one pair of lungs, and 2,000 pores to a
square inch of surface; so you see what quantities of air we must
have, and what care we should take of our skin so all the little
doors will open and shut right. And brains, auntie, you've no idea
how curious they are; I haven't got to them yet, but I long to, and
uncle is going to show me a manikin that you can take to pieces.
Just think how nice it will be to see all the organs in their places; I
only wish they could be made to work as ours do."
It was funny to see Aunt Myra's face as Rose stood before her
talking rapidly with one hand laid in the friendliest manner on the
skeleton's shoulder. Every word both the Doctor and Rose uttered
hit the good lady in her weakest spot, and as she looked and
listened a long array of bottles and pill-boxes rose up before her,
reproaching her with the "ignorance and want of thought" that
made her what she was, a nervous, dyspeptic, unhappy old woman.
"Well, I don't know but you may be right, Alec, only I wouldn't
carry it too far. Women don't need much of this sort of knowledge,
and are not fit for it. I couldn't bear to touch that ugly thing, and it
gives me the creeps to hear about 'organs,' " said Aunt Myra, with a
sigh and her hand on her side.
"Wouldn't it be a comfort to know that your liver was on the right
side, auntie, and not on the left!" asked Rose with a naughty laugh
in her eyes, for she had lately learnt that Aunt Myra's liver
complaint was not in the proper place.
"It's a dying world, child, and it don't much matter where the pain
is, for sooner or later we all drop off and are seen no more," was
Aunt Myra's cheerful reply.
"Well, I intend to know what kills me if I can, and meantime, I'm
going to enjoy myself in spite of a dying world. I wish you'd do so
too, and come and study with uncle, it would do you good, I'm
sure," and Rose went back to counting vertebr‘ with such a happy
face, that Aunt Myra had not the heart to say a word to dampen her
"Perhaps it's as well to let her do what she likes the little while she
is with us. But pray be careful of her, Alec, and not allow her to
overwork," she whispered as she went out.
"That's exactly what I'm trying to do, ma'am, and rather a hard job
I find it," he added, as he shut the door, for the dear aunts were
dreadfully in his way sometimes.
Half an hour later came another interruption in the shape of Mac,
who announced his arrival by the brief but elegant remark
"Hullo! what new game is this?"
Rose explained, Mac gave a long whistle of surprise, and then took
a promenade round the skeleton, observing gravely
"Brother Bones looks very jolly, but I can't say much for his
"You mustn't make fun of him, for he's a good old fellow, and
you'd be just as ugly if your flesh was off," said Rose, defending
her new friend with warmth.
"I dare say, so I'll keep my flesh on, thank you. You are so busy
you can't read to a fellow, I suppose?" asked Mac, whose eyes
were better, but still too weak for books.
"Don't you want to come and join my class? Uncle explains it all to
us, and you can take a look at the plates as they come along. We'll
give up bones today and have eyes instead; that will be more
interesting to you," added Rose, seeing no ardent thirst for
physiological information in his face.
"Rose, we must not fly about from one thing to another in this
way," began Dr. Alec, but she whispered quickly, with a nod
towards Mac, whose goggles were turned wistfully in the direction
of the forbidden books
"He's blue to-day, and we must amuse him; give a little lecture on
eyes, and it will do him good. No matter about me, uncle."
"Very well; the class will please be seated," and the Doctor gave a
sounding rap on the table.
"Come, sit by me, dear, then we can both see the pictures; and if
your head gets tired you can lie down," said Rose, generously
opening her little college to a brother, and kindly providing for the
weaknesses that all humanity is subject to.
Side by side they sat and listened to a very simple explanation of
the mechanism of the eye, finding it as wonderful as a fairy tale,
for fine plates illustrated it, and a very willing teacher did his best
to make the lesson pleasant.
"Jove! if I'd known what mischief I was doing to that mighty
delicate machine of mine, you wouldn't have caught me reading by
firelight, or studying with a glare of sunshine on my book," said
Mac, peering solemnly at a magnified eye-ball; then, pushing it
away, he added indignantly, "Why isn't a fellow taught all about
his works, and how to manage 'em, and not left to go blundering
into all sorts of worries? Telling him after he's down isn't much
use, for then he's found it out himself and won't thank you."
"Ah, Mac, that's just what I keep lecturing about, and people won't
listen. You lads need that sort of knowledge so much, and fathers
and mothers ought to be able to give it to you. Few of them are
able, and so we all go blundering, as you say. Less Greek and Latin
and more knowledge of the laws of health for my boys, if I had
them. Mathematics are all very well, but morals are better, and I
wish, how I wish that I could help teachers and parents to feel it as
"Some do; Aunt Jessie and her boys have capital talks, and I wish
we could; but mother's so busy with her housekeeping, and father
with his business, there never seems to be any time for that sort of
thing; even if there was, it don't seem as if it would be easy to talk
to them, because we've never got into the way of it, you know."
Poor Mac was right there, and expressed a want that many a boy
and girl feels. Fathers and mothers are too absorbed in business
and housekeeping to study their children, and cherish that sweet
and natural confidence which is a child's surest safeguard, and a
parent's subtlest power. So the young hearts hide trouble or
temptation till the harm is done, and mutual regret comes too late.
Happy the boys and girls who tell all things freely to father or
mother, sure of pity, help, and pardon; and thrice happy the parents
who, out of their own experience, and by their own virtues, can
teach and uplift the souls for which they are responsible.
This longing stirred in the hearts of Rose and Mac, and by a
natural impulse both turned to Dr. Alec, for in this queer world of
ours, fatherly and motherly hearts often beat warm and wise in the
breasts of bachelor uncles and maiden aunts; and it is my private
opinion that these worthy creatures are a beautiful provision of
nature for the cherishing of other people's children. They certainly
get great comfort out of it, and receive much innocent affection
that otherwise would be lost.
Dr. Alec was one of these, and his big heart had room for every
one of the eight cousins, especially orphaned Rose and afflicted
Mac; so, when the boy uttered that unconscious reproach to his
parents, and Rose added with a sigh, "It must be beautiful to have a
mother!" the good Doctor yearned over them, and, shutting his
book with a decided slam, said in that cordial voice of his
"Now, look here, children, you just come and tell me all your
worries, and with God's help, I'll settle them for you. That is what
I'm here for, I believe, and it will be a great happiness to me if you
can trust me."
"We can, uncle, and we will!" both answered, with a heartiness
that gratified him much.
"Good! now school is dismissed, and I advise you to go and refresh
your 600,000,000 air cells by a brisk run in the garden. Come
again whenever you like, Mac, and we'll teach you all we can
about your 'works,' as you call them, so you can keep them running
"We'll come, sir, much obliged," and the class in physiology went
out to walk.
Mac did come again, glad to find something he could study in spite
of his weak eyes, and learned much that was of more value than
anything his school had ever taught thim.
Of course, the other lads made great fun of the whole thing, and
plagued Dr. Alec's students half out of their lives. But they kept on
persistently, and one day something happened which made the
other fellows behave themselves for ever after.
It was a holiday, and Rose up in her room thought she heard the
voices of her cousins, so she ran down to welcome them, but found
no one there.
"Never mind, they will be here soon, and then we'll have a frolic,"
she said to herself, and thinking she had been mistaken she went
into the study to wait. She was lounging over the table looking at a
map when an odd noise caught her ear. A gentle tapping
somewhere, and following the sound it seemed to come from the
inside of the long case in which the skeleton lived when not
professionally engaged. This case stood upright in a niche between
two book-cases at the back of the room, a darkish corner, where
Brother Bones, as the boys would call him, was out of the way.
As Rose stood looking in that direction, and wondering if a rat had
got shut in, the door of the case swung slowly open, and with a
great start she saw a bony arm lifted, and a bony finger beckon to
her. For a minute she was frightened, and ran to the study door
with a fluttering heart, but just as she touched the handle a queer,
stifled sort of giggle made her stop short and turn red with anger.
She paused an instant to collect herself, and then went softly
toward the bony beckoner. A nearer look revealed black threads
tied to the arm and fingers, the ends of threads disappearing
through holes bored in the back of the case. Peeping into the dark
recess, she also caught sight of the tip of an elbow covered with a
rough gray cloth which she knew very well.
Quick as a flash she understood the joke, her fear vanished, and
with a wicked smile, she whipped out her scissors, cut the threads,
and the bony arm dropped with a rattle. Before she could say,
"Come out, Charlie, and let my skeleton alone," a sudden irruption
of boys, all in a high state of tickle, proclaimed to the hidden rogue
that his joke was a failure.
"I told him not to do it, because it might give you a start,"
explained Archie, emerging from the closet.
"I had a smelling bottle all ready if she fainted away," added Steve,
popping up from behind the great chair.
"It's too bad of you not to squawk and run; we depended on it, it's
such fun to howl after you," said Will and Geordie, rolling out
from under the sofa in a promiscuous heap.
"You are getting altogether too strong-minded, Rose; most girls
would have been in a jolly twitter to see this old fellow waggling
his finger at them," complained Charlie, squeezing out from his
tight quarters, dusty and disgusted.
"I'm used to your pranks now, so I'm always on the watch and
prepared. But I won't have Brother Bones made fun of. I know
uncle wouldn't like it, so please don't," began Rose just as Dr. Alec
came in, and, seeing the state of the case at a glance, he said
"Hear how I got that skeleton, and then I'm sure you will treat it
The boys settled down at once on any article of furniture that was
nearest and listened dutifully.
"Years ago, when I was in the hospital, a poor fellow was brought
there with a rare and very painful disease. There was no hope for
him, but we did our best, and he was so grateful that when he died
he left us his body that we might discover the mysteries of his
complaint, and so be able to help others afflicted in the same way.
It did do good, and his brave patience made us remember him long
after he was gone. He thought I had been kind to him, and said to a
fellow-student of mine, 'Tell the Doctor I lave him me bones, for
I've nothing else in the wide world, and I'll nos be wanting 'em at
all, at all, when the great pain hat kilt me entirely.' So that is how
they came to be mine, and why I've kept them carefully, for,
though only a poor, ignorant fellow, Mike Nolan did what he could
to help others, and prove his gratitude to those who tried to help
As Dr. Alec paused, Archie closed the door of the case as
respectfully as if the mummy of an Egyptian king was inside; Will
and Geordie looked solemnly at one another, evidently much
impressed, and Charlie pensively remarked from the coal-hod
where he sat
"I've often heard of a skeleton in the house, but I think few people
have one as useful and as interesting as ours."
Chapter 20 - Under The Mistletoe
Rose made Phebe promise that she would bring her stocking into
the "Bower," as she called her pretty room, on Christmas morning,
because that first delicious rummage loses half its charm if two
little night-caps at least do not meet over the treasures, and two
happy voices Oh and Ah together.
So when Rose opened her eyes that day they fell upon faithful
Phebe, rolled up in a shawl, sitting on the rug before a blazing fire,
with her untouched stocking laid beside her.
"Merry Christmas!" cried the little mistress smiling gaily.
"Merry Christmas!" answered the little maid, so heartily that it did
one good to hear her.
"Bring the stockings right away, Phebe, and let's see what we've
got," said Rose, sitting up among the pillows, and looking as eager
as a child.
A pair of long knobby hose were laid out upon the coverlet, and
their contents examined with delight, though each knew every
blessed thing that had been put into the other's stocking.
Never mind what they were; it is evident that they were quite
satisfactory, for as Rose leaned back, she said, with a luxurious
sigh of satisfaction, "Now, I believe I've got everything in the
world that I want," and Phebe answered, smiling over a lapful of
treasures, "This is the most splendid Christmas I ever had since I
was born." Then she added with an important air
"Do wish for something else, because I happen to know of two
more presents outside the door this minute."
"Oh, me, what richness!" cried Rose, much excited. "I used to wish
for a pair of glass slippers like Cinderella's, but as I can't have
them, I really don't know what to ask for."
Phebe clapped her hands as she skipped off the bed and ran to the
door, saying merrily, "One of them is for your feet, anyway. I don't
know what you'll say to the other, but I think it's elegant."
So did Rose, when a shining pair of skates and a fine sled
"Uncle sent those; I know he did; and, now I see them, I remember
that I did want to skate and coast. Isn't it a beauty? See! they fit
nicely," and, sitting on the new sled, Rose tried a skate on her little
bare foot, while Phebe stood by admiring the pretty tableau.
"Now we must hurry and get dressed, for there is a deal to do
to-day, and I want to get through in time to try my sled before
"Gracious me, and I ought to be dusting my parlors this blessed
minute!" and mistress and maid separated with such happy faces
that anyone would have known what day it was without being told.
"Birnam Wood has come to Dunsinane, Rosy," said Dr. Alec, as he
left the breakfast table to open the door for a procession of holly,
hemlock, and cedar boughs that came marching up the steps.
Snowballs and "Merry Christmases!" flew about pretty briskly for
several minutes; then all fell to work trimming the old house, for
the family always dined together there on that day.
"I rode miles and mileses, as Ben says, to get this fine bit, and I'm
going to hang it there as the last touch to the rig-a-madooning,"
said Charlie, as he fastened a dull green branch to the chandelier in
the front parlor.
"It isn't very pretty," said Rose, who was trimming the
chimney-piece with glossy holly sprays.
"Never mind that, it's mistletoe, and anyone who stands under it
will get kissed whether they like it or not. Now's your time, ladies,"
answered the saucy Prince, keeping his place and looking
sentimentally at the girls, who retired precipitately from the
"You won't catch me," said Rose, with great dignity.
"See if I don't!"
"I've got my eye on Phebe," observed Will, in a patronising tone
that made them all laugh.
"Bless the dear; I shan't mind it a bit," answered Phebe, with such a
maternal air that Will's budding gallantry was chilled to death.
"Oh, the mistletoe bough," sang Rose.
"Oh, the mistletoe bough!" echoed all the boys, and the teasing
ended in the plaintive ballad they all liked so well.
There was plenty of time to try the new skates before dinner, and
then Rose took her first lesson on the little bay, which seemed to
have frozen over for that express purpose. She found tumbling
down and getting up again warm work for a time, but with six boys
to teach her, she managed at last to stand alone; and, satisfied with
that success, she refreshed herself with a dozen grand coasts on the
Amazon, as her sled was called.
"Ah, that fatal colour! it breaks my heart to see it," croaked Aunt
Myra, as Rose came down a little late, with cheeks almost as ruddy
as the holly berries on the wall, and every curl as smooth as
Phebe's careful hands could make it.
"I'm glad to see that Alec allows the poor child to make herself
pretty in spite of his absurd notions," added Aunt Clara, taking
infinite satisfaction in the fact that Rose's blue silk dress had three
frills on it.
"She's a very intelligent child, and has a nice little manner of her
own," observed Aunt Jane, with unusual affability; for Rose had
just handed Mac a screen to guard his eyes from the brilliant fire.
"If I had a daughter like that to show my Jem when he gets home, I
should be a very proud and happy woman," thought Aunt Jessie,
and then reproached herself for not being perfectly satisfied with
her four brave lads.
Aunt Plenty was too absorbed in the dinner to have an eye for
anything else; if she had not been, she would have seen what an
effect her new cap produced upon the boys. The good lady owned
that she did "love a dressy cap," and on this occasion her head gear
was magnificent; for the towering structure of lace was adorned
with buff ribbons to such an extent that it looked as if a flock of
yellow butterflies had settled on her dear old head. When she
trotted about the rooms the ruches quivered, the little bows all
stood erect, and the streamers waved in the breeze so comically
that it was absolutely necessary for Archie to smother the Brats in
the curtains till they had had their first laugh out.
Uncle Mac had brought Fun See to dinner, and it was a mercy he
did, for the elder lads found a vent for their merriment in joking
the young Chinaman on his improved appearance. He was in
American costume now, with a cropped head, and spoke
remarkably good English after six months at school; but, for all
that, his yellow face and beady eyes made a curious contrast to the
blonde Campbells all about him. Will called him the "Typhoon,"
meaning Tycoon, and the name stuck to him to his great disgust.
Aunt Peace was brought down and set in the chair of state at table,
for she never failed to join the family on this day, and sat smiling
at them all, "like an embodiment of Peace on earth," Uncle Alec
said, as he took his place beside her, while Uncle Mac supported
Aunt Plenty at the other end.
"I ate hardly any breakfast, and I've done everything I know to
make myself extra hungry, but I really don't think I can eat straight
through, unless I burst my buttons off," whispered Geordie to Will,
as he surveyed the bounteous stores before him with a hopeless
"A fellow never knows what he can do till he tries," answered
Will, attacking his heaped-up plate with an evident intention of
doing his duty like a man.
Everybody knows what a Christmas dinner is, so we need waste no
words in describing this one, but hasten at once to tell what
happened at the end of it. The end, by the way, was so long in
coming that the gas was lighted before dessert was over, for a
snow flurry had come on and the wintry daylight faded fast. But
that only made it all the jollier in the warm, bright rooms, full of
happy souls. Everyone was very merry, but Archie seemed
particularly uplifted so much so, that Charlie confided to Rose that
he was afraid the Chief had been at the decanters.
Rose indignantly denied the insinuation, for when healths were
drunk in the good old-fashioned way to suit the elders, she had
observed that Aunt Jessie's boys filled their glasses with water, and
had done the same herself in spite of the Prince's jokes about "the
But Archie certainly was unusually excited, and when someone
remembered that it was the anniversary of Uncle Jem's wedding,
and wished he was there to make a speech, his son electrified the
family by trying to do it for him. It was rather incoherent and
flowery, as maiden speeches are apt to be, but the end was
considered superb; for, turning to his mother with a queer little
choke in his voice, he said that she "deserved to be blessed with
peace and plenty, to be crowned with roses and lads'-love, and to
receive the cargo of happiness sailing home to her in spite of wind
or tide to add another Jem to the family jewels."
That allusion to the Captain, now on his return trip, made Mrs.
Jessie sob in her napkin, and set the boys cheering. Then, as if that
was not sensation enough, Archie suddenly dashed out of the
room, as if he had lost his wits.
"Too bashful to stay and be praised," began Charlie, excusing the
peculiarities of his chief as in duty bound.
"Phebe beckoned to him; I saw her," cried Rose, staring hard at the
"Is it more presents coming?" asked Jamie, just as his brother
re-appeared, looking more excited than ever.
"Yes; a present for mother, and here it is!" roared Archie, flinging
wide the door to let in a tall man, who cried out
"Where's my little woman? The first kiss for her, then the rest may
come on as fast as they like."
Before the words were out of his mouth, Mrs. Jessie was
half-hidden under his rough great-coat, and four boys were
prancing about him clamouring for their turn.
Of course, there was a joyful tumult for a time, during which Rose
slipped into the window recess and watched what went on, as if it
were a chapter in a Christmas story. It was good to see bluff Uncle
Jem look proudly at his tall son, and fondly hug the little ones. It
was better still to see him shake his brothers' hands as if he would
never leave off, and kiss all the sisters in a way that made even
solemn Aunt Myra brighten up for a minute. But it was best of all
to see him finally established in grandfather's chair, with his "little
woman" beside him, his three youngest boys in his lap, and Archie
hovering over him like a large-sized cherub. That really was, as
Charlie said, "A landscape to do one's heart good."
"All hearty and all here, thank God!" said Captain Jem in the first
pause that came, as he looked about him with a grateful face.
"All but Rose," answered loyal little Jamie, remembering the
"Faith, I forgot the child! Where is George's little girl?" asked the
Captain, who had not seen her since she was a baby.
"You'd better say Alec's great girl," said Uncle Mac, who professed
to be madly jealous of his brother.
"Here I am, sir," and Rose appeared from behind the curtains,
looking as if she had rather have stayed there.
"Saint George Germain, how the mite has grown!" cried Captain
Jem, as he tumbled the boys out of his lap, and rose to greet the
tall girl, like a gentleman as he was. But, somehow, when he shook
her hand it looked so small in his big one, and her face reminded
him so strongly of his dead brother, that he was not satisfied with
so cold a welcome, and with a sudden softening of the keen eyes
he took her up in his arms, whispering, with a rough cheek against
her smooth one
"God bless you, child! forgive me if I forgot you for a minute, and
be sure that not one of your kinsfolk is happier to see you here than
That made it all right; and when he set her down, Rose's face was
so bright it was evident that some spell had been used to banish the
feeling of neglect that had kept her moping behind the curtain so
That everyone sat round and heard all about the voyage home how
the Captain had set his heart on getting there in time to keep
Christmas; how everything had conspired to thwart his plan; and
how, at the very last minute, he had managed to do it, and had sent
a telegram to Archie, bidding him keep the secret, and be ready for
his father at any moment, for the ship got into another port, and he
might be late.
Then Archie told how that telegram had burnt in his pocket all
dinner-time; how he had to take Phebe into his confidence, and
how clever she was to keep the Captain back till the speech was
over and he could come in with effect.
The elders would have sat and talked all the evening, but the
young folks were bent on having their usual Christmas frolic; so,
after an hour of pleasant chat, they began to get restless, and
having consulted together in dumb show, they devised a way to
very effectually break up the family council.
Steve vanished, and, sooner than the boys imagined Dandy could
get himself up, the skirl of the bag-pipe was heard in the hall, and
the bonny piper came to lead Clan Campbell to the revel.
"Draw it mild, Stenie, my man; ye play unco weel, but ye mak a
most infernal din," cried Uncle Jem, with his hands over his ears,
for this accomplishment was new to him, and "took him all aback,"
as he expressed it.
So Steve droned out a Highland reel as softly as he could, and the
boys danced it to a circle of admiring relations. Captain Jem was a
true sailor, however, and could not stand idle while anything lively
was going on; so, when the piper's breath gave out, he cut a
splendid pigeon-wing into the middle of the hall, saying, "Who can
dance a Fore and After?" and, waiting for no reply, began to
whistle the air so invitingly that Mrs Jessie "set" to him laughing
like a girl; Rose and Charlie took their places behind, and away
went the four with a spirit and skill that inspired all the rest to "cut
in" as fast as they could.
That was a grand beginning, and they had many another dance
before anyone would own they were tired. Even Fun See
distinguished himself with Aunt Plenty, whom he greatly admired
as the stoutest lady in the company; plumpness being considered a
beauty in his country. The merry old soul professed herself
immensely flattered by his admiration, and the boys declared she
"set her cap at him," else he would never have dared to catch her
under the mistletoe, and, rising on the tips of his own toes,
gallantly salute her fat cheek.
How they all laughed at her astonishment, and how Fun's little
black eyes twinkled over this exploit! Charlie put him up to it, and
Charlie was so bent on catching Rose, that he laid all sorts of
pitfalls for her, and bribed the other lads to help him. But Rose
was wide-awake, and escaped all his snares, professing great
contempt for such foolish customs. Poor Phebe did not fare so
well, and Archie was the only one who took a base advantage of
her as she stood innocently offering tea to Aunt Myra, whom she
happened to meet just under the fatal bough. If his father's arrival
had not rather upset him, I doubt if the dignified Chief would have
done it, for he apologized at once in the handsomest manner, and
caught the tray that nearly dropped from Phebe's hands.
Jamie boldly invited all the ladies to come and salute him; and as
for Uncle Jem, he behaved as if the entire room was a grove of
mistletoe. Uncle Alec slyly laid a bit of it on Aunt Peace's cap, and
then softly kissed her; which little joke seemed to please her very
much, for she liked to have part in all the home pastimes, and Alec
was her favourite nephew.
Charlie alone failed to catch his shy bird, and the oftener she
escaped the more determined he was to ensnare her. When every
other wile had been tried in vain, he got Archie to propose a game
"I understand that dodge," thought Rose, and was on her guard so
carefully that not one among the pile soon collected belonged to
"Now let us redeem them and play something else," said Will,
quite unconscious of the deeply-laid plots all about him.
"One more round and then we will," answered the Prince, who had
now baited his trap anew.
Just as the question came to Rose, Jamie's voice was heard in the
hall, crying distressfully, "Oh, come quick, quick!" Rose started
up, missed the question, and was greeted with a general cry of
"Forfeit! forfeit!" in which the little traitor came to join.
"Now I've got her," thought the young rascal, exulting in his
"Now I'm lost," thought Rose, as she gave up her pin-cushion with
a sternly defiant look that would have daunted anyone but the
reckless Prince. In fact, it made even him think twice, and resolve
to "let Rose off easy,'' she had been so clever.
"Here's a very pretty pawn, and what shall be done to redeem it?"
asked Steve, holding the pin-cushion over Charlie's head, for he
had insisted on being judge, and kept that for the last.
"Fine or superfine?"
"Hum, well, she shall take old Mac under the mistletoe, and kiss
him prettily. Won't he be mad, though?" and this bad boy chuckled
over the discomfort he had caused two harmless beings.
There was an impressive pause among the young folks in their
corner, for they all knew that Mac would "be mad," since he hated
nonsense of this sort, and had gone to talk with the elders when the
game began. At this moment he was standing before the fire,
listening to a discussion between his uncles and his father, looking
as wise as a young owl, and blissfully unconscious of the plots
Charlie expected that Rose would say, "I won't!" therefore he was
rather astonished, not to say gratified, when, after a look at the
victim, she laughed suddenly, and, going up to the group of
gentlemen, drew her uncle Mac under the mistletoe and surprised
him with a hearty kiss.
"Thank you, my dear," said the innocent gentleman, looking much
pleased at the unexpected honour.
"Oh, come; that's not fair," began Charlie. But Rose cut him short
by saying, as she made him a fine courtesy
"You said 'Old Mac,' and though it was very disrespectful, I did it.
That was your last chance, sir, and you've lost it."
He certainly had, for, as he spoke, Rose pulled down the mistletoe
and threw it into the fire, while the boys jeered at the crestfallen
Prince, and exalted quick-witted Rose to the skies.
"What's the joke?" asked young Mac, waked out of a brown study
by the laughter, in which the elders joined.
But there was a regular shout when, the matter having been
explained to him, Mac took a meditative stare at Rose through his
goggles, and said in a philosophical tone, "Well, I don't think I
should have minded much if she had done it."
That tickled the lads immensely, and nothing but the appearance of
a slight refection would have induced them to stop chaffing the
poor Worm, who could not see anything funny in the beautiful
resignation he had shown on this trying occasion.
Soon after this, the discovery of Jamie curled up in the sofa corner,
as sound asleep as a dormouse, suggested the propriety of going
home, and a general move was made.
They were all standing about the hall lingering over the
good-nights, when the sound of a voice softly singing "Sweet
Home," made them pause and listen. It was Phebe, poor little
Phebe, who never had a home, never knew the love of father or
mother, brother or sister; who stood all alone in the wide world,
yet was not sad nor afraid, but took her bits of happiness
gratefully, and sung over her work without a thought of discontent.
I fancy the happy family standing there together remembered this
and felt the beauty of it, for when the solitary voice came to the
burden of its song, other voices took it up and finished it so
sweetly, that the old house seemed to echo the word "Home" in the
ears of both the orphan girls, who had just spent their first
Christmas under its hospitable roof.
Chapter 21 - A Scare
"Brother Alec, you surely don't mean to allow that child to go out
such a bitter cold day as this," said Mrs. Myra, looking into the
study, where the Doctor sat reading his paper, one February
"Why not? If a delicate invalid like yourself can bear it, surely my
hearty girl can, especially as she is dressed for cold weather,"
answered Dr. Alec with provoking confidence.
"But you have no idea how sharp the wind is. I am chilled to the
very marrow of my bones," answered Aunt Myra, chafing the end
of her purple nose with her sombre glove.
"I don't doubt it, ma'am, if you will wear crape and silk instead of
fur and flannel. Rosy goes out in all weathers, and will be none the
worse for an hour's brisk skating."
"Well, I warn you that you are trifling with the child's health, and
depending too much on the seeming improvement she has made
this year. She is a delicate creature for all that, and will drop away
suddenly at the first serious attack, as her poor mother did,"
croaked Aunt Myra, with a despondent wag of the big bonnet.
"I'll risk it," answered Dr. Alec, knitting his brows, as he always
did when any allusion was made to that other Rose.
"Mark my words, you will repent it," and with that awful prophecy,
Aunt Myra departed like a black shadow.
Now it must be confessed that among the Doctor's failings and he
had his share was a very masculine dislike of advice which was
thrust upon him unasked. He always listened with respect to the
great-aunts, and often consulted Mrs. Jessie; but the other three
ladies tried his patience sorely, by constant warnings, complaints
and counsels. Aunt Myra was an especial trial, and he always
turned contrary the moment she began to talk. He could not help it,
and often laughed about it with comic frankness. Here now was a
sample of it, for he had just been thinking that Rose had better
defer her run till the wind went down and the sun was warmer. But
Aunt Myra spoke, and he could not resist the temptation to make
light of her advice, and let Rose brave the cold. He had no fear of
its harming her, for she went out every day, and it was a great
satisfaction to him to see her run down the avenue a minute
afterward, with her skates on her arm, looking like a rosy-faced
Esquimaux in her seal-skin suit, as she smiled at Aunt Myra
stalking along as solemnly as a crow.
"I hope the child won't stay out long, for this wind is enough to
chill the marrow in younger bones than Myra's," thought Dr. Alec,
half an hour later, as he drove toward the city to see the few
patients he had consented to take for old acquaintance' sake.
The thought returned several times that morning, for it was truly a
bitter day, and, in spite of his bear-skin coat, the Doctor shivered.
But he had great faith in Rose's good sense, and it never occurred
to him that she was making a little Casabianca of herself, with the
difference of freezing instead of burning at her post.
You see, Mac had made an appointment to meet her at a certain
spot, and have a grand skating bout as soon as the few lessons he
was allowed were over. She had promised to wait for him, and did
so with a faithfulness that cost her dear, because Mac forgot his
appointment when the lessons were done, and became absorbed in
a chemical experiment, till a general combustion of gases drove
him out of his laboratory. Then he suddenly remembered Rose,
and would gladly have hurried away to her, but his mother forbade
his going out, for the sharp wind would hurt his eyes.
"She will wait and wait, mother, for she always keeps her word,
and I told her to hold on till I came," explained Mac, with visions
of a shivering little figure watching on the windy hill-top.
"Of course, your uncle won't let her go out such a day as this. If he
does, she will have the sense to come here for you, or to go home
again when you don't appear," said Aunt Jane, returning to her
"Watts on the Mind."
"I wish Steve would just cut up and see if she's there, since I can't
go," began Mac, anxiously.
"Steve won't stir a peg, thank you. He's got his own toes to thaw
out, and wants his dinner," answered Dandy, just in from school,
and wrestling impatiently with his boots.
So Mac resigned himself, and Rose waited dutifully till
dinner-time assured her that her waiting was in vain. She had done
her best to keep warm, had skated till she was tired and hot, then
stood watching others till she was chilled; tried to get up a glow
again by trotting up and down the road, but failed to do so, and
finally cuddled disconsolately under a pine-tree to wait and watch.
When she at length started for home, she was benumbed with cold,
and could hardly make her way against the wind that buffeted the
frost-bitten rose most unmercifully.
Dr. Alec was basking in the warmth of the study fire, after his
drive, when the sound of a stifled sob made him hurry to the door
and look anxiously into the hall. Rose lay in a shivering bunch
near the register, with her things half off, wringing her hands, and
trying not to cry with the pain returning warmth brought to her
"My darling, what is it?" and Uncle Alec had her in his arms in a
"Mac didn't come I can't get warm the fire makes me ache!" and
with a long shiver Rose burst out crying, while her teeth chattered,
and her poor little nose was so blue, it made one's heart ache to see
In less time than it takes to tell it, Dr. Alec had her on the sofa
rolled up in the bear-skin coat, with Phebe rubbing her cold feet
while he rubbed the aching hands, and Aunt Plenty made a
comfortable hot drink, and Aunt Peace sent down her own
foot-warmer and embroidered blanket "for the dear."
Full of remorseful tenderness, Uncle Alec worked over his new
patient till she declared she was all right again. He would not let
her get up to dinner, but fed her himself, and then forgot his own
while he sat watching her fall into a drowse, for Aunt Plenty's
cordial made her sleepy.
She lay so several hours for the drowse deepened into a heavy
sleep, and Uncle Alec, still at his post, saw with growing anxiety
that a feverish colour began to burn in her cheeks, that her
breathing was quick and uneven, and now and then she gave a
little moan, as if in pain. Suddenly she woke up with a start, and
seeing Aunt Plenty bending over her, put out her arms like a sick
child, saying wearily
"Please, could I go to bed?"
"The best place for you, deary. Take her right up, Alec; I've got the
hot water ready, and after a nice bath, she shall have a cup of my
sage tea, and be rolled up in blankets to sleep off her cold,"
answered the old lady, cheerily, as she bustled away to give orders.
"Are you in pain, darling?" asked Uncle Alec, as he carried her up.
"My side aches when I breathe, and I feel stiff and queer; but it
isn't bad, so don't be troubled, uncle," whispered Rose, with a little
hot hand against his cheek.
But the poor doctor did look troubled, and had cause to do so, for
just then Rose tried to laugh at Dolly charging into the room with a
warming-pan, but could not, for the sharp pain took her breath
away and made her cry out.
"Pleurisy," sighed Aunt Plenty, from the depths of the bath-tub.
"Pewmonia!" groaned Dolly, burrowing among the bedclothes with
the long-handled pan, as if bent on fishing up that treacherous
"Oh, is it bad?" asked Phebe, nearly dropping a pail of hot water in
her dismay, for she knew nothing of sickness, and Dolly's
suggestion had a peculiarly dreadful sound to her.
"Hush!" ordered the Doctor, in a tone that silenced all further
predictions, and made everyone work with a will.
"Make her as comfortable as you can, and when she is in her little
bed I'll come and say good-night," he added, when the bath was
ready and the blankets browning nicely before the fire.
Then he went away to talk quite cheerfully to Aunt Peace about its
being "only a chill"; after which he tramped up and down the hall,
pulling his beard and knitting his brows, sure signs of great inward
"I thought it would be too good luck to get through the year
without a downfall. Confound my perversity! Why couldn't I take
Myra's advice and keep Rose at home. It's not fair that the poor
child should suffer for my sinful over-confidence. She shall not
suffer for it! Pneumonia, indeed! I defy it," and he shook his fist in
the ugly face of an Indian idol that happened to be before him, as
if that particularly hideous god had some spite against his own
In spite of his defiance his heart sunk when he saw Rose again, for
the pain was worse, and the bath and blankets, the warming-pan
and piping-hot sage tea, were all in vain. For several hours there
was no rest for the poor child, and all manner of gloomy
forebodings haunted the minds of those who hovered about her
with faces full of the tenderest anxiety.
In the midst of the worst paroxysm Charlie came to leave a
message from his mother, and was met by Phebe coming
despondently downstairs with a mustard plaster that had brought
"What the dickens is the matter? You look as dismal as a
tombstone," he said, as she held up her hand to stop his lively
"Miss Rose is dreadful sick."
"The deuce she is!"
"Don't swear, Mr. Charlie; she really is, and it's Mr. Mac's fault,"
and Phebe told the sad tale in a few sharp words, for she felt at war
with the entire race of boys at that moment.
"I'll give it to him, make your mind easy about that," said Charlie,
with an ominous doubling up of his fist. "But Rose isn't
dangerously ill, is she?" he added anxiously, as Aunt Plenty was
seen to trot across the upper hall, shaking a bottle violently as she
"Oh, but she is though. The Doctor don't say much, but he don't
call it a 'chill' any more. It's 'pleurisy' now, and I'm so afraid it will
be pewmonia to-morrow," answered Phebe, with a despairing
glance at the plaster.
Charlie exploded into a stifled laugh at the new pronunciation of
pneumonia, to Phebe's great indignation.
"How can you have the heart to do it, and she in such horrid pain?
Hark to that, and then laugh if you darst," she said with a tragic
gesture, and her black eyes full of fire.
Charlie listened and heard little moans that went to his heart and
made his face as sober as Phebe's. "O uncle, please stop the pain,
and let me rest a minute! Don't tell the boys I wasn't brave. I try to
bear it, but it's so sharp I can't help crying."
Neither could Charlie, when he heard the broken voice say that;
but, boy-like, he wouldn't own it, and said pettishly, as he rubbed
his sleeve across his eyes
"Don't hold that confounded thing right under my nose; the
mustard makes my eyes smart."
"Don't see how it can, when it hasn't any more strength in it than
meal. The Doctor said so, and I'm going to get some better," began
Phebe, not a bit ashamed of the great tears that were bedewing the
"I'll go!" and Charlie was off like a shot, glad of an excuse to get
out of sight for a few minutes.
When he came back all inconvenient emotion had been disposed
of, and, having delivered a box of the hottest mustard procurable
for money, he departed to "blow up" Mac, that being his next duty
in his opinion. He did it so energetically and thoroughly that the
poor Worm was cast into the depths of remorseful despair, and
went to bed that evening feeling that he was an outcast from
among men, and bore the mark of Cain upon his brow.
Thanks to the skill of the Doctor, and the devotion of his helpers,
Rose grew easier about midnight, and all hoped that the worst was
over. Phebe was making tea by the study fire, for the Doctor had
forgotten to eat and drink since Rose was ill, and Aunt Plenty
insisted on his having a "good cordial dish of tea" after his
exertions. A tap on the window startled Phebe, and, looking up,
she saw a face peering in. She was not afraid, for a second look
showed her that it was neither ghost nor burglar, but Mac, looking
pale and wild in the wintry moonlight.
"Come and let a fellow in," he said in a low tone, and when he
stood in the hall he clutched Phebe's arm, whispering gruffly,
"How is Rose?"
"Thanks be to goodness, she's better," answered Phebe, with a
smile that was like broad sunshine to the poor lad's anxious heart.
"And she will be all right again to-morrow?"
"Oh, dear no! Dolly says she's sure to have rheumatic fever, if she
don't have noo-monia!" answered Phebe, careful to pronounce the
word rightly this time.
Down went Mac's face, and remorse began to gnaw at him again as
he gave a great sigh and said doubtfully
"I suppose I couldn't see her?"
"Of course not at this time of night, when we want her to go to
Mac opened his mouth to say something more, when a sneeze
came upon him unawares, and a loud "Ah rash hoo!" awoke the
echoes of the quiet house.
"Why didn't you stop it?" said Phebe reproachfully. "I dare say
you've waked her up."
"Didn't know it was coming. Just my luck!" groaned Mac, turning
to go before his unfortunate presence did more harm.
But a voice from the stair-head called softly, "Mac, come up; Rose
wants to see you."
Up he went, and found his uncle waiting for him.
"What brings you here at this hour, my boy?" asked the Doctor in a
"Charlie said it was all my fault, and if she died I'd killed her. I
couldn't sleep, so I came to see how she was, and no one knows it
but Steve," he said with such a troubled face and voice that the
Doctor had not the heart to blame him.
Before he could say anything more a feeble voice called "Mac!"
and with a hasty "Stay a minute just to please her, and then slip
away, for I want her to sleep," the Doctor led him into the room.
The face on the pillow looked very pale and childish, and the smile
that welcomed Mac was very faint, for Rose was spent with pain,
yet could not rest till she had said a word of comfort to her cousin.
"I knew your funny sneeze, and I guessed that you came to see how
I did, though it is very late. Don't be worried, I'm better now, and it
is my fault I was ill, not yours; for I needn't have been so silly as to
wait in the cold just because I said I would."
Mac hastened to explain, to load himself with reproaches, and to
beg her not to die on any account, for Charlie's lecture had made a
deep impression on the poor boy's mind.
"I didn't know there was any danger of my dying," and Rose looked
up at him with a solemn expression in her great eyes.
"Oh, I hope not; but people do sometimes go suddenly, you know,
and I couldn't rest till I'd asked you to forgive me," faltered Mac,
thinking that Rose looked very like an angel already, with the
golden hair loose on the pillow, and the meekness of suffering on
her little white face.
"I don't think I shall die; uncle won't let me; but if I do, remember I
She looked at him with a tender light in her eyes, and, seeing how
pathetic his dumb grief was, she added softly, drawing his head
down, "I wouldn't kiss you under the mistletoe, but I will now, for I
want you to be sure I do forgive and love you just the same."
That quite upset poor Mac; he could only murmur his thanks and
get out of the room as fast as possible, to grope his way to the
couch at the far end of the hall, and lie there till he fell asleep,
worn out with trying not to "make a baby" of himself.
Chapter 22 - Something to do
Whatever danger there might have been from the effects of that
sudden chill, it was soon over, though, of course, Aunt Myra
refused to believe it, and Dr. Alec cherished his girl with
redoubled vigilance and tenderness for months afterward. Rose
quite enjoyed being sick, because as soon as the pain ended the fun
began, and for a week or two she led the life of a little princess
secluded in the Bower, while every one served, amused, and
watched over her in the most delightful manner. But the doctor
was called away to see an old friend, who was dangerously ill, and
then Rose felt like a young bird deprived of its mother's sheltering
wing; especially on one afternoon when the aunts were taking their
naps, and the house was very still within while snow fell softly
"I'll go and hunt up Phebe, she is always nice and busy, and likes to
have me help her. If Dolly is out of the way we can make caramels
and surprise the boys when they come," Rose said to herself, as she
threw down her book and felt ready for society of some sort.
She took the precaution to peep through the slide before she
entered the kitchen, for Dolly allowed no messing when she was
round. But the coast was clear, and no one but Phebe appeared,
sitting at the table with her head on her arms apparently asleep.
Rose was just about to wake her with a "Boo!" when she lifted her
head, dried her wet eyes with her blue apron, and fell to work with
a resolute face on something she was evidently much interested in.
Rose could not make out what it was, and her curiosity was greatly
excited, for Phebe was writing with a sputtering pen on some bits
of brown paper, apparently copying something from a little book.
"I must know what the dear thing is about, and why she cried, and
then set her lips tight and went to work with all her might,"
thought Rose, forgetting all about the caramels, and, going round
to the door, she entered the kitchen, saying pleasantly
"Phebe, I want something to do. Can't you let me help you about
anything, or shall I be in the way?"
"Oh, dear no, miss; I always love to have you round when things
are tidy. What would you like to do?" answered Phebe, opening a
drawer as if about to sweep her own affairs out of sight; but Rose
stopped her, exclaiming, like a curious child
"Let me see! What is it? I won't tell if you'd rather not have Dolly
"I'm only trying to study a bit; but I'm so stupid I don't get on
much," answered the girl reluctantly, permitting her little mistress
to examine the poor contrivances she was trying to work with.
A broken slate that had blown off the roof, an inch or two of
pencil, an old almanac for a reader, several bits of brown or yellow
paper ironed smoothly and sewn together for a copy-book, and the
copies sundry receipts written in Aunt Plenty's neat hand. These,
with a small bottle of ink and a rusty pen, made up Phebe's outfit,
and it was little wonder that she did not "get on" in spite of the
patient persistence that dried the desponding tears and drove along
the sputtering pen with a will.
"You may laugh if you want to, Miss Rose, I know my things are
queer, and that's why I hide 'em; but I don't mind since you've
found me out, and I ain't a bit ashamed except of being so
backward at my age," said Phebe humbly, though her cheeks grew
redder as she washed out some crooked capitals with a tear or two
not yet dried upon the slate.
"Laugh at you! I feel more like crying to think what a selfish girl I
am, to have loads of books and things and never remember to give
you some. Why didn't you come and ask me, and not go struggling
along alone in this way? It was very wrong of you, Phebe, and I'll
never forgive you if you do so again," answered Rose, with one
hand on Phebe's shoulder, while the other gently turned the leaves
of the poor little copy-book.
"I didn't like to ask for anything more when you are so good to me
all the time, miss, dear," began Phebe, looking up with grateful
"O you proud thing! just as if it wasn't fun to give away, and I had
the best of it. Now, see here, I've got a plan and you mustn't say no,
or I shall scold. I want something to do, and I'm going to teach you
all I know; it won't take long," and Rose laughed as she put her
arm around Phebe's neck, and patted the smooth dark head with
the kind little hand that so loved to give.
"It would be just heavenly!" and Phebe's face shone at the mere
idea; but fell again as she added wistfully, "Only I'm afraid I ought
not to let you do it, Miss Rose. It will take time, and maybe the
Doctor wouldn't like it."
"He didn't want me to study much, but he never said a word about
teaching, and I don't believe he will mind a bit. Anyway, we can
try it till he comes, so pack up your things and go right to my room
and we'll begin this very day; I'd truly like to do it, and we'll have
nice times, see if we don't!" cried Rose eagerly.
It was a pretty sight to see Phebe bundle her humble outfit into her
apron, and spring up as if the desire of her heart had suddenly been
made a happy fact to her; it was a still prettier sight to see Rose
run gaily on before, smiling like a good fairy as she beckoned to
the other, singing as she went
"The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And many are the curious things I'll show you when you're there.
Will you, will you walk in, Phebe dear?"
"Oh, won't I!" answered Phebe fervently, adding, as they entered
the Bower, "You are the dearest spider that ever was, and I'm the
"I'm going to be very strict, so sit down in that chair and don't say a
word till school is ready to open," ordered Rose, delighted with the
prospect of such a useful and pleasant "something to do."
So Phebe sat demurely in her place while her new teacher laid
forth books and slates, a pretty inkstand and a little globe; hastily
tore a bit off her big sponge, sharpened pencils with more energy
than skill, and when all was ready gave a prance of satisfaction
that set the pupil laughing.
"Now the school is open, and I shall hear you read, so that I may
know in which class to put you, Miss Moore," began Rose with
great dignity, as she laid a book before her scholar, and sat down
in the easy chair with a long rule in her hand.
Phebe did pretty well, only tripping now and then over a hard
word, and pronouncing identical "identickle," in a sober way that
tickled Rose, though never a smile betrayed her. The spelling
lesson which followed was rather discouraging; Phebe's ideas of
geography were very vague, and grammar was nowhere, though
the pupil protested that she tried so hard to "talk nice like educated
folks" that Dolly called her "a stuck-up piece who didn't know her
"Dolly's an old goose, so don't you mind her, for she will say
'nater,' 'vittles,' and 'doos' as long as she lives, and insist that they
are right. You do talk very nicely, Phebe, I've observed it, and
grammar will help you, and show you some things are right and
others ain't are not, I mean," added Rose, correcting herself, and
feeling that she must mind her own parts of speech if she was to
serve as an example for Phebe.
When the arithmetic came, the little teacher was surprised to find
her scholar quicker in some things than herself, for Phebe had
worked away at the columns in the butcher's and baker's books till
she could add so quickly and correctly that Rose was amazed, and
felt that in this branch the pupil would soon excel the teacher if
she kept on at the same pace. Her praise cheered Phebe
immensely, and they went bravely on, both getting so interested
that time flew unheeded till Aunt Plenty appeared, exclaiming, as
she stared at the two heads bent over one slate
"Bless my heart, what is going on now?"
"School, aunty. I'm teaching Phebe, and it's great fun!" cried Rose,
looking up with a bright face.
But Phebe's was brighter, though she added with a wistful look
"Maybe I ought to have asked leave first; only when Miss Rose
proposed this, I was so happy I forgot to. Shall I stop, ma'am?"
"Of course not, child; I'm glad to see you fond of your book, and to
find Rose helping you along. My blessed mother used to sit at
work with her maids about her, teaching them many a useful thing
in the good old fashion that's gone by now. Only don't neglect your
work, dear, or let the books interfere with the duties."
As Aunt Plenty spoke, with her kind old face beaming approvingly
upon the girls, Phebe glanced at the clock, saw that it pointed to
five, knew that Dolly would soon be down, expecting to find
preparations for supper under way, and, hastily dropping her
pencil, she jumped up, saying
"Please, can I go? I'll clear up after I've done my chores."
"School is dismissed," answered Rose, and with a grateful "Thank
you, heaps and heaps!" Phebe ran away singing the multiplication
table as she set the tea ditto.
That was the way it began, and for a week the class of one went on
with great pleasure and profit to all concerned; for the pupil
proved a bright one, and came to her lessons as to a feast, while
the young teacher did her best to be worthy the high opinion held
of her, for Phebe firmly believed that Miss Rose knew everything
in the way of learning.
Of course the lads found out what was going on, and chaffed the
girls about the "Seminary," as they called the new enterprise; but
they thought it a good thing on the whole, kindly offered to give
lessons in Greek and Latin gratis, and decided among themselves
that "Rose was a little trump to give the Phebe-bird such a capital
Rose herself had some doubts as to how it would strike her uncle,
and concocted a wheedlesome speech which should at once
convince him that it was the most useful, wholesome, and
delightful plan ever devised. But she got no chance to deliver her
address, for Dr. Alec came upon her so unexpectedly that it went
out of her head entirely. She was sitting on the floor in the library,
poring over a big book laid open in her lap, and knew nothing of
the long-desired arrival till two large, warm hands met under her
chin and gently turned her head back, so that someone could kiss
her heartily on either cheek, while a fatherly voice said, half
reproachfully, "Why is my girl brooding over a dusty Encyclopedia
when she ought to be running to meet the old gentleman who
couldn't get on another minute without her?"
"O uncle! I'm so glad! and so sorry! Why didn't you let us know
what time you'd be here, or call out the minute you came? Haven't
I been home-sick for you? and now I'm so happy to have you back
I could hug your dear old curly head off," cried Rose, as the
Encyclopedia went down with a bang, and she up with a spring
that carried her into Dr. Alec's arms, to be kept there in the sort of
embrace a man gives to the dearest creature the world holds for
Presently he was in his easy chair with Rose upon his knee smiling
up in his face and talking as fast as her tongue could go, while he
watched her with an expression of supreme content, as he stroked
the smooth round cheek, or held the little hand in his, rejoicing to
see how rosy was the one, how plump and strong the other.
"Have you had a good time? Did you save the poor lady? Aren't
you glad to be home again with your girl to torment you?"
"Yes, to all those questions. Now tell me what you've been at, little
sinner? Aunty Plen says you want to consult me about some new
and remarkable project which you have dared to start in my
"She didn't tell you, I hope?"
"Not a word more expect that you were rather doubtful how I'd
take it, and so wanted to 'fess' yourself and get round me as you
always try to do, though you don't often succeed. Now, then, own
up and take the consequences."
So Rose told about her school in her pretty, earnest way, dwelling
on Phebe's hunger for knowledge, and the delight it was to help
her, adding, with a wise nod
"And it helps me too, uncle, for she is so quick and eager I have to
do my best or she will get ahead of me in some things. To-day,
now, she had the word 'cotton' in a lesson and asked all about it,
and I was ashamed to find I really knew so little that I could only
say that it was a plant that grew down South in a kind of a pod, and
was made into cloth. That's what I was reading up when you came,
and to-morrow I shall tell her all about it, and indigo too. So you
see it teaches me also, and is as good as a general review of what
I've learned, in a pleasanter way than going over it alone."
"You artful little baggage! that's the way you expect to get round
me, is it? That's not studying, I suppose?"
"No, sir, it's teaching; and please, I like it much better than having
a good time by myself. Besides, you know, I adopted Phebe and
promised to be a sister to her, so I am bound to keep my word, am
I not?" answered Rose, looking both anxious and resolute as she
waited for her sentence.
Dr. Alec was evidently already won, for Rose had described the
old slate and brown paper copy-book with pathetic effect, and the
excellent man had not only decided to send Phebe to school long
before the story was done, but reproached himself for forgetting
his duty to one little girl in his love for another. So when Rose
tried to look meek and failed utterly, he laughed and pinched her
cheek, and answered in that genial way which adds such warmth
and grace to any favour
"I haven't the slightest objection in the world. In fact, I was
beginning to think I might let you go at your books again,
moderately, since you are so well; and this is an excellent way to
try your powers. Phebe is a brave, bright lass, and shall have a fair
chance in the world, if we can give it to her, so that if she ever
finds her friends they need not be ashamed of her."
"I think she has found some already," began Rose eagerly.
"Hey? what? has anyone turned up since I've been gone?" asked
Dr. Alec quickly, for it was a firm belief in the family that Phebe
would prove to be "somebody" sooner or later.
"No, her best friend turned up when you came home, uncle,"
answered Rose with an approving pat, adding gratefully, "I can't
half thank you for being so good to my girl, but she will, because I
know she is going to make a woman to be proud of, she's so strong
and true, and loving."
"Bless your dear heart, I haven't begun to do anything yet, more
shame to me! But I'm going at it now, and as soon as she gets on a
bit, she shall go to school as long as she likes. How will that do for
"It will be 'just heavenly,' as Phebe says, for it is the wish of her
life to 'get lots of schooling,' and she will be too happy when I tell
her. May I, please? it will be so lovely to see the dear thing open
her big eyes and clap her hands at the splendid news."
"No one shall have a finger in this nice little pie; you shall do it all
yourself, only don't go too fast, or make too many castles in the air,
my dear; for time and patience must go into this pie of ours if it is
to turn out well."
"Yes, uncle, only when it is opened won't 'the birds begin to sing?"'
laughed Rose, taking a turn about the room as a vent for the joyful
emotions that made her eyes shine. All of a sudden she stopped
and asked soberly
"If Phebe goes to school who will do her work? I'm willing, if I
"Come here and I'll tell you a secret. Dolly's 'bones' are getting so
troublesome, and her dear old temper so bad, that the aunts have
decided to pension her off and let her go and live with her
daughter, who has married very well. I saw her this week, and
she'd like to have her mother come, so in the spring we shall have
a grand change, and get a new cook and chamber-girl if any can be
found to suit our honoured relatives."
"Oh, me! how can I ever get on without Phebe? Couldn't she stay,
just so I could see her? I'd pay her board rather than have her go,
I'm so fond of her."
How Dr. Alec laughed at that proposal, and how satisfied Rose
was when he explained that Phebe was still to be her maid, with no
duties except such as she could easily perform between
"She is a proud creature, for all her humble ways, and even from
us would not take a favour if she did not earn it somewhere. So
this arrangement makes it all square and comfortable, you see, and
she will pay for the schooling by curling these goldilocks a dozen
times a day if you let her."
"Your plans are always so wise and kind! That's why they work so
well, I suppose, and why people let you do what you like with
them. I really don't see how other girls get along without an Uncle
Alec!" answered Rose, with a sigh of pity for those who had
missed so great a blessing.
When Phebe was told the splendid news, she did not "stand on her
head with rapture," as Charlie prophesied she would, but took it
quietly, because it was such a happy thing she had no words "big
and beautiful enough to thank them in," she said; but every hour of
her day was brightened by this granted wish, and dedicated to the
service of those who gave it.
Her heart was so full of content that if overflowed in music, and
the sweet voice singing all about the house gave thanks so blithely
that no other words were needed. Her willing feet were never tired
of taking steps for those who had smoothed her way; her skilful
hands were always busy in some labour of love for them, and on
the face fast growing in comeliness there was an almost womanly
expression of devotion, which proved how well Phebe had already
learned one of life's great lessons gratitude.
Chapter 23 - Peace-Making
"Steve, I want you to tell me something," said Rose to Dandy, who
was making faces at himself in the glass, while he waited for an
answer to the note he brought from his mother to Aunt Plenty.
"P'raps I will, and p'raps I won't. What is it?"
"Haven't Arch and Charlie quarrelled?"
"Dare say; we fellows are always having little rows, you know. I
do believe a sty is coming on my star-board eye," and Steve
affected to be absorbed in a survey of his yellow lashes.
"No, that won't do; I want to know all about it; for I'm sure
something more serious than a 'little row' is the matter. Come,
please tell me, Stenie, there's a dear."
"Botheration! you don't want me to turn telltale, do you?" growled
Steve, pulling his top-knot, as he always did when perplexed.
"Yes, I do," was Rose's decided answer for she saw from his
manner that she was right, and determined to have the secret out of
him if coaxing would do it. "I don't wish you to tell things to
everyone, of course, but to me you may, and you must, because I
have a right to know. You boys need somebody to look after you,
and I'm going to do it, for girls are nice peacemakers, and know
how to manage people. Uncle said so, and he is never wrong."
Steve was about to indulge in a derisive hoot at the idea of her
looking after them, but a sudden thought restrained him, and
suggested a way in which he could satisfy Rose, and better himself
at the same time.
"What will you give me if I'll tell you every bit about it?" he asked,
with a sudden red in his cheeks and an uneasy look in his eyes, for
he was half ashamed of the proposition.
"What do you want?" and Rose looked up rather surprised at his
"I'd like to borrow some money. I shouldn't think of asking you,
only Mac never has a cent. since he's set up his old chemical shop,
where he'll blow himself to bits some day, and you and uncle will
have the fun of putting him together again," and Steve tried to look
as if the idea amused him.
"I'll lend it to you with pleasure, so tell away," said Rose, bound to
get at the secret.
Evidently much relieved by the promise, Steve set his top-knot
cheerfully erect again, and briefly stated the case.
"As you say, it's all right to tell you, but don't let the boys know I
blabbed, or Prince will take my head off. You see, Archie don't
like some of the fellows Charlie goes with, and cuts 'em. That
makes Prince mad, and he holds on just to plague Arch, so they
don't speak to one another, if they can help it, and that's the row."
"Are those boys bad?" asked Rose, anxiously.
"Guess not, only rather wild. They are older than our fellows, but
they like Prince, he's such a jolly boy; sings so well, dances jigs
and breakdowns, you know, and plays any game that's going. He
beat Morse at billiards, and that's something to brag of, for Morse
thinks he knows everything. I saw the match, and it was great fun!"
Steve got quite excited over the prowess of Charlie, whom he
admired immensely, and tried to imitate. Rose did not know half
the danger of such gifts and tastes as Charlie's, but felt
instinctively that something must be wrong if Archie disapproved.
"If Prince likes any billiard-playing boy better than Archie, I don't
think much of his sense," she said severely.
"Of course he doesn't; but, you see, Charlie and Arch are both as
proud as they can be, and won't give in. I suppose Arch is right, but
I don't blame Charlie a bit for liking to be with the others
sometimes, they are such a jolly set," and Steve shook his head
morally, even while his eye twinkled over the memory of some of
the exploits of the "jolly set."
"Oh, dear me!" sighed Rose, "I don't see what I can do about it, but
I wish the boys would make up, for Prince can't come to any harm
with Archie, he's so good and sensible."
"That's the trouble; Arch preaches, and Prince won't stand it. He
told Arch he was a prig and a parson, and Arch told him he wasn't
a gentleman. My boots! weren't they both mad, though! I thought
for a minute they'd pitch into one another and have it out. Wish
they had, and not gone stalking round stiff and glum ever since.
Mac and I settle our rows with a bat or so over the head, and then
we are all right."
Rose couldn't help laughing as Steve sparred away at a fat
sofa-pillow, to illustrate his meaning; and, having given it several
scientific whacks, he pulled down his cuffs and smiled upon her
with benign pity for her feminine ignorance of this summary way
of settling a quarrel.
"What droll things boys are!" she said, with a mixture of
admiration and perplexity in her face, which Steve accepted as a
compliment to his sex.
"We're a pretty clever invention, miss, and you can't get on without
us," he answered, with his nose in the air. Then, taking a sudden
plunge into business, he added, "How about that bit of money you
were going to lend me? I've told, now you pay up."
"Of course I will! How much do you want?" and Rose pulled out
"Could you spare five dollars? I want to pay a little debt of honour
that is rather pressing," and Steve put on a mannish air that was
comical to see.
"Aren't all debts honourable?" asked innocent Rose.
"Yes, of course; but this is a bet I made, and it ought to be settled
up at once," began Steve, finding it awkward to explain.
"Oh, don't bet, it's not right, and I know your father wouldn't like it.
Promise you won't do so again; please promise!" and Rose held
fast the hand into which she had just put the money.
"Well, I won't. It's worried me a good deal, but I was joked into it.
Much obliged, cousin, I'm all right now," and Steve departed
Having decided to be a peace-maker, Rose waited for an
opportunity, and very soon it came.
She was spending the day with Aunt Clara, who had been
entertaining some young guests, and invited Rose to meet them,
for she thought it high time her niece conquered her bashfulness
and saw a little of society. Dinner was over, and everyone had
gone. Aunt Clara was resting before going out to an evening party,
and Rose was waiting for Charlie to come and take her home.
She sat alone in the elegant drawing-room, feeling particularly
nice and pretty, for she had her best frock on, a pair of gold bands
her aunt had just given her, and a tea-rose bud in her sash, like the
beautiful Miss Van Tassel, whom everyone admired. She had
spread out her little skirts to the best advantage, and, leaning back
in a luxurious chair, sat admiring her own feet in new slippers with
rosettes almost as big as dahlias. Presently Charlie came lounging
in, looking rather sleepy and queer, Rose thought. On seeing her,
however, he roused up and said with a smile that ended in a gape
"I thought you were with mother, so I took forty winks after I got
those girls off. Now, I'm at your service, Rosamunda, whenever
"You look as if your head ached. If it does, don't mind me. I'm not
afraid to run home alone, it's so early," answered Rose, observing
the flushed cheeks and heavy eyes of her cousin.
"I think I see myself letting you do it. Champagne always makes
my headache, but the air will set me up."
"Why do you drink it, then?" asked Rose, anxiously.
"Can't help it, when I'm host. Now, don't you begin to lecture; I've
had enough of Archie's old-fashioned notions, and I don't want any
Charlie's tone was decidedly cross, and his whole manner so unlike
his usual merry good-nature, that Rose felt crushed, and answered
"I wasn't going to lecture, only when people like other people, they
can't bear to see them suffer pain."
That brought Charlie round at once, for Rose's lips trembled a
little, though she tried to hide it by smelling the flower she pulled
from her sash.
"I'm a regular bear, and I beg your pardon for being so cross,
Rosy," he said in the old frank way that was so winning.
"I wish you'd beg Archie's too, and be good friends again. You
never were cross when he was your chum," Rose said, looking up
at him as he bent toward her from the low chimney-piece, where
he had been leaning his elbows.
In an instant he stood as stiff and straight as a ramrod, and the
heavy eyes kindled with an angry spark as he said, in his high and
"You'd better not meddle with what you don't understand, cousin."
"But I do understand, and it troubles me very much to see you so
cold and stiff to one another. You always used to be together, and
now you hardly speak. You are so ready to beg my pardon I don't
see why you can't beg Archie's, if you are in the wrong."
"I'm not!" this was so short and sharp that Rose started, and
Charlie added in a calmer but still very haughty tone: "A
gentleman always begs pardon when he has been rude to a lady,
but one man doesn't apologize to another man who has insulted
"Oh, my heart, what a pepperpot!" thought Rose, and, hoping to
make him laugh, she added slyly: "I was not talking about men, but
boys, and one of them a Prince, who ought to set a good example
to his subjects."
But Charlie would not relent, and tried to turn the subject by
saying gravely, as he unfastened the little gold ring from his
"I've broken my word, so I want to give this back and free you
from the bargain. I'm sorry, but I think it a foolish promise, and
don't intend to keep it. Choose a pair of ear-rings to suit yourself,
as my forfeit. You have a right to wear them now."
"No, I can only wear one, and that is no use, for Archie will keep
his word I'm sure!" Rose was so mortified and grieved at this
downfall of her hopes that she spoke sharply, and would not take
the ring the deserter offered her.
He shrugged his shoulders, and threw it into her lap, trying to look
cool and careless, but failing entirely, for he was ashamed of
himself, and out of sorts generally. Rose wanted to cry, but pride
would not let her, and, being very angry, she relieved herself by
talk instead of tears. Looking pale and excited, she rose out of her
chair, cast away the ring, and said in a voice that she vainly tried to
"You are not at all the boy I thought you were, and I don't respect
you one bit. I've tried to help you be good, but you won't let me,
and I shall not try any more. You talk a great deal about being a
gentleman, but you are not, for you've broken your word, and I can
never trust you again. I don't wish you to go home with me. I'd
rather have Mary. Good-night."
And with that last dreadful blow, Rose walked out of the room,
leaving Charlie as much astonished as if one of his pet pigeons had
flown in his face and pecked at him. She was so seldom angry, that
when her temper did get the better of her it made a deep
impression on the lads, for it was generally a righteous sort of
indignation at some injustice or wrong-doing, not childish passion.
Her little thunderstorm cleared off in a sob or two as she put on
her things in the entry-closet, and when she emerged she looked
the brighter for the shower. A hasty good-night to Aunt Clara now
under the hands of the hairdresser and then she crept down to find
Mary the maid. But Mary was out, so was the man, and Rose
slipped away by the back-door, flattering herself that she had
escaped the awkwardness of having Charlie for escort.
There she was mistaken, however, for the gate had hardly closed
behind her when a well-known tramp was heard, and the Prince
was beside her, saying in a tone of penitent politeness that
banished Rose's wrath like magic
"You needn't speak to me if you don't choose, but I must see you
safely home, cousin."
She turned at once, put out her hand, and answered heartily
"I was the cross one. Please forgive me, and let's be friends again."
Now that was better than a dozen sermons on the beauty of
forgiveness, and did Charlie more good, for it showed him how
sweet humility was, and proved that Rose practised as she
He shook the hand warmly, then drew it through his arm and said,
as if anxious to recover the good opinion with the loss of which he
had been threatened
"Look here, Rosy, I've put the ring back, and I'm going to try again.
But you don't know how hard it is to stand being laughed at."
"Yes, I do! Ariadne plagues me every time I see her, because I
don't wear ear-rings after all the trouble I had getting ready for
"Ah, but her twaddle isn't half as bad as the chaffing I get. It takes
a deal of pluck to hold out when you are told you are tied to an
apron string, and all that sort of thing," sighed Charlie.
"I thought you had a 'deal of pluck,' as you call it. The boys all say
you are the bravest of the seven," said Rose.
"So I am about some things, but I cannot bear to be laughed at."
"It is hard, but if one is right won't that make it easier?"
"Not to me; it might to a pious parson like Arch."
"Please don't call him names! I guess he has what is called moral
courage, and you physical courage. Uncle explained the difference
to me, and moral is the best, though often it doesn't look so," said
Charlie didn't like that, and answered quickly, "I don't believe he'd
stand it any better than I do, if he had those fellows at him."
"Perhaps that's why he keeps out of their way, and wants you to."
Rose had him there, and Charlie felt it, but would not give in just
yet, though he was going fast, for somehow, in the dark he seemed
to see things clearer than in the light, and found it very easy to be
confidential when it was "only Rose."
"If he was my brother, now, he'd have some right to interfere,"
began Charlie, in an injured tone.
"I wish he was!" cried Rose.
"So do I," answered Charlie, and then they both laughed at his
The laugh did them good, and when Prince spoke again, it was in a
different tone pensive, not proud nor perverse.
"You see, it's hard upon me that I have no brothers and sisters. The
others are better off and needn't go abroad for chums if they don't
like. I am all alone, and I'd be thankful even for a little sister."
Rose thought that very pathetic, and, overlooking the
uncomplimentary word "even" in that last sentence, she said, with
a timid sort of earnestness that conquered her cousin at once
"Play I was a little sister. I know I'm silly, but perhaps I'm better
than nothing, and I'd dearly love to do it."
"So should I! and we will, for you are not silly, my dear, but a very
sensible girl, we all think, and I'm proud to have you for a sister.
There, now!" and Charlie looked down at the curly head bobbing
along beside him with real affection in his face.
Rose gave a skip of pleasure, and laid one seal-skin mitten over the
other on his arm, as she said happily
"That's so nice of you! Now, you needn't be lonely any more, and
I'll try to fill Archie's place till he comes back, for I know he will,
as soon as you let him."
"Well, I don't mind telling you that while he was my mate I never
missed brothers and sisters, or wanted anyone else; but since he
cast me off, I'll be hanged if I don't feel as forlorn as old Crusoe
before Friday turned up."
This burst of confidence confirmed Rose in her purpose of
winning Charlie's Mentor back to him, but she said no more,
contented to have done so well. They parted excellent friends, and
Prince went home, wondering why "a fellow didn't mind saying
things to a girl or woman which they would die before they'd own
to another fellow."
Rose also had some sage reflections upon the subject, and fell
asleep thinking that there were a great many curious things in this
world, and feeling that she was beginning to find out some of
Next day she trudged up the hill to see Archie, and having told him
as much as she thought best about her talk with Charlie, begged
him to forget and forgive.
"I've been thinking that perhaps I ought to, though I am in the
right. I'm no end fond of Charlie, and he's the best-hearted lad
alive; but he can't say No, and that will play the mischief with him,
if he does not take care," said Archie in his grave, kind way.
"While father was home, I was very busy with him, so Prince got
into a set I don't like. They try to be fast, and think it's manly, and
they flatter him, and lead him on to do all sorts of things play for
money, and bet, and loaf about. I hate to have him do so, and tried
to stop it, but went to work the wrong way, so we got into a mess."
"He is all ready to make up if you don't say much, for he owned to
me he was wrong; but I don't think he will own it to you, in
words," began Rose.
"I don't care for that; if he'll just drop those row-dies and come
back, I'll hold my tongue and not preach. I wonder if he owes those
fellows money, and so doesn't like to break off till he can pay it. I
hope not, but don't dare to ask; though, perhaps, Steve knows, he's
always after Prince, more's the pity," and Archie looked anxious.
"I think Steve does know, for he talked about debts of honour the
day I gave him " There Rose stopped short and turned scarlet.
But Archie ordered her to "fess," and had the whole story in five
minutes, for none dared disobey the Chief. He completed her
affliction by putting a five-dollar bill into her pocket by main
force, looking both indignant and resolute as he said
"Never do so again; but send Steve to me, if he is afraid to go to
his father. Charlie had nothing to do with that; he wouldn't borrow
a penny of a girl, don't think it. But that's the harm he does Steve,
who adores him, and tries to be like him in all things. Don't say a
word; I'll make it all right, and no one shall blame you."
"Oh me! I always make trouble by trying to help, and then letting
out the wrong thing," sighed Rose, much depressed by her slip of
Archie comforted her with the novel remark that it was always best
to tell the truth, and made her quite cheerful by promising to heal
the breach with Charlie as soon as possible.
He kept his word so well that the very next afternoon, as Rose
looked out of the window, she beheld the joyful spectacle of
Archie and Prince coming up the avenue, arm-in-arm, as of old,
talking away as if to make up for the unhappy silence of the past
Rose dropped her work, hurried to the door, and, opening it wide,
stood there smiling down upon them so happily, that the faces of
the lads brightened as they ran up the steps eager to show that all
was well with them.
"Here's our little peace-maker!" said Archie, shaking hands with
But Charlie added, with a look that made Rose very proud and
happy, "And my little sister."
Chapter 24 - Which?
"Uncle, I have discovered what girls are made for," said Rose, the
day after the reconciliation of Archie and the Prince.
"Well, my dear, what is it?" asked Dr. Alec, who was "planking the
deck," as he called his daily promenade up and down the hall.
"To take care of boys," answered Rose, quite beaming with
satisfaction as she spoke. "Phebe laughed when I told her, and said
she thought girls had better learn to take care of themselves first.
But that's because she hasn't got seven boy-cousins as I have."
"She is right, nevertheless, Rosy, and so are you, for the two things
go together, and in helping seven lads you are unconsciously doing
much to improve one lass," said Dr. Alec, stopping to nod and
smile at the bright-faced figure resting on the old bamboo chair,
after a lively game of battledore and shuttlecock, in place of a run
which a storm prevented.
"Am I? I'm glad of that; but really, uncle, I do feel as if I must take
care of the boys, for they come to me in all sorts of troubles, and
ask advice, and I like it so much. Only I don't always know what to
do, and I'm going to consult you privately and then surprise them
with my wisdom."
"All right, my dear; what's the first worry? I see you have
something on your little mind, so come and tell uncle."
Rose put her arm in his, and, pacing to and fro, told him all about
Charlie, asking what she could do to keep him straight, and be a
real sister to him.
"Could you make up your mind to go and stay with Aunt Clara a
month?" asked the Doctor, when she ended.
"Yes, sir; but I shouldn't like it. Do you really want me to go?"
"The best cure for Charlie is a daily dose of Rose water, or Rose
and water, or Rose and water; will you go and see that he takes it?"
laughed Dr. Alec.
"You mean that if I'm there and try to make it pleasant, he will stay
at home and keep out of mischief?"
"But could I make it pleasant? He would want the boys."
"No danger but he'd have the boys, for they swarm after you like
bees after their queen. Haven't you found that out?"
"Aunt Plen often says they never used to be here half so much
before I came, but I never thought I made the difference, it seemed
so natural to have them round."
"Little modesty doesn't know what a magnet she is; but she will
find it out some day," and the Doctor softly stroked the cheek that
had grown rosy with pleasure at the thought of being so much
loved. "Now, you see, if I move the magnet to Aunt Clara's, the
lads will go there as sure as iron to steel, and Charlie will be so
happy at home he won't care for these mischievous mates of his I
hope," added the Doctor, well knowing how hard it was to wean a
seventeen-year-old boy from his first taste of what is called "seeing
life," which, alas! often ends in seeing death.
"I'll go, uncle, right away! Aunt Clara is always asking me, and
will be glad to get me. I shall have to dress and dine late, and see
lots of company, and be very fashionable, but I'll try not to let it
hurt me; and if I get in a puzzle or worried about anything I can
run to you," answered Rose, good-will conquering timidity.
So it was decided, and without saying much about the real reason
for this visit, Rose was transplanted to Aunt Clara's, feeling that
she had a work to do, and very eager to do it well.
Dr. Alec was right about the bees, for the boys did follow their
queen, and astonished Mrs. Clara by their sudden assiduity in
making calls, dropping in to dinner, and getting up evening frolics.
Charlie was a devoted host, and tried to show his gratitude by
being very kind to his "little sister," for he guessed why she came,
and his heart was touched by her artless endeavours to "help him
Rose often longed to be back in the old house with the simpler
pleasures and more useful duties of the life there; but, having
made up her mind, in spite of Phebe, that "girls were made to take
care of boys," here motherly little soul found much to enjoy in the
new task she had undertaken.
It was a pretty sight to see the one earnest, sweet-faced girl among
the flock of tall lads, trying to understand, to help and please them
with a patient affection that worked many a small miracle
unperceived. Slang, rough manners, and careless habits were
banished or bettered by the presence of a little gentlewoman; and
all the manly virtues cropping up were encouraged by the hearty
admiration bestowed upon them by one whose good opinion all
valued more than they confessed; while Rose tried to imitate the
good qualities she praised in them, to put away her girlish vanities
and fears, to be strong and just, and frank and brave, as well as
modest, kind, and beautiful.
This trial worked so well that when the month was over, Mac and
Steve demanded a visit in their turn, and Rose went, feeling that
she would like to hear grim Aunt Jane say, as Aunt Clara did at
parting, "I wish I could keep you all my life, dear."
After Mac and Steve had had their turn, Archie and Company bore
her away for some weeks; and with them she was so happy, she
felt as if she would like to stay for ever, if she could have Uncle
Of course, Aunt Myra could not be neglected, and, with secret
despair, Rose went to the "Mausoleum," as the boys called her
gloomy abode. Fortunately, she was very near home, and Dr. Alec
dropped in so often that her visit was far less dismal than she
expected. Between them, they actually made Aunt Myra laugh
heartily more than once; and Rose did her so much good by letting
in the sunshine, singing about the silent house, cooking wholesome
messes, and amusing the old lady with funny little lectures on
physiology, that she forgot to take her pills and gave up "Mum's
Elixir," because she slept so well, after the long walks and drives
she was beguiled into taking, that she needed no narcotic.
So the winter flew rapidly away, and it was May before Rose was
fairly settled again at home. They called her the "Monthly Rose,"
because she had spent a month with each of the aunts, and left
such pleasant memories of bloom and fragrance behind her, that
all wanted the family flower back again.
Dr. Alec rejoiced greatly over his recovered treasure; but as the
time drew near when his year of experiment ended, he had many a
secret fear that Rose might like to make her home for the next
twelve month with Aunt Jessie, or even Aunt Clara, for Charlie's
sake. He said nothing, but waited with much anxiety for the day
when the matter should be decided; and while he waited he did his
best to finish as far as possible the task he had begun so well.
Rose was very happy now, being out nearly all day enjoying the
beautiful awakening of the world, for spring came bright and early,
as if anxious to do its part. The old horse-chestnuts budded round
her windows, green things sprung up like magic in the garden
under her hands, hardy flowers bloomed as fast as they could, the
birds sang blithely overhead, and every day a chorus of pleasant
voices cried, "Good morning, cousin, isn't it jolly weather?"
No one remembered the date of the eventful conversation which
resulted in the Doctor's experiment (no one but himself at least);
so when the aunts were invited to tea one Saturday they came quite
unsuspiciously, and were all sitting together having a social chat,
when Brother Alec entered with two photographs in his hand.
"Do you remember that?" he said, showing one to Aunt Clara, who
happened to be nearest.
"Yes, indeed; it is very like her when she came. Quite her sad,
unchildlike expression, and thin little face, with the big dark eyes."
The picture was passed round, and all agreed that "it was very like
Rose a year ago." This point being settled, the Doctor showed the
second picture, which was received with great approbation, and
pronounced a "charming likeness."
It certainly was, and a striking contrast to the first one, for it was a
blooming, smiling face, full of girlish spirit and health, with no
sign of melancholy, though the soft eyes were thoughtful, and the
lines about the lips betrayed a sensitive nature.
Dr. Alec set both photographs on the chimneypiece, and, falling
back a step or two, surveyed them with infinite satisfaction for
several minutes, then wheeled round, saying briefly, as he pointed
to the two faces
"Time is up; how do you think my experiment has succeeded,
"Bless me, so it is!" cried Aunt Plenty, dropping a stitch in her
"Beautifully, dear," answered Aunt Peace, smiling entire approval.
"She certainly has improved, but appearances are deceitful, and
she had no constitution to build upon," croaked Aunt Myra.
"I am willing to allow that, as far as mere health goes, the
experiment is a success," graciously observed Aunt Jane, unable to
forget Rose's kindness to her Mac.
"So am I; and I'll go farther, for I really do believe Alec has done
wonders for the child; she will be a beauty in two or three years,"
added Aunt Clara, feeling that she could say nothing better than
"I always knew he would succeed, and I'm so glad you all allow it,
for he deserves more credit than you know, and more praise than
he will ever get," cried Aunt Jessie, clapping her hands with an
enthusiasm that caused Jamie's little red stocking to wave like a
triumphal banner in the air.
Dr. Alec made them a splendid bow, looking much gratified, and
then said soberly
"Thank you; now the question is, shall I go on? for this is only the
beginning. None of you know the hindrances I've had, the mistakes
I've made, the study I've given the case, and the anxiety I've often
felt. Sister Myra is right is one thing Rose is a delicate creature,
quick to flourish in the sunshine, and as quick to droop without it.
She has no special weakness, but inherits her mother's sensitive
nature. and needs the wisest, tenderest care, to keep a very ardent
little soul from wearing out a finely organised little body. I think I
have found the right treatment, and; with you to help me, I believe
we may build up a lovely and a noble woman, who will be a pride
and comfort to us all."
There Dr. Alec stopped to get his breath, for he had spoken very
earnestly, and his voice got a little husky over the last words. A
gentle murmur from the aunts seemed to encourage him, and he
went on with an engaging smile, for the good man was slyly trying
to win all the ladies to vote for him when the time came.
"Now, I don't wish to be selfish or arbitrary, because I am her
guardian, and I shall leave Rose free to choose for herself. We all
want her, and if she likes to make her home with any of you rather
than with me, she shall do so. In fact, I encouraged her visits last
winter, that she might see what we can all offer her, and judge
where she will be happiest. Is not that the fairest way? Will you
agree to abide by her choice, as I do?"
"Yes, we will," said all the aunts, in quite a flutter of excitement at
the prospect of having Rose for a whole year.
"Good! she will be here directly, and then we will settle the
question for another year. A most important year, mind you, for
she has got a good start, and will blossom rapidly now if all goes
well with her. So I beg of you don't undo my work, but deal very
wisely and gently with my little girl, for if any harm come to her, I
think it would break my heart."
As he spoke, Dr. Alec turned his back abruptly and affected to be
examining the pictures again; but the aunts understood how dear
the child was to the solitary man who had loved her mother years
ago, and who now found his happiness in cherishing the little Rose
who was so like her. The good ladies nodded and sighed, and
telegraphed to one another that none of them would complain if
not chosen, or ever try to rob Brother Alec of his "Heart's Delight,"
as the boys called Rose.
Just then a pleasant sound of happy voices came up from the
garden, and smiles broke out on all serious faces. Dr. Alec turned
at once, saying, as he threw back his head, "There she is; now for
The cousins had been a-Maying, and soon came flocking in laden
with the spoils.
"Here is our bonny Scotch rose with all her thorns about her," said
Dr. Alec, surveying her with unusual pride and tenderness, as she
went to show Aunt Peace her basket full of early flowers, fresh
leaves, and curious lichens.
"Leave your clutter in the hall, boys, and sit quietly down if you
choose to stop here, for we are busy," said Aunt Plenty, shaking
her finger at the turbulent Clan, who were bubbling over with the
jollity born of spring sunshine and healthy exercise.
"Of course, we choose to stay! Wouldn't miss our Saturday high
tea for anything," said the Chief, as he restored order among his
men with a nod, a word, and an occasional shake.
"What is up? a court-martial?" asked Charlie, looking at the
assembled ladies with affected awe and real curiosity, for these
faces betrayed that some interesting business was afloat.
Dr. Alec explained in a few words, which he made as brief and
calm as he could; but the effect was exciting, nevertheless, for
each of the lads began at once to bribe, entice, and wheedle "our
cousin" to choose his home.
"You really ought to come to us for mother's sake, as a relish, you
know, for she must be perfectly satiated with boys," began Archie,
using the strongest argument he could think of at the moment.
"Ah! yes," she thought, "he wants me most! I've often longed to
give him something that he wished for very much, and now I can."
So, when, at a sudden gesture from Aunt Peace, silence fell, Rose
said slowly, with a pretty colour in her cheeks, and a beseeching
look about the room, as if asking pardon of the boys
"It's very hard to choose when everybody is so fond of me;
therefore I think I'd better go to the one who seems to need me
"No, dear, the one you love the best and will be happiest with,"
said Dr. Alec quickly, as a doleful sniff from Aunt Myra, and a
murmur of "My sainted Caroline," made Rose pause and look that
"Take time, cousin; don't be in a hurry to make up your mind, and
remember, 'Codlin's your friend,' " added Charlie, hopeful still.
"I don't want any time! I know who I love best, who I'm happiest
with, and I choose uncle. Will he have me?" cried Rose, in a tone
that produced a sympathetic thrill among the hearers, it was so full
of tender confidence and love.
If she really had any doubt, the look in Dr. Alec's face banished it
without a word, as he opened wide his arms, and she ran into them,
feeling that home was there.
No one spoke for a minute, but there were signs of emotion among
the aunts, which warned the boys to bestir themselves before the
water-works began to play. So they took hands and began to
prance about uncle and niece, singing, with sudden inspiration, the
"Ring around a Rosy!"
Of course that put an end to all sentiment, and Rose emerged
laughing from Dr. Alec's bosom, with the mark of a waistcoat
button nicely imprinted on her left cheek. He saw it, and said with
a merry kiss that half effaced it, "This is my ewe lamb, and I have
set my mark on her, so no one can steal her away."
That tickled the boys, and they set up a shout of
"Uncle had a little lamb!"
But Rose hushed the noise by slipping into the circle, and making
them dance prettily like lads and lasses round a May-pole; while
Phebe, coming in with fresh water for the flowers, began to twitter,
chirp, and coo, as if all the birds of the air had come to join in the
spring revel of the eight cousins.