Janet's Love and Service, by Margaret M Robertson.
The set of page scans that was used to create this version of the book was as dirty as it is possible to be, while still making it just about possible to do the OCR and subsequent editing. This latter was very hard work. The scans came from the Canadiana Online collection. No doubt there is a reason for this lack of quality. But there was a reason for persevering with the editing process, endless as it seemed to be for several weeks, and that was that I do believe this book to be very great literature, even though it has not hitherto been recognised as such by the world in general.
To be truthful, the book's first quarter, and perhaps the last quarter, are more dramatic than the two middle quarters. But it is all well worth reading and thinking about, for there are many things in the book that we should all think deeply about, living as we do in a very different world than the one that surrounded the author and her fictional characters almost a hundred and fifty years ago. That the author had very great skill is undoubted, and can be seen from her other works.
I hope you will read it and see if you agree with me that the hard work involved on bringing this book to the web has been worthwhile. NH.
JANET'S LOVE AND SERVICE, BY MARGARET M ROBERTSON.
The longest day in all the year was slowly closing over the little village of Clayton. There were no loiterers now at the corners of the streets or on the village square—it was too late for that, though daylight still lingered. Now and then the silence was broken by the footsteps of some late home-comer, and over more than one narrow close, the sound of boyish voices went and came, from garret to garret, telling that the spirit of slumber had not yet taken possession of the place. But these soon ceased. The wind moved the tall laburnums in the lane without a sound, and the murmur of running water alone broke the stillness, as the gurgle of the burn, and the rush of the distant mill-dam met and mingled in the air of the summer night.
In the primitive village of Clayton, at this midsummer time, gentle and simple were wont to seek their rest by the light of the long gloaming. But to-night there was light in the manse—in the minister's study, and in other parts of the house as well. Lights were carried hurriedly past uncurtained windows, and flared at last through the open door, as a woman's anxious face looked out.
"What can be keeping him?" she murmured, as she shaded the flickering candle and peered out into the gathering darkness. "It's no' like him to linger at a time like this. God send he was at home."
Another moment of eager listening, and then the anxious face was withdrawn and the door closed. Soon a sound broke the stillness of the village street; a horseman drew up before the minister's house, and the door was again opened.
"Well, Janet?" said the rider, throwing the reins on the horse's neck and pausing as he went in. The woman curtseyed with a very relieved face.
"They'll be glad to see you up the stairs, sir. The minister's no' long home."
She lighted the doctor up the stairs, and then turned briskly in another direction. In a minute she was kneeling before the kitchen hearth, and was stirring up the buried embers.
"Has my father come, Janet?" said a voice out of the darkness.
"Yes, he's come. He's gone up the stairs. I'll put on the kettle. I dare say he'll be none the worse of a cup of tea after his ride."
Sitting on the high kitchen dresser, her cheek close against the darkening window, sat a young girl, of perhaps twelve or fourteen years of age. She had been reading by the light that lingered long at that western window, but the entrance of Janet's candle darkened that, and the book, which at the first moment of surprise had dropped out of her hand, she now hastily put behind her out of Janet's sight. But she need not have feared a rebuke for "blindin' herself" this time, for Janet was intent on other matters, and pursued her work in silence. Soon the blaze sprung up, and the dishes and covers on the wall shone in the firelight. Then she went softly out and closed the door behind her.
The girl sat still on the high dresser, with her head leaning back on the window ledge, watching the shadows made by the firelight, and thinking her own pleasant thoughts the while. As the door closed, a murmur of wonder escaped her, that "Janet had'na sent her to her bed."
"It's quite time I dare say," she added, in a little, "and I'm tired, too, with my long walk to the glen. I'll go whenever papa comes down."
She listened for a minute. Then her thoughts went away to other things—to her father, who had been away all day; to her mother, who was not quite well to-night, and had gone up-stairs, contrary to her usual custom, before her father came home. Then she thought of other things— of the book she had been reading, a story of one who had dared and done much in a righteous cause—and then she gradually lost sight of the tale and fell into fanciful musings about her own future, and to the building of pleasant castles, in which she and they whom she loved were to dwell. Sitting in the firelight, with eyes and lips that smiled, the pleasant fancies came and went. Not a shadow crossed her brow. Not a fear came to dim the light by which she gazed into the future that she planned. So she sat till her dream was dreamed out, and then, with a sigh, in which there was no echo of care or pain, she woke to the present, and turned to her book again.
"I might see by the fire," she said, and in a minute she was seated on the floor, her head leaning on her hands, and her eye fastened on the open page.
"Miss Graeme," said Janet, softly coming in with a child in her arms, "your mamma's no' weel, and here's wee Rosie wakened, and wantin' her. You'll need to take her, for I maun awa'."
The book fell from the girl's hand, as she started up with a frightened face.
"What ails mamma, Janet? Is she very ill?"
"What should ail her but the one thing?" said Janet, impatiently. "She'll be better the morn I hae nae doubt."
Graeme made no attempt to take the child, who held out her hands toward her.
"I must go to her, Janet."
"Indeed, Miss Graeme, you'll do nothing o' the kind. Mrs Burns is with her, and the doctor, and it's little good you could do her just now. Bide still where you are, and take care o' wee Rosie, and hearken if you hear ony o' the ither bairns, for none o' you can see your mamma the night."
Graeme took her little sister in her arms and seated herself on the floor again. Janet went out, and Graeme heard her father's voice in the passage. She held her breath to listen, but he did not come in as she hoped he would. She heard them both go up-stairs again, and heedless of the prattle of her baby sister, she still listened eagerly. Now and then the sound of footsteps overhead reached her, and in a little Janet came into the kitchen again, but she did not stay to be questioned. Then the street door opened, and some one went out, and it seemed to Graeme a long time before she heard another sound. Then Janet came in again, and this time she seemed to have forgotten that there was any one to see her, for she was wringing her hands, and the tears were streaming down her cheeks. Graeme's heart stood still, and her white lips could scarcely utter a sound.
"Janet!—tell me!—my mother."
"Save us lassie! I had no mind of you. Bide still, Miss Graeme. You munna go there," for Graeme with her little sister in her arms was hastening away. "Your mamma's no waur than she's been afore. It's only me that doesna ken about the like o' you. The minister keeps up a gude heart. Gude forgie him and a' mankind."
Graeme took a step toward the door, and the baby, frightened at Janet's unwonted vehemence, sent up a shrill cry. But Janet put them both aside, and stood with her back against the door.
"No' ae step, Miss Graeme. The auld fule that I am; 'gin the lassie had been but in her bed. No, I'll no' take the bairn, sit down there, you'll be sent for if you're needed. I'll be back again soon; and you'll promise me that you'll no leave this till I bid you. Miss Graeme, I wouldna deceive you if I was afraid for your mamma. Promise me that you'll bide still."
Graeme promised, awed by the earnestness of Janet, and by her own vague terror as to her mother's mysterious sorrow, that could claim from one usually so calm, sympathy so intense and painful. Then she sat down again to listen and to wait. How long the time seemed! The lids fell down over the baby's wakeful eyes at last, and Graeme, gathering her own frock over the little limbs, and murmuring loving words to her darling, listened still.
The flames ceased to leap and glow on the hearth, the shadows no longer danced upon the wall, and gazing at the strange faces and forms that smiled and beckoned to her from the dying embers, still she listened. The red embers faded into white, the dark forest with its sunny glades and long retreating vistas, the hills, and rocks, and clouds, and waterfalls, that had risen among them at the watcher's will, changed to dull grey ashes, and the dim dawn of the summer morning, gleamed in at last upon the weary sleeper. The baby still nestled in her arms, the golden hair of the child gleaming among the dark curls of the elder sister as their cheeks lay close together. Graeme moaned and murmured in her sleep, and clasped the baby closer, but she did not wake till Janet's voice aroused her. There were no tears on her face now, but it was very white, and her voice was low and changed.
"Miss Graeme, you are to go to your mamma; she's wantin' you. But mind you are to be quiet, and think o' your father."
Taking the child in her arms, she turned her back upon the startled girl. Chilled and stiff from her uneasy posture, Graeme strove to rise, and stumbling, caught at Janet's arm.
"Mamma is better Janet," she asked eagerly. Janet kept her working face out of sight, and, in a little, answered hoarsely,—
"Ay, she'll soon be better, whatever becomes of the rest of us. But, mind, you are to be quiet, Miss Graeme."
Chilled and trembling, Graeme crept up-stairs and through the dim passages to her mother's room. The curtains had been drawn back, and the daylight streamed into the room. But the forgotten candles still glimmered on the table. There were several people in the room, standing sad and silent around the bed. They moved away as she drew near. Then Graeme saw her mother's white face on the pillow, and her father bending over her. Even in the awe and dread that smote on her heart like death, she remembered that she must be quiet, and, coming close to the pillow, she said softly,—
The dying eyes came back from their wandering, and fastened on her darling's face, and the white lips opened with a smile.
"Graeme—my own love—I am going away—and they will have no one but you. And I have so much to say to you."
So much to say! With only strength to ask, "God guide my darling ever!" and the dying eyes closed, and the smile lingered upon the pale lips, and in the silence that came next, one thought fixed itself on the heart of the awe-stricken girl, never to be effaced. Her father and his motherless children had none but her to care for them now.
"It's a' ye ken! Gotten ower it, indeed!" and Janet turned her back on her visitor, and went muttering about her gloomy kitchen: "The minister no' being one to speak his sorrow to the newsmongering folk that frequent your house, they say he has gotten ower it, do they? It's a' they ken!"
"Janet, woman," said her visitor, "I canna but think you are unreasonable in your anger. I said nothing derogatory to the minister; far be it from me! But we can a' see that the house needs a head, and the bairns need a mother. The minister's growing gey cheerful like, and the year is mair than out; and—"
"Whisht, woman. Dinna say it. Speak sense if ye maun speak," said Janet, with a gesture of disgust and anger.
"Wherefore should I no' say it?" demanded her visitor. "And as to speaking sense—. But I'll no' trouble you. It seems you have friends in such plenty that you can afford to scorn and scoff at them at your pleasure. Good-day to you," and she rose to go.
But Janet had already repented her hot words.
"Bide still, woman! Friends dinna fall out for a single ill word. And what with ae thing and anither I dinna weel ken what I'm saying or doing whiles. Sit down: it's you that's unreasonable now."
This was Mistress Elspat Smith, the wife of a farmer—"no' that ill aff," as he cautiously expressed it—a far more important person in the parish than Janet, the minister's maid-of-all-work. It was a condescension on her part to come into Janet's kitchen, under any circumstances, she thought; and to be taken up sharply for a friendly word was not to be borne. But they had been friends all their lives; and Janet "kenned hersel' as gude a woman as Elspat Smith, weel aff or no' weel aff;" so with gentle violence she pushed her back into her chair, saying:
"Hoot, woman! What would folk say to see you and me striving at this late day? And I want to consult you."
"But you should speak sense yourself, Janet," said her friend.
"Folk maun speak as it's given them to speak," said Janet; "and we'll say nae mair about it. No' but that the bairns might be the better to have some one to be over them. She wouldna hae her sorrow to seek, I can tell you. No that they're ill bairns—"
"We'll say no more about it, since that is your will," said Mrs Smith, with dignity; and then, relenting, she added,—
"You have a full handfu' with the eight of them, I'm sure."
"Seven only," said Janet, under her breath. "She got one of them safe home with her, thank God. No' that there's one ower many," added she quickly; "and they're no' ill bairns."
"You have your ain troubles among them, I dare say, and are muckle to be pitied—"
"Me to be pitied!" said Janet scornfully, "there's no fear o' me. But what can the like o' me do? For ye ken, woman, though the minister is a powerful preacher, and grand on points o' doctrine, he's a verra bairn about some things. She aye keepit the siller, and far did she make it gang—having something to lay by at the year's end as well. Now, if we make the twa ends meet, it's mair than I expect."
"But Miss Graeme ought to have some sense about these things. Surely she takes heed to the bairns?"
"Miss Graeme's but a bairn herself, with little thought and less experience; and its no' to be supposed that the rest will take heed to her. The little anes are no' so ill to do with; but these twa laddies are just spirits o' mischief, for as quiet as Norman looks; and they come home from the school with torn clothes, till Miss Graeme is just dazed with mending at them. And Miss Marian is near as ill as the laddies; and poor, wee Rosie, growing langer and thinner every day, till you would think the wind would blow her awa. Master Arthur is awa at his eddication: the best thing for a' concerned. I wish they were a' safe unto man's estate," and Janet sighed.
"And is Miss Graeme good at her seam?" asked Mistress Elspat.
"Oh ay; she's no' that ill. She's better at her sampler and at the flowering than at mending torn jackets, however. But there's no fear but she would get skill at that, and at other things, if she would but hae patience with herself. Miss Graeme is none of the common kind."
"And has there been no word from her friends since? They say her brother has no bairns of his own. He might well do something for hers."
Janet shook her head.
"The minister doesna think that I ken; but when Mr Ross was here at the burial, he offered to take two of the bairns, Norman or Harry, and wee Marian. She's likest her mamma. But such a thing wasna to be thought of; and he went awa' no' weel pleased. Whether he'll do onything for them in ony ither way is more than I ken. He might keep Master Arthur at the college and no' miss it. How the minister is ever to school the rest o' them is no' easy to be seen, unless he should go to America after all."
Mistress Smith lifted her hands.
"He'll never surely think o' taking these motherless bairns to yon savage place! What could ail him at Mr Ross's offer? My patience! but folk whiles stand in their ain light."
"Mr Ross is not a God-fearing man," replied Janet, solemnly. "It's no' what their mother would have wished to have her bairns brought up by him. The minister kenned her wishes well on that point, you may be sure. And besides, he could never cross the sea and leave any of them behind."
"But what need to cross the sea?" cried Mrs Smith; "It's a pity but folk should ken when they're weel aff. What could the like o' him do in a country he kens nothing about, and with so many bairns?"
"It's for the bairns' sake he's thinking of it. They say there's fine land there for the working, and no such a thing as payin' rent, but every man farming his own land, with none to say him nay. And there's room for all, and meat and clothes, and to spare. I'm no' sure but it's just the best thing the minister can do. They had near made up their minds afore, ye ken."
"Hoot, woman, speak sense," entreated her friend. "Is the minister to sell rusty knives and glass beads to the Indians? That's what they do in yon country, as I've read in a book myself. Whatna like way is that to bring up a family?"
"Losh, woman, there's other folk there beside red Indians; folk that dinna scruple to even themselves with the best in Britain, no' less. You should read the newspapers, woman. There's one John Caldwell there, a friend o' the minister's, that's something in a college, and he's aye writing him to come. He says it's a wonderful country for progress; and they hae things there they ca' institutions, that he seems to think muckle o', though what they may be I couldna weel make out. The minister read a bit out o' a letter the ither night to Miss Graeme and me."
"Janet," said her friend, "say the truth at once. The minister is bent on this fule's errand, and you're encouraging in it."
"Na, na! He needs na encouragement from the like o' me. I would gie muckle, that hasna muckle to spare, gin he were content to bide where he is, though it's easy seen he'll hae ill enough bringing up a family here, and these laddies needing more ilka year that goes o'er their heads. And they say yon's a grand country, and fine eddication to be got in it for next to nothing. I'm no sure but the best thing he can do is to take them there. I ken the mistress was weel pleased with the thought," and Janet tried with all her might, to look hopeful; but her truth-telling countenance betrayed her. Her friend shook her head gravely.
"It might have done, with her to guide them; but it's very different now, as you ken yourself, far better than I can tell you. It would be little else than a temptin' o' Providence to expose these helpless bairns, first to the perils o' the sea, and then to those o' a strange country. He'll never do it. He's restless now; and unsettled; but when time, that cures most troubles, goes by, he'll think better of it, and bide where he is."
Janet made no reply, but in her heart she took no such comfort. She knew it was no feeling of restlessness, no longing to be away from the scene of his sorrow that had decided the minister to emigrate, and that he had decided she very well knew. These might have hastened his plans, she thought, but he went for the sake of his children. They might make their own way in the world, and he thought he could better do this in the New World than in the Old. The decision of one whom she had always reverenced for his goodness and wisdom must be right, she thought; yet she had misgivings, many and sad, as to the future of the children she had come to love so well. It was to have her faint hope confirmed, and her strong fears chased away, that she had spoken that afternoon to her friend; and it was with a feeling of utter disconsolateness that, she turned to her work again, when, at last, she was left alone.
For Janet had a deeper cause for care than she had told, a vague feeling that the worldly wisdom of her friend could not help her here, keeping her silent about it to her. That very morning, her heart had leaped to her lips, when her master in his grave, brief way, had asked,—
"Janet, will you go with us, and help me to take care of her bairns?"
And she had vowed to God, and to him, that she would never leave them while they needed the help that a faithful servant could give. But the after thought had come. She had other ties, and cares, and duties, apart from these that clustered so closely round the minister and his motherless children.
A mile or two down the glen stood the little cottage that had for a long time been the home of her widowed mother, and her son. More than half required for their maintenance Janet provided. Could she forsake them? Could any duty she owed to her master and his children make it right for her to forsake those whose blood flowed in her veins? True, her mother was by no means an aged woman yet, and her son was a well-doing helpful lad, who would soon be able to take care of himself. Her mother had another daughter too, but Janet knew that her sister could never supply her place to her mother. Though kind and well-intentioned, she was easy minded, not to say thriftless, and the mother of many bairns besides, and there could neither be room nor comfort for her mother at her fireside, should its shelter come to be needed.
Day after day Janet wearied herself going over the matter in her mind. "If it were not so far," she thought, or "if her mother could go with her." But this she knew, for many reasons, could never be, even if her mother could be brought to consent to such a plan. And Janet asked herself, "What would my mother do if Sandy were to die? And what would Sandy do if my mother were to die? And what would both do if sickness were to overtake them, and me far-away?" till she quite hated herself for ever thinking of putting the wide sea, between them and her.
There had been few pleasures scattered over Janet's rough path to womanhood. Not more than two or three mornings since she could remember had she risen to other than a life of labour. Even during the bright brief years of her married-life, she had known little respite from toil, for her husband had been a poor man, and he had died suddenly, before her son was born. With few words spoken, and few tears shed, save what fell in secret, she had given her infant to her mother's care, and gone back again to a servant's place in the minister's household. There she had been for ten years the stay and right hand of her beloved friend and mistress, "working the work of two," as they told her, who would have made her discontented in her lot, with no thought from year's end to year's end, but how she might best do her duty in the situation in which God had placed her.
But far-away into the future—it might be years and years hence—she looked to the time when in a house of her own, she might devote herself entirely to the comfort of her mother and her son. In this hope she was content to strive and toil through the best years of her life, living poorly and saving every penny, to all appearance equally indifferent to the good word of those who honoured her for her faithfulness and patient labour, and to the bad word of those who did not scruple to call her most striking characteristics by less honourable names. She had never, during all these years, spoken, even to her mother, of her plans, but their fulfilment was none the less settled in her own mind, and none the less dear to her because of that. Could she give this up? Could she go away from her home, her friends, the land of her birth, and be content to see no respite from her labour till the end? Yes, she could. The love that had all these years been growing for the children she had tended with almost a mother's care, would make the sacrifice possible— even easy to her. But her mother? How could she find courage to tell her that she must leave her alone in her old age? The thought of parting from her son, her "bonny Sandy," loved with all the deeper fervour that the love was seldom spoken—even this gave her no such pang as did the thought of turning her back upon her mother. He was young, and had his life before him, and in the many changes time might bring, she could at least hope to see him again. But her mother, already verging on the three-score, she could never hope to see more, when once the broad Atlantic rolled between them.
And so, no wonder if in the misery of her indecision, Janet's words grew fewer and sharper as the days wore on. With strange inconsistency she blamed the minister for his determination to go away, but suffered no one else to blame him, or indeed to hint that he could do otherwise than what was wisest and best for all. It was a sore subject, this anticipated departure of the minister, to many a one in Clayton besides her, and much was it discussed by all. But it was a subject on which Janet would not be approached. She gave short answers to those who offered their services in the way of advice. She preserved a scornful silence in the presence of those who seemed to think she could forsake her master and his children in their time of need, nor was she better pleased with those who thought her mother might be left for their sakes. And so she thought, and wished, and planned, and doubted, till she dazed herself with her vain efforts to get light, and could think and plan no more.
"I'll leave it to my mother herself to decide," she said, at last; "though, poor body, what can she say, but that I maun do what I think is my duty, and please myself. The Lord above kens I hae little thought o' pleasin' myself in this matter." And in her perplexity Janet was ready to think her case an exception to the general rule, and that contrary to all experience and observation, duty pointed two ways at once.
The time came when the decision could no longer be delayed. The minister was away from home, and before his return it would be made known formally to his people that he was to leave them, and after that the sooner his departure took place it would be the better for all concerned, and so Janet must brace herself for the task.
So out of the dimness of her spotless kitchen she came one day into the pleasant light of May, knowing that before she entered it again, she would have made her mother's heart as sore as her own. All day, and for many days, she had been planning what she should say to her mother, for she felt that it must be farewell.
"If you know not of two ways which to choose, take that which is roughest and least pleasing to yourself, and the chances are it will be the right one," said she to herself. "I read that in a book once, but it's ill choosing when both are rough, and I know not what to do."
Out into the brightness of the Spring day she came, with many misgivings as to how she was to speed in her errand.
"It's a bonny day, bairns," said she, and her eye wandered wistfully down the village street, and over the green fields, to the hills that rose dimly in the distance. The mild air softly fanned her cheek, pleasant sights were round her everywhere, and at the garden gate she lingered, vaguely striving under their influence to cast her burden from her.
"I mun hae it ower," she muttered to herself as she went on. In each hand she held firmly the hand of a child. Marian and little Will were to go with her for safe keeping; the lads were at the school, and in her absence Graeme was to keep the house, and take care of little Rose.
"Oh, Janet!" she exclaimed, as she went down the lane a bit with them; "I wish I were going with you, it's such a bonny day."
But Janet knew that what she had to say, would be better said without her presence, so she shook her head.
"You know Miss Graeme, my dear, you mun keep the house, and we would weary carrying wee Rosie, and she could never go half the distance on her feet; and mind, if ony leddies call, the short bread is in the ben press, and gin they begin with questions, let your answers be short and ceevil, like a gude bairn, and take gude care o' my bonny wee lily," added she, kissing the pale little girl as she set her down. "But I needna tell you that, and we'll soon be back again."
The children chattered merrily all the way, and busy with her own thoughts, Janet answered them without knowing what she said. Down the lane, and over the burn, through green fields, till the burn crossed their path again they went, "the near way," and soon the solitary cottage in the glen was in sight. It was a very humble home, but very pleasant in its loneliness, Janet thought, as her eye fell on it. The cat sat sunning herself on the step, and through the open door came the hum of the mother's busy wheel. Drawing a long breath, Janet entered.
"Weel, mother," said she.
"Weel, Janet, is this you, and the bairns? I doubt you hadna weel leavin' hame the day," said her mother.
"I had to come, and this day's as good as another. It's a bonny day, mother."
"Ay, its a bonny day, and a seasonable, thank God. Come in by, bairns, I sent Sandy over to Fernie a while syne. It's near time he were hame again. I'll give you a piece, and you'll go down the glen to meet him," and, well pleased, away they went.
"I dare say you'll be none the waur of your tea, Janet, woman," said her mother, and she put aside her wheel, and entered with great zeal into her preparations. Janet strove to have patience with her burden a little longer, and sat still listening to her mother's talk, asking and answering questions on indifferent subjects. There was no pause. Janet had seldom seen her mother so cheerful, and in a little she found herself wondering whether she had not been exaggerating to herself her mother's need of her.
"The thought ought to give me pleasure," she reasoned, but it did not, and she accused herself of perversity, in not being able to rejoice, that her mother could easily spare her to the duties she believed claimed her. In the earnestness of her thoughts, she grew silent at last, or answered her mother at random. Had she been less occupied, she might have perceived that her mother was not so cheerful as she seemed for many a look of wistful earnestness was fastened on her daughter's face, and now and then a sigh escaped her.
They were very much alike in appearances, the mother and daughter. The mother had been "bonnier in her youth, than ever Janet had," she used to say herself, and looking at her still ruddy cheeks, and clear grey eyes, it was not difficult to believe it. She was fresh-looking yet, at sixty, and though the hair drawn back under her cap was silvery white, her teeth for strength and beauty, might have been the envy of many a woman of half her years. She was smaller than Janet, and her whole appearance indicated the possession of more activity and less strength of body and mind than her daughter had, but the resemblance between them was still striking. She had seen many trials, as who that has lived for sixty years, has not? but she had borne them better than most, and was cheerful and hopeful still. When they were fairly seated, with the little table between them, she startled Janet, by coming to the point at once.
"And so they say the minister is for awa' to America after all. Is that true?"
"Oh, ay! it is true, as ill news oftenest is," said Janet, gravely. "He spoke to me about it before he went away. It's all settled, or will be before he comes hame the morn."
"Ay, as you say, it's ill news to them that he's leaving. But I hope it may be for the good o' his young family. There's many a one going that road now."
"Ay, there's more going than will better themselves by the change, I doubt. It's no like that all the fine tales, we hear o' yon country can be true."
"As you say. But, it's like the minister has some other dependence, than what's ca'ed about the country for news. What's this I hear about a friend o' his that's done weel there?"
Janet made a movement of impatience.
"Wha' should he be, but some silly, book-learned body that bides in a college there awa'. I dare say there would be weel pleased in any country, where he could get plenty o' books, and a house to hold them in. But what can the like o' him ken o' a young family and what's needed for them. If he had but held his peace, and let the minister bide where he is, it would hae been a blessing, I'm sure."
Janet suddenly paused in confusion, to find herself arguing on the wrong side of the question. Her mother said nothing, and in a minute she added,—
"There's one thing to be said for it, the mistress aye thought weel o' the plan. Oh! if she had been but spared to them," and she sighed heavily.
"You may weel say that," said her mother, echoing her sigh. "But I'm no sure but they would miss her care as much to bide here, as to go there. And Janet, woman, there's aye a kind Providence. He that said, 'Leave thy fatherless children to me,' winna forsake the motherless. There's no fear but they'll be brought through."
"I hae been saying that to myself ilka hour of the day, and I believe it surely. But oh, mother," Janet's voice failed her. She could say no more.
"I ken weel, Janet," continued her mother, gravely, "it will be a great charge and responsibility to you, and I dare say whiles you are ready to run away from it. But you'll do better for them than any living woman could do. The love you bear them, will give you wisdom to guide them, and when strength is needed, there's no fear but you'll get it. The back is aye fitted for the burden. Let them gang or let them bide, you canna leave them now."
She turned her face away from her mother, and for her life Janet could not have told whether the tears that were streaming down her cheeks, were falling for joy or for sorrow. There was to be no struggle between her and her mother. That was well; but with the feeling of relief the knowledge brought, there came a pang—a foretaste of the home-sickness, which comes once, at least, to every wanderer from his country. By a strong effort she controlled herself, and found voice to say,—
"I shall never leave them while they need me. I could be content to toil for them always. But, ah! mother, the going awa' over the sea—"
Her voice failed her for a minute, then she added,—
"I hae wakened every mornin' with this verse of Jeremiah on my mind: 'Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him, but weep sore for him that goeth away, for he shall return no more nor see his native country.'" Janet made no secret of her tears now.
"Hoot fie, Janet, woman," said her mother, affecting anger to hide far other feelings. "You are misapplyin' Scripture altogether. That was spoken o' them that were to be carried away captive for their sins, and no' o' honest folk, followin' the leadings o' Providence. If there's ony application it's to me, I'm thinkin'. It's them that bide at hame that are bidden weep sore;" and she seemed much inclined to follow the injunction. She recovered in a minute, however, and added,—
"But I'm no' going to add to your trouble. You dinna need me to tell you I'll have little left when you're awa'. But, if it's your duty to go with them, it canna be your duty to bide with me. You winna lose your reward striving in behalf o' these motherless bairns, and the Lord will hae me and Sandy in his keeping, I dinna doubt."
There was a long silence after this. Each knew what the other suffered. There was no need to speak of it, and so they sat without a word; Janet, with the quiet tears falling now and then over her cheeks; her mother, grave and firm, giving no outward sign of emotion. Each shrunk, for the other's sake, from putting their fears for the future into words; but their thoughts were busy. The mother's heart ached for the great wrench that must sever Janet from her child and her home, and Janet's heart grew sick with the dread of long weary days and nights her mother might have to pass, with perhaps no daughter's hand to close her eyes at last, till the thoughts of both changed to supplication, fervent though unuttered; and the burden of the prayer of each was, that the other might have strength and peace.
The mother spoke first. "When will it be?"
"It canna be long now. The sooner the better when once it's really settled. There are folk in the parish no weel pleased at the minister, for thinking to go."
"It's for none to say what's right, and what's wrang, in the matter," said the mother, gravely. "I hae nae doubt the Lord will go with him; but it will be a drear day for plenty besides me."
"He's bent on it. Go he will, and I trust it may be for the best," but Janet sighed drearily.
"And how are the bairns pleased with the prospect?" asked her mother.
"Ah! they're weel pleased, bairn-like, at any thought o' a change. Miss Graeme has her doubts, I whiles think, but that shouldna count; there are few things that look joyful to her at the present time. She's ower like her father with her ups and downs. She hasna her mother's cheerful spirit."
"Her mother's death was an awfu' loss to Miss Graeme, poor thing," said the mother.
"Aye, that it was—her that had never kent a trouble but by readin' o' them in printed books. It was an awfu' wakening to her. She has never been the same since, and I doubt it will be long till she has the same light heart again. She tries to fill her mother's place to them all, and when she finds she canna do it, she loses heart and patience with herself. But I hae great hope o' her. She has the 'single eye,' and God will guide her. I hae nae fear for Miss Graeme."
And then they spoke of many things—settling their little matters of business, and arranging their plans as quietly as though they looked forward to doing the same thing every month during the future years as they had done during the past. Nothing was forgotten or omitted; for Janet well knew that all her time and strength would be needed for the preparations that must soon commence, and that no time so good as the present might be found for her own personal arrangements. Her little savings were to be lodged in safe hands for her mother's use, and if anything were to happen to her they were to be taken to send Sandy over the sea. It was all done very quietly and calmly. I will not say that Janet's voice did not falter sometimes, or that no mist came between the mother's eyes and the grave face on the other side of the table. But there was no sign given. A strong sense of duty sustained them. A firm belief that however painful the future might be, they were doing right in this matter, gave them power to look calmly at the sacrifice that must cost them so much.
At length the children's voices were heard, and at the sound, Janet's heart leaped up with a throb of pain, but in words she gave no utterance to the pang.
"Weel, Sandy, lad, is this you," said she, as with mingled shyness and pleasure the boy came forward at his grandmother's bidding. He was a well-grown and healthy lad, with a frank face, and a thick shock of light curls. There was a happy look in his large blue eyes, and the smile came very naturally to his rather large mouth. To his mother, at the moment, he seemed altogether beautiful, and her heart cried out against the great trial that was before her. Sandy stood with his hand in hers, while his grandmother questioned him about the errand on which he had been sent, and she had time to quiet herself. But there was a look on her face as she sat there, gently stroking his fair hair with her hand, that was sad to see. Marian saw it with momentary wonder, and then coming up to her, she laid her arm gently over her neck and whispered,—
"Sandy is going with us too, Janet. There will be plenty of room for us all."
"I've been telling Menie that I canna leave grannie," said Sandy, turning gravely to his mother. "You'll hae Norman and Harry, and them a', but grannie has none but me."
"And wouldna you like to go with us too, Sandy, man?" asked his mother, with a pang.
"To yon fine country John Ferguson tells us about?" said Sandy, with sparkling eyes. "That I would, but it wouldna be right to leave grannie, and she says she's ower old to go so far-away—and over the great sea too."
"Nae, my lad, it wouldna be right to leave grannie by herself, and you'll need to bide here. Think aye first of what is right, and there will be no fear of you."
"And are you goin' mother?" asked Sandy, gravely.
"I doubt I'll need to go, Sandy lad, with the bairns. But I think less of it, that I can leave you to be a comfort to grannie. I'm sure I needna bid you be a good and obedient laddie to her, when—"
It needed a strong effort on her part to restrain the bitter cry of her heart.
"And will you never come back again, mother?"
"I dinna ken, Sandy. Maybe no. But that's no' for us to consider. It is present duty we maun think o'. The rest is in the Lord's hands."
What else could be said? That was the sum. It was duty and the Lord would take care of the rest. And so they parted with outward calm; and her mother never knew that that night, Janet, sending the children home before her, sat down in the lane, and "grat as if she would never greet mair." And Janet never knew, till long years afterwards, how that night, and many a night, Sandy woke from the sound sleep of childhood to find his grandmother praying and weeping, to think of the parting that was drawing near. Each could be strong to help the other, but alone, in silence and darkness, the poor shrinking heart had no power to cheat itself into the belief that bitter suffering did not lie before it.
It was worship time, and the bairns had gathered round the table with their books, to wait for their father's coming. It was a fair sight to see, but it was a sad one too, for they were motherless. It was all the more sad, that the bright faces and gay voices told how little they realised the greatness of the loss they had sustained. They were more gay than usual, for the elder brother had come home for the summer, perhaps for always; for the question was being eagerly discussed whether he would go back to the college again, or whether he was to go with the rest to America.
Arthur, a quiet, handsome lad of sixteen, said little. He was sitting with the sleepy Will upon his knee, and only put in a word now and then, when the others grew too loud and eager. He could have set them at rest about it; for he knew that his father had decided to leave him in Scotland till his studies were finished at the college.
"But there's no use to vex the lads and Graeme to-night," he said to himself; and he was right, as he had not quite made up his mind whether he was vexed himself or not. The thought of the great countries on the other side of the globe, and of the possible adventures that might await them there, had charms for him, as for every one of his age and spirit. But he was a sensible lad, and realised in some measure the advantage of such an education as could only be secured by remaining behind, and he knew in his heart that there was reason in what his father had said to him of the danger there was that the voyage and the new scenes in a strange land might unsettle his mind from his books. It cost him something to seem content, even while his father was speaking to him, and he knew well it would grieve the rest to know he was to be left behind, so he would say nothing about it, on this first night of his home-coming.
There was one sad face among them; for even Arthur's home-coming could not quite chase the shadow that had fallen on Graeme since the night a year ago while she sat dreaming her dreams in the firelight. It was only a year or little more, but it might have been three, judging from the change in her. She was taller and paler, and older-looking since then. And yet it was not so much that as something else that so changed her, Arthur thought, as he sat watching her. The change had come to her through their great loss, he knew; but he could not have understood, even if it had been told him, how much this had changed life to Graeme. He had suffered too more than words could ever tell. Many a time his heart had been ready to burst with unspeakable longing for his dead mother's loving presence, her voice, her smile, her gentle chiding, till he could only cast himself down and weep vain tears upon the ground.
Graeme had borne all this, and what was worse to her, the hourly missing of her mother's counsel and care. Not one day of all the year but she had been made to feel the bitterness of their loss; not one day but she had striven to fill her mother's place to her father and them all, and her nightly heartbreak had been to know that she had striven in vain. "As how could it be otherwise than vain," she said often to herself, "so weak, so foolish, so impatient." And yet through all her weakness and impatience, she knew that she must never cease to try to fill her mother's place still.
Some thought of all this came into Arthur's mind, as she sat there leaning her head on one hand, while the other touched from time to time the cradle at her side. Never before had he realised how sad it was for them all that they had lost their mother, and how dreary life at home must have been all the year.
"Poor Graeme! and poor wee Rosie!" he says to himself, stooping over the cradle.
"How old is Rosie?" asked he, suddenly.
"Near three years old," said Janet.
"She winna be three till August," said Graeme in the same breath, and she turned beseeching eyes on Janet. For this was becoming a vexed question between them—the guiding of poor wee Rosie. Janet was a disciplinarian, and ever declared that Rosie "should go to her bed like ither folk;" but Graeme could never find it in her heart to vex her darling, and so the cradle still stood in the down-stairs parlour for Rosie's benefit, and it was the elder sister's nightly task to soothe the fretful little lady to her unwilling slumbers.
But Graeme had no need to fear discussion to-night. Janet's mind was full of other thoughts. One cannot shed oceans of tears and leave no sign; and Janet, by no means sure of herself, sat with her face turned from the light, intently gazing on the very small print of the Bible in her hand. On common occasions the bairns would not have let Janet's silence pass unheeded, but to-night they were busy discussing matters of importance, and except to say now and then, "Whist, bairns! your father will be here!" she sat without a word.
There was a hush at last, as a step was heard descending the stairs, and in a minute their father entered. It was not fear that quieted them. There was no fear in the frank, eager eyes turned toward him, as he sat down among them. His was a face to win confidence and respect, even at the first glance, so grave and earnest was it, yet withal so gentle and mild. In his children's hearts the sight of it stirred deep love, which grew to reverence as they grew in years. The calm that sat on that high, broad brow, told of conflicts passed, and victory secure, of weary wandering through desert places, over now and scarce remembered in the quiet of the resting-place he had found. His words and deeds, and his chastened views of earthly things told of a deep experience in "that life which is the heritage of the few—that true life of God in the soul with its strange, rich secrets, both of joy and sadness," whose peace the world knoweth not of, which naught beneath the sun can ever more disturb.
"The minister is changed—greatly changed." Janet had said many times to herself and others during the last few months, and she said it now, as her eye with the others turned on him as he entered. But with the thought there came to-night the consciousness that the change was not such a one as was to be deplored. He had grown older and graver, and more silent than he used to be, but he had grown to something higher, purer, holier than of old, and like a sudden gleam of light breaking through the darkness, there flashed into Janet's mind the promise, "All things shall work together for good to them that love God." Her lips had often spoken the words before, but now her eyes saw the fulfilment, and her failing faith was strengthened. If that bitter trial, beyond which she had vainly striven to see aught but evil, had indeed wrought good, for her beloved friend and master; need she fear any change or any trial which the future might have in store for her?
"It will work for good, this pain and separation," murmured she. "I'm no' like the minister, but frail and foolish, and wilful too whiles, but I humbly hope that I am one of those who love the Lord."
"Well, bairns!" said the father. There was a gentle stir and movement among them, though there was no need, for Graeme had already set her father's chair and opened the Bible at the place. She pushed aside the cradle a little that he might pass, and he sat down among them.
"We'll take a Psalm, to-night," said he, after a minute's turning of the leaves from a "namey chapter" in Chronicles, the usual place. He chose the forty-sixth.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
"Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, though the mountains be cast into the midst of the sea."
And thus on through the next.
"He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob, whom he loved."
And still on through the next till the last verse,—
"This God is our God for ever and ever. He will be our guide, even unto death," seemed like the triumphant ending of a song of praise.
Then there was a momentary hush and pause. Never since the mother's voice had grown silent in death had the voice of song risen at worship time. They had tried it more than once, and failed in bitter weeping. But Janet, fearful that their silence was a sin, had to-night brought the hymn-books which they always used, and laid them at Arthur's side. In the silence that followed the reading Graeme looked from him to them, but Arthur shook his head. He was not sure that his voice would make its way through the lump that had been gathering in his throat while his father read, and he felt that to fail would be dreadful, so there was silence still—
There was a little lingering round the fire after worship was over, but when Arthur went quietly away the boys soon followed. Graeme would fain have stayed to speak a few words to her father, on this first night of his return. He was sitting gazing into the fire, with a face so grave that his daughter's heart ached for his loneliness. But a peevish voice from the cradle admonished her that she must to her task again, and so with a quiet "good-night, papa," she took her little sister in her arms. Up-stairs she went, murmuring tender words to her "wee birdie," her "bonny lammie," her "little gentle dove," more than repaid for all her weariness and care, by the fond nestling of the little head upon her bosom; for her love, which was more a mother's than a sister's, made the burden light.
The house was quiet at last. The boys had talked themselves to sleep, and the minister had gone to his study again. This had been one of Rosie's "weary nights." The voices of her brothers had wakened her in the parlour, and Graeme had a long walk with the fretful child, before she was soothed to sleep again. But she did sleep at last, and just as Janet had finished her nightly round, shutting the windows and barring the doors, Graeme crept down-stairs, and entered the kitchen. The red embers still glowed on the hearth, but Janet was in the very act of "resting the fire" for the night.
"Oh! Janet," said Graeme, "put on another peat. I'm cold, and I want to speak to you."
"Miss Graeme! You up at this time o' the night! What ails yon cankered fairy now?"
"Oh, Janet! She's asleep long ago, and I want to speak to you." And before Janet could remonstrate, one of the dry peats set ready for the morning fire was thrown on the embers, and soon blazed brightly up. Graeme crouched down before it, with her arm over Janet's knee.
"Janet, what did your mother say? And oh! Janet, Arthur says my father—" Turning with a sudden movement, Graeme let her head fall on Janet's lap, and burst into tears. Janet tried to lift her face.
"Whist! Miss Graeme! What ails the lassie? It's no' the thought of going awa', surely? You hae kenned this was to be a while syne. You hae little to greet about, if you but kenned it—you, who are going altogether."
"Janet, Arthur is to bide in Scotland."
"Well, it winna be for long. Just till he's done at the college. I dare say it is the best thing that can happen him to bide. But who told you?"
"Arthur told me after we went up-stairs to-night. And, oh! Janet! what will I ever do without him?"
"Miss Graeme, my dear! You hae done without him these two years already mostly, and even if we all were to bide in Scotland, you would hae to do without him still. He could na' be here and at the college too. And when he's done with that he would hae to go elsewhere. Families canna aye bide together. Bairns maun part."
"But, Janet, to go so far and leave him! It will seem almost like death."
"But, lassie it's no' death. There's a great difference. And as for seeing him again, that is as the Lord wills. Anyway, it doesna become you to cast a slight on your father's judgment, as though he had decided unwisely in this matter. Do you no' think it will cost him something to part from his first-born son?"
"But, Janet, why need he part from him? Think how much better it would be for him, and for us all, if Arthur should go with us. Arthur is almost a man."
"Na, lass. He'll no' hae a man's sense this while yet. And as for his goin' or bidin', it's no' for you or me to seek for the why and the wherefore o' the matter. It might be better—more cheery—for you and us all if your elder brother were with us, but it wouldna be best for him to go, or your father would never leave him, you may be sure o' that."
There was a long silence. Graeme sat gazing into the dying embers. Janet threw on another peat, and a bright blaze sprang up again.
"Miss Graeme, my dear, if it's a wise and right thing for your father to take you all over the sea, the going or the biding o' your elder brother can make no real difference. You must seek to see the rights o' this. If your father hasna him to help him with the bairns and—ither things, the more he'll need you, and you maun hae patience, and strive no' to disappoint him. You hae muckle to be thankful for—you that can write to ane anither like a printed book, to keep ane anither in mind. There's nae fear o' your growin' out o' acquaintance, and he'll soon follow, you may be sure. Oh, lassie, lassie! if you could only ken!"
Graeme raised herself up, and leaned both her arms on Janet's lap.
"Janet, what did your mother say?"
Janet gulped something down, and said, huskily,—
"Oh! she said many a thing, but she made nae wark about it. I told your father I would go, and I will. My mother doesna object."
"And Sandy?" said Graeme, softly, for there was something working in Janet's face, which she did not like to see.
"Sandy will aye hae my mother, and she'll hae Sandy. But, lassie, it winna bear speaking about to-night. Gang awa' to your bed."
Graeme rose; but did not go.
"But couldna Sandy go with us? It would only be one more. Surely, Janet—"
Janet made a movement of impatience, or entreaty, Graeme did not know which, but it stopped her.
"Na, na! Sandy couldna leave my mother, even if it would be wise for me to take him. There's no more to be said about that." And in spite of herself, Janet's tears gushed forth, as mortal eyes had never seen them gush before, since she was a herd lassie on the hills. Graeme looked on, hushed and frightened, and in a little, Janet quieted herself and wiped her face with her apron.
"You see, dear, what with one thing and what with another, I'm weary, and vexed to-night, and no' just myself. Matters will look more hopeful, both to you and to me, the morn. There's one thing certain. Both you and me hae much to do that maun be done, before we see saut water, without losing time in grumblin' at what canna be helped. What with the bairns' clothes and ither things, we winna need to be idle; so let us awa' to our beds that we may be up betimes the morn."
Graeme still lingered.
"Oh, Janet! if my mother were only here! How easy it all would be."
"Ay, lass! I hae said that to myself many a time this while. But He that took her canna do wrong. There was some need for it, or she would hae been here to-night. You maun aye strive to fill her place to them all."
Graeme's tears flowed forth afresh.
"Oh, Janet! I think you're mocking me when you say that. How could I ever fill her place?"
"No' by your ain strength and wisdom surely my lammie. But it would be limiting His grace to say He canna make you all you should be—all that she was, and that is saying muckle; for she was wise far by the common. But now gang awa' to your bed, and dinna forget your good words. There's no fear but you will be in God's keeping wherever you go."
Janet was right; they had need of all their strength and patience during the next two months. When Janet had confidence in herself, she did what was to be done with a will. But she had little skill in making purchases, and less experience, and Graeme was little better. Many things must be got, and money could not be spent lavishly, and there was no time to lose.
But, with the aid of Mrs Smith and other kind friends, their preparations were got through at last. Purchases were made, mending and making of garments were accomplished, and the labour of packing was got through, to their entire satisfaction.
The minister said good-bye to each of his people separately, either in the kirk, or in his own home or theirs; but he shrunk from last words, and from the sight of all the sorrowful faces that were sure to gather to see them go; so he went away at night, and stayed with a friend, a few miles on their way. But it was the fairest of summer mornings—the mist just lifting from the hills—and the sweet air filled with the laverock's song, when Janet and the bairns looked their last upon their home.
They found themselves on board the "Steadfast" at last. The day of sailing was bright and beautiful, a perfect day for the sea, or the land either; but the wind rose in the night and the rain came on, and a very dreary morning broke on them as the last glimpse of land was fading in the distance.
"Oh! how dismal!" murmured Graeme, as in utter discomfort she seated herself on the damp deck, with her little sister in her arms. All the rest, excepting her father, and not excepting Janet, were down with sea-sickness, and even Norman and Harry had lost heart under its depressing influence. Another hour in the close cabin, and Graeme felt she must yield too—and then what would become of Rose? So into a mist that was almost rain she came, as the day was breaking, and sat down with her little sister upon the deck. For a minute she closed her eyes on the dreariness around, and leaned her head on a hencoop at her side. Rose had been fretful and uneasy all night, but now well pleased with the new sights around her, she sat still on her sister's lap. Soon the cheerful voice of the Captain, startled Graeme.
"Touch and go with you I see, Miss Elliott. I am afraid you will have to give in like the rest."
Graeme looked up with a smile that was sickly enough.
"Not if I can help it," said she.
"Well, you are a brave lass to think of helping it with a face like that. Come and take a quick walk up and down the deck with me. It will do you good. Set down the bairn," for Graeme was rising with Rose in her arms. "No harm will come to her, and you don't look fit to carry yourself. Sit you there, my wee fairy, till we come back again. Here, Ruthven," he called to a young man who was walking up and down on the other side of the deck, "come and try your hand at baby tending. That may be among the work required of you in the backwoods of Canada, who knows?"
The young man came forward laughing, and Graeme submitted to be led away. The little lady left on the deck seemed very much inclined to resent the unceremonious disposal of so important a person, as she was always made to feel herself to be. But she took a look into the face of her new friend and thought better of it. His face was a good one, frank and kindly, and Rose suffered herself to be lifted up and placed upon his knee, and when Graeme came back again, after a brisk walk of fifteen minutes, she found the little one, usually so fretful and "ill to do with," laughing merrily in the stranger's arms. She would have taken her, but Rose was pleased to stay.
"You are the very first stranger that ever she was willing to go to," said she, gratefully. Looking up, she did not wonder at Rosie's fancy for the face that smiled down upon her.
"I ought to feel myself highly honoured," said he.
"I think we'll give him the benefit of little Missy's preference," said Captain Armstrong, who had been watching Graeme with a little amused anxiety since her walk was ended. The colour that the exercise had given her was fast fading from her face, till her very lips grew white with the deadly sickness that was coming over her.
"You had best go to the cabin a wee while. You must give up, I think," said he.
Graeme rose languidly.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. Come Rosie."
"Leave the little one with me," said Mr Ruthven. And that was the last Graeme saw of Rosie for the next twelve hours, for she was not to escape the misery that had fallen so heavily upon the rest, and very wearily the day passed. It passed, however, at last, and the next, which was calm and bright as heart could wish, saw them all on deck again. They came with dizzy heads and uncertain steps it is true, but the sea air soon brought colour to their cheeks, and strength to their limbs, and their sea life fairly began.
But alas! for Janet. The third day, and the tenth found her still in her berth, altogether unable to stand up against the power that held her. In vain she struggled against it. The "Steadfast's" slightest motion was sufficient to overpower her quite, till at last she made no effort to rise, but lay there, disgusted with herself and all the world. On the calmest and fairest days they would prevail on her to be helped up to the deck, and there amid shawls and pillows she would sit, enduring one degree less of misery than she did in the close cabin below.
"It was just a judgment upon her," she said, "to let her see what a poor conceited body she was. She, that had been making muckle o' herself, as though the Lord couldna take care o' the bairns without her help."
It was not sufficient to be told hourly that the children were well and happy, or to see it with her own eyes. This aggravated her trouble. "Useless body that I am." And Janet did not wait for a sight of a strange land, to begin to pine for the land she had left, and what with sea-sickness and home-sickness together, she had very little hope that she would ever see land of any kind again.
The lads and Marian enjoyed six weeks of perfect happiness. Graeme and their father at first were in constant fear of their getting into danger. It would only have provoked disobedience had all sorts of climbing been forbidden, for the temptation to try to outdo each other in their imitation of the sailors, was quite irresistible; and not a rope in the rigging, nor a corner in the ship, but they were familiar with before the first few days were over. "And, indeed, they were wonderfully preserved, the foolish lads," their father acknowledged, and grew content about them at last.
Before me lies the journal of the voyage, faithfully kept in a big book given by Arthur for the purpose. A full and complete history of the six weeks might be written from it, but I forbear. Norman or Harry, in language obscurely nautical, notes daily the longitude or the latitude, and the knots they make an hour. There are notices of whales, seen in the distance, and of shoals of porpoises seen near at hand. There are stories given which they have heard in the forecastle, and hints of practical jokes and tricks played on one another. The history of each sailor in the ship is given, from "handsome Frank, the first Yankee, and the best-singer" the boys ever saw, to Father Abraham, the Dutchman, "with short legs and shorter temper."
Graeme writes often, and daily bewails Janet's continued illness, and rejoices over "wee Rosie's" improved health and temper. With her account of the boys and their doings, she mingles emphatic wishes "that they had more sense," but on the whole they are satisfactory. She has much to say of the books she has been reading—"a good many of Sir Walter Scott's that papa does not object to," lent by Allan Ruthven. There are hints of discussions with him about the books, too; and Graeme declares she "has no patience" with Allan. For his favourites in Sir Walter's books are seldom those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake; and there are allusions to battles fought with him in behalf of the good name of the Old Puritans—men whom Graeme delights to honour. But on the whole it is to be seen, that Allan is a favourite with her and with them all.
The beautiful Bay of Boston was reached at last, and with an interest that cannot be told, the little party—including the restored Janet— regarded the city to which they were drawing near. Their ideas of what they were to see first in the new world had been rather indefinite and vague. Far more familiar with the early history of New England—with such scenes as the landing of the pilgrims, and the departure of Roger Williams to a still more distant wilderness, than with the history of modern advance, it was certainly not such a city they had expected to see. But they gazed with ever increasing delight, as they drew nearer and nearer to it through the beautiful bay.
"And this is the wonderful new world, that promises so much to us all," said Allan.
"They have left unstained what there they found. Freedom to worship God,"
murmured Graeme, softly. "I'm sure I shall like the American people."
But Allan was taking to heart the thought of parting from them all, more than was at all reasonable, he said to himself, and he could not answer her with a jest as he might at another time.
"You must write and tell me about your new home," said he.
"Yes—the boys will write; we will all write. I can hardly believe that six weeks ago we had never seen you. Oh! I wish you were going with us," said Graeme.
"Allan will see Arthur when he comes. Arthur will want to see all the country," said Norman.
"And maybe he will like the Queen's dominions best, and wish to settle there," said Allan.
"Oh! but we shall see you long before Arthur comes," said Graeme. "Is it very far to Canada?"
"I don't know—not very far, I suppose. I don't feel half so hopeful now that I am about to know what my fate is to be. I have a great dread on me. I have a mind not to go to my uncle at all, but seek my fortune here."
"But your mother wouldna be pleased," said Graeme, gravely.
"No. She has great hopes of what my uncle may do for me. But it would be more agreeable to me not to be confined to one course. I should like to look about me a little, before I get fairly into the treadmill of business."
In her heart Graeme thought it an excellent thing for Allan that he had his uncle to go to. She had her own ideas about young people's looking about them, with nothing particular to do, and quite agreed with Janet and Dr Watts as to the work likely to be found for them to do. But she thought it would be very nice for them all, if instead of setting off at once for Canada, Allan might have gone with them for a little while. Before she could say this, however, Janet spoke.
"Ay, that's bairn-like, though you hae a man's stature. I dare say you would think it a braw thing to be at naebody's bidding; but, my lad, it's ae' thing to hae a friend's house, and a welcome waiting you in a strange land like this, and it's anither thing to sit solitary in a bare lodging, even though you may hae liberty to come and go at your ain will. If you're like the lads that I ken' maist about, you'll be none the worse of a little wholesome restraint. Be thankful for your mercies."
Allan laughed good-humouredly.
"But really, Mrs Nasmyth, you are too hard on me. Just think what a country this is. Think of the mountains, and rivers and lakes, and of all these wonderful forests and prairies that Norman reads about, and is it strange that I should grudge myself to a dull counting-room, with all these things to enjoy? It is not the thought of the restraint that troubles me. I only fear I shall become too soon content with the routine, till I forget how to enjoy anything but the making and counting of money. I am sure anything would be better than to come to that."
"You'll hae many things between you and the like o' that, if you do your duty. You have them you are going to, and them you hae left—your mother and brother. And though you had none o' them, you could aye find some poor body to be kind to, to keep your heart soft. Are you to bide in your uncle's house?"
"I don't know. Mrs Peter Stone, that was home last year, told us that my uncle lives in the country, and his clerks live in the town anywhere they like. I shall do as the rest do I suppose. All the better—I shall be the more able to do what I like with my leisure."
"Ay, it's aye liberty that the like o' you delight in. Weel, see that you make a good use of it, that's the chief thing. Read your Bible and gang to the kirk, and there's no fear o' you. And dinna forget to write to your mother. She's had many a weary thought about you 'ere this time, I'll warrant."
"I daresay I shall be content enough. But it seems like parting from home again, to think of leaving you all. My bonnie wee Rosie, what shall I ever do without you?" said Allan, caressing the little one who had clambered on his knee.
"And what shall we do without you?" exclaimed a chorus of voices; and Norman added,—
"What is the use of your going all the way to Canada, when there's enough for you to do here. Come with us, Allan, man, and never mind your uncle."
"And what will you do for him, in case he should give his uncle up for you?" demanded Janet, sharply.
"Oh! he'll get just what we'll get ourselves, a chance to make his own way, and I doubt whether he'll get more where he's going. I've no faith in rich uncles." Allan laughed.
"Thank you, Norman, lad. I must go to Canada first, however, whether I stay there or not. Maybe you will see me again, sooner than I think now. Surely, in the great town before us, there might be found work, and a place for me."
Far-away before them, stretched the twinkling lights of the town, and silence fell upon them as they watched them. In another day they would be among the thousands who lived, and laboured, and suffered in it. What awaited them there? Not that they feared the future, or doubted a welcome. Indeed, they were too young to think much of possible evils. A new life was opening before them, no fear but it would be a happy one. Graeme had seen more trouble than the rest, being older, and she was naturally less hopeful, but then she had no fear for them all, only the thought that they were about to enter on a new, untried life, made her excited and anxious, and the thought of parting with their friend made her sad.
As for Janet, she was herself again. Her courage returned when the sea-sickness departed, and now she was ready "to put a stout heart to a stiff brae" as of old. "Disjaskit looking" she was, and not so strong as she used to be, but she was as active as ever, and more than thankful to be able to keep her feet again. "She had been busy all the morning," overhauling the belongings of the family, preparatory to landing, much to the discomfort of all concerned. All the morning Graeme had submitted with a passably good grace to her cross-questionings as to the "guiding" of this and that, while she had been unable to give personal supervision to family matters. Thankful to see her at her post again, Graeme tried to make apparent her own good management of matters in general, during the voyage, but she was only partially successful. There were far more rents and stains, and soiled garments, than Janet considered at all necessary, and besides many familiar articles of wearing apparel were missing, after due search made. In vain Graeme begged her never to mind just now. They were in the big blue chest, or the little brown one, she couldna just mind where she had put them, but of course they would be found, when all the boxes were opened.
"Maybe no," said Janet. "There are some long fingers, I doubt, in the steerage yonder. Miss Graeme, my dear, we would need to be carefu'. If I'm no' mistaken, I saw one o' Norman's spotted handkerchiefs about the neck o' yon lang Johnny Heeman, and yon little Irish lassie ga'ed past me the day, with a pinafore very like one o' Menie's. I maun ha' a look at it again."
"Oh, Janet! never mind. I gave wee Norah the pinafore, and the old brown frock besides. She had much need of them. And poor Johnny came on board on the pilot boat you ken, and he hadna a change, and Norman gave him the handkerchief and an old waistcoat of papa's,—and—"
Janet's hands were uplifted in consternation.
"Keep's and guide's lassie—that I should say such a word. Your papa hadna an old waistcoat in his possession. What for did you do the like o' that? The like o' Norman or Menie might be excused, but you that I thought had some sense and discretion. Your father's waistcoat! Heard anybody ever the like? You may be thankful that you hae somebody that kens the value of good clothes, to take care of you and them—"
"Oh! I'm thankful as you could wish," said Graeme, laughing. "I would rather see you sitting there, in the midst of those clothes, than to see the Queen on her throne. I confess to the waistcoat, and some other things, but mind, I'm responsible no longer. I resign my office of general caretaker to you. Success to you," and Graeme made for the cabin stairs. She turned again, however.
"Never heed, Janet, about the things. Think what it must be to have no change, and we had so many. Poor wee Norah, too. Her mother's dead you ken, and she looked so miserable."
Janet was pacified.
"Weel, Miss Graeme, I'll no' heed. But my dear, it's no' like we'll find good clothes growing upon trees in this land, more than in our own. And we had need to be careful. I wonder where a' the strippet pillow slips can be? I see far more of the fine ones dirty than were needed, if you had been careful, and guarded them."
But Graeme was out of hearing before she came to this.
They landed at last, and a very dreary landing it was. They had waited for hours, till the clouds should exhaust themselves, but the rain was still falling when they left the ship. Eager and excited, the whole party were, but not after the anticipated fashion. Graeme was surprised, and a little mortified, to find no particular emotions swelling at her heart, as her feet touched the soil which the Puritans had rendered sacred. Indeed, she was too painfully conscious, that the sacred soil was putting her shoes and frock in jeopardy, and had too much trouble to keep the umbrella over Marian and herself, to be able to give any thanks to the sufferings of the Pilgrim fathers, or mothers either. Mr Elliott had been on shore in the morning, and had engaged rooms for them in a quiet street, and thither Allan Ruthven, carrying little Rose, was to conduct them, while he attended to the proper bestowment of their baggage.
This duty Janet fain would have shared with him. Her reverence for the minister, and his many excellencies, did not imply entire confidence in his capacity, for that sort of business, and when he directed her to go with the bairns, it was with many misgivings that she obeyed. Indeed, as the loaded cart took its departure in another direction, she expressed herself morally certain, that they had seen the last of it, for she fully believed that, "yon sharp-looking lad could carry it off from beneath the minister's nose."
Dread of more distant evils was, however, driven from her thoughts by present necessities. The din and bustle of the crowded wharf, would have been sufficient to "daze" the sober-minded country-woman, without the charge of little Will, and unnumbered bundles, and the two "daft laddies forby." On their part, Norman and Harry scorned the idea of being taken care of, and loaded with baskets and other movables, made their way through the crowd, in a manner that astonished the bewildered Janet.
"Bide a wee, Norman, man. Harry, you daft laddie, where are you going? Now dinna throw awa' good pennies for such green trash." For Harry had made a descent on a fruit stall, and his pockets were turned inside out in a twinkling.
"Saw ever anybody such cheatry," exclaimed Janet, as the dark lady pocketed the coins with a grin, quite unmindful of her expostulations. "Harry lad, a fool and his money is soon parted. And look! see here, you hae set down the basket in the dubs, and your sister's bed gowns will be all wet. Man! hae you no sense?"
"Nae muckle, I doubt, Janet," said Harry, with an exaggerated gesture of humility and penitence, turning the basket upside down, to ascertain the extent of the mischief. "It's awfu' like Scotch dubs, now isn't it? Never mind, I'll give it a wash at the next pump, and it 'ill he none the worse. Give me Will's hand, and I'll take care of him."
"Take care o' yourself, and leave Will with me. But, dear me, where's Mr Allan?" For their escort had disappeared, and she stood alone, with the baskets and the boys in the rainy street. Before her consternation had reached a climax, however, Ruthven reappeared, having safely bestowed the others in their lodgings. Like a discreet lad, as Janet was inclined to consider him, he possessed himself of Will, and some of the bundles, and led the way. At the door stood the girls, anxiously looking out for them.
If their hostess had, at first, some doubt as to the sanity of her new lodgers, there was little wonder. Such a confusion of tongues her American ears had not heard before. Graeme condoled with Will, who was both wet and weary. Janet searched for missing bundles, and bewailed things in general. Marian was engaged in a friendly scuffle for an apple, and Allan was tossing Rosie up to the ceiling, while Norman, perched on the bannisters high above them all, waved his left hand, bidding farewell, with many words, to an imaginary Scotland, while with his right he beckoned to the "brave new world" which was to be the scene of his wonderful achievements and triumphs.
The next day rose bright and beautiful. Mr Elliott had gone to stay with his friend Mr Caldwell, and Janet was over head and ears in a general "sorting" of things, and made no objections when it was proposed that the boys and Graeme should go out with Allan Ruthven to see the town. It is doubtful whether there was ever so much of Boston seen in one day before, without the aid of a carriage and pair. It was a day never to be forgotten by the children. The enjoyment was not quite unmixed to Graeme, for she was in constant fear of losing some of them. Harry was lost sight of for a while, but turned up again with a chapter of adventures at his finger ends for their amusement.
The crowning enjoyment of the day was the treat given by Allan Ruthven on their way home. They were very warm and tired, and hungry too, and the low, cool room down some steps into which they were taken, was delightful. There was never such fruit—there were never such cakes as these that were set before them. As for the ice cream, it was— inexpressible. In describing the feast afterwards, Marian could never get beyond the ice cream. She was always at a loss for adjectives to describe it. It was like the manna that the Children of Israel had in the wilderness, she thought, and surely they ought to have been content with it.
Graeme was the only one who did not enjoy it thoroughly. She had an idea that there were not very many guineas left in Allan's purse, and she felt bound to remonstrate with him because of his extravagance.
"Never mind, Graeme, dear," said Norman; "Allan winna have a chance to treat us to manna this while again; and when I am Mayor of Boston, I'll give him manna and quails too."
They came home tired, but they had a merry evening. Even Graeme "unbent," as Harry said, and joined in the mirth; and Janet had enough to do to reason them into quietness when bed-time came.
"One would think when Mr Allan is going away in the morning, you might have the grace to seem sorry, and let us have a while's peace," said she.
If the night was merry, the morning farewells were sad indeed, and long, long did they wait in vain for tidings of Allan Ruthven.
"But where's the town?"
The bairns were standing on the highest step of the meeting-house, gazing with eyes full of wonder and delight on the scene before them. The meeting-house stood on a high hill, and beyond a wide sloping field at the foot of the hill, lay Merleville pond, like a mirror in a frame of silver and gold. Beyond, and on either side, were hills rising behind hills, the most distant covered with great forest trees, "the trees under which the red Indians used to wander," Graeme whispered. There were trees on the nearer hills too, sugaries, and thick pine groves, and a circle of them round the margin of the pond. Over all the great Magician of the season had waved his wand, and decked them in colours dazzling to the eyes accustomed to the grey rocks and purple heather, and to the russet garb of autumn in their native land.
There were farm-houses too, and the scattered houses along the village street looking white and fair beneath crimson maples and yellow beech-trees. Above hung a sky undimmed by a single cloud, and the air was keen, yet mild with the October sunshine. They could not have had a lovelier time for the first glimpse of their new home, yet there was an echo of disappointment in Harry's voice as he asked,—
"Where's the town?"
They had been greatly impressed by the description given them of Merleville by Mr Sampson Snow, in whose great wagon they had been conveyed over the twenty miles of country roads that lay between the railway and their new home.
"I was the first white child born in the town," said Sampson. "I know every foot of it as well as I do my own barn, and I don't want no better place to live in than Merleville. It don't lack but a fraction of being ten miles square. Right in the centre, perhaps a leetle south, there's about the prettiest pond you ever saw. There are some first-rate farms there, mine is one of them, but in general the town is better calculated for pasturage than tillage. I shouldn't wonder but it would be quite a manufacturing place too after a spell, when they've used up all the other water privileges in the State. There's quite a fall in the Merle river, just before it runs into the pond. We've got a fullin'-mill and a grist-mill on it now. They'd think everything of it in your country."
"There's just one meetin'-house in it. That's where your pa'll preach if our folks conclude to hire him a spell. The land's about all taken up, though it hain't reached the highest point of cultivation yet. The town is set off into nine school-districts, and I consider that our privileges are first-rate. And if it's nutting and squirrel-hunting you're after, boys, all you have to do is to apply to Uncle Sampson, and he'll arrange your business for you."
"Ten miles square and nine school-districts!" Boston could be nothing to it, surely, the boys thought. The inconsistency of talking about pasturage and tillage, nutting and squirrel-hunting in the populous place which they imagined Merleville to be, did not strike them. This was literally their first glimpse of Merleville, for the rain had kept them within doors, and the mist had hidden all things the day before and now they looked a little anxiously for the city they had pictured to themselves.
"But Norman! Harry! I think this is far better than a town," said Marian, eagerly. "Eh, Graeme, isna yon a bonny water?"
"Ay, it's grand," said Graeme. "Norman, this is far better than a town."
The people were beginning to gather to service by this time; but the children were too eager and too busy to heed them for a while. With an interest that was half wonder, half delight, Graeme gazed to the hills and the water and the lovely sky. It might be the "bonny day"—the mild air and the sunshine, and the new fair scene before her, or it might be the knowledge that after much care, and many perils, they were all safe together in this quiet place where they were to find a home; she scarce knew what it was, but her heart felt strangely light, and lips and eyes smiled as she stood there holding one of Marian's hands in hers, while the other wandered through the curls of Will's golden hair. She did not speak for a long time; but the others were not so quiet, but whispered to each other, and pointed out the objects that pleased them most.
"Yon's Merle river, I suppose, where we see the water glancing through the trees."
"And yonder is the kirkyard," said Marian, gravely. "It's no' a bonny place."
"It's bare and lonely looking," said Harry.
"They should have yew trees and ivy and a high wall, like where mamma is," said Marian.
"But this is a new country; things are different here," said Norman.
"But surely they might have trees."
"And look, there are cows in it. The gate is broken. It's a pity."
"Look at yon road that goes round the water, and then up between the hills through the wood. That's bonny, I'm sure."
"And there's a white house, just where the road goes out of sight. I would like to live there."
"Yes, there are many trees about it, and another house on this side."
And so they talked on, till a familiar voice accosted them. Their friend Mr Snow was standing beside them, holding a pretty, but delicate little girl, by the hand. He had been watching them for some time.
"Well how do you like the looks of things?"
"It's bonny here," said Marian.
"Where's the town?" asked Harry, promptly.
Mr Snow made a motion with his head, intended to indicate the scene before them.
"Lacks a fraction of being ten miles square."
"It's all trees," said little Will.
"Wooden country, eh, my little man?"
"Country! yes, it's more like the country than like a town," said Harry.
"Well, yes. On this side of the water, we can afford to have our towns, as big as some folks' countries," said Mr Snow, gravely.
"But it's like no town I ever saw," said Norman. "There are no streets, no shops, no market, no anything that makes a town."
"There's freedom on them hills," said Mr Snow, waving his hand with an air.
During the journey the other day, Mr Snow and the lads had discussed many things together; among the rest, the institutions of their respective countries, and Mr Snow had, as he expressed it, "Set their British blood to bilin'," by hints about "aristocracy", "despotism," and so on. "He never had had such a good time," he said, afterwards. They were a little fiery, but first-rate smart boys, and as good natured as kittens, and he meant to see to them. He meant to amuse himself with them too, it seemed. The boys fired up at once, and a hot answer was only arrested on their lips, by the timely interference of Graeme.
"Whist, Norman. Harry, mind it is the Sabbath-day, and look yonder is papa coming up with Judge Merle," and turning smilingly to Mr Snow, she added, "We like the place very much. It's beautiful everywhere. It's far bonnier than a town. I'm glad there's no town, and so are the boys, though they were disappointed at first."
"No town?" repeated Mr Snow.
But there was no time for explanations. Their father had reached the steps, and the children were replying to the greeting of the Judge. Judge Merle, was in the opinion of the majority, the greatest man in Merleville, if not in the country. The children had made his acquaintance on Saturday. He had brought them with his own hands, through the rain, a pail of sweet milk, and another of hominy, a circumstance which gave them a high idea of his kindness of heart, but which sadly overturned all their preconceived notions with regard to the dignity of his office. Janet, who looked on the whole thing as a proper tribute of respect to the minister, augured well from it, what he might expect in his new parish, and congratulated herself accordingly. The children were glad to see him, among the many strangers around them, and when Mr Snow gave him a familiar nod, and a "Morning Judge," Graeme felt a little inclined, to resent the familiarity. The Judge did not resent it, however. On the contrary, when Mr Snow, nodding sideways toward the minister, said, "He guessed the folks would get about fitted this time," he nodded as familiarly back, and said, "He shouldn't wonder if they did."
There are no such churches built in New England now, as that into which the minister and his children were led by the Judge. It was very large and high, and full of windows. It was the brilliant light that struck the children first, accustomed as they had been to associate with the Sabbath worship, the dimness of their father's little chapel in Clayton. Norman the mathematician was immediately seized with a perverse desire to count the panes, and scandalised Graeme by communicating to her the result of his calculation, just as her father rose up to begin.
How many people there were in the high square pews, and in the galleries, and even in the narrow aisles. So many, that Graeme not dreaming of the quiet nooks hidden among the hills she had thought so beautiful, wondered where they all could come from. Keen, intelligent faces, many of them were, that turned toward the minister as he rose; a little hard and fixed, perhaps, those of the men, and far too delicate, and care-worn, those of the women, but earnest, thoughtful faces, many of them were, and kindly withal.
Afterwards—years and years afterwards, when the bairns had to shut their eyes to recall their father's face, as it gleamed down upon them from that strange high pulpit, the old people used to talk to them of this first sermon in Merleville. There was a charm in the Scottish accent, and in the earnest manner of the minister, which won upon these people wonderfully. It was heart speaking to heart, an earnest, loving, human heart, that had sinned and had been forgiven, that had suffered and had been comforted; one who, through all, had by God's grace struggled upwards, speaking to men of like passions and necessities. He spoke as one whom God had given a right to warn, to counsel, to console. He spoke as one who must give account, and his hearers listened earnestly. So earnestly that Deacon Fish forgot to hear for Deacon Slowcome, and Deacon Slowcome forgot to hear for people generally. Deacon Sterne who seldom forgot anything which he believed to be his duty, failed for once to prove the orthodoxy of the doctrine by comparing it with his own, and received it as it fell from the minister's lips, as the very word of God.
"He means just as he says," said Mr Snow to young Mr Greenleaf, as he overtook him in going home that afternoon. "He wasn't talking just because it was his business to. When he was a telling us what mighty things the grace of God can do, he believed it himself, I guess."
"They all do, don't they?" said Mr Greenleaf.
"Well, I don't know. They all say they do. But there's Deacon Fish now," said Mr Snow, nodding to that worthy, as his wagon whirled past, "he don't begin to think that grace or anything else, could make me such a good man as he is."
Mr Greenleaf laughed.
"If the vote of the town was taken, I guess it would be decided that grace wouldn't have a great deal to do."
"Well, the town would make a mistake. Deacon Fish ain't to brag of for goodness, I don't think; but he's a sight better than I be. But see here, Squire, don't you think the new minister'll about fit?"
"He'll fit me," said the Squire. "It is easy to see that he is not a common man. But he won't fit the folks here, or they won't fit him. It would be too good luck if he were to stay here."
"Well, I don't know about that. There are folks enough in the town that know what's good when they hear it, and I guess they'll keep him if they can. And I guess he'll stay. He seems to like the look of things. He is a dreadful mild-spoken man, and I guess he won't want much in the way of pay. I guess you had better shell out some yourself, Squire. I mean to."
"You are a rich man, Mr Snow. You can afford it."
"Come now, Squire, that's good. I've worked harder for every dollar I've got, than you've done for any ten you ever earned."
The Squire shook his head.
"You don't understand my kind of work, or you wouldn't say so. But about the minister? If I were to pledge myself to any amount for his support, I should feel just as though I were in a measure responsible for the right arrangement of all things with regard to his salary, and the paying of it. Anything I have to do with, I want to have go right along without any trouble, and unless Merleville folks do differently than they have so far, it won't be so in this matter."
"Yes, I shouldn't wonder if there would be a hitch before long. But I guess you'd better think before you say no. I guess it'll pay in the long run."
"Thank you, Mr Snow. I'll take your advice and think of it," said Mr Greenleaf, as Sampson stopped at his own gate. He watched him going up the hill.
"He's goin' along up to the widow Jones' now, I'll bet. I shouldn't wonder if he was a goin' to lose me my chance of getting her place. It kind o' seems as though I ought to have it; it fits on so nice to mine. And they say old Skinflint is going to foreclose right off. I'll have to make things fit pretty tight this winter, if I have to raise the cash. But it does seem as if I ought to have it. Maybe it's Celestia the Squire wants, and not the farm."
He came back to close the gate which, in his earnestness, he had forgotten, and leaned for a moment over it.
"Well, now, it does beat all. Here have I been forgetting all about what I have heard over yonder to the meeting-house. Deacon Sterne needn't waste no more words, to prove total depravity to me. I've got to know it pretty well by this time;" and, with a sigh, he turned toward the house.
The next week was a busy one to all. Mr Elliott, during that time, took up his residence at Judge Merle's, only making daily visits to the little brown house behind the elms where Janet and the bairns were putting things to rights. There was a great deal to be done, but it was lovely weather, and all were in excellent spirits, and each did something to help. The lads broke sticks and carried water, and Janet's mammoth washing was accomplished in an incredibly short time; and before the week was over the little brown house began to look like a home.
A great deal besides was accomplished this week. It was not all devoted to helping, by the boys. Norman caught three squirrels in a trap of his own invention, and Harry shot as many with Mr Snow's wonderful rifle. They and Marian had made the circuit of the pond, over rocks, through bushes and brambles, over brooks, or through them, as the case might be. They came home tired enough, and in a state which naturally suggested thoughts of another mammoth washing, but in high spirits with their trip, only regretting that Graeme and Janet had not been with them. It was Saturday night, after a very busy week, and Janet had her own ideas about the enjoyment of such a ramble, and was not a little put out with them for "their thoughtless ruining of their clothes and shoon." But the minister had come home, and there was but a thin partition between the room that must serve him for study and parlour, and the general room for the family, and they got off with a slight reprimand, much to their surprise and delight. For to tell the truth, Janet's patience with the bairns, exhaustless in most circumstances, was wont to give way in the presence of "torn clothes and ruined shoon."