MR. PAT'S LITTLE GIRL
A Story of the Arden Foresters
MARY F. LEONARD
Author of The Spectacle Man, etc.
With Illustrations by Chase Emerson
W.A. Wilde Company Boston and Chicago
IN LOVING MEMORY
this story is lovingly dedicated
BY HER NIECE
I. THINGS BEGIN TO HAPPEN "A magician most profound in his art."
II. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HEDGE "Give me leave to speak my mind."
III. FRIENDSHIP "True it is that we have seen better days."
IV. AN UNQUIET MORNING "You amaze me, ladies!"
V. MAURICE "The stubbornness of fortune."
VI. PUZZLES "How weary are my spirits."
VII. THE MAGICIAN MAKES TEA "If that love or gold Can in this place buy entertainment, Bring us where we may rest ourselves and feed."
VIII. "TO MEET ROSALIND" "Put you in your best array."
IX. THE LOST RING "Wear this for me."
X. CELIA "One out of suits with fortune."
XI. MAKING FRIENDS "Is not that neighborly?"
XII. THE GILPIN PLACE "This is the Forest of Arden."
XIII. IN PATRICIA'S ARBOR "O, how full of briers is this working-day world."
XIV. THE ARDEN FORESTERS "Like the old Robin Hood of England."
XV. A NEW MEMBER "In the circle of this forest."
XVI. RECIPROCITY "Take upon command what we have."
XVII. A NEW COMRADE "I know you are a gentleman of good conceit."
XVIII. AN IMPRISONED MAIDEN "The house doth keep itself, There's none within."
XIX. OLD ACQUAINTANCE "And there begins my sadness."
XX. THE SPINET "Though art not for the fashion of these times."
XXI. "UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE" "Must you then be proud and pitiless?"
XXII. CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE "I sometimes do believe and sometimes do not."
XXIII. THE DETECTIVE "'Twas I, but 'tis not I."
XXIV. AT THE AUCTION "Assuredly the thing is to be sold."
XXV. QUESTIONS "They asked one another the reason."
XXVI. THE PRESIDENT "—And good in everything."
XXVII. OLD ENEMIES "Kindness nobler ever than revenge."
XXVIII. BETTER THAN DREAMS "I like this place."
XXIX. AT THE MAGICIAN'S "I would have you."
XXX. OAK LEAVES "Bid me farewell."
"'How sweet the breath beneath the hill Of Sharon's lovely rose'" (Frontispiece)
"Do you know Miss Betty?"
"Looking up, he discovered his visitors"
"They crossed over to speak to her"
"She chose a chest of drawers"
THINGS BEGIN TO HAPPEN.
"A magician most profound in his art."
It was Sunday afternoon. The griffins on the doorstep stared straight before them with an expression of utter indifference; the feathery foliage of the white birch swayed gently back and forth; the peonies lifted their crimson heads airily; the snowball bush bent under the weight of its white blooms till it swept the grass; the fountain splashed softly.
"'By cool Siloam's shady rill How fair the lily grows,'"
Rosalind chanted dreamily.
Grandmamma had given her the hymn book, telling her to choose a hymn and commit it to memory, and as she turned the pages this had caught her eye and pleased her fancy.
"It sounds like the Forest of Arden," she said, leaning back on the garden bench and shutting her eyes.
"'How sweet the breath beneath the hill Of Sharon's lovely rose.'"
She swung her foot in time to the rhythm. She was not sure whether a rill was a fountain or a stream, so she decided, as there was no dictionary convenient, to think of it as like the creek where it crossed the road at the foot of Red Hill.
Again she looked at the book; skipping a stanza, she read:—
"'By cool Siloam's shady rill The lily must decay; The rose that blooms beneath the hill Must shortly pass away.'"
The melancholy of this was interesting; at the same time it reminded her that she was lonely. After repeating, "Must shortly pass away," her eyes unexpectedly filled with tears.
"Now I am not going to cry," she said sternly, and by way of carrying out this resolve she again closed her eyes tight. It was desperately hard work, and she could not have told whether two minutes or ten had passed when she was startled by an odd, guttural voice close to her asking, "What is the matter, little girl?"
If the voice was strange, the figure she saw when she looked up was stranger still. A gaunt old man in a suit of rusty black, with straggling gray hair and beard, stood holding his hat in his hand, gazing at her with eyes so bright they made her uneasy.
"Nothing," she answered, rising hastily.
But the visitor continued to stand there and smile at her, shaking his head and repeating, "Mustn't cry."
"I am not crying," Rosalind insisted, glancing over her shoulder to make sure of a way of escape.
With a long, thin finger this strange person now pointed toward the house, saying something she understood to be an inquiry for Miss Herbert.
Miss Herbert was the housekeeper, and Rosalind knew she was at church; but when she tried to explain, the old man shook his head, and taking from his pocket a tablet with a pencil attached, he held it out to her, touching his ear as he uttered the one word "Deaf."
Rosalind understood she was to write her answer, and somewhat flurried she sat down on the edge of the bench and with much deliberation and in large clear letters conveyed the information, "She is out."
The old man looked at the tablet and then at Rosalind, bowing and smiling as if well pleased. "You'll tell her I'm going to the city to-morrow?" he asked.
There was something very queer in the way he opened his mouth and used his tongue, Rosalind thought, as she nodded emphatically, feeling that this singular individual had her at an unfair advantage. At least she would find out who he was, and so, as she still held the tablet, she wrote, "What is your name?"
He laughed as if this were a joke, and searching in his pocket, produced a card which he presented with a bow. On it was printed "C.J. Morgan, Cabinet Work."
"What is your name?" he asked.
Rosalind hesitated. She was not sure it at all concerned this stranger to know her name, but as he stood smiling and waiting, she did not know how to refuse; so she bent over the tablet, her yellow braid falling over her shoulder, as she wrote, "Rosalind Patterson Whittredge."
"Mr. Pat's daughter?" There was a twinkle in the old man's eye, and surprise and delight in his voice.
Rosalind sprang up, her own eyes shining. "How stupid of me!" she cried. "Why, you must be the magician, and you have a funny old shop, where father used to play when he was little. Oh, I hope you will let me come to see you!" Suddenly remembering the tablet, she looked at it despairingly. She couldn't write half she wished to say.
Morgan, however, seemed to understand pretty clearly, to judge from the way he laughed and asked if Mr. Pat was well.
Rosalind nodded and wrote, "He has gone to Japan."
"So far? Coming home soon?"
With a mournful countenance she shook her head.
Morgan stood looking down on her with a smile that no longer seemed uncanny. Indeed, there was something almost sweet in the rugged face as he repeated, "Mr. Pat's little girl, well, well," as if it were quite incredible.
Rosalind longed to ask at least a dozen questions, but it is dampening to one's ardor to have to spell every word, and she only nodded and smiled in her turn as she handed back the tablet.
"I wish father had taught me to talk on my fingers," she thought, feeling that one branch of her education had been neglected. "Perhaps Uncle Allan will, when he comes."
She watched the odd figure till it disappeared around a turn in the trim garden path, then she picked up the big red pillow which had fallen on the grass, and replacing it in one corner of the bench, curled herself up against it. The hymn book lay forgotten.
"I believe things are really beginning to happen," she said to herself. "You need not pretend they are not, for they are," she added, shaking her finger at the griffins with their provoking lack of expression. "You wouldn't make friends with anybody, not to save their lives, and it seemed as if I were never to get acquainted with a soul, when here I have met the magician in the most surprising way. And to think I didn't know him!"
The dream spirit was abroad in the garden. Across the lawn the shadows made mysterious progress; the sunlight seemed sifted through an enchanted veil, and like the touch of fairy fingers was the summer breeze against Rosalind's cheek, as with her head against the red pillow, she travelled for the first time in her life back into the past.
Back to the dear old library where two students worked, and where from the windows one could see the tiled roofs of the university. Back to the world of dreams where dwelt that friendly host of story-book people, where only a few short weeks ago Friendship, too, with its winding shady streets and this same stately garden and the griffins, had belonged as truly as did the Forest where that other Rosalind, loveliest of all story people, wandered.
Friendship was no longer a dream, and Rosalind, her head against the red pillow, was beginning to think that dreams were best.
"If we choose, we may travel always in the Forest, where the birds sing and the sunlight sifts through the trees."
These words of Cousin Louis's in his introduction to the old story pleased Rosalind's fancy. She liked to shut her eyes and think of the Forest and the brave-hearted company gathered there, and always this brought before her the fair face of the miniature on her father's desk and a faint, sweet memory of clasping arms.
When the doctor with a grave face had said that only rest and change of scene could restore Cousin Louis's health, and when Rosalind understood that this must mean for her separation from both her dear companions, it was to the Forest she had turned.
"I'll pretend I am banished like Rosalind in the story," she had said, leaning against her father's shoulder, as he looked over the proofs of "The Life of Shakespeare" on which Cousin Louis had worked too hard. "Then I'll know I am certain to find you sometime."
Her father's arm had drawn her close,—she liked to recall it now, and how, when she added, "But I wish I had Celia and Touchstone to go with me," he had answered, "You are certain to find pleasant people in the Forest of Arden, little girl." And putting aside the proofs, he had talked to her of her grandmother and the old town of Friendship.
She had been almost a week in Friendship now, and—well, things were not altogether as she had pictured them. Silver locks and lace caps, arm-chairs and some sort of fluffy knitting work, had been a part of her idea of a grandmother, and lo! her own grandmother was erect and slender, with not a thread of gray in her dark hair, nor a line in her handsome face.
She was kind—oh, yes, but so sad in her heavy crepe. Aunt Genevieve in her trailing gowns was charming to behold, but no more company for Rosalind—at least not much more—than the griffins. Miss Herbert was not a merry, comfortable person like their own Mrs. Browne at home. The house was very quiet. The garden was beautiful, but she longed to be outside its tall iron gates; and she longed—how she longed—for her old companions!
Cousin Louis had given her her favorite story in a binding of soft leather, delicious to hold against one's cheek, and her father had added a copy of the beautiful miniature. With these treasures she had set out upon her journey. But she had begun to feel as if in the great Forest she had lost her way, when the friendly face of the magician reassured her.
The sound of sweeping draperies broke in upon her thoughts. It was Aunt Genevieve, and she had not learned her hymn. Picking up her book, she stole swiftly across the grass till she was hidden by some tall shrubbery. Before her was a high hedge of privet; beyond it, among the trees, the chimneys of a red brick house.
Walking back and forth, Rosalind began to study in earnest. Looking first at her book and then up at the blue sky, she repeated:—
"'Lo! such the child whose early feet The paths of peace have trod. Whose secret heart with influence sweet Is upward drawn to God.'"
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HEDGE.
"Give me leave to speak my mind."
There was another garden on the other side of the hedge; not so large, nor so beautifully kept perhaps, but a pleasant garden, for all that. The red brick house to which it belonged was by no means so stately as the one whose doorstep the griffins guarded, yet it had an importance all its own. On week days, when the heavy shutters on the lower front windows were open, The National Bank of Friendship was to be seen in gilt letters on the glass; on Sundays, however, when they were closed, there was little to suggest that it was anything more than a private dwelling. It was a square, roomy house, and the part not in use for bank purposes was occupied by the cashier, Mr. Milton Roberts, and his family.
While Rosalind, curled up on the garden seat, was thinking of home, Maurice Roberts lay in the hammock under the big maple near the side porch, where his mother and Miss Betty Bishop sat talking. He held a book, but instead of reading was allowing himself the lazy entertainment of listening to their conversation.
From his position, a little behind the visitor, he had an excellent view of her as she sat erect in the wicker chair, her parasol across her lap. Miss Betty was plump and short, and had a dimple in her chin. Her hair, which was turning gray, waved prettily back from her forehead into the thickest of braids, and altogether there was a pleasant air of crispness about her; though something in the keenness of her glance, or the firmness with which her lips met, suggested that on occasion she might be unyielding. "The Barnwell stubbornness," she herself would have explained, with the same complacency she manifested when displaying her grandmother's tea-set.
Mrs. Roberts, Maurice's mother, was a gentle person, with large, soft eyes and a quiet manner.
The preliminary conversation had not been interesting, pertaining chiefly to flowers and the weather, and Maurice gave a sigh of satisfaction when, after a moment's pause, Miss Betty straightened herself and remarked, "Well, I hear the will is certain to be sustained."
"Then the property will have to be sold?" questioned Mrs. Roberts.
"Yes, and I may as well say good-by to the cream-jug and sugar-dish that Cousin Anne always said should be mine. Still, I never shall believe Cousin Thomas was out of his mind when he made that last will, it was too much like him. Dear knows it ought to be broken, but not on that ground. It was a case of pure spite."
Maurice smiled to himself at his mother's tone.
"I assure you it was. I knew Cousin Thomas. Didn't Cousin Anne tell me dozens of times in his presence, 'Betty, this is your cream-jug and sugar-dish, because they match your teapot'?"
"I should think you had enough silver, Betty; still it was a shame Miss Anne left that list unsigned," said Mrs. Roberts.
"If you knew Cousin Anne at all, Mrs. Roberts, you knew how hesitating she was. She couldn't decide whether to leave the Canton china to Ellen Marshall or to Tom's wife. She changed her mind any number of times, but she was always clear about my cream-jug and sugar-dish. If Cousin Thomas had had any decency, he would have considered her wishes. Think of my own grandmother's things put up at public auction!"
"Most of Mr. Gilpin's money goes to the hospital, I suppose," remarked Mrs. Roberts.
"Pretty much everything but the real estate in and around Friendship, and the contents of the house, all of which will have to be sold and divided among his first cousins or their heirs. The only bequests made besides the money to the hospital are to Celia Fair and Allan Whittredge. Celia is to have the spinet, and Allan that beautiful old ring, if ever it comes to light again. I wish Cousin Thomas had left Celia some money. She was one person for whom he had a little affection."
Maurice wished so too. He admired Miss Celia Fair, and felt it was too bad she should get only an antiquated piano.
"Are the Fairs related to the Gilpins?" his mother asked. Not being a native of Friendship, she had difficulty in mastering the intricacies of its relationships.
It was ground upon which Miss Betty was entirely at home, however. "They were kin to Cousin Thomas's wife," she explained. "Mrs. Fair's grandmother was half-sister to Cousin Emma's mother, and raised Cousin Emma as her own child. Of course it is not very near when it comes to Celia. The spinet belonged to old Mrs. Johnson,—Celia's great-grandmother, you know,—whose name was also Celia. Saint Cecilia, they used to call her, because she was so good and played and sang so sweetly. It is right the spinet should go to Celia, but that would not have influenced Cousin Thomas a minute if he had not wished her to have it."
"And the ring has never been heard of?" Mrs. Roberts asked, as her visitor paused for breath.
"I doubt if it ever comes to light. It is nearly three years now since it disappeared," was the reply. Miss Betty looked up at the vines above her head, and her lips curled into a sort of half smile. "I should like to hear Cousin Ellen Whittredge on the will," she added. "I don't think she cares much about the money, however; it is more that old feeling against Dr. Fair. You remember he testified to Mr. Gilpin's sanity."
"And her son?" asked Mrs. Roberts.
"Allan? It is hard to find out what Allan thinks, but there is no bitterness in him. He is like his father, poor man! What I am curious to know is, what Cousin Thomas meant by saying in his will that Allan knew his wishes in regard to the ring. That strikes me as a little sensational. I asked Allan about it the last time I saw him, but he only laughed and said he'd have to get it before he could dispose of it."
Miss Betty now made some motions preliminary to rising, but as if on second thought, she laid her parasol across her knees again and asked, "Have you heard that Patterson's daughter is here?"
"Yes, I think I saw her in the carriage with her grandmother yesterday," was Mrs. Roberts's reply.
This was news to Maurice, and he listened with interest.
Miss Betty shook her head. "I am surprised," she said. "That marriage of Patterson's was a dreadful blow to Cousin Ellen."
"It seems to me she was unreasonable about it. I am glad she sent for him before his father died." Mrs. Roberts spoke with some hesitation. She did not often array her own opinions against those of her friends.
"I don't blame her as some do. A person of that sort, and Patterson the very light of her eyes! How would you feel if Maurice some day should do a thing like that?"
Maurice laughed softly. His thoughts were not much occupied with marriage. His mother ignored the question, and in her turn asked, "Did Mrs. Whittredge ever see her daughter-in-law?"
"No, indeed. This child was not more than three when she died."
"Poor little thing!" Mrs. Roberts sighed.
"Such a name! I detest fancy names. Rosalind!" Miss Betty rose.
"A good old English name and very pretty, I think. Was it her mother's?"
"I suppose so, but I don't know. Yes, I must go; Sophy will think I am lost. Good-by," and Miss Betty stepped briskly down the path.
The gate had hardly closed when Maurice heard some one calling him. Looking over his shoulder, he saw his sister Katherine beckoning.
"Maurice, Maurice, do come here; I want you to see something."
Her tone impressed him as unduly mysterious. "What is it?" he asked indifferently.
"Come, and I'll show you."
"I sha'n't come till you tell me," he persisted.
"Oh, I think you might, because if I stop to tell you she may be gone."
"Who'll be gone? You might have told it twice over in this time."
"The girl I want you to see," explained Katherine, drawing nearer in desperation. "Did you know there was a girl next door?"
"Yes, of course." There was nothing in Maurice's tone to indicate how brief a time had passed since this information had been acquired.
"Truly? I don't believe it," Katherine faltered.
"She is Mrs. Whittredge's granddaughter, and her name is Rosalind, so now!"
Privately, Katherine thought her brother's power of finding things out, little short of supernatural. "Don't you want to see her?" she asked meekly. "There is a thin place in the hedge behind the calycanthus bush, and she is walking to and fro studying something." Would Maurice declare he had already seen this girl?
Maurice sat up and reached for a crutch that rested against the tree. He had his share of curiosity. He was a tall, well-grown boy of thirteen, and it was apparent as he swung himself after Katherine, that accident and not disease had caused his lameness.
Rosalind, studying her hymn all unconscious of observation, was a pleasant sight.
"Isn't she pretty?" whispered Katherine, but Maurice silenced her so sternly she concluded he did not agree with her.
In reality he thought very much as she did, although he would not have used the same adjective. There was something unusual about this girl. Why it was, he did not understand, but she seemed somehow to belong in a special way to the sweet old garden with its June roses. Maurice had fancies that would have astonished Katherine beyond measure if she could have known anything about them. But how was she to know when he pinched her arm and looked sternly indifferent?
The tea bell called them back to the house; on the way Katherine's enthusiasm burst forth afresh.
"Isn't she sweet? and such a beautiful name—Rosalind. How old do you think she is? and do you suppose she is going to live there? Oh, Maurice, shouldn't you be afraid of Mrs. Whittredge?"
"I don't know anything about her," Maurice replied, forgetting for the moment that he bad been pretending to know a great deal.
"I should like to have my hair tied on top of my head with a big ribbon bow as hers is," continued Katherine, who would innocently persist in laying herself open to brotherly scorn.
"I suppose you think you will look like her then," was his retort.
"Now, Maurice, I don't. I know I am not pretty." Katharine's round face grew suddenly long, and tears filled her blue eyes.
"Don't be a goose, then. I'll tell you what she made me think of, that statue of Joan of Arc—don't you remember? Where she is listening to the voices? We saw it at the Academy of Fine Arts."
"Why, Maurice, how funny! She is much prettier than that," said Katherine.
"True it is that we have seen better days."
A rambling, sleepy town was Friendship, with few aspirations beyond the traditions of its grandfathers and a fine indifference toward modern improvements.
During the era of monstrous creations in black walnut it had clung to its old mahogany and rosewood, and chromos had never displaced in its affections the time-worn colored prints of little Samuel or flower-decked shepherdesses. In consequence of this conservatism Friendship one day awoke in the fashion.
There were fine old homes in Friendship which in their soft-toned browns and grays seemed as much a part of the landscape as the forest trees that surrounded them and shaded the broad street. Associated with these mansions were names dignified and substantial, such as Molesworth, Parton, Gilpin, Whittredge.
In times past the atmosphere of the village had seemed to be pervaded by something of the spirit of its name, for here life flowed on serenely in old grooves and its ways were the peaceful ways of friendship. But of late years, alas! something alien and discordant had crept in.
'"And what is Friendship but a name—'"
quoted the cabinet-maker sadly one morning when after climbing the hill from the wharf he paused to rest on the low stone wall surrounding the Gilpin place.
Landing Lane ended at the top of the hill, and here at right angles to it the Main Street of Friendship might be said to begin, slowly descending to a level and following the leisurely curves of the old stage road till it came to a straggling end at the foot of another prominence known as Red Hill.
In forty years a life takes deep root, and this time had passed since Morgan, a raw Scotch boy of eighteen, had come to Friendship as assistant to the village cabinet-maker. A year or two later an illness deprived him of his hearing, but fortunately not of his skill, and upon the death of his employer he succeeded to the business, his kindly, simple nature, together with his misfortune, having won the heart of Friendship.
His fame for making and doing over furniture had spread beyond the borders of the town; his opinion was valued highly by collectors, and it was said he might have made a fortune in the city. But what use had he for a fortune? It was the friendly greetings, the neighborly kindnesses, the comradeship with the children of the village, that made his life.
In spite of its rugged lines his face as he grew older had taken on a singularly sweet expression, but it was sad to-day as he sat on the wall in his knit jacket and work apron, looking down on the town, its roofs and spires showing amongst the trees. It seemed to him that the times were out of joint, and his cheerful philosophy was beginning to fail him. Something had been wrong ever since Patterson Whittredge went away, more than a dozen years ago.
Morgan never failed to follow with interest the careers of the boys of Friendship as they went out into the world, and of all the boys of the village Patterson had been his favorite. He had understood the trouble as well as if it had been carefully explained to him. His deafness had quickened his insight. A girl's lovely face on Pat's dressing-table, seen when he replaced a broken caster, partly told the story, and Mrs. Whittredge's pride and determination were no secret to any one.
Judge Whittredge's whitening head and heavy step, his fruitless search for health abroad, his return to die at last in his old home, Patterson's coming,—sent for by his heart-broken mother,—this was the rest of the story. But before this family difference had been settled by the stern hand of death, the removal of Thomas Gilpin had precipitated another quarrel upon the town.
It was a puzzle to Morgan that a man like his old friend Mr. Gilpin, who had it in his power to do so much good, should have chosen to do harm instead. As he rose to go, he looked over his shoulder at the old house, closed and deserted since the death of its owner.
The site was a beautiful one, commanding a view of valley and hill and the narrow winding river. The house, an unpretentious square of red brick, with sloping roof and dormer windows, wore its hundred years with dignity, and amid its fine trees was an object of interest to strangers, of pride to the villagers.
Below it on the slope stood a more modern house, in what had been until recently a handsome garden. Morgan, as he passed recalled how proud Dr. Fair had been of his flowers. Celia, who was entering the gate, nodded and smiled brightly. He noted, however, that her face was losing its soft curves and rose tints. Celia was another of his favorites, and he knew she was having her battle with misfortune, meeting it as bravely as a young woman could. Thomas Gilpin might so easily have smoothed the way for her. The spinet was an interesting heirloom, no doubt, but would not help Celia solve the problem of bread and butter.
The shop of the cabinet-maker was just off Main Street, at the foot of the hill. To its original two rooms he had added two more, and here he lived with no companions but a striped cat and a curly dog, who endured each other and shared the affection of their master.
Morgan's housekeeping was not burdensome. Certain of his neighbors always remembered him on baking day, and his tastes were simple. His shop opened immediately on the street; back of it was his living room and the small garden where he cultivated the gayest blooms. The living room had an open fireplace, for it was one of the cabinet-maker's pleasures to sit in the firelight when the work of the day was over, and a small oil stove sufficed for his cooking. On one side of the chimney was a high-backed settle, and above it a book shelf. Like most Scotch boys, he had had a fair education, and possessed a genuine reverence for books and a love of reading. In the opposite corner was an ancient mahogany desk where he kept his accounts, and near by in the window a shelf always full of plants in the winter. A cupboard of his own manufacture, a table, a lamp, and an arm-chair completed the furniture of the room. The walls he had painted a dull red, and over the fireplace in fanciful letters had traced this motto: "Good in everything."
To this cheerful belief Morgan held firmly, although there were times like this morning, when coming out of the sunlight and feeling a little weary, he noticed that the walls were growing dingy and the motto dim, and sighed to think how hard it was to see the good in some things.
He placed a paper in the old secretary and was turning toward the shop when he stopped short in amazement, for in the doorway stood Rosalind, her face full of eagerness. Behind her was Miss Herbert, whom Morgan entirely overlooked in his pleasure at seeing Mr. Pat's little girl again.
He shook hands warmly and offered the arm-chair, but Rosalind had no thought of sitting down. As she gazed with bright-eyed interest around the room, her glance fell on the motto, and she pointed to it and then to herself.
The cabinet-maker was puzzled. "Is it your motto?" he asked.
She nodded brightly.
Morgan turned to the shelf, took down a large volume of Shakespeare's plays, and laying it on the table began to turn the pages rapidly. Rosalind looked over his arm. He ran his finger down a leaf presently and pointed to the line. "There," he said.
Rosalind turned back a page and pointed to her own name, and then they both laughed as if it were a great coincidence.
A sharp tap on his arm made Miss Herbert's presence known to Morgan. Miss Herbert was not of Friendship. She knew the value of time if the cabinet-maker did not, and had no idea of waiting while he discussed Shakespeare in pantomime with Rosalind.
Miss Herbert with the aid of the tablet, and Morgan with many queer gestures to help out his faltering tongue, so long without the guide of hearing, contrived to despatch the business relating to a claw-footed sofa. When it was finished, Rosalind was missing, and was discovered in the little garden, making friends with the black poodle, while the striped cat looked on from the fence.
It was with evident reluctance she accompanied Miss Herbert to the carriage. Before she left she took the tablet and wrote, "I am going to learn to talk on my fingers."
"Good," the cabinet-maker answered, and he followed them to the street, smiling and nodding. "Come again," he called as they drove away.
When he returned to the shop, the world seemed brighter, the mist of doubt had lifted.
"The rough places can't last always," he told himself as he sandpapered the claw toes of the sofa. "We are certain to come to a turn in the lane after a while. There's good in everything, somewhere."
Perhaps the coming of Mr. Pat's little girl was a good omen. To him at least it was a most interesting event, nor was he the only person in Friendship who found it so.
AN UNQUIET MORNING.
"You amaze me, ladies."
Farther up the street on the other side, but within sight of the Whittredges', was Mrs. Graham's Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies.
The broad, one story and a half mansion, with rooms enough for a small hotel, was still known as the Bishop place, although nearly twenty years had passed since the little brown and white house on Church Street had opened its doors to Miss Betty and her invalid father, and to such of the massive furniture as could be accommodated within its walls. In her circular Mrs. Graham was careful to state that her school was commodiously housed in the mansion of the late distinguished Senator Charlton H. Bishop, and many a daughter groaned over her algebra or French verbs in the very room where her mother or grandmother before her had fleeted the time carelessly in evenings long past, for brilliant was the tradition of the Bishop hospitality.
Celia Fair, who taught drawing in the school, and on occasion kept study hour in what had once been the long drawing-room, had a fancy that the spirit of those days was responsible for many an outburst of mischief. At present Mrs. Graham's pupils were in a fever of curiosity over the new arrival at the Whittredges'.
The Whittredge place had been invested by them with something of a halo of romance, founded chiefly on the seclusion In which it pleased Mrs. Whittredge to live. Bits of gossip let fall by their elders were eagerly treasured; it became the fashion, to rave over the beauty of the haughty Miss Genevieve, and even her brother who was not haughty, but quite like other people, was allowed a share of the halo on account of his connection with the lost ring, made famous by the contested will.
Katherine Roberts, returning to school after several days' absence, found herself unusually popular. Katherine lived next door to the unknown; she had seen her; it was even said she had heard her speak. Excitement grew as the news spread.
The girls were standing in groups on the porch and steps, laughing and talking together, and at sight of Katherine gave her an uproarious greeting.
Round, rosy-faced, blue-eyed Katherine, with her brown hair in two tight plaits turned under and tied with a ribbon behind her ears, was a little abashed at the attention she excited.
"What is she like, Katherine? tell us—the new girl at the Whittredges'."
"She is standing at the gate now," answered Katherine, looking over her shoulder.
"Is she? Oh, where?"
"Let's walk by and see her."
"We'll be tardy if we do, and at any rate there is the carriage; perhaps they will drive past."
"Look! there's Miss Genevieve. No, they are going the other way."
"What are you staring at?" demanded Belle Parton, joining the group. Belle was a gypsy-looking girl with merry black eyes, and hair that refused to be smooth like Katherine's, but continually fell in her eyes. As she spoke she put her hat on the step and proceeded to adjust the round comb she wore.
"The Whittredge girl. Have you seen her, Belle?" asked Charlotte Ellis.
"No; what is she like?"
"Katherine is the only one who has seen her; she says she is lovely."
"Oh, she is! You ought to see her, Belle. Maurice and I peeped through the hedge and saw her walking to and fro studying something. And her name is Rosalind. Isn't that a beautiful name?"
"I don't believe she is much," Belle announced, with a turn of her head. The only reason she had for saying this was the naughty one of wishing to snub Katherine, who took everything in earnest and now looked crestfallen.
"Never mind, Kit; tell us some more about her," urged one of the others.
"Grandmamma says she is surprised at Mrs. Whittredge's having her here. You know she would have nothing to do with her son after he married, until lately, and she never saw her granddaughter before, I think family quarrels are awfully interesting; don't you?" As Charlotte spoke, the bell rang, and the girls turned toward the house.
"Do you, Charlotte?" exclaimed Katherine, who was accustomed to pin her faith to her friend's opinions, but thought that quarrels being wrong could not be interesting.
"I think so, too. They are so delightfully mysterious," echoed another of the girls.
"Nonsense! What is there that is mysterious?" put in pugnacious Belle.
It may have been the alluring summer day, or the fact that it was near the end of the term, and discipline had relaxed, but certain it was that a general restlessness and inclination to whisper pervaded the study hour. It was the fashion among the girls to adore Celia. Fair, and usually she had no difficulty in keeping order, but this morning even her presence was without effect.
Belle Parton had her history propped up before her in a way that suggested some mischief going on behind its shelter, rather than any serious study. Katherine, who was honestly trying to study, was distracted by the signals flying around her. Charlotte Ellis, whose seat was near the window, seemed principally occupied in peeping between the sash curtains.
Celia had looked up for the second time to say, "Girls, I must have better order," and things had for several minutes quieted down, when Charlotte suddenly announced in a loud whisper, "Here they come!" and with that there was a rush for the windows.
The cause of the excitement was of course the Whittredge carriage, but all anybody caught was a fleeting glimpse of a white dress beside Miss Genevieve's black one, and, as luck would have it, Mrs. Graham opened the door just in time to witness the scramble for a view.
"Young ladies, you amaze me! What is the meaning of this?" she demanded, as the girls, half of whom had rushed because the others had, returned abashed to their seats.
"I never knew them to behave so before," said Celia, in apology. "Something seems to be wrong to-day."
"Wrong, indeed," repeated Mrs. Graham, who was a person of somewhat majestic appearance. Then her glance fell on Belle's desk. "And this explains the rapid disappearance of my chalk!" she added, holding up to view a pen tray on which were arranged a number of tiny goblets and dishes neatly cut out of chalk.
Katherine, who had not left her seat, laughed nervously. She stood in great awe of the principal, and she did not in the least wish to laugh.
Mrs. Graham looked at her sternly, "One mark in deportment, Katherine, and three to those who left their desks, and you will all spend your recess indoors. Belle, I will see you in the office."
Belle followed Mrs. Graham, with her head held high, her lips pursed up saucily, her black eyes snapping. Katherine, through her own tear-filled ones, watched her in astonishment.
When Belle returned study hour was over, and the culprits who were condemned to stay indoors had grouped themselves beside the window.
"What did she do to you, Belle?" they cried.
"Nothing,—just talked. She said it was wasting time and chalk, and that it wasn't honest. Such a fuss about a little chalk!"
Celia Fair, who had her hat on, ready to go home, came behind Belle, and with a hand on either side of her face she lifted it till the saucy eyes looked into her own. "Does that make any difference, really—because it is just chalk?" she asked.
Belle wriggled out of her hands, only to clasp her around the waist. "I wouldn't take your chalk," she said, laughing.
"I don't know what to think of you to-day," Miss Fair continued, looking around the group. "I am afraid Mrs. Graham will not trust me to keep study hour after this."
There was a general cry of, "Oh, Miss Celia, why not?"
"Do you think she can have a high opinion of my ability to keep order?"
"But no one else could do any better."
"If Mrs. Graham had been here, you would not have rushed to the window, I know very well."
"But we are so much fonder of you, Miss Celia," urged Charlotte.
"If that is the case I'd like you to show it by behaving," said Celia, as she left the room.
When Belle told at home about the day's occurrences, her father laughed.
"I shall tell Mrs. Graham she must introduce manual training. 'Satan finds some mischief still,' you see. Maybe Belle will turn out a famous sculptor."
"At any rate, colonel, you ought not to encourage her in such pranks," Mrs. Parton remarked, shaking her head at her husband, who never saw anything to criticise in the one little daughter among his five boys.
"The stubbornness of fortune."
It was the first of the month, and a steady stream of people passed in and out of the bank. Maurice sat on the steps leading up to the private entrance, and with few exceptions each new-comer had a pleasant greeting or kindly inquiry for him.
Miss Betty Bishop rustling out, bank book in hand, called, "How are you, Maurice? When are you and Katherine coming to take tea with me? Let me know and I'll have waffles."
The cabinet-maker came to the foot of the steps to ask about the lame knee, and shook his head in sympathy with Maurice's doleful face.
Colonel Parton, a tall, gray-mustached man, accompanied by two hunting dogs, hailed him: "Not going with the boys? Ah, I forgot your knee. Too bad! Jack's got the dandiest new fishing-rod you ever saw."
"As if I didn't know it," growled Maurice, us the colonel entered the bank.
The next person to accost him was Miss Celia Fair. She hadn't any bank business, but seeing Maurice as she passed, stopped to speak to him. She sat down beside him and tried in her pretty, soft way to cheer him.
"Don't look so gloomy, dear; you know if you are careful you will soon be all right again," she said.
At this Maurice poured forth all his disappointment at not being able to go with the Parton boys on their excursion down the bay.
"I am just as sorry for you as I can be," said Celia, clasping her hands in her lap—such slender hands—and looking far away as if she were tired of everything near by. It was only for a moment, then she said with a little laugh, "You can't possibly understand, Maurice, but I shouldn't mind a sprained knee in the least; I think I could even enjoy it, if I hadn't any more responsibility than you have."
"But you don't care to go fishing," he suggested.
"Oh, yes, I do; I like to fish." With a smile she said good-by, and went away.
After this Maurice settled down into deeper despondency than before. He had refused an invitation to drive, hid treated with bitter scorn Katherine's suggestion that he might like to go out to the creek with her and Blossom. "You could ride in the stage, you know, and have to walk only the least little bit," she said.
"Thank you; it is such fun to throw stones in the water," he replied, with elaborate politeness.
That Maurice was badly spoiled was no secret. The only boy in the family, with bright, engaging ways when things went to please him, he had been petted and humored by his parents, given up to by Katherine, and treated as a leader by his boy friends, until he had come to look upon his own pleasure as the most important thing in the universe. Not that he realized this. He would have been greatly surprised to hear he was selfish.
The accident by which his knee had been sprained severely was an experience as trying as it was new to him. At first the petting he received at home, and the attentions of his friends, added to his sense of importance and made it endurable, but this could not continue indefinitely. Ball playing and other sports must go on, and Maurice, to his aggrieved surprise, found they could go on very well without him.
This morning his mother had expostulated mildly. "My son, you ought not to make yourself so miserable. You could not be more unhappy if you were to be lame always."
"It is now I care about," he replied petulantly.
"I don't know what to do with Maurice," he overheard her say to his father in the hall.
"Let him alone. I am ashamed of him," was Mr. Roberts's reply.
And now, deserted and abused, Maurice was very miserable, and when he could stand it no longer he sought a distant spot in the garden and threw himself face down in the grass.
He had been lying here some time when a voice apparently quite near asked, "Have you hurt yourself?"
Lifting his flushed, unhappy face, he saw peeping at him through the hedge the girl Katherine had been so interested in on Sunday. She, too, was lying on the grass, and her fair hair was spread out around her like a veil. Maurice raised himself on his elbow and surveyed her in surprise, forgetting to reply.
"What is the matter?" she asked again, looking at him with a pair of serious gray eyes.
"Nothing," he answered.
The gray eyes grew merry. Rosalind laughed, as she said, "Then you ought not to groan. I thought when I heard you, perhaps you had fallen from a tree."
"I wasn't groaning," he protested, feeling ashamed.
"Maybe you call it sighing, but it was dreadfully deep."
"Well, I think a fellow has a right to sigh when he can't do anything or go anywhere; and everybody else is having a good time," Maurice felt anxious to vindicate himself.
"I am not having a good time," said Rosalind, "at least not very; but then you know if you stay in the Forest of Arden, something pleasant is bound to happen before long."
Maurice stared at her blankly.
"Perhaps you don't know the story," Rosalind suggested.
"Its real name is 'As You Like It,' but I call it 'The Story of the Forest.'"
"What is it about?"
"Oh,—about a banished duke, who lived in the Forest, like Robin Hood, you know, with a lot of people who were fond of him. He had a daughter, named Rosalind, and after a while she was banished too and went to look for her father in the Forest. Her cousin Celia and a funny clown, Touchstone, went with her, and they were all disguised. And—well, there is a great deal more to it—but they were all cheerful and brave—everybody is in the Forest of Arden, because they are sure there is good in everything if you only try to find it."
"But that is all a story. It isn't true."
"Oh, yes, it is."
"There wasn't a bit of good in hurting my knee and having the whole summer spoiled." Maurice's tone was undeniably fretful.
"If you had been banished as Rosalind was, I suppose you would not have thought there was any good in that; but she didn't cry about it. She made the best of it, and had a good time in spite of it."
"Who says I was crying?" Maurice demanded angrily.
Rosalind opened her gray eyes wide, then she sat up and tossed back her hair. Maurice felt convicted of rudeness. Was she going? He hoped not, for he wished to talk to her.
"I suppose I am rather cross," he acknowledged; "but don't you think it is pretty hard to hurt your knee and have to walk with a crutch, and stay at home when the other boys go fishing?"
"Yes, indeed. Does it hurt much?" Rosalind asked, with ready sympathy.
"No, not now; it did at first, but the doctor says it will be five or six months before it is well again."
"Then it isn't for always? That is something good."
Maurice somehow felt uncomfortable. He did not wish the emphasis laid on the good. It seemed wise to change the subject. "What a lot of hair you have," he remarked.
"It has been washed, and grandmamma said I might dry it in the sun," Rosalind explained, shaking her head so vigorously she was enveloped in a shining cloud.
"Isn't it a great bother? Kit hates to have hers braided."
"Who is Kit?"
"She is my sister Katherine."
"It must be nice to have a sister. I haven't anybody but father and Cousin Louis, and of course they are better than any one else. There are grandmamma and Aunt Genevieve, but I am not very well acquainted with them yet. I should love to have some children related to me."
I have a little sister, too; her name is Blossom. That is, her real name is Mary, and we call her Blossom."
"Kit and Blossom; and what is your name?" Rosalind asked.
Rosalind tossed back her hair and began to twist it into a shining rope. "I am Rosalind Whittredge," she said. "I should not think you would ever be unhappy," she added.
"Do you know, I saw you last Sunday when you were studying something. Kit and I peeped at you through the hedge."
"I was learning a hymn for grandmamma. Why didn't you speak to me?"
"I didn't know whether you'd like it."
"Why, of course I should have liked it. I was beginning to think that day I should never get acquainted with any one, and I was feeling dreadfully lonesome when the magician came in."
"The magician?" Maurice exclaimed. Certainly this was a singular girl who talked about magicians in an everyday tone.
Rosalind laughed. "I mean Morgan, who does cabinet work. Do you know him?"
"Everybody in Friendship knows Morgan. He is a good fellow, too. Why do you call him the magician?"
"Because that is what father called him when he was a little boy. Once when Morgan had made an old desk look like new, grandfather said he was a magician, and father, who heard him, thought he meant it really. Father and Uncle Allan used to play in his shop and talk on their fingers to him. Can you do that?"
"Why, yes; I'll teach you if you like."
"I should like it very much. It is so tiresome to write things."
"Morgan is very clever, too, about understanding. You only begin to spell a word when he guesses what you want to say," Maurice added.
"I went to his shop the other day with Miss Herbert, but she wouldn't let me stay long. I made friends with his funny dog."
"Do you know what we call him? Curly Q. And the cat—did you see him? He is Crisscross."
"How funny," said Rosalind. "I think they are very good names. Crisscross wouldn't have anything to do with me."
"Are you going to live here?" Maurice asked.
"No; but I shall be here a long time. I think Friendship is a nice place, and funny too, because it has a bank with a garden around it. At home our banks are all on the street and have offices over them."
"Yes; Friendship isn't a city," Maurice acknowledged apologetically. "I should like to live in a big city."
"I like Friendship. It only seems a little odd, you know," Rosalind hastened to add. "Do they ever let you go into the bank part of your house?"
"Why, of course, I can go in whenever I choose. My father is the cashier, and it is to take care of the bank that we live here."
The conversation was brought to an end by a maid sent to find Rosalind. After she had gone Maurice saw a book on the grass where she had been lying, and reaching through the hedge with his crutch, he drew it toward him. When he removed the outside cover, even his uncritical eye saw it was a handsome hook. "Shakespeare's 'As You Like It.' Edited by Louis A. Sargent," he read. "Why, it is one of Shakespeare's plays," he said, in surprise. So this was the story Rosalind was talking about.
On the fly-leaf was some writing in small clear letters. "For Rosalind, with the wish that she may meet the hard things of life as bravely, and find as much happiness by the way, as did her namesake in the Forest of Arden. From her friend, Louis A. Sargent."
"Meet the hard things of life as bravely—" Maurice's face grew hot. "You wouldn't have thought there was any good in that." The touch of scorn in Rosalind's tone stung as he recalled it. He turned the leaves and began to read.
It was a pleasure to look at the large clear type; he soon became interested.
Half an hour later Katherine's voice broke in upon the Forest of Arden. "Maurice, Maurice, what are you doing? Mother sent me to find you."
"I am reading. Don't bother, please," was the reply, in a tone so far removed from melancholy that Katherine, reassured, obediently retired.
"How weary are my spirits!"
Up to this time life had been a simple and joyous matter to Rosalind. She had known her own small trials and perplexities, but her father or Cousin Louis were always at hand to smooth out tangles and show her how to be merry over difficulties. Now all was different. There were puzzles on every side and no one to turn to.
The house behind the griffins was not exactly a cheerful place. Rosalind found herself stealing about on tiptoe lest she disturb the silence of the spacious rooms. She hardly ventured to more than peep into the drawing-room, where Miss Herbert's liking for twilight effects had full sway. There was a pier table here, supported by griffins, the counterpart in feature of those on the doorstep, which she longed to examine, but the shades were always drawn and the handsome draperies of damask and lace hung in such perfect folds she dared not disturb them.
Where was the charm of her father's stories of Friendship? Was it because her grandfather was dead that everything had changed? This was why her grandmother wore black dresses and added that heavy veil when she went out. Rosalind once drew a corner of it over her own face and the gloom appalled her.
She ventured to say one day as they drove along a pleasant country road, "Grandmamma, you don't know how bright the sunshine is," and Mrs. Whittredge replied, "I do not wish to know, Rosalind; nothing can ever again be bright to me." Yet if she would only look, she must see that it was bright. This was one puzzle.
Aunt Genevieve's manner was another. It was as if she scorned everything, and sometimes it made Rosalind almost angry.
On the day of her meeting with Maurice, she ate her lunch with a glance every few minutes at her great-uncle Allan on the opposite wall. A very black portrait, it seemed only a meaningless blur till in a certain light the strong face and stern eyes shone out of the surrounding gloom with startling effect. She sometimes wondered rather anxiously if the uncle to whose home-coming she looked forward, could by any possibility be like the person for whom he was named. It was not an agreeable face, yet it drew her gaze with an irresistible attraction. She was convinced that on occasion the heavy brows contracted and the eyes grew even sterner.
In the next panel hung Matilda, his wife, as the massive marble in the cemetery said,—a youthful person with side curls and a comfortable smile.
Even with its southern windows the dining room was sombre in its massive furnishings of Flemish oak. Very different from the one at home, with its sunshine and flowers, its overflow of books from the study, and the odds and ends of pottery picked up by father and Cousin Louis in their travels.
Rosalind was thinking that the plain little room of the magician was the pleasantest place she knew in Friendship, when Martin entered with something in his hand, announcing in his courtly way, "A book for Miss Rosalind." It seemed to her that Martin, with his grizzled head and dusky face, had the most beautiful manners ever seen.
"For me, Martin?" she exclaimed.
"The young gentleman from next door left it," said Martin.
"I did not know you knew any one next door, Rosalind," Mrs. Whittredge remarked questioningly.
"I am not very well acquainted, grandmamma," Rosalind answered, seeing suddenly in the handsome face a likeness to the dark portrait; "but I talked to Maurice through the hedge this morning. I remember now, I had my book. I must have left it on the grass."
"I believe Rosalind seldom loses an opportunity to speak to people. Miss Herbert says she is on quite intimate terms with Morgan," remarked Miss Genevieve.
"Father told me about Morgan," Rosalind began apologetically, adding more confidently, "I like to know people."
"Your father over again," Mrs. Whittredge said, smiling. "What is your book, dear?"
"'As You Like It.' Cousin Louis gave it to me." As she spoke Rosalind caught the glance exchanged by her grandmother and aunt.
"When I was a little girl Cousin Louis told me the story because it is about Rosalind, you know, and ever since I have called it my story, because I like it best of all."
No comment was made on this explanation, and it seemed to her the next time she looked in his direction, that Uncle Allan frowned.
When luncheon was over she went out to the garden seat under the birch, carrying with her an old green speller found in a bookcase upstairs. In the back of it she had discovered the deaf and dumb alphabet, so now she would not have to wait for Maurice to teach her; she could learn it by herself. It did not seem difficult. With the spelling book propped open in one corner of the bench she went carefully over it, and then tried to think of words she was most likely to want to use in talking with Morgan; but this was slower work, and the thought that for some unknown reason her grandmother was displeased with her kept claiming her attention.
When father was displeased with her—and this was not often—he always told her, and they talked it over frankly, but grandmamma and Aunt Genevieve only looked at each other and said nothing. It both puzzled her and hurt her dignity to be treated in this way.
Presently it occurred to her that her grandmother might have been vexed at her carelessness in leaving her book on the grass. It was careless; father would have said so. Well, she could let grandmamma know she was sorry, and feeling relieved at having found a possible solution of the problem, she closed the spelling book.
Mrs. Whittredge looked up in evident surprise when Rosalind entered the room and announced, "I am sorry I left my book on the grass, grandmamma."
"What do you mean, my dear?" she asked.
"I thought you didn't like it because I was careless."
"I suppose it was careless, my pet, but I had not thought of it. But tell me what makes you care so much for that book. It seems to me there are many stories that would be more interesting to a little girl. Suppose you put it away and let me find you something else."
The color deepened in Rosalind's face. "It is my own, own book," she cried, clasping it to her heart.
"Very well, you need not be tragic about it," Mrs. Whittredge said coldly, turning to her writing.
Again Rosalind knew she had offended, and this time her resentment was aroused. "I don't like to be spoken to in that way," she told herself, as she walked from the room.
Before she had reached the head of the stairs her grandmother's voice called her hack. Reluctantly she returned.
Mrs. Whittredge had risen and now came to meet her and put her arm around her, and her voice was soft and full of affection as she asked, "Do you want to go to the cemetery with me this afternoon, pet? Aunt Genevieve has the carriage, and I think a walk will do me good."
The walk along the shady street and through the grassy lane to the gate at the foot of the hill was as pleasant as a walk could be that summer day. Rosalind kept sedately by her grandmother's side, and the face under the drooping hat was grave. Behind them walked Martin with some garden tools and a watering-pot.
The serious eyes brightened, and the lips curved into a smile at sight of Maurice and Katherine playing dominos under the maple. How lovely it must be to have a brother or sister to play with and talk to!
The cemetery was not new to Rosalind, for Mrs. Whittredge on her daily drive usually stopped there, and its winding paths and green slopes, its drooping willows and graceful oaks, and the flowers that bloomed everywhere, around the stately shafts of marble and the low headstones, seemed to her very pleasant. Here, however, her grandmother's sadness took on a deeper tinge as she moved among the mounds that lay in the shadow of the massive granite monument with "Whittredge" in letters of bronze at its base.
As Martin went to work trimming the ivy under his mistress's direction, Rosalind wandered away by herself across the hill-top, pausing now and then to read an inscription and do a sum in subtraction, on the result of which her interest largely depended. "Lily, born 1878, died 1888," stirred her imagination, and she sat down to consider it at length. How old would Lily be now if she had lived? She tried to think how her own name would look on a stone. It was still and peaceful on that sunny hillside; it reminded her of "Sharon's lovely rose." The idea of a grave here was not unattractive. She was considering it pensively when her eyes fell on a long-stemmed, creamy rose, lying not far from her on the ground. With instant pleasure in its beauty she took it up and held it against her cheek.
Where had it come from? Some one must have dropped it. She stood up and looked around, but there was no one in sight. On the other side of a holly bush, however, a number of just such roses lay on a grave. Rosalind walked over and stooped to read the name on the low headstone. "Robert Ellis Fair," she repeated half aloud as she laid her rose beside the others.
When she lifted her head she met the surprised gaze of a young lady, who came across the grass with a watering-pot in her hand. She was decidedly pretty to look at, and she smiled pleasantly as she began watering the flowers in an iron vase.
Rosalind felt she must explain, so she said, smiling in her turn, "I found a rose on the grass, and I thought it must belong here."
"Thank you. I suppose I dropped it. Won't you tell me who you are? I am sure you do not live in Friendship."
"No, I am visiting my grandmother. I am Rosalind Whittredge."
A strange expression crossed the face of the young lady at this announcement. Could it be that something displeased her? After a moment she spoke gravely, "I think some one is looking for you," she said.
Turning, Rosalind saw Martin in the distance, and as there seemed nothing else to do or say, she walked away. After she had gone some little distance she could not resist looking back, and just as she did so she saw the young lady fling something from her across the grass, and—it looked like a rose! Could it be her rose? Rosalind felt her cheeks growing hot. How very strange! Here was a puzzle, indeed.
Aunt Genevieve had come for them in the carriage, and as they drove home Rosalind tried to describe the young lady she had seen, saying nothing about the rose, however.
"It must have been Celia Fair, mamma, don't you think so?" asked Genevieve.
"Fair was the name on the stone," said Rosalind, adding, "She was pretty."
Miss Whittredge looked at her mother, then as that lady was silent, she remarked, in her usual languid tone, "I think you may as well know, Rosalind, that we have nothing to do with the Fairs."
Why did it make any difference to Rosalind? Why did everything seem wrong? Why did she feel so unhappy in spite of the blue sky and the sweet summer air?
When they reached home she sat on the garden bench and looked up at the griffins, and the fancy floated through her mind that it might be comfortable to be as unfeeling as they.
"O, dear! I am afraid I am getting out of the Forest. What shall I do? Perhaps the magician could help me;" she clasped her hands at the thought. Why not go to see him? She knew the way.
"I will take my book to show him," she said; and running to the house for it, forgetful of everything but her longing for sympathy, a few minutes later she flitted down the driveway and out of the gate.
THE MAGICIAN MAKES TEA.
"—If that love or gold Can in this place buy entertainment, Bring us where we may rest ourselves and feed; Here's a young maid with travel much oppress'd And faints for succour."
The magician was at work in his small garden adjusting some wire netting for the sweet peas, while Curly Q. looked on with interest, and Crisscross finished his saucer of milk.
Rosalind came through the shop so softly that only the cat was aware of it. He gazed at her in evident doubt whether to continue work on the rim of his saucer or take refuge on the fence.
"I should like to have a little house, and a dog and cat to live with me," she thought, sitting down on the step to wait till she should be observed. Yes, this was more like the Forest of Arden than any place she knew; her unhappiness seemed melting away in the peaceful atmosphere.
Crisscross decided she was not dangerous, and keeping an eye on her by way of precaution went on with his supper. It was not long, however, before Curly Q. discovered her presence and came bounding to her side, with a sharp bark of welcome, then back to call his master's attention.
"Why! Why!" exclaimed the magician, holding up a pair of rather grimy hands.
There could be no doubt about his being glad to see Rosalind. He asked how she was, over and over, and apologized for his hands, and smiled and nodded and indulged in all sorts of absurd gestures, which made her laugh so she couldn't try her new accomplishment of talking on her fingers. Directly he hurried into the house, where she could hear him washing his hands, and then he came out again with a teakettle, which he filled at the cistern, and carrying it back set it on a small oil stove, which he lighted.
"We'll have some tea," he said, sitting down beside her and asking again how she was.
Rosalind summoned all her learning and spelled out carefully, with the aid of some very dainty fingers, "I-am-lon—"
"Lonesome?" repeated the magician. "That is too bad. Mr. Pat wouldn't like that."
Rosalind shook her head. The tears were near the surface, but she kept them back, and remembering her book she laid it on the magician's knee, open at the words Cousin Louis had written: "If we choose we may travel always in the Forest where the birds sing and the sunlight sifts through the trees; where although we sometimes grow footsore and hungry we know that the goal is sure. Just outside is the dreary desert in which, alas! many choose to walk, shutting their eyes to the beauty and peace of the Forest, and losing by the way the sacred gift of happiness."
The magician read it slowly through, then he smiled at Rosalind over his glasses. "That's so," he said. "It is hard to keep out of the desert sometimes, but it all comes right in the end. Why, the other day I was—" here he shook his head and put on a woe-begone expression of countenance that made his meaning plain, and caused Rosalind to laugh—"and I looked up and there you stood in the door and pointed to the motto, 'Good in everything,' and I felt better."
"Did I really cheer you up?" cried Rosalind, delighted; and nodding quite as if he heard, the magician answered, "Now I'll cheer you up." Rising, he beckoned her to follow him inside, and she obeyed, feeling as if she were somebody in a story.
The kettle was already singing merrily, and from a shelf the magician took down a fat little teapot and, rinsing it with boiling water, proceeded to make tea. Next he spread a white cloth on a small table, and from the cupboard took out some blue and white cups and plates.
"Let me set it," begged Rosalind, in pantomime, entering gayly into the spirit of the thing.
Laughing, the magician left it to her and went off to his store-room, from which he emerged with a pitcher of milk and a loaf of brown bread.
There was nothing in the appointments of this simple meal to offend the most fastidious taste, and it was a sight to bring a smile to the dolefulest countenance, to see Rosalind and the magician sitting opposite to each other drinking tea. In the midst of it Morgan jumped up and went to the store-room, returning with a tumbler of jelly. "Miss Betty Bishop's jelly," he said. "Do you know Miss Betty?"
Rosalind shook her head.
"She makes good things," he added, as he unscrewed the top.
Rosalind's afternoon in the open air had given her an appetite, and she did full justice to the brown bread and jelly, the novelty of the occasion adding a flavor. Through the open door and window came the glow of the sunset, and the air was sweet with some far-off fragrance. All trouble had faded from her face; it was as if in the heart of the Forest she had come upon some friendly inn. Such a small matter as dinner in the house behind the griffins quite escaped her memory.
"Well, upon my word!"
Startled in the act of feeding Curly Q., Rosalind looked toward the door, and saw there a lady in a crisp, light muslin. More than this she did not at once take in, for behind her in the semi-darkness of the shop was Martin's face. The conviction that he was looking for her, and that grandmamma would be vexed, overshadowed everything else. She rose, while the magician greeted the lady as Miss Betty, and offered her a cup of tea.
"I'se been searchin' high and low for you, Miss Rosalind," Martin exclaimed, coming forward.
"I'm dreadfully sorry, Martin; I forgot," said Rosalind.
Miss Betty, who had declined the tea, now held out her hand. "This is Rosalind Whittredge, of course; I am your Cousin Betty."
"I didn't know I had any cousins," said Rosalind.
"You will find a few if you stay long enough," replied Miss Betty. "How do you come to be eating supper with Morgan, I'd like to know? I was sitting on my porch when you went in, so when Martin came along I was able to help him."
"I like Morgan. I wanted to see him. Father told me about him." Rosalind felt she couldn't explain exactly.
"I used to know your father very well indeed," said Miss Betty, as they walked together to the street, after Rosalind had told the magician good-by. "As you seem to like going out to tea, I hope you will come and take supper with me sometime," she added, with a twinkle in her eye.
When she reached home Miss Herbert stood at the gate, and in the door was Mrs. Whittredge. Rosalind's face was full of brightness as she ran up the path.
"Grandmamma, I meant only to stay a minute, and then I forgot."
"I have been worried about you, Rosalind," Mrs. Whittredge said gravely. "Why did you not come to me and tell me where you wished to go? Where have you been?"
"To see the magician—Morgan, I mean. I wanted so much to see him I did not think of anything else."
"Why did you wish to see him?" continued her grandmother.
The glow was fading from Rosalind's face. "Because—" she hesitated, "because—"
"Because I was lonely, grandmamma, and I was afraid I was going to cry. I promised father I would be brave, and—well—Morgan knows about the Forest, and is very good to cheer you up. He made tea in the dearest little teapot, and it was so amusing, I forgot. I am sorry."
"Do you mean you took supper with Morgan? Well, Rosalind, you are amazing!" Aunt Genevieve spoke from the hall.
"Never mind, Genevieve," said her mother. "I am sorry you were lonely, Rosalind, but I do not understand why you should go to Morgan. And what do you mean by the 'forest'?"
Rosalind's face was grave again. "I don't know, grandmamma," she faltered, and indeed she could not have told if her life had depended on it.
"I think you were very easy on her, mamma. It was certainly naughty of her to run away," Genevieve remarked, after Rosalind, worn out by the conflicting experiences of the day, had gone to bed.
Mrs. Whittredge did not reply at once. On her lap lay her granddaughter's little volume of "As You Like It," and she had been reading the words about the Forest. It had a way of opening to that page.
"She is a peculiar, fanciful child, and quite old enough to know better. Professor Sargent may be a brilliant man, but it seems to me he has filled the child's head full of nonsense. I can't see what Patterson has been thinking of," Genevieve continued.
"I am not inclined to find much fault with her. I did not expect her to be perfect. She seems naturally sweet and happy," her mother replied.
"Losing by the way the sacred gift of happiness," Mrs. Whittredge's eyes went back to the book. Surely happiness had slipped from her grasp, leaving nothing but regret. It was sad to realize that her children found all their pleasure apart from her. Somewhere she had failed, but pride told her it was fate; that sorrow and disappointment were the common lot, that gratitude was not to be looked for.
After her bitter disappointment in her oldest son she had been the more determined to have her way with Allan. With what result? The extended tour abroad, planned with a purpose just as his college course was ended, had weaned him completely from his home. His interests were elsewhere, and although as joint executor with her of his father's estate he was often in Friendship, his visits were usually brief. Between herself and her daughter there was little sympathy. Genevieve, calm and inflexible, had early declared her independence. But more than all else put together was her haunting sorrow for her husband. Words of Dr. Fair, spoken long ago in cruel bluntness, still rang in her ears: "Madam, you are killing your husband by your obstinacy." Her mind dwelt with morbid persistency upon them. Had the reconciliation with her son come too late?
At a time of utter weariness with herself she acceded to Patterson's proposal to send his daughter to her. Genevieve had expostulated, insisting she would be impossible, a child with no bringing up. Rosalind had come, and even Genevieve had to admit, so far as manners and appearance were concerned, she was not impossible.
In the fair young face, with its serious eyes, in whose glance there was often a singular radiance, Mrs. Whittredge found something that touched her heart. Her granddaughter had not the Whittredge beauty, she was nothing of a Whittredge, and yet—One day she had taken up the miniature on Rosalind's table, with a glance over her shoulder; and when she put it down and turned away, it was with the reluctant feeling that perhaps there had been some excuse for her son when he left father and mother and kindred and home for this young girl.
TO MEET ROSALIND.
"Put you in your best array."
Miss Betty Bishop lived in a small white house with brown trimmings, which she herself likened to a white cake with chocolate filling. Everything about it was snug and neat and seemed to the observer a pleasant expression of that kindly, busy, cheery lady; but Miss Betty was in the habit of declaring it had taken her twenty years to get settled in those small, low-ceiled rooms, and that she didn't feel quite in yet.
There had been a great sacrifice of fine old furniture when the big house on Main Street had to be exchanged for the little one in Church Lane, and it was no wonder Miss Betty sighed at the thought. None the less she had accepted courageously the reverses which at twenty brought her gay girlhood to an end, and for fifteen years was a cheerful, devoted nurse to her invalid father. Since his death she lived alone with only Sophy, her old mammy, to cook and care for her.
When it became known that Miss Betty had invited certain of her young friends to tea to meet Rosalind Whittredge, a wave of excitement swept over Friendship.
All the children of the town had heard stories of Miss Betty's beauty and belleship, but those Washington winters belonged to twenty years ago and had no connection with her present popularity. Sophy's skill as a cook no doubt had something to do with the fame of her mistress's tea parties, but besides this Miss Betty knew how to make her guests, whether young or old, have a good time.
When asked if she was fend of children, she was sure to reply, "Some children. I don't like disagreeable children any better than I do disagreeable grown persons." And for this reason, perhaps, it had come to be esteemed something of an honor to be asked to her house.
Miss Betty had at first felt a prejudice against Patterson Whittredge's daughter, deciding in her own mind that she was probably a spoiled little thing; but the sight of Rosalind taking tea with Morgan, and more than this, the frank gaze of those disarming gray eyes, had touched her kindly heart. She knew as well as anybody that it must be lonely in the Whittredge house; and so she had thought of the tea party.
The interest felt in Patterson Whittredge's daughter was very general. Patterson belonged to those old times when peace had reigned in Friendship. He had been a favorite in the village, and to many it seemed only the other day that he had gone away. It was incredible that this tall girl seen walking by Mrs. Whittredge's side could be his daughter. There were those like Mrs. Graham's pupils, who were inclined to invest her with a halo of romance; others criticised her as not at all the Whittredge style, not what one had a right to expect in Mrs. Whittredge's granddaughter. Some pitied Mrs. Whittredge for the responsibility thrust upon her, others pitied Rosalind, and still more, envied her.
In view of all the discussion, it was not possible to regard an invitation to meet her as quite an everyday matter.
"I do wish you had not soiled your embroidered muslin, Belle. You will have to wear your summer silk," said Mrs. Parton, addressing her daughter, who sat on the dining-room floor entertaining a Maltese kitten with a string and spool.
"I forgot to tell you, mother, Jack dropped some wax candle on it last Sunday night, when we were looking for a penny in the grass," Belle replied, lifting her merry black eyes for a moment. "Anyway, it isn't a dress-up party—only to supper."
"Bring that dress to me at once. I am astonished at you. The only decent thing you have!" Mrs. Parton sat down and clasped her hands in an attitude of desperation.
Followed by the kitten, Belle departed, returning directly with the blue and white checked silk over her arm.
"Whatever it is," her mother continued, I want you to look nice; Betty says Rosalind Whittredge has beautiful clothes."
"I just know she is a prig," remarked Belle, caressing the kitten.
"No, she isn't!" A tumbled head and a pair of eyes very like Belle's own peered out suddenly from beneath the table cover. "If she was, she wouldn't have run away to take supper with Morgan."
"Mercy upon us, Jack! you are enough to startle the sphinx. Come out from under that table at once," commanded his mother.
"Did she do that?" asked Belle, with some interest, adding, "Is it very bad, mother? Can you clean it? How do you know she did, Jack?"
Mrs. Parton shook her head; "I'll try French chalk," she said.
"Miss Betty said so. She saw her," put in Jack.
Mrs. Parton rose. "Another time when you lose a penny, I will make it good rather than have your best dress spoiled," she remarked.
"But you see, mother, it was a church penny," Belle explained, as if she were mentioning some rare and peculiar coin. "Arthur brought the collection home because Uncle Ranney wasn't there, and when he untied his handkerchief on the porch a penny dropped out and rolled into the grass."
"Who is going to Miss Betty's?" Jack asked, as his mother left the room.
"Maurice and Katherine and you and me, and the Ellises, and—I don't know who."
"I know it will be stupid; I don't think I'll go."
"If it is stupid, you will make it so," retorted his sister, adding, "and you will go, too, for mother will make you; besides, you know you wouldn't miss Sophy's waffles." Belle departed with the kitten, leaving Jack to return to the latest Henty book and his retreat under the table.
The Partons' was a square house, with a wide hall dividing it through the middle and opening on a porch at either end. When the weather at all permitted, these doors stood wide open, and dogs and cats and children ran in and out as they pleased. In the afternoons Colonel Parton sat on the front porch smoking and reading, threatening the dogs and the children indiscriminately, receiving not the slightest attention from either.
As she passed him now, Belle mischievously deposited the kitten on his shoulder.
"You baggage, you! Take this thing off me," thundered the colonel, as the kitten made its claws felt in a frantic endeavor to hold on in its perilous position.
"O father! don't hurt her," Belle cried, running to the rescue, and in the scuffle that followed, the unfortunate kitten escaped.
"Don't you let me catch you doing a thing like that again," scolded the colonel, as he picked up his paper and settled himself in his chair again.
Belle laughed, and held up her face for a kiss, which her father gave with a hearty good will.
Mrs. Parton was not the only one who felt dress to be a matter of importance on this occasion. Charlotte Ellis stopped at the bank gate to ask Katherine what she was going to wear.
"My blue lawn, I think," Katherine answered. "Mother says it is nice enough, and that I must keep my new white dress for Commencement."
"Your blue dress is very pretty, I am sure," Charlotte said. She was two years older than Katherine, and her manner was mildly patronizing. "I think I shall wear white. Of course it is not a party, but we want to make a good impression on a stranger."
Katherine felt the force of this, but Maurice, who overheard Charlotte, was inclined to jeer. "Much difference it will make to her what you have on," he said, as Charlotte left them. "Her," meant Rosalind.
"How do you know it won't make any difference?" asked Katherine.
"Because she is not that kind."
"What kind? How do you know?"
Now Maurice had kept his interview with Rosalind to himself, saying nothing to any one when he returned her book. His sudden interest in Shakespeare had not passed unnoticed; but as this or something else had caused longer intervals of cheerfulness, the family had not ventured to disturb the agreeable change by asking questions.
"I know, because I talked to her the other day," he replied.
"Maurice, really?" cried Katherine. "I don't believe it"
"You needn't if you don't want to," was her brother's lofty answer.
On the appointed evening the guest of honor was the last to arrive, and the others were in such a state of expectancy they could not settle down to an examination of Miss Betty's puzzle drawer with which she usually entertained her young guests until supper was announced. Miss Betty, who adored puzzles and problems of all kinds, was continually adding to her collection, and this evening there was a brand new one, brought from the city only the day before; but even Belle, who was especially good at puzzles, and besides affected not to care about Rosalind Whittredge, could not keep her eyes from the window.
The application of French chalk had been successful, and she wore her blue and white silk; Katherine, in her blue muslin, with ribbons to match on her smooth braids, wished her mother had been more impressed with the importance of the occasion. Charlotte was complacent in her white dress with a large ribbon bow on top of her head, in a new fashion just received from her cousin in Baltimore.
"That's the way Rosalind wears hers," whispered Katherine.
The boys fingered the puzzles and talked about the ball game to be played to-morrow, but they shared the feeling of anticipation. Their hostess bustled back and forth.
"Children," she said, pausing in the door, "I want you to be as nice as possible to Rosalind. Remember she is a stranger, and we wish her to have a pleasant impression of Friendship."
"Here she is!" announced Belle, and the rest crowded around the window.
"There's Miss Genevieve," whispered Charlotte; "girls, she is coming in!"
The Whittredge carriage had stopped before the gate and Miss Genevieve, a marvel of grace in soft chiffons that rippled and curled about her slender height and emphasized the fairness of her skin, was actually escorting her niece to the door.
"Isn't she lovely?" sighed Charlotte, in an ecstasy.
"Not so sweet as Miss Celia," said loyal Belle.
Miss Betty met them on the porch, while her guests in the parlor craned their necks to catch a glimpse, through the open door, of the new arrivals. The languid sweetness of Miss Genevieve's tone floated in above Miss Betty's crisper utterance.
"Mamma is just as usual, thank you. Yes, it was very kind of you to ask her; I have no doubt she finds it dull. Yes, we expect Allan in a week or two, but there is no counting on him."
So absorbed were the listeners, they did not begin their retreat soon enough, and their hostess, ushering Rosalind in, encountered a scene of confusion. Katherine in the excitement fell backward over a footstool and was rescued, flushed and shamefaced, by Jack Parton. Charlotte smoothed her dress and tried to look dignified. Belle and Maurice were in fits of laughter.
Miss Betty surveyed them in surprise. Rosalind stood beside her, and the girls at once noted that she wore pink.
"Is anything the matter?" asked Miss Betty, observing Katherine's flushed face. "I want to introduce Rosalind Whittredge to you. Rosalind, this is Charlotte Ellis, and Katherine Roberts, and Belle Parton—"
Still laughing, Belle held out her hand. "We were peeping at you," she said.
"Didn't you know I was coming in?" Rosalind asked, a gleam of fun in her own eyes.
"We wanted to see Miss Genevieve," added Belle.
As Miss Betty proceeded to name the boys, Rosalind said, "Oh, I know Maurice," quite as if he were an old friend; and she added, standing beside him, "I am so much obliged to you for bringing my book home."
"Does Maurice know her?" whispered Belle.
Katherine nodded, although she had had her doubts until this minute.
Maurice was agreeably conscious of Belle's eyes as he talked to Rosalind. He was not at all unwilling to have the distinction of being the only one to know the new-comer.
"I read the story," he said. "I did not know till after you had gone that it was one of Shakespeare's plays. We read Julius Caesar at school last winter."
"I know that too," Rosalind answered. I have Lamb's stories. Cousin Louis used to read them to me, and then from the real plays, but I like the story of the Forest best."
"Dear me! they are talking about Shakespeare," Belle exclaimed.
Rosalind looked across the room at her, and smiled in a way that seemed an invitation.
"It is a little funny for her to sit down beside a boy the first thing, don't you think?" Charlotte said in a low tone to Katherine, who assented because she was in the habit of agreeing with Charlotte.
Belle overheard. "Silly!" she said, and to show her scorn she went over and sat on an arm of the sofa beside Rosalind.
"Do you like to read?" she asked.
Rosalind opened her eyes. "Of course I do, don't you?"
Belle, who had browsed in her father's library since she had learned her letters, was known as a great reader, and felt rather proud of her reputation; but she found the stranger had read as much as she, and seemed to think nothing of it.
In the warmth of a discussion of favorite stories any stiffness is sure to melt rapidly away. Jack, hearing mention of "The Talisman," joined in and the others drew up their chairs, so that when Miss Betty rustled back from an excursion to the dining room she found the ice broken and sociability prevailing. But she startled them all by an exclamation.
"Jack Parton, for pity's sake, sit up! and you too, Katherine; I cannot allow my guests to sit on their spines."
"But it is so much more comfortable," protested lazy Jack, slowly screwing himself into a more erect position, while Katherine straightened up with a blush.
"There seems to be something wrong with the spines of this generation, and the first thing you know it will react on their mental and moral natures. People without backbone are odious," Miss Betty continued.
"I wish you children could have seen Miss Patricia Gilpin as I saw her once when I was a little child, more than thirty years ago. She was straight as an arrow and pretty as a picture. Such old ladies have gone out of fashion. I remember hearing her describe the backboard and spiked collar she wore for several hours each day when she was a child."
"What was the spiked collar for?" Rosalind asked.
"To keep her head in the correct position."
"I am glad I didn't live then," said Belle.
At this point Miss Betty's sermon was interrupted by the appearance of a small, brown boy in a white apron, who announced supper.
THE LOST RING.
"Wear this for me."
The old mahogany table had never reflected a circle of brighter faces than gathered about it that evening to do justice to Sophy's good things served on Miss Hetty's pretty china.
Rosalind at the left hand of her hostess looked around the company with frank enjoyment of the novelty of the occasion. These young people were very entertaining, particularly Belle; and more amusing than anything was the small waiter, at whom Miss Betty glanced so sternly when he showed a disposition to laugh at the jokes.
It was when Miss Betty began to serve the strawberries that some one remarked on the old cream-pitcher of colonial glass, and thus started her on her favorite topic of the cream-jug and sugar-dish that exactly matched her teapot and should have been hers.
This was the first time Rosalind had heard mention of old Mr. Gilpin and the will.
"My grandmother and Cousin Thomas's mother were sisters," Miss Betty explained, "and when their father and mother died the family silver was divided between them. In this way the teapot came down to me, and some of the other pieces to Cousin Anne, who was, you know, Cousin Thomas's sister."
"Was old Mr. Gilpin related to me, Cousin Betty?" asked Rosalind.
"Why, certainly, my dear; it is time you were learning about your relations. He was your grandfathers own cousin. Your great-grandmother was Mary Gilpin before she married Mr. Whittredge."
"Rosalind looks puzzled," said Belle, laughing.
Rosalind laughed too. "I never knew about relations before. Does father know all this?"
"I should hope so; this is not much to know."
"Miss Betty, you promised to tell us about the ring, sometime; Rosalind would like to hear it, I am sure. Wouldn't you, Rosalind?" asked Belle.
Rosalind wished very much to hear it, and Miss Betty, with a glance around the table, remarked, "I shall be glad to tell what I know if you care to have me, and Jack will sit up."
"Send for a pillow, Miss Betty; that is what mother does," Belle suggested, to the delight of the small waiter, who was compelled to retire suddenly to the hall, where he was heard giggling.
"As some of you know," Miss Betty began, "the ring belonged to Miss Patricia Gilpin, who was an aunt of Cousin Thomas's, and your great-great-aunt, Rosalind. If it is still in existence, it is not far from eighty years old. You might suppose from the way in which they are spoken of now, that in the early part of the century all young women were beauties and belles; but if there is any truth in her miniature, Patricia Gilpin was a really beautiful woman."
"Wasn't she married? I thought it was an engagement ring," said Charlotte.
"It was, but she never married. The young naval officer to whom she was engaged was killed in the War of 1812. They had known each other only a short time; it was love at first sight, I suppose. He had the ring made for her, and I always heard that she received it and the news of his death at nearly the same time. The last message she had from him was, 'Wear this for me,' which he had written on a card and enclosed with the ring; and she always wore it. She was a girl of eighteen at the time, and greatly admired; but she never forgot her lover."
"Did she live in Friendship?" Rosalind asked.
"During her father's lifetime this was her home. She was born in the old Gilpin house, which was new then; and perhaps you know that the rustic summer-house at the top of the hill on the left is called Patricia's arbor. For some years after her lover's death she lived in seclusion, seeing no one; and always when the weather permitted she would sit in the arbor, looking out upon the river.
"It was said that this was the scene of their courtship, but it may be only a story.
"After her father's death she lived in Washington, but she often visited Cousin Anne in the old place. As I have said, I remember seeing her and hearing her talk, when I was a child of six or seven. She was a stately and beautiful old lady, and as I recall it now, her face showed she had borne her share of trouble and disappointment bravely; and you can't say more than that for anybody."
"That is what Cousin Louis says," remarked Rosalind, smiling at Maurice.
"But you haven't told us what the ring was like," put in Charlotte.
"I never could tell a straight story," replied Miss Betty, laughing. "Well, it was a broad band of open lace-work of a most delicate and beautiful pattern, and made of pure gold. The stone was an oval sapphire of great depth and purity of color, in a setting of tiny stars, made of little points of gold. When Miss Patricia died she left the ring to Cousin Anne, her niece, along with many other valuable things. Cousin Anne never wore it, but she used to show it to me sometimes as a great treat, and I have tried it on more than once. Cousin Anne ought to have made a will; but at best she was an undecided person, and she had a long illness. It was generally supposed she would leave it to your aunt Genevieve, Rosalind, or else to Patricia Marshall. Indeed, there were half a dozen of them who would have given their heads for it. Cousin Anne knew it, and she hated to disappoint anybody, so she ended by disappointing everybody."
"Why didn't she leave it to you. Miss Betty?" asked Jack.
"Miss Patricia was not related to me. She was aunt to Cousin Thomas and Cousin Anne on their father's side, and I am connected through the Barnwells, his mother's family, just as Rosalind's grandmother is," she explained; adding, "As Cousin Anne left no will, everything she owned went to her brother; and you have all heard about his will. Most of his money was to go to the endowment of a hospital, all the other property to be sold and the proceeds divided among his first cousins or their children, except the ring and an old spinet that came to him through his wife. The first he left to Allan Whittredge, the other to Celia Fair."
"To Uncle Allan?" asked Rosalind, greatly interested.
"Yes, and everybody wonders why. However, when they came to take an inventory, the ring was not to be found."