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   Chapter 1 THE FIVE COUSINS.

The Old Stone House By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 41242

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

Aunt Faith sat alone on the piazza, and sad thoughts crowded into her heart. It was her birthday,-the first day of June,-and she could look back over more than half a century, with that mournful retrospect which birthdays are apt to bring. Aunt Faith had seen trouble, and had met affliction face to face. When she was still a bride, her husband died suddenly and left her lonely forever; then, one by one, her brothers and sisters had been taken, and she was made sole guardian of their orphan children,-a flock of tender little lambs,-to be nourished and protected from the cold and the rain, the snare and the pitfalls, the tempter and the ravening wolf ever prowling around the fold. Hugh and Sibyl, Tom and Grace, and, last of all, wild little Bessie from the southern hill-country,-this was her charge. Hugh and Sibyl Warrington were the children of an elder brother; Tom and Grace Morris the children of a sister, and Bessie Darrell the only child of Aunt Faith's youngest sister, who had been the pet of all her family. For ten long years Aunt Faith had watched over this little band of orphans, and her heart and hands had been full of care. Children will be children, and the best mother has her hours of trouble over her wayward darlings; how much more an aunt, who, without the delicate maternal instinct as a guide, feels the responsibility to be doubly heavy!

And now, after years of schooling and training, Aunt Faith and her children were all together at home in the old stone house by the lake-shore, to spend a summer of freedom away from books and rules. Hugh was to leave her in the autumn to enter upon business life with a cousin in New York city, and Sibyl had been invited to spend the winter in Washington with a distant relative; Grace was to enter boarding-school in December, and Tom,-well, no one knew exactly what was to be done with Tom, but that something must be done, and that speedily, every one was persuaded. There remained only Bessie, "and she is more wilful than all the rest," thought Aunt Faith; "she seems to be without a guiding principle; she is like a mariner at sea without a compass, sailing wherever the wind carries her. She is good-hearted and unselfish; but when I have said that I have said all. Careless and almost reckless, gay and almost wild, thoughtless and almost frivolous, she seems to grow out of my control day by day and hour by hour. I have tried hard to influence her. I believe she loves me; but there must be something wrong in my system, for now, at the end of ten years, I begin to fear that she is no better, if indeed, she is as good as she was when she first came to me, a child of six years. I must be greatly to blame; I must have erred in my duty. And yet, I have labored so earnestly!" Another tear stole down Aunt Faith's cheek as she thought of the heavy responsibility resting upon her life. "Shall I be able to answer to my brothers and sisters for all these little souls?" she mused. "There is Hugh also. Can I dare to think he is a true Christian? He is not an acknowledged soldier of the Cross; and, in spite of all the care and instruction that have been lavished upon him, what more can I truthfully say than that he is generous and brave? Can I disguise from myself his faults, his tendencies towards free-thinking, his gay idea of life,-ideas, which, in a great city, will surely lead him astray? No; I cannot! And yet he is the child of many prayers. How well I remember his mother! how earnestly she prayed for the little boy! Have I faithfully filled her place? If she had lived, would not her son have grown into a better man, a better Christian?" Here Aunt Faith again broke down, and buried her face in her hands. Hugh was her darling; and, although he was now twenty years of age, and so tall and strong that he could easily carry his aunt in his arms, to her he was still the curly-haired boy, Fitzhugh Warrington, whom the dying mother gave to Aunt Faith for her own. "There is Sibyl, also," she thought, as she glanced towards the garden, where her niece sat reading under the arbor; "she is at the other extreme, as unlike her brother as snow is unlike fire. Sibyl never does wrong. I believe I have never had cause to punish her, even in childhood. But she is so cold, so impassive; I can never get down as far as her heart; I am never sure that she loves me." Aunt Faith sighed heavily. Sibyl's coldness was harder for her to bear than Hugh's waywardness.

Then her thoughts turned towards the younger children. "Grace is too young to cause me much anxiety; but still I seem to have made no more impression upon her religious nature than I could have done upon a running brook; and as for Tom,-" Here Aunt Faith's musings were rudely interrupted by a shout and a howl. Through the hall behind her came a galloping procession. First, "Turk," the great Newfoundland dog, harnessed to a rattling wagon, in which sat "Grip," the mongrel, muffled in a shawl, his melancholy countenance encircled with a white ruffled cap; then came Tom, as driver, and behind him "Pete" the terrier, fastened by a long string, and dragging Miss Estella Camilla Wales, in her little go-cart, very much against his will. "Miss Estella Camilla Wales" was Grace's favorite doll, and no sooner did she behold the danger of her pet, than she sprang from the sitting-room sofa and gave chase. But Tom flourished his whip, old Turk galloped down the garden-walk with the whole train at his heels, and Miss Wales was whirled across the street before Grace could reach the gate.

"Tom, Tom Morris! stop this minute, you wicked boy! You'll break Estella's nose!" she cried, as they pursued the cavalcade toward the grove opposite the house. Here Pete, excited by the uproar, began barking furiously, and running around in a circle with a speed which soon brought Estella to the ground, besides tying up Tom's legs in a complicated manner with the cord which served as a connecting link between the team in front and the team behind. Old Turk, after taking a survey of the scene, gently laid himself down, harness and all, and wagged his ponderous tail; while poor Grip, in his efforts to free himself from the shawl, managed to pull his cap over his eyes, and howled in blind dismay. In the midst of the confusion, Grace rescued Miss Wales from her perilous position, and, finding her classic nose still unbroken, laid her carefully in the crotch of a tree, and prepared for revenge. In his desire to secure the obedience of his dog-team, Tom had fastened them securely, by long cords, to his belt; Pete had already managed to wind his tether tightly around Tom's legs, and Grace incited Turk to rebellion, so that he, too, began to gambol about in his elephantine way, and Tom was soon tangled in another net. "I say, Grace, let the dogs alone, will you!" he said angrily, as he vainly tried to disentangle himself. "Here, Turk! lie down sir! Where in the world is my knife? Pete Trone, you are in for a switching, young man, as soon as these cords are cut!" During this time Grip had been pulling at his night-cap with all the strength of his paws; but as he only succeeded in drawing it farther over his nose, he finally gave up in despair, and, hearing Grace's voice, patiently sat up on his hind legs, with fore-paws in the air, begging to be released. He looked so ridiculous that both Tom and his sister burst into a fit of laughter. Good humor was restored, the tangles cut, and the procession returned homeward, Grip released from his cap, but still wearing his trailing shawl.

When they reached the gate Tom stopped, and calling the dogs in a line, he began an address: "Turk, Grip, and Pete Trone, Esquires, you have all behaved very badly, and deserve condign punishment!" At these words, uttered in a harsh voice, Pete Trone gave a short bark, and Grip instantly sat up on his hind legs, as if to beg for mercy. "None of that, gentlemen, if you please!" continued Tom; "special pleading is not allowed before this jury. Turk, Grip, and Pete Trone, Esquires, you are hereby sentenced to walk around the-garden on the top of the fence. Up, all of you! jump!" said Tom, picking up a switch. Now, indeed, all the culprits knew what was before them. That fence was a well-known penance,-for when they did anything wrong this was their punishment. Old Turk felt the touch of the switch first, and mounted heavily to his perch, his great legs curved inward to keep a footing on the narrow top; then came Pete, and, last of all, Grip, who, being a heavy-bodied cur, crouched himself down as low as he could, and crawled along with extreme caution. The fence was high, with a flat, horizontal top about four inches wide. It ran around three sides of the garden, and often, as Aunt Faith sat at her work in the sitting-room, the melancholy procession of dogs passed the window on this fence-top, followed by Tom with his switch. But Aunt Faith never interfered. She knew that Tom was a kind master, who never ill-treated or tormented any creature. Tom was a large-hearted boy, and, although full of mischief, was never cruel or heartless; he found no pleasure in ill-treating a dog or a cat, nor would he suffer other boys to do so in his presence. Many a battle had he fought with boys of mean and cruel natures, to rescue a bird, or some other helpless creature. "It is only cowards," he would say, "who like to torment birds, cats, and dogs. They know the poor things can't fight them back again."

Old Turk,-a giant in size among dogs,-had been in the family for many years; Grip was rescued from the canal, where some cruel boys had thrown him, by Tom himself; and Pete Trone, Esquire, was bought with Tom's first five-dollar bill, and soon proved himself a terrier of manifold accomplishments,-the brightest and most mischievous member of the trio. All the dogs had been carefully trained by Tom. They could fetch and carry, lie down when they were bid, sit up on their hind legs, and do many other tricks. Aunt Faith used to say, that if Tom would only learn his lessons half as well as he made his dogs learn theirs, there would be no more imperfect marks in his weekly reports.

In the meantime, the dogs had turned the corner of the fence, and were slowly advancing towards the house; while Grace, carrying Estella, came up the garden-walk. "Halt!" said Tom, and the three dogs stopped instantly; Turk, not daring to turn his head to see what was the matter, for fear of losing his balance, blinked out of the corner of his eye, as much as to say, "I wouldn't turn round if I could." "Pete Trone," said Tom gravely, "it is evident that this punishment is not severe enough for you; a dog that has time to wag his tail and yawn, cannot be in much anxiety to keep his position on the fence. Pete Trone, Esquire, for the rest of the way you shall wear Grip's cap." So the terrier's black face was encircled with the white frill, and, this accomplished, the march was resumed, and the three dogs disappeared behind the house.

"Aunt Faith," said Grace, as she reached the piazza, "that wicked Tom put Estella Camilla Wales in her wagon, and made Pete draw her all over. It's a wonder her nose wasn't broken and her eyes knocked out. If they had been, that would have been the end of her, like the last ten dolls I have had."

"Not ten, surely, my dear?"

"Yes, Aunt Faith, ten whole dolls! Polly he painted black to make her like the Queen of Sheba; he made Babes in the Woods of Beauty and Jane, and it rained on them all night; Isabella and Arabella I found on the clothes-line all broken to pieces, and he said they were only dancing on a tight rope; he sent Rose and Lily,-the paper-dolls, you know,-up in the air tied to the tail of his kite; the rag-baby he took for a scarecrow over his garden; and surely, Aunt Faith, you have not forgotten how he made Jeff Davis on the apple-tree, out of my dear china Josephine, or how he blew up Julia Rubber with his cannon last Fourth of July, when I lent her to him for the Goddess of Liberty?"

"Well, Gem, I did not realize that you had suffered so much. Take good care of Estella, and perhaps Santa Claus will make up your losses."

Grace, or Gem, as she was called from the three initials of her names,

Grace Evans Morris,-G. E. M.,-ran off into the house to look up

Estella, leaving Aunt Faith once more alone.

On a rustic seat in the arbor sat Sibyl Warrington reading. Her golden hair was coiled in close braids around her well-shaped head, her firm erect figure was arrayed in a simple dress of silver gray, and everything about her, from the neat little collar to the trim boot, pleased the eye unconsciously without attracting the attention. Sibyl Warrington knew what was becoming to her peculiar style of beauty, and nothing could induce her to depart from her inflexible rules. Fashion might decree a tower of frizzed curls, and Sibyl would calmly watch the elaborate structure raised on the heads of all her friends, but her own locks, in the meanwhile, remained plainly folded back from her white forehead with quaker-like smoothness. Fashion might turn her attention to the back of the head, and forthwith waterfalls and chignons would appear at her behest, but Sibyl, while congratulating her friends upon the wonders they achieved, would still wind her thick golden braids in a classical coil, so that her head in profile brought up to the beholder's mind a vision of an antique statue. Rare was her taste; no clashing colors or absurd puffs and furbelows were ever allowed to disfigure her graceful form, and thus her appearance always charmed the artistic eye, although many of her schoolmates called her "odd" and "quakerish." Sibyl had already obtained her little triumphs. An artist of world-wide fame had asked permission to paint her head in profile, as a study, and whenever she appeared at a party the strangers present were sure to inquire who she was, and follow her movements with admiring glances, although there were many eyes equally bright, and many forms equally graceful in the gay circle of Westerton society. But in spite of her beauty, Sibyl was not a general favorite; she had no intimate friends among her girl companions, and she never tried to draw around her a circle of admirers. She had no ambition to be "popular," as it is called, and she did not accept all the invitations that came to her as most young girls do; for, as she said, "occasionally it is better to be missed." Thus, in a small way, Miss Warrington was something of a diplomatist, and it was evident to Aunt Faith that her niece looked beyond her present sphere, and cherished a hidden ambition to shine in the highest circles of the queen cities of America,-Boston, New York, and Washington. With this inward aim, Sibyl Warrington held herself somewhat aloof from the young gentlemen of Westerton; there were, however, two whom she seemed to favor in her gentle way, and Aunt Faith watched with some anxiety the progress of events. Graham Marr was a young collegian, the only child of a widowed mother who lived in Westerton during the summer months. He had a certain kind of fragile beauty, but his listless manner and drawling voice rendered him disagreeable to Aunt Faith, who preferred manly strength and vivacity even though accompanied by a shade of bluntness. But Sibyl always received Graham Marr with one of her bright smiles, and she would listen to his poetry hour after hour; for Graham wrote verses, and liked nothing better than reclining in an easy chair and reading them aloud.

"What Sibyl can see in Gra-a-m'ma, I cannot imagine," Bessie would sometimes say; "he is a lazy white-headed egotist; a good judge of lace and ribbons, but mortally afraid of a dog, and as to powder, the very sight of a gun makes him faint."

But Aunt Faith had heard of the fortune which would come to Graham Marr at the death of an uncle, and she could not but fear that Sibyl had heard of it also. The grandfather, displeased with his sons, had left a mill tying up his estate for the grandchildren, who were not to receive it until all of the first generation were dead. Only one son now remained, an infirm old man of seventy, and at his death the hoarded treasure would be divided among the heirs, two girls living in North Carolina, and Graham Marr, who was just twenty-one. Sibyl was eighteen, and self-possessed beyond her years; could it be that she really found anything to like in Graham Marr? Aunt Faith could not tell. As she sat on the piazza, looking down into the garden, the gate opened and a young man entered,-the Rev. John Leslie, a clergyman who had recently come to Westerton to take charge of a new church in the suburbs, a struggling little missionary chapel, where it required a large faith to see light ahead in the daily toil and slow results. Mr. Leslie caught the shimmer of Sibyl's gray dress under the arbor, and turning off to the right through a box-bordered path, he made his way to her side and seated himself on the bench. Aunt Faith could not hear their conversation, for the old-fashioned garden was large and wide, but now and then she caught the tones of the young man's earnest voice, although Sibyl's replies were inaudible, for she possessed that excellent thing in woman, a clear, low voice.

John Leslie was poor. He had only his salary, and that was but scanty. Energetic and enthusiastic, he loved his work, and his whole soul was in it. He was no plodding laborer, who had taken the field because it happened to be nearest to him; he was no loiterer, who had entered the field because he thought it would give him a larger chance for idleness than the close-drawn ranks of business life. He had felt the inward call which is given to but few, and he obeyed it instantly. To him the world was literally a harvest field, and he, one of the hard working laborers; he had no worldly ambition; he looked upon life with the eyes or a true Christian; his little chapel was as much to him as a large city church, influential and wealthy, could have been, as he loved his small and somewhat uninteresting congregation with his whole heart. Older men called him an enthusiast. Would that the world held more enthusiasts like him; men who have forsaken all to follow Him, men to whom the whole world and its riches are as nothing compared to the souls waiting to hear the tidings of salvation. For even in Christian America, there are in all our streets souls who have not heard the tidings. It is their own fault, do you say? They can come to our churches at any time. Nay, my friend; we must go out into the highways and hedges and force them to come in with kindly sympathy and brotherly aid.

John Leslie was the other friend whom Sibyl Warrington had selected from the large circle of Westerton society. Did she really like him? Aunt Faith could not decide this either, but she noticed the increasing interest in the young clergyman's manner, as he came and went to and from the old stone house. Free from guile as Nathanael of old, John Leslie felt an increasing attachment to the beautiful Miss Warrington, who came occasionally to his little church, and seemed, whenever he spoke on the subject, so truly interested in the work of his life; he talked with her about his Sunday School, and her suggestions had been of service to him; for Sibyl possessed a talent for organization, and a ready tact quite unusual for one so young. And in this work she was no hypocrite; she enjoyed her conversations with Mr. Leslie, and looked forward to his visits with real pleasure. What wonder that he thought her a true child of God, an earnest Christian, a fellow-laborer in the vineyard? Sometimes, when Aunt Faith was present and heard Mr. Leslie's conversation, her old heart glowed within her breast, and she felt herself carried back to the ancient days when the young converts went about the world with ardent enthusiasm, preaching the new gospel to every creature in spite of perils by land and sea, perils of torture, and perils of death itself. Then she would look at Sibyl. Sometimes the girl's cheek glowed with an answering enthusiasm, and for the time being, Aunt Faith would think that her heart was touched, and her soul uplifted by the earnest love of God which shone out from John Leslie's words. But the next day, perhaps, a letter from her cousin in Washington would come, and Sibyl's face would light up over the descriptions of some great ball, and her thoughts turn towards the approaching winter with double interest.

A mist came with the twilight, and a slight chill in the air soon bro

ught Sibyl to the shelter of the piazza; she never trifled with her health, her good looks were of serious importance to her, and she never hazarded them for the sake of such sentiment as sitting in an arbor when the dew was falling, or loitering in the moonlight when the air was chilly.

"Good-evening, Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Leslie as they approached, holding out his hand in cordial greeting; "we have come up to the shelter of your pleasant piazza to finish our conversation in safety."

"I hope there was no danger," replied Aunt Faith with a smile; "a hot argument, for instance."

"Oh, no; on the contrary the danger, if there was any, came from the opposite direction. I was afraid the dew might dampen Miss Warrington's dress."

"And her enthusiasm also," said Aunt Faith, with a shade of merriment in her pleasant voice.

"Certainly not her enthusiasm," replied the young clergyman gravely; "I think it would take more than dew-drops to dampen such enthusiasm as hers." As he spoke, his eyes were turned full towards Sibyl's face, but he met no answering glance; Sibyl was occupied in spreading out the folds of her skirt to counteract any possible injury from the dampness. "He does not doubt her sincerity in the least," thought Aunt Faith; "perhaps, after all, his influence will be strong enough to cure her one fault, the one blemish of her character, the tendency towards worldliness which I have noticed in her since early childhood."

"We were speaking of Margaret Brown, Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Leslie when they were all seated on the piazza; "that girl has made a brave battle with fate, and I have been trying to help her. Miss Warrington has also been much interested in her; no doubt she has told you Margaret's history?"

"No," replied Aunt Faith, "I have heard nothing of her." Sibyl colored, and Mr. Leslie looked surprised; a slight shade rested on his frank face a moment, but soon vanished in the interest of the story. "Margaret Brown is a poor working girl about twenty years of age, Mrs. Sheldon; an orphan with a younger sister and two younger brothers to support, and nothing but her two busy hands to depend upon. She is a sewing-girl and a skilful workwoman, so that by incessant labor over her machine, day after day, she is able to keep her little family together, and, more than all, to send them to school. She realizes the disadvantages of her own ignorance, and she feels a noble ambition to educate those orphan children. Her faith is great; it is like the faith of the primitive Christians who lived so near the times of the Lord Jesus, that, in their prayers, they asked for what they needed with childish confidence. It was her great faith which first drew me towards her; she was a regular attendant at the chapel service, and in the course of my visits, I went to see her in the little home she has made in the third story of a lodging house at South End. It was Saturday, and I saw the three children, already showing evidences of improved education in their words and looks, while, busily sewing on her machine, sat the sister-mother, pale and careworn, but happy in the success of her plan. It seemed to me a great load for one pair of shoulders, and I said so. The children had gone into another room, and as I spoke, rashly perhaps, the overworked girl burst into tears. 'Oh, sir,' she said, 'it is the wish of my life to give them a good schooling, and I don't mind the work. But sometimes it is so hard! If it was not for the prayers, I could not get through another day.'

"'Your prayers are a comfort to you,' I asked.

"'They are more than that, sir,' she replied earnestly; 'they are life itself. Every morning I kneel down and just put the whole day into the Lord's hands, asking Him to give us bread, and help us all,-me in my work and the children in their lessons. And while I'm asking, some way a kind of peace comes over me, and although I may know there is not a crumb in the closet, or a cent in my purse, I always get up with a light heart. The Bible is true, indeed, sir; I can't read it myself, but my little sister, she reads to me evenings. It says, 'the Lord will provide.' He does; He has. So far, me and mine have not suffered, although I can never see my way a week ahead.'"

"Mr. Leslie," said Aunt Faith, "I must try and help Margaret; please give me her address."

"Miss Warrington has it; I think she has already been there," replied Mr. Leslie. At this moment a form approached the house through the dusk of evening, a step sounded up the walk, and Graham Marr appeared. "Ah, good evening, ladies!" he said, in his languid voice. "Mr. Leslie, I believe! Your servant, sir. Miss Warrington, I have brought that new poem from the French; I am sure you will like it."

"Thank you," said Sibyl, smiling. "Pray be seated, Mr. Marr."

But the enthusiasm died away, the conversation languished, and Mr. Leslie soon rose to take leave. Then Sibyl stepped forward, and accompanied him part way down the garden-walk, pausing for a few moments earnest conversation before he said "good night."

"Now what made her do that?" thought Aunt Faith, as she tried to keep up a conversation with the languid Mr. Marr; "does she like Mr. Leslie better than she is willing to acknowledge?"

But Sibyl returned to her place on the piazza, and soon entered into an animated discussion of the last volume of poems, in which Aunt Faith's old-fashioned ideas found little to interest them.

"Well, young people," she said pleasantly, after half an hour of patient listening, "I am afraid I do not appreciate modern poetry. I am behind the times, I suppose; but I really like to understand what a poet means, and, now-a-days, that is almost impossible."

"The mystery of poetry is its highest charm," said Graham Marr; "true poetry is always unintelligible."

"Then I fear I am not poetical, Mr. Marr. But I am, as you see, frank enough to acknowledge my deficiencies, and, if you will excuse me, I will go into the sitting-room and finish some work that lies in my basket."

Want of courtesy was not one of Graham's faults; indeed, he prided himself upon his polished manners; so he accompanied Aunt Faith within doors, placed an arm-chair by the table, drew up a footstool for her comfort, and even lingered a moment to admire the shaded worsteds in her basket, before he returned to the piazza and Sibyl. Once back in the moonlight, however, the poetical conversation soon began again, and the murmur of the two voices came faintly to Aunt Faith's ear as she sat by the table, while the light breeze brought up from the garden the fragrance of the flowers, always strongest after nightfall.

Back of the old stone house on the north side, the ground sloped down towards the lake; first grassy terrace and bank, then a large vegetable and fruit garden, terminating in a pasture and grove. The stable and carriage-house stood off to the left, and the place was somewhat carelessly kept, more like a farm than a residence; but an air of cosy comfort pervaded the whole, and the grounds seemed to be as full of chickens and ducks, cats and dogs, doves and sparrows, horses and cows, as the house was full of canary and mocking-birds, gold-fish, kittens, and plants, besides a large aquarium. Up from the back pasture, at this moment, two shadowy forms were stealing. As they drew nearer, sharp eyes might have discovered that they were two persons on horseback coming up from the road which ran east and west across the foot of the pasture. At the garden-fence they stopped, the gentleman dismounted and lifted the lady to the ground. It was Bessie Darrell and her cousin Hugh Warrington.

"Hush, Hugh; don't make me laugh so! we shall be discovered," she said, as she gathered up her long skirt.

"But it is such a good joke!" said Hugh, mounting his horse again.

"Think of the fun we've had! And you ride like a little witch."

"We can go again to-morrow night, can't we, Hugh?"

"I suppose so; if you can get away unobserved."

"Of course I can. Oh, it is such fun! I like it better than anything

I ever did, Hugh; and you are a dear good fellow to teach me."

"Teach you!" exclaimed Hugh, with a laugh; "that's good! Why, you took to it as a duck takes to water. What a glorious gallop we have had! By the way, Bessie, Gideon Fish would look well on horseback!"

"Or Graham Marr," said Bessie laughing. "I do believe he is on the piazza with Sibyl this very moment."

"If he is, I propose we extinguish him. Out, little candle," said

Hugh, striking a dramatic attitude.

"You won't be gone long, Hugh?"

"No; the man will be waiting at the road."

"Then I will run upstairs, lock up my riding skirt, and come down and wait for you."

Bessie went through the garden and up to her room, while Hugh, riding one horse and leading the other, crossed the pasture and the grove, and gave them to a man who was waiting near the fence: he led them down the narrow road towards the west, for the old stone house was in the east suburb of Westerton, more than two miles from the business portion of the town.

Bessie Darrell was sixteen,-a tall, slender maiden, with irregular features, brown complexion, dark eyes, and a quantity of dark, curling hair which defied all restraint, whether of comb, net, or ribbon. Her eyes were bright and her expression merry, but beyond this there was little beauty in her face. A quick student, Bessie always stood at the head of her classes for scholarship, and at the foot as regards demeanor. Twice had she been expelled for daring escapades in defiance of rule, and Aunt Faith's heart had ached with anxiety, when the truant returned home in disgrace. But her merry vivacity had made home so pleasant, that the seasons of penance were, as Tom said, "the jolliest of the year," and Gem openly hoped that Bessie would soon be expelled again. Poor Aunt Faith sometimes thought there must be a tinge of gypsy blood in Bessie's ancestors on the Darrell side of the house, for in no other way could she account for her niece's taste for wild rambles and adventure. "Bessie, my child," she said one evening during the previous year, when she had happened to discover her wayward niece returning from a solitary drive with Sultan, one of the carriage horses, in Hugh's high buggy, "if you are fond of driving, you shall go when you please. I will hire a low basket phaeton for your especial use, and I shall be glad to go with you when you wish."

"Oh, Auntie! if I can go when I please, there is no fun in it," said

Bessie, laughing.

"Then I am to conclude, my dear, that the fun, as you call it, consists in deceiving me," said Aunt Faith, gravely.

"Oh no, Auntie; not you especially, but all the world, you know. 'It's against the rule!' That sentence has always been my greatest temptation. I do so long to try all those forbidden things; if I had been Eve, and if the forbidden fruit had been a delicious peach instead of a commonplace apple, I should certainly have taken it. Now there was Miss Sykes at Corry Institute; she was always saying, 'Young ladies, it is against the rule to go into the garret. Three bad marks to any one who even opens the door.' That was enough for me; I slipped off my shoes and climbed up the stairs, while a crowd of girls stood in the hall to see what happened. I opened the door and went in, and after a moment I stepped right through the lath and plastering and hurt myself severely. Of course I got the bad marks, and a big bill for lath and plastering in addition to my lame leg, and the whole thing was Miss Sykes' fault."

"You deliberately disobeyed her rule, Bessie."

"Why have such a goose of a rule, then? Why didn't she say right out that we must not go into the garret because there was no flooring there? Then we would have understood the whole thing. For my part, I don't believe in piling temptation in people's way like that."

"My dear child, we cannot always know. We must all sometimes be content to give up our wills to the guidance of a Wiser Hand,-be content simply to trust."

"I don't think that time will ever come to me, Aunt Faith; Hugh says the human mind is sufficient for itself."

Aunt Faith sighed, and laid her hand gently on the young girl's dark curls. "My child," she said in a low voice, "I cannot bring myself to pray that you may learn the lesson of trust, for it is a very hard one. But I fear it will come to you, as, sooner or later, it comes to almost all of us."

"Dear Aunt Faith," said the impulsive Bessie, throwing her arms around her aunt's neck, "of all your children, not one loves you more truly than I do!"

"I believe you do, my child," said Aunt Faith, returning the caress.

Arrayed in her ordinary dress, Bessie Darrell went down the back stairs and seated herself on the porch steps. In a few moments Hugh joined her. "Do you feel tired?" he asked.

"Tired! No, indeed. Horseback riding never tired me. You will take me again to-morrow night?"

"I think it is you that takes me, Brownie. Is Marr there?"

"Yes; quoting poetry like everything. I heard him out of the front-hall window; something about 'a rosy cloud,' I believe."

"Are they sitting directly under the hall window?" asked Hugh.

"Yes; in two arm-chairs, side by side."

"Let us go up and have a look at them," said Hugh. So up they stole, and took their places at the upper window.

The old stone house was two stories high, with wings on each side, which projected out beyond the main building; the space enclosed by stone walls on three sides was floored with stone, and lofty stone pillars ran up to the overhanging room. There was no intersection at the second story, so that the view of the piazza from the upper windows was uninterrupted. It was a pleasant piazza, fronting towards the south, overlooking the old-fashioned garden with its little box-bordered paths, and entirely cut off from the lake winds, which are apt to have an easterly sharpness in them. On this piazza sat Sibyl and Graham Marr, and the two listeners above caught fragments of their poetical conversation. "I say, Bessie, do you know what a 'lambent waif' is?" whispered Hugh. "What a calf that Marr is! How can Sibyl listen to him? He has not common sense."

"I believe he is to have uncommon cents, sometime," said Bessie, punning atrociously. "However, if my knowledge of Sibyl is worth anything, I should say she really prefers Mr. Leslie."

"What, the minister!" exclaimed Hugh; "I am surprised. Not that I object at all, but ministers' wives sometimes have a hard life."

"Gideon Fish says, that ministers' wives ought to be the happiest women on earth, because their husbands are always at home, brightening the domestic shrine with their presence," quoted Bessie, with a dramatic tone.

"That is a fish-story; I know it by the sound. I say, Bessie, wouldn't it be fine fun to throw the great red blanket down on their heads in the middle of the next verse?"

As Bessie highly approved of this suggestion, the two conspirators crept away softly to find their blanket. But it was safely packed away in the bottom of a chest, and some search was necessary to bring it to the surface; in the midst of which, Tom and Gem appeared on the scene, curious to know what was going on.

"Run away, children, and shut the door after you!" said Hugh, coming up from the chest with a red face.

"No, Mr. Fitz!" replied Tom, deliberately seating himself on a box; "not one step do I go until I know what you're up to-some fun, I know. Come, Bessie; tell us, that's a good fellow."

"We shall have to tell them, Hugh," said Bessie, "or they might spoil the whole thing." So the plan was hastily explained.

"Come along, Gem," said Tom, in great glee.

"All right, Bessie, we won't spoil your fun."

The two children ran off down the back stairs and out upon the terrace behind the house. "Don't you say one word, Gem Morris," said Tom in an excited whisper, "but I'm going to be in this game, if I know myself. The blanket's very well, but the dogs are better, and Graham Marr is terribly afraid of 'em. I never liked him since he called me 'my lad,' and this will be a good chance to pay him off." So saying, Tom started towards the carriage-house, closely followed by Gem; for, as Hugh said, they always hunted in couples, and whether they played or quarrelled, they were always together.

Opening a side door of the carriage-house, Tom called out Pete and Grip; Turk had a kennel of his own, and sleepily obeyed his master's summons.

"Now Gem," said Tom, "I shall go round to the big barberry-bush, and when the blanket comes down I shall send the dogs at it. They won't hurt anybody,-they never do,-but they'll make believe to be awful savage, and Grip will bark like mad. You'd better slip round into the parlor and look through the blinds; it's dark there." Gem obeyed softly, and Tom disappeared around the corner of the house, followed by the dogs, who understood from their master's low order, that a secret reconnaissance was to be made, and moved stealthily behind him single file, big Turk first, then Pete Trone, Esq., and last of all plebeian Grip, his tail fairly sweeping the ground in the excess of his caution.

On the piazza all was peaceful and romantic. No thought of coming danger clouded the poet's fancies, as he repeated a stanza composed the previous evening by the light of the moon. "I never write by gas-light, Miss Warrington," he said, "but I keep pencil and paper at hand to transcribe the poetical thoughts that come to me in the moonlight. Here is a verse that floated into my mind when the moon was at its highest splendor last night:-

'Shine out, Oh moon! in the wide sky,-

The creamy cloud,-the dreamy light-

My heart is seething in the night.

Shine out, Oh moon! and let me die.'"

"I think we'd better let him, don't you?" whispered Hugh to Bessie at the upper window. She assented, and down went the great blanket on the heads of the two below, enveloping them in sudden darkness. At the same instant the three dogs plunged forward and pawed at the dark mass; Grip barking furiously, and Pete nosing underneath as if he was in search of a rat-hole. The noise brought Aunt Faith to the door.

"What is it?" she said in alarm, gazing at the struggling blanket with her near-sighted eyes.

"Nothing, Aunt Faith, but some of the children's nonsense," answered Sibyl, extricating herself, and stepping out from the stifling covering. "Mr. Marr, I hope you are not alarmed or hurt."

"Not in the least,-oh!-oh!-" gasped poor Graham, crawling out of the blanket. "Those dogs!-oh!-get out!-get down, sir!"

"They will not hurt you," said Sibyl, coming to the rescue. "Grip, be quiet! Pete get down, sir! You are not going, Mr. Marr?"

"I think,-yes,-I think I will," said the discomfited poet; "it is getting late. I was on the point of making my adieu when,-when the children played their little joke. Ha!-ha!-really, a very good joke. Quite amusing! Good-evening, ladies! Really,-quite amusing!"

When Graham had gone, Aunt Faith stepped out on the piazza. "Tom," she said, in a severe tone, "I am ashamed of you! Such pranks are only fit for a child!" But no answer came from the silent garden.

"Grace, you are there somewhere! come out and show yourself," said Aunt Faith. But still no reply. Then she called the dogs, but they, too, had mysteriously disappeared.

"Sibyl," she said, going back into the sitting room, "I am very sorry the children were so rude. I am afraid Mr. Marr will feel seriously offended."

"Oh, as to that, Aunt Faith, it is a matter of small consequence what he feels. But I see Pete has torn off part of the trimming of my skirt; I will mend it before I go to bed. Good-night,-" and Sibyl kissed her aunt in her gentle way, and went off to her room in the wing.

"I don't believe she cares for the calf after all," whispered Hugh to Bessie, as, after watching this scene from the top of the stairs, they separated for the night.

A few minutes later, when Aunt Faith went up to her room, all her children seemed to be unusually sound asleep; the lights were all out, and Tom's snores came through his half-opened door with astonishing regularity.

"It's of no use, my dears," called out Aunt Faith, standing at the door of her room; "I know you are all wide awake, and know you were all in that blanket-and-dog affair." A burst of stifled laughter greeted this announcement, and, when Aunt Faith got safely in her own room and closed the door, she laughed too.

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