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   Chapter 9 THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER

The Old Stone House By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 37935

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


Mr. Leslie improved slowly; when he was able to leave his room most of his days of enforced idleness were spent in the shaded parlor of the old stone house, or riding through the narrow country lanes, sometimes with all the cousins, sometimes with Sibyl alone. A friend had come from the interior of the State to take charge of the chapel during July and August, for the physicians had forbidden any active work during that time; but, although Mr. Vinton preached and attended to the duties of the position, Mr. Leslie retained all his interest in the congregation, and his people felt, that he was with them in spirit, hour by hour, and day by day. They came to him also,-came in greater numbers and with more open affection than ever before; they showed their interest in many different ways,-and the young pastor's heart was filled with joy at these evidences of love from the flock for which he had labored.

"It takes sickness or affliction to bring hidden love and sympathy to the surface," he said, one afternoon, as he sat in the parlor with Aunt Faith, Hugh, Bessie, and Sibyl. "We do not see the rainbow until the storm comes; and so people may live on for years in prosperity, and never know, save by intuition, the deep affection in each other's hearts. But when sorrow strikes them, then love comes to the surface, doubly precious and comforting in the hour of trial."

"But, Mr. Leslie," said Hugh, "would it not be far better for the world if people were taught to express their love and sympathy at other times as well as in the house of affliction and sickness? Is there any reason why we should all go on through life in cold silence, living in the same house with those we love the best, and taking everything 'for granted,' and leaving it 'for granted' also? Why! people may live and die without ever knowing the great joy of expressing how much they love, or of hearing in return how much they are loved, so hard is it to break down these barriers of reserve."

"We are tongue-tied, here, Hugh. We do not know how to speak the language of the heavenly country, and our best efforts are but stammering, half-expressed utterances. It is a great mercy, however, that the touch of sickness, or affliction, seems for the moment to loosen the bonds, and allow us a few sentences of the heavenly love."

"It is indeed," said Aunt Faith. "I remember in the darkest hours of my affliction, people with whom I had but slight acquaintance came to me with tender sympathy, and kind messages were sent from many whom I had always thought cold, and even disagreeable."

"Still," said Hugh, "I think it would be better if people tried to express their love more freely, without waiting until the household is clouded with grief."

"It would certainly be better, but it may not be possible," said Mr. Leslie; the world has gone on in the same old way for many centuries, and I am inclined to think, Hugh, that this free expression of love will only be given to us in another life. It will form one of the blessings of heaven."

"What is heaven?" said Hugh abruptly.

"It is perfect peace," said Aunt Faith.

"It is wonderful new life and hope," said Bessie.

"It is love," said Sibyl.

"It is all this and more," said Mr. Leslie reverently. "Speculations are useless, and our time should be too full of earnest labor to allow us to indulge in them. We should be content to leave it to our Maker, who has made even this world so beautiful, and this life, rightly used, so glorious."

July gave place to August, and the family of cousins, into whose circle Mr. Leslie had been received, lived a happy life in the old stone house. The heat of the dog-days was tempered by the lake breeze. At ten in the morning it came sweeping over the water from Canada, and men walking through the hot streets, felt its gentle coolness on their foreheads, and took off their straw hats with a sigh of relief. In the evening it came again, rustling through the trees with a refreshing sound as though the leaves were reviving from their parched stillness; people came out to meet it, the piazzas and door-steps were crowded, and all the closed blinds were thrown wide open to catch the blessed coolness which promised refreshing sleep.

"You dwellers by the lake-shore know nothing of the real August heat in the lowlands," said Mr. Vinton, one evening as he sat among a group of visitors on the piazza of the old stone house. "Here the lake breeze is invariable, but a hundred miles south, days and nights pass with alternate blazing heat and close, lifeless darkness, the latter even more trying than the former. The country where I live is the richest agricultural land in the State; it is a valley with a broad, slow river rolling through it, the very water dark and sluggish with the fertility of the soil. As long as the grain is growing, there is some vitality in the air in spite of the heat, but when the harvest comes, and field after field is shorn, it seems as though the superfluous richness rose from the earth into the air, and filled it with heavy rankness. The sun shines through a haze in the daytime, and the moon through a mist at night; everybody and everything is languid. One goes to bed oppressed with fatigue, sleeps heavily, and rises without refreshment; there is no fresh morning air, nothing but a weary looking forward to the next twelve hours of heat."

"What a forlorn description!" said Mr. Gay, laughing. "Is this all you can say for the great, rich state of Ohio?"

"It's very richness brings about what I am describing," said Mr. Vinton. "But perhaps some of your eastern farmers would endure the Ohio dog-days for the sake of the miles of level grain-fields without a stone, without a break of any kind, which extend through the midland counties. When I first came West, I was overpowered with homesickness for the hills of New England; the endless plains were hateful to me, and I fairly pined to see a rock, or a narrow, winding road. While in this mood, I happened to be riding in a stage-coach through one of the midland counties in company with two New England farmers. They had never been West before, and they were lost in astonishment and admiration at the sight of the level fields on either side of the broad, straight road, stretching away to the right and the left, unbroken by the slightest elevation. 'This country is worth farming in,' said number one; 'Ethan would admire to see it, but he'd hardly believe it, I guess, without seeing.'

"'Not a stone nor a rock nowhere; none of them plaguey hills neither,' said number two. 'Well, now! this is what I call a be-a-utiful country! Western farmers must have an easy life of it.' You can imagine with what feelings I listened to these men. There I was, longing for the sight of a hill with the longing of a homesick child for its mother."

"I am afraid you are prejudiced, George," said Mr. Leslie, with a smile. "You dwell upon the heat of August in Ohio, but you say nothing about the other eleven months of the year."

"The other eleven months are beautiful, I must acknowledge," replied Mr. Vinton. "As soon as the frosts come, nothing can surpass the climate; colored October, hazy November, and bright, open December are all perfect. Any New Englander,-even you, Mr. Gay,-would be obliged to yield the palm to the West in respect of winter climate."

"No sir," replied the Boston bachelor emphatically; "I would yield no palm under any circumstances. I even prefer a Boston east wind to the mildest western zephyr."

"Oh, you are prejudiced!" said Bessie, laughing.

"Of course I am, Miss Darrell. It is a characteristic of Massachusetts

Bay. We do not deny it,-on the contrary we are rather proud of it."

Thus, in many conversations, the dog-days passed along.

"It seems to me we do nothing but talk," said Bessie, after a long evening on the piazza with several visitors.

"The dog-days were intended for conversation," said Hugh. "Our hands and our brains are busily employed all the rest of the year, but when the thermometer gets up into the nineties, the tongue talks its share and gives the other members a rest."

"I hope you don't mean to insinuate that our brains are not employed in our conversation," said Bessie.

"Not much brain in dog-day conversation," said Hugh, laughing. "I know that I have been talking nonsense this evening, and from what I have overheard, I suspect the others have not done much better."

"Oh, you slanderer!" cried Bessie.

"But nonsense is appropriate to the season, Queen Bess. We don't eat much solid food now; then how can we hear much solid talk! Aunt Faith's 'trifle' is the chief of our diet, and the result is, naturally, trifling conversation."

August was a happy month to Aunt Faith. She rejoiced in Sibyl's happiness, and she rejoiced in the triumph of unselfish love and Christian humility over the worldliness and ambition which had sullied her niece's good qualities. Sibyl was not impulsive; it was not an impulse which had led her to renounce a life of fashionable gayety and wealth for Mr. Leslie. It was a sudden realization of the truth, a sudden conviction of the strength of her own feelings, a sudden horror of the wickedness of falsifying them, and a sudden appreciation of the hollowness of worldly ambition when brought face to face with death. There was no hesitating vacillation in Sibyl's character. She had been self-deceived, but, as soon as she felt the truth, she threw aside errors with all her might, and gave herself up boldly, wholly and heartily to her new life. Aunt Faith understood her niece thoroughly, and she knew there would be no danger of a relapse into the mistakes of the past; other faults, other temptations would assail her, but these were harmless. Having once seen and realized the falsity of worldliness when compared with religion, the worthlessness of mere money, when compared with true affection, Sibyl could never forget the lesson, for firm reason and resolve were parts of her nature.

Aunt Faith saw, also, that Sibyl was very happy. She was calm as usual, but there was a new light in her eyes, and a new glow on her cheeks. She found a new pleasure in instructing the children of the Chapel Sunday School, and her scholars loved her dearly; she went about among the poor, and devoted much of her time and means to their service. She assisted in the household work; not the light graceful labors which generally fall to the daughters, but the real burden of the day, lifting it from Aunt Faith's patient shoulders with cordial good will; and in all she did there was a new charm,-the charm of a rare humility, the most difficult of all Christian graces to a proud, self-reliant spirit.

One afternoon, towards the end of August, Aunt Faith found Sibyl resting on the lounge in the sitting-room. The house was still, the children were in the garden, and Bessie and Hugh had gone up to the studio; Sibyl had been out visiting the sick all the morning, and, wearied with the walk, she had thrown herself down on the lounge for a rest before tea-time.

"Do I disturb you, dear?" said Aunt Faith, as she entered.

"Oh, no, aunt. I am not sleeping, only resting."

"I fear you are doing too much, Sibyl."

"I think not, aunt. I know how much I can bear, and I would not be so foolish as to overwork myself. It would be a poor preparation for the life to which I look forward with so much hope."

"It will be a pleasant life, I hope, my dear child."

"Oh aunt! pleasant seems too cold a word to express it! I never knew what life was before; I was blind and deaf to real beauty and real happiness. I thought of nothing but money, ease and social fame. I shudder to think how near I came to bartering my life for what I supposed would give me the most happiness; whereas, now I know how great would have been my misery, and how surely and quickly I should have discovered it. I was entirely blinded, but now I see plainly; it is as though a great ray of light had come into my heart to show me life as it really is, and myself as I really am."

"God be thanked for this-mercy, my child."

"I thank Him daily and hourly, Aunt Faith. It was a narrow escape, and no one can appreciate how great was the danger but myself. If I had gone astray I might, indeed, have come back to Him at last, but through what trials, what bitter suffering! Now, I feel that my feet are upon a firm rock, and although trouble and temptation will of course come to me, I know that if I cry for help, it will not be refused." Sibyl's face glowed as she spoke, and Aunt Faith offered up a silent thanksgiving that one of her little band had found the safe abiding place, that one of the souls given into her charge had entered the only safe pathway in the many roads leading across this troubled earth.

"How is Margaret Brown to-day, Sibyl?" she asked, after a pause.

"Much better, aunt. I sat with her for an hour or two, and she asked me to read to her."

"The children are well now, I believe?"

"Yes; we are going to keep them in the country until cold weather;

Margaret must not be allowed to work at present."

"Mr. Leslie has not asked for the remainder of the sum I promised to give him," said Aunt Faith; "I suppose Mrs. Chase must have given more than he expected."

Sibyl blushed deeply. "No, aunt," she said in a low tone, "I gave him my pearls as a thank-offering, perhaps I ought to say a sin-offering."

Aunt Faith bent over and kissed the suffused cheek; then the two had a long conversation about the future, and gradually and surely a more joyous tone crept into their words, as is apt to be the case when the talkers hear in the distance the sound of future wedding-bells. The marriage was to take place before December, and Mr. Leslie had already selected the little house which was to be their home; Aunt Faith, with true housewifely interest, was already making plans for the furniture and stores of fair linen, which her old-fashioned ideas deemed a necessary part of the household outfit, and even Bessie had set her unskilful fingers to the work of manufacturing various little ornaments to brighten the simple rooms. But her chief present was to be a picture representing the piazza of the old stone house with Aunt Faith, Hugh, Tom, and herself sitting or standing in their accustomed attitudes, while Sibyl going down the garden-walk with Mr. Leslie, turned her head for a farewell smile, and Gem threw a bunch of roses after her. Bessie prided herself upon this picture; the likenesses were all completed save Hugh's, for the first object was to finish his portrait before he went East, and from that she could fill in the other face at her leisure.

"You are all so kind to me, Aunt Faith," said Sibyl, as the long conversation came to a close; "I am so happy in your love, and so happy in the future opening before me; it is almost too much happiness."

Aunt Faith possessed a fund of native humor which neither age nor care had been able to subdue. As her niece rose to go to her room, she said with a merry glance, "By the way, Sibyl, how about the smell of the flannels from the kitchen on washing-days?"

"I will have them washed at the extreme end of the back garden," replied Sibyl, echoing Aunt Faith's laugh, as she escaped from the room.

The thirty-first of August came,-Hugh's last day at home. His departure was hastened by his wish to return to Sibyl's wedding; he hoped to get initiated into the duties of his new position, conquer the first difficulties, and gain a few days of leisure for a short visit home before the busy winter season commenced. Mr. Hastings, the second-cousin who had offered Hugh a place in his counting-room, was a New York merchant, a stern, practical man, who expected full measure of work from all his subordinates. Yet, with all his rigor, he had a kind heart in his breast, and was inclined to treat his young relative with favor: he had seen him but once, when, during school-life, Hugh had spent a vacation at his house; but the old man had been more pleased than he would acknowledge, with the boy's overflowing spirits and bright intellect. He had no sons; his daughters were married, and the next year he had written to Aunt Faith proposing to take Hugh into his business on the completion of his education, promising, if the young man stood the test well, that he would give him a small share of the profits after a certain period, and intimating that there would be no bar to his becoming a partner eventually, if he showed the proper qualifications. The business men among Aunt Faith's acquaintances told her that this was a fine opening for Hugh, that the house of J. B. Hastings & Co. stood well in New York, and that they would gladly accept such an opportunity for their sons. Hugh himself was pleased with the idea, and, when it was finally decided that he should go, he wrote a letter full of enthusiastic thanks and hopes to Mr. Hastings, and finished his remaining two years at college with many pleasant visions of his future life floating in his brain.

"'Tis the last day of summer, left blooming alone," chanted Tom, as he entered the dining-room where the rest of the family were at breakfast. "To-morrow Hugh will be gone,-to-morrow Estella Camilla Wales must pine in vain for her mistress, who will be engrossed in decimal fractions, and to-morrow I must take down from the dusty shelf that dismal old Latin Prose. I wonder who cares for Romulus and Remus? I don't!"

"Don't talk about it beforehand," said Gem; "let's pretend it's the very first day of vacation."

"Oh, what dismal faces!" said Aunt Faith, laughing. "School is not such a trial after all. I should be sorry to hear you spell deficiency, 'd-e-f-i-s-h-u-n-s-y,' as Annie Chase did, Gem."

"Or to say, 'il est la plus mauvais garcon que je sais de,' as

Jennie Fish did," added Gem, laughing at the remembrance.

"Or like Ed. Willis in the Bible class, last term," said Tom. "Mr. Stone was talking about the Jews and Gentiles. 'I'm not a Gentile,' said Ed. getting real mad; 'I'm a Presbyterian.'"

Everybody laughed at this story, and Aunt Faith said "You are as liable to make mistakes as the rest, children, so do not complain about your lessons, but rather try to make them a pleasure. School-days will be soon over," and she looked at Hugh with a half sigh.

"Come along, Gem," said Tom, when he had finished his breakfast. "Let's have all the fun we can to-day; let's crowd it in, and pack it down tight. We'll get all the B. B.'s and have a regular training day in the back yard."

The children vanished, and their merry voices came back through the open windows where the others still sat at the table.

"The boat leaves at seven," said Hugh, pushing away his plate, and leaning back in his chair. "I am something like Tom; I feel like 'crowding' my last day with pleasant things, and 'packing them in

tight.' I hardly know where to begin."

"I will tell you; begin with the morning and give it to me in the studio," said Bessie.

"Oh no," said Sibyl; "Hugh is going to finish that bracket for me."

"Hugh will not go away without keeping his promise to me; there is some unfinished reading for him in my room," said Aunt Faith with a smile.

"My face, my hands, and my tongue are all in demand, it seems," said Hugh, laughing. "We never know how much we are valued until it is too late to fix our price, as the Irishman said, when he lost both arms and could no longer saw wood for his family. I cannot subdivide myself, so I had better subdivide the time."

"Well then, Hugh, I spoke first. Walk right upstairs," said Bessie, leading the way.

"Will you walk into my parlor, said the spider to the fly," sang Hugh, as he followed her. "I go, Bessie, from sheer compassion for my nose; you have made it Grecian, and I am sure it is Roman!"

"How gay they seem," said Sibyl, as they disappeared, "and yet Bessie will miss Hugh sadly. They have been devoted companions since childhood, and through our school-days Bessie was always looking forward to vacation, and spending her spare time in writing letters to Hugh. They have, of course, been parted for months together, but this parting is different. Hugh will be back again soon, and he may make us many visits, but still his home will now be in New York, and, absorbed in his new duties, and in the new interests and attractions of a great city, he will no longer be the same."

"Yes; I too feel this, Sibyl," said Aunt Faith; "I feel it very deeply. My child, my little boy, will go from me forever, when I say good-bye to Hugh to-night. The young man, the kind nephew, the successful merchant may all come back at different times, but the little boy, never! Hugh is very dear to me. It is hard to let him go. God grant that in the dangers of his new life, he may be preserved. We can only pray for him, Sibyl."

Two tears rolled down Aunt Faith's cheeks, but she hastily wiped them away as Sibyl kissed her affectionately. "Dear Aunt Faith," she said, "do not be down-hearted. Hugh has the seeds in his heart planted by your faithful hand, and although they have not blossomed yet, I feel sure they are growing."

"Yes, dear; I cannot help feeling as you do," replied Aunt Faith, trying to smile. But her heart was heavy.

Upstairs in the studio Bessie was painting rapidly, while Hugh in the old arm-chair sat gazing out through the open window, much as he had done on that bright June morning three months before, when Bessie had confessed the secret of the unpaid bill.

"How does the picture progress, Queen Bess?" he asked.

"Very well, excepting the eyes; I cannot get the right expression, I have tried over and over again. They are never the same two minutes at a time; I almost wish they were made of glass," said Bessie impatiently.

"Then I would be the bully boy with a glass eye," said Hugh, laughing.

"And a wax nose," said Bessie.

"And a tin ear," continued Hugh.

"And a cork leg," added Bessie.

"And a brass arm, finis," said Hugh; "the weather is too warm for further studies in anatomy."

"What does it all mean, anyway, Hugh? I have heard Tom and his friends say the whole string over and over again with the greatest apparent satisfaction; but to me they convey not a shadow of an idea."

"Nor to any one else, I imagine," said Hugh. "If the phrases ever had any meaning, it has long ago vanished into obscurity. I have seen explanations given of many popular terms but never of these. After I am gone, though, Bessie, you had better give up slang. It is all very well with me, and to tell the truth, I have taught you all you know, but it would not do with any one else."

"Just as though I should ever speak a word of it to any one else," said Bessie indignantly. "With you, it is different; you are like another myself."

"Alter ego," said Hugh.

"I don't know anything about alter ego, but I know I shall miss you dreadfully," said Bessie, throwing down her brush as the thought of Hugh's departure came into her mind with vivid distinctness.

"I shall be back again in November, Bessie."

"Yes; but only for a day or two."

"Perhaps I shall come home in the spring, also."

"But it won't be the same. You will change,-I know you will," murmured Bessie, with a half sob.

"I shall not change towards any of you here at home, but of course I shall grow older, and I hope I shall improve. You remember all I told you about my plans for the future?"

"Yes, Hugh. But it is such a long way off."

"It does not seem long to me, Bessie; I have so much to accomplish that the time will be short. I love to look forward,-I love to think of all I shall do, of all the beautiful things I shall buy,-of all the unfortunate people I shall help. I shall succeed,-I know I shall succeed, because I shall work with all my might and main,-and also because I shall try to do so much good with my money."

"Yes; but all this time where shall we be? Where shall I be?" said

Bessie, sadly.

"You shall come down to visit me with Aunt Faith: you have only one more year of school-life, and then you can spend a part of every winter in New York."

"That will be nice," said Bessie, slowly, taking up her brush again; but, child-like, the present seemed more to her than the future. Hugh was silent, gazing out through the window 'over the summer landscape,-the pasture, the grove, and the distant lake. "Aunt Faith will miss you," said Bessie, after a pause.

"Dear Aunt Faith," replied Hugh, "she does not know how much I love her! She will miss me, but I shall miss her still more. All my life she has been my guardian angel. And to think how I have deceived her!"

"Oh, Hugh, such little things!"

"The principle is the same. I think, before I go, I will tell her all,-all the numerous escapades we have been engaged in; then I shall have a clear conscience to start with. After I am gone, Bessie, you will not be tempted to transgress in that way, and who knows but that we shall turn out quite well-behaved people in our old age."

"I have tempted you, not you me, Hugh."

"Call it even, then. Why! what are you crying about, Brownie?"

"You are going away,-you are going away!" was all that Bessie could say.

Hugh's eyes softened as he saw his cousin's grief. "Don't cry, dear," he said gently. "We shall not be parted long. And while we are parted, I want to think that you are happy, that you, too, are trying to improve as I am trying. I want to think that my little Bessie is growing into a stately, beautiful Elizabeth. You are part of my future, dear, and you can help me to succeed."

"How, Hugh?" said Bessie, wiping away her tears.

"By being happy, trying to improve yourself, and writing me all you are doing. Such letters will be very pleasant to me when I am working hard in the great city. We have never, either of us, taken a serious view of life, but for once, to-day, I feel very serious, Bessie; I am going to try to be good,-I am going to try to be a good man. And I want you to try and be good too."

"I will try, Hugh," whispered Bessie, affected by his serious tone.

"That is right. And now let us have no more sadness to spoil my last day at home. Whatever the future may bring to me,-and I have full confidence in the future, you know,-all of you here at home will have the first place in my heart. I have a great many plans, and all of them are bright; I have a great many hopes, and all of them are certain; life seems very beautiful to me, and I thank my Creator for my health and strength. I ask nothing better than what lies before me, and I am willing to take the labor for the pleasures it will bring."

Hugh paused, and an expression of glowing hope lit up his face and shone in his blue eyes. Bessie seized her brush, and, filled with a sudden inspiration, worked intently at her portrait for some time in silence.

"There is the first dinner-bell, Queen Bess," said Hugh; "I have idled away the whole morning up here. Good-bye, little studio," he continued, rising as he spoke; "I hope one day to see you altered into a beautiful, luxurious abode of art, filled with striking pictures, the work of America's greatest artist, Elizabeth Darrell!"

"If I should paint the best pictures in the world, you would not allow my name to be connected with them in public, Hugh. You are so prejudiced."

"Prejudiced, is it? Well, perhaps it is. I own I do not think that types adorn a woman's name. A woman ought not to appear 'in the papers' but twice; when she marries, and when she dies."

"So if she don't marry, she never has a chance of being anybody until she is dead; I don't call that fair, Hugh."

"Surely, Elizabeth Darrell, you are not shrieking for suffrage!"

"Never!" said Bessie, "I'm only shrieking for my name."

"What's in a name!" replied Hugh, laughing. "Paint away, little artist; I will buy all your pictures, and pay you so well for them that you won't care for fame. By the way, am I not to ---

[Transcriber's Note: There is some dialogue missing here, although there are no pages missing in the images.]

"No," replied Bessie, moving the easel; "but I've got your eyes at last!"

"I'm glad of that; good-bye, Brownie," and Hugh ran off down the stairs to prepare for dinner.

"And my bracket!" said Sibyl, as he came into the dining-room.

"And my poems!" added Aunt Faith, with a smile.

"All in good time, ladies," replied Hugh. "The first hour after dinner is to be devoted to packing; the second, to Sibyl and her bracket; the third, to Aunt Faith and her book; the fourth I give to the family as a collective whole, and all the rest of the time I reserve for tea, general farewells, and embarkation."

"Highly systematic! You are practicing business habits already, I see," said Sibyl.

"The B. B.'s are all coming to see you off, Hugh," said Tom.

"What an honor! I am overwhelmed with the attention of the band! What time may I expect them?"

"A little after six. They are going to form on both sides of the front walk, and hurrah like troopers."

"Oh Hugh, I am real sorry you are going," said Gem suddenly, dropping her knife and fork as though the idea had only just become a reality to her. "I shall hate to see your empty chair in the morning when I come down to breakfast; I know I shall."

There was an ominous tremor in Gem's voice as she spoke.

"Come, little girl, no tears," said Hugh, bending to kiss his little cousin; "everybody must be cheerful or I shall not like it. And as for the chair, take it out of the room if you like, but be sure and bring it back in November when I come home again."

"I'll keep it in my room, and bring it down myself the day you come home," said Gem eagerly.

A little after three, Hugh tapped at Sibyl's door. "Is it you, brother? Come in," said Sibyl, and entering, Hugh sat down by the table and began to work on the half-finished bracket. They talked on many subjects, but principally on Hugh's New York life, and his plans for the future; then gradually they spoke of November, and the approaching wedding-day. "Before I go, Sibyl, I want to tell you in so many words how pleased I am to give you into Mr. Leslie's care. If I could have chosen from all the world, I know no one to whom I would more willingly have given my only sister; no one so welcome as a brother-in-law."

"How glad I am that you feel so, Hugh," said Sibyl warmly.

"And you yourself Sibyl; you have improved so much. It is not often that brothers and sisters express the affection they feel for each other, but you know I do not believe in such reserve, and I want you to know, dear, how thoroughly I appreciate the change in you. Leaving you, as I must, it is very pleasant to think that my one sister is growing into a noble good woman, such as our mother would have wished to have her."

Sibyl threw her arms around Hugh's neck; she was much moved. In her new life and new love, her brother had become doubly dear to her, and perhaps for the first time, she realized how much she loved him.

"No tears, I hope, sister," said Hugh, gently raising her head. "This is my 'good-bye' to you, dear. You know I do not like formal leave-taking. Here is your little bracket all done, but I shall bring you a better present from New York, a set of wedding pearls. You will have to wear them if I give them to you, although you are a clergyman's wife."

Aunt Faith was sitting by the window in her room when she heard her nephew's step outside. "Come in!" she said; and when he entered she pointed to a chair next her own. "My dear boy, I cannot realize that you are going to leave me."

"Only for a few weeks, Aunt Faith; I shall be back in November."

"Not to stay, dear. No, I feel that this is our first real separation, although for years you have been absent at school and college many months at a time. You are the first to leave the old stone house,-the first bird to fly away from the nest."

"I am the oldest, aunt, and therefore naturally the first to go."

"That is true, but the old bird feels none the less sad."

"You must not feel sad, Aunt Faith; the future looks very bright to me. Let me tell you all my plans." Sitting there in the quiet room, the young spirit full of hope, told to the old spirit full of resignation, all its bright dreams and plans.

"I hope they will all come true, dear," said Aunt Faith, after they had talked long on these subjects.

"I hope,-I think they will, if human energy can bring it about. But now, aunt, to look back on the past, I want to make a confession to you, I want you to hear and forgive me before I go."

Then Hugh told of all the secret horseback rides, and many other wild adventures of past years, in which he and Bessie had each borne a part. "It has been all my fault, Aunt Faith," he said, as he concluded. "I was the elder and the stronger, and I led Bessie on. Without me she would have done none of those things. Poor little Bessie! she is very dear to me. You will be kind to her when I am gone?"

"I will, Hugh. I, too, am very fond of Bessie. But do not take all the blame upon yourself; she is by nature rash and way ward."

"I know she is, aunt. But, at the same time, if it had not been for my influence, Bessie would have been a very different girl; if she had thought that I disapproved of any of her actions that would have been the last of them, whereas instead of this, I have encouraged her. Whatever the blame may be I take it all upon myself. But Bessie is changing, I think; you will have no trouble with her hereafter, she will grow into a noble woman yet. And now, aunt, I will leave no work undone, but finish that volume, if you wish it."

So saying, Hugh took up the book which Aunt Faith had placed ready for him, and began reading aloud; he read well, and it was one of her greatest pleasures to listen to him. She often kept volumes by her side for weeks with the pages uncut, waiting until he could find time to read them aloud. "And now I will say good-bye!" said Hugh, as he finished the little book; "you know I dislike formal leave-takings in the presence of all the family."

"Good-bye, my dear boy!" said Aunt Faith, with a motherly embrace. "May God bless you and keep you in all your ways, in danger, sickness, temptation and perplexity, for the sake of His dear Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Oh, Hugh, can you not gladden my heart by saying those two sentences before you go,-you know what I mean?"

"I will try to say them soon, aunt. I feel that I have changed lately, but I want to know that it is not the mere excitement of parting and anticipation of a new life which has affected me. I am going to try hard to be a good man,-indeed I am; and if I find that these new feelings outlast my present excitement, I will write you word. Sometimes I almost feel as though I could make my public profession of faith now; but the next two months will show me the exact truth, and perhaps, Aunt Faith, the time of Sibyl's wedding will also be the time when I shall come forward to join the church."

"God be thanked," said Aunt Faith, fervently; "the feelings will last, Hugh, for they are holy and true. Go, my boy; I give you up freely now, for you are virtually enrolled in the army of the Lord, and He will aid you in all times of trial if you call upon Him."

A little before six all the family, together with Mr. Leslie, assembled in the sitting-room; there was an undercurrent of sadness in their minds, but Hugh would allow no melancholy words or looks.

"First we will have tea, then Bessie shall play 'Bonnie Dundee' for us, then we will all make a triumphal arch of flowers through which I shall pass, in token of the grand success which awaits me in the mercantile world, and then I shall go. No one must accompany me to the boat; I want to see you all on the piazza as the carriage drives away, and if there is so much as one tear-drop, I shall know it and be ready to inflict condign punishment therefor," said Hugh, laying down the law with a magisterial air.

Tea was soon over, and then Bessie with trembling fingers managed, with severe self-control, to play 'Bonnie Dundee' to the end without a tear. Another note, however, she could not play, but replaced the cover of her harp in silence. Then Tom and Gem brought in from the garden all the flowers they could find, and a long wreath was made and twined around and over the two pillars of the front piazza.

"There comes the carriage!" said Tom, "and there come the B. B.'s, too. Here, boys, form on both sides of the walk; Hugh's going in a minute."

The trunk was carried out, and Hugh took up his coat and valise. "Now I want you all to come out on the piazza," he said. "Aunt Faith, here is your chair. Gem, you stand by Aunt Faith's side: Sibyl and John, please stand opposite to them; and Tom,-where is Tom?"

"Here I am!" answered Tom from the back of the house; "I'm getting the dogs together for the group."

"That's right, the dogs by all means, for they are an important part of the family," said Hugh, laughing. "Sit over that side, Tom, and keep them by you. Bessie, I want you to stand in the centre just under the arch; there, that is perfect. I shall turn round and look at you all when I reach the gate." So saying, Hugh bent down and kissed Bessie's pale cheek, and then passing under the arch, walked rapidly down the long garden-walk. The B. B.'s in martial array on either side, gave him three cheers as he passed, and when he reached the gate he turned and looked back with a smile, waving his hat in token of farewell. In another moment he was gone, then the carriage rolled down the street out of sight, and Aunt Faith, rising, said solemnly, "May God bless our dear Hugh, now and forever."

"Amen," said Mr. Leslie.

Bessie had disappeared.

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