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The Gold of Chickaree by Susan Warner

 

CHAPTER I. ON-DIT.
CHAPTER II. WHAT COMES OF ON-DIT.
CHAPTER III. CROSS THREADS.
CHAPTER IV. ABOUT THE GUARDIANSHIP.
CHAPTER V. ASLEEP AND AWAKE.
CHAPTER VI. A MAN AND HIS MONEY.
CHAPTER VII. THE EMERALD.
CHAPTER VIII. ACORNS AND ACORN-CUPS.
CHAPTER IX. ROLLO'S EXPERIMENT.
CHAPTER X. ROLLO'S COMPANY.
CHAPTER XI. STARLIGHT AND FIRELIGHT.
CHAPTER XII. COFFEE AND BUNS.
CHAPTER XIII. UNDER THE CHESTNUT TREES.
CHAPTER XIV. THE WORTH OF A FEATHER.
CHAPTER XV. CONFIDENTIAL TALK.
CHAPTER XVI. DR. ARTHUR'S NEWS.
CHAPTER XVII. ALONE IN THE FIGHT.
CHAPTER XVIII. SETTLEMENTS.
CHAPTER XIX. SCHOOLING.
CHAPTER XX. ABOUT CHRISTMAS.
CHAPTER XXI. THE LOSS OF POWER.
CHAPTER XXII. PREPARATORY FREAKS.
CHAPTER XXIII. FOR BETTER FOR WORSE.
CHAPTER XXIV. ONE AND ONE ARE TWO.
CHAPTER XXV. PRIM'S TRUNK.
CHAPTER XXVI. AN ACCOUNT AT THE BANK.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE WORLD AND HIS WIFE.
CHAPTER XXVIII. PLEASURE BY EXPRESS.
CHAPTER XXIX. SOCIAL DUTIES.
CHAPTER XXX. A TRAVELLING CLOCK.
CHAPTER XXXI. NOVICE WORK.
CHAPTER XXXII. SUPPER.
CHAPTER XXXIII. ABDICATION.
CHAPTER XXXIV. GOLD AT INTEREST.

 

The Gold of Chickaree seen by The Atlantic monthly, Volume 39, Issue 233, March 1877, pp. 370-371

“It is said to criticise The Gold of Chickaree, or stories like it, without making use of such violent methods as excite the scorn of those who criticise the critics. They say mere denunciation is of no service and should never be employed; as if there were not too many books already without truth or beauty, which cry aloud for some one to point out in print, as every one does in conversation, their utter worthlessness. The Gold of Chickaree is a continuation of Wych Hazel, and the two stories are as much alike as two halves of a slate pencil. Wych Hazel herself is rich and insufferably pert; her lover, Rollo, Dane, Duke, or Olaf, as he is called indifferently, is rich and in his ways 'masterful.' The earlier novel ends with the engagement of these two, and here is described their sudden marriage, which they forebore announcing even to their guests at dinner, who were unexpectedly delighted by witnessing this wedding later in the evening. This is a capital notion for entertaining company, and far superior to music, singing, or charades. The other incidents of the novel are of the flimsiest sort; round dancing and the theatre come in for intolerant abuse. All the poor people get Christmas presents, and one son of Belial, who is anxious to run away with his neighbors wife, is bought off for thirty thousand dollars, a mere bagatelle in this moral Monte Christo. For the same sum of money it might have been possible to close a theatre for a winter or to bribe penniless young men to give up dancing a dozen Germans. Besides their lavish extravagance, the most noteworthy thing about the people is their morbid self-consciousness; they are never at their ease; they are forever trying to impress one another with their own brilliant wit. It is a poor story.”

 

NEW YORK

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

27 AND 29 WEST 23D STREET

COPYRIGHT

BY G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS,

1876.

 

CHAPTER I. ON-DIT.

'Papa,' said Primrose, very thoughtfully, 'do you think Hazel will marry Duke?'

Dr. Maryland and his daughter were driving homeward after some business which had taken them to the village.

'She will if she knows what is good for her,' the doctor answered decidedly.

'But she has been away from Chickaree now nearly a year.'

'I don't know what her guardian is thinking of,' Dr. Maryland said, somewhat discontentedly.

'Duke is her guardian too,' remarked Primrose.

'You land a fish sometimes best with a long line, my dear.'

'People say she has been very gay at Newport.'

'I am sorry to hear it.'

'Do you think, papa, she would ever settle down and be quiet and give all such gayety up?'

'The answer to that lies in what I do not know, my dear.'

'Papa,' Primrose went on, after the pause of a minute, 'don't you think the will was rather hard upon Hazel?'

'No,' said the doctor, decidedly. 'What can a girl want more?'

'But if she does not like Duke?'

'She is not obliged to marry him.'

'But she can't marry anybody else, papa, without losing all her fortune, that is——'

'Till she is twenty-five, my dear; only till she is twenty-five. She is not obliged to wait any longer than that, and no woman need be married before she is twenty-five.'

Primrose laughed a little privately at the statement which she did not combat. She was thinking that Duke did not look at all depressed, and querying whether it was because he knew more than she did, or because he did not care. The old buggy stopped before the door of the long, low, stone house, and the conversation went no further.

Meanwhile, far away in the city, the young lady in question had discovered what nobody knew, and at last had unveiled her own secret. Not doubtingly, as she had glanced at it before, but beyond question, as an accepted fact. She hid it well from other people; she was at no pains to hide it from herself. Pains would have been of no use. If, in the somewhat secluded quiet of the first part of the winter, she had contrived a little to confuse things, it was no longer possible the moment she was out in the world again. Well she knew that she would rather live over three minutes in the red room when she had unconsciously pleased Mr. Rollo's taste, than to dance the gayest dance with such men as Stuart Nightingale, or do miles of promenading with the peers of Mr. May. For to Wych Hazel, to care for anybody so, was to care not two straws for anybody else. The existence, almost, of other men sank out of sight. She heard their compliments, she laughed at their talk, but through it all neither eye nor ear would have missed the faintest token of Mr. Rollo's presence; and since he was not there, she amused herself with mental comparisons not very flattering to the people at hand. She could not escape their admiration, but it was rather a bore. She care to have them stand round her, and join her in the street, and ask her to drive? She enjoy their devotion? 'In idea' she belonged to somebody else, some time ago; now, the idea was her own; and she cared no more for the rest of the world than if they had been so many lay figures. It was not too easy, sometimes, to hide this; not easy always to look long enough at the hearts laid at her feet, to give them the sympathetic courtesy which was their due. She never had tried her hand at flirting; but it was left for this season to stamp Miss Kennedy as 'the most unapproachable woman in town.' Which, however, unfortunately, made her more popular than ever. She was so lovely in her shy reserve; the hardwon favours were so delightful; the smiles so witching when they came; and nobody ever suspected that what she did with all her triumphs was to mentally bestow them on somebody else. They belonged to him, now, not to her, and for her had no other value.

It was a very timid consciousness of all this that Hazel allowed herself, even yet. Thoughts were scolded out of sight and shut up and hushed; but none the less they had their way; and the sudden coming of forbidden thoughts, and the half oblivion of things at hand, made the prettiest work that could be in face and manner. A sweeter shyness than that of the girl who had nothing to hide watched all doors that led to her secret; a fairer reserve than mere timidity kept back what belonged to one man alone. A certain womanly veil over the girlish face but made the beautiful life changes more beautiful still. If anything, she looked younger than she had done the year before.

All this being true, why then did Miss Kennedy throw herself into the whirl of society, and carry her elder guardian about with her from place to place, till they had nearly made the round of all the gay scenes of winter and summer? Very simply and plainly, she said to herself, because there was nothing else to do. Of course she could not settle down permanently away from home; and as to going back to Chickaree—to rides, and walks, and talks—with September hurrying on as if everybody was in a hurry to have it— that was out of the question. The very idea took her breadth away. Till September Mr. Rollo had pledged himself to be quiet; longer it could not be expected of him. No, she must keep her distance, and keep moving; and if she had to meet her fate, meet it at least on a sudden. She could not sit still and watch it coming, step by step; she could not even sit still and think about it. If she could have persuaded Mr. Falkirk, Hazel would have gone straight to Europe, and stayed there till—she did not know when. She had an overpowering dread of going home, and seeing Mr. Rollo, and having herself and her secret brought out into the open day. So she rushed about from one gay place to another, and hid herself in the biggest crowds she could find; and all the while went to his 'penny readings' (in imagination), and counted the days that were yet left before the end of September. But the tension began to tell upon her, and her face took a delicate look that Mr. Falkirk did not like to see, in spite of the ready colour that flickered there in such fitful fashion. And then, Dr. Arthur Maryland, watching her one night at the Ocean House, with his critical eyes, gave his opinion, unasked. All that appeared was purely professional.

'She would be better at home, Mr. Falkirk, with different surroundings, and more quiet. Just now she is attempting too much. But do not tell her I say so.'

The advice chimed in well with Mr. Falkirk's own private notions and opinions. It pleased him not to have his ward so given up to society, so engrossed with other people, as for months he had been obliged to see her. Mr. Falkirk had a vague sense of danger, comparable to the supposed feelings of a good mother-hen which has followed her brood of ducklings to the edge of the water. For Mr. Falkirk's attendance seemed to himself not much more valuable or efficient to guard from evil than the said mother-hen's clucking round the pond. True, he stood by, and saw Wych Hazel was there; he went and came with her; but the waves of the social entertainment floated her hither and thither, and he could scarce follow at a distance, much less navigate for her. What she was doing, or saying, or engaging to do, was quite beyond his ken or his management. Besides, Mr. Falkirk thought it ill that the beautiful home at Chickaree should be untenanted; and ill that Wych Hazel's tastes and habits should be permanently diverted from home joys and domestic avocations. He was very much in the dark about Rollo; but, knowing nothing about the secret compact for the year, and seeing that Rollo did not of late seek his ward's society, and that Wych Hazel shunned to come near his neighbourhood, and affected any other place rather, he half comforted himself with the thought that as yet his little charge was his only, and her sweet trust and affection unshared by anybody who had a greater claim.

So Mr. Falkirk issued his decree, and made his arrangements; that is, he told Wych Hazel he thought she ought to go to Chickaree for the rest of the season; and, seeing that she must, Wych Hazel agreed.

It came to be now the end of August. And all through the season, Rollo had kept at his work or his play in the Hollow, and he had not sought out Wych Hazel in her various abiding places. Perhaps he was too busy; perhaps he was constantly expecting that her wanderings would cease, and she would return to her own home. Perhaps he guessed partly at the reason for her keeping at a distance, and would not hurry her by any premature importunity. And, perhaps—for some men are so—he was willing that she should run to the end of her line, see all that she cared to see, and find, if she could find, anything that she liked better than him. It might have been patiently or impatiently; but Rollo waited, and did not recall—did not go after her. And now she was coming home.

It was September and one week of it gone. Rollo had ridden over to Dr. Maryland's to dinner, and the little party was just sitting down to the table, when Dr. Arthur arrived. He had been, we know, at Newport, on business of his own, where Wych Hazel and Mr. Falkirk were, and was just returned after an absence of some weeks. He was a lion, of course, as any one is in a country home who has ventured out into the great sea of the world and come home again; and his sisters could hardly serve him fast enough, or listen eagerly enough to his talk at the dinner-table. Though Prim cared most for the sound of his voice, and Mrs. Coles for what it had to tell.

'And you saw Miss Kennedy, Arthur, did you?' this latter lady asked, with a view to getting intelligence through various channels at once, keeping her ears for him and her eyes for Rollo.

'I saw Miss Kennedy.'

'How was she looking, Arthur?' said Prim.

'Not very well, I thought. That is, well according to you ladies, but not according to us doctors.'

'Not well?' echoed Prim in dismay; while Rollo said nothing and did not even look.

'Rather delicate, it seemed to me,' said Dr. Arthur. 'But she is coming to-morrow, Prim, so you can judge for yourself.'

'Is she as much admired as ever?' quoth Mrs. Coles, eyeing Rollo hard by stealth and not making much of him.

'More. And deserves it.'

'How does she deserve more?' said Rollo.

'I am not good at descriptions,' Dr. Arthur answered, somewhat briefly.

'I suppose she takes all she gets?' said Prudentia.

'Difficult to do anything else with it.'

'Who is her special admirer now, or the most remarkable? for she reckons them by scores.'

'All seemed to be special. One or two young Englishmen made themselves pretty prominent.'

'That Sir Henry something—was he one of them? Is he there?'

'Crofton? Yes, he was there.'

'What do people say, Arthur? Who of them is going to have her?'

'People say something. And know nothing.'

'That's true—sometimes. But whom does she dance with oftenest? Did you notice?'

'I saw her dance but once, and so could not notice,' said Dr. Arthur.

'Well, what was that? and whom with? If you saw her dance only once, that might tell something.'

'No, it might not; for I never went into the ball-room. This once that I spoke of was at a private party, and the dancing was on the lawn. Crofton was her partner then.'

'Crofton was her partner! Sir Henry Crofton. Waltzing with her? Then he'll be the man, you see if he won't. Was he waltzing with her?'

'Nonsense, Prudentia!' said her sister. 'He won't be the one; and it proves nothing if she was waltzing with him. Why shouldn't she waltz with him, as well as with anybody else?'

'You'll see,' said Prudentia. 'Answer my question, Arthur. Was it a waltz?'

'A waltz they call it,' said Dr. Arthur, with considerable disgust. 'I should choose a longer name, and call it an abomination.'

'I don't believe Arthur is a good witness, Prim,' said Rollo. 'His testimony gets confused. Does he ever go walking in his sleep in these days—nights, I mean?'

'I was awake then,' said Dr. Arthur. 'And why you women don't put that thing down!'——

'Arthur!' said Prim, half laughing but half fearful too, 'it's rather hard on the people who don't go, to tell them they ought to put a stop to it; and the people who do go, some of them, do it very innocently.'

'Yes!' said Dr. Arthur, 'and any man who takes such a young, pure face into the whirligig ought to be shot!'

'I daresay she'll marry Sir Henry Crofton,' said Mrs. Coles.

But Rollo did not seem terrified, and did not seem to pay much attention to the whole thing, she thought. He was rather silent the rest of the dinner; but so he had been the former part of it, ever since Dr. Arthur had come home to talk. To Prudentia he never said more words than were civilly necessary. As soon as dinner was over he mounted and rode away.

CHAPTER II. WHAT COMES OF ON-DIT.

Wych Hazel had not wanted to come home. But neither did she at all wish to arouse Mr. Falkirk's suspicions by a too strenuous resistance; and besides, when he really made up his mind to a thing, she had to yield; so, with much secret trepidation, and a particularly wayward outside development, she made the journey; and late the next night after Dr. Arthur's revelations, laid her head on the pillows on her own room at Chickaree, with a strange little feeling of gladness, that half began to take the trepidation in hand. Well—it was not the end of September yet: she would have a little breathing space. And then—Wych Hazel dropped asleep.

Things 'happen,' as we say, strangely sometimes. Threads which should lie smooth and straight alongside of each other and make no confusion, get all snarled, and twisted, and thrown crosswise of each other by just a little breeze of influence, or some slight impulse on one side. And so it fell next day.

Mrs. Powder, who had also been at Newport, and left it three days before Wych Hazel, had engaged her and Mr. Falkirk to lunch for this very day, the next after their arrival. That was one thread, not necessarily touching, one would say, the grand event of the day, which was Rollo's coming and visit at Chickaree. For that visit was to have been made right early in the morning, and Collingwood was ordered, and even mounted, when there came a message from the mills. Some complication or accident of business made the master's presence necessary. Rollo went to the Hollow, and stayed there till he had but just time left to get to Chickaree before luncheon. This thread was twisted.

The carriage at the door. Rollo threw himself off his horse and went in. He was too late. Just within the door he met the little lady he came to see, standing in her pretty draperies of mantle and veil, ready for her drive; and Mr. Falkirk was behind her.

'O Mr. Rollo!' she said (fortified with this last fact) 'you have come for lunch!'

'Have I?' said he, as he took her hand in the old-fashioned way. 'I see I shall not get it.'

'Will getting it to-morrow help you to dispense with it to-day? We are engaged at Mrs. Powder's. You see I must go.'

'I see you must go. I have been delayed.'

Mr. Falkirk, according to his accustomed tactics, passed out upon the veranda after giving his own greeting, leaving the others alone. Rollo had come with a face flushed with pleasure and riding; now a certain shade fell upon it; his brow grew grave, as if with sudden thought.

'I will not detain you,' he said, after seeing that Mr. Falkirk was at a safe distance; 'only let me ask one question. Arthur Maryland says he saw you waltzing with that English Crofton. I know it is not true; but tell me so, that I may contradict him. He was mistaken.'

'Dr. Arthur! was he there?' voice and face too shewed a sudden check.

'But he did not see that?' said Rollo, with eyes which seemed as if they would deny the fact by sheer force of will.

Her eyes had no more than glanced at him hitherto, shyly withholding themselves. But now they looked full into his face, using the old, wistful, girlish right of search; watching him as keenly as sometimes he watched her. She answered gravely:

'How could Dr. Arthur be mistaken in what he says he saw?'

'Is it true?' came with an astonished, fiery glance of the gray eyes. She draw herself up a little, stepping back.

'It is true—since he says so—that he saw me among the rest.'

It is not often that we see a man lose colour from intense feeling. Wych Hazel's eyes saw it now. Rollo stood still before her, quite still, for a space of time that neither could measure, growing very pale, while at the same time the lines on lip and brow gradually took a firmer and firmer set. Motionless as an iron statue, and assuming more and more the fixedness of one, he stood, while minute after minute slipped by. To Wych Hazel the time probably seemed measureless and endless; while to Rollo, in the struggle and tumultuous whirl of feeling, it was only a single sharp point of existence. He stood with his eyes cast down; and without raising them, without uttering another syllable, for which I suppose he had not self-control, at last he bowed gravely and low, and turned away. In another minute, the bay horse and his rider went past the door and were gone.

On her part, Wych Hazel had stood waiting, expecting him to speak, scanning his face with eager scrutiny. Then, with a grave shadow of disappointment upon her own, looked down again, nerving herself for the words of anger which must follow such a look. But when he turned, she raised her head quickly and looked after him, following with her eyes as long as eyes could follow, listening as long as ears could hear—then drew her veil over her face and went down and entered the carriage. Answering, somehow, Mr. Falkirk's words; and, somehow, taking her part in Mrs. Powder's festivities.

O the interminable length of those bridges from life-point to life-point, over which we must sometimes pass at a foot-pace! Is anything more intolerable than the monotonous tramp, tramp, of the meaningless steps? Is anything more sickening than the easy sway of the bridge, which seems to make the whole world reel, while in truth it is only ourselves? If Wych Hazel had been asked afterwards who was at Mrs. Powder's, and what was said, and when she came home, she could not have told a word. She came home with a scarlet spot on either cheek, burning brighter and brighter. They were very beautiful, people said.

But to-morrow he would come, when his anger was cooled down. What if he did?—for pain this time had used a trident. He had doubted her. Then he could doubt her! Then, he never could trust. And what was anything after that? Not her discretion merely, as before; not her obedience; but her word! Well, he would come, and she would tell him—that would be one little shred of comfort, at least. But he had looked at her so! and then—he had turned his eyes away. And no matter what she told him, or what he might believe then, that look had gone down to the depths of her heart. He had doubted her!—

Well, the night wore away, somehow, between bitter waking pain and snatches of exhausted sleep; and then the morning—as mornings sometimes will—seemed to speak comfort. He would come, and she would tell him.

But he did not come. And one day followed another, and still there came not even a message; and Wych Hazel waited. No one guessed how little she eat in those days, no one guessed how little she slept; the one thing she knew of herself was, that no earthly temptation could have made her leave the house for five minutes. She rose up early—for he might come then; and she sat up till impossible hours, lest they might be the only ones left free by business. But under all this watching, the keen, three-pointed pain never relaxed its pressure. What was the use of anything, after that? and yet she longed for his coming with an intensity that could not be measured.

Earlier in the year,—certainly before his declaration,—she would not have waited so long, without taking the matter into her own hands and writing. But the twenty-fifth was close at hand; how could she do anything to bring herself to his notice, or call him to her side? And he was almost a stranger now; she had seen him but once since near a year ago. And on the twenty-fifth, at least, she must see him. Alas! what could she say to him then? unless— that—. But she could not think of it now. Her mind clasped hold of just one thought: he will come then. 'He wants me to understand how angry he is,' thought Hazel to herself as the tenth day crept slowly by. 'Does he think I am made of iron, like himself, I wonder?'

And so we judge and misjudge each other, the best of us; and how can we help it? Misjudgments will be, must be; the only thing left to human finiteness and short-sightedness is frank dealing. There is one possible remedy in that.

Rollo did not come to Chickaree, and he did not write. How long Wych could have borne to wait without herself writing, to clear herself, it is difficult to say. A week passed, the second week was in progress, the twenty-fifth was not more than a week off, when Mr. Falkirk announced at dinner one day that Rollo was just setting off upon a journey.

'He's going to see some great manufacturing establishment in the northeast somewhere, and can't attend to my business, he tells me, before the fifth or sixth of next month; he hopes to be back by that time.'

Mr. Falkirk thought the non-intercourse between the Hollow and Chickaree a very significant fact; but it was not his plan to annoy his ward by seeming to see anything it was not necessary he should see. It cannot be said that he was quite satisfied with the condition of things, indeed; however, he knew it was hopeless to attack Wych Hazel in the hope of getting information; and with what patience he might, he waited too; the third in that unrestful attitude.

With that strange double life which she had been leading of late, Wych Hazel heard Mr. Falkirk's announcement and poured out his 'after-dinner coffee' with a steady hand. Then asked when Mr. Rollo was to go. He had gone already, that very day. And till when must this other business wait? Till the second week in October. Then she knew that he had thrown her off. No other earthly thing would have kept him away on the twenty-fifth, without even a word. Could he have done it, unless his liking for her had changed? Would he have done it, caring for her as—she thought— he had cared a year ago? With these questions beating back and forth in her mind,—so she went though the rest of the day. Receiving visiters, giving Mr. Falkirk his tea, sitting with him through the evening; until, at last, it was done and he had gone, and she could be alone. It never even crossed her mind to go to bed that night.

Whatever the new day may do with things that are sure, it is yet rather gentle with uncertainties; making fair little suggestions, and giving stray touches of light, in a way that is altogether hopeful and beguiling. And so, when that weary moonlight night had spent its glitter, and the tender dawn came up, Hazel breathed free over a new thought. Mr. Falkirk might be mistaken! His own business might fill Mr. Rollo's hands until the second week in October,— that word proved nothing at all about his staying away. She would wait and see. No use in trusting people just while you can keep watch. And so, though the secret pain at her heart did never disappear, and though at best her next meeting with Mr. Rollo could not be very pleasant, still Hazel did hold up her head, and hope, and wait, with a woman's ready faith, and a courage that died out in the twilight and revived in the dawn, and kept her in a fever of suspense and expectation. It wearied her so unspeakably, in the long hours of practical daylight and unmanageable night, that sometimes she could hardly bear it. The world seemed to turn round till she could not catch her thoughts; and nerves overstrung and on the watch, made her start and grow pale with the commonest little sounds of every day and every night.

She had never had many people to love; she had never (before) loved anybody very much; and the truth and dignity which had kept her from all forms of love-trifling, so kept the hidden treasures of her heart all sparkling with their own freshness. They had never been passed about from hand to hand; no weather-stains, no worn-out impressions were there. What the amount might be, Wych Hazel had never guessed until in these dark days she began to tell it over; making herself feel so poor! For, after all, what is the use of a treasure which nobody wants?

Not the least among her troubles was the painful hiding them all. She must laugh and talk and entertain Mr. Falkirk; she must guard her face when the mail-bag came in, and steady the little hand stretched out for her letters; must meet and turn off all Mrs. Bywank's looks and words; must dress and go out, and dress and receive people at home. Ah, how hard it was!—and no one to whom she could speak, no lap where she could lay down her head, and pour out her sorrows.

Slowly, as the days went by, and hope grew fainter, and the dawn turned cold, there grew up in Wych Hazel's mind an intense longing to lay hold of something that was still; something that would stand; something beyond the wind and above the waves; and slowly, gradually, the words she had read to Gyda came back, and made themselves a power in her mind:

“I will be with him in trouble.”

Oh for some one to be with her! Oh for something she could grasp, and stop this endless swaying and rocking and trembling of all things else! And then, following close, came other words, more lately learned. Not now read over, with those pencil marks beside them; but read often enough before, happily, to have been learned by heart; and now passing and re-passing in unceasing procession before her thoughts.

“For the love of Christ constraineth us.”—

The love that could be counted on; the Presence that was sure!

And so, reaching her hands out blindly through the dark, the girl did now and then lay hold of the Eternal strength, and for a while sometimes found rest. But there came other days and hours when she seemed to be clinging to she hardly knew what, with the full rush and sweeping of the tide around her; conscious only that she was not quite swept away; until when at last the twenty-third was past, and three days of grace had followed suit, Hazel rose up one morning with this one thought: if she did not see somebody to speak to, she should die.

CHAPTER III. CROSS THREADS.

And in all the world there was but one person to whom she could speak, for but one had guessed her secret; even Gyda. It seemed to the girl afterwards as if at this time again her mother's prayers must have been around her; so clear and swift and instinctive were her decisions, in the chaos of all other things. No danger now of meeting any one at the cottage. But how to get there? Not through Morton Hollow, not on Jeannie Deans,—oh no, oh no! If she went, she must go by that other almost impossible way, which was not a way. She would drive to the foot of the hill, and leave the carriage there, and not take Lewis to see where she went.

How she did it, Hazel never remembered afterwards. She left the carriage with a cheery word to Reo, and then set her face to the hill; the little feet toiling on with swift eagerness through briers and over stones, finding her way she knew not how; conscious only that she did not feel the ground under her feet, but seemed to be walking on nothing, so that she had every now and then a sort of fear of pitching forward. She had set out in good season, but it was past midday when she stood before the cottage. If she knocked as no other hand had ever knocked there; if her face at the opening door startled Gyda beyond words; of this, too, the girl knew nothing. For with the first sight of Gyda, there came such a surge of the sorrows in which she was plunged, that Hazel stepped one step within the door and dropped all unconscious at the old Norsewoman's feet.

Gyda was quite unable to lift her, light as the burden would have been; but what she could she was prompt and skilful to do. She brought cushions to put under Wych Hazel's head, applied cold water and hartshorn; for Gyda was too much in request as a village nurse and doctor to be unsupplied with simple remedies. With tender care she used what she had, till the girl opened her eyes and found Gyda's brown face hovering over her. Even then the old woman said not a word. She waited till Wych Hazel's senses were clear, and the young lady had roused herself up to a sitting position on the floor. Gyda's eyes were too keen not to see that the mind was more disturbed than the body.

'My little lady,' she said wistfully, 'what ails thee?'

Hazel passed her hands over her face, and tried to collect her thoughts.

'I am a great deal of trouble,'—she said slowly; for the touch of the wet hair was suggestive, and it seemed to her just then that she was nothing but trouble to anybody.

'And what is it that is troubling thee?' said Gyda, stooping down with her hand on Wych Hazel's shoulder, the wrinkled, sweet old face looking earnestly for the answer.

'How can you set things right?' said Hazel, with her usual inroad to the midst of the case. 'How can you set them right, when you do not know where they are wrong?'

'Will my lady tell me what is wrong?' said the old woman, probably judging this statement of the position too vague to be acted upon. 'But come and sit down, and see the fire, and get comfortable; and tell me; and then we'll know.'

Wych Hazel rose and came to the fire as she was bid, and looked at it, seeing nothing; but her next words touched another point.

'Why do such things come upon people?' she said.

The old Norsewoman stood beside her, watching with all the wisdom of her loving, wise heart to see where the hurt was and what the medicine must be. She put her hand again upon Wych Hazel's shoulder as she looked.

'What has come?' she said. 'It's not—my lad?' she added, with evidently a sudden startle of apprehension.

'He is away, you know,' said Hazel, with an immediate reserve of voice. 'I know nothing of him.'

'What has come to my lad's lady?'

A quick spasm of pain passed over the face she was watching. 'Hush!' the girl said under her breadth. 'I am not that.'

'Then something wants to be set right,' said the old woman quietly. 'What is it, dear? Tell me, and the Lord will shew us how to do.'

'If He cared, he would have hindered,' said Hazel drearily.

'He doesn't hinder, sometimes, to shew us that he cares,' said Gyda. 'You may not question his love, dear; you'll be sure to get wrong if you do.' And then bending nearer, so as to look close in the girl's face, with her little black eyes shining both keen and tender, she repeated, 'My lad's lady, what is it? I am his servant, and so I am her servant.'

If anything could have broken down the fierce self-control in which Hazel had been entrenched for the last ten days, it was perhaps the repetition of those words. But tears were biding their time; none had come, none could come yet. Only her lips trembled.

'Please, please!' she said, raising her hand in mute pleading. Then adding, in a tone that went to Gyda's heart, 'He has doubted my word. There is nothing to be done.'

'My lad? Olaf?'

'Yes.'

'It seems ye've doubted him. Is that it?'

'His truth? Never.'

'Nein, not his truth. But you have doubted him, yet. What cause had he to doubt your word?'

'Appearances. They were all against me. But there is no use in trusting, unless you trust.'

'Has Olaf done you wrong, you think, and no cause?'

'I did not come to complain of him,' said the girl quickly. 'But—I had nobody to speak to—and I was—dying by inches.'

'Suppose you complain, dear,' said the old woman, with a smile which was anything but unsympathetic. 'Complain, and make the worst of it; then we will know how to begin. Say all he has done, as bad as it is, and we will see what it means, maybe.'

The wistful eyes looked up at her, then down again. She answered softly:

'He thought, he had reason to think, that I had broken my promise. And he did not wait, nor try, for an explanation. That is one thing.'

'How could he have reason to think that, my lady?'

'Because of something I could not help,' said Hazel. 'You know that can be,' she added with an appealing look, as if to see whether Gyda doubted her too.

'Did you speak to him?'

'He gave me no chance. I have not seen him since—since—he looked at me so,' said Hazel.

'Maybe he had his own part to bear,' said the old woman. 'But Olaf will be back again in a few days.'

'Yes,'—said the girl slowly,—'that makes no difference. He has given me up.'

'Love doesn't give up,' said Gyda. 'He asked me, a few days ago, to pray for him, that he might be strong to do right. I wot, it'll be an easier part then he thought of!'

But the words touched a sore spot. 'No,' the girl thought to herself. 'Love does not give up!' She sat very white and still. Then, after a while, looked up at Gyda—one of her fair looks.

'You did not know,' she said gently, 'that he was asking you to pray against me.'

Gyda met her eyes, first without replying; her hand left Wych Hazel's shoulder and came upon her hair, touching it softly. That old, brown, wrinkled face was so sweet and quiet that it seemed a very stronghold of comfort and counsel and help. Counsel and comfort came in a very simple form this time.

'Dear,' she said, in her slow utterance,—'he loves you.'

But Hazel was not inclined to debate that question with anybody but herself. She leaned her head back and shut her eyes, finding curious soothing in the touch of Gyda's hand. Nobody ever touched her so in these days, and she had been very, very lonely. Then suddenly she started up, sitting forward and speaking eagerly.

'You must not tell him!' she said; 'you must not even tell him that I have been here. You must not say one word. Promise me!'

'Till you tell him?' said Gyda placidly.

'Will you promise?' Hazel repeated. 'Things that cannot stand of themselves had better—fall.'

'What is it that cannot stand, dear?'

'I did not come here to talk about that,' said Hazel, laying her head back again. 'I came to talk about myself. Or to do something, besides think.'

'I'll hear,' said Gyda. 'Nothing's going to fall that ought to stand. Talk, my dear.'

All the while she was standing just at Wych Hazel's shoulder, touching her head with a slight touch; in her face and voice the utmost soothing charm of tender tranquillity. She had been doubtless a Norwegian peasant woman, and had known little of what we call refining advantages in outward things; but love and peace and sympathy had made her wonderfully delicate and quick to divine the needs of those with whom she dealt. It was a hard little hand, but a very soft touch upon Wych Hazel's curls. Furthermore, it was evident, that beyond her sympathy with her visiter's present distress, Gyda was not disturbed about the matter in hand.

'The days have been so long, all these weeks,' said Hazel. 'And the nights were longer than the days.'

'Ah, yes. And you couldn't trust the Lord with your trouble?'

'I think—I did try, sometimes,' said the girl slowly, 'but I do not quite know. I was in such confusion, and other things came in, and I was afraid of doing it—only to please him, because——'

'Eh,' said Gyda. 'Yes, to please who, dear?'

Hazel put up one little hand and laid it upon Gyda's, so giving her answer.

'Because,' she began again presently, 'I had thought—it had seemed as if—maybe—that was the reason of it all. Do such things come upon people for doing wrong things, when they do not know they are wrong?'

'Mayhap,' said Gyda, who through the obscurities of this speech threaded her way to one thing only. 'It's only the straight way, dear, that has no crooks in it. But see—isn't my lad's lady in the straight way?'

'But I mean—I do not know how to tell you,' she said, covering her face with her hands. 'When he had grown so good—and I had not,—I thought, perhaps, that was the reason. I thought of it last winter, before this came; and I have never seen him since—but once. I might seem—different—to him, you know,' Hazel added, in her girlish way. Then she took her hands down and looked at Gyda, searching for her answer. But Gyda gently smiled.

'I think you'll soon know,' she said. 'Suppose you don't think any more about it, till he comes.'

Hazel was silent a few minutes, but thinking all the while as hard as she could. She was in no hurry now for Mr. Rollo to come; her dread of seeing him again was extreme. And by this time another matter claimed her attention, over and above everything else; she must get home while she could. If physical prostration and reaction went on at the rate they had begun, it would not take much longer to make the scramble over the hill a sheer impossibility.

'I must go,' she said abruptly. 'But you will let me come once more?'

Gyda was about to answer, when she turned her head sharply towards the door. Her ears caught a sound in that direction, and the next instant Wych Hazel's ears caught it too; the sound of steps, quick steps, a man's steps, coming along the flag-stones outside the cottage. A hand on the door, the door open, and Rollo himself was there.

CHAPTER IV. ABOUT THE GUARDIANSHIP.

He came in with the same quick, energetic footstep, looking grave, certainly, but brown and ruddy, like a man with all his forces about him, and with a bright greeting ready for Gyda. And then his face changed suddenly, and his manner. He came up to Wych Hazel's side, bent down to take her hand, and said with grave earnestness and all his wonted deferential gentleness,

'I am glad to find you here!'

One could almost have heard the bolts and bars with which, at the sound of his footsteps, the girl shut herself in. But all colour was shut off as well. She rose to her feet, laying one hand on the chair back to steady herself, and answered simply, 'I am just going.' And she turned to Gyda. But Rollo prevented her.

'Won't you sit down again?' said he. 'A minute or two? I have something to say to you, and now is the best time?'

He turned to Gyda, but the old Norwegian was already leaving the room, and the two were alone. And perhaps to give her time—or himself—he stood for a moment still and thoughtful by the side of the fireplace. And Hazel, who had thought she would take the first moment that offered to clear her name of the blot left upon it, sat in a sort of spell, and could not speak.

'I want you,' he began at length, with that same grave gentleness; he had himself well in hand now;—'I want you to give me, as a friend, some explanation of that which you told me the other day.'

'As a friend'—he had not then forgotten the day of the month. That was one passing thought. And then, if Mr. Rollo had interest in new displays of character, he had a chance to prosecute the study, and see Wych Hazel as other people sometimes saw her; so far off she seemed in her reserve. This was not the sprite who had disputed his authority and pelted him with sharp speeches; nor the shy girl who had blushed if he but came near her; there was not even the faintest tinging of the cheeks, nor the least gleam from out the deep shadows of the eyes. Only in one way did the slightest agitation betray itself; but twice she began to speak, and twice could not command her lips; the third time she conquered them and went on. With down-looking eyes, and head a little bent, and hands quietly folded, as if they were too tired to hold each other in the old way, and that pathetic quiver still every now and then sweeping round her mouth and chin, Wych Hazel went straight to the midst of things, as if not daring to waste strength on preliminaries.

'Sir Henry Crofton had laid a wager—or vowed a vow—that he would not go back to England until he had waltzed with me. I saw him once or twice in the fall, and in town he came often to the house, and after that I met him everywhere. And he very often asked me to waltz. And I always refused.

'One night'—she drew her breath, as if the words stifled her—then went on swiftly, as before, preventing all questions: 'One night, at Newport, we were both at an out-door party. There was music, of course; everybody was dancing. Except me. Sir Henry made his usual request, and then asked me to walk instead.

' “Do you really never waltz?” he said, as we passed up and down. I told him no.

' “But why not?” I said, one of my guardians disapproved of it.

' “Is he here to-night?”—'No.'

' “Then, he will never know what you do.” I said then, that I had promised.

' “Then it was not for my own pleasure I had given it up?” I said, no.

' “Didn't I sometimes wish for the pleasure again?” Sometimes, I confessed, when I heard the music.

' “Had I promised for always?” No.

' “O well!—it was very easy to forget the precise date.” 'I said' (here for an instant a flush came) 'that I had not forgotten it.'

'We were standing just then by the open lawn and the circle of dancers; and—I think—my foot stirred a little, answering the measure if a new waltz which the band struck up. In an instant, before I had time to think or speak, he had whirled me off among the crowd. So much taller than I, so much stronger, so skilled a dancer, that at first I could only go where I was taken, obliged to keep the step, in my own self-defence. One hand of course he held; but the other—did not—touch him. And, presently, I made him let me go. But (we had gone so fast) not till we had taken rather more than one round, I think, I am not quit sure. And I always mean to tell you.'—The voice fell a little, breaking off short.

She had not looked at him once since he came in; she did not look now, to see how her story was received, but sat still, feeling as if her very life were at stand. His face had changed notably as she went on; its burden of grave care cleared away; his brow grew full of light; the eyebrows came into their wonted line; but Rollo's eyes were the eyes of a man whose soul is on fire. He stood breathlessly at first, then sitting down beside the girl got possession of one of her hands, but only so speaking his sympathy or eagerness; till as she finished he brought it to his lips, or rather bowed his lips to it and kissed the little hand over and over. He made no other answer; he said no word at all, till the dark flush which had kindled in his face at her story a little faded away. Then, still holding her hand perhaps unconsciously close, he said, low enough,

'And what about the guardianship, Hazel?'

The girl was in that state when to withstand or to bear seems equally difficult: there is no strength for either; and the colour which flitted over her face at his demonstrations was less of shyness than of intense feeling. It all went now, at his words.

'I thought,' she said (the words came too quick, but she could not help it) 'that you had resigned, Mr. Rollo.'

Rollo got the other hand into his keeping, and merely inquired in the same tone 'what she wanted him to do?'

'I used to want you to trust me. But it would not be any use now.'

Rollo's lips touched her hand again, both hands. 'What about the guardianship, Hazel?' he repeated, with a glow and sparkle of the gray eyes, which yet had an odd veil of softness over them. But a man will be a man. I am afraid Rollo was smiling at the same time.

If anything could be called clear in Hazel's mind, at that minute of supreme and universal confusion, it was, that belonging to somebody was getting to be much more than an idea. And that Mr. Rollo should merely pay her the compliment of requesting to have the fact put in words, might be highly characteristic on his part, but was not exactly composing on hers. How could she think, or speak, without even one hand free? And droop her head as she might, what could the soft falling hair do, but touch up the beautiful flushes which Hazel felt, if she did not see? Her words, when they came, went to a very self-evident point.

'But—if you wanted it—why did you give it up?'

'Give up—what?' came with undoubted astonishment from Rollo's lips.

'You stayed away—' said the girl, under her breath.

'I have come back. And I want my sentence.'

In a sort of desperation, Hazel gathered up her courage, as if realizing that she was face to face with the one question of her life, where she must risk anything but mistakes.

'But,' she said,—'but, Mr. Rollo,—you did not mean to want it. When you stayed away.'

He laughed. 'Look here!' said he, 'I want it now, Hazel. I'll stand all your questions, after you have answered mine.'

'I think mine come first,' she said softly,—and something of the sorrow which had hung about the questions crept into her voice. 'Because, there might be—at least, there might have been—things which I could not explain. And then—as you could doubt me once, you would again. And I could not bear that twice!' said Hazel, with a sudden quickness which told more than it meant. Nerve herself as she would, her hands were trembling now.

Rollo was not a man of more than average patience, sometimes. Nevertheless, though sorely tempted, he controlled the desire to give her kisses instead of rebukes, and answered quietly and gravely:

'I took your own word once against yourself. I will never do it again, Hazel! So take care what you say to me. Have you nothing to say to me now?'

If she had, it was not forthcoming.

'About the guardianship, Hazel?'

She hesitated a little—not much; thinking of the face she dared not look at, and which she had scarcely seen for a year; answering then with a grave quietness which again was very like herself, where deep feeling was at work; the girlish voice falling and trembling just a little:

'If you want it—you can have it, Mr. Rollo.'

He took her in his arms then, very tenderly and gravely, kissing her on lips and cheeks with kisses which seemed to tell of a wish to indemnify himself—and her too,—for the last three weeks; but then, having got what he wanted, for several minutes thereafter spoke not; partly for his own sake perhaps, partly for hers. A stillness more mighty than words, and quite beyond their sphere. When he did speak again, it was in a different key.

'How comes your hair to be wet?'

'Mine? O—!' said Hazel, starting,—'It is nothing but a little water.'

'No,' said Rollo laughing, 'nothing else. The question is, how came a little water on your hair?'

'What a question! It was put there. And if you want to know why, I will tell you. On purpose.'

'Who did it?'

But that answer was slow to come. 'Gyda,' she said at last.

'Gyda!' echoed Rollo, starting up a little, and removing Wych Hazel to a little distance from him, that he might look in her face better. 'For what purpose has Gyda been putting cold water on your hair?'

'O—! I was tired when I got here,' Hazel said, trying to look up and laugh, and somehow failing. 'And—and—And it does not signify the least in the world now.'

Rollo looked at her a minute silently, and then demanded imperiously to know 'what didn't signify?'

'Being faint is nothing,' she said. 'At least, after you have got over it.'

'What made you faint?' in the same tone.

Now Hazel had no mind to go into that; partly for the intrinsic merits of the case, but also with a growing consciousness that with those waves of trouble which had ebbed away so fast her strength was going too. That false strength of tension and self-control, by means of which she had lived and held her head up, through all these last weeks. Even excitement was giving way to reaction; and Hazel dreaded lest, before she knew it, she should break down; lest, before she could hinder it, that wilful fountain of unshed tears might insist on having its way. She knew from old experience what that meant; but (except for the slight specimen before Prim's eyes) nobody had ever seen her in one of her tear-storms, and she did not mean that any one should. And at the same time, belonging to somebody puts hindrances in the way of unseen escape; and the next thing would be, that some tender word or touch would find its way to the very depths which had been so lonely and sweep away all her defences. Then there was the walk! She answered, studying her case,—

'I think, two or three things. But let me go now, please, Mr. Rollo. I must go home,—it is late.'

'Let you go?' said he, in a curious, considerative way, as if studying several things.

'Yes,' she said, trying to get ready to get up from her chair. He sat looking at her, then touched again the wet hair. What was he thinking about?

'It seems to me,' he said slowly, 'you must have some of Gyda's porridge before you go.'

'Oh, no!' she said with some eagerness. 'I could not! Just let me go—' and she rose up, steadying herself with one hand upon the chair-back. Rollo rose too, but it was to take her in his arms.

'The carriage is not here,' he said, looking at her and noting how well she needed the support he gave.

'Not just here—Reo is waiting,' Hazel answered, flushing and drooping her head, and feeling as if every minute took her more and more out of her own reach.

'Where is he waiting?'

'Never mind—Where I left him. O Mr. Rollo! let me go!—'

'But you see I must know, if I am to fetch him. Where is he, Wych?'

'At the foot of the hill.'—No use! She could not debate matters, but her head bent lower.

'Reo was not at the foot of the hill when I came.'

'I mean—the other hill.'

'What other hill?'

'Oh!'—she said deprecatingly; then went straight through. 'I came the other way.'

'I don't know but one way,' he answered half laughing.

'Well—I do.'

'You will have to teach me. But something else must be done first. Come here and sit down again. You can hardly stand. You must rest and have a cup of coffee before I let you go anywhere. What sort of guardianship do you think you have come into?' he said very gently.

He put Wych Hazel in her chair, and then stooped down upon the hearth to lay brands together and coax up the decayed fire. Having made it burn, he turned and took an observation of her face. She had given one eager look after him as he turned away, but now was not looking, apparently, at anything, unless at some hidden point which she was trying to master; for her breath came a little quick, and her hands held each other tight; she was not even leaning back in her chair. And as to resting her head on her hands, Hazel would as soon have dared do anything. Well she knew, that with even that slight veil between her and the outer world, the last remnant of self-command would go. No, she must face it out, somehow, and drink the coffee, and wait. If only Gyda would not come in! And what would she say when she did?—'and I could not stop her now,' thought Hazel to herself, 'If I say three words about anything!'—She passed her hands over her eyes with a quick gesture, then put them down and held them tight. Could she run away? No, she was not strong enough, if she had the chance. And to be overtaken and brought back!—she had tried that once. And all the while, as she sat thinking, these surges of repressed sorrow and joy and everything else that had filled her heart for the last month and the last hour, seemed to be just rolling nearer and nearer, gathering up their force as she lost hers; and how she was to stop them Hazel did not know. Only—she must not break down there. Not before him. But the colour left her face again in the struggle.

Rollo needed very small observation to move him to action. The first point was to bring up to the hearth a large wooden chair, half settee, with arms of very ample proportions; looking as if anybody less than a burly old ship-captain or fat landlady would be quite lost and cast away in it. This chair Rollo proceeded to line and partially fill with cushions—from whence obtained, was best known to himself; making sundry journeys into an inner room; from which finally he brought a great soft gray shawl, looking suspiciously like a travelling plaid, and laid it over the chair, cushions and all. Taking Wych Hazel's hands then, he softly transferred her from her own chair to this, and placed a cushion under her feet. Then considered her with a grave face and eyes from which no one of average self-confidence would have hoped to conceal anything.

'Where is the carriage?' said he, taking one of the little hands in his own.

'Just—in the cross-road.'

'What cross-road? Didn't you come through the Hollow?'

'No.'—The word just audible.

He was silent half a minute, considering this statement.

'How did you get here?'

'Over the hill.' Hazel was watching herself jealously, fending off, as it were, the very tones of his voice. But the next step it was hard to fend off. Guessing perhaps part, and with his quick eyes seeing part, Rollo for a few minutes said nothing at all. But his lips came upon Wych Hazel's face with a recognition of what she did not want recognized, and an answering of it, touched and tender and sorrowful, as if he would have kissed it out of existence. 'My little Hazel!' he said at last; and that was all.

The girl struggled hard with herself to bear it. She had ventured that one look as he went to the fire, but had known instantly that she must not risk another; and then, somehow, she had controlled her voice to answer his questions, and had nerved her face when he placed her in the cushioned chair. But if he had turned her defences!—and, with that, Hazel gave way. She caught her hand from him, and turning half round laid her head and hands upon the chair, and let the flood come she had kept back so bravely. Sobbing, as perhaps it had never entered his mind that anybody could sob; her head bent as if one wave after another was going right over it. A spring freshet after the winter frost, telling a little what the ice had been.

Rollo's life had been a good deal of himself alone. Prim was all the sister he had ever known, and nearly all the mother too; unless Gyda might have the better claim to that title. All the readier, perhaps, he was able to deal with this burst of thoroughly natural passion, thoroughly womanish as it also was. His point of view had not been spoiled by feminine pettinesses. He took this paroxysm of what it was; something that must in the first instance have its way and work its own relief. He did not speak to Hazel at first, nor attempt to check the outflow of feeling which he contemplated with a very grave brow. Indeed for a minute or two he left the room and went out to speak to Gyda. Coming back, he remained quite silent and still until the first violence of tears had spent itself; then he sat down by Wych Hazel's side and began a series of mute testimonials that he was there, and that he had entered upon his life-long right to share and soothe whatever troubles concerned her. His hand upon her hand, or upon her hair, or on her cheek; and then her name half-whispered in her ear in a grieved tone of voice.

'I did not mean—' she said at last, trying for words. 'O you should have let me go!—I knew, I knew!'——

Precisely what, Hazel dared not think; but perhaps, the idea that he was learning anything about her, was as good a tonic as she could have had just then. She came back to her quiet bearing very fast, pushing her other self out of sight, locking it up and sealing it down, and setting her little foot upon it with extraordinary vehemence of purpose. Rollo did nothing to hinder this operation. Indeed he rather left her to herself, while he as usual made himself busy in helping Gyda, who came in to get her table ready. Rollo drew the table up into Wych Hazel's neighbourhood, and when it was set, took upon himself the oversight of Gyda's pot of coffee, which was on the coals before the fire. He seemed to be quite at home in the business; and smiling up at Wych Hazel as he stooped to his cookery, asked her “if she liked the smell of coffee?”

'Yes, I think so,' she answered, not too sure of anything in the world just then.

'Never smelt it before, perhaps?'

The lips gave way, but the smile so nearly turned into trembling, that Hazel checked them both together.

'I don't believe you know how to make it.'

'Well—' said Hazel somewhat vaguely, from under her shadowing hands.

'That's a gentle confession of ignorance. Here comes Gyda, and porridge. What else is to bring, Gyda?'

He went off, and came back in another minute with his hands full. Porridge and flad-brod and cheese and cream and broiled fish were set on the table; the coffee was at the fire. Rollo stood a moment surveying things, the old woman by the table, the little woman in the chair.

'You may kiss her hand, Gyda,' he said, in a tone that implied everything.

Hazel received this announcement and its consequences with a great flush. Only, with the way she had of putting some pretty grace into the most disturbing things, the little fingers locked themselves round Gyda's furtively, for a second, so giving the recognition which she could not speak. And Gyda was too gently wise to say a word. After that, both combined to wait upon Hazel, though Gyda did not get a chance to do much. And Hazel tried hard to obey injunctions and eat porridge, principally because it gave her something to do; but her performance was unsatisfactory, except in the matter of coffee, which she drank rather eagerly.

'Now,' said Rollo, 'tell me where to find Reo.'

'Where?'—with a swift up-look, almost too swift to see,—'why!'— And then Hazel remembered to her confusion, that she did not know. 'I—I suppose—he would have brought me to the nearest point. Of course.'

As no doubt Reo would, if he had known where she was going! That thought confronted her next; and with a dim consciousness of having stopped the carriage at a venture, for fear he should know, Hazel began again:

'At least,'——. But there was no going on from that point. 'Is it very far along the foot of the hill?' she ventured, without any look this time.

'I should say,' returned Rollo gravely, 'it might be about some five miles.'

Hazel leaned her head on her hand and tried to recollect,—and nothing stood out from all that morning's work but the pain and the difficulty and the fatigue.

He sat down and took the little hand again.

'Which way did you come over the hill, Wych?'

'I do not know.'—If it must come, it must!—'I was thinking only of getting up; and you know there are not many landmarks. At least, I do not remember any.'

'Did you come through the wood?'

'No. I am sure of that.'

'Then did you come east or west of it?'

'I do not remember the wood at all,' said Hazel, feeling very much ashamed of herself. 'I was not looking. But there were no houses— I am sure of that.'

'What did you see, Hazel?' softly.

'I think, of all people to cross-examine one!' said the girl, in her extremity sending a little bit of her old self to the front. 'I am certain I can find the way, Mr. Rollo, without the trouble of considering what I did not see, or what I did.'

'May I venture to ask, what orders you gave Reo?'

'The usual orders; to wait till I came.'

Rollo laughed a little, but if his face did not mean that he understood the whole matter, it did not mean anything. It was very grave, though he laughed.

He went off, and left Wych Hazel again to herself, with only Gyda moving about and keeping up the fire. It was a full mile over the hill to the cross-road where the carriage was standing, and Hazel had a good time of quiet all to herself. As once before that day, she had looked up the moment Rollo turned and so watched him out of sight. And now Hazel sat among her cushions, her head down against the side of her chair, looking into the winking embers with very grave wide-open eyes. Mentally, she knew there had come a great lull over all troublous things; a lull which she was not just then strong enough to disturb by handling it in detail. But physically, she felt shattered, and very little able to practise self- defence; and she began to long to get home, and by herself, where no keeping-up of any sort would be needful. One thing was yet to do, however. So when Gyda had ended her work and sat down at the corner of the hearth, Hazel left her cushions and knelt down beside her.

'Mrs. Boërresen'—she said with a hand on her arm, her face upraised.

'My lady,' said Gyda, turning her bright eyes upon Hazel with a happy look.

'You will not tell him anything of all this? my coming, and all about it? And what I said?'

'No need,' said Gyda placidly. 'My lady will tell it herself.'

A very resolved little gesture of the girl's head dismissed that statement. She was silent a minute.

'And then,' she began again, more hesitatingly, 'at least you will not speak of it. Nor—of—a year ago?'

'Last year?' said Gyda. 'When my lady came here before? That was not for him to know. That was only me alone. To-day my lady will tell him about, when she pleases.' And Gyda smiled over this statement benignly.

Hazel leaned her head against Gyda's arm gazing down into the firelight; it seemed to her to-day as if she had to think over anything a great many times to get used to it. She must be tired. The afternoon light was waning fast when the quick step outside was heard again, and Rollo came in. He surveyed the group quietly, and then went off to his room to change his dress. And when he returned to relieve the guard, it was with a most composed and unexciting manner. He scarcely said three words, till a boy brought the message that the carriage was waiting in the Hollow. Then he wrapped the great plaid shawl round Hazel, for the evening had fallen chill and her dress was thin, and they went out into the dusky twilight for the walk down to the carriage.

Dusky, and yet clear; a cloudless depth of sky out of which stars were brightening; a still air with almost a breath of frost in it; outlines of the Hollow hills darkly drawn against the soft twilight sky; the silence of evening, when mill-work was done, over all and in everything. Rollo did not speak, and they heard—if they heard—only the sound of their own steps down the path. When they were in the carriage, Rollo presently, with a gentle word, untied Wych Hazel's flat hat and took it off; drew a corner of the shawl over her head, and putting his arm round her made her lay down her head upon his shoulder and lean upon him.

'But Mr. Rollo——' said Hazel timidly, finding that her acted remonstrance had no effect.

'What?'

'I am quite able to sit up.'

'I have no faith whatever in that statement.'

'If you will let me try—the other,'—Hazel began.

'The other shoulder?'

But the answer to that tarried. Hazel knew perfectly well that if she spoke in the first minute she would laugh; which was not at all according to her present system of tactics. And in the second, her words were not ready, and by the time the third came it was rather too late. So silence reigned, while Reo sent the horses along, over the level smooth road, and the evening air came in crisp and fresh at the open window, and stars looked down winking in their quiet way of saying sweet things. They always do, when one is happy; sometimes in other states of mind they seem high above sympathy. But to-night they looked down at Hazel confidentially, and crickets and nameless insects chirruped along by the roadside; and on and on the carriage rolled, mile after mile. Rollo was as still as the stars, almost. And so was Wych Hazel, for a long time; still as anything could be that lived. Suddenly a question broke from her.

'What was it you were going to say to me?'

'When?' The word came with a ring of many thoughts, through which a grave tenderness most vibrated.

'You said, that was the best time. And you did not take it,' said Hazel.

'Hush,' said he softly and gravely. 'All has been said; except that I shall never forgive myself, Hazel.'

CHAPTER V. ASLEEP AND AWAKE.

Wych Hazel went to her room so utterly spent, so completely prostrate, that even Phoebe could not talk during her ministrations; nor dared Mrs. Bywank find fault. Why Miss Wych must needs tire herself to death, over nobody knows what, was a trial to the good housekeeper's patience as well as her curiosity; but for that night the only thing was to let her sleep. It was the only thing next day. The reaction, once fairly set in, was strong in proportion to the causes which had prepared for it and brought it about; and Wych Hazel lay in a motionless stupor of sleep, from which nothing could rouse her up. She would open her eyes perhaps, and answer a question, but anything more than that was plainly beyond her strength; and for three days and three nights she lay, as helpless as a little child. “Sleeping her life out,” Phoebe said, and certainly frightening Mrs. Bywank half to death; but in reality passing safely out from under the mortal illness that had hung over her by a thread.

And so, on the fourth morning after the day of events, Hazel did fairly wake up, and dress herself, and go down stairs; devoutly hoping that nobody but Mr. Falkirk might come to breakfast, and extremely ready to dispense with him.

Wrapping herself in the soft folds of a crimson morning dress, which at least would keep her in countenance; her face more delicate than pale; her step rather hesitating than slow; her thoughts in a maze of dreamland as misty and bright and shy as the morning sunbeams that went everywhere and just kept out of reach. What had happened before these three days, that, Hazel knew well enough. But what had happened since that? Had Jeannie Deans been here, with her master?—and not finding the lady of the house on hand, had they then gone straight to Mr. Falkirk? And if so, what was his probable state of mind?—did he know? or guess? And how many more times had her other guardian come to Chickaree? and what had he thought of the tidings about her?— and at what unexpected point of the day or the minute was she to meet him, on a sudden? Her step lingered on the last stair—went noiselessly along the hall; and then the next thing Mr. Falkirk knew, was a light hand on his shoulder and a soft

'Good-morning, sir.'

'My dear!' said Mr. Falkirk suddenly rising, 'I am very glad to see you.' And he took her hand, which was not common, and looked at her as if to convince himself that all was right.

'Are you, sir?' she said with a laugh. 'You are sure it is not a hallucination, Mr. Falkirk?'

'I am sure of nothing, Miss Hazel, except that I see you. At my time of life, confidence in any conclusions is somewhat shaken. What has been the matter with you?'

'I have been having my own way, sir,—which has agreed with me admirably,' returned Miss Hazel with an arch of her eyebrows. 'There is nothing like it, I find. Will you come to breakfast, Mr. Falkirk?'

Her guardian cast two or three rather inquiring looks at her; but seeing that she undoubtedly was well, and probably had not been ill, he contentedly and unsuspiciously, man-like, dismissed the subject and came to breakfast as she bade him.

'It is so long since I had my own way,' he remarked dryly, 'I have forgotten how it feels. Your state of serene satisfaction is unknown to me. How long do you intend to keep it up, Miss Hazel?'

'Until some restless person puts it to flight, sir, I suppose. That is the usual fate of my serene states, as you call them.'

'It occurs to me,' Mr. Falkirk went on, 'that in our recent search after fortune and in the general hallucination which in such a search prevails, I am a good honest big Newfoundland dog— transformed into the present shape for the more efficient performance of the duty of barking round his mistress. I feel that to be about my present status and dignity, plainly expressed.'

'The way gentlemen make statements!' said Wych Hazel. 'Perhaps you are aware, sir, who brought me home here, a month ago, when I did not want to come?'

'I don't remember it,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'I only remember who took me to all the watering-places on the continent—where I didn't want to go. I should like to be informed, Miss Hazel, when the search after fortune is to end—when I may reasonably hope to resume my own shape again? You may not suppose it; but barking tries a man's powers.'

'I had not perceived it, sir. On the contrary, your voice has been particularly sonorous of late.'

'Are you aware it is the first of October, Miss Hazel?'

'Time for chestnuts, isn't it?' said the girl. 'I had forgotten all bout them.'

'There are other nuts to crack besides chestnuts. The owner of the house you had last winter has written to ask if you want it again this year.'

'Talk of the restlessness of women!' said Hazel. 'Here are we but just settled in the country, and Mr. Falkirk already proposing to return to town.'

'I don't know what you are,' said Mr. Falkirk, 'but I am not settled. Of course, coming home at the end of the season, I have no cook; and Gotham informs me that the kitchen chimney smokes. I should think it did, to judge by the condition of my beefsteaks.'

'I am very sorry, sir! Suppose you condescend to my beefsteaks— until the cook and the smoke change places? The blue room is in perfect order—and would suit your state of mind,' said Miss Wych, eyeing Mr. Falkirk with an air of deep gravity. 'Then there is always Europe——'

'Is that the next thing!' exclaimed Mr. Falkirk, with a positively alarmed air. 'I have been expecting it.'

'I wanted to go last year, you know, sir,—and (if nobody said anything against it) I think I should write at once and secure my passage.'

'To what quarter of the world, miss Hazel?'

'We might go round, sir; and stop where things promised fairest.'

'We might. Then I am to understand you do not like the promise of things at Chickaree?'

'What do you take to be the promise of things here, at present, Mr. Falkirk?'

'Quite beside the question, Miss Hazel. Am I to tell this man you don't want the house in Fiftieth street?'

'I should prefer another house, I think,' said Hazel gravely. 'Mr. Falkirk, I had a letter from Kitty Fisher this morning, and she sends you her love.'

Mr. Falkirk gave an inarticulate grumble.

'You may throw it back to her, my dear; her own love is all she cares about; and as I don't care about it, we are suited. Do I understand that you wish me to look for another house, then?'

'I did hint at Europe,'—said Wych Hazel. 'But if it amuses you to look for houses, sir, I have no sort of objection.'

Mr. Falkirk laid down his knife and fork, and looked across the table.

'It don't amuse me to look for anything in a fog, my dear. Do you want to go to Europe?'

'O well, we need not go this week, sir! Shall I invite all the neighbourhood to a grand chestnutting, when Kitty Fisher comes?'

'Miss Hazel, that girl is not proper company for you. I hope you will not ask her to help in your merrymakings; she understands nothing but a romp. And, my dear, if you know your own mind I wish you would be so kind as to let me know it. To go to Europe this fall, you must be off in three weeks at latest. Have you spoken to Rollo about it?'

'Truly, I have not!' said Wych Hazel, with a glow which however Mr. Falkirk charged to displeasure. 'Did you ever know me speak to him about anything connected with my own affairs, sir?'

'I don't know, my dear. He has a word to say concerning them. Do you wish me to sound him on the subject, then?'

'Did you ever succeed in “sounding” him, sir? on any subject?' said the young lady, consulting her watch, and with all her senses on the alert for interruptions. What were 'business' hours at Morton Hollow, she wondered? Then she rose up, and passing round to Mr. Falkirk, gave him a smile that was very sweet and not a bit teasing.

'I must go and rest, sir. I find sitting up tires me to-day. But you will come to dinner?'

She went off with that quick step, betaking herself to the crimson room; for to-day Hazel seemed to prefer high-coloured surroundings. There sat for awhile before the great picture, thinking of many things; and there, still down on her foot cushion, laid her head in one of the easy chairs and went to sleep; with the gray cat dozing and purring in the same chair, close by her head. Only the cat's eyelashes were not wet, and Wych Hazel's were.

CHAPTER VI. A MAN AND HIS MONEY.

It is a pity somebody had not come to see; and somebody would, only that Rollo had a good many things to attend to just now besides his own pleasure. Instead, when the morning was half over, came Miss Phinney Powder, and the sleep and the attitude were broken up. Hazel went to her in the drawing-room.

Miss Josephine was in an unsettled state of mind; for she first placed herself on an ottoman by the fire-place, then got up and went to the window and stood looking out; all the while rattling on of indifferent things, in a rather languid way; then at last came and sank down in a very low position at Wych Hazel's feet on the carpet. She was a pretty girl; might have been extremely pretty, if her very pronounced style of manners had not drawn lines of boldness, almost of coarseness, where the lip should have been soft and the eyebrow modest. The whole expression was dissatisfied and jaded to-day, over and above those lines, which even low spirits could not obliterate.

'It must be awfully nice to have such a place as this all to yourself—house and all;—just to yourself! You needn't be married till you've a mind to. Don't you think it's a great bore to be married?'

'People can always wait,' said Wych Hazel.

'Wait?' said Phinney. 'For what?'

'For such a great bore,' said Hazel, stroking the cat.

'How can you wait?' said Phinney.

'What hinders?'

'Why! you must be married, you know, some time; and it don't do to stay till you can't get a good chance. It's such a bore!' said the poor girl helplessly.

Somehow, Hazel's own happiness made her rather tender towards these notes of complaint.

'What do you mean?' she said, leaning down by Phinney. 'I would not take even “a good chance” to be miserable.'

'I'm just in a fix,' said Josephine, 'and I can't get out of it. And I came to see you on purpose to talk. I thought maybe you would have some sympathy for me. Nobody has at home.'

'Sympathy! What about?'

'Papa wants me to marry somebody—who comes pestering me every other day.'

Josephine looked disconsolately out of the window. The weary face was eloquent of the system under which she declared herself suffering.

'Somebody you do not like?' said Hazel.

'O I like him—I like him pretty well; he's rather jolly on the whole; but—that's another thing from being married, you know. I like very well to have him round,—bringing me flowers and doing everything I bid him; I have made rather a slave of him, that's a fact; it's awfully ridiculous! He doesn't dare say his soul's his own, if I say it's mine, and I snub him in every other thing. But then— it's another thing to go and marry him. Maybe he wouldn't like me to snub him, if I was his wife. Mamma don't dare do it to papa, I know; unless she does it on the sly.'

Hazel drew back rather coldly.

'I think it is extremely probable he would not like it,' she said. 'He is not much of a man, to stand it now.'

'Not?' cried Josephine. 'Why what is the good of a man if you can't snub him? And if a man pretends to like you, of course he'll stand anything you give him. O I like the bridle figure in the German— that suits me;—when I'm the driver; but the Germans are all over for this season. Aren't you awfully sorry?'

'No. And a girl ought to be ashamed to talk as you do, Josephine!'

'Now hush! You shan't snub me. I came to you for comfort. Why ought I to be ashamed to talk so? Don't you like to have your own way?'

'My own way does not trend in that direction,' said Miss Kennedy. 'And I should scorn to have it over such a weak thing as a man who would let a girl fool him to his face.'

'Men like such fooling. I know they do. I can do just what I like with them. But then if I was married,—I don't suppose I could fool so many at once. Why, Hazel, if you don't have your own way with men who let you, who will you have it with? Not the men who won't let you;—such a bluebeard of a man as your guardian, for instance. O do tell me! don't you sometimes get tired of living?'

'We are talking about your affairs this morning,' said Hazel. 'I should get tired of living, very soon, I think, at your rate.'

'I am,' said Josephine. And she looked so. 'Sometimes I am ready to wish I had never been born. What's the good of living, anyhow, Hazel, when the fun's over?'

'Fun?' Hazel repeated,—how was she to tell this girl what seemed to her just now the good of living?

'Yes. You know all the summer there have been the garden parties and the riding parties, and the Germans, and the four-in-hand parties, and all sorts of delightful things; and now they're all over; and it makes me so blue! To be sure, by and by, there will be the season in town; but that won't be much till after the holidays, anyhow; and I feel horridly. And now comes Charteris bothering me. What would you do, Hazel?'

'What would I do?' Hazel repeated again, with a curious feeling that there was but one man in the world, and so of course what could anybody do! A little shy of the subject too, and feeling her cheeks grow warm in the discussion. 'Do you like him very much, Josephine?'

'Very much?'—deliberately. 'No. I don't think I like him very much. But papa says that will come fast enough when I am married. He says,—you know Charteris is awfully rich,—he says, papa says, this marriage will give me such a “position.” Mamma don't conceive that one of her daughters can want position. But then, papa is a little lower down than mamma, you know. Well, I should have “position,' and everything else I want—carriages and jewels, you know; diamonds; don't you like diamonds? I could have all I want. If I only could have them without the man!'

'You could live with him all your life, you think? by the help of the diamonds?'

'Papa says so. And mamma says so. I don't get any feeling at home. Annabella is wholly engaged in getting up parties to go to Dane Rollo's readings in Morton Hollow; that's all she thinks about. Isn't he too ridiculous?'

'I asked about Mr. Charteris,' said Wych Hazel, knitting her brows a little. 'And it is you who must live with him—not your father and mother. Could you do it, Josephine? with him alone?'

'One must live with somebody, I suppose,' said Josephine, idly pulling threads of wool from a foot mat near her.

'Well could you live without him?' said her questioner, taking a short cut to her point of view.

'Charteris? He ain't the jolliest man I know.'

'Answer!' said Hazel, knitting her brows again.

'Live without Charteris? I should say I could. From my present point of view. Easy! But it comes back to that awful bore, Hazel; a girl has got to be married. I wish I was a man.'

'Then I would,' said Wych Hazel quietly.

'What?'

'Live without Mr. Charteris. And as you cannot be a man, suppose you talk like a woman.'

'What do you mean?' said Phinney, looking doubtfully at her. 'I haven't come here to be snubbed, I know. Aren't you sorry for me?'

'No,—not when you talk so. A girl has not “got to be married.” And if you marry some one you can live without, you deserve what you will get.'

'What will I get?' said Josephine.

'John Charteris—without the bouquets and the fooling.'

'I don't know but he's very good,' said Josephine meditatively. 'And Hazel, a girl can't live without getting married. What should I do, for instance?'

'Wait till the right person comes,' said Hazel. 'And if he never comes, be thankful that you escaped the wrong one.'

'But suppose the right person, as you call him, is poor?' said the young lady with a peculiar subdued inflexion of voice.

'O, is that it!' said Wych Hazel. 'Then if he thinks you can make him rich. I would keep up the delusion.'

'But I can't, Hazel. Papa hasn't much to give any of us. He has just enough to get along with comfortably.'

'There are other things in the world besides money, I suppose?' said Hazel. 'And I know there could be no starvation wages for me, like diamonds from a hand I did not love.'

'I like diamonds though,' said Josephine. 'And it's dreadful to be poor. You don't know anything about it, Hazel. You're of no consequence, you have no power, nobody cares about you, even you've got to ask leave to speak; and then nobody listens to you! I mean, after you are too old to flirt. I don't want to be poor. And Mr. Charteris would put me beyond all that. He has plenty. And they say I would love him well enough by and by. It's such a bore!' And the young lady leaned her head upon her hand with a really disconsolate face.

'I thought you just said somebody does care about you?'

'Did I? I don't recollect.'

'You said “the right person” was poor. Which would seem to imply that he is in existence.'

'Well, he might just as well not,' said Josephine in the same tone. 'They would never hear of my marrying him. It's all very nice to drive four-in-hand with somebody, and dance the German with him; and have good times at pic-nics and such things; but when it came to settling down in a little bit of a house, without a room in it big enough for a German; and ingrain carpets on the floors—I couldn't, Hazel!' said the girl with a shudder. 'And there it is, you see.'

Wych Hazel looked at her—and then she laughed.

'There is nothing much more fearful than “the right person” on ingrain carpets,' she said mockingly. 'Except, perhaps, the wrong one on Turkey.'

'Turkey carpets are jolly under your feet,' said Josephine. 'And after all, I wonder if it matters so much about the man? At least, when you can't have the right one. Well, you don't help me much. Annabella wanted to know if you wouldn't join a party to hear Dane Rollo read, Saturday night? She is crazy about those readings. I believe she's touched about him. Will you go?'

'No. Josephine, it matters everything about the man,' said Hazel earnestly. 'What sort of a life do you expect, if you begin with a false oath?'

'A false oath?'

'Yes. Think what you have to promise.'

'What do I have to promise?'

'You know,' said Hazel impatiently. 'You have seen people married often enough to remember what they must say.'

'I never thought about what they said. It's just a form; that's all.'

'You would like to have Mr. Charteris consider his part just a form?'

'I never thought anything else about it. It is a form that would give me a right to the diamonds, you know, or anything else his money could buy. O dear! if one could have the things without the man! Will you go to hear Rollo read?'

'Well you had better think about it,' said Hazel. 'If it is only a form, it will give you a clear right to be miserable. I advise you to go straight home and study the words, and try them with different names. And do not really say them to anyone they do not fit. Do you hear me, Josephine?'

The girl was looking up in her face with a look strange for her; a look studious of Wych Hazel herself; searching, somewhat wondering, secretly admiring. The look went off to the window with a half sigh.

' “Fais que dois, advienne que pourra,” ' Hazel added softly.

'I don't know what I ought to do!' said Josephine. 'How can I? If Stuart Nightingale had anything but what he spends—O what's the use talking about it, Hazel? Suppose I hadn't money to dress myself decently?'

'A man who has nothing but what he spends, spends too much,' said Wych Hazel, with a smile to herself over the duration of Mr. Nightingale's “life-long” heartbreak of the fall before. 'Do you mean that he would not spare a little for you?'

'He hasn't enough for both,' said Josephine, looking very dismal. 'T'other one has enough for a dozen.'

'Did you never hear,' said her hostess laughing, 'that—in certain circumstances—

' “Half enough for one, is always

' ” More than just enough for two?” '

'No,' said Josephine abstractedly. 'Who comes here that rides a light bay horse?'

'Everybody comes here. But I seldom look at their horses. Why?'

'One went by just now. I was looking at the horse, and I hadn't time to see the rider. He'll come in, I suppose. If Annabella knew all, she wouldn't care so much about this match; for just as soon as I marry John Charteris, papa'll sell Paul Charteris his piece of land; and that's a job Dane Rollo wouldn't like.'

'Why not?' said Hazel with a desperate calmness, and her heart beginning to beat so that it half took her breath away. 'Is it land Mr. Rollo wants for himself?'

'He wouldn't like anybody else to have it, you bet!' replied Miss Powder, at last getting up from the floor and shaking herself into order. 'I must go.'

'But I said, why not?' Wych Hazel repeated. 'There—you have ripped off your flounce.'

'I did that getting out of the phaeton. O well!—it'll have to go so till I get home. Everybody will know I didn't dress myself so on purpose; and besides, nobody will see it. Not till I get there. You haven't a needle and silk, have you, Hazel?'

'Yes, if you will come up to my room for it,' said Hazel, glad enough of an excuse to get her away. But Miss Powder had no mind to be spirited off. She had her own views, and excused herself.

'O thank you! but it's not worth while; and I can't wait, either. Well, I must go and meet my fate, I suppose.'

'What does Mr. Charteris want with more land?' said Hazel, arranging the torn flounce.

'O, to serve Rollo out, you know, for being so mean.'

'Is that it!' said Wych Hazel. 'How? I do not understand.'

'Why,' said Josephine, watching the door, which she expected would open to admit the rider of the bay horse whoever he might be, 'papa has a bit of land not worth much to him, just above Mr. Morton's ground that that pirate has bought; just above the mills. If Paul Charteris can get that, he will know what use to put it to. That will do, my dear, I dare say. I am awfully obliged for your care of my respectability.'

'What use?' said Hazel seriously. 'Here is one more tear——'

'O I don't understand those things. Do you know what water power means?'

'Yes.'

'Well—if Paul Charteris gets that land,—and if I marry John Charteris he will—he'll cut off the water power. I don't know what it means, nor how he'll do it; but Mr. Rollo's mills will stop. And in that case, somebody at home will hate Paul Charteris! Well, she'd better have stood by me then.'

The young lady detached herself at last, with a kiss to Wych Hazel, and bowled away in her little basket-wagon.

CHAPTER VII. THE EMERALD.

Hazel let her see herself out from the door of the drawing room, and then stood still in the middle of the floor with a hand on each side of her face. Not however considering the land question just then. She had seen Mr. Rollo but three times for a whole year,—so ran the first thought. And she had not seen him at all, since the other night,—so chimed in the second. And these three days of sleep and unconsciousness had confused the universe to that degree, that whether the world was round or triangular or square might be called a nicely balanced question. Had the bay horse stopped?—then where was his rider?

Hazel darted out of a side door, and stood still to consider. Walked slowly along for a step or two, (flying about did not just agree with her to-day) then took her way to the red room, entering noiselessly; also by a side door. Blushing as if she had not done her duty in that respect the other day, and so had large arrears to make up; but not losing the delicate look even so.

'How do you do, Mr. Rollo?' she said softly, and holding out her hand,—rather, it must be confessed, across a great easy chair which stood in the way. He had been making up the fire when she came in, and had looked up and let the tongs drop just before she spoke. Rollo was cool enough however to see the easy chair and come round it; but his greeting was grave and wordless. Perhaps he too remembered that she had not seen him since the other night. At any rate, anxiety and sympathy and infinite tenderness had more to express than could be put into words, for the power of words is limited. When he did speak, it was a simple demand to know how she did? 'Very well,' she said, softly as before.

'Is it very well?' he said earnestly. 'And how has it been these three days?'

'O—I have been sleepy. As perhaps you heard,' she said, with the pretty curl of her lips.

He looked at her a minute, then suddenly releasing her, turned away to the fire and picked up his tongs again. 'I wish you would do something to comfort me!' he exclaimed. And the strong grey eyes were full of tears.

Hazel gave him an extremely astonished look, which went away, and came again, and once more came back, growing very wistful. She moved a step nearer to him, then stood still.

'What is it, Mr. Rollo?' she said with one of her sweet intonations, which was certainly 'comfort' so far as it went. 'What am I to do? I mean'—she added timidly, 'what have I done?'—for it was greatly Hazel's habit to somehow charge things back upon herself. But Rollo mended the fire with scrupulous exactness, put it in perfect order, set up his tongs; and then stood by the mantel-piece, leaning his elbows there and looking down at his work. Hazel watched him, at first with shy swift glances, then, as he did not look up, her look became more steady. What was he thinking of? It must be something she had done,—something which he had just heard of, perhaps,—some wild piece of mischief or thoughtlessness executed last summer or in the spring. Was he wondering whether he could ever bring her into order, and make her 'stand?'—was he meditating the form of some new promise for her to take? winding in the ends of free action into a new knot which she was to draw tight? But (so circumstances do alter cases) it did not terrify her much, if he was; what did try her, was to see him stand there wearing such a face, and to feel that in some way she was the cause of it. So she stood looking at him, not quite knowing all there was in her own face the while; and began to feel tired, and moved a soft step back again, and rested her hand on the great chair.

'Mr. Rollo'—she ventured,—'you never used to mind telling me of any—ways—of mine, which you did not like; or—things—I had done. And I suppose I can bear it just as well now. Though that is not saying much, I am afraid.'

At her first word he had looked up, and when she had finished, came and put her into the big chair and sat down beside it. She dared not look at him now; his eyes were snapping with fun.

'What is all this?' he said. 'What do you want me to tell you, Wych?'

'I thought—Nothing,' she said rather hastily retreating within herself again. 'But I did not quite understand you, Mr. Rollo.'

'What do you consider the proper thing to do, when you do not understand me?'

A little inarticulate sound seemed to say that the course might vary in different cases. 'Generally,' said Hazel, 'I wait and puzzle it out by myself.'

'I would always like to help you.'

She laughed a little, shyly, as if asking help were quite another matter, especially about unknown things. But pondering this one a minute—it looked so harmless,—out it came, in Hazel's usual abrupt fashion.

'What you said about “comfort” Mr. Rollo,—I did not suppose you had ever wanted comfort in your life.'

'Didn't you?'—He did not want much just now!

'Well, what did you mean?'

'You suppose that I have been in a contented state of mind all summer, for instance?'

'The point in hand is, why you are less contented to-day,' said Hazel preserving her gravity.

'What made you faint at Gyda's?—and why have you slept three whole days since?' he said gravely. 'You had better not bring it up, Wych, or I shall want comfort again.'

'O—these three days?' said Hazel. 'I have just been having my own way; as I told Mr. Falkirk; and it has agreed with me splendidly. It was no doing of mine, to send for Dr. Maryland—but Byo always fidgets over me.'

'And the fainting?—and the walk over the hill? over rough and smooth, where your little feet must have had a hard time of it;— and you laid it up against me?'

What had Gyda told him? Not that, for that was not true. But what? Hazel's head drooped lower.

'Mr. Rollo,' she said seriously, 'if you do not cure yourself of your habit of making statements, some day you will acquire the habit of making mistakes.'

'No, I shall not,' he said coolly. 'You will not let me.'

If that were one, Hazel made no attempt to correct it; having no mind just then to deal with any of his mistakes, in any shape; remembering too exactly what some of them had been. So she sat very still, looking down at the two small folded hands, and wondered to herself if Mr. Rollo had cross-questioned Gyda? if he meant to cross-question her?—and if he did, where she should hide? That fainting, that walk across the hill!—even now, with three long days of oblivion between, and the sorrow and the doubt all pushed aside; even now, she could hardly bear the recollection; and just caught the deep sigh that was coming, and shut her lips tight, and kept it back.

And that was what had troubled him! The colour flitted and changed in her cheeks, in the sort of live way Wych Hazel's colour had, and then the brown eyes gave a swift sidelong glance, to see what the owner of the grey ones was about?

He was studying her, as if he had a mind to find out all her thoughts in their secret hiding-places. But his attention was diverted now to something in his fingers, which he was unfolding and unwrapping; and presently he took one of the little folded hands, the left one, and put upon the forefinger a ring set with a very large emerald. The ring fitted; the stone was superb. Rollo laid the little hand, so beringed, in his own palm, and looked at it there; then his eye met Hazel's with a bright, sweet, peculiar smile.

'We shall never misunderstand each other again, Wych! Shall we?'

It was queer, to see the colour recede and get out of sight, as if gathering strength for its vivid return. But Hazel did not look at him, nor at the ring, not at anything,—did not see anything, probably, just then. She caught her breath a little, finding her words one by one—

'But —I—never—misunderstood—you,' she said.

'Would you like to stand an examination on that point?'

Hazel considered a little.

'I am willing to hear any—statements.'

'I thought just now you objected to them. However, it will be necessary for me to make a good many, sooner or later, just to make sure that you know what you are about in marrying me. But to begin with this emerald.—Do you know what it means?'

It did occur to the girl, as she went on a foray after her thoughts, that she had no immediate intention of marrying anybody! But to use her own words, that was not the point in hand.

'Means?' she repeated,—which of all the five hundred and forty things that it meant did Mr. Rollo wish to have set forth!—'But you are to make statements—not ask questions,' she said.

'It is an old jewel that I have had reset for you. I preferred it to a diamond, because it is a finer stone than any diamond in my possession, and because of the meaning, as I said. In the description of John's vision in the Revelation, it is said “there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like to an emerald.”—In Ezekiel's vision the word is, “as the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain.” '

Partly shielding her face with her other hand, Hazel sat studying the ring, her eyes intent and grave and wide open as a child's.

'What does the rainbow mean?' he asked.

'It was a promise against desolation—at first,' she said slowly; very unconsciously betraying what already the emerald was to her.

'The promise was against desolation—the bow was the sign for the faithfulness of the promiser. Where is your Bible?—'

He went on, talking purposely to let Hazel find her composure, for he saw she was scarcely able to take her part in any conversation. So he went on. He knew she was listening.

'Do you see?—the rainbow “like to an emerald”—the rainbow “round about the throne,”—that is the same as, “thy faithfulness round about thee,” “O Lord,… who is like unto thee, or to thy faithfulness round about thee!” So that is what the emerald means;—faithfulness. First, your faith, and mine; and then, the strength and repose of that other faithfulness, which is round us both; in which—we will both walk, Hazel, shall we not?'

He could not tell what she was thinking of. Not of him, apparently, for the look on the face was far away, as if thought had followed his words quite out of sight; yet more to something past than towards other things to come. So leaning her head on her hand she sat, and then—still full of her thought—looked up at him, the same child's look of intentness, with words all ready on her lips.

'Then in those days,' she began—But then came the sudden recollection of whom she was speaking to, and what a stranger he was, and that he was not a stranger at all; with probably some quick realization of what she was going to say; for the scarlet flushed up all over her face again, and her head went down on her hand, and she was silent.

'What “in those days?”—I want the rest of it.'

'O, the rest of it is more than you think,' said Hazel. 'And it is a great way off. I should have to take you miles and miles. And I would rather—not.'

He smiled at her, seeing the beautiful shyness that did not separate her from him, but only put such a bloom on the fruit—such a fragrance in the flower. He was content. The freedom and fearlessness of older affection would come in time, and it would be pleasant to see it come. He would not hurry her; indeed, as he once had told her he never asked for what he could not have, so neither did he care for what was enforced in the giving. Better a free smile than a kiss bestowed to order. He saw now that she was hardly ready for many things he had it in his heart to say. He could wait. The readiness was there, only latent. He played with the hand and the ring while he was thinking these things.

But now all through the old house rang out the sweet bugle call; signal for luncheon. No bells, as has been remarked, were heard at Chickaree. Just a moment's hesitation came over the young mistress, with visions of Dingee and possibilities of Mr. Falkirk, and one glance at her ring. Then she turned to Mr. Rollo, giving her timid invitation as she rose up. 'You will come?' she said,— and flitted off quick to lead the way, having no sort of mind to go in state. Rollo followed more slowly, smiling to himself.

'Do you often have company from the cottage at this time?' he inquired when he had again caught up with Wych Hazel in the dining room.

'Sometimes—but I gave Mr. Falkirk such a talk at breakfast that I shall hardly see him again before dinner. Dingee, where is the coffee? You know Mr. Rollo never touches chocolate.'

'Know dat sartain,' said Dingee; 'but Mas' Rollo come in so——'

'Go fetch the coffee,' said Hazel, cutting him short.

Rollo remarked as he seated himself at the table, that he 'didn't feel as if he could stand Mr. Falkirk to-day.'

'He is very much the same as on most days,' said Hazel. 'I thought you always rather enjoyed “standing” him, Mr. Rollo?'

'It is becoming necessary for me to make so many statements,' said Rollo, 'that I am getting puzzled. I am very sorry for Mr. Falkirk. What sort of a talk did you give him?'

'Mr. Falkirk was so uncommonly glad to see me, that I should have been all sugar and cream if he had not beset me with business. As it was, I am afraid I—wasn't.'

'Not my business?'

'Your business? The mills?'

'Our business, then.'

'Hush!—No! I have not got any,' said Hazel, whose spirits and daring were beginning to stir just a little bit once more, though she felt a little frightened at herself when the words were out. 'Mr. Falkirk wanted to know my sovereign pleasure about retaking the house we had last winter.'

'I am very sorry for Mr. Falkirk!' Rollo repeated gravely. 'Do you think—by and by, when we have been married a year or two, and he is accustomed to it,—we could get him to come and make home with us!'

Hazel looked at him for a second, as if he took her breath away; but then she looked at nothing else—or did not see it, which came to the same thing,—for some time. Dingee appeared with baskets and bouquets, after the old fashion, which had grown to be an established one at Chickaree; and his mistress looked at them and ordered them away, and read the cards, and did not know what names she read. But in all the assortment of beauties there was never a rose one bit sweeter or fresher than the face that bent down over them.

CHAPTER VIII. ACORNS AND ACORN-CUPS.

One afternoon, a day or two later, Rollo had begged for a walk in the woods; proposing that they should 'begin to get acquainted with each other.' The trees were beginning to shew crimson and gold and brown and purple, and the October light wove all hues into one regal drapery of nature, not richer than it was harmonious. The warm air was spicy; pines and hemlocks gave out resinous sweetness, and ferns and lichens and mosses and other wild things lent their wild wood flavour. It was rare in the Chickaree woods that day. Fallen leaves rustled under foot, squirrels chattered in the branches, partridges whirred away. Down through the shadow and the light they went, those two, talking irregularly of all sorts of things. Rollo was skilled in all wild wood lore and very fond of it. He could talk deliciously on this theme, and he did; telling Wych Hazel about trees and woodwork and hunter's sports and experiences, and then of lichens and the rocks they grew on.

Into the depths of the ravine they plunged, and then over a ridge into another; away from paths and roads and the possibility of wheels and riders. Then Rollo found a mossy dry bank where Wych Hazel might sit down and rest, with her back against the stem of a red oak. He roved about gathering acorns under the wide spreading boughs of the tree, and finally came and threw himself down at her feet.

'This is pleasant,' he said, looking along the brown slope, brown with mosses and fallen leaves, on which the wonderful light came so richly and so tenderly. 'This is pleasant! Is the sense of possession a strong one with you?'

'I love my woods—dearly! I never had much else—that was my own—to care about.'

'I believe it is strong in me. I can enjoy other people's things—but I think I like them better when they are my own. I fancy it is a man's weakness.'

'What did you mean by “beginning to get acquainted?” ' said Hazel, from under the protecting shadow of her broad hat, and with her mind so full of unanswered questions that it seemed as if some of them must come out, even if they did get her into difficulties. 'I thought you thought you knew me pretty thoroughly.'

He rolled himself over on the bank, so that he could look up at her comfortably, and answered laughing,

'What did you think about me?'

'O I knew about you,' said Hazel.

'How long ago?'

'Different things at different times. Mr. Rollo,'—with a little blush and hesitation,—'will you tell me how you knew the size of my finger?'

'Let me look at it.' And he took the little hand, tried the ring up and down the finger, kissed it, and finally let it go.

'It fits—' was all his remark.

If that is the way you are always ready to help me!—Hazel thought. But as no such idea could venture out, and as the next question that stood ready was altogether too much “in line,” a squirrel up in the tree had it all to himself for a few minutes. Rollo waited for the next question to come, but as it tarried he remarked quietly,

'You may remember, I had a glove of yours in my possession.'

'You. Where did you get it?'

'I picked it up. I have often done that for ladies' gloves;—but I never kept one before.'

'You picked it up?' Hazel repeated slowly. 'I never lose my gloves. And you are not one of those silly people who steal them. Where did you pick it up, Mr. Rollo?'

A sort of shadow crossed his face, as he answered, 'One night—in the woods—where it was a mere little point of light in the gloom.'

'O!' she said eagerly, looking up,—'did you? that night? I remember. And you kept it. Then, Mr. Rollo?—' The soft, surprised intonation of the last three words left them anything but incoherent.

'Well?—' said he smiling.

'I wish I had known you had it. That glove gave me a great deal of trouble.'

'Why?'

'I was so much afraid it had got into the wrong hands. But when was this done?' she said, eyes and words going back to the ring again. 'Not since—the other day?'

'Hardly! No. It was done last winter.' And Rollo's eyes flashed and laughed at her, a kind of soft lightning. Hazel laughed the least bit too, in return; but then her head went down as low as it gracefully could, and under the shadow of her broad hat she questioned.— Had she betrayed herself then, to him? What has she said? what had she done, that night? Her face rested on her hand in the very attitude of perplexity.

'Come,' said Rollo, 'you are finding out a good deal about me that you did not know before. You had better go on.'

'Did you buy up the whole Hollow?' said Hazel abruptly. 'All the way from the mills up to Gyda's—Mrs. Boërresen's—cottage?'

'No,' said Rollo, with a somewhat surprised recognition of the change of subjects; 'not yet. I have obtained possession only of the mills which were held by Morton himself. Those are the two cotton mills, and one of the woollen mills, which had lately reverted to him from the closing of the lease term and the inability of the former lessee to make any agreement for a new one. Further down the Hollow below me, lie the woollen mills of Paul Charteris.'

'And there is nothing above you yet, but the water and the land?'

'No. Nor like to be. The head of the valley is owned by Gov. Powder; and he has neither means nor inclination to do anything with it. It would be better for me to own it, though. Why, Hazel?'—with a smile.

'Why had you better own it?'

'I want to get control of the whole Hollow as fast as I can; and then, I want to keep the control.'

'Well, but why don't you then?' said Hazel. 'What is the use of waiting?'

'I am not ready to build more mills yet. And there are other reasons, Hazel. Mr. Falkirk thinks I am jeopardizing my money. I do not think so, nor intend it. I believe in the long run I shall prosper. But for the present, and for awhile, I shall be at a disadvantage, it may be; because I am paying larger wages and receiving less profits than my neighbours, and I must keep capital free to bear me and my workmen out through the time of trial—if it is to come. I mean never to have so much capital embarked in the mills, that I should have nothing to carry my hands and myself through a dead calm. You see—' Rollo continued with again a smile,—'being a careful navigator, I mean to carry the wind in my pocket.'

Hazel followed his words with attentive eyes as well as ears, and then went off into a brown study, with her chin on her hand.

'Well,' said Rollo, 'what is all this catechism for?'

'It is good practice,' she said, coming out of her abstraction with a laugh. 'I suppose you never knew before that there are two sides to a catechism?'

'Go on,' said Rollo. 'This is the beginning.'

'Beginning—of what?'

'My catechism.'

'It is the end of it, for the present. But it seems to me, Mr. Rollo,— that is, I know it seems to you that I am talking great nonsense,' said Hazel breaking off again. 'Do you live up at Mrs. Boërresen's all the time?'

'For the most part—except when I take a run down to my old home. But yes, I live at Gyda's.'

Unspoken questions came up in her eyes, but the words came not, and the eyes themselves went down to the crimson leaf she was thoughtfully drawing through her fingers. Rollo was silent too. Half sitting half lying on the leafy slope, he was busying himself with gathering together all the acorns and acorn-cups within his reach, examining them carefully one by one, and yet with a face that grew grave and became abstracted. More time passed than he knew probably, and Hazel had leisure to come out of her own abstractions and wonder at his. He did not look as if he remembered her presence; and yet a sensible woman has no objection to such indications in a man's face,—even a man that loves her,—as Hazel saw now; the grave purpose, the manly power, the thoughtful reserve. When at last he spoke and looked up, he was grave still.

'Have you any idea what you are to expect, Hazel?'

'Expect!'—Then rather slowly, 'I believe I am not given to expectations.'

Then he smiled, but went on, 'Do you remember our talk that evening, last winter?'

'Of course.'

'Then you know in what service I have taken a commission?'

'I know.—'

The quiet reserved voice seemed suddenly to lose its flexibility, and the crimson leaf came fluttering down from between her fingers.

'Are you content, Hazel? This fact will make my life more or less what people call singular.'

'But you were always called that,' she said without looking at him.

'Was I? It will be in another way now, Wych. How will you like it?'

'It? your life?—very well, I suppose. If I like you,—' she answered frankly, though in the same deliberate, abstracted way.

'But a soldier must obey orders, and has no choice. Are you content to go with me, upon such conditions?'

She turned upon him with eyes that seemed half inquiry, half surprise, her colour flitting back and forth in its vivid way. Then she rose suddenly to her feet, and setting her back against the tree and dropping her folded hands, stood looking down at him.

'Will you tell me exactly what you mean?' she said.

He rose too and stood beside her.

'It would never do for me to go one way, and my wife another.'

From under the shield of her drooping hat Hazel answered. 'Suppose you have to meet that difficulty? Suppose I should say I am not content?'

'I will tell you, when you have said it.'

'No,' she said,—'before. I am not content with anything till you do.'

'I should know in that case I had something to do, Hazel.'

'That is waiving the question.'

'No, for that something would be—to make you willing.'

She unclasped her hands, putting behind her round the tree.

'How, Mr. Rollo?'

'I suppose'—demurely—'I should use my influence.'

'Twenty questions!' said Hazel. 'If I were not content, it would show that you had not much influence to use.'

'Are you content, Hazel?'

'How are you going to be singular?' she said abruptly.

'It's my turn'—said he smiling, 'Hazel, are you content?'

'But you always ask such—unreasoning—questions.'

'Give me a reasonable answer.”

'I am never anything but reasonable,' she said; 'it is you. You want to know if I am content to have you true to yourself,—that is about the point, is it not? I think, on the whole, I am.'

'Will you help me?'

'So far as I can. But remember, that may not be very far.'

'I want your help a dozen ways at this moment.'

'Would you like to specify just a few?'

'You will see, as soon as you begin to get the run of what I am doing. I want counsel—I want coöperation. I want you to set me upon some of the woman's work that a man does not readily find out for himself. I am going to take you off to the Hollow as soon as you are quite strong enough.'

'I should think you would prefer to have me set myself upon the “woman's work,” ' said Wych Hazel.

He smiled provokingly and observed that there was enough for her and him too.

'Well—' said Hazel, with a certain postponement in her voice.

'Well, what?'

'There is no “what” in sight at present, Mr. Rollo.'

'I shall have to give you lessons severely! Look at that acorn.— Don't you like acorns?'

'Very much. But best, I think, in the spring, when they are struggling into life,—shooting up and shooting down,—shewing their possibilities. They are lovely then, with their little crumpled pink leaves.'

'That's the next stage. I want to make my life like that acorn as it is now, full rounded to its utmost fruitage. So many lives are like these empty cups,—with the fruit lost.'

Hazel balanced one of the cups on the tip of her finger, thoughtfully. 'I suppose they are,' she said. 'Good for nothing but to look at.'

'Do you think such lives good to look at?'

'Sometimes pretty to look at. Just as this cup is, till you remember that it is empty.'

'Hazel, did you study the lesson I gave you last winter?'

'I have studied it. Yes.'

'And the result? —'

Looking down at the olive moss tufts at her feet, she answered, slowly,

'I am not—quite—sure.'

'You can talk just as well if you are resting,' said Rollo; and he pulled her down to her place again, and threw himself on the bank beside her. 'Now go on,' he said, 'and tell me all about it.'

But “all about it” was a great deal. As the fireside musings, the long night watches, the fears and questionings and perplexities came up one by one and flung their shadows over her face, Hazel answered,

'No, I cannot do that.'

'I am the very person to help your perplexities.'

'But that is assuming you know what they are!'

'Never mind. You will find it is rue. What makes the confusion, Wych?'

The voice was a temptation; manly and clear, and thrilled through with a hidden tenderness in the last words. Rollo was not studying her face, but piling up his acorns on the ground between them.

'Everything helped make it.'

'Yes. Well?'

'It was not “well” at all,' said Hazel. 'I do not like tangles. And this was unmitigated. I could not pull out one single smooth thread, and present it for your inspection, Mr. Rollo.'

'Unpractical,' said Rollo. 'Make some statement of what you do know.'

'Statements are not precisely in my line,' said Hazel. 'And I am not the least in the habit of telling all I know.'

'Hitherto.'

Hazel did not immediately answer. She sat watching the heap of acorns and the hand that was arranging them, a quiet smile upon her lips. What had she said to Josephine about “diamonds from a hand that you do not love”?—whereas even acorns, from a hand that—

With a sudden scarlet flush she turned away, and bending down on the other side, began to gather mosses on her own account.

'Come, Hazel,' said her companion—'the tangle has got to be encountered, and I think we shall go into it most safely together.'

'I could not tell you,' she said, 'and you could not tell me. Nobody but oneself can disentangle “why” and “whether” and “what”.'

Rollo cast a quick glance up at her, which probably brought him all the intelligence he wanted; for he only remarked audaciously that she 'would know better some day.'

'I could not make you understand, Mr. Rollo. And unless you understood, you would just think there could not be room in my head for a single spark of sense.'

'You don't know what I think of your head. Well—if you see a little shoot of confidence in me starting up in your mind, encourage it, Hazel!'

'I shall never see it, Mr. Rollo.'

'Nor encourage it, of course. Well—I am in a bad way.'

'Things pass the acorn stage, you know,' she said, laughing a little.

'Yes. Do you remember my having once had the honour to remark to you, that I objected to be treated as an old guardian?'

'No,' said Hazel,—'you asked me if I expected to do it. But perhaps that meant the same thing in those days.'

'Perhaps it did. What do you think of it in these days?'

Hazel made a sudden transition.

'Will you like to come and go chestnutting in these woods, Mr. Rollo? The Powders all say that I promised them such a day, though I am sure I do not remember it.'

'I don't remember it,' said Rollo lazily.

'As you were not here when I am said to have made the promise, I do not see how you should. But it is needful I should ask you, or Mr. Falkirk will ask—as he did once before upon you non- appearance—if you have offended me.'

'Is the day fixed?'

'No. But they say I have promised.'

'Then there's no help for it, I know. Hazel—when you and I had a ride home in the dark one night, a year ago, did I misunderstand you then?'

Silence, instant and deep. Hazel took some time to frame her answer.

'What did you understand?'

The supreme flash of Rollo's eyes was instantly hidden by the lowered eyelids; and there was no laughter even in his voice as he answered,

'We understand each other now.'

They took their way home again through the glowing woodland and warm, still air, slowly and lingeringly. Near the house, Dane asked when Wych Hazel would go to the Hollow?

'The first day I can. Perhaps I had better wait one day more.'

'To-day is Friday. Yes, and I cannot be here to-morrow, either.'

'It is one of your busy days?'

'One of my busy days, and nights. It is my Exhibition evening. I cannot come here Sunday, either, Hazel. Monday you will be fit for a ride; and we will lunch with Gyda.'

'I was invited to go to the Reading Saturday night!' said Hazel with a half laugh, 'and I refused.'

'You had better. Don't you come, to complicate matters.'

'What should I complicate!—I am the most straightforward person going.'

'I am getting too much distinguished society. But I want to talk to you about that institution, Hazel. I have a great deal to talk to you about. It is very singular that you have nothing to say to me.'

Arrived at the house, Dane lingered awhile in the red room, surveying its pretty tokens of pretty life, where among other things the two little Catskill sketches in dainty wooden frames hung upon the walls; but he refused an invitation to stay and dine with Mr. Falkirk.

'I cannot. Wych, I must get to the Hollow before the mills are closed.'

She gave him a grave, wistful look, but said nothing.

'I shall open a shorter cut, across fields, between here and the Hollow. It might save four or five miles. Gov. Powder owns some of the ground, the Kingslands, and I think one or two more, have the rest. I can easily manage it. Twelve miles is too far between you and me,' he added smiling.

'Yes.'

He stood looking at her; perhaps considering what the proper distance would be, or rather not be; and also probably thinking that it was too soon to trouble her with that question, for he presently came forward silently to bid her good-bye, and was off.

Miss Wych was still for a few minutes, till the last hoof-beat had died away, and then began slowly to mount the stairs. And as the tired little feet went on, one step at a time, of a sudden she burst forth into one of her scraps of song—the first time for many a long day. Apparently her talk with Josephine the other day, was still running in her head, for these were the words that came:

“His very tread has music in't,

“As he comes up the stair.”

—'I wonder what sort of stair-carpets they have in that part of Scotland!' she said to herself. And then suddenly realizing how very full-fledged her thoughts had become, Hazel blushed furiously, all alone as she was, and rushed up the remaining stairs so fast, that there was nothing for it but to drop into the nearest chair and take a lecture from Mrs. Bywank, before she was able to get ready for Mr. Falkirk and dinner.

The most remarkable thing about Miss Kennedy's dress lately, was that her fingers were so loaded with rings that the very glare would have hindered Mr. Falkirk's distinguishing any particular splendour.

CHAPTER IX. ROLLO'S EXPERIMENT.

When people are just in the position, newly assumed, of these two, sixty hours of absence, it will be allowed, is a long time; and between Friday evening and Monday morning Dane could not make it shorter. Therefore nobody will be surprised that he made his appearance Monday morning in the breakfast room.

'You are early,' said Mr. Falkirk with an accent of some surprise, as he dropped his napkin and rose to take his guest's hand. Rollo picked up the napkin.

'It was necessary, if I meant to catch you at breakfast.'

'Wouldn't after breakfast do?'

'Well, no. I wanted a cup of coffee; and though no doubt my friend Mrs. Bywank would have supplied me later, I should have had to take it alone.'

'That is a very sensible way to get one's morning coffee,' returned the growler.

'You do not seem to act upon your principles.'

'I have a charge on my mind, you see. My coffee, if Gotham gave it to me, would always he flavoured with something worse than grounds. So I come here to get it clear. Have you brought business?'

'Not for you, sir, to-day.'

'Enough of your own in the Hollow by this time, haven't you?'

'Not so much but that I mean to have more.'

'More business?'

'If I can.'—Then he asked Hazel how she did?

Hazel recollected in time that it would not be true to say that she felt “more like herself” to-day, and changed that form of reply into a demure 'Pretty well, I think.'

'Pretty well, I think,' Mr. Falkirk echoed. 'Nobody but one who has tried it can tell what it is to have the care of a witch. I have been trying for a week, Rollo, to discover when we are to go to town, and whether I am expected to secure a house; and it is past my power to find out, the one or the other.'

'You do not like Chickaree?' Rollo inquired with matter-of-fact composure.

'She don't, in winter.' It is to be remarked, that the elder guardian, completely thrown off his suspicions by the course of the past winter and summer, supposed himself indulging in safe pleasantries with the only one almost with whom he could venture them.

'My dear Mr. Falkirk!—how can you say I dislike what I have never tried!' said Miss Wych.

'Can you inform me distinctly, Miss Hazel, whether you wish to try it?'

'Distinct information rather comes in the way of those vague desires which are supposed to beset me, sir.'

'I beg your pardon, Miss Hazel; I never supposed any such thing.'

'Well, sir—I do not see why October need worry itself about December.'

'I do not see why it should,' chimed in Rollo lazily.

'Does it not, down in your Hollow?'

'Not at all.'

'What more work are you wishing for there?'

'I am thinking—by and by—of building another mill.'

'Another mill!'—Mr. Falkirk's surprise was evidently more than it was polite to shew.—'You have not ground room, have you?'

'Not a present. I hope to be able to secure it. There is room, in the valley.'

'Then you expect your ventures to succeed?'

'Or I should not think of enlarging them.'

'But Charteris and others are underselling you now.'

'Yes.'

'And they will.'

'While they are able.'

'And what under heaven is the use and purpose of it all?' exclaimed Mr. Falkirk testily. 'I beg your pardon—I know I am not your guardian—but what are you aiming to do?'

'Not to ruin myself. To do that would spoil my plan. There are several thousand people living in that Hollow, Mr. Falkirk.'

'I suppose so.'

'Do you know how they are living?'

'No. What business is it of mine?'

'Miss Kennedy is going this morning to see what business it is of mine.'

Mr. Falkirk pushed himself away from the table and presently left the room. The others mounted without delay and set off.

'When have you been on Jeannie before?' Rollo asked, when they had got quit of the Chickaree woods and were indulging in a good trot along the level country road.

'Not since the end of last November,—the day before I went to town.'

'My little Wych!' said Rollo, riding close up alongside,—'what sort of a year has this been?'

'Very mixed up. Part of the winter was pleasant.'

'The summer?—'

'I suppose that was pleasant too—only I did not enjoy it.'

'Why didn't you come home?'

'The old story,' she said laughing and colouring,—'I did not want to come. Mr. Falkirk thinks I never have any other reason to give.'

'Might be a very good reason to give Mr. Falkirk. Now, do you know what you are going to look at?'

'Mill people and mill work.'

'In detail; but in general you are going to see what my friend Mrs. Powder calls “my experiment.” A problem of life-work, if you will; the question being, what can be done with fifteen hundred human beings accustomed only to poverty and hard work, to bring them to their nearest attainment of happy and useful living.'

'Fifteen hundred unhappy people!'—Hazel repeated. 'I should think everybody would be trying experiments.'

'You rode through the place once. You remember how they looked. Tell me what you would have tried first?'

'I remember. But I hardly knew what it meant, then.' There was a little emphasis upon the last word.

'Go on, and say what would occur to you to do.'

'Ah, you will only laugh and call me unpractical,' said Hazel smiling; 'but the first thing I should do, Mr. Rollo, would be to beautify the places where they live. I believe it does people good to be—just a little—smothered in roses.'

'I believe in roses; but they were not the first thing I set about. For two reasons; they take time, and also they have to be in a certain degree prepared for. The old dwellings could not be beautified; I had to build new ones; but also, Hazel, and this is a more important thing, the desire for something better than the people knew, had to be excited. Roses are not a substitute for bread,—to the uncultured mind,' he added smiling; 'and men that are ground in the dust of poverty need first of all to get ambition enough to raise their heads and wash their faces. The very first thing I did, was to make the pay sufficient for decent living. That gave them from the beginning some confidence in me, too.'

'Yes, of course. O that, I knew, you had done. I heard of it last winter.'

'Then in that connection there is another thing. I am beginning now to make the pay as far as it is possible follow the work done, instead of the time. I had to wait a good while before attempting this, because I could trust nobody to tell me or advise me, and before I could be competent to form my own judgment in the matter I had a great deal of study to do. And practice,' he added smiling. 'As far as practicable, I will have the pay dependent on the quantity and quality of the work. This stimulates effort and ministers to the sense of character, and also obviates several troublesome questions which are apt to come up between employers and employed. The people are not enlightened enough to like any change which they do not immediately feel for the better; but they will come into it, for they must; and then they will like it.'

Hazel looked amused. 'Is not that last clause an addition to the old code?' she said. 'The first two sound natural.'

Rollo smiled a little, but vouchsafed no further notice. 'Now,' he went on, 'to pursue your plan, I am building new cottages; and I shall leave the rose-planting to you.'

'In-doors and out.—Do you know, Mr. Rollo, I should think you had done the very best possible preparatory work by getting it into the peoples' heads that somebody cared whether they had roses, or clean faces, or anything else. And there I can speak from experience.'

'What sort of experience?'

'Because I never had anybody to care,' said Hazel. 'So I know how it feels.'

'Never had anybody to care—what?' said Dane, riding close up alongside and looking earnestly for the answer.

'What I did, or how I dressed, or what became of me generally,' said Hazel. 'O I suppose Mr. Falkirk cared, but he never shewed it in any way to do me a bit of good. There was no one I could please, and no one I could displease; and so while people thought I had everything, I used to feel all alone, and thought I had nothing.'

Rollo was silent and grave.

'I knew—very soon—that you cared,' she said, with the pretty soft fall of eyes and voice. 'I mean, cared for my sake.'

'Very soon?' said Rollo. 'How soon, you Wych?'

'Other people were thinking of what I was, and you of what you thought I ought to be; and it was very easy to feel the difference.'

'When?' said Rollo, scarce controlling a smile, 'When did you see it first, I mean?'

'I think you began to criticise me, almost as soon as I got here.'

'And then, Hazel, how long was it before you began to forgive me?'

'O there was no forgiveness in question,' she said, passing his words with a blush. 'The criticising shewed a little bit of real interest. And that is what I had been as hungry for, as your mill people for more tangible things. But I did not mean that I thought—I did not think about it at all. Not much.'

'Not all—not much,' said Rollo. 'No. Only a little. I understand. And what should I have got for my pains, if I had pressed the final question a year ago?'

'I did not think a little,' said Hazel, looking flushed and downcast,—'only when you made me. And when people talked.'

Rollo enjoyed the sight a minute or two, and then proposed a run. He kept it a very gentle run, however, and when they came to a talking pace again resumed the subject of the mills.

'How much have you thought about it?' he asked. 'What next would you propose?'

'Does your increase of wages let the children stay at home when they are sick? and the little ones when they are well?'

'I admit no children under twelve nor employ any families that send their little children to other mills. That was one of the first steps I took; to settle that. The other thing is somewhat less easy to manage. I cannot make a rule. There would be endless shamming. The only way is to keep a careful supervision myself, and send home any child manifestly unfit for work. In such a case I keep on the wages for one week; at the end of that time the child comes, or doesn't come. If the latter, I know something is very much amiss, and look after the case accordingly. And this matter, as yet, I can trust to nobody but myself.'

'You can trust me,' said Hazel. 'In such matters women's eyes are surer than men's.'

'At twelve miles distance?' said he smiling.

'You are going to open a short cut. And even twelve miles, upon Jeannie, is not much.'

Rollo rode a few yards in silence.

'She is your property, of course you know?'

'Thank you, Mr. Rollo!' Hazel said softly. She was smoothing out some locks of Jeannie's mane, which the wind and the run had tossed out of place.

'Take care!' said her companion. 'I shall not take thanks from you in that shape. Here is the Hollow. I am glad Charteris is at this end.'

The banks of the dell had risen up about them and the mill buildings began to appear. Paul Charteris' woollen mills came first, brown and dismal as such things are apt to look, surrounded with their straggling settlement of poor cottages. It was a glorious October day; fair over-head and glowing over all the earth; if atmosphere and colouring could have put a blessing upon misery the houses of Mill Hollow would have owned the blessing. But the clear golden light shewed the bare walls, the barren ground, the dingy, forlorn hopelessness of everything, in the full blank nakedness of the facts.

Slowly the riders walked their horses now, looking at it all. Slowly passed one mill after another with its straggling tenements for toil and discontent. Getting beyond these, and higher up the valley, new signs began to appear. Mills are mills indeed, and own no kindred with beauty. But along the slopes of the Hollow, behind and between the mill buildings, were tokens of life. Numbers of new cottages were risen, and rising, on the upper slopes of the banks, the new village even flowing over the crest of the hill upon the level land above. Most were of gray stone; some were frame houses painted white; each one that was finished having a space of ground enclosed within a little paling fence. You could see indications of change everywhere. Here some of the old huts were taking down, leaving room for new erections; there, certain old rubbish heaps had disappeared; the people they met seemed to wear a different air and to step more alertly. Further up the valley and close upon the roadway Hazel could see a building going up which was clearly no mill cottage; it was much too large. The cottages indeed were of different sizes, to suit different families and different tastes; this however was another affair. Low stone walls of considerably extent were getting a roof put on; the windows were large and many; yet it had hardly the look of a church. Builders and teamsters were at work over all this part of the valley.

The bright eyes had been very intent, the tokens of excitement in either cheek growing deeper and more defined; clearly, for Wych Hazel, Morton Hollow had changed names. But absorbed in her scrutiny she had given neither word nor look to anything but the Hollow.

Now she suddenly turned to her companion.

'What is that for?' she said. 'A church?'

'Not exactly. But given better wages and houses to live in—what is the next step you would take in dealing with a very ignorant community, whom you wished to raise to a higher level?'

'Teach them, I suppose. Then is that your reading-room, Mr. Rollo?'

'Hitherto—I will shew you where I read,' he said, suddenly breaking off. And dismounting, he came to Wych Hazel and took her down, ordering the horses forward to the bend. They went then to the door of one of the mills near at hand and Rollo whistled. The door opening, they were admitted to a great, long, low room, at the back of which bales were stowed from floor to ceiling. A large space was more or less filled with bales standing about; evidently on the move, either to be hoisted away for use or stowed up like the rest for keeping.

'Here is my place,' said Rollo. 'When Saturday night comes, all is made snug as the deck of a frigate; this part of the floor is cleared and supplied with benches; I have lamps hung from the rafters, and yonder I stand on a cotton bale. Do you know what I do it for?— not mount a cotton bale, I mean, but what for I have gone into the whole thing?'

'I suppose I know,' said Hazel. 'To identify yourself, in a sort, with the people, and to give them good amusements, and to entice them on.'

'All that. And to keep them out of the gin shops. Saturday night is pay time. With his pockets full of money, what can a poor rascal do but ruin himself with beer, if he knows nothing better? I am following an English example in the endeavour to save them. I provide coffee and buns, at cost prices; and then I manage to give them entertainment, with a spice of instruction, till too late in the night to allow of any foolery at the other places. I think I am succeeding pretty well; the popularity of my readings has been steadily on the increase. By and by I am going to vary the programme with microscopic and other exhibitions,—as soon as the people are ready for it, and I am ready.'

Miss Wych walked over to a prostrate cotton bale, and mounting upon it took a general survey of the room, ending with its owner and a flash of fun.

'Now,' she said, 'I am you, and you are the audience. Would they come to a regular night-school, do you think? And whereabouts in the Hollow do you intend to place a cotton bale for me?'

'What will you do from it?'

'Something so different from what you do, that unless we run on different evenings, one of us will draw empty houses,' said Hazel, softly stepping along the cotton-bale from end to end. 'Where does Miss Powder sit?'—this with a sudden pause at one end of the bale.

'Where she will never sit again,' said Rollo. 'She was here Saturday night with a party. I had wind of it before, and notified my people that it would be a German night. So it was.'

Hazel laughed. 'And she went home to study German!—Very dangerous conduct, Mr. Rollo! Suppose I had come with the party?'

Rollo was here interrupted by a question of business. When it was despatched, he came up to Wych Hazel's perch and jumped her down.

'You must come away,' he said; 'it's too cold here for you. What is in your mind, Hazel? What will you do, if I give you a bale? and where will you have it? Go on, and tell me what is in your head?'

The wistful look came back again, humble and sweet. Clearly, however well Hazel thought of her power to take care of herself, she was less sure about taking care of other people. 'I doubt if I am fit for any such elevation yet,' she said. 'But I suppose there are some things I could teach the children. And I might be a Visiting Committee—to go about in the houses and find out the women's wants and troubles, and clear some of them away. I know at least how people ought not to live.'

'You can do that,' said Rollo; 'and that is just what you will do admirably. Did you think I was going to set you to teach school?'

'Are you quite sure you are not?' said she, laughing up at him. 'I could, Mr. Rollo,—if I might learn first.'

'You could not teach these creatures. But you see another use for my nondescript building over there. Shall we go and look at it.'

The short walk was enlivened for Hazel by the encounters that met them. Every child gave a full smile, and every man a salutation with good will in it. On the other side the master had a word for every one, gracious as well as discriminating. It was evident that he knew them all, and their ways and their needs.

The schoolhouse, if it were that, was found to be rather a spacious erection. The main apartment was lofty, large and light; the fittings were not in yet. On each side a narrower and lower room or hall ran the whole length of the central one which was lighted from a clerestory. The workmen were putting in window-frames and hanging doors, and finishing the roofing. All the halls communicated.

'This is for the children by day, and for the night-schools and my entertainments in the evening. The hall to the west is for a coffee room. My coffee and buns are popular.'

'Where do you get them? From the top of the hill?'

Rollo shook his head. 'No, that would not do. I arranged an old office for a bakery, found my people, and got Gyda to teach them. So several of the women in the Hollow turn a penny that way; and then the bread is sold to the men at cost prices. Coffee the same. And Saturday nights the throng is in earnest. Then they come to me in good humour.'

'Well, do many of the older women work in the mills?'

'They all work that can,' said Rollo gravely.

'But Mr. Rollo!—then I will tell you another thing you want; and that is a room and a keeper for the little children. Don't you know?' she said, facing round in her eagerness,—'such a place as I have read of in France, I think, where the women who go out to work leave their children all day; so that they cannot burn themselves up, nor fret themselves to death, nor do anything but play and be happy.'

Dane looked at her with a smile.

'I told you I wanted your help,' he said. 'That is something I have not thought of.'

'I am glad!'—She could not say another word, for sheer pleasure, and those were as quiet as three mice.

'I am but making a beginning as yet, Hazel,' Dane went on. 'The first obvious things it is easy to get hold of. This for one: every child shall go half the day to school. I will not have them on any other understanding. There are few adult scholars at present; their number will grow. What shall I do with the hall on the north side of the school-room?'

'The people work from morning to night, every day?'

'From seven to seven. But come, you must not stand here any longer looking at carpenters. Come on to Gyda's. I want you to see one or two cottages on the way.'

Empty dwellings. One was a little frame house; the other was quite a pretty, low, gray stone cottage. Neatly finished, provided with snug little kitchens and small sheds adjoining for wood; the paling fence, unpainted yet, enclosing a bare space that might one day be a garden.

'Here will be work for you, Hazel, you see. All these garden plots must have something in them; and as soon as may be I want to see roses and vines creeping over these walls. But we must go slowly. You and I cannot do it. The only way for permanent results, is to rouse the desire, excite the ambition, and then supply the means. Outside the gardens I mean to plant trees, of hardy shade kinds; but I have not got so far as that yet.'

'I think you have done a great deal,' said Hazel. 'No wonder you were too busy—How do you expect to rouse the desire, Mr. Rollo? By a specimen cottage?—or by tea-drinkings at Chickaree?'

He smiled and said 'they were far from that yet.' 'But desires grow,' he added, 'and one thing leads to another. Now come away.'

CHAPTER X. ROLLO'S COMPANY.

Gyda was expecting them, and certainly looked glad enough in her quiet way. She took Wych Hazel off into an inner room, a little bit of a clean, coarse furnished place, to remove her hat and refresh herself. When she came out, Rollo was busy making one of the great settle chairs into a resting place for her, with cushions and shawl as once before. He put her in it and sat down beside her.

'You have helped me to-day, Hazel. True help. But you know what was said of some of the early Christians—“they first gave their own selves to the Lord”—so I want you to do. You will not be the less, but the more, mine.'

She did not answer a word, only by the drooping head and the curious pale alternations of colour—sure tokens with her of excited feeling. That thought had so run through the morning!— had so half spoiled it for her at times.

'Not a word?' said he softly.

'If one word would do it—But it would take many.'

'Many words? to do what?' he asked in the soft musical tone that in itself was a caress.

'To tell why I cannot answer,—why I cannot promise—to be all you wish.'

'Lay your head down and rest,' said he; 'and don't promise, but do it. Are you tired?'

He left her and went to help Gyda in serving her luncheon. This was rather a more enjoyable meal than the last one, when nobody could eat. There was happiness in every line of Gyda's shoulders, and in every movement she made between the fire and the table; and Dane was at home and at play. He was changed since a year before. The always bright, gay, masterful face was full now of a deeper purpose and a more centred energy; but the eye was as quick and as flashing as ever. And Wych Hazel, not as mistress in her own house but as guest in another's, was waited upon—how shall I say?—as such men can do it. And that is rather a rare kind of petting.

A week? was it only a week ago? Hazel wondered. Those three days of prostration had seemed to put whole continents of time between her and the wild walk across the hill-top; though the traces of that day, and of the weeks that went before, were still visible enough. Not strong yet, to withstand and manage the incoming tide of new thoughts and prospects and responsibilities, she took all the petting and pleasure and care with the most gravely girlish face imaginable. Watching her two companions, listening to them, and giving them now and then a bright blush or smile out of the midst of her thoughts, yet all the time conscious of the thoughts as well.

No, she has not quite all he could wish; not all that he ought to have. She knew that; she had known it ever since last winter; and whatever love and devotion could do, let the supply be never so unlimited, they could not do all. There would be ground he would occupy, where she could not stand by his side; there would be work he would do, which she was not fit to share. Would be? there was now. This coming in among his labours and plans had brought it home to her keenly. All the same, she could take no new stand just to please him; it would not be true, she could not keep up to it, could not act it out. Was she ready, for other reasons, to take such a stand? The old tangle of perplexed questions seemed closing her in again; and now and then, between whiles, when Rollo was looking away, the brown eyes studied him; as if studying his face would magnetize her out of her difficulties,—the one person in all the world who belonged to her, and to whom she belonged. But it was intensely like Wych Hazel, that the more she realized this, the more she hung back from following in the steps of his Christian life merely because they were his. They should be true for her, or she would not take them at all.

The talk at the table ran a good deal upon matters and things in the Hollow. Gyda knew the ins and outs of many a house there; she could illustrate and prove the truth of some of Rollo's statements, and she could suggest wants, even if she did not know to contrive the remedy.

'There's something you haven't thought of yet, Olaf,' she observed. 'They are just heathens and savages down there.'

'What makes you think I have not thought of it?'

'Well, you haven't begun to plan for it.'

'How can you venture to say that?'

'I haven't heard you say a word.'

'Do you think, Hazel, that proves anything?'

'It would not with me,' she said. 'But Mrs. Boërresen should know you.'

'She should,' said Rollo. 'It appears she don't.'

'You talk of a great many other things,' said the old woman smiling. 'I've been waiting to hear when that would come up. What are you going to do, lad?'

'Gyda is quite right,' said Dane turning again to Wych Hazel. 'They are little better than heathen, and do not know much more. You remember our first visit here? A party of the children had made a plan to throw stones at our horses as we passed through the Hollow on our return. There is no danger of that now. But what would you do with such a community?'

'I could not do much,' said the girl gravely. 'I suppose, if I were you—You should ask people who know what they are talking about, Mr. Rollo. Not me.'

'But I ask you. What occurs to you, as a good first step?'

'It did not “occur” to me,' said Hazel,—'you made me think of it. I suppose, then—if I knew what you know, Mr. Rollo; if I felt as you feel; I should want to tell them that, first of all. I should set them the lesson you set me,' she added, her voice changing a little. 'And—very much as you set it for me.' A swift deprecating glance begged him not to think that she was either criticising his work, or assuming that she knew what it was; or in general, that she knew anything about anything!

'And when and where would you do this?' said Dane, his manner quite grave and quiet, his powerful eyes nevertheless absorbing every indication of the changes in hers.

'I should think they would come any time when you wanted them,' she said, making revelations in her unconscious way.—'Sundays, I suppose they would have most time. And Sundays, too, they would be a little more dressed up and ready for the best things you could tell them.'—The words came simply, but very soberly, as if she remembered all the while that in such plans she had nothing to do.

'Well,' said Dane, 'our thoughts lie sufficiently near together. That is just what I have proposed to do, Wych.'

'Yes. I knew you would.'

'Do you think,' said he slowly, as he was helping her to something, 'do you think one ought to wait for anything but an opportunity— before telling good news to people whom it concerns?'

'But I did not think you had waited.'

'No,' said Rollo gravely. 'I started a general proposition.'

'Opportunity is only the sand-paper,' said Hazel in her quick way. 'Of no earthly use without a match.'

Rollo's eye danced; nevertheless he answered as demurely as possible—'What do you consider a match?'

'Hidden fire. The complement of the opportunity,—waiting for it,—ready for it. I suppose I meant that—' she said, retreating into herself again.

'I suppose you did,' said Rollo smiling, 'for it is a sharp truth. But Hazel, there is also hidden fire in the good news we carry; and if we cannot make it catch, perhaps God will. Suppose you have nothing to give but the naked truth in your naked hand—won't you take it to the people whose lives it may light up for ever?'

She did not answer him, thinking of the time—not now long past—when her own life had been like midnight. Hazel pushed away her plate, and folding her hands in her lap, sat looking down at them, or at her ring, or possibly seeing neither.

'Olaf,' said Gyda suddenly coming back from the outer door to which she had been summoned, 'somebody is a wanting you down yonder. There's always somebody wanting him now, my lady.'

'Who is it, this time?'

'Hans Heinrich—he has got hurt in some o' the wheels and things.'

'He is not one of my hands.'

'He is not; but he wants you, my lad, for all that. He's hurt bad; and there's no one to tell 'em what to do; and Lina Heinrich, she sends word to you to come for Christ's sake.'

Dane hesitated but a moment and turned to Wych Hazel.

'Can you wait for me?'

'O yes,—I wish I could help.'

'You had better lie down and take a sleep. Look after her, Gyda.' And he went off, losing no time.

Gyda had been clearing her table, and as soon as everything was in order she took a chair and sat down opposite Wych Hazel.

'What do they want him for so often, Mrs. Boërresen?'

'Help, my lady. O there's sore need of it, certainly. But these are not his own people; nevertheless there is no help but his for them.'

Hazel mused over the words, her own eyes going off to the fire now. She understood it all well enough,—felt from the depths of her heart what delight it would be to help him, ever so little. And what could he think of her, that she was not more ready? Ah, if he only knew all the history of this year! all the questions and sorrows and perplexities she had been through!—And it was just what she could not tell him, and just what he could never guess. So she gazed at the twinkling fire, shewing brighter and brighter as the afternoon began to die away; until at last, with her head somehow nestled against shawl and cushions in the extemporised easy chair, one sort of weariness claiming the right of way, Wych Hazel went fast asleep; and Gyda might study the fair young face at her leisure. Gyda's own face looked happy the while; and noiselessly she made up the fire, and softly her old lips whispered prayers oftentimes as she moved hither and thither.

The afternoon was waning, though evening had not yet set in, when the door opened gently and Primrose Maryland appeared. Gyda's finger at her lips stayed all but softly uttered words, till Primrose came up to the fire and looked at the sleeper in the cushioned chair.

Prim looked, and looked away. Her movement first was to go to the table and take off her bonnet and lay down her shawl and right herself a little. Yet Prim was nothing of a coquette, not the least in the world, and never thought about her dress but to have it respectable. Neither did she think about it now; for there was no glass in the room, and the movement with which she pushed the hair further back from her brow assuredly had no origin in regard to appearances. However she came back after that and looked at Hazel more steadily, and then sat down by Mrs. Boërresen to talk in a soft undertone which could disturb nobody. The two girls had scarcely seen each other since the fall before, except in the most casual manner at church or in some chance meeting. Hazel had had good reasons for keeping herself out of the way, and when they met had wrapped herself in a triple veil of defences; so that it was rather a revelation to see her as she looked now. A tired child asleep, instead of the energetic lady of Chickaree. Her three days' slumber had but partially done their work, and Hazel slept on now in the profoundest way; her face and hands in rather noticeable acceptance of the gray shawl, considering whose it was. Prim looked, and looked, from time to time in the intervals of talking, until the talking seemed to die away; and she sat drawn back into herself. The light was failing now. Gyda mended her fire again, and the heavy iron tongs slipped from her hands and fell with a harsh clang upon the hearth. Wych Hazel awoke.

The greeting then was very affectionate.

'Wherever in the world did you come from?' said Hazel. 'Does it take two people to keep watch of me?'

'I came here to be out of the way,' said Prim. 'Dane wanted Arthur, or at least the hurt man wanted him. What in the world are you here for, Hazel?'

'O I have been inspecting the mills,' said Hazel with a laugh; 'and of course after such profound work I was tired. But I did not mean to go to sleep. Has everybody else gone home?—it is dinner time this minute.'

'Nobody has gone home,' said Primrose; 'and they cannot help about it's being dinner time, you know. Were you ever here before?—in this house, I mean.'

'Yes—O,' said Hazel with sudden recollection, 'has it taken all this time to attend to that man?'

'Arthur is there.'

'Is he?—that is good. But all this time!'—with a shiver. 'I do not see how I could sleep!'—She stood looking grave, as if rather disappointed in herself.

'Yes,' Primrose went on, —'Arthur and I were driving through the Hollow, just to see the things; and Dane laid hold of Arthur and sent me up here. He didn't tell me I should find you.' Primrose paused, as her eye fell on Hazel's cushioned and draperied chair. 'You have changed your mind about Dane, haven't you Hazel?' she asked abruptly. Hazel faced round upon her in undoubted surprise.

'Changed my mind!' she repeated, flushing all up,—'what was my mind?'

'You remember—last year.'

'What about last year?'

'Why you remember, Hazel. You did not like him at all, and used to get out of all patience with him.'

'Of course I did. There is no particular call to get out of patience just now. And even I generally wait for a reason.'

'Have you made up your mind you will never get out of patience again?' Prim asked, with a keen look to the answer.

'No.'

Prim's eye fell on the cushions and the gray shawl again.

'You aren't going to vex him, Hazel, are you?'

'Why Prim!'—Hazel took hold of her shoulder and gave her a gentle shake, though with a queer mixture of softness and sharpness,—'do I look like the good little girl in storybooks, that you put me through such a catechism?'

'No; but I find you up here,'—and again Prim's eye went to the gray shawl and came back to her friend's face.

'I am not specially responsible for that. The thing just now is how to get away. Mr. Falkirk will be out of his wits.'

Prim was uncertain and dissatisfied, and sat back. A moment after came the steps of the two gentlemen at the door. As they entered, Dane with a smile and a gesture of salutation, went through the room to speak to Gyda in some of her offices. Dr. Maryland remained.

'Shall we go home now, Arthur?' said Prim, rising, when he had exchanged greetings with Miss Kennedy. Hazel was a little shy of him; somehow she half fancied that his quick eye had read her secret.

'Not possible, my dear. Rollo and I must be here all night, on duty. And it is quite too dark for you to go alone.'

'That poor man?' said Primrose.—'Does he want you still? you and Dane?'

'No, it's not that. But some of that poor man's fellow-workmen have set their hearts, it is said, upon making a bonfire in one of Dane's mills,—to stop his making some people more comfortable than others, I suppose; and the bonfire may need care.'

'A bonfire!' said Prim. 'I should think Duke would put a stop to that.'

'So he intends. But you cannot always stop a thing before it is begun.'

Dr. Arthur leisurely warming one foot as he stood at the fire, tool notice now that the third member of the company, not saying a word, was watching him with an interest before which even Prim's grew tame. And (all things being fair in the pursuit of science) suddenly intercepting the look, he found that it as suddenly retreated, in some confusion. Whereupon, 'standing attention' a little more, Dr. Arthur took the measure of the gray chair as accurately as if he intended to have one made for himself, and then with a smile came back to the more selfish business of warming his other foot. Therewith entered the temporary master of the house.

'Well, ladies!' said he; 'have you come to any conclusion as to what is to be done?'

'We do not but half understand the case yet, Duke,' answered Primrose.

He passed through the room to Wych Hazel's side.

'I have got to be in the Hollow to-night,' he said. 'The wife of the man who was hurt, in an impulse of gratitude, I suppose, has warned me that an attempt will be made before morning to fire one of my mills. I do not half believe it; and yet I think I must be on hand. What will you and Prim do? There are only two things; for you to ride to Dr. Maryland's—and that is seven miles—alongside of Arthur's buggy; or that you should spend the night here. I think Gyda can make you comfortable. I have sent a messenger to Chickaree.'

'Excuse me for interfering,' said Dr. Arthur, 'but as my buggy remains here, the honour of Miss Kennedy's company alongside would be of doubtful expediency.'

'Nonsense Arthur!' said Dane; 'if she wanted to go, I should let you take the buggy. What do you say, Miss Kennedy?'

'I shall stay,' said Hazel, just ready to laugh at the unwonted name. 'Unless I can go alone.'

'Sit down then,' said he taking her hands and putting her back in her chair. 'Arthur, take off your overcoat and make yourself comfortable if you can. Prim, I am glad to see you.' And he went over to kiss her. 'Now we have got the evening before us. Gyda, we are all going to stay. Is your kettle on?'

CHAPTER XI. STARLIGHT AND FIRELIGHT.

He went out, probably to fill and put on the kettle himself; and came back with an armful of wood for the fire. In the light of a splendid blaze the four friends sat in a half circle round the fireplace, and the evening was falling gray outside.

'Do you expect they will really set fire to your mills, Duke?' Primrose asked.

'I do not know what to expect.'

'But I thought they liked you so much?'

'Those are not the people who are talking of lighting up Morton Hollow. Do you know,' he went on to Wych Hazel, 'it is thought by some parties down there, that my doings are so much in want of explanation that the secret is probably to be found in Satanic influence.'

' “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub,” '—said Prim, with her eyes fixed on the fire.

'And it would not pay to drench the cotton bales on an uncertainty'—said Hazel, her eye mentally fixed on one particular bale for which she had a kindness.

'I can't conceive how they should think so, after all, Dane,' said Primrose.

'It seems unnatural for a man not to take all he can get. Therefore it has not been very difficult, I fancy, to persuade some of the ignorant people that a deep scheme to wrong them must be hid under the apparent plan for righting them. It is easier to believe that than the truth.'

'A little natural envy too,' said Dr. Arthur. 'Just when is this performance to come off?'

'Impossible to guess.—Arthur,' said Dane suddenly, 'I want you for my doctor.'

'You have me, sir,' said Dr. Arthur, bending his brows upon his friend. 'What's the matter with you?'

'Do I have you? I want for a permanency.'

'I see. The case promises great interest. Well?—Begin with your most unpleasant sensations.'

'You began with them this afternoon,' said Dane gravely. 'The case does possess interest, for it regards the sensations of some fifteen hundred people, or more. I want you to take charge of it;—on a salary to be fixed as hereafter agreed upon. What do you say?'

'Thank you—I should like it very much,—if it were only for the pleasure of working with you. And they want better care than they get.'

'Thank you,' said Rollo in his turn. 'I thought you would, and yet it is a load off my mind.'

'Why it will be delightful,' cried Prim. 'Nothing could be nicer.'

'The next thing is, Arthur, where will you live?'

'Why at home, can't he?'

'No. I will build a house for you, Arthur, if you can put a housekeeper in it.'

'Don't let such a trifle stand in your way,' said Dr. Arthur. 'There'll be one in it when I am there. And when I am not, it's no matter.'

Dane uttered a low whistle, and looked at the other members of the little circle.

'Shews how much he knows about housekeeping!'

'For a particular man, which he is,' said Prim.

'You wouldn't believe it,' said Dane, his eye coming round to Wych Hazel, 'but I shall have to make the tea carefully to-night, because that fellow is here.'

'All which proves that I know how to make it for myself,' said Dr. Arthur composedly. 'But it is mere fudge, Dane, about building a house for me. Get your hands roofed in, and then don't do one other thing at present. I'll live somewhere.'

'Lodge under a hedge, and dine in the top of a beech tree. Where would be a good place?—I do not mean, for the beech tree. Somewhere near the spot where the road to the Hollow leaves the Crocus road—that's about three miles. That would be in the way— of everything.”

'But Duke,' said Primrose, 'are you in earnest? Couldn't he be at home?'

'Seven miles off, Prim? He was only just in time this afternoon. Arthur, I wish you would draw out a plan of a house that you would like.'

'But who could keep house for him? Prudentia?'

'No,' said Dr. Arthur, 'I cannot manage any prudence but my own. But Dane, I am in earnest. I want you to let your reserve force rest. You may reach corners where you will need it all.'

'What are “corners” in mill-work?' said the silent little figure in the depths of the cushioned chair. Dr. Arthur turned to her instantly, listening with almost critical attention while she spoke; but then he drew back and waited for Rollo to give the answer.

'A corner,' said Dane with critical gravity, 'is a place where your path is crossed by another. Which indeed usually makes two corners; perhaps four.'

'What do you do then?'

'Turn. That is, if I cannot go straight on.'

'Therefore you see that with a train of fifteen hundred men, a corner is an awkward place,' said Dr. Arthur.

Wych Hazel went back to her cushions and her pondering, making no reply. And Dr. Arthur, waiting for the answer which came not, took out his pencil and a card and began idly sketching an imaginary house. 'There,' he said, handing it over to Rollo,—'see if you can execute that?'—Across the house was written:

'Make her talk. I want to hear her.'

'There is another sort of corner,' Dane went on meditatively, after glancing at the card;—'a corner where ways end instead of meeting. The corner of a wall, for instance, inside, where there is no way out but to jump the wall.'

'Yes,' said Hazel. 'I thought perhaps that sort existed only in my experience.'

'What is your experience of corners?'

'I have seen two fences—meet.'

'Yes, but where were you?'

'Mr. Rollo, I am talking seriously. What corners may be “ahead,” in this mill-work?'

'None, I hope, that I cannot get round. But if we are to speak seriously, suppose that there should be a sudden failure of orders?'

'So that he could make in two days more than he could sell in six,' said Dr. Arthur, who with arms folded and eyes on the floor was listening keenly.

'But the men could not stop eating just because he stopped selling,' said Hazel, with her usual short run to conclusions.

'Of course,' said Dane laconically.

'Then if the work went on as usual—But how long could you do it? That is what Dr. Maryland means,' said Hazel.

'You see the corner.'

Hazel saw it, and retreated again to her own among the cushions.

'I am not in it yet,'—said Dane looking at her.

'No. And I should not think you would call any place where you ought to be, “a corner,” ' said Hazel, who was generally impartial in her reproofs.

'Not if it was a corner?' said Rollo with the most innocent gravity.

'No.'—

She laid her hand up against the side of the chair, leaning her face upon it, watching the fire. Turning slightly, from under the shadow of his own hand, Dr. Arthur studied her.

'Meanwhile, let us consider the plan of the doctor's house. I cannot show you his card, for it is not all quite as straight as Dr. Arthur's plans generally are; but I wish you two ladies would make any suggestions that occur to you; and I will make a note of them.'

'It needn't be a large house, I suppose, Dane,' said Primrose.

'Mem. To be a small house.'

'O hush, Duke!' said Prim. 'That is not a suggestion. But this is; have plenty of closet room.'

'Item; with large closets.'

'Hazel, do tell him something,' said Primrose. 'He is laughing at me.'

Hazel smiled, but she was not much inclined to enter the lists.

'I am sure he has been laughing at me,' she said. 'And I do not know about the house—only it ought to be perfectly bright and pretty in every way. Because Dr. Maryland will see so much pain in the course of his work, that he ought to find nothing but a welcome when he comes home.'

'Are you satisfied, Arthur?' said Dane, as he gravely added to his notes.

'Quite. One should be, with perfection,' said the doctor. 'If Prim will kindly let me arrange my own closets.'

Prim was silent, and what she was thinking of, this story does not tell; but her next words made rather a bound from these.

'Dane,' she said suddenly, 'is there any necessity for your going down to the mills to-night unless you are sent for?'

'I think it would be proper,' said Dane, making his notes.

'Then you will go?'

'I suppose so.'

'But if you had set men to watch, I should think they might have prevented all the trouble.'

'I did not want to prevent it.'

'Not? Why, Duke?'

'If it is to come, I would rather it should come now, when I am here and expecting it.'

'Is there danger of any rough work?'

'Among the men? I cannot tell.'

'O Duke! if you had set men to watch, I should think they could have put out a fire without you.'

Hazel roused up suddenly. 'Prim, how can you talk so?' she said with quick emphasis. 'Of course he must go!'

Dr. Arthur smiled.

'I do not see the must,' Primrose answered. 'You don't know what a mill-fight is, Hazel.'

The girl shrank back among her cushions. 'But he must go—' she repeated, half to herself.

'I do not expect to hear of many more mill-fights in Morton Hollow,' said Dane very calmly. 'What is it, Gyda? Supper? Well, some of our friends here will be very glad of it.'

There was porridge and cream and flad-brod, of course; there was hung beef and honey; altogether it was rather a sumptuous meal. Rollo attended to the coffee on the hearth, and made the tea; as usual did half of the serving himself, and took care that his old nurse should not exert her strength beyond very gentle limits. They voted to disregard the table and keep their places round the fire. So in grand red illumination from the blaze they took their cups of coffee, which Dane filled from the pot on the hearth; and handled their plates of porridge and cream; and but for the night's work in prospect, would have regarded it as a piece of grand fun. To the young men indeed that circumstance was not enough to make it any less than fun, and to one of them it was much more. Gyda, whose little black eyes watched them all keenly, found it a pleasant sight; for the smile on her old lips was as sweet as May. Though indeed Gyda's smile was quite wont to be that. She sat where Rollo placed her and suffered him to attend to her wants; but she said never a word unless spoken to.

It was still not far on in the evening when the supper was disposed of and the room was again in company order. The little circle gathered somewhat closer together. They had been talking gaily, yet something in the social atmosphere hindered conversation from the buoyancy natural to it in happy circumstances; it acted like a wreath of chimney smoke in a damp morning. In a pause which had come, no one knew why, Primrose remarked,

'I wish you would sing something, Duke.'

'Why?'

'Why, because I like to hear you.'

'Yes, do,' said Dr. Arthur. 'Prim's nerves are sadly out of tune.'

'I don't think my nerves are ever out of tune,' Prim answered gently.

'Not when they have work to do,' said Rollo. 'Nor ever at another time, that I know.'

'But you can sing, if I don't want tuning.'

'Certainly. But in all questions that are not of duty, you have to consider the effect.'

The lazy deliberateness with which this was spoken, was at least as provoking as it was comical. Wych Hazel from her place was silently watching them all, her eyes going from one speaker to the other with wide open consideration. Now, her lips just parted and curled and came back to their gravity.

'Go on—will you?' said Dr. Arthur,—'I have a perplexing question to decide before to-morrow; and it rather helps me to have somebody make a noise.'

'If you would tell us the question, perhaps it would help us make a noise,' said Dane with the same placid gravity.

'Profound!'—said Dr. Arthur. 'Well—give us something in that line.'

'What line?'

'Original and scientific observation.'

'That's your line. I was thinking—how would you define “a noise”?'

'Extraneous sounds come pretty near it, with me,' said Dr. Arthur.

'But you wouldn't call music “a noise,” ' said Primrose.

'Wouldn't I!—When Miss Powder has wandered off alone to the Sands of Dee and doesn't want to be interrupted!—'

'But what you would call a noise, isn't music, Arthur. Now Hazel, I wish you would just sing one of your little songs and confound him!' Primrose spoke entreatingly.

'I should be more happy to be confounded—in that way—than I can tell,' said the doctor.

'Thank you,' Hazel answered laughing; 'my songs are quite too small to do that for anybody. And besides, as I once heard somebody say,—“I was not asked first.” '

'Your are asked to be the first,' said Rollo.

'I remember one night at Newport—' Dr. Arthur began. Hazel interrupted him.

'You need not remember anything about Newport!'

'Need I not?' said the doctor smiling. 'Agreed!—I like this much better. But one night when you were singing to Kitty Fisher, in her room, she had secretly posted an ambush underneath the window. It would be hard to forget those songs, or to cease wishing to hear them again.'

'Kitty Fisher!—'

'You will certainly do for Prim what you would do for Kitty Fisher,' remarked Rollo.

'I suspect I did it for myself then,' said Hazel; and “for herself' was the way she liked best to sing. But if he wished it—So without more ado the song came. Not one of her gay little carols this time, but a wild Border lament; inimitably sweet, tender, and true. As effortless in the giving, as forgetful of auditors, as if she had been a veritable bird among the branches; for Wych Hazel always lost herself in her music.

Then more was called for, with a general soft shout. And then, by and by, as Wych Hazel sang, a soft rich accompaniment began to chime in with her notes. Those two had never sung together before; doubtless that was forgotten by neither; and it is not too much to say that the one voice came caressingly attending upon the other; playing around her notes with delicious skill, accompanying, supporting, contrasting, with a harmony as gracious as it was wilful; till at the close of a somewhat longer piece than usual there was a universal burst of applause. Small audiences are not generally wrought up to such a pitch; and when they had done they all sat and laughed at each other.

'Ah!' said Dr. Arthur, 'I asked for a noise, and after all had to make it myself!'

They had got intoxicated with melody. They went on singing, of course. Various and diverse things, but for the most part of the deeper and thoughtful styles of music; sometimes together, sometimes alone. At last Gyda asked for a hymn. Rollo looked at Wych Hazel. The two spots of colour which had been burning in her cheeks, changed suddenly to a grave flush.

'That is for you,' she said softly.

He waited a moment, and then sang,—

“Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott”—

To hear Rollo sing a hymn, or any other song, was to have the meaning given with not less but more than speaking expression, and Wych Hazel's winter studies had enabled her to follow the words. The listeners were all very still, and no applause followed. But when the last line was ended, Rollo rose and announced that it was time to go. And soon as he and Arthur had left the cottage, Hazel sprang up.

'Mrs. Boërresen, which window best commands the Hollow?'

'You can't see into the Hollow from any of 'em, my lady.'

'Where then?'

'You know there's a bend in the Hollow, Hazel,' Prim remarked. 'We cannot see into it from anywhere here.'

Wych Hazel stood looking down into the burnt out fire, her hands knotted tight together. If she were but alone!—Could she in any possible way elude her companions and not be found out?— especially the first. Certainly she was a wayward creature, they might think. Five minutes ago listening to that hymn with the most quiet, subdued child's face; and now fairly sparkling with energy and purpose. How could she manage? Prim was putting on her bonnet and shawl.

'It is not very cold,' she remarked. 'I am going as far as the top of the road.'

Hazel glanced at the gray chair,—no, she could not disturb that. She begged a shawl of Gyda, and was off, out of the door without more ado. But not to find Primrose. It rather suited the young lady's mood to be by herself; and so, noiselessly, Hazel flitted along through the starlight, without however being able to reach a point which looked straight down into the Hollow beyond the bend. The uneven ground, the unknown distances, baffled her. Standing still, she heard nothing. The starry sky overhead was not more calmly quiet than this portion of the darksome earth appeared to be. A little frosty, the air did not stir enough to rustle the leaves on the trees. Crickets and some other fall insects had it all their own way. Wych Hazel went over to the ground on the other side of the road and tried that. Frosty, and still, and starlight, it was on the other side of the road; in the bright gloom even her point of view did not seem to be changed. Her next move was back to the cottage. There she stood still upon the steps.

Presently the door opened behind her. 'My little lady—' said Gyda.

'I am here, all safe.'

'Won't you come in?'

'But I cannot hear anything!' said Hazel. 'I might go a little bit down the road—'

'No,' said Gyda. 'He wouldn't have you, nor forgive me if I let you. There'll be no great trouble, my lady; my lad's men will all do what he bids them; and if there's trouble, he'll get it over.'

'Do you think so?'—She drew a long breath, stepping down off the stone again and listening. The old woman's hand came softly to hers to draw her in, for the watch had already lasted long; but just then a faint reddish light arose in the dark above the Hollow.

'What's that?'

'It's fire, my lady.'

'There!' Hazel exclaimed. 'O don't stay here—you will get cold; but just leave me.'

Gyda would not leave her however, nor lose sight of her. Their words drew Prim to the door, who had earlier returned to the cottage. They all stood looking. There was a glow of light certainly; it brightened and spread for a while; yet it was rather like the glare from a good-sized bonfire than the token of any more serious conflagration. Nevertheless they watched it, the younger women painfully; until they saw that the light was stationary, did not increase, then certainly was less, then evidently fading. 'It's all getting over,' said Gyda; 'and it's not great thing at all. Come you in before the master gets back. It's your wisest.'

'I never was famed for being wise,' said Hazel, her spirits taking a little spring as the fire went down. But she turned and went in, and stood before the peaceful fire on the hearth, looking into its red depths. Primrose sat down, but with a different face, sober and meditative in another way. Gyda went out to her kitchen. Perhaps Hazel was tired of standing, for she presently knelt down on the hearth stone, holding out her fingers to the blaze, covered with the red light from head to foot. She looked rather pale, through it all.

'Prim,' she said suddenly, 'did you ever stay all night up here?'

'No. Never.'

'Then of course you do not know where we are to make believe sleep.'

'I suppose it will be in that room where our things were laid. Mrs. Boërresen will tell us. Hazel, will you mind, if I say something I want to say?'

'I cannot tell whether I shall mind or not.'

'Shall I say it?'

'Yes, if you want to,' said Hazel, devoting herself to the tongs and the fallen brands.

'It is only just this.—What are you going to do about dress?'

If ever anybody was astonished, it was perhaps Miss Kennedy just then.

'Dress!' she echoed, looking at Primrose and then down at the trim, invisible brown riding-habit, which, looped up and fastened out of the way had been perforce retained through the evening. Very stylish, no doubt, as all her dresses were; though in this case the best style happening to be simplicity, the brown habit with its deep white linen frills was almost severely plain. 'Prim,—I have not the faintest idea what you mean!'

'I don't mean now, to-night, of course.'

'Any time. What do you mean by “do”?'

'Manage—' said Prim. She looked as if she were searching into the subject, with a doubtful mood upon her. She went on. 'Do you suppose Dane would like you to dress as you have been accustomed to do?'

Wych Hazel rose to her feet. Whatever Mr. Rollo's own right to comment upon her or her dress might be, she was not in the least disposed to take the comments at second hand.

'I should think your recollection might tell you,' she said, 'that Mr. Rollo feels quite free to find fault with me whenever he sees occasion.'

'But Hazel,' said Prim meekly,—'don't be angry,—Do you want to wait for that?'

Hazel gave a half laugh. 'People always think I am angry,' she said.—'I wonder if I am such a tempest?'

'You are not a tempest at all,' said Prim still meekly; 'not now, certainly; but I know you can feel things, and I don't want you to feel anything I say, except pleasantly. Indeed I don't, Hazel.'

'I'm glad you think I can feel things, but I suppose my comprehension is less lively. I do not even know what “managing” about my dress would be. I never “manage”!' said Hazel, with a fierce onset upon the brands.

'I know you haven't. But don't you think—perhaps—you will have to? Don't you think it will be best?'

'I don't know how, and I never do it, and I do not know what you mean,' Miss Wych answered, sending a column of sparks up the chimney and shewing a few in her own eyes. Which however she did not turn upon Primrose. Primrose eyed the sparks which flew up chimney, with an unrecognizing face.

'You know, Hazel,' she began again, 'your dress is always so beautiful.'

'Well? If my guardians ever find it out, they never object.'

'But you know, Hazel! you know!' exclaimed Primrose in some distress. 'How shall I speak to you? Your guardians would not meddle, I suppose, either of them; but don't you think, now, that Dane will want you to do a little as he does? Do you think he will like you to dress so expensively? and you know you do, Hazel. And he gave up his cigars long ago.'

If Prim could have known all the minute thorns she was sticking into her friend! Hazel was vexed enough to laugh, or to cry, or to do anything, almost.

'I am glad he has,'—she said, 'but really I have nothing answering to cigars in all my list of expenses.'

'O Hazel! don't you think so?'

'No. I suppose you like them better than I do.'

'What, cigars?'

'Yes. I should think any man would be thankful to get rid of them. Mr. Falkirk never smokes.'

'I don't like them. But men do. And Dane always smoked such delicious cigars—I used to catch the sweet scent of them often in summer time, when windows were open, and then I knew he was lingering about somewhere near; in the garden or the meadow.' Prim gave the least little unconscious sigh as she spoke. Hazel glanced at her, and her own face grew very thoughtful. The subject of dress was left quite in the distance.

'And he has given all that up,' Prim went on; 'and I thought, perhaps, you had not thought about it. All this about dress, I mean.'

'No, I have not,' said Hazel. 'Especially as I do not know what “all this” is. What to do with cigars seems clear; but my dresses hang in the dark. Never mind,—a girl with two guardians is not likely to go very far in any direction.' And Hazel carefully set the tongs in place, and swept up the hearth; and then suddenly caught up her shawl again and wrapped it round her.

'What can have become of that fire?' she said. 'It is an age since we came in. Let's go and see.'

But opening the door revealed only the quiet, clear, starry sky and the still air. No glare of fire; no sound of voices; the crickets seemed to be going on comfortably and much as usual. The air was a trifle more chill, too; and after a few minutes of fruitless watching the two girls came indoors again; but they would not accept Gyda's proposition and go to bed. It was not very late, they said; and once more the three women sat down round the fire to wait. After a time however, Primrose gave it up and went off. Hazel sat still, pondering. Not in her great chair now, but down at the corner of the hearth; with a disturbed mind going over Prim's enigmas. Something about her was sure to displease,—that seemed to be as near as she could come to it; and a restless, uneasy sort of pain crept into her heart and over her face. But the minute returning steps were heard outside the door, Hazel darted away to where Prim was already asleep.

Could Prim have been set to talk to her? she thought as she looked. But it was no use to raise that question to-night. Nevertheless the question lifted its own head now and then,—that, and one other sorrowful thought which the evening had left: she was ready to join him in singing anything—except just what he loved best! And Hazel went to sleep with a sigh upon her lips.

CHAPTER XII. COFFEE AND BUNS.

Wych Hazel sat watching her friend at her toilet.

'Prim,' she said, 'will you be angry?'

'Me? Angry? No. About what?'

'Because,' said Hazel, 'your dress is not looped right. And I want to alter it.'

Primrose laughed a little. 'What's the use?' she said. 'Next time it will be wrong again. I can't reach the mystery of your loopings. They are loopings, but your dress is never in a bunch anywhere— only falls into place in a lovely manner. I can't be like that, Hazel.'

Hazel's busy fingers were making changes.

'There!'—she said. 'Now it is a great deal more “beautiful.” Do you feel demoralized?'

'Hazel!' said Prim facing round,—'did you suppose I mean that? When Dane likes everything to be as beautiful, and as right, every way, as it can be? Look at his horses; and look at his own dress.'

'Ask him to look at your's,'—Hazel said with a laugh, and pushing Prim gently before her into the next room.

Breakfast was well seasoned with talk, and the talkers lingered over their meal, until Dr. Arthur declared that if the rest could stay there all day, he could not; and so broke up the sitting.

'Miss Kennedy,' he said as they left the table, 'will you come to the door a moment, before you put on your hat, and let me see your eyes?'

'See my eyes!'—Hazel followed him doubtfully.

'Yes, I want to know how they look now they are open. How nearly do you feel like yourself again?' he said, in the midst of a somewhat close and earnest examination.

'I am perfectly well, thank you.'

' “Perfectly well.”—For instance, did you thoroughly enjoy riding on horseback yesterday?'

In spite of the evident good faith of the doctor's question, Wych Hazel's cheeks gave such instant swift answer, that he was fain to turn his eyes away.

'Not the October air,' he went on gravely, 'nor the coloured leaves, nor the sunshine; nor even the exhilaration; but the exercise. How is that, compared with a year ago?'

'I am not quite so strong for it, I think,' Hazel answered unwillingly.

'Im_perfectly well,' said Dr. Arthur. 'And for what are you most inclined when the ride is over?'—but again the tell-tale face warned him of dangerous ground.

'I have not been riding much'—she said deprecatingly. 'I am all out of practice.'

'That goes for something. Always supposing that it always used to be so when you happened to be “out of practice.” '

Hazel was silent.

'These guardians!' said Dr. Arthur with some emphasis. 'I cannot imagine what Mr. Falkirk was thinking of, when he kept you away all summer, letting you wear yourself out!'

'He did not keep me. I kept myself,' said Wych Hazel.

'Did you! Suppose Mr. Falkirk had kept himself here?'

Rollo came to the conference at this point. He knew the reason of his friend's care, for he had questioned him with relation to his professional curiosity the evening before. But he had a clue to Wych Hazel's three days' sleep, which Dr. Arthur could not have.

'Dr. Maryland, I thought you had more sense!' said the girl impatiently. 'The last time you saw me, you said the only thing was to let me have my own way.'

'Depends a little upon what direction the “way” takes,' said Dr. Arthur. 'You don't want another sleep, do you?'

'Thank you,—I have had one.'

'Had one!' Dr. Arthur exclaimed. 'Not like that?'

'Not precisely like that,' said Hazel demurely. 'I have had several different ones.'

Dr. Arthur laughed, and gave up his research.

'I begin to comprehend Mr. Falkirk!' he said. 'Dane, if you can brave this lady's displeasure, I wish you would see that she does not overtax herself for three months to come. Nor then, without my permission.'

'But it is miles and miles from here to Chickaree!' said Miss Wych as she ran in.

The inconvenience of having two guardians is, that when you have got rid of one you have to face the other. And that other had to be faced at the dinner table to-day. It was well that the twelve miles' ride had not taken down Hazel's strength below the mischief point. Rollo, it must be remarked, had been obliged to gallop back again after very slight tarrying.

'Good evening, Miss Hazel,' said her elder guardian as he met her in the dining room. 'I think I have not seen you since this time yesterday.'

'A little later than this, sir. It was after dinner when we parted.'

'Quite so. Why did we not meet at breakfast? I was here. You were not.'

'No, sir. That seems to have been the reason.'

'Why were you not at home?'

'Well, sir, I was in charge of my other authority, and could not get home till he said the word.'

Mr. Falkirk surveyed his ward.

'Miss Hazel, your motions are usually determined by your own will, and by nothing else,—in my experience.'

'My dear sir, if you remember your experience so imperfectly, it cannot do you much good. Have I ever been allowed to go anywhere alone?'

'Why did not Rollo bring you home in proper time?'—very shortly.

'First there was a man in trouble, and then a mill,' said Miss Wych, composedly pouring water from her carafe. 'And so of course such small affairs as women had to wait.'

'What was the matter?'

'The man met with an accident. The mill was set on fire. But both were cared for satisfactorily—you need not be uneasy, Mr. Falkirk. Two such energetics as Mr. Rollo and Dr. Arthur suffice for all the common events of life.'

'And you,—where were you?'

'Miss Maryland and I, sir, were summarily bestowed at Mrs. Boërresen's for safe keeping.'

'Who is Mrs. Boërresen?'

'My dear Mr. Falkirk!—if you only would stir about a little you would learn so much!' said Wych Hazel. 'Mrs. Boërresen is a quite remarkable person of foreign birth who lives near Morton Hollow.'

'Rollo's old nurse!' said Mr. Falkirk.

Wych Hazel bowed her head with extreme sedateness and went on with her dinner. Mr. Falkirk made a gesture of extreme impatience.

'It seems to me, Miss Hazel, that your other guardian had time to see you safe home, before allowing himself to be claimed by his own affairs. If you had not discretion enough to come, he should have had enough to bring you.'

'It needs valour as well as discretion to run away from one's guardians,' said Miss Kennedy lifting her brows. 'I should have been quite happy, sir, I am sure, to ride home alone.'

“Why didn't he bring you?' growled the elder guardian. 'Or why didn't you make him bring you?'

'Yes, sir. Did you ever try to make Mr. Rollo do anything?'

'Quite out of order!' grumbled Mr. Falkirk; 'quite out of order! Miss Hazel, it may need valour and discretion both, as you seem to intimate, but I must beg that you will not have the like thing happen again. If you cannot get home in proper time, I prefer that you should not ride with him. I thought the fellow knew better!'

A glance, lightning-swift, from under the dark lashes fell upon Mr. Falkirk's unconscious face. The girl waited a little before she made reply.

'How am I to know beforehand, Mr. Falkirk? Mills are uncertain things. And men. You are really sure of nothing but women in this world.'

'What do you mean about a mill burning?' came very deep out of Mr. Falkirk's throat.

'Some of the Charteris men set it on fire. The mill was not burned, because watch had been kept; and at the first sign of fire all hands went to work taking out cotton bales till the fire was reached. There was something of a bonfire outside.'

'Hm. How much loss?'

'Not much. A thousand or two.'

Mr. Falkirk went no further into the subject, or into any other, till the dessert had been taken away and he was fingering the nuts. Mr. Falkirk took no dessert. And in the midst of cracking a hard nut, effort availed to crack something else.

'Do we go to town this winter, Miss Hazel?'

'I have taken no thought whatever about the winter, sir.'

'Do you intend to stay here?'

'I thought we agreed, sir, to let the winter question wait?'

'I made no such agreement, Miss Hazel. On the contrary, if we let the question wait, there will be no house to receive you when you make up your mind to go.'

'Then we will wait.'

'No, Miss Hazel, if you please I will have your decision. If it makes no difference to you, it makes some to me. Either here or New York—but you must say which.'

'O if you put me in a corner, Mr. Falkirk, I shall stay here,' said Wych Hazel.

'I suppose so. And now, Miss Hazel, will you kindly go a little further and give me your reasons?'

'My dear Mr. Falkirk, you know we agreed long ago, that between you and me reasons should be left to take care of themselves. Do let the winter question rest!'

'I thought we agreed long ago that between you and me there should be confidence,' said her guardian somewhat bitterly.

Now Mr. Falkirk was unreasonable, but it is not in the nature of men to know when they are unreasonable. So making a great and ill-adjusted effort with his nut-cracker, it slipped and did Mr. Falkirk's finger some harm, instead of the nut. Mr. Falkirk dipped his finger into cold water, wrapped it in his handkerchief, and went off, disgusted with the world generally.

'We never did!' thought Hazel to herself. 'I plainly told him it could not be.' But for all that she felt just a little bit troubled and hurt.

Four days of storms, during which Mr. Falkirk passed himself off for sugar and salt, and even Mr. Rollo was somewhat hindered of his pleasure, ended at last in a brilliant Saturday afternoon. But though Wych Hazel did send some wistful glances out of the window, she knew perfectly well there could be no coming from Morton Hollow that night. Still, the feminine mind is good at devices; and Miss Kennedy was not the first girl who (for the nonce) has enacted the part of Mahomet. The mountain could not stir,—therefore—

She thought it all out, sitting opposite to Mr. Falkirk at dinner; and when that gentleman had taken his departure, the young mistress of the house fell into a sudden state of activity; her last move being to smother herself in a huge dingy cloak, akin to those worn by the mill people in their improved condition.

'Look at me, Byo,' she said, pulling the rough hood up over her silky curls.

'My dear,' began Mrs. Bywank,—'Miss Wych,—if Mr. Rollo should see you!'—

'He would see nothing but my cloak.'

'My dear, I'm not so sure. He has wonderful sharp eyes. And you don't wear your cloak like a mill girl.'

'Don't I look like a new hand?' said Hazel laughing.

'And if he should find out, what would he think!' said Mrs. Bywank.

'He would think you had a cold and couldn't come,' said Wych. 'There's the gig!'—and down she ran, slipping out unseen to join Reo in the darkness.

Riding in an old gig was rather a new experience. The way was still, starlight, and lonely, until they came out into the neighbourhood of the mills. When the lights were visible, and a certain confused buzz of still distant voices gave token of the lively state of the population in the Hollow, Hazel and her faithful attendant left the gig and went forward on foot.

The Charteris mills were silent and dark; the stir was ahead, where a cluster of lights shewed brilliantly through the darkness; and soon Wych Hazel and Reo found themselves in the midst of a moving throng. A large shed, it was hardly better, open to the street and to all comers, was the place of illumination, and the centre of savoury odours which diffused themselves refreshingly over the whole neighbourhood. Coffee, yes certainly Mr. Rollo's coffee and hot buns were on hand there; and truly they began to be on hand more literally among the crowd. Wych Hazel loitered and looked and kept herself out of the lamp shine as well as she could. Men and women were going in and coming out, eating and drinking, talking and jesting; there was a pleasant let-up to business in the Hollow; it looked like a fair, except that there was no buying and selling other than the viands. There were long deal tables in the shed, besieged by the applicants for buns and coffee, and served by women stationed behind the tables. The crowd was orderly, though very lively. Reo's curiosity and admiration were immense; I think he would have tried the buns for himself, if he had not been in close attendance upon his mistress. Women came out from the shed guarding a pile of the hot buns in their hands; others stood by the tables taking their supper; men came out and lounged about talking and eating, with a mug in one hand and a bun in the other. To anybody that knew Morton Hollow it was a pleasant sight. It spoke of a pause from grinding care and imbruting toil; a gleam of hope in the work-a-day routine. The men were all more or less washed and brushed up; for changing their dress there had been no time.

Hazel was afraid to linger too long or scan too closely; she passed on to the mill with the throng, waited near the door until the reader went in, passing so close that Hazel could have touched him. Then she followed and took her place at the end of a form near the door. That was policy.

The reading room was the huge bare apartment where the fire had been laid, and tracked, a few nights before. The rafters still shewed some smoke, and there was a less number of bales piled up at the end of the room than when Hazel had seen it the first time. Lamps hung now from the beams overhead, enough of them to give a fair illumination; for as Rollo explained to her afterwards, he wanted to have a view of his hearers. Their view of him was secured by a well arranged group of burners in that quarter. The audience room was as rough as the audience.

It was a strange experience for the little lady of Chickaree. In the midst of all that crowd of mill hands, with their coarse dresses and unkempt heads and head gear, she was in a part of the world very far from her own. A still, respectful crowd they were, however. Looking beyond and over them, to the circle of lights at the end of the cotton bales, she could just see Dane's head, where he was standing and speaking to some one; then presently he mounted upon his rude rostrum and the light illumined his whole figure.

'He ain't keerful about shewin' hisself,'—said a drawling native voice in Wych Hazel's neighbourhood. 'Hain't no objection to folks' reck'nin' his inches.'

'He's baulder'n I'd loike to be—' said another voice, Wych Hazel could not guess of what nationality.

'A can bear it,' answered a woman. 'I'd loike to see you a standin' up for your picter, Jim!'

'He don't mind!' said a brisk lass. 'You bet, he knows all about it. Don't he, though!'

'Is he a married mon?'

'Na, he's got nobody to look arter him.'

'He don't mind that, ayther.'

'He's mighty onconsarned, anyhow,' said the first speaker. 'Lawk, I never could be a orator.'

'Don't, then,' said the girl. 'You hush, or he'll hear.'

Rollo did them justice, as far as not minding anything went. His first action after taking his stand, was to fold his arms and take a somewhat prolonged survey of the company. The quick gray eyes came everywhere; did they know Hazel? It appeared not; for after a few minutes of this silent survey, Rollo bade his audience 'good evening' and began his work.

He gave them in the first place the principal items of the week's news out of several papers which he had at hand. This, it was plain, was an extremely popular part of the entertainment. He read and talked, explaining where it was necessary, sometimes responding to a question from some one in the crowd. The papers were both English and German, American and foreign; the bits of intelligence carefully chosen to interest and to stimulate interest. This part of the programme took up something over a half hour. The next thing was the story if the “Chimes.” And here also the reading was exceedingly successful. Knowing his hearers more thoroughly than is the privilege of most readers, Rollo could give them a word of help just where it was necessary to make them understand the author; briefly, and only as it was needed; for the rest, he made the story speak to their hearts. Perhaps the simplicity of his aim, which had no regard whatever to his own prominence in the performance, gave him an advantage over most people who read in public; perhaps Rollo was uncommonly gifted; but Wych Hazel certainly thought, when she had time to think about it, that it was no wonder Miss Powder or anybody else should make parties to come and hear him, and rather wondered the whole countryside were not there. And as for the rough audience who were present, they were entranced. They forgot themselves. They forgot everything in the world but Tiny Tim and his father and all the humble experiences of the family; and tears and laughter alternately testified to what a degree the reader had them all in his hand. Hazel for her part laughed and cried when the rest did,—and when they did not.

Just as this part of the reading was finished, there came a slight disturbance down near the door; but all that appeared to the reader was that one of the mill girls got up and went out.

'Where's the master?' a small frightened child had said, peering in. 'I wants him.'

'Well you can't have him,' answered the rough cloak imperiously. 'Don't you see he's busy?'

Whereupon the small girl lifted up her voice in lamentation, and was instantly smothered in the cloak and swept out of the mill; neither one appearing on those boards again that night. But the reading went on, and the hours too; and it was eleven o'clock, all told, before the audience were dismissed. Coming out at last into the starlight darkness, Mr. Rollo ran full up against Dr. Arthur Maryland.

'Arthur!—What now?'

'Dane, you can tell me—Where is the Patrick who has no wife? I've been to six and they're all happy men.'

'Patrick? —who has lost his wife? It is Rafferty. What do you want him for?'

'Something the matter there.'

'What?—Come, I'll shew you the way. What is it?'

'A child hurt. The father away drinking, the young ones at home fighting,—as near as I can make it out. This one got a fall.'

Rollo had used his voice a good deal that evening, namely, for two and a half consecutive hours. He said scarcely a word more until they got to the house in question; but as he went he thought what he would do with the gin shops whenever he should get control in the Hollow. The cabin of the wifeless Patrick was high up the valley and high up on the bank, a short way after all. A little stream of light came out to meet them from the open door; and once in line with this, Dr. Arthur stopped short with a suppressed exclamation, and Rollo looked up.

The door had probably been left open of intent for air; for on some low seat in the middle of the floor sat Wych Hazel, still muffled partly in the cloak, which she had not taken time to throw off. The hood had fallen back, and the cloak fell away on either side from her silken folds and white laces; Hazel's attention was wholly absorbed by the child on her lap. A little tattered figure lay with its head on the young lady's breast; while both Wych Hazel's hands, the one passed round the child as well as the other, were clasped tight around one little arm. So they sat, quite still,—the child's eyes upon her face; while a small circle of great admiration stood around; fingers in mouth, hands behind back, wholly absorbed in the vision or spell-bound with the voice. For she was softly singing.

'You'll never be in Adam's case of destitution,—that's one thing!' was Dr. Arthur's comment, as his friend sprang past him into the cabin. Then however, like a wise man, postponing other things to business, Rollo only demanded calmly what the matter was? Hazel had not expected him, and there was a look of surprise and a minute's flush; then her thoughts too went back to business.

'I think her arm is broken. I have been holding it in place.'

'And she let you?' queried Dr. Arthur.

'I would do it. She is more quiet now.'

'Sixteen carats fine!' said Dr. Arthur. 'Half the women I know would have dropped the arm the moment they saw me, and nine- tenths of the others would not have touched it at all! Now let me see.'—

But first a change was made. Rollo took the child into his own arms. It was done too swiftly and skilfully for the poor little creature to make any objection, but its dismay and displeasure were immediately proclaimed. The new hands that held it were however both kind and strong, and the master's voice was already known, even by these little ones. So the worst was soon over, thanks to the firmness that had kept the arm quiet till the doctor came. It was true; she “had the fight in her,” as Dane had once said; though now the woman was taking her revenge, and Hazel sat behind the others with blanched cheeks. Dr. Arthur glanced at her once or twice.

' “Ever so far away to Chickaree”!' he said,—'I should think it was! Dane, can you find a substitute to watch this child to-night?'

'I'll see to that,' said his friend briefly; and laying the child out of his arms as soon as its arm was made secure, he went to Wych Hazel, pulled her hood on again, and drawing her hand through his arm took her out of the cabin. Then asked her 'how she expected to get home?'

'O Reo is here, somewhere.'

'With the carriage?”

'With an incognito gig.'

Rollo put her into a chair, stationed Dr. Arthur to keep ward over her, and went to look for Reo. It seems that in the interest of the reading Reo had missed the episode of his mistress's leaving the assembly room, and had thereafter been wholly without a clue by which to seek her. Near the mill Rollo found him, and presently brought up the gig to Patrick Rafferty's cottage. Unsuspiciously Wych Hazel allowed herself to be put into it. Then, standing with the reins in his hand, Dane spoke to the doctor.

'It is late, Arthur; come up to my house and I'll take care of you. Reo, take the road straight up to Mrs. Boërresen's.'

With which he jumped into the gig and put the horse in motion; with such good will that before Dr. Arthur could get to the foot of the hill the gig had climbed to Gyda's door, and Rollo had lifted Wych Hazel out.

'But I did not mean to come here!' she said dismayfully. 'I was thinking of something else! Mr. Rollo—what made you do so?'

'The obvious necessity of the case.'

'But I must go home.'

'To-morrow.'

He staid no further question. He opened the gate and led the little lady across the few steps to the door.

'Gyda,' said he as they went in, 'let us have some coffee and anything else that can be had quickly. Three people wanting it.' And with that he went into the next room for the cushions.

'I shall stand for an upholsterer one of these days,' he remarked, as he arranged and prepared Wych Hazel's easy chair. 'There! Now!'

He unfastened and threw off the rough cloak, much as if he did not like it; took Wych Hazel's hands and put her in her place.

'What have you got to say to me?' he queried softly.

Hazel felt extremely shy and discomposed at the course things had taken. It had been no part of her plan to have her escapade known to any but the old servants at home; and here she was, not only discovered but carried off,—and that with Mr. Falkirk's strictures still sounding in her ears. Yet her first words went to another point.

'You should not touch me,' she said with a gentle little push,—'I have not washed my face. And you know I had to use every means I could think of to quiet the child.'

Hazel shivered a little, thinking what the screams had been at first when she took the case in hand. Dane's eyes laughed and sparkled, but he only disregarded her admonitions, and remarked that she 'did not answer him?'

'Mr. Rollo, I must go home. Mr. Falkirk will be so vexed.'

'What else have you got to say me?'

'What do you want to hear about?' said Hazel demurely. 'I liked the reading very much,—all that I heard of it. And the people seemed to like you.'

'Did you think I would not find you out?'

'And you did not!' she said triumphantly.

'I should have found you out in another half hour. I saw you, and you bothered me very much, but the lights were in my eyes. Did you hope I would not see you, Hazel?'

She laughed gaily. 'Of course I hoped that! How did I “bother” you, please?'

'Something I did not understand. Gyda, won't you take Miss Kennedy where she can wash her face?'

Gyda led the way to her kitchen, a little detached building connected with the house by a covered way. It was warm and light with fire and full of savoury odours from the cookery going on. Here the young lady was supplied with a bowl of water and a napkin, and Hazel came back very much refreshed.

It was now half-past twelve o'clock and more. Dr. Arthur was come, and there were preparations on foot for supper. Reo had come to, and was sent to Gyda's little kitchen to get some refreshment, while the others supped.

'Now,' said Rollo, as he gave Wych Hazel some porridge and filled her cup, 'you may begin and give an account of yourself.'

'Autocratic,' said Hazel. 'I am no longer a mill girl, Mr. Rollo.'

'You came into my dominions with my livery. There's no help for you now.'

'Well,'—said Hazel,—'the only drawback to the pleasure of my drive over from Chickaree, was the state of mind in which I had left Mrs. Bywank.'

'Well?' said Rollo, proceeding to take care of the doctor's cup. 'Go on. Arthur and I are very curious.'

'After that, I wanted a bun, and saw no invitation to strangers.'

'You were there, were you! Isn't it a good institution?'

'Very—for people who are not strangers. Reo and I devoured things with our eyes for some time. Then I—When the reading began, I was in my place.'

'I should say, you were in somebody else's place. Never mind! If it was not so late, I'd send down and get a bun for you.'

'What came in between the “Then” and the “When”?' said Dr. Arthur. 'If one may inquire. Mere blank space?'

'Not quite,' said Hazel laughing and colouring. 'Just private, scientific business. I was testing theories.'

'We are both interested in that, the doctor and I,' said Dane. 'Theories, and scientific business. Pray explain, Hazel.'

'I once heard a short lecture on magnetism,' said Miss Wych, all grave except the gleam in her eyes; 'and it occurred to me to put it to the proof. So I stood by the door and saw the people go in.'

Dr. Arthur laughed, but asked no further questions.

'Your true lovers of science are always ready to venture a good deal in the pursuit of it,' observed Dane drily.

Wych Hazel's lips curled with mischief.

'When I got in,' she said, 'before the reading, I heard a good deal about the reader. Most of it striking, and some of it new.'

'That at least all may hear,' remarked Dr. Arthur. 'Science may have its reserves; but public news about Dane!—'

'It's very old indeed,' said the person concerned. 'Only new to this witness. May be safely passed over.'

If Mr. Rollo was good at reading faces, he might see that remarks about him were considered quite too much her own personal property to be repeated to anybody in the world but himself. Wych Hazel sat silent, stirring her coffee.

'We are ready to hear the rest,' he remarked with a smile. 'Go on to the broken arm. How did you get hold of that?'

'One of the children came for you. And somebody had to go,' she answered simply.

'And “somebody” had to keep the broken arm in place, I suppose. But how came you to think of doing that?' said Rollo, who all the while was looking after the comfort of his two guests in his own fashion of quick-eyed ministry.

'I did not, till I had the child in my lap,' said Hazel; 'and then I remembered all of a sudden something in one of my old Edgeworth story books. So I tried, and succeeded.'

'I wish every one read story books to as good purpose,' said Dr. Arthur. 'There is no describing from what you saved the child. But at first I suppose she made great resistance?'

'Very great.'—Hazel did not want to enlarge upon that part of the subject. And here Reo entered.

'Ha, Reo! are you made up for your journey already?' said Rollo. 'You can report to Mrs. Bywank that Miss Wych was too much fatigued to take the drive home; and bring the carriage over in the morning.'

Wych Hazel looked up, but her courage failed her for a protest. She was obliged to let the order stand.

The fire was bright, the coffee was excellent, the little party so oddly thrown together were happy in mutual confidence and sympathy. Such hours are not too common, and a certain kindly recognition of this one sat upon every face. Gyda was busy preparing a room for Miss Kennedy and had not joined them.

'How does the work of the world look to you, Arthur, from this corner?' said Dane, when they had subsided a little from supper to the consideration of each other.

'Every spot of true Christian work is a centre,' said his friend. 'The “corners” are for darkness—not light. Work is the most enticing thing in the world to me, Dane!'

'Gyda's fireside was the corner I meant,—it's not dark just now!— and I was thinking, that from this nook of quiet the work looks easy. So it is! It is a hand to hand and foot to foot battle; but it is easy to follow the captain that one loves.'

'I don't know that it is always easy,' said Dr. Arthur; 'but it can be done. Once in a while, you know, we are sent to carry a redoubt with only his orders before us. The Lord himself seems to be in quite another part of the field.'

'That is, to those who do not know.'

'Of course. I speak only of the seeming. But I like the fight, and I like the struggle. I like to measure battlements and prepare my scaling ladders, and lead a forlorn hope. It suits me, I believe.'

'Battlements?' Hazel repeated. 'Do you mean heights of difficulty?'

—'Guarded by depths of sin,' said Dr. Arthur.

Hazel looked from one to the other. Yes, she could like that too, if she were a man. How much could she do, being a woman?

'And that is all seeming too, Arthur,' his friend went on. ' Really, the fighter need never be out of that “feste Burg.” I was thinking just now, not only that work looks easy, but that it looks small. Individual effort, I mean; the utmost that any one man can do. It is a mere speck. The living waters that shall be “a river to swim in,” are very shallow yet; and where the fishers are to stand and cast their nets, it is a waste of barrenness. You have never been on the shores of the Dead Sea, Arthur; you do not know how a little thread of green on the mountain side shews where a spring of sweet water runs down through the waste.'

'What then, Mr. Rollo?' said Wych Hazel.

'It is such a tiny thread of life upon the universal brown death.'

'Is that what the world looks like to you?' said Hazel, wondering.

'And the work is even far smaller than that, if you look at it in its minute details. Did you ever read the life of Agnes Jones, Arthur?'

'Yes.'

'Prim lent me the book; and I found a good word in it the other day. The writer says, I cannot give you the exact words,—“If we do every little thing that comes to us, God may out of our many littles make a great whole.” Therein lies the very truth of our work. It is so in Morton Hollow. Not building schoolhouses or making villages; anybody can do that; it is the word of interest to one, the word of sympathy to another; the holding a broken arm; giving help and refreshment in individual cases. Love, in short, like the sun, working softly and everywhere. As those threads of green on the mountain side are made up of multitudinous tiny leaves and mosses, nourished by countless invisible drops of spray.'

'Working in all sorts of ways'—said the Doctor; while Hazel sat thinking of the green that was beginning to line the banks of Morton Hollow. 'You may notice that a real spring goes literally wherever it can. Men may wall it in with stone channels, or force it into the air; but let it alone, it follows every possible opening. The deep main stream, and the little side rills, and the single drops that go each to a single leaf.'

Rollo looked up and smiled. 'There is Gyda coming to fetch you, Hazel.'

'Well,' said Hazel. 'And you will go on talking all sorts of things that I ought to hear.'

She rose up and stood looking down into the fire. The other two rose also and stood looking at her. It was a pretty picture. Gyda, a little apart, watched them all with her little bright eyes.

'But,' Hazel began again,—'to do that,—for every little drop to do that—there must be a head of water. It is not the mere trickling down of something which happens to be at the top!'—Whereupon the little fingers took an extra knot.

'Each drop may do the ministry of one, may it not?' said Rollo. 'You need not count the drops. The only thing is that they be living water.'

'Yes, the living water comes with a will. I remember,—in Mme. Lasalle's brook,—how busy the drops were. Not in a hurry, but in such sweet haste.'

'True!' said Dr. Arthur. 'Each with a clear bright purpose, if not a plan.'

'Perhaps, best not the plan,' said Rollo.

She stood gravely thinking for a moment, then looked up and shook hands with Dr. Arthur, wishing him good night. But no words came when she gave her hand to Mr. Rollo; only—perhaps in default of words—a beautiful, vivid blush.

The room to which the old Norsewoman conducted her was a very plain little place, with whitewashed walls and the simplest of furniture. Gyda manifested some concern lest her guest should suffer for want of a fire. 'But the gentlemen had to have the other room,' she said.

'O the fire is no matter,' said Hazel. 'But where do you sleep—with such a houseful?'

'I have my little nest just by, my lady. I'd be glad to keep it! And yet this is a strange place for my lad to have his home; and it's been his home now for a year, nearly. How much longer will I keep him, my lady?'

Gyda asked the most tremendous questions with a sort of privileged simplicity; she looked now for her answer.

'Keep him?'—Hazel repeated the words in a maze.

'Yes, my lady. I know I must lose my lad from this home; but when is it to be?'

'A great while—I don't know,—nobody knows,' said Hazel very much disturbed. 'Nobody thinks anything about it yet. So you need not even recollect it, Mrs. Boërresen.'

Gyda looked at her with a tender, incredulous, pleased smile upon her face. 'Do you think he will wait a great while, my lady?' she said. And then she came up and kissed Wych Hazel's hand, and went away.

CHAPTER XIII. UNDER THE CHESTNUT TREES.

Mr. Falkirk did not go out to breakfast that Sunday morning; and no one at Chickaree but the two old retainers knew how Miss Wych had tired herself, nor where she had rested overnight. Monday came and went in uneventful rain, and Tuesday was the day of the party in the woods.

A simple enough affair,—just chestnuts and lunch; but rarely had the young lady of the domain been so hard to please in the matter of her dress. For words do leave their footsteps, drive them out as we will; and this Prim's words had done. Not quite according to Prim's intent, however; for the one clear idea in Wych Hazel's mind, was that Mr. Rollo was (or would be when he noticed it at all) dissatisfied with her dress. And that was precisely the line in which she had never before met criticism. Hazel took off one colour after another, until Phoebe was in despair and Mrs. Bywank turned away and smiled out of the window.

'And dear me, ma'am,' cried Phoebe at last, 'there comes a carriage!'—

Hazel looked towards the window, caught the old housekeeper's eye, and suddenly embellishing her proceedings with a pair of scarlet cheeks, she opened another press, seized the first white dress that came to hand, and put it on without more ado. A dainty white piqué, all on the wing with delicate embroideries and lace, and broad sash ends of the colour of red gold.

'But Miss Wych!' Mrs. Bywank remonstrated. 'The wind is very fresh.'

Wych Hazel made another plunge after sealskin jacket and cap; turned over a box of gloves till she matched her ribbands; gave Mrs. Bywank a laugh and a flash from her eyes, and was off. But that carriage it seemed had rolled by, and there was no one at the meeting place in the woods when the girl seated herself there to await her guests.

' “Do you think Dane will like to have you dress as you do?” '—so ran her thoughts. 'Well,—how do I dress?'

She sat looking into the soft silence of the October air, feeling that for her life was changing fast. The old bounds to her action had somehow now stretched out to take in her will; her own pleasure now often in the mood to wait, uncertain of its choice, till she knew the pleasure of somebody else. There was the least bit of rebellion at this here and there; and yet on the whole Wych Hazel by no means wished herself back in the old times when nobody cared. Ah how lonely she had been!—and how full the world seemed now, with that secret sense of happiness pervading all things! Meanwhile, as Prim had said, what was she going to do about dress?

It happened that the first interruption to her meditations came from a visiter who did not intend to be a guest. No less than Gov. Powder; a portly, gentlemanly, somewhat imposing personage, who was less known to society than were his wife and daughters. However, without wife and daughters, here he was.

'Good morning, my dear, good morning!' he began blandly, shaking Wych Hazel's hand with a sort of paternal-official benignity. 'Your guardian has not come upon the scene yet? I thought I should find him here. Why how cool you look, for October!'

'Yes, sir—I like to look cool,' said Hazel, conscious that she could not always accomplish the feat. 'Especially when I have the world on my hands. Just now I am undefended., Gov. Powder; but I suppose both my guardians will be here by and by.'

'What do you do with two guardians, eh? Keep 'em both in good humour?'

'One at a time is as much as I often try for,' said Hazel. 'But Gov. Powder, I wish you would let me have a little fun right over the heads of them both.'

'I?' said the ex-governor, somewhat surprised. 'Eh? It does not often happen to me now-a-days to have the honour of such an appeal—unless from my own mad daughters. In what direction do you want me to come over your guardians, Miss Kennedy? and which of them?'

'O it is nothing mad at all, in my case,' said Hazel. 'And neither of them must know. But will you walk a little way down the wood with me, sir? I do not want them even to see a consultation.'

A man must be much set in his own purposes who would not go more than 'a little way' after such a voice; and Gov. Powder was but an ordinary man. So, finding the white ruffles a very pretty sort of a convoy, the ex-governor strolled down among the golden hickories and ruddy oaks, and never once guessed that he had a siren at his elbow.

'Last winter,' Hazel began, speaking fast now, to keep pace with the minutes, 'I had quite a large legacy left to me.'

'Somebody who wanted to protect you against misfortune, eh?' said the governor.

'Or who did not believe in guardians, sir; for mine were to have no control over it whatever.'

'I see!' said the governor. 'Pocket money to purchase sugar-plums.'

'But perhaps you know, sir, that we girls like sugar-plums of many sorts.'

'Miss Kennedy, do you know my daughters?'

'Well sir,' said Hazel weighing her words, wondering to herself whether diplomats get along without telling fibs; and if they do, how they do,—'it would be quite a novelty of a bonbon to invest this money in some splendid way, all by myself. Not the whole of it, you know, sir,—only a few thousands.' She was so eager! and so terribly afraid of shewing her eagerness.

'That is a sort of bonbon that is very tempting to old fellows like me; but, pardon me, I should think it was more in Mr. Falkirk's way than in yours?'

'Mr. Falkirk may admire it afterwards, if he chooses, but I want to make the investment. And I learned from somebody,' said Hazel, careful of her words, “that the best thing I could do, was to buy that bit of land of yours, Gov. Powder, lying just at the head of the Hollow. It is not worth more than twenty thousand, is it?' she went on, suggestively. 'And I was told, sir, that you were ready to dispose of it.'

'Somebody spoke too fast,' said the governor, looking unmistakably surprised this time. 'Really, I am in no hurry to dispose of that piece of land. Its value is in its water power. You don't want to build mills, do you?'

'No, sir,—the whole of my legacy would not cover that. And I would rather not invest more than twenty thousand at first.'

'Twenty thousand' has a pleasant sound to a man with 'mad' daughters, and other expenses! Nevertheless the governor looked steadily into the face of facts.

'My dear Miss Kennedy, I must remark to you, that if you do not want to put mills on that ground, it would be a very poor investment for your twenty thousand. The water power is all the value there. And Paul Charteris has been trying to get it of me for his own purposes. Now I know what he wants; but I do not see what you want with land in Mill Hollow.'

'Why Governor Powder,' said Hazel, 'Mr. Falkirk would go to sleep in luxury, if he could only see why I want things! One might as well be a man—or Mr. Paul Charteris—at once!'

'Isn't Paul Charteris a man?' inquired Gov. Powder laughing. Hazel laughed too, but returned to the charge.

'I shall not invest in him,' she said, 'even so much as an opinion. What I want is the land, and the water power, and the fun.'

Gov. Powder stepped back and took a survey of the little lady.

'You mustn't break your teeth with a bonbon,' said he. 'Suppose you let me speak to my friend Mr. Falkirk about it?'

'No indeed, sir! Mr. Falkirk never approves of anything he does not suggest himself. All great men have their weak points, Gov. Powder,' said Wych Hazel.

'Well, let us say Rollo then. I think he is a wild man with his own fortune; but I reckon he would look out for yours. By the way! he may want the land for himself? eh?'

'Of course he may,' said Wych Hazel, 'but not half so much as I do. To consult him, would be saying no to me, Gov. Powder. And you know you are going to say yes.'

'I don't understand doing business with ladies!' said the poor governor, shaking his head. 'I can get along with my own sort. Miss Kennedy, there are certain complications, which I cannot explain to you. Paul Charteris has been at me to get those very acres that you want. What would he say, if I threw him over and sold them to you? I guess you must let me settle with him first.'

'Tell him you sold the land to somebody who offered more,' said Hazel. 'That is easy enough. How much would he give, sir?'

'Ah but, the thing is, there are complications,—there are complications,' repeated the governor. 'Give? He don't want to give above the half of your twenty thousand; and I couldn't in conscience take the whole. The land is not worth so much as that, Miss Kennedy. But young ladies don't understand complications,' he added with a smile. 'I can't just throw Paul over, without a word.'

'Push him off,' said Hazel. 'Nobody can teach me anything about complications!—Push him off, sir. Just give him a negative and do not say why.'

'What do you want it for?'

'Just now,' said Hazel, 'I want to get ahead of Mr. Charteris.'

'I may tell him I have an offer of twelve thousand?' said the governor, who was badly in want of money.

'Certainly, sir. If you will first say three words to make sure Mr. Charteris shall not get ahead of me.'

'Well, well!' said the governor—'here come people, Miss Kennedy,—he shall not get ahead of you. At any rate, I'll settle nothing with him without letting you know. He can't outbid you— you're pretty safe. Do I understand that you want this affair kept private, between you and me?'

'O yes, sir!' cried Hazel softly,—'it is to be terribly private. And if you will only let women vote, Gov. Powder, I will certainly vote for you.—Mr. Falkirk, if you knew how long Gov. Powder has been impatient for you, you would be grieved to have left him so long with me!'—And Miss Kennedy flitted off, with eyes in a sparkle that was dangerous to come near. I think Gov. Powder's eyes sparkled a little too, poor man; they had grown a little dull with looking so long into ways and means.

And after this little bit of business, the pleasure of the day set in with a flood tide. You have all seen such days. Nature had laid out a wonderful entertainment, to begin with; and put no hindrances in the way; and it appeared that every creature came with spirits and hopes on tiptoe. Dresses were something captivating, so much attention and invention had been exercised upon them. And the facilities for flirtations which the scene and the sport afforded, were most picturesque. The parties in the trees could display their agility; the parties on the ground could show their costumes in charming attitudes. For a time the care of the hostess was needed in assigning the people to their proper posts of usefulness or pleasure; but when all were come and all was in train, the thing would run itself, and Wych Hazel became as free as anybody else.

'Look here,' cried Josephine Powder, 'I've been waiting all day to speak to you. Nobody wants you now, Hazel; come here and sit down. I'm in awful trouble.'

Wych Hazel sat down and pulled off her gloves, and then the glittering fingers went diving into her pocket after chestnuts.

'Well?' she said,—'what now? There is a big one—try that.'

'I used to like chestnuts once,' said Josephine looking at it. 'I wonder if there'll be fun in anything ever any more for me?'

'Depends a good deal upon where you look for it,' said Miss Kennedy, biting her nut. 'Are you playing pendulum still, for pity's sake?'

'Pendulum? No. I'm fixed. I've accepted John Charteris.'

'Have you!' said Hazel, thinking that her business interview had been just in time. 'How much down, Josephine? and how much on bond and mortgage?'

'What do you mean?'

'The trouble is, you can never foreclose,' said Hazel. 'Are the diamonds satisfactory?'

'You are not,' said Josephine energetically. 'Now be good, Hazel! I came to you, because I thought you were the only creature that would have a little feeling for me. Everybody else says it's such a grand thing.'

'Well, I have some feeling for you, and so I don't say it. Much more feeling than patience. Why do you sell yourself, if you do not like the price, Josephine Powder?'

'What can one do?' said the girl disconsolately.

'Let me see the first instalment,' said Hazel. 'Is it paid in?'

'I don't know what you mean,' said Josephine. 'I tell you, they were all at me, and said I should be such a fool if I let it slip; and that I should be very happy;—but I don't feel so.'

'Not when everybody says you are?' Hazel enquired with slight scorn.

'Of course one likes to have other people think one is happy,' said Josephine; 'you don't want to have them pitying you. I thought I should feel better when I was engaged and the whole thing settled. I wish people could live without getting married!'

'Well,' said Wych Hazel, 'there is one thing I could not do without,—if I had to marry John Charteris.'

'What is that?'

'A pocket pistol.'

'A pocket pistol, Hazel! He isn't as bad as that. What's the matter with him?'

'Just a trifle. You do not love him.'

'They said that would come,' said Josephine dolefully.

'By express, from the land of nowhere,' said Miss Wych nibbling her nuts. 'Marked “Very perishable!!!” '—

'But I don't find that it comes.'

'No,' said Hazel coolly, 'that land is a good way off. Isn't it cold work waiting all alone with the diamonds?'

Josephine displayed a magnificent finger. But she looked at it with no reflection of its light in her eyes. 'You speak very coolly,' she said, then letting her hand drop. 'I thought you would feel for me somehow.'

'I tell you I do, or I should not take the trouble of pinching you to see if you have any feeling left for yourself. Does not that ring make you shiver?'

'Sometimes. But what can I do, Hazel? It may as well be John Charteris as anybody else, as long as one can't please oneself. One must marry somebody. You know one must!'

'Look at them,' said Hazel. 'As cold and hard as he is. Flashing up nothing deeper than the pocket they came from.'

'There is no fault in the diamonds,' said Josephine sulkily. 'They ought to be hard. And these are beauties. And Charteris isn't harder than other people, that I know of. It is only that—I don't want to marry him. And he is in an awful hurry. If it was a long way off, I wouldn't mind so much.'

Wych Hazel dropped the chestnuts.

'Josephine,' she said gravely, 'do you see these rings on my hands?'

'Yes. I have seen them and admired them often enough. There's a splendid emerald though. I never saw that before. O Hazel!' the girl cried suddenly. 'It's on that finger!'

The hands were something to look at, in their glitter or strange old- fashioned rings, with many-coloured stones and various settings. Only a close observer would have noticed that the emerald alone was a fit.

'Every one of all the eight is a betrothal ring,' Hazel went on, not heeding; 'every one has been a token between people who chose each other from all the world. They were not all rich, you see,— here is a poor little silver hoop among the diamonds. And they were not all happy; for this ruby has seen a death-parting, and the pearls are not whiter than the face that had waited for twenty years. But not one ring has the stain of a broken troth, nor the soil of a purchase. The people suffered, they waited, they died,—but they never so much as thought of any one but each other, in all the world!' Wych Hazel folded her hands in her lap again, looking at Josephine with eyes that were all alight.

'But that's yours,' Josephine went in impatiently. 'Who put it on?' The girl's accent was of more than curiosity.

'There are several of them you have never seen before,' said Hazel. 'Josephine, do you understand what I say to you? People starve to death upon diamonds.'

'Ah well, but do tell me!' said the girl, with a curious mixture of coaxing and distressful in her tone. 'Do tell me who it was, Hazel. I just want to know.'

'You just want shaking, I think,' said Wych Hazel. 'I did not say anybody put it there. And I thought you wanted to talk of your own affairs? If not, I will go and attend to my guests.”

'You are very cruel,' said Josephine, quite subdued. 'Just tell me if it was—Stuart Nightingale?'

'No I shall not. You have nothing to do with Mr. Nightingale. You belong to Mr. Charteris.'

'You put me off!' cried Josephine, laying her face in her hands for a moment. 'It don't matter. I can find out some other way; there are ways enough.'

She looked towards the opening where gleams of colour could now and then be seen flitting among the trees. Wych Hazel laid one little hand on her shoulder.

'Josephine,' she said, 'I wish you would break this off!'

'What?'

'Any sort of engagement with John Charteris.'

'I can't,' said the girl drearily. 'They all want me to marry him. There's be an awful row if I broke it off now. And what difference does it make? If you can't have what you would like, all the rest is pretty much one thing. It's a bore; but one may as well get all out of it one can.'

'See!' said Hazel in her sweet persuasive tones,—'you never know what you can have. And you can always have yourself. I would break it—feeling as you do—if I were half way through the last yes.'

'Yes, it will do for you to talk,' said Josephine; 'but everybody is not rich like you. And even you, I suppose, don't choose to live as you are for ever. You'll marry too; your finger says so. And I must, I suppose. But I can't tell you how horrid it is. I tell you what, Hazel; one must like a man very much to be willing to give up one's liberty!'

Hazel was not fond of that way of stating the case, even yet. She wet back to the former words.

'Horrid?' she said,—'there is no English strong enough. And “must” is absurd, so long as your liberty is in your own power. If ever I “don't choose,” as you say, it will be because I don't choose.'

Poor Josephine rose up, straightened herself, with a bearing half proud half defiant, and looked away. Then in another minute, seeing her chance, she darted or glided from her covert, and before Hazel's indignant and pitying gaze, plunged into a gay bit of badinage with her lover who was passing near. No trace of regret or of unwillingness apparent; Josephine was playing off her usual airs with her usual reckless freedom; she and Charteris were presently out of sight.

'And she presumed to bring him here without my leave, and then came down upon me for pity! Well—the supply is unlimited,—she can have all she wants.'—And Hazel looked down at her own ring, which meant so much; thinking of the diamonds which meant so little; and went off among her guests, to keep them in more respectful attitudes than even ever before. For Miss Kennedy was extremely remote this day, placing herself at such a dainty distance as was about equally fascinating and hard to bear. Somehow she evaded all the special little devotions with which she was beset; contriving that they should fall through so naturally, that the poor devotee blamed nothing but his own fingers, and followed the brown eyes about more helplessly than ever. Only one or two lookers-on saw deeper. Mr. Kingsland smiled, pursing his studies.

'This ethereal power which one cannot get hold of,' he remarked to himself, 'becomes truly terrific in such hands. Now there is young Bradford,—he picked up out those chestnuts solely and exclusively for the heiress of Chickaree,—and in some inexplicable way she has made him hand over to Molly Seaton. Not a cent but what her brothers may give her. And how Tom Porter comes to be walking off with Miss May, nobody will ever know but the sorceress herself. She will none of him,—nor of anybody else. Who has won?'

'You are expecting more guests, I see, even at this late hour,' he remarked aloud to Mr. Falkirk.

'Why do you judge so?'

'I notice a certain absence,' said Mr. Kirkland. 'Also a vacant place which no one here is allowed to fill. “Trifles light as air,” perhaps,—and yet—'

'Where is your associate counsel to-day, Mr. Falkirk?' said Kitty Fisher, interposing her pretty figure. 'Do you and he take it “off and on”?'

Now this young lady being Mr. Falkirk's special aversion, he deigned no reply to her impertinence; confronting her instead with an undeclarative face and manner of calm repression.

'What is on the carpet?' said a new comer.

'Now whatever possessed you to come on it?' said Miss Fisher with a pout. 'We were just going to scare up a German!'

'Perhaps I can be of some slight assistance.'

Kitty Fisher clapped him affectionately on the shoulder.

'Thanks—my dear fellow,' she said. 'We all know what your “slight assistance” amounts to in such cases. Too mean of you to come! And Hazel has not had one bit of fun yet this whole day.'

'What have you been doing to her?'

'It's a wicked shame,' Kitty went on. 'And Sir Henry coming and everybody. I was going to take out Mr. Falkirk—it's leap year, you know; and he might be short of partners,' said Miss Fisher, prudently dropping her voice at this point.

'What is a shame, if you please?'

'For you to walk in and play marplot.'

'Let me walk you off instead, and be useful. You can explain to me your plans as we go.'

'I can help you to find the brown eyes, poor things!' said Kitty. 'Well, they do lots of mischief when you're not by,—that's one comfort.'

Through the bright woodland, from group to group of chestnutters, the gentleman and the young lady went. The scene was pretty and lively, but Wych Hazel was not with any of the groups; having in fact escaped from her admirers into the deeper shadow of trees that did not bear chestnuts. At last Miss Fisher's curiosity waked up. Bidding her companion keep watch where he was, in a shadowy corner of red oaks and purple ashes, she ran off, “to beat the bush,” as she said; and hardly were her footsteps out of hearing, before lighter ones came through the wood, and Hazel's white dress gleamed out among the colours. She was walking slowly, quite alone, the brilliant fingers twisted together in some knot of a puzzle; but even as Rollo looked from his corner still other steps were heard, and another lady and another gentleman came on the scene.

'O here she is!' cried Miss Burr. 'Et toute seule—by all that's lucky. Here fair lady, I've brought you an escort. I knew Sir Henry Crofton might come without being invited.' And Miss Burr, conscious that she had done a bright thing, walked off to find an escort for herself. Then ensued a peculiar little scene.

The gentleman advanced eagerly, holding out his hand. And Wych Hazel, taking not the least seeming notice, stopped short in her walk, and leaning back against one of the red oaks began to fit on her gloves with the utmost deliberation.

'Sir Henry Crofton knew,' she remarked, 'that it was the only possible way in which he could come.'

'You have not forgiven me!' said the young man with much mortification.

'No,' said Wych Hazel. 'I think I have not.'

Sir Henry was silent, watching the hands and the sparkling fingers, and the gloves that went on so ruthlessly. Then burst forth with words, low spoken and impetuous, which Rollo did not hear. Hazel interrupted him.

'I said I had not forgiven you,' she said. 'I will forget you—if you will give me chance. That may answer as well.'

'Forget!' the young man said bitterly,—'I shall never forget you!'— but he turned off abruptly and left her; and Hazel came slowly forward, with a troubled face.

'Are you “due” anywhere?' said Rollo, suddenly standing, or walking, at her side.

'You!—yes, I am due everywhere, at this precise moment.'

'Except—to me, that means.'

'Your notes are not payable till afternoon. And if I do not go and end the morning comfortably with luncheon, afternoon will never come. See what it is to have a logical head.'

Hazel paused and took her former position against a tree stem, leaning back as if she was tired.

'I should like to leave the whole thing on your hands,' she said,— 'and then I could lose myself comfortably in the woods, and when everybody was gone you could come and find me. No, that would not do, either'—She roused herself and walked on. 'There is nothing for it to-day but to go straight through. I think people are all bewitched and beside themselves!'

He laughed at her a little, and let her go with a consoling assurance that they “would soon end all that.” And as the day was wearing on, and the pleasure of such pleasure-seekers as then filled Wych Hazel's woods was especially variety, they were very ready to quit the chestnuts and saunter up to the house; in hope of the luncheon which there awaited them. Mrs. Bywank knew her business; and the guests knew, not that, but the fact that somebody knew it and that the luncheons at Chickaree were pleasant times and very desirable. So there was soon a universal drawing towards the hill top, from all the forsaken chestnut trees, which were left by no means despoiled of their harvest. They had served their turn; now came the turn of patties and cold meats and jellies and ices and fruits. The gathering was rather large; larger than it had shewn for in the woods. The Chickaree house was full and running over; and chestnutters were found to have fearful appetites; and flirtations took new life and vivacity in the new atmosphere; and the whole of it was, people would not go away. Not only Wych Hazel but both her guardians had sharp work for hour after hour attending to the wants and the pleasure of the guests; who at last, when the day was waning, and not till then, slowly made up their minds to take their departure, and one by one took leave of their hostess with thanks and flatteries expressive of highest gratification and admiring delight. Party after party Dane saw to their carriages and bowed off; the house was emptied at last; Mr. Falkirk had betaken himself to the seclusion of his cottage already some time before; and when the afternoon was really darkening, enough to make the glow of the fires within tell in ruddy cheer upon walls and curtains, Dane left the hall door and the latest departure and went into the house to find Wych Hazel and get his “notes” paid.

CHAPTER XIV. THE WORTH OF A FEATHER.

The door of the red room stood open now, and the room was filled with firelight which came streaming out into the hall to usher him in. Hazel was down before the fire, sending persuasive puffs from her bellows into the very depths of the coals.

'What is left of you?' said Dane coming and taking the bellows from her hand.

'Much more than you are aware of. Have some chestnuts?—just for variety,'—and Hazel took from her pocket and poured into his hand her collection of extra specimens. Then quietly slipping from her fingers all the disguising rings she dropped them one by one into the empty pocket, until the emerald was left alone.

'Good fruit'—said Dane viewing the big chestnuts.

'I have been saving them up for you all day. You know I could not always help taking them.'

'Do you mean that people have been paying tribute to you in your own chestnuts?'

'Having nothing of their own that I would touch.'

'In the meanwhile, what besides have you touched? I want to know.'

'Never mind—we will have tea by and by. Dr. Maryland said you were to wait here for him—or for a message. Whichever came first, I suppose.'

'I am not going to wait here for him,'—said Dane, ringing the bell. 'Will this bring Dingee?'

'No,' said Hazel laughing; 'that will bring Phoebe. Dingee acknowledges nothing but my whistle.'

'Where is that?'

'Here'—touching the little gold toy at her belt. 'But you do not know how to blow it, Mr. Rollo.'

Dane lifted the trinket and examined it, and then remarking that 'a whistle is a whistle,' put his lips to it and made the call sound loud and clear through the house.

'What do you want?' said Hazel laughing at him. 'Dingee will know better than to think me responsible for that. Tell me what you want, and I will obey orders—as usual.'

'Dingee will know better than to think anybody else has blown your whistle. Dingee!'—as the boy appeared,—'go and say to Mrs. Bywank, with my compliments, that your mistress has had nothing to eat all day, except chestnuts. I think she will know what to do.'

Dingee took in the situation and went off with a flourish.

'Did you see John Charteris here to-day?' Hazel said suddenly.

'I think he crossed my line of vision,' said Dane carelessly.

'Well I did not ask him.'

'What then?' said Rollo looking amused at her.

'I did not want you should think that I would.' And Hazel, full of her own successful schemes in the mill business, smiled down upon the fire a whole sweet fund of triumph and delight, to which not only lips but eyes bore witness. Still looking amused, but with a great tenderness coming upon that, Rollo considered her.

'It is beyond the power of John Charteris to give me any uneasiness,' he said. 'And you are forgetting my emerald, Hazel.'

'I? What? Forgetting?'

'Forgetting what it means. Hazel—what is your ideal of a wedding?'

Rollo was drawing one of Hazel's brown curls through his fingers and spoke in the coolest manner of abstract speculation. But the question came too close upon emeralds not to call up a vivid start of colour. As soon as she could, Hazel answered that 'as she had none, it was impossible to tell.'

'Let me state mine,' said Rollo. 'It may be useful to find out whether we think alike. In the first place, then, as to the scene of action.—The main thing is, to be where a large number of people can see us, and where we shall make part of an imposing picture. I can think of nothing better, in this country, than the Capitol of Washington. That would be showy, and central. I have no doubt it could be obtained for the occasion. I cannot think of any place more public or more demonstrative; can you?'

'Well?' said Hazel, stifling a laugh, for Dane's face was perfectly grave.

'We should of course in that case invite the Senate and House of Representatives, and give a cold collation to the city of Washington. With your money and mine, we could not well do less.'

' “We” is rather superfluous.'

'How so?' very innocently.

'Never mind now; go on.'

'You approve, so far?' enquired Rollo, with dangerous demureness in the wise gray eyes.

'O I have nothing to do with the matter,' said Hazel. 'It is your imagination that has slipped its bridle, and I am simply curious to see where it will bring up.'

'I don't know myself,' said Rollo. 'I am trying to fancy what the presents will be. Of course, since we ask the Senate and House of Representatives to the wedding, every man of them will send you a piece of plate; probably the majority of them will be teakettles. As I do not drink tea, it hardly concerns me much; but they will be very convenient for you. The arrangement of them for inspection is a matter of some difficulty;—I would suggest a pyramidal scaffolding on which they might be all disposed with very striking effect; indeed if it were done cleverly I conceive it might be possible to give the impression of a solid pyramid of teakettles; which would be imposing. The Hall of Representatives would be a good place, I should think; allowing of an effective display of the bronze statuettes which will probably accompany the teakettles. Every giver's name, of course, is to be appended to his own piece of plate; so that it can be seen at a glance who has given most; and then with the income tax reports in your hand, you can see who ought to have given most. I think all New York would be there. Be a good thing for the railway companies!'

Wych Hazel laughed a little bit, but she was too shy of the subject and too conscious of hot cheeks, to enter upon it very freely.

'There is one thing you have forgotten,' she said. 'Your “ideal” is not complete, Mr. Rollo.'

'What do you suggest?'

'An ideal woman. I am waiting for that.'

'Did you think I was going to have a wedding without a bride?'

'Well—can you match the colours? You have put in the teakettles rather strong.'

'I hope they'll be strong,' said Dane, 'if they are anything. If there is anything I don't like, it is weak ware.'

Hazel was silent, looking rather intently into the fire.

'I think I have mentioned everything except the bride's dress and the wedding journey. And the first subject I feel myself incompetent to approach. In general, the main thing is that it should gratify curiosity and be somehow in advance of anything of the kind ever worn before. Is not that the great point?'

'Did you ever set Prim to talk to me about my dress?' said Hazel, facing round upon him with a wide change of subject in her own mind. Dane, with his own still before him, laughed and said no; and then asked with some curiosity why she enquired?'

'I was afraid you had,—that is all.'

'That is a little too much. I never set other people to do my work.'

He could see a gleam of pleasure cross her face, but she only said quietly, 'I am glad.'

'What did Prim say to you?'

'O it was some time ago—the night we were in Norway together. Prim asked me what I was going to “do” about dress. And to this day I do not know what she meant.'

'Your wedding dress?'

'Ah be quiet!' said Hazel. 'I am talking sense. Is your imagination too exhausted to bring you back to the land of reality?'

'I am speaking the most commonplace sense I possess. If Prim was not referring to your wedding dress, what did she mean?'

'That is just what I do not quite know. Prim asked that all of a sudden, and I said, I did not know what she meant by “do;” and she said “manage;” and I said I never managed. And then she said—at least asked—'

'What?' said Dane, a trifle imperatively.

'Whether I thought you would like to have me dress as I do,'—said Hazel in a low voice.

The gray eyes took quick account of several items in the little lady's attire, then turned away; and Dane remarked that 'Prim had meant no harm.'

'No, not a bit. But it puzzled me,—and I looked down at my dress, just—as you did now. And Prim said, of course she did not mean what I wore then, but that I always dressed so beautifully. And then I thought,' said Hazel with the laugh in her voice, 'that maybe she thought it was wrong to have one's dress hang right. And next morning I was naughty enough to pull out her loopings and do them over. Then I asked her if she felt demoralized, or something. And Prim wanted to know if I thought she meant that? and bade me look at your dress. Which I have, very often,' Hazel added with a shy glance, 'but I do not find that it gives me any help about my own.'

Dane rewarded this speech with a look of grave deliberation, which ended with the corners of his mouth breaking into all manner of lines of fun. Hazel smiled too, partly at him, partly at herself.

'You see what always happens when I talk out,' she said. 'I am sure to be laughed at for my “confidence,” as you call it. But Mr. Rollo, I did not much mind what Prim said. Not a bit, only for two little things.'

'What little things, Hazel?' and there was the force of a dozen “dears” and “my loves” in the quiet intonation.

'I thought for a while that you had told her to talk to me. As you did once before.'

A quick look denied all knowledge of such an occasion.

'At Greenbush—that night,' said Hazel.

'That night,' said Dane smiling again. 'But I did not set her to talk to you then. I only sent her to do what I supposed at the moment she might do more acceptably.'

'I know—'said Hazel, 'but I never could take second-hand orders. That was one of the times when you made a mistake in your dealings with me.'

'Well? You know I shall not make such mistakes any more. And yet, Hazel,' said he growing grave, 'that is too much for me to say even lightly. Perhaps I shall make mistakes. Till we have lived long enough together to know each other thoroughly, I might. What will you do then?'

She laughed a little, half raised her eyes, and let them fall. 'No,' she said, 'you will not repeat those two or three great ones; and others do not matter.'

'Two or three!' said Dane; but then he began again.—'What was the other “little thing” that annoyed you in Prim's words the other night?'

'About as wise as the first! I never supposed you noticed my dress,—or would,—while I kept out of yellow feathers and sky blue gloves. But Prim left a sort of impression, that if ever you should, it would be to dislike it. And that troubled me a little bit at the time, and has troubled me—just a little bit—ever since.'

Probably Dane's first thoughts were not put into words. What he did, was to get hold of Wych Hazel's hand, and between the kisses he gave it he remarked,

'I never noticed your dress without feeling a certain delight in its perfect harmonies; and—I never saw you without noticing your dress.'

'You?' Hazel said with a quick, timid intonation. And then there came a great flush of pleasure, and she looked away and was silent; thinking to herself—what she herself would have called “all sorts of things.”

'Don't you think,' said Dane coolly, 'that as we have evidently so much respectively to learn about each other, we had better begin as soon as possible?'

'Are you expecting such new developments?—But then,' she said, the doubtful look waking up again, 'what did Primrose mean? She meant something,—and you know what it was.'

'Do I? I suppose Primrose felt that I had changed from my once views of that, as of other subjects.'

'What were your “once” views?' said Hazel. 'I hardly knew that people had what you call “views” about dress.'

Rollo smiled.

'I suppose mine were what yours are now.'

'Then yours never had existence.'

'And your dress happens. Do you mean that?'

'No, no!—but if I had worn two or three necklaces to the woods this morning, it would have been want of sense and taste, not of views.'

'Certainly. Your “views” of dress are sense and taste. Or rather, your instinct, I should say.'

'But,' said Hazel,—'no, that is not what I mean. Sense and taste have to do directly with the subject,—they grow out of it, or are mixed up with it,—I wish anybody had ever taught me to talk, among other things!—I mean, they are intrinsic. And “views” always seemed to take an outside stand, irrespective of everything. I think I do not like “views.” '

'You cannot help having them,' said Dane laughing at her. ' “Views” are merely the simplest word for how you see a thing; under what light, and proportions, and relations.'

Hazel shook her head.

'I never was famous for seeing things,' she said. 'I think I go more by instinct. What do you compliment me by supposing my views of dress to be, Mr. Rollo?'

'That is something from which you are to get, and give, the sense of beauty, in infinite variety.'

“Well, leaving that statement for the present, what are yours, please?'

'That it is a usable thing, which I am to use, like everything else,— for my Master.'

Hazel glanced at him, and looked away.

'Up to a certain point,' she said, 'our views go side by side; we both call it a power.'

Dane was silent, with a certain sweet, grave silence, that evidently was not in want of thoughts. Hazel sat still too for a few minutes, knotting her little fingers together. She glanced at him again before she went on.

'But further than that, I do not understand. I think, generally, I have dressed to please myself,—not often for a purpose; though I could do that, I suppose, upon occasion. That is, in my sort of way. But in yours, Mr. Rollo,—I should get in such a labyrinth of black merino and green silk and blue velvet and white muslin, no line that ever was twisted would be long enough to guide me out.'

'There's a short way out,' said Rollo. 'I will not let you get into a labyrinth.'

'That may alter the case,' said Hazel with a half laugh. 'But just Prim's words, and the thought of your criticising my dress, put me in such confusion to-day that I was very near not getting dressed at all; and was ever so much ashamed of myself.' The fluttering white dress, by the way, had given place to one of the soft leaf-brown silks in which she delighted. Perhaps Rollo's eyes liked it too; for they took a complacent view and came back to her face with a smile.

'It is a problem, to be worked out,' he said.

'In my way, to your ends?' queried Hazel. 'The difference lying in the use or disposal of the power when in hand. Is that what you mean?'

'That will do. But sometimes it happens, that beauty of effect must give way before more important uses.'

'Why? And how?' she said looking at him.

'Do you want me to go into it?'

'Yes, of course. And get me out.'

'I don't know about that. Well,—I have seen you,—to come to personalities,—I have seen you, for instance, wearing a hat and feather. I have good reason to remember it; for the play of that feather used to gratify and irritate me, both at once, beyond what was on the whole easy to bear. The hat suited the feather, and the feather became the hat; and hat and feather were precisely suited to you. Your purpose, or “views,” in dressing, were perfectly attained. Suppose I could shew you that the pretty brown plume represented what would keep a certain poor family from suffering through the winter months?'

If Hazel was ready to laugh at one point of this speech, she grew grave enough over the remainder; the sensitive colour stirring and deepening in her cheeks. Anything that ever came near direct personal criticism was so new to her.

'But Mr. Rollo—' she began.

'Yes,' he said gently and taking her hand, 'I am waiting for that. Say just what is in your mind.'

'The poor family did not come forward, or they could have had what they wanted. I did not know where they were. You do not think I invest everything in feathers,—feelings and all?'

'Hazel, I am putting a case. It is a constant case, certainly; but brought forward just now to illustrate a principle—nothing else. Suppose the poor family did come forward and get its supply; then I could tell you of a case of sickness, and shew you that your feather represented the professional attendance and skill which poverty could not command.'

'But, but,' said Hazel earnestly,—'I mean. Suppose,—I have enough for them and myself too?'

'Then I could tell you of a poor invalid, to whom a few weeks in the country would be life and health; but she cannot stop work. Or I could tell you of a family just turned out of house and home because illness has made them behindhand with the rent. I could shew you friendless children, to one of whom your feather would give safety and food for a year. Or feeble and ailing people, to whom it would supply the delicacies they cannot get nor do without. Or poor ministers, to whom it could go in an invaluable parcel of books. Or ignorant poor, seeking instruction, to whom it would be months of schooling. And then, I should but have given you samples, Hazel, which you might multiply by the hundred and the thousand, and still keep far within the literal fact.'

She listened with a grave face, trying to follow; but it is hard for eighteen to realize at all what even fourscore takes in but dimly.

'You think I am extravagant,' she said.

'That would be a very harsh word in this connection. I do not mean it. I was trying to answer you. You said, “Suppose I have enough for them and myself too.” '

'I wonder if I am?' she said with a half laugh and yet soberly.—'I wish I could stand off and look at myself. Mr. Rollo, will you give me another instance? I shall have to forgive that feather, because it had the honour of “irritating” you, and so enlists my sympathies; but what else have you seen me wear, that could do so much more than itself?'

'The red squirrel has no business to preach to the shrew mouse,' said he lightly, but looking at her as if doubtful how far it were best to go.

'I am not a shrew,' said Hazel with somewhat prompt decision. 'Nor a mouse. Nor spun glass. So all those little preliminaries are disposed of. And I do not see why you should preach to everybody else and not to me.'

Dane however had scruples. He looked at Wych Hazel, and though his gray eyes were all afire with purpose and spirit, he pursed up his lips with a low whistle and getting up from his chair took a turn or two through the large room. Finally came and stood before Wych Hazel.

'What is the cost of that dress you have on,' said he. 'I mean, by the yard?'

'This? I have no idea. I order what I like, and pay the bills when they come. What was the use of information with which I could do nothing?' But the colour started again.

'We shall have to get the bills, then, before we can go on. If you have kept them, that is.'

'Do you mean,' she said, looking up at him rather wistfully now,' that I am always what you call extravagant?'

'Never, that I know of,' said he smiling down at her. 'To be extravagant, is to go beyond bounds; and one who has never been conscious of the bounds, cannot be justly said to have done that.'

'One ought to be conscious of proper bounds,' said Hazel, as if she were a good deal disappointed in herself.

'You are only just beginning to be conscious of anything,' said Dane audaciously.

'Statements—I cannot think how you find time to get them all up. Well, Mr. Rollo? what next?'

'I should like to know how soon you are going to let me come home,' said he sitting down by her.

In an instant Hazel was absolutely still, even to the ends of the small fingers that lay folded in her lap, peeping out from the broad lace shadows. And, nicely timed for her, the tea bugle just then rang out, and the door of the red room opened to admit Dingee and the tea tray; with cold partridge, and salad, and delicate loaves of bread, white and brown, and wonderful cake, and a shape of Mrs. Bywank's own special quince jelly. Hazel sprang up to superintend and give directions; but when the little table was spread and wheeled up, she dismissed Dingee and went to making the tea herself.

'I often have tea here when I am alone,' she said,—'I mean, when Mr. Falkirk does not come. And I thought perhaps you would like it too.'

'Very much,' returned Dane demurely. 'So much that I am impatient for it to become a stated fact. How long do you mean to keep me at Gyda's?'

'You have such a peculiar way of putting questions,' said Hazel, emulating the composure in everything but her face. 'Never wording them so they can be answered. And there is no use in disturbing them ages beforehand. Shall I give you coffee, Mr. Rollo?'

'You are under a mistake. I am not going to be an age at Gyda's.'

'Well—then Gyda will be disappointed.'

'And you?—'

'You know you always have sufficient force of character to disappoint me easily.'

'Have I? Would it disappoint you very much if I proposed to be married at Christmas?'

'In that case,' answered Miss Wych, 'the force of character would be on my side, and the disappointment on yours.'

'May I ask your views?' said Dane, with a coolness that was provoking.

'Ah, be quiet!' said Hazel in desperation,—'you are perplexing all my ideas. Is it five lumps of sugar—or six—that go in when you have control of the sugar bowl?'

'The question is, just now, how many go in when you have the control?' But then he let the supper take its course for a while in commonplace peace.

'I wonder,' Wych Hazel began suddenly, her thoughts flying back to the talk before tea,—'I was thinking—I have thought very often,—how many things you will find in me that you do not like? And how little there is you would like to find!'—

A flash of the eyes came to her across the table; and then Dane remarked quietly that he had thought of that a number of times. 'Indeed I may say,' he added, 'that I am always thinking of it.'

She laughed a little bit, catching his meaning, but the serious look came back.

'For instance,' she said,—'all this that I spend on myself, you would—and do—spend on other people.'

'I think nothing can equal my astonishment at that “statement,” except the impossibility of answering it!'

'But I do not mean anything ridiculous,' said Hazel,—'not bread and butter and partridges. At least, I don't know about the partridges—but you understand. And I do not mean that I would not give them up,—only—'

'Did I convey the impression that I wished you to give up partridges?'

'Yes—if somebody else wanted them more,' said Hazel. 'And I am willing enough. But then, but then!—I wish you knew,' she said, rising abruptly as Dingee came in to clear the table. 'I wish I could tell you.'—

CHAPTER XV. CONFIDENTIAL TALK.

Dane waited, till Dingee's services had been performed and the door was closed behind him again; then came beside Wych Hazel where she was standing and drew her within his arm.

'What do you wish you could tell me, Hazel?' he said, with the tenderness of eye and voice which, with him, came instead of expletives of endearment. There was a faint quiver of the lips that answered,

'Things—about me, that you ought to know. And it is very hard to tell you some things, Mr. Rollo.'

'It would be easier, if you could call me something else,' he said, bending to kiss her. 'I should like to know anything about you. What are these “things”?'

'My thoughts—and life. And I cannot tell them without saying so much—that I would not say, and, maybe, ought not.—Only, when you begin to start questions—and subjects,—then,—' Hazel paused to gather her forces. 'Then I think it is right you should know everything about me, first.' The last word came out very low, and even the instinct of truth could hardly have carried her further just then.

'Go on, and tell me,' said Dane gently. 'The words are as sweet to me as a chime of bells; but, just yet, not so intelligible.'

She stood very still for a minute, her head bent down. Then softly disengaged herself.

'I cannot talk to you so,' she said. 'Sit down, please, in the bergère, and let me sit here; and I will tell—what I can.'

“Here” meant a low foot cushion near the bergère, where the young lady placed herself, but a little drawn back and turned away, where only the firelight could look in her face.

'Stop!'—said Dane, arresting this part of the arrangements. 'You at my feet!'—

'Yes, if I like it,' said Hazel. 'When you have to gainsay people in great things, you should always let them have their way in small.'

She got up and crossed over to the fire, replacing a brand that had fallen down; came back to her cushion and sat there a minute with her hands folded.

'A year ago,—' she said, 'when you drove home with me from Moscheloo,—you had no new views, Mr. Rollo. None in practice. In a sense, you and I were on the same ground.'

'Well?'—said he, a little anxiously.

'Then in the winter,—I partly guessed first from Dr. Maryland's words what you told me,—in effect, yourself. And at first I liked it,—I thought I was glad.'

'At first'—echoed Rollo.

'At first,' Hazel repeated. 'It suited me, to have you take the highest stand you could, and Mrs. Coles stirred up enough antagonism to keep me from knowing that I was anything but glad.'

'Why should you be anything but glad?' said Dane, in tones which did not reveal the surprise which was growing upon him.

'I did not know that I was—until you came. Mr. Falkirk kept up the antagonism, and I had not much time to think. But when you came—' She hesitated a little, then went steadily on. It was so like Hazel, to do what she had to do, if it took her through fire and water!—'I had left you standing in one place,' she said, 'and you had moved quite away to another. And I knew—that standing there—you would never have seen me.'

'That is a conclusion you have no right to,' said Dane calmly.

'No matter—it is true. You eyes would have been set for other things, and your appreciation would have been all changed and different. I knew it then, that night. You talked of things I but half understood, and your face was all shining with a light that did not fall on me. And partly it mortified me,—I was used to having at least some vantage ground; and partly it brought back the old loneliness, which had—perhaps—just a little bit gone away. Then you left me a lesson.'

Dane sat where she had desired him, but leaning down towards her, listening and looking very gravely and intently. 'Yes,' he answered; 'and you studied it.'

'I tried.'—The words came rather faintly. 'And that was there the tangle began.'

'What made the tangle?'

'Because—because the lesson and you were all wrapped up together. And I could never study it without—studying you. And so—so it came,'—she drew her breath a little, holding her fingers tight,—'that before I could know much about that—I had to decide something else—definitely—first.'

Certainly some things are hard to tell!

'Well, you did decide something else definitely,' said Dane, with most delightful matter-of-fact gravity of manner, not seeming to recognize her difficulty at all.

'Then the tangle grew worse,' said Hazel. 'I used to think I was trying to be interested, or trying to understand, or trying to do, just to please you,—or because you would like me better. And besides—'

'Well—it would not have been very wicked if that had been partly true.'

'No,' said Hazel,—'but then the work would not have been real; and I never could tell. And besides,' she went on again, 'you did not come, and I did not hear,—and it did not suit me to be always thinking about you—and I tried to put the whole thing out of my head.'

'Did I make a mistake then?' said Rollo. 'But I found I could not bear very well to meet you on the neutral ground of that year. I was waiting.'

'Yes. I was not speaking of that,' she said. 'When you take such a tangle into society, it ties itself into twenty new knots. That is all that need be said of the summer and spring. Then I came home.'

'And then I made a mistake,' said Rollo. 'You need not tell me that.'

She sighed a little, answering to another point.

'You could not know that you had started all the old questions again, and that I thought it was maybe your changed point of view—that made it so easy for you to give me up.'

'But why do you recal all this now, Hazel?' asked Dane, very quietly. 'I never gave you up; it was a fancied somebody that was not you.'

'It came in the course of my story. I could not pass it. Only for that,' she said, turning her face towards him for a moment. 'Because then, in some of those days, I thought—perhaps—I had learned the lesson you set me.'

'And you do not think so now?'

'I am not sure that it was true work,' she answered slowly. 'For in a storm one flies to shelter,—and just then my hands sought anything that could stand and would not change. But now—'

Dane was proverbially scarce a patient man after a certain line was passed. He left his chair now, stooped and took Hazel's hands and gently pulled her up from her low cushion; and then took her in his arms and held her close.

'I understand all about it,' he said. 'You need not try to tell me any more. My little Wych!—Look here; there are just two things to be said, one mediate, the other immediate. In the first place, no uncertainty of motives need embarrass or delay your action in a course that you know to be right. In the next place,—Hazel,—don't you see, that when we have been married a while and I am become an old story, I shall be more of a help and less of a hindrance? And I know all about you; and I don't know it a bit better after all this long exposition than I did before. And if I have changed my standpoint relatively to some things, I have never changed it respecting you, except to draw nearer. Now confess you have been a foolish child.'

The soft laugh which answered him had more than shyness to make it unsteady.

'I do not suppose you want to change me for anybody else,' she said. 'But I do not want you to think I am anybody else.'

There came just then rapid hoof-beats round the house, and in a minute more Dingee presented himself in the red room, bearing a request that Mr. Rollo would come to the side door for a moment, to see Dr. Arthur Maryland.

CHAPTER XVI. DR. ARTHUR'S NEWS.

The doctor was on horseback, but standing a little way off from the steps.

'Stay where you are—' he said, speaking low however. 'Dane, there is ship fever among those Swedes that have just come to the Hollow.'

'The Schiffers?'

'Yes. I was not certain till to-night, but I have been all day taking precautions and making arrangements, and could not get away a minute sooner. I was afraid you might miss a message; and I would not write notes there to be opened here. Now I cannot stop to talk, but if you will send me general orders every morning for men and business in the Hollow, I will see them carried out. Good- night.—My respects to her Grace.'

'Stop—Arthur!' said the other as he was moving off—'I shall be there presently.'

'On no account!' said Dr. Arthur wheeling round. 'I am too glad that you were here to-day. Always depute that part of your work which somebody else can do.'

'I will be there, Arthur, in an hour or two. Go on—you had better not wait for me.'

Dr. Arthur sat still a minute, looking down between his horse's ears.

'Well,' he said,—'perhaps it is none of my business, —but do you know what a sensitive plant you have to deal with in there? She must not have another shock like that mysterious one of a month ago. Good-night!—'

With a somewhat slow step, Rollo left the hall door and went back to the red room. But his face shewed no change to disturb Wych Hazel. He came back first to the fire, and somewhat thoughtfully, quite silently, put it in order. By that time he was ready. He faced Wych Hazel, and spoke in his ordinary tone.

'I am glad we have had this day, Wych—and I am glad we have had our talk this evening: for I find we cannot have another in some time.'

'You are going away?' she said, rising and coming towards him. 'One of your business trips? Then this will be my time for a few days in town, to “do about dress” a little. Do you suppose— honestly—that anybody wants my new gloves?' The question came with a laugh and a flash which yet did not hide it. But silently Dane folded his two arms about her and pressed kiss after kiss upon brow and lips. That shewed feeling more than he meant to shew it. Yet when he spoke his tone was clear and sweet, no shadow at all in it.

'I am not going away.'

She drew off as far as she could, to look at him, with sudden instinctive fear. Only her eyes put questions now.

'Yes,' he said,—'there is sickness in the Hollow. And it is contagious sickness.'

'O, is there?'—with a grave look which yet told more of relief that concern. 'And you are going to help Dr. Arthur take care of them!'

He answered absently, looking at her, as a man might who expected to lose such an indulgence for some time to come. Her face was very thoughtful for a minute; then she looked up with almost a smile.

'Yes,' she repeated,—'of course you must. Well, I am ready.'

'Are you?' said he. 'For what?'

'You think I do not know enough,' said Hazel with some eagerness; 'and I do not know much; but I can follow directions. And Byo declares she was never so taken care of in her life as once by me.'

Instead of answering, at first, Dane clasped her closer in his arms and kissed her, as if in anticipation of the hunger for the sight of her which would shortly set in.

'I should like to have you take care of me,' he said at length. 'If I needed a little care, that is.'

'Well,' said Wych Hazel, 'you may put it so, if you like. You will need a great deal before you have been in that Hollow two days.'

'Need it. Do you think you can give it?' said he wistfully.

'Without a doubt.'

'But you are not my wife, Wych—you cannot be there with me now. And if you were my wife, you could not. Do you think I would let you?'

She shrank back a little, hanging her head. This view of the case had certainly not come up.

'I thought—I suppose—anybody may come and go to see sick people,' she said under her breath. 'I thought, anybody might stay with them. And I think so now. I never heard of etiquette over small-pox.'

'You could not “come and go” to these people. I shall establish a strict quarantine, and probably be in it myself. You must not come even near the Hollow.'

'But I need not have anything to do with you,' pleaded Hazel. 'I am going to serve under Dr. Arthur.'

'That is just my place.'

'You may keep it,' said Hazel. 'A woman's place is not solid and stationary like a man's. Nobody will know where I am, but some poor sick child that everyone else is too busy for.'

Perhaps Dane smothered a sigh; but he only said, clear and clean-cut the words were now,—

'I cannot have you there, Hazel. You must keep your place and do your work here. The Hollow is my business.'

'And you mean to leave me outside of your business?' she questioned, with eyes incredulous even yet.

'Outside of this business. And you are not to come even near the Hollow. I know you do not like to give promises, and so I do not ask for one. This is not a request. You understand?'

'Olaf!'—It was the sweetest of pleading tones. But no more words followed,—neither word nor look.

'Ah you have adopted me at last, have you!' said he. 'I have been waiting for this. And the sweetness of it will be in my ears all these days before me. The next time you speak that word in such music, Hazel, I will give you what you ask.'

'Not now?' she said softly. 'I may not go even to Gyda's?'

'Gyda will be with me.'

The words, the utterance, were cheery, clear and sweet; at the same time strong and absolute. And Rollo wore a look which I think a woman does not dislike to see on a face she loves, even though its decisions be against her; there was sweetness enough in it, also unmanageableness! No shadow, it must be noted. If he was going into danger, and knew it, the fact did not shadow him.

Hazel stood still, struggling with herself; fighting the disappointment and the restraint; most of all, the sorrow which came in the train of the other two. For with the passing away of her own thought of going, the thought that he must go came out clear and strong. Into that infected place, to be shut up in quarantine with no one knew what! Hazel passed her hands across her forehead as if she were pushing the shadows right and left, bidding them wait.

'I wanted to ask,' she said,—and then the voice changed, and suddenly the soft touch of her fingers came to his face, stroking back some lock of hair to its accustomed place. But the look was as intent and unconscious as if she never expected to see him again in all her life. And he stood still, like a man under a spell, which he would not break by the least movement.

'Those people,' she began again hurriedly, bringing herself back to business and a business tone, 'will want a great deal. And there is not much in the Hollow, nor on the hill. If you will let me, I can have supplies sent from here every day. Mrs. Bywank will know what. And my messenger need not go near that part of the Hollow; the things can be left at any point you say.' She looked up eagerly—then down again; not much fonder than he was of asking what she could not have.

'Do that, by all means,' was the answer. 'Your supplies may be left at the mill where I read.'

The shadow on her face deepened.

'Will you write?'

'No.' His face began to take on something of the yearning look of the Huguenot in the picture.

'How then shall I hear?'

'I have been thinking about that. I do not know; unless Arthur can carry reports now and then to Dr. Maryland, and Prim or her father bring them to you.'

'He may come straight here at once,' said Hazel. 'I can talk out of a window as well as anybody else. And if anybody ventures to come here to comfort me, I shall—'

'What?' said Rollo smiling.

'Send me no reports that way. I could not bear it. And Dr. Arthur will stay in the Hollow while you stay.'—

There was a moment's gesture that reminded him of the despairing way in which she had flung herself down in the chair, that long ago night at Green Bush.

'Dr. Arthur will go and come as a physician should, according to the demand for him. What will you do, my little Wych?'

'I do not know. Only one thing.'

'What is that one thing?'

Again Hazel was silent, struggling with herself, controlling her lips to speak.

'Just one thing'—the words came passionately now. 'If you are sick, I shall come. And it is no use to lay commands on me, because I should break them all in one minute. I know I should. Promises or commands or anything else.'

He paused slightly before he spoke.

'Do you know, Mrs. Bywank once said in my hearing that you were the lovingest little thing that ever lived. I knew she was right. I have been waiting for this minute. It makes me a rich man. But you will not come to the Hollow, Hazel, even though I were ill. You must love me enough to mind my wishes. It is hard, I know. It is the very last and uttermost proof of love.'

Hazel was bending down, busy detaching something from her chatelaine. The fingers were quick and hurried, but the words came slow.

'Hush,' she said. 'You must not say that. You are confusing things. And your rights do not cover all the ground. There is a corner, somewhere, where mine grow. Now'—she raised her head, drawing a long breath,—how fast the gathering tide of anxiety and sorrow came rolling in!—'See here. I know you have nothing so womanish as a vinaigrette about you,—but womanish things are useful just now and then. Will you fasten this to your watch chain—to please me?'—The eyes were wistful in their beseeching. She was so uncertain of having anything granted to-night!

He met them with a grave, searching attention, and releasing her from the arms which had till then enfolded her, gravely fastened the vinaigrette as she wished. He turned slightly then and rested his elbow on the mantel-piece, looking down into the fire which his care had caused to leap into brilliant life. As motionless on her part Hazel stood, with fingers interlaced and still. But her eyes were on the floor. Presently Rollo roused himself, and stretching out his hand took Wych Hazel's and drew her nearer to him.

'I cannot go and leave this question undecided,' he said; 'and I must go soon. How shall it be settled, Wych?'

Some things are hard to talk of, which yet are in the thoughts; and contingencies take life and reality by being put in words. The shadow on the girl's face grew deep as she answered,—yet the answer was quiet.

'You know, reverse the case, you would not be bound by any words of mine. You know—that you are what I have in the world. And I know, that if—if—' there was a moment's pause,—'that if it came to that, I should go. I could not be bound.'

The gravity of his face as he listened to her, you could hardly call it a shadow, changed and flickered with a quivering smile; and the eyes flashed and then darkened again. The end was, he drew Wych Hazel into his arms, clasping her very tight.

'I know—I know,' he said, kissing her face with passionate touches which had all the sorrow of the time, as well as all the joy, in them. 'I know. All the same, I will not have you there, Hazel, if I am ill. I should settle the matter very quickly with anybody else; but you disarm me. I cannot stir a step without hurting you. What shall I say to you?' he went on, holding her fast, and stroking the hair back from her forehead with the gentlest possible touch. 'It has come sooner than I expected, this sort of trial, which generally comes, I suppose, whenever two lives that have been separate join together to become one. There will be differences of judgment, or of feeling; and what is to happen then? And what am I to fall back upon, when love and authority have both proved insufficient? for I have authority as your guardian. I shall have to ask now for your promise; the promise that you never break. For I will be secure on this head, before I leave the house, Hazel.'

'People should have reasons for exerting their authority.'

'Of that,' said Dane with the same gentleness, but very steadily, 'he who exerts it must be the judge himself.'

'Yes!' said Hazel, the impetuous element asserting itself once more, 'but there is no use in beginning as you cannot go on. Do you mean that always—I mean in future—if anything were the matter with you, the first thing would be to send me out of the house?'

'I hope not!' said Dane smiling. 'In my understanding of it, husband and wife belong to one another, and are inseparable. There are conceivable circumstances in which I might do it.'

A slight lift of the eyebrows dealt for a moment with this opinion and let it drop. Into those imaginary regions Hazel did not see fit to go. Nor into any others then. The flush of excitement died away, and the weary look settled down upon brow and lips. She said no more.

Rollo watched her a little while, then stooped and kissed her.

'I must go. Give me your promise, Hazel, that you will not come near the Hollow without my leave.'

She answered with a certain subdued tone that matched the face,

'I have no intention of coming. Your command is enough. If I can keep it, I will. No amount of promises could make my words any stronger.' But she looked up again, one of her swift eager looks, which again fell in silent gravity. There was scarcely another word said; except one.

'Look away from second causes, Hazel.'

Linking her fingers round his hand, so she went with him silently through the hall and down the steps; and stood there until he rode away into the darkness and the light of his work, and she came back into the light and the darkness of her own house.

CHAPTER XVII. ALONE IN THE FIGHT.

Nature, with all her many faces, her thousand voices has seldom a look or a tone to help our sorrow. Her joy is too endless in its upspringing, her tears are too fresh and sweet; even the calm steadiness of her quiet is to bewildered thoughts like the unflickering coast light, against which the wild birds of the ocean dash themselves, blinded, in the storm. Wych Hazel stood still at the foot of the steps, until not even imagination could hear so much as an echo of the rapid trot which she was not to hear again for so long a time. The sweet October night, its winds asleep, its insects silenced with a slight frost, its stars wheeling their brilliant courses without a cloud, all smote her like a pain. Then some faint stir of air brought, distantly and sweet, the scent of the woods where they had been chestnutting that very day. With a half cry the girl turned and fled up the steps, locking the door behind her; remembering then keenly what else she was shutting out. She went back to the red room, and stood there—she and the spirit of desolation. There was no tea tray, happily, with its cheerful reminders; but there was the corner of the mantelpiece, and the spot on the rug, and the fire—now slowly wearing down to embers, and the embers to ashes. There was her foot cushion—and the crimson bergère. But she could not touch anything,—could not take up the tongs which he had set down, even to put the fire in safe order for the night; some one else must do that. Slowly she went round the room, with a glance at everything; passed on to the door and stood looking back; then shut it and went slowly up the stairs. Midway she sat down and leaned her head against the banisters. Sat there she knew not how long, until she heard Mrs. Bywank's step going the rounds below; then rose and went on again. But as Wych Hazel's little foot passed slowly up from stair to stair, one thing in her mind came out in clear black and white, of one thing she was sure: she must lay hold of those immutable things after which she had striven before. Mere hoping would not do, she must make sure. In the happiness of the last weeks, she had said, like David in his prosperity, “I shall never be moved,”— where was it all now? Above all other thoughts, even to-night, this came: she could not live so. Tossed by one storm upon a roof here, and by the next one carried out to sea. Something to hold her, something that she could hold,—that she must have.

Intensely bitter thoughts flocked in along with this. The hand she had clasped so lately, and the way it had clasped her; a longing that would hardly be gainsaid for the touch of it again. Was she forgetting that? was she trying to loosen that bond? She paused, leaning back against the wall, holding her hands tight. But even with the answer the other cry came up: the world was all reeling under her feet,—she must have something that would stand. For the time everything else gave way. It was true, this trouble might pass,—then others would come: others from which even Dane could not shield her. Already, twice in her little life, twice in three months, had such a crisis come. Mrs. Bywank got no sight of her that night; only gentle answers to enquiries through the closed door; and Hazel lighted her study lamp, and opening her Bible at the ninety-first psalm, and setting it up before her in the great easy chair, knelt down before it and laid her head down too. No need to go over the printed words,—there was not one of them she did not know. But was there anything there to help? She went them over to herself, verse by verse, and verse after verse was not for her. It was Dane who had taken that stand, who was leading that life; these promises were all to him. No arrow of darkness was his fear—she knew that well: no pestilence walking at his side could alarm him. But as she went on, half triumphantly at first, with the detail of his faith and his security, the vision of his danger come too; and a long restless fit of pain ended all study for that time. Ended itself at last in sleep,—and the dreams of what was about him, and thoughts of what he was about, gave no token of their presence but a sob or a sigh, until the few remaining hours of the night swept by, and the morning broke.

As I said somewhere else, the new day is often good for uncertainties. The foolish fears, the needless alarms, the whole buzzing troop of fidgets that come out in the darkness, go back to their swamps and hiding places when the day has fairly come. They cannot make head against the wholesome freshness of the morning wind. Then painted hopes and lace-winged fancies flit out to take their place: things certainly are better, or they will be better, or they never have been bad.

But certainties are another matter. The new burdens, laid down in sleep, but now to be taken up, and adjusted, and borne on through all the ins and outs of the coming day. Morning does nothing for them, but fasten them on securely, with a heavy hand.

Wych Hazel roused herself up as the day came on, and looked things in the face so long, that her own face got little attention. However, Phoebe—and the force of habit—sent her down in the usual daintiness, at the usual time, to receive Mr. Falkirk, who after all did not come. But Dingee was on hand, and so Hazel made believe over her breakfast, quite successfully, and carried on her mental fight of questions the while with no success at all. So on through the day, until dinner time brought Mr. Falkirk; so on, with a semi-consciousness, through all the evening's talk; and when at length Wych Hazel went to her room again, it was with all the trouble of last night, and a day's worry additional. She knew what she wanted,—she did not seem to know how to get it. Those shining words lay up so high, above her reach: a mountain head lifting itself out of the fogs of the valley wherein she dwelt. As for the first verse of her psalm, it might as well have been a description of Gabriel, for any use to her,—so she thought, shrinking back from the words. Then for the second verse,—yes, there was human weakness there—or had been. Some time a refuge had been needed: but so long ago, that the years of calm security had wiped out even the thought of defencelessness. That was like Dane: she did not believe it ever occurred to him that he wanted anything, or could. What was he doing now to-night, in the darkness?—Hazel rose and went to the window. What work it must be, going round among the shadows of the Hollow, without a moon!—but then he would be in the houses,—darker still! She knew; she had sat there through one evening.—She stood still at the window, going over half mechanically to herself the next verses. “Surely,”—yes, it was all 'surely,' for him! was there nothing for her? She was not in all the psalm, Hazel thought. Unless—yes, that might fit well enough: she might stand for “the wicked” in the eighth verse. For studying the shining words that went before, there had come to her a feeling of soil, a sense of degradation, all new, and utterly painful.

'No use to consider that now,' she said, knotting her hands together as she went back to her seat. 'I want help. And I begin to think how much I want it, I shall lose my wits.'—Was there nothing for her?

Again the promises ran on as before, with new images, fresh wording. There were angels enough keeping watch over Morton Hollow to-night!—was there no spare one to come to Chickaree?—Hazel put her head down and sobbed like a child in her loneliness and desolation.

Next day she tried another plan, and began at the end of her psalm, passing over the promise of long life as not just now of much interest. And honour,—she did not want that; nor deliverance, where no devil was at hand. But this!—

“I will be with him” —

“I will answer him” —

Was it for her?—To whom was it said?

“He shall call upon me,”—ah, that she had done a great many times!—this was not the whole description. Who was it then who should be heard?—She ran back over the words rapidly, fastening then upon these few:

“Because he hath set his love upon me”!—and Hazel knew she had set her love upon some one else.

It was very bitter: the struggle was sharp and long: and duty and possibility, and wrong and right, fought each other and fired upon their own men.

She could not take back her love: that was impossible. She might die, but that she could not do. And now with a certain gleam of comfort, Hazel remembered that Dane had not withdrawn his. How had he managed then? After all, it did not touch the question much,—he was a man, dependent of no one: she was a girl, with nothing in the world but him. Yet she wanted more. A strength above his, a love even more sure: “the things which cannot be shaken.”

So, slowly, she went back over the verses, laying hold still of but that one thing in her way:

“He shall call upon me, and I will answer him.”

Yes, it must be meant for her. And Hazel tried to shut her eyes to the character that went with the promise. People like that, she argued, would need nothing,—it must be for her. But oh she had called so very often!—Far back in the psalm, that is, close at the beginning, another word flamed up before her in a sudden illumination: a word she had read and reread, but now it stopped her short. Another three words, that is:

“I will say.”

—Something that seemed to head the long list of blessings, something for her. But it was something for her to do. What, then?

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”

“I will say.”—But close upon that followed “Surely.”

Could she say it? Was she ready for that absolute choice? The words came to her as she had heard Dr. Maryland read them:

“You do now declare and avouch the Lord Jehovah to be your God; and Jesus Christ to be your Saviour; and the Holy Spirit to be your sanctifier.

“You do solemnly give yourself away, in a covenant to be revoked, to be his willing servant forever.”

She had noticed the words so often, half putting them to herself in imagination, that now they came back to her with clear distinctness. This was what the psalm meant; nothing less. “A willing servant?” Could she promise it? she, who hated control and loved so dearly her own pleasure? But it all came to that:

“I will say of the Lord, He is my God.”—

Back and forth, back and forth, went thoughts and will and purpose: sometimes almost persuaded, sometimes all up in arms. Something gentler than need was lacking, something stronger than fear must work. Slowly and sadly she turned over the leaves, far on and on, to the other marked point: seeing them then, those common words of print that she had read so often, seeing them then in letters of flashing light.

“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”—2 Cor. 5. 14, 15.

Hazel laid her face down upon the open page, and said from her heart,

“I will.”

CHAPTER XVIII. SETTLEMENTS.

To go back a little.

When Mr. Falkirk came to dinner that first day, he was very taciturn and grumpy indeed until soup and fish and third course were disposed of. Then when he got a chance with Dingee out of the room, Mr. Falkirk opened his mouth for the discussion of somewhat besides grapes and peaches.

'So I understand, Miss Hazel, you have arranged with your other guardian to dispense with my services.'

Wych Hazel was not in a mood even for blushing, that day. Thoughts were too deeply and abstractedly busy, and spirits were under too great a weight, for the usual quick play of lights and colours to which Mr. Falkirk was accustomed. A faint little extra tinge was all that came with the grave answer,

'May I ask who has been talking about me, sir?'

'Your future guardian, Miss Hazel; no less. Stopped at my door last night, on horseback, to say in three minutes what would have been more fittingly talked of in three hours.'

Slowly at first, then quick and vivid, the roses stirred and flamed up in the thoughtful face, but she said nothing. Only pushed away her plate, as if peaches and that could not go on together.

'I would like to know from you whether it is a thing fixed and settled and unalterable; absolutely done? I suppose it is, or he would not have said it.'

She darted a look at him.

'Do you found suppositions upon such slight circumstantial evidence, Mr. Falkirk?'

'Sometimes, Miss Hazel, when the thing happens to be particularly difficult of belief.'

'Unalterable?' Hazel repeated, half to herself,—'few things are that. Suppose your supposition were a mistake, Mr. Falkirk,—what then?'

'Can you tell me that it is?' he said, looking across the table to her with a gaze that would find the truth.

'Would you be glad?' she answered. 'And will you tell me why?'

Then Dingee came in with coffee, and a bouquet; and Hazel sat playing idly with the flowers while Dingee set out the cups, the scent of heliotrope and geranium filling the room. While Dingee was near, Mr. Falkirk was silent; but eyeing the girl however, the flowers, her action, with a glance that took it all in and lost no item; not a graceful movement nor a tint of the picture.

'Yes,' he said firmly when the boy was gone, 'I should be glad. You are just fit for the play you are playing now; it is not played out, and should not be, for some time to come. You are young, and ought to be free; and you are rich, Miss Hazel, and ought not to marry somebody who will ruin you.'

For a minute Hazel spoke not for surprise, and then she let a prudent pause lap on to that. For she had no mind just then to get up a tirade for Mr. Rollo's benefit, and all the same she felt her blood stirring.

'Is this all I am fit for?' she said: but the laugh was a little nervous.

'I said nothing you need take umbrage at,' her guardian returned somewhat bitterly. 'I spoke only in care for you, Miss Hazel; not in depreciation. I am about the last man in the world to do that.'

'It is nothing very new for you to speak in depreciation of me, sir,' said his ward, in her old privileged manner. 'You know you never did think I was good for much.'

'Enough to be worth taking care of,' growled Mr. Falkirk in a tone which bespoke a mingling of feelings.

'Well, sir,—I never was fond of that process—but I have submitted indifferently well, I hope.'

'Allow me to ask, Miss Hazel,—what sort of care do you expect in the future?'

Hazel fairly looked at him and opened her eyes. 'Really, Mr. Falkirk,' she said, 'you are very amazing!'

'You know, I must suppose, that your—guardian—has proved himself unfit to take care of your fortune, inasmuch as he has thrown away his own. And when fortune is gone, Miss Kennedy, the means of taking care of you are gone along with it. I warn you, though it may not be in time.'

Wych Hazel's hands took a great grip of each other. It was pretty hard to bear this to-day.

'For the last year and a half, Mr. Falkirk, the care of me—in every respect—has been referred, and referred, and referred, to other judgment than your own. I used to think you were tired of me,— that you had lost your wits—Now, you think I have lost mine.'

'The judgment which I was obliged to consult, and which could not hurt you as long as I remained a consenting party, will have no restraint when my decisions are dispensed with. He can pitch all your thousands after his own, if he thinks proper.'

'Yes, you can do anything with an “if,” ' said Hazel, trying to keep herself quiet.

'He will think it proper,' said Mr. Falkirk.

'You must have learned a good deal in three minutes, sir.'

'He is an enthusiast—a fanatic, I should call it; and an enthusiast sees but one object in the universe, and that the object of his enthusiasm. It is all right, to him; but it is all wrong for you.'

It might have been the sheer pressure of excitement, it might have been some idea that the present object of Mr. Rollo's enthusiasm was nearer at hand than Mr. Falkirk thought; but Wych Hazel's sweet laugh rang out. She knew again that the laugh was nervous, but it was uncontrollable none the less.

Mr. Falkirk's countenance changed slightly, as though he had winced with some secret pain; but it did not come out in words, if the feeling existed. He waited till the laugh had died away, and even the stillness spoke of reaction in the mind of the laugher; and then he went on with a quiet unchanged tone,

'There is no use in going into this now. I wish merely to say, Miss Hazel, that the habit of taking care for your interests is too old with me, and has become too strong, to be immediately laid aside. I shall do my best to procure a settlement of your propriety—as much of it as possible—upon yourself; and I mention this now simply to beg of you that you will not interpose any sentimental or quixotic objection on your own part. I shall endeavour to get Dr. Maryland to back me; he must see the propriety of the step. I only ask you to keep still.'

Mr. Falkirk rose. In a moment Wych Hazel was at his side, linking her little hands on his arm in the old fashion.

'What have I done,' she said, 'that you speak so to me? Have I been so wayward and wilful that I have really chafed all your love away, and there is nothing left but dry care?'

He touched her hand as he rarely had ever done, with a caressing, glancing touch, slight and short; but the man was silent. Wych Hazel drew him along, softly walking him up and down through the room, but she too said nothing, feeling perplexed and hurt, and not well knowing why. It was nothing new for Mr. Falkirk's words to be dry, but to-night they were so hard!—and when had he ever called her Miss Kennedy, in the worst of times? For once her instinct was at fault.

'I must go,' said Mr. Falkirk, stopping short after a turn or two.

'It is such an old story for me to make mistakes—' Hazel began hesitatingly.

'Have you made this one unwittingly?' he asked with sudden eagerness.

Hazel dropped his arm and stood off with the air which Mr. Falkirk knew very well.

'This one does not happen to exist,' she said. 'But I mean—I should think you were so used to the reality, sir, that the idea would not give you much trouble. And there is one thing more I ought to say.'

'I am not troubled by an idea, Miss Hazel. What is the other thing?'

Not an easy one to speak, by the shewing, as she stood there gathering her forces. But the words came clear and low.

'It will be a good day for me, Mr. Falkirk,—I shall have more hope of myself,—when I am as willing to be poor for the sake of other people, as—Mr. Rollo—is. Would you feel more sure of my being taken care of, if you knew that he spent all he has upon himself?'

'Yes. He is spending it upon a vagary—a chimera; and that is as much as to say he is throwing it into a quicksand. He will go down with it.'

'I wonder what will be the result of that?' said Wych Hazel, in the cool way she could sometimes assume when she felt particularly hot.

'I don't like to look at the result,' said Mr. Falkirk. 'I will go, if you please, Miss Hazel.—But if you will be so good as not to oppose me, the result shall not be your destitution.'

'Oppose you!' said Hazel. 'With such an object in view!'—But then the mocking tone changed, and she said sorrowfully—'I beg your pardon, Mr. Falkirk!—But you are vexed, sir, and then you always vex me. And—I was not just ready for this to-night.'

'You need not be vexed that I want to take care of you,' Mr. Falkirk returned.

'No, sir. There are great many things I need not be,' said Hazel.

'I will try to do it. I may not succeed. Good-night.'

She put her hands on his arm again, following his lead now towards the door. But on the way another thought struck her.

'Mr. Falkirk,' she said suddenly, 'if you try to do something which you know I would not like—or in a way I should not like,—you must remember that I will never say yes to it. Not if there were fifty quicksands in the way!'

'Miss Hazel,' returned her guardian, 'I have not so long held my office without finding out that it is impossible to tell beforehand what you would like, or in what way you would like it. I must work in the dark; unless you prefer to give me illumination.'

'I should like,' said Hazel bravely, 'what Mr. Rollo would have a right to like. I suppose Mr. Falkirk will know what that is.'

'Pardon me. My only concern is with what you would have a right to like.'

'Very well,' she answered,—'if you choose to put it so. But I could have no right to like anything which should seem like a reflection,—anything that could cast the least possible shade of dishonour.—Further than that, I do not see how it matters.'

'Does it matter to you whether you are your own mistress or not?' said Mr. Falkirk, confronting her now with the question.

'I suppose that is past praying for,' said Hazel with a deep blush. 'But I never have been, yet.'

'You have in money matters.'

'About my own silks and sugarplums. No further, sir.'

'Do you wish it to be “no further” always?'

'I like my own way better than anything in the world,' said Hazel, 'except'—and she paused, and the crimson mounted again,— 'except the honour and dignity and standing of the people I love. You know better than I, Mr. Falkirk, whether both things can be cared for together; but if one has to go down, it must be my will.'

'If it can be done consistently with other people's “dignity and standing,” you would like to have control of your own property?'

'It cannot be so done.'

'It can be so done—if I and Dr. Maryland do it.'

'No,' said Hazel, 'there is too much of it.'

'Will you please explain?'

'Too much money,—too much land,—the property is too large.'

'Too large to be divided, that is.'

Hazel turned off with a gesture of distressful impatience—then faced her guardian again.

'Don't you see, Mr. Falkirk?' she said,—'do you need to be told? Mr. Rollo could not possibly be only my agent.'

'I do not see that he need. You are competent surely to spend your own money, in the way you like best.'

'Very competent!' said Hazel gravely. 'And to manage my estate. Then I will begin at once, if you please, Mr. Falkirk, and you can send up to-morrow all the deeds and leases and writings in your possession. It will be quite a nice little amusement for me.'

'Miss Hazel, you talk nonsense,' said her guardian. 'I cannot deliver up my charge, except in hands that will have absolute rule over it; unless I can secure a separate portion for you. The will makes him master, in the event of his marrying you.'

Hazel made no reply. The speech was full of words that she did not like. And Mr. Falkirk quitted the room.

If he had wished to render his ward uncomfortable, he had made a hit,—stirring up thoughts and questions which had been ready enough before, only always held in check by the presence and influence that were stronger yet. But to-night she was heart-sore to begin with, and it had chafed her extremely that not all her pleading of the night before had carried a single point. The words “master,” and “absolute control,” came with particular jarring effect. She brought a foot-cushion to the front of the fire, there where she was in the dining-room; and rested her head upon her hands and thought.

CHAPTER XIX. SCHOOLING.

All Hazel's news thus far had come from Dr. Maryland's house; brought by Primrose or sent in a note. There was not much to tell; at least not much that anybody wanted to tell. The sick-beds in the two cabins, the heavy atmosphere of disease, the terrible quarantine, the weary tension of day and night, the incessant strain on the physical and mental strength of the few nurses,—nobody wrote or spoke of these. The suspense, nobody spoke of that either. The weeks of October and November slowly ran out, and the days of December began to follow.

One mild, gentle winter morning, Dr. Maryland's little old gig mounted the hill to Chickaree.

Dr. Maryland had not been there, as it happened, for a long time; not since the event which had made such a change in all the circumstances of its mistress; nor in all that time had he seen Hazel. The place looked wintry enough to-day, with its bare trees, and here and there the remnant of a light snow that had fallen lately; but the dropped leaves were carried away, and the sweep shewed fresh touches of the rake; everything was in perfect order. Dingee ushered the visiter into the great drawing-room, to warm himself by a corresponding fire; and there in a minute Hazel joined him, looking grave and flushed. The doctor had not sat down; he turned to face her as she came in.

'Well, my dear!' said he cheerily. 'How do you do?'

'Very well, sir, thank you.'

'You are all alone? Mr. Falkirk is away, I understand; just gone?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Gone to a sick sister in England, and left you alone.'

'Yes, sir. It is nothing very new for me to be alone,' said Hazel.

'But for you to be so much alone? Well, I suppose he thought there would be soon somebody to take care of you. We have the good news now that those poor people seem to be all getting well. Arthur reports that there are no new cases. I am most thankful!'

Hazel answered with merely a gesture of assent. She had no words to say that she could say.

'I suppose Dane would be soon out of quarantine now.—But he is not quite well himself, Arthur tells me; knocked up by watching and incessant exertions, I suppose.'

For a minute Hazel held her breath—growing so white that even the old doctor must see it. Then she turned away from him in a gentle, noiseless way, and leaned her head down upon the back of her chair. She must have support somewhere.

'It is nothing but a low feverish affection,' Dr. Maryland hastened to say. 'May be tedious, perhaps, for a while, but shews no dangerous symptoms at present. We must not anticipate evil, my dear.'

Hazel did not answer that; but presently she sat up again and asked one or two quiet questions as to time and place.

'He is at Gyda's, my dear; they took him up there, being the nearest place. Mrs. Boërresen is a good nurse, and devoted to him; and so is Arthur. He will not want anything. Hazel, my child, can you cast your cares off on the one arm strong to help?'

She started up and went to the fire, picking up brands and pushing the red coals right and left, until the wood burst out into brilliant flame. And all the time she was saying to herself, 'He will not have me,—he does not want me.' But she came back to her place again without a word. Dr. Maryland looked on, pitying, feeling for her, and yet oddly without anything to say. He had lived so long and seen so much of life and had got so far above its changes; more, he had lived so much in his study and felt life so little except in contemplation, and with so small an admixture of practical experience of human nature, that he looked at the young thing before him and was conscious of his unreadiness, and in some sort of his unfitness, to minister to her.

'Are you lonely, my dear? Would you like to have Primrose come and keep you company?'

'Oh no!' said Hazel hastily. Then she began again, and tried to catch up her eager words and soften off their corners; speaking with a wistful affectionate tone that was half pleading, half deprecating. 'I mean—I do not want anybody with me, sir. I am out a great deal—and sometimes very busy at home. And—some other time, maybe, Primrose will come.'

Dr. Maryland considered her with a recognizing smile on his lips, and a very tender look in his thoughtful eyes.

'I understand,' he said. 'There is room in the house for only one presence just now.—Are you going to be a true helpmeet to Dane, Hazel, in all his work?'

'I do not know, sir.'—Hazel always classed such questions, coming to a preoccupied mind, under the general head of “pins and needles,” and never by any chance gave them much of an answer.

'He will want a helpmeet. A wife can hinder her husband, or help him, very materially. Dane has taken a great deal on his shoulders. He thinks you will be a help to him; “the best possible,” he told me one day, when I ventured to ask him.'

The words shook her so, coming close as they did upon the news of his illness, upon thoughts of his danger, that for a minute Hazel moved like one in bodily pain; and more than one minute went by, before she answered, low and huskily,—'He knew I would try.'

'My dear, there is only one way,' the old doctor said very tenderly. 'Dane has set out to follow his Master. If you would help him, you must follow with him.'

Hazel glanced up at the kind face from under her eyelashes. Could she dare open her heart to him? No,—young as she was, her life experience had cut deeper channels than Dr. Maryland's own; he could not follow her; it was no use; she must bear the trials and work out her problems alone.

'I know, sir,' she said gently. But she said no more. And perhaps Dr. Maryland had an intuitive sense that the right words could not be spoken just then, and that the wrong ones would be worse than an impertinence. For he only looked gravely at the young creature, and added no more either of counsel or comfort at that time. He did not stay long, nor talk much while he staid, of anything; but he was thoughtfully observant of Hazel. He gave her a parting shot on taking leave.

'Good-bye, my dear,' he said with a kind and shrewd smile. 'I hope Dane will not let you have your own way too much for your good;—but I am afraid of it!'

The girl's eyes flashed up at him then, as if she thought there was rather less danger of that than of any other one thing in the world. Then she ran down the steps after her old friend, and gave little finishing touches to his comfort in the shape of a foot-muff and an extra lap-robe, and held his hand for a minute in both hers,—all with very few words and yet saying a great deal. And when Dr. Maryland reached home, he found that a basket of game had in some surreptitious manner got into his gig.

'Small danger of that!' Hazel thought, going back to his remark, as she went back into the house. But it was not such a question that brought the little hands in so weary fashion over her face. She stood very still for a minute, and then went swiftly upstairs to finish the work which Dr. Maryland had interrupted. That could not wait; and Hazel was learning, slowly, that the indulgence of one's own sorrow can. So the work was well done; only with two or three sighs breathed over it, which gave kind Mrs. Bywank a heartache for the rest of the day. But then Hazel hastily swallowed a cup of the chicken broth and went off to her room. It had come now, without if or perhaps, and she could only sit down and face it. The one person in all the world to whom she belonged,—the only one that belonged to her!—

For a while, in the bitterness of the knowledge that he was sick, Hazel seemed to herself half benumbed; and sat stupidly dwelling on that one fact, feeling it, and yet less with a sense of pain than of an intolerable burden. A weight that made her stir and move sometimes, as if she could get away from it so. It was no use to tell her not to anticipate; to say he was not much sick; that was thin ice, which would not bear. And now on a sudden Hazel found herself confronted with a new enemy, and was deep in the fight. What then? Only her own will in a new shape.

She had come out so gently and sweetly, so clearly too, from the months of restless perplexity and questioning; she had agreed, she had decided, that her will should be the Lord's will. Now came a sudden sharp test. She had chosen heaven, with earth yet in her hand,—how if earth were taken away? And what if to do the Lord's will should be all that was left her, to fill her life? Did her consent, did her acceptance, reach so far?

And—Oh how hard that was!—to study the question, she must throw full upon it the light (or the darkness) of things that might be. Things that she would not have let any one say to her, knife- edged possibilities, came and went and came again, till Hazel stopped her ears and buried her face in the cushions and did everything in the world to shut them out. What use? she had to consider them. Was she willing now that the Lord should do what he pleased with him? —She could not word it any other way. And the fight was long: and time and again pain came in such measure that she could attend only to that. And so the day went by, with occasional interruptions, and then the unbroken night.

She could submit,—she must submit: could she accept? Nothing was anything without that. And she was getting almost too worn out to know whether she could or not. So she would sit, with her face buried in her hands, putting those fearful questions to herself, and with answering shivers running over her from head to foot. Then would come an interval of restless pacing the floor, thinking all sorts of things; chiefly, that the very minute it was light she would set off for Morton Hollow. What would that serve? what could she do, if she were there? But one Hand could meddle with these things, and work its will. And for a while a bitter sense of the Lord's absolute power seemed to lie on her head and heart till she felt crushed. She could not walk any longer, she could not debate questions; she could only lay her head against the arm of the chair and sit still, bearing that dull pain, and starting at the sharp twinges that now and then shot through it.

There came to her at last, as she sat there, suddenly, the old words. Words read to her so long ago, and learned so lately. They had reached her need then, and there she had in a sort left them, bound up with that. But once more now they came, so new, so glorious, all filled with light.

“For the love of Christ constraineth us”!—The key to life work, but no less to life endurance. And the key turned softly, and the bolts flew back, and Wych Hazel covered her face saying eagerly, 'Yes, yes!'—

But then, even with the saying, she broke quite down, and a stormy flood of tears swept over her, and left her at last asleep.

There was no going back when the day dawned. But Hazel soon found that this question was not to be ended once for all, like the other. It came up anew with each new morning, and must be so met, and answered: in full view of what unknown possibilities the day might bring or the night have brought, the assenting 'yes' must be spoken. The struggle was long, sometimes, and sometimes it was late before she left her room; but those who saw her face of victory when she came would remember it always.

Still, the days were long. And hearts are weak; and Hazel grew exceedingly weary. Chafing most of all against the barriers that kept her from Morton Hollow. At first, when Dr. Maryland left her that night she thought she should go with the sunrise next day. Then recollected herself.

'I said I would follow his bidding if I could,' she remembered,— 'and I can wait one day.'

And so she could wait two, and so she waited on. One day she must go; the next, she would write and ask permission. 'But he never asked me to write!'—she thought suddenly, covering her face in shame. 'What would he think of me?' But oh, why had he given such orders?—

It was the old story,—she was supposed to have no discretion.

'I dare say he thought I should rush over if I had a fingerache!' she said with some natural indignation. Was she then really so little to be trusted? Wych Hazel sat down to study the matter, and as usual, before the exercise had gone on long, she began to foot up hard things against herself. How she had talked to him that night!— what things she had told him! Then afterwards, what other things she had proposed to do,—propositions that were stamped at once with the seal of impropriety. Hazel pressed her hands to her cheeks, trying to cool off those painful flushes. Well—he should see now!—She could wait, if he could. Which praiseworthy climax was reached—like the top of Mount Washington—in a shower of rain. But the whole effect of the musings was to make her shrink within herself, and take up again all the old shyness which had been yielding, little by little, before the daily intercourse of the month past. Prim found her very stately over reports, after this; and even good Dr. Maryland would often fare no better, and betake himself home in an extremely puzzled state of mind. That the girl was half breaking her heart over the twofold state of things, nobody would have guessed. Unless, possibly, Mrs. Bywank.

Meantime, the purchase of the Hollow property from Gov. Powder had been completed; and the fine fall weather tempting people to stay and come, and the region being thus all full of guests, Chickaree had been regularly besieged during most of these two months. And almost at the time the sickness broke out in the Hollow, Mr. Falkirk had been summoned to England, where his only remaining sister was living, with the news that she was very ill. Mr. Falkirk had nevertheless stood to his post, until the fever was gone in the Hollow and he saw that Rollo would soon be able to resume his place. And then he had gone, much to Wych Hazel's disgust. 'It seems,' she said, 'that I can never want anybody—even my own guardians,—so much as somebody else!'

CHAPTER XX. ABOUT CHRISTMAS.

The days lingered along, but no worse news came. Rollo was slowly regaining his usual condition. Still December was half gone before with all his good will he could undertake the drive from the Hollow to Chickaree.

Late one afternoon Dr. Arthur set him down at the old house door. A cool winter breeze was fitfully rustling the dry leaves and giving a monitory brush past the house now and then; whispering that Christmas was near, and snow coming. Staying for no look at the sunlight in the tree-tops, Rollo marched in and went straight to the red room. He stood suddenly still on opening the door. No one was there, not even the presence of a fire, but chair and foot-cushion stood as they had been left two months before; the ashes had not been removed, and the flowers in the vase had faded and dropped with no renewal. Rollo next went down the hall to Mrs. Bywank's quarters. Here a side door stood open, and Mrs. Bywank herself stood on the steps shading her eyes and gazing down the road.

'What are you looking for, Mrs. Bywank?' said a cheery voice behind her.

'Mr. Rollo!' cried the old housekeeper turning with a delighted face. 'I am glad to see you again sir, surely! And well-nigh yourself again! I am just looking for Miss Wych—it is time she was home.'

'Where is she?'

'Off and away,' said Mrs. Bywank, with the smile of one who knows more than his questioner. 'She's a busy little mortal, these days.'

'What does she find to be busy about?'

'I should like to tell you the whole story, sir,—if we had time,' said Mrs. Bywank with a glance down the road. 'She'll never tell—and I think you ought to know. Step this way, Mr. Rollo, and you can see just as well and be more comfortable.'

Mrs. Bywank led the way to a little corner room where fire and easy chairs and a large window commanding the approach.

'I suppose you'd like to hear, sir,' she said as she replenished the fire, 'how the world has gone on down this way for two months back?'

'Very much,'—Dane said gravely, with however a restless look out of the window.

'Well sir, about the first days I cannot say much. I hardly saw Miss Wych at all. She used to dress up and come down and meet Mr. Falkirk, and then she'd go back to her room, and there she staid. Only she'd given me orders about the articles for the Hollow.

'So one morning, just as the beef and things were brought into my kitchen, and one of the maids had gone down for a kettle, in walked Miss Wych. 'Byo,' says she, 'I am going to make everything myself in future.'—'But my dear!' said I, 'you do not know how.'

'I am going to learn,' says she.

'Well,' said I, 'you can look on and learn.'

'I will do it and learn,' says she—and she marched right up to me and untied my big apron and put it on herself; for I don't believe then she had an apron belonging to her.'

Without ceasing to keep watch of the window, Dane's eyes gave token of hearing and heeding, growing large and soft, with a flash coming across them now and then.

'It's a nice business to hinder Miss Wych when she has a mind,' Mrs. Bywank went on; 'but I couldn't see her tiring herself over the fire—so I said, 'But my dear, think of your hands! No gloves!'

'What about my hands?' says she.

'Cooking is bad for them, Miss Wych,' says I.

'Is it?' said she. 'Well, they've had their share of being ornamental. What is the first thing to do, Byo?'

'So I felt desperate,—and said I, 'My dear, when Mr. Rollo comes back he will not like to find your hands any different from what they are now.'—She turned round upon me so,' said Mrs. Bywank laughing a little, 'that I didn't know what she would say to me for my impertinence. However, she only gave me one great look out of her eyes, and then stood looking down at her hands, and then she ran off,—and was gone a good little while. And I felt so bad I couldn't set to work nor anything, till at last I knew it must be done, and I told the girl to set the kettle on. And just then back she came, looking—Well, you'll know some day, sir, how Miss Wych can look,' said Mrs. Bywank with dim eyes. 'However, the gloves were on; and she just took hold, steady and quiet as an old hand, and never opened her lips but to ask a question. Of course I sat by and directed, and I kept a girl there to lift and run; but from that day Miss Wych made every single thing that went to the Hollow— or to you, sir—with her own little fingers. So that kept her fast all the mornings.'

Dane's eyes did not leave the window. His lips took a firmer compression.

'Then in the afternoons she just shut herself up again,—and I knew that would no do, and I begged her to go out. So she said at last she couldn't go and come without such a train—and it did seem as if people were bewitched, sure enough,' said Mrs. Bywank. 'I think there never was such a run on the house. What with you sick and Mr. Falkirk somehow not taking much notice—You know he's gone, sir?'

'Yes.'

'Miss Wych took it rather to heart,' said Mrs. Bywank. 'She couldn't see why he went. But I asked her then why she didn't ride in the woods where nobody'd meet her.—'If there was anything to do there!' she said. 'But nobody lives in my woods.'—'Ask Reo,' says I. 'He goes everywhere.'

'So I don't know what Reo told her, but now she's out all the afternoon; busy somewhere. And there!' said Mrs. Bywank, as a horseman passed the window,—'it's hard to blame her for staying late. But there she comes!'—and the old housekeeper went softly from the room.

At a little distance now he could see the brown horse and his rider, with Lewis following. Coming slowly at first, then with sudden haste as she saw a horseman at the door. Hazel knew her mistake in a moment, but she kept up her pace as the unwelcome visiter came on to meet her; and just at the steps deftly jumped herself off, giving no chance to civilities. Then after a few words of colloquy dismissed the intruder, and came slowly up the steps. There paused, looking wistfully down the empty road, and finally came in, taking notes and messages from Dingee.

'Give me tea directly,' she said. 'And admit no one, on any pretence whatever.'

'Mas' Falkirk?' suggested Dingee. 'Spose done come home?'

'Mr. Falkirk never asks admittance.'

'Mas' Rollo?'

'Did you hear what I said!'—exclaimed his mistress; and Dingee vanished.

Wych Hazel turned for one more look at the road, drew a deep sigh that was half patient and half impatient; and then slowly pulling off cap and gloves came forward to the corner room, chanting softly to herself as she came—

' “Endlich blüht die Aloe,

“Endlich trägt der Palmbaum Früchte;

“Endlich schwindet Furcht und Weh,

“Endlich wird der Schmerz zu nichte;

“Endlich nah't das Freudenthal;

“Endlich, endlich kommt einmal!” '

But with the first step inside the door the girl stopped short, folding her hands over her eyes as if they were dazzled.

'Endlich?' repeated Rollo. But then there was a long silence.

'Endlich—what?'

'Kommt einmal.—But I thought it never would!'

'Ah, what do you know about it? I am very tired of living without you, Wych!'

'Yes.'—Words were like sighs to-day.

'Yes? Do you say so? What do you know? There has been all these weeks a visionary presence of you—that was not you—flitting before me continually; standing beside me, coming and going, by night and by day, with the very rustle of your garments and the look of your brown eyes; but I could not touch it, and it did not speak to me; it smiled at me, but the lips were silent; and the eyes sparkled and were sometimes wistful, but it passed on and vanished. It mocked me, it tantalized me. The experience was good for me perhaps; I was obliged to remind myself that I had something else to live for. In the night watches this presence came and brushed by me—looked in at the door—stood between the rising sun and my eyes—hovered like a vision in the moonlight;— sorrowed over me when I was weary, and comforted me when I was sick. I mean, the vision did; but the fact of the vision tantalized me. Is this hand true flesh and blood?' He tried it with his lips. A shadow as of what had been came over the girl's face. She answered unsteadily—

'You did not stand by me in my watches. You have been off at the very ends of the earth!—And—O won't you let me go and get off my habit?'

'How long will you take?'

'Two minutes.'

If there were suspicious wet eyelashes when Miss Wych came back, she had at least by that time got herself in hand, as well as got rid of her habit. She came in noiseless and grave and quiet, in a soft shimmering rustle of deep red silk, and held out her hand again.

'You should not have stirred out, such a cold day,' she said. 'But come into the other room; it is warmer there.'

Dane had not sat down, he was standing watching for her; and now drew her within his arms again, in a seeming ignoring of her invitation.

'Have you been a good child all these weeks?'

'No.'

'Wherein not?'

'Primrose would have settled composedly down, and been happy in obeying orders. I wasn't a bit.'

'People are not all good after the same fashion,' said Dane laughing, holding her fast and looking at her. 'My little Wych was not happy, nor submissive—but obeyed orders nevertheless.'

'No,' said Wych Hazel slowly, 'I am not sure that I did. I had said I would keep away if I could—and I remembered how you might look at me if I went. So it was better to stay and die quietly at home.'

'Is that the footing on which we are to live in the future?' said Dane laughing and kissing her. He evidently was rather in a gay mood.

For all answer, Hazel drew him across the hall to the dining room, and sounding her whistle began to make preparations for tea; with a speed and energy before which Dingee flew round like a cat. Then, dismissing him, Hazel crossed over with soft steps to the side of the lounge and stood there a moment, looking down, searching out the traces of illness and fatigue. Dane was paler and thinner certainly than he had been two months before. But his colour was the colour of health, and his gray eye had certainly suffered from no faintness. It was very bright now as it met hers, and he sprang up.

'Nothing ails me,' he said. 'I am only tired with twelve miles in Arthur's buggy. You will have no doubt how I am, when you see how much work I mean to do before I go away.'

'You will not do any work to-night,' said Wych Hazel decidedly. And then she made herself very busy about Mr. Rollo's tea, with quiet dictatorship making him take and not take, as she saw fit. But I suppose he was easy to rule to-night, and had besides matter for study in the grave mouth and the eyes that would hardly meet his. Perhaps he began to observe that there was more work to do than he had been aware. Perhaps he saw, that in these two months of separation the old timidity, the old reserve, had grown up and flourished to an alarming extent. Just at first, when he came, defences had not been up, or his sudden appearance had flung them down; but it was rather the Wych Hazel of last year than of last October who sat before him now. Betraying herself now and then, it is true, by a look or a tone, but still on the whole keeping close guard. Clearly this was not to be an evening of confidences. Rollo made his observations for a little time; and then enquired gravely,

'What have you done with Mr. Falkirk?'

'His sister in England wanted him. He went to her. One ought to have six guardians, you perceive.'

'How do you expect to be taken care of this winter, in such a state of things?'

'I ought to give more trouble than ever,' said the girl, shaking her head,—'after such an apprenticeship at taking care of myself.'

'I hope not,' said Dane demurely. 'But Hazel, it is time we began to talk about business. There is a great deal to be said, at least, before Arthur comes to fetch me. Do you know it is just a week, or little more, to Christmas?'

'Yes,' said Hazel. 'I know.'

'I might divide my subject categorically in two parts; how Christmas is to be kept in the Hollow, and how we shall keep it here. I want your best attention on both heads.'

'I have not thought—I tried not to think. I wished Christmas a hundred miles away!'

'I am quite unable to fathom the mystery of that statement.'

'Yes, of course,' said Hazel; 'how should you know? But if you had been shut off here—' and she gave her plate a little push, sitting back in her chair, as she might have done,—and had done—in many of the weary days gone by.

'Meanwhile Christmas is not a hundred miles off,' said Dane watching her. 'How shall we keep it?'

'I don't know. I never did keep it much.'

'First, there is the Hollow.'

'O in the Hollow!—yes, certainly. They must all have a Christmas dinner, for one thing.'

'Well, go on. I want your help. I suppose they never kept Christmas much, either. What shall I do for them?'

'How many Christmas trees would reach through the Hollow?'

Dane shook his head. 'I am afraid we are hardly ready for that. And there is scant time. I must be content to do without the poetry, this year, and make everybody happy prosaically.'

'With roast beef and plum pudding,' said Hazel. 'But then I would rather find out real wants, and supply them. Could that be done?'

'Hardly. Not in detail. The time is too short. In general, there is always the want of good cheer and of joy-taking; or of anything to give cause for joy. How would it do, for Christmas, to send in supplies for a good dinner to every house? Then we can take breath and think about New Year's Day.'

'I suppose that could not fail. But then, to make them feel really like Christmas, they ought to have something they do not need.'

'I am open to suggestions,' said Dane smiling. 'As much as they are to the fruits of them. What shall I give them that they do not need? I think you are quite right, by the by; though it is not the precise light in which the subject is commonly viewed by the benefactors of their species.'

'Yes,' said Hazel. 'As if sleighing on the bare ground was good enough for people who generally walk. But you want them to forget the ground for a while, and go softly, and hear the bells.'

'What shall be the bells in this case?' said Rollo with his lips curling. 'Red apples? Or would pound papers of tea ring better? Or both make a chime?'

'With a small tinkle of sugarplums.—And oh,' said Hazel eagerly, 'do give them some little niceties to put on! Or let me. I have great faith in the power of fresh collars and ribbands.'

'Cannot manage anything of that sort up here,' said Dane demurely. 'That will have to wait for New Year's Day. Three hundred and fifty pieces of roasting beef—three hundred and fifty pounds green tea—ditto bushels of red apples—three hundred and fifty pounds sugar candy? Will that meet your notions of a chime of bells for Christmas?'

Hazel mused over it.

'Perhaps'—she said slowly. 'It is very difficult to know what will meet one's notions. If I could, I should like to give a little—just a little—bit of a touch to every spot that wants touching. A touch of light to the shadow, a touch of healing to the pain; a flower for every barren place. And so I should not like to give them a Christmas which they could eat quite all up.'

Dane's lips had been giving way, and now he laughed out.

'You are as impracticable as if you were a fairy. All that takes time, Wych; and as I am not by nature knowing of all things, it takes study. One day you will accomplish it. But in the mean time, I should think they could not quite eat up their whole Christmas in a moment; and as I said, we will see what can be done for New Year. If you approve. At the same time, the subject is open for discussion.'

'But you need not think me more visionary than I am,' said Hazel with a shy glance and laugh. 'I did not mean anything quite silly. Of course—all the barren places,—only God could fill them. But a touch to the sorrow, and a touch to the need, and a touch to the forlornness,—that is what I meant.'

'I did not think you meant anything silly. Tell me more in particular. I thought I was giving a touch to the need, with the beef; and a touch to the pleasure, with the apples and candy; and a touch to the comfort, with the tea. What shall I add to the list?'

'Perhaps nothing,' said Hazel. 'But I meant—You know, all those things are down on the same level,—and I wanted to get in strength and exhilaration of some other sort. Though I suppose,' she added gravely, 'I cannot guess how much even of that may be in roast beef when one has never had it before. Strength and hope and purpose may come that way too.'

'They do,' said Dane gravely.

'Well then, you have only to go straight on. Maybe they could not understand some tunes yet, if the bells rang them out.'

'Straight on,' said Dane smiling. 'And that will furnish me with full occupation between this and Christmas. Now another thing. I feel for the people in the other mills,—don't you?'

'O the other mills!' said Hazel. 'I feel for anybody who has any connection with John Charteris.'

'What can I do?'

'One would like to buy them all up! But failing that—What did you think to do?'

'May I have your thoughts first?'

'I was only thinking,' said Hazel, 'that it would not be good taste to go in among the Charteris men at all as among your own. Anything there, I should think, must be more general and less personal. Or done by somebody else.'

'Whom, for instance?'

'If Josephine had married anything but diamonds'—said Hazel, 'I might get hold of her. Or I might do it. But I suppose you would not like that. How could one manage?' The question put to the depths of her tea-cup.

'Why should I not like it?'

Wych Hazel laughed a little. 'Really,' she said, 'I do not know. Only you generally do dislike what I do—and I am seldom so happy as to know why.'

'That is a statement which one may call unanswerable,' said Rollo with a significant line of lip. 'And how you dare say it, is more than I can understand. How could one manage? Nothing easier. I draw you a cheque, and you write me an order. Unless you prefer to employ another agent.'

'O I was not thinking of money,' said Hazel. 'But it would not be quite courteous to enact Christmas in the mills without a word to the owner—bad as he is. I wonder if I could get hold of Josephine and hide behind her?'

'No. But you can try it.—What have you been doing, these two months?'

'Studying,—in brief. I do not mean that I have done nothing else.'

'Learning what?' They had left the supper-table and stood together before the fire.

'Learning?—that is another matter. When you study between fights, and fight between studies.'

'Hard learning—well learnt!' said he softly. 'Tell me more. Tell me results, Hazel.'

Hazel leaned her chin upon her hand, looking thoughtfully into the fire. 'Results?' she said. 'The result was unconditional surrender. At least I thought so—until—'

'Until—?'

'Until to-night. It is so good to have you back again!'—she said with the same brown-study air.

Half laughing, with extreme tenderness at the same time and also the expression of great gladness, both his arms enfolded her, and they stood quite silent for a few minutes, till Dane stooped to reach her lips.

'You shall tell me the rest when you like,' said he. 'Do you want to tell me any more now?'

'You would not like the rest. It was a very dark time, at first, when you failed me.'

He was quite silent again. Then drew her off to the sofa.

'I have another subject to talk about, Hazel.'

'Well, I am ready to listen.'

'You remember, I had two subjects to discuss with you.— Christmas in the Hollow we have arranged for. Now about Christmas here. My time is disposed of till the day is over. Then I must go to New York. I have a variety of business to attend to. I want furniture for my new coffee room, books for the school, furniture for the new cottages, gifts for New year. I intend to set up a grocery store also. For all these affairs, and for others, I must go to town the day after Christmas. I propose that we go together.'

'Yes, I want to go,' said Wych Hazel. 'I need a week in town, to get ready for the winter here.'

'Perhaps I shall be gone longer than a week,' said Dane, keeping his gravity.

'O well—I can easily find an escort back, if I get through first.'

'But I should not like that,' said Dane looking her in the face with his gray eyes very much alive. 'I want your help in my work—I want you with me every minute—I am tired of living without you. Don't you understand?'

'Yes, I understand that,' said the girl. Who should, if she did not!—

Dane's lips gave way. 'You do not understand much!' said he. 'Don't you see, Hazel, I am making the audacious proposal that I should carry my wife with me?'

The girl gave a spring away from him which at once put the breadth of the fireplace between her and any such notion.

'You characterize the idea so happily,' she said, 'that I will leave it there. Will you come into the other room, and rest, and be reasonable?' And Hazel disappeared into the hall and blew a ringing blast on her whistle for Dingee and lights. In the little corner room, when Mr. Rollo arrived there, he found a grand fire, and two arm-chairs on extremely opposite sides of the hearthstone, and Dingee and his young mistress intent upon the first efforts of the newly lighted wax candles. The tall white candles, their heavy, old-fashioned silver holders; and the dark red dress, and dark brown hair; and the swarthy cheeks of the little attendant,—were all aglow in the firelight. Wych Hazel's face was as far as possible kept out of sight. Dane stood beside the mantelpiece, resting his arm there and looking on; patiently, to outward seeming, so far as any expression of impatience was concerned.

Wych Hazel stood still for a minute after Dingee had gone, then with a slow, grave step went over and placed herself in one of the armchairs.

'Why don't you sit down?' she said. 'It is not good for you to stand.'

'People sit down to rest.'

'Well, as you are tired already, it is the only thing for you to do.'

'I have not gained my cause, and I cannot rest till I do. Bid me rest, Hazel! on that understanding of it.'

'Certainly not,' said Hazel. 'I cannot afford to lose my wits.'

'I am tired of living without you, Wych. Whether you have any sympathy with that feeling I do not ask. I only ask you to consider what regard it fairly deserves.'

'People do not feel apart, unless there is a barrier between,' said Hazel. 'As when you barred me out of Morton Hollow.'

'Inconsistent'—said Dane smiling; 'and weakly delusive. Hazel, you must give me a Christmas gift, and you must let it be that thing which of all others I want the most.'

'If you put it to me what you want,' said Wych Hazel, 'I should say, patience, and moderation, and a little practical common sense.'

'You are not the embodiment of those things,' said he daringly,— 'and yet I want you.'

'Everything that is worth having, is worth waiting for,' said Hazel composedly. 'You have enough of me now to criticize—that ought to content you.'

'Does it content you?'

Hazel started up, and went to him, just touching each arm with one of her little hands.

'Olaf,'—she said, 'will you please to sit down—and hush? You know what you promised when I should say that again—'

He took her in his arms and kissed her very fondly, and laughed a little; but holding her yet, became serious again.

'I am bound!' he said. 'But the nature of the case obliges me to premise a question or two. Am I not to speak on this subject again till you bid me?'

'No. Yes. That is preposterous. What is your next question?'

'How long must I wait first?'

'Just as long as you can.'

'Till to-morrow, then. Think of it, Hazel.'

Quitting the subject then, Dane went off into talk that would not even remind her of it, unless by some delicate chain of association. He gave her the story of his two months. The sick people had been at the first removed to the end of the valley, in some shanties apart from all the rest; and there he and they had been in quarantine together. There the fearful disease had seized one after another of that little band of poor Germans last-arrived, till ten of them were down with it at once. Everybody fled the spot; would not come near enough even to receive messages; and not for love nor money could help be got for nursing. Only old Gyda; and she and Rollo had had it all to do between them; even to washing the clothes the sick persons wore or had on their beds. Dr. Arthur of course had done all he could, but he had other sick beds to attend to; it was out of the question that he should devote himself solely to those at the end of the Hollow; especially as every visit there made needful a careful disinfecting and purifying process before he could approach anybody else, sick or well. Rollo and Gyda had struggled on together, one watching while the other slept. And so Dane would go from one sick-bed to the next, till he had made the round, and begin again; through it all thinking of what he had left at Chickaree, and of Hazel's pleadings that he had been obliged to disallow, scarce daring to think of the possible joy of going back to her again when the distress should be over. For he could not tell that it would ever be over without first laying himself as low as those whom he tended. The shanties where the sick lay, little better than sheds, had been very good for them but very trying sometimes to the watchers. However, the abundance of fresh air, and the careful quarantine, with a blessing upon the means used, had availed. No outsider had caught the infection, and only two of the sick had died. Those two, Rollo and Arthur had buried, alone and by night.

Softly, slowly, as a man who felt deeply the shadow of fear under which he had been passing and from out of which he had come, Dane told Hazel all this. And as one hears the verification of some fearful dream, so Hazel listened. She had taken her foot-cushion again, and sat with varying colour and averted eyes, and now and then a “yes” of full intelligence. For the scanty details she had received from time to time, had been more than filled out by her imagination; and point by point she seemed to know the story before it was told. By and by one hand came upon the arm of Rollo's chair, and then she leaned her forehead down against that hand, and so sat when the story was finished. Once or twice a quick shiver went over her; otherwise she was quite still.

'I was not unhappy, Wych,' said Dane after a little pause. 'My latent longing for you it is impossible to tell; but I could not let it come to the front then. And there is a walk and a place “with Jesus only,” which at the time is joyful, and on looking back to it seems to have wanted nothing.'

Her head stirred a little; presently, she answered,—'I did not think you were unhappy. If I had, I believe it would have been a help sometimes.'

'Hey?—a help? How?'

'You would not have seemed so far off. And I should not have seemed so much alone.'

'That was a mistake, Hazel.'

'I only said it seemed so. But there was a certain truth in it, too; because happy people never do guess exactly what goes on in the rest of the world.'

'Pray, do the unhappy people?'

But Hazel caught the sound of steps, and started away from her foot-cushion time enough to meet Dr. Arthur midway in the room.

'Rested, Dane?' said the doctor, standing before his late patient.

'That does not sound like a complicated question,' said Dane; 'but it means a good deal. I am ready.'

'What he wants,' said Dr. Arthur, turning gravely to Wych Hazel, 'is a change. If your grace could persuade him to go off for a while, in the right company, he would come back a new man.'

'I shall have a change this week,' said Dane rising. 'Come along, old fellow, or I shall prescribe for you.—I shall be here as early as I can, Hazel; before dinner.'

CHAPTER XXI. THE LOSS OF POWER.

Wych Hazel ordered an early lunch for herself, and a fire in the red room, and fresh flowers for its adornment; and with these last she was busy—humming over them the spell of an old German choral—when Rollo came in. The air was dainty with fragrance and sweet sounds. He smiled at it, and at Hazel; but after the first greeting was grave again.

'I have got news for you to-day,' he said.

'Have you?' said Hazel, intent on placing a Safrano rose. Then the tone caught her attention and she looked up hastily.

'Not more sickness?'

He shook his head. 'Paul Charteris has stopped work.'

'Is that all?' said Wych Hazel. 'The wonder to me is that such men ever go on.'

'He has not failed. He has stopped work. That is enough, of you knew what it means.'

'Not that all his men are turned adrift?'

'Just that. Three or four hundred families.'

'But they cannot move off and find work in the dead of winter!— What is the man thinking of?'

'Only, I suppose, of what are called the exigencies of business. There is not a good market, just now, for his cloths; he would be largely out of pocket presently if he went on paying out, with nothing coming in.'

'Could he do it?'

'I cannot tell.'

She bent thoughtfully over her flowers for a minute, touching them here and there; then looked up again.

'Have the same exigencies come near you?'

He smiled. 'No. I am sound yet.'

'But——I have heard business enough talked, if I could only remember it!—does not such a state of things by and by touch all goods and mills and mill-owners?'

'Sometimes. But nothing threatens me at present. Perhaps Charteris is less strong than he has been supposed. Perhaps he has been speculating.'

Hazel finished her flowers with another touch or two, and gathering up the scattered rose leaves—crimson and white and buff—showered them gently down upon the hand that rested near her on the table. Then she glanced up with a laugh.

'You know,' she said, 'the Charteris mills are my department.'

'Indeed! How am I to understand that statement?'

'O—you thought Christmas was not susceptible of extensions. Gentlemen's ideas, being so strong, sometimes move slowly.'

'Ladies' thoughts, being so subtle, are sometimes difficult to pursue,' said Dane; but his brow was grave.

'I am talking nonsense,' said the girl, 'but I mean sense. There is money enough,—and those people cannot starve, either with hunger or cold. And you have all your own men on your own hands,—and—I begin to understand what Dr. Arthur meant by “possible corners.” Don't you see that the other part of the Hollow falls naturally to me? What is the matter? Are you afraid I will support them on pound-cake and sugarplums?'

Dane's eyes leapt, and darkened, and lightened; but after all, his answer was sober.

'That will do; but you cannot permanently support Mr. Charteris's mill hands on charity. The only sure method of relief would be to buy up the mills.'

'Then we can run them against each other!' said Wych Hazel. 'What a splendid thought! I shall be a better neighbour that Mr. Charteris. I will only undersell you just a little.'

Dane smiled, but this time he said nothing. Only watched her continually.

'Then as Mr. Falkirk's consent might be difficult to get,—he is a little insane upon mills just now,—perhaps the purchase had better be made with the remains of my last winter's legacy. Over which, you know, nobody has any control but my own wise self.'

'How much do you suppose the purchase of those mills might require?'

'I have no idea. The legacy was large—and there is a good deal left.'

'A few hundred thousands?'

No, not so much as that. Well,—then I must have another ugly talk with Mr. Falkirk. He would not listen to you, one minute.'

'I should not listen to you, either, Wych; and I should have to be taken into consultation, you know.'

'Is not your consent enough, without consultation?'

'I could not properly give it.'

'Dear me,' said the girl, 'what a word 'properly' is! I think I never wanted to do anything, or go anywhere, that it did not rise up before me like a five-barred gate. What can I 'properly' do, sir, if you please, in the premises?'

Looking with his mighty gray eyes into her face,—soft they were too, and persuading, as well as mighty,—he said in a sort of whisper,

'Go with me to New York, Wych! Then we can make it all right.'

Her face grew suddenly grave with a frightened look, as if she had stepped into a net, or caught herself in a trap.

'We were not talking of that,' she said hurriedly,—'and there is no need to talk of that. And you promised.'

'There is no need to talk about it, if it is ever to be done,' said Dane smiling. 'If you will think about it—which I believe you never do, you will perceive that unless we are to be separated all our lives, we must some time or other be married. And the best way with anything you are afraid of, is to do it, and have it over!'

He had smiled, and his accent was very winning; but he grew grave again, and stood with folded arms looking at Wych Hazel. Even then he would not use persuasions; he would not have her against her will; but he watched her anxiously. If she refused him now, it might be long before he brought up the subject again. He would not tell her that, either; he left her free; and waited to see how the delicate balances of her mind would turn. But he sighed a little as she hesitated, and then smiled again as he spoke; a smile very frank and sweet.

'Be brave, Hazel! If you are ever going to trust me, you may as well do it at once.'

Hazel turned away and sat down on her foot-cushion, and buried her face in her hands. Was she ever to be done with fights and perplexities? was she ever to be quietly happy, like other people? Last night she had been sober for very joy, at first; and now after all those long, bitter two months, there was no sweet sunshine to follow. For being married did not look at all sweet to Hazel: it was true, she had hardly thought of it at all. Well, she could do as she pleased. Yes,—but she knew, without seeing, the disappointment to somebody else. That she did not quite understand it, did not hide the fact. And can a woman who loves, ever really prefer her own pleasure? She looked up with even a pale face, and the wet eyelashes that so few people had ever seen.

'You do not remember'—she said. 'You do not seem to understand!'

'You are the shyest bird that ever flew without wings!' said Dane drawing another low seat to her side. 'I understand wet eyes too well. I remember only that I have been waiting a year and half for you. But if I wait all my life, Hazel, I will not have you at such cost as that. If your heart is not as mine,—that it would be our happiness to be together,—I will go back to my work and wait another six months.'

He spoke gently and gravely, and stooped as he spoke to kiss the wet eyes.

'Statements'—said the girl, in an impatient tone which yet faltered and broke before it got through.

'You shall make the statements,' said Dane, getting her hand in his, and holding it with that gentle, firm clasp which, in some hands, expresses so much; soothing and steadying and sympathizing, and claiming too; all at once. 'What is the matter, my little Wych?'

Hazel paused, summoning her courage; enforcing quiet.

'It is no use to bring up such things,' she said, speaking very slowly. 'To talk of trust—and—liking to be together—mixing them up with 'if' and 'but.' Unless I have proved all that, I never can. But there are a great many reasons,—and you would call them fudge. And I know they are not fudge. And if you were to knock them down fifty times, they would rise up, fresh and strong as ever, after all.'

'I shall not play at that game of ten-pins. Do you think in your conscience I have any reasons?'

'Something that goes by the name, I daresay,' said Hazel sedately. 'But it is all different on your side,—you wait, or you hurry, just which you choose; and you are free through the one and through the other, and after both.'

'Free? As a man whose heart is chained, and whose hands are fettered. Was I free to marry you a year ago? or even to speak my thought? Am I 'free' now, Hazel?'

She half laughed.

'How would you like to cut short the one time of your life when you had a little power, even to say no? And—Mr. Rollo—you have been away two months. And October was very short.'—The girlish voice grew low and timid: Hazel knew that her arguments were strong only to her.

Dane lifted to his lips the little fingers he held.

'And so you have made up your mind that your power will be at an end when you are married? Am I going to love you less?—or will you love me less?'

'I did not mean power over you,' said Hazel; 'I meant independent power. And I have not much now, except when you happen not to care about using your own. As last night at tea.'

Dane could not help laughing a little again, but below that he was desperately serious.

'I will not have you troubled,' he said. 'Rather than that, I will go back and wait for you as Jacob did for Rachel; though I will not emulate his estimate of time, the circumstances being not similar. But, Hazel, there is something more to be thought of, which we have not touched. I cannot have you living alone here as you have been for the last three weeks or more.'

'Mr. Falkirk may be back. And you will be near enough to exercise any amount of supervision. And I will be good. If I can!'

'Mr. Falkirk writes that he may be detained indefinitely. And at twelve miles off, I am quite too far to be an efficient protector. Winter days would give me only short and late visits to Chickaree, except occasionally. And you know how it has been, Wych, since and before Mr. Falkirk went away; it is not fitting that you should be alone as you are; and exposed—As your guardian, I cannot let this go on any longer.'

It fell to Dingee just then, to appear as a witness for the plaintiff. He came in, bearing a handful of wonderful hot-house flowers and a card.

'I done told him you was engaged—des'pate!—Miss Hazel,' said Dingee,—'and he beg for jes' three minutes.'

'Say I cannot possibly give him three minutes!'—Hazel's brows were as near a frown as they could come.

'Then he say, tomorrer,' pleaded Dingee. 'Any hour Miss Kennedy please. Three minutes, one minute. He done set out for home, Miss Hazel.'

'I hope he will have a short, safe passage,' said Hazel: 'say that. And that I cannot see him either to-night or to-morrow or any day before he goes. And, Dingee!—not a word more or less!'—She waited till the boy was out of sight, and then flung the flowers from where she sat full into the fire.

If there was not a frown on Rollo's brow, there was a quiet set of the lips which told as much. But he waited. Knowing well that it made against her cause, but knowing too that it was his right, Hazel turned and laid the card in his hand: it was Sir Henry Crofton's. The frown came then, and the card was crumpled up in Rollo's hand and followed the flowers.

'Well, Hazel?' he said. 'You must feel the justice of what I said just now. There are only two remedies that I know. One of these you startle at. The other, is that you should take up your abode at Dr. Maryland's for the winter.'

'I could not do that!' she said hastily. 'But—Olaf—I have tried to do just right all these weeks. And if you think I do not know what discretion means, you can ask Mrs. Bywank.'

'I do not need to ask anybody for testimony concerning you, in that or any other respect. It is no question of discretion; except in your guardians; and that forbids them to leave you so.'

'Mr. Falkirk is not Mr. Falkirk!' Hazel broke out. 'He is all changed.'

Rollo left this statement to take care of itself.

'What do you think we had best do?' he asked cheerfully, after a minute. 'I will not tease you and hurry you—Shall I leave the question to be settled by a note from you, when you have thought it over? If you choose to go to Dr. Maryland's, I will make the necessary arrangements. If you can make up your mind to go with me, we'll arrange that. What do you say?'

'But you said you were going next week!—'

'I must. The day after Christmas. I wait to see these apples and pounds of tea safe home first. Then we will go and take care of New Year.'

Wych Hazel leaned her head down in her hands again. How easily he talked of it!—this matter that her whole mind hardly found room for. Yet she knew, better than he did,—better than she liked to tell him,—that it was not the thing for her to live there alone. Even discretion could not hinder what Mrs. Bywank called “a raid,” at home; nor keep her from being met and followed and waited on whenever she ventured out. But she could not live at Dr. Maryland's. To the tips of her fingers, Hazel knew that she should fly at the end of a week there—up the chimney, if no other way appeared. Prim's calm advice, and Mrs. Coles' sharp watch; even the good doctor's easy discussion of her and her affairs; could not be borne. She tried to smother the sigh that came up from the depths of her heart, but enough escaped to betray the trouble and perplexity.

'Shall I leave it?' said Dane very gently, though he on his part was swallowing deep mortification, not hindered by the fact that he did understand and feel for Wych Hazel's distress, in some measure. 'Shall I leave it? and you will write to me?'

'What about?' said the girl quickly. 'As you put it, I have no choice. Because I will not go to Dr. Maryland's. Neither now—nor ever— for safe keeping.'

'I do not want you to marry me just for safe keeping,' Dane said with a half smile. 'How would you put it, Hazel? Would you like to take time to think about it?'

'But there is no time to take!—And thinking for ever will not make two alternatives out of one.'—So thought Hazel to herself, but the words did not come out. She sat resting her cheek on her hand, studying this last hopeless fact; then by way of facing all her difficulties at once, looked up at her companion. Not meeting his eyes exactly,—a wistful, examining gaze; trying to strengthen her courage with the sight of what—after all—she loved best in all the world. For a second. Then hastily, as if still doubting her own resolution, she put out her hand and laid it timidly on his. Dane did not shew her the leap his heart made; and she could not see the flush that mounted to his brow. He made no demonstrations whatever, except to the hand which had come to him appealing in its surrender, and those were outwardly very quiet. And then, clasping the hand, he sat quite still; waiting to let Wych Hazel grow calm, if that could be, and ready for further talk.

Perhaps it was well, however (for a young lady of her wayward moods and tenses) that the next thing she had to do was to jump up and receive Dr. Arthur, who had come by appointment to dine at Chickaree. Dinner followed presently, and thus hostess cares and responsibilities for a time took the first place. But so grave a young hostess at the head of that table was a new thing. She did not forget one of her smallest gracious duties and offices; and she talked—at least as much as sometimes; but her face kept its soberness. The eyes did not flash and the lips did not curl. Dr. Arthur gave her a keen glance once or twice, at first; but finding a certain complement to all this in the face at the foot of the table, he turned at least his outward attention to other matters.

'Charteris takes it hard that you intend to keep running, Dane,' he said.

'Some other people find it hard that he don't.'

'Hard things affect people differently: they don't agree with him. And he announces that he will try how they agree with you.'

'I don't see what he can do to me at present.'

'Self-confidence is not one of your undeveloped graces. But I wish you had bought that gore at the top of the Hollow, as I bade you.'

'Powder did not care about selling it, at one time; and latterly I have had my hands too full. Why do you wish that just now, Arthur?'

'Because Powder has sold it now. And if I remember, your lease of the water power has not long to run.' Wych Hazel was listening, intently, with a sparkle in her eyes at last.

'I have no lease of water power. What I own I own. But anybody above me on the stream could make me trouble. To whom has Powder sold?'

'Just what I cannot find out,' said the doctor, 'though I went to himself. 'It is no matter,' he said, 'so long as the property was not in the market.' But of course it is Charteris. Josephine's marriage makes that pretty sure.'

Rollo laid down his knife and fork for a moment and sat with his head leaning upon his hand.

'As the Lord will!' he said. 'But I will not give up until I know more. I do not believe my poor people and I are to be in that man's power. I will wait and see.'

But the interest of the dinner was gone for one member of the party; and the attention he gave to other people or things was a preoccupied and shadowed attention.

Wych Hazel stood it a little while, watching him, much wishing that there was nobody else to hear: then she could not bear it any longer. After all, Dr. Arthur was just his brother.

'Mr. Rollo,' she said timidly, 'what means do you think the Lord can use to prevent this—that you fear?'

It was worth something, to get the look he flashed across the table to her; it was so brilliant with meaning and so sweet with confidence.

'A thousand things!' he said heartily; 'and you remind me that I am a fool to allow myself to be disturbed about it. I was thinking of those hundreds of families. And I half forgot for a moment that the Lord thinks of them too. I believe he will take care.'

'Would you like to know how?' said Wych Hazel. The tone was indescribably sweet, but the eyes had gone down before his.

'Would I like it?' said Dane watching her. 'Yes! I am afraid I am foolish enough still to like to know that, if I could. But I believe it anyhow, Hazel.'

'Governor Powder sold the land to me.'—

'To you!' said Dane in great amazement. 'What did you buy it for?'

'I thought it was well it should be bought,' said Hazel demurely.

'When did you do that?'

'A good while ago. Before the sickness in the Hollow.'

She got another look, if she could see it, which it was also worth while to get. After which Dane remarked sedately,

'I am curious to know how Mr. Falkirk liked that investment.'

'Mr. Falkirk never knew. It is a great comfort sometimes,' she went on, the loveliest roses waking up now all over her face, 'to have a little independent power. And to be able to act without one's guardians. Mr. Falkirk was not consulted,—any more than Mr. Rollo.'

Rollo's lips twitched and curved, but on the whole he maintained a decorous composure.

'We don't know our privileges, Arthur,' he remarked.

'No,' said his friend concisely. 'How ever in the world came Governor Powder to let the lady have the land? Why he has refused half the county!'

'I do not know,' said Wych Hazel. 'I think I made him.'

Listening to her, looking at her, Dr. Arthur thought that extremely likely.

'And did he tell you Charteris wanted it?' he said.

'O yes,—and that, perhaps, Mr. Rollo might.'

'But he did not know that he was playing into my hands, in letting you have it?' Rollo enquired.

'Of course not! I merely told him I wanted it more than Mr. Rollo, and would give more than Mr. Charteris.'

'Witchcraft!—when all's done,' said Dr. Arthur. 'Dane, when your independent power is in the market, let me know.'—He followed them into the red room, and took a cup of coffee there, standing; but then went off at once to see some patient, promising to call for Rollo on his way home.

And for once Wych Hazel would have been quite willing to have him stay. 'What would her “other guardian” say to her, for such meddling in his affairs? such tampering with masculine business?' She retreated behind her salver, and sat there sugaring Mr. Rollo's empty cup, but not counting the lumps this time. Rollo however hardly justified her fears. He did come and sit own beside her, and he did relieve her hand of the sugar tongs and kiss it, and from there the kiss did come to her lips; but it was all done so gently and gracefully and deferentially, as if he had been a knight and she a lady of olden time.

'How am I going to thank you, Wych?' he said.

'There is never a good way of doing needless things.'

'No. But hardly anything at this moment could have given me equal satisfaction. The way is cleared for me to work without hindrance. I'll plant the banks with wych hazel!'

'You will have a grand clearing away again, if you do. Then you really are glad, Mr. Rollo?'

'You do not mean to say that you will pull up what I plant?'

'I said you would. See,' she said, not ready for repartee or discussion or much of anything else to-night, 'you have cut short your allowance of sugar, and quite prevented the cream. Give me the sugar tongs, please.'

Divining that it was in some sort a help to her, he quietly let her have her way; and did not tell her how fully creamed and sugared he tasted his cup to be that night.

'I have learnt a lesson,' he drily said after he had watched her. 'Whenever I want to give you anything, I shall know henceforth that you would like nothing so well as power.'

She smiled a little bit, looking down at her folded hands, but she did not say a word. And Dane drank his coffee, for form's sake, without knowing whether there was either sugar or cream in it. And then he took Wych Hazel away from the table, and talked of things as far as possible from weddings and journeyings; till Arthur came again.

Dr. Arthur did not come in. But when his friend, in obedience to the summons, had reached the door of the red room, his progress was stayed.

'Mr. Rollo,'—came falteringly from the grave figure he had left standing by the fire,—'could you stop one minute?'

It is needless to say that Rollo's steps paused and came back instantly.

'Nobody to speak but me,—nobody to consult but him!' the girl thought as he approached her. It was rather hard, just now. But things had to be done.

'I will not detain you,' she said, hesitating over her words,—'not long,—but you did not tell me—will you tell me—how much time I have?'

As gently as if it had been her mother's, Rollo's arm came round her.

'Just as much time as you choose!' he answered. 'I must go to New York the day after Christmas,—that is, Friday; but the times that concern you are in your own hand. I was going to write you a note to-morrow, to ask you about it. Supposing that you go with me, we must be married either Friday morning, before we set out; or Christmas evening. I must be all Christmas day busy in the Hollow; but I could be here by five o'clock. What would you like best?'

Hard to say!—

'The Marylands were coming here to spend Christmas,' said Hazel,—'and they were so pleased—I do not like to forbid them. So it cannot be Thursday. How early Friday?'

'Six miles to drive to the station, and must take the morning train. It's not quite an “owl train”—but comes along. I believe, by eight o'clock. Why Hazel, if the Marylands will be all here Christmas, that will just fit.'

'Fit Friday. You could reach the train in time still, could you not?' she said timidly. It was dreadful to mix herself up with other people's business in this way!

'It shall be as you like, Hazel. It would be a little sharp work, to drive Dr. Maryland over here in the morning, time enough for breakfast and for the other drive afterwards. The words to be said, that you dread so much, I suppose will take very few minutes; but they must have a few. I could drive all night contentedly, with them in prospect; but it is somewhat different for him.'

Dr. Maryland!—Yes, Hazel saw that at a glance. She had left him quite out of her calculations. It must be Christmas.

'Then will you tell them they cannot come?' she said. 'Only do not say why. Do not tell anybody that, till the last minute.'

'Tell them not to come? Why no, you do not mean that? Will you forbid Prim, and Arthur, to be with us?'

'I am forgetting everything but myself,' said the girl with a gesture of impatience. Of course,—they were in effect his brother and sister. And she could not be so discourteous as to bid them dine at home. 'But you will not tell them, beforehand?' she said eagerly.

'Not a word!' he said smiling. 'But when shall we have the thing done? before dinner, or after?'

'After. You know,' said Hazel, explaining her strange request, 'there is nobody in the world who loves me much, to say words or send tokens,—and I could not bear them from other people. You may tell Dr. Arthur—if you must tell somebody.'

'I shall not tell anybody,' said Dane comfortingly. 'Dear Dr. Maryland, I suppose, would like a little forewarning of what is coming upon him; but he has married enough people in his time to be used to it. I shall tell nobody until the time comes.'

'I will not keep you—' Hazel said then, after a minute's silence. 'I have kept you too long now.' Then two impetuous words rushed out. 'If only!—'

'Well?' said Dane, without stirring.

'Nothing,—it is not anything you could grant. I know it is impossible; but if only I need not be at that dinner!—'

'You need not, if you do not choose,' said Dane caressingly. 'I will do my best to be head and foot of the table at once. But when the time comes, you will choose to be there, Hazel. Christmas day,— and such a glad one for you and me!—'

There came a quiver round the mouth and a glitter behind the eyelashes, but Hazel kept her voice.

'Go now, please,' she said, laying her fingers on his hand. 'You have had enough of my whims for one day,—just go—and forget them all.'

CHAPTER XXII. PREPARATORY FREAKS.

Hazel could not tell how she had borne herself, through all that trying evening. But when the evening was over, then she felt as if she could not have held out one minute more: with the wheels of Dr. Arthur's buggy rolled away the last mite of her self-control. One half minute longer of such tension, and she should have broken down, and called back her promise, and done everything else to be sorry for next day. It even seemed to her as she stood there, with all the repressed excitement in “a light low,” as if she could not bear the room itself; and (almost) the people who had been in it. As if she was wild and frantic and beside herself generally. She flew off upstairs—not now to solitary musings and lonely questionings, but straight to the housekeeper's room,—and was down on her knees with her face hid in Mrs. Bywank's lap, before anybody, herself included, had chance to breathe. For there are times, when in all the world there is nothing like a woman, after all. And in all the world, this was the one woman to whom she could come. But she would not speak nor look up nor at first answer questions; only hid her face closer than ever.

Now Mrs. Bywank had seen enough of her young lady, to know that every real heart sorrow Wych Hazel took to her own room alone. Also that any emergency of accident or fear, would be acted upon first, before getting the upper hand. Moreover the one look she caught as Miss Wych came in, told her much: the sweet flushed face, the shy eyes that avoided everything; the stirred, moved, frightened set of the mouth,—Mrs Bywank was old, and drew her conclusions. Not for many contingencies would Miss Wych have a fit of the nerves like this.

'So?' she said soothingly, laying her hand on the restless curls. 'Is that it! I thought there wouldn't be much waiting now!'—Which brought such a sudden start and twist, that Mrs. Bywank smiled to herself and knew she was right.

'And when is it to be, Miss Wych?'

'When I have breathed twice and turned round three times.'—

'My dear!' remonstrated Mrs. Bywank. 'I am sure'—

'You are sure of nothing!' said the girl quickly. 'And I am not. Not sure of myself. Not sure of anybody or anything.'

'Except Mr. Rollo,' said the old housekeeper quietly; smiling softly then at the success of her spell, for Hazel was silent. 'But that is the great point. And as I was saying, Miss Wych, I am sure I am glad; for I have been worried to death about you.'

'You ought to be worried to death about me now,' said Wych Hazel. 'I am worried to death about myself.'

'Yes?' said the old housekeeper fondly, curling the dark hair round her fingers. 'Are you my dear? What about, Miss Wych?'

'How can it go right, or be right, when it is all disagreeable?' said the girl. 'It ought to be pleasant—and it all isn't!'

'It's all new, just now, my dear.'

'Never to be free again!' said Hazel. 'Never to have my own way or do as I please!'—

'Ah,' said Mrs. Bywank, 'that was Eve's fault! But with a man like Mr. Rollo, Miss Wych, it will be your own if it gives you much trouble.'

'Things generally are, that do,' said Hazel. But she sighed a little, putting her face closer down in her hands. 'Byo,' she said after a pause, getting hold of the old housekeeper's hand now and laying her face there, 'it is very, very hard to have it so soon! I have not thought,—I am not ready,—I feel just as if I should fly!—'

There was no gainsaying part of this, and Mrs. Bywank tried petting and coaxing instead of reason, for awhile.

'But think how lonely Mr. Rollo is, Miss Wych,' she said, trying a diversion. 'Think what a two months he has had just now!'

'I am thinking about myself,' said the girl shortly.

'And I am thinking about your cake,' said Mrs. Bywank. 'If it was a little earlier, I'd go at the raisins to-night.'

Wych Hazel started up with an exclamation.

'Now stop!' she said. 'If you begin to make a bit of fuss, I shall run away. Who wants cake? People can eat cake at other times, I suppose.'

'I suppose they can,' said Mrs. Bywank laughing, 'but this is a good time too. You must have your cake.'

'There will be no dress to stand with it,' said Hazel. 'The cake will feel lonely—like me.'

Mrs. Bywank sighed a little, stroking the pretty head.

'My dear,' she said, 'you will be dressed, whatever you wear.'

'Can you guess how?' said Wych Hazel. 'I have not heart to put on a white dress. And I could not get a new one here, if I wanted it,— and I could not have it made up, if I did. And I wouldn't, if I could.'

'No,' said the old housekeeper, 'so my dear mistress said. “Bywank, it will be dreary work for my little Wych to choose her own wedding dress all alone. I must get it for her.” Then she sat and thought awhile—“No,” she said,—“the white would turn yellow, and the dark would fade.” And she stopped for a good while then,' said the old housekeeper in a trembling voice; 'but by and by she spoke up, soft and tender—“Bywank, if it is so,—if it should be so,—tell her to take some one she has; and give her my veil.—And when she is wrapped in my love—and Dane's love—she will not mind the dress.” And you were asleep on her lap all the while, my dear.'

Hazel was sobbing quietly in the old housekeeper's arms before the words were ended; but then she rose up, and kissed Mrs. Bywank on both cheeks, and went away.

And for awhile she felt better,—tears and coaxing can sometimes do much. She went to bed and to sleep, prepared to wake up next morning and do her duty, and be a pattern of all the wise, steady, and practical virtues. Instead of which, Miss Wych opened her eyes upon more freaks than had come at her call for many a day.

It was clear, sharp, winter weather, without snow; and the first fancy that seized the girl, even while she was dressing, was to spend every minute of spare time in the woods, while still they were hers. No use to reason with herself, or refute such a statement of things,—out she must go; and out she did—every possible bit of the next three days. Too conscious to let any one know where she was, not liking to have even Lewis look on; she would elude Mrs. Bywank, and post Lewis in some good open spot where he could walk himself warm and be within hailing distance. Then she would wander off, her whistle at her belt, and roam about from tree to tree and rock to rock of her beloved woods, coming home so tired!—Always in time for Rollo, if he was expected, never seeing any one else.

Then, except when he was there, she never sat a minute in the red room, though the fire was made there regularly, but sometimes she would wander over the old house in like manner, if the weather kept her indoors; sitting up late and rising up early, as if she grudged every minute spared from these last days. It was not good for her, this way of going on, and did by no means tend to steadiness of nerves; but no one knew who could interfere, and this time Mrs. Bywank would not tell. She did all the worrying to herself, with a sore heart.

It was a sore heart her young lady took with her in her wanderings,—in all her life Wych Hazel had never felt so utterly alone. No wonder she was grave when anybody saw her; no wonder reserve seemed to grow and deepen as Christmas came near. And there was another disappointment: the pretty Christmas doings of which she had thought so much, had lost all interest now. She had written one order and given others concerning supplies for the Charteris men; but all like a machine, with no pleasure nor life. Nothing was her doing any more,—what did it matter? And when in a quiet moment, at night perhaps, she would get hold of herself, and look at her own goings on; then it turned all to falsehood and treachery and every other hard name she could think of, until Hazel felt as if her cup of troubles was quite running over; and that if Rollo could know, he would never want to set eyes on her again. Ought she to tell him? Tell him what?—that he was the very centre of her life, only unhappily not just now a centre of rest. That was the sum of it all, when she footed things up; and no shyness nor freaks nor self-will would change that. The mere fact that there was no one else in the world, for her, made her cling to the very sound of his name, and so seem shyer—as he said—than any bird that ever flew. It was to be hoped, in these days, that he was good at interpreting negatives, and reading things upside down, for not much else came to his eyes. Only somehow she so far managed herself, that no slightest roughness ever came out towards him. A little abruptness now and then,—otherwise the extremest grave reserve, but graceful to a point.

He was pretty good help. Wych Hazel did not, it is true, see very much of him; the short days were full of business in the Hollow and he could not always get away; however he managed to come to dinner several times that week. And then he was full of talk and interest, full of quiet care and attention, but as calm and unconscious, seemingly, as if he had never heard of his wedding day. Only, Wych Hazel felt more and more in his manner that quality of reverential tenderness, which is the crowning grace a man can shew to a woman, and which a man never shews to any woman but one. It marks her as invested with a kind of halo in his eyes; as sacred and separate from the common world for evermore; while it is itself a sort of glory of division between her an them, even in the apprehension of the same world.

CHAPTER XXIII. FOR BETTER FOR WORSE.

The sun of that short Christmas day was already dipping behind the tall Chickaree woods, laying bars of light and threads of gold where once green leaves had been, when Dr. Maryland's little sleigh came jingling up the long hill road to the door of the house. There had been a heavy fall of snow two days before, and wanderings and rides—and everything but sleighing—had been effectually stopped. Only the doctor and his two daughters were in the sleigh; for Dr. Arthur was helping his friend in the Hollow, to appear with him by and by at dinner-time. But this day Wych Hazel did not come running to meet them, as sometimes. The ladies were ushered and waited on by Phoebe in one of the state rooms; and Dr. Maryland was taken care of in another to match, so full of wax candles and firelight and cheval glasses, that whether it was himself or the attendant that confronted him at every turn, the doctor could hardly tell. For though there was lingering sunlight still out of doors, shutters were closed and candles lighted all over the house, in every open room but Wych Hazel's own. In her special room of rooms and retreat of retreats upstairs, the afternoon sun came glinting in as long as it would, and for a successor had only the twilight. And there she knelt by the window, gazing out on the fired tree tops, and the gathering shades, till she heard the sleigh bells come. Yes, till she heard the steps go down the staircase, and the door of the great drawing-room open and close behind her guests. O if Mr. Falkirk was there! she thought. And then came Phoebe with a message, to know if Mrs. Boërresen might see her. Gyda was at once asked to come upstairs.

Hazel met her standing, in the middle of the room. It was in half gloom by this time; but even by the faint light Hazel could see the glitter of the embroidery on the Norwegian jacket. Gyda was in great state. The fair, mild, old face Hazel could not well see; the voice was its fit interpreter. Gyda came forward and kissed her hand.

'How is my dear lad's lady to-night?'

The adjective did double duty; but the tone was unmistakeably tender and anxious. Hazel had met her with both hands stretched out; now she drew her along gently to a chair.

'Sit down,' she said. 'I can be spared a few minutes.' But she herself stood still, keeping fast her hold. 'I am glad you have come. Are you well?—after all that fatigue?'

'Doesn't my lady know, there is no evil to them that trust in Him?'

'Yes.'

'It is a glad day for me, my dear; but I know the heart of a young maiden, and that it's not altogether a glad day for you. Can my lad's old nurse be any use? He told me to see if I could; that's why I'm bold to ask.'

Hazel passed her little fingers softly over Gyda's hand; she did not speak at once.

'Perhaps—after dinner. Will you sit here after dinner till I come? Now I must go.'

Hazel put her visiter in Mrs. Bywank's charge, and giving herself no time to think ran down stairs.

The great drawing-room was all ablaze, with hickory sticks and wax candles, and the reflected sheen from old chairbacks, and brass andirons, and silver sconces. The turkey carpet on the floor alone absorbed and hid the light. Into this glow came Wych Hazel suddenly and softly. She was in one of her brilliant toilettes to- night; one that made Mrs. Coles open her eyes, and forget for a minute to open her mouth; and must have plunged Prim in a puzzle. One vivid spot on either cheek, and the silky hair in curls and waves and rings of its own making, and the brown eyes looking somewhere where you could not follow,—it was better than a picture to see her, it was almost like music to hear her tread.

But old admirers of Miss Kennedy knew well, that a brilliant toilette did not bespeak the lady to be easy of access. So it was to-night; she was unapproachable. It was like looking at the fire through a glass screen. Yet she was very affectionate to Primrose, a little stately to Mrs. Coles; and gave Dr. Maryland's hand a grip of her small fingers which would have gone to his heart had he known what it meant.

'My dear!' said Mrs. Coles, 'you look as if you expected a party. It isn't true, is it? I thought we were asked to just a family gathering.'

'I expect only the gentlemen from the Hollow,' said Wych Hazel. 'Prim, are you quite warm?'

'It makes me warm only to look at you,' said prim admiringly. 'Oh Hazel, you do know how to dress beautifully.' Prim's eyes were wondering as well as admiring, and a trifle speculative also.

'It is of no use to dress for gentlemen, Miss Kennedy,' said Prim's sister, shaking her head, the fair bandeaux of which were in excellent order. 'They never know what we have on. It is mortifying—but it's a fact.'

'Facts about oneself often are,' said Hazel. 'But fiction comes in to set things straight.'

'I am thinking,' said Mrs. Coles, in a half whisper and with a smile, 'how Dane's principles will harmonize, by and by, with Hazel's practice. Will he hold himself responsible, Prim, do you suppose?—or will he console himself with the reflection that he cannot help it? Though if Dane Rollo does that, it will be the first time in his life. What are his notions about dress, now-a-days, Miss Kennedy? has he revealed them to you yet? I don't see any change in his own.'

'I think I know more of my own notions,' said the girl. 'Dr. Maryland, you have taken the very hardest chair in the room! This is the one you ought to have, by me.'

'You have a pretty house, my dear,' said the old doctor as he obediently made the change. 'I never saw it look prettier than it does to-night. A handsome old house! I hope Dane won't want to make any changes here. If he does, don't let him, my dear.'

'He won't,' said Prim. 'What an idea, papa! Dane has some sense.'

'When anybody gets in the spirit of change, though,' said Prudentia,—'you never know how far it will go. He may think one end of the house suitable for a hospital; or build an addition for a refuge.'

'Prue, you do talk nonsense,' said her sister. 'Hazel wouldn't like that; and Dane wouldn't like what she wouldn't like.'

'Wouldn't he?' Mrs. Coles responded, with a little, most disagreeable laugh.

'Hazel will be able to regulate all that,' said Dr. Maryland. 'I don't think Dane would do what she would disapprove of. Ha, here they are!'

The jingle of the sleigh bells was heard passing the windows; and for a minute all the party were silent. And the Christmas wind moaned in the chimney, as much as to say, 'I have seen many a Christmas here; you are all new comers, compared to me.' And Wych Hazel sat trying to manage herself, with her heart on the jump. She had been breathless and speechless during the late pleasant little discussion of her affairs, but now for the moment even Mrs. Coles was forgotten. The next thing was a message from Mrs. Bywank; could Miss Wych step to the housekeeper's room for a moment? And in the housekeeper's room Hazel found only one person, and that one was not Mrs. Bywank.

He met her eagerly, and at the same time with the manner of reverential tenderness she was accustomed to have from him lately; as if he remembered how alone she was, and that he must be mother and lover and all in one. And she did her best to give him a smile; but he got it most in the low-toned intonation, after all, with which she answered his question, how she was?

'You did not get the Christmas gift I had intended for you,' he went on; and if his eye had a sparkle of joy in it, his face and manner were as grave and quiet as consideration for her could have suggested. 'I have been disappointed, much to my mortification. The carriage has not come. I had ordered a pony chaise to be here, which I thought you would like. The pony is on the stable.'

She glanced up at him and down, with quick changes in her face, but somehow words would not come. His words touched too many things,—and things would not bear touching, to-night. And she could not say a common “thank you”; she could not talk of the trouble he had taken; and pleasure was rather hull down at present, with some leagues of uncertain weather between. No use!—

'How could you find time?' she said timidly. But again the voice supplemented the words; and Rollo probably did not feel himself unthanked, for he went on with no want of content in his voice.

'I have left all happy in the Hollow. Every house has a Christmas dinner; and your sugarplums are making life sweet to the souls of young and old. Charteris men and all; every house has comfort in it to-night. I wish you could have seen a few of the faces that came to thank me. You know, I sent off the parcels to the several houses; so for a while I worked on free enough; but when the thing began to get wind, men, women and children came collecting about me, looking on with great eyes of wonder, and some eyes of tears, and muttered words—I can tell you, I wished them all away!'

There was a suspicious sympathetic softness in Rollo's own eyes, which complemented his words.

'Then the Charteris men at last set up petitioning. Wouldn't I have mercy on them?'—And Dane broke off short, and turned to the table where lay a jewel case.

'Here is a sugarplum for you, Hazel,' he said presently, with his voice clear again. 'You do not want sugarplums—but I want you to have this.—'

What he took out was an old-fashioned, rather massive, gold chatelaine; heavy and rich and quaint, with various trinkets fastened and hanging to it.

'This makes you my castle-keeper,' said Dane, proceeding to attach it properly to Wych Hazel's belt. 'My mother used to wear it. This,'—taking up a little gold key,—'you will observe, is the key of your money-box. These seals you will study at your leisure. Here is a wee gold compass, Hazel; this is symbolical. It means, “Know where you are, and take care which way you go.” Your vinaigrette you will never get again. I shall have to find you another.'

The jewel hung richly at Wych Hazel's side, giving a curious touch of stateliness to the little lady. Indeed little she was not, in matter of stature; it was the extreme daintiness of every detail that gave occasion to the epithet. Dane's eyes took the effect. Hazel stood looking down, possibly taking the effect too. Then she turned short about.

'I have nothing to give you,' she said,—'except—You will think all my gifts are in one line.'

She was gone out of the room in a moment, but in another moment or two was back again, and holding in her hand a little gold locket. 'I found it one day among the old things, and I thought, perhaps, you might like—'

She touched the spring and laid the open locket in his hand. It was an exquisite miniature of herself as a child; the Wych Hazel of six years old, in a white frock. A few hurried words finished the sentence.—'Might like to see what they gave you, so long ago.'

In all true manliness there is a large element of tenderness; and something stirred the tenderness in this man more than he cared to shew. Wych Hazel's mood needed no exciting. He was very still for a few minutes, looking at the locket, with eyelids dropped too low for her to see his eyes; then he turned to kiss her.

'I do not take this from your hand, Hazel, but from your mother's. You cannot give me anything to-day but the original. I hope she will know how I hold both.'

It was time to rejoin the people in the drawing-room, but it suited Hazel to let Dane go in by himself and to follow afterwards alone. She did not so escape Mrs. Coles.

'I thought,' remarked that lady with a significant smile, 'that your housekeeper was too skilled in her business to need consultation with anybody.'

'Prudentia,' said Dane, 'you are not looking well.'

'That is very impolite—from a gentleman to a lady.'

'Not from a brother to a sister, though.'

A flush rose into Mrs. Coles' cheeks, which were pale enough, and a strange confusion of expressions for a moment reigned there. She was plainly surprised, evidently gratified, as evidently very much puzzled. Withal, so much moved, from whatever cause, that her features were not quite under command and her answer was scarce intelligible.

'She's been a little weakish, or so,' said her father, 'She don't complain much.'

'What's good for you?' said Dane.

'It is good for her to be out,' said Prim. 'But you know we can't much in this weather. Arthur drives her out sometimes; but Prue don't like his driving so fast. Do all doctors drive fast? Why can't they go like other people?'

'Policy. If we drove slowly, people would say we had small practice.'

Dr. Arthur found it unusually hard to get his hands warm to-night, and still stood up by the fire taking notice. Among other things— there was not a flower in all the rooms. Nor a wreath, nor anything that even looked like decoration. The doctor's quick eyes went from the unadorned rooms to Wych Hazel's dress, and her face, and Dane's face. After which, Dr. Arthur professed himself comfortable, and sat down. But a little silence had fallen upon the people; and the wind moaned in the chimney again.

'It is a sweet time, this Christian time,' said Primrose. 'I always enjoy it. It feels like Christmas, somehow, here to-night. Listen to that wind. I dare say it is going to snow again. But it sounds like Christmas.'

'Why?' said Dane.

'I can't tell the why of things,' said Primrose. 'I suppose I have been thinking of your doings in the Hollow, Duke. Wasn't it good?'

'It was very good, Prim. It is good now to think of. Yes, it does feel like Christmas, as you say. All Mill Hollow is happy to-night. No! I'm too hasty. The Charteris men cannot be happy; for they don't know what is to become of them when their Christmas beef is gone!'

'What will become of them, Dane?' said Primrose, looking very anxious.

'There is no hope for them, except in the mills going on with work.'

'And is there any hope of that?' said Mrs. Coles.

'Not unless somebody buys them off Charteris's hands.'

'Perhaps you'll do that.'

'I should hardly think that would be prudent,' said Dr. Maryland. 'Dane's responsibilities are large as it is.'

'Miss Kennedy, perhaps?' suggested Mrs. Coles. 'Hasn't Dane touched your heart for the mill people, Miss Kennedy?'

She turned for a better look into Hazel's face; but Rollo interfered again.

'You forget she is under guardians, Prudentia. What would Mr. Falkirk say?'

'How comes it Mr. Falkirk is not here?—to-night of all nights!' said Dr. Arthur suddenly. He was sitting by Wych Hazel, and she answered pretty steadily, though certain intuitions were waking up concerning his face.

'Mr. Falkirk wrote that he could not come back for Christmas,— nor perhaps until spring.'

'He does not take the same pleasure in it that Prim does,' Rollo remarked.

The dinner bugle, and the opened door, cut short all further comment upon Mr. Falkirk. Wych Hazel went in upon Dr. Maryland's arm, with a strange feeling of its being the last time,— the last of her entertainments, which had been so pretty and popular. So she felt when in her place at the head of the table, with Dr. Maryland on her right and Dr. Arthur on her left. There were flowers enough here, the table was in a glow. Not stiff baskets and made-up bouquets, but cut flowers in every sort of dish and arrangement for which there was room; from the low narrow border of violets and rosebuds which fenced off the plates, to parian shells and fairy glasses and a bewildering pyramid in the centre. The very candlesticks were wreathed. No gardener's work; those who had seen such before knew the touch of Wych Hazel's own fingers. She hardly knew it herself; and eyes that watched her might catch now and then a dreamy look at the flowers,— wondering if she had arranged them!—if she should ever arrange any more.

Besides this the table was bountiful of course with the old Chickaree silver and china and glass; and by each plate, on the rich damask, lay a separate, individual knot of flowers, with a scroll around it, naming the guest. These were culled flowers; but Dr. Arthur took notice that Wych Hazel did not even handle her own, but left it where it lay.

Then, shielded under each napkin, was some pretty token of Christmas. A weighty book, for which Dr. Maryland had been longing; and for Dr. Arthur a fine field glass. Mrs. Coles rejoiced in the prettiest ring she had ever possessed; while by Prim lay a heap of little articles,—a fruit knife, a gold thimble, a superb cutting-out scissors a foot long.

'That must be the very tool employed by Bluebeard!' said Dr. Arthur. 'I always marvelled at the clever celerity of his work. Prim, when you are married you must give that to me.'

'Looks suspicious for his wife!' said Dane.

'I like thoughts in such things,' said Dr. Arthur, looking towards the foot of the table and the bonbonnière that stood by Rollo's plate; a good-sized wheelbarrow loaded with cotton-bales of French candy. 'Which is it Dane?—work in sugar, or sugar in work?'

'The two terms are so transposable, I need not trouble myself much to find out which.'

So the dinner went merrily on. Of course Mrs. Bywank's part of it was unsurpassed; and but one thing was missing to which guests there were accustomed—Wych Hazel's laugh. But her attention to the guests never failed, and if she only played with her dinner, and if she was all the time living a double life and carrying on two trains of thought, few people found it out. Once indeed, apropos to some demand for roast beef, she wandered quite off to Morton Hollow and the Charteris men; and then of a sudden the lips parted in a full smile, and the brown eyes went down the table to Rollo for sympathy. A moment of forgetfulness followed by one of great confusion, as she remembered that he could not possibly know what she was smiling at. Hazel was glad to drop her napkin or do anything else to put her face out of sight. As for Dane, his part that evening might be described as filling gaps. He did it admirably. Perhaps he was not to be greatly credited for that, inasmuch as happiness is a great lubricator of the social wheels. He did it, at any rate, easily and coolly too, according to his usual wont. He talked to Dr. Maryland, was affectionate to Prim, amused Mrs. Coles, watched over Wych Hazel and took care of her if ever an emergency in the conversation made it desirable.

The evening in the drawing-room sped quite merrily away, and only the quick flutter of the lace round Wych Hazel's throat, told of something hidden and not at rest. Some European views for the stereoscope were brought out of their corner, and Rollo led the talk in the direction thus indicated, where he had plenty to say. Suddenly passing to Wych Hazel's side he sat down and said half softly,

'There is another view we were going to shew them—a new one— is it ready to be introduced? or will it come better later?'

He got another quick look then,—searching, exploring,—a look to be remembered.

'Give me a few minutes—'

And presently, when no one was looking, the little lady flitted away out of the room.

It is fair to say that the gentleman so far lost his presence of mind for some minutes thereafter, as to be justly chargeable with what is called absence. He scarcely answered the observations addressed to him, and made several on his own account without very well knowing what he was talking about. And so, for a little, if Time “gallopped” up stairs, he went rather slowly, with one or two at least, in the drawing-room. Dr. Arthur presently drew off from the views and took position again by the mantel-piece,—probably to hear the Christmas wind, which was very musical just then. And probably the doctor's thoughts too wandered off; for after a while he took a pair of white gloves from his pocket and began abstractedly to fit them on.

'Arthur!' said Mrs. Coles severely, whose eyes were never known to be off duty,—'what can you be about?'

'That's the way some people do,' said Rollo after a quick glance; 'they are never ready for an occasion till the occasion is half over.'

'But what is the “occasion”?' said Mrs. Coles.

'Christmas day at Chickaree—dinner—and, Arthur seems to think, ceremony.'

'Look at Arthur, Prim,' said her sister.

'It is a leisure moment,' said Dr. Arthur fastening a button,—'and I so seldom have leisure in which to try on new gloves. One of the minor comforts of life, is having your gloves fit.' And Dr. Arthur glanced at Dane from under his brows, and went back to his other glove and the Christmas wind again.

'I declare,' said Prudentia, 'I think you are very unceremonious!'

'Extremes meet,—here as often elsewhere,' replied Dane.

'But what have you been getting new white gloves for, Arthur?' asked his younger sister.

'They look better than old ones, Prim,—when they fit.'

'Has Molly Seaton sent you cards for her wedding?'

'I dare say.—What about it?'

'She hasn't,—nor anybody else,' said Rollo.

'Useless things'—said Dr. Arthur. 'I am glad they have not come.'

Another time Dane might have discussed the subject; but not to-night. He was silent. And as people catch the hidden influences abroad in the air, the others grew silent too, not knowing why, thinking it was the wind which drew their attention. Dr. Arthur, leaning against the mantelpiece with his eyes on the floor, in an attitude of keen listening, had plainly forgotten his gloves; and the fire snapped softly, and the red coals fell, and still nobody spoke. Until, when some little time had passed by, there came a sound of steps in the hall,—steps slow and rather heavy; and the door opened softly, and a vision came in. Not hers the steps they had heard; so noiselessly she came in, so vision-like she looked, so lovely, so girlish in her loveliness, that a caught breath, a half exclamation, greeted her on all hands. The glittering dress was all changed. Not for the white clouds in which her mother might have arrayed her, nor for anything that should make her conspicuous, or could be so. More for seclusion than for show, Wych Hazel had chosen her bridal dress. Dark,—so dark that the depths of folds might have been black, and only the light-touched edges threw off a sea-green reflet; with no ornaments but the châtelaine at her side, with no adornment but her own silky hair in its own wayward arrangement. To all this there was just one addition. Hazel had taken the lace veil,—exquisite in pattern, cobweb-like in texture,— and laid it across her head like a Spanish mantilla, from whence it came down about her on all sides to the floor, leaving only the face and the front of the dress clear. One little ungloved hand held the lace lightly together; for gloves that there was nobody to take off, Hazel could not put on.

Mrs. Bywank and Reo followed close behind her, behind them old Gyda. But there is something in a crisis which stills some natures; and while the faces of the faithful old retainers, weatherbeaten with life's alternating wind and sun, worked and stirred with emotion, the girl herself was quiet and composed, with almost the grave childish calm of her own little picture. Her step was a little quick, but even the colour did not stir, until when after the first three steps into the room there came a minute's hesitation, as if she did not quite know where to go, now she was there. If any others of the household followed—as probably they did—those who looked saw only the three; and perhaps the glitter of Gyda's embroidery just behind.

Just while Wych Hazel made those three steps into the room, there was a pause upon all that saw her. A half smothered 'My dear!'— came from Mrs. Coles' astonished lips, and was arrested mid way. For so many seconds Dane did not move, losing everything else in the direct vision; but then he was at Wych Hazel's side immediately and gave her his arm. A great light had come up into his face, all the light of a smile, but he was not smiling. He led Wych Hazel forward till they stood at the edge of the semicircle which had spread out right and left of the table, everybody having risen to his feet.

'You see what we want of you, Dr. Maryland,' he said. 'Will you do us the greatest favour you ever can do us?'

'My dear boy!—Dane!' exclaimed the old doctor in bewilderment,—'is it possible? Is this little lady ready on such short notice?'

'She is ready,'—replied Dane, with a hidden ring of strength and tenderness in his voice that only one person could fairly comprehend. And Dr. Maryland seeing them stand still waiting before him was fain to believe his eyes and began to bestir himself to make his preparations. Not many were needed.

'There is a Bible on that table yonder, Arthur,' said Rollo, standing like a rock. Mrs. Coles by this time found breath.

'But Dane!—My dear Miss Kennedy!—you don't surely mean to do without having a wedding?'

'Hush, Prue!' said her sister.

'But I never heard of such a thing in my life!—'

Nobody heeded her.

Dr. Maryland was ready, and Dane leading Wych Hazel to a place in front of him, dropped her arm and stood beside her. It was time, for a crisis will not bear tampering with; and the girl had grown visibly paler under pressure of Mrs. Coles, and hands were trembling a little, and lips almost. Then she drew herself up with her old quick gesture, and sealed all that, and hid it away. And it was but a few minutes. There was no want of sympathy in Dr. Maryland's sweet, grave ministration; a little accent of gladness was here and there perceptible, and his prayers were exceedingly earnest and loving. The words of address he directed to the two young people were searching and stirring words, such as Dr. Maryland could well speak; but it was all swiftly over, though his utterances were the reverse of swift. On the contrary, they were tender and deliberate. But even so, it was quickly over, and Hazel was receiving the congratulations of her little knot of friends.

Now character came out. The old Doctor's touch of her brow was hearty enough but a little formal. Prim's kiss was trembling. Prudentia's was the impact of wooden lips, moveless and hard; one would have said, sinister, if an expressionless thing could be said to have expression. All the notes of the scale were between her husband's kiss and that, Dr. Arthur almost making up for the rest with his glad, brotherly greeting for Hazel and a brother's wring of the hand for Dane. But from them all, Wych Hazel turned and threw her arms round Mrs. Bywank. Restraining herself then with a great effort, she raised her head and took Reo's hand in both of hers; but not a word passed on either side. And Gyda, who had meekly waited her turn, drew near and lifted one of Wych Hazel's hands to her old lips. She too said nothing audibly, and made way for others of the household who were bashfully coming in.

'Now will you tell me, Dane,' began Mrs. Coles, when the pause at her end of the room had lasted, as she thought long enough, 'why you and Miss Kennedy have done things in this unheard-of sort of style?'

Perhaps Dane thought it was not a proper question, for he folded his arms and did not answer. Perhaps he did not hear her; for, though with no outward token of it, he was somewhat anxiously watching Wych Hazel.

'What made you do things in this way, to disappoint all the world?' The lady's face wore a smile which was meant to be gracious, however the words sounded not so.

'Prue,' said Prim, 'people have a right to be married in their own way.'

'But my dear!—Don't you think you owe something to society, Dane? In your position?'

'I never understood my obligations to society,' said Dane carelessly.

'But do you think it is fair, to disappoint all the world?'

'Always fair to disappoint improper curiosity.'

'Well, but why is that improper curiosity?'

'Curiosity about other people's business,' said Dane good-humouredly.

'And do you call that improper?'

'I suppose not,—when custom has made it seem to be your own business.'

'That's it; custom has made it not only seem but be so. And I think it is perfectly natural and reasonable and proper. When does a lady show to more advantage than on her wedding-day? And why should not the world have the benefit of it?'

'I do not know why not,' said Dane smiling,—'if it suits the parties concerned.'

'Why didn't it suit you, you jealous Musulman?'

'When a lady has never been seen to advantage,' remarked Dr. Arthur,—'that may alter the case. Her Grace is hardly one of those.'

Not one word had come from Hazel's lips, that anybody heard, since those few which nobody was likely to forget. Indeed she had kept herself rather off from the group, among her own dependants, one and all of whom had by degrees filled up the background. And it was no trifle to give even a touch of the hand to all those eager retainers; the touch and the look, which was all she ventured. Now the room was clearing again; and whether Hazel had heard all the talk or no, her cheeks gave swift token that Dr. Arthur's last sentence had reached her ears. “Her Grace”—she could not throw off the title any more.

But whatever the rights of the public may be in the matter of seeing, the right of discussing, with the parties at hand, Hazel plainly thought needed a check. So the next thing that attracted— or distracted—Mrs. Coles, was the soft ringing peal of her little whistle; and answering promptly to that, the tea bugle. Then the door flew open, and Dingee brought in the tea-service. The tray, with the rarest old china cups, which even Rollo had never seen, followed by Mrs. Bywank's cakes and other home-like dainties. And Wych Hazel glided off to the rather distant table, gathering in Mrs. Bywank and Reo and Gyda for her train; and hid herself behind the hot water kettle, putting its soft cloud of steam between her and all disturbance for the time being. Then Reo was sent to build up the fires,—he was a rare hand at that; and Dingee was despatched for something else; and Hazel demanded little bits of help from the other two near her; talking softly to them, it was plain, though still with the same grave young face. But the whole picture was sweeter than anybody could tell.

Looking at it, from his place in the other group, something drew Rollo's steps that way; slow, quiet steps, which however brought him to Gyda's side, whom Hazel had seated at the table. While he was safe with her, Wych Hazel watched her chance, and the next thing Dr. Maryland knew, she had brought and set down by him on the table the perfection of a cup of tea. Without a word she was away again and back in her place behind the tea urn; where with Gyda et her side and the delight of Gyda's eyes standing there near the table, Hazel took up the sugar tongs again and tried to remember what amount of sweetening commonly sufficed for Mrs. Coles.

'Now Dane,' said that lady, with a kind of acid sweetness of manner, as Rollo brought her the cup,—'do tell me why you have conducted things in that way?'

Rollo looked grave and asked what things.

'Why you know! Have you sent out any cards?'

'Have you sent out any cards, Hazel?'

'Things must be sent in before they can be sent out,' said the young lady, who having dismissed Dingee had come herself for Dr. Maryland's cup.

'Ambiguous'—said Dane turning to Mrs. Coles; 'but I take the sense of it to be, that no cards were sent. That is not unprecedented.'

'For people situated just as you are, my dear, it is. Now tell me— don't you want all these people—I mean, everybody in general—to visit you?'

'Ambiguous again,' said Dane smiling at last a little. 'Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we do!'

'Then why not pay them the customary compliment of telling them so?'

'But suppose, on the other hand, that we do not?'

'Why you certainly know,' replied Mrs. Coles with some asperity, 'whether you want them. Do you? or don't you?'

'I think I might say,' answered Dane demurely, 'we do,—and we do not.'

'But that is nonsense, Dane.'

'Is it?'

'You ought to want them.'

'Well—I have told you; we do.'

'Then are you going, when a suitable time comes, are you going to invite all these neglected people and give them a good Reception? you and Hazel?'

'We will give them a good reception if they come,' said Dane with provoking want of enthusiasm.

'O I never can get anything out of you!' said the lady discomfited. 'I might have known it. Papa, do you think it is well to set all the institutions of society at defiance?'

'Why Prue,' said Dr. Maryland somewhat astonished, 'you speak as if Society were monarch of the realm. I believe we live in a republic.'

'What do you mean by Society?' asked Primrose.

'Why!—You know.'

'I do not, indeed.'

'It means,' said Dane, 'in this country, all people in general who have incomes above a certain limit; them, and those whom their powerful hands lift from a subjacent platform to the freedom of their own.'

'All people who are rich enough to invite you as you invite them,' said Dr. Arthur.—'Prim, where is your comprehension? How can you put your feet under a man's mahogany, if he happens to have none?'

'Is it different in other countries?' asked Mrs. Coles.

'Yes. Birth counts there, and breeding, and what a man happens to have inside his head.'

'And does not birth count for something here?' cried Mrs. Coles.

'I have no doubt it does.'

'But not with you?'

'I speak of things as I find them,' said Dane smiling slightly. 'And in generalities.'

'Well, think what you like of society; are you not going to regard it at all?'

Dane turned to the Bible which still lay upon the table, and opened it. 'What do you say to this, Prudentia?'—

' “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.” '

'Then you will live alone, I suppose, and make Hazel live so.'

'Not at all,' said Rollo coolly; 'that does not follow. The words I was reading go on—“But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” '

'But my dear Dane!' said Mrs. Coles breathlessly; 'you don't mean to say that you take all that literally?'

'I do not see how it is to be taken figuratively,' said Dane looking at it.

'Why it means, of course, that we are to be kind to the poor.'

'But kinder to the rich? That looks like turning the figure topsy turvy; and in that case you get a view which can hardly be called correct.'

Hazel had left the tea-table now, and come softly up, taking a low seat half behind Prim's chair, leaning her head against it. In the shadow there she was looking and listening.

'It is a choice of invitations, that is all,' said Dr. Arthur. 'The Lord returns all the civilities shewn to poor people—and rich men return their own. That is the only difference.'

'That is the comfort I have when anybody shews me kindness,' said Dr. Maryland, with a wonderful, simple, bright smile, rising as he spoke. 'I am one of the Lord's poor people; so I am never troubled about the returns. Come, my children—we have four miles in the snow before us.'

CHAPTER XXIV. ONE AND ONE ARE TWO.

'They will never agree, those two!' said Prudentia Coles, the next morning at breakfast.

'They will agree perfectly!' said Primrose.

Good Dr. Maryland lifted his eyebrows in astonishment at both utterances.

'Their ways were too different,' said Mrs. Coles.

'Their ways will be alike,' said Prim.

'Of course, their ways will be one,' said the doctor. But he was very old-fashioned.

And people do not change their natures because they happen to love one another, nor even because they happen to be married. Still less!

There happened to be a run of very bad weather for several days after the two persons concerned arrived in New York. That did not indeed hinder business in Wall street and elsewhere, but it put an effective barrier to pleasure seeking out of doors. The best and most exclusive appointments of the best hotel, did not quite replace Chickaree, during the long days which Hazel perforce had to spend by herself. At last there came a morning when the sun shone.

'What have you got to do to-day?' Rollo asked her.

'One trunk to fill for other people, and two for myself.'

'Sounds large! Can you do it in a day?'

'I am an adept at filling trunks.'

'Let me see your purse.'

'O that needs no looking after,' said Hazel, flushing up.

'I only want to see it,' said Dane smiling. 'Not to rifle it. I want to see what sort of a thing you carry.'

The “things” were two, and very like Hazel; a pocket-book and purse of the daintiest possible description. Various coins shewed through the gold meshes of the one; the Russia leather of the other told no tales. Rollo turned them over, half smiling to himself.

'Is there enough here for to-day's work?'

'I have Mr. Falkirk's cheque for my last quarter's allowance. I generally make that do,' said Hazel.

'Doesn't your stock need supplementing?'

'No, thank you,' she said softly and shyly.

'I will arrange all that presently, Hazel. Meanwhile I am very sorry I cannot go along to help you fill those trunks; but I have several people to see and less pleasant work to do. We'll get some of this business over, and then we'll play. Take a carriage, and Byrom shall wait upon you.'

'I do not want Byrom. He is not used to me. And perhaps I may walk.'

'Byrom is used to me,' said Dane significantly.

'Proof positive of my two propositions,' said Hazel with a laugh. 'Waiting on me, is bewildering work to a new hand.'

'If I give it him in charge, he will do it well. Byrom has a head.'

'But I do not want to be given in charge. Have not I a head too?'

Rollo laughed at her, and remarked that it was 'one he was bound to take care of.'

'So am I, I should hope,' said Hazel. 'What do you suppose I shall do with it—or with myself generally—that you call out a special detail of police?'

'Did Mr. Falkirk let you go about by yourself?'

'Always! At least, so far as he was concerned,' said Hazel correcting herself.

'I warned you what you were to expect,' said Rollo lightly. But then they came to the breakfast table, and something else was talked of. When the meal was over, and he was about going, bending down by her chair, he asked,

'What time will you have the carriage?'

'No time,' said Hazel. 'I have decided to walk.'

'I want you to take a carriage and let Byrom attend you—the sidewalks are in a state of glare ice this morning.'

'I am sure-footed.'

'I am glad of it,' said Rollo half laughing. 'What hour shall I say?'

'Why none!' said Hazel emphatically, with a passing thought of wonder at his obtuseness, though at the moment she was deep in her notebook. 'None, thank you.'

Rollo's eyes sparkled, as he stood behind her, and his lips twitched.

'Is that the way you used to handle Mr. Falkirk, when he expressed his wishes about some point of your action?'

'Mr. Falkirk was indulged with a variety of ways.'

'Have you got a variety in store for me?'

'For any deserving object—I am extremely impartial,' said Hazel turning a leaf.

'Won't you give me another variety then, this morning?' said he softly. 'Because I am not going to let you go out on foot to-day, Hazel.'

'Not let me?—' Hazel repeated, looking round from her notebook now to ask the question. There was no explanation in the face that confronted her, nor any consciousness of having said anything that needed it. Hazel looked at him for a second, open-eyed.

'What can you possibly mean?' she said.

'If it means interference with your pleasure, I am sorry.'

Probably something in face and figure made this reply more definite than the words, for Wych Hazel's face waked up.

'But it does!' she said. 'I told you so at first.'

'It would interfere with mine very much, to have you go as you proposed.'

'But that is simply!—' Hazel suddenly checked her rapid words, and brought her face back over the notebook again; bending down to hide the crimson which yet could not be hid.

'What is “simply”?' said Dane, touching his own face to the crimson. But Hazel did not speak.

'I must go, Hazel,' said he now looking at his watch. 'I have not another minute. I will send Byrom to you for orders.' And with a very gentle kiss to the bowed cheek as he spoke, he went off. And Hazel sat still where he left her, and thought,—with her face in her hands now. Thoughts, and feelings too, were in a whirl. In the first place,—no, there was no possible telling what came first. But was he going to direct every little thing of her life? Well, she had given him leave last winter, in her mind. That is, if he would do it. But would he really? Somehow she had fancied he would not. She had fancied that—somehow—he would find out that she had a little sense, and trust to it. She felt so disappointed, and caged, and disturbed.—And then she had withstood him!—a thing he never pretended to bear. Maybe he had gone off disappointed, too. And one of her old saucy speeches had been on the tip of her tongue!— and next time, as like as not, it would slip out, and what should she do then? What should she do now?—go out as she was bid, like a good child? Hazel almost laughed at herself for the bound her mind gave, straight back from this idea,—which after all was the only one to act out. For the old sweetness of temper had taken to itself no edge, and the old dignity which had so often found its safety in submission did not fail her now. Nevertheless, Wych Hazel rose up and stood before the fire, knotting her fingers into various complications. Yes, it was her duty to go. But when Byrom knocked at the door, Hazel sprang away to the next room and sent her orders by Phoebe. Then, after the old comical fashion, she worked out her waywardness in every possible proper way that she could. She put on one of her wonderful toilettes, and then went slowly down the broad stairs (thinking fast!)—and flashed out upon Byrom like a young empress in her robes. And a sinecure he had of it for the next few hours. To stand at the carriage door and receive the most laconic of orders; to see her pass from carriage to store and from store to carriage, erect and tall and stately, and with no more apparent notice of the icy sidewalks than if they had been strewn with cotton wool. If he followed close to pick her up, Wych Hazel took no notice and gave him no chance. In like manner she did her work with an executive force and gravity which made the clerks into quicksilver and drove one or two old admirers whom she met nearly frantic. They hailed her by her old name; and Hazel got rid of them she hardly knew how, except that it was in a blaze of discomfort for herself. And after that she kept furtive watch; quitting counters and stores, and rushing up—or down—in elevators, after the most erratic and extraordinary fashion; a vivid spot on either cheek, and eyes in a shadow, and a mouth that grew graver every hour. O if she could but order the coachman to drive—anywhere—till she said stop!—but no such orders could go through Byrom; she must work off her mood at home. And so at last, in the darkest dress she had, Wych Hazel once more sat down before the fire, and put her face in her hands. All through the day, under and over everything else, the old shyness had green growing up, mixing itself with the new,—the old dread of having a man speak to her in the way of comment, with a thought of blame. Would anybody do it now? So she sat until steps came to the door and the door opened; then she rose quickly up.

But the matter which had occasioned her so many thoughts, had scarcely given Rollo one; and it was plain he had fully forgotten it now in his gladness at seeing her again after the long day. His face had nothing but gladness; and as he took her in his arms she felt that the gladness was very tender.

'Work all done!' he asked.

'O no.'—Hazel was glad too. The day had been long.

'But I am going to play to-morrow!'

'Well, what about it?'

'Work must wait. We have got a great deal to do. Don't you agree with me, that every full cup ought to flow over into some empty ones?'

'Instead of into its own saucer?' said Hazel, who was rather abstractedly brushing off an imaginary grain of dust from his coat stuff. 'Perhaps it would be safe to allow that I do.'

'Well,' said Rollo laughing at her, 'there are plenty of empty cups. How many can we fill to-morrow?'

'If you have been at work on that problem, no wonder you want play. How many?—I do not know. How much too full is your cup to-night?'

'It feels like the widow's inexhaustible cruise of oil. And by the way, I believe that the store from which anybody may supply others, is inexhaustible. Now let us consider.' And he stood silent and thoughtful a few minutes, Hazel not interrupting him.

'I can tell you one thing,' he began again. 'Prudentia Coles would like a black silk dress; and she cannot afford it.'

'I certainly owe her that,' said Hazel,—'and a royal purple to boot.'

'How do you “owe” it?'

'For tipping my cup over, once. I wonder whether she thought I was too happy to be let alone?'

'Give her both the dresses, Hazel. She is not a happy woman. It will fill her cup for the time being.'

'Then, if you talk of debts,' said Hazel, 'I owe Prim the greatest quantity of wholesome animadversion. It never was of the least use to me,—but she ought to be paid for it, all the same.'

'I suppose you deserved it,' said Rollo coolly.

'Do you?' said Hazel. Had she? Her thoughts flew over the confusions of the day,—then before she began again, Rollo asked,

'Have you written to Mr. Falkirk, Hazel?'

'I? No. I have nothing to say to him.'

Rollo looked at her, first with a grave consideration, and then his lips twitched.

'Nothing to say to him?' he repeated.

'Nothing whatever.'

'Does it fall to me to instruct you in the proprieties? It is due to him to inform him that you are his ward up no longer; that you have done what he would very much have disapproved, and married me at a week's notice; which, you may tell him, was not at all your fault, and done principally for the sake of the men in the Charteris mills. Don't you see, Hazel, that you ought to tell him all this?'

'No,' said Hazel, with one of her old witch looks flashing out for a moment. 'If your right of way does not cover all the disagreeable business, I cannot see what use in the world I can make of it.'

'My right of way?—' repeated Dane looking at her.

'Yes. The right to do what you please should be extended to take in all that I do not please.'

'Across all which of mine, your right of way, I suppose, takes a zigzag track!'

'Underground.'

'It will be dangerous there!' said Dane, his eyes flashing. 'For pity's sake, Hazel, keep it aboveground.'

'Collisions are bad things,' said Hazel,—'and switching off on a side track tries one's patience. But about Mr. Falkirk—there never was the least atom of father and daughter between us; he always kept me at arm's length. It was one of the trials of my life. And he has been just throwing me off more and more,—a year ago twenty sisters would not have made him leave me alone. And he said nothing but unpleasant things before he went,—and I should have to lay all the blame on you. And in short,' said Hazel summing up, 'he could not be angry with my letter, and he could with yours,— which would comfort him up.'

Perhaps it was the thought of Hazel's great loneliness that touched him, the very remembrance of which he wished to kiss away; perhaps something else had its share in the caresses which were as tender as they were loving; but then he said softly,

'It would not be the proper thing, Hazel.'

'Well.—' A rather long breath gave up the point.

'Don't you see it, Wych?'

'Not quite. But you do not know how he talked before he went away.—Nor what sort of a letter I shall be sure to write. I shall tell him that as it distracted my attention to run counter to two people—'

'You will write a very gentle and careful one. He loves you very much, Hazel. Which was one reason why he was so unwilling that you and I should get acquainted.'

Wych Hazel looked up at him with absolute terror in her face. 'What do you mean?' she said.

'It is not very strange. I have the greatest respect for Mr. Falkirk— and not the less because he had sense enough to love you a little too well. Do you remember your making him go to Catskill?'

Wych Hazel's head went down on her hands, without a word; but outside the shielding fingers the distressful colour shewed itself in every possible place. Remember!—what did she not remember?— things she had done, things she had said.

'He was afraid,' Dane went on smiling, 'that if I had a chance to see you I might choose to take the conditions of the will; he had good reason to fear! You must write him the dutifullest, gentlest, lovingest letter, Hazel; and lay off the blame of everything upon the shoulders that can bear it. Mr. Falkirk knows me. And if, by and by, we could coax him to come and make his home with us, I should be happy.'

'And everybody knew it but me!'—said Hazel, thinking out. 'It is good I can do no more mischief.'

'What is that?' said Dane laughing. 'What mischief have you done?'

'Hush—I was talking to myself. But oh, I am so sorry!—' Looks and tones and words and recollections were pouring in upon her like a flood.

'What are you sorry for? You need not be sorry, my little Wych,' said he, changing his tone with the last words. 'You have done him good and given him pleasure for so many years; and I am not without hope that both good and pleasure will be renewed and continued to the end of his life. So write a nice letter to him. And come to dinner in the first place.'

But it was a very remorseful flushed face that came to the table.

'Done him good and given him pleasure!' she repeated;—'teased his life out, would be nearer the mark.'

'That did him good,' said Dane dryly. 'That is the way you expect to give me pleasure, you know.'

From under a queer little lift of her eyebrows, Hazel looked up at him. 'Is it?' she said with equal dryness.

'Does the leopard change his spots?'

'The other half of the simile is more like me,' said Hazel,— 'however, if you prefer this—But given the spots, the pleasure may be to seek.'

'I can find it, as fast as you find the spots. Will you have cheese with your soup?'

Hazel thought within herself, declining the cheese, that the day when she ventured any of her old pranks with that particular person, was somewhat remote. Would she ever be “true witch” again, she wondered?

'You forget,' she said. 'You told me once yourself that you thought very few men could stand it.'

'I meant—except me,' said Dane with great coolness.

'You'—didn't, was on Hazel's tongue, but she let it stay there. A quick, bright eye flash went over her, but Dane kept his countenance and went on with his dinner. He understood very well one or two things that were in Hazel's mind. He knew that she thought she had lost liberty in marrying, and he knew that she was mistaken in thinking so; but he also knew that the sweet growths of the mind cannot be forced; and he could wait. He never said “my dear” and “my love” to her, this man; he let Hazel find him out for what he was, all hers; but it might take time. He thought he would give her a little help.

'Have you been studying the third chapter of Genesis?' he asked when the servant was out of the room.

'No. At least—I was thinking of Adam and Eve a little when you came home.'

'In German or English?'

'English prose.'

'It is stronger yet in German. “Dein Wille soll deinem Manne unterworfen sein, and er soll dein Herr sein.” I think you have been studying it in German. But Hazel, that is the form of the curse; and the curse is done away in Christ.'

'But,' she said gravely, her timid reserve coming back with the subject,—'But the facts stand.'

'What facts? And take some nuts along with the facts.'

'The facts—of the case,' said Hazel, using her nut-cracker and laying the meats abstractedly on one side. 'The right of way,—and strength to enforce it,—for two.'

Again Dane's eyes flashed and the corners of his mouth were a little hard to keep in order.

'Neatly put—' he said.

Hazel glanced at him, but she ventured no questions.

'But you forget, Hazel,' he went on gravely, 'that all that, the odious part of it, belongs to a state of things that in Christ is passed away. It remains true, no doubt, that “the man is the head of the woman;” else the lesson-type would not answer to the lesson, which is to set forth the beauty and nearness of the relation between Christ and his church. But in a right marriage it is also true that “the woman is the glory of the man.” Not the housekeeper, nor the nurse, or the plaything, still less the bond- woman; but the GLORY. She is the flower of all humanity; the good and beauty and grace of all earth, finds—for him—its perfectest bloom and expression in her.'

She listened, smiling a little bit, then grave again.

'But that'—she said,—'is that what it means?'

'Excuse me. What what means, Wych?'

'The words you quoted. The last words.'

'Do they mean what I said? Certainly.'

'And only that?'

'Can you make them mean more?'

'For me, a good deal more.'

'Then it will be for me, probably. Go on, and explain.'

'No, perhaps not for you. You might be perfectly content with the flower, as you call it, in your hand; content with your content; looking no further.'

'You are mistaken,' said Dane, with a manner both amused and pleased.—'I should never be content with my content.'

'But I mean—' She was not very willing to tell her meaning, the words came slowly,—'I used to think, that being so much to him, she must needs be something in herself. That only one who was a glory in herself, could be the glory of another. In my way'—Hazel added, dropping her voice, ' “She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” And he will be “known in the gates” by more than the robe of purple and silk which her hands have woven!—'

As far as the face could then, it went down, bending over the nuts. Dane looked, and smiled, and took no advantage.

'I do not see the difference of your view from mine,' he remarked quietly. 'You credit me surely with so much discrimination as to perceive that some women are nobody's glory,—even as some men are fit to be nobody's head.'

'But people do not think so,' said Hazel. 'People make it out to be just something supplemental,—a sort of convenient finishing up the few trifles of comfort or help wherein a man may be deficient. That is what they all say.—It is a very queer thing to be a woman!'

'Is it?' said Dane gravely.

'Yes!' said Hazel with one of her outbursts.—'Prim tells me not to vex you, and Dr. Maryland wants to know if—if I shall be a help or a hindrance, in short; and he hopes you will not let me have my own way too much. Nobody enquires if you are likely to vex me, or to try my temper, or to develope my character, or help on my work; nobody supposes that I have any work, of my own. But if I have not, that is only the more queer.'

Rollo left his seat, he had got enough of his nuts; and coming behind Wych Hazel gently laid hold of both her hands and freed them from what they held, then insinuated her chair backwards, and lifting her out of it led her away to the fire and wrapped her in his arms. What it was no use to say, he did not say, however; as he had once told her he never asked for a thing he could not have, so even now, he would not supplicate for confidence which must be the growth of time. She would find out for herself, by and by, what concerned him; and the rest he did not are about. So his answer now was a departure. He did not kiss her; he stood pushing back the brown curls from her brow, on one side and on the other, looking down into her face with eyes which Hazel instinctively knew were too mighty to meet just then. So standing he coolly asked her,

'Do you love me, duchess?'

'I was talking of loving myself,' said Hazel, touching up her flushed cheeks with vivid carnation.

'I can do that better than you can. How about your part?'

'Reasoning from facts—probably—I must!'

'You are afraid to confide that deep secret to me? Now I should have no sort of difficulty in proclaiming mine to anybody who had any business to ask it. It must be a queer thing to be a woman!'— said Dane, with a dry, humourous, but at the same time wholly tender and sweet expression.

'Have I not confided it?' Hazel said under her breath. 'Do you think I would be here? What makes you ask such things? Is it because—' But there she stopped.

'Because is a woman's reason. I never do things “because.” What did you mean to ask?'

'I think I have been very unlike myself,—that is all.'

'I never saw you unlike yourself,' Dane said, in that gentle manner and tone of his which was more than epithets and endearments from other people. Much more; for those might be mere forms of expression, and these could not be. And she enquired no further, nor raised her eyes to search. Standing there with a host of other questions in her mind; questions she would like to have discussed and settled, but which never would be;—so she thought. Unless indeed in the slow, unsatisfactory way in which time settles all things.

CHAPTER XXV. PRIM'S TRUNK.

We cannot go into the next day's shopping, though it was a very enjoyable day for the two people engaged. Some things however must be mentioned, on account of words and thoughts to which they gave occasion.

The business on hand this day was the getting of New Year's gifts for everybody in general. And as, with the exception of the Hollow people, it had also to be for everybody in particular, the work was slow.

Wych Hazel wanted a secretary for Primrose, in the first place. A very beautiful one was found, very perfect also, of some light-coloured ornamental wood, finely inlaid, price three hundred dollars. On the other hand, Rollo got one, a larger one, and equally good, for Arthur Maryland, for just half the money. One for Prim was to be had for a third of the money; but it was unadorned black walnut, and less elegant in form, and Wych Hazel recoiled. She would have got the first without hesitation, only she could not coax any encouragement out of Rollo.

'Do you think she would like this plain one better? Do you?'

'Suppose the difference, in the charge of a note, lay in one of the drawers, for Prim's poor people? Which do you think would give her most pleasure?'

'O that,—if you put it so. But I wish I could suit myself too.'

'You can suit yourself too,' said Dane smiling.

'I'll think about it as we go along. You see,' she said meditatively, 'I could put the cheque in, just the same.'

The next place in order was Stewart's.

'I have something to get for Prim, too,' said Rollo as the carriage stopped. 'I have provided a new patent upright trunk; and I propose to stock all its compartments. Will you help me? Else, I am afraid, I shall never know all that ought to go in.'

'Well,' said Wych Hazel,—'is it to be filled with Prim's ideas, or mine?'

'Let us give her what she can use and enjoy; every comfort we can think of; and nothing that would not be a comfort. You wonder at my choice of a present, perhaps; but Dr. Maryland's means are very limited, and I know Rosy often hesitates about a new pair of gloves.'

'I can choose gloves,' said Hazel confidently. 'But then—Dane—”

'Well?' said he, smiling, as he pushed open the swinging door.

Hazel walked on in a brown study.

'Never mind,—let me see you begin, and maybe I shall learn how to go on,' she said, as they paused before one of the dress goods counters.

It was no doubt new experience to her. For Rollo began with soft merino and warm plaid pieces, choosing colours and qualities indeed with care, yet refusing the more costly stuffs which were offered. Except that he indulged himself and Primrose with a delicate gray camel's hair at last. At the silk counter he would not be tempted by the exquisite tender hues which the shopman suggested to his notice; no, he looked, and called for others, and finally bought a good dark green and a black, the mate to Mrs. Coles' black silk. At the glove counter he handed the matter over to Wych Hazel. She had watched all his proceedings with observant eyes, saying hardly a word, unless upon some point of quality where she knew best. Now she faced him again.

'How much do you want to invest in gloves, please?'

'That is not the point. I want to stock her glove drawer. Warm gloves, cool gloves, dark gloves, light gloves; you have carte blanche. I will look on now.'

Hazel laughed a little.

'There are more sorts of gloves than that. What about six buttons?'

'Six buttons!' repeated Rollo.

'Would you like more?'

'I do not understand the question. Excuse me.'

Wych Hazel held out her dainty wrist, turning it slightly that he might see.

'I approve of that,' said he, looking gravely down at it.

'But you cannot have that for nothing,' said Hazel.

'What?' said Dane, his eyes coming now with a sparkle in them to her face.

'Hush!—Don't you understand? The more buttons, the fewer gloves—if you are limited. That was why I asked how much.'

'The buttons do not look costly.'

'But they are—in effect.'

'What's the difference?'

'Every additional button counts for so much,' Hazel told him.

'How many buttons are needed for comfort?'

'Twelve are best for some occasions,—and I think I have one box with two.'

'But how many are needed for comfort?' said Dane, inquisitorially now.

'Why!—as I told you,' said Hazel. 'The comfort of a glove depends on its fitting your dress and the occasion as well as your hand.'

Dane pulled a card out of his pocket and did a moment's figuring on it with his pencil. Then shewed it to Wych Hazel.

'Do you see?' he said low and rapidly in French. 'If you are buying so many—the difference between two buttons and four would keep a fire all winter for one of Rosy's old women who has no means to buy firing.'

Hazel looked at him with open eyes, shook her head, and moved away. 'I see I must quit my side of the counter,' she said. 'That would not suit Prim's “views” at all. May I get them with two?'—

Practically the same thing went on in the lace and embroidery departments. In the shawl room Hazel was better satisfied, though even there Rollo was content with less than a cashmere. Furs, linens, ribbands, what not, claimed also attention; and Prim's trunk took a good while to fill.

The next thing was a new carpet for the long library at Dr. Maryland's.

So went the day, with many an other purchasing errand, general and particular. New Year's gifts for the mill hands and the children; the supplies for the stores which Rollo was purposing to open in the Hollow, where all sorts of needful things should be furnished to the hands at cost prices; an easy chair for Reo, a watch for Mrs. Boërresen; books, pictures, baskets. In the course of things Hazel was taken to a Bank, where a dignified personage was presented to her and she was requested to inscribe her name in a big book, and a deposit was made to her account. Also a good down town restaurant was visited, where they got lunch. It was a regular game of play at last. Rollo bought, as Hazel never before saw anybody, things he wanted and things he did not want, if the shopman or shopwoman seemed to be of sorry cheer or suffering from that sort of slow custom which makes New Year's day a depressing time to tradespeople. And Hazel looked on silently. It was so new to her, this sort of buying, and (it may be said) the buyer was also so new! She did not feel like Wych Hazel, nor anybody else she had ever heard of, and could hardly find self- assertion enough to execute her Chickaree commissions when she saw the right thing. She made a suggestion now and then indeed,— “strawberry baskets” and “fishing lines” and “worsted.” 'Byo says Trüdchen knit every minute she was at Chickaree,' she remarked. And every suggestion she made Rollo acted upon as fast. Some things were ordered at once to Chickaree; others were sent or taken home with them to the hotel; whither at last, with their work but half done, the two busy and tired people repaired themselves.

A pile of business letters demanded Mr. Rollo's time after dinner; and while he was somewhat absorbed in them, Hazel softly brought a foot cushion to his side and placed herself there. It was almost a demonstration, the way she did this, but she ventured nothing further, and sat there still and absorbed in her own musings. Dark blue silky folds lay all around her, and hands and arms came out a little from the wide lace sleeves and were crossed upon her knees. Rollo's eyes wandered to her from his letters once and again, and finally he tossed them aside, and stooped down to look at her and pull her curls a little away from her face.

'Business can wait!'—he said. 'What are you musing about, duchess?'

'O, a host of things!—'

'Take me along.'

'So I have.'

'In what capacity, pray?'

'General Superintendent.'

Rollo began to laugh. 'May I know what I am to superintend?'

'Well,' said Hazel, with a bit of a laugh on her side, 'you were filling my trunk—and I could not tell how!'

'Why not?' said Dane, drawing a long curl through his fingers.

'Would it be like Prim's?'

'I hope I have more discrimination!'

'As how?'

'Than to think the same things would suit two so different people.'

'O I did not suppose you would muffle me in stone-coloured merino,' said Hazel,—'but I mean—You know what I mean!'—

'I should not like you as well in stone-coloured merino as in blue. Should a bird of paradise wear the plumage of a thrush or a quail?'

Hazel looked soberly down at the dark silky waves that rippled along between her and the firelight. She said not a word. Dane knew well enough what she was thinking of, but chose to have the subject brought forward by herself if at all. He paused a minute.

'Would you like a trunk filled like Prim's?'

Hazel trilled her fingers thoughtfully over the hand that lay near her, and then suddenly asked, 'Does that annoy you?'

'Not much,' said Rollo drily. She glanced up at him.

'Mr. Falkirk used to hate it.—And I forgot what my hand was about,' said Hazel; sedately folding it again with its small comrade. From which it as brought back, first to her husband's lips.

'Have we got to the bottom of that trunk yet?'

'There was another point,' said Hazel. 'Should I ever get to the bottom of it?'

'Never!' said Dane. 'If getting to the bottom of it implied using what you took out.'

Hazel laughed a little.

'That was just how I felt, 'she said. 'But Olaf'—growing sober again—'after all you do not answer the real intrinsic question.'

'How would you state that, as it presents itself to you?'

'Whether you would fill it so,' she said, looking musingly at the fire. 'So,—not in precise colour, of course, nor exact pattern,—but in general quality—and plainness—and—' she paused for a word.

Dane said quietly, 'Probably not.'

Hazel went back into an unsatisfied muse.

'One would think,' she said with a half laugh, 'that I was an inquisitor, and that you were answering under torture!'

'Come,' said he, 'you shall not say that again. Question, and I will answer straight.'

'Perhaps my questions were not very straight,' said Hazel, still arguing into the fire. 'But I really did bring two empty trunks from home for myself—and in all these days—'

It occurred to Rollo that he had heard and seen nothing of any purchases for herself.

'What in “all these days”?' The words look bare, but the gentle, fine intonation carried all of caressing tenderness that other people are wont to express more broadly.

'I have not known what to put in them.'

'How is that? You never found such a difficulty before?'

'No. Nor now. I could fill them both in one hour. But then if I did not want to take out what was there, I might as well have Prim's at once.'

'Why should you not wish to take the things out?' said Rollo, with an inward smile but perfect outward gravity.

'I made up my mind—last winter,' said Hazel rather low, 'that I should not always like what you like,—and that I would act as if I did.'

The first part of his answer Rollo did not trust to words; but presently he told her, half laughing, that he thought she was wrong in both her positions.

'You think I will—and you think I won't,' said Hazel. 'Is that it?'

'Not at all. Yes, half of it, the first. I think you will, as you say. But I never want you to act contrary to your own feeling; and if I can help it, I will not let you.'

Hazel laughed a laugh of frank amusement.

'Always excepting,' she said, 'the few occasions when my “feeling” does not answer the helm! You see,' she added, growing grave again, 'I have all my life bought just what I liked, and as much as I liked, and because I liked.'

'Precisely my own principle. I hope you will do it all the rest of your life, duchess.'

'Because you hope my likings will be just right. Yes, but how shall I know? For to begin with, they are as wayward as a west wind.'

'Let us see. What is your motive of choice in buying?'

'Just that I said—what I like. I can tell in a minute what suits me.'

'Beauty, harmony, and fitness, being your guiding objects.'

'Well.'

“Well. You cannot be too beautiful, or too harmonious, for my delight.'

Hazel sat silent again, thinking, puzzling. 'I wonder if I understand you?' she said. 'O I have had plenty of comments made on me before,—I think I was a sort of shock to some people. Good people, you know,—at least the best I saw; nice quiet old ladies, and proper behaved young ones. But then—'

'Go on,' said Rollo smiling.

'Well, I used to think they did not know what they were afraid of. Twenty duck shot would not have mattered, if only the gun had been wrapped in green baize. It was just the glitter of lock, stock, and barrel. Even Prim would have been easy if I had worn things in a heap.'

'You must just reverse those conditions to express my feeling. I believe we ought to make ourselves as beautiful as we can, for the highest reasons. Only,—and here perhaps I shall touch the hidden point you have been feeling after,—there is one other thing which comes first.'

She looked up, waiting his answer. He looked deep into her eyes as he gave it, with a slight smile at the same time that was very sweet.

'Do you remember?—“Seek first the kingdom of God.” Therefore, before even beauty and harmony. So, if I can secure these with one dollar, don't you see I must not spend two? The Lord wants the other dollar. He may want both. But generally, for all the purposes of use and influence, I believe he means us carefully to make ourselves, so far as we may, lovely to look at.'

Hazel clasped and unclasped her fingers, working out her problem in the fire again.

'His kingdom in all the world,' she said slowly. 'The harmony having its keynote from heaven, and then finding its accord in all one's earthly life. I suppose that was what David meant—“O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.” '—She laid her head down upon her arms and said no more.

'Is the tangle out?' said Rollo gently after a minute.

'That must be the right end of the thread,' said Hazel looking up. 'I ought to be able to find my way. But I shall have to send my boxes back empty, and take six months to find out what I want.'

'You do not know of anything that you want at present?'

'I thought I did!' said Hazel with a laugh,—'but how do I know? Maybe I have enough,—maybe somebody else wants it more. Olaf—is there an endless perspective of needy people in this world?'

'What if?' said Rollo. 'What if Life were one long day of ministry? does that look like a worthy end of life? and does it look pleasant?'

'I think—it does,' said Hazel slowly. 'I mean, I think it will. I have not looked yet. But then, at that rate—'

'Yes—what at that rate?'

'At that rate,' said Hazel, raising her eyes to his face, 'you would want the buttons off my gloves as well as off Prim's?'

His fingers were slowly, tenderly, pushing back the curls from her temples and caressing the delicate brow as he spoke, and his eyes were grave now with thought and feeling.

'Hazel, I would like to pour flowers before your path all that long day, and to set you with jewels from head to feet. Diamonds could not be too bright, or roses too fair. And if the world were all right, I believe I should dress you so. But it is not all right. Suppose we were travelling in Greece, and I were captured by those brigands who fell upon the English party the other day; and suppose the ransom they demanded exceeded all you had in hand or could procure—how would you dress till my recovery was effected?'

'That would be you—' said Hazel quickly.

'And what is this?—Our Master, in captivity, hungry, sick, and naked,—literally and spiritually,—in the persons of his poor people. And the question is, how many can you and I save?'

Wych Hazel rested her chin in her hand and said nothing. She felt exceedingly like “a mortal with clipped wings.” Not that she really cared so much about dress, or the various other gay channels wherein she had poured out her fancies; something better than fancy had stirred and sprung and answered Dane's words in her heart as he spoke them. And yet the sudden whirlabout to all her thoughts and habits and ways, was very confusing. So she sat thinking,—with every dress she had in the world gravely presented itself, like a spectre, and all the glove buttons insisting upon being counted then and there. Suddenly, from the waves of blue silk a little foot started out into the firelight,—a foot half smothered in trimming; rosetted, buckled, beribboned, belaced. Hazel gazed at it,—and then gave up, and broke into a clear soft laugh, hiding her face in her hands. But as the laugh passed, she was very much ashamed to find that the hidden eyelashes were wet.

Rollo watched her a little anxiously, but waited.

'What can one do but laugh, when one gets to the end of one's wits?' said the girl, as if she thought it needed explanation. 'Olaf,— do you remember the time when you drew my portrait as all hat and wild bushes? I begin to be afraid it was not a caricature, after all.'

'I am afraid it was. Your representative was hardly gracious or graceful, if I remember.'

'Didn't I know what you were thinking of me that day!' said Hazel smiling at the recollection. 'But in serious truth, that is what I have liked, and what I have done. I have been wayward and wild and untrained and unpruned,—and then, upon all that I have hung every pretty thing I could get together. And I don't know what will be left of me when I am made over all new. Olaf,' she went on gravely, 'I do understand your harmony,—I see how perfect it is, taking in all the lowest notes as well as the highest, whereas mine covered only the poor little octave of my own life. I do see that every part of one's life ought to be in tone with every bit of outside work and life-need and life-demand that can ever come. And I know that only un_fixedness of heart can make any discord. But there my knowledge ends!' And Hazel leaned her cheek softly against his arm, and looked up wistfully.

'How much more knowledge do you want just now?'

'Where to begin.'

'We will begin with one of those trunks to-morrow. I have a presentiment, that if you do not fill it, I shall.'

Hazel shook her head.

'I fancy I have enough extravagance now on hand to last me some time,' she said. 'Unless you prefer that I should come down—or come up!—gradually, and not with a jump.'

'Neither come down nor come up. Only go forward keeping the harmony we have chosen to walk in. I am so ignorant of all but men's dress! or perhaps I could speak more intelligibly. But in general, seek your old ends, of beauty and fitness—only looking to see that things more precious are not pushed out of the way by them, or for them.'

CHAPTER XXVI. AN ACCOUNT AT THE BANK.

'Duchess,' said Rollo the next morning at breakfast, 'which cabinet maker is to have the honour of your patronage?'

'I suppose it is not fair to do people good against their will,' said Hazel. 'If Prim would like the common one—and the money— best, she must have that. But I shall let her know she chose it.'

'You would not like to be suspected of having practised economy?'

'Not unjustly.'

'How is that an unjust suspicion, which is founded on fact?'

'I am not practising economy a bit. Prim wants a secretary—and you say she would like that best.'

'Excuse me! I said she would like that and the hundred and fifty dollars best; and you will practise economy to give them to her. Nicht?'

'Not at all. Only self-denial. I never did buy ugly things, and I don't like it.'

'Self-denial is almost as good as economy, and one step towards it. But I would remark, that economy and ugly things have no necessary connection.'

'No,' said Hazel—'my alternative would be destitution.'

'Economy has no connection whatever with destitution.'

'O there you are mistaken,' said the girl arching her brows. 'But for destitution, it need not exist. But I wish I could think of the right explosive materials to put in Prim's trunk! She wants waking up, Olaf,—and you have just stroked her down for a nap.'

Dane's eyes snapped at the speaker across the table; and then he asked in a quiet business tone, 'what sort of lethargy Prim had fallen into?'

'I said nothing about lethargy. I must get a ream of paper initialed in blue and gold, and another in crimson, to help line the secretary. And three journal books in green bevelled antique, and fifty note-books in yellow Turkey morocco. And—how many gold pens does Prim wear out in a year?'

'You made a profound remark just now on the origin of economy; I should like to have your definition of the thing. Would you favour me?'

'Mind,' said Hazel, laughing a little, 'it is an unproved definition, the word itself being but lately introduced; but at present it seems to me, the doing without what you want yourself, to give it to somebody who wants it more.'

A line of white made itself visible between Rollo's lips, and the curves of his mouth were unsteady. When they were reduced to order again, he asked,

'What more shall we do for New Year in the Hollow?'

Certain cloaks and dresses for women and children, it may be remarked, had already been sent up. Wych Hazel considered.

'Would it be possible—but we shall not be at home to give them a night Festival. There went no books nor pictures into the Christmas work?'

'Books—I am afraid—they are not ready for. Pictures—pictures are harmonizing; I am going to get you some; I would like to put a picture in every house. What sort? I have thought about it and failed to decide.'

'Do I want harmonizing in that sense?' Hazel asked with a laugh.

'You want all sorts of things. Go on.'

'Well—for the pictures—I would not get them all alike. It destroys one's sense of possession.'

'True. But the more the variety, the greater the difficulty.'

'What are your nations?'

'Swedes and Germans, a few Irish, a sprinkling of Americans and English.'

'Good pictures of animals, I should think,' said Hazel, going deep into the matter; 'and of ships,—and of children. Englishmen would like King Alfred burning the cakes, and Canute at the sea, and I suppose the queen in her royal robes, and the battle of Trafalgar. Then there are bits of the Rhine, and Cathedrals, and Martin Luther, and a Madonna or two, for your Vaterland people,—and mountains and ice and reindeer—' Hazel broke off with a blush. 'How I run on!'

'We will have them all, for future use,' said Rollo smiling. 'The time will come, but I believe it is not yet. The people are hardly ready. It wouldn't be good economy. You do not understand that subject, I know, but you will excuse me for alluding to it. Now for business.'

Drawing Wych Hazel away from the breakfast table to another table which stood in the room, he opened a bank cheque book which lay there.

'Do you know what this is?'

'I see.'

'This is for your use and behoof. And this other little book contains—or will contain—your account with the bank. They will keep the account, and all you have to do is to send it to the bank every quarter to be written up. There, in your cheque book, opposite each cheque, you register the amount drawn by that cheque; so as to know where you are. Verstanden?'

'Yes,' said Wych Hazel, 'I have watched Mr. Falkirk often over his.'

'The capital which is represented by ten thousand a year,' Dane went on with business quietness, 'I have settled, absolutely and without reserve, upon you. That amount will be yearly paid in to your account, to be drawn out at your pleasure.'

'Why do you let me have more than I used to have?' she said quickly.

Rollo's lips played a little as he answered,—'I think it is good for your health to be duchess in your own right somewhere.'

'What makes you say that?'

'Conviction.'

'Ah hush!—I am talking business. Did Mr. Falkirk talk to you about it?'

'No. But Mr. Falkirk did go to Dr. Maryland; and urged that he should prevail with me, before I married you, to settle your fortune—or as much of it as possible—upon yourself. Dr. Maryland refused to urge me, and would do no more than represent to me Mr. Falkirk's wishes. So then Mr. Falkirk wrote to me himself, though as he said, with very little hope of doing any good. And I don't think he did any good'—added Dane demurely.

'He did his best to vex me first.'

She stood looking down at the cheque book, her face a study of changing colours. No,—this would have been done, though Mr. Falkirk had held his peace. 'Thank you!' she said, suddenly and softly.

'Thank me for what?' said Rollo gayly. 'For giving you back a little piece of your power, after you had lodged it all with me? How did Mr. Falkirk vex you?'

'I suppose really he wanted to vex you,' said Hazel. 'And he knew how to choose his words. Olaf'—the soft intonation coming back again—'you are very good! But what makes you think I want power?'

'Habit is said to be second nature.'

'Are you afraid of my missing what I used to have?'

'How should you miss it?' said he laughing. 'Are you less of a witch than you used to be?'

She shook her head thoughtfully. 'I do not quite know what I am. Do you expect me to spend all this money wisely?'

'I shall never ask how you spend it, Wych. Only this I would say,— spend it. We have far too much now to go on accumulating.'

'Ah,' she said with a breath of satisfaction, 'you are beginning to understand me!'

'What new token have I given of such sagacity?'

'So long as you and Mr. Falkirk had a monopoly of the wisdom, there was no use for my small supply,' said Wych Hazel. 'You never gave me an inch of line. And how you dare suddenly let so much out at once!'—she laughed a little, breaking off.

There was infinite grave fondness in the way Dane drew her up to him and putting his hand under her chin, lifted the changeable face to study it. Then kissing her and letting her go, he remarked,

'The rest we hold together, subject to your demands, whenever this stock happens to be insufficient.'

'Yes,'—she said, not looking at him,—'the first demands, I think, will be to make myself into a business woman. How much of the time are you going to let me work with you in the Hollow?'

'Let you?—There is unlimited room for work. I have bought the Charteris mills, Hazel.'

'Have you!—I thought he would not be willing.'

'He had stopped work, you know; the people were in terrible distress; the times might not encourage him to go on for some time; and he concluded to accept my offer. I got his answer only last night. I shall telegraph Arthur to-day to let the mills run again.'

'They will keep New Year,' was Hazel's comment.

'One of my new mills is a small one, doing very fine work in cottons, and employs only tow hundred and fifty hands; the woollen mills have eight hundred more. So you see, we have the whole community now to manage and nobody to interfere with us.'

'How many people?'

'Altogether—over two thousand five hundred. And everything to be done for them.'

'Then I can go over every day and busy myself with small matters while you attend to the great.'

'There is enough to do!' Rollo repeated with a smile, but a thoughtful one. 'How do you propose to manage on Sundays?'

'I do not know. As you manage.'

'I must be in the Hollow.'

'All day?'

'All day. I shall hold a service in the morning for the children, in the afternoon for the grown people. My schoolhouse is nearly finished now, quite enough for use. By and by we will have a church there, if all goes as I hope;—or two, perhaps; but the people are not ready for that. They are half heathen, and will be less prejudiced against my preaching than any other. So I must give it to them for the present. I have sent up a load of Bibles and hymnbooks.'

Hazel sat thinking.

'I could not preach,' she said. 'I do not know what I could do. Only where there is so much—I suppose I could feel my way and do something.'

'I would be glad of your help in the Sunday-school. Arthur will be there; Prim has her own school at Crocus. Then we could lunch with Gyda, and you could drive back in time for Dr. Maryland's afternoon service. Hey?'

'Why should I drive back?' said Hazel.

'What a question! To go to church.'

'I can go to church in the Hollow.'

'Pardon me. There is no church there, visible or invisible.'

'There will be preaching—and you know you always did like to preach to me,' said Hazel with a gleam.

'Dr. Maryland would like to preach to you too.'

'He will find other opportunities.'

'He would, I think, with reason, if you were absent from both services on Sundays. Speaking of work to do—How would you like to send one of the carriages several times a week to take Mrs. Coles to drive?'

'Whenever you like—if she can drive without me. But are you in earnest about Sunday afternoon?' said Hazel with a look that was certainly earnest.

'I am in earnest at present,' said Rollo. 'But we will see. It is something for you to sacrifice, and something for me! but whoever would follow the Lord “fully,” Hazel, will find himself called to lay down his own will at every step.'

'So I must economize in you, first of all!' she said. The words slipped out rather too quick, and were followed by a shy blush which did not court notice.

Rollo half laughed and told her that 'economy always enhances enjoyment.'

CHAPTER XXVII. THE WORLD AND HIS WIFE.

The purchases for Chickaree and the Hollow, the various packages that found their destination in Dr. Maryland's house, had all been sent straight off where they were to go. There were however many things bought during those two days of New York's work, which had no destination; at least, none as yet known. Such articles had been ordered to the hotel. And it followed, that in the course of a day or two thereafter, the rooms of the suite occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Rollo presented the appearance of a house from which the inhabitants are meditating an immediate journey with all their effects. Packages of all sizes and descriptions had accumulated, to a number which became intrusive upon the notice of said inhabitants.

'What shall we do to make a clearance?' Rollo had said, laughing, as his eyes went round the parlour. 'I wish, Hazel, you would look at these things, and see what use you can find for them. Take Byrom to open packages and do them up again, and let him ticket them according to your orders. Will you? and when I come home I will help. It is a most ridiculous assortment!'

Accordingly, after luncheon, Hazel put on an apron and summoned Byrom, whom she could not have earlier; she was not afraid of interruptions, not being supposed, as she thought, to be in town. The task set her was an amusing piece of work enough, remembering as she did how and where and why many of the articles had come to be bought. Here were baskets, what an array of baskets! which had been purchased from a poor little discouraged seller of wickerware. A large order had first gone off to Morton Hollow; then as Rollo walked round the store he had picked up this and that and bade the woman send it to the hotel; till the dim eyes had brightened up and the hopeless face had taken quite another expression. Here was a package of stationery. Hazel remembered the sickly-looking man who had sold it, in a little shop, far down Broadway; she recollected Rollo's cheery talk to the man and some counsel he had given him about his health; which counsel, coming from so free a purchaser, who paid cash with so ready a hand, stood a fair chance of being followed. Here were books, and there were books; here were pictures; there was a package of hardware. Well Hazel remembered a little corner shop into which her husband had turned to get a dog-chain; and where, finding a slim girl keeping shop, and learning that she was doing it for her father who was ill, he had gone on to buy a bewildering variety of things, which he would not order sent to Chickaree, there being perhaps no one in the shop to pack them. Hazel smiled as she recollected how Rollo found out that he wanted all sorts of things from that little establishment, and how the little girl had looked at him and sprung to serve him before he got through.

Byrom was busy unpacking and Hazel examining; the room was in a confusion of papers and twines and ropes; when the door opened, and there entered upon the scene no less a person than Josephine Charteris, née Powder. The lady's look, on taking the effect of things, it is impossible to describe. Hazel was gloved in dainty buff gauntlets, the folds of her scarlet dress half smothered in the great white apron, ruffled and fluted and spotless,—and looked indescribably busy.

'Josephine Powder!—I am not receiving company!' she exclaimed.

'Nonsense! I am glad of it. I want to see you, and I don't want to see other people. How you do look, Hazel! Well—have you really gone and got married, and told nobody? Is it true?'

'Telling people is not one of my strong points,' said Hazel. 'Phoebe, bring a duster to this chair for Mrs. Charteris.'

'It is one your weak points, I think,' said Josephine. 'Never mind the chair. What made you do things in that way?'

Wych Hazel dismissed her attendants, and went back to her foot-cushion among the packages. 'What makes one do anything?' she asked, beginning upon a series of troublesome knots.

'Hm!' said Josephine.—'Not being able to help yourself.'

'O is that it?' said Hazel. 'There—happily for you, I have found some sugarplums. Do you buy so many now-a-days that you have no taste for more?'

'What on earth are you about?'

'Hard at work on chaos—!'

'What sort of chaos?'

'Don't you see?' said Wych Hazel. 'Here are six brackets together, for instance, which should be one in a place; and I am puzzled in what light to hang these pictures;—and these books have no place where to be. And if you want needles, Josephine, or a thimble—or a sewing-bird, or any little trifle like notepaper or a clotheshamper, help yourself!'—And her sweet laugh rung out, half for nervousness and half for fun.

'How long have you been married?' was the other lady's impetuous question.

'Since some time last year,' said Hazel, dragging up another package.

'Don't be wicked, Hazel! Were you married at Christmas? Kitty Fisher says so, and I didn't believe it. Were you really?'

'I suppose Dr. Maryland does such things “really,” when he does them at all.'

'Yes!' said Josephine, after a moment's pause and with a half groan, 'that's the worst of it. I wish I could know it was a sham. I think marriages ought to be broken, if people want them broken. The law ought to be so.'

Hazel was silent.

'Don't you think, that when people are tired of each other, they ought not to be bound to live together?'

'But you were tired to begin with.'

'No, I wasn't; not so. I thought I could get along with John Charteris. He wasn't a beauty, nor a distinguished speaker, but I thought I could get along with him. Hazel, I hated him before I had been married a week. Men are at your feet till you are tied to them, fast; and then—it's very hard, Hazel!—the man is the master, and he likes it.'

'Is that Mr. Charteris?' said Hazel.

'It is every man!'

'Some flourish their sceptres with a difference,' said Hazel, her lips at play. 'Take another bonbon?'

'It's nothing to laugh at!' said the girl bitterly. 'I know you will tell me you warned me,—but what could I do? They were all at me; mamma said I must be married some time; and I thought it didn't make much difference; and now—I think I'll run away. Do you like your husband?'

'No,' said Hazel with indescribable arch of her brows, which was however extremely stately. But as she spoke, the very flush of the morning—all light and joy and promise—stirred and mantled and covered her face. It was unmistakeable; words could not have been clearer. She bent down over her parcels. And Josephine, watching her keenly, saw and read. It was very bitter to her.

'Why,' she said incredulously, though she was not incredulous, 'you used to hate him a year ago. Do you remember when he would not let you ride home with us from the Seatons' one night, and how furious you were? Has he changed?'

'As I never remember hating anybody in my life,' said Wych hazel, 'it is perhaps useless to discuss the question. Do you spend the winter here?'

'He had money enough of his own,' Josephine went on,—'he had no business to marry you. Well—marriage is a lottery, they say; and I have drawn John Charteris. I suppose I must wear him out. If I could wear him out!—If it was only Jack Charteris!—but he is the sort of man you couldn't say “Jack” to. Spend the winter here? No, I think not. I shall go to Washington by and by. But I don't see that it signifies much where one is; life is flat when one can't flirt; and John won't let me do that any more, unless I do it on the sly. Do you expect to have anything in the world your own way, with Dane Rollo?'

Hazel felt herself (privately) getting rather “furious” now. Yet the girl at her side stirred her pity, too.

'What sort of man can you say “Jack” to?' she enquired, as if she had heard no question.

'You know. A fellow that's anyhow jolly. What are all these things here for?'

'If I were you,' said Hazel, 'I would make Mr. Charteris so “jolly” (lend me your word for once) that he would be delighted to have me say “Jack.” '

'I don't want him to be delighted,' said Josephine, 'nor to call him Jack. And a man that smokes all the time can't be made jolly. He didn't use to let me see it, you know; and now he don't care. He ought to live in a house by himself, that's all chimney!'

'Counter attractions would work a cure,' said Wych Hazel, ready to laugh at her own suddenly developed wisdom. 'If you make yourself disagreeable, Josephine, I should think he would smoke, and hide you in a haze.'

'I don't!' said the girl indignantly. 'And nothing on earth will cure a man who smokes. He likes it better than anything except money; far better than me. Try to get your husband——'

Josephine broke suddenly off. The door had opened noiselessly, and Mrs. Powder entered, followed immediately by Miss Molly Seaton.

Greetings and congratulations passed of course, according to form.

'Dane is not at home, my dear?' said the elder lady.

'Husbands are not gallant in these days, mamma,' said Josephine.

'But Mr. Rollo is!' said Molly rashly.

'So it seems,' said Josephine laughing. 'Left his lady-love to put his affairs in order; while he is having a good sleighride somewhere, you bet! But you see, she is busy, like a good child.'

'And what are you doing, my dear?' said Mrs. Powder.

Juts then the set of Hazel's head would have told keen eyes what she was doing mentally. She was still in her camelshair morning robe; the scarlet folds and the white apron, and herself, making a brilliant spot down among the packages.

'I am putting Mr. Rollo's affairs in order,' she said composedly.

'My dear,' said Mrs. Powder benevolently, 'I am sure he does not want you to open his packages for him.'

'I should think you were going to open a shop, if I didn't know better,' remarked Molly in evident great curiosity.

'She won't tell,' said Josephine. 'I suppose she is keeping her own secret. She wants me to believe that she don't feel the chains of wedlock a bit.'

'Maybe it is too soon for that,' said Molly.

'O is it!' said Mrs. Charteris. 'I should like to see that. Just as soon as the minister has done, and said, “I pronounce you man and wife,”—from that minute a man is changed. He is your very obedient servant when he walks up the aisle; dear me, when he comes down!—'

'But you are joking, Mrs. Charteris,' said Molly, half alarmed.

'After that, he has the power, and you are queen no longer, but must follow him round the world if he beckons; and he knows it, and he lets you know it too.'

'That is a foolish way of talking, Josephine,' said her mother. 'Of course, there is a certain truth in it, and there ought to be. A man is the head of his house. The only thing to be desired is, that he should rule it well.'

'I don't care whether it is well or ill,' rejoined Josephine. 'What I object to is being ruled at all. It is horrid! You can't talk, mamma, because you know you always held the reins yourself. It's intolerable to have to ask a man for money, unless he is your own father; and to have him put his nose into your affairs and say this must be and that mustn't be. Women know just as well as men how things ought to be.'

'I think they do,' said Molly.

'And better,' added Josephine.

But at this point Hazel gave way and laughed. Such a ring of appreciation and merriment and gladness of heart, as was good to hear. The soft notes made Mrs. Powder smile; but poor Josephine, who could not laugh so, turned aside quick to hide the very different change which came over her face. Before anything further could be said, the door opened again and Rollo came in. He came in with a look upon his face which changed when he saw the three people he had not expected to see. It did not grow less bright, but it changed; the look that was for his wife was for no other upon earth; nor even for her in the presence of others. He went through the necessary greetings and congratulations with a manner of courtly carelessness, which involuntarily made Hazel think of those first days when she knew him at Catskill.

'Do you want to buy anything, ladies?' said he then, setting on the table a bronze standish which Hazel had just freed from its wrappings.

'Will you tell us what all this means, Dane?' said Mrs. Powder.

'Santa Claus's spillings out of his sleigh.'

'Spillings!' echoed the lady. 'What must the sleigh load have been!'

'O that's the way these people do things,' said Josephine. 'What I should like to know, is where the sleigh load went to.'

'Down various chimneys, of course,' said Dane.

'Do you know,' the lady went on, 'it is very mean of you, Dane Rollo, to have gone and married the only rich woman in our part of the country. You ought to have left her for somebody else.'

'If you would like a basket,' said Rollo coolly, pulling some of his wickerware into line, 'you may have one. I can afford it.'

'May I have one too?' queried Molly.

'Help yourself.—Mrs. Powder, you are a housekeeper—are there none among all these varieties that would serve a purpose for you? Mrs. Charteris, aren't you fond of flowers? I will bestow upon you this big flower-holder.'

It was one of the best specimens of the poor basket-maker's work, being a delicate wicker stand, pretty enough for the drawing-room or a boudoir. Josephine silently accepted the gift, looking at it with strange eyes; while Molly set about a search for what might serve her turn. Mrs. Powder sat as a spectator, curious, and at the same time amused.

'We have got more than baskets here,' Rollo went on, pulling off twine and paper. 'Here is a tea-kettle. Who wants this article?— Here is an hour-glass.'

'O let me have that!' quoth Molly Seaton. 'I never saw an hour-glass before. What's this in it?'

'Minutes and seconds,' said Josephine.

'No, but really. It would be dreadful to see one's minutes and seconds running away in this manner. What is this in the glass?'

'Did you never hear of the sands of life, child?' said Mrs. Powder.

'They were brought from the shores of time, too,' added Josephine, 'by an adventurous traveller.'

'What is it?' cried a lively voice from the again opening door. 'A reception at the opening of spring goods? I come in, because I hear sounds—' And Miss Kitty Fisher presented herself, stopping just inside the door. 'I do vow!' she said. 'What is it?—“All for Love”? or “She stoops to Conquer”? Katharine and Petruchio seems to be played out. Well, if I were a turtledove in a big cage!'—

'You would coo, I suppose,' said Josephine scornfully. 'Turtledoves always do, and they are a great humbug.'

'I should doubtless bob my head to the other turtledove,' said Kitty, making a profound reverence to the gentleman present.

Rollo came forward and offered the lady his arm; then gravely led her across the big room among baskets and packages to where Wych Hazel was seated on her low cushion.

'Duchess,' said he with stately form, 'Primrose's cousin Kitty desires to be recommended to your grace.'

'No, I don't,' said Kitty. 'That's a fib. The duchess and I were well “acquaint” when Duke did not stand quite so high in favour. But I am thankful for my part, you two people have given up mischief and settled down. Sit still among your baskets, child; they become you.'

'Perhaps you will sit down among the baskets too,' said Dane. 'Don't you want one?'

'It's only to look and choose, Kitty,' said Molly Seaton. 'Such another chance you won't have again.'

'If you have one large enough to hold her valentines,' said Hazel with a glance at “Duke,”—'that might do.'

'Valentines!' echoed Kitty Fisher,—'you'd better! Richard is going into a decline, madam, I suppose you know. And the major is drowning care—and himself with it. And Lancaster's pining for war and a stray bullet;—and Stuart Nightingale—Then in town here there's a list of killed, wounded and missing as long as my arm. O I must tell you the best joke. There was a parcel of men dining at the club the other day, and toasting Miss Kennedy, witch, sorceress, etc.—till they couldn't see. Then in rushes Tom McIntyre, out of breath, and says, “Miss Kennedy is extinct!”—I'd rather have seen their faces,' said Kitty, stopping to laugh, 'than get Stuart's best philopoena!'

'It really is unkind,' said Josephine, 'to take people so by surprise, without letting them get accustomed to the idea. Of course they are liable to fall into all sorts of ridiculous situations.'

'You have undertaken a great deal, Dane,' said Mrs. Powder, 'in venturing to marry a lady accustomed to so much admiration.'

'I like whatever I have to be admired,' said Rollo coolly.

'But how do you expect she will do without it in future?'

Dane lifted his eyes for a second to the lady with a certain hidden sparkle in their gravity, and asked her, so seriously that she was entrapped by it, 'If she thought admiration was bad for people in general?' Mrs. Powder fell into the snare, and before she knew it was involved in a deep philosophical and moral discussion, as far as heaven from earth removed from all personalities. The younger ladies however found this tiresome.

'Do leave that mamma!' said Josephine. 'The question is, whether he and Hazel are going to give us a grand reception, and challenge the admiration of the world by something the like of which was never seen before. A scene out of the Arabian Nights, with enchantment, flowers, fruits and singing birds. They ought, for they can. What's the use of having money?'

'I dare say they will do something of that sort,' said the elder lady smiling. 'It really is Society's due, I think; especially as they have cheated the world with a private wedding.'

'I like to pay my dues,' said Dane carelessly, turning over and unpacking things all the while. 'Mrs. Powder, there is a paper knife for you.'

'But you don't do it,' the lady went on, smiling at the same time over the paper knife, which was very pretty. 'Now will you and Hazel hold a reception, as you ought to do, and let people see her as your wife?'

'No fear they won't see her,' put in Kitty Fisher. 'I know some people who mean to have a good time when he's away at the mills. Where are your presents, child? I came to see you on purpose to see them. I suppose they are the ninth wonder. You have seen them, Mrs. Powder?'

'I have seen nothing,' said that lady blandly, for however she disapproved of Kitty's style of application, I have no doubt she would have liked it to be successful.—'I have seen nothing, except baskets.'

'There is a good deal here besides,' said Rollo. 'Mrs. Charteris, don't you want a bread trencher? Or a rocking chair? And here are pens.'

'Thank you. Are you going to set up a shop?'

'That is what I was going to ask him,' said Molly Seaton.

'When I do, you will not be able to buy it,' said Rollo; 'so make the most of your advantage now.'

It was a very silent young duchess that sat there, all this while, amid the medley of people and things. The colour sometimes coming, and sometimes going; a smile ditto; the little fingers busy with packages, the head of brown curls bent over them. Well she knew how Rollo was shielding her by his play, amusing her inquisitive visiters, at the same time attending to her slightest movement; for his fingers came to help hers whenever a knot was too hard, or a paper wrap too obstinate, or an article too heavy for them.

'Well,' Kitty repeated, eyeing her, 'where are the presents?'

'Not on exhibition,' said Wych Hazel. 'Except in detail.'

'Don't see the details yet,' said Miss Fisher examining her. 'I have seen that opal pin before—bewildering thing! Josephine, haven't you seen them either?'

'Kitty, you are very impudent!' said Mrs. Powder laughing.

'Presents are good for nothing but to be shewn,' remarked Mrs. Charteris.

'My present is worth more than that,' said Rollo. 'It has “Waste not, want not,” carved on it, if you will notice. That may be very useful to you and Mr. Charteris.'

'I wonder who is impudent now!' said Josephine.

'Well what did you wear, child?' pursued Miss Fisher. 'Stephen Kingsland fell back in a swoon when he found he had missed your wedding dress.'

'Well, I think people have duties to society,' uttered Molly Seaton.

'And society's bound to make 'em pay,' said Miss Fisher. 'I won't rest till I have seen those presents, you may be sure.'

'Use your eyes, then,' said Wych Hazel with a warning flush which Kitty remembered. 'Because they are not labelled—and never will be.'

Kitty winked at Mrs. Powder.

'Stupid!' she cried,—'use my eyes, to be sure! Why there's the big apron! Of course that's a present, only she don't like to say so. The child's turned economical. Nobody ever saw Miss Kennedy protect her dress, I'll warrant. Pretty pattern, isn't it? I wonder if I could get it—against my moon—so-called—of honey?'

'The apron would be no use without the economy,' said Rollo.

'What have people so rich as you to do with economy?'

'Nobody needs it more.'

'Hear him! Then I don't know what economy means,' cried Kitty.

'I doubt if you do, my dear,' said Mrs. Powder.

'What it means?' echoed Josephine. 'Economy is being mean and pinching.'

'Economy is saving,' added Molly.

'Looks awfully proper and matronly,' said Kitty, going back to the apron. 'When will you give your first ball, Hazel? It might be a calico ball, you know,—and then all the dresses would help out with the mill hands.'

'The first ball I give,' said Hazel, gravely examining a pasteboard box filled with the article, 'will probably be one of soap,—but just when it will be, I do not know.'

'And do you mean your first cards issued to be wool cards, my dear?' said Kitty with secret delight.

'Kitty,' said Rollo, 'suppose you take a sugarplum—and behave yourself.'

'O I can't stay,' said Kitty giving way a little. 'I only came just to— —'

'That's what I came for too,' said Josephine; 'and now I am going.'

'We have all got more than we came for, then,' said Molly; 'but I have staid too long, too. Will you take me home Phinney.'

The ladies swept away; the room was full of rustling silks for a moment, and then was clear. Rollo came back from putting them into their respective carriages, and stood and smiled at Hazel.

'It has come at last!' he said.

CHAPTER XXVIII. PLEASURE BY EXPRESS.

'It was to be expected,' Dane went on resignedly. 'I told Arthur to send proper notices to the papers; and I suppose he had done it, and this is the consequence. Never mind; we will run away as soon as we can. Now, Hazel, what shall we do with all this lumber?'

'Lumber is something out of place, according to Byo,' said Hazel contemplatively. 'Now one of these two foot rests would be in place in Dr. Maryland's study;—is there another tired minister somewhere else?'

'Tired minister?' said Dane. I suppose there are hundreds of tired ministers scattered all over the land, out west, and on the frontiers.—If one knew where!'

'Somebody must know.'

'I suppose somebody must.'

'Well cannot you find out?'

'I suppose I can!'

'They may want some of these books, too. Dr. Maryland always wants books, although he has so many. And if the ministers are tired, their wives must be,' said Hazel with a new fit of contemplation settling over her face. Rollo stood in the middle of the floor, looking at her, and at the same time considering the confusion.

'I will make a bargain with you.'

'Well?'

'These things must go somewhere, that is clear. I will find out the names and addresses of a hundred, say, who are in need of help. We will send off so many boxes; and you shall arrange what is to go in them.'

Wych Hazel folded her hands and looked up at him.

'Olaf—I never was tired in my life!—At least, but once.'

'I thought I was tired five minutes ago,' said Rollo, 'but I have got over it.'

'I could think of pretty things enough to send,' Hazel went on. 'Do they want pretty things out there, I wonder? Good people here do not always like them, I think. But I never saw a missionary—or his wife.'

'Perhaps you did not look in the right place. You make your list, and I will get mine. We might send off a couple of hundred boxes, and put fifty dollars' worth of comfort in each. These things will all find a place somewhere.'

'Fifty dollars!' said Hazel opening her eyes. 'My dear friend, have you any idea how much one dress costs? Fifty dollars will not do much for two people.'

'I will shew you what can be done with fifty dollars. And give you your second lesson in economy. Where did you get that name for me?'

'Picked it up, one day when you ceased to be an enemy.'

'In some place where worn-out were lying about. Worn-out things are shabby.'

Hazel drew a protesting breath. 'There is nothing shabby or worn-out about it! It is entirely new,—spick and span. Please, is my next lesson to go deeper than Prim's trunk, and take off all the globe buttons?'

'For people who have no gloves, Hazel?'

Hazel looked startled for a minute, but then she looked incredulous.

'Go and find out all about it,' she said; 'and then we shall know what to do. I am talking of clergymen's wives.'

Dane left that point uncombated. The next evening he came in with his hands full of pamphlets. And after dinner, when the room was clear, and the gas burners lighted up the warm, luxurious comfort and seclusion, glowing and rich, around them, Dane took his papers and sat down by Wych Hazel's side.

'I have found out several things about your clergymen's wives,' he began. 'Here, as you see, is a bundle of Reports. They concern certain funds of relief, established in various churches, for the help of disabled or superannuated ministers and their families. And, without going into details,—there are hundreds of such cases. Some of them are sick and old ministers, worn out in the service; others are widows of such men; others again, orphan families, whose mother and father are both gone. I have been told of the sort of destitution that is found among them. What do you think of a delicate child, for whom a bit of flannel could not be afforded? What do you think of a family of women and girls getting their own firing out of the woods, cutting it and backing it home, and that by the year together? What do you think of an old minister supported by the handiwork of an infirm and herself not young daughter? And I could tell you of living without books, without paper for writing, in want of calico for dresses, and muslin for underclothing, without pocket-handkerchiefs, without yarn to knit stockings or a penny to buy any, living on the coarsest food—And I am talking of clergymen's wives, Hazel.'

Hazel looked up at him with wide-open eyes while he spoke, then down at herself, taking a sort of inventory of her own belongings. What stores of embroidery and lace were there, even hidden away and out of sight! And what sort of relation did these costly silken folds bear to those needed calicoes? Her note-paper was monogrammed and edged to double its first cost;—that shawl, tossed carelessly on a chair, would have clothed in flannel a whole hospital of sick children. Point by point she went over it all past the thirty dollar buckle at her belt down to—I dare not say how many dollars' worth of shoes that covered the little feet.

And these people were life-long workers for good—or children of such men and women, who had hazarded their lives for the Lord Jesus,—and she, an idler all her life! Hazel put her head down in her hands, and answered not a word.

Dane waited awhile; then he ventured a gentle query.

'I cannot bear myself!' Hazel broke out. 'I feel as if I had been stealing, and defrauding, and embezzling, and every other dishonest word in the dictionary! O do you think the cry of such labourers has been going up against me, all my life?'

'What shall we put in our boxes?' said Dane smiling.

Hazel caught up a bit of paper and ran off a list long enough to call for good packing,—then she stopped suddenly.

'Olaf—we cannot send in the dark. One man may have ten children, and another may have no wife. And people in Florida don't want thick shawls, and Oregon can do without thin muslins.'

'We will pack every box according to its destination. Let me hear your list.'

'Well,' said Hazel, folding her hands and gazing into the fire, 'let's begin with an imaginary family. People rather old, five children, and one of them delicate. And suppose they want a general outfit,—a great piece of white cotton, and plenty of flannel; and I have seen Mrs. Bywank dispense ready-made felt shirts.'

'All right so far. Go on.'

'Then there must be dresses, of course; and one specially nice for the minister's wife. And a shawl. For her, I mean. The delicate child must have a soft quilted jacket, and bright-coloured warm wrapper, for days when she wants to lie on the sofa.'

But here Dane caught his wife in his arms and between laughing and kisses informed her that she was playing her “Rolle” of fairy again and getting impracticable.

'There is no sofa to lie on, in many of these houses, Hazel,' he went on more gravely. 'And it is better that we should send an essential supply to many, than to a few all they might want. Keep to essentials in the main. Now go on.'

'But Olaf!—those things not essentials? Then you will rule out collars and cuffs and gloves and neck-ties? What are essentials? I do not believe I know.'

'All these, I should say. But even you and I cannot do everything. The quilted jacket and crimson wrapper, however desirable, must yield in importance to some other things. Is your list done? Because I have some items to suggest.'

'I see,' Hazel answered gravely. 'Until everybody learns that the workman is worthy of his meat, they must live according to the old description—“Be shod with sandals, and not put on two coats.” But Olaf—how can the missionary go all about in the snow if he has but one? And mayn't I send the sick child some delicate things to eat? And if they have no money, how can they get books?—and papers?—and—everything else!” she added, looking round the room in bewilderment.

'The coat by all means; and the delicacies for those who are feeble. Books can be sent by mail more conveniently, and more intelligently when we come to know what is most wanted. But a few might go in the boxes too; and some of them picture books. Go on. What next?'

'House linen wears out here,' said Wych Hazel. 'Towels and tablecloths and sheets. If we knew the names, we could have them all marked ready,—and so with handkerchiefs.'

'If we try to furnish the people and the houses too, we shall have too much on our hands. These are not the only people in the world to be helped. Suppose we keep to personalities, for this set of boxes.'

'I think you must finish the list,' Hazel said after a pause. 'I believe I count everything “essential” that I have always had. I do not know how to choose, for people who always do without.'

'Your list is capital, so far. What do you think of a package of tea, for another item? Chocolate perhaps, and cocoa. Letter paper, and pens and pencils. A few pocket-knives, and fish hooks; perhaps some pairs of scissors would not come amiss. Also toilet articles, which on the frontiers and in the wilds are hard to get. Hey?'

'There is no end to the things,' said Hazel, facing round. 'But Olaf, in getting them, you would not strike off all good books, to keep to mere good quality? I should think their eyes must ache to see pretty things!'

Rollo smiled, making notes on a sheet of paper. 'I believe in the uses of beauty,' he said. 'Let everything be as pretty as possible. I leave the charge of that to you. You must go to Stewart's and order muslin, calico, flannel, ribbands, and everything in that line. I will take care of the hardware and groceries. Order the things sent here. I will make arrangements for the reception of them, and Byrom shall get us a store of packing-boxes and marking ink.'

'And Olaf,' said Hazel eagerly, 'when you have filled the box with essentials, will you let me put “non"-s in all the vacant space?'

For the gratification of those of our readers who would like to know how these young people spent the evenings of the remainder of their honeymoon, a few words more may be added. Dane secured a small room which could be devoted to receiving stores. Here day by day Byrom piled stacks of drygoods as they came in; packages of tea and spices, corn starch and arrowroot, and the like; heaps of books and paper; and thither he carried all the heterogeneous articles which had been sent home during that eccentric New Year's expedition. Here also he provided a store of packing-boxes, of varying dimensions, with hammer and nails and marking-ink; much speculating to himself on the peculiarities of the service in which he found himself. It is true, Byrom had been now some time with Rollo, and had, as the latter said, got used to him. He was an English servant, trained and steady as a mill, eminently respectable, and head groom now at Chickaree.

These things being provided, as soon as dinner was done every day, Mr. and Mrs. Rollo repaired to this room of supplies. Here they amused themselves with packing the boxes. It is quick work, reader, if you have plenty of materials to choose from. To help in the selection and secure the better fitness of assortment, Rollo had had a sort of circular letter copied and sent to several hundred of the addresses with which he had been furnished. This circular requested details as to the circumstances and special wants of the family. The answers were directed to be sent to Hazel; to whom, by the way, the reading and arranging of such answers when they began to come in, furnished occupation for not a small part of her mornings.

With half a dozen of the most pressing of these in hand, Rollo and Hazel went to the packing room; and taking one for their guide in each instance, threw into the box one after another the articles that seemed specially called for. Ah, how pleasant it was! It was like personal contact with the weak and the weary, giving a touch of comfort and help each time. Hazel had learned the use of the cheap calico counter, which once had excited her wonder and incredulity; she chose the prettiest patterns she could, but even she was fain to see that it was better to give prints or mohairs to a great many who wanted them, than a silk gown to one here and there who perhaps could rarely wear it if she had it. In like manner, flannel was to be preferred to lace; also it became evident that at the rate they were filling and sending boxes, economy was a very necessary thing; meaning by economy, the most useful expenditure of money. Let nobody think, however, that there went nothing but bare necessaries into those boxes. Ribbands and collars and cuffs and ruffles and shawls were scattered in with a free hand. Choice books went into corners. Sometimes slates and maps. Pictures and pencils, pens and writing paper; magazines and illustrated new prints. And sugarplums stole in here and there, and even dolls and tops and pocket knives and balls and jackstraws. Fishing lines and hooks also. Sometimes an engraving, not costly, but lovely where there is an utter dearth of all objects of art whatever. The entertainment and delight of filling those boxes is something quite beyond my pen to tell. Hazel and Rollo often worked the whole evening at it; for the list of names was long. Not two hundred, but four hundred boxes that month were filled and sent; and there went more than fifty dollars' worth into every one; oftener it was eighty.

CHAPTER XXIX. SOCIAL DUTIES.

Solitude and seclusion were at an end. The world had found out where Hazel was and what she had been doing. So many millions were out of the market certainly, but still they might be useful in various ways; and the world came to put in its claim to be remembered. And invitations began to pour in; and the baskets which held cards and the like on Hazel's table flowed over and threatened an inundation. Rollo, every day very busy and still held fast in the city by business, had so far escaped much personal contact with the aforesaid world, and only received reports upon it from Hazel.

'Wych,' he said as he came in one evening just ready for dinner,— 'I have found an old friend to-day.'

'O, are they beginning upon you?' said Wych Hazel. 'I hope it is not a new one for me?'

'I hope it is a new one for you,' said he, looking somewhat wonderingly at her. 'Or rather, I hope you will be a new friend for him. What's the matter?'

'Some day when you come home,' said Hazel, 'you will find this room tenanted solely by a heap of cards, invitations, enquiries and congratulations. Exploring therein cautiously, you may perhaps discover the top of my head!'

'Oh!'—said Dane. 'I will carry you away before it gets to be so bad as that. This is an old fellow-student of mine, Hazel; an odd, clever, careless, unselfish fellow, who has never got along in the world. He took to art, came to America, on account of some family troubles at home; and here he was a good deal petted in society. Now he is ill, and alone, and I fear very poor. He is at a boarding house, where I suspect he cannot pay his bills; quite alone. He had not a friend. Nor, I am afraid, a sou.'

'And you are going off to take care of him?' said Hazel, facing round with sudden interest.

'Off, where?'

'Why, wherever he is. To his hotel, or his room.'

'I have just come from him. He is not suffering from acute illness now; but he is pining away, I think, for want of good food and fresh air, and home. You see, we were comrades together in Göttingen; and he comes from over there. He was very glad to see me.'

'Art?' said Hazel. 'Is he a painter?'

'He was a painter.'

'Do send him off to paint Dr. Maryland's portrait! There is nothing Prim wants so much; Consign him to Mrs. Bywank.'

Rollo's eye brightened and warmed; but he went on. 'He may never paint again, Hazel. If we receive him, it may be that it will only be to see him fade away in the midst of us.'

'Well—What then?' she added softly after a minute.

'It may be a matter of months, Hazel.'

She looked gravely up and down. 'But nothing else—that I can think of—would be so much like home.'

The kisses which answered her were energetic enough to speak without words; and when a few minutes later dinner was served, Rollo came to the table with the air of a satisfied man. And then he told Hazel stories about Göttingen.

'Prim writes that Mrs. Coles is coming to town,' said Hazel, later in the meal, when roast venison had superseded student life.

'Prudentia!—When?'

'Next week. Shall we be away?'

'No,' said Dane smiling. 'I wish we could.' And then he was silent, and the dessert was on the table before he alluded to the subject again.

'Hazel,' he said suddenly, 'write and ask Prim to come with Mrs. Coles and stay a few days. It will be a great delight to both of them.'

'No, indeed,' said Hazel promptly.

'No? why?' said Dane with a laugh in his eyes which he let come no further.

'I never ask people that I hope will refuse.'

'Ask and hope they will come! Don't you think you and I could stand Prudentia for a week?'

Wych Hazel glanced at him from under her eyelashes. 'I can stand most things,' she said, 'that you can. But you must write the letter.'

'Must I? Would you like to state the reason?'

'Hard to state euphoniously. Because—I—do not mean to do it!'

Dane laughed. 'It will not save you from the consequences,' he said; 'however—'

Hazel raised her brows a little. 'You are forewarned,' she said. 'Then probably you will wish to accept all these invitations?'

'I do not precisely catch the connection of the argument.'

'I thought you seemed to be pining for variety,' she said with a laugh. 'So I propose, for to-morrow and next day and the day after,—a breakfast, a wedding, three kettledrums, a dinner, two receptions, and a ball.'

'Abgeschlagen—' responded Dane, going on with his dinner.

'Which?'

'It would not do to be particular.'

'But you must choose,' said Hazel. 'Or I must.'

'Are you pining for variety?'

'No, I have got it.' This with a half laugh and a pretty flush.

'I am content,' said Dane. 'Then, if you are content, I do not see what we want further.'

'But it is other people who want us just now.' And Hazel looked over to her pile of invitations.

'Unfortunate for them.'

'Is it? You will refuse them all? Do you mean that you would never go anywhere?'

'I do not mean that at all. I am longing to take you to Europe.'

'Yes, but keep to the point.'

'Wait till after dinner, then,' said he laughing.

So they waited; and when the servant had ended his ministrations and gone, Dane took a position of ease beside Wych Hazel on the sofa, and gathered up the notes in his hand.

'Now, Wych, what is the question here?'

'Why, as of course—of course I should not go anywhere now without you, I must know first where you will go,' said Hazel with one of her pretty shy looks. 'And as some occasions demand—But I am in inextricable confusion about my dress!'—she said, breaking off with a laugh. 'I may as well confess it at once.'

'Does my bird of paradise want room to spread her wings?' said he, looking in her face.

'And shew herself? No, I have done enough of that.'

'If we keep the key-note of life's music clear and true, we shall find the chords, Wych. How are you in confusion?'

' “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light,” ' she answered thoughtfully. 'But do you know, light is very confusing sometimes?'

'No.'

'Yes, it is. When I did not care what I did, I knew exactly what to do.'

'What is it you are in doubt about now?'

'Everything. Ought I to refuse all invitations, and wear grey serge? But the reverse of wrong is not right.'

Rollo laughed, while yet he looked serious. 'The question is, Wych, what we will do with our life? There is not time enough, nor strength, nor even in our case money enough, to meet the demands of the gay world and of the other part of the world too. Do what we will with our millions, there will be poor and suffering and ignorant people that we cannot reach; and how can we take hundreds and thousands for dresses and entertainments, when the work of our Master wants it all? I propose that we be neither hermits nor wear serge; but go wherever we can get good—or give it; and dress for the utmost efficiency in both departments. What do you think of that for a general principle?'

' “Good” '—Hazel repeated. 'I suppose pleasure might sometimes come under that head.'

'Let us see how much of that article we are refusing just now,' said Dane drily, taking a still more easy position and turning over the notes in his hand. 'No. 1, Mrs. Schornstein's reception. I can see that from here. Crowds, gaslights, twelve inches standing room for one's body, one's mind in the condition of Noah's dove when the waters were upon the earth!—Mrs. Lefevre—“German.” As I do not dance, and as you do not, what should we do, duchess?—Mrs. Post; that will be a repetition of Mrs. Lefevre's, only the rooms will be dressed with flowers; but we can see flowers any day in a greenhouse and by daylight, and without the necessity of waltzing up to them.—Bampton Foulard. Ah, that is a variety! Science and Literature trying to play puss in the corner, while Fashion sweeps over the floor and catches their feet in her train. I know Mrs. Bampton's receptions; they are such a thorough “Durcheinander” that if you by chance see anything there you want, you can't get it; nor get at it.—Southgate; the point there is supper; but it is a point you cannot reach without ardent exertion. I never liked that sort of exertion.—Barsch; music. And the music will be fearful. I would rather drive round Central Park till it is over.—Wallings; cards and supper and dancing.—What do you say, Hazel? It is all one story. The pleasure is to seek.'

'I was not thinking of my own pleasure. I am not in a going-out mood. But suppose, pleasure to other people?'

'We will give them all we can, consistently with higher interests. But our directions are,—“When thou makest a feast, call not thy rich neighbours.”—You see, it is bad economy to take what would give a year's pleasure to a hundred people, and use it to give merely a languid moment's satisfaction to a dozen or two.'

'You mean,' said Hazel studying the point,—'at least I should mean,—that the care and the cost should be kept for people whose lives are hard and empty.'

Dane was silent a minute. 'Hazel,' said he gently, 'do you dislike to have Prim come for a few days?'

Hazel paused.

'Don't be curious,' she said. 'Once when a little mouse jumped out of a dish, nobody could ever get it back again!'

'It would be a great pleasure, to Prim. I think we could bear it for a week, even with Mrs. Coles? Hey?'

'I dare say you can.—And if I cannot, you will never know,' said Wych Hazel with a laugh. 'So the way is clear.'

'I know Prudentia wants to consult a physician here. So I will write at once to Prim—and you will give Mrs. Bywank her orders about the care of Heinert? And tell her, Wych, that Arthur will be at Chickaree a good deal also, till we come home.'

Hazel wrought her fingers into a knot of peculiar ingenuity, at thought of Mrs. Coles, but other remark made none.

A few days more brought the dreaded invasion. The ladies came of course; and as it fell out, Hazel had to receive them alone, Dane being down town at his business; for Prim and her sister arrived at midday, having found it good to spend a night on the road. The state of jocund delight in which they were, might go far to justify Rollo in having given the invitation; Prim was beaming, and Mrs. Coles proudly exultant. To be received into such an establishment; to be at home there; and without a cent of expense! Visions of pleasure filled the mind of both sisters; but very unlike; for while Prudentia dreamed of visits and shops, Prim thought of sitting beside Dane again, and at his own fireside.

The luncheon which Hazel dispensed to them, could not fail in such a mood to be greatly enjoyed; and talk flowed freely. Prudentia, being a guest, felt herself on vantage ground and a good deal more unrestrained than usual. She was in a patronising mood generally. But Prim was grateful.

'It seems almost like Chickaree, Hazel,' said the latter, 'to see you sitting there. And have you all these rooms to yourself? How delightful! What beautiful rooms!'

'But so high up!' her sister remarked. 'I am surprised that Dane did not get you rooms on the first floor, Hazel?'

The young mistress of the 'rooms,' it may be noted, was a trifle grand and stately to-day, and in a particularly unapproachable dress.

'Yes?' she said calmly. 'I think one's friends very often surprise one.'

'I know they do,' said Primrose. 'I wonder why they do. Other people never surprise one so much.'

'And how does Dane behave, in his new character?' Mrs. Coles went on, sipping her cup of tea with great satisfaction.

'Mr. Rollo is quite well, thank you.'

'To be quite well—with him—used to mean, that he had his own way,' said the lady blandly, but with a peculiar look over the table. 'Dear me! how delicious this tea is. You don't get such at our little country shops.—Does it mean the same thing still? Do you let him have his way as much as he likes?'

'Did you never dare cross him in the old time?' said Wych Hazel with one of her mild looks of astonishment.

'I dared,' said Mrs. Coles with a smile. 'O yes, I dared, but I was the only one. I always wondered how it would be with his wife.'

Nobody enlightened her, and the talk passed on to other subjects. The truce held till the ladies left the table. Then began an examination in detail of the various articles in the room which did not come strictly under the head of furniture; and indeed they were somewhat tempting. For the walls were hung with engravings, there were one or two nice bits of marble and bronze, and a number of small useful things which were at the same time made to be beautiful as well. Primrose sat down to study a fine copy of the “Shadow of the Cross.”

'Do these pictures all belong to the house?' Mrs. Coles asked.

'None of them,' Wych Hazel answered, standing behind Prim's chair.

'But what a quantity! Have Dane and you been picking all these up?'

'Picking up—choosing—what you will.'

'My dear!'—

There was a good deal of unspoken thoughts half uttered in the exclamation, and Mrs. Coles then went on.—'But why don't he have them in better frames? These are very common, it seems to me.'

'You think they do not suit the pictures?'

'The pictures are valuable, are they not?—Dane would not have them, I know, if they were not worth a lot of money; and the frames—my dear, just look at the frames; little slips of wood frames, or passepartouts; nothing better. There is not a gilt one here.'

'No,' said Wych Hazel. 'Look, Prim, how well the plain dark wood sets off this old cathedral.'

'My dear! don't you think gold would set if off better?' But then she changed the subject. 'Have you been very gay lately, Hazel?'

Hazel's thoughts were fast getting into a fight. She answered rather absently,—'I? No.'

'Did you go to Mrs. Schornstein's reception?'

'No, Mrs. Coles.'

'Weren't you invited?'

'O yes,' said Wych Hazel, facing round now. 'I was invited. And I have been invited everywhere else. And I have staid at home. Now I shall have the honour of surprising you.'

'My dear!'—said Mrs. Coles, thinking it was not the first time. 'Prim had a letter from Kitty that told us about the Schornstein's reception, and we thought to be sure you would be there. Why didn't you go? there, and everywhere else?'

Wych Hazel knit her brows, but then she laughed. 'Prim is so glad, that she forgets to be curious,' she said. “And Mrs. Coles is so curious that she forgets to be glad. Why should I have gone?— there, or anywhere—if you please?'

'My dear!—Society.'

'Yes, ma'am,' said Wych Hazel, meekly waiting for particulars.

'You will offend Society.'

'Shall I? But suppose I have no time to keep Society in good humour?'

'My dear, that won't do. A honeymoon is all very well; but at this rate you will lose all your friends.'

'That would seem to indicate that my friends can do without me. Very mortifying, if true.'

'But Hazel, every one knows it is true in Society. If you do not let yourself be seen, people will not keep you in mind.'

Wych Hazel stood thinking. Not in the least of Mrs. Coles, but of what her words called up. So thoughtfully deep in some questions of her own, that for a minute she forgot to answer her questioner.

'Maybe Dane is willing people should forget you,' the lady went on chuckling. 'He has got what he wants—that is enough.'

But here Hazel made a vigorous diversion, and insisted that her guests should go and lie down until it was near time for dinner. Then she herself stepped into her carriage and went out to think.

CHAPTER XXX. A TRAVELLING CLOCK.

'How shall I stand it?' she was saying to herself, as the wheels rolled smoothly on. 'How shall ever bear six more such days! Oh how could he ask them!—how could he, how could he!—They come right in between and put him ten miles away. My pleasure should have come first.—It is not fair.'

But here a troublesome question presented itself: what is “fair”— from people who have everything, to those who have not? And then one of the new maxims which Hazel had but lately learned to love came softly in.

“Use hospitality one to another”—so it ran. But how? “Without grudging.”

'And I have grudged every minute since she came!' thought Hazel, her hands folded over her eyes. 'Well, I did not want her.—No, but Dane did. Of course,—yes,—I must “use hospitality” for him. But I do think, just now, he might have been content with me!—But by and by he could not give them this pleasure.—Well, they needn't have it!'

“Without grudging”—“without grudging”—either time or trouble or one's own pleasure. Wych Hazel drew a long sigh. Then the words began again.

“Charity seeketh not her own.”—“Beareth all things.”—“Endureth all things.”

Wych Hazel pulled the check string and turned towards home. 'Resolved,' she said to herself; 'first, that Dane was extremely unreasonable to ask them. Second, that that is none of my business. Third, that I will do everything for them I can. If I keep them on the go, they won't know how I feel.' But there came in another message.

“Every man as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver.” So it must be heart work, after all!—Wych Hazel sighed a little as she went off to dress; and Rollo saw a thoughtful face opposite him at table, and got none of the shy dainty looks to which he was accustomed. Under the commenting eyes of Mrs. Coles, Hazel felt as if she could not look at him at all!

Nevertheless that was not a bad evening. For when two people are beaming with pleasure and through your means, a little reflection of the pleasure, at least, falls upon you. And Mrs. Coles and Prim were in a state of ecstasy; a fulness of satisfaction which at the moment left nothing to be wished for. It was not the same in the two. Mrs. Coles feeling herself for the time bien placée and foreseeing varieties of social and other delights attainable in such circumstances; but Prim was happy in being with Dane again. They had plenty to talk about all the evening; for there was much to tell about things in the Hollow, and Arthur's reports, and Prim's use of the money she had found in her new secretary; and Dr. Maryland's delight in his new books, and how the new carpet on the library made the old place look a different thing; also there was some laughing pleasant chatter about Prim's trunk. It was funny to see how both the ladies sat with their faces turned towards Dane three-quarters of the time; Prudentia possibly with a desire to propitiate, Primrose forgetting everything else in the moment's pleasure of seeing him; and both of them being a little unconsciously shy towards Hazel. However, that evening rolled off well; and also the next day was filled with business which left no leisure for spare.

The evening brought leisure. But Dane was a shield for Hazel whenever he was present. Nothing of Mrs. Coles' could touch her; it was sure to be caught midway, shuttle-wise, and turned back, before even Hazel's battledore could have a chance at it. He was gay and hospitable all the while; making Prim very happy, and even Mrs. Coles too. The latter lady was on her good behaviour. Nevertheless, she could not quite lose her opportunity. Nature is stronger than policy.

'Hazel tells us you have been very selfish, and not taken her anywhere all these weeks, Dane,' she remarked bridling, with her peculiar smooth manner of insinuating a charge or a criticism.

'Yes,' said Dane carelessly. 'You see, we have really had so many people to attend to.'

'But Hazel did not speak of your going anywhere?'

'Take my report of the matter, and let Hazel's alone.'

'Well, she certainly is right in one thing; you did not go to Mrs. Schornstein's reception?'

'She is right; we did not.'

'Nor to the ball at Mrs. Powder's?'

'True; we did not.'

'Don't you think you ought?'

'If we had thought we ought, I suppose we should have gone,' said Dane, with a manner of lazy indifference which sometimes came over him.

'But my dear! There are things one owes to Society.'

'I believe I never understood what is meant by my obligations to Society,' said Dane. 'What has Society done, that we should be in debt to it?'

'Why!'—said Mrs. Coles with a burdened breath, 'you should remember what is due to your position.'

'What is my position?'

'Do, Prue, let him alone!' said Primrose. 'Do you think he doesn't know what he is about?'

'He does not seem to know his position,' said her sister. 'Why you and your wife ought to be leaders of Society, Dane.'

'I have no objection,' said Rollo imperturbably. 'I will lead Society—if Society will follow me.'

'But if you want to lead Society, you must please Society,' said Mrs. Coles.

'That is assuming that you know which way I want Society to go.'

'Prue, you can't lead Duke,' said Primrose laughing. 'Don't you know that?'

Mrs. Coles looked puzzled and stayed her questions. Rollo was putting some engravings into their frames, and in the intervals of the work displaying them to the admiration of herself and Prim. Prim's enjoyment of them was very hearty; Mrs. Coles looked on with a divided and impatient, as well as curious mind. By and by she broke forth again.

'Have you taken Hazel to hear Sacchi-süssi, the new prima donna?'

'No.'

'I can't find out that you have done anything! Well, tell me one thing, and I'll forgive you; are you and your wife going to give a grand entertainment by and by, and ask all these people you have been slighting? Of course, I do not mean here; you could not do it here; but at home; by and by, at Chickaree. Will you do that?'

'I see one difficulty in the way,' said Dane, adjusting and arranging a lovely photograph of Ischl, and speaking with a negligent regard of the other subject in hand which greatly provoked his mentor.

'What can that difficulty be? You have everything—'

'One thing more than you have reckoned. I have the poor, and the maim, and the halt and the blind to look after.'

'What has that to do with the point?'

'Prior claim,—that is all.'

'But you have rich neighbours too.'

'Yes. But they are not in so much need of me.'

'My dear Dane! you are absurd.'

'Prove it'—said Dane quietly, laying Ischl out of his hands and taking up another photograph, beautifully executed, of Monteverde's marble “Genius of Franklin.” This so excited Primrose's interest and curiosity, that Mrs. Coles for a little while could not get in a word. She sat, no doubt mentally cursing the fine arts, and photography which had come to multiply the fruits of them.

'Dane,' she began with restrained impatience as soon as she saw a chance, 'why cannot you attend to the rich, as well as to the poor?'

'For the way you want me to attend to the rich, time fails. And money. And I may add, strength.'

'You and Hazel have no end of money,' said Mrs. Coles impatiently.

'It will not do all we want it to do, with the best economy.'

Mrs. Coles was silent a minute, remembering her two silks, one of which she had on at this very time, and how handsome they were; and her thought glanced to Prim's trunk, and the new secretaries, and the library carpet. She spoke with a somewhat lowered tone.

'Won't you ask anybody to your house, Dane, if he happens to be rich?'

'Not unless I have some other reason for asking him.—Heinert went off to-day, Hazel,'—Dane added with a change of tone.

'But Dane,' Mrs. Coles said despairingly, 'you are flying in the face of Society.'

'Mistaken, Prue; my face is turned in quite another direction,' said Dane with a slight glance at his wife which conveyed very merry and sweet private intelligence. He had just received a small parcel from Byrom, and was unrolling it in his hands; which also drew Mrs. Coles' attention and stopped the flow of her arguments. When the last fold of soft paper came off, there appeared a tiny clock; so tiny that at first nobody understood what it was; but as Dane set it upon the mantelpiece it struck the hour. The notes were like silver bells, so liquid, clear and musical, that there was a general exclamation of delight.

'My dear Dane? what is that?' exclaimed his interlocutor.

'Hazel's travelling clock.'

“Hazel's travelling clock!—Where is she going?'

'Wherever I go,' said Dane coolly.

'But where are you going? I thought your hands were full with your mills.'

'Just now they are rather full.'

'Won't they be full a long time, Duke?' said Primrose.

'Perhaps. But when I get things in order, then I shall go, if I can.'

'Where?' asked Mrs. Coles.

'In general—to see the midnight sun, and the moonlight on Milan.'

'You have been there before.'

'Just why I want to go there again,' said Rollo, while his eye came furtively over to Wych Hazel with a sparkle in it. And he went on.—'I know a little lake in the Bavarian mountains. It lies in the midst of the tall stems of ancient forest trees. The water is so clear that you can see the small stones at the bottom, sixty feet down. Above the lake and above the tops of the trees, you eye can reach the mountain walls of rock towering thousands of feet up, bearing their everlasting snow fields. Then if you look down, you see in the water the reflection of a cross that stands on the summit of one of the mountains; the Zug-spitze. And the whole little lake, to use the expression of an enthusiastic German , is “as green as the dewdrop on a lettuce leaf.” '

'My dear Dane!' said Mrs. Coles in bewilderment. 'Where is it?'

'In Bavaria.'

'That's in Germany, isn't it? Have you ever been there?'

'How else should I know how green it is?' said Dane, who had now got into his manner of lazy apathy.

'And why do you want to take Hazel there?' Mrs. Coles went on.

'I would like her to see how green it is. I shall not take her to the place where the cross stands on the Zug-spitze—though I have been there too; for her head might turn. But I will take her a half- day's walk from Windisch-matrei to G' schlöss, instead.'

'What is there, Duke?' asked Primrose, for Hazel did not speak.

'That is called the German Chamounix. The fields of blue ice come down almost to the bottom of the valley.'

'And is it pretty?'

'Chamounix is reckoned so.'

'I should think you would go to the real Chamounix, while you are about it,' remarked Mrs. Coles.

'Common,'—said Dane. 'Never be common, if you can help it. Then from G' schlöss we will mount the Grossen Venediger. It is eleven thousand feet high, to be sure, but uncommonly easy to go up; and from the top we shall have a good wilderness view of rocks and ice and snow—and little else, beside sky.'

'I do not see the pleasure in that,' said Mrs. Coles.

'O I do,' said Primrose. 'But Duke, Hazel could not walk half a day, like you.'

'Yes, she could, in the high Alps.'

'It must be delightful!' Primrose said musingly.

'Another time I will take her over the Dobratsch. She can ride up there.'

'Duke, you do use very odd words. What is the Dobratsch?'

'A mountain in Illyria—almost as good as the Rigi.'

'Why not go to the Rigi?' said Mrs. Coles.

'Crowds. But I will go to the Rigi too, if Hazel makes a point of it. The Dobratsch has more variety of scenery than the Rigi. Both give you lakes and glaciers; but from the Dobratsch you have a view of tremendous weatherworn limestone peaks, and riven Dolomites. Then we will visit the Warmbad-Villach.'

'What is that, Duke?'

'A little watering place. You would like it. A warm clear spring breaks forth just at the borders of the forest. It is a nice place to be late in the season. Then there is another walk I want to shew her, in the Rainthal, going from Taufers.'

'It sounds like a guide-book,' said Mrs. Coles chuckling. 'Where is Taufers?'

'That is in the Austrian Tyrol. You go for a couple of hours beside a glacier stream which is almost all the way a broad ribband of white foam. The bed of the brook is so steep and rocky that the water is dashed and shivered into spray, glittering in the sunshine, and wetting you all the same. What do you say to that, Hazel? You like brooks.'

Hazel had been deep in the intricacies of a bit of netting; the little foot with the netting-stirrup perched up on a foot cushion, the long needle flying swiftly to and fro. A stir of colour now and then, a curl of the lips, were the only tokens that she heard what went on. She answered sedately.

'They are good society, to follow.'

'And the lakes are not bad,' Dane went on. 'We should go to München of course, to study art; and from there we will take flying runs to the lakes; Ammersee, and Walchensee, and Königsee, and the rest of them.'

'But won't you take her to Mont Blanc and Chamounix, and to see the Matterhorn, where those people were lost?' said Mrs. Coles, whose breath seemed to be taken away.

'Of course. But the mountains are just as good where people have not been lost.'

'Have you been to all these other places already, Duke?' Primrose asked.

'More than once, some of them. I have walked there for weeks with Heinert,' he added, turning to Hazel with again the change of tone.

'And that is your wife's travelling clock!' said Mrs. Coles. 'It seems to me you are betimes about your preparations.'

'Always a good way,' said Dane coolly.

'It is a fine thing to be rich!' the lady went on, gazing at the clock.

'You are just about as rich as I am,' said Dane in the same tone.

'I!—As you!!'

'Practically.'

'I don't know what you mean by practically. You have millions, and I have a few hundred or so.'

'I mean only, that neither of us has anything that he can call his own.'

Mrs. Coles stared, but her interlocutor seemed to be looking at things in a very matter-of-fact way. He was now busy fitting another engraving into its fame; a plain black walnut frame, without carving or gilding, like the rest.

'I cannot conceive what you mean, Dane,' Mrs. Coles broke forth.

'It is perfectly simple. Surely the fact that we are only stewards of what we hold, is not strange to you?'

It seemed to be strange however, for Mrs. Coles weighed the statement.

'But Dane,—people do not take that so closely.'

'What then? There is the fact.'

'Prudentia, you have heard papa say the same thing, at least a hundred times,' Primrose reminded her.

'He hadn't much to talk about,' said the doctor's eldest daughter. 'And Dane, you do not take it so closely, either. What do you mean by your fine proposal to go travelling? How will you do it, if you have not the money?'

'I hold the money, to be used for the very best ends and interests I know. If when the time comes, I see any way that I can spend the money better, I'll not go.'

'But it would be spending the money on yourself—yourself and your wife—if you went, at any rate,' persisted Mrs. Coles. 'And you say, it is not yours.'

'Mine to spend.'

'On what you please.'

'No; in such ways as will best do the work the Owner of the money wants done.'

'And what has your travelling to do with that? I don't see.'

'If I don't see, as I said, I'll not go.'

'But how could it, you contradictory man?'

'Human nature often needs relaxation and recreation,' said Dane. 'Mine might.'

'Relaxation!' said Mrs. Coles. 'When you know as well as I do, that you are a pine knot for endurance, and a very burr for persistence.'

'Don't take her statements, Hazel,' said Dane. 'She does not know much about the vegetable creation, if she does about me.'

'But answer me, if you can.'

'Human nature also needs cultivation, I was going to add. A servant must make himself the best servant he can. A man is bound to give himself and his family the utmost of every kind of cultivation that is possible to him without neglecting higher ends.'

'H'm. And is Mrs. Rollo's travelling clock—Which class does that come under?'

'Pleasure.'

'O you hold pleasure lawful then?'

'Certainly. Within the above limits.'

'Prue, Prue,' said Prim uneasily. 'Stop. You have gone far enough; and too far.'

'I was seeking knowledge, Prim; and that, Dane says, is commendable. May I ask one other question, Dane? What head do these mean little picture frames come under?'

'You do not like them?' said Dane, surveying the one in hand with its enclosed photograph of Dannecker's Ariadne.

'Why don't you have handsomer ones?'

'Economy.'

'You cannot mean it.'

'Nevertheless—it is true.'

'You, who have such loads of money? —'

'To use, as I told you,' said Dane, smiling now. 'The engravings and photographs are both pleasure and education. I do not find either the one or the other in gilded stucco.'

'Well, have them carved, then.'

'Can't afford it, as I said.'

'But my dear Dane! are you going to regulate your whole household on such principles?'

Dane answered with the most matter-of-fact manner, that it was his intention.

'But I should think elegant frames would come under the head of pleasure.'

'They would not, to me, when I thought of the money they cost.'

'But Dane! with your means! Do you know what people will say of you?'

'I know,' he answered. 'The world will always find a nice name for a fellow that does not go by its rules.'

'You are so obstinate!' said the lady. 'You always were. Nothing I could say would ever move you. I shall get Arthur to talk to you. But what does your wife think of your doings?'

Dane was silent, only the corner of his mouth began to play.

'She has stockings on this minute that cost five dollars a pair, if they cost a penny. How does that fit with your wooden picture frames?'

Dane rose and rang the bell. 'You must be tired, Prudentia,' he said without the change of a muscle. 'And Prim is, I know. I shall send you to bed to get a good night's sleep, for you have a great deal to do to-morrow.'

Mrs. Coles did not know how to answer. And the servant appearing, Rollo ordered candles, and himself went with the ladies to the door of their room. There he took leave of Prim, whose face had clouded painfully, with a whispered word which brought a flush of pleasure back to it. It was not yet late. The little travelling clock was only ringing its ten musical silver peals, as Dane came back into the room. Wych Hazel was still standing as the ladies had left her, looking absently down at the picture frame. Dane came silently up and stood beside her.

'Do you think I shall ever stop being perverse?' she said abruptly.

'How are you perverse now?' he asked in a very disengaged tone.

'I have been pretty nearly as perverse as I could be, all these two days!' said Wych Hazel. 'Fighting everybody and everything. I dressed just as much as good taste would let me, because I never can put your friend down in a plain dress. And I have answered five hundred questions.—And I never thought about stockings in that way.—I thought one must have stockings!—' said Hazel, putting out her dainty foot and looking down at it ruefully. But then the brown eyes came eagerly back to him. 'Do you think I shall, Olaf?' she repeated.

Gently, very fondly, he gathered her into his arms and held her close. And without saying a word, his manner gave assurance of contentment enough to satisfy any woman.

'Then you are not going to scold me?' he asked at length, without releasing her.

'For what?'

'Bringing you into such perverse circumstances.'

Hazel looked at him wistfully. 'I knew how it would be,' she said. 'I knew myself. That was why I said no. At least, partly why.'

'Do you regret my action?'

'I was naughty enough yesterday morning to hope you would,' said Hazel with a confessing laugh.

'I told Prim just now, privately, that if we ever went that journey I spoke of, she should go too.'

The colour flushed up into Hazel's face, and went away again, but she gave neither word nor look.

'You are sorry?'

'Never ask such questions afterwards!' said Hazel. And she would have disengaged herself, but he would not let her. 'Do you not know better than that?'

'Hazel,' he said, gravely though full of tenderness,—'you and I are not going to live to ourselves?'

Like a statue, so the girl stood; but with a rush of thoughts that for a minute she could not head off.

'He might live to me—just a little bit,—' so they ran. 'That is what I shall do to him,—under God,—always!'—Then tramp, tramp, came the words:

“The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man,”—and if ever in her life Wych Hazel felt rebellious, she did so then. The old grievance of man's right of way,—the fact that it was a right,—but with it a softer feeling, hurt and sore, that he could even wish for anybody else but her on such a journey; that her right should not have come in there.

“The moon looks down on many brooks,—

“The brook can see no moon but one!”

He might at least have consulted her. Suppose she had asked somebody?—Wych Hazel drew half of a very long sigh, choked the rest back, then raised her grave brown eyes, and answered,

'No.'

Did he see what was beneath them? For a peculiar fire leapt into the grey eyes. He spoke in the same tone he had used before.

'Suppose, Hazel, we lose twenty-five per cent. of our pleasure? And suppose Primrose gains a hundred?—' He was holding her close and tenderly, looking down into her eyes with all the power of his.

'Well,' said Hazel,—'I suppose she would.'

'And I suppose we should. I ask nobody for my pleasure to be a third with us. I suppose it will be a trial to me when we go home, to have Heinert at the dinner table and talking to me in the evening. And yet, Hazel, just because you are so much to me, I dare not but pour pleasure into every cup I see standing empty; even though I let a few drops of my own go.'

She answered softly 'Yes,'—yet was very near adding, 'But you are spilling mine!'—It was rather hard. Would he be always doing such things, over the head of her pleasure? But in the new life and purpose awake in her, Wych Hazel had found a new set of answers to trouble some questions. If the answers were also sometimes difficult, they were at least conclusive. And now, as she stood there, these words came:

“For even Christ pleased not himself.”

“Even,”—what was she, to set up her pleasure against anybody's good? A quiver crept round her lips for a minute—but then she looked up and laughed.

'I am just as perverse as I can be, to-night,' she said. 'Stroked all the wrong way. That disposes of everything.'

Rollo bent and pressed his lips to those soft trembling ones, and still holding her fast, caressed face and hair with the free hand; his face shewing more delight in her than Hazel was in a condition to observe; though the tenderness of tone and touch spoke their own language.

'Hazel—' he said softly.

She looked up, listening.

'I am curious about something.'

'I cannot say I shall be happy to gratify your curiosity, until I know what it is about.'

'It concerns the question, how you are going to ask my pardon for the thought that has been in your head?'

'I am not going to do it.'

'You ought. And you know that what you ought, you always, sooner or later,—do.'

'Ought I?' said Wych Hazel. 'Is it one of your prerogatives to have your pardon asked without cause?' But then she laid her face against his, in a way that was extremely womanish and not a bit self-asserting.

Rollo stood still and added no more. He had read what was going on in her thoughts, and he knew that she was mistaken; but he also knew that words prove nothing, and as before, he waited. Only as at last he let her out of his arms, he said lightly,

'You will not lose anything in the long run, Hazel. People never do, by doing right.'

CHAPTER XXXI. NOVICE WORK.

Mrs. Coles did not improve her position next day. 'What nights does Sacchi-süssi sing?' she asked, when Rollo had left the three ladies alone. Hazel answered that she had not noticed.

'They say she is wonderful, and beautiful, and everything. Do you suppose Dane will take us, if we ask him nicely?'

'I do not go.'

'To the opera? My dear! Not at all?'

'Not at all.'

'But why?'

Wych Hazel stood thinking. She was very shy of declaring herself—yet sometimes it must be done.

'A few years ago,' she said slowly, 'when the war was going on, two gentlemen came one night to see Mr. Falkirk. They told war stories; and I with my book of some study in my hand, sat still and listened. One story was this. A mutual friend of all the parties had laid the United States flag down in her drawing room as a floor- cloth, to be trodden under foot. Then the other gentleman spoke out and said his wife would not enter that house again while the war lasted! Mrs. Coles—at the opera and the theatre my flag is under foot.'

'Your flag!' said the lady in amazement.

'Yes,' Hazel answered with her colour stirring. 'You know what service I have sworn into.'

'I don't see where the flags come in,' said Mrs. Coles.

Hazel answered softly, gazing into the fire,—“Thou hast given a banner to thy chosen, that it may be displayed because of the truth.”

'Then you mean to say,' broke out Mrs. Coles with a rising colour of her own tinging the pale face, 'that no Christians ever go to the theatre!'

'Do they carry their flag aloft there?' said Wych Hazel. 'Are they marching to victory under its folds? I could not carry mine. It would be trailing, drooping, union-down!—'

'Prue, Prue,' said Primrose, 'you know what papa always says.'

'Papa does not know the world!' said Mrs. Coles, waving that down. 'And how about your favourite German?' she said, returning to the charge against Wych Hazel with equal ire and curiosity.

Wych Hazel answered again, still looking into the fire,—

' “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” '

The girl spoke so “at liberty,”—there was such freedom in the loyalty, the folds of the banner waved so gladly above her head,— Mrs. Coles looked and hesitated. Then, spying as she thought a joint in the armour, so to speak, she sent out an arrow.

'And you call that a good marching uniform, I suppose,' she said derisively, with a comprehensive glance that went from head to foot.

Wych Hazel faced round upon her with eyes wide open at first in displeased astonishment. But in a moment another look came, startled, wondering, as when one finds a sudden unlooked-for clue. Was that it? Wych Hazel said to herself. Had it been left to Mrs. Coles to tell her? “A good marching uniform?”—Wych Hazel thought she knew better now than ever before “what to do about dress.”

The ladies were going out, and the subject dropped. The morning was filled with out-of-door business. At luncheon Mrs. Coles declared herself fatigued and disposed to rest at home. She fondly hoped the afternoon would be made lively by visiters; and to her wish, so it was.

Among others came Miss Annabella Powder. This young lady had not been wont to seem so fond of Hazel's society as the other members of her family; indeed she rarely made her appearance at Chickaree more frequently than civility demanded. To-day, however, she made a long visit. It was not that she seemed to be enjoying herself; she went languidly through a prolonged conversation with Mrs. Coles, who had an endless number of questions to ask about the winter, and especially about her pretty sister Mrs. Charteris; with a latent view to supplemental information also about Rollo and his wife, if such were to be had. Annabella answered at random, made Mrs. Coles desperate, was bored; and yet did not go away. At last she seized a chance and moved to a seat beside Hazel. It was at a time when several other people were present and just then engaged more or less with each other and a common subject. Annabella had never been intimate with Hazel. Therefore it was the more noticeable when with depressed voice and somewhat hurried emphasis she said,

'I want to speak to you—I want to say a word.—How can I?'

'In this window—' said Wych Hazel leading the way. 'They are miles deep in Miss Burr's engagement.'

In the window was a most beautiful hyacinth. The two ladies stood, one on this side and one on the other side, and spoke,—not about floriculture.

'I have no time here,' Annabella began breathlessly, bending down to put her nose to the beautiful buff bells, which were sweet enough at a greater distance. 'I want to see you alone, Mrs. Rollo. You were always so kind—When can I? I have a great deal to say. Could you go and drive with me by and by? I don't know what other way—'

'It must be to-morrow, then,' said Hazel, straightening the stick which supported the heavy head of flowers. 'To-day I am promised to Mrs. Coles.'

'To-morrow, then? You are so kind, Mrs. Rollo!—and you are the only person—At three o'clock, then? and I will come in mamma's carriage. You wont speak of it?'

'I never give such promises,' said Wych Hazel.

'But'—Annabella's eye went anxiously to Mrs. Coles.

'Discretion is stronger than bonds.'

'And you are very discreet?' said the girl trying to laugh. 'Well, I must trust you. But don't let any one know you are going out with me!'

The next day Mrs. Coles was engaged to luncheon with a friend and took Primrose with her. They had not returned when Miss Powder came for Hazel, and the two ladies drove off in security. It was not a day for a pleasure drive. Clouds hung low and grey; the air had been keen and raw, with snow in its course somewhere. Now it had become suspiciously milder. But neither lady was thinking of pleasure.

'You are very good, Mrs. Rollo!' said Annabella, who evidently had some difficulty in commanding herself, and was very unlike her usual statuesque manner. For she was a handsome girl, of the Madonna type, and either by temperament or for policy had long adopted a calm style to match. To-day it was broken up.—'I am very much obliged to you!' she went on. 'I did not know whom to speak to, and I must get somebody to help me. And Josephine used to think so much of you; I thought she would mind you if anybody. I couldn't ask mamma—mamma don't know. O what shall I do?'— And with this most honest cry of despair, poor Annabella broke down.

Hazel asked what was the matter? under the wild idea for a moment that Miss Powder had found her heart and then rashly broken it.

'Nobody knows—' the girl began again, trying to get the better of her agitation; 'it has not come out yet; nobody suspects; and I thought—if you could hinder it! If you cannot, there is no one that can. Mamma has no idea. And it would just kill her to know. She thinks it is all right. Poor mamma!—'

'But what am I to hinder?' said Wych Hazel.

'Have you seen Josephine lately?'

'Yes.'

'Didn't she seem like herself?'

'Extremely like herself.'

'So she did when I saw her. And her house,—did you see her house?—it was so nicely arranged and so pretty; and I thought she was so happy—'

'I never thought that,' said Wych Hazel.

'I did. I thought she had got what she wanted; we all thought so. Nobody married this year had a better establishment than Josephine; not one.'

'She got what she married for,' said Hazel; 'but Josephine's “wants” were larger than that.'

'Were they?' said Annabella drearily. 'I didn't know it. I don't see how they could be.'

Ironical words rose to Wych Hazel's lips; but she sent them back. Somehow her own height of happiness made her strangely tender and humble even towards such fallacy as this.

'Then you are not troubled about her?' she said enquiringly.

'Troubled!' Annabella echoed. 'Why she has left it all.'

'Left it!'—Wych Hazel sat up straight in her place, facing round.

'Nobody knows yet; but she has left it. Mamma don't know. If I can only keep it from mamma!—'

'Keep it from Mrs. Powder?' Hazel repeated. 'Keep what? Where has she gone? What can you be talking of, Miss Powder?'

'She has not gone far yet, but she means never to come back. I know where she is; she is hiding. You see, Mr. Charteris is at Albany; he has some business about some bill he wants to get through the Legislature, and it will keep him there a while; and Josey took the opportunity. She ran away; and I should never have known where to, only that the person she went to came and told me. It is a woman who used to be housekeeper for mamma; a very respectable woman; and Josey went to her. Think of it! And she won't come back. Not for me. And then I thought, if anybody living could have any influence over her, it might be you. She always thought all the world of you. Is it very bold in me to ask you? But Mrs. Rollo, I was desperate!'

Poor Annabella's looks and tones did not belie her. Wych Hazel sat back again, thinking.

'Marry a man,' she said slowly, 'and you may be able to live along without an “establishment.” But if you marry an establishment, the small appendage that goes along with it—But she must come back, of course! at once,' Hazel exclaimed, retaking her impetuous tones. 'Won't come?—she must.'

'If you can only make her?' said Annabella. 'Nobody knows anything yet—and Charteris will not be home for days. But I have not told you quite the whole. There is another person concerned. I am afraid,'—Annabella spoke with bated breath—'she means to go to Europe.'

'Stuart Nightingale—'

'Oh do you know that?' Annabella burst forth with a cry that was almost pitiful. 'Do you know that? Is there no hope? Can we do nothing?'

Usually so calm and impassive, Miss Powder's manner to-day was in a sort of shattered condition. Hazel's mention of Stuart's name had startled her into an access of fear. And the difficulty of managing a volcano from the outside came strongly into Wych Hazel's mind. She answered slowly,

'I do not know. We will try.'

'And may I take you to her now? There is no time to lose.'

Hazel assented, thinking busily. 'This is her resource,' she said to herself. 'The pocket pistol would have been mine.'

The carriage rolled on now for a time without any more words passing between its inmates. Both ladies were meditating, ways and means and hindrances. The grey sky under which they had begun their drive, seemed to be letting itself down closer and closer upon the earth; and this low grey canopy was becoming suspiciously smooth and uniform. The air was quite still, and had as I said, suddenly grown mild. But neither of the two busy thinkers noticed the signs abroad.

'Mrs. Rollo,' Annabella began after a long pause,—'I am afraid you can do nothing with Phinny. She always has had her own way, and she is obstinate. Suppose you cannot make her listen to you; do you think you could have any power with Mr. Nightingale?'

Hazel hesitated to answer, and Annabella went on.—'I don't know whether you know—Mme. Lasalle has got one of her friends to give him an office; and he is going out next month as consul to Lisbon. If only he could be got off without her, then, you see, we should be safe.'

'She would follow.'

'No, I don't think she would; she would not dare. Phinny is not bold, in that way. Could you do anything with him, do you think?' The accent of forlorn anxiety was touching from the usually so imperturbable sister. She watched Wych Hazel's face and words now.

It was a very mixed question. Could she?—truth to say, she felt uncertain. Yet perhaps.—But might she? Would the attempt be permitted, if Rollo knew? Was it breaking faith to try without his knowledge? Or were there cases when she might lawfully and secretly follow her own judgment against his? and was this one? Hazel folded her hands over her “yes.”

'Don't talk to me, please,' she said. 'I must think.'

Again the carriage rolled on with stillness inside. The grey air outside grew almost tangible, it seemed so thick. Very fine snow crystals were beginning to flicker down, but I think neither of the ladies remarked it. Meanwhile the wheels of the carriage were no longer rattling over paving stones; the streets and houses of the city were left behind; a grey country, with houses scattered over it and trees here and there standing, desolate and drear enough, was to be seen from the carriage windows; but Wych Hazel hardly saw it. At last the houses began again to stand apparently in some regular order and took a more comfortable air; gardens and trees and shrubbery lay between the houses and around them; then suddenly the carriage turned round a corner and presently stopped. Wych Hazel saw a small dwelling house of very humble pretensions, but neat-looking, and with a small courtyard in front; and now perceived by the signs that she was in a village. 'Where have you brought me?' she said.

'O, Fort Washington—didn't I tell you? Mrs. Rhodes lives here. She is quite respectable.'

The snow was not yet falling, except in those fine isolated crystals. But the branches of the trees that overshadowed the house were beginning to sway hither and thither as if the wind were rising, and a warning moan of the breeze came through the tree-tops. The ladies went in at a little gate in the paling fence, and were admitted immediately into the house by a neat elderly woman. A little entry- way received them, having a door on each hand. Wych Hazel was ushered into the room on the right, while Annabella disappeared with the woman into the other opposite.

It looked dreary enough, for Josephine Charteris's hiding-place. Respectable it was, to be sure. There was a gay ingrain carpet, a little table set out with photographs of Mrs. Rhodes's friends and relations, living and dead; around the walls hung a great number of other pictures in cut walnut frames and resting on brackets of the same. A large one of Abraham Lincoln held the first place among these, and another engraving of a racehorse challenged attention, with a large map of North America and the portrait of Jenny Lind. Hazel felt as if she could not have borne the whole together for one half hour, if she had been there on her own account. In a few minutes Josephine came in. She was not different from what Hazel had been accustomed to see her; not excited, not disturbed. Her dress was rich, and a little careless; in both respects not unlike Josephine. She received her visiter cordially enough.

'You are the only person I would see,' she said. 'How did you know where I was? I have come here for rest. You know there is no rest as long as people know you are in town; it is nothing but go, go, night and day. And here one has really a breath of country air. I have brought a carriage load of books with me—all the new novels I could find; and I just lie abed and read all day. Dreadfully useless, isn't it?' she went on, with a laugh; 'but you know I never pretended to be anything else. Don't you think that is the great point? not to pretend to be what you are not?'

'Well, why do you then?' said Wych Hazel.

'I?—I don't. I think it's no use. People see through pretences. I only pretend enough just to keep up appearances. Didn't I always tell you exactly what I thought? I don't tell everybody.'

'Do you suppose I believe that you came here for the express purpose of being snowed up,—outside of theatres and Germans, and other necessaries of life?'

'That is just what I want,' said Josephine. 'I wish it would snow— five feet deep. I would like nothing better than to be snowed up. I would like to be desiccated—like a man I was reading of yesterday; he's in a French novel. Do you know, he was desiccated; he was a convict, you see, and the men of science could try their experiments upon him; and they desiccated him and laid him by; and he was forgotten, and years passed, and everything changed in the world, and his children grew up, and his friends died—if he had any friends; and people forgot what this preparation was; and they cut off a bit of his ear to try under the microscope whether it was an animal's skin or what it was. And afterwards the skin was put in water and he came to life again— that was all he wanted, you know, like a rose of Jericho. I wish I could be desiccated and kept awhile, till everybody was dead that I know, and then come to life again.'

'What would be the pleasure of that?' said Hazel, watching her.

'I should never see Charteris any more. I suppose I shock you—but what's the use of pretending? He's away in Albany now; and as soon as he went, I ran. You see, it isn't at all a bad sort of a place here. Little rooms, to be sure, but there's nobody in them but me; and Rhodes is a capital cook, and she pets me, and I like to be petted. And I have my own way here, and down in 40th street I can't. With all the world outside the house, and a husband inside, there is no place to breathe. I enjoy it here ever so much, and I don't want to go back, ever! Don't you want to run away too, by this time?'

'Then it is a real scheme, deep-laid and serious,' said Wych Hazel. 'Not the whim Mr. Nightingale calls it?'

'Mr. Nightingale!' said Josephine, her face changing and darkening. 'What does he say of me? Has he spoken to you about me? He doesn't know anything.'

'About anything.—No. And never by any chance speaks the truth about the few things he does know. He said that Mr. Charteris had gone to Albany, and that Mrs. Charteris had the pretty whim to follow him. “Touching,” I think he called it.' The disdain in the girl's voice was incomparable.

'That will do,' said Josephine. 'It's nobody's business whether I am in Albany or not. Never mind him; talk to me. Why haven't I seen you anywhere all winter? Does Dane Rollo want you to stay at home, now he is married? like Charteris?'

'I am married too,' said Wych Hazel with a flash of her old self. 'So take care what you say about him. Josephine, did you tell that man you were going to Albany?'

'Nonsense!' said Josephine laughing. 'I believe you are afraid to answer. I know you used to like to have your own way. Did I tell Stuart? No. What should I tell him for? I didn't tell him I was going to Albany, because I wasn't. I was coming here; and that wasn't worth telling a fib about. I came here to do what I like; and I just do it from morning to night. I suppose you are learning to do what you don't like. How does it feel?'

'I did not believe one word he said, all the time!' said Hazel, coolly ignoring the insinuations. 'Why should Stuart Nightingale invent falsehoods to cover the movements of Josephine Charteris?'

'Just as well as for anything else,' said Josephine laughing. 'I'm much obliged to him for the attention, I'm sure. But you don't answer, Hazel. I want to know how you and Dane get on together, after all your fine theories? Dane Rollo was as lordly a man as I ever saw, with all his easy ways; and you never were one to give up your liberty. I suppose you won't confess. Now I am more honest.'

Wych Hazel answered with a laugh,—fresh and gladsome and sweet,—more convincing than a hundred words. But she was grave again instantly. She left her chair and bringing a cushion to Josephine's feet sat down there, leaned her arms on her friend's lap and looked straight up into her face.

'Josephine,' she said, 'I am very, very much troubled about you.'

Josephine did not answer this. She looked at Hazel, and then her look wandered to somewhat else; undeclarative, withdrawn into herself.

'Josephine, you cannot have what does not belong to you, any more in men than in money. And if you try to give away what belongs to somebody else, nobody but a wretch will take it.'

'You are going to give me a moral lecture, because I came to Mrs. Rhodes on a spree?' said Josephine, with a superficial kind of little laugh. 'Isn't my time my own while Mr. Charteris is away?'

'No, it is not. Not to spend in a way that wrongs him. And you are not your own, wherever he is.'

'You think I am a man's property just because I am married to him! I don't. I think the man and the woman are equal, and both of them are free. It is only among savages that women are slaves.'

Hazel let that pass. Keeping her folded hands on Josephine's lap, she looked down, thinking.

'What sort of life have you led with Mr. Charteris so far?' she said, not raising her eyes. 'Can you picture it for me?'

'Picture it!'—Josephine put up her lip, and then she laughed with seeming amusement. 'Did you ever see two chickens pulling at the two ends of a worm? That's about it. John pulled one way, and I pulled the other. Pleasant picture, isn't it? But that sort of thing can't last forever.'

'No,' said Wych Hazel looking suddenly up,—'but this does. A life ignored by all respectable people; a name spurned with the foot and scorned on the tongue. A dark spot, which only forgetfulness can hide,—and which nobody ever forgets! That other sort of thing does end, Josephine, with death, or with patient endeavour; but this thing, never!'

'You talk'—said Josephine pouting. Then she suddenly broke out, with her eyes full upon Hazel's face. 'Don't you think, if you had never been happy in your life, you would like to try just for a little how it feels?'

'Yes,' said Wych Hazel, 'but you are going to try misery;—and not for a little.'

'I am not trying misery here,' said the girl with a shrug of her shoulders. 'I tell you, it's jolly. How did you know where to find me?'

'There is a fair view, quite often, from the place where one step towards it plunges you down thousands of feet. When you are left alone in Lisbon—and dare not come home to America—then you will learn what misery is.'

Josephine started a little, and for once her colour stirred. Words did not come readily. When they came, they were a somewhat haughty enquiry what Hazel meant?

'Just what I say,' Hazel answered quietly.

'Did you come here to say it?'

'Yes.'

'That's Annabella. Well,—I don't care. You know about it. You know I can't live with Charteris.'

'Josephine, you must.'

'I cannot. You can't tell how it is. He don't care for me, and I don't like him; and I don't think, for my part, it is religious for people to live together that don't like each other.'

'This is a tragedy, not a farce,' Hazel said, knitting her brows. 'Leave fashions of speech a one side. John Charteris, with all his faults, would never grow tired of you, Josephine—if you gave him half a chance to help it; but Stuart Nightingale will.'

'I am jolly tired of him,' cried Josephine with a burst. 'Charteris and I can't live happy together. I know better. And it will be worse now he has lost his money. I would rather die, Hazel. And I tell you, he is tired of me—and I should think he would. If you knew the life I've led him, you would think so too. You needn't talk to me. I would rather die right off, than go on living with him; and it would kill me anyhow, and I'm not going to die that way.'

'There is honour in dying at one's post,' said Wych Hazel thoughtfully,—'even if it came to that. But to sail away on a pleasure trip, with all one's dearest friends praying that the ship might go down in mid-seas!—'

Josephine sat still, looking with odd impassiveness into the fire; then she remarked in the same way,

'My dearest friends don't do much praying. I guess they won't drown me.'

'You may kill them,' said Hazel. 'Imagine people watching Annabella and saying 'Poor thing!'—'What has become of the other sister?'—'O you mustn't ask about her. You know'—and then heads will draw together. And your mother will see the shrugs and catch the hints.'

'What makes you care?' said Josephine, without moving a muscle. 'I believe you must have liked him a little yourself.'

'I liked him such a very little,' said Wych Hazel, 'that a year ago I cut up his heart into bits. He has patched them together again,— but the stitches shew.'

'Stuart was poor,' said Josephine. 'I knew it all the time.'

Wych Hazel's brows drew together, but the words got no further notice.

'Josephine, you married for diamonds. I will give you diamonds every week for a year, if you will go back to your place and stay there.'

'I don't care for diamonds,' said Josephine very coldly.

'What do you care for?'—the grave young eyes looked up eagerly.

'Not much'—said Josephine drearily, and the words were inexpressibly sad from such young lips. 'But I am not going to live in that prison in 40th street and with that jailer Charteris any more!'

'Josephine, you could change all that. There is no prison—and no jailer—for any woman of whom it is true: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her.” '

'It wouldn't be very safe for Charteris to trust me,' said Josephine, with a hard, metallic laugh. 'I never was to be trusted. I know what you have come for, Hazel, and I know who has brought you; it's Annabella; but it's no use. You may give up the job. I know all you want to say, and I'm not going to have you say it; and you have said it, besides. Look here. A marriage isn't a real marriage when people don't care for each other. Do you think a woman is bound by a few words said over her by a man in a black silk gown? by an incantation, like the savages? It would make me downright wicked to go on living with John Charteris; you ought to want to save me from that. I am always a great deal better—more religious—when I am happy, than when I am miserable. It always rouses up all there is bad in me, to try to make me do something I don't want to do. I can't imagine how you get along with Dane Rollo; but that is you affair; this is mine. Where is Annabella?'

Before Hazel could stop her, she had flown across the hall to the room on the other side, whence she fetched back her sister. The conversation was not renewed. In ignorance of what fruit the interview might have borne, or what its results might be, Annabella dared not touch the matter; and Josephine gave her no chance. She kept up a rattling fire of nonsense, until the two ladies were forced to leave her.

The day was darkening fast now towards the early evening. Fine snow was falling thick, and the wind came in gusts. There was no time to be lost in getting home. Yet Annabella paused at the very coach door and looked at Hazel. 'Have you done anything?' she asked anxiously.

At the instant a gentleman ran against them with an umbrella, and lifting the same suddenly to make his excuses, a very familiar figure was revealed to them. Stuart Nightingale himself. A flash of disagreeable expression crossed his face for that one second of surprise, then he had regained his usual manner.

'Quel plaisir!' he cried, bowing low. 'Two such ladies, in the snow, here! at Fort Washington! The charms of the surprise is manifold. What has procured it? mercy, or vanity? One or the other it must be. A sick friend?—or a French mantua-maker? But you are never going to drive back to New York in this awful storm?'

Annabella drew herself up and made no answer. Wych Hazel looked at the snow.

'Good evening,' she said. 'The storm is not much.'

They were to have more of it, however, than she had bargained for. Stuart's remonstrances were not listened to; the ladies entered their carriage and drove off. But their driver, who was not Mrs. Powder's servant, had improved his leisure time during their stay in the house by making visits to a neighbouring drinking saloon; and now, confused by the mingled efforts of wind and brandy, took the road north instead of south from the village. To spare her sister, and indeed herself, Annabella had taken a hackney coach, and this was what came of it. The ladies were thinking of something else and did not see what their charioteer was doing. Annabella broke at last a silence which had prevailed for some time.

'What did she say?'

'Said she didn't care.'

'She would not listen to you!'

'Not this time.'

'Then there is no chance,' cried Annabella in despair. 'They will make all their arrangements now. Stuart is going to sail the week after next, I know.'

'I wish I could get speech of him!' said Wych Hazel, knitting her brows in the darkness.

This too was to fall to her lot in an unexpected manner and measure. It might have been three quarters of an hour, or more, from the time of their meeting that gentleman in front of Mrs. Rhodes's cottage, when Stuart happened to be in the street again and crossing the main road at the corner where the carriage had turned the wrong way. The storm had now grown to be furious; wind and snow driving so across the street that to hold his umbrella was no longer possible. As with difficulty he closed it, a carriage stopped immediately before him, the door opened, and two ladies sprang out into the storm. He had nearly run against them again, before he saw that they were the same ladies. And they saw him.

'O Mr. Nightingale!' cried the foremost, forgetting everything in distress,—'do help us. We've got a drunken coachman.'

'Miss Powder!—But how are you here yet?'

'O he took us ever so far on the way to Albany before we found it out. He's quite stupid. What shall we do?'

A few steps in the snow, taken with extreme difficulty, brought them to the shelter of a village hotel. Here the matter was debated. Stuart advised their spending the night quietly where they were. But Annabella would not listen to this. “Her mother,” “her mother”—she urged; “her mother would be frightened to death.” Write, Stuart suggested. Miss Powder did not believe any messenger would go. Stuart offered to be the messenger himself. Annabella refused, obstinately. I think she did not put enough faith in him even for that. She would have a carriage and proceed on her journey forthwith. Annabella shewed herself determined, and Hazel did not oppose her decisions, nor have much to say in the matter generally.

So a carriage was got ready; it was necessary to offer a huge fee to tempt any man out that night, but however that was arranged; and in half an hour the ladies were able to set forth again on their interrupted journey. But one circumstance neither of them had counted upon. Mr. Nightingale, after putting them into the carriage and giving directions to the driver, coolly stepped in himself and took the opposite seat.

'Mr. Nightingale!' said Miss Powder—'you are not going?'

'Certainly I am. You two ladies cannot be allowed to take such a journey alone. I should expect Gov. Powder never to speak to me again, and coffee and pistols with Rollo would be too good for me. To say nothing of the punishment of my own conscience.'

The drive from that point was extremely silent, and never to be forgotten by at least two of the party. The violence of the storm was quite enough to justify the third in intruding himself upon their company, though I am afraid nobody thanked him for it. Wind and snow and darkness made any progress difficult, and any but very slow progress out of the question. The horses crept along the road, which they were not infrequently left to find by themselves; the snow whirled and beat now against one window and now upon the other with a fury and a rush which were somewhat appalling. Still the horses struggled on, though all the light there was abroad came from the glimmer of the snow itself, unless when a gleam shot out into the night from the window of some house. They did keep on their way, but it was doubtful at times if they could. Within the carriage conversation was limited to remarks about the weather and the cold, and did not flourish at that, though the cold did. To keep warm became impossible.

It was a great relief at last to feel pavement under the wheels, which they could do in the broad places where wind had swept the street bare; and gaslights looked very kindly, flaring along the line of way. They could see the storm then! How it raged and drove through the streets, driving everybody to the shelter of a house that had a house to go to; and those who had none were slunk away into other hiding places. The wind and the snow had cleared the deserted streets; an occasional carriage was rarely met.

'Set me down first, please,' said Annabella, pressing Wych Hazel's hand to mark her meaning. 'My mother must be in distress—and it is just as near going that way.'

Stuart laughed a little, but he did not speak his thoughts which went to the possible anxiety of some other people. With some difficulty he hailed the coachman and gave the order, and presently Miss Powder was deposited at her own door. Stuart gave the next order and jumped in again.

Now what should Wych Hazel do? During that minute, while she watched the two figures standing in the driving storm before Mrs. Powder's door, she had taken a comprehensive view of the situation, and made up her mind.

'Sit there, please,' she said, motioning the incomer to his former place on the front seat. 'I want to talk business.' Since leaving Fort Washington she had hardly opened her lips; but now the well- remembered voice came out clear and sweet and with a ring of grave dignity.

'Am I to suppose you do not think me worthy to talk business alongside of you?' said Stuart lightly, and obeying.

Wych Hazel left that question to answer itself. She was silent a minute, her hands holding each other fast.

'Mr. Nightingale,' she said, 'you once asked me if I liked to hear the truth told about myself. Do you?'

'From you!—anything,' he answered gallantly. 'Your voice never speaks harsh judgments—though I am afraid the truth about myself would be less than flattering. What is it, Mrs. Rollo? I am curious. It is said, no man knows himself.'

'I have been told,' said Wych Hazel—and she hesitated, and then went on again with quick utterance,—how intensely disagreeable it all was to her!—'I have been told this afternoon, that a year ago you wanted my fortune. Stop!—I do not care two straws whether you did or not!—But I wished to say, that upon certain conditions you can have part of it now. Think before you refuse, Mr. Nightingale. No one will ever offer you so much again—in exchange for so little.'

A pause.

'I am at a loss,' he began in a changed voice, 'how any one can have induced you to believe'—And there he stopped. But Wych Hazel gave him no help. She sat looking out into the night, the gaslights flaring in from time to time upon her face. Had she grown fairer than ever?

'Everything is said about everybody,' he said haughtily after a little. 'I do not know why I should fare better than others. The truth about anybody is never public report. It is assumed in the case of every woman who has a fortune, that the man who seeks her, wants it. The gentleman who has had the honour of Miss Kennedy's choice has certainly not escaped the imputation, however he may deserve it no more than I.'

'That is not business,' she said in quiet tones. 'If you please, we will discuss nothing else.'

'I am not so happy as to know of any business between us,' he said in the same haughty manner,—'great as the honour and pleasure would be.'

'It will save time,' said Wych Hazel, 'to waste none in preliminaries. I want to buy up your present bad undertaking—and the price is for you to name.'—And she looked out again into the white darkness, and wondered if this was to be her first night adventure wherein Mr. Rollo did not appear to take her home.

'Pardon me, I am very much at a loss to know what you mean. Only, through the confusion, I seem to perceive that Mrs. Rollo has lost the kind opinion which Miss Kennedy used to have of me.'

He heard a soft exclamation of impatience—extremely like 'Miss Kennedy!'—Then came deliberate words again.

'Mrs. Charteris,' she said, 'has no money of her own. I offer you what you will to let her alone. To break with her utterly. Do you understand? I believe if you pledged me your word to that, you would keep it.'

'Thank you!' he said in the same tone. 'May I venture to ask, how you can possibly suppose that I have anything to “break” with any other woman, after you have broken with me?'

The words were beneath notice. Wych hazel went on as if she had not heard them.

'And if you will come to a decision soon,—now, while I am here,—I shall be very glad.'

'Mrs. Rollo supposes that everything can be done with money!' Stuart said scornfully. 'It is a not unnatural delusion with those who have an unusual supply.'

'No,' said Wych Hazel in the same calm way; 'I do not suppose that. I know better. But with nothing in the other scale, money and honour have their weight.'

'Mrs. Rollo probably has for the moment forgotten that she is not still Miss Kennedy. She will forgive me the remark.'

'I have not forgotten that either. If I had, I should not be here talking to Mr. Nightingale.'

'Why not?' said he quickly.

'The fact is enough. I am dealing only with facts to-night. Business facts.' And Wych Hazel leaned back and was silent; listening to the dull roll of the wheels, and the sharper swirl of snow and hail against the windows. A few minutes of silence allowed these to be heard. Then the carriage stopped.

'You know,' said Wych Hazel suddenly, 'there are two names at stake. What do you decide, Mr. Nightingale?'

The carriage door opened; he had no time to reply.

CHAPTER XXXII. SUPPER.

It was not exactly a cheery evening in Hazel's deserted rooms. Rollo had the entertainment of Prim and Mrs. Coles upon his hands, and was besides all the time busied in baffling her efforts to find out whether he was anxious, whether he knew where Wych Hazel had gone, whether he was aware of what kept her, and whether he did not think something ought to be done. This sort of exercise grows wearisome in time; and Rollo finally gave it up and fled. He put on coat and hat and repaired to the great entrance of the hotel, which seemed to him just then if not a point of rest, yet to be nearest to that point. Here he had a view of the storm, which he studied at leisure in the intervals of watching everything on wheels that went by. He knew who it was, when Hazel's carriage drew up at last, and was by the side if it before it had fairly stopped.

He opened the door and took Hazel out, and led her into the house, without paying attention to anything but her. He took her up stairs to her own room, which he reached without going through the parlour where Mrs. Coles and Prim were. There he threw off his own snow-covered wrappings and then hers, that he might wrap her in his arms. He did not say what he had been feeling, but his manner of great gladness left Hazel to infer several things. And for a minute or two she was passive, shewing a pale, tired face. But then there swept over her such a sense of what she had, and of what she had escaped, that she could only lay her head down on his shoulder and be still; a shiver running over her as she remembered other souls adrift.

'Have you dined, in the snow, anywhere?' were Rollo's first coherent words. He was not given to talking sentiment. At the same time he was gathering Hazel's cold hands into his.

'I could not help it, Olaf!' Hazel broke out. 'I have been whirled about like a brown snow-flake.'

'And come home frozen.' He rang the bell for Phoebe, admonished her to be quick, and went back to the drawing room. When Hazel a few minutes later followed him, she found a servant bringing in supper. Primrose gave her a welcome kiss, but the other lady exclaimed,—eyes and senses on the alert,—

'Well, my dear! we have been uneasy about you.'

'Nobody ever need—about me,' said Wych Hazel. 'Unless there is something afoot more serious than a snow-storm.'

'It's a wild storm, isn't it?'

'Rather wild. You know, wild things are in my line, Mrs. Coles.'

'Not now, my dear, I hope. You have not come far in the snow, surely?'

'A little way seems far in such a drive, don't you know it, Prudentia?' remarked Rollo. And he took Wych Hazel out of the chair where she had placed herself and transferred her to a softer one.

'But Dane,' Mrs. Coles continued, with her own very peculiar mixture of raillery and insinuation,—'aren't you curious? or do you know all already?'

'I know all I want to know at present, thank you.'

'Does he always let you do just what you like, Hazel?'

'What I like?' Hazel repeated dreamily, lifting her eyes to the person in question: a swift, secret glance of allegiance which to-night came to him very often. Then she laughed and coloured a little. 'I hardly know,' she said. 'My “like” and his “let” are mixed up in inextricable confusion.'

'My dear!' said Mrs. Coles in mock reprehension, but smiling. 'What an admission!'

And I think an inner voice of wisdom admonished her to let the matter rest and say no more; but Mrs. Coles was in a sort of malign fascination at the picture before her. Hazel was in her easy chair; Dane had brought up a little low stand before her, and sitting between her and the supper table he was taking care of both; but the care bestowed at his left hand was something the like of which was strange to see. The late Mr. Coles had never introduced his wife to anything of the kind; indeed he had been one of the men who rather expect that their wives shall wait upon them. It was not Dane was neglecting other people, or that he was making any parade whatever; on the contrary, he was fully attentive to every want of everybody, and of Hazel he was only taking care; yet it was a sort of care and given in a manner that put miles and miles between her and all other women. I suppose Mrs. Coles felt herself somehow out in the cold, for it was certainly with a little spice of irritation that she opened her lips the next time she spoke.

'But Dane,' with an uneasy little laugh, 'I really think you are to blame, to allow this little lady—so very young a lady as she is—to run about alone at night in this way. I have really been anxious. I thought you would be a better guardian, when you had the keys once safe.'

'Will you have some salad, Prudentia?'

'Salad?—O no, my dear! I think it is very unwholesome.'

'Take some ice.'—

A turn, or at least a check, was given to the conversation. Mrs. Coles could not refuse the ice. Primrose would eat no supper, and was evidently longing to get her sister away. Rollo cut for Hazel a slice of game.

'But Dane,' said Mrs. Coles presently, 'don't you think it is very imprudent to eat such heavy things late at night? Coffee and salad, and game? This ice is delicious.'

'So is the salad,' said Dane. 'Will you have a bit of the pheasant, Prudentia?'

'My dear! no. I don't see how you reconcile it with your new principles, either, to have such suppers.'

Rollo's eye had a flash of laughter in it as it went to Wych Hazel. He asked gravely, 'Why not?'

'Mr. Rollo and I have agreed about partridges,'—said Hazel, in whom also fun was beginning to stir, though her eyes kept a far-off look now and then.

'Agreed about partridges!' repeated Mrs. Coles.

'Yes,' said Dane. 'You had better take some, Prudentia. Rosy,—a little bit with some bread would not hurt you.'

'But the expense, Dane!'

'Yes. What about it?'

'The expense must be fearful of such a supper—in such a house as this.'

'A man who wants his horse to do him good service never asks about the price of oats.'

'Dane!' said Mrs. Coles laughing and bridling, 'do you mean to compare your wife to your horse?'

Rollo was quite silent, long enough to have the silence marked. And when he spoke, it was not to Mrs. Coles, neither did he honour her by so much as a look, during the rest of her stay in the room. Primrose made the stay as short as she could, and Mrs. Coles who felt that she had lost her footing and did not know how to regain it, suffered herself to be carried away. But while Primrose got a kiss, she was dismissed by her host with a very ceremonious reverence. He had opened the door for the two and closed it behind them. Coming back he bent down to touch his lips to Wych Hazel's cheek.

'If you have any remarks to make, make them!' he said. 'I am defenceless, and at your mercy.'

But for once Wych Hazel was in a region of air quite beyond Mrs. Coles. She looked up at him wistfully.

'I do not understand,' she said, 'how you ever came to care about me! It always was a puzzle,—and never so much as to-night.' The brown eyes were strangely soft and luminous and humble.

'How is that?' said he quietly, taking his former place beside her and making suggestions of addition to her supper. But Hazel laid down her fork, giving her plate a little push, in the fashion of old times.

'I have been looking into depths,' she said,—'abysses. I think I was never really near them, but I might have seemed so.'

'What sort of abysses? And in the mean time, take some ice—Mrs. Coles was correct in one thing she said.'

'Dane,' Hazel said abstractedly, 'do you think you could be a success where I have proved a failure?'

'Where have you proved a failure?'

Hazel neglected her ice and leaned back in her chair.

'I used to think I could do things,' she said. 'And I have spent this whole afternoon and evening to no sort of purpose.'

'It is instructive, to learn sometimes that one cannot do things'— said Dane. I suppose he had a little curiosity, but not much, for he knew he should hear what there was to hear; and he was thinking much more of Hazel than of what she had or had not failed to do. So he spoke in a rather careless amused tone.

'Very!' Hazel answered.—'Dane, in buying up a man, is it more skilful to set a price—or to let him name it himself?'

'If you want to buy me,—I should say, let me set my own price.'

'Thank you. Even my extravagance does not desire such waste. But I want to buy off that nephew of Mme. Lasalle's. And—being worth nothing—how much is he worth? I believe I ought to have offered a definite sum,' she went on, half to herself.

Dane roused up fully now, and demanded to know what she was talking about?

'He is going to Lisbon,' said Hazel, too engrossed to be very methodical in her details. 'And Josephine Charteris means to go with him. I can do nothing at all with her—and I must do something with him.'

'Not with Stuart Nightingale—if that is what you mean.'

'I must.'

'I can find a substitute for that “must.” What do you want to do, Wych?'

'Put them both under bonds. But I have tried, and failed.'

'You have tried Josephine? Do you say that she wants to go with him?'

'Says she will go. Will not even take diamonds instead—and they were her price,' said Wych Hazel with sorrowful disgust. 'So then I tried him.'

'Tried him! Have you seen Nightingale?'

'O yes. Annabella let him get her carriage and drive home with us. I would not,' said Wych Hazel with energy. 'Not if I had waited there all night.'

'Was he in the carriage with you?'

'Coming home,—yes. And after Annabella was set down, I tried him with everything I could think of,—or everything he could, rather.'

'I am very curious to hear what arguments you made use of.' Dane bent a little to look at the speaker, with a face half amused and wholly intent. Wych Hazel laughed softly.

'I am not a very round-about person,' she said. 'And if he had had either honour or conscience or feeling, there would have been no need for my speaking at all. And Josephine had just assured me that last year he wanted my fortune—so I asked him how much he would like to have now. In effect.'

'With the understanding that he might have what he spoke for?'

'O yes. Of course,' she added with a flush and a glance, 'he knew that I could only mean within certain limits. I did not tell him what they were.'

Rollo looked at her for a moment almost sternly; but then he broke into a laugh. 'It is like Wych Hazel!' he said.

'Was it absurd?' said the girl, the crimson starting again. 'But I do not see why. I suppose that is like me too,' she added with a half laugh.

'I do not think you absurd,' said Rollo, laughing still. 'Perhaps— just a trifle—unbusinesslike.'

'But I thought it was good business to say exactly what you mean?'

'If you were practised in rifle shooting, I should tell you that you forgot to allow for the wind.'

'Well, as I am not?'—said Wych Hazel looking up at him.

'For instance. You are practising at a mark, perhaps eight hundred yards off; the first time you aim for the bull's eye, and hit it. Between the first shot and the second however, a breeze has sprung up. That alters the case. The second time you will not aim at the bull's eye, but perhaps—according to the force of the wind— a dozen feet to one side of it.'

'Did that ever happen in your shooting?'

'Such a thing has happened in my shooting.'

'And you hit it, that second time?'

'I hit it—yes.'

Wych hazel looked soberly into the fire. 'You will never make a sharp-shooter of me, Olaf,' she said. 'I think nothing will ever make me learn calculation.'

'What did Nightingale answer you?'

'He said—or intimated—that I thought I had my old power still,' said Hazel slowly.

'He is one of the men that have their price. But you forgot that his pride must have its price too.'

'Pride? Can he have any pride left? It was just because—because he used to like to do what I said, that he would not now.'

'I do not understand yet how he came to be driving with you.'

'Didn't I say that? Why,' said Wych Hazel running rapidly over details, 'Annabella did not have their own carriage, but a hack and a tipsy driver,—for Josephine's sake, you know. And when we left Josephine he set off up north to see where the snow came from. And we made him turn round, and then jumped out when we got back to Fort Washington. And there we ran against that man again.'

'How came you in Fort Washington?' Rollo asked, his eyes snapping in the midst of the very grave intentness with which he was listening.

'That is where Josephine has hid away.'

'Nightingale drove in from Fort Washington with you?'

'Yes.'

'Does anybody know about this business?' Rollo asked after a slight pause. 'Not Josephine's mother?'

'Nobody. Annabella thought I might have some influence—but if I could not keep her from marrying Charteris in the first place— What can be done?'

'I will try. But Wych, I am going to make one regulation.'

'Yes. Well?' said Wych Hazel, with a certain sheer at the name of “regulations.”

'Whenever you go out in a carriage, here or in the country, I wish you always to be attended by a trustworthy servant—either Lewis, or Byrom, or Reo.'

'But my dear friend, in this case I could not have taken either. Don't you see?'

'I do not see anything,' said Rollo lazily. 'Not even that I am your dear friend.'

'I have known you fail on that point before,' said Wych Hazel demurely. 'But the thing to see is that Mr. Rollo's regulations cannot always be carried out.'

'I cannot think of a case where I should allow the exception.'

'I'll tell you as they come. Then will you try what you can do with that wretch?' she went on eagerly.

'I think we can manage him. But I shall not see him myself, Wych; that would be to start his pride again; and of all human passions pride is the strongest that I know—unless possibly jealousy. I must have a medium, and I think I know the right one. I propose to offer him, not carte blanche, but, say, five thousand a year for five years; on condition that during that time he neither joins nor is joined by Josephine, wherever he may be. He wants money badly, as you say. I think he will accept my offer.'

'You had better say for life,' said Wych Hazel quickly.

'No,' said Rollo smiling; 'that would be bad economy. Some day you will know what economy is; in the mean while, believe me. He is not worth more than twenty-five thousand dollars; and she is not. And if she is obliged to wait five years, she will never go to him after that. As to the rest,'—and Rollo bent his head caressingly by the side of Wych Hazel's—'where my regulations cannot be carried out, Hazel,—do not go.'

'But Olaf—'

'Well, Wych?' he said, looking at her with the grey eyes full of love, and full of delight in her, and full of admiration of her; not the less, soft as they were, full also of that expression which is called masterful when people do not like it. Wych Hazel looked up and then down, silently knotting her fingers in and out. Rollo put his lips down to hers, but waited for what she had to say. It did not come at once.

'I am trying to push myself out of sight,' she said frankly with one of her sweet laughs. 'And I am a hard one to push, sometimes. But for my work—suppose I have something to do which cannot be done so?'

'Don't do it.'

'Really? Suppose it ought to be done?'

'It is quite plain that in such a case, it ought not to be done by you.'

'You leave me no more room for discretion, than Mr. Rollo did in the old time,' said Wych Hazel soberly. 'Well—I hope you will succeed with that man,' she went on in her former tone; 'but he was not in a pretty mood to-day.'

'We shall succeed with him. And when you get into any perplexity, what hinders Mrs. Rollo from applying to her husband? Or in a case of need, employing him?'

'I always did like to work out my own perplexities.'

Rollo laughed at her a little, and let the subject drop.

But the business of Nightingale he took up in earnest the next day. Stuart shewed some fencing, which however was widely distant from fight; and in the end gave in to Rollo's proposal, with the exception that he contrived to bargain for five thousand down in addition. Rollo and Hazel were well content. Stuart received the guaranty of thirty thousand dollars, and Josephine Charteris was saved to her family and to society. And nobody knew anything about it.

CHAPTER XXXIII. ABDICATION.

Chickaree again,—and clear cold weather, although it was March. Spring declared herself timidly on the sunny side of slopes, and by the water courses; spoke softly in the scented wind, hung out her colours where snow-drops and violets grew; and shouted—Spring fashion—from the feathered throats of blue birds and robins; but otherwise, in byeways and corners, the snow lay and the ice glistened. The world of Chickaree outdoors looked cold enough.

Not cold within! Sunlight flooded the breakfast room,—and a gay fire: and before the hearth the little lady of the house stood crimson-robed and pink-cheeked, and just now very contemplative. She was slowly balancing a great bunch of keys— large keys and small—upon her pretty fingers. Such was the picture before the eyes of the new head of the house when he came in to breakfast. I think he liked it too well to be willing to break the spell of silence which seemed to be upon the dainty lady, for while his eyes took keenest notice, he made no open demonstrations.

Hazel sorted her keys, choosing out one, changing it for another, then swinging the bunch by a third and putting the rest in a certain sequence. Then she turned suddenly round, growing more pink- cheeked than before.

'I did not know you were here!'

'Pray what then?' said he smiling.

'Are you at leisure for breakfast?'

'I usually am, at this time in the morning. And to-day is not an exception.'

Hazel sounded her whistle.

'Will you be at leisure after breakfast, Mr. Rollo?'

'Depends on what meaning you attach to the words.'

'As we are not in theological—neither scientific—regions, you might answer closer than that,' said Hazel. 'Well have you time for a long excursion into parts unknown?'

'Where?'

'I thought,' said the girl, swaying her keys softly and looking down at them—'Would you like—At least, shall I take you over the house after breakfast?'

'You shall take me anywhere you please. Why over the house? Does anything need repair?'

'You have never seen it all,—you do not know where you are, yet. Nor what you have to work with.'

'To work with?' Dane repeated looking at her. 'It strikes me the house is for you to work with. I have six mills to run.'

'Yes, but—' Hazel threw off her first words with a laugh, and chose others. 'Not just as it used to be, you know,' she said sedately. 'And part of it has been shut up,—and you have never seen the whole. And if I am to be house steward——' Dingee came in with the breakfast, and Wych Hazel turned off to that. It pleased Dane to let her take her own time to explain herself on this occasion; he would not hurry her. So he talked of other things until breakfast was over. He had seen Heinert already, and the change in him was wonderful. Feeling thoroughly at home in his old chum's house, he was as happy as a child; not cumbering himself with what he would do when he got well, which now he securely expected to do. It might be some time first; for the present Heinert was happy; and Hazel would see him at luncheon. And, meantime, she had quite forgotten his existence in more pressing things.

'I want you to see all the house,' she said, handling her keys again; 'because then you will know—what you want done. And so shall I.'

'I do not want anything done,' said Rollo, looking for the meaning of all this, which as yet he did not see.

'Yes you do,' said Hazel. 'Or you will. All sorts of things. So come.'

But instead of that, he put his arm round her and drew her to his side, looking into her changing face.

'Who said you were to be a house steward.'

'Must a thing be said in order to be true?'

'No. But generally speaking, it had better not be said unless it is true. Nicht?'

'I suppose I must be something!' said Hazel, with that pretty half laugh which covered so many thoughts.

'Yes,' said he laughing and stooping to kiss her. 'Do you want me to tell you what?'

'Keeping strictly to fact and not fancy—'

'Strictly fact.' And folding her close, and watching her face, sometimes touching it, he went on,—'Something, of which it is said that “her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” She does not exactly “seek wool and flax”—or if, it is Berlin wool, I believe; but it is certainly true that “she considereth a field, and buyeth it.” And “she stretcheth out her hands to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.” I do not think she “makes fine linen;” nevertheless I hope it will be true that “she looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” And if all her household are not “clothed in scarlet,” she is very fond of wearing it herself.'

Wych Hazel listened with eyes looking down, and lips that parted yet did not speak. But now they curled unmistakeably.

'Ha, ha!' she laughed. 'What a mixed piece of fact that is! past, present, and future, in one grand conglomerate. Do you suppose I shall ever again have a chance to dabble in land? And I thought you had ruled out the 'silk and purple'?'

'Did you? I suppose, in Old Testament language the silk and purple means that she was suitably dressed.'

'Scarlet ditto. But I do not know what 'spoil' can mean. If it said 'supervision,' I could understand that.'

'Spoil means, profits and honours.'

'That makes no sense of the rest of the verse.'

'Excellent sense. The heart of her husband hath such a trust in her, that he can afford to dispense with what makes other men rich.'

'O—is that the way you put it. Romantic, but not practical,' said Hazel, arching her brows. 'It might be so, but he would not find it out. Now come and see the house.'

'I will go and see the house,' said Rollo, speaking with a cool business tone now. 'In fact I suppose I should like to go anywhere where you would go before and open the doors. But what is your thought, Wych?'

'Only a small ceremony of investiture. I want to take you over my haunts,—and leave you in possession—of them, and any small facts you may find there.'

But taking one of her hands and holding it, Rollo neither moved towards the door himself nor let her.

'What is going to become of you,' said he, 'after you have left me in possession of your haunts?'

'I shall linger round to do all the mischief I can,—after the fashion of abdicators.'

'In that case, what is going to become of me?' said he, not changing his position.

'I have no idea! I feel fearfully like myself since I came home.'

'Do you! And what do you expect me to do with your 'small facts'? Are they kittens?'

'No. Store them up for reference when I am hard to understand.'

'I do not want any references on that chapter. What are your small facts?'

'Little hints of how I have lived,—and with what atmosphere and influences. Specimens of the soil wherein Wych Hazel grew to be “all hat and bushes.” '

'And when did she abdicate?' said Rollo, bringing both arms round her now.

'O—the precise day does not matter,' said the girl, as a very 'precise' day last winter came full into view. 'Dates are useless things.'

'Tell me!' said he softly. 'When did you abdicate?'

'You mean—' she said, hesitating, with her eyes on the ground.

'What you mean.'

'But Olaf—' Hazel left her protestation unfinished. 'I suppose, really, it was a year ago,' she said, not looking at him. 'Only that week before Christmas I was worried—and of course I was full of freaks. And so—I felt as if I was doing every thing for the last time.' Hazel hung her head, leaving the 'freaks' to their fate.

'How 'for the last time'?' said Rollo, with provoking apparent obtuseness.

'Ah!—' Hazel exclaimed,—then again submitting to circumstances,—'My will had been the law of the house—and the people—and of myself.—Do you understand, sir?'

'Where were your guardians?' said Rollo with cool self-command.

'In my way just often enough to give zest to all other times and places.'

'And what is your opinion of the one guardian you have left? just as a curiosity, I should like to hear it.'

'He gave so fine a comparative description of himself beforehand,' said Hazel with the laugh in her voice. 'It would be quite presuming to suppose he does not mean to act up to it.'

Dane was silent, perhaps considering how he should answer her; for loosening one hand, he stood pushing back the thick curls from her face, looking down at it thoughtfully. Then in the same tone he had used before, he asked, “if she had not learned love's liberty yet?”

'In what sense?' she said, after a moment's hesitation.

'In the sense of being rather more a free and independent sovereign than at any previous time of your life.'

Hazel shook her head. 'If you make me go into that,' she said, 'I shall surely say something you will not understand. I have been as full of freaks this winter as ever in all my life before.'

'I am moved with curiosity to hear what you can say that I shall not understand.'

'I will not gratify you this time, if I can help it,' said Hazel laughing a little. 'Somebody must be head—that is plain, isn't it? and if it is you, it is not I. And before Christmas just that last part got hold of me,—and since Christmas—'

'Finish it! Since Christmas—?'

'Since Christmas I have taken the first part into consideration,' Hazel said demurely.

Perhaps Dane thought illogical treatment was the best, or his patience gave out; for he answered with passionate kisses all over Hazel's face.

'My little Wych!' said he—'do you think you are less head at Chickaree than you used to be?'

She answered shyly, arching her brows. 'Yes. Of course.'

'Don't you like it?' said he audaciously.

'That? No. I think not. Why should I, if you please?'

'You are head, just because I am head. More than ever; because you have my strength to back your decisions. Now let us go, wherever you want opt take me.'

Wych Hazel's lips curled in a pretty laugh.

'There are two ways of 'backing' a decision,' she said. But then she moved off, and led the way through all the long-unused part of the great house. An old office room, with leather-covered chairs, and empty inkstands, and dry pens, and forgotten day-books of forgotten days! Suites of guest chambers, reception rooms, and music room, and rooms of every sort. Broad bits of hall led to them, and narrow entries, and unexpected stairways: the old bolts turned slowly; the door knobs were dim with the mists of long ago. Old portraits looked down on them suddenly, here and there; the two bright young figures sprang out anew from mirrors that for years had seen nothing but darkness. Wherever they went they opened a window, throwing back blind and shutter; and the spring sunshine streamed in, fresh and gladsome, making the dust of years look even solemn in its still quiet. It was a labyrinth of a house!—and Hazel tripped along, in and out, as if she knew it all by heart; with only words of explanation, until suddenly she opened the door into a round apartment at the foot of the flagstaff and the top of the house. The room was nearly all windows , and the waving shadow of the blue banner curled and played in the sunlight upon the floor.

Nearly all: only four broad pannels broke the lookout, one on either side. Hazel laid her hand upon Rollo's shoulder, and softly led him round. The first pannel held two full-length portraits; a stately pair of olden time, in old-time dress; the founders of the house. The ruffles and lappets and powder and hoop told of long ago. Of later date, yet still far past, were the next two; short waist and slim skirt and long silk stockings and small clothes; and curious look of Wych Hazel herself in the lady's face. Hazel's own father and mother came next; and then she passed round to the fourth pannel, which was but half filled. A full length of herself had apparently held first place there; certain marks on the wall told of removal to the second place, where it was now. Hazel paused before the empty side of the pannel.

'You see your duty,' she said with a laugh. 'It is a rule of the house. Now come and look at the view.'

'I think we'll break the rule, Hazel. Why was I never here before?'

'This was one of my particular haunts,—so I kept the key. Look,— there is Morton Hollow, off that way, where the smoke floats up. And Crocus and the church spires shew from here. And there comes in the road by which you drove me home that very first day. I have lived a great many hours up in this place, with the old portraits.'

On the whole, it was rather an eerie thing to have one's 'haunts' in such a rambling, half-shut up, untenanted old house. One could imagine the loneliness which had followed her about sometimes. Dane took the effect, standing there in the Belvidere; however his words were a very practical question—'why his picture should take her side of the pannel?'

'If you look at the order in which the others stand, you will see it is your side,' said Wych Hazel. 'I put mine there in a mood,—when I meant to be head always.'

'Two heads are better than one,' said Dan carelessly.

'Yes—I may be good for consultation.'—She stood there, half behind him, her hand laid lightly on his shoulder, looking off with a smile in her eyes toward Morton Hollow. Had he not always had his own way, already?

'Olaf,' she said suddenly, 'if I had been the Duchess May, what would you have done?'

'I'll think of that,' said he laughing, 'and tell you when I come home to-night. For I must go, Hazel.'

It was a long day before Rollo got home again. Not spent entirely alone by Hazel, for Dr. Arthur came to see his patient, and she had both gentlemen to luncheon. Mr. Heinert proved himself a very genial and somewhat original companion. If he had ever been disheartened on account of his illness, that was all past now; and the simplicity, vivacity, and general love of play in his nature made a piquant contrast with Dr. Arthur's staid humour and grave manliness. He talked of Rollo too, whom he loved well, it was plain; he talked of Göttingen; he talked in short till Arthur ordered him back to his rooms and forbade him to come out of them again even for dinner that day.

And then, as the sharp spring day was growing dusk, the clatter of the horses' hoof beats was heard again before the door. Dan had got home. He and Hazel had dinner alone; with endless things to talk about, in the Hollow and at home; and after dinner the evening was given to one of Doré's great works of illustration, which Hazel had not seen. Slowly they turned it over, going from one print to the next; pausing with long critical discussions, reading of text, comparison of schools, and illustrations of the illustrations, drawn from reading and travel and the study of human nature and the knowledge of art. A long evening of high communion, wholly unhelped by love-making, although it wanted, and they knew it wanted, no other beside themselves to make it perfect.

Perhaps some consciousness of this was in Hazel's mind, as they stood together over the books after they had risen to leave them.

'Sir Marmaduke,' she said suddenly, 'would it tend to your comfort—or discomfort—to have people here?'

'Both,' said Dane laconically.

'I foresee that you will live in a mixed state of mind then!' said Hazel. 'I am afraid I shall have to be asking people all the time.'

'Whom do you want to ask?' Rollo enquired in some surprise.

'Guess! I should like to get your idea of me,' she said smiling.

'Mr. Falkirk?'

'No!'—with a great flush.

'I would try to endure Mr. Falkirk. But I do not at this moment think of any other human being I could endure,—besides Hans Heinert.'

'Well—there it is,' said Hazel, impressively, very busy at taking the measure of his arm just then with her little fingers.

'I do not know. Perhaps not. Let us hear.'

'Olaf,' she said, softly now, 'is not this big empty house a 'talent?' And if it is, you know it must be increased by 'trading.' And I can think of no way but to make it reach out over heads that—for any reason—need shelter. One would want to be able to say—'Lord, thy house has become ten houses'—or a hundred, if it would stretch so far!'

'Go on,' said Dane, his eyes sparkling and growing soft, both at once. 'Who is to be your first guest?'

'She will not trouble you. It is only a poor little embroiderer down at Crocus who is dying for rest and good living. Dr. Arthur told me; and I am going to bring her here for awhile. But there—it seems as if I could not help hearing of things now!' said Hazel, again with a half laugh. 'If it was a sick or over-worked guest of some other sorts, they must come where you would see them. So what am I to do?'

'I can stand seeing them,' said Dane, watching her.

'But if there was always somebody needing fresh air and dainties,' said Hazel, looking up wistfully. 'Then you would never see me— and I should never see you—except across other people. Must I give that up too?'

'No,' said her husband laughing. 'Where did you get all those “mustesses”—as Dingee would express it?'

'If there were always some one else on hand.'—

'The house is big enough for them and us too. I am glad I went over it this morning.'

'Yes, big enough for anything,' said Hazel eagerly. 'But then at meals—in the evening.—Just when the mills and I do not come into competition!'

Dane smiled now very brightly. 'I will have nothing come in competition with you,' said he. 'Except duty sometimes. And this is not duty. Fit up some of those untenanted rooms, and let them be homes for whoever needs them. And let all such guests be entirely free, and at home, and served each with his meals in his own apartment, except when you choose to ask them to your's. That would sometimes be and sometimes not be; but the sanctity of our own home must be preserved. Do you not think so?' he added gently.

'O if we may!—You know much more about it than I do. But suppose somebody sick at heart, or mind-weary? You see I know about that,' said Hazel, her girlish face all wistful again. 'I thought the loneliness was often the chief thing.'

'Let them have drives, and flowers, and books; rest and leisure; the sight of you occasionally; and now and then an invitation to dinner.'

'That might do. I could see them when you are away. Olaf, I have been thinking how I can possibly invest all this money-power you have put in my hands.'

'Wych, it will flow away with the speed of mountain brooks; and in as many and as inevitable channels.'

'But I want to know where it goes. And I have been studying the question out. I want to send some of it everywhere, and take up bonds all over the world!'

'That greed will make you at last learn economy!' said Dane smiling.

'Will it? I do not know. You mean that I cannot reach round the world, even with ten thousand a year? But if all hands are stretched out, they will meet and so go round. To be sure, everybody cannot afford so much,' said Hazel thoughtfully; 'and so my hands must reach just as far as they possibly can.'

'Ten thousand a year has more to fall back upon,' Dane suggested.

'Yes. I am talking of my power,' said Hazel with a laugh. 'You see I have been reading up, and listening, and thinking, all winter. All I find that the 'where,' is everywhere; and the 'how,' in every way; and the 'what'—just “what she could.” Then there is another thing—But you are not obliged to listen to all this!' said Hazel, checking the flow of her projects.

'I think you must be coquetting—like Jeannie Deans when she goes over a bridge.'

'It was left for you to say that!' said Hazel with a glance. 'Nobody else ever did. However—I read a story once which I thought simply beautiful,—and last night it suddenly announced itself as practical. You remember how pleasant it was last night?'

'I remember very well.'

'In my story the people gave up one evening a week. On that night they always had a particular good tea, and at least one invited guest. The head of the house brought home one of his deserving clerks, suppose,—or perhaps some poor acquaintance who never saw—partridges, for instance—at any other time: somebody straitened in business and low in cash. Or he found at home, already arrived, a hard-worked teacher, or a poor girl left alone in the world with her needles and thread. But whoever it was, for that evening they were made to forget everything but pleasure.'

'One evening in a week,' repeated Dane. 'That is not much. You and I have given a great deal more of our time than that,—often,— to the German, for instance.'

'It might seem 'much'—with some people,' Hazel said thoughtfully. 'But it would be right to do.'

'Duchess, it would not be disagreeable. It is a good plan. Then one evening in the week we will invite our poor friends—have them to dinner and give them a good time. But for the rest, Hazel, except in particular instances, it will be best on every account to leave them to themselves; those who happen to be in the house, I speak of now. With books, and good care, and all comforts around them, and the freedom of the grounds, and drives when that would be needful. Nothing but necessity would make it right or expedient to have our home privacy broken up.'

'Our home privacy'—how new and sweet and strange the words sounded! A sense of all the three—the novelty, the strangeness, the sweetness—was in the shy brown eyes that looked up and then down; not willing to tell too much. How strange it was, in truth! she thought. Very natural that she should like the privacy, with him to talk to her; but how it should be chosen by him, with only such a wild, wayward, unformed personage as herself,—and again the eyes gave a swift glance, fraught with a little wonder this time. But then the strangeness fell back, and the novelty stood aside, and only the sweetness remained. Eyes might go down, and head bend lower, but lips were treacherous and told it all.

The eyes that looked read it, well enough. Yet with a man's wilfulness, drawing Wych Hazel into his arms and bending his face to hers, Rollo asked maliciously,

'Do you love me, Duchess?'

'Well,' said Hazel with demure, 'witchful' face and voice, 'I suppose so. Just a little more than you do me.'

Rollo took laughing revenge for this statement, but otherwise did not attempt to combat it.

'Have you worked your way out of the puzzle you were in the morning?'

'It is not a puzzle. It should be, I think, if nobody were head.'

'Ah!' said Rollo, very tenderly, if there was still a spice of mischief in it. 'You have found out then the solution of Dr. Maryland's old paradox—“Love likes her bonds”?'

Hazel laughed a little, colouring too.

'No,' she said. 'Love likes you.'

'Comes to the same thing,' said Rollo heartlessly.

'No,' Hazel said again,—'I think I do not like to be made to “stand,” any better than the bay. But he does it,—for you.'

'He likes it.'

'In that sense,' said Hazel. 'For you. He has come out of his apprenticeship of fear, and so have I; but you may find hidden stores of wilfulness, yet.'

'I have never been under an apprenticeship of fear,' said Rollo laughing; 'and I am not going to begin now.'

'No,' said Hazel, laughing too. 'You were always a master hand. Do you remember when I meant to give up waltzing for you —and you would make me do it on compulsion?'

CHAPTER XXXIV. GOLD AT INTEREST.

'Papa,' said Primrose a few days after this,—'they are very happy! Duke and his wife, I mean.'

'Yes, my dear, yes,' answered Dr. Maryland; 'they ought to be.'

'Well, papa, they are; and they are happy in the right way. Papa, I was up there to-day, and I saw Jane Best, that little dressmaker Arthur spoke about, who had got broken down with work; Hazel has invited her to come there and rest out, you know, and get well.'

'Yes, my dear, I remember.'

'Well, I saw her to-day, papa. I was there, and I went into her room. And I wish you could have seen her! Such a bright cheerful room, open to the garden; which to be sure is all bare now, but there is the look-out, and a good piece of blue sky above the tree tops;—and it was as prettily furnished as any lady need have; and a bunch of splendid greenhouse flowers stood on the table by her. She was sitting in an easy chair, taking royal comfort, I could see. And while I was there her dinner was brought in; a roast quail, papa, and tea in a dear little china tea-pot, and everything as nice and dainty as it could be. And she told me that the day before,— you know yesterday was so mild and pleasant, papa,—Hazel had taken her out for a long drive; with herself, papa, under her own fur robes, and had given her a blue gauze veil to save her eyes from the glare, because there is so much snow about yet. You ought to have seen Jane's face when she was telling me! She says she has got among angels.'

'Whose doing was all that?' Prudentia asked.

'And then, oh papa, just think of it! for it is so unlike the way of the world;—two nights ago they had her to dine with them—with themselves—and entertained her all the evening. They sang for her, and talked to her. Poor Jane said she thought she was in heaven already!'

Prim's eyes were full of bright tears, and Dr. Maryland's glistened.

'But that does not strike me as judicious,' put in Mrs. Coles. 'That is mixing up things very much. A sewing-woman to dine with them! That is Dane's doing, you may be sure. Hazel never would.'

'They are not of two minds,' said Prim; 'and she likes this, for she told me about it, when I repeated to her what Jane had said to me. It is only one evening a week; but one evening a week they will entertain whoever is in the house. Being their guest, Hazel says Duke says, gives them the right. Papa, they are very happy!'

'Ay!' said Dr. Maryland. 'They will be happy; for it is written— “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.” '

So the gold of Chickaree had begun its work; and if one main channel of the fertilizing flow went through Mill Hollow, that was but one; and the others, larger and smaller, went—to use the old image of the brook on the mountain side, literally wherever they could. To the well and able, men or women, Rollo rarely ever gave anything but work, which he never refused. Every other need met a ready hand and open ear at Chickaree. Let no one imagine that the heads of that house led an easy life; to meet wisely the demands that came, to sift the false from the true, to apportion the help to the need, called for all their best strength incessantly in exercise. Being stewards of so much, less than all their time would not suffice to use it wisely. For let it be remembered, they had not allotted a part to philanthropy and a part to themselves; but had given the whole to God. They were hard workers; and if at evening Rollo threw off work and would have nothing but play, that was needful too.

And did Hazel spend all her income wisely? Not always perhaps, at first; that could hardly be expected. It is not easy for even experienced hands to escape a deception now and then. But slowly, surely, she made progress; chiefly by two things. First, an eager desire to be a good steward with the power put in her hands, which just guided and warned and stimulated too the also eager desire to help everybody. Then Wych Hazel “prayed her way,” and took counsel. And by dint of loving all people and feeling for all need, the way generally opened out. One thing was soon decided,—she would put her finger in every good work; everywhere her hand touched and left its token. But then went the nameless rills and drops of refreshment to hidden spots and places of need known to nobody else. Poor students fitted out and paid through college; poor invalids served with the best of medical care. Overworked ministers sent on a pleasure trip, wife and all. A nice dress here, a barrel of flour there, a wonderful book somewhere else. Ice to the sick, boxes of tea to the needy. Then from her odds and ends storehouse she showered prettiness upon the lives that were dry and dusty with toil. Flowers to one, a flower dish to another—wherever she went she left a touch of light and colour. People did not bend to kiss her shadow—as of Florence Nightingale: they turned and shaded their eyes to catch the light. Not the sheen of mere wealth, dazzling the sight of their poverty; but the joy and brightness of truth and love, reflected down upon her, and from her to them.

If you would know, dear reader, part of the sequel to all the foregoing, you may, if you will take a walk some summer day through Mill Hollow. We will say it is ten years since Wych Hazel's marriage.

It is June, and you may smell the roses as soon as you get to the entrance of the valley. Wych Hazel's dream has been realized. The valley is a garden of roses. They climb the walls of the cottages, they cluster on the palings, they stand by the way side. They are set in a ground of smoothest green; for the turf everywhere is perfectly cared for as if the valley were a park; smooth and rich and luxuriant, it carpets the whole valley, except only where the footpaths run and where the houses and gardens stand. The houses nowhere stand close together; there is plenty of garden room; and maples and oaks and American elms especially shade the valley deliciously. In another ten years they will be very fine.

The place is as full of business as of roses, and as full of prosperity as of either. You see that at every step. Not a house but is in perfect repair and in perfect condition; the low white paling fences glitter in their purity; the window are bright and clear. And meet whom you will, man, woman or child, no rags or penury or squalor will offend you; but the look is of respectable comfort and real and hopeful life.

And why not? See that substantial stone building a little way up the slope of the valley side; that is the Library. There are reading rooms, for evening use, and well used by the hands. They have a variety of papers and magazines and maps; and the stock of books and pictures is large and excellent. Adjoining is the coffee room, where refreshments of a simple kind are always to be had. There is a reading room for the women and one for the men; large, lofty, airy, well lighted, beautiful rooms, with every comfort of tables and chairs and desks, for writing and reading.

On the other side of the valley, nearly opposite, is another large and sightly edifice. It is the store. Everything the villagers need is to be had there, at little over wholesale prices; it costs the owner nothing, it saves the people a vast deal. Nobody can purchase goods there except the hands and employees of Mill Hollow. There is no place for the sale of liquor in all the village.

You see the two churches; one would not accommodate the population. For Mr. Rollo has not ruined himself; on the contrary his business has grown and spread and increased. He is a richer man to-day than ten years before. That is, his income is larger; his reserve capital never will be. Let us go up out of the valley by one of these gentle and well-trodden ways.

Over the brow of the ridge—and there stretches before you a wide landscape of cultivated park ground. It is a park, of many acres, for the pleasure-taking of the hands of the Hollow. What is not here! Groves and lawns, walks and seats under the trees; prepared places for cricket and base ball and gymnastic exercises; swings for the children. Flowers are cultivated here in profusion, of rare as well as common kinds; and they are in abundance enough to be on hand whenever floral decorations are wanted for a wedding or a funeral in the cottages, or a festival in church or schoolhouse. For there are festivals every now and then, besides the three national ones. The park has great plantations of fruit trees also; the fruit free to all, from the time it is officially declared to be ripe. And I assure you, it is very little disturbed before such announcement. The park is under an excellent police, and nothing but the most perfect order prevails.

On the further edge of the park, if you go so far, you will see a low elegant building of grey stone, with many cosy little windows and doors. It is the home for the disabled and superannuated old people. No herding in one common community of forlornness; each small apartment or establishment is perfect in its way, with its own entrance, and its own little kitchen and sleeping room. There are people appointed to look after the comfort of those who are finishing their days there, but nobody to interfere with it. Wych Hazel is there very often, and her pony chaise never stops before a door but to bring brightness within.

But down in the Hollow there are the schools yet to visit; they are the pleasantest schoolrooms you ever saw. There is the bank. There are the public baths. And I know not what beside. The schools are provided with means and teachers for the art instruction of those who show capability for art proficiency; and designers and mechanics for Roll's work are growing up under Rollo's eyes. And nobody enters work at his mills but wants to stay with him; and nobody ever wishes, in all the Hollow, I think, to do anything but what the master wishes; for they all know he does not live to himself.

A visiter came to the Hollow however, about the time I speak of, who was not ready to take the testimony of his eyes, not yet of his ears, and he had both. It was an old gentleman who had left the railway station a few miles from Crocus, and depositing his baggage at the village inn desired to be driven on to the famous manufacturing establishment in the neighbourhood. He was an elderly man, but vigorous yet, of the sort of frame both of mind and body which holds out a tough resistance to life's wear and tear. That such he had seen, his somewhat set face, overhanging brows, and keen, unrestful eyes, bore witness. The brows were particularly drawn together to-day, and the eyes critical, almost suspicious, in their glance.

It happened, as the old gentleman walked slowly up the Hollow, for he had stopped the carriage at the entrance, that he fell in with Dr. Arthur. It was a very frequent thing to see visiters in Mill Hollow, strangers from other parts of the country and often foreigners from abroad; and Dr. Arthur would have gone his ways with a courteous salutation, but that in the instant of making it his eye caught some indication which obliged him to look a second time; and after that second look Dr. Arthur joined himself to the stranger and offered to be his guide and attendant. Slowly, and very taciturnly on the visiter's part, the various objects and places of interest were gone over; Dr. Arthur explaining and enlarging upon everything that seemed needful, but left very much in ignorance all the while as to the impression made upon his companion. At last, when they had reviewed the park and were sitting down to rest and to look, on one of the many places provided with seats, the old gentleman began to come out. They had passed a great many cherry trees, hanging full of their just ripe fruit; roses were all around them, as well as a multitude of other flowers both old-fashioned and homely and rare; the grounds were perfectly kept; the air was full of perfume. In the midst of all this, the old gentleman began.

'This is all very fine, sir. Do you think the owner holds his own in the matter of money? for after all, that is the test.'

Dr. Arthur smiled. 'One can hardly say of such a man that he has grown “rich,” ' he said; 'but Rollo's income increases with every year.'

'Doesn't give it, or fling it, all away then?'

'All the increase he gives away. He does not “heap up riches, not knowing who shall gather them.” '

'Hm!—Has he nobody to come after him? I am told he has children. I should think this arrangement,' indicating the park and the roses by a vicious movement of his stick,—'would be very open to abuse.'

'Yet you can see that it is not abused. This is the pleasure-ground of the workers, where they rest, and keep well, and get well. Where they learn to forget drinking saloons, and to do without low excitements. We have fine band music here every evening in summer, which is a great attraction. The park is kept in order, as you see; the work is given by preference to mill people—too old or too young for the steady mill labour. And any child may have his own plot of flowers, if he will give it good care. If you enjoy such things, sir,' the young man went on with a glance at his companion, 'it will be worth your while to come here next week to the mill fruit and flower show, and see Mrs. Rollo give out the prizes.'

'Does she come here often?' the old gentleman asked in a stifled kind of voice.

'I might say daily. Of all that look after the comfort of those poor worn-out people over there, Mrs. Rollo is chief. An hour ago you would have found her pony chaise here. If you choose to step in, sir, you will find the fragrance her roses have left. They will talk of her—these poor old people—till she comes again. They will watch for her “in the gates” till she enters there!'—

'Hm—' said the discontented old man. 'Does she find time to do anything else?'

'Else?' the doctor repeated.

'Yes. These people who do so much abroad are apt to be cyphers at home, in my experience.'

Dr. Arthur laughed a little over the word “cypher.”

'Any one who had known Chickaree years ago,' he said, 'with its gay rush of surface pleasure, would find much to study in the full literary and artistic life that now fills the old place.'

'Eh?' said the other in the same way, but pricking up his ears at the same time. 'Literary? Then they do not go much into society—if I understand you?'

'They go—and they receive—both “much,” ' said the doctor; 'yet both after an unusual fashion. Where they can confer a favour, or shew a kindness, or get refreshment and help in their life-work, they go. And they receive—all people!—for everybody goes there. Yet not to great entertainments; at Chickaree society is not finished off at wholesale. It is the usual dinner, or breakfast, or luncheon, to which rich friends and strangers are welcomed. If there comes one who has known “the loss of all things,” '—the doctor paused a moment, with some thought he did not put into words;—'if one of the Lord's special guests comes,' he ended abruptly, 'then indeed he is received as such.'

'Do I understand you, that they never give entertainments like other people?'

'Never—what are called by that name. Unless to people who are “entertained” nowhere else,' said the doctor with a tone of satisfaction which was every now and then perceptible in his talk. 'Their “feasts” are all “Bible feasts,”—but their hospitality is boundless! And the cuisine at Chickaree is perfect.'

'It remains nevertheless,' said the other after a slight pause, and speaking with a certain concealed grumble in his voice, 'that if they—or anybody—neglects the world, the world will neglect them. Concourse is not society, sir.'

'Chickaree hospitality is not precisely neglect,' said the doctor with some quickness. 'I have yet to see the first person—scientific, literary, fashionable—who was not glad of a chance to enjoy it. It is the house in all this region where you are sure to meet whoever is worth seeing.'

'Well, sir, well,' said the old gentleman, getting up and giving himself an uneasy shake, 'perhaps I have something to learn!'

If he had, he began upon his course of lessons that very evening, appearing at Chickaree for dinner. A few days after, Mr. Falkirk took possession of his old cottage again; and he has no purpose to forsake it any more.

 
 
 

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