Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances
by Juliana Horatia Ewing
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"It was a shabby little collection of volumes, that parlour library in the 'Saracen's Head.' There was an old family Bible, a torn copy of 'Culpepper's 'Herbal,' the Homilies in inexpressibly greasy black calf, a book of songs, a volume called 'Evelina,' which seemed chiefly remarkable for dashes and notes of admiration, and—the book I chose.

"The book I chose would look very dull in your eyes, I dare say, my dear Ida; you who live in an age of bright, smart story-books, with clear type, coloured pictures, and gorgeous outsides. You don't know what small, mean, inartistic 'cuts' enlivened your grandmother's nursery library, that is, when the books were illustrated at all. You have no idea how very little amusement was blended with the instruction, and how much instruction with the amusement in our playbooks then, and how few there were of them, and how precious those few were! You can hardly imagine what a treasure I seemed to have found in a volume which contained several engravings the size of the page, besides many small wood-cuts scattered through the letter-press. I lost sight alike of fatigue and disappointment, as I pored over the pictures, and read bits here and there.

"And such charming pictures there were! With quaint anglers in steeple-crowned hats, setting forth to fish, or breakfasting under a tree (untrammelled by the formalities of a nursery meal), or bringing their spoils to a wayside inn with a painted fish upon the sign-board, and a hostess in a high hat and a stiff-bustled dress at the door. Then there were small wood-cuts which one might have framed for a doll's house; portraits of fish of all kinds, not easily distinguishable by the unpractised eye; and nicer wood-cuts still of country scenes, and country towns, and almost all of these with a river in them. By the time that my father and mother returned, I had come to the conclusion that the bank of a river was, of all situations, the most desirable for one's home, and had built endless bowers in the air like that in which the anglers are seated in the picture entitled 'The Farewell;' and had imagined myself in a tall hat and a stiff-bustled dress cooking fish for my favourite brothers after the recipes in Walton and Cotton's 'Complete Angler.'

"They came back with disappointment on their faces. They had not got a house, but my mother had got a headache, and we sat down to tea a dispirited party.

"It is sometimes fortunate as well as remarkable, how soon everybody knows everything about everybody else, especially in a small town. As the tea-things went downstairs, our landlord came up to help us in our difficulty. Had the gentleman succeeded in obtaining a house? If none of the new lot suited him, the landlord believed that one or more of older date were to let near the river. It was not the fashionable quarter, but there had been well-to-do people and some good substantial residences there.

"Our hopes rose again, and the idea of an old and substantial residence in an unfashionable quarter was so much more favourable to nursery interests than the smart gimcrack houses at which we had been looking, that I should have been anxious to explore that part of the town to which he directed us, even if it had not possessed a charm that was now pre-eminent in my eyes. It was near the river.

"My mother was too much tired to attempt further investigations, but I had completely recovered from my fatigues, and was allowed to go with my father on the new search. He and I were very good company, despite the difference in age between us. We were never in each other's way, and whether we chatted or did not speak, we were happy together, and enjoyed ourselves in our respective fashions.

"It was a lovely evening. Hand in hand we turned out of the 'Saracen's Head' into the shingly street, took the turning which led to the unfashionable quarter, and strolled on and on, in what Scott calls 'social silence.' I was very happy. It was not only a lovely evening—it was one of these when the sunlight seems no longer mere sunlight, but has a kind of magical glow, as if a fairy spell had been cast over everything; when all houses look interesting—all country lanes inviting—when each hedge, or ditch, or field seems a place made to play in at some wonderful game that should go on for years.

"As we wandered on, we passed a line of small bright-looking houses, which strongly caught my fancy. Each had its gay little garden, its shrubbery of lilac, holly, or laurustinus, and its creeper-covered porch. They looked so compact and cosy, so easy to keep tidy, so snug and sunny, that one fancied the people who lived in them must be happy, and wondered who they were.

"'Oh, father!' I exclaimed, 'what delightful houses!'

"'They are very pretty, my dear,' he answered; 'but they are much too small for us; besides which, they are all occupied.'

"I sighed, and we were passing on, when I held him back with another exclamation.

"'Oh! look at the carnations!' For in one of the gardens large clumps of splendid scarlet cloves caught my eye.

"My father humoured me, and we drew near to the laurustinus hedge, and looked over into the gay little garden. As we looked, we became conscious of what appeared like a heap or bundle of clothing near one of the beds, which, on lifting itself up, proved to be a tall slender lady of middle age, who, with her dress tucked neatly round her, a big print hood on her head, and a trowel in her hand, was busily administering such tender little attentions as mothers will lavish on their children, and garden lovers on their flowers. She was not alone in the garden, as we soon perceived. A shorter and stouter and younger lady sat knitting by the side of a gentleman in a garden-chair, who from some defect in his sight, wore a large green shade, which hid the greater part of his face. The shade was made of covered pasteboard, and was large and round, and so very like a lamp shade, that I hardly ever look at one of those modern round globe lamps, my dear, if it has a green shade, without being reminded of old Mr. Brooke.

"'Was that his name?' Ida asked.

"'Yes, my dear; but that we did not know till afterwards. When the good lady lifted herself up, she saw us, and seemed startled. My father raised his hat, and apologized politely. 'My little girl was so much taken with your carnations, madam,' he said, 'that we made bold to come near enough to look at them, not knowing that any one was in the garden.'

"She seemed rather flustered, but pushed back her hood, and made a stiff little curtsey in answer to my father's bow, and murmured something about our being welcome.

"'Would you care to have some, my dear?' she added, looking at me. I gave a delighted assent, and she had gathered two lovely carnations, when we heard a quavering voice from under the green shade inquire—

"'What is it?'

"Our friend was at the old gentleman's side in a moment, speaking very distinctly into his ear, as if he were deaf, whereby we heard her answer,

"'It's a gentleman and his little daughter, James, admiring our carnations, and I am gathering a few for the young lady, dear James.'

"'Quite right, quite right,' he croaked. 'Anything that we have. Anything that we have.'

"It was a great satisfaction to me afterwards to remember that my father had thanked these good people 'properly,' as I considered. As for myself, I had only been able to blush and stammer out something that was far from expressing my delight with the lovely nosegay I received. Then the slender lady went back to her gardening. Her sister took up the knitting which she had laid down, the old gentleman nodded his lamp-shade in the direction where he supposed us to be and said, 'Good evening, sir, Good evening, miss;' and we went our way.

"The road wound on and on, and down and down, until we found ourselves on the edge of the river. A log lay conveniently on the bank, and there we seated ourselves. The tide was out, and the river bed was a bed of mud except for a narrow stream of water that ran down the middle. But, ah! how the mud glistened in the evening sunshine which was reflected on it in prismatic colours. Little figures were dotted here and there over its surface, and seawards the masts of some vessels loomed large through the shining haze.

"'How beautiful everything looks this evening!' I exclaimed.

"'I see them walking in an air of glory,' murmured my father, dreamily.

"He was quoting from a favourite old poem, which begins—

'They are all gone into a world of light, And I alone sit lingering here.'

"This 'air of glory,' indeed, was over everything. The mud and the tide pools, the dark human figures, the black and white seagulls that sat like onyx pebbles on the river bed, the stream that spread seawards like a silver scroll, the swans that came sailing, sailing down the stream with just such a slow and stately pace as white-winged ships might have come down the river with the tide, to pass (as the swans did pass) into that 'world of light,' that shining seaward haze, where your eye could not follow them unless shaded by your hand.

"I do not quite know how long we sat gazing before us in silent enjoyment. Neither do I know what my father's thoughts were, as he sat with his hands clasped on his knees and his blue eyes on the river. For my own part, I fancied myself established in one of the little houses as 'hostess,' with a sign-board having a fish painted upon it hanging outside the door, and a bower of woodbine, sweet-briar, jessamine, and myrtle commanding a view of the river. The day dream was broken by my father's voice.

"'Mary, my dear, we must go about our business, or what will your mother say to us? We must see after these houses. We can't live on the river's bank.'

"'I wish we could,' I sighed; and though he had risen and turned away, I lingered still. At this moment my father exclaimed—

"'Bless my soul!' and I jumped up and turned round.

"He was staring at a wall with a gateway in it, enclosing a house and garden on the other side of the road. On the two gateposts were printed in black Roman letters two words that I could not understand—Reka Dom.

"'What does it mean?' I asked.

"'Reka Dom?' said my father thoughtfully (and he pronounced it Rayka Dome). 'It is Russian. It means River House. Very curious! I suppose the people who live here are Russians. It's a nice situation—a lovely view—lovely!' and he had turned round to the river, but I caught his arm.

"'Father, dear, no one lives here. Look!' and I pointed to a board beyond the gateway, which stated in plain English that the house was to let.

* * * * *

"By the time that we returned to my mother, Reka Dom was to all intents and purposes our home.

"It is true that the house was old, rambling, and out of repair, and that what we heard of the landlord was not encouraging. He was rich, we were told, but miserly; and 'a very queer old gentleman,' whose oddness almost amounted to insanity. He had 'made himself so unpleasant' to various people who had thought of taking the house, that they drew back, and Reka Dom had been untenanted for some time. The old woman who took care of it, and from whom we got this information, prophesied further that he would 'do nothing to the old place. He'd let it fall about his ears first.'

"It is also true that standing in the garden (which in its rambling, disorderly way was charming, and commanded a lovely view), my father rubbed his head ruefully, and said:

"'You know, Mary, your mother's chief objection to our latest home was that the grounds were so much too large for our means of keeping them in order; and this garden is the larger of the two, I fear.'

"And he did not seem to derive proportionate comfort from my reply.

"'But, father dear, you know you needn't keep it in order, and then we can have it to play in.'

"And yet we took Reka Dom.

"The fact is that my father and I took a fancy to the place. On my side this is easily to be accounted for. If all the other houses at which we had looked had proved the direct reverse of what I (on behalf of myself and my brothers and sisters) was in search of, Reka Dom in a remarkable degree answered our requirements. To explore the garden was like a tour in fairy land. It was oddly laid out. Three grass-plots or lawns, one behind another, were divided by hedges of honeysuckle and sweet-briar. The grass was long, the flower-borders were borders of desolation, where crimson paeonies and some other hardy perennials made the best of it, but the odour of the honeysuckle was luxuriously sweet in the evening air. And what a place for bowers! The second lawn had greater things in store for me. There, between two tall elm trees hung a swing. With a cry of delight I seated myself, seized the ropes, and gave a vigorous push. But the impetus was strong, and the ropes were rotten, and I and the swing came to the ground together. This did not deter me, however, from exploring the third lawn, where I made a discovery to which that of the swing was as nothing.

"It was not merely that a small path through the shrubbery led me into a little enclosed piece of ground devoted to those many-shaped, box-edged little flower-beds characteristic of 'children's gardens,'—it was not alone that the beds were shaped like letters, and that there was indisputably an M among them—but they were six in number. Just one apiece for myself and my brothers and sisters! And though families of six children are not so very uncommon as to make it improbable that my father's predecessor should have had the same number of young ones as himself, the coincidence appeared to my mind almost supernatural. It really seemed as if some kind old fairy had conjured up the whole place for our benefit. And—bless the good godmother!—to crown all, there were two old tea-chests and a bottomless barrel in the yard.

"Doubtless many causes influenced my father in his leaning towards Reka Dom, and he did not confide them to me. But I do truly believe that first and foremost of the attractions was its name. To a real hearty lover of languages there is a charm in the sight of a strange character, new words, a yet unknown tongue, which cannot be explained to those who do not share the taste. And perhaps next to the mystic attraction of words whose meaning is yet hidden, is to discover traces of a foreign language in some unexpected and unlikely place. Russian is not extensively cultivated; my father's knowledge of it was but slight, and this quiet little water-side town an unlikely place for an inscription in that language. It was curious, and then interesting, and then the quaint simple title of the house took his fancy. Besides this, though he could not but allow that there was reason in my mother's views on the subject of large grounds in combination with one man-of-all-work, he liked plenty of space and shrubbery where he could wander about—his hands behind his back—without being disturbed; and for his own part he had undoubtedly felt more pleasure in the possession of large grounds than annoyance at seeing them neglected. So the garden tempted him. Finally, there was a room opening upon a laurel walk, which had at one time been a library. The shelves—old, common, dirty and broken—were still there, and on the most secure of them the housekeeper kept her cheese and candles, and an old shawl and bonnet.

"'The place is made for us!' I exclaimed on my return from discovering the old barrel and tea-chests. My father was standing in the library looking out upon the garden, and he did not say No.

"From the old woman we learnt something of the former tenants. She was a good-natured old soul, with an aggrieved tone of voice, due probably to the depressing effects of keeping an empty house for a cantankerous landlord. The former tenant's name was Smith, she said (unmistakably English this!). But his lady was a Roosian, she believed. They had lived in Roosia, and some of the children, having been born there, were little Roosians, and had Roosian names. She could not speak herself, having no knowledge of the country, but she had heard that the Roosians were heathens, though Mr. Smith and his family went regularly to church. They had lived by a river, she believed, and their old home was called by the same outlandish name they had given to this. She had heard that it meant a house by the water-side, but could not say, knowing no language but her own, and having (she was thankful to say) found it sufficient for all purposes. She knew that before Mr. Smith's time the house was called Montague Mount, and there was some sense in that name. Though what the sense was, she did not offer to explain.

"'Please, please take it!' I whispered in a pause of the conversation! 'there are six little gardens, and—'

"My father broke in with mock horror on his face: 'Don't speak of six gardens!' he exclaimed. 'The one will condemn the place, I fear, but we must go home and consult your mother.'

"I suppose we did consult her.

"I know we described all the charms of the house and garden, and passed rather a poor examination as to their condition, and what might be expected from the landlord. That my father endeavoured to conceal his personal bias, and that I made no secret of mine. At last my mother interrupted some elaborately practical details by saying in her gentle voice—

"'I think choosing a home is something like choosing a companion for life. It is chiefly important to like it. There must be faults everywhere. Do you take to the place, my dear?'

"'I like it certainly,' said my father. 'But the question is not what I like, but what you like.'

"Then I knew it was settled, and breathed freely. For though my father always consulted my mother's wishes, she generally contrived to choose what she knew he would prefer. And she chose Reka Dom.

* * * * *

"Henceforward good luck seemed to follow our new home.

"First, as to the landlord. The old woman had certainly not exaggerated his oddity. But one of his peculiarities was a most fortunate one for us. He was a bibliomaniac—a lover and collector of valuable and curious books. When my father called on him to arrange about the house, he found him sitting almost in rags, apparently dining upon some cheese-parings, and surrounded by a library, the value of which would have fed and clothed him with comfort for an almost indefinite period. Upon the chair behind him sat a large black cat with yellow eyes.

"When my father was ushered in, he gazed for a moment in silent astonishment at the unexpected sight. Books in shelf after shelf up to the ceiling, and piled in heaps upon the floor. As he stood speechless, the little old man put down the plate, gathered his ragged dressing-gown about him, and, followed by the cat, scrambled across the floor and touched his arm.

"'You look at books as if you loved them?' he said.

"My father sighed as if a spell had been broken.

"'I am nearly half a century old,' he said, 'and I do not remember the day when I did not love them.'

"He confessed afterwards to my mother that not less than two hours elapsed before Reka Dom was so much as spoken of. Then his new acquaintance was as anxious to secure him for a tenant as he had been to take the house.

"'Put down on paper what you think wants doing, and it shall be done,' was the old gentleman's liberal order on the subject of repairs. 'Lord! Lord!' he went on, 'it's one thing to have you, and another thing to put the house right for men who don't know an Elzevir from an annual in red silk. One fellow came here who would have given me five pounds more than I wanted for the place; but he put his vile hat upon my books. Lord! Lord!'

"The old man's strongest effort in my father's favour, however, was the proposal of a glass of wine. He seemed to have screwed himself up to the offer, and to be proportionately relieved when it was declined.

"'You're quite right,' he said, frankly; 'my wine is not so good as my books. Come and see them, whenever you like.'

"'The bookshelves shall be repaired, sir,' was his final promise in answer to a hint from my father, who (it being successful, and he being a very straight-forward man) was ever afterwards ashamed of this piece of diplomacy. 'And the fire-place must be seen to. Lord! Lord! A man can live anywhere, but valuable books must be taken care of. Would you believe it? I have a fire in this room three times a week in bad weather. And fuel is terribly dear, terribly dear. And that slut in the kitchen burns as much as if she had the care of the Vatican Library. She said she couldn't roast the meat without. "Then give me cold meat!" I said; but she roasts and boils all the same. So last week I forbade the butcher the house, and we've lived on cheese ever since, and that's eightpence a pound. Food is terribly dear here, sir; everything is dear. It's enough to ruin a man. And you've got a family. Lord! Lord! How a man can keep a family and books together, I can't imagine. However, I suppose children live chiefly on porridge.'

"Which supposition served for long as a household joke against my brothers, whose appetite for roast meat was not less than that of other healthy boys of the period.

"It was a happy moment when my father came back from this interview, and Reka Dom was fairly ours. But a more delightful one was that in which I told the successful result of my embassy to the nursery conclave. I certainly had not the remotest claim to credit in the matter, but I received an ovation proportionate to the good news I brought. I told my story skilfully, and made the six gardens the crowning point; at which climax my brother and sisters raised a shout that so far exceeded the average of even nursery noises, that my mother hurried to the spot, where our little sister Phil flung herself into her arms, and almost sobbing with excitement, cried—

"'Oh, Mother dear! we're hooraying for Reka Dom!'

* * * * *

"It was sagely prophesied by our nurse and others that we should soon be tired of our new fancy, and find 'plenty to complain of' in Reka Dom as elsewhere. (It is nursery wisdom to chasten juvenile enthusiasm by such depressing truths.) And undoubtedly both people and places are apt to disappoint one's expectations on intimate acquaintance; but there are people and places who keep love always, and such an one was Reka Dom.

"I hardly know what to tell you of it, Ida. The happy years we spent there were marked by no wonderful occurrences, and were not enlivened by any particular gaiety. Beyond our own home our principal treat was to take tea in the snug little house where we made our first acquaintances. Those good ladies proved kind friends to us. Their buns were not to be surpassed, and they had pale albums, and faded treasures of the preceding generation, which it was our delight to overhaul. The two sisters lived with their invalid brother, and that was the household. Their names were Martha and Mary, and they cherished a touching bit of sentiment in reference to the similarity between their circumstances and those of the Family of Bethany.

"'I think it reminds us of what we ought to be, my dear,' Miss Mary said to me one day. 'Only it is I who should have been called Martha, for Martha is far more spiritually minded.' Humility was the most prominent virtue in the character of these good ladies, and they carried it almost to excess.

"I remember, as a child, thinking that even the holy sisters of Bethany could hardly have been more good than the Misses Brooke, but I was quite unable to connect any sentiment with the invalid brother. He spoke little and did less, and yet his sisters continually quoted his sayings and criticisms, and spoke of his fine taste and judgment; but of all that he was supposed to say, only a few croaking common-places ever met our ears.

"'Dear James was so much pleased with that little translation you showed me,' or 'Dear James hopes that his young friends keep up their practising. He considers music such a resource,' etc., etc.

"I believe they did hold conversations with him in which he probably assented to their propositions, and they persuaded themselves that he was very good company. And, indeed, he may have been all that they believed; I can only say that to me dear James's remarks never exceeded, 'Good-day, Miss. How are your excellent parents?' or some similar civility. I really was afraid of him. There is something appalling in a hoarse voice coming from under a green shade, and connected with eyes you cannot meet, and features that are always hidden. Beyond that shade we never saw to the day of his death.

"This occurred about four years after we first knew them. I well remember the visit of condolence on which I accompanied my mother, the bitter grief of the sisters, and the slow dropping of Miss Mary's tears on to her black dress. Wonderful indeed is love! The most talented and charming companion in the world could not have filled to them the place of the helpless, uninteresting invalid who had passed away.

"The Misses Brooke caused a commotion in the gossiping world of our little town by going to the funeral. It was not the custom for ladies to go to funerals, and, as a general rule, the timid sisters would not have ventured to act against public opinion; but on this occasion they were resolute. To hear the voice of authority meet them with the very words wherewith Divine lips had comforted those other sisters, would comfort them, as nothing else could. I remember how from a window we watched the funeral with childish awe and curiosity—the thrill with which we heard a maid announce 'the coffin,' and caught sight of the flapping pall, and tried to realize that old Mr. Brooke was underneath. Then close behind it came the two figures we knew so well, veiled, black, and bent, and clinging together in the agony of that struggle between faith and loss which every loving soul is some time called on to endure. As we leant out of the open window, crying bitterly in sympathy with them, and with the gloomy excitement of the occasion, they raised themselves a little and walked more steadily. The Rector's clear voice was cutting the air with the pathos of an unusual sympathy.

'I am the Resurrection and the Life—saith the Lord.'

"I understood then, and have never wondered since, how it was that the Misses Brooke braved the gossip of the neighbourhood, and followed their brother's body to the grave.

"These good people were, as I have said, our chief friends; but Reka Dom itself afforded us ample amusement. The six children who had lived there before us were a source of unfailing interest. The old woman of the house remained about the place for a short time in the capacity of charwoman, and she suffered many inquiries on our part as to the names, ages, and peculiarities of our predecessors. As she had 'charred' for them, she was able to satisfy our curiosity to a considerable extent, and then great was the pleasure of retailing to our mother, as she sat knitting in the twilight, the anecdotes we had collected of 'the little Russians.'

"'The Little Russians' certainly did much to cement our attachment to Reka Dom. Their history was the history of our home. It was the romance of the walks we played in, the swing we sat in, the gardens we tended every day. To play at being the little Russians superseded all other games. To 'pretend' that the little Russians were with us, and to give dolls' entertainments in their honour, supplanted all former fancies. Their gardens, by-the-by, were not allotted to their successors without some difficulty, and the final decision involved a disappointment to me. It seemed as if there could not be two opinions as to the propriety of my having the letter M. But on further consideration it appeared that as the remaining letters did not fit the names of my brothers and sisters, some other way of distributing them must be found. My mother at last decided that the letters of the six beds were to be written on six separate bits of paper, and put in a bag, and that one was to be drawn by each in turn. I still hoped that I might draw the letter M, but it was not to be. That large and sunny bed fell to my youngest brother, and I drew the letter I. Now not only was the bed little more than a fourth of the size of that which I had looked on as my own, but being very much in the shade, it was not favourable to flowers. Then the four divisions of the letter M afforded some scope for those effective arrangements which haunt one's spring dreams for the coming summer; but what could be done with a narrow strip with two narrower ends where the box-edging almost met, and where nothing would blossom but lilies of the valley?

("Capricious things those lilies are! So obdurate under coaxing when transplanted to some place they do not like, so immovably flourishing in a home that suits them!)

"What I did was to make the best of my fate. After trying to reduce the lilies of the valley to one neat group, and to cultivate gayer flowers in the rest of the bed, and after signally failing in both attempts, I begged a bit of spare ground in the big garden for my roses and carnations, and gave up my share of the Russian plat to the luxuriant lilies.

"It had belonged to the eldest boy. One of those born in Russia, and with the outlandish names of which the charwoman spoke. His name was Ivan. Many a time did I wish it had been William or Matthew, and once, I remember, I dreamt a tantalizing dream of discovering that it was Oliver, and of digging up the middle of the O, and effecting a round bed of unrivalled brilliancy, with a white rose for the centre-piece and crown. Once in the year, however, I had my revenge. In spring my lilies of the valley were the finest to be seen. We had a custom that all through the flower season a bouquet was laid by my mother's plate before she came down to breakfast, and very proud we were when they came from our own gardens. There were no horticultural wonders in these nosegays, but in my short season of triumph, the size and fragrance of my flowers never failed to excite admiration; and many grown-up people besides my mother were grateful for bouquets from my narrow bed. Credit in the matter I deserved none, for Ivan's lilies took care of themselves.

"Having learnt the names of the little Russians, we had no difficulty in discovering to which of them the respective letter beds had belonged; and one of our amusements was that each should endeavour to carry out what (so far as we could learn) had been the habits and customs of the little Russian to whose garden he had succeeded. Then we had a whole class of partisan games which gave us wonderful entertainment. Sometimes we pretended to be Scottish chieftains, or feudal barons of England, or chiefs of savage tribes. Our gardens were always the lands we had inherited or conquered, and we called ourselves by the names of the little Russians. When we were Highland chiefs, I remember, we put Mac indiscriminately before all the names; in some cases with a comical, and in others with a very satisfactory effect. As chief of the MacIvans I felt justly proud of my title, but a brother who represented the MacElizabeths was less fortunate. In the sham battles our pet animals (we each had one) did duty for retainers, much to their bewilderment. The dogs, indeed, would caper about, and bark round the opposing parties in a way that was at least inspiriting; but my Sandy Tom brandished his tail and took flying leaps upon no principle whatever; and as to Fatima's tortoise, it never budged from the beginning of the conflict to the end. Once, indeed, by strewing dandelion heads in the direction of the enemy's ground she induced him to advance, and at the cry of 'Forward, MacPeters!' he put forth a lazy leg, and with elephantine dignity led the attack, on the way to his favourite food. But (in spite of the fable) his slow pace was against him, and in the ensuing melee he was left far behind.

"I could not learn much about Ivan, but of what I did discover some things were easy enough for me to follow. He was fond of boating, a taste I was not allowed to cultivate; but also he was fond of books, the old woman said, and fond of sitting in the swing and reading, and I heartily approved his choice in this respect.

"In helping to unpack my father's library, I had discovered a copy of Walton and Cotton's 'Angler,' similar in every respect, but its good condition, to the one that had charmed me at the inn. Sometimes the precious volume was lent to me, and with it in my lap, and my arms round the ropes of the swing, I passed many a happy hour. What fancies I wove after studying those quaint, suggestive old prints! As sweet as that 'contexture of woodbines, sweet-briar, and myrtle' in which the anglers sat and sipped orange punch at Tottenham. The characters of Piscater, Venater, and Auceps, and the style of their conversations by the wayside, I found by no means unlike those of the Pilgrim's Progress. The life-like descriptions of nature (none the less attractive at my age from being quaintly mixed with fable and symbolism, and pointed with pious morals) went straight to my heart; and though I skipped many of the fish chapters, I re-read many of the others, and 'The Complete Angler' did not a little to feed my strong natural love for out-door life and country pleasures, to confirm my habit of early rising, and to strengthen my attachment to the neighbourhood of a river.

"But my father's library furnished another volume for my garden studies. From him I inherited some of that taste which finds a magic attraction in dictionaries and grammars; and I only wish that I had properly mastered about half the languages in which it was the delight of my girlhood to dabble. As yet, however, I only looked at the 'grammar corner' with ambitious eyes, till one day there came upon me the desire to learn Russian. I asked my father for a Russian grammar, and he pointed out the only one that he possessed. My father seldom refused to lend us his books, and made no inquiries as to why we wanted them; but he was intensely strict about their proper treatment, so that we early learnt to turn over leaves from the top, to avoid dogs' ears, and generally to treat books properly and put them away punctually. Thus I got the grammar, and carried it off to the swing. Alas! it was not even Russian and English. It was a fat old French edition, interleaved for notes. The notes were my father's, and in English, which was of some assistance, and I set myself resolutely to learn the alphabet. But my progress was slow, and at last I got my father to write Reka Dom for me in Russian character, as I had determined to master these few letters first and then proceed. I soon became familiar with them, and was not a little proud of the achievement. I made a large copy to fasten upon the nursery wall; I wrote it in all my books; and Fatima, who could not be induced to attack the fat grammar with me, became equally absorbed on her part in the effort to reduce the inscription to cross-stitch for the benefit of her sampler.

"I borrowed the fat grammar again, and, in spite of my father's warnings that it was too difficult for me as yet, I hoped soon to be proficient in the language of the little Russians. But warnings from one's elders are apt to come true, and after a few vain efforts I left the tough old volume in its corner and took to easier pastimes.

"I had always an inventive turn, and was, as a rule, the director-in-chief of our amusements. I know I was often very tiresome and tyrannical in the ensuing arrangements, and can only hope the trouble I took on these occasions on behalf of my brothers and sisters, served in their eyes to balance my defects. I remember one device of mine that proved particularly troublesome.

"When sham battles had ended in real quarrels, and following in the footsteps of the little Russians was becoming irksome—(especially to Fatima, whose predecessor—Peter—had been of a military turn, and had begun fortifications near the kitchen garden which she was incompetent to carry out) a new idea struck me. I announced that letters properly written and addressed to the little Russians, 'Reka Dom, Russia,' and posted in the old rhubarb-pot by the tool-house, would be duly answered. The replies to be found in a week's time at the same office.

"The announcement was received with delight, and no doubt was ever expressed as to the genuineness of the answers which I regularly supplied, written, by the by, in excellent English, but with Reka Dom neatly effected in Russian characters on the note-paper. In the first place, I allowed no awkward inquiries into the machinery of my little plots for the benefit of the rest; and in the second, we had all, I think, a sort of half-and-half belief, a wilful credulity in reference to our many fancies (such as fairies and the like), of which it is impossible to give the exact measure. But when, the six weekly letters having become rather burdensome, I left off writing answers from Ivan to myself, the others began to inquire why Ivan never wrote now. As usual, I refused to give any explanations, and after inventing several for themselves which answered for awhile, they adopted by general consent an idea put forth by little Phillis. The child was sitting one day with her fat cheek on her hand, and her eyes on the rhubarb-pot, waiting for her share of the correspondence to be read aloud to her, when the fancy seemed to strike her, and she said quietly, but with an air of full conviction—

"'I know what it is—Ivan is dead.'

"The idea took strange hold of us all. We said, 'Perhaps he is dead,' and spoke and thought of him as dead, till I think we were fully persuaded of it. No chair was set for him at the dolls' feasts, and I gained a sort of melancholy distinction as being without a partner now. 'You know Mary has no little Russian, since Ivan is dead.'

"When our visible pets died, we buried them with much pomp, to the sound of a drum and a tin trumpet, in a piece of ground by the cabbage-bed; but in the present instance that ceremony was impossible. We resolved, however, to erect a gravestone to the memory of our fancy friend in his own garden. I had seen letters cut on stone, and was confident that with a chisel and hammer nothing could be easier. These the nursery tool-box furnished. I wrote out an elaborate inscription headed by Reka Dom in Russian characters, and we got a stone and set to work. The task, however, was harder than we had supposed. My long composition was discarded, and we resolved to be content with this simple sentence, To the memory of Ivan. But 'brevity is the soul of wit,' and the TO took so long to cut, that we threw out three more words, and the epitaph finally stood thus:


"In a rude fashion this was accomplished; and with crape on our arms and the accustomed music we set up the stone among the lilies.

* * * * *

"In time, Ida, we grew up, as it is called. Almost before we knew it, and whilst we still seemed to be looking forward to our emancipation from nursery authority and childish frocks, Fatima and I found ourselves grown-up young ladies, free to fashion our costume to our own tastes, and far from Reka Dom. Yes, we had changed our home again. The River House was ours no longer. Childhood also had slipped from our grasp, but slowly as the years had seemed to pass, they had not sufficed to accomplish every project we had made in them. Not one of those long summers by the river had seen that gorgeous display of flowers in our garden which in all good faith and energy we planned with every spring. I had not learnt Russian. Years had gone by since I first took up the fat grammar, but I had acquired little since that time beyond the familiar characters of the well-beloved name, Reka Dom.

"The country town that circumstances had now made our home possessed at least one attraction for us. It was here that our old friends the Misses Brooke had settled when their brother's death broke up the quiet little household. I was very fond of the good ladies; not less so now than I had been as a child, when their home-made buns and faded albums made an evening festive, and were looked forward to as a treat. They were good women, severe to themselves and charitable to others, who cultivated the grace of humility almost in excess. One little weakness, however, in their otherwise estimable characters had at times disturbed the even course of our friendship. I hardly know what to call it. It was not want of candour. More truthful women do not exist than they were, and I believe they never wilfully deceived anyone. I can only describe it as a habit of indulging in small plots and suspicions; a want of trust in other people, partly traceable, perhaps, to a lack of due confidence in themselves, but which was very provoking to one as young, eager, and sincerely affectionate as I was. I was indignant to discover little plots laid to test my sincerity; and to find my genuine (if not minutely measured) expressions of feeling doubted. If this peculiarity had been troublesome in the early stages of our acquaintance, it was doubly so when we met again, after the lapse of some years. For one thing, the dear ladies were older, and fidgety, foolish little weaknesses of this kind sometimes increase with years. Then I was older also, and if they had doubted their own powers of entertainment when I was a child, they would still less believe that I could enjoy their society now that I was a 'young lady.' Whereas the truth was, that though my taste for buns and my reverence for smooth pencil drawings in impossible perspective had certainly diminished, my real enjoyment of a quiet evening with my old friends was greater than before. I liked to take my sewing to their undisturbed fireside, and not a few pieces of work which had flagged under constant interruptions at home were rapidly finished as I chatted with them. I liked to draw out the acquirements which they would not believe that they possessed. I enjoyed rubbing my modern and desultory reading against their old-fashioned but solid knowledge. I admired their high and delicate principles, and respected their almost fatiguing modesty. At an age when religious questions move and often seriously trouble girls' minds, I drew comfort from their piety, which (although as quiet and modest as all their other virtues) had been for years, under my eyes, the ruling principle of all they did, the only subject on which they had the courage to speak with decision, the crown of their affections and pleasures, and the sufficient consolation of their sorrow. In addition to all this, when I went to them, I knew that my visit gave pleasure.

"It seemed hard that they could not always repose a similar confidence in me. And yet so it was. The consistent affection of years had failed to convince them that 'a young, pretty, lively girl' (as they were pleased to call me) could find pleasure in the society of 'two dull old women.' So they were apt to suspect either a second motive for my visit, or affectation in my appearance of enjoyment. At times I was chafed almost beyond my powers of endurance by these fancies; and on one occasion my vexation broke all bounds of respect.

"'You think me uncandid, ma'am,' I cried; 'and what are you? If you were to hear that I had spoken of you, elsewhere, as two dull old women, you would be as much astonished as angered. You know you would. You know you don't think I think so. I can't imagine why you say it!'

"And my feelings being as much in the way of my logic as those of most other women, I got no further, but broke down into tears.

"'She says we're uncandid, Mary' sobbed Miss Martha.

"'So we are, I believe,' said Miss Mary, and then we all cried together.

"I think the protracted worry of this misunderstanding (which had been a long one) had made me almost hysterical. I clearly remember the feeling of lying with my face against the horsehair sofa in the little dining-room, feebly repeating, 'You shouldn't, you know. You shouldn't!' amid my tears, my hair being softly stroked the while by the two sisters, who comforted me, and blamed themselves with a depth of self-abasement that almost made me laugh. It had hardly seemed possible that their customary humility could go lower. The affair was wound up with a good deal of kissing, and tea, and there were no more suspicions for a long time.

* * * * *

"There had been peace, as I said, for long. But as, at the best of times, the Misses Brooke never gave us an invitation without going through the form of apologizing for the probable dulness of the entertainment, I was not surprised one morning to find myself invited to tea at Belle Vue Cottage for the following evening, on the strict condition that I should refuse the invitation if I felt disinclined to go. I had met the good ladies as we came out of church. There was Morning Prayer on Wednesdays and Fridays at one church in the town, and if the two little straw bonnets of the Misses Brooke had not been seen bending side by side at every service, the rest of the scanty congregation would have been as much astonished as if every one in the town who had time and opportunity for public worship had availed themselves of the privilege. On this day they had been there as usual, and when we turned up the street together, the invitation was given.

"'And could you induce your respected father to come with you, Mary dear?' added Miss Mary. 'You know our rooms are small, or we should be so glad to see Fatima. But we have a few friends coming, and she will understand.'

"'Only a few,' Miss Martha said, hastily. 'Don't make her think there's anything worth coming for, Mary. And mind, Mary dear, if you don't care to come, that you say so. There's no need for "excuses" with us. And you know exactly what our tea-parties are.'

"'Now, Miss Martha,' I said, shaking my fist at her, 'I won't bear it!'

"'Well, my dear, you know it's true. And if you should have an invitation to the Lodge between now and to-morrow night, mind you throw us over. There's no dancing and heavy supper at the Cottage.'

"'I'll eat a pound of beefsteak and have a private hornpipe to fortify me before I come, ma'am. And if the Lightfoots should ask me between now and then, I'll think about throwing over my oldest friends to oblige you!'

"'You're very clever, my dear,' sighed Miss Martha, 'and it's easy to laugh at a stupid old woman like me.'

"Now this was rather unfair, for I had only taken to banter on these occasions because a serious treatment of the subject had failed. I made my peace, however, by grave and affectionate assurances that I wished to come, and would like to come; and by adding a solemn promise that if I felt averse from it when the time came, I would stay at home.

"I was vexed to find symptoms of the old misunderstanding arising. The good ladies were evidently in a fidgety humour to-day, and going home full of it, I poured out my vexation to Fatima.

"Fatima's composure was not so easily ruffled as mine. She was apt to sit in easy, graceful attitudes, looking very idle, but getting through a wonderful amount of exquisite needlework, and listening to my passing grievances without being much disturbed herself.

"'I don't think I would worry myself,' she said, as she rapidly sorted the greens for a leaf in her embroidery. 'My idea is, that you will find the party more lively than usual. I have often noticed that when the old ladies are particularly full of apologies, something or somebody is expected.'

"'I didn't want anything or anybody,' I said, dolefully; 'but I wish they wouldn't take fancies, and I wish they wouldn't put one through such cross-examinations about nothing. As to the party, who could there be, but the old set?'

"'Nobody, I suppose. There'll be the Wilkinsons, of course;' and Fatima marked the fact with an emphatic stitch. 'And Mr. Ward, I suppose, and Dr. Brown, and the Jones's girls, and—'

"'Oh, the rooms wouldn't hold more!' I said.

"'There's always room for one more—for a gentleman at any rate; and, depend upon it, it is as I say.'

"Fatima was not so fond of the Misses Brooke as I was. She did not scruple to complain of the trouble it cost to maintain intimate relations with the excellent but touchy old ladies, and of the hot water about trifles into which one must perpetually fall.

"'I hope I am pretty trustworthy,' she would say, 'and I am sure you are, Mary. And if we are not, let them drop our acquaintance. But they treat their friends as we used to treat our flowers at Reka Dom! They are always taking them up to see how they are going on, and I like to vegetate in peace.'

"I could not have criticized my dear and respected old friends so freely; but yet I knew that Fatima only spoke the truth.

"The subject was unexpectedly renewed at dinner.

"'Mary,' said my father, 'is there any mystery connected with this tea-party at Miss Brooke's?'

"Fatima gave me a mischievous glance.

"'If there is, sir,' said I, 'I am not in the secret.'

"'I met them in the town,' he went on, 'and they were good enough to invite me; and as I must see Ward about some registers, I ventured to ask if he were to be of the party (thinking to save my old legs a walk to his place). The matter was simple enough, but Miss Martha seemed to fancy that I wanted to know who was going to be there. I fully explained my real object, but either she did not hear or she did not believe me, I suppose, for she gave me a list of the expected company.'

"'I am sure she would have believed you, sir, if she had realized what you were saying,' I said. 'I know the sort of thing, but I think that they are generally so absorbed in their own efforts to do what they think you want, they have no spare attention for what you say.'

"'A very ingenious bit of special pleading, my dear, but you have not heard all. I had made my best bow and was just turning away, when Miss Martha, begging me to excuse her, asked with a good deal of mystery and agitation if you had commissioned me to find out who was to be at the party. I said I had not seen you since breakfast, but that I was quite able to assure her that if you had wished to find out anything on the subject, you would have gone direct to herself, with which I repeated my best bow in my best style, and escaped.'

"I was too much hurt to speak, and Fatima took up the conversation with my father.

"'You will go, sir?' she said.

"'Of course, my dear, if Mary wishes it. Besides, Ward is to be there. I learnt so much.'

"'You learnt more, sir,' said Fatima, 'and please don't leave us to die of curiosity. Who is to be there, after all?'

"'The Wilkinsons, and Miss Jones and her sister, and Ward, and an old friend of Miss Brooke's, a merchant.'

"'But his name, please!' cried Fatima, for my father was retreating to his study.

"'Smith—John Smith,' he answered laughing, and we were left alone.

"I was very much disposed to be injured and gloomy, but Fatima would not allow it. She was a very successful comforter. In the first place, she was thoroughly sympathetic; and in the second, she had a great dislike to any disturbance of the general peace and harmony, and at last, her own easy, cheerful view of things became infectious where no very serious troubles were concerned.

"'People must have their little weaknesses,' she said, 'and I am sure they haven't many failings.'

"'This weakness is so unworthy of them,' I complained.

"'All good people's weaknesses are unworthy of them, my dear. And the better they are, the more unworthy the weakness appears. Now, Mary, do be reasonable! You know at the bottom how true they are, and how fond of you. Pray allow them a few fidgety fancies, poor old dears. No doubt we shall be just as fidgety when we are as old. I'm sure I shall have as many fancies as hairs in my wig, and as to you, considering how little things weigh on your mind now—'

"Fatima's reasoning was not conclusive, but I think I came at last to believe that Miss Brooke's distrust was creditable to herself, and complimentary to me—so it certainly must have been convincing.

"'And now,' she concluded, 'come upstairs and forget it. For I have got two new ideas on which I want your opinion. The first is a new stitch, in which I purpose to work some muslin dresses for us both. I thought of it in bed this morning. The second is a new plan for braiding your hair, which came into my head whilst father was reading aloud that speech to us last night. I had just fastened up the last plait when he laid down the paper.'

"'You absurd Fatima!' I cried. 'How could you! And it was so interesting!'

"'Don't look shocked,' said Fatima. 'I shall never be a politician. Of all studies, that of politics seems to me the most disturbing and uncomfortable. If some angel, or inspired person would tell me which side was in the right, and whom to believe in, I could be a capital partisan. As it is, I don't worry myself with it; and last night when you were looking flushed and excited at the end of the speech, I was calmly happy—'

"'But, Fatima,' I broke in, 'you don't mean to say—'

"'If it had lasted five minutes longer,' said Fatima, 'I should have comfortably decided whether ferns or ivy would combine better with the loops.'

"'But, Fatima! were you really not listening when—'

"'On the whole I decide for ivy,' said Fatima, and danced out of the room, I following and attempting one more remonstrance in the hall.

"'But, Fatima!—'

"'With perhaps a suspicion of white chrysanthemums,' she added over the banisters.

"Both the new ideas promised to be successful, and the following evening my hair was dressed in what Fatima now called the political plaits. From the first evening of my introduction into society she had established herself as my lady's maid. She took a generous delight in dressing me up, and was as clever as she was kind about it. This evening she seemed to have surpassed herself, as I judged by the admiring exclamations of our younger sister Phillis—a good little maid, who stood behind my chair with combs and pins in her hand as Fatima's aide-de-camp. Finally, the dexterous fingers interwove some sprays of ivy with the hair, and added white rosebuds for lack of chrysanthemums.

"'Perfect!' Fatima exclaimed, stepping backwards with gestures of admiration that were provokingly visible in the glass before which I sat. 'And to think that it should be wasted on an uninteresting tea-party! You will not wear your new muslin, of course?'

"'Indeed, I shall,' I answered. 'You know I always make myself smart for the Cottage.' Which was true, and my reason for it was this. I had once gone there to a quiet tea-party in a dress that was rather too smart for the occasion, and which looked doubly gay by contrast with the sombre costume of the elderly friends whom I met. I was feeling vexed with myself for an error in taste, when Miss Mary came up to me, and laying her hands affectionately on me, and smoothing my ribbons, thanked me for having come in such a pretty costume.

"'You come in, my dear,' she said, 'like a fresh nosegay after winter. You see we are old women, my love, and dress mostly in black, since dear James's death; and our friends are chiefly elderly and sombre-looking also. So it is a great treat to us to look at something young and pretty, and remember when we were girls, and took pains with such things ourselves.'

"'I was afraid I was too smart, Miss Mary,' I said.

"'To be sure it is a waste to wear your pretty things here,' Miss Mary added; 'but you might let us know sometimes when you are going to a grand party, and we will come and look at you.'

"I was touched by the humble little lady's speech, and by the thought of how little one is apt to realize the fact that faded, fretful, trouble-worn people in middle life have been young, and remember their youth.

"Thenceforward I made careful toilettes for the Cottage, and this night was not an exception to the rule.

"I was dressed early; my father was rather late, and we three girls had nearly an hour's chat before I had to go.

"We began to discuss the merchant who was to vary the monotony of our small social circle. Phillis had heard that a strange gentleman had arrived in the town this afternoon by the London stage. Fatima had an idea on the subject which she boldly stated. One of the Misses Brooke was going to be married—to this London merchant. We were just at an age when a real life romance is very attractive, and the town was not rich in romances—at least, in our little society. So Fatima's idea found great favour with us, and, as she described it, seemed really probable. Here was an old friend, a friend of their youth, and probably a lover, turned up again, and the sisters were in a natural state of agitation. (It fully accounted for Miss Martha's suspicious sensitiveness yesterday, and I felt ashamed of having being aggrieved.) Doubtless the lovers had not been allowed to marry in early life because he was poor. They had been parted, but had remained faithful. He had made a fortune, like Dick Whittington, and now, a rich London merchant, had come back to take his old love home. Being an old friend, it was obviously a youthful attachment; and being a merchant, he must be very rich. This happy combination—universal in fiction, though not invariable in real life—was all that could be desired, and received strong confirmation from the fact of his coming from London; for in those days country girls seldom visited the metropolis, and we regarded the great city with awe, as the centre of all that was wealthy and wonderful. It was a charming story, and though we could not but wish that he had returned before Miss Martha took to a 'front' and spectacles, yet we pictured a comfortable domestic future for them; and Fatima was positive that 'worlds' might be done for the appearance of the future Mrs. Smith by more tasteful costume, and longed ardently to assume the direction of her toilette.

"'I don't believe that she need wear a front,' she pleaded. 'I daresay she has plenty of pretty grey hair underneath. Spectacles are intellectual, if properly worn; which, by the by, they need not be at meals when your husband is looking at you across the table; and as to caps—'

"But here my father knocked at the door, and I put on my cloak and hood, and went with him.

"The Misses Brooke received us affectionately, but I thought with some excitement, and a flush on Miss Martha's cheeks almost made me smile. I could not keep Fatima's fancy out of my head. Indeed, I was picturing my old friend in more cheerful and matronly costume presiding over the elegant belongings of a stout, well-to-do, comfortable Mr. John Smith, as I moved about in the little room, and exchanged mechanical smiles and greetings with the familiar guests. I had settled the sober couple by their fireside, and was hesitating between dove-colour and lavender-grey for the wedding silk, when Miss Martha herself disturbed me before I had decided the important question. I fancied a slight tremor in her voice as she said—

"'Mr. John Smith.'

"I dropped a more formal curtsey than I had hitherto done, as was due to a stranger and a gentleman, and looked once at the object of my benevolent fancies, and then down again at my mittens. His head was just coming up from a low bow, and my instantaneous impression was, 'He wears a brown wig.' But in a moment more he was upright, and I saw that he did not. And—he certainly was not suitable in point of age. I took one more glance to make sure, and meeting his eyes, turned hastily, and plunged into conversation with my nearest neighbour, not noticing at the instant who it was. As I recovered from my momentary confusion, I became aware that I was talking to the rector's wife, and had advanced some opinions on the subject of the weather which she was energetically disputing. I yielded gracefully, and went back to my thoughts. I hope Miss Martha did not feel as I did the loss of that suitable, comfortable, middle-aged partner my fancy had provided for her. It did seem a pity that he had no existence. I thought that probably marriage was the happiest condition for most people, and felt inclined to discuss the question with the rector's wife, who had had about twenty-two years' exemplary experience of that state. Then I should like to have helped to choose the silk—

"At this point I was asked to play.

"I played some favourite things of Miss Brooke's and some of my own, Mr. Smith turning over the leaves of my music; and then he was asked to sing, and to my astonishment, prepared to accompany himself. Few English gentlemen (if any) could accompany their own songs on the pianoforte in my youth, Ida; most of them then had a wise idea that the pianoforte was an instrument 'only fit for women,' and would have as soon thought of trying to learn to play upon it as of studying the spinning-wheel. I do not know that I had ever heard one play except my father, who had lived much abroad. When Mr. Smith sat down at the instrument, I withdrew into a corner, where Miss Martha followed me as if to talk. But when he began, I think every one was silent.

"The song he sang is an old one now, Ida, but it was comparatively new then, and it so happened that very few of us had heard it before. It was 'Home, Sweet Home.' He had a charming voice, with a sweet pathetic ring about it, and his singing would have redeemed a song of far smaller merit, and of sentiment less common to all his hearers. As it was, our sympathies were taken by storm. The rector's wife sobbed audibly, but, I believe, happily, with an oblique reference to the ten children she had left at home; and poor Miss Martha, behind me, touched away tear after tear with her thin finger-tips, and finally took to her pocket-handkerchief, and thoughts of the dear dead brother, and the little house and garden, and I know not what earlier home still. As for me, I thought of Reka Dom.

"We had had many homes, but that was the home par excellence—the beloved of my father, the beloved of us all. And as the clear voice sang the refrain, which sounded in some of our ears like a tender cry of recall to past happiness,

'Home—Home—sweet, sweet Home!'

I stroked Miss Martha's knee in silent sympathy, and saw Reka Dom before my eyes. The river seemed to flow with the melody. I swung to the tune between the elm-trees, with Walton and Cotton on my lap. What would Piscator have thought of it, had the milkmaid sung him this song? I roamed through the three lawns that were better to me than pleasures and palaces, and stood among the box-edged gardens. Then the refrain called me back again—

'Home—Home—sweet, sweet Home!'

I was almost glad that it ended before I, too, quite broke down.

"Everybody crowded round the singer with admiration of the song, and inquiries about it.

"'I heard it at a concert in town the other day,' he said, 'and it struck me as pretty, so I got a copy. It is from an English opera called "Clari," and seems the only pretty thing in it.'

"'Do you not like it?' Miss Jones asked me; I suppose because I had not spoken.

"'I think it is lovely,' I said, 'as far as I can judge; but it carries one away from criticism; I do not think I was thinking of the music; I was thinking of Home.'


"It was not Miss Jones who said 'Exactly,' but the merchant, who was standing by her; and he said it, not in that indefinite tone of polite assent with which people commonly smile answers to each other's remarks at evening parties, but as if he understood the words from having thought the thought. We three fell into conversation about the song—about 'Clari'—about the opera—the theatre—about London; and then Dr. Brown, who had been educated in the great city, joined us, and finally he and Miss Jones took the London subject to themselves, and the merchant continued to talk to me. He was very pleasant company, chiefly from being so alive with intelligence that it was much less trouble to talk with him than with any one I had ever met, except my father. He required so much less than the average amount of explanation. It hardly seemed possible to use too few words for him to seize your meaning by both ends, so to speak; the root your idea sprang from, and conclusion to which it tended.

"We talked of music—of singing—of the new song, and of the subject of it—home. And so of home-love, and patriotism, and the characters of nations in which the feeling seemed to predominate.

"'Like everything else, it depends partly on circumstances, I suppose,' he said. 'I sometimes envy people who have only one home—the eldest son of a landed proprietor, for instance. I fancy I have as much home-love in me as most people, but it has been divided; I have had more homes than one.'

"'I have had more homes than one,' I said; 'but with me I do not think it has been divided. At least, one of the homes has been so much dearer than the others.'

"'Do you not think so because it is the latest, and your feelings about it are freshest?' he asked.

"I laughed. 'A bad guess. It is not my present home. This one was near a river.'


"This time the 'exactly' did not seem so appropriate as before, and I explained further.

"'For one thing we were there when I was at an age when attachment to a place gets most deeply rooted, I think. As a mere child one enjoys and suffers like a kitten from hour to hour. But when one is just old enough to form associations and weave dreams, and yet is still a child—it is then, I fancy, that a home gets almost bound up with one's life.'

"He simply said 'Yes,' and I went on. Why, I can hardly tell, except that to talk on any subject beyond mere current chit-chit, and be understood, was a luxury we did not often taste at the tea-parties of the town.

"'And yet I don't know if my theory will hold good, even in our case,' I went on, 'for my father was quite as much devoted to the place as we were, and fell in love with it quite as early. But the foreign name was the first attraction to him, I think.'

"'It was abroad, then?' he asked.

"I explained, and again I can hardly tell why, but I went on talking till I had given him nearly as full a history of Reka Dom as I have given to you. For one thing he seemed amazingly interested in the recital, and drew out many particulars by questions; and then the song had filled my head with tender memories, and happy little details of old times, and it was always pleasant to prose about the River Home, as indeed, my child, it is pleasant still.

"We were laughing over some childish reminiscence, when Miss Martha tapped me on the shoulder and said rather louder than usual—

"'Dear Mary, there are some engravings here, my love, I should like you to look at.'

"I felt rather astonished, for I knew every book and picture in the house as well as I knew my own, but I followed her to a table, when she added, in a fluttering whisper—

"'You'll excuse my interrupting you, my love, I'm sure; but it was becoming quite particular.'

"I blushed redder than the crimson silk binding of the 'Keepsake' before me. I wished I could honestly have misunderstood Miss Martha's meaning. But I could not. Had I indeed talked too much and too long to a gentleman and a stranger? (It startled me to reflect how rapidly we had passed that stage of civil commonplace which was the normal condition of my intercourse with the gentlemen of the town.) I was certainly innocent of any intentional transgression of those bounds of reticence and decorum which are a young lady's best friends, but as to the length of my conversation with the merchant I felt quite uncertain and unspeakably alarmed.

"I was indulging a few hasty and dismal reflections when Miss Martha continued—

"'When I was young, dear Mary, I remember a valuable piece of advice that was given me by my excellent friend and schoolmistress, Miss Peckham, "If you are only slightly acquainted with a gentleman, talk of indifferent matters. If you wish to be friendly but not conspicuous, talk of his affairs; but only if you mean to be very intimate, speak of yourself;"' and adding, 'I'm sure you'll forgive me, my love,' Miss Martha fluttered from the table.

"At the moment I was feeling provoked both with her and with myself, and did not feel so sure about the forgiveness as she professed to be; but of one thing I felt perfectly certain. Nothing but sheer necessity should induce me to speak another syllable to the London merchant.

"Circumstances did not altogether favour my resolution. I scrupulously avoided so much as a look at Mr. Smith, though in some mysterious way I became conscious that he and my father were having a long tete-a-tete conversation in a corner. I devoted myself exclusively to the rector's wife till supper, and then I carefully chose the opposite side of the table to that to which the merchant seemed to be going. But when I was fairly seated, for some reason he gave up his place to someone else, and when it was impossible for me to change my seat, he took the one next to it. It was provoking, but I steadily resisted his attempts to talk, and kept my face as much averted as possible. Once or twice he helped me to something on the table, but I barely thanked him, and never lifted my eyes to his face. I could not, however, avoid seeing the hand that helped me, and idly noticing a ring that I had remarked before, when he was playing. It was a fine blue stone, a lapis lazuli, curiously and artistically set. 'Rich merchants can afford such baubles!' I thought. It was very tasteful, however, and did not look like English work. There was something engraven upon it, which did not look like English either. Was it Greek? I glanced at it with some curiosity, for it reminded me of—but that was nonsense, a fancy that came because the subject was in my mind. At this moment the hand and ring were moved close to me and I looked again.

"It was not a fancy. There was no mistaking the inscription this time. I had learnt it too thoroughly—written it too often—loved it too well—it was Reka Dom.

"For a moment I sat in blind astonishment. Then the truth suddenly flashed upon me. The merchant's name was the name of our predecessors at Reka Dom. True, it was such a common one that I had met more than one family of Smiths since then without dreaming of any connection between them and the River House. And yet, of course, it was there that the Misses Brooke had known him. Before our time. Which could he be? He was too young to be the father, and there was no John among the little Russians—unless, yes, it was the English version of one of the Russian names—and this was Ivan.

"It crowned my misfortunes. What would Miss Martha say if she knew what had been the subject of our conversation? Would that that excellent rule which had been the guide of her young ladyhood had curtailed the conversational propensities of mine! I thought of the three degrees of intimacy with a shudder. Why had we not been satisfied with discussing the merits of the song?

"We had gone on to talk of him and his homes, and as if that were not enough, had proceeded further to me and mine. I got red as I sat listening to some civil chat from Mr. Ward the curate (eminently in the most innocent stage of the first degree), and trying to recall what we had not spoken of in connection with that Home which had been so beloved of both of us, and that Ivan whose lilies I had tended for years.

"I grew nearly frantic as I thought that he must think that I had known who he was, and wildly indignant with the fancy for small mysteries which had kept Miss Brooke from telling us whom we were going to meet.

"At last the evening came to an end. I was cloaking myself in the hall when the merchant came up and offered his help, which I declined. But he did not go, and stood so that I could not help seeing a distressed look in his eyes, and the nervous way in which he was turning the blue ring upon his finger.

"'I have so wanted to speak to you again,' he said. 'I wanted to say—'

"But at this moment I caught Miss Martha's eye in the parlour doorway, and, dropping a hasty curtsey, I ran to my father.

"'A very nice young fellow,' my father observed, as I took his arm outside; 'a superior, sensible, well informed gentleman, such as you don't meet with every day.'

"I felt quite unequal to answering the remark, and he went on:

"'What funny little ways your old friends have, my dear, to be sure. Considering how few strangers come to the place, it would have been natural for them to tell us all about the one they asked us to meet; and as they had known both him and us, as tenants of Reka Dom, it was doubly natural that they should speak of him to us, and of us to him. But he told me that we were just the people present of whom he had not heard a word. He seems both fond of them and to appreciate their little oddities. He told me he remembers, as a boy, that they never would call him Ivan, which is as much his name as any by which a man was ever baptized. They thought it might give him a tendency to affectation to bear so singular a name in England. They always called him John, and keep up the discipline still. When he arrived yesterday they expressed themselves highly satisfied with the general improvement in him, and he said he could hardly help laughing as Miss Martha added, 'And you seem to have quite shaken off that little habit of affectation which—you'll excuse me, dear John—you had as a boy.' He says that, to the best of his belief, his only approach to affectation consisted in his being rather absent and ungainly, and in a strong aversion from Mr. Brooke.'

"'Did the old gentleman wear that frightful shade in his time?' I asked.

"'Not always,' he says, 'but he looked worse without it. He told me a good deal about him that I had never heard. He remembered hearing it spoken of as a boy. It appears that the brother was very wild and extravagant in his youth; drank, too, I fancy, and gave his poor sisters a world of trouble, after breaking the heart of the widowed mother who had spoiled him. When she died the sisters lived together, and never faltered in their efforts to save him—never shut their doors against him when he would return—and paid his debts over and over again. He spent all his own fortune, and most of theirs, besides being the means of breaking off comfortable marriages for both. Mr. Smith thinks that a long illness checked his career, and eventually he reformed.'

"'I hope he was grateful to his poor sisters,' I said.

"'One naturally thinks that he must have been so, but Smith's remark was very just. He said, "I fancy he was both penitent and grateful as far as he was able, but I believe he had been too long accustomed to their unqualified self-sacrifice to feel it very sensitively!" And I believe he is right. Such men not seldom reform in conduct if they live long enough, but few eyes that have been blinded by years of selfishness are opened to see clearly in this world.'

"'It ought to make one very tender with the good ladies' little weaknesses,' I said, self-reproachfully; and I walked home in a more peaceful state of mind. I forgave poor Miss Martha; also I was secretly satisfied that my father had found the merchant's conversation attractive. It seemed to give me some excuse for my breach of Miss Peckham's golden rule. Moreover, little troubles and offences which seemed mountains at Bellevue Cottage were apt to dwindle into very surmountable molehills with my larger-minded parents. I was comparatively at ease again. My father had evidently seen nothing unusual in my conduct, so I hoped that it had not been conspicuous. Possibly I might never meet Mr. Smith any more. I rather hoped not. Life is long, and the world wide, and it is sometimes possible to lose sight of people with whom one has disagreeable associations. And then it was a wholesome lesson for the future.

"'And what was the old gentleman like?' was Fatima's first question, when I came upstairs. I had just been talking of Mr. Brooke, and no other old gentleman occurred to my memory at that moment.

"'What old gentleman?' I asked dreamily.

"'Miss Martha's old gentleman, the merchant—wasn't he there, after all?'

"I blushed at my stupidity, and at a certain feeling of guiltiness in connection with the person alluded to.

"'Oh, yes, he was there,' I answered; 'but he is not an old gentleman.'

"'What is he, then?' Fatima asked, curiously.

"It is undoubtedly a luxury to be the bearer of a piece of startling intelligence, and it is well not to spoil the enjoyment of it by over haste. I finished unsnapping my necklace, and said, very deliberately—

"'He is one of the little Russians.'

"Fatima's wit jumped more quickly than mine had done. It was she who added—

"'Then he is Ivan.'

* * * * *

"My hopes in reference to Mr. Smith were disappointed. I had not seen the last of him. My mother was at this time from home, and I was housekeeper in her absence. It was on the morning following the Bellevue tea-party that my father said to me—

"'Mr. Smith is coming up to refer to a book of mine to-day, my dear; and I asked him to stay to dinner. I suppose it will be convenient?'

"I said, 'Certainly, sir.'

"I could plead no domestic inconvenience; but I thought that Mr. Smith might have gone quietly back to London by the early coach, and spared me the agitation which the prospect of seeing him again undoubtedly excited. He came, however. It was the first visit, but by no means the last; and he lingered in the town, greatly to my father's satisfaction (who had taken a strong fancy for him), but not, apparently, to that of the Misses Brooke.

"As I afterwards found the clue to the somewhat strange conduct of our old friends at this time, I may as well briefly state how it was.

"When the merchant first announced to them his proposed business visit to the town, and his intention of calling on them, the good ladies (in their affection for me, and having a high opinion of him) planned a kindly little romance of which he and I were to be the hero and heroine, and which was to end in our happy marriage. With this view they arranged for our meeting at the tea-party, and avoided all mention of each to the other, that we might meet in the (so to speak) incidental way characteristic of real love stories. With that suspiciousness of people in general, and of young people in particular, which haunted Miss Martha, she attributed my ready acceptance of the invitation to my having heard of Mr. Smith's arrival, and to the unusual attraction of an eligible gentleman at the tea-party. Little did she guess the benevolent plans which on my part I had formed for her, and which the merchant's youthful appearance had dashed to the ground.

"It is sometimes the case, my dear Ida, that people who make these kind plans for their friends, become dissatisfied with the success of their arrangements if they themselves cease to be the good genii of the plot. If, that is, matters seem likely to fall out as they wish, but without their assistance. It was so with the Misses Brooke, and especially with Miss Martha. Fully aware of the end which she in her own mind proposed to our acquaintance, my long conversation with the merchant struck her as an indelicate readiness to accept attentions which had matrimony in her perspective, and which she had designed to be the gradual result of sundry well-chaperoned and studiously incidental interviews at the Cottage. And when, so far from thankfully accepting these incidental meetings, the merchant took upon himself to become an almost daily visitor at our house, and delayed his return to London far beyond the time proposed for his departure, the good lady's view underwent a decided change. It was 'a pity' that a young man like John Smith should neglect his business. It was also 'a pity' that dear Mary's mother was not at home. And when I took occasion casually to allude to the fact that Mr. Smith's visits were paid to my father, and (with the exception of an occasional meal) were passed in the study amongst German pamphlets, my statement was met by kind, incredulous smiles, and supplemented with general and somewhat irritating observations on the proper line of conduct for young ladies at certain crises of life. Nothing could be kinder than Miss Martha's intentions, and her advice might have been a still greater kindness if she would have spoken straight-forwardly, and believed what I said. As it was, I left off going to Bellevue Cottage, and ardently wished that the merchant would go back to his merchandise, and leave our quiet little town to its own dull peace.

"Sometimes I thought of the full-grown man whose intelligent face, and the faintly foreign accent of whose voice were now familiar in our home—the busy merchant, the polite and agreeable gentleman. And then I thought of the Ivan I seemed to have known so much better so long ago! The pale boy wandering by the water—reading in the swing—dead by that other river—buried beneath the lilies. Oh! why had he lived to come back in this new form to trouble me?

"One day he came to my father as usual, and I took the opportunity to call on my old friends. I felt ashamed of having neglected them, and as I knew that Mr. Smith was at our house, I could not be suspected of having hoped to meet him at theirs. But I called at an unfortunate moment. Miss Martha had just made up her mind that in the absence of my mother, and the absentness of my father, it was the duty of old friends like herself to give me a little friendly counsel. As she took a great deal of credit for being 'quite candid, my dear,' and quietly, but persistently refused to give me credit for the same virtue, I was too much irritated to appreciate the kindness which led her to undertake the task of interference in so delicate a matter; and found her remarks far from palatable. In the midst of them the merchant was announced.

"If I could have looked innocent it would have done me no good. As it was, I believe I looked very guilty. After sitting for a few minutes longer I got up to go, when to my horror the merchant rose also. The old ladies made no effort to detain him, but Miss Martha's face spoke volumes as we left the house. Half mad with vexation, I could hardly help asking him why he was stupid enough to come away just at the moment I had chosen for leaving; but he forestalled the inquiry by a voluntary explanation. He wished to speak to me. He had something to say.

"When he had said it, and had asked me to marry him, my cup was full. I refused him with a vehemence which must have surprised him, modest as he was, and rushed wildly home.

"For the next few days I led a life of anything but comfort. First as to Ivan. My impetuous refusal did not satisfy him, and he wrote me a letter over which I shed bitter tears of indescribable feeling.

"Then as to my father. The whole affair took him by surprise. He was astonished, and very much put out, especially as my mother was away. So far from its having been, as with the Misses Brooke, the first thing to occur to him, he repeatedly and emphatically declared that it was the very last thing he should have expected. He could neither imagine what had made the merchant think of proposing to me, nor what had made me so ready to refuse him. Then they were in the very middle of a crabbed pamphlet, in which Ivan's superior knowledge of German had been invaluable. It was most inconvenient.

"'Why didn't I like poor Ivan?'

"Ah, my child, did I not like him!

"'Then why was I so cross to him?'

"Indeed, Ida, I think the old ladies' 'ways' were chiefly to blame for this. Their well-meant but disastrous ways of making you feel that you were doing wrong, or in the wrong, over matters the most straight-forward and natural. But I was safe under the wing of my mother, before I saw Ivan again; and—many as were the years he and I were permitted to spend together—I think I may truthfully say that I was never cross to him any more.

"'What did he say in that letter that made me cry?'

"He asked to be allowed to make himself better known to me, before I sent him quite away. And this developed an ingenious notion in my father's brain, that no better opportunity could, from every point of view, be found for this, than that I should be allowed to sit with them in the study whilst he and Ivan went on with the German pamphlet.

"The next call I paid at Bellevue Cottage was to announce my engagement, and I had some doubt of the reception my news might meet with. But I had no kinder or more loving congratulations than those of the two sisters. Small allusion was made to bygones. But when Miss Martha murmured in my ear—

"'You'll forgive my little fussiness and over-anxiety, dear Mary. One would be glad to guard one's young friends from some of the difficulties and disappointments one has known oneself—' I thought of the past life of the sisters, and returned her kiss with tenderness. Doubtless she had feared that the merchant might be trifling with my feelings, and that a thousand other ills might happen when the little love affair was no longer under her careful management. But all ending well, was well; and not even the Bellevue cats were more petted by the old ladies than we two were in our brief and sunny betrothal.

"Sunny, although for the most part it was winter time. When we would sit by the fireside in the privileged idleness of lovers, sometimes at home, sometimes in the Cottage parlour; and Ivan would tell of the Russian Reka Dom, and of all the winter beauties and pleasures of that other river which was for months a frozen highway, with gay sleighs flying, jingling over the snow roads, and peasants wrapped in sheepskin crossing from the country to market in the town. How dogs and children rolled together in snow so dry from intense cold that it hardly wet them more than sand. And how the river closed, and when it opened, with all the local traditions connected with these events; and of the stratagems resorted to to keep Jack Frost out of the houses, and of the stores laid up against the siege of the Winter King.

"But through the most interesting of his narratives Fatima's hands were never idle. She seemed to have concentrated all her love for me into those beautiful taper fingers, which laboured ceaselessly in exquisite needlework on my wedding clothes.

"And when the lilies of the valley were next in blossom, Ivan and I were married.

"The blue-stoned ring was cut down to fit my finger, and was, by my desire, my betrothal ring, and I gave Ivan another instead of it. Inside his was engraven the inscription we had cut upon his tombstone at Reka Dom,—

"'TO IVAN.'"

It was a long story, and Nurse had been waiting some little time in the old lady's kitchen when it came to an end.

"And is Ivan—?" Ida hesitatingly began.

"Dead. Many years since, my child," said the little old lady; "you need not be afraid to speak of him, my dear. All that is past. We used to hope that we should neither of us long outlive the other, but God willed it otherwise. It was very bitter at first, but it is different now. The days and hours that once seemed to widen our separation are now fast bringing us together again."

"Was he about papa's age when he died?" Ida gently asked.

"He was older than your father can have been, my love, I think. He was a more than middle-aged man. He died of fever. It was in London, but in his delirium he fancied that the river was running by the windows, and when I bathed his head he believed that the cooling drops were from the waters of his old home.'

"Didn't he know you?" Ida asked, with sudden sympathy.

"He knew the touch of my hands always, my dear. It was my greatest comfort. That, and the short time of perfect reason before he sank to rest. We had been married thirty years, and I had worn my silver wedding-ring with even more pride than the golden one. There have been lilies on the grave of the true Ivan for half that time, and will be, perhaps, for yet a little while, till I also am laid beneath them.

"So ends the story, my dear," the little old lady added, after a pause.

"I should like to know what became of the old landlord, please," Ida said.

"If you will ask an old woman like me the further history of the people she knew in her youth," said Mrs. Overtheway, smiling, "you must expect to hear of deaths. Of course he is dead many a long year since. We became very intimate with him whilst we were his tenants, and, I believe, cheered the close of his life. He and my father were fast friends, but it was to my mother that he became especially devoted. He said she was an exception to her sex, which from his point of view was a high compliment. He had unbounded confidence in her judgment, and under her influence, eventually modified many of his peculiar habits. She persuaded him to allot a very moderate sum to housekeeping expenses, and to indulge in the economical luxury of a trustworthy servant. He consented to take into use a good suit of clothes which he possessed, and in these the old man was wont at last to accompany us to church, and to eat his Sunday dinner with us afterwards. I do not think he was an illiberal man at heart, but he had been very poor in his youth—('So poor, ma'am,' he said one day to my mother, 'that I could not live with honour and decency in the estate of a gentleman. I did not live. I starved—and bought books,')—and he seemed unable to shake off the pinching necessity of years. A wealthy uncle who had refused to help him whilst he lived, bequeathed all his money to him when he died. But when late in life the nephew became rich, habits of parsimony were a second nature, and seemed to have grown chronic and exaggerated under the novel anxieties of wealth. He still 'starved—and bought books.' During the last years of his life he consulted my mother (and, I fancy, other people also) on the merits of various public charities in the place and elsewhere; so that we were not astonished after his death to learn from his will that he had divided a large part of his fortune amongst charitable institutions. With the exception of a few trifling legacies to friends, the rest of his money was divided in equal and moderate bequests to relatives. He left some valuable books to my father, and the bulk of his library to the city where he was born."

"Was your mother with him when he died?" Ida asked.

"She was, my dear. But, sadly enough, only at the very last. We were at the seaside when he was seized by his last illness, and no one told us, for indeed it is probable that few people knew. At last a letter from the servant announced that he was dying, and had been most anxious to see my mother, and she hastened home. The servant seemed relieved by her arrival, for the old gentleman was not altogether an easy patient to nurse. He laughed at the doctor, she said, and wouldn't touch a drop of his medicine, but otherwise was as patient as a sick gentleman could be, and sat reading his Bible all the day long. It was on the bed when my mother found him, but his eyes were dimming fast. He held out his hands to my mother, and as she bent over him said something of which she could only catch three words—'the true riches.' He never spoke again."

"Poor man?" said Ida: "I think he was very nice. What became of his cat?"

"Dead—dead—dead!" said the little old lady; "Ida, my child, I will answer no more questions."

"One more, please," said Ida! "where is that dear, dear Fatima?"

"No, my child, no! Nothing more about her. Dear, dear Fatima, indeed! And yet I will just tell you that she married, and that her husband (older even than I am, and very deaf) is living still. He and I are very fond of each other, though, having been a handsome man he is sensitive about his personal appearance, and will not use a trumpet, which I consider weak. But we get on very well. He smells my flowers, and smiles and nods to me, and says something in a voice so low that I can't hear it; and I stick a posy in his buttonhole, and smile and nod to him, and say something in a voice so loud that he can't hear it; and so we go on. One day in each year we always spend together, and go to church. The first of November."

"That is—?" said Ida.

"The Feast of All Saints, my child."

"Won't you tell me any more?" Ida asked.

"No, my dear. Not now, at any rate. Remember I am old, and have outlived almost all of those I loved in my youth. It is right and natural that death should be sad in your eyes, my child, and I will not make a tragedy of the story of Reka Dom.

* * * * *

"Then your real name," said Ida, as she gave the old lady a farewell kiss, "is—"

"Mary Smith, my dear," said Mrs. Overtheway.

* * * * *

Next morning the little old lady went to church as usual, and Ida was at the window when she returned. When the child had seen her old friend into the house she still kept her place, for the postman was coming down the street, and it was amusing to watch him from door to door, and to see how large a bundle of letters he delivered at each. At Mrs. Overtheway's he delivered one, a big one, and an odd curiosity about this letter took possession of Ida. She wished she knew what it was about, and from whom it came, though, on the face of it, it was not likely she would be much the wiser if she did. She was still at the window when the door of the opposite house was opened, and the little old lady came hurriedly out. She had only her cap upon her head, and she held an open letter in her hand; the letter, it was evident. When she reached the little green gate she seemed to recollect herself, and, putting her hand to her head, went back into the house. Ida waited anxiously to see if she would come out again, and presently she appeared, this time in her bonnet, but still with the letter in her hand. She crossed the street, and seemed to be coming to the house. Then the bell rang, and in she came. Ida's curiosity became intense, and was not lessened by the fact that the little old lady did not come to her, but stayed below talking with some one. The old gentleman had not returned, so it must be Nurse.

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