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church there. I dare say they are all right," | Through all she was so dainty, so pretty,
said the doctor," but it is a long way off, and inconvenient, and—”
"That is just why I want it," said Nettie. "We never were used to conveniences, and none of us want to be much in the town, so far as I know. It is the very thing. Why has not lunch come up?-what do these people mean, Susan, by not attending to their orders? Ring the bell, Freddy-ring loud; and after lunch, as your drag is at the door, Dr. Edward, you'll drive me down to this place again, that I may secure it, wont you? I want to have a talk with you besides. Lunch, please, immediately. I ordered it to be ready at one-now it is half-past. We can't have our time wasted this way. Dr. Edward, please, you'll stay."
her rapid fingers so shapely, her eager talk so sweet-toned, that it was beyond the power of mortal man to remain uninterested. It was a development of womankind unknown to Dr. Rider. Bessie Christian had exhausted the race for him until now; but Nettie was a thousand times more piquant than Bessie Christian. He gazed and wondered, and moralized secretly in his own mind, what was to become of the girl ?— what could she do?
"You have left some of your things at my house, Fred," said the doctor, making an attempt to approach his sullen brother, who evidently expected no overtures of friendship.
"Yes. Mrs. Rider, you see, arrived unexpectedly," said Fred, with confusion-" in fact, I knew nothing about it, or—or I should have told you-Nettie-"
"Nettie thought it best to come off at once, without writing," explained Fred's wife.
"What was the use of writing?" cried that little person. "You had written to Fred for six months without ever getting an answer. You made everybody unhappy round you with your fears and troubles about him. I knew perfectly he was quite well and enjoying himself; but, of course, Susan would not be convinced. So what was there for it but bringing her away? What else could I do, Dr. Edward? And to leave the children would have been preposterous. In the first place, I should have been miserable about them; and so, as soon as she found Fred was all right, would Susan : and something would certainly have happened-scarlet fever or something—and at the end of all I should have had to go out again to fetch them. So the shortest way was to bring them at once. Don't you think so? And to see us all here so comfortable, I am sure is enough to repay any one for the trouble. Fred, don't drink any more beer."
The doctor gazed with ever-increasing amazement at the little speaker. Nobody else had spoken a word. Fred had nodded to him sullenly. Fred's wife had sunk back on the sofa-everybody seemed to recognize Nettie as supreme. He hesitated, it must be confessed, to put his grievances so entirely aside as to sit down in perfect amity with Fred and his household; but to refuse to drive Nettie to St. Roque's was impossible. The blood rushed to the doctor's face at the thought. What the world of Carlingford would say to see his well-known vehicle proceeding down Grange Lane, through Dr. Marjoribanks' territories, under such circumstances, was a question he did not choose to consider; neither did he enter too minutely into the special moment at which his next patient might be expecting him. The young man was under the spell and did not struggle against it. He yielded to the invitation, which was a command. He drew near the table at which Nettie, without hesitation, took the presiding place. A dull amount of conversation, often interrupted by that lively little woman, rose in the uncongenial party. Nettie cut up the meat for those staring imps Nettie put out her tiny hand as she spoke of children-did them all up in snowy nap- to arrest the bottle. Fred stared at her with kins-kept them silent and in order. She a dull red flush on his face; but he gave in, regulated what Susan was to have, and which in the most inexplicable way; it seemed a things were best for Fred. She appealed to matter of course to yield to Nettie. The Dr. Edward perpetually, taking him into doctor's amazement began to be mingled her confidence in a way which could not fail with amusement. To see how she managed to be flattering to that young man, and ac- them all was worth the sacrifice of a little tually reduced to the calmness of an or- time-unconsciously he became more fraterdinary friendly party this circle so full nal in his thoughts. He spoke to foolish, of smouldering elements of commotion. faded Mrs. Fred with a total forgiveness
"That is Miss Lucy Wodehouse-one of our Carlingford beauties," said Dr. Rider. "Do you know her very well?" asked the inquisitive Nettie. "How she stares-why does she stare, do you suppose? Is there any thing absurd about my dress? Look here-don't they wear bonnets just like this in England?"
"So far as I am able to judge," said the doctor, looking at the tiny head overladen with hair, from which the bonnet had fallen half off.
"I suppose she is surprised to see me. Drive on faster, Dr. Edward, I want to talk to you. I see Fred has been telling us a parcel of stories. It would be cruel to tell Susan, you know, for she believes in him; but you may quite trust in me. Is your
"Not very much now, I fear," said the doctor.
and forgetfulness of her spiteful speech. He | hoped she would like Carlingford; he said something to the children. But it was not easy to talk in the presence of that amazing family party, the existence of which he had not dreamed of a few days ago. To see his brother at the head of such a group had, in spite of himself, a wonderful effect upon Dr. Rider. Their children, of course, must be supported somehow. Who was to do it? Was their father, grown incapable and useless in the middle of his days, to be forced into the current of life again? Was it a vague faith in Providence which had brought the helpless household here; or was it a more distinct, if not so elevated, confidence in Nettie? The doctor's heart sank once more within him as he looked round the table. Three helpless by nature-two equally help-brother good for any thing, Dr. Edward, do less who ought in nature to have been the support of the whole-nothing but one bright ready little spirit between them all and destitution: and what could Nettie do to stave that wolf from the door? Once more Dr. Rider's countenance fell. If the household broke down in its attempt at independence, who had they to turn to but himself?-such I can't tell why Susan married him. She is a prospect was not comfortable. When a man works himself to death for his own family, he takes the pleasure with the pain; but when another's family threatens to fall upon his hands, the prospect is naturally appalling and even if Fred could do any thing, what was Fred's life, undermined by evil habit, to depend upon ? Silence once more fell over the little company-silence from all but Nettie and the children, who referred to her naturally instead of to their mother. Fred was sullen, and his wife took her cue from him. Edward was uneasy and dismayed. Family parties suddenly assembled without due warning are seldom greatly successful; and even Nettie could not make immediate reconciliation and fraternal kindness out of this.
"TAKE me down this long, pretty road.
There must be delicious houses inside the walls. Look here, drive slowly, and let us have a peep in at this open door," said Nettie. "How sweet and cozy! and who is that pretty young lady coming out? I saw her in the chapel this morning. Oh," added Nettie, with a little sharpness," she knows you tell me who she is."
"Not very much now. I suppose he never was good for much," said the indignant Nettie; "but he was said to be very clever when he first came out to the colony.
very self-willed, though you would fancy her so submissive. She is one of those people, you know, who fall ill when they are crossed, and threaten to die, so that one daren't cross her. Now, then, what is to be done with them? He will not go back to the colony, and I don't care to do it myself. Must I keep them here?"
"Miss Underwood-" began the perplexed doctor.
"It would save trouble to call me Nettie
everybody does," said his strange companion; "besides, you are my brother in a kind of a way, and the only person I can consult with; for, of course, it would not do to tell one's difficulties to strangers. Fred may not be very much to depend upon, you know, but still he is Fred."
"Yes," said the doctor, with a little selfreproach, "still he is Fred; but pardon me, the name suggests long aggravations. You with affronts and injuries because it was can't tell how often I have had to put up Fred. I shouldn't like to grieve you-"
"Never mind about grieving me ;-I am not in love with him ;-let me hear all about it!" said Nettie.
Dr. Rider paused a little; seeing the abyss
upon the brink of which this brave little girl was standing, he had not the heart to aggravate her by telling the failures of the past. Better to soften the inevitable discovery if possible. But his hesitation was quite apparent to Nettie. With considerable impatience she turned round upon him.
"If you think I don't know what I am doing, but have gone into this business like a fool, you are quite mistaken, Dr. Edward," she said, a little sharply. "I see how it is as well as anybody can do. I knew how it was when I left the colony. Don't be alarmed about me. Do you think I am to be turned against my own flesh and blood by finding out their follies; or to grumble at the place God put me in? Nothing of the sort! I know the kind of situation perfectly-but one may make the best of it, you know: and for that reason tell me every thing, please."
"But, Miss Underwood, consider," cried the doctor in consternation. "You are taking responsibilities upon yourself which nobody could lay upon you; you! young, tender," the doctor paused for a word, afraid to be too complimentary," delicate! Why, the whole burden of this family will come upon you. There is not one able to help himself in the whole bundle! I am shocked! -I am alarmed!—I don't know what to say to you-"
"Don't say any thing please," said Nettie. "I know what I am about. Do you call this a street or a lane, or what do you call it ? Oh, such nice houses! shouldn't I like to be able to afford to have one of them, and nurses, and governesses, and every thing proper for the children? I should like to dress them so nicely, and give them such a good education. I don't know any thing particular to speak of, myself-I shall never be able to teach them when they grow older. If Fred, now, was only to be trusted, and would go and work like a man and make something for the children, I daresay I could keep up the house ;-but if he wont do any thing, you know, it will take us every farthing just to live. Look here, Dr. Edward: I have two hundred a year ;-Susan had the same, you know, but Fred got all the money when they were married, and muddled it away. Now, how much can one do in Carlingford with three children upon two hundred a year?"
"Fred will be the meanest blackguard in existence," cried the doctor, "if he takes his living from you."
"He took his living from you, it appears," said Nettie, coolly, "and did not thank you much. We must make the best of him. We can't help ourselves. Now, there is the pretty church, and there is our little house. Come in with me and answer for me, Dr. Edward. You can say I am your sister-inlaw, you know, and then, perhaps, we can get into possession at once; for," said Nettie, suddenly turning round upon the doctor with her brilliant eyes shining out quaintly under the little brow all puckered into curves of foresight, "it is so sadly expensive living where we are now."
To look at the creature thus flashing those shining eyes, not without a smile lurking in their depths, upon him-to see the triumphant, undaunted, undoubting youthfulnes which never dreamt of failure-to note that pretty anxiety, the look which might have become a bride in her first troubles "playing at housekeeping," and think how desperate was the position she had assumed, how dreary the burden she had taken upon her, was almost too much for the doctor's self-control. He did not know whether to admire the little heroine as half divine, or to turn from her as half crazy. Probably, had the strange little spirit possessed a different frame, the latter was the sentiment which would have influenced the unimaginative mind of Edward Rider. But there was no resisting that little brown Titania, with her little head overladen with its beautiful hair, her red, delicate mouth closing firm and sweet above that little decided chin, her eyes which seemed to concentrate the light. She seemed only a featherweight when the bewildered doctor helped her to alight—an undoubted sprite and creature of romance. But to hear her arranging about all the domestic necessities within, and disclosing her future plans for the children, and all the order of that life of which she took the charge so unhesitatingly, bewildered the mistress of the house as much as it did the wondering doctor. The two together stood gazing at her as she moved about the room, pouring forth floods of eager talk. Her words were almost as rapid as her step,—her foot, light as it was, almost as decided and firm as her resolutions. She was a wonder to behold
ST. ROQUE'S COTTAGE was considered rather a triumph of local architecture. A Carlingford artist had built it "after" the church, which was one of Gilbert Scott's Gothic qualities were unquestionable. The churches, and perfect in its way, so that its only thing wanting was size, which was certainly an unfortunate blemish, and made this adaptation of ecclesiastical architecture to domestic purposes a very doubtful experiment. However, in bright sunshine, when the abundance of light neutralized the want of window, all was well, and there was abundance of sunshine in Carlingford in October, three months after the entrance of Fred Rider and his family into Mrs. Smith's little rooms. It was a bright autumn day, still mild, though with a crispness in the air, the late season showing more in the destitution of the flowerborders than in any more sensible sign. It St. Roque's stood on the edge of a little comwas a pretty spot enough for a roadside. mon, over which, at the other margin, you could see some white cottages, natural to the soil, in a little hamlet-cluster, dropped along the edge of the gray-green unequal grass, while between the church and the cottage ran the merest shadow of a brook, just enough to give place and nutriment to three willow-trees which had been the feature of the scene before St. Roque's was, and which now greatly helped the composition of the little landscape, and harmonized the new building with the old soil. St. Roque's Cottage, by special intervention of Mr. Wentworth the perpetual curate, had dropped no
as she pushed about the furniture, and con- est moral indignation, that such a girl ought sidered how it could be brightened up and not to be permitted to tie herself to such a made more comfortable. Gazing at her with fate. his silent lips apart, Dr. Rider sighed at the word. Comfortable! Was she to give her mind to making Fred and his children comfortable-such a creature as this? Involuntarily it occurred to Edward that, under such ministrations, sundry changes might come over the aspect of that prim apartment in which he had seen her first; the room with the bookcase and the red curtains, and the prints over the mantlepiece-a very tidy, comfortable room before any bewitching imp came to haunt it, and whisper suspicions of its imperfection-the doctor's own retirement where he had chewed the cud of sweet and bitter fancies often enough, without much thought of his surroundings. But Nettie now had taken possession of that prosaic place, and, all unconscious of that spiritual occupation, was as busy and as excited about Mrs. Smith's lodgings at St. Roque's Cottage as if it were an ideal home she was preparing, and the life to be lived in it was the brightest and most hopeful in the world. When Dr. Rider reached home that night, and took his lonely meal in his lonely room, certain bitter thoughts of unequal fortune occupied the young man's mind. Let a fellow be but useless, thankless, and heartless enough, and people spring up on all sides to do his work for him, said the doctor to himself, with a bitterness as natural as it was untrue. The more worthless a fellow is, the more all the women connected with him cling to him and make excuses for him, said Ed-intervening wall between its garden and those ward Rider in his indignant heart. Mother and sister in the past-wife and Nettie now -to think how Fred had secured for himself perpetual ministrations, by neglecting all the duties of life. No wonder an indignant pang transfixed the lonely bosom of the virtuous doctor, solitary and unconsoled as he was. His laborious days knew no such solace. And as he fretted and pondered no visions of Bessie Christian perplexed his thoughts. He had forgotten that young woman. All his mind was fully occupied chaffing at the sacrifice of Nettie. He was not sorry, he was angry, to think of her odd position, and the duties she had taken upon herself. What had she to do with those wretched children, and that faded spiteful mother? Edward Rider was supremely disgusted. He said to himself, with the high
contented itself with a wooden paling on the trees; but, not without many fears, had side nearest the willows. Consequently, the slope of grass at that side, which Mrs. Smith was too prudent to plant with any thing that could be abstracted, was a pretty slope with the irregular willow shadows swept over it, thin, but still presenting a pale obstruction to the flood of sunshine on this special afternoon. There a little group was collected, in full enjoyment of the warmth and the light. Mrs. Rider, still faded, but no longer travel-worn, sat farther up in the garden, on the green bench, which had been softened with cushions for her use, leisurely working at some piece of needlework, in lonely possession of the chrysanthemums and Michaelmas daisies round her; while on the grass, dropped over with yellow flecks of willow leaves, lightly loosened by every passing touch of wind, sat Nettie, all brown and
did not say any thing for a few minutes. "It is all very well as long as you are young," she said, with a wistful look ;" and somehow you young creatures are so much handier than we used to be. Our little Lucy, you know, that I can remember quite a baby-I am twice as old as she is," cried Miss Wodehouse, " and she is twice as much use in the world as I. Well, it is all very strange. But, dear, you know, this isn't natural all the same.'
bright, working with the most rapid fingers at a child's frock, and "minding" with a corner of her eye the possessor of the same, the tiny Freddy, an imp of mischief, uncontrollable by other hand or look than hers. A little lower down, poking into the invisible brook through the paling, was the eldest boy, silent from sheer delight in the unexpected pleasure of coating himself with mud without remark from Nettie. This unprecedented escape arose from the fact that Nettie had a visitor, a lady who had bent down "It is dreadful to say so-it is dreadful beside her in a half-kneeling attitude, and to think so!” cried Nettie. "I know what was contemplating her with a mingled amaze you mean-not Freddy's frock, to be sure, and pity which intensified the prevailing ex- but only one's whole life and heart. Should pression of kindness in the mildest face in one desert the only people belonging to one the world. It was Miss Wodehouse, in her in the world because one happens to have a soft dove-colored dress and large soft checked little income and they have none? If one's shawl. Her mild eyes were fixed upon that friends are not very sensible, is that a reabrilliant brown creature, all buoyant and son why one should go and leave them? Is sparkling with youth. These wonderful it right to make one's escape directly whenyoung people perplexed Miss Wodehouse; here was another incomprehensible specimen -most incomprehensible perhaps of all that ever crossed her mild elderly horizon with bewildering unintelligible light.
"My dear," said Miss Wodehouse, "things used to be very different when I was young. When we were girls we thought about our own pleasures-and-and vanities of all kinds," said the good woman, with a little sigh;" and, indeed, I can't think it is natural still to see you devoting yourself like this to your sister's family. It is wonderful; but dear, dear me! it isn't natural, Nettie, such self-devotion."
"I do wish you wouldn't speak!" said Nettie, with a sudden start-" self-devotion! stuff! I am only doing what must be done. Freddy can't go on wearing one frock forever, can he does it stand to reason? Would you have me sit idle and see the child's petticoats drop to pieces? I am a colonial girl-I don't know what people do in England. Where I was brought up we were used to be busy about whatever lay nearest to our hand."
"It isn't Freddy's frock," said Miss Wodehouse, with a little solemnity. "You know very well what I mean. And suppose you were to marry-what would happen supposing you were to marry, Nettie ?"
"It is quite time enough to think of that when there is any likelihood ofit happening," said Nettie, with a little toss of her head. "It is only idle people who have time to think of falling in love and such nonsense. When one is very busy it never comes into one's head. Why, you have never married, Miss Wodehouse and when I know that I have every thing I possibly could desire, why should I?" Miss Wodehouse bent her troubled, sweet old face over the handle of her parasol, and
ever one feels one is wanted? or what do you mean, Miss Wodehouse?" said the ve hement girl. "That is what it comes to, you know. Do you imagine I had any choice about coming over to England when Susan was breaking her heart about her husband ? could one let one's sister die, do you suppose ? And now that they are all together, what choice have I? They can't do much for each other-there is actually nobody but me to take care of them all. You may say it is not natural, or it is not right, or any thing you please, but what else can one do? That is the practical question," said Nettie, triumphantly. "If you will answer that, then I shall know what to say to you."
Miss Wodehouse gazed at her with a certain mild exasperation, shook her head, wrung her hands, but could find nothing to answer.
"I thought so," said Nettie, with a little outburst of jubilee; "that is how it always happens to abstract people. Put the practical question before them, and they have not a word to say to you. Freddy, cut the grass with the scissors, don't cut my trimmings; they are for your own frock, you little savage. If I were to say it was my duty and all that sort of stuff, you would understand me, Miss Wodehouse; but one only says it is one's duty when one has something disagreeable to do; and I am not doing any thing disagreeable," added the little heroine, flashing those eyes which had confused Edward Rider-those brilliant, resolute, obstinate eyes, always, with the smile of youth, incredulous of evil, lurking in them, upon her bewildered adviser. "I am living as I like to live."
There was a pause-at least there was a pause in the argument, but not in Nettie's talk, which ran on in an eager stream, ad