There was to be a real party at Braeside on Twelfth Night. All the young people of the neighbourhood had been invited, and after much persuasion on Mrs. Forester's part, the doctor had consented to let Marjory go. She looked forward to it with much pleasure, for she felt that with Blanche, Maud, and Alan as allies she could face the strangers with confidence. Mrs. Forester, with her usual tact, had asked her to arrange some of the games for the younger children, so that she might feel that she was being useful—a feeling which gives confidence to the shyest of girls.
The doctor had ordered her a new white frock for the occasion, with stockings and shoes to match. Lisbeth was in raptures over it, and how it would become her little mistress; and it must be confessed that Marjory could not think of the fairy-like contents of a certain long drawer without a thrill of pleasure.
The day came, and Lisbeth, who insisted that she must dress Marjory for her first party, spread all the finery on the bed quite early in the afternoon. She lighted the fire to make the room cheerful, and she brought an extra pair of candles so that Marjory should have plenty of light.
Poor Peter had been very bad with rheumatism the last day or two, and could do nothing but sit in his armchair in the kitchen watching Lisbeth or doing little jobs for her, such as cutting skewers or "sorting" her string bag. He was much interested in the party, and Marjory promised to go to the kitchen and show herself when she was all ready.
Lisbeth was much concerned to see her husband so crippled, but she would not allow anything more than that he was "just a wee bit colded," and blamed the weather as being the cause. She was afraid her master might be inclined to find fault with Peter for his helplessness. "Rain and snaw, and frost and fog, and wind like newly-sharpened knives—a body doesna ken what's coming next," she said indignantly when she went to tell the doctor about it. He reassured Lisbeth by his kindly sympathy, and the old woman wept with joy when he told her that so long as he was alive there would be a home for his faithful servants at Hunters' Brae, whether they were past work or not.
The party was to begin at seven o'clock, and Mrs. Forester had promised to send a carriage for Marjory at half-past six, so that she should be there in good time and feel at home before the other guests arrived.
But things were to turn out very differently from all expectations. Contrary to his usual habit, Dr. Hunter had not appeared at early dinner that day, nor had he left any message; but it was concluded that he had gone to the Morisons', or to the minister's, perhaps. He did not return during the afternoon, and when tea-time came and still he did not appear, Marjory began to feel anxious. He never went out for so long a time without telling her or leaving a message.
Lisbeth asked the man who brought the afternoon's milk from the farm if he would go to the doctor's and the minister's and inquire whether her master were there, and he good-naturedly agreed to do so—perhaps with visions of a reward in the shape of a good cup of tea in the Hunters' Brae kitchen on his return.
He came back with no news of the doctor; he had not been seen out that day.
Marjory had her tea alone, and a feeling of dread weighed upon her. It seemed so strange for her uncle to be away so long, and on this particular day too. He had been so interested about the party, and her frock, and all the arrangements. What could it mean?
Suddenly, as she sat puzzling over it, a thought struck her. Quick as lightning she ran to the hall, took up a candle, and went along the passage to the old wing. It was about five o'clock, and the place was dark as night. Her footsteps echoed through the empty rooms and passages till she reached the place where the secret chamber was. Tremblingly she felt along the wall. Would she be able to find the spring? She now felt almost certain that she would find her uncle here. Perhaps he would be angry with her for disturbing him; he might be finishing some very important experiment. Should she go in? She hesitated, but only for a moment; something seemed to urge her on. After some searching she found the spring; the door flew open, and, holding her candle high, she went in. She could not suppress a cry of terror when she saw that her uncle lay stretched upon the floor. He moaned a little as she went towards him, and she was thankful to hear his voice. Broken glass was strewed upon the floor, and there was an unpleasant chemical odour in the room. She knelt beside her uncle, and found that his head and face were cut, that blood was flowing freely, and that his poor hands had suffered in some dreadful way. She took her handkerchief and gently tried to wipe his face. He murmured faintly, "Brandy—my cupboard—keys," and she understood what he wished. She felt in his pocket for the keys, and, saying that she would be back directly, she took the candle and went quickly to the study, found the brandy, and got back again without being seen. She did not call Lisbeth, as she felt sure that the doctor would be very sorry if his hiding-place became known, and she hoped that he might be able to get to his study before she gave the alarm.
Dr. Hunter swallowed some brandy, and it revived him. After a little while Marjory asked him if he thought he could go to his study, and he replied, "Yes, lassie; but you must help me."
Marjory's heart beat fast and her hands trembled as she assisted him to rise. The least movement of his injured hands made him wince. Very slowly and painfully the two made their way down the stairs and across the old hall, till at last they reached the doctor's study. The exertion had been too much for him, and he fainted. Marjory rushed to call Lisbeth, saying that the doctor had come home, and that there had been an accident.
Full of concern, the old lady bustled along from the kitchen. "Mercy on us! what's this?" she cried when she saw her master. But she wasted no time in words; she hurried away and soon returned with a basin of water and a sponge, and a bottle of spirits, which she held under the doctor's nose—an old-fashioned but often efficacious remedy.
"We maun hae Dr. Morison," she said; "an' how we're to come by him beats me. Jean's awa to Braeside to help at the pairty, an' Peter he canna walk a step; thae good-for-noughts" (which was her name for the garden assistants) "is a' gane hame; an' as for me, I couldna get the length o' Heathermuir on my ain feet."
"I'll go," said Marjory decidedly.
"What? An' walk twa mile at this time o' day, an' maybe more nor that if the doctor's no at hame!"
"Well, I'll go on Brownie; then I can go after him wherever he is. O Lisbeth dear, do you think uncle's very bad?" And Marjory looked anxiously at the white face and still form on the couch.
"I canna say. Dinna tell Peter, but just gang yer ways the quickest that ye can."
How thankful Marjory felt now that she had insisted upon Peter teaching her how to saddle Brownie! She was soon on his back, off and away to Heathermuir, glad to have something to do, her heart aching with anxiety as to the seriousness of her uncle's injuries. The love for him which had been steadily developing of late gained sudden force to-night, and she felt how precious he was to her.
Never had Brownie indulged in such a mad gallop as this. His mistress gave him his head, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. He flew like the wind, and clattered into the courtyard in front of Dr. Morison's house.
The doctor was not there; he had been called to Hillcrest village, she was told. Waiting to hear no more, Marjory started off again, and Brownie felt that their mission was as yet unfulfilled. On he went through the lanes, up hill and down, his hoofs striking fire as he tore along. They passed the Braeside carriage going to fetch Marjory to the party. The horses shied at the flying apparition. Marjory shouted, "I'm not coming!" but did not slacken her pace.
The party! It seemed hours, days, since she had seen her white frock lying on the bed, and had looked forward to wearing it. Instead of that, here was she tearing madly across the country, her poor uncle lying, it might be, at the point of death. Nothing was the same as it had been in the morning. Would things ever be the same again? What if her uncle should die? No, no, she would not allow herself to think of it; she must not think, she must act, and she urged Brownie on.
At the top of the hill just out of Hillcrest, to her great relief, she met Dr. Morison riding. She quickly explained her errand, and it was now his turn to ride hard.
"Don't wait for me," said Marjory; "I'll follow."
Brownie had done his work well, and must be considered. Now that the doctor was on his way to her uncle, she felt that she might slacken her pace. Then she began to wonder as to the cause of the accident, but could only suppose that the doctor had been trying some dangerous experiment; and then, anxious and alone on the hillside in the darkness, she sent up a real prayer to Heaven for the safety of her uncle, whom she now knew to be very dear to her. Countless proofs of his goodness and thoughtful kindness crowded upon her memory, and looking back over the years, she saw his figure in its attitude of protection and care for his dead sister's child. Then the reaction came, and Marjory wept bitterly.
MISS WASPE GIVES GOOD ADVICE.
"Man's books are but man's alphabet. Beyond and on his lessons lie— The lessons of the violet, The large gold letters of the sky, The love of beauty, blossomed soil, The large content, the tranquil toil."
When Marjory reached home, finding that the doctor was still with her uncle, she put Brownie into the stable, rubbed him down, and gave him a good supper and much petting, which was highly approved of by the affectionate little animal, for he rubbed his velvety nose up and down Marjory's sleeve, as if to say, "Thank you; you are very kind."
Dr. Morison had got his patient into bed and comfortably settled there by the time Marjory went back to the house. She lingered near the bedroom door, so that she might catch him as he came out and hear what he had to say. She thought he looked rather grave as he left the room, but as soon as he saw her his face brightened, and he said cheerfully,—
"Not so very bad. He must be kept very quiet, of course. I've told your old woman what to do. I'll look in first thing to-morrow. How did it happen?"
"I don't quite know," replied Marjory, afraid of a cross-examination, "but I think he must have been trying some experiment."
"H'm!" said Dr. Morison. "Well, good-night, Marjory. Don't be over-anxious; he'll do." And then, as if in answer to her unspoken question, "You may go in and see him if you like."
Marjory went in, and found her uncle in bed, his head bandaged, and his hands lying on a pillow in front of him and covered with wool dressings. It made her feel, as she afterwards said to Blanche, quite faint and fluttering inside to see him lying like that, so helpless. What could be seen of his face was very pale, and his eyes looked unnaturally large and bright.
Lisbeth was standing by the bed watching her master, on guard lest he should move a muscle.
The doctor smiled as Marjory went towards him, and she stooped to kiss him. He seemed very weak and soon closed his eyes.
Lisbeth fetched a chair, so that Marjory might sit beside him while she went to the kitchen to prepare what was wanted, giving strict injunctions that the patient must not move.
After a little while the doctor said in a low tone, "Marjory, did you give me away?" a note of half-comic, half-pathetic inquiry in his voice.
"No, uncle; I only told Dr. Morison I thought you had been trying some experiment, but I didn't say where. Nobody knows where I found you."
"Good little girl!" he said, closing his eyes again and smiling contentedly. The thought that his den might have been discovered had been worrying the doctor. Its secrecy had been one of its great charms to the eccentric man, and the knowledge that it was no longer secret would have been a real trouble to him.
He did not talk any more, and Marjory asked no questions, though she was naturally very anxious to know exactly how the accident had happened.
Mr. Forester came up later in the evening to inquire how things were going. Lisbeth had sent a message by the coachman who had come for Marjory that there had been an accident to Dr. Hunter, and that she would like Jean to come back at once unless she was very badly wanted.
Mr. Forester was very kind. He told Marjory how they had all missed her, and promised that some day they would give another party expressly for her. He did not tease her at all, and Marjory liked him better than she ever had as yet. She could not have stood any teasing, poor child, after all she had been through. The sight of her uncle, injured as he was, hurt her sorely. She could not see suffering without feeling pain herself, and it was a pale-faced girl, on the verge of tears, who answered Mr. Forester's inquiries.
When Marjory went to her room her things for the party were still lying on the bed. The sight of them struck a chill to her heart, for it made her realize how little one can tell what a day may bring; how evening may see changes undreamt of in the morning. The party which had seemed all-important when she woke that day had dwindled away into nothing, blotted out of sight by the happenings of the last few hours. Still, her chief feeling was one of great thankfulness that the doctor thought her uncle would get over this trouble; and that she had been of some use to him was also a comforting thought. She fell asleep thinking how she would try to nurse him and to take care of him until he was better.
When the doctor was able to talk more, he explained to Marjory that he had been trying a dangerous experiment that day. He had heard the dinner-bell ring, but was loath to leave his work, and in the end had forgotten all about it, having become entirely absorbed in his occupation. Something—perhaps a flaw in the glass—had caused one of the tubes he was using to burst, and the chemicals burnt his hands. At the sudden shock he started back, and in some way lost his balance and fell, striking his head on a corner of the table and falling on to the broken glass. He must have lost consciousness from the blow on his head, and he could not tell how long he had lain as Marjory found him, but he had felt so weak that every effort to rise made him faint again, and he supposed he must have lain for a long time in a half-conscious condition.
It was some weeks before he was quite himself again, and Marjory made a most devoted nurse. She could hardly bear to leave him in case he might want her when she was gone. Her feeling for him was a revelation to herself, for she knew now that she really loved this uncle of hers whom she had once thought to be hard and cruel and indifferent to her. She considered him very much changed, but in reality the change was in herself. Blanche's friendship, the kindness of the Foresters, Miss Waspe's wise and careful teaching, had all combined to expand her really warm and loving nature, which had threatened at one time to become soured and warped for want of love's sunshine. Her uncle, as Mrs. Forester had predicted on that memorable day in the plantation, had met half-way any advances that she had made, and the result had been the establishment of much happier relations between them. Now that he was ill and dependent upon her, it was Marjory's delight to wait upon him, and to fetch and carry for him, and her uncle was deeply touched by the girl's whole-hearted devotion to him.
Marjory did not see so much of Blanche and the others after the doctor's accident, for she did not join their expeditions, but she usually managed to meet her friend once a day to exchange news. Herbert Morison had now joined the company, and Alan was half inclined to resent this, although the girls had made no objection. He came to see Marjory one day—in fact, as soon as he thought he might venture to do so without being in the way—and he freely expressed his opinion upon the subject of the new member.
"It's all very fine," he said, "for Herbert to come tacking himself on to my friends. I wasn't good enough for him before. He only makes an ass of himself, and I'm sure Maud laughs at him. It all happened through him going to the party. He said afterwards that she was ripping, and licked all the others into fits; and now it's a new tie every day, and a polish on his boots fit to dazzle you, so that he hates to get 'em muddy, and always wants to go the easiest way everywhere. Rot, I call it. He asked Maud yesterday if she liked his tie—silly booby!—and she said it was useful as a danger-signal, cos you could see it a long way off. Crikey! how red he got; and to-day he put on a very sad-looking gray one." And Master Alan went off into fits of laughter at the recollection of his brother's discomfiture.
"Oh, well," replied Marjory, always sorry for the man who is down, so to speak, "he can see that Maud likes pretty things, and I suppose he thought he was pleasing her."
"But that is just what I think is such rot," replied Alan emphatically. "Why should a fellow try to please with his ties?" in a tone of disgust. "He ought to do things, and not be such a muff. Herbert didn't use to be like that; he's got it from those beastly sixth fellows. Course I know he's a good-looking chap. I don't mind saying so to you, though I wouldn't to any of the fellows; 'tisn't the thing. I shall never be like him; and of course the mater's awful proud of him."
There was just a suspicion of brightness in Alan's eyes just then which Marjory did not fail to see, and she said quickly,—
"O Alan, I'm sure she's just as proud of you. Mothers are always proud of their children."
"But I'm so short. She's always telling me I shall never be tall, like Herbert," ruefully.
"But that doesn't matter a bit. Lots of little men get to be quite famous. Think of Napoleon, and Moltke, and that dear German Emperor Wilhelm—the old one, I mean. Miss Waspe said she saw the Kaiser Wilhelm and General Moltke once when she was in Germany, and her recollection of them is that neither of them was big; and anyway," she added consolingly, "you're only fourteen, and you may grow a bit yet."
So Alan took comfort, for he had a high opinion of Marjory's wisdom.
"I say," he remarked, "I do think you know a lot, considering what a short time it is since you began lessons. Fancy your knowing about those men being small! I didn't." And he looked admiringly at Marjory.
"We have a rather nice lesson with Miss Waspe about famous men and women, and she tells us stories about them, and describes them so beautifully that I can see them quite plainly. It is so splendid to think they were really alive and walked about just like ordinary people."
Alan agreed, and there was a short silence. Marjory felt sure that the boy had something else to say, for he seemed rather fidgety, and got up and walked about the room, fingering things here and there, and clearing his throat several times. She kept silent to give him an opportunity to unburden himself. At last, rather red in the face, he said,—
"I say, you know, I felt beastly the other night when I heard about you riding after father in the dark. If I'd only known, I would have done it. It was awful rot me going to the party; I hated it when I knew."
"But I'm glad you went to the party. Blanche would have been very disappointed if you hadn't gone."
There was still something else to come.
"I say, you'll let the Triple Alliance be on again next holidays, won't you?" looking rather anxiously at Marjory.
"Yes, of course, and we shall have lots of fun." And Marjory's hearty tone set all Alan's fears at rest.
The holidays came to an end. Maud and her mother went home, the Morison boys returned to college, and Blanche and Marjory were to begin lessons again.
Dr. Hunter was up and about by this time, and able to use his hands, so that Marjory went back to her studies with a light heart.
When they had settled themselves in the schoolroom on the first day of the new term, Miss Waspe said, "Now, children, I generally give what Blanche calls a 'good talk' when we begin afresh, and I want to say a few things to you to-day. If there is anything you want to know, tell me, and I will try to help you if I can. First of all, I want you to understand and to remember that you don't come here only to learn lessons and repeat them. That is only a small part of your education, and there is much besides. You have to learn to make the best of your lives, to learn how to live; to be good girls, who will grow into good women; to be true and honest, strong and fearless, thoughtful for others—in fact, to be gentlewomen. All this is not easy—not nearly so easy as learning a page of history, for instance, and then repeating it to me. I want you to understand—and especially you, Marjory, who have begun so-called lessons rather later in life than most girls—that it is not the amount of information you possess and the studies you have gone through that is the important thing; it is the way you have worked, the sort of girl that you are, the life you are living, that matters. We are beginning again to-day. Let us all do our very best, so that at the end of the term we may have really gone forward. The lessons I have been talking about are never finished; our education goes on as long as we are alive. Now," with a bright smile, "my speech is done, and I hope it hasn't been too long. It is your turn now. Have either of you any problems for me?"
"I have," replied Marjory. "I want to know whether it is ever right to tell a lie, or a kind of a one, for the sake of somebody else." And she blushed very red.
Miss Waspe looked at her in surprise. Marjory had always seemed to her to be so absolutely straightforward and honest that she could not understand the reason for such a question.
"I don't believe in a 'kind of a lie,'" she replied, "A thing is either true or untrue, and I don't think it could ever be right to tell an untruth under any circumstances."
"Not if you can see quite well that if you tell this lie it will prevent something bad happening to some one else?" asked Marjory appealingly.
"No," was the decided reply. "Tell the truth at all costs, and trust the results to a higher power than yours. Wrong cannot make right."
Tears stood in Marjory's eyes, but she said no more, and Miss Waspe did not question her. The truth was that ever since Marjory had told the man in the plantation that "people" of the name of Shaw kept the Low Farm, allowing him to think that the husband was at home, she had felt uncomfortable about it. Certainly she had said it for Mrs. Shaw's sake, to prevent a suspicious-looking person from going to the farm when its mistress was alone; but she had not been able to silence her conscience, and had at last determined to ask Miss Waspe what she thought. Her words had only confirmed Marjory's uneasy feelings, and she could not give the circumstances as an excuse without breaking her promise to the man.
"I've got a problem too," said Blanche, "and it's this: Is a secret a proper secret if you tell only one person, and you are certain that other person will never tell?"
The others laughed, and Miss Waspe said,—
"I don't quite know what you mean, dear."
Blanche explained. "Well, it's like this. I simply can't keep a secret. I feel as if I shall burst if I don't tell somebody, so I always tell mother, and then it's all right, and, of course, I never want to tell anybody else. Do you think it is right for me to do that?"
Miss Waspe could not help smiling at this confession, and she replied, "I think if you tell the person who wants to confide in you that you must tell your mother, and the person still chooses to trust you with the secret, then you are quite right to tell her."
"But supposing," argued Blanche, "that the person tells you the thing before he or she says, 'Don't tell any one,' ought I to try to do without telling mother? It would be an awful risk," she added solemnly.
"Well," replied Miss Waspe, "personally, I don't like secrets, except, perhaps, about presents or pleasant surprises for people. I think I should advise you, for the present, at any rate, to make the stipulation that you be allowed to tell your mother anything and everything, but at the same time you must learn to control yourself and keep your own counsel so far as other people are concerned."
"I'll try," said Blanche, looking very solemn, "but I haven't much hope."
After that the girls teased their good-natured governess with many other "problems," as they called them, such as, "Whether would you choose to be very pretty and very poor, or very rich and quite plain?" and another, "Whether would you prefer to walk in a very fashionable place with a person you love, who is so badly dressed as to attract attention, or with a nicely-dressed person for whom you did not care so much?"
Miss Waspe rather encouraged the girls to give their opinions on all sorts of subjects, as she liked them to think.
"Learn to think and to see," she would say. And one day she told them how, when she was a girl, she had been made to learn some lines by heart, which had helped her to begin thinking for herself. "I think they frightened me into it," she said, laughing. "They were written by Carlyle; you will know something of his works some day, I hope. This is what he says: 'Not one in a thousand has the smallest turn for thinking; only for passive dreaming, and hearsaying, and active babbling by rote. Of the eyes that men do glare withal, so few can see.' It sounds rather like a scolding, doesn't it? Well, I don't want you to be like that; I want you both to think and to see, and you will find much happiness to think about and many beauties to see."
Certainly Marjory's world had grown much wider and brighter by this woman's thought. The romance and wonder of reality put before the girl had opened up possibilities of interest in every direction to her who was so eager to learn and so quick to see. To give an instance: it may be remembered that in her days of loneliness Marjory had woven fairy stories about the flowers and trees in the garden and the woods. Knowledge had now replaced these fairy tales with facts far more marvellous than any of her fancies had been.
These were happy hours spent in the schoolroom at Braeside. They never became irksome to Marjory, but they made her long to see more of this "great, wide, beautiful, wonderful world."
Two things were often in her mind at this time—the prophecy about the dark-haired maiden, and the letter of which Mary Ann had told her. She built many hopes upon that letter; night and day she prayed that her father might be found and brought back to her.
The postman only came once a day to Hunters' Brae, and the letter-bag was always taken straight to her uncle's study; so, although Marjory watched carefully for any sign, she did not know whether a reply had been received to that letter her uncle had sent to foreign parts.
One day, coming out of church, Mary Ann managed to whisper to her, "That letter came back, so I expect your father's really dead."
This was a great blow to Marjory. She had hardly realized how much she had hoped, and this bitter disappointment seemed to leave her nothing to hope for. Still she refused to give up altogether, for there was just the chance that the letter might not have been written to her father, as Mary Ann had not actually seen the address on it. Marjory reasoned with herself in this way, for she felt that her life would be strangely empty without the hope of some day finding her father.
ON THE LOCH.
"Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod And waits to see it push away the clod, He trusts in God."—ANON.
The months went by, and Marjory and Blanche were happy together. They watched the spring change to summer, and the summer to autumn, with the greatest delight. It was the first time that Blanche had seen the delicate shoots of the snowdrops and crocuses bravely pushing their way through the hard earth, the first time that she had been able to watch the miracle of seed and leaf and flower, and to trace the life of the young birds from their hatching to their flying from the nest. These were annual pleasures to Marjory, but they were much increased by the sweetness of Blanche's companionship. How she delighted in showing her friend where the first bluebells would be found in the wood, and in taking her to search in the most likely places for birds' nests! In one of these searches they found a great treasure. They were walking by the loch, when, amongst the reeds which grew along the water's edge they saw a reed-warbler's nest. What an ingenious construction it was—long and deep and pointed, woven between the reeds, and so firmly fixed and of such a shape that the eggs could not be shaken out, even by the roughest of winds. Marjory was very anxious that Blanche should see a pewit's nest. There were always a certain number of these birds about the moors, and the girls spent a whole morning searching for a nest. But these birds hide their nests so carefully that they are most difficult to find. After much patience and walking up and down over the same ground, causing great uneasiness to the parent birds who circled overhead, crying mournfully, they at last discovered a nest. It was just a little hollow in the ground with some grass in it, and there were the eggs, four of them, so wonderfully speckled that they matched the colour of the ground, and laid so neatly in an almost perfect circle, the large ends outwards and the very narrowly-pointed ones meeting in the centre.
"Oh," cried Blanche, "I've seen eggs like these in London shops; they call them plovers' eggs, and people eat them at dinner-parties."
"What a shame!" said Marjory indignantly.
"Well, you eat hens' eggs," argued Blanche.
"But they're quite different. Somebody feeds them every day, and they don't even have to make their own nests; and then, when they do lay an egg, they make a great noise to let everybody know about it. But these dear birds do it all themselves, and they take such trouble to hide their eggs, and are so worried if they think any one is too near them. Oh, I simply couldn't eat a plover's egg."
"I couldn't either, now that I have seen the nest," said Blanche. "Somehow you don't think of all the trouble the birds have when you just see the eggs in boxes in a shop window."
Time slipped away, the weeks bringing their share of lessons in term time; of riding, boating, and pleasures of all sorts in the holidays. Marjory's fourteenth birthday came and went, Christmas Day passed, and another year began. This time the Twelfth Night party was a great success, and both Marjory and her uncle went to it.
In spite of her happy life, Marjory never lost her longing for her father. She dreamed of him, planned a future for herself in which he was always the prominent figure, and determined that if she ever were her own mistress she would travel from country to country in search of him, for since the day when Mrs. Forester had quoted her old friend's words, "A fine fellow Hugh Davidson was. I always feel that he may turn up again some day," she had never quite lost hope.
Easter fell early that year; the season was very mild, and there were lovely sunny days for being out of doors when the holidays began.
Maud Forester and her mother were at Braeside again, and the Morison boys were at home, so the party was a merry one. Herbert's admiration for Maud still flourished, and he joined the girls in all their doings.
All went well until one day when Alan was taken by his mother to Morristown to be measured for some new clothes, much to his disgust, for he would have preferred to sacrifice the clothes rather than one of his precious holidays. Dr. Hunter had gone there too on business. Before leaving in the morning he had charged Marjory not to go on the loch during his absence—not that he expected bad weather, but he never felt quite comfortable about her going out when he was away, although she was quite capable of managing the boat. Many a time they had sailed from one end of the loch to the other, and she had done everything from start to finish as well as he could have done it himself.
Marjory readily promised; she had quite expected this, for her uncle never left Heathermuir for a whole day without giving her this injunction. She was to spend the day at Braeside, and she went down there after driving her uncle to the station.
When she entered the morning-room she found Mrs. Hilary finishing a late breakfast, with Mrs. Forester, Blanche, and Maud in attendance. Mrs. Hilary was saying, "Yes, he's really coming home at last, after being away more than a year, on the Campania, he says—the White Star Line, you know, or is it the Cunard? I really never remember. One lot always end in 'ic,' and the other in 'ia,' and it is so confusing. It would be so much better if they didn't give them these long classical names, wouldn't it? I never was good at the classics, you know. Ah, here's Marjory. Good-morning, child; how rosy and healthy you look, quite a picture, and your dark hair makes a nice contrast with the other girls."
Marjory became rosier still, and sat down as much out of sight as possible.
"Yes, as I was saying," continued Mrs. Forester, thoughtfully gazing at a piece of toast, "he's been to Brazil, and Morocco, and Mexico, and Alaska, and all the well-known places that it's proper to go to, and all through the United States too. He must be a regular walking geography by this time, if he doesn't forget it all on that dreadful voyage. One gets so confused with those foreign places—at least I do; and really, by the time I've crossed from Calais to Dover, I've gone through such terrors of mind and body that I'm quite upset, and I can hardly remember what I've seen or where I've been. That's where I think a guide-book such a comfort. One can put a mark against each place one goes to, and that makes it quite certain, you know. I wonder if Hilary has a guide-book. But men are different, I suppose," she said, with a sigh of resignation at the superiority of the sterner sex.
The girls slipped away as soon as they conveniently could. They had no very definite plans for the day, and one suggestion after another was made as they walked towards the park.
Herbert Morison soon joined them, and they continued to stroll somewhat aimlessly through the park, the dogs at their heels. There seemed to be a spirit of depression upon them that morning, which was a most unusual experience for them.
"We miss Alan, don't we?" remarked Maud, after one of the awkward silences which seemed inevitable that morning.
The other girls agreed, but Herbert said nothing, as he did not quite see what difference a "kid" like Alan could make.
Suddenly Maud clapped her hands. "I know," she cried; "we'll all go on the loch; it'll be just lovely." She had caught sight of the water shining silvery blue through the trees, and certainly it did look inviting. "Come on," cried Maud excitedly; "you'll take us, won't you, Marj?"
Marjory reddened. "I'm sorry I can't. I promised uncle that I wouldn't go on the loch to-day."
"What rubbish! Why, it's as calm as a mill pond."
"Not quite; there's a bit of a wind; besides, uncle said I wasn't to."
"We needn't sail; we could row," suggested Herbert.
"Oh, rowing's no fun; besides, it's such hard work.—I'll make it all right with the doctor, Marj. You see, he didn't know Herbert would be here."
Herbert looked decidedly uncomfortable and as if he wished he were not there. The truth was that he did not feel by any means at home in a sailing-boat, and would have very much preferred to row, or, better still, not to go on the water at all. However, if Maud wished it, there was no more to be said. The Foresters had a rowing-boat which would quite well have accommodated the party, but Maud had made up her mind for a sail, and a sail she would have, or nothing.
Blanche felt very much divided between her duty to her guest and to her friend. She was half ashamed that Maud should suggest taking possession of Dr. Hunter's boat against his orders, and was inclined to wish that, if Maud insisted upon going, Marjory would give in and go too.
"Come, Marjory," coaxed Maud, "don't be silly. It'll be all right, I promise you."
"It's no use; I won't come," replied Marjory stoutly.
"Well, I call it very selfish of you," said Maud, her temper rising. "And I'm sure the doctor never meant that you were not to go at all, only that you were not to go alone; and I'm also quite sure that if he were here he would let us have the boat this minute."
"Yes, if he were here and could go with you himself," retorted Marjory.
"Oh, very well, if you won't take us, Herbert will.—Won't you?" And Maud turned appealingly to him.
Poor Herbert was in a tight place, as he would have expressed it. First and foremost, he was anxious to please Maud and to stand well in her estimation, but he had no confidence in his own powers of managing a sailing-boat; besides, he knew something of the loch and its ways, and how storms little and big could rise suddenly and without warning. Another thing—he did not much like the idea of going off in Dr. Hunter's boat without his permission, for although pretty, spoiled Maud had no dread of the stern, eccentric doctor, Herbert did not by any means share her fearless attitude towards him.
Poor Herbert was hesitating on the side of prudence, when Maud decided matters by saying with a pout,—
"You don't seem very keen either. I must say I think it's awfully mean of you two.—Come on, Blanche; you and I will go, and it'll be their fault if we're drowned."
Thus hard pressed, Herbert said he would go. After all, it was a lovely day, and the water looked calm enough. True, there was the little breeze that Marjory had spoken of; but if it didn't come to any more, he might pull through all right. Thus once again was illustrated the truth of the old saying that "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." How many lives are lost through ignorance and foolhardiness!
Poor Marjory was in a state of mind bordering on distraction. Ought she to disobey her uncle and go with them? She felt sure that, although he would not confess it, Herbert was a novice in the art of sailing, and she feared what might happen should the wind increase. She could only hope that this would not be the case, that Maud would soon tire of her whim, and that they would all come back safe and sound.
They started off gaily, Maud waving her hand to Marjory.
"Good-bye, you dear little monument of obedience," she cried. "You won't enjoy your morning half as much as we shall."
Blanche looked inquiringly at Marjory, and for the first time in the course of their friendship her look met with no answering smile. Marjory was too anxious, and besides, she felt inclined to blame Blanche for yielding to her cousin's persuasions; while Blanche, on her part, thought that Marjory might have stretched a point and gone with them.
However, the start was made in fine style, and all went well at first. The sun shone and the skies were blue; the fresh green of spring was showing everywhere, and the young people's spirits rose as the pretty little boat sped on.
Marjory walked slowly along by the loch, with Silky and Curly for company. Had she done right or wrong? The question repeated itself over and over again in her mind, until she felt too confused to think. Her anxiety was growing. She would hardly admit it to herself, but she feared that each quarter of an hour brought increased force to the breeze that had been blowing when they started. She watched the white sails getting smaller and smaller. How she wished that they would turn back! Once when a bend of the shore hid the boat from sight, she turned sick and faint with fear for its safety; and then, when it appeared again, she scolded herself for being so foolish.
The wind was certainly rising. There was an angry-looking cloud on the horizon, and the sunshine, once so brilliant, was now faint and fitful.
At last the boat turned, but with the turn Herbert's difficulties began. Things were getting serious. Marjory watched Herbert's every movement with eager anxiety. Would he do it? Could he do it? She looked at her watch. It was just half-past twelve, and all the men about Braeside would have gone to their dinner; besides, it would take her some time to run there for help. The Low Farm was perhaps a little nearer, but not much, and something, she hardly dared to think what, might happen while she was gone.
A sudden gust of wind lifted her hat from her head. This, at any other time, would have been a mere frolic to this child of the moors, but now it caused her real alarm. This same wind that played with her hat and her hair, and that swept her petticoats about her, could do far more mischief to the little boat with its flapping sails. It was nearly opposite to her now, and still about half a mile from the landing-stage. Marjory put her hands to her mouth.
"Shorten sail!" she called. "Shorten sail!"
Herbert appeared to be losing control of the boat and of his own wits, and the boat seemed at the mercy of the wind.
Marjory called frantically to them to take in a certain sail and reef another—directions which, even if they could have heard them, would have been as Greek to the occupants of the boat; but the wind carried her voice away, and she stood helpless, watching Herbert's bungling attempts. Another moment, and the mast was broken, and in falling dealt Herbert a blow on the head which stunned him for the time being.
Quick as thought, Marjory threw off her coat and boots and was in the water, calling Silky to come too. Curly had been well trained, and was a very clever, sensible dog by this time, and she ordered him to go home and fetch his master, hoping that he might attract some one's notice.
Straining every nerve, Marjory swam towards the boat. "Throw out the towline!" she screamed to the girls as soon as she was near enough for them to hear her. Maud, now thoroughly frightened, did as she was bid, and Marjory called to Silky, "Seize it, good dog! seize it!" The water was not very rough, but she knew that it was deep in this particular place, and the boat was being driven like a bird with a broken wing.
Silky, good dog that he was, got hold of the rope, which happily had some floats attached to it, and began swimming steadily back towards his mistress. Marjory caught the rope, and by its means drew herself to the boat, carefully got into it, and in a very few minutes, having done what was necessary, she took to the oars. Blanche was lying in Maud's arms, overcome by terror, and Herbert was quite stupefied by the knock on his head.
Help was nearer than Marjory had imagined. Looking to the shore to see if she could put in at once without having to row against the wind all the way to the landing-stage, she saw a man waving his arms as a signal to her. She bent all her strength to her task, and it was no light one.
The man on shore, having taken off his coat and his boots, was wading in, ready to receive the boat. The storm was coming on apace, great drops of rain began to fall, and the sky was dark and lowering.
A few more strokes were all that was needed to bring them within reach of strong arms; but why did Marjory feel so tired, and as if she could not go on? She must go on! How thankful she felt that there was some one at hand if she should fail—if—One last stroke, and then a confused sound of shouting, a grating noise as if some one were shooting a load of stones. It must be Peter in the garden, and she was dreaming—dreaming.
Curly had trotted off obediently in the direction of Braeside. Mr. Forester, strolling across the park, expecting to meet the girls returning home for lunch, was very much surprised to meet the dog, who behaved in such a way as to arouse his fears of something being wrong. To begin with, Blanche and her dog were inseparable companions, as a rule, and it was strange that Curly should come home alone. Besides, he seemed in such an excited state; he kept jumping up at Mr. Forester, and then running forward and barking as if he wished his master to follow. Curious, and somewhat alarmed, Mr. Forester went after the dog, and arrived upon the scene just in time to see the boat come in. An exclamation of dismay broke from him as he saw the condition of its occupants, and he rushed forward to help the man to draw it up on shore.
THE STRANGER RETURNS.
"We fell out, my wife and I, And kissed again with tears."
Marjory was the only one of the four who suffered seriously from that day's doings. Blanche soon came to herself in her father's arms; Maud, though thoroughly frightened, had kept her head, and escaped without even a wetting; and Herbert's bruises, though painful, were nothing to be alarmed about as soon as he had recovered from the stunning effect of the blow on his head.
The stranger who had so unexpectedly come to their aid produced a flask from his pocket, and Blanche and Marjory were each given a dose of brandy.
Marjory thought she must still be dreaming when she opened her eyes and saw her friend the tramp or poacher—for it was he—bending over her anxiously.
To Mr. Forester's inquiries she replied that she felt all right now. He wished to take Blanche home as quickly as possible, and the man assured him that he and Herbert would see Marjory safely up to Hunters' Brae, at the same time asking that a groom might be sent to fetch the doctor, as he was sure one would be needed.
Mr. Forester thanked the man, promising to send for Dr. Morison, though he thought it was hardly so serious as all that, for Marjory was such a strong, sturdy girl, so different from his delicate little Blanche, he thought, as he pressed his precious child closer to him. He bade Marjory good-bye, saying that he must take Blanche home to her mother, and that Maud had better come too. Maud would have liked to stay with Marjory, but feeling that taking her own way had caused enough trouble already, she reluctantly obeyed her uncle.
Although Marjory had said she felt all right, she found that when she tried to stand up and walk she felt strangely weak, and there was a sharp pain in her side, so that she was very glad to lean on the arm of her mysterious friend. She was too tired to be curious, and she accepted his help and kindness without question.
He and Herbert between them managed to get her home, and then handed her over to Lisbeth's care. She, poor woman, was too much taken aback to ask the stranger who he was, and he slipped away unnoticed and unthanked.
Herbert decided to wait until his father came, so that he might give him an account of the true state of affairs; and it was well that he did so, for, even had she been able, it is doubtful whether Marjory would have been willing to say much about her own part in the day's happenings.
Herbert did not spare himself to his father, but told the story as quickly as he could, and then waited anxiously for the doctor to come back from his patient.
"Well, my boy," he said, when at last he appeared, "I'm afraid she'll be worse before she's better, as the saying is. Curious thing—an old weakness of her childhood, which her uncle and I both thought she had outgrown! That swim in her clothes, straining every nerve, then rowing back, wind against her, four of you in the boat—too much—caused strain. This will mean weeks of lying up, poor child; seems worried too—wants to know if she did right. Bless her! she did more than fifty girls in her place would have done. But come along, boy. It might have been worse; she'll get over it all right. Come; you need a good square meal after all this, and a little doctoring too." And he patted his son on the shoulder affectionately, for he felt sorry for the boy's distress.
He drove him home, and then, without waiting for anything to eat himself, the good man was off again to Braeside to see if anything were wanted there. He found that the girls were not much the worse for their adventure—a little hysterical and excited, but that was all. He was pleased to find that Maud, who had been the first cause of all the mischief, had given a true and honest account of the whole thing, and was now bitterly sorry for the part she had taken.
"Promise you won't scold Herbert," she pleaded; "it was all my fault. I made him do it. He didn't want to himself; I know he didn't."
"Don't you worry about him; I've just taken him home to a good dinner," said the doctor, smiling. "And now I'm going back to dress those bruises of his. He looks more like a defeated prize-fighter than the handsome, elder son of a celebrated country practitioner that he was when he left home this morning. I must do something for him before his poor mother comes home," laughing, "or she won't recognize her son." And the genial doctor hurried off again.
Dr. Hunter was surprised and disappointed when he saw that Peter had come to the station to meet him, for he had expected Marjory; but when he learned the reason, he was very much concerned—concerned and grieved too, for he could not but gather from Peter's account that Marjory had gone on the loch in spite of his prohibition. He remembered the girl's face as she had given her promise—the dark eyes looking so honestly into his, the expression of the mouth so firm and steadfast. He sighed, and tried to make excuses for her in his own mind, but try as he would he could only feel bitterly disappointed. He went straight to her room when he arrived. Marjory met his look appealingly. "I couldn't help it," she murmured, as he sat down by the bedside and took her hand.
"Never mind to-night, child," he said gently, patting her hand; "you shall tell me all about it to-morrow."
But Marjory, since her better understanding of her uncle, had grown very sensitive to his moods and feelings, and she felt a shadow of displeasure in spite of his caresses. She was too weak and tired to talk, and after he left her she lay dreaming and thinking and wishing that he knew. She thought of Blanche too, and the look that had passed between them when the boat started. This was the first real trouble there had been since their friendship began. How she wished that she could explain everything!
But help came in the person of Dr. Morison, who called again in the evening to see how his patient was getting on. He was able to tell the doctor the whole story, with those particulars which poor old Peter did not know. Marjory was greatly relieved when her uncle said to her, "Dr. Morison has told me all about it. You're a good girl, Marjory, and I'm proud of you."
Marjory was greatly soothed and comforted by these words, and though she was very wakeful through the night, her mind was at rest.
Next morning Blanche and Maud came to see her, tearful and sorry for the trouble they had thoughtlessly caused. Blanche admitted that at first she had blamed Marjory and thought it selfish of her not to go with them, but that she knew now that Marjory had been right in obeying her uncle.
"But what I think so awfully hard is that we were the ones who deserved to suffer, and yet you who were so good and brave have to be ill like this." And Maud burst into tears. "It was only yesterday," she continued, between her sobs, "that mother remarked how healthy and rosy you looked, and now you are so pale; I can't bear it." And she hid her face in her hands.
"Please don't cry," Marjory said. "I'm not very ill, you know; only Dr. Morison says I shall have to lie down a lot until I get quite all right again. Everybody is so kind to me, it's not a bit hard. Please don't cry." And she stretched out her hand towards Maud, who seized it and covered it with impulsive kisses.
"I hope I shall never, never do such a thing again," said Maud. "It was all through me wanting my own way; it's like a sort of mania that gets hold of me sometimes. Oh, I do feel such a beast, I can't bear myself; and poor mother is so cut up about it, and talked to me so this morning. She's awful sweet, my mother, really, though she does forget so, and says such funny things."
The girls' visit did not last long, as Marjory was to be kept quiet for a few days. They had all been wondering who the friendly stranger could be who had helped them the day before, but no one had been able to give any information about him.
Soon after the girls left, Dr. Hunter came into Marjory's room, his face beaming with pleasure.
"There are visitors downstairs," he said, "but I'm afraid I mustn't let them come to see you to-day; perhaps they could come again to-morrow. Who do you think they are?"
Marjory suggested the Foresters, the Mackenzies, Mrs. Morison; but no—it was none of these.
"Do tell me," she begged of the doctor.
"Well, it's Captain and Mrs. Shaw from the Low Farm. It was he who carried you home yesterday. I declare it's quite a romance. Mrs. Shaw is absolutely transformed; I never saw such a change in any one in such a short time. Certainly happiness is a great beautifier."
"Oh, I am glad. Then she's forgiven him? I expect that's what makes her feel so happy."
Dr. Hunter looked serious. Perhaps he was thinking of some one else who had nourished hard feelings against another for many years.
"Do ask them to come back to-morrow, uncle," said Marjory. "I should love to see them."
Captain and Mrs. Shaw came again next day, and Marjory was allowed to receive them. As her uncle had said, Mrs. Shaw was a very different-looking woman from the one she had hitherto known. She came into the room smiling, followed by her husband, who hung back, fearing lest he should intrude.
"Please come in," said Marjory; "I do so want to talk to you. Please tell me all about everything," she said, when they had finished their inquiries as to herself, and she had thanked the captain for his timely assistance.
"I've not got much to tell," began Mrs. Shaw. "I wrote to him to the care of the company in Liverpool which he used to belong to, but the letter didn't get there till he'd started on a long voyage. I didn't write it that day I said I would. I couldn't make up my mind to do it somehow. Well, the company forwarded the letter, and it followed him from one place to another, and I heard nothing of him till he came to my door the night before your accident, and glad I was to see him, as I needn't tell you. The next day he was strolling about the place, waiting for me to get ready to come up here, when he saw you in the water; and a good thing he was there to see." And she beamed upon the captain.—"Now it's your turn," she said.
"Well," said he, "that night after you left me, miss, I had a very narrow shave. I was just upon caught for a poacher." And he laughed heartily at the remembrance. "You see," he continued, "what put me altogether out in my bearings was you saying that 'people' of the name of Shaw kept the Low Farm; and when I said, 'There is a husband, then?' you said 'Oh yes' so quick and pat that I made quite a mistake. Of course you didn't say he was there, but I took it up so, and, like a fool, I thought she'd forgot me and married again, as she hadn't seen me for so many years. If it hadn't been for that I should have gone to her then."
"I am so very sorry," said Marjory. "I thought you might be a—" She hesitated, wondering what she could say, and how she could ever have taken this man for anything but the honest British seaman that he was.
Captain Shaw laughed his big hearty laugh.
"Took me for a burglar—shouldn't wonder. I begin to see," as he noted the flush on Marjory's cheek, "ha, ha, ha!" And he threw his head back and thumped his knee. "Well, to be sure; so you thought I was a bad character, and wanted to put me off the scent. Clear as daylight and very cleverly done, but you made a little mistake, miss, as we're all liable to do." And he laughed again. Then he continued, "It was very good of you to come and give me warning about the keepers. I've often thought about the sweet young lady who came out in the dark and the cold to speak to me. I was very miserable then, and you wanted to do me a good turn, though you had done me a bad one all unbeknown to yourself or me either, and I want to thank you heartily, miss."
"I went to Hillcrest the next morning to see you," said Marjory shyly, "for I suddenly thought perhaps you might be Mrs. Shaw's husband. I can't think now why I didn't know it when I first met you. When I got there you had gone away, and English Mary said your name was 'Iggs, and she quite thought you were a poacher, although you did pay your bill!"
Captain Shaw laughed again.
"You see, miss," he explained, "I didn't want it to get about the place that Captain Shaw was here, if Mrs. Shaw didn't feel inclined to take any notice of him. Higgs was my mother's name and is my second one, so I thought no harm, and it was to save her," nodding towards his wife. "But did you indeed take all that trouble for a poor man you didn't know, and had reason to believe was a suspicious character? Well, all I can say is that my wife and I," looking at Mrs. Shaw, "are deeply grateful to you for your goodwill."
"But you haven't finished your story, quite," suggested Marjory, flushing at his praise.
"Well," he continued, "I'd made up my mind that if the wife would have nothing to say to me, I'd take an offer I'd had—good ship, long voyage, and three days to think it over. Off I went, and I didn't get her letter for some time. When I did get it I didn't answer it—I don't quite know why, except that I'm not much good when it comes to writing down my feelings—and I thought the best answer would be myself at her door. What with one thing and another, I was away longer than I expected. Then we were quarantined for fourteen days—no end of a tiresome business. But I got here at last, and found a warm welcome. 'All's well that ends well,' miss, and now I'm sure we've bothered you long enough.—Come along, missus."
"But you must let me thank you for all you did for me; you were more than kind."
Captain Shaw was marshalling his wife out of the room, and he turned and said, "I don't want any thanks—it was little enough I did; besides, one good turn deserves another, you know. Think of those keepers!" laughing again at Marjory's poacher theory. "All we want is to see you up and about again, miss; and the sooner we can welcome you at the Low Farm the better pleased we'll be—eh, Alison?"
Left to herself, Marjory lay thinking. How happy these two seemed now that they were together! How thankful she was that things had come right for them in the end! She had so often reproached herself for that suggestion of a lie. What very serious consequences it might have had—indeed had, for it had added another year to the separation of these two good people! Then she fell to musing over the great happenings that may come from apparently small causes.
Marjory had plenty of time to think in those days. After the first week she did not feel ill, only tired and rather weak, but she was ordered to be continually on her back. A great doctor came from Edinburgh to see her, and he only confirmed what Dr. Morison had said—that she would be quite well in time, but that complete rest was the only cure; she must not try to walk or move about.
Poor Marjory—she had begun very bravely, saying it was not at all hard, but indeed she found it to be very hard, especially when she began to feel much better and stronger, and still had to keep lying down.
Blanche had to begin her lessons alone this term, and she and Miss Waspe missed Marjory very much; the schoolroom did not seem the same place without her, they said. The governess loved Blanche, sweet-natured as she was, and good and industrious too; but she did miss her other pupil, with her bright, eager ways, and her intense interest in things. Miss Waspe liked to watch the light of understanding flash into Marjory's eyes as she explained some intricate question, and the instinctive comprehension of something said or read which might have meant difficulty to a slower mind.
At last, after much wheedling and coaxing, the doctor gave permission for the lessons to be given at Hunters' Brae, Blanche and Miss Waspe going up every morning. This arrangement was very satisfactory to all parties, and Blanche remarked that, apart from the "jolliness" of being together, she would have an easy time, because, as Marjory was an invalid, there could be no scoldings.
Captain Shaw came frequently to see his little friend, and told her many tales about his travels. It was he who helped the doctor to carry her out into the garden on the great day when she was first allowed to go. Peter, too, whiled away many an hour for the invalid with his stories and old legends.
No father could have been more devoted than Dr. Hunter was to his niece during this time. Anything and everything that he could do to brighten the days for her was done; it was his greatest pleasure to grant her slightest wish. It seemed as if he could not do enough for her. He behaved like a delighted schoolboy the first time she was allowed to walk a little.
During this time there had been frequent conferences between Mrs. Forester and Dr. Hunter. Marjory felt rather curious to know what they were about. She was soon to know, and the knowledge caused her some dismay.
"Would you like to go to London, Marjory?" asked her uncle one day.
"To London?" echoed Marjory. "Not without you," decidedly.
"To London, and then to the seaside with the Foresters. You would like to go with them, wouldn't you?"
"And leave you alone here? No, I don't want to go away," she pleaded.
"Dr. Morison thinks it would be good for you."
"Dr. Morison knows nothing at all about it," said naughty Marjory. "I won't go. I don't want to go away from you."
Her uncle kissed her.
"My dear child," he said, "I am going away myself abroad, to America, and these good people have promised to take care of you until I come back." And he watched Marjory's face.
"To America!" she repeated, much surprised. "O uncle, what for?"
For one brief moment she thought of her father. Could the doctor be going to find him? But the answer came,—
"There is a science congress to be held in New York which I should very much like to attend; and there will be one or two men there who are studying the same subjects as I am, with whom I wish to compare notes. Will you allow me to go, little one?"
"I suppose I must," grudgingly.
"I thought you would have liked to see London and go to the seaside; you used to be so anxious to travel."
"Yes, but I'd rather go to America with you," wistfully.
"That is out of the question," said the doctor decidedly, "on account of your health; besides, what should I do with you while I went to my meetings and sat on my commissions, et cetera? No, no; you must be content, and perhaps you'll go next time." And he kissed Marjory, feeling that the affair was settled.
"Circumstances are like clouds, continually gathering and bursting."
The manager of the A1 Shipping and Transportation Company was sitting in his office in the largest building in the main street of the town of Skaguay in the far-away North-West. That office was the centre of the business activities of an immense district, and the work of its manager demanded much time and energy.
He was not an old man, but his hair was gray and his forehead lined and furrowed. A pair of piercing dark eyes looked from beneath thick grizzled eyebrows. It was a strong and striking face, severe in its lines, but when lit up by one of its rare smiles the hardness disappeared in a wonderful way. He was sitting at his desk apparently studying some papers that lay before him, but there was a dreamy, far-away look in his eyes which told that his thoughts had travelled beyond the walls of his office and the business of the day.
"Two of them," he muttered, turning over the papers. He took one up and began to read as follows:—
* * * * *
"DEAR DAVIDSON,—You were good enough to say that you would be glad to hear from me when I had reached home again, and the suggestion was one more addition to the numerous kindnesses I received from you during my visit to your part of the world, and for which I once more thank you most heartily. Through your instrumentality I was enabled to see into the life of the country and to catch the spirit of its people in a way which I could not otherwise have done, and I am very grateful to you.
"I do not intend to talk about myself, however, but about you. Do you remember the one and only occasion on which you allowed me to see something of the real man beneath the outer shell of the genial manager of the A1 S. and T. Co.? Pardon me if I hurt your feelings by alluding to a painful subject, but I have my reasons, as you will see later. On that occasion I remember that I, like a blundering fool, got on to the subject of my return home to my wife and child, and I began telling you of my Maud—her sweet ways, her looks, her cleverness, and all that. You had confessed to feeling a bit 'under the weather' that day, and I said, 'Why don't you take a holiday and pay a visit to the old country with me?' 'The old country!' you said. 'Why, man, I haven't seen it for fifteen years. It has no attractions for me now. If I had a child living, I would be a different man.' And there was such a world of sadness in your tone that I'm blest if I didn't have to get up and look out of the window. Then you told me how your wife had died, back in the old country, and how all your hopes had died with her; and from the way you spoke I guessed that you were not in the habit of telling your story, and I felt honoured by your confidence. Then you showed me a locket with a picture of your wife inside it, and attached to the locket was the half of a coin. 'We split this for luck when we were young and foolish,' you said, and your laugh was one of the most heartbreaking sounds I ever heard in my life. Well now, having got to my point at last, it is my firm belief that you have a child living, and by all accounts as sweet a little maiden as the heart of man could wish, and the discovery came about in a very simple way.
"Some two years ago my brother took a place in Scotland, at Heathermuir, near Morristown. While I was on my travels my wife and daughter went up there to visit them twice, and Maud made the acquaintance of a girl named Marjory Davidson. She goes by the nickname of 'Hunter's Marjory'—I suppose, because she lives with an old uncle at his place called Hunters' Brae. I did not pay much attention to Maud's chatter, for it was a great mixture of shut-up rooms, ghosts, old houses, oak chests, boating, drowning, and all the rest of it. Of course I never for one moment connected this child with you in any way—that is, not until yesterday. There had been some talk about summer holiday plans, and wonderings as to what my brother was going to do, for there had been vague rumours of his coming south with his wife and girl.
"'By the way, Maud,' said my wife, 'before we leave town I want to buy a really nice present for Marjory.'
"'A reward for saving my precious life, I suppose,' said mischievous Maud. This Marjory did some very plucky thing when they were out boating together. I don't quite know what it was, but it doesn't matter at present.
"'No,' said my wife, 'not that exactly, but a little keepsake—something that will last.'
"'You're afraid she'll forget, like you do, mother dear.'
"At this juncture, with a feeble attempt at correction, I intimated to Miss Maud that she was impertinent to her mother.
"'Mother understands—don't you, darling?' was the reply; and mother was immediately nearly hugged to death, and I got nothing but a crushing look. But to resume.
"'What would you think of a gold chain?' asked my wife.
"'She's got one.'
"'I never saw her wear one.'
"'No; because she wears it inside her dress. She showed it to me once, and there is a dear little locket on it, with a picture of her mother inside, and a half coin with a hole in it—a Jubilee one.'
"I started up at this, and gave those two such a cross-examining as they never had in their lives. They thought at first that I had taken leave of my senses. But I've got the whole story now, and I am quite convinced that this Marjory Davidson, whose father's name was Hugh, and who has lived in hopes, ever since she could think, that her father might turn up, is your daughter, though it is a mystery to me why you did not know of her existence. But come and see for yourself. I made my wife and daughter promise to say nothing. I gather that there was some trouble between you and the old man, so it's best for us to keep our own counsel for the present. I hope you won't think me an interfering ass, but I haven't a doubt in my mind that it is as I say—you have got a child to live for, and the sooner you come and see her the better. Let me know when to expect you, and I'll come and look after you. Make your headquarters with us as long as you like.—Believe me yours faithfully,
* * * * *
Mr. Davidson laid this letter aside and took up another one. It was written in a large, irregular hand, and ran as follows:—
* * * * *
"THE LOW FARM, HEATHERMUIR, NORTHSHIRE, SCOTLAND.
"DEAR SIR,—I take the liberty of writing you this letter, hoping it finds you well, as it leaves me at present. I wish to tell you that it's all serene now with me and my wife, she having forgiven all bygones and let them be. Your kindness to me whilst I was laid up at your God-forsaken place—begging your pardon, sir, but I was anxious to be off again, as you know—but your kindness, as I say, and good advice, was such that I make bold to dare and ask you to forgive bygones, like as my good wife has done. I'm sure your Miss Marjory is as sweet a young lady as you could wish to see, and your living image, eyes and hair and all. It is said about here—begging your pardon, sir—that, because the old man was rough on you, you won't acknowledge or take notice of your child. They say he's too proud to ask you to come home; and she, poor lamb, don't even know that she has a father. Things ain't as they ought to be altogether in this world, but you can do a deal to put some of them straight, sir, if I may make bold to say so. It is some time since I seen you, but directly my wife told me Miss Marjory's name and story, I knew you was her father. I haven't breathed of this to any one, let alone Miss Marjory herself, but I am sure that if you was to come you would see that I am right. I do beg your pardon if anything I have written is not as it should be betwixt you and me, sir; but I am now so happy myself through the forgiving of old bygones that I am all for trying to make things straight; which, hoping you will soon do, I am your obedient servant,
"SAMUEL HIGGS SHAW."
* * * * *
Mr. Davidson smiled as he put down Captain Shaw's letter. He had received both the communications within a mail of each other, and one supplied information that the other lacked. He had turned the matter over in his mind this way and that, and he now felt very little doubt that this Marjory Davidson was indeed his child. And yet why should the fact that he had a child have been kept from him all these years? What reason could his brother-in-law have had for withholding the knowledge from him? It was all a mystery. He looked back over the lonely years since his wife's death, remembering how in the bitterness of his grief he had thrown himself heart and soul into his work, and had laid the foundations of a fortune. He thought of the time when the rush of gold-seekers to the Klondike had first started, and he had left the company he then represented to start on his own account in the shipping and transportation business, seeing at once that here was a certain road to success. And so it had proved, for to-day his was the best-known and most highly-respected name in all that broad region. But there had been times such as that to which Mr. Hilary Forester had alluded in his letter—when money, success, popularity, all seemed as nothing compared with a wife, a home, a child to love him. He envied the poorest labourer with these blessings. He now felt like a man in a dream. Fifteen years! He saw in fancy the little child he would have loved to take upon his knee; the growing girl learning her first lessons. How he would have cared for her and watched over her, trying to be both father and mother to the motherless child! Now she was growing quickly to womanhood, and he knew nothing of her, nor she of him. A great wave of indignation against his brother-in-law swept over him; it was a downright crime to have kept him in ignorance all these years, and the man should be brought to book. All the old bitterness against his wife's unreasonable brother took hold of him, and Captain Shaw's suggestion as to the forgetting of bygones seemed for a time little likely to be acted upon. But this mood passed, and then a great tenderness towards this unknown daughter of his welled up in his heart, and he made up his mind. He would go as soon as he could, and find out the truth.
Other influences were at work to bring about this meeting of father and child. Dr. Hunter, yielding at last to the voice of conscience, had written to Hugh Davidson, but he had sent the letter to the care of the company to which he had belonged in the old days. This company had since gone out of existence, and the letter had come back, as Mary Ann had told Marjory, and nothing more was done for a time.
Mrs. Forester, ever since the beginning of their acquaintance, had made periodical attacks upon the doctor, declaring that it was his duty to take steps to bring back Marjory's father. It must be remembered that Mrs. Forester knew nothing of the part Dr. Hunter had played, and blamed the cold-heartedness of a man who could leave his child unclaimed for fifteen years.
While Marjory was ill, Mrs. Forester renewed the attack with many arguments. At last one day, in a moment of expansion, the doctor confessed what he had done. In the face of Mrs. Forester's amazed displeasure, his reasons for his conduct seemed absurdly inadequate. She told him in no measured terms exactly what she thought of him, and indignantly reproached him for the course which he had taken. She quite pooh-poohed the suggestion that Hugh Davidson might be dead, as the letter had come back.
"I know he isn't dead," she protested. "I feel it as strongly as if he were standing before me at this moment. That child's father is alive, Dr. Hunter, and you have got to find him!"
The doctor made a mental reflection as to the "queerness" of women, with their intuitions and unfounded assertions, without reason or logic to guide them, but before he and Mrs. Forester parted that day he had promised to take steps at once. In the end he decided to go to America and meet face to face the man he had wronged, and ask his forgiveness. It was the least he could do. One stipulation he made: Marjory must not know the real object of his journey, in case nothing came of it.
The first step was to find out where Hugh Davidson was likely to be found, if alive. Dr. Hunter felt as though he were beginning to search for the proverbial needle in a haystack; but by Mrs. Forester's advice he entrusted the matter to his lawyers, and in an incredibly short space of time he heard from them that the man he wanted was now the manager of the A1 Shipping and Transportation Company at Skaguay, Alaska, the largest organization of its kind in that part of the world.
So the doctor made up his mind to go in search of his brother-in-law. His friends the Foresters (he told no one else of his real intentions) tried to dissuade him, representing to him the length of the journey and its fatigues, the heat at that time of the year, and any and every reason they could think of to alter his purpose. But the doctor did nothing by halves, and having once realized the great wrong he had done, he would not spare himself anything till he had tried to make reparation, and it seemed that a personal meeting could do more in that direction than any number of letters.
"Besides," he said, "it'll do me good. I begin to think that I've kept myself and Marjory shut up too long. I shall never be anything but an old fogey, but a little change and knocking about may make me a more agreeable one."
The scientific meetings at New York served as a plausible excuse for his going, and the Foresters kept his secret.
Marjory felt as if she were living in a dream, such impossible things seemed to be happening. Could it be true that she was going to London, and her uncle to New York? One thing she begged of the doctor: that they might both be at home again in time for her birthday—that important fifteenth one when she was to see and know so much; and her uncle promised that it should be so if possible.
If the skies had suddenly fallen, Lisbeth and Peter could hardly have been more surprised than they were when the doctor announced his plans for his and Marjory's departure. Such a thing had never happened before, and they felt doubtful that they would ever see their master again if he went to "foreign parts." But when they became more accustomed to the idea, it lost some of its terrors, and they began to take a keen interest in the preparations for departure.
The house was to be left in charge of Lisbeth and Peter, who, as their master knew, would take care of it as if it were their own.
"Look after Miss Marjory's room," he said to Lisbeth one day.
"Ay, an' I will that," responded the old woman. "It's to be Marjory's ain come she's fifteen, an' that's no sae lang."
The doctor had always spoken of his sister as Miss Marjory; he had never got into the habit of speaking of her as Mrs. Davidson to his servants, and it was always "Miss Marjory's room" to them.
There was quite a little crowd at the station to see them off on the day of their departure. The Foresters and Marjory and her uncle all went together to Liverpool, so that Marjory might be able to see the doctor start on his voyage.
It was a time of wonder to the country girl, who had never seen any place larger than Morristown. The long journey, as it seemed to her, the many crowded streets of the city, the noise and bustle of the docks, bewildered her, and she hardly knew whether she enjoyed these new sensations or not, they were so overpowering.
When at last it was time to say good-bye to her uncle, she clung to him, begging him not to go and leave her. "Take me with you," she sobbed. Poor Marjory! it was her first parting, and she had not realized what it would mean. This great ship towering above her like a monster ready to swallow her uncle out of her sight, the unknown miles of ocean that lay between him and his destination—all this seemed terrible to the girl. She could not let him go without her.
The doctor folded her in his arms, kissing her many times. "There, there, my child; it won't be very long before I come back, and I hope you will be very glad to see me. Be brave now, and wish me a good voyage. Good-bye, my own little girl." And he was obliged to put her from him. She was led down the gangway by Mr. Forester; blinded by her tears, she could not see the way before her. People crowded behind them, there was much shouting of good-byes, the clatter of gangways being withdrawn, a straining and creaking of ropes, a throbbing of engines, and the great ship began to move—stealthily, it seemed to Marjory, as though it knew the heartaches it was causing, and felt ashamed of its part in tearing so many people away from their friends.
"Come, cheer up, Marjory," urged Mrs. Forester. "Give your uncle a smile to take with him. Wave your handkerchief—quick! they're off!"
Marjory's kind friends stayed with her until nothing more could be seen. She watched the tall, bent figure standing at the rail until it merged into the misty outline of the ship. She strained her eyes to the very last, and then she turned away, white and trembling and tearful.
"I didn't know I should care so much," she whispered half apologetically to Mrs. Forester.
"You see, you are such good friends with your uncle now, dear, that it is very hard to part with him, I know; but cheer up, and look forward to his coming home. It won't be very long."
Blanche had thoroughly enjoyed her visit to the docks. Mr. Forester had taken her over the ship; she had seen the saloons and staterooms, and had been on to the captain's bridge, and thought it great fun. She was sorry for Marjory's trouble, but she could hardly see the reason for its intensity. She had often been parted from her father for more than two months, which was all the time the doctor expected to be away. Dr. Hunter never made much fuss over Marjory that she could see—"Nothing like daddy does over me," she reflected. Still, it was very sweet of Marjory to care so much.
Yes, Marjory did care. She had grown to love dearly the silent, stern man who had been father and mother to her. He was gone. Her life would be strangely empty without him, and she would count the days until he came back to her.
THE DOCTOR'S DISAPPOINTMENT.
"Oft expectation fails, and most oft there Where most it promises."—SHAKESPEARE.
Dr. Hunter attended the most important meetings of the Congress of Scientists which was being held in New York. He was quite unprepared for the reception that was given him there. Of a very quiet and retiring disposition, and having lived the life of a recluse for many years, known to the world only by his writings, it never seemed to have occurred to him that his name was a famous one in other countries as well as his own. His first appearance was greeted with acclamation as soon as his name was mentioned, and during his stay in New York invitations were showered upon him, reporters called upon him at his hotel, and paragraphs referring to him appeared in all the papers, although he steadily refused to be interviewed.
He was thankful when the day of his departure came, as he shrank from so much publicity. He remarked afterwards that he felt as a hunted criminal might who saw in every casual passer-by a possible detective.
He was careful not to mention his destination to any one but the clerk from whom he purchased his ticket, but next day in a paper which he bought in the train he saw the inevitable paragraph,—
"Dr. Hunter, the famous scientist of London, England, left this city to-day for Montreal, en route for the North-West."
The learned gentleman might have been heard to mutter words not usually included in his vocabulary when he read this. As he had only taken a ticket to Montreal, the latter part of the announcement, although it happened to be true, was an absolute invention on the part of the light-hearted paragraphist who had penned it.
Escaped from New York and the social obligations his position had entailed upon him, Dr. Hunter gave himself up to the enjoyment of his trip. From Montreal he travelled on the wonderful Canadian Pacific Railway, and he never ceased to wonder at its construction—the amazing manner in which difficulties that appeared to be insuperable had been overcome, and the way in which the brain of man had enabled him to carve a path for himself up and through mighty mountains.
"To think that one can be climbing the Rockies and at the same time partaking of an excellent dinner served as in a first-class hotel!" he remarked to a fellow-traveller.
"Yes indeed, we make ourselves pretty comfortable in these times," was the reply. "My father was a pioneer and crossed the plains in '47. He has some rare tales to tell of roughing it in the old days." And the friendly stranger entertained the doctor with an account of some of those early experiences.
The doctor was struck by the geniality of his fellow-travellers for the most part, and the very intelligent way in which they answered his inquiries. He was able to say on his return that he had met with nothing but kindness from beginning to end of his trip.
He was greatly looking forward to his meeting with Hugh Davidson. How surprised he would be! The doctor's feelings had changed so completely that a meeting with this man now seemed of all things the most desirable. He had purposely refrained from sending any notice of his visit beforehand, taking an almost childish delight in the idea of suddenly and unexpectedly appearing before his brother-in-law.
At last the long journey was accomplished, and he found himself outside the offices of the A1 Shipping and Transportation Company at Skaguay.
Stirred by unusual feelings, he went in rather nervously.
"Can I see the manager?" he inquired of a clerk who came forward. The young man opened a door with a flourish and ushered him into the manager's room.
A man rose from a desk, but it was not Hugh Davidson. This was a youngish man, fair haired and clean shaven.
Much taken aback, the doctor murmured, "I beg your pardon; I expected to find Mr. Davidson here."
"Mr. Davidson is not here at present," said the man courteously. "Is there anything I can do for you in his place?"
"Oh no, thank you; my visit is purely a personal one. As a matter of fact, I am his brother-in-law, and intended paying him a surprise visit. Here is my card; perhaps you can tell me when he is likely to be in."
An expression of concern passed over the other man's face.
"I am exceedingly sorry," he said, "to inform you that Mr. Davidson sailed from New York for England this very morning. You must have passed each other on the way. Most unfortunate," he added sympathetically.
The doctor was nonplussed for the moment. Here was an unexpected turn of events; he had not contemplated such a possibility, and was undecided as to his own best course of action. At last he said, with an attempt at a smile, "Business, I suppose;" but the other replied, "No, I should gather that it was principally upon private affairs that he has gone to England; but Mr. Davidson is a very reticent man, and he gave me no particulars. I represent him here until he returns, and beyond that it is really no business of mine; but I certainly received the impression that some personal matter was calling him."
Somewhat dismayed, the doctor asked himself if it were possible that after all his brother-in-law had heard of his child's existence from an outsider. In such a case his own conduct would appear blacker than ever.
The manager's representative was really sorry for the doctor's disappointment. The old man seemed to him a pathetic figure, weary with many days of travelling only to find that his journey had been taken in vain, so far as its chief object was concerned. He suggested a cable message. "You could send it from Victoria, to the care of the Steamship Company, or to his private address in London—perhaps the latter would be the better plan." And he took a paper from the desk and read, "Care of Hilary Forester, Esq., 50 Royal Gate, London, S.W."
A smothered exclamation escaped the doctor. "I'll send a message," he said. "When is there a steamer back to Victoria?"
"Well, if you don't much mind what you go in, there is one to-morrow, but it won't travel quicker than eight knots an hour in smooth water," with a laugh.
"I'll take it," said Dr. Hunter decidedly. "It is important that I should get back as soon as possible."
Poor old man, he had been so anxious to tell his tale himself to Hugh Davidson, to throw himself upon the generosity of the man he had injured. He had wished to entreat him not to tell Marjory of the part he had played; he could not bear that her memory of him should be embittered by the knowledge of that wrong—that wrong which by reason of his biassed mind had seemed right, until the fearless words of a good and gentle woman had aided the voice of his own conscience and pronounced it wrong.
But now Marjory would hear the story from other lips, and what would he seem in her eyes? Would she banish him from his place in her heart? Would she think bitterly of him and reproach him with those fifteen years of silence? Would she not blame him for keeping her away from the world, even from the knowledge of the true personality of her mother, into whose room he had not allowed her to penetrate, in case that what she saw there might influence the childish mind in a way her uncle did not wish. It was not to be expected that the girl should understand his reasons.
He determined to start on his homeward journey the next day, and to send the cable message from the first possible point.
Meanwhile his new friend offered the hospitality of his home to Dr. Hunter, and the invitation was given in such a hearty way that it would have seemed ungracious to refuse it. He thought that evening that many people at home would open their eyes were they able to see the well-appointed table at which he was a guest, and the charming and cultured woman who presided over it, and he felt glad that he had been allowed to have this glimpse of home life in that far-away corner of the world. It was a peaceful home life, all the more attractive in that its background was rough-and-ready Skaguay—a plain town enough to look at, but one full of thrilling human interest, of tragedy and comedy. Through its streets had passed a motley procession of men—some on their way to fortune, some to disappointment, but all battling with the realities of life. The doctor was struck by the simple and straightforward outlook of these people, their sincerity, and the pleasure they found in their life; far as it was from any of the great world centres, every hour of every day seemed to be full of interest.
They spoke of Mr. Davidson, and there was nothing but praise of his sterling integrity, his upright and honourable life, his unfailing kindness and charity towards others.
"There's not a man in this town, or, for that matter, in the whole of this vast district, who doesn't know and honour the name of Hugh Davidson," said the manager's representative enthusiastically; "and as for myself, sir," thumping the table with his closed fist, "I am proud to be associated with such a man."
The doctor's heart smote him. This then was the black sheep—the man he had not considered fit to have the care of his own child!
He started off again next morning, and the journey back seemed long and tedious by reason of his impatience, although he could not but be struck by the beauty of the scenery as the ship steamed slowly along, threading its way amongst the many islands which lie across the course of the inland passage, as it is called.
After the doctor had dispatched his message, his one thought was, Would they wait for his return before telling Marjory what had happened? If only they would. And yet, after his conduct in the past, he could hardly expect any consideration from Hugh Davidson. To his great relief he received a message at New York from Mr. Davidson saying that he would await him in London.
Meanwhile Marjory, unconscious of the coming change in her fortunes, was enjoying new sights and experiences. She was not yet allowed to walk much or to exert herself in any way. They spent a week in London with the Hilary Foresters before going to the seaside. Marjory felt a mild surprise when she heard it remarked on all sides that "town was very empty." To her it seemed full to overflowing, and more like one of the anthills that were Peter's abhorrence in the garden than anything else. The continuous stream of human beings flowing in all directions was a never-ending source of wonder to her.
"Every single one of these people must have a story, you know," she said to the others one day. "Some are good and some are wicked, I suppose."
"I think they're all much of a muchness," replied Maud thoughtfully. "Good people can be bad, and bad people can be good. The best nurse I ever had turned out to be a thief, and I was so sorry when she went away. I tell you I loved that thief. You've no idea what a good, kind nurse she was; and it was found that she stole for the sake of somebody else who was poor."
"Well, but it can't be right to steal," argued Blanche.
"No, of course not, silly. But what I mean is that even wicked people may have some good in them. I've always thought that there ought to be something between sheep and goats—not quite so good and not quite so bad as either; or they might have points, such as length of horn, or silkiness of coat and thickness of fleece, and so on."
"Would an extra fine goat be an extra wicked person, or a shade better than an ordinary goat?" asked Marjory, laughing.
"Of course he would be better. A wretched, thin, mangy animal would be the worst, and they would gradually go on improving till the best goat was just the next thing to the worst sheep." Maud laughed.
Blanche was rather shocked. "I don't think you ought to make fun of those things, Maud," she said, reddening.
"I'm not making fun, my serious little cousin. I only mean to show that I think it's very hard to decide where the good begins and the bad leaves off, and that everybody has some of each. You see, I'm older than you, and I do think sometimes, although you might not guess it to look at me—eh?"
"Miss Waspe quoted some rather nice lines to us one day," said Marjory. "They were by Robert Louis Stevenson, I think. I don't know if I can remember them properly, but they were something like this,—
'There's so much bad in the best of us, And so much good in the most of us, That it hardly becomes any of us To talk evil of the rest of us.'"
"Awfully jolly," agreed Maud. "I couldn't have put it better myself; it's exactly what I think."
The passing crowd was a never-failing source of interest to Marjory, and one of her favourite occupations was to go to Kensington Gardens or to the Park and watch the people, weaving their life-stories in her imagination. Driving about, shopping with Mrs. Forester in such shops as threw the most important establishments in Morristown far into the shade, in the streets, or even looking out of the windows at 50 Royal Gate, there was this never-ending procession to speculate upon; so, although the time was spent quietly, there was not a dull moment in that week.
Then came another move, the excitement of another railway journey, and then at last the sea. Marjory's wonder and delight were indescribable. She had dreamed of the sea all her life. Her uncle had always promised that some day he would take her to the seaside. He had always vaguely said to himself that the child should be taken about when she was old enough; but the years had slipped by until she was nearly fifteen, and yet she had never seen the sea till now.
"Her beloved must cross the sea," she whispered to herself, as she stood at the water's edge for the first time, looking over its shining expanse, dancing and sparkling in the sun like myriads of diamonds in a setting of blue. Nothing but the sea as far as the eye could reach—what a sense of freedom and space and unbounded possibility! How she loved to watch the rise and fall of the waves with their fringes of white, to listen for the clatter of the shingle as it rushed along, keeping pace with each receding wave! But, best of all, she loved to stand barefooted on the shining sand when the tide was low, and to feel the water lapping gently over her ankles.
The three girls (for Maud had begged her mother to spend at least half their holiday at the little, unfashionable place Mrs. Forester had chosen) spent long days by the sea—days of delight for all, and of the gathering of health and strength for Marjory.
In the mornings the other two would usually bathe, Marjory looking on from her deck-chair, and finding much amusement in the antics of the bathers. She liked to watch Blanche in her pretty bathing suit, her hair rippling over her shoulders, and Maud, too, with her coquettish little cap amongst her fair curls. Thanks to her friend's tuition, Blanche was now quite a good swimmer, and was endeavouring to teach Maud, and they had great fun over it. Marjory herself was not allowed to bathe; she might only wade sometimes at low tide.