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- The Old Stone House - 30/41 -
assistance in a case of distress, Miss Warrington. Margaret Brown is in need of instant aid; two of the children are ill, and I wish to have them removed into the country, if possible, before they grow worse. I rely upon you to help us."
Sibyl sat with downcast eyes a moment. Then she said in a low voice, "I am sorry, Mr. Leslie; but I have just spent all my spare money upon those pearls."
"The jeweller will take them back; I will arrange it for you, if you wish," said the clergyman, looking at her intently.
The color deepened painfully in Sibyl's cheeks, and the tears came into her eyes, but she did not speak. Aunt Faith saw the struggle, and came to her niece's assistance with her usual kindliness. "You must not expect young ladies to give up their pretty ornaments so easily," she said to Mr. Leslie, trying to shield Sibyl's embarrassment.
"I am not speaking to a young lady; I am speaking to a fellow Christian," said Mr. Leslie, gravely. "Miss Warrington and I have often spoken of the duty of giving. Only last evening we had a very serious conversation on that and kindred subjects. Mrs. Sheldon has said that I do not understand her niece. But I am unwilling to believe myself mistaken. I still think I understand her better even than her own aunt does,--better even than she understands herself."
Still Sibyl did not speak. Aunt Faith looked at her in surprise. Could it be that her worldliness was conquered after all? "Sibyl," she said, gently, "you must decide, dear. Shall Mr. Leslie take back the pearls?"
"No," replied Sibyl, rising and struggling to regain her composure, "I wish the pearls, and there is no justice in asking me to give them up. I shall keep them, and as I have to write to Mrs. Leighton that I will meet her next week as she desired, my time is more than occupied, and I will ask Mr. Leslie to excuse me."
She left the room, taking the pearls with her, and not a word more did Mr. Leslie say in allusion to her. He turned the conversation back to Margaret Brown, discussed the various arrangements for removing the family into the country, and then took his departure.
"I was very sorry about the money, Aunt Faith," said Sibyl, after he had gone, standing at the sitting-room window and watching the tall figure disappearing in the distance.
"Sincerity first of all, my dear," replied Aunt Faith.
"How will he get the money, aunt?"
"He is going to apply to Mrs. Chase, I believe. Although she has never attended the chapel-services, he knows her to be generous and kind-hearted."
"Rich, too, Aunt Faith. It is very easy to be generous when one is rich," said Sibyl, with a shade of bitterness in her tone.
"Riches are comparative, Sibyl. Mrs. Chase is rich, but she has very many depending upon her assistance."
"Mr. Leslie had no right to make such a demand of me," said Sibyl, after a pause.
"Perhaps he thought you had given him the right to guide you," said Aunt Faith.
"I have never given him any right," said Sibyl, hastily. "I presume he thinks I am a selfish, hard-hearted creature," she added in another tone.
"He thinks more highly of you than your own aunt did, Sibyl; he said so himself. He believes, or has believed, firmly in the purity of your religious faith and firm principle. I have several times been surprised to see how sure he was of you."
"He asked too much," said Sibyl; "he is too severe with me."
"Not more severe than he is with himself, my dear. He has taken all his little savings for Margaret Brown, and I presume those savings represent comforts, not luxuries like pearls."
"Mr. Leslie should not try me by the same test he uses for himself; I cannot stand it."
"That is where he made his mistake, my dear. He thought you could."
Sibyl colored angrily. "Mr. Leslie is an enthusiast," she said; "he expects people to throw down all their treasures at his feet."
"Not at his feet; at the foot of the cross, dear."
"Aunt Faith, do you really believe people can be happy in such a life?" said Sibyl vehemently.
"Mr. Leslie is happy, my child."
"He is a single man with few cares. I am alluding to married people, burdened with responsibility and anxiety."
"If they are so burdened, my dear, so much the more reason why they should seek help from Him who said 'come unto me all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'"
"But in every-day life there are so many petty annoyances, aunt."
"Will they be any the less annoying without His aid, dear?"
"They will be less annoying if people are rich, Aunt Faith."
"Some of the most unhappy women I have ever known, have been rich, Sibyl."
"But I would not be one of those, aunt. I would be rich and happy at the same time."
"If you could, my dear. But wealth brings with it its own troubles; sometimes in the shape of the donor; I trust you would not marry for money?"
"Not for money alone, aunt. But I see no reason why a rich man might not be loved for himself as well as a poor man. It does not follow that because a man is rich he must therefore be selfish or ill-tempered."
"Certainly not, my dear; but we will not discuss it any longer, at present. You are young, and I wish you to understand yourself thoroughly. Take no rash steps, and remember that wealth is as nothing compared to a true heart, and that this world's best treasures are perishable, while religious faith abides with us through life and death into eternity."
In the afternoon Mr. Leslie came again to the old stone house, and inquired for Mrs. Sheldon. "I have come to ask for your horses," he said, as Aunt Faith entered the parlor; I have secured a large carriage that will take all the family, and now, if you will send Jonas down with the horses, we can hope to have Margaret safely established at Mr. Green's before night."
"Certainly, Mr. Leslie. Is there nothing more I can do?"
"Not to-day, thank you. I shall go out with them myself."
"How are the children?"
"Worse, I fear; but I have large faith in country air."
"I shall be anxious to know how they bear the ride."
"I will stop on my way home as I must come back with the carriage," said the young clergyman as he went away.
"Was not that Mr. Leslie?" asked Hugh, coming in from the dining-room a few moments afterward.
"Yes," replied Aunt Faith; "he came to see me on business."
"Didn't he ask for Sibyl?" said Hugh.
"No," replied Aunt Faith, with a warning look at her nephew, as Sibyl came in. But Hugh was not to be warned. "Sibyl," he said, "Mr. Leslie has been here and did not ask for you."
"Is that so very surprising?" said his sister coldly; she had regained all her composure and her face was calm and quiet.
"Of course it is surprising," said Hugh bluntly. "He has been in the habit of coming here to see you for months, and, let me tell you, Sibyl, he is one in a thousand; he is a hero, every inch, and I heartily respect and like him."
"I have said nothing to the contrary, Hugh."
"Don't be a hypocrite, Sibyl," said Hugh with brotherly frankness. "I am not good at splitting hairs, but there is no more comparison between Mr. Leslie and Graham Marr, than there is between an eagle and a sickly chicken."
"I have never thought of comparing them, Hugh. I do not like comparisons, and yours is entirely unjust. But even supposing it was correct, _I_ have no taste for standing on a mountain-peak, in the icy air of unknown heights, and gazing at the sun all day as an eagle does," said Sibyl, as she crossed the hall into the parlor. In a few moments the Spring-Song sounded forth from the piano, and under cover of the music, Hugh said to Aunt Faith, "There is nothing wrong between them I hope?"
"There is nothing between them either right or wrong," replied Aunt Faith with a sigh. "Sibyl is not suited to Mr. Leslie."
"Then it is her fault," said Hugh warmly. "There is no doubt in my mind that John Leslie is deeply interested in her, and I should be proud and glad to have him for a brother. He is the truest, most honest man I know."
"That is because he is such a sincere, earnest Christian."
"I know it, aunt. He works hard, and he thoroughly believes in his work. He really thinks there is nothing in the city so vitally important as that little chapel, and those workmen."
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