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- Modern Broods - 40/47 -
How Fergus divided his cares between the strata and Dolores' kodak, how even his photography could not spoil Aunt Alda; how charming a group of sisters Dolores contrived to produce; how Adrian was the proud pioneer into a coach adorned with stalactites and antediluvian bones; how Anna collected milkwort and violets for Aunt Cherry; how a sly push sent little Joan in a headlong career down a slope that might have resulted in a terrible fall, but did only cause a tumble and great fright, and a severe reprimand from the elder sisters; how Agatha was entranced by the glorious view in the clearness of spring, how they ate their sandwiches and tried to think it was not cold; how grey east wind mist came over the distance and warned them it was time to trot down,--all this must belong to the annals of later Vale Leston; and of those years of youth which in each generation leave impressions as of sunbeams for life. And on their return, Dolores found a letter which filled her with a fresh idea. It was from her father in New Zealand, telling her that there was an opening for her to come and give a course of lectures on electricity at Canterbury, Auckland and the other towns, and proposing to her to come out with her lady assistant, when she might very probably extend her tour to Australia.
"Would you come, Naggie?" asked Dolores.
"Oh! I should like nothing half so well. If you could only wait till my turn is over, and the exam!"
"Of course! Why, we shall not have finished the correspondence till after the examination! How capital it will be! My father will like your bright face, and you will think him like Fergus grown older. Will your sister consent?"
"Oh! Magdalen will be glad enough to have me off on a career. We will write and prepare her mind. I believe I am not to go home, so as to bring a clean bill of health to St. Robert's."
"I really think," added Dolores, "that Magdalen would make an admirable head matron, or whatever you call it!"
"Dear old thing! She is very fond of her Goyle."
"True, but Sophy's engineer husband tells us that a new line is projected to Rock Quay, through the very heart of the Goyle, Act of Parliament, compulsory sale and all."
"Well! work might console her for being uprooted, and she is quite youthful enough to take to it with spirit."
"Besides that she would greatly console Clement and Cherry for the profanation of their Penbeacon. I declare I will suggest it to Arthurine!"
So the two young people resolved, not without a consciousness that what was to them a fresh and inspiring gale, to the elder generation was "winds have rent thy sheltering bowers."
CHAPTER XXVII--A SENTENCE
"What should we give for our beloved?" - E. B. BROWNING.
No sooner had the visitors departed than the others now out of quarantine appeared at Vale Leston. Angela was anxious to spend a little time there, and likewise to have Lena overhauled by Tom May. The child had never really recovered, and was always weakly; and whereas on the journey, Lily, now in high health, was delighted with all she saw, though she could not compare Penbeacon to Adam's Peak, Lena lay back in Sister Angela's arms, almost a dead weight, hardly enduring the bustle of the train, though she tried not to whine, as long as she saw her pink Ben looking happy in his cage.
Angela was an experienced nurse, and was alarmed at some of the symptoms that others made light of. Mrs. Grinstead had thought things might be made easier to her if the Miss Merrifields came to meet her and hear the doctor's opinion; and Elizabeth accepted her invitation, arriving to see the lovely peaceful world in the sweet blossoming of an early May, the hedges spangled with primroses, and the hawthorns showing sheets of snow; while the pear trees lifted their snowy pyramids, and Lily in her white frock darted about the lawn in joyous play with her father under the tree, and the grey cloister was gay with wisteria.
Angela was sitting in the boat, safely moored, with a book in her hand, the pink cockatoo on the gunwale, nibbling at a stick, and the girl lying on a rug, partly on her lap. Phyllis and Anna, who had come out on the lawn, made Elizabeth pause.
"That's the way they go on!" said Phyllis. "All day long Angela is reading to the child either the 'Water Babies' or the history of Joseph."
"Or crooning to her the story of the Cross," said Anna; "and as soon as one is ended she begins it again, and Lena will not let her miss or alter a single word."
"They go on more than half the night," added Phyllis. "Bear sat up long over his letters and accounts, and as he went up he heard the crooning, and looked in; and the very moment Angela paused, there came the little plaintive voice, 'Go on, please.' 'Women are following'--"
"But is not that spoiling her?" asked Bessie.
A look of sad meaning passed between her two companions. Phyllis shook her head slightly, and, instead of answering, conducted Bessie on to the bank, when Angela looked up and made a sign that she could not move or speak, for the child was asleep. The yellow head was shaded by Angela's parasol, the thin hair lying ruffled on the black dress, and the small face looked more pinched than when the aunt had last seen it, nearly a year previously. She had watched the decay of aged folks, but she was unused to the illnesses of children; and she recoiled with a little shock, as she looked down at the little wasted face, with a slight flush of sleep. "Recovery from measles," she said.
Phyllis smiled a little pitifully as her own little girl, all radiant with health and joy, came skipping up, performing antics over her father's hand. "Take care, Lily, don't wake poor little Lena," was murmured quietly.
"Northern breezes--" began Bessie, but the voices had broken the light slumber; and as Angela began, "See, Lena, here is Aunt Bessie," the effect was to make her throw herself over Angela's shoulder and hide her face; and when her protector tried to turn her round and reason her into courtesy, she began to cry in a feeble manner.
"She has had a bad night," said motherly Phyllis; "let her alone."
"May not I get down into the boat?" asked Lily. "I'll be very good."
There would have been a little hesitation, but at the voice Lena looked up and called "Lily, Lily!" Bernard lifted his small daughter down, Elizabeth was not sorry to be led away for the present, and when, after a turn in the rose garden, she came back, the two children were sitting with arms round one another, holding a conversation with Ben, the cockatoo, and making him dance on one of the benches of the boat, under Angela's supervision, lest he should end by dancing overboard. The rich fair hair, shining dark blue eyes, and plump glowing cheeks of Lily were a contrast to the wan wasted colouring of her little cousin; but Lena was more herself now than when just awake, and let Lily lead her up and introduce her, as it might be called, to Cousin Bessie as Lily called her, a less formidable sound than "Aunt Elizabeth." They were both kissed, and she endured it. Angela was, as her brothers and sisters said, "very good," and scrupulously abstained from absorbing the child all the evening, letting Elizabeth show her pictures and tell her stories, to which, by Lily's example, she listened quietly enough and with interest.
When the two children went off, hand in hand, to their beds, Elizabeth said, "Really, Magdalen is improved. If you leave Lily with her, Phyllis, I think we should get on beautifully. The bracing air will do wonders for them both."
"Thank you," said poor Phyllis forbearingly; "we have not made our plans about Lily yet."
But Elizabeth thought out a beautiful scheme of discipline and study in the long light hours of the morning, and began to feel herself drawn towards her delicate little niece, feeling sure that the little thing would soon be Susan's darling, if Susan could be brought to endure the cockatoo walking loose about the house.
Early in the day Professor May appeared, and was hailed as an old friend by all the Underwoods. He rejoiced to see Clement looking well and active; and "as to this fellow," he said, looking at Bernard, "it shows what development will do."
"Not quite the young Bear of Stoneborough," said Clement, leaning affectionately on his broad shoulder; "our skittish pair are grown very sober-minded. But you have not told us of your father."
"My father is very well. He walks down every day to sit with my wife, and visits a selection of his old patients, who are getting few enough now. This is not my patient, I suppose?"
"Unless you are ready to prescribe only laughing and good Jersey cows' milk," said Bernard, pulling the long silky brown hair. "Where's mother, little one?"
"Mother sent me to say Aunt Angel is ready, if Dr. May will come up to Aunt Cherry's room. Lena is frightened, and they did not like to leave her."
It was a long visit, after Phyllis had come down; and, walking up and down the cloister with Bessie Merrifield, listened to her schemes of education for the little maidens. Lily she liked and admired, and she was convinced that Magdalen's weak health and spirits were the result of the spoiling system. Phyllis trembled a little as she heard of the knocking about, out-of-doors ways that had certainly produced fine strong healthy frames and upright characters, but she forbore to say that if her little girl had to be left, it would be to her mother and Mysie.
By and by Tom came down, and finding Geraldine alone in the drawing- room, he answered her inquiry with a very grave look. "Poor little
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