FictionForest

Chapter 10 – Rose’s Sacrifice

Louisa May AlcottNov 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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There certainly were "larks" on Campbell’s Island next day, as
Charlie had foretold, and Rose took her part in them like one
intent on enjoying every minute to the utmost. There was a merry
breakfast, a successful fishing expedition, and then the lobsters
came out in full force, for even Aunt Jessie appeared in red
flannel. There was nothing Uncle Alec could not do in the water,
and the boys tried their best to equal him in strength and skill, so
there was a great diving and ducking, for every one was bent on
distinguishing himself.

Rose swam out far beyond her depth, with uncle to float her back;
Aunt Jessie splashed placidly in the shallow pools, with Jamie
paddling near by like a little whale beside its mother; while the
lads careered about, looking like a flock of distracted flamingoes,
and acting like the famous dancing party in "Alice’s Adventures in
Wonderland."

Nothing but chowder would have lured them from their gambols in
the briny deep; that time-honoured dish demanded the
concentrated action of several mighty minds; so the "Water
Babies" came ashore and fell to cooking.

It is unnecessary to say that, when done, it was the most
remarkable chowder ever cooked, and the quantity eaten would
have amazed the world if the secret had been divulged. After this
exertion a siesta was considered the thing, and people lay about in
tents or out as they pleased, the boys looking like warriors
slumbering where they fell.

The elders had just settled to a comfortable nap when the
youngsters rose, refreshed and ready for further exploits. A hint
sent them all off to the cave, and there were discovered bows and
arrows, battle clubs, old swords, and various relics of an
interesting nature. Perched upon a commanding rock, with Jamie
to "splain" things to her, Rose beheld a series of stirring scenes
enacted with great vigour and historical accuracy by her gifted
relatives.

Captain Cook was murdered by the natives of Owhyhee in the
most thrilling manner. Captain Kidd buried untold wealth in the
chowder kettle at the dead of night, and shot both the trusting
villains who shared the secret of the hiding place. Sinbad came
ashore there and had manifold adventures, and numberless wrecks
bestrewed the sands.

Rose considered them by far the most exciting dramas she had
ever witnessed; and when the performance closed with a grand
ballet of Feejee Islanders, whose barbaric yells alarmed the gulls,
she had no words in which to express her gratification.

Another swim at sunset, another merry evening on the rocks
watching the lighted steamers pass seaward and the pleasure-boats
come into port, ended the second day of the camping out, and sent
everyone to bed early that they might be ready for the festivities of
the morrow.

"Archie, didn’t I hear uncle ask you to row home in the morning
for fresh milk and things?"

"Yes, why?"

"Please, may I go too? I have something of great importance to
arrange; you know I was carried off in a hurry," Rose said in a
confidential whisper as she was bidding her cousins good night.

"I’m willing, and I guess Charlie won’t mind."

"Thank you; be sure you stand by me when I ask leave in the
morning, and don’t say anything till then, except to Charlie.
Promise," urged Rose, so eagerly, that Archie struck an attitude
and cried dramatically

"By yonder moon I swear!"

"Hush! it’s all right, go along"; and Rose departed as if satisfied.

"She’s a queer little thing, isn’t she, Prince?"

"Rather a nice little thing, I think. I’m quite fond of her."

Rose’s quick ears caught both remarks, and she retired to her tent,
saying to herself with sleepy dignity

"Little thing, indeed! Those boys talk as if I was a baby. They will
treat me with more respect after to-morrow, I guess."

Archie did stand by her in the morning, and her request was readily
granted, as the lads were coming directly back. Off they went, and
Rose waved her hand to the islanders with a somewhat pensive air,
for an heroic purpose glowed within her, and the spirit of
self-sacrifice was about to be illustrated in a new and touching
manner.

While the boys got the milk Rose ran to Phebe, ordered her to
leave her dishes, to put on her hat, and take a note back to Uncle
Alec, which would explain this somewhat mysterious
performance. Phebe obeyed, and when she went to the boat Rose
accompanied her, telling the boys she was not ready to go yet, but
they could, some of them, come for her when she hung a white
signal on her balcony.

"But why not come now? What are you about, miss? Uncle won’t
like it," protested Charlie, in great amazement.

"Just do as I tell you, little boy; uncle will understand and explain.
Obey, as Phebe does, and ask no questions. I can have secrets as
well as other people"; and Rose walked off with an air of lofty
independence that impressed her friends immensely.

"It’s some plot between uncle and herself, so we won’t meddle. All
right, Phebe? Pull away, Prince"; and off they went to be received
with much surprise by the islanders.

This was the note Phebe bore:

"Dear Uncle, I am going to take Phebe’s place to-day, and let her
have all the fun she can. Please don’t mind what she says, but keep
her, and tell the boys to be very good to her for my sake. Don’t
think it is easy to do this; it is very hard to give up the best day of
all, but I feel so selfish to have all the pleasure and Phebe none,
that I wish to make this sacrifice. Do let me, and don’t laugh at it; I
truly do not wish to be praised, and I truly want to do it. Love to all
from

"Rose."

"Bless the little dear, what a generous heart she has! Shall we go
after her, Jessie, or let her have her way?" said Dr. Alec, after the
first mingled amusement and astonishment had subsided.

"Let her alone, and don’t spoil her little sacrifice. She means it, I
know, and the best way in which we can show our respect for her
effort is to give Phebe a pleasant day. I’m sure she has earned it";
and Mrs. Jessie made a sign to the boys to suppress their
disappointment and exert themselves to please Rose’s guest.

Phebe was with difficulty kept from going straight home, and
declared that she should not enjoy herself one bit without Miss
Rose.

"She won’t hold out all day, and we shall see her paddling back
before noon, I’ll wager anything," said Charlie; and the rest so
strongly inclined to his opinion that they resigned themselves to
the loss of the little queen of the revels, sure that it would be only
a temporary one.

But hour after hour passed, and no signal appeared on the balcony,
though Phebe watched it hopefully. No passing boat brought the
truant back, though more than one pair of eyes looked out for the
bright hair under the round hat; and sunset came, bringing no Rose
but the lovely colour in the western sky.

"I really did not think the child had it in her. I fancied it was a bit
of sentiment, but I see she was in earnest, and means that her
sacrifice shall be a true one. Dear little soul! I’ll make it up to her a
thousand times over, and beg her pardon for thinking it might be
done for effect," Dr. Alec said remorsefully, as he strained his eyes
through the dusk, fancying he saw a small figure sitting in the
garden as it had sat on the keg the night before, laying the
generous little plot that had cost more than he could guess.

"Well, she can’t help seeing the fireworks, any way, unless she is
goose enough to think she must hide in a dark closet and not look,"
said Archie, who was rather disgusted at Rose’s seeming
ingratitude.

"She will see ours capitally, but miss the big ones on the hill,
unless papa has forgotten all about them," added Steve, cutting
short the harangue Mac had begun upon the festivals of the
ancients.

"I’m sure the sight of her will be better than the finest fireworks
that ever went off," said Phebe, meditating an elopement with one
of the boats if she could get a chance.

"Let things work; if she resists a brilliant invitation we give her she
will be a heroine," added Uncle Alec, secretly hoping that she
would not.

Meanwhile Rose had spent a quiet, busy day helping Dolly,
waiting on Aunt Peace, and steadily resisting Aunt Plenty’s
attempts to send her back to the happy island. It had been hard in
the morning to come in from the bright world outside, with flags
flying, cannon booming, crackers popping, and everyone making
ready for a holiday, and go to washing cups, while Dolly grumbled
and the aunts lamented. It was very hard to see the day go by,
knowing how gay each hour must have been across the water, and
how a word from her would take her where she longed to be with
all her heart. But it was hardest of all when evening came and
Aunt Peace was asleep, Aunt Plenty seeing a gossip in the parlor,
Dolly established in the porch to enjoy the show, and nothing left
for the little maid to do but sit alone in her balcony and watch the
gay rockets whizz up from island, hill, and city, while bands
played and boats laden with happy people went to and fro in the
fitful light.

Then it must be confessed that a tear or two dimmed the blue eyes,
and once, when a very brilliant display illuminated the island for a
moment, and she fancied she saw the tents, the curly head went
down on the railing, and a wide-awake nasturtium heard a little
whisper

"I hope someone wishes I was there!"

The tears were all gone, however, and she was watching the hill
and island answer each other with what Jamie called "whizzers,
whirligigs and busters," and smiling as she thought how hard the
boys must be working to keep up such a steady fire, when Uncle
Mac came walking in upon her, saying hurriedly

"Come, child, put on your tippet, pelisse, or whatever you call it,
and run off with me. I came to get Phebe, but aunt says she is
gone, so I want you. I’ve got Fun down in the boat, and I want you
to go with us and see my fireworks. Got them up for you, and you
mustn’t miss them, or I shall be disappointed."

"But, uncle," began Rose, feeling as if she ought to refuse even a
glimpse of bliss, "perhaps "

"I know, my dear, I know; aunt told me; but no one needs you now
so much as I do, and I insist on your coming," said Uncle Mac,
who seemed in a great hurry to be off, yet was unusually kind.

So Rose went and found the little Chinaman with a funny lantern
waiting to help her in and convulse her with laughter trying to
express his emotions in pigeon English. The city clocks were
striking nine as they got out into the bay, and the island fireworks
seemed to be over, for no rocket answered the last Roman candle
that shone on the Aunt-hill.

"Ours are done, I see, but they are going up all round the city, and
how pretty they are," said Rose, folding her mantle about her, and
surveying the scene with pensive interest.

"Hope my fellows have not got into trouble up there," muttered
Uncle Mac, adding with a satisfied chuckle, as a spark shone out,
"No; there it goes! Look, Rosy, and see how you like this one; it
was ordered especially in honour of your coming."

Rose looked with all her eyes, and saw the spark grow into the
likeness of a golden vase, then green leaves came out, and then a
crimson flower glowing on the darkness with a splendid lustre.

"Is it a rose, uncle?" she asked, clasping her hands with delight as
she recognised the handsome flower.

"Of course it is! Look again, and guess what those are," answered
Uncle Mac, chuckling and enjoying it all like a boy.

A wreath of what looked at first like purple brooms appeared
below the vase, but Rose guessed what they were meant for, and
stood straight up, holding by his shoulder, and crying excitedly

"Thistles, uncle, Scotch thistles! There are seven of them one for
each boy! Oh, what a joke!" and she laughed so that she plumped
into the bottom of the boat and stayed there till the brilliant
spectacle was quite gone.

"That was rather a neat thing, I flatter myself," said Uncle Mac, in
high glee at the success of his illumination. "Now, shall I leave you
on the Island or take you home again, my good little girl?" he
added, lifting her up with such a tone of approbation in his voice
that Rose kissed him on the spot.

"Home, please uncle; and I thank you very very much for the
beautiful firework you got up for me. I’m so glad I saw it; and I
know I shall dream about it," answered Rose steadily, though a
wistful glance went toward the Island, now so near that she could
smell powder and see shadowy figures flitting about.

Home they went; and Rose fell asleep saying to herself, "It was
harder than I thought, but I’m glad I did it, and I truly don’t want
any reward but Phebe’s pleasure."

 

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