Rose did tell "the people" what had passed, and no one "howled"
over Mac, or said a word to trouble him. He had his talk with the
doctor, and got very little comfort out of it, for he found that "just
what he might do" was nothing at all; though the prospect of some
study by and by, if all went well, gave him courage to bear the
woes of the present. Having made up his mind to this, he behaved
so well that everyone was astonished, never having suspected so
much manliness in the quiet Worm.
The boys were much impressed, both by the greatness of the
affliction which hung over him and by his way of bearing it. They
were very good to him, but not always particularly wise in their
attempts to cheer and amuse; and Rose often found him much
downcast after a visit of condolence from the Clan. She still kept
her place as head-nurse and chief-reader, though the boys did their
best in an irregular sort of way. They were rather taken aback
sometimes at finding Rose’s services preferred to their’s, and
privately confided to one another that "Old Mac was getting fond
of being molly-coddled." But they could not help seeing how
useful she was, and owning that she alone had remained faithful a
fact which caused some of them much secret compunction now
Rose felt that she ruled in that room, if nowhere else, for Aunt
Jane left a great deal to her, finding that her experience with her
invalid father fitted her for a nurse, and in a case like this, her
youth was an advantage rather than a drawback. Mac soon came to
think that no one could take care of him so well as Rose, and Rose
soon grew fond of her patient, though at first she had considered
this cousin the least attractive of the seven. He was not polite and
sensible like Archie, nor gay and handsome like Prince Charlie,
nor neat and obliging like Steve, nor amusing like the "Brats," nor
confiding and affectionate like little Jamie. He was rough,
absent-minded, careless, and awkward, rather priggish, and not at
all agreeable to a dainty, beauty-loving girl like Rose.
But when his trouble came upon him, she discovered many good
things in this cousin of hers, and learned not only to pity but to
respect and love the poor Worm, who tried to be patient, brave,
and cheerful, and found it a harder task than anyone guessed,
except the little nurse, who saw him in his gloomiest moods. She
soon came to think that his friends did not appreciate him, and
upon one occasion was moved to free her mind in a way that made
a deep impression on the boys.
Vacation was almost over, and the time drawing near when Mac
would be left outside the happy school-world which he so much
enjoyed. This made him rather low in his mind, and his cousins
exerted themselves to cheer him up, especially one afternoon when
a spasm of devotion seemed to seize them all. Jamie trudged down
the hill with a basket of blackberries which he had "picked all his
ownself," as his scratched fingers and stained lips plainly testified.
Will and Geordie brought their puppies to beguile the weary hours,
and the three elder lads called to discuss baseball, cricket, and
kindred subjects, eminently fitted to remind the invalid of his
Rose had gone to drive with Uncle Alec, who declared she was
getting as pale as a potato sprout, living so much in a dark room.
But her thoughts were with her boy all the while, and she ran up to
him the moment she returned, to find things in a fine state of
With the best intentions in life, the lads had done more harm than
good, and the spectacle that met Nurse Rose’s eye was a trying
one. The puppies were yelping, the small boys romping, and the
big boys all talking at once; the curtains were up, the room close,
berries scattered freely about, Mac’s shade half off, his cheeks
flushed, his temper ruffled, and his voice loudest of all as he
disputed hotly with Steve about lending certain treasured books
which he could no longer use.
Now Rose considered this her special kingdom, and came down
upon the invaders with an energy which amazed them and quelled
the riot at once. They had never seen her roused before, and the
effect was tremendous; also comical, for she drove the whole flock
of boys out of the room like an indignant little hen defending her
brood. They all went as meekly as sheep; the small lads fled from
the house precipitately, but the three elder ones only retired to the
next room, and remained there hoping for a chance to explain and
apologise, and so appease the irate young lady, who had suddenly
turned the tables and clattered them about their ears.
As they waited, they observed her proceedings through the
half-open door, and commented upon them briefly but
expressively, feeling quite bowed down with remorse at the harm
they had innocently done.
"She’s put the room to rights in a jiffey. What jacks we were to let
those dogs in and kick up such a row," observed Steve, after a
"The poor old Worm turns as if she was treading on him instead of
cuddling him like a pussy cat. Isn’t he cross, though?" added
Charlie, as Mac was heard growling about his "confounded head."
"She will manage him; but it’s mean in us to rumple him up and
then leave her to smooth him down. I’d go and help, but I don’t
know how," said Archie. looking much depressed, for he was a
conscientious fellow, and blamed himself for his want of thought.
"No, more do I. Odd, isn’t it, what a knack women have for taking
care of sick folks?" and Charlie fell a-musing over this undeniable
"She has been ever so good to Mac," began Steve, in a
"Better than his own brother, hey?" cut in Archie, finding relief for
his own regret in the delinquencies of another.
"Well, you needn’t preach; you didn’t any of you do any more, and
you might have, for Mac likes you better than he does me. I always
fret him, he says, and it isn’t my fault if I am a quiddle," protested
Steve, in self-defence.
"We have all been selfish and neglected him, so we won’t fight
about it, but try and do better," said Archie, generously taking
more than his share of blame, for he had been less inattentive than
either of the others.
"Rose has stood by him like a good one, and it’s no wonder he likes
to have her round best. I should myself if I was down on my luck
as he is," put in Charlie, feeling that he really had not done "the
little thing" justice.
"I’ll tell you what it is, boys we haven’t been half good enough to
Rose, and we’ve got to make it up to her somehow," said Archie,
who had a very manly sense of honour about paying his debts,
even to a girl.
"I’m awfully sorry I made fun of her doll when Jamie lugged it out;
and I called her ‘baby bunting’ when she cried over the dead kitten.
Girls are such geese sometimes, I can’t help it," said Steve,
confessing his transgressions handsomely, and feeling quite ready
to atone for them if he only knew how.
"I’ll go down on my knees and beg her pardon for treating her as if
she was a child. Don’t it make her mad, though? Come to think of
it, she’s only two years or so younger than I am. But she is so small
and pretty, she always seems like a dolly to me," and the Prince
looked down from his lofty height of five feet five as if Rose was
indeed a pygmy beside him.
"That dolly has got a real good little heart, and a bright mind of her
own, you’d better believe. Mac says she understands some things
quicker than he can, and mother thinks she is an uncommonly nice
girl, though she don’t know all creation. You needn’t put on airs,
Charlie, though you are a tall one, for Rose likes Archie better than
you; she said she did because he treated her respectfully."
"Steve looks as fierce as a game-cock; but don’t you get excited,
my son, for it won’t do a bit of good. Of course, everybody likes
the Chief best; they ought to, and I’ll punch their heads if they
don’t. So calm yourself, Dandy, and mend your own manners
before you come down on other people’s."
Thus the Prince with great dignity and perfect good nature, while
Archie looked modestly gratified with the flattering opinions of his
kinsfolk, and Steve subsided, feeling he had done his duty as a
cousin and a brother. A pause ensued, during which Aunt Jane
appeared in the other room, accompanied by a tea-tray
sumptuously spread, and prepared to feed her big nestling, as that
was a task she allowed no one to share with her.
"If you have a minute to spare before you go, child, I wish you’d
just make Mac a fresh shade; this has got a berry stain on it, and he
must be tidy, for he is to go out to-morrow if it is a cloudy day,"
said Mrs. Jane, spreading toast in a stately manner, while Mac
slopped his tea about without receiving a word of reproof.
"Yes, aunt," answered Rose, so meekly that the boys could hardly
believe it could be the same voice which had issued the stern
command, "Out of this room, every one of you!" not very long ago.
They had not time to retire, without unseemly haste, before she
walked into the parlour and sat down at the work-table without a
word. It was funny to see the look the three tall lads cast at the
little person sedately threading a needle with green silk. They all
wanted to say something expressive of repentance, but no one
knew how to begin, and it was evident, from the prim expression
of Rose’s face, that she intended to stand upon her dignity till they
had properly abased themselves. The pause was becoming very
awkward, when Charlie, who possessed all the persuasive arts of a
born scapegrace, went slowly down upon his knees before her,
beat his breast, and said, in a heart-broken tone
"Please forgive me this time, and I’ll never do so any more."
It was very hard to keep sober, but Rose managed it and answered
"It is Mac’s pardon you should ask, not mine, for you haven’t hurt
me, and I shouldn’t wonder if you had him a great deal, with all
that light and racket, and talk about things that only worry him."
"Do you really think we’ve hurt him, cousin?" asked Archie, with a
troubled look, while Charlie settled down in a remorseful heap
among the table legs.
"Yes, I do, for he has got a raging headache, and his eyes are as red
as as this emery bag," answered Rose, solemnly plunging her
needle into a fat flannel strawberry.
Steve tore his hair, metaphorically speaking, for he clutched his
cherished top-knot, and wildly dishevelled it, as if that was the
heaviest penance he could inflict upon himself at such short
notice. Charlie laid himself out flat, melodramatically begging
someone to take him away and hang him; but Archie, who felt
worst of all, said nothing except to vow within himself that he
would read to Mac till his own eyes were as red as a dozen emery
Seeing the wholesome effects of her treatment upon these culprits,
Rose felt that she might relent and allow them a gleam of hope.
She found it impossible to help trampling upon the prostrate
Prince a little, in words at least, for he had hurt her feelings oftener
than he knew; so she gave him a thimble-pie on the top of his
head, and said, with an air of an infinitely superior being
"Don’t be silly, but get up, and I’ll tell you something much better
to do than sprawling on the floor and getting all over lint."
Charlie obediently sat himself upon a hassock at her feet; the other
sinners drew near to catch the words of wisdom about to fall from
her lips, and Rose, softened by this gratifying humility, addressed
them in her most maternal tone.
"Now, boys, if you really want to be good to Mac, you can do it in
this way. Don’t keep talking about things he can’t do, or go and tell
what fun you have had batting your ridiculous balls about. Get
some nice book and read quietly; cheer him up about school, and
offer to help him study by and by; you can do that better than I,
because I’m only a girl, and don’t learn Greek and Latin and all
sorts of headachy stuff."
"Yes, but you can do heaps of things better than we can; you’ve
proved that," said Archie, with an approving look that delighted
Rose, though she could not resist giving Charlie one more rebuke,
by saying, with a little bridling of the head, and a curl of the lip
that wanted to smile instead
"I’m glad you think so, though I am a ‘queer chicken."’
This scathing remark caused the Prince to hide his face for shame,
and Steve to erect his head in the proud consciousness that this
shot was not meant for him. Archie laughed, and Rose, seeing a
merry blue eye winking at her from behind two brown hands, gave
Charlie’s ear a friendly tweak, and extended the olive-branch of
"Now we’ll all be good, and plan nice things for poor Mac," she
said, smiling so graciously that the boys felt as if the sun had
suddenly burst out from behind a heavy cloud and was shining
with great brilliancy.
The storm had cleared the air, and quite a heavenly calm
succeeded, during which plans of a most varied and surprising sort
were laid, for everyone burned to make noble sacrifices upon the
shrine of "poor Mac," and Rose was the guiding star to whom the
others looked with most gratifying submission. Of course, this
elevated state of things could not endure long, but it was very nice
while it lasted, and left an excellent effect upon the minds of all
when the first ardour had subsided.
"There, that’s ready for to-morrow, and I do hope it will be
cloudy," said Rose, as she finished off the new shade, the progress
of which the boys had watched with interest.
"I’d bespoken an extra sunny day, but I’ll tell the clerk of the
weather to change it. He’s an obliging fellow, and he’ll attend to it,
so make yourself easy," said Charlie, who had become quite perky
"It is very easy for you to joke, but how would you like to wear a
blinder like that for weeks and weeks, sir?" and Rose quenched his
rising spirits by slipping the shade over his eyes, as he still sat on
the cushion at her feet.
"It’s horrid! Take it off, take it off! I don’t wonder the poor old boy
has the blues with a thing like that on"; and Charlie sat looking at
what seemed to him an instrument of torture, with such a sober
face that Rose took it gently away, and went in to bid Mac
"I shall go home with her, for it is getting darkish, and she is rather
timid," said Archie, forgetting that he had often laughed at this
"I think I might, for she’s taking care of my brother," put in Steve,
asserting his rights.
"Let’s all go, that will please her"; proposed Charlie, with a burst
of gallantry which electrified his mates.
"We will!" they said with one voice, and they did, to Rose’s great
surprise and secret contentment; though Archie had all the care of
her, for the other two were leaping fences, running races, and
having wrestling matches all the way down.
They composed themselves on reaching the door, however; shook
hands cordially all round, made their best bows, and retired with
great elegance and dignity, leaving Rose to say to herself, with
girlish satisfaction, as she went in
"Now, that is the way I like to be treated."