Uncle Alec did not object and, finding that no one had any claim
upon the child, permitted Rose to keep it for a time at least. So
little Dulce, newly equipped even to a name, took her place among
them and slowly began to thrive. But she did not grow pretty and
never was a gay, attractive child, for she seemed to have been born
in sorrow and brought up in misery. A pale, pensive little creature,
always creeping into corners and looking timidly out, as if asking
leave to live, and, when offered playthings, taking them with a
meek surprise that was very touching.
Rose soon won her heart, and then almost wished she had not, for
baby clung to her with inconvenient fondness, changing her former
wail of "Marmar" into a lament for "Aunty Wose" if separated
long. Nevertheless, there was great satisfaction in cherishing the
little waif, for she learned more than she could teach and felt a
sense of responsibility which was excellent ballast for her
Kitty Van, who made Rose her model in all things, was
immediately inspired to go and do likewise, to the great
amusement as well as annoyance of her family. Selecting the
prettiest, liveliest child in the Asylum, she took it home on trial for
a week. "A perfect cherub" she pronounced it the first day, but an
"enfant terrible" before the week was over, for the young hero
rioted by day, howled by night, ravaged the house from top to
bottom, and kept his guardians in a series of panics by his
hairbreadth escapes. So early on Saturday, poor exhausted Kitty
restored the "cherub" with many thanks, and decided to wait until
her views of education were rather more advanced.
As the warm weather came on, Rose announced that Dulce needed
mountain air, for she dutifully repeated as many of Dr. Alec’s
prescriptions as possible and, remembering how much good Cozy
Corner did her long ago, resolved to try it on her baby. Aunt Jessie
and Jamie went with her, and Mother Atkinson received them as
cordially as ever. The pretty daughters were all married and gone,
but a stout damsel took their place, and nothing seemed changed
except that the old heads were grayer and the young ones a good
deal taller than six years ago.
Jamie immediately fraternized with neighboring boys and devoted
himself to fishing with an ardor which deserved greater success.
Aunt Jessie reveled in reading, for which she had no time at home,
and lay in her hammock a happy woman, with no socks to darn,
buttons to sew, or housekeeping cares to vex her soul.
Rose went about with Dulce like a very devoted hen with one
rather feeble chicken, for she was anxious to have this treatment
work well and tended her little patient with daily increasing
satisfaction. Dr. Alec came up to pass a few days and pronounced
the child in a most promising condition. But the grand event of the
season was the unexpected arrival of Phebe.
Two of her pupils had invited her to join them in a trip to the
mountains, and she ran away from the great hotel to surprise her
little mistress with a sight of her, so well and happy that Rose had
no anxiety left on her account.
Three delightful days they spent, roaming about together, talking
as only girls can talk after a long separation, and enjoying one
another like a pair of lovers. As if to make it quite perfect, by one
of those remarkable coincidences which sometimes occur, Archie
happened to run up for the Sunday, so Phebe had her surprise, and
Aunt Jessie and the telegraph kept their secret so well, no one ever
knew what maternal machinations brought the happy accident to
Then Rose saw a very pretty, pastoral bit of lovemaking, and long
after it was over, and Phebe gone one way, Archie another, the
echo of sweet words seemed to linger in the air, tender ghosts to
haunt the pine grove, and even the big coffeepot had a halo of
romance about it, for its burnished sides reflected the soft glances
the lovers interchanged as one filled the other’s cup at that last
Rose found these reminiscences more interesting than any novel
she had read, and often beguiled her long leisure by planning a
splendid future for her Phebe as she trotted about after her baby in
the lovely July weather.
On one of the most perfect days she sat under an old apple tree on
the slope behind the house where they used to play. Before her
opened the wide intervale, dotted with haymakers at their
picturesque work. On the left flowed the swift river fringed with
graceful elms in their bravest greenery; on the right rose the purple
hills serene and grand; and overhead glowed the midsummer sky,
which glorified it all.
Little Dulce, tired of play, lay fast asleep in the nest she had made
in one of the haycocks close by, and Rose leaned against the
gnarled old tree, dreaming daydreams with her work at her feet.
Happy and absorbing fancies they seemed to be, for her face was
beautifully tranquil, and she took no heed of the train which
suddenly went speeding down the valley, leaving a white cloud
behind. Its rumble concealed the sound of approaching steps, and
her eyes never turned from the distant hills till the abrupt
appearance of a very sunburned but smiling young man made her
jump up, exclaiming joyfully: "Why, Mac! Where did you drop
"The top of Mount Washington. How do you do?"
"Never better. Won’t you go in? You must be tired after such a
"No, thank you. I’ve seen the old lady. She told me Aunt Jessie and
the boy had gone to town and that you were ‘settin’ round’ in the
old place. I came on at once and will take a lounge here if you
don’t mind," answered Mac, unstrapping his knapsack and taking a
haycock as if it were a chair.
Rose subsided into her former seat, surveying her cousin with
much satisfaction as she said: "This is the third surprise I’ve had
since I came. Uncle popped in upon us first, then Phebe, and now
you. Have you had a pleasant tramp? Uncle said you were off."
"Delightful! I feel as if I’d been in heaven, or near it, for about
three weeks, and thought I’d break the shock of coming down to
the earth by calling here on my way home."
"You look as if heaven suited you. Brown as a berry, but so fresh
and happy I should never guess you had been scrambling down a
mountain," said Rose, trying to discover why he looked so well in
spite of the blue flannel suit and dusty shoes, for there was a
certain sylvan freshness about him as he sat there full of reposeful
strength the hills seemed to have given, the wholesome cheerful
days of air and sunshine put into a man, and the clear, bright look
of one who had caught glimpses of a new world from the
"Tramping agrees with me. I took a dip in the river as I came along
and made my toilet in a place where Milton’s Sabrina might have
lived," he said, shaking back his damp hair and settling the knot of
scarlet bunchberries stuck in his buttonhole.
"You look as if you found the nymph at home," said Rose,
knowing how much he liked the "Comus."
"I found her here," and he made a little bow.
"That’s very pretty, and I’ll give you one in return. You grow more
like Uncle Alec every day, and I think I’ll call you Alec, Jr."
"Alexander the Great wouldn’t thank you for that," and Mac did
not look as grateful as she had expected.
"Very like, indeed, except the forehead. His is broad and
benevolent, yours high and arched. Do you know if you had no
beard, and wore your hair long, I really think you’d look like
Milton," added Rose, sure that would please him.
It certainly did amuse him, for he lay back on the hay and laughed
so heartily that his merriment scared the squirrel on the wall and
"You ungrateful boy! Will nothing suit you? When I say you look
like the best man I know, you gave a shrug, and when I liken you
to a great poet, you shout. I’m afraid you are very conceited, Mac."
And Rose laughed, too, glad to see him so gay.
"If I am, it is your fault. Nothing I can do will ever make a Milton
of me, unless I go blind someday," he said, sobering at the thought.
"You once said a man could be what he liked if he tried hard
enough, so why shouldn’t you be a poet?" asked Rose, liking to trip
him up with his own words, as he often did her.
"I thought I was to be an M.D."
"You might be both. There have been poetical doctors, you know."
"Would you like me to be such a one?" asked Mac, looking at her
as seriously as if he really thought of trying it.
"No. I’d rather have you one or the other. I don’t care which, only
you must be famous in either you choose. I’m very ambitious for
you, because, I insist upon it, you are a genius of some sort. I think
it is beginning to simmer already, and I’ve got a great curiosity to
know what it will turn out to be."
Mac’s eyes shone as she said that, but before he could speak a little
voice said, "Aunty Wose!" and he turned to find Dulce sitting up in
her nest staring at the broad blue back before her with round eyes.
"Do you know your Don?" he asked, offering his hand with
respectful gentleness, for she seemed a little doubtful whether he
was a friend or stranger.
"It is ‘Mat,’" said Rose, and that familiar word seemed to reassure
the child at once, for, leaning forward, she kissed him as if quite
used to doing it.
"I picked up some toys for her, by the way, and she shall have
them at once to pay for that. I didn’t expect to be so graciously
received by this shy mouse," said Mac, much gratified, for Dulce
was very chary of her favors.
"She knew you, for I always carry my home album with me, and
when she comes to your picture she always kisses it, because I
never want her to forget her first friend," explained Rose, pleased
with her pupil.
"First, but not best," answered Mac, rummaging in his knapsack
for the promised toys, which he set forth upon the hay before
Neither picture books nor sweeties, but berries strung on long
stems of grass, acorns, and pretty cones, bits of rock shining with
mica, several bluebirds’ feathers, and a nest of moss with white
pebbles for eggs.
"Dearest Nature, strong and kind" knows what children love, and
has plenty of such playthings ready for them all, if one only knows
how to find them. These were received with rapture. And leaving
the little creature to enjoy them in her own quiet way, Mac began
to tumble the things back into his knapsack again. Two or three
books lay near Rose, and she took up one which opened at a place
marked by a scribbled paper.
"Keats? I didn’t know you condescended to read anything so
modern," she said, moving the paper to see the page beneath.
Mac looked up, snatched the book out of her hand, and shook
down several more scraps, then returned it with a curiously
shamefaced expression, saying, as he crammed the papers into his
pocket, "I beg pardon, but it was full of rubbish. Oh, yes! I’m fond
of Keats. Don’t you know him?"
"I used to read him a good deal, but Uncle found me crying over
the ‘Pot of Basil’ and advised me to read less poetry for a while or I
should get too sentimental," answered Rose, turning the pages
without seeing them, for a new idea had just popped into her head.
"’The Eve of St. Agnes’ is the most perfect love story in the world,
I think," said Mac, enthusiastically.
"Read it to me. I feel just like hearing poetry, and you will do it
justice if you are fond of it," said Rose, handing him the book with
an innocent air.
"Nothing I’d like better, but it is rather long."
"I’ll tell you to stop if I get tired. Baby won’t interrupt; she will be
contented for an hour with those pretty things."
As if well pleased with his task, Mac laid himself comfortably on
the grass and, leaning his head on his hand, read the lovely story as
only one could who entered fully into the spirit of it. Rose watched
him closely and saw how his face brightened over some quaint
fancy, delicate description, or delicious word; heard how smoothly
the melodious measures fell from his lips, and read something
more than admiration in his eyes as he looked up now and then to
mark if she enjoyed it as much as he.
She could not help enjoying it, for the poet’s pen painted as well as
wrote, and the little romance lived before her, but she was not
thinking of John Keats as she listened; she was wondering if this
cousin was a kindred spirit, born to make such music and leave as
sweet an echo behind him. It seemed as if it might be; and, after
going through the rough caterpillar and the pent-up chrysalis
changes, the beautiful butterfly would appear to astonish and
delight them all. So full of this fancy was she that she never
thanked him when the story ended but, leaning forward, asked in a
tone that made him start and look as if he had fallen from the
clouds: "Mac, do you ever write poetry?"
"What do you call the song Phebe sang with her bird chorus?"
"That was nothing till she put the music to it. But she promised not
"She didn’t. I suspected, and now I know," laughed Rose, delighted
to have caught him.
Much discomfited, Mac gave poor Keats a fling and, leaning on
both elbows, tried to hide his face for it had reddened like that of a
modest girl when teased about her lover.
"You needn’t look so guilty; it is no sin to write poetry," said Rose,
amused at his confession.
"It’s a sin to call that rubbish poetry," muttered Mac with great
"It is a greater sin to tell a fib and say you never write it."
"Reading so much sets one thinking about such things, and every
fellow scribbles a little jingle when he is lazy or in love, you
know," explained Mac, looking very guilty.
Rose could not quite understand the change she saw in him till his
last words suggested a cause which she knew by experience was
apt to inspire young men. Leaning forward again, she asked
solemnly, though her eyes danced with fun, "Mac, are you in
"Do I look like it?" And he sat up with such an injured and
indignant face that she apologized at once, for he certainly did not
look loverlike with hayseed in his hair, several lively crickets
playing leapfrog over his back, and a pair of long legs stretching
from tree to haycock.
"No, you don’t, and I humbly beg your pardon for making such an
unwarrantable insinuation. It merely occurred to me that the
general upliftedness I observe in you might be owing to that, since
it wasn’t poetry."
"It is the good company I’ve been keeping, if anything. A fellow
can’t spend ‘A Week’ with Thoreau and not be the better for it. I’m
glad I show it, because in the scramble life is to most of us, even
an hour with such a sane, simple, and sagacious soul as his must
help one," said Mac, taking a much worn book out of his pocket
with the air of introducing a dear and honored friend.
"I’ve read bits, and like them they are so original and fresh and
sometimes droll," said Rose, smiling to see what natural and
appropriate marks of approbation the elements seemed to set upon
the pages Mac was turning eagerly, for one had evidently been
rained on, a crushed berry stained another, some appreciative
field-mouse or squirrel had nibbled one corner, and the cover was
faded with the sunshine, which seemed to have filtered through to
the thoughts within.
"Here’s a characteristic bit for you: ‘I would rather sit on a
pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet
cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an oxcart, with free
circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion
train, and breathe malaria all the way.’
"I’ve tried both and quite agree with him," laughed Mac, and
skimming down another page, gave her a paragraph here and there.
"’Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read
them at all.’
"’We do not learn much from learned books, but from sincere
human books: frank, honest biographies.’
"’At least let us have healthy books. Let the poet be as vigorous as
the sugar maple, with sap enough to maintain his own verdure,
besides what runs into the trough; and not like a vine which, being
cut in the spring, bears no fruit, but bleeds to death in the endeavor
to heal its wounds.’"
"That will do for you," said Rose, still thinking of the new
suspicion which pleased her by its very improbability.
Mac flashed a quick look at her and shut the book, saying quietly,
although his eyes shone, and a conscious smile lurked about his
mouth: "We shall see, and no one need meddle, for, as my Thoreau
"Whate’er we leave to God, God does
And blesses us: The work we choose should be our own
God lets alone."
Rose sat silent, as if conscious that she deserved his poetical
"Come, you have catechized me pretty well; now I’ll take my turn
and ask you why you look ‘uplifted,’ as you call it. What have you
been doing to make yourself more like your namesake than ever?"
asked Mac, carrying war into the enemy’s camp with the sudden
"Nothing but live, and enjoy doing it. I actually sit here, day after
day, as happy and contented with little things as Dulce is and feel
as if I wasn’t much older than she," answered the girl, feeling as if
some change was going on in that pleasant sort of pause but unable
to describe it.
"As if a rose should shut and be a bud again," murmured Mac,
borrowing from his beloved Keats.
"Ah, but I can’t do that! I must go on blooming whether I like it or
not, and the only trouble I have is to know what leaf I ought to
unfold next," said Rose, playfully smoothing out the white gown,
in which she looked very like a daisy among the green.
"How far have you got?" asked Mac, continuing his catechism as if
the fancy suited him.
"Let me see. Since I came home last year, I’ve been gay, then sad,
then busy, and now I am simply happy. I don’t know why, but seem
to be waiting for what is to come next and getting ready for it,
perhaps unconsciously," she said, looking dreamily away to the
hills again, is if the new experience was coming to her from afar.
Mac watched her thoughtfully for a minute, wondering how many
more leaves must unfold before the golden heart of this human
flower would lie open to the sun. He felt a curious desire to help in
some way, and could think of none better than to offer her what he
had found most helpful to himself. Picking up another book, he
opened it at a place where an oak leaf lay and, handing it to her,
said, as if presenting something very excellent and precious: "If
you want to be ready to take whatever comes in a brave and noble
way, read that, and the one where the page is turned down."
Rose took it, saw the words "Self-Reliance," and turning the
leaves, read here and there a passage which was marked: "’My life
is for itself, and not for a spectacle.’
"’Insist on yourself: never imitate. That which each can do best,
none but his Maker can teach him.’
"’Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope or dare
Then, coming to the folded page, whose title was "Heroism," she
read, and brightened as she read:
"’Let the maiden, with erect soul, walk serenely on her way;
accept the hint of each new experience; search in turn all the
objects that solicit her eye, that she may learn the power and the
charm of her newborn being.’
"’The fair girl who repels interference by a decided and proud
choice of influences inspires every beholder with something of her
own nobleness; and the silent heart encourages her. O friend, never
strike sail to a fear! Come into port greatly, or sail with God the
"You understand that, don’t you?" asked Mac as she glanced up
with the look of one who had found something suited to her taste
"Yes, but I never dared to read these Essays, because I thought
they were too wise for me."
"The wisest things are sometimes the simplest, I think. Everyone
welcomes light and air, and cannot do without them, yet very few
could explain them truly. I don’t ask you to read or understand all
of that don’t myself but I do recommend the two essays I’ve
marked, as well as ‘Love’ and ‘Friendship.’ Try them, and let me
know how they suit. I’ll leave you the book."
"Thanks. I wanted something fine to read up here and, judging by
what I see, I fancy this will suit. Only Aunt Jessie may think I’m
putting on airs if I try Emerson."
"Why should she? He has done more to set young men and women
thinking than any man in this century at least. Don’t you be afraid
if it is what you want, take it, and go ahead as he tells you
"Without halting, without rest,
Lifting Better up to Best."
"I’ll try," said Rose meekly, feeling that Mac had been going ahead
himself much faster than she had any suspicion.
Here a voice exclaimed "Hallo!" and, looking around, Jamie was
discovered surveying them critically as he stood in an independent
attitude, like a small Colossus of Rhodes in brown linen, with a
bundle of molasses candy in one hand, several new fishhooks
cherished carefully in the other, and his hat well on the back of his
head, displaying as many freckles as one somewhat limited nose
could reasonably accommodate.
"How are you, young one?" said Mac, nodding.
"Tip-top. Glad it’s you. Thought Archie might have turned up
again, and he’s no fun. Where did you come from? What did you
come for? How long are you going to stay? Want a bit? It’s jolly
With which varied remarks Jamie approached, shook hands in a
manly way, and, sitting down beside his long cousin, hospitably
offered sticks of candy all around.
"Did you get any letters?" asked Rose, declining the sticky treat.
"Lots, but Mama forgot to give ’em to me, and I was rather in a
hurry, for Mrs. Atkinson said somebody had come and I couldn’t
wait," explained Jamie, reposing luxuriously with his head on
Mac’s legs and his mouth full.
"I’ll step and get them. Aunty must be tired, and we should enjoy
reading the news together."
"She is the most convenient girl that ever was," observed Jamie as
Rose departed, thinking Mac might like some more substantial
refreshment than sweetmeats.
"I should think so, if you let her run your errands, you lazy little
scamp," answered Mac, looking after her as she went up the green
slope, for there was something very attractive to him about the
slender figure in a plain white gown with a black sash about the
waist and all the wavy hair gathered to the top of the head with a
little black bow.
"Sort of pre-Raphaelite, and quite refreshing after the furbelowed
creatures at the hotels," he said to himself as she vanished under
the arch of scarlet runners over the garden gate.
"Oh, well! She likes it. Rose is fond of me, and I’m very good to
her when I have time," continued Jamie, calmly explaining. "I let
her cut out a fishhook, when it caught in my leg, with a sharp
penknife, and you’d better believe it hurt, but I never squirmed a
bit, and she said I was a brave boy. And then, one day I got left on
my desert island out in the pond, you know the boat floated off,
and there I was for as much as an hour before I could make anyone
hear. But Rose thought I might be there, and down she came, and
told me to swim ashore. It wasn’t far, but the water was horrid
cold, and I didn’t like it. I started though, just as she said, and got
on all right, till about halfway, then cramp or something made me
shut up and howl, and she came after me slapdash, and pulled me
ashore. Yes, sir, as wet as a turtle, and looked so funny, I laughed,
and that cured the cramp. Wasn’t I good to mind when she said,
"She was, to dive after such a scapegrace. I guess you lead her a
life of it, and I’d better take you home with me in the morning,"
suggested Mac, rolling the boy over and giving him a good-natured
pummeling on the haycock while Dulce applauded from her nest.
When Rose returned with ice-cold milk, gingerbread, and letters,
she found the reader of Emerson up in the tree, pelting and being
pelted with green apples as Jamie vainly endeavored to get at him.
The siege ended when Aunt Jessie appeared, and the rest of the
afternoon was spent in chat about home affairs.
Early the next morning Mac was off, and Rose went as far as the
old church with him.
"Shall you walk all the way?" she asked as he strode along beside
her in the dewy freshness of the young day.
"Only about twenty miles, then take car and whisk back to my
work," he answered, breaking a delicate fern for her.
"Are you never lonely?"
"Never. I take my best friends along, you know," and he gave a
slap to the pocket from which peeped the volume of Thoreau.
"I’m afraid you leave your very best behind you," said Rose,
alluding to the book he had lent her yesterday.
"I’m glad to share it with you. I have much of it here, and a little
goes a great way, as you will soon discover," he answered, tapping
"I hope the reading will do as much for me as it seems to have
done for you. I’m happy, but you are wise and good I want to be
"Read away, and digest it well, then write and tell me what you
think of it. Will you?" he asked as they paused where the four
"If you will answer. Shall you have time with all your other work?
Poetry I beg pardon medicine is very absorbing, you know,"
answered Rose mischievously, for just then, as he stood
bareheaded in the shadows of the leaves playing over his fine
forehead, she remembered the chat among the haycocks, and he
did not look at all like an M.D.
"I’ll make time."