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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 146 pages of information about Jack's Ward.

“No, I haven’t,” said Rachel, sharply.

She hurriedly untied the ribbon from her neck, and put it in her pocket.

“Don’t talk to me any more!” she said, frowning.  “You’re a perfect stranger.  You have no right to speak to me.”

“I guess the old woman ain’t right in her head!” thought Daniel.  “Must be she’s crazy!”

Poor Rachel! she felt more disconsolate than ever.  There was no Daniel, then.  She had been basely imposed upon.  There was no call for her to sacrifice herself on the altar of matrimony.  She ought to have been glad, but she wasn’t.

Half an hour later a drooping, disconsolate figure entered the house of Timothy Harding.

“Why, what’s the matter, Rachel?” asked Martha, who noticed her woe-begone expression.

“I ain’t long for this world,” said Rachel, gloomily.  “Death has marked me for his own.”

“Don’t you feel well this afternoon, Rachel?”

“No; I feel as if life was a burden.”

“You have tired yourself with walking, Rachel.  You have been out twice to-day.”

“This is a vale of tears,” said Rachel, hysterically.  “There’s nothin’ but sorrow and misfortune to be expected.”

“Have you met with any misfortune?  I thought fortune was smiling upon us all.”

“It’ll never smile on me again,” said Rachel, despondently.

Just then Jack, who had followed his aunt home, entered.

“Have you got home so quick, Aunt Rachel?” he asked.  “How did you enjoy your walk?”

“I shall never enjoy anything again,” said his aunt, gloomily.

“Why not?”

“Because there’s nothing to enjoy.”

“I don’t feel so, aunt.  I feel as merry as a cricket.”

“You won’t be long.  Like as not you’ll be took down with fever to-morrow, and maybe die.”

“I won’t trouble myself about it till the time comes,” said Jack.  “I expect to live to dance at your wedding yet, Aunt Rachel.”

This reference was too much.  It brought to Rachel’s mind the Daniel to whom she had expected to link her destiny, and she burst into a dismal sob, and hurried upstairs to her own chamber.

“Rachel acts queerly to-day,” said Mrs. Harding.  “I think she can’t be feeling well.  If she don’t feel better to-morrow I shall advise her to send for the doctor.”

“I am afraid it was mean to play such a trick on Aunt Rachel,” thought Jack, half repentantly.  “I didn’t think she’d take it so much in earnest.  I must keep dark about that letter.  She’d never forgive me if she knew.”

For some days there was an added gloom on Miss Rachel’s countenance, but the wound was not deep; and after a time her disappointment ceased to rankle in her too sensitive heart.

CHAPTER XII

SEVEN YEARS

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