Angela’s answer to this long oration was a simple one. She rose slowly from her low seat, and, putting her hands upon Mr. Fraser’s shoulders, kissed him on the forehead and said—
“How shall I ever learn to be grateful enough for all I owe you? What should I have been now but for you? How good and patient you have been to me!”
This embrace affected the clergyman strangely; he put his hand to his heart, and a troubled look came into his eyes. Thrusting her gently away from him, he sat down.
“Angela,” he said presently, “go away now, dear, I am tired to-night; I shall see you at church to-morrow to say good-by.”
And so she went homewards, through the wind and storm, little knowing that she left her master to struggle with a tempest far more tremendous than that which raged around her.
As for him, as the door closed, he gave a sigh of relief.
“Pray God I have not put it off too long,” he said to himself. “And now for to-morrow’s sermon. Sleep for the young! laughter for the happy! work for old fools—work, work, work!”
And thus it was that Angela became a scholar.
The winter months passed away slowly for Angela, but not by any means unhappily. Though she was quite alone and missed Mr. Fraser sadly, she found considerable consolation in his present of books, and in the thought that she was getting a good hold of her new subjects of study. And then came the wonder of the spring with its rush of budding life, and who, least of all Angela, could be sad in springtime? But nevertheless that spring marked an important change in our heroine, for it was during its sweet hours, when, having put her books aside, she would roam alone, or in company with her ravens, through the flower-starred woods around the lake, that a feeling of restlessness, amounting at times almost to dissatisfaction, took possession of her. Indeed, as the weeks crept on and she drew near the completion of her twentieth year, she realized with a sigh that she could no longer call herself a girl, and began to feel that her life was incomplete, that something was wanting in it. And this was what was wanting in Angela’s life: she had, if we except her nurse, no one to love, and she had so much love to give!
Did she but guess it, the still recesses of her heart already tremble to the footfall of one now drawing near: out of the multitude of the lives around her, a life is marked to mingle with her own. She does not know it, but as the first reflection of the dawn strikes the unconscious sky and shadows the coming of its king, so the red flush that now so often springs unbidden to her brow, tells of girlhood’s twilight ended, and proclaims the advent of woman’s life and love.
“Angela,” called her father one day, as he heard her footsteps passing his study, “come in here; I want to speak to you.”