The letter was as follows:
“My darling little rose: Do you fancy some direful calamity has befallen me, because I have not written to you for more than a week? Away with your fears, then, for nothing worse has come upon me than a badly broken limb, which will probably keep me a prisoner here for two months or more. Now don’t be frightened, Rosa. I am not crippled for life, and even if I were I could love you just the same, while you, I’m sure, would love me more.
“As you probably know, I left Worcester on Tuesday morning for the purpose of collecting some bills in this neighborhood. Arrived at Hillsdale I procured a horse, and was sauntering leisurely through the woods, when I came suddenly upon a flying witch in the shape of a beautiful young girl. She was the finest rider I ever saw; and such a chase as she led me, until at last, to my dismay, she leaped across a chasm down which a nervous little creature like you would be afraid to look. Not wishing to be outdone, I followed her, and as a matter of course broke my bones.
“Were it not that the accident will somewhat incommode Douglas, and greatly fidget you, I should not much regret it, for to me there is a peculiar charm about this old stone house and its quaint surroundings. But the greatest charm of all, perhaps, lies in my fair nurse, Maggie Miller, for whom I risked my neck. You two would be fast friends in a moment, and yet you are totally dissimilar, save that your voices are much alike.
“Write to me soon, dear Rose, and believe me ever
“Your affectionate brother,
“Oh!” said Maggie, catching her breath, which for a time had been partially suspended, “Oh!” and in that single monosyllable there was to the young man watching her a world of meaning. “She’s your sister, this little Rose,” and the soft dark eyes flashed brightly upon him.
“What did you suppose her to be?” he asked, and Maggie answered, “I thought she might be your wife, though I should rather have her for a sister if I were you.”
The young man smiled involuntarily, thinking to himself how his fashionable city friends would be shocked at such perfect frankness, which meant no more than their own studied airs.
“You are a good girl, Maggie,” he said at last, “and I wouldn’t for the world deceive you; Rose is my step-sister. We are in no way connected save by marriage, still I love her all the same. We were brought up together by a lady who is aunt to both, and Rose seems to me like an own dear sister. She has saved me from almost everything. I once loved the wine cup; but her kindly words and gentle influence won me back, so that now I seldom taste it. And once I thought to run away to sea, but Rose found it out, and, meeting me at the gate, persuaded me to return. It is wonderful, the influence she has over me, keeping my wild spirits in check; and if I am ever anything I shall owe it all to her.”