In her disorderly chamber, too, Mrs. Jeffrey hobbled on one foot to the window, where, with a deep sigh of relief, she sent after the young men a not very complimentary adieu, which was echoed in part by the servants below, while Theo, on the piazza, exclaimed against the lonesome old house, which was never so lonesome before, and Maggie seated herself upon the stairs and cried!
Nestled among the tall old trees which skirt the borders of Leominster village was the bird’s-nest of a cottage which Rose Warner called her home, and which, with its wealth of roses, its trailing vines and flowering shrubs, seemed fitted for the abode of one like her. Slight as a child twelve summers old, and fair as the white pond lily when first to the morning sun it unfolds its delicate petals, she seemed too frail for earth; and both her aunt and he whom she called brother watched carefully lest the cold north wind should blow too rudely on the golden curls which shaded her childish brow. Very, very beautiful was little Rose, and yet few ever looked upon her without a feeling of sadness; for in the deep blue of her eyes there was a mournful, dreamy look, as if the shadow of some great sorrow were resting thus early upon her.
And Rose Warner had a sorrow, too—a grief which none save one had ever suspected. To him it had come with the words, “I cannot be your wife for I love another; one who will never know how dear he is to me.”
The words were involuntarily spoken, and George Douglas, looking down upon her, guessed rightly that he who would never know how much he was beloved was Henry Warner. To her the knowledge that Henry was something dearer than a brother had come slowly, filling her heart with pain, for she well knew that whether he clasped her to his bosom, as he often did, or pressed his lips upon her brow, he thought of her only as a brother thinks of a beautiful and idolized sister. It had heretofore been some consolation to know that his affections were untrammeled with thoughts of another, that she alone was the object of his love, and hope had sometimes faintly whispered of what perchance might be; but from that dream she was waking now, and her face grew whiter still as there came to her from time to time letters fraught with praises of Margaret Miller; and if in Rose Warner’s nature there had been a particle of bitterness, it would have been called forth toward one who, she foresaw, would be her rival. But Rose knew no malice, and she felt that she would sooner die than do aught to mar the happiness of Maggie Miller.
For nearly two weeks she had not heard from Henry, and she was beginning to feel very anxious, when one morning, two or three days succeeding the memorable Hillsdale celebration, as she sat in a small arbor so thickly overgrown with the Michigan rose as to render her invisible at a little distance, she was startled by hearing him call her name, as he came in quest of her down the garden walk. The next moment he held her in his arms, kissing her forehead, her lips, her cheek; then holding her off, he looked to see if there had been in her aught of change since last they met.