“You are paler than you were, Rose darling,” he said, “and your eyes look as if they had of late been used to tears. What is it, dearest? What troubles you?”
Rose could not answer immediately, for his sudden coming had taken away her breath, and as he saw a faint blush stealing over her face he continued, “Can it be my little sister has been falling in love during my absence?”
Never before had he spoken to her thus; but a change had come over him, his heart was full of a beautiful image, and fancying Rose might have followed his example he asked her the question he did, without, however, expecting or receiving a definite answer.
“I am so lonely, Henry, when you are gone and do not write to me!” she said; and in the tones of her voice there was a slight reproof, which Henry felt keenly.
He had been so engrossed with Maggie Miller and the free joyous life he led in the Hillsdale woods, that for a time he had neglected Rose, who, in his absence, depended so much on his letters for comfort.
“I have been very selfish, I know,” he said; “but I was so happy, that for a time I forgot everything save Maggie Miller.”
An involuntary shudder ran through Rose’s slender form; but, conquering her emotion, she answered calmly: “What of this Maggie Miller? Tell me of her, will you?”
Winding his arm around her waist, and drawing her closely to his side, Henry Warner rested her head upon his bosom, where it had often lain, and, smoothing her golden curls, told her of Maggie Miller, of her queenly beauty, of her dashing, independent spirit, her frank, ingenuous manner, her kindness of heart; and last of all, bending very low, lest the vine leaves and the fair blossoms of the rose should hear, he told her of his love; and Rose, the fairest flower of all which bloomed around that bower, clasped her hand upon her heart, lest he should see its wild throbbings, and, forcing back the tears which moistened her long lashes, listened to the knell of all her hopes. Henceforth her love for him must be an idle mockery, and the time would come when to love him as she loved him then would be a sin—a wrong to herself, a wrong to him, and a wrong to Maggie Miller.
“You are surely not asleep,” he said at last, as she made him no reply, and bending forward he saw the tear-drops resting on her cheek. “Not asleep, but weeping!” he exclaimed. “What is it, darling? What troubles you?” And lifting up her head, Rose Warner answered, “I was thinking how this new love of yours would take you from me, and I should be alone.”
“No, not alone,” he said, wiping her tears away. “Maggie and I have arranged that matter. You are to live with us, and instead of losing me you are to gain another—a sister, Rose. You have often wished you had one, and you could surely find none worthier than Maggie Miller.”
“Will she watch over you, Henry? Will she be to you what your wife should be?” asked Rose; and Henry answered: “She is not at all like you, my little sister. She relies implicitly upon my judgment; so you see I shall need your blessed influence all the same, to make me what your brother and Maggie’s husband ought to be.”