Margery never knew exactly what passed, nor how Miss Hume’s well-regulated mind was ever reconciled to such an impulsive act on the part of her niece. But, as she sat at her usual post by the old lady next day, while she took her afternoon’s rest, Miss Hume said rather unexpectedly, when Margery concluded she was asleep, “Margery, you remember my sister? Does it not strike you that Miss Campbell is getting very like her mother? These children are a great responsibility to me; I wish their mother had been spared,” she added, rather irrelevantly, it seemed to Margery, and then presently she fell asleep without any reference to the locket question.
But that night, when Grace was going to bed, she told her old nurse that her aunt had promised that when they went back to Kirklands again she might try to find some little boys and girls to teach, and that she would allow her to have one of the old rooms for her class. She did not tell how eagerly she had asked that, in the meantime, she might be allowed to try and help the neglected city children, to whose necessities she had been awakened by such thrilling words that day, though Miss Hume had thought it wise to restrain her impatience. But out of that evening’s events had grown the cherished plan which sent Grace on such a chilly afternoon among the woods and braes of Kirklands to seek any boy or girl who might need her help and friendship.
Miss Hume, Grace’s aunt, left the management of Kirklands entirely in the hands of her business agent. Mr. Graham met the tenants, gathered the rents, arranged the leases, and directed the improvements without even a nominal interference on her part. And certainly he conscientiously performed these duties with a view to his client’s interests. It may be wondered that Miss Hume did not take a more personal interest in her tenants, but various things had contributed to this state of matters. Indeed, she was now so infirm that it would have been difficult for her to take any active interest in things around her, especially as it had not been the habit of her earlier years to do so.
It was her younger sister, Grace’s mother, who used to know all the dwellers in the valley so well that her white pony could calculate the distance to the pleasant farmyard at which he would get his next mouthful of crisp corn; or the muirland cottage, with its delicious bit of turf, where he would presently graze, as he waited for his young mistress, while she talked to the inmates. But if the little girl with her white pony could have come back again to Kirklands, they would have missed many a familiar face, and searched in vain for many a cottage. The pleasant little thatched dwellings, with velvety tufts of moss studding the roof, and pretty creepers climbing till they mingled with the brown thatch, telling of the inmates’ loving fingers, were all swept away now, and in the place that once knew them, stretched trim drills of turnips, fenced by grim stone walls, to which time had not yet given a moss-covered beauty.