“Thou didst refuse the daily round
Of useful, patient love,
And longedst for some great emprise
Thy spirit high to prove.”—C. M. N.
“Che mi sedea con l’antica Rachele.”—Dante.
“It is very kind in the dear mother.”
“But—what, Rachel? Don’t you like it! She so enjoyed choosing it for you.”
“Oh yes, it is a perfect thing in its way. Don’t say a word to her; but if you are consulted for my next birthday present, Grace, couldn’t you suggest that one does cease to be a girl.”
“Only try it on, Rachel dear, she will be pleased to see you in it.”
“Oh yes, I will bedizen myself to oblige her. I do assure you I am not ungrateful. It is beautiful in itself, and shows how well nature can be imitated; but it is meant for a mere girl, and this is the very day I had fixed for hauling down the flag of youth.”
“Ah, ha! If Rachel be an old maid, what is Grace? Come, my dear, resign yourself! There is nothing more unbecoming than want of perception of the close of young-ladyhood.”
“Of course I know we are not quite young girls now,” said Grace, half perplexed, half annoyed.
“Exactly, from this moment we are established as the maiden sisters of Avonmouth, husband and wife to one another, as maiden pairs always are.”
“Then thus let me crown, our bridal,” quoth Grace, placing on her sister’s head the wreath of white roses.
“Treacherous child!” cried Rachel, putting up her hands and tossing her head, but her sister held her still.
“You know brides always take liberties. Please, dear, let it stay till the mother has been in, and pray don’t talk, before her of being so very old.”
“No, I’ll not be a shock to her. We will silently assume our immunities, and she will acquiesce if they come upon her gradually.”
Grace looked somewhat alarmed, being perhaps in some dread of immunities, and aware that Rachel’s silence would in any one else have been talkativeness.
“Ah, mother dear, good morning,” as a pleasant placid-looking lady entered, dressed in black, with an air of feeble health, but of comely middle age.
Birthday greetings, congratulations, and thanks followed, and the mother looked critically at the position of the wreath, and Rachel for the first time turned to the glass and met a set of features of an irregular, characteristic cast, brow low and broad, nose retrousse, with large, singularly sensitive nostrils quivering like those of a high-bred horse at any emotion, full pouting lips, round cheeks glowing with the freshest red, eyes widely opened, dark deep grey and decidedly prominent, though curtained with thick black lashes. The glossy chestnut hair partook of the redundance and vigour of the whole being, and the roses hung on it gracefully though not in congruity with the thick winter dress of blue and black tartan, still looped up over the dark petticoat and hose, and stout high-heeled boots, that like the grey cloak and felt hat bore witness to the early walk. Grace’s countenance and figure were in the same style, though without so much of mark or animation; and her dress was of like description, but less severely plain.