Harder to bear? Yes, Ermine had already been passing through a heart sickness that made the morning like an age. Her resolute will had struggled hard for composure, cheerfulness, and occupation; but the little watchful niece had seen through the endeavour, and had made her own to the sleepless night and the headache. The usual remedy was a drive in a wheeled chair, and Rose was so urgent to be allowed to go and order one, that Ermine at last yielded, partly because she had hardly energy enough to turn her refusal graciously, partly because she would not feel herself staying at home for the vague hope and when the child was out of sight, she had the comfort of clasping her hands, and ceasing to restrain her countenance, while she murmured, “Oh, Colin, Colin, are you what you were twelve years back? Is this all dream, all delusion, and waste of feeling, while you are lying in your Indian grave, more mine than you can ever be living be as it may,—
me, my God, and keep me calm
While these hot breezes blow;
Be like the night dew’s cooling balm
Upon earth’s fevered brow.
Calm me, my God, and keep me calm,
Soft resting on Thy breast;
Soothe me with holy hymn and psalm,
And bid my spirit rest.’”
Like a good parent did beget of him
A falsehood in its contrary as great
As my trust was, which had indeed no limit.”—Tempest.
Rose found the wheeled chair, to which her aunt gave the preference, was engaged, and shaking her little discreet head at “the shakey chair” and “the stuffy chair,” she turned pensively homeward, and was speeding down Mackarel Lane, when she was stayed by the words, “My little girl!” and the grandest and most bearded gentleman she had ever seen, demanded, “Can you tell me if Miss Williams lives here?”
“My aunt?” exclaimed Rose, gazing up with her pretty, frightened-fawn look.
“Indeed!” he exclaimed, looking eagerly at her, “then you are the child of a very old friend of mine! Did you never hear him speak of his old school-fellow, Colin Keith?”
“Papa is away,” said Rose, turning back her neck to get a full view of his face from under the brim of her hat.
“’Will you run on and ask your aunt if she would like to see me?” he added.
Thus it was that Ermine heard the quick patter of the child’s steps, followed by the manly tread, and the words sounded in her ears, “Aunt Ermine, there’s a gentleman, and he has a great beard, and he says he is papa’s old friend! And here he is.”
Ermine’s beaming eyes as absolutely met the new comer as though she had sprung forward. “I thought you would come,” she said, in a voice serene with exceeding bliss.
“I have found you at last,” as their hands clasped; and they gazed into each other’s faces in the untroubled repose of the meeting, exclusive of all else.