“It would be a very kind thing in you, and very good for her, but you must be prepared for rather a gay young lady.”
“Oh, but she would not mind my not going out. She would have Alick, you know, and all the boys to amuse her; but, if you think it would be tiresome for her, and that she would not be happy, I should be very sorry to have her, poor child.”
“I was not afraid for her,” said Colonel Keith, smiling, “but of her being rather too much for you.”
“Rachel is not too much for me,” said Fanny, “and she and Grace will entertain Bessie, and take her out. But I will talk to Alick. He spoke of coming to-morrow. And don’t you think I might ask Colonel and Mrs. Hammond to spend a day? They would so like the sea for the children.”
“Then perhaps you would write—oh, I forgot,” colouring up, “I never can forget the old days, it seems as if you were on the staff still.”
“I always am on yours, and always hope to be,” he said, smiling, “though I am afraid I can’t write your note to the Hammonds for you.”
“But you won’t go away,” she said. “I know your time will be taken up, and you must not let me or the boys be troublesome; but to have you here makes me so much less lost and lonely. And I shall have such a friend in your Erminia. Is that her name?”
“Ermine, an old Welsh name, the softest I ever heard. Indeed it is dressing time,” added Colonel Keith, and both moved away with the startled precision of members of a punctual military household, still feeling themselves accountable to somebody.
“For as his hand the weather steers,
So thrive I best ’twixt joys and tears,
And all the year have some green ears.”—H. Vaughan.
Alison had not been wrong in her presentiment that the second interview would be more trying than the first. The exceeding brightness and animation of Ermine’s countenance, her speaking eyes, unchanged complexion, and lively manner—above all, the restoration of her real substantial self—had so sufficed and engrossed Colin Keith in the gladness of their first meeting that he had failed to comprehend her helpless state; and already knowing her to be an invalid, not entirely recovered from her accident, he was only agreeably surprised to see the beauty of face he had loved so long, retaining all its vivacity of expression. And when he met Alison the next morning with a cordial brotherly greeting and inquiry for her sister, her “Very well,” and “not at all the worse for the excitement,” were so hearty and ready that he could not have guessed that “well” with Ermine meant something rather relative than positive. Alison brought him a playful message from her, that since he was not going to Belfast, she should meet him with a freer conscience if he would first give her time for Rose’s lessons,