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poised voice of the gardener's wife, as she drew out a small linen collar from her pocket, and carefully pared the edges. "Perhaps you remember that she nursed your mother through it long fever when you were about fifteen years old?"
"Yes, I remember," said the Squire, with a little show of interest.
"Wall, she got to talking about your folks, and her mind was particularly set on your little brother, as he was at that time. He must have been a very handsome child, Squire; I declare, as she described him, I could almost see him, with his thick, shinin' curls of brown hair, dippin' about here and there, and his great blue eyes, full of a laugh as these June mornings are of sunshine, ami his lips like the roses yonder, and his cheeks like the carnations in my front yard. No wonder your mother was so bound up in him."
Squire Darwin moved uneasily in his chair, and far off in the east land of his life he saw standing the small figure and bright face of the brother of his boyhood. And over all the years of pride and bitterness which lay between, his memory swept for a moment, and he forgot the hatred lying deep hi his heart as he said: '* Yes, Edward was a remarkably handsome child."
"He was like his mother, so the old woman said," pursued Mrs. Pierson, with the rapid click of her scissors between c.*-iy few words; "and you took after your father. lint I tell you it sort of touched me, Squire, when Mrs. Johnson told me of that one mornin' when Edward started to go to the district school for the first time. She said she could see jest how the little fellow looked, in his blue cap and white trousers, as he stood on the great brown step by the side door yonder, with his bright brown curls clustering round his head, and his little hands slipped into yours, and your mother a standin' in the door a watchin' you with eyes jest as full of love and pride; and how, when you both got to the front gate, Edward turned back, and called oat —' Don't be afraid, mamma; Robert will take good care of me.' It's a little thing to speak of, Squire, but somehow I thought it was touching, and it's pleasant to bring back the old days once in a while to our remembrance."
The old man had leaned forward a little and drank in Mrs. Pierson's words greedily. He forgot that sixty-nine toilsome years had blossomed in his gray hairs and burdened his steps; he was once more a young boy standing by the garden gates; the doors in his heart creaked
on their hard and rusty hinges, the wind blew up stronger from the land of his youth, and penetrated with its sweet, mysterious perfumes the hidden places of his soul, and his whole frame vibrated to the old memories; the stern old man was a boy once more.
"I remember it all, Mrs. Pierson," he said; and the flash of his eyes and the flush of his face said more.
"And then," pursued the little woman, while the click of her scissors grew fainter, "Mrs. Johnson told me all about the time when you came so near losing your life, Squire. It was a great piece of imprudence for you to take that little painted shell of a boat, and start out on Mill River, with nobody but your little brother; it was nigh a miracle that you ever got back."
"I never should, if—" said Squire Darwin, and then he stopped suddenly, and a pang shot through his heart, a pang of memory and remorse. He drew his breath with a gasp.
"Yes, I know,"resumedMrs. Pierson. "But, Squire, he was a brave, noble little fellow, to risk his life as he did for yours when the boat went under. And to think of his catchin' hold of you by the hair of your head, and swimming to the shore! Mrs. Johnson says he was alleis jest like a duck after the water."
Squire Darwin did not speak now; his hands shook as though they were struck with a sadden I' s!lsy, as he leaned them on the table, and a faint grain came to Mrs. Pierson's ear. It gladdened the reset of the gardener's wife to hear it, for she knew that The \goe winter, was at last breaking up in the old manS~**^ and her voice resumed, after a few minutes' silence—
"The old woman said it was the most nffectin' sight she could remember, when your mother came runnin' into the fisherman's cottage by the riverside, for it appears she'd got word that both her boys had got into the water, and she didn't know but ons or both on 'em was drowned. Her face was jest as white as the dead, and Mrs. Johnson s:id she had never forgot the sound of her voice, « she asked, 'Are my boys alive?' They was at in the bedroom, where you had just come to though yon was too weak to speak the loud wird, but Edward, who sat near the bed wrapped up in some warm blankets, and shiverin' as though it was in the dead of winter, cried right off, 'Yes, mother, we're both here!' And the old woman tried to tell about your all meeti:' in the bedroom, but she broke down there, all couldn't get on with another word. Finally he told me your mother asked, when she'd got a little calmer, 'Who was it saved you, Robert?' And you lifted up your head, and pointed to Edward; and so she was answered. But it was a good while before she could believe it, and at last she cried like a child and said, 'Oh, my boys, you will never forget this day, will you V And you both promised her ' Never !'"
"Don't, Mrs. Pierson, don't!" There was a sharp plaint of agony in the Squire's voice, and the face which he lifted up worked a moment fearfully. He rose and walked once or twice across the room, slowly and painfully, but his large frame shook as though he was in the midst of a great storm. Then he flung himself down in his chair, and the tempest broke where for so many years there had been a great calm. "Oh, Edward, my brother Edward !" groaned Squire Darwin; and, bowing his face on his hands, the tears poured over his cheeks. He saw only tho dearly beloved brother of his boyhood; he forgot all the anger, and bitterness, and revenge which lay in the later years; he was once more in the fisherman's cottage, and his little brown-hairod brother had just saved him from a watery grave.
Mrs. Pierson was a wise woman; she sat still while the storm went over the soul of Squire Darwin, and it was not a brief one. At last she folded up her sewing, and said, quietly: "It's about time for me to get home and set about the children's supper, and I 've only got a word more to say, Squire, on all we 'vebeen talking about. I don't know whether your brother Edward is above the ground or under it this day; but because I'm the only one on earth that's got the courage to speak the truth to you, and because I can see plainly that you 're droppin' into the grave from which he saved you when he was a little boy, I beseech yon to pause and consider afore you cut off Edward Darwin and his heirs from your will. We owe somethin' to our nearest of kin, and it may be that you 'll stand face to face in a little while with your father and mother, and they won't have forgot their boy if you have, and, Squire, when they ask you about him, it 'll come hard to answer; and if you've left him or his in poverty on the earth, it won't make it any easier for you up there."
And Mrs. Pierson left the room, and the old man was alone. The long summer day turned its golden feet slowly towards the night, the wind from the sea came softly through the meadows and mingled with the spicy breath of the roses, while, unconscious of all these things, Squire Darwin walked up and down his room
until the twilight deepened about him, for his thoughts wound their green tendrils around golden ladders, which were the days of his youth. One by one the doors rolled open in those faroff years, one by one into goodly chambers, and hidden closets, and up long winding stairs, and through the old corridors and byways where the dust lay and the doors creaked, went the soul of Squire Darwin, strong and joyful as in its youth; and, wherever he went, there stood still before him or walked by his side the beautiful brother of his boyhood; in every picture the laughing blue eyes, the sweet white face repeated itself, and at last Squire Darwin sat down in his arm-chair and reached out his arms to the sweet hovering face. "Edward, little Edward, come to me!" he said, in just such broken, yearning tones a mother would say it over the child she had lost for an hour, and was longing to take and hug up to her heart, and ease the great hunger of her love with caresses ; and it seemed to the old man that the smiling face leaned forward, that the young arms clasped themselves about his neck, and the bright hair strayed over his shoulder; he held it tight to his breast, that dream of his brother, and the tears showered hot over his cheeks once more, and they fell upon his heart like a spring freshet, bearing down and washing away the strong bulwarks of pride and bitterness, and the ice that had so long covered the fields, and made winter of the life of Squire Darwin, melted away. At last the tears ceased; the old man leaned back in his chair and tried to recall the later years, the strife, the separation, and the hatred which had blighted them; but somehow all these things vanished, and his thoughts still went back to his young brother, to their happy boyhood, and that young face still rose upbefore him, blurring all other scenes, and still the heart of the old man yearned toward his brother.
"I wonder where you are to-night, Edward," he murmured, "and if yon look like the little boy as you used to. I can't believe that the years have told on you as they have on me: I can only see you as I did when we used to chase each other through the low meadows, on our way to school, in the summer mornings. I wish you were here to-night, and could talk of the old times when we went hunting and fishing together. Do you remember it, little brother, and how our mother used to stand at the back door with the smile on her lips, and the love in her eyes? It is a long, long time since your feet crossed the threshold of the old place. There's a heavy account somewhere to settle, but let it go, boy, let it go. You shall have the old homestead, Edward, for I sha'n't have any use for it much longer ; I'm going to a house whose roof is the lowest and narrowest that a man ever sleeps under; and it's only fair that the old house where we first opened our eyes, and grew up to manhood together, should be yours, and it shall this very night, Edward, my brother Edward!" And then the old Squire rang for lights and for supper, and the servant wondered at the change which had come over his master—at the new light in his face, and the vigor in his tones.
That night Squire Darwin sent for his lawyer; and, before he slept, his will was drawn up, and duly witnessed and signed.
The dawn was just building the basements of the new day in the east. The foundations were laid with pearl, which here and there began to be veined with a faint flush of pink, like the blush from some pleasant dream dawning into the cheek of a sleeping child.
Mrs. Pierson had just opened her kitchen door. The little woman stood still a moment and listened to the song of the robins in the great pear trees, whose long branches swept her cottage roof; and just as she was turning away, Squire Darwin's errand-boy stood white and panting on her threshold.
"Why, Sam, what has sent you over here, at this hour?"
"Squire Darwin has had another poor turn. They think he may drop off any minute; but he's revived a little, and asked for you!"
Mrs. Pierson was not long in making her way over to the white stone house. Its master lay in the front chamber with the doctor, and the frightened servants gathered about him; but Mrs. Pierson knew, with her first glance into the white face and the glaring eyes, that of them too must soon be spoken those final words which close the last chapter of every human life.
The old man's eyes opened slowly, as the soft step of the gardener's wife approached the bed on which he lay; a new light flickered across the dimness which filled them. He took the brown, thin hand in his white, cold one.
"Mrs. Pierson," said Squire Darwin, and his voice was almost like the voice of his youth, "I have done as you told me. Last night I made over the Darwin Homestead to my brother Edward."
"Thank God! thank God!" broke from the lips of the little woman, as the jets of tears did over her face.
'• You were right now ;" and the shrivelled,
dying fingers tightened on the warm, living ones. "It is better to drop the burden this side the grave—it would have been very heavy to carry it beyond."
"And you forgive him and all others who may have wronged you?" eagerly interposed Mrs. Pierson, bending down her head to the old man's face.
"As I hope that God may forgive me!" And these were the last words which ever moved the lips of Squire Darwin.
Forty years before had the difficulty transpired betwixt Robert and Edward Darwin, which had embittered the lives of both, and turned their love into fierce hatred. There was no doubt that the greater share of the wrong lay with the elder brother; for his father had died without making a will, and he managed to get most of the property into his own hands.
Edward Darwin was a sensitive, thoughtful, studious man, wholly unlike his practical, energetic brother; and in a little while he sold the land he had inherited, and removed to the city. His brother had frequently urged him to sell his portion of the estate, and offered him a higher price than the one he at last received; but Edward felt himself aggrieved and insulted by his brother's conduct, and allowed the property to pass into other hands. The alienation of the brothers, which had commenced on their father's death, was thenceforth complete, and for twenty years Squire Darwin had not known whether the name of his brother was written among the living or the dead.
"Twenty-nine days more 1 Oh, Algernon, it is for your sake that they seem so long, and so slow." And the girl, who had spoken these words in tones that held a strange quiver of pathos and pain, threw herself down by the lounge.
The slight limbs of the youth who lay there, stirred, and lifted themselves a little. A smile gleamed about the white lips, and was reciprocated by the large, deep, azure eyes above them. "You are the best sister in the whole world, Margaret," said the invalid, "but I see that you are wearing yourself to death on my account, and that is harder than all the rest I have to bear."
"Don't think about me, Algernon. I know that every hour is precious now, that your very life depends upon your getting off into the country, and to think I must see you languishing here through these long four weeks, before my term closes, and I can get the money to take us where we can see the green fields once more."
"Oh, I long for a sight of them I" and the white face of Algernon Darwin kindled like an alabaster vase, within which a perfumed lamp is set suddenly. "Oh, I long for a sight of them! How good it will seem, Margaret, to get out of this hot, close, noisy place, and to feel the cool breath of the mountain winds on my forehead! The very thought of them is like a dream of my lost health come back to me."
"Poor Algernon!" and Margaret Darwin's fingers slipped themselves like flakes of moonlight through the crisp, brown hair that shaded the transparent brow of her brother.
"You look as if you ought to say 'Poor Margaret' instead. Why, the roses that used to be in your cheeks are all gone; and your face is so thin and changed, my heart aches to look at it!"
"Oh, you mustn't fancy that I 'm not well enough, Algernon; but it's hard, oh, so hard to see you lying here, and to think that the winds and the sunshine may be had for the asking, and we can't get to them. If we only had some friend to help us—but we 're all alone in the world."
"But we 've got each other;" and the youth threw his arm around the small white neck on which, like to half-drooping lily, rested the beautiful head of Margaret Darwin.
"I know that. Oh, Algernon, a little while ago, I thought I should be all alone, and that you would go to our father and mother!"
The August sunlight poured a flood of golden wine into the chamberwhere the brother and the sister strove to comfort each other. It was a room in the third story of a tall, brick tenement in the heart of a great city, and in the narrow street below, one could hear all day the jarring din of wheels, the tramp of the crowd, and all the harsh sounds which throb along the iron pulses of a large city. The chamber was furnished very plainly; a dark ingrain carpet, a table, and a few chairs, with the lounge in the corner, were its principal appointments.
Margaret and Algernon Darwin had seen their father covered up ten, and their mother three years before. The long illness of the latter had exhausted the few hundred dollars which remained of her husband's property, and the young girl found her brother and herself dependent upon her own exertions for a livelihood. She had a brave heart, and she came to the city, aud with her fine talents soon obtained a situation as music-teacher in a large seminary.
Algernon inherited the studious tastes and delicate physique of his father.
He could not see, without acute pain, that
his fair young sister was exerting herself beyond her strength for their maintenance, and he at last procured a situation as bookkeeper in a mercantile establishment. But the close confinement proved too much for him; aud a cold, which brought on a severe cough, at last compelled theyoungman to resign his situation. But he did not recuperate. Each day took something from his strength, until he was unable to leave his lounge, and Margaret feared that her brother's days numbered few.
For a long time the physician gave them no hope; but, in the late summer, the invalid's cough abated; and though lie was weak as an infant, and had come so very near the gates of death, the doctor hoped that, with country air and diet, his youth would triumph, and that Algernon Darwin would be given back to the love of his sister. But Margaret had not ten dollars in the world to accomplish her brother's removal into the country, and every hour was precious now. No wonder that the heart of Margaret Darwin failed her, as she looked on the white face of her brother, that afternoon, on her return from school, and counted the days whose slow feet must pass by before she would reach the close of her term.
There came a loud, rapid knock at the door, • and Algernon drew his arm away, and Margaret went to answer it. She did not recognize the two strange gentlemen who stood there and scrutinized her face till the lost roses glowed back in her cheeks.
"Can you tell us anything of Mr. Edward Darwin, formerly of Hampton?" asked one of the gentlemen.
"I am his daughter, sir."
"It is only necessary to prove this, and you are the heiress to the estate of your uncle, your father's brother, Squire Robert Darwin I"
The roses went out of the girl's cheeks now, quickly as they had blossomed there, and a look of utter bewilderment filled the sweet eyes of Margaret Darwin. The gentlemen saw that the news had completely overcome her. They solicited permission to enter the chamber, and as they walked in, the white face and burning eyes of Algernon Darwin were lifted eagerly toward them.
"He is my brother," said Margaret.
"Yon will not be able to bear the tidings which we bring you?" asked one of the visitors; and his face was full of curious solicitude, as he looked on the young invalid.
"Don't mind me, sir," gasped the young man. "It is probable there is some mistake."
"We shall be able to prove whether there
be in a moment;" and then turning to their young hostess, the gentlemen inquired whether she had ever heard her father speak of an elder brother of his — Squire Robert Darwin, of Hampton 1
"Oh, very often, sir. Hampton was my father's native plaoe, and he was the younger son of Colonel Josiah Darwin, of Hampton ; but —but there was some serious difficulty betwixt my father and his brother, and papa and mamma left their native place more than thirty years ago."
The elder of the gentlemen brought down his hand on the table. "We have found you at last," he said. "My brother was Squire Darwin's lawyer, and appointed executor of his will. We have advertised for the heirs for the last two months, and came upon you by the merest accident. I called at the seminary this afternoon, on some business, with my friend who accompanies me, and during an interview with the principal, she spoke of her musicteacher, Miss Darwin. The name struck me at once; I made a few inquiries, and obtained your address, and I am here now to congratulate you, for there is no doubt, my young friends, that you can establish your claims; and the will of Squire Darwin places you in immediate possession of the Darwin Homestead, and the lands about it, worth, at least, seventy-five thousand dollars."
The gentlemen did not remain long afterward. There was something in the manner of the brother and sister which made them feel that it was best they shonld be alone; but they took leave of them with many expressions of interest and kindness, and promised to call the next morning.
The good tidings had come too snddenly. Human capacity for joy or sorrow is limited. As soon as Margaret had closed the door on her guests, she returned to Algernon. The brother and sister looked in each other's faces a moment, with eyes full of bewilderment. Margaret crept up to Algernon, and put down her white cheek to his. "I knew we were dreaming all the time, Algernon," she whispered. "Oh, it was too good to be true. We shall wake up in a little while."
"Yes, we shall wake up in a little while. It is too good to be true—and yet, if it might be!" answered the boy, in a dreamy way, for his long illness, and this sndden excitement, had proved too much for him, and in a few moments he fell into a deep sleep, and Margaret listened for a while to his soft breathing, and then, rising up, she folded a thin coverlet about him, for
the summer night was sultry, and went to her own small chamber, and flung herself down on the bed, intending to think over the events of the afternoon; but her thoughts wandering to and fro, through dark alleys, and among old, mournful memories, and the present, which she tried to grasp, faded away from the girl, and at last she, too, fell into deep slumber.
The sun was shining brightly when she awoke. A night of sweet sleep had restored her mind to its usual healthful poise, and when the previous day swept back on her memory, Margaret did not say that it was all a dream.
A few hours later, Mr. Grainger, the brother of her uncle's lawyer, called to see her. It was arranged, then, that the brother and sister should leave the following day for Hampton, as their presence would be necessary to make good their right to the property.
Mr. Grainger kindly promised to assist them all in his power, and it was conclnded that Algernon would be able to endure the journey by easy stages.
"Margaret, come here to me," said Algernon, as he heard the footsteps of their guests on the stairs; and he sat up on the couch, and in the hollow of each white cheek burned the red blood once more. "It is not all a dream, is it, sweet sister f Shall I go into the country once more, and hear the birds sing, and see the great trees, and drink in the fresh air that I thirst for once more?" and his greedy eyes fastened themselves on her face imploringly.
"Yes, darling, youshall have all these things. It is not a dream, as I thought, but a great, blessed truth that God has sent ns!"
And then the brother and sister wept together tears of joy over the gift which the dead had left to them.
Three months had passed. The last days of November were hanging like a pale, golden fringe on the skirt of winter, and the great trees, around the old Darwin Homestead, stood tall and bare, shaking a few sodden leaves to the ground, whenever the wind walked through their branches. In the old sitting-room, Margaret and Algernon Darwin stood near the wood fire, whose crimson flames gave a picturesque glow to the old-fashioned furniture, and formed a vivid contrast with the day outside.
Mrs. Pierson sat in her old place by the window, hemming some curtains, for the gardener's wife still found her services indispensable in the old gray stone house.
"How well you are looking, Algernon. I