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She must scream, but has not the power. There is a buzzing in her ears, the lights are dancing up and down-up and down. She gives a sort of frantic "lurch" towards M. Duchesney, who is gazing through his opera-glass at the singer. She is dimly conscious of a wild desire for air-air, and then, singer, audience, everything fades away, and for the first time in her life Meg has fainted. There is a buzz of excitement, and smelling salts, and scent bottles; but Duchesney, quick in an emergency, raises her in his arms, and carries her to the coolness outside of the heated hall, where cold water and fanning restore her, after some minutes, to consciousness; at least partly so. She opens her eyes, then closes them again, saying, in a trembling voice, "John, dear John-I want you-stay with me-why have you left me?John-ah!" with a little cry, as her senses return to her. Where am I?" Raising her head from M. Duchesney's arm, her eyes fall on the diamonds being that thin ye can see through glittering on his hands; then looking him. I fear me, sair, he is wearing up to his face, for he is still bending awa'. Will ye no come back again? over her, another cry breaks from her Respectfully yours, lips. She shudders violently, and SANDY. draws away from him, saying wildly, "Oh, now I remember-how could I forget! Take me home! Take me home for I know John loves me still!"
DEAR MISS MEG:
Maister John has been verra' bad and at death's door with fever of the brain. He's no muckle to look at now,
"Dear Miss Graham, you must really turn me out; you make me so comfortable, you will find me a fixture if you don't look out," laughs John Anderson. "Ah!" sniffing the perfume which comes in at the open window, "how sweet that wallflower is !"
It is a lovely summer afternoon, and he is lying on the old-fashioned chintz-covered sofa in the pretty, homelike drawing-room at the Cottage. A mere shadow of his former self is John, for he has had a sharp attack of brain fever.
"All that young woman's doings, Mrs. Carmichael has informed Sandy, who shakes his wise old head, and says, "He ken't what going to that foreign land wad dae, he ken't fine hoo't wad be. Wae's me, an' sich a fine young man as Maister Anderson. My, I thocht the lassie had mair sense, ava! Weel, weel, we can but wait awa' see hoo things turn out. Its an' awfu' peety she's set her heart on the vanities o' this wicked world; that's the trouble, I'm thinking.'
But Sandy had an idea of his own, and this idea finally crystallized itself into a letter. And this poor little scrawl, written with infinite pains (for Sandy had been a brave "sodger," but no scholar), sped on its way, and this was all it said (the spelling was different, of course):
And never a doubt has Sandy but that it will be "richt noo"-that these few touching words will bring his young "leddy" safe and sound across the sea to her ain Jo.
And a few days after, in the sweet little garden, with its old-fashioned flowers, John Anderson is slowly pacing up and down, his hands clasped behind his back. His coat hangs loosely on his tall, gaunt figure; in the band of his wide a-wake soft felt hat a few blue-bells, with their hair-like stems, are languishing. His face is browned with the sun, though, and his keen blue eyes, with the kindly glance in them "for man and beast," as the country folk say, are losing that hollow look.
"Oh, aye, he's pickin' up," mutters the old gardener, " but when she comes
he'll-weel-he'll jist feel as I wad if I saw my ain Kirsty comin' back tae me frae Heaven, a-crossing the burn doon there, an' the sun glintin' on her hair, for it seemed to love her bonnie hair," and the old man sighs, for through the mist of years the image of his gude wife shines clearly still."
Miss Graham had felt Meg's fickle conduct very keenly, but the sore subject had only been mentioned between them once, for John is of a reserved nature, like most Scotchmen. Unselfish all through, no feeling of anger against his love fills his breast. She had told him she loved him. She had sworn to be true to him, but she had not really known what love was. Some one else had taught her, and he— the light of his life had gone out, but if she is happy, he thinks, then all is right. Self is entirely put aside; pride and sentiment play no part in this tragedy; he must smile and take his place in the world again soon now, and the patched-up heart must do its work in place of a whole one. Would there were more such noble natures as belonged to poor, obscure, out-atelbows, humble John Anderson.
"A letter for you, miss, and M. Duchesney waits in the drawingroom!"
"Help me to pack! I must go at once-at once," she utters breathlessly -pitching skirts, blouses, hats, boots, slippers, stockings, in a perfect avalanche to poor, bewildered Marie, who requires to exercise no little skill in order to dodge the high-heeled boots and slippers.
Meg takes the badly-addressed envelope, turns it over and over, wondering, like the postman, who it can be from-then, seeing the postmark, tears it open-reads, and with every scrap of colour faded from her cheeks and lips, calls:
Marie! find out for me when the next steamer leaves for GlasgowQuick-don't stand staring there; go, I say."
The French maid, scarcely understanding, is hesitating, but at the word "go!" turns and runs downstairs. She has scarcely done so ere she is frantically recalled by her young mistress.
"This ravishing costume, Mademoiselle?" she enquires, commencing to fold up the lovely shimmering white ball dress, and very much astonished is she to find the ravishing costume twitched from her fingers and flung to the other side of the room, where it lay in a frothy heap.
The tall, gaunt figure." "Heavens!" mutters the maid, marvelling what had gone wrong with "Mees Carnegie," for Meg was usually pleasant and affable to the servants, and they all loved her.
"Take that hateful dress!" says Meg; adding, under her breath," the dress I wore when I was base enough to promise to marry one man while I loved another, and that other I know has never in thought, word or deed. swerved from me; how could I for a moment think so?" and she goes on throwing to the girl all she can quickly get out of the wardrobe, avoiding with a shudder anything belonging to the "trousseau."
"M. Duchesney waits, Mademoiselle," repeats Marie a second time. She has a sincere admiration for the handsome Frenchinan.
"Let him-but, no-here, give me my tea gown"-for Meg had been resting in her dressing gown this warm afternoon; and slipping on the soft, silky, amber-coloured negligé all ruffled with creamy lace, she runs swiftly downstairs and into the drawing-room. Not one glance in the glass had she taken-her hair is ruffled, her eyes shining with excitement and looking dark in contrast to the small, colourless face. The loose, flowing yellow gown, drawn in round the waist with fluttering golden cord and tassels clings softly, almost pathetically, to the slender figure one of those indescribable works of art from a fashionable heart against her. a fashionable modiste which are easy and graceful, and yet fit perfectly.
M. Duchesney, in irreproachable dress and carefully-pointed beard, turns as she enters, twirls his waxed moustache, flicks a speck of dust from his coat sleeve with his perfumed handkerchief, and advances with outstretched hands, thinking how really charming his Scotch fiancée is looking, -almost a beauty, and quite a presentable Madame Duchesney.
concert?" Duchesney stiffly inclines his head. "Well, after that there was little need to speak. You must have known how it was with me.”
They do they do. It is for your sake, as well as mine," cries Meg. "You remember that night at the
"But, I-I—was told you wished to hold me to my bargain. Not sonot so; I see there has been a leetle misunderstanding all round," he rejoins. "You were indisposed after the concert. Mrs. Mackenzie did then tell me you had had a leetle affaire in your own country which had been off for some time Indeed, I think she implied that the young man had-had cried off'-yes, these were her words. It seems she was wrong. My heart has been at your feet since we met first, and it is thus you repay me."
Ah! forgive, forgive me!" says Meg, and loyalty to her cousin seals her lips, though there is anger in his heart against her. "Everything has been wrong, but let there be no more deception between us. Let a final decision be come to without_interference," drawing up her slight figure, "for what happiness could ever be ours if I still deceived myself and you?"
Meg draws further back as Duchesney again approaches her. "Take this," she adds, again holding out the glittering ring. "You do not mind very much. Keep it for someone more worthy of it than I. I am not worth crying over; besides, my heart has always, always belonged to another, and I have murdered him."
M. Duchesney, with one or two staccato bounds, at once widens the distance between them and keeps it. "Those small hands do not look murderous," he is thinking, "but still one never knows"
Meg, divining his thoughts, almost laughs as she reassures him by saying: "Oh! there is no blood on my hands. I just broke his heart, that was all. He ceased to write to me-I know not why. Something tells me there was a reason, and that made me angry, you see. You were always kind and generous to me. I liked you." Duchesney bows stiffly. "I was piqued at
John's silence, and I accepted you; and he trusted me so-he trusted me so! And now he is dying, or dead, and that cruel ocean between us, so dark and cold. Oh! forgive me, please, and believe me by helping me to go to him. Ah! why did I come here-why did I? Only to work mischief. It is all my fault," and the tears are running down her cheeks, and passionate sobs are breaking from her as she holds her hands out beseechingly to Duchesney.
Real feeling begets real feeling, and Meg's some time lover clasps her hands in his, saying in an earnest, sincere voice, which is a little shaky, to tell the truth: "Compose yourself, dear Miss Carnegie; if you had never come, I would not have been taught by you what a most beautiful thing true love is. I used to fancy what you promised me never rang true '— but I could not tell, not knowing what I now know." A sob from Meg, who is crying quietly now. "If all Scottish hearts are as faithful as yours, then happy is the man who wins one for his own. We love, but with a difference."
"Faithful! No, no! I have been vain and silly, and the good things money can give tempted ine; I was always mercenary. It is all my fault!" cries poor Meg. "Ingratitude for kindness has been my return-it is all my fault!"
"No, not all," says a voice; and it is Sally's. And then a graceful figure in a cool-looking and chic "get-up" of pale mauve (for becoming costumes, she confesses, are her strong point) moves across the polished floor, and puts her arm gently round her cousin, giving M. Duchesney a bright good afternoon" in passing, and he thinks what a pretty picture they make, as the mauve and gold colours blend artistically together. Sally was really sorry for Meg's distress; but had her cousin worn a blue dressing gown, nothing, not even oceans of tears, would have induced her to fold
"Oh! Sally, Sally, how could you? I will never, never forgive you; it was wicked-dishonourable! And poor John, to mislead him so-and nowdead, perhaps! Ah! Sally, it was cruel kindness."
"Cruel fiddlesticks! You ought to feel very much indebted to me for all the trouble I've taken about you, you silly girl." But there is a rather suspicious tremor in Mrs. Mackenzie's voice which belies the off-hand speech, and the mauve and gold are close together again, and Sally is softly stroking poor Meg's down-bent brown head, upon which, all unknown to her, some glittering drops are falling. And now the dark-eyed cavalier of the picture moves into active life and joins the clinging figures.
"Compose yourself, dear Miss Carnegie, and we will assist you now. You wish to go to your friend-your lover? Well, I shall waste no time in seeing about the arrangements. Let us all forget what has passed. It was pour passer le temps, as Mrs. Mackenzie says. It is over. Let us be good comrades still, in the days to come. Au revoir," and with a wave of the hand and a smile Duchesney was gone
--and Meg had never felt so near lov- derson is it? Weel, he's comin' round ing him as now. fine noo. He'd best look sharp; he's to be married soon."
In the twilight of a soft summer evening, somewhere about a fortnight later, a cab is driving quickly along Princes-St., Edinburgh, towards the west end-and the girl seated inside, dressed in grey homespun, and little felt hat with jaunty white wings at the side, feels her heart throb with a great gladness. Now they are passing "Sir Walter Scott's monument," and then the grim old Castle, which "stands upon a rock," frowns down upon her; but her heart is light, and she sends back a smile for the frown. An organ in Castle Street is playing "Home, Sweet Home," and Meg leans back with a restful feeling she has not felt for months.
Meg, arrived at the said gate, descended from her " kerridge," paid her fare, and tripped down the familiar lane still perfumed with wild roses and honeysuckle as it had been the day she left nearly a year ago.
"A year ago!" !" says she to herself, "it seems like ten. Anyway, I feel ten years older. Ah, Sandy, is that you? Gallant as ever!" For the old man's pipe is instantly shoved into his coat pocket, and, hat in hand, he stands with beaming face.
"I kent it; I kent it," he says, "for I dreamt I seed ye comin' doon the lane last nicht. An' it's a prood man I am the day, being the first to speer 'hoo's a' wi ye?'"
Meg shakes him vigorously by both hands. "Yes, I'm back. East or West, Home is best,' Sandy!"
Aye, aye," says the gardener, "Ye're richt, only yince I thocht it wasna' when I broke the gudewife's best Cheeny teapot, an' she gaed me a bit o' her mind-puir Kirsty."
"Sandy, quick, tell me, how is he?" The cunning old servant has his turn now. "An' hoo may ye be speerin' after? Oh, it's Maister An
"Married soon!-Mr. Anderson ?" and something clutches at Meg's heart, and she turns away her face to hide its paleness, pulling a spray of honeysuckle from the hedge with her trembling hand, and holding it to her lips unsteadily.
"I am glad he is coming round, Sandy," she says. "I must go and congratulate him. Who-who is the lady?"
"The leddy, Miss, the leddy, weel, I'm thinkin' it should be piper's news tae ye Miss, for its naebody but yersel Mr. John 'll be going to marry— beggin' yer pardon for takin' the liberty tae say so." And Sandy chuckles to himself as he watches Miss Meg's hasty departure. "It's a' richt noo, an' 'twas my sendin' that billy-dux that did it." And the pipe comes out with a gratified flourish, and a “prood" man proceeded to fill and smoke it.
And the young" leddy" sped nimbly on-on. Opening the back gate she steals softly through the well-stocked kitchen garden. Betsy, happily, is nowhere to be seen, so she continues her way uninterrupted. Through the pantry and then along the passage to the pretty, home-like drawing-room with all its knick-knacks-the globe of gold fish, the old-fashioned bookcase, with the Waverley novels on the lowest shelf; and there is the black cat purring away on the big, shabby arm-chair which had been her grandfather's.
It is the "gloaming," and a soft, half light fills the room. The perfume of roses floats in at the open window, and one taller than the others is looking in at a long-legged specimen of humanity in flannels, who is lounging back on a low couch, a "tonicy-" looking bottle and carafe of water on a small table at his side. A vase of pale green glass filled with Marguerites keeps them company. He seems dozing. The evening paper has fallen