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heavy feverish slumber, that her dead sister's infant drew its last breath. Poor babe! its sad little race was quickly run; but one can hardly call such a death premature. Even Mrs Gibson and Jessie, as they dropped a few natural tears over the innocent clay, felt somewhat of this sentiment.
Mrs Gibson then took down the Bible, and read a chapter to Jessie. They never omitted to read the Bible every day, though, strange to say, there were some of its lessons at least they did not seem to lay to heart. And there are not a few persons of the same kind-persons who hear sermons, and read books of instruction, in the unthinking belief that having so done, they have accomplished their duty. Jessie's and her mother's reading of 'good books' was a duty quite apart from other duties, and the affairs of their daily life ; yet, though never influencing their understandings or conduct, their consciences would have been quite uneasy if they had omitted their chapter.
Helen Gray's first thought, when she awoke at last from her heavy slumber, was of the baby. She soon divined what had happened, and for some time seemed overwhelmed with grief. She then spoke of rising, that she might seek some means of having the child buried, and try to move on her way homeward ; but Jessie would not permit her. She strove to comfort her with the assurance that the child should be properly buried. The doctor, she added, said it was impossible she could walk for a week or two. ‘Then God help me!' cried the unfortunate creature : 'what shall I do?' Jessie hastened to console her, by telling her she should remain where she was, and be nursed till she was well. Poor Helen Gray could only evince her gratitude by tears, and by pressing Jessie's hand to her lips. But she made the most fervent resolutions to shew her gratitude one day to her generous benefactress, if it should please God to restore her to health and strength. And then Helen told Jessie she was the good Samaritan, and Jessie's heart was prouder and more self-satisfied than ever. She was to return to the duties of her place the following evening.
The weather was now somewhat improved. The clouds were lighter, and broken into masses; the rain had ceased to descend in a constant deluge, but only came in occasional drifting showers, for the wind had now risen. Jessie began to hope it might be fine, at least overhead, for her five miles' walk to Todlaw Mains. She had another hope too, with regard to which she was more silentnamely, that Robin would come to her that night, as he had been prevented fulfilling his engagement the previous evening. The hope was fulfilled. Robin arrived with the gloaming, and was welcomed at the door by his betrothed-once more in her 'best merino,' and cap with blue ribbons. Robin Rae was a young man, two or three years older than Jessie Gibson, tall and strongly made, with a healthy, honest, manly face, a fearless brown eye, and 'locks of
curling dark hair. His face brightened with pleasure at the sight of Jessie. She stepped out on the wet road to meet him. 'I’m sae glad ye’ve come, Robin !'
Are ye, hinny?' said the young man with brightening eyes. "It's unco weather keeps me frae my Jessie ; but I was amaist drooned trying to ford the water yesternicht. An’ sae ye was wearying on me, lassie?'
They were now in the little passage, and the door of the outer apartment was closed, lest the damp wind should blow through to the inner one where the invalid lay. As the opportunity seemed favourable, and Jessie in a kind mood, which was not always the case, the lover sought to accompany these words with a kiss, for which he was instantly rewarded by a box on the ear-not a very hard one, however.
“The concait o' some folk! An' so ye thought I was greeting my een out because ye didna come! Na, na, lad; I ha' something to tell ye, that's a':' And as shortly as possible, Jessie narrated the incidents of the preceding evening, concluding by asking Robin, if he would take charge of the burial of the infant, as she must return to Todlaw Mains, and her mother would have her hands full with the invalid. As Jessie proceeded with her tale, her mood again changed; and as she described the death of the baby, her eyes
filled with tears, and her voice became hoarse with feeling. Robin's eyes, too, glistened-partly with sympathy, and partly with admiration of the conduct of his Jessie. His answer was : ' I 'll do that, Jessieonything ye like, darlin'.' And then Jessie bade him : Come in till yer tea. Mother has it a' ready.'
On the deal table stood a row of tea-cups, with a tempting scone of Jessie's making, just hot off the girdle-a flat iron plate, upon which, suspended over the fire, it is the custom in Scotland to bake various kinds of thin bread and cakes, most of them included under the generic appellation of scone. Two or three eggs completed the luxuries of this dainty repast, which Robin declared to be quite a feast, and which, to judge by his prowess, he enjoyed exceedingly. As he finished his egg, he exclaimed : 'What a fine egg! Where did ye get it, Jessie? I thought eggs were owre dear for puir folk at this time o' year.'
‘Jessie brought them hame wi' her frae Todlaw Mains.'
The mistress gae her them, I fancy. She maun think a dale o' Jessie, an' nae wonder !'
She does that,' answered Mrs Gibson quickly; 'an' nae wonder, as ye say. She gies her a hantel o' things forbye eggs.'
Mrs Gibson maintained, while she spoke, the most composed countenance, her expression merely testifying the pleasure a mother would naturally feel in knowing her daughter was appreciated; and such, indeed, was perhaps partly her feeling, for, from long habit, Mrs Gibson's moral sense was much more completely blunted than
that of her daughter. Jessie, meanwhile, blushed crimson, and fidgeted on her seat. She had never felt more uncomfortable in her life, and at that instant would have given anything not to have taken the eggs. But Robin attributed her blushes to quite another cause, which only made her fairer and dearer in his eyes. Though the night was chill, and the roads wet, he looked forward with delight to the walk to Todlaw Mains, when he should have her all to himself. He had some pleasant news, too, to tell, which he reserved till they should be alone. Meanwhile, he continued to compliment her on the high estimation in which she was held by her mistress and by everybody, and most, he said, by those who knew her best. At first, his praise only made Jessie feel more embarrassed, but she was not naturally of a reflective disposition, and was much inclined to be on good terms with herself; so by degrees the disagreeable feelings were forgotten, and she yielded to the pleasing belief that she was one of the most meritorious of her sex. She was still further confirmed in this flattering opinion when, going into the inner room to bid adieu to the invalid, ere setting out with Robin, the poor girl called down on her head the most fervent blessings—the glances with which she accompanied her expressions of gratitude saying still more than the words, for Helen Gray's was not a very demonstrative disposition. Jessie departed with her lover in excellent spirits, and in a state of thorough self-satisfaction.
Their path lay, part of the way, over a wide open moorland. The roads were not quite so wet as might have been expected; and the moon, wading through the cloudy masses, shed fitful gleams of pale brightness over the brown moss and shaggy whins, while a star glimmered now and then from a rent like a deep-blue pit in the lead-coloured sky. It was still cold, and a damp wind blew bitterly over the open moor; but to Robin and Jessie the weather seemed almost pleasant. The joy within their hearts seemed to diffuse a portion of its warmth and brightness even over the bleak outward world.
'I ha grand news for ye, Jessie. Only think, lassie : Mr Oliver o Springsyde House's gardener is gaun to flit, an' Mr Somerville o' the Ha' an' James Hardie ha' spoken for the place for me, an' I am amaist sure to get it, for Mr Oliver has a great notion o' James Hardie's skeeliness, an' Mr Somerville is to speak for me being a decent lad. An' I wad be to ha' the lodge-house. Sic a bonnie place, Jessie! A bit nate white-washed house, a' growin' owre wi' roses, an' the grass park in front, an' a brae kivered wi' trees at the back, an' a glinting wi primroses in the spring-time; an' a nice bit garden at ae side, wi bonny pear an' apple trees in't. It wad be jist the place for you, Jessie ; an' ye wad hae naething to do but open the gate for the carriages. O Jessie !' cried Robin, altogether transported with delight, as in his mind's eye he beheld his Jessie, in one of her neat, bright dresses, rushing out of their pretty cottage to open the gate for a carriage full of ladies and gentlemen, and thought how they must all admire the gardener's pretty wife.
But they had now arrived at the gate leading through the farmyard to the back premises of Todlaw Mains, at which place the lovers always parted. On the present occasion, they lingered a minute. Robin whispered something : 'If he got the place, wad she'- The rest of the sentence was almost inaudible; but Jessie seemed to understand it. She answered in a tone equally inaudible, but which seemed equally comprehensible and satisfactory. Robin for a second pressed her to his heart, which beat tumultuously with joy and hope. Then he watched her figure as it vanished among the stacks. 'O Jessie-my ain Jessie! May the Lord bless her dear heart! sae bonnie an' sae gude,' he whispered softly and fervently.
Jessie was kindly welcomed back by her mistress and the young ladies: they had missed her much. The house looked quite dirty and untidy, and not like itself; and as for the bedroom stairs, they were not fit to be seen. Jessie, in a fit of good-humour, for her heart was dancing with joy, slipped on her working-dress, and washed them down that very night, and by twelve o'clock next day the house had assumed its ordinary aspect of cheerful, shining tidiness. And then Miss Ann, who was Jessie's principal friend among the young ladies, and to whom the latter was in the habit of imparting various confidences, came up to the upper lobby, where Jessie was dusting the walls, to have a gossip with her about the events of her visit to Ruthersholm. Jessie had a great deal to tell her young mistress this time. She described pathetically the death of the infant, and the sad condition of poor Helen Gray, whose touching, though too common history lost none of its interest by Jessie's simple, naïve style of narration. Miss Ann's feelings were interested. She ran to tell the tale to her mamma and sisters, eager to do something for Jessie's protégée.
Mrs Young was a sensible, rather clever woman, not deficient in kindness of heart, but very strict in her notions, exacting from her dependants, and apt to judge harshly of those whose cast of character differed from her own. Jessie was a great favourite with her. She had never had so active, cleanly, and 'biddable’ a girl before. Though not so enthusiastic as her daughters, she was therefore quite willing to lend any aid in her power to Helen Gray, for Jessie's sake, and to promote the well-being of the former on her recovery, should she find, on inquiry, that she was a well-behaved girl. She knew a lady in the same part of Ayrshire from which Helen said she came, and she would get her to make the necessary inquiries about the girl's character. When Mr Young came home for the evening,
the tale was told to him likewise. Mr Young was a good-tempered, kind-hearted man, who, with the exception of the affairs which appertained to his farm, left the management of most matters to his wife, for whose abilities he entertained the greatest possible respect. Jessie was a prodigious favourite with him, not so much because of the various good qualities which called forth his wife's commendation, as on account of her pleasant face, tidy figure, neat dress, and cheerful, civil manners. He now proposed sending some money instantly to the Gibsons for the benefit of the stranger; but this proposal was overruled by his wife. “Jessie had already given a pound for the purpose, and the sum was quite ample.' Mrs Young did not approve of rewarding people for being generous ; such a proceeding ran the risk of destroying the virtue it was intended to foster. No; let Jessie feel the sacrifice she had made. Helen's well-being and gratitude were her only suitable rewards.
But I must now return to the invalid.
Mrs Gibson attended her most assiduously; and Robin, for Jessie's sake, did all that lay in his power to serve her. At last their cares were rewarded. Helen was pronounced out of danger, and was able to sit up. Mrs Young, meanwhile, had mad the promised inquiries of her Ayrshire friend. This lady had had some difficulty in finding any trace of the girl; but she had at last discovered, that she had resided some years in a village in the immediate neighbourhood of Kilmarnock, and, as she had said, gained a scanty livelihood by embroidering muslin. The neighbours knew little about her; but said she was a very quiet girl, who lived alone, and seemed to have no friends; that she mixed very little with the other people of the place, but was always very kind to any one in distress; and had always conducted herself in an irreproachable manner. It was believed that she came from Glasgow. This was not entirely satisfactory; but as it was good as far as it went, Mrs Young resolved to befriend the girl, provided she could give an account of her parentage and her previous history. For the purpose of making these inquiries, and also as an indulgence to herself, Jessie was one evening permitted to pay a visit at home. When she arrived she found her protégée clothed in one of her own dresses, and seated in the wooden chair with the railings by the 'ingle neuk. Jessie surveyed with considerable interest the appearance of her new friend.
Even in full health, Helen Gray could never have been pretty. She had a tall, thin, fragile figure, with a hollow chest and stooping shoulders. Her features, in general, were not good, and her mouth much too large. She had, however, a mild, smooth forehead, soft, though thin brown hair, and immense dark eyes, which lighted up
pale face with a wondrous lustre. Her expression altogether was gentle and melancholy. Her countenance became animated as Jessie entered, and seizing both the hands of the latter, she pressed them without speaking. Jessie then opened the subject of her message.