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Lee, "one of them idle, good-for-nothing servants
loafing about at a public will do more harm in a place than you can undo
in a day."

"That's true," added Aunt Rose; "I can't bear the sight of the fellow
lounging about with his little stick, as if he was saying to all the
place, 'Here I am; it's just improvement to you all to see how I switch
my legs.'"

"And he stares so!" added Aunt Charlotte. "Last time Amy and I met him
on the road, I really thought he would have stared the poor child out of
countenance. I had a great mind to have spoken to him, and told him to
mind his manners."

"You are too young and too good-looking to do that sort of thing,
Charlotte," said her brother, laughing. "May be 'twas your aunt he
looked at, so you needn't go as red as a turkey-cock, Amy girl."

"Me, indeed!" said Charlotte, in hot indignation. "I should hope I was
_past_ being stared at by a whipper-snapper monkey like that."

The elders all laughed heartily, and Mr. Nowell said something about
Miss Charlotte being a fine woman of her time of life, which made her
still more angry, and set her brother and sister laughing the more.

Amy squeezed out a weak little giggle, but she was both angered and
frightened. She could never tell her aunts now. What would they say? The
time of the wedding was drawing on; Mr. Wingfield would be going. Little
flutters moved her breast. Would he say any more before he went, or did
she wish it? Florence said he was dying for her. Florence thought he was
a gentleman in disguise, like one she had read about in a novel; but
Amy, though she liked to dream of something sweet and grand years
hence, did not want to be startled by love-making now, or to have the
dreadful disturbance at home there would be if this were more than a
summer acquaintance. How would the aunts look, when they found she had
concealed all this--she who had never hidden anything from them before?

And yet she took the stolen pleasure in trembling every day, and tried
to believe Florence when she said there was no harm in it, that every
one did so, and that young people must be young!




CHAPTER IX.

AWKWARD MEETINGS.


"WELL, to be sure, who would have thought of such a treat! This is a
pleasure indeed! Rose, Rose, whom do you think we have here?"

"How natural it all do look to be sure. There, Ambrose, there's the very
rose tree I have so often told you of."

"Why, mother has described it all so well, I could have found my way
blindfold."

The speaker was a tall, fair-faced young man, looking, in Charlotte
Lee's eyes, like one of the young gentlemen from the university, but
with something grave and deep about his face, and by him stood his
little mother in the neatest of black silk dresses, with something
sweet and childlike about her face still, though there were some
middle-aged lines in it. She had once been the Amy Lee of Langley. She
had married a schoolmaster, Mr. Cuthbert, and this was their only son.
He had distinguished himself in all his examinations, and at the same
time had shown so deep an interest in missions to the heathen, and had
done so much to make the boys of the school care for them, that when
there was a question of choosing a lad as a missionary student, whose
expenses would be paid by subscriptions of the clergy in the diocese, at
the great college of St. Augustine's at Canterbury, the vicar of his
parish had three years ago proposed Ambrose Cuthbert as the fittest
youth he knew. He had just finished his terms at the college, and was on
his way home before going out to Rupertsland, having met his mother at
the house of his father's brother in London. They had found out that an
excursion train would enable them to run down to Langley and spend a few
hours there; and Mrs. Cuthbert, who had always said her son must not
leave England without having seen her old home, her brother and sisters,
was delighted with the opportunity, and here they were, the brother and
the three sisters all together, hardly knowing what they said in their
eager joy.

"And my little Amy, where is she? You have not seen your namesake, Amy,"
said the father, who had come in bare armed and floury.

"She is not come back yet from poor little Teddy's," said Aunt Rose.
"The child goes to teach, and see to, a poor little sick lad in a
cottage every day, Amy. We like her to do such things," she added,
pleased that her sister should see that their child was likewise
something superior in goodness. "Ah! is it you, Jessie? This is Clemmy
Fielding's daughter, Amy. Did you see our Amy as you came along,
Jessie?"

"I will run back and call her," said Jessie, who had seen the top of
Amy's sunshade over the hedge, and in good-natured sympathy wanted to
spare all the shock of discovery.

"No, no," said Miss Rose, "thank you all the same, Jessie, but if you
would not mind sitting down to the machine, I would walk out that way
with my sister, just while my brother is finishing his batch of bread,
and you are getting ready a bit of something to eat, Charlotte. I know,
Amy, you would like just to look round the hill, and see where the
squire's new cottages lie. Wouldn't you?"

Jessie saw there was no help for it. Mrs. Cuthbert was delighted to go
and to show her son her old haunts; but first she spoke very kindly to
Jessie, and inquired for her mother, saying she remembered her well; and
on her side Jessie recollected that her mother always said she owed
more to Mrs. Cuthbert's kindness when she was a little girl than to any
one else.

So off set the two elder sisters and the pleasant looking young man
together. Amy always was late, and Jessie felt one hope, that they might
meet the two girls coming in together. Yet, as she whirred her machine,
she reflected that after all it might be best for Amy in the end that
all this folly and concealment should be put a stop to.

Out they went, talking; Mrs. Cuthbert asking questions, and pointing
everything out to her son, and Aunt Rose delighted to answer.

"We do not hurry the maid," said Aunt Rose, as they drew near. "You see
it is such a blessing to that poor little afflicted child to have her
with him."

Perhaps Rose Lee, who had had her dreams and fancies like other people,
was thinking of the tales where some one looks in at the window and
sees the good young person bending over the sufferer's couch, and
reading good books to him; but it was certainly not Amy whom she saw as
the door stood open. There was the little boy on the old couch under the
window, moaning a little, but it was his sister who was standing by him
with a cup of something, coaxing him with "Now Teddy, do be a good boy,
and drink it, do'ee now."

"Why, Polly," said Aunt Rose, "are you here?"

"Please, Miss Lee," said Polly, in a high squeaky voice of self-defence,
"Our Ted is so bad, I couldn't go to school, not this afternoon."

"And where's Miss Amy? Not gone for the doctor?" asked Rose, seeing
indeed that the poor child looked very ill.

"No, miss," said Polly. "Teacher Amy don't come now for more than a
minute."

"Where is she then?" asked Rose, to whom the world seemed whirling
round; while Ambrose Cuthbert stood at the door, and his mother was
feeling the poor child's hands, and looking with dismay at the grease
gathering on the half cold broth with which his sister had been trying
to feed him.

But Polly's answer was quite ready--"Down the mead along with that there
Wingfield and Cray's gal."

"Who?" asked Rose, severely, for the girl's tone had that sort of pert
simplicity, or simple pertness, that children can put on when they know
they are giving unpleasant information, but will not seem to understand
it.

"With Mr. Wingfield, the gentleman's groom up at the Arms," said she.
"He be her young man."

Ambrose Cuthbert turned his head outwards to hide a smile. Rose said
hotly, "Hold your tongue, child! don't be saucy! Come, Amy, here is
some mistake."

"Stay, Rose," said Mrs. Cuthbert, "the child is really very ill. Has he
a mother? Something ought to be done."

Rose did not feel as if she could care for the boy at such a moment, and
just then old Mrs. Rowe, brought by the sound of voices, came in by the
back door.

"Ay! Rose Lee," she said. "If you wants to know where your fine niece
is, just look here. I never knew no good come of bringing up young folks
to be better than their neighbours, going about a visiting as if they
was ladies."

Rose had reached the back garden, and over the broken-down little gate
she saw--in the path shaded by the coppice--three figures whom she knew
only too well, sauntering towards the stile leading into the lane.

She felt quite giddy, as she called out sharply, "Amy Lee!"

There was a great start. The three stood still, and looked about as if
to see where the voice came from. Rose, recollecting the old woman's
malicious eyes, got over the stile and came towards them. They had seen
her by this time; she perceived that they were whispering; then the man
retreated, and Florence and Amy came towards her, Florence holding Amy's
hand, and pushing to the front.

"Miss Lee," she said, "we weren't doing no harm. Only taking a walk
before coming in."

"Florence Cray," returned Miss Lee, "I don't want to have anything to
say to you. If you have been teaching Amy to deceive her father and me,
so much the worse. You need not come to work this afternoon. My sister,
Mrs. Cuthbert, is come to see us, so I shall not require you. Come here,
Amy."

"You'll not be hard on her, Miss Lee," entreated good-natured Florence,
feeling Amy's fingers cling to her. "I do assure you there's been
nothing no one could except against. It's been all most prudent and
proper all along."

"I said I don't wish to hear nothing from you," said Rose. "If you call
it prudent and proper to be walking with young men, when she is trusted
to read to a sick child, I don't know what I shall hear next. Come here,
Amy; come home with me."

"Indeed, aunt," sobbed Amy, "I've been in every day to see him."

"Come home now, Amy," said her aunt; "I can't talk to you now! No, don't
cry--don't speak!



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