Chapter 8: Breakers Ahead

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Anxious to smooth the way for Phebe, Rose was up betimes and slipped into Aunt Plenty’s room before the old lady had gotten her cap on.

“Aunty, I’ve something pleasant to tell you, and while you listen, I’ll brush your hair, as you like to have me,” she began, well aware that the proposed process was a very soothing one.

“Yes, dear only don’t be too particular, because I’m late and must hurry down or Jane won’t get things straight, and it does fidget me to have the saltcellars uneven, the tea strainer forgotten, and your uncle’s paper not aired,” returned Miss Plenty, briskly unrolling the two gray curls she wore at her temples.

Then Rose, brushing away at the scanty back hair, led skillfully up to the crisis of her tale by describing Phebe’s panic and brave efforts to conquer it; all about the flowers Archie sent her; and how Steve forgot, and dear, thoughtful Archie took his place. So far it went well and Aunt Plenty was full of interest, sympathy, and approbation, but when Rose added, as if it was quite a matter of course, “So, on the way home, he told her he loved her,” a great start twitched the gray locks out of her hands as the old lady turned around, with the little curls standing erect, exclaiming, in undisguised dismay: “Not seriously, Rose?”

“Yes, Aunty, very seriously. He never jokes about such things.”

“Mercy on us! What shall we do about it?”

“Nothing, ma’am, but be as glad as we ought and congratulate him as soon as she says ‘yes.’?

“Do you mean to say she didn’t accept at once?”

“She never will if we don’t welcome her as kindly as if she belonged to one of our best families, and I don’t blame her.”

“I’m glad the girl has so much sense. Of course we can’t do anything of the sort, and I’m surprised at Archie’s forgetting what he owes to the family in this rash manner. Give me my cap, child I must speak to Alec at once.” And Aunt Plenty twisted her hair into a button at the back of her head with one energetic twirl.

“Do speak kindly, Aunty, and remember that it was not Phebe’s fault. She never thought of this till very lately and began at once to prepare for going away,” said Rose pleadingly.

“She ought to have gone long ago. I told Myra we should have trouble somewhere as soon as I saw what a good-looking creature she was, and here it is as bad as can be. Dear, dear! Why can’t young people have a little prudence?”

“I don’t see that anyone need object if Uncle Jem and Aunt Jessie approve, and I do think it will be very, very unkind to scold poor Phebe for being well-bred, pretty, and good, after doing all we could to make her so.”

“Child, you don’t understand these things yet, but you ought to feel your duty toward your family and do all you can to keep the name as honorable as it always has been. What do you suppose our blessed ancestress Lady Marget would say to our oldest boy taking a wife from the poorhouse?”

As she spoke, Miss Plenty looked up, almost apprehensively, at one of the wooden-faced old portraits with which her room was hung, as if asking pardon of the severe-nosed matron who stared back at her from under the sort of blue dish cover which formed her headgear.

“As Lady Marget died about two hundred years ago, I don’t care a pin what she would say, especially as she looks like a very narrow-minded, haughty woman. But I do care very much what Miss Plenty Campbell says, for she is a very sensible, generous, discreet, and dear old lady who wouldn’t hurt a fly, much less a good and faithful girl who has been a sister to me. Would she?” entreated Rose, knowing well that the elder aunt led all the rest more or less.

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