Chapter 9: New Year's Calls

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“Now I’m going to turn over a new leaf, as I promised. I wonder what I shall find on the next page?” said Rose, coming down on New Year’s morning with a serious face and a thick letter in her hand.

“Tired of frivolity, my dear?” asked her uncle, pausing in his walk up and down the hall to glance at her with a quick, bright look she liked to bring into his eyes.

“No, sir, and that’s the sad part of it, but I’ve made up my mind to stop while I can because I’m sure it is not good for me. I’ve had some very sober thoughts lately, for since my Phebe went away I’ve had no heart for gaiety, so it is a good place to stop and make a fresh start,” answered Rose, taking his arm and walking on with him.

“An excellent time! Now, how are you going to fill the aching void?” he asked, well pleased.

“By trying to be as unselfish, brave, and good as she is.” And Rose held the letter against her bosom with a tender touch, for Phebe’s strength had inspired her with a desire to be as self-reliant. “I’m going to set about living in earnest, as she has; though I think it will be harder for me than for her, because she stands alone and has a career marked out for her. I’m nothing but a commonplace sort of girl, with no end of relations to be consulted every time I wink and a dreadful fortune hanging like a millstone round my neck to weigh me down if I try to fly. It is a hard case, Uncle, and I get low in my mind when I think about it,” sighed Rose, oppressed with her blessings.

“Afflicted child! How can I relieve you?” And there was amusement as well as sympathy in Dr. Alec’s face as he patted the hand upon his arm.

“Please don’t laugh, for I really am trying to be good. In the first place, help me to wean myself from foolish pleasures and show me how to occupy my thoughts and time so that I may not idle about and dream instead of doing great things.”

“Good! We’ll begin at once. Come to town with me this morning and see your houses. They are all ready, and Mrs. Gardner has half a dozen poor souls waiting to go in as soon as you give the word,” answered the doctor promptly, glad to get his girl back again, though not surprised that she still looked with regretful eyes at the Vanity Fair, always so enticing when we are young.

“I’ll give it today, and make the new year a happy one to those poor souls at least. I’m so sorry that it’s impossible for me to go with you, but you know I must help Aunty Plen receive. We haven’t been here for so long that she had set her heart on having a grand time today, and I particularly want to please her because I have not been as amiable as I ought lately. I really couldn’t forgive her for siding against Phebe.”

“She did what she thought was right, so we must not blame her. I am going to make my New Year’s calls today and, as my friends live down that way, I’ll get the list of names from Mrs. G. and tell the poor ladies, with Miss Campbell’s compliments, that their new home is ready. Shall I?”

“Yes, Uncle, but take all the credit to yourself, for I never should have thought of it if you had not proposed the plan.”

“Bless your heart! I’m only your agent, and suggest now and then. I’ve nothing to offer but advice, so I lavish that on all occasions.”

“You have nothing because you’ve given your substance all away as generously as you do your advice. Never mind you shall never come to want while I live. I’ll save enough for us two, though I do make ‘ducks and drakes of my fortune.’”

Dr. Alec laughed at the toss of the head with which she quoted Charlie’s offensive words, then offered to take the letter, saying, as he looked at his watch: “I’ll post that for you in time for the early mail. I like a run before breakfast.”

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