One day Phemy went to Castle Weelset to see her aunt, and walking down the garden to find her, met the young laird.

Through respect for the memory of his father, he had just received from the East India Company a commission in his father's regiment; and having in about six weeks to pass the slight examination required, and then sail to join it, had come to see his mother and bid her good-by. He was a youth no longer, but a handsome young fellow, with a pale face and a rather weary, therefore what some would call an interesting look. For many months he had been leading an idle life.

He lifted his hat to Phemy, looked again, and recognized her. They had been friends when she was a child, but since he saw her last she had grown a young woman. She was gliding past him with a pretty bow, and a prettier blush and smile, when he stopped and held out his hand.

"It's not possible! " he said; "you can't be little Phemy! — Yet you must be! — Why, you're a grown lady! To think how you used to sit on my knee, and stroke my face! How is your father?"

Phemy murmured a shy answer, a little goose but blushing a very flamingo. In her heart she saw before her the very man for her hero. A woman's hero 114 gives some measure, not of what she is, hardly of what she would like to be, but of what she would like to pass for: here was the ideal for which Phemy had so long been waiting, and wherein consisted his glory? In youth, position, and good looks! She gazed up at him with a mixture of shyness and boldness not uncommon in persons of her silly kind, and Francis not only saw but felt that she was an unusually pretty girl: although he had long ceased to admire his mother, he still admired the sort of beauty she once had. He saw also that she was very prettily dressed, and, being one of those men who, imagining themselves gentlemen, feel at liberty to take liberties with women socially their inferiors, he plucked a pheasanteye-narcissus in the border, and said — at the same time taking the leave he asked,

"Let me finish your dress by adding this to it! Have you got a pin? — There! — all you wanted to make you just perfect!"

Her face was now in a very flame. She saw he was right in the flower he had chosen, and he saw, not his artistic success only, but her recognition of it as well, and was gratified. He had a keen feeling of harmony in form and color, and flattered women, while he paraded his own insight, by bringing it to bear on their dress.

The flower, in its new position, seemed radiant with something of the same beauty in which it was set; it was like the face above it, and hinted a sympathetic relation with the whole dainty person of the girl. But in truth there was more expression in the flower than was yet in the face. The flower expressed what God was thinking of when he made it; the face what 115 the girl was thinking of herself. When she ceased thinking of herself then, like the flower, she would show what God was thinking of when he made her.

Francis, like the man he was, thought what a dainty little lady she would make if he had the making of her, and at once began talking as he never would have talked had she been what is conventionally called a lady — with a familiarity, namely, to which their old acquaintance gave him no right, and which showed him not his sister's keeper. She, poor child, was pleased with his presumption, taking it for a sign that he regarded her as a lady; and from that moment her head at least was full of the young laird. She had forgotten all she came about. When he turned and walked down the garden, she walked alongside of him like a linnet by a tall stork, who thought of her as a very pretty green frog. Lost in delight at his kindness, and yet more at his admiration, she felt as safe in his hands as if he had been her guardian angel: had he not convinced her that her notion of herself was correct! Who should know better whether she was a lady, whether she was lovely or not, than this great, handsome, perfect gentleman! Unchecked by any question of propriety, she accompanied him without hesitation into a little arbor at the bottom of the garden, and sat down with him on the bench there provided for the weary and the idle — in this case a going-to-be gallant officer, bored to death by a week at home with his mother, and a girl who spent the most of her time in making, altering, and wearing her dresses.

"How good it was of you, Phemy," he said, "to come and see me! I was ready to cut my throat for 116 want of something pretty to look at. I was thinking it the ugliest place with the ugliest of people, wondering how I had ever been able to live in it. How unfair I was! The whole country is beautiful now!"

"I am so glad," answered poor Phemy, hardly knowing what she said: it was to her the story of a sad gentleman who fell in love at first sight with a beautiful lady who was learning to love him through pity.

Her admiration of him was as clear as the red and white on her face; and foolish Francis felt in his turn flattered, for he too was fond of himself. There is no more pitiable sight to lovers of their kind, or any more laughable to its haters, than two persons falling into the love rooted in self-love. But possibly they are neither to be pitied nor laughed at; they may be plunging thus into a saving hell.

"You would like to make the world beautiful for me, Phemy?" rejoined Francis.

"I should like to make it a paradise!" returned Phemy.

"A garden of Eden, and you the Eve in it?" suggested Francis.

Phemy could find no answer beyond a confused look and a yet deeper blush.

Talk elliptical followed, not unmingled with looks bold and shy. They had not many objects of thought in common, therefore not many subjects for conversation. There was no poetry in Gordon, and but the flimsiest sentiment in Phemy. Her mind was feebly active, his full of tedium. Hers was open to any temptation from him, and his to the temptations of usurping the government of her world, of constituting himself the benefactor of this innocent creature, 117 and enriching her life with the bliss of loving a noble object. Of course he meant nothing serious! Equally of course he would do her no harm! To lose him would make her miserable for a while, but she would not die of love, and would have something to think about all her dull life afterward!

Phemy at length got frightened at the thought of being found with him, and together they went to look for her aunt. Finding her in an outhouse that was used for a laundry, Francis told Mrs. Bremner that they had been in the garden ever so long searching for her, and he was glad of the opportunity of hearing about his old friend, Phemy's father!

The aunt was not quite pleased, but said little.

The following Sunday she told the schoolmaster what had taken place, and came home in a rage at the idiocy of a man who would not open his eyes when his house was on fire. It was all her sister's fault, she said, for having married such a book-idiot! She felt indeed very uncomfortable, and did her best in the way of warning; but Phemy seemed so incapable of understanding what ill could come of letting the young laird talk to her, that she despaired of rousing in her any sense of danger, and having no authority over her was driven to silence for the present. She would have spoken to her mistress, had she not plainly foreseen that it would be of no use, that she would either laugh, and say, "young men must have their way," or fly into a fury with Phemy for trying to entrap her son, and with Mrs. Bremner for imagining he would look at the hussy; while one thing was certain — that, if his mother opposed him, Francis would persist.

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