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successfully that peals of laughter made passersby look after the
merry load with sympathetic smiles.
An avalanche of aunts fell upon Rose as soon as she reached
home, and for the rest of the day the old house buzzed like a
beehive. Evening found the whole tribe collected in the drawing
rooms, with the exception of Aunt Peace, whose place was empty
Naturally enough, the elders settled into one group after a while,
and the young fellows clustered about the girls like butterflies
around two attractive flowers. Dr. Alec was the central figure in
one room and Rose in the other, for the little girl, whom they had
all loved and petted, had bloomed into a woman, and two years of
absence had wrought a curious change in the relative positions of
the cousins, especially the three elder ones, who eyed her with a
mixture of boyish affection and manly admiration that was both
new and pleasant.
Something sweet yet spirited about her charmed them and piqued
their curiosity, for she was not quite like other girls, and rather
startled them now and then by some independent little speech or
act which made them look at one another with a sly smile, as if
reminded that Rose was "Uncle's girl."
Let us listen, as in duty bound, to what the elders are saying first,
for they are already building castles in air for the boys and girls to
"Dear child how nice it is to see her safely back, so well and happy
and like her sweet little self!" said Aunt Plenty, folding her hands
as if giving thanks for a great happiness.
"I shouldn't wonder if you found that you'd brought a firebrand into
the family, Alec. Two, in fact, for Phebe is a fine girl, and the lads
have found it out already if I'm not mistaken," added Uncle Mac,
with a nod toward the other room.
All eyes followed his, and a highly suggestive tableau presented
itself to the paternal and maternal audience in the back parlor.
Rose and Phebe, sitting side by side on the sofa, had evidently
assumed at once the places which they were destined to fill by
right of youth, sex, and beauty, for Phebe had long since ceased to
be the maid and become the friend, and Rose meant to have that
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