|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||Margaret Dalling's Christmas|
CHAPTER Ii. MY DEAR AUGUSTA,—It will please me so very much if you will come to as on the 21st., and spend Christmas. Arthur of course will be at home, and dear Mary Cameron will be here, and I should so much like you to see more of her. She is so good and sweet, and in my opinion too good for Arthur, a hard thing to say of one's own son, but you know how much I love him, and, after all, his faults are only head and not heart faults I hope. I do hope you will come to us, dear Augusta; we will spend quite a pleasant Christmas. By all means bring Miss Dalling, as well as your maid, if she would be any comfort to you, she would be company for Mary. Let me have a line by return if you can, and believe me-your affectionate sister, ELIZABErrH MinsTo. This was the letter Mrs. Marston was reading when Margaret returned from her walk. "Miss Dalling," she said, looking up, "I am going to spend Christmas at my sister Marston's at Shelverton, and you are invited to go with me." The girl's face turned white, and she stool, trembling, against the table. "I have decided to go ; sit down and write a letter, saying we will be there on the 21st" To live for several days under the same roof with him, to spend Christ mas in his mother's house ! it seemed too much for her. She sat down, and wrote the letter, then read the paper, then luncheon came, then a drive, then a stray visitor or two, dinner, and more reading, so the day ended. So all the days for years had ended. Mrs. Marston was always stiff, polite, and chilly; Margaret always quiet, attentive, and ready to ,Io as she was asked. What wonder, then, that the coming and going of Arthur Marston had been a romance she was unable to resist. She loved him with a de=peration that had grown out of the lo, eliness of her life, rather than out of admiration for him ; though, for the matter of that, she admired him, and paid hero worship enough at his shrine, just because he was young, and bright, and happy. Poor Margaret ! there had been but few young, bright, happy elements in her life; and she did not know how it was quite pos sible for them to exist without any corresponding nobleness of character. "I am so glad to see you, Miss Dalling ; I hope you will have a pleasant Christmas with us ; it is always hard to spend it away from one's own friends," Arthur's mother said. The words were so kind, Margaret raised her eyes longingly to the speaker's face, but the face was cold and proud-a proud, sorrowful face, that had once been beautiful; and yet, Margaret knew that she was a kind, loving woman at heart There was always a great longing in Margaret Dalling's life to find just one kind sympathetic woman who 'would speak to her gently and lovingly, and be to her what she knew women could be to each other, and yet never were to her. Even poor anot Gibbs had never had time or capacity for sympathy or love. "I have another young lady staying with me just now, an orphan ward of my brother's, I hope you will be good friends," Mrs. Frederic Marston, as Arthur's mother was called, continued. A minute later a fair delicate girl entered the room-a girl with.a happy sunshiny face, and laughing:blue'yes. "I am so glad you have 3oesr , .she said, frankly holding out -her band. We'll have all sorts of-fun now Can ,you do much at Christmas decorations? I am quite determined that this place shall be decked from top to toe, and that it shall be the nicest Christmas that all of us ever spenit." And some how, while Mrs. Marstrn was taken off by her hostosa to .her rooms, and followed by her maid, .Margaret founud the sweetr-voiced happy-faced girl leading her to her room. "You must let me.come and see you take off your thing"," she said. "I asm so glaI youn have come; you know I never -aw any other girl on a vi-it here before, so when Iheard you were coming-"
"Do you know who I am f Margret asked, feeling there mast be some N mistake. "I am only--- "I know you are Mrs. Marston's companion. P4oor dear, it moust be wearing ; and, of course, you are an orphan. I should hate being a com panion if I were you, and I'd be so disagreeable." "Tnat would not do at all," Margaret answered, smiling. "I am. paid to be agreeable." "I know," and she almost shuddered. "I am so thankful 1 am rich." Then she got up, .and the face-it was such a sweet, pfre 'face, it made Marget. happy even to look it it-came very near to the companion; and the fresh red lips were pressed to the cheek, that, by contrast, looked pale and worn; and Margaret knew that the rarm hearted girl before her nnderstpod and felt for her. "I do so hope you will be happy here," she said, gravely ; for there could be a great deal of gravity in Mary Cameron. "You shall be if I can make you so," she added. And then the two girls went down-stairs. Margaret stopped outside the drawing room door. "Is Mr. Arthur Marston here ?" she asked. "No," and the color rushed to the younger girl's face. "He is coming the day after to-morrow. Do you know him ?" "Yes." "Do you like him ?" "Yes," said Margaret, huskily. "So do I," whispered the other, more to herself than to Margaret "I like him very, very much ; and I shall be so glad when lie comes ! To be concluded in our next.