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¡¡¡¡"Yes, you, Aggie¡ªyou; for you loved her, and you helped her to be good by simply trusting her, and by clinging to her and thinking her all that is good and beautiful. Between us¡ªyou and me¡ªwe were softening her, and she will be a splendid woman some day, not a poor, miserable wretch, half-wild, but good and true and noble."
The day was a sultry one toward the end of August. Miss Frost, pale and dejected, was seated in one of the arbors. She was doing some needlework, and little Agnes was sitting on a low stool at her sister's feet. Miss Frost looked up when Irene suddenly entered.
"Are you certain that you mean what you say?" said Miss Carter. "I have got a sort of headache."
"I do hope you are not going to scold me, I feel so wonderfully virtuous. She is a dear little soul, and I have promised to take her under my protection¡ªthat is, if no one will interfere. But I see you mean to begin at once. It is exceedingly unkind of you. What is wrong now?"
Rosamund obeyed, filled with the keenest interest. Lady Jane walked on in front, and Rosamund followed. They both entered the porch, whereupon the widow turned, grasped one of Rosamund's hands, and said, "If it were not church-time I should long to kiss you. I was a very, very great friend of your mother's. She wrote to me two days ago to say that you were coming to live here. I intended to call yesterday, but was prevented. I came to church to-day hoping to make your acquaintance. When will you come and see me? Can you come this afternoon?"
"Do you know where we are going to-day?" she asked.
"And so do I," said Annie Millar.
After a time Agnes was seen running towards her. She did not come quite as fast as usual, and there was a change in her face. Irene did not know when she saw that change why a sudden sense of fear stole over her. It was as though some one had snatched the heart out of a gem, the glory out of a flower. It was as though little Agnes was no longer the beautiful Agnes she loved. She could not analyze her own feelings. She herself had returned in the best of spirits. Rosamund had been so bright, so cheery, so brave; her mother had been so pleased at the reports which Irene's different masters and mistresses had given her. All seemed going prosperously and well, and on the way home Rosamund had spoken of Agnes, and said how glad she was that Irene should have the little one to look after, to love and to guide and to cherish. Altogether, Irene was in her most softened mood, and she had brought back to Sunnyside several old toys of her own which she had rooted out of a cupboard in the long-disused nursery. They would charm little Agnes; they had never had any fascination for her.