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XXI.

SETTING TO RIGHTS, WITHOUT AND WITHIN,

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OOKING round, I saw Aunt Vin's calico sunbonnet jerking spasmodically in the doorway; while the wearer thereof was taking in the whole scene, with an amazed glance.

"Is that Ruth Winnot ?" she proceeded, after a moment, "or is it a pectoral allusion?"

"How do you do?" said I, holding out my hand. "Speak for yourself, Ruth, and tell Miss Rust whether you are a spectral illusion, or not."

"My very own self, Aunt Vin!" declared Ruth, merrily, holding her hammer suspended over a nail, while she spoke, and then bringing it down sharply, by way of point to her sentence. "If you doubt it, pinch me, and see if I don't cry out like real flesh and blood!"

"That would be concussive evidence," returned Aunt Vin, drily. "But, bless me! Miss Frost! what sort of hokers-pokers have you been a-trying on the girl? 1 shouldn't have known her, if I'd have met her anywhere's out of Shiloh. She used to look like Patience on emolument, sp'iling with grief;' now, she's a good deal more like a 'butterfly, born in a bowery.' She'll be the sinecure of all eyes, this afternoon, I guess."

Ruth's face fell. That was exactly what she dreaded most. I hastened to give a different color to her thoughts. "Do not be turning Ruth's head with your compli

ments, Miss Rust! If she is pretty enough to attract everybody's gaze, it is not necessary to tell her of it; I cannot afford to have her spoiled with vanity, yet."

Aunt Vin stared hard for a moment; then, her grim features slowly relaxed into a smile, and her head jerked a kind of austere admiration.

"You ought to have been a dippermat or a fileofficer! You're deep enough to beat Talleyrant and Michael Velli at their own game!"

Then she turned to Ruth. "Well, anyhow, I'm just as glad to see you here, as if I had sore eyes, and you was some sort of patent delirium. And the sight of your industry is real respiring! It reminds me that it's high time I was set about something, myself. I'm always restful and uneasy when I ain't to work at something. Who is the queen-bee pro temporal of this hive, Miss Frost?

I could not answer. Aunt Vin's opening sentences had sent me in haste to the window, to laugh my irrepressible laugh unseen. Ruth saw my condition, and came to the

rescue.

"I can't say who the queen-bee is, Aunt Vin; but you will find Mr. Taylor and Mrs. Prescott in the other room, if you want directions. Or you can set yourself to work, as I did. One can't go much amiss, in this house; there is work enough for all that come, and more too, I fancy."

"Oh, you'll have an enforcement soon,” replied Aunt Vin, encouragingly. "Essie Volger's on-a-root now, I guess; I saw her horse at the gate, as I came along. And there's two or three-unmentionables, we'll call 'em,-who're sure to come; just to see that your carpet goes down concisely straight, Ruth; and to take a look at Mr. Taylor's goods and chatters, and make sure that he hasn't got any more carpets and curtains and pots and kettles, and other personal defects, than the law allows," she added, dryly, as her vibratory sun-bonnet disappeared from the doorway.

Ruth and I looked at each other, and gave way to the irresistible contagion of repressed mirth, She was the first to recover herself.

"Aunt Vin is a great deal too good to be laughed at," she observed, wiping her eyes; "my conscience rebukes me every time I do it. But she does say such absurd things! what is one to do?"

"Only to take care that she does not see the laugh, and feel hurt by it. I respect Aunt Vin's character from the bottom of my heart, Ruth,-her active kindness, her ready sympathy, her voluntary assumption of tasks which others shun, are worthy of all honor;-but her vocabulary is fairly a subject for mirth, I think; if the laugh is un mingled with any disrespect toward herself. But I must not linger here any longer, laughing at that, nor enjoying the pretty spectacle of your bright activity: it is time I followed her good example, and found something to do."

"Not away from me!" exclaimed Ruth, in affright, "If you desert me now, when all those people are coming, I'll never put faith in you again.”

The difficulty was settled by the appearance of Mr. Taylor, with a pile of muslin curtains in his arms.

"I am ashamed to bring you these, Miss Frost," said he, surveying them dubiously, "but such are Mrs. Prescott's orders. To be sure, they are all the parlor curtains we have, or are like to have, but that last wash seems to have established their claims to go on the retired list. Fortunately, life is possible without parlor curtains. Relieve my mind by saying that you will have nothing to do with them."

"And burden my conscience? No, no, Mr. Taylor, you have brought me a job after my own heart, and I cannot resign it so easily. I have a genius for darning and patching, as you will allow when your curtains are made to look 'maist as weel as new.''

"A sure sign that you are destined for a poor man's

wife," said a cheery voice at my elbow. "Leave the cur tains, Mr. Taylor, and I will help Miss Frost to rejuvenate them; that is, if she will accept of my coadjutorship."

"Thank you, I could not wish for a better. How do you do, Miss Volger?"

"If I were sure you would give it the right interpretation, I should say 'None the better for seeing you'—at my house, I mean. In other words, much the worse for not seeing you. Is that poor, little call of mine never to be returned? I shall heap coals of fire on your head by making you another."

"I devoutly wish you would! It would be a refreshing oasis of real kindness in the dreary desert of visiting etiquette. But I am coming to pay my debt-no, to see you -very soon. Do you know my friend here,-Miss

Winnot?

Ruth looked up shyly from her work, and flushed crimson; but there was something very reassuring in the frank cordiality of Miss Essie's smile, and the easy grace with which she stooped to shake hands. The cheery glow of the smile was quickly reflected on Ruth's face; and the flush went almost as fast as it came.

"Yes, I know Miss Winnot-by sight," said Miss Essie, "but not nearly so well as I wish I did. I see her, at church, perched up aloft,' like the cherub that takes care of poor Jack; and singing like one, too;-and I had a vague impression that, when she got through, she spread her wings, and flew up into the seventh heaven, or some place equally out of the reach of ordinary mortals. And to find her here—of all things in the world!-nailing down carpets! But it is a gratification to have such satisfactory evidence that she is at home in the sphere of humanity, and does not live above the toils and interests of common life. And I consider it a highly providential circumstance that we meet here to-day, for I want to consult her about a "oject I have in view "

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Ruth dropped her hammer, and waited, with a puzzled, yet pleased, expression for what was to come next. dently, she was amazed to find herself drifting thus swiftly and quietly into the strong current of active life; from any pleasant participation wherein she had believed herself to be distinctly marked out by the baleful shadow of deformity, and from which she had held so persistently aloof. Yet no sooner did she appear, than her place among the workers and the interests of the outside world opened to her, as if by magic, and her tenure seemed accounted a fixed fact ! It only goes to show how universal are the ramifications of human interests; how many and kindly the twining ten drils of affection. No one need to be a recluse, except by his own fault. If he find himself constantly overlooked and ignored, in the general interchange of charities, it is nearly certain to be the result of some incapacitating defect in his own sympathies; some chilling inaffability of manner, or heavy, inert unresponsiveness of feeling. But Ruth had none of these. Like the angel with whom Jacob wrestled of old, she was ready, when once fairly overcome, to bless you with any required amount of affectionate regard.

"You do wonders with that accordeon of yours," Miss Essie went on, after a moment's pause; seeing that she was to get no other answer than the waiting, listening look in Ruth's eyes; "it is a mystery to me how you get so much music out of it. If there is as much shut up in every other instrument of the sort, what a life-long imprisonment it undergoes! But I wanted to ask you if it would grieve you very much to have your accordeon displaced by a melodeon?"

I gave a little start. Ruth's face beamed with pleasure. “It would not grieve me at all, Miss Volger; I should be delighted. I have only used my accordeon in church, occasionally, because it was a little-a very little-better than nothing. It helped to fill up, as we had so few voices; -sometimes, you know, there is nobody but Eben Hyde

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