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'You are a dear and good-hearted jewel, Mary!' said Ellinor. 'How you can constantly face and soothe the sorrows and miseries of all these poor people, I cannot conceive; I am not selfish, I hope, and yet the frequent task would he too much for me.'
'You are not without a tender heart,' replied Mary, as she set down her little hand-basket, now empty. 'I have paid but one visit to-day—a very sorrowful one—and I am glad to be back again in our own pretty home. When I saw old Elspat the funeral was over, and dear Dr. Wodrow had brought her back to the little lonely cottage from which her husband had been borne away. It was so sad and strange to see the empty bed, with a plate of salt upon the pillow, and the outline of his coffin still on the coverlet, and the now useless drugs and phials on a little table, close by—sad reminiscences that only served to torture poor Elspat, whose grey head the minister patted kindly, while telling her, in the usual stereotyped way, that whom He loved He chastened—that man is cut down like a reed—all flesh is grass, and so forth. But old Elspat shall not live alone now—she is to come here, and be a kind of factotum for us.'
'That is like your kind, considerate heart, Mary; always thinking of others and never of yourself.'
'When I think of the brightness of our own home, Ellinor—though death has twice darkened it—and compare it with that of old Elspat, my heart throbs with alternate gratitude and sorrow.'
'Poor Elspat Gordon.'
The speakers were sisters, two bright and handsome girls, one of whom had just returned from an errand of charity and benevolence, while the younger was seated in a garden before her easel and paint-block, on which she was depicting, for perhaps the twentieth time, the features of their home, Birkwoodbrae—works of art in which their favourite fox-terrier Jack always bore a prominent part; and Jack, his collar duly garlanded with fresh rosebuds and daisies, was now crouched at the feet of the fair artist.
Mary Wellwood was fair-haired, with darkly-lashed eyes of violet-blue. Many would call her very handsome, but few merely pretty. She was far beyond the latter phrase. With all its soft beauty and dimples, there were too much decision and character in her face to justify the simple term prettiness, while it was a face to haunt one a life long!
Two years younger than Mary, Ellinor was now twenty. Her dark hazel eyes were winning in expression, and, like Mary's, longly-lashed, and what lovely lips she had for kisses! Hers was no button of a mouth, however. Critics might say that it was a trifle too large; but her lips were beautifully curved, red, and alluring, often smiling, and showing the pure, pearl-like teeth within; and yet, when not smiling, the normal expression of Ellinor's face was thoughtful.