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The Orphans of Glen Elder   By: (1821-1897)

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The Orphans of Glen Elder, by Margaret Murray Robertson.



"Up to the fifth landing, and then straight on. You canna miss the door."

For a moment the person thus addressed stood gazing up into the darkness of the narrow staircase, and then turned wearily to the steep ascent. No wonder she was weary; for at the dawn of that long August day, now closing so dimly over the smoky town, her feet had pressed the purple heather on the hills that skirt the little village of Kirklands. A neighbouring farmer had driven her part of the way, but she had walked since then seven and twenty miles of the distance that lay between her and her home.

But it was not weariness alone that deepened the shadow on her brow as she passed slowly upwards. Uncertainty with regard to the welfare of dear friends had long been taking the form of anxious fears; and now her fears were rapidly changing into a certainty of evil. Her heart sickened within her as she breathed the hot, stifling air; for she knew that her only brother's orphan children had breathed no other air than that during the long, hot weeks of summer.

At length she reached the door to which she had been directed; and, as she stood for a moment before it, the prayer that had often risen in her heart that day, burst, in strong, brief words, from her lips.

There was no sound in the room, and it was some time before her eyes became accustomed to the dim light around her. Then the glimpse she caught, through the half open door, of one or two familiar objects, the desk which had been her father's, and the high backed chair of carved oak in which her mother used to sit so many, many years ago, assured her that she had reached her journey's end.

On a low bed, just opposite the door through which she gazed, lay a boy, apparently about ten years of age. His face was pale and thin, and he moved his head uneasily on his pillow, as though very weary or in pain. For a time all sense of fatigue was forgotten by the traveller, so occupied was she in tracing in that fair little face a resemblance to one dearly beloved in former years her only brother, and the father of the child.

Suddenly he raised himself up; and, leaning his head upon his hand, spoke to some one in another part of the room.

"Oh me! oh me!" he said faintly; "the time seems so long! Surely she must be coming now."

"It's Saturday night, you ken," said a soft voice, in reply. "She can't be home quite so soon to night. But the shadow of the speir has got round to the yew tree at the gate, and it won't be long now."

The little head sank back on the pillow again, and there was a pause. "Oh me!" he murmured again, "it seems so long! I wish it was all at an end."

"What do you wish was at an end?" said the same low voice again.

"All these long days and my mother's going out when she's not able to go, and you sewing so busy all the day, and me waiting, waiting, never to be well again. Oh, Lily, I wish I was dead."

There was the sound of a light step on the floor, and a little girl's grave, pale face bent over the boy.

"Whisht, Archie!" said she, gravely, as she smoothed the pillow and placed his restless head in a more easy posture. "Do you not ken it's wrong for you to say the like of that? It's an awful thing to die, Archie."

"Well, if it's wrong to be weary of lying here, I can't help it," said the child; "but it's surely not wrong to wish to die and go to heaven, yon bonny place!"

"But it is wrong not to be willing to live, and suffer too, if it be God's will," said his sister, earnestly. "And what would we do if you were to die, Archie, my mother and me?"

"I am sure you could do far better than you can do now. You wouldn't need to bide here longer. You could go to Glen Elder to Aunt Janet, you and my mother. But I'll never see Glen Elder, nor Aunt Janet, nor anything but these dark walls and yon bit of the kirk yard."

"Whisht, Archie," said his sister, soothingly. "Aunt Janet has gone from Glen Elder, and she's maybe as ill off as any of us... Continue reading book >>

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