A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter XVIII" by Mary Grant Bruce (1878-1958).
From: A Little Bush Maid by Mary Grant Bruce. London, Melbourne, and Cape Town: Ward, Lock, & Co., 1910.



They were all sitting on the lawn in the twilight.

Norah had dispensed afternoon tea with laborious energy, ably seconded by Dick, who carried cups and cake, and made himself generally useful. Then they had talked until the sun slipped over the edge of the plain. There was so much to talk of in those days.

The Hermit had been allowed to leave his room a fortnight since. He was still weak, but strength was coming every day–strength that follows on happiness. Norah declared he grew better every day and no one contradicted her.

He and his wife sat hand in hand. They were rarely seen any other way–perfect content on each placid face. Dick lay on the grass at their feet and smoked, and threw stems of buffalo grass at Norah, who returned them honourably. Mr. Linton, also smoking, surveyed the group with satisfaction.

They had been talking over plans for the future, plans which Mr. Linton's masterfulness modified very considerably.

"Go away?" he said. "Certainly not! I've engaged your son as tutor to my daughter, and I really can't spare him from the poor neglected child! Then, as you, curiously enough, don't wish to leave your son, the course is quite clear–you must stay here."

"I'm not going to live on you, Davy."

"You needn't. I'm bitterly in need of someone with a head for figures–a thing I never possessed. You can help me tremendously. And, good as dear old Brownie is, I know Norah ought to be with a gentlewoman–to learn the things that aren't in school books. It's the best chance you and I have ever had, isn't it, Norah? We aren't going to let it–or you–slip through our hands."

"It's–it's all very well, Davy, old man–"

"I know it is. Now, can't you let well alone, Jim? Talk of it again in five years' time–you may have better luck then. I don't say you will–but you may! Hang it all, man, you're not going to thwart me when I've just got my family together!"

"Well, I won't for a while," the Hermit said-and immediately received a kiss on the top of his head.

"Thank you, Norah," he said meekly.

"Don't mention it," Norah answered politely. "Oh, I'm so glad you're going to stay with us, Mr. Hermit!"

Norah had flatly declined to call her friend anything but the name she had given him in the bush. As for the Hermit, he was perfectly content with anything Norah did and had no idea of objecting.

"You heard, didn't you, Norah, that they'd found your friend, the Winfield murderer?" Mr. Linton asked.


"Found his body in an old shaft–not far from Winfield. He had the stolen property on him, so there's no doubt of his guilt. So that clears your Hermit, even in your suspicious mind!"

"Ah, don't, Daddy," Norah said, flushing. "I wasn't suspicious. I was a duffer."

"I don't think you were," the Hermit said decidedly. "A very sensible duffer, anyhow."

Dick laughed.

"No use trying to come between those two," he said.

"Not a bit," said the Hermit with great cheerfulness. He smiled at Norah. "You brought me back to life–twice."

"When I think–but for Norah," Mrs. Stephenson murmured brokenly, "no one would have known you were dying in that dreadful tent."

"Yes," said the Hermit, "but I didn't know anything about it. My best memory is of my little friend who brought me good news when I was wishing with all my soul that I'd died in the tent!"

"Don't, Jim!" said Mr. Linton.

"Well, between one and another there's a fair chance of spoiling my pupil," laughed Dick, stretching himself. "I'll have to be doubly stern to counteract the evil influences, Norah. You can prepare for awful times. When next Monday comes, Mr. Linton–may it be soon!–you can say good-bye to your pickle of a daughter. She will come out from my mill ground into the most approved type of young lady–accomplishments, prunes and prisms personified!"

Mr. Linton laughed.

"Will she?" he said, pulling Norah's hair gently. "I wonder! Well, you can do your worst, Dick. Somehow, I fancy that under all the varnish I'll find my little bush maid."


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom