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The Golden Road Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Old Order Changeth

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"The Family Ghost?" I asked, very stupidly.

"No, not the Family Ghost. I never saw beautiful, broken-hearted Emily yet. Your mother saw her once, Sara--that was a strange thing," he added absently, as if to himself.

"Did mother really see her?" whispered the Story Girl.

"Well, she always believed she did. Who knows?"

"Do you think there are such things as ghosts, Uncle Blair?" I asked curiously.

"I never saw any, Beverley."

"But you said you were trysting with ghosts here this evening," said the Story Girl.

"Oh, yes--the ghosts of the old years. I love this orchard because of its many ghosts. We are good comrades, those ghosts and I; we walk and talk--we even laugh together--sorrowful laughter that has sorrow's own sweetness. And always there comes to me one dear phantom and wanders hand in hand with me--a lost lady of the old years."

"My mother?" said the Story Girl very softly.

"Yes, your mother. Here, in her old haunts, it is impossible for me to believe that she can be dead--that her LAUGHTER can be dead. She was the gayest, sweetest thing--and so young--only three years older than you, Sara. Yonder old house had been glad because of her for eighteen years when I met her first."

"I wish I could remember her," said the Story Girl, with a little sigh. "I haven't even a picture of her. Why didn't you paint one, father?"

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"She would never let me. She had some queer, funny, half-playful, half-earnest superstition about it. But I always meant to when she would become willing to let me. And then--she died. Her twin brother Felix died the same day. There was something strange about that, too. I was holding her in my arms and she was looking up at me; suddenly she looked past me and gave a little start. 'Felix!' she said. For a moment she trembled and then she smiled and looked up at me again a little beseechingly. 'Felix has come for me, dear,' she said. 'We were always together before you came--you must not mind--you must be glad I do not have to go alone.' Well, who knows? But she left me, Sara--she left me."

There was that in Uncle Blair's voice that kept us silent for a time. Then the Story Girl said, still very softly:

"What did mother look like, father? I don't look the least little bit like her, do I?"

"No, I wish you did, you brown thing. Your mother's face was as white as a wood-lily, with only a faint dream of rose in her cheeks. She had the eyes of one who always had a song in her heart--blue as a mist, those eyes were. She had dark lashes, and a little red mouth that quivered when she was very sad or very happy like a crimson rose too rudely shaken by the wind. She was as slim and lithe as a young, white-stemmed birch tree. How I loved her! How happy we were! But he who accepts human love must bind it to his soul with pain, and she is not lost to me. Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it."

Uncle Blair looked up at the evening star. We saw that he had forgotten us, and we slipped away, hand in hand, leaving him alone in the memory-haunted shadows of the old orchard.

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The Golden Road
Lucy Maud Montgomery

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