Katharine Morne: Part Iii
IN the afternoon of the dav following made it a point to look after Nelly ; for the Doctor always said it was very important to keep her out of doors as much as was possible without Over-fatiguing her, and to make the most of the fine weather while it lasted ; and since I saw her last, her little, pale, piteous, hopeless face had haunted me so that I could not rest till I had tried to do something to make it brighter. She was not below. Mrs. Cumberland came to the door, and insisted upon taking me up stairs. Nelly'd small chamber was darkened. She sat in one corner of it, in the old-fashioned easy-chair, pressing her forehead, I could see, hard against the side. She kept her face turned away as I entered, and only put her little hand out backwards to welcome me. It felt almost as much like snow as it looked.
“ Why, Nelly, darling ! ” said I ; ” up here, all alone and cold, in the dark?” “ Yes.”
It was all, I suspected, that the poor little voice could steady itself enough to answer; and there was a gasping sigh that seemed to come with it out of her heart.
“Does your head ache? Has anything happened to trouble you ? ” “ Not — lately.”
What is the matter, Nelly? ”
“ I don't suppose I ought to say anything Is, when I have so many comforts. and you to come and see me. Aunt Cumberland says a groat many people are as happy as the day is long, who haven’t half so much as I to make them. It can only be because I am so all wrong, and feel so wrong. If I were only good and grateful and resigned, I might be very hap — blessed.”
“ Perhaps you arc more blessed than you think, already, you dear little pet, and more grateful than some of the well and happy people. But we must try to get you well and happy' too. What would you like best now, if you could have just what you wanted to make you happy ? Think, and tell me.”
“ It would n't do any good.”
“ O, yes, perhaps it would. Let me hear; and see if we can’t get it.”
She turned her weary, wistful eyes suddenly round to mine. “ I should like — I should like — O, I can’t say what I should like; but I think the best thing that could happen to me would be to be very good now, and then, by and by, — in God’s own time, — to die.”
“But that, darling, must be just what God wishes for you. If you wish it, and God wishes it too, what can prevent it? Nothing.”
“I don’t wish it half the time,” said she, hastily ; “ I ’m impatient and wicked!” She could not go on, but kissed my hand, and pressed it to her lips with a tremulous earnestness that seemed to beg me to say more.
“It is a beautiful and holy wish, darling, and sure to be fulfilled, — that is, if you do your part towards its fulfilment ; for God will most surely do His.”
Still she kissed and pressed my hand, and could not speak.
“ Whatever other things our Heavenly Father withholds from you and me, Nelly, I do believe He stands ready to bestow on us these three, — contentment, gratitude, and the guidance of His Holy Spirit; and whoever has these need not envy the blessed angels, and will soon be among them.”
“ I wish you could always talk to me, and other people be still ! ”
“ Come out to walk with me then, and we will talk some more.” I was afraid I had not given her much comfort ; but I changed the subject, because I saw it was as she bad said: she could not tell me what she would like best, or, if she did, it would not do any good. But what I had said to her still rested in my own heart and comforted me. It seemed easier to be wise for Nelly, than to be wise for myself.
I could not have said it, even to her, a few months before. I had but just entered my nineteenth year; and my faith was still in its elements. When things went well with me in my girlhood, the Gospel and the spirit as I received them at home from my mother’s life and teachings were wont to come uppermost in my mind ; when things went ill, I was apt to fall back upon the law and the letter as expounded by Miss Mehitablc and her peers. (By the way, I cannot but wonder at the guileless confidence that ever turns poor innocents adrift into a Sunday school, without any previous knowledge of what their teachers are or are to teach. Imagine the quantities and qualities of spiritual “ wild-oats ” that may be sown there in their little souls !) But as I was about to say, within the last few months the same change had been going on in me that I was carrying out in Fanny’s Bible, where, leaving every gentle tracing of her pencil beside the texts that helped to make her what she was, I was little by little rubbing out the black, jagged, thunderbolty lines of Miss Mehitable, that seemed to point every threat, and drive each denunciation in, with something of the vengeful wrath of human judgments.
When I brought Nelly back again from our walk, she said to me, “ It has done me good to be with you. It gives me strength and calm.”
“ A coincidence ! ” exclaimed I. “ Do you know ? I was just thinking almost the very same thing about my being with you.”
She looked surprised, but really very much pleased, as she turned to creep up stairs,
Mrs. Cumberland followed me stealthily out of the house, and, with many “ nods, becks, and wreathed winks,” allured me into the yard. She took the pump by the handle, and said in a stage-whisper, “ Has Nelly told you yet what’s the matter of her ? ”
“La, it’s nothin’ in the world but jest giftin’ her head turned after that nasty little Sam Blight. When I fust put it to her, she made me promise not to pass a hint of it to nobody, or I b'lieve she’d have gone right off into a brain-fever ; an’it wa’ n’t a very pooty thing to tell the Doctor; but I don’t call you nobody.”
“ But what made you think it was that ?” asked I, hardly knowing whether to laugh or to cry.
“ ’Cause he was here, forever, a talkin’ an’ readin’ poitry with her; an’ the day he went to Ne’ York, she begun cry in’, an’ she ’s cried ever since.”
“Poor little dear! But what an escape for her ! ”
“Yes,—so I always keep a tellin’ of her ; an’ now I want you jest to give her some sensible advice. You 've got edication ; an’ she thinks everything of you. She 'd think twice as much of anything you’d say. I 've a’most talked my tongue off; but la ! I might jest as well talk to the winds.”
“Please not to tell her that I know anything about it, then, Mrs. Cumberland ; and I will think what I can do.”
I walked homewards, full indeed of thought. Sam Blight! Here was a revelation ! Mrs. Cumberland was not euphemistic ; but her characterization of him lay open in my judgment to no other criticism. I knew him a little, which was more than enough, before I went to Greenville, and knew in him a promising sample of that most unpleasant class of small mortals,—the little bad men who strive to form themselves upon the model of the great bad men, and succeed only in making themselves up of every creature’s worst.
He was a pretty fellow ! ”
He turned down his collar from his very lean throat, because Lord Byron had his front his very fat one, and professed to pore day and night over what he was in the habit of pronouncing “ po-ums by Gaiter.” He was obliged to read them in English, to be sure ; (“ Pardon, monsieur, je n’en vois pas la nécessité!” as the great French minister said to the poor French journalist, who said to him, “ Il faut que je vive ” ;) but he apparently managed to extract quite as much mischief from them as it he could have had the benefit of the original. Altogether, the idea of anybody’s being affected in the least — otherwise, at least, than agreeably — by his absence, was to me so comical that myrisibles could not have stood it, if it had not been for the thought of my helpless little friend’s peace and welfare being in any degree in the power of so selfish and unscrupulous a person. Her distress and despair made the matter tragic enough.
I should not now regret my own experience so much, mysterious as it seemed, and hard as I often found it still to bear, if it only helped me to discover some way to help her. What had aided me ? First, change of scene ; secondly, finding myself beloved and valued by some whose love and esteem were honorable and dear to me ; thirdly, having others to think and care about than myself, and one who did not especially care for me, and whom it was desirable for me to think and care less about.
Now for Nelly. First, the scene was already changed to the poor little soul, — more than enough, no doubt, in her opinion, by the departure of the too captivating Sam ; and I would try to vary it further by taking her about with me, as often as I could, to one or other of the grandest and most beautiful spots in the neighborhood. Secondly, I would endeavor to love her more and more, — it was becoming easier and easier,— and to show her that I did so. Thirdly, I would beg for her a little frisking, fondling Maltese kitten, possessed of white mittens, a white neckerchief, white nose, white point in the very middle of the forehead, and all the finest points that a kitten can have. Such a one was a supernumerary in our estabhshment, and was soon to be sent out into a too often heartless world to seek its fortune. I would enjoin upon Kelly to name it for me, to make it a crimson velvet collar, and to cherish it for my sake. This would be but a childish resource ; but Nelly was not much better than a child.
I had got no further with my devices, when I saw Dr. Physick coming to meet me. I did think he might have been allowed a hint of the state of the case ; but it was no business of mine to give it; and perhaps I should hardly have had the heart, when I came to ask myself how I should like to have him — or even a more honorable and kindhearted man, if one could be found — know what came so near making me ill myself in the hay-field, not a year before. At any rate, I stood on my guard as well as I could.
“ I saw you walking with Nelly Fader. Have you been able to make out yet whether she has anything on her mind?”
“Why, I am afraid that-—like most other people, I suppose — she has some causes of regret ; but I should think that she exaggerated them very much.”
“Of course. People always do when they get brooding, with their attention concentrated on themselves and their troubles. The heart metaphorical, as well as the heart literal, can be put or kept out of order in that way. But can these ‘causes' you speak of be removed ? ”
“ So far as I see, only by making her cease to regret them,”
“ And there her physical feebleness is very much against her. It is as hard for Nelly, no doubt, just now to throw off any burden that rests on her mind, as it would be for her to get rid of a hundred-pound weight if it fell on her body.”
“ Is that so ? ”
“ Certainly. It is not easy for a sound, sensible, industrious girl like you, to conceive of such a condition as hers, I suppose, and I know it is not for a robust, hard-working, matter-of-fact fellow like me ; but I have met with it often enough to believe in it and pity it, or at least to try to. To say that I admire it, might be going a little too far. And so, Katy, the moral of bliss Nelly’s story for you is, If you want always to come off victorious in encounters with the vapors, indulge in beeves and muttons, bread and milk, bread and butter, ripe fruit and vegetables, as you do, and in air and exercise, as you don't.”
“ Why, Doctor, when have I stayed in the house all day ? ”
“ Pretty much all last week, did n't you ? ”
“ But it rained so I Do you mean that I am to go out in all weathers ? ”
“ Why no, my dear. I should n’t like to say that you rare to go out in all weathers,— tornadoes, now, and simooms,— or such weather as they had in Sodom and Gomorrah, even, — I should n't advise you to expose yourself to that. Some of my patients, too, who are less imprudent in going out than they are in staying: in, give me accounts sometimes of its mining' ‘cats and dogs.’ You need not go out when it rains cats and dogs ; at least, without a good strong umbrella and impervious draperies and boots, you need n’t. But you can get up end put away your ‘books and work an ! healthful play,’that Julia sings to little Phil about, and put on your wrappings. and go down to the door, and put out your nose ; and if that is taken off, you can take the rest of yourself in again.”
“Barbarous!” exclaimed I, making talk to keep him from getting back upon the subject of Nelly. “Nothing shall ever induce me to put myself into your professional hands, unless it is some very extremity of pain or danger ; and in that case I shall make it a point to writhe and scream every moment, to make and keep you aware that I am not about to jump up and dance.”
“ I give you leave, — what is more, I defy you ! Your sort won't writhe or scream if they die for it, and do die sometimes just because they won’t. Teach Nelly to give up poetry and pastry, and she ’ll grow more like you, — perhaps.”
“ Indeed, Doctor, in order to that, I fear I should be obliged to give some lessons to a much more Impracticable person than Nelly. I hope I am not doing wrong to tell tales out of school ; but the day that Mrs. Cumberland insisted on my staying to dine with her, she had nothing on the table but veal pie and sausages. Nelly could not eat much of either, to be sure, because Mrs. Cumberland had made her a lemon custard for luncheon.”
“ And she had eaten it ? ”
“She could not well help it.”
“ How long before ? ”
“An hour or two, I should think.”
“Well, there are some excuses for a niece of her aunt’s, I admit. O, these frightful females in whom the slanderously so-called ‘ Ami nine element’ predominates ! How I wish that all who romance about them had them to deal with! The lectures that I have wasted on that unworthy woman ! What are you to do ? She is n't a child, and you can’t shake her; and she Is n’t a rational adult, and you can't reason with her. If instead of passing her life as she docs, in baiting dyspepsia-traps for herself and her neighbors, she would only, I won’t say inform her mind, for I never could find that she had any, but merely, like any intelligent animal, learn to do as she is bid ! I tell her Nelly needs sunshine. She will keep that child stewing herself over the cookiugstove, cooking up things drat it’s a sin to cook up at all, till she ’s too much exhausted to stir out of doors, and then tells me, ‘The fire’s as warm us the sun.’ She gives Nelly any quack medicine, too. that comes in her way.
I literally caught her once in the act of administering something that I knew to be chemically incompatible with what the poor girl was taking by my orders ; and Mrs. Cumberland tells me she keeps on with mine 'just the same, and so it gives her two chances for one.’ ”
“ I wish Mrs. Cumberland could go down in town every day and keep the apothecary’s shop, and Mr. Wardour stay at home and keep Nelly.”
“ You would rather have all my patients poisoned than one, hey?”
Here we both became speechless ; and I slipped by him into the house and up to my chamber, which was just over the office.
I had not been there long when, through the open window, I heard a voice below ask for the Doctor, I thought I had heard it before, it sounded to me like little Paul Dudley’s, but more sharp and less steady.
“ Walk in,”said the Doctor, “ Howdo you do ?”
“ General health perfect, owing to a globule of ignis fatuns, administered to me in the cradle by a homœopathic ancestress. Particular ailment, I 've broken my bones. Will you have the goodness to mend some of them for me ? ”
“With the greatest pleasure.’
“ Humph ! To which of us, I wonder ? ”
“ In the first place, to me in affording relief; secondly, to you in having it over. May I ask what part, or whether the whole of your skeleton requires my attention ? ”
“ You can begin with this left forearm, and examine the rest at your leisure.”
“ I should think so ! What have you been doing with these pulverized bones ? ”
“ Putting them under the wheels of a hay-cart. I took It for the car of Juggernaut, and prostrated myself.”
“A most injudicious step ! ”
“It wasn’t a step at all,—’t was a somersault.—Ugh! ugh! How you can find it in you to nip a mangled fellow-creature in that manner Is more than I can see.”
“ It will be if you look in some other direction. There’s a pretty lithograph, there on the wall, of a flayed man.”
“ Marsyar. is it? I don’t take any interest in him. I ’m absorbed in representing myself, a tableau vivant of St. Sebastian; but all the darts have struck in, and got inside of my arm,— that ’s the reason you don’t see them. O-o oh. ! ” ejaculated the poor child, with a great volume of voice. “ Come, now, Doctor, if you do that again, I shall howl, you know.”
“Shall you? I don't believe I shall notice the difference. — There, my boy, get your breath now. Your arm can be set, if you ’ll only keep still; and I rather think I have some light, little, easy splints, that will just fit it. I ’ll call in my man Marlin to steady it for you.”
“ Why, Doctor, I 'm surprised you don’t perceive I ’m fortitude itself. My contractions and extensions are purely physical, —nervous and muscular.”
“So are his. Similia similibus curantur, according to the theory of your homœopathic ancestress. Martin ! ”
“ O Doctor, two to one is n’t fair,— much less four such great hands to one arm ! ”
“ I 'll call down Miss Morne, then.”
“Well, sir, that will be an appeal to my chivalry.”
I caught a bottle of aromatic vinegar, and, running down, poured some on some linen, and laid it near the nose of the poor little patient, and clasped my fingers as softly as I could around his round white arm, that trembled through and through. He looked up very pleasantly, and managed a little bow ; but at last, fairly vanquished by pain, held his wonderful tongue for full five minutes. Even after he recovered it, he did not regain his color, but looked as pale as the roguish little ghost of himself.
“Stay here on the sofa, and drink tea with me,” said the Doctor; “and afterwards I will drive you home in my chaise.”
“ No, thank you ; they 'll hear of my overthrow and be terrified. I must .go straight home and be wept over. Besides, we are going to have waffles. You had better come, too, and partake.”
“If I do, I shall not let you have any.”
“How omnivorous! Then I shall hope for the pleasure of your company some other time.”
“That makes no difference. I shall come over to see you early to-morrow morning; and if I hear that you have eaten a mouthful of solid food beyond two or three thin slices of dry toast, I shall give you an emetic.”
“Then you will take three bad things yourself.”
“ I hope not. What might they be ? ”
“ First, a most unmanly advantage of my disabled condition. Secondly, two emetics, as soon as my fractures are well enough to hold your nose.”
“ Between them ? ”
“ Your enunciation is so very imperfect that I can’t distinguish what you say,” returned Paul through Ins own nose, with what I afterwards found was a most perfect imitation of Ins elocutionary schoolmaster, Mr. Bellows ; and the discussion was ended by the Doctor’s taking him up bodily, scolding him into temporary quiescence, lifting him into the chaise, and driving him off.
“There never was such a pickle as that, never ! ” said Dr. Physick, when he came back again. “ He was driving the cart himself, one of the laborers has just told me, got the four horses so wild that he could n’t stop them, and jumped from the top of the load, while they were at the top of their speed, to pick up an Irish baby that toddled before them.”
“ But the baby ? ”
“Not hurt in the least, — went between the wheels while he was going under them. But a very lucky fellow he was, too, not to lose his arm.”
IF Paul was “a pickle,” — a charge which, I am sorry to say, I have not the testimony at hand to confute, — I found in Miss Dudley’s elegant little parlor a pickle-jar, on my next visit to Barberry Beach.
Paul and his “Pettitoes,” having consented to a compromise, and abandoned their favorite haunt, the hay-loft, on condition of enjoying each other’s society in the house, lay stretched side by side upon the sofa. The twins were present also. They had been allowed to stay at home from school, to minister to their brother’s wants and humors,— the latter much the more numerous of the two. Accordingly, as I entered, Rose was in the act of insinuating, timidly, with the sugar-tongs, her doll’s own pillow under Pet’s grim head, — "Tam cari capitis,” as Paul ungrammatically quoted for her encouragement, “or,” as he somewhat freely translated for her instruction, “such a clear eat-it-is! ” Lily, meanwhile, followed up the attention by more promptly, if less tenderly, spreading her doll’s table-cloth under his chin, and feeding him with some morsels of pound-cake, which she had been forbidden to eat, expressing to him, without disguise, as she did so, her “ ardent hope that it would make him a dyspeptic for life, and spoil his appetite forever for such simple food as robins.” Paul greeted me with a Wellerisra, — “Miss Morne, ‘All hail !’ as the farmer said after the drought, when the storm broke his wheat down.”
In the midst of their laughter and chattering and fun, Miss Dudley was looking as if she could hardly sit up. Her maid, I found, — a person whose nerves were never of the strongest, — had been frightened beyond all self-control by a frightfully exaggerated account of Paul’s accident, and had communicated it to her in a very imprudent manner. She was able to repress her agitation at the moment, but had been feeling very languid ever since. Seeing me divided, as I was, between concern for her and diversion at the doings and savings of the children, she made the proposal which I was myself longing to make, that we should give up any attempt at going on with the illustrations, and that I should mount guard over patient and nurses while she went away to her chamber to lie down. When the Doctor paid his visit, therefore, she begged for a prolongation of my leave of absence ; and it was settled that I should spend the whole day at the cottage, dine with her and Paul, and be sent home in the evening.
After she was gone, however, I almost repented of my enterprise. Paul had a large hand-bell, which he had made his sisters bring him, for fear he should be too sick to speak loud, — a state of things which seemed the last and least likely to take place, judging from the present powers of his voice. It the twins left the room for an instant, he rang it most violently, “because his sisters neglected him,” until they came back at a gallop, when he informed them that they had been so long about it, that he couldn’t recollect what he wanted, and they might go ; after which the same performances were repeated ad infinitum, much to their delight, but not equally to mine. Miss Dudley’s chamber was, fortunately, almost out of hearing, or he would not have done so ; but the library was not; and I was in continual fear lest Mr. Dudley, whom I had never yet seen, should make his appearance in wrath at my want of management. I merely instance this as one specimen of many pranks. To put a stop to it, by keeping the little girls on the spot, I was obliged to turn cabinet-maker, and put forth all my practised powers in the way of cutting out paper pianos and tables that would stand, and rocking-chairs that would rock. The twins were interested, and so was Paul. The moment that they had a drawing-room arranged, he enacted a Boreas, and blew the furniture sky-high. Then they called him, in retribution, “Pretty Poll!” and he screeched like a parrot.
“O Miss Morne,” cried Rose, “do you know? Once, when we were little, we called Paul ‘ Pretty Poll,’ and he was so vexed to be so pretty for a boy, that he took aunty’s scissors and cut off all his eyelashes and some of his hair; and he had an inflammation in his eyes ; but that’s what made his eyelashes so very long ; and now that he’s found out that cutting them will only make them prettier, we can call him so as much as we please.”
Miss Dudley came down again, at twelve, looking refreshed, and sent the little girls into the garden, Paul, tired out, went to sleep; and we had some painting after all.
When my lesson was over, Miss Dudley said: “Now I think the pupil has become independent of the mistress ; and you have copied all the specimens too delicate to be moved. I will send the rest to you to-morrow ; and — I believe you told me you had not these colors — you had better put these cakes in your pocket, so that your illustrations may be in uniform. I doubt whether you could buy any so good in this town”;— and she wrapped them in a paper for me.
I thanked her, and promised to keep them strictly for the work I did for her.
“ O,” replied she, “ that is not in the bond at all. My brother has been in the habit of furnishing me with them by wholesale ” ; — I thought she stifled a sigh as she said it; — “ and you know,” added she with a promising smile, “ that it is for our interest to help you to become an experienced and accomplished draughtswoman.”
The twins came in to lunch when we had our dinner; but they were in a state of such exhilaration that they could scarcely eat. They were later to assist their father in receiving a party, who had been invited, before Paul’s mishap, to dine at Barberry Beach. As Miss Dudley was not well enough to appear, they had drawn lots for the head of the table. Lily had won it; and the distinguished statesman, Mr. Deemus, a classmate of her father’s, and a great lion in her eyes, was to lead her in. As soon as she and Rose could obtain a release from refreshment, they scampered off to the chamber-maid and to Bonner, who was to oversee their toilet.
When they were gone, and we had taken, our seats in the bamboo chairs on the piazza, to bask in the afternoon sun, Miss Dudley said: “ This is the first time that it has fallen to either of them to preside ; they are always present, though, when we give a dinner-party, and modestly join a little in the conversation of their elders.
Many people would say that my brother made a mistake in bringing them forward so early ; but he considers it very important to give in some degree to young people — to girls especially — a sense of dignity and responsibility from the first. It seems to him, too, that they are less likely to be over-excited and led astray in society in afterlife, if they are accustomed to it, and the best of it, from their childhood up. They are so simple-minded and openhearted that, if it were doing them any harm, we should very soon find it out ; and unless it were doing them harm it would really be a pity to deprive them of so much enjoyment, just at the age, too, when enjoyment is most keenly relished. It is always a great point with their father, that he and his children should have their pleasures as far as possible in common, in order to keep up mutual acquaintance and confidence and sympathy.”
“ O for such a father ! ” thought I. “ Happy little dears ! I hope I am not going to envy anybody; but I do believe you are the most enviable people I ever met with, except Emma Holly ! There ! I did n’t mean to think that, — to take a leaf out of Nelly’s book.”
We heard them come dancing back into the parlor. Lily perched in the long window, crying, “ O Aunt Lizzy, see! Are we right? Can we go to papa? ”
“ O Lily,” cried Rose, in consternation, pulling her back, “come in! The wind will tumble your curls ; and then I ought to tumble mine ; for it would n’t do for the one at the head of the table not to look as nice as the one at the side. O, dear Aunty ! Could you look here ? Are you too tired ? Would it be too much trouble ? ”
“Aunty ” did not seem to think herself too tired. She invited me to accompany her ; and I did not think it too much trouble. The two pets confronted us hand in hand, between two bright pillars of native wood, looking like a lovely picture painted on a panel. They wore simple robes of sprigged India muslin, very clear, white, and full, with baby waists, short sleeves and moderately low necks, broad, blue sashes, open-work thread stockings, and black slippers with large rosettes on the toes. Their round, white throats and wrists were encircled by close coils of turquoises. They looked very happy and eager, but not at all vain,—perhaps because they had always been used to looking pretty.
“ Very nice, indeed,” pronounced Aunt Lizzy, turning them round critically. “Go and show yourselves to Paul, and then run to papa; but be very careful to eat nothing that will make you sick, or Dr. Physick will be sure to say, ‘ Poor little things ! They have a silly aunt. Late dinners are not fit for little girls.’ ”
They laughed their acquiescence, and marched up to Paul’s sofa. “ Very well,” said he ; “your clothes are whole and clean; and I have no doubt you will be warm, after the chandelier is lighted, and the soup is swallowed, and Tiger-Lily has been contradicted and counteracted appropriately by Mr. Demosthenes. But to go up and put yourselves in Oriental splendors, and then to go down and roll together in Oriental luxuries, and leave me here writhing and gnawing the sofa-cushions in my lonely anguish, and partaking of wine only the biscuit, and of oysters nothing but the crackers, — unnatural misses, I could never have believed it, even of you ! ”
“Poor Polly!” exclaimed Rose, much affected, and throwing herself on her knees beside him, in utter forgetfulness of her frock; “I will stay with you. Could I do you any good ? ”
“ O Polly! ” cried Lily in equal alarm. “ Only don’t tense her now; and I won’t tell her — perhaps — the next time you quiz her ; and the very first chance I can get after the dessert comes, I 'll send Butler to you with a grand, great bunch of grapes. And Miss Morne will sing; won't you. Miss Morne? I heard somebody singing beautifully, one evening when we drove by Dr, Physick’s ; and when I asked him who it was, he said it must be you.”
“Well,” answered Paul, condescending to relent a little, “ we will see what can be done. You may send the grapes at any rate, Lily ; and, if I can get along without Brier-Rose, I won’t send for her — till ice-cream time.”
Then Miss Dudley told me that I had been shut up in the house almost all day, and begged me to put on my bonnet and one of her heavy plaids, and go out to enjoy the sunset in the grounds. “ Here is a protector for you, as our champion Paul is disabled,” added she, taking an odd-looking musical instrument from a drawer of her French desk; “my brother had some of these made for us to take on our rambles. At this end, you see, is a whistle, which you blow if you want a servant only to do you some little service. This other end is a horn, which blows a tremendous blast, to signify that something serious is the matter, and that all the laborers, and everybody else within hearing, must run without loss of time to the spot from which the sound comes. It has been heard, I am thankful to say, but once. Miss Rose, in one of her kidlike performances, frisked into the sea one day; and Lily found breath —I could never guess how—to blow her trumpet in one almost incessant shriek. Mr. Dudley heard it in the library ; and so did my great St. Bernard that you saw, in the hall, — and he seemed to understand. They ran nearly abreast to the shore, with a train of followers after them, — some nearer, some farther ; but the dog got the better of all the men, when it came to bounding over the sand and stones, and scouring up the rock where Lily was. I could see the little thing from my window, — she was but eight years old, — dancing up and down in a perfect frenzy, and plucking at her poor little curls with the hand that was not holding the horn. She hugged Bernard, pointed, and pushed him. He dashed into the water, and brought Rose round to the beach, where he landed her quite safe, though with her clothes torn, and soaked, of course, like a sponge. That is the reason we spoil him so. Lily had to be carried home as well as Rose, and in fact suffered much more seriously from the fright. She had quite lost the use of her limbs for the time ; and we were obliged to keep her from school, and take the greatest care of her nerves, for the rest of that summer.”
Bernard came walking in, and all round to us, one after another, to be patted, “ The saint’s as proud as a peacock,” said Paul, blowing in his ear and then kissing him. “ He knows in a minute when anybody tells that story. When we show any visitors about, he always leads the way to the rock, and then wants to jump up and lick our hands and faces just as he did that day ; and when I go to bathe, I have to have him tied up, or else he jumps right in after me, to bring me out, and nips me with his great sharp teeth all over.”
I went through the garden alone. Bernard wagged his tail, but declined to escort me farther than the door,— “ Because,” explained Paul, “he knows you are not one of us.” The path up the hill looked tempting ; and I followed it and took a seat in the little observatory on the top, to look down alone on the fading horizon and the twilight sea.
I think that there are few things in this life more saddening, than to revisit scenes in the midst of which you have been used to be perfectly happy, and find that they have the power to make you so no more. It is as if you knew that an enchanted treasury, once open to you, still lay before you, but you had lost the magic key.
The sea-shore had always been to me in my childhood — so few years ago ! — a scene of perfect witchery. When I went to it, my sister was almost always by my side. My mother, looking out for us, was waiting for us at home with an eager welcome, and would come to the door before our little feet could cross the threshold, and be glad to see us safe back again, and say that it had made her anxious, if we stayed too long.
Now, I asked myself, if I should fall, as little Rose had done, and were not rescued, who would grieve for me, Emma and Jim would talk to each other about my fate, if they read it in the newspapers, and say, perhaps, that I was “ a nice girl,” and that they were sorry, and then change the subject to wondering when they should be married. My guardian and his wife would shed some honest tears, but turn to one another and their little Phil for comfort, and soon find it. Nelly ? O, poor little Nelly might cry too, because she was much in the habit of crying, and I was the only one much in the habit of drying her eyes ; but that would be for her own sake,— not for mine. Miss Dudley would be shocked, and the children concerned and compassionate, as they were when the cat killed the robin, — and be consoled as soon. Their very dog could see that I was “ not one of them.” They were kind to me, as he wagged his tail, from general good-will. But of what real importance should I ever be to them, or to anybody that I cared for ?
Thus, by degrees, I fell more and more to comparing myself—a poor and orphaned woman, lonely and dark, sitting in faded black without, chilled by the gale, with night and age and winter coming on — with those radiant children, decked, admired, caressed, the present all bright around them, and the future before them, sitting at their father’s table, in light, warmth, and glee, in the room whose four large windows shone so down in the cottage.
When I had reached this-point. however, in these not precisely profitable or disinterested meditations, I naturally and luckily had occasion for my pocket-handkerchief. In feeling for it, my forefinger came upon the born with which my kind new friend had provided me. It seemed to send like an electric shock through my frame (of mind) a sense of my ingratitude and folly. “ People always exaggerate,” said my guardian, “ when they get brooding,” &c., &c., &c. Whose “attention” was “ concentrated on herself and her troubles,” just now ? I did not sound the horn, though of the two — the salt sea and the Slough of Despond — I think the former much the cleanest and wholesomest place to fall into ; but I sprang from my seat, and ran down the hill at the speed of a goat, — no bad way sometimes, if one is but young and sure-footed enough, to escape from thoughts that are too much to sit still with and bear.
In a line glow, I re-entered the parlor, where Miss Dudley rose to meet me, passed her fingers lightly over my hair, to feel if it was damp, and made me sit beside her, before the hearth, to dry it, before I went to the piano. How little do people know sometimes, when they are making us happy, how much they are doing to help us to be good !
“ Poor Paul’s arm aches,” said she. “ It is dull for him without his sisters ; and we have been longing for our song.”
“ Then I will begin here,” said I, again a little pricked in my conscience, “ if you will excuse the accompaniment.” So I sang a song there ; and Paul cheered up, and sat up on his sofa, looking as if he wished for more ; and then I went to the piano and sang a good many songs there. The instrument was one of Chickering’s most delicious ones ; and Miss Dudley laid before me a fine collection of English ballads. She had all kinds of music for the voice and piano, in well-bound volumes ; but those were the only sort that I was much accustomed to.
“ We are none of us performers,” said she ; “ but, as we are all fond of music, we let Ditson supply us ; because our visitors are so apt to say, ‘ I would play or sing to you with pleasure ; but I cannot without my notes.’ ”
The clock struck half past eight, in a pause while I was turning over some pages new to me. “ There,” said Paul, “ now they ’ll all have to go to take the cars ! ”
The noise of wheels at the door, and of leave-takings in the hall, was heard ; and soon in came the twins, looking sleepy and satisfied. Immediately after them entered a tall gentleman, with hair so perfectly white that Lily’s looked yellow beside him, finely cut, regular features, such as one may see in the portraits en beau of the Duke of Wellington, a very expressive mouth, — expressive of spirit, judgment, and benignity, I thought, but one cannot be sure about mouths of which one does not know the owners, — a fresh and healthful complexion, and rather deep-set, very dark blue eyes, that lighted up his whole countenance when he smiled with the sunny sweetness peculiar to fine blue eyes, and that could flash, as I soon saw, when he became animated in conversation.
“ Ah, Charles ! ” said Miss Dudley, “ I’m glad to see you. Miss Morne, my brother.”
He turned from her and stood before me for an instant with graceful and cordial courtesy, saying that he understood he had me to thank, not only for some very correct and spirited contributions to his book, but for timely and highly acceptable kindness to his son on the afternoon of his accident; and then he did just what I was most glad to have him do, went back, sat down on the sofa between his sister and Paul, and, putting his arm round the boy and drawing him to lean comfortably against his shoulder, told them about his dinner-party, just as if I did not hear.
“It went off as well as it could without you, Elizabeth. Your namesake did you credit ; so did Rose. Then Clara Arden is in herself a success ! ”
“ Dear Clara ! I am more sorry to have lost her than any or all of the others. How was she ? ”
“The same as ever, ‘only,’ as Master Paul would say, ‘ more so,’ — speech of silver, wits of quicksilver, and sentiments of gold. She is turning into a woman as fascinating as she was engaging when a child ; and one of the things for which I should wish to live to be eighty, is to see what a splendid old woman she will make.”
“ O, that is looking a long way into the future ! Can you tell me anything she said ? ”
“ Hardly. She was so far off that I could not listen much,— only look. It is a pleasure in these slovenly days to see a gentlewoman sit as a gentlewoman ought. Lily, what was that she was telling Mr. Deemus, that he was laughing at ? — some saying of a German theologian.”
“ O, it was a Mr. Nebelmann, — a traveller that she saw at a party in Boston, — he said, ‘ in general, the deeper you look into one subject, the more you don’t see through it.’ She asked Mr. Deemus if that was not a maxim as often found true in politics as in metaphysics.”
“Miss Clara had rather a heavy time of it, I am afraid, with Mr. Bolder. I really don’t see how I can invite him again, unless to a standing-up party, where people can get away from him when they are tired. They always wish to see him ; but they cannot like to hear him. His topics are too ponderous by far for a dining-room, or in fact any room but a lecture-room. Who could rise refreshed — who, indeed, could rise at all — from a meal at which the very lightest entre-mets were legs of mutton ? ”
“ Who led you in, Rose ? ”
“ Mr. Madder. I never saw him before ; but he was kind and funny, and kept telling me stories.”
“ To make you laugh and see your dimples, I suspect,” thought I.
“ He is a very ugly man,” said Lily.
“ He ’s a beautiful artist,” said Paul. “ The only trouble is, that he wears his head wrong side out; all the beauty is on the inside.”
“ He wishes to paint Rose and Lily,” said Mr. Dudley. “It may be our last chance. He is about to retire upon his fortune.”
“ He will consent to include Paul, I hope,” said his aunt.
“What do you say to that, Mercury ? ” asked her brother. “ Do you think you could ever sit still?”
“ I don’t know but I might, if I had a thermometer-bulb to sit in,” returned Master Paul.
“ Mr. Deemus talked very well and entertainingly, I suppose,” said Miss Dudley.
“ Very entertainingly,” answered her brother. “Yes, on the whole, very well. He ’s a pretty hot partisan, — can’t see any good out of his own party, or much evil in it; but even party-spirit, in a thoroughly honest fellow like him, is one step higher in the moral scale than the apathy and Epicureanism of some who affect to despise it; in fact, it wants only letting out, as a tailor would say, to include all the virtues. Let it out once ; it becomes patriotism. Let it out again ; it becomes philanthropy. Let it out but a third time, and it is fellowship with the angels and fealty to their King.”
“ Papa, were n’t you ponderous once yourself,” said Lily, archly, “ when you were talking to that dismal gentleman, who sat near the foot of the table, about Miss Nightingale ? I was afraid you were displeased, you spoke so much slower than usual ; and I could hear your voice a good deal, under the others ; but I could n’t understand.”
“ I certainly was not pleased, Lily,” answered he, good-humoredly ; “and I desired to be as ponderous as I could, without forgetting what was due to a guest. It was Mr. X. Tyng Wisher,” said he, turning to his sister, “the weeping philosopher of the Boston Receder. That man’s crocodile lamentations over everything that is good are worse, because more crafty, than the hyena laughter and sneers of his colleagues. They have been my trial in the readingroom, and I certainly never expected to hear them in my dining-room. Deemus gave him a letter of introduction to me, however ; and I thought it would be an appropriate act of retribution to ask Wisher here to meet him. What should he do but fall to groaning over Florence Nightingale’s ‘ misfortune in the possession of abnormal powers, which tempted her, out of her proper womanly sphere, to go to Scutari ’ ! I only wish that his spectacles had n’t been too near-sighted to see Miss Arden look at him ! ”
“Well, Lily,”said Miss Dudley, “and what did papa say ? ”
“ Why I can’t remember, because I did not know what it meant, — something about mathematics, I believe, and a balloon —”
“And a flying-fish, and scissors,” added Rose.
“Really,” said their aunt, with one of her merry and musical laughs, “ I begin to have a very distinct idea of your discourse, Charles ; and I can perceive it must have been very bad.”
“ Then, to clear myself,” said he, echoing the laugh, “ I must see if I cannot make out my speech from the heads furnished by these skilful reporters. Is not this something like what I said, little swan and shadow ? Given for a centre a good and wise womanly heart. A sphere with a short radius, and a sphere with a long radius, starting from that centre, are equally its spheres. The larger space a good and wise woman can fill in this needy, human life, with her own innocent and beneficent life, the greater she is as a woman, the greater as a benefactress to us. Our chivalry can surely afford her at least so much countenance as to stand off, let the safety-valve alone, and allow her to swell her balloon according to her liking and ability. If it bursts, the loss is her own ; if it does not, she will carry us all up with her.
“ Further : between you condolers with women, and the so-called Rightsof-Women people, I venture to place myself in the critical position of Mr. Pickwick, with the carpet-bag before and the poker behind him. I differ from the latter, in holding that almost all women are essentially auxiliary verbs in the grammar of humanity, and that of these the larger portion are best fitted for domestic auxiliaries ; but I differ from you, in holding that some women also are extremely well fitted to be auxiliaries abroad.
“ Further yet : Nature and Providence have in general denied wings to fishes ; therefore we may say truly enough, in a generalizing way, that Nature and Providence have ordained that the fish shall not fly ; but if we chance to meet with a flying-fish, we must not cut off its wings for the sake of coniormity, and then call the blades of our own shears Nature and Providence.”
“ Cousin Clara seemed to understand,” said Rose; “she clapped her hands softly.”
“ Yes ; and she asked me if that was not good,” added Lily.
“And what did you answer? Did I receive any more compliments?”
“ I did the best I could for you, papa, considering that I had not the least idea what you were talking about. I said, ' Why, Cousin Clara, I must own I don’t know whether it is good or not; but so much I know, it ought to be, if papa says it and you praise it.’ And that won a compliment for Aunt Lizzy, I think ; only I cannot tell it without telling another that I had myself.”
“Never mind that, Lily,” said Miss Dudley ; “ I ’ll overlook your vanity for the sake of my own.”
“Well, then, Cousin Clara said, ‘Brava. candid little courtier ! It is easy to see in what mistress’s school you learned to speak the truth !’ Then she turned to Mr. Bolder, and asked hint if it was not good; and he said, ‘Very,— O, yes ; and, as I was saying, the tertiary formation —’ — and then I don’t know what else he said.”
“ Nor she either, I ’ll be bound,” said Mr. Dudley.
“ The carriage has conic back, sir,” murmured Butler, at his elbow.
“It is to take Miss Morne home,” said Miss Dudley; “ but you need be in no hurry, need you, my dear ?”
“ Pray, do not,” said Mr. Dudley, again turning towards me : “ the horses can wait perfectly well. Tell Raynor to put their blankets on and let them stand,” he began to say to Butler ; but, though it was said with an air of frank hospitality, I did not resume my seat; for I knew that the dinner-party had broken up early on account of the invalids, and thought that all the family might already have had enough of me, though I should much have liked a little more of them.
My hostess did not seem to think she had had too much, however; for, as she muffled me up carefully from the frosty air, she said, “ My child, every time I have seen you, I have found you a pleasure, — I have found you a treasure to-day.”
“ Thank you, ma’am, for a very pleasant day,” stammered I in return.
I had forgotten all about the half-hour on the cliff.
Mr. Dudley put me into the barouche, with polite hopes that his sister and daughters would soon have the pleasure of seeing me again; and such were my meditations as the gray ponies, whisking their long thick tails, bowled me smoothly along through the shadows and the moonbeams: — Now, if I were Mr. Madder, I would paint a picture of the Archangel Michael saying to Adam, “ Not too much ! ” — and it would be a good likeness, too, if Mr. Dudley would sit for the head. He looks, as the gymnasts say, though in rather a different sense, like a perfectly trained man,— as if he had always had enough to eat and enough to wear, enough to do with and enough to do, enough to enjoy and enough to learn, enough of conflict and enough of victory, — enough, but " not too much.”