Katharine Morne: Part Iv


THE gray ponies plied to and fro with me repeatedly that autumn, between our old house and Barberry Beach. Dr. and Mrs. Physick said to me, I thought very logically, “ If Miss Dudley likes to have you, and you like to go, then why should n't you go ? ” Miss Dudley professed to like to have me with her; and not only was there no reason why she should make any false professions to me, but I soon saw how unlikely she was to make false professions to any one. She spoke “ the truth,” not only “in Jove,” but in loveliness. She had so much presence of mind and resource that she could usually avoid unwelcome answers to inconvenient questions. But not even by a mother who asked her whether an ugly child was not pretty, nor by an author who inquired of her what she thought of hD failure of a book, was she to be surprised or entrapped into a falsehood.

“Who should speak the truth, if not I ? ” said she, on one occasion when her truth had been tried before me, and not found wanting. “It is one of the solemn privileges of ray state to live as if in the very anteroom of God’s presence-chamber.”

I pressed her hand and looked her in the face. She appeared, indeed, like one meet to stand and wait there.

“ Dear child,” said she, “ I see you feel for me and with me ; but you can never fully know, till you are in a situation like mine, what a comfort it is to have some one who understands your situation, with whom you can talk of it, when your heart might otherwise be overfull. My brother is too disinterested and too firm to check me with a word, when I would speak of it with him ; and the recollection of his tenderness and encouragement, when. I have done so, make me long to do so often ; but his lips grow so white that I cannot bear to see the pain that I am giving him, and the same sharp, drawn look comes over his features that they had when his wife died, when his lmir, from being a perfect golden crown like Rose’s, turned in a single night as snowy as you see it now. — as white as her shroud. Ah ! my dear girl, that is the bitterest bitterness of death, — is it not ?— to leave such grief to those you leave behind you.”

Then I thought again of my musings on the cliff; but I ventured to say only, Arc they ’ — the blessed dead — ‘not all ministering spirits to us?’ Sometimes I think it has been easier to me to try to do right since I lost sight of Fanny and mamma. In their world, that lasts so much longer than this, perhaps they care more to see us good than happy here.” With tears in her eyes, but a smile shining through them, she took my face between her hands and kissed me on the forehead. “O Miss Dudley!” cried I,— she looked so seraphic, —“ if you should go first, you will be a ministering spirit to me, will you not ? ”

“If I may,” answered she, with the same unearthly smile; “and 3*011 will be one to my little orphans.”

It was strange in what different lights I seemed to appear to her and to my poor Nell}7. Miss Dudley, though she would, as I have just described, turn to me occasionally for sympathy under the pressure of her own trial, seemed — in spite of my naturally good animal spirits, and of the effort which I made to comport myself as usual, when they chanced to fail me — to see in me, though not a mourner making a noise, one who had suffered, and whom she would gladly cheer and soothe to the utmost of her great power. Nelly, on the other hand, treated me as a strong, not to sa}* a rather insensible supporter. Yet each did me good in her different way, — it might have been hard to say which, the most. Nelly served me now as an outward counter-irritant for my inward trouble, now as a mirror in which to see some of the attitudes and hues of my own soul. Our own weaknesses when we see them in others look so doubly weak, and it is so much easier to be wise for our neighbors than for ourselves 1 I was often fain to take notes of my lectures to her for my private benefit. But I hardly know that I should have found courage and spirit to bear the pain that the one friend sometimes gave me, had it not been for the pleasure 1 received from the other.

One dismal day in November, I ran in to see Nelly. She had a cold, she said, and had not been out. Miss Dudley had lately given me a volume of Longfellow’s poems. I had been reading in it some of the “ Voices of the Night,” over and over, until I knew them by heart, that I might repeat them to myself, in my walks or at my work, as charms against despair, — as, I imagine, many a struggling mortal has done, and many a one after another will do, perhaps as long as the English language lives. The book 1 had with some difficulty made up my mind to part with to Nelly for a few days, that she might copy into her copious album “A Psalm of Life ” and “ The Light of Stars.” She had written instead, on the pages lying open before her, the lines beginning with

“ What must I prize in woman, is the affections,” and

“ Do I not know
The lot of woman is full of woe ? ” c.

and below them still the following (she told me they were anonymous; but I never could find them in any other collection of poems, and I suspect they were her own): —

"Once on the sands beside the sounding sea,
I wrote, ‘ I love my love, — My love loves me.’
Up ran the fickle waves* In cruel play
They washed the dear ‘ My love loves me ’ away,
But left — the reach of tides and times above —
To stiffen into stone, 41 love my love*’ ”

She was now sitting like a statue of Despondency, with my little furry namesake asleep in her lap.

“ That’s the way,” commented Mrs. Cumberland, “she keeps a settin’ and a settin’, and a holdin’ that creatur’ ; an’ I tell her she ’ll give it fits, if she don't git ’em herself.”

“ O, that won’t do ! ” said I. “ Kitty Monies require a great deal of exercise. Put her down, Nelly, and get me a newspaper, cork, and a string ; and I will make her a toy.”

Nelly obeyed listlessly ; and I proceeded to combine the materials in the manner which my experience had convinced me to be that best adapted for extracting the maximum of innocent amusement from, and imparting it to, a worthy kitten. 1 tied a bunch — about the size of my hand — of strips of paper to one end of the string, and the cork to the other. The middle of the string I tied to the back of an old chair, — with several bars between the legs,— at such a height that the pendants swung gently within easy reach of the kitten’s paws. Her attention was at once caught. She gazed, crouched, shook her hips, gave up her spring in some alarm as the cork made a pass at her, went into ambush behind a bedpost where the toy could not see her, rushed forth again, and, by a masterly surprise, captured and scratched and bit the paper. The cork, swinging round to the rescue, gave her a box on the ear. She hissed like a teapot boiling over on a hob, and, leaving the paper, flew at the cork for reprisals. The paper then brushed her over the back. The upshot of all which was, that, in sixty seconds or rather less, cork, kitten, and paper were fully engaged and pursuing one another in a series of hot, incessant, and most irregular skirmishes to and fro, up and down, over and under the bars of the chair ; until the kitten, quite beside herself, freed herself for an instant from her other antagonists, and, like a conquered hero falling upon Ins own spear, fastened in a paroxysm of self-dissatisfaction upon her own tail. The toy swung defiantly, however ; and in an instant she was up and at it again.

Mrs. Cumberland set her arms akimbo, and laughed till she cried ; I laughed till I had to sit down to get over it ; and Nelly was forced to laugh too; until, as her aunt left the room to see after the cake in the oven, and shut the door, she burst into a passion of tears, and exclaimed, “ O Katy, Katy ! how can people be always expecting me to be amused as a child, alter I have suffered and sinned as a woman ? ”

1 was so shocked and confounded, that my first impulse was to rush from the room and the house, never to enter them again. But the next instant brought me other thoughts. Was it thus that our Saviour dealt with sinners ? If she was a sinner, what real harm could this poor weak child do to me ? But was she in any peculiar sense a sinner at all; and was not this merely one of her frequent morbid exaggerations ? With an inward prayer for help,

I nerved myself to draw her hands from her face, and to speak to her, though I trust still with gentleness, with a firmness which I never put forth towards her before, “Nelly, you call yourself a woman ; I shall speak to you as a woman ; and you must now behave like a woman. Such words as you have used are not to be used lightly. You must explain them 1 ”

“ What have 1 said ? ” asked she, quieted in a moment at finding herself taken at her word, but bewildered.

1 repeated her speech.

She evidently winced at hearing it, and said: “ Well, 1 did n’t mean that exactly, — not sinned, perhaps, — but 0I1 i 1 did such a dreadful thing ! How can 1 ever be happy again ? ”

“If people have done dreadful things, they must own them, and do their best to make amends for them, before they can expect to find peace. If they have not done anything really dreadful, but merely suppose that they have, because they are out of health and fanciful, only think of the relief they might find by simply taking courage to own frankly what the matter is, and being told that it is nothing.”

“ I can’t! O Katy, don't ask me ! I can’t ! ” repeated she, wringing her hands and staring at the floor, as if seeking some crack to squeeze through. But for very pity I was pitiless.

“ If you will not, from my heart I feel for you ; but I am afraid I cannot do you any good, while you will keep this burden on your mind. It is just as if you had swallowed poison, and would not take an emetic because it was disagreeable, and I were to keep trying to cure you with herb-tea and nursing, while we were only wasting time and throwing your life away. If you will but follow advice, I mean, by God’s help, to do the very best 1 can for you ; but, if you will not, I don’t see any use in my coming here, and I don’t see how I can come any more.” “O Katy, will you give me up, too ? ” “ I never mean to, if you will not give yourself up; but till you are ready to help me to help you, my trying to help you is only like trying to swim to shore with a drowning person who keeps diving under. I don’t ask you to tell me, and 1 ’cl rather you would n’t tell me, if there is any one else whom you could better tell; but you must promise me to tell somebody without any more loss of time, and have it over. Fearing a thing is almost always worse than bearing it.”

“ O dear Katy, don’t talk so ! I could n’t tell anybody ! How could I ? ” cried she, trembling all over.

“ Perhaps you could tell me the rest more easily, if you knew that 1 know something already. I know,” continued I, looking away from her and speaking as soothingly as I could, “ that Mr. Sam Blight was attentive to you, and that you liked him.”

Upon that, choking with a great outbreak of sobs, she gasped forth, “ When he came to bid me good by, I burst out crying right before him! O Katy, Katy ! Let me die ! ”

Drawing her head to rest on my bosom, I said encouragingly, “There, that is right! You see you can tell me. Now what more ? ”

“What more?” repeated she vacantly between her sobs, as if trying in vain to take in the meaning of the words.

“ Was that all ? ” cried I.

“That all?" She started bolt upright as she sat, and faced me full, with eyes that grew round with astonishment and indignation. “ That all! Was n’t it enough? O Katy, Katy! I thought if I did tell you, you would feel for me! How would you feel if it had been you instead of me ?”

How indeed ? thought I.

“ O, what can he think of me ! How he must despise me ! ” she hurried on incoherently. “ Where can 1 go ? What shall I do ? ”

“ My dear little Nelly,” said I, putting my arm round her again, and laying my hand on her forehead, for there was no use as yet in my wiping her eyes, “ I do feel for you with all my heart; but don’t be angry with me if I feel more relief and thankfulness at first than anything else, to find that you have not done anything dreadful at all, — anything that you can’t live down, — in a short time, I hope,—so as to be a happy, useful woman, respected and loved. You have sat up here day after day, alone, with your attention all concentrated upon this trouble of yours, till you can’t judge of it in the least for yourself. You know what happens when we fix our eyes too long upon any small object; its outlines grow blurred till we can’t see them, nor see anything else either distinctly. What you tell me was unfortunate certainly, and 1 know it must make you unhappy whenever you think of it; but that is only an excellent reason that you should think of it no more. It was weak, but not wicked. If you had been a good, strong, hearty girl, you would have had more selfcontrol. Take pains to become a good, strong, hearty girl, and you will have more self-control.”

“ But do you think he will ever forget it ? Do you think he can ever get over it? Do you think he will ever like me again ? He has never written me a single line.”

“ What did he say ? ” returned I. It seemed to me that 1 might as well possess myself fully of the case once for all, at the outset, as my guardian would have said, and treat it afterwards.

“ O, he was kind and consoling, of course; but I was afraid 1 could see contempt through it all.”

Conceit, no doubt, you could have seen through it all, if you had only had your poor little eyes open, was my inward commentary.

“It seemed as if lie had had enough of me, and meant to have no more, lie said he hoped that I should soon find some one else capable of filling his place in my heart; or, if I could not, that it was a woman’s true life to sit at home and feel and remember, but a man’s to dart forth into the world, and pursue and achieve his heroic selfhood in a free, untrammelled course. If I should hear in after years of his success and fame, he was sure I should feel it to be a glorious reward for all I might have suffered, to have been permitted to contribute anything, at any sacrifice of my own peace, towards a great and noble man’s development.”

“ Pretty well for sanguine Sammy ! ” I should certainly have said, if I had been Paul. As I was not, and could think of nothing more appropriate to say, I said nothing; and Nelly went on.

“ Only his language was always so beautiful! I cannot make it sound as he did. But it only made me-—love him more,” sighed she, bowing her head into her pale hands and blushing between the fingers. “ Since you know so much, you may as well know all. I must love him, even if he cannot love me. Is not that horrid, -—horrid ? ”

“Nelly,” said I, stroking her fair hair, “ I may speak to you, quite frankly, as to a woman, and not as if I had a child to manage ?

“Yes, please ! ” answered she eagerly.

“ I think, then, that we grown people are sometimes a good deal like little Phil, the other night, when you heard him scream so, because he could not be allowed to take the flame of the lamp between his finger and thumb. We cry because we cannot have things which might make us cry much longer if we had them. I think there is one tiling that would be more horrid than to be the jilted friend of Mr. Sam Blight; and that is, to be his wife.”

“ Why, do you know him ? And do you not love him ? ”

“ Not much,” said I, scarcely able to suppress a smile. A scene at a children’s picnic flew up before my mind’s eye, in which an attempt to subject me to scientific analysis had been made by Mr. Sam ; and in which Katharine, aged fifteen, had evinced about as much complaisance as might be expected of a catamount in the lecture-room of Magendie.

“ Well, I can’t make you out, or get at you at all,” had the would-be demonstrator of spiritual anatomy, after several unsuccessful experiments, at length said to the subject, perhaps in order to put her off her guard.

“So much the better for me 1 ” was the rejoinder of Katharine (ought I to add, the Shrew ?). “ What should 1 let you for? 1 turn into a shut oyster for very self-preservation’s sake ; and I always mean to, to philosophers like you, if unfortunately there are any more of the kind. ‘ Both sides of my nature,’ that you talk about, join to present a sharp edge to you, and you can’t get it open without a knife or a hot gridiron. I don’t want to be dissected, thank you ; and even if, upon a full view of what is within me, you were to be ready to eat me up, it would be for your own sake, — not for mine.”

Katharine must have stood in much need of a good deal of “ time to mellow ” ; but her early acerbity had stood her in better stead against a wasp than all poor Nelly’s sweetness.

“ O, how could you know him,” she pursued, “ and not love him ? ”

“ Why, I thought him — not good — and — ”

“ Are you choking ? ”

“ No, I’ve got over it,” said I out of the depths of my pocket-handkerchief. “ Nelly, don’t you think, if you had been even as old as you are now when you first knew him, you would have thought him rather silly ? ”

“ Silly' —Sam silly ? No indeed, I don’t! I’m sure it’s the last thing I ever should have thought of him, or that anybody could, who knew him as I do.”

“ I did not know him very well, to be sure ; but I thought him silly, because he seemed to think his fol — eccentricities— better than other men’s good sense, and his demerits better than their merits. But let that pass. Nelly, if he had been good, do you think he could ever have treated you as he did ? ”

“ I was not worthy of him.”

“Then, pray, why did he not let you alone ? ”

“Why — well — you cannot think how much he had to alienate him and keep him from coming to the point. He complained, long before lie went away, that we none of us showed any confidence in him, and lie never could get any chance to pour fortli his soul.” The idea of Mr. Blight’s pouring forth his soul tickled my fancy again to such a degree that I had the utmost difficulty to keep myself from joining Nelly, and performing a laughing accompaniment to her crying, in a partnership fit of hysterics. “ Uncle Wardour never allowed me to walk out with him, or to talk with him with any security against interruption. We could n't see each other in the best parlor even, without the door wide open, for everybody else who called lo walk right in and see him too.”

Kind Uncle Wardour ! “Do you think he was good, then, Nelly?”

“ He was everything else, at any rate; and you know, as he said, all great men have been wild in their youth.”

“ I can’t say that I do know it,” answered I ; or that he was great either, reflected I.

“Well, he may grow good; I am certain he must. O Katy, how little you know about love ! It makes you see what is good in the object of your affections, and forget, or fancy, or foresee all the rest. If he were only good, no man on earth,” proceeded the experienced Nelly, “could be half so fascinating, or make a woman half so happy.”

If and if, my clearest child ! — young woman, I mean,”—rejoined I, playfully; for now that the ice was once broken between us, Nelly, soothed by talking on her favorite subject again with one who, as she believed, could “understand ” her, was fast becoming more composed, — “ we are not children any more ; and so we must look on things not as they might be, but as they are. We must have done with ifs, or own that if any one insuperable obstacle lies, in one direction, in the way of our welfare, we must seek our welfare in some other direction. A man may really be the very most fascinating person in all the world, and you may be sure that he will make the very most delightful husband ; but if, for instance, he were your brother, you would give yourself little trouble about his abstract pre-eminence. You would accept the fact of his unfitness for you as a matter of course, and peacefully take the next best or none. Now a want of conscientiousness and disinterestedness in a husband is almost certain to be as great an obstacle to any steady happiness in marriage, as too near relationship to marriage itself; and you will see it to be so, I hope, now that you have somebody who loves you as I do to look at the realities of your case with you, and help you to wake out of your dreams. Many of our worst mental burdens, I rather think, are like nightmares ; we need only to open our eyes with a resolute effort, and turn over to the other side, and they will be gone.”

“ Katy, I do wonder how much you would require in anybody, before you could get your own leave to love him!”

“ I should require a good deal, I hope,” said I evasively. These were not favorite topics of conversation with me.

“ You would want him to be great ? ”

“If it was convenient to him.”

“ What more ? ”

“ Congenial to me.”

“ Of course. What more ? ”

“ Such that, if I were with him in the company of high-minded, truehearted men and women, I should not be ashamed of him ; that, if I heard him talked of by them, I might expect to hear things to his honor; and that, if any parts of his past history accidentally came to my knowledge, they should only make me love, admire, and trust him more and more.”

“Well!” said she a little impatiently, “anything more ? ”

“And in love with me, of course. Heart for heart, — I would accept no less.”

“ Ah, yes, if you could but get that; but if you could not ? ”

“I would leave—try to leave — off loving him.”

“ But suppose you could not.”

“ I would try— I trust—till I could. I heard a funny little woman say once, — like Master Barnabas, — that nothing would ever make her submit to be hanged. 4 She would n't! She would fight P I would fight. Man or woman, there is nothing that I would not do sooner than consent to waste my life sitting, even in thought, at any human being’s feet, and suing for the love that was not given to me.”

“ It is the lot of woman.”

“ Of which woman ? and who made it her lot ? It must be the lot of good wives of bad men, and may be the lot of any woman who chooses it, no doubt, Nelly; but we will have a better, or if I do not, at any rate, it shall not be for want of trying.”

“ You are so proud, Katy ! I heard somebody say, the other day, that you walked like a queen, and he could see how proud you were just by a way you had of setting down your feet, as if you would tread down the world at every step.”

“ I only wish I could,” said I, laughing.

“ But surely everybody knows, and you must own, that men are worth much more than women.”

“ I doubt about unworthy men’s being worth much more than worthy women,” said I, still laughing ; and then I went on, more gravely, “ I will and must own, that men are worth much more than women for many things ; but the earthly fathers whom I know seem generally to care quite as much about their daughters as they do about their sons ; and so, therefore, I suppose our Heavenly Father does.”

“But the Bible itself always sets men above women. Sam said it did. Don’t you think so ? ”

“ Now we arc getting beyond our depth, I am afraid. I do not know enough about the Bible to talk about it much. But I do not think the Apostles set Simon Magus, for example, at all above Anna the prophetess, or Phebe, deaconess of the church in Ccnchrea. They said that women should not go with their heads uncovered, nor speak in the churches ; but 1 have heard a Quaker minister declare that the churches then were very different from the churches now, and all the customs there from the customs here ; and at any rate I do not want to take oil my bonnet and speak loud in our meeting-houses even, nor, I rather think, do you. They said that wives should obey their husbands ; but they said also that husbands should cherish their wives even as they did their own bodies. When they do cherish them after that fashion, I think that obedience to their commands will in most cases partake of the nature of seltindulgenee quite as much as of selfdenial. They said, too, that children must obey their parents. Does not that mean that sons must obey their mothers, as well as daughters their fathers ? St. Peter even went so fains to say, ‘ Yea, all of you be subject one to another,5 as if a religious obedience and wise humility were too good things for any of God’s children to forego. But when we come to the words of our Saviour, (which were meant, 1 suppose, not so much for one time, like the epistles, as for all times,) I have thought it was really wonderful to look and see how he bore women in his mind, how often he drew his illustrations even from their work, and, not contented with including them in his general discourses, how particularly and frequently he used to speak of them in prophecies and parables. Out of the four friends that he ‘ loved,5 two were women ; and even tire virtues which he urged on all mankind were in large part those which mankind are apt to enforce peculiarly on womankind, and to call the womanly virtues. At any rate, Mr. Blight may read the Bible through and through, — his best friend could wish him no better employment, if he would but make a good use of it and give up some ol bis other reading for it, — lie will nowhere there find it enjoined on Christian women to suffer themselves to be trifled with for Ins ‘development,’ nor to languish and pine themselves to death, like flowers thrown away, for his triumph.”

“ His triumph!” cried Nelly, starting and turning pale. “ O Katy ! could he be so cruel as to triumph over me V ”

“ 1 do not know him quite well enough to be sure what he could not do, if he had a chance. He cannot very long, I think, if he hears ot you out again among the other young people, looking pretty, well, and merry. However, liis opinion, good or bad, is not the most important thing, you know, darling ; so we will say no more about it, and try not to care too much. Pie is not your master, thank God! and you are in no way accountable to him. See here ; your little Bible gives us other and far nobler things to care about.” I took it from her bureau, turned over the leaves, and read, “The unmarried woman careth Jor the things of the Lord, how she may be holy both in body and in spirit.”

“Mark it — will you please, dear Katy ? — with the date. ‘ Holy in spirit,”5 repeated Nelly, very thoughtfully, — “ that must mean a great deal.”

“Full of faith, hope, and charity, at the very least ; and when we have the right faith in God, and in His love for us, I suppose the simple fact of His denying us a thing will satisfy us of its being a thing which we are better without.”

“ ‘ Charity ! 5 ” said she, with a glimmer of archness in her smile, that looked as if she had already come by a little hope at least “Does not that involve good works ? I ’m afraid I don’t like doing good, do you ?!5

*'* I ’rti afraid not — so well as having done it.”

I rose to go. I was tired for once, before nine o’clock at night.

“You have done it now ! ” exclaimed she, springing up. “ God bless you, good, kind Katy! He will and must and does bless you, I am sure, for 3'our own sake, if not for mine ! But you will come again?-—-for I have told. And you really think it is not so very dreadful, and I can live it down ? ” whispered she, clinging round me, and going with me to the door.

“ I am sure you can. ‘If God is for us, who shall be against us ? ’ ” said I, kissing her. “Pray — for yourself and me ! ”

I took the longest way home, to cool my cheeks. “Well,” I soliloquized, “at this rate I am in a fair way to be cured for life of every predisposition to sentiment, homoeopathically,— except that it must be owned that I am treated with it in anything but infinitesimal doses. Nelly would hardly be so ready to treat a topic which I, her senior, never discussed with any one before, and desire that I never may again, if she had not had the benefit of those lessons from Mr. Sam.”

Next, I thought that, even if I should still be for some time subject to relapses, it was still a very bright side that my object was not Mr. Sam, and was moreover quite unaware of my folly. Next, I saw that even my object’s being as bad as Mr. Sam would be a less insurmountable barrier between him and me than his being the betrothed of another. The latter disqualification, indeed, put him much more upon the footing of a brother than could the former. Next, I considered that he was—-as 1 had told Nelly of her object—not my master, and that I was not accountable to him ; in which consideration also I found a balsam; for I had lately sometimes been troubled with wondering whether he would not think me cold and ungrateful in leaving Emma’s letters so long unanswered. They always contained kind, honest messages from him, which brought the kind, honest fellow up before me, and, in spite of me, renewed feelings which it would be wrong to cherish ; and therefore I was sure that it wras right to let the correspondence languish and drop. It had never on my part been constant or very frequent. Emma knew that 1 had little time or taste for writing. He would not be made unhappy by my silence; and in the other world he would understand and approve of it, even if he misunderstood and disapproved of it in this. But because I was still very young, that other world did seem then “very far off.”

Milton says that anger and laughter are the two most rational passions of the human mind. Now I cannot say that I am always most rational when I am angry, nor have I been able to perceive that my neighbors are; but I really believe that I often am when I laugh. Accordingly, on reaching home and putting away my bonnet and shawl, I made an attempt at something like an audible smile, as, summing up the lessons of the day, I said to myself, that, after all that could be urged on the side of Gloom, Vapors, and Company, Miss Katy Morne was of all human beings the one whose continued regard and respect were the most important to me ; that by the help of a good Providence there was good hope of my being able to manage myself and my affairs in such a manner as to secure her regard and respect; and, finally, that matters were therefore by no means so bad as they might be.

Then I tried Sydney Smith’s specifics against feminine despondency, put a new ribbon into my hair, and a ripe pear — by instalments — into my mouth, read over again a kind iittle note I had a few hours before received from Miss Dudley, containing directions about some illustrations and commendations of others, and then found myself, after all the trials of the morning, in a very fair condition to take out my paint-box and refresh myself further with a little hard work.


ONE morning, some time after, I was sitting, finishing the last of the illustrations ordered, in the warm southparlor. Mrs. Physick was out with her husband, for an airing. Little Pill in the pill-box slept obligingly at my side, with no further attentions from me than an occasional mechanical strophe of the commercial cradle-song, “Buy, buy, baby!” Thus I was at full liberty to drown my abstracted soul in cobalt and carmine.

Thus again it must have been that 1 did not hear when the door-bell rang, nor notice the tones of a remarkably gentleman-like voice, when the never very fieet-lboted Rosanna opened the front door, and that, when I did at last hear a knock at the parlor door, 1 only emitted an indifferent “ Come in,” and never thought to turn my head, till the door was opened, and the voice came in by itself, saying doubtfully, “ I beg your pardon ; did you say come in? ”

Then, indeed, I looked round and started up, rejoicing that my fingers were no paintier; for the voice was Air. Dudley’s, and so was the fine, tall, athletic person that stood, hat in hand, waiting at the threshold where he had been left without a guide by the unskilful portress.

I welcomed him, set him a chair, and dipped my fingers in the old-fashioned finger-bowl, and wiped them on the napkin, which 1 always kept by me when I painted. He took it all very quietly, and looked so unembarrassed and abstracted that I hoped he did not see the slight confusion into which my own absence of mind had thrown me.

“ I called,” he began, when he saw me ready to give him my attention, “partly on my own business, and partly on my sister’s. She wishes for the pleasure of your company for a good long day on Saturday ; and as I had not time to wait for a note, she intrusted me with a verbal message. You will be able to gratify her, I hope?”

“ Thank you, Air. Dudley ; I shall be very much pleased to come.”

“ Then she will call, or send for you, soon after ten. Will that be too early ? ”

“ Not for me.”

“ She never thinks it too early for you to come, nor too late for you to go; and that brings me to the other part of my business. Dr. Physick tells me that you are thinking of returning to the school-room.”

“ Yes ; I am waiting only to find one open to me in this town. If I cannot before many more months, I shall probably go elsewhere.”

“ Have you a preference for the occupation of a teacher ? ”

I could hardly suppress a smile as I answered that I had not.

“ Then I need have no hesitation in proposing to you, with your guardian’s consent, another ? ”

“ None, certainly.”

“ Then I will propose, though certainly not urge upon you, another, which I heartily hope you will not think too arduous at least for a trial. My sister, in the state of health in which she is now, needs a friend constantly at hand. Bonner, her maid, is worse than nobody in any emergency ; and she does not like the idea of having a professional nurse. Then my children need daily companionship and assistance in their lessons. I have been in the habit of giving them this myself, since my sister lias been so unwell ; but she is often too feeble to hear it going on now, I am sure, without too much fatigue, and if I take them to a room apart, I leave her alone just at the lime when she is most in want of me. Then 1 need for myself a competent draughtsman and secretary. My plan is, — so far as I can be said to have a definite plan, and supposing that you incline to it, —that you shall employ yourself for my sister, in reading, walking, and driving with her, and so forth, — or for me under her oversight in writing or painting, — from about nine till about one every morning, and that you should devote to my children — or when 1 am with them, to her — one hour before tea, and one after, through the week. The remainder of each week-day, and the whole of Sunday, I should wish to leave at your own disposal. But 1 trust you understand, that what I am seeking now to obtain for my family is by no means either a nurse or a governess, but a spirited and ladylike friend” he repeated with emphasis, “ and a rather Protean supernumerary,’7 added he, with a smile, “ who can fill my sister’s place when she is too unwell, or my daughters’ when they are too young, or my own when I am too busy.”

Live with Miss Dudley 1 Live at Barberry Beach ! Go there and not have to come awray ! Leave my guardian, and Julia, and the baby ! Leave our dear old house ! Go away and have to stay ! I had not breath, even if I liad had decision enough to say whether I would or not ; and little Phil woke up and protested loudly, and had to be taken up and given to Rosanna.

“ I must not hurry you by surprise into an answer,” resumed Mr. Dudley, mildly, after a pause that had already lasted too long and was growing awkward.

“ Does Miss Dudley desire it! ” returned I, still more awkwardly.

The speech was an involuntary exclamation, rather than a question ; but he naturally took it literally. “ Desire the arrangement ? Yes. Dream of it ? No ! ” said he. “ That is to say, she supposes you, as I did when I left her this morning, a fixture here ; but I have often heard her envy Mrs. Physick the possession of you, and wish that she could find your duplicate ; and I will be her surety for her thorough delight, if I can secure you for her. She is an almost unchangeable person — in her likings.”

He was rising to go.

“ I may take time to consider ? ”

‘•'Certainly, certainly, — and to consult your friends — in confidence. I should not wish the negotiation, while pending, to come by any chance to my sister’s ears. 1 wish to spare her disappointment if it falls through ; and, even if it succeeds, any suspense is bad for the sleep of an invalid.”

“ I may take a week or two ? ” I rejoined. He was moving towards the door ; and 1 was afraid that 1 might be appearing very pertinacious ; but I was indeed taken by surprise, and still quite bewildered.

“ ‘ A week ?7 Certainly. ‘ Two ?7 Why, a fortnight from to-day will be my sister’s birthday,” said he, with an almost boyish expression of eagerness and animation, which contrasted strikingly enough with His snowy hair. “ 1 must have something ready for her then that she will like. Miss Morne, it would be very pleasant if I could tell her in the morning, on that day, that she might have you ! ”

“ O, then I will surely decide and let you know before that, Mr. Dudley,” said I, feeling as if he had used a strong argument in favor of my consent; and so we parted.

When my guardian came in, he Found me sitting with my hands folded for once on a week-day.

“Well, Katy,” said he, “have you had a call from Mr. Dudley ? ”

“ Indeed I have ! ”

“ What did you say to his terms ? 77

“Why, now I think of it, he did not mention any ! ”

“ Pie did to me,——Hundred dollars a year! ”

“Why,” exclaimed I, springing up and feeling as if I were springing up into a nabob, “ 1 can’t be worth nearly so much ! —am I ? ”

“ By Julia’s appraisal and mine you are, and more,” said he, affectionately, “ if we were only in circumstances to afford ourselves the monopoly of such luxuries. According to prices current, you are not, I believe ; but Mr. Dudley’s conscience does not appear to be exactly regulated by prices current. He said that that was no more than he should be obliged to give to the young man who would accept the place, if you refused it ; that he believed you might soon become nearly as useful to him as the young man would be, and that he knew you could be much more useful to Miss Dudley and the children. Of course, it was not for me to dispute the point with him.”

Julia, after a hasty look at the baby in the kitchen, came in and caught me by the hand with a swimming smile. “Well, Katy,” cried she, “shall you g° ? ”

“ I don’t know. I am so astonished. Had 1 better ? ”

“ We can’t advise : we are interested parties,” said she, turning her face away and hurrying out of the room again.

*You see how it is,” said her husband, sitting down in front of me, as if for an examination and prescription. ‘• Julia hates the thought of parting with you ; and, for that matter, so do I. But it is my duty to look to your interests. At present, if I should die, there is almost no provision for you. You are strong enough to work for yourself now ; but no mortal strength is to be reckoned upon further than we can see it. There is really no chance of your getting either of the schools here, I find ; and a school would n’t pay. You want to clear off the mortgage ? ”

“ Why, yes. So I could, could not I, soon, with such a salary as that ? ”

Yes. It is a better one than you would be at all likely to get anywhere as a teacher ; and you would be close by, where you could see us whenever you liked, and where I could see to you, if anything was the matter. Then, keeping school did not appear to agree with vou, and being with Miss Dudley always does.”

“ So it does ; but going away from all of you, at a minute's notice, does not quite so well.” I was afraid he was not quite sorry enough, and meant to make him so. lie held his tongue, and served me right.

“It seems almost like a caprice in them to take such a sudden fancy to me,” said I, quarrelling with my bread and butter, as a kitten growls at and shakes her meat for the very reason that she is so delighted with it. “They are so very little acquainted with me ! ” “ Don’t trust to that to play any of your tricks with them, pussy. 1 heard Master Paul say, the last time I paid my respects to his arm: ‘You know this was quite a wild place when we first colonized it ? Well, one day when Aunt Lizzy walked out, she met with a lynx and changed eyes with him.’ ”

“What can they really know about me?” persisted 1 perversely.

“ Set your heart at rest. They know quite enough about you,” said he, setting up his eyebrows with a queer look. “ Before Miss Dudley ever saw you, 1 told her the worst she had to expect. It was painful; but I thought it my duty; and 1 did not shrink from it.”

“Ah, now, Doctor, what did you tell her ? ”

“Ah. what did I ?” repeated he with a meditative air of self-examination. “ If you ask her, perhaps she will tell you.”

“No matter; you ’ll tell Julia; and I can get it all out of her just as well.”

“No; I sha’ n’t tell Julia,” said heT getting up and walking off, — and I never could find out that he did.

He had counselled me against his pleasure, I believe,—against his interest, I am sure. Real estate was rising every clay in Beverly; and he would have been glad, on every account but mine, to own our house.

George was very angry when he heard how cheap it had been sold, and came down to Beverly, and talked of prosecuting Dr. Physick for a fraud. But the lawyer whom lie consulted—an honest man, and well affected towards my mother and all her children — told him that he was well known to have himself forced the property into the market against advice and entreaty; that everything had been done fairly and openly ; and that nothing but mortification and further loss could come of Ids carrying his cause into court.

My guardian reminded George of the letter my mother had sent him. He treated the whole story as a fabrication of ours, and denied that any such document had ever been signed by her, seen by him, or sent by me. The attested copy was then produced. He looked confounded, blushed very deeply, and said no more. The Doctor thought he had received the letter. I suspected that, owing to the distress of mind in which I was when I thought I sent it, I might have forgotten to put it into the envelope with my own, though I was not apt to be so careless. At any rate, there the matter dropped. Fanny, warned by our early experience, had taken care in the outset of her illness to make her will in form, leaving George my mother’s Bible, and me residuary legatee of everything else except some trifling keepsakes. Tlius he had no further legal claim upon me ; and, though I thought it my duty to write to him from time to time, I seldom saw or heard from him for years.


THE next day I called for Nelly to take a long walk with me. She had usually seemed much more cheerful since the last conversation between us which I have repeated; and 1 had often been able to draw her out to talk with me about books she had read, and other topics of general interest, which I thought far better for her, as well as pleasanter for me, than a constant harping upon herself and her ruling idea. She had much more cleverness than she was wont to show to strangers ; and when her mind could be diverted, her bright little sayings often made both of us merry. On this afternoon, however, the ground was snowy and the sky cloudy ; and she seemed to be •under the weather, and glided at my side mute as a winter robin.

1 indulged her mood. I was myself full of dumb thoughts and feelings. Emma had written me another letter, urging me to be present at her wedding,— which was to take place, as it happened, upon Miss Dudley’s birthday,— and inviting me to be her bridesmaid. I had been obliged to answer her this time, of course, without delay, and to send such an answer as it was painful to me to send, and would be to her, I feared, to receive.

I assured her of my interest in the occasion, and begged her to believe, as I did, that, from the morning to the night of the day, it would scarcely be out of my mind, and that I did and should pray that it might be a most happy day, and followed by many happy anniversaries to her and her husband ; but that there were difficulties in the way of my accepting her invitation which it would be useless to state, as it was impossible to remove them, O, it was a hard letter to write !

But it was written now and gone, — gone, I said to myself, as much as it would be a thousand years hence; and so was the white catch-all-, which I had trimmed with bridal satin ribbons, and painted with orange-blossoms and green leaves for Emma. And the rush of days that was now hurrying me on so fast to her wedding-day would soon be hurrying me on as fast away from it ; and then the worst would be over, and my living dread would be converted into only a dead certainty.

In the mean time, it was a bright side not to be forgotten, that now again a change was offered me, and in many respects such an inviting change ! Therefore I turned my mind with all raystrength to the proposal of Mr. Dudley.

My mother used to say to me, “ When you desire strongly to do anything, first consider strongly whether there is any good reason why you should not do it; and then, if there is none, thank God and do it.” I have often thought, as I have gone on in life, how much more innocent society might be, on the one hand, and, on the other, how much more spontaneous, various, and joyous, if more persons followed her simple and obvious rule. How many congenial and harmless, not to say praiseworthy things, do many of us sooner or later refrain from doing, because our neighbors either do not do them, or say they do not see how we can want to do them, or else might say that it was strange that we should do them.

None of these stumbling-blocks came much in my way this time. Notwithstanding,—I hope I was not proud, and I am sure I did not mean to be ; but I will not say whether I think I was or not, because 1 have never found that people’s statement of their own opinion with regard to their own qualities threw much light upon them, — I had some doubts about the effect which my entering the service ot Miss Dudley’s family might have on the nature of that intercourse with them, and especially with her, which had lately been the chief entertainment and joy of my life, it was so long since 1 had felt myself under orders, that 1 could scarcely remember how I had felt under orders. My mother settled with me so far back in the dark ages the point, that when she said 1 must, I must, that she scarcely ever within my recollection had any occasion to say it at all ; and a guardian of thirty-four or thirty-five found little opportunity or temptation to exert his authority over a ward of seventeen or eighteen. In the pay and service of this family, should 1 be able to behave myself agreeably to them ? and would they continue to behave themselves agreeably to me ?

I hoped so. I believed so. The original little shrew seemed at present to have been pretty nearly chastened and disciplined out of the Katharine ; and if

“ E’en in her ashes lived their wonted fires,’’

I could hardly conceive of anybody’s ever being pettish or saucy to any one of the denizens of Barberry Beach,— except, perhaps, to Master Paul, whom Nature had admirably qualified for selfdefence, —

“ There’s such divinity doth hedge a Dudley !

as I once heard Dr. Edward Arden say. On the other hand, their own courtesy to all their dependents according to the degree of each, was so perfect, that their orders sounded not unlike orders of dignity conferred. I should probably improve and enjoy myself in many ways among them, if I went, and have many a chance to be of use and give pleasure to the dear lady of my heart. Perhaps I should have one of those lovely little chambers that looked out on the water !

“ If Miss Dudley likes to have you, and you like to go, then why should n’t you go ? ” I could find no good reason why I should not. I would “ thank God and do it.”

“ What are you stopping for, Nelly ? You ’ll take cold if you don’t walk, dear. Come ! ”

“ I want to ride,” cried she, gazing wistfully back up the pale road.

“What?” said I, thinking I had perhaps heard wrong out of my brown study. “There’s nothing for us to ride in. Don’t you see ? — That’s a hearse ! ”

“ I want to ride 1 ” she repeated, staring miserably up into my face. “ O, f want to ride ! ”

Without another word or thought but of appeasing her, I beckoned to the old driver. He drew up and stopped, looking surprised. “ Can you take us a little way with you ? My companion seems tired of walking.”

“ Wal, yes,” answered he in a piping, whistling voice ; “ I cal’late I ken, ef you hevn’t no objections to the kind o’ the kerridge. Most folks hez. I hev n’t; nor I don’t know why nobody should. We’ve all on us got to take a cast in it some time or mother, from them that takes their rides in the barouge now, to them that rides In the jail-cart; an’ I expect to some it’s the most easin’ kind of a ride ever they gits. Jest you clamber over, young miss, an’ set on the coffin, — and you too’m ; there ain’t no more room here ’n I hev to hev. What you ’feard on ? It’s strong enough to hold ye. You ’ll hev a better place in there nor I hev here. The curtains keeps out the sharp wind, an’ the glare o’ the snow to the eyes. My passenger won’t say nothin’ to ye, nor mind ye none nother. Ide ’s a work’us chap, an’ never was in such pleasant company afore in his life.”

Nelly was in, in a moment. I did not know how to resist. I was under a nightmare. It was as if I had been hurried out of one dream into another,— an awful other, — that yet was not all a dream. The coffin received us. The black curtains flapped around us like the wings of a brooding bat. We went on almost noiselessly with the silent dead towards the graveyard. It was dark and cold. I thought of those I loved, who had ately travelled that road already, not to return, — of those who might be doomed soon to follow. I could not speak ; but the low murmuring tones of Nelly, talking in her dreamiest way with the driver, fell on ray ear like the voice of my own soul.

“ You bury many people, I suppose, every year ? ”

“ O’ course we doos, — all we ken.”

“ People of all ages ? ” (She would sometimes, when she was in one of these moods, ask questions which a child eight years old might answer. For this she was charged by some persons with affectation; but 1 thought it came rather from an instinctive effort made by her groping mind to catch hold of some tangible assurance of realities from without the world of shadows amidst which she lived.)

“O’ course we doos. It don’t make no difference to us. The heft o’ none on ’em ain't gin’rally secli as to break down our team, by the time they comes to take their passage in it. They dies, an’ the friends pays ; an’ we buries ’em, an’ there’s a end on ’t.”

“ Which do you bury the most of, — young people or old ? ”

“ Y'oungsters, nat’rally. They is n’t so many old uns left to bury.”

“ Did you ever bury anybody about my age ? ”

“ 1 guess I never buried nobody that asked me sech a lot o’ sill)questions.”

Nelly shrank into herself, as she always did at a rebuff. We glided on like a party of mutes. The stillness was more harrowing than the speech had been. Hoping that she was satisfied, or that at least a sufficient change had been given to the current of her thoughts, I was feeling for my purse to fee the driver and escape from the situation, when he, relenting, as if soothed by the accustomed silence, spoke again : “ Come to think on it, now, I buried a miss, that did n’t look no great older ’n you be, somewhere about the beginnin’ o’ the fall, from Dr. Pbysick’s ; an’ that ar’ looks like her very pictur’ come to life ag’in a settin’ by ye.”

Nelly turned sharp round upon me as if struck by a sudden thought. “ Katy, Katy, what makes you look so ? Are you dying ? You look as if you were dead ! O, let us get out! ”

“ O, let us get out! ” gasped 1 after her.

“ Want to know, now ! ” said he in a tone of condolence, reining in his slow horse, and stiffly climbing down himself to help me. “ I never thought nothin’.”

“Pay him, Nelly,” said I, thrusting my purse back to her, as I tottered up the snow-bank to lean on the stone wall at the side of the road.

“ Bless ye ! ” cried he, climbing in again to drive off, “ I ’ll let ye off from payin’, if ye ’ll excuse me for speakin’ without thinkin’-”

I sat down for a moment on a frosty stone, that had rolled from its place. The fresh air was doing me good ; but I was dazzled and dizzy.

Nelly fell on her knees upon the snow before me, and threw her arms around my waist. “ Katy, Katy,” cried she, “what have I done to you ! After all that you have done for me ! Never to think of you ! O, what a selfish wretch I was ! I hope this will be a lesson to me for life ! ”

“ And to me, too ! ” said I, as well as I could. The world began to stand still, and I stood up.

“ You are too sick to stand! O Katy, forgive me!”

“ I will lean on you for a few steps ; you ’ll take cold if we stay here. O Nelly, how little we shall care for what lies behind us, — how much will He before us, — the next time we ride jn a hearse! ”

“ God is merciful,” said she, turning paler.

“Yes, He is merciful; but in His mercy lie offers us holiness so much beyond what most people reach, — so awfully far above what we have won ! It would lie such a miserably different tiling, just barely to be dragged into heaven as penitent sinners, from what it would be to be borne in, in triumph, as glorified saints.”

“ Saints ! Could I be a saint ? I never thought I could be anything after I found I could not be a happy — Katy, how you looked when you said that! — as if your face caught the reflection of a ready glory that hung over your head ! Don’t die ! Forgive me.”

“ I thank you,” answered I, rallying more and more ; “ thanks to you, we have, each of us, had a lesson we can never forget. Certainly every hearse ought to have written upon it, for a motto, the words ‘ This T say unto you, The time henceforth is short, in order that those who weep may be as though they wept not, and those that rejoice as those that rejoice not, and the using this world as not abusing it ; for the fashion of this world passed) away.’ You know what the undertaker said?” I continued, smiling through a few tears that would come ; “he expected a ride with him was to some the most easin’ kind of a ride that ever they had. I expect it has been so to me. i shall think of it henceforward as an antidote, whenever passing things make me unhappy.”

“You unhappy, Katy 1 O, how sorry I am ! I was too selfish to imagine anybody could lie unhappy but I. Are you unhappy ? ”

“Sometimes ; — everybody is.”

“ And I have made you more so.”

“You will make me less so another time ; and then it will lie even.”

“ I Ought. You have made me less so a great deal, for these last few weeks, and, on the whole, ever since I knew you. You must not think you have failed altogether because I have behaved so to-day. I can't guess what got into me. 1 never mean to do so again. 1 have been better, and I will be better.”

“ If the disorder has assumed the intermittent form,” said I, professionally, mimicking my guardian, “ it ought to go off upon a course of bark. What do you say to trying a little hard, real work by way of bitters ?

“ I do not care. After what I have done, you cannot ask of me anything but what I will do.”

“ Then let us keep a se Wing-school once a week for some of the poor little waifs and strays about the streets. We can read them a story, and give them a cake, and make it a little treat to them.”

“ I will, and begin with the dirtiest and the naughtiest.”

Thus prosaically our grim adventure ended. I had been revolving the plan of the sewing-school in my own mind for some time before, especially for Nelly’s benefit ; but she was generally indisposed to active exertion, and averse to practical matters. Therefore I had been obliged to watch for a favorable opening, which her penitence afforded me. As I did not wish to put it to too hard a test, and for other reasons also, I discouraged, however, the idea of giving the precedence to the naughtiest and dirtiest children. We decided that I should ask Miss Trimmer of the town school, a worthy young woman with whom I was acquainted, to choose out the best six of the motherless poor little girls among her pupils to form the nucleus of our class, that we might train them for tame elephants to help us to break in the wild ones. In the mean time, I thought that, if we succeeded in making them enjoy themselves, their reports would make their mates eager to be admitted likewise, as they might be afterwards by instalments, bearing tickets of recommendation from their mistress as rewards for good conduct in the public school. I hoped also to be able, through Miss Trimmer, to get leave to teach them through the cold weather in the school-house, before the fires went out on Wednesday afternoon ; and Julia cheerfully promised us the use of her arbor and garden in the summer.