Katharine Morne: Part V
THE next morning at breakfast I told my guardian that I had determined to take his advice, and go to Barberry Beach.
“ I think I would, Katy, — give it a trial. Your home will still be here, you know, and your chamber kept for you all the same ; and the oftener you come into it, the pleasanter for us. Then I shall let Mr. Dudley know, for you ? ”
“ O, if you only would ! That will be so kind ! ”
Julia spattered her finger with hot water from the urn. She said it was not much hurt; but I saw the tears come into her eyes, and she bent her head over the cups lower than usual, as if she were near - sighted, while she poured out our “ fluids.”
My mind was made up, however, and neither my guardian nor myself, nor Julia in fact, saw any reason why I should change it.
All my thoughts now happily turned toward Barberry Beach. I grew eager to be gone. On the morning of Emma’s wedding-day the gray ponies stopped at our door. I came out to it ; and Miss Dudley, in her Siberian sables, sprang lightly from the booby-hut, and caught me in her arms, crying, in a tone that admitted no doubt of her satisfaction with her brother’s arrangements, “ I could not wait to send, you see ! I had to come myself for my birthday present.”
It was a sunny, glittering, silvery winter’s day. The ponies tossed their heads, shook their bells, and soon had us in among the evergreens and Euonymus shrubs that, encased in the sleet of the day before, wore their emeralds and rubies set in diamonds.
Blooming Rose danced, as light as a shuttlecock, through the colored lights that fell from the stained-glass window on the stairs and across the hall, on her light, elastic toes, to beg me to come straight up stairs and let her show me my chamber.
It did look out on the glorious water, and in it I caught my queen Lily in the act of putting the last touches to an exquisite nosegay of fresh flowers on the dressing-table. As I thanked her with delight, she explained, “ O, I onlyput them in the glass. Paul went to the greenhouse for them.”
“ Because he wanted to do something for you,” added Rose.
“ And we wanted to keep him out of mischief,” rejoined Lily, with a matronly air, as she helped me off with my bonnet, and handed it to Rose, who was hanging up my cloak. “ O, he is such a boy ! ”
“ Yes, indeed,” said Rose. “ It was such an escape, for one thing, that it was winter, and not summer. Do you know, Lily, he said he would n’t have put in any green but birch, if he could only have got some ? — and he would have put in Aaron’s-rod and golden-rod and rhododendron. That ’s because, Miss Morne, papa said you were willing to be so good as sometimes to help us with our lessons ; and Paul told me he was going to be very kind, and make you a couple of fool’s-caps for us, and help you in every way. But I don’t think you ’ll want that kind of help, shall you ?”
“ Nonsense, Rose !” cried Lily, half laughing, while she gave a slight toss to her head, as if to reject the proposed decoration. “ O Miss Morne, he s always quizzing her ; and she is always believing him ! You know very well, Rose, that we need n’t study at all afternoons, if we had n’t coaxed papa so to let us keep on at Miss Taskers school; and he says he is going to write and sign a great bundle of ' Please to excuses,’ with blanks to fill up, for Miss Morne to give us and put in ‘ mental arithmetic,’or geography, or anything else that we can’t ‘learn comfortably and cheerfully in one hour before tea,’ with all the help we can get.”
“ Well,” said Rose, “ that will enable us to be much more faithful to our dolls.”
“ I hope you won’t think we are dunces, though, Miss Morne,” said Lily, anxiously. “I could learn my lessons by myself, I am sure, and so could Rose, too, I dare say, if she wanted to, if we might only study in the evening like the other girls. But papa says, if we did, we should be a great deal more likely to be dunces after we grew up; and of course, as papa says, so we do. He says he thinks he can do as much hard work in the twenty-four hours as most men ; but he can’t studytill bedtime and sleep a good sleep after it, and what is too much for him can’t be little enough for us. Now is there anything more you would like to have ? —or would you rather take a look all round by yourself, and let us know afterwards ? ”
“ Here is the bell,” said Rose. “ This door opens into your bath-room ; and here, you know, is your cedar-closet. O, and here on the shelf— I forgot — is a pair of lamb’s-wool soles and another of cork ones ! Aunt Lizzy said you would need them in your shoes, on our bare floors, this cold weather.”
“ Aunt Lizzy told us to have everything put into your room that we should like for ourselves ; but we thought we did not like a wardrobe.”
“ It is so filling-up ; and when we go up in the dark, it comes running against our noses. This key locks all the drawers of your bureau, Miss Morne. Lily has been putting a purple cord in it, because she said purple was the most beautiful color, particularly for you,” added Rose, lingering in a parting survey of the happy-looking little oak-panelled room.
“ Here are only Scott’s Poems on your little book-case,” said Lily, at the door. “ I put them there because they are so grand, and the shelves looked so empty ; but if they are in your way, or you would rather have anything else, we will take them to the library again.” She paused, and drew out a little gold watch about as broad as a silver dollar, — if anybody can remember in these silver-moneyless times how broad a dollar used to be, — and not much thicker. “ O Rose-bud, it’s half past ten ; and Mr. Madder was coming to paint us at eleven, and we are n’t dressed ! Excuse us, Miss Morne. Run, run ! ” Off they ran.
What a cordial, a cordial reception always is ! As I smoothed my windtossed front-locks at the looking-glass, between the two windows that showed me the sea, I felt as if Care and I had parted company. Notwithstanding, it was with a little embarrassment that I hastened down to Miss Dudley’s parlor to request her first commands.
“ I have none to-day,” answered she, “ except that you do your best to enjoy yourself. All of us ladies take a holiday in honor of your advent and my birthday. You have your work-basket ? That is cosey. Sit down here by me on the sofa. I hope the children have made you comfortable ? I looked into your chamber when I left mine this morning, and I shall ask your leave to do so again at bedtime ; but the doctor advises me not to climb the staircase more than once a day ; and Paul recommends me to ‘ set up a mule or a lama.’ You begin, no doubt, to see into the characters of the two girls.”
“ So far— if I am invited to criticise — as to see that they are peculiarly kind, well-bred, and engaging.”
“ No further? Do you see no difference between them ? ”
“ I believe I am learning to. They shade into one another so that sometimes I am thrown back again quite at a loss ; but generally it appears to me that, though each is sweet, and neither weak for a child of her age, Lily is the strongest, and Rose the sweetest.”
“ That is it precisely. As you say, they do shade into each other very much ; and yet they are in some respects the very complements of one another. Paul called them one day ‘ Mind and Heart ’; but I told him that would not do, for it would never do to let one of his sisters get the idea into her little head that she could dispense with thought, or the other, that she could with feeling. The likeness is made still more puzzling than it would otherwise be, by the fact that in each there is a mixture of what are commonly accounted opposite qualities. Rose’s sympathies are remarkably ready, and accordingly make her naturally more attentive to every-day matters affecting the comfort of others than Lily ; though Lily is not, on the whole, regardless of them. But Rose is imaginative to credulity; and Lily, at present, a person of sharper perceptions in almost every way. Perhaps their difference is more a matter of accidental development than of original endowment. However, it is important that you should know them well ; for no one can tell how much nor how soon,” continued she, with a soft gravity of tone and expression, “ they may be thrown upon your young hands.”
“ If I might only be taught the system which has made them what they seem to be, I should be most thankful to carry it out with them as otten as they are intrusted to my care, or with any other children who might fall into my hands hereafter,” said I, eagerly.
“ I am afraid I scarcely have a system,” answered she, playfully, “ or that, if I had, it would require in another household to be changed or abandoned. In fact, don’t you think that there lies the weak point in most printed theories of education, and one of the reasons why we find so little help in them ? Are they not often merely generalizations of methods which have proved exactly suited to some one child, or set of children, in certain circumstances, and which, for that very reason, must be altered before they can suit different children in different circumstances ? Unless I am very much mistaken, my love, no substitute can be furnished to us guardians of youth for the exercise of our own tact, observation, good sense, and good feeling. If we have and use these, we shall be sure to do well, even with little secondhand theory or none. If we have them not, with the best theory that can be provided for us, we shall do very badly. My brother’s management and mine has been on the simplest principles. We loved the children ; therefore we loved to have them with us, and therefore they loved to be with us. We tried to do and say what we thought right; and what we did and said, they saw and heard. When they were naughty or unbearably noisy, and seldom but then, when we were in the house, they were sent to the nursery. There, whatever we might occasionally retrench in, I never spared money, time, or pains to keep them supplied with a maid whose antecedents I knew as you seldom can know those of any but your own countrywomen. Her place was almost always therefore filled by an American, — always by a person of whose conscientiousness I was assured, and whom I could rely upon to treat the children with uniform respect and good-temper, and to require respect and good-temper of them in her turn. Sending away from papa and aunty was always enough to bring Rose to repentance. Lily, now and then, had to be reported to me for contumacy, and to go into retreat in a room by herself; but all that is over long ago. A hint or a look is all that they want in the way of direct discipline, though all such young creatures must need watchfulness. As they have been for a longer time than they can remember the habitual associates of older persons whom they respect and love, Rose and Lily, I trust, usually know what is right, and wish to do it.”
The hall-door bell rang. Presently after, Butler appeared, walked up to Miss Dudley, and said with his usual deferential undertone as she paused, “ Mr. Madder, ma’am.”
“ You showed him into the paintingroom, I suppose, Butler ? ”
“ Let the young ladies know. My dear, would you like to come with me, and see them sit for their picture ? ”
I went with her to the apartment which had been fitted up for a temporary studio. She had no more than time to greet the artist, present him to me, and ascertain that the light and temperature of the room were agreeable to him, before the twins came in, at a pace unlike their favorite scamper, and, by request, in the dresses in which he had seen them at the dinner - party. They went straight up to him, renewed their acquaintance very artlessly and gracefully, and then took their places opposite to him side by side.
They were to be represented holding by the mane, one on each side, Paul’s pony, on which sat the sprite himself, without saddle or bridle. The St. Bernard was as usual in attendance, and Paul had urged the further introduction of Pettitoes, “ for the historic truth of the thing ” ; but Mr. Madder hated “ cats and everything ugly,” and was on that point inexorable. The background was to be painted from a photograph of the shore.
The children were patient; but the light soon began to fade out of their faces. Mr. Madder was obliged to beg that some stories might be told or read to them, and I read from a volume of Hans Christian Andersen till Paul appeared, when nothing further was necessary.
Mr. Dudley soon followed, shook hands with me cordially, and thanked me for coming, with words, voice, eyes, and smile. Mr. Madder stayed to dinner ; and as, seated between Miss Dudley and dear little Rose within the mirror-like mahogany panels, I listened to the lively, clever, kindly chat that ran from one to another round the table, I could fancy myself admitted to a partial réchauffée of the feast that was held the night that I sat on the cliff.
On leaving the dining-room, Miss Dudley wished for a nap, and sent for Bonner to bring her knitting and sit by her in her parlor. The children all went with the gentlemen to the library. I found myself at liberty to follow out my own desires, and betook myself to the pleasant little retreat of my chamber, which I longed to see again.
The soft-coal fire burned cheerily and safely behind the high wire fender, and seemed leaping and glancing there, like a caged, but living and loving thing to welcome me. I seated myself comfortably at the convenient table, and, wishing to secure to myself some memento of the memorable old year that was soon to be gone, I printed in black letter, upon some thick paper, the text which I had repeated to Nelly on the day of our grisly ride, “ This I say unto you,” &c. I began to illuminate it with a border of asphodel, cypress, amaranth, and arbor-vitæ. For a heading, I faintly indicated among the flowers a sable hearse, drawn by a pale horse, and driven by the angel of Death, with his inverted torch, standing and looking up to heaven. Time, shorn of his forelock, followed as chief mourner, his hour-glass broken, and his scythe reversed. This I intended to fasten up against my wall, where I should see it everyday; and I meant, if the design caught Nelly’s fancy, to make a similar talisman for her.
A clear and pretty lamp was punctually brought me as the twilight fell. I bestowed my limited wardrobe in my ample accommodations, at tea rejoined the family circle, and, being hospitably pressed to do so, ended the evening happily with them.
When I looked my good night at last to the stars, and the sea, my next neighbor, I said to myself: “ Another time I will try not to be too sorry for anything till after it happens. Emma’s wedding-day, that made me such a coward when I only had it to look forward to, has not been an unspeakably wretched day to me ”;—and when I knelt down presently to pray for blessings upon her and him, it was with a sincerely grateful heart, I trust, that I thanked God for my own.
I WILL try to remember how I spent the next day also ; for it was a fair sample of many succeeding days. The chambermaid tapped at my door at seven ; and I admitted her to make my fire. My bathing-room, I found, — unlike any of the chambers and sittingrooms in the house, — was heated by a pipe from the warm-air furnace below the hall. By the time I returned from my ablutions, the servant was gone. For once, however, I could learn nothing from the open book beside my glass as I finished my toilet, for looking at the waves without, and the tasteful comforts within my chamber.
I have called it a happy-looking chamber. When I left it, I satisfied myself, even in the gray, early December morning, that the house was, as I had thought it, essentially a happylooking house. Cheerfulness and elegance, rather than costliness, were its distinguishing characteristics. Wealth might underlie everything, but overlaid nothing. Where taste and comfort demanded expense, expense was evidently not spared. But there was no shoddy, — nothing that betokened that the inmates had more money than they were used to or knew what to do with, or that was expressly adapted to show that they had more dollars and less sense than their neighbors. The same delicious freshness, above all, still prevailed everywhere, that had given such an air of freedom to the establishment in the autumn. The doors of the sleeping-rooms all had ventilators at the top, and opened into an open gallery, with an old-fashioned white carved balustrade, such as one sees in ante-Revolutionary houses, which ran round the second story above the hall. As I was afterwards shown, there was on the south side of the story above an open window, provided with what Paul called a “respirator,”—a triple network of iron steam-pipes, by whose heat the cold was tempered as the atmosphere breathed in.
I came slowly and uncertainly down the easy flight of stairs, that, differing from too many modern stair-cases, seemed more like a hill than it did like a ladder. While I paused on one of the square landings, to gaze at an ancestrallooking picture, I was spied by Lily, who, in her garnet-colored cashmere, was evidently lying in wait for me. She ran up and took me by the hand. “ Good morning, Miss Morne,” cried she ; “ I hope you remembered to dream some good dreams to tell Rose, the first night in the new house. Aunt Lizzy sent me, with her love, to invite you to come in to prayers with me. She is not sick; but she did not sleep quite well, and so she will not be dressed in time.”
She led me, just as the lacquered eight-day hall-clock clicked five minutes before eight o’clock, into the noble library. There sat Mr. Dudley already, at one side of the marble fireplace, looking stately and patriarchal, and turning over the leaves of a large old Bible. He rose to welcome me, and to kiss Lily, and then, reseating himself, rang the small silver bell at his side. Lily placed herself on his right hand, and me next to her. Rose followed ; and Paul was our file-closer. The servants entered with the imposing Butler at their head, whose white wool made an Oriental turban over his black face.1 Their master bade them a kind good morning. They bowed or courtesied, and seated themselves modestly at the opposite side of the fireplace.
When all was quiet, Mr. Dudley read, with his usual simplicity and dignity, but with an unconscious earnestness that surprised as much as it pleased me, after what I had heard of his creed or want of any, a passage from the Gospels or the Psalms. All then knelt, while he offered one of the inspired petitions of the Church of England, substituting, however, for the Trinitarian formulary at its close, the sublime ascription of St. Paul, “ Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory through Jesus Christ, for ever and ever. Amen ! ” The simple services were concluded with the repetition, by all present, of the Lord’s Prayer.
The servants withdrew. In a few minutes Butler returned to the threshold, and, with his usual pomp and circumstance, announced breakfast. Rose presided deftly and prettily, and had already served us all before Miss Dudley came down. The table was as tempting as silver, damask, cream, newlaid eggs and fresh butter, fruit and flowers, could make it; and the supply of good-breeding, good-humor, and good spirits, which 1 enjoyed so much the day before, seemed even at that sullen hour unexhausted and inexhaustible.
At nine — pen, pencils, and paint-box in hand — I went to Miss Dudley’s parlor, and again reported myself for orders. She was already seated with a large handful of letters. “ Correspondence first,” said she. “ My brother, like many other people, loves to receive letters, but not quite so well as I do to write them. He has more of other things to writeIf you will read these aloud to me, Miss Morne, I will go on with my crochet, and afterwards, if you are at all at a loss for the answers, I ought, if there is any virtue in experience, to be able to show you how to write a very gentlemanly letter.”
The question came to me sadly then, as it did often afterwards, whether she was not hastening to throw off upon me duties which were pleasures to her still, in order to make sure of training betimes a substitute to fill her place hereafter, so far as a hireling might. However, since I was at any rate, for whatever reason, to be secretary, I was greatly reassured by the offer of her instruction. It enabled me to approach with interest and pleasure a task which I must otherwise have attempted in consternation.
The letters were various in style and contents. Some of the most intimate of them were signed with famous names; and others were no less distinguished by tokens of goodness and intellect in the writers. One was indorsed simply, “ 3d person, — no!” “That is from some stranger,” said Miss Dudley, after I had read it to her. “ A rather impertinent application ! It is to be answered as concisely as may be, without rudeness. My brother says that forward persons are often spared far severer mortifications in the end, by a gentle check in the beginning. It must be owned that he gives it con amore. He utterly detests young Americanism.” The next bore the superscription, “Yes, — cordially.” “That is to be answered in the first person, as it is written,” said she, “and to have a space left for my brother’s signature.” It was a request, expressed with equal manliness and modesty, from a clergyman, for a large sum of money for a charitable purpose. On those that seemed to be from personal friends, clauses — some of them playful, and all characteristic —were written in pencil. “ My brother wrote those lines without looking on, to save his eyes,” said Miss Dudley, as I referred them to her, “and wrote them in that large round hand to save ours.”
“ Are Mr. Dudley’s eyes not strong ? ” I ventured to ask.
“ They would be, if it were not for the microscope ; that is the one luxury in regard to which he can neither use nor learn moderation. These letters are from old friends of his, who know his ways, and are glad to hear from him on his own terms. He meant to have a few words, at least, that showed they were his own, incorporated in the answers.”
The last letter was read. Miss Dudley unlocked her French desk for me, laid a quire of water-lined paper before me, and began to dictate readily and gracefully, interrupting herself only to explain, with the most engaging kindness, one or another of those many little proprieties on which the elegance of letter - writing so much depends, which seem so obvious as soon as they have been once pointed out, but which so few people are likely to discover for themselves. In the midst of my business, I saw and congratulated myself that my very incomplete education had not come to a stand through my coming to Barberry Beach. I hardly knew, in fact, which was the best part of the morning’s work, the letterwriting or the letter-reading. The former was the best lesson in composition I ever received; but the latter a peep at rich and new chapters in that most interesting of all human books, the book of human life. At twelve, or just after, the last answer was finished.
“ To-morrow, you shall have some painting,” said Miss Dudley. “Now, will you please to read to me in Mr. Prescott’s last History ? He has sent us a copy; and I think you will enjoy it.”
I did please, read, and enjoy till one o’clock; when the children came in, and we went to walk or drive.
Mr. Dudley gave the latter part of the day pretty regularly to his family. I could see that they all had it in mind to leave me quite free till six ; and I was told that the dining-room was at my service, and that of any visitors whom I wished to receive.
About an hour before tea-time, Lily came to seek me there with her slate. “ Miss Morne,” said she, giving a pluck to one of her cendré locks, “do you know the reason that I wear ashes on my head ? It must be because I go mourning all my days for arithmetic, — vulgar fractions just now; I can do them, but I can’t see through them. They certainly never will go into my head through my eyes. Would you be so good as to see what can be done with my ears ? ”
“ Try cuffing,” suggested Paul, following her. “ Where’s Sweetbrier ? We are going to do composition.”
“ In Aunt Lizzy’s parlor, all ready,” said Lily; “ you will have it quite to yourselves. Aunty is in the library with papa.”
Off went Paul.
“ What is he really going to do?” asked I.
“ O, he is going to tell Rose something for her to write down and put in stops and paragraphs. Miss Tasker did not like quite to let us off from composition, for fear of making the other girls discontented ; but papa said it would only make us write affectedly and badly to try to write finely when we were too young ; so she said we might manage it in the most labor-saving way we could, if we would only bring her any sort of English exercises. So I am reading the most splendid parts I can find in Macaulay’s History, and writing down what I can remember; but Rose always likes something romantic, and Paul said he would make her up a story to-night.”
I sent Lily for three pippins, a plate, and a knife, and proceeded to a concrete demonstration of the abstractions, " one third of two, two thirds of one,” and so forth, for about twenty minutes; at the end of which she owned a dawning of satisfaction, and Butler came to set the table.
“ Let us go to Aunt Lizzy’s parlor,” said she, “ and see if Rose is ready to learn our geography.”
Rose was seated at the desk, writing eagerly and then looking up to Paul, who leaned against it at her side, with folded arms, and eyes apparently fixed, under their long curled lashes, on the floor, in all the abstraction of invention. There was a glow of color and expression on his little sister’s face as she raised it towards him, that removed all my little wonder that Mr. Dudley should forbid her studying till bedtime. She started as we drew near, as if from a dream.
“ Never mind! Go on, Rose,” said Paul. “ They will be so good as to whisper; and so will we. We are just in the most interesting part of our story,” added he, turning to us beseechingly. " It is almost done.”
We seated ourselves, and murmured accordingly very gently over Lily’s book. But what we said, I did not know. In spite of himself, Paul whispered from time to time so loud, in the stir of his spirit, that I could not help catching such items as " The lists were of a grim and grisly gray. — The block, guarded by two gules, each bearing in his right hand a deadly habergeon, was spread with sable cramoisie. —The enchanter read a most unearthly spell from his spelling-book. — One beautiful eye she fixed indignantly upon her base accuser, and rolled the other full of transporting hope upon her champion —”
Lily could not stand it as well as I, — perhaps because she sat nearer. She presently darted from the room, without a word of apology ; and peals of fairy-like laughter were heard from a neighboring pantry. (Lily, by nature, loved to swing herself about, clasp her hands over her curly head, and stamp her little feet like an elf, when she enjoyed a hearty laugh ; but she was beginning to regard this as very unladylike, and now practised it “only,” as Paul said, “in the retirement of the closet.”)
“ There,” said Paul in a hurry; “ now write ; Finis.’ ”
“ O,” said Rose, with a deep sigh, “ thank you, dear, dear Polly ! How beautiful it is ! What got Lily ? ”
“ The pantry,” said Paul, concisely.
“ Don’t I hear her laugh ? ”
“ I do.”
“ What makes her ? ”
“ She must be thinking of something.”
Lily returned, calm though blooming. “ Ready for map questions, now, Rosebud ?”
“ O dear, how stupid ! ” sighed poor Rose, undergoing a reaction. “ How I do wish we were going to play loto ! That plate of cut apple would make such a nice pool, — and I ’m so tired ! ”
“ We can have it for a pool for the questions,” said I, “and let the one who first spies a place have a piece.” Rose revived. “You have a globe? It is much better than a map. Now where is Algiers ?”
“ There ! there ! ” cried Lily.
“ Ah, but if you only say, ‘ There, there ! ’ when Miss Tasker asks you, and if she says, ‘ Where, where ? ’ you may not know what to answer. Now, without pointing, try to tell Rose and me exactly where it is, so that we shall see it, too. If we always put everything we learn into plain words, we can say lessons the better, and remember them the better, and teach them the better. Lily has won the first piece of apple.”
Thus the lesson proceeded, with so much spirit on the part of the twins that the sociable Paul begged leave to join them. I consented, on condition of his promising to play us no tricks. He kept his promises, I soon found; and they were almost the only means I had of keeping him in order.
After tea, they all came round me again to beg for a song. I sang to them, and then made them try to sing to me. Paul, to my joy, proved to have a most sweet alto ; and the twins could run in their clear, soft canary-bird tones higher than I dared to let them. A good ear and true taste were common to the little trio, Rose and Lily singing in unison above Paul’s stronger voice.
The song over, they went to the library “ to see papa and Aunt Lizzy a little while,” but Rose returned presently to Invite me to join them there with my work or book. At half past eight, bed-time came to the lasses, and at nine, to the lad.
When he was gone, Mr. Dudley suddenly exclaimed, with a queer expression, “ Lizzy, i can’t tell, for my life, what we are ever going to do with that boy Paul of yours.”
“ Well, Charles,” returned she, quaintly, “ I can’t see, for my part, that my boy Paul is any worse than yours.”
“ You have me there, I own,” said he, yielding to the laugh that had seemed impending before; and I fancied he might have been favored with a sight of Rose’s “ composition.”
When he left the room, Miss Dudley commented : “ Paul was left alone under my care for a year, when he was about two years old, while his father and mother were travelling, for her health, in Europe. She was my ward, — poor, dear child! — and one of the loveliest little beings ever seen. She died soon after their return ; and Rose and Lily have been also under my care, jointly with their father’s, ever since. But Paul has always been considered peculiarly mine, peculiarly like me, and perhaps peculiarly spoiled by me; though really I do not mean that he shall be. I do not pretend to understand the management of a boy of his age. That is his father’s business. I know only how to love him ; and if you have in any child honesty, modesty, affection, and truth, I think you can very well afford to wait a little while for perfection.”
Mr. Dudley appeared to think so too. They did not tie up the lively youth very tight, but angled for him, as if he had been a tender-mouthed trout, with a long line, and watchfully, steadily, gently, and patiently secured him.
THERE was no other event, that winter, of any particular importance to me, except the arrival of a box of wedding-cake from Emma, which I gave to Julia. She knew I seldom liked to eat such things.
Two pleasant out-of-door interests I had, in my Sundays spent at my guardian’s, where dear little Phil was learning to jump and crow when he saw me, and in my meetings with Nelly. Every Wednesday afternoon, I joined her at her sewing-school; and every Saturday she came to Barberry Beach for an hour or two to study French and Italian with me, which made a little change for both of us.
It was now a happier privilege than formerly to me to be with her. An alteration was taking place in her, which already inspired me with the warmest satisfaction and hope, and which was before many years were gone to win my more than esteem, — my reverence. If young people can but have a little help and guidance in turning any sharp corner in their lives, it is surprising to see how soon and how far they will sometimes outstrip their leaders. Nelly seemed to have driven round such a corner in the hearse. That adventure was the turning-point in her life.
I do not believe there is room for more than one ruling passion at one time in one mind. I should always advise anybody who wished to drive out one, to drive in another; and perhaps the very persistency of nature, which makes it so miserably hard for some persons to change any habit of thought or feeling into which they have unwarily slidden, has this compensation, that it gives to any principle which they choose to adopt a singularly steadfast power over them. Hereafter Nelly’s ruling passion was to be the pursuit of holiness for herself and others ; and she was learning to pursue it, in her lonely and disappointed lot, with a single-hearted devotion which I have never seen excelled, if equalled. Generous “ Unde Wardour ” gladly furnished her with the material means of doing good. “ Aunt Cumberland ” was always much propitiated and entertained by the spectacle of “ useful occuppation,” which was her term for any kind of homely bustle and manual labor. In spite of Nelly’s constitutional indolence and particular aversion to such occupations, she not only made the tame elephants and their successors good cutters-out and sempstresses, but patiently learned, that she might teach them, the mysteries of the laundry, kitchen, and dairy. As many of them as proved deserving of such training, she trained to be sharers in her works of mercy. They sewed with her for the sick, and made for them, with her, under Mrs. Physick’s direction, little wholesome delicacies. These she herself, often accompanied by one or another of her little disciples, carried to many a bedside, and administered with her own tender hands. Some part of every day she gave to charity. She brought to her sagacious old uncle, to be locked up for her “ for ten years,” her favorite poems of Byron, Moore, and Shelley, — the gifts of Mr. Blight, — “stimulants which, taken too early upon an empty head,” —according to my guardian, — "are apt to turn it,” and spent her evenings in reading to Mr. Wardour the sound old English classics, which he liked the best. Indeed, site made herself agreeable and important in all sorts of ways at home. Her health improved materially, when her attention was no longer “ concentrated upon herself and her troubles ”; and she grew up a lovely, thoughtful, vestal-looking girl.
However, I am anticipating now, and summing up in a few lines the work of more moons. Something else happened, the first spring that I spent at Barberry Beach.
On setting off for Nelly’s sewingschool, one raw Wednesday afternoon, I was desired to take Dr. Physick’s house in my way, and request that he would call to see Lily. She had returned from a visit of two or three days to a little friend in Boston, with a very sore throat.
On my return, as I put my pass-key into the lock of the front-door, it was suddenly opened by Mr. Dudley, as if he was upon the watch. “ Miss Morne, this way, if you please,” said he, pointing to the library. It was an unusual proceeding ; and there was something unusual in his manner. He did not ask me to sit down, nor seat himself, but resumed abruptly, “ Have you seen Dr. Physick ? ”
“ No, he was out; but I wrote the message clearly on his slate. Has he not called ? I hope nothing is wrong.”
“ He has called, and said that he Would take you back with him willingly, if he met you. Lily’s illness is diphtheria.”
I did sit down unasked. “Why should I go ? ” exclaimed I, with abruptness equal to his. “Is my chamber wanted ? ”
“ You know the nature of the disorder ? ”
“ And you are not afraid to stay ? ”
“ Certainly not.”
“ He said you would not be, and that he was not afraid to allow you to stay. He even wished me not to make known to you Lily’s situation; as he maintained that it would only increase your anxiety, without making any difference in your decision. But I cannot answer it to myself to let any one approach her in ignorance, except the other children. For them I choose as I choose for myself. Physick thinks that there is little danger — to any one but herself — unless a particle from her throat enters that of another person. We must hope that his opinion is well founded.”
“ Can I go to her now ? ”
“ She has been wishing for you. Bonner cannot be with her; because she cannot be told the real state of the case. I have sent to Boston for an experienced nurse. My sister is relieved and asleep. She had a sharp attack in the heart this afternoon.”
“ O, I wish I had not gone ! ”
“ My child,” said he, looking at me, in the midst of his distress, with an expression of compassion and compunction which went to my soul, “ I wish you may not have come back too soon for your own good ! You will remember not to lean over her when she coughs ?”
“ Carefully, — and not to allow the other children to do it.”
He smiled, shook hands, gave me the doctor’s directions taken down in writing, and opened the door for me in silence.
I never knew before how dear the children were ! How could any one of them be spared ? how could more ? I found them all together in the twins’ large, pleasant nursery, with its two little white beds, two baby-houses, two bookcases, and everything in pairs except the large wood-fire. How lighthearted and unconscious they were, — poor, innocent darlings ! — with such a doom hanging over them, of suffering, separation, and deatth ! Rose was curled up at Lily’s feet, fondling them. Paul, with Pettitoes on his knees, was reading to her in “The Lay of the Last Minstrel.” Lily lay quietly watching the fire, and looking handsomer than ever, with cheeks redder than Rose’s. She put out her hand to welcome me; and Paul stopped.
“ I ’ll give you two kisses another time, and none now,” said she. “ I mean to be stingy, and keep my sorethroat all to myself.”
“ It would be a great deal more sociable for me to have mine sore, too,” said Rose. “We always have things just alike.”
“ If you had, I should be anxious ; and it’s bad enough to be sick. Just think of having a whole pot of blackcurrant jelly, when you can’t swallow a spoonful! ”
“ I dare say I could for you,” said Paul.
“ Well, Rose, get him my doll’s spoon and porringer, and let him try.”
Paul tried, succeeded, fed Rose, and offered to feed me and Pettitoes.
“ Some things are n’t bad about it,” resumed Lily. “ Papa has been here almost all the afternoon ; and he’s going to sit up here all night, and only call the strange nurse if I want her. I think he’d a great deal better go to bed ; but if he will not, it will be rather nicer, if I keep dreaming and waking up as I did last night, to have something so grand and kind to look at.”
The days which followed were not so tranquil, even to the children. Lily suffered more, and Rose perhaps more still, in witnessing her sufferings. As to her danger, her sister, sanguine and credulous, was easily hoodwinked. In that respect the others were less happy.
Paul asked no questions but of the faces of those about him ; but completely sobered, still, and pale, he hovered about Lily’s bed, wasting away almost as fast as she did, and watching his chance to wait upon her from morning till night, except when his father sent him out for a ride. I had no idea up to that time of the depth of his attachment to her. Rose was his chief playmate, and Lily, in protecting her against his pranks, often his antagonist.
As silent and observant as her brother, Lily went on, from hour to hour and from day to day, with a patient firmness very remarkable in a child of her age and her excitable temperament. But at length one afternoon, when the doctor had paid a third visit since morning, she beckoned to her father on his return to her chamber. It was very difficult for her now to speak. He came close.
“ Papa, why does Dr. Physick come so often ? ”
“ To try to relieve you, my dear little girl,” replied he.
She rolled her head restlessly on her high pillows. “I know, but — papa ! — he can’t relieve me ! Shall I have to die ? ”
What a question! He waited, and raised her in his arms before he answered it. The answer, when it came, was as frank, as it was tender. “ I hope not, my own darling ; but that must be as our Heavenly Father says. He knows more than we can ; and he will choose the best and kindest time to send for every one of us to come up to him. We have only to be like brave, obedient soldiers, ready to rush after our Captain, whenever and wherever God calls us.”
I wondered how the little thing would bear it. She spoke again presently, as if such ideas were no strangers to her. The children, I knew, always talked with their father, on Sunday afternoon, in the library over the New Testament. " I would not be a coward,” said Lily. " 1 am not afraid — much. — I hope I sha’ n’t be homesick in heaven. — I will try to be faithful and ready. — I should n’t like to have Paul and Rose forget me, and leave off caring about me.”
“ We sha’ n’t leave off caring ! ” said Paul, coming out from some lurkingplace. He broke off suddenly, and covered her little thin hand with passionate kisses.
“ Perhaps Jesus will take me in his arms, and bless me,” she went on. " He died, too.”
“And when he died,” said her father, in a soothing tone, “ he had to leave his mother. My own dear little Lily, you would go to yours.”
“ You never told me about her, papa. Tell me now.”
I believe he did; but I could not bear to hear any more. I only waited in the passage without, lest I should be wanted. The nurse was getting some rest. Soon Rose appeared from her aunt’s room; and I was desired to go with her to Lily, while her father took Paul down to supper. If I had wished to paint Mr. Dudley now, as he looked when he passed me, it would have been as Ugolino on the first day in the sealed tower.
“ Open the window, — quick ! ” whispered Lily to me.
I had got half-way across the room, when a loud cry from Rose stopped me. Lily had started up in bed, and, with outstretched arms, was — choking ! There are instants in life when we seem to be seized upon as mere instruments by some power above and beyond our own. Under such an impulse, I darted forward, caught her in my arms, and succeeded in relieving her from the obstruction that was suffocating the poor darling !
She gasped and sank back. The nurse came running in at one door, and Mr. Dudley at another. To my sorrow and shame, just then, of all times, for the first and last and only time in my life, I fainted away.
When I came to myself, I was on a bed, covered with shawls, in the nurse’s room. The door was shut, but I heard sobs. The cool night air was blowing in at the window ; and Mrs. Leach, the nurse, was passing hartshorn to and fro before my face. I started up. “ Lily ! ” cried I.
Mrs. Leach replaced me on my pillows with professional decision. “ I ’m goin’ back to her, Miss. You lay still; an’ you leave cryin’, Miss Rosy, an’ see to Miss Morne, an’ be thankful your sister was perserved; so now we ’ve all got our orders, an’ nothin’ to do but jest to foller ’em.”
She bustled off; and Rose began to kiss me industriously, by way of doing her part.
“ Tell me, Rose.”
“ Lily got over it in a minute and said, ‘ O what have you done to me ? I can breathe. Now I must go to sleep!’ You fell down on the floor. I thought you were dead, and cried ; and papa cried too, and took you up and laid you here, and told me I must be as brave as you, and command myself, and loosen your dress, while he went back to Lily, and sent Mrs. Leach. Then she —”
“ Never mind her, little dear. Tell me about Lily.”
“ O, she is going to sleep, nurse says, quite comfortable and happy.”
I lay still a few minutes, thanking God, from the very bottom of my heart, for this reprieve, even if it proved no more. Then I told my little attendant that, if she would help me to rearrange my dress, I thought that we had better go down to tea. I wished to restore so much efficiency as was natural to me, as soon as I could. Just as we were about to leave the room, however, we heard a fumbling knock at the door. Rose opened it, and admitted kind old Butler with a large tray spread with a most restorative meal, including a bowl of the beef-tea which was kept constantly in readiness for Lily. “ Master thought that might be the most revivifying beverage for Miss Morne.” I was in a measure “revivified,” not only by the beef-tea, but by “ master’s ” thoughtfulness, and still further, soon after, by Paul’s coming, looking more like himself than I had seen him for a week, to say that Lily was sleeping beautifully ; and Dr. Bowditch had been with Dr. Physick to see her, and they both felt very much encouraged.
THE next morning when, after dreamy and restless slumbers, I left my chamber, I found Paul and Rose sitting on the stairs waiting for me, to whisper the news: “Lily slept all night without waking up once, except when Mrs. Leach gave her something to take ; and Dr. Physick says she is a great deal better, and if she goes on so, she will be getting well before long.”
Paul turned aside towards Miss Dudley’s room. Rose still clung about me, and said that Aunt Lizzy told her to go down with me, and see that I made a good breakfast; and after that, if I pleased, aunty would be glad to have me come to see her. “ Papa told aunty that, when he came into the nursery, you were standing like Judith with the head of Holofernes. Who was Judith, and what was Holofernes ? ”
It would have been no easy matter to me to make a good breakfast that morning; and yet I lingered at the table, to put off, for once, obeying the summons of my own dear mistress. My “ feelings ” were seldom, to use an expression which Paul had somewhere picked up, “ at high-water-mark ” ; but a slight shock will make a full cup overflow. The shock of the day before was not a slight one ; and now I feared that the least further agitation would bring the unshed tears of many weeks into my eyes.
When at last I went to her, Miss Dudley clasped me in her arms, and kissed me many times before she said, “ My child, what do we not owe to you ? My brother has begged me to thank you for him ; he cannot trust himself to speak to you of it.”
“ He need not, indeed he need not! I can hardly trust myself to think of it,” faltered I.
“ How did you come by such presence of mind ? ”
“ It must have been the presence of God! If I had had a minute to think, I might not have dared to do what I did. I cannot bear to think of it now,” I repeated.
“ Dear child, you are not looking like yourself! It has been too much for you. If we could only repay you ! But we never can ! ”
“ O Miss Dudley, indeed you could repay me ! I ask your pardon ; but if you only would ! ”
She looked surprised, but pleased and rather amused, and asked me how.
“ If you would only talk to me and teach me — all kinds of things ! ”
“ In natural history ? ”
“ O, no!” said I, with my cheeks growing warm ; “about life and happiness and duty, and things like those. I have longed so to ask you before ; but I could not take the liberty. O Miss Dudley,” I exclaimed, with the tears in my eyes, “ it is such an awful thing to be so young ! ”
“ My dear Katharine!—I may call you Katharine, may I not ? I always thought it a noble name ; and it has lately been growing so dear to me ! ” — There was something so very nice in her way of pronouncing my Christian name, that I felt myself as if ennobled by it when I heard it from her.—My dear Katharine, that is not like what most young people think.”
“ O, but they do not stand alone as I do ! There are so many who have a right to advise and reprove them ! ”
She smiled still, with a soothing, cheering, sympathizing smile. “ And you think you deserve, and suffer for, a little scolding now and then ? Very well; I have not happened to notice it; but whenever you do, if you will come to me, I will endeavor to be very faithful to you.”
“ Perhaps it is rather a precautionary scolding that I want,” said I, trying to muster up a little playfulness to answer hers ; “ somewhat like the boy who was whipped whenever his father had time, lest he should happen some other time to deserve a whipping.”
“ And accordingly am 1 to begin my course of lectures to-day ? Egotism never comes naturally to you, I know, Katharine,” (unsuspecting Miss Dudley ! how little she dreamed that she was cherishing a future autobiographer!) “but am I to have no text for the sermon ? ”
“ Here, I believe, I can find one,” said I, opening a popular novel of the day, which lay on the table beside her; and I read aloud a passage in which the heroine, disappointed of a hero, set forth in glowing terms the opinion that there was nothing left for her in the world.
“ My dear girl!” cried she, archly, “ I begin to see cause to hope that my scolding may for once flow forth more fluently than I feared. Have you really struggled through all those pages of such dismal nonsense ? ”
“ No, Miss Dudley; I plead not guilty to that count,” disclaimed I, laughing. “ In fact, I do not believe you will see occasion to scold me for reading anything half so often as for forbearing to read. I never can understand how other people can read half so many books as they do. Real life is so much more interesting. It seems — only on a highly magnified scale —like that beautiful little German song-book in the library, brimful at once of poetry, pictures, music, and drolleries. Except when I almost ache with ignorance, I seldom love to read anything but the characters and doings round me, unless it may be now and then some really noble story or poem, whose author is trying honestly to give glimpses not merely at second hand of what life really is, but of how much grander and more beautiful it might be made. This novel did not look to me in the least like anything of that sort ; but I read those few lines in it, because one day I found a poor young friend of mine crying so dreadfully over them, and saying how true they were. They struck me as false ; but I could not well show her how, perhaps because I felt rather than saw the falsehood. Miss Dudley, what should you have said to the heroine, if she had talked so to you ?”
“ Ah, now it is my turn to clear myself ! The book was sent me as a gift by one who loves me better than she knows me ; and I have read little more about the heroine than you. I fear my exhortations would be quite thrown away on such a high - flown young person ; but to your poor young friend I would say, ‘ Nothing left for you in the world ? ’ In the world you have been living in,—in the world of romance ? — Perhaps not; and if so, you had better make haste yourself and come out of it. In God’s great real world, however, you will find, if you look into it, many worlds, wheel within wheel, sphere within sphere, circle intersecting circle. As, for example, a world of charity and a world of suffering, — suffered not always because the sufferers have lost their favorite partners in the dance of life, but because at their side they see those partners suffer or see them sin, — for there are as many disappointments in married as in single life ; — or suffered because they have sinned themselves, and know not where or how to find pardon and peace ; or because they are poor, and at a loss how to live, or to feed their children’s minds or bodies without debt and dishonesty ; or because they are sick, and dread death more than you do life ; or because they are bereaved parents; or, in a word, because they are human, and every human heart, sooner or later, knoweth its own bitterness. In one of these worlds, can you not always find something left for you,” said she, fixing her eloquent dark eyes upon my face, “ if not always to enjoy, at least to do, and worth your doing, — useful to man and acceptable to God ? ”
“ Thank you ! thank you ! ” cried I, as much for the look as for the words. “ But will you not say more to me ? I may need it for myself more than you think.”
“ If you would not think it flattery, I might say that perhaps my hearer’s right place was my pulpit. The oldest people are not of necessity the wisest. Your example has sometimes preached to me. However, it would be unfair if a minister were never to be allowed to listen to a sermon. What is to be the text of my next ? ”
“ Happiness, — howto find it. Is it wrong to seek it ? ”
“ If it is wrong in plants to seek light and warmth ; only we must seek it, as they do, by turning ourselves towards Heaven and the Sun. That in the first place. Secondly, get your own leave, my child, to be happy with such earthly materials for happiness as God chooses for you, whether or not they are such as you would choose for yourself. This often requires some humility, but it always brings much peace.”
“ Ah, but! ah, but! There is such a difference between having what one likes, and only liking what one has !”
“ That is true. Perhaps, properly speaking, there is all the difference that there is between happiness and contentment.”
“ And contentment,” sighed I, “ is only the pale ghost of happiness.”
“ True again. But remember, Katharine, if it is paler, it is also less mortal. Transitoriness is in the essence of all earthly things ; therefore, the happiness that lives upon any specified earthly things must of necessity be short-lived. Further, — I am speaking now from experience, dear love, — where the affections are peculiarly satisfied below, it is sometimes peculiarly hard to keep them rightly fixed on things above.” She paused, and put her hand involuntarily to her heart. She was almost a stoic as regarded bodily pain ; but her soft brown eyes filled with tears, and I guessed that poor little Lily was not the only one of that household who feared that she might “ be homesick in heaven.”
Of course, I would not have her talk more then. I read her to sleep, and went to Lily, who smiled brightly, patted me, and called me her St. Bernard ; but many and many a conversation I had with Miss Dudley afterwards, in which she poured out the very distilled essence of her lovely life into my mind and heart. Moreover, she did what in her lay to bind me to her apprentice in good works, putting at my disposal her wealth of experience and judgment, as well as of purse.
That was soon a pleasant spring at Barberry Beach. Rose recovered her spirits immediately, and Lily her health soon. The latter, though constitutionally the most reserved of the children, became perhaps even the most strongly attached to me of them all. Paul, no longer contented with assisting me in the education of his sisters, undertook the completion of my own, and insisted on administering to me, in homoeopathic doses, his classics and mathematics. Poverty and anxiety had half wronged me out of my own childhood. It was a great privilege to be allowed to go back and live it over now with these lighthearted, playful creatures.
Also Miss Dudley’s health showed a great and unlooked-for amendment.
“ Katharine is the best of the many good remedies I owe you, Doctor, if you will not be hurt at my saying so,” said she, one day, to my guardian. “ I feel so safe and easy about the young people when she is with them, that I can rest when I am not with them, and, with the usual perversity of humankind, the less I have to do, the more I feel myself able to do.”
She was less and less obliged to withdraw herself from the family. The two circles into which it had lately been divided becoming one, I saw more of every member of it; and Paul quite forgot any more to call his father and me Castor and Pollux, or the sun and the moon, because the children could not see us both at the same time.
Even Mr. Dudley — who, when I first came, said little more to me than “ Good morning,” “ Good evening,” or “ What shall I help you to, Miss Morne ?” — talked to me more and more delightfully, and began to include me among the participants in the budget with which he usually came back loaded from any trip to Boston. Something of small costalways fell to my share, such as I could accept without hesitation or embarrassment, but usually just what I happened to like, chosen as if by Miss Dudley’s own spirit of divination. Now it would be a noble hymn or song, then a wonderful little photograph of moonshiny water, and then a double blush hyacinth with a glass that fitted it, or one of Bates’s precious little stereoscopes of Dr. Holmes’s model, and next a packet of plates that suited the same. I was left out when the children clustered round him on his return, according to time-honored custom, to pick his pockets, and guess “which was whose”; but there would be a brown paper parcel, at night when I went to bed, under the hat on the hall-table ; and in the morning, when I came down to breakfast, there would be the new something on my particular tea-poy, and a twinkle in the deep blue eyes, which were with peculiar intentness scanning “The DaiIy Advertiser.” Then, on taking my seat at the breakfast-table. I would confide to Miss Dudley the fact that I had received such or such an anonymous present, and perhaps beg her, if she could guess the donor, to make my grateful acknowledgments acceptable to him by presenting them herself ; and a little laugh would go gurgling round the board. — for when people are happy, it is an easy matter to make them merry.
In a word, the whole family seemed from that time to adopt me. before, I hardly saw how they could be kinder ; but still, now I thought they were.
In May, my guardian presented me with the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars, and informed me that I was to receive the same amount regularly twice a year henceforward from the executor of mv father’s will. I asked how that could be. My father, as I believed, left nothing but some fancy miningstock, which had for years been utterly unproductive. My guardian replied that, if I wanted to know, I could write and ask the executor. As I did not sufficiently want to know, I never did write and ask the executor ; in which particular, I would advise my young readers, if they should ever be placed in similar circumstances, to follow my precept, and not my example.
Notwithstanding, I was very glad to receive the money. Though I could not see in it, as Julia professed to, any reason why I should at once give up working and return to playing with little Phil, yet I could not but regard my present situation as a very uncertain one. Supposing even that I filled it satisfactorily until the twins left school, 1 could scarcely expect to be needed in it after that. In the mean time, I wanted all the money I could honestly come by, “ if not for myself, for a neighbor.” Sensible people generally do ; and if they have too little, or none, and will not work for it because they are, or suppose themselves to be, ladies, and because it is not the fashion for ladies to work for money, then I no longer think they are sensible. I wanted it to give and to spend and to lay up for my old age. I wanted, by and by, a home of my own, with neat furniture, Lowers, and friends in it, journeys if I should grow restless, and advice if I should grow ill ; and for all these things I wished to be Indebted to no hands and brains but my own, which I was determined to keep as busy as I could, as long as the strength of youth and middle age was in them. For the time being — though I was not particularly fond of fine clothes then, nor, I trust, have I been since — I was something of a petile maitresse a in respect to the fit and freshness of ray merinos, muslins, gloves, boots, and so forth ; and it is not easy for even a genteel pauper to be perfectly tidy.
In June I did, to be sure, become somewhat fine in my own eyes. Miss Dudley handed me a list, in Mr. Dudley’s pencilled handwriting, of names, including those of some of the most brilliant “ diners-out ” of Boston and Cambridge, for invitations to a dinner-party. Among the names, as I wrote the notes, I came upon that of “Miss Morne.” “What ? Why ?” I stammered.
Miss Dudley, on the sofa near, looked over my shoulder as I sat at the French desk. “ O, there is no mistake !” said she ; “ my brother seldom makes any. But that lady is to have an especially pressing invitation. I hope, my dear, you will not have too much difficulty in persuading her to be present, for it is my particular desire that she should; and I beg you to be quick with your writing, because we must be at my dressmaker’s before one o’clock.”
Invited in this manner, what could I do but accept ? Only one dinner-party had been given before since I had lived at Barberry Beach; and then I had, with a little proud shyness, prevented any possible embarrassment or mortification, by asking leave beforehand to go to Julia. “ But what ought I to wear ? ” said I presently to myself, thinking aloud in my surprise.
“ This,” said Miss Dudley, taking a large paper parcel from the bag of her work-table, unfolding one end, and showing me one corner of a perfect glacé silk of the bluest lavender. “ Clara Arden chose it for you at Hovey’s last week ; and from her taste there is no appeal. It is the very shade for you; and I will tell Miss Cutting myself how it is to be made. If I plunge you into the vortex, it is but fair that I should be permitted to furnish the diving-dress.”
What a feast that dinner was ! I could hardly have told, the next day, a single dish there was on the table; and that I take to be the test of the most exquisite banquet, in the highest sense of the word.
On that next day, Paul said, “ Miss Morne, I have not heard you complain of any tingling in your ears.”
“No,” said I, putting my hand to them. “ Do they burn ? Why, no ! ”
“ Then they are ungrateful. Yesterday evening, when I was with the gentlemen In the library, I heard an old friend of ours ask who you were. Then he said, how much tact you had ; and another answered, ‘Yes; Miss Mornc seldom remembers herself, and never forgets herself! ’ ”
Lily shook her head at him.
“What is the matter ? I cannot hear so much as one idea rattle in your head. You ought to be careful how you do that with it,” said he. “ Lily-bell[e]s seldom have much in them, except bees in their bonnets; and their heads are apt to be very easily turned.”
“ It is not proper for us to tell people what papa says of them.”
“ Why do you, then ? ”
“ I never do.”
“ Who told, who said that ? ”
“Well,” said Lily, laughing and blushing, self-convicted, “if you repeat things that have the very tone of his voice in them, what difference does it make whether you or I tell any more or not ?”
Perhaps Paul thought she was getting the best of the argument, for he made haste to give another turn to the conversation. “ Part of it, at any rate, was true, let who would say it. I can tell, whenever I walk down the street, what almost all the female women I meet are thinking about. One is thinking, ‘ How handsome I am! I hope people admire me.’ And another, 'How useful I am ! I hope people approve of me.’ Another, ‘How calamitous I am ! I hope people feel for me.’ And another, ‘ How out of health I am ! I hope people are anxious about me.’ But Miss Morne comes sailing along like the moon in a mist, in her maiden meditation ; and all I can make out of it is, ‘The world is a good-looking world; Barberry Beach is the blossom end of it; and O what a promising youth Paul is ! ’”
“ Promising to become a sad little coxcomb, you mischief!” said I. But though I did my best to chide him, I could not be averse to the information that so nice a judge of manners as my host had not found a place for me among his guests a false position.
In finishing now the history of this year, I must, above all, not leave out its crowning blessing, — that in it, in the main, I struggled down the greatest struggle of my life. A certain conversation with Nelly it was that particularly helped me to do this. She complained to me that it was so hard for her to think right, about — I knew whom. She wished to be able to do so quite disinterestedly, as if she were his guardian angel ; but the moment she began to think of him or pray for him, she could not help wondering if he thought of her, — if he had seen any one yet that he liked better,—if she should ever see him again ; and then the old folly all came back.
“ Pray once for all that God will always have him in His merciful mind, darling,” said I, “and then put him out of yours. You cannot think wrongly about him, at any rate, if you don’t think about him at all.”
Afterwards, as I was wont to do, I asked myself whether the advice I gave her would not be good for me too to follow. Soon it appeared to me that it would. I had been so impatient of bearing a sentiment which I could not justify, that I was constantly examining myself to see if it was not gone, and, like a hypochondriac, making the disorder worse by dwelling upon it. For, as a test of my lately sought indifference, I would imagine interviews ; and they, as Nelly said, only brought “ the old folly ” rushing back again. If any such meeting had been likely to take place, to try to prepare myself for it by anticipation might have been necessary ; but none such was likely to take place. Wherefore I now determined, instead of making violent and vain efforts to drag the idol image at once out of the temple where it had no right to be, to wall it blankly up there, look on it no more, and leave it to crumble, in God’s own time, away, in darkness and in silence.
Whether this would always be a good plan in such a case, I cannot tell. But it wrought out such speedy deliverance to me, that even the first anniversaries of the declaration and the marriage slipped by without my remembering either of them till it was over.
- Butler had been the body-servant of a SouthCarolinian classmate and friend of Mr. Dudley at Cambridge, and, being emancipated by his master’s will after his death, came to the North with a letter of recommendation to Mr. Dudley, and entered his service.↩