Katharine Morne: Part Vi
ON my twenty-first birthday I had the great pleasure of raising the mortgage on the dear old house, and of signing a lease by which my guardian obtained possession of it for three years, upon the most favorable terms — to himself—to which he would consent. Now I had a settled home for my old age to take shelter in, and for my hopes and expectations to take many a trip to in the mean time.
Still, however, I was a contented fixture at Barberry Beach. All continued to go on well and agreeably there ; and, though not learned, I found myself in a fair way to be, as Miss Gail Hamilton very judiciously wished herself, “well-smattered ” ; for the young people, while becoming more and more interested in their own accomplishments, were still inclined for my companionship therein ; and I was usually present at all the lessons taken out of school by the twins.
Soon after my birthday, Miss Dudley desired me to accompany her on a visit of a week or two to Miss Arden, in Boston. Mr. Dudley could not go, and was always unwilling to have her leave home without some attendant whom he could trust, to take care of her if she should be ill. Of course, I could not object ; and any awkwardness that I might have felt was obviated by a particular invitation to myself from Miss Dudley’s, and since my, irresistible " Clara.”
That the visit was delightful, I need not say. I mention it chiefly for the sake of what took place in, and followed my absence.
The day after my return, I called on Julia to give account of some commissions which I had executed for her. The Doctor saw me through the officewindow, and hurried to open the door for me. “ Katy,” cried he, “have you heard the news ? ”
“ No ; what news ? Has Phil a new tooth ?”
“ Pooh ! no. Your little vestal, Nelly Fader, has renounced the sisterhood ! ”
“ Nelly ! What ! engaged ? Impossible ! ”
“ I’m afraid it ought to be ; but whatever is, is — possible.”
“ Who is it ? ”
“ The happy man ? That Sam Blight! He professes to have become exemplary. He has certainly become one of the surplice population.”
“ A clergyman ! ”
“ In the Episcopal Church.”
“ It all sounds like a hoax ! Are you sure ? Who told you ? ”
“ Mr. Wardour. Nelly had a letter written for you, she told Julia ; but Julia told her, if she sent it, it would cross you on the road. You know you were expected back Saturday.”
“ Yes ; the storm kept us four days.”
Julia was not at home; and I hastened at once to Mr. Wardour’s. Dear little Nelly flew into my open arms. How beautiful and radiant and angelic she was that morning, in her innocent happiness ! “ Katy, you have heard ? ”
“Yes, darling ; but not half so much as I wish to hear.”
“ O, run up to my chamber ! There, — sit in the easy-chair, as I used to when you comforted me.” She knelt at my feet, and, with her arms around me and her blushing cheek laid on my knee, softly began her confession. “Six months ago, I heard that he was studying divinity.”
“ Why, you never told me ! ”
“Well — no—I did not, because — I did not think it wisest or best or pleasantest to bring the subject up again. I did not suppose it would ever make any difference to me personally ; but, if he was only saved, the great point was gained. The Sunday after you went to boston, I heard that he was here in town, and going to preach at the Episcopal Church, and—”
“ You went to hear him ? ”
“ O, Katy, no ! — on no account. For one thing, I could not leave my own church, you know, for such a reason as that. So I did not feel sure I should see him at all. But in the evening, as I sat reading ‘ Paradise Lost ’ to Uncle Wardour, the door-bell rang. Uncle Wardour answered it; and then I heard his very voice — only grown so much richer and deeper — say, ‘ How do you do, Mr. Wardour ? You do not recognize me, sir, — the returned prodigal, Rev. Mr. Blight. May I have your permission to see Miss Fader?’ Uncle Wardour just let him come in ; but oh ! he was so cold and distant to him ! You know he thinks a great deal more of me than I deserve ; and then I am afraid he never quite understood how much I was to blame myself; and so he laid too much blame on Sam. I could hardly speak a word ; and other visitors came ; and altogether that night it was dreadful. I thought he never would come again ; and when he was gone, I had to kneel down straightway, and pray a whole hour, or I believe I should have fallen back directly into all my old wrong ways, that you had so much trouble to win me from, and have cried till morning.”
“ Poor pet lamb ! ”
“O, but the very next forenoon — think of it! — he came again ! O Katy, such a visit! We settled it all then, ‘subject to the sanction of your excellent uncle,’ as he said himself. O Katy, how changed he is ! And Uncle Warclour wrote directly to New York to the Bishop, and received from him, and from others to whom he referred my uncle, one and the same report of Sam’s reformation ; and I took courage to explain to Uncle Wardour how ill I had behaved, though I am afraid I did not succeed in making him see it fully after all. And Aunt Cumberland took our part, and reasoned with him ; and,
in short, he consented ; and we are so happy ! ”
“ God bless and keep you so, darling ! When are you to be married ?”
“ In two months, — Sam says.”
“ So soon ? Do you wish it ? ”
“ NO — yes. ‘ O Katy,’ as I used to say, ‘how little you do understand such things ! ’ I only wish that whatever he wishes may be fulfilled. You look grave, Katy darling,” said she, raising her head to see me. “ Do you think I did not care for you, because I did not wait to consult you ? Yes, indeed I did. But when I heard him in the very room where we used to read and talk follies together, saying that he had returned to me ‘ after all his wanderings, as a dove to the ark,’ and that he had ' chosen me, out of all my sex, to be his helpmeet in the highest of all offices, — that of a consecrated man of God,’ — it was all so like a beautiful morning dream come true, that I did my very utmost when I made my good, dear old uncle’s consent the condition of my own. That was my duty. My happiness is to make his! If I were but worthy ! But, thanks to you, dear girl! he says he finds me already very much improved ; and he has no doubt I shall improve much more under his guidance. But I want you to see him. He will be here to-night at tea. Cannot you come ? ”
“Thank you; if I possibly can, I will.”
“And —would Miss Dudley send for you ? ”
“ No doubt, if I come.”
“ That is good. I am so sorry not to have an escort to offer you ; but Uncle Wardour has a heavy cold, and Sam makes it a rule to keep himself, to the utmost of his power, out of the night air. He says it is one of a clergyman’s first duties to avoid bronchitis, —so much of the effect of a sermon depends on its being delivered with the finest intonation. He has scarcely a thought but for his calling. O Katy, there can be no doubt about the genuineness of his repentance ! He has suffered so much ! It was a kind of attack —on the brain, I believe — that, as he says, first ‘snatched him as a brand from the burning.’ ”
My guardian heard that it was a fit of delirium tremens. I dare say Nelly knew, but did not like to tell it. Mr. Blight was disposed to be quite frank enough, for good taste at least, in his disclosures before those who had less right to them than she. Dr. Physick was more intolerant in regard to him than I ever knew him towards any one else. He schooled his own natural impetuosity to pardon and pity frailties ; but shams he hated implacably ; and he held Mr. Blight to be “ a most unmitigated humbug from first to last ! ”
I did not, quite ; but havingsaid that, I may go on to own that, to my consternation, I found the reverend Samuel little more to my taste than the irreverent Sam had been. He was in a better way for himself, I really believed ; but for Nelly? O dear!
I am not going to tell much about that tea-party, for fear of being naughtier than is necessary. The only thing I enjoyed at it was a speech of another guest of my host, “ the dissenting layreader,” as the young deacon called him, or, as he was styled by ordinary mortals, a Methodist minister.
After Mr. Blight, nothing daunted by Mr. Wardour’s instinctive coolness, had, with a mixture of old self-complacency and newly dignified reproof, delivered himself— ore rotundo, and making a rolling-pin of every one of his r s — of a number of allusions to the harpings of angels over one sinner that repenteth, the superiority of publicans to Pharisees, and so forth, the Methodist took the word.
“All very right for the angels to harp upon it; that ’s their business, an’ no doubt they ’ll mind it ; but it ain't exactly the thing for the sinner himself to turn up his nose at ’em an’ sing out, ‘Hullo, there ! I ’ve been an’ repented ! Strike up, band, an’ let ’s hear you play your poottiest! ’ ”
No, I could not like Mr. Blight; and yet I did not take him for a hypocrite. I believed that he had truly been very reasonably alarmed about his eternal welfare, and that he sincerely desired to secure it. I believed, and believe now, that he meant to be a good man. I believe that, in many of the negative virtues, he was one already. But what a thin, cold, threadbare character he had ! How plainly the old, hard, coarse warp of selfishness and self-conceit did still show everywhere through the slender threads of piety which he was endeavoring to weave in !
He had turned teetotaller in respect of liquids ; but in respect of solids, he manifested himself the reverse of an ascetic as to either quantity or quality. He no longer argued as formerly in favor of duelling; but he ensconced himself within his cloth as in triple mail, and scrupled not to “ rebuke,” not to say affront therein, anybody, no matter how greatly his superior, who chanced to cross him. His cold blue eye still lighted up with anger when he was in any way or by any one opposed, even by a woman or a child. I never saw it melt or beam with any softer emotion. There was something even in his pompous, stern fashion of raking up what I thought our pet’s harsh, ugly, and inappropriate baptismal name of Eleanor, and calling her by it when no one else did, —as if our dear little Nelly was not good enough for him,— that jarred upon me every time I heard it.
I hoped that evening that these first impressions might be corrected by subsequent ones. They were only deepened. I have said before that the previous irreverent Sam appeared to hold his own bad qualities in higher esteem than other men’s good ones. The present reverend Samuel appeared divided between admiration of his own present virtues and past vices. Now a humbled sinner has, no doubt, a title of a certain sort to pity, and even sympathy ; for, in a certain sense, falling into sin is meeting with one of the heaviest of misfortunes. But it is surely self-evident that no person of any sensibility willingly refers to a misfortune which has tended to degrade him in his own eyes or in those of others ; as, for example, to his having had his face slapped. Mr. Blight, so far as I could make out, rather relished the recollection of his having suffered his face to be slapped by the adversary of all souls, as if he had thereby been dubbed a member of a higher order of spiritual knighthood. He seemed to think that there was something rather commonplace in a course of consistent righteousness, pursued from the cradle up, like that of Nelly’s noble old Uncle Wardour, — a man sans peur as he was sans reproche. The greater commonness of sin was a circumstance that seemed somehow to have escaped his notice. He scolded at it in the way of his business, of course, as in duty bound ; but he did not make clear that he had ever obtained so much as a glimpse of its intrinsic ugliness ; and the only idea of his idea of it which I was enabled to bring away from his ministrations the first and only time I ever heard him was, that, as the Autocrat of the universe had for some inscrutable reason conceived an insurmountable prejudice against it, “it were the part of purrudence to for’sake it betimes.The richest soils bear first the most plenteous weeds, and afterwards, my beloved burretheren, the most lugsooriant harvests.”
How could Nelly like him ? She did not know him. She was in love with her ideal of him. She knew scarcely anybody to compare him with. He had the “habit of society,” though by no means that — I saw — of the best society. She was very young; and it was in her nature to trust, obey, admire, and love.
Miss Dudley had happened to see Nelly on some of her afternoon visits to me, and had been very kind to her. Therefore I immediately mentioned the simple fact of her engagement to Miss Dudley.
“ I hope her choice is worthy of her, pretty, sweet young creature ! ”
“ I hope he will prove himself so ; I do not think many people would be.”
“ I am glad it is not you, Katharine, if you will not think me too selfish for saying so. But I feel pretty safe. Heart of flint, I believe no one ever makes much impression upon you, with a few trifling exceptions, such as the children, Dr. Physick’s family, and myself. I shall have to choose my successor, and bequeath you to him in my will.”
There was a good deal of truth in that speech. Since I came to Barberry Beach, I had known, for a person of my age, a remarkable number and variety of men of eminence and excellence. All had been courteous to me, many kind, and some very kind. With some I had formed pleasant, permanent, and, I trust, profitable friendships. But from yielding to any stronger interest in any one of them, I had been happily held back by two checks, — a thought and a feeling.
The thought was, that where sentiment began, there all light-hearted enjoyment for me must end, and sorrow and shame begin. Parts are to a man what beauty is to a woman ; they commonly enable him to command a prize in the matrimonial market. Neither beauty nor wealth had I ; and few of these eminent men could probably afford, even if they wished, to marry me. Besides, I had early and thoroughly learned the useful lesson, that it by no means follows that, because one person sincerely likes another, and heartily enjoys his or her conversation, that person will therefore wish to marry him or her. The first mistake on this point into which my inexperience and want of knowledge of the world had betrayed me had been bitterly rued, indeed, but mercifully hidden from all human eyes but my own. If with my eyes once opened I wilfully walked into a second, I had no right to expect even so much impunity.
The feeling to which I allude was, that I had lost my heart and never found it ; and, whether well-founded or not, this feeling had become, in a manner, a safeguard to my tranquillity, and secretly tended, I rather think, to make simple, downright and upright, unflirtatory people feel themselves safe and at their ease with me, and free from anxiety as to my putting any false construction upon their attentions. But I am keeping Miss Dudley waiting a long while for her answer.
“ I do not know, my dear mistress, whether what you say is a bonâ fide compliment, or what Mademoiselle de FrancheComté calls un mauvais compliment. I neither own nor disown it. So much, however, I will say for myself : I wish to be as the lady in ‘ Hyperion’ told her lover he was, only ‘in love with certain attributes.’ Am I not moderate in my aims ? I do not seek to appropriate to myself any creature, but only every creature’s best. ‘ One is wise, yet I am well,’ and all the better, because he teaches me to be wiser; ‘another witty, yet I am well,’ and the better too, for he stimulates me to rub up my own wits. Another is saintly, and I am in a way to be better still ; because he makes me eager after his good works, spirituality, and sincerity. In the mean time, all the faults and frailties that may disfigure all these good qualities in the home of each good man are, while I stay with you, out of my way, and do me no harm.”
“ Well, that is a philosophical view of the subject, and one with which I, at least, have no occasion at present to quarrel.”
Nelly’s joyousness did not always keep up quite to its first pitch, as her wedding-day drew near. Mr. Blight sometimes complained of her friends to her, I know. I fear he sometimes did so of herself. One day, at least, I found her in tears ; and she owned to me that she had been telling him she was afraid that they had been hasty, and she might not be really congenial to him. She thought it would be more prudent to wait a little longer ; for it would be so dreadful for him, it he found too late that he had made a mistake !
“ But he did not take it as I meant it. He was very much hurt. Fie said, he was not often mistaken in man or woman, and bade me examine myself prayerfully, and see whether my state of feeling did not really proceed from resentment at his having, very properly, intermitted his attentions until he should have made up his own mind. And so I did ; but I could not see that it proceeded from anything of the kind ; for all those years, yon know, my strongest earthly wishes were connected with him and his happiness and holiness. He told me that he would not suspect me of meaning to deceive him, but I might very naturally deceive myself; for the heart was deceitful and desperately wicked ; and after such a proof of my fickleness as I had given him in proposing a delay, he could consent to none.
“ Then I tried to convince him that I had never been fickle. I only broke myself, for conscience’ sake, of the habit of thinking about him and pining for him all the time ; and he had the candor to acknowledge, that, it he had not heard I — I was quite a changed person in practical matters, he should not have thought it his duty, whatever his feelings might be, to renew the acquaintance, and set me at the head of his house.
“ Then I took courage again,” she went on, “to try to explain to him, that, though my happiness was still bound up in his, I feared that the mere household duties of a matron, as he had described them to me, would be enough to swallow up almost all my little strength of mind and body ; and that perhaps I could serve God better in single life, and another stronger woman be a worthier partner for a clergyman, and far more serviceable to his parish. But he told me to set my heart at rest on that score ; that people always had strength enough, if they chose to exert it, to do their duty ; and that a woman’s highest duty and glory was to shield a husband from every domestic annoyance, and every sordid material care in the house, that he might be free to devote himself without reserve to his duties in the world.”
Well, was not that true ? I asked myself. Yes, to a considerable extent, at least, I supposed. Why was I so sorry, then, to hear that it was the opinion of Nelly’s husband that was to be? Why, for one thing, I imagine, because I never observed that such a very exact appreciation, on the part of any individual, of other people’s duties towards himself, coincided with an equally exact perception and performance of his own duties towards other people.
“ So it ended rather better than it began,” continued Nelly ; “ but, Katy, he was very deeply pained. I am dreadfully afraid that, as he says, I do not understand him, and therefore that I can never make him happy. But he declares, ‘with all my faults, he loves me still ’ ; they may be a cross that he needs ; at any rate, he can never give me up, and he is sure that it will be for his best good to marry me.”
In short, Nelly did marry him at the end of the two months, upon a pittance of a salary, but with a liberal allowance, considering his own means, from her Uncle Wardour. With a smile and two tears she departed, and left me to miss her very much, and to ponder somewhat gloomily the question, how many degrees higher in the scale of Christian magnanimity it might be to marry a fellow-creature for one’s own “ best good,” than to try experiments on her, and plague her for one’s own “ development.”
The next four years were almost eventless at Barberry Beach. The pleasantest thing, perhaps, that happened in them was, that the twins grew up, and, at the age of eighteen, left school ; and that then, when I thought myself in duty bound to offer my resignation, it was unanimously rejected by the family, according to Paul, “in a solemn indignation-meeting, — Miss Dudley in the chair, —laid on the table, and glued there.” The young ladies took the housekeeping into their four hands, and ruled as harmoniously as they played together on the piano, and soon as skilfully. Mr. and Miss Dudley went with them to the Revere House for a month every winter, that they might go into company with “ Cousin Clara ” in Boston ; and they served as decoy-ducks to bring troops of other charming young people into and about their own home at all other seasons.
Of course, as we lived in a world of trial, so we were not without our trial. In Paul’s Sophomore year, on the first of April, a mathematical diagram was painted upon the back of a mathematical tutor. The paint-pot was clearly brought home to the door of a classmate of Paul’s. The classmate stood in imminent danger of being dealt with accordingly ; when Paul “relieved him from suspense ” by avowing himself the unknown artist. Paul soon after spent, at the suggestion of the Faculty, some time in the country, where, I trust, his meditations were blest to him. At any rate, as his chum deposed to me on his certain knowledge, on the Christmas following the injured tutor received an anonymous present of “broadcloth enough, such as he never saw before in his life, to make him a full suit,” together with an agreement in writing “from the courtly Huntington, for value received, to make up the same.” Soon after which occurrence the tutor became “ so peg-toppy that, if you wound a string round him, you could spin him ” ; while “ Paul went about the college-yard so uncommonly shabby,” that the chum would have been ashamed to be seen with him if he “ had n't guessed where his clothes went.” But the above, if it was the worst, was also the last of Paul’s practical jokes. Perhaps, therefore, the crisis did no harm, in the end, to either of the parties concerned.
As I look back over these pages that I have written, it seems to me that they are monotonous in their stories of the sickness and death of those I love. I cannot help it. Such sicknesses and deaths made a large proportion of the discipline of my earlier life. Heaven grant that I may not yet have them to record of my later life! In regard to the uniformity of its discipline, my case was not, however, singular. Many more times than once, I have seen it happen that one mortal has been subject to one Hope, not always, by any means, drawn upon him by any agency of his own, but unaccountably falling upon him again and again, and on every side, until her work on him was done, or until he had passed beyond our ken.
After Nelly’s marriage I saw very little of her. She had a standing invitation to Mr. Wardour’s ; but as her husband had not her uncle’s selfrestraint, it could hardly be pleasant to her to bring them often into one another’s company. She had a child every year; and every year, on an average, lost one. Every year I made and sent her some little contribution to her nursery wardrobe ; and every one was acknowledged by a sweet little grateful note, but always by a short one. Once she wrote, “ My husband desires me to save my strength from letterwriting for more important duties.”
About six years after her marriage, Mr. Wardour had some business in the State of New York, and determined to take her parsonage in his way, and see for himself how she was.
A fortnight after he set off, I was told in the middle of the forenoon — an unusual time for such an announcement — that Dr. Physick wished to speak to me. I hastened to the door.
“ Katy,” said he, “if you can be spared, I will take you down to Mr. Wardour’s to see Nelly Blight.”
“Nelly here ! Since when? Is she ill?”
“ She came the day before yesterday. I am afraid she is very ill. She wants to see you.”
I excused myself in a moment to Miss Dudley, took my bonnet, shawl, and gloves in my hands, and ran out again and into the chaise. “ You will make her better, cannot you ?”
He shook his head. “ The case has been running on too long ; it is too complicated; the blood is hopelessly depraved. She is rallying from the fatigue of the journey, and a little revived by change of scene and air ; but she is hardly to be reckoned upon from day to day. Either one, of two or three things that are likely to happen, would carry her off directly.”
He went up first to Nelly ; and I turned into the parlor, where I saw old Mr. Wardour moving restlessly about the room, with the most perturbed expression I ever saw upon his venerable face. He scarcely greeted me.
“ I did not know of dear Nelly’s being here till the moment before I started to come and see her,” said I. “ How did you find Mr. Blight ? ”
He stopped short in front of me. “ I found him a brute ! ” This from Mr. Wardour! I suppose I started ; for he added, “ A beast, I repeat 1 God defend you, my dear, from such a one ! ” He resumed his walk up and down the room, and actually moaned as he walked. “ No mercy on the helpless ! No fidelity to such a trust! Poor child ! Poor child I How shall I ever answer it to her mother, if I meet her in the other world ? ”
This was all so unlike him, that for the moment I feared for his reason; and I ventured to go up to him and slide my arm into his,— he was always so good to me. “Mr. Wardour!” cried I, “don’t blame yourself! you always took the kindest care of her. A father could not be tenderer. You could not help it.”
“Could I, Katy?” said he, with a trembling lip, turning to look appealingly in my face. “ I never liked the match. You know I never pretended I did. But they told me she almost broke her heart before, when he left her, — and what could I do ? I would always have tried to give her a happy home, I didn’t want my little girl to leave me. But when she wished to go, I straitened myself in my old age, — I did, more than once, —to keep her, and therefore him, in comfort and plenty.”
“How glad she must have been to see you ! ”
“ More glad than he was,” said Mr. Wardour, striving after a calmer strain. “ I found him up in the parlor with some other fellows, red and fat, eating I dinner fit for an alderman, and her looking just ready to die, down with a maid-of-all-work in a hot, close, dark basement kitchen, half lying in a wooden chair tilted back against the wall, seeing that the dishes were served up to please him.”
“What did he say?”
“ He said I exaggerated. There was n’t a drop of anything stronger than Seltzer or Vichy water in either of his own wine-glasses ; and he was only making himself all things to all men to the Bishop and some leading members of his congregation, that it was important for him to gain an influence over. I asked him if it was n’t important for him to take a little care of his wifeHe answered, ‘ My parish first, then my family.’ He said it in his vainglorious way, as if he was used to being admired for saying it! ” Mr. Wardour looked as if he would have sneered at that, if he had only known how to sneer. “ I never, before that day,” he went on, “ interfered between man and wife ; but I could n’t help asking him if Nelly was n't a member of his parish, and if there was any other member of it that he was married to. I asked him, too, if St. Paul did not say, ' He who provideth not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.’ He said, I misapplied the text utterly. I don’t know ; he ought to ; but there he was tricked out to the merest fopperies of his sect and profession, and she scarcely had clothes for the journey! ”
Here I was called up stairs; and, seeing that he had in a measure eased his mind, I left him.
Nelly was sitting up in her old pleasant chamber, and in her old place in the easy-chair, but looking paler in her white wrapper than I ever saw her before. The old wistfulness had passed from her face. There was that change in its expression which is often, if not always, a sign of sickness unto death, — as if another, an angel, were looking through the familiar features. There was an unearthly calm about her. I took her outstretched hand and kissed her forehead. She clasped me in her arms. A sweet-looking elderly woman, who was waiting upon her as I entered, set a stand with a glass of water, a fan, a cologne-bottle, and a hand-bell upon it, at her side, and gently left us together.
“ Dear Nelly! I have only just heard of your being here. What can I do for you ? ”
“Nothing, dearest, but come and see me. I wanted only to thank you for what you have done, and to do what 1 could to repay you. The peace you brought me here went with me to my other home. It never left me in solitude or sickness or sorrow. It does not leave me now. But, O Katy, I have thought of you so often, and been so anxious about you ! You used to advise me. I am in some ways the most experienced now. I longed so to have a chance to say to you, — O Katy, you are disinterested and devoted. Nobody knows that better than I. But you have a high spirit. Ordinary married life would be such a sad trial to you, perhaps a snare ! Katy, do be careful how — whom you marry. Of course you can’t have everything you might fancy, all together, in a husband. You can’t have perfection ever, anywhere in this world. But let it be somebody whom you have known not only long, but well, — somebody whom you won’t have to be always adapting yourself to, — somebody who is adapted to you already.” She paused for breath, exhausted by her own haste and earnestness.
“ O Nelly, why did we ever let you go?”
She smiled like a seraph : “ Only because you all thought more of my pleasure than your own, I believe. But, Katy, I did not speak of disappointment, did I ? It was a trial to me, to be sure, to be obliged to give up visiting and helping the poor. With all the illnesses that you know I had, and the care of a household besides, I could do very little of that kind; and then I used to think of a text you marked for me once, ‘ The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord; but she that is married careth for the things of the world,’ and so forth. But I do hope you will not think I meant to imply any disappointment in Mr. Blight. That would be very wrong. He is a good man, — a better man in some respects even than when you knew him last; and he says he has loved me only more and more every year. His theory is, that people are never the worse for doing their duty”; (a very true theory, was my internal comment; but, like many another true theory, capable, most unhappily, of many a false application;) “and,” continued Nelly, “he always acts up to it himself. I have known him rise literally from a sick-bed to go to an ordination. But he did not know I was ill. How could he ? I did not know it myself. I thought I was merely run down, as I have often been, only a little more so. The springs are apt to be rather trying in Duykinck. But Uncle YVardour has some experience ; because, when poor people come to his shop for medicine, he often goes to visit the sick persons at their homes, and see if there is not something else they need. When he told Mr. Blight how ill he thought I was, Mr. Blight was alarmed, and made no objection to my coming home for a good long visit and rest. Dr. Physick has sent me such a dear, good nurse ! Uncle Wardour brings me fruit, and lemonade, and everything I like, before I have time to recollect how refreshing it used to be. Even puss remembers me. See, she comes and sits at my feet, to purr me to sleep, for Hie sake of old times. It is so delicious to be at home, and at rest, and taken care of!”
I fanned her gently, but did not talk much for fear of fatiguing her.
After a little she resumed, with almost an arch look, “ That did not sound like what I used to say when I sat here, did it ? ” Then more gravely, but very sweetly and softly, she went on at intervals : “ I think I was not born for earthly happiness. Some people would tell me, I suppose, that I ought to receive all the sufferings of the last six years as a judgment upon me for craving it as I did. I do not feel them to be so, except that perhaps my constitution never quite recovered from the exhaustion I brought upon myself by the idle pining out of which you rescued me. But our Heavenly Father called me away from that by a very tender and welcome messenger. It was heartily repented of—I hope atoned for — long before my marriage. I was sorry for Mr. Blight’s leaving me ; but, I think, quite submissive and resigned. No ; a mother will not punish her young child if, when she would carry it away from the soap-bubbles with which its brothers and sisters are entertaining themselves, it stops its tears and cries, and only turns its little longing eyes and hands towards the lovely rainbow balls it wants to play with. If she carries the baby back, and lets it see and feel that the beautiful vision is a thing that only vanishes in its grasp, I think she does it in pure love, that her poor little nursling may not go away with its heart aching for a great possible pleasure unenjoyed, but can be put to sleep at the right time, contented and grateful, — as I shall.”
Her nurse returned. I rose to go. She did not try to detain me, but said, with a cheerful, loving look, “ When shall you come and see me again ?”
“ To-morrow ? ”
“ Do,” she answered ; but before the morrow, one of the “ two or three things ” happened, and she was “ put to sleep at the right time ” for her, I cannot doubt ; and when I did “come and see her again,” she was in her Coffin, waiting for the old driver of the same hearse in which we rode together when she rode before. Nelly, I believe that, of those two heart-sick girls, the lot fell to you to be borne into heaven in triumph, a glorified saint ! . . . .
Mr. Blight was at the funeral, and came to see me afterwards. I liked him better than I expected ever to like him, because, for the time being, he appeared humbled by his grief, even to the point of making no parade of his humiliation ; and because for the first time I found, as Nelly seemed to think before, that he really had a heart.
Miss DUDLEY took from me half my sorrow by her sympathizing tenderness, and soon had a new joy to share with me.
One still, sunny afternoon, early in the summer, I was soothing myself by a saunter up and down the beautiful old-fashioned garden, with its three straight gravel-walks rimmed with box, flanked by beds teeming with the richest luxuriance of old-fashioned flowers, and parted by lawns studded with fruittrees, when I heard her voice calling my name. I turned and hastened to her.
“ Katharine,” cried she out of breath, smiling through tears, and taking both my hands, “ congratulate me, and condole with me ! I have gained two nephews, or lost two nieces ! ”
“ Who ? Who ? ” cried I.
“ Guess ; of course you can.”
“ Herman' Arden, for one.”
“ No. Try once more.”
I was very sorry then ; but I have lived to see, in that as well as other things, the vanity of human wishes. Not even Bernard Temple could be more saintly than the younger Arden was ; but the glory of martyrdom is too sad a glory for us to desire to see either of our household sunbeams quenched in it. “ I do not know who else is quite good enough, unless it might be, indeed, Mr. Bernard Temple ; but he is a clergyman.”
“ 1 But he is a clergyman ! ’ That is not a highwayman ! Is it any objection to a man ? O Katharine ! ”
“ Not if he can maintain a family,” said I doubtfully.
“ O, a mercenary objection! No, seriously. Your difficulty arises simply from your being too unmercenary ever to ask what passes for anybody’s worth
on ’Change. Now you shall hear. Bernard can maintain Rose very well; or he should not have her, and I believe would not. He is not a person to take upon himself obligations which he has no means to discharge. Those two Temples are no common young men, as you will see when you have seen a little more of them. They were sons of my brother’s favorite Professor at Cambridge ; and he has known them nearly all their lives. Almost from the cradle up, it was Bernard’s ruling passion to be a clergyman, and Arthur’s to be a statesman. Their father encouraged them. Their mother, a shrewd, hard-working, homespun woman, used to say : ' If you are content to live single, boys, do as you like, — a single man can live very well on much less than half as much as a double, or triple, or quadruple man ; but if you mean to be married, I can tell you from experience, a young family needs a good many other things besides speeches and sermons ; and if you want, as I should hope you did, to preach fearless sermons, and make honest speeches, remember what poor Richard says, — It’s hard for an empty bag to stand upright.’ They hit upon a compromise, if that can be called a compromise which sacrifices nothing. They went from college into such safe business as they could find, with the settled purpose of securing, if possible, an ' independence,’ and of thus securing their independence of action in what they held to be the highest departments of human action. They have proved as fortunate as they were honest and able, and won what makes, with their little patrimony, not wealth, to be sure, but a competence. In the mean time, they have been studying their professions in their leisure time all their lives ; and perhaps they will be none the worse fitted to guide their fellow-men in secular and sacred matters, for having known the world by toiling in it, and temptation by withstanding it. You scarcely know Arthur, I believe ; but my brother does not consider him inferior to Bernard, and considers scarcely any one of his age Bernard’s superior. He says that Arthur is filling a most important place in the State legislature, and likely soon to be sent to Washington. Bernard has just been telling us, that he has received a unanimous call to our church here. Rose will live at the pretty little parsonage all the year round.”
“ How delightful that will be ! But Lily ? ”
“ O, did I not say ? She has the other Temple, of course. As usual, they have ' everything alike.’ My brother has given her a piece of land to build upon, just beyond our hedge. She is to pass her summers here. Are you not quite satisfied now, Katharine? We have always been on our guard, as you must have seen, against pampering the young people ; and the girls have every prospect of an income sufficient, if not for luxury, for every reasonable purpose of health, peace, taste, and charity.”
“ I will be both satisfied and gratified, dearest mistress, if Mr. Bernard is as good and charming as he looks and seems, and Mr. Arthur as he looks, — for I have not yet seen enough of him to know how he seems,—and if they are not too old, after having time to do and learn so much.”
“As for that, we are all moving on. Bernard is thirty, and Arthur but thirty-two. Our small children are twenty-one ; and Paul encourages them with the assurance that they ' will soon be older.’ ” Miss Dudley paused. Her face grew more and more gravely bright, like the sunset, as we walked. She passed her arm round my waist, and spoke again: “ Katharine, now, at. last,
I feel as I have never been able quite to feel before, as if 1 were prepared, when my time comes, to say, — from my full heart to say, ' It is enough ; O Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.’ It might seem that, as I was not to die in my illness, eight or nine years ago, it was a superfluous hardship to me to be informed of my danger. It was an unspeakable blessing, even if a blessing in disguise! It made every day afterwards granted me appear a separate boon. It has gently broken to me the sentence of death. It has enabled me to teach many of my habitual thoughts and hopes to make their home in heaven. I endeavored before, indeed, to send them onward to pioneer me there ; but it was more difficult until they had the goad of an apparent doom following hard after me. Even the contrast between leaving my family situated as I should leave It now, and as I must have done if I had left it then, would be alone enough to warm my death-bed with a glow of thankfulness. Now I should not leave my brother desolate. A band of noble and dutiful young men and women would cluster round him, vying with each other to comfort and cheer him. Rose and Lily have grown up under my own eye, more than to fulfil my fondest hopes. Keeping all her graceful fancy, one of them has safely learned, at length, the difference between fact and fable, and the other changed her natural impetuosity into self-control within and generous energy without. I should, if I died today, leave one of them—with her lofty enthusiasm, her grand, high views, and wide sympathies —a heroine at a hero’s side, and the other a little ministering angel, hovering round a reverent, grateful saint ! ” She paused again, and smiled half tenderly, half playfully : " My jurisprudent, not otherwise very prudent Paul ? Whether he is to be chief-justice, or what he is to be, I do not yet know ; but I need not. He is safely over the quicksands of his teens. I can trust Paul. O Katharine, mark my words ! It is but a dangerous heresy to believe that youth is the only season in which happiness can find us out. Many lives grow richer and richer, and brighter and brighter, as they go on from youth to age. So it has been with mine. My treasure, so may it be with yours ! ”
We turned back from the end of the garden at the foot of the hill, and saw the lovers and Paul entering the opposite gate, and coming towards us. As we met the foremost pair, Bernard offered his arm to Miss Dudley, saying, “ We have been looking everywhere for you, to see if we could not tempt you to join us.”
Rose, rosier than ever, falling behind him, put her hand in mine and shyly, brightly said, “ Has Aunt Lizzy told you ? O Katharine, ought I not to be safe for this world and the other with two St. Bernards to watch over me ? ” In a moment more, we met Lily and her Temple, with Paul bringing up the rear. “ Cousin Katharine,” said he, “ allow me the honor of presenting to you Minerva and the Temple of Minerva.”
Minerva-like and most goddess-like Lily looked in her fair, statelv, perfected, classic beauty, calm even then, though all radiant with an air of divine and immortal joy. She presently, notwithstanding, condescended to speak from her height like a very kindly mortal.
Mr. Temple began, “ Miss Morne, I have just been complaining to my lady, that she has afforded me no share yet in what she says is her most delightful friendship.” (He had been presented to me long before, but had seen the family chiefly on their yearly visits to Boston, — when I usually remained at Beverly, with Julia, — or with other company at home, when he had naturally not been thrown much in my way.)
“ And I have been promising to do penance, my dearest Katharine,” said Lily; “therefore I will be so disinterested as to give you both up to walk together.”
We did so; and I then and there began to find him one of the most agreeable and interesting persons I have ever seen ; but when the party reached the gate nearest the house again, I set him free, and had the self-denial to excuse myself to them all, leave them to themselves and one another, and go and sit alone upon the shore.
Hardly had I had time to settle myself quietly there, to revel in a revery bright with the hopes and happiness of those so near anti dear to me, when I was startled from it by a loud and peculiar sound. I had never heard it before. It never had been heard since I had been a dweller in the place. But in an instant I was certain that it could be no other than the alarm-horn ! I sprang to my feet. It came again — from the hill ! I ran through the gate, and looked up as I still ran on through the garden. There was a group of ladies and gentlemen on the side of the hill. It was the party I had left. By the yet clear twilight I saw that they moved about some one who was lying on the ground. Was it? — it was! — Miss Dudley. In a moment, Paul shot past me, — going for the doctor, I supposed. He did not speak to me. I did not stop him. The path lengthened and the hill heightened under my flagging feet. I reached the spot at last.
The two Temples made way for me in silence. Lily was sitting on the turf, with Miss Dudley lying half in her arms. Rose fanned her with her hat. Her eyes were closed. I spoke to her. She opened them, and looked at me, and pointed to her heart. Since, of late years, she had no longer thought it necessary to have her opium constantly at hand, I secretly carried it about with me in a little morocco case, which Mr. Dudley had had made to hold the bottle, with a little spoon, which measured exactly her dose. I offered it now. She took it eagerly, and said :
“ It does me good. I shall be better soon. I thought I was well. I should not have climbed the hill. Don’t be anxious, Charles.”
Then I looked up, and for the first time saw the fixed white face —Mr. Dudley’s — looking on. I believe that he was farther from the place, and got up the hill just after me. He came forward, knelt opposite to me, and took her hand. In the other she was holding mine. She clasped them both for an instant together. I thought she was for the moment unconscious of anything but pain, and gently drew my own away to wipe her forehead.
“ Is it death ? ” she panted.
A death-like silence answered, and was understood by her; for, after a moment’s struggle with a natural pang which brought the tears into her lovely eyes, she unclosed them once more, murmured, “Enough, O Lord ! ” smiled gloriously around upon us all, and thus “ in peace ” departed.