The Rose Rollins: Part Ii
“It was a Sunday evening that was coming on, you see, and there was a full moon, and all the willagers would be out to church, because there was a rewival a-going on, and, thinks says I, he ’ll walk into his sleep, like as not, and he ’ll be wisible to one and he ’ll be wisible to all, and I must adopt the adwice that’s been adwised me, whether it’s quite adwisable or not ; so I gets the clothes-line, and I cuts off about five yards, and I slips it under my piller before I goes to — before I retires to rest. The clothes-line was a new hempen one, and strong as could be. Well, he was no sooner asleep than up I riz, and slips the line from under my piller, and I ties my arm to his’n with a knot that couldn’t be ontied easy. And now, thinks says I to myself, you get away and walk into your sleep if you can ! But you ’ll see directly that I was adwised bad.
“Just as the meetin’ folks was agoin’ home, I, bein’ about half asleep, feels somethin’ pullin’ and pullin’ onto my arm, and says I, ‘ Let go ! ’ and nothin’ answered, and then says I, ‘ Let go, I tell you ! ’ and, bless you ! I had no more than got the words out of my mouth when down I comes onto the floor, piller and all ! I knowed then, right away, what was the matter, — he was a-walkin’ into his sleep. ' O, stop,’ says I, ‘just for a minute, till I ontie myself! ’
“ ' Divel a bit !’ says he, and with that he strode off, and me headlong at his heels ! ”
“ My little wentersome one ! ” says John ; and finding that that but very inadequately expressed what he felt, he repeated it, with slight alteration, " My wentersome little one ! ” at the same time lifting his eyes to heaven and shaking his finger in a menacing way at the air.
“Me—your own — headlong at his heels,” whispered the widow, softly. And then she boxed his ear with the tips of her fingers, and then he said he would love to have her a-boxin’ on ’em forever, and then she laughed incredulously, and then she went on : —
“ ' Stop, you villain, till I ontie myself,’ says I.
“ ' Ontie me, you wixen ! ’ says he, ' who cares whether you are ontied or not ?’ and he histed the winder, — a two-story winder it was, — and out he went ! ”
“ My brain is a-reelin’ ! ” cries John. " You poor dewoted dove !”
“ Dewoted, sure enough,” says the widow, " and dewoted you’d ’a’ thought if you’d ’a’ seen me ; for up he hists the winder, and out he goes. Now there was the framework of a new house — a great skeleton like — standin’ alongside of us, and into that he waults, and I waults after him, — for what could I do but wault ?—and away he goes from beam to beam, and from jice to jice, and from scantlin’ to scantlin’, waultin’ up and up, and me waultin’ after, — for what could I do but wault ? — and cryin’ with all my might, ' You wiliain ! ’ and he acryin’ back, ' You wixen ! ’ and the moon a-shinin’ like a blaze, and the meetin’ folks goin’ by, and my nightgownd a-floppin’, and both of us plain wisible !
“ ' Help ! murder ! ’ I cries, for my salwation depended on it, and, seein’ the meetin’ folks adwance, he just waulted from the timber onto which we stood right into the thin and insupportable air — ”
“ And dragged you after him ? Lord ’a’ mercy ! ” cried John.
“ No,” says the widow, speaking with great calmness ; " my presence of mind never forsook me, — I was an undertaker’s daughter, and adwantage of birth prewailed over the disadwantage of position, — I waulted down the tother side ; and there we hung balanced into the air, and there we would have hung all night but for the accident of the rewival.
“When they cut us down, — which one of the rewival folks did with his jack-knife,— I woluntarily fainted away, and was carried in for dead, and did n’t rewive, and would n’t rewive, for hours and hours. La me ! I was so ashamed ! ”
“ I wish it had been my forten to carry you into the house,” says John.
“ So do I,” says the widow ; “ but let us be thankful that the wicissitudes of life have driv us together at last.”
“At last, sure enough,” says John ; “ you speak wisdom when you don’t know on’t, you dove of doves ! ”
She bent her eyes upon him in tender inquiry, in answer to which he said, “At last it is, sweetheart, for you don’t know that I loved you when I was a youngster not more ’n a dozen year old ! ”
“ Loved me, captain ! It is n’t creditable ! Tell me all about it. Are you sure ? ”
“Just as sure on’t as I be of anything ; just as sure as I be that I love you now.”
“ Tell me all about it, I’m dying to know ; it seems like some wild novelty, to be sure.”
“ Yes, you ’re right, it is like a novelty if it was only writ out, and it do n’t seem creditable, but it’s true ; I’m just as sure on’t as I be of anything, —just as sure as I be that I love you now ! ”
“ O captain ! ”
“ Yes, my own Rose, I loved you when I was a little lad, — loved you just as I did the mornin’ star, — loved you and worshipped you from far away. What a spry little thing you was, a-boppin’ about among the mahogany and walnut stuff like a young sparrer ! O, how I ’ve watched and follered you with my eyes when you did n’t dream on ’t! ”
“ But, John, my nerves are a woman’s, remember, and you must n’t keep them a-strain so long ; they ’re wery much weakened by all this.”
“ Ay, to be sure,” says John ; “ your nerves be a woman’s, to say nothin’ of your curosity bein’ a woman’s ! ”
And he laughed with as much heartiness at her expense as though she had been his wife already.
“ John ! ” This with tender reproach, and he resumed, in a tone of respectful and lover-like humility.
“Wa’n’t your name Rose Rollins afore you was jined to the vagabond,— wagabond, that is to say, — afore you was dethroned ; and did n’t you live in Fust Street, opposite them old tenement housen knowed as Baker’s Row ? ”
“ Of course I did, John, in the yaller brick with the shop in the corner, and the entrance embellished with a beautiful sign,— three coffins, with their leds turned back so as to reweal the satin linin’s, and my father’s name in letters that represented silver screws ! A stroke of genius that design was! — the sign of the three coffins, two of them sideways and one end ; my father’s name —Farewell Rollins, wery appropriate to his business as it turned out —in letters that they was modelled after silver screws.”
“ Three on ’em, two sideways and one end ?” says John ; “and the name, Farewell Rollins, shaped arter silver screws ! Why, as you be a livin’ cretur, you ’re the very—wery— little gal I was in love with ; and many a day, dark enough otherwise with poverty and sorrer, you’ve lighted up with your purty golden head ! ” And then he tells her, by way of illustrating the depth and sincerity of his early attachment, that it once happened to him to have an orange given him at Christmas time ; and that, although he had never tasted an orange in all his born days, except through a confectioner’s window-glass, he without hesitation tossed it over the wall into her father’s yard, hoping that she, who ate oranges every day, might possibly have his added to the rest. And he concluded with, “ Such was the nater of my feelin’s for you even then.”
“ And the nater of your feelin’s, John, was not only wergin close upon. the feelin’s of love,” says the milliner, deeply touched, “ but they was love,— love of the wiolentest kind ! ”
And then she says that, if she can only find in the town an orange as big as the full moon, she ’ll buy it, let it cost what it will, and give it to him.
And then she says, playfully tapping his chin, “ I only wish them feelin’s had hild.”
“ You wish them feelin’s had hild ! ” says John, leaning his face still lower to the touches of her pretty hands ; and then in his reverence he addressed her in the third person, saying, “ How sweetly prowokin’ she is ! ”
Then, very earnestly, “ They hev hild all these years, them feelin’s hev, and they hev been rewived this day in all their wiolence ; and the beautiful curls that used to shine down all the daffodils are just as soft and as golden as ever ! ” Here he ventured to touch the ends of the long-admired tresses ; but he did not see that they were both thin and faded, and that the parting was very, very wide. “Ay, it’s the same bright head,” he went on, “that’s been a-shinin’ all these years so far away that I never expected to put my rough hand on’t, — not, anyhow, afore I ’d crossed the dark ferry, and got refined into a spirit. And now, just think! here you be, asailin’ in my little wessel, that I’d christened ‘ The Rose Rollins ’ for your memory’s sake, — a-sailin’ by my side in all the freshness and bloom of your perfect beauty ! ”
The milliner laughed, well pleased with the compliment, and said that, when one charm wanished, another took its place sometimes ; so that, if we only kept up our witality, we did n’t look much the worse for all our years. “ Now you, for instance, could never have been handsomer than you are to-day ! ” she concluded, pointing her theory with that kindly method so characteristic of women.
His face had been drawing nearer to hers all the while she spoke, so that his eyes were quite looking into hers now. “ I’m broke a leetle,” says he. “ I know it; but when I see myself in these lovely lookin’-glasses I do look right nice, for all.” And then he went on with his story.
“ I was a’most forgettin’ on’t,” he said ; “ but what wonder !
“ My father was a sailor ; and the last time he ever went out was as one of the crew of the Dauphin, of Nantucket, Captain Griscom, — how well I remember it! though I was a little chap then, — about seven year old, I guess. The Dauphin was a whaler, you must know, and Captain Griscom as rough and hard as the sea-rocks themselves. I seen him once ; and I ’ve got a picter in my mind of his furrered, weatherbeat face, and eyes that was more like the bulb of some pison plant than anything else,—so blue, and dull, and lackin’ all human expression. His ear was like a dry knot,—seemed as if ’t would break off if you touched it, and his nose wa’ n’t much better. He wa’ n’t a man that any child would ever go nigh, — anyhow I could n't. My father was high-sperited, — too highsperited for his sitooation, as ’ll be showed by an’ by.
“ My mother was a little, pale woman, with blue eyes, and hair as soft as flax. You ’ve seen her, I dare say, for she took in washin', and used to hang the things on the ruf, and I would go up with her under pertence of helpin’, but more, I’m afeard, because I could the better see into your door-yard, and maybe get a glimpse o’ you. Well, my father used to tell her, ‘Katura,’ he would say, ' arter one more voyage I ’ll leave the sea, for then I shall be rich enough to buy an acre o’ ground somewheres where I can hear the waters a-lappin’ on the sand ; and we ’ll build a snug little house, and send our boy to school, and you sha’ n’t wash no more, for you ain't strong, Katura, —not nigh so strong as you used to be, — I can see that plain enough.’ Then the tears would come to my mother’s eyes ; for a tender word was always touchin’ to her, and seein' on ’em my father would make haste to say, pattin’ of her cheek, that, although some o’ the airly roses was gone, she wa’ n’t a mite less purty than she used to be! and then she 'd wipe her eyes and smile agin, and arter a little smoothin’ up of her hair, or carefuller pinnin’ of her handkerchief, light his pipe for him, and fetch the big chair out of the corner ; and then she’d set herself to darnin’ of his socks, or patchin’ of his jackets, and so they’d pass an evenin’ happy as could be, — my father singin’ a sea-song, or a lovesong, maybe, first or last.
“ We lived in the last house o’ the Row, — the housen was all poor enough, you mind, but ourn was the very poorest on ’em, and then we had the top floor, — one room and a pantry' bein’ all, exceptin’ the ruf, which was flat, and which we had the privilege on for a yard, in consideration of a dollar extra a month. ‘Have the ruf, be sure, Katura ! ’ my father would say. ‘ What’s a dollar ? ’ and he’d slap his hand down as though ’t was full o’ dollars, but ’t wa’ n’t, and mother always paid the extra dollar out of her own airnin’s, but feelin’ all the time a’most as if he’d paid it, just because of the generous way he had o’ speekin’. I remember the last time father sailed with the Dauphin, as I was sayin’ afore, — remember it just as though it was yesterday. It was a mornin’ in winter, — the twenty-third o’ December, and snow a-lyin’ on the ground. I could see his tracks along the walk for a week arter he was gone, and then the snow begun to melt ; thawin’ and freezin’ together at first, and then a clean thaw, so the tracks filled up with water, and arter another week I couldn’t find no trace on ’em.
“‘Take good care o’ your mother, my lad ! ’ he said, ‘ take the best o’ care on her! I ’ll be home afore long, for good and all, to take care on her myself; it won’t be but two or three year at the outside,’ — and he give my shoulder a little shake, and then he slipped a quarter-dollar into my hand. And then he turned to her. ' Three year ain't long, Katura,’ he says ; ‘ why, they ’ll fly round just like so many hours, a’most, and fust thing you know you 'll hear my step a-comin’ up the stair! Have everything you want, good wife, and don’t work hard ; you know its agin my will that you should, — these pale cheeks make me a little afeard ; but, arter all. you ’ll come round with the daisies, I guess.’ And with that he turned from her, and writ a little with his finger on the table, and then he chirked up like, and buttoned his jacket quick, and went out the door just as though he wa’ n’t a-goin’ no furder than across the street.
“ The minute follerin’, mother went up to the house-ruf. She wanted to see arter the washed things, she said, how they was a-dryin’ and all ; but I knowd well enough she wanted to see arter him, and did n’t pull at her skirt and foller, as I generally did. I stayed down stairs, and, to kind o’ break up my sorrer, I chucked my head aginst the knob that was atop o’ the andiron ! A curus way to git relief; but my diversions, them times, was somewhat limited.
“ When my mother came down agin, there wa’ n’t no tears in her eyes, but they had a kind of a fur-reachin’ look, as if they was a-gazin’ clear across the salt seas ; and they never lost that look arterwards. It was wofuller than tears, that look was, — ’cause it seemed as if it was arter somethin’ that wa’n’t to be found on this airth.
“ I hung round her, and when she did n’t say nothin’ I told her I was goin’ to be the best boy that ever was, and build all the fires, and help her to keep things snug; and that I could make my old shoes last three year, till father would come home. I was sure on ’t, with one new pair o’ half-soles, and one new pair o’ toe-caps, anyhow.
“ Then she took me on her knee, and leaned her face agin mine, and said I was the best child in all the world, and she-hoped yet to see the time that I ’d hev as nice shoes and other things as I deserved. I slipped the ring up and down her finger, as she held me so, a-talkin’ to me, and at last I said, ‘ This ring is too big, mother ; what made you get such a big one ? ’ And then she said, ‘Your father give it to me long ago, my child, and it wa’ n’t none too big at fust; it’s the fault of the finger, — that is getting too thin ’; and then she took the ring off, —it was a leetle slim thing, — and put it in an old teapot that was kept on the top shelf of the cupboard. She was afeared she 'd either lose it off her hand, she said, or break it on the washboard. She didn’t say nothin’ furder, but I see she thought that the losin’ on’t would be the dreadfullest misfortin that could happen to her.
“It would take too long, and wear out your patience, I calculate, if I was to tell you of all the troubles we hed arter the sailin’ of the Dauphin, and troubles ain't interestin’ to hear on, nohow ; so I ’ll pass ’em by, trustin’ your lively imagination to picter on ’em out.
“Well, when the three year was purty near up, she used to say to me every day, ‘ Where do you ’spose poor father is ? And what will he think of his little boy when he sees him ? ’ And then she would answer her own question, and say, ‘ He 11 think he ’s a little man, — that’s what he ’ll think.’ And with such like talk she seemed to get a sort of comfort, somehow. From her, more than from anything I knowed myself, I got a fine notion o’ my father ; among other things, I thought he was the biggest man in the world, and I used to spekilate as to whether Mr. Farewell Rollins had a coffin in his shop that would be long enough forhim, if he should happen to die at home. I did n’t s’pose he had, and the thought of what it would cost to get one big enough caused me a good deal of sorrer. More ’n this, I thought he must have wonderful powers, and that he could make me a kite that would fly to the moon, or, if he chose, dip all the water out o’ the sea with mother’s long-handled gourd.
“ These thoughts give me a good deal o’ satisfaction, but there was times that nothin’ I could git out o’ myself could chirk me up ; and them times I always betook myself to the andirons, and bobbed my head agin the top on ’em, and that was sure to fetch me round.
“ I longed for my father to come back, as much, maybe, that Rose Rollins might see what a big man ho. was, as for anything else. I guessed she’d begin to notice of us some when the Dauphin come in! Hows’ever, the three year went by, and no Dauphin come in; and then the eyes o’ my mother began to look, not only as if they was a-gazin’ away across the salt sea, but clean into eternity. Her cheeks fell in like a pie that has been sot in a cellar for a week arter the bakin’ on’t, and her arm showed in her sleeve no bigger than a broomstick. I was a’most afeared on her sometimes, her forehead come to look so like yaller glass, and as it I could see right into it, if I only tried ; and them times I thumped my head uncommon hard on the knobs of the andirons, — they was a blessin’, Rose, — and I used to spekilate as to what folks did that wa’ n’t rich enough to hev ’em. My mother got so weak, arter a while, that she would sometimes sit by the side o’ the tub and wash ; and it was astonishin’ to me to see what great sheets and bed-quilts she could wring dry them times ; and it was astonishin’, too, that she could keep her hands in freezin’ water, day arter day, and be none the wuss for it; but she always said she wa’n’t, — in fact, she used to tell me she thought it done her good ; and, happy enough for me! I never thought o’ doubtin’ of her for many a long day arterwards.
“ Many a time she give me the last bit o’ bread, and said she wa’ n’t hungry, and once when I broke my slice in two, and offered her part back, she said, ‘ No, Johnny, I don t think I feel so well for eatin’. Rich food,’ she said, ‘ did n’t suit her constitution. And so, if we happened to hev meat or butter, she put it all on my plate. When it come to be my share to work without eatin’, then I understood.
“ Many a time o’ nights I heard her a-turnin’ and moanin’ in her sleep, as if soul and body was clean wore out; and at last I went to the lady that lived in the house with the painted door, and fitted young ladies with corsets, and sold them pomatum that made the hair grow to their heels, — so she said,— and told how my mother moaned in the night as if she was a-bein’ drownded in the sea ; and she told me it was a nasty habit some folks had, — mostly because they slept too sound,—and that, if I would give her a rough shake, she guessed she would come out all right. I tried to believe her on account o’ the pomatum and the painted door, partly ; but it wa’ n’t in the heart o’ me to give the rough shake, and I never done it, thank the Lord !
“ Sometimes the fine lady would come in with her sewin’-work to bring us a little sunshine, she used to say, and I ’m sure she never brought nothin’ else, nor that neither, that anybody could see ; and I always noticed that my mother felt a good deal less cheerful arter one o’ these visits.
“ ' Why don’t you ride out, Mrs. Chidlaw ? ’ she would say, ' and why don’t you call the doctor ? and why don’t you wear warm flannels ? ’ and then why did n’t she do a thousand things that wa’ n’t to be thought on, ’cause they wa’ n’t in the nater o’ the case; and then she would go away, sayin’ she would run in another time and bring more sunshine !
“My mother generally cried for a spell arter one o’ these bright mornin’s ; and I did n’t wonder, for it seemed to me as if the scent o’ the pomatum was pison, and all the air was heavy like, arter one o’ the visits.
“She used to set up o’nights, a-workint’, my mother did, long beyond midnight sometimes. ' What makes you, mother ? ’ I would say. ' O, ’cause I like it, John !’ she’d answer, so livelylike ; and then she’d begin to hum a tune, maybe, as if she was overflowin’ with sperits.
“She did n’t seem to need sleep no more, she said, and, besides, she wanted to be wide awake when father come. So night arter night she would set by our one taller candle, a-mendin’ of my jackets, and a-darnin’ of my stockin’s, and a-straightenin’ and a stiffenin’ up of the run-down heels of my old shoes.
“ ' I don’t care nothin’ about ’em, mother,’ I would say. ' I’d just as lives be a wearin’ on ’em ragged as not, and you’ve chores enough without a-mindin’ of me so much.’ But she always said that, whether or not I cared for myself, she cared for me, and that she wanted I should look as smart as anybody’s boy, so that father would be proud on me when he come home ; concludin’ with ' He must sartainly come now afore long.’
“ Many a time I ’ve waked up of a winter night and found her woollen petticoat spread onto my bed, and she ashiverin’ by the dyin’ fire. One mornin’ she surprised me uncommon by holdin’ of a cap afore my eyes. 'A new one made of the old one,’ says she, ' but you ’d never dream on’t, would you, Johnny ? ’
“ I hung it on the chair-post, and then I stood off, fairly dazzled, so gret was my admiration on’t. It was my old cap, be sure ; but then it was all brushed up and pressed into shape, and lined anew with one o’ the sleeves of my mother’s silk weddin’-gown. It wa’ n’t to be wore no longer every day, so she said, but must be put on the upper shelf o’ the cupboard with her ring and her Sunday shawl, and kep’ nice agin the time father should come home. I suffered, on givin’ on’t up, the most tormentin’ pangs, and had to bob my head agin the andirons considerable longer than common afore I come round. I was bent on wearin’ on’t in the sight of Rose Rollins, — that’s you, — and forcin’ on her to see the silk linin’ some ways, and I planned out warious stratagems to that end. But mother said, ‘ No, Johnny, keep it nice just a Ieetle bit, till poor father comes.’ And arter that she pacified me by takin’ on’t down from time to time and allowin’ of me to wear it as much as two or three minutes sometimes. The linin’ was peagreen ; and I ’ve often thought since it was a Ieetle too fine for the tother part, which was seal-skin, and wore tolerable bare,— I havin’ wore it, not off and on, but steady on, from the time I left off my bunnet that was made of the end of my cradle-quilt ; but I did n't calculate it was too fine then, and I made a pint o’ standin’ on a chair afore the lookin’-glass, or else afore the winder towards your ’us, all the whilst I was a-wearin’ on’t It worried me a good deal, them times, to decide which I’d rather do, — look at myself, or hev you look at me !
“ I used to tease mother to put the white shawl round her shoulders. ‘Just for a minute,’ I would say; but she always answered, ‘One of these days, Johnny ; it’s all wrapt up with camp-phire, and I don't want to be gettin’ on’t down ! ’ I understood well enough that it was to be got out when the great day come.
“‘Suppose, Johnny,’ says she, one day, ‘we cut off some of our luxuries, and save up to buy somethin’ nice for poor father agin he comes home ! ’ I was struck favorable with the idee of the present, but what luxuries was to be cut off I did n’t see clear.
“ There’s the candle, for one thing! ’ says mother. ‘ Taller’s taller, at the best o’ times ; and the few chores I do at night I can do just as well by the light of a pine-knot.’
“butter, she said, wa’ n’t healthy for her, nor milk, nor meat, nor sugar, nor no such things, so it would all be easy enough for her. She only hesitated on my account. But I spoke up ever so brave. ‘ I don’t mind,’ says I ; ' it ’ll be good fun, in fact, just to see how leetle we can live on ! ’ And I think yet my mind was some expanded by that experience, — it driv me to such curus devices. At fust I took leetle bites off my cake, and leetle sips of my porridge ; but I found a more effective plan afore long, for looks goes a good ways, and even when we deceive ourselves it kind o’ helps us. Well, I took to hevin’ my porridge in a shaller plate, so that there seemed twice as much on 't as there really was, and to hollerin’ my cake out from the under side, so that, when it was reduced to a mere shell, it still represented what it wa’ n't ; a trick that I found to work very slick, especially when I imagined Rose a-Iookin’ at my shaller plate, and not knowin’ how deep it was.
“ ‘ Won’t we hev a beautiful surprise, though, for poor father!’ my mother would say, when my spoon touched bottom, and it always touched bottom premature ; and then we would talk of what we should buy, and I would be carried away like, and forget myself.
“ A fur hat was talked on in our fust wild enthusiasm, but that idee was gin up arter we ’d gone about among the stores ; and we settled final on ’t a pair o’ square-toed brogans, with nails in the heels on ’em.
“ ‘ Let ’em be good sewed shoes, and not peg,’ says my mother, when she give the shoemaker his order, ‘ and make ’em up just as soon as possible. You see my husband may be here any day now ; and we mean to hev a great surprise for him,—Johnny and me.’
“The shoemaker, to my surprise, — for I expected him to enter into it with as much enthusiasm as we, — hesitated, said he was pressed heavy with work just then, and that he thought she had best go to some other shop ! I did n’t understand the meanin’ on ’t at all ; but my mother did, and told him she could pay him aforehand, if he wanted it; at which he brightened up, and said, come to think on’t, he could make the brogans right away.
“ Sure enough, they was finished at the appinted time, and I carried ’em home, with the money that come back in change inside o’ one on ’em.
“ ‘ Why, Johnny,’ says mother, when she counted it, her face all a-glowin’, ‘here’s enough left to buy a handkerchief for your father ! ’
“ Then she counted it agin, and said there was enough, she was a’most sure on ’t. It might n’t get a silk one, not pure silk, but if she could only find somethin’ with a leetle mixter o’ cotton in ’t, why it would look nearly as well, — the difference would never be knowed across the house.
“ She wanted a new gingham apron for herself ; but that wa’ n't bought, and all the money, as I have guessed sence, went into the handkerchief. And a purty one it was, too, — yaller-colored, with a red border, and an anchor worked in one corner on’t with blue-silk yarn.
“ So the fine presents was put away on the top shelf o’ the cupboard, with the cap and the ring and the shawl, and there they stayed, week in and week out, and still the Dauphin did n’t come in. I could see that my mother was a-growin’ uneasy, more and more, though she never said nothin’ to me that was discouragin’. She ’d set sometimes for an hour a-lookin’ straight into the air, and then she went up to the ruf more ’n common to look arter the things a-dryin’ there.
“ One day there come on snow and sleet, but for all that she stayed aloft, just as though the sun had been a-shinin’; and at last, when the dusk had gethered so that she could n’t see no longer, she come down with a gret heap o’ wet things in her arms, and all of a shiver.
“ Her hand shook as she sot down to bind shoes,—-she had took to bindin' of shoes some them times, not bein’ so strong as she used to be for the washin’ ; but arter a while she fell of a tremble all over. ‘ It’s no use,’ says she, ' I ain’t good for nothin’ no more,’ and she put away the bindin’ and cowered close over the ashes.
“ I wanted to lay on a big stick, but she said no, she’d go to bed, and get warm there ; but she did n’t get warm, not even when I had piled all the things I could rake and scrape over the bedquilt, for I could see them tremblin’ together like a heap o’ dry leaves.
“ I went to the lady with the painted door, and she promised to come in and see my mother early in the mornin’; but in the mornin’, when I went agin, she said she had so many corsets to fit that it wa’ n’t possible, — that I must tell my mother she sent a great deal o’ love, and hoped she’d be better very soon.
“ I did n’t go arter her no more, and all that day and the next my poor mother lay, now a-burnin’ and now a-freezin’, but by and by she got better, and sot up in bed some, havin’ my little chair agin her back ; and so she finished bindin’ o’ the shoes, and I carried on ’em home, she a-chargin! me twenty times afore I sot out to take care and not lose the money I got for bindin’ on ’em. ‘ And don’t forget to stop at the store,’ she said, ' and buy me a quarter o’ tea, as you come back, Johnny.’
“ But, after all, I went home without the tea, or the money either.
“ In the fust place, the shoemaker said my mother had disappinted him in not sendin’ the work home when she promised ; and when I said she was sick, he answered that that wa’n’t his lookout ; and then he eyed the work sharply, sayin’, at last, that he could n’t pay for them sort o’ stitches, and he would n’t give out no more bindin’ neither, and that I might go with a hop, skip, and jump, and tell my mother so ; and he waved his hand, with a big boot-last in it, as though, if I did n’t hop quick, he ’d be glad to help me for’a’d himself.
“ ' Never mind, Johnny,’ says mother, as I leaned my head on her piller, a-ervin’, and told her what the shoemaker had said, ‘it ’ll all be right when father comes back.’
“ She did n’t mind about the tea, she said, water would serve just as well; and then, arter pickin’ at the bed-clothes a leetle, she said she felt sleepy, and turned her face to the wall.
“ All winter long she was sick, and there was heart-breakin’ things all the while comin’ to pass ; but I’d rather not tell on ’em.
“ Spring come round at last,— as come it will, whether them that watch for its comin’ are cryin’ or laughin’,—and the sun shined in at the south winder and made a patch o’ gold on the floor, — all we had, to be sure, — when one day comes the news we had been a-lookin’ for so long, — the Dauphin was a-comin’ in !
“ ' And me here in bed ! ’ says my mother ; ' that ’ll never do. How goodfor-nothin’ I be ! ’
“ Then she told me to run and fetch her best gown out of the chest, and she was out o’ bed the next minute ; and though she looked as pale as the sheet she managed somehow to dress herself. Then she told me to fetch her the lookin’-glass where she sot by the bedside ; and when she seen her face the tears came to her eyes, and one little low moan, that seemed away down in her heart, made me shudder. ' I don t care for my own sake,’ she said, puttin’ her arm across my neck; ‘but what will your father think o’ me?’
“Then she sot the glass up afore her, and combed her hair half a dozen different ways, but none on ’em suited. She did n't look like herself, she said, nohow ; and then she told me to climb to the upper shelf and git down the fine shawl, and see if that would mend matters any.
“ I fetched the ring too ; but it would n’t stay on a single finger; and so she give it to me, smilin’, and sayin’ I might wear it till she got well.
“ I sot the house in order myself, with her a-tellin’ on me some about things. The two silver teaspoons was burnished up, and stuck for show into the edge of the dresser ; the three glass tumblers was sot forth in full view ; and the tin coffee-pot, so high and so narrer at the top, was turned sideways on the shelf, so as to make the most on’t ; and the little brown earthen-ware teapot was histed atop o’ that. We had a dozen eggs we had been a-savin’, for we kep’ a hen on the ruf, and them I took and sot endwise in the sand-bowl, so that, to all appearance, the whole bowl was full of eggs ; and I raly thought the appintments, one and all, made us look considerable like rich folks.
“ ‘ Do go up to the ruf, Johnny, my child,’ says my mother, at last, ' and see what you will see.’
“ She had sot two hours, with her shawl held just so across her bosom, and was a-growin’ impatient and faint like.
“ She looked at me so eager, when I come down, I could hardly bear to tell her that I could only just see the Dauphin a-lyin’ out, and that she looked black and ugly, and that I could n't see nothin’ furder. But I did tell it, and then come another o’ them little low moans away down in her heart. Directly, though, she smiled agin, and told me to go to the chest and open the till, and get the table-cloth and the pewter platter that I would find there. ‘ We must have .our supper-table shine its best to-night,’ she said.
“Agin and agin I went up to the ruf, but I did n’t see nothin’ no time except the whaler a-lyin’ a little out, and lookin’ black and ugly, as if there wa’n’t no good a-comin’ with her.
“At last evenin’ fell, and then my mother crept to the winder, and got her face agin the pane, and such a look of wistfulness come to her eyes as I had never seen in ’em afore.
“ She did n’t say nothin’ no more, and I did n’t say nothin’ ; it was an awful silence, but somethin’ appeared to keep us from breakin’ on’t.
“The shadders had gathered so that the street was all dusky; for there wa’ n’t no lamps at our end o’ the street,— when all at once mother was a-standin’ up, and holdin’ out her arms. The next minute she says, ' Run to the door, Johnny ; I ain’t quite sure whether or not it ’s him ! ’ And she sunk down, tremblin’, and all of a heap.
“ I could hear the stairs a creakin’ under the tread of heavy steps, and when I got to the door there was two men a comin’ up instead o’ one. ‘ It s him ! mother ! it’s him ! ’ I shouted with all my might, for I see a sailor’s cap and jacket, and took the rest for granted. I swung the door wide, and stood a-dancin’ in it, and yet I did n’t like the looks o’ neither on ’em ; only I thought I ought to be glad, and so I danced for pertended joy. ‘ Get out o' the way ! you sassy lad ! ’ says one o’ the men, and he led the tother right past me into the house, I follerin along behind, but neither on ’em noticin’ of me in the least ; and there sot my mother, dead still on her chair, just as if she was froze into stone. ‘ Here he is,’ says the man that was leadin’ of him, — ‘ here’s John Chidlaw, what there is left on him ! ’ Then he give me a push toward him, and nodded to my mother like, a-drawin’ his mouth into such queer shapes that I could n’t tell whether he was a-laughin’ or cryin’, and I did n’t know which I ought to do neither.
“ By this time the man that I partly took to be my father was a-backin’ furder and furder from us, and at last he got clean agin the jamb o’ the chimney, and then he looked up wild, as if he was a looking at the sky, and directly he spoke. ‘ This ’ll be a stiff blow,’ says he. ‘ We ’re struck aft, and we ’ll be in the trough of the sea in a minute ! God help us all ! ' And with that he began to climb up the shelves o’ the cupboard, as though he was a climbin’ into a ship’s riggin’.
“Next thing I seen, mother had got to him, somehow, and was a-holdin’ round his neck, and talkin’ to him in tones as sweet and coaxin’ as though he had been a sick baby. ' Don’t you know me, John ?’ she says, — ‘your own Katura, that you left so long ago ! ’ He did n’t answer her at all; he did n’t seem to see her, but kep’ right on, a-talkin’ about the ship not bein’ able to lift herself, and about the rudder bein’ tore away, and a leak som’er’s, and settin’ of a gang o’ hands at the pumps, and gettin’ of the cargo up, and the dear knows what all ! I did n’t understand a word on’t, and, besides that, I was afeard on him.
“‘Tell’em about the last whale we ketched, Jack, — that big bull that so nigh upsot us all. Come, that ’s a story worth while ! ’ It was the man that had led him in who said this ; and he laughed loud, and slapped him on the shoulder as he said it; and then he looked at my mother and winked, and drawed his mouth queer agin.
“My father kind o’ come to himself like now, and seatin’ himself astride a chair, and with his face to the back on’t, he began: —
“ We was a cruisin’ about in the South Pacific, when, between three and four in the afternoon of an August day, we bein’ in latitude forty at the time, the man on the look-out at the fore-topmast-head cried out that a whale had broke water in plain view of our ship, and on her weather bow.
“ ' Where away, sir ? and what do you call her ? ’ shouts the captain, hailin’ the mast-head.
“ ‘ Sperm whale, sir, three pints on the weather-bow, and about two miles off! ’
“ ‘ Keep a sharp eye, and sing out when the ship heads for her! ’
“ ‘ Ay, ay, sir.’
“ The captain went aloft with his spyglass. ' Keep her away ! ’ was his next order to the man at the helm.
“ ' Steady ! ’ sung out the mast-head.
Steady it is ! ’ answered the wheel.
“‘Square in the after-yards, and call all hands ! '
“ ‘ Ay, ay, sir.’
“‘Forward there! Haul the mainsail up, and square the yards ! ’
“ ‘ Steady, steady ! ’ sings out the mast-head.
“ ‘ Steady it is ! ’ answers the wheel.
“ ‘ Call all hands ! ’ shouts the captain, in a voice like a tempest.
“ The main hatches was off, and the men mostly in the blubber-room, engaged, some on ’em, in mincin’ and pikin’ pieces of blanket and horse from one tub to another, and some was atendin’ fires, and some a-fillin’ casks with hot ile from the cooler; but quick as lightnin’ all the deck is thronged, like the street of a city when there is a cry of fire.
“ ‘ There she blows ! O, she ’s a beauty, a regular old sog ! ’ sings the mast-head.
“ ‘ Slack down the fires ! Quick, by G— ! ’ shouts the captain in a voice like thunder.
“‘She peaks her flukes, and goes down ! ’ cries the mast-head.
“‘A sharp eye, sir! Mind where she comes up ! ’
“' Ay, ay, sir !'
“' Get your boats ready, lads, and stand by to lower away ! ’
“ The men work as for life, — the boat-bottoms are tallered, the boattackle-falls laid down, so as to run clear, the tub o’ line and the harpoons got in, the gripes cast clear, and each boat’s crew by the side o’ their boat.
“ ‘ Hoist and swing ! Lower away ! ’
“ In a moment we ’re off, bendin’ to our oars, every man on us, eager to see who will be up first. The whale was under half an hour ; but at last we get sight o’ the signal at the main, which tells us that she’s up agin.
“ ' Down to your oars, lads ! Give way hard ! ’ says the captain.
“ I got the palm o’ my hand under the abaft oar, so as with each stroke to throw a part of my weight agin it, and our boat leapt for’a’d across the water, spring arter spring, like a tiger, —her length and twice her length afore the others in a minute.
“‘She ’s an eighty - barrel ! right ahead ! Give way, my boys ! ’ cries the captain, encouragin’ on us. And all our strength was put to the oar.
“ ‘ Spring harder, boys ! Harder ! If she blows agin, some on you ’ll have an iron into her afore five minutes ! ’ Then to the whale, — a-standin’ with his legs wide, and bendin’ for’a’d like, — ‘O, you 're a beauty ! Ahoy ! aho y! and let us fasten ! ’
“We was nearly out of sight of our ship now, but we could see the smoke of her try-works still standin’ black above Her, though the fires had been slacked so long.
“ A11 at once the whale blowed agin ; and we could see her plain now, lyin’ like a log, not more ’n twenty rods ahead. A little more hard pullin’, and ‘Stand up !’ says the Captain, and then, ' Give me the first chance at her! ’ I was a-steerin’ and I steered him steady, closer, closer, alongside a’most, and give his iron the best chance possible ; but it grazed off, and she settled quietly under, all but her head.
“ ‘ That wa’ n’t quite low enough,’ says he. ‘ Another lance ! ’
“ This failed too, and she settled clean under. Every man was quiverin’ with excitement; but I watched calmly, and, as soon as I spied her whitenin’ under water, I sent my lance arter her without orders, and by good forten sunk it into her very life — full length.
“She throwed out a great spout o’ blood, and dashed furiously under.
“ ‘ God help us ! She ’ll come up so as to upset our boat ! ’ cries the captain. ‘Every man here at her, when she comes in sight ! ’
“ He had hardly done speakin’ when I felt a great knock, and at the same time seen somethin’ a-flyin’ through the air. She had just grazed us, shovin’ our boat aside as a pig shoves his trough, and was breakin’ water not a stone’s throw ahead.
“The captain had gone overboard; but we obeyed his last words before we looked arter him, and had a dozen irons into her afore you could ’a’ said Jack Robinson! Down she went agin, pullin’ the line arter her, coil on coil ; but the pain would n’t allow her to stay clown long, and directly she was out agin, thrashin’ the water with her flukes till it was all churned up like blubbers o’ blood, — for her side was bristlin’ with harpoons, and the life pourin’ out on her like rain out of a thunder-cloud.
“ Meantime the captain had been hauled aboard, and as he sunk down on an oar, — for he could n’t stand, — all his shirt and hair a-drippin’ red, his cold, spiteful eye shot into me like a bullet, and says I to the mate, ‘I ’m a doomed man.’ ”
“ Then my father began ramblin’ wildly about goin’ overboard himself, and how he seen a stream o’ fire afore Ins eyes as he sunk into the cold and dark; and how there came an awful pressure on his brain, and a roarin’ in his ears ; and how the strength went out of his thighs, and was as if the marrer was cut,— how he heard a gurglin’, and felt suffocation, and then clean lost himself ! ”
At this point John Chidlaw ceased to be master of his voice, and all at once hid his face in his arms. When the woman who had been listening so attentively, getting one of his rough hands upon her knee, stroked it gently, without a word, and by and by he returned her a little pressure, and then, steadying himself up, he said : “ It ain’t no use to think on’t, Rose,—it’s all over now, and they’ve met beyond the seas o’ time, my poor father and mother, for they both crossed long ago, — met, and knowed each other, I hope, but the one never come to himself here, nor recognized the other. My mother took straight to her bed ; and when she wore the white shawl agin, and had it drawed across her bosom, it was for that journey from which none on us come back.”
“ Dear John,” says Rose, very softly, — all the coquette gone, — only the woman left. And presently he was strong enough to go on.
“ It was a good many year,” he said, “not till I was a’most a man, before I came to understand rightly what it was that sot my father crazy. The captain had been agin him all along on account of his too much sperit, and that capterin’ o’ the whale finished up the business, and pinted his fate. It wa’ n’t long arter this till Captain Griscom found occasion to treat him very hardly, which bein’ resented only by a look, he ordered him down below to be flogged ! This, Rose, was what broke the spirit on him; he was never himself arterwards, never knowed nothin’ at all clear, exceptin’ about the takin’ o’ that whale ; and that he told over and over a hundred times, arter that fust time, just as I ’ve told it to you, but all before it and all behind it was shadders, till the great shadder of all came over him.
“ When I come to hear on’t, I said I hoped my father would meet that ’ere captain som’er’s on the seas of eternity, and flog him within an inch of his life; and I ha’n’t repented the sayin’ on’t yet.”
The tide had come up while John Chidlaw was telling his story, and his little boat slid off the bar directly, when, taking up the oars, he soon brought her to land.
“ Bless your dear heart, John ! ” says Rose, pointing back to the boat’s name, as he handed her ashore, “would you believe I was so stupid as not to see that the name o’ your wessel was the same as my own ? I read it the Rose Rolling, to be sure ! ”
But John maintained that she was not stupid a single bit nor mite, but, on the contrary, smart altogether beyond the common. “To come so nigh the truth,” says he, “and yet not get hold on’t, arter all, is a leetle the slickest thing yet! ”
And then he told, as they walked home together, — he with three bandboxes in one arm, and her on the other, — all about his weary years of hardship and poverty, and all about the beginning of his good fortune, the running away of the horse and of the little girl who drew him after her, because she reminded him so much of Rose herself as she used to be when he looked down upon her so fondly from the roof in Baker’s Row, — told her of the child’s father, and how he set him up in business,— of his prosperity since, ending with her taking passage with him, which he said was the best fortune of all.
“ That was luck,” says he, “ that no words can shadder forth ! ” And then he said, “ I ought n’t to call it luck, my dear ; it was just an intervention of Divine Providence!” Then he corrected himself. “An interwention o’ Diwine Providence,” says he, — “that ’s what it was !” And he hugged the very bandboxes till he fairly stove them in.
About a month after this blessed luck, the milliner’s shop was closed one day at an unusually early hour, and the white-muslin curtains at the parlor windows above might have been noticed to flutter and sway, as with some gay excitement indoors. And so indeed there was. John had taken his Rose for good and all, and the little parlor was full of glad hearts and merry feet. All the milliner’s apprentices and sewing-girls of the neighborhood were there, bright as so many butterflies, laughing, and nodding, and whispering one another, and dropping their eyes before the young sailors, and teamsters, and other fine fellows, who were serving them with a generosity that was only equalled by their admiration. Coffee, cakes, cheese, chowder, bottled beer, fruits, and hot bannocks, — the lasses had them all at once, and the lads would have been glad to give them even more.
And John, grown ten years younger that day, kept all the while (being forced to turn his head away now and then to receive congratulations) one foot under the table, and against the soft slipper and silken stocking of Rose, lest at any moment she might be caught up into heaven, and so vanish out of his sight; and she, in turn, kept fond watch of him, pressing the oranges upon him with almost importunate solicitude. Perhaps she remembered that one which he had parted with for her sake, when he used to look down upon her from the roof of Baker’s Row with such hopeless and helpless admiration.