MARGARET, Mamie’s successor, was a woman in the middle forties. There were little shadowy modelings in her brow which made you think of the smooth hollows of a shell. She gave one the impression of something cast up from the sea and dragged back into it many times. She came of a large family, and although her people had treated her badly (according to her own story), she took pride nevertheless in speaking of them. ‘Me brother Pat,’I may say, was never spoken of without her head going up. She had a taste for distinction, and pride of race was strong in her.
She went on a tour of inspection when she had been with us a few hours.
‘Oh, it’s a noble place,’she said. ‘You can see plainer nor your eyes, it’s been lived in by the gentility! That house has the air of a grand lady, ma’am, sittin’ quiet with her hands folded. And them elms, too, like the grand slow wavin’ of a fan. Them parlors with their long windys have got the air of havin’ seen folk. Me brother Pat worked for a place like this once.’ This with her head up and looking all round. ‘There’s a rich squire lived here at the least,’ — with her eyes narrowed shrewdly and her head nodding, I can give you no idea how knowingly. ‘Yes; and belike maybe a lord. And there were ladies (seems I can see them, God save me!) and little childer, I’ll give warrant, little childer that knew how to behave themselves in the like of these rooms. Don’t it look dreamin’ now, ma’am? Would n’t you say it was thinkin’?’ This with her head on one side, listening, it seemed, for the unseen presences to go by.
Margaret had a great fondness for animals and an extraordinary understanding of them. She had a way of talking with bird and beast that lent reality to the legends of St. Francis. The ‘Sermon to the Birds’ is no more intimate, nor that to the fishes more appropriate than the daily admonitions she gave to the pig, the counsel she tendered the chickens, to which they listened with grave attention, the pig as if hypnotized, his two forefeet planted stolidly, his eyes fixed upon her; the chickens with their heads turned consideringly, now on this side now on the other, and with little guttural comments of question or approval. The wolf reputed to have put his paw in the saint’s hand seemed infinitely less legendary to me after I had seen the pig, released from his pen, follow her to the kitchen stoop, and, with manners as gentlemanly as he could counterfeit, eat out of a pan she held for him. When he had finished, she offered him her hand, as if to pledge him to further good manners; and he made a clumsy pawing motion and managed with her help to get a hoof into her palm. She gave it a grave shake and released it.
‘You’re improvin’,’ was all she said; while the pig, delighted, no doubt, with his new accomplishment, took to his four feet, with squeals of delight, around the corner of the house.
One day there came from about her person a strange chirping, a trifle muffled, like the chirping of a tiny chicken. She absolutely ignored it. She held her head stiff and high, as she was wont to do when she served us or when she referred to ‘me brother Pat.’ But when she saw that the day could not after all be carried by a mere haughty ignoring of facts, she spoke.
‘Poor little uneducated abandoned fowl, ma’am, to cry out against its own interests! I’m sorry, but I could n’t leave it in the cold. So, for the love of its mother and God’s mother, I’m carryin’ it in me bosom to keep it warm. And I’d think you’d be offended if I did n’t believe you’re a follower of Him that carried the lambs there too!’
It was in such ways that she left you no argument, disarmed all objection, and pursued her own way and predilections, as the saints, the poor, and other chosen of the Lord have, I believe, always done.
She assumed a devoted possession of me and my affairs. When these fared ill, she was as Babylon desolated; when they went comparatively well, she was overjoyed, her step lightened, her head went up; she was a city set upon a hill, that cannot be hid. But it was toward those whom she took to be my enemies that she really shone. By shrewd guesses and by dint of a few downright questions, she figured out that a deal of sorrow and calamity had come to me through the selfishness of others. That was enough for her! Might the Lord smite them! Might a murrain seize them and their cattle!
‘But they have no cattle, Margaret! They live in a very large city.’
(It was always a temptation to see how she would right herself.)
‘Then may devastation befittin’ them fall on their basements and their battlements! May their balustrades burst and a sign of pestilence be put upon their door-sills! And — now God forgive me — whenever He’s willin’ to take them — for it’s He would know what to do with them,’ — this with a fierce knowing nod, — ‘He has my willin’ness they should go! I’d think it a fairer earth without them, and I’d greet the sun the friendlier in the morn’n’ for knowin’ He’d not set his bright eye on them.’
Many batter-cakes were stirred to rounded periods of this sort, and omelettes beaten the stiffer for her indignation.
Once it came to her in a roundabout way that illness had fallen upon one of these whom for my sake she despised. She looked shrewdly at something at a very long distance, invisible to any but herself, winked one eye very deliberately, with incredible calculation; then nodded her head slowly, like a witch or sibyl.
‘ What did I tell ye! The currrse is beginnin’ to work!’
Funny as it was there was something awful in it too.
‘ But, Margaret, I don’t wish them any ill. I don’t believe people make others suffer like that if they are in their right minds. Perhaps they think they are doing right.’
‘Of courrrse they do! If they ever could think they were wrong, there’d be salvation for them! But you see how clear it is that they ’re doomed to destruction! ’
‘It’s slow waitin’ on the Lord,’ she said one day wearily. ‘And oh, it’s meself would like to stir them up a little cake befittin’ them!’
I know she thought me a weakling as to hate. But for the insuperable difficulty of several centuries, I believe she would have left me, to ally herself with the Borgias.
When she had been with me some time, she had a serious illness. She had been subject to periodical attacks of the kind, it seems, since her girlhood.
’I did n’t tell you,’ she said simply, ‘for if I had, ye would n’t have engaged me; and I liked the looks of ye.’ Then, triumphantly, ‘Nor was I mistaken.’
This was the beginning of a system of appeals, searching and frequent, which yet never took the direct form of appeal.
‘ It’s I can’t be savin’ how I love this old house,’ she would say irrelevantly one day; and the next, ‘Me brother Pat has been very kind to me at times — at times!’ — here a slow wink and nod at the invisible— ‘but it’s not your own, God save me, that’ll do for you in misfortune! No, ma’am, it’s not your own!’
She began giving me little presents, a lace collar first. I insisted that I would rather she kept it herself.
‘God save us! And all you’ve done for me! ’ Her tone was almost despair.
‘ And you would n’t let me do that for you! A bit of a lace collar! ’
The next time it was a strange mosaic cross; and the next, a queerly contrived egg-beater; again, a very fine and beautiful handkerchief—all of these produced from her trunk. She always had some ingenious tale of how she had come by them.
Meanwhile her attacks were becoming more frequent. At such times she was like one possessed by some spirit. Her mind would wander suddenly, always to her childhood and the Green Isle. She would be calling the cows home at evening, or talking to the pig. When the ‘spirit’ left her, she would be trembling and almost helpless for days and needed much care.
When she was well enough for me to leave her, I went to see her doctor and her people. The first suggested the alms-house: the others thought that they were not called on to keep her unless she would agree to do exactly as they bade her do, and would renounce her proud ways.
Of course I kept her with me. There are extravagances of poverty which may be allowed, as well as of wealth. Something, too, must be conceded to the spirit of adventure and recklessness. It may be at this crossroads that the provident will bid me adieu. I am sorry to lose their company, for, despite their lesser distinction and certain plebeian tendencies, I like the provident; but before they determine to depart, I may be allowed to wonder whether they have ever been in such close relation with the poor as I was then. Have they ever felt the persistent appeal of a Margaret, I wonder, or seen her eyes go twenty times a day to them as to one who held her fate in their keeping? I think perhaps they will not have overheard her say to the pig in a moment of half-gay thankfulness, ‘Arrah! God save us! are ye glad as ye should be ye’re with people that have got a heart?’ Or perhaps the provident will scarcely have been vouchsafed a terrible understanding, as I had at that time, of the dark possibilities of life, or have known what it was to wonder where the next meals would come from.
‘But,’ argue the provident, ‘could she not have gone to her people?’ Which, being interpreted, means: ‘Should she not have taken thankfully the grudged and conditioned charity with dominion, offered her by those in more fortunate circumstances?’
And to that I answer, ‘If you think so, then I can only judge that you know little “ how salt is the bread of others and how steep their stairs"; and I can but refer you to one who has spoken immortally of these matters.’
One day, when she had been ill for more than a week, I told her that she might stay on with me and be cared for, and have a certain very moderate wage, and do only such little light work as she felt able to, all the heavier being taken over by a stronger woman.
She pricked her head up and spoke from a white pillow, equal to fate once more: —
‘Now, God save us! If it is n’t always good that be growin’ out of evil! I’ll be yer housekeeper! And who’ll ye have for a cook? ’T is I’ll be keepin’ the key of things! Bring along the cook! Black or white, I don’t care. I kin manage her!’ (This threateningly).
This was alarming, but I counted upon inspiration and ingenuity when the time came.
I found a West India darky, whose condition also needed improving. She was a fine type. She might have walked out of the jungles of Africa; magnificently powerful, a little old. She was as irrevocably Protestant as Margaret was Catholic. I urged each privately to remember that they were both the Lord’s children and therefore sisters. Augusta took this in solemn religious spirit, — such a speech on my part bound her to me forever, — but Margaret, with a chip on her shoulder, said, —
‘She can call herself a Christian if she likes, but it is an insult to the Lord, for she’s nothin’ better nor a heathen! Black like that!’
‘But, Margaret, you said you would not object to a black woman.’
‘No, ma’am, nor I don’t!’ said Margaret, veering swiftly after her own manner; ‘it’s her pink lips I can’t shtand.’
This was the beginning of their warfare; which not inconsistently was made infinitely the more bitter by Augusta’s fixed resolve to be a Christian.
Impossible as Margaret was, I could see that her appealing and lovable qualities played on Augusta as they had long played on me.
‘The poor afflicted soul!’ said Augusta; ‘look at the poor thin temples. You don’t know, ma’am, how I pray for her every night!’
Margaret, passing by unexpectedly, overheard this and cried out, —
‘Oh, God save us! Then I am lost. The Lord will abandon me now for sure! He’ll never forgive me such company ! That’s the wurst yet! ’
Then she went off for a long conversation with the pig. When she came back she was in a changed mood.
‘Don’t mind what I say,’ she said to me. ‘If God can forgive me, I don’t know I’m sure, why you can’t!’ Then she put a rosy-cheeked apple beside Augusta. ‘And I think you’ll find this pleasant to the taste.’
Remembering the Borgias, I should have been loath to taste it; but Augusta bit into it with immediate Christian forgiveness. Yet late that afternoon the wind had shifted again into the old quarter. Happening to go into the woodshed, I found Augusta there crying.
‘What in the world is the matter, Augusta?’ I asked.
‘I’m crying,’ she said, anticipating Shaw and Androcles, ‘because I’m a Christian and I can’t strike her!’
She raised her old bloodshot eyes, not to me, but to heaven. I have seen the same look in the eyes of an old dog teased by a pert mongrel, and crippled and rendered helpless by rheumatism as was Augusta by her Christianity.
It was Margaret herself at last, who announced that she would be obliged to leave me. She spoke with a dignity which she had held over, I suppose, from regal years submerged but not forgotten.
‘It’s I will have to be goin’; I’ve stayed as long as I can. I’ve stood a great deal, — for ye’ll stand a terrible lot for them ye’re fond of, — and I’ve been terrible fond of you, more than of me own — and am to this day. But I can’t honest say it’s of your deservin’! There’s a sayin’ that we love best them that mistreat us most, and I’m for thinkin’ it may be true. I’d have stayed to help you, but I must be havin’ some thought of meself! Though you ’ve treated me as I would n’t treat me own,’ — this tellingly, — ‘and asked me to live under the roof with one of them the Lord has abandoned — yet I’ve a kindly feelin’ in me heart still for ye, and if ye were in need and ye’d come to me, maybe I would n’t say ye nay — I don’t know. I’m a forgivin’ disposition, more than is for me own good, God knows! I’ve hated yer enemies and doomed them to desthruction! ’
I patted her hand good-bye between two perfectly well balanced desires to laugh and to cry. She was so funny, so incredible, so bent, since the foundations of the world, on proving herself right and everybody else wrong. She was not Margaret, merely, whom chance and trouble had brought into my path — she was a very piece of humanity, decked out in unaccustomed bonnet and unlikely feather, best petticoat and a grand pair of black kid gloves — humanity, the ancient, the amusing, the faulty, the incredible, the pathetic, the endeared. And it was as that that she rode away in the funny old jolting farm wagon, her chin in the air, her eyes glancing around haughtily, scanning the old place she had loved and clung to, but scanning it scornfully now, as if she had never laid eyes on it before, and were saying, ‘Ye puir thing! — with yer air of deelapidation! Who — God save us — are you?’
All this was some years ago. By a curious chance, — which has the air of being something more considerable,
— it was while I was writing these very paragraphs about Margaret that I had a letter from her, the first since she rode away. It was very characteristic, written in a scrawly and benevolent hand:—
Will you please let me hear, ma’am, whether you’re dead or alive. I’ve had you on my mind, and for six weeks I can’t sleep night or day for thinking of you.
Your old servant,
Let no one tell me that this is mere coincidence. New proof it is to one who has long dealt with the poor, of strange powers of which they are possessed. Here is a sister, I tell you, — ‘plainer nor your eyes,’— to the old blind man, who used to come tap-tap, tap-tapping up the shadowy stairs and into the nursery for the penny I had withheld.
Margaret had come back also. Useless to suppose that I could hide from her in the silence and shadows of the intervening years. She had with her shrewd eye found me out. She had not come, like the blind man, to exact money of me, no; but like a witch disembodied, and through the mail, she had come to levy a more precious tax — to collect as of old the old sympathetic affection; the old toll I had paid her so often before; the tribute she had demanded and received times without number — not for labors rendered, no, nor for accountable values received, but rather by a kind of royal prerogative. Indeed, I take it to be a thing proved, to which this is but slight additional testimony, that these are, how much more than kings, — and it would seem by the grace of God, — sovereigns and rulers over us.
But there is still further testimony, of another order, which I feel called on to bear.
When we first went to live in the country, in the old house of which I have written, we had a sufficiently large task merely to make the house itself livable. But as time went on, we attempted to do a very little farming.
How greatly did this broaden and extend my experience as to the poor! There were the boys from ten to sixteen who came (again, these were those whose condition needed improving) to do work on the farm for the summers: Joseph, the Hebrew, who from his long and elaborate prayers should have been at least a priest of the Temple; Lester, so practised in picking locks and purloining that it was sheer waste of genius to place him in a homelike ours, where jewelry and other returns for his skill were so slender. He did the best he could with the circumstances, but how meagre they were, after all!
There was the little girl, too, who could dance and recite and sing ragtime, having done so in vaudeville. Our home offered her neither audience nor stage, nor was there a foot light in the house. And there was the young Apollo, who at the least could have shepherded the sheep of Admetus; we had no sheep — only one cow.
Then there was Ernest, capable of really heroic devotion. How far did our possibilities fall short of his gifts! I did not engage him — he engaged me. I was setting out the disadvantages as usual, when he blurted out generously, ‘I like you, and I am going to take this position!’ He was blond, German, of the perfectly good-natured type and of heroic proportions. But, like the ancient heroes of his race, he was fond of the cup that both cheers and inebriates. I used to remonstrate with him and received always one answer, given stubbornly: ’You know I’d jump in the river for you!’
I tried my best to show him that what was desirable was, not that he should fling himself into the river, only that he should refrain from the cup! Useless, useless! He wanted a more royal opportunity. To be sober, trustworthy, honorable, daily dependable — these were too trifling! Give him something worthy of his powers! The unlikely and surprising were pleasing to his temperament. He would how generously neglect his work to bring home from the field rabbits, which he shot with an old muzzle-loader, requiring days of toil before it could be got to work at all. Once he produced a pheasant. Lacking the Nemean lion, he butchered a pig, and smoked the pork for me, by an incredibly laborious method, under two barrels, one on top of the other. He hewed down trees with terrible strokes, and built me with Herculean effort a corn-crib of gigantic size to hold a handful of corn he had raised.
All these things, while I appreciated them, left his grave fault uncorrected. But to rebuke him on this score was to quarrel with Hercules for some trifling mistake in his spinning. ’You know I would jump in the river for you!’ he would reiterate.
There really is something ample in their conceptions of life which goes beyond our small bickerings as to honor and honesty. There is a largeness about them which makes our code look small indeed.
After Ernest’s departure, another came for a few months, who had surprising resources. He made a practice of bringing me gifts from I do not know where — strawberries, asparagus, and other delicacies, given him presumably, and for the most part, by gardeners of gentlemen’s estates in the outlying land — ‘friends of his.’
I suggested, with misgivings as to ethics, that I ought to pay for these things; but he smiled benevolently as a king on a subject, and with a manner as bounteous. I had the impression that the world was his.
In the face of his generosities, I felt my behaviors to be feeble and inadequate. These were bounties of a kind to which I was unaccustomed and parvenu, I who had none of the ancient quarterings which would have entitled me to such gratuities; I who had been brought up to the deplorably plebeian idea that one must pay for what one takes.
These are occasions, when, frankly, I am at a loss how to deport myself. I do not know the behaviors befitting. My etiquette does not go so far; and Chesterfield, who covers so many points, stops short of this: he says nothing on the subject.
Oh, royal ways! Oh, fine prerogatives! What hope have I, who am but descended from the founders of a mere country, from men who fought and poured out their blood rather than pay for what they did not receive — what hope is there that I shall ever attain to that gracious and lordly company which receives, as a right, that for which it does not pay!
I have named but a few of these princely characters and their deportments; but remembering them all and weighing all their values, I believe that ‘the brightest jewel in my crown wad’ still be— Margharetta.
I have never been entirely certain that Margharetta was not descended from the Bourbons. Her husband was in jail for theft, and was a poet. ‘I will show you some of his poetry,’ she promised me in the first five minutes of my acquaintance with her. ‘Some of my friends say he is as great a poet as Shakespeare.’
Like Marie Antoinette, she had three children. Her husband’s misfortune had made it necessary to put these under the care of others. She talked of them incessantly, and assured me that no heart could bleed like a mother’s.
As we drove up from the station, she looked all about her, with the air of a Siddons.
‘Would n’t Ethel enjoy this scenery!’ she remarked, still very grand, but almost awed, it seemed. ‘She’s such a poetic child!’ (Ethel was the oldest, a little girl of ten.) ‘And these trees!’ she said solemnly, as we entered the grave lordly shadows of the hemlocks. ‘Would n’t Richard enjoy them, now!’ (Richard was the Dauphin, aged six.)
When we at last got to the house, and she entered the kitchen in her grand manner, it seemed to grow large — as the lintels and chambers of the Greeks are said to have done when the gods visited them. The walls seemed to widen out, and the pans and kettles took on a shining stateliness. I have difficulty when writing of her to keep myself to fact, so gracious, so spacious, was her manner. I know, for instance, that her dresses all dipped a little at the back, yet I have the greatest temptation to say she wore a court train, so much was that the enlarging impression that she at all times conveyed. She was the most dominating personality, I believe, that I have ever known. Like a French verb, she seemed to cover and account for all possibilities. She reminded you of the infinitive, the subjunctive, the future, the indicative, the plus-que-parfait. Entering the diningroom, her handsome hands bearing — always a little aloft — the corned beef or pot roast that should have been a peacock at the very least, she conveyed, silently, time and tense and person, passive and active: ‘I am’;
‘ let us love ’; ‘ let us have’; ‘ thou hast ’; ‘I have not’; ’if I had!’
Added to the many unconscious appeals that Margharetta was forever making to me, she finally made a direct one. Informing me once more that no heart could bleed like a mother’s, she begged to be allowed to have, if it were only one of her children with her, the little girl aged ten. I consented, and went myself to fetch her.
She was a beautiful child. She had a great deal of Margharetta’s own handsome insolent beauty, but she had in addition a craft and ability for lying and deception astounding in one so young. Ten years old by the calendar she no doubt was; but by sundry other reckonings, she might have been ten thousand — a strange, pathetic, puzzling little girl.
For a time Margharetta’s heart was staunched. But ere long it began to bleed afresh for the one who was, it was now clear, her dearest — Richard, the little Dauphin. She would stand looking out of the window, the picture of wretchedness. ‘He is such an angelic little fellow! I can’t begin to tell ypu! Oh, if I could only see him! If I could only have him in my arms once more!’
I make no apology. I only tell the event, perhaps a little shamefacedly. It was not long after this that I went and fetched Richard also.
If his sister was ten thousand, Richard was, I think, of prehistoric origin. He had carried over from the Stone Age a strange ability for having his own way at heavy cost. He had never been in the country. His passion for flowers would have been a hopeful and poetic thing, had it but been accompanied by a knowledge of what flowers were. He would appear in full rapture, bearing a huge bouquet of young beanplants or a large nosegay of freshly planted cabbages. Never, despite my faithful efforts, did he lose his passionate love of flowers, and never, despite my equally faithful endeavors, did he learn to know what flowers were. I think they were to him anything that could be gathered with greatest ease in largest bunches. With this definition in mind, it will be seen that a vegetable garden offers superlative opportunities.
Margharetta could see in all this nothing but a newly interesting phase of her darling. I was there when he brought her his third generous bouquet. She took it into her gracious handsome hands, held it off a little, then appealed to me for appreciation: —
‘Now, isn’t that his mother’s boy? He brings everything to me.'
I had explained to Margharetta before that, right as filial affection undoubtedly is, the gathering of young tomato-plants from the garden had come to be fearfully wrong. I now repeated this severely, then addressed the Dauphin direct.
‘You are never, never to gather anything from the garden again; do you understand?’
Back went the Dauphin’s head suddenly; his face became a purple mask of tragedy; his eyes rained intolerable tears; he broke forth into a most wild and tragic wail.
Margharetta stooped, gathered him to her bosom with one of her finest gestures, lifted him sobbing in her arms, laid his head against her shoulder, held it there with a possessive queenly hand, and with a colder look thrown at me, I am sure, t han ever the Bourbons threw at the mob, carried him upstairs.
Later she explained to me haughtily what the Dauphin had meanwhile explained to her — he had been told to gather those plants.
‘ Told to gather them?’
’Yes. Come, lamb, tell just what Tony said to you.’
‘Tony said,’began Richard, a little breathless, but resolved, and twisting and braiding his fingers as he spoke, ‘Tony said, “You can have all the flowers you want, every day, and I think your mother would like the tomato-plants best.” ’
This sudden opera-bouffe turn of affairs really took me off my feet. When I suggested that it was quite certain that Tony would contradict Richard’s statement, Margharetta’s reply was perfectly consistent. Did I suppose she would take the word of ‘a noaccount Eye-talian ’ against that of her darling?’
So I found myself once more face to face with that total disregard of fact and probabilities which I had now come to know as one of the leading characteristics of her class. It was for me to remember that miracle waits upon them; that nothing is improbable to them if it but coincide with their desires; that truth shall not serve them unless it goes dressed in their livery. Nothing could be done about the matter. We were at a deadlock. What were mere logic and reason? What are they ever in the face of a faith chosen and adhered to?
Margharetta stood firm’ in an unshaken faith in her own, while I departed, to wonder why it is that humanity deports itself as decently as it does, with these dark powers, not only at work in it, but hugely at work in it, all the while.
The days went on. In the course of becoming acquainted with the country, the little Princess and the Dauphin underwent, of course, many tragic adventures. Though they had me so well in command that I ran to do their bidding, or flew to their rescue, at a mere summoning shriek, wind, water, fire, cats, dogs, cows, horses, poison ivy, snapping turtles, and sundry other folk were not so biddable.
This recalcitrancy led to tragedies innumerable. When either or both children were hurt by some fact or reality which by mere royal habit they had haughtily ignored, and when they were beaten in the fray and wounded, Margharetta was as one bereft of her senses. Panic seized her. She flung herself upon my mercy and my intelligence. She wrung her hands. She was distraught. She could do nothing herself for her darlings, but was wild with gratitude and watched with tragic animal eyes everything that I was able to do for them. How wonderful I was at such moments! How could she ever thank me! Then from my ministrations she would receive into her arms the battered Princess or dilapidated Dauphin, as it might have been from the hands of a relented Providence.
My own glory lasted only during the danger, however. Her darlings secure, she was not long in reascending her throne, and continued to behave with entire consistency as to her probable ancestry. She was the only real queen, with all a queen’s regality and insolence, that I have ever dealt with. It is clear to me now that I was hypnotized by her manner to think it a privilege to be of use to her in the calamities of herself and her family. It is true I did at last make a fearful revolutionary stand for liberty, and bundled her and the young Princess of ten and ten thousand, and the little prehistoric Dauphin off one day, and began as best I could to reconstruct life; but not before I had come fearfully near, in the Versailles manner in which Margharetta had conducted herself and our kitchen, being a ‘condition’ myself.
It is now five years ago, ‘of a sunny morning,’ since they left us, and the post brought me the other day a short letter from Margharetta enclosing a ‘poem’ by her husband, on the death of the little girl. She ‘wanted me to know.’ I feel quite sure that the letter was divided between sorrow for her loss and pride in her husband’s performance.
The circumstance touched me more than I would have supposed possible. I thought of course of a mother’s ‘bleeding heart.’ Poor Margharetta, for all her queenliness and all her disregard of fact, brought at last with the humblest of us to face the one supreme reality; and weaving as best she could some fancy about that, too, and turning away her face from it toward some consolation of reunion which (the verses promised this) was to be given her in another life, and, I doubt not, also toward the pride in this life of being wedded to a man (let us waive the matter of the jail) who could write poetry, and was, some thought, ‘as great as Shakespeare.’