FAITH GARTNEY'S GIRLHOOD
MRS. A. D. T. WHITNEY
Author of "The Gayworthy's," "A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life," "Footsteps on the Seas," etc.
New York The New York Book Company 1913
I. "Money, Money!" 1 II. Sortes. 4 III. Aunt Henderson. 6 IV. Glory McWhirk. 10 V. Something Happens. 15 VI. Aunt Henderson's Girl Hunt. 26 VII. Cares; And What Came Of Them. 31 VIII. A Niche In Life, And A Woman To Fill It. 34 IX. Life Or Death? 37 X. Rough Ends. 40 XI. Cross Corners. 43 XII. A Reconnoissance. 49 XIII. Development. 54 XIV. A Drive With The Doctor. 59 XV. New Duties. 65 XVI. "Blessed Be Ye, Poor." 68 XVII. Frost-Wonders. 75 XVIII. Out In The Snow. 79 XIX. A "Leading." 85 XX. Paul. 89 XXI. Pressure. 94 XXII. Roger Armstrong's Story. 99 XXIII. Question And Answer. 103 XXIV. Conflict. 112 XXV. A Game At Chess. 116 XXVI. Lakeside. 120 XXVII. At The Mills. 124 XXVIII. Locked In. 127 XXIX. Home. 135 XXX. Aunt Henderson's Mystery. 140 XXXI. Nurse Sampson's Way Of Looking At It. 147 XXXII. Glory Mcwhirk's Inspiration. 152 XXXIII. Last Hours. 157 XXXIV. Mrs. Parley Gimp. 160 XXXV. Indian Summer. 164 XXXVI. Christmastide. 169 XXXVII. The Wedding Journey. 177
FAITH GARTNEY'S GIRLHOOD
"Shoe the horse and shoe the mare, And let the little colt go bare."
East or West, it matters not where—the story may, doubtless, indicate something of latitude and longitude as it proceeds—in the city of Mishaumok, lived Henderson Gartney, Esq., one of those American gentlemen of whom, if she were ever canonized, Martha of Bethany must be the patron saint—if again, feminine celestials, sainthood once achieved through the weary experience of earth, don't know better than to assume such charge of wayward man—born, as they are, seemingly, to the life destiny of being ever "careful and troubled about many things."
We have all of us, as little girls, read "Rosamond." Now, one of Rosamond's early worries suggests a key to half the worries, early and late, of grown men and women. The silver paper won't cover the basket.
Mr. Gartney had spent his years, from twenty-five to forty, in sedulously tugging at the corners. He had had his share of silver paper, too—only the basket was a little too big.
In a pleasant apartment, half library, half parlor, and used in the winter months as a breakfast room, beside a table still covered with the remnants of the morning meal, sat Mrs. Gartney and her young daughter, Faith; the latter with a somewhat disconcerted, not to say rueful, expression of face.
A pair of slippers on the hearth and the morning paper thrown down beside an armchair, gave hint of the recent presence of the master of the house.
"Then I suppose I can't go," remarked the young lady.
"I'm sure I don't know," answered the elder, in a helpless, worried sort of tone. "It doesn't seem really right to ask your father for the money. I did just speak of your wanting some things for a party, but I suppose he has forgotten it; and, to-day, I hate to trouble him with reminding. Must you really have new gloves and slippers, both?"
Faith held up her little foot for answer, shod with a partly worn bronze kid, reduced to morning service.
"These are the best I've got. And my gloves have been cleaned over and over, till you said yourself, last time, they would hardly do to wear again. If it were any use, I should say I must have a new dress; but I thought at least I should freshen up with the 'little fixings,' and perhaps have something left for a few natural flowers for my hair."
"I know. But your father looked annoyed when I told him we should want fresh marketing to-day. He is really pinched, just now, for ready money—and he is so discouraged about the times. He told me only last night of a man who owed him five hundred dollars, and came to say he didn't know as he could pay a cent. It doesn't seem to be a time to afford gloves and shoes and flowers. And then there'll be the carriage, too."
"Oh, dear!" sighed Faith, in the tone of one who felt herself checkmated. "I wish I knew what we really could afford! It always seems to be these little things that don't cost much, and that other girls, whose fathers are not nearly so well off, always, have, without thinking anything about it." And she glanced over the table, whereon shone a silver coffee service, and up at the mantel where stood a French clock that had been placed there a month before.
"Pull at the bobbin and the latch will fly up." An unspoken suggestion, of drift akin to this, flitted through the mind of Faith. She wondered if her father knew that this was a Signal Street invitation.
Mr. Gartney was ambitious for his children, and solicitous for their place in society.
But Faith had a touch of high-mindedness about her that made it impossible for her to pull bobbins.
So, when her father presently, with hat and coat on, came into the room again for a moment, before going out for the day, she sat quite silent, with her foot upon the fender, looking into the fire.
Something in her face however, quite unconsciously, bespoke that the world did not lie entirely straight before her, and this catching her father's eye, brought up to him, by an untraceable association, the half-proffered request of his wife.
"So you haven't any shoes, Faithie. Is that it?"
"None nice enough for a party, father."
"And the party is a vital necessity, I suppose. Where is it to be?"
The latch string was put forth, and while Faith still stayed her hand, her mother, absolved from selfish end, was fain to catch it up.
"At the Rushleighs'. The Old Year out and the New Year in."
"Oh, well, we mustn't 'let the colt go bare,'" answered Mr. Gartney, pleasantly, portemonnaie in hand. "But you must make that do." He handed her five dollars. "And take good care of your things when you have got them, for I don't pick up many five dollars nowadays."
And the old look of care crept up, replacing the kindly smile, as he turned and left the room.
"I feel very much as if I had picked my father's pocket," said Faith, holding the bank note, half ashamedly, in her hand.
Henderson Gartney, Esq., was a man of no method in his expenditure. When money chanced to be plenty with him it was very apt to go as might happen—for French clocks, or whatsoever; and then, suddenly, the silver paper fell short elsewhere, and lo! a corner was left uncovered.
The horse and the mare were shod. Great expenses were incurred; money was found, somehow, for grand outlays; but the comfort of buying, with a readiness, the little needed matters of every day—this was foregone. "Not let the colt go bare!" It was precisely the thing he was continually doing.
Mrs. Gartney had long found it to be her only wise way to make her hay while the sun was shining—to buy, when she could buy, what she was sure would be most wanted—and to look forward as far as possible, in her provisions, since her husband scarcely seemed to look forward at all.
So she exemplified, over and over again in her life, the story of Pharaoh and his fat and lean kine.
That night, Faith, her little purchases and arrangements all complete, and flowers and carriage bespoken for the next evening, went to bed to dream such dreams as only come to the sleep of early years.
At the same time, lingering by the fireside below for a half hour's unreserved conversation, Mr. Gartney was telling his wife of another money disappointment.
"Blacklow, at Cross Corners, gives up the lease of the house in the spring. He writes me he is going out to Indiana with his son-in-law. I don't know where I shall find another such tenant—or any at all, for that matter."
"How shall I know if I do choose the right?"
"Since this fortune falls to you, Be content, and seek no new." MERCHANT OF VENICE.
"Now, Mahala Harris," said Faith, as she glanced in at the nursery door, which opened from her room, "don't let Hendie get up a French Revolution here while I'm gone to dinner."
"Land sakes! Miss Faith! I don't know what you mean, nor whether I can help it. I dare say he'd get up a Revolution of '76, over again, if he once set out. He does train like 'lection, fact, sometimes."
"Well, don't let him build barricades with all the chairs, so that I shall have to demolish my way back again. I'm going to lay out my dress for to-night."
And very little dinner could her young appetite manage on this last day of the year. All her vital energy was busy in her anticipative brain, and glancing thence in sparkles from her eyes, and quivering down in swift currents to her restless little feet. It mattered little that there was delicious roast beef smoking on the table, and Christmas pies arrayed upon the sideboard, while upstairs the bright ribbon and tiny, shining, old-fashioned buckles were waiting to be shaped into rosettes for the new slippers, and the lace hung, half basted, from the neck of the simple but delicate silk dress, and those lovely greenhouse flowers stood in a glass dish on her dressing table, to be sorted for her hair, and into a graceful breast knot. No—dinner was a very secondary and contemptible affair, compared with these.
There were few forms or faces, truly, that were pleasanter to look upon in the group that stood, disrobed of their careful outer wrappings, in Mrs. Rushleigh's dressing room; their hurried chat and gladsome greetings distracted with the drawing on of gloves and the last adjustment of shining locks, while the bewildering music was floating up from below, mingled with the hum of voices from the rooms where, as children say, "the party had begun" already.
And Mrs. Rushleigh, when Faith paid her timid respects in the drawing-room at last, made her welcome with a peculiar grace and empressement that had their own flattering weight and charm; for the lady was a sort of St. Peter of fashion, holding its mystic keys, and admitting or rejecting whom she would; and culled, with marvelous tact and taste, the flower of the up-growing world of Mishaumok to adorn "her set."
After which, Faith, claimed at once by an eager aspirant, and beset with many a following introduction and petition, was drawn to and kept in the joyous whirlpool of the dance, till she had breathed in enough of delight and excitement to carry her quite beyond the thought even of ices and oysters and jellies and fruits, and the score of unnamable luxuries whereto the young revelers were duly summoned at half past ten o'clock.
Four days' anticipation—four hours' realization—culminated in the glorious after-supper midnight dance, when, marshaled hither and thither by the ingenious orders of the band, the jubilant company found itself, just on the impending stroke of twelve, drawn out around the room in one great circle; and suddenly a hush of the music, at the very poising instant of time, left them motionless for a moment to burst out again in the age-honored and heartwarming strains of "Auld Lang Syne." Hand joining hand they sang its chorus, and when the last note had lingeringly died away, one after another gently broke from their places, and the momentary figure melted out with the dying of the Year, never again to be just so combined. It was gone, as vanishes also every other phase and grouping in the kaleidoscope of Time.
"Now is the very 'witching hour' to try the Sortes!"
Margaret Rushleigh said this, standing on the threshold of a little inner apartment that opened from the long drawing-room, at one end.
She held in her hand a large and beautiful volume—a gift of Christmas Day.
"Here are Fates for everybody who cares to find them out!"
The book was a collection of poetical quotations, arranged by numbers, and to be chosen thereby, and the chance application taken as an oracle.
Everything like fortune telling, or a possible peering into the things of coming time, has such a charm! Especially with them to whom the past is but a prelude and beginning, and for whom the great, voluminous Future holds enwrapped the whole mystic Story of Life!
"No, no, this won't do!" cried the young lady, as circle behind circle closed and crowded eagerly about her. "Fate doesn't give out her revelations in such wholesale fashion. You must come up with proper reverence, one by one."
As she spoke, she withdrew a little within the curtained archway, and, placing the crimson-covered book of destiny upon an inlaid table, brought forward a piano stool, and seated herself thereon, as a priestess upon a tripod.
A little shyly, one after another, gaining knowledge of what was going on, the company strayed in from without, and, each in turn hazarding a number, received in answer the rhyme or stanza indicated; and who shall say how long those chance-directed words, chosen for the most part with the elastic ambiguity of all oracles of any established authority, lingered echoing in the heads and hearts of them to whom they were given—shaping and confirming, or darkening with their denial many an after hope and fear?
Faith Gartney came up among the very last.
"How many numbers are there to choose from?" she asked.
"Three hundred and sixty-five. The number of days in the year."
"Well, then, I'll take the number of the day; the last—no, I forgot—the first of all."
Nobody before had chosen this, and Margaret read, in a clear, gentle voice, not untouched with the grave beauty of its own words, and the sweet, earnest, listening look of the young face that bent toward her to take them in:
"Rouse to some high and holy work of love, And thou an angel's happiness shalt know; Shalt bless the earth while in the world above; The good begun by thee while here below Shall like a river run, and broader flow."
Ten minutes later, and all else were absorbed in other things again—leave-takings, parting chat, and a few waltzing a last measure to a specially accorded grace of music. Faith stood, thoughtfully, by the table where the book was closed and left. She quietly reopened it at that first page. Unconscious of a step behind her, her eyes ran over the lines again, to make their beautiful words her own.
"And that was your oracle, then?" asked a kindly voice.
Glancing quickly up, while the timid color flushed her cheek, she met a look as of a wise and watchful angel, though it came through the eye and smile of a gray-haired man, who laid his hand upon the page as he said:
"Remember—it is conditional."
"I never met a manner more entirely without frill." SYDNEY SMITH.
Late into the morning of the New Year, Faith slept. Through her half consciousness crept, at last, a feeling of music that had been wandering in faint echoes among the chambers of her brain all those hours of her suspended life.
Light, and music, and a sense of an unexamined, half-remembered joy, filled her being and embraced her at her waking on this New Year's Day. A moment she lay in a passive, unthinking delight; and then her first, full, and distinct thought shaped itself, as from a sweet and solemn memory:
"Rouse to some high and holy work of love, And thou an angel's happiness shalt know."
An impulse of lofty feeling held her in its ecstasy; a noble longing and determination shaped itself, though vaguely, within her. For a little, she was touched in her deepest and truest nature; she was uplifted to the threshold of a great resolve. But generalities are so grand—details so commonplace and unsatisfying. What should she do? What "high and holy work" lay waiting for her?
And, breaking in upon her reverie—bringing her down with its rough and common call to common duty—the second bell for breakfast rang.
"Oh, dear! It is no use! Who'll know what great things I've been wishing and planning, when I've nothing to show for it but just being late to breakfast? And father hates it so—and New Year's morning, too!"
Hurrying her toilet, she repaired, with all the haste possible, to the breakfast room, where her consciousness of shortcoming was in nowise lessened when she saw who occupied the seat at her father's right hand—Aunt Henderson!
Aunt Faith Henderson, who had reached her nephew's house last evening just after the young Faith, her namesake, had gone joyously off to "dance the Old Year out and the New Year in." Old-fashioned Aunt Faith—who believed most devoutly that "early to bed and early to rise" was the only way to be "healthy, wealthy, or wise!" Aunt Faith, who had never quite forgiven our young heroine for having said, at the discreet and positive age of nine, that "she didn't see what her father and mother had called her such an ugly name for. It was a real old maid's name!" Whereupon, having asked the child what she would have preferred as a substitute, and being answered, "Well—Clotilda, I guess; or Cleopatra," Miss Henderson had told her that she was quite welcome to change it for any heathen woman's that she pleased, and the worse behaved perhaps the better. She wouldn't be so likely to do it any discredit!
Aunt Henderson had a downright and rather extreme fashion of putting things; nevertheless, in her heart she was not unkindly.
So when Faithie, with her fair, fresh face—a little apprehensive trouble in it for her tardiness—came in, there was a grim bending of the old lady's brows; but, below, a half-belying twinkle in the eye, that, long as it had looked out sharply and keenly on the things and people of this mixed-up world, found yet a pleasure in anything so young and bright.
"Why, auntie! How do you do?" cried Faith, cunning culprit that she was, taking the "bull by the horns," and holding out her hand. "I wish you a Happy New Year! Good morning, father, and mother! A Happy New Year! I'm sorry I'm so late."
"Wish you a great many," responded the great-aunt, in stereotyped phrase. "It seems to me, though, you've lost the beginning of this one."
"Oh, no!" replied Faithie, gayly. "I had that at the party. We danced the New Year in."
"Humph!" said Aunt Henderson.
Breakfast over, and Mr. Gartney gone to his counting room, the parlor girl made her appearance with her mop and tub of hot water, to wash up the silver and china.
"Give me that," said Aunt Henderson, taking a large towel from the girl's arm as she set down her tub upon the sideboard. "You go and find something else to do."
Wherever she might be—to be sure, her round of visiting was not a large one—Aunt Henderson never let anyone else wash up breakfast cups.
This quiet arming of herself, with mop and towel, stirred up everybody else to duty. Her niece-in-law laughed, withdrew her feet from the comfortable fender, and departed to the kitchen to give her household orders for the day. Faith removed cups, glasses, forks, and spoons from the table to the sideboard, while the maid, returning with a tray, carried off to the lower regions the larger dishes.
"I haven't told you yet, Elizabeth, what I came to town for," said Aunt Faith, when Mrs. Gartney came back into the breakfast room. "I'm going to hunt up a girl."
"A girl, aunt! Why, what has become of Prudence?"
"Mrs. Pelatiah Trowe. That's what's become of her. More fool she."
"But why in the world do you come to the city for a servant? It's the worst possible place. Nineteen out of twenty are utterly good for nothing."
"I'm going to look out for the twentieth."
"But aren't there girls enough in Kinnicutt who would be glad to step in Prue's place?"
"Of course there are. But they're all well enough off where they are. When I have a chance to give away, I want to give it to somebody that needs it."
"I'm afraid you'll hardly find any efficient girl who will appreciate the chance of going twenty miles into the country."
"I don't want an efficient girl. I'm efficient myself, and that's enough."
"Going to train another, at your time of life, aunt?" asked Mrs. Gartney, in surprise.
"I suppose I must either train a girl, or let her train me; and, at my time of life, I don't feel to stand in need of that."
"How shall I go to work to inquire?" resumed Aunt Henderson, after a pause.
"Well, there are the Homes, and the Offices, and the Ministers at Large. At a Home, they would probably recommend you somebody they've made up their minds to put out to service, and she might or might not be such as would suit you. Then at the Offices, you'll see all sorts, and mostly poor ones."
"I'll try an Office, first," interrupted Miss Henderson. "I want to see all sorts. Faith, you'll go with me, by and by, won't you, and help me find the way?"
Faith, seated at a little writing table at the farther end of the room, busied in copying into her album, in a clear, neat, but rather stiff schoolgirl's hand, the oracle of the night before, did not at once notice that she was addressed.
"Faith, child! don't you hear?"
"Oh, yes, aunt. What is it?"
"I want you to go to a what-d'ye-call-it office with me, to-day."
"An intelligence office," explained her mother. "Aunt Faith wants to find a girl."
"'Lucus a non lucendo,'" quoted Faith, rather wittily, from her little stock of Latin. "Stupidity offices, I should call them, from the specimens they send out."
"Hold your tongue, chit! Don't talk Latin to me!" growled Aunt Henderson.
"What are you writing?" she asked, shortly after, when Mrs. Gartney had again left her and Faith to each other. "Letters, or Latin?"
Faith colored, and laughed.
"Only a fortune that was told me last night," she replied.
"Oh! 'A little husband,' I suppose, 'no bigger than my thumb; put him in a pint pot, and there bid him drum.'"
"No," said Faith, half seriously, and half teased out of her seriousness. "It's nothing of that sort. At least," she added, glancing over the lines again, "I don't think it means anything like that."
And Faith laid down the book, and went upstairs for a word with her mother.
Aunt Henderson, who had been brought up in times when all the doings of young girls were strictly supervised, and who had no high-flown scruples, because she had no mean motives, deliberately walked over and fetched the elegant little volume from the table, reseated herself in her armchair—felt for her glasses, and set them carefully upon her nose—and, as her grandniece returned, was just finishing her perusal of the freshly inscribed lines.
"Humph! A good fortune. Only you've got to earn it."
"Yes," said Faith, quite gravely. "And I don't see how. There doesn't seem to be much that I can do."
"Just take hold of the first thing that comes in your way. If the Lord's got anything bigger to give you, he'll see to it. There's your mother's mending basket brimful of stockings."
Faith couldn't help laughing. Presently she grew grave again.
"Aunt Henderson," said she, abruptly, "I wish something would happen to me. I get tired of living sometimes. Things don't seem worth while."
Aunt Henderson bent her head slightly, and opened her eyes wide over the tops of her glasses.
"Don't say that again," said she. "Things happen fast enough. Don't you dare to tempt Providence."
"Providence won't be tempted, nor misunderstand," replied Faith, an undertone of reverence qualifying her girlish repartee. "He knows just what I mean."
"She's a queer child," said Aunt Faith to herself, afterwards, thinking over the brief conversation. "She'll be something or nothing, I always said. I used to think 'twould be nothing."
"There's beauty waiting to be born, And harmony that makes no sound; And bear we ever, unawares, A glory that hath not been crowned."
Shall I try to give you a glimpse of quite another young life than Faith Gartney's? One looking also vaguely, wonderingly, for "something to happen"—that indefinite "something" which lies in everybody's future, which may never arrive, and yet which any hour may bring?
Very little likelihood there has ever seemed for any great joy to get into such a life as this has been, that began, or at least has its earliest memory and association, in the old poorhouse at Stonebury.
A child she was, of five years, when she was taken in there with her old, crippled grandmother.
Peter McWhirk was picked up dead, from the graveled drive of a gentleman's place, where he had been trimming the high trees that shaded it. An unsound limb—a heedless movement—and Peter went straight down, thirty feet, and out of life. Out of life, where he had a trim, comfortable young wife—one happy little child, for whom skies were as blue, and grass as green, and buttercups as golden as for the little heiress of Elm Hill, who was riding over the lawn in her basket wagon, when Peter met his death there—the hope, also, of another that was to come.
Rosa McWhirk and her baby of a day old were buried the week after, together; and then there was nothing left for Glory and her helpless grandmother but the poorhouse as a present refuge; and to the one death, that ends all, and to the other a life of rough and unremitting work to look to for by and by.
When Glory came into this world where wants begin with the first breath, and go on thickening around us, and pressing upon us until the last one is supplied to us—a grave—she wanted, first of all, a name.
"Sure what'll I call the baby?" said the proud young mother to the ladies from the white corner house, where she had served four faithful years of her maidenhood, and who came down at once with comforts and congratulations. "They've sint for the praist, an' I've niver bethought of a name. I made so certain 'twould be a boy!"
"What a funny bit of a thing it is!" cried the younger of the two visitors, turning back the bedclothes a little from the tiny, red, puckered face, with short, sandy-colored hair standing up about the temples like a fuzz ball.
"I'd call her Glory. There's a halo round her head like the saints in the pictures."
"Sure, that's jist like yersilf, Miss Mattie!" exclaimed Rosa, with a faint, merry little laugh. "An' quare enough, I knew a lady once't of the very name, in the ould country. Miss Gloriana O'Dowd she was; an' the beauty o' County Kerry. My Lady Kinawley, she came to be. 'Deed, but I'd like to do it, for the ould times, an' for you thinkin' of it! I'll ask Peter, anyhow!"
And so Glory got her name; and Mattie Hyde, who gave her that, gave her many another thing that was no less a giving to the mother also, before she was two years old. Then Mrs. Hyde and the young lady, having first let the corner house, went away to Europe to stay for years; and when a box of tokens from the far, foreign lands came back to Stonebury a while after, there was a grand shawl for Rosa, and a pretty braided frock for the baby, and a rosary that Glory keeps to this hour, that had been blessed by the Pope. That was the last. Mattie and her mother sailed out upon the Mediterranean one day from the bright coast of France for a far eastern port, to see the Holy Land. God's Holy Land they did see, though they never touched those Syrian shores, or climbed the hills about Jerusalem.
Glory remembered—for the most part dimly, for some special points distinctly—her child life of three years in Stonebury poorhouse. How her grandmother and an old countrywoman from the same county "at home" sat knitting and crooning together in a sunny corner of the common room in winter, or out under the stoop in summer; how she rolled down the green bank behind the house; and, when she grew big enough to be trusted with a knife, was sent out to dig dandelions in the spring, and how an older girl went with her round the village, and sold them from house to house. How, at last, her old grandmother died, and was buried; and how a woman of the village, who had used to buy her dandelions, found a place for her with a relative of her own, in the ten-mile distant city, who took Glory to "bring up"—"seeing," as she said, "there was nobody belonging to her to interfere."
Was there a day, after that, that did not leave its searing impress upon heart and memory, of the life that was given, in its every young pulse and breath, to sordid toil for others, and to which it seemed nobody on earth owed aught of care or service in return?
It was a close little house—one of those houses where they have fried dinners so often that the smell never gets out in Budd Street—a street of a single side, wedged in between the back yards of more pretentious mansions that stood on fair parallel avenues sloping down from a hilltop to the waterside, that Mrs. Grubbling lived in.
Here Glory McWhirk, from eight years old to nearly fifteen, scoured knives and brasses, tended doorbell, set tables, washed dishes, and minded the baby; whom, at her peril, she must "keep pacified"—i. e., amused and content, while its mother was otherwise busy. For her, poor child—baby that she still, almost, was herself—who amused, or contented her? There are humans with whom amusement and content have nothing to do. What will you? The world must go on.
Glory curled the baby's hair, and made him "look pretty." Mrs. Grubbling cut her little handmaid's short to save trouble; so that the very determined yellow locks which, under more favoring circumstances of place and fortune, might have been trained into lovely golden curls, stood up continually in their restless reaching after the fairer destiny that had been meant for them, in the old fuzz-ball fashion; and Glory grew more and more to justify her name.
Do you think she didn't know what beauty was—this child who never had a new or pretty garment, but who wore frocks "fadged up" out of old, faded breadths of her mistress's dresses, and bonnets with brims cut off and topknots taken down, and coarse shoes, and stockings cut out of the legs of those whereof Mrs. Grubbling had worn out the extremities? Do you think she didn't feel the difference, and that it wasn't this that made her shuffle along so with her toes in, when she sped along the streets upon her manifold errands, and met gentle-people's children laughing and skipping their hoops upon the sidewalks?
Out of all lives, actual and possible, each one of us appropriates continually into his own. This is a world of hints only, out of which every soul seizes to itself what it needs.
This girl, uncherished, repressed in every natural longing to be and to have, took in all the more of what was possible; for God had given her this glorious insight, this imagination, wherewith we fill up life's scanty outline, and grasp at all that might be, or that elsewhere, is. In her, as in us all, it was often—nay, daily—a discontent; yet a noble discontent, and curbed with a grand, unconscious patience. She scoured her knives; she shuffled along the streets on hasty errands; she went up and down the house in her small menial duties; she put on and off her coarse, repulsive clothing; she uttered herself in her common, ignorant forms of speech; she showed only as a poor, low, little Irish girl with red hair and staring, wondering eyes, and awkward movements, and a frightened fashion of getting into everybody's way; and yet, behind all this, there was another life that went on in a hidden beauty that you and I cannot fathom, save only as God gives the like, inwardly, to ourselves.
When Glory's mistress cut her hair, there were always tears and rebellion. It was her one, eager, passionate longing, in these childish days, that these locks of hers should be let to grow. She thought she could almost bear anything else, if only this stiff, unseemly crop might lengthen out into waves and ringlets that should toss in the wind like the carefully kempt tresses of children she met in the streets. She imagined it would be a complete and utter happiness just once to feel it falling in its wealth about her shoulders or dropping against her cheeks; and to be able to look at it with her eyes, and twist her fingers in it at the ends. And so, when it got to be its longest, and began to make itself troublesome about her forehead, and to peep below her shabby bonnet in her neck, she had a brief season of wonderful enjoyment in it. Then she could "make believe" it had really grown out; and the comfort she took in "going through the motions"—pretending to tuck behind her ears what scarcely touched their tips, and tossing her head continually, to throw back imaginary masses of curls, was truly indescribable, and such as I could not begin to make you understand.
"Half-witted monkey!" Mrs. Grubbling would ejaculate, contemptuously, seeing, with what she conceived marvelous penetration, the half of her little servant's thought, and so pronouncing from her own half wit. Then the great shears came out, and the instinct of grace and beauty in the child was pitilessly outraged, and her soul mutilated, as it were, in every clip of the inexorable shears.
She was always glad—poor Glory—when the springtime came. She took Bubby and Baby down to the Common, of a May Day, to see the processions and the paper-crowned queens; and stood there in her stained and drabbled dress, with the big year-and-a-half-old baby in her arms, and so quite at the mercy of Master Herbert Clarence, who defiantly skipped oft down the avenues, and almost out of her sight—she looking after him in helpless dismay, lest he should get a splash or a tumble, or be altogether lost; and then what would the mistress say? Standing there so—the troops of children in their holiday trim passing close beside her—her young heart turned bitter for a moment, as it sometimes would; and her one utterance of all that swelled her martyr soul broke forth:
"Laws a me! Sech lots of good times in the world, and I ain't in 'em!"
Yet, that afternoon, when Mrs. Grubbling went out shopping, and left her to her own devices with the children, how jubilantly she trained the battered chairs in line, and put herself at the head, with Bubby's scarlet tippet wreathed about her upstart locks, and made a May Day!
I say, she had the soul and essence of the very life she seemed to miss.
There were shabby children's books about the Grubbling domicile, that had been the older child's—Cornelia's—and had descended to Master Herbert, while yet his only pastime in them was to scrawl them full of pencil marks, and tear them into tatters. These, one by one, Glory rescued, and hid away, and fed upon, piecemeal, in secret. She could read, at least—this poor, denied unfortunate. Peter McWhirk had taught his child her letters in happy, humble Sundays and holidays long ago; and Mrs. Grubbling had begun by sending her to a primary school for a while, irregularly, when she could be spared; and when she hadn't just torn her frock, or worn out her shoes, or it didn't rain, or she hadn't been sent of an errand and come back too late—which reasons, with a multitude of others, constantly recurring, reduced the school days in the year to a number whose smallness Mrs. Grubbling would have indignantly disputed, had it been calculated and set before her; she being one of those not uncommon persons who regard a duty continually evaded as one continually performed, it being necessarily just as much on their minds; till, at last, Herbert had a winter's illness, and in summer it wasn't worth while, and the winter after, baby came, so that of course she couldn't be spared at all; and it seemed little likely now that she ever again would be. But she kept her spelling book, and read over and over what she knew, and groped her way slowly into more, till she promoted herself from that to "Mother Goose"—from "Mother Goose" to "Fables for the Nursery"—and now, her ever fresh and unfailing feast was the "Child's Own Book of Fairy Tales," and an odd volume of the "Parents' Assistant." She picked out, slowly, the gist of these, with a lame and uncertain interpretation. She lived for weeks with Beauty and the Beast—with Cinderella—with the good girl who worked for the witch, and shook her feather bed every morning; till at last, given leave to go home and see her mother, the gold and silver shower came down about her, departing at the back door. Perhaps she should get her pay, some time, and go home and see her mother.
Meanwhile, she identified herself with—lost herself utterly in,—these imaginary lives. She was, for the time, Cinderella; she was Beauty; she was above all, the Fair One with Golden Locks; she was Simple Susan going to be May Queen; she dwelt in the old Castle of Rossmore, with the Irish Orphans. The little Grubbling house in Budd Street was peopled all through, in every corner, with her fancies. Don't tell me she had nothing but her niggardly outside living there.
And the wonder began to come up in her mind, as it did in Faith Gartney's, whether and when "something might happen" to her.
"Athirst! athirst! The sandy soil Bears no glad trace of leaf or tree; No grass-blade sigheth to the heaven Its little drop of ecstasy.
"Yet other fields are spreading wide Green bosoms to the bounteous sun; And palms and cedars shall sublime Their rapture for thee,—waiting one!"
"Take us down to see the apple woman," said Master Herbert, going out with Glory and the baby one day when his school didn't keep, and Mrs. Grubbling had a headache, and wanted to get them all off out of the way.
Bridget Foye sat at her apple stand in the cheery morning sunlight, red cheeks and russets ranged fair and tempting before her, and a pile of roasted peanuts, and one of delicate molasses candy, such as nobody but she knew how to make, at either end of the board.
Bridget Foye was the tidiest, kindliest, merriest apple woman in all Mishaumok. Everybody whose daily path lay across that southeast corner of the Common, knew her well, and had a smile, and perhaps a penny for her; and got a smile and a God-bless-you, and, for the penny, a rosy or a golden apple, or some of her crisp candy in return.
Glory and the baby, sitting down to rest on one of the benches close by, as their habit was, had one day made a nearer acquaintance with blithe Bridget. I think it began with Glory—who held the baby up to see the passing show of a portion of a menagerie in the street, and heard two girls, stopping just before her to look, likewise, say they'd go and see it perform next day—uttering something of her old soliloquy about "good times," and why she "warn't ever in any of 'em." However it was, Mrs. Foye, in her buxom cheeriness, was drawn to give some of it forth to the uncouth-looking, companionless girl, and not only began a chat with her, after the momentary stir in the street was over, and she had settled herself upon her stool, and leaning her back against a tree, set vigorously to work again at knitting a stout blue yarn stocking, but also treated Bubby and Baby to some bits of her sweet merchandise, and told them about the bears and the monkeys that had gone by, shut up in the gay, red-and-yellow-painted wagons.
So it became, after this first opening, Glory's chief pleasure to get out with the children now and then, of a sunny day, and sit here on the bench by Bridget Foye, and hear her talk, and tell her, confidentially, some of her small, incessant troubles. It was one more life to draw from—a hearty, bright, and wholesome life, besides. She had, at last, in this great, tumultuous, indifferent city, a friendship and a resource.
But there was a certain fair spot of delicate honor in Glory's nature that would not let her bring Bubby and Baby in any apparent hope of what they might get, gratuitously, into their mouths. She laid it down, a rule, with Master Herbert, that he was not to go to the apple stand with her unless he had first put by a penny for a purchase. And so unflinchingly she adhered to this determination, that sometimes weeks went by—hard, weary weeks, without a bit of pleasantness for her; weeks of sore pining for a morsel of heart food—before she was free of her own conscience to go and take it.
Bridget told stories to Herbert—strange, nonsensical fables, to be sure—stuff that many an overwise mother, bringing up her children by hard rule and theory, might have utterly forbidden as harmful trash—yet that never put an evil into his heart, nor crowded, I dare to say, a better thought out of his brain. Glory liked the stories as well, almost, as the child. One moral always ran through them all. Troubles always, somehow, came to an end; good creatures and children got safe out of them all, and lived happy ever after; and the fierce, and cunning, and bad—the wolves, and foxes, and witches—trapped themselves in their own wickedness, and came to deplorable ends.
"Tell us about the little red hen," said Herbert, paying his money, and munching his candy.
"An' thin ye'll trundle yer hoop out to the big tree, an' lave Glory an' me our lane for a minute?"
"Faith, an' I will that," said the boy—aping, ambitiously, the racy Irish accent.
"Well, thin, there was once't upon a time, away off in the ould country, livin' all her lane in the woods, in a wee bit iv a house be herself, a little rid hin. Nice an' quite she was, and nivir did no kind o' harrum in her life. An' there lived out over the hill, in a din o' the rocks, a crafty ould felly iv a fox. An' this same ould villain iv a fox, he laid awake o' nights, and he prowled round shly iy a daytime, thinkin' always so busy how he'd git the little rid hin, an' carry her home an' bile her up for his shupper. But the wise little rid hin nivir went intil her bit iv a house, but she locked the door afther her, an' pit the kay in her pocket. So the ould rashkill iv a fox, he watched, an' he prowled, an' he laid awake nights, till he came all to skin an' bone, on' sorra a ha'porth o' the little rid hin could he git at. But at lasht there came a shcame intil his wicked ould head, an' he tuk a big bag one mornin', over his shouldher, and he says till his mother, says he, 'Mother, have the pot all bilin' agin' I come home, for I'll bring the little rid hin to-night for our shupper.' An' away he wint, over the hill, an' came craping shly and soft through the woods to where the little rid hin lived in her shnug bit iv a house. An' shure, jist at the very minute that he got along, out comes the little rid hin out iv the door, to pick up shticks to bile her taykettle. 'Begorra, now, but I'll have yees,' says the shly ould fox, and in he shlips, unbeknownst, intil the house, an' hides behind the door. An' in comes the little rid hin, a minute afther, with her apron full of shticks, an' shuts to the door an' locks it, an' pits the kay in her pocket. An' thin she turns round—an' there shtands the baste iv a fox in the corner. Well, thin, what did she do, but jist dhrop down her shticks, and fly up in a great fright and flutter to the big bame acrass inside o' the roof, where the fox couldn't get at her?
"'Ah, ha!' says the ould fox, 'I'll soon bring yees down out o' that!' An' he began to whirrul round, an' round, an' round, fashter an' fashter an' fashter, on the floor, after his big, bushy tail, till the little rid hin got so dizzy wid lookin', that she jist tumbled down off the bame, and the fox whipped her up and popped her intil his bag, and shtarted off home in a minute. An' he wint up the wood, an' down the wood, half the day long, with the little rid hin shut up shmotherin' in the bag. Sorra a know she knowd where she was, at all, at all. She thought she was all biled an' ate up, an' finished, shure! But, by an' by, she renumbered herself, an' pit her hand in her pocket, and tuk out her little bright schissors, and shnipped a big hole in the bag behind, an' out she leapt, an' picked up a big shtone, an' popped it intil the bag, an' rin aff home, an' locked the door.
"An' the fox he tugged away up over the hill, with the big shtone at his back thumpin' his shouldhers, thinkin' to himself how heavy the little rid hin was, an' what a fine shupper he'd have. An' whin he came in sight iv his din in the rocks, and shpied his ould mother a-watchin' for him at the door, he says, 'Mother! have ye the pot bilin'?' An' the ould mother says, 'Sure an' it is; an' have ye the little rid hin?' 'Yes, jist here in me bag. Open the lid o' the pot till I pit her in,' says he.
"An' the ould mother fox she lifted the lid o' the pot, and the rashkill untied the bag, and hild it over the pot o' bilin' wather, an' shuk in the big, heavy shtone. An' the bilin' wather shplashed up all over the rogue iv a fox, an' his mother, an' shcalded them both to death. An' the little rid hin lived safe in her house foriver afther."
"Ah!" breathed Bubby, in intense relief, for perhaps the twentieth time. "Now tell about the girl that went to seek her fortune!"
"Away wid ye!" cried Bridget Foye. "Kape yer promish, an' lave that till ye come back!"
So Herbert and his hoop trundled off to the big tree.
"An' how are yees now, honey?" says Bridget to Glory, a whole catechism of questions in the one inquiry. "Have ye come till any good times yit?"
"Oh, Mrs. Foye," says Glory, "I think I'm tied up tight in the bag, an' I'll never get out, except it's into the hot water!"
"An' havint ye nivir a pair iv schissors in yer pocket?" asks Bridget.
"I don't know," says poor Glory, hopelessly. And just then Master Herbert comes trundling back, and Bridget tells him the story of the girl that went to seek her fortune and came to be a queen.
Glory half thinks that, some day or other, she, too, will start off and seek her fortune.
The next morning, Sunday—never a holiday, and scarcely a holy day to her—Glory sits at the front window, with the inevitable baby in her arms.
Mrs. Grubbling is upstairs getting ready for church. After baby has his forenoon drink, and is got off to sleep—supposing he shall be complaisant, and go—Glory is to dust up, and set table, and warm the dinner, and be all ready to bring it up when the elder Grubbling shall have returned.
Out at the Pembertons' green gate she sees the tidy parlor maid come, in her smart shawl and new, bright ribbons; holding up her pretty printed mousseline dress with one hand, as she steps down upon the street, and so revealing the white hem of a clean starched skirt; while the other hand is occupied with the little Catholic prayer book and a folded handkerchief. Actually, gloves on her hands, too. The gate closes with a cord and pulley after her, and somehow the hem of the fresh, outspreading crinoline gets caught in it, as it shuts. So she turns half round, and takes both hands to push it open and release herself. Doing so, something slips from between the folds of her handkerchief, and drops upon the ground. A bright half dollar, which was going to pay some of her little church dues to-day. And she hurries on, never missing it out of her grasp, and is halfway down the side street before Glory can set the baby suddenly on the carpet, rush out at the front door, regardless that Mrs. Grubbling's chamber window overlooks her from above, pick up the coin, and overtake her.
"I saw you drop it by the gate," is all she says, as she puts it into Katie Ryan's hand.
Katie stares with surprise, turning round at the touch upon her shoulder, and beholding the strange figure, and the still stranger evidence of honesty and good will.
"Indeed, and I'm thoroughly obliged to ye," says she, barely in time, for the odd figure is already retreating up the street. "It's the red-headed girl over at Grubbling's," she continues to herself. "Well, anyhow, she's an honest, kind-hearted crature, and I'll not forget it of her."
Glory has made another friend.
"Well, Glory McWhirk, this is very pretty doings indeed!" began Mrs. Grubbling, meeting the little handmaiden at the parlor door. "So this is the way, is it, when my back is turned for a minute? That poor baby dumped down on the floor, to crawl up to the hot stove, or do any other horrid thing he likes, while you go flacketting out, bareheaded, into the streets, after a topping jade like that? You can't have any high-flown acquaintances while you live in my house, I tell you now, once and for all. Are you going to take up that baby or not?" Mrs. Grubbling had been thus far effectually heading Glory off, by standing square in the parlor doorway. "Or perhaps, I'd better stay at home and take care of him myself," she added, in a tone of superlative irony.
Poor Glory, meekly murmuring that it was only to give back some money the girl had dropped, slid past her mistress submissively, like a sentry caught off his post and warned of mortal punishment, and shouldered arms once more; that is, picked up the baby, who, as if taking the cue from his mother, and made conscious of his grievance, had at this moment begun to cry.
Glory had a good cry of her own first, and then, "killing two birds with one stone," pacified herself and the baby "all under one."
After this, Katie Ryan never came out at the green gate, of a Sunday on the way to church, or of a week day to run down the little back street of an errand, but she gave a glance up at the Grubblings' windows; and if she caught sight of Glory's illumined head, nodded her own, with its pretty, dark-brown locks, quite pleasant and friendly. And between these chance recognitions of Katie's, and the good apple woman's occasional sympathy, the world began to brighten a little, even for poor Glory.
Still, good times went on—grand, wonderful good times—all around her. And she caught distant glimpses, but "wasn't in 'em."
One day, as she hurried home from the grocer's with half-a-dozen eggs and two lemons, Katie ran out from the gate, and met her halfway down Budd Street.
"I've been watchin' for ye," said she. "I seen ye go out of an errand, an' I've been lookin' for ye back. There's to be a grand party at our house to-morrow night, an' I thought maybe ye'd like to get lave, an' run over to take a peep at it. Put on yer best frock, and make yer hair tidy, an' I'll see to yer gettin' a good chance."
Poor Glory colored up, as Mrs. Grabbling might have done if the President's wife had bidden her. Not so, either. With a glow of feeling, and an oppression of gratitude, and a humility of delight, that Mrs. Grubbling, under any circumstances whatever, could have known nothing about.
"If I only can," she managed to utter, "and, anyhow, I'm sure I'm thankful to ye a thousand times."
And that night she sat up in her little attic room, after everybody else was in bed, mending, in a poor fashion, a rent in the faded "best frock," and sewing a bit of cotton lace in the neck thereof that she had picked out of the ragbag, and surreptitiously washed and ironed.
Next morning, she went about her homely tasks with an alacrity that Mrs. Grubbling, knowing nothing of the hope that had been let in upon her dreariness, attributed wholly to the salutary effect of a "good scolding" she had administered the day before. The work she got out of the girl that Thursday forenoon! Never once did Glory leave her scrubbing, or her dusting, or her stove polishing, to glance from the windows into the street, though the market boys, and the waiters, and the confectioners' parcels were going in at the Pembertons' gate, and the man from the greenhouse, even, drove his cart up, filled with beautiful plants for the staircase.
She waited, as in our toils we wait for Heaven—trusting to the joy that was to come.
After dinner, she spoke, with fear and trembling. Her lips turned quite white with anxiety as she stood before Mrs. Grubbling with the baby in her arms.
"Please, mum," says Glory, tremulously, "Katie Ryan asked me over for a little while to-night to look at the party."
Mrs. Grubbling actually felt a jealousy, as if her poor, untutored handmaid were taking precedence of herself.
"What party?" she snapped.
"At the Pembertons', mum. I thought you knew about it."
"And what if I do? Maybe I'm going, myself."
Glory opened her eyes wide in mingled consternation and surprise.
"I didn't think you was, mum. But if you is——"
"You're willing, I suppose," retorted her mistress, laughing, in a bitter way. "I'm very much obliged. But I'm going out to-night, anyhow, whether it's there or not, and you can't be spared. Besides, you needn't think you're going to begin with going out evenings yet a while. At your age! A pretty thing! There—go along, and don't bother me."
Glory went along; and only the baby—of mortal listeners—heard the suffering cry that went up from her poor, pinched, and chilled, and disappointed heart.
"Oh, baby, baby! it was too good a time! I'd ought to a knowed I couldn't be in it!"
Only a stone's throw from those brightly lighted windows of the Pembertons'! Their superfluous radiance pouring out lavishly across the narrow street, searched even through the dim panes behind which Glory sat, resting her tired arms, after tucking away their ordinary burden in his crib, and answering Herbert's wearisome questions, who from his trundle bed kept asking, ceaselessly:
"What are they doing now? Can't you see, Glory?"
"Hush, hush!" said Glory, breathlessly, as a burst of brilliant melody floated over to her ear. "They're making music now. Don't you hear?"
"No. How can I, with my head in the pillow? I'm coming there to sit with you, Glory." And the boy scrambled from his feed to the window.
"No, no! you'll ketch cold. Besides, you'd oughter go to sleep. Well—only for a little bit of a minute, then," as Herbert persisted, and climbing upon her lap, flattened his face against the window pane.
Glory gathered up her skirt about his shoulders and held him for a while, begging him uneasily, over and over, to "be a good boy, and go back to bed." No; he wouldn't be a good boy, and he wouldn't go back to bed, till the music paused. Then, by dint of promising that if it began again she would open the window a "teenty little crack," so that he might hear it better, she coaxed him to the point of yielding, and tucked him, chilly, yet half unwilling, in the trundle.
Back again, to look and listen. And, oh, wonderful and unexpected fortune! A beneficent hand has drawn up the white linen shade at one of the back parlor windows to slide the sash a little from the top. It was Katie, whom her young mistress, standing with her partner at that corner of the room, had called in from the hall to do it.
"No, no," whispered the young lady, hastily, as her companion moved to render her the service she desired, "let Katie come in. She'll get such a good look down the room at the dancers." There was no abated admiration in the young man's eye, as he turned back to her side, and allowed her kindly intention to be fulfilled.
Did Katie surmise, in her turn, with the freemasonry of her class, how it was with her humble friend over the way—that she couldn't get let out for the evening, and that she would be sure to be looking and listening from her old post opposite? However it was, the linen shade was not lowered again, and there between the lace and crimson curtains stood revealed the graceful young figure of Edith Pemberton, in her floating ball robes, with the wreath of morning-glories in her hair.
"Oh, my sakes and sorrows! Ain't she just like a princess? Ain't it a splendid time? And I come so near to be in it! But I ain't; and I s'pose I shan't ever get a chance again. Maybe Katie'd get me over of a common workday though, some time, to help her a bit or so. Wouldn't I be glad to?"
"Oh, for gracious, child! Don't ever come here again. You'll catch your death. You'll have the croup and whooping cought, and everything to-morrow." This to Herbert, who had of course tumbled out of bed again at Glory's first rapturous exclamation.
"No, I won't!" cried the boy, rebelliously; "I'll stay as long as I like. And I'll tell my ma how you was a-wantin' to go away and be the Pembertons' girl. Won't she lam you when she hears that?"
"You can tell wicked lies if you want to, Master Herbert; but you know I never said such a word, nor ever thought of it. Of course I couldn't if I wanted to ever so bad."
"Couldn't live there? I guess not. Think they'd have a girl like you? What a lookin' you'd be, a-comin' to the front door answerin' the bell!"
Here the doorbell rang suddenly and sharply, and Master Herbert fancying, as did Glory, that it was his mother come back, scrambled into his bed again and covered himself up, while the girl ran down to answer the summons.
It was Katie Ryan, with cakes and sweetmeats.
"I've jist rin in to fetch ye these. Miss Edith gave 'em me, so ye needn't be feared. I knows ye're sich an honest one. An' it's a tearin' shame, if ever there was, that ye couldn't come over for a bit of diversion. Why don't ye quit this?"
"Oh, hush!" whispered Glory, with a gesture up the staircase, where she had just left the little pitcher with fearfully long ears. "And thank you kindly, over and over, I'm sure. It's real good o' you to think o' me so—oh!" And Glory couldn't say anything more for a quick little sob that came in her throat, and caught the last word up into a spasm.
"Pooh! it's just nothing at all. I'd do something better nor that if I had the chance; an' I'd adwise ye to get out o' this if ye can. Good-by. I've set the parlor windy open, an' the shade's up. I knew it would jist be a conwenience."
Glory ran up the back stairs to the top of the house, and hid away the sweet things in her own room to "make a party" with next day. And then she went down and tented over the crib with an old woolen shawl, and set a high-backed rocking chair to keep the draft from Herbert, and opened the window "a teenty crack." In five minutes the slight freshening of the air and the soothing of the music had sent the boy to sleep, and watchful Glory closed the window and set things in their ordinary arrangement once more.
Next morning Herbert made hoarse complaint.
"What did you let him do, Glory, to catch such a cold?" asked Mrs. Grabbling.
"Nothing, mum, only he would get out of bed to hear the music," replied the girl.
"Well, you opened the window, you know you did, and Katie Ryan came over and kept the front door open. And you said how you wished you could go over there and do their chores. I told you I'd tell."
"It's wicked lies, mum," burst out Glory, indignant.
"Do you dare to tell him he lies, right before my face, you good-for-nothing girl?" shrieked the exasperated mother. "Where do you expect to go to?"
"I don't expect to go nowheres, mum; and I wouldn't say it was lies if he didn't tell what wasn't true."
"How should such a thing come into his head if you didn't say it?"
"There's many things comes into his head," answered Glory, stoutly, "and I think you'd oughter believe me first, when I never told you a lie in my life, and you did ketch Master Herbert fibbing, jist the other day, but."
Somehow, Glory had grown strangely bold in her own behalf since she had come to feel there was a bit of sympathy somewhere for her in the world.
"I know now where he learns it," retorted the mistress, with persistent and angry injustice.
Glory's face blazed up, and she took an involuntary step to the woman's side at the warrantless accusation.
"You don't mean that, mum, and you'd oughter take it back," said she, excited beyond all fear and habit of submission.
Mrs. Grubbling raised her hand passionately, and struck the girl upon the cheek.
"I mean that, then, for your impudence! Don't answer me up again!"
"No, mum," said Glory, in a low, strange tone; quite white now, except where the vindictive fingers had left their crimson streaks. And she went off out of the room without another word.
Over the knife board she revolved her wrongs, and sharpened at length the keen edge of desperate resolution.
"Please, mum," said she, in the old form of address, but with quite a new manner, that, in the little dependant of less than fifteen, startled the hard mistress, "I ain't noways bound to you, am I?"
She propounded her question, stopping short in her return toward the china closet through the sitting room.
"Bound? What do you mean?" parried Mrs. Grubbling, dimly foreshadowing to herself what it would be if Glory should break loose, and go.
"To stay, mum, and you to keep me, till I'm growed up," answered Glory, briefly.
"There's no binding about it," replied the mistress. "Of course I wouldn't be held to anything of that sort. I shan't keep you any longer than you behave yourself."
"Then, if you please, mum, I think I'll go," said Glory. And she burst into a passion of tears.
"Humph! Where?" asked Mrs. Grubbling.
"I don't know, yet," said Glory, the sarcasm drying her tears. "I s'pose I can go to a office."
"And where'll you get your meals and your lodgings till you find a place?" The cat thought she had her paw on the mouse, now, and could play with her as securely and cruelly as she pleased.
"If you go away at all," continued Mrs. Grubbling, with what she deemed a finishing stroke of policy, "you go straight off. I'll have no dancing back and forth to offices from here."
"Do you mean right off, this minute?" asked Glory, aghast.
"Yes just that. Pack up and go, or else let me hear no more about it."
The next thing in Glory's programme of duty was to lay the table for dinner. But she went out of the room, and slowly off, upstairs.
Pretty soon she came down again, with her eyes very tearful, and her shabby shawl and bonnet on.
"I'm going, mum," said she, as one resolved to face calmly whatever might befall. "I didn't mean it to be sudden, but it are. And I wouldn't never a gone, if I'd a thought anybody cared for me the leastest bit that ever was. I wouldn't mind bein' worked and put upon, and not havin' any good times; but when people hates me, and goes to say I doesn't tell the truth"—here Glory broke down, and the tears poured over her stained cheeks again, and she essayed once more to dry them, which reminded her that her hands again were full.
"It's some goodies—from the party, mum"—she struggled to say between short breaths and sobs, "that Katie Ryan give me—an' I kept—to make a party—for the children, with—to-day, mum—when the chores was done—and I'll leave 'em—for 'em—if you please."
Glory laid her coals of fire upon the table as she spoke. Master Herbert eyed them, as one utterly unconscious of a scorch.
"I s'pose I might come back and get my bundle," said Glory, standing still in the hope of one last kindly or relenting word.
"Oh, yes, if you get a place," said her mistress, dryly, affecting to treat the whole affair as a childish, though unwonted burst of petulance.
But Glory, not daring, unbidden, even to kiss the baby, went steadily and sorrowfully out into the street, and drew the door behind her, that shut with a catch lock, and fastened her out into the wide world.
Not stopping to think, she hurried on, up Budd and down Branch Street, and across the green common path to the apple stand and Bridget Foye.
"I've done it! I've gone! And I don't know what to do, nor where to go to!"
"Arrah, poor little rid hin! So, ye've found yer schiasors, have ye, an' let yersel' loose out o' the bag? Well, it's I that is glad, though I wouldn't pit ye up till it," says Bridget Foye.
Poor little red hen. She had cut a hole, and jumped out of the bag, to be sure; but here she was, "all alone by herself" once more, and the foxes—Want and Cruelty—ravening after her all through the great, dreary wood!
This day, at least, passed comfortably enough, however, although with an undertone of sadness—in the sunshine, by Bridget's apple stand, watching the gay passers-by, and shaping some humble hopes and plans for the future. For dinner, she shared Mrs. Foye's plain bread and cheese, and made a dessert of an apple and a handful of peanuts. At night Bridget took her home and gave her shelter, and the next day she started her off with a "God bless ye and good luck till ye," in the charge of an older girl who lodged in the same building, and who was also "out after a place."
AUNT HENDERSON'S GIRL HUNT.
"Black spirits and white, Red spirits and gray; Mingle, mingle, mingle, You that mingle may." MACBETH.
It was a small, close, dark room—Mrs. Griggs's Intelligence Office—a little counter and show case dividing off its farther end, making a sanctum for Mrs. Griggs, who sat here in rheumatic ponderosity, dependent for whatever involved locomotion on the rather alarming alacrity of an impish-looking granddaughter who is elbowing her way through the throng of applicants for places and servants. She paid no heed to the astonishment of a severe-looking, elderly lady, who, by her impetuous onset, has been rudely thrust back into the very arms of a fat, unsavory cook with whom she had a minute before been quite unwillingly set to confer by the high priestess of the place.
Aunt Henderson grasped Faith's hand as if she felt she had brought her into a danger, and held her close to her side while she paused a moment to observe, with the strange fascination of repulsion, the manifestation of a phase of human life and the working of a vocation so utterly and astoundingly novel to herself.
"Well, Melindy," said Mrs. Griggs, salutatorily.
"Well, grandma," answered the girl, with a pert air of show off and consequence, "I found the place, and I found the lady. Ain't I been quick?"
"Yes. What did she say?"
"Said the girl left last Saturday. Ain't had anybody sence. Wants you to send her a first-rate one, right off. Has Care'line been here after me?"
"No. Did you get the money?"
"She never said a word about it. Guess she forgot the month was out."
"Didn't you ask her?"
"Me? No. I did the arrant, and stood and looked at her—jest as pious—! And when she didn't say nothin', I come away."
"Winny M'Goverin," said Mrs. Griggs, "that place'll suit you. Leastways, it must, for another month. You'd better go right round there."
"Where is it?" asked the fat cook, indifferently.
"Up in Mount Pleasant Street, Number 53. First-class place, and plenty of privileges. Margaret McKay," she continued, to another, "you're too hard to please. Here's one more place"—handing her a card with address—"and if you don't take that, I won't do nothing more for you, if you air Scotch and a Protestant! Mary McGinnis, it's no use your talking to that lady from the country. She can't spare you to come down but twice or so a year."
"Lord!" ejaculated Mary McGinnis, "I wouldn't live a whole year with no lady that ever was, let alone the country!"
"Come out, Faith!" said Miss Henderson, in a deep, ineffable tone of disgust.
"If that's a genteel West End Intelligence Office," cried Aunt Faith, as she touched the sidewalk, "let's go downtown and try some of the common ones."
A large hall—where the candidates were ranged on settees under order and restraint, and the superintendent, or directress, occupied a desk placed upon a platform near the entrance—was the next scene whereon Miss Henderson and Faith Gartney entered. Things looked clean and respectable. System obtained here. Aunt Faith felt encouraged. But she made no haste to utter her business. Tall, self-possessed, and dignified, she stood a few paces inside the door, and looked down the apartment, surveying coolly the faces there, and analyzing, by a shrewd mental process, their indications.
Her niece had stopped a moment on the landing outside to fasten her boot lace.
Miss Henderson did not wear hoops. Also, the streets being sloppy, she had tucked up her plain, gray merino dress over a quilted black alpaca petticoat. Her boots were splashed, and her black silk bonnet was covered with a large gray barege veil, tied down over it to protect it from the dripping roofs. Judging merely by exterior, one would hardly take her at a glance, indeed, for a "fust-class" lady.
The directress—a busy woman, with only half a glance to spare for anyone—moved toward her.
"Take a seat, if you please. What kind of a place do you want?"
Aunt Faith turned full face upon her, with a look that was prepared to be overwhelming.
"I'm looking for a place, ma'am, where I can find a respectable girl."
Her firm, emphatic utterance was heard to the farthest end of the hall.
The girls tittered.
Faith Gartney came in at this moment, and walked up quietly to Miss Henderson's side. There was visibly a new impression made, and the tittering ceased.
"I beg pardon, ma'am. I see. But we have so many in, and I didn't fairly look. General housework?"
"Yes; general and particular—both. Whatever I set her to do."
The directress turned toward the throng of faces whose fire of eyes was now all concentrated on the unflinching countenance of Miss Henderson.
A stout, well-looking damsel, with an expression that seemed to say she answered to her name, but was nevertheless persuaded of the utter uselessness of the movement, half rose from her seat.
"You needn't call up that girl," said Aunt Faith, decidedly; "I don't want her."
Ellen Mahoney had giggled among the loudest.
"She knows what she does want!" whispered a decent-appearing young woman to a girl at her side with an eager face looking out from a friz of short curly hair, "and that's more than half of 'em do."
"Country, did you say, ma'am? or city?" asked the directress once more of Miss Henderson.
"I didn't say. It's country, though—twenty miles out."
"I'll find the girl first, and settle that afterwards."
"Anybody to do general housework in the country, twenty miles out?"
The prevailing expression of the assemblage changed. There was a settling down into seats, and a resumption of knitting and needlework.
One pair of eyes, however, looked on, even more eagerly than before. One young girl—she with the short curly hair who hadn't seen the country for six years and more—caught her breath, convulsively, at the word.
"I wish I dar'st! I've a great mind!" whispered she to her tidy companion.
While she hesitated, a slatternly young woman, a few seats farther forward, moved, with a "don't care" sort of look, to answer the summons.
"Oh, dear!" sighed the first. "I'd ought to a done it!"
"I don't think she would take a young girl like you," replied her friend.
"That's the way it always is!" exclaimed the disappointed voice, in forgetfulness and excitement uttering itself aloud. "Plenty of good times going, but they all go right by. I ain't never in any of 'em!"
"Glory McWhirk!" chided the directress, "be quiet! Remember the rules, or leave the room."
"Call that red-headed girl to me," said Miss Henderson, turning square round from the dirty figure that was presenting itself before her, and addressing the desk. "She looks clean and bright," she added, aside, to Faith, as Glory timidly approached. "And poor. And longing for a chance. I'll have her."
A girl with a bonnet full of braids and roses, and a look of general knowingness, started up close at Miss Henderson's side, and interposed.
"Did you say twenty miles, mum? How often could I come to town?"
"You haven't been asked to go out of town, that I know of," replied Miss Henderson, frigidly, abashing the office habitue, who had not been used to find her catechism cut so summarily short, and moving aside to speak with Glory.
"What was it I heard you say just now?"
"I didn't mean to speak out so, mum. It was only what I mostly thinks. That there's always lots of good times in the world, only I ain't never in 'em."
"And you thought it would be good times, did you, to go off twenty miles into the country, to live alone with an old woman like me?"
Miss Henderson's tone softened kindly to the rough, uncouth girl, and encouraged her to confidence.
"Well, you see, mum, I should like to go where things is green and pleasant. I lived in the country once—ever so long ago—when I was a little girl."
Miss Henderson could not help a smile that was half amused, and wholly pitiful, as she looked in the face of this creature of fourteen, so strange and earnest, with its outline of fuzzy, cropped hair, and heard her talk of "ever so long ago."
"Are you strong?"
"Yes'm. I ain't never sick."
"And willing to work?"
"Yes'm. Jest as much as I know how."
"And want to learn more?"
"Yes'm. I don't know as I'd know enough hardly, to begin, though."
"Can you wash dishes? And sweep? And set table?"
To each of these queries Glory successively interposed an affirmative monosyllable, adding, gratuitously, at the close, "And tend baby, too, real good." Her eyes filled, as she thought of the Grubbling baby with the love that always grows for that whereto one has sacrificed oneself.
"You won't have any babies to tend. Time enough for that when you've learned plenty of other things. Who do you belong to?"
"I don't belong to anybody, mum. Father, and mother, and grandmother is all dead. I've done the chores and tended baby up at Mrs. Grubbling's ever since. That's in Budd Street. I'm staying now in High Street, with Mrs. Foye. Number 15."
"I'll come after you to-morrow. Have your things ready to go right off."
"I'm so glad you took her, auntie," said Faith, as they went out. "She looks as if she hadn't been well treated. Think of her wanting so to go into the country! I should like to do something for her."
"That's my business," answered Aunt Faith, curtly, but not crossly. "You'll find somebody to do for, if you look out. If your mother's willing, though, you might mend up one of your old school dresses for her. 'Tisn't likely she's got anything to begin with." And so saying, Aunt Faith turned precipitately into a drygoods store, where she bought a large plaid woolen shawl, and twelve yards of dark calico. Coming out, she darted as suddenly, and apparently unpremeditatedly, across the street into a milliner's shop, and ordered home a brown rough-and-ready straw bonnet, and four yards of ribbon to match.
"And that you can put on, too," she said to Faith.
That evening, Faith was even unwontedly cheery and busy, taking a burned half breadth out of a dark cashmere dress, darning it at the armhole, and pinning the plain ribbon over the brown straw bonnet.
At the same time, Glory went up across the city to Budd Street, with a mingled heaviness and gladness at her heart, and, after a kindly farewell interview with Katie Ryan at the Pembertons' green gate, rang, with a half-guilty feeling at her own independence, at the Grubblings' door. Bubby opened it.
"Why, ma!" he shouted up the staircase, "it's Glory come back!"
"I've come to get my bundle," said the girl.
Mrs. Grubbling had advanced to the stair head, somewhat briskly, with the wakeful baby in her arms. Two days' "tending" had greatly mollified her sentiments toward the offending Glory.
"And she's come to get her bundle," added the young usher, from below.
Mrs. Grubbling retreated into her chamber, and shut herself and the baby in.
Poor Glory crept upstairs to her little attic.
Coming down again, she set her bundle on the stairs, and knocked.
"What is it?" was the ungracious response.
"Please, mum, mightn't I say good-by to the baby?"
The latch had slipped, and the door was already slightly ajar. Baby heard the accustomed voice, and struggled in his mother's arms.
"A pretty time to come disturbing him to do it!" grumbled she. Nevertheless, she set the baby on the floor, who tottled out, and was seized by Glory, standing there in the dark entry, and pressed close in her poor, long-wearied, faithful arms.
"Oh, baby, baby! I'm in it now! And I don't know rightly whether it's a good time or not!"
CARES; AND WHAT CAME OF THEM.
"To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow; To feed on hope, to pine with feare and sorrow; . . . . . To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares; To eate thy heart through comfortlesse dispaires." SPENCER.
Two years and more had passed since the New Year's dance at the Rushleighs'.
The crisis of '57 and '58 was approaching its culmination. The great earthquake that for months had been making itself heard afar off by its portentous rumbling was heaving to the final crash. Already the weaker houses had fallen and were forgotten.
When a great financial trouble sweeps down upon a people, there are three general classes who receive and feel it, each in its own peculiar way.
There are the great capitalists—the enormously rich—who, unless a tremendous combination of adversities shall utterly ruin here and there one, grow the richer yet for the calamities of their neighbors. There are also the very poor, who have nothing to lose but their daily labor and their daily bread—who may suffer and starve; but who, if by any little saving of a better time they can manage just to buy bread, shall be precisely where they were, practically, when the storm shall have blown over. Between these lies the great middle class—among whom, as on the middle ground, the world's great battle is continually waging—of persons who are neither rich nor poor; who have neither secured fortunes to fall back upon, nor yet the independence of their hands to turn to, when business and its income fail. This is the class that suffers most. Most keenly in apprehension, in mortification, in after privation.
Of this class was the Gartney family.
Mr. Gartney was growing pale and thin. No wonder; with sleepless nights, and harassed days, and forgotten, or unrelished meals. His wife watched him and waited for him, and contrived special comforts for him, and listened to his confidences.
Faith felt that there was a cloud upon the house, and knew that it had to do with money. So she hid her own little wants as long as she could, wore her old ribbons, mended last year's discarded gloves, and yearned vaguely and helplessly to do something—some great thing if she only could, that might remedy or help.
Once, she thought she would learn Stenography. She had heard somebody speak one day of the great pay a lady shorthand writer had received at Washington, for some Congressional reports. Why shouldn't she learn how to do it, and if the terrible worst should ever come to the worst, make known her secret resource, and earn enough for all the family?
Something like this—some "high and holy work of love"—she longed to do. Longed almost—if she were once prepared and certain of herself—for even misfortune that should justify and make practicable her generous purpose.
She got an elementary book, and set to work, by herself. She toiled wearily, every day, for nearly a month; despairing at every step, yet persevering; for, beside the grand dream for the future, there was a present fascination in the queer little scrawls and dots.
It cannot be known how long she might have gone on with the attempt, if her mother had not come to her one day with some parcels of cut-out cotton cloth.
"Faithie, dear," said she, deprecatingly, "I don't like to put such work upon you while you go to school; but I ought not to afford to have Miss McElroy this spring. Can't you make up some of these with me?"
There were articles of clothing for Faith, herself. She felt the present duty upon her; and how could she rebel? Yet what was to become of the great scheme?
By and by would come vacation, and in the following spring, at farthest, she would leave school, and then—she would see. She would write a book, maybe. Why not? And secretly dispose of it, for a large sum, to some self-regardless publisher. Should there never be another Fanny Burney? Not a novel, though, or any grown-up book, at first; but a juvenile, at least, she could surely venture on. Look at all the Cousin Maries, and Aunt Fannies, and Sister Alices, whose productions piled the booksellers' counters during the holiday sales, and found their way, sooner or later, into all the nurseries, and children's bookcases! And think of all the stories she had invented to amuse Hendie with! Better than some of these printed ones, she was quite sure, if only she could set them down just as she had spoken them under the inspiration of Hendie's eager eyes and ready glee.
She made two or three beginnings, during the summer holidays, but always came to some sort of a "sticking place," which couldn't be hobbled over in print as in verbal relation. All the links must be apparent, and everything be made to hold well together. She wouldn't have known what they were, if you had asked her—but the "unities" troubled her. And then the labor loomed up so large before her! She counted the lines in a page of a book of the ordinary juvenile size, and the number of letters in a line, and found out the wonderful compression of which manuscript is capable. And there must be two hundred pages, at least, to make a book of tolerable size.
There seemed to be nothing in the world that she could do. She could not give her time to charity, and go about among the poor. She had nothing to help them with. Her father gave, already, to ceaseless applications, more than he could positively spare. So every now and then she relinquished in discouragement her aspirations, and lived on, from day to day, as other girls did, getting what pleasure she could; hampered continually, however, with the old, inevitable tether, of "can't afford."
"If something only would happen!" If some new circumstance would creep into her life, and open the way for a more real living!
Do you think girls of seventeen don't have thoughts and longings like these? I tell you they do; and it isn't that they want to have anybody else meet with misfortune, or die, that romantic combinations may thereby result to them; or that they are in haste to enact the everyday romance—to secure a lover—get married—and set up a life of their own; it is that the ordinary marked-out bound of civilized young-lady existence is so utterly inadequate to the fresh, vigorous, expanding nature, with its noble hopes, and its apprehension of limitless possibilities.
Something did happen.
Winter came on again. After a twelvemonth of struggle and pain such as none but a harassed man of business can ever know or imagine, Mr. Gartney found himself "out of the wood."
He had survived the shock—his last mote was taken up—he had labored through—and that was all. He was like a man from off a wreck, who has brought away nothing but his life.
He came home one morning from New York, whither he had been to attend a meeting of creditors of a failed firm, and went straight to his chamber with a raging headache.
The next day, the physician's chaise was at the door, and on the landing, where Mrs. Gartney stood, pale and anxious, gazing into his face for a word, after the visit to the sick room was over, Dr. Gracie drew on his gloves, and said to her, with one foot on the stair: "Symptoms of typhoid. Keep him absolutely quiet."
A NICHE IN LIFE, AND A WOMAN TO FILL IT.
"A Traveller between Life and Death." WORDSWORTH.
Miss Sampson was at home this evening. It was not what one would have pictured to oneself as a scene of home comfort or enjoyment; but Miss Sampson was at home. In her little room of fourteen feet square, up a dismal flight of stairs, sitting, in the light of a single lamp, by her air-tight stove, whereon a cup of tea was keeping warm; that, and the open newspaper on the little table in the corner, being the only things in any way cheery about her.
Not even a cat or a canary bird had she for companionship. There was no cozy arrangement for daily feminine employment; no workbasket, or litter of spools and tapes; nothing to indicate what might be her daily way of going on. On the broad ledges of the windows, where any other woman would have had a plant or two, there was no array of geraniums or verbenas—not even a seedling orange tree or a monthly rose. But in one of them lay a plaid shawl and a carpet bag, and in the other that peculiar and nearly obsolete piece of feminine property, a paper bandbox, tied about with tape.
Packed up for a journey?
Reader, Miss Sampson was always packed up. She was that much-enduring, all-foregoing creature, a professional nurse.
There would have been no one to feed a cat, or a canary bird, or to water a rose bush, if she had had one. Her home was no more to her than his station at the corner of the street is to the handcart man or the hackney coachman. It was only the place where she might receive orders; whence she might go forth to the toilsomeness and gloom of one sick room after another, returning between each sally and the next to her cheerless post of waiting—keeping her strength for others, and living no life of her own.
There was nothing in Miss Sampson's outer woman that would give you, at first glance, an idea of her real energy and peculiar force of character. She was a tall and slender figure, with no superfluous weight of flesh; and her long, thin arms seemed to have grown long and wiry with lifting, and easing, and winding about the poor wrecks of mortality that had lost their own vigor, and were fain to beg a portion of hers. Her face was thin and rigid, too—molded to no mere graces of expression—but with a strong outline, and a habitual compression about the mouth that told you, when you had once learned somewhat of its meaning, of the firm will that would go straight forward to its object, and do, without parade or delay, whatever there might be to be done. Decision, determination, judgment, and readiness were all in that habitual look of a face on which little else had been called out for years. But you would not so have read it at first sight. You would almost inevitably have called her a "scrawny, sour-looking old maid."
A creaking step was heard upon the stair, and then a knock of decision at Miss Sampson's door.
And as she spoke, Miss Sampson took her cup and saucer in her hand. That was to be kept waiting no longer for whatever visitor it might chance to be. She was taking her first sip as Dr. Gracier entered.
"Don't move, Miss Sampson; don't let me interrupt."
"I don't mean to! What sends you here?"
"A new patient."
"Humph! Not one of the last sort, I hope. You know my kind, and 'tain't any use talking up about any others. Any old woman can make gruel, and feed a baby with catnip tea. Don't offer me any more such work as that! If it's work that is work, speak out!"
"It's work that nobody else can do for me. A critical case of typhoid, and nobody in the house that understands such illness. I've promised to bring you."
"You knew I was back, then?"
"I knew you would be. I only sent you at the pinch. I warned them you'd go as soon as things were tolerably comfortable."
"Of course I would. What business should I have where there was nothing wanted of me but to go to bed at nine o'clock, and sleep till daylight? That ain't the sort of corner I was cut out to fill."
"Well, drink your tea, and put on your bonnet. There's a carriage at the door."
"Man? or woman?" asked Miss Sampson.
"A man—Mr. Henderson Gartney, Hickory Street."
"Out of his head?"
"Yes—and getting more so. Family all frightened to death."
"Keep 'em out of my way, then, and let me have him to myself. One crazy patient is enough, at a time, for any one pair of hands. I'm ready."
In fifteen minutes more, they were in Hickory Street; and the nurse was speedily installed, or rather installed herself, in her office. Dr. Gracie hastened away to another patient, promising to call again at bedtime.
"Now, ma'am," said Miss Sampson to Mrs. Gartney, who, after taking her first to the bedside of the patient, had withdrawn with her to the little dressing room adjoining, and given her a resume of the treatment thus far followed, with the doctor's last directions to herself—"you just go downstairs to your supper. I know, by your looks, you ain't had a mouthful to-day. That's no way to help take care of sick folks."
Mrs. Gartney smiled a little, feebly; and an expression of almost childlike rest and relief came over her face. She felt herself in strong hands.
"And you?" she asked. "Shall I send you something here?"
"I've drunk a cup of tea, before I started. If I see my way clear, I'll run down for a bite after you get through. I don't want any special providings. I take my nibbles anyhow, as I go along. You needn't mind, more'n as if I wasn't here. I shall find my way all over the house. Now, you go."
"Only tell me how he seems to you."
"Well—not so terrible sick. Just barely bad enough to keep me here. I don't take any easy cases."
The odd, abrupt manner and speech comforted, while they somewhat astonished Mrs. Gartney.
"Leave the bread and butter and cold chicken on the table," said she, when the tea things were about to be removed; "and keep the chocolate hot, downstairs. Faithie—sit here; and if Miss Sampson comes down by and by, see that she is made comfortable."
It was ten o'clock when Miss Sampson came down, and then it was with Dr. Gracie.
"Cheer up, little lady!" said the doctor, meeting Faith's anxious, inquiring glance. "Not so bad, by any means, as we might be. The only difficulty will be to keep Nurse Sampson here. She won't stay a minute, if we begin to get better too fast. Yes—I will take a bit of chicken, I think; and—what have you there that's hot?" as the maid came in with the chocolate pot, in answer to Faith's ring of the bell. "Ah, yes! Chocolate! I missed my tea, somehow, to-night." The "somehow" had been in his kindly quest of the best nurse in Mishaumok.
"Sit down, Miss Sampson. Let me help you to a scrap of cold chicken. What? Drumstick! Miss Faithie—here is a woman who makes it a principle to go through the world, choosing drumsticks! She's a study; and I set you to finding her out."
Last night, as he had told Miss Sampson, the family had been "frightened to death." He had found Faith sitting on the front stairs, at midnight, when he came in at a sudden summons. She was pale and shivering, and caught him nervously by both hands.
"And oh, Miss Faithie! This is no place for you. You ought to be in bed."
"But I can't. Mother is all alone, except Mahala. And I don't dare stay up there, either. What shall we do?"
For all answer, the doctor had just taken her in his arms, and carried her down to the sofa in the hall, where he laid her, and covered her over with his greatcoat. There she stayed, passively, till he came back. And then he told her kindly and gravely, that if she could be quite quiet, and firm, she might go and lie on the sofa in her mother's dressing room for the remainder of the night, to be at hand for any needed service. To-morrow he would see that they were otherwise provided.
And so, to-night, here was Miss Sampson eating her drumstick.
Faith watched the hard lines of her face as she did so, and wondered what, and how much Dr. Gracie had meant by "setting her to find her out."
"I'm afraid you haven't had a vary nice supper," said she, timidly. "Do you like that best?"
"Somebody must always eat drumsticks," was the concise reply.
And so, presently, without any further advance toward acquaintance, they went upstairs; and the house, under the new, energetic rule, soon subsided into quiet for the night.
LIFE OR DEATH?
"With God the Lord belong the issues from death."—Ps. 68; 18.
The nursery was a corner room, opening both into Faith's and her mother's. Hendie and Mahala Harris had been removed upstairs, and the apartment was left at Miss Sampson's disposal. Mrs. Gartney's bed had been made up in the little dressing room at the head of the front entry, so that she and the nurse had the sick room between them.
Faith came down the two steps that led from her room into the nursery, the next night at bedtime, as Miss Sampson entered from her father's chamber to put on her night wrapper and make ready for her watch.
"How is he, nurse? He will get well, won't he? What does the doctor say?"
"Nothing," said Miss Sampson, shortly. "He don't know, and he don't pretend to. And that's just what proves he's good for something. He ain't one of the sort that comes into a sick room as if the Almighty had made him a kind of special delegit, and left the whole concern to him. He knows there's a solemner dealing there than his, whether it's for life or death."
"But he can't help thinking," said Faith, tremblingly. "And I wish I knew. What do you—?" But Faith paused, for she was afraid, after all, to finish the question, and to hear it answered.
"I don't think. I just keep doing. That's my part. Folks that think too much of what's a-coming, most likely won't attend to what there is."
Faith was finding out—a little of Miss Sampson, and a good deal of herself. Had she not thought too much of what might be coming? Had she not missed, perhaps, some of her own work, when that work was easier than now? And how presumptuously she had wished for "something to happen!" Was God punishing her for that?
"You just keep still, and patient—and wait," said Miss Sampson, noting the wistful look of pain. "That's your work, and after all, maybe it's the hardest kind. And I can't take it off folks' shoulders," added she to herself in an under voice; "so I needn't set up for the very toughest jobs, to be sure."
"I'll try," answered Faith, submissively, with quivering lips, "only if there should be anything that I could do—to sit up, or anything—you'll let me, won't you?"
"Of course I will," replied the nurse, cheerily. "I shan't be squeamish about asking when there's anything I really want done."
Faith moved toward the door that opened to her father's room. It was ajar. She pushed it gently open, and paused. "I may go in, mayn't I, nurse, just for a good-night look?"
The sick man heard her voice, though he did not catch her words.
"Come in, Faithie," said he, with one of his half gleams of consciousness, "I'll see you, daughter, as long as I live."
Faith's heart nearly broke at that, and she came, tearfully and silently, to the bedside, and laid her little, cool hand on her father's fevered one, and looked down on his face, worn, and suffering, and flushed—and thought within herself—it was a prayer and vow unspoken—"Oh, if God will only let him live, I will find something that I can do for him!"
And then she lifted the linen cloth that was laid over his forehead, and dipped it afresh in the bowl of ice water beside the bed, and put it gently back, and just kissed his hair softly, and went out into her own room.
Three nights—three days—more, the fever raged. And on the fourth night after, Faith and her mother knew, by the scrupulous care with which the doctor gave minute directions for the few hours to come, and the resolute way in which Miss Sampson declared that "whoever else had a mind to watch, she should sit up till morning this time," that the critical point was reached; that these dark, silent moments that would flit by so fast, were to spell, as they passed by, the sentence of life or death.
Faith would not be put by. Her mother sat on one side of the bed, while the nurse busied herself noiselessly, or waited, motionless, upon the other. Down by the fireside, on a low stool, with her head on the cushion of an easy-chair, leaned the young girl—her heart full, and every nerve strained with emotion and suspense.
She will never know, precisely, how those hours went on. She can remember the low breathing from the bed, and the now and then half-distinct utterance, as the brain wandered still in a dreamy, feverish maze; and she never will forget the precise color and pattern of the calico wrapper that Nurse Sampson wore; but she can recollect nothing else of it all, except that, after a time, longer or shorter, she glanced up, fearfully, as a strange hush seemed to have come over the room, and met a look and gesture of the nurse that warned her down again, for her life.