THE PATH OF DUTY,
AND OTHER STORIES,
H. S. CASWELL,
Montreal: JOHN LOVELL, 28 AND 25 ST. NICHOLAS STREET. 1874.
CLARA ROSCOM; OR, THE PATH OF DUTY;— Page.
CHAPTER I. A Sudden Bereavement 1 CHAPTER II. Success at School 6 CHAPTER III. Clara at Mrs. Wentworth's Boarding School 12 CHAPTER IV. Governess in Mr. Leighton's Family 18 CHAPTER V. Willie Leighton's Return from England 26 CHAPTER VI. An Evening Party 32 CHAPTER VII. Failing Health of Clara's Mother 39 CHAPTER VIII. A Bright Dream and Peaceful End 45 CHAPTER IX. Friendly Attentions 56 CHAPTER X. A Surprise 60 CHAPTER XI. Embarrassing Interviews 65 CHAPTER XII. A New England Home 76 CHAPTER XIII. New Occupations 83 CHAPTER XIV. School at Mill Town 91 CHAPTER XV. A Happy Re-union 96 CHAPTER XVI. Miss Simmond's Story 105 CHAPTER XVII. Penitent and Forgiven 117 CHAPTER XVIII. A New Joy 123 CHAPTER XIX. Uncle Charles 127 CHAPTER XX. Lights and Shadows 132 CHAPTER XXI. Reconciled 140 CHAPTER XXII. Clara's Marriage 145 CHAPTER XXIII. A Pleasing Incident 148
TERRY DOLAN 151
THE FAITHFUL WIFE 163
EMMA ASHTON 175
THOUGHTS ON AUTUMN 199
WANDERING DAVY 205
LOOKING ON THE DARK SIDE 215
EDWARD BARTON 223
THE WEARY AT REST 233
THE RAINY AFTERNOON 239
THE STUDENT'S DREAM 251
UNCLE EPHRAIM 257
STORY OF A LOG CABIN 265
HAZEL-BROOK FARM 281
OLD RUFUS 301
THE DIAMOND RING 311
THE UNFORTUNATE MAN 323
THE OLD SCHOOLHOUSE 329
ARTHUR SINCLAIR 335
THE SNOW STORM 355
THE NEW YEAR 361
EARNEST HARWOOD; OR, THE ADOPTED SON 367
A SUDDEN BEREAVEMENT.
"Awake, my dear child, awake!" These were the words I heard: I started up, gazing in a bewildered manner into the face of my mother, who had, with some difficulty, succeeded in arousing me from the sweet, healthful sleep of childhood. My mother drew nigh to me and whispered, "My dear Clara, your papa is dying." With a frightened cry, I threw my arms around her neck, and begged her to tell me what had happened. I was unable to comprehend the meaning of her words. Since my earliest recollection, my father had never experienced a day's illness, and so the reader may be able to form some idea of the shock occasioned by her words—uttered, as they were, at the hour of midnight. When my mother had succeeded in soothing me, in some degree, to calmness, she informed me, in a voice choked with sobs, which, for my sake, she tried to suppress, that my father had, two hours since, been stricken with apoplexy, in so severe a form that his life was despaired of. She further informed me that his attending physician thought he would not live to see the light of another morning. Well do I remember the nervous terror with which I clung to my mother as we entered my father's apartment, and the icy chill which diffused itself over my body, as I gazed upon the fearfully changed features of my father. I had never before seen death in any form. I believe the first view of death is more or less terrible to every child; it certainly was terrible for me to first view death imprinted upon the countenance of a fond father. I have ever since thought that my father recognized me when my mother led me to his bed-side; but power of utterance was gone. It was a fearful trial to me, who had seen but ten years of life. After the first shock, a strange calm took possession of me. Though many years have passed since that period, I remember, as though it were but yesterday, how I sat during those long hours, scarcely for an instant removing my eyes from my father's face, but shed not a tear; for, after the first burst of grief, tears refused to come to my relief. Just as the day began to dawn I heard the physician say, in a whisper, to a kind neighbor who stood by, I think he is going. At that moment my father opened his eyes, and, looking upward with a pleasant smile, expired without a struggle. I could never clearly remember how I passed the intervening days between my father's death and burial. I have an indistinct recollection of the hushed voices and soft footsteps of friends and neighbors, who kindly came to aid in performing the last offices of love and friendship to the remains of my departed father. I also remember being led by my almost heart-broken mother into the darkened room, where lay the lifeless body of my father, now prepared for the grave; but I have a more vivid recollection of standing with my mother beside an open grave, and hearing our pastor, in a solemn voice, utter the words, "Earth to earth—ashes to ashes—dust to dust." Oh! the falling of that first earth upon my father's coffin, shall I ever forget the sound? Child as I was, it seemed to me that my heart would break; but tears, the first I had shed since my father's death, came to my relief. Those blessed tears. I may well call them blessed, since the physician afterwards told my mother that they saved either my reason or my life. Kind friends besought my mother and me to allow ourselves to be conveyed home and not await the filling up of the grave. But no. We could not leave the spot till the last earth was thrown upon the grave, and a mound covered with grassy sods was to be seen, where a little before was only a mournful cavity. Then indeed we felt that he was gone, and that we must return to our desolate home—the home which ever before his presence had filled with joy and gladness.
I must pass over, with a few words only, the first year of our bereavement, as even now I shudder to recall the feeling of loneliness and desolation which took possession of us, when we found ourselves left alone in the home where everything reminded us so strongly of the departed one. There was a small apartment adjoining our usual sitting-room which my father was wont to call his study, and, being fond of books, he used there to pass much of his leisure time. It was quite a long time after his death before my mother could enter that apartment. She said to me one day, "Will you go with me, Clara, to your father's study?" I replied, "Can you go there, Mamma?" "Yes, dear," said my mother, and led the way to the door. No one had entered that room since my father left it on the last night of his life, the door having been locked on the day succeeding his death. As my mother softly turned the key and opened the door, it seemed almost that we stood in my father's presence, so vividly did the surroundings of that room recall him to our minds. There stood his table and chair, and his writing desk stood upon the table, and several books and papers were scattered carelessly upon the table. The last book he had been reading lay open as he had left it; it was a volume of Whitfield's sermons; it was a book which my father valued highly, and is now a cherished keep-sake of my own. My mother seemed quite overcome with grief. I know she had striven daily to conceal her grief when in my presence, for she knew how I grieved for my father; and she was aware that her tears would only add to my sorrow, so for my sake it was that she forced herself to appear calm—almost cheerful; but upon this occasion her grief was not to be checked. She bowed her head upon the table, while convulsive sobs shook her frame. I tried, in my childish way, to comfort her. I had never seen her so much moved since my father's death. When she became more composed, she rose, and I assisted her in dusting and arranging the furniture of the room; and after this first visit to the room, we no longer avoided entering it. Since quite a young man my father had been employed as book-keeper in a large mercantile house in the city of Philadelphia, where we resided. As he had ever proved trustworthy and faithful to the interests of his employers, they had seen fit, upon his marriage, to give him an increase of salary, which enabled him to purchase a small, but neat and convenient dwelling in a respectable street in Philadelphia, where we had lived in the enjoyment of all the comforts, and with many of the luxuries of life, to the time of the sad event which left me fatherless and my mother a widow. I had never, as yet, attended any school. My mother had been my only teacher, and as her own education had been thorough, she was amply qualified for the task.
SUCCESS AT SCHOOL.
About a year after my father's death, my mother decided upon sending me to school, as she thought I was becoming too sedate and serious for a child only eleven years of age. I had never been very familiar with the neighbouring children of my own age, and after the death of my father I cared still less for their companionship. My chief enjoyment was in the society of my mother; and as we kept no servant, I found many ways of making myself useful to her; and every afternoon she devoted two or three hours to my lessons and needlework. Thus passed away the first year after our great sorrow, when, as I have already said, my mother decided upon sending me to school. It seemed to me, at the time, quite a formidable undertaking—this going to school. I had never been separated from my mother, and the five hours to be spent daily in the school-room seemed to my childish mind a very long time. I had ever been shy and diffident in the presence of strangers, and the idea of entering a large school a stranger to both teacher and pupils, was very unpleasant to me. But when I found it to be my mother's wish that I should go, I endeavoured to overcome my reluctance, and assisted my mother in her preparations for entering me as a pupil at the beginning of the ensuing term.
It was with a feeling of timidity that I accompanied my mother through several streets to the school taught by Miss Edmonds. My mother accompanied me to relieve me from any awkwardness I might feel in presenting myself for admission. It was a select school for girls. As my education had thus far been entirely conducted by my mother, I had of course, never been subjected to the rules of a school-room; and I must confess that I had formed an idea of school teachers in general that was not at all flattering. I fancied them all to be old, sour and cross—a mere walking bundle of rules and regulations, and I was quite unprepared to see the sweet-looking young lady who answered to my mother's summons at the door. Surely, thought I, this young lady cannot be Miss Edmonds; and when my mother enquired if such were her name and she replied in the affirmative, I thought going to school might not be so bad after all. After giving Miss Edmonds my name and age, my mother held some conversation with her regarding my studies, and left me with an encouraging smile. I felt all my timidity return when I thought of entering the school-room with Miss Edmonds, but her kind and friendly manner reassured me. The school consisted of about thirty girls, many of them older than myself. I had feared that my attainments would be inferior to those of the youngest of the pupils, and I was equally pleased and surprised when Miss Edmonds, after a long and careful examination in regard to my acquirements, placed me in one of the higher classes. There was to me an irresistible attraction in the countenance and manner of my teacher; and, from the first moment I saw her I loved her. Although her home is now far distant from mine, and we have not met for many years, I love her as dearly now as when she took me by the hand when a child of eleven years. She conducted her school in a very systematic and orderly manner, and was very particular to require perfect recitations from her pupils; but as I possessed a retentive memory, I found my tasks much lighter than did many of my classmates.
When I had been about a year at school, Miss Edmonds offered a prize, in the class to which I belonged, to the young lady who should write the most able composition upon a given subject. The prize was to be a small gold pencil-case, and was to be awarded at the close of the summer term. The closing day at length came; there was much suppressed excitement when we were called to order that morning. As we expected no visitors till the afternoon, we spent the morning mostly in reviewing our various studies. By two o'clock our school-room was crowded. We first passed a very searching examination in the different studies we had pursued during the past year. I believe we passed our examination in a manner creditable both to our teacher and to ourselves.
The reading of our compositions was reserved, as the closing exercise. The compositions, with the name of the writer, were read by Miss Edmonds. Each person present was at liberty to write down each name as it was read by our teacher, annexing to it the numbers one, two or three, according to their opinion of the merits of the composition, each desk being furnished with paper, pens and ink for the purpose. When the compositions had all been read, the slips of paper were collected and handed to our pastor, who was to read aloud the fortunate name with the greatest number of ones annexed. What then was my amazement and that of all present when our pastor, after carefully examining the papers, rose and said,—"Miss Clara Roscom will please come forward, and receive from the hands of Miss Edmonds the reward of so much merit." I remember I felt a nervous dread of crossing the large school-room alone, when I knew every eye would be directed to me. Composing myself by a strong effort, I rose and walked up to the raised platform, where at her desk sat Miss Edmonds, with our pastor and several other friends. As I bowed low in acknowledgement of the gift, Miss Edmonds, with a few kind words, dismissed me to my seat. I heard many flattering remarks among our assembled friends; but the proudest moment of all, to me, was when I gained my mother's side and she said to me in a low voice, "My dear Clara, this seems to me a token that you will prove a blessing to your poor widowed mother."
Miss Edmonds often remarked that I made wonderful progress in my studies, and these commendations, coming from my teacher, incited me to still greater diligence. I take no credit to myself for superior talent, but I certainly did my best, for, be it remembered, I was studying to please my dear mother, who often said to me, "You must, my dear Clara, make the best of your opportunities for improvement, as the time may come when your education may be your only means of support." My mother often regretted that we did not own a piano, for she was very anxious that I should study music; but our means did not justify the purchase of an instrument, and she thought that lessons without the necessary practice would be useless. The parents of Miss Edmonds resided in the city. They had once been wealthy, but owing to those reverses to which all are liable they had become reduced in circumstances, so much so that Miss Edmonds gladly turned to account the superior education she had received in their prosperous days, and she had for some time been a teacher when I became a member of her school. My mother happened to mention to Miss Edmonds one day her regret that I was unable to take music-lessons, for want of opportunity for the needful practice, when she informed my mother that she still retained her piano out of the wreck of their former affluence, and that, if she wished me to take lessons, I was at liberty to practice daily upon it. My mother accepted for me the kind offer, and I at once began taking lessons. I remained four years under the instruction of Miss Edmonds, with much profit to myself. At the end of this time, Mr. Edmonds removed with his family to the city of New York, having through the influence of friends, obtained the situation of cashier in one of the banks in that city. It was a severe trial for Miss Edmonds to resign the school where she was so much beloved by her pupils; but she thought it her duty to accompany her parents to their new home.
CLARA AT MRS. WENTWORTH'S BOARDING SCHOOL.
As it was my mother's intention to give me a thoroughly good education, she began, after the departure of Miss Edmonds, to consider the propriety of sending me to a noted seminary for young ladies, about two hundred miles from Philadelphia, as she learned from various sources of the excellence of the institution. There was but one difficulty in the way, and that was the money needful for defraying my expenses. At my father's death, he left us the owners of the house we occupied, and a sum of money, though not a large one, in the Savings' Bank. Up to the time of which I speak, we had only drawn the annual interest of our money, while the principal remained untouched, my mother having obtained needle-work to eke out our small income; but, in order that I should finish my education according to the wishes of my mother, as well as my own, a portion of the principal must be withdrawn. After some reflection upon the subject, my mother decided that a good education might prove of more value to me than money, so a portion of the money was drawn, and we began the preparations for my departure from home. It was the high reputation which the school sustained that influenced my mother in her decision to send me so far from home. There was a lady residing in the near vicinity of the school who had been a loved school-mate of my mother in their youthful days. My mother wrote to her upon the subject and received a very friendly reply, informing her that, owing to their own early friendship, she would be most happy to fill a mother's place to me, so long as I should wish to remain at school. I should have been much elated at the proposed journey had it not been for the thought of leaving my mother, who had ever been my confidant and adviser. My mother also felt keenly the coming departure, although she strove to conceal her feelings as much as possible. I strongly objected to leaving her alone, but we had as yet been unable to devise any plan to avoid so doing. My mother would have rented a portion of our dwelling, but it was not adapted for the convenience of two families, neither could she endure the disquiet of keeping boarders.
"Clara," said my mother one day, as we sat at work, "I think I will send for Aunt Patience to come and stay with me during your absence."
She laughed outright at the look of dismay with which I regarded her, occasioned by the recollection which I retained of a visit she paid us when I was eight years of age. She was a maiden lady somewhat advanced in years, possessed of a very kind heart and many excellent qualities; but the name of Patience seemed to me a misapplication in her case, for she certainly possessed but a small quantity of that valuable article. Early in life she had passed through many trials, which might have tended to sour her disposition. I remember that during the visit referred to, my mother had occasion to spend a day from home, leaving me in care of Aunt Patience. It seemed a very long day to me. Like all children, I was restless and troublesome, and to one unaccustomed to the care of children it was doubtless very annoying. During the day I received a severe box on the ear from Aunt Patience, for saying to her in an outburst of childish anger, when provoked by her continued fault-finding,
"I don't know what makes them call you Aunt Patience, for you scold all the time."
She informed my mother of it upon her return, and she gave me a reproof for allowing myself to speak disrespectfully to my relative; although, while listening to the relation of the difficulty by Aunt Patience, she found it extremely difficult to repress a smile. However, my mother both loved and respected her, and thought she could live very comfortably with her during my absence; indeed my mother thought her quite a desirable companion, for, setting aside her irritability at petty annoyances, she was a woman of good sense, and was well informed upon most subjects, so I gladly joined in the invitation which my mother sent her, to come and make our house her home for an indefinite period. As she lived only a day's journey by railway from Philadelphia, she arrived a week before I left home. She did not like the idea of my mother spending so much money in sending me to school. To all of her remarks upon the subject my mother replied pleasantly, for she was her own aunt, and she would not treat her with disrespect. During the few days I remained at home after her arrival, I formed a much more favorable opinion of Aunt Patience than I had done during her visit in the days of my childhood; and when I observed how kind she was to my mother I found it easy to love her.
I felt very sad the morning I bade adieu to my mother and Aunt Patience, to go into the world alone. My mother had before given me many kind counsels regarding my future conduct, now she only said, as she embraced me at parting, "My dear daughter, I trust you will improve your time and talents, and conduct yourself in a manner that will not disappoint your mother." As Aunt Patience bade me good-bye, she said, with a countenance of much solemnity, "You must remember, Clara, all the advice I have given you." Sad as I felt, I could not repress a smile, for during the past week her advices regarding my future conduct had been so numerous, that it would have required a memory more retentive than mine to have remembered them all; but I knew they were intended for my good, and I readily promised to try and observe them. I wish not to weary the reader by giving a detailed account of my journey. I arrived safely at my destination, and met with a very cordial welcome at the house of Mrs. Armitage, my mother's friend; two days later I became a member of the celebrated school for young ladies, taught at that time by Mrs. Wentworth, aided by competent assistance.
Mrs. Wentworth was a widow lady, of superior education and noble mind. I spent four happy years in this institution, having visited my mother but once during the time. It was very pleasant for me to find myself once more at home, with the opportunity for rest and relaxation, after four years, application to books. During my absence, my mother and Aunt Patience had lived very quietly, they saw but little company, and were much occupied with their needles as a means of support. During the first three years of my absence my mother enjoyed good health, but, during my last year at school, she was visited by a long and painful illness, through which she was attended, with the utmost kindness and attention, by her aunt; my mother being unwilling to recall me from school, if it were possible to avoid it; and she had been obliged, on account of her illness, to withdraw most of the sum remaining in the Savings' Bank. On my return home I found her enjoying a tolerable degree of health, but I feared that such close application to her needle had been too much for one whose constitution was naturally delicate. She seemed like one weary both in mind and body. After my arrival, however, she seemed to regain her usual cheerfulness, and in a short time seemed quite herself again. It was now I felt it my duty to turn the education which my mother had been at so much pains to give me to account by teaching, in order to assist her, and also to obtain a support for myself. We had decided to offer Aunt Patience a home for the remainder of her life, indeed I felt that I owed her a debt of gratitude for her past kindness to my mother. We therefore told her that so long as we possessed a home, we would gladly share it with her, provided she felt contented to remain with us. She at first demurred a little, as she was aware that our means were limited; but when my mother told her that she would not know what to do without her, it seemed to set her mind at rest, and she gladly assented to our proposal, and it was settled that for the future her home was to be with us.
I had as yet settled upon no definite plan in regard to teaching. My mother wished me to apply for the situation of governess in a family, as she thought that position would command a higher salary, and would prove less laborious than a situation in a school. About this time we noticed in a daily paper an advertisement for a governess, wanted in the family of a Mr. Leighton, residing in the suburbs of the city; the salary offered was liberal, and I thought, with my mother, that I had best apply for the situation.
GOVERNESS IN MR. LEIGHTON'S FAMILY.
It was with a feeling of trepidation, such as I never before experienced, that I ascended the steps of the splendid residence of Mr. Leighton. When I found myself at the door, my courage well nigh failed me, but without giving myself much time for reflection, I rang the door bell. After some little delay the door was opened by a domestic, of whom I enquired if I could see Mrs. Leighton. The servant replied that she did not know, but that she would see if her mistress was disengaged. "What name?" enquired the servant, "Miss Roscom," I replied. The servant ushered me into the parlor, and left the room. Being left alone, I amused myself by taking a survey of the apartment. It was evident that I had entered the abode of luxury and wealth. The sofas and chairs were covered with rich velvet, while satin curtains draped the windows. An elegant and costly piano occupied one corner of the room; the walls were adorned by costly pictures, and on the marble centre-table were many books in elegant bindings; and rare and exquisite ornaments were scattered with lavish profusion. Upon the entrance of a tall, and, as I thought at the time, rather haughty-looking lady, I rose, bowed and continued standing, as she said,—
"My servant informs me your name is Miss Roscom."
I replied in the affirmative, and added, "I have the pleasure, I presume, of addressing Mrs. Leighton?"
The lady acknowledged her claim to that name, and I continued,—"Seeing your advertisement for a governess, I have made bold to apply for the situation."
The lady bent upon me a searching look, as she replied,—
"Pray be seated Miss, and we will converse upon the matter."
I gladly obeyed her request that I should be seated, for I felt nervous and agitated. After a moment's silence she addressed me, saying,—
"You look rather young, for the responsible duties of a governess."
I replied that I was not yet nineteen years of age, that I had not as yet been engaged in teaching, having only myself left school three months since,—but that I found it necessary that I should do something for my own support and that of my widowed mother,—and that I would gladly do my utmost to give satisfaction, could I obtain a situation.
Mrs. Leighton, after a moment's thought, said,—"Although you are young for the position, your countenance pleases me, and I feel inclined to give you a trial."
She then informed me that my pupils would consist of two girls, the eldest twelve, the other ten years of age, also a little boy of seven. She added, "I had almost forgotten to enquire if you have brought any references?"
Whereupon I handed her the certificate of qualifications given me by Mrs. Wentworth when I left school. She looked pleased as she replied,
"Your being for four years a member of Mrs. Wentworth's school is in itself a recommendation."
I also handed her the names of several ladies well known in the city, telling her she was at liberty to make any enquiries of them she might think proper. She replied that she felt almost certain she would engage me, but that she would send me a decided answer in the course of two or three days. I thanked her, and, bidding her good morning, set out on my return home, much elated with the success of this my first application.
The salary offered by Mrs. Leighton was a weighty consideration to me, and although aware that my duties would often prove unpleasant and irksome, I felt that I could endure much with the consciousness that I was assisting my dear mother.
My mother advised me not to be too sanguine as I might not obtain the situation; but, on the third day after my application, my suspense was relieved by receiving a note from Mrs. Leighton, saying that she would gladly engage me, if I still wished for the situation; and she named an early day when she wished me to enter upon my duties. I replied that I gladly accepted the situation, and would be ready to begin duties at the day appointed.
Now that I had accepted the position, I began to experience many doubts as to my success in the undertaking. I had no knowledge as yet of the dispositions of the children that were to be committed to my care, not having even seen them; but my mother told me I was wrong to allow such thoughts to trouble me, and that the blessing of God would surely rest upon my labors so long as I continued in the path of duty. I therefore cast away all my desponding fears, and hastened the preparations for my departure to the home of the Leightons.
I was kindly received by Mrs. Leighton upon my arrival; and, when we were seated in the parlor, she summoned the children for the purpose of introducing them to me.
"My dears," said she, addressing the children, "this is Miss Roscom, your governess."
Then, turning to me, she introduced them each by name. I must confess that I was not prepossessed in favor of the eldest of the girls. She was very tall for her age; she had a dark complexion, with very black eyes and hair, and had, as it seemed to me, rather a forbidding expression of countenance. She also gave me, as I thought, rather pert replies to the few remarks I addressed to her. There was not the slightest resemblance between her and her younger sister; her name was Georgania. There was something peculiarly attractive in the countenance and manner of Bertha, or Birdie, as she was called by all the family. She was indeed a child formed to attract the admiration and love of all who saw her. Her complexion would have appeared almost too pale but for the rose-tint on either cheek; she had beautiful eyes of a dark blue, and her soft brown hair fell in luxuriant curls upon her shoulders. She came forward as her mother called her name and placed her hand in mine. I thought at the time that I had never before seen so lovely and engaging a child. The little boy, Lewis, was a manly looking little fellow for his age, although I feared, from his countenance that he might possess a temper and a will not easy to be controlled. He somewhat resembled his sister Georgania, as his complexion and eyes were dark; but he had a more pleasing expression of countenance. When Mrs. Leighton had dismissed the children from the room, she turned to me, remarking that probably I would like to retire for a time to my own room, she called one of the servants and requested her to show me to my apartment. As I was leaving the parlor she informed me that tea would be ready at half-past six o'clock. The room appropriated to my use was very pleasant, and was also tastefully furnished. At the tea-table I was introduced to Mr. Leighton, whom I had not before seen. I was very much pleased by his manner, which had none of that patronizing condescension with which the rich so often address the poor. I found him a gentleman, in the truest sense of the word.
After tea, Mr. Leighton requested me to favor them with some music. Accordingly I seated myself at the piano and played several pieces, with which he seemed much pleased. He remarked that they were quite at a loss for music since their eldest daughter, Laura, left home for school, as their two youngest daughters had but recently commenced taking lessons. As I rose from the piano, Mrs. Leighton enquired if I sang. I replied that I sometimes sang to oblige my friends. She asked if I would favor them with a song. Resuming my seat, I began the first song which occurred to my mind. It chanced to be that much-admired song, by Foster, called "Willie, we have missed you." When I concluded I was surprised to find Mrs. Leighton in tears. She informed me, by way of apology, that their eldest son's name was Willie, and that he had been absent for some months in England, on account of the death of a wealthy uncle, who had made him his heir. She remarked, further, that he was the life of their dwelling, and they had indeed missed him very much. I said that I was sorry to have given her pain. She replied that the song had afforded her a pleasure, although, said she, "I could not refrain from tears while thinking of my absent Willie."
In order to change the subject, Mr. Leighton remarked that they were fortunate in securing a governess who could both sing and play, as he was very fond of music.
When I left Mrs. Wentworth's school I was called an excellent performer on the piano, for I was very fond of music, and had devoted much time to practice. We also enjoyed some very pleasant conversation during the evening, and the more I saw of Mr. and Mrs. Leighton I felt disposed to like them. When I retired to my own room I kneeled and thanked my Heavenly Father for directing me to a home where I had a prospect of being useful and happy.
It is not my intention to give a detailed account of the events of the next two years; and a few words must suffice for that period of time.
If I had trials of temper to endure from my pupils,—and who ever yet was a governess and had not,—I also enjoyed much pleasure in their society. The eldest of my pupils gave me more trouble than did both the others. Her memory was not retentive; she had also a certain listlessness of manner during lessons which was at times very annoying. But it was a very pleasant task to instruct Birdie; she drank in knowledge eagerly, and possessed an excellent memory. In music she made astonishing progress, for a child of her years; and she was of a most affectionate disposition, which made the duty of imparting knowledge to her doubly pleasant. The progress of little Lewis was equal to that of most boys of his age. I found less trouble with him than I had at first anticipated. I found him to be a child that would never be controlled by harshness, but he was easily restrained by kindness.
As often as I could do so conveniently I visited my mother and Aunt Patience. Aunt Patience seemed happier than I had ever before seen her. I think the quiet of her home tended to soften her somewhat irritable temper.
WILLIE LEIGHTON'S RETURN FROM ENGLAND.
Soon after I became a resident in the dwelling of Mr. Leighton, they received a letter from Willie, informing them that the estate of his deceased relative could not be finally arranged in less time than a year, perhaps longer; and he thought that instead of returning to Philadelphia he would enter a College in England, and devote the intervening time to study. His parents could not object, knowing it to be for his interest, as he had not, when a boy taken very kindly to study. A year passed away, and Willie did not return, but they received frequent letters from him. Near the close of the second year he wrote, informing them that he intended leaving England on the tenth of the month following, as the matters pertaining to the property left him were now satisfactorily arranged.
About this time Laura returned home from school, having finished her term of study. Mrs. Leighton intended sending Georgania to the same institution where Laura studied, but she was not to go till the coming autumn. She wished, however, that I should remain with them till Birdie and Lewis should be old enough to send from home. I had been very, very kindly treated in the home of Mrs. Leighton, and had become strongly attached to my pupils, especially the two younger of them; and I was glad of the opportunity of remaining near to my mother.
As the time drew near when they looked for the return of Willie, all the family were busy with their preparations for giving him a joyous welcome.
When I observed the eagerness with which they looked forward to his return, I could not at times help feeling a pang of regret that I had neither brother nor sister of my own. Had it not been for my surviving parent, I should have felt entirely alone in the world. Not that I envied the Leightons—far from it—but I could not help sometimes contrasting my position in life with theirs. They being blessed with the love of fond parents, brothers and sisters, along with the possession of abundant wealth, and every comfort which tends to form a happy home; while I was a poor, fatherless girl, obliged to labor for my own support and that of my mother. I could not help thinking how different all might have been had the life of my father been spared. I do not think that I was usually of an unhappy disposition; on the contrary, I was inclined to be hopeful and cheerful; but I believe with the best of us, the happiness of others more favoured than ourselves will give rise to a feeling of sadness.
The time soon arrived when, according to the letter they had received from Willie, they might daily expect his arrival. None of the family were able to settle their minds upon any employment, and it was with the greatest difficulty that I could obtain the attention of my pupils during the time appointed for their daily lessons, and, being aware of the cause, I could hardly blame them. Their suspense was at length ended by the arrival of Willie. Never shall I forget the joy which was depicted upon the countenance of little Lewis when suddenly he burst into my room, exclaiming,
"Oh! Miss Roscom, our dear, dear brother Willie has come at last! Don't you wish you had a brother Willie too?"
Had he known the pang which his childish remark occasioned me he certainly would never have made it. With much difficulty I kept back my tears and tried to appear as much pleased as the child evidently wished me to be. I had been accustomed, since my residence in the family, to spend my evening mostly with them in the parlor; but on that evening I remained in my own room, feeling that I should be an intruder upon that family reunion. I took up a book and endeavored to interest myself in its pages. I could distinctly hear the joyous murmur of voices from below, varied by bursts of laughter, not loud, but strikingly mirthful. I soon heard light footsteps ascending the stairs; the next moment Birdie rushed in, exclaiming,
"Mamma says she has been so much occupied that she had almost forgotten you; but she says you must come down at once; you mustn't sit here alone when we are all so happy."
I begged to be excused from going down, saying that they would probably prefer being left to themselves on this evening of Willie's return.
"Oh!" said she, "Papa and mamma both expect you to go down."
Fearful of giving offence, and after making some slight alterations in my dress, I accompanied Birdie down stairs and entered the parlor.
I believe most persons feel a kind of embarrassment when meeting for the first time one of whom they have long heard much. I was sensible of this feeling when I entered the parlor that evening.
Willie rose as I entered the room, and Mrs. Leighton, coming forward, said,—
"Miss Roscom, allow me to introduce to you my son Willie."
I felt much relieved by this unceremonious introduction. For a time we engaged in general conversation. The manner of Willie was so genial and pleasant that I at once felt at ease in his society. I had often thought that Birdie resembled no other member of the family, but that was before I saw Willie. He had the same complexion, the same cast of countenance, with the same smile, only in a more mature and masculine form.
After an hour spent in social conversation, he said some music would be very welcome to him, it was so long since he had enjoyed that pleasure in their own home. Laura immediately went to the piano, and sang two or three songs which she knew to be favourites of his. Willie invited me to play, but I begged him to excuse me for the time being, as he had three sisters present, who all played more or less.
After his sisters had each in their turn favored him with some music, he rose, and taking the vacant seat at the piano, asked if we would not like to hear an English song. His sisters laughed heartily, thinking him to be only in jest; but their amusement changed to wonder and admiration when, after running his fingers lightly over the keys, he began playing a soft and melodious prelude. It seemed that when a boy of fifteen, he had as a sort of amusement learned the rudiments of music, but he had not begun with any settled purpose of making progress in the study, and had soon become tired of it. What then was their surprise to hear him sing with much taste and skill, to a beautiful accompaniment, a song he had learned in England.
He explained, that while in England, a class-mate of his, who was an excellent musician, had given him lessons; and that after a time he had become very fond of it, and had practised much during his leisure hours.
It was easy to see that Willie was almost idolized by all the family. During the evening Mrs. Leighton could scarcely take her eyes from the face of her son, and they all eagerly listened to his every word: and any one who saw the noble-looking young man, could not wonder at their affection for him. When he rose from the piano, Birdie and Lewis begged for one more song, but Mrs. Leighton reminded them that it was late, and that their brother must be fatigued. And soon after prayers, the happy family separated for the night.
AN EVENING PARTY.
Previous to the return home of Laura and Willie, the Leightons had seen but little company for a family of their wealth and social position; but now, instead of the heretofore quiet evenings, their superb parlors were thronged with acquaintances and friends, for both Willie and Laura had been favourites with both young and old.
Laura had intended giving a large party, but had deferred it till Willie should return home; and soon after his arrival the invitations were sent, and preparations were commenced for the contemplated party. I did not expect, neither did I wish, to be included among the guests. I had never attended a fashionable party in my life; and I thought, even were I favoured with an invitation, that I should feel strangely out of place amid so much display of wealth and fashion as I should be sure to meet with at a party given by one of the most wealthy and influential families in the city.
I was much surprised when I received from Laura a very cordial invitation to attend her party. I at first declined the invitation, saying that I was unaccustomed to any thing of the kind, and that as most of the guests would be strangers to me, I should prefer not attending; but when Mr. and Mrs. Leighton expressed their wish that I should attend the party, I overcame my reluctance and consented.
The evening at length came, and although I anticipated but little pleasure from the party, I felt a degree of restlessness and expectation when the appointed evening arrived. My wardrobe was not furnished with any superfluities in the way of dress, and my command of money was not sufficient to allow of any extravagance in apparel. Laura kindly offered to present me with a beautiful silk dress for the occasion, but I delicately, though firmly, declined the gift, for I wished not to appear otherwise than in my true position. I therefore selected the most appropriate dress I possessed for the occasion; it was quite plain, though of rich material. The only ornament I wore was a pearl necklace, which had been a bridal gift to my mother.
Laura assisted me in making my toilette, and insisted that I should allow her to place a few natural flowers in my hair, and to please her I consented to wear them. Laura looked very lovely in the costly dress purchased for the occasion; she also wore a set of diamond ornaments, which her father had presented to her on her return from school.
As soon as we had finished our toilettes, we descended to the drawing-room, where Mr. and Mrs. Leighton had already taken their places, as it was near the hour when they might expect their guests to begin to assemble.
I went down thus early to avoid the unpleasantness of entering the brilliantly lighted drawing-room after it should be filled with guests. I had requested of the Leightons that I might receive as few introductions as possible under the circumstances. Truly it was a brilliant assembly which soon filled those spacious apartments. Among the guests who first arrived were a Mr. and Mrs. Lawton, with their daughter, to whom Laura gave me an introduction.
Their kind attentions and lively conversation soon dispelled the feeling of embarrassment with which I first found myself in the company of so many wealthy and distinguished people.
Dancing was soon introduced. Dancing was an accomplishment which I had never learned, as my mother disapproved of the amusement. Willie seemed disappointed when he invited me to become his partner for the quadrille then forming, and I replied that I did not dance. When he learned that I did not dance he introduced to me a young gentleman by the name of Shirley, who was seated near us, and who, for some reason or other, did not join the dancers. Mr. Shirley's conversational powers were extremely good, and we engaged in conversation for some time, in the course of which I enquired why he refrained from dancing? A shade of sadness passed over his countenance as he replied,—
"When a mere youth I was very fond of the amusement, and devoted much time to the practice of it. I believe it is the only thing which I ever knowingly did against the wishes of my parents; but my fondness for dancing amounted almost to a passion, and I often frequented the giddy ball-room when I knew that I was grieving my fond parents by so doing. My father and mother considered dancing a sinful amusement; but as my inclination to follow it was so strong, they finally forbore to admonish me further.
"When I was about twenty years of age my mother died. I was then residing at a distance from home. When mother's illness became alarming, I was summoned home. I was tenderly attached to my mother, and my grief was overwhelming when I saw that she must die. A short time before her death, she said to me one day, when we chanced to be left alone, 'My dear son, there is one subject upon which I wish to speak with you, 'ere I leave you for ever. You know I have ever considered dancing to be a sinful amusement. There may be no sin in the simple act of dancing, but it is an amusement which certainly has a tendency to evil. I know that you very much enjoy it, but you are now capable of serious reflection, and allow me to ask you if you feel in a suitable frame of mind for prayer and meditation when you retire to your room after having spent the evening in the frivolous amusement of dancing?' This was an argument which I could neither gainsay nor resist, and coming as it did from the lips of my dying mother, I was much affected by it. Before leaving my mother's room, I solemnly promised her that I would never again participate in the amusement of dancing, and that promise I have most sacredly kept. I now often wonder that I could ever have been so fond of an amusement which at the best affords so little real enjoyment to its votaries. I trust you will pardon the liberty which I have taken in talking so long of myself to you, an entire stranger; but when you enquired my reason for not joining in the dance, something in your countenance impelled me to be thus candid in my answer."
We remained for some time longer in conversation, and I really began to enjoy the party. There were several ladies and gentlemen seated near us, engaged also in conversation, and I could not avoid hearing much that passed among them. Presently I heard a lady enquire of a Mrs. Kingsley, a lady to whom I had been introduced in the early part of the evening,—
"Who is that young lady with whom Mr. Shirley has been so long conversing?"
"Oh!" she replied, "she is only the governess in Mrs. Leighton's family. A person, as I am informed, of good education, but very poor, and obliged to teach as a means of support for herself and mother, who is a widow."
Why should I have felt so indignant at those words, which, if maliciously intended, were certainly true? I suppose the attentions I was receiving at this my first party were causing me to forget my true position. The lady who had first spoken remarked further to Mrs. Kingsley,—
"Don't you think her very pretty—almost beautiful? I think I never before saw so intelligent a countenance."
Mrs. Kingsley replied,—
"I see nothing so very intelligent in her countenance, and if you consider her pretty, I must say that I am astonished at your taste; indeed I think her quite common-looking. I almost wonder that the Leightons should have made her a guest at a party with their friends; but then Miss Laura is kind-hearted, and I presume invited her out of pity—those poor people have so few pleasures."
"Hush! She may hear you."
And they changed the subject. I had, however, heard quite enough to spoil my enjoyment for the rest of the evening. I was young and inexperienced then, and this was my first, though by no means my last, lesson in those distinctions which the world draws between the rich and the poor. Had I possessed a little more knowledge of the world I should better have understood the matter, knowing as I did, that Mrs. Kingsley had an unmarried daughter present, of uncertain age, with a fair prospect of remaining for some time longer in her state of single blessedness. I forbear describing Miss Kingsley, and will only say that if Mrs. Kingsley thought me common-looking, I, on the contrary, thought her daughter, Miss Kingsley, to be very uncommon-looking.
After the remarks to which I had been an unwilling listener, I derived very little pleasure from the party. I mentally said, if my poverty is to be made a subject of conversation in parties like this, I wish never to attend another; and I was heartily glad when the gay assembly departed, at two o'clock in the morning.
Thus ended my first party, which would have afforded me much enjoyment had I not chanced to hear those annoying remarks from Mrs. Kingsley.
The party given by the Leightons was soon succeeded by others among their numerous acquaintances. To several of those parties I was favored with invitations, which I invariably declined, for I had decided to attend no more fashionable parties. At length, when urged by the Leightons to give my reasons for steadily refusing all invitations, I informed them of the remarks I had overheard from Mrs. Kingsley on the night of Laura's party. Never shall I forget the look of scorn and contempt with which Willie Leighton listened as I related the circumstance; but he made no remark, as he knew Mrs. Kingsley to be one of his mother's most intimate friends. Mrs. Leighton remarked that Mrs. Kingsley possessed many good qualities, although she was sometimes inclined to make malicious remarks.
FAILING HEALTH OF CLARA'S MOTHER.
I soon had a far more serious cause for disquiet than the remarks of Mrs. Kingsley or any one else could have occasioned. I had many times during the past year feared that my mother's health was failing. She looked thin and pale, and seemed to lack her usual activity in performing her household duties. I frequently enquired if she were ill, and she had ever replied that she was quite well; only it might be a little fatigued. But the truth could no longer be concealed. My mother was ill, and that seriously. She still attended to her daily occupations, but she was greatly changed; she seemed during the past few weeks to have grown thin almost to attenuation. She was very pale, except at times there was a feverish glow upon her cheeks. I was then too young to detect, as I should now do, the insidious approach of that foe to human life, consumption. Going one day to visit my mother, I was so struck by the change so visible in her countenance, I privately asked Aunt Patience if she did not feel alarmed for my mother? She burst into tears, and was for some time unable to reply. I had never before seen Aunt Patience so much affected. I begged of her to tell me if there was any real cause for alarm, for I had hoped she would be able to dispel all my fears in regard to my mother. Regaining her composure, she told me that consumption was hereditary in my mother's family. I had never before chanced to hear it mentioned, but Aunt Patience now informed me that several of the family had fallen victims to that disease, and that she feared it had already fastened upon my mother.
"I am glad," she said, "that you have spoken to me upon the subject. I have long wished to make known my feelings to you, but I shrank from giving you pain. I have been unable to persuade your mother to call a physician. She imagines herself better; but I can see but too plainly that such is not the case."
I forebore mentioning the subject to my mother at that time; indeed I could not have done so. I was now thoroughly alarmed—almost terrified, and it was with a heavy heart that I returned to the dwelling of Mrs. Leighton.
I had frequently spoken to Mrs. Leighton of my mother's failing health, and I now felt it my duty to resign my position as governess, for a time at least, and return to my mother, that she might be relieved from all care. When I returned to Mrs. Leighton's on the evening in question, I again spoke to her upon the subject, saying that I feared I should be obliged to resign my situation in her family and return to my mother, who evidently needed my attention. Mrs. Leighton expressed much sympathy for me in my trouble, saying that I ought by all means to hasten to my mother; but added that she did not wish me to resign my position, as she was willing to wait for me for any length of time I might find it necessary to remain at home. She said, further, that Laura would be quite willing to give some attention to the children during my absence; and she tried to cheer me up, saying that she trusted my mother would soon be better. I too tried to be hopeful, but the impression that my mother was to die had taken deep hold of my mind.
I visited my mother the next evening, and, to avoid surprising her by suddenly returning home, I informed her that I intended spending a few weeks at home, as I needed rest from teaching, and that Laura would attend to the children during the time I should remain at home. My mother seemed so cheerful that evening that I began to hope that I might have been too much alarmed; but, when I had opportunity for speaking privately with Aunt Patience, her words confirmed my worst fears. She informed me that at her earnest solicitation my mother had that day summoned a physician; that he had prescribed some medicine for her, and given her some advice in regard to diet, walking or riding in the open air, &c. She further informed me that she had herself spoken privately to the physician, requesting him to tell her candidly what he thought of my mother's case. He replied,—
"As you have asked me a plain question, I think it my duty to give you a candid answer. I know not," continued the physician, "how it might have been had I been called six months ago, but now I fear the case of Mrs. Roscom is beyond the reach of medicine. I will gladly do my utmost for her, but I fear that a few months, it may be a few weeks, will terminate her life."
This was fearful tidings to me, as I had strongly hoped that the opinion of the physician would have been more favorable. When I became outwardly composed, I rejoined my mother, in company with Aunt Patience. My mother was not aware that Aunt Patience had held any conversation with the physician regarding her illness. She seemed much pleased at the prospect of my return home. I informed her, before leaving, that she might expect my return in the course of two or three days.
She failed rapidly from this time; and, shortly after I returned to my home, was obliged to give up all employment, however light. We often reminded her of the physician's wish, that she should walk in the open air; but it was seldom she felt equal to the task of walking even a short distance.
Mrs. Leighton and Laura often called, and brought many little delicacies to tempt the appetite of my invalid mother. Mrs. Leighton told my mother that she would be happy to send her carriage as often as she felt strong to ride out. My mother replied that on fine days she would gladly avail herself of her kind offer; and, so as long as my mother was able, the carriage was sent every fine day to give her the benefit of a short ride in the open air.
I presume that, on ordinary occasions, I should have felt some embarrassment in receiving a visit from Mrs. Leighton and Laura in my home, which appeared so humble, compared to their own elegant residence; but now it never cost me a thought, for, in the presence of a great sorrow, all trifling considerations vanish away.
It was in the month of May that I returned home, and by the last of June my mother was entirely confined to her room, and much of the time to her bed. She suffered much from nervous restlessness, and at times her cough was very distressing. She would allow no one, as yet, to sit with her during the night, but I gained her consent that I might sleep on a lounge which stood in her room.
There was no end to the kindness we received from the Leightons; no day passed without some one of the family calling to enquire for my mother.
Soon after this time my mother appeared much better. She was able to sit up more than formerly, and her cough was far less troublesome. I remember one day saying to Aunt Patience, when we chanced to be alone, that I began to think my mother would yet recover, she seemed so much better.
"My dear Clara," she replied, "I hope your mother may recover; but you must not build hopes which I fear will never be realised. This seeming change for the better is only one of these deceitful turns of her disease by which so many are deceived. I do not wish to alarm you needlessly, but I dare not cherish any hopes of her recovery."
The idea that my mother would die had been impressed upon my mind from the first; yet, when I observed her improved appearance, I thought that the physician, as well as ourselves, might have been deceived.
A BRIGHT DREAM AND PEACEFUL END.
The seeming favorable turn of my mother's disease proved, as Aunt Patience had feared, of but short duration. She was soon again almost entirely confined to her bed; except that, in the after-noons for the sake of the change, she would recline for a short time upon the sofa in the parlor. But this was only for a few days, and then she was unable to leave her own apartment.
As I have said so little regarding my own feelings, in view of my mother's death, the reader may be led to think that I felt less keenly than I might have been supposed to do. If I have said little, it is for the reason that I have no words adequate to describe what my feelings were at the time. I felt stunned as by a heavy blow; and it seemed to me if my mother died I certainly could not live. I had yet to learn that grief does not kill—that is, not suddenly.
I have often since looked back to that time, and felt deeply humbled, while thinking how little I felt resigned to the will of heaven. I could not then, as I have since done, recognize the hand of a kind and loving Father in the stroke. I could only feel that my mother was leaving me, and all was darkness beyond. I now scarcely ever left my mother's room, except when Aunt Patience would almost compel me for a short time, to retire to my own apartment, that I might obtain a little rest. But the thought that soon I would have no mother was ever present to my mind, and I wished to remain with her as long as she might be spared to me.
About three weeks previous to my mother's death, Aunt Patience urgently requested me one afternoon to retire to my own room and seek some rest, saying I looked entirely worn out. After obtaining from her a promise that she would not allow me to sleep too long, I complied. My room seemed very cool and refreshing that sultry afternoon, and, lying down upon my bed, I soon sank into a profound slumber, which continued for three or four hours. Upon my going down stairs, I was surprised at the lateness of the hour, and enquired of Aunt Patience why she had not called me? She replied that as my mother had seemed quite comfortable, she thought it best to let me enjoy a sound sleep. I persuaded Aunt Patience to retire to rest soon after tea, as I intended watching that night by my mother. Thus far we had ourselves been able to attend to the wants of my mother, without assistance, as it pleased her better that either Aunt Patience or I should attend to her; but we had lately allowed a friend to sleep in the house, as we did not like to be left alone. That evening, after my mother had partaken of a little light refreshment, she seemed inclined to sleep. I took up a book and tried to become interested in its pages. As my mother now seemed to enjoy a peaceful slumber, I remember I thought her dreams must have been happy ones, for I often noticed a smile upon her countenance. I think she had slept nearly two hours, when she awoke, and requested me to give her a drink. I supported her upon my arm as I held to her lips a glass in which I had mixed some wine and water. Laying her gently back upon her pillows I enquired if I could do anything farther for her comfort? She replied that she felt quite comfortable; and, thinking that she might again fall asleep, I resumed my reading. After remaining quiet for sometime she softly called my name. As I stepped hastily to her bed-side, she said,—
"Come and sit near me, Clara, I have something to say to you."
Obedient to her request, I drew my chair near to her bedside, and seated myself. She clasped my hand in both hers, as she said,—
"My dear Clara, I have long wished to ask you if you are aware that I must soon leave you?"
As she said these words the grief of my overburdened heart defied control, and, burying my face in her pillows I sobbed convulsively. This sudden near approach to death sent an icy chill over my whole being.
"You must endeavor to compose yourself, my daughter," said my mother, "and listen to me."
I tried to restrain my tears as my mother continued.
"I have long wished to talk with you, but have deferred it from time to time, through fear of giving you pain; but I now feel it an imperative duty to converse with you upon the subject. Allow me to tell you a dream which visited me in the slumber from which I awoke a few minutes since. In my dream I seemed to be walking alone on a calm summer's evening, without any definite object in view. When I had walked for a considerable distance the scene suddenly changed, and I found myself walking by the banks of a placid river. Looking forward, I observed a person advancing to meet me, whom I at once knew to be your father. My joy was great at the prospect of meeting him; for in my dream I recollected that he had been long dead. I enquired of him how it happened that I met him there? He replied, 'I saw you coming when you were yet a long way off, and feared you might lose your way.' Turning back in the direction from whence he had come, he turned towards me, with a pleasant smile, and said, 'follow me.' As we walked onward, I observed that the river by which we walked seemed gradually to become more narrow the further we advanced. He continued to walk onward for some time, a little in advance of me, when suddenly stopping, he turned to me and said, 'My dear Alice, look across to the other side of the river, and behold the place which is now my home.' The breadth of the river had continued to lessen, till it was now only a narrow line of water which separated us from the opposite shore. I looked as he directed me, and, oh! Clara, I can find no words by which to describe to you what I saw. It so far surpassed anything pertaining to this world that I am unable to give you any description of it. I felt an intense desire to cross the narrow stream which separated me from the beautiful place. I enquired of your father if I could not with him cross the stream and enter those golden gates, which I could plainly see before me. He replied, 'No, my dear Alice, every one must cross this river alone. You must go back for a brief period, as you have yet a mission to perform before taking your final leave of earth. You must comfort the sorrowing heart of our child 'ere you leave her. Tell her of the home which I now inherit, where there is also a place prepared for you and for her, if you so live as to be found worthy to enter those gates which you see before you.' He then said, 'I must now leave you, and you must return to our Clara for a few brief days, when you will be summoned to rejoin me in yonder blissful abode.' I turned to make some further remark to him, but he had gone from my sight, and I awoke with my mind deeply impressed by my dream. But now," added my mother, to me, "the bitterness of death is already past. It is for you only that I grieve. I trust however, that instead of grieving immoderately for your mother you will endeavor to discharge your duty in whatever position it may please God to place you, and so live that whenever you may be called from this world it may be to meet your mother in Heaven. Since my illness my mind has been much exercised regarding my own state as a sinner; for be assured, Clara, that, in the near prospect of death, we find in ourselves much that is unworthy, which had before escaped our notice while in the enjoyment of health. But I am now happy while I tell you that all is peace with me. I now feel willing to depart whenever it is the will of my Heavenly Father to call me hence, and I feel confident that in a very few days I shall be summoned from earth. I am sorry to see you grieve," said my mother, for I was weeping bitterly; "endeavor to derive consolation from what I have said; and be thankful that when I leave you it will be to rejoin your dear father where there is neither sorrow nor sighing."
Seeing that my tears agitated my mother, I succeeded in checking them, and assumed an air of composure, which I was far from feeling. After the above conversation with me, my mother enjoyed a night of tranquil repose. I now felt the certainty of her death, and prayed for strength to meet the sorrow which that event would bring to me.
So calm and peaceful were the last days of my mother's life that we could hardly recognize the presence of the King of Terrors, till the damps of death were gathering upon her brow. She died at sunset on a mild evening in September. She had passed the day almost entirely free from pain. Toward evening she slept for an hour; on waking, she said to me,—
"My dear child, I think the hour of my departure has arrived. I feel that I am dying."
I now observed that look upon the countenance of my mother which tells us that a loved friend is no longer ours. She requested me to call Aunt Patience, which I instantly did. I also sent a hasty summons to her physician, although it was needless, for she was even then entering the dark valley. The physician soon arrived, and after one look at my mother, said to me, in a low voice,—
"My dear Miss Roscom, as a physician, I can be of no further use, but as a friend, I will remain with you."
The physician was an old and valued friend, being the same who had stood by the death-bed of my father, and he deeply sympathized with me in this, my second bereavement.
As I stood by my mother, my grief was not noisy; it was far too deep and powerful for that. Outwardly, I was quite calm. My mother had endeavored to prepare my mind for this hour. I had also prayed for strength to meet it with fortitude and resignation; but those who have stood by the dying bed of a fond mother may understand my sorrow. My mother was spared much of the suffering which attends the last moments of many. She seemed to be softly breathing her life away. After lying for some time tranquil and quiet, she suddenly opened her eyes and looked from one to the other of us. As they rested upon me, she made a sign that I should go nearer to her.
"Weep not, my dear child," said she, in a whisper; "be faithful, and you will yet meet me in heaven."
She also addressed a few words of like import to Aunt Patience. Suddenly, she raised her hands, and, as she looked upward, with a smile upon her countenance, we heard a sigh—and her spirit had returned unto God Who gave it.
I was borne from the apartment in a state of insensibility, and, when I awoke to consciousness, the doctor and Aunt Patience were standing at my bedside. After administering a quieting draught, the physician left us, saying to Aunt Patience that she must try and induce me to sleep, as that would help to restore my shattered nerves. Aunt Patience sat by me during the long hours of that night, but it was not until the day began to dawn that I sank into a heavy slumber, from which I did not awake until a late hour in the morning. On first awaking, it seemed to me that I had had a frightful dream; but, as my mind became more clear, I realized the sad truth that my mother was no more. I heard a footstep enter my room, and soon a familiar voice addressed me, saying,—
"My dear Clara, I have come to see if I can be of any assistance to you in your sorrow."
It was Mrs. Leighton who had thus entered my room, she having hastened to our dwelling as soon as she learned of my mother's death. I could not at first reply to her kind words; I could only weep. She did not force me to talk, but, gently as a mother could have done, did she bathe my fevered brow and throbbing temples. Telling me to remain quiet for a few moments, she left the room, and soon returned, bearing a cup of tea, which she insisted upon my drinking. She assisted me to dress, and opened a window to admit the cool morning air. I tearfully thanked her for those kind attentions. She insisted that I should lean upon her for support, as we descended the stairs, and indeed I felt scarcely able to walk without assistance.
On going below, I found several kind friends, who had remained with Aunt Patience to render their assistance in any office of friendship we might require. Mrs. Leighton accompanied me to the room where lay the lifeless remains of my mother. I folded back the snowy napkin which covered her face, and gazed long upon those dear features, now stamped with the seal of death. As I gazed upon her now peaceful countenance, I felt that to wish her back again would be almost a sin. I also derived much comfort from the consoling words of Mrs. Leighton. I cannot dwell longer upon these sorrows. When I stood at my mother's grave, and looked down upon her coffin, after it had been lowered into the earth, I almost wished that I too were resting by her side. Since that period I have experienced other sorrows; but the sharpest pang I have ever felt, was when I turned away from the graves where rested the remains of both father and mother.
As I have before mentioned, Aunt Patience had, in the course of her life, passed through many trying vicissitudes, and, previous to her death, my mother had considered that we could make no better return for the debt of gratitude we owed her than by making provision for her old age. I say, with good reason, that we owed her a debt of gratitude, for, during her residence with us, she had shown the utmost kindness to both my mother and myself. And when my mother's health failed her, the care and attentions of Aunt Patience were unceasing. With a view of making provision for Aunt Patience, my mother had made arrangements that our house should be sold, and the money deposited for her future benefit. In making this arrangement, my mother wished me to accept of a portion of the money which the sale of the house would bring; but I declined, saying that, as she had given me a good education, I was amply able to support myself, so long as I was blessed with health. My mother assented to the arrangement, saying that I could draw money from the deposit should I ever have occasion so to do.
We remained for two months in our lonely home, after the death of my mother; at the end of which time the new owner took possession of the dwelling. Aunt Patience had decided upon going to reside with a relative who lived in Massachusetts, and the interest of the money, deposited for her use, was to be regularly remitted to her. We disposed of the furniture, with the exception of a few cherished articles, which I reserved for myself; these the purchaser kindly allowed me to leave in one of the upper rooms till I might wish to remove them. The same day that Aunt Patience set out on her journey to Massachusetts, I returned to Mrs. Leighton.
It was well for me that my mind was actively employed; had it been otherwise I should have continually brooded over my sorrows. As it was, when engaged with my duties in the school-room, my thoughts would wander to those two graves in the church-yard, and my tears would fall upon the book from which I was listening to a recitation from my pupils. Georgania having left home, I had only Birdie and Lewis as pupils. Much pity did those affectionate children evince for me when they could not but observe my grief. Birdie would often say,—
"Please, Miss Roscom, do not grieve so much; we all love you dearly, and will be very kind to you."
And Lewis, who could never bear to see my tears, would say,—
"I will be a little brother to you, Miss Roscom, so please don't cry any more."
To please my pupils, I endeavored to appear cheerful; but truly the heart knoweth its own bitterness. One thought, however, afforded me some consolation, and that was, that I was obeying my mother's dying injunction, by striving to do my duty in the position in which I was placed. As days and months passed away, I, in some measure, regained my usual cheerfulness, although I was nowise inclined to forget my mother.
A year had now passed since I saw her laid in the grave. I often visited her resting-place, and there I renewed my resolve to follow her precepts; and many a time, kneeling by her grave did I implore wisdom from on high to enable me to follow the counsels I had so often received from those lips, now sealed in silence. It seemed to me, at such times, that I almost held communion with the spirit of my mother.
I experienced much kindness from every member of Mr. Leighton's family. I spent my leisure time mostly in my room. They did not, of course, invite me to join parties, but they would often urge me to join a few friends in their own parlor; but I always replied that my deep mourning must be my excuse. I had no taste for company or mirth.
One afternoon the Leightons had gone to join a picnic party some two miles from the city. They had invited me to accompany them, but as usual I declined. I felt sad and lonely that long afternoon, and, being left entirely alone, I could not prevent my thoughts from recurring to the past. I thought of all the happy, careless days of my childhood; then my memory ran back to the night, when, at ten years of age, I stood by the death-bed of my father. With the eye of memory, I again saw my mother, as she stood bowed with grief at the grave of my father; and now I was left alone to mourn for both father and mother. Memory also fondly turned to Miss Edmonds, my first teacher. I felt that to see her again would indeed be happiness; but I knew not where Miss Edmonds then resided. The last time I had heard from her she contemplated going South, as governess in a gentleman's family. Then came the memory of the happy years I passed in Mrs. Wentworth's school. Where now were the many friends I had then known and loved? As these thoughts passed in quick succession through my mind, I could not refrain from weeping; and, as I was under no restraint from the presence of others, my tears seemed almost a luxury. I know not how long my fit of weeping might have continued had not one of the domestics entered the room, and informed me that a poor woman was in the kitchen seeking charity.
"I thought," said the girl, "as the other ladies are all away, you might give her a trifle, for she seems very needy."
Hastily drying my tears, I went down to the kitchen, where I found a young woman, who would have been very pretty but for the look of want and suffering depicted upon her countenance. It was evident, from her appearance, that she was not an habitual beggar. As I approached her, she seemed much embarrassed, as she said,—
"Sure an' its mesilf that never expected to come to this at all, at all."
"My poor woman," said I, "you appear to have been unfortunate."
"An' its mesilf that has been misfortunate," she replied, as the tears gathered in her fine, dark eyes. She continued,—
"There was never a happier couple than Dinnis O'Flaherty an' I the day the praste made us one. But, after a while, the wages got low, and the times were hard wid us. 'Polly,' says Dinnis to me one day, 'will you be afther goin' to Ameriky wid me?' 'Dinnis,' says I, 'wherever it plases you to go its I, Polly McBrine, that's ready and willin' to follow.' We sailed in the St. Pathrick, and tin days afther I saw my darlin' Dinnis buried in the salt say. He fell sick wid a faver, and all me prayers for his life could not save him; an' here I am, a lone widdy, in a shtrange land, without a penny in me pocket, nor a place to lay me head."
Here the poor woman's grief choked her utterance, and, covering her face with her hands, she wept aloud. I requested the domestic to bring her some food, which she ate like one famishing. I placed in her hand money sufficient to secure her from want for two or three days at least. I did not in the least doubt her story, for her countenance bore the impress of sincerity. When she left, I requested her to call again in two or three days, as I felt certain that Mrs. Leighton would assist her in obtaining some employment. She left me with many thanks, and blessing me after the manner of her country.
After tea I felt that I must walk out in the air, as I was suffering from a severe headache. I made my way to the church-yard, and sought the graves of my parents; and, seating myself at the headstone of my mother's grave, I remained for a long time wrapped in profound meditation.
I know not how long I remained thus, for I took no note of time; but when I raised my head at the sound of approaching footsteps, the shades of evening were gathering around me. It was Willie Leighton whose footsteps had aroused me from my reverie.
"My dear Clara," he began.
But when I looked up with a little surprise at his familiar use of my christian name, it being the first time he had thus addressed me, he colored slightly, and said,—
"I beg pardon, Miss Roscom, for thus intruding upon your solitude, but, finding you absent on our return, I came to seek you and, with your permission, to escort you home. I think you do wrong to come to this lonely place to cherish a sorrow which seems to me to be almost unreasonable. I would not have you forget your parents; but, surely, if they are permitted to look down upon you from their home in heaven, they would not wish to see you thus debar yourself from society and all the innocent pleasures of youth. The dews of evening," said he, "are beginning to fall, and I must insist upon your return home."
On our way home I could not help a feeling of uneasiness lest Willie's attentions to me should displease the family. I had allowed him to accompany me home, as I could not have done otherwise without absolute rudeness; yet I feared that, in so doing, I should displease his friends. My uneasiness increased as, upon entering the house, I thought I detected a shade of displeasure in the manner of Mrs. Leighton toward me. If Willie noticed anything of the kind, he seemed unconscious of it, for he made several efforts to engage us in conversation; but, for some reason or other, no one, except himself, seemed inclined to be social that evening. I felt very much depressed in spirits, for I attributed their silence to displeasure because Willie had accompanied me home, and, at an early hour, I bade them good night, and retired to my own apartment. After reading, as was my custom, a chapter in my Bible, and commending myself to the care of Heaven, I sought my pillow; but hour after hour passed away and sleep refused to visit my eyes. Again and again I mentally asked myself what had I done to merit the coldness which Mrs. Leighton had shown in her manner to me? It was not my fault that Willie had sought me, and in a kind and gentlemanly manner escorted me home; and I only attributed his attention to that respect which the real gentleman ever accords to a lady, be she rich or poor. I, however, decided that in future I should receive no attentions from Willie. The Leightons were kind, but extremely proud, and I feared that the pleasure Willie had lately evinced in my society had displeased them, although his attentions had been nothing more than a person socially inclined might be expected to show to one dwelling beneath the same roof. Again did the remark made by Mrs. Kingsley occur to my mind, and I firmly decided that, if Mrs. Leighton was displeased, she should have no further cause for displeasure, for I too was possessed of a proud spirit. The dawn of the new day glimmered in the east 'ere sleep closed my eyes, and then my slumbers were disturbed by unpleasant dreams. One dream, in particular, I still remember. I seemed, in my dream, to be a homeless wanderer I know not whither. I had left the limits of the city and was walking in the open country, on a road that seemed strange and unfamiliar to me. At length such a feeling of loneliness and misery overpowered me that I felt unable to proceed further. Seating myself by the roadside, I burst into tears. Raising my eyes, I observed a female figure approaching me, which I soon recognized as my mother. She drew near, and, laying her hands upon my head, as if in blessing, said,—
"Fear not, my beloved daughter, only continue in the path of duty and all will yet be well."
With a cry of joy, I sprang forward to embrace her, and awoke to find the sun shining dimly through the partially closed blinds of my window. I felt fatigued and nervous, after passing such a restless night. I was startled by the pale and haggard countenance which my mirror reflected that morning. I had scarcely finished my toilet when the breakfast bell rang, and I hastened down stairs, where the family were already assembled around the breakfast table.
Whatever of displeasure Mrs. Leighton might have felt the previous evening seemed to have vanished with the light of morning. Perhaps, thought I, her displeasure existed only in my own imagination, after all. Noticing my pale countenance, she enquired if I was ill? I replied that I had a slight headache, owing to my not having slept well. She kindly offered to excuse me from attending to my pupils that morning, but I told her that I felt quite able to attend to my usual duties. In the course of the day I mentioned to her the case of the poor woman who had called the day previous. She replied that, after seeing her and making some enquiries regarding her capability, she would speak to a friend of hers, who was in want of a servant, and she had no doubt she could influence her friend to engage her, should she consider her a suitable person. Accordingly, when Mrs. O'Flaherty called, two or three days after, Mrs. Leighton questioned her in regard to her capability as a servant. She replied that she had had considerable experience as a servant in genteel families, previous to her marriage in the old country. Mrs. Leighton requested her to call again shortly, saying that she hoped to be able to find her a situation. Mrs. Leighton further informed her that, if the lady engaged her, it must be entirely on her own recommendation; and that she hoped she would prove herself faithful and trustworthy. She replied,—