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Title: Old Friends and New
Author: Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old Friends and New" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Archive: American Libraries.

   Books by Sarah Orne Jewett

   STORIES AND TALES. 7 vols. Illustrated.
   THE TORY LOVER. Illustrated.
   _Holiday Edition._ With 52 illustrations.  Attractively bound.
   The Same. In Riverside Aldine Series   In Riverside School Library.
   PLAY-DAYS. Stories for Girls.
   BETTY LEICESTER. A Story for Girls.

   Boston and New York




   The Riverside Press Cambridge















For a great many years it had been understood in Longfield that Miss
Horatia Dane once had a lover, and that he had been lost at sea. By
little and little, in one way and another, her acquaintances had found
out or made up the whole story; and Miss Dane stood in the position,
not of an unmarried woman exactly, but rather of having spent most of
her life in a long and lonely widowhood. She looked like a person with
a history, strangers often said (as if we each did not have a
history); and her own unbroken reserve about this romance of hers gave
everybody the more respect for it.

The Longfield people paid willing deference to Miss Dane: her family
had always been one that could be liked and respected, and she was the
last that was left in the old home of which she was so fond. This was
a high, square house, with a row of pointed windows in its roof, a
peaked porch in front, with some lilac-bushes around it; and down by
the road was a long, orderly procession of poplars, like a row of
sentinels standing guard. She had lived here alone since her father's
death, twenty years before. She was a kind, just woman, whose
pleasures were of a stately and sober sort; and she seemed not unhappy
in her loneliness, though she sometimes said gravely that she was the
last of her family, as if the fact had a great sadness for her.

She had some middle-aged and elderly cousins living at a distance, and
they came occasionally to see her; but there had been no young people
staying in the house for many years until this summer, when the
daughter of her youngest cousin had written to ask if she might come
to make a visit. She was a motherless girl of twenty, both older and
younger than her years. Her father and brother, who were civil
engineers, had taken some work upon the line of a railway in the far
Western country. Nelly had made many long journeys with them before
and since she had left school, and she had meant to follow them now,
after she had spent a fortnight with the old cousin whom she had not
seen since her childhood. Her father had laughed at the visit as a
freak, and had warned her of the dulness and primness of Longfield;
but the result was that the girl found herself very happy in the
comfortable home. She was still her own free, unfettered, lucky, and
sunshiny self; and the old house was so much pleasanter for the
girlish face and life, that Miss Horatia had, at first timidly and
then most heartily, begged her to stay for the whole summer, or even
the autumn, until her father was ready to come East. The name of Dane
was very dear to Miss Horatia, and she grew fonder of her guest. When
the village-people saw her glance at the girl affectionately, as they
sat together in the family-pew of a Sunday, or saw them walking
together after tea, they said it was a good thing for Miss Horatia;
how bright she looked; and no doubt she would leave all her money to
Nelly Dane, if she played her cards well.

But we will do Nelly justice, and say that she was not mercenary: she
would have scorned such a thought. She had grown to have a great love
for her cousin Horatia, and she liked to please her. She idealized
her, I have no doubt; and her repression, her grave courtesy and rare
words of approval, had a great fascination for a girl who had just
been used to people who chattered, and were upon most intimate terms
with you directly, and could forget you with equal ease. And Nelly
liked having so admiring and easily pleased an audience as Miss Dane
and her old servant Melissa. She liked to be queen of her company: she
had so many gay, bright stories of what had happened to herself and
her friends. Besides, she was clever with her needle, and had all
those practical gifts which elderly women approve so heartily in
girls. They liked her pretty clothes; she was sensible and economical
and busy; they praised her to each other and to the world, and even
stubborn old Andrew, the man, to whom Miss Horatia herself spoke with
deference, would do any thing she asked. Nelly would by no means
choose so dull a life as this for the rest of her days; but she
enjoyed it immensely for the time being. She instinctively avoided all
that would shock the grave dignity and old-school ideas of Miss Dane;
and somehow she never had felt happier or better satisfied with life.
I think it was because she was her best and most lady-like self. It
was not long before she knew the village-people almost as well as Miss
Dane did, and she became a very great favorite, as a girl so easily
can who is good-natured and pretty, and well versed in city fashions;
who has that tact and cleverness that come to such a nature from going
about the world and knowing many people.

She had not been in Longfield many weeks before she heard something of
Miss Dane's love-story; for one of her new friends said, in a
confidential moment, "Does your cousin ever speak to you about the
young man to whom she was engaged to be married?" And Nelly answered,
"No," with great wonder, and not without regret at her own ignorance.
After this she kept her eyes and ears open for whatever news of this
lover's existence might be found.

At last it happened one day that she had a good chance for a friendly
talk with Melissa; for who should know about the family affairs better
than she? Miss Horatia had taken her second-best parasol, with a deep
fringe, and had gone majestically down the street to do some morning
errands which she could trust to no one. Melissa was shelling peas at
the shady kitchen-doorstep, and Nelly came strolling round from the
garden, along the clean-swept flag-stones, and sat down to help her.
Melissa moved along, with a grim smile, to make room for her. "You
needn't bother yourself," said she: "I've nothing else to do. You'll
green your fingers all over." But she was evidently pleased to have

"My fingers will wash," said Nelly, "and I've nothing else to do
either. Please push the basket this way a little, or I shall scatter
the pods, and then you will scold." She went to work busily, while she
tried to think of the best way to find out the story she wished to

"There!" said Melissa, "I never told Miss H'ratia to get some citron,
and I settled yesterday to make some pound-cake this forenoon after I
got dinner along a piece. She's most out o' mustard too; she's set
about having mustard to eat with her beef, just as the old colonel was
before her. I never saw any other folks eat mustard with their roast
beef; but every family has their own tricks. I tied a thread round my
left-hand little finger purpose to remember that citron before she
came down this morning. I hope I ain't losing my fac'lties." It was
seldom that Melissa was so talkative as this at first. She was clearly
in a talkative mood.

"Melissa," asked Nelly, with great bravery, after a minute or two of
silence, "who was it that my cousin Horatia was going to many? It's
odd that I shouldn't know; but I don't remember father's ever speaking
of it, and I shouldn't think of asking her."

"I s'pose it'll seem strange to you," said Melissa, beginning to shell
the peas a great deal faster, "but, as many years as I have lived in
this house with her,--her mother, the old lady, fetched me up,--I
never knew Miss H'ratia to say a word about him. But there! she knows
I know, and we've got an understanding on many things we never talk
over as some folks would. I've heard about it from other folks. She
was visiting her great-aunt in Salem when she met with him. His name
was Carrick, and it was presumed they was going to be married when he
came home from the voyage he was lost on. He had the promise of going
out master of a new ship. They didn't keep company long: it was made
up of a sudden, and folks here didn't get hold of the story till some
time after. I've heard some that ought to know say it was only talk,
and they never were engaged to be married no more than I am."

"You say he was lost at sea?" asked Nelly.

"The ship never was heard from. They supposed she was run down in the
night out in the South Seas somewhere. It was a good while before they
gave up expecting news; but none ever come. I think she set every
thing by him, and took it very hard losing of him. But there! she'd
never say a word. You're the freest-spoken Dane I ever saw; but you
may take it from 'our mother's folks. I know he gave her that whale's
tooth with the ship drawn on it that's on the mantel-piece in her
room. She may have a sight of other keepsakes, for all I know; but it
ain't likely." And here there was a pause, in which Nelly grew
sorrowful as she thought of the long waiting for tidings of the
missing ship, and of her cousin's solitary life. It was very odd to
think of prim Miss Horatia's being in love with a sailor. There was a
young lieutenant in the navy whom Nelly herself liked dearly, and he
had gone away on a long voyage. "Perhaps she's been just as well off,"
said Melissa. "She's dreadful set, y'r cousin H'ratia is, and sailors
is high-tempered men. I've heard it hinted that he was a fast fellow;
and if a woman's got a good home like this, and's able to do for
herself, she'd better stay there. I ain't going to give up a certainty
for an uncertainty,--that's what _I_ always tell 'em," added Melissa,
with great decision, as if she were besieged by lovers; but Nelly
smiled inwardly as she thought of the courage it would take to support
any one who wished to offer her companion his heart and hand. It would
need desperate energy to scale the walls of that garrison.

The green peas were all shelled presently, and Melissa said gravely
that she should have to be lazy now until it was time to put in the
meat. She wasn't used to being helped, unless there was extra work,
and she calculated to have one piece of work join on to another.
However, it was no account, and she was obliged for the company; and
Nelly laughed merrily as she stood washing her hands in the shining
old copper basin at the sink. The sun would not be round that side of
the house for a long time yet, and the pink and blue morning-glories
were still in their full bloom and freshness. They grew over the
window, twined on strings exactly the same distance apart. There was a
box crowded full of green houseleeks down at the side of the door:
they were straying over the edge, and Melissa stooped stiffly down
with an air of disapproval at their untidiness. "They straggle all
over every thing," said she, "and they're no kind of use, only Miss's
mother she set every thing by 'em. She fetched 'em from home with her
when she was married, her mother kep' a box, and they came from
England. Folks used to say they was good for bee-stings." Then she
went into the inner kitchen, and Nelly went slowly away along the
flag-stones to the garden from whence she had come. The garden-gate
opened with a tired creak, and shut with a clack; and she noticed how
smooth and shiny the wood was where the touch of so many hands had
worn it. There was a great pleasure to this girl in finding herself
among such old and well-worn things. She had been for a long time in
cities or at the West; and among the old fashions and ancient
possessions of Long-field it seemed to her that every thing had its
story, and she liked the quietness and unchangeableness with which
life seemed to go on from year to year. She had seen many a dainty or
gorgeous garden, but never one that she had liked so well as this,
with its herb-bed and its broken rows of currant-bushes, its tall
stalks of white lilies and its wandering rose-bushes and honeysuckles,
that had bloomed beside the straight paths for so many more summers
than she herself had lived. She picked a little nosegay of late red
roses, and carried it into the house to put on the parlor-table. The
wide hall-door was standing open, with its green outer blinds closed,
and the old hall was dim and cool. Miss Horatia did not like a glare
of sunlight, and she abhorred flies with her whole heart. Nelly could
hardly see her way through the rooms, it had been so bright out of
doors; but she brought the tall champagne-glass of water from the
dining-room and put the flowers in their place. Then she looked at two
silhouettes which stood on the mantel in carved ebony frames. They
were portraits of an uncle of Miss Dane and his wife. Miss Dane had
thought Nelly looked like this uncle the evening before. She could not
see the likeness herself; but the pictures suggested something else,
and she turned suddenly, and went hurrying up the stairs to Miss
Horatia's own room, where she remembered to have seen a group of
silhouettes fastened to the wall. There were seven or eight, and she
looked at the young men among them most carefully; but they were all
marked with the name of Dane: they were Miss Horatia's brothers, and
our friend hung them on their little brass hooks again with a feeling
of disappointment. Perhaps her cousin had a quaint miniature of the
lover, painted on ivory, and shut in a worn red morocco case; she
hoped she should get a sight of it some day. This story of the lost
sailor had a wonderful charm for the girl. Miss Horatia had never been
so interesting to her before. How she must have mourned for the lover,
and missed him, and hoped there would yet be news from the ship! Nelly
thought she would tell her her own little love-story some day, though
there was not much to tell yet, in spite of there being so much to
think about. She built a little castle in Spain as she sat in the
front-window-seat of the upper hall, and dreamed pleasant stories for
herself until the sharp noise of the front-gate-latch waked her; and
she looked out through the blind to see her cousin coming up the walk.

Miss Horatia looked hot and tired, and her thoughts were not of any
fashion of romance. "It is going to be very warm," said she. "I have
been worrying ever since I have been gone, because I forgot to ask
Andrew to pick those white currants for the minister's wife. I
promised that she should have them early this morning. Would you go
out to the kitchen, and ask Melissa to step in for a moment, my dear?"

Melissa was picking over red currants to make a pie, and rose from her
chair with a little unwillingness. "I guess they could wait until
afternoon," said she, as she came back. "Miss H'ratia's in a fret
because she forgot about sending some white currants to the
minister's. I told her that Andrew had gone to have the horses shod,
and wouldn't be back till near noon. I don't see why part of the folks
in the world should kill themselves trying to suit the rest. As long
as I haven't got any citron for the cake, I suppose I might go out and
pick 'em," added Melissa ungraciously. "I'll get some to set away for
tea anyhow."

Miss Dane had a letter to write after she had rested from her walk;
and Nelly soon left her in the dark parlor, and went back to the
sunshiny garden to help Melissa, who seemed to be taking life with
more than her usual disapproval. She was sheltered by an enormous
gingham sunbonnet.

"I set out to free my mind to your cousin H'ratia this morning," said
she, as Nelly crouched down at the opposite side of the bush where she
was picking; "but we can't agree on that p'int, and it's no use. I
don't say nothing. You might's well ask the moon to face about and
travel the other way as to try to change Miss H'ratia's mind. I ain't
going to argue it with her: it ain't my place; I know that as well as
anybody. She'd run her feet off for the minister's folks any day; and,
though I do say he's a fair preacher, they haven't got a speck o'
consideration nor fac'lty; they think the world was made for them, but
I think likely they'll find out it wasn't; most folks do. When he
first was settled here, I had a fit o' sickness, and he come to see me
when I was getting over the worst of it. He did the best he could, I
always took it very kind of him; but he made a prayer, and he kep'
sayin' 'this aged handmaid,' I should think, a dozen times. Aged
handmaid!" said Melissa scornfully: "I don't call myself aged yet, and
that was more than ten years ago. I never made pretensions to being
younger than I am; but you'd 'a' thought I was a topplin' old creatur'
going on a hundred."

Nelly laughed; Melissa looked cross, and moved on to the next
currant-bush. "So that's why you don't like the minister?" But the
question did not seem to please.

"I hope I never should be set against a preacher by such as that." And
Nelly hastened to change the subject; but there was to be a last word:
"I like to see a minister that's solid minister right straight
through, not one of these veneered folks. But old Parson Croden spoilt
me for setting under any other preaching."

"I wonder," said Nelly, after a little, "if Cousin Horatia has any
picture of that Captain Carrick."

"He wasn't captain," said Melissa. "I never heard that it was any more
than they talked of giving him a ship next voyage."

"And you never saw him? He never came here to see her?"

"Bless you, no! She met with him at Salem, where she was spending the
winter, and he went right away to sea. I've heard a good deal more
about it of late years than I ever did at the time. I suppose the
Salem folks talked about it enough. All I know is, there was other
good matches that offered to her since, and couldn't get her; and I
suppose it was on account of her heart's being buried in the deep with
him." And this unexpected bit of sentiment, spoken in Melissa's
grummest tone, seemed so funny to her young companion, that she bent
very low to pick from a currant-twig close to the ground, and could
not ask any more questions for some time.

"I have seen her a sight o' times when I knew she was thinking about
him," Melissa went on presently, this time with a tenderness in her
voice that touched Nelly's heart. "She's been dreadful lonesome. She
and the old colonel, her father, wasn't much company to each other,
and she always kep' every thing to herself. The only time she ever
said a word to me was one night six or seven years ago this Christmas.
They got up a Christmas-tree in the vestry, and she went, and I did
too; I guess everybody in the whole church and parish that could crawl
turned out to go. The children they made a dreadful racket. I'd ha'
got my ears took off if I had been so forth-putting when I was little.
I was looking round for Miss H'ratia 'long at the last of the evening,
and somebody said they'd seen her go home. I hurried, and I couldn't
see any light in the house; and I was afraid she was sick or
something. She come and let me in, and I see she had been a-cryin'. I
says, 'Have you heard any bad news?' But she says, 'No,' and began to
cry again, real pitiful. 'I never felt so lonesome in my life,' says
she, 'as I did down there. It's a dreadful thing to be left all alone
in the world.' I did feel for her; but I couldn't seem to say a word.
I put some pine-chips I had handy for morning on the kitchen-fire, and
I made her up a cup o' good hot tea quick's I could, and took it to
her; and I guess she felt better. She never went to bed till three
o'clock that night. I couldn't shut my eyes till I heard her come
upstairs. There! I set every thing by Miss H'ratia. I haven't got no
folks either. I was left an orphan over to Deerfield, where Miss's
mother come from, and she took me out o' the town-farm to bring up. I
remember, when I come here, I was so small I had a box to stand up on
when I helped wash the dishes. There's nothing I ain't had to make me
comfortable, and I do just as I'm a mind to, and call in extra help
every day of the week if I give the word; but I've had my lonesome
times, and I guess Miss H'ratia knew."

Nelly was very much touched by this bit of a story, it was a new idea
to her that Melissa should have so much affection and be so
sympathetic. People never will get over being surprised that
chestnut-burrs are not as rough inside as they are outside, and the
girl's heart warmed toward the old woman who had spoken with such
unlooked-for sentiment and pathos. Melissa went to the house with her
basket, and Nelly also went in, but only to put on another hat, and
see if it were straight, in a minute spent before the old mirror, and
then she hurried down the long elm-shaded street to buy a pound of
citron for the cake. She left it on the kitchen-table when she came
back, and nobody ever said any thing about it; only there were two
delicious pound-cakes--a heart and a round--on a little blue china
plate beside Nelly's plate at tea.

After tea Nelly and Miss Dane sat in the front-doorway,--the elder
woman in a high-backed arm-chair, and the younger on the doorstep. The
tree-toads and crickets were tuning up heartily, the stars showed a
little through the trees, and the elms looked heavy and black against
the sky. The fragrance of the white lilies in the garden blew through
the hall. Miss Horatia was tapping the ends of her fingers together.
Probably she was not thinking of any thing in particular. She had had
a very peaceful day, with the exception of the currants; and they had,
after all, gone to the parsonage some time before noon. Beside this,
the minister had sent word that the delay made no trouble; for his
wife had unexpectedly gone to Downton to pass the day and night. Miss
Horatia had received the business-letter for which she had been
looking for several days; so there was nothing to regret deeply for
that day, and there seemed to be nothing for one to dread on the

"Cousin Horatia," asked Nelly, "are you sure you like having me here?
Are you sure I don't trouble you?"

"Of course not," said Miss Dane, without a bit of sentiment in her
tone: "I find it very pleasant having young company, though I am used
to being alone; and I don't mind it so much as I suppose you would."

"I should mind it very much," said the girl softly.

"You would get used to it, as I have," said Miss Dane. "Yes, dear, I
like having you here better and better. I hate to think of your going
away." And she smoothed Nelly's hair as if she thought she might have
spoken coldly at first, and wished to make up for it. This rare caress
was not without its effect.

"I don't miss father and Dick so very much," owned Nelly frankly,
"because I have grown used to their coming and going; but sometimes I
miss people--Cousin Horatia, did I ever say any thing to you about
George Forest?"

"I think I remember the name," answered Miss Dane.

"He is in the navy, and he has gone a long voyage, and--I think every
thing of him. I missed him awfully; but it is almost time to get a
letter from him."

"Does your father approve of him?" asked Miss Dane, with great
propriety. "You are very young yet, and you must not think of such a
thing carelessly. I should be so much grieved if you threw away your

"Oh! we are not really engaged," said Nelly, who felt a little
chilled. "I suppose we are, too: only nobody knows yet. Yes, father
knows him as well as I do, and he is very fond of him. Of course I
should not keep it from father; but he guessed at it himself. Only
it's such a long cruise, Cousin Horatia,--three years, I
suppose,--away off in China and Japan."

"I have known longer voyages than that," said Miss Dane, with a quiver
in her voice; and she rose suddenly, and walked away, this grave,
reserved woman, who seemed so contented and so comfortable. But, when
she came back, she asked Nelly a great deal about her lover, and
learned more of the girl's life than she ever had before. And they
talked together in the pleasantest way about this pleasant subject,
which was so close to Nelly's heart, until Melissa brought the candles
at ten o'clock, that being the hour of Miss Dane's bed-time.

But that night Miss Dane did not go to bed at ten: she sat by the
window in her room, thinking. The moon rose late; and after a little
while she blew out her candles, which were burning low. I suppose that
the years which had come and gone since the young sailor went away on
that last voyage of his had each added to her affection for him. She
was a person who clung the more fondly to youth as she left it the
farther behind.

This is such a natural thing: the great sorrows of our youth sometimes
become the amusements of our later years; we can only remember them
with a smile. We find that our lives look fairer to us, and we forget
what used to trouble us so much when we look back. Miss Dane certainly
had come nearer to truly loving the sailor than she had any one else;
and the more she had thought of it, the more it became the romance of
her life. She no longer asked herself, as she often had done in middle
life, whether, if he had lived and had come home, she would have loved
and married him. She had minded less and less, year by year, knowing
that her friends and neighbors thought her faithful to the love of her
youth. Poor, gay, handsome Joe Carrick! how fond he had been of her,
and how he had looked at her that day he sailed away out of Salem
Harbor on the ship Chevalier! If she had only known that she never
should see him again, poor fellow!

But, as usual, her thoughts changed their current a little at the end
of her reverie. Perhaps, after all, loneliness was not so hard to bear
as other sorrows. She had had a pleasant life, God had been very good
to her, and had spared her many trials, and granted her many
blessings. She would try and serve him better. "I am an old woman
now," she said to herself. "Things are better as they are; God knows
best, and I never should have liked to be interfered with."

Then she shut out the moonlight, and lighted her candles again, with
an almost guilty feeling. "What should I say if Nelly sat up till
nearly midnight looking out at the moon?" thought she. "It is very
silly; but it is such a beautiful night. I should like to have her see
the moon shining through the tops of the trees." But Nelly was
sleeping the sleep of the just and sensible in her own room.

Next morning at breakfast Nelly was a little conscious of there having
been uncommon confidences the night before; but Miss Dane was her
usual calm and somewhat formal self, and proposed their making a few
calls after dinner, if the weather were not too hot. Nelly at once
wondered what she had better wear. There was a certain black grenadine
which Miss Horatia had noticed with approval, and she remembered that
the lower ruffle needed hemming, and made up her mind that she would
devote most of the time before dinner to that and to some other
repairs. So, after breakfast was over, she brought the dress
downstairs, with her work-box, and settled herself in the dining-room.
Miss Dane usually sat there in the morning, it was a pleasant room,
and she could keep an unsuspected watch over the kitchen and Melissa,
who did not need watching in the least. I dare say it was for the sake
of being within the sound of a voice.

Miss Dane marched in and out that morning; she went upstairs, and came
down again, and she was busy for a while in the parlor. Nelly was
sewing steadily by a window, where one of the blinds was a little way
open, and tethered in its place by a string. She hummed a tune to
herself over and over:--

   "What will you do, love, when I am going,
    With white sails flowing, the seas beyond?"

And old Melissa, going to and fro at her work in the kitchen, grumbled
out bits of an ancient psalm-tune at intervals. There seemed to be
some connection between these fragments in her mind; it was like a
ledge of rock in a pasture, that sometimes runs under the ground, and
then crops out again. I think it was the tune of Windham.

Nelly found there was a good deal to be done to the grenadine dress
when she looked it over critically, and she was very diligent. It was
quiet in and about the house for a long time, until suddenly she heard
the sound of heavy footsteps coming in from the road. The side-door
was in a little entry between the room where Nelly sat and the
kitchen, and the new-comer knocked loudly. "A tramp," said Nelly to
herself; while Melissa came to open the door, wiping her hands
hurriedly on her apron.

"I wonder if you couldn't give me something to eat," said the man.

"I suppose I could," answered Melissa. "Will you step in?" Beggars
were very few in Longfield, and Miss Dane never wished anybody to go
away hungry from her house. It was off the grand highway of tramps;
but they were by no means unknown.

Melissa searched among her stores, and Nelly heard her putting one
plate after another on the kitchen-table, and thought that the
breakfast promised to be a good one, if it were late.

"Don't put yourself out," said the man, as he moved his chair nearer.
"I put up at an old barn three or four miles above here last night,
and there didn't seem to be very good board there."

"Going far?" inquired Melissa concisely.

"Boston," said the man. "I'm a little too old to travel afoot. Now, if
I could go by water, it would seem nearer. I'm more used to the water.
This is a royal good piece o' beef. I suppose couldn't put your hand
on a mug of cider?" This was said humbly; but the tone failed to touch
Melissa's heart.

"No, I couldn't," said she decisively; so there was an end of that,
and the conversation seemed to flag for a time.

Presently Melissa came to speak to Miss Dane, who had just come
downstairs. "Could you stay in the kitchen a few minutes?" she
whispered. "There's an old creatur' there that looks foreign. He came
to the door for something to eat, and I gave it to him; but he's
miser'ble looking, and I don't like to leave him alone. I'm just in
the midst o' dressing the chickens. He'll be through pretty quick,
according to the way he's eating now."

Miss Dane followed her without a word; and the man half rose, and
said, "Good-morning, madam!" with unusual courtesy. And, when Melissa
was out of hearing, he spoke again: "I suppose you haven't any cider?"
to which his hostess answered, "I couldn't give you any this morning,"
in a tone that left no room for argument. He looked as if he had had a
great deal too much to drink already.

"How far do you call it from here to Boston?" he asked, and was told
that it was eighty miles.

"I'm a slow traveller," said he: "sailors don't take much to walking."
Miss Dane asked him if he had been a sailor. "Nothing else," replied
the man, who seemed much inclined to talk. He had been eating like a
hungry dog, as if he were half-starved,--a slouching, red-faced,
untidy-looking old man, with some traces of former good looks still to
be discovered in his face. "Nothing else. I ran away to sea when I was
a boy, and I followed it until I got so old they wouldn't ship me even
for cook." There was something in his being for once so
comfortable--perhaps it was being with a lady like Miss Dane, who
pitied him--that lifted his thoughts a little from their usual low
level. "It's drink that's been the ruin of me," said he. "I ought to
have been somebody. I was nobody's fool when I was young. I got to be
mate of a first-rate ship, and there was some talk o' my being captain
before long. She was lost that voyage, and three of us were all that
was saved; we got picked up by a Chinese junk. She had the plague
aboard of her, and my mates died of it, and I was sick. It was a hell
of a place to be in. When I got ashore I shipped on an old bark that
pretended to be coming round the Cape, and she turned out to be a
pirate. I just went to the dogs, and I've been from bad to worse ever

"It's never too late to mend," said Melissa, who came into the kitchen
just then for a string to tie the chickens.

"Lord help us, yes, it is!" said the sailor. "It's easy for you to say
that. I'm too old. I ain't been master of this craft for a good
while." And he laughed at his melancholy joke.

"Don't say that," said Miss Dane.

"Well, now, what could an old wrack like me do to earn a living? and
who'd want me if I could? You wouldn't. I don't know when I've been
treated so decent as this before. I'm all broke down." But his tone
was no longer sincere; he had fallen back on his profession of beggar.

"Couldn't you get into some asylum or--there's the Sailors' Snug
Harbor, isn't that for men like you? It seems such a pity for a man of
your years to be homeless and a wanderer. Haven't you any friends at
all?" And here, suddenly, Miss Dane's face altered, and she grew very
white; something startled her. She looked as one might who saw a
fearful ghost.

"No," said the man; "but my folks used to be some of the best in
Salem. I haven't shown my head there this good while. I was an orphan.
My grandmother brought me up. Why, I didn't come back to the States
for thirty or forty years. Along at the first of it I used to see men
in port that I used to know; but I always dodged 'em, and I was way
off in outlandish places. I've got an awful sight to answer for. I
used to have a good wife when I was in Australia. I don't know where I
haven't been, first and last. I was always a hard fellow. I've spent
as much as a couple o' fortunes, and here I am. Devil take it!"

Nelly was still sewing in the dining-room; but, soon after Miss Dane
had gone out to the kitchen, one of the doors between had slowly
closed itself with a plaintive whine. The round stone that Melissa
used to keep it open had been pushed away. Nelly was a little annoyed:
she liked to hear what was going on; but she was just then holding her
work with great care in a place that was hard to sew; so she did not
move. She heard the murmur of voices, and thought, after a while, that
the old vagabond ought to go away by this time. What could be making
her cousin Horatia talk so long with him? It was not like her at all.
He would beg for money, of course, and she hoped Miss Horatia would
not give him a single cent.

It was some time before the kitchen-door opened, and the man came out
with clumsy, stumbling steps. "I'm much obliged to you," he said, "and
I don't know but it is the last time I'll get treated as if I was a
gentleman. Is there any thing I could do for you round the place?" he
asked hesitatingly, and as if he hoped that his offer would not be

"No," answered Miss Dane. "No, thank you. Good-by!" and he went away.

I said he had been lifted a little above his low life; he fell back
again directly before he was out of the gate. "I'm blessed if she
didn't give me a ten-dollar bill!" said he. "She must have thought it
was one. I'll get out o' call as quick as I can, hope she won't find
it out, and send anybody after me." Visions of unlimited drinks, and
other things in which the old sailor found pleasure, flitted through
his stupid mind. "How the old lady stared at me once!" he thought.
"Wonder if she was anybody I used to know? 'Downton?' I don't know as
I ever heard of the place." And he scuffed along the dusty road; and
that night he was very drunk, and the next day he went wandering on,
God only knows where.

But Nelly and Melissa both had heard a strange noise in the kitchen,
as if some one had fallen, and had found that Miss Horatia had fainted
dead away. It was partly the heat, she said, when she saw their
anxious faces as she came to herself; she had had a little headache
all the morning; it was very hot and close in the kitchen, and the
faintness had come upon her suddenly. They helped her walk into the
cool parlor presently, and Melissa brought her a glass of wine, and
Nelly sat beside her on a footstool as she lay on the sofa, and fanned
her. Once she held her cheek against Miss Horatia's hand for a minute,
and she will never know as long as she lives what a comfort she was
that day.

Every one but Miss Dane forgot the old sailor-tramp in this excitement
that followed his visit. Do you guess already who he was? But the
certainty could not come to you with the chill and horror it did to
Miss Dane. There had been something familiar in his look and voice
from the first, and then she had suddenly known him, her lost lover.
It was an awful change that the years had made in him. He had truly
called himself a wreck: he was like some dreary wreck in its decay and
utter ruin, its miserable ugliness and worthlessness, falling to
pieces in the slow tides of a lifeless southern sea.

And he had once been her lover, Miss Dane thought many times in the
days that came after. Not that there was ever any thing asked or
promised between them, but they had liked each other dearly, and had
parted with deep sorrow. She had thought of him all these years so
tenderly; she had believed always that his love had been greater than
her own, and never once had doubted that the missing ship Chevalier
had carried with it down into the sea a heart that was true to her.

By little and little this all grew familiar, and she accustomed
herself to the knowledge of her new secret. She shuddered at the
thought of the misery of a life with him, and she thanked God for
sparing her such shame and despair. The distance between them seemed
immense. She had been a person of so much consequence among her
friends, and so dutiful and irreproachable a woman. She had not begun
to understand what dishonor is in the world; her life had been shut in
by safe and orderly surroundings. It was a strange chance that had
brought this wanderer to her door. She remembered his wretched
untidiness. She would not have liked even to touch him. She had never
imagined him grown old: he had always been young to her. It was a
great mercy he had not known her; it would have been a most miserable
position for them both; and yet she thought, with sad surprise, that
she had not known she had changed so entirely. She thought of the
different ways their roads in life had gone; she pitied him; she cried
about him more than once; and she wished that she could know he was
dead. He might have been such a brave, good man, with his strong will
and resolute courage. God forgive him for the wickedness which his
strength had been made to serve! "God forgive him!" said Miss Horatia
to herself sadly over and over again. She wondered if she ought to
have let him go away, and so have lost sight of him; but she could not
do any thing else. She suffered terribly on his account; she had a
pity, such as God's pity must be, for even his wilful sins.

So her romance was all over with; yet the towns-people still whispered
it to strangers, and even Melissa and Nelly never knew how she had
lost her lover in so strange and sad a way in her latest years. Nobody
noticed much change; but Melissa saw that the whale's tooth had
disappeared from its place in Miss Horatia's room, and her old friends
said to each other that she began to show her age a great deal. She
seemed really like an old woman now; she was not the woman she had
been a year ago.

This is all of the story; but I so often wish when a story comes to an
end that I knew what became of the people afterward. Shall I tell you
that Miss Horatia clings more and more fondly to her young cousin
Nelly; and that Nelly will stay with her a great deal before she
marries, and sometimes afterward, when the lieutenant goes away to
sea? Shall I say that Miss Dane seems as well satisfied and
comfortable as ever, though she acknowledges she is not so young as
she used to be, and somehow misses something out of her life? It is
the contentment of winter rather than that of summer: the flowers are
out of bloom for her now, and under the snow. And Melissa, will not
she always be the same, with a quaintness and freshness and toughness
like a cedar-tree, to the end of her days? Let us hope they will live
on together and be untroubled this long time yet, the two good women;
and let us wish Nelly much pleasure, and a sweet soberness and
fearlessness as she grows older and finds life a harder thing to
understand and a graver thing to know.


Dear Helen,--What do you say to our going to housekeeping together?
I'm a very old bachelor, with many whims; but I'm your brother, and I
don't know that there was ever an act of Parliament that we should
spend our lives on opposite shores of the Atlantic. The Athertons'
lease of our house is out next month, and I have a fancy for taking it
myself. We will call it merely an experiment, if you like; but I'm
tired of the way I live now. I'm growing gray, and I shall be
dreadfully glad to see you. We will make a real home of it, and see
something of each other; you must not ask for any more pathos than
this. Pick up whatever you can to make the house look fine, but don't
feel in the least obliged to come, or put it off until the spring. Do
just as you like. I hear the Duncans are coming home in October;
perhaps you could take passage on the same steamer. I can't believe it
is three years since I went over last. Do you think we shall know each
other? _"L'absence diminue les petits amours et augmente les grandes,
comme le vent qui éteint les bougies et rallume la feu."_ I met that
sentiment in a story I was reading to-day, and I thought it would seem
very gallant and alluring if I put it into my letter. I think you will
not be homesick here: you will find more friends than seems possible
at first thought. I'm in a hurry to-day; but I'm none the less

Your very affectionate brother,


Boston, Aug. 2, 1877.

This was a letter which came to me one morning a year or two ago from
my only brother. We had been separated most of the time since our
childhood; for my father and mother both died then, and our home was
broken up, as Jack was to be away at school and college. During the
war he was fired with a love of his country and a longing for military
glory, and entered the army with many of his fellow-students at
Harvard. I was at school for a time, but afterwards went to live with
an aunt, whose winter home was in Florence; and when Jack left the
army he came to Europe to go on with his professional studies. He was
most of the time in Dublin and London and Paris at the medical
schools; but we were together a good deal, and he went off for several
long journeys with my aunt and me before he went back to America. I
always hoped that we might some day live together: but my aunt wished
me never to leave her; for she was somewhat of an invalid, and had
grown to depend on me more or less in many ways. She could not live in
Boston, for the climate did not suit her. If Jack and I had not
written each other so often, we should have drifted far apart; but, as
it was, I think our love and friendship grew closer year by year. I
should have begged him to come to live with me; but he was always in a
hurry to get back to his own city and his own friends when he
sometimes came over to pay us a visit in my aunt's lifetime, and I
knew he would not be contented in Florence.

At Aunt Alice's death I went on with the same old life for a time from
force of habit; and it was just then, when I was with some friends in
the Tyrol, and had been wondering what plans I should make for the
winter,--whether to go to Egypt again, or to have some English friends
come to me in Florence,--that Jack's letter came. I was only too glad
that he made the proposal, and I could not resist sending him a cable
despatch to say, "Hurrah!" I had not realized before how lonely and
adrift I had felt since Aunt Alice died. I had a host of kind friends;
but there is nothing like being with one's own kindred, and having
one's own home. It was very hard work to say so many good-byes; and my
heart had almost failed me when I saw some of my friends for, it might
be, the last time, as some of them were old people. And, though I said
over and over again that I should come back in a year or two, who
could be certain that I should take up the dear familiar life again?
But, though I had been so many long years away from dear old Boston, I
never had been so glad in my life to catch sight of any city as I was
that chilly, late October morning, when I came on deck, and somebody
pointed out to me a dull glitter of something that looked higher and
brighter than the land, and said it was the dome of the State House.

I felt more sure than ever that I was going home when I saw my brother
standing on the wharf, and I remembered so clearly many of the streets
we drove through; and when we came to the house itself, and the
carriage had gone, and we stood in the library together where the very
same books were in the cases, and the same dim old Turkey carpet on
the floor, the years seemed suddenly to vanish, and it was like the
dear old childish days again: only where were my mother and my father?
And Jack was growing gray, as he had written me, and so much had
happened to me since I had been in that room last! I sat down before
the wood-fire; and the queer brass dragons on the andirons made me
smile, just as they always used. Jack stood at the window, looking
out; and neither of us had a word to say, though we had chattered at
each other every minute as we drove over from the steamer.

That first evening at dinner I looked across the table at my brother:
and our eyes met, and we both laughed heartily for very contentment
and delight.

"I'm sure Aunt Marion ought to be here to matronize you," said Jack.
Neither of us like Aunt Marion very well; and this was a great joke,
especially as she was ushered in directly to welcome me home.

Jack had been living at the house for a few weeks already; but it was
great fun, this beginning our housekeeping together, and we were busy
enough for some time. I had brought over a good many things that my
aunt had had in Florence, and to which I had become attached; and in
the course of many journeys both Jack and I had accumulated a great
many large and small treasures, some of which had not been unpacked
for years. I very soon knew my brother's best friends; and we both
tried to make our home not only cheerful and bright and pleasant in
every way, but we wished also to make it a home-like place, where
people might be sure of finding at least some sympathy and true
friendliness and help as well as pleasure. Mamma's old friends were
charmingly kind and polite to me; and, as Jack had foretold, I found
more acquaintances of my own than I had the least idea I should. I had
met abroad a great many of the people who came to see me; but the
strangest thing was to meet those whom I remembered as my playmates
and schoolmates, and to find them so entirely grown up, most of them
married, and with homes and children of their own instead of the
playhouses and dolls which I remembered.

We soon fell into a most comfortable fashion of living, we were both
very fond of giving quiet little dinners, my brother often brought
home a friend or two, and we were charmingly independent; life never
went better with two people than it did with Jack and me. We often had
some old friends of the family come to stay with us, and I sent hither
and yon for my own old cronies, with some of whom I had kept up our
friendship since school-days; and, while it was not a little sad to
meet some of them again, with others I felt as if we had only parted

I had been curious to know many things about Jack, and I found I had
been right in supposing that his profession was by no means a burden
to him. I was told again and again that he was a wonderfully
successful and daring surgeon; but he confessed to me that his dislike
to such work continually increased, and could only be overcome in the
excitement of some desperate emergency. It seemed to me at first that
he ought not to let his skill lie useless and idle; but he insisted
that the other doctors did as well as he, that they sent for him if
they wanted him, and he did not care for a practice of his own. So he
had grown into a way of helping his friends with their business; and
he was a microscopist of some renown, and a scientific man, instead of
the practical man he ought to have been,--though his was, after all,
by no means an idle nor a useless life, dear old Jack! He did a great
deal of good shyly and quietly; he was often at the hospitals, and his
friends seemed very fond of him, and said he had too little confidence
in himself. I have often wondered why he did not marry; but I doubt if
he ever tells me, though he knows well enough my own story, and that
there is a quiet grave in Florence which is always in sight, no matter
how far away from it I go, while sometimes I think I know every
ivy-leaf that falls on it from the wall near by.

As I have said, my brother was constantly meeting some one of his old
classmates or army comrades or school friends during that first
winter; and, while sometimes he would ask them to dine at his club, he
oftener brought them home to dine or to lunch; for we were both
possessed with an amazing spirit of hospitality. I wish I could
remember half the stories I have heard, or could keep track of the
lives in which I often grew much interested. There is one curious
story which I knew, and which seems very well worth telling,--an
instance of the curious entanglement of two lives, and of those
strange experiences which some people call supernatural, and others
think simple enough and perfectly reasonable and explainable.

One short, snowy December day, just as it was growing dark, I was
sitting alone in the library, and was surprised to hear my brother's
latch-key click in the hall-door; for he had told me, when he went out
after our very late breakfast, that he should not be in before six,
and perhaps dinner had better wait until seven. He threw off his wet
ulster, and was talking for some time to the man, and at last came in
to me.

"What brings you home so early?" said I.

"I'm going to have two or three friends to dine. I suppose it'll be
all right about the dinner? That was not why I came home, though: I
had some letters to write which must go by the steamer, and I didn't
go to Cambridge after all. The snow-storm was too much for me, I
wanted a good light there."

"Sit down a while," said I. "You have time enough for your letters;
it's only a little after four." Jack hated to write at the
library-table, and always went to the desk in his own book-room if he
had any thing to do. He seemed a little tired, and threw me some
letters the postman had given him as he came in at the door; then he
sat down in his great chair near me, and seemed to be lost in thought.
He was immensely interesting to me then; for we had only been together
a few weeks, and I was often curious about his moods, and was apt to
be much pained myself if any thing seemed to trouble him. I was always
wishing we had not been separated so much, and I was afraid I might be
wanting in insight and sympathy; but I think the truth has been that
we are much more intimate, and are far better friends, and have less
restraint, because we had seen so little of one another in the years
that had passed. But we were terribly afraid of interfering with each
other at first, and were so distractingly polite that we bored each
other not a little; though that did not last long, happily, after we
had convinced each other that we could behave well.

"You say it'll be all right about dinner?" repeated my brother.

"Oh, yes!" said I, "unless you wish for something very grand. Would
you like to have me put on my crown and sceptre?"

"There has never been a day yet when I should have been sorry to have
brought a friend home," said Jack, with a good deal of enthusiasm, and
I was at once puffed up with pride; for Jack, though an uncomplaining
soul, was also fastidious, and his praise was not given often enough
to be unnoticed.

"I met an old classmate just now," said he presently, rousing himself
from his reverie. "I haven't seen him for years before. He went out to
South America just after the war, and I supposed he was there still.
He used to be one of the best fellows in the class; and he enlisted
when I did, though we did not belong to the same company. I heard once
he was rather a failure; but something has broken him down horribly.
He doesn't look as if he drank," said my brother, half to himself. "I
met him over on Tremont Street, and I think he meant to avoid me; but
I made him walk across the Common with me, for he was coming this way.
He promised to come to dinner this evening; and I stopped at the club
a few minutes as I came down the street, and luckily found George
Sheffield, and he is coming round too. I told him seven o'clock, but I
told Whiston we dined at six, without thinking; so he will be here
early. Never mind: I'll be ready, and we will take care of ourselves.
I must finish my letters, though," and he rose from his chair to go
upstairs. "It is dreadful to see a man change so," said Jack, still
lingering. "He used to be one of the friskiest fellows in college. I
hope he'll come. I didn't exactly like to ask where I could find him."

Then he went away: and I waited awhile, looking out at the snow, and
thinking idly enough, until Patrick came silently in, and surprised me
with a sudden blaze of gas; when I went upstairs to dress for dinner,
as there didn't seem to be any thing else to do. I was a little sorry
that any one was coming. Jack and I had arranged for a quiet evening
together, and he was reading some new book aloud in which I was much
interested. His reading was a perfect delight to me. He did not force
you to think how well he read, but rather how charming the story or
the poem was; and I always liked Jack's voice.

I found something to be busy about in my room, and did not come down
again until some time after six. When I entered the parlor, Jack arose
with a satisfied smile, and presented Mr. Whiston; and I was
pleasantly surprised, for I had half expected to see a most
forlorn-looking man, perhaps even out at elbows, from what Jack had
said. He was very pale indeed, and looked like an invalid; and he
certainly looked frightened and miserable. He had a hunted look. It
was the face I should imagine one would have who was haunted by the
memory of some awful crime; but I both pitied him and liked him very

He said he remembered seeing me one day out at Cambridge with my
brother when I was hardly more than a child; and we talked about those
old days until my cousin George Sheffield came, Jack's best friend,
who had also been Mr. Whiston's classmate.

I fancied, as we went out to dinner, that our guest would enjoy the
evening, his friends were giving him so hearty and cordial a welcome;
and I was glad the table looked so bright with its roses and fruit,
and its glittering glass. I somehow looked at it through his eyes. His
face lighted a little, as if he thought he should dine to his liking.
He looked as if he were poor; but he was most carefully dressed, and I
grew more and more curious about him, while I liked him better and
better for the grace of his good manners, and for his charmingly
bright and clever way of talking. He spoke freely of his
South-American life, and of being in Europe; but there was something
about him which made neither of his friends dare to ask him many
questions. I could see that my cousin George was in a great hurry to
know more of his history, for they had been very good friends, and he
had lost sight of Mr. Whiston years before, and had been amazed when
he was asked to meet him that evening. They talked a great deal about
their Harvard days, and grew more and more merry with each other; but,
when Mr. Whiston's face was quiet, the look of fear and melancholy was
always noticeable.

When dinner was over, I went away to see one of my friends who came in
just then. I could hear the gentlemen laughing together, and I stood
talking in the hall some time with my friend before she went away; but
at last I went back to the dining-room, for I always liked my tea
there with Jack better than in the parlor. I took my chair again; and
I was glad to find I did not interrupt them, of which I had a sudden
fear as I entered the door.

They were talking over their army life; and my brother said, "That was
the same day poor Fred Hathaway was killed, wasn't it? I never shall
forget seeing his dead face. We had thrown a dozen or more men in a
pile, and meant to bury them; but there was an alarm, and we had to
hurry forward again, what there was left of us. I caught sight of
Fred, and I remember now just how he looked. You know what yellow hair
he had, and we used to call him The Pretty Saxon. I know there were
one or two men in that pile still alive, and moving a little. I hardly
thought of the horror of it as I went by. How used we were to such
sights in those days! and now sometimes they come to me like horrid
nightmares. Dunster was killed that day too. Somebody saw him fall,
and I suppose he was thrown in a hurry into one of the trenches; but
he was put down as missing in the reports. You know they drove us back
toward night, and held that piece of cleared land and the pine-woods
for two days."

"It all seems like a dream to me now," said George Sheffield. "What
boys we were too! But I believe I never shall feel so old again."

"You are such comfortable people in these days," said I, "that I can't
imagine you as soldiers living such a rough and cruel life as that
must have been."

I happened to look up at Mr. Whiston; and to my dismay he looked paler
than ever, and was uneasy. He looked over his shoulder as if he knew a
ghost was standing there, and he followed something with his eyes for
a moment or two in a way that gave me a little chill of fear. I looked
over at Jack to know if he was watching also, and I was rejoiced when
he suddenly nodded to me, and asked George Sheffield something about
the cigars; and George, who had also noticed, answered him, and began
to talk to me about an opera which we had both heard the evening
before. I did not know whether they had chanced upon an unlucky
subject, or whether Mr. Whiston was crazy; but at any rate he seemed
ill at ease, and was not inclined to talk any more. He looked gloomier
and more frightened than ever. I went into the library, and presently
they followed me; and Mr. Whiston came to say goodnight, though, when
Jack insisted that he should not go away so early,--for it was only
half-past nine,--he sat down again with a half-sigh, as if it made
little difference to him where he was.

"You're not well, I'm afraid, Whiston," said my brother in his most
professional tone. "I think I shall have to look after you a little.
By the way, are you at a hotel? I wish you would come to us for a few
days. I'll drive you to Cambridge, and you know there are a good many
of your old friends here in town." And I seconded this invitation,
though I most devoutly hoped it would not be accepted. I had a
suspicion that he would be a most uncomfortable guest.

"Thank you, Miss Ainslie," said he, with a quick, pleasant smile, that
brought back my first liking for him. "You're very good, but I'm not
exactly in trim for paying visits. I will come to you for to-morrow
night, Ainslie, if you like. I should be glad to see you and Sheffield
again--to say good-by. I am going out in the Marathon on Saturday."

Later, when he had gone, Jack and my cousin and I had a talk about
this strange guest of ours. "Is he crazy?" said I to begin with; "and
did you see him look at a ghost at dinner? I'm sure it was a ghost."
And George Sheffield laughed; but one of us was as much puzzled as the
other. "I thought at first he was melodramatic," said he; "but there's
something wrong about him. Is he crazy, do you think, Jack? You're
lucky in having a doctor in the house, Helen, if he does come back."

"He's not crazy," said Jack; "at least I think not. I have been
watching him. But he is no doubt shattered; he may have some
monomania, and I'm afraid he takes opium."

"I should urge him to spend the winter," said George serenely, "and
what's the difference between having a monomania and being crazy?
Couldn't he take a new fancy, and do some mischief or other some day?"
But Jack only laughed, and went to a book-case; while I thought he had
been very inconsiderate, and yet I wished Mr. Whiston to come again. I
hoped he would tell us what it was he saw.

"Here's Bucknill and Tuke," said my brother, coming close to the
drop-light, and turning over the pages;  "and now you'll always know
what I mean when I say 'monomania.' 'Characterized by some particular
illusion impressed on the understanding, and giving rise to a partial
aberration of judgment: the individual affected is rendered incapable
of thinking correctly on subjects connected by the particular
illusion, while in other respects he betrays no palpable disorder of
the mind.' That's quoted from Prichard." And he shut the book again,
and went back to put it in its place; but my cousin asked for it, and
turned to another page with an air of triumph. "'An object may appear
to be present before his eyes which has no existence whatever there....
If unable to correct or recognize it when an appeal is made to
reason, he is insane.' What do you think of that?" said he. "You had
better be on your guard, Jack. I'm very wise just now. I have been
studying up on insanity for a case of mine that's to be tried next
month,--at least I devoutly hope it is."

"But tell me something about Mr. Whiston," said I. "Do you suppose he
has no friends? He seems to have been wandering about the world for

"I remember his telling me, when we were in college, that he had no
relatives except an old aunt, and a cousin, Henry Dunster, whom we
spoke of to-night, who was killed in the war. Whiston was very fond of
him; but I always thought Dunster was entirely unworthy his
friendship. Whiston was thought to be rich. His father left him a very
good property at any rate, and he was always a generous fellow.
Dunster made away with a good deal, I imagine; they roomed together,
and Whiston paid most of the bills. There was something weak and
out-of-the-way about him then, I remember thinking, but he was a
fairly good scholar, and he made a fine soldier. He was promoted fast;
but you know he resigned long before the rest of us were mustered out.
Had a fever, didn't he?"

"I believe so," said the judge, as his friends always called my
cousin. "The snow will reach my ears by this time. I must go home.
What a storm it is! No, I can't stay later. All night! no, indeed.
I'll come round late to-morrow evening if I can; but it will not be
likely. Now, if you had only been sensible and studied law, Jack, you
wouldn't have missed the festivities: it's too bad. To tell the truth,
I wish I could make some excuse, and come here instead. I'm very much
excited about Whiston." And with a "good-night" to us, and a fresh
cigar which he was sure the snow-storm would put out, he went
away,--my lucky, easy-going cousin George Sheffield, whose cigars
never did go out at inopportune times, and who never was excited about
any thing. It always seemed refreshing to find in this age of hurry
and dash and anxiety so calm and comfortable and satisfied a soul.

I was in doubt whether we should see any more of our sorrowful guest:
but he appeared late the next afternoon; and, when I came in from my
walk, I saw a much-used portmanteau being taken upstairs by Patrick,
who told me that there were some flowers in the parlor that
Mr. Whiston had brought. So I went in to see them, and my heart went
out to the giver at once; for had he not chosen the most exquisite
roses,--my favorite roses,--and more like Italy than any thing I had
seen in a long day? Patrick had crammed them into exactly the wrong
vase; but I thanked him for that, since it gave me a chance of
handling all the beautiful heavy flowers, and making them comfortable
myself, which was certainly a pleasure.

I found Mr. Whiston evidently in better spirits than he had been the
night before, and I was not sorry when I found we were to be by
ourselves at dinner. I had not asked any one myself, you may be sure.
My brother and I have a fashion of lingering long at the table, unless
I am going out for the evening; and that night he and his friend lit
their cigars, and went on with their talk of old times, while I
listened and read the Transcript by turns. Presently there were a few
minutes of silence, and then Jack said,--

"There was a strange case brought into the city hospital to-day,--a
poor young fellow who had been literally almost frightened to death.
One of his fellow-clerks, who boarded with him, went into his room the
night before in a horrible mask, and wrapped in a sheet, and stood
near him in the moonlight, watching him until he woke. He did it for a
joke, of course, and is said to be in agonies of penitence; but I'm
afraid the poor victim will lose his wits entirely, if he doesn't die,
which I think he will. I don't know what they can do with him. He had
one fit after another. He may rally; but he looked to me as if he
wouldn't hold out till morning. A nervous, slight fellow, it was a
cruel thing to do. Somebody told me he belonged somewhere up in New
Hampshire, and that his mother was almost entirely dependent upon

Mr. Whiston listened eagerly. "Poor fellow! I hope he will die," said
he sadly; and then, hesitating a moment: "Do you believe in ghosts,

"No," said Jack, with the least flicker of a smile as I caught his
eye; "that is, I've never seen one myself. But there are very strange
things that one can't explain to one's satisfaction."

"I know that the dead come back," said Mr. Whiston, speaking very low,
and not looking at either of us. "John Ainslie," said he suddenly, "I
never shall see you again. I'm not going to live long at any rate, and
you and your sister have given me more of the old-time feeling than I
have had for many a day before. It seems as if I were at home with
you. I suppose you will say I am a monomaniac at the very least; but
I'm going to tell you what it is that has been slowly killing me.
You're a doctor, and you may put any name to it you like, and call it
a disease of the brain; but Henry Dunster follows me."

Jack and I stole a glance at each other, and I felt the strongest
temptation to look over my shoulder. Jack reached over, and filled
Mr. Whiston's glass; and the Transcript startled me by sliding to the

"I don't often speak of it now: people only laugh at the idea," said
our guest, with a faint smile. "But it is most horribly real to me. It
sometimes seems the only thing that is real." And this is the story he

"When I was in college, you know, Henry roomed with me; and at one
time we were greatly interested in what we called then superstition
and foolishness. We thought ourselves very wise, and thought we could
explain every thing. There was a craze among some of the students
about spirit-rappings, and that sort of thing; and we went through
with a good deal of nonsense, and wasted a good deal of time, in
trying to ravel out mysteries, and to explain things that no mortal
man has ever yet understood. One night very late we were talking, and
grew much excited; and we promised each other solemnly that the one
who died first would appear to the other, if such a thing were
possible, and would at least warn him in a way that should be
unmistakable of his death. We were half in fun and half in earnest,
God forgive us! and we made that awful promise to each other. Then we
went into the army, and I don't remember thinking of it once until the
very night before he was killed. We were sitting together under a
tree, after a hard day's fight, and Dunster said to me, laughing, 'Do
you remember we promised each other, that whoever died first would
appear to the other, and follow him?' I laughed,--you know how
reckless we were in those days when death and dying were so horribly
familiar,--and I said the same shell might kill us both, which would
be a great pity. We were very merry and foolish; and I should have
said Henry had been drinking, but there had been nothing to drink and
hardly any thing to eat: you remember we were cut off from our
supplies, and the men had very little in their haversacks. Next day
the fight was hotter than ever, and we were being driven back, when I
saw him toss up his hands, and fall. He must have been trodden to
death at any rate. When we regained that little field beyond the woods
some days afterward, they had dragged off the wounded, and buried the
dead in shallow trenches. I knew Dunster was dead; and I stood on
picket near a trench which was just about where he fell, and I cried
in the dark like a girl. I loved Dunster. You know he was the only
near relative I had in the world whom I cared any thing for, and ours
wasn't a bonfire friendship. He had his faults, I know he wasn't liked
in the class. He was a brilliant fellow; but I used to be afraid he
might go to the bad. Do you remember that night, Ainslie? The men were
so tired that they had dropped down anywhere in the mud to sleep, and
there was some kind of a bird in the woods that gave a lonely, awful
cry once in a while."

"I remember it," said my brother, moving uneasily in his chair, and
this time I had to look behind me, there was no help for it.

"I went to the hospital soon after that," Mr. Whiston said next. "I
was not badly wounded at all, but the exposure in that rainy weather
played the mischief with me, and I was discharged, and, before you
were mustered out, I went to South America, where a friend of mine
wished me to go into business with him. I did capitally well, and I
grew very strong. The climate suited me, and I used to go on those
long horseback rides into the interior among the plantations that I
told you about last night. My partner disliked that branch of the
business far more than I did; so he left it almost wholly to me. I did
not think often about Henry, though I mourned so much over his death
at first, and I never was less nervous in my life.

"One evening I had just returned to Rio after an absence of several
weeks, and I went to dine with some friends of mine. It was a terribly
hot night, and after dinner we went out in the harbor for a sail, as
the moon would be up later. There was not much wind, however; and the
two boatmen took the oars, and we struck out farther, hoping to catch
a breeze beyond the shipping. It was very dark, and suddenly there
came by a large, heavy boat which nearly ran us down. Our men shouted
angrily, and the other sailors swore; but there was no accident after
all. They seemed to be drunk, and we were all in the shadow of a brig
that was lying at anchor; but, Ainslie! as that boat slid by--I was
half lying in the stern of ours, and so close that I could have
touched it--I saw Henry Dunster's face as plainly as I see yours now.
It turned me cold for a minute, and gave me an awful shock. I told the
men to give chase; and they, thinking I was angry at the carelessness,
bent to their oars with a will, and overhauled them. There were two
men on board,--one a negro, and the other an old gray-haired
sailor,--not in the least like Henry. And I said I had been half
asleep, and dreamed it was his face. But there was no mistaking him;
it was the most vivid thing; it was the man himself I saw for that one
horrible minute. And late the next night I was sitting in my own
sleeping-room. I had reasoned myself out of the thing as well as I
could, and said I was tired, and not as well as usual, and all that;
and I had thought of it as calmly as possible. I sat with my back
toward the window; but I was facing a mirror, and suddenly I had a
strange feeling, and looked up to see in the mirror Dunster's face at
the window looking in. It was staring straight at me; and I met the
eyes, and that was the last I knew: I lost my senses. Only a monkey
could have climbed there. There was a frail vine that clung to the
stone, and in the morning there was no trace of any creature.

"And since then he follows me. I saw that haggard, wretched face of
his last night when I sat here at the table; and I see him watching me
if I look among a crowd of people, and, if I look back along a street,
he is always coming towards me; but, when he gets near, he vanishes,
and sometimes at the theatre he will be among the actors all the
evening. Nobody sees him but me, but every month I see him oftener,
and his face grows out of the darkness at night; and sometimes, when I
talk with any one, the face will fade out, and Dunster's comes in its
place. It is killing me, Ainslie. I have fought against it; I have
wandered half over the world trying to get rid of it, but it is no
use. For a few days in a strange place, sometimes for weeks, I did not
see him at first; but I know he is always watching me now, and I see
him every day."

I can give you no idea how thrilling it was to listen to this unhappy
man, who seemed so pitifully cowed and broken, so helpless and
hopeless. Whether there had been any thing supernatural, or whether it
was merely the workings of a diseased brain, it was horribly real to
him; and his life had been spoiled.

"Whiston, my dear fellow," said my brother, "I'm not going to believe
in ghosts if I can possibly help it. Could you be perfectly sure that
you did not see Dunster himself at first? You know he was counted
among the missing only, there is no positive proof that he died,
though I admit there was only a chance he was not killed outright. We
never saw him buried," said Jack, with unsympathetic persistence. "I'm
sorry for you; but you mustn't give way to this thing. You have
thought about it until you can't forget it at all. Such cases are not
uncommon: it's simply a hallucination. I'll give you proofs enough
tomorrow. Have some more claret, won't you?" Jack spoke eagerly, with
the kindest tone; and his guest could not help responding by a faint,
dreary little smile. "Do you like music as much as ever? Suppose we go
over into the parlor, and my sister will play for us; won't you,
Helen?" which was asking a great deal of me just then.

And we apparently forgot all about Mr. Dunster for the rest of the
evening. And, when Jack asked Mr. Whiston if he remembered a song he
used to sing in college, to my delight he went at once to the piano,
and sang it with a very pleasant tenor voice; and when he ended, and
my brother applauded, he struck some new chords, and began to sing a
little Florentine street-song, which was always a great favorite of
mine. It is a sweet, piteous little song; and it bewitched me then as
much as it did the very first time I had heard some boys sing it, as
they went under our windows at night, when I was first in Florence
years ago.

He said no more about the ghost; but later that night, when I happened
to wake, I wondered if the poor man was keeping his anxious watch, and
listening in a strange house to hear the hours struck one by one. He
went away soon after breakfast; and, though he promised to come in
again to say good-by, that was the last we saw of him, and we did not
see his name on the steamer list either, so we were much puzzled, and
we talked about him a great deal, and told George Sheffield the story,
which he wished he had heard himself.

"Of course it is a hallucination," said Jack: "they are by no means
uncommon. I can read you accounts of any number of such cases. There
is a good deal about them in Griesinger's book,--the chapter called
'Elementary Disorders in Mental Disease,' Helen, if you care to look
at it, or any of those books on insanity. Didn't you have Dr. Elam's
'A Physician's Problems' a while ago? He has an essay there which is
very good."

"I was reading his essay on 'Moral and Criminal Epidemics,'" said I,
"that was all. It's a cheerful thing too!"

"Isn't there such a thing as these visions coming before slight
attacks of epilepsy?" said George. And my brother said yes; but
Mr. Whiston had nothing of that kind, he had taken pains to find out.
There was no hope of a cure, he feared; he was not wise in such cases.
But the trouble had gone too far, there were bad symptoms, and he
confesses he has hurt himself with opium during the last year or two.
"He will not live long at any rate," said Jack; "and I think the
sooner the end comes the better. He has a predisposition to mental
disease, and he was always a frail, curious make-up. But I don't
know--'There are more things in heaven and earth,' George Sheffield;
and I wish you had heard him tell his story."

And we talked over some strange, unaccountable things; and each told
stories which could neither be doubted nor explained. I had been
readier to believe in such things since I was warned myself before the
greatest sorrow I had ever known. I was by the sea; and one of my
friends and I were walking slowly toward home one dark and windy
evening, when suddenly we both heard a terrible low cry of fear and
horror close beside us. It was hardly a cry, it was no noise that
either of us had ever heard before; and we stopped for an instant,
because we were too frightened to move. And the noise came again. We
were in an open place, and there was nothing to be seen; but we both
felt there was something there, and that the cry had some awful
meaning. And it was not many days before I had reason to remember that
cry; for the trouble came. I do not know what it might have been that
I heard; but I knew it had the saddest meaning.

Two or three weeks after we saw Mr. Whiston, my brother came in one
afternoon; and I saw he could hardly wait for some friends to go away,
who were paying me a call.

"I have found poor Whiston," said he, when I joined him in the library
at last: "he is at the Carney Hospital. It seems he was ill for a few
days at his hotel, and the servant, who was very kind to him, advised
him to go there. He insists that he is very comfortable, and that he
has money enough. I wished to bring him over here at first; but I saw
that it was no use, and I asked him why he didn't let me know, but he
is completely wrecked; I doubt if he lives more than a day or two, he
was wandering half the time I was there. He said he should be very
glad if you would come to see him, and I told him I was sure you

I went to see him with my brother the next day, and I saw that Jack
was shocked at the change that had come already. There was that
peculiar, worried, anxious look in his face, that one only sees in
people who are very near death, and his fingers were picking at the
blanket. I do not believe he knew me; but he smiled,--he had a most
beautiful smile,--and I gave him some grapes, and wished I could make
him a little more comfortable. The sister came just afterward on her
round, and gave him his medicine, and raised him with a strong arm,
while she turned his pillow in a business-like way, and I thought what
a lonely place it was to be ill and die in; and I was more glad than
ever that Jack and I had a home, and were always to be together. I
left Jack to stay the night, and, as I came away, I had more and more
compassion for the man who was dying; yet I was glad to think so sad a
life was almost over with. His days had been all winter days in this
world, it seemed to me, and I hoped some wonderful, blessed spring was
waiting for him in the next.

When I went over in the morning, it was cheerless enough. The rain was
falling fast and the snow melting in the streets. My brother was
watching for me, and came out at once. "Poor Whiston is dead," said
he, as he shut the carriage-door. "He wished me to thank you for your
kindness to him," and I saw the tears in Jack's eyes. "There's another
star for the catalogue,--how small the class is growing! Poor fellow!
I didn't know he had gone, I thought he was asleep, for we were
talking together only a few minutes before. He was not at all
bewildered, as you saw him yesterday."

I heard this case talked over more than once by my brother, and one or
two professional friends of his who came often to the house. Nobody
was ready to believe that Mr. Whiston had seen an apparition; but the
truth always remained that the man's nerves were so shocked by what he
believed to be the appearance of a ghost, that he had become the prey
of a monomania, and had by little and little grown incapable of
distinguishing between real things and the creations and projections
of his own unsteady brain. _Il s'écoutait vivre_, as the French phrase
has it; and, having nothing to live for but this, it was well that
life was over for him. I suppose the acute disease of which he died
met with little resistance, for he looked so ill when we first saw
him; but it would have been sadder if he had lingered a few more
years, so miserable as he was,--hardly fit either for the inside of an
asylum or the outside,--to die at last without money or friends to
give him the last of this world's comforts, perhaps without mind
enough left to miss them.

Strangely enough, some months after this, when it was spring, my
brother found Dunster at the Marine Hospital in Chelsea, where he had
gone with another surgeon to see a curious operation in which he felt
a great interest. He was walking through the accident ward when
somebody called him from one of the cots,--a wretched-looking
vagabond, whom at first he did not recognize. But it was Dunster, and
he tried to put on something of his old manner, which made him seem
like a wretched copy of his former self.

Jack made him give an account of himself. It seemed that he had been
thrown among the dead in that battle when he was supposed to have been
killed; but he had recovered his senses, and crawled from the place
where he had fallen farther into the enemy's lines, and he had been
sent to the rear. He had nearly died from the effects of his wounds,
and it was evident that he had been very intemperate. He had drifted
to New Orleans, and lead a most wretched life there; and at times he
had gone to sea. My brother asked him if he was ever in Rio; and at
first he denied it, and afterward confessed that he was there once,
and had seen Whiston in a boat, and had dropped over the side in the
dark to evade him, but when Jack questioned him about being at the
window, he denied it utterly. He said his ship sailed that day. It
might have been that he meant to commit a robbery, or that he really
told the truth, and that it was the first of poor Whiston's illusions.
Of course it was possible that Dunster might have swung himself down
from the flat roof by a rope, and they might have really met at other
times, it was not unlikely. But one can hardly conceive of
Mr. Whiston's perfect certainty, in such a case, that the glimpse he
had of his cousin's face was a supernatural vision.

My brother said, "I did not tell him what wreck and ruin he had made
unconsciously of Whiston's life,--at least the part he had played in
it; it would do no good, and indeed he is hardly sane, I think. It
would be curious if they had both inherited from their common ancestry
the mental weakness which shows itself so differently in the two
lives,--Whiston's, so cowardly and shrinking and weak; and Dunster's,
so horribly low and brutal. There is not much the matter with him, he
had a fall on board ship. The nurse told me he was very troublesome,
and had fairly insulted the chaplain, who had said a kind word to him.
It is a pity that shot had not killed him; and I suppose most of the
class who ever think of him will say he was a hero, and died on the
field of honor."

And my brother and I talked gravely about the two men. God help us!
what sin and crime may be charged to any of us who take the wrong way
in life! The possibilities of wickedness and goodness in us are both
unlimited. I said, how many lives must be like these which seemed such
wretched failures and imperfections! One cannot help having a great
pity for such men, in whom common courage, and the power of
resistance, and the ordinary amount of will seem to have been wanting.
Warped and incapable, or brutal and shameful, one cannot pity them
enough. It is like the gnarled and worthless fruit that grows among
the fair and well-rounded,--the useless growth that is despised and
thrown away scornfully.

But God must always know what blighted and hindered any life or growth
of His; and let us believe that He sometimes saves and pities what we
have scorned and blamed.


The story begins one afternoon in June just after dinner. Miss
Catherine Spring was the heroine; and she lived alone in her house,
which stood on the long village street in Brookton,--up in the country
city people would say,--a town certainly not famous, but pleasant
enough because it was on the outer edge of the mountain region, near
some great hills. One never hears much about Brookton when one is away
from it, but, for all that, life is as important and exciting there as
it is anywhere; and it is like every other town, a miniature world,
with its great people and small people, bad people and good people,
its jealousy and rivalry, kindness and patient heroism.

Miss Spring had finished her dinner that day, and had washed the few
dishes, and put them away. She never could get used to there being so
few, because she had been one of a large family. She had put on the
gray alpaca dress which she wore afternoons at home, and had taken her
sewing, and sat down at one of the front windows in the sitting-room,
which was shaded by a green old lilac-bush. But she did not sew as if
she were much interested in the work, or were in any hurry; and
presently she laid it down altogether, and tapped on the window-sill
with her thimble, looking as if she were lost in not very pleasant
thought. She was a very good woman, and a very pleasant woman; a good
neighbor all the people would tell you; and they would add also, very
comfortably left. But of late she had been somewhat troubled; to tell
the truth, her money affairs had gone wrong, and just now she did not
exactly know what to do. She felt more solitary than she had for a
long time before. Her father, the last of the family except herself,
had been dead for many years; and she had been living alone, growing
more and more contented in the comfortable, prim, white house, after
the first sharp grief of her loneliness had worn away into a more
resigned and familiar sorrow. It is, after all, a great satisfaction
to do as one pleases.

Now, as I have said, she had lost part of her already small income,
and she did not know what to do. The first loss could be borne; but
the second seemed to put housekeeping out of the question, and this
was a dreadful thing to think of. She knew no other way of living,
beside having her own house and her own fashion of doing things. If it
had been possible, she would have liked to take some boarders; but
summer boarders had not yet found out Brookton. Mr. Elden, the kind
old lawyer who was her chief adviser, had told her to put an
advertisement in one of the Boston papers, and she had done so; but it
never had been answered, which was not only a disappointment but a
mortification as well. Her money was not actually lost: it was the
failure of a certain railway to pay its dividend, that was making her
so much trouble.

Miss Spring tapped her thimble still faster on the window-sill, and
thought busily. "I'm going to think it out, and settle it this
afternoon," said she to herself. "I must settle it somehow, I will not
live on here any longer as if I could afford it." There was a niece of
hers who lived in Lowell, who was married and not at all strong. There
were three children, with nobody in particular to look after them.
Miss Catherine was sure this niece would like nothing better than to
have her come to stay with her. She thought with satisfaction how well
she could manage there, and how well her housekeeping capabilities
would come into play. It had grieved her in her last visit to see the
house half cared for, and she remembered the wistful way Mary had
said, "How I wish I could have you here all the time, Aunt Catherine!"
and at once Aunt Catherine went on to build a little castle in the
air, until she had a chilly consciousness that her own house was to be
shut up. She compared the attractions of Lowell and Brookton most
disdainfully: the dread came over her that most elderly people feel at
leaving their familiar homes and the surroundings to which they have
grown used. But she bravely faced all this, and resolved to write Mary
that evening, so the letter could go by the morning's mail. If Mary
liked the plan, which Miss Catherine never for an instant doubted, she
would stay through the early fall at any rate, and then see what was
best to be done.

She took up her sewing again, and looked critically at it through her
spectacles, and then went on with her stitching, feeling
lighter-hearted now that the question was decided. The tall clock
struck three slowly; and she said to herself how fast the last hour
had gone. There was a little breeze outside which came rustling
through the lilac-leaves. The wide street was left to itself, nobody
had driven by since she had sat at the window. She heard some children
laughing and calling to each other where they were at play in a yard
not far away, and smiled in sympathy; for her heart had never grown
old. The smell of the roses by the gate came blowing in sweet and
fresh, and she could see the great red peonies in generous bloom on
the borders each side the front walk. And, when she looked round the
room, it seemed very pleasant to her, the clock ticked steadily; and
the old-fashioned chairs, and the narrow high mirror with the gilt
eagle at the top, the stiff faded portraits of her father and mother
in their young days, the wide old brass-nailed sofa with its dim
worsted-worked cushion at either end,--how comfortable it all was! and
a great thrill of fondness for the room and the house came over our
friend. "I didn't know I cared so much about the old place," said she.
"'There's no place like home.'--I believe I never knew that meant so
much before;" and she laid down her sewing again, and fell into a

In a little while she heard the click of the gate-latch; and, with the
start and curiosity a village woman instinctively feels at the
knowledge of somebody's coming in at the front-door, she hurried to
the other front-window to take a look at her visitor through the
blinds. It was only a child, and Miss Catherine did not wait for her
to rap with the high and heavy knocker, but was standing in the open
doorway when the little girl reached the steps.

"Come in, dear!" said Miss Catherine kindly, "did you come of an

"I wanted to ask you something," said the child, following her into
the sitting-room, and taking the chair next the door with a shy smile
that had something appealing about it. "I came to ask you if you want
a girl this summer."

"Why, no, I never keep help," said Miss Spring. "There is a woman who
comes Mondays and Tuesdays, and other days when I need her. Who is it
that wants to come?"

"It's only me," said the child. "I'm small of my age; but I'm past
ten, and I can work real smart about house." A great cloud of
disappointment came over her face.

"Whose child are you?"

"I'm Katy Dunning, and I live with my aunt down by Sandy-river Bridge.
Her girl is big enough to help round now, and she said I must find a
place. She would keep me if she could," said the little girl in a
grown-up, old-fashioned way; "but times are going to be dreadful hard,
they say, and it takes a good deal to keep so many."

"What made you come here?" asked Miss Catherine, whose heart went out
toward this hard-worked, womanly little thing. It seemed so pitiful
that so young a child, who ought to be still at play, should already
know about hard times, and have begun to fight the battle of life. A
year ago she had thought of taking just such a girl to save steps, and
for the sake of having somebody in the house; but it never could be
more out of the question than now. "What made you come to me?"

"Mr. Rand, at the post-office, told aunt that perhaps you might want
me: he couldn't think of anybody else."

She was such a neat-looking, well-mended child, and looked Miss
Catherine in the face so honestly! She might cry a little after she
was outside the gate, but not now.

"I'm really sorry," said Miss Spring; "but you see, I'm thinking about
shutting my house up this summer." She would not allow to herself that
it was for any longer. "But you keep up a good heart. I know a good
many folks, and perhaps I can hear of a place for you. I suppose you
could mind a baby, couldn't you? No: you sit still a minute!" as the
child thanked her, and rose to go away; and she went out to her
dining-room closet to a deep jar, and took out two of her best
pound-cakes, which she made so seldom now, and saved with great care.
She put these on a pretty pink-and-white china plate, and filled a mug
with milk. "Here," said she, as she came back, "I want you to eat
these cakes. You have walked a long ways, and it'll do you good. Sit
right up to the table, and I'll spread a newspaper over the cloth."

Katy looked at her with surprise and gratitude. "I'm very much
obliged," said she; and her first bite of the cake seemed the most
delicious thing she had ever tasted.

Yes, I suppose bread and butter would have been quite as good for her,
and much less extravagant on Miss Catherine's part; but of all the
people who had praised her pound-cakes, nobody had so delighted in
their goodness as this hungry little girl, who had hardly ever eaten
any thing but bread all her days, and not very good bread at that.

"Don't hurry," said Miss Spring kindly, "you're a good girl, and I
wish I could take you,--I declare I do." And, with a little sigh, she
sat down by the window again, and took up the much-neglected sewing,
looking up now and then at her happy guest. When she saw the mug was
empty, and that Katy looked at it wistfully as she put it down, she
took it without a word, and went to the shelf in the cellar-way where
the cream-pitcher stood, and poured out every drop that was in it,
afterward filling the mug to the brim with milk, for her little
pitcher did not hold much. "I'll get along one night without cream in
my tea," said she to herself. "That was only skim-milk she had first,
and she looks hungry."

"It's real pleasant here," said Katy, "you're so good! Aunt said I
could tell you, if you wanted to take me, that I don't tear my
clothes, and I'm careful about the dishes. She thought I wouldn't be a
bother. Would you tell the other people? I should be real glad to get
a place."

"I'll tell 'em you're a good girl," said Miss Catherine; "and I'll get
you a good home if I can." For she thought of her niece in Lowell, and
how much trouble there was when she was there about getting a careful
young girl to take care of the smallest child. Then it occurred to her
that Katy was very small herself, and did not look very strong, and
Mary might not hear to it; so, after Katy had gone, she began to be
sorrowful again, and to wish she had promised less, and need not
disappoint the little thing.

Another hour had gone, and it was four o'clock now, and in a few
minutes she heard a carriage stop at the gate. She heard several
voices, and was discouraged for a minute. Three people were coming in;
and she was so glad when she saw it was a nephew and his wife from a
town a dozen miles away, and a friend with them whom she had often
seen at their house. They came in with good-natured chatter and much
laughing. They had started out for a drive early after dinner, and had
found the weather so pleasant that they had kept on to Brookton.

"I don't know what the folks will think," said they: "we meant to be
back right away."--"Well," said the niece, "I'm so glad we found you
at home; and how well you do look, Aunt Catherine! I declare, you're
smarter than any of us."

"I guess she is," said her nephew, who was a great favorite. "I tell
you she's the salt of the earth." And he gave her a most affectionate
and resounding great kiss, and then they were all merrier than ever.

"What are you sitting down for, without laying off your bonnets?"
asked the hostess. "You must stay and get supper before you ride home.
I'll have it early, and there's a moon. You take the horse right round
into the yard, Joseph: there's some more of that old hay in the barn;
you know where to find it." And, after some persuasion, the visitors
yielded, and settled themselves quietly for the rest of the afternoon.
They had said, as they came over, that they were sure Aunt Catherine
would ask them to stay until evening, and she always had such good
suppers. Miss Stanby had never been at the house before, and only once
as far as Brookton; and she seemed very pleased. She took care of her
step-mother, who was very old, and a great deal crosser than there was
any need of being. This little excursion would do her a world of good;
and luckily her married sister happened to be at home for a day or
two's visit, so she did not feel anxious about being away. She was a
sharp-faced, harassed-looking little woman, who might have been pretty
if she had been richer and less worried and disappointed. She was a
pleasant and patient soul, and this drive and visit were more to her
than a journey to Boston would be to her companions. They were
well-to-do village people, comfortable and happy and unenvious as it
is possible for village people, or any other people, to be.

Miss Spring was a little distracted and a bit formal for a few
minutes, while she was thinking what she could get for tea; but that
being settled, she gave her whole mind to enjoying the guests. She
regretted the absence of the two pound-cakes Katy Dunning had eaten,
but it was only for an instant. She could make out with new
gingerbread, and no matter if she couldn't! It was all very pleasant
and sociable: and they talked together for a while busily, telling the
news and asking and answering questions; and, by and by, Joseph took
his hat, saying that he must go down to the post-office to see
Mr. Rand, the storekeeper. Soon after this it was time to get supper.
Just as Miss Spring was going out, her niece said, "I had a letter
from Lowell yesterday, from Mary."

"How is she now?" Miss Spring meant to talk over her plans a little
with Joseph after supper, but was silent enough about them now.

"Her husband's oldest sister is coming to stay all summer with them.
She is a widow, and has been living out West. It'll be a great help to
Mary, and John sets every thing by this sister. She is a good deal
older than he, and brought him up."

"It is a good thing," said Miss Catherine emphatically, and with
perfect composure. "I have been thinking about Mary lately. I pitied
her so when I was there. I have had half a mind to go and stay with
her a while myself."

"You might have got sick going to Lowell in hot weather. Sha'n't I
come out and help you, Aunt Catherine?" who said, "No indeed;" and
went out to the kitchen, and dropped into a chair. "Oh, what am I
going to do?" said she; for she never had felt so helpless and
hopeless in her life.

The old clock gave its quick little cluck, by way of reminder that in
five minutes it would be five o'clock. She had promised to have tea
early; so she opened a drawer to take out a big calico apron, and went
to work. Her eyes were full of tears. Poor woman! she felt as if she
had come face to face with a great wall, but she bravely went to work
to make the cream-tartar biscuit. Somehow she couldn't remember how
much to take of any thing. She was quite confused when she tried to
remember the familiar rule. It was silly!--she had made them hundreds
of times, and was celebrated for her skill. Cream-tartar biscuit, and
some cold bread, and some preserved plums; or was it citron-melon she
meant to have?--and some of that cold meat she had for dinner, for a
relish, with a bit of cheese.

She would have felt much more miserable if she had not had to hurry;
and after a few minutes, when the first shock of her bad news had been
dulled a little, she was herself again; and tea was nearly ready, the
biscuits baking in the oven, and some molasses gingerbread beside,
when she happened to remember that there was not a drop of cream in
the cream-pitcher, she had given it all to poor little Katy. Joseph
was very particular about having cream in his tea; so she called her
niece Martha to the kitchen, and asked her to watch the oven while she
went down the road to a neighbor's. She did not stop even to take her
sun-bonnet: it was not a great way, and shady under the elms; so away
she went with the pitcher. Mrs. Hilton, the neighbor, was a generous
soul, and when she heard of the unexpected company, with ready
sympathy and interest she said; "Now, what did you bring such a mite
of a pitcher for? Do take this one of mine. I'd just as soon you'd
have the cream as not. I don't calculate to make any butter this week,
and it'll be well to have it to eat with your preserves. It's nice and
sweet as ever you saw."

"I'm sure you are kind," said Miss Spring; and with a word or two more
she went hurrying home. As I have said, it was not far; but the
railroad came between, and our friend had to cross the track. It
seemed very provoking that a long train should be standing across the
road. It seemed to be waiting for something; an accident might have
happened, for the station was a little distance back.

Miss Catherine waited in great anxiety; she could not afford to waste
a minute. She would have to cross an impossible culvert in going
around the train either way. She saw some passengers or brakemen
walking about on the other side, and with great heroism mounted the
high step of the platform with the full intention of going down the
other side, when, to her horror, the train suddenly moved. She
screamed, "Stop! stop!" but nobody saw her, and nobody heard her; and
off she went, cream-pitcher and all, without a bit of a bonnet. It was
simply awful.

The car behind her was the smoking-car, and the one on which she stood
happened to be the Pullman. She was dizzy, and did not dare to stay
where she was; so she opened the door and went in. There was a young
lady standing in the passage-way, getting a drink of water for some
one in a dainty little tumbler; and she looked over her shoulder,
thinking Miss Spring was the conductor, to whom she wished to speak;
and she smiled, for who could help it?

"I'm carried off," said poor Aunt Catherine hysterically. "I had
company come to tea unexpectedly, and I was all out of cream, and I
went out to Mrs. Hilton's, and I was in a great hurry to get back, and
there seemed no sign in the world of the cars starting. I wish we
never had sold our land for the track! Oh! what shall I do? I'm a mile
from home already; they'll be frightened to death, and I wanted to
have supper early for them, so they could start for home; it's a long
ride. And the biscuit ought to be eaten hot. Dear me! they'll be so

"I'm very sorry, indeed," said the young lady, who was quivering with
laughter in spite of her heartfelt sympathy for such a calamity as
this. "I suppose you will have to go on to the next station; is it
very far?"

"Half an hour," said Miss Spring despairingly; "and the down train
doesn't get into Brookton until seven; and I haven't a cent of money
with me, either. I shall be crazy! I don't see why I didn't get off;
but it took all my wits away the minute I found I was going."

"I'm so glad you didn't try to get off," said the girl gravely: "you
might have been terribly hurt. Won't you come into the compartment
just here with my aunt and me? She is an invalid, and we are all by
ourselves; you need not see any one else. Let me take your pitcher."
And Miss Spring, glad to find so kind a friend in such an emergency,
followed her.

There were two sofas running the length of the compartment, and on one
of these was lying a most kind and refined-looking woman, with gray
hair and the sweetest eyes. Poor Aunt Catherine somehow felt comforted
at once; and when this new friend looked up wonderingly, and her niece
tried to keep from even smiling while she told the story discreetly,
she began to laugh at herself heartily.

"I know you want to laugh, dear," said she. "It's ridiculous, only I'm
so afraid they'll be worried about me at home. If anybody had only
seen me as I rode off, and could tell them!"

Miss Ashton had not laughed so much in a long time, the fun of the
thing outweighed the misery, and they were all very merry for a few
minutes. There was something straightforward and homelike and pleasant
in Miss Catherine's face, and the other travellers liked her at once,
as she did them. They were going to a town nearer the mountains for
the summer. Miss Ashton was just getting over a severe illness; and
they asked about the place to which they were bound, but Miss Spring
could tell them little about it.

"The country is beautiful around here, isn't it?" said Alice West,
when there was a pause: the shadows were growing long, and the sun was
almost ready to go down among the hills. "Brookton! didn't you notice
an advertisement of some one who wanted boarders there, aunty? You
thought it was hardly near enough to the mountains, didn't you? but
this is beautiful."

"Why, that was my notice," said Miss Spring; and then she stopped, and
flushed a little. I believe, if she had thought a moment, she would
not have spoken; but Miss Ashton saw the hesitation and the flush.

"I wish I were going to spend the summer with you," said she by and
by, in her frank, pleasant way. And Miss Catherine said, "I wish you
were," and sighed quietly; she felt wonderfully at home with these
strangers, and, in spite of her annoyance when she thought of her
guests, she was enjoying herself. "I live all alone," she said once,
in speaking of something else; and, if she had been alone with Miss
Ashton, I think she would have told her something of her troubles, of
which we know her heart was very full. Everybody found it easy to talk
to Miss Ashton, but there was the niece; and Miss Catherine, like most
elderly women of strong character who live alone, was used to keeping
her affairs to herself, and felt a certain pride in being

When the conductor looked in, with surprise at seeing the new
passenger, Alice West asked him the fare to Hillsfield, the next
station; and, after paying him, gave as much money to Miss Spring, who
took it reluctantly, though there was nothing else to be done.

"I'm sure I don't know how to thank you," said she; "but you must tell
me how to direct to you and I will send the money back tomorrow."

"No, indeed!" said the girl: but Miss Spring looked unhappy; and Miss
Ashton, with truer kindness, gave her the direction, saying,--

"Please tell us how you found your friends at home; because Alice and
I will wish very much to know what they thought."

"You have been so kind; I sha'n't forget it," said Miss Catherine,
with a little shake in her voice that was not made by the cars.

Alice had taken from her travelling-bag a little white hood which she
had seen in a drawer that morning after her trunk was locked and
strapped, and had put it over Miss Catherine's head. It was very
becoming, and it did not look at all unsuitable for an elderly woman
to wear in the evening, just from one station to the next. And she was
going to wrap the cream-pitcher in some paper, when Miss Catherine
said softly,--

"Does your aunty care any thing about cream?"

"She likes it dearly," said the girl, looking so much pleased. "I had
half a mind to ask you if you could spare just a little;" and Miss
Ashton's little tumbler was at once delightedly filled to the very

Its owner said she had not tasted any thing so delicious in a long
time; and would not Miss Spring take some little biscuit and some
grapes to eat while she waited in the station? Yes, indeed: they had
more than they wanted, and she must not forget it was tea-time
already. Alice would wrap some up for her in a paper.

And at last they shook hands most cordially, and were so sorry to say

"I never shall forget your kindness as long as I live," said Miss
Catherine; and Alice helped her off the car, and nodded good-by as it

"I wish with all my heart we could board with that dear good soul this
summer," said Miss Ashton, "and I believe she has been dreadfully
grieved because her advertisement was not answered; perhaps it may be
yet. She looked sad and worried, and it was something besides this
mishap. What a kind face she had! I wish we knew more about her. I'm
so glad we happened to be just here, and that she didn't have to go
into the car."

"Yes," said Alice; "but, aunty, I think it was the funniest thing I
ever saw in my life, when she appeared to me with that horror-stricken
face and her cream-pitcher."

And Miss Catherine, as she seated herself in the little station to
wait for the down-train, said to herself, "God bless them! how good
they were! How I should have hated to go into the car with all the
people, and be stared at and made fun of." They had been so courteous
and simple and kind: why are there not more such people in the world?
And she thought about them, and ate her crackers and the hot-house
grapes, and was very comfortable. It might have been such a
disagreeable experience, yet she had really enjoyed herself. It did
not seem long before she again took her seat in the cars, with the
cream-pitcher respectably disguised in white paper, and herself
looking well enough in the soft little white hood, with its corner
just in the middle of her gray hair over her forehead; she paid her
fare as if her pocket were full of money, and watched the other people
in the car; and by the time she reached home she was her own composed
and reliable self again.

There had been a great excitement at her house. The biscuit were done
and the gingerbread; and the niece took them out of the oven, and
thought her aunt was gone a good while, and went back to the
sitting-room. After a few minutes she went to the front-gate to look
down the street. Miss Stanby joined her; and they stood watching until
Joseph Spring came hurrying back, thinking he was late, and ready with
his apologies, when they told him how long Miss Catherine had been

"She's stopped for something or other: they're always asking her
advice about things," said he carelessly. "She will be along soon."
And then they went into the house; and nobody said much, and the tall
clock ticked louder and louder; and Joseph began to whistle and drum
with his fingers, meaning to show his unconcern, but in reality
betraying the opposite feeling.

"You don't suppose she's sick, do you?" asked Miss Stanby timidly.

"More likely somebody else is," said Mr. Spring. "Did you say she had
gone to Mrs. Hilton's, Martha? I'll walk down there, and see what the
matter is."

"I wish you would," said his wife. "It's after six o'clock."

"Hasn't got home yet!" said Mrs. Hilton in dismay. "Why, what can have
become of her? She came in before half-past five, in a great hurry;
and she left her pitcher here on the table. I suppose she forgot it. I
lent her mine, because it was bigger. There's no house between but the
Donalds', and they're all off at his mother's funeral to Lancaster.
You don't suppose the cars run over her?"

"I don't know," said Miss Spring's nephew, in real trouble by this

They went out together, and looked everywhere along the road,
apologizing to each other as they did so. They went up and down the
railroad for some little distance, and it was a great relief not to
find her there. Joseph asked some men if they had seen his aunt; and
when they said no, wonderingly, and expected an explanation, he did
not give it, he hardly knew why. They went to the house beyond Miss
Catherine's, though Martha and Miss Stanby were sure she had not gone
by. They looked in the barn even: they went out into the garden and
through the house, for she might possibly have come in without being
seen; but she had apparently disappeared from the face of the earth.

It had seemed so foolish at first to tell the neighbors; but by seven
o'clock, or nearly that, Martha Spring said decisively, "She cannot
have gone far unless she has been carried off. I think you had better
get some men, and have a regular hunt for her before it gets any
darker. I'm not going home to-night until we find her." And they owned
to each other that it was a very serious and frightful thing. Miss
Stanby looked most concerned and apprehensive of the three, and
suggested what had been uppermost in her mind all the time,--that it
would be so awful if poor Miss Spring had been murdered, or could she
have killed herself? There was something so uncharacteristic in the
idea of Miss Catherine's committing suicide, that for a moment her
nephew could not resist a smile; but he was grave enough again
directly, for it might be true, after all, and he remembered with a
thrill of horror that old Mr. Elden, the lawyer, had told him in
confidence, that Miss Spring was somewhat pinched for money,--that her
affairs were in rather a bad way, and perhaps he had better talk with
her, as he himself did not like to have all the responsibility of
advising her.

"Poor old lady!" thought Joseph Spring, who was a tender-hearted man.
"She looked to-day as if she felt bad about something. She has grown
old this last year, that's a fact!" It seemed to him as if she were in
truth dead already. "You had better look all over the house," said he
to his wife. "Did you look in the garret?" He remembered the story
that his great-grandfather had been found hanging there, and could not
have gone to the garret himself to save his life.

He went hurrying out of the house, determined now to make the
disappearance public. He would go to the depot, there were always some
men there at this time. The church-bell began to ring for
Wednesday-evening meeting, and she had always gone so regularly; he
would hurry back there, and tell the people as they came. The train
went by slowly to stop at the station, it was a little behind time. He
hurried on, looking down as he walked. To tell the truth, he was
thinking about the funeral, and suddenly he heard a familiar voice

"Well, Joseph! I suppose you thought I was lost!"

"Heavens and earth, Aunt Catherine! Where have you been?" And he
caught her by the shoulder, and felt suddenly like crying and laughing
together. "I never had any thing come over me so in all my life," said
he to his wife and Miss Stanby, as they went home later that evening.
"I declare, it took the wits right out of me."

Miss Catherine looked brighter than she had that afternoon, the
excitement really had done her good; she told her adventure as they
hurried home together. When they reached the house Martha Spring and
Miss Stanby kissed her, and cried as if their hearts would break.
Joseph looked out of the window a few minutes, and then announced that
he would go out and see to the horse.

The tears were soon over with; and, as soon as it seemed decent,
Mrs. Martha said, "Aunt Catherine, do tell me where you got that
pretty hood! I wish I had seen it when I first got here, to take the
pattern. Isn't it a new stitch?"

"Dear me! haven't I taken it off?" said Miss Catherine. "Well, you
must excuse me if I am scatter-witted. I feel as if I had been gone a

They had supper directly--that very late supper! They were all as
hungry as hunters, even poor little Miss Stanby; and the re-action
from such suspense made the guests merry enough, while, as was often
said, Miss Catherine was always good company. The cream-tartar
biscuits were none the less good for being cold. Joseph hadn't eaten
such gingerbread since he was there before; and the tea was made fresh
over a dry-shingle fire, which blazes in a minute, as every one knows.
There were more than enough pound-cakes; and Martha asked all over
again how Miss Catherine made her preserves, for somehow hers were
never so good; while Miss Catherine meekly said that she had not had
such good luck as usual with the last she made.

At last they drove off down the road. The moon had come up, and was
shining through the trees. It was so cool and fresh and bright an
evening, with a little yellow still lingering in the west after the
sunset! The guests went away very happy and light-hearted, for it
seemed as if they had been spared a terrible sorrow.

"I saw the prettiest little old-fashioned table up in the garret,"
said Mrs. Martha. "It only needs fixing up a little. I mean to ask
your Aunt Catherine if I can't have it when I go over again."

"No, you won't," said her husband, with more authority than was usual
with him.

Miss Catherine stood watching at the gate until they were out of
sight. "I must settle down," said she. "I feel as if it had been a
wedding or a funeral or something; and I declare if it isn't Wednesday
evening, and what will they think has become of me at meeting?" though
she could have trusted Mrs. Hilton to spread the story far and
wide--by which you must not suppose that good Mrs. Hilton was a
naughty gossip.

The next morning Miss Catherine waked up even more heavy-hearted than
she had been the day before. I suppose she was tired after the unusual
excitement. She wished she had talked to Joseph, she must talk with
somebody. She wished she had not been such a fool as to get on those
cars, for she was sure she never should hear the last of the joke;
and, after the morning work was done, she sat down in the sitting-room
with the clock ticking mockingly, and that intolerable feeling of
despair and disgust came over her; there is nothing much harder to
bear than that, if you know what it is I am sure you will pity her.

The afternoon seemed very long. It rained; and nobody came in until
the evening, when Mrs. Hilton's boy came with a letter. Miss Catherine
had been to the post-office just before dinner, to send the money to
Miss Ashton; and this surprised her very much. "It must have come by
the seven-o'clock train," said she. "I never get letters from that
way;" and she took it to the window, and looked curiously at the
address, and at last she opened it. It was a pretty letter to look at,
and it proved a pleasant one to read. It was from Alice West, Miss
Ashton's niece; and Miss Catherine read it slowly, and felt as if she
were in a dream.

"My Dear Miss Spring,--My aunt, Miss Ashton, wishes me to write to
you, to ask if it would be convenient for you to take us to board. We
are very much disappointed here, and are glad we did not positively
engage our rooms until we had seen them. It is a very damp house, and
I am sure my aunt ought not to stay, and would be uncomfortable in
many ways. We should like two rooms close to each other, and we were
each to pay ten dollars a week here, but are perfectly willing to pay
more than that. We are almost certain that we shall like your house;
but perhaps it will be the better way for me to come down and see you,
and then I can make all the arrangements. If Brookton suits my aunt,
we may wish to stay as late as October; and should you mind if one of
my friends comes to stay with us by and by? She would share my room.
If you will write me to-morrow morning, and if you think you can take
us, I will go down in the early afternoon train.

"We hope you reached home all right, and that your friends were not
much worried. We begin to think that your adventure was a fortunate
thing for us. With kind regards from us both,

   "Yours sincerely,

      "Alice West."

Did you ever know any thing more fortunate than this? Poor Miss
Catherine sat down and cried about it; and the cat came and rubbed
against her foot, and purred sympathizingly, and was taken up and wept
over, which I believe had never happened to her before. Of all people,
who could be pleasanter boarders than these? They had won her heart in
the half-hour she had already spent with them. She had wished then
that they were coming to her: it would be such a pleasure to make them
comfortable. And twenty dollars a week,--that would surely be more
than enough for them all to live upon with what she had beside. And
there was Katy, who could save so many steps, and could wait on Miss
Ashton; she would have the child come at once. She could have
Mrs. Brown come every day for a while, beside Mondays and Tuesdays;
and how glad she would be of the extra pay! Miss Catherine even went
up stairs in the late June twilight, to look at the two familiar
front-chambers, with only the small square hall separating them. They
looked so pleasant, and were so airy and of such good size, they could
not help being suited. She patted the pillow of her best bed
affectionately, and thought with pride that they would find no fault
with her way of cooking, and her house never was damp; there was not a
better house in Brookton. Life had rarely looked brighter to Miss
Catherine than it did that night.

Alice West came down the next afternoon, and found the house and the
rooms and Miss Catherine herself were all exactly what wise Miss
Ashton had said they would be. And the two boarders thought themselves
lucky to have found such a pleasant house for the summer; they were so
considerate, and became favorites with many people beside their
hostess. They brought a great deal of pleasure and good-will to sober
little Brookton, as two cultivated, thoughtful, helpful women may make
any place pleasanter if they choose. Miss Ashton is a help and a
comfort and a pleasure wherever she goes, while Alice West is learning
to be like her more and more every year. Miss Catherine remembered
sometimes with great thankfulness, that it was the loss of her money
for a while that had brought her these friends. Katy Dunning was so
happy to go to live at Miss Spring's after all, and did her very
best,--a patient, steady, willing little creature she was! and I am
sure she never had had so many good times in her life as she did that

I might tell you so much more about these people, but a story must end
somewhere. You may hope that Miss Catherine's fortunes bettered, and
that she never will have to give up her home; that she can keep Katy
all the time; that Miss Ashton will come back to Brookton the next
year, and the next.

I am sure you will think, in reading all this, just what I have
thought as I told it,--and what Miss Catherine herself felt,--that it
was such a wonderfully linked-together chain. All the time she thought
she was going wrong, that it was a series of mistakes. "I never will
be so miserable again," said she. "It was all ordered for the best;
and may the Lord forgive me for doubting his care and goodness as I
did that day!" It went straight to her heart the next Sunday, when the
old minister said in his sermon, "Dear friends, do not let us forget
what the Psalmist says, that the steps of a good man are ordered by
the Lord. He plans the way we go; and so let us always try to see what
he means in sending us this way or that. Do not let us go astray from
wilfulness, or blame him for the work he gives us to do, or the
burdens he gives us to carry, since he knows best."

So often, in looking back, we find that what seemed the unluckiest day
of the week really proved most fortunate, and what we called bad luck
proved just the other thing. We trace out the good results of what we
thought must make every thing go wrong: we say, "If it had not been
for this or that, I should have missed and lost so much." I once
happened to open a book of sermons, and to see the title of one,
"Every Man's Life a Plan of God." I did not read the sermon itself,
and have never seen the book again; but I have thought of it a great
many times. Since it is true that our lives are planned with the
greatest love and wisdom, must it not be that our sorrows and
hindrances come just from our taking things wrong?

And here, for the last of the story, is a verse that Robert Browning
wrote, that Miss Ashton said one morning, and Miss Catherine liked:--

     "Grow old along with me!
      The best is yet to be,
   The last of life, for which the first was made:
      Our times are in His hand
      Who saith 'A whole I planned,
   Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!'"


Last summer (said Aunt Mary), while you were with your father in
Canada, I met for the first time Miss Margaret Tennant of Boston, whom
I had for years a great desire to see and know. My dear friend, Anne
Langdon, has had from her girlhood two very intimate friends; and Miss
Tennant is one, and I the other. Though we each had known the other
through Anne, we had never seen each other before.

I was at the mountains, and upon our being introduced we became very
good friends immediately; and, from at first holding complimentary and
interesting conversations concerning Anne in the hotel parlor, we came
to taking long walks, and spending the most of our time together; and
now we are as fond of each other as possible. When we parted in
September, I had promised to visit her at her house in Boston in the
winter; and, when she was ready for it, I was too.

To my great delight, I found Anne there; and we three old maiden
ladies enjoyed ourselves quite as well as if we were your age, my
dear, with the world before us. Miss Margaret Tennant certainly keeps
house most delightfully.

She lives alone in the old Tennant house, in a pleasant street; and I
think most of the Tennants, for a dozen generations back, must have
been maiden ladies with exquisite taste and deep purses, just like
herself; for every thing there is perfect of its kind, and its kind
the right kind. Then she is such a popular person: it is charming to
see the delight her friends have in her. For one thing, all the young
ladies of her acquaintance--not to mention her nieces, who seem to bow
down and worship her--are her devoted friends; and she often gives
them dinners and tea parties, takes them to plays and concerts,
matronizes them in the summer, takes them to drive in her handsome
carriages, and is the repository of all their joys and sorrows, and, I
have no doubt, knows them better than their fathers and mothers do,
and has nearly as much influence over them. Elly, my dear, I wish you
were one of the clan; for I'm afraid, between your careless papa and
your wicked aunty, you haven't had the most irreproachable bringing
up! But, she is coming to visit me in June, and we'll see what she can
do for you!

One night, while I was there, we were just home from a charming
dinner-party at the house of her sister, Mrs. Bruce; and, as it was a
very stormy night, we had come away early. Not being in the least
tired, we sat ourselves down in our accustomed easy-chairs before the
fire, for a talk, and were lazily making plans for the morrow; Miss
Tennant telling us she should have the eight young ladies whom she
knew best; the Quadrille as she calls them; to dine with us. I must
tell you about that party some day, Elly. It was the nicest affair in
its way I ever saw, and the girls were all such dear ones! I spoke of
the company we had just left, and of my admiration of the Bruce family
in general, and Mrs. Bruce in particular, and of my enjoyment of the

"Yes," said Margaret,  "I think Kitty is quite as young as her two
daughters, and at their age she was more brilliant than either." She
stopped talking for a moment, and then said, "Girls, are you in a
hurry for bed?" (Elly! you ought to be ashamed of yourself for
laughing! Just as if Anne Langdon and I were not as young as you and
Nelly Cameron. There's no difference, sometimes, if we are fifty, and
you twenty!)

We were not in a hurry, and told her so.

 "Then," said Margaret, "I will tell you a story. Anne knows it, or
used to; but I doubt if she has thought of it these dozen years, and I
do not think she will mind hearing it again. It is about Kitty and
Mr. Bruce, and their first meeting; also divers singular
misunderstandings which followed, finally ending in their peaceful
wedding in this very room."

Anne laughed; and I settled myself contentedly in my chair, for I had
already found out that Miss Tennant possesses the art of telling a
story capitally.

"Kitty Bruce is three years older than I," said Margaret,--"though I
dare say you do not believe me,--and consequently, at the time I was
fifteen she was eighteen; and whereas I was in my first year at
boarding-school, she was about finishing. I was at Mrs. Walkintwo's,
where you and I met, Anne; and that, as you know, was a quiet place,
where we were taught history and arithmetic, and the other 'solids,'
and from which she had graduated the year before, and gone to Madame
Riche's to acquire the extras and be 'finished.' Her beauty was very
striking, and she was quite as entertaining and agreeable as she is
now,--very witty and original, with the kindest heart in the world,
and enjoying life to the utmost. In the Easter vacation of that year
we were at home together; and one morning I was sitting with her in
her chamber, and she was confiding to me some of the state secrets of
her room at school, to my inexpressible delight, for it was my great
ambition to be intimate with Kitty; and, you know, that elder sisters
are often strangely blind to the virtues of the younger.

"Mamma came in in the midst of it, with her usually cheerful face
exceedingly clouded, so much so that both of us immediately asked what
had happened.

"'Happened!' said poor mamma, sitting down disconsolately on Kitty's
bed, and helping herself, by way of relief, from a box of candy which
lay there. 'I'm sure I don't know what I'm to do. Your father has just
sent me a note from the office, saying he has invited four gentlemen
to dine, and wishes to have every thing as nice as possible. I can
send John for the dinner; and, of course, I don't mind that part of
it, for there is time enough and to spare, and Peggy never fails me;
but you know Hannah is away; and this morning a small Irish boy came
for Ann, saying his sister is sick and she went away with him. About
an hour ago another little wretch came to say she was obliged to go to
Salem with the sister, and would be back to breakfast. Now, children,
what shall I do for some one to wait on the table?

"Kitty and I were as much posed as mamma. John, our coachman, was an
immense Englishman, and perfectly unavailable as to taking upon
himself any of Ann's duties save waiting upon the door. His daughter,
who had been our nurse and was at that time seamstress, might have
done very well, but she was away at Portsmouth; and as for Peggy, our
dear old black cook, though I never knew any one to equal her in her
realm, the kitchen, she had no idea of any thing out of it, and never
had done any thing of this kind. It was raining in torrents, and none
of us could go out; and we sat and looked at each other.

"Suddenly Kitty clapped her hands. 'Mamma,' said she, 'read us their
names again.'

"So mamma read the names of two gentlemen from South America, and one
from New Orleans, and that of Mr. Philip Bruce of London.

"'All perfect strangers except to papa,' said Kitty joyfully; 'and
they're interested in that South-American business of his, and are all
on their way there very likely; and we shall never see them again.'

"'Well, child, what has all this to do with Ann's being gone?'

"'I'll tell you, mamma: I have the jolliest plan, and it will be such
fun! I shall be so disappointed if you say no to me. It isn't the
least harm, and I know it will make no trouble. Just let me wear one
of Ann's white aprons and look stupid, you call me Katherine, and I'll
wait on the table as well as she could. No one ever notices the
servants, and I'm not like you or papa or Margaret. You can turn my
portrait to the wall in the drawing-room, and they'll think it's
somebody that is disinherited. Those gentlemen haven't the least
particle of information concerning papa's family; they may be
possessed of the delusion that he is a bachelor in lodgings, for all
we know; and if any thing is said about your children, tell them that
your sons are in college and your eldest daughter with a friend. Of
course I shall be, whether I am with Peggy in the kitchen or standing
behind you. Oh! I'd like it so much better than sitting at the table;
and Peggy will never tell. Who will be the wiser?'

"Mamma at first, though very much amused, shook her head, and said it
was too foolish to be thought of; we could explain our troubles to the
gentlemen, and get on as best we could; but Kate would not give up.
Mamma gave some very good reasons; what should we do without Kitty to
help entertain them? And any one,--though she knew it wouldn't be
considered proper conduct in a mother to make such a remark,--any one
would know Kate was not a servant. Papa, too, would want her to sing
for them in the evening (for, though her voice is wonderfully sweet
now, then she sang like a bird; and we were all very proud of the
girl, as well we might be).

"But she upset all mamma's arguments, asking her how in the world she
entertained so much company unaided, during the years she was unable
to appear on account of extreme youth. She was charmed to hear her say
she was too good looking; but as to her being wanted to sing, just see
if the whole five didn't go directly to the library, and if the
waste-paper basket wasn't filled with papers covered with figures in
the morning!

"And so the end was, that mamma very reluctantly yielded to our
teasing. Peggy, to whom the secret was instantly confided, nearly went
into fits with laughing; and the more we all thought of it the more we
were amused. Kitty suggested our total discomfiture in case papa
brought home some one who knew her. I suggested, that, if it were any
one we were intimate with, we take them into the secret, for I wished
to see how Kate would carry it out; and if it were not, we might--and
thereby I nearly ruined the whole affair--send for the 'lending' of
Mrs. Duncan's Mary,--Mrs. Duncan being a great friend of ours, who
lived only a door or two away. Such a pull as Kitty gave my dress when
I mentioned it!

"However, in due season papa appeared with the four strangers, who had
been at the office with him all day, and, luckily, no one with them.
He was duly made acquainted with the programme for the evening; and
finding the plans all settled, and Kitty's heart evidently set upon
them, he made but little opposition, considering the disappointment it
probably was to him not to show his uncommonly nice little daughter.
We three could hardly conceal our amusement when Kate entered the
drawing-room to announce dinner; and it was made the harder for us by
the queer little Irish brogue she had assumed for the occasion. The
guests--one in particular--could evidently not account for so striking
a display of beauty and grace in so humble a position.

"The dinner went off capitally. Kitty was perfection; and the only way
I could see that she betrayed herself was in having, for a moment or
two, the most interested expression during a conversation we were all
very much interested in. She told me afterward that she came very near
giving her opinion,--and I know it would have been very sensible and
original,--in the most decided manner. Wouldn't it have been shocking?

"We sat a much longer time than usual. The three gentlemen from the
South were middle-aged, and evidently absorbed in business; but the
Englishman was not over thirty, and as handsome and agreeable as
possible. He watched Kitty as often as he dared, to our great
amusement; and once, as she left the room, seemed on the point of
asking us about her. My dears, what could mamma have said?

"Papa was overflowing with fun, and enjoyed it all very much. I could
see he was nearly choking sometimes at Kitty's unnecessary 'Yis,
sur-rs.' She never passed me a plate without giving me a poke; and, I
dare say, reminded papa and mamma of her existence in the same way.

"As she had prophesied, they excused themselves after dinner, and went
to the library,--all but Mr. Bruce, who had no interest in South
America. He had an engagement, and so left us in the course of half an
hour. Conceive our amusement, when, just after we left the table,
Kitty entered with a note on a waiter, and a message purporting to be
from Miss Harriet Wolfe, to the effect that she would call for mamma
to go to an afternoon concert the next day. I was just leaving the
room as she entered; and I can tell you I hurried a bit after that;
and, as I looked around at mamma to see how she bore it, she was
holding a fan before her face, in a perfect convulsion of laughter;
and there stood that wicked Kate, with her hands folded, waiting
solemnly for the answer. Poor Miss Wolfe had died some years before,
and had been stone-deaf at that! How mamma gave the answer, or excused
her amusement, I have forgotten. Kitty did it, as she said then, for a
grand finale to her masquerading; but as she says now, and I firmly
believed at the time, for a parting look at the Englishman.

"He went away, and Kitty came into the parlor, and we had a great
laugh over our dinner-party; and the next day it was told to an
admiring audience of three,--grandmamma and my two aunts; but I think
the story never went any farther, as we did not even dare to tell my
brothers. Ann probably wonders to this day who took her place.

"The next Monday we went back to our two boarding-schools, and after a
while we forgot the whole affair. Kitty finished school with high
honors in July, and 'came out' in November, and was a great belle in
Boston all that winter. I, in durance vile at Mrs. Walkintwo's, read
her journal-letters to a select circle of friends; and they were a
green spot in our so-considered desert of life.

"Towards the last of the winter, papa's sister, for whom Kate was
named, and who was very fond of her, sent for my sister to come to her
for a visit of a few weeks during my uncle's absence. She wrote she
would not have to suspend her pleasure in the least, as there had
never been more gayety in Baltimore than at that time; and some young
friends of Kitty's had that very day come from Europe, which was a
great inducement. Baltimore was a kind of paradise to her, and her
friends there were very dear ones. Her room-mate at Madame Riche's,
who was her very best friend, lived quite near my uncle Hunter's, and
she had not seen her for months. Besides, Boston was getting dull, and
she was tired, and Baltimore air always made her well. So it was
settled, and Kitty went.

"Papa carried her on; and for the first week she had a cold, and was
not out of the house. However, her letters were very happy ones; the
contents being mostly abstracts of conversations between herself and
the dear Alice Thornton, and bits of Baltimore gossip, in which I
wasn't particularly interested. But the cold got better, and her
letters grew rather shorter as she got farther into the round of
parties and pleasure.

"Finally there came a very thick letter, and there was something new
on the stage. She wrote to me somewhat after this fashion, while
staying with Miss Thornton:--

"'You're not to tell this, Margie; but I'm getting involved in what
seems to be a mystery. Ever since I've been here, the girls have
talked to me of the most charming gentleman ever seen in Baltimore,
and they all declared I must be introduced; so at last I got up quite
a curiosity. They said he was an Englishman, very rich, and so
handsome! why! if one were to believe their stories, he might be
carried about for a show! He was said to be very reserved, and to pay
very little attention to any of the young ladies. He knows
Mr. Thornton, Alice's father; and they are good friends, so Alice has
seen a good deal of him, and he has been more polite to her than to
any one else.

"'She had told him of me, and he seemed quite anxious to know me. She
had promised to present him the very first chance, and that was last
night at her party.

"'I wish I had time to tell you about it. Every one says it was one of
the most delightful ones ever given in Baltimore, and I did enjoy it
wonderfully. But do let me tell you about the Englishman. It was about
eleven before he came, and every thing was at its height. I was
dancing with Mr. Dent; and the moment I stopped, up came Alice, with
the most elegant-looking man I ever saw; and the strangest thing is,
that I think now, and thought then, I have seen him somewhere before.
He watched me intently as he crossed the room, and asked Alice, as she
has told me to-day, who I was; and when she said, "That is Kitty
Tennant," he looked as pleased as Punch. Don't tell mamma,' said
Kitty. I keep wondering where it is I have met him; but I know I
cannot have, for they say he is just from England. But you don't know
how queerly he acted. All at once he looked as puzzled as could be;
and by the time he was close to me he stared in the queerest way; and
when Alice introduced us, he bowed, and said, "Haven't we met before,
Miss Tennant?" I said, "I think so;" and said I wished he would help
me remember, for I was very certain I had seen him.

"'Suddenly it seemed to flash into his mind; and he said to himself,
"It couldn't be." But I heard him; and after that he was a perfect
icicle; and I didn't have the courage to ask him any questions, for I
knew it was something horrid by his looks. He evidently mistakes me
for some one, and it is so queer that I firmly believe I have seen
him. He went away from me in a very few minutes, and staid only a
half-hour or so, avoiding Alice all the time. I had promised all the
dances, and was desperately' busy all night, having such a good time
that I quite forgot this unpleasant affair. Alice came to me after the
people were gone away, and said, "Kate Tennant, what did you say to
the poor man?" And she seemed so utterly astonished when I told her
what had happened. She cannot account for it any more than I can, and
says it is as unlike him as possible. I don't know whether I have told
you his name: it is Bruce.'"

When Miss Tennant reached this point in her story, I laughed heartily
(said Aunt Mary); and Anne and she laughed with me. "Why in the world
didn't she know him," said I: "I should have thought the circumstances
would have made her remember him always."

Miss Tennant said, "Indeed, I should have thought so too. I know I
should have recognized him myself if I had seen him; but Kitty was
always the very worst person in the world to remember people, and it
had happened a year before nearly. We always had a great many guests.

"When I answered her letter, I said nothing about him; for I must
confess that I did not recollect that the gentleman who stared so at
Kitty the night she played waiter was Mr. Bruce of London; and,
indeed, I didn't feel particularly interested; and my reply was
probably filled as usual with an account of the exciting things that
had happened to me at the school from which I so earnestly longed for

"Kitty wrote me very often; and once in a while she mentioned this
strange Mr. Bruce, and finally it occurred to me that my sister was
getting very much interested in him; and as I had a woeful dread of
losing her, I expostulated with her concerning the foolishness of
caring any thing for a man who had treated her in so uncourteous a
way, and I laughed at her.

"For some time after that she did not allude to him, and I had nearly
forgotten him. At last there came a letter in which Kitty said, "I
must tell you more of Mr. Bruce, if you _are_ tired to death hearing
of him; for it is really a perfect mystery. I have seen him at a
number of parties, watching me in the most earnest way, as if he
enjoyed it and still was rather ashamed. But when we meet he is just
as cool and distant as possible. Alice and I have missed his calls;
and all the way he has betrayed the slightest interest in me to any
one else is that he met a Miss Burt, who has only lived here a short
time, and to whom he had been presented a night or two before. He
asked her incidentally if she knew Miss Alice Thornton; and, when she
said she did a very little, he asked who the young lady was visiting
her. Miss Burt said she never had seen her, but some one had told her
it was a young lady Miss Thornton had met at boarding-school. "Then
she has never been here before?" said he. And Miss Burt thought not,
indeed was quite sure, as she never had heard of me. Isn't it a pity
he didn't ask some one who could tell him all about me?--and then he
could know whether he had met me, of course.'

"Now Kitty, in that same letter, confessed to me that she liked
Mr. Bruce better than any one she had ever seen, which alarmed me so
much that I remember I wrote her the most shocking scolding."

And here Miss Tennant was silent for a little while, and, when she
spoke, said,--

"I see by your faces you're quite interested; and I think the rest of
the story cannot be better told than by my reading you some of the
letters Kitty wrote to me at the time. I'd like to look them over
myself; and, if you are not in the least sleepy, I will go up to my
room and get them."

In a few minutes she returned; and after making the gas and fire a
little brighter, and taking an observation on the state of the
weather, she began to read:--

   "Baltimore, Friday.

"My forlorn young sister, are you mourning over the inconstancy of
woman in general, and your sister Kitty in particular? I own up to
being very naughty, and on my knees I ask your pardon for not having
written all these days. I cannot tell you, as you invariably do me,
that I have had nothing to write; for my time has been more fully
occupied than usual. Tuesday night was Miss Carroll's party; and I
wasn't home till--really not early, but late, in the morning. That
party very nearly made me late to breakfast. Mr. Davenport was my
'devotedest,' and has called since, which Alice and I think very
remarkable. My dear Meg, he's the queerest man! He has the most
dejected expression, as if life were the most terrible bore. One would
think he had been all through with it before, and didn't enjoy it the
first time. He seems to have an exceedingly well-developed taste for
grief, and talks in the saddest way about things in general. I think
lately his object in life has been to make me think he has some
dreadful hidden sorrow. I know he hasn't, by his way; and I talk more
nonsense to him in an hour than I ever did to any one else in a day. I
cannot help 'taking rises' out of him, as we used to say at school.
But he dances well, and knows every thing apparently; and he is ever
so much more entertaining to me than the people who are just like
every one else. Wednesday he sent me the most exquisite bouquet: it
came while Alice and I were out walking. It was raining a little; but
we were tired of the house, and went ever so far, having the most
delightful talk. You ought to have seen Alice; for the mist gave her
more color than usual, and she looked like a beauty, as she is. Oh how
I want you to know her, Maggie! I never have said a word hardly about
the delightful visit I am having here. Alice's mother, you know, died
so long ago that she doesn't remember her at all; and she lived with
her aunt till she was old enough for school, and her father travelled
and boarded. Now he has taken this delightful house, and she is
mistress of it. How she knows the first thing about housekeeping, I
cannot imagine! But she certainly succeeds admirably. There never was
a girl who had her own way so thoroughly: but her way is always very
sensible; and, though she has had the most remarkable chance for
becoming a spoiled child, she is the farthest from it. However, I will
not expatiate. Thursday night Mr. Thornton gave a whist-party; and--do
you think! one of the gentlemen was my Mr. Bruce. I dare say you are
making the most awful face, Maggie, but I _will_ tell you about him;
and why you scold me so I cannot imagine, for I think it is very
exciting; and I know there is some good reason for his conduct, for he
is a perfect gentleman, every one says; and my only fear is, that I
shall never find out about it. I am constantly expecting to hear he is
gone: I heard he was to sail last Monday positively. I should feel
horridly. When Alice and I found Mr. Thornton had invited him, we laid
a bet whether he would accept; but I was right. Mr. Thornton's
invitations are seldom refused; but I don't think that was his motive.
I won the bet. Yes, he really came, and that wretch of an Alice had
the audacity to seat us side by side at supper. He was perfectly
polite, but talked very little. I caught him watching me ever and ever
so many times; and Alice declares he is in love with me. I wish he
would tell me what is the matter with me, for I like him more and
more; but don't tell mamma. I have scarcely mentioned him, because I
know papa would tell me not to take any notice of him,--and I cannot
help it. It is so nice I have you to tell about him. The only queer
thing that happened was, in the course of the supper I was saying
something to Mr. Dent, who was on my left, about Boston, in answer to
some question. Mr. Bruce said, 'Did you ever live in Boston, Miss
Tennant?' I answered that our family had always lived there, and I
meant to; I had been away at school, however, most of the time for
four years. 'Oh!' said he, and began to ask me something else, and
stopped suddenly. I wish he had gone on, though perhaps it was only
about some Boston people whom he met abroad. He never has been in this
country before, you know. And he went on talking with Mr. Bowler, who
sat just beyond him, and I found Mr. Dent was talking with
Mr. Thornton; so I was left to myself, and was busy for a while over
my oysters. I listened to Mr. Bowler and Mr. Bruce, talking about
Mr. John Keith's marriage with his mother's nursery-maid, whom he had
very sensibly fallen in love with. Mr. Bowler was saying that he had
met her, and that she was remarkably ladylike, and did her teacher,
whoever she might be, great credit. Mr. Bruce looked up, and saw I was
listening,--everybody has been interested in the affair,--and said,
'Oh, yes! I have known several instances of persons, having naturally
a great deal of refinement, being taken from a low position when quite
grown up, with their tastes and habits apparently firmly established;
and, upon their being educated, one could scarcely tell that they had
not always been used to the society they were in.' He appealed to me
to know if I had not known such cases. I answered that I never had
seen any such person myself, but that I had not the least doubt of its
being possible. He looked at me a moment, and then said, carelessly as
he could, 'Of course you haven't.' And it seemed to me he emphasized
the 'you' just the least bit. One might have inferred I was just such
a person myself. My dear little sister, what an enormous letter this
is. Forgive me if you are bored; and love me dearly, as I do you.
Alice sent her love before she went to sleep, where I shall follow her
directly. She has been sweetly unconscious of the perplexing Mr. Bruce
for at least an hour. I'll tell you every thing else that has happened
in my next letter; and do you write very soon to your naughty sister


[In the next three or four letters, there is hardly enough mention of
Mr. Bruce for me to copy them all out. He seems to be growing more and
more agreeable, in spite of his evident determination to the contrary;
and as for Miss Kitty, her letters show very plainly what her feelings
were toward him; and here is the last of the letters which Miss
Margaret Tennant brought, which explains the whole matter, to the
great satisfaction of all concerned:--]

"Maggy, my cross young sister,--I declare, I'm muddled, as the
chambermaid used to say at school. I have fallen into a chronic state
of laughter, I'm dying to tell Alice, and have sent for her; but she
has callers, and I will begin this very minute to tell you. It is the
middle of the morning, but I am just down: I was up very late last
night; and oh, we had such fun! Just to think how poor Mr. Bruce and I
have puzzled our brains about each other! It is all out now, and I'm
so greatly relieved. I never knew how much I cared about it till now.
I didn't stop to date my letter, but to-day is Thursday; and Monday
morning, as you already know, Aunt Kate came home, to my great
delight, though I was broken-hearted to leave Alice's, where I have
had such a charming time. Uncle Rob's mother is very much better; and
aunty doesn't think she will have to go back, and says I must finish
my visit. But I cannot stop to write about that. I came back here in
the afternoon; and, Tuesday morning, who should appear but uncle Rob
from Savannah, two weeks before we expected him. That night, when he
came home to dinner, he said with great glee, 'Kate, I saw young Bruce
down town to-day, whom I met in London, and liked so very much. I have
invited him to dine with us to-morrow. He is a capital young fellow;
and I'm glad we have this young niece to help us entertain him. Have
you never met him, Kitty? I'm not going to ask any one else, so I can
have him all to myself. I want to ask him about my friends in London;
and he tells me he has some letters and messages for me, with which he
called at my office, probably just after I went South.' So he rattled
on,--you know how fast he talks,--and presently Aunt Kate introduced
some other subject, and I wasn't obliged to tell the state of affairs
between us. I supposed, of course, Mr. Bruce would treat me in a
proper and becoming manner in my uncle's house; and I thought--which
proved true--that he might not know I was uncle's niece; and that it
might help the matter a little. Oh, it is too funny, Meg! How you will
laugh! About dinner-time Mr. Bruce came in with Uncle Rob, and he
looked so astonished to see me there; and before uncle Rob had time to
get any farther in the introduction than 'Mr. Bruce,' he said, 'Oh,
yes! I have met Miss Tennant very often. Is Miss Thornton with you?'
Uncle said, 'Kitty, why haven't you told me?' Mr. Bruce looked more
surprised when uncle called me 'Kitty;' and, after that, he got more
and more involved, as he saw me whisper to aunty, and take some work
from a little cabinet, and act as if I belonged here. I explained to
Uncle Rob that he had talked so fast the night before, that he didn't
give me time to say I knew Mr. Bruce. We didn't wait long for dinner;
and the way it was all explained was by my saying, 'Uncle Rob, if you
please, I'll have some pepper.' Mr. Bruce started, and really was
pale. He looked at me and at Uncle Rob and aunty. I never saw such an
expression on any one's face. 'Will you allow me to ask what may seem
a very impertinent question?' said he, 'are you Mr. Hunter's niece,
Miss Tennant?'--'No,' I answered, 'but I'm Mrs. Hunter's.'--'Oh!' said
he, 'I'm inexpressibly relieved: and yet I'm sure it was you; I cannot
have been mistaken. There never could be another person so exactly
like you, and I remember your face perfectly.' Here he blushed
furiously; and, I regret to say, I did too. 'It's a dreadful question
to have to ask Mrs. Robert Hunter's niece, and I beg you not to be
offended with me; but was it you, or your wraith, who waited upon the
table at a house where I dined, just a year ago, in Boston? I haven't
the faintest idea what the name was. It was a gentleman to whom I had
letters from my father, who had some business with him. He was
exceedingly kind to me, and his house was charming; and he had such a
pretty little daughter,'--hear that, Meg!--'and I have remembered the
table-girl ever since. It cannot have been you; for I have heard you
say you were always away at school, except in the summer; and yet I am
so sure of your face and figure and hair and every thing about you,
only you have lost a strong brogue you had then. Not you, of course,
but the person I saw. I have been so foolishly sure about it, and
supposed some one had become interested in you, as I was at the
time,'--here he blushed again,--'and had educated you where you met
Miss Thornton, and that you had a vast deal of tact, and were deluding
her and her friends. I have treated you dreadfully, and Miss Alice
too; and only the other night I had the most supreme contempt for you,
because you were apparently so innocent concerning young women being
raised above their station, and all that sort of thing. It would come
over me once in a while that you could not be carrying this all out,
and I didn't believe in my previous idea at all; and yet the face is
the same. I am as much in the dark as ever,' said the poor man

"All this time I was pinching my fingers under the table to keep from
laughing; but when he stopped, looking to me for a solution of all his
troubles, with that ridiculously perplexed face, and I saw uncle Rob's
and aunt Kitty's faces, it _would_ come, and I fairly shrieked, and
rushed from the table into the library, and threw myself into an
easy-chair; and I truly never laughed so in my life. I believe I had
hysterics at last, and they came in in dismay. _Don't_ you know what
it was, Margaret? _Don't_ you remember the day, last Easter vacation,
when Ann had gone down to Salem with her sister, and papa had four
strange gentlemen to dine with him, and I put on one of Ann's aprons,
and waited on the table for fun? I think it was idiotic in me not to
have recognized Mr. Bruce before. Only think how much it would have
saved us! He was the handsome young Englishman who went to the
drawing-room with you and mamma, instead of the library, and then went
away early. You remember all about him now, don't you? I went back to
the dining-room, and told the whole story from beginning to end, and
if we didn't enjoy ourselves over it! Poor uncle Rob made himself ill
with the extent of his laughter, and Mr. Bruce and I are the best of
friends. Did you ever know any thing funnier to happen at
Mrs. Walkintwo's? If you did, do write me. How I shall enjoy telling
papa and mamma! There's Alice coming. Good-by, my dear. But wasn't he
a goose?"

"Knowing," said Miss Margaret, "that Kitty has been Mrs. Bruce for
nearly thirty years, you can imagine what followed. Mr. Bruce made
full amends for his rudeness, and after a while it came to their
having long walks and talks together. Uncle Rob approved the match;
and, when it was time for her to come home, Mr. Bruce wisely concluded
to sail from Boston, and to serve as escort to Aunt Kate and Kitty. So
he was all ready to ask papa's consent when he arrived, and it was
readily given. He became his father's American partner, and they were
married in a year or so, and settled down in the house we left
to-night; for Kitty was always loyal to Boston, like the true Tennant
that she is. And they have always been the happiest couple in the
world, and Kitty's little personification of the absent Ann turned out
more happily than her reluctant mamma had any idea of.

"And now," said Miss Margaret, "the storm and the story are both over.
It's nearly twelve, and the fire is low. Suppose we go up stairs."


However sensible it may have been considered by other people, it
certainly was a disagreeable piece of news to Miss Sydney, that the
city authorities had decided to open a new street from St. Mary Street
to Jefferson. It seemed a most unwarrantable thing to her that they
had a right to buy her property against her will. It was so provoking,
that, after so much annoyance from the noise of St. Mary Street during
the last dozen years, she must submit to having another public
thoroughfare at the side of her house also. If it had only been at the
other side, she would not have minded it particularly; for she rarely
sat in her drawing-room, which was at the left of the hall. On the
right was the library, stately, dismal, and apt to be musty in damp
weather; and it would take many bright people, and a blazing
wood-fire, and a great deal of sunshine, to make it pleasant. Behind
this was the dining-room, which was really bright and sunny, and which
opened by wide glass doors into a conservatory. The rattle and clatter
of St. Mary Street was not at all troublesome here; and by little and
little Miss Sydney had gathered her favorite possessions from other
parts of the house, and taken one end of it for her sitting-room. The
most comfortable chairs had found their way here, and a luxurious
great sofa which had once been in the library, as well as the bookcase
which held her favorite books.

The house had been built by Miss Sydney's grandfather, and in his day
it had seemed nearly out of the city: now there was only one other
house left near it; for one by one the quiet, aristocratic old street
had seen its residences give place to shops and warehouses, and Miss
Sydney herself had scornfully refused many offers of many thousand
dollars for her home. It was so changed! It made her so sad to think
of the dear old times, and to see the houses torn down, or the
small-paned windows and old-fashioned front-doors replaced with French
plate-glass to display better the wares which were to take the places
of the quaint furniture and well-known faces of her friends! But Miss
Sydney was an old woman, and her friends had diminished sadly. "It
seems to me that my invitations are all for funerals in these days,"
said she to her venerable maid Hannah, who had helped her dress for
her parties fifty years before. She had given up society little by
little. Her friends had died, or she had allowed herself to drift away
from them, while the acquaintances from whom she might have filled
their places were only acquaintances still. She was the last of her
own family, and, for years before her father died, he had lived mainly
in his library, avoiding society and caring for nothing but books; and
this, of course, was a check upon his daughter's enjoyment of
visitors. Being left to herself, she finally became content with her
own society, and since his death, which followed a long illness, she
had refused all invitations; and with the exception of the interchange
of occasional ceremonious calls with perhaps a dozen families, and her
pretty constant attendance at church, you rarely were reminded of her
existence. And I must tell the truth: it was not easy to be intimate
with her. She was a good woman in a negative kind of way. One never
heard of any thing wrong she had done; and if she chose to live alone,
and have nothing to do with people, why, it was her own affair. You
never seemed to know her any better after a long talk. She had a very
fine, courteous way of receiving her guests,--a way of making you feel
at your ease more than you imagined you should when with her,--and a
stately kind of tact that avoided skilfully much mention of
personalities on either side. But mere hospitality is not attractive,
for it may be given grudgingly, or, as in her case, from mere habit;
for Miss Sydney would never consciously be rude to any one in her own
house--or out of it, for that matter. She very rarely came in contact
with children; she was not a person likely to be chosen for a
confidante by a young girl; she was so cold and reserved, the elder
ladies said. She never asked a question about the winter fashions,
except of her dressmaker, and she never met with reverses in
housekeeping affairs, and these two facts rendered her unsympathetic
to many. She was fond of reading, and enjoyed heartily the pleasant
people she met in books. She appreciated their good qualities, their
thoughtfulness, kindness, wit, or sentiment; but the thought never
suggested itself to her mind that there were living people not far
away, who could give her all this, and more.

If calling were not a regulation of society, if one only went to see
the persons one really cared for, I am afraid Miss Sydney would soon
have been quite forgotten. Her character would puzzle many people. She
put no visible hinderance in your way; for I do not think she was
consciously reserved and cold. She was thoroughly well-bred, rich, and
in her way charitable; that is, she gave liberally to public
subscriptions which came under her notice, and to church
contributions. But she got on, somehow, without having friends; and,
though the loss of one had always been a real grief, she learned
without much trouble the way of living the lonely, comfortable, but
very selfish life, and the way of being the woman I have tried to
describe. There were occasional days when she was tired of herself,
and life seemed an empty, formal, heartless discipline. Her wisest
acquaintances pitied her loneliness; and busy, unselfish people
wondered how she could be deaf to the teachings of her good clergyman,
and blind to all the chances of usefulness and happiness which the
world afforded her; and others still envied her, and wondered to whom
she meant to leave all her money.

I began by telling you of the new street. It was suggested that it
should bear the name of Sydney; but the authorities decided finally to
compliment the country's chief magistrate, and call it Grant Place.
Miss Sydney did not like the sound of it. Her family had always been
indifferent to politics, and indeed the kite of the Sydneys had flown
for many years high above the winds that affect commonplace people.
The new way from Jefferson Street to St. Mary was a great convenience,
and it seemed to our friend that all the noisiest vehicles in the city
had a preference for going back and forth under her windows. You see
she did not suspect, what afterward became so evident, that there was
to be a way opened into her own heart also, and that she should
confess one day, long after, that she might have died a selfish old
woman, and not have left one sorry face behind her, if it had not been
for the cutting of Grant Place.

The side of her conservatory was now close upon the sidewalk, and this
certainly was not agreeable. She could not think of putting on her big
gardening-apron, and going in to work among her dear plants any more,
with all the world staring in at her as it went by. John the coachman,
who had charge of the greenhouse, was at first very indignant; but,
after he found that his flowers were noticed and admired, his anger
was turned into an ardent desire to merit admiration, and he kept his
finest plants next the street. It was a good thing for the greenhouse,
because it had never been so carefully tended; and plant after plant
was forced into luxuriant foliage and blossom. He and Miss Sydney had
planned at first to have close wire screens made to match those in the
dining-room; but now, when she spoke of his hurrying the workmen, whom
she supposed had long since been ordered to make them, John said,
"Indeed, mum, it would be the ruin of the plants shutting out the
light; and they would all be rusted with the showerings I gives them
every day." And Miss Sydney smiled, and said no more.

The street was opened late in October, and, soon after, cold weather
began in real earnest. Down in that business part of the city it was
the strangest, sweetest surprise to come suddenly upon the long line
of blooming plants and tall green lily-leaves under a roof festooned
with roses and trailing vines. For the first two or three weeks,
almost everybody stopped, if only for a moment. Few of Miss Sydney's
own friends even had ever seen her greenhouse; for they were almost
invariably received in the drawing-room. Gentlemen stopped the thought
of business affairs, and went on down the street with a fresher,
happier feeling. And the tired shop-girls lingered longest. Many a man
and woman thought of some sick person to whom a little handful of the
green leaves and bright blossoms, with their coolness and freshness,
would bring so much happiness. And it was found, long months
afterward, that a young man had been turned back from a plan of wicked
mischief by the sight of a tall, green geranium, like one that bloomed
in his mother's sitting-room way up in the country. He had not
thought, for a long time before, of the dear old woman who supposed
her son was turning his wits to good account in the  city. But Miss
Sydney did not know how much he wished for a bit to put in his
buttonhole when she indignantly went back to the dining-room to wait
until that impertinent fellow stopped staring in.


It was just about this time that Mrs. Marley made a change in her
place of business. She had sold candy round the corner in Jefferson
Street for a great many years; but she had suffered terribly from
rheumatism all the winter before. She was nicely sheltered from too
much sun in the summer; but the north winds of winter blew straight
toward her; and after much deliberation, and many fears and
questionings as to the propriety of such an act, she had decided to
find another stand. You or I would think at first that it could make
no possible difference where she sat in the street with her goods; but
in fact one has regular customers in that business, as well as in the
largest wholesale enterprise. There was some uncertainty whether these
friends would follow her if she went away. Mrs. Marley's specialty was
molasses-candy; and I am sure, if you ever chanced to eat any of it,
you would look out for the old lady next time you went along the
street. Times seemed very hard this winter. Not that trade had
seriously diminished; but still the outlook was very dark. Mrs. Marley
was old, and had been so for some years, so she was used to that; but
somehow this fall she seemed to be growing very much older all of a
sudden. She found herself very tired at night, and she was apt to lose
her breath if she moved quickly; besides this, the rheumatism tortured
her. She had saved only a few dollars, though she and her sister had
had a comfortable living,--what they had considered comfortable, at
least, though they sometimes had been hungry, and very often cold.
They would surely go to the almshouse sooner or later,--she and her
lame old sister Polly.

It was Polly who made the candy which Mrs. Marley sold. Their two
little rooms were up three flights of stairs; and Polly, being too
lame to go down herself, had not been out of doors in seven years.
There was nothing but roofs and sky to be seen from the windows; and,
as there was a manufactory near, the sky was apt to be darkened by its
smoke. Some of the neighbors dried their clothes on the roofs, and
Polly used to be very familiar with the apparel of the old residents,
and exceedingly interested when a strange family came, and she saw
something new. There was a little bright pink dress that the trig
young French woman opposite used to hang out to dry; and somehow poor
old Polly used always to be brightened and cheered by the sight of it.
Once in a while she caught a glimpse of the child who wore it. She
hardly ever thought now of the outside world when left to herself, and
on the whole she was not discontented. Sister Becky used to have a
great deal to tell her sometimes of an evening. When Mrs. Marley told
her in the spring twilight that the grass in the square was growing
green, and that she had heard a robin, it used to make Polly feel
homesick; for she was apt to think much of her childhood, and she had
been born in the country. She was very deaf, poor soul, and her world
was a very forlorn one. It was nearly always quite silent, it was very
small and smoky out of doors, and very dark and dismal within.
Sometimes it was a hopeless world, because the candy burnt; and if
there had not been her Bible and hymn-book, and a lame pigeon that lit
on the window-sill to be fed every morning, Miss Polly would have
found her time go heavily.

One night Mrs. Marley came into the room with a cheerful face, and
said very loud, "Polly, I've got some news!" Polly knew by her
speaking so loud that she was in good-humor. When any thing
discouraging had happened, Becky spoke low, and then was likely to be
irritated when asked to repeat her remark.

"Dear heart!" said Mrs. Marley, "now I am glad you had something hot
for supper. I was turning over in my mind what we could cook up, for I
feel real hollow. It's a kind of chilly day." And she sat down by the
stove, while Polly hobbled to the table, with one hand to her ear to
catch the first sound of the good news, and the other holding some
baked potatoes in her apron. That hand was twisted with rheumatism,
for the disease ran in the family. She was afraid every day that she
should have to give up making the candy on the next; for it hurt her
so to use it. She was continually being harrowed by the idea of its
becoming quite useless, and that the candy might not be so good; and
then what would become of them? Becky Marley was often troubled by the
same thought. Yet they were almost always good-natured, poor old
women; and, though Polly Sharpe's pleasures and privileges were by far
the fewest of anybody's I ever knew, I think she was as glad in those
days to know the dandelions were in bloom as if she could see them;
and she got more good from the fragments of the Sunday-morning sermon
that sister Becky brought home than many a listener did from the whole

The potatoes were done to a turn, Mrs. Marley shouted; and then Polly
sat down close by her to hear the news.

"You know I have been worrying about the cold weather a-coming, and my
rheumatics; and I was afeared to change my stand, on account of losing
custom. Well, to-day it all come over me to once that I might move
down a piece on Grant Place,--that new street that's cut through to
St. Mary. I've noticed for some time past that almost all my reg'lar
customers turns down that way, so this morning I thought I'd step down
that way too, and see if there was a chance. And after I gets into the
street I sees people stopping and looking at something as they went
along; and so I goes down to see; and it is one of them hothouses,
full of plants a-growing like it was mid-summer. It belongs to the big
Sydney house on the corner. There's a good place to sit right at the
corner of it, and I'm going to move over there to-morrow. I thought as
how I wouldn't leave Jefferson Street to-day, for it was too sudden.
You see folks stops and looks at the plants, and there wasn't any wind
there to-day. There! I wish you could see them flowers."

Sister Polly was very pleased, and, after the potatoes and bread were
eaten, she brought on an apple pie that had been sent up by
Mrs. Welch, the washer-woman who lived on the floor next but one
below. She was going away for three or four days, having been offered
good pay to do some cleaning in a new house, and her board besides,
near her work. So you see that evening was quite a jubilee.

The next day Mrs. Marley's wildest expectations were realized; for she
was warm as toast the whole morning, and sold all her candy, and went
home by two o'clock. That had never happened but once or twice before.
"Why, I shouldn't wonder if we could lay up considerable this winter,"
said she to Polly.

Miss Sydney did not like the idea of the old candy-woman's being
there. Children came to buy of her, and the street seemed noisier than
ever at times. Perhaps she might have to leave the house, after all.
But one may get used to almost any thing; and as the days went by she
was surprised to find that she was not half so much annoyed as at
first; and one afternoon she found herself standing at one of the
dining-room windows, and watching the people go by. I do not think she
had shown so much interest as this in the world at large for many
years. I think it must have been from noticing the pleasure her
flowers gave the people who stopped to look at them that she began to
think herself selfish, and to be aware how completely indifferent she
had grown to any claims the world might have upon her. And one
morning, when she heard somebody say, "Why, it's like a glimpse into
the tropics! Oh! I wish I could have such a conservatory!" she
thought, "Here I have kept this all to myself for all these years,
when so many others might have enjoyed it too!" But then the old
feeling of independence came over her. The greenhouse was out of
people's way; she surely couldn't have let people in whom she didn't
know; however, she was glad, now that the street was cut, that some
one had more pleasure, if she had not. After all, it was a
satisfaction to our friend; and from this time the seeds of kindness
and charity and helpfulness began to show themselves above the ground
in the almost empty garden of her heart. I will tell you how they grew
and blossomed; and as strangers came to see her real flowers, and to
look in at the conservatory windows from the cold city street, instead
of winter to see a bit of imprisoned summer, so friend after friend
came to find there was another garden in her own heart, and Miss
Sydney learned the blessedness there is in loving and giving and

For it is sure we never shall know what it is to lack friends, if we
keep our hearts ready to receive them. If we are growing good and kind
and helpful, those who wish for help and kindness will surely find us
out. A tree covered with good fruit is never unnoticed in the fields.
If we bear thorns and briers, we can't expect people to take very
great pains to come and gather them. It is thought by many persons to
be not only a bad plan, but an ill-bred thing, to give out to more
than a few carefully selected friends. But it came to her more and
more that there was great selfishness and short-sightedness in this.
One naturally has a horror of dragging the secrets and treasures of
one's heart and thought out to the light of day. One may be willing to
go without the good that may come to one's own self through many
friendships; but, after all, God does not teach us, and train our
lives, only that we may come to something ourselves. He helps men most
through other men's lives; and we must take from him, and give out
again, all we can, wherever we can, remembering that the great God is
always trying to be the friend of the least of us. The danger is, that
we oftenest give our friendship selfishly; we do not think of our
friends, but of ourselves. One never can find one's self beggared;
love is a treasure that does not lessen, but grows, as we spend it.

The passers-by seemed so delighted with some new plants which she and
John had arranged one day, that, as she was going out in the afternoon
to drive, she stopped just as she was going to step into the carriage,
and said she thought she would go round and look at the conservatory
from the outside. So John turned the horses, and followed. It was a
very cold day, and there were few people in the street. Every thing
was so cheerless out of doors, and the flowers looked so summer-like!
No wonder the people liked to stop, poor souls! For the richer, more
comfortable ones lived farther up town. It was not in the shopping
region; and, except the business-men who went by morning and evening,
almost every one was poor.

Miss Sydney had never known what the candy-woman sold before, for she
could not see any thing but the top of her rusty black bonnet from the
window. But now she saw that the candy was exactly like that she and
her sister used to buy years upon years ago; and she stopped to speak
to the old woman, and to buy some, to the utter amazement of her
coachman. Mrs. Marley was excited by so grand a customer, and was a
great while counting out the drumsticks, and wrapping them up. While
Miss Sydney stood there, a thin, pitiful little girl came along,
carrying a clumsy baby. They stopped, and the baby tried to reach down
for a piece. The girl was quite as wistful; but she pulled him back,
and walked on to the flowers. "Oh! pitty, pitty!" said the baby, while
the dirty little hands patted the glass delightedly.

"Move along there," said John gruffly; for it was his business to keep
that glass clean and bright.

The girl looked round, frightened, and, seeing that the coachman was
big and cross-looking, the forlorn little soul went away. "Baby want
to walk? You're so heavy!" said she in a fretful, tired way. But the
baby was half crying, and held her tight. He had meant to stay some
time longer, and look at those pretty, bright things, since he could
not have the candy.

Mrs. Marley felt as if her customer might think her stingy, and
proceeded to explain that she couldn't think of giving her candy away.
"Bless you, ma'am, I wouldn't have a stick left by nine o'clock."

Miss Sydney "never gave money to street-beggars." But these children
had not begged, and somehow she pitied them very much, they looked so
hungry. And she called them back. There was a queer tone to her voice;
and she nearly cried after she had given the package of candy to them,
and thrown a dollar upon the board in front of Mrs. Marley, and found
herself in the carriage, driving away. Had she been very silly? and
what could John have thought? But the children were so glad; and the
old candy-woman had said, "God bless you, mum!"

After this, Miss Sydney could not keep up her old interest in her own
affairs. She felt restless and dissatisfied, and wondered how she
could have done the same things over and over so contentedly for so
many years. You may be sure, that, if Grant Place had been unthought
of, she would have lived on in the same fashion to the end of her
days. But after this she used to look out of the window; and she sat a
great deal in the conservatory, when it was not too warm there, behind
some tall callas. The servants found her usually standing in the
dining-room; for she listened for footsteps, and was half-ashamed to
have them notice that she had changed in the least. We are all given
to foolish behavior of this kind once in a while. We are often
restrained because we feel bound to conform to people's idea of us. We
must be such persons as we imagine our friends think us to be. They
believe that we have made up our minds about them, and are apt to show
us only that behavior which they think we expect. They are afraid of
us sometimes. They think we cannot sympathize with them. Our friend
felt almost as if she were yielding to some sin in this strange
interest in the passers-by. She had lived so monotonous a life, that
any change could not have failed to be somewhat alarming. She told
Bessie Thorne afterward, that one day she came upon that verse of
Keble's Hymn for St. Matthew's Day. Do you remember it?--

  "There are, in this loud, stunning tide
      Of human care and crime,
   With whom the melodies abide
      Of the everlasting chime;
   Who carry music in their heart
   Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
      Plying their daily task with busier feet
      Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat."

It seemed as if it were a message to herself, and she could not help
going to the window a few minutes afterward. The faces were mostly
tired-looking and dissatisfied. Some people looked very eager and
hurried, but none very contented. It was the literal daily bread they
thought of; and, when two fashionably-dressed ladies chanced to go by
the window, their faces were strangely like their poorer neighbors in
expression. Miss Sydney wondered what the love for one's neighbor
could be; if she could ever feel it herself. She did not even like
these people whom she watched, and yet every day, for years and years,
she had acknowledged them her brothers and sisters when she said, "Our
Father who art in heaven."

It seemed as if Miss Sydney, of all people, might have been
independent and unfettered. It is so much harder for us who belong to
a family for we are hindered by the thought of people's noticing our
attempts at reform. It is like surrendering some opinion ignominiously
which we have fought for. It is a kind of "giving in." But when she
had acknowledged to herself that she had been in the wrong, that she
was a selfish, thoughtless old woman, that she was alone, without
friends, and it had been her own fault, she was puzzled to know how to
do better. She could not begin to be very charitable all at once. The
more she realized what her own character had become, the more hopeless
and necessary seemed reform.

Such times as this come to many of us, both in knowing ourselves and
our friends. An awakening, one might call it,--an opening of the blind
eyes of our spiritual selves. And our ears are open to some of the
voices which call us; while others might as well be silent, for all
the heed we give them. We go on, from day to day, doing, with more or
less faithfulness, that part of our work we have wit enough to
comprehend; but one day suddenly we are shown a broader field,
stretching out into the distance, and know that from this also we may
bring in a harvest by and by, and with God's help.

Miss Sydney meant to be better,--not alone for the sake of having
friends, not alone to quiet her conscience, but because she knew she
had been so far from living a Christian life, and she was bitterly
ashamed. This was all she needed,--all any of us need,--to know that
we must be better men and women for God's sake; that we cannot be
better without his help, and that his help may be had for the asking.
But where should she begin? She had always treated her servants
kindly, and they were the people she knew best. She would surely try
to be more interested in the friends she met; but it was nearly
Christmas time, and people rarely came to call. Every one was busy.
Becky Marley's cheery face haunted her; and one day after having
looked down from the window on the top of her bonnet, she remembered
that she did not get any candy, after all, and she would go round to
see the old lady again, she looked poor, and she would give her some
money. Miss Sydney dressed herself for the street, and closed the door
behind her very carefully, as if she were a mischievous child running
away. It was very cold, and there were hardly a dozen persons to be
seen in the streets, and Mrs. Marley had evidently been crying.

"I should like some of your candy," said our friend. "You know I
didn't take any, after all, the other day." And then she felt very
conscious and awkward, fearing that the candy-woman thought she wished
to remind her of her generosity.

"Two of the large packages, if you please. But, dear me! aren't you
very cold, sitting here in the wind?" and Miss Sydney shivered, in
spite of her warm wrappings.

It was the look of sympathy that was answered first, for it was more
comforting than even the prospect of money, sorely as Mrs. Marley
needed that.

"Yes, mum, I've had the rheumatics this winter awful. But the wind
here!--why, it ain't nothing to what it blows round in Jefferson
Street, where I used to sit. I shouldn't be out to-day, but I was
called upon sudden to pay my molasses bill, when I'd just paid my
rent; and I don't know how ever I can. There's sister Polly--she's
dead lame and deaf. I s'pose we'll both be in the almshouse afore
spring. I'm an old woman to be earning a living out o' doors in winter

There was no mistaking the fact that Miss Sydney was in earnest when
she said, "I'm so sorry! Can't I help you?"

Somehow she did not feel so awkward, and she enjoyed very much hearing
this bit of confidence.

"But my trade has improved wonderful since I came here. People mostly
stops to see them beautiful flowers; and then they sees me, and stops
and buys something. Well, there's some days when I gets down-hearted,
and I just looks up there, and sees them flowers blooming so cheerful,
and I says, 'There! this world ain't all cold and poor and old, like I
be; and the Lord he ain't never tired of us, with our worrying about
what he's a-doing with us; and heaven's a-coming before long anyhow!'"
And the Widow Marley stopped to dry her eyes with the corner of her

Miss Sydney asked her to go round to the kitchen, and warm herself;
and, on finding out more of her new acquaintance's difficulties, she
sent her home happy, with money enough to pay the dreaded bill, and a
basket of good things which furnished such a supper for herself and
sister Polly as they had not seen for a long time. And their fortunes
were bettered from that day. "If it hadn't been for the flowers, I
should ha' been freezing my old bones on Jefferson Street this minute,
I s'pose," said the Widow Marley.

Miss Sydney went back to the dining-room after her _protégée_ had
gone, and felt a comfortable sense of satisfaction in what she had
done. It had all come about in such an easy way too! A little later
she went into the conservatory, and worked among her plants. She
really felt so much younger and happier; and once, as she stood still,
looking at some lilies-of-the-valley that John had been forcing into
bloom, she did not notice that a young lady was looking through the
window at her very earnestly.


That same evening Mrs. Thorne and Bessie were sitting up late in their
library. It was snowing very fast, and had been since three o'clock;
and no one had called. They had begun the evening by reading and
writing, and now were ending it with a talk.

"Mamma," said Bessie, after there had been a pause, "whom do you
suppose I have taken a fancy to? And do you know, I pity her so
much!--Miss Sydney."

"But I don't know that she is so much to be pitied," said Mrs. Thorne,
smiling at the enthusiastic tone. "She must have every thing she
wants. She lives all alone, and hasn't any intimate friends, but, if a
person chooses such a life, why, what can we do? What made you think
of her?"

"I have been trying to think of one real friend she has. Everybody is
polite enough to her, and I never heard that any one disliked her; but
she must be forlorn sometimes. I came through that new street by her
house to-day: that's how I happened to think of her. Her greenhouse is
perfectly beautiful, and I stopped to look in. I always supposed she
was cold as ice (I'm sure she looks so); but she was standing out in
one corner, looking down at some flowers with just the sweetest face.
Perhaps she is shy. She used to be very good-natured to me when I was
a child, and used to go there with you. I don't think she knows me
since I came home: at any rate, I mean to go to see her some day."

"I certainly would," said Mrs. Thorne. "She will be perfectly polite
to you, at all events. And perhaps she may be lonely, though I rather
doubt it; not that I wish to discourage you, my dear. I haven't seen
her in a long time, for we have missed each other's calls. She never
went into society much; but she used to be a very elegant woman, and
is now, for that matter."

"I pity her," said Bessie persistently. "I think I should be very fond
of her if she would let me. She looked so kind as she stood among the
flowers to-day! I wonder what she was thinking about. Oh! do you think
she would mind if I asked her to give me some flowers for the

Bessie Thorne is a very dear girl. Miss Sydney must have been
hard-hearted if she had received her coldly one afternoon a few days
afterward, she seemed so refreshingly young and girlish a guest as she
rose to meet the mistress of that solemn, old-fashioned drawing-room.
Miss Sydney had had a re-action from the pleasure her charity had
given her, and was feeling bewildered, unhappy, and old that day.
"What can she wish to see me for, I wonder?" thought she, as she
closed her book, and looked at Miss Thorne's card herself, to be sure
the servant had read it right. But, when she saw the girl herself, her
pleasure showed itself unmistakably in her face.

"Are you really glad to see me?" said Bessie in her frankest way, with
a very gratified smile. "I was afraid you might think it was very odd
in me to come. I used to like so much to call upon you with mamma when
I was a little girl! And the other day I saw you in your conservatory,
and I have wished to come and see you ever since."

"I am very glad to see you, my dear," said Miss Sydney, for the second
time. "I have been quite forgotten by the young people of late years.
I was sorry to miss Mrs. Thorne's call. Is she quite well? I meant to
return it one day this week, and I thought only last night I would ask
about you. You have been abroad, I think?"

Was not this an auspicious beginning? I cannot tell you all that
happened that afternoon, for I have told so long a story already. But
you will imagine it was the beginning of an intimacy that gave great
pleasure, and did great good, to both the elder woman and the younger.
It is hard to tell the pleasure which the love and friendship of a
fresh, bright girl like Bessie Thorne, may give an older person. There
is such a satisfaction in being convinced that one is still
interesting and still lovable, though the years that are gone have
each kept some gift or grace, and the possibilities of life seem to
have been realized and decided. There are days of our old age when
there seems so little left in life, that living is a mere formality.
This busy world seems done with the old, however dear their memories
of it, however strong their claims upon it. They are old: their life
now is only waiting and resting. It may be quite right that we
sometimes speak of second childhood, because we must be children
before we are grown; and the life to come must find us, will find us,
ready for service. Our old people have lived in the world so long;
they think they know it so well: but the young man is master of the
trade of living, and the old man only his blundering apprentice.

Miss Sydney's solemnest and most unprepared servant was startled to
find Bessie Thorne and his mistress sitting cosily together before the
dining-room fire. Bessie had a paper full of cut flowers to leave at
the Children's Hospital on her way home. Miss Sydney had given
liberally to the contribution for that object; but she never had
suspected how interesting it was until Bessie told her, and she said
she should like to go some day, and see the building and its occupants
for herself. And the girl told her of other interests that were near
her kind young heart,--not all charitable interests,--and they parted
intimate friends.

"I never felt such a charming certainty of being agreeable," wrote
Bessie that night to a friend of hers. "She seemed so interested in
every thing, and, as I told you, so pleased with my coming to see her.
I have promised to go there very often. She told me in the saddest way
that she had been feeling so old and useless and friendless, and she
was very confidential. Imagine her being confidential with me! She
seemed to me just like myself as I was last year,--you remember,--just
beginning to realize what life ought to be, and trying, in a
frightened, blind kind of way, to be good and useful. She said she was
just beginning to understand her selfishness. She told me I had done
her ever so much good; and I couldn't help the tears coming into my
eyes. I wished so much you were there, or some one who could help her
more; but I suppose God knew when he sent me. Doesn't it seem strange
that an old woman should talk to me in this way, and come to me for
help? I am afraid people would laugh at the very idea. And only to
think of her living on and on, year after year, and then being changed
so! She kissed me when I came away, and I carried the flowers to the
hospital. I shall always be fond of that conservatory, because, if I
hadn't stopped to look in that day, I might never have thought of her.

"There was one strange thing happened, which I must tell you about,
though it is so late. She has grown very much interested in an old
candy-woman, and told me about her; and do you know that this evening
uncle Jack came in, and asked if we knew of anybody who would do for
janitress--at the Natural History rooms, I think he said. There is
good pay, and she would just sell catalogues, and look after things a
little. Of course the candy-woman may not be competent; but, from what
Miss Sydney told me, I think she is just the person."

The next Sunday the minister read this extract from "Queen's Gardens"
in his sermon. Two of his listeners never had half understood its
meaning before as they did then. Bessie was in church, and Miss Sydney
suddenly turned her head, and smiled at her young friend, to the great
amazement of the people who sat in the pews near by. What _could_ have
come over Miss Sydney?

"The path of a good woman is strewn with flowers; but they rise
_behind_ her steps, not before them. 'Her feet have touched the
meadow, and left the daisies rosy.' Flowers flourish in the garden of
one who loves them. A pleasant magic it would be if you could flush
flowers into brighter bloom by a kind look upon them; nay, more, if a
look had the power not only to cheer but to guard them. This you would
think a great thing? And do you think it not a greater thing that all
this, and more than this, you can do for fairer flowers than
these,--flowers that could bless you for having blessed them, and will
love you for having loved them,--flowers that have eyes like yours,
and thoughts like yours, and lives like yours?"


We have an instinctive fear of death; yet we have a horror of a life
prolonged far beyond the average limit: it is sorrowful; it is
pitiful; it has no attractions.

This world is only a schoolroom for the larger life of the next. Some
leave it early, and some late: some linger long after they seem to
have learned all its lessons. This world is no heaven: its pleasures
do not last even through our little lifetimes.

There are many fables of endless life, which in all ages have caught
the attention of men; we are familiar with the stories of the old
patriarchs who lived their hundreds of years: but one thinks of them
wearily, and without envy.


When I was a child, it was necessary that my father and mother should
take a long sea-voyage. I never had been separated from them before;
but at this time they thought it best to leave me behind, as I was not
strong, and the life on board ship did not suit me. When I was told of
this decision, I was very sorry, and at once thought I should be
miserable without my mother; besides, I pitied myself exceedingly for
losing the sights I had hoped to see in the country which they were to
visit. I had an uncontrollable dislike to being sent to school, having
in some way been frightened by a maid of my mother's, who had put many
ideas and aversions into my head which I was many years in outgrowing.
Having dreaded this possibility, it was a great relief to know that I
was not to be sent to school at all, but to be put under the charge of
two elderly cousins of my father,--a gentleman and his wife whom I had
once seen, and liked dearly. I knew that their home was at a fine
old-fashioned country-place, far from town, and close beside a river,
and I was pleased with this prospect, and at once began to make
charming plans for the new life.

I had lived always with grown people, and seldom had had any thing to
do with children. I was very small for my age, and a strange mixture
of childishness and maturity; and, having the appearance of being
absorbed in my own affairs, no one ever noticed me much, or seemed to
think it better that I should not listen to the conversation. In spite
of considerable curiosity, I followed an instinct which directed me
never to ask questions at these times: so I often heard stray
sentences which puzzled me, and which really would have been made
simple and commonplace at once, if I had only asked their meaning. I
was, for the most of the time, in a world of my own. I had a great
deal of imagination, and was always telling myself stories; and my
mind was adrift in these so much, that my real absent-mindedness was
mistaken for childish unconcern. Yet I was a thoroughly simple,
unaffected child. My dreams and thoughtfulness gave me a certain tact
and perception unusual in a child; but my pleasures were as deep in
simple things as heart could wish.

It happened that our cousin Matthew was to come to the city on
business the week that the ship was to sail, and that I could stay
with my father and mother to the very last day, and then go home with
him. This was much pleasanter than leaving sooner under the care of an
utter stranger, as was at first planned. My cousin Agnes wrote a kind
letter about my coming which seemed to give her much pleasure. She
remembered me very well, and sent me a message which made me feel of
consequence; and I was delighted with the plan of making her so long a

One evening I was reading a story-book, and I heard my father say in
an undertone, "How long has madam been at the ferry this last time?
Eight or ten years, has she not? I suppose she is there yet?"--"Oh,
yes!" said my mother, "or Agnes would have told us. She spoke of her
in the last letter you had, while we were in Sweden."

"I should think she would be glad to have a home at last, after her
years of wandering about. Not that I should be surprised now to hear
that she had disappeared again. When I was staying there while I was
young, we thought she had drowned herself, and even had the men search
for her along the shore of the river; but after a time cousin Matthew
heard of her alive and well in Salem; and I believe she appeared again
this last time as suddenly as she went away."

"I suppose she will never die," said my mother gravely. "She must be
terribly old," said my father. "When I saw her last, she had scarcely
changed at all from the way she looked when I was a boy. She is even
more quiet and gentle than she used to be. There is no danger that the
child will have any fear of her; do you think so?"--"Oh, no! but I
think I will tell her that madam is a very old woman, and that I hope
she will be very kind, and try not to annoy her; and that she must not
be frightened at her strange notions. I doubt if she knows what
craziness is."--"She would be wise if she could define it," said my
father with a smile. "Perhaps we had better say nothing about the old
lady. It is probable that she stays altogether in her own room, and
that the child will rarely see her. I never have realized until lately
the horror of such a long life as hers, living on and on, with one's
friends gone long ago: such an endless life in this world!"

Then there was a mysterious old person living at the ferry, and there
was a question whether I would not be "afraid" of her. She "had not
changed" since my father was a boy: "it was horrible to have one's
life endless in this world!"

The days went quickly by. My mother, who was somewhat of an invalid,
grew sad as the time drew near for saying good-by to me, and was more
tender and kind than ever before, and more indulgent of every wish and
fancy of mine. We had been together all my life, and now it was to be
long months before she could possibly see my face again, and perhaps
she was leaving me forever. Her time was all spent, I believe, in
thoughts for me, and in making arrangements for my comfort. I did see
my mother again; but the tears fill my eyes when I think how dear we
became to each other before that first parting, and with what a
lingering, loving touch, she herself packed my boxes, and made sure,
over and over again, that I had whatever I should need; and I remember
how close she used to hold me when I sat in her lap in the evening,
saying that she was afraid I should have grown too large to be held
when she came back again. We had more to say to each other than ever
before, and I think, until then, that my mother never had suspected
how much I observed of life and of older people in a certain way; that
I was something more than a little child who went from one interest to
another carelessly. I have known since that my mother's childhood was
much like mine. She, however, was timid, while I had inherited from my
father his fearlessness, and lack of suspicion; and these qualities,
like a fresh wind, swept away any cobwebs of nervous anticipation and
sensitiveness. Every one was kind to me, partly, I think because I
interfered with no one. I was glad of the kindness, and, with my
unsuspected dreaming and my happy childishness, I had gone through
life with almost perfect contentment, until this pain of my first real
loneliness came into my heart.

It was a day's journey to cousin Matthew's house, mostly by rail;
though, toward the end, we had to travel a considerable distance by
stage, and at last were left on the river-bank opposite my new home,
and I saw a boat waiting to take us across. It was just at sunset, and
I remember wondering if my father and mother were out of sight of
land, and if they were watching the sky; if my father would remember
that only the evening before we had gone out for a walk together, and
there had been a sunset so much like this. It somehow seemed long ago.
Cousin Matthew was busy talking with the ferryman; and indeed he had
found acquaintances at almost every part of the journey, and had not
been much with me, though he was kind and attentive in his courteous,
old-fashioned way, treating me with the same ceremonious politeness
which he had shown my mother. He pointed out the house to me: it was
but a little way from the edge of the river. It was very large and
irregular, with great white chimneys; and, while the river was all in
shadow, the upper windows of two high gables were catching the last
red glow of the sun. On the opposite side of a green from the house
were the farm-house and buildings; and the green sloped down to the
water, where there was a wharf and an ancient-looking storehouse.
There were some old boats and long sticks of timber lying on the
shore; and I saw a flock of white geese march solemnly up toward the
barns. From the open green I could see that a road went up the hill
beyond. The trees in the garden and orchard were the richest green;
their round tops were clustered thick together; and there were some
royal great elms near the house. The fiery red faded from the high
windows as we came near the shore, and cousin Agnes was ready to meet
me; and when she put her arms round me as kindly as my mother would
have done, and kissed me twice in my father's fashion, was sure that I
loved her, and would be contented. Her hair was very gray; but she did
not look, after all, so very old. Her face was a grave one, as if she
had had many cares; yet they had all made her stronger, and there had
been some sweetness, and something to be glad about, and to thank God
for, in every sorrow. I had a feeling always that she was my sure
defence and guard. I was safe and comfortable with her: it was the
same feeling which one learns to have toward God more and more, as one
grows older.

We went in through a wide hall, and up stairs, through a long passage,
to my room, which was in a corner of one of the gables. Two windows
looked on the garden and the river: another looked across to the other
gable, and into the square, grassy court between. It was a rambling,
great house, and seemed like some English houses I had seen. It would
be great fun to go into all the rooms some day soon.

"How much you are like your father!" said cousin Agnes, stooping to
kiss me again, with her hand on my shoulder. I had a sudden
consciousness of my bravery in having behaved so well all day; then I
remembered that my father and mother were at every instant being
carried farther and farther away. I could almost hear the waves dash
about the ship; and I could not help crying a little. "Poor little
girl!" said cousin Agnes: "I am very sorry." And she sat down, and
took me in her lap for a few minutes. She was tall, and held me so
comfortably, and I soon was almost happy again; for she hoped I would
not be lonely with her, and that I would not think she was a stranger,
for she had known and loved my father so well; and it would make
cousin Matthew so disappointed and uneasy if I were discontented; and
would I like some bread and milk with my supper, in the same blue
china bowl, with the dragon on it, which my father used to have when
he was a boy? These arguments were by no means lost upon me, and I was
ready to smile presently; and then we went down to the dining-room,
which had some solemn-looking portraits on the walls, and heavy, stiff
furniture; and there was an old-fashioned woman standing ready to
wait, whom cousin Agnes called Deborah, and who smiled at me

Cousin Matthew talked with his wife for a time about what had happened
to him and to her during his absence; and then he said, "And how is
madam to-day? you have not spoken of her."--"She is not so well as
usual," said cousin Agnes. "She has had one of her sorrowful times
since you went away. I have sat with her for several hours to-day; but
she has hardly spoken to me." And then cousin Matthew looked at me,
and cousin Agnes hesitated for a minute. Deborah had left the room.

"We speak of a member of our family whom you have not seen, although
you may have heard your father speak of her. She is called Lady Ferry
by most people who know of her; but you may say madam when you speak
to her. She is very old, and her mind wanders, so that she has many
strange fancies; but you must not be afraid, for she is very gentle
and harmless. She is not used to children; but I know you will not
annoy her, and I dare say you can give her much pleasure." This was
all that was said; but I wished to know more. It seemed to me that
there was a reserve about this person, and the old house itself was
the very place for a mystery. As I went through some of the other
rooms with cousin Agnes in the summer twilight, I half expected to
meet Lady Ferry in every shadowy corner; but I did not dare to ask a
question. My father's words came to me,--"Such an endless life," and
"living on and on." And why had he and my mother never spoken to me
afterward of my seeing her? They had talked about it again, perhaps,
and did not mean to tell me, after all.

I saw something of the house that night, the great kitchen, with its
huge fireplace, and other rooms up stairs and down; and cousin Agnes
told me, that by daylight I should go everywhere, except to Madam's
rooms: I must wait for an invitation there.

The house had been built a hundred and fifty years before, by Colonel
Haverford, an Englishman, whom no one knew much about, except that he
lived like a prince, and would never tell his history. He and his sons
died; and after the Revolution the house was used for a tavern for
many years,--the Ferry Tavern,--and the place was busy enough. Then
there was a bridge built down the river, and the old ferry fell into
disuse; and the owner of the house died, and his family also died, or
went away; and then the old place, for a long time, was either vacant,
or in the hands of different owners. It was going to ruin at length,
when cousin Matthew bought it, and came there from the city to live
years before. He was a strange man; indeed, I know now that all the
possessors of the Ferry farm must have been strange men. One often
hears of the influence of climate upon character; there is a strong
influence of place; and the inanimate things which surround us indoors
and out make us follow out in our lives their own silent
characteristics. We unconsciously catch the tone of every house in
which we live, and of every view of the outward, material world which
grows familiar to us, and we are influenced by surroundings nearer and
closer still than the climate or the country which we inhabit. At the
old Haverford house it was mystery which one felt when one entered the
door; and when one came away, after cordiality, and days of sunshine
and pleasant hospitality, it was still with a sense of this mystery,
and of something unseen and unexplained. Not that there was any thing
covered and hidden necessarily; but it was the quiet undertone in the
house which had grown to be so old, and had known the magnificent
living of Colonel Haverford's time, and afterward the struggles of
poor gentlemen and women, who had hardly warmed its walls with their
pitiful fires, and shivering, hungry lives; then the long procession
of travellers who had been sheltered there in its old tavern days;
finally, my cousin Matthew and his wife, who had made it their home,
when, with all their fortune, they felt empty-handed, and as if their
lives were ended, because their only son had died. Here they had
learned to be happy again in a quiet sort of way, and had become older
and serener, loving this lovable place by the river, and keepers of
its secret--whatever that might be.

I was wide awake that first evening: I was afraid of being sent to
bed, and, to show cousin Agnes that I was not sleepy, I chattered far
more than usual. It was warm, and the windows of the parlor where we
sat looked upon the garden. The moon had risen, and it was light out
of doors. I caught every now and then the faint smell of honeysuckle,
and presently I asked if I might go into the garden a while; and
cousin Agnes gave me leave, adding that I must soon go to bed, else I
would be very tired next day. She noticed that I looked grave, and
said that I must not dread being alone in the strange room, for it was
so near her own. This was a great consolation; and after I had been
told that the tide was in, and I must be careful not to go too near
the river wall, I went out through the tall glass door, and slowly
down the wide garden-walk, from which now and then narrower walks
branched off at right angles. It was the pride of the place, this
garden; and the box-borders especially were kept with great care. They
had partly been trimmed that day; and the evening dampness brought out
the faint, solemn odor of the leaves, which I never have noticed since
without thinking of that night. The roses were in bloom, and the
snowball-bushes were startlingly white, and there was a long border
filled with lilies-of-the-valley. The other flowers of the season were
all there and in blossom; yet I could see none well but the white
ones, which looked like bits of snow and ice in the summer
shadows,--ghostly flowers which one could see at night.

It was still in the garden, except once I heard a bird twitter
sleepily, and once or twice a breeze came across the river, rustling
the leaves a little. The small-paned windows glistened in the
moonlight, and seemed like the eyes of the house watching me, the
unknown new-comer.

For a while I wandered about, exploring the different paths, some of
which were arched over by the tall lilacs, or by arbors where the
grape-leaves did not seem fully grown. I wondered if my mother would
miss me. It seemed impossible that I should have seen her only that
morning; and suddenly I had a consciousness that she was thinking of
me, and she seemed so close to me, that it would not be strange if she
could hear what I said. And I called her twice softly; but the sound
of my unanswered voice frightened me. I saw some round white flowers
at my feet, looking up mockingly. The smell of the earth and the new
grass seemed to smother me. I was afraid to be there all alone in the
wide open air; and all the tall bushes that were so still around me
took strange shapes, and seemed to be alive. I was so terribly far
away from the mother whom I had called; the pleasure of my journey,
and my coming to cousin Agnes, faded from my mind, and that
indescribable feeling of hopelessness and dread, and of having made an
irreparable mistake, came in its place. The thorns of a straying
slender branch of a rose-bush caught my sleeve maliciously as I turned
to hurry away, and then I caught sight of a person in the path just
before me. It was such a relief to see some one, that I was not
frightened when I saw that it must be Lady Ferry.

She was bent, but very tall and slender, and was walking slowly with a
cane. Her head was covered with a great hood or wrapping of some kind,
which she pushed back when she saw me. Some faint whitish figures on
her dress looked like frost in the moonlight; and the dress itself was
made of some strange stiff silk, which rustled softly like dry rushes
and grasses in the autumn,--a rustling noise that carries a chill with
it. She came close to me, a sorrowful little figure very dreary at
heart, standing still as the flowers themselves; and for several
minutes she did not speak, but watched me, until I began to be afraid
of her. Then she held out her hand, which trembled as if it were
trying to shake off its rings. "My dear," said she "I bid you welcome:
I have known your father. I was told of your coming. Perhaps you will
walk with me? I did not think to find you here alone." There was a
fascinating sweetness in Madam's voice, and I at once turned to walk
beside her, holding her hand fast, and keeping pace with her feeble
steps. "Then you are not afraid of me?" asked the old lady, with a
strange quiver in her voice. "It is a long time since I have seen a
child."--"No," said I, "I am not afraid of you. I was frightened
before I saw you, because I was all alone, and I wished I could see my
father and mother;" and I hung my head so that my new friend could not
see the tears in my eyes, for she watched me curiously. "All alone:
that is like me," said she to herself. "All alone? a child is not all
alone, but there is no one like me. I am something alone: there is
nothing else of my fashion, a creature who lives forever!" and Lady
Ferry sighed pitifully. Did she mean that she never was going to die
like other people? But she was silent, and I did not dare to ask for
any explanation as we walked back and forward. Her fingers kept moving
round my wrist, smoothing it as if she liked to feel it, and to keep
my hand in hers. It seemed to give her pleasure to have me with her,
and I felt quite at my ease presently, and began to talk a little,
assuring her that I did not mind having taken the journey of that day.
I had taken some long journeys: I had been to China once, and it took
a great while to get there; but London was the nicest place I had ever
seen; had Lady Ferry ever been in London? And I was surprised to hear
her say drearily that she had been in London; she had been everywhere.

"Did you go to Westminster Abbey?" I asked, going on with the
conversation childishly. "And did you see where Queen Elizabeth and
Mary Queen of Scots are buried? Mamma had told me all about them."

"Buried, did you say? Are they dead too?" asked Madam eagerly. "Yes,
indeed!" said I: "they have been dead a long time."--"Ah! I had
forgotten," answered my strange companion. "Do you know of any one
else who has died beside them? I have not heard of any one's dying and
going home for so long! Once every one died but me--except some young
people; and I do not know them."--"Why, every one must die," said I
wonderingly. "There is a funeral somewhere every day, I
suppose."--"Every one but me," Madam repeated sadly,--"every one but
me, and I am alone."

Just now cousin Agnes came to the door, and called me. "Go in now,
child," said Lady Ferry. "You may come and sit with me to-morrow if
you choose." And I said good-night, while she turned, and went down
the walk with feeble, lingering steps. She paced to and fro, as I
often saw her afterwards, on the flag-stones; and some bats flew that
way like ragged bits of darkness, holding somehow a spark of life. I
watched her for a minute: she was like a ghost, I thought, but not a
fearful ghost,--poor Lady Ferry!

"Have you had a pleasant walk?" asked cousin Matthew politely.
"To-morrow I will give you a border for your own, and some plants for
it, if you like gardening." I joyfully answered that I should like it
very much, and so I began to feel already the pleasure of being in a
real home, after the wandering life to which I had become used. I went
close to cousin Agnes's chair to tell her confidentially that I had
been walking with Madam in the garden, and she was very good to me,
and asked me to come to sit with her the next day; but she said very
odd things.

"You must not mind what she says," said cousin Agnes; "and I would
never dispute with her, or even seem surprised, if I were you. It
hurts and annoys her, and she soon forgets her strange fancies. I
think you seem a very sensible little girl, and I have told you about
this poor friend of ours as if you were older. But you understand, do
you not?" And then she kissed me good-night, and I went up stairs,
contented with her assurance that she would come to me before I went
to sleep.

I found a pleasant-faced young girl busy putting away some of my
clothing. I had seen her just after supper, and had fancied her very
much, partly because she was not so old as the rest of the servants.
We were friendly at once, and I found her very talkative; so finally I
asked the question which was uppermost in my mind,--Did she know any
thing about Madam?

"Lady Ferry, folks call her," said Martha, much interested. "I never
have seen her close to, only from the other side of the garden, where
she walks at night. She never goes out by day. Deborah waits upon her.
I haven't been here long; but I have always heard about Madam, bless
you! Folks tell all kinds of strange stories. She's fearful old, and
there's many believes she never will die; and where she came from
nobody knows. I've heard that her folks used to live here; but nobody
can remember them, and she used to wander about; and once before she
was here,--a good while ago; but this last time she come was nine
years ago; one stormy night she came across the ferry, and scared them
to death, looking in at the window like a ghost. She said she used to
live here in Colonel Haverford's time. They saw she wasn't right in
her head--the ferry-men did. But she came up to the house, and they
let her in, and she went straight to the rooms in the north gable, and
she never has gone away; it was in an awful storm she come, I've
heard, and she looked just the same as she does now. There! I can't
tell half the stories I've heard, and Deborah she most took my head
off," said Martha, "because, when I first came, I was asking about
her; and she said it was a sin to gossip about a harmless old creature
whose mind was broke, but I guess most everybody thinks there's
something mysterious. There's my grandmother--grandmother her mind is
failing her; but she never had such ways! And then those clothes that
my lady in the gable wears: they're unearthly looking; and I heard a
woman say once, that they come out of a chest in the big garret, and
they belonged to a Mistress Haverford who was hung for a witch, but
there's no knowing that there is any truth in it." And Martha would
have gone on with her stories, if just then we had not heard cousin
Agnes's step on the stairway, and I hurried into bed.

But my bright eyes and excited look betrayed me. Cousin Agnes said she
had hoped I would be asleep. And Martha said perhaps it was her fault;
but I seemed wakeful, and she had talked with me a bit, to keep my
spirits up, coming to a new, strange place. The apology was accepted,
but Martha evidently had orders before I next saw her; for I never
could get her to discuss Lady Ferry again; and she carefully told me
that she should not have told those foolish stories, which were not
true: but I knew that she still had her thoughts and suspicions as
well as I. Once, when I asked her if Lady Ferry were Madam's real
name, she answered with a guilty flush, "That's what the folks
hereabout called her, because they didn't know any other at first."
And this to me was another mystery. It was strongly impressed upon my
mind that I must ask no questions, and that Madam was not to be
discussed. No one distinctly forbade this; but I felt that it would
not do. In every other way I was sure that I was allowed perfect
liberty, so I soon ceased to puzzle myself or other people, and
accepted Madam's presence as being perfectly explainable and
natural,--just as the rest of the household did,--except once in a
while something would set me at work romancing and wondering; and I
read some stories in one of the books in the library,--of Peter Rugg
the missing man, whom one may always meet riding from Salem to Boston
in every storm, and of the Flying Dutchman and the Wandering Jew, and
some terrible German stories of doomed people, and curses that were
fulfilled. These made a great impression upon me; still I was not
afraid, for all such things were far outside the boundaries of my safe
little world; and I played by myself along the shore of the river and
in the garden; and I had my lessons with cousin Agnes, and drives with
cousin Matthew who was nearly always silent, but very kind to me. The
house itself was an unfailing entertainment, with its many rooms, most
of which were never occupied, and its quaint, sober furnishings, some
of which were as old as the house itself. It was like a story-book;
and no one minded my going where I pleased.

I missed my father and mother; but the only time I was really unhappy
was the first morning after my arrival. Cousin Agnes was ill with a
severe headache; cousin Matthew had ridden away to attend to some
business; and, being left to myself, I had a most decided re-action
from my unnaturally bright feelings of the day before. I began to
write a letter to my mother; but unluckily I knew how many weeks must
pass before she saw it, and it was useless to try to go on. I was
lonely and homesick. The rain fell heavily, and the garden looked
forlorn, and so unlike the enchanting moonlighted place where I had
been in the evening! The walks were like little canals; and the
rose-bushes looked wet and chilly, like some gay young lady who had
been caught in the rain in party-dress. It was low-tide in the middle
of the day, and the river-flats looked dismal. I fed cousin Agnes'
flock of tame sparrows which came around the windows, and afterward
some robins. I found some books and some candy which had come in my
trunk, but my heart was very sad; and just after noon I was overjoyed
when one of the servants told me that cousin Agnes would like to have
me come to her room.

She was even kinder to me than she had been the night before; but she
looked very ill, and at first I felt awkward, and did not know what to
say. "I am afraid you have been very dull, dearie," said she, reaching
out her hand to me. "I am sorry, and my headache hardly lets me think
at all yet. But we will have better times to-morrow--both of us. You
must ask for what you want; and you may come and spend this evening
with me, for I shall be getting well then. It does me good to see your
kind little face. Suppose you make Madam a call this afternoon. She
told me last night that she wished for you, and I was so glad. Deborah
will show you the way."

Deborah talked to me softly, out of deference to her mistress's
headache, as we went along the crooked passages. "Don't you mind what
Madam says, leastways don't you dispute her. She's got a funeral going
on to-day;" and the grave woman smiled grimly at me. "It's curious
she's taken to you so; for she never will see any strange folks.
Nobody speaks to her about new folks lately," she added warningly, as
she tapped at the door, and Madam asked, "Is it the child?" And
Deborah lifted the latch. When I was fairly inside, my interest in
life came back redoubled, and I was no longer sad, but looked round
eagerly. Madam spoke to me, with her sweet old voice, in her courtly,
quiet way, and stood looking out of the window.

There were two tall chests of drawers in the room, with shining brass
handles and ornaments; and at one side, near the door, was a heavy
mahogany table, on which I saw a large leather-covered Bible, a
decanter of wine and some glasses, beside some cakes in a queer old
tray. And there was no other furniture but a great number of chairs
which seemed to have been collected from different parts of the house.

With these the room was almost filled, except an open space in the
centre, toward which they all faced. One window was darkened; but
Madam had pushed back the shutter of the other, and stood looking down
at the garden. I waited for her to speak again after the first
salutation, and presently she said I might be seated; and I took the
nearest chair, and again waited her pleasure. It was gloomy enough,
with the silence and the twilight in the room; and the rain and wind
out of doors sounded louder than they had in cousin Agnes's room; but
soon Lady Ferry came toward me.

"So you did not forget the old woman," said she, with a strange
emphasis on the word old, as if that were her title and her chief
characteristic. "And were not you afraid? I am glad it seemed worth
while; for to-morrow would have been too late. You may like to
remember by and by that you came. And my funeral is to be to-morrow,
at last. You see the room is in readiness. You will care to be here, I
hope. I would have ordered you some gloves if I had known; but these
are all too large for your little hands. You shall have a ring; I will
leave a command for that;" and Madam seated herself near me in a
curious, high-backed chair. She was dressed that day in a maroon
brocade, figured with bunches of dim pink flowers; and some of these
flowers looked to me like wicked little faces. It was a mocking, silly
creature that I saw at the side of every prim bouquet, and I looked at
the faded little imps, until they seemed as much alive as Lady Ferry

Her head nodded continually, as if it were keeping time to an
inaudible tune, as she sat there stiffly erect. Her skin was pale and
withered; and her cheeks were wrinkled in fine lines, like the
crossings of a cobweb. Her eyes might once have been blue; but they
had become nearly colorless, and, looking at her, one might easily
imagine that she was blind. She had a singularly sweet smile, and a
musical voice, which, though sad, had no trace of whining. If it had
not been for her smile and her voice, I think madam would have been a
terror to me. I noticed to-day, for the first time, a curious
fragrance, which seemed to come from her old brocades and silks. It
was very sweet, but unlike any thing I had ever known before; and it
was by reason of this that afterward I often knew, with a little
flutter at my heart, she had been in some other rooms of the great
house beside her own. This perfume seemed to linger for a little while
wherever she had been, and yet it was so faint! I used to go into the
darkened chambers often, or even stay for a while by myself in the
unoccupied lower rooms, and I would find this fragrance, and wonder if
she were one of the oldtime fairies, who could vanish at their own
will and pleasure, and wonder, too, why she had come to the room. But
I never met her at all.

That first visit to her and the strange fancy she had about the
funeral I have always remembered distinctly.

"I am glad you came," Madam repeated: "I was finding the day long. I
am all ready,  you see. I shall place a little chair which is in the
next room, beside your cousin's seat for you. Mrs. Agnes is ill, I
hear; but I think she will come to-morrow. Have you heard any one say
if many guests are expected?"--"No, Madam," I answered, "no one has
told me;" and just then the thought flitted through my head that she
had said the evening before that all her friends were gone. Perhaps
she expected their ghosts: that would not be stranger than all the

The open space where Lady Ferry had left room for her coffin began to
be a horror to me, and I wished Deborah would come back, or that my
hostess would open the shutters; and it was a great relief when she
rose and went into the adjoining room, bidding me follow her, and
there opened a drawer containing some old jewelry; there were also
some queer Chinese carvings, yellow with age,--just the things a child
would enjoy. I looked at them delightedly. This was coming back to
more familiar life; and I soon felt more at ease, and chattered to
Lady Ferry of my own possessions, and some coveted treasures of my
mother's, which were to be mine when I grew older.

Madam stood beside me patiently, and listened with a half smile to my
whispered admiration. In the clearer light I could see her better, and
she seemed older,--so old, so old! and my father's words came to me
again. She had not changed since he was a boy; living on and on, and
the 'horror of an endless life in this world!' And I remembered what
Martha had said to me, and the consciousness of this mystery was a
great weight upon me of a sudden. Why was she living so long? and what
had happened to her? and how long could it be since she was a child?

There was something in her manner which made me behave, even in my
pleasure, as if her imagined funeral were there in reality, and as if,
in spite of my being amused and tearless, the solemn company of
funeral guests already sat in the next room to us with bowed heads,
and all the shadows in the world had assembled there materialized into
the tangible form of crape. I opened and closed the boxes gently, and,
when I had seen every thing, I looked up with a sigh to think that
such a pleasure was ended, and asked if I might see them again some
day. But the look in her face made me recollect myself, and my own
grew crimson, for it seemed at that moment as real to me as to Lady
Ferry herself that this was her last day of mortal life. She walked
away, but presently came back, while I was wondering if I might not
go, and opened the drawer again. It creaked, and the brass handles
clacked in a startling way, and she took out a little case, and said I
might keep it to remember her by. It held a little vinaigrette,--a
tiny silver box with a gold one inside, in which I found a bit of fine
sponge, dark brown with age, and still giving a faint, musty perfume
and spiciness. The outside was rudely chased, and was worn as if it
had been carried for years in somebody's pocket. It had a spring, the
secret of which Lady Ferry showed me. I was delighted, and
instinctively lifted my face to kiss her. She bent over me, and waited
an instant for me to kiss her again. "Oh!" said she softly, "it is so
long since a child has kissed me! I pray God not to leave you
lingering like me, apart from all your kindred, and your life so long
that you forget you ever were a child."--"I will kiss you every day,"
said I, and then again remembered that there were to be no more days
according to her plan; but she did not seem to notice my mistake. And
after this I used to go to see Madam often. For a time there was
always the same gloom and hushed way of speaking, and the funeral
services were to be on the morrow; but at last one day I found Deborah
sedately putting the room in order, and Lady Ferry apologized for its
being in such confusion; the idea of the funeral had utterly vanished,
and I hurried to tell cousin Agnes with great satisfaction. I think
that both she and cousin Matthew had a dislike for my being too much
with Madam. I was kept out of doors as much as possible because it was
much better for my health; and through the long summer days I strayed
about wherever I chose. The country life was new and delightful to me.
At home, Lady Ferry's vagaries were carelessly spoken of, and often
smiled at; but I gained the idea that they disguised the truth, and
were afraid of my being frightened. She often talked about persons who
had been dead a very long time,--familiar characters in history, and,
though cousin Agnes had said that she used to be fond of reading, it
seemed to me that Madam might have known these men and women after

Once a middle-aged gentleman, an acquaintance of cousin Matthew's,
came to pass a day and night at the ferry, and something happened then
which seemed wonderful to me. It was early in the evening after tea,
and we were in the parlor; from my seat by cousin Agnes I could look
out into the garden, and presently, with the gathering darkness, came
Lady Ferry, silent as a shadow herself, to walk to and fro on the
flagstones. The windows were all open, and the guest had a clear, loud
voice, and pleasant, hearty laugh; and, as he talked earnestly with
cousin Matthew, I noticed that Lady Ferry stood still, as if she were
listening. Then I was attracted by some story which was being told,
and forgot her, but afterward turned with a start, feeling that there
was some one watching; and, to my astonishment, Madam had come to the
long window by which one went out to the garden. She stood there a
moment, looking puzzled and wild; then she smiled, and, entering,
walked in most stately fashion down the long room, toward the
gentlemen, before whom she courtesied with great elegance, while the
stranger stopped speaking, and looked at her with amazement, as he
rose, and returned her greeting.

"My dear Captain Jack McAllister!" said she; "what a surprise! and are
you not home soon from your voyage? This is indeed a pleasure." And
Lady Ferry seated herself, motioning to him to take the chair beside
her. She looked younger than I had ever seen her; a bright color came
into her cheeks; and she talked so gayly, in such a different manner
from her usual mournful gentleness. She must have been a beautiful
woman; indeed she was that still.

"And did the good ship Starlight make a prosperous voyage? and had you
many perils?--do you bring much news to us from the Spanish Main? We
have missed you sadly at the assemblies; but there must be a dance in
your honor. And your wife; is she not overjoyed at the sight of you? I
think you have grown old and sedate since you went away. You do not
look the gay sailor, or seem so light-hearted."

"I do not understand you, madam," said the stranger. "I am certainly
John McAllister; but I am no captain, neither have I been at sea. Good
God! is it my grandfather whom you confuse me with?" cried he. "He was
Jack McAllister, and was lost at sea more than seventy years ago,
while my own father was a baby. I am told that I am wonderfully like
his portrait; but he was a younger man than I when he died. This is
some masquerade."

Lady Ferry looked at him intently, but the light in her face was fast
fading out. "Lost at sea,--lost at sea, were you, Jack McAllister,
seventy years ago? I know nothing of years; one of my days is like
another, and they are gray days, they creep away and hide, and
sometimes one comes back to mock me. I have lived a thousand years; do
you know it? Lost at sea--captain of the ship Starlight? Whom did you
say?--Jack McAllister, yes, I knew him well--pardon me; good-evening;"
and my lady rose, and with her head nodding and drooping, with a
sorrowful, hunted look in her eyes, went out again into the shadows.
She had had a flash of youth, the candle had blazed up brilliantly;
but it went out again as suddenly, with flickering and smoke.

"I was startled when I saw her beside me," said Mr. McAllister. "Pray,
who is she? she is like no one I have ever seen. I have been told that
I am like my grandfather in looks and in voice; but it is years since
I have seen any one who knew him well. And did you hear her speak of
dancing? It is like seeing one who has risen from the dead. How old
can she be?"--"I do not know," said cousin Matthew, "one can only
guess at her age."--"Would not she come back? I should like to
question her," asked the other. But cousin Matthew answered that she
always refused to see strangers, and it would be no use to urge her,
she would not answer him.

"Who is she? Is she any kin of yours?" asked Mr. McAllister.

"Oh, no!" said my cousin Agnes: "she has had no relatives since I have
known her, and I think she has no friends now but ourselves. She has
been with us a long time, and once before this house was her home for
a time,--many years since. I suppose no one will ever know the whole
history of her life; I wish often that she had power to tell it. We
are glad to give shelter, and the little care she will accept, to the
poor soul, God only knows where she has strayed and what she has seen.
It is an enormous burden,--so long a life, and such a weight of
memories; but I think it is seldom now that she feels its
heaviness.--Go out to her, Marcia my dear, and see if she seems
troubled. She always has a welcome for the child," cousin Agnes added,
as I unwillingly went away.

I found Lady Ferry in the garden; I stole my hand into hers, and,
after a few minutes of silence, I was not surprised to hear her say
that they had killed the Queen of France, poor Marie Antoinette! she
had known her well in her childhood, before she was a queen at all--"a
sad fate, a sad fate," said Lady Ferry. We went far down the gardens
and by the river-wall, and when we were again near the house, and
could hear Mr. McAllister's voice as cheery as ever, madam took no
notice of it. I had hoped she would go into the parlor again, and I
wished over and over that I could have waited to hear the secrets
which I was sure must have been told after cousin Agnes had sent me

One day I thought I had made a wonderful discovery. I was fond of
reading, and found many books which interested me in cousin Matthew's
fine library; but I took great pleasure also in hunting through a
collection of old volumes which had been cast aside, either by him, or
by some former owner of the house, and which were piled in a corner of
the great garret. They were mostly yellow with age, and had dark brown
leather or shabby paper bindings; the pictures in some were very
amusing to me. I used often to find one which I appropriated and
carried down stairs; and on this day I came upon a dusty, odd-shaped
little book, for which I at once felt an affection. I looked at it a
little. It seemed to be a journal, there were some stories of the
Indians, and next I saw some reminiscences of the town of Boston,
where, among other things, the author was told the marvellous story of
one Mistress Honor Warburton, who was cursed, and doomed to live in
this world forever. This was startling. I at once thought of Madam,
and was reading on further to know the rest of the story, when some
one called me, and I foolishly did not dare to carry my book with me.
I was afraid I should not find it if I left it in sight; I saw an
opening near me at the edge of the floor by the eaves, and I carefully
laid my treasure inside. But, alas! I was not to be sure of its safe
hiding-place in a way that I fancied, for the book fell down between
the boarding of the thick walls, and I heard it knock as it fell, and
knew by the sound that it must be out of reach. I grieved over this
loss for a long time; and I felt that it had been most unkindly taken
out of my hand. I wished heartily that I could know the rest of the
story; and I tried to summon courage to ask Madam, when we were by
ourselves, if she had heard of Honor Warburton, but something held me
back. There were two other events just at this time which made this
strange old friend of mine seem stranger than ever to me. I had a
dream one night, which I took for a vision and a reality at the time.
I thought I looked out of my window in the night, and there was bright
moonlight, and I could see the other gable plainly; and I looked in at
the windows of an unoccupied parlor which I never had seen open
before, under Lady Ferry's own rooms. The shutters were pushed back,
and there were candles burning; and I heard voices, and presently some
tinkling music, like that of a harpsichord I had once heard in a very
old house where I had been in England with my mother. I saw several
couples go through with a slow, stately dance; and, when they stopped
and seated themselves, I could hear their voices; but they spoke low,
these midnight guests. I watched until the door was opened which led
into the garden, and the company came out and stood for a few minutes
on the little lawn, making their adieus, bowing low, and behaving with
astonishing courtesy and elegance: finally the last good-nights were
said, and they went away. Lady Ferry stood under the pointed porch,
looking after them, and I could see her plainly in her brocade gown,
with the impish flowers, a tall quaint cap, and a high lace frill at
her throat, whiter than any lace I had ever seen, with a glitter on
it; and there was a glitter on her face too. One of the other ladies
was dressed in velvet, and I thought she looked beautiful: their eyes
were all like sparks of fire. The gentlemen wore cloaks and ruffs, and
high-peaked hats with wide brims, such as I had seen in some very old
pictures which hung on the walls of the long west room. These were not
pilgrims or Puritans, but gay gentlemen; and soon I heard the noise of
their boats on the pebbles as they pushed off shore, and the splash of
the oars in the water. Lady Ferry waved her hand, and went in at the
door; and I found myself standing by the window in the chilly, cloudy
night: the opposite gable, the garden, and the river, were
indistinguishable in the darkness. I stole back to bed in an agony of
fear; for it had been very real, that dream. I surely was at the
window, for my hand had been on the sill when I waked; and I heard a
church-bell ring two o'clock in a town far up the river. I never had
heard this solemn bell before, and it seemed frightful; but I knew
afterward that in the silence of a misty night the sound of it came
down along the water.

In the morning I found that there had been a gale in the night; and
cousin Matthew said at breakfast time that the tide had risen so that
it had carried off two old boats that had been left on the shore to go
to pieces. I sprang to the window, and sure enough they had
disappeared. I had played in one of them the day before. Should I tell
cousin Matthew what I had seen or dreamed? But I was too sure that he
would only laugh at me; and yet I was none the less sure that those
boats had carried passengers.

When I went out to the garden, I hurried to the porch, and saw, to my
disappointment, that there were great spiders' webs in the corners of
the door, and around the latch, and that it had not been opened since
I was there before. But I saw something shining in the grass, and
found it was a silver knee-buckle. It must have belonged to one of the
ghostly guests, and my faith in them came back for a while, in spite
of the cobwebs. By and by I bravely carried it up to Madam, and asked
if it were hers. Sometimes she would not answer for a long time, when
one rudely broke in upon her reveries, and she hesitated now, looking
at me with singular earnestness. Deborah was in the room; and, when
she saw the buckle, she quietly said that it had been on the
window-ledge the day before, and must have slipped out. "I found it
down  by the doorstep in the grass," said I humbly; and then I offered
Lady Ferry some strawberries which I had picked for her on a broad
green leaf, and came away again.

A day or two after this, while my dream was still fresh in my mind, I
went with Martha to her own home, which was a mile or two distant,--a
comfortable farmhouse for those days, where I was always made welcome.
The servants were all very kind to me: as I recall it now, they seemed
to have a pity for me, because I was the only child perhaps. I was
very happy, that is certain, and I enjoyed my childish amusements as
heartily as if there were no unfathomable mysteries or perplexities or
sorrows anywhere in the world.

I was sitting by the fireplace at Martha's, and her grandmother, who
was very old, and who was fast losing her wits, had been talking to me
about Madam. I do not remember what she said, at least, it made little
impression; but her grandson, a worthless fellow, sauntered in, and
began to tell a story of his own, hearing of whom we spoke. "I was
coming home late last night," said he, "and, as I was in that dark
place along by the Noroway pines, old Lady Ferry she went by me, and I
was near scared to death. She looked fearful tall--towered way up
above me. Her face was all lit up with blue light, and her feet didn't
touch the ground. She wasn't taking steps, she wasn't walking, but
movin' along like a sail-boat before the wind. I dodged behind some
little birches, and I was scared she'd see me; but she went right out
o' sight up the road. She ain't mortal."

"Don't scare the child with such foolishness," said his aunt
disdainfully. "You'll be seein' worse things a-dancin' before your
eyes than that poor, harmless old creatur' if you don't quit the ways
you've been following lately. If that was last night, you were too
drunk to see any thing;" and the fellow muttered, and went out,
banging the door. But the story had been told, and I was stiffened and
chilled with fright; and all the way home I was in terror, looking
fearfully behind me again and again.

When I saw cousin Agnes, I felt safer, and since cousin Matthew was
not at home, and we were alone, I could not resist telling her what I
had heard. She listened to me kindly, and seemed so confident that my
story was idle nonsense, that my fears were quieted. She talked to me
until I no longer was a believer in there being any unhappy mystery or
harmfulness; but I could not get over the fright, and I dreaded my
lonely room, and I was glad enough when cousin Agnes, with her
unfailing thoughtfulness, asked if I would like to have her come to
sleep with me, and even went up stairs with me at my own early
bedtime, saying that she should find it dull to sit all alone in the
parlor. So I went to sleep, thinking of what I had heard, it is true,
but no longer unhappy, because her dear arm was over me, and I was
perfectly safe. I waked up for a little while in the night, and it was
light in the room, so that I could see her face, fearless and sweet
and sad, and I wondered, in my blessed sense of security, if she were
ever afraid of any thing, and why I myself had been afraid of Lady

I will not tell other stories: they are much alike, all my memories of
those weeks and months at the ferry, and I have no wish to be
wearisome. The last time I saw Madam she was standing in the garden
door at dusk. I was going away before daylight in the morning. It was
in the autumn: some dry leaves flittered about on the stone at her
feet, and she was watching them. I said good-by again, and she did not
answer me; but I think she knew I was going away, and I am sure she
was sorry, for we had been a great deal together; and, child as I was,
I thought to how many friends she must have had to say farewell.

Although I wished to see my father and mother, I cried as if my heart
would break because I had to leave the ferry. The time spent there had
been the happiest time of all my life, I think. I was old enough to
enjoy, but not to suffer much, and there was singularly little to
trouble one. I did not know that my life was ever to be different. I
have learned, since those childish days, that one must battle against
storms if one would reach the calm which is to follow them. I have
learned also that anxiety, sorrow, and regret fall to the lot of every
one, and that there is always underlying our lives, this mysterious
and frightful element of existence; an uncertainty at times, though we
do trust every thing to God. Under the best-loved and most beautiful
face we know, there is hidden a skull as ghastly as that from which we
turn aside with a shudder in the anatomist's cabinet. We smile, and
are gay enough; God pity us! We try to forget our heart-aches and
remorse. We even call our lives commonplace, and, bearing our own
heaviest burdens silently, we try to keep the commandment, and to bear
one another's also. There is One who knows: we look forward, as he
means we shall, and there is always a hand ready to help us, though we
reach out for it doubtfully in the dark.

For many years after this summer was over, I lived in a distant,
foreign country; at last my father and I were to go back to America.
Cousin Agnes and cousin Matthew, and my mother, were all long since
dead, and I rarely thought of my childhood, for in an eventful and
hurried life the present claims one almost wholly. We were travelling
in Europe, and it happened that one day I was in a bookshop in
Amsterdam, waiting for an acquaintance whom I was to meet, and who was
behind time.

The shop was a quaint place, and I amused myself by looking over an
armful of old English books which a boy had thrown down near me,
raising a cloud of dust which was plain evidence of their antiquity. I
came to one, almost the last, which had a strangely familiar look, and
I found that it was a copy of the same book which I had lost in the
wall at the ferry. I bought it for a few coppers with the greatest
satisfaction, and began at once to read it. It had been published in
England early in the eighteenth century, and was written by one
Mr. Thomas Highward of Chester,--a journal of his travels among some
of the English colonists of North America, containing much curious and
desirable knowledge, with some useful advice to those persons having
intentions of emigrating. I looked at the prosy pages here and there,
and finally found again those reminiscences of the town of Boston and
the story of Mistress Honor Warburton, who was cursed, and doomed to
live in this world to the end of time. She had lately been in Boston,
but had disappeared again; she endeavored to disguise herself, and
would not stay long in one place if she feared that her story was
known, and that she was recognized. One Mr. Fleming, a man of good
standing and repute, and an officer of Her Majesty Queen Anne, had
sworn to Mr. Thomas Highward that his father, a person of great age,
had once seen Mistress Warburton in his youth; that she then bore
another name, but had the same appearance. "Not wishing to seem unduly
credulous," said Mr. Highward, "I disputed this tale; but there was
some considerable evidence in its favour, and at least this woman was
of vast age, and was spoken of with extreme wonder by the town's

I could not help thinking of my old childish suspicions of Lady Ferry,
though I smiled at the folly of them and of this story more than once.
I tried to remember if I had heard of her death; but I was still a
child when my cousin Agnes had died. Had poor Lady Ferry survived her?
and what could have become of her? I asked my father, but he could
remember nothing, if indeed he ever had heard of her death at all. He
spoke of our cousins' kindness to this forlorn soul, and that,
learning her desolation and her piteous history (and being the more
pitiful because of her shattered mind), when she had last wandered to
their door, they had cared for the old gentlewoman to the end of her
days--"for I do not think she can be living yet," said my father, with
a merry twinkle in his eyes: "she must have been nearly a hundred
years old when you saw her. She belonged to a fine old family which
had gone to wreck and ruin. She strayed about for years, and it was a
godsend to her to have found such a home in her last days."

That same summer we reached America, and for the first time since I
had left it I went to the ferry. The house was still imposing, the
prestige of the Haverford grandeur still lingered; but it looked
forlorn and uncared for. It seemed very familiar; but the months I had
spent there were so long ago, that they seemed almost to belong to
another life. I sat alone on the doorstep for a long time, where I
used often to watch for Lady Ferry; and forgotten thoughts and dreams
of my childhood came back to me. The river was the only thing that
seemed as young as ever. I looked in at some of the windows where the
shutters were pushed back, and I walked about the garden, where I
could hardly trace the walks, all overgrown with thick, short grass,
though there were a few ragged lines of box, and some old rose-bushes;
and I saw the very last of the flowers,--a bright red poppy, which had
bloomed under a lilac-tree among the weeds.

Out beyond the garden, on a slope by the river, I saw the family
burying-ground, and it was with a comfortable warmth at my heart that
I stood inside the familiar old enclosure. There was my Lady Ferry's
grave; there could be no mistake about it, and she was dead. I smiled
at my satisfaction and at my foolish childish thoughts, and thanked
God that there could be no truth in them, and that death comes
surely,--say, rather, that the better life comes surely,--though it
comes late.

The sad-looking, yellow-topped cypress, which only seems to feel quite
at home in country burying-grounds, had kindly spread itself like a
coverlet over the grave, which already looked like a very old grave;
and the headstone was leaning a little, not to be out of the fashion
of the rest. I traced again the words of old Colonel Haverford's
pompous epitaph, and idly read some others. I remembered the old days
so vividly there; I thought of my cousin Agnes, and wished that I
could see her; and at last, as the daylight faded, I came away. When I
crossed the river, the ferry-man looked at me wonderingly, for my eyes
were filled with tears. Although we were in shadow on the water, the
last red glow of the sun blazed on the high gable-windows, just as it
did the first time I crossed over,--only a child then, with my life
before me.

I asked the ferry-man some questions, but he could tell me nothing; he
was a new-comer to that part of the country. He was sorry that the
boat was not in better order; but there were almost never any
passengers. The great house was out of repair: people would not live
there, for they said it was haunted. Oh, yes! he had heard of Lady
Ferry. She had lived to be very ancient; but she was dead.

"Yes," said I, "she is dead."


I often think of a boy with whom I made friends last summer, during
some idle, pleasant days that I spent by the sea. I was almost always
out of doors, and I used to watch the boats go out and come in; and I
had a hearty liking for the good-natured fishermen, who were lazy and
busy by turns, who waited for the wind to change, and waited for the
tide to turn, and waited for the fish to bite, and were always ready
to gossip about the weather, and the fish, and the wonderful events
that had befallen them and their friends.

Georgie was the only boy of whom I ever saw much at the shore. The few
young people there were all went to school through the hot summer days
at a little weather-beaten schoolhouse a mile or two inland. There
were few houses to be seen, at any rate, and Georgie's house was the
only one so close to the water. He looked already nothing but a
fisherman; his clothes were covered with an oil-skin suit, which had
evidently been awkwardly cut down for him from one of his father's, of
whom he was a curious little likeness. I could hardly believe that he
was twelve years old, he was so stunted and small; yet he was a strong
little fellow; his hands were horny and hard from handling the clumsy
oars, and his face was so brown and dry from the hot sun and chilly
spray, that he looked even older when one came close to him. The first
time I saw him was one evening just at night-fall. I was sitting on
the pebbles, and he came down from the fish-house with some
lobster-nets, and a bucket with some pieces of fish in it for bait,
and put them into the stern of one of the boats which lay just at the
edge of the rising tide. He looked at the clouds over the sea, and at
the open sky overhead, in an old, wise way, and then, as if satisfied
with the weather, began to push off his boat. It dragged on the
pebbles; it was a heavy thing, and he could not get it far enough out
to be floated by the low waves, so I went down to help him. He looked
amazed that a girl should have thought of it, and as if he wished to
ask me what good I supposed I could do, though I was twice his size.
But the boat grated and slid down toward the sand, and I gave her a
last push as the boy perched with one knee on her gunwale and let the
other foot drag in the water for a minute. He was afloat after all;
and he took the oars, and pulled manfully out toward the moorings,
where the whale-boats and a sail-boat or two were swaying about in the
wind, which was rising a little since the sun had set. He did not say
a word to me, or I to him. I watched him go out into the
twilight,--such a little fellow, between those two great oars! But the
boat could not drift or loiter with his steady stroke, and out he
went, until I could only see the boat at last, lifting and sinking on
the waves beyond the reef outside the moorings. I asked one of the
fishermen whom I knew very well, "Who is that little fellow? Ought he
to be out by himself, it is growing dark so fast?"

"Why, that's _Georgie!_" said my friend, with his grim smile. "Bless
ye! he's like a duck; ye can't drown him. He won't be in until ten
o'clock, like's not. He'll go way out to the far ledges when the tide
covers them too deep where he is now. Lobsters he's after."

"Whose boy is he?" said I.

"Why, Andrer's, up here to the fish-house. _She's_ dead, and him and
the boy get along together somehow or 'nother. They've both got
something saved up, and Andrer's a clever fellow; took it very hard,
losing of his wife. I was telling of him the other day: 'Andrer,' says
I, 'ye ought to look up somebody or 'nother, and not live this way.
There's plenty o' smart, stirring women that would mend ye up, and
cook for ye, and do well by ye.'--'No,' says he; 'I've hed my wife,
and I've lost her.'--'Well, now,' says I, 'ye've shown respect, and
there's the boy a-growin' up, and if either of you was took sick, why,
here ye be.'--'Yes,' says he, 'here I be, sure enough;' and he drawed
a long breath, 's if he felt bad; so that's all I said. But it's no
way for a man to get along, and he ought to think of the boy. He owned
a good house about half a mile up the road; but he moved right down
here after she died, and his cousin took it, and it burnt up in the
winter. Four year ago that was. I was down to the Georges Banks."

Some other men came down toward the water, and took a boat that was
waiting, already fitted out with a trawl coiled in two tubs, and some
hand-lines and bait for rock-cod and haddock, and my friend joined
them; they were going out for a night's fishing. I watched them hoist
the little sprit-sail, and drift a little until they caught the wind,
and then I looked again for Georgie, whose boat was like a black spot
on the water.

I knew him better soon after that. I used to go out with him for
lobsters, or to catch cunners, and it was strange that he never had
any cronies, and would hardly speak to the other children. He was very
shy; but he had put all his heart into his work,--a man's hard work,
which he had taken from choice. His father was kind to him; but he had
a sorry home, and no mother,--the brave, fearless, steady little soul!

He looked forward to going one day (I hope that day has already
dawned) to see the shipyards at a large seaport some twenty miles
away. His face lit up when he told me of it, as some other child's
would who had been promised a day in fairy-land. And he confided to me
that he thought he should go to the Banks that coming winter. "But
it's so cold!" said I: "should you really like it?"--"Cold!" said
Georgie. "Ho! rest of the men never froze." That was it,--the "rest of
the men;" and he would work until he dropped, or tend a line until his
fingers froze, for the sake of that likeness,--the grave, slow little
man, who has so much business with the sea, and who trusts himself
with touching confidence to its treacherous keeping and favor.

Andrew West, Georgie's father, was almost as silent as his son at
first, but it was not long before we were very good friends, and I
went out with him at four o'clock one morning, to see him set his
trawl. I remember there was a thin mist over the sea, and the air was
almost chilly; but, as the sun came up, it changed the color of every
thing to the most exquisite pink,--the smooth, slow waves, and the
mist that blew over them as if it were a cloud that had fallen down
out of the sky. The world just then was like the hollow of a great
pink sea-shell; and we could only hear the noise of it, the dull sound
of the waves among the outer ledges.

We had to drift about for an hour or two when the trawl was set; and
after a while the fog shut down again gray and close, so we could not
see either the sun or the shore. We were a little more than four miles
out, and we had put out more than half a mile of lines. It is very
interesting to see the different fish that come up on the
hooks,--worthless sculpin and dog-fish, and good rock-cod and haddock,
and curious stray creatures which often even the fisherman do not
know. We had capital good luck that morning, and Georgie and Andrew
and I were all pleased. I had a hand-line, and was fishing part of the
time, and Georgie thought very well of me when he found I was not
afraid of a big fish, and, besides that, I had taken the oars while he
tended the sail, though there was hardly wind enough to make it worth
his while. It was about eight o'clock when we came in, and there was a
horse and wagon standing near the landing; and we saw a woman come out
of Andrew's little house. "There's your aunt Hannah a'ready," said he
to Georgie; and presently she came down the pebbles to meet the boat,
looking at me with much wonder as I jumped ashore.

"I sh'd think you might a' cleaned up your boat, Andrer, if you was
going to take ladies out," said she graciously. And the fisherman
rejoined, that perhaps she would have thought it looked better when it
went out than it did then; he never had got a better fare o' fish
unless the trawls had been set over night.

There certainly had been a good haul; and, when Andrew carefully put
those I had caught with the hand-line by themselves, I asked his
sister to take them, if she liked. "Bless you!" said she, much
pleased, "we couldn't eat one o' them big rock-cod in a week. I'll
take a little ha'dick, if Andrer 'll pick me one out."

She was a tall, large woman, who had a direct, business-like
manner,--what the country people would call a master smart woman, or a
regular driver,--and I liked her. She said something to her brother
about some clothes she had been making for him or for Georgie, and I
went off to the house where I was boarding for my breakfast. I was
hungry enough, since I had had only a hurried lunch a good while
before sunrise. I came back late in the morning, and found that
Georgie's aunt was just going away. I think my friends must have
spoken well of me, for she came out to meet me as I nodded in going
by, and said, "I suppose ye drive about some? We should be pleased to
have ye come up to see us. We live right 'mongst the woods; it ain't
much of a place to ask anybody to." And she added that she might have
done a good deal better for herself to have staid off. But there! they
had the place, and she supposed she and Cynthy had done as well there
as anywhere. Cynthy--well, she wasn't one of your pushing kind; but I
should have some flowers, and perhaps it would be a change for me. I
thanked her, and said I should be delighted to go. Georgie and I would
make her a call together some afternoon when he wasn't busy; and
Georgie actually smiled when I looked at him, and said, "All right,"
and then hurried off down the shore. "Ain't he an odd boy?" said Miss
Hannah West, with a shadow of disapproval in her face. "But he's just
like his father and grandfather before him; you wouldn't think they
had no gratitude nor feelin', but I s'pose they have. They used to say
my father never'd forgit a friend, or forgive an enemy. Well, I'm much
obliged to you, I'm sure, for taking an interest in the boy." I said I
liked him; I only wished I could do something for him. And then she
said good-day, and drove off. I felt as if we were already good
friends. "I'm much obliged for the fish," she turned round to say to
me again, as she went away.

One morning, not very long afterward, I asked Georgie if he could
possibly leave his business that afternoon, and he gravely answered me
that he could get away just as well as not, for the tide would not be
right for lobsters until after supper.

"I should like to go up and see your aunt," said I. "You know she
asked me to come the other day when she was here."

"I'd like to go," said Georgie sedately. "Father was going up this
week; but the mackerel struck in, and we couldn't leave. But it's
better'n six miles up there."

"That's not far," said I. "I'm going to have Captain Donnell's horse
and wagon;" and Georgie looked much interested.

I wondered if he would wear his oil-skin suit; but I was much amazed,
and my heart was touched, at seeing how hard he had tried to put
himself in trim for the visit. He had on his best jacket and trousers
(which might have been most boys' worst), and a clean calico shirt;
and he had scrubbed his freckled, honest little face and his hard
little hands, until they were as clean as possible; and either he or
his father had cut his hair. I should think it had been done with a
knife, and it looked as if a rat had gnawed it. He had such a holiday
air! He really looked very well; but still, if I were to have a
picture of Georgie, it should be in the oil-skin fishing-suit. He had
gone out to his box, which was anchored a little way out in the cove,
and had chosen two fine lobsters which he had tied together with a bit
of fish-line. They were lazily moving their claws and feelers; and his
father, who had come in with his boat not long before, added from his
fare of fish three plump mackerel.

"They're always glad to get new fish," said he. "The girls can't abide
a fish that's corned, and I haven't had a chance to send 'em up any
mackerel before. Ye see, they live on a cross-road, and the fish-carts
don't go by." And I told him I was very glad to carry them, or any
thing else he would like to send. "Mind your manners, now, Georgie,"
said he, "and don't be forrard. You might split up some kindlin's for
y'r aunts, and do whatever they want of ye. Boys ain't made just to
look at, so ye be handy, will ye?" And Georgie nodded solemnly. They
seemed very fond of each other, and I looked back some time afterward
to see the fisherman still standing there to watch his boy. He was
used to his being out at sea alone for hours; but this might be a
great risk to let him go off inland to stay all the afternoon.

The road crossed the salt-marshes for the first mile, and, when we had
struck the higher land, we soon entered the pine-woods, which cover a
great part of that country. It had been raining in the morning for a
little while; and the trunks of the trees were still damp, and the
underbrush was shining wet, and sent out a sweet, fresh smell. I spoke
of it, and Georgie told me that sometimes this fragrance blew far out
to sea, and then you knew the wind was north-west.

"There's the big pine you sight Minister's Ledge by," said he, "when
that comes in range over the white schoolhouse, about two miles out."

The lobsters were clashing their pegged claws together in the back of
the wagon, and Georgie sometimes looked over at them to be sure they
were all right. Of course I had given him the reins when we first
started, and he was delighted because we saw some squirrels, and even
a rabbit, which scurried across the road as if I had been a fiery
dragon, and Georgie something worse.

We presently came in sight of a house close by the road,--an
old-looking place, with a ledgy, forlorn field stretching out behind
it toward some low woods. There were high white-birch poles holding up
thick tangles of hop-vines, and at the side there were sunflowers
straggling about as if they had come up from seed scattered by the
wind. Some of them were close together, as if they were whispering to
each other; and their big, yellow faces were all turned toward the
front of the house, where people were already collected as if there
were a funeral.

"It's the auction," said Georgie with great satisfaction. "I heard 'em
talking about it down at the shore this morning. There's 'Lisha Downs
now. He started off just before we did. That's his fish-cart over by
the well."

"What is going to be sold?" said I.

"All the stuff," said Georgie, as if he were much pleased. "She's
going off up to Boston with her son."

"I think we had better stop," said I, for I saw Mrs. 'Lisha Downs, who
was one of my acquaintances at the shore, and I wished to see what was
going on, besides giving Georgie a chance at the festivities. So we
tied the horse, and went toward the house, and I found several people
whom I knew a little. Mrs. Downs shook hands with me as formally as if
we had not talked for some time as I went by her house to the shore,
just after breakfast. She presented me to several of her friends with
whom she had been talking as I came up. "Let me make you acquainted,"
she said; and every time I bowed she bowed too, unconsciously, and
seemed a little ill at ease and embarrassed, but luckily the ceremony
was soon over. "I thought I would stop for a few minutes," said I by
way of apology. "I didn't know why the people were here until Georgie
told me."

"She's going to move up to Boston 'long of her son," said one of the
women, who looked very pleasant and very tired. "I think myself it's a
bad plan to pull old folks up by the roots. There's a niece o' hers
that would have been glad to stop with her, and do for the old lady.
But John, he's very high-handed, and wants it his way, and he says his
mother sha'n't live in no such a place as this. He makes a sight o'
money. He's got out a patent, and they say he's just bought a new
house that cost him eleven thousand dollars. But old Mis' Wallis,
she's wonted here; and she was telling of me yesterday she was only
going to please John. He says he wants her up there, where she'll be
more comfortable, and see something."

"He means well," said another woman whom I did not know; "but folks
about here never thought no great of his judgment. He's put up some
splendid stones in the burying-lot to his father and his sister
Miranda that died. I used to go to school 'long of Miranda. She'd have
been pleased to go to Boston; she was that kind. But there! mother was
saying last night, what if his business took a turn, and he lost every
thing! Mother's took it dreadfully to heart; she and Mis' Wallis was
always mates as long ago as they can recollect."

It was evident that the old widow was both pitied and envied by her
friends on account of her bettered fortunes, and they came up to speak
to her with more or less seriousness, as befitted the occasion. She
looked at me with great curiosity, but Mrs. Downs told her who I was,
and I had a sudden instinct to say how sorry I was for her, but I was
afraid it might appear intrusive on so short an acquaintance. She was
a thin old soul who looked as if she had had a good deal of trouble in
her day, and as if she had been very poor and very anxious. "Yes,"
said she to some one who had come from a distance, "it does come hard
to go off. Home is home, and I seem to hate to sell off my things; but
I suppose they would look queer up to Boston. John Bays says I won't
have no idea of the house until I see it;" and she looked proud and
important for a minute, but, as some one brought an old chair out at
the door, her face fell again. "Oh, dear!" said she, "I should like to
keep that! it belonged to my mother. It's most wore out anyway. I
guess I'll let somebody keep it for me;" and she hurried off
despairingly to find her son, while we went into the house.

There is so little to interest the people who live on those quiet,
secluded farms, that an event of this kind gives great pleasure. I
know they have not done talking yet about the sale, of the bargains
that were made, or the goods that brought more than they were worth.
And then the women had the chance of going all about the house, and
committing every detail of its furnishings to their tenacious
memories. It is a curiosity one grows more and more willing to pardon,
for there is so little to amuse them in every-day life. I wonder if
any one has not often been struck, as I have, by the sadness and
hopelessness which seems to overshadow many of the people who live on
the lonely farms in the outskirts of small New-England villages. It is
most noticeable among the elderly women. Their talk is very cheerless,
and they have a morbid interest in sicknesses and deaths; they tell
each other long stories about such things; they are very forlorn; they
dwell persistently upon any troubles which they have; and their petty
disputes with each other have a tragic hold upon their thoughts,
sometimes being handed down from one generation to the next. Is it
because their world is so small, and life affords so little amusement
and pleasure, and is at best such a dreary round of the dullest
housekeeping? There is a lack of real merriment, and the fun is an
odd, rough way of joking; it is a stupid, heavy sort of fun, though
there is much of a certain quaint humor, and once in a while a flash
of wit. I came upon a short, stout old sister in one room, making all
the effort she possibly could to see what was on the upper shelves of
a closet. We were the only persons there, and she looked longingly at
a convenient chair, and I know she wished I would go away. But my
heart suddenly went out toward an old dark-green Delft bowl which I
saw, and I asked her if she would be kind enough to let me take it, as
if I thought she were there for the purpose. "I'll bring you a chair,"
said I; and she said, "Certain, dear." And I helped her up, and I'm
sure she had the good look she had coveted while I took the bowl to
the window. It was badly cracked, and had been mended with putty; but
the rich, dull color of it was exquisite. One often comes across a
beautiful old stray bit of china in such a place as this, and I
imagined it filled with apple-blossoms or wild roses. Mrs. Wallis
wished to give it to me, she said it wasn't good for any thing; and,
finding she did not care for it, I bought it; and now it is perched
high in my room, with the cracks discreetly turned to the wall. "Seems
to me she never had thrown away nothing," said my friend, whom I found
still standing on the chair when I came back. "Here's some pieces of a
pitcher: I wonder when she broke it! I've heard her say it was one her
grandmother give her, though. The old lady bought it to a vandoo down
at old Mis' Walton Peters's after she died, so Mis' Wallis said. I
guess I'll speak to her, and see if she wants every thing sold that's

There was a very great pathos to me about this old home. It must have
been a hard place to get a living in, both for men and women, with its
wretched farming-land, and the house itself so cold and thin and worn
out. I could understand that the son was in a hurry to get his mother
away from it. I was sure that the boyhood he had spent there must have
been uncomfortable, and that he did not look back to it with much
pleasure. There is an immense contrast between even a moderately
comfortable city house and such a place as this. No wonder that he
remembered the bitter cold mornings, the frost and chill, and the
dark, and the hard work, and wished his mother to leave them all
behind, as he had done! He did not care for the few plain bits of
furniture; why should he? and he had been away so long, that he had
lost his interest in the neighbors. Perhaps this might come back to
him again as he grew older; but now he moved about among them, in his
handsome but somewhat flashy clothes, with a look that told me he felt
conscious of his superior station in life. I did not altogether like
his looks, though somebody said admiringly, as he went by, "They say
he's worth as much as thirty thousand dollars a'ready. He's smart as a
whip." But, while I did not wonder at the son's wishing his mother to
go away, I also did not wonder at her being unwilling to leave the
dull little house where she had spent so much of her life. I was
afraid no other house in the world would ever seem like home to her:
she was a part of the old place; she had worn the doors smooth by the
touch of her hands, and she had scrubbed the floors, and walked over
them, until the knots stood up high in the pine boards. The old clock
had been unscrewed from the wall, and stood on a table; and when I
heard its loud and anxious tick, my first thought was one of pity for
the poor thing, for fear it might be homesick, like its mistress. When
I went out again, I was very sorry for old Mrs. Wallis; she looked so
worried and excited, and as if this new turn of affairs in her life
was too strange and unnatural; it bewildered her, and she could not
understand it; she only knew every thing was going to be different.

Georgie was by himself, as usual, looking grave and intent. He had
gone aloft on the wheel of a clumsy great ox-cart in which some of the
men had come to the auction, and he was looking over people's heads,
and seeing every thing that was sold. I saw he was not ready to come
away, so I was not in a hurry. I heard Mrs. Wallis say to one of her
friends, "You just go in and take that rug with the flowers on't, and
go and put it in your wagon. It's right beside my chist that's packed
ready to go. John told me to give away any thing I had a mind to. He
don't care nothing about the money. I hooked that rug four year ago;
it's most new; the red of the roses was made out of a dress of
Miranda's. I kept it a good while after she died; but it was no use to
let it lay. I've given a good deal to my sister Stiles: she was over
here helping me yesterday. There! it's all come upon me so sudden! I
s'pose I shall wish, after I get away, that I had done things
different; but, after I knew the farm was goin' to be sold, I didn't
seem to realize I was goin' to break up, until John came, day before

She was very friendly with me, when I said I should think she would be
sorry to go away; but she seemed glad to find I had been in Boston a
great deal, and that I was not at all unhappy there. "But I suppose
you have folks there," said she, "though I never supposed they was so
sociable as they be here, and I ain't one that's easy to make
acquaintance. It's different with young folks; and then in case
o'sickness I should hate to have strange folks round me. It seems as
if I never set so much by the old place as I do now I'm goin' away. I
used to wish 'he' would sell, and move over to the Port, it was such
hard work getting along when the child'n was small. And there's one of
my boys that run away to sea, and never was heard from. I've always
thought he might come back, though everybody give him up years ago. I
can't help thinking what if he should come back, and find I wa'n't
here! There! I'm glad to please John: he sets everything by me, and I
s'pose he thinks he's going to make a spry young woman of me. Well,
it's natural. Every thing looks fair to him, and he thinks he can have
the world just as he wants it; but _I_ know it's a world o' change,--a
world o' change and loss. And, you see, I shall have to go to a
strange meetin' up there.--Why, Mis' Sands! I am pleased to see you.
How did you get word?" And then Mrs. Wallis made another careful
apology for moving away. She seemed to be so afraid some one would
think she had not been satisfied with the neighborhood.

The auctioneer was a disagreeable-looking man, with a most unpleasant
voice, which gave me a sense of discomfort, the little old house and
its surroundings seemed so grave and silent and lonely. It was like
having all the noise and confusion on a Sunday. The house was so shut
in by the trees, that the only outlook to the world beyond was a
narrow gap in the pines, through which one could see the sea, bright,
blue and warm with sunshine, that summer day.

There was something wistful about the place, as there must have been
about the people who had lived there; yet, hungry and unsatisfied as
her life might have been in many ways, the poor old woman dreaded the

The thought flashed through my mind that we all have more or less of
this same feeling about leaving this world for a better one. We have
the certainty that we shall be a great deal happier in heaven; but we
cling despairingly to the familiar things of this life. God pity the
people who find it so hard to believe what he says, and who are afraid
to die, and are afraid of the things they do not understand! I kept
thinking over and over of what Mrs. Wallis had said: 'A world of
change and loss!' What should we do if we did not have God's love to
make up for it, and if we did not know something of heaven already?

It seemed very doleful that everybody should look on the dark side of
the Widow Wallis's flitting, and I tried to suggest to her some of the
pleasures and advantages of it, once when I had a chance. And indeed
she was proud enough to be going away with her rich son; it was not
like selling her goods because she was too poor to keep the old home
any longer. I hoped the son would always be prosperous, and that the
son's wife would always be kind, and not be ashamed of her, or think
she was in the way. But I am afraid it may be a somewhat uneasy
idleness, and that there will not be much beside her knitting-work to
remind her of the old routine. She will even miss going back and
forward from the old well in storm and sunshine; she will miss looking
after the chickens, and her slow walks about the little place, or out
to a neighbor's for a bit of gossip, with the old brown checked
handkerchief over her head; and when the few homely, faithful old
flowers come up next year by the doorstep, there will be nobody to
care any thing about them.

I said good-by, and got into the wagon, and Georgie clambered in after
me with a look of great importance, and we drove away. He was very
talkative; the unusual excitement of the day was not without its
effect. He had a good deal to tell me about the people I had seen,
though I had to ask a good many questions.

"Who was the thin old fellow, with the black coat, faded yellow-green
on the shoulders, who was talking to Skipper Downs about the

"That's old Cap'n Abiah Lane," said Georgie; "lives over toward Little
Beach,--him that was cast away in the fog in a dory down to the Banks
once; like to have starved to death before he got picked up. I've
heard him tell all about it. Don't look as if he'd ever had enough to
eat since!" said the boy grimly. "He used to come over a good deal
last winter, and go out after cod 'long o' father and me. His boats
all went adrift in the big storm in November, and he never heard
nothing about 'em; guess they got stove against the rocks."

We had still more than three miles to drive over a lonely part of the
road, where there was scarcely a house, and where the woods had been
cut off more or less, so there was nothing to be seen but the uneven
ground, which was not fit for even a pasture yet. But it was not
without a beauty of its own; for the little hills and hollows were
covered thick with brakes and ferns and bushes, and in the swamps the
cat-tails and all the rushes were growing in stiff and stately ranks,
so green and tall; while the birds flew up, or skimmed across them as
we went by. It was like a town of birds, there were so many. It is
strange how one is always coming upon families and neighborhoods of
wild creatures in the unsettled country places; it is so much like
one's going on longer journeys about the world, and finding town after
town with its own interests, each so sufficient for itself.

We struck the edge of the farming-land again, after a while, and I saw
three great pines that had been born to good luck in this world, since
they had sprouted in good soil, and had been left to grow as fast as
they pleased. They lifted their heads proudly against the blue sky,
these rich trees, and I admired them as much as they could have
expected. They must have been a landmark for many miles to the
westward, for they grew on high land, and they could pity, from a
distance, any number of their poor relations who were just able to
keep body and soul together, and had grown up thin and hungry in
crowded woods. But, though their lower branches might snap and crackle
at a touch, their tops were brave and green, and they kept up
appearances, at any rate; these poorer pines.

Georgie pointed out his aunts' house to me, after a while. It was not
half so forlorn-looking as the others, for there were so many flowers
in bloom about it of the gayest kind, and a little yellow-and-white
dog came down the road to bark at us; but his manner was such that it
seemed like an unusually cordial welcome rather than an indignant
repulse. I noticed four jolly old apple-trees near by, which looked as
if they might be the last of a once flourishing orchard. They were
standing in a row, in exactly the same position, with their heads
thrown gayly back, as if they were all dancing in an old-fashioned
reel; and, after the forward and back, one might expect them to turn
partners gallantly. I laughed aloud when I caught sight of them: there
was something very funny in their looks, so jovial and whole-hearted,
with a sober, cheerful pleasure, as if they gave their whole minds to
it. It was like some old gentlemen and ladies who catch the spirit of
the thing, and dance with the rest at a Christmas party.

Miss Hannah West first looked out of the window, and then came to meet
us, looking as if she were glad to see us. Georgie had nothing
whatever to say; but, after I had followed his aunt into the house, he
began to work like a beaver at once, as if it were any thing but a
friendly visit that could be given up to such trifles as conversation,
or as if he were any thing but a boy. He brought the fish and lobsters
into the outer kitchen, though I was afraid our loitering at the
auction must have cost them their first freshness; and then he carried
the axe to the wood-pile, and began to chop up the small white-pine
sticks and brush which form the summer fire-wood at the
farm-houses,--crow-sticks and underbrush, a good deal of it,--but it
makes a hot little blaze while it lasts.

I had not seen Miss Cynthia West, the younger sister, before, and I
found the two women very unlike. Miss Hannah was evidently the capable
business-member of the household, and she had a loud voice, and went
about as if she were in a hurry. Poor Cynthia! I saw at first that she
was one of the faded-looking country-women who have a hard time, and
who, if they had grown up in the midst of a more luxurious way of
living, would have been frail and delicate and refined, and entirely
lady-like. But, as it was, she was somewhat in the shadow of her
sister, and felt as if she were not of very much use or consequence in
the world, I have no doubt. She showed me some pretty picture-frames
she had made out of pine-cones and hemlock-cones and alder-burs; but
her chief glory and pride was a silly little model of a house, in
perforated card-board, which she had cut and worked after a pattern
that came in a magazine. It must have cost her a great deal of work;
but it partly satisfied her great longing for pretty things, and for
the daintiness and art that she had an instinct toward, and never had
known. It stood on the best-room table, with a few books, which I
suppose she had read over and over again; and in the room, beside,
were green paper curtains with a landscape on the outside, and some
chairs ranged stiffly against the walls, some shells, and an ostrich's
egg, with a ship drawn on it, on the mantel-shelf, and ever so many
rugs on the floor, of most ambitious designs, which they had made in
winter. I know the making of them had been a great pleasure to Miss
Cynthia, and I was sure it was she who had taken care of the garden,
and was always at much pains to get seeds and slips in the spring.

She told me how much they had wished that Georgie had come to live
with them after his mother died. It would have been very handy for
them to have him in winter too; but it was no use trying to get him
away from his father; and neither of them were contented if they were
out of sight of the sea. "He's a dreadful odd boy, and so old for his
years. Hannah, she says he's older now than I be," and she blushed a
little as she looked up at me; while for a moment the tears came into
my eyes, as I thought of this poor, plain woman, who had such a
capacity for enjoyment, and whose life had been so dull, and far apart
from the pleasures and satisfactions which had made so much of my own
life. It seemed to me as if I had had a great deal more than I
deserved, while this poor soul was almost beggared. I seemed to know
all about her life in a flash, and pitied her from the bottom of my
heart. Yet I suppose she would not have changed places with me for any
thing, or with anybody else, for that matter.

Miss Cynthia had a good deal to say about her mother, who had been a
schoolmate of Mrs. Wallis's--I had been telling them what I could
about the auction. She told me that she had died the spring before,
and said how much they missed her; and Hannah broke in upon her
regrets in her brusque, downright way: "I should have liked to kep'
her if she'd lived to be a hundred, but I don't wish her back. She'd
had considerable many strokes, and she couldn't help herself much of
any. She'd got to be rising eighty, and her mind was a good deal
broke," she added conclusively, after a short silence; while Cynthia
looked sorrowfully out of the window, and we heard the sound of
Georgie's axe at the other side of the house, and the wild, sweet
whistle of a bird that flew overhead. I suppose one of the sisters was
just as sorry as the other in reality.

"Now I want you and Georgie to stop and have some tea. I'll get it
good and early," said Hannah, starting suddenly from her chair, and
beginning to bustle about again, after she had asked me about some
people at home whom she knew. "Cynthy! Perhaps she'd like to walk
round out doors a spell. It's breezing up, and it'll be cooler than it
is in the house.--No: you needn't think I shall be put out by your
stopping; but you'll have to take us just as we be. Georgie always
calculates to stop when he comes up. I guess he's made off for the
woods. I see him go across the lot a few minutes ago."

So Cynthia put on a discouraged-looking gingham sun-bonnet, which
drooped over her face, and gave her a more appealing look than ever,
and we went over to the pine-woods, which were beautiful that day. She
showed me a little waterfall made by a brook that came over a high
ledge of rock covered with moss, and here and there tufts of fresh
green ferns. It grew late in the afternoon, and it was pleasant there
in the shade, with the noise of the brook and the wind in the pines,
that sounded like the sea. The wood-thrushes began to sing,--and who
could have better music?

Miss Cynthia told me that it always made her think of once when she
was a little girl to hear the thrushes. She had run away, and fallen
into the ma'sh; and her mother had sent her to bed quick as she got
home, though it was only four o'clock. And she was so ashamed, because
there was company there,--some of her father's folks from over to
Eliot; and then she heard the thrushes begin to call after a while,
and she thought they were talking about her, and they knew she had
been whipped and sent to bed. "I'd been gone all day since morning. I
had a great way of straying off in the woods," said she. "I suppose
mother was put to it when she see me coming in, all bog-mud, right
before the company."

We came by my friends, the apple-trees, on our return, and I saw a row
of old-fashioned square bee-hives near them, which I had not noticed
before. Miss Cynthia told me that the bee money was always hers; but
she lost a good many swarms on account of the woods being so near, and
they had a trick of swarming Sundays, after she'd gone to meeting;
and, besides, the miller-bugs spoilt 'em; and some years they didn't
make enough honey to live on, so she didn't get any at all. I saw some
bits of black cloth fluttering over the little doors where the bees
went in and out, and the sight touched me strangely. I did not know
that the old custom still lingered of putting the hives in mourning,
and telling the bees when there had been a death in the family, so
they would not fly away. I said, half to myself, a line or two from
Whittier's poem, which I always thought one of the loveliest in the
world, and this seemed almost the realization of it. Miss Cynthia
asked me wistfully, "Is that in a book?" I told her yes, and that she
should have it next time I came up, or had a chance of sending it.
"I've seen a good many pieces of poetry that Mr. Whittier wrote," said
she. "I've got some that I cut out of the paper a good while ago. I
think every thing of 'em."

"I put the black on the hives myself," said she. "It was for mother,
you know. She did it when father died. But when my brother was lost,
we didn't, because we never knew just when it was; the schooner was
missing, and it was a good while before they give her up."

"I wish we had some neighbors in sight," said she once. "I'd like to
see a light when I look out after dark. Now, at my aunt's, over to
Eliot, the house stands high, and when it's coming dark you can see
all the folks lighting up. It seems real sociable."

We lingered a little while under the apple-trees, and watched the wise
little bees go and come; and Miss Cynthia told me how much Georgie was
like his grandfather, who was so steady and quiet, and always right
after his business. "He never was ugly to us, as I know of," said she;
"but I was always sort of 'fraid of father. Hannah, she used to talk
to him free's she would to me; and he thought, 's long's Hannah did
any thing, it was all right. I always held by my mother the most; and
when father was took sick,--that was in the winter,--I sent right off
for Hannah to come home. I used to be scared to death, when he'd want
any thing done, for fear I shouldn't do it right. Mother, she'd had a
fall, and couldn't get about very well. Hannah had good advantages.
She went off keeping school when she wasn't but seventeen, and she
saved up some money, and boarded over to the Port after a while, and
learned the tailoress trade. She was always called very smart,--you
see she's got ways different from me; and she was over to the Port
several winters. She never said a word about it, but there was a young
man over there that wanted to keep company with her. He was going out
first mate of a new ship that was building. But, when she got word
from me about father, she come right home, and that was the end of it.
It seemed to be a pity. I used to think perhaps he'd come and see her
some time, between voyages, and that he'd get to be cap'n, and they'd
go off and take me with 'em. I always wanted to see something of the
world. I never have been but dreadful little ways from home. I used to
wish I could keep school; and once my uncle was agent for his
district, and he said I could have a chance; but the folks laughed to
think o' me keeping school, and I never said any thing more about it.
But you see it might 'a' led to something. I always wished I could go
to Boston. I suppose you've been there? There! I couldn't live out o'
sight o' the woods, I don't believe."

"I can understand that," said I, and half with a wish to show her I
had some troubles, though I had so many pleasures that she did not, I
told her that the woods I loved best had all been cut down the winter
before. I had played under the great pines when I was a child, and I
had spent many a long afternoon under them since. There never will be
such trees for me any more in the world. I knew where the flowers grew
under them, and where the ferns were greenest, and it was as much home
to me as my own house. They grew on the side of a hill, and the sun
always shone through the tops of the trees as it went down, while
below it was all in shadow--and I had been there with so many dear
friends who have died, or who are very far away. I told Miss Cynthia,
what I never had told anybody else, that I loved those trees so much
that I went over the hill on the frozen snow to see them one sunny
winter afternoon, to say good-by, as if I were sure they could hear
me, and looked back again and again, as I came away, to be sure I
should remember how they looked. And it seemed as if they knew as well
as I that it was the last time, and they were going to be cut down. It
was a Sunday afternoon, and I was all alone, and the farewell was a
reality and a sad thing to me. It was saying good-by to a great deal
besides the pines themselves.

We stopped a while in the little garden, where Miss Cynthia gave me
some magnificent big marigolds to put away for seed, and was much
pleased because I was so delighted with her flowers. It was a gorgeous
little garden to look at, with its red poppies, and blue larkspur, and
yellow marigolds, and old-fashioned sweet, straying things,--all
growing together in a tangle of which my friend seemed ashamed. She
told me that it looked as ordered as could be, until the things begun
to grow so fast she couldn't do any thing with 'em. She was very proud
of one little pink-and-white verbena which somebody had given her. It
was not growing very well; but it had not disappointed her about

Georgie had come back from his ramble some time before. He had cracked
the lobster which Miss Hannah had promptly put on to boil, and I saw
the old gray cat having a capital lunch off the shells; while the
horse looked meeker than ever, with his headstall thrown back on his
shoulders, eating his supper of hay by the fence; for Miss Hannah was
a hospitable soul. She was tramping about in the house, getting
supper, and we went in to find the table already pulled out into the
floor. So Miss Cynthia hastened to set it. I could see she was very
much ashamed of having been gone so long. Neither of us knew it was so
late. But Miss Hannah said it didn't make a mite o' difference, there
was next to nothing to do, and looked at me with a little smile, which
said, "You see how it is. I'm the one who has faculty, and I favor

I was very hungry; and, though it was not yet six, it seemed a whole
day since dinner-time. Miss Hannah made many apologies; and said, if I
had only set a day, she would have had things as they ought to be. But
it was a very good supper, and she knew it! She didn't know but I was
tired o' lobsters. And when I had eaten two of the biscuit, and had
begun an attack on the hot gingerbread, she said humbly that she
didn't know when she had had such bad luck, though Georgie and I were
both satisfied. He did not speak more than once or twice during the
meal. I do not think he was afraid of me, for we had had many a lunch
together when he had taken me out fishing; but this was an occasion,
and there was at first the least possible restraint over all the
company, though I'm glad to say it soon vanished. We had two kinds of
preserves, and some honey beside, and there was a pie with a pale,
smooth crust, and three cuts in the top. It looked like a very good
pie of its kind; but one can't eat every thing, though one does one's
best. And we had big cups of tea; and, though Miss Hannah supposed I
had never eaten with any thing but silver forks before, it happened
luckily that I had, and we were very merry indeed. Miss Hannah told us
several stories of the time she kept school, and gave us some
reminiscences of her life at the Port; and Miss Cynthia looked at me
as if she had heard them before, and wished to say, "I know she's
having a good time." I think Miss Cynthia felt, after we were out in
the woods, as if I were her company, and she was responsible for me.

I thanked them heartily when I came away, for I had had such a
pleasant time. Miss Cynthia picked me a huge nosegay of her flowers,
and whispered that she hoped I wouldn't forget about lending her the
book. Poor woman! she was so young,--only a girl yet, in spite of her
having lived more than fifty years in that plain, dull home of hers,
in spite of her faded face and her grayish hair. We came away in the
rattling wagon. Georgie sat up in his place with a steady hand on the
reins, and keeping a careful lookout ahead, as if he were steering a
boat through a rough sea.

We passed the house where the auction had been, and it was all shut
up. The cat sat on the doorstep waiting patiently, and I felt very
sorry for her; but Georgie said there were neighbors not far off, and
she was a master hand for squirrels. I was glad to get sight of the
sea again, and to smell the first stray whiff of salt air that blew in
to meet us as we crossed the marshes. I think the life in me must be
next of kin to the life of the sea, for it is drawn toward it
strangely, as a little drop of quicksilver grows uneasy just out of
reach of a greater one.

"Good-night, Georgie!" said I; and he nodded his head a little as he
drove away to take the horse home. "Much obliged to you for my ride,"
said he, and I knew in a minute that his father or one of the aunts
had cautioned him not to forget to make his acknowledgments. He had
told me on the way down that he had baited his nets all ready to set
that evening. I knew he was in a hurry to go out, and it was not long
before I saw his boat pushing off. It was after eight o'clock, and the
moon was coming up pale and white out of the sea, while the west was
still bright after the clear sunset.

I have a little model of a fishing dory that Georgie made for me, with
its sprit-sail and killick and painter and oars and gaff all cleverly
cut with the clumsiest of jackknives. I care a great deal for the
little boat; and I gave him a better knife before I came away, to
remember me by; but I am afraid its shininess and trig shape may have
seemed a trifle unmanly to him. His father's had been sharpened on the
beach-stones to clean many a fish, and it was notched and dingy; but
this would cut; there was no doubt about that. I hope Georgie was
sorry when we said good-by. I'm sure I was.

A solemn, careful, contented young life, with none of the playfulness
or childishness that belong to it,--this is my little fisherman, whose
memory already fades of whatever tenderness his dead mother may have
given him. But he is lucky in this, that he has found his work and
likes it; and so I say, 'May the sea prove kind to him! and may he
find the Friend those other fishermen found, who were mending their
nets on the shores of Galilee! and may he make the harbor of heaven by
and by after a stormy voyage or a quiet one, whichever pleases God!

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