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Title: Grandmother - The Story of a Life That Never Was lived
Author: Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe
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 "Grandmother - The Story of a Life That Never Was lived" ***

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                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.



                              GRANDMOTHER



                         Handy Volume Editions
                        of Copyrighted Fiction

                               BY
                               LAURA E.
                               RICHARDS


                      MRS. TREE’S WILL      $ .75

                      MRS. TREE               .75

                      GEOFFREY STRONG         .75

                      FOR TOMMY               .75

                      LOVE AND ROCKS          .75

                      CAPTAIN JANUARY         .75

                       _Tall 16mos, Individual Cover
                       Designs. Illustrated._

                     DANA ESTES & CO., PUBLISHERS
                      ESTES PRESS, BOSTON, MASS.

[Illustration: “GRANDMOTHER KNELT DOWN BESIDE HIM, AND TOOK HIS HAND.”
(_See page 62_)]

[Illustration:

  GRANDMOTHER

The Story of a Life That Never
Was Lived

By

Laura E. Richards

_Author of_
“Captain January,” “Melody,” “Marie,” “Mrs. Tree’s
Will,” etc.

Boston
DANA ESTES & COMPANY
Publishers]

                           _Copyright_, 1907
                        BY DANA ESTES & COMPANY

                         _All rights reserved_

                              GRANDMOTHER

                            _COLONIAL PRESS
            Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
                           Boston, U. S. A._



                                  TO
                              MY DAUGHTER
                               Elizabeth

  I heard an angel singing
  When the day was springing,
  “Mercy, pity and peace
  Are the world’s release!”

  —WILLIAM BLAKE.



                               CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                           PAGE

     I. HOW SHE CAME TO THE VILLAGE                    1

    II. HOW THE FIRST LINE CAME IN HER FACE           15

   III. HOW SHE PLAYED WITH THE CHILDREN              30

    IV. HOW SHE SANG GRANDFATHER TO SLEEP             50

     V. HOW THE SECOND LINE CAME IN HER FOREHEAD      65

    VI. HOW SHE WENT VISITING                         81

   VII. HOW THE LIGHT CAME TO HER                     99

  VIII. HOW HER HAIR TURNED WHITE                    116

    IX. HOW SHE FOUND PEACE                          132



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                PAGE

  “GRANDMOTHER KNELT DOWN BESIDE HIM, AND
        TOOK HIS HAND”(_Page 62_)                     _Frontispiece_

  “THE LONG WHITE LILY—PUTTING IT DELICATELY TO HER CHEEK”        20

  “GRANDMOTHER HAD FORGOTTEN ALL THE  WORLD EXCEPT THE CHILD”    102

  “SHE LAY LIKE AN IVORY STATUE”                                 145



                              GRANDMOTHER



CHAPTER I

HOW SHE CAME TO THE VILLAGE


SHE was a slip of a girl when first she came to the village; slender
and delicate, with soft brown hair blowing about her soft face. Those
who saw her coming down the street beside Grandfather Merion thought he
had brought back one of his grandnieces with him from the west for a
visit; it was known that he had been out there, and he had been away
all summer.

Anne Peace and her mother looked up from their sewing as the pair went
by; Grandfather Merion walking slow and stately with his ivory-headed
stick and his great three-cornered hat, the last one left in the
village, his kind wise smile greeting the neighbors as he met them; and
beside him this tall slender maiden in her light print gown that the
wind was tossing about, as it tossed the brown cloud of hair about her
cheeks.

“Look, mother!” said Anne Peace. “She is for all the world like a
windflower, so pretty and slim. Who is it, think?”

“Some of his western kin, I s’pose,” said Widow Peace. “She is a
pretty piece. See if she’s got the new back, Anne; I was wishful some
stranger would come to town to show us how it looked.”

“Land, Mother,” said Anne; “her gown’s nothing but calico, and might
have come out of the Ark, looks ’s though; not but what ’tis pretty on
her. Real graceful! There! see her look up at him, just as sweet! I
expect she is his grandniece, likely. There they go in ’t the gate, and
he’s left it open, and the hens’ll get out. Rachel won’t like that! She
keeps her hens real careful.”

“She fusses ’em most to death!” said Mrs. Peace. “If I was a hen I
should go raving distracted if Rachel Merion had the rearin’ of me.
Why, Anne! why, look at Rachel this minute, runnin’ down the garden
path. She looks as if something was after her. My sakes! she’s comin’
in here. What in the—”

Rachel Merion, a tall handsome young woman with a general effect of
black and red about her, came out of her door and down the path like
an arrow shot from a bow. At one dash she reached the gate and paused
to flash a furious look back at the house; with a second dash she was
across the road, and in another instant she stood in Mrs. Peace’s
sitting-room, quivering like a bowstring.

“Mis’ Peace!” she cried. “Anne! he’s done it! he has! he has, I tell
you! I’ll go crazy or drown myself; I will! I will!”

She began beating the air with her hands and screaming in short
breathless gasps. Mrs. Peace looked calmly at her over her spectacles.

“There, Rachel!” she said. “You are in a takin’, aren’t you? Set down a
spell, till you feel quieter, and then tell us about it.”

Anne, seeing the girl past speech, rose quietly, and taking her hand,
forced her to sit down; then taking a bowl of water from the table, wet
her brow and head repeatedly, speaking low and soothingly the while:
“There, Rachel! there! You’re better now, aren’t you? Take a long
breath, and count ten slowly; there! there!”

The angry girl took a deep breath and then another; soon the power of
speech returned, and broke out in a torrent.

“I always knew he would!” she cried. “I’ve looked for it ever since
Mother was cold in her grave and before, you know I have, Anne Peace. I
looked for it with Aunt ’Melia till I routed her out of the house, and
I looked for it with Mis’ Wiley till I sent _her_ flying. I wish’t now
I’d let ’em alone, both of ’em. I’d sooner he’d married ’em both, and
been a Turk and done with it, instead of this.”

Mrs. Peace looked over her spectacles with mild severity.

“Rachel Merion,” she said, “what are you talking about? If it’s your
grandfather, why then I tell you plain, that is no proper way for you
to talk. What has happened? speak out plain!”

“He’s married!” Rachel fairly shrieked. “Married to a girl of eighteen,
and brought her back to sit over me and order me about in my own house.
I’ll teach ’em! I’ll let ’em see if I’m going to be bossed round by a
brown calico rag doll. They’ll find me dead on the threshold first.”

“_Married!_” cried Mrs. Peace and Anne. “Oh, Rachel! it can’t be. You
can’t have understood him. It’s one of his grandnieces, I expect, your
Aunt Sophia’s daughter. She settled out west, I’ve always heard.”

“I tell you he’s married!” cried Rachel. “Didn’t he tell me so? didn’t
he lead her in by the hand (she was scared, I’ll say that for her;
she’d better be!) and say ‘Rachel, here’s my wife! here’s your little
grandmother that’s come to be a playmate for you.’ Little grandmother!
that’s what I’ll call her, I guess. Let her _be_ a grandmother, and sit
in the chimney corner and smoke a cob pipe and wear a cap tied under
her chin. But if ever she dares to sit in my chair, I’ll kill her and
myself too. Oh, Mis’ Peace, I wish I was dead! I wish everybody was
dead.”

So that was how Grandmother came by her name. It seems strange that it
should have been first given as a taunt.

And while Rachel was raving and weeping, and the good Peaces, who
tried to live up to their name, were soothing her with quiet and
comfortable words, Grandmother was standing in the middle of the
great Merion kitchen, with her hands folded before her in the light
pretty way she had, listening to Grandfather; and while she listened
she looked to and fro with shy startled glances, and seemed to sway
lightly from side to side, as if a breath would move her; she was like
a windflower, as Anne Peace said.

“You mustn’t mind Rachel,” Grandfather was saying, as he filled his
long pipe and settled himself in his great chair. “She is like the
wind that bloweth where it listeth; where it listeth. She has grown
up motherless—like yourself, my dear, but with a difference; with a
difference; neither your grandmother—I would say, neither my wife nor
I have ever governed her enough. She has rather governed me, being of
that disposition; of that disposition. Yes! But she is a fine girl, and
I hope you will be good friends. This is the kitchen, where we mostly
sit in summer, for coolness, you see; Rachel cooks mostly in the back
kitchen in summer. That is the sitting-room beyond, which you will find
pleasant in cooler weather. That is the pantry door, and that one opens
on the cellar stairs. Comfortable, all very comfortable. I hope you
will be happy, my dear. Do you think you will be happy?”

He looked at her with a shade of anxiety in his cheerful eyes, and
waited for her reply.

“Oh—yes!” said Grandmother, with a flutter in her voice that told of
a sob somewhere near. “Yes, sir, if—if she will not always be angry.
Will she always, do you think?”

“No! No!” said Grandfather; “very soon, very soon, we’ll all be
comfortable, all be comfortable. Just don’t mind her, my dear. Let her
be, and she’ll come round.”

He nodded wisely with his kind grave smile. By and by he bade her go
out in the garden and gather a posy for herself; and then he took his
hat and stepped across the road to Widow Peace’s.

Grandmother started obediently, but when she came to the garden door
she stopped and looked out with wide startled eyes. Rachel in her
scarlet dress was down on her knees in the poppy bed, the pride of her
heart, and was plucking up the poppies in furious haste, dragging them
up by the roots and trampling them under her feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

“It seemed the only thing to do!” said Grandfather Merion, absently.
“Wild parts, Susan; wild parts, ma’am! Her parents dead, as I told
you, and the child left with the innkeeper’s wife, who was not—not
a person fitted to bring up a young girl; no other woman—at least
none of suitable character near. It seemed clearly my duty to bring
the child away. Then—my search led me into mining camps, and often I
had to be off alone among the mountains, as a rumor came from here or
there—the marriage bond was a protection, you see; yes, I was clear as
to my duty. But I confess I forgot about Rachel, Susan, and Rachel is
so ungoverned! I fear she will not—a—not be subject to my wife—whose
name is Pity, by the way, Susan; a quaint name; she is a very good
child. I am sure you and little Annie will be good to her.”

Good Widow Peace promised, and so did Anne, her soft brown eyes shining
with good-will; but when he was gone back, the old woman shook her
head. “No good can come of it!” she said. “I hadn’t the heart to say
so, Anne, for poor Grandfather must have a hard time, searching them
cruel mountains for his graceless son; but no good can come of it.”

“But we can try!” said Anne.



CHAPTER II

HOW THE FIRST LINE CAME IN HER FACE


RACHEL did not kill herself, nor go crazy; nor did she even go away, as
she threatened to do when she wearied of announcing her imminent death.
She stayed and made things unpleasant for Grandmother. She was barely
civil to her in Grandfather’s presence, for she dared not be otherwise;
but the moment his back was turned she was grimacing and threatening
behind it, and when he left the room she would break out into open
taunt and menace. There was no name too hateful for her to call the
pale girl who never reviled her in turn; but Grandmother’s very silence
was turned against her.

“You needn’t think that I don’t know why you’re dumb as a fish!” raved
the frantic girl. “You know what I say is true, and you darsn’t speak!
you darsn’t! you darsn’t!—” She stopped short; for Grandmother had
come and taken her by both wrists, and stood gazing at her.

“Stop!” she said quietly. “That is enough. Stop!”

They stood for some minutes, looking into each other’s eyes; then
Rachel turned her head away with a sullen gesture. “Let me go!” she
said. “I don’t want to say anything more. I’ve said enough. Let me go!”

These were bad hours, but there were good ones too for little
Grandmother. She loved her housework, and did it with a pretty grace
and quickness; she loved to sit by Grandfather with her sewing, or read
the paper to him. She could not be doing enough for the old man. She
told Anne Peace that he had saved her life. “I should not have gone on
living out there,” she said, “it was not good to live after my father
died. I had one friend, but he left me, and there were only strangers
when Grandfather came and saved me. It is a little thing to let her
scold”—it was after one of Rachel’s tantrums—“if only she will be
quiet before him, and not make him grieve.”

But her happiest hours were in the garden. It was a lovely place, the
Merion garden; not large, only a hundred feet from the house to the
street; but this space was so set and packed with flowers that from a
little distance it looked like a gay carpet stretched before the old
red brick house. Small lozenge-shaped beds, each a mass of brilliant
color; sweet-william, iris, pansies, poppies, forget-me-nots, and
twenty other lovely things. Between the beds, round and round like a
slender green ribbon, ran a little grassy path, just wide enough for
one person. Grandmother would spend her best hours following this
path; pacing slowly along, stopping here to look and there to smell,
and everywhere to love. She was like a flower herself, as she drifted
softly along in her light dress, her soft hair blowing about her sweet
pale face; a windflower, as Anne Peace said.

One day she had followed the path till she came to where it ran along
by the old vine-covered brick wall that stood between the garden and
the road. You could hardly see the wall for the grapevines that were
piled thick upon it; and inside the vines tumbled about, overrunning
the long bed of yellow iris that was the rearguard of the garden.

Grandmother was talking as she drifted slowly along; it was a way
she had, bred by her lonely life in the western cabin; talking half
to herself, half to the long white lily that she held, putting it
delicately to her cheek now and then, as if to feel which was the
smoother.

“But Manuel never came back!” she was saying. “I never knew, white
lily, I never knew whether he was alive or dead. That made it hard to
come away, do you see, dear? Whether he was lost in the great snow up
on the mountains, or whether the Indians caught him,—I can never know
now, lily dear; and he was my only friend till Grandfather came, and I
loved him—I loved Manuel, white lily! Ah! what is that?”

[Illustration: “THE LONG WHITE LILY—PUTTING IT DELICATELY TO HER
CHEEK.”]

There was a smothered exclamation; a rustle on the other side of the
wall. The next moment a figure that had been lying under the wall rose
up and confronted Grandmother; the figure of a young man, tall and
graceful, with the look of a foreigner.

“Pitia!” cried the young man. “It is you? You call me?—see, I come! I
am here, Manuel Santos.”

Yes, things happen so, sometimes, more strangely than in stories.

He stretched out his arms across the wall in greeting.

“Are you alive, Manuel?” asked Grandmother, making the sign of the
cross, as her Spanish nurse had taught her. “Are you alive, or a
spirit? Either way I am glad, oh, glad to see you, Manuel!”

She drew near timidly, and timidly reached out her hand and touched
his; he grasped it with a cry, and then with one motion had leaped
the wall and caught her in his arms. “Pitia!” he cried. “To me! mine,
forever!”

He lifted her face to his, but in breathless haste little Grandmother
put him from her and leaned back against the wall, with hands
outstretched keeping him off.

“Manuel,” she said. “I have a great deal to tell you. I thought—you
did not come back. I thought you were dead.”

“Yes,” said the boy. “No wonder! The Apaches got me and kept me all
winter with a broken leg. What matter? I got away. I found you had come
east. I found the man’s name who brought you—found where he lived. I
followed. I come here an hour ago, and lie down, I think by chance,
beneath the wall to rest. That chance was the finger of Heaven. You
see, Pitia, it leads me to you. I take you, you are mine, you go back
with me, as my wife.”

The little windflower was very white as she leaned against the wall,
still with outstretched pleading hands; whiter than the lily that lay
at her feet.

“Manuel,” she said; “listen! I was alone. Father died. There was no
woman save old Emilia—” the lad uttered an oath, but she hurried on.
“I could not—I could not stay. I meant to die; I thought you dead,
and I—I was going up into the great snow to end it, when—a good old
man came. Old, old, white as winter, but good as Heaven. He saved me,
Manuel; he brought me here to his home, and it is mine too. I am his
wife, Manuel.”

“His wife!” The young man stared incredulous, his dark eyes full of
pain and trouble. “His wife—an old man! You, my Pitia?” Suddenly his
face broke into laughter.

“I see!” he cried. “You punish me, you try me—good! I take it all!
Go on, Pitia! more penance, I desire it, because at the last I have
you—so!”

Once more he sprang towards her with a passionate gesture; but the
slender white arms never wavered.

“I am his wife,” she repeated; “the good old man’s wife. See—the ring
on my finger. They—they call me Grandmother, Manuel dear.”

She tried to smile. “And you are alive!” she said. “Manuel, that is all
I will think of; my friend is alive, my only friend till Grandfather
came.”

Alas! poor little Grandmother, poor little windflower; for now burst
forth a storm beside which Rachel’s rages seemed the babble of a
child. Cruel names the boy called her, in his wild passion of love and
disappointment; cruel, cruel words he said; and she stood there white
and quiet, looking at him with patient pleading eyes, but not trying to
excuse or defend.

“Ah!” he cried at last. “You are not alive at all, I believe. You have
never lived, you do not know what life is.”

That was the first time she heard it, poor little Grandmother. She
was to hear it so many times. Now she put her hand to her heart as if
something had pierced it; a spasm crossed her smooth forehead, and when
it passed a line remained, a little line of pain.

But she only nodded and tried to smile, and said, “Yes, sure, Manuel!
yes, sure!”

Then they heard Grandfather’s voice behind them, and there was the
good old man standing, leaning on his stick and looking at them with
wonder.

“What is this?” said Grandfather. “I heard loud and angry words. Who is
this, my dear?”

“This is Manuel, Grandfather; my friend of whom I told you. He is angry
because I am married to you!” said Grandmother simply; “but I am always
so thankful to you, Grandfather dear!”

Grandfather looked kindly at the boy. “I see!” he said. “Yes, yes; I
see! I see! But come into the house with us, sir, and let us try to be
friends. Sorrow in youth is hard to bear, yet it can be borne, it can
be borne, and we will help you if we may.”

And Grandmother said, “Yes, sure, Manuel dear; come in and eat with
us; you must be hungry.”

A great sob burst from the boy’s throat, and turning away he flung his
arm upon the vine-covered wall and wept there.

“Go you into the house, my dear,” said Grandfather; “and be getting
supper. We will come presently.”

Grandmother looked at him for a moment; then she took his hand and put
it to her heart, with a pretty gesture, looking into his face with
clear patient eyes; he laid his other hand on her head, and they stood
so for a moment quietly, with no words; then she went into the house.

And by and by Grandfather brought Manuel in to supper, and Rachel was
wonderfully civil, and they were all quite cheerful together.

Manuel stayed, as we all know, and worked for Grandfather on the farm,
and boarded with the Widow Peace across the way; and he and Grandfather
were great friends, and he and Rachel quarrelled and made up and
quarrelled again, over and over; and always from that time there was a
little line on Grandmother’s smooth forehead.



CHAPTER III

HOW SHE PLAYED WITH THE CHILDREN


I ASKED Anne Peace once, when we were talking about Grandmother (it was
not till the next year that we came to the village), how soon it was
that the children found her out. Very soon, Anne said. It began with
their trying to tease her by shouting “Grandmother!” over the wall and
running away. She caught one of them and carried him into the garden
screaming and kicking (she was strong, for all her slenderness), and
soon she had him down in the grass listening to a story, eyes and
mouth wide open, and all the rest of them hanging over the wall among
the grapevines, “trying so hard to hear you could ’most see their ears
grow!” said Anne, laughing.

“It was wonderful the way she had with them. I used to wish she would
keep a school, after she was left alone, but I don’t know; maybe she
couldn’t have taught them so much in the book way; but where she
learned all the things she did tell ’em—it passes me. I used to ask
her: ’Grandmother,’ I’d say, ’where do you get it all?’ And she’d laugh
her pretty way, and say:

  “‘Eye and ear,
  See and hear;
  Look and listen well, my dear!’

That was all there was to it, she’d say, but we knew better.”

I can remember her stories now. Perhaps they were not so wonderful as
we thought; perhaps it was the way she had with her that made them so
enchanting. I never shall forget the story of the little Prince who
would go a-wooing. His mother, the old Queen, said to him:

  “Look she sweet or speak she fair,
  Mark what she does when they curl her hair!”

“So the little Prince started off on his travels, and soon he met a
beautiful Princess with lovely curls as white as flax. She looked
sweet, and she spoke fair, and the little Prince thought ‘Here is the
bride for me!’ But he minded him of what his mother said, and when the
Princess went to have her hair curled he stood under the window and
listened.

“And what did he hear, children? He heard the voice that had spoken him
sweet as honey, but now it was sharp and thin as vinegar. ‘Careless
slut!’ it said. ‘If you pull my hair again I will have you beaten.’

“Then the little Prince shook his head and sighed, and started again
on his travels. By and by he met another Princess, and she was red as
a rose, with black curls shining like jet, and her eyes so bright and
merry that the Prince thought, ‘Sure, this is the bride for me!’

“The Princess thought so too, and she looked sweet and spoke fair;
but the Prince minded him of what his mother had said, and when the
Princess went to have her hair curled he listened again beneath the
window. But oh, children, what did he hear? Angry words and stamping
feet, and then a sharp stinging sound; and out came the maid flying and
crying, with her hand to her cheek that had been slapped till it was
red as fire. So when the Prince saw that he sighed again and shook his
head, and started off on his travels.

“Before long he met a third Princess, and she was fair as a star, and
her curls like brown gold, and falling to her knees. She looked so
sweet that the Prince’s heart went out to her more than to either of
the others; but he was afraid after what had passed, and waited for
the hour of the hair-curling. When that came, he was going toward the
window, when there passed him a young maiden running, with her face all
in a glow of happiness.

“‘Whither away so fast, pretty maid?’ asked the Prince.

“‘Do not stay me!’ said the maid. ‘I go to curl the Princess’s hair,
and I must not be late, for it is the happiest hour of my day.’

“‘Is it so?’ said the Prince. ‘Then will you tell the Princess that
when her hair is curled I pray that she will marry me?’

“And so she did, children, of course, and they had a happy day for
every thread of her brown-gold hair, so I am told, and there were so
many threads, I think they must be alive to this day.”

And the bird stories! and the story of how the butterfly’s wings were
spotted! and the flower stories! I don’t suppose there was a child in
the village in those days who did not believe that at night all the
flowers in Grandfather Merion’s garden were dancing round the fairy
ring in the home pasture.

“And Sweet William said to Clove Pink, ‘How sweet the fringe on your
gown is! Will you dance with me, pretty lady?’ So they danced away
and away, and they met Bachelor’s Button waltzing with Cowslip, and
young Larkspur kicking up his heels with Poppy Gay, and Prince’s
Feather bowing low before sweet white Lily in her satin gown, and
Crown Imperial leading out Queen Rose—oh! but she was a queen indeed!
And the music played—such music! the locust went tweedle, tweedle,
tweedle, and the cricket went chirp, chirp, chirp, and the big green
frog that played the bass viol said ‘glum! glum! glum!’ And they
danced—oh, they danced!

“Whirl about, twirl about, hop, hop, hop! till—hush! something
happened. Oh! children, come close while I whisper. The green turf
of the Ring trembled and shook—and opened—and—oh! off go the
flowers scampering back to bed as fast as they can go; and in their
places—oh! hush! oh, hush! I must not tell.

  “Green jacket, red cap, and white owl’s feather!

Little lights that twinkle, little bells that jingle, little feet that
trip, trip—

“Hush, children! we must not look. Home again, we too, after the
flowers!”

And she would catch their hands and run with them round and round the
field till all were out of breath with running and laughter.

The Saturday feasts were begun, Anne Peace reminded me, for the little
lame girl who lived a mile beyond the village. The poor little soul
had heard of all the merry play that went on at Merion Farm, and had
begged her father to bring her in. So one day a long lean tattered man
came to the gate and looked wistfully in at Grandmother, who was making
daisy chains against the children’s coming.

“Mornin’!” he said. “Mis’ Merion to home?”

“Yes,” said Grandmother; “at least I am here. Would you like something?”

“I swow!” said the man. He looked helplessly at the girlish figure a
moment. Then—“My little gal heard tell how that you told yarns to
young ’uns, and nothin’ to it but I must fetch her in. She—she ain’t
very well—” his rough voice faltered, and he looked back to his wagon.

“Is she there?” cried Grandmother. “Oh, but bring her in! bring her in
quickly! why, you darling, I am so glad you have come.”

A poor little huddle of humanity; hunchbacked, with the strange
steadfast eyes of her kind,—wise with their own knowledge, which
is apart from all knowledge revealed to those whose backs are
straight,—lame, too, drawn and twisted this way and that, as if Nature
had been a naughty child playing with a doll, tormenting it in sheer
wantonness.

A piteous sight; and still more piteous the shrinking look of her and
of the poor gaunt wistful father, watchful for a rebuff, a smile, some
one of the devilishly cruel tricks that humanity startles into when it
touches the unusual.

But Grandmother’s arms were out, and Grandmother’s face was shining
with clear light, like an alabaster lamp. Oh, one would know that her
name was Pity, even though none used the name now, even Manuel, even
Grandfather himself calling her Grandmother.

“Darling!” she said, and she hugged the child close to her, as if she
would shield it from all the world. “Here is a daisy chain for you.
See! I will put it round your neck. Now you are mine for the whole
afternoon. Good father will go—” she nodded to the man; “go and do
the errands, and see to all his business, and then when it gets
toward supper-time he will come back and pick you up and carry you
off. And now we’ll go and make some posies for the others; my name is
Grandmother; what is yours, darling? whisper now!”

The man turned away, and brushed his hand across his eyes. “Gosh!” he
said simply. “I guess you’re a good woman.”

“I’m just Grandmother,” said the girl; “that’s all, isn’t it, Nelly?
Good-bye, father!”

“Good-bye, father!” echoed the child, clinging round Grandmother’s neck
as though she feared she might vanish suddenly into thin air.

“Sure she won’t pester ye?” said the man, timidly. “She’s real clever!”

“You won’t pester me, will you, Nelly?” said Grandmother.

  “Nelly Nell, Nelly Nell,
  Come and hear the flowers tell
  How they heed you,
  Why they need you,
  How they mean to love you well.”

And off they went together, little Nelly nodding and waving her hand,
with a wholly new smile on her pale shrivelled face.

“Gosh!” said the father again; he had not many words, and only one to
express emotion.

When the other children came, they found a little girl with a radiant
face, crowned with a forget-me-not wreath, and with the prettiest pale
blue scarf over her shoulders, all embroidered with butterflies. She
was sitting in a low round chair with cushioned back, and chair and
cushion and child were all heaped and garlanded with flowers, daisies
and lilies, pink hawthorn and great drifts of snowballs.

Grandmother called to them, “Come children, come! here is the Queen of
the May. Her name is Nelly, and she has come to stay to tea, and you
shall all stay too.”

The children came up half shy, half bold.

“What makes her sit so funny?” asked a very little boy.

“You be still or I’ll bat your head off!” muttered his elder brother
savagely. No one else made any mistake, and most of them were careful
not to look too much at Nelly; children are gentlefolk, if you take
them the right way.

Then they listened to the story of the princess in the brown dress; how
she came into the town, and no one knew she was a princess at all, but
every one said, “See the poor woman in the tattered brown gown!” But
the princess did not mind. She went hither and thither, up and down,
and whenever she met any one who was in need, she put her hand inside
the folds of her gown, and brought out a piece of gold or a shining
jewel, and gave it to the poor person. So when this had gone on for
some time, people began to talk one to another. One said, “Where does
this beggar woman get the gold and the gems that she gives?”

“She must have begged them!” said another.

“Or stolen them!” said a third.

Then all the people cried out, “She is a thief! let her be stripped and
beaten!”

So they brought the princess to the market-place; and cruel men seized
her and pulled off her tattered brown gown; and oh! and oh! children,
what do you think? there stood the most radiant princess that ever was
seen upon earth; her dress was of pure woven gold, and set from top to
hem with precious stones so bright that the sun laughed in every one
of them, and her hair (for they had pulled off her cap too) was as
fair gold as the dress, and fell around her like a golden cloak. So she
stood for a minute like heaven come to earth; and then all in a moment
she vanished away, and only the tattered brown dress was left for them
to do what they would with.

“So, darlings, be very careful to be nice to everybody, especially to
anyone in a shabby brown dress, for there may always be a princess
inside it.”

“Did you ever see a princess, Grandmother?” asked a child.

“Oh, I so seldom see any other kind of person,” said Grandmother,
“except princes. You have no idea how many I know. No, I can’t tell you
their names; you’ll have to find them out for yourselves; and now it
is time for a game.”

They were quiet games that they played that afternoon; but as the
children said afterwards, some of the best games are quiet. And then
came the Feast; a wonderful feast, with a great jug of creamy milk, and
all the bread and honey that any one could eat, and little round tarts
besides.

“Look at that!” said Rachel to Manuel. They had been for a walk, and
came back through the orchard, where the feast was held. “We were going
to have those tarts for tea, and she has given every last one to those
brats. That’s all she cares for, just childishness. She’s nothing but a
child herself.”

“Nothing but a child!” echoed Manuel, and he added, “She has never
lived; sometimes I think she never will.”



CHAPTER IV

HOW SHE SANG GRANDFATHER TO SLEEP


GRANDFATHER began to fail. He complained of no pain or distress; but
his stately figure seemed to shrink, and his head that he used to hold
so high was now bowed on his breast, and he began to creep and shuffle
in his walk. Widow Peace said the change had begun when he came back
from the vain search for his graceless son, and I think it was true.
“He won’t more than last out the winter,” said Mrs. Peace, “if he does
that. The Merions don’t run much above seventy.”

“Don’t, mother!” said Anne.

“Don’ting won’t stop the course of nature,” said her mother, “nor yet
is it proper you should say ‘Don’t’ to me, Anne Peace.”

“I beg your pardon, mother; I meant no harm.”

“No more you did, daughter. You may hand me the tape measure. Anne, if
you can tell me how to cut this dress so as to make Mis’ Broadback look
like anything besides Behemoth in the Bible I shall be obliged to you.”

“You’re real funny, mother!” said Anne, who never quite understood her
parent.

“Fun keeps the fiddle going!” said Mrs. Peace. “You may cut them gores
if you’re a mind to, Anne. There’s Rachel and Manuel goin’ off again.
S’pose they’re goin’ to make a match of it?”

“Oh, mother!” said little Anne.

  “‘Oh,’ said the owl, and set up a hootin’,
  But Jabez kept still when he done the shootin’.”

What does Grandmother do these days? I haven’t seen her go out of the
gate for a week and more. You were over this morning, wasn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Anne. “Oh, mother, she just sits by Grandfather all the
time—when her work is done, that’s to say; Grandmother never slights
anything; sits by him all day, reading to him when he’s awake, or
talking, or singing those little songs he likes; and when he drops off
asleep she just reaches for her sewing and sits and waits till he wakes
up. And she’s growing so white and thin—there! it just makes me ache
to see her. I said to her ‘Grandmother,’ I said, ‘when he drops off
asleep that way, you’d ought to slip out into the garden for a mouthful
of air, even if you don’t go no further. Rachel can stay round,’ I
said, ‘case he should want anything,’ I said. But she just shook her
head. ‘No, Anne!’ she says. ‘I must be here,’ she says. ‘He has been so
good to me; so good to me; he must always find me here when he wants
me.’

“And sure enough, mother, directly he woke up, before he opened his
eyes he says ‘You here, Grandmother?’ kinder restless like, and she
says ‘Yes, Grandfather, right here!’ and laid her hand on his and began
to sing, and he smiled real happy and contented, said he didn’t want
anything except just to know that she was there. But, mother, ’tis a
sweet pretty sight now, to see them two together. Of course he’s an
old man and she’s a young girl, but yet—well, they aren’t like other
folks, neither one of them. What makes you look like that, mother?”

“Nobody ever was like other folks that ever I heard of,” said Widow
Peace rather grimly. “Now you be quiet, Anne Peace. Here comes Rachel.”

Rachel Merion came flying in, splendid in her scarlet dress. “How do,
Mis’ Peace?” she said. “Anne, will you lend me that mantilla pattern?
I want to make one out of some of that black lace Grandmother Willard
had. Will you, Anne? hurry up, I can’t wait.”

Mrs. Peace looked at her with mild severity. “Rachel,” she said; “sit
down a spell. I want to speak to you.”

“Oh, I can’t, Mis’ Peace!” said Rachel. “Manuel’s waiting for me
outside.”

“Manuel _can_ wait,” said Mrs. Peace. “It’ll do him good. Sit down,
Rachel!”

“I’d full as lives stand, thank you,” said Rachel sullenly.

“I asked you to sit down,” said Mrs. Peace quietly; and Rachel sat down
with a flounce on the edge of a chair, and listened with lowering brows.

“I want to speak to you about Grandmother,” said the little widow. “She
isn’t well; Anne sees it, and I see it. She’s outdoing her strength,
caring for Grandfather all day long, and I think you’d ought to help
her more than what you do.”

Rachel’s eyes flashed under their black brows.

“She wanted him,” she said, “and she got him; now let her see to him. I
don’t feel no call to take care of Grandfather; he isn’t my husband.”

Anne’s soft eyes glowed with indignation. She was about to speak, her
mother motioned her to silence. “Rachel Merion,” she said. “You’d ought
to be slapped, and I’ve a good part of a mind to do it. You’re careless
and shiftless, and heathen; and you’ll neither do good nor get it in
this world till you get a human heart in your bosom. Grandmother is
worth twenty of you, and I pay her no compliment either in saying it;
it shows what she is, that she has put up with your actions so long.
I wouldn’t have, not a single week. I’d have drove you out with a
broomstick, Rachel, and give you time to learn manners before I let you
in again. There! now I’ve said my say, and you can go.”

As Anne said, it was a pretty sight there, in the Merion kitchen. The
good old man sat in his great armchair, dozing or dreaming the hours
away, less and less inclined to stir as the weeks went on; and always
beside him was the slight figure in the clear print dress, watching,
waiting, tending; yes, it was pretty enough.

“Sing, Grandmother!” he would say now and then; and Grandmother would
sing in her low sweet voice, like a flute:

  “Sweet sleep to fold me,
  Sweet dreams to hold me;
  Listen, oh! listen!
  This the angels told me.
  Fair grow the trees there,
  Soft blows the breeze there,
  Golden ways, golden days,
  When will ye enfold me?”

Or that quaint little old song that he specially liked:

  “As I went walking, walking,
  I heard St. Michael talking,
  He spoke to sweet St. Gabriel,
  The one who loves my soul so well,
  ‘Oh, brother, tell me here,
  Why hold that soul so dear?’
  ‘Because, alas, since e’er ‘twas born,
  I feel the piercing of its thorn.’”

Or it would be the song of the river, and that she loved to sing,
because Grandfather would fall asleep to the soft lulling time of it:

  “Flow, flow, flow down river,
  Carry me down to the sea!
  Ropes of silk and a cedar paddle,
  For to set my spirit free.
  Roll, roll, rolling billow;
  Smooth, smooth my sleepy pillow:
  Silver sails and a cedar paddle,
  For to set my spirit free!

  “Long, long work and weeping,
  Trying for to do my best:
  Soon, soon, time for sleeping;
  Cover me up to rest!
  Roll, roll, rolling billow,
  Smooth, smooth my sleepy pillow,
  Golden masts and a cedar paddle,
  For to set my spirit free!”

One day she was singing this, softer and softer, till she thought
Grandfather was fast asleep. Lower and lower sank the lulling voice,
till at length it died away in a sigh. Then she sat silent, looking
at him; at the good white head, the broad forehead, with its strong
lines of toil and thought, all the kind face that she knew and loved
well now. She sighed again, not knowing that she did; and at that
Grandfather opened his eyes without stirring and looked at her—oh, so
kindly!

“Little Grandmother,” he said. “You know I am going soon?”

“Yes, Grandfather!” said she.

“You have been a good, good child,” said Grandfather; “a good and
faithful child, and when I go my blessing stays with you. You are
young, and I want you to be happy. Perhaps you will like to marry
Manuel, my dear?”

Grandmother lifted her clear eyes to his.

“Yes, Grandfather!” she said.

“He is not good enough for you,” said Grandfather, “but—well! well!
you are both young, both young, and youth is a great thing. I was young
myself—a long, long time ago, my dear.” He was silent.

Grandmother knelt down beside him, and took his hand in her own two,
stroking it and singing softly.

  “Silver sails and a cedar paddle,
  For to set my spirit free.”

Presently he looked up, and spoke hurriedly, in a strange, confused
voice.

“Mary!” he said. “Are you there?”

Now Mary was the name of the wife of his youth. Grandmother was silent.

“Are you there, Mary?” asked the old man impatiently. “‘Tis so dark I
can’t see you.”

“Yes, I am here!” said Grandmother.

“‘Tis time to light up!” said Grandfather. “We mustn’t sit here in the
dark like old folks, Mary. Let me get up and light the lamps.”

The afternoon light fell clear on his face with its open sightless
eyes, and on the angel face turned up to it in faithful love.

“Wait just a little, John,” said Grandmother. “I—I love the twilight;
’tis restful. Let—let me rest a bit before we light up, won’t you?”

“Surely, Mary; surely, my dear. We’ll rest together then; I—I am tired
too, I—think.”

There was a long silence. The light was growing softer, fainter; the
old clock ticked steadily; a coal tinkled from the fire.

“Mary—you are there?”

“Yes, dear!”

“Song—the sleepy song; I think I shall sleep.”

Hush! rest, dear white head, on my breast; close, poor eyes that cannot
see the light. Rest, rest, in the quiet twilight!

  “Roll, roll, rolling billow,
  Smooth, smooth my sleepy pillow,
  Golden mast and a cedar paddle,
  For to set my spirit free!”



CHAPTER V

HOW THE SECOND LINE CAME IN HER FOREHEAD


IT was when Grandfather died that the second line came across
Grandmother’s clear forehead. Sometimes—when she was playing with the
children, for example—it was so faint one hardly noticed it; but again
it would be deep, a line of thought—or was it pain?—drawn straight as
by a ruler. Manuel noticed it one day, and spoke of it.

“You look troubled, Grandmother. What is it?”

“I have lost my best friend, Manuel,” said Grandmother. “I may well
look troubled; yet it is not trouble either, only sorrow, for missing
him, and for wishing I had done more for him.”

“No one could have done more,” said Manuel; “you were an angel to him.”
He was silent a moment; then he said, “You used to call me your best
friend—once. Shall I call you Pitia again, Grandmother?”

Something in his tone—or was it something _not_ there?—drew the line
deeper across the white forehead. She waited a moment before she spoke,
and then answered carefully, keeping an even tone:

“Perhaps ‘Grandmother’ is better, Manuel; we are all used to it, you
know. Why should we change?”

“As you please!” said Manuel; and whether there was more regret or
relief in his voice, who shall say? He lingered a moment, hesitating,
with words on his lips which seemed to hang, unready for utterance; and
Grandmother stood very still, only her breath fluttering a little; but
he need not see that, and did not.

Suddenly from the garden came a voice, clear, shrill, imperious;
Rachel’s voice. “Manuel, where are you? I want you! come, quick.”

Manuel gave one glance at the still face; hesitated a moment; then
muttering something about “Back soon!” he went out.

Little Grandmother stood very still. Sounds crept through her
ears,—the clock ticking, the old cat purring on the hearth, the
song-sparrow singing loud and clear in the apple-tree outside the
sitting-room window,—but she did not heed them. Her eyes were wide
open, fixed on the door through which Manuel had gone. It formed a
lovely picture, blossoming trees, waving grass (winter had come and
gone since Grandfather died), gay flower-beds; but she did not see
them. Only when two figures crossed the space, a girl in a scarlet
dress, a man at her side, looking down as she laughed up in his face,
Grandmother shivered a little, and went over to where the great
work-basket stood, and caught up her sewing with a kind of passion. “I
have you!” she said. “You are mine, good little stitches dear, kind,
good little stitches!”

If I have not said much about Manuel, it is because there is not very
much to say. He was a handsome lad, and a merry one. His laziness did
not show much till after Grandfather’s death, for he feared and loved
the old man, and did his best to please him. How he should have made
the effort to cross the Continent in search of Grandmother was one of
the things that could not be understood. It was like a fire of straw,
as Mrs. Peace said; it burned up bright, but there were no coals left.

Mrs. Peace had little patience with Manuel. He had been boarding with
her now for two years, and had never once, so she said, wiped his
feet as they should be wiped when he came into the house. Also she
pronounced him lazy, shiftless, careless, and selfish.

“If he marries Rachel,” she said, “there’ll be a pair of ’em, and a
precious pair, too. I’m going to give him a piece of my mind before I
sleep to-night.”

“That’s a real pretty skirt of Rachel’s, mother,” said Anne. “Don’t you
want I should stroke the gathers?”

“You may stroke the gathers, Anne, but you can’t stroke me,” said her
mother gently. “I tell you I am going to give that fellow a piece of my
mind. Yes, it is a pretty dress, and it’s the third Rachel Merion has
had this spring, and if you’ll tell me when Grandmother has had a new
dress, I’ll give you the next ninepence that’s coined.”

“Grandmother always looks like a picture, I’m sure,” said Anne.

“I’ve no special patience with Grandmother,” said Mrs. Peace, “nor yet
with you, Anne Peace. If the Lord had meant for us to be angels here,
it’s likely he would have provided us with wings and robes, ’cordin’
to. When I see an angel in a calico dress goin’ round askin’ folks
won’t they please wipe their feet on her and save their carpets, I want
to shake her.”

“Shake Grandmother?” said Anne, opening great eyes of reproach.

“There’s Manuel now!” said Widow Peace. “You might take this waist home
to Mis’ Wyman, if you’ve a mind to, Anne.”

It is not known precisely what Mrs. Peace said to Manuel Santos. Anne,
on her return from Mrs. Wyman’s, met him coming out, in a white flame
of rage. He glared at her, and muttered something under his breath, but
made no articulate reply.

“Chatterin’ mad, he was!” Mrs. Peace said calmly, in answer to Anne’s
anxious questions. “Fairly chatterin’ mad. I don’t know, Anne, whether
I’ve done harm or good, but something had to be done, and there’s times
when harm is better than nothing.”

“Why, Mother Peace!” exclaimed Anne, aghast. “How you talk!”

“It don’t sound pretty, does it?” said the widow; “but I believe it’s a
fact. Something will happen now, you see if it don’t.”

Something did happen. Manuel, still white and inarticulate with rage,
met Rachel in the garden, on his way to the house; Rachel in her red
dress, with scarlet poppies in her hair and hands. She was waiting for
him, perhaps; certainly, at sight of him, the color and light flashed
into her face in a way that might have moved a stronger man than Manuel.

“Manuel!” she cried. “What’s the matter? what makes you look so queer?
are you sick, Manuel?”

“Yes!” cried the man roughly. “I am sick! sick of this place, sick of
these people. I am going away, back to the west, where a man can live
without being watched and spied upon and stung by ants and wasps.”

“Going away! Manuel!” the poppies dropped from the girl’s hands, the
rich color fled from her cheeks. “If you go,” she said simply, “I shall
die.” Rachel had never learned to govern herself.

Well, after that there was only one way out of it—at least for a man
like Manuel. Among all these cold, thin-blooded Eastern folk, here was
one whose blood ran warm and swift and red like his own. No satin lily
that a man dared not touch, but a bright poppy like those in her hair,
fit and ready to be gathered. Yet when he passed the white lilies, with
his arm round the girl, his promised wife—even while he looked down at
the rapture of her face and thrilled at the thrill in her voice—the
fragrance of the lilies seemed a tangible thing, like a thorn that
pierced him.

At the garden door they parted. He had to see to the stock, he said;
would Rachel tell Grandmother?

Rachel ran into the house, calling Grandmother. There was no answer;
but listening she heard the sound of the wheel in the big empty chamber
overhead. She ran up-stairs, still calling. Grandmother was spinning
wool—she loved to spin—at the great wool-wheel, stepping lightly
back and forward; but at the first sound of Rachel’s voice below she
stopped, and put her hand to her heart. She was standing so when the
girl rushed in, panting and radiant.

“Grandmother! why didn’t you answer? didn’t you hear me?” She never
waited for an answer but ran on in a torrent of speech. “Grandmother,
I’ve been hateful to you, and I’m sorry. Do you hear? I’m sorry,
sorry; I’m so happy now, I mean to be good, good all the time. Do you
know what’s going to happen, Grandmother? guess! I’ll give you three
guesses—no, I won’t, I won’t give you one! I must tell you. I am going
to marry Manuel. Grandmother, are you glad? You are so good, I suppose
you’ll be glad. I should hate you, I should kill you, if it were you
who were going to marry Manuel. Do you know”—she caught her breath a
moment, then laughed on, the laugh rippling through her speech—“do you
know, Grandmother, I have been jealous of you. I’ve always been jealous
I guess; first because of Grandfather—poor old Grandfather, what a
pity he isn’t alive to know!—and then—and lately—oh, Grandmother,
I didn’t know—I didn’t know but he might care about you. Are you
laughing? it is funny, isn’t it?” But Grandmother was not laughing.

“I might have known!” the girl went on, “I needn’t have been afraid,
need I, Grandmother? You aren’t like other folks, you’ve never lived;
you don’t know what life is, do you, Grandmother? I’d be sorry for you
if I wasn’t so glad for myself, so glad, so glad! Do you think I’m
crazy? I want to kiss you, little Grandmother! What’s the matter? did
my pin scratch you?”

Grandmother had given a cry as the girl flung her arms round her; a
little low cry, instantly silent.

“Yes—dear,” she said quietly, but with that little flutter in her
voice that one who loved her might have noticed; “I think it must have
been the pin. Oh, Rachel,” she said, “I hope you will be so happy, so
happy! I hope there will never be anything but happiness for you and
Manuel, my dear.”

Rachel opened her dark eyes wide. “Why, of course there won’t!” she
said.

“Grandmother’s all right!” she said an hour later, when she had run to
meet her lover in the dewy orchard, and they were coming home together
in the sunset light; “she’s all right. She didn’t say much—I don’t
know as I gave her a chance, Manuel. I had so much to say myself; but
she was real pleased, and wished me joy. She’s good, Grandmother is. I
mean never to be hateful to her again if I can help it. How sweet those
lilies smell, Manuel!”

“Is she happy, do you think?” said Manuel; it seemed to say itself,
without will of his.

“Who? Grandmother? of course she is! You don’t expect her to cry all
her life for an old man, do you? She’s as happy as a person can be who
has never lived. Hush! hear her singing this minute!”

Yes! hear her singing, in the quiet twilight garden where she walks
alone.

  “‘Oh! brother, tell me here
    Why hold that soul so dear?’
  ‘Because, alas! since e’er ’twas born,
    I feel the piercing of its thorn.’”



CHAPTER VI

HOW SHE WENT VISITING


IT was after Rachel’s marriage that Grandmother first began to go about
in the village. Till then she had always kept pretty much within the
four walls of the Merion garden, and people thought she was proud,
until they came to know her. But now a restlessness seemed to come
over her, and she was away from home a good deal. She did not go to
“circles” and meetings—one would as soon have expected to see a white
birch walk into the vestry—nor did she make what we loved to call
“society calls;” but she found out the people who were sick or sad
or lonely—the Peaces always knew—and she went to them, sometimes
with Anne to introduce her, oftener alone, making some errand, taking
a flower, or a pot of jelly or the like. Old Aunt Betsy Taggart was
living then, the white old woman who had taken to her bed so long ago
that none of us young folks ever knew why she had done it. Indeed,
I think Anne and I rather supposed she had always been there—grew
there, perhaps, like some strange old white flower. She was the most
independent old soul, Aunt Betsy. It seemed terrible for her to live
there alone, but it was the only way she would live. Her niece, Hepsy
Babbage, came in morning and evening, and “did for” the old lady,
but she was not allowed to stay more than an hour at a time. “My soul
is my own,” Aunt Betsy used to say, “and I like to be able to call it
so, my dear!” Hepsy was a great talker, certainly; and Aunt Betsy did
her own cooking over a lamp that stood on the table by her bed, and
actually made her own butter in a little churn that Wilbur Babbage made
for her the winter before he died. (Anne Peace never would let me say
that Wilbur was talked to death, but she could not prevent her mother’s
saying so.)

Well, Grandmother and Aunt Betsy took to each other from the first
moment, and never a week passed that Grandmother did not spend an
afternoon with the old lady and take tea. Aunt Betsy seemed to know all
about her at once, which Anne and I never did, though we adored her.

“Come here, child!” she said when she came in with Anne, the first
time. “I’ve heard of you, and I’m glad to see you. Come and let me have
a look at you!” She took Grandmother’s hand in hers, and the two looked
at each other, a long quiet look. “Ah!” said Aunt Betsy at last. “Yes,
I see. The upper and the nether millstone, my child!”

Grandmother nodded simply; then in a moment she began to talk about the
flowers she had brought, and how Anne had helped her pick them, and
what a comfort Anne and her mother were to her.

“Such good neighbors!” she said. “Such dear, good, kind, neighbors!
This place is so full of good people, Miss Taggart.”

“They call me Aunt Betsy,” said the old lady, “and they call you
Grandmother, I’m told.”

“Yes,” said Grandmother laughing; “that is my name, isn’t it, Anne?”

Anne says that she had really forgotten that she had ever had any other
name.

“We shall be friends, you and I!” said Aunt Betsy; “and you will find
good people wherever you look for them, my dear.”

“Oh, yes, surely!” said Grandmother; and they looked at each other
again, that quiet understanding look.

I don’t suppose Anne was very much younger than Grandmother, but she
felt a whole lifetime between them, and worshipped the older girl with
a very real worship. Grandmother took it sweetly and quietly, as she
took everything. When Anne brought some offering, the first bride-rose
from her bush, or a delicate cake, or a sunset-colored jelly in a glass
bowl, Grandmother would thank her affectionately, and admire the gift,
and then would say, “But it is too pretty for any well person, my dear.
Let us take it quickly to little Kitty who is so suffering with her
measles! or to poor old Mr. Peavy, whose rheumatism is bad this week.”

Anne confessed to me that she sometimes wanted to say, “But I made it
for you, Grandmother, not for Mr. Peavy!” but I have often thought that
Anne was in a manner serving an apprenticeship to Grandmother, and
making ready, all unawares, for the life of love and sacrifice that she
too was to lead.

Another of Grandmother’s friends was Parker Patton. He was bedridden,
too—I think we were rather proud of our two stationary (I cannot say
helpless) people; he had fallen from a haystack—a strong man he was,
in the prime and pride of life—and injured his spine so that he could
never walk again.

He was not a pleasant man, most people thought; he had a crabbed,
knotty disposition, and who can wonder at it? The first time
Grandmother went to see him he snapped at her, like some strong surly
old dog.

“Who are you?” he said, bending his bushy eyebrows over his bright dark
eyes. “Who is it?” to his wife, who was hovering with anxious civility.
“Gran’ther Merion’s widder? humph! you don’t look like a fool, but no
more did he. What ye want, hey?”

“Oh, father!” said poor Mrs. Patton. “Don’t talk so! Mis’ Merion’s come
to visit with you a spell. I’m sure she’s real—”

“Get out!” said Parker. “Get out of the room, d’ye hear?”

The poor timid soul backed out, murmuring some apology to the visitor,
whom she expected to follow her; but Grandmother stood still, looking
at him with her quiet sweet eyes.

“You can follow her!” said Parker. “She likes to see company; I don’t!
I speak plain, and say what I mean.”

“I’ll go very soon!” said Grandmother. “I’d like to stay a few minutes;
may I?”

“If I’m to be made a show of,” growled the cross old man, “I shall
charge admission same as any other show. Think it’s worth a quarter to
see a man with a broken back? If you do you can stay.”

“I haven’t a quarter,” said Grandmother, “but it’s worth something to
sit down in this comfortable chair. Were you ever at sea, Mr. Patton?”

“Ya-a-ow!” snarled Mr. Patton. It sounded almost as much like “no” as
“yes,” but Grandmother did not heed it much. She had dropped lightly
into the chair, and was looking at a picture that hung opposite the
bed; a colored lithograph of a ship under full sail. The workmanship
was rough and poor, but the waves were alive, and the ship moved.

“I like that!” said Grandmother softly. “I never saw the sea, but I
knew a sailor once.” She began to sing very softly, hardly above her
breath.

  “There were two gallant ships
  Put out to sea.
  Sing high, sing low, and so sailed we.
  The one was Prince of Luther and the other Prince of Wales;
  Sailing down along the coast of the high Barbarie;
  Sailing down along the coast of the high Barbarie.”

“Who taught you that?” growled Parker Patton.

“A sailor; his name was Neddard, Neddard Prowst. He came—” The sick
man started up on his elbows.

“Neddard Prowst! he was a shipmate of mine; we sailed together three
years, and if I hadn’t come ashore like a grass-fool we might be
sailing yet. Where did you see Neddard, young woman?”

“In the mountains. He came ashore; he thought he would like mining, but
he didn’t. He was always longing for the sea.”

“Ah! I’ll lay my cargo he was. All seamen have their foolish times. I
thought I was tired of the sea; all I wanted in the world was to lay
under a tree and eat apples, day after day. Well—here I lay, and serve
me right. What about Neddard, young woman?”

“He was very good to me,” she said. “He liked me to sit with him when
he was sick; he died a little before I came here. He taught me all the
songs. Do you remember, now, this one?

  “Hilo, heylo,
  Tom was a merry boy,
  Hilo, heylo,
  Run before the wind!
  Heave to, my jolly Jacky,
  Pipe all for grog and baccy,
  Hilo, heylo,
  Run before the wind!”

“Ay! many’s the time! did he learn you ‘Madagascar’? hey, what?”
Grandmother, for all reply, sang again:

  “Up anchor, ’bout ship, and off to Madagascar!
  Cheerily, oh, cheerily, you hear the boat-swain call.
  Don’t you ship a Portagee, nor don’t you ship a Lascar,
  Nor don’t you ship a Chinaman, the worst of them all!

  “Up foresail, out jib, and off to Madagascar,
  Call to Mother Carey for to keep her chicks at home.
  Ship me next to Martinique, or ship me to Alaska,
  But Polly’s got my heart at anchor, ne’er to roam.”

By and by when poor Mrs. Patton ventured to put her timid head inside
the door, she kept it there, too astonished to move.

Parker lay back on his pillows with a look such as she had not seen for
many a long day. His thin hands were beating time on the coverlet, and
he and Grandmother were singing together:

  “Silver and gold in the Lowlands, Lowlands,
  Silver and gold in the Lowlands low;
      On the quay so shady
      I met a pretty lady,
  She stole away my heart in the Lowlands low.

  “Di’monds and pearls in the Lowlands, Lowlands,
  Di’monds and pearls in the Lowlands low;
      Daddy was a tailor,
      But I will die a sailor,
  And bury me my heart in the Low lands low!”

When the song was finished the old sailor looked up and saw his wife
gaping in the doorway.

“Great bobstays! ‘Liza,” he said, “Ain’t you got a drop of cider for
Mis’ Merion to wet her throat with? You’d let her sing herself dry as
pop-corn, I believe, and never stir a finger.”

“Oh, _Mr._ Patton!” said the poor woman, and went to fetch the cider, a
great content shining in her face. It was a good day when her husband
said “Great bobstays!”

Meantime Grandmother was not much missed at the Farm. Manuel indeed
seemed more at ease when she was not there; he did not look at her much
in these days, nor speak to her except when need was. She never seemed
to notice, but was quiet and cheerful as she always had been.

As for Rachel, she saw nothing, heard nothing, but Manuel. She seemed
all day in a kind of breathless dream of joy. But she meant to be good
to Grandmother. She was glad that Grandmother had given up her room
to them, and taken the little back one; she gloried in sitting at the
head of the table once more, and ruling all like a queen. Manuel said
she was a queen; “Queen Poppy” he used to call her; and Rachel thought
it quite true; if only she had had the luck to be born a princess, and
Manuel a prince! Yes, she meant to be good to Grandmother.

“Why, Grandmother,” she said one day at table, “your hair is beginning
to turn! Look, Manuel! see the white hairs!”

Manuel looked, and his face darkened, but he said nothing.

“I declare,” said Rachel, “that’s queer enough. I’d like to know what
care you have, Grandmother, to turn your hair gray. I expect it’s not
having any that’s done it.”

“Yes, Rachel,” said Grandmother; “perhaps that is it.”



CHAPTER VII

HOW THE LIGHT CAME TO HER


ALL this was before the child came. With the coming of that little
creature the world changed once more for Grandmother. It was in the
early autumn; the cardinal flowers were past, but the St.-John’s-wort
was in its bloom of tarnished gold, and the fringed gentian, too, was
beginning to open its blue eyes. Anne Peace remembered this, because
she had just been out gathering gentians, and was coming home with her
hands full of the lovely things, when she saw her mother come to the
door of Merion House and wave a white apron. Anne dropped the flowers.
“Oh! Rachel!” she said; and came running over. The white apron meant
that it was a girl; if it were a boy the blue tablecloth was to be
waved.

“Doing well!” said Mother Peace. “Grandmother has the baby in the back
chamber; you can see it, if you like, Anne, only go quiet.”

As if Anne were ever anything but quiet! Noiselessly she sped up the
back stairs, and opened the door of the little bedchamber. There she
saw—Madonna!

Grandmother was sitting in a low rocking-chair, with the baby in her
arms, bending over it with eyes of worship.

“Hush, Annie!” she said softly. “Come and see a piece of heaven!”

Anne thought the heaven was in Grandmother’s face; she never saw, she
said, such an angel look. She came nearer, and looked at the tiny
creature nestling in its blankets. One little pink fist was waving
feebly. Grandmother lifted it and laid it against her cheek.

“Little velvet rose-leaf!” she murmured. “Look, Anne! see the
perfectness of this! The little pink pearls of nails, the tiny precious
thumbkin. Oh, wonderful, wonderful! How good God is, to let us begin in
this heavenly way. How can we ever be anything but good and lovely,
when we begin like this?”

“Some of us can’t,” said little Anne shyly. “She is a darling,
Grandmother. Has Rachel seen her?”

A shade passed over Grandmother’s rapt face. “Not yet!” she said. “She
ought to. If you see your mother, Anne, you might tell her that baby
is washed and dressed. Darling, your gown should be made of white
rose-leaves, shouldn’t it? and you the little blush-rose heart? Oh,
little piece of heaven, how could they let you go?”

Anne stole away; looking back at the door, she saw that Grandmother had
forgotten her and all the world except the child; again it seemed Mary
that she was looking at; Mary in adoration, as she had seen her in an
old engraving.

[Illustration: “GRANDMOTHER HAD FORGOTTEN ALL THE WORLD EXCEPT THE
CHILD.”]

With the awe and wonder of this still on her, she crept along the
passage, past the door of Rachel’s room, which stood ajar. A fretful
voice was speaking. “No, I don’t want to see it. I never wanted any
at all, but if I had to have one I wanted a boy; I don’t want a girl.
I won’t bother with it. It’s hard enough to have to be one, and go
through what I’ve been through—and then to have a girl! it ain’t fair;
it’s real mean!” An angry sob followed, and Mother Peace’s calm voice
was heard.

“You want to be quiet now, Rachel, and try to get a nap. You’ll feel
different when you’ve seen your baby. Shut your eyes now and mebbe
you’ll drop off, while I go and get you some gruel.”

“I hate gruel!” said Rachel; “I won’t touch it, Mis’ Peace, I tell you!”

Mother Peace came out quietly and drew the door to. Seeing Anne she
nodded, and beckoned her to follow down-stairs, but did not speak till
she had gained the kitchen.

“Anne,” she said. “You needn’t tell me. There’s mistakes made up yonder
sometimes same as other places; maybe some of the angels is young and
careless. But that baby’ll soon find out who its real mother is, you
see if it don’t.”

“Why, Mother Peace,” said Anne, “how you talk!”

“Some one has to talk!” said her mother kindly. “You are little better
than a dumb image, Anne, when a person wants to free her mind. You
might stir this gruel if you’ve a mind to, while I go up and take a
look at those two lambs, and I don’t mean Rachel Merion by neither one
of ‘em.”

Strange and terrible as it seems, Rachel did not grow fond of her baby.
She had made up her mouth, she said, for a boy; she had never liked
girl babies, and she wasn’t going to pretend that she did.

“You needn’t look like that, Grandmother, as if you expected the sky to
fall on me. I’m one that isn’t afraid to say what I think, and I think
it’s real mean, so now, and I never shall think anything else.”

Manuel too was greatly disappointed. Rachel had been so absolutely
sure, that he too had counted on the promised boy, feeling somehow
that she must know. They had named the child—Orlando Harold was to be
his name. He was to have Manuel’s eyes and Rachel’s hair, and was to
be President or Major-General; this was the only point that was not
settled. And now—still Manuel felt a stirring at his heart, when he
saw the little fair creature in Grandmother’s arms. “After all, there
have to be girls!” he said.

“I didn’t have to have one,” said Rachel, flouncing away from him.

Mother Peace, while she nursed Rachel faithfully and sturdily, grew
more and more rigid with indignation.

“Take this broth!” she would say. “Yes, you will; take every sup of it;
there! If ’twasn’t for my living duty I’d put whole peppercorns into
it, Rachel Merion. Such actions! what the Lord was thinking of I don’t
know.” For Rachel was not nursing the baby; said she could not, she
should die.

“I want a free foot,” she said; “and they do just as well on a bottle,
Mis’ Peace.”

“They do not!” said Mrs. Peace. “I’ll trouble you not to teach me to
suck eggs, Rachel. Now you are going to take a nap, and much good may
it do you!”

“I’m not!” said Rachel.

“You are!” said Mrs. Peace, and drew down the shades and went out
closing the door after her.

Mrs. Peace’s indignation even extended to Grandmother. “I believe she
don’t care, either!” she said. “Grandmother, I really believe you don’t
care that Rachel is a heathen and a publican, and had ought to be
slapped instead of fed and cockered up.”

Grandmother looked up with a face so radiant, it seemed to startle the
whole room into sudden light.

“Oh, but she will!” she said. “She will care, dear Mrs. Peace. She
can’t possibly help it, you know, when she comes to get about and hold
the little darling angel, and feel its little blessedness all warm in
her arms. She can’t help it then, my Precious Precious, can she? Oh,
Mrs. Peace, she is smiling. Anne, Anne, come quick, she is smiling.”

“Wind!” said Mrs. Peace calmly.

Grandmother flushed and looked almost angry. “How can you, Mrs. Peace?”
she said. “But I know better, I know! I almost heard them whisper; I
almost heard the rustle—”

“What rustle?” asked Anne under her breath.

But Grandmother only smiled down at baby. “Rachel says I may name her!”
she said. “Isn’t that kind of her?”

Mrs. Peace sniffed.

“What shall you call her?” asked Anne.

“Faith!” said Grandmother. “Sweet little Faith, God bless her! and God
bless us, and give us wisdom to rear His heavenly flower fit for His
garden.”

Anne and I always said that the most beautiful sight we had ever seen
was Baby Faith’s christening. It was in October, a bright glorious
day. Grandmother hung great branches of maple everywhere, making the
sitting-room a royal chamber with scarlet and gold. Rachel had come
down for the first time and was on the sofa in a scarlet wrapper, and
Grandmother had crowned her with golden leaves, and told her she was
the queen, and had come to the christening feast of the princess.
Rachel was all ready to be crowned and petted. She kept Manuel close
by her side, or sent him now and then on some little errand across the
room, never further—and snatched him back again jealously. She did not
want him even to look at the baby, though she liked well enough now to
look at it herself, had even grown a little vain of it because people
admired it so.

“I think it’s real good of me to let you name her, Grandmother!” she
said jealously. “And giving her such a mean, poor-sounding name too:
so old-fashioned. Ruby Emerald is the name I should have picked out,
and after all she’s my baby and not yours; but I’m not going back on
what I said. I never would do that, though if I was in your place I
shouldn’t want she should have a name her own mother despised.”

I don’t think Grandmother always listened to Rachel; she certainly did
not seem to hear her now, for now the minister came in, dear old Parson
Truegood. He stopped a moment in the doorway, looking at Grandmother,
standing there in her white dress with the baby in her arms. I think
the same thought was in his mind that had come to Anne—the thought of
Mary and the Child—for he bowed his head as if in prayer, just for a
minute. Then he came in, with his cheery smile, and had just the right
word for Rachel and Manuel, and all the time it was at the other two he
looked.

Little Faith was one of those babies that are beautiful from the very
first. Some people will tell you there are none such, but do not
believe them. Even the first day there was no mottled depth of redness,
only a kind of velvet rose color. That soon faded away and left the
white rose instead that Grandmother always called her. She was not
pasty white, nor waxen white; it was a clear rosy whiteness; you see, I
have only the same word to say over again. White Rose; that is what she
was. And every little feature perfect, as if carved with a fairy-fine
tool; and her eyes like stars in blue water. Except Grandmother
herself, she was the most beautiful thing I ever saw.

She was asleep when the service began; but when the water touched her
forehead she woke, and looked up and smiled, a heavenly smile.

Grandmother looked up too, as if she saw some one, or thought to see;
and I saw a listening look come over her face, as if she heard some
sound, or hoped to hear. And when, a moment later, she knelt down to
pray, she moved her dress a little aside, as if making room for some
one. Anne knew what it meant. Grandmother had told her. “I believe,”
she said, “that a baby’s angel stays by till after it is christened. I
can’t tell you just how I know, but I hear—sometimes—I hear sounds
that aren’t this-world sounds. And some one speaks to me—without
words, yet I understand—oh, yes, I understand.”

It was a pretty fancy; she was full of pretty fancies, many of them
coming, I suppose, from her lonely childhood.

And so Baby Faith was christened, and became the light of Grandmother’s
life.



CHAPTER VIII

HOW HER HAIR TURNED WHITE


NOW followed the golden time of Grandmother’s life. I hardly know how
to describe the change that came over her with the coming of little
Faith. She seemed to grow taller, straighter, fuller. The windflower
was gone, and instead there was a tall white lily, growing firm and
strong, sending its roots deep down, spreading its broad green leaves
and silver petals abroad to the sun.

She took all the care of the baby. Rachel was not strong, and could not
bear to lose sleep, and Grandmother joyfully declared that she slept
the better for having the cradle beside her bed. Rachel slept late,
and Grandmother would take Baby down and tuck her up in Grandfather’s
great chair while she got breakfast for Manuel and herself, and then
made ready the pretty tray for Rachel. Then out she would run into the
garden with the child in her arms, to get the morning dew.

  “The morning dew to make you fair,
  The morning sun to curl your hair;
      The birds to sing to you,
      Fly to you, bring to you
  Everything sweet from everywhere.”

We realized now that many of Grandmother’s little songs were her own;
we could see them making; they came bubbling up like bird-songs, and
she would try one word and another, one note and another, till all was
to her mind.

“How do you do it, Grandmother?” Anne Peace would say. And Grandmother
would laugh and say, “I don’t, Anne. There isn’t any making about it;
they just come.”

She never used to laugh, except with the children, but now she was full
of laughter and singing. How could she help it? she would say. Who
could help singing with a baby in the house, and such a baby as Faith?

The children were inclined to be jealous at first, all except
“Saturday Nelly,” as they called the little lame girl. She simply
fell down and worshipped with Grandmother. The others—well, it seemed
strange to some of them, especially the boys, to have such a fuss
made over a baby. They had babies at home, that looked (they thought
in their ignorance) very like this one; but no one ever called them
rose-leaf princesses or lily-bell angels. To be sure, they often
cried—squalled, the boys called it—and this one never seemed to, just
smiled and cooed.

“Why should she cry,” said Grandmother, “when she is well and happy?
If she cries, children, it is our fault, and we must be whipped round
the garden with bramble whips all over thorns. So dance now, and make
her laugh!” Then they all would dance, and Baby Faith would leap in
Grandmother’s arms, and crow, and wave her little arms.

“Where did she come from?” asked a little girl.

“Oh, I was just singing about that before you came,” said Grandmother.
“Listen now, and you shall hear.

  “Down from the sky came
    Little White Rose;
  How they could spare her
    Nobody knows.
  Through the gate slipping,
  Down the air tripping,
  What she could tell us,
    If she but chose!

  Down to the earth came
    Little White Rose,
  Sadly the gold gates
    After her close;
  Left them all sighing,
  Sobbing and crying;
  Will they come after her,
    Do you suppose?”

“Will who come?” asked Benny Mack.

“Angels!” said Grandmother. “Troops of them, all shining with great
white wings spread, and white lily-dresses; look up there, Benny! what
do you see in the blue?”

“Clouds!” said Benny.

“Yes,” said Grandmother. “But I see something else, Benny; a
white-lily lady sitting in a cloudy chair. Don’t you see her, Nelly?
Stay up there, lily-lady; don’t come down here! Baby Faith is very
well, you cannot have her back.”

“Do you know, children,” she said, lowering her voice, “do you know all
the things that happened the day Baby came? You don’t? come and sit
round here, all of you! Nelly-Nell, you shall—oh, Nelly, you are so
good and dear and patient, you shall hold her a little, while I tell.
Listen now!

  “The lily-bells rang at the sight of her,
  The sunflower turned to the light of her,
          The little black mole
          Crept out of his hole,
  Just to peep at the darling delight of her.

  “The daisies all danced ’neath the feet of her,
  The roses turned faint at the sweet of her;
          The firefly’s spark
          Came and lit up the dark,
  Just to show us the picture complete of her!”

Two years; two golden, beautiful, heavenly years. Then—it will not be
easy to tell this part, yet it must be told.

Anne Peace thinks I am hard upon Rachel; her mother used to think I was
just the reverse. She always seemed to me the one wholly selfish person
I ever knew. She loved Manuel passionately; but so jealously that she
did not even like to see him caress the baby, but would call him to her
side, or make some excuse to give the child to Grandmother. And yet
she was so jealous of Grandmother too! I do not think she ever cared
much for the baby, yet she would have fits of jealous rage now and then.

“I’d like to know whose baby that is, Grandmother!” she would say.
Grandmother would look up with the rapt smile she always wore when
little Faith was in her arms.

“Whose baby? why, Rachel, don’t you know? White Rose, look at mother!
throw a kiss to mother!”

“I don’t know as I do!” Rachel would go on. “I thought ’twas mine; I
didn’t know as you’d had one, Grandmother, but maybe I was mistaken;
maybe I just thought I had a baby, and she was yours all along.”

Then suddenly stamping her foot, she would flash out in the old way.

“I want you should understand that that child belongs to me and Manuel,
and to no one else. I won’t have my own child taken away from me; I
tell you I won’t! Give me my baby this minute!” And she would snatch
the child from Grandmother’s arms. Of course then the poor little thing
would begin to cry, frightened by her wild looks and angry voice, and
this only enraged Rachel more. “You’ve turned her against me!” she
shrieked. “You’ve stole her away from me, you wicked, wicked—” here
she would break into a passion of furious sobs; and Grandmother would
take the baby out of her arms and go away without a word, leaving her
to storm and rave till Manuel came in to pet and caress her into good
humor again.

But again, it would be Manuel at whom she would storm, accusing him of
abetting Grandmother in her designs upon the baby; or still again, if
she had her wish of the moment, and the baby was left with her for a
few minutes, she would find herself ill-used and neglected, and left
with all the care of the child on her hands. Well! poor Rachel!

One day—it was a bright fair day, like any other summer day—Manuel
had promised to take Rachel for a drive. “We might take Faith!” he
said; he had grown very fond of the little one since she began to talk.

“I don’t know as I want to!” said Rachel, who was in a bad mood. “I’d
like to have a chance to talk to you once in awhile myself, Manuel.”

“I’ll take Baby out in her carriage,” said Grandmother happily. “We’ll
go to the woods, won’t we, White Rose?”

That was enough. “No, you won’t!” said Rachel. “If she’s going out she
can come with us. You put on her things, Grandmother, while I get mine.”

Grandmother carried little Faith out to the wagon, and put her into her
mother’s arms, and waited to see them start. It was surely a pretty
sight, Anne Peace said; she was watching from her window. Rachel had a
gipsy hat full of scarlet poppies tied with scarlet ribbons under her
chin. Manuel was bare-headed, his crisp black curls framing his brown
handsome face; and between the two dark beauties the little White Rose
with her silver curls and apple-blossom face. She was dancing up and
down on Rachel’s lap, clapping her hands at the horse. A little piece
of quicksilver she was.

“Hold her tight, won’t you, Rachel?” said Grandmother; “she does jump
about so, bless her!”

“I guess I know how to hold my own child!” said Rachel.

So—they started, and Grandmother waved good-bye, and then went back
to the house with a still look; peaceful and serene, but the radiant
light gone out of her face.

No one was ever to see that light again.

They were gone about an hour. Grandmother was in the garden watching
for them, when they came back. It did not need her eyes to see that
something was terribly, terribly wrong. Manuel was driving furiously,
lashing the horse, who galloped his best. Rachel was in a heap on the
floor of the wagon moaning and crying; what was that little white drift
on her knees, with the red stain creeping—

No! no! I cannot tell that part.

Next moment Grandmother had the child in her arms. She towered like an
avenging angel over the wretched parents, who cowered at her feet.

“She isn’t dead!” shrieked Rachel. “Grandmother, Grandmother, say she
isn’t dead. She’s only stunned a little, I tell you. She—lost her
balance—”

But Manuel cried out hoarsely: “No lies now! we were quarrelling, and
we forgot her. She sprang out—” he choked, and no more words came.

“_Only one hour!_” said Grandmother. Three words; her terrible eyes
said the rest.

Grandmother fought for the child’s life, silently, desperately. The
doctor came, a kind, quiet man, and they worked together. He said a few
cheering words; but meeting Mrs. Peace’s eyes, he shook his head sadly.

It lasted an hour or more; the spirit nestled wonderingly in the little
broken body, lately all light and strength and answering joy. The sweet
eyes opened once or twice, seeking the face that had been their sun. It
was there, bending close; it smiled, and White Rose smiled back. The
last time, the baby arms moved, fluttered up toward Grandmother, then
dropped; the eyes closed.

Presently the doctor rose and went out, with bowed head; he was a
father of children. The elder woman, weeping silently, went to the
window and opened it wide; and the sunset light, rosy and clear,
streamed in on Grandmother, sitting motionless, with the dead child in
her arms.



CHAPTER IX

HOW SHE FOUND PEACE


NEXT day her hair was quite white, as if it had been snowed on in the
night. But she was herself again, and went quietly about the house,
doing all that had to be done, and waiting on Rachel, who lay moaning
and crying in her darkened room, exhausted after a night of hysterical
passion. Grandmother brought the breakfast tray, and bathed her face
and hands and brushed her hair, in silence; she seemed unconscious of
her sobs and tears.

“I think you might say something, Grandmother!” Rachel whimpered.
“It’s dreadful enough, without your going about looking like a stone
image. It isn’t your baby that—oh, dear! and just as I was getting so
fond of her. She was just getting to the interesting age. Oh, it’s too
awful; isn’t it, Grandmother?”

Grandmother did not heed her, but went on brushing the heavy black hair
mechanically.

“I know you were fond of her,” said Rachel, “and I sha’n’t say a word
about your keeping her away from me so much. But of course you can’t
pretend to feel what I do, Grandmother. You’ve never had a child, you
don’t know what a mother feels. You’ve never had anything to feel,
really, all your life. Oh, dear! oh, dear! and Manuel takes it so hard;
I’m sure I don’t know what is going to become of us. Grandmother, if
you are going to be like a wooden stick, I wish you’d go away and send
Manuel to me.”

Grandmother went without a word. At the door she met the kind old
minister, the same who christened Baby Faith—ah, how long ago? She
led him aside to the hall window, and with one hand on his arm pointed
upward with the other.

“He let it happen. He sent the little life, and then let it be crushed
out like the life of a fly or a worm. Why?”

Her eyes looked through and through him, but the wise old eyes looked
back steadily and kindly.

“Daughter,” he said. “His great laws are not made to be broken. When
we transgress them, it is ourselves we break, against their divine and
unchangeable order.”

Grandmother’s head dropped on her bosom. “I see!” she said.

She stood there quietly for awhile after he had gone in to see Rachel;
then she went to find Manuel.

Manuel was sitting in the kitchen, his head in his hands, staring
moodily before him. He looked up as Grandmother came in, looked at her
with haggard eyes, then dropped his head again.

“Go away!” he said hoarsely. “Go away, you white thing! What have you
to do with murderers?”

“I never saw one,” said Grandmother simply. “Poor Manuel, come out into
the garden. It isn’t good for you to sit here and brood.”

“One place is as good as another,” said Manuel. “Leave me alone in the
hell we have made, she and I.”

Grandmother did not speak for a time; then she said, “Manuel, God’s
will must be done in hell as much as anywhere else.”

“God!” said Manuel; and he laughed, an ugly laugh. “Do you still
believe in God after yesterday?”

“Oh, so much more!” said Grandmother; and she added softly as if she
were saying over a lesson that she had learned by heart, “His great
laws may not be broken. When we transgress them, it is ourselves we
break—Come, Manuel, come out into the sunshine.”

She spoke as to a child, and like a child he obeyed, and followed her
out into the blossoming garden, all life and color and fragrance. As
the glory shone upon him, the young man staggered on the threshold and
uttered a groan; then he glanced at Grandmother. “Your hair is as white
as snow!” he said.

“Is it?” said Grandmother. “It doesn’t matter. We must gather flowers,
all the brightest flowers, Manuel, for Little One. She liked the gay
ones best, and there is nothing else to do—now.”

She moved away slowly, among her flowers; she had grown heavy-footed
since yesterday; and the man followed her with hanging head.

       *       *       *       *       *

The thing that was between them, instead of drawing Rachel and her
husband together, seemed to turn them against each other. There were
bitter words, words that pierced and stung like poisoned arrows; and
every quarrel left Rachel more hysterical, Manuel more gloomy and
silent, brooding over that sweet past that had been flung into the dust.

Grandmother would come out of her dream and try hard to make peace,
and she could always quiet Manuel, but that often exasperated Rachel
the more. When the bitter tongue was turned against her she did not
seem to hear, but lapsed again into the listless half-dreaming state
in which she lived now, moving softly, doing with exquisite care
everything that was to be done, but seeming little conscious of what
was going on around her.

Then came the day when Rachel rushed wild-eyed into her room, as she
sat sewing by the empty cradle.

“Grandmother,” she cried; “something is the matter with Manuel.
He’s—sick; he won’t speak to me. Go and see what is the matter, quick!”

Grandmother went into the kitchen. Manuel was sitting by the table
as he was that other day, his head in his hands. He looked up and
smiled at her, a dull, foolish smile. “Grandmother,” he said thickly,
“I’m glad—see you. I sent the other one away. She’s no good; I’ve
had enough of her. No good! but you, Grandmother—you weren’t always
Grandmother; what’s your other name? I know—Pitia! give me a kiss,
Pitia! I always liked you best, you know.”

He rose and staggered toward her. She recoiled, her arms stretched out,
her face alight with anguish. “Don’t come a step nearer!” she cried.
“Manuel—not a step!”

He stopped and stared at her stupidly. Suddenly, swiftly, her face
changed, softened into pity and tenderness “Poor Manuel!” she said.
“Poor boy! come out into the air; come with me!” Again the quiet hand
rested on his arm, compelling him, again he stumbled out into the good
clear blessed sunshine. Poor Manuel!

Grandmother brought water and bathed his aching head, and made him lie
down under the great russet-apple tree where the shade was thick and
cool, and bade him sleep till the headache was over. Then she came back
to Rachel, who watched half-jealous, half-terrified, from the hall
window.

What need to dwell on the time that followed? Manuel had found the
thing that—for the moment—deadened the pain at his heart and dulled
his ears to Rachel’s reproaches and complaints.

Some latent poison in the blood—who can read these mysteries?—made
the drink a fire that consumed him. He wasted away, and hugged his
destroyer ever closer to him. Grandmother battled for his life, as she
had for that other sweet life which was the light of her own; Rachel
looked on terrified and helpless.

Then came the winter night when he fell down senseless by the garden
gate and lay there all night, while the women watched and waited in the
house. It was Grandmother who found him. She had persuaded Rachel to
lie down, and then thrown a cloak over her wrapper and crept out in the
gray iron-bound dawn to look down the road for one who might be coming
stumbling along, and might need help to gain the house; and she saw the
frozen face glimmering up from the snow-bank where he lay.

There was one cry; a long low cry that shivered through the still
frosty air; but no one heard.

How could she carry him in? We never knew; she never spoke of it;
but no one else saw him till he was laid decently in his bed and the
staring eyes closed. Then she called his wife.

The doctor came again, and good Mrs. Peace, and all was done that might
be; but it was a bitter night, and all was over, as Grandmother knew at
the first sight of that glimmering face. Poor Manuel! A fire of straw,
as Mother Peace said.

It was after this that Grandmother had the long illness; when she lay
for weeks speechless and motionless, with barely strength enough to
move her little finger for “Yes” or “No” when we asked her a question.
I helped Mrs. Peace and Anne with the nursing. Rachel had gone away
to her mother’s people. Sometimes, indeed many times, we thought she
was gone; she lay so still; and we could not catch even the slightest
flutter of breath. I remember those nights so well; one moonlight night
in particular. We knew how she loved the moonlight, and opened the
shutters wide. It was a cold still night, the snow silver white under
the moon. The light poured in full and strong on the bed where she lay
like an ivory statue, and turned the ivory to silver. I thought she
was dying then, and thought what a beautiful way to die, the heavenly
spirit mounting along the moon-path, leaving that perfect image there
at rest.

[Illustration: “SHE LAY LIKE AN IVORY STATUE.”]

That was in February. April found her still lying there, just
breathing, no more. The doctor gave a little hope, now; she might slip
away any time, he said, but still it had lasted so long, there must be
a reserve of strength; it was possible that she might come through it.

One bright warm April day we had opened the windows, and the air came
in sweet and fresh, and the robins were singing loud and merry in the
budding apple-trees.

Suddenly from the road outside came a child’s laugh; sweet and clear it
rang out like a silver bell, and at the sound the ivory figure in the
bed moved. A slight shiver rippled through it from head to foot. The
eyes opened and looked at us, clear and calm.

Dear Anne Peace knelt down beside the bed and took the slender
transparent hands in hers, the tears running down her face.
“Grandmother,” she said, “you are going to get well now—for the
children! Spring has come, Grandmother dear, and the children need you!”

She did get well. Slowly but surely life and strength returned; by
June she was in the garden again with the children around her. Not
the same, not the light-foot girl who frolicked and ran with the other
children, but as you all remember her; serene, clear-eyed, cheerful,
full of wisdom, grace, tenderness. Grandmother! who in this village
does not remember her? To you young people she seemed an old woman,
with her snow-white hair and ivory face, drawn into deep patient lines.
She was not fifty when she died.

During the twenty years she had yet to live, what a benediction her
days were to old and young!

People came to her with their joys and their sorrows. Strangers came,
from outlying places, and brought their troubles to her; they had
heard, no one knows how, that she had power and wisdom beyond that
of other women. I met one of these strangers once. I was going in to
see Grandmother, and I met a lady coming away; a handsome lady, richly
dressed. She had been weeping, but her face was full of light.

She looked at me. “Young woman,” she said, “do you live near here?”

“Yes, madam,” I said; “close by, in that brown cottage.”

“Yours is a high privilege,” she said, “to dwell so near to heaven.”

She looked back to the house and kissed her hand to it; then beckoned,
and a fine carriage came up and she drove away. I never knew who she
was.

I found Grandmother sitting quietly with her knitting, by the empty
cradle.

“What did you say to that lady, Grandmother?” I asked, though I knew
next moment I should not have done it.

“I told her an old lesson, my dear,” said Grandmother; “a lesson I
learned long ago.”

Once it was Saturday Nelly who came; Nelly, now grown a woman—if it
could be called growing.

“Grandmother,” she said, “look at me, and tell me what you see.”

Grandmother looked into the pale drawn face with its strange eyes.

“Nelly dear,” she said, “I see a face that I love, a face full of truth
and goodness.”

“You see a monster!” said the poor girl. She made a passionate gesture
toward a mirror that hung opposite them; indeed, the glass showed a
strange contrast.

“Look!” she said. “Look, Grandmother, and tell me! When one is shut up
in a prison like that, full of pain and horror—hasn’t one a right to
get out if one can?”

Seeing the wonder in Grandmother’s face she hurried on. “Father’s dead;
poor father! I would not let myself think of it while he was living.
He is dead, and there is no one else—except you, Angel, and you would
understand, wouldn’t you? If I put this thing to sleep”—she struck her
heart fiercely—“and slipped out of prison—Grandmother, what harm
would it do? what harm _could_ it do?”

“Nelly! Nelly dear,” said Grandmother, “you couldn’t—could you—go
with your lesson half-learned? Such a strange, wonderful lesson,
Nelly, and you have been learning so well. To go there, and when they
asked you, have to say ‘I didn’t finish, I left it half-done, because
I didn’t like it;’ _could_ you do that, do you think, Nelly dear?
because—it wouldn’t be ready at the other end either, don’t you see,
darling? It wouldn’t fit in. You haven’t thought of that, have you,
Nelly?”

Nelly hid her face in her hands, and there was a long silence.
Presently she spoke, low and trembling.

“Grandmother—suppose there wasn’t any other end! Suppose I couldn’t
see—suppose I didn’t believe there was—anything more—when this
hateful thing”—she plucked at her poor twisted body as if she would
have torn it—“is buried out of sight with the other worms! what then?”

“Oh, Nelly!” said Grandmother softly. “Nelly dear! if it were so; if
this were the only lesson, mustn’t we try all the harder to learn it
well? if this should be our only chance to help and love and tend and
cheer, would we give up one minute of the time? Oh, no! Nelly, no!
Think a little, my dear! think a little!”

We all remember Saturday Nelly, in the little shop that Grandmother
set up for her, selling sweeties to the children, selling thread and
needles and tape, tending her birds and flowers, the cheeriest, gayest
little soul in the village. Her shop was a kind of centre of merry
innocent chatter for young and old; it was full from morning to night.
We never thought much about Nelly’s looks except when we spoke of
Grandmother; then her face grew beautiful.

I think the children loved Grandmother better even than in her
girl-days.

The Saturday feasts were quieter, but still full of light and joy, and
the stories—well, they were like no other stories that ever were told.

  “And oh! the words that fell from her mouth,
  Were words of wisdom and of truth.”

So she lived, blessing and blessed, twenty more heavenly years; and so,
when God called her, she died. We found her one morning sitting by the
little cradle, her head resting on it, and a white rose in her quiet
hand. When we raised her face and looked at it, there was no need to
ask whither the spirit had gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

And Rachel? A year after Manuel died, she married a man from a
neighboring village, a masterful man who broke her over his knee like a
willow switch, and whom she adored for the rest of her life. She bore
him sons and daughters, and grew—comparatively—cheerful and placid.

She came to see Grandmother now and then, and marvelled at her.

“How you do age, Grandmother!” she would say. “And you without a care
in the world. I wonder what would have happened if you had really
lived, as I have!”


                               THE END.





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