Saxe Holm's Stories
Helen Hunt Jackson
Part 4 out of 5
and who never could know any death. I cannot account for the sweet calm
which I felt through all these weeks. I shed no tears; I did not seem even
to sorrow. I accepted all, as Annie herself accepted it, without wonder,
without murmur. During the long hours of this last night I lived over
every hour of her precious, beautiful life, as I had known and shared it,
until the whole seemed to me one fragrant and perfect flower, ready to be
gathered and worn in the bosom of angels. At last I fell asleep.
I was wakened by a low murmur from the baby, who stirred uneasily. Annie's
hand was still locked in mine; as I sought to disengage it cautiously, I
felt, with a sudden horror, that the fingers were lifeless. I sprang to my
feet and bent over her; she did not breathe. Out of that sweet sleep her
body had passed into another which would know no waking, and her soul had
awakened free. Slowly I withdrew the little sleeping baby from her arms
and carried it to the nurse. Then I went to Dr. Fearing's room; he had
slept in the house for a week; I found him dressed, but asleep on a
lounge. He had lain in this way, he told me, for four nights, expecting
that each would be the last. When I touched him on the shoulder he opened
his eyes, without surprise or alarm, and said,--
"Did she wake?"
"No," I replied, and that was all.
The day was just breaking: as the dark gray and red tints cleared and
rolled away, and left a pale yellow sky, the morning star, which I could
see from Annie's bedside, faded and melted in the pure ether. Even while I
was looking at it it vanished, and I thought that, like it, Annie's bright
soul, disappearing from my sight, had blended in Eternal Day.
* * * * *
This was four years ago. My Aunt Ann died, as Annie had said she would,
in a very few months afterward. My uncle came, a broken and trembling man,
to live with us, and Edward Neal gladly gave his little son into my hands,
as Annie had desired. He went abroad immediately, finding it utterly
impossible to bear the sight of the scenes of his lost happiness. He came
back in two years, bringing a bright young wife with him, a sunny-haired
English girl, who, he said, was so marvelously like Annie. She is like the
Annie whom he knew!
Every day their baby boy is brought to our house to see his brother; but I
think two children of one name never before looked so unlike.
My little Henry is the centre of his grandfather's life and of mine. He is
a pensive child, and has never been strong; but his beauty and sweetness
are such that we often tremble when we look in his face and remember
George Ware is still in India. Every ship brings brave sweet letters, and
gifts for the baby. I sent him the little paper which I found in the
corner of Annie's jewel-case, bearing his name. I knew that it was for him
when I saw her feeble hands laying the baby's hair and hers together in
In November Annie's grave is snowy with white chrysanthemums. She loved
them better than any other flowers, and I have made the little hillock
almost into a thicket of them.
In George Ware's last letter he wrote:--
"When the baby is ten years old I shall come home. He will not need me
till then; till then, he is better in your hands alone; after that I can
The One-Legged Dancers.
Very early one morning in March, ten years ago, I was sitting alone on one
of the crumbling ledges of the Coliseum: larks were singing above my head;
wall-flowers were waving at my feet; a procession of chanting monks was
walking slowly around the great cross in the arena below. I was on the
highest tier, and their voices reached me only as an indistinct wail, like
the notes of a distant Aeolian harp; but the joyous sun and sky and songs,
were darkened and dulled by their presence. A strange sadness oppressed
me, and I sank into a deep reverie. I do not know how long I had been
sitting there, when I was suddenly roused by a cry of pain, or terror, and
the noise of falling stones. I sprang to my feet and, looking over, saw a
young and beautiful woman lying fearfully near the edge of one of the most
insecure of the projecting ledges on the tier below me--the very one from
which I had myself nearly fallen, only a few days before, in stretching
over after some asphodels which were beyond my reach.
I ran down as fast as possible, but when I reached the spot she had
fainted, and was utterly unconscious. She was alone; I could see no other
human being in the Coliseum. The chanting monks had gone; even the
beggars had not yet come. I tried in vain to rouse her. She had fallen so
that the hot sun was beating full on her face. I dared not leave her
there, for her first unconscious movement might be such that she would
fall over the edge. But I saw that she must have shade and water, or die.
Every instant she grew whiter and her lips looked more rigid. I shouted
aloud, and only the echoes answered me, as if in mockery. A little lark
suddenly flew out from a tuft of yellow wall-flower close by, and burst
into a swift carol of delight as he soared away. At last, with great
efforts, I succeeded in dragging her, by her feet--for I dared not venture
out so far as the spot on which her head lay--to a safer place, and into
the partial shade of a low bush. As I did this, one of her delicate hands
was scratched and torn on the rough stones, and drops of blood came to the
surface. In the other hand were crushed a few spikes of asphodel, the very
flowers, no doubt, which had lured me so near the same dangerous brink. It
seemed impossible to go away and leave her, but it was cruel to delay. My
feet felt like lead as I ran along those dark galleries and down the stone
flights of giddy stairs. Just in the entrance stood one of those
pertinacious sellers of old coins and bits of marble. I threw down a piece
of silver on his little stand, seized a small tin basin in which he had
his choicest coins, emptied them on the ground, and saying, in my poor
Italian, "Lady--ill--water," I had filled the basin at the old stone
fountain near by, and was half way up the first flight of stairs again,
before he knew what had happened.
When I reached the place where I had left the beautiful stranger she was
not there. Unutterable horror seized me. Had I, after all, left her too
near that crumbling edge? I groaned aloud and turned to run down. A feeble
voice stopped me--a whisper rather than a voice, for there was hardly
strength to speak,--
"Who is there?"
"Oh, thank God," I exclaimed, "you are not dead!" and I sprang to the next
of the cross corridors, from which the sound had come.
She was there, sitting up, leaning against the wall. She looked almost
more terrified than relieved when she saw me. I bathed her face and hands
in the water, and told her how I had found her insensible, and had drawn
her away from the outer edge before I had gone for the water. She did not
speak for some moments, but looked at me earnestly and steadily, with
tears standing in her large blue eyes.
Then she said, "I did not know that any one but myself ever came to the
Coliseum so early. I thought I should die here alone; and Robert was not
willing I should come."
"I owe you my life," she added, bursting into hysterical crying.
Then in a few moments she half laughed, as if at some droll thought, and
said, "But how could you drag me? You are not nearly so big as I am. The
angels must have helped you;" and holding up the poor crushed asphodels,
she went on: "As soon as I came to myself, I saw the asphodels in my hand,
and I said, 'Asphodel for burial;' and tried to throw them away, so that
if Robert came he would not find me dead with them in my hand, for only
yesterday he said to me, 'Please never pick an asphodel--I can't bear to
see you touch one.'"
Slowly I soothed her and she recovered her color and strength. The owner
of the basin, followed by a half-dozen chattering vetturini, had climbed
up to us, but we had peremptorily sent them all away. It was evident that
she was not seriously hurt. The terror, rather than the fall, had caused
her fainting. It was probably a sudden dizziness which had come as she
drew back and turned after picking the flowers. Had she fallen in the act
of picking them she must have been dashed to the ground below. At the end
of an hour she was so nearly well, that she walked slowly down the long
stairs, leaning on my arm, and taking frequent rests by the way. I was
about to beckon to one of the vetturini, when she said, "Oh no! my own
carriage is near here, up by the gate of the Palace of the Caesars. I
rambled on, without thinking at first of coming to the Coliseum: it will
do me good to walk back; every moment of the air makes me feel better."
So we went slowly on, up the solemn hill, arm in arm like friends, sitting
down now and then on old fallen columns to rest, and looking back at the
silent, majestic ruins, which were brightened almost into a look of life
under the vivid sun. My companion spoke little; the reaction after her
fearful shock had set in; but every few moments her beautiful eyes would
fill with tears as she looked in my face and pressed my arm. I left her at
her apartment on the Via Felice; my own was a mile farther on, in the
Piazza del Popolo, and I would not let her drive so far.
"It grieves me not to go with you to your door," she said, as she bade me
good-bye, "but I shall come and see you to-morrow and bring my husband."
"No, you must not," I replied. "To-morrow you will be wise enough--or, if
you are not wise enough, you will be kind enough to me because I ask
it--to lie in bed all day, and I shall come very early in the morning to
see how you are."
She turned suddenly on the carriage-steps, and, leaning both her hands on
my knees, exclaimed, in a voice full of emotion.
"Will you let me kiss you? Not even my mother gave me what you have given.
For you have given me back life, when it was too infinitely precious to
lose. Surely you will not think me presuming?" and her cheek flushed a
"Presuming! my dear child, I loved you the first moment I saw you lying
there on the stones; and I am almost old enough to be your mother, too," I
replied, and I kissed her sweet face warmly.
This was the beginning of my acquaintance and friendship with Dora
At eleven o'clock the next morning I went to see her. I was shown into a
room, whose whole air was so unlike that of a Roman apartment, that I
could scarcely believe I had not been transported to English or American
soil. In spite of its elegance, the room was as home-like and cozy as if
it nestled in the Berkshire hills or stood on Worcestershire meadows. The
windows were heavily curtained, and the furniture covered with gay chintz
of a white ground, with moss-rose buds thickly scattered over it between
broad stripes of rose-pink. The same chintz was fluted all around the
cornice of the room, making the walls look less high and stately; the
doorways, also, were curtained with it. Great wreaths and nodding masses
of pampas grass were above the doors; a white heron and a rose-colored
spoonbill stood together on a large bracket in one corner, and a huge gray
owl was perched on what looked like a simple old apple-tree bough, over an
inlaid writing-table which stood at an odd slant near one of the windows.
Books were everywhere--in low swinging shelves, suspended by large green
cords with heavy tassels; on low bracket shelves, in unexpected places,
with deep green fringes or flutings of the chintz; in piles on Moorish
stools or old Venice chests. Every corner looked as if somebody made it a
special haunt and had just gone out. On a round mosaic table stood an
exqusite black-and-gilt Etruscan patera filled with white anemones; on
another table near by stood a silver one filled with the same flowers,
pink and yellow. Each was circled round the edge with fringing masses of
maiden-hair fern. Every lounge and chair had a low, broad foot-stool
before it, ruffled with the chintz; and in one corner of the room were a
square pink and white and green Moorish rug, with ten or a dozen
chintz-covered pillows, piled up in a sort of chair-shaped bed upon it,
and a fantastic ebony box standing near, the lid thrown back, and
battledoors and shuttlecocks, and many other gay-colored games, tossed in
confusion. The walls were literally full of exquisite pictures; no very
large or rare ones, all good for every-day living; some fine old
etchings, exquisite water-colors, a swarthy Campagna herds-boy with a
peacock feather and a scarlet ribbon in his black hat, and for a
companion-picture, the herds-boy of the mountains, fair, rosy, standing
out on a opaline snow-peak, with a glistening Edelweiss in his hand;
opposite these a large picture of Haag's, a camel in the desert, the Arab
wife and baby in a fluttering mass of basket and fringe and shawl and
scarf, on his back; the Arab father walking a few steps in advance,
playing on musical pipes, his tasseled robe blowing back in the wind; on
one side of this a Venice front, and on another a crag of Norway pines;
here and there, small leaves of photographs from original drawings by the
old masters, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, and Luini; and everywhere, in all
possible and impossible places, flowers and vines. I never saw walls so
decorated. Yellow wall-flowers waved above the picture of the Norway
pines; great scarlet thistles branched out each side of the Venetian
palace; cool maiden-hair ferns seemed to be growing all around the glowing
crimson and yellow picture of the Arabs in the Desert. Afterward I learned
the secret of this beautiful effect; large, flat, wide-mouthed bottles,
filled with water, were hung on the backs of the picture frames, and in
these the vines and flowers were growing; only a worshipper of flowers
would have devised this simple method of at once enshrining them, and
adorning the pictures.
In one of the windows stood a superbly-carved gilt table, oblong, and with
curiously-twisted legs which bent inward and met a small central shelf
half-way between the top and the floor, then spread out again into four
strange claw-like vases, which bore each two golden lilies standing
upright. On this stood the most singular piece of wood-carving I ever saw.
It was of very light wood, almost yellow in tint; it looked like rough
vine trellises with vines clambering over them; its base was surrounded by
a thick bed of purple anemones; the smaller shelf below was also filled
with purple anemones, and each of the golden lilies held all the purple
anemones it could--not a shade of any other color but the purple and
gold--and rising above them the odd vine trellises in the pale yellow
wood. As I stood looking at this in mute wonder and delight, but sorely
perplexed to make out the design of the carving, I heard a step behind me.
I turned and saw, not my new friend, as I had expected, but her husband. I
thought, in that first instant, I had never seen a manlier face and form,
and I think so to-day. Robert Maynard was not tall; he was not handsome;
but he had a lithe figure, square-shouldered, straight, strong, vitalized
to the last fibre with the swift currents of absolutely healthy blood, and
the still swifter currents of a passionate and pure manhood. His eyes were
blue, his hair and full beard of the bright-brown yellow which we call,
rightly or wrongly, Saxon. He came very quickly toward me with both hands
outstretched and began to speak. "My dear madam," he said, but his voice
broke, and with a sudden, uncontrollable impulse, he turned his back full
upon me for a second, and passed his right hand over his eyes. The next
instant he recovered himself and went on.
"I do not believe you will wonder that I can't speak, and I do not believe
you will ever wonder that I do not thank you--I never shall," and he
raised both my hands to his lips.
"Dora is in bed as you bade her to be," he continued. "She is well, but
very weak. She wants to see you immediately, and she has forbidden me to
come back to her room without you. I think, perhaps," he added
hesitatingly, "she is not quite calm enough to talk long. Forgive me for
saying it. I know you love her already."
"Indeed I do," replied I, "as if I had known her all my life. I will not
stay long;" and I followed him through a small dining-room, also gay with
flowers and vines, to a little room which had one side almost wholly of
glass and opened on a _loggia_ full of orange-trees and oleanders,
geraniums and roses. I will not describe Dora Maynard's bed-room. It was
the dainty room of a dainty woman, but spiritualized and individualized
and made wonderful, just as her sitting-room was, by a creative touch and
a magnetic presence such as few women possess. I believe that she could
not be for twenty-four hours in the barrenest and ugliest room possible,
without contriving to diffuse a certain enchantment through all its
She looked far more beautiful this morning than she had looked the day
before. I never forgot the picture of her face as I saw it then, lying on
the white pillow and turned toward the door, with the eager expression
which her waiting for me had given it. Neither of us spoke for some
seconds, and when we did speak we took refuge in commonplaces. Our hearts
were too full--mine with a sudden and hardly explicable overflow of
affection toward this beautiful being whom I had saved from dying; hers
with a like affection for me, heightened a thousand fold by the intense
love of love and of living that filled her whole soul and made her
gratitude to me partake almost of the nature of adoration. I think it was
years before she could see me without recalling the whole scene so vividly
that tears would fill her eyes. Often she would suddenly seize both my
hands in hers, kiss them and say, "Oh! but for these dear, strong, brave
little hands, where should I be!" And whenever we parted for a length of
time she was overshadowed by presentiment. "I know it is superstitious and
silly," she would say, "but I cannot shake off the feeling that I am safer
in the same town with you. I believe if any harm were to threaten me you
would be near."
But the story I am to tell now is not the story of Dora Maynard's life
after I knew her, nor of our friendship and love for each other, rare and
beautiful as they were. It is the story of her girlhood, and of the
strange wood-carving which stood on the gilded table in the bed of purple
One morning in April, as I climbed the long stone stairs which led to her
apartment, I met Anita, the flower-woman who carried flowers to her every
day. Anita looked troubled.
"What is the matter, my Anita?" said I; "is the Signora ill?"
"Ah no, thank the Blessed Virgin!" said Anita; "the dearest, most
beautiful of Signoras is well, but I am obliged to tell her to-day that
there are no more anemones. Biagio went yesterday to the farthest corner
of the Villa Doria, to a dark shady spot beyond the Dove-Cote, which the
strangers know not, hoping to find some; but the heavy rains had beaten
them all down--there is no longer one left. And the Signora had tears in
her eyes when I told her; and she did not care for all the other beautiful
flowers; she said none of them could go on the gold table; never yet has
the Signora put any flowers on the gold table except the purple anemones,"
and real tears stood in old Anita's eyes.
"Why, Anita," said I, "I am sure some other flowers would look very pretty
there. I do not believe the Signora will be unhappy about it."
Anita shook her head and half smiled with a look of pitying compassion.
"But, Signora, you do not know; that dearest and most beautiful of
Signoras has visions from the angels about her flowers. Holy Virgin! if
she would but come and hang flowers around the Bambino in our church! None
of the Holy Sisters can so weave them as she does; she makes Festa forever
in the house for the Signor; and I think, Signora," crossing herself and
looking sharply at me, "perhaps the gold table is the shrine of her
religion: does the Signora know?"
I could not help laughing. "Oh no, Anita," I said; "we do not have shrines
in our religion."
Anita's face clouded. "Iddio mio!" she said, "but the Virgin will keep the
dearest Signora Maynardi. Biagio and I have vowed to keep a candle always
burning for her in Ara Coeli! The dearest, most beautiful of Signoras;"
and Anita walked disconsolately on, down the stairs.
I found Dora kneeling before the "gold table," arranging great masses of
maiden-hair fern around the wood carving and in the shelf below. As I saw
the rapt and ecstatic expression of her face, I understood why Anita had
believed the gold table to be a shrine.
"They do not suit it like the anemones," said she, sadly; "and I can have
no more anemones this year."
"So poor Anita told me just now on the stairs," replied I. "She was almost
crying, she was so sorry she could not get them for you. But I am sure,
dear, the ferns are beautiful on it. I think the pale green looks even
better than the purple with the gold and the pale yellow wood."
"I like the purple best," said Dora; "besides, we always had purple at
home," and her eyes filled with tears. Then, turning suddenly to me, she
said, "Why have you never asked me what this is? I know you must have
wondered: it looks so strange--this poor little clumsy bit of American
pine, on my gilt table shrined with flowers!"
"Yes, I have wondered, I acknowledge, for I could not make out the
design," I replied; "but I thought it might have some story connected with
it, which you would tell me if you wished I should know. I did not think
it clumsy; I think it is fantastic, and has a certain sort of weird
life-likeness about it."
"Do you really think it has any life-like look about it?" and Dora's face
flushed with pleasure. "I think so, but I supposed nobody else could see
anything in it. No one of my acquaintance has ever alluded to it,"
continued she, half laughing, half crying, "but I see them trying to
scrutinize it slyly when they are not observed. As for poor old Anita, I
believe she thinks it is our Fetish. She walks round it on tiptoe with her
hands clasped on her apron."
"But now," she continued, "I will show you the same design in something
else;" and she led the way through her own bedroom to Robert's, which was
beyond. On the threshold she paused, and kissing me, said: "If you can
stay with me to-day, I will tell you the whole story, dear; but I want you
to look at this chintz first." Then she walked to the window, and drawing
out one of the curtains to its full width, held it up for me to see. It
was a green and white chintz, evidently of cheap quality. At first I did
not distinguish any meaning in the pattern; presently I saw that the
figures were all of vines and vine-leaves, linked in a fantastic fashion
together, like those in the wood-carving on the gold table.
"Oh, yes," I said, "I see; it is exactly like the carving, only it looks
different, being on a flat surface."
Dora did not speak; she was gazing absently at the chintz she held in her
hand. Her face looked as if her soul were miles and years away. Presently
I saw a tear roll down her cheek. I touched her hand. She started, and
smiling sweetly, said: "Oh! forgive me. Don't think I am crying for any
sorrow; it is for joy. I am so happy, and my life has been so wonderful.
Now would you really have patience to listen to a long story?" she said,
beseechingly; "a long story all about me--and--Robert? I have been
wanting to tell you ever since I knew you. I think you ought to know all
For my answer, I sank into a large chair, drew her down into my lap, and
said: "Begin, you dearest child. Nothing could give me such pleasure.
Begin at the beginning."
She slipped from my lap to a low footstool at my feet, and resting both
her arms on my knees in a graceful way she had, looked up into my face,
and began by a sentence which made me start.
"I used to work in a factory." My start was so undisguised, so
uncontrollable, that Dora drew back and her cheeks turned red.
"Perhaps I ought to have told you before."
"Oh, my dear, beautiful, marvellous child!" I exclaimed; "you cannot so
misjudge me. I was startled only because you had always seemed to me so
much like one born to all possible luxury. I supposed you had been
nurtured on beauty."
"So I have been," she replied, earnestly, smiling through tears;
"nevertheless, three years ago I was working in a factory in America."
I did not interrupt her again; hour after hour passed by; not until
twilight was deepening into dusk did the story come to end. I shall try to
give it in Dora's own words--their simplicity adds so much to it; but I
cannot give the heightened effect with which they fell upon my ears as I
looked down into her sweet child-woman's face.
"I do not remember much about mamma. It is strange, too, that I do not,
because I was thirteen when she died; but I always loved papa best, and
stayed all the time I could in his study. Mamma was very pretty; the
prettiest woman I ever saw; but I don't know how it was, all her
prettiness did not seem to make papa care about her. He was a
clergyman--an Episcopal clergyman--and his father and his father's father
had been too; so you see for three whole generations it had been all books
and study in the family; but mamma's father was a farmer, and mamma was
stronger than papa; she liked to live in the country and be out of doors,
which he hated. I think I know now just how it all was; but it used to
puzzle me till I grew up. When I was sixteen, my Aunt Abby, papa's sister,
told me that mamma was said to be the most beautiful girl in the whole
State, and that papa fell so in love with her when he was just out of
college, that he came very near dying because his father did not wish them
to be married. Poor papa! it was just so always with him; he had such a
poor feeble body that any trouble or worry made him ill. I can see now
that it was because he and all his family had been such scholars, and
lived in the house, and sat still all their lives; their bodies were not
good for anything: and I am thankful enough that my body is like mamma's;
but I don't know what good it would do me, either, if dear papa hadn't
taught me all his ways of seeing things and feeling things. Mamma never
seemed to care much about anything, except when Dick or Abby were sick,
and she always used to go to sleep in church while papa was saying the
most beautiful things; sometimes it used to make me almost hate her. I
hated everybody that didn't listen to him. But Aunt Abby said once that
very few people could understand him, and that was the reason we never
stayed long in one place. People got tired of hearing him preach. This
made me so angry I did not speak to Aunt Abby for two years, except when I
was obliged to. But I see now that she was right. As I read over papa's
sermons I see that they would seem very strange to common men and women.
He saw much more in every little thing than people generally do. I used to
tell him sometimes he 'saw double,' and he would sigh and say that the
world was blind, and did not see half; he never could take any minute by
itself; there was the past to cripple it and the future to shadow it.
Poor, poor papa! I really think I have learned in a very strange way to
understand his capacity for sadness. I understand it by my own capacity
for joy. I often smile to think how I used to accuse him of seeing double,
for it is the very thing which Robert says to me again and again when a
sight or a sound gives me such intense pleasure that I can hardly bear it.
And I see that while I have nearly the same sensitiveness to all
impressions from things or from people which he had, my body compels the
impressions to be joyous. This is what I owe mamma. If papa could have
been well and strong, he would have sung joy such as no poet has ever sung
since suns began to shine.
"But most that he wrote was sad; and I am afraid most that he taught the
people was sad too, or, at any rate, not hopeful as it ought to be in this
beautiful, blessed world, which 'God so loved' and loves. So perhaps it
was better for people that papa never preached in any one parish more than
three or four years. Probably God took care to send next a man who would
make everybody take courage again. However, it was very hard for mamma,
and very hard for us; although for us there was excitement and fun in
getting into new houses and getting acquainted with new people; but the
worst thing was that we had very little money, and it used it up so to
move from place to place, and buy new things. I knew all about this before
I was ten years old as well as if I had been forty; and by the time I was
twelve, I was a perfect little miser of both clothes and money--I had such
a horror of the terrible days, which sometimes came, when we sorely wanted
"Early in the spring after I was thirteen--my birthday was in December--we
went to live in a little place called Maynard's Mills. It was a suburban
village near the largest manufacturing town in the State. The other two
homes which I could remember had been very small country villages, where
none of the people were rich, and only a few attended the Episcopal
church. In Maynard's Mills there were many rich people, and almost
everybody went to our church. The whole place was owned by Mr. Maynard,
Robert's father. He had gone out there to live near his mills, and the
place was so beautiful that family after family of the rich mill-owners
had moved out there. At first they used to go into town to church; but it
was a long drive, cold in winter and hot in summer, and so Mr. Maynard
built a beautiful chapel near his house and sent for papa to come and
preach in it. Mr. Maynard had been his classmate in college and loved him
very much, just because they were 'so different,' papa said, and I think
it must have been so, for Mr. Maynard is the merriest man I ever saw. He
laughs as soon as he sees you, whether there is anything to laugh at or
not, and he makes you feel just like laughing yourself, simply by asking
you how you do. I never saw papa so happy as he was the day Mr. Maynard's
letter came asking him to go there.
"It was a very kind letter, and the salary, of which Mr. Maynard spoke
almost apologetically, saying that it would be increased in a few years as
the village grew, was more than twice as large as papa had ever received,
and there was a nice parsonage besides.
"We moved in April. I always associate our moving with blue hepaticas, for
I carried a great basketful of them, which I had taken up roots and all,
in the woods, the morning we set out; and what should I find under papa's
study window but a great thicket of wild ferns and cornel bushes
growing--just the place for my hepaticas, and I set them out before I went
into the house. The house was very small, but it was so pretty that papa
and I were perfectly happy in it. Poor mamma did not like the closets and
the kitchen. The house we had left was a huge, old-fashioned house, with
four square rooms on a floor; one of these was the kitchen, and mamma
missed it very much. But she lived only a few days after we moved in. I
never knew of what disease she died. She was ill but a few hours and
suffered great pain. They said she had injured herself in some way in
lifting the furniture. It was all so sudden and so terrible, and we were
surrounded by such confusion and so many strange faces, that I do not
remember anything about it distinctly. I remember the funeral, and the
great masses of white and purple flowers all over the table on which the
coffin stood, and I remember how strangely papa's face looked.
"And then Aunt Abby came to live with us, and we settled down into such a
new, different life, that it seemed to me as if it had been in some other
world that I had known mamma. My sister Abby was two years old, and my
darling brother Nat was ten, when mamma died. It is very hard to talk
about dear Nat, I love him so. He is so precious, and his sorrow is so
sacred, that I am hardly willing to let strangers pity him, ever so
tenderly. When he was a baby he sprang out of mamma's lap, one day, as she
was reaching up to take something from the mantel piece. He fell on the
andiron-head and injured his spine so that he could never walk. He is
twenty years old now; his head and chest and arms are about as large as
those of a boy of sixteen, but all the rest of his poor body is shrunken
and withered; he has never stood upright, and he cannot turn himself in
his chair or bed. But his head and face are beautiful. It is not only I
who think so. Artists have seen him sitting at the window, or being drawn
about in his little wagon, and have begged permission to paint his face,
for the face of a saint or of a hero, in their pictures. It is the face of
both saint and hero; and after all that must be always so, I think; for
how could a man be one without being the other? I know some very brave men
have been very bad men, but I do not call them heroes. Nat is the only
hero I ever knew; if I were a poet I would write a poem about him. It
should be called 'THE CROWNLESS KING.' Oh, how he _does_ reign over
suffering, and loss, and humiliation, and what a sweet kingdom spreads out
around him wherever he is! He does everybody good, and everybody loves
him. Poor papa used to say sometimes, 'My son is a far better preacher
than I; see, I sit at his feet to learn;' and it was true. Even when he
was a little fellow Nat used to keep up papa's courage. Many a time, when
papa looked dark and sad, Nat would call to him, 'Dear papa, will you
carry me up and down a little while by the window? I want the sky.' Then,
while they were walking, Nat would say such sweet things about the beauty
of the sky, and the delight it gave him to see it, that the tears would
come into papa's eyes, and he would say, 'Who would think that we could
ever forget for a moment this sky which is above us?' and he would go away
to his study comforted.
"As I said, when mamma died, Nat was ten and I was thirteen. From that
time I took all the care of him. Aunt Abby, was not strong, and she did
not love children. She was just, and she meant to be always kind to us;
but that sort of kindness is quite different from loving-kindness. Poor
Nat never could bear to have her do anything for him, and so it very soon
came about that I took all the care of him. It was not hard, for he was
never ill; he suffered constant pain but in spite of it he was always
cheerful, always said he felt well, and never had any of the small
ailments and diseases which healthy children are apt to have. 'I
shouldn't know what to do without the ache, Dot,' he said to me one day
when he was only twelve years old. 'I've got so used to it, I should miss
it as much as I should miss you said it helps me to be good. I don't think
I should dare have it go away.' A few years later he wrote some lovely
little verses called 'The Angel of Pain,' which I will show you. Our life
after mamma died was very happy and peaceful. It makes me grieve for her,
even now, to think how little she was missed. We had all loved her. She
was always pleasant and good, and took the best possible care of us and of
everything; but she was not one of those persons whose presence makes
itself necessary to people. It seems hardly right to say such a thing, but
I really think papa seemed more cheerful without her, after the first. I
think that while she lived he was always groping and reaching after
something in her which did not exist. The hourly sight of her reminded him
hourly of his ideal of what a wife might be, and he was forever hoping
that she might come a little nearer to it--enter a little more into his
world of thought and feeling. This is how it has looked to me since I have
been married, and can understand just how terrible it must be to have the
person whom you love best, disappoint you in any way.
"Nat was in all my classes in school. Although he was three years younger
he was much cleverer than I, and had had nothing to do, poor dear, all his
life, but lie in his chair and read. I used to draw him to and from school
in a little wagon; the boys lifted it up and down the steps so carefully
it did not jar him; and papa had a special desk built for him, so high
that part of the wagon could roll under it, and the lid could rest just
wherever Nat needed it for writing or studying. When we went home, there
was always a sort of procession with us; a good many of the children had
to go in the same direction, but many went simply to walk by Nat's wagon
and talk with him. Whenever there was a picnic or a nutting frolic, we
always took him; the boys took turns in drawing him; nobody would hear a
word of his staying at home; he used to sit in his wagon and look on while
the rest played, and sometimes he would be left all alone for a while, but
his face was always the happiest one there. At school the boys used to
tell him everything, and leave things to his decision. Almost every day,
somebody would call out, at recess or intermission, 'Well, I'll leave it
to Nat'--or 'I'll tell Nat.' One day somebody shouted, 'Take it before the
king--let's call him King Nat.' But it almost made Nat cry. He exclaimed,
'Oh, boys, please don't ever say that again;' and they never did. He had a
great deal more influence over them than any teacher. He could make them
do anything. Sometimes the teachers themselves used to come to him
privately and tell him of things they did not like, which the boys were
getting into the way of doing, and ask him to try to stop them. If Nat had
not been a saint, as I said before, all this would have spoiled him; but
he never thought of its being any special power in him. He used to think
it was only because the boys were so kind-hearted that they could not bear
to refuse any request which a poor cripple made.
"When I think how happy those days were and how fast the darkest days of
our lives were drawing near, it makes me shrink from happiness almost as
much as from grief. It seems only grief's forerunner. On the evening of my
sixteenth birthday, we were all having a very merry time in papa's study,
popping corn over the open fire. We had wheeled Nat near the fire, and
tied the corn-popper on a broom-handle, so that he could shake the popper
himself; and I never saw him laugh so heartily at anything. Papa laughed
too, quite loud, which was a thing that did not happen many times a year.
It was the last time we heard the full sound of dear papa's voice. Late
that night he was called out to see a poor man, one of the factory
operatives, who was dying. It was a terrible snow-storm, and papa had been
so heated over the fire and in playing with us that he took a severe cold.
The next morning he could not speak aloud. The doctor said it was an acute
bronchitis and would pass off; but it did not, and in a very few weeks it
was clear that he was dying of consumption. Probably the cold only
developed a disease which had been long there.
"I can't tell you about the last months of papa's life. I think I shall
never be able to speak of them. We saw much worse days afterward, but none
that seemed to me so hard to bear; even when I thought Nat and I would
have to go to the almshouse it was not so hard. The love which most
children divide between father and mother I concentrated on my father. I
loved him with an adoration akin to that which a woman feels for her
husband, and with the utmost of filial love added. Nat loved him almost as
much. The most touching thing I ever saw was to see Nat from his wagon,
or wheeled chair, reaching out to take care of papa in the bed. Nobody
else could give him his medicine so well; nobody could prepare his meals
for him, after he was too weak to use a knife and fork, so well as Nat.
How he could do all this with only one hand--for he could not bend himself
in his chair enough to use the hand farthest from the bed--nobody could
understand; but he did, and the very last mouthful of wine papa swallowed
he took, the morning he died, from poor Nat's brave little hand, which did
not shake nor falter, though the tears were rolling down his cheeks.
"Papa lived nearly a year; but the last nine months he was in bed, and he
never spoke a loud word after that birthday night when we had been so
happy in the study. He died in November, on a dreary stormy day. I never
shall forget it. He had seemed easier that morning, and insisted on our
all going out to breakfast together and leaving him alone, the doors being
open between the study and the dining-room. We had hardly seated ourselves
at the table when his bell rang. Aunt Abby reached him first. It could not
have been a minute, but he did not know her. For the first and only time
in my life I forgot Nat, and was out of the room when I heard him sob.
Dear Nat! not even then would he think of himself. I turned back. 'Oh,
don't stop to take me, Dot,' he said. 'Run!' But I could not; and when I
reached the door, pushing his chair before me, all was over. However, the
doctor said that, even if we had been there at the first, papa could not
have bid us good-by; that the death was from instantaneous suffocation,
and that he probably had no consciousness of it himself. Papa's life had
been insured for five thousand dollars and he had saved, during the three
years we had lived at Maynard's Mills, about one thousand more. This was
all the money we had in the world.
"Mr. Maynard had been very kind throughout papa's illness. He had
persuaded the church to continue the salary; every day he had sent
flowers, and grapes, and wine, and game, and everything he could think of
that papa could eat; and, what was kindest of all, he had come almost
every day to talk with him and cheer him up. But he did not mean to let
his kindness stop here. The day after the funeral he came to see us, to
propose to adopt me. I forgot to say that Aunt Abby was to be married soon
and would take little Abby with her; so they were provided for, and the
only question was about Nat and me.
"Fortunately, dear Nat was in the dining-room and did not see Mr. Maynard
when he came. I have told you what a merry man Mr. Maynard is, and how
kind he is, but he is also a very obstinate and high-tempered man. He had
never loved Nat; I do not know why; I think he was the only human being
who ever failed to love him. He pitied him, of course; but he was so
repelled by his deformity that he could not love him. As soon as Mr.
Maynard said, 'Now, my dear child, you must come to my house and make it
your home always,' I saw that he intended to separate me from Nat.
"I replied, 'I cannot leave Nat, Mr. Maynard. I thank you very much; you
are very good; but it would break my heart to leave him, and I am sure
papa would never forgive me if I should do it.'
"He made a gesture of impatience. He had foreseen this, and come prepared
for it; but he saw that I promised to prove even more impracticable than
he had feared.
"'You have sacrificed your whole life already to that miserable
unfortunate boy,' he said, 'and I always told your father he ought not to
"At this I grew angry, and I replied:--
"'Mr. Maynard, Nat does more for us all, every hour of his life, than we
ever could do for him: dear papa used to say so too.'
"No doubt papa had said this very thing to Mr. Maynard often, for tears
came into his eyes and he went on:--
"'I know, I know--he is a wonderful boy, and we might all learn a lesson
of patience from him; but I can't have the whole of your life sacrificed
to him. I will provide for him amply; he shall have every comfort which
money can command.'
"'But where?' said I.
"'In an institution I know of, under the charge of a friend of mine.'
"'A hospital!' exclaimed I; and the very thought of my poor Nat, who had
been the centre of a loving home-circle, of a merry school playground,
ever since he could remember--the very thought of his finding himself
alone among diseased people, and tended by hired attendants, so overcame
me that I burst into floods of tears.
"Mr. Maynard, who hated the presence of tears and suffering, as mirthful
people always do, rose at once and said kindly, 'Poor child, you are not
strong enough to talk it over yet; but as your aunt must go away so soon,
I thought it better to have it all settled at once.'
"'It is settled, Mr. Maynard,' said I, in a voice that half frightened me.
'I shall never leave Nat--never, so long as I live.'
"'Then you'll do him the greatest unkindness you can--that's all,' replied
Mr. Maynard angrily, and walked out of the room. I locked myself up in my
own room and thought the whole matter over. How I could earn my own living
and Nat's, I did not know. We should have about four hundred dollars a
year. I had learned enough in my childhood of poverty to know that we need
not starve while we had that; but simply not starving is a great way off
from really living; and I felt convinced that it would be impossible for
me to keep up courage or hope unless I could contrive, in some way, to
earn money enough to surround our home with at least a semblance of the
old atmosphere. We must have books; we must have a flower sometimes; we
must have sun and air.
"At last an inspiration came to me. Down stairs, in the saddened empty
study, sat little Miss Penstock, the village dressmaker, sewing on our
gloomy black dresses. She lived all alone in a very small house near Mr.
Maynard's mill. I remembered that I had heard her say how lonely she found
it living by herself since her married sister, who used to live with her,
had gone to the West. Since then, Miss Penstock had sometimes consented to
go for a few days at a time to sew in the houses of her favorite
employers, just to keep from forgetting how to speak,' the poor little
woman said. But she disliked very much to do this. She was a gentlewoman;
and though she accepted with simple dignity the necessity of earning her
bread, it was bitterly disagreeable to her to sit as a hired sewer in
other people's houses. She liked to come to our house better than to any
other. We also were poor. My Aunt Abby was a woman of great simplicity,
and a quiet, stately humility, like Miss Penstock's own; and they enjoyed
sitting side by side whole days, sewing in silence. Miss Penstock had
always spoken with a certain sort of tender reverence to Nat, and I
remembered that he liked to be in the room where she sewed. All these
thoughts passed through my mind in a moment. I sprang to my feet and
exclaimed, 'That is it--that is it!' and I ran hastily down to the study.
Miss Penstock was alone there. She looked up in surprise at my
breathlessness and my red eyes. I knelt down by her side and took the work
out of her hands.
"'Dear Miss Penstock,' said I, 'would you rent part of your house?'
"She looked up reflectively, took off her spectacles with her left hand,
and tapped her knees slowly with them, as she always did when puzzling
over a scanty pattern.
"'I don't know, Dora, but I might; I've thought of it; it's awful lonely
for me as 'tis. But it's such a risk taking in strangers; is it any
friends of yours you're thinking of?'
"'Nat and me,' said I, concisely. Miss Penstock's spectacles dropped from
her fingers, and she uttered an ejaculation I never heard from her lips on
any other occasion. 'Good Heavens!'
"'Yes,' said I, beginning to cry, 'Nat and me! I've got to take care of
Nat, and if you would only let us live with you I think I could manage
beautifully.' Then I told her the whole story of Mr. Maynard's proposal.
While we were talking Aunt Abby came in. The problem was no new one to
her. Papa and she had talked it over many a time in the course of the past
sad year. It seemed that he had had to the last a strong hope that Mr.
Maynard would provide for us both. Poor papa! as he drew near the next
world, all the conventionalities and obligations of this seemed so small
to him, he did not shrink from the thought of dependence upon others as he
would have done in health.
"'But I always told him,' said Aunt Abby, 'that Mr. Maynard wasn't going
to do anything for Nat beyond what money'd do. He'd give him a thousand a
year, or two, if need be, but he'd never set eyes on him if he could help
"'Aunt Abby,' exclaimed I, 'please don't say another word about Mr.
Maynard's helping Nat. I'd die before Nat should touch a cent of his
"'There is no use talking that way,' said Aunt Abby, whose tenderest
mercies were often cruelly worded. 'Mr. Maynard's a good, generous man,
and I'm sure he's been the saving of us all. But that's no reason he
should set up to take you away from Nat now; and I know well enough Nat
can't live without you; but I don't see how it's to be managed. And Aunt
Abby sighed. Then I told her my plans; they grew clearer and clearer to me
as I unfolded them; the two gentle-faced spinster women looked at me with
surprise. Miss Penstock wiped her eyes over and over.
"'If I could only be sure I wasn't going against your best interests to
let you come,' said she.
"'Oh, Miss Penstock,' exclaimed I, 'don't think so--don't dare to say no
for that reason; for I tell you, I shall go away to some other town with
Nat if you don't take us; there is no other house here that would do;
think how much better it would be for Nat to stay among friends.'
"'It's lucky I am their guardian,' said Aunt Abby, with an unconscious
defiance in her tone. 'There can't anybody hinder their doing anything I
am willing to have them do. My brother wanted to have Mr. Maynard, too;
but I told him no; I'd either be whole guardian or none.'
"'I think good Aunt Abby had had a dim foreboding that Mr. Maynard's
kindness might take a shape which it would be hard to submit to. Great as
her gratitude was, her family pride resented dictation, and resented also
the implied slight to poor Nat. As I look back now, I can see that, except
for this reaction of feeling, she never would have consented so easily to
my undertaking all I undertook, in going to housekeeping alone with that
helpless child, on four hundred dollars a year. Before night it was all
settled, and Miss Penstock went home two hours before her time, 'so
stirred up, somehow,' as she said, 'to think of those blessed children's
coming to live in my house, I couldn't see to thread a needle.' After tea
Mr. Maynard came again: Aunt Abby saw him alone. When she came up-stairs
she had been crying, but her lips were closed more rigidly than I ever saw
them. Aunt Abby could be as determined as Mr. Maynard. All she said to me
of the interview was, 'I don't know now as he'll really give in that he
can't have things as he wants to. For all his laughing and for all his
goodness, I don't believe he is any too comfortable to live with. I
shouldn't wonder if he never spoke to one of us again.'
"But Mr. Maynard was too well-bred a man for any such pettiness as that.
His resentment showed itself merely in a greater courtesy than ever,
combined with a careful absence of all inquiries as to our plans. It hurt
me very much, for I knew how it would have hurt dear papa. But I knew,
too, that I was right and Mr. Maynard was wrong, and that comforted me.
"Four weeks from the day papa was buried, the pretty parsonage was locked
up, cold, dark, empty. Aunt Abby had gone with little Abby to her new
home, and Nat and I were settled at Miss Penstock's. The night before we
moved, Mr. Maynard left a note at the door for me. It contained five
hundred dollars and these words:--
"'Miss Dora will not refuse to accept this from one who hoped to be her
"But I could not take it. I sent it back to him with a note like this:--
"'DEAR MR. MAYNARD:--I shall never forget that you were willing to be my
father, and I shall always be grateful to you; but I cannot take money
from one who is displeased with me for doing what I think right. I promise
you, however, for papa's sake and for Nat's, that if I ever need help I
will ask it of you, and not of any one else.'
* * * * *
"The next time I saw Mr. Maynard he put both his hands on my shoulders and
said: 'You are a brave girl; I wish I could forgive you; but remember your
promise.' And that was the last word Mr. Maynard spoke to me for three
"Our new home was so much pleasanter than we supposed it could be, that at
first, in spite of our grief, both Nat and I were almost gay. It was like
a sort of picnic, or playing at housekeeping. The rooms were sunny and
cozy. Rich people in splendid houses do not dream how pleasant poor
people's little rooms can be, if the sun shines in and there are a few
pretty things. We kept all the books which could ever be of use to Nat,
and a picture of the Sistine Madonna which Mr. Maynard had given us on the
last Christmas Day, and papa's and mamma's portraits. The books, and
these, made our little sitting-room look like home. We had only two rooms
on the first floor; one of these was a tiny one, but it held our little
cooking-stove and a cupboard, with our few dishes; the other we called
'sitting-room;' it had to be dear Nat's bedroom also, because he could not
be carried up and down stairs. But I made a chintz curtain, which shut off
his bed from sight, and really made the room look prettier, for I put it
across a corner and had a shelf put up above it, on which Nat's stuffed
owl sat. My room was over Nat's, and a cord went up from his bed to a
bell over mine, so that he could call me at any moment if he wanted
anything in the night. Then we had one more little chamber, in which we
kept the boxes of papa's sermons, and some trunks of old clothes, and
things which nobody wanted to buy at the auction, and papa's big chair and
writing-table. We would not sell those. I thought perhaps some day we
should have a house of our own--I could not imagine how; but if we did we
should be glad of that chair and table, and so Aunt Abby let us keep them,
though they were of handsome wood, beautifully carved, and would have
brought a good deal of money. For these four rooms we paid Miss Penstock
three dollars a month; the rent would have been a dollar a week, but she
said it was really worth a dollar a month to her to have people who would
not trouble her nor hurt the house; and as Aunt Abby thought so too, I
"My plan was to have Nat keep on at school, and to take in sewing myself,
or to work for Miss Penstock. For the first year all went so smoothly that
I was content. I used to draw Nat to and from school twice a day, and that
gave me air and exercise. Everybody was very kind in giving me sewing, and
I earned four and five dollars a week. We did not have to buy any clothes,
and so we laid up a little money. But the next year people did not give me
so much sewing; they had given it to me the first year because they were
sorry for us, but now they had forgotten. Very often I would sit idle a
whole week, with no work. Then I used to read and study, but I could not
enjoy anything, because I was so worried. I felt that trouble was coming.
Early in the fall dear Nat was taken ill--the first illness of his life.
It was a slow fever. He was ill for three months. I often wonder how I
lived through those months. When he recovered he seemed better than ever.
The doctor said he had passed a sort of crisis and would always be
stronger for it. The doctor was very kind. Several nights he sat up with
Nat and made me go to bed, and he would not let me pay him a cent, though
he came every day for weeks. When I urged him to let us pay the bill he
grew half angry, and said, 'Do you think I am going to take money from
your father's daughter?' and then I felt more willing to take it for
papa's sake. But the medicines had cost a great deal, and I had not earned
anything; and so, at the end of the second year, we had been obliged to
take quite a sum out of our little capital. I did not tell Nat, and I did
not go to Mr. Maynard. I went on from day to day, in a sort of stupor,
wondering what would happen next. I was seventeen years old, but I knew of
nothing I could do except to sew; I did not know enough to teach. All this
time I never once thought of the mills. I used to watch the men and women
going in and out, and envy them, thinking how sure they were of their
wages; and yet it never crossed my mind that I could do the same thing. I
am afraid it was unconscious pride which prevented my thinking of it.
"But the day came. It was in the early spring. I had been to the
grave-yard to set out some fresh hepaticas on papa's grave. His grave and
mamma's were in an inclosure surrounded by a high, thick hedge of pines
and cedars close to the public street As I knelt down, hidden behind the
trees, I heard steps and voices. They paused opposite me. The persons were
evidently looking over the fence. Then I distinguished the voice of our
"'Poor Kent!' he said, 'how it would distress him to see his children now!
That Nat barely pulled through his fever; but he seems to have taken a new
turn since then and is stronger than ever. But I am afraid they are very
"To my astonishment, the voice that replied was Mr. Maynard's.
"'Of course they are,' said he impatiently; 'but nobody will ever have a
chance to help them till the last cent's gone. That Dora would work her
fingers off in the mills rather than ask or receive help.'
"'But good heavens! Maynard, you'd never stand by and see Tom Kent's
daughter in the mills?' exclaimed the doctor.
"I could not hear the reply, for they were walking away. But the words 'in
the mills' rang in my ears. A new world seemed opening before me. I had no
particle of false pride; all I wanted was to earn money honestly. I could
not understand why I had never thought of this way. I knew that many of
the factory operatives, who were industrious and economical, supported
large families of children on their wages. 'It would be strange enough if
I could not support Nat and myself,' thought I, and I almost ran home, I
was so glad. I said nothing to Nat; I knew instinctively that it would
"The next day after I left him at school I went to the largest mill and
saw the overseer. He was a coarse, disagreeable man; but he had known my
father and he treated me respectfully. He said they could not give me very
good wages at first; but if I learned readily, and was skillful in tending
the looms, I might in time make a very good living. The sums that he named
seemed large, tried by my humble standard. Even at the beginning I should
earn more than I had been able to for many months at my needle. After tea
I told Nat. He lay very still for some moments; the tears rolled down his
cheeks; then he reached up both hands and drew my face down to his, and
said, 'Dear sister, it would be selfish to make it any harder for you than
it must be at best. But oh, Dot, Dot! do you think you can dream what it
is for me to have to lie here and be such a burden on you?'
"'Oh, Nat!' I said, 'if you don't want to break my heart, don't speak so.
I don't have to earn any more for two than I should have to alone; it does
not cost anything for you; and if it did, you darling, don't you know that
I could not live without you? you are all I have got in the world.' Nat
did not reply; but all that evening his face looked as I never saw it
before. Nat was fifteen; instinct was beginning to torture him with a
man's sense of his helplessness, and it was almost more than even his
childlike faith and trust could bear.
"The next day I told Miss Penstock. She had been as kind to us as a mother
through this whole year and a half, and I really think we had taken the
place of children in her lonely old heart. But she never could forget that
we were her minister's children; she always called me Miss Dora, and does
to this day. She did not interrupt me while I told her my plan, but the
color mounted higher and higher in her face. As soon as I stopped
speaking, she exclaimed:--
"'Dora Kent, are you mad--a girl with a face like yours to go into the
mills? you don't know what you're about.'
"'Yes I do, dear Pennie,' I said (Nat had called her Pennie ever since his
sickness, when she had taken tender care of him night and day). 'I know
there are many rude, bad men there, but I do not believe they will trouble
me. At any rate I can but try. I must earn more money, Pennie; you know
that as well as I do.'
"She did indeed know it; but it was very hard for her to give approbation
to this scheme. It was not until after a long argument that I induced her
to promise not to write to Aunt Abby till I had tried the experiment for
"The next day I went to the mill. Everything proved much better than I had
feared. Some of the women in the room in which I was placed had belonged
to papa's Sunday-school, and they were all very kind to me, and told the
others who I was; so from the outset I felt myself among friends. In two
weeks I had grown used to the work; the noise of the looms did not
frighten or confuse me, and it did not tire me to stand so many hours. I
found that I should soon be able to do most of my work mechanically, and
think about what I pleased in the mean time. So I hoped to be able to
study at home and recite my lessons to myself in the mill. The only thing
that troubled me was that I could not take Nat to and from school, and he
had to be left alone sometimes. But I found a very pleasant and faithful
Irish boy, who was glad to earn a little money by drawing him back and
forth, often staying with him after school till I came home at six
o'clock. This boy was the son of the Irish gardener on the overseer's
place. The overseer was an Englishman; his name was Wilkins. He is the
only human being I ever disliked so that it was hard to speak to him. His
brother, too, the agent who had charge of all Mr. Maynard's business, was
almost as disagreeable as he. They both looked like bloated frogs; their
wide, shapeless mouths, flat noses, and prominent eyes, made me shudder
when I looked at them.
"Little Patrick soon grew fond of Nat, as everybody did who came into
close contact with him; and he used often to stay at our house till late
at night, hearing Nat's stories, and watching him draw pictures on the
blackboard. One of the things I had kept was a great blackboard which papa
had made for him. It was mounted on a stout standard, so that it could be
swung close in front of his chair or wagon, and he would lie there and
draw for hours together. Some of the pictures he drew were so beautiful I
could not bear to have them rubbed out. It seemed almost like killing
things that were alive. Whenever I dared to spend a penny for anything not
absolutely needful, I always bought a sheet of drawing-paper or a crayon;
for Nat would rather have them than anything else in the world--even than
a book--unless the book had pictures.
"One night, when I went home, I found him sitting up very straight in his
wagon, with his cheeks crimson with excitement. Patrick was with him, and
the table and the whole floor were covered with queer, long, jointed
paste-board sheets, with pieces of gay-colored calicoes, pasted on them.
Patrick looked as excited as Nat, and as soon as I opened the door he
exclaimed, 'Och, Miss Dora, see how he's plazed with um.' I was almost
frightened at Nat's face. 'Why Nat, dear,' said I, 'what are they? I don't
think they are very pretty;' and I picked up one of the queer things and
looked at it. 'The colors are bright and pretty, but I am sure almost all
the patterns are hideous.'
"'Of course they are,' shouted Nat hysterically. 'That's just it. That's
what pleases me so,' and he burst out crying. I was more frightened still.
Trampling the calicoes under my feet, I ran and knelt by his chair, and
put my arms around him. 'Oh, Nat, Nat, what is the matter?' cried I.
'Patrick, what have you done to him?' Poor Patrick could not speak; he was
utterly bewildered; he began hastily picking up the prints and shuffling
them out of sight.
"'Don't you touch one!' screamed Nat, lifting up his head again, with
tears rolling down his cheeks. 'Dot, Dot,' he went on, speaking louder and
louder, 'don't you see? those are patterns; Patrick says Mr. Wilkins buys
them. I can earn money too; I can draw a million times prettier ones than
"Like lightning the thing flashed through my brain. Of course he could. He
drew better ones every day of his life, by dozens, on the old blackboard,
with crumbling bits of chalk. Again and again I had racked my brains to
devise some method by which he might be taught, as artists are taught, and
learn to put his beautiful conceptions into true shapes for the world to
see. But I knew that materials and instruction were both alike out of our
reach, and I had hoped earnestly that such longing had never entered his
heart. I sat down and covered my face with my hands.
"'You see, sister,' said Nat in a calmer tone, sobered himself by my
excitement--'you see, don't you?'
"'Yes, dear, I do see,' said I; 'you will earn much more money than I ever
can, and take care of me, after all.'
"To our inexperience, it seemed as if a mine had opened at our feet. Poor
Patrick stood still, unhappy and bewildered, twisting one of the
pattern-books in his hand.
"'An' is it these same that Misther Nat'll be afther tryin' to make?' said
"'Oh no, Patrick,' said Nat, laughing, 'only the pictures from which these
are to be made.'
"Then we questioned Patrick more closely. All he knew was that Mr.
Wilkins' sister made many of the drawings; Patrick had seen them lying in
piles on Mr. Wilkins' desk; some of them colored, some of them merely in
ink. The pieces of paper were about the size of these patterns, some six
or eight inches square.
"'Will I ask Miss Wilkins to come and show yees?' said Patrick.
"'No, no,' said we both, hastily; 'you must not tell anybody. Of course
she would not want other people to be drawing them too.'
"'Especially if she can't make anything better than these,' said Nat,
pityingly. Already his tone had so changed that I hardly recognized it. In
that moment the artist-soul of my darling brother had felt its first
breath of the sweetness of creative power.
"Patrick promised not to speak of it to a human being; as he was going out
of the door he turned back, with a radiant face, and said: 'An 'twas
meself that only thought maybe the calikers'd amuse him for a minnit with
their quare colors,' and he almost somerseted off the door-steps, uttering
an Irish howl of delight.
"'You've made our fortunes! there'll always be calicoes wanted, and I can
draw fifty patterns a day, and I'll give you half of the first pay I get
for them,' called the excited Nat; but Patrick was off.
"We sat up till midnight. I was scarcely less overwrought than Nat. He
drew design after design and rejected them as not quite perfect.
"'You know,' he said, 'I must send something so very good to begin with,
that they can't help seeing at first sight how good it is.'
"'But not so good that you can't ever make another equal to it,' suggested
I out of my practical but inartistic brain.
"'No danger of that, Dot,' said Nat, confidently. 'Dot, there isn't
anything in this world I can't make a picture of, if I can have paper
enough, and pencils and paint.'
"At last he finished three designs which he was willing to send. They
were all for spring or summer dresses. One was a curious block pattern,
the blocks of irregular shapes, but all fitting into each other, and all
to be of the gayest colors. Here and there came a white block with one
tiny scarlet dot upon it; 'That's for a black-haired girl, Dot,' said Nat;
'you couldn't wear it.'
"The second was a group of ferns tied by a little wreath of pansies;
nothing could be more beautiful. The third was a fantastic mixture of
pine-tassels and acorns. I thought it quite ugly, but Nat insisted on it
that it would be pretty for a summer muslin; and so it was the next year,
when it was worn by everybody, the little plumy pine-tassels of a bright
green (which didn't wash at all), and the acorns all tumbling about on
your lap, all sides up at once.
"It was one o'clock before we went to bed, and we might as well have sat
up all night, for we did not sleep. The next morning I got up before light
and walked into town, to a shop where they sold paints. I had just time to
buy a box of water-colors and get back to the mill before the bell stopped
ringing. All the forenoon the little white parcel lay on the floor at my
feet. As often as I looked at it, I seemed to see Nat's pictures dancing
on the surface. I had given five dollars for the box; I trembled to think
what a sum that was for us to spend on an uncertainty; but I had small
doubt. At noon I ran home; I ate little dinner--Nat would not touch a
mouthful. 'You must see the pansies and ferns done before you go,' he
"And before my hour was up they were so nearly done that I danced around
Nat's chair with delight.
"'I know Mr. Wilkins never saw anything so pretty in his life,' said Nat,
"The thought of Mr. Wilkins was a terrible damper to me. Nat had not seen
him: I had.
"'Nat,' said I, slowly, 'Mr. Wilkins won't know that it is pretty. He is
not a man; he is a frog, and he looks as if he lied. I believe he will
"Nat looked shocked. 'Why Dora, I never in my life heard you speak so. You
shall not take them to him. I will have Patrick take me there.'
"'No, no, dear,' I exclaimed, 'I would not have you see Mr. Wilkins for
the world. He is horrible. But I am not afraid of him.'
"I meant that I would not for the world have him see Nat. He was coarse
and brutal enough to be insulting to a helpless cripple, and I knew it.
But Nat did not dream of my reason for insisting so strongly on going
myself, and he finally yielded.
"I took the pictures to the overseer's office at noon. I knew that 'Agent
Wilkins,' as he was called to distinguish him from his brother, was always
there at that time. He looked up at me, as I drew near the desk, with an
expression which almost paralyzed me with disgust. But for Nat's sake I
kept on. I watched him closely as he looked at the pictures. I thought I
detected a start of surprise, but I could not be sure. Then he laid them
down, saying carelessly, 'I am no judge of these things; I will consult
some one who is, and let you know to-morrow noon if we can pay your
brother anything for the designs.'
"'Of course you know that the market is flooded with this sort of thing,
Miss Kent,' he added, as I was walking away. I made no reply; I was
already revolving in my mind a plan for taking them to another mill in
town, whose overseer was a brother of one of papa's wardens. The next day
at noon I went to the office; my heart beat fast, but I tried to believe
that I did not hope. Both the brothers were there. The overseer spoke
first, but I felt that the agent watched me sharply.
"'So your lame brother drew these designs, did he, Miss Dora?'
"'My brother Nat drew them, sir; I have but one brother, said I, trying
hard to speak civilly.
"'Well' said he, 'they are really very well done--quite remarkable,
considering that they are the work of a child who has had no instruction;
they would have to be rearranged and altered before we could use them, but
we would like to encourage him and to help you too,' he continued,
patronizingly, 'and so we shall buy them just as they are.'
"'My brother Nat is not a child,' replied I, 'and we do not wished to be
helped. If the designs are not worth money, will you be so good as to give
them back to me?' and I stepped nearer the desk and stretched out my hand
toward the pictures which were lying there. But Agent Wilkins snatched
them up quickly, and casting an angry glance at his brother, exclaimed:--
"'Oh, you quite mistake my brother, Miss Kent; the designs are worth money
and we are glad to buy them; but they are not worth so much as they would
be if done by an experienced hand. We will give you ten dollars for the
three,' and he held out the money to me. Involuntarily I exclaimed, 'I had
not dreamed that they would be worth so much.' Nat could earn then in four
hours' work as much as I could in a week; in that one moment the whole of
life seemed thrown open for us. All my distrust vanished. And when the
agent added, kindly, 'Be sure and bring us all the designs which your
brother makes. I think we shall want to buy as many as he will draw; he
certainly has rare talent,'--I could have fallen on the floor at his feet
to thank him, so grateful did I feel for this new source of income for us,
and still more for the inexpressible pleasure for my poor Nat.
"From that day Nat was a changed boy. He would not go to school in the
afternoons, but spent the hours from two till five in drawing. I had a
cord arranged from our room to Miss Penstock's, so that he could call her
if at any moment he needed help, and she was only too glad to have him in
the house. When I reached home at six, I always found him lying back in
his chair with his work spread out before him, and such a look of content
and joy on his face, that more than once it made me cry instead of
speaking when I bent over to kiss him. 'Oh, Dot--oh, Dot!' he used to say
sometimes, 'it isn't all for the sake of the money, splendid as that is;
but I do feel as if I should yet do something much better than making
designs for calicoes. I feel it growing in me. Oh, if I could only be
taught; if there were only some one here who could tell me about the
things I don't understand!'
"'But you shall be taught, dear,' I replied; 'we will lay up all the
money you earn. I can earn enough for us to live on, and then, with your
money, in a few years we can certainly contrive some way for you to
"It seemed not too visionary a hope, for Nat's designs grew prettier and
prettier, and the agent bought all I carried him. One week I remember he
paid me thirty dollars; and as he handed it to me, seeing how pleased I
looked, he said,--
"'Your brother is getting quite rich, is he not, Miss Kent?' Something
sinister in his smile struck me at that moment as it had not done for a
long time, and I resolved to go more seldom to the office.
"We did not lay up so much as we hoped to; we neither of us had a trace of
the instinct of economy or saving. I could not help buying a geranium or
fuchsia to set in the windows; Nat could not help asking me to buy a book
or a picture sometimes, and his paints and pencils and brushes and paper
cost a good deal in the course of six months. Still we were very happy and
very comfortable, and the days flew by. Our little room was so cozy and
pretty, that Miss Penstock's customers used often to come in to see it;
and if they happened to come when Nat was there, they almost always sent
him something afterward; so, at the end of two years you never would have
known the bare little room. We had flowers in both windows, and as each
window had sun, the flowers prospered; and we had a great many pretty
pictures on the walls, and Nat's sketches pinned up in all sorts of odd
places. A big beam ran across the ceiling in the middle, and that was
hung full of charcoal sketches, with here and there a sheet just painted
in bars of bright color--no meaning to them, except to 'light up,' Nat
said. I did not understand him then, but I could see how differently all
the rest looked after the scarlet and yellow were put by their side. Some
of our pictures had lovely frames to them, which Nat had carved out of old
cigar-boxes that Patrick brought him. Sometimes he used to do nothing but
carve for a week, and he would say, 'Dot, I do not believe drawing is the
thing I want to do, after all. I want more; I hate to have everything
flat.' Then he would get discouraged and think all he had done was good
for nothing. 'I never can do anything except to draw till I go somewhere
to be taught,' he would say, and turn back to the old calico patterns with
"One day a customer of Miss Penstock's brought Nat a book about grapes,
which had some pictures of the different methods of grape-culture in
different countries. One of these pictures pleased him very much. It
showed the grape-vines looped on low trees, in swinging festoons. He had
the book propped up open at that picture day after day, and kept drawing
it over and over on the blackboard and on paper till I was tired of the
sight of it. It did not seem to me remarkably pretty. But Nat said one
day, when I told him so,--
"'It isn't the picture itself, but what I want to make from it. Don't you
see that the trees look a little like dancers whirling round, holding each
other by the hand--one-legged dancers?'
"I could not see it. 'Well,' said Nat, 'look at this, and see if you can
see it any better;' and he drew out of his portfolio a sheet with a rough
charcoal sketch of six or seven low, gnarled, bare trees, with their
boughs inter-locked in such a fantastic manner that the trees seemed
absolutely reeling about in a crazy dance. I laughed as soon as I saw it.
'There!' said Nat triumphantly; 'now, if I can only get the vines to go
just as I want them to, in and out, you see that will dress up the
dancers.' He worked long over this design. The fancy seemed to have taken
possession of his brain. He gave names to the trees, but he called them
all men: 'It's a jolly crew of old kings,' he said; 'that's Sesostris at
the head, and there's Herod; that old fellow with the gouty stomach under
his left arm.' Nat was now so full of freaks and fun, that our little room
rang with laughter night after night. Patrick used to sit on the floor
sometimes, with his broad Irish mouth stiffened into a perpetual grin at
the sight of the mirth, which, though he could not comprehend it, he found
"'But what will you do with it, Nat?' said I. 'It will never do for a
"'I don't know,' said he reflectively; 'I might make it smaller and hide
the faces, and not make the limbs of the trees look so much like legs, and
call it the "vine pattern," and I guess old Wilkins would think it was
graceful, and I dare say Miss Wilkins would wear it, if nobody else did.'
"'Oh! Nat, Nat, how can you,' exclaimed I, 'when they have been so good to
pay us so much money?'
"'I know it,' said Nat, 'it's too bad; I'm ashamed now. But doesn't this
look like the two Wilkins brothers? You said they looked like frogs?' he
ran on, holding up a most ludicrous picture of two tall, lank frogs
standing behind a counter, and stretching out four front legs like greedy
hands across the counter, with a motto coming out of the right-hand frog's
mouth: 'More designs, if you please, Mr. Kent--something light and
graceful for summer wear.'
"These were the words of a note which Mr. Wilkins had sent to Nat a few
weeks before. I laughed till the tears ran down my cheeks, for really the
frogs did look like the brothers Wilkins. The picture haunted my mind for
weeks afterward, and seemed somehow to revive my old distrust of them.
"A few days after this Nat had finished a set of designs 'for summer
wear,' as the order said, and among them he had put in the 'One-Legged
"'It'll do no harm to try it,' said he. 'I think it would be lovely
printed in bright-green on a white ground, and nobody but you and me would
ever see the kings' legs in it.'
"It really was pretty; still I could not help seeing legs and heads and
King Herod's stomach in it; and, moreover, it was entirely too large a
figure for that year's fashions in calico or muslin. However, I said
nothing and carried it with the rest. When I went the next day, Mr.
Wilkins said, as he handed me the money,--
"'Oh, by the way, Miss Kent, one of the drawings has been mislaid. I
suppose it is of no consequence; we could not use it; it was quite too
large a figure, and seemed less graceful than your brother's work usually
is; it was a picture of grape-vines.'
"'Oh,' said I, 'I told Nat I didn't believe that would be good for
anything. No, it is not of the least consequence.'
"When I repeated this to Nat, he did not seem surprised at their refusal
of the design; they had already refused several others in the course of
the year. But he seemed singularly disturbed at the loss of the drawing.
At last he urged me to go and ask if it had not been found.
"'I may do something with it yet, Dot,' he said. 'I know it is a good
design for something, if not for calico, and I don't believe they have
lost it. It is very queer.'
"But Mr. Wilkins assured me, with great civility and many expressions of
regret, that the design was lost: that they had made careful search for it
"The thing would have passed out of my mind in a short time but for Nat's
pertinacious reference to it. Every few days he would say, 'It is very
queer, Dot, about the One-Legged Dancers. How could such a thing be lost?
They never lost a drawing before. I believe Miss Wilkins has got it, and
is going to paint a big picture from it herself!'
"'Why, Nat!' I exclaimed, 'aren't you ashamed? that would be stealing.'
"'I don't care, Dot,' he said again and again, 'I never shall believe that
paper was lost.'
"I grew almost out of patience with him; I never knew him to be unjust to
any one, and it grieved me that he should be so to people who had been our
"About four months later, one warm day in April, I walked over to the
town after my day's work was done, to buy a gown for myself, and a new box
of paints for Nat. I did not go to town more than two or three times a
year, and the shop-windows delighted me as much as if I had been only
eleven years old. As I walked slowly up and down, looking at everything, I
suddenly started back at the sight of a glossy green and white chintz,
which was displayed conspicuously in the central window of one of the
largest shops. There they were, just as Nat had drawn them on the missing
paper, 'The One-Legged Dancers!' Nat was right. It was a pretty pattern, a
very pretty pattern for a chintz; and there was--I laughed out in spite of
myself, as I stood in the crowd on the sidewalk--yes, there was the ugly
great knot in one of the trees which had made King Herod's stomach. But
what did it mean? No chintzes were made in any of Mr. Maynard's mills,
nor, so far as I knew, in any mill in that neighborhood. I was hot with
indignation. Plainly Nat's instinct had been a true one. The Wilkinses had
stolen the design and had sold it to some other manufacturers, not
dreaming that the theft could ever be discovered by two such helpless
children as Nat and I.
"I went into the shop and asked the price of the chintz in the window.
"'Oh, the grape-vine pattern? that is a new pattern, just out this spring;
it is one of the most popular patterns we ever had. A lovely thing, miss,'
said the clerk, as he lifted down another piece of it.
"'I will take one yard,' said I with a choking voice. I was afraid I
should cry in the shop. 'Do you know where this chintz is made?' I added.
"The clerk glanced at the price-ticket and read me the name. It was made
by a firm I had never heard of, in another State. No wonder the Wilkinses
thought themselves safe.
"When I showed Nat the chintz he seemed much less excited than I expected.
He was not so very much surprised; and, to my great astonishment, he was
not at first sure that it would be best to let the Wilkinses know that we
had discovered their cheating. But I was firm; I would have no more to do
with them. My impulse was to go to Mr. Maynard. Although during these
three years he had never come to see us, I felt sure that, in the bottom
of his heart, there still was a strong affection for us; and, above all,
he was a just man. He would never keep in his employ for one day any
person capable of such wrong as the Wilkinses had done us.
"'But,' persisted Nat, 'you do not know that either of the Mr. Wilkinses
had anything to do with it. They may both have honestly supposed it was
lost. It's much more likely that their sister stole it.'
"I had not thought of this before. Poor Miss Wilkins! Nat's artistic soul
had been so outraged by some of her flagrant calicoes that he believed her
capable of any crime.
"At last I consented to go first to the Wilkinses themselves, and I
promised to speak very calmly and gently in the beginning, and betray no
suspicion of them. I carried the chintz. When I entered the office, the
overseer was talking in one corner with a gentleman whose back was turned
to me. The agent sat by the counter.
"'Mr. Wilkins,' said I, 'do you remember the grape-vine pattern my brother
drew last winter--the one which you refused?'
"The instant I spoke, I saw that he did remember. I saw that he was
guilty, and I saw it all with such certainty that it enabled me to be very
"'Let me see,' said he, trying to pretend to be racking his memory; 'the
grape-vine pattern? It seems to me that I do recall something about a
design with that name. Did you say we refused it?'
"'Yes, you refused it, but you did not return the drawing. You said it had
been lost,' I replied.
"'Ah, yes, yes--now I recollect,' he said, recovering himself somewhat;
'we made great search for the drawing; I remember all about it now;' and
he paused as if waiting civilly to know what more there could possibly be
to be said on that point. But I watched him closely and saw that he was
agitated. I looked him steadily in the eye and did not speak, while I
slowly opened my little bundle and unrolled the piece of chintz.
"'Can you possibly explain this mystery, then, sir, that here is my
brother's design printed on this chintz?' said I, in a clear, distinct
tone, holding out the yard of chintz at its full length. As I said the
words 'my brother's design,' the gentleman who had been talking with the
overseer turned quickly round, and I saw that it was Mr. Maynard's
youngest son Robert, who a year before had come home from Germany, and had
recently been taken into the firm as partner. He stepped a little nearer
me, and was evidently listening to my words.
"'Come into this room, Mr. Maynard, if you please, and we will finish
discussing the matter we were speaking of,' said Overseer Wilkins, turning
pale, and speaking very hurriedly, and trying to draw Mr. Maynard into the
"'And--if you will call some other time, Miss Kent,' said Agent Wilkins,
turning away from me and walking toward Mr. Maynard, in his anxiety to
prevent my being seen or heard, 'I will try to attend to this matter; but
just now I have not another moment to spare,' and he began at once to talk
in a loud and voluble manner.
"I do not know how I had strength and courage to do what I did then; I do
not know where the voice came from with which I spoke then; Robert has
always said that I looked like a young lioness, and that my voice sounded
like the voice of one crying 'fire.' I stepped swiftly up to him, and
before the astounded Wilkins could speak a word, I had held up the chintz
and exclaimed, 'But Mr. Maynard will have time to spare, and I thank God
he is here. Mr. Maynard, this design is one of my brother's drawing; he
has made most of the calico designs printed in your father's mills for a
year and a half: I brought this one to the agent; he said it was not good
for anything, but he stole the paper and sold it, and here it is!' and
then suddenly my strength all disappeared, great terror seized me, and I
burst into tears. Both the agent and the overseer began to speak at once.
"'Be silent,' thundered Robert, in the most commanding tone I ever heard
out of human lips. 'Be silent, both of you!' Then he took the chintz away
from me, and taking both my hands in his, led me to a chair, saying, in a
voice as sweet and gentle as the other was terrible, 'Pray be calm, my
dear young lady--this matter shall be looked into. Sit down and do not try
to speak for a few minutes.'
"Then he walked over to the brothers; even through my tears I could see
how terrified they looked; they seemed struck dumb with fright; he spoke
to them now in the most courteous manner, but the courtesy was almost
worse than the anger had been before.
"'I shall have to ask you for the use of the office for a short time,
gentlemen. This is an affair I prefer to investigate immediately, and I
would like to see this young lady alone.' They both began to speak again,
but he interrupted them.
"'I will send for you presently; not a word more now, if you please;' and
in spite of themselves they were obliged to walk out of the room. As they
turned to shut the door their faces frightened me.
"'Oh!' I exclaimed; 'oh, Mr. Maynard, they will kill Nat I must go home at
once,' and I rose trembling in every nerve. He made me sit down again, and
brought me a glass of wine, and said, 'Do not be afraid, my dear child,
they will not dare harm your brother. Drink this, and tell me your whole
"Then I told him all. He interrupted me only once, to ask me about the
prices paid us for two or three especial patterns which he happened to
recollect. When I stopped, he jumped up from his chair and walked up and
down in front of me, ejaculating, 'By Jove! this is infernal--I never
heard of such a contemptible bit of rascality in my life. I have told my
father ever since I came home that these men had bad faces, and I have
looked carefully for traces of cheating in their accounts. But they were
too cowardly to try it on a large scale.'
"He then told me that the originality and beauty of the designs which the
Wilkinses had furnished the firm of late had attracted general attention;
that they had said the best ones were the work of a sister in England, the
others of the sister living with them. When he told me the prices which
had been paid for them, I could not help groaning aloud and burying my
face in my hands. 'Oh, my poor Nat!' I exclaimed, 'you might have had
everything you wanted for that.'
"'But he shall have it still, Miss Kent,' said Robert--'I shall give you a
check for the whole amount before you leave this room, and I do assure you
that your brother has a fortune in his talent for drawing. Probably this
work is only the beginning of what he will do.'
"As Robert opened the office-door for me to pass out, I saw the two Mr.
Wilkinses standing together at the gate through which I must go. Robert
answered my look of alarm by saying, 'I shall walk home with you, Miss
Kent. They shall not annoy you.'
"As we came near, they both lifted their hats with obsequious, angry bows.
Robert did not look at them, but said in a low tone, as we passed, 'Go to
the office and wait there till I return.'
"When he bade me good-by at my door, he said, 'I shall go now to find my
father, and if he is at home the brothers Wilkins will be dismissed from
our employ in less than one hour,' I looked after him as long as I could
see him. Then I went into our little sitting-room, sank into a chair, and
sat motionless, turning the check over and over in my hand, and wondering
if I really were awake and alive, or if all were a dream. In a few moments
Nat came home. As Patrick lifted the wagon up over the door-steps, and Nat
caught sight of my face, he called out, 'Oh, sister, what is the
matter--are you ill?' I ran to him and put the check into his hands, but
it was some minutes before I could speak. The wonderful fortune did not
overwhelm Nat as it had me. He was much stronger than I. Every stroke of
his pencil during the last year had developed and perfected his soul. He
was fast coming to have that consciousness of power which belongs to the
true artist, and makes a life self-centred.
"'I have felt that all this would come, dear,' he said, 'and more than
this too,' he added dreamily, 'we shall go on; this is only the outer gate
of our lives,'
"He prophesied more truly than he knew when he said that--my dear blessed
"I need not dwell on the details of the next half-year. A few words can
tell them; and then, again, worlds of words could not tell them.
"Three months from the day I carried the piece of chintz into the
overseer's office, Robert and I were married in the beautiful chapel where
papa used to preach. All the mills were shut, and the little chapel was
crowded with the workmen and workwomen. When we came out they were all
drawn up in lines on the green, and Robert and Mr. Maynard both made them
little speeches. Nat and Miss Penstock and Patrick were in Mr. Maynard's
carriage, and Robert and I stood on the ground by the carriage-door. After
the people had gone, Mr. Maynard came up to me and put both his hands on
my shoulders, just as he had done three years before, and said, 'You were
a brave girl, but you had to take me for your father, after all.'
"Nat's wedding-present to me was a wood-carving of the 'One-Legged
Dancers'--the one which stands on the little gilt table. I shall never be
separated from it.
"When I first found out how very rich Robert was, I was afraid; it seemed
to me almost wrong to have so much money. But I hope we shall not grow
selfish. And I cannot but be grateful for it, when I see what it has done
for my darling brother. He is living now in a beautiful apartment in New
York. Patrick is with him, his devoted servant, and Miss Penstock has gone
to keep house for them. Nat is studying and working hard; the best artists
in the city are his friends, and his pictures are already known and
sought. When Robert first proposed this arrangement, Nat said, 'Oh no, no!
I cannot accept such a weight of obligation from any man, not even from a
"Robert rose and knelt down by Nat's chair, and even then he was so far
above him he had to bend over.
"'Nat,' said he, in a low tone, 'I never knelt to any human being before:
I didn't kneel to Dora when I asked her to give herself to me, for I was
sure I could so give myself to her as to make her happy; but it is to
you, after all, that I owe it that she is mine; I never can forget it for
an hour, and I never can repay you--no, not in my whole life-time, nor
with all my fortune.'
"Then he told him that the sum which it would need to support him and Miss
Penstock and Patrick in this way was so small, in comparison with our
whole income, that it was not worth mentioning. 'And at any rate,' he
said, 'it is useless for you to remonstrate, Nat, for I have already made
fifty thousand dollars' worth of stock so entirely yours, that you cannot
escape from it. The papers are all in my father's hands, and the income
will be paid to you, or left subject to your order, quarterly. If you do
not spend it, nobody else will;' and then Robert bent down lower, and
lifting Nat's thin hands tenderly in his, pressed them both against his
check, in the way I often did. It was one of the few caresses Nat loved. I
stood the other side of the chair, and I stooped down and kissed him, and
"'And, Nat, I cannot be quite happy in any other way.'
"So Nat yielded.
"It was hard to come away and leave him. For some time I clung to the hope
that he might come with us; but the physicians all said it would be
madness for him to run the risk of a sea-voyage. However, I know that for
him, the next best thing to seeing Europe himself is to see it through my
eyes. I write to him every week, and I shall carry home to him such
art-treasures as he has never dreamed of possessing.
"Next year we shall go home, and then he will come back to Maynard's
Mills and live with us. Robert is having a large studio built for him on
the north side of the house, with a bed-room and little sitting-room
opening out of it. Miss Penstock, too, will always live with us; we shall
call her 'housekeeper,' to keep her contented, and Patrick is to stay as
Nat's attendant. Poor fellow, he is not quite full-witted, we think; but
he loves Nat so devotedly that he makes a far better servant than a
cleverer boy would with a shade less affection.
"And now you have heard the story of my life, dear friend," said Dora, as
she rose from the seat and lighted the rose-colored tapers in two low
swinging Etruscan candlesticks just above our heads--"all that I can tell
you," she added slowly. "You will understand that I cannot speak about the
happiest part of it. But you have seen Robert. The only thing that
troubles me is that I have no sorrow. It seems dangerous. Dear Nat,
although he has all he ever hoped for, need not fear being too happy,
because he has the ever-present pain, to make him earnest and keep him
ready for more pain. I said so to him the day before I came away, and he
gave me those verses I told you of, called 'The Angel of Pain,'"
Then she repeated them to me:--
The Angel of Pain.
Angel of Pain, I think thy face
Will be, in all the heavenly place,
The sweetest face that I shall see,
The swiftest face to smile on me.
All other angels faint and tire;
Joy wearies, and forsakes desire;
Hope falters, face to face with Fate,
And dies because it cannot wait;
And Love cuts short each loving day,
Because fond hearts cannot obey
That subtlest law which measures bliss
By what it is content to miss.
But thou, O loving, faithful Pain--
Hated, reproached, rejected, slain--
Dost only closer cling and bless
In sweeter, stronger steadfastness.
Dear, patient angel, to thine own
Thou comest, and art never known
Till late, in some lone twilight place
The light of thy transfigured face
Sudden shines out, and, speechless, they
Know they have walked with Christ all day.
When she had done we sat for some time silent. Then I rose, and kissing
her, still silent, went out into the unlighted room where the gilt table
stood. A beam of moonlight fell, broad and white, across its top, and
flickered on the vine-leaves and the ferns. In the dim weird light their
shapes were more fantastic than ever.
The door into the outer hall stood open. As I went toward it, I saw old
Anita toiling slowly up the stairs, with a flat basket on her head. Her
wrinkled face was all aglow with delight. As soon as she reached the
threshold she set the basket down, and exclaiming, "Oh look, look,
Signora!" lifted off the cover. It was full of fresh and beautiful
anemones of all colors. She moved a few on top and showed me that those
beneath were chiefly purple ones.
"Iddio mio! will not the dearest of Signoras be pleased now!" she said.
"The saints wish that she shall have all she desires; did not my Biagio's
brother come in from Albano this morning? and as I was in the Piazza
Navona, buying oranges, I heard him calling from a long way off, 'Ho
Anita, my Anita, here are anemones for your beautiful Signora with the
"They grow around an old tomb a mile away from his vineyard, and he set
out from his home long before light to get them for me; for he once saw
the Signora and he had heard me say that she never could have enough of
anemones. Iddio mio! but my heart is glad of them. Ah, the dearest of
Signoras!" and, with a tender touch, Anita laid the cool vine-leaves
lightly back upon the anemones and hurried on in search of Dora.
How One Woman Kept Her Husband.
Why my sister married John Gray, I never could understand. I was
twenty-two and she was eighteen when the marriage took place. They had
known each other just one year. He had been passionately in love with her
from the first day of their meeting. She had come more slowly to loving
him: but love him she did, with a love of such depth and fervor as are
rarely seen. He was her equal in nothing except position and wealth. He
had a singular mixture of faults of opposite temperaments. He had the
reticent, dreamy, procrastinating inertia of the bilious melancholic man,
side by side with the impressionable sensuousness, the sensitiveness and
sentimentalism of the most sanguine-nervous type. There is great charm in
such a combination, especially to persons of a keen, alert nature. My
sister was earnest, wise, resolute. John Gray was nonchalant, shrewd,
vacillating. My sister was exact, methodical, ready. John Gray was
careless, spasmodic, dilatory. My sister had affection. He had tenderness.
She was religious of soul; he had a sort of transcendental perceptivity,
so to speak, which kept him more alive to the comforts of religion than
to its obligations. My sister would have gone to the stake rather than
tell a lie. He would tell a lie unhesitatingly, rather than give anybody
pain. My sister lived earnestly, fully, actively, in each moment of the
present. It never seemed quite clear whether he were thinking of to-day,
yesterday, or to-morrow. She was upright because she could not help it. He
was upright,--when he was upright,--because of custom, taste, and the
fitness of things. What fatal discrepancies! what hopeless lack of real
moral strength, enduring purpose, or principle in such a nature as John
Gray's! When I said these things to my sister, she answered always, with a
quiet smile, "I love him." She neither admitted nor denied my accusations.
The strongest expression she ever used, the one which came nearest to
being an indignant repelling of what I had said, was one day, when I
"Ellen, I would die before I'd risk my happiness in the keeping of such a
"My happiness is already in his keeping," said she in a steady voice, "and
I believe his is in mine. He is to be my husband and not yours, dear; you
do not know him as I do. You do not understand him."
But it is not to give an analysis of her character or of his, nor to give
a narrative of their family history, that I write this tale. It is only
one episode of their life that I shall try to reproduce here, and I do it
because I believe that its lesson is of priceless worth to women.
Ellen had been married fourteen years, and was the mother of five
children, when my story begins. The years had gone in the main peacefully
and pleasantly. The children, three girls and two boys, were fair and
strong. Their life had been a very quiet one, for our village was far
removed from excitements of all kinds. It was one of the suburban villages
of ----, and most of the families living there were the families of
merchants or lawyers doing business in the town, going in early in the
morning, and returning late at night. There is usually in such communities
a strange lack of social intercourse; whether it be that the daily
departure and return of the head of the family keeps up a perpetual
succession of small crises of interest to the exclusion of others, or that
the night finds all the fathers and brothers too tired to enjoy anything
but slippers and cigars, I know not; but certain it is that all such
suburban villages are unspeakably dull and lifeless. There is barely
feeling enough of good neighborhood to keep up the ordinary interchange of
the commonest civilities.
Except for long visits to the city in the winter, and long journeys in the
summer, I myself should have found life insupportably tedious. But Ellen
was absolutely content. Her days were unvaryingly alike, a simple routine
of motherly duties and housekeeping cares. Her evenings were equally
unvaried, being usually spent in sewing or reading, while her husband, in
seven evenings out of ten, dozed, either on the sofa, or on one of the
children's little beds in the nursery. His exquisite tenderness to the
children, and his quiet delight in simply being where they were, were the
brightest points in John Gray's character and life.
Such monotony was not good for either of them. He grew more and more
dreamy and inert. She insensibly but continually narrowed and hardened,
and, without dreaming of such a thing, really came to be less and less a
part of her husband's inner life. Faithful, busy, absorbed herself in the
cares of each day, she never observed that he was living more and more in
his children and his reveries, and withdrawing more and more from her. She
did not need constant play and interchange of sentiment as he did.
Affectionate, loyal, devoted as she was, there was a side of husband's
nature which she did not see nor satisfy, perhaps, never could. But
neither of them knew it.
At this time Mr. Gray was offered a position of importance in the city,
and it became necessary for them to move there to live. How I rejoiced in
the change. How bitterly I regretted it before two years had passed.
Their city home was a beautiful one, and their connections and
associations were such as to surround them at once with the most desirable
companionships. At first it was hard for Ellen to readjust her system of
living and to accustom herself to the demands of even a moderately social
life. But she was by nature very fond of all such pleasures, and her house
soon became one of the pleasantest centres, in a quiet way, of the
comparatively quiet city. John Gray expanded and brightened in the new
atmosphere; he had always been a man of influence among men. All his
friends,--even his acquaintances,--loved him, and asked his advice. It was
a strange thing that a man so inert and procrastinating in his own
affairs, should be so shrewd and practical and influential in the affairs
of others, or in public affairs. This, however, was no stranger than many
other puzzling incongruities in John Gray's character. Since his college
days he had never mingled at all in general society until this winter,
after their removal to town; and it was with delight that I watched his
enjoyment of people, and their evident liking and admiration for him. His
manners were singularly simple and direct; his face, which was not wholly
pleasing in repose, was superbly handsome when animated in conversation;
its inscrutable reticence which baffled the keenest observation when he
was silent, all disappeared and melted in the glow of cordial
good-fellowship which lighted every feature when he talked. I grew very
proud of my brother as I watched him in his new sphere and surroundings;
and I also enjoyed most keenly seeing Ellen in a wider and more
appreciative circle. I spent a large part of the first winter in their
house, and shared all their social pleasures, and looked forward to ever
increasing delight, as my nieces should grow old enough to enter into
Early in the spring I went to the West and passed the entire summer with
relatives; I heard from my sister every week; her letters were always
cheerful and natural, and I returned to her in the autumn, full of
anticipations of another gay and pleasant winter.
They met me in New York, and I remembered afterwards, though in the
excitement of the moment I gave it no second thought, that when John
Gray's eyes first met mine, there was in them a singular and indefinable
expression, which roused in me an instant sense of distrust and
antagonism. He had never thoroughly liked me. He had always had an
undercurrent of fear of me. He knew I thought him weak: he felt that I had
never put full confidence in him. That I really and truly loved him was
small offset for this. Would it not be so to all of us?
This part of my story is best told in few words. I had not been at home
one week before I found that rumor had been for some months coupling John
Gray's name with the name of Mrs. Emma Long, a widow who had but just
returned to----, after twelve years of married life in Cuba. John had
known her in her girlhood, but there had never been any intimacy or even
friendship between them. My sister, however, had known her well, had
corresponded with her during all her life at the South, and had invited
her to her house immediately upon her return to----. Emma Long was a
singularly fascinating woman. Plain and sharp and self-asserting at
twenty-two, she had become at thirty-five magnetic and winning, full of
tact, and almost beautiful. We see such surprising developments
continually: it seems as if nature did her best to give every woman one
period of triumph and conquest; perhaps only they know its full sweetness
to whom it comes late. In early youth it is accepted unthinkingly, as is
the sunshine,--enjoyed without deliberation, and only weighed at its
fullness when it is over. But a woman who begins at thirty to feel for the
first time what it is to have power over men, must be more or less than
woman not to find the knowledge and the consciousness dangerously sweet.
I never knew--I do not know to-day, whether Emma Long could be justly
called a coquette. That she keenly enjoyed the admiration of men, there
was no doubt. Whether she ever were conscious of even a possible harm to
them from their relation to her, there was always doubt, even in the minds
of her bitterest enemies. I myself have never doubted that in the affair
between her and John Gray she was the one who suffered most; she was the
one who had a true, deep sentiment, and not only never meant a wrong, but
would have shrunk, for his sake, if not for her own, from the dangers
which she did not foresee, but which were inevitable in their intimacy. I
think that her whole life afterward proved this. I think that even my
sister believed it.
Mrs. Long had spent six weeks in my sister's house, and had then
established herself in a very beautiful furnished house on the same
street. Almost every day Mrs. Long's carriage was at my sister's door, to
take my sister or the children to drive. Almost every evening Mrs. Long
came with the easy familiarity of an habituated guest in the house, to sit
in my sister's parlor, or sent with the easy familiarity of an old friend
for my sister and her husband to come to her, or to go with her to the
theatre or to the opera.
What could be more natural?--what could be more delightful, had the
relation been one which centred around my sister instead of around my
sister's husband? What could be done, what offense could be taken, what
obstacle interposed, so long as the relation appeared to be one which
included the whole family? Yet no human being could see John Gray five
minutes in Emma Long's presence without observing that his eyes, his
words, his consciousness were hers. And no one could observe her in his
presence without seeing that she was kindled, stimulated, as she was in no
All this the city had been seeing and gossiping over for four months. All
this, with weary detail, was poured into my ears by kind friends.
My sister said no word. For the first time in my life there was a barrier
between us I dared not pass. Her every allusion to Mrs. Long was in the
kindest and most unembarrassed manner. She fell heartily and graciously
into every plan which brought them together: she not only did this, she
also fully reciprocated all entertainments and invitations; it was as
often by Ellen's arrangement as by Mrs. Long's that an evening or a day
was spent by the two families together. Her manner to Mrs. Long was
absolutely unaltered. Her manner to John was absolutely unaltered. When
during an entire evening he sat almost motionless and often quite
speechless, listening to Mrs. Long's conversation with others, Ellen's
face never changed. She could not have seemed more unconscious if she had
been blind. There were many bonds of sympathy between John Gray and Emma
Long, which had never existed between him and his wife. They were both
passionately fond of art, and had studied it. Ellen's taste was
undeveloped, and her instinctive likings those of a child. But she
listened with apparent satisfaction and pleasure to long hours of
conversation, about statues, pictures, principles of art, of which she was
as unable to speak as one of her own babies would have been. Mrs. Long
was also a woman who understood affairs; and one of her great charms to
men of mind was the clear, logical, and yet picturesque and piquant way in
which she talked of men and events. Ellen listened and laughed as heartily
as any member of the circle at her repartee, her brilliant
characterization, her off-hand description.
To John Gray all this was a new revelation. He had never known this sort
of woman. That a woman could be clever as men are clever, and also be
graceful, adorned, and tender with womanliness, he had not supposed.
Ah, poor Emma Long! not all my loyalty to my sister ever quite stifled in
my heart the question whether there was not in Mrs. Long's nature
something which John Gray really needed--something which Ellen,
affectionate, wise, upright, womanly woman as she was, could never give to
The winter wore on. Idle and malicious tongues grew busier and busier.
Nothing except the constant presence of my sister wherever her husband and
Mrs. Long were seen together, prevented the scandal from taking the most
offensive shape. But Ellen was so wise, so watchful, that not even the
most malignant gossip-monger, could point to anything like a clandestine
intercourse between the two.
In fact, they met so constantly either in Mrs. Long's house or my
sister's, that there was small opportunity for them to meet elsewhere. I
alone knew that on many occasions when Mrs. Long was spending the evening
at our house, Ellen availed herself of one excuse and another to leave
them alone for a great part of the time. But she did this so naturally,
that is, with such perfect art, that not until long afterward did I know
that it had been intentional. This was one great reason of my silence
during all these months. In her apparent ignorance and unsuspiciousness of
the whole thing, she seemed so gay, so happy, so sweet and loving, how
could I give her a pain? And if she did not see it now, she might never
see it. It could never surely become any more apparent. No man could give,
so far as simple manner was concerned, more unmistakable proof of being
absorbed in passionate love for a woman, than John Gray gave in Emma
Long's presence. I began to do Ellen injustice in my thoughts. I said,
"After all, she has not much heart; no woman who loved a man passionately
could look on unmoved and see him so absorbed in another."
How little I knew! Towards spring Ellen suddenly began to look ill. She
lost color and strength, and a slight cough which she had had all winter
became very severe. Her husband was alarmed. We all were distressed. Our
old family physician, Dr. Willis, changed color when he felt Ellen's
pulse, and said, involuntarily,--
"My dear child, how long have you had such fever as this?"
Ellen changed color too, under his steady look, and replied,--
"I think, doctor, I have had a little fever for some weeks. I have not
felt really well since the autumn, and I have been meaning for some time
to have a long consultation with you. But we will not have it now," she
added playfully, "I have a great deal to tell you which these good people
are not to hear. We will talk it over some other time," and she looked at
him so meaningly that he understood the subject must be dropped.
That night she told me that she wished me to propose to John to go over
with me and spend the evening at Mrs. Long's; that she had sent for Dr.
Willis, and she wished to have a long talk with him without John's knowing
"Dear," said I hastily, "I will not go to Mrs. Long's with John. I hate
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