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And this brings Alice's intellectual history up to the present point. As for her emotional one, that lies, for the most part, beyond my ken. Not that she is deliberately secretive; but she is naturally reserved and likes little to talk about herself;-easier for a deep, shadowy, enclosed well to turn itself into a running and sparkling brook than for Alice to assume the openness and communicativeness of Ruth. Her natural channel of expression is her pen; that suffices her for interpreter and confidant.
Of course, this summer of constant association has knitted Alice, Ruth, and myself very closely together. Any picture of me, at this epoch, would be incomplete without one or both of them at hand, looking up to me with an affection that is half worship. I get even a little too much of their society, and am often oppressed by their reverential regard. It may be morally good for one, but it is none the less wearisome to fallen human nature, to be compelled to live always at the height of some loving, worshipping friend's ideal. Often I feel an insane impulse to do something unredeemably weak or wicked, just to cast my image down from that uncomfortable and insecure elevation, and give it leave to stand, henceforth, upon the lower earth, among its kind. I am withheld therefrom by no selfish considerations of loss of power or prestige, but by an intuitive knowledge that both these simple, loving souls would seem to see, in its downfall, the entire universe tumbling backward into chaos. In life's earlier years, as I have sore reason to know, it is a serious matter to lose one's ideals. With them the fair structure of faith crumbles to dust. The whole moral world falls, seemingly, into irretrievable ruin. Its foundations heave and gape beneath our feet; its sky crashes down upon our heads, with fearful and startling effect. All that was worthy of reverence has hopelessly gone to rack, we think, as we struggle forth from the ruins, stunned and bewildered. It may be years before we find out the scarcely less bitter, if more wholesome, certainty
that it was only an unfounded, illusory fabric of our own creation which fell, and that the fair temple of Truth, with its immutable foundations in Goodness and Right, was in nowise involved in the crash.
To be sure that crash must come to Ruth and Alice, sooner or later, but woe to him by whom it cometh! To escape which malediction, I go on teaching, moralizing, suggesting, encouraging, according to the established routine, and striving to keep my interests and sympathies unflaggingly up to their work, in spite of the inevitable loss of their first fresh impetus, till I can recover it by a temporary withdrawal and rest,-things indispensable, it would seem, to the health of any friendship, however sweet and cordial, wherein the sum of help, sympathy, and rest received does not very closely approximate to the amount rendered. In this effort Mala, as may be expected, gives me little assistance. Not even under the guise of pride or self-respect is she capable of lending a steady, lasting aid to any good and unselfish work. But Bona, though often sore grieved, and, doubtless, tempted to withdraw and leave me to the unhelped and unhindered tendencies of my nature, doth yet stand by me, and enable me to struggle on, if not to the unmixed approval of my conscience, at least to the apparent satisfaction of my duo of satellites.
Perhaps I ought to say trio, since the summer did what it could to bring Carrie Thorne into the same category. Still, no part of the foregoing paragraph applies to her. The distance between the Divine and Bryer farms saved me from her too close attendance, and she is of too gentle, humble, and self-forgetting a nature ever to be felt as a restraint or a burden. She is content to adore her idols afar off, and accepts from them much or little with the same sweet thankfulness. Whereas Ruth can be both jealous and exacting, upon occasion, I find, or even without it; and Alice, though she is neither of these, has such an insatiate hunger for thought, feeling, emotion, knowledge, and all
sorts of mental pabulum-things by which her genius is to live and grow, in truth a vital necessity of its existencethat she becomes in constant association (not to use the simile harshly, and divesting it of every heartless and repulsive idea), a kind of human leech. The one wearies by excessive stimulation, the other by continual absorption. Carrie presented the reposeful side of the picture. She neither excited nor drained. She simply soothed.
But the summer did something better for Carrie Thorne than to give her an assured place in my interests and affections. It brought her into closer contact with the life that beats around her, and so warmed her own into expansion and usefulness. She became an efficient teacher in the Sunday School,-quiet, painstaking, and obedient,→→ and she was one of the most regular attendants and faithful workers of the Sewing Society.
I say, was, because these last summer days have swept Carrie away from me, into an atmosphere of trouble and anxiety. Poor Mrs. Thorne was stricken with paralysis, on the receipt of Rick's sudden announcement of his hasty marriage. Following close upon my notice of the discovery of Cyrus Thorne's missing child, it seemed the deathblow to all her schemes, hopes, and ambitions. Rick's arrival, and the discovery that the bride and the heiress were one and the same, could not undo the bodily mischief, though they may have brought some comfort to her mind. Carrie was immediately sent for. A letter just received from her, reports Mrs. Thorne in a very dangerous situation.
There have been no new developments with regard to the artist. Though we meet often, and upon terms which time and a better knowledge of each other render more and more friendly, it is always in the presence of others, and the subject of his incognito has never again been broached.
He has nearly finished my picture of Ruth. The likeness is perfect; yet he has not failed to add, or take away,
that indefinable, inestimable something which makes all the difference between a mere portrait and a work of art.
The "Dream; Reverie; Reflection," is also in progress. At my earnest solicitation, the artist has substituted Alice's face therein for mine; as furnishing a stronger contrast to Ruth's, and more perfectly embodying the idea—reverie being Alice's normal expression. Both she and Ruth give him a sitting, when desired; yet I cannot report satisfactory progress in the little romance heretofore hinted at. His artist-eye lights up at sight of Ruth's face; yet his enjoyment of Alice's silent, intuitive sympathy with all his thoughts and moods is scarcely less evident. Certainly, he is beguiled, by its subtile charm, to talk to her more freely than to any one else of whatever he has done in the world, or dreams of doing. Nevertheless, he may forget her even while he talks to her most unreservedly, being moved solely by the natural impulse of thought to flow into the first sympathetic ear that comes in its way.
Yet the themes which chiefly engage his mind and conversation, the history, scope, and mission of Art,—the successes, discouragements, and self-consecration of her workers,—these, and kindred topics, discussed in a lofty, generous spirit, and with a rare flow of language and imagery, are not without a noticeable effect in quickening and enlarging the minds both of Alice and Ruth. With every visit to the studio, their faces are informed with a deeper thought; the girlishness is fast departing thence, and some new charm of womanhood blossoms there daily.
As for Essie Volger, though Shiloh would seem to lose half its sunshine without her, and parish-work would greatly miss her helping hand, yet any detailed record of her fresh, active, joyous life, free and bright as a meadowbrook, and as innocent of care and turmoil, would but serve to illustrate the French proverb, "Heureux le peuple dont l'histoire ennuie."
'N St. Jude's the summer has wrought some greatly needed improvements. The fund for repairs prospered to such a degree, under Mrs. Prescott's fostering care, that a self-constituted committee, composed of that active lady, Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Danforth, Essie Volger, and your indefatigable reporter,-aided and abetted
by the artist, whose surplus fancy and energy like to bubble over in gratuitous church architecture and decoration, ventured to turn a half-dozen carpenters and painters into the sacred edifice, and to set them at work there. It was irregular, we knew;-but then, Church work had to be done irregularly in Shiloh! To call a parish meeting, and pass a vote, was to quash every forward proceeding. Fortunately the opposition would be as irregular as the advance. It would never organize, and therefore would be ineffective, save in producing uncomfortableness.
The aspiring gallery, which actually seemed to climb higher every time I mounted it, was first brought low. Not alone to the confusion and wrath of the wasps that had tenanted it undisturbed all the week, and waged fierce war upon intruders on Sundays; nor of the urchins that had whispered and tittered and contorted in its recondite nooks during service, wholly out of eye-shot either of minister or congregation; but to the dire dismay of all the representa