« PreviousContinue »
her room. Yesterday she was so much better as to dissipate all our anxiety. This morning, on entering her room, I was terror-stricken to find her delirious; she called me "Annita," and began talking to me in Italian. I could just make out that she fancied herself in Italy. We sent for the doctor. Ile looked very grave, and told us "it was always safest to prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best."
We shall send to the depot at every train, after to-morrow morning. Meanwhile, be quite sure that she will have every care and comfort. Aunt Vin came up as soon as she heard of her sickness, took off her bonnet, and proclaimed that she had " come to stay, wanted or not." She immediately took charge of the sick-room, and she is a most experienced nurse. As for Ruth and I, either of us would give our lives for Miss Frost, and we shall not leave her a moment. Besides, we have almost too many offers of help, watchers, etc.; there has been a continual stream of people coming and going, to inquire after her or to tender assistance, ever since the evil tidings went out. I tell you all this, that you may know that there are plenty of loving hearts and willing hands about her, that will not let her miss anything they have to give. Still, we should be glad to have some of her own friends here, to share the responsibility; and we thought Mr. Frost might wish to bring a
physician from the city.
THE SPIRIT OF HEAVINESS.
[Francesca to her Husband.]
T is little more than a week since I wrote
you. It is years since I wrote you. The one be
ing the literal fact; the other the felt truth. Such days as those through which I have just lived are not to be measured by clock-strokes. They stagger under a weight of event, emotion, possibility, which sets the night afar off from the morning, and the morning at a weary year's jour ney from the night.
Alice Prescott's letter, herein enclosed, will tell you all it told me. Before I had well finished it, I was thrusting indispensables into a travelling-bag. On my way to the lepot, I telegraphed "Uncle John." In half an hour I was on board the express, dashing southward. Two changes of cars and eight hours of travel brought me to Shiloh station at dusk.
A tall, erect, broad-shouldered, gray-headed man; keen eye, benignant of face; with an enormous black dog at his side; stood on the platform, expectantly. Straightway I went to him. "Mr. Divine, how is Winnie?"
The answer came through quivering lips, ending with a sound akin to a sob:
Recovering himself, the farmer asked, "Are you the
And he looked behind me as if I should have
been leader of a troop.
"The only one.
I am Francesca Golden. Is not Mr.
He shook his head.
"I telegraphed him at once," said I. "He should have been here first. He had not half the distance to come."
"The worst of it is that this is the last train, and he cannot get here now till morning," said he. "And I'm afraid-"
But the fear, whatever it was, would not "out." No need.
I got into the wagon without another word. The station was on a hill, lit pallidly by the latest gleam of the west. From it the road sank swiftly toward the shadow of the valley below; hiding itself, as it went, under the gloom of trees. We sank with it, drearily. "Sinking fast," rever berated dismally through my heart. Everything was sink. ing with her, into the dusk of grief, the blackness of despair, the night of death!
Clay Corner, with its clustering lights, its hum of business, its murmur of falling water, its red glow of a blacksmith's forge, was quickly reached, and left behind. In the darkness beyond, the farmer found voice, and even a degree of eloquence. Winnie's goodness, Winnie's talents, Winnie's genuineness,―these were the heads upon which he enlarged, as if enamored of the subject. Especially did he dilate upon her unlikeness to "city folks," as he had known them.
"I own I didn't use to take to 'em much," said he. “There was more 'fine feather' than 'fine bird' about 'em, I reckoned. They came and went among us like comets in the sky; no great shakes for light, and no account at all to steer by. They sickened us with their condescension, or riled us with their superciliousness. They left their religion at home, mostly, in their five-hundred-dollar pews with
their gilt-edged Prayer Books. They had plenty of bankbills for pleasure,-dogs, horses, boats, excursions, and what not, but only the smallest kind o' change for our contribution box; and they seemed to think we was well paid for giving 'em up our best seats by the honor they did us in sitting in 'em once a day, in fine weather. They were bothered within an inch of their lives to find ways to kill time, but they never thought of giving an hour to our Sunday School, or our poor, or our Sewing Society; or, like Mrs. Danforth, they'd make a great show of work, and do a little something just as long as they could have their own way, and no longer (at least, that's the way she used to be, but I really think she's improving, too, and I reckon Miss Frost's at the bottom of it!). As for trying to find out our talents and helping us to make the most of 'em, they'd sooner their own would rust out for want of using! They lived among us as if they wasn't of us, and didn't mean to be. And they never left behind 'em any idea of a life any higher and deeper than our own; only one with a little more surface and glitter.
'Now, Miss Frost wasn't none of that sort. She's what I call a lady, through and through. She didn't leave her fine breeding nor her religion behind, when she came into the country. She was just as polite and respectful to Uncle True's gray hairs and mine, as if they'd grown on mayors of New York. She was never a mite stuck up, to anybody. She spent all her time and strength in our service; and she carried her talents and her edication in her hand, ready for anybody that wanted 'em most. She went right into our kitchens and bedrooms, and watched by our sick and dying, just as if she had been one of ourselves; only with twice as much gentleness, and delicacy, and handiness. And there's no end to the good she's done, when you come to reckon it up; though its all come along so easily and naturally, that you wouldn't know what to lay it to, if you didn't keep your eyes open. She's made another creature out of Ruth
Winnot. She's done everything for Alice. She's softened down Mr. Warren from a regular bear to something bordering on human. She's won all Jack's heart; and if she'd only been spared long enough, she'd have made room in it for something else. She's managed—the Lord knows how! -to keep peace in the Sewing Society, though some of the folks in it go together like fire and gunpowder. But, bless me, I couldn't begin to tell you all she's done, directly and indirectly, if I talked from now till morning!
"But perhaps the best of it all was the way she's behaved to Mr. Taylor. She's always treated him with as much respect and consideration as if he'd been a Bishop; and she paid as good attention to his sermons as if he was the most learned man on earth,-though everybody knows she's got more edication than ever he thought of. And she has always supported him right straight through, even when she didn't quite fall in with his way of thinking. I remember when the Sunday School was reorganized, she talked over a plan with Priscilla that she thought was just about right; and so did Priscilla. But when Mr. Taylor come, he'd got his mind set on something quite different; and Priscilla wasn't going to give in,- she couldn't reconcile it to her conscience to give up a good plan for a poor one,' she said. But Miss Frost told her that the question between the poor plan and the good one, and the responsi bility, too, was Mr. Taylor's; the only question for them was whether they'd submit themselves to their spiritual pastor, and gladden his heart by their goodwill, and strengthen his hands by their example and influence; or whether they'd set themselves up in opposition to him, and give rise to a dissension in the parish, and hinder his work, and weaken his power to do good; and so Priscilla had to come round. And there's no telling the good of such an example, from such a person, in a community that ain't overweighted with reverence for anything or anybody, and that would just as soon pick a quarrel with their minister