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Mrs. Sledge's, then I knew you were here ; so I came with
him, because because " she hesitated the least bit here
we love Sue."

Frank still looked at her with his soul in his eyes, as if
he wanted to absorb her utterly into himself and then die
I never saw such a look before ; I hope I never may again ,
it haunts me to this day.

I can pause now to recall and reason about the curious,
exalted atmosphere that seemed suddenly to have surround-
ed us, as if bare spirits communed there, not flesh and
blood. Frank did not move ; he sat and looked at her
standing near him, so near that her shawl trailed against
his chair ; but presently when she wanted to grasp some-
thing, she moved aside and took Ijold of another chair,
not his : it was a little thing, but it interpreted her.

" Well ? v said he in a hoarse tone.

Just then she moved, as I said, and laid one hand on

A WOMAN. 277

the back of a chair : it was the only symptom of emotion
she show ed ; her voice was as childish-clear and steady
as before.

" You want to go, Frank, and I thought you would rather
be married to me first ; so I came to find you and tell you
I would."

Frank sprang to his feet like a shot man ; I cried ; Jose-
phine stood looking at us quite steadily, her head a little
bent toward me, her eyes calm, but very wide open ; and
Mr. Bowen gave an audible grunt. I suppose the right
thing for Frank to have done in any well-regulated novel
would have been to fall on his knees and call her all sorts
of names ; but people never do that is, any people that I
know just what the gentlemen in novels do ; so he walked
off and looked out of the window. To my aid caine the
goddess of slang. I stopped snuffling directly.

" Josephine," said I, solemnly, " you are a brick ! "

"Well, I should think so!" said Mr. Bowen, slightly

Josey laughed very softly. Frank came back from the
window, and then the three went off together, she holding
by her father's arm, Frank on his other side. I could not
but look after them as I stood in the hall-door, and then I
came back and sat down to read the paper Frank had flung
on the floor when he came in. It diverted my mind enough
from myself to enable me to sleep ; for I was burning with
self-disgust to think of my cowardice, I, a grown woman,
supposed to be more than ordinarily strong-minded by some
people, fairly shamed and routed by a girl Laura Lane
called "Dora"!

In the morning, Frank came directly after breakfast.
He had found his tongue now, certainly, for words
seemed noway to satisfy him, talking of Josephine ; and
presently she came, too, as brave and bright as ever, sewing
busily on a long housewife for Frank ; and after her, Mrs.


Bo wen, making a huge pin-ball in red white, and blue, and
full of the trunk she was packing for Frank to carry, to
be filled with raspberry-jam, hard gingerbread, old brandy,
clove-cordial, guava jelly, strong peppermints, quinine, black
cake, cod-liver oil, horehound-candy, Brandreth's pills, dam-
son-leather, and cherry-pectoral, packed in with flannel and
cotton bandages, lint, lancets, old linen, and cambric hand-

I could not help laughing, and was about to remonstrate,
when Frank shook his head at me from behind her. He
said afterward he let her go on that way, because it kept
her from crying over Josephine. As for the trunk, he
should give it to Miss Dix as soon as ever he reached

In a week, Frank bad got his commission as captain of a
company in a volunteer regiment; he went into camp at
Dartford, our chief town, and set to work in earnest at tac-
tics and drill. The Bowens also went to Dartford, and the
last week in May came back for Josey's wedding. I am a
superstitious creature, most women are, and it went to
my heart to have them married in May ; but I did not say
so, for it seemed imperative, as the regiment were to leave
for Washington in June, early.

The day but one before the wedding was one of those
warm, soft days that so rarely come in May. My windows
were open, and the faint scent of springing grass and open-
ing blossoms came in on every southern breath of wind.
Josey had brought her work over to sit beside me. She
was hemming her wedding-veil, a long cloud of tulle ;
and as she sat there, pinching the frail stuff in her fingers,
and handling her needle with such deft little ways, as if
they were old friends and understood each other, there was
something so youthful, so unconscious, so wistfully sweet in
her aspect, I could not believe her the same resolute, brave
creature I had seen that night in April.

A WOMAN. 279

* Josey," said I, " I don't know how you can be willing to
let Frank go."

It was a hard thing for me to say, and I said it without

She leaned back in her chair, and pinched her hem faster
than ever.

" I don't know, either," said she. " I suppose it was be-
cause I ought. I don't think I am so willing now, Sue : it
was easy at first, for I was so angry and grieved about those
Massachusetts men ; but now, when I get time to think, I
do ache over it ! I never let him know ; for it is just the
same right now, and he thinks so. Besides, I never let my-
self grieve much, even to myself, lest he might find it out.
I must keep bright till he goes. It would be so very hard
on him, Susy, to think I was crying at home."

I said no more, I could not ; and happily for me,
Frank came in with a bunch of wild-flowers that Josey took
with a smile as gay as the columbines, and a blush that out-
shone the " pinkster-bloomjes," as our old Dutch " chore-
man " called the wild honeysuckle. A perfect shower of
dew fell from them all over her wedding-veil.

The day of her marriage was showery as April, but a
gleam of soft, fitful sunshine streamed into the little church-
windows, and fell across the tiny figure that stood by Frank
Addison's side, like a ray of glory, till the golden curls glit-
tered through her veil, and the fresh lilies-of-the-valley that
crowned her hair and ornamented her simple dress seemed
to send out a fresher fragrance, and glow with more pearly
whiteness. Mrs. Bowen, in a square pew, sobbed and snuf-
fled, and sopped her eyes with a lace pocket-handkerchief,
and spilt cologne all over her dress, and mashed the flowers
on her French hat against the dusty pew-rail, and behaved
generally like a hen that has lost her sole chicken. Mr.
Bowen sat upright in the pew-corner, uttering sonorous
hems, whenever his wife sobbed audibly ; he looked as dry


as a stick, and as grim as Bunyan's giant, and chewed car-
damom-seeds, as if he were a ruminating animal.

After the wedding came lunch : it was less formal than
dinner, and nobody wanted to sit down before hot dishes
and go through with the accompanying ceremonies. For
my part, I always did hate gregarious eating : it is well
enough for animals, in pasture or pen ; but a thing that has
so little that is graceful or dignified about it as this taking
food, especially as the thing is done here in America,
ought, in my opinion, to be a solitary act. I never bring
my quinine and iron to my friends and invite them to share
it ; why should I ask them to partake of my beef, mutton,
and pork, with the accompanying mastication, the distortion
of face, and the suppings and gulpings of fluid dishes that
many respectable people indulge in ? No, let me, at
least, eat alone. But I did not do so to-day; for Josey,
with the most unsentimental air of hunger, sat down at the
table and ate two sandwiches, three pickled mushrooms, a
piece of pie, and a glass of jelly, with a tumbler of ale be-
sides. Laura Lane sat on the other side of the table, her
great dark eyes intently fixed on Josephine, and a look in
which wonder was delicately shaded with disgust quivering
about her mouth. She was a feeling soul, and thought a
girl in love ought to live on strawberries, honey, and spring-
water. I believe she really doubted Josey's affection for
Frank, when she saw her eat a real mortal meal on her
wedding-day. As for me, I am a poor, miserable, unhealthy
creature, not amenable to ordinary dietetic rules, and much
given to taking any excitement, above a certain amount in
lieu of rational food ; so I sustained myself on a cup of
coffee, and saw Frank also make tolerable play of knife and
fork, though he did take some blanc-mange with his cold
chicken, and profusely peppered his Charlotte-Russe !

Mrs. Bowen alternately wept and ate pie. Mr. Bowen
said the jelly tasted of turpentine, and the chickens must

A WOMAN. . 281

have gone on Noah's voyage, they were so tough ; he
growled at the ale, and asked nine questions about the
coffee, all of a derogatory sort, and never once looked at
Josephine, who looked at him every tune he was particularly
cross, with a rosy little smile as if she knew why ! The
few other people present behaved after the ordinary fashion ;
and when we had finished, Frank and Josephine, Mr. and
Mrs. Bowen, Laura Lane and I, all took the train for Dart-
ford. Laura was to stay two weeks, and I till the regiment

An odd time I had, after we were fairly settled in our
quiet hotel, with those two girls. Laura was sentimental,
sensitive, rather high-flown, very shy, and self-conscious ; it
was not in her to understand Josey at all. "We had a great
deal of shopping to do, as our little bride had put off buying
most of her finery till this time, on account of the few
weeks between the fixing of her marriage-day and its arri-
val. It was pretty enough to see the naive vanity with
which she selected her dresses and shawls and laces, the
quite inconsiderate way in which she spent her money on
whatever she wanted. One day we were in a dry-goods'
shop, looking at silks ; among them lay one of Marie-Louise
blue, a plain silk, rich from its heavy texture only, soft,
thick, and perfect in color.

" I will have that one," said Josephine, after she had eyed
it a moment, with her head on one side, like a canary-bird.
"How much is it?"

" Two fifty a yard, Miss," said the spruce clerk, with an
inaccessible air.

" I shall look so nice in it ! " Josey murmured. " Sue,
will seventeen yards do ? it must be very full and long ; I
can't wear flounces."

" Yes, that 's plenty," said I, scarce able to keep down a
smile at Laura's face.

She would as soon have smoked a cigar on the steps of


the hotel as have mentioned before anybody, much less a
supercilious clerk, that she should " look so nice " in any-
thing. Josey never thought of anything beyond the fact,
which was only a fact. So, after getting another dress of a
lavender tint, still self-colored, but corded and rich, because
it went well with her complexion, and a black one, that
" father liked to see against her yellow wig, as he called it,"
Mrs. Josephine proceeded to a milliner's, 'vhere, to Laura's
further astonishment, she bought bonnets for herself, as if
she had been her own doll, with an utter disregard of prop-
er self-depreciation, trying one after another, and discarding
them for various personal reasons, till at last she fixed on a
little gray straw, trimmed with gray ribbon and white dai-
sies, " for camp," she said, and another of white lace, a
fabric calculated to wear twice, perhaps, if its floating
sprays of clematis did not catch in any parasol on its first
appearance. She called me to see how becoming both the
bonnets were, viewed herself in various ways in the glass,
and at last announced that she looked prettiest in the straw,
but the lace was most elegant. To this succeeded purchases
of lace and shawls, that still further opened Laura's eyes, and
made her face grave. She confided to me privately, that,
after all, I must allow Josephine was silly and extravagant.
I had just come from that little lady's room, where she sat
surrounded by the opened parcels, saying, with the gravity
of a child,

" I do like pretty things, Sue ! I like them more now
than I used to, because Frank likes me. I am so glad
I 'm pretty ! "

I don't know how it was, but I could not quite coincide
with Laura's strictures. Josey was extravagant, to be sure ;
she was vain ; but something so tender and feminine fla-
vored her very faults that they charmed me. I was not
an impartial judge ; and I remembered, through all, that
A.pril night, and the calm, resolute, self-poised character

A WOMAN. 283

that invented the lovely, girlish face with such dignity,
strength, and simplicity. No, she was not silly ; I could not
grant that to Laura.

Every day we drove to the camp, and brought Frank
home to dinner. Now and then he stayed with us till the
next day, and even Laura could not wonder at his " infatua-
tion," as she had once called it, when she saw how thor-
oughly Josephine forgot herself in her utter devotion to
him ; over this, Laura's eyes filled with sad forebodings.

" If anything should happen to him, Sue, it will kill her,"
she said. " She never can lose him and live. Poor little
thing ! how could Mr. Bowen let her marry him ? "

" Mr. Bowen lets her do much as she likes, Laura, and
always has, I imagine."

" Yes, she has been a spoiled child, I know, but it is such
a pity!"

" Has she been spoiled ? I believe, as a general thing,
more children are spoiled by what the Scotch graphically
call 'nagging* than by indulgence. What do you think
Josey would have been, if Mrs. Brooks had been her
mother ? "

" I don't know quite ; unhappy I am sure ; for Mrs.
Brooks's own children look as if they had been fed on
chopped catechism, and whipped early every morning, ever
since they were born. I never went there without hearing
one or another of them told to sit up, or sit down, or keep
still, or let their aprons alone, or read their Bibles ; and Joe
Brooks confided to me in Sunday school that he called Dea-
con Smith i old bald-head,' one day, in the street, to see if
a bear would n't come and eat him up, he was so tired of
being a good boy ! "

" That 's a case in point, I think, Laura ; but what a jolly
little boy ! he ought to have a week to be naughty in, di-

" He never will, while his mother owns a rod ! " said she,


I had beguiled Laura from her subject ; for, to tell the
truth, it was one I did not dare to contemplate ; it op-
pressed and distressed me too much.

After Laura went home, we stayed in Dartford only a
week, and then followed the regiment to Washington. We
had been there but a few days, before it was ordered into
service. Frank came into my room one night to tell me.

" We must be off to-morrow, Sue, and you must take
her back to Ridgefield at once. I can't have her here. 1
have told Mr. Bowen. If we should be beaten, and we
may, raw troops may take a panic, or may fight like vet-
erans, but if we should run, they will make a bee-line for
Washington. I should go mad to have her here with a pos-
sibility of Rebel invasion. She must go ; there is no ques-

He walked up and down the room, then came back and
looked me straight in the face.

" Susan, if I never come back, you will be her godd
friend, too ? "

" Yes," said I, meeting his eye as coolly as it met mine :
I had learned a lesson of Josey. " I shall see you in the
morning ? "

" Yes " ; and so he went back to her.

Morning came. Josephine was as bright, as calm, as nat-
ural, as the June day itself. She insisted on fastening " her
Captain's " straps on his shoulders, purloined his cumbrous
pin-ball and put it out of sight, and kept even Mrs. Bowen's
sobs in subjection by the intense serenity of her manner.
The minutes seemed to go like beats of a fever-pulse ; ten
o'clock smote on a distant bell ; Josephine had retreated, as
if accidentally, to a little parlor of her own, opening from
our common sitting-room. Frank shook hands with Mr.
Bowen ; kissed Mrs. Bowen dutifully, and cordially too ;
gave me one strong clasp in his arms, and one kiss ; then
went after Josephine. I closed the door softly behind him.

A WOMAN. 285

In five minutes by the ticking clock he came out, and strode
through the room without a glance at either of us. I had
heard her say " Good by " in her sweet, clear tone, just as
he opened the door ; but some instinct impelled me to go in
to her at once : she lay in a dead faint on the floor.

We left Washington that afternoon, and went straight
back to Ridgefield. Josey was in and out of my small house
continually : but for her father and mother, I think she
would have stayed with me from choice. Rare letters came
from Frank, and were always reported to me, but, of course,
never shown. If there was any change in her manner, it
was more steadily affectionate to her father and mother than
ever ; the fitful, playful ways of her girlhood were subdued,
but, except to me, she showed no symptom of pain, no shad-
ow of apprehension : with me alone she sometimes drooped
and sighed. Once she laid her little head on my neck, and,
holding me to her tightly, half sobbed,

" Oh, I wish I wish I could see him just for once ! "

I could not speak to answer her.

As rumors of a march toward Manassas increased, Mr.
and Mrs. Bowen took her to Dartford : there was no tele-
graph line to Ridgefield, and but one daily mail, and now a
day's delay of news might be a vital loss. I could not go
with them ; I was too ill. At last came that dreadful day
of Bull Run. Its story of shame and blood, trebly exagger-
ated, ran like fire through the land. For twenty-four long
hours every heart in Ridgefield seemed to stand still ; then
there was the better news of fewer dead than the first re-
port, and we knew that the enemy had retreated, but no
particulars. Another long, long day, and the papers said

Colonel 's regiment was cut to pieces ; the fourth mail

told another story: the regiment was safe, but Captains
Addison, Black, and Jones, I think, were missing. The
fifth day brought me a letter from Mr. Bowen. Frank was
dead, shot through the heart, before the panic began, cheer-


ing on his men ; he had fallen in the very front rank, and
his gallant company, at the risk of their lives, after losing
half their number as wounded or killed, had brought off his
body, and carried it with them in retreat, to find at last that
they had ventured all this for a lifeless corpse !

He did not mention Josephine, but asked me to come to
them at once, as he was obliged to go to Washington. I
could not, for I was too ill to travel without a certainty of
being quite useless at my journey's end. I could but just
sit up. Five days after, I had an incoherent sobbing sort
of letter from Mrs. Bowen, to say that they had arranged to
have the funeral at Ridgefield the next day but one, that
Josephine would come out, with her, the night before, and
directly to my house, if I was able to receive them. I sent
word by the morning's mail that I was able, and went my-
self to the station to meet them.

They had come alone, and Josey preceded her mother
into the little room, as if she were impatient to have any
meeting with a fresh face over. She was pale as any pale
blossom of spring, and as calm. Her curls, tucked away
under the widow's-cap she wore, and clouded by the mass
of crape that shrouded her, left only a narrow line of gold
above the dead quiet of her brow. Her eyes were like the
eyes of a sleep-walker : they seemed to see, but not to feel
sight. She smiled mechanically and put a cold hand into
mine. For any outward expression of emotion, one might
have thought Mrs. Bowen the widow : her eyes were blood-
shot and swollen, her nose was red, her lips tremulous,
her whole face stained and washed with tears, and the
skin seemed wrinkled by their salt floods. She had cried
herself sick, more over Josephine than Frank, as was

It was but a short drive over to my house, but an utterly
silent one. Josephine made no sort of demonstration, ex-
cept that she stooped to pat my great dog as we went in. I

A WOMAN. | 287

gave her a room that opened out of mine, and put Mrs.
Bowen by herself. Twice in the night I stole in to look at
her : both times I found her waking, her eyes fixed on the
open window, her face set in its unnatural quiet ; she smiled,
but did not speak. Mrs. Bowen told me in the morning
that she had neithei shed a tear nor slept since the news
came : it seemed to strike her at once into this cold silence,
and so she had remained. About ten, a carriage was sent
over from the village to take them to the funeral. Tliis
miserable custom of ours, that demands the presence of
women at such ceremonies, Mrs. Bowen was the last person
to evade ; and when I suggested to Josey that she should
stay at home with me, she looked surprised, and said, qui-
etly, but emphatically, " O no ! "

After they were gone, I took my shawl and went out on
the lawn. There was a young pine dense enough to shield
me from the sun, sitting under which I could see the funeral
procession as it wound along the river's edge up toward the
burying-ground, a mile beyond the station. But there was
no sun to trouble me ; cool gray clouds brooded ominously
over all the sky : a strong south wind cried, and wailed, and
swept in wild gusts through the woods, while in its intervals
a dreadful quiet brooded over earth and heaven, over the
broad weltering river, that, swollen by recent rain, washed
the green grass shores with sullen flood, over the heavy
masses of oak and hickory trees that hung on the farther
hillside, over the silent village and its gathering people.
The engine-shriek was borne on the coming wind from far
down the valley. There was an air of hushed expectation
and regret in Nature itself that seemed to fit the hour to
its event.

Soon I saw the crowd about the station begin to move,
and presently the funeral-bell swung out its solemn tones of
lamentation; its measured, lingering strokes, mingled with
the woful shrieking of the wind and the sighing of the


pine-tree overhead, made a dirge of inexpressible force and
melancholy. A weight of grief seemed to settle on my
very breath : it was not real sorrow ; for, though I knew it
well, I had not felt yet that Frank was dead, it was not
real to me, I could not take to my stunned perceptions
the fact that he was gone. It is the protest of Xature. dim-
ly conscious of her original eternity, against this interruption
of death, that it should always be such an interruption, so
incredible, so surprising, so new. No, the anguish that
oppressed me now was -not the true anguish of loss, but
merely the effect of these adjuncts ; the pain of want, of
aration, of reaching in vain after that which is gone, of
%-ivid dreams and tearful waking, all this lay in "wait for
the future, to be still renewed, still suffered and endured,
till time should be no more. Let all these pangs of recol-
lection attest it, these involuntary bursts of longing for

the eyes that are gone and the voice that is still, these

recoils of baffled feeling seeking for the one perfect sympa-
thy forever fled, these pleasures dimmed in their first
resplendence for want of one whose joy would have been
keener and sweeter to us than our own, these hitter sor-
rows crying like children in pain for the heart that should
have soothed and shared them! No, there is no such
dreary He as that which prates of consoling Time ! You
who are gone, if in heaven you know how we mortals fare,

you kndw that life took from you no love, no faith, that

bitterer tears fall for you to-day than ever wet your new
graves, that the gayer words and the recalled smiles are
only, like the flowers that grow above you, symbols of the
deeper roots we" strike in your past existence, that to the
true soul there is no such thing as forgetfulness, no such
mercy as diminishing regret !

Slowly the long procession wound up the river, here,

black with plumed hearse and sable mourners, there, gay

with regimental band and bright uniforms, no stately,

A WOMAN. 289

proper funeral, ordered by custom and marsl ailed by pro-
priety, but a straggling array of vehicles ; here, the doctor's
old chaise. there, an open wagon, a dusty buggy, a long,
open omnibus, such as the village-stable kept for pleasure-
parties or for parties of mourning who wanted to go en

All that knew Frank, in or about Ridgefield, and all who
hatl sons or brothers in the army, swarmed to do him honor ;
and the quaint, homely array crept slowly through the val-
ley, to the sound of tolling bell and moaning wind and the
low rush of the swollen river, the first taste of war's des-

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 40 of 66)