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nice it was! Temperance, who had been my aid, arrived at this juncture
and croaked.

"Did you ever see such a stived-up hole, Mis Morgeson?"

"I like it now," she answered, "it is so comfortable. How lovely this
blue is!"

"It's a pity she wont keep the blinds shut. The curtains will fade to
rags in no time; the sun pours on 'em."

"How could I watch the sea then?" I asked.

"Good Lord! it's a mystery to me how you can bother over that salt
water."

"And the smell of the sea-weed," added Aunt Merce.

"And its thousand dreary cries," said mother.

"Do you like my covered doors?" I inquired.

"I vow," Temperance exclaimed, "the nails are put in crooked! And I
stood over Dexter the whole time. He said it was damned nonsense, and
that you must be awfully spoiled to want such a thing. 'You get your
pay, Dexter,' says I, 'for what you do, don't you?' 'I guess I do,'
says he, and then he winked. 'None of your gab,' says I. I do believe
that man is a cheat and a rascal, I vow I do. But they are all so."

"In my young days," Aunt Merce remarked, "young girls were not allowed
to have fires in their chambers."

"In our young days, Mercy," mother replied, "_we_ were not allowed to
have much of anything."

"Fires are not wholesome to sleep by," Temperance added.

"Miss Veronica never has a fire," piped Fanny, who had remained,
occasionally making a stir with the tongs.

"But she ought to have!" Temperance exclaimed vehemently. "I do
wonder, Mis Morgeson, that you do not insist upon it, though it's none
of my business."

Father was conducted upstairs, after supper. The fire was freshly
made; the shaded lamp on the table before the sofa and the easy-chair
pleased him. He came often afterward, and stayed so long, sometimes,
that I fell asleep, and found him there, when I woke, still smoking
and watching the fire.

Veronica looked in at bed-time. "I recognize you here," she said as
she passed. But she came back in a few moments in a wrapper, with a
comb in her hand, and stood on the hearth combing her hair, which was
longer than a mermaid's. The fire was grateful to her, and I believe
that she was surprised at the fact.

"Why not have a fire in your room, Verry?"

"A fire would put me out. One belongs in this room, though. It is the
only reality here."

"What if I should say you provoke me, perverse girl?"

"What if you should?"

She gathered up her hair and shook it round her face, with the same
elfish look she wore when she pulled it over her eyes as a child. It
made me feel how much older I was.

"I do not say so, and I will not."

"I wish you would; I should like to hear something natural from you."

Fanny, coming in with an armful of wood, heard her. Instead of putting
it on the fire, she laid it on the hearth, and, sitting upon it with
an expression of enjoyment, looked at both of us with an expectant
air.

"You love mischief, Fanny," I said.

"Is it mischief for me to look at sisters that don't love each other?"
and, laughing shrilly, she pulled a stick from under her, and threw it
on the fire.

Veronica's eyes shot more sparks than the disturbed coals, for Fanny's
speech enraged her. Giving her head a toss, which swept her hair
behind her shoulders, she darted at Fanny, and picked her up from the
wood, with as much ease as if it had been her handkerchief, instead of
a girl nearly as heavy as herself. I started up.

"Sit still," she said to me, in her low, inflexible voice, holding
Fanny against the wall. "I must attend to this little demon. Do you
dare to think," addressing Fanny with a gentle vehemence, "that what
you have just said, is true of _me_? Are you, with your small, starved
spirit, equal to any judgment against _her?_ I admire her; you do,
too. I _love_ her, and I love you, you pitiful, ignorant brat."

Her strength gave way, and she let her go.

"All declarations in my behalf are made to third persons," I thought.

"I do believe, Miss Veronica," said Fanny, who did not express any
astonishment or resentment at the treatment she had received, "that
you are going to be sick; I feel so in my bones."

"Never mind your bones. Twist up my hair, and think, while you do it,
how to get rid of your diabolical curiosity."

"I have had nothing to do all my life," she answered, carefully
knotting Verry's hair, "but to be curious. I never found out much,
though, till lately"; and she cast her eyes in my direction.

"Put her out, Cassandra," said Verry, "if you like to touch her."

"I'll sweep the hearth, if you please, first," Fanny answered. "I am a
good drudge, you know. Good-night, ladies."

I followed Veronica, wishing to know if her room was uncomfortable.
She had made slight changes since my visit to her. The flowers had
been moved, the stand where the candle stood was covered with crimson
cloth. The dead bough and the autumn leaves were gone; but instead
there was a branch of waving grasses, green and fresh, and on the
table was a white flower, in a vase.

"It is freezing here, but it looks like summer. Is it design?"

"Yes; I can't sit here much; still, I can read in bed, and write,
especially under my new quilt, which you have not seen."

It was composed of red, black, and blue bits of silk, and beautifully
quilted. Hepsey and Temperance had made it for her.

"How about the wicket, these winter nights?"

"I drag the quilt off, and wrap it round me when I want to look out."

We heard a bump on the floor, and Temperance appeared with warm bricks
wrapped in flannel.

"You know that I will not have those things," Verry said.

"Dear me, how contrary you are! And you have not eaten a thing
to-day."

"Carry them out."

Her voice was so unyielding, but always so gentle! Temperance was
obliged to deposit the bricks outside the door, which she did with a
bang.

"I should think you might sleep in Cassandra's room; her bed is big
enough for three."

No answer was made to this proposition, but Verry said,

"You may undress me, if you like, and stay till you are convinced I
shall not freeze."

"I've staid till I am in an ager. I might as well finish the night
here, I spose."

She called me after midnight, for she had not left Verry, who had been
attacked with one of her mysterious disorders.

"You can do nothing for her; but I am scared out, when she faints so
dreadful; I don't like to be alone."

Veronica could not speak, but she shook her head at me to go away.
Her will seemed to be concentrated against losing consciousness; it
slipped from her occasionally, and she made a rotary motion with
her arms, which I attempted to stop, but her features contracted so
terribly, I let her alone.

"Mustn't touch her," said Temperance, whose efforts to relieve her
were confined to replacing the coverings of the bed, and drawing her
nightgown over her bosom, which she often threw off again. Her breath
scarcely stirred her breast. I thought more than once she did not
breathe at all. Its delicate, virgin beauty touched me with a holy
pity. We sat by her bed in silence a long time, and although it was
freezing cold, did not suffer. Suddenly she turned her head and
closed her eyes. Temperance softly pulled up the clothes over her and
whispered: "It is over for this time; but Lord, how awful it is! I
hoped she was cured of these spells."

In a few minutes she asked, "What time is it?"

"It must be about eleven," Temperance replied; but it was nearly four.
She dozed again, but, opening her eyes presently, made a motion toward
the window.

"There's no help for it," muttered Temperance, "she must go."

I understood her, and put my arm under Verry's neck to raise her.
Temperance wrapped the quilt round her, and we carried her to the
window. Temperance pushed open the pane; an icy wind blew against us.

"It is the winter that kills little Verry," she said, in a childlike
voice. "God's breath is cold over the world, and my life goes. But the
spring is coming; it will come back."

I looked at Temperance, whose face was so corrugated with the desire
for crying and the effort to keep from it, that for the life of me,
I could not help smiling. As soon as I smiled I laughed, and then
Temperance gave way to crying and laughing together. Veronica stared,
and realized the circumstances in a second. She walked back to the
bed, laughing faintly, too. "Go to bed, do. You have been here a long
time, have you?"

I left Temperance tucking the clothes about her, kissing her, and
calling her "deary and her best child."

I could not go to bed at once, for Fanny was on my hearth before the
fire, which she had rekindled, watching the boiling of something.

"She has come to, hasn't she?" stirring the contents of the kettle. "I
knew it was going to be so with her, she was so mad with me. She is
like the Old Harry before she has a turn, and like an angel after.
I am fond of people who have their ups and downs. I have seen her so
before. She asked me to keep the doors locked once; they are locked
now. But I couldn't keep _you_ out. The doctor said she must have warm
drinks as soon as she was better. This is gruel."

"If it is done, away with you. Calamity improves you, don't it? You
seem in excellent spirits."

"First-rate; I can be somebody then."






CHAPTER XXV.


Before spring there were three public events in Surrey. A lighthouse
was built on Gloster Point, below our house. At night there was a
bridge of red, tremulous light between my window and its tower, which
seemed to shorten the distance. A town-clock had been placed in the
belfry of the new church in the western part of the village. Veronica
could see the tips of its gilded hands from the top of her window, and
hear it strike through the night, whether the wind was fair to bring
the sound or not. She liked to hear the hours cry that they had gone.
Soon after the clock was up, she recollected that Mrs. Crossman's
dog had ceased to bark at night, as was his wont, and sent her a note
inquiring about it, for she thought there was something poetical in
connection with nocturnal noises, which she hoped Mrs. Crossman felt
also. Fanny conveyed the note, and read it likewise, as Mrs. Crossman
declared her inability to read writing with her new spectacles, which
a peddler had cheated her with lately. She laughed at it, and sent
word to Veronica that she was the curiousest young woman for her age
that she had ever heard of; that the dog slept in the house of nights,
for he was blind and deaf now; but that Crossman should get a new dog
with a loud bark, if the dear child wanted it.

A new dog soon came, so fierce that Abram told Temperance that people
were afraid to pass Crossman's. She guessed it wasn't the dog the
people were afraid of, but of their evil consciences, which pricked
them when they remembered Dr. Snell.

The third event was Mr. Thrasher's revival. It began in February, and
before it was over, I heard the April frogs croaking in the marshy
field behind the church. We went to all the meetings, except Veronica,
who continued her custom of going only on Sunday afternoons. Mr.
Thrasher endeavored to proselyte me, but he never conversed with her.
His manner changed when he was at our house; if she appeared, the man
tore away the mask of the minister. She called him a Bible-banger,
that he made the dust fly from the pulpit cushions too much to suit
her; besides, he denounced sinners with vituperation, larding his
piety with a grim wit which was distasteful. He was resentful toward
me, especially after he had seen her. It was needful, he said, from my
influence in Surrey, that I should become an example, and asked me
if I did not think my escape from sudden death in Rosville was an
indication from Providence that I was reserved for some especial work?

Surrey was never so evangelical as under his ministration, and it
remained so until he was called to a larger field of usefulness, and
offered a higher salary to till it. We settled into a milder theocracy
after he left us. Mr. Park renewed his zeal, about this time, resuming
his discussions; but mother paid little attention to what he said.
There were days now when she was confined to her room. Sometimes I
found her softly praying. Once when I went there she was crying aloud,
in a bitter voice, with her hands over her head. She was her old
self when she recovered, except that she was indifferent to practical
details. She sought amusement, indeed, liked to have me with her to
make her laugh, and Aunt Merce was always near to pet her as of old,
and so we forgot those attacks.

Abram Handy, inspired with religious fervor during the revival, was
also inspired with the twin passion - love - to visit Temperance, and
begged her, with so much eloquence, to marry him before his cow should
calve, that she consented, and he was happy. He spent the Sunday
evenings with her, coming after conference meeting, hymn-book in hand.
She was angry and ashamed, if I happened to see them sitting in
the same chair, and singing, in a quavering voice, "Greenland's Icy
Mountains," and continued morose for a week, in consequence.

"What will Veronica do without me?" she said. "I vow I wish Abram
Handy would keep himself out of my way; who wants him?"

"She will visit you, and so shall I."

"Certain true, will you, really?"

"If you will promise to return our visits, and leave Abram at home,
for a week now and then."

"Done. I can mend your things and look after Mis Morgeson. Your mother
is not the woman she was, and you and Veronica haven't a mite of
faculty. What you are all coming to is more than I can fathom."

"Who will fill your place?"

"I don't want to brag, but you wont find a soul in Surrey to come here
and live as I have lived. You will have to take a Paddy; the Paddies
are spreading, the old housekeeping race is going. Hepsey and I are
the last of the Mohicans, and Hepsey is failing."

She was right, we never found her equal, and when she went, in May,
a Celtic dynasty came in. We missed her sadly. Verry refused to be
comforted. Symptoms of disorganization appeared everywhere.

In the summer Helen visited Surrey. Her enlivening gayety was the
means of our uniting about her. She was never tired of Veronica's
playing, nor of our society; so we must stay where she and the
piano were. We trimmed the parlor with flowers every day. Veronica
transferred some of her favorite books to the round table, and
privately sent for a set of flower vases. When they came, she said we
must have a new carpet to match them, and although mother protested
against it, she was loud in her admiration when she saw the
handsome white Brussels, thickly covered with crimson roses. Helen's
introduction proved an astonishing incentive; we set a new value on
ourselves. I never saw so much of Veronica as at that time; her health
improved with her temper. She threw us into fits of laughter with her
whimsical talk, never laughing herself, but enjoying the effect she
produced. To please her, Helen changed her style of dress, and bought
a dress at Milford, which Veronica selected and made. The trying on
of this dress was the means of her discovering the letters on Helen's
arm, which never ceased to be a source of interest. She asked to see
them every day afterward, and touched them with her fingers, as if
they had some occult power.

"You think her strange, do you not?" I asked Helen.

"She has genius, but will be a child always."

"You are mistaken; she was always mature."

"She stopped in the process of maturity long ago. It is her genius
which takes her on. You advance by experience."

"I shall learn nothing more."

"Of course you have suffered immensely, and endured that which
isolates you from the rest of us."

"You are as wise as ever."

"Well, I am married, you know, and shall grow no wiser. Marriage puts
an end to the wisdom of women; they need it no longer."

"You are nineteen years old?"

"What is the use of talking to you? Besides, if we keep on we may tell
secrets that had better not be revealed. We might not like each
other so well; friendship is apt to dull if there is no ground for
speculation left. Let us keep the bloom on the fruit, even if we know
there is a worm at the core."

I owed it to her that I never had any confidante. My proclivities were
for speaking what I felt; but her strong common-sense influenced me
greatly against it; her teaching was the more easy to me, as she never
invaded my sentiments.

Her visit was the occasion of our exchanging civilities with our
acquaintances, which we neglected when alone. Tea parties were always
fashionable in Surrey. Veronica went with us to one, given by our
cousin, Susan Morgeson. She had taken tea out but twice, since she
was grown, she told us, then it was with her friend Lois Randall, a
seamstress. To this girl she read the contents of her blank-books,
and Lois in her turn confided to Veronica her own compositions. Essays
were her forte. We met her at Susan Morgeson's, and, as I never saw
her without her having on some article given her by Veronica, this
occasion was no exception. She wore an exquisitely embroidered purple
silk apron, over a dull blue dress. I saw Verry's grimace when her
eyes fell on it, and could not help saying, "I hope Lois's essays are
better than her taste in dress."

"She is an idiot in colors; but she admires what I wear so much that
she fancies the same must become her."

"As they become you?"

"I make a study of dress - an anomaly must. It may be wicked, but what
can I do? I love to look well."

The dress she wore then was an India stuff, of linen, with a
cream-colored ground, and a vivid yellow silk thread woven in stripes
through it; each stripe had a cinnamon-colored edge. There were no
ornaments about her, except a band of violet-colored ribbon round her
head. When tea was brought in, she asked me in a whisper whether it
was tea or coffee in the cup which was given her.

"Why, Cass," said Helen, "are you making a wonderment because she
does not know? It is strange that you have not known that she drinks
neither."

"What does she drink?"

"Is it eccentric to drink milk?" Verry asked, swallowing the tea with
an accustomed air. "I think this must be coffee, it stings my mouth
so."

"It is green tea," said Helen; "don't drink it, Verry."

"Green tea," she said, in a dreamy voice. "We drank green tea ten
years ago, in our old house; and I did not know it! Cassandra, do
you remember that I drank four cups once, when mother had company? I
laughed all night, and Temperance cried."

She contributed her share toward entertaining, and invariably received
the most attention. My indifference was called pride, and her reserve
was called dignity, and dignity was more popular than pride.

Before Helen went, Ben wrote me that he was going to India. It was a
favorite journey with the Belemites. By the time the letter reached
me he should be gone. Would I bear him in remembrance? He would not
forget me, and promised me an Indian idol. In eighteen months he
expected to be at home again; sooner, perhaps. P.S. Would I give
his true regards to my sister? N.B. The property might be divided
according to his grandfather's will, before his return, and he wanted
to be out of the way for sundry reasons, which he hoped to tell me
some day. I read the letter to Helen and Veronica. Helen laughed, and
said "Unstable as water"; but Veronica looked displeased; she closed
her eyes as if to recall him to mind, and asked Helen abruptly if she
did not like him.

"Yes; but I doubt him. With all his strength of character he has a
capacity for failure."

"I consider him a relation," I said.

"_I_ do not own him," said Veronica.

"At all events, he is not an affectionate one," Helen remarked. "You
have not heard from him in a year."

"But I knew that I should hear," I said.

"We shall _see_ him," said Veronica, "again."

I was dull after I received his letter. My youth grew dim; somehow
I felt a self-pity. I found no chance to embalm those phases of
sensation which belonged to my period, and I grew careless; Helen's
influence went with her. The observances so vital to Veronica, so
charming in her, I became utterly neglectful of. For all this a mad
longing sometimes seized me to depart into a new world, which should
contain no element of the old, least of all a reminiscence of what my
experience had made me.






CHAPTER XXVI.


Alice Morgeson sent for Aunt Merce, asking her to fulfill the promise
she had made when she was in Rosville.

With misgivings she went, stayed a month, and returned with Alice. I
felt a throe of pain when we met, which she must have seen, for she
turned pale, and the hand she had extended toward me fell by her side;
overcoming the impulse, she offered it again, but I did not take it. I
had no evidence to prove that she came to Surrey on my account; but I
was sure that such was the fact, as I was sure that there was a bond
between us, which she did not choose to break, nor to acknowledge. She
appeared as if expecting some explanation or revelation from me; but
I gave her none, though I liked her better than ever. She was
business-like and observant. Her tendencies, never romantic, were less
selfish; it was no longer society, dress, housekeeping, which absorbed
her, but a larger interest in the world which gave her a desire
to associate with men and women, independent of caste. None of her
children were with her; had it been three years earlier, she would not
have left home without them. Her hair was a little gray, and a wrinkle
or two had gathered about her mouth; but there was no other change.
I was not sorry to have her go, for she paid me a close and quiet
observation. At the moment of departure, she said in an undertone:
"What has become of that candor of which you were so proud?" "I am
more candid than ever," I answered, "for I am silent."

"I understand you better, now that I have seen you _en famille."_

"What do you think now?"

"I don't think I know; the Puritans have much to answer for in
your mother - " Turning to her she said, "My children, too, are so
different."

Mother gave her a sad smile, as Fanny announced the carriage, and they
drove away.

"No more visitors this year," said Veronica, yawning.

"No agreeable ones, I fancy," I answered.

"All the relations have had their turn for this year," remarked Aunt
Merce. But she was mistaken; an old lady came soon after this to spend
the winter. She lived but four miles from Surrey, but brought with her
all her clothes, and a large green parrot, which her son had brought
from foreign parts. Her name was Joy Morgeson; the fact of her being
cousin to father's grandmother entitled her to a raid upon us at any
season, and to call us "cousins." She felt, she said, that she must
come and attend the meetings regular, for her time upon earth was
short. But Joy was a hearty woman still, and, pious as she was,
delighted in rough and scandalous stories, the telling of which gave
her severe fits of repentance. She quilted elaborate petticoats for
us, knit stockings for Arthur, and was useful. Mr. and Mrs. Elisha
Peckham surprised us next. They arrived from "up country" and stayed
two weeks. I did not clearly understand why they came before they
went; but as they enjoyed their visit, it was of little consequence
whether I did or not.

Midwinter passed, and we still had company. There was much to do, but
it was done without system. Mother or Aunt Merce detailed from their
ordinary duties as keeper of the visitors, Fanny was for the first
time able to make herself of importance in the family tableaux,
and assumed cares no one had thought of giving her. She left the
town-school, telling mother that learning would be of no use to her.
The rights of a human being merely was what she wanted; she should
fight for them; that was what paupers must do. Mother allowed her
to do as she pleased. Her duties commenced with calling us up to
breakfast _en masse_, and for once the experiment was successful,
for we all met at the table. The dining-room was in complete order, a
thing that had never happened early before; the rest of us missed the
straggling breakfast which consumed so much time.

"Whose doing is this?" asked father, looking round the table.

"It is Fanny's," I answered, rattling the cups. "All the coffee to be
poured out at once, don't agitate me."

Fanny, bearing buckwheat cakes, looked proud and modest, as people do
who appreciate their own virtues.

"Why, Fanny," said the father, "you have done wonders; you are more
original than Cassy or Verry."

Her green eyes glowed; her aspect was so feline that I expected her


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