Elizabeth Stoddard.

The Morgesons; a novel online

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" if you are sure that you would like a stupid, family tea."

" I am positive that I should. Tennyson, though an emi
nent Grecian, is not related to the person you spoke of."

We parted at the foot of Silver Street, with the expecta
tion of meeting before night. Helen sent me word not to
fail, as she had sent for Mr. Somers, and that Mrs. Bancroft
was already preparing tea. Alice drove down there with
me, to call on Mrs. Bancroft. The two ladies compared
children, and by the time Alice was ready to go, Mr. Somers
arrived. She staid a few moments more to chat with him,
and when she went at last, told me Charles would come for
me on his way from the mills.

My eyes wandered in the direction of Mr. Somers. His
said : " No ; go home with me."

" Very well, Alice, whatever is convenient," I answered

Mrs. Bancroft was a motherly woman, and Mr. Bancroft
was a fatherly man. Five children sat round the tea-table,
distinguished by the Bancroft nose. Helen and I were
seated each side of Mr. Somers. The table reminded me of
our table at Surrey, it was so covered with vast viands ; but
the dishes were alike, and handsome. I wondered whether
mother had bought the new china in Boston, and, buttering
my second hot biscuit, I thought of Veronica ; then, of the
sea. How did it look? Hark! Its voice was in my ear !
Could I climb the housetop ? Might I not see the mist
which hung over our low-lying sea by Surrey?

" Will you take quince or apple jelly, Miss Morgeson ? "
asked Mrs. Bancroft.

" Apple, if you please."

" Do you write that sister of yours often ? " asked Mr.
Somers, as he passed me the apple jelly.



"I never write her."

" Will you tell me something of Surrey ? "

" Mr. Somers, shall 1 give you a cup-custard^? "

" No, thank you, mam."

" Surrey is lonely, evangelical, primitive."

" Belem is dreary too ; most of it goes to Boston, or to

" Does it smell of sandal wood ? And has everybody tea-
caddies ? Vide Indian stories."

" We have a crate of queer things from Calcutta."

"Are you going to study law with Judge Ryder? "Mr.
Bancroft inquired.

" I think so."

Then Helen pushed back her chair ; and Mrs. Bancroft
stood in her place long enough for us to reach the parlor door.

" And I must go to the office," Mr. Bancroft said, so we
had the parlor to ourselves ; but Mr. Somers did not read
from Tennyson for he had forgotten to bring the book.

" Now for a compact," he said. " I must be called Ben
Somers by you ; and may I call you Cassandra, and

"Yes," we answered.

" Let us be confidential."

And we were. I was drawn into speaking of my life at
home ; my remarks, made without premeditation, proved
that I possessed ideas and feelings hitherto unknown. I
felt no shyness before him, and, although I saw his interest
in me, no agitation. Helen was also moved to tell us that
she was engaged. She rolled up her sleeve to show us a
bracelet, printed in ink on her arm, with the initials," L.N."
Those of her cousin, she said ; he was a sailor, and some
time, she supposed, they would marry.

" How could you consent to have your arm so defaced ? "
I asked.

Her eyes flashed as she replied that she had not looked
upon the mark in that light before.

" We may all be tattooed," said Mr. Somers.

" I am," I thought.

He told us in his turn that he should be rich. "There
are five of us. My mother s fortune cuts up rather ; but it
wont be divided till the youngest is twenty-one. I assure
you we are impatient."


"Some one of your family happened to marry a Morge-
son," I here remarked.

"I wrote father about that ; he must know the circum
stance, though he never has a chance to expatiate on his side
of the house. Poor man ! he has the gout, and passes his
time in experiments with temperature and diet. Will you
ever visit Belem ? I shall certainly go to Surrey."

Mrs. Bancroft interrupted us, and soon after Mr. Ban
croft arrived, redolent of smoke. Ten o clock came, and
nobody for me. At half-past ten I put on my shawl to walk
home, when Charles drove up to the gate.

" Say," said Ben Somers, in a low voice, " that you will
walk with me."

" I am not too late, Cassandra? " called Charles, coming
up the steps, bowing to all. " I am glad you are ready ;
Nell is impatient."

" My dear," asked Mrs. Bancroft, " how dare you trust to
the mercy of such vicious beasts as Mr. Morgeson loves to
drive ? "

" Come," he said, touching my arm.

" Wont you walk ? " said Mr. Somers aloud.

" Walk ? " echoed Charles. " No."

"I followed him. Nell had already bitten off a paling;
and as he untied her he boxed her ears. She did not jump,
for she knew the hand that struck her. We rushed swiftly
away through the long shadows of the moonlight.

" Charles, what did Ben Somers do at Harvard ? "

"He was in a night-fight, and he sometimes got drunk ; it
is a family habit."

" Pray, why did you inquire about him ? "

" From the interest I feel in him."

"You like him, then?"

" I detest him ; do you too ? "

" I like him."

He bent down and looked into my face.

" You are telling me a lie."

I made no reply.

" I should beg your pardon, but I will not. I am going
away to-morrow. Give me your hand, and say farewell."

" Farewell then. Is Alice up ? I see a light moving in
her chamber."

" If you do, she is not waiting for me."


" I have been making coffee for you," she said, as soon as
we entered, " in my French biggin. I have packed your
valise too, Charles, and have ordered your breakfast. Gassy,
we will breakfast after he has gone."

" I have to sit up to write, Alice. See that the horses are
exercised. Ask Parker to drive them. The men will be
here to-morrow to enlarge the conservatory."

" Yes."

" I shall get a better stock while I am away."

I sipped my coffee ; Alice yawned fearfully, with her hand
on the coffee-pot, ready to pour again. " Why, Charles,"
she exclaimed, " there is no cream in your coffee."

" No, there isn t," looking into his cup ; " nor sugar."

She threw a lump at him, which he caught, laughing one
of his abrupt laughs.

"How extraordinarily affectionate," I thought, but some
how it pleased me.

" Why do you tempt me, Alice ? " I said. " Doctor White
says I must not drink coffee."

" Tempted !" Charles exclaimed. "Cassandra is never
tempted. What she does, she does because she will. Don t
worry yourself, Alice, about her."

" Because I will," I repeated.

A nervous foreboding possessed me, the moment I en
tered my room. Was it the coffee ? Twice in the night I
lighted my candle, looked at the little French clock on the
mantel, and under the bed. At last I fell asleep, but start
ing violently from its oblivious dark, to become aware that
the darkness of the room was sentient. A breath passed
over my face ; but I caught no sound, though I held my
breath to listen for one. I moved my hands before me then,
but they came in contact with nothing. My forebodings
passed away, and I slept till Alice sent for me. I sat up in
bed philosophizing, and examining the position of the
chairs, the tops of the tables and the door. No change had
taken place. But my eyes happened to fall on my handker
chief, which had dropped by the bedside. I picked it up ;
there was a dusty footprint upon it. The bell rang, and,
throwing it under the bed, I dressed and ran down. Alice
was taking breakfast, tired of waiting. She said the baby
had cried till after midnight, and that Charles never came
to bed at all.


"Do eat this hot toast ; it has just come in."

" I shall stay at home to-day, Alice, I feel chilly ; is it
cold ? "

" You must have a fire in your room."

" Let me have one to day ; I should like to sit there."

She gave orders for the fire, and went herself to see that
it burned. Soon I was sitting before it, my feet on a stool,
and a poker in my hand with which I smashed the smoky
lumps of coal which smoldered in the grate.

I stayed there all day, looking out of the window when I
heard the horses tramp in the stable or a step on the
piazza. It was a dull November day ; the atmosphere was
glutinous with a pale mist, which made the leaves stick
together in bunches, helplessly cumbering the ground. The
boughs dropped silent tears over them, under the gray, piti
less sky. I read Byron, which was the only book in the
house, I believe ; for neither Charles nor Alice read any
thing except the newspapers. I looked over my small
stores also, and my papers, which consisted of father s let
ters. As I was sorting them the thought struck me of writ
ing to Veronica, and I, arranged my portfolio, pulled the table
nearer the fire, and began, " Dear Veronica." After writ
ing this a few times I gave it up, cut off the " Dear Veron
icas," and made lamplighters of the paper.

Ben Somers called at noon, to inquire the reason of my
absence from school, and left a book for me. It was the
poems he had spoken of. I lighted on " Fatima," read it
and copied it. In the afternoon Alice came up with the

" Let me braid your hair," she said, " in a different

I assented ; the baby was bestowed on a rug, and a
chair was put before the glass, that I might witness the

" What magnificent hair ! " she said, as she unrolled it.
" It is a yard long."

" It is a regular mane, isn t it ? "

She began combing it ; the baby crawled under the bed,
and coming out with the handkerchief in its hand, crept up
to her, trying to make her take it. She had combed my hair
over my face, but I saw it.

" Do I hurt you, Cass ? "


" No, do I ever hurt you, Alice ? " And I divided the
long bands over my eyes, and looked up at her.

"Were any of your family ever cracked ? I have long
suspected you of a disposition that way."

" The child is choking itself with that handkerchief."

She took it, and, tossing it on the bed, gave Byron to the
child to play with, and went on with the hair-dressing.

" There, now," she said," is not this a masterpiece of bar
ber s craft ? Look at the back of your head, and then come

" Yes, I will, for I feel better."

When I returned to my room again it was like meeting a
confidential friend.

A few days after, father came to Rosville. I invited Ben
Somers and Helen to spend with us the only evening he
stayed. After they were gone, we sat in my room and talked
over many matters. His spirits were not as buoyant as
usual, and I felt an undefmable anxiety which I did not
mention. When he said that mother was more abstracted
than ever, he sighed. I asked him how many years
he thought I must waste ; eighteen had already gone for

" You must go in the way ordained, waste or no waste.
I have tried to make your life differ from mine at the same
age, for you are like me, and I wanted to see the result."

" We shall see."

" Veronica has been let alone is master of herself, ex
cept when in a rage. She is an extraordinary girl ; inde
pendent of kith and kin, and everything else. I assure
you, Miss Gassy, she is very good."

" Does she ever ask for me ? "

" I never heard her mention your name but once. She
asked one day what your teachers were. You do not love
each other, I suppose. What hatred there is between near
relations ! Bitter, bitter," he said calmly, as if he thought
of some object incapable of the hatred he spoke of.

" That s Grandfather John Morgeson you think of. I do
not hate Veronica. I think I love her ; at least she inter
ests me."

" The same creeping in the blood of us all, Gassy. I did
not like my father ; but thank God I behaved decently to
ward him. It must be late."


As he kissed me, and we stood face to face, I recognized
my likeness to him. " He has had experiences that I shall
never know," I thought. " Why should I tell him mine ? "
But an overpowering impulse seized me to speak to him of
Charles. " Father," and I put my hands on his shoulders.
He set his candle back on the table.

" You look hungry-eyed, eager. What is it ? Are you
well ? "


" You are faded a little. Your face has lost its firmness."

My impulse died a sudden death. I buried it with a

" Do you think so ? "

" You are all alike. Let me tell you something ; don t
get sick. If you are, hide it as much as possible. Men do
not like sick women."

" I ll end this fading business as soon as possible. It is
late. Good-night, dad."

I examined my face as soon as he closed the door.
There was a change. Not the change from health to dis
ease, but an expression lurking there a reflection of some
unrevealed secret.

The next morning was passed with Alice and the chil
dren. He was pleased with her prettiness and sprightli-
ness, and his gentle manner and disposition pleased her.
She asked him to let me spend another year in Rosville ;
but he said that I must return to Surrey, and that he never
would allow me to leave home again.

She will marry."

Not early."

Never, I believe," I said.

It will be as well."

Yes," she replied ; "if you leave her a fortune, or teach her
some trade, that will give her some importance in the world."

Her wisdom astonished me.

He was sorry, he said, that Morgeson was not at home.
When he mentioned him I looked out of the window, and
saw Ben Somers coming into the yard. As he entered,
Alice gave him a meaning look, which was not lost upon me,
and which induced him to observe Ben closely.

" The train is nearly due, Mr. Morgeson ; shall I walk to
the station with you ? "


"Certainly ; come, Gassy."

On the way he touched me, making a sign toward Ben.
I shook my head, which appeared satisfactory. The rest
of the time was consumed in the discussion of the rela
tionship, which ended in an invitation, as I expected, to

" The governor is not worried, is he ? " asked Ben, on
our way back.

" No more than I am."

" What a pity Morgeson was not at home ! "

" Why a pity ? "

" I should like to see them together, they are such antip
odal men. Does your father know him well ? "

" Does any one know him well ? "

" Yes, I know him. I do not like him. He is a savage,
living by his instincts, with one element of civilization he
loves Beauty beauty like yours." He turned pale when he
said this, but went on. " He has never seen a woman like
you ; who has ? Forgive me, but I watch you both."

" I have perceived it."

" I suppose so, and it makes you more willful."

" You said you were but a boy."

" Yes, but I have had one or two manly wickednesses. I
have done with them, I hope."

" So that you have leisure to pry into those of others."

" You do not forgive me."

" I like you ; but what can I do ? "

" Keep up your sophistry to the last."


A LICE and I were preparing for the first ball, when
jf\ Charles came home, having been absent several weeks.
The conservatory was finished, and looked well, jutting
from the garden-room, which we used often, since the
weather had been cold. The flowers and plants it was filled
with were more fragrant and beautiful than rare. I never
saw him look so genial as when he inspected it with us.
Alice was in good-humor, also, for he had brought her a
set of jewels.


" Is it not her birthday," he said, when he gave her the
jewel case, " or something, that I can give Cassandra
this ? " taking a little box from his pocket.

" Oh yes," said Alice ; "show it to us."

"Will you have it ? " he asked me.

I held out my hand, and he put on my third finger a dia
mond ring, which was like a star.

" How well it looks on your long hand ! " said Alice.

"What unsuspected tastes I find I have!" I answered. " I
am passionately fond of rings ; this delights me."

His swarthy face flushed with pleasure at my words ; but,
according to his wont, he said nothing.

A few days after his return, a man came into the yard,
leading a powerful horse chafing in his halter, which he took
to the stable. Charles asked me to look at a new purchase
he had made in Pennsylvania. The strange man was loung
ing about the stalls when we went in, inspecting the horses
with a knowing air.

" I declare, sir," said Jesse, " I am afeared to tackle this
ere animal ; he s a reglar brute, and no mistake."

" He ll be tame enough ; he is but four years old."

"He s never been in a carriage," said the man.

" Lead him out, will you ? "

The man obeyed. The horse was a fine creature, black,
and thick-maned ; but the whites of his eyes were not clear ;
they were streaked with red, and he attempted continually
to turn his nostrils inside out. Altogether, I thought him

" What s the matter with his eyes ? " Charles asked.

" I think, sir," the man replied, " as how they got inflamed
like, in the boat coming from New York. It s nothing per-
ticalar, I believe."

Alice declared it was too bad, when she heard there was
another horse in the stable. She would not look at him,
and said she would never ride with Charles when he drove

I had been taking lessons of Professor Simpson, and was
ready for the ball. All the girls from the Academy were
going in white, except Helen, who was to wear pink silk.
It was to be a military ball, and strangers were expected.
Ben Somers, and our Rosville beaux, were of course to be
there, all in uniform, except Ben, who preferred the dress


of a gentleman, he said, silk stockings, pumps, and a white

We were dressed by nine o clock, Alice in black velvet,
with a wreath of flowers in her black hair I in alight blue
velvet bodice, and white silk skirt. We were waiting for
the ball hack to come for us, as hat was the custom, for
no one owned a close coach in Rosville, when Charles
brought in some splendid scarlet flowers which he gave to

" Where are Cassandra s ? "

" She does not care for flowers ; besides, she would
throw them away on her first partner."

He put us in the coach, and went back. I was glad he
did not come with us, and gave myself up to the excitement of
my first ball. Alice was surrounded by her acquaintances at
once, and I was asked to dance a quadrille by Mr. Parker,
whose gloves were much too large, and whose white trows-
ers were much too long.

" I kept the flowers you gave me," he said in a breathless

"Oh yes, I remember; mustn t we forward now?"

" Mr. Morgeson s very fond of flowers."

" So he is. How de do, Miss Ryder."

Miss Ryder, my vis-a-vis, bowed, looking scornfully at my
partner, who was only a clerk, while hers was a law student.
I immediately turned to Mr. Parker with affable smiles,
and went into a kind of dumb-show of conversation, which
made him warm and uncomfortable. Mrs. Judge Ryder
sailed by on Ben Somers s arm.

" Put your shoulders down," she whispered to her daugh
ter, who had poked one very much out of her dress. " My
love," she spoke aloud, "you mustn t dance every set."

" No, ma," and she passed on, Ben giving a faint cough,
for my benefit. We could not find Alice after the dance was
over. A brass band alternated with the quadrille band,
and it played so loudly that we had to talk at the top of our
voices to be heard. Mine soon gave out, and I begged Mr.
Parker to bring Helen, for I had not yet seen her. She
was with Dr. White, who had dropped in to see the misera
ble spectacle. The air, he said, shaking his finger at me,


was already miasmal ; it would be infernal by midnight
Christians ought not to be there. " Go home early, Miss.
Your mother never went to a ball, I ll warrant."

" We are wiser than our mothers."

"And wickeder ; you will send for me to-morrow."

" Your Valenciennes lace excruciates the Ryders," said
Helen. "I was standing near Mrs. Judge Ryder and the
girls just now. Did you ever see such an upstart ? And,
4 What an extravagant dress she has on it is ridiculous,
Josephine Ryder said. When Ben Somers heard this at
tack on you, he told them that your lace was an heirloom.
Here he is." Mr. Parker took her away, and Ben Somers
went in pursuit of a seat. The quadrille was over, I was
engaged for the next, and he had not come back. I saw
nothing of him till the country dance before supper. He
was at the foot of the long line, opposite a pretty girl in
blue, looking very solemn and stately. I took off the glove
from my hand which wore the new diamond, and held it up,
expecting him to look my way soon. Its flash caught his
eyes, as they roamed up and down, and, as I expected,
he left his place and came up behind me.

" Where did you get that ring ?" wiping his face with his

Ask Alice."

You are politic."

Handsome, isn t it?"

And valuable ; it cost as much as the new horse."

Have you made a memorandum of it?"

Destiny has brilliant spokes in her wheel, hasn t she ? "

Is that from the Greek tragedies ? "

To your places, gentlemen," the floor-manager called,
and the band struck up the Fisher s Hornpipe. At supper,
I saw Ben Somers, still with the pretty girl in blue ; but he
came to my chair and asked me if I did not think she was a
pretty toy for a man to play with.

" How much wine have you drunk ? Enough to do justice
to the family annals ? "

" Really, you have been well informed. No, I have not
drunk enough for that ; but Mrs. Ryder has sent her virgins
home with me. I am afraid their lamps are upset again.


I drink nothing after to-night. You shall not ask again,
How much ?

My fire was out when I reached home. My head was
burning and aching. I was too tired to untwist my hair,
and I pulled and dragged at my dress, which seemed to
have a hundred fastenings. Creeping into bed, I perceived
the odor of flowers, and looking at my table discovered a
bunch of white roses.

" Roses are nonsense, and life is nonsense," I thought.

When I opened my eyes, Alice was standing by the bed,
with a glass of roses in her hand.

" Charles put these roses here, hey ? "

" I suppose so ; throw them out of the window, and me
too ; my head is splitting."

" To make amends for not giving you any last night,"
she went on ; " he is quite childish."

" Can t you unbraid my hair, it hurts my head so? "

She felt my hands. I was in a fever, she said, and ran
down for Charles. " Cass is sick, in spite of your white

" The devil take the roses. Can t you get up, Cassandra ?

" Not now. Go away, will you ? "

He left the room abruptly. Alice loosened my hair,
bound my head, and poured cologne-water over me, lament
ing all the while that she had not brought me home ; and
then went down for some tea, presently returning to say
that Charles had been for Dr. White, who said he would
not come. But he was there shortly afterward. By night
I was well again.

Dr. Price gave us a lecture on late hours that week, re
questing us, if we had any interest in our education, or ex
pected him to have any, to abstain from balls.

Ben Somers disappeared ; no one knew where he had
gone. The Ryders were in consternation, for he was an
intimate of the family, since he had gone into Judge Ryder s
office, six weeks before. He returned, however, with a
new overcoat trimmed with fur, the same as that with which
my new cloak was trimmed. A great snowstorm began the
day of his return, and blocked us indoors for several days,
and we had permanent sleighing afterward.

In January it was proposed that we should go to the Swan
Tavern, ten miles out of Rosville.


I had made good resolutions since the ball, and declined
going to the second, which came off three weeks afterward.
The truth was, I did not enjoy the first ; but I preferred to
give my decision a virtuous tinge. I also determined to
leave the Academy when the spring came, for I felt no longer
a schoolgirl. But for Helen, I could not have remained as
I did. She stayed for pastime now, she confessed, it was
so dull at home ; her father was wrapped in his studies,
and she had a stepmother. I resolved again that I would
study more, and was translating, in view of this resolve,
" Corinne," with Miss Prior, and singing sedulously with
Mrs. Lane, and had begun a course of reading with Dr.

I refused two invitations to join the sleighing party, and
on the night it was to be had prepared to pass the evening
in my own room with Oswald and Corinne. Before the fire,
with lighted candles, I heard a ringing of bells in the yard
and a stamping of feet on the piazza. Alice sent up for
me. I found Ben Somers with her, who begged me to take
a seat in his sleigh. Helen was there, and Amelia Bancroft.
Alice applauded me for refusing him ; but when he whis

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Online LibraryElizabeth StoddardThe Morgesons; a novel → online text (page 10 of 24)