Elizabeth Stoddard.

The Morgesons; a novel online

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a long sleep, as far as you are concerned ; this means some
thing. My blindness is removed by a dream. Do you
despise me ? " Two large, limpid tears dropped down her
smooth cheeks without ruffling the expression of her face.

" I have prided myself upon my delicacy of feeling.


You may have remarked that I considered myself your
superior ? "

"You are all wrong. I have no delicate feelings at all ;
they are as coarse and fibrous as the husk of a cocoanut.
Do for heaven s sake get up and let me dress you."

She burst into laughter. " Bring me some water, then."

I brought her a bowl full, and stood near her with a
towel ; but she splashed it over me, and dribbled her hands
in it till I was in despair. I took it away and wiped her
face, which looked at me so childly, so elfish, so willful, and
so tenderly, that I took it between my hands and kissed it.
I pulled her up to a chair, for she was growing willful every
moment ; but she must be humored. I combed her hair,
put on her shoes and stockings, and in short dressed her.
Father came up and begged me to hurry, as everybody had
come. I sent him for Ben, who came with a pale, happy
face and shining eyes. She looked at him seriously. " I
like you best," she said.

" It is time you said that. Oh, Verry ! how lovely you
are ! "

" I feel so."

" Come, come," urged father.

"I do not want these gloves," she said, dropping them.

Ben slipped on the third finger of her left hand a plain
ring. She kissed it, and he looked as if about to be trans

" Forever, Verry ? "

" Forever."

" Wait a moment," I said, " I want a collar," giving a
glance into the glass. What a starved, thin, haggard face
I saw, with its border of pale hair ! Whose were those
wide, pitiful, robbed eyes?

I hurried into the room in advance to show them their
place in front of a screen of plants. When they entered
the company rose, and the ceremony was performed.
Veronica s dress was commented upon and not approved
of ; being black, it was considered ominous. She looked
like a cloud with a silver lining. I also made my com
ments. Temperance, whose tearful eyes were fixed on her
darling, was unconscious that she had taken from her
pocket, and was flourishing, a large red and yellow silk
handkerchief, while the cambric one she intended to use


was neatly folded in her left hand. She wore the famous
plum-colored silk, old style, which had come into a fortune
in the way of wrinkles. A large bow of black ribbon
testified that she was in mourning. Hepsey rubbed her
thumb across her fingers with the vacant air of habit. I
glanced at Alice ; she was looking intently at Fanny, whose
eyes were fixed upon father. A strange feeling of an
noyance troubled me, but the ceremony was over. Arthur
congratulated himself on having a big brother. Ben was
so pale, and wore so exalted an expression, that he agitated
me almost beyond control.

After the general shaking of hands, there came retorts
for me. " When shall we have occasion to congratulate
you?" And, "You are almost at the corner." And,
" Your traveling from home seems only to have been an
advantage to Veronica."

" I tell you, Cousin Sue," said Arthur, who overheard the
last remark, " that you don t know what they say of Cas
sandra in Rosville. She s the biggest beauty they ever had,
and had lots of beaus."

A significant expression passed over Cousin Sue s face,
which was noticed by Alice Morgeson, who colored deeply.

" Have you not forgotten ?" I asked her.

" It was of you I thought, not myself. I cannot tell you
how utterly the past has gone, or how insignificant the
result has proved."

" Alice," said father, "can you carve ? "


" Come and sit at the foot of my table ; Mr. Somers will
take charge of the smaller one."

" With pleasure."

" Slip out," whispered Fanny, " and look at the table ;
Temperance wants you."

" For the Lord s sake ! " cried Temperance, " say whether
things are ship-shape."

I was surprised at the taste she had displayed, and told
her so.

" For once I have tried to do my best," she said ; " all
for Verry. Call em in ; the turkeys will be on in a

Tables were set in the hall, as well as in the dining-room.
" They must sit down," she continued, " so that they may


eat their victuals in peace." The supper was a relief to
Veronica, and I blessed father s forethought. Nobody was
exactly merry, but there was a proper cheerfulness. Tem
perance, Fanny, and Manuel were in attendance ; the latter
spilled a good deal of coffee on the carpet in his enjoyment
of the scene ; and when he saw Veronica take the flowers
in her hand, he exclaimed, " Santa Maria ! "

Everybody turned to look at him.

"What are you doing here, Manuel?" asked Ben.

" I wait on the senoritas," he answered. " Take plum-

Everybody laughed.

" Do you like widows ? " whispered Fanny at the back of
my chair. I made a sign to her to attend to her business,
but, as she suggested, looked at Alice. At that moment
she and father were drinking wine together. I thought her
handsomer than ever ; she had expanded into a fair,
smooth middle age.

The talking and clattering melted vaguely into my ear? ;
I was a lay-figure in the scene, and my soul wandered else
where. Mr. Somers began to fidget gently, which father
perceiving, rose from the table. Soon after the guests
departed. The remains of the feast vanished ; the fires
burnt down, " winding sheets " wrapped the flame of the
candles, and suppressed gaping set in.

The flowers, left to themselves, began to give out odors
which perfumed the rooms. I went about extinguishing the
waning candles and stifling the dying fires, finished my work,
and was going upstairs when I heard Veronica playing, and
stopped to listen. It was not a paean nor a lament that
she played, but a fluctuating, vibratory air, expressive of
mutation. I hung over the stair-railing after she had
ceased, convinced that she had been playing for herself
a farewell, which freed me from my bond to her. Mr.
Somers came along the hall with a candle, and I waited to
ask him if I could do anything for his comfort.

" My dear," he said with apprehension, " your sister is a
genius, I think."

" In music yes."

" What a deplorable thing for a woman ! "

"A woman of genius is but a heavenly lunatic, or an
anomaly sphered between the sexes ; do you agree ? "


He laughed, and pushed his spectacles up on his fore

" My dear, I am astonished that Ben s choice fell as it

"Good-night, sir," I said so loudly that he almost
dropped his candle, and I retired to my room, taking a
chair by the fire, with a sigh of relief. After a while Ben
and Veronica came up.

" It is a cold night," I remarked.

"I am in an enchanted palace," said Ben, "where there
is no weather."

" Gassy, will you take these pins out of my hair ? " asked
Verry, seating herself in an easy-chair. " Ben, we will ex
cuse you."

" How good of you." He strode across the passage, went
into her room, and shut the door.

"There, Verry, I have unbound your hair."

" But I want to talk."

I took her hand, and led her out. She stood before her
door for a moment silently, and then gave a little knock.
No answer came. She knocked again ; the same silence as
before. At last she was obliged to open it herself, and en
ter without any bidding.

"Which will rule?" I thought, as I slipped down the
back stairs, and listened at the kitchen door. I heard noth
ing. Finding an old cloak in the entry, I wrapped myself
in it and left the house. The moon was out-riding black,
scudding clouds, and the wind moaned round the sea,
which looked like a vast, wrinkled serpent in the moonlight.

I walked to Gloster Point, and rested under the lee of the
lighthouse, but could not, when I made the attempt, see to
read the inscription inside my watch, by the light of the
lantern. I must have fallen asleep from fatigue, still hold
ing it in my hand ; for when I started homeward, there was
a pale reflection of light in the east, and the sea was creep
ing quietly toward it with a murmuring morning song.



I LOOKED across the bay from my window. " The snow
is making " Pawshee s Land " white again, and I remain

this year the same. No change, no growth or develop
ment ! The fulfillment of duty avails me nothing ; and self-
discipline has passed the necessary point."

I struck the sash with my closed hand, for I would now
give my life a new direction, and it was fettered. But I
would be resolute, and break the fetters ; had I not en
dured a " mute case " long enough ? Manuel, who had been
throwing snowballs against the house, stopped, and looked
toward the gate, and then ran toward it. A pair of tired,
splashed horses dashed down the drive. Manuel had the
reins, and Ben was beside him, reeling slightly on the seat
of the wagon. I ran down to meet him ; he had been on a
trip to Belem, where he never went except when he wanted

" I have some news for you," he said, putting his arm in
mine, as he jumped from the wagon. " Come in, and pull
off my boots, Manuel." I brought a chair for him, and
waited till his boots were off. " Bring me a glass of

I stamped my foot. Verry entered with a book. " Ah,
Verry, darling, come here."

" Why do you drink brandy ? Have you over-driven the
horses ? "

He drank the brandy. She nodded kindly to him, shut
her book, and slipped out, without approaching him.

" That s her way," he said, staring hard at me. " She
always says in the same unmoved voice, Why do you drink
brandy ?

" And then she will not come to kiss you."

" The child is dead, for the first thing. (Cigar, Manuel.)
Second, I was possessed to come home by the way of Ros-
ville. When did your father go away, Cass ? "

I felt faint, and sat down.

" Ah, we all have a weakness ; does yours overcome
you ? "

" He went three days ago."


" I saw him at Alice Morgeson s."


"He didn t go to see Arthur. He will marry Alice, and
I must build my house now."

A devil ripped open my heart ; its fragments flew all
over me, blinding and deafening me.

"He will be home to-night."

" Very well."

" What shall you say, Cassy ? "

" Expose that little weakness to him."

" When will you learn real life ? "

" Please ask him, when he comes, if he will see me in
my room. "

I waited there. My cup was filled at last. My sin
swam on the top.

Father came in smoking, and taking a chair between his
legs, sat opposite me, and tapped softly the back of it with
his fingers. " You sent for me ? "

" I wanted to tell you that Charles Morgeson loved me
from the first, and you remember that I stayed by him to
the last."

"What more is there?" knocking over the chair, and
seizing me ; "tell me."

His eyes, that were bloodshot with anger, fastened on
my mouth. " I know, though, damn him ! I know his
cunning. Was Alice aware of this ? " And he pushed
me backward.


An expression of pain and disappointment crossed his
face ; he ground his teeth fiercely.

" Don t marry her, father ; you will kill me if you do ! "

" Must you alone have license?"

He resumed his cigar, which he picked up from the floor.

" It would seem that we have not known each other.
What evasiveness there is in our natures ! Your mother
was the soul of candor, yet I am convinced I never knew

" If you bring Alice here, I must go. We cannot live

" I understand why she would not come here. She said
that she must see you first. She is in Milford."

He knocked the ashes from his cigar, looked round the


room, and then at me, who wept bitterly. His face con
tracted with a spasm.

" We were married two days ago." And turning from
me quickly, he left the room.

I was never so near groveling on the face of the earth
as then ; let me but fall, and I was sure that I never should

Ben knew it, but left it to me to tell Veronica.

My grief broke all bounds, and we changed places; she
tried to comfort me, forgetting herself.

" Let us go away to the world s end with Ben." But sud
denly recollecting that she liked Alice, she cried, " What
shall I do?"

What could she do, but offer an unreasoning opposition ?
Aunt Merce cried herself sick, fond as she was of Alice,
and Temperance declared that if she hadn t married a
widower herself, she would put in an oar. Anyhow, she
hadn t married a man with grown-up daughters.

" What ails Fanny ? " she asked me the next day. " She
looks like a froze pullet."

" Where is she now ?"

" Making the beds."

Temperance knew well what was the matter, but was too
wise to interfere. I found her, not bed-making, but in a
spare room, staring at the wall. She looked at me with dry
eyes, bit her lips, and folded her hands across her chest,
after her old, defiant fashion. I did not speak.

" It is so," she said ; " you need not tear me to pieces
with your eyes, I can confess it to you, for you are as I am.
I love him ! " And she got up to shake her fist in my face.
" My heart and brain and soul are as good as hers, and he
knows it."

I could not utter a word.

" I know him as you never knew him, and have for years,
^since I was that starved, poor-house brat your mother took.
Don t trouble yourself to make a speech about ingratitude.
I know that your mother was good and merciful, and that
I should have worshiped her ; but I never did. Do you
suppose I ever thought he was perfect, as the rest of you
thought ? He is full of faults. I thought he was depend
ant on me. He knows how I feel. Oh, what shall I do ? "
She threw up her arms, and dropped on the floor in a hys-


teric fit. I locked the door, and picked her up. " Come
out of it, Fanny ; I shall stay here till you do."

By dint of shaking her, and opening the window, she be
gan to come to. After two or three fearful laughs and
shudders, she opened her eyes. She saw my compassion,
and tears fell in torrents ; I cried too. The poor girl
kissed my hands ; a new soul came into her face.

" Oh, Fanny, bear it as well as you can ! You and I will
be friends."

" Forgive me ! I was always bad ; I am now. If that
woman comes here, I ll stab her with Manuel s knife."

" Pooh ! The knife is too rusty ; it would give her the
lockjaw. Besides, she will never come. I know her. She
is already more than half-way to meet me ; but I shall not
perform my part of the journey, and she will return."

" You don t say so ! " her ancient curiosity reviving.

" Manuel keeps it sharp," she said presently, relapsing
into jealousy.

" You are a fool. Have you eaten anything to-day ? "

" I can t eat."

" That s the matter with you an empty stomach is the
cause of most distressing pangs."

Ben urged me to go to Milford to meet Alice, and to ask
her to come to our house. But father said no more to me
on the subject. Neither did Veronica. In the afternoon
they drove over to Milford, returning at dusk. She refused
to come with them, Ben said, and never would probably.
"You have thrown out your father terribly."

"You notice it, do you ?"

" It is pretty evident."

" What is your opinion ? "

He was about to condemn, when he recollected his own
interference in my life. " Ah ! you have me. I think you
are right, as far as the past which relates to Alice is con
cerned. But if she chooses to forget, why don t you ?
We do much that is contrary to our moral ideas, to make
people comfortable. Besides, if we do not lay our ghosts,
our closets will be overcrowded."

" We may determine some things for ourselves, irrespec
tive of consequences."

" Well, there is a mess of it."

Fanny had watched for their return, counting on an ac-


cess of misery, for she believed that Alice would come also.
It was what she would have done. Rage took possession of
her when she saw father alone. She planted herself
before him, in my presence, in a contemptuous attitude.
He changed color, and then her mood changed.

" What shall I do ? " she asked piteously.

I tried to get away before she made any further progress ;
but he checked me, dreading the scene which he foreboded,
without comprehending.

" Fanny," he said harshly, but with a confused face,
" you mistake me."

" Not I ; it was your wife and children who mistook you."

" What is it you would say ? "

" You have let me be your slave."

" It is not true, I hope what your behavior indicates?"

I forgave him everything then. Fanny had made a mis
take. He had only behaved very selfishly toward her, with
out having any perception of her that was all ! She was
confounded, stared at him a moment, and rushed out.
That interview settled her ; she was a different girl from
that day.

" Father, you will go to Rosville, and be rich again. Can
you buy this house from Ben, for me ? A very small in
come will suffice me and Fanny, for you may be sure that I
shall keep her. Temperance will live with Verry ; Ben will
build, now that his share of his grandfather s estate will
come to him."

" Very well," he said with a sigh, " I will bring it about."

" It is useless for us to disguise the fact I have lost you.
You are more dead to me than mother is."

" You say so."

It was the truth. I was the only one of the family who
never went to Rosville. Aunt Merce took up her abode
with Alice, on account of Arthur, whom she idolized. When
father was married again, the Morgeson family denounced
him for it, and for leaving Surrey ; but they accepted his
invitations to Rosville, and returned with glowing accounts
of his new house and his hospitality.

By the next June, Ben s house was completed and they
moved. Its site was a knoll to the east of our house, which
Veronica had chosen. Her rooms were toward the orchard,
and Ben s commanded a view of the sea. He had not ven-


tured to intrude, he told her, upon the Northern Lights, and
she must not bother him about his boat-house or his pier.
They were both delighted with the change, and kept house
like children. Temperance indulged their whims to the
utmost, though she thought Ben s new-fangled notions were
silly ; but they might keep him from something worse. This
something was a shadow which frightened me, though I
fought it off. I was weary of trouble, and shut my eyes as
long as possible. Whenever Ben went from home, and he
often drove to Milford, or to some of the towns near, he
came back disordered with drink. At the sight my hopes
would sink. But they rose again, he was so genial, so lov
ing, so calmly contented afterward. As Verry never spoke
of it either to Temperance or me, I imagined she was not
troubled much. She could not feel as I felt, for she knew
nothing of the Bellevue Pickersgill family history.

The day they moved was a happy one for me. I was at
last left alone in my own house, and I regained an absolute
self-possession, and a sense of occupation I had long been a
stranger to. My ownership oppressed me, almost, there was
so much liberty to realize.

I had an annoyance, soon after I came into sole possession.
Father s business was not yet settled, and he came to Surrey.
He was paying his debts in full, he told me, eking out what
he lacked himself with the property of Alice. He could not
have used much of it, however, for the vessels that were out
at the time of the failure came home with good cargoes. I
fancied that he had more than one regret while settling his
affairs ; that he missed the excitement and vicissitudes of a
maritime business. Nothing disagreeable arose between us,
till I happened to ask him what were the contents of a box
which had arrived the day before.

" Something Alice sent you ; shall we open it ? "

"I made no answer ; but it was opened, and he took out
a sea-green and white velvet carpet, with a scarlet leaf on
it, and a piece of sea-green and white brocade for curtains.
Had she sought the world over, she could have found noth
ing to suit me so well.

" She thought that Verry might have a fancy for some of
the old furniture, and that you would accept these in its

" There s nothing here to match this splendor, and I can-


not bear to make a change. Verry must have them, for she
took nothing from me."
"Just as you please."


A I THAT a hot day ! " said Fanny. "Every door and
V V window is open. There is not a breath of air."

" It will be calm all day," I said. " We have two
or three days like this in a year. Give me another cup of
coffee. Is it nine yet ?"

" Nearly. I ought to go to Hepsey s to-day. She wont
be able to leave her bed, the heat weakens her so."

" Do go. How still it is ! The shadows of the trees on
the Neck reach almost from shore to shore, and there s a
fish-boat motionless."

"The boat was there when I got up."

" Everything is blue and yellow, or blue and white."

" How your hair waves this morning ! It is handsomer
than ever."

I went to the glass with my cup of coffee. " I look
younger in the summer."

" What s the use of looking younger here ? " she asked
gruffly. " You never see a man."

I see Ben coming with Verry, and Manuel behind."

Hillo ! " cried Ben, pulling up his horses in front of the
window. " We are going on a picnic. Wont you go ? "

How far ? "

Fifteen or twenty miles."

Go on ; I had rather imprison the splendid day here."

There s nothing for dinner," said Fanny.

The fish-boat may come in, in time."

Will three o clock do for you ? If so, I ll stay with
Hepsey till then."

" Four will answer ? "

She cleared away my breakfast things and left me. I sat
by the window an hour, looking over the water, my thoughts
drifting through a golden haze, and then went up to my
room and looked out again. If I turned my eyes inside
the walls, I was aware of the yearning, yawning empty void
within me, which I did not like. I sauntered into Verry s


room, to see if any clouds were coming up from the north.
There were none. The sun had transfixed the sky, and
walked through its serene blue, " burning without beams."
Neither bird nor insect chirped ; they were hid from the
radiant heat in tree and sod. I went back again to my own
window. The subtle beauty of these inorganic powers
stirred me to mad regret and frantic longing. I stretched
out my arms to embrace the presence which my senses

It would be better to get a book, I concluded, and
hunted up Barry Cornwall s songs. With it I would go to the
parlor, which was shaded. I turned the leaves going down,
and went in humming :

"Mount on the dolphin Pleasure," and threw myself on
the sofa beside Desmond !

I dropped Barry Cornwall.

" I have come," he said, in a voice deathly faint.

" How old you have grown, Desmond ! "

" But I have taken such pains with my hands for you !
You said they were handsome ; are they ? "

I kissed them.

He was so spare, and brown, and his hair was quite gray !
Even his mustache looked silvery.

" Two years to-day since I have worn the watch,

He took one exactly like it from his pocket, and showed
me the inscription inside.

" And the ruby ring, on the guard ? "

" It is gone, you see ; you must put one there now."

" Forgive me."

" Ah, Gassy ! I couldn t come till now. You see what
battles /must have had since I saw you. It took me so long
to break my cursed habits. I was afraid of myself, afraid to
come ; but I have tried myself to the utmost, and hope I am
worthy of you. Will you trust me ? "

" I am yours, as I always have been."

"I have eaten an immense quantity of oil and garlic," he
said with a sigh. " But Spain is a good place to reform in.
How is Ben ? "

I shook my head.

" Don t tell me anything sad now. Poor fellow ! God
help him."


Fanny was talking to some one on the walk ; the fisher-
man probably, who was bringing fish.

Do you want some dinner ? "
I have had no breakfast."
I must see about something for you."
Not to leave me, Gassy."
Just for a few minutes."

But I want to cry by myself, besides looking after the

"Cry here then, with me. Come, Cassandra, my wife !
My God, I shall die with happiness."

A mortal paleness overspread his face.

" Desmond, Desmond, do you know how I love you ?
Feel my heart, it has throbbed with the weight of you since
that night in Belem, when you struck your head under the

He was speechless. I murmured loving words to him,
till he drew a deep breath of life and strength.

" These fish are small," said Fanny at the door. " Shall

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Online LibraryElizabeth StoddardThe Morgesons; a novel → online text (page 23 of 24)