Elizabeth Stoddard.

The Morgesons; a novel online

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let her come to my house for a year ?"

" Locke decides for Gassy," she answered ; " I never do
now," looking at me reproachfully.

Cousin Charles s hawk eyes caught the look, and he heard
me too, when I tapped her shoulder till she turned round
and smiled. I whispered, " Mother, your eyes are as blue
as the sea yonder, and I love you." She glanced toward it ;
it was murmuring softly, creeping along the shore, licking
the rocks and sand as if recognizing a master. And I
saw and felt its steady, resistless heaving, insidious and

" Well," said father, " we will talk of it on the way to

" I have kinder of a creeping about your Cousin Charles,
as you call him," said Temperance, after she had closed
the porch door. " He is too much shut up forme. How s
Mis Cousin Charles, I wonder ? "

" He is fond of flowers," remarked Aunt Merce ; " he


examined all my plants, and knew all their botanical

" That s a balm for every wound with you, isn t it ? "
Temperance said. " I spose I can clean the parlor, un
less Mis Carver and Chandler are sitting in a row there ? "

Veronica, who had hovered between the parlor and the
hall while Cousin Charles was taking his leave, so that she
might avoid the necessity of any direct notice of him, had
heard his proposition about Rosville, said, "Cassandra will
go there."

" Do you feel it in your bones, Verry ? " Temperance

" Cassandra does."

" Do I ? I believe I do."

" You are eighteen ; you are too old to go to school."

" But I am not too old to have an agreeable time ;
besides, I am not eighteen, and shall not be till four days
from now."

" You think too much of having a good time, Cassandra,"
said mother. " I foresee the day when the pitcher will come
back from the well broken. You are idle and frivolous ;
eternally chasing after amusement."

" God knows I don t find it."

"I know you are not happy."

" Tell me," I cried, striking the table with my hand,
making Veronica wink, " tell me how to feel and act."

" I have no influence with you, nor with Veronica."

"Because," said Verry, "we are all so different ; but I
like you, mother, and all that you do."

" Different ! " she exclaimed, " children talk to parents
about a difference between them."

" I never thought about it before." I said, " but where is
the family likeness?"

Aunt Merce laughed.

" There s the Morgesons," I continued, " I hate em all."

" All ? " she echoed ; " you are like this new one."

" And Grand ther Warren " I continued.

" Your talk," interrupted Aunt Merce, jumping up and
walking about, " is enough to make him rise out of his

" I believe," said Veronica, " that Grand ther Warren
nearly crushed you and mother, when girls of our age.


Did you know that you had any wants then ? or dare to
dream anything beside that he laid down for you ? "

Aunt Merce and mother exchanged glances.

"Say, mother, what shall I do?" I asked again.

" Do," she answered in a mechanical voice ; " read the
Bible, and sew more."

"Veronica s life is not misspent," she continued, and
seeming to forget that Verry was still there. " Why should
she find work for her hands when neither you nor I do ? "

Veronica slipped out of the room ; and I sat on the floor
beside mother. I loved her in an unsatisfactory way.
What could we be to each other ? We kissed tenderly ; I
saw she was saddened by something regarding me, which
she could not explain, because she refused to explain me
naturally. I thought she wished me to believe she could
have no infirmity in common with me no temptations, no
errors that she must repress all the doubts and longings
of her heart for example s sake.

There was a weight upon me all that day, a dreary sense
of imperfection.

When father came home he asked me if I would like to go
to Rosville. I answered, " Yes." Mother must travel with
me, for he could not leave home. The sooner I went the
better. He also thought Veronica should go. She was
called and consulted, and, provided Temperance would ac
company us to take care of her, she consented. It was all
arranged that evening. Temperance said we must wait a
week at least, for her corns to be cured, and the plum-col
ored silk made, which had been shut up in a band-box for
three years.

We started on our journey one bright morning in June,
to go to Boston in a stagecoach, a hundred miles from Sur
rey, and thence to Rosville, forty miles further, by railroad.
We stopped a night on the way to Boston at a country inn,
which stood before an egg-shaped pond. Temperance re
made our beds, declaiming the while against the unwhole
some situation of the house ; the idea of anybody s living
in the vicinity of fresh water astonished her ; to impose
upon travelers health that way was too much. She went
to the kitchen to learn whether the landlady cooked, or
hired a cook. She sat up all night with our luggage in
sight, ^to keep off what she called " prowlers " she did


not like to say robbers, for fear of exciting our imagina
tions and frightened us by falling out of her chair to
ward morning. Veronica insisted upon her going to bed,
but she refused, till Veronica threatened to sit up herself,
when she carried her own carpet-bag to bed with her.

We arrived in Boston the next day and went to the
Bromfield House in Bromfield Street, whither father had
directed us. We were ushered to the parlor by a waiter,
who seemed struck by Temperance, and who was treated
by her with respect. " Mr. Shepherd, the landlord, himself,
I guess," she whispered.

Three cadaverous children were there eating bread and
butter from a black tray on the center-table.

" Good Lord ! " exclaimed Temperance, " what bread
those children are eating ! It is made of sawdust."

" It s good, you old cat," screamed the little girl.

Veronica sat down by her, and offered her some sugar
plums, which the child snatched from her hand.

" We are missionaries," said the oldest boy, "and we are
going to Bombay next week in the Cabot. I ll make the na
tives gee, I tell ye."

" Mercy on us ! " exclaimed Temperance, " did you
ever ? "

Presently a sickly, gentle-looking man entered, in a suit
of black camlet, and carrying an umbrella ; he took a seat
by the children, and ran his fingers through his hair, which
already stood upright.

" That girl gave Sis some sugar-plums," remarked the boy.

" I hope you thanked her, Clarissa," said the father.

" No ; she didn t give me enough," the child answered.

" They have no mother," the poor man said apologeti
cally to Veronica, looking up at her, and, as he caught her
eye, blushing deeply. She bowed, and moved away.
Mother rang the bell, and when the waiter came gave him
a note for Mr. Shepherd, which father had written, bespeak
ing his attention. Mr. Shepherd soon appeared, and con
veyed us to two pleasant rooms with an unmitigated view of
the wall of the next house from the windows.

" This," remarked Temperance, " is worse than the

Mr. Shepherd complimented mother on her fine daugh
ters ; hoped Mr. Morgeson would run for Congress soon ;


told her she should have the best the house afforded, and

I wanted to shop, and mother gave me money. I found
Washington Street, and bought six wide, embroidered belts,
a gilt buckle, a variety of ribbons, and a dozen yards of
lace. I repented the whole before I got back ; for I saw
other articles I wanted more. I found mother alone ; Tem
perance had gone out with Veronica, she said, and she had
given Veronica the same amount of money, curious to know
how she would spend it, as she had never been shopping.
It was nearly dark when they returned.

" I like Boston," said Verry.

" But what have you bought ? "

She displayed a beautiful gold chain, and a little cross
for the throat ; a bundle of picture-books for the mission
ary children ; a sewing-silk shawl for Hepsey, and some
toys for Arthur.

" To-morrow,/ shall go shopping," said mother. " What
did you buy, Temperance ? "

" A mean shawl. In my opinion, Boston is a den of

She untied a box, from which she took a sky-blue silk
shawl, with brown flowers woven in it.

" I gave eighteen dollars for it, if I gave a cent, Mis
Morgeson ; I know I am cheated. It s sleazy, isn t it ?"

The bell for tea rang, and Mr. Shepherd came up to es
cort us to the table. Temperance delayed us, to tie on a
silk apron, to protect the plum-colored silk, for, as she ob
served to Mr. Shepherd, she was afraid it would show grease
badly. I could not help exchanging smiles with Mr. Shep
herd, which made Veronica frown. The whole table stared
as we seated ourselves, for we derived an importance from
the fact that we were under the personal charge of the

" How they gawk at you," whispered Temperance. I felt
my color rise.

" The gentlemen do not guess that we are sisters," said
Veronica quietly.

" How do I look ? " I asked.

"You know how, and that I do not agree with your opin
ion. You look cruel."

" I am cruel hungry."


Her eyes sparkled with disdain.

" What do you mean to do for a year ? " I continued.

" Forget you, for one thing."

" I hope you wont be ill again, Verry."

" I shall be," she answered with a shudder ; " I need all
the illnesses that come."

" As for me," I said, biting my bread and butter, " I feel
well to my fingers ends ; they tingle with strength. I am
elated with health."

I had not spoken the last word before I became conscious
of a streak of pain which cut me like a knife and vanished ;
my surprise at it was so evident that she asked me what
ailed me."

" Nothing."

" I never had the feeling you speak of in my finger
ends," she said sadly, looking at her slender hand.

" Poor girl ! "

" What has come over you, Cass ? An attack of compas
sion ? Are you meaning to leave an amiable impression
with me ? "

After supper Mr. Shepherd asked mother if she would go
to the theater. The celebrated tragedian, Forrest, was play
ing ; would the young ladies like to see Hamlet ? We all
went, and my attention was divided between Hamlet and
two young men who lounged in the box door till Mr. Shep
herd looked them away. Veronica laughed at Hamlet, and
Temperance said it was stuff and nonsense. Veronica
laughed at Ophelia, also, who was a superb, black-haired
woman, toying with an elegant Spanish fan, which Hamlet
in his energy broke. " It is not Shakespeare," she said.

" Has she read Shakespeare ? " I asked mother.

" I am sure I do not know."

That night, after mother and Veronica were asleep, I
persuaded Temperance to get up, and bore my ears with
a coarse needle, which I had bought for the purpose. It
hurt me so, when she pierced one, that I could not sum
mon resolution to have the other operated on ; so I went to
bed with a bit of sewing silk in the hole she had made. But
in the morning I roused her, to tell her I thought I could
bear to have the other ear bored. When mother appeared
I showed her my ears red and sore, insisting that I must
have a certain pair of white cornelian ear-rings, set in chased


gold, and three inches long, which I had seen in a shop
window. She scolded Temperance, and then gave nie the

The next day mother and I started for Rosville. Veron
ica decided to remain in Boston with Temperance till
mother returned. She said that if she went she might
find Mrs. Morgeson as disagreeable as Mr. Morgeson was ;
that she liked the Bromfield ; besides, she wanted to see
the missionary children off for Bombay, and intended to go
down to the ship on the day they were to sail. She was
also going to ask Mr. Shepherd to look up a celebrated
author for her. She must see one if possible.


IT was sunset when we arrived in Rosville, and found Mr.
Morgeson waiting for us with his carriage at the station.

From its open sides I looked out on a tranquil, agreeable
landscape ; there was nothing saline in the atmosphere.
The western breeze, which blew in our faces, had an earthy
scent, with fluctuating streams of odors from trees and
flowers. As we passed through the town, Cousin Charles
pointed to the Academy, which stood at the head of a
green. Pretty houses stood round it, and streets branched
from it in all directions. Flower gardens, shrubbery, and
trees were scattered everywhere. Rosville was larger and
handsomer than Surrey.

" That is my house, on the right," he said.

We looked down the shady street through which we were
going, and saw a modern cottage, with a piazza and peaked
roof, and on the side toward us a large yard, and stables.

We drove into the yard, and a woman came out on the
piazza, to receive us. It was Mrs. Morgeson, or " My
wife, Cousin Alice," as Mr. Morgeson introduced her. Giv
ing us a cordial welcome, she led us into a parlor where tea
was waiting. A servant came in for our bonnets and bask
ets. Cousin Alice begged us to take tea at once. We
were hardly seated when we heard the cry of a young
child ; she left the table hastily, to come back in a mo
ment with an apology, which she made to Cousin Charles


rather than to us. I had never seen a table so well arranged,
so fastidiously neat ; it glittered with glass and French
china. Cousin Charles sent away a glass and a plate,
frowning at the girl who waited ; there must have been a
speck or a flaw in them. The viands were as pretty as the
dishes, the lamb chops were fragile ; the bread was de
licious, but cut in transparent slices, and the butter pat was
nearly stamped through with its bouquet of flowers. This
was all the feast except sponge cake, which felt like muslin
in the fingers ; I could have squeezed the whole of it into
my mouth. Still hungry, I observed that Cousin Charles
and Alice had finished ; and though she shook her spoon in
the cup, feigning to continue, and he snipped crumbs in his
plate, I felt constrained to end my repast. He rose then,
and pushing back folding-doors, we entered a large room,
leaving Alice at the table. Windows extending to the floor
opening on the piazza, but notwithstanding the stream of
light over the carpet, I thought it somber, and out of keep
ing with the cottage exterior. The walls were covered with
dark red velvet paper, the furniture was dark, the man
tel and table tops were black marble, and the vases and can
delabra were bronze. He directed mother s attention to the
portraits of his children, explaining them, while I went to a
table between the windows to examine the green and white
sprays of some delicate flower I had never before seen. Its
fragrance was intoxicating. I lifted the heavy vase which
contained it ; it was taken from me gently by Charles, and

" It will hardly bear touching," he said. " By to-morrow
these little white bells will be dead."

I looked up at him. " What a contrast ! " I said.

" Where ? "

" Here, in this room, and in you."

" And between you and me? "

His face was serene, dark, and delicate, but to look at it
made me shiver. Mother came toward us, pleading fatigue
as an excuse for retiring, and Cousin Charles called Cousin
Alice, who went with us to our room. In the morning, she
said, we should see her three children. She never left them,
she was so afraid of their being ill, also telling mother that
she would do all in her power to make my stay in Rosville
pleasant and profitable. As a mother, she could appre-


ciate her anxiety and sadness in leaving me. Mother
thanked her warmly, and was sure that I should be happy;
but I had an inward misgiving that I should not have
enough to eat.

" I hear Edward," said Alice. " Good-night."
Presently a girl, the same who had taken our bonnets,
came in with a pitcher of warm water and a plate of soda
biscuit. She directed us where to find the apparel she had
nicely smoothed and folded ; took off the handsome coun
terpane, and the pillows trimmed with lace, putting others
of a plainer make in their places ; shook down the window
curtains ; asked us if we would have anything more, and
quietly disappeared. I offered mother the warm water, and
appropriated the biscuits. There were six. I ate every
one, undressing meanwhile, and surveying the apartment.
" Cassy, Mrs. Morgeson is an excellent housekeeper."
" Yes," I said huskily, for the dry biscuit choked me. "?
" What would Temperance and Hepsey say to this ? "
" I think they would grumble, and admire. Look at this,"
showing her the tassels of the inner window curtains done
up in little bags. " And the glass is pinned up with nice
yellow paper ; and here is a damask napkin fastened to the
wall behind the washstand. And everything stands on a
mat. I wonder if this is to be my room ? "

" It is probably the chamber for visitors. Why, these are
beautiful pillow-cases, too," she exclaimed, as she put her
head on the pillow. " Come to bed ; don t read."

I had taken up a red morocco-bound book, which was
lying alone on the bureau. It was Byron, and turning over
the leaves till I came to Don Juan, I read it through, and
began Childe Harold, but the candle expired. I struck out
my hands through the palpable darkness, to find the bed
without disturbing mother, whose soul was calmly threading
the labyrinth of sleep. I finished Childe Harold early in
the morning, though, and went down to breakfast, longing
to be a wreck !

The three children were in the breakfast-room, which was
not the one we had taken tea in, but a small apartment,
with a door opening into the garden. They were beauti
fully dressed, and their mother was tending and watching
them. The oldest was eight years, the youngest three
months. Cousin Alice gave us descriptions of their tastes


and habits, dwelling with emphasis on those of the baby. I
drew from her conversation the opinion that she had a
tendency to the rearing of children. I was glad when
Cousin Charles came in, looking at his watch. " Send off
the babies, Alice, and ring the bell for breakfast."

She sent out the two youngest, put little Edward in his
chair, and breakfast began.

" Mrs. Morgeson," said Charles, " the horses will be
ready to take you round Rosville. We will call on Dr.
Price, for you to see the kind of master Cassandra will
have. I have already spoken to him about receiving a
new pupil."

"Oh, I am homesick at the idea of school and a master,"
I said.

Mother tried in vain to look hard-hearted, and to per
suade that it was good for me, but she lost her appetite,
with the thought of losing me, which the mention of Dr.
Price brought home. The breakfast was as well adapted
to a delicate taste as the preceding supper. The ham was
most savory, but cut in such thin slices that it curled ; and
the biscuits were as white and feathery as snowflakes. I
think also that the boiled eggs were smaller than any I had
seen. Cousin Alice gave unremitting attention to Edward,
who ate as little as the rest.

" Mother," I said afterward, " I am afraid I am an
animal. Did you notice how little the Morgesons ate ?"

" I noticed how elegant their table appointments were,
and I shall buy new china in Boston to-morrow. I wish
Hepsey would not load our table as she does."

" Hepsey is a good woman, mother ; do give my love to
her. Now that I think of it, she was always making up
some nice dish ; tell her I remember it, will you ?"

When Cousin Charles put us into the carriage, and hoisted
little Edward on the front seat, mother noticed that two
men held the horses, and that they were not the same he
had driven the night before. She said she was afraid to
go, they looked ungovernable ; but he reassured her, and
one of the men averring that Mr. Morgeson could drive
anything, she repressed her fears, and we drove out of the
yard behind a pair of horses that stood on their hind legs
as often as that position was compatible with the necessity
they were under of getting on, for they evidently under-


stood that they were guided by a firm hand. Edward was
delighted with their behavior, and for the first time I saw
his father smile on him.

" These are fine brutes," he said, not taking his eyes
from them ; " but they are not equal to my mare, Nell.
Alice is afraid of her ; but I hope that you, Cassandra, will
ride with me sometimes when 1 drive her."

" Oh ! " exclaimed mother, grasping my arm.

" You would, would you ?" he said, taking out the whip,
as the horses recoiled from a man who lay by the roadside,
leaping so high that the harness seemed rattling from their
backs. He struck them, and said, " Go on now, go on,
devils." There was no further trouble. He encouraged
mother not to be afraid, looking keenly at me. I looked
back at him.

" How much worse is the mare, cousin Charles ? "

" You shall see."

After driving round the town we stopped at the Academy.
Morning prayers were over, and the scholars, some sixty
boys and girls, were coming downstairs from the hall, to
go into the rooms, each side of a great door. Dr. Price
was behind them. He stopped when he saw us, an intro
duction took place, and he inquired for Dr. Snell, as an old
college friend. Locke Morgeson sounded familiarly, he
said ; a member of his mother s family named Somers had
married a gentleman of that name. He remembered it
from an old ivory miniature which his mother had shown
him, telling him it was the likeness of her cousin Rachel s
husband. I replied we knew that grandfather had married a
Rachel Somers. Cousin Charles was surprised and a little
vexed that the doctor had never told him, when he must
have known that he had been anxiously looking up the
Morgeson pedigree ; but the doctor declared he had not
thought of it before, and that only the name of Locke had
recalled it to his mind. He then proposed our going to
Miss Prior, the lady who had charge of the girls depart
ment, and we followed him to her school-room.

I was at once interested and impressed by the appear
ance of my teacher that was to be. She was a dignified,
kind-looking woman, who asked me a few questions in such
a pleasant, direct manner that I frankly told her I was
eighteen years old, very ignorant, and averse from learning ;


but I did not speak loud enough for anybody beside her
self to hear.

" Now," said mother, when we came away, " think how
much greater your advantages are than mine have ever
been. How miserable was my youth ! It is too late for
me to make any attempt at cultivation. I have no wish
that way. Yet now I feel sometimes as if I were leaving
the confines of my old life to go I know not whither, to
do I know not what."

But her countenance fell when she heard that Dr. Price
had been a Unitarian minister, and that there was no Con
gregational church in Rosville.

She went to Boston that Friday afternoon, anxious to get
safely home with Veronica. We parted with many a kiss
and shake of the hand and last words. I cried when I went
up to my room, for I found a present there a beautiful
workbox, and in it was a small Bible with my name and
hers written on the fly-leaf in large print-like, but tremulous
letters. I composed my feelings by putting it away care
fully and unpacking my trunk.


T~) OSVILLE was a county town. The courts were held
\\ there, and its society was adorned with several lawyers
of note who had law students, which fact was to the
lawyers daughters the most agreeable feature of their
fathers profession. It had a weekly market day and an
annual cattle show. I saw a turnout of whips and wagons
about the hitching-posts round the green of a Tuesday the
year through, and going to and from school met men with
a bovine smell. Caucuses were prevalent, and occasionally
a State Convention was held, when Rosville paid honor to
some political hero of the day with banners and brass bands.
It was a favorite spot for the rustication of naughty boys
from Harvard or Yale. Dr. Price had one or two at pres
ent who boarded in his house so as to be immediately
under his purblind eyes, and who took Greek and Latin at
the Academy.
Social feuds raged in the Academy coteries between the


collegians and the natives on account of the superior suc
cess of the former in flirtation. The latter were not con
soled by their experience that no flirtation lasted beyond
the period of rustication. Dr. Price usually had several
young men fitting for college also, which fact added more
piquancy to the provincial society. In the summer riding
parties were fashionable, and in the winter county balls and

Online LibraryElizabeth StoddardThe Morgesons; a novel → online text (page 7 of 24)