Elizabeth Stoddard.

The Morgesons; a novel online

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cotillion parties ; a professor came down from Boston at
this season to set up a dancing school, which was always
well attended.

The secular concerns of life engaged the greatest share
of the interests of its inhabitants ; and although there
existed social and professional dissensions, there was little
sectarian spirit among them and no religious zeal. The
rich and fashionable were Unitarians. The society owned
a tumble-down church ; a mild preacher stood in its pulpit
and prayed and preached, sideways and slouchy. This
degree of religious vitality accorded with the habits of its
generations. Surrey and Barmouth would have howled
over the Total Depravity of Rosville. There was no pro
bationary air about it. Human Nature was the infallible
theme there. At first I missed the vibration of the moral
sword which poised in our atmosphere. When I felt an
emotion without seeing the shadow of its edge turning
toward me, I discovered my conscience, which hitherto had
only been described to me.

There were churches in the town beside the Unitarian.
The Universalists had a bran-new one, and there was still
another frequented by the sedimentary part of the popula
tion Methodists.

I toned down perfectly within three months. Soon after
my arrival at his house I became afraid of Cousin Charles.
Not that he ever said anything to justify fear of him he
was more silent at home than elsewhere ; but he was im
perious, fastidious, and sarcastic with me by a look, a ges
ture, an inflection of his voice. My perception of any de
fect in myself was instantaneous with his discovery of it.
I fell into the habit of guessing each day whether I was to
offend or please him, and then into that of intending to
please. An intangible, silent, magnetic feeling existed
between us, changing and developing according to its own
mysterious law, remaining intact in spite of the contests


between us of resistance and defiance. But my feeling died
or slumbered when I was beyond the limits of his personal
influence. When in his presence I was so pervaded by it
that whether I went contrary to the dictates of his will or
not I moved as if under a pivot ; when away my natural
elasticity prevailed, and I held the same relation to others
that I should have held if I had not known him. This con
tinued till the secret was divined, and then his influence
was better remembered.

I discovered that there was little love between him and
Alice. I never heard from either an expression denoting
that each felt an interest in the other s individual life ;
neither was there any of that conjugal freemasonry which
bores one so to witness. But Alice was not unhappy. Her
ideas of love ended with marriage; what came afterward
children, housekeeping, and the claims of society sufficed
her needs. If she had any surplus of feeling it was ex
pended upon her children, who had much from her already,
for she was devoted and indulgent to them. In their
management she allowed no interference, on this point only
thwarting her husband. In one respect she and Charles
harmonized ; both were worldly, and in all the material of
living there was sympathy. Their relation was no unhap-
piness to him ; he thought, I dare say, if he thought at all,
that it was a natural one. The men of his acquaintance
called him a lucky man, for Alice was handsome, kind-
hearted, intelligent, and popular.

Whether Cousin Alice would have found it difficult to
fulfill the promise she made mother regarding me, if I had
been a plain, unnoticeable girl, I cannot say, or whether
her anxiety that I should make an agreeable impression
would have continued beyond a few days. She looked
after my dress and my acquaintances. When she found
that I was sought by the young people of her set and the
Academy, she was gratified, and opened her house for them,
giving little parties and large ones, which were pleasant to
everybody except Cousin Charles, who detested company
" it made him lie so." But he was very well satisfied that
people should like to visit and praise his house and its
belongings, if Alice would take the trouble of it upon her
self. I made calls with her Wednesday afternoons, and
went to church with her Sunday mornings. At home I saw


fittle of her. She was almost exclusively occupied with the
children their ailments or their pleasures and staid in her
own room, or the nursery.

When in the house I never occupied one spot long, but
wandered in the garden, which had a row of elms, or
haunted the kitchen and stables, to watch black Phcebe, the
cook, or the men as they cleaned the horses or carriages.
My own room was in a wing of the cottage, with a window
overlooking the entrance into the yard and the carriage
drive ; this was its sole view, except the wall of a house on
the other side of a high fence. I heard Charles when he
drove home at night, or away in the morning ; knew when
Nell was in a bad humor by the tone of his voice, which I
heard whether my window was open or shut. It was a
pretty room, with a set of maple furniture, and amber and
white wallpaper, and amber and white chintz curtains and
coverings. It suited the color of my hair, Alice declared,
and was becoming to my complexion.

" Yes," said Charles, looking at my hair with an expres
sion that made me put my hand up to my head as if to hide
it ; I knew it was carelessly dressed.

I made a study that day of the girls heads at school, and
from that time improved in my style of wearing it, and I
brushed it with zeal every day afterward. Alice had my
room kept so neatly for me that it soon came to be a
reproach, and I was finally taught by her example how to
adjust chairs, books, and mats in straight lines, to fold
articles without making odd corners and wrinkles; at last
I improved so much that I could find what I was seeking
in a drawer, without harrowing it with my fingers, and
began to see beauty in order. Alice had a talent for house
keeping, and her talent was fostered by the exacting, system
atic taste of her husband. He examined many matters
which are usually left to women, and he applied his busi
ness talent to the art of living, succeeding in it as he did in
everything else.

Alice told me that Charles had been poor ; that his father
was never on good terms with him. She fancied they were
too much alike ; so he had turned him off to shift for him
self, when quite young. When she met him, he was the
agent of a manufacturing company, in the town where her
parents lived, and even then, in his style of living, he sur-


passed the young men of her acquaintance. The year
before they were married his father died, and as Charles
was his only child, he left his farm to him, and ten thousand
dollars all he had. The executors of the will were
obliged to advertise for him, not having any clue to his
place of residence. He sold the farm as soon as it was put
in his hands, took the ten thousand dollars, and came back
to be married. A year after, he went to Rosville, and built
a cotton factory, three miles from town, and the cottage,
and then brought her and Edward, who was a few months
old, to live in it. He had since enlarged the works,
employed more operatives, and was making a great deal of
money. Morgeson s Mills, she believed, were known all
over the country. Charles was his own agent, as well as
sole owner. There were no mills beside his in the neigh
borhood ; to that fact she ascribed the reason of his hav
ing no difficulties in Rosville, and no enmities ; for she
knew he had no wish to make friends. The Rosville people,
having no business in common with him, had no right to
meddle, and could find but small excuse for comment.
They spent, she said, five or six thousand a year ; most of
it went in horses, she was convinced, and she believed his
flowers cost him a great deal too. " You must know, Cas
sandra, that his heart is with his horses and his flowers.
He is more interested in them than he is in his children."

She looked vexed when she said this ; but I took hold of
the edge of her finely embroidered cape, and asked her how
much it cost. She laughed, and said, " Fifty dollars ; but
you see how many lapels it has. I have still a handsomer
one that was seventy-five."

" Are they a part of the six thousand a year, Alice ?"

" Of course ; but Charles wishes me to dress, and never
stints me in money ; and, after all, I like for him to spend
his money in his own way. It vexes me sometimes, he
buys such wild brutes, and endangers his life with them.
He rides miles and miles every year ; and it relieves the
tedium of his journeys to have horses he must watch, I

Nobody in Rosville lived at so fast a rate as the Mor-
gesons. The oldest families there were not the richest
the Ryders, in particular. Judge Ryder had four unmar
ried daughters ; they were the only girls in our set who


never invited us to visit them. They could not help saying,
with a fork of the neck, " Who are the Morgesons ?" But
all the others welcomed Cousin Alice, and were friendly
with me. She was too pretty and kind-hearted not
to be liked, if she was rich ; and Cousin Charles was
respected, because he made no acquaintance beyond bows,
and " How-de-do s." It was rather a stirring thing to have
such a citizen, especially when he met with an accident, and
he broke many carriages in the course of time ; and now
and then there was a row at the mills, which made talk.
His being considered a hard man did not detract from the
interest he inspired.

My advent in Rosville might be considered a fortunate
one ; appearances indicated it ; I am sure I thought so, and
was very well satisfied with my position. I conformed to
the ways of the family with ease, even in the matter of
small breakfasts and light suppers. I found that I was
more elastic than before, and more susceptible to sudden
impressions ; I was conscious of the ebb and flow of blood
through my heart, felt it when it eddied up into my
face, and touched my brain with its flame-colored wave. I
loved life again. The stuff of which each day was woven
was covered with an arabesque which suited my fancy. I
missed nothing that the present unrolled for me, but
looked neither to the past nor to the future. In truth there
was little that was elevated in me. Could I have perceived
it if there had been ? Whichever way the circumstances of
my life vacillated, I was not yet reached to the quick ;
whether spiritual or material influences made sinuous the
current of being, it still flowed toward an undiscovered

Half the girls at the Academy, like myself, came from
distant towns. Some had been there three years. They
were all younger than myself. There never had been a
boarding-house attached to the school, and it was not con
sidered a derogatory thing for the best families to receive
these girls as boarders. We were therefore on the same
footing, in a social sense. I was also on good terms with
Miss Prior. She was a cold and kindly woman, faithful
as a teacher, gifted with an insight into the capacity of a
pupil. She gave me a course of History first, and after
that Physical Philosophy ; but never recommended me to


Moral Science. When I had been with her a few months,
she proposed that I should study the common branches ;
my standing in the school was such that I went down
into the primary classes without shame, and I must say that
I was the dullest scholar in them. We also had a drawing
master and a music-teacher. The latter was an amiable
woman, with theatrical manners. She was a Mrs. Lane ;
but no Mr. Lane had ever been seen in Rosyille. We girls
supposed he had deserted her, which was the fact, as she told
me afterward. She cried whenever she sang a sentimental
song, but never gave up to her tears, singing on with
blinded eyes and quavering voice. J laughed at her
dresses which had been handsome, with much frayed trim
ming about them, the hooks and eyes loosened and the
seams strained, but liked her, and although I did not take
lessons, saw her every day when she came up to the
Academy. She asked me once if I had any voice. I
answered her by singing one of our Surrey hymns, " Once
on the raging seas he rode." She grew pale, and said,
" Don t for heaven s sake sing that ! I can see my old
mother, as she looked when she sang that hymn of a stormy
night, when father was out to sea. Both are dead now, and
where am I ? "

She turned round on the music stool, and banged out
the accompaniment of " O pilot, tis a fearful night" and
sang it with great energy. After her feelings were com
posed, she begged me to allow her to teach me to sing.
" You can at least learn the simple chords of song accom
paniments, and I think you have a voice that can be made

I promised to try, and as I had taken lessons before, in
three months I could play and sing " Should those fond
h>f>es e er forsake thee" tolerably well. But Mrs. Lane per
sisted in affirming that I had a dramatic talent, and as she
supposed that I never should be an actress, I must bring it
out in singing ; so I persevered, and, thanks to her, improved
so much that people said, when I was mentioned, " She

The Moral Sciences went to Dr. Price, and he had a class
of girls in Latin ; but my only opportunity of going before
him was at morning prayers and Wednesday afternoons,
when we assembled in the hall to hear orations in Latin, or


translations, and " pieces " spoken by the boys ; and at the
quarterly reviews, when he marched us backward and for
ward through the books we had conned, like the sharp old
gentleman he was, notwithstanding his purblind eyes.


I HEARD from home regularly ; father, however, was
my only correspondent. He stipulated that I should
write him every other Saturday, if not more than a
line ; but I did more than that at first, writing up the events
of the fortnight, interspersing my opinions of the actors
engaged therein, and dwindling by degrees down to the
mere acknowledgment of his letter. He read without com
ment, but now and then he asked me questions which
puzzled me to answer.

" Do you like Mr. Morgeson ?" he asked once.

" He is very attentive," I wrote back. " But so is
Cousin Alice, she is fond of me."

" You do not like Morgeson ? " again.

" Are there no agreeable young men," he asked another
time, " with Dr. Price ? "

" Only boys," I wrote " cubs of my own age."

Among the first letters I received was one with the news
of the death of my grandfather, John Morgeson. He had
left ten thousand dollars for Arthur, the sum to be with
drawn from the house of Locke Morgeson & Co., and in
vested elsewhere, for the interest to accumulate, and be added
to the principal, till he should be of age. The rest of his
property he gave to the Foreign Missionary Society.
" Now," wrote father, " it will come your turn next, to stand
in the gap, when your mother and I fall back from the
forlorn hope life." This merry and unaccustomed view
of things did not suggest to my mind the change he inti
mated ; I could not dwell on such an idea, so steadfast a
home-principle were father and mother. It was different
with grandfathers and grandmothers, of course ; they died,
since it was not particularly necessary for them to live after
their children were married.

It was early June when I went to Rosville ; it was now


October. There was nothing more for me to discover there.
My relations at home and at school were established, and it
was probable that the next year s plans were all settled.

" It is the twentieth," said my friend, Helen Perkins, as
we lingered in the Academy yard, after school hours. " The
trees have thinned so we can see up and down the streets.
Isn t that Mr. Morgeson who is tearing round the corner of
Gold Street? Do you think he is strange-looking? I do.
His hair, and eyes, and complexion are exactly the same
hue ; what color is it ? A pale brown, or a greenish gray ? "

" Is he driving this way ? "

" Yes ; the fore-legs of his horse have nearly arrived."

I moved on in advance of Helen, toward the gate ; he
beckoned when he saw me, and presently reined Nell close
to us. " You can decide now what color he is," I whis
pered to her.

" Will you ride home ? " he asked. " And shall I take you
down to Bancroft s, Miss Helen ? "

She would have declined, but I took her arm, pushed her
into the chaise, and then sprang in after her ; she seized
the hand-loop, in view of an upset.

" You are afraid of my horse, Miss Helen," he said,
without having looked at her.

" I am afraid of your driving," she answered, leaning back
and looking behind him at me. She shook her head and
put her finger on her eyelid to make me understand that
she did not like the color of his eyes.

" Cassandra is afraid of neither," he said.

" Why should I be ? " I replied coldly.

We were soon at the Bancrofts , where Helen lived,
which was a mile from the Academy, and half a mile from
our house. When we were going home, he asked :

" Is she your intimate friend ? "

" The most in school."

" Is there the usual nonsense about her ? "

" What do you mean by nonsense ? "

" When a girl talks about her lover or proposes one to
her friend."

" I think she is not gifted that way."

" Then I like her."

" Why should she not talk about lovers, though ? The
next time I see her I will bring up the subject."


" You shall think and talk of your lessons, and nothing
more, I charge you. Go on, Nell," he said, in a loud voice,
turning into the yard and grazing one of the gate-posts, so
that we struck together. I was vexed, thinking it was done
purposely, and brushed my shoulder where he came in con
tact, as if dust had fallen on me, and jumped out without
looking at him, and ran into the house.

" Are you losing your skill in driving, Charles ? " Alice
asked, when we were at tea, " or is Nell too much for you ?
I saw you crash against the gate-post."

" Did you ? My hand was not steady, and we made a

" Was there a fight at the mills last night ? Jesse
said so."

" Jesse must mind his business."

" He told Phcebe about it."

" I knocked one of the clerks over and sprained my

I met his eye then. " It was your right hand ? " I asked.

" It was my right hand," in a deferential tone, and with a
slight bow in my direction.

" Was it Parker ? " she asked.

" Yes, he is a puppy ; but don t talk about it."

Nothing more was said, even by Edward, who observed
his father with childish gravity, I meditated on the in
justice I had done him about the gate-post. After tea he
busied himself in the garden among the flowers which were
still remaining. I lingered in the parlor or walked the
piazza, with an undefined desire of speaking to him before
I should go to my room. After he had finished his garden
work he went to the stable ; I heard the horses stepping
about the floor as they were taken out for his inspection.
The lamps were lighted before he came in again ; Alice
was upstairs as usual. When I heard him coming, I opened
my book, and seated myself in a corner of a sofa ; he walked
to the window without noticing me, and drummed on the

" Does your wrist pain you, Charles ?" still reading.

" A trifle," adjusting his wristband.

" Do you often knock men down in your employ ? "

" When they deserve it."

" It is a generous and manly sort of pastime."


" I am a generous man and very strong; do you know
that, you little fool ? Here, will you take this flower ?
There will be no more this year." I took it from his hand ;
it was a pink, faintly odorous blossom.

"I love these fragile flowers best," he continued "where
I have to protect them from my own touch, even." He re
lapsed into forgetfulness for a moment, and then began to
study his memorandum book.

" A note from the mills, sir," said Jesse, " by one of the

" Tell him to wait."

He read it, and threw it over to me. It was from Parker,
who informed Mr. Morgeson that he was going by the
morning s train to Boston, thinking it was time for him to
leave his employ ; that, though the fault was his own in
the difficulty of the day before, a Yankee could not stand a
knock-down. It was too damned aristocratic for an em
ployer to have that privilege ; our institutions did not per
mit it. He thanked Mr. Morgeson for his liberality ; he
couldn t thank him for being a good fellow. "And would
he oblige him by sending per bearer the arrears of salary ? "

" Parker is in love with a factory girl. He quarreled
with one of the hands because he was jealous of him, and
would have been whipped by the man and his friends ; to
spare him that, I knocked him down. Do you feel better
now, Gassy ? "

" Better ? How does it concern me ? "

He laughed.

" Put Black Jake in the wagon," he called to Jesse.

Alice heard him and came downstairs ; we went out on
the piazza to see him off. " Why do you go ? " she asked,
in an uneasy tone.

" I must. Wont you go too ? "

She refused ; but whispered to me, asking if I were
afraid ?

"Of what?"

" Men quarreling."

"Cassandra, will you go ? " he asked. " If not, I am off.
Jump in behind, Sam, will you ? "

" Go," said Alice ; and she ran in for a shawl, which she
wrapped round me.

"Alice," said Charles, "you are a silly woman."


" As you have always said," she answered, laughing.
" Ward the blows from him, Cassandra."

" It s a pretty dark night for a ride," remarked Sam.

" I have rode in darker ones."

" I dessay," replied Sam.

" Cover your hand with my handkerchief," I said ; " the
wind is cutting."

" Do you wish it?"

" No, I do not wish it ; it was a humanitary idea merely."

He refused to have it covered.

The air had a moldy taint, and the wind blew the dead
leaves around us. As we rode through the darkness I
counted the glimmering lights which flashed across our
way till we got out on the high-road where they grew
scarce, and the wind whistled loud about our faces. He
laid his hand on my shawl. " It is too light ; you will take

" No."

We reached the mills, and pulled up by the corner of a
building, where a light shone through a window.

" This is my office. You must go in it is too chilly for
you to wait in the wagon. Hold Jake, Sam, till I come

I followed him. In the farthest corner of the room where
we had seen the light, behind the desk, sat Mr. Parker, with
his light hair rumpled, and a pen behind his ear.

I stopped by the door, while Charles went to the desk and
stood before him to intercept my view, but he could not help
my hearing what was said, though he spoke low.

" Did you give something to Sam, Parker, for bringing
me your note at such a late hour?"

" Certainly," in a loud voice.

"He must be fifty, at least."

" I should say so," rather lower.

" Well, here is your money ; you had better stay. I shall
be devilish sorry for your father, who is my friend ; you
know he will be disappointed if you leave ; depend upon
it he will guess at the girl. Of course you would like to
have me say I was in fault about giving you a blow as I
was. Stay. You will get over the affair. We all do. Is
she handsome ?"

" Beautiful," in a meek but enthusiastic tone.


" That goes, like the flowers ; but they come every year

" Yes ? "

" Yes, I say."

" No ; I ll stay and see."

Charles turned away.

" Good-evening, Mr. Parker," I said, stepping forward. I
had met him at several parties at Rosville, but never at our

" Excuse me, Miss Morgeson ; I did not know you. I
hope you are well."

" Come," said Charles, with his hand on the latch.

" Are you going to Mrs. Bancroft s whist party on Wed
nesday night, Mr. Parker ? "

" Yes ; Miss Perkins was kind enough to invite me."

" Cassandra, come." And Charles opened the door. I
fumbled for the flower at my belt. " It s nice to have flow
ers so late ; don t you think so ? " inhaling the fragrance of
my crushed specimens ; " if they would but last. Will you
have it ? " stretching it toward him. He was about to take
it, with a blush, when Charles struck it out of my hand and
stepped on it.

" Are you ready now ? " he said, in a quick voice.

I declared it was nothing, when I found I was too ill to
rise the next morning. At the end of three days, as I still
felt a disinclination to get up, Alice sent for her physician.
I told him I was sleepy and felt dull pains. He requested
me to sit up in bed, and rapped my shoulders and chest

Online LibraryElizabeth StoddardThe Morgesons; a novel → online text (page 8 of 24)