Elizabeth Stoddard.

The Morgesons; a novel online

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with his knuckles, in a forgetful way.

" Nothing serious," he said ; " but, like many women, you
will continue to do something to keep in continual pain.
If Nature does not endow your constitution with suffering,
you will make up the loss by some fatal trifling, which will
bring it. I dare say, now, that after this, you never will be
quite well."

" I will take care of my health."

He looked into my face attentively.

" You wont you can t. Did you ever notice your tem
perament ? " .

" No, never ; what is it ? "

" How old are you ?"

" Eighteen, and four months.


" Is it possible ? How backward you are ! You are quite

"When may I get up ?"

" Next week ; don t drink coffee. Remember to live in
the day. Avoid stirring about in the night, as you would
avoid Satan. Sleep, sleep then, and you ll make that beauty
of yours last longer."

"Am I a beauty? No living creature ever said so be

" Adipose beauty."

" Fat ? "

" No ; not that exactly. Good-day."

He came again, and asked me questions concerning my
father and mother ; what my grandparents died of ; and
whether any of my family were strumous. He struck me as
being very odd.

My school friends were attentive, but I only admitted
Helen Perkins to see me. Her liking for me opened my
heart still more toward her. She was my first intimate
friend and my last. Though younger than I, she was
more experienced, and had already passed through scenes
I knew nothing of, which had sobered her judgment, and
given her feelings a practical tinge. She was noted for
having the highest spirits of any girl in school another
result of her experiences. She never allowed them to ap
pear fluctuating ; she was, therefore, an aid to me, whose
moods varied.

After my illness came a sense of change. I had lost that
careless security in my strength which 1 had always pos
sessed, and was troubled with vague doubts, that made me
feel I needed help from without.

I did not see Charles while I was ill, for he was absent
most of the time. I knew when he was at home by the si
lence which pervaded the premises. When he was not there,
Alice spread the children in all directions, and the servants
gave tongue.

He was not at home the day I went downstairs, and I
missed him, continually asking myself, " Why do I ? " As
I sat with Alice in the garden-room, I said, "Alice." She
looked up from her sewing. " I am thinking of Charles."
" Yes. He will be glad to see you again."
" Is he really related to me ? "


" He told you so, did he not ? And his name certainly is

" But we are wholly unlike, are we not ? "

" Wholly ; but why do you ask ? "

" He influences me so strongly."

" Influences you ? " she echoed.

" Yes"; and, with an effort, " I believe I influence him."

" You are very handsome," she said, with a little sharp
ness. " So are flowers," I said to myself.

" It is not that, Alice," I answered peevishly ; " you know

" You are peculiar, then ; it may be he likes you for being
so. He is odd, you know ; but his oddity never troubles
me." And she resumed her sewing with a placid face.

" Veronica is odd, also," was my thought ; " but oddity
there runs in a different direction." Her image appeared
to me, pale, delicate, unyielding. I seemed to wash like a
weed at her base.

" You should see my sister, Alice."

" Charles spoke of her ; he says she plays beautifully.
If you feel strong next week, we will go to Boston, and
make our winter purchases. By the way, I hope you are
not nervous. To go back to Charles, I have noticed how
little you say to him. You know he never talks. The
influence you speak of it does not make you dislike

" No ; I meant to say my choice of words must be
poor that it was possible I might be thinking too much
of him ; he is your husband, you know, though I do not
think he is particularly interesting, or pleasing."

She laughed, as if highly amused, and said : " Well,
about our dresses. You need a ball dress, so do I ; for we
shall have balls this winter, and if the children are well, we
will go. I think, too, that you had better get a gray cloth
pelisse, with a fur trimming. We dress so much at church."

" Perhaps," I said. " And how will a gray hat with feath
ers look ? I must first write father, and ask for more

" Of course ; but he allows you all you want."

" He is not so very rich ; we do not live as handsomely
as you do."

It was tea-time when we had finished our confab, and


Alice sent me to bed soon after. I was comfortably drowsy
when I heard Charles driving into the stable. " There he
is," I thought, with a light heart, for I felt better since I
had spoken to Alice of him. Her matter-of-fact air had
blown away the cobwebs that had gathered across my fancy.

I saw him at the breakfast-table the next morning. He
was noting something in his memorandum book, which ex
cused him from offering me his hand ; but he spoke kindly,
said he was glad to see me, hoped I was well, and could
find a breakfast that I liked.

" For some reason or other, I do not eat so much as I
did in Surrey."

Alice laughed, and I blushed.

"What do you think, Charles ?" she said, "Cassandra
seems worried by the influence, as she calls it, you have
upon each other."

" Does she ? "

He raised his strange, intense eyes to mine ; a blinding,
intelligent light flowed from them which I could not defy.
nor resist, a light which filled my veins with a torrent of fire.

" You think Cassandra is not like you," he continued with
a curious intonation.

" I told her that your oddities never troubled me."

" That is right."

"To-day," I muttered, " Alice, I shall go back to school."

" You must ride," she answered.

"Jesse will drive you up," said Charles, rising. Alice
called him back, to tell him her plan of the Boston visit.

" Certainly ; go by all means," he said, and went on
his way.

I made my application to father, telling him I had nothing
to wear. He answered with haste, begging me to clothe
myself at once.


IT was November when we returned from Boston. One
morning when the frost sparkled on the dead leaves,
which still dropped on the walks, Helen Perkins and I
were taking a stroll down Silver Street, behind the Academy,
when we saw Dr. White coming down the street in his sulky,


rocking from side to side like a cradle. He stopped when
he came up to us.

" Do ye sit up late of evenings, Miss Morgeson ? "

" No, Doctor ; only once a week or so."

" You are a case." And he meditatively pulled his shaggy
whiskers with a loose buckskin glove. " There s a ripple
coming under your eyes already ; what did I tell you ? Let
me see, did you say you were like father or mother ? "

" I look like my father. By the way, Doctor, I am study
ing my temperament. You will make an infidel of me by
your inquiries."

Helen laughed, and staring at him, called him a bear, and
told him he ought to live in a hospital, where he would have
plenty of sick women to tease.

" I should find few like you there."

He chirruped to his horse, but checked it again, put out
his head and called, " Keep your feet warm, wont you ?
And read Shakespeare."

Helen said that Dr. White had been crossed in love, and
long after had married a deformed woman for science s
sake, perhaps. His talent was well known out of Rosville ;
but he was unambitious and eccentric.

" He is interested in you, Cass, that I see. Are you quite
well ? What about the change you spoke of ? "

" Dr. White has theories ; he has attached one to me.
Nature has adjusted us nicely, he thinks, with fine strings ;
if we laugh too much, or cry too long, a knot slips some
where, which all the king s men can t take up again.
Perhaps he judges women by his deformed wife. Men do
judge that way, I suppose, and then pride themselves on
their experience, commencing their speeches about us, with
you women. I ll answer your question, though, there s
a blight creeping over me, or a mildew."

" Is there a worm i the bud ?"

" There may be one at the root ; my top is green and
flourishing, isn t it?"

" You expect to be in a state of beatitude always. What
is a mote of dust in another s eye, in yours is a cataract.
You are mad at your blindness, and fight the air because
you can t see."

"I feel that I see very little, especially when I understand
the clearness of your vision. Your good sense is monstrous."


" It will come right somehow, with you ; when twenty
years are wasted, maybe," she answered sadly. " There s
the first bell ! I haven t a word yet of my rhetoric lesson,"
opening her book and chanting, " Man, thou pendulum
betwixt a smile and tear. Are you going to Professor
Simpson s class ?" shutting it again. "I know the new
dance "; and she began to execute it on the walk. The
door of a house opposite us opened, and a tall youth came
out, hat in hand. Without evincing surprise, he advanced
toward Helen, gravely dancing the same step ; they finished
the figure with unmoved countenances. " Come now," I
said, taking her arm. He then made a series of bows to us,
retreating to the house, with his face toward us, till he
reached the door and closed it. He was tall and stout,
with red hair, and piercing black eyes, and looked about
twenty-three. " Who can that be, Helen ? "

" A stranger ; probably some young man come to Dr.
Price, or a law student. He is new here, at all events. His
is not an obscure face ; if it had been seen, we should have
known it."

" We shall meet him, then."

And we did, the very next day, which was Wednesday,
in the hall, where we went to hear the boys declaim. I saw
him, sitting by himself in a chair, instead of being with the
classes. He was in a brown study, unaware that he was
observed ; both hands were in his pockets, and his legs
were stretched out till his pantaloons had receded up his
boots, whose soles he knocked together, oblivious of the
noise they made. In spite of his red hair, I thought him
handsome, with his Roman nose and firm, clefted chin.
Helen and I were opposite him at the lower part of the hall,
but he did not see us, till the first boy mounted the plat
form, and began to spout one of Cicero s orations ; then he
looked up, and a smile spread over his face. He withdrew
his hands from his pockets, updrew his legs, and surveyed
the long row of girls opposite, beginning at the head of the
hall. As his eyes reached us, a flash of recognition shot
across ; he raised his hand as if to salute us, and I noticed
that it was remarkably handsome, small and white, and
ornamented with an old-fashioned ring. It was our habit,
after the exercises were over, to gather round Dr. Price, to
exchange a few words with him. And this occasion was


no exception, for Dr. Price, with his double spectacles, and
his silk handkerchief in his hand, was answering our ques
tions, when feeling a touch, he stopped, turned hastily, and
saw the stranger.

" Will you be so good as to introduce me to the two
young ladies near you ? We have met before, but I do not
know their names."

" Ah," said the Doctor, taking off his spectacles and
wiping them leisurely ; then raising his voice, said, " Miss
Cassandra Morgeson and Miss Helen Perkins, Mr. Ben
Somers, of Belem, requests me to present him to you. I
add the information that he is, although a senior, suspended
from Harvard College, for participating in a disgraceful
fight. It is at your option to notice him."

" If he would be kind enough," said Mr. Somers, moving
toward us, "to say that I won it."

" With such hands ? " I asked.

" Oh, Somers," interposed the Doctor, " have you much
knowledge of the Bellevue Pickersgills pedigree ? "

" Certainly ; my grandpa, Desmond Pickersgill, although
he came to this country as a cabin boy, was brother to an
English earl. This is our coat of arms," showing the ring
he wore.

" That is a great fact," answered the Doctor.

" This lad," addressing me, " belongs to the family I
spoke of to you, a member of which married one of your

" Is it possible ? I never heard much of my father s

" No," said the Doctor dryly ; " Somers has no coat of
arms. I expected, when I asked you, to hear that the
Pickergills history was at your fingers ends."

" Only above the second joint of the third finger of my
left hand."

I thought Dr. Price was embarrassing.

"Is your family from Troy?" Mr. Somers asked me, in
a low tone.

" Do you dislike my name ? Is that of Veronica a better
one? It is my sister s, and we were named by our great
grandfather, who married a Somers, a hundred years ago."

Miss Black, my Barmouth teacher, came into my mind,
for I had said the same thing to her in my first interview ;


but I was recalled from my wandering by Mr. Somers
asking, " Are you looking for your sister ? Far be it from
me to disparage any act of your great-grandfather s, but I
prefer the name of Veronica, and fancy that the person to
whom the name belongs has a narrow face, with eyes near
together, and a quantity of light hair, which falls straight ;
that she has long hands ; is fond of Gothic architecture,
and has a will of her own."

" But never dances," said Helen.

There was a whist party at somebody s house every
Wednesday evening. Alice had selected the present for
one, and had invited more than the usual number. I asked
Mr. Somers to come.

Dress coat ? " he inquired.

Oh, no."

Is Rosville highly starched ?"

Oh, no."

I ll be sure to go into society, then, as long as I can go

He bowed, and, retiring with Dr. Price, walked through
the green with him, perusing the ground.

I wore a dark blue silk for the party, with a cinnamon-
colored satin stripe through it ; a dress that Alice super
vised. She fastened a pair of pearl ear-rings in my ears,
and told me that I never looked better. It was the first
time since grandfather s death that I had worn any dress
except a black one. My short sleeves were puffed velvet,
and a lace tucker was drawn with a blue ribbon across the
corsage. As I adjusted my dress, a triumphant sense of
beauty possessed me ; Cleopatra could not have been more
convinced of her charms than I was of mine. " It is a
pleasant thing," I thought, " that a woman s mind may come
and go by the gate Beautiful."

I went down before Alice, who stayed with the children
till she heard the first ring at the door.

" Where is Charles?" I asked, after we had greeted the

" He will come in time to play, for he likes whist ; do
you ?

" No."

T Ve did not speak again, but I noticed how gay and
agreeable she was through the evening.


Ben Somers came early, suffering from a fit of noncha
lance, to the disgust of several young men, standard beaux,
who regarded him with an impertinence which delighted

" Here comes," he said, " a daughter of the gods, di
vinely tall, and most divinely fair. " Meaning me, which
deepened their disgust.

" Come to the piano," I begged. Helen was there, but
his eyes did not rest upon her, but upon Charles, whom I
saw for the first time that evening. I introduced them.

" Cassandra," said Charles, " let us make up a game in
the East Room. Miss Helen, will you join ? Mr. Somers,
will you take a hand ? "

" Certainly. Miss Morgeson, will you be my partner ? "

" Will you play with me then, Miss Helen ? " asked

" If you desire it," she answered, rather ungraciously.

We took our seats in the East Room, which opened from
the parlor, at a little table by the chimney. The astral
lamp from the center table in the parlor shone into our
room, intercepting any view toward us. I sat by the win
dow, the curtain of which was drawn apart, and the shut
ters unclosed. A few yellow leaves stuck against the panes,
unstirred by the melancholy wind, which sighed through
the crevices. Charles was at my right hand, by the man
tel ; the light from a candelabra illuminated him and Mr.
Somers, while Helen and I were in shadow. Mr. Somers
dealt the cards, and we began the game.

" We shall beat you," he said to Charles.

" Not unless Cassandra has improved," he replied.

I promised to do my best, but soon grew weary, and we
were beaten. To my surprise Mr. Somers was vexed.
His imperturbable manner vanished ; he sat erect, his eyes
sparkled, and he told me I must play better. We began
another game, which he was confident of winning. I kept
my eyes on the cards, and there was silence till Mr. Somers
exclaimed, " Don t trump now, Mr. Morgeson."

I watched the table for his card to fall, but as it did not,
looked at him for the reason. He had forgotten us, and
was lost in contemplation, with his eyes fixed upon me.
The recognition of some impulse had mastered him. I
must prevent Helen and Mr. Somers perceiving this ! I


shuffled the cards noisily, rustled my dress, looked right
and left for my handkerchief to break the spell.

" How the wind moans ! " said Helen. I understood her
tone ; she understood him, as I did.

" I like Rosville, Miss Perkins," cried Mr. Somers.

"Do you?" said Charles, clicking down his card, as though
his turn had just come. "I must trump this in spite of you."

" I am tired of playing," I said.

" We are beaten, Miss Perkins," said Mr. Somers, rising.
" Bring it here," to a servant going by with a tray and
glasses. He drank a goblet of wine, before he offered us
any. " Now give us music ! " offering his arm to Helen,
and taking her away. Charles and I remained at the table.
" By the way," he said abruptly, " I have forgotten to give
you a letter from your father here it is." I stretched my
hand across the table, he retained it. I rose from my chair
and stood beside him.

" Cassandra," he said at last, growing ashy pale, " is
there any other world than this we are in now ? "

I raised my eyes, and saw my own pale face in the glass
over the mantel above his head.

" What do you see ? " he asked, starting up.

I pointed to the glass.

" I begin to think," I said, " there is another world, one
peopled with creatures like those we see there. What are
they base, false, cowardly ? "

" Cowardly," he muttered, " will you make me crush you ?
Can we lie to each other ? Look ! "

He turned me from the glass.

At that moment Helen struck a crashing blow on the
piano keys.

" Charles, give me give me the letter."

He looked vaguely round the floor, it was crumpled in
his hand. Aside door shut, and I stood alone. Pinch
ing my cheeks and wiping my lips to force the color back,
I returned to the parlor. Mr. Somers came to me with a
glass of wine. It was full, and some spilled on my dress ;
he made no offer to wipe it off. After that, he devoted
himself to Alice ; talked lightly with her, observing her
closely. I made the tour of the party, overlooked the
whist players, chatted with the talkers, finally taking a
seat, where Helen joined me.


" Now I am going," she said.

" Why don t they all go ? "

" Look at Mr. Somers playing the agreeable to Mrs. Mor-
geson. What kind of a woman is she, Cass ? "

" Go and learn for yourself."

" I fear I have not the gift for divining people that you

" Do you hear the wind moan now, Helen ? "

She turned crimson, and said : " Let us go to the win
dow ; I think it rains."

We stood within the curtains, and listened to its patter-
ing on the floor of the piazza, and trickling down the glass
like tears.

" Helen, if one could weep as quietly as this rain falls,
and keep the face as unwrinkled as the glass, it would be
pretty to weep."

Is it hard for you to cry ? "

I can t remember ; it is so long since."

VI y ear caught the sound of a step on the piazza.

Who is that ? " she asked.

It is a man."

Morgeson ? "


Cassandra ? "


I can cry," and Helen covered her face.

Cry away, then. Give me a fierce shower of tears, with
thunder and lightning between, if you like. Don t sop,
and soak, and drizzle."

The step came close to the window ; it was not in har
mony with the rain and darkness, but with the hot beating
of my heart.

" We are breaking up," called Mr. Somers. " Mr. Ban
croft s carriage is ready, I am bid to say. It is inky out

"Yes," said Helen, " I am quite ready."

" There are a dozen chaises in the yard ; Mr. Morgeson
is there, and lanterns. He is at home among horses, I

" Do you like horses?" I asked.

" Not in the least."

Somebody called Helen.


" Good-night, Cass."

" Good-night ; keep out of the rain."

" Good-night, Miss Morgeson," said Mr. Somers, when
she had gone. " Good-night and good-morning. My ac
quaintance with you has begun ; it will never end. You
thought me a boy ; I am just your age."

" Never, is a long word, Boy Somers."

"It is."

It rained all night ; I wearied of its monotonous fall ;
if I slept it turned into a voice which was pent up in a let
ter which I could not open.


A LICE was unusually gay the next morning. She praised
\ Mr. Somers, and could not imagine what had been the
cause of his being expelled from the college.

" Don t you like him, Cassandra ? His family are unex

" So is he, I believe, except in his fists. But how did you
learn that his family were unexceptionable ?"

" Charles inquired in Boston, and heard that his mother
was one of the greatest heiresses in Belem."

" Did you enjoy last night, Alice ? "

" Yes, I am fond of whist parties. You noticed that
Charles has not a remarkable talent that way. Did he
speak to Mr. Somers at all, while you played ? I was too
busy to come in. By the by, I must go now, and see if the
parlor is in order."

I followed her with my bonnet in hand, for it was school
time. She looked about, then went up to the mantel, and
taking out the candle-ends from the candelabra, looked
in the glass, and said, "I am a fright this morning."

"Am I ? " I asked over her shoulder, for I was nearly a
head taller.

" No ; you are too young to look jaded in the morning.
Your eyes are as clear as a child s ; and how blue they are."

" Mild and babyish-like, are they not ? almost green
with innocence. But Charles has devilish eyes, don t you
think so ? "


She turned with her mouth open in astonishment, and her
hand full of candle-ends. " Cassandra Morgeson, are you
mad ? "

" Good-by," Alice.

I only saw Mr. Somers at prayers during the following
fortnight. But in that short time he made many acquaint
ances. Helen told me that he had decided to study law
with Judge Ryder, and that he had asked her how long I
expected to stay in Rosville. Nothing eccentric had been
discovered in his behavior ; but she was convinced that he
would astonish us before long. The first Wednesday after
our party, I was absent from the elocutionary exercise ;
but the second came round, and I took my place as usual
beside Helen.

" This will be Mr. Somers s first and last appearance on
our stage," she whispered ; " some whim prompts him to
come to-day."

He delighted Dr. Price by translating from the Agamem
non of ^Eschylus.

" Re-enter Clytemnestra.
"Men! Citizens ! ye Elders of Argos present here"

" Who was Agamemnon ? " I whispered.

" He gave Cassandra her last ride."

" Did he upset her?"

" Study Greek and you will know," she replied, frowning
at him as he stepped from the platform.

We went to walk in Silver Street after school, and he
joined us.

" Do you read Greek ? " he asked her.

" My father is a Greek Professor, and he made me study
it when I was a little girl."

" The name of Cassandra inspired me to rub up my
knowledge of the tragedies."

Helen and he had a Homeric talk, while I silently walked
by them, thinking that Cassandra would have suited Veron
ica, and that no name suited me. From some reason I
did not discover, Helen began to loiter, pretending that she
wanted to have a look at the clouds. But when I looked
back her head was bent to the ground. Mr. Somers offered
to carry my books.


" Carry Helen s ; she is smaller than I am."

"Confound Helen!"

"And the books, too, if you like. Helen," I called, "why
do you loiter? It is time for dinner. We must go home."

" I am quite ready for my dinner," she replied. " Wont
you come to our house this afternoon and take tea with me ?"

" Oh, Miss Perkins, do invite me also," he begged. " I
want to bring Tennyson to you."

" Is he related to Agamemnon ? " I asked.

"I ll ask Mrs. Bancroft if I may invite you, "said Helen,

Online LibraryElizabeth StoddardThe Morgesons; a novel → online text (page 9 of 24)