Grace Aguilar.

The Mother's Recompense, Volume 2 A Sequel to Home Influence online

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elicit nothing more. Mr. Myrvin, with characteristic benevolence,
devoted himself to insuring, as far as he could, the comfort of the
invalid; had her removed from the inn to Widow Morgan's cottage,
confident that there she would at least be nursed with tenderness and
care, and so near him as to permit his constant watchfulness. But a very
few days too sadly convinced him, not only that her disease was mortal,
but that his presence and gentle accents irritated instead of soothed.
Ill-temper and self-will seemed to increase with the weakness, which
every day rendered her longing to continue her journey more and more
futile. It was some days before she could even be persuaded to write to
the relative she was about to seek, so determined was she that she would
get well; and when the letter was forwarded, and long before an answer
could have been received (for twenty years ago there were no railroads
to carry on epistolary communication as now), fretfulness and
despondency increased physical suffering, by the determined conviction
that she was abandoned, her children would be left uncared for. In vain
Mr. Myrvin assured her of the impossibility yet to receive a reply, that
the direction might not even have been distinct enough, for her memory
had failed her in dictating it; she knew she was deserted, she might
have deserved it, but her Edward was innocent, and it was very hard on
him. As self-will subsided in physical exhaustion, misery increased. A
restless torturing remembrance seemed to have taken possession of her,
which all the efforts of the earnest clergyman were utterly ineffectual
to remove. She would not listen to the peace he proffered, and so
painfully did his gentle eloquence appear to irritate instead of calm,
that he desisted, earnestly praying, that her sister might answer the
letter in person, and by removing anxiety prepare the mind for better
thoughts.

One object alone had power to bring something like a smile to that
altered but still most beautiful countenance, conquer even irritation,
and still create intervals of pleasure - it was her son, the same
beautiful boy we have already noticed, and whose likeness to herself was
so extraordinary that it would have been almost too feminine a beauty,
had it not been for the sparkling animated expression of every feature,
and the manly self-possession which characterized his every movement.
That he should be his mother's idol was not very surprising, for the
indiscreet and lavish indulgence which had been his from birth, had not
yet had power to shake his doating fondness for his mother, or interfere
with her happiness by the visible display of the faults which her
weakness had engendered. Caressingly affectionate, open-hearted,
generous, and ever making her his first object, perhaps even a more
penetrating mother would have seen nothing to dread but all to love. His
uncontrolled passion at the slightest cross, his haughty pride and
indomitable will toward all save her, but increased her affection. And
when he was with her, which he was very often, considering that a sick
close room would have been utterly repugnant to him had it not contained
his mother, Mrs. Fortescue was actually happy. But it was a happiness
only increasing her intensity of suffering when her son was absent. Hide
it from herself as she might, the truth would press upon her that she
was dying, and her darling must be left to the care of relations indeed,
but utter strangers to him, and unlikely to treat him as she had done.
She knew that he had, what strict disciplinarians, as she chose to
regard her sister and her husband, would term and treat as serious
faults, while she felt them actually virtues; and agony for him in the
dread of what he might be called upon to endure, would deluge her pillow
with passionate tears, and shake her slight frame as with convulsion.

The day we have mentioned, Edward had been absent longer than usual, and
toward evening Mrs. Fortescue awoke from a troubled sleep to brood over
these thoughts, till they had produced their usual effect in tears and
sobs, the more painful to witness from the increasing physical
incapacity to struggle with them.

A little girl, between ten and eleven years old, was seated on a low
wooden stool, half concealed by the coarse curtain of the bed, employed
in sewing some bright gilt buttons on a blue jacket. It seemed hard work
for those small, delicate hands; but she did not look up from her task
till roused by the too familiar sound of her mother's suffering, and
then, as she raised her head, and flung back the heavy and somewhat
disordered ringlets, the impulse seemed to be to spring up and try to
soothe, but a mournful expression quickly succeeded, and she sat several
minutes without moving. At length, as Mrs. Fortescue's sobs seemed
almost to suffocate her, the child gently bent over her, saying, very
timidly, "Dear mamma, shall I call widow Morgan, or can I get any thing
for you?" and, without waiting for a reply, save the angry negative to
the first question, she held a glass of water to her mother's lips and
bathed her forehead. After a few minutes Mrs. Fortescue revived
sufficiently to inquire where Edward was.

"He has gone down to the stream to launch his little frigate, mamma, and
asked me to fasten these buttons on his jacket, to make it look like a
sailor's meanwhile; I do not think he will be very long now."

Mrs. Fortescue made no rejoinder, except to utter aloud those thoughts
which had caused her previous paroxysm, and her little girl, after a
very evident struggle with her own painful timidity, ventured to say:

"But why should you fear so much for Edward, dear mamma? Every body
loves him and admires him, so I am sure my aunt and uncle will."

"Your aunt may for my sake, but she will not love or bear with his
childish faults as I have done; and your uncle is such a harsh, stern
man, that there is little hope for his forbearance with my poor Edward.
And he is so frank and bold, he will not know how even to conceal his
boyish errors, and he will be punished, and his fine spirit broken, and
who will be there to shield and soothe him!"

"I may be able sometimes, mamma, and indeed, indeed, I will whenever I
can," replied her child, with affecting earnestness. "I love him so
very, very much, and I know he is so much better than I am, that it will
be very easy to help him whenever I can."

"Will you promise me, Ellen, will you really promise me to shield him,
and save him from harshness whenever it is in your power," exclaimed
Mrs. Fortescue, so eagerly, that she half raised herself, and pressed
Ellen to her with an appearance of affection so unusual, and a kiss so
warm, that that moment never passed from the child's mind, and the
promise she gave was registered in her own heart, with a solemnity and
firmness of purpose little imagined by her mother, who when she demanded
it, conceived neither its actual purport nor extent; she only felt
relieved that Edward would have some one by him, to love him and enable
him to conceal his errors, if he should commit any.

Had she studied and known the character of Ellen as she did that of her
son, that promise would perhaps never have been asked; nor would she so
incautiously and mistakenly have laid so great a stress upon
_concealment_, as the only sure means of guarding from blame. From her
childhood Mrs. Fortescue had been a creature of passion and impulse, and
maternity had unhappily not altered one tittle of her character. In what
manner, or at what cost, Ellen might be enabled to keep that promise,
never entered her mind. It had never been her wont, even in days of
health, to examine or reflect, and present weakness permitted only the
morbid indulgence of one exaggerated thought.

For several minutes she lay quite silent, and Ellen resumed her seat and
work, her temples throbbing, she knew not why, and a vain longing to
throw her arms round her mother's neck, and entreat her only for one
more kiss, one other word of love; and the consciousness that she dared
not, caused the hot tears to rush into her eyes, and almost blind her,
but she would not let them fall, for she had learned long ago, that
while Edward's tears only excited soothing and caresses, hers always
called forth irritation and reproof.

"Joy, joy! Mother, darling!" exclaimed an eager voice, some minutes
afterward, and Edward bounded into the room, and throwing himself by his
mother's side, kissed her pale cheek again and again. "Such joy! My ship
sailed so beautifully, I quite longed for you to see it, and you will
one day when you get well and strong again; and I know you will soon
now, for I am sure aunt Emmeline will very soon come, and then, then,
you will be so happy, and we shall all be happy again!"

Mrs. Fortescue pressed him closer and closer to her, returning his
kisses with such passionate fondness, that tears mingled with them, and
fell upon his cheek.

"Don't cry, mamma, dear! indeed, indeed, my aunt will soon come. Do you
know I think I have seen her and spoken to her, too?"

"Seen her, Edward? You mean you have dreamed about her, and so fancy you
have seen her;" but the eager, anxious look she fixed upon him evinced
more hope than her words.

"No, no, mamma; as we were watching my ship, a carriage passed us, and a
lady spoke to me, and asked me the way to the cottage where you lived,
and I am sure it is aunt Emmeline from her smile."

"It can not be," murmured his mother, sadly; "unless - " and her
countenance brightened. "Did she speak to you, Edward, as if she knew
you, recognized you, from your likeness to me?"

"No, mamma, there was no time, the carriage drove off again so quickly;
but, hush! I am sure I hear her voice down stairs," and he sprung up
from the bed and listened eagerly. "Yes, yes, I am right, and she is
coming up; no, it's only widow Morgan, but I am sure it is my aunt by
your face," he added, impatiently, as Mrs. Morgan tried by signs to beg
him to be more cautious, and not to agitate his mother. "Why don't you
let her come up?" and springing down the whole flight of stairs in two
bounds, he rushed into the little parlor, caught hold of the lady's
dress, and exclaimed, "You are my aunt, my own dear aunt; do come up to
mamma, she has been wanting you so long, so very long, and you will make
her well, dear aunt, will you not?"

"Oh, that I may be allowed to do so, dear boy!" was the painfully
agitated reply, and she hastened up the stairs.

But to Edward's grief and astonishment, so little was he conscious of
his mother's exhausted state, the sight of his aunt, prepared in some
measure as she was, seemed to bring increase of suffering instead of
joy. There was a convulsive effort for speech, a passionate return of
her sister's embrace, and she fainted. Edward in terror flung himself
beside her, entreating her not to look so pale, but to wake and speak to
him. Ellen, with a quickness and decision, which even at that moment
caused her aunt to look at her with astonishment, applied the usual
restoratives, evincing no unusual alarm, and a careless observer might
have said, no feeling; but it was only a momentary thought which Mrs.
Hamilton could give to Ellen, every feeling was engrossed in the deep
emotion with which she gazed on the faded form and altered face of that
still beloved though erring one: who, when she had last beheld her,
thirteen years previous, was bright, buoyant, lovely as the boy beside
them. Her voice yet, more than the proffered remedies, seemed to recall
life, and after a brief interval the choking thought found words.

"My father! my father! Oh, Emmeline I know that he is dead! My
disobedience, my ingratitude for all his too indulgent love, killed
him - I know it did. But did he curse me, Emmeline? did all his love turn
to wrath, as it ought to have done? did - "

"Dearest Eleanor," replied Mrs. Hamilton, with earnest tenderness,
"dismiss such painful thoughts at once; our poor father did feel your
conduct deeply, but he forgave it, would have received your husband,
caressed, loved you as before, had you but returned to him; and so loved
you to the last moment, that your name was the last word upon his lips.
But this is no subject for such youthful auditors," she continued,
interrupting herself, as she met Edward's bright eyes fixed wonderingly
upon her face, and noticed the excessive paleness of Ellen's cheek. "You
look weary, my love," she said, kindly, drawing her niece to her, and
affectionately kissing her. "Edward has made his own acquaintance with
me, why did you not do so too? But go now into the garden for a little
while, I am sure you want fresh air, and I will take your place as nurse
mean while. Will you trust me?"

And the kind smile which accompanied her words gave Ellen courage to
return her kiss, but she left the room without speaking. Edward required
more persuasion; and the moment he was permitted he returned, seated
himself on a stool at his aunt's feet, laid his head on her lap, and
remained for nearly an hour quite silent, watching with her the calm
slumbers which had followed the agitating conversation between them.
Mrs. Hamilton was irresistibly attracted toward him, and rather wondered
that Ellen should stay away so long. She did not know that Edward had
spent almost the whole of that day in the joyous sports natural to his
age, and that it had been many weary days and nights since Ellen had
quitted her mother's room.




CHAPTER II.

GLIMPSES INTO A CHILD'S HEART. - A DEATHBED.


On leaving the cottage, Ellen hastily traversed the little garden, and
entered a narrow lane, leading to Mr. Myrvin's dwelling. Her little
heart was swelling high within her, and the confinement she had endured,
the constant control she exercised for fear she should add to her
mother's irritation, combined with the extreme delicacy of natural
constitution, had so weakened her, as to render the slightest exertion
painful. She had been so often reproved as fretful and ill-tempered,
whenever in tears, that she always checked and concealed them. She had
been so frequently told that she did not know what affection was, that
she was so inanimate and cold, that though she did not understand the
actual meaning of the words, she believed she was different to any one
else, and was unhappy without knowing why. Compared with her brother,
she certainly was neither a pretty nor an engaging child. Weakly from
her birth, her residence in India had increased constitutional delicacy,
and while to a watchful eye the expression of her countenance denoted
constant suffering, the heedless and superficial observer would
condemn it as peevishness, and so unnatural to a young child, that
nothing but confirmed ill-temper could have produced it. The soft,
beautifully-formed black eye was too large for her other features, and
the sallowness of her complexion, the heavy tresses of very dark hair,
caused her to be remarked as a very plain child, which in reality she
was not. Accustomed to hear beauty extolled above every thing else,
beholding it in her mother and brother, and imagining it was Edward's
great beauty that always made him so beloved and petted, an
evil-disposed child would have felt nothing but envy and dislike toward
him. But Ellen felt neither. She loved him devotedly; but that any one
could love her, now that the only one who ever had - her idolized
father - was dead, she thought impossible.

Why her heart and temples beat so quickly as she left her mother's
room - why the promise she had so lately made should so cling to her
mind, that even her aunt's arrival could not remove it - why she felt so
giddy and weak as to render walking painful, the poor child could not
have told, but, unable at length to go farther, she sat down on a grassy
bank, and believing herself quite alone, cried bitterly. Several minutes
passed and she did not look up, till a well-known voice inquired: -

"Dear Ellen, what is the matter? What has happened to grieve you so
to-day? won't you tell me?"

"Indeed, indeed, I do not know, dear Arthur; I only feel - feel - as if I
had not so much strength as I had a few days ago - and, and I could not
help crying."

"You are not well, Ellen," replied her companion, a fine lad of sixteen,
and Mr. Myrvin's only son. "You are looking paler than I ever saw you
before; let me call my father. You know he is always pleased when he
sees you, and he hoped you would have been to us before to-day; come
with me to him now."

"No, Arthur, indeed I can not; he will think I have forgotten all he
said to me the last time I saw him, and, indeed, I have not - but I - I do
not know what is the matter with me to-day."

And, in spite of all her efforts to restrain them, the tears would burst
forth afresh; and Arthur, finding all his efforts at consolation
ineffectual, contented himself with putting his arm round her and
kissing them away. A few minutes afterward his father appeared.

"In tears, my dear Ellen!" he said, kindly; "your mother is not worse, I
hope?"

"I do not know, sir," replied the child, as well as her tears would
permit; "she has been very ill just now, for her faint was longer than
usual."

"Did any thing particular occasion it?"

"I think it was seeing my aunt. Mamma was very much agitated before and
afterward."

"Mrs. Hamilton has arrived then! I am rejoiced to hear it," replied Mr.
Myrvin, gladly. Then sitting down by Ellen, he took one of her hands in
his, and said, kindly, "Something has grieved my little girl this
evening; I will not ask what it is, because you may not like to tell me;
but you must not imagine evils, Ellen. I know you have done, and are
doing, the duty of a good, affectionate child, nursing your suffering
mother, bearing with intervals of impatience, which her invalid state
occasions, and giving up all your own wishes to sit quietly by her. I
have not seen you, my child, but I know those who have, and this has
pleased me, and, what is of much more consequence, it proves you have
not forgotten all I told you of your Father in Heaven, that even a
little child can try to love and serve Him."

"But have you not told me those who are good are always happy?" inquired
Ellen; "then I can not be good, though indeed I try to be so, for I do
not think I am happy, for I can never laugh and sing and talk as Edward
does."

"You are not in such strong health as your brother, my dear little girl,
and you have had many things to make you unhappy, which Edward has not.
But you must try and remember that even if it please God that sometimes
you should be more sorrowful than other children, He loves you
notwithstanding. I am sure you have not forgotten the story of Joseph
that I told you a few Sundays ago. God so loved him, as to give him the
power of foretelling future events, and enabling him to do a great deal
of good, but when he was taken away from his father and sold as a slave
and cast into prison among cruel strangers, he could not have been very
happy, Ellen. Yet still, young as he was, little more than a child in
those days, and thrown among those who did not know right from wrong, he
remembered all that his father had taught him, and prayed to God, and
tried to love and obey Him; and God was pleased with him, and gave him
grace to continue good, and at last so blessed him, as to permit him to
see his dear father and darling brother again."

"But Joseph was his father's favorite child," was Ellen's sole
rejoinder; and the tears which were checked in the eagerness with which
she had listened, seemed again ready to burst forth. "He must have been
happy when he thought of that."

"I do not think so, my dear Ellen," replied Mr. Myrvin, more moved than
he chose to betray, "for being his father's favorite first excited the
dislike and envy of his brothers, and caused them to wish to send him
away. There was no excuse indeed for their conduct; but perhaps if
Joseph had always remained near his father he might have been spoiled by
too great indulgence, and never become as good as he afterward was.
Perhaps in his solitary prison he might even have regretted that his
father had not treated them all alike, as then the angry feelings of his
brothers would not have been called forth. So you see, being a favorite
will not always make us happy, Ellen. It is indeed very delightful to be
loved and caressed, and if we try to do our duty and love as much as we
can, even if we are not sure of being loved at first, we may be quite
certain that we shall be loved and happy at last. Do you understand me,
my child?"

The question was almost needless, for Ellen's large eyes had never moved
from his face, and their expression was so full of intelligence and
meaning, that the whole countenance seemed lighted up. "Then do you
think mamma will recover?" she eagerly exclaimed; "will she ever love
me? - oh, if I thought so, I could never, never be naughty again!"

"She will love you, my dear Ellen," replied Mr. Myrvin, now visibly
affected, "I can not, I dare not tell you that she will recover to love
you on earth, but if indeed it be God's will that she should go to Him,
she will look down on you from Heaven and love you far more than she has
done yet, for she will know then how much you love her."

"And will she know if I do all she wishes - if I love and help Edward?"
asked Ellen, in a low, half-frightened voice; and little did Mr. Myrvin
imagine how vividly and how indelibly his reply was registered in the
child's memory.

"It is a question none can answer positively, Ellen, but it is my own
firm belief, that the beloved ones we have lost are permitted to watch
over and love us still, and that they see us, and are often near us,
though we can not see them. But even to help Edward," he continued
somewhat anxiously, "you must not be tempted - "

He was interrupted by the appearance of a stranger, who addressing him
courteously, apologized for his intrusion, and noticing the children,
inquired if both were his.

Mr. Myrvin replied that he could only lay claim to one; the little girl
was Miss Fortescue.

"And my name is Hamilton, so I think I have an uncle's privilege," was
the reply; and Ellen, to her astonishment, received an affectionate
embrace from the unknown relative, whom her mother's ill-judged words
had taught her actually to dread. Mr. Myrvin gladly welcomed him, and,
in the interest of the conversation which followed, forgot the lesson he
had been so anxious to impress upon Ellen. Arthur accompanied her to the
garden gate, and the gentlemen soon afterward entered the cottage
together.

Days merged into weeks, and still Mrs. Fortescue lingered; but her
weakness increasing so painfully from alternate fever and exhaustion
that to remove her was impossible. It was the first time that Mrs.
Hamilton had ever been separated from her children, and there were many
disagreeables attendant on nursing a beloved invalid in that confined
cottage; and with only those little luxuries and comforts that could be
procured (and even these were obtained with difficulty, for the nearest
town was twenty miles distant), but not a selfish or repining thought
entered Mrs. Hamilton's mind. It was filled with thankfulness, not only
that she was permitted thus to tend a sister, whom neither error, nor
absence, nor silence could estrange from her heart, but that she was
spared long enough for her gentle influence and enduring love to have
some effect in changing her train of thought, calming that fearful
irritability, and by slow degrees permitting her to look with
resignation and penitent hope to that hour which no human effort could
avert. That Mr. Myrvin should seek Mrs. Hamilton's society and delight
in conversing with her, Mrs. Fortescue considered so perfectly natural,
that the conversations which took place in her sick room, whenever she
was strong enough to bear them, excited neither surprise nor impatience.
Different as she was, willfully as she had always neglected the mild
counsels and example of her sister, the years of separation and but too
often excited self-reproach had fully awakened her to Mrs. Hamilton's
superiority. She had never found any one at all like her - so good and
holy, yet so utterly unassuming; and the strong affection, even the deep
emotion in one usually so controlled, with which her sister had met her,
naturally increased these feelings.

"Ah, you and Emmeline will find much to converse about," had been her
address to Mr. Myrvin, on his first introduction to Mrs. Hamilton. "Talk
as much as you please, and do not mind me. With Emmeline near me, I can
restrain irritability which must have frightened you away. I know she is



Online LibraryGrace AguilarThe Mother's Recompense, Volume 2 A Sequel to Home Influence → online text (page 2 of 40)