Martha Lewis Beckwith Ewell.

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over me like a tide that bore me up at last; my grieving nerves were
still, but my face was pale, as he said again:

"Now, Emily, let me hear from your own lips, 'I love you, Louis,'" and
his dark eyes turned to meet my own, which were filled with tears that
were not bitter - holy tears that welled from the fountain of my tired
and grateful heart.

"I do love you, Louis - and Louis," I cried, forgetting again,
impetuously, "I thought you had forgotten. I have suffered so long and
you did not know it, and I dared not tell."

"Emily should have done it, but never mind, you say you love me, and
shall it be as I desire? will you be my wife, Emily?"

I bowed my head and he continued:

"Thank you, Emily, and I do hope that listening angels hear and know it
all. Their love shall sanction ours, and we will do all we can for each
other, and also for those who unlike us see not the love, the comfort,
and the faith they need. Now you shall be my Emily, - you are christened;
this is your royal title, - my Emily through all the years."

Oh, how glad I felt! From the depths of my spirit rose so strong and
full the tide of feeling that told me one love was perfect, and it cast
out fear.

I said: "Louis, let us wait. Do not look at the dreadful letter now, it
will mar this pleasant picture which rests me so, and I have been tired
too long. I hope I may never again have to say to myself, 'Emily did
it,' or its companion sentence, 'Poor Emily did not do it.' Let me
breathe a little first, for I shall be again wrought up."

"Perhaps not," said Louis.

"Oh! I must be, it cannot be avoided, there is a dark passage through
which we must pass, but if we go together it will not be so hard."

"As you say, my Emily," and at that moment Clara entered.

"Come in, little mother," said Louis, "come in and seal my title for
your royal cousin with a motherly kiss, for she has promised to be my
wife - my Emily through time."

And she glided toward us, kissed my forehead tenderly, and then taking a
hand of each in one of hers, she turned her eyes upward and said:

"Father, bless my children; they were made for each other. May their
lives and love continue, ever as thine, through endless time. Let our
hearts be united and thy will be ours," and she knelt on the floor at
our feet, her head resting in my lap, and her hand in Louis', whose
face was radiant with the thoughts which sought expression in his
features. I marvelled, as I looked on his beauty, that plain Emily Minot
could have become so dear to him.

The thought of father's fear, too, came over me, and while we were thus
in thoughtful silence, the old corner clock gave warning of the supper
hour being near, and I said:

"The supper I must see to, Louis."

He smiled and said:

"My Emily can get supper, I know, for she makes both bread and butter,
and is loyal to her calling ever, as to her lover."

Mr. Benton looked sharply at me during the meal, and it seemed to me as
if my eyes betrayed the thought which, filled my heart. Aunt Hildy had
returned from her errand of mercy, and she said it was "nervous

"Poor creature, she's broke down with her hard work."

"Perhaps she'll marry that old fellow, Mat Jones," said Mr. Benton.
"He'd make a good husband if she isn't too particular," and he laughed
as if he thought his remark suggestive of great cunning. No one gave it
even a smile. He did not like Matthias, and often spoke slurringly of
him. This was strange, for I could see no harm coming to him from this
harmless soul who was good and true and faithful as the sun. He was to
us the very help we needed, and father could entrust the care of his
work to him whenever he desired to rest a day, or it was necessary for
him to be absent from home. This was no small consideration, and well
appreciated by those who knew what the care and work of life on a farm
meant. Mr. Benton's remark called forth from Louis after a time one
concerning the great evil of slavery.

"And if we suffer from any error this race commit, we must remember it
is our own people who have brought it to us," said he. "Africa never
would have come to us."

Mr. Benton, apparently nettled, said:

"I imagine you would not enjoy a drove of these people in your care. I
had a little taste of the South during two years of my life, and my word
for it, Louis, they are not attractive creatures to be tormented with.
They are a perfect set of stubborn stupidities, and driving is the only
thing to suit them, depend on it."

Louis looked more than he said, only recalling that the blame for this
could not rest on the slave alone. "I do not imagine I could enjoy
slave-owning. I feel the majority of slave-owners lower themselves until
they stand beneath the level of the brutes."

Father said, "It is all wrong."

Aunt Hildy added, "All kind of bondage is ungodly, and the days will
bring some folks to knowledge."

"Out of the depth into the light," said Clara, and our meal was over.

The days flew by on wings, each wing a promise, and it was a week after
we plighted our vows ere I felt ready to read that letter and hear what
Louis had to say. Then something came to prevent, and another week had
passed when Louis said:

"My Emily, I must have a talk with your father and mother. I cannot
feel quite satisfied, and it is only right they should be consulted, for
you are their own good girl. I would wait for their hearts to say, 'take
her,' if I waited years, but then, my Emily, it is neither giving nor
taking, for every change that is right does not ask us ever to give
ourselves or our loved ones away. I dislike that term."

"You may wait, Louis; I will tell mother, and she can tell father."

"No, no, Emily! It is I who ask for your hand, and is it not my
privilege as well as duty?"

"What a strange man you are growing to be, Louis! Hal couldn't bear the
thought of telling mother or father his heart affairs, and I was the
medium of communication between them."

"He feels differently about it," said Louis, "and yet he has the
tenderest heart I ever knew within the breast of a man."

"He is a good brother, Louis. I could not ask a better."

"Nor find one if you did."

At that moment Matthias came in. Taking off his hat and saluting us in
his accustomed way, he said:

"'Pears like I'll have to ask some of yere to go out in de woods a
piece - thar's a queer looking gal out thar, an' she's mighty nigh froze
to death; she is, sartin."

"Where is she, Matthias?"

"Clean over thar; quite a piece, miss."

"Near any house?" I said.

"Wall, miss, she mout be two or three good steps from that thar
brick-colored house."

"Oh, clear over there? Well," I said, "I'll go over if Lou Desmonde will
go with me."

"I will go, only never call me that again. Matthias calls me Mas'r
Louis, and he says I remind him of a mighty nice fellow down in South
Carliny," said Louis.

"Yis, sah, you does," said Matthias.

Telling mother and Aunt Hildy what we were going out to find, we

It was a very cold day, and through our warm clothing the winds of March
pierced the marrow of our bones. We found the woman, who proved to be,
as Matthias had said, nearly frozen. Louis took her right in his arms to
the nearest shelter, Mr. Goodwin's, the brick-colored house, and his
good, motherly wife had her put into the large west-room, where the
spare bed was made so temptingly clean, and with such an airy feather
mattress, that, light as she was, the poor girl sank into it almost out
of sight. Matthias brought wood and made a fire on the hearth, and Mrs.
Goodwin, Louis and I worked hard for an hour chafing her purple limbs,
her swelled feet and hands, and at last she turned her head uneasily,
and murmured:

"The baby's dead - she is dead and I am going to her."

Then a few words of home and some pictures.

"Myself! myself!" she'd cry, "my picture; yes, my hair is beautiful; my
golden curls, he said; and my baby's hair; let me put it here."

And she passed into a sleep from which it would seem she could never
waken. We sent Matthias back to tell mother, and say that we should both
stay all night if necessary. This girl could not be more than twenty,
we thought. Her fingers were small and tapering, and on her right hand
she wore a ring set with several diamond stones. Her dress was of silk,
and her shawl fine but thin. Her head covering had doubtless fallen off
and then been carried by the wind, for we saw nothing of it. She was a
beautiful picture as she lay there, for the blood had started and her
cheeks were flushed with fever, her lips parted, showing a set of teeth,
small, white and regular. Who could she be? Where did she come from? It
was about an hour after she fell asleep that she stirred, wakened, and
this time opened her eyes in which a conscious light was gathering.

"Where am I? What is it?"

Mrs. Goodwin stepped near her, Louis retreated from the room, and I kept
my seat by the hearth.

"Dead, dead, I was dying but I am not dead; do tell me," she said,
putting both her hands out to Mrs. Goodwin.

"You are sick, my child. We found you in the road and took you in. You
had lost your way."

"Oh! oh!" she murmured, "can I stay all night?"

"Oh, yes, stay a week or two, and get rested!"

"May I go to sleep again? Who knows me here?" and again she fell asleep.
By this time Aunt Hildy appeared on the scene, and commanded me to go
home and stay there.

"'Tain't no place for you; I've brought my herbs to stay and doctor her.
You go home and help your mother." I obeyed, of course, and when I left,
kissed the white forehead of the poor girl, and sealed it with a tear
that fell.

She murmured: "Yes, all for love, - home, pictures, mother, - all left for
love, and the baby's dead. I'm going there."

I went out into the crisp air with Louis' arm for support, and a
thousand strange thoughts whirling in my brain. "Great, indeed, must
have been the sorrow which could have driven so tender a plant from

"Yes," said Louis, "God pity the man whose ruthless hand has killed the
blossoms of her loving heart. She looks like little mother, Emily."

"So she does, Louis." And we talked earnestly, forgetting everything but
this strange, sweet face. Supper was ready, and the rest were at the

"What have you been up to?" said Ben, "you look like two tombstones." I
related briefly the history, and concluded by saying:

"She looks as frail as a flower." To which Mr. Benton added:

"Doubtless her frailty, Miss Minot, is the cause of her present

"Poor lamb," said Clara, "how thankful we should feel that Matthias
found her."

"Yes," said Louis, "and if he only could have thought to have carried
her into Mr. Goodwin's, and then come over after us, she would not have
so hard a struggle for life."

"Do you think she can live?" said Mr. Benton.

"Oh, yes!" said Louis, "the blood has started, and with Aunt Hildy by
her bedside she will be, by to-morrow, very comfortable. I think she had
not been there long when we found her."

"Perhaps she will not thank you for bringing her back to life, however."

"Perhaps not," said Louis, "still it seems a sacred duty, and in my
opinion, not finished with her mere return to life. She looks very
beautiful - looks like little mother," turning in admiration to Clara,
whose eyes reflected the love she held in her heart for him.

Father and mother were silent, but after supper mother said they would
ride over and see if anything was necessary to be done that they could
attend to. My mother was too silent and too pale through these days. I
looked at the prospect of less work for her with pleasure, and after Mr.
Benton left there certainly would be less. Louis would have Hal's room,
and Clara then would see to their apartments almost entirely. This would
be a relief, and now that my mind was at ease, I knew I could be of more
service, while Aunt Hildy would still remain, for she said she would
make "Mis' Minot's burden as easy as she could, while the Lord gave her
strength to do it."

After father and mother were gone, Louis sat with me in our
sitting-room, while Clara absented herself on the plea of something very
particular to attend to. I mistrusted what it might be, and looked at
her smilingly. "My Emily guesses it," she said, "something for the
little lamb. Emily will help me too, have I not said it?" and she passed
like a sweet breath from the room.

"Now Louis," I said, as we sat together on the old sofa, - our
old-fashioned people called it "soffy," - "let us look at that letter."

He produced it from the pocket where it had lain in waiting, and we
read. Many lines were illegible entirely, but together we deciphered
much of it. "The baby is dead - she was beautiful, and if (here were two
words we could not make out), it would have been so nice (then two lines
blurred and indistinct, and another broken sentence). Where can your
letters - - I am sure you write. If - - then I shall go to find - - .
My father will give us - - " and from all these grief-laden sentences,
we gathered a story that struck us both as being almost made to coincide
with that of the poor lamb.

"Louis," I said, "if this is the very Mary, what shall we do?"

"We will do right and let problems be solved as best they can. First let
us understand about ourselves, then we can better act for others. How
did Mr. Benton annoy you?"

Then I told him.

"And you did not even think you loved him?"

"Louis," I cried, "how could you think so, when my heart has been yours
always? How could you think of me in that light?" And those old tears
came into my eyes.

"I could not convince myself that such was the case, but Wilmur Benton
gave me so to understand - said you were a coy damsel but a glorious
girl, and would make a splendid wife - 'just such as I need,' he said,
'congratulate me.'

"When, Louis, did he say this?"

"The night of our walk; and it was this instead of the picture he talked

"You were cruel not to tell me," I said.

"I waited for my year to finish as I had said I would, and then, Emily,
I waited longer for fear you did not know your heart. Matthias said to
me one day, 'Masr' Louis, dat man neber can gain de day ober thar; Miss
Emily done gone clar off de books, an he's such a bother - um - um.' This
set me to thinking; I asked him how he came to think so. 'Dunno, can't
help it, 'pears like dat gal's eyes tell me 'nuf.' All this was good to
hear, and I had watched you very closely for days, thinking every
morning, 'I will tell her before night;' and several times went into
Hal's room purposely, but Mr. Benton was always before me. It was
because you felt all this that the letter made you feel truly an opening
path - your tearful talk by the old apple tree was the 'sesame' that
opened the way to the light."

"I do not like to feel that man is such a character as all these things
indicate," I said, adding dreamily, "but I never came very near to him.
He is a splendid artist, and still the canvas does not speak of his

"How utterly void of feeling for those in bondage he seems to be! What a
cold crust covers him! Emily."

"It hurts me to think you could for a moment believe I preferred him to

"You must not for a moment believe that in my soul I did, for it is not
true; but I knew your artless, loving heart, and I knew also Mr. Benton
had the power to polish sentences of flattery that might for a little
dazzle you, as it were."

"And they did sometimes, Louis," I said, for I wanted the whole truth to
be made plain, while I felt his glittering eyes fastened on me, "but
not long. When I was alone, I saw your face and longed to hear again the
words you had said to me. We are both young, Louis, and I feared you did
not love me as you thought. I had no right to defend myself against Mr.
Benton's attacks by using your name with my own. And when the year was
past, then I still felt no right, and further," I added slowly, "to me
my love was a sacred picture I could not ask him to look at."

"My Emily forever," said Louis, folding me closely to him. "Your fears
were groundless as to the changing of my love for you, but, as you say,
the picture was not for his eyes. Your suffering causes me sorrow, but
let us hope it has not been in vain."

"It is all right, Louis, now, and I have said to myself, let 'Emily will
do it' be the words hereafter, for 'Emily did it' has passed, and with
this lesson, too, I hope, the second sin of omission, which in my heart
I characterize as 'Emily did not do it.' And now your little mother's
words lie just before me, reaching a long way through the years, 'Emily
will do it.'"

"Amen," said a sweet voice, which was Clara's. "Emily has begun, and
when she goes to see the little lamb here are some things to take."

"Do you want to see her, little mother?"

"Not now, Louis; I cannot now look upon her sorrow. By-and-by," and over
her face came a shining mist, and through sweet sympathy's pure tears
her eyes looked earnestly, but she did not tell us of what she was



I think we must all have dreamed of the lovely face over among the
pillows in Mr. Goodwin's west room, for we were hardly seated at the
breakfast table ere Ben said:

"Wonder how that pretty girl is this morning?"

"She was better when we left last night," said mother, "I thought she
appeared as if ready for a comfortable night; but shall hear soon if she
is better, Aunt Hildy will be home, and if not, Matthias will be over."

"Wish I could see her - will she go right away?"

"That I do not know," said mother, "we have yet to learn her history.
Mrs. Goodwin wanted Matthias to come over to-day, for after you left,
Emily, she called for 'Peter, colored Peter,' looking as if expecting to
find him. Matthias came into the room and brought some wood, while she
was awake, and when she saw him, she said, 'Oh, Peter! stay till I get
rested - I want to tell you.' He dropped his wood heavily, it gave him
such a start. He says no one ever called him that except some young
people down in Carolina, and it seems he named himself Peter, to their
great amusement, telling them that he 'cakilated to treat his old Mas'r
just as Peter treated de good Jesus.'"

"Why, can it be possible he knows her?" I said.

"He thinks not," said mother, "but this calling him Peter is singular

"It seems very strange, and hardly possible she can have come so far,"
said father. Louis' eyes as well as my own had been covertly scanning
Mr. Benton, and he was ill at ease. At the name of Peter his face grew
pale and his hand trembled; no one else noticing it, he rallied, but
made no remark whatever. Afterward Louis said to him:

"What a strange experience this is of the girl we found! - truths are
queer things; I feel a real anxiety to find out about her. Do not you
feel interested?" His eyes fell as he answered:

"Can't say that I do. You have more enthusiasm than myself. Having known
more years, I am taught to let people look out for themselves very much.
But that old Matthias I don't like. It may be all a put up
job - something to bring credit or money to himself - you can't trust that

"Why," said Louis, "_I_ would trust him, and so far as this young lady
is concerned, a different person from Matthias is at the root of the
matter. I have a desire to know the truth and help the girl."

"She may be your fate, Louis."

"No," he replied, "Mr. Benton, that is not possible, my 'fate,' as you
call it, is my Emily."

"Miss Minot?" said Benton, "great heavens! Has that girl played me

"I think not," said Louis calmly, "and since the subject is broached,
perhaps it will be best for me to tell you that Emily is to be my wife,
her parents being willing."

"You _are a gentleman_, truly! I gave you my confidence and expected" -

"Do not say more," said Louis, raising his hand deprecatingly against
the coming falsehood, "do not help me to despise you. I am too sorry
that I am forced to know what you said to me was untrue, and also to
realize what my Emily has suffered and kept in her own heart."

"Louis Desmonde," said Mr. Benton, "do you realize what you are saying?"

"Only too well, sir; do not force me to say more. I admire your art. I
am willing to help you to be a man."

"_Indeed!_" replied Mr. Benton. "Philanthropic _boy_! who talks to a man
of years and judgment!"

It was a bitter pill for him, and I believe it was the knowledge of
Louis' money, and of his own great need of it, that forced him to
retreat in silence, while Louis sought and told me of their interview.

"How could you help telling him of the letter, Louis?"

"I did not have to try to help it, for I want to be sure of all I say to
him, and as far as I spoke I had perfect authority. He may at some time
need my help, though he spurned the aid of his 'philanthropic boy.'"

"_Boy_," said I, "you are old enough to be his father in goodness, but
here comes Aunt Hildy. The poor lamb must be better, else she would not
come back so soon," and I opened the door for her entrance.

"I know what you're after," she said, "she's better; the poor thing
will get well. Oh dear! land! I wonder, when'll the same old story end."

"Has she told it to you, Aunt Hildy?"

"Partly to me and partly to Mis' Goodwin." (Aunt Hildy never said Mrs.
- - married or single, it was always Miss.) "She'll tell you all about
it, I guess, for she wants to see you. She remembers your dark eyes, and
Matthias she calls Peter - yes, she does, now she's come clean to her
senses, and when she gets a little more strength, she says she must see
him, and the dark eyes too; so you'll have to go over. Mis' Goodwin said
mebbe you'd better wait till to-morrer, and so says Brother Davis. He
come over and brought a few of his powders - he wanted to do something. I
told him we could fetch her out straight - Mis' Goodwin and me - and I
think he'd better tend to himself - says he's got a dreadful pain under
his shoulder blades; acts as if he's goin' to be sick."

"Could the young lady eat anything, Mrs. Patten?" said Louis.

"Mercy! yes, I've made gruel twice for her and she's all right, only
she'll be lame and sore-like for a good while, but I must go to work,
I've been gone long enough. Where's your mother?" And the dear old soul
hastened to her duties.

Our supper table was enlivened by the news that Aunt Hildy brought, all
being interested with the exception of Mr. Benton, who was well covered
with dignity. Part of that evening, Louis and I spent with Hal and Mary.
I longed to tell them all about the letter and Mr. Benton's deceit, but
as we entered, Louis whispered, "Let us be discreet," and I answered,
"Emily will do it." He was so much wiser that our years told a story
when they said "only a month's difference in their ages." Hal and Mary
were much interested in the poor lamb, and like ourselves hoped to learn
her history, and help her as she must need. Our visits here were always
pleasant, and when we said "good night," a sincere "God bless you" rose
from our hearts. We entered our sitting-room, to find Clara sitting
between mother and father, and the three evidently enjoying a home talk.
After we were seated, and a lull in the conversation came, Louis
startled me by saying:

"Mr. and Mrs. Minot, I want to ask of you a favor - greater than the one
granted my little mother; perhaps so great that you will fail to grant
it; but it is worth the asking, worth the waiting for through years. May
I call Emily my wife?"

My father looked strangely, and did not reply for a moment, while
mother's face was covered with that pleasant smile, which from earliest
years I had considered, "_yes_." Louis' eyes were bent on my father,
who, when he answered, said:

"You are both young, Louis."

"Yes, sir, I know it, and I do not ask to make her my wife now. But I
love her, Mr. Minot, and it is not right we should hold a position not
sanctioned by you. I shall feel better if you are willing to consider
us, as we feel, pledged to each other."

"I cannot say _no_, but I have thought - Mr. Benton has asked me the same
question, and I hardly know what to say - I said to him, 'If Emily is
willing, I will not oppose your suit.'"

"Oh!" I cried, "father, he has told such stories!"

Louis said: "We can explain that satisfactorily, Mr. Minot, but if there
are other objections in your mind, let us know what they are."

My father was not a man who expressed himself freely, and Louis was so
unlike other young men that he was embarrassed evidently, and there was,
as it seemed to me, a long silence ere he said:

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Online LibraryMartha Lewis Beckwith EwellThe Harvest of Years → online text (page 11 of 20)