Martha Lewis Beckwith Ewell.

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longer - we shall have an answer to-morrow). It is doing me good, my
mind goes over the country round us here, and I am gathering long
breaths that give my mind and body strength. Ah! Miss Emily," he said,
as he rose and walked to and fro, "I shall sometime breathe and act as I
want to. I pray every day that my little mother may live to see me doing
what I desire to do, and, also, for strength. I need great strength,
Miss Emily. You will help to keep little mother alive, I know you will."

And he came back, took both my hands in his own; I felt almost afraid - I
cannot tell you how powerfully expressive his look, voice and gestures
were, and he continued:

"I like you - like you more than you know; you are true, you can be
depended on; you call my little mother your fairy cousin, and I call you
her royal friend. Do me a favor," he continued, "unbind your massive
hair and let it trail over your shoulders." And before I realised it my
hair swept the doorstone where I sat. "There," as he brushed it back
from my face, "look up and you are a picture; wear your long hair
floating - why not?"

"Oh, Louis," I said, "how could I ever work with such a heavy mass about
me. If, as you say, I look like a picture, I certainly ought not to, for
I am only a country dandelion even as a picture," and I laughed. He
looked at me almost fiercely, as he said:

"Miss Emily, never say it again; you are full of poetry; you have
glorious thoughts; you dream while at work; some day you will know
yourself;" and then there came the far-away look in his eyes. Clara came
to sit with us, and the evening wore itself into night's deep shading,
and the early hour for rest came to us all. The professor was amiable
and willing to accord two weeks more of freedom to Louis, who seemed to
enjoy more every day; and when he entered upon his fourth week, said:

"He wished that week might hold a hundred days."

It seemed to me that since Clara came to us she had been the constant
cause of surprise either in one way or another. In herself, as an
individual, she was to me a problem of no little consequence and not
easily solved, and she was continually bringing forth something

The last of the third week of Louis' stay was made memorable by one of
her demonstrations. It was Wednesday evening, the last of our ironing
was finished, and mother and I were folding the clothes as we took them
down from the old-fashioned horse, when we heard her sweet voice
claiming us for special consultation.

"Mrs. Minot," she called, and we left our clothes and went into the
square room, as we called it. Father and Louis were there, and when we
were seated she began:

"Now, my dear friends, I propose to ask a favor of you. I love you three
people, and you have made me so happy here I do desire to call this spot
home for always. It seems to me I cannot feel so happy in another place,
and now you know I have many belongings in my old home in the city. I
know a lady who has met with misfortune, an old friend of my husband's
family, who is worthy, and forced at present by circumstances to earn
her living. Now may I ask you, my dear friends, to let me bring my
furniture here. Will you give me more room, that I may establish myself
just quite enough to make it pleasant, and then I can let my friend have
my house (upon condition of her retaining my old help, which I shall not
permit to be a trouble to her financially), and through your favor I may
help another. I should have asked it long ago, but I waited for my boy
to come and taste the air of your home here, and since he loves you as
well as I do, may we stay?"

And she held her little white hands toward us, and opened her blue eyes

Of course we all gladly consented.

Then she clapped her hands, and turning to Louis, said:

"Louis Robert, thank them."

And he bowed and said in his own expressive way:

"We will try to appreciate your kindness."

I knew then what the covered chairs meant, but I secretly wondered "How
on airth," as Aunt Hildy used to say, all those moveables were to be got
into our house. This thought was running through my head when Clara
spoke, crossing the room as she did so, and taking my father's hand - and
he was such a reserved man that no one else would ever have dreamed of
doing so.

"Mr. Minot, I have not finished yet. Would you grant me one thing more?
May I have a little bit of your ground on the west side of your house,
say a piece not more than eighteen by twenty-five feet, with which to do
just as I please?"

Father looked thunderstruck, as he answered:

"What can you do with it, Clara?"

"Oh, never mind; may I?"

"Yes, yes," he said in a dreamy way.

And mother looked up, to be met by the eyes which sought her own, while
the sweet lips queried:

"Will you say so too if you like my plans?"

"I'll try to do what is best for us all" - and that meant volumes, for my
mother was thoroughly good, and as strong in what she deemed to be right
as mortal could be, and she never wavered a moment, where right was
considered. Unfaltering and true, her word was a law, and Clara at her
quiet answer felt the victory won. Now for the sequel, thought I, and
then Louis asked me to take a stroll in the moonlight, and although a
little curious at the revelation awaiting us, I could not deny him and
went for my hat and shawl. What a lovely night it was, and how the stars
stealing one by one into the sky seemed like breathing entities looking
down upon us. It seemed that night as if they heard what Louis said, and
you would not wonder had you seen the youthful fervor of this dark-eyed
youth; this strange combination of man and boy. When with him I felt
awed into silence, and though his thoughts always brought response from
my soul, yet did I hesitate for expression, language failing me utterly.
How many beautiful thoughts he uttered this night, and how strangely I
answered him! He was young and had not learned the lesson of waiting, if
effort of his own could hasten the development of any loved scheme. I
cannot, will not try to tell you all that he said, but he spoke so
positively, and commanded as it were an answer from my very soul. He
told me of his love for painting, of his great desire to do something
worthy of the best, as he expressed it.

"And my first picture is to be yourself," he said; "you shall speak on
canvas. You think yourself so plain; oh! you are not plain, Miss Emily;
I love you, and you are my wild flower, are you not? Speak to me, call
me your Louis! Love me, as I do you. Ah! if you did not love me I could
not stay here till to-morrow - you think me young and presumptuous - you
say I do not know myself and I will change - I will not change - I am not
young - I want great love, such as comes to me through your eyes, to help
me - and you love me - you are my precious wild flower - I shall live for
you and my little mother."

No word had escaped my lips, and now he paused, and looking at me, said:

"Tell me if you do not love me! - tell me, Emily."

Why did I - how could I answer him as I did - so cold; my voice fell upon
my own ear as I said slowly:

"I don't know, Louis - you are so strange."

What an answer! He quivered and the tears came to his eyes; he dashed
them aside and said:

"How long shall I wait for you? say it now and help me; your spirit
loves me; I can hear it speak to me."

I thought for the moment he was crazed. He divined my thought and said:

"No, not crazy, but I want your help."

"Oh, Louis!" I cried, "I don't know, I am so ignorant - why was I born
so? don't treat me unkindly, you are dear to me, dear, but I can't

"Never, never say so again."

He seemed taller as he paused in his walk, and released the firm hold he
had kept of my arm, said slowly:

"God waits for man, and angels wait, and I will wait, and you will tell
me sometime - say no word to my little mother" - and he kissed my
forehead, a tear-drop falling on me from his eyes, and we walked
silently and slowly home.

I sought my room, and crying bitterly, said to myself, "Emily Minot must
you always do the very thing you desire not to do?"

When my eye met Louis' at the table next morning, I felt as if I had
committed an unpardonable sin. My whole being had trembled with the deep
respect and admiration I had felt for him since the moment we met, and I
certainly had given him cause to understand me to be incapable of
responding to his innermost thought. I felt he would treat me
differently, but a second look convinced me that such was not the fact.
His noble nature could not illtreat any one, and I only saw a look of
positive endurance, "I am waiting," photographed on his features, and
made manifest in all his manner toward me, and a determined effort to
put me at ease resulted at last in forcing me to appear as before, while
all the time a sharp pain gnawed at my heart, and, unlike most girls, I
was not easy until I told my mother of it all.

She stroked my dark hair and said:

"You and he have only seen nineteen short years. Wisdom is the ripened
fruit of years; you cannot judge of your future from to-day."

That comforted me, and I felt better in my mind. I planned something to
say to Louis, but every opportunity was lost, and the last week of his
stay had already begun. The plans of his little mother had been confided
to me, and work had commenced.

There was to be an addition of four large rooms on the west side of our
house, and they were planned in accordance with Clara's ideas. She did
not call them her's, and started with the understanding that the
improvements were just a little present for her dear cousins. Best of
all, we were to have a bow window in one of the rooms, and this was
something so new, so different, it seemed a greater thing to me than the
architecture of the ancient cathedrals. A bow window, and the panes of
glass double, yes, treble the size of the old ones!

I heard father say to mother that this new part would make the old one
look very shabby; but Louis had told me his mother intended to do all
father would allow her to, and encourage him a little, etc. And we were
to have a new fence. You cannot imagine how fairy-like this all seemed
to me, and I could hardly believe what I saw. It seemed as if we were in
a wonderland country, and I had moved as in a dream up to the last hour
of my walk with Louis. Then I seemed to awake, as if shaken by a rough
hand, and since then I had been striving to appear what I was not, all
the time thinking that Louis misunderstood me, and here we were in the
last week of his stay and no word as yet in explanation. I had thought
it over until it became a truth to me that after all he had not meant
that he loved me other than as a sister, and it also seemed to me that
was just what I needed. What remained was to have it settled between us,
and to do that I must clothe my thoughts with words, else how could he
know how I felt. It seemed, too, that it was sheer boldness on my part
to dream for a moment that Louis spoke of life's crowning love. He meant
to be as a brother to me, and again I sighed, as I stood at the ironing
table, "Ah, Emily Minot, you are a born mistake, that's just what you
are!" and as I sighed I spoke these words, and, turning, found myself
face to face with Louis, who had just come from the village. He never
could wait for the stage to come, and had been over as usual for

"The only mistake is that you don't know yourself," he said.

And the tears that had welled up to my eyes fell so fast, and I was so
choked, that I turned from work, thinking to escape into mother's
bedroom and hide myself; but my eye caught sight of a letter in his hand
unopened, and love for Hal rose above all my foolish tears, and so I
stood quietly waiting the denouement.

"Come into the other room with me, Emily; I have something to tell you."

He sat down on the little chintz-covered lounge, and I beside him.

"Emily, you are a strong woman, your heart will beat fast, but you will
neither scream nor faint when I tell you; your brother is ill. There was
a letter in the office and also a telegram at the depot. What will be
done, who can go to him?"

I did not scream or faint as he had said, but I clasped my hands tightly
and shut my eyes as if some terrible sight was before me, while my poor
heart grieved and brain reeled, as I thought, "Oh! he will die, poor
Hal! alone among strangers, and how would our patient mother bear it,
and what should we do!"

My face was white, I know, for grief always blanched my face and brought
those terribly silent tears, that fall like solemn rain drops - each a
tongue. You must remember that I was a smothered fire in those days.

Louis put his strong arm around me, and stroked my forehead as if I were
a child and he my mother.

"He will not die, little flower, thy brother will live; you must go to
him, and I will go with you. You must not go alone to a great city."

"Oh Louis!" I said, "he had only just begun to love me when he went
away, and now if he dies, what shall I do without him? Prayers have but
little weight, they ought to have saved him, I have prayed so long, so
hard, Louis, for his safety. But I must tell mother." And when she heard
me, and I said I must go to him, she sat down as if in despair; but a
moment after looked almost cheerful as she said:

"You must start to-night, my dear, and I must get all the little
medicines I can think of ready for you to take, and as soon as he is
able he must come home. If it is a fever, I fear for his lungs."

Clara waited until our talk was over, and then came and said Louis must
go with me; put into my hands a well filled purse, and said:

"Bring the brother back, dear cousin; don't wait for him to get well;
bring him back on a bed if necessary; he will never get well among

When father came he was pained beyond expression, and his first thought
was for means to do all that must be done.

"Clara has provided that, father," and he was too thankful to reply.

Everything was ready; Louis and I said "good-bye" to all, and drove
rapidly away, for in order to reach the station below ours, where we
could take a night train West, we must ride thirty miles. The train was
due at eight-forty-five, and it was four o'clock when we started; a
neighboring farmer (Mr. Graves), who had a span of fleet horses took us,
and we dashed over the ground rapidly, having full five minutes to
breathe in at the depot ere we took the train. No luxurious palace cars
in those days, you know, just the cushioned seats, but that was enough
for me; I thought I could have sat on a hard wooden seat, or on anything
if I only could reach that suffering boy. Louis tried to arrange our
baggage so that I could sleep.

"Sleep will not come to my eyelids to-night, Louis, I shall not sleep
until I see Halbert, and know how he is and is to be."

"Now, Miss Emily," he said as he took my hand in his, "I say you must
sleep. Watching will do him no good until we get there, and more than
this, it may do him much harm, for if you get so tired, you will be ill
yourself when you arrive and then he will have no sister. For Hal's
sake, Miss Emily, you shall go to sleep; lean on my shoulder, and I
believe I can help your nerves to become quiet."

I knew he was right, and yielded myself to the strong control he
possessed over me, and I slept I know not how long. When I awoke Louis
said we were getting along at good speed.

"Day will break soon, and then comes a change of cars, and in a little
while we shall see the great city."

I was for a few moments at a loss to realize everything; when I did I

"Selfish girl to sleep so long, and you have sat here watching me, and
now you are so tired."

"Not so tired, - so glad for your rest - I can sleep to-morrow, and when
we get to Chicago you shall watch him days and I will watch nights; we
shall go to him armed with strength, which is more than medicine; I told
you long ago I had something to do for Hal, you see it is coming."

The whole journey was pleasant, and sometimes it seemed wicked when Hal
was so sick for me to feel so rested and peaceful, but here I was
controlled, and it was blessed to be. I might never have come back to my
mother had it not been for the power of Louis' strong thought and will.

The journey accomplished, it was not long ere we saw the dear face of my
blessed brother. I will not detail all the small horrors that met me in
the house where we found him. It might have seemed worse to me than it
really was, but oh! how I needed all the peace that had settled upon me,
to take in the surroundings of that fourth story room. Soul and sense
revolted at the sickening odors of the little pen, where, on a wretched
cot, my brother lay. I thought of our home, and drew rapid contrasts
between our comfortable beds, and the straw pallet before me; our white
clean floors, home-made rugs, and, - but never mind. Then I said in my
heart, "God help me to be more thankful," and with brimming eyes I
caught both Hal's hands in my own, and looked in his flushed face,
trying vainly to catch a look of recognition. He did not know me. Louis
had kindly stepped aside to give me all the room, but he watched me
closely, and caught me as I staggered backward feeling all the strength
go suddenly from my limbs, while from my lips came the words which
burned into my soul, "He will die." I had never in my life fainted, and
did not now. Louis drew a little flask of brandy from his pocket and
forced a few drops into my mouth. My will came back to me, and in a few
moments I could think a little. "A doctor, Louis, oh! where is there
one - what shall we do?" Even as I spoke, Hal's employer entered and with
him Dr. Selden. The merchant did not come as near to me as did the old
doctor with his good-natured, genial face, and quiet but elastic step. I
forgot everything but the sufferer, and turned to him with upraised
hands and streaming eyes, saying:

"Oh! tell me quickly what to do, don't let him die, he has a good home
and friends, we love him dearly, help me to get him there," adding, in
answer to his look of inquiry, "I am his sister, and this gentleman,"
turning to Louis, "is our friend Mr. Desmonde."

The doctor laid his hand on my head and said:

"I have not seen the patient before; an examination will doubtless help
me to answer your question, and to give you the help you ask. Rest
yourself, Miss, you will soon need a physician's aid yourself," and he
drew a chair close to the foot of the bed for me. Then he felt Hal's
pulse, stroked his head a little, and sat quietly down at the foot of
the bed just opposite me, and laid one hand over Hal's heart, leaning
forward a little, and looking as if half mystified. The few minutes we
sat there seemed to me an hour, waiting, as it seemed, for decision
between life and death. Suddenly Halbert sprang up and shouted:

"Here! here! this way, almost finished - hold my heart - hold it still;
I'll make Emily's eyes snap when I get home, ha, ha!" and then a sort of
gurgling sound filled his throat, and he placed both hands over his
chest, and sank back, while for an instant all the blood left his face.
I put my hand into Louis', and groaned, trying hard to control myself,
for I knew we were close to the shadows, and perhaps, "Oh, yes," I
comfortingly thought, "perhaps we need not pass through them all."

Doctor Selden moved to the head of his bed, and held both hands on Hal's
temples; for a few moments it seemed as if no one breathed, then Hal
drew a long breath as if he were inhaling something, and whispered:

"That feels good; my head is tired, tired, tired."

This gave me courage. It seemed then as if he were feeling the power of
an uplifting hand, and soon -

"Emily, Emily!" passed his lips. "Tell her to come to me, she will help
me, tell her to come." Then for a few moments all was still, and he
slept. Dr. Selden looked at me with hope in his eyes, and tears of
gratitude gathered to run like a river of rain drops over my cheeks. He
slept twenty minutes, and as he stirred the doctor motioned me to come
where he could see me. His eyes opened and met mine.

"Emily!" he said, and putting both arms around my neck, drew my head
down to his pillow, and whispered:

"Don't cry - I'll go home with you - all right, the end will be all
right." Fearing for his strength, I said softly:

"Don't talk, you're too weak, Hal; lie still for a little while and shut
your eyes." I raised my head and put my hand on his forehead, and soon
he was asleep. Then in a low, kind tone the doctor told us the crisis
was past, and now we must wait for the changes, which were one by one to
fall on him. Hal's employer urged me to go to his house, and let Louis
remain with Halbert, and at last it was arranged that at night I should
sleep there, and Louis stay with Hal. Several hours would elapse,
however, before night, and during this time Dr. Selden, Louis and I
would stay with Hal.

I had time during his long sleep to think of something to be done for
him, and realized, as I recovered from the first shock his situation
gave to my nerves, the importance of a different room, better
ventilation, etc., and when Dr. Selden motioned to Louis to take his
seat near Hal's head, where he could lay his hand upon him when he woke,
I whispered to him my thoughts. His answer, though somewhat comforting,
bade me wait until he could decide what was best. He took my hand in his
and called me "little girl," - just think of it, I was five feet six
inches high, my face looked every day of forty that minute, - told me I
was too tired to plan, and he would attend to it all, adding, at the
close of his dear good talk:

"His artist soul has nearly used up his physical strength. I feel there
has been great pressure on the nerves. If so there must be, according to
the course of nature, rapid changes up to a certain point, and then
there will be a thorough change slowly wrought out. Do not doubt my
skill, 'little girl,' he will come out all right; you and I have a sure
hold on his heart-strings."

I could hardly wait to ask the question, "What do you mean by his artist
soul? what is he doing? and the doctor's eyes were looking in wonder at
me, and his lips parting with a word, when Hal's voice startled us with:

"Emily, who is this?" and we turned to see him looking at Louis, whose
hand was on his head.

I answered, "The dear friend Hal who brought me here."

"What a beautiful hand he has. Oh! how it rests my tired, tired brain,"
he said. "Water, Emily, sister, a little water."

Dr. Selden gave him a glass, saying, "Drink all you like."

"I am faint," said Hal.

"Take this, my good fellow," and the doctor held a glass of cordial to
his lips.

He was perfectly lucid now, and his voice natural. Dr. Selden,
anticipating questions from him, answered them all; told him I had come
to stay until he could go back to the old home with me, and of Mr.
Hanson's kind tender of hospitality to both Louis and myself, and
settled every vexing question for the patient, who looked a world of
thanks, and with "God be praised" on his lips passed again into
unconsciousness, with Louis' hand still passing over his head. I thought
then if Louis should ask me to jump into the crater of Vesuvius for him
I could do it out of sheer thankfulness; and I marvelled at him, the
child of wealth and ease, only a boy in years, here in this miserable
room a strong comforting man, seeming as perfectly at home as if always
here. Then the thought of the artist came back to me and I leaned
forward to ask Dr. Selden what it all meant.

"Why, little girl, your brother is a sculptor born. He has sat up nights
working hard to accomplish his work, and has succeeded too well in his
art, for unconsciously he has worn his nervous power threadbare. You
will see one of his little pieces in Mr. Hanson's library when you go
down there. He has a friend here who - Ah!" said the doctor, turning at
that very moment toward the slowly-opening door and grasping the hand of
a tall stately man with dreamy eyes, who seemed to be looking the
question, "May I come in."

"Yes, yes; come in, professor," whispered the doctor, and he introduced
me to Hal's teacher and friend, Wilmur Benton. Then offered him the only
remaining chair.

The professor seated himself quietly, and raising his dreamy brown eyes
said, "Will he live?"

The doctor smiled and bowed a positive "yes" as he said:

"The crisis is past, care and patience now."

At this moment Hal awoke, and this time more naturally than before. He
was quiet, looked upon us all with the clear light of reason in his

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Online LibraryMartha Lewis Beckwith EwellThe Harvest of Years → online text (page 3 of 20)