Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science Volume 26, September, 1880 online

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Gesticulating with much vehemence, he sat down at the conclusion as if
exhausted by his efforts.

"What has been done for the child?" asked the physician in a cautious

The little Frenchman rose; his eyes flashed; he waved his fat, short
arms toward Miss Featherstone: "Cette chère mademoiselle, she is one
angel from the sky: she do it all," with increased animation and
violence - "ice for his head, hot water for his feet. I could not tink,
I was so *_accablé_"

This vehement declamation not being calculated to ensure the patient's
slumbers, Doctor Harris ordered the little fellow to be undressed and
put to bed immediately. "I should like to see you, my dear young lady,
when you are at leisure," he said as Miss Featherstone rose, still with
the child in her arms, and was following the maid to the nursery: "I
have directions to leave in case of a recurrence. However, I don't
think there will be any return of the convulsions," he added.

The maid, reduced to helplessness by terror, looked on while Miss
Featherstone undressed the sleeping boy. She laid him in the bed,
ordered the servant to sit by his side until her return, put the candle
on the floor so that it would not shine in his face, and went out to
meet the doctor.

"Who will be with the child during the night?" was his first query.

"_Hèlas!_ I do not know," cried the foreigner with a gesture of

"If there is no one else to take care of him I will," replied the young
girl cheerfully.

"It is infâme!" said the tutor. - "Cette chère mademoiselle has but
arrived: she is weary. Parbleu! she must be hungry. Why not somebody
tink of dis? - My dear mees, have you had dinner? Non? J'en etais sûr,"
with a groan.

Mr. Brown - for that was the tutor's very English name - was so dramatic
in the expression of his good feeling that Miss Featherstone could not
repress a smile as she turned to the physician, and, taking out her
pencil and a little memorandum-book, said, "If you'll give me
directions, Doctor Harris, I think that I'm perfectly competent to take
care of the child."

Doctor Harris, who was gallant and a bachelor, made a whispered
remonstrance referring to her fatigue, but she replied gravely, "I am
in perfect health, and it never makes me ill to sit up with a sick
person: I have had experience." Some painful remembrance evidently
agitated her, for her voice suddenly failed.

They were interrupted by the sound of carriage-wheels rolling rapidly
up the avenue.

"Voici madame!" cried Mr. Brown, who flew to the door to hand Mrs.
Pinckney out.

He had taken the earliest opportunity to enlighten her as to the
child's illness, for they heard her exclaim, "I know it: oh, I have
heard of it! Where is the doctor?"

Mrs. Pinckney was tall and slight: she had blonde hair, large,
beautiful eyes - they were blue - and regular features. In short, she was
exceedingly pretty: so thought Doctor Harris, and he made many salaams
before her.

"Oh, doctor," she exclaimed, rushing up to him and grasping his arm,
"is there any danger? Tell me, is there any danger?"

"Not the slightest, ma'am," he replied promptly.

She wouldn't be reassured: "But why not? Convulsions are so serious,
they are so terrible! I had a relative who was ruined for life by
epilepsy: he was a handsome fellow, but he lost good looks, mind,
everything. Oh, Doctor Harris, don't tell me that my poor little Harry
is to have epilepsy!" She had the art of puckering her forehead into a
thousand wrinkles, yet looking lovely in spite of it.

"I certainly shall not tell you anything of the kind," said the doctor
with a reassuring smile, "for it wouldn't be true; but who is the
relative who had epilepsy?"

"Oh, a nephew of my husband, and he had a dreadful fall. He fell out of
a second-story window: it was in the country, and rather a low house,
but it finished him, poor fellow! Oh, doctor, sit down: I am tired to
death, and this news has so upset me! Will you assure me, upon your
honor, that my child will never have epilepsy?"

"Sincerely, Mrs. Pinckney, I don't think there is the least danger; but
you must be careful as to what he eats. Nuts and raisins are not a
particularly wholesome diet for a child three years old."

She looked about inquiringly, and did not seem the least surprised as
her eye fell on Miss Featherstone.

The tutor, still irate from his alarm, exclaimed, "You take la bonne,
madame. I am occupy with mes élèves: then I am not in his care."

Mrs. Pinckney, who was not an irritable woman, took no notice of this
implied reproach: "What is to be done with him to-night, Doctor Harris?
Can you sleep here?" As he shook his head, "You'll come the first thing
in the morning? Oh, doctor, can I go to bed and sleep comfortably? Do
you assure me that there is not the slightest danger of a recurrence of
those dreadful spasms?"

When the distressed mother spoke of sleeping comfortably a smile, which
all his admiration for the fair widow could not restrain, flickered
over Doctor Harris's face: "I was about to give this young lady" - and
he turned to Miss Featherstone - "directions for the night, as we didn't
expect you home: she has been very kind and efficient, and was going to
take care of the child; but now - "

He was interrupted by Mrs. Pinckney crossing the room, seizing Miss
Featherstone's hand and kissing her with effusion: "My dear Miss
Featherstone - your name is Featherstone, is it not? - I have no words to
thank you sufficiently."

"Oh, the chère mees!" burst forth the little Frenchman. "I was so full
of frighten I not know what to do, which way to turn myself; and she,
so calm, so _smooth_," he said, hesitating for a word, and apparently
discomfited when he found it - "she take the helm, she issue the orders:
every one obey, and the child is saved." After this peroration he
glanced around as if for applause.

"I was about to say," resumed Doctor Harris, "that, now that the nurse
has returned, Miss Featherstone, who has been travelling all day, had
better have some dinner and be sent to bed."

"Oh, certainly," replied Mrs. Pinckney; "and now that I'm so much
relieved I'd like some dinner myself. - Mr, Brown, do you know what
prospects there are of our having any dinner?"

The tutor shrugged his shoulders and spread his hands with a
deprecatory gesture: "I know not, my dear madame. Les enfants et moi,
we have our dinner at two o'clock: we did not comprehend that madame
would return to-night," as a happy apologetic afterthought.

Mrs. Pinckney glanced at a little watch which she took from her belt:
"Twelve o'clock, but the servants probably have not gone to bed." - She
rang the bell. "Mary," to a maid who entered, "tell the cook to make
some tea and send in cold chicken or beef - whatever is left from

"I think the fire is out, Mrs. Pinckney," the servant hesitatingly

"Oh, no matter: let her get a few chips and make a fire: I _must_ have
my tea." - Doctor Harris rose. "Oh, doctor, don't go until you have
taken one more look at my darling."

The nursery was on the same floor. Mrs. Pinckney insisted on kissing
the child, much to the physician's annoyance. He checked her, and
carefully refrained from talking himself while in the room. As he was
taking leave at the front door she repeated, "Now, doctor, you're sure
I can be comfortable - that I can go to bed and go to sleep? Tell me
positively" - and she looked earnestly in his face - "that the child will
never have another convulsion."

He laughed, and bent an admiring tender, gaze on the pretty mother, who
stood appealingly before him: "My dear Mrs. Pinckney, I cannot swear
positively that Harry will never have another convulsion, particularly
if he is allowed to eat nuts and raisins _ad libitum_: however, with
ordinary care I don't think it at all probable." - "Is it possible," he
reflected as he drove home, "that I want to marry that woman, selfish
and inconsiderate as she is? Why, she would have let the governess, a
perfect stranger, sit up with the child if I hadn't interfered! She is
awfully pretty, though. I can't help liking her: then, her money would
be a comfortable addition to my professional emoluments."

Although the hot, strong tea was very grateful in her exhausted
condition, this, with the very excitements of the day, kept Miss
Featherstone awake the brief remainder of the night. She breakfasted
the following morning with the children and their tutor. To her great
surprise, little Harry, looking pale and wan, was at the table.

"Madame is too ill to rise," Mr. Brown announced in his very best
English, "and the bonne is attending her. Will this dear mees take the
head of the table and us oblige by pouring out the coffee?"

Miss Featherstone cheerfully acceded, and left her own breakfast
cooling while she coaxed and consoled the little invalid, who was quite
fretful after his last night's experiences. She was making an attempt
to eat something herself when Mrs. Pinckney sent for her, and, as there
was no one to take care of the child, she carried him in her arms to
his mother's room.

"Good-morning, Miss Featherstone;" and she devoured the curly-headed
boy with kisses. Mrs. Pinckney, reclining on large pillows, looked
prettier than ever. No degree of negligence affected her appearance:
her light, curling, slightly-dishevelled hair and delicate, clear skin
were the more attractive under conditions which would be fatal to many
women. "Sit down, Miss Featherstone. - Adèle!" calling to the nurse,
"you must take dear little Harry away: I want to talk to Miss
Featherstone. Be very careful of him: don't let him eat or over-fatigue
himself. And, Adèle, after lunch come and help me dress: I think I
should feel better for a drive. - Don't you think I should feel better
for a drive, Miss Featherstone? I'm in miserable health," she added as
the door closed on the nurse and child, "I've had so much trouble. I've
lost my husband - he died of consumption" - she seized her
pocket-handkerchief and began to cry: "I was alone, except for
servants, with him at St. Augustine. I think his family were very
inconsiderate. I wrote letter after letter, telling them of his
condition and begging and imploring them to come to my assistance; but
no one came. I had just left him for a few hours to get a little
rest - I was so worn out with anxiety and the responsibility - and he
died - alone - with his nurse - " Sobs choked her voice.

Miss Featherstone rose and kissed her: it was a way she had of
comforting. Mrs. Pinckney received the caress graciously, and pressed
her hand.

"Then my income is not nearly so large as it was," she resumed, "and
I'm obliged to practise a great deal of economy. I've discharged my
maid, and share the children's nurse with them, and Adèle is growing
quite discontented with double duty. I parted with Baptiste also: it
was a frightful sacrifice, for he was just a perfect butler. I'm always
having economy talked at me by my husband's family, and I hate it!"
with a discontented sigh. "I had a house in New York," she continued,
"which they urged me to give up. They said I couldn't afford to keep
both, and it was better for the children to keep the country-house, and
that here on the river it would be easy to get to town. I'm
extravagantly fond of going to the theatre and opera, and have had in a
great measure to relinquish it. I went even when I was in mourning: the
doctors said I must be amused. We'll go sometimes this winter
together," she added coaxingly. "Well, now, Miss Featherstone, as to
your rôle of governess: I don't feel as if you were to be anything but
my nice new friend, you were so kind last night to my dear little
Harry. You teach the common English branches and the rudiments of
Latin, French and music? Mr. Brown - is it not an odd name for such a
thorough Frenchman? but his father was English, although he was born
and educated in France - Mr. Brown teaches them Latin and French at
present, but I don't know how long I shall keep him; so you'll be
relieved of that. I shall want you to act as a friend in the
household - I'm so much of an invalid - sit at the head of the table
occasionally, and give orders to the servants."

Miss Featherstone looked slightly perplexed. Her duties as governess
were mingling in a distracting manner with those of housekeeper.

"The children are so young," Mrs. Pinckney said apologetically, "they
can't be kept at their lessons from morning till night. Rose is eleven,
Alfred nine, Dick seven. Harry might possibly learn his alphabet, but I
doubt it. You can arrange the hours and studies to suit yourself; and I
want you to govern and manage the children - relieve me in that way as
much as possible. I hope you'll be very comfortable and happy in my
house, Miss Featherstone. If there is anything out of the way in your
room or anywhere else, let me know. I'm sure we shall be good friends;"
and with a hearty, affectionate kiss she dismissed the governess.

As Miss Featherstone descended the stairs she met Doctor Harris,
gallant and gay, with a rose in his buttonhole, followed by the nurse
and child, on a visit of reassurance to the fair mother.

Nothing is truer than that homely old proverb, "The lame and the lazy
are always provided for;" and Mrs. Pinckney was provided for
effectually when she lit upon Miss Featherstone. Just before Christmas
the governess was summoned to an interview with Mrs. Pinckney, who was,
as usual, in bed: "Oh, my dear Miss Featherstone, I'm in despair - ill
again. Christmas coming, and my husband's brother, Colonel Pinckney, is
on his way to make us a visit. If there's any one I feel nervous and
fidgety before, it is Colonel Pinckney: he seems to look you through
and see all your faults and weaknesses: at least, he does mine, and he
makes me see them too, which I don't like one bit. I do the best I can:
I'm in such miserable health, and have had so much to break me down.
Did you ever know any one, dear Miss Featherstone, who had had so much
trouble? - my husband's death and all."

The young girl did not reply. Visions of her own lonely home rose
before her - her mother fading slowly away under an accumulation of
misfortunes; her only brother shot in the Union army; her father
sinking into almost a dishonored grave through hopeless liabilities
brought on indirectly by the war; she, petted and idolized, the only
remaining member of the family, seeking her daily bread and finding a
pittance by working among strangers. She hung her head and had not a
word with which to reply.

"I dare say you've had troubles of your own," exclaimed Mrs. Pinckney.
"Of course you have, or you wouldn't be here, you dear creature! It is
well for me that you are here, though," kissing her affectionately.
"Now, everything must be just right when this haughty, fastidious
brother-in-law of mine comes. He isn't apt to find fault, but I am
conscious that he is secretly criticising my dress, my dinners, the
gaucheries of the servants, my moral qualities, even the way I turn my
sentences. I shouldn't mind trying to talk my very best English if he
were not prying into my motives: it is difficult to be on one's guard
in every direction," with a sigh.

"I should think he'd be very disagreeable," said Miss Featherstone.

"No:" the _no_ was hesitating. "He is dangerously attractive: at least
he attracts me. I'm all the time wondering what he is thinking, which
keeps me perpetually thinking of him. He is a Southerner, you know, and
was in the army; so you must be very careful,'my dear mees,' as Mr.
Brown says, not to come out with your 'truly loyal' sentiments: he
won't like them."

"I don't care whether he likes them or not." Miss Featherstone's face
was crimson: it was the first spark of temper she had shown since she
came into the house.

Mrs. Pinckney looked at her in surprise, then laughed: "I'm delighted
to see something human about you: I thought you were a saint."

"By no manner of means," returned the governess curtly.

"I shall warn Dick not to get upon the subject of the war," was the
note that Mrs. Pinckney, inconsequent as she generally was, made of the
scene. - "But I'm forgetting why I sent for you," she said aloud. "I
want you to go to town and buy Christmas presents and quantities of
things to eat and drink. I was going myself, but I never can count upon
a day as to being well with any certainty," with rather an ostentatious
sigh. "I've made out a list: there's plenty of money, isn't there?"

Miss Featherstone had the care of the money and accounts: "Yes,"
hesitatingly; "that is - "

"No matter," interrupted Mrs. Pinckney. "I have accounts at hosts of
places. The carriage is ordered to take you to the station: will you be
ready, dear, at ten o'clock?"

Miss Featherstone looked at her watch and hurried to her room.

It was snowing when she returned from New York: great flakes fell on
her as she stepped, loaded with bundles, out of the carriage. The
children met her with joyful whoops at the front door: "Oh, here's
clear little Miss Featherstone, and we know she's got our Christmas
presents. - You can't deny it. Hurrah!"

They dragged her into the dining-room, where the table, decked with
flowers, was handsomely arranged for dinner. A blazing wood-fire roared
on the hearth: in front of it stood a tall, handsome man with a
military air. He was dark, with brilliant eyes, a certain regularity of
features, and, as his passport declared, his hair was dark brown and
curly. Colonel Pinckney looked haughty and impenetrable, as his
sister-in-law had described him. Mrs. Pinckney, exquisitely dressed,
reclined in a large chair by the corner of the fireplace: she held up a
pretty fan to screen her face from the heat, and was talking gayly to
her brother-in-law. At a table in a corner Mr. Brown, by the light of a
large lamp, was endeavoring, with great difficulty, to read an English

"Oh, mamma, see poor little Miss Featherstone loaded down with boxes
and bundles!" shrieked the children, dragging her up to the fire.

"Dear children, do go and get Adèle to take them," said their
mother. - "Here, Mary," to a servant who entered, "carry these packages
up to my dressing-room. - There are more in the carriage?" in reply to a
remark of Miss Featherstone. - "Adèle," to her maid, who stood at the
door, "bring in everything you find in the carriage."

Two or three weeks passed, and Colonel Pinckney made no sign of
departure. In spite of his unsocial tendencies, he drove and dined out
with his sister-in-law, for many nice people chose this winter to
remain at their country-houses. He took long walks by himself, and made
inroads into the school-room, for he was very fond of the children.
Mrs. Pinckney was less frequently indisposed, and exerted herself in a
measure to entertain him. She never, by any accident, occupied herself,
and was one morning lying back in a large chair by a coal-fire in the
library, her little idle hands resting on her lap, when Colonel
Pinckney, who had been examining the books on the shelves which lined
the room, assumed his usual position, with his back to the fire, and
startled his sister-in-law by exclaiming, "Where did you get your white
slave, Virginia?" - Mrs. Pinckney looked bewildered - "this young girl
who fills so many places in the house? She appears to be nurse,
housekeeper, governess and maid-of-all-work in one."

"My dear Dick, what do you mean?" exclaimed Mrs. Pinckney with some
indignation. "Do you think I impose upon Miss Featherstone? I love her
dearly. Then my delicate health, and you know I'm obliged to be

Colonel Pinckney made a movement of impatience and almost disgust.,
"How much do you pay her?" he abruptly exclaimed, turning his flashing
eyes upon his companion.

"How angry you look! how you frighten me!" said Mrs. Pinckney, who had
a trick of coming out with everything she thought. "I pay her" - and she
stammered - "two hundred dollars a year."

"The devil!" he exclaimed. "I beg your pardon, Virginia, but I can
hardly believe it. What an absurd compensation for all that girl does!
Why, one of your dresses frequently costs more than that: I see your
bills, you know."

"I'm very sorry you do if this is the use you make of your knowledge,"
replied Mrs. Pinckney in an injured tone. "She is in mourning, and does
not require many dresses: besides, Richard, no one preaches economy to
me more than you do. I'm sick of the very word," petulantly.

"What position, really, is she supposed to occupy?"

"She is the governess," said Mrs. Pinckney in a sulky tone.

"Now listen, Virginia. I have seen that young girl darning stockings in
the school-room and at the same time hearing the children's lessons; I
have seen her arrange the dinner-table, with the children clinging to
her skirts; I have seen her with the keys, giving out the stores; I
know she keeps your accounts; and I can readily comprehend where those
clear, well-expressed letters came from, although signed by you, which
I have frequently received in my character of guardian and executor."

"You certainly don't think I meant to deceive you as to the letters?"

"Oh no," replied her brother-in-law: "I don't think you in the least
deceitful, Virginia;" and in his own mind reflected, "'Hypocrisy is the
homage which vice pays to virtue.'"

Nobody likes hypocrisy, to be sure, but Mrs. Pinckney did not take the
trouble to veil her peccadilloes. Easy and indolent as she was, being
now thoroughly roused by his thinly-veiled contempt, she endeavored to
be disagreeable in her turn. With the most innocent air in the world
she exclaimed, "I declare, Dick, I believe you're in love with Miss
Featherstone, although you like fair women - "

"And she is dark," he interrupted.

"Regular features - "

"And her dear little nose is slightly _retroussèe_; but you cannot
deny, Virginia, that she has a most captivating air."

"I'm fond of her, but I do not think her captivating." Mrs. Pinckney
was now thoroughly out of temper. She was not naturally envious, but
she could be roused to envy. "And so you're in love with her?"

"How can I help it?" he returned with a mocking air. "She has
magnificent eyes, a bewildering smile: then she has that _je ne sais
quoi_, as our foreign friend would say. There is no defining it, there
is no assuming it. To conclude, I consider Miss Featherstone
dangerously attractive."

"Just what I told her you were," returned Mrs. Pinckney, who saw he was
trying to tease her, and had recovered by this time her equanimity. In
spite of his phlegm he looked interested. "You'd better take care and
make no reference to the war, for she is furiously loyal, I can tell
you," said Mrs. Pinckney, recalling the conversation. "Since when have
you been in love with her?"

"From the very first moment I saw her, when she entered the
dining-room, her cheeks brilliant from the cold, her lovely eyes,
blinded by the light, peering through their long lashes, a little
becoming embarrassment in her air as she saw your humble servant - laden
down with your bundles, and your children, as usual, clinging to her

"Dick, how disagreeable you are!" and Mrs. Pinckney began to pout

"We are all her lovers," he maliciously continued - "all the men
here - Doctor Harris, Mr. Brown and - " he bowed expressively.

"Doctor Harris?" exclaimed his sister-in-law. This defection cut her to
the heart.

"The day my namesake and godchild, little Dick, was ill I went to the
nursery, as in duty bound: you know how fond I am of that child. There
was Miss Featherstone, not the nurse, interested and concerned, sitting
by the patient. There was Doctor Harris, interested and absorbed with
Miss Featherstone. His looks were unmistakable: I saw it at a glance.
And as for Mr. Brown, he raves about this 'dear mees' or 'cette chère
mademoiselle' by the hour together. She carried his heart by storm the
first time he saw her, as she did mine."

"How far does your admiration lead you? Do you wish any assistance from

"As you please: I am indifferent," he returned, shrugging his
shoulders. "Seriously, Virginia - I say this in my character of guardian
and adviser-general to the family - I think what you give her is a
beggarly pittance in return for all she does, and I suggest that you
raise her salary."

Miss Featherstone, although prejudiced at first against Colonel
Pinckney, grew by degrees to like him. His manner to her was grave and
respectful; he carried off the children, quite conveniently sometimes,
when she was almost worn out with fatigue; and the air of friendly
interest with which his dark eyes rested upon her was in a manner

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