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

. (page 13 of 20)
Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science Volume 26, September, 1880 → online text (page 13 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

comforting. Their little interviews, although she was unconscious of
it, gave zest to her life.

One cold morning, as she sat before breakfast with little Harry on her
lap, warming his hands before the dining-room fire, Colonel Pinckney
exclaimed, "Miss Featherstone, did you have the care of that child last

"Yes," as she pressed the fat little hands in hers.

"And dressed him this morning?"

"Why, yes. Colonel Pinckney, excuse me: why shouldn't I?"

"Virginia is the most selfish human being I ever knew in my life," he
burst forth. "You, after working like a slave during the day, cannot
even have your night's rest undisturbed. I'll speak to her, and insist
upon it that this state of things shall not continue any longer."

Miss Featherstone looked annoyed: "Mr. Pinckney" - she never would, if
she remembered it, call him "Colonel" - "I beg that you will do nothing
of the kind. Mrs. Pinckney is quite ill with a cold: she can scarcely
speak above a whisper, and she required Adèle's services during the
night. I volunteered - it was my own arrangement - sleeping with the
child," eagerly.

"Oh yes," he returned, "you are remarkably well suited to each
other - you and Virginia: you give, and she takes," sarcastically.
"Listen, Miss Featherstone. I have known that woman twelve years - it is
exactly twelve years since my unfortunate brother married her - and in
all that time I never knew her consider but one human being, and that
was herself."

"Indeed, you're very much mistaken, Colonel - that is, Mr. - Pinckney, as
far as I am concerned. Mrs. Pinckney is really very kind to me. I am
exceedingly fond of her, but I cannot bear to see things going wrong,
and when I can I make them right. Mrs. Pinckney is in delicate health."

"That's all nonsense," he interrupted. "She spends her time studying
her sensations. If she were poor she'd have something better to do. I
think you are doing wrong morally, Miss Featherstone. You are
encouraging her in idleness and selfishness by taking her duties and
bearing them on your young shoulders. - Now, Harry, come here," to that
small individual, who slowly and unwillingly descended from the
governess's lap: "leave Miss Featherstone, my young friend, to pour out
the coffee and eat her own breakfast. Adèle is with mamma, is she?
Well, Uncle Dick will give Harry his breakfast."

The cold was intense the following day, yet Miss Featherstone, well
muffled up, was on her way to the hall-door, where the sleigh was
waiting to take her to the station.

"Forgive me," exclaimed Colonel Pinckney, who waylaid her, much to her
annoyance, "but what are you going to do for the family now?"

"I am going to New York to get a cook," she replied with a decided air.

"Do you know the state of the thermometer?"

"I don't care anything about it," with some obstinacy, tugging at the
button of her glove.

"But I do," he said. "Now, Miss Featherstone, while I'm here I am
master of the house, and if it's necessary to go to town it's I that am
going - to use Pat's vernacular - and not you. Give me directions, and
I'll follow them implicitly."

"So Dick went, did he?" said Mrs. Pinckney. She was propped up in bed
with large pillows: Miss Featherstone, still in her bonnet, sat by her

"Yes: it was very kind, for I don't know what would have become of the
children all day, poor things! and you sick."

Mrs. Pinckney glanced searchingly at her. "Dick is very kind when he
pleases, and exceedingly efficient," returned the invalid: "I've no
doubt he'll bring back a capital cook."

"I had a great prejudice against Mr. Pinckney," said Miss Featherstone,
slowly smoothing out her gloves, "but I confess it has vanished, there
is something so straightforward and manly about him; and he certainly
is very kind."

"He does not flatter you at all?"

"Oh no; and that is one reason I like him. I detest the gallant, tender
manner which many men affect toward women."

"Doctor Harris, for instance?"

"Well, Doctor Harris, for instance," returned Miss Featherstone,
smiling, and blushing a little.

"Doctor Harris has certainly made love to her, and Dick as certainly
hasn't. I wonder - oh, how I wonder! - whether he was in earnest the
other day?" Her large blue eyes were fixed scrutinizingly on the
governess, although she thought, not said, these things. "He thinks you
do a great deal too much in the house, and was quite abusive to me
about it: he actually swore when he discovered the amount of your
salary. Now, my dear Miss Featherstone, you may name your own price:
I'll give you anything you ask, for no amount of money can represent
the comfort you are to me."

"I don't want one cent more than I at present receive," replied the
governess, kissing her fondly.

A few days after Colonel Pinckney - a self-constituted committee,
apparently, for the prevention of cruelty to governesses - surprised
Miss Featherstone in the school-room. She was seated before the fire in
a low chair, little Harry, who was fretful from a cold, lying on her
lap, the other children clustered around her. As he softly opened the
door he heard these words: "'Blondine,' replied the fairy Bienveillante
sadly,' no matter what you see or hear, do not lose courage or hope.'"
As she told the story in low, drowsy tones she was also mending the
heel of a little stocking.

"It is abominable!" the colonel cried: "you are worn out with fatigue:
I hear it in your voice. I called you a 'white slave' to Virginia:
nothing is truer. You've today given out supplies from the store-room,
you were in the kitchen a long time with the new cook, you set the
lunch-table - don't deny it, for I saw you - besides taking care of the
children and hearing their lessons."

"While Mrs. Pinckney is ill this is absolutely necessary," she returned
with decision: "of course it makes some confusion having a new cook - "

"Children," he interrupted, "this séance is to be broken up: scamper
off to Adèle to get ready: I'll ask mamma to let you drive to the
station in the coupé to meet Mr. Brown: there will certainly be room
for such little folks. - And as to you, Miss Featherstone, as head of
the house _pro tem_. I order you to put on your hat and cloak and walk
in the garden for a while with me: the paths are quite hard and dry."

"Mamma! mamma! we are to drive to the station: Uncle Dick says so,"
shrieked the children, breaking up a delicious little doze into which
Mrs. Pinckney had fallen while Adèle sat at her sewing in the darkened

"Is Uncle Dick going with you?"

"No, he is going to walk in the garden with Miss Featherstone."

Mrs. Pinckney felt quite cross: "He is positively insolent, ordering
things about in this way, interrupting my nap and all. What, under
Heaven, should I do without her if he is in earnest about Miss

If she could have heard what Colonel Pinckney was saying in the garden
she would have been still crosser.

"I want to enlighten you a little as to my fair sister-in-law," he
began after a few commonplaces.

"Oh, please don't, Colonel Pinckney" - unconsciously she was sliding
into the "Colonel." "I'd much rather you wouldn't. I think - " and she

"What do you think?"

"Why" - and she looked embarrassed - "I am afraid I shall not love Mrs.
Pinckney as well if you analyze and show up all her little weaknesses.
We could none of us bear it," she continued warmly. "Remember that
line -

Be to her faults a little blind.

I like to love people, and feel like a woman in some novel I've read:
'Long and deeply let me be beguiled with regard to the infirmities of
those I love.'"

"You're an angel!" he cried.

Miss Featherstone looked startled and annoyed.

Colonel Pinckney, with much self-possession, recovered himself
immediately. "We all know it," he continued jestingly - "Mr. Brown, the
children, servants and all; but, in spite of this, you shall not be
imposed upon. Now, I wish to give you a résumé of Mrs. Pinckney's
life - "

"Oh, Colonel Pinckney! when we are under her roof!"

"It is a shelter bought with my father's money," he returned. "But you
must and shall hear me: it is necessary. She is the incarnation of
selfishness: in a young person it could go no further. One can pardon
anything rather than selfishness. She entirely exhausted our charity
during poor Harry's long illness. She travelled with every comfort that
money could give: she had her maid, Harry had his man, the children
were left with my mother. One winter they went to Nassau, the next to
the south of France: from both places she wrote such despairing letters
that my poor old father and mother were nearly beside themselves. It
was like the explosion of a bomb-shell in the household when a letter
came from Virginia. Sometimes I used to read and suppress them: they
were filled with shrieks and lamentations. Harry was in a rapid
decline; the mental torture was more than she could bear; some one must
come immediately out to her, etc. The first winter my eldest brother
went, to the serious injury of his business: he is a lawyer. I went
when they were in Europe, my wound not yet healed. By George! Harry
looked in better health than I: every one thought I was the invalid.
The doctor was called in immediately, who said I had endangered my life
by the expedition. I found out my lady had been to balls and on
excursions all the time she was writing those harrowing letters."

"Is it possible," said Miss Featherstone, "that you think Mrs. Pinckney
is false - that she deliberately tells untruths?"

"Not a bit of it," interrupted Colonel Pinckney. "She loves to complain
and make herself an object of sympathy. Poor Harry, of course, had a
constant cough, and whenever he took cold all his distressing symptoms
were aggravated: then she'd write her letters. By the time they were
received he would be pretty well again. You can see for yourself what
she is: she sends for Doctor Harris, has Adèle sleep on a mattress on
the floor in her room, leaving little Harry to keep you awake all
night - a fine preparation for the drudgery of the next day - then toward
evening she rises, makes a beautiful toilette, and drives with me
several miles to a dinner-party. Not a month ago, you remember, this
occurred when we went to Judge Lawrence's. To go back to my poor
brother: let me tell you what happened from her crying wolf so often.
The next winter they went to St. Augustine: we live in Virginia, you
know. A few weeks after their arrival the alarming letters began and
continued to appear. I took it upon myself to suppress most of them,
for really I had grown scarcely to believe a word she said with regard
to her husband, and, as I am sanguine, thought poor Harry would
overcome the disease, as our father had before him, and live to a good
old age. One morning, however, a telegram came: he was dead!" Colonel
Pinckney could scarcely speak. Recovering himself a little, he
continued in husky tones: "He died alone with his nurse: Virginia,
taking care of herself as usual, was in another room asleep."

"I wonder what they are talking about?" thought Mrs. Pinckney, twisting
her pretty neck in all directions so she could see them from her bed.
Their two heads were close together: he was speaking earnestly, and
Miss Featherstone's eyes were on the ground.

Mrs. Pinckney dressed and went down to dinner, although she had not
quite recovered the use of her voice. "Dick," she whispered, "it was a
fine move, your sending the children away this afternoon, so that you
could have Miss Featherstone all to yourself. Did you come to the

"No, but I will one of these days: I am preparing her mind," he added

As time went on a vague uneasiness seized the young governess. She
imagined Mrs. Pinckney was growing cool in her manner toward her:
certainly, Doctor Harris, who was constantly at the house, was becoming
importunate in his attentions. Once she looked up suddenly at as
prosaic a place as the dinner-table. Colonel Pinckney was gazing both
ardently and admiringly upon her. "Certainly I must be losing my senses
to imagine these men in love with me: it's preposterous."

Mr. Brown put the matter at rest, as far as he was concerned, for one
day, as she returned from a walk, he accosted her on the veranda, and
with a series of the most violent grimaces and gesticulations, his eyes
flashing, his face working in every possible direction, he told her
that he was _dèsolè_: his life depended upon her. He was so odd and
absurd in his avowal that she burst out laughing: then, as she beheld
an indignant, inquiring expression on his honest red countenance, she
grew frightened, sank on a seat and wept hysterically. This encouraged
him: he sat down beside her and exclaimed, "Dear mees" - and he peered
at her blandly - "your life is empty: so is mine. Let it be for me - oh,
so beautiful!" - and he spread out his little fat hands with
rapture - "to comfort and console one heavenly existence, _ensemble."_
He placed a hand on each stout knee and gazed benignly down upon her.

She hung her head as sheepishly as if she returned the little
foreigner's affection - afraid of wounding him, she was speechless - when
at this unlucky moment Colonel Pinckney, coming suddenly round the
house, walked up the steps. She saw him glance at her - Mr. Brown's back
was toward him - and a smile he evidently couldn't restrain stole over
his face.

"Oh, Mr. Brown, I'm so sorry!" she found courage at length to say. "You
are very kind - you've always been kind to me from the moment I entered
the house - but indeed you must never speak on this subject again." She
shook hands with him in her embarrassment, apparently as a proof of
friendship, then ran into the house.

"Virginia, what do you think has happened to me?" cried Colonel
Pinckney, bursting into his sister-in-law's room, which he seldom
invaded. "Yesterday, as I came up the steps, I surprised Mr. Brown, who
was offering himself - bad English, poverty and all - to Miss
Featherstone. This minute - by George! - I stumbled into the dining-room,
and there is Doctor Harris going through the same performance."

"Sit down and tell me all about it," exclaimed Mrs. Pinckney, her
curiosity overcoming her pique.

"Each time," continued Colonel Pinckney, "the lover's back was turned
toward me, while I had a most distinct view of Miss Featherstone, who
was blushing, hanging her head and looking as distressed as possible,
poor little soul!"

"Why! won't she accept the doctor?" said Mrs. Pinckney with animation.

"It didn't look like it. I couldn't hear what he said, but his back had
a hopeless expression. Did you know that she came from one of the best
families in Philadelphia, that most aristocratic of cities, and that
they were very wealthy? Her only brother was killed in the war, and she
is the sole unfortunate survivor."

"She might do many a worse thing than marry Doctor Harris: he is well
educated and a gentleman."

"She could do a better thing, and that is to marry me," exclaimed the
colonel. "I'm going to give her a chance, and will tell you the result
immediately. I wonder who'll stumble in upon my wooing?" and with
mirthful eyes he darted out of the room.

"I never knew a man so changed," soliloquized Mrs. Pinckney. "He used
to be haughty and reserved: now he talks a great deal, uses slang
expressions and romps and plays with the children like any ordinary
mortal. One can never tell whether he is in earnest or not. I don't
believe he'd have told me if he'd really meant to offer himself."

A day or two afterward Miss Featherstone had occasion to go to town. It
was exceedingly inconvenient, for she was needed everywhere as usual,
but gloves and boots must be replenished, even by impecunious heroines.
As she came down Colonel Pinckney handed her into the carriage and
followed her. She felt a little annoyed, but supposed he was driving
only to the station: however, he sent the coachman home, and when the
cars came up he entered and took his seat beside her.

"You look depressed, Miss Featherstone: I hope that my going to New
York meets with your approbation? I've been neglecting a thousand
necessary matters, and the pleasure of your company to-day gave me the
necessary incentive."

He was so frank as to his motives that Miss Featherstone laid aside her
reserve in a measure, and became communicative. "Everything has
changed, Colonel Pinckney," she said with a sigh. "Mrs. Pinckney has
grown decidedly cool, and I think you have opened my eyes so that I
don't love her quite as much as I did. I am sorry: I should rather have
been blind. Then - " She paused, feeling that her confidences must go no

"Then," he continued, "it makes it very embarrassing that the tutor and
family physician should both have fallen in love with you."

"I think of leaving," she continued, neither admitting nor
contradicting his assertion. "Forgive me: you have spoken from the best
motives, but I think you have made trouble," she added hesitatingly.
"Mrs. Pinckney is now continually on the alert to prevent my working;
she will no longer let little Harry sleep in my room; she orders the
dinner for the first time since I've been in the house; the children
are swooped off by Adèle as soon as their school-hours are over; and
everything is odd, strange and uncomfortable. I think I must go away. I
wrote an advertisement to put in the papers: perhaps you could do it
for me?" she said timidly: "I dread going to the offices."

"Certainly," he replied courteously, and put it in his pocket.

Colonel Pinckney appeared to share her depression, and he sat for some
time silent: then he said in an agitated voice, "It will be a sorrowful
day for that house when you leave it: I never knew such a
transformation as you have effected. Until this winter my only
associations with it have been of dirt, gloom and disorder: the
children were neglected and fretful, the dinners shocking and ill
served; and this with an army of servants and money spent _ad libitum_.
Now, on the contrary, the rooms are fresh, cheerful and agreeable;
there are pleasant odors, bright fires, attractive meals; the children
perfect both in appearance and manner; and all this owing to the
influence - perhaps I ought to say labors - of one young, inexperienced
girl. I've always imagined I disliked efficient women: I've changed my
mind. When I was young a fair, indolent creature, always well dressed
and smiling, was my beau ideal: now a brunette, bright and
energetic - some one who never thinks of herself, but is making
everybody else happy and comfortable - this is my present divinity." He
smiled tenderly upon her.

Miss Featherstone endeavored to shake off her embarrassment. He was a
frank, kind-hearted man, entirely unlike his sister-in-law's idea of
him, with an exaggerated gratitude for her exertions in his brother's
family. She would not be so silly as to imagine every man was being
transformed into a lover. "You are kinder to me than I deserve," she
said, then changed the conversation.

She expected to meet him as she took the train to return, but he was
nowhere to be seen. He did not even appear when the train stopped, and
she had a solitary drive to the house.

"Did you know that Dick had gone?" said Mrs. Pinckney at the
dinner-table, levelling scrutinizing glances from her lovely blue eyes.

"No," answered the governess with sudden depression and embarrassment:
"he said nothing about leaving this morning. You know Colonel Pinckney
went to New York in the train that I did."

"You didn't see him after your arrival?"

"No: he put me on a car and left me."

"I suspect it was an after-thought," said Mrs. Pinckney. "I had a
telegram, directing me to send on his travelling-bag by express: the
rest of his luggage was to be left until further orders. - Is it
possible that she has refused him?" thought Mrs. Pinckney behind her
fan. She was occupying her usual seat by the fire: Miss Featherstone
was in a low chair, with Harry on her lap, the other children hanging
about her. She was telling them a story, but they were not as well
entertained as usual. The young governess was unlike herself to-night,
and little touches, dramatic effects and gay inflections of the voice
were lacking.

A month passed, and nothing had been heard from Colonel Pinckney. "He
might have written just one line," said his sister-in-law querulously.
She was in her favorite position, propped up by pillows on the bed,
Miss Featherstone at her side waiting to receive orders, for gradually
all her old duties had been permitted to slip back into her willing
hands. "Certainly he seemed to enjoy himself when he was here; yet not
one line of thanks or remembrance have I received. I heard," she said
mysteriously, "that Dick was very devoted to Miss Livingstone at
Saratoga last summer - there's no end to the women who have been in love
with _him_: perhaps this sudden move has something to do with her.
Nothing but a great emergency can excuse him," petulantly.

That day, for the first time, the children wearied Miss Featherstone,
and she carried them in a body to Adèle, saying that she had a violent
headache and was going out in the garden for a walk. As she paced
slowly up and down the tears fell over her pale cheeks. The only window
from which she could be seen was Mrs. Pinckney's, and that lady, she
knew, was too much absorbed in her own sensations to give her a
thought. "How I despise myself!" she murmured, "how degraded I am in my
own eyes! Can I ever recover my self-respect? I'm so miserable that I
should like to die because Colonel Pinckney has left the house,
and" - she hesitated - "because his sister-in-law thinks he was drawn
away by Miss Livingstone, Oh!" - and she groaned and clasped her hands
frantically together - "and all this agony for a man who has never
uttered a word of love to me!" Here a remembrance of his whole air and
manner rather contradicted this thought. "Everything wearies me: I am
actually impatient of the children, and when Mrs. Pinckney wails and
complains I can scarcely listen with decency. I want to burst out upon
her and say, 'You silly, tiresome woman! you have had your dream of
love and your husband; you have still four dear children; you have a
home, plenty of money, hosts of friends, besides youth and good looks;
while I am - oh, how desolate!'"

This imaginary attack upon Mrs. Pinckney seemed to comfort her
somewhat, for she dried her tears and tried to form a plan of action:
"He evidently didn't put my advertisement in the paper, for I've looked
in vain for it. I must go away where I shall never see Colonel Pinckney
again. I'll stifle, throttle, this miserable love, and endeavor once
more to be enduring and courageous."

Just then the house-door opened: some one walked down the veranda steps
and came rapidly in her direction.

"I have been looking everywhere for you," cried Colonel Pinckney; and
he seized both her hands: "no one seemed to know where you had gone."

The bright color rose in her cheeks, and in spite of her resolve her
eyes beamed with delight. She murmured inarticulately that she had told
Adèle, then relapsed into silence.

"I have to implore your forgiveness for neglecting to obey as to the
advertisement, but the truth is - - " and he hesitated - "I have a plan.
It may not meet with your concurrence," he added, "but I wished to
submit it before you made other and irrevocable arrangements."

"You have thought of some position for me?" she forced herself to say,
all the bloom and delight vanishing from her face.

"Yes. I know an individual who wants precisely such a person as you
are, for - a wife."

"Colonel Pinckney!" she exclaimed indignantly.

"Do forgive me, dear Miss Featherstone. I am such a confounded
poltroon" - and he seized her hands again - "that I dare not risk my
fate; but that person is" - and he looked down upon her, his heart
beating so violently that he could scarcely speak - "that person
is - myself!"

Of what happened then Mrs. Pinckney, roused by her brother-in-law's
return, was cognizant, for actually, in the open air, with her blue
eyes bent eagerly upon them, he clasped the governess in his arms. "It
is a fact accomplished!" cried the fair widow with a sigh, and sank
back upon her pillows.


There is a lonesome hamlet of the dead
Spread on a high ridge, up above a lake -
A quiet meadow-slope, unfrequented,
Where in the wind a thousand wild flowers shake.

But most of all, the delicate gentian here,
Serenely blue as the sweet eyes of Hope,
Doth prosper in th' untroubled atmosphere,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science Volume 26, September, 1880 → online text (page 13 of 20)