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Page 40

9. IX.

The golden tints of Autumn now brightened
the shrubbery around this melancholy house, and
took away something of its gloom. The four
poplar trees seemed all ablaze, and flickered in
the wind like huge torches. The little border of
box filled the air with fragrance, and seemed to
welcome the return of Alice, as she ascended the
steps, and entered the house with a lighter heart
than usual. The brisk autumnal air had quickened
her pulse and given a glow to her cheek.

She found her mother alone in the parlour,
seated in her large arm-chair. The warm sun
streamed in at the uncurtained windows; and
lights and shadows from the leaves lay upon her
face. She turned her head as Alice entered,
and said,—

“Who is it? Is it you, Alice?”


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“Yes, it is I, mother.”

“Where have you been so long?”

“I have been nowhere, dear mother. I have
come directly home from church.”

“How long it seems to me! It is very late.
It is growing quite dark. I was just going to call
for the lights.”

“Why, mother!” exclaimed Alice, in a
startled tone; “what do you mean? The sun
is shining directly into your face!”

“Impossible, my dear Alice. It is quite
dark. I cannot see you. Where are you?”

She leaned over her mother and kissed her.
Both were silent,—both wept. They knew that
the hour, so long looked forward to with dismay,
had suddenly come. Mrs. Archer was blind!

This scene of sorrow was interrupted by the
abrupt entrance of Sally Manchester. She, too,
was in tears; but she was weeping for her own
affliction. In her hand she held an open letter,
which she gave to Alice, exclaiming amid

“Read this, Miss Archer, and see how false
man can be! Never trust any man! They are
all alike; they are all false—false—false!”

Alice took the letter and read as follows:—


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“It is with pleasure, Miss Manchester, I sit
down to write you a few lines. I esteem you as
highly as ever, but Providence has seemed to
order and direct my thoughts and affections to
another,—one in my own neighbourhood. It
was rather unexpected to me. Miss Manchester,
I suppose you are well aware that we, as professed
Christians, ought to be resigned to our lot
in this world. May God assist you, so that we
may be prepared to join the great company in
heaven. Your answer would be very desirable.
I respect your virtue, and regard you as a friend.

Martin Cherryfield.

“P. S. The society is generally pretty good
here, but the state of religion is quite low.”

“That is a cruel letter, Sally,” said Alice, as
she handed it back to her. “But we all have
our troubles. That man is unworthy of you.
Think no more about him.”

“What is the matter?” inquired Mrs. Archer,
hearing the counsel given and the sobs with which
it was received. “Sally, what is the matter?”

Sally made no answer; but Alice said,—

“Mr. Cherryfield has fallen in love with somebody


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“Is that all?” said Mrs. Archer, evidently
relieved. “She ought to be very glad of it.
Why does she want to be married? She had
much better stay with us; particularly now that
I am blind.”

When Sally heard this last word, she looked
up in consternation. In a moment she forgot
her own grief to sympathize with Alice and her
mother. She wanted to do a thousand things at
once;—to go here;—to send there;—to get
this and that;—and particularly to call all the
doctors in the neighbourhood. Alice assured
her it would be of no avail, though she finally
consented that one should be sent for.

Sally went in search of him. On her way, her
thoughts reverted to herself; and, to use her own
phrase, “she curbed in like a stage-horse,” as
she walked. This state of haughty and offended
pride continued for some hours after her return
home. Later in the day, she assumed a decent
composure, and requested that the man—she
scorned to name him—might never again be
mentioned in her hearing. Thus was her whole
dream of felicity swept away by the tide of fate,
as the nest of a ground-swallow by an inundation.
It had been built too low to be secure.


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Some women, after a burst of passionate tears,
are soft, gentle, affectionate; a warm and genial
air succeeds the rain. Others clear up cold, and
are breezy, bleak, and dismal. Of the latter class
was Sally Manchester. She became embittered
against all men on account of one; and was often
heard to say that she thought women were fools
to be married, and that, for one, she would not
marry any man, let him be who he might,—not

The village doctor came. He was a large
man, of the cheerful kind; vigorous, florid, encouraging;
and pervaded by an indiscriminate
odor of drugs. Loud voice, large cane, thick
boots;—every thing about him synonymous with
noise. His presence in the sick-room was like
martial music,—inspiriting, but loud. He seldom
left it without saying to the patient, “I hope
you will feel more comfortable to-morrow,” or,
“When your fever leaves you, you will be better.”
But, in this instance, he could not go so
far. Even his hopefulness was not sufficient for
the emergency. Mrs. Archer was blind,—beyond
remedy, beyond hope,—irrevocably blind!