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Page 58


It is scarcely necessary to say that I was both proud and
vain of the little distinction I had achieved. My pulse
began to flutter with coy expectation whenever any of the
boys mentioned the poem, — which happened several times
during the two succeeding days. I was backward to say
much about it myself, but I dearly liked to hear others
talk, except when they declared, as Bill Dawson did, “Oh,
he got it out of some book or other.” It was the author's
experience in miniature, — extravagant praise, conceit, censure,
exasperation, indifference.

Of course, I made other and more ambitious essays.
Several of the boys caught the infection, and for a fortnight
the quantity of dislocated metre, imperfect rhyme, and
perfect trash produced in the Honeybrook Academy was
something fearful. Brotherton attempted an epic on the
discovery of America, which he called “The Columbine”;
Marsh wrote a long didactic and statistical poem on “The
Wonders of Astronomy”; while Jones, in whom none of
us had previously detected the least trace of sentiment,
brought forth, with much labor, a lamentable effusion,
entitled, “The Deserted Maiden,” commencing, —

“He has left me: oh, what sadness,
What reflections fill my breast!”

Gradually, however, the malady, like measles or smallpox,
ran its course and died out, except in my own case,
which threatened to become chronic. My progress in the


Page 59
graver studies was somewhat interrupted thereby, but I
prosecuted Latin with ardor, tempted by the promise of
Virgil, and began to crave a higher literary culture. I am
not sure but that it was a fortunate accident which turned
my mind in this direction. The course of study at Honeybrook
was neither thorough nor methodical. A piece of
knowledge was hacked off this or that branch, and thrown
to us in lumps. There was a lack of some solvent or assimilating
element, to equalize our mental growth, and my
new ambition, to a certain extent, supplied the need.

A week or so after the Fourth, three of us had permission
to go to Honeybrook during the noon recess. My
errand was to buy a lead-pencil for three cents, and Thornton's
to spend his liberal supply of pocket-money in pea-nuts
and candy, which he generously shared with us. As
we were returning up the main street, we paused to look
at a new brick house, — an unusual sight in the quiet
village, — the walls of which had just reached the second
story. A ringing cry of “Mort!” at the same moment
came from an active workman, who was running up one of
the corners. I recognized the voice, and cried out in great
joy, “Bob! oh, Bob, is that you?”

He dropped his trowel, drew his dusty sleeve across his
brow to clear his eyes from the streaming sweat, and looked
down. The dear old fellow, — what a grin of genuine delight
spread over his face! “Blast me if 't is n't John!”
he cried. “Why, John, how 're you gettin' on?”

“Oh, finely, Bob,” I answered; “may I come up there
and shake hands with you?”

“No; I 'll come down.”

He was down the gangway in three leaps, and gave me a
crushing grip of his hard, brick-dusted hand. “I 've only
got a minute,” he said; “the boss is comin' up the street.
How you 've growed! and I hear you 're a famous scholar
already. Well — you 're at your trade, and I 'm at mine.
I like it better 'n I thought I would. I can lay, and p'int,


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and run up corners, right smart. That 's my corner: is n't
it pretty tolerable straight?”

I looked at it with the eye of a connoisseur, and remarked,
“It's very well done, indeed, Bob.”

“Well, good-bye. I 've got another thousand to lay before
I knock off. Take care of yourself!”

He was back on the scaffold in no time. My two companions,
standing beside me, had witnessed our interview
with curiosity; so I said, by way of explanation, as we
moved on, “It 's Bob Simmons; he 's a first-rate fellow.”

“A relation of yours, Godfrey?” asked Thornton, rather

“Oh, no! I wish he was. I have no relations except
mother, and my uncle and aunt in Reading.”

“I 've got lots,” Thornton asserted. “Six — no, five
uncles and six aunts, and no end of cousins. I don't think
a fellow 's worth much that has n't got relations. Where
are you going to get your money if they don't leave it to

“I must earn mine,” I said, though, I am ashamed to
say, with a secret feeling of humiliation, as I contrasted my
dependence with Thornton's assured position.

“Earn?” sneered Thornton. “You 'll be no better than
that bricklayer. Catch me earning the money I spend;
I 'm going to be a gentleman!”

I might here pause in the reminiscences of my schooldays,
and point a moral from poor Thornton's after-fate, —
but to what end? Some destinies are congenital, and cut
their way straight through all the circumstances of life:
their end is involved in their beginning. Let me remember
only the blooming face, the laughing eyes, and the
sunny locks, nor imagine that later picture, which, thank
God! I did not see.

Thornton did not fail to describe my interview with Bob,
with his own embellishments, after our return; and some
of the boys, seeing that I was annoyed, tormented me with


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ironical references to my friend. The annoyance was less,
however, than it would have been in a more aristocratic
school, for we had not only the sons of farmers, but sometimes
actual mechanics, among us. It was rumored, indeed,
that Dr. Dymond, now an LL. D. of the Lackawanna
University, had commenced life as a chair-maker in Connecticut.

So my school-life went on. The summer passed away,
and the autumn, and the second winter. My mental
growth was so evident, that, although the expenses of the
school proved to be considerably more than had been
estimated, my mother could not think of abridging the full
time she had assigned to my studies. The money was
forthcoming, and she refused to tell me whence it came.
“You shall help me to pay it back, Johnny,” was all she
would say.

I believed, at least, that she was not overtasking her own
strength in the effort to earn it. There was but limited
employment for her needle in so insignificant a place as
the Cross-Keys, and she was, moreover, unable at this time
to do as much as formerly. The bright color, I could not
help noticing, had faded from her face, and was replaced
by a livid, waxen hue; thick streaks of gray appeared in
her dark puffs, and her round forehead, once so smooth,
began to show lines which hinted at concealed suffering.
She confessed, indeed, that she had “spells of weakness”
now and then; “but,” she added, with a smile which reassured
me, “it 's nothing more than I 've been expecting.
We old people are subject to such things. There 's Neighbor
Niles, now, — to hear her talk, you would think she
never had a well day in her life, yet what a deal of work
she does!”

This was true. Our good neighbor was never free from
some kind of “misery,” as she expressively termed it. One
day she would have it in the small of the back; then it
would mount to a spot between the shoulder-blades; next,


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perhaps, she would find it in her legs, or elbows, or even
on the top of her head. After a day of hard scrubbing,
she would run over to our cottage, drop into mother's rocking-chair,
and exclaim, “I feel powerful weak; the misery
's just got into every bone o' my body.”

Thus, though at times I noticed with apprehension the
change in my mother's appearance, the feeling was speedily
dismissed. My own prospects were so secure, so glowing,
that any shadow of unwelcome change took from them an
illuminated edge as it approached. But there came, in the
beginning of summer, one Sunday, when a strange, restless
spirit seemed to have entered the cottage. Every incident
of that day is burned upon my memory in characters so
legible that to recall them brings back my own uncomprehended
pain. The day was hot and cloudless: every plant,
bush, and tree rejoiced in the perfect beauty of its new
foliage. The air was filled, not with any distinct fragrance,
but with a soft, all-pervading smell of life. Bees were
everywhere, — in the locust-blossoms, in the starry tulip-trees,
on the opening pinks and sweet-williams of the garden;
and the cat-bird sang from a bursting throat, on his
perch among the reddening mayduke cherries. The harmony
of such a day is so exquisite that the discord of a
mood which cannot receive and become a portion of it is a
torture scarcely to be borne.

This torture I first endured on that day. What I feared
— whether, in fact, I did fear — I could not tell. A vague,
smothering weight lay upon my heart, and, though I could
not doubt that mother shared the same intolerable anxiety,
it offered no form sufficiently tangible for expression. She
insisted on my reading from the Psalms, as usual when we
did not go to church, but interrupted me every few minutes
by rising from her seat and going into her own room,
or the kitchen, or the garden, without any clear reason.
Sometimes I caught her looking at me with eyes that so
positively spoke that I asked, involuntarily, “Mother, did


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you say anything?” Then a faint color would come into
her face, which had lost none of its roundness, so that she
suddenly seemed to be her old, bright, cheerful self.

“I believe I was going to say something, Johnny,” she
would answer, “but it can't make much odds what it was,
for I 've forgotten it already.”

As the day wore on, her restlessness increased. When
it was necessary for her to leave the room, on some household
errand, she would call to me, soon afterwards, “Johnny,
are you there?” or come back to the room in flushed
haste, as if fearful of some impending catastrophe. She
prepared our tea with a feverish hurry, talking all the time
of my hunger (though I had not the least) and my appetite,
and how pleasant it was to have me there, and how
she always looked forward to Sunday evening, and how
fast the time had gone by, to be sure, since I first went to
Dr. Dymond's school, and what progress I had made, and
she wished she could send me to college, but it could n't
be, no, there was no use in thinking of it — with such
earnestness and so many repetitions that I became at last
quite confused. Yet, when we sat down to the table she
became silent, and her face resumed its waxen pallor.

During the evening she still talked about the school,
and what I should do the following winter, after leaving it.
“Perhaps Dr. Dymond might want an assistant,” she said;
“you 're young, John, it 's true, but I should think you
could do as well as Walton, and then you could still study
between whiles. I would n't have you mention it — the
idea just came into my head, that 's all. If you were only
two years older! I 'm sure I 'd keep you there longer if I
could, but” —

“Don 't think of that, mother!” I interrupted; “we
really can't afford it.”

“No, we can't,” she sighed, “not even if I was to give
up the cottage and go somewhere as housekeeper. I did
think of that, once, but it 's too late. Well, you 'll have the
two years I promised you, Johnny.”


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Much more she said to the same purport, interrupting
herself every now and then with, “Stop, there was something
else I had to say!” — which, when recalled, generally
proved to be something already mentioned.

When I went to bed, I lay awake for a long time, trying
to explain the singular unrest which had come upon the
house. It finally occurred to me that mother had probably
gotten into some trouble on account of the expense of my
schooling. I could hear her, in the room below me, walking
about uneasily, opening and shutting drawers, talking
to herself, it seemed. Once or twice something like a
smothered groan reached my ear. I resolved that the following
Sunday should not go by without my knowing to
what extent she had drawn upon her resources for my
sake, and that the drain should be stopped, even if I had
to give up the remainder of my summer term. After congratulating
myself on this heroic resolution, I fell asleep.

When I came down stairs in the morning, I found that
breakfast was already prepared. Mother seemed to have
recovered from her restless, excited condition, but her eyelids
were heavy and red. She confessed that she had
passed a sleepless night. When I heard Charley Rand's
hail from the road, I kissed her and said good-bye. She
returned my kiss silently, and went quietly into her bedroom
as I passed out the door.

The vague weight at my heart left me that morning, to
return and torment me during the next two days. It was
but a formless shadow, — the very ghost of a phantom, —
but it clung to and dulled every operation of my mind,
muffled every beat of my heart.

Wednesday evening, I recollect, was heavy and overcast,
with a dead, stifling hush in the atmosphere. The tension
of my unnatural mood was scarcely to be endured any
longer. Oh, if this be life, I thought, let me finish it now!
There was not much talk in our attic that night: the other
boys tumbled lazily into bed and soon slept. I closed my


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eyes, but no sleep came. The constriction about my heart
crept up towards my throat and choked me. I clenched
my hands and ground my teeth; the muscles of my face
twitched, and with a spasm which shook me from head to
foot and took away my breath, I burst into a passion of tears.
I hid my head under the bedclothes, and strove to stifle the
gasps that threatened to become cries — to subdue the
violence of the crisis which had seized me. Penrose was
such a quiet bedfellow that I forgot his presence until I
felt that he was turning over towards me. Then, thoroughly
alarmed, I endeavored to lie still and counterfeit
sleep: but it was impossible. I could no longer control
the sobs that shook my body.

Presently Penrose stirred again, thrust himself down in
the bed, and I heard his voice under the clothes, almost at
my ear.

“Godfrey,” he whispered, with a tender earnestness,
“what is the matter?”

“My mother!” was all the answer I could make.

“Is she sick — dangerous?” he whispered again, laying
one arm gently over my shoulder. Its very touch was
soothing and comforting.

“I don't know, Penrose,” I said at last. “Something is
the matter, and I don't know what it is. Mother has a hard
time to raise money for my schooling: I am afraid it 's too
hard for her. I did n't mean to cry, but it came all at once.
I think I should have died if it had n't.”

He drew me towards him as if I had been a little child,
and laid my head against his shoulder. “Don't be afraid,”
he then whispered, “no one has heard you but myself. We
are all so, at times. I recollect your mother; she is a good
woman; she reminds me, somehow, of mine.”

My right hand sought for Penrose's, which it held firmly
clasped, and I lay thus until my agitation had subsided. A
grateful sense of sympathy stole into my heart; the strange
mist which seemed to have gathered, blotting out my future,


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began to lift before a breeze which blew from the
stronger nature beside me. At last, with a final pressure,
which was answered, I released his hand and turned to my
own pillow. Next morning he was silent as ever, but his
silence no longer repelled or annoyed me. I was beginning
to learn that the heart lies much deeper than the lips.

In the afternoon Dr. Dymond was called into the reception-room.
I paid no attention to this circumstance, for it
was of frequent occurrence, but when he opened the door
directly afterwards and called “Godfrey!” I started as if
struck. Penrose darted a glance of keen, questioning interest
across the intervening desk, and I felt that his eye
was following me as I walked out of the school-room.

I was quite surprised to find “Old Dave,” as we generally
called him, — Neighbor Niles's husband, — waiting for
me. He was standing awkwardly by the table, his battered
beaver still upon his head.

“Well, Johnny,” said he, giving me his hand, which felt
like a piece of bark dried for tanning, “are you pretty well?
I 've come for to fetch you home, because, you see — well,
your mother — she 's ailin' some, that is, and so we thought
the Doctor here 'd let you off for a day or two.”

“Of course, sir,” Dr. Dymond bowed. “Godfrey, this
gentleman has explained to me the necessity of allowing
you to be absent for a short time during the term. I sincerely
regret the occasion which calls for it. You need not
return to the school-room. Good-bye, for the present!”

I took his hand mechanically, ran up-stairs and brought
my little carpet-bag, and was very soon seated at Niles's
side, bouncing down the lane in a light, open wagon.

“I took the brown mare, you see,” he said, as we turned
into the highway. “She 's too free for the old woman to
drive, but she knows my hand. This is Reanor's machine:
he lent it to me at once't. Rolls easy, don't it?”

“But, Dave!” I cried, in an agony of anxiety, “you have
not told me what has happened to mother!”


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He fidgeted uneasily on his seat, addressed various remarks
to the brown mare, and finally, when my patience
was almost exhausted, said, in a confused way, “Well, you
see, it has n't jist happened altogether now. 'Pears it 's
been comin' on a good while, — a year or two, maybe
more. The Doctor says it ought to ha' been done sooner,
but I don't wonder much if she could n't make up her mind
to it.”

My distress increased with every one of these slowly
drawled, incoherent sentences. “For God's sake,” I exclaimed,
“tell me what ails her!”

Dave started at my vehemence, and blurted out the
dreadful truth at once. “Cancer!” said he: “they cut it
out, yisterday — Dr. Rankin, and Dr. Lott, here, in Honeybrook.
They say she bore it oncommon, but she 's mighty
low, this mornin'.”

I turned deathly sick and faint. I could not utter a word,
but wrung my hands together and groaned. Dave pulled
a small, flat bottle out of his breast-pocket, drew the cork
with his teeth, and held the mouth to my lips, saying,
“Take a swaller. You need n't say anything about it before
the old woman.”

The fluid fire which went down my throat partially restored
me; but the truth was still too horrible to be fully
comprehended. In spite of the glowing June-day, a chill
struck to the marrow of my bones, as I thought of my poor,
dear little mother, mangled by surgeons' knives, and perhaps
at that very moment bleeding to death. Then a bitter
feeling of rage and resistance took possession of my heart.
“Why does God allow such things?” cried the inward
voice: “why make her suffer such tortures, who was always
so pure and pious, — who never did harm to a single creature?”
The mystery of the past four days was now clear
to me: but how blind the instinct that predicted misfortune
and could not guess its nature! If mother had but told
me, or I had not postponed the intended explanation! It


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was now too late: I dared not chide her who had endured
so fearfully. If any such thought arose, I asked pardon for
it of the same God I had accused a moment before. But
the Recording Angel does not open his book for the blind
words of the young.

Dave had been talking, I suppose, but I was unconscious
of his words. Now that the truth had been told, he was
ready enough to give all the particulars, and even attempt,
in his rough way, to administer consolation.

“You must n't take on so,” he said, patting me on the
knee; “maybe she 'll git well, after all. While there 's life
there 's hope, you know. Some has been cured that
seemed jist about as bad as they could be. The wust of
cancer is, it mostly comes back agin. It 's like Canada
thistles: you may dig trenches round 'em, and burn 'em,
and chop the roots into mince-meat, and like as not you 've
got 'em next year, as thick as ever.”

His words made me shudder. “Please go on fast,
Dave,” I entreated; “never mind telling me any more; I
want to get home.”

“So do I,” he answered, urging the mare into a rapid
trot. “I did n't much keer to come, but there was nobody
else handy, and th' old woman said you must be fetched,
right away.”

As we approached the cottage, Neighbor Niles came out
and waited for us at the gate. Her eyes were red, and they
began to flow again when I got down from the wagon.
She wiped them with her apron, took me by the hand, and
said, in a whisper louder than the ordinary voice of most
women, —

“I 'll go in and tell her you 're here. Wait outside until
I come back. The Doctor 's with her.”

It was not long before she returned, followed by Dr.
Rankin. I knew him, from the days of my sprained ankle,
and was passing him with a hasty greeting, when he seized
me by the arm. “Control yourself, my boy!” said he;
“she must not be excited.”


Page 69

I walked into the bedroom. It was very well to say,
“Control yourself!” but the sight of my mother, with half-closed
eyes, her face as white as the pillow beneath it, so
unnerved me that I sank, trembling, upon the chair at the
head of the bed, and wept long and bitterly. I felt her
fingers upon my hair: “Poor boy!” she sighed.

“Oh, mother!” I cried, “why did n't you tell me?”

“'T would have done no good, Johnny,” she feebly
answered. “I was glad to know that you were unconscious
and happy all the time. Besides, it 's only this spring that
I grew so much worse. I tried to bear up, my dear child,
that I might see you started in life; but I am afraid it 's
not to be.”

“Don't say that, mother. I can't live without you.”

“I have lived ten years without your father, child, — and
they were not unhappy years. God does not allow us to
grieve without ceasing. You will have some one to love,
as I have had you. You will soon be a man, and if I
should live, it would be to see some one nearer to you than
I am. I pray that you may be happy, John; but you will
not forget your old mother. When you have children of
your own upon your knees, you will talk to them sometimes
— will you not? — of the Grandmother Godfrey who
died before she could kiss and bless them for your sake?”

Her own tears flowed freely as she ceased to speak,
exhausted, and paused to recover a little strength. “I 've
been blessed,” she said at last, “and I must not complain.
You 've been a good boy, Johnny; you 've been a dutiful
and affectionate son to me. You 're my joy and my pride
now, — it can't be wrong for me to take the comfort God
sends. There would be light upon the way I must go, if I
knew that you could feel some of the resignation which I
have learned.”

“Mother,” I sobbed, “I can't be resigned to lose you. I
will stay with you, and take care of you. I should never
have gone away to school, — but I thought only of myself!”


Page 70

Her face was suddenly touched with a solemn beauty,
and her gentle voice had a sacred authority which I accepted
as if it had truly spoken across the mysterious gulf
which was soon to separate us. “My dear child,” she said,
“listen to me. I know how you feel in this moment. I
can foresee that you may torture yourself after I am gone
with the recollection of this or that duty omitted, of some
hasty word spoken, perhaps some impatient thought which
merely passed through your mind. After your father died,
I called aloud, in anguish and prayer, for his spirit to speak
down from heaven and forgive me all things wherein I had
failed of my duty towards him. But I know now that the
imperfections of our conduct here are not remembered
against us, if the heart be faithful in its love. If you were
ever undutiful in word or thought, the sun never went
down and left you unforgiven. Remember this, and that
all I have tried to do for you has been poor payment for
the blessing you have always been to me!”

Blessed words, that fell like balm on my overwhelming
sorrow! I took them to my heart and held them there, as
if with a presentiment of the precious consolation they
were thenceforth to contain. I pressed her pale hand tenderly,
laid my cheek upon it, and was silent, for it seemed
to me that an angel was indeed present in the little room.

After a while, Neighbor Niles softly opened the door,
drew near, and whispered, “Mr. Woolley 's here — from
Readin'; — shall I bring him in?”

My mother assented.

I had not seen my uncle for some years, and retained
but an indistinct recollection of his appearance. He had
been sent for, early in the morning, at my mother's urgent
request, as I afterwards learned. When the door opened,
I saw a portly figure advancing through the gathering dusk
of the room, bend over my head towards my mother, and
say, in a husky voice, “How do you feel, Barbara?”

“I am very weak,” mother replied. “This is John,


Page 71
Amos. John, shake hands with your uncle, and then leave
me for a little while. I have something to say to him.”

I rose. A fat hand closed upon mine, and again I heard
the husky voice, “Well, really, as tall as this? I had no
idea, Barbara.”

I do not know whether he was aware of my mother's
condition. Perhaps not; but it was impossible for me, at
the moment, to credit him with the doubt. To my ear, his
words expressed a cruel coldness and indifference; and I
went forth from the room with a spark of resentment
already kindled in the midst of my grief. I threw myself
into my accustomed seat by the front window, and gave
myself up to the gloomy chaos of my emotions.

Neighbor Niles was preparing the table for supper,
stopping now and then to wipe her eyes, and “sniffling”
with a loud, spasmodic noise, which drove me nearly to distraction.
My excited nerves could not bear it. Once she
put down a plate of something, crossed the room to my
chair, and laid her hand on my shoulder. “Johnny,” —
she began —

“Let me be!” I cried, fiercely, turning away from her
with a jerk.

The good woman burst into fresh tears, and instantly
left me. “Them 's the worst,” I heard her mutter to herself;
“I 'd ruther he 'd half break his heart a-cryin'.”
And, indeed, I was presently sorry for the rude way in
which I had repelled her sympathy, though I could not
encourage her to renew it.

Supper was delayed, nearly an hour, waiting for my
uncle. When he appeared, it was with a grave and solemn
countenance. I took my seat beside him very reluctantly:
it seemed dreadful to me to eat and drink while my
mother might be dying in the next room. Neighbor Niles,
however, would hear of nothing else. She had already
lifted the tea-pot, in her haste to serve us, when my uncle
suddenly bowed his head and commenced a grace. Neighbor


Page 72
Niles was so confused that she stood with the tea-pot
suspended in the air until he had finished. I, who with
difficulty swallowed a little tea, was shocked at the appetite
he displayed, forgetting that he was human, and that it was
a long drive from Reading.

“I am afraid, John,” he finally said, “that the Lord is
about to chasten you. It is some comfort to know that
your mother seems to be in a proper frame of mind. Her
ways were never the same as mine, but it is not too late,
even at the eleventh hour, to accept the grace which is
freely offered. It is not for me to judge, but I am hopeful
that she will be saved. I trust that you will not delay to
choose the safe and the narrow path. Do you love your

“Yes,” I answered, — somewhat mechanically, I fear.

“Are you willing to give up everything and follow

“Uncle Amos,” I said, “I wish you would n't ask me
any more questions.” I left the table, and stole quietly
into mother's room. As I was passing out of the door I
heard Neighbor Niles say, “This is no time to be preachin'
at the poor boy.”

That night my uncle took possession of my bed in the
attic. I refused to sleep, and the considerate nurse allowed
me to watch with her. Mother's condition seemed to be
stupor rather than healthy slumber. There was no recuperative
power left in her system, and the physician had
already declared that she would not recover from the shock
of the operation. He informed me, afterwards, that the
strength of her system had been reduced, for years, by the
lack of rich and nourishing food, — which circumstance, if
it did not create the disease, had certainly very much accelerated
its progress. “She was not a plant that would
thrive on a poor soil,” he said, in his quaint way; “she
ought to have been planted in fowl and venison, and
watered with Port.”


Page 73

The long, long night dragged away, and when the black
mass of the lilac-bush at the window began to glimmer in
dusky green, and some awakening birds cheeped in the
branches of the plum-tree, mother seemed to revive. I
was shocked to see, in the wan light, how her round cheeks
had already fallen in, and what a ghastly dimness dwelt in
her dark eyes. The nurse administered some stimulating
mixture, smoothed the pillow, and, obeying some tender
instinct, left us together. Mother's eyes called me to her;
I stooped down and kissed her lips.

“John,” she said, “I must tell you now, while I have
strength, what your uncle and I have agreed upon. The
money, you know, is in his hands, and it is better that he
should keep it in trust until you are of age. You are to
stay at school until the fall. I borrowed the money of
Mr. Rand. There is a mortgage on the house and lot, and
the doctors must be paid: so all will be sold, except some
little things that you may keep for my sake. When you
leave school, your uncle will take you. He says you can
assist in his store and learn something about business.
Your aunt Peggy is my sister, you know, and it will be a
home for you. I could n't bear to think that you must go
among strangers. When you 're of age, you 'll have a
little something to start you in the world, and if my blessing
can reach you, it will rest upon you day and night.”

The prospect of living with my uncle was not pleasant,
but it seemed natural and proper, and not for worlds would
I have deprived the dear sufferer of the comfort which she
drew from this disposition of my fortunes. She repeated
her words of consolation, in a voice that grew fainter and
more broken, and then lay for a long time silent, with her
hand in mine. Once again she half opened her eyes, and,
while a brief, shadowy smile flitted about her lips, whispered

“I am here, with you, mother,” I said, fondling the listless


Page 74

She did not reply: this was the last sign of consciousness
she gave. The conquered life still lingered, hour
after hour, as if from the mere mechanical habit of the
bodily functions. But the delicate mechanism moved more
and more slowly, and, before sunset, it had stopped forever.