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The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 18/Number 109/Katharine Morne

< The Atlantic Monthly‎ | Volume 18‎ | Number 109
 

KATHARINE MORNE.

PART I.


CHAPTER I.


One day, near the middle of a June about twenty years ago, my landlady met me at the door of my boarding-house, and began with me the following dialogue.

"Miss Morne, my dear, home a'-ready? Goin' to be in, a spell, now?"

"Yes, Mrs. Johnson, I believe so. Why?"

"Well, someb'dy's been in here to pay ye a call, afore twelve o'clock, in a tearin' hurry. Says I, 'Ye've got afore yer story this time, I guess,' says I. Says he, 'I guess I'll call again,' says he. He's left ye them pinies an' snowballs in the pitcher."

"But who was it?"

"Well, no great of a stranger, it wa'n't,—Jim!"

"O, thank you."

"He kind o' seemed as if he might ha' got somethin' sort o' special on his mind to say to ye. My! how he colored up at somethin' I said!"

I walked by, and away from her, into the house, but answered that I should be happy to see Jim if he came back. Well I might. Through all the months of school-keeping that followed my mother's death,—in the little country village of Greenville, so full of homesickness for me,—he had been my kindest friend. My old schoolmate, Emma Holly, from whose native town he came, assured me beforehand that he would be so. She wrote to me that he was the best, most upright, well-principled, kind-hearted fellow in the world. He was almost like a brother to her, (this surprised me a little, because I had never heard her speak of him before,) and so he would be to me, if I would only let him. She had told him all about me and our troubles and plans,—how I winced at that when I read it!—and he was very much interested, and would shovel a path for me when it snowed, or go to the post-office for me, or do anything in the world for me that he could. And so he had done.

He had little chance, indeed, to devote himself to me abroad; for I seldom went out, except now and then, when I could not refuse without giving offence, to drink tea with the family of some pupil. But when I did that, he always found it out through Mrs. Johnson, whose nephew he was, and came to see me home. He usually brought some additional wrappings or thick shoes for me; and even if they were too warm, or otherwise in my way, I could be, and was, grateful for his kindness in thinking of them. He was very attentive to his aunt also, and came to read aloud to her, while she napped, almost every evening. At every meal which he took with us, he was constantly suggesting to her little comforts and luxuries for me, till I was afraid she would really be annoyed. She took his hints, however, in wonderfully good part, sometimes acted upon them, and often said to me, "How improvin' it was for young men to have somebody to kind o' think for! It made 'em so kind o' thoughtful!" Many a flower, fruit, and borrowed book he brought me. He tried to make me walk with him; and, whenever he could, he made me talk with him. But for him, I should have studied almost all the time that I was not teaching or sleeping; for when I began to teach, I first discovered how little I had learned. Thus nearly all the indulgences and recreations of the rather grave, lonely, and hard-working little life I was leading at that time were associated with him and his kind care; and so I really think it was no great wonder if his peonies and snowballs that day made the bare little parlor, with the row of staring, uncouth daguerreotypes on the mantel-piece, look very pretty to me, or that to know that he had been there, and was coming back again, made it a very happy place.

I walked across it, took off my hot black bonnet, threw up the western window, and sat down beside it in the rocking-chair. The cool breeze struggled through the tree that nestled sociably up to it, and made the little knobs of cherries nod at me, as if saying, "You would not like us now, but you will by and by." The oriole gurgled and giggled from among them, "Wait! Come again! Come again! Ha, ha!" The noise of the greedy canker-worms, mincing the poor young green leaves over my head, seemed a soothing sound; and even the sharp headache I had brought with me from the school-room, only a sort of sauce piquante to my delicious rest. I did not ask myself what Jim would say. I scarcely longed to hear him come. I did not know how anything to follow could surpass that perfect luxury of waiting peace.

He did come soon. I heard a stealthy step, not on the gravel-walk, but on the rustling hay that lay upon the turf beside it. He looked, and then sprang, in at the window. He was out of breath. He caught my hand, and looked into my face, and asked me to go out and walk with him. Before I had time to answer, he snatched up my bonnet, and almost pressed it down upon my head. As I tied it, he hurried out and looked back at me eagerly from the road. I followed, though more slowly than he wished. The sun was bright and hot, and almost made me faint; but everything was very beautiful.

He wrenched out the topmost bar of a fence, jumped me over it into a meadow, led me by a forced march into the middle of the field, seated me on a haycock, and once more stood before me, looking me in the face with his own all aglow.

Then he told me that he had been longing for weeks, as I must have seen, to open his mind to me; but, till that day, he had not been at liberty. He had regarded me, from almost the very beginning of our acquaintance, as his best and trustiest friend,—in short, as just what dear Emma had told him he should find me. My friendship had been a blessing to him in every way; and now my sympathy, or participation, was all he wanted to render his happiness complete. He had just been admitted as a partner in the store of the village, in which he had hitherto been only a salesman; and now, therefore, he was at last free to offer himself, before all the world, to the girl he loved best; and that was—I must guess who. He called me "dearest Katy," and asked me if he might not "to-day, at last."

I bowed, but did not utter my guess. He seemed to think I had done so, notwithstanding; for he hurried on, delighted. "Of course it is, 'Katy darling,' as we always call you! I never knew your penetration out of the way. It is Emma Holly! It couldn't be anybody but Emma Holly!"

Then he told me that she had begged hard for leave to tell me outright, what she thought she had hinted plainly enough, about their hopes; but her father was afraid that to have them get abroad would hurt her prospects in other quarters, and made silence towards all others a condition of her correspondence with Jim. Mr. Holly was "aristocratic," and in hopes Emma would change her mind, Jim supposed; but all danger was over now. He could maintain her like the lady she was; and their long year's probation was ended. Then he told me in what agonies he had passed several evenings a fortnight before, (when I must have wondered why he did not come and read,) from hearing of her illness. The doctors were right for once, to be sure, as it proved, in thinking it only the measles; but it might just as well have been spotted fever, or small-pox, or anything fatal, for all they knew.

And then I rather think there must have been a pause, which I did not fill properly, because my head was aching with a peculiar sensation which I had never known before, though I have sometimes since.—It is like the very hand of Death, laid with a strong grasp on the joint and meeting-point of soul and body, and makes one feel, for the time being, as Dr. Livingstone says he did when the lion shook him,—a merciful indifference as to anything to come after.—And Jim was asking me, in a disappointed tone, what the matter was, and if I did not feel interested.

"Yes," I said, "Mr. Johnson—"

"Mr. Johnson!" interrupted he, "How cold! I thought it would be Jim at least, to-day, if you can't say dear Jim."

"Yes, 'dear Jim,'" I repeated; and my voice sounded so strangely quiet in my own ears, that I did not wonder that he called me cold. "Indeed, I am interested. I don't know when I have heard anything that has interested me so much. I pray God to bless you and Emma. But the reason I came from school so early to-day was, that I had a headache; and now I think perhaps the sun is not good for it, and I had better go in."

I stood up; but I suspect I must have had something like a sunstroke, sitting there in the meadow so long with no shade, in the full blaze of June. I was almost too dizzy to stand, and could hardly have reached the house, if I had not accepted Jim's arm. He offered, in the joy of his heart, to change head-dresses with me,—which luckily made me laugh,—declaring that mine must be a perfect portable stove for the brains. Thus we reached the door cheerfully, and there shook hands cordially; while I bade him take my kindest love and congratulations to Emma,—to whom he was going on a three days' visit, as fast as the cars could carry him,—and charged him to tell her I should write as soon as I recovered the use of my head.

He looked concerned on being reminded of it, and shouted for Mrs. Johnson to bring me some lavender-water to bathe it with. I had told him, on a former occasion, that the smell of lavender always made it worse; but it was natural that, when he was so happy, he should forget. Whistling louder than the orioles, whose songs rang wildly through and through my brain, he hastened down the road, and was gone.


CHAPTER II.

Jim was gone; but I was left. I could have spared him better if I could only have got rid of myself.

However, for that afternoon the blessed pain took such good care of me that I lay upon my bed still and stunned, and could only somewhat dimly perceive, not how unhappy I was, but how unhappy I was going to be. It quieted Mrs. Johnson, too. She had seen me suffering from headache before, and knew that I could never talk much while it lasted. Her curiosity was at once satisfied and gratified by hearing what Jim had left me at liberty to tell her,—the news of his partnership in the firm. The engagement was not to be announced in form till the next week; though I, as the common friend of both parties, had been made an exceptional confidante; and Jim, afraid of betraying himself, had not trusted himself to take leave of his aunt, but left his love for her, and his apologies for outstaying his time so far in the meadow as to leave himself none for the farm-house.

Thus I had a reprieve. When towards midnight my head grew easier, I was worn out and slept; so that it was not till the birds began to rehearse for their concert at sunrise the next morning, that I came to myself and looked things in the face in the clear light of the awful dawn.

If you can imagine a very heavy weight let somewhat gradually, but irresistibly, down upon young and tender shoulders, then gently lifted again, little by little, by a sympathizing and unlooked-for helper, and lastly tossed by him unexpectedly into the air, only to fall back with redoubled weight, and crush the frame that was but bowed before, you can form some idea of what had just happened to me. My mother's death, our embarrassments, my loneliness, the hard and to me uncongenial work I had to do, all came upon me together more heavily than at any time since the first fortnight that I spent at Greenville.

But that was not all. Disappointment is hardly the right word to use; for I can truly say that I never made any calculations for the future upon Jim's attentions to me. They were offered so honestly and respectfully that I instinctively felt I could accept them with perfect propriety, and perhaps could scarcely with propriety refuse. I had never once asked myself what they meant, nor whither they tended. But yet I was used to them now, and had learned to prize them far more than I knew; and they must be given up. My heart-strings had unconsciously grown to him, and ought to be torn away. And I think that, beyond grief, beyond the prospect of lonely toil and poverty henceforth, beyond all the rest, was the horror of an idea which came upon me, that I had lost the control of my own mind,—that my peace had passed out of my keeping into the power of another, who, though friendly to me, neither would nor could preserve it for me,—that I was doomed to be henceforward the prey of feelings which I must try to conceal, and perhaps could not for any length of time, which lowered me in my own eyes, and would do so in those of others if they were seen by them, which were wrong, and which I could not help.

These thoughts struck and stung me like so many hornets. Crying, "Mother! mother!" I sprang from my bed, and fell on my knees beside it. I did not suppose it would do much good for me to pray; but I said over and over, if only to stop myself from thinking, "O God, help me! God have mercy on me!" as fast as I could, till the town clock struck five, and I knew that I must begin to dress, and compose myself, if I would appear as usual at six o'clock at the breakfast-table.

My French grammar, was, as usual, set up beside my looking-glass. As usual, I examined myself aloud in one of the exercises, while I went through my toilet. If I did make some mistakes it was no matter. I made so much haste, that I had time before breakfast to correct some of the compositions which I had brought with me from school. The rest, as I often did when hurried, I turned over while I tried to eat my bread and milk. This did not encourage conversation. During the meal, I was only asked how my head was, and answered only that it was better. I had taken care not to shed a tear, so that my eyes were not swollen; and as I had eaten nothing since the morning of the day before, nobody could be surprised to see me pale.

Mrs. Johnson left her seat, too, almost as soon as I took mine. She was in a great bustle, getting her covered wagon under way, and stocked with eggs, butter, cheese, and green vegetables for her weekly trip to the nearest market-town. She was, however, sufficiently mindful of her nephew's lessons to regret that she must leave me poorly when he would not be there to cheer me up, and to tell me to choose what I liked best for my dinner while she was gone.

I chose a boiled chicken and rice. It was what my mother used to like best to have me eat when I was not well. I often rebelled against it when a child; but now I sought by means of it to soothe myself with the fancy that I was still under her direction.

Mrs. Johnson also offered to do for me what I forgot to ask of her,—to look in at the post-office and see if there was not a letter there for me from my only sister. Fanny, for once, had sent me none the week before. Mrs. Johnson went to town, and I to school.

I worked and worried through the lessons,—how, I never knew; but I dare say the children were forbearing; children are apt to be when one is not well. I came home and looked at the chicken and rice. But that would not do. They would have made me cry. So I hurried out again, away from them, and away from the meadow, and walked in the woods all that Saturday afternoon, thinking to and fro,—not so violently as in the morning, for I was weaker, but very confusedly and in endless perplexity. How could I stay in Greenville? I should have to be with Jim! But how could I go? What reason had I to give? and what would people think was my reason? But would it not be wrong to stay and see Jim? But it would be wrong to break my engagement to the school committee!

At length again the clock struck five, which was supper-time, and I saw myself no nearer the end of my difficulties; and I had to say once again, "God help me! God have mercy on me!" and so went home.

Mrs. Johnson was awaiting me, with this letter for me in her pocket. It is not in Fanny's handwriting, however, but in that of a friend of ours with whom she was staying, Mrs. Physick, the wife of the most eminent of the younger physicians in Beverly, our native town. I opened it hastily and read:—

"Friday.

"My dear Katie:—

"You must not be uneasy at my writing instead of Fannie, as the Doctor thinks it too great an effort for her. She has had an attack of influenza, not very severe, but you know she is never very strong, and I am afraid she is too much afraid of calling on me for any little thing she wants done. So we think, the Doctor and I, it would do her good to have a little visit from you. She wanted us to wait for the summer vacation, so as not to alarm you; but you know that is three whole weeks off, and nobody knows how much better she may be within that time. The Doctor says, suggest to Katie that the committee might, under the circumstances, agree to her ending the spring term a little earlier than usual, and beginning a little earlier in the fall.

"Yours as ever,

"Julia.

"P. S. You must not be anxious about dear Fannie. She has brightened up very much already at the mere thought of seeing you. Her cough is not half so troublesome as it was a week ago, and the Doctor says her very worst symptom is weakness. She says she must write one word herself."

O what a tremulous word!

"Dear Katy:—

"Do come if you can, and don't be anxious. Indeed I am growing stronger every day, and eating so much meat, and drinking so much whiskey. It does me a great deal of good, and would a great deal more if I could only tell how we were ever to [pay for it, I knew she would have said; but Dr. Physick had evidently interposed; for the signature,]

"Your mutinous and obstreperous

"Sister Fanny,"

was prefaced with a scratched-out involuntary "℞," and looked like a prescription.

I might be as sad as I would now; and who could wonder? I sat down where I was standing on the door-step, and held the letter helplessly up to Mrs. Johnson. It did seem to me now as if Fate was going to empty its whole quiver of arrows at once upon me, and meant to kill me, body and soul. But I have since thought sometimes, when I have heard people say, Misfortunes never came single, and How mysterious it was! that God only dealt with us, in that respect somewhat as some surgeons think it best to do with wounded men,—perform whatever operations are necessary, immediately after the first injury, so as to make one and the same "shock" take the place of more. In this way of Providence, I am sure I have repeatedly seen accumulated sorrows, which, if distributed through longer intervals, might have darkened a lifetime, lived through, and in a considerable degree recovered from, even in a very few years.

Mrs. Johnson's spectacles, meantime, were with eager curiosity peering over the letter. "Dear heart!" cried she. "Do tell! My! What a providence! There's Sister Nancy Newcome's Elviry jest got home this arternoon from her situation to the South, scairt off with the insurrections as unexpected as anything. She's as smart a teacher as ever was; an' the committee'd ha' gin her the school in a minute, an' thank you, too; but she wuz alwuz a kind o' lookin' up'ards; an' I s'pose she cal'lated it might for'ard her prospects to go down an' show herself among the plantations. There's better opportoonities, they say, sometimes for young ladies to git settled in life down there, owin' to the scurcity on 'em. She'll be glad enough to fill your place, I guess, till somethin' else turns up, for a fortni't or a month, or a term. It'll give her a chance to see her folks, an' fix up her cloes, an' look round her a spell. An' you can step into the cars o' Monday mornin' an' go right off an' close that poor young creator's eyes, an' take your time for 't. Seems as if I hearn tell your ma went off in a kind of a gallopin' decline, didn't she?"

"No, she did not!" cried I, springing up with a renewal of energy that must have surprised Mrs. Johnson. "Nothing of the kind! I will take my letter again, if you please. My sister has a cold,—only a cold. But where can I see Miss Newcome?"

"To home; but I declare, you can't feel hardly fit to start off ag'in. Jest you step in an' sup your tea afore it's any colder, I've had mine; an' I'll step right back over there, an' see about it for ye."

Mrs. Johnson, if coarse, was kind; and that time it would be hard to say whether her kindness or her coarseness did me the most good; for the latter roused me, between indignation and horror, to a strong reaction.

Mrs. Johnson, I said to myself, knew no more of the matter than I. Nobody said a word, in the letter, of Fanny's being very ill; and there had been, as I now considered, to the best of my recollection and information, no consumption in our family. My father died when I was five years old, as I had always heard of chronic bronchitis and nervous dyspepsia, or, in other words, of over-work and under-pay. An early marriage to a clergyman, who had no means of support but a salary of five hundred dollars dependent on his own health and the tastes of a parish, early widowhood, two helpless little girls to rear, years of hard work, anxieties, and embarrassments, a typhoid fever, with no physician during the precious first few days, during which, if she had sent for him, Dr. Physick always believed he might have saved her, a sudden sinking and no rallying,—it took all that to kill poor, dear, sweet mamma! She had a magnificent constitution, and bequeathed much of it to me.

Else I do not think I could have borne, and recovered from, those three days even as well as I did. The cars did not run on Sunday. That was so dreadful! But there was no other hindrance in my way. Everybody was very kind. The school committee could not meet in form "on the Sabbath"; but the chairman, who was Miss Elvira Newcome's brother-in-law, "sounded the other members arter meetin', jest as he fell in with 'em, casooally as it were," and ascertained that they would offer no objection to my exchange. He advanced my pay himself, and brought it to me soon after sunrise Monday morning; so that I was more than sufficiently provided with funds for my journey.

Mrs. Johnson forced upon me a suspicious-looking corked bottle of innocent tea,—one of the most sensible travelling companions, as I found before the day was over, that a wayfarer can possibly have,—and a large paper of doughnuts. Feverish as I was, I would right willingly have given her back, not only the doughnuts, but the tea, to bribe her not to persecute me as she did for a message for Jim. But I could leave my thanks for all his kindness, and my regrets—sincere, though repented of—that I could not see him again, before I went, to say good-by; and, already in part effaced by the impression of the last blow that had fallen upon me, that scene in the dreadful meadow seemed months and miles away. The engine shrieked. The cars started. My hopes and spirits rose; and I was glad, because I was going home,—that is, where, when I had a home, it used to be.


CHAPTER III.

The rapid motion gratified my restlessness, and, together with the noise, soothed me homœopathically. I slept a great deal. The midsummer day was far shorter than I feared it would be; and I found myself rather refreshed than fatigued when the conductor roused me finally by shouting names more and more familiar, as we stopped at way-stations. I sat upright, and strained my cinderful eyes, long surfeited with undiluted green, for the first far blue and silver glimpses of my precious sea. Then well-known rocks and cedars came hurrying forward, as if to meet me half-way.

As the cars stopped for the last time with me, I caught sight of a horse and chaise approaching at a rapid rate down the main street of the town. The driver sprang out and threw the reins to a boy. He turned his face—a grave face—up, and looked searchingly along the row of car-windows. It was Dr. Physick. I darted out at the nearest door. He saw me, smiled, and was at it in an instant, catching both my hands in his to shake them and help me down by them at the same time.

"Little Katy!"—he always would call me so, though, as I sometimes took the liberty to tell him, I was very sure I had long left off being that, even if I was not yet quite the size of some giants I had seen,—"Little Katy! How jolly! 'Fanny?' O, Fanny's pretty comfortable,—looking out for you and putting her head out of the window, I dare say, the minute my back's turned. I look to you now to keep her in order. Baggage? Only bag? Give it to me. Foot,—now hand,—there you are!"

And there I was,—where I was most glad to be once more,—in his gig, and driving, in the cool, moist twilight, down the dear old street, shaded with dear old elms, with the golden and amber sunset still glowing between their dark boughs; where every quiet, snug, old wooden house, with its gables and old-fashioned green or white front-door with a brass or bronze knocker, and almost every shop and sign even, seemed an old friend.

The lingering glow still lay full on the front of our old home, which now had "Philemon Physick, M. D." on the corner. As we stopped before it, I thought I spied a sweet little watching face, for one moment, behind a pane of one of the second-story windows. But if I did, it was gone before I was sure.

"Here she is!" called out the Doctor. "Julia!—Wait a minute, Kate, my dear,—no hurry. Julia!" Up he ran, while "Julia" ran down, said something, in passing, to him on the stairs, kissed me at the foot three times over,—affectionately, but as if to gain time, I thought,—led me into the parlor to take off my bonnet, and told me Fanny was not quite ready to see me just then, but would be, most likely, in two or three minutes. The Doctor had gone up to see about it, and would let me know.

"O, didn't I see her at the window?"

"Yes, dear, you did; and that was just the trouble. She saw you were there; and she was so pleased, it made her a little faint. The Doctor will give her something to take; and as soon as she is a little used to your being here, of course you can be with her all the time."

The Doctor came down, speaking cheerily. "She is all right now. Run up, as fast as you like, and kiss her, Kate, my child; but tell her I forbid your talking till to-morrow. In five minutes, by my watch, I shall call you down to tea; and when you are called, you come. That will give her time to think about it and compose herself. Julia's help shall stay with her in the mean while. Afterwards, you shall share your own old chamber with her. Julia has it, as usual, all ready for you."

Fanny had sunk back on her white pillows, upon the little couch before the window from which she watched for me. How inspired and beautiful she looked!—she who was never thought of as beautiful before,—the very transfigured likeness of herself, as I hope one day to behold her in glory,—and so like our mother, too! She lay still, as she had been ordered, lest she should faint again; but by the cheerful lamp that stood on the stand beside her, I saw her smile as she had never used to smile. The eyes, that I left swollen and downcast, were raised large and bright. But as she slowly opened her arms and clasped me to her, I felt tears on my cheek; and her voice was broken as she said, "Katy, Katy! O, thank God! I was afraid I never should see you again. Now I have everything that I want in the world!"

It was hard to leave her when I was called so soon; but she knew that it was right, and made me go; and when I was allowed to return to her, she lay in obedient but most happy silence for all the rest of the evening, with those new splendid eyes fixed on my face, her dim complexion glowing, and her hands clasping mine. After I had put her to bed, and laid myself down in my own beside her, I felt her reach out of hers and touch me with a little pat two or three times, as a child will a new doll, to make sure that it has not been merely dreaming of it. At first, I asked her if she wanted anything; but she said, "Only to feel that you are really there"; and when, after a very sound and long rest, I awoke, there was her solemn, peaceful gaze still watching me, like that of an unsleeping guardian angel. She had slept too, however, remarkably long and well, whether for joy, as she thought, or from the opium which I had been startled to see given her the night before. She said she had had many scruples about taking it; but the Doctor insisted; and she did not think it her duty on the whole to make him any trouble by opposing his prescriptions, when we owed him so much. Poor Fanny! How hard it was for her to owe any one "anything, but to love one another."

The Doctor's bulletin that morning was, "Remarkably comfortable." But in the forenoon, while Fanny after breakfast took a nap, I snatched an opportunity to cross-question Mrs. Physick, from whom I knew I could sooner or later obtain all she knew,—the sooner it would be, if she had anything good to tell; as, in my inexperience, I was almost sure she must have.

Fanny's "influenza," I now discovered, dated back to May. She kept her room a few days, did not seem so ill as many fellow-patients who were now quite well again, and soon resumed her usual habits, but was never quite rid of her cough. Two or three weeks after, there was a Sunday-school festival in the parish to which we belonged. She was called upon to sing and assist in various ways, over-tasked her strength, was caught in a shower, looked very sick, and being, on the strength of Mrs. Physick's representations, formally escorted into the office, was found to have a quick pulse and sharp pain in one side. This led to a careful examination of the chest, and the discovery not only of "acute pleurisy," but of "some mischief probably of longer standing in the lungs," yet "no more," the Doctor said, "than many people carried about with them all their lives without knowing it, nor than others, if circumstances brought it to light, recovered from by means of good care and good spirits, and lived to a good old age."

"How long ago was that?"

"The pleurisy? About the beginning of June. The Doctor said last week he 'could scarcely discover a vestige of it.' And now, Katy," continued kind, cheery Mrs. Physick, "you see, your coming back has put her in the best of spirits; and you and the Doctor and I are all going to take the best of care of her; and so we may all hope the best."

"The best of care"? Ah, there was little doubt of that! But even "good spirits"! who could hope to see Fanny enjoying them for any length of time, till she had done with time? Good, uncomplaining, patient, I had always seen her,—happy, how seldom!—when, indeed, till now? There was not enough of earth about her for her to thrive and bloom.

My mother, I believe, used to attribute in part to Fanny's early training her early joylessness. In her early days,—so at least I have understood,—it was thought right even by some good people of our "persuasion," to lose no opportunity of treating the little natural waywardnesses of children with a severity which would now be called ferocity. Mamma could never have practised this herself; but perhaps she suffered it to be practised to a greater extent than she would have consented to endure, had she foreseen the consequences. My poor father must have been inexperienced, too; and I suppose his nerves, between sickness and poverty, might at times be in such a state that he scarcely knew what he did.

I was four years younger than Fanny, and know nothing about it, except a very little at second-hand. But at any rate I have often heard my mother say, with a glance at her, and a gravity as if some sad association enforced the lesson on her mind, that it was one of the first duties of those who undertook the charge of children to watch over their cheerfulness, and a most important rule, never, if it was possible to put it off, so much as to reprimand them when one's own balance was at all disturbed. This was a rule that she never to my knowledge broke; though she was naturally rather a high-strung person, as I think the pleasantest and most generous people one meets with generally are.

From whatever cause or causes,—to return to Fanny,—she grew up, not fierce, sullen, nor yet hypocritical, but timid and distrustful, miserably sensitive and anxious, and morbidly conscientious.

There was another pleasure in store for her, however; for, the afternoon following that of my return, Mrs. Julia, looking out as usual for her husband,—with messages from four different alarmingly or alarmed sick persons, requesting him to proceed without delay in four different directions,—saw him at length driving down the road with such unprofessional slowness that she feared some accident to himself or his harness. When he came before the door, the cause appeared. It was a handsome Bath chair, with a basket of strawberries on the floor and a large nosegay on the seat, fastened to the back of his gig, and safely towed by it.

"What is that for?" cried I from Fanny's window.

"Fanny's coach," said he, looking up. "Miss Dudley has sent it to be taken care of for her. She does not want it herself for the present; and you can draw your dolly out in it every fine day."

"O," cried Fanny, sitting upright on the couch by the window,—where she spent the greater part of the day,—to see for herself, with the tears in her eyes. "O, how lovely! That is the very kindest thing she has done yet;—and you don't know how she keeps sending me everything, Katy!"

"Miss Dudley? Who is she?"

"O, don't you know? The great naturalist's sister. He lives in that beautiful place, on the shore, in the large stone cottage. The ground was broken for it before you went to Greenville. She is very sick, I am afraid,—very kind, I am sure. I never saw her. She has heard about me. I am afraid the Doctor told her. I hope she does not think I meant he should."

"Of course, dear, she does not."

"Do you really think so?"

"Certainly."

"Why?"

"Why,—I know I should not like being begged of in that underhand way myself; and if I did not like it, I might send something once, but after that I should never keep on sending."

"I am very glad you think so; for I like her kindness, though I scarcely like to have her show it in this way, because I am afraid I can never do anything for her. But I hope she does like to send; for Dr. Physick says she always asks after me, almost before he can after her, and looks very much pleased if she hears that I have been so. I suppose the Doctor will think it is too late to take me down to-night. Katy, don't you want to go and see the wagon, and tell me about it, and pour the strawberries into a great dish on the tea-table, and all of you have some, and bring up the flowers when you come back after tea?"

When I came back with the flowers, Fanny smiled rather pensively, and did not ask me about the chair.

"Fanny," said I, "the Doctor says you may go out to-morrow forenoon, and stay as long as you like, if it is fair; and the sun is going down as red as a Baldwin apple. The chair is contrived so, with springs and the cushions, that you can lie down in it, as flat as you do on your sofa, when you are tired of sitting up."

"O Katy," cried she, with a little quiver in her voice, for she was too weak to bear anything, "I have been seeing how inconsiderate I was! To think of letting you exert and strain yourself in that way!"

In came the Doctor, looking saucy. "Fanny won't go, I suppose? I thought so. I said so to De Quincey [his horse], as I drove him down the street at a creep, sawing his mouth to keep him from running away, till he foamed at it epileptically, while all the sick people were sending north, south, east, and west after all the other doctors. I hope you won't mention it, said I to the horse; but Fanny is always getting up some kind of a row. But there is Katy now,—Katy is a meek person, and always does as she is bid. She has been cooped up too much, and bleached her own roses with teaching the Greenville misses to sickly o'er with the pale cast of thought. Katy needs gentle exercise. So does Deacon Lardner." Deacon Lardner was the fat inhabitant of the town, and ill of the dropsy. "I will send Katy out a-walking, with Deacon Lardner in Miss Dudley's chair."

I laughed. Fanny smiled. The Doctor saw his advantage, and followed it up. "Julia, my dear, get my apothecary's scales out of the office. Put an ounce weight into one, and Fanny into the other. Then put the ounce weight into the chair. If Katy can draw that, she can draw Fanny."

This time, it was poor Fanny who had the laugh to herself.

The next day, the Doctor carried her down stairs, as soon as she could bear it after her breakfast, and left her on a sofa, in the little parlor, to rest. About ten o'clock, he came back from his early rounds. I was dressed and waiting for him, with Fanny's bonnet and shawl ready. I put them on her, while he drew out the chair from its safe stable in the hall. Once again he took her up; and thus by easy stages we got her into "her coach." I pulled, and he pushed it, "to give me a start." How easy and light and strong it was! How delighted were both she and I!

Fanny was too easily alarmed to enjoy driving much, even when she was well; and she had not walked out for weeks. During that time, the slow, late spring had turned into midsummer; and the mere change from a sick-room to the fresh, outer world is always so very great! For me, it was the first going abroad since my return to Beverly. We went in the sun till my charge's little snowdrop hands were warm, and then drew up under the shade of an elm, on a little airy knoll that commanded a distant view of the sea, and was fanned by a soft air, which helped poor Fanny's breathing. She now insisted on my resting myself; and I turned the springs back and arranged the cushions so that she could lie down, took a new handkerchief of my guardian's from my pocket, and hemmed it, as I sat at her side on a stone, while she mused and dozed. When she awoke, I gave her her luncheon from a convenient little box in the chair, and drew her home by dinner-time.

In this way we spent much of the month of July—shall I say it?—agreeably. Nobody will believe it, who has not felt or seen the marvellous relief afforded by an entire change of scene and occupation to a person tried as I had been. If I had but "one idea," that idea was now Fanny. Instinctively in part, and partly of set purpose, I postponed to her every other consideration and thought. It was delightful to me to be able, in my turn, to take her to one after another of the dear old haunts, in wood or on beach, where she had often led me, when a child, to play. I always did love to have something to take care of; and the care of Fanny wore upon me little. She was the most considerate of invalids.

Besides, she was better, or at any rate I thought so, after she began to go out in Miss Dudley's chair. Her appetite improved; her nerves grew more firm; and her cough was sometimes so quiet at night that her laudanum would stand on her little table in the morning, just as it was dropped for her the evening before.

Not only were my spirits amended by the fresh air in which, by Dr. Physick's strict orders, I lived with her through the twenty-four hours, but my health too. He had declared her illness to be "probably owing in great part to the foul atmosphere in which," he found, "she slept"; and now she added that, since she had known the comfort of fresh air at night, she should be very sorry ever to give it up. In windy weather she had a large folding-screen, and in raw, more blankets and a little fire.

Besides the chair, another thing came in our way which gave pleasure to both of us, though it was not very pleasantly ushered in, as its pioneer was a long visit from Fanny's old "Sabbath school-ma'am," Miss Mehitable Truman, who would come up stairs. Towards the close of this visit her errand came out. It was to inquire whether "Fanny wouldn't esteem it a privilege to knit one or two of her sets of toilet napkins for Miss Mehitable's table at the Orphans' Fair, jest by little and little, as she could gether up her failin' strength." Fanny could not promise the napkins, since, luckily for her, she was past speech from exhaustion, as I was with indignation; and Miss Truman, hearing the Doctor's boots creak below, showed the better part of valor, and departed.

The next day, it rained. We were kept in-doors; and Fanny could not be easy till I had looked up her cotton and knitting-needles. She could not be easy afterwards, either; for they made her side ache; and when Dr. Physick paid his morning visit, he took them away.

I knew she would be sorry to have nothing to give to that fair. It was one of the few rules of life which my mother had recommended us to follow, never from false shame either to give or to withhold. "If you are asked to give," she would say, "to any object, and are not satisfied that it is a good one, but give to it for fear that somebody will think you stingy, that is not being faithful stewards. But when you do meet with a worthy object, always give, if you honestly can. Even if you have no more than a cent to give, then give a cent; and do not care if the Pharisees see you. That is more than the poor widow in the Gospels gave";—how fond she always was of that story!—"and you remember who, besides the Pharisees, saw her, and what he said? His objects would not have to go begging so long as they do now, if every one would follow her example." From pride often, and sometimes from indolence, I am afraid I had broken that rule; but Fanny, I rather think, never had; and now I would try to help her to keep it.

My mother's paint-box was on a shelf in our closet, with three sheets of her drawing-paper still in it. Painting flowers was one of her chief opiates to lull the cares of her careful life. I think a person can scarcely have too many such, provided they are kept in their proper place, I have often seen her, when sadly tired or tried, sit down, with a moisture that was more like rain than dew in her eyes, and paint it all away, till she seemed to be looking sunshine over her lifelike blossoms. Then she would pin them up against the wall, for a week or two, for us to enjoy them with her; and, afterwards, she would give them away to any one who had done her any favor. Her spirit was in that like Fanny's,—she shrank so painfully from the weight of any obligation! She wished to teach me to paint, when I was a child. I wished to learn; and many of her directions were still fresh in my memory. But the inexperienced eye and uncertain hand of thirteen disheartened me. I thought I had no talent. My mother was not accustomed to force any task upon me in my play-hours. The undertaking was given up.

But I suppose many persons, like me not precocious in the nursery or the school-room, but naturally fond, as I was passionately, of beautiful forms and colors, would be surprised, if they would try their baffled skill again in aftertimes, to find how much the years had been unwittingly preparing for them, in the way of facility and accuracy of outline and tint, while they supposed themselves to be exclusively occupied with other matters. What the physiologists call "unconscious cerebration" has been at work. Scatter the seeds of any accomplishment in the mind of a little man or woman, and, even if you leave them quite untended, you may in some after summer or autumn find the fruit growing wild. Accordingly, when, within the last twelvemonth, I had been called upon to teach the elements of drawing in my school, it astonished me to discover the ease with which I could either sketch or copy. And now it occurred to me that perhaps, if I would take enough time and pains, I could paint something worthy of a place on Miss Mehitable's table.

Fanny's gladness at the plan, and interest in watching the work, in her own enforced inaction, were at once reward and stimulus. I succeeded, better than we either of us expected, in copying the frontispiece of a "picture-book," as Dr. Physick called it, which he had brought up from his office to amuse her. It was a scientific volume, sent him by the author,—an old fellow-student,—from the other side of the world. Lovely ferns, flowers, shells, birds, butterflies, and insects, that surrounded him there, were treated further on separately, in rigid sequence; but as if to make himself amends by a little play for so much work, he had not been able to resist the temptation of grouping them all together on one glowing and fascinating page. I framed my copy as tastefully as I could, in a simple but harmonious passe-partout, and sent it to Miss Mehitable, with Fanny's love. Fanny's gratitude was touching; and as for me, I felt quite as if I had found a free ticket to an indefinitely long private picture-gallery.

Fanny's satisfaction was still more complete after the fair, when Miss Mehitable reported that the painting had brought in what we both thought quite a handsome sum. "It was a dreadful shame," she added, "you hadn't sent two of 'em; for at noon, while I was home, jest takin' a bite, my niece, Letishy, from Noo York, had another grand nibble for that one after 'twas purchased. Letishy said a kind o' poor, pale-lookin', queer-lookin' lady, who she never saw before, in an elegint camel's-hair,"—("Poor-lookin', in a camel's-hair shawl!" was my inward ejaculation; "don't I wish, ma'am, I could catch you and 'Letishy' in my composition class, once!")—"she come up to the table an' saw that, an' seemed to feel quite taken aback to find she'd lost her chance at it. Letishy showed her some elegint shell-vases with artificial roses; but that wouldn't do. I told Letishy," continued Miss Mehitable, "that she'd ought to ha' been smart an' taken down the lady's name; an' then I could ha' got Kathryne to paint her another. But you mu't do it now, Kathryne, an' put it up in the bookseller's winder; an' then, if she's anybody that belongs hereabouts, she'll be likely to snap at it, an' the money can go right into the orphans' fund all the same."

"Much obliged," thought I, "for the hint as to the bookseller's shop-window; but I rather think that, if the money comes, the orphan's fund that it ought to 'go right into' this time is Fanny's."

For my orphan's fund from my months of school-keeping, not ample when I first came back, was smaller now. Fanny's illness was necessarily, in some respects, an expensive one. I believed, indeed, and do believe, that it was a gratification to Dr. Physick to lavish upon her, to the utmost of his ability, everything that could do her good, as freely as if she had been his own child or sister. But it could not be agreeable to her, while we had a brother, to be a burden to a man unconnected with us by blood, young in his profession, though rising, and still probably earning not very much more than his wife's and his own daily bread from day to day, and owing us nothing but a debt of gratitude for another's kindnesses, which another man in his place would probably have said that "he paid as he went."

In plain English, the tie between us arose simply from the fact that he boarded with my mother, when he was a poor and unformed medical student. He always said that she was the best friend he had in his solitary youth, and that no one could tell how different all his after-life might have been but for her. She was naturally generous; yet she was a just woman; and I know that, while we were unprovided for, she could not have given, as the world appraises giving, much to him. Still "she did what she could." He paid her his board; but she gave him a home. After she found that his lodgings were unwarmed, she invited him to share her fireside of a winter evening; and, though she would not deprive us of our chat with one another and with her, she taught us to speak in low tones, and never to him, when we saw him at his studies. When they were over, and he was tired and in want of some amusement, she afforded him one at once cheap, innocent, and inexhaustible, and sang to him as she still toiled on at her unresting needle, night after night, ballad after ballad, in her wild, sweet, rich voice. He was very fond of music, though, as he said, he "could only whistle for it." It was the custom then among our neighbors to keep Saturday evening strictly as a part of "the Sabbath." It was her half-holiday, however, for works of charity and mercy; and she would often bid him bring her any failing articles of his scanty wardrobe then, and say that she would mend them for him if he would read to her. Her taste was naturally fine, and trained by regular and well-chosen Sunday reading; and she had the tact to select for these occasions books that won the mind of the intellectual though uncultivated youth by their eloquence, until they won his heart by their holiness. Moreover, she had been gently bred, and could give good advice, in manners as well as morals, when it was asked for, and withhold it when it was not.

The upshot of it all was, that he loved her like a mother; and now the sentiment was deepened by a shade of filial remorse, which I could never quite dispel, though, as often as he gave me any chance, I tried. The last year of my mother's life was the first of his married life. His father-in-law hired, at the end of the town opposite to ours, a furnished house for him and his wife. My mother called upon her by the Doctor's particular invitation. The visit was sweetly received, and promptly returned by the bride; but she was pretty and popular, and had many other visits to pay, especially when she could catch her husband at leisure to help her. He was seldom at leisure at all, but, as he self-reproachfully said, "too busy to think except of his patients and his wife"; and poor mamma, with all her real dignity, had caught something of the shy, retiring ways of a reduced gentlewoman, and was, besides, too literally straining every nerve to pay off the mortgage on her half-earned house, so that, if anything happened, she might "not leave her girls without a home." Therefore he saw her seldom.

After he heard she was ill, he was with her daily, and often three or four times a day; and his wife came too, and made the nicest broths and gruels with her own hands, and begged Fanny not to cry, and cried herself. He promised my mother that we should never want, if he could help it, and that he would be a brother to us both, and my guardian. She told him that, if she died, this promise would be the greatest earthly comfort to her in her death; and he answered, "So it will to me!"

Then after she was gone, when the lease of his house was up, as no other tenant offered for ours, he hired it, furniture and all, and offered Fanny and me both a home in it for an indefinite time; but our affairs were all unsettled. We knew the rent, as rents were then, would not pay our expenses and leave us anything to put by for the future, which my mother had taught us always to think of. Therefore I thought I had better take care of myself, as I was much the strongest, and perfectly able to do so. "And a very pretty business you made of it, didn't you, miss?" reflected and queried I, parenthetically, as I afterwards reviewed these circumstances in my own mind.

The best we had to hope from my older and our only brother George was, that he should join us in paying the interest on the mortgage till real estate should rise,—as everybody said it soon must,—and then the rise in rents should enable us to let the house on better terms, and thus, by degrees, clear it of all encumbrances, and have it quite for our own, to let, sell, or live in. The worst we had to fear was, that he would insist on forcing it at once into the market, at what would be a great loss to us, and leave us almost destitute. He was going to be married, and getting into business, and wanted beyond anything else a little ready money.

He scarcely knew us even by sight. He had been a sprightly, pretty boy; and my mother's aunt's husband, having no children of his own, offered to adopt him. Poor mamma's heart was almost broken; but I suppose George's noise must have been very trying to my father's nerves; and then he had no way to provide for him. After she objected, I have always understood that my father appeared to take a morbid aversion to the child, and could scarcely bear him in his sight. So George seemed likely to be still more unhappy, and ruined beside, if she kept him at home. He was a little fellow then, not more than five years old; but he cried for her so long that my great-uncle-in-law was very careful how he let him have anything to do with her again, till he had forgotten her; and little things taken so early must be expected to fall, sooner or later, more or less under the influence of those who have them in charge.

Poor mamma died without making a regular will. It was not the custom at that time for women to be taught so much about business even as they are now. She thought, if she did make a will before she could pay off the debt on the house, she should have to make another afterwards, and that then there would be double lawyers' fees to deduct from the little she would have to leave us. After she found out that she was dangerously sick, she was very anxious to make her will, whenever she was in her right mind; but that went and came so, that the Doctor, and a lawyer whom he brought to see her, said that no disposition she might make could stand in court, if any effort were made to break it. All that could be done was to take down, as she was able to dictate it, an affectionate and touching letter to George.

In this she begged him to remember how much greater his advantages, and his opportunities of making a living, were than ours, and besought him to do his best to keep and increase for us the pittance she had toiled so hard to earn, and to take nothing from it unless a time should come when he was as helpless as we.

Two copies of this letter were made, signed, sealed, and witnessed. One I sent to George, enclosed with an earnest entreaty from Fanny and myself, that he would come and let mamma see him once again, before she died, if, as we feared, she must die. We had asked him to come before. He answered our letter—not our mother's—rather kindly, but very vaguely, putting off his visit, and saying, that he could not for a moment suffer himself to believe that she would not do perfectly well, if we did not alarm her about herself, nor worry her with business when she was not in a state for it. His reply was handed me before her, unluckily. She wished to hear it read, and seemed to lose heart and grow worse from that time.

Thus then matters stood with us that July. The sale of our house was pending—over our kind host's head too! It was plain to me that George would not, and that Dr. Physick should not, bear the charge of Fanny's maintenance. So far and so long as I could, I would.

In the mean time, no further examination was made of her lungs. The Doctor's report was often "Remarkably comfortable," and never anything worse than, "Well, on the whole, taking one time with another, I don't see but she's about as comfortable as she has been." I was, of course, inexperienced. I was afraid that, if she improved no faster, I should be obliged to leave her, when I went away to work for her again at the end of the summer vacation, still very feeble, a care to others, and pining for my care. That was my nearest and clearest fear.

But what did Fanny think? I hope, the truth; and on one incident, in chief, I ground my hope. One beautiful day—the last one in July—she asked me if I should be willing to draw her to our mother's grave. There could be but one answer; though I had not seen the spot since the funeral. Fanny looked at it with more than calmness,—with the solemn irradiation of countenance which had during her illness become her most characteristic expression. She desired me to help her from her chair. She lay at her length upon the turf, still and observant, as if calculating. Then she spoke.

"Katy, dear," said she, very tenderly and softly, as if she feared to give me pain, "I have been thinking sometimes lately, that, if anything should ever happen to either of us, the other might be glad to know what would be exactly the wishes of the one that was gone—about our graves. Suppose we choose them now, while we are here together. Here, by mamma, is where I should like to lie. See, I will lay two red clovers for the head, and a white one for the foot. And there, on her other side, is just such a place for you. Should you like it?—and—shall you remember?"

I found voice to say "Yes," and said it firmly.

"And then," added she, after a short, deliberating pause, during which she, with my assistance, raised herself to sit on the side of the chair with her feet still resting on the turf, "while we are upon the subject,—one thing more. If I should be the first to go,—nobody knows whose turn may come the first,—then I should like to have you do—just what would make you happiest; but I don't like mourning. I shouldn't wish to have it worn for me. My feelings about it have all changed since we made it for mamma. It seemed as if we were only working at a great black wall, for our minds to have to break through, every time they yearned to go back into the past and sit with her. It was as if the things she chose for us, and loved to see us in, were part of her and of her life with us,—as if she would be able still to think of us in them, and know just how we looked. And it seemed so strange and unsympathizing in us, that, when we loved her so, we should go about all muffled up in darkness, because our God was clothing her in light!"

I answered,—rather slowly and tremulously this time, I fear,—that I had felt so too.

"Then, Katy," resumed she, pleadingly, as she leaned back in her usual attitude in the chair, and made a sign that I might draw her home, "we will not either of us wear it for the other,—without nor within either, will we?—any more than we can help. Don't you remember what dear mamma said once, when you had made two mistakes in your lessons at school, and lost a prize, and took it hard, and somebody was teasing you, with making very light of it, and telling you to think no more about it? You were very sorry and a little offended, and said, you always chose not to be hoodwinked, but to look at things on all sides and in the face. Mamma smiled, and said, 'It is good and brave to look all trials in the face; but among the sides, never forget the bright side, little Katy.' If I had my life to live over again, I would try to mind her more in that. She always said, there lay my greatest fault. I hope and think God has forgiven me, because he makes it so easy for me to be cheerful now."

"Fanny," said I, as we drew near the house, "things in this world are strangely jumbled. Here are you, with your character, to wit, that of a little saint, if you will have the goodness to overlook my saying so, and somebody else's conscience. I have no doubt that, while you are reproaching yourself first for this, then for that and the other, the said somebody else is sinning away merrily, somewhere among the antipodes or nearer, without so much as a single twinge."

Smiling, she shook her head at me; and that was all that passed. She was as cheerful as I tried to be. With regard to the other world, she seemed to have attained unto the perfect love that casteth out fear; and I believe her only regret in leaving this lower one for it was that she could not take me with her. In fact, throughout her illness, her freedom from anxiety about its symptoms—not absolute, but still in strong contrast with her previous tendencies—appeared to her physician, as he acknowledged to me afterwards, even when he considered the frequent flattering illusions of the disease, a most discouraging indication as to the case. But to her it was an infinite mercy; and to me, to have such glimpses to remember of her already in possession of so much of that peace which remaineth unto the people of God.

As the dog-days drew on, a change came, though at first a very gentle one to her, if not to me. She slept more, ate less, grew so thin that she could no more bear the motion of her little wagon, and begged that it might be returned, because it tired her so to think of it.

Then word came that our house was advertised to be sold, unconditionally, at an early day. To move her in that state,—how dreadful it would be! I did not mean to let her know anything about it until I must; but Miss Mehitable, always less remarkable for tact than for good-will, blurted it out before her.

Her brows contracted with a moment's look of pain. "O Katy," she whispered, "I am sorry! That must make you very anxious";—and then she went to sleep.

Evidently it did not make her very anxious, as I knew that it would have done as lately even as two or three months before. What was the remedy? Approaching death. Well, death was approaching me also, as steadily, if not so nearly; and, after her example, my thoughts took such a foretaste of that anodyne that, as I sat and gazed on her unconscious, placid face, all terrors left me, and I was strengthened to pray, and to determine to look to the morrow with only so much thought as should enable me to bring up all my resources of body and mind to meet it as I ought, and to leave the result, unquestioned, quite in God's hand.

The result was an entire relief to her last earthly care. The appointed day came. The matter took wind. None of our townspeople appeared, to bid against my guardian; but enough of them were on the spot "to see fair play," or, in other words, to advance for him whatever sum he might stand in need of; and the house was knocked down to him at a price even below its market value. He paid the mortgagee and George their due by the next mail, but left my title and Fanny's as it was, not to be settled till I came of age.

These details would only have worried and wearied her; but the auctioneer's loud voice had hardly died away, or the gathered footsteps scattered from the door, when the Doctor came to her chamber, flushed with triumph, to tell us that "Nobody now could turn us out; and everything was arranged for us to stay." Fanny looked brightly up to him, and answered: "Now I shall scarcely know what more to pray for, but God's reward for you." And most of all I thank Him for that news, because her last day on this earth was such a happy one.

The next morning, just at dawn, she waked me, saying, "O Katy, tell the Doctor I can't breathe!"

I sprang up, raised her on her pillows, and called him instantly.

She stretched out her hand to him, and gasped, "O Doctor, I can't breathe! Can't you do anything to help me?"

He felt her pulse quickly, looking at her, and said, very tenderly, "Have some ether, Fanny. I will run and bring it." Throwing wider open every window that he passed, he hurried down to the office and back with the ether.

Eagerly, though with difficulty, she inhaled it; and it relieved her. I sat and watched her, silent, with her hand in mine.

Presently the door behind me opened softly, as if somebody was looking in. "My dear," said the Doctor, turning his head, and speaking very earnestly, though in a low voice, "I wouldn't come here. You can do no good." But presently his wife came in, in her dressing-gown, very pale, and sat by me and held the hand that was not holding Fanny's.

And next I knew they thought she would not wake; and then the short breath stopped. And now it was my turn to stretch out my hands to him for help; but, looking at me, he burst into tears, as he had not when he looked at Fanny; and I knew there was no breath more for her, nor any ether for me. I did not want to go to sleep, because I should have to wake again; but his wife was sobbing aloud. I knew how dreadful such excitement was for her; and so I had to do just as they wished me to, and let them lead me out and lock the door, and lay down on a bed and shut my eyes.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.