Imatges de pÓgina
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"Well, whatever your trouble 's been," says John, "I hope your red on 't!"

It was an ingenious method of saying he hoped the vagabond was out of the way.

He turned toward her as he spoke, and the wind once more fluttered the

gay ribbons in his face. She lifted her

hand to draw them back.

"Don't you be a-mindin' on 'em," says John; "they 're just as sweet as rose-leaves, and I like to hev em a-blowin' over me so."

You may smile, reader, if you will, but you would not smile if you had seen the soul yearning in the eyes of the man, if you had heard the pleading in the sad sincerity of his tone. He was fifty years old now, and I dare say a woman's ribbon had never touched him till then. He was wrinkled and gray, and old to look upon, but his heart in its tender sentiment was as fresh and young as a boy's.

So, with the ribbons fluttering on his cheek, and his boat drifting as it would, John Chidlaw listened to the story of the woman's life, and as Desdemona loved the Moor for the dangers he had passed, so he loved her for the sorrows she had borne.

"Yes, Captain," she says, "my troubles is over now, pretty much. I've been a widder this ten year,” — (he hitched a little closer,)-"I've been a widder, and I 've had peace o' mind, and I 've laid up money; but, law me when a body has nobody to lay up for, what's the use?"

"Sure enough, what is the use on't?" says John.

"Why, it's no use," she answers; "it's wanity and wexation! that's what it is!"

"Wanity and wexation!" he repeats. And then she says, if anybody had ever showed a warm heart toward her, she 'd 'a' been a different woman to what she is.

"A different woman!" says John. "How different to what you be?" He could not conceive of the possibility of a difference for the better.

"Why, I would 'a' been ten year younger and ten year smarter," says the widow, "and then may be somebody might 'a' took a notion to me! Who knows? We women never cease to hope, you know!"

"And hev n't they, as 't is ?" says John, eagerly bending toward her.

"What a saucy Captain you are, to ask me such questions!"- and she put him gently back with her white hand. "But here we are almost ashore!" and she began gathering up her bandboxes and paper parcels with great energy.

"I thought you said you was a-goin' to take my advice?" says John, with a soft reproach in his voice.

"Did I? O, then I will!" she answers, with the most innocent air possible, and leaning quite across his knee to replace one of her boxes. "What is your adwice, now? But you must bear in mind the walue of the welwets. I've one bonnet in the lot, of a wermilion color, that's worth a wast deal; and you know welwet, when it's once wet, looks just like a drownded cat. No dressing can make anything of it. Some ladies wears it, but my ladies does n't."

"I never knew clouds look like them," says John, "when it did n't pour; and, if you take my adwice, you'll stay just where you be."

"I'll take your adwice," says the widow, touching his hand lightly with. her soft fingers, and smiling upon him with that unpremeditated coquetry that always makes a woman charming. It was especially charming to this man,

for no woman had ever smiled upon him like that; and then to think she had asked and accepted his advice, withal! It was enough to turn his head, and it did.

"I'll take your adwice, Captain," she says, "and keep the welwets dry, for it would cost a pretty penny to replace that wermilion, to be sure! I shall lose some time by it; and time is money. But what's money but wanity and wexation, when nobody has a warm heart toward us?"

John Chidlaw sighed a long, long sigh, and then he turned his boat about and they sailed back again. By and by, as if to push him toward his fate, there flashed down a few big drops of rain. The sun was shining all the while, but he bestirred himself, and worked with a will, and the widow lent her little hindering help, and directly the canvas was spread and securely drawn down, and they were sitting beneath it, side by side, cosey as could be. She became more communicative now, and told him in what street she was born and who her father was. "What! not Street, of our town here? And your father's name Peter Rollins, too?"

"Yes, Peter Rollins, coffin-maker, satin-lined and silver-screwed! The wery tiptop. None but quality come to him. When I was a little girl, I used to get into 'em, when we played hide and seek. Why, if you believe me, I've been into many a hundred-dollar one, and had my head into the satin piller of it! That's the way I happened to cultiwate a taste for satins and welwets and the like, I guess."

She did not heed the intimation of her companion that he had known her father, but went on for half an hour without once stopping to take breath.

days, and lost all my wiwacity, and come to be the sober, staid old woman you see me."

"Old woman, to be sure!" says John. "Why, nobody would think o' callin' you old. You look a'most like a girl o' sixteen to me!"

"O Captain!" says the widow; and then she says his sight must be failing, though his eyes do look so uncommon bright; and then she says, with a little sigh, that she is upwards of forty.

She had observed John's wrinkled face, and her confession was not without method, though she might have added five to the forty years, if she had chosen to be very accurate.

"Up'ards o' forty!" says John, charmed alike with her sincerity and her well-preserved beauty. "Why, I snum, you might marry a man o' twenty-five any day, if you had a mind."

"Ah, Captain, but I have n't the mind. I want a man—that is, if I ever wenter to marry agin - who is older than myself, say from ten to fifteen year older. I would n't be so wery particular." And then she says to John,- for a possibility crosses her mind, "Does your family live hereabouts?"

John blushed up to his eyes. "Family!" says he. "I never was so fortinate as to hev one."

"Not even a wife, to be sure?" "No, miss." And then he says he never expects to hev one. "Law, Captain, why? if I may wenter."

"Cause nobody 'd hev me, miss ; and to say truth, I never thought on 't much till sense we 've been a-takin' this voyage"; and he glanced at her slyly, and touched the ends of her ribbon.

"And what could 'a' put it into your head now, Captain Chidlaw?"

"Can you ask me that in airnest?" says John, still holding the ribbons as for dear life. "Then I must tell you to just look into the glass, and you 'll see what."

"Ah, Captain," she says, "I've been dethroned in the world! I was born to riches and a proud position, but I married beneath me, a poor green-grocer that turned out a wagabond; and in my trials with him, I lost all my good looks; for I may say, without wanity, "O Captain, you ought to be ashamed that I was good-looking in my girlish to plague a poor lone woman like me

'that way; it's wery bad of you, wery, and I've a great mind to box your ears!" and she put out her little hand to him in a sweetly menacing manner.

John seized the hand and kissed it, and then, frightened at himself, ran to the other end of the boat and looked hard at the clouds.

"O, come back! come back!" screamed the widow; "the boat 'll upset, with me at one end and you at the other!"

"Sure enough!" says John, and he went sheepishly back, and again seated himself by her side.

She gave him a little tap on the ear, and asked him if he would promise never to run away and frighten her so again.

John said he would promise her any thing in the world that was in his power to grant; and he looked at her with such adoration that the woman overcame the coquette, or the coquette the woman, which shall I say? — and she went as far from the "dangerous edge of things" as possible, and told him demurely that the only promise she exacted was, that he should listen to the long and techin' story of her life. It all came back upon her, and she felt as if she must tell it to somebody. "May be, though, you don't want to hear it?" says she.

"May be I don't want to hear it! How can you?" says John, edging up. And she began:

"I told you, Captain, that I had been dethroned, and I have, wilely dethroned, and brought low, by my own woluntary act."

"Dear heart!" says John, “so much the worse, if it was woluntary, so few pities you."

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have no interest in me; and, besides, my name is hateful to me.".

"But I must call you somethin'!”

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Well, then, inwent a name. My maiden name reminds me of the royal hours when my father's position gave me rank, and before the wicissitudes of fortune brought me low; I cannot therefore consent to be called by that; and my married name is the name of a wagabond, and I despise it. O sir, inwent a name, for mercy's sake!"

"I'll inwent it for love's sake," says John, slipping his arm round her waist, and drawing her close to him; “and I'll call you my dove, coz you see you've got all the timidity and gentle. ness o' that lovely bird, and your voice is sweeter than the turtle's, I'm sure."

--

"O Captain, my woice is n't a nice woice now-a-days, my woice went with the rest of my attractions when I was dethroned. I had a nice woice once. If we could have met then!"

"My dove!" says John, “whatever your woice hes ben, I would n't hev it no sweeter than what it is now; it kerries me back to the years that hed hope in 'em,- the years when I was a boy, and in love."

"Say no more," says the widow; "my heart already tells me that you love another," and she began to pout.

"Lord bless us!" says John; "our boat is aground. I was so took up with you, Rose, that I did n't see she was driftin' down stream, and here we be, high and dry, and a storm a-comin' on; but you can't blame me so ha'shly, my dear Rose, as what I blame myself. Can you forgive me?"

"Forgive you?" cries the widow, reproachfully. "Can you forget that I am an undertaker's daughter?"

This speech did not convey any very clear meaning to the mind of John Chidlaw; but he attributed that to his own dulness, and as this struck him as being very great, somehow or other, though he could not tell how, he bowed his head in shamefaced silence.

In spite of what he had said about being in love in his youth, the widow took great courage. He had said "our

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boat" instead of "my boat," and he had called her Rose, her real name,how should he know that? She could not tell, but somehow she augured favorably from it; besides, they were aground, and must wait for the rising of the tide, and in the intervening time who knew what might be done? She would tell all her story; and its pathos, she fancied, must subjugate the most obdurate heart.

"Yes," she renewed, "I am, or rather was, an undertaker's daughter, with the most brilliant prospects before me that ever allured a wile wagabond of a fortune-hunter, for such he was who stole me from the satin pillers my young head had played among, and give me a piller of husks, and cold wittles, and wulgar lodgings."

"The wretch!" cries John. "The wile wretch! if he yet lived, I would wow myself to wengeance!" And, like Jacob of old, he lifted up his voice and wept.

"Don't take on so," says the widow. "I would not cause you a moment's sorrow for the world."

"To think any man should have abused the like o' you!" says John. "But surely he never laid wiolent hands ont' you? I think I shall lose my senses if you say that."

"Then I won't say it," says the widow, tenderly stroking his hand.

"That touch is wivifying," says John; "so, dear Rose, you may go on and tell the wust on 't."

Then the widow came to the worst; for after all the trials she had with the old wagabond, she said, she could have put up with him but for one nasty habit, he walked into his sleep! "And now a man that walks into his sleep," says she, "is a trial and a torment to his wife which there is no tongue can tell it."

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"Ah, to be sure," says John, "you ought to hev been divorced, and to have recovered big damages into the bargain. To think that the willain dared to walk into his sleep, and frighten a poor timid dove like you! But the hearts o' some does seem manufactured

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To be dethroned was bad enough," says she; "and then to see my royal dowery conwerted into whiskey, which it was dewoured by him, the same being took continual; but what was most intolerable of all was that he walked into his sleep! I tried every way to contrawene the wile habit that could be inwented. I coaxed and I scolded, and I got up late, and I give him hot winegar with a little whiskey into it, he would swaller anything that had a drop of whiskey into it,—and I prewailed on him to sing psalms, and, that failing, I prewailed onto him to inwest into a wiolin and play onto that till late into the midnight, thinking by that means his witality would be exhausted, and he would lie into his bed like any other man; but lo and behold! he inwested into the wiolin a-Monday, and a-Monday night he played till along towards ten o'clock, and I got clean wore out, and, says I, 'Do leave off playing onto that wiolin,' says I, for my head aches like all possess '; and with that he up and went to bed, and after a while I hears something fingering the latch, and I riz onto my elbow, and says, in a whisper, Dan'l, there's a man a-trying to break in, as sure as you 're alive!' He did n't answer, and thinks says I, the wiolin has done it, and he is a-sleeping with a wengeance, and then I feels along, and says I, 'Dan'l, Dan'!' but still no answer; then I felt for the piller, and there was no head onto it, and I scraped a match, and it went out, and I scraped another, and it went out, and I scraped another, and a leetle blue flame just started and flickered, and before I could see what it was a-fumbling at the door, it went

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out. Thinks says I, I'll make sure work now; and I took two of the nasty things into my hand and scraped so hard I crushed them all up together, and they flashed out and seared my finger-ends and burnt a hole into my nightgownd-sleeve, and, seeing I was like to burn up, I slapped my arm with all my might, and at last I slapped the flame down, and at last, by persewerance, I slapped it out; and yet I hadn't seen a thing, but I could feel the hole into my nightgownd-sleeve, and my arm all burnt into a light blister. 'Dan'l!' says I again; but Dan'l did n't answer, and then I was full sure it was him, and I scraped with a steadier hand, and the match-it was one of them nasty lucifers, may be you know-"

'Yes, I've heerd tell on 'em," says John.

And the wretched woman went on: "It was one of them nasty lucifers, and it choked me so I could not find the candle; and though I could just see a ghostly object at the door, I could not tell at all whether it was Dan'l or not, for he never looked like himself when he walked into his sleep; and the match-they are nothing but splinters, you know—was burning closer and closer to my fingers, and I just dabs it wiolently into the washbowl, and puts it out. And then says I, 'Dan'l! Dan'l!' again; and this time he answers, and says he, 'You wixen,' says he, shut up your mouth!'

"There was no mistaking that, and all in the dark I wentered after him, and grabbed and ketched him by the end of his neck-tie, and hild with all my might; and at that he began to wociferate at the top of his woice, and, thinks says I, better than rouse all the neighbors and have them broke o' their rest, I'll just let him go and walk into his sleep till he's satisfied. I took the key out of the door, and then I tried to find my way back, for, thinks says I, I'll retire and take my rest anyhow, and, if you believe it, I was so turned round I could n't find

the piller! So I went feeling here and there, and every minute I come Dack to him, and every time I touched him he wociferated at the top of his woice; and then I'd say, 'Dan'l, it was n't woluntary!' and then I'd feel and feel by the chairs and the wall, and by one thing and another, as a body will when they can't see, and the first thing I'd know I'd be right back to him agin. My blistered arm, meantime, was a-burning like fire, but, thinks says I, it's no use, I can't find the water-pitcher, I'm so turned round; and I just sot down where I was, and there I sot till daylight, blowing all my breath away onto my arm, and the minute I could see I made for the pitcher; but, happening to take it by the snout instead of the handle, away it went, and spilt all the water, and broke the pitcher past all mending, — and a fine pitcher, too!-one that my own father give me in cholera times, when his business was at the best."

"I declare," says John Chidlaw, "it's enough to make a body's blood run cold!" And then he says he does n't wonder she's agin matrimony!

Now the widow had said nothing of the sort, and stoutly protested that she had not, but that, on the contrary, she thought it an adwantage to any woman to be married, prowided she could find an indiwidual that had a warm heart toward her; to which John replied that she had found such a one; and she answered, "How you do go on!" and resumed her story.

"Well, a-Tuesday night he took to the wiolin again, and played and played and played and played all the old dancing tunes in creation, and I sot by and never said a word till 'leven o'clock come, and then till twelve o'clock come, and then till one o'clock come, and then till two o'clock come, and at last, thinks says I, my brain will go wild, and says I, 'Dan'l, I ain't a bit sleepy, but I do feel some as if I could go to sleep if you'd just keep on a-playing; I've got kind o' used to it, and I don't believe I can go to sleep without it.' With this he flung the

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