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ing, and sent back the hired man with tha who was engaged to Ephraim, and the sleigh, because she meant to stay all not I. night with Prudence.
There was a young man there named “ Semantha was dressed very elegant Elihu Parsons. He was very handly. She had a scarlet cloth cloak that some, — too handsome for a man, came down to the bottom of her gown, and what with this and his pleasant and the gown itself was green silk, with ways he was a great favorite with the great bishop sleeves lined with buck- girls. I had only seen him once or ram, so that they stood out, and rattled twice, but he remembered me, and like a drum when they hit against any- came and sat by me while the games thing. Mary laughed at her because were going on. I thought this was she could not go through our chamber very good of him, for nobody was so door without turning sidewise; but Se- much called for as he ; but he would mantha said they were all the fashion not leave me, and was so sociable and in Boston.
pleasant that I tried to brighten up and “She was very lively and full of fun entertain him as well as I could. We that day, though she did n't take much were in the midst of our talk, when I notice of me. In the evening we had happened to glance up and saw Ephraim popped corn and apples, and when we looking over at us, – looking, too, as pared the apples and threw down the I had never seen him. All at once long coils of peel, Semantha's took the it flashed upon me that I could make shape of a letter E. She laughed and him suffer as he had made me. From blushed, and pretended to be very much that moment an evil spirit possessed vexed, but she was really as pleased as I felt my cheeks flush ; my heart she could be. Mary whispered to me beat fast; I was full of wild gayety. not to mind, and said Prudence had I sang songs when they asked me. given the peel a sly push with her foot Elihu asked me to dance, and I danced, to shape the E; but for all that I could - 1, who had never taken a step behardly help crying
fore in my life. I felt as light as air; “ That night all of us girls slept in the I seemed to float through the figure. great double-bedded room. Semantha “ Ephraim never came near me the was with Prudence; and long after Mary whole evening, but Elihu kept close to was asleep I could hear them whisper- me, and we had a great deal of talk ing, and every minute or two I would that I am glad to have forgotten. But catch Ephraim's name.
I remember that he laughed at Se"I did not sleep much that night, mantha Lee, and made fun of her hair and in the morning I was almost sick. that he said was like tow, and her eyes Ephraim was very kind, and when Pru- that squinted, and her mincing gait; dence said she was going to invite in and I listened, and felt a malicious some of the young people of the neigh- pleasure in this dispraise of Semantha. borhood that evening, he wanted her Through it all my head ached terribly, to put it off ; but Prudence said she and I stupidly wondered how I dared guessed I would be better, — she thought be such a wicked girl, and what my people could throw off sickness if they mother would say if she knew it. tried to do so. At this Semantha “ By and by it was ten o'clock, and laughed so disagreeably, and looked then Semantha suddenly discovered that over at Ephraim in so significant a way, she must go home. Mrs. Allen tried to that I am afraid I almost hated her. persuade her to stay. But no! It was
" The company came in the even- going to snow, she said, and she would ing, — five or six merry young girls and not stay. Then Prudence said, if she young men. If my head and heart had must go, Ephraim would take her home been right, I could have enjoyed it too. in the sleigh, which, of course, was just But my head ached, and for the rest what Semantha wanted. you would have thought it was Seman- “I don't know what made me do it, but upon this I rose and went over to held my hand and lingered, talking, where they were standing, and said when I was eager for his going. My that Elihu Parsons was going directly gayety had fled, and every word cost past Deacon Lee's, and would be hap- me a pang. At last he said, 'I am gopy to take Semantha, and that I would ing by your house. Can I carry any rather Ephraim should not go.
message for you ?' * Prudence lifted up both hands, as “A wild thought darted into my mind. if she was too horrified to speak, and “Going by our house? O, if I might looked at Semantha. Semantha gig- go too!' gled. She was one of those girls who “ You can !' he said eagerly. "I will are always laughing foolishly.
take you with the greatest pleasure.' “ As for Ephraim, his face was dark, “In an instant I had resolved to go. and his voice was cold and hard, as he seemed to me that I should die if I said, “From what we have seen to- stayed under that roof another night. night, Mercy, I don't think it can make So I begged him to wait a minute, ran much difference to you what I do’; and up stairs, packed my things, and came then, without another word, went out. down and told the family that I was
“ Presently I heard the sleigh-bells, going home. They seemed thunderand in a moment Ephraim came in at struck. Only Prudence spoke. the front door. I hurried out to him. I ** Very well,' said she. “But I supwould make one more effort, I thought. pose you know it is all over between “ He stopped on seeing me.
you and Ephraim if you go off in this “ • Are you going to leave me for way.' Semantha ? You are very unkind to “ I told her that I knew it was all over, me!' I said passionately.
thanks to her, and I hoped it was a * • You are foolish, Mercy. Semantha pleasure to her to reflect that she had is our guest, and I have shown her no separated two persons who would never more attention than she has a right to.' have had a hard thought of each other
“ • Can't you see, Ephraim ?' I cried. but for her. ·Mary came out into the ‘Don't you know that she came here entry to me crying, and said she hoped on purpose to make trouble between we should make it up. But I told her you and me, and that Prudence is help- that was not likely. And so we drove ing her?'
away: “ He looked surprised, then wholly “I was dull enough now, and Elihu incredulous. “You are mistaken, Mer- had the talk mostly to himself. It was cy.
You are prejudiced against Se- not till we were almost home that he mantha.'
said something which roused me up. “I grew angry. I did not know that
And then I was angry with him, and many men, acute enough to all else, are asked him what he thought of me to stone-blind where the wiles of a woman suppose I would so readily on with the are concerned. “You may go then, if new love before I was off with the old. you like. I see you don't care for me,' But I had no sooner made this speech I said bitterly.
than I burst into tears, and prayed him ". You know I do care for you,' said to forgive me, for I knew I had done Ephraim. His voice was softer. I wrong, and not say any more to me, might have won him then, if I would since I was so wretched. I do not have stooped to persuade. But I would know well what reply he made, for benot. My pride was hurt. I turned fore I had done speaking I was at home. away from him.
There was the dear old house I had so “ Presently Semantha came out and longed for, -- the little, homely, unthey drove off.
painted house, with the well-sweep “ Pretty soon Elihu Parsons brought taller than itself, and the great clump of his sleigh round, flung down the reins, lilacs by the front door. and came in to say good night. He “I went up the path unsteadily; my
head was swimming, and there was a “ It was arranged that the oldest boy curious noise in my ears. I pushed at home should go with father, so that open the door. There was father with there would be nobody left with mother the open Bible before him, and his and me but Jem and David. Jem was spectacles lying upon it; the room was eight years old, and David six come bright with the fire and the light of the May; but they were both smart, and we pine-knot, and mother was spinning on thought, with their help, we could take the little wheel, as she frequently did in care of the cattle till father came back. the evening. Her face wore its own “I could not do much yet, and I sat in sweet, peaceful look, but when she saw my arm-chair while mother fried doughme the expression changed to one of nuts, and baked great loaves of bread, alarm. She said afterward that I looked and made puddings, and roasted chickmore like a ghost than anything else. ens, for them to take for food on the "Why, Mercy!' she cried.
journey. Father's way was to carry his “Father turned slowly round, and be- own provisions, and stay at night with yond that I remember nothing. I fell friends and relations along the road; on the floor in a dead faint.
even if the sleighing was good, and “Mother said I talked all night about nothing happened, he would be a week what had been troubling me. Through or more in going to Boston. So, of all my delirium, I had an aching con- course, the supply must be pretty gen. sciousness that Ephraim was lost to me forever. I would rise to go to him, " It was a still, bright morning when as I thought, but when I reached the they set off, with a sky so clear that place where he had been, there was father thought there would be no storm only Prudence or Semantha.
for many days. After the excitement “In the morning the doctor came, and of their starting passed away, it seemed said it was scarlet fever. The other very quiet and lonesome; for you rechildren had got over it in childhood, member, though I have not said anybut it had waited for me till now. thing about it, that my heart was aching
“I was very sick for a whole month. for its lost love. All that time mother was an angel of “ I had said nothing about it to mother goodness to me. When I was able to yet, but after they were gone, and the sit up, she told me that Ephraim had chores done up for the night, and the been to inquire for me often. But she boys playing with their cob-houses in said no more, and I could not tell her the corner, she sat down beside me, saythe trouble then.
ing; “Now, Mercy, tell me all about the “ I was wasted to a shadow, and was trouble between you and Ephraim.' as weak as an hour-old babe. Mother As well as I could for crying, I told used to tuck me up in the great arm- her, feeling very much ashamed when chair, and then the boys would push I came to the part about Elihu. But the chair to the window, where I could mother was very gentle, and only said, look out.
I fear, my child, that savors of an “A great snow had fallen during my unregenerate heart.' sickness. It had begun the night I “ That was true. But while I had came home, as Semantha predicted, and been sick I had thought very seriously, the roads had been almost impassable. and I was thankful I had not been taken But they were quite good again now, away while my heart was in such a and father said the time had come for state. I did not dare to tell mother him to go down below. It was late in how God's goodness had shone down February, and he said we should not upon me while I lay ill in my bed, but have a great deal more snow, he thought, I hoped and prayed that it would not and if he waited till the spring thaws leave me. came, there would be no getting to "It was a relief as well as pain to see Boston.
that mother blamed Ephraim. She
said he should not have allowed him- "Why, mother, if he started for self to be deceived and influenced by home yesterday – Prudence. I told her I was sure he He would be just in season to be could not have loved me as he oughtcaught in the snow,' she interrupted, and that I thought I would send back with a vehemence unnatural to her. to him the little presents he had made “Snow, mother!' me, and say that I did not hold him to “I rose, and went to the window. his promise.
The sky was full of great masses of gray “ Mother agreed with me, and the clouds, that sometimes parted, and next day I made up the package. showed a steel-colored background, inThere was a string of gold beads, tense and cold, and immeasurably disand a pair of silver shoe-buckles, and tant. Wide before us spread the waste, a Chinese fan, and a hymn-book, the white, uninhabited fields, the nearest bunch of witch-hazel blossoms he picked house a mile away, and its chimney only for me that day in the words, and, more visible above the hills which hid it. precious than all the rest, a letter, six A tawny, brazen belt of light lying foolscap pages in length, that he had along the west, where the sun had gone written in the fall, while I was visiting down, illuminated the snow, and gave my cousin in Keene.
a weird character to the whole scene. “ I could not help crying while I was There was a high wind swaying the putting them up, and I took out the tops of the tall trees before the house; letter twice, thinking I might keep that. and once in a while you would see a But mother said, if we were indeed to fragment of cloud caught from the be separated, it was my duty to forget great gray curtain, and torn into my love for Ephraim, else it would shreds, or ravelled into a thin web, darken all my life; and life, she said, which seemed for a moment to shut was given us for cheerful praise, and
close down upon us. It was a strange work, which is also praise.
night, a strange sky. “ After I had sent my package by the “I felt a vague alarm. But I tried to mail-rider, who passed Mr. Allen's house speak cheerfully. It is too cold to every other day, I thought my trouble snow, mother!' would be easier to bear. But every “She pointed to the window. Even day made it harder. I fell into a miser- as I spoke the air was suddenly darkable torpid state, taking no interest in ened by a multitude of fine flakes, that anything, and feeling only my misery crowded faster and faster, and were acutely. I could not even pray for swirled about by the wind, and quickly help, for prayer itself was a cross. built up a wall around the door.
“ Mother was very good to me; she “As it grew dark the storm ingave me light, pleasant work to do, creased. The wind, which had been thinking to keep me busy. But how blowing steadily all day, rose to a gale. ever busy my hands were, my thoughts It tugged at the doors and windows; were free, and used their freedom to it thundered down the chimney; it make me suffer.
caught the little house, and shook it “ Father had been gone eight days, 'till the timbers creaked; the noise was when one afternoon mother came in truly awful. We got the boys into the from the barn, where she had been to trundle-bed as soon as we could, and shake down some hay for the cows, then mother brought out her wheel, with a face so sober that I was fright and I took my knitting. There was ened at once.
a great blazing fire on the hearth, and “ Why, mother! what is the mat- the room was so warm that the yarn ter ?' I cried.
ran beautifully. Mother made out her "I 'm worried about your father, stint that night; she was a famous child,' she said, and then she went to spinner, and the wheel went as fast and the window and looked out.
the yarn was as even as if she had not been so dreadfully worried about father. not see the face, but by touching the But every few minutes she would stop hands I made out that it was eight and say she hoped he had not started, o'clock. I knew now that we were or that, having set out, he would be snowed up, and that was the reason warned in time, and stop by the way. why it was so dark.
“ It was so strange to see mother, who “I kindled up the fire and lighted a was usually calm, so put about that I pine knot. Jem and David came up got very nervous, and was glad when to the hearth to dress, half crying and she stopped the wheel, and twisted up fretting for mother. But I pacified the yarn she had spun. But as she them with a breakfast of bread and turned around toward me with it in her milk, and while they were eating it I hand, she looked so strange that I ventured to open a door. There was cried out to know what was the matter. a solid wall of snow. I looked into
" It is nothing,' she whispered; but I the fore-room, - it was as dark as a took hold of her, and steadied her down cellar. Then I ran up my stairs, and into the arm-chair, and then ran for here the little courage I had forsook the camphor. That brought her round; me, and I grew weak and sick. For but now she looked feverish, and was the snow was already even with the shaking all over, and I knew that she ledge of the chamber window, and all was going to have one of her ill turns, the outbuildings were as completely possibly lung-fever,--for her lungs were hidden as if the earth had swallowed but weak, and she rarely got over the them in the night. winter without a fever. The thought “I ran down stairs hastily, for I made me half wild, but I dared not wait heard mother call. to cry or fret.
I knew there was no “She looked up at me anxiously. time to be lost, and I hurried around, “How is it, Mercy?' and gave her a warm foot-bath, and “I 'm afraid, mother, we are snowed kept hot flannels on her chest, and up,' I said. made her drink a nice bowl of herb tea “6 And I'm sick!' as soon as she was in bed; for I “ Mother was sick. That was the thought when the perspiration started worst side of the trouble. It was a she would be relieved. I was glad settled fever by this time, I was sure. enough when the great drops stood on We both knew it, we both knew that her forehead. Yet the hard breathing no help was to be had, and that she and the rattling in the chest were not might die for want of it. We were cured. I kept renewing the steaming both silent, neither daring to speak, flannels, as the doctor always directed, not knowing how to encourage and till she fell asleep. She slept almost strengthen the other. all night, and I sat in the chair by her, “Mother grew worse all day, in spite occasionally rousing up to put more of all that I could do for her. The wood on the fire, and listen to the wind, darkness in the house was most dewhich still held as fierce as it was at pressing, and made the situation tensundown.
fold more painful; though I kept a fire “By and by I dozed, - I don't know and a light burning as at evening, I how long, but I was wakened by hear- had to be economical of both, for there ing Jem call out, “Mercy! why don't it was only a small stock of fuel and a come day?'
handful of pine knots in the house. It “I started up. My fire had gone was painful to hear the poor cows at down, and the room was dark. Mother the barn lowing for food, and to know was breathing heavily beside me. that it was impossible to reach them.
“I say, Mercy, is n't it morning? I might, perhaps, have gone out on Why don't we get up?' persisted Jem. snow-shoes and managed to get into
“I begged him to be still, and, rising, the barn by the window in the lost; but made my way to the clock. I could father's shoes were loaned to a neigh