Part 1 out of 7
BY ELIZABETH STODDARD
"Time is a clever devil,"--BALZAC
[Illustration: Portrait of Elizabeth Stoddard from a Daguerreotype.]
I suppose it was environment that caused me to write these novels;
but the mystery of it is, that when I left my native village I did
not dream that imagination would lead me there again, for the simple
annals of our village and domestic ways did not interest me; neither
was I in the least studious. My years were passed in an attempt to
have a good time, according to the desires and fancies of youth. Of
literature and the literary life, I and my tribe knew nothing; we had
not discovered "sermons in stones." Where then was the panorama of
my stories and novels stored, that was unrolled in my new sphere? Of
course, being moderately intelligent I read everything that came in
my way, but merely for amusement. It had been laid up against me as a
persistent fault, which was not profitable; I should peruse moral,
and pious works, or take up sewing,--that interminable thing, "white
seam," which filled the leisure moments of the right-minded. To
the _personnel_ of writers I gave little heed; it was the hero they
created that charmed me, like Miss Porter's gallant Pole, Sobieski, or
the ardent Ernest Maltravers, of Bulwer.
I had now come to live among those who made books, and were interested
in all their material, for all was for the glory of the whole.
Prefaces, notes, indexes, were unnoticed by me,--even Walter Scott's
and Lord Byron's. I began to get glimpses of a profound ignorance, and
did not like the position as an outside consideration. These mental
productive adversities abased me. I was well enough in my way, but
nothing was expected from me in their way, and when I beheld their
ardor in composition, and its fine emulation, like "a sheep before her
shearers," I was dumb. The environment pressed upon me, my pride was
touched; my situation, though "tolerable, was not to be endured."
Fortunate or not, we were poor. It was not strange that I should
marry, said those who knew the step I had taken; but that I should
follow that old idyl; and accept the destiny of a garret and a
crust with a poet, was incredible! Therefore, being apart from the
diversions of society, I had many idle hours. One day when my husband
was sitting at the receipt of customs, for he had obtained a modest
appointment, I sat by a little desk, where my portfolio lay open.
A pen was near, which I took up, and it began to write, wildly like
"Planchette" upon her board, or like a kitten clutching a ball of yarn
fearfully. But doing it again--I could not say why--my mind began upon
a festival in my childhood, which my mother arranged for several poor
old people at Thanksgiving. I finished the sketch in private, and gave
it the title of "A Christmas Dinner," as one more modern. I put in
occasional "fiblets" about the respectable guests, Mrs. Carver
and Mrs. Chandler, and one dreadful little girl foisted upon me to
entertain. It pleased the editor of _Harper's Magazine_, who accepted
it, and sent me a check which would look wondrous small now. I wrote
similar sketches, which were published in that magazine. Then I
announced my intention of writing a "long story," and was told by him
of the customs that he thought I "lacked the constructive faculty."
I hope that I am writing an object lesson, either of learning how, or
not learning how, to write.
I labored daily, when alone, for weeks; how many sheets of foolscap I
covered, and dashed to earth, was never told. Since, by my "infinite
pains and groans," I have been reminded of Barkis, in "David
Copperfield," when he crawled out of his bed to get a guinea from
his strong box for David's dinner. Naturally, I sent the story to
_Harper's Magazine_, and it was curtly refused. My husband, moved by
pity by my discouragement, sent it to Mr. Lowell, then editor of the
_Atlantic Monthly_. In a few days I received a letter from him, which
made me very happy. He accepted the story, and wrote me then, and
afterwards, letters of advice and suggestion. I think he saw through
my mind, its struggles, its ignorance, and its ambition. Also I got my
guinea for my pains. The _Atlantic Monthly_ sent me a hundred dollars.
I doubt but for Mr. Lowell's interest and kindness I should ever have
tried prose again. I owe a debt of gratitude to him which I shall
always give to his noble memory.
My story did not set the river on fire, as stories are apt to do
nowadays. It attracted so little notice from those I knew, and
knew of, that naturally my ambition would have been crushed.
Notwithstanding, and saying nothing to anybody, I began "The
Morgesons," and everywhere I went, like Mary's lamb, my MS. was sure
to go. Meandering along the path of that family, I took them much to
heart, and finished their record within a year. I may say here, that
the clans I marshaled for my pages had vanished from the sphere
of reality--in my early day the village Squire, peerless in blue
broadcloth, who scolded, advised, and helped his poorer neighbors; the
widows, or maidens, who accepting service "as a favor," often remained
a lifetime as friend as well as "help;" the race of coast-wise
captains and traders, from Maine to Florida, as acute as they were
ignorant; the rovers of the Atlantic and the Pacific, were gone not
to return. If with these characters I have deserved the name of
"realist," I have also clothed my skeletons with the robe of romance.
"The Morgesons" completed, and no objections made to its publication,
it was published. As an author friend happened to be with us, almost
on the day it was out, I gave it to him to read, and he returned it to
me with the remark that there were "a good many _whiches_ in it." That
there were, I must own, and that it was difficult to extirpate them. I
was annoyed at their fertility. The inhabitants of my ancient dwelling
place pounced upon "The Morgesons," because they were convinced it
would prove to be a version of my relations, and my own life. I think
one copy passed from hand to hand, but the interest in it soon blew
over, and I have not been noticed there since.
"Two Men" I began as I did the others, with a single motive; the
shadow of a man passed before me, and I built a visionary fabric round
him. I have never tried to girdle the earth; my limits are narrow; the
modern novel, as Andrew Lang lately calls it,--with its love-making,
disquisition, description, history, theology, ethics,--I have
no sprinkling of. My last novel, "Temple House," was personally
conducted, so far that I went to Plymouth to find a suitable abode for
my hero, Angus Gates, and to measure with my eye the distance between
the bar in the bay and the shore, the scene of a famous wreck before
the Revolution. As my stories and novels were never in touch with my
actual life, they seem now as if they were written by a ghost of
their time. It is to strangers from strange places that I owe the most
sympathetic recognition. Some have come to me, and from many I have
had letters that warmed my heart, and cheered my mind. Beside the name
of Mr. Lowell, I mention two New England names, to spare me the
fate of the prophet of the Gospel, the late Maria Louise Pool, whose
lamentable death came far too early, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who
lived to read "The Morgesons" only, and to write me a characteristic
letter. With some slight criticism, he wrote, "Pray pardon my
frankness, for what is the use of saying anything, unless we say what
we think?... Otherwise it seemed to me as genuine and lifelike as
anything that pen and ink can do. There are very few books of which
I take the trouble to have any opinion at all, or of which I
could retain any memory so long after reading them as I do of 'The
Could better words be written for the send-off of these novels?
ELIZABETH STODDARD. New York, May 2nd, 1901.
TO MRS. KATHARINE HOOKER
OF LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
THESE NOVELS ARE DEDICATED IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF A KIND DEED
"That child," said my aunt Mercy, looking at me with indigo-colored
eyes, "is possessed."
When my aunt said this I was climbing a chest of drawers, by its
knobs, in order to reach the book-shelves above it, where my favorite
work, "The Northern Regions," was kept, together with "Baxter's
Saints' Rest," and other volumes of that sort, belonging to my mother;
and those my father bought for his own reading, and which I liked,
though I only caught a glimpse of their meaning by strenuous study.
To this day Sheridan's Comedies, Sterne's Sentimental Journey, and
Captain Cook's Voyages are so mixed up in my remembrance that I am
still uncertain whether it was Sterne who ate baked dog with Maria, or
Sheridan who wept over a dead ass in the Sandwich Islands.
After I had made a dash at and captured my book, I seated myself with
difficulty on the edge of the chest of drawers, and was soon lost in
an Esquimaux hut. Presently, in crossing my feet, my shoes, which were
large, dropped on the painted floor with a loud noise. I looked at my
aunt; her regards were still fixed upon me, but they did not interfere
with her occupation of knitting; neither did they interrupt her habit
of chewing cloves, flagroot, or grains of rice. If these articles were
not at hand, she chewed a small chip.
"Aunt Merce, poor Hepburn chewed his shoes, when he was in Davis's
"Mary, look at that child's stockings."
Mother raised her eyes from the _Boston Recorder_, and the article
she had been absorbed in the proceedings of an Ecclesiastical Council,
which had discussed (she read aloud to Aunt Merce) the conduct of
Brother Thaddeus Turner, pastor of the Congregational Church of
Hyena. Brother Thaddeus had spoken lightly of the difference between
Sprinkling and Immersion, and had even called Hyena's Baptist minister
"_Brother_." He was contumacious at first, was Brother Thaddeus, but
Brother Boanerges from Andover finally floored him.
"Cassandra," said mother, presently, "come here."
I obeyed with reluctance, making a show of turning down a leaf.
"Child," she continued, and her eyes wandered over me dreamily, till
they dropped on my stockings; "why will you waste so much time on
"Mother, I hate good stories, all but the Shepherd of Salisbury Plain;
I like that, because it makes me hungry to read about the roasted
potatoes the shepherd had for breakfast and supper. Would it make me
thankful if you only gave me potatoes without salt?"
"Not unless your heart is right before God."
"'_The Lord my Shepherd is_,'" sang Aunt Merce.
I put my hands over my ears, and looked defiantly round the room.
Its walls are no longer standing, and the hands of its builders have
crumbled to dust. Some mental accident impressed this picture on the
purblind memory of childhood.
We were in mother's winter room. She was in a low, chintz-covered
chair; Aunt Merce sat by the window, in a straight-backed chair, that
rocked querulously, and likewise covered with chintz, of a red and
yellow pattern. Before the lower half of the windows were curtains of
red serge, which she rattled apart on their brass rods, whenever she
heard a footstep, or the creak of a wheel in the road below. The walls
were hung with white paper, through which ran thread-like stripes of
green. A square of green and chocolate-colored English carpet covered
the middle of the floor, and a row of straw chairs stood around it,
on the bare, lead-colored boards. A huge bed, with a chintz top shaped
like an elephant's back, was in one corner, and a six-legged mahogany
table in another. One side of the room where the fireplace was set
was paneled in wood; its fire had burned down in the shining Franklin
stove, and broken brands were standing upright. The charred backlog
still smoldered, its sap hissed and bubbled at each end.
Aunt Merce rummaged her pocket for flagroot; mother resumed her paper.
"May I put on, for a little while, my new slippers?" I asked, longing
to escape the oppressive atmosphere of the room.
"Yes," answered mother, "but come in soon, it will be supper-time."
I bounded away, found my slippers, and was walking down stairs on
tiptoe, holding up my linsey-woolsey frock, when I saw the door of my
great-grandfather's room ajar. I pushed it open, went in, and saw a
very old man, his head bound with a red-silk handkerchief, bolstered
in bed. His wife, grandmother-in-law, sat by the fire reading a great
"Marm Tamor, will you please show me Ruth and Boaz?" I asked.
She complied by turning over the leaves till she came to the picture.
"Did Ruth love Boaz dreadfully much?"
"Oh, oh," groaned the old man, "what is the imp doing here? Drive her
I skipped out by a side door, down an alley paved with blue pebbles,
swung the high gate open, and walked up and down the gravel walk which
bordered the roadside, admiring my slippers, and wishing that some
acquaintance with poor shoes could see me. I thought then I would
climb the high gateposts, which had a flat top, and take there the
position of the little girl in "The Shawl Dance." I had no sooner
taken it than Aunt Merce appeared at the door, and gave a shriek at
the sight, which tempted me to jump toward her with extended arms. I
was seized and carried into the house, where supper was administered,
and I was put to bed.
At this time I was ten years old. We lived in a New England village,
Surrey, which was situated on an inlet of a large bay that opened into
the Atlantic. From the observatory of our house we could see how the
inlet was pinched by the long claws of the land, which nearly enclosed
it. Opposite the village, some ten miles across, a range of islands
shut out the main waters of the bay. For miles on the outer side
of the curving prongs of land stretched a rugged, desolate coast,
indented with coves and creeks, lined with bowlders of granite half
sunken in the sea, and edged by beaches overgrown with pale sedge, or
covered with beds of seaweed. Nothing alive, except the gulls, abode
on these solitary shores. No lighthouse stood on any point, to shake
its long, warning light across the mariners' wake. Now and then a
drowned man floated in among the sedge, or a small craft went to
pieces on the rocks. When an easterly wind prevailed, the coast
resounded with the bellowing sea, which brought us tidings from those
inaccessible spots. We heard its roar as it leaped over the rocks
on Gloster Point, and its long, unbroken wail when it rolled in on
Whitefoot Beach. In mild weather, too, when our harbor was quiet, we
still heard its whimper. Behind the village, the ground rose toward
the north, where the horizon was bounded by woods of oak and pine,
intersected by crooked roads, which led to towns and villages near
us. The inland scenery was tame; no hill or dale broke its dull
uniformity. Cornfields and meadows of red grass walled with gray
stone, lay between the village and the border of the woods. Seaward
it was enchanting--beautiful under the sun and moon and clouds. Our
family had lived in Surrey for years. Probably some Puritan of
the name of Morgeson had moved from an earlier settlement, and,
appropriating a few acres in what was now its center, lived long
enough upon them to see his sons and daughters married to the sons and
daughters of similar settlers. So our name was in perpetuation, though
none of our race ever made a mark in his circle, or attained a place
among the great ones of his day. The family recipes for curing herbs
and hams, and making cordials, were in better preservation than the
memory of their makers. It is certain that they were not a progressive
or changeable family. No tradition of any individuality remains
concerning them. There was a confusion in the minds of the survivors
of the various generations about the degree of their relationship to
those who were buried, and whose names and ages simply were cut in the
stones which headed their graves. The _meum_ and _tuum_ of blood were
inextricably mixed; so they contented themselves with giving their
children the old Christian names which were carved on the headstones,
and which, in time, added a still more profound darkness to the
anti-heraldic memory of the Morgesons. They had no knowledge of
that treasure which so many of our New England families are boastful
of--the Ancestor who came over in the Mayflower, or by himself, with
a grant of land from Parliament. It was not known whether two or three
brothers sailed together from the Old World and settled in the New.
They had no portrait, nor curious chair, nor rusty weapon--no old
Bible, nor drinking cup, nor remnant of brocade.
_Morgeson_--_Born_--_Lived_--_Died_--were all their archives. But
there is a dignity in mere perpetuity, a strength in the narrowest
affinities. This dignity and strength were theirs. They are still
vital in our rural population. Occasionally something fine is their
result; an aboriginal reappears to prove the plastic powers of nature.
My great-grandfather, Locke Morgeson, the old man whose head I saw
bound in a red handkerchief, was the first noticeable man of the name.
He was a scale of enthusiasms, ranging from the melancholy to the
sarcastic. When I heard him talked of, it seemed to me that he was
born under the influence of the sea, while the rest of the tribe
inherited the character of the landscape. Comprehension of life, and
comprehension of self, came too late for him to make either of value.
The spirit of progress, however, which prompted his schemes benefited
others. The most that could be said of him was that he had the
rudiments of a Founder.
My father, whose name was Locke Morgeson also, married early. My
mother was five years his elder; her maiden name was Mary Warren. She
was the daughter of Philip Warren, of Barmouth, near Surrey. He was
the best of the Barmouth tailors, though he never changed the cut of
his garments; he was a rigidly pious man, of great influence in the
church, and was descended from Sir Edward Warren, a gentleman of
Devon, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. The name of his more
immediate ancestor, Richard Warren, was in "New England's Memorial."
How father first met mother I know not. She was singularly
beautiful--beautiful even to the day of her death; but she was poor,
and without connection, for Philip Warren was the last of his name.
What the Warrens might have been was nothing to the Morgesons; they
themselves had no past, and only realized the present. They never
thought of inquiring into that matter, so they opposed, with great
promptness, father's wish to marry Mary Warren. All, except old Locke
Morgeson, his grandfather, who rode over to Barmouth to see her one
day, and when he came back told father to take her, offered him half
his house to live in, and promised to push him in the world. His offer
quelled the rioters, silencing in particular the opposition of John
Morgeson, father's father.
In a month from this time, Locke Morgeson, Jr., took Mary Warren from
her father's house as his wife. Grandfather Warren prayed a long,
unintelligible prayer over them, helped them into the large,
yellow-bottomed chaise which belonged to Grandfather Locke, and the
young couple drove to their new home, the old mansion. Grandfather
Locke went away in the same yellow-bottomed chaise a week after, and
returned in a few days with a tall lady of fifty by his side--"Marm
Tamor," a twig of the Morgeson tree, being his third cousin, whom he
had married. This marriage was Grandfather Locke's last mistake. He
was then near eighty, but lived long enough to fulfill his promises
to father. The next year I was born, and four years after, my sister
Veronica. Grandfather Locke named us, and charged father not to
consult the Morgeson tombstones for names.
"Mrs. Saunders," said mother, "don't let that soap boil over. Cassy,
keep away from it."
"Lord," replied Mrs. Saunders, "there's no fat in the bones to bile.
Cassy's grown dreadful fast, ain't she? How long has the old man been
dead, Mis Morgeson?"
"Three years, Mrs. Saunders."
"How time do fly," remarked Mrs. Saunders, mopping her wrinkled face
with a dark-blue handkerchief. "The winter's sass is hardly put in
the cellar 'fore we have to cut off the sprouts, and up the taters
for planting agin. We shall all foller him soon." And she stirred the
bones in the great kettle with the vigor of an ogress.
When I heard her ask the question about Grandfather Locke, the
interval that had elapsed since his death swept through my mind. What
a little girl I was at the time! How much had since happened! But no
thought remained with me long. I was about to settle whether I would
go to the beach and wade, or into the woods for snake-flowers, till
school-time, when my attention was again arrested by Mrs. Saunders
saying, "I spose Marm Tamor went off with a large slice, and Mr. John
Morgeson is mad to this day?"
Mother was prevented from answering by the appearance of the said Mr.
John Morgeson, who darkened the threshold of the kitchen door, but
advanced no further. I looked at him with curiosity; if he were mad,
he might be interesting. He was a large, portly man, over sixty, with
splendid black hair slightly grizzled, a prominent nose, and fair
complexion. I did not like him, and determined not to speak to him.
"Say good-morning, Cassandra," said mother, in a low voice.
"No," I answered loudly, "I am not fond of my grandfather."
Mrs. Saunders mopped her face again, grinning with delight behind her
"Debby, my wife, wants you, Mis Saunders, after you have made Mary's
soap," he said.
"Surely," she answered.
"Where is the black horse to-day?" he asked mother.
"Locke has gone to Milford with him."
"I wanted the black horse to-day," he said, turning away.
"He's a mighty grand man, he is," commented Mrs. Saunders. "I am
pesky glad, Mis Morgeson, that you have never put foot in his house. I
'plaud your sperit!"
"School-time, Cassy," said mother. "Will you have some gingerbread
to carry? Tell me when you come home what you have read in the New
"My boy does read beautiful," said Mrs. Saunders. "Where's the potash,
I heard the bell toll as I loitered along the roadside, pulling a
dandelion here and there, for it was in the month of May, and
throwing it in the rut for the next wheel to crush. When I reached
the schoolhouse I saw through the open door that the New Testament
exercise was over. The teacher, Mrs. Desire Cushman, a tall, slender
woman, in a flounced calico dress, was walking up and down the room; a
class of boys and girls stood in a zigzag line before her, swaying to
and fro, and drawling the multiplication table. She was yawning as
I entered, which exercise forbade her speaking, and I took my seat
without a reprimand. The flies were just coming; I watched their
sticky legs as they feebly crawled over my old unpainted notched
desk, and crumbled my gingerbread for them; but they seemed to have no
appetite. Some of the younger children were drowsy already, lulled by
the hum of the whisperers. Feeling very dull, I asked permission to go
to the water-pail for a drink; let the tin cup fall into the water so
that the floor might be splashed; made faces at the good scholars, and
did what I could to make the time pass agreeably. At noon mother sent
my dinner, with the request that I should stay till night, on account
of my being in the way while the household was in the crisis of
soap-making and whitewashing. I was exasperated, but I stayed. In the
afternoon the minister came with two strangers to visit the school. I
went through my lessons with dignified inaccuracy, and was commended.
Going back, I happened to step on a loose board under my seat. I
determined to punish Mrs. Desire for the undeserved praise I had just
received, and pushed the board till it clattered and made a dust.
When Mrs. Desire detected me she turned white with anger. I pushed it
again, making so much noise that the visitors turned to see the cause.
She shook her head in my direction, and I knew what was in store, as
we had been at enmity a long time, and she only waited for a decisive
piece of mischief on my part. As soon as the visitors had gone, she
said in a loud voice: "Cassandra Morgeson, take your books and go
home. You shall not come here another day."
I was glad to go, and marched home with the air of a conqueror, going
to the keeping-room where mother sat with a basket of sewing. I saw
Temperance Tinkham, the help, a maiden of thirty, laying the table for
"Don't wrinkle the tablecloth," she said crossly; "and hang up your
bonnet in the entry, where it belongs," taking it from me as she gave
the order, and going out to hang it up herself.
"I am turned out of school, mother, for pushing a board with my foot."
"Hi," said father, who was waiting for his supper; "come here," and he
whistled to me. He took me on his knee, while mother looked at me with
doubt and sorrow.
"She is almost a woman, Mary."
"Locke, do you know that I am thirty-eight?"
"And you are thirty-three, father," I exclaimed. He looked younger.
I thought him handsome; he had a frank, firm face, an abundance of
light, curly hair, and was very robust. I took off his white
beaver hat, and pushed the curls away from his forehead. He had his
riding-whip in his hand. I took that, too, and snapped it at our
little dog, Kip. Father's clothes also pleased me--a lavender-colored
coat, with brass buttons, and trousers of the same color. I mentally
composed for myself a suit to match his, and thought how well we
should look calling at Lady Teazle's house in London, only I was
worried because my bonnet seemed to be too large for me. A loud crash
in the kitchen disturbed my dream, and Temperance rushed in, dragging
my sister Veronica, whose hair was streaming with milk; she had pulled
a panful over her from the buttery shelf, while Temperance was taking
up the supper. Father laughed, but mother said:
"What have I done, to be so tormented by these terrible children?"
Her mild blue eyes blazed, as she stamped her foot and clenched her
hands. Father took his hat and left the room. Veronica sat down on the
floor, with her eyes fixed upon her, and I leaned against the wall. It
was a gust that I knew would soon blow over. Veronica knew it also. At
the right moment she cried out: "Help Verry, she is sorry."
"Do eat your supper," Temperance called out in a loud voice. "The hash
is burnt to flinders."
She remained in the room to comment on our appetites, and encourage
Veronica, who was never hungry, to eat.
Veronica was an elfish creature, nine years old, diminutive and pale.
Her long, silky brown hair, which was as straight as an Indian's, like
mother's, and which she tore out when angry, usually covered her face,
and her wild eyes looked wilder still peeping through it. She was too
strange-looking for ordinary people to call her pretty, and so odd in
her behavior, so full of tricks, that I did not love her. She was a
silent child, and liked to be alone. But whoever had the charge of her
must be watchful. She tasted everything, and burnt everything, within
her reach. A blazing fire was too strong a temptation to be resisted.
The disappearance of all loose articles was ascribed to her; but
nothing was said about it, for punishment made her more impish and
daring in her pursuits. She had a habit of frightening us by hiding,
and appearing from places where no one had thought of looking for her.
People shook their heads when they observed her. The Morgesons smiled
significantly when she was spoken of, and asked:
"Do you think she is like her mother?"
There was a conflict in mother's mind respecting Veronica. She did not
love her as she loved me; but strove the harder to fulfill her duty.
When Verry suffered long and mysterious illnesses, which made her
helpless for weeks, she watched her day and night, but rarely caressed
her. At other times Verry was left pretty much to herself and her
ways, which were so separate from mine that I scarcely saw her. We
grew up ignorant of each other's character, though Verry knew me
better than I knew her; in time I discovered that she had closely
observed me, when I was most unaware.
We began to prosper about this time.
"Old Locke Morgeson had a long head," people said, when they talked
of our affairs. Father profited by his grandfather's plans, and
his means, too; less visionary, he had modified and brought out
practically many of his projections. Old Locke had left little to his
son John Morgeson, in the belief that father was the man to carry out
his ideas. Besides money, he left him a tract of ground running north
and south, a few rods beyond the old house, and desired him to build
upon it. This he was now doing, and we expected to move into our new
house before autumn.
All the Morgesons wished to put money in a company, as soon as father
could prove that it would be profitable. They were ready to own shares
in the ships which he expected to build, when it was certain that
they would make lucky voyages. He declined their offers, but they all
"knuckled" to the man who had been bold enough to break the life-long
stagnation of Surrey, and approved his plans as they matured. His mind
was filled with the hope of creating a great business which should
improve Surrey. New streets had been cut through his property and that
of grandfather, who, narrow as he was, could not resist the popular
spirit; lots had been laid out, and cottages had gone up upon them. To
matters of minor importance father gave little heed; his domestic life
was fast becoming a habit. The constant enlargement of his schemes was
already a necessary stimulant.
I did not go back to Mrs. Desire's school. Mother said that I must be
useful at home. She sent me to Temperance, and Temperance sent me to
play, or told me to go "a visitin'." I did not care to visit, for in
consequence of being turned out of school, which was considered an
indelible disgrace and long remembered, my schoolmates regarded me in
the light of a Pariah, and put on insufferably superior airs when they
saw me. So, like Veronica, I amused myself, and passed days on the
sea-shore, or in the fields and woods, mother keeping me in long
enough to make a square of patchwork each day and to hear her read
a Psalm--a duty which I bore with patience, by guessing when the
"Selahs" would come in, and counting them. But wherever I was, or
whatever I did, no feeling of beauty ever stole into my mind. I never
turned my face up to the sky to watch the passing of a cloud, or mused
before the undulating space of sea, or looked down upon the earth with
the curiosity of thought, or spiritual aspiration. I was moved and
governed by my sensations, which continually changed, and passed
away--to come again, and deposit vague ideas which ignorantly haunted
me. The literal images of all things which I saw were impressed on my
shapeless mind, to be reproduced afterward by faculties then latent.
But what satisfaction was that? Doubtless the ideal faculty was
active in Veronica from the beginning; in me it was developed by the
experience of years. No remembrance of any ideal condition comes with
the remembrance of my childish days, and I conclude that my mind, if I
had any, existed in so rudimental a state that it had little influence
upon my character.
One afternoon in the following July, tired of walking in the mown
fields, and of carrying a nest of mice, which I had discovered under
a hay-rick, I concluded I would begin a system of education with them;
so arranging them on a grape-leaf, I started homeward. Going in by the
kitchen, I saw Temperance wiping the dust from the best china, which
elated me, for it was a sign that we were going to have company to
"You evil child," she said, "where have you been? Your mother has
wanted you these hours, to dress you in your red French calico with
wings to it. Some of the members are coming to tea; Miss Seneth
Jellatt, and she that was Clarissa Tripp, Snow now, and Miss Sophrony
G. Dexter, and more besides."
I put my mice in a basket, and begged Temperance to allow me to finish
wiping the china; she consented, adjuring me not to let it fall. "Mis
Morgeson would die if any of it should be broken." I adored it, too.
Each piece had a peach, or pear, or a bunch of cherries painted on it,
in lustrous brown. The handles were like gold cords, and the covers
had knobs of gilt grapes.
"What preserves are you going to put on the table?" I asked.
"Them West Ingy things Capen Curtis's son brought home, and quartered
quince, though I expect Mis Dexter will remark that the surup is
"I wish you wouldn't have cheese."
"We _must_ have cheese," she said solemnly. "I expect they'll drink
our green tea till they make bladders of themselves, it is so good.
Your father is a first-rate man; he is an excellent provider, and
any woman ought to be proud of him, for he does buy number one in
I looked at her with admiration and respect.
"Capen Curtis," she continued, pursuing a train of thought which the
preserves had started, "will never come home, I guess. He has been in
furen parts forever and a day; his wife has looked for him, a-twirling
her thumb and fingers, every day for ten years. I heard your mother
had engaged her to go in the new house; she'll take the upper hand of
us all. Your grandfather, Mr. John Morgeson, is willing to part with
her; tired of her, I spose. She has been housekeeping there, off
and on, these thirty years. She's fifty, if she is a day, is Hepsy
"Is she as stingy as you are?" I asked.
"You'll find out for yourself, Miss. I rather think you won't be
allowed to crumble over the buttery shelves."
I finished the cup, and was watching her while she grated loaf-sugar
over a pile of doughnuts, when mother entered, and begged me to come
upstairs with her to be dressed.
"Where is Verry, mother?"
"In the parlor, with a lemon in one hand and Robinson Crusoe in the
other. She will be good, she says. Cassy, you won't teaze me to-day,
"No, indeed, mother," and clapping my hands, "I like you too well."
"These Morgesons beat the dogs," I heard Temperance say, as we shut
the door and went upstairs.
I skipped over the shiny, lead-colored floor of the chamber in my
stockings, while mother was taking from the bureau a clean suit for
me, and singing "Bonny Doon," with the sweetest voice in the world.
She soon arrayed me in my red calico dress, spotted with yellow stars.
I was proud of its buckram undersleeves, though they scratched my
arms, and admired its wings, which extended over the protecting
"It is three o'clock; the company will come soon. Be careful of your
dress. You must stand by me at the table to hand the cups of tea."
She left me standing in a chair, so that I might see my pantalettes in
the high-hung glass, and the effect of my balloon-like sleeves. Then
I went back to the kitchen to show myself to Temperance, and to enjoy
the progress of tea.
The table was laid in the long keeping-room adjoining the kitchen,
covered with a striped cloth of crimson and blue, smooth as satin to
the touch. Temperance had turned the plates upside-down around the
table, and placed in a straight line through the middle a row of
edibles. She was going to have waffles, she said, and shortcake; they
were all ready to bake, and she wished to the Lord they would come and
have it over with. With the silver sugar-tongs I slyly nipped lumps
of sugar for my private eating, and surveyed my features in the
distorting mirror of the pot-bellied silver teapot, ordinarily laid up
in flannel. When the company had arrived, Temperance advised me to go
in the parlor.
"Sit down, when you get there, and show less," she said. I went in
softly, and stood behind mother's chair, slightly abashed for a moment
in the presence of the party--some eight or ten ladies, dressed
in black levantine, or cinnamon-colored silks, who were seated in
rocking-chairs, all the rocking-chairs in the house having been
carried to the parlor for the occasion. They were knitting, and every
one had a square velvet workbag. Most of them wore lace caps, trimmed
with white satin ribbon. They were larger, more rotund, and older than
mother, whose appearance struck me by contrast. Perhaps it was the
first time I observed her dress; her face I must have studied before,
for I knew all her moods by it. Her long, lusterless, brown hair was
twisted around a high-topped tortoise-shell comb; it was so heavy and
so carelessly twisted that the comb started backward, threatening
to fall out. She had minute rings of filigreed gold in her ears.
Her dress was a gray pongee, simply made and short; I could see her
round-toed morocco shoes, tied with black ribbon. She usually took
out her shoestrings, not liking the trouble of tying them. A ruffle of
fine lace fell around her throat, and the sleeves of her short-waisted
dress were puffed at the shoulders. Her small white hands were folded
in her lap, for she was idle; on the little finger of her left hand
twinkled a brilliant garnet ring, set with diamonds. Her face was
colorless, the forehead extremely low, the nose and mouth finely cut,
the eyes of heavenly blue. Although youth had gone, she was beautiful,
with an indescribable air of individuality. She influenced all who
were near her; her atmosphere enveloped them. She was not aware of it,
being too indifferent to the world to observe what effect she had
in it, and only realized that she was to herself a self-tormentor.
Whether she attracted or repelled, the power was the same. I make no
attempt to analyze her character. I describe her as she appeared,
and as my memory now holds her. I never understood her, and for that
reason she attracted my attention. I felt puzzled now, she seemed
so different from anybody else. My observation was next drawn to
Veronica, who, entirely at home, walked up and down the room in a
blue cambric dress. She was twisting in her fingers a fine gold
chain, which hung from her neck. I caught her cunning glance as she
flourished some tansy leaves before her face, imitating Mrs. Dexter to
the life. I laughed, and she came to me.
"See," she said softly, "I have something from heaven." She lifted her
white apron, and I saw under it, pinned to her dress, a splendid black
butterfly, spotted with red and gold.
"It is mine," she said, "you shall not touch it. God blew it in
through the window; but it has not breathed yet."
"Pooh; I have three mice in the kitchen."
"Where is the mother?"
"In the hayrick, I suppose, I left it there."
"I hate you," she said, in an enraged voice. "I would strike you, if
it wasn't for this holy butterfly."
"Cassandra," said Mrs. Dexter, "does look like her pa; the likeness is
ex-tri-ordinary. They say my William resembles me; but parients are no
A faint murmur rose from the knitters, which signified agreement with
"I do think," she continued, "that it is high time Dr. Snell had a
colleague; he has outlived his usefulness. I never could say that
I thought he was the right kind of man for our congregation; his
principals as a man I have nothing to say against; but _why_ don't we
When Mrs. Dexter wished to be elegant she stepped out of the
vernacular. She was about to speak again when the whole party broke
into a loud talk on the subject she had started, not observing
Temperance, who appeared at the door, and beckoned to mother. I
followed her out.
"The members are goin' it, ain't they?" she said. "Do see if things
are about right, Mis Morgeson." Mother made a few deviations from the
straight lines in which Temperance had ranged the viands, and told her
to put the tea on the tray, and the chairs round the table.
"There's no place for Mr. Morgeson," observed Temperance.
"He is in Milford," mother replied.
"The brethren wont come, I spose, till after dark?"
"I suppose not."
"Glad to get rid of their wives' clack, I guess."
From the silence which followed mother's return to the parlor, I
concluded they were performing the ancient ceremony of waiting for
some one to go through the doorway first. They came at last with an
air of indifference, as if the idea of eating had not yet occurred,
and delayed taking seats till mother urged it; then they drew up to
the table, hastily, turned the plates right-side up, spread large silk
handkerchiefs over their laps, and, with their eyes fixed on space,
preserved a dead silence, which was only broken by mother's inquiries
about their taste in milk or sugar. Temperance came in with plates
of waffles and buttered shortcake, which she offered with a cut and
thrust air, saying, as she did so, "I expect you can't eat them; I
know they are tough."
Everybody, however, accepted both. She then handed round the
preserves, and went out to bake more waffles.
By this time the cups had circled the table, but no one had tasted a
"Do help yourselves," mother entreated, whereat they fell upon the
"Temperance is as good a cook as ever," said one; "she is a prize,
isn't she, Mis Morgeson?"
"She is faithful and industrious," mother replied.
All began at once on the subject of help, and were as suddenly
quenched by the reappearance of Temperance, with fresh waffles, and a
dish of apple-fritters.
"Do eat these if you can, ladies; the apples are only russets, and
they are kinder dead for flavoring. I see you don't eat a mite; I
expected you could not; it's poor trash." And she passed the cake
along, everybody taking a piece of each kind.
After drinking a good many cups of tea, and praising it, their
asceticism gave way to its social effect, and they began to gossip,
ridiculing their neighbors, and occasionally launching innuendoes
against their absent lords. It is well known that when women meet
together they do not discuss their rights, but take them, in revealing
the little weaknesses and peculiarities of their husbands. The worst
wife-driver would be confounded at the air of easy superiority assumed
on these occasions by the meekest and most unsuspicious of her sex.
Insinuations of So and So's not being any better than she should
be passed from mouth to mouth, with a glance at me; and I heard the
proverb of "Little pitchers," when mother rose suddenly from the
table, and led the way to the parlor.
"Where is Veronica?" asked Temperance, who was piling the debris
of the feast. "She has been in mischief, I'll warrant; find her,
She was upstairs putting away her butterfly, in the leaves of her
little Bible. She came down with me, and Temperance coaxed her to eat
her supper, by vowing that she should be sick abed, unless she
liked her fritters and waffles. I thought of my mice, while making
a desultory meal standing, and went to look at them; they were gone.
Wondering if Temperance had thrown the creatures away, I remembered
that I had been foolish enough to tell Veronica, and rushed back to
her. When she saw me, she raised a saucer to her face, pretending to
drink from it.
"Verry, where are the mice?"
"Are they gone?"
"What will you do if I don't?"
"I know," and I flew upstairs, tore the poor butterfly from between
the leaves of the Bible, crushed it in my hand, and brought it down to
her. She did not cry when she saw it, but choked a little, and turned
away her head.
It was now dark, and hearing a bustle in the entry I looked out, and
saw several staid men slowly rubbing their feet on the door-mat; the
husbands had come to escort their wives home, and by nine o'clock they
all went. Veronica and I stayed by the door after they had gone.
"Look at Mrs. Dexter," she said; "I put the mice in her workbag."
I burst into a laugh, which she joined in presently.
"I am sorry about the butterfly, Verry." And I attempted to take her
hand, but she pushed me away, and marched off whistling.
A few days after this, sitting near the window at twilight, intent
upon a picture in a book of travels, of a Hindoo swinging from a high
pole with hooks in his flesh, and trying to imagine how much it
hurt him, my attention was arrested by a mention of my name in a
conversation held between mother and Mr. Park, one of the neighbors.
He occasionally spent an evening at our house, passing it in polemical
discussion, revising the prayers and exhortations which he made at
conference meetings. The good man was a little vain of having the
formulas of his creed at his tongue's end. She sometimes lot these
thread of his discourse, but argued also as if to convince herself
that she could rightly distinguish between Truth and Illusion, but
never discussed religious topics with father. Like all the Morgesons,
he was Orthodox, accepting what had been provided by others for his
spiritual accommodation. He thought it well that existing Institutions
should not be disturbed. "Something worse might be established
instead." His turn of mind, in short, was not Evangelical.
"Are the Hindoos in earnest, mother?" and I thrust the picture before
her. She warned me off.
"Do you think, Mr. Park, that Cassandra can understand the law of
An acute perception that it was in my power to escape a moral penalty,
by willful ignorance, was revealed to me, that I could continue the
privilege of sinning with impunity. His answer was complicated, and
he quoted several passages from the Scriptures. Presently he began to
sing, and I grew lonesome; the life within me seemed a black cave.
"_Our nature's totally depraved--
The heart a sink of sin;
Without a change we can't be saved,
Ye must be born again_."
Temperance opened the door. "Is Veronica going to bed to-night?" she
The next September we moved. Our new house was large and handsome. On
the south side there was nothing between it and the sea, except a few
feet of sand. No tree or shrub intercepted the view. To the eastward a
promontory of rocks jutted into the sea, serving as a pier against
the wash of the tide, and adding a picturesqueness to the curve of the
beach. On the north side flourished an orchard, which was planted by
Grandfather Locke. Looking over the tree-tops from the upper north
windows, one would have had no suspicion of being in the neighborhood
of the sea. From these windows, in winter, we saw the nimbus of the
Northern Light. The darkness of our sky, the stillness of the night,
mysteriously reflected the perpetual condition of its own solitary
world. In summer ragged white clouds rose above the horizon, as if
they had been torn from the sky of an underworld, to sail up the
blue heaven, languish away, or turn livid with thunder, and roll off
seaward. Between the orchard and the house a lawn sloped easterly to
the border of a brook, which straggled behind the outhouses into a
meadow, and finally lost itself among the rocks on the shore. Up by
the lawn a willow hung over it, and its outer bank was fringed by
the tangled wild-grape, sweet-briar, and alder bushes. The premises,
except on the seaside, were enclosed by a high wall of rough granite.
No houses were near us, on either side of the shore; up the north road
they were scattered at intervals.
Mother said I must be considered a young lady, and should have my own
room. Veronica was to have one opposite, divided from it by a wide
passage. This passage extended beyond the angle of the stairway, and
was cut off by a glass door. A wall ran across the lower end of the
passage; half the house was beyond its other side, so that when the
door was fastened, Veronica and myself were in a cul-de-sac.
The establishment was put on a larger footing. Mrs. Hepsey Curtis was
installed mistress of the kitchen. Temperance declared that she could
not stand it; that she wasn't a nigger; that she must go, but she had
no home, and no friends--nothing but a wood lot, which was left her
by her father the miller. As the trees thereon grew, promising to make
timber, its value increased; at present her income was limited to the
profit from the annual sale of a cord or two of wood. So she staid on,
in spite of Hepsey. There were also two men for the garden and stable.
A boy was always attached to the house; not the same boy, but a Boy
dynasty, for as soon as one went another came, who ate a great deal--a
crime in Hepsey's eyes--and whose general duty was to carry armfuls of
wood, pails of milk, or swill, and to shut doors.
We had many visitors. Though father had no time to devote to guests,
he was continually inviting people for us to entertain, and his
invitations were taken as a matter of course, and finally for granted.
A rich Morgeson was a new feature in the family annals, and distant
relations improved the advantage offered them by coming to spend the
summer with us, because their own houses were too hot, or the winter,
because they were too cold! Infirm old ladies, who were not related to
us, but who had nowhere else to visit, came. As his business extended,
our visiting list extended. The captains of his ships whose homes were
elsewhere brought their wives to be inconsolable with us after their
departure on their voyages. We had ministers often, who always quarter
at the best houses, and chance visitors to dinner and supper, who made
our house a way-station. There was but small opportunity to cultivate
family affinities; they were forever disturbed. Somebody was always
sitting in the laps of our Lares and Penates. Another class of
visitors deserving notice were those who preferred to occupy the
kitchen and back chambers, humbly proud and bashfully arrogant people,
who kept their hats and bonnets by them, and small bundles, to delude
themselves and us with the idea that they "had not come to stay, and
had no occasion for any attention." These people criticised us
with insinuating severity, and proposed amendments with unrelenting
affability. To this class Veronica was most attracted--it repelled me;
consequently she was petted, and I was amiably sneered at.
This period of our family life has left small impression of dramatic
interest. There was no development of the sentiments, no betrayal of
the fluctuations of the passions which must have existed. There was
no accident to reveal, no coincidence to surprise us. Hidden among
the Powers That Be, which rule New England, lurks the Deity of the
Illicit. This Deity never obtained sovereignty in the atmosphere
where the Morgesons lived. Instead of the impression which my
after-experience suggests to me to seek, I recall arrivals and
departures, an eternal smell of cookery, a perpetual changing of beds,
and the small talk of vacant minds.
Despite the rigors of Hepsey in the kitchen, and the careful
supervision of Temperance, there was little systematic housekeeping.
Mother had severe turns of planning, and making rules, falling upon
us in whirlwinds of reform, shortly allowing the band of habit to snap
back, and we resumed our former condition. She had no assistance from
father in her ideas of change. It was enough for him to know that he
had built a good house to shelter us, and to order the best that could
be bought for us to eat and to wear. He liked, when he went where
there were fine shops, to buy and bring home handsome shawls, bonnets,
and dresses, wholly unsuited in general to the style and taste of each
of us, but much handsomer than were needful for Surrey. They answered,
however, as patterns for the plainer materials of our neighbors. He
also bought books for us, recommended by their covers, or the opinion
of the bookseller. His failing was to buy an immense quantity of
everything he fancied.
"I shall never have to buy this thing again," he would say; "let us
Veronica and I grew up ignorant of practical or economical ways. We
never saw money, never went shopping. Mother was indifferent in regard
to much of the business of ordinary life which children are taught to
understand. Father and mother both stopped at the same point with us,
but for a different reason; father, because he saw nothing beyond the
material, and mother, because her spiritual insight was confused and
perplexing. But whatever a household may be, the Destinies spin the
web to their will, put of the threads which drop hither and thither,
floating in its atmosphere, white, black, or gray.
From the time we moved, however, we were a stirring, cheerful family,
independent of each other, but spite of our desultory tastes, mutual
habits were formed. When the want of society was felt, we sought the
dining-room, sure of meeting others with the same want. This room was
large and central, connecting with the halls, kitchen, and mother's
room. It was a caravansary where people dropped in and out on
their way to some other place. Our most public moments were during
meal-time. It was known that father was at home at breakfast and
supper, and could be consulted. As he was away at our noonday dinner,
generally we were the least disturbed then, and it was a lawless,
irregular, and unceremonious affair. Mother establisher her arm-chair
here, and a stand for her workbasket. Hepsey and Temperance were at
hand, the men came for orders, and it was convenient for the boy to
transmit the local intelligence it was his vocation to collect. The
windows commanded a view of the sea, the best in the house. This
prospect served mother for exercise. Her eyes roved over it when she
wanted a little out-of-doors life. If she desired more variety, which
was seldom, she went to the kitchen. After we moved she grew averse
to leaving the house, except to go to church. She never quitted the
dining-room after our supper till bedtime, because father rarely came
from Milford, where he went on bank days, and indeed almost every
other day, till late, and she liked to be by him while he ate his
supper and smoked a cigar. All except Veronica frequented this room;
but she was not missed or inquired for. She liked the parlor, because
the piano was there. As soon as father had bought it she astonished us
by a persistent fingering of the keys, which produced a feeble melody.
She soon played all the airs she had heard. When I saw what she could
do, I refused to take music lessons, for while I was trying to
learn "The White Cockade," she pushed me away, played it, and made
variations upon it. I pounded the keys with my fist, by way of a
farewell, and told her she should have the piano for her own.
One winter morning before daylight, Veronica came to my room, and
asked me if I had heard any walking about the house during the night.
She had, and was going to inquire about it. She soon returned with,
"You have a brother. Temperance says my nose is broken. He will be
like you, I suppose, and have everything he asks for. I don't care
for him; but," crying out with passion, "get up. Mother wants to see
_you_, I know."
I dressed quickly, and went downstairs with a feeling of indignation
that such an event should have happened without my knowledge.
There was an unwonted hush. A bright fire was burning on the
dining-room hearth, the lamps were still lighted, and father was by
the fire, smoking in a meditative manner. He put out his hand, which I
did not take, and said, "Do you like his name--Arthur?"
"Yes," I mumbled, as I passed him, and went to the kitchen, where
Hepsey and Temperance were superintending the steeping of certain
aromatic herbs, which stood round the fire in silver porringers and
"Another Morgeson's come," said Temperance. "There's enough of them,
such as they are--not but what they are good enough," correcting
"Go into your mother's room, softly," said Hepsey, rubbing her fingers
against her thumb--her habit when she was in a tranquil frame of mind.
"_You_ are mighty glad, Hepsey," said Temperance.
"Locke Morgeson ought to have a son," she replied, "to leave his money
"I vow," answered Temperance, "girls are thought nothing of in this
'ligous section; they may go to the poor house, as long as the sons
An uncommon fit or shyness seized me, mixed with a feeling of dread,
as I crept into the room where mother was. My eyes first fell upon
an elderly woman, who wore a long, wide, black apron, whose strings
girded the middle of her cushion-like form. She was taking snuff. It
was the widow Mehitable Allen, a lady whom I had often seen in other
houses on similar occasions.
"Shoo," she whispered nasally.
I was arrested, but turned my eyes toward mother; hers were closed.
Presently she murmured, "Thank God," opened them, and saw me. A smile
lighted her pale countenance. "Cassy, my darling, kiss me. I am glad
it is not a woman." As I returned her kiss her glance dropped on a
small bunch by her side, which Mehitable took and deftly unrolled,
informing me as she did so that it was a "Rouser."
Aunt Mercy came the next day. She had not paid us a visit in a long
time, being confined at home with the care of her father, Grandfather
Warren. She took charge of Veronica and me, if taking charge means
a series of guerilla skirmishes on both sides. I soon discovered,
however, that she was prone to laughter, and that I could provoke
it; we got on better after that discovery; but Veronica, disdaining
artifice, was very cross with her. Aunt Mercy had a spark of fun in
her composition, which was not quite crushed out by her religious
education. She frequented the church oftener than mother, sang more
hymns, attended all the anniversary celebrations, but she had no
dreams, no enthusiasm. Her religion had leveled all needs and all
aspirations. What the day brought forth answered her. She inspired me
with a secret pity; for I knew she carried in her bosom the knowledge
that she was an old maid.
Before mother left her room Veronica was taken ill, and was not
convalescent till spring. Delicacy of constitution the doctor called
her disorder. She had no strength, no appetite, and looked more elfish
than ever. She would not stay in bed, and could not sit up, so father
had a chair made for her, in which she could recline comfortably. Aunt
Merce put her in it every morning, and took her out every evening. My
presence irritated her, so I visited her but seldom. She said I looked
so well, it hurt her, and wished me to keep out of her sight, begged
me never to talk loud in the vicinity of her room, my voice was
so breezy. She amused herself in her own strange way. One of her
amusements was to cut off her hair, lock by lock, and cut it short
before she was well enough to walk about. She played on a jewsharp,
and on a little fife when her breath permitted, and invented grotesque
costumes out of bits of silk and lace. Temperance was much engaged,
at her dictation, in the composition of elaborate dishes, which she
rarely ate, but forced Temperance to. She was more patient with her
than any other person; with us she was excessively high-tempered,
especially with father. She could not bear to catch a glimpse of the
sea, nor to hear it; if she heard it echoing in the house, she played
on her fife, or jewsharp, or asked Aunt Merce to sing some old song.
But she liked the view from the north windows, even when the boughs
were bare and the fields barren. When the grass came, she ordered
handfuls to be brought her and put in saucers of water. With the
coming of the blossoms she began to mend. As for me, I was as much an
animal as ever--robust in health--inattentive, and seeking excitement
and exhilaration. I went everywhere, to Bible class, to Sunday school,
and to every funeral which took place within our precincts. But I
never looked upon the dead; perhaps that sight would have marred the
slumbrous security which possessed me--the instinctive faith in the
durability of my own powers of life.
But a change was approaching. Aunt Merce considered my present state a
hopeless one. She was outside the orbit of the family planet, and saw
the tendency of its revolutions, perceiving that father and mother
were absorbed in their individual affairs. She called mother's
attention to my non-improvement, and proposed that I should return
to Barmouth with her for a year, and become a pupil in a young lady's
school, which had been recently established there, by a graduate of
the Nipswich Female Seminary, a school distinguished for its ethics.
Mother looked astonished, when she heard this proposal. "What!" she
began with vehemence, "shall I subject"--but checked herself when she
caught my eye, and continued more calmly: "We will decide soon."
It was decided that I should go, without my being consulted in the
matter. I felt resentful against mother, and could not understand
till afterward, why she had consented to the plan. It was because she
wished me to comprehend the influences of her early life, and learn
some of the lessons she had been taught. At first, father "poohed"
at the plan, but finally said it was a good place to tame me. When
Veronica heard that I was going, she told me that I would be stifled,
if I lived at Grandfather Warren's; but added that the plums in his
garden were good, and advised me to sit on the yellow stone doorstep,
under which the toads lived. She also informed me that she was glad of
it, and hoped I would stay forever.
To Barmouth I went, and in May entered Miss Black's genteel school.
Miss Black had a conviction that her vocation was teaching. Necessity
did not compel it, for she was connected with one of the richest
families in Barmouth. At the end of the week my curiosity regarding my
new position was quenched, and I dropped into the depths of my first
wretchedness. I frantically demanded of father, who had stopped to
see me on his way to Milford, to be taken home. He firmly resisted me.
Once a month, I should go home and spend a Sunday, if I chose, and he
would come to Barmouth every week.
My agitation and despair clouded his face for a moment, then it
cleared, and pinching my chin, he said, "Why don't you look like your
"But she _is_ like her mother," said Aunt Merce.
"Well, Cassy, good-by"; and he gave me a kiss with cruel nonchalance.
I knew my year must be stayed out.
My life at Grandfather Warren's was one kind of penance and my life
in Miss Black's school another. Both differed from our home-life.
My filaments found no nourishment, creeping between the two; but
the fibers of youth are strong, and they do not perish. Grandfather
Warren's house reminded me of the casket which imprisoned the Genii.
I had let loose a Presence I had no power over--the embodiment of its
gloom, its sternness, and its silence.
With feeling comes observation; after that, one reasons. I began to
observe. Aunt Mercy was not the Aunt Merce I had known at home. She
wore a mask before her father. There was constraint between them;
each repressed the other. The result of this relation was a formal,
petrifying, unyielding system,--a system which, from the fact of its
satisfying neither, was kept up the more rigidly; on the one side
from a morbid conscience, which reiterated its monitions against
the dictates of the natural heart; on the other, out of respect and
Grandfather Warren was a little, lean, leather-colored man. His head
was habitually bent, his eyes cast down; but when he raised them to
peer about, their sharpness and clear intelligence gave his face
a wonderful vitality. He chafed his small, well-shaped hands
continually; his long polished nails clicked together with a shelly
noise, like that which beetles make flying against the ceiling. His
features were delicate and handsome; gentle blood ran in his veins,
as I have said. All classes in Barmouth treated him with invariable
courtesy. He was aboriginal in character, not to be moved by
antecedent or changed by innovation--a Puritan, without gentleness or
tenderness. He scarcely concealed his contempt for the emollients
of life, or for those who needed them. He whined over no misfortune,
pined for no pleasure. His two sons, who broke loose from him, went
into the world, lived a wild, merry life, and died there, he never
named. He found his wife dead by his side one morning. He did not go
frantic, but selected a text for the funeral sermon; and when he stood
by the uncovered grave, took off his hat and thanked his friends for
their kindness with a loud, steady voice. Aunt Mercy told me that
after her mother's death his habit of chafing his hands commenced;
it was all the difference she saw in him, for he never spoke of his
trouble or acknowledged his grief by sign or word.
Though he had been frugal and industrious all his life, he had no more
property than the old, rambling house we lived in, and a long, narrow
garden attached to it, where there were a few plum and quince trees, a
row of currant bushes, Aunt Mercy's beds of chamomile and sage, and a
few flowers. At the end of the garden was a peaked-roof pigsty; it
was cleanly kept, and its inhabitant had his meals served with the
regularity which characterized all that Grandfather Warren did.
Beautiful pigeons lived in the roof, and were on friendly terms with
the occupant on the lower floor. The house was not unpicturesque. It
was built on a corner, facing two streets. One front was a story high,
with a slanting roof; the other, which was two-storied, sloped like
a giraffe's back, down to a wood-shed. Clean cobwebs hung from its
rafters, and neat heaps of fragrant chips were piled on the floor.
The house had many rooms, all more or less dark and irregularly
shaped. The construction of the chambers was so involved, I could
not get out of one without going into another. Some of the ceilings
slanted suddenly, and some so gradually that where I could stand
erect, and where I must stoop, I never remembered, until my head
was unpleasantly grazed, or my eyes filled with flakes of ancient
lime-dust. A long chamber in the middle of the house was the shop,
always smelling of woolen shreds. At sunset, summer or winter, Aunt
Mercy sprinkled water on the unpainted floor, and swept it. While she
swept I made my thumb sore, by snipping the bits of cloth that were
scattered on the long counter by the window with Grand'ther's shears,
or I scrawled figures with gray chalk, where I thought they might
catch his eye. When she had finished sweeping she carefully sorted
the scraps, and put them into boxes under the counter; then she neatly
rolled up the brown-paper curtains, which had been let down to
exclude the afternoon sun; shook the old patchwork cushions in the
osier-bottomed chairs; watered the rose-geranium and the monthly rose,
which flourished wonderfully in that fluffy atmosphere; set every pin
and needle in its place, and shut the door, which was opened again at
sunrise. Of late years, Grand'ther's occupation had declined. No new
customers came. A few, who did not change the fashion of their garb,
still patronized him. His income was barely three hundred dollars a
year--eked out to this amount by some small pay for offices connected
with the church, of which he was a prominent member. From this income
he paid his pulpit tithe, gave to the poor, and lived independent and
respectable. Mother endeavored in an unobtrusive way to add to his
comfort; but he would only accept a few herrings from the Surrey
Weir every spring, and a basket of apples every fall. He invariably
returned her presents by giving her a share of his plums and quinces.
I had only seen Grand'ther Warren at odd intervals. He rarely came
to our house; when he did, he rode down on the top of the Barmouth
stagecoach, returning in a few hours. As mother never liked to go to
Barmouth, she seldom came to see me.
It was five o'clock on Saturday afternoon when father left me. Aunt
Mercy continued her preparations for tea, and when it was ready, went
to the foot of the stairs, and called, "Supper." Grand'ther came down
immediately followed by two tall, cadaverous women, Ruth and Sally
Aikin, tailoresses, who sewed for him spring and fall. Living several
miles from Barmouth, they stayed through the week, going home on
Saturday night, to return on Monday morning. We stood behind the heavy
oak chairs round the table, one of which Grand'ther tipped backward,
and said a long grace, not a word of which was heard; for his teeth
were gone, and he prayed in his throat. Aunt Mercy's "Moltee" rubbed
against me, with her back and tail erect. I pinched the latter, and
she gave a wail. Aunt Mercy passed her hand across her mouth, but the
eyes of the two women were stony in their sockets. Grand'ther ended
his grace with an upward jerk of his head as we seated ourselves.
He looked sharply at me, his gray eyebrows rising hair by hair,
and shaking a spoon at me said, "You are playing over your mother's
"The caper-bush grows on the shores of the Mediterranean sea,
Grand'ther. Miss Black had it for a theme, out of the _Penny
Magazine_; it is full of themes."
"She had better give you a gospel theme."
He was as inarticulate when he quoted Scripture as when he prayed, but
I heard something about "thorns"; then he helped us to baked Indian
pudding--our invariable Saturday night's repast. Aunt Mercy passed
cups of tea; I heard the gulping swallow of it in every throat, the
silence was so profound. After the pudding we had dried apple-pie,
which we ate from our hands, like bread. Grand'ther ate fast, not
troubling himself to ask us if we would have more, but making the
necessary motions to that effect by touching the spoon in the pudding
or knife on the pie. Ruth and Sally still kept their eyes fixed on
some invisible object at a distance. What a disagreeable interest I
felt in them! What had they in common with me? What could they enjoy?
How unpleasant their dingy, crumbled, needle-pricked fingers were!
Sally hiccoughed, and Ruth suffered from internal rumblings. Without
waiting for each other when we had finished, we put our chairs against
the wall and left the room. I rushed into the garden and trampled the
chamomile bed. I had heard that it grew faster for being subjected
to that process, and thought of the two women I had just seen while I
crushed the spongy plants. Had _they_ been trampled upon? A feeling
of pity stung me; I ran into the house, and found them on the point of
departure, with little bundles in their hands.
"Aunt Mercy will let me carry your bundles a part of the way for you;
"No, indeed," said Ruth, in a mild voice; "there's no heft in them;
they are mites to carry."
"Besides," chimed Sally, "you couldn't be trusted with them."
"Are they worth anything?" I inquired, noticing then that both wore
better dresses, and that the bundles contained their shop-gowns.
"What made you pinch the moltee's tail?" asked Sally. "If you pinched
my cat's tail, I would give you a sound whipping."
"How could she, Sally," said Ruth, "when our cat's tail is cut short
"For all the world," remarked Sally, "that's the only way she can
be managed. If things are cut off, and kept out of sight, or never
mentioned before her, she may behave very well; not otherwise."
"Good-by, Miss Ruth, and Sally, good-by," modulating my voice to
accents of grief, and making a "cheese."
They retreated with a less staid pace than usual, and I sought Aunt
Mercy, who was preparing the Sunday's dinner. Twilight drew near, and
the Sunday's clouds began to fall on my spirits. Between sundown and
nine o'clock was a tedious interval. I was not allowed to go to bed,
nor to read a secular book, or to amuse myself with anything. A dim
oil-lamp burned on the high shelf of the middle room, our ordinary
gathering-place. Aunt Mercy sat there, rocking in a low chair; the
doors were open, and I wandered softly about. The smell of the
garden herbs came in faintly, and now and then I heard a noise in
the water-butt under the spout, the snapping of an old rafter, or
something falling behind the wall. The toads crawled from under the
plantain leaves, and hopped across the broad stone before the kitchen
door, and the irreverent cat, with whom I sympathized, raced like mad
in the grass. Growing duller, I went to the cellar door, which was in
the front entry, opened it, and stared down in the black gulf, till
I saw a gray rock rise at the foot of the stairs which affected my
imagination. The foundation of the house was on the spurs of a great
granite bed, which rose from the Surrey shores, dipped and cropped
out in the center of Barmouth. It came through the ground again in the
woodhouse, smooth and round, like the bald head of some old Titan, and
in the border of the garden it burst through in narrow ridges full
of seams. As I contemplated the rock, and inhaled a moldy atmosphere
whose component parts were charcoal and potatoes, I heard the first
stroke of the nine o'clock bell, which hung in the belfry of the
church across the street. Although it was so near us that we could
hear the bellrope whistle in its grooves, and its last hoarse breath
in the belfry, there was no reverberation of its clang in the house;
the rock under us struck back its voice. It was an old Spanish bell,
Aunt Mercy told me. How it reached Barmouth she did not know. I
recognized its complaining voice afterward. It told me it could never
forget it had been baptized a Catholic; and it pined for the beggar
who rang it in the land of fan-leaved chestnuts! It would growl and
strangle as much as possible in the hands of Benjamin Beals, the
bell-ringer and coffin-maker of Barmouth. Except in the morning when
it called me up, I was glad to hear it. It was the signal of time
past; the oftener I heard it, the nearer I was to the end of my year.
Before it ceased to ring now Aunt Mercy called me in a low voice. I
returned to the middle room, and took a seat in one of the oak chairs,
whose back of upright rods was my nightly penance. Aunt Mercy took the
lamp from the shelf, and placed it upon a small oak stand, where
the Bible lay. Grand'ther entered, and sitting by the stand read a
chapter. His voice was like opium. Presently my head rolled across the
rods, and I felt conscious of slipping down the glassy seat. After
he had read the chapter he prayed. If the chapter had been long, the
prayer was short; if the chapter had been short, the prayer was long.
When he had ceased praying, he left the room without speaking, and
betook himself to bed. Aunt Mercy dragged me up the steep stairs,
undressed me, and I crept into bed, drugged with a monotony which
served but to deepen the sleep of youth and health. When the bell rang
the next morning, Aunt Mercy gave me a preparatory shake before she
began to dress, and while she walked up and down the room lacing her
stays entreated me to get up.
If the word lively could ever be used in reference to our life, it
might be in regard to Sunday. The well was so near the church that the
house was used as an inn for the accommodation of the church-goers who
lived at any distance, and who did not return home between the morning
and afternoon services. A regular set took dinner with us, and
there were parties who brought lunch, which they ate off their
handkerchiefs, on their knees. It was also a watering-place for the
Sunday-school scholars, who filed in troops before the pail in the
well-room, and drank from the cocoanut dipper. When the weather was
warm our parlor was open, as it was to-day. Aunt Mercy had dusted it
and ornamented the hearth with bunches of lilacs in a broken pitcher.
Twelve yellow chairs, a mahogany stand, a dark rag-carpet, some
speckled Pacific sea-shells on the shelf, among which stood a whale's
tooth with a drawing of a cranky ship thereon, and an ostrich's egg
that hung by a string from the ceiling, were the adornments of the
room. When we were dressed for church, we looked out of the window
till the bell tolled, and the chaise of the Baxters and Sawyers had
driven to the gate; then we went ourselves. Grand'ther had preceded
us, and was already in his seat. Aunt Mercy went up to the head of the
pew, a little out of breath, from the tightness of her dress, and the
ordeal of the Baxter and Sawyer eyes, for the pew, though off a side
aisle, was in the neighborhood of the elite of the church; a clove,
however, tranquilized her. I fixed my feet on a cricket, and examined
the bonnets. The house filled rapidly, and last of all the minister
entered. The singers began an anthem, singing in an advanced style of
the art, I observed, for they shouted "_Armen_," while our singers in
Surrey bellowed "_Amen_." When the sermon began I settled myself
into a vague speculation concerning my future days of freedom; but my
dreams were disturbed by the conduct of the Hickspold boys, who were
in a pew in front of us. As in the morning, so in the afternoon and
all the Sundays in the year. The variations of the season served but
to deepen the uniformity of my heartsickness.
Aunt Mercy had not introduced me to Miss Black as the daughter of
Locke Morgeson, the richest man in Surrey, but simply as her niece.
Her pride prevented her from making any exhibition of my antecedents,
which was wise, considering that I had none. My grandfather,
John Morgeson, was a nobody,--merely a "Co."; and though my
great-grandfather, Locke Morgeson, was worthy to be called a Somebody,
it was not his destiny to make a stir in the world. Many of the
families of my Barmouth schoolmates had the fulcrum of a moneyed
grandfather. The knowledge of the girls did not extend to that period
in the family history when its patriarchs started in the pursuit of
Gain. Elmira Sawyer, one of Miss Black's pupils, never heard that her
grandfather "Black Peter," as he was called, had made excursions,
in an earlier part of his life, on the River Congo, or that he was
familiar with the soundings of Loango Bay. As he returned from his
voyages, bringing more and more money, he enlarged his estate, and
grew more and more respectable, retiring at last from the sea, to
become a worthy landsman; he paid taxes to church and state, and
even had a silver communion cup, among the pewter service used on
the occasion of the Lord's Supper; but he never was brought to
the approval of that project of the Congregational Churches,--the
colonization of the Blacks to Liberia. Neither was Hersila Allen aware
that the pink calico in which I first saw her was remotely owing to
West India Rum. Nor did Charlotte Alden, the proudest girl in school,
know that her grandfather's, Squire Alden's, stepping-stone to
fortune was the loss of the brig _Capricorn_, which was wrecked in
the vicinity of a comfortable port, on her passage out to the
whaling-ground. An auger had been added to the meager outfit, and long
after the sea had leaked through the hole bored through her bottom,
and swallowed her, and the insurance had been paid, the truth leaked
out that the captain had received instructions, which had been
fulfilled. Whereupon two Insurance Companies went to law with him, and
a suit ensued, which ended in their paying costs, in addition to what
they had before paid Squire Alden, who winked in a derisive manner at
the Board of Directors when he received its check.
There were others who belonged in the category of Decayed Families,
as exclusive as they were shabby. There were parvenus, which included
myself. When I entered the school it was divided into clans, each
with its spites, jealousies, and emulations. Its _esprit de corps_,
however, was developed by my arrival; the girls united against me, and
though I perceived, when I compared myself with them, that they were
partly right in their opinions, their ridicule stupefied and crushed
me. They were trained, intelligent, and adroit; I uncouth, ignorant,
and without tact. It was impossible for Miss Black not to be affected
by the general feeling in regard to me. Her pupils knew sooner than I
that she sympathized with them. She embarrassed me, when I should have
despised her. At first her regimen surprised, then filled me with a
dumb, clouded anger, which made me appear apathetic.
Miss Emily Black was a young woman, and, I thought, a handsome one.
She had crenelated black hair, large black eyes, a Roman nose,
and long white teeth. She bit her nails when annoyed, and when her
superiority made her perceive the mental darkness of others she often
laughed. Being pious, she conducted her school after the theologic
pattern of the Nipswich Seminary, at which she had been educated.
She opened the school each day with a religious exercise, reading
something from the Bible, and commenting upon it, or questioning us
regarding our ideas of what she read. She often selected the character
of David, and was persistent in her efforts to explain and reconcile
the discrepancies in the history of the royal Son of Israel.
"Miss _C._ Morgeson, we will call you," she said, in our first
interview; "the name of Cassandra is too peculiar."
"My Grandfather Locke liked the name; my sister's is Veronica; do you
like that better?"
"It is of no consequence in the premises what your sister may be
named," she replied, running her eyes over me. "What will she study,
Aunt Mercy's recollections of my studies were dim, and her knowledge
of my school days was not calculated to prepossess a teacher in my
favor; but after a moment's delay, she said: "What you think best."
"Very well," she answered; "I will endeavor to fulfill my Christian
duty toward her. We will return to the school-room."
We had held the conversation in the porch, and now Aunt Mercy gave me
a nod of encouragement, and bidding Miss Black "Good day," departed,
looking behind her as long as possible. I followed my teacher. As she
opened the door forty eyes were leveled at me; my hands were in my way
suddenly; my feet impeded my progress; how could I pass that wall of
eyes? A wisp of my dry, rough hair fell on my neck and tickled it; as
I tried to poke it under my comb, I glanced at the faces before me.
How spirited and delicate they were! The creatures had their heads
dressed as if they were at a party--in curls, or braids and ribbons.
An open, blank, _noli me tangere_ expression met my perturbed glance.
I stood still, but my head went round. Miss Black mounted her desk,
and surveyed the school-room. "Miss Charlotte Alden, the desk next you
is vacant; Miss C. Morgeson, the new pupil, may take it."
Miss Charlotte answered, "Yes mim," and ostentatiously swept away an
accumulation of pencils, sponges, papers, and books, to make room for
me. I took the seat, previously stumbling against her, whereat all
the girls, whose regards were fixed upon me, smiled. That was my
The first day I was left to myself, to make studies. The school-room
was in the vestry of the church, a building near grand'ther's house.
Each girl had a desk before her. Miss Black occupied a high stool in
a square box, where she heard single recitations, or lectured a pupil.
The vestry yard, where the girls romped, and exercised with skipping
ropes, a swing, and a set of tilting-boards, commanded a view of
grand'ther's premises; his street windows were exposed to the fire of
their eyes and tongues.
After I went home I examined myself in the glass, and drew an
unfavorable conclusion from the inspection. My hair was parted zigzag;
one shoulder was higher than the other; my dress came up to my chin,
and slipped down to my shoulder-blades. I was all waist; no hips were
developed my hands were red, and my nails chipped. I opened the trunk
where my wardrobe was packed; what belonged to me was comfortable,
in reference to weather and the wash, but not pretty. I found a
molasses-colored silk, called Turk satin--one of mother's old dresses,
made over for me, or an invidious selection of hers from the purchases
of father, who sometimes made a mistake in taste, owing to the
misrepresentations of shopkeepers and milliners. While thus engaged
Aunt Mercy came for me, and began to scold when she saw that I had
tumbled my clothes out of the trunk.
"Aunt Mercy, these things are horrid, all of them. Look at this
shawl," and I unrolled a square silk fabric, the color of a sick
orange. "Where did this come from?"
"Saints upon earth!" she exclaimed, "your father bought it at the best
store in New York. It was costly."
"Now tell me, why do the pantalettes of those girls look so graceful?
They do not twirl round the ankle like a rope, as mine do."
"I can't say," she answered, with a sigh. "But you ought to wear long
dresses; now yours are tucked, and could be let down."
"And these red prunella boots--they look like boiled crabs." I put
them on, and walked round the room crab-fashion, till she laughed
hysterically. "Miss Charlotte Alden wears French kid slippers every
day, and I must wear mine."
"No," she said, "you must only wear them to church."
"I shall talk to father about that, when he comes here next."
"Cassy, did Charlotte Alden speak to you to-day?"
"No; but she made an acquaintance by stares."
"Well, never mind her if she says anything unpleasant to you; the
Aldens are a high set."
"Are they higher than we are in Surrey? Have they heard of my father,
who is equal to the President?"
"We are all equal in the sight of God."
"You do not look as if you thought so, Aunt Mercy. Why do you say
things in Barmouth you never said in Surrey?"
"Come downstairs, Cassandra, and help me finish the dishes."
Our conversation was ended; but I still had my thoughts on the clothes
question, and revolved my plans.
After the morning exercises the next day, Miss Black called me in to
her desk. "I think," she said, "you had better study Geology. It is
important, for it will lead your mind up from nature to nature's
God. My young ladies have finished their studies in that direction;
therefore you will recite alone, once a day."
"Yes 'em," I replied; but it was the first time that I had heard of
Geology. The compendium she gave me must have been dull and dry. I
could not get its lessons perfectly. It never inspired me with any
interest for land or sea. I could not associate any of its terms, or
descriptions, with the great rock under grand'ther's house. It was
not for Miss Black to open the nodules of my understanding, with her
hammer of instruction. She proposed Botany also. The young ladies made
botanical excursions to the fields and woods outside Barmouth; I
might as well join the class at once. It was now in the family of the
Legumes. I accompanied the class on one excursion. Not a soul appeared
to know that I was present, and I declined going again. Composition
I must write once a month. A few more details closed the interview. I
mentioned in it that father desired me to study arithmetic. Miss Black
placed me in a class; but her interests were in the higher and more
elegant branches of education. I made no more advance in the humble
walks of learning than in those adorned by the dissection of flowers,
the disruption of rocks, or the graces of composition. Though I
entered upon my duties under protest, I soon became accustomed to
their routine, and the rest of my life seemed more like a dream of the
future than a realization of the present. I refused to go home at the
end of the month. I preferred waiting, I said, to the end of the year.
I was not urged to change my mind; neither was I applauded for my
resolution. The day that I could have gone home, I asked father to
drive me to Milford, on the opposite side of the river which ran by
Barmouth. I shut my eyes tight, when the horse struck the boards of
the long wooden bridge between the towns, and opened them when we
stopped at an inn by the water side of Milford. Father took me into a
parlor, where sat a handsome, fat woman, hemming towels.
"Is that you, Morgeson?" she said. "Is this your daughter?"
"Yes; can I leave her with you, while I go to the bank? She has not
been here before."
"Lord ha' mercy on us; you clip her wings, don't you? Come here,
child, and let me pull off your pelisse."
I went to her with a haughty air; it did not please me to hear my
father called "Morgeson," by a person unknown to me. She understood my
expression, and looked up at father; they both smiled, and I was vexed
with him for his unwarrantable familiarity. Pinching my cheek with her
fat fingers, which were covered with red and green rings, she said,
"We shall do very well together. What a pretty silk pelisse, and
silver buckles, too."
After father went out, and my bonnet was disposed of, Mrs. Tabor gave
me a huge piece of delicious sponge-cake, which softened me somewhat.
"What is your name, dear?"
"It is easy to see that."
"Oh, what a lovely name," and she drew from her workbasket a
paper-covered book; "there is no name in this novel half so pretty; I
wish the heroine's name had been Cassandra instead of Aldebrante."
"Let me see it," I begged.
"There is a horrid monk in it"; but she gave it to me, and was
presently called out. I devoured its pages, and for the only time in
that year of Barmouth life, I forgot my own wants and woes. She saw
my interest in the book when she came back, and coaxed it from me,
offering me more cake, which I accepted. She told me that she had
known father for years, and that he kept his horse at the inn stables,
and dined with her. "But I never knew that he had a daughter," she
continued. "Are you the only child?"
"I have a sister," and after a moment remembered that I had a brother,
too; but did not think it a fact necessary to mention.
"I have no children."
"But you have novels to read."
She laughed, and by the time father returned we were quite chatty.
After dinner I asked him to go to some shops with me. He took me to a
jeweler's, and without consulting me bought an immense mosaic brooch,
with a ruined castle on it, and a pretty ring with a gold stone.
"Is there anything more?" he asked, "you would like?"
"Yes, I want a pink calico dress."
"Because the girls at Miss Black's wear pink calico."
"Why not get a pink silk?"
"I must have a pink French calico, with a three-cornered white cloud
on it; it is the fashion."
"The fashion!" he echoed with contempt. But the dress was bought, and
we went back to Barmouth.
When I appeared in school with my new brooch and ring the girls
crowded round me.
"What does that pin represent, whose estate?" inquired one, with envy
in her voice.
"Don't the ring make the blood rush into your hand?" asked another;
"it looks so."
"Does it?" I answered; "I'll hold up my hand in the air, as you do, to
make it white."
"What is your father's business?" asked Elmira Sawyer, "is he a
Her insolence made my head swim; but I did not reply. When recess was
over a few minutes afterward, I cried under the lid of my desk. These
girls overpowered me, for I could not conciliate them, and had no idea
of revenge, believing that their ridicule was deserved. But I thought
I should like to prove myself respectable. How could I? Grand'ther
_was_ a tailor, and I could not demean myself by assuring them that my
father was a gentleman.
In the course of a month Aunt Mercy had my pink calico made up by
the best dressmaker in Barmouth. When I put it on I thought I looked
better than I ever had before, and went into school triumphantly
with it. The girls surveyed me in silence; but criticised me. At last
Charlotte Alden asked me in a whisper if old Mr. Warren made my dress.
She wrote on a piece of paper, in large letters--"Girls, don't let's
wear our pink calicoes again," and pushing it over to Elmira Sawyer,
made signs that the paper should be passed to all the girls. They read
it, and turning to Charlotte Alden nodded. I watched the paper as
it made its round, and saw Mary Bennett drop it on the floor with a
It was a rainy day, and we passed the recess indoors. I remained
quiet, looking over my lesson. "The first period ends with the
carboniferous system; the second includes the saliferous and magnesian
systems; the third comprises the oolitic and chalk systems; the
fourth--" "How attentive some people are to their lessons," I heard
Charlotte Alden say. Looking up, I saw her near me with Elmira Sawyer.
"What is that you say?" I asked sharply.
"I am not speaking to you."
"I am angry," I said in a low tone, and rising, "and have borne
"Who are _you_ that you should be angry? We have heard about your
mother, when she was in love, poor thing."
I struck her so violent a blow in the face that she staggered
backward. "You are a liar," I said, "and you must let me alone."
Elmira Sawyer turned white, and moved away. I threw my book at her; it
hit her head, and her comb was broken by my geological systems. There
was a stir; Miss Black hurried from her desk, saying, "Young ladies,
what does this mean? Miss C. Morgeson, your temper equals your
vulgarity, I find. Take your seat in my desk."
I obeyed her, and as we passed Mary Bennett's desk, where I saw the
paper fall, I picked it up. "See the good manners of your favorite,
Miss Black; read it." She bit her lips as she glanced over it, turned
back as if to speak to Charlotte Alden, looked at me again, and went
on: "Sit down, Miss C. Morgeson, and reflect on the blow you have
given. Will you ask pardon?"
"I will not; you know that."
"I have never resorted to severe punishment yet; but I fear I shall be
obliged to in your case."
"Let me go from here." I clenched my hands, and tried to get up. She
held me down on the seat, and we looked close in each other's eyes.
"You are a bad girl." "And you are a bad woman," I replied; "mean and
cruel." She made a motion to strike me, but her hand dropped; I felt
my nostrils quiver strangely. "For shame," she said, in a tremulous
voice, and turned away. I sat on the bench at the back of the desk,
heartily tired, till school was dismissed; as Charlotte Alden passed
out, courtesying, Miss Black said she hoped she would extend a
Christian forgiveness to Miss C. Morgeson, for her unladylike
behavior. "Miss C. Morgeson is a peculiar case."
She gave her a meaning look, which was not lost upon me. Charlotte
answered, "Certainly," and bowed to me gracefully, whereat I felt a
fresh sense of my demerits, and concluded that I was worsted in the
Miss Black asked no explanation of the affair; it was dropped, and
none of the girls alluded to it by hint or look afterward. When I told
Aunt Mercy of it, she turned pale, and said she knew what Charlotte
Alden meant, and that perhaps mother would tell me in good time.
"We had a good many troubles in our young days, Cassy."
The atmosphere of my two lives was so different, that when I passed
into one, the other ceased to affect me. I forgot all that I suffered
and hated at Miss Black's, as soon as I crossed the threshold, and
entered grand'ther's house. The difference kept up a healthy mean;
either alone would perhaps have been more than I could then have
sustained. All that year my life was narrowed to that house, my
school, and the church. Father offered to take me to ride, when
he came to Barmouth, or carry me to Milford; but the motion of the
carriage, and the conveying power of the horse, created such a fearful
and realizing sense of escape, that I gave up riding with him. Aunt
Mercy seldom left home; my schoolmates did not invite me to visit
them; the seashore was too distant for me to ramble there; the
storehouses and wharves by the river-side offered no agreeable
saunterings; and the street, in Aunt Mercy's estimation, was not the
place for an idle promenade. My exercise, therefore, was confined
to the garden--a pleasant spot, now that midsummer had come, and
inhabited with winged and crawling creatures, with whom I claimed
companionship, especially with the red, furry caterpillars, that have,
alas, nearly passed away, and given place to a variegated, fantastic
tribe, which gentleman farmers are fond of writing about.
Mother rode over to Barmouth occasionally, but seemed more glad when
she went away than when she came. Veronica came with her once, but
said she would come no more while I was there. She too would wait till
the end of the year, for I spoiled the place. She said this so calmly
that I never thought of being offended by it. I told her the episode
of the pink calico. "It is a lovely color," she said, when I showed it
to her. "If you like, I will take it home and burn it."
As I developed the dramatic part of my story--the blow given Charlotte
Alden, Verry rubbed her face shrinkingly, as if she had felt the blow.
"Let me see your hand," she asked; "did I ever strike anybody?"
"You threw a pail of salt downstairs, once, upon my head, and put out
"I wish, when you are home, you would pound Mr. Park; he talks too
much about the Resurrection. And," she added mysteriously, "he likes
"Likes mother!" I said aghast.
"He watches her so when she holds Arthur! Why do you stare at me? Why
do I talk to you? I am going. Now mind, I shall never leave home to go
to any school; I shall know enough without."
While Veronica was holding this placable talk with me, I discovered in
her the high-bred air, the absence of which I deplored in myself.
How cool and unimpressionable she looked! She did not attract me then.
My mind wandered to what I had heard Mary Bennett say, in recess one
day, that her brother had seen me in church, and came home with the
opinion that I was the handsomest girl in Miss Black's school.
"Is it possible!" replied the girl to whom she had made the remark. "I
never should think of calling her pretty."
"Stop, Veronica," I called; "am I pretty?" She turned back. "Everybody
in Surrey says so; and everybody says I am not." And she banged the
door against me.
She did not come to Barmouth again. She was ill in the winter, and,
father told me, queerer than ever, and more trouble. The summer
passed, and I had no particular torment, except Miss Black's reference
to composition. I could not do justice to the themes she gave us, not
having the books from which she took them at command, and betrayed
an ignorance which excited her utmost contempt, on "The Scenery of
Singapore," "The Habits of the Hottentots," and "The Relative Merits
of Homer and Virgil."
In October Sally and Ruth Aiken came for the fall sewing. They had
farmed it all summer, they said, and were tanned so deep a hue that
their faces bore no small resemblance to ham. Ruth brought me some
apples in an ochre-colored bag, and Sally eyed me with her old
severity. As they took their accustomed seats at the table, I thought
they had swallowed the interval of time which had gone by since they
left, so precisely the same was the moment of their leaving and that
of their coming back. I knew grand'ther no better than when I saw him
first. He was sociable to those who visited the house, but never with
those abiding in his family. Me he never noticed, except when I ate
less than usual; then he peered into my face, and said, "What ails
you?" We had the benefit of his taciturn presence continually, for he
rarely went out; and although he did not interfere with Aunt Mercy's
work, he supervised it, weighed and measured every article that was
used, and kept the cellar and garden in perfect order.
It was approaching the season of killing the pig, and he conferred
often with Aunt Mercy on the subject. The weather was watched, and the
pig poked daily, in the hope that the fat was thickening on his ribs.
When the day of his destiny arrived, there was almost confusion in the
house, and for a week after, of evenings, grand'ther went about with a
lantern, and was not himself till a new occupant was obtained for the
vacant pen, and all his idiosyncracies revealed and understood.
"Grand'ther," I asked, "will the beautiful pigeons that live in the
pig's roof like the horrid new pig?"
"Yes," he answered, briskly rubbing his hands, "but they eat the pig's
corn; and I can't afford that; I shall have to shoot them, I guess."
"Oh, don't, grand'ther."
"I will this very day. Where's the gun, Mercy?"
In an hour the pigeons were shot, except two which had flown away.
"Why did you ask him not to shoot the pigeons?" said Aunt Mercy. "If
you had said nothing, he would not have done, it."
"He is a disagreeable relation," I answered, "and I am glad he is a
Aunt Mercy reproved me; but the loss of the pigeons vexed her. Perhaps
grand'ther thought so, for that night he asked after her geraniums,
and told her that a gardener had promised him some fine slips for
her. She looked pleased, but did not thank him. There was already a
beautiful stand of flowers in the middle room, which was odorous the
year round with their perfume.
The weather was now cold, and we congregated about the fire; for there
was no other comfortable room in the house. One afternoon, when I