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Chapter 2 Gives sorrow to the winds

  • > Not all the whispers that the soft winds utter >     Speak earthly things– > There mingleth there, sometimes, a gentle flutter >     Of angel's wings.
  • >                                 AMY LATHROP.
  • SORROW and excitement made Ellen's eyelids heavy, and she slept late on th_ollowing morning. The great dressing-bell waked her. She started up with _onfused notion that something was the matter; there was a weight on her hear_hat was very strange to it. A moment was enough to bring it all back; and sh_hrew herself again on her pillow, yielding helplessly to the grief she ha_wice been obliged to control the evening before. Yet love was stronger tha_rief still, and she was careful to allow no sound to escape her that coul_each the ears of her mother, who slept in the next room. Her resolve was fir_o grieve her no more with useless expressions of sorrow; to keep it t_erself as much as possible. But this very thought that she must keep it t_erself gave an edge to poor Ellen's grief, and the convulsive clasp of he_ittle arms round the pillow plainly showed that it needed none.
  • The breakfast-bell again startled her, and she remembered she must not be to_ate down-stairs, or her mother might inquire and find out the reason. "I wil_not_  trouble mother–I will not–I will not," she resolved to herself as sh_ot out of bed, though the tears fell faster as she said so. Dressing was sa_ork to Ellen to-day; it went on very heavily. Tears dropped into the water a_he stooped her head to the basin; and she hid her face in the towel to cry, instead of making the ordinary use of it. But the usual duties were dragge_hrough at last, and she went to the window. "I'll not go down till papa i_one," she thought; "he'll ask me what is the matter with my eyes."
  • Ellen opened the window. The rain was over; the lovely light of a fai_eptember morning was beautifying everything it shone upon. Ellen had bee_ccustomed to amuse herself a good deal at this window, though nothing was t_e seen from it but an ugly city prospect of back walls of houses, with th_ards belonging to them, and a bit of narrow street. But she had watched th_eople that showed themselves at the windows, and the children that played i_he yards, and the women that went to the pumps, till she had become prett_ell acquainted with the neighbourhood; and though they were for the most par_ingy, dirty, and disagreeable,–women, children, houses, and all,–sh_ertainly had taken a good deal of interest in their proceedings. It was al_one now. She could not bear to look at them; she felt as if it made her sick; and turning away her eyes she lifted them to the bright sky above her head, and gazed into its clear depth of blue till she almost forgot that there wa_uch a thing as a city in the world. Little white clouds were chasing acros_t, driven by the fresh wind that was blowing away Ellen's hair from her face, and cooling her hot cheeks. That wind could not have been long in coming fro_he place of woods and flowers, it was so sweet still. Ellen looked till, sh_idn't know why, she felt calmed and soothed,–as if somebody was saying t_er, softly, "Cheer up, my child, cheer up; things are not as bad as the_ight be; things will get better." Her attention was attracted at length b_oices below; she looked down, and saw there, in one of the yards, a poo_eformed child, whom she had often noticed before, and always with sorrowfu_nterest. Besides his bodily infirmity, he had a further claim on he_ympathy, in having lost his mother within a few months. Ellen's heart wa_asily touched this morning; she felt for him very much. "Poor, poor littl_ellow!" she thought; "he's a great deal worse off than I am.  _His_  mothe_s dead; mine is only going away for a few months–not forever; oh, what _ifference! and then the joy of coming back again!" poor Ellen was weepin_lready at the thought–"and I will do, oh, how much! while she is gone–I'll d_ore than she can possibly expect from me–I'll astonish her–I'll deligh_er–I'll work harder than ever I did in my life before; I'll mend all m_aults, and give her so much pleasure! But oh! if she only needn't go away!
  • Oh, mamma!" Tears of mingled sweet and bitter were poured out fast, but th_itter had the largest share.
  • The breakfast-table was still standing, and her father gone, when Ellen wen_own-stairs. Mrs. Montgomery welcomed her with her usual quiet smile, and hel_ut her hand. Ellen tried to smile in answer, but she was glad to hide he_ace in her mother's bosom; and the long close embrace was too close and to_ong: it told of sorrow as well as love; and tears fell from the eyes of eac_hat the other did not see.
  • "Need I go to school to-day, mamma?" whispered Ellen.
  • "No; I spoke to your father about that; you shall not go any more; we will b_ogether now while we can."
  • Ellen wanted to ask how long that would be, but could not make up her mind t_t.
  • "Sit down, daughter, and take some breakfast."
  • "Have you done, mamma?"
  • "No; I waited for you."
  • "Thank you, dear mamma," with another embrace; "how good you are! but I don'_hink I want any."
  • They drew their chairs to the table, but it was plain neither had much hear_o eat; although Mrs. Montgomery with her own hands laid on Ellen's plate hal_f the little bird that had been boiled for her own breakfast. The half wa_oo much for each of them.
  • "What made you so late this morning, daughter?"
  • "I got up late in the first place, mamma; and then I was a long time at th_indow."
  • "At the window! were you examining into your neighbor's affairs as usual?"
  • said Mrs. Montgomery, surprised that it should have been so.
  • "Oh, no, mamma, I didn't look at them at all,–except poor little Billy,–I wa_ooking at the sky."
  • "And what did you see there that pleased you so much?"
  • "I don't know, mamma; it looked so lovely and peaceful–that pure blue sprea_ver my head, and the little white clouds flying across it–I loved to look a_t; it seemed to do me good."
  • "Could you look at it, Ellen, without thinking of Him who made it?"
  • "No, mamma, said Ellen, ceasing her breakfast, and now speaking wit_ifficulty; "I did think of Him; perhaps that was the reason."
  • "And what did you think of Him, daughter?"
  • "I hoped, mamma–I felt–I thought–He would take care of me," said Ellen, bursting into tears, and throwing her arms around her mother.
  • "He will, my dear daughter, He will, if you will only put your trust in Him, Ellen."
  • Ellen struggled hard to get back her composure, and after a few minute_ucceeded.
  • "Mamma, will you tell me what you mean exactly by my 'putting my trust' i_im?"
  • "Don't you trust me, Ellen?"
  • "Certainly, mamma."
  • "How do you trust me?–in what?"
  • "Why, mamma,–in the first place I trust every word you say–entirely–I kno_othing could be truer; if you were to tell me black is white, mamma, I shoul_hink my eyes had been mistaken. Then everything you tell or advise me to do, I know it is right, perfectly. And I always feel safe when you are near me, because I know you'll take care of me. And I am glad to think I belong to you, and you have the management of me entirely, and I needn't manage myself, because I know I can't; and if I could, I'd rather you would, mamma."
  • "My daughter, it is just so; it is  _just_  so: that I wish you to trust i_od. He is truer, wiser, stronger, kinder, by far, than I am, even if I coul_lways be with you; and what will you do when I am away from you?–and wha_ould you do, my child, if I were to be parted from you forever?"
  • "Oh, mamma!" said Ellen, bursting into tears, and clasping her arms round he_other again,–"Oh, dear mamma, don't talk about it!"
  • Her mother fondly returned her caress, and one or two tears fell on Ellen'_ead as she did so, but that was all, and she said no more. Feeling severel_he effects of the excitement and anxiety of the preceding day and night, sh_ow stretched herself on the sofa and lay quite still. Ellen placed herself o_ little bench at her side, with her back to the head of the sofa, that he_other might not see her face; and possessing herself of one of her hands, sa_ith her little head resting upon her mother, as quiet as she. They remaine_hus for two or three hours, without speaking; and Mrs. Montgomery was part o_he time slumbering; but now and then a tear ran down the side of the sofa an_ropped on the carpet where Ellen sat; and now and then her lips were softl_ressed to the hand she held, as if they would grow there.
  • The doctor's entrance at last disturbed them. Doctor Green found his patien_ecidedly worse than he had reason to expect; and his sagacious eye had no_assed back and forth many times between the mother and daughter before he sa_ow it was. He made no remark upon it, however, but continued for some moment_ pleasant chatty conversation which he had begun with Mrs. Montgomery. H_hen called Ellen to him; he had rather taken a fancy to her.
  • "Well, Miss Ellen," he said, rubbing one of her hands in his; "what do yo_hink of this fine scheme of mine?"
  • "What scheme, sir?"
  • "Why, this scheme of sending this sick lady over the water to get well. Wha_o you think of it eh?"
  • " _Will_  it make her quite well, do you think, sir?" asked Ellen, earnestly.
  • "'Will it make her well!' to be sure it will; do you think I don't know bette_han to send people all the way across the ocean for nothing? Who do you thin_ould want Dr. Green, if he sent people on wild-goose chases in that fashion?"
  • "Will she have to stay long there before she is cured, sir?" asked Ellen.
  • "Oh, that I can't tell; that depends entirely on circumstances,–perhap_onger, perhaps shorter. But now, Miss Ellen, I've got a word of business t_ay to you; you know you agreed to be my little nurse. Mrs. Nurse, this lad_hom I put under your care the other day, isn't quite as well as she ought t_e this morning; I am afraid you haven't taken proper care of her; she look_o me as if she had been too much excited. I've a notion she has been secretl_aking half a bottle of wine, or reading some furious kind of a novel, o_omething of that sort, you understand? Now, mind, Mrs. Nurse," said th_octor, changing his tone, "she  _must not_  be excited,–you must take car_hat she is not,–it isn't good for her. You mustn't let her talk too much, o_augh much, or cry at all, on any account; she mustn't be worried in th_east,–will you remember? Now you know what I shall expect of you; you must b_ery careful–if that piece of toast of yours should chance to get burned, on_f these fine evenings, I won't answer for the consequences. Good-by," sai_e, shaking Ellen's hand;–"you needn't look sober about it; all you have to d_s to let your mamma be as much like an oyster as possible; you understand?
  • Good-by." And Dr. Green took his leave.
  • "Poor woman!" said the doctor to himself as he went downstairs (he was _umane man). "I wonder if she'll live till she gets to the other side! That'_ nice little girl, too. Poor child! poor child!"
  • Both mother and daughter silently acknowledged the justice of the doctor'_dvice and determined to follow it. By common consent, as it seemed, each fo_everal days avoided bringing the subject of sorrow to the other's mind; though no doubt it was constantly present to both. It was not spoken of; indeed little of any kind was spoken of, but that never. Mrs. Montgomery wa_oubtless employed during this interval in preparing for what she believed wa_efore her; endeavouring to resign herself and her child to Him in whose hand_hey were, and struggling to withdraw her affections from a world which sh_ad a secret misgiving she was fast leaving. As for Ellen, the doctor'_arning had served to strengthen the resolve she had already made, that sh_ould not distress her mother with the sight of her sorrow; and she kept it, as far as she could. She did not let her mother see but very few tears, an_hose were quiet ones; though she dropped her head like a withered flower, an_ent about the house with an air of submissive sadness that tried her mothe_orely. But when she was alone, and knew no one could see, sorrow had its way; and then there were sometimes agonies of grief that would almost have broke_rs. Montgomery's resolution, had she known them.
  • This, however, could not last. Ellen was a child, and of most buoyant an_lastic spirit naturally; it was not for one sorrow, however great, to utterl_rush her. It would have taken years to do that. Moreover, she entertained no_he slightest hope of being able by any means to alter her father's will. Sh_egarded the dreaded evil as an inevitable thing. But though she was at firs_verwhelmed with sorrow, and for some days evidently pined under it sadly, hope at length  _would_  come back to her little heart; and no sooner i_gain, hope began to smooth the roughest, and soften the hardest, and touc_he dark spots with light, in Ellen's future. The thoughts which had passe_hrough her head that first morning as she had stood at her window, now cam_ack again. Thoughts of wonderful improvement to be made during her mother'_bsence; of unheard-of efforts to learn and amend, which should all be crowne_ith success; and, above all, thoughts of that "coming home," when all thes_ttainments and accomplishments should be displayed to her mother's delighte_yes, and her exertions receive their long-desired reward; they made Ellen'_eart beat, and her eyes swim, and even brought a smile once more upon he_ips. Mrs. Montgomery was rejoiced to see the change; she felt that as muc_ime had already been given to sorrow as they could afford to lose, and sh_ad not known exactly how to proceed. Ellen's amended looks and spirit_reatly relieved her.
  • "What are you thinking about, Ellen?" said she, one morning.
  • Ellen was sewing, and while busy at her work her mother had two or three time_bserved a light smile pass over her face. Ellen looked up, still smiling, an_nswered, "Oh, mamma, I was thinking of different things,–things that I mea_o do while you are gone."
  • "And what are these things?" inquired her mother.
  • "Oh, mamma, it wouldn't do to tell you beforehand; I want to surprise you wit_hem when you come back."
  • A slight shudder passed over Mrs. Montgomery's frame, but Ellen did not se_t. Mrs. Montgomery was silent. Ellen presently introduced another subject.
  • "Mamma, what kind of a person is my aunt?"
  • "I do not know; I have never seen her."
  • "How has that happened, mamma?"
  • "Your aunt has always lived in a remote country town, and I have been ver_uch confined to two or three cities, and your father's long and repeate_bsences made travelling impossible to me."
  • Ellen thought, but she didn't say it, that it was very odd her father shoul_ot sometimes, when he  _was_  in the country, have gone to see his relations, and taken her mother with him.
  • "What is my aunt's name, mamma?"
  • "I think you must have heard that already, Ellen; Fortune Emerson."
  • "Emerson! I thought she was papa's sister!"
  • "So she is."
  • "Then how comes her name not to be Montgomery?"
  • "She is only his half-sister; the daughter of his mother, not the daughter o_is father."
  • "I am very sorry for that," said Ellen gravely.
  • "Why, my daughter?"
  • "I am afraid she will not be so likely to love me."
  • "You mustn't think so, my child. Her loving or not loving you will depen_olely and entirely upon yourself, Ellen. Don't forget that. If you are a goo_hild, and make it your daily care to do your duty, she cannot help likin_ou, be she what she may; and on the other hand, if she have all the will i_he world to love you, she cannot do it unless you will let her,–it al_epends on your behaviour."
  • "Oh, mamma, I can't help wishing dear aunt Bessy was alive, and I was going t_er."
  • Many a time the same wish had passed through Mrs. Montgomery's mind! But sh_ept down her rising heart and went on calmly.
  • "You must not expect, my child, to find anybody as indulgent as I am, or a_eady to overlook and excuse your faults. It would be unreasonable to look fo_t; and you must not think hardly of your aunt when you find she is not you_other; but then it will be your own fault if she does not love you, in time, truly and tenderly. See that you render her all the respect and obedience yo_ould render me; that is your bounden duty; she will stand in my place whil_he has the care of you,–remember that, Ellen; and remember, too, that sh_ill deserve more gratitude at your hands for showing you kindness than I do, because she cannot have the same feeling of love to make trouble easy."
  • "Oh, no, mamma," said Ellen, "I don't think so; it's that very feeling of lov_hat I am grateful for. I don't care a fig for anything people do for m_ithout that."
  • "But you can make her love you, Ellen, if you try."
  • "Well, I'll try, mamma."
  • "And don't be discouraged. Perhaps you may be disappointed in firs_ppearances, but never mind that; have patience; and let your motto be (i_here's any occasion), overcome evil with good. Will you put that among th_hings you mean to do while I am gone?" said Mrs. Montgomery, with a smile.
  • "I'll try, dear mamma."
  • "You will succeed if you try, dear, never fear; if you apply yourself in you_rying to the old unfailing source of wisdom and strength; to Him without who_ou can do nothing."
  • There was silence for a little.
  • "What sort of a place is it where my aunt lives?" asked Ellen.
  • "Your father says it is a very pleasant place; he says the country i_eautiful and very healthy, and full of charming walks and rides. You hav_ever lived in the country; I think you will enjoy it very much."
  • "Then it is not in a town?" said Ellen.
  • "No; it is not a great way from the town of Thirlwall, but your aunt lives i_he open country. Your father says she is a capital housekeeper, and that yo_ill learn more, and be in all respects a great deal happier and better of_han you would be in a boarding school here or anywhere."
  • Ellen's heart secretly questioned the truth of this last assertion very much.
  • "Is there any school near?" she asked.
  • "Your father says there was an excellent one in Thirlwall when he was there."
  • "Mamma," said Ellen, "I think the greatest pleasure I shall have while you ar_one will be writing to you. I have been thinking of it a good deal. I mean t_ell you everything,–absolutely everything, mamma. You know there will b_obody for me to talk to as I do to you;" Ellen's words came out wit_ifficulty; "and when I feel badly, I shall just shut myself up and write t_ou." She hid her face in her mother's lap.
  • "I count upon it, my dear daughter; it will make quite as much the pleasure o_y life, Ellen, as of yours."
  • "But then, mother," said Ellen, brushing away the tears from her eyes, "i_ill be so long before my letters can get to you! The things I want you t_now right away, you won't know perhaps in a month."
  • "That's no matter, daughter; they will be just as good when they do get to me.
  • Never think of that; write every day, and all manner of things that concer_ou,–just as particularly as if you were speaking to me."
  • "And you'll write to me, too, mamma?"
  • "Indeed I will, when I can. But Ellen, you say that when I am away and canno_ear you, there will be nobody to supply my place. Perhaps it will be s_ndeed; but then, my daughter, let it make you seek that friend who is neve_ar away, nor out of hearing. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
  • You know he has said of his children: 'Before they call, I will answer; an_hile they are yet speaking I will hear.'"
  • "But, mamma," said Ellen, her eyes filling instantly, "you know he is not m_riend in the same way that he is yours." And hiding her face again, sh_dded, "Oh, I wish he was!"
  • "You know the way to make him so, Ellen.  _He_  is willing; it only rests wit_ou. Oh, my child, my child! if losing your mother might be the means o_inding you that better friend, I should be quite willing–and glad to go–fo_ver."
  • There was silence, only broken by Ellen's sobs. Mrs. Montgomery's voice ha_rembled, and her face was now covered with her hands; but she was no_eeping; she was seeking a better relief where it had long been her habit t_eek and find it. Both resumed their usual composure, and the employment_hich had been broken off, but neither chose to renew the conversation.
  • Dinner, sleeping, and company prevented their having another opportunit_uring the rest of the day.
  • But when evening came, they were again left to themselves. Captain Montgomer_as away, which indeed was the case most of the time; friends had taken thei_eparture; the curtains were down, the lamp lit, the little room looked cos_nd comfortable; the servant had brought the tea-things, and withdrawn, an_he mother and daughter were happily alone. Mrs. Montgomery knew that suc_ccasions were numbered, and fast drawing to an end, and she felt each one t_e very precious. She now lay on her couch, with her face partially shaded, and her eyes fixed upon her little daughter, who was now preparing the tea.
  • She watched her, with thoughts and feelings not to be spoken, as the littl_igure went back and forward between the table and the fire, and the ligh_hining full upon her face, showed that Ellen's whole soul was in her belove_uty. Tears would fall as she looked, and were not wiped away; but when Ellen, having finished her work, brought with a satisfied face the little tray of te_nd toast to her mother, there was no longer any sign of them left; Mrs.
  • Montgomery arose with her usual kind smile, to show her gratitude by honorin_s far as possible what Ellen had provided.
  • "You have more appetite to-night, mamma."
  • "I am very glad, daughter," replied her mother, "to see that you have made u_our mind to bear patiently this evil that has come upon us. I am glad fo_our sake, and I am glad for mine; and I am glad, too, because we have a grea_eal to do and no time to lose in doing it."
  • "What have we so much to do, mamma?" said Ellen.
  • "Oh, many things," said her mother, "you will see. But now, Ellen, if there i_nything you wish to talk to me about, any question you want to ask, anythin_ou would like particularly to have, or to have done for you, I want you t_ell it me as soon as possible, now while we can attend to it, for by and b_erhaps we shall be hurried."
  • "Mamma," said Ellen, with brightening eyes, "there is one thing I have though_f that I should like to have; shall I tell it you now?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Mamma, you know I shall want to be writing a great deal; wouldn't it be _ood thing for me to have a little box with some pens in it, and an inkstand, and some paper and wafers? Because, mamma, you know I shall be amon_trangers, at first, and I shan't feel like asking them for these things a_ften as I shall want them, and maybe they wouldn't want to let me have the_f I did."
  • "I have thought of that already, daughter," said Mrs. Montgomery, with a smil_nd a sigh. "I will certainly take care that you are well provided in tha_espect before you go."
  • "How am I to go, mamma?"
  • "What do you mean?"
  • "I mean, who will go with me? You know I can't go alone, mamma."
  • "No, my daughter, I'll not send you alone. But your father says it i_mpossible for  _him_  to take the journey at present, and it is yet mor_mpossible for me. There is no help for it, daughter, but we must intrust yo_o the care of some friend going that way; but He that holds the winds an_aters in the hollow of his hand can take care of you without any of our help, and it is to his keeping above all, that I shall commit you."
  • Ellen made no remark, and seemed much less surprised and troubled than he_other had expected. In truth, the greater evil swallowed up the less. Partin_rom her mother, and for so long a time, it seemed to her comparatively _atter of little importance with whom she went, or how, or where. Except fo_his, the taking a long journey under a stranger's care would have been _readful thing to her.
  • "Do you know yet who it will be that I shall go with, mamma?"
  • "Not yet; but it will be necessary to take the first good opportunity, for _annot go till I have seen you off, and it is thought very desirable that _hould get to sea before the severe weather comes."
  • It was with a pang that these words were spoken, and heard, but neither showe_t to the other.
  • "It has comforted me greatly, my dear child, that you have shown yourself s_ubmissive and patient under this affliction. I should scarcely have been abl_o endure it if you had not exerted self-control. You have behave_eautifully."
  • This was almost too much for poor Ellen. It required her utmost stretch o_elf-control to keep within any bounds of composure; and for some moments he_lushed cheek, quivering lip, and heaving bosom told what a tumult he_other's words had raised. Mrs. Montgomery saw she had gone too far, and, willing to give both Ellen and herself time to recover, she laid her head o_he pillow again and closed her eyes. Many thoughts coming thick upon on_nother presently filled her mind, and half an hour had passed before sh_gain recollected what she had meant to say. She opened her eyes; Ellen wa_itting at a little distance, staring into the fire, evidently as deep i_editation as her mother had been.
  • "Ellen," said Mrs. Montgomery, "did you ever fancy what kind of a Bible yo_ould like to have?"
  • "A Bible, mamma!" said Ellen, with sparkling eyes, "do you mean to give me _ible?"
  • Mrs. Montgomery smiled.
  • "But, mamma," said Ellen gently, "I thought you couldn't afford it?"
  • "I have said so, and truly," answered her mother; "and hitherto you have bee_ble to use mine, but I will not leave you now without one. I will find way_nd means," said Mrs. Montgomery, smiling again.
  • "Oh, mamma, thank you!" said Ellen, delighted; "how glad I shall be!" An_fter a pause of consideration, she added, "Mamma, I never thought much abou_hat sort of a one I should like; couldn't I tell better if I were to see th_ifferent kinds in the store?"
  • "Perhaps so. Well, the first day that the weather is fine enough and I am wel_nough, I will go out with you and we will see about it."
  • "I am afraid Dr. Green won't let you, mamma."
  • "I shall not ask him. I want to get you a Bible, and some other things that _ill not leave you without, and nobody can do it but myself. I shall go, if _ossibly can."
  • "What other things, mamma?" asked Ellen, very much interested in the subject.
  • "I don't think it will do to tell you to-night," said Mrs. Montgomery, smiling. "I foresee that you and I should be kept awake quite too late if w_ere to enter upon it just now. We will leave it till to-morrow. Now read t_e, love, and then to bed."
  • Ellen obeyed; and went to sleep with brighter visions dancing before her eye_han had been the case for some time.