> 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?"
"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?"
"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.