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Chapter 3 The worth of a finger-ring

  • > Sweetheart, we shall be rich ere we depart, > If fairings come thus plentifully in.–SHAKESPEARE.
  • ELLEN had to wait some time for the desired fine day. The equinoctial storm_ould have their way as usual, and Ellen thought they were longer than eve_his year. But after many stormy days had tried her patience, there was a_ength a sudden change, both without and within doors. The clouds had don_heir work for that time, and fled away before a strong northerly wind, leaving the sky bright and fair. And Mrs. Montgomery's deceitful disease too_ turn, and for a little space raised the hopes of her friends. All wer_ejoicing but two persons: Mrs. Montgomery was not deceived, neither was th_octor. The shopping project was kept a profound secret from him and fro_verybody except Ellen.
  • Ellen watched now for a favourable day. Every morning as soon as she rose sh_ent to the window to see what was the look of the weather; and about a wee_fter the change above noticed, she was greatly pleased one morning, o_pening her window as usual, to find the air and sky promising all that coul_e desired. It was one of those beautiful days in the end of September, tha_ometimes herald October before it arrives,–cloudless, brilliant, an_reathing balm. "This will do," said Ellen to herself, in great satisfaction.
  • "I think this will do; I hope mamma will think so."
  • Hastily dressing herself, and a good deal excited already, she ran down- stairs; and after the morning salutations, examined her mother's looks with a_uch anxiety as she had just done those of the weather. All was satisfactor_here also; and Ellen ate her breakfast with an excellent appetite; but sh_aid not a word of the intended expedition till her father should be gone. Sh_ontented herself with strengthening her hopes by making constant fres_nspections of the weather and her mother's countenance alternately; and he_yes returning from the window on one of these excursions and meeting he_other's face, saw a smile there which said all she wanted. Breakfast went o_ore vigorously than ever. But after breakfast it seemed to Ellen that he_ather never would go away. He took the newspaper, an uncommon thing for him, and pored over it most perseveringly, while Ellen was in a perfect fidget o_mpatience. Her mother, seeing the state she was in, and taking pity on her, sent her up-stairs to do some little matters of business in her own room.
  • These Ellen despatched with all possible zeal and speed; and coming down agai_ound her father gone and her mother alone. She flew to kiss her in the firs_lace, and then made the inquiry, "Don't you think to-day will do, mamma?"
  • "As fine as possible, daughter; we could not have a better; but I must wai_ill the doctor has been here."
  • "Mamma," said Ellen, after a pause, making a great effort of self-denial, "_m afraid you oughtn't to go out to get these things for me. Pray don't, mamma, if you think it will do you harm. I would rather go without them; indeed I would."
  • "Never mind that, daughter," said Mrs. Montgomery, kissing her; "I am ben_pon it; it would be quite as much of a disappointment to me as to you not t_o. We have a lovely day for it, and we will take our time and walk slowly, and we haven't far to go, either. But I must let Dr. Green make his visi_irst."
  • To fill up the time till he came Mrs. Montgomery employed Ellen in reading t_er as usual. And this morning's reading Ellen long after remembered. He_other directed her to several passages in different parts of the Bible tha_peak of heaven and its enjoyments; and though, when she began, her own littl_eart was full of excitement, in view of the day's plans, and beating wit_ope and pleasure, the sublime beauty of the words and thoughts, as she wen_n, awed her into quiet, and her mother's manner at length turned he_ttention entirely from herself. Mrs. Montgomery was lying on the sofa, an_or the most part listened in silence, with her eyes closed; but sometime_aying a word or two that made Ellen feel how deep was the interest her mothe_ad in the things she read of, and how pure and strong the pleasure she wa_ven now taking in them; and sometimes there was a smile on her face tha_llen scarce liked to see; it gave her an indistinct feeling that her mothe_ould not be long away from that heaven to which she seemed already to belong.
  • Ellen had a sad consciousness, too, that she had no part with her mother i_his matter. She could hardly go on. She came to that beautiful passage in th_eventh of Revelation:
  • "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which ar_rrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, tho_nowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of grea_ribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood o_he Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day an_ight in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
  • They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the su_ight on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the thron_hall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and Go_hall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
  • With difficulty, and a husky voice, Ellen got through it. Lifting then he_yes to her mother's face, she saw again the same singular sweet smile. Elle_elt that she could not read another word; to her great relief the doo_pened, and Dr. Green came in. His appearance changed the whole course of he_houghts. All that was grave or painful fled quickly away; Ellen's head wa_mmediately full again of what had filled it before she began to read.
  • As soon as the doctor had retired and was fairly out of hearing, "Now, mamma, shall we go?" said Ellen. "You needn't stir, mamma, I'll bring all your thing_o you, and put them on; may I, mamma? then you won't be a bit tired befor_ou set out."
  • Her mother assented; and with a great deal of tenderness and a great deal o_agerness, Ellen put on her stockings and shoes, arranged her hair, and di_ll that she could toward changing her dress and putting on her bonnet an_hawl; and greatly delighted she was when the business was accomplished.
  • "Now, mamma, you look like yourself; I haven't seen you look so well thi_reat while. I'm so glad you're going out again," said Ellen, putting her arm_round her; "I do believe it will do you good. Now, mamma, I'll go and ge_eady; I'll be very quick about it; you shan't have to wait long for me."
  • In a few minutes the two set forth from the house. The day was as fine as i_ould be; there was no wind, there was no dust; the sun was not oppressive; and Mrs. Montgomery did feel refreshed and strengthened during the few step_hey had to take to their first stopping-place.
  • It was a jeweller's store. Ellen had never been in one before in her life, an_er first feeling on entering was of dazzled wonderment at the glitterin_plendours around; this was presently forgotten in curiosity to know what he_other could possibly want there. She soon discovered that she had come t_ell and not to buy. Mrs. Montgomery drew a ring from her finger, and after _ittle chaffering parted with it to the owner of the store for eighty dollars, being about three-quarters of its real value. The money was counted out, an_he left the store.
  • "Mamma," said Ellen in a low voice, "wasn't that grandmamma's ring, which _hought you loved so much?"
  • "Yes, I did love it, Ellen, but I love you better."
  • "Oh, mamma, I am very sorry!" said Ellen.
  • "You need not be sorry, daughter. Jewels in themselves are the merest nothing_o me; and as for the rest, it doesn't matter; I can remember my mothe_ithout any help from a trinket."
  • There were tears, however, in Mrs. Montgomery's eyes, that showed th_acrifice had cost her something; and there were tears in Ellen's that told i_as not thrown away upon her.
  • "I am sorry you should know of this," continued Mrs. Montgomery; "you shoul_ot if I could have helped it. But set your heart quite at rest, Ellen; _ssure you this use of my ring gives me more pleasure on the whole than an_ther I could have made of it."
  • A grateful squeeze of her hand and glance into her face was Ellen's answer.
  • Mrs. Montgomery had applied to her husband for the funds necessary to fi_llen comfortably for the time they should be absent; and in answer he ha_iven her a sum barely sufficient for her mere clothing. Mrs. Montgomery kne_im better than to ask for a further supply, but she resolved to have recours_o other means to do what she had determined upon. Now that she was about t_eave her little daughter, and it might be forever, she had set her heart upo_roviding her with certain things which she thought important to her comfor_nd improvement, and which Ellen would go very long without if  _she_  did no_ive them to her, and  _now_ , Ellen had had very few presents in her life, and those always of the simplest and cheapest kind; her mother resolved tha_n the midst of the bitterness of this time she would give her one pleasure, if she could; it might be the last.
  • They stopped next at a bookstore. "Oh, what a delicious smell of new books!"
  • said Ellen, as they entered. "Mamma, if it wasn't for one thing, I should sa_ never was so happy in my life."
  • Children's books, lying in tempting confusion near the door, immediatel_astened Ellen's eyes and attention. She opened one, and was already deep i_he interest of it, when the word " _Bibles_  " struck her ear. Mrs.
  • Montgomery was desiring the shopman to show her various kinds and sizes tha_he might choose from among them. Down went Ellen's book, and she flew to th_lace where a dozen different Bibles were presently displayed. Ellen's wit_ere ready to forsake her. Such beautiful Bibles she had never seen; she pore_n ecstasy over their varieties of type and binding, and was very evidently i_ove with them all.
  • "Now, Ellen," said Mrs. Montgomery, "look and choose; take your time, and se_hich you like best."
  • It was not likely that Ellen's "time" would be a short one. Her mother, seein_his, took a chair at a little distance to await patiently her decision; an_hile Ellen's eyes were riveted on the Bibles, her own very naturally wer_ixed upon her. In the excitement and eagerness of the moment, Ellen ha_hrown off her light bonnet, and with flushed cheek and sparkling eye, and _row grave with unusual care, as though a nation's fate were deciding, she wa_eighing the comparative advantages of large, small, and middle sized; black, blue, purple, and red; gilt and not gilt; clasp and no clasp. Everything bu_he Bibles before her Ellen had forgotten utterly; she was deep in what was t_er the most important of business; she did not see the bystanders smile; sh_id not know there were any. To her mother's eye it was a most fair sight.
  • Mrs. Montgomery gazed with rising emotions of pleasure and pain that struggle_or the mastery, but pain at last got the better and rose very high. "How ca_ give thee up!" was the one thought of her heart. Unable to command herself, she rose and went to a distant part of the counter, where she seemed to b_xamining books; but tears, some of the bitterest she had ever shed, wer_alling thick upon the dusty floor, and she felt her heart like to break. He_ittle daughter at one end of the counter had forgotten there ever was such _hing as sorrow in the world; and she at the other was bowed beneath a weigh_f it that was nigh to crush her. But in her extremity she betook herself t_hat refuge she had never known to fail; it did not fail her now. Sh_emembered the words Ellen had been reading to her but that very morning, an_hey came like the breath of heaven upon the fever of her soul. "Not my will, but thine be done." She strove and prayed to say it, and not in vain; an_fter a little while she was able to return to her seat. She felt that she ha_een shaken by a tempest, but she was calmer now than before.
  • Ellen was just as she had left her, and apparently just as far from coming t_ny conclusion. Mrs. Montgomery was resolved to let her take her way.
  • Presently Ellen came over from the counter with a large royal octavo Bible, heavy enough to be a good lift for her. "Mamma," said she, laying it on he_other's lap and opening it, "what do you think of that? isn't that splendid?"
  • "A most beautiful page indeed; is this your choice, Ellen?"
  • "Well, mamma, I don't know; what do you think?"
  • "I think it is rather inconveniently large and heavy for everyday use. It i_uite a weight upon my lap. I shouldn't like to carry it in my hands long. Yo_ould want a little table on purpose to hold it."
  • "Well, that wouldn't do at all," said Ellen, laughing; "I believe you ar_ight, mamma; I wonder I didn't think of it. I might have known that myself."
  • She took it back and there followed another careful examination of the whol_tock; and then Ellen came to her mother with a beautiful miniature edition i_wo volumes, gilt and clasped, and very perfect in all respects, but o_xceeding small print.
  • "I think I'll have this, mamma," said she; "isn't it a beauty? I could put i_n my pocket, you know, and carry it anywhere with the greatest ease."
  • "It would have one great objection to me," said Mrs. Montgomery, "inasmuch a_ cannot possibly see to read it."
  • "Cannot you, mamma! But I can read it perfectly."
  • "Well, my dear, take it; that is, if you will make up your mind to put o_pectacles before your time."
  • "Spectacles, mamma! I hope I shall never have to wear spectacles."
  • "What do you propose to do when your sight fails, if you shall live so long?"
  • "Well, mamma,–if it comes to that,–but you don't advise me, then, to take thi_ittle beauty?"
  • "Judge for yourself; I think you are old enough."
  • "I know what you think, though, mamma, and I dare say you are right, too; _on't take it, though it's a pity. Well, I must look again."
  • Mrs. Montgomery came to her help, for it was plain Ellen had lost the power o_udging amidst so many tempting objects. But she presently simplified th_atter by putting aside all that were decidedly too large, or too small, or o_oo fine print. There remained three, of moderate size and sufficiently larg_ype, but different binding. "Either of these I think will answer your purpos_icely," said Mrs. Montgomery.
  • "Then, mamma, if you please, I will have the red one. I like that best, because it will put me in mind of yours."
  • Mrs. Montgomery could find no fault with this reason. She paid for the re_ible, and directed it to be sent home.
  • "Shan't I carry it, mamma?" said Ellen.
  • "No, you would find it in the way; we have several things to do yet."
  • "Have we, mamma? I thought we only came to get a Bible."
  • "That is enough for one day, I confess; I am a little afraid your head will b_urned; but I must run the risk of it. I dare not lose the opportunity of thi_ine weather; I may not have such another. I wish to have the comfort o_hinking, when I am away, that I have left you with everything necessary t_he keeping up of good habits,–everything that will make them pleasant an_asy. I wish you to be always neat, and tidy, and industrious; depending upo_thers as little as possible: and careful to improve yourself by every means, and especially by writing to me. I will leave you no excuse, Ellen, fo_ailing in any of these duties. I trust you will not disappoint me in a singl_articular."
  • Ellen's heart was too full to speak; she again looked up tearfully and presse_er mother's hand.
  • "I do not expect to be disappointed, love," returned Mrs. Montgomery.
  • They now entered a large fancy store. "What are we to get here, mamma?" sai_llen.
  • "A box to put your pens and paper in," said her mother, smiling.
  • "Oh to be sure," said Ellen; "I had almost forgotten that." She quite forgo_t a minute after. It was the first time she had seen the inside of such _tore; and the articles displayed on every side completely bewitched her. Fro_ne thing to another she went, admiring and wondering; in her wildest dream_he had never imagined such beautiful things. The store was fairy-land.
  • Mrs. Montgomery meanwhile attended to business. Having chosen a neat littl_apanned dressing-box, perfectly plain, but well supplied with everything _hild could want in that line, she called Ellen from the delightful journey o_iscovery she was making round the store, and asked her what she thought o_t. "I think it's a little beauty," said Ellen; "but I never saw such a plac_or beautiful things."
  • "You think it will do, then?" said her mother.
  • "For me, mamma! You don't mean to give it to me? Oh, mother, how good you are!
  • But I know what is the best way to thank you, and I'll do it. What a perfec_ittle beauty! Mamma, I'm too happy."
  • "I hope not," said her mother, "for you know I haven't got you the box fo_our pens and paper yet."
  • "Well, mamma, I'll try and bear it," said Ellen, laughing. "But do get me th_lainest little thing in the world, for you're giving me too much."
  • Mrs. Montgomery asked to look at writing-desks, and was shown to another par_f the store for the purpose. "Mamma," said Ellen, in a low tone, as the_ent, "you're not going to get me a writing-desk?"
  • "Why, that is the best kind of box for holding writing materials," said he_other, smiling; "don't you think so?"
  • "I don't know what to say!" exclaimed Ellen. "I can't thank you, mamma; _aven't any words to do it. I think I shall go crazy."
  • She was truly overcome with the weight of happiness. Words failed her, an_ears came instead.
  • From among a great many desks of all descriptions, Mrs. Montgomery with som_ifficulty succeeded in choosing one to her mind. It was of mahogany, not ver_arge, but thoroughly well made and finished, and very convenient and perfec_n its internal arrangements. Ellen was speechless; occasional looks at he_other, and deep sighs, were all she had now to offer. The desk was quit_mpty. "Ellen," said her mother, "do you remember the furniture of Mis_llen's desk, that you were so pleased with a while ago?"
  • "Perfectly, mamma; I know all that was in it."
  • "Well, then, you must prompt me if I forget anything. Your desk will b_urnished with everything really useful. Merely showy matters we can dispens_ith. Now let us see.–Here is a great empty place that I think wants som_aper to fill it. Show me some of different sizes, if you please."
  • The shopman obeyed, and Mrs. Montgomery stocked the desk well with lette_aper, large and small. Ellen looked on in great satisfaction. "That will d_icely," she said;–"that large paper will be beautiful whenever I am writin_o you, mamma, you know, and the other will do for other times, when I haven'_o much to say; though I am sure I don't know who there is in the world _hould ever send letters to except you."
  • "If there is nobody now, perhaps there will be at some future time," replie_er mother. "I hope I shall not always be your only correspondent. Now wha_ext?"
  • "Envelopes, mamma?"
  • "To be sure; I had forgotten them. Envelopes of both sizes to match."
  • "Because, mamma, you know I might, and I certainly shall, want to write upo_he fourth page of my letter, and I couldn't do it unless I had envelopes."
  • A sufficient stock of envelopes was laid in.
  • "Mamma," said Ellen, "what do you think of a little note-paper?"
  • "Who are the notes to be written to, Ellen?" said Mrs. Montgomery, smiling.
  • "You needn't smile, mamma; you know, as you said, if I don't now know, perhap_ shall by and by. Miss Allen's desk had note-paper; that made me think o_t."
  • "So shall yours, daughter; while we are about it we will do the thing well.
  • And your note-paper will keep quite safely in this nice little place provide_or it, even if you should not want to use a sheet of it in half a doze_ears."
  • "How nice that is!" said Ellen admiringly.
  • "I suppose the note-paper must have envelopes too," said Mrs. Montgomery.
  • "To be sure, mamma; I suppose so," said Ellen, smiling; "Miss Allen's had."
  • "Well, now we have got all the paper we want, I think," said Mrs. Montgomery;
  • "the next thing is ink,–or an inkstand rather."
  • Different kinds were presented for her choice.
  • "Oh, mamma, that one won't do," said Ellen, anxiously; "you know the desk wil_e knocking about in a trunk, and the ink would run out, and spoil ever_hing. It should be one of those that shut tight. I don't see the right kin_ere."
  • The shopman brought one.
  • "There, mamma, do you see?" said Ellen; "it shuts with a spring, and nothin_an possibly come out; do you see, mamma? You can turn it topsy turvy."
  • "I see you are quite right, daughter; it seems I should get on very il_ithout you to advise me. Fill the inkstand, if you please."
  • "Mamma, what shall I do when my ink is gone? that inkstand will hold but _ittle, you know."
  • "Your aunt will supply you, of course, my dear, when you are out."
  • "I'd rather take some of my own by half," said Ellen.
  • "You could not carry a bottle of ink in your desk without great danger t_very thing else in it. It would not do to venture."
  • "We have excellent ink-powder," said the shopman, "in small packages, whic_an be very conveniently carried about. You see, ma'am, there is a compartmen_n the desk for such things; and the ink is very easily made at any time."
  • "Oh, that will do nicely," said Ellen, "that is just the thing."
  • "Now what is to go in this other square place opposite the inkstand?" sai_rs. Montgomery.
  • "That is the place for the box of lights, mamma."
  • "What sort of lights?"
  • "For sealing letters, mamma, you know. They are not like your wax taper a_ll; they are little wax matches, that burn just long enough to seal one o_wo letters; Miss Allen showed me how she used them. Hers were in a nic_ittle box just like the inkstand on the outside; and there was a place t_ight the matches, and a place to set them in while they are burning. There, mamma, that's it," said Ellen, as the shopman brought forth the article whic_he was describing, "that's it, exactly; and that will just fit. Now, mamma, for the wax."
  • "You want to seal your letter before you have written it," said Mrs.
  • Montgomery,–"we have not got the pens yet."
  • "That's true, mamma; let us have the pens. And some quills too, mamma?"
  • "Do you know how to make a pen, Ellen?"
  • "No, mamma, not yet; but I want to learn very much. Miss Pichegru says tha_very lady ought to know how to make her own pens."
  • "Miss Pichegru is very right; but I think you are rather too young to learn.
  • However, we will try. Now here are steel points enough to last you a grea_hile,–and as many quills as it is needful you should cut up for one year a_east; we haven't a pen-handle yet."
  • "Here, mamma," said Ellen, holding out a plain ivory one,–"don't you lik_his? I think that it is prettier than these that are all cut and fussed, o_hose other gay ones either."
  • "I think so too, Ellen; the plainer the prettier. Now what comes next?"
  • "The knife, mamma, to make the pens," said Ellen, smiling.
  • "True, the knife. Let us see some of your best pen-knives. Now, Ellen, choose.
  • That one won't do, my dear; it should have two blades,–a large as well as _mall one. You know you want to mend a pencil sometimes."
  • "So I do, mamma, to be sure, you're very right; here's a nice one. Now, mamma, the wax."
  • "There is a box full; choose your own colours." Seeing it was likely to be _ork of time, Mrs. Montgomery walked away to another part of the store. Whe_he returned Ellen had made up an assortment of the oddest colours she coul_ind.
  • "I won't have any red, mamma, it is so common," she said.
  • "I think it is the prettiest of all," said Mrs. Montgomery.
  • "Do you, mamma? then I will have a stick of red on purpose to seal to yo_ith."
  • "And who do you intend shall have the benefit of the other colours?" inquire_er mother.
  • "I declare, mamma," said Ellen, laughing; "I never thought of that; I a_fraid they will have to go to you. You must not mind, mamma, if you get gree_nd blue and yellow seals once in a while."
  • "I dare say I shall submit myself to it with a good grace," said Mrs.
  • Montgomery. "But come, my dear, have we got all that we want? This desk ha_een very long in furnishing."
  • "You haven't given me a seal yet, mamma."
  • "Seals! There are a variety before you; see if you can find one that you like.
  • By the way, you cannot seal a letter, can you?"
  • "Not yet, mamma," said Ellen, smiling again; "that is another of the things _ave got to learn."
  • "Then I think you had better have some wafers in the mean time."
  • While Ellen was picking out her seal, which took not a little time, Mrs.
  • Montgomery laid in a good supply of wafers of all sorts; and then went o_urther to furnish the desk with an ivory leaf-cutter, a paper-folder, _ounce-box, a ruler, and a neat little silver pencil; also some drawing- pencils, India-rubber, and sheets of drawing-paper. She took a sad pleasure i_dding every thing she could think of that might be for Ellen's future use o_dvantage; but as with her own hands she placed in the desk one thing afte_nother, the thought crossed her mind how Ellen would make drawings with thos_ery pencils, on those very sheets of paper, which her eyes would never see!
  • She turned away with a sigh, and receiving Ellen's seal from her hand, pu_hat also in its place. Ellen had chosen one with her own name.
  • "Will you send these things  _at once?_  " said Mrs. Montgomery; "_articularly wish to have them at home as early in the day as possible."
  • The man promised. Mrs. Montgomery paid the bill, and she and Ellen left th_tore.
  • They walked a little way in silence.
  • "I cannot thank you, mamma," said Ellen.
  • "It is not necessary, my dear child," said Mrs. Montgomery, returning th_ressure of her hand; "I know all that you would say."
  • There was as much sorrow as joy at that moment in the heart of the joyfulles_f the two.
  • "Where are we going now, mamma?" said Ellen again, after a while.
  • "I wished and intended to have gone to St. Clair and Fleury's, to get you som_erino and other things; but we have been detained so long already that _hink I had better go home. I feel somewhat tired."
  • "I am very sorry, dear mamma," said Ellen, "I am afraid I kept you too lon_bout that desk."
  • "You did not keep me, daughter, any longer than I chose to be kept. But _hink I will go home now, and take the chance of another fine day for th_erino."