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Chapter 41 "The clouds return after the rain"

  • > Poor little, pretty, fluttering thing, >   Must we no longer live together?
  • > And dost thou prune thy trembling wing >   To take thy flight thou knowest not whither?
  • >                               PRIOR.
  • AS soon as she could Ellen carried this wonderful news to Alice, and eagerl_oured out the whole story, her walk and all. She was somewhat disappointed a_he calmness of her hearer.
  • "But you don't seem half as surprised as I expected, Alice; I thought yo_ould be so much surprised."
  • "I am not surprised at all, Ellie."
  • "Not!–aren't you?–why, did you know any thing of this before?"
  • "I did not  _know_ , but I suspected. I thought it was very likely. I a_very_  glad it is so."
  • "Glad! are you glad? I am so sorry;–why are you glad, Alice?"
  • "Why are you sorry, Ellie?"
  • "Oh, because!–I don't know–it seems so queer!–I don't like it at all. I a_ery sorry indeed."
  • "For your aunt's sake, or for Mr. Van Brunt's sake?"
  • "What do you mean?"
  • "I mean, do you think he or she will be a loser by the bargain?"
  • "Why he, to be sure; I think he will; I don't think she will. I think he is _reat deal too good. And besides–I wonder if he wants to really;–it wa_ettled so long ago–maybe he has changed his mind since."
  • "Have you any reason to think so, Ellie?" said Alice smiling.
  • "I don't know–I don't think he seemed particularly glad."
  • "It will be safest to conclude that Mr. Van Brunt knows his own mind, my dear; and it is certainly pleasanter for us to hope so."
  • "But then, besides," said Ellen with a face of great perplexity an_exation,–"I don't know–it don't seem right! How can I ever–must I, do yo_hink I shall have to call him any thing but Mr. Van Brunt?"
  • Alice could not help smiling again.
  • "What is your objection, Ellie?"
  • "Why, because I  _can't_  –I couldn't do it, somehow. It would seem s_trange. Must I, Alice?–Why in the world are you glad, dear Alice?"
  • "It smooths my way for a plan I have had in my head; you will know by and b_hy I am glad, Ellie."
  • "Well I am glad if you are glad," said Ellen sighing;–"I don't know why I wa_o sorry, but I couldn't help it; I suppose I shan't mind it after a while."
  • She sat for a few minutes, musing over the possibility or impossibility o_ver forming her lips to the words "uncle Abraham," "uncle Van Brunt," o_arely "uncle;" her soul rebelled against all three. "Yet if he should thin_e unkind,–then I must,–oh, rather fifty times over than that!" Looking up, she saw a change in Alice's countenance, and tenderly asked,
  • "What is the matter, dear Alice? what are you thinking about?"
  • "I am thinking, Ellie, how I shall tell you something that will give yo_ain."
  • "Pain! you needn't be afraid of giving me pain," said Ellen fondly, throwin_er arms around her,–"tell me, dear Alice; is it something I have done that i_rong? what is it?"
  • Alice kissed her, and burst into tears.
  • "What is the matter, oh, dear Alice!" said Ellen, encircling Alice's head wit_oth her arms;–"oh, don't cry! do tell me what it is!"
  • "It is only sorrow for you, dear Ellie."
  • "But why?" said Ellen in some alarm;–"why are you sorry for me? I don't care, if it don't trouble you, indeed I don't! Never mind me; is it something tha_roubles you, dear Alice?"
  • "No–except for the effect it may have on others."
  • "Then I can bear it," said Ellen;–"you need not be afraid to tell me dea_lice;–what is it? don't be sorry for me!"
  • But the expression of Alice's face was such that she could not help bein_fraid to hear; she anxiously repeated "what is it?"
  • Alice fondly smoothed back the hair from her brow, looking herself somewha_nxiously and somewhat sadly upon the up-lifted face.
  • "Suppose Ellie," she said at length,–"that you and I were taking a journe_ogether–a troublesome dangerous journey–and that  _I  _had a way of gettin_t once safe to the end of it;–would you be willing to let me go, and you d_ithout me for the rest of the way?"
  • "I would rather you should take me with you," said Ellen, in a kind of maze o_onder and fear;–"why where are you going, Alice?
  • "I think I am going home, Ellie,–before you."
  • "Home?" said Ellen.
  • "Yes,–home I feel it to be; it is not a strange land; I thank God it is m_home_  I am going to."
  • Ellen sat looking at her, stupefied.
  • "It is your home too, love, I trust, and believe," said Alice tenderly;–"w_hall be together at last. I am not sorry for myself; I only grieve to leav_ou alone,–and others,–but God knows best. We must both look to him."
  • "Why Alice," said Ellen starting up suddenly,–"what do you mean? what do yo_ean?–I don't understand you–what do you mean?"
  • "Do you not understand me, Ellie?"
  • "But Alice!–but Alice– _dear_  Alice–what makes you say so? is there any thin_he matter with you?"
  • "Do I look well, Ellie?"
  • With an eye sharpened to painful keenness, Ellen sought in Alice's face fo_he tokens of what she wished and what she feared. It  _had_  once or twic_ately flitted through her mind that Alice was very thin, and seemed to wan_er old strength, whether in riding, or walking, or any other exertion; and i_had_  struck her that the bright spots of colour in Alice's face were jus_ike what her mother's cheeks used to wear in her last illness. These thought_ad just come and gone; but now as she recalled them and was forced t_cknowledge the justness of them, and her review of Alice's face pressed the_ome anew,–hope for a moment faded. She grew white, even to her lips.
  • "My poor Ellie! my poor Ellie!" said Alice, pressing her little sister to he_osom,–"it must be! We must say 'the Lord's will be done;'–we must not forge_e does all things well."
  • But Ellen rallied; she raised her head again; she could not believe what Alic_ad told her. To her mind it seemed an evil  _too great to happen;_  it coul_ot be! Alice saw this in her look, and again sadly stroked her hair from he_row. "It must be, Ellie, she repeated."
  • "But have you seen somebody?–have you asked somebody?" said Ellen;–"som_octor?"
  • "I have seen and I have asked," said Alice;–"it was not necessary, but I hav_one both. They think as I do."
  • "But these Thirlwall doctors–"
  • "Not them; I did not apply to them. I saw an excellent physician at Randolph, the last time I went to Ventnor."
  • "And he said–"
  • "As I have told you."
  • Ellen's countenance fell–fell.
  • "It is easier for me to leave you than for you to be left,–I know that, m_ear little Ellie! You have no reason to be sorry for me–I  _am_  sorry fo_ou; but the hand that is taking me away is one that will touch neither of u_ut to do us good;–I know that too. We must both look away to our dea_aviour, and not for a moment doubt his love. I do not–you must not. It is no_aid that 'he loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus?' "
  • "Yes," said Ellen, who never stirred her eyes from Alice's.
  • "And might he not–did it not rest with a word of his lips, to keep Lazaru_rom dying, and save his sisters from all the bitter sorrow his death cause_hem?"
  • Again Ellen said, "yes," or her lips seemed to say it.
  • "And yet there were reasons, good reasons, why he should not, little as poo_artha and Mary could understand it.–But had he at all ceased to  _love the_when he bade all that trouble come? Do you remember, Ellie–oh, how beautifu_hose words are!–when at last he arrived near the place, and first one siste_ame to him with the touching reminder that he might have saved them fro_his, and then the other,–weeping and falling at his feet, and repeating
  • 'Lord, if thou hadst been here!'–when he saw their tears, and more, saw th_orn hearts that tears could not ease,–he even wept with them too! Oh, I than_od for those words! He saw reason to strike, and his hand did not sprare; bu_is love shed tears for them! And he is just the same now."
  • Some drops fell from Alice's eyes, not sorrowful ones; Ellen had hid her face.
  • "Let us never doubt his love, dear Ellie, and surely then we can bear whateve_hat love may bring upon us. I do trust it. I do believe it shall be well wit_hem that fear God. I believe it will be well for me when I die,–well for yo_y dear, dear Ellie,–well even for my father–"
  • She did not finish the sentence, afraid to trust herself.–But oh, Ellen kne_hat it would have been; and it suddenly startled into life all the load o_rief that had been settling heavily on her heart. Her thoughts had not looke_hat way before;–now when they did, this new vision of misery was too much t_ear. Quite unable to contain herself, and unwilling to pain Alice more tha_he could help, with a smothered burst of feeling she sprang away, out of th_oor, into the woods, where she would be unseen and unheard.
  • And there in the first burst of her agony, Ellen almost thought she shoul_ie. Her grief had not now indeed the goading sting of impatience; she kne_he hand that gave the blow, and did not raise her own against it; sh_elieved too what Alice had been saying, and the sense of it was, in a manner, present with her in her darkest time. But her spirit died within her; sh_owed her head as if she were never to lift it up again; and she was ready t_ay with Job, "what good is my life to me?"
  • It was long, very long after, when slowly and mournfully she came in again t_iss Alice before going back to her aunt's. She would have done it hurriedl_nd turned away; but Alice held her and looked sadly for a minute into th_oe-begone little face, then clasped her close and kissed her again and again.
  • "Oh, Alice," sobbed Ellen on her neck,–"aren't you mistaken? maybe you ar_istaken."
  • "I am not mistaken, my dear Ellie, my own Ellie," said Alice's clear swee_oice;–"nor sorry, except for others. I will talk with you more about this.
  • You will be sorry for me at first, and then I hope you will be glad. It i_nly that I am going home a little before you. Remember what I was saying t_ou a while ago. Will you tell Mr. Van Brunt I should like to see him for _ew minutes some time when he has leisure?–And come to me early to-morrow, love."
  • Ellen could hardly get home. Her blinded eyes could not see where she wa_tepping; and again and again her fulness of heart got the better of ever_hing else, and unmindful of the growing twilight she sat down on a stone b_he wayside or flung herself on the ground to let sorrows have full sway. I_ne of these fits of bitter struggling with pain, there came on her mind, lik_ sunbeam across a cloud, the thought of Jesus weeping at the grave o_azarus. It came with singular power. Did he love them so well? though_llen–and is he looking down upon us with the same tenderness even now?–Sh_elt that the sun was shining still, though the cloud might be between; he_roken heart crept to His feet and laid its burden there, and after a fe_inutes she rose up and went on her way, keeping that thought still close t_er heart. The unspeakable tears that were shed during those few minutes wer_hat softened out-pouring of the heart that leaves it eased. Very, ver_orrowful as she was, she went on calmly now and stopped no more.
  • It was getting dark, and a little way from the gate, on the road, she met Mr.
  • Van Brunt.
  • "Why I was beginning to get scared about you," said he. "I was coming to se_here you was. How come you so late?"
  • Ellen made no answer, and as he now came nearer and he could see mor_istinctly, his tone changed.
  • "What's the matter?" said he,–"you ha'n't been well! what has happened? wha_ils you, Ellen?"
  • In astonishment and then in alarm, he saw that she was unable to speak, an_nxiously and kindly begged her to let him know what was the matter, and if h_ould do any thing. Ellen shook her head.
  • "Ain't Miss Alice well?" said he;–"you ha'n't heerd no bad news up there o_he hill, have you?"
  • Ellen was not willing to answer this question with yea or nay. She recovere_erself enough to give him Alice's message.
  • "I'll be sure and go," said he,–"but you ha'n't told me yet what's the matter!
  • Has any thing happened?"
  • "No," said Ellen;–"don't ask me–she'll tell you–don't ask me."
  • "I guess I'll go up the first thing in the morning then," said he,–"befor_reakfast."
  • "No," said Ellen;–"better not–perhaps she wouldn't be up so early."
  • "After breakfast then,–I'll go up right after breakfast. I was a going wit_he boys up into that 'ere wheat lot, but anyhow I'll do that first. The_on't have a chance to do much bad or good before I get back to them, _eckon."
  • As soon as possible she made her escape from Miss Fortune's eye and question_f curiosity which she could not bear to answer, and got to her own room.
  • There the first thing she did was to find the eleventh chapter of John. Sh_ead it as she never had read it before;–she found in it what she never ha_ound before; one of those cordials that none but the sorrowing drink. On th_ove of Christ, as there shown, little Ellen's heart fastened; and with tha_ne sweetening thought amid all its deep sadness, her sleep that night migh_ave been envied by many a luxurious roller in pleasure.
  • At Alice's wish she immediately took up her quarters at the parsonage, t_eave her no more. But she could not see much difference in her from what sh_ad been for several weeks past; and with the natural hopefulness o_hildhood, her mind presently almost refused to believe the extremity of th_vil which had been threatened. Alice herself was constantly cheerful, an_ought by all means to further Ellen's cheerfulness; though careful at th_ame time, to forbid, as far as she could, the rising of the hope she sa_llen was inclined to cherish.
  • One evening they were sitting together at the window, looking out upon th_ame old lawn and distant landscape, now in all the fresh greenness of th_oung spring. The woods were not yet in full leaf; and the light of th_etting sun upon the trees bordering the other side of the lawn showed them i_he most exquisite and varied shades of colour. Some had the tender green o_he new leaf, some were in the red or yellow browns of the half-opened bud; others in various stages of forwardness mixing all the tints between, and th_vergreens standing dark as ever, setting off the delicate hues of th_urrounding foliage. This was all softened off in the distance; the very ligh_f the spring was mild and tender compared with that of other seasons; and th_ir that stole round the corner of the house and came in at the open windo_as laden with aromatic fragrance. Alice and Ellen had been for some tim_ilently breathing it and gazing thoughtfully on the loveliness that wa_broad.
  • "I used to think," said Alice, "that it must be a very hard thing to leav_uch a beautiful world. Did you ever think so, Ellie?"
  • "I don't know," said Ellen faintly,–"I don't remember."
  • "I used to think so," said Alice. "But I do not now, Ellie; my feeling ha_hanged.–Do  _you_  feel so now, Ellie?"
  • "Oh, why do you talk about it, dear Alice?"
  • "For many reasons, dear Ellie. Come here and sit in my lap again."
  • "I am afraid you cannot bear it."
  • "Yes I can. Sit here, and let your head rest where it used to;"–and Alice lai_er cheek upon Ellen's forehead;–"you are a great comfort to me, dear Ellie."
  • "Oh, Alice, don't say so–you'll kill me!" exclaimed Ellen in great distress.
  • "Why should I not say so, love?" said Alice soothingly. "I like to say it, an_ou will be glad to know it by and by. You are a  _great_  comfort to me."
  • "And what have you been to me!" said Ellen weeping bitterly.
  • "What I cannot be much longer; and I want to accustom you to think of it, an_o think of it rightly. I want you to know that if I am sorry at all in th_hought, it is for the sake of others, not myself. Ellie, you yourself will b_lad for me in a little while;–you will not wish me back."
  • Ellen shook her head.
  • "I know you will not–after a while;–and I shall leave you in good hands–I hav_rranged for that, my dear little sister!"
  • The sorrowing child neither knew nor cared what she meant, but a mute cares_nswered the  _spirit_  of Alice's words.
  • "Look up Ellie–look out again. Lovely–lovely! all that is,–but I know heave_s a great deal more lovely. Feasted as our eyes are with beauty, I believ_hat eye has not seen, nor heart imagined the things that God has prepared fo_hem that love him.  _You_  believe that, Ellie, you must not be so  _very_orry that I have gone to see it a little before you."
  • Ellen could say nothing.
  • "After all, Ellie, it is not beautiful things nor a beautiful world that mak_eople happy–it is loving and being loved; and that is the reason why I a_appy in the thought of heaven. I shall, if he receives me–I shall be with m_aviour; I shall see him and know him, without any of the clouds that com_etween here. I am often forgetting and displeasing him now,–never serving hi_ell nor loving him right. I shall be glad to find myself where all that wil_e done with for ever. I shall be like him!–Why do you cry so, Ellie?" sai_lice tenderly.
  • "I can't help it, Alice."
  • "It is only my love for you–and for two more–that could make me wish to sta_ere,–nothing else;–and I give all that up, because I do not know what is bes_or you or myself. And I look to meet you all again before long. Try to thin_f it as I do, Ellie."
  • "But what shall I do without you?" said poor Ellen.
  • "I will tell you, Ellie. You must come here and take my place, and take car_f those I leave behind; will you?–and they will take care of you."
  • "But,"–said Ellen, looking up eagerly,–"aunt Fortune–"
  • "I have managed all that. Will you do it, Ellen? I shall feel easy and happ_bout you, and far easier and happier about my father, if I leave yo_stablished here, to be to him as far as you can, what I have been. Will yo_romise me, Ellie?"
  • In words it was not possible; but what silent kisses, and the close pressur_f the arms round Alice's neck could say was said.
  • "I am satisfied, then," said Alice presently. "My father will be you_ather–think him so, dear Ellie,–and I know John will take care of you. And m_lace will not be empty. I am very, very glad."
  • Ellen felt her place surely would be empty, but she could not say so.
  • "It was for this I was so glad of your aunt's marriage, Ellie," Alice soo_ent on. "I foresaw she might raise some difficulties in my way,–hard t_emove perhaps;–but now I have seen Mr. Van Brunt, and he has promised me tha_othing shall hinder your taking up your abode and making your home entirel_ere. Though I believe, Ellie, he would truly have loved to have you in hi_wn house."
  • "I am sure he would," said Ellen,–"but oh, how much rather–"
  • "He behaved very well about it the other morning,–in a very manly, frank, kin_ay,–showed a good deal of feeling I think, too. He gave me to understand tha_or his own sake he should be extremely sorry to let you go; but he assured m_hat nothing over which he had any control should stand in the way of you_ood."
  • "He is  _very_  kind–he is  _very_  good–he is always so," said Ellen. "I lov_r. Van Brunt very much. He always was as kind to me as he could be."
  • They were silent for a few minutes, and Alice was looking out of the windo_gain. The sun had set, and the colouring of all without was graver. Yet i_as but the change from one beauty to another. The sweet air seemed stil_weeter than before the sun went down.
  • "You must be happy, dear Ellie, in knowing that I am. I am happy now. I enjo_ll this, and I love you all,–but I can leave it and can leave you,–yes, both,–for I would see Jesus! He who has taught me to love him will not forsak_e now. Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and _hall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. I thank him! Oh, I thank him!"
  • Alice's face did not belie her words, though her eyes shone through tears.
  • "Ellie, dear,–you must love him with all your heart, and live constantly i_is presence. I know if you do he will make you happy, in any event. He ca_lways give more than he takes away. Oh, how good he is!–and what wretche_eturns we make him!–I was miserable when John first went away to Doncaster; _id not know how to bear it. But now, Ellie, I think I can see it has done m_ood, and I can even be thankful for it. All things are ours–all things;–th_orld, and life, and death too."
  • "Alice," said Ellen, as well as she could,–"you know what you were saying t_e the other day?"
  • "About what, love?"
  • "That about–you know,–that chapter–'
  • "About the death of Lazarus?"
  • "Yes. It has comforted me very much."
  • "So it has me, Ellie. It has been exceeding sweet to me at different times.
  • Come sing to me,–'How firm a foundation.' "
  • From time to time, Alice led to this kind of conversation, both for Ellen'_ake and her own pleasure. Meanwhile she made her go on with her usual studie_nd duties; and but for these talks Ellen would have scarce known how t_elieve that it could be true which she feared.
  • The wedding of Miss Fortune and Mr. Van Brunt was a very quiet one. I_appened at far too busy a time of the year, and they were too coo_alculators, and looked upon their union in much too business-like a point o_iew, to dream of such a wild thing as a wedding-tour, or even resolve upon s_roublesome a thing as a wedding-party. Miss Fortune would not have left he_heese and butter-making to see all the New Yorks and Bostons that ever wer_uilt; and she would have scorned a trip to Randolph. And Mr. Van Brunt woul_s certainly have wished himself all the while back among his furrows an_rops. So one day they were quietly married at home, the Rev. Mr. Clark havin_een fetched from Thirlwall for the purpose. Mr. Van Brunt would hav_referred that Mr. Humphreys should perform the ceremony; but Miss Fortune wa_uite decided in favor of the Thirlwall gentleman, and of course he it was.
  • The talk ran high all over the country on the subject of this marriage, an_pinions were greatly divided; some congratulating Mr. Van Brunt on havin_ade himself one of the richest land-holders "in town" by the junction o_nother fat farm to his own; some pitying him for having got more than hi_atch within doors, and "guessing he'd missed his reckoning for once."
  • "If he has, then," said Sam Larkens, who heard some of these condolin_emarks,–"it's the first time in his life, I can tell you. If  _she_  ain't _ittle mistaken, I wish I mayn't get a month's wages in a year to come. I tel_ou, you don't know Van Brunt; he's as easy as any body as long as he don'_are about what you're doing; but if he once takes a notion you can't make hi_ee nor haw no more than you can our near ox Timothy when he's out o' yoke; and he's as ugly a beast to manage as ever I see when he ain't yoked up. Wh_less you! there ha'n't been a thing done on the farm this five years but jus_hat he liked– _she_  don't know it. I've heerd her," said Sam chucking,–"I'v_eerd her a telling him how she wanted this thing done, and t'other, and he'_ust not say a word and go and do it right t'other way. It'll be a wonder i_omebody ain't considerably startled in her calculations 'afore summer's out."