Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
“The bud comes back to summer,
And the blossom to the bee,
But I’ll win back—O never,
To my ain countree!
“But I am leal to heaven,
Where soon I hope to be,
And there I’ll meet the loved,
From my ain countree!”
Events that are predestined require but little management. They manage themselves. They slip into place while we sleep, and suddenly we are aware that the thing we fear to attempt, is already accomplished. It was somewhat in this way, all our preparations for America were finished. We did not speak of our intentions to any one, neither did we try to conceal them, excepting in the case already mentioned. But somehow they went forward, and that with all the certainty of appointed things.
A month after Mother left us, Robert brought home one day the tickets for our passage from Liverpool to New York, in the steamship Atlantic, then the finest boat sailing between the two ports. “You have now, Milly,” he said, “nearly four weeks to prepare for our new life. We shall sail on the twentieth of August”; and his face was glad, and his voice full of pleasure.
“And what of your preparations, Robert?” I asked.
“They go well with me. I have today made an arrangement for the closing up of my business on the twenty-second of August. And that day Forbes takes possession. He will sell my stock, and pay all I owe, which, thank God, is not much! Mother and Jessy will be in Arran; we shall be on the Atlantic. I shall have all I love and all I possess with me, and I will cast these last miserable two years out of my memory forever.”
“But, Robert,” I asked timidly, “have you money enough for such a change?”
“Quite sufficient. Donald’s legacy has turned out much better than I dared to hope. A syndicate has bought the land for building purposes. I expected three thousand pounds for it; they have paid me five thousand, and I have already transmitted it to the Bank of New York. Next,” he continued, “I will sell this furniture, and we will take the proceeds with us.”
“But we must get rid of Kitty first,” I answered. “If Kitty saw an article leave the house, she would write to your mother, and she, with David and Jessy, would be here by the next boat.”
“Listen!” he replied, with a confident smile. “On Monday, the fifteenth, you will tell Kitty that you and the children are going to Kendal. Let her help you pack your trunk, give her a sovereign, and bid her take a month’s holiday. She will be glad enough to get away. On Tuesday morning let her go to the Kendal train with you, bid her good-bye there, and advise her to take the next train for Greenock, from which place she can easily get passage to Campbeltown. She will not hurry out of Greenock, if she has money, and it may be two weeks before she sees Mother.”
“I shall reach Kendal on Tuesday afternoon, and you, Robert, when?”
“I will come for you on Thursday. On Friday we will go to Manchester, stay all night there, as you wish to see your sister, and early on Saturday morning take the train for Liverpool. The Atlantic sails about four in the afternoon; do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand what I am to do. What are your own plans?”
“As soon as you have left on Tuesday morning, I will bring home the large packing cases already ordered. These I will fill with our personal belongings, which you must quietly place in your own wardrobe, and the drawers and presses in the spare room. The boxes are very large, and you need not deny yourself anything that is comfortable, or dear to you.”
“I know the boxes; I have seen them.”
“Impossible! They are not yet made.”
“I saw them last night. They were of rough, unpainted wood, and very large, and, as I looked, a man came in and soldered thin iron bands around them.”
“Upon my soul, Amelia, what do you mean!”
“What I say. They were standing in this room.”
“You dreamed this?”
“Yes. Then I saw you, and the children, and we were on a ship sailing up a wide river, and we passed an island with many drooping willow trees close by the water side, and southward there were the outlines of a great city before me, and I knew the city was New York.”
“It is no wonder you dream of New York. You think and read and talk of it so much. But the packing cases, and the man soldering on the thin iron bands! That puzzles me. I never told you anything about them.”
“No, you never told me, but Some One who knew all about them, showed them to me. After you have packed the boxes on Tuesday, what then?”
“I shall go with them to Liverpool. A steamer leaving here on Tuesday night is in Liverpool Wednesday morning. A dray will take them to the Atlantic’s pier, and put them with her freight, after which duty done, I will start at once for Kendal. I may be there on Wednesday night, but allow something for detentions, and say some time Thursday.”
Robert’s plans appeared to be well considered and not difficult to carry out, and I began that day to go through my girlhood’s treasures, choosing some and leaving others. And, when Kitty was out marketing or walking with Mary I placed them ready for the big packing cases, that I knew were coming for them. Was I happy while thus busy? No. I knew that I was on the road appointed me to travel, but it was a new road, and a far distant one from the father and mother and sisters I loved so sincerely. Nor was I a woman who liked change and adventure. My strongest instincts were for home, and home pleasures, and the tearing to pieces of the beautiful home given me with so much love was a great trial. But to have shown this feeling might have saddened and discouraged Robert. In those days I was learning some of the hardest lessons wives have to become acquainted with, notably, to affect pleasure and satisfaction, when they are not pleased and satisfied; to hold up another’s heart, while their own heart faints within them; to give so lavishly of their vitality, hope, and confidence that they themselves are left prostrate; and yet, to smilingly say, “It is only a little headache,” and to make no complaint of their individual loves and losses, lest they should dash the courage or cool the enthusiasm of the one who, at all costs, must be encouraged and supported.
For I did not forget that all Robert’s energies at this time were required for one end and object, and that the smaller asides of individual feelings must not be allowed to interfere with that purpose. So I made no remark about the sale of my furniture. It was my contribution to our new life, and I resolved to give it cheerfully. Robert had told me I had four weeks, but, in reality, I had only three, for I was to leave on Tuesday, the sixteenth of August, for Kendal, and the fifteenth was to be spent in packing. But the three weeks felt too long. What I had to do, I did quickly; and then there was the weary waiting on others. Life became agitated and exigent, and the atmosphere of the house restless and expectant. Every room was full of Presence, evidently the wraiths of the departed were interested in what was going on; for,
“All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floor.”
During the whole three weeks of preparation I was singularly prescient both by day and night, but only once did I mention this condition to Robert. I had lain down on my bed in the afternoon, weary with thought and feeling, and had fallen fast asleep. Then I heard a commotion in the house, the moving of furniture, the voices of men calling to each other, and, above all, I heard one strident voice of command, accompanied by a kind of stamp upon the floor. Presently my room door was opened, and a remarkable man entered. He was tall and rather stout, his face was large and white, his dress clerical, his whole manner intensely authoritative. He walked round my room, and stood a moment and looked at me. It was an inquisitive look, quite without interest or kindness. Then he began to give orders, and I awoke.
To Robert I said that night, “I saw your father this afternoon,” and I described the man who was directing the moving of the furniture; laying particular stress upon the stamp in his walk. Robert looked at me with amazement, then told me that the peculiarity in the walk was caused by his father having a false leg. “He received an injury to his knee while playing golf,” he said, “and his walk with the artificial limb, was of the character you observed. But I never told you of it.”
“No, you never told me, Robert, but there are tiding bringers whom we do not summon. ‘God also speaks to his children in dreams, and by the oracles that dwell in darkness.’ We do not realize it, yet there is no doubt that our daily life is the care of angels, and the theme of their conversation. Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who are the heirs of salvation?”
“Then what of those who are not heirs of salvation?”
“There are no such unfortunates. God is ‘not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ Once I heard my father quote that verse in the pulpit, and after a moment’s pause he cried out, ‘a great all that,’ and a very old man spoke out loudly, ‘Glory be to God! A great all. It covers every soul.’ Then Father quoted the words again, and there was a wonderful happiness, and the dull old chapel seemed to glow, and the faces of the people were lifted heavenward.”
And Robert called me a dear little Methodist, and drew me close to his side, and kissed me. “No wonder!” he continued, “my father felt no interest in you—but that was a strange dream, Milly.”
“Dreams are large possessions, Robert,” I answered; “they are an expansion of life, an enlightenment, and a discipline. I thank God for my dream life; my daily life would be far poorer, if it wanted the second sight of dreams. The dreams I have had during this movement of ours have kept me serene and satisfied. They have shown me what is appointed, and things appointed come to pass.”
“In three weeks we shall see if your dreams come to pass.”
“Yes, but three weeks is a long time.”
Indeed I felt it to be almost a cruel lengthening of suspense; for I did not understand at the time I was learning one of the most difficult lessons the soul has to master—that of “waiting patiently for the Lord.” It is easy to ask, but to wait patiently for the answer, is a far more difficult duty. However, when I had carefully arranged in the places indicated our household treasures of napery, clothing, silver, and so forth, I wished I could go to Kendal. But I saw Robert’s face change as soon as I mentioned Kendal.
“We made a plan for our movements, Milly,” he said, “and I do not wish a single point altered. It might disarrange all I have been working for.”
Then I declared I was quite content, but I was not always content. In spite of my undoubted confidence in the wisdom of the change we were making, I had days of utter weariness. My life, with all its orderly habits and duties, seemed to be the same; but I knew that its foundation was destroyed; reading had ceased to interest me; I had no more sewing to do; my soul often sank back upon itself, and sometimes even retired from sympathy and affection. All have had such hours, and know what they mean. As for me, when this dark mental and spiritual inertia attacked me, and I could not pray, I just told God so, and waited until some blessed wind of Heaven unlocked the mood, which bound me like a chain.
One afternoon, about a week before I was to go to Kendal, Robert’s mother called, and the moment she entered the room, a look of amazement and anger came over her face.
“Amelia!” she cried, “Amelia, what are you doing? Do stop that foolishness at once. It is fairly sinful, and nothing less.”
What I was doing, was spinning some half-crowns on the polished table for the amusement of Mary, who was sitting in her high chair and laughing with delight. I looked up at Mother, and explained how I had given Kitty a sovereign for some marketing, and she had brought the change in silver pieces, so I was just showing Mary how prettily the crowns and half-crowns could dance.
“Don’t you see that you are teaching the child, before she is two years old, that money is a thing to play with? And, what is more, suppose she puts one of those shilling bits in her mouth, and it gets into her throat; nothing could save her. And it would be your fault, and not God’s will, at all.”
“Thank you, Mother,” I said, as I rapidly gathered up the coins. “It was very thoughtless of me; I will never do the like again. Will you have a cup of tea, and will you stay all night?”
“No,” she answered, “I just came to see if Robert was at home. It is not possible to find him in his office lately, and I want a few words with him.”
“I have not seen him since early this morning,” I said; and I ordered her tea, and tried to introduce a more pleasant conversation. But the incident of the coins mortified me, and I could see Mother anxiously glancing at them, as they lay on the chimney-piece; so I carried them to my desk, locked the desk, and put the key in my pocket. As I was doing this, I was thinking that it might be the last time I should see her, and was trying to find some homely, sympathetic subject, that would bring us, at least for this hour, closer together.
But it was not a pleasant visit, and Robert was troubled and silent for a long time, after I told him about it. Then I was troubled, for I knew so little of Robert’s family affairs, that I was like a woman walking in the dark any step might be a false one; any moment I might stumble. But often, I had heard my father say, “When you do not know what to do, then stand still.” So I was still, and appeared to be puzzling over a new pattern of crochet work.
For I was determined that Robert should take the initiative, and after a little while he did so. “Milly,” he said, “I have been trying to discover what makes Mother and you always at swords’ points. If you do not quarrel, you come so near it, that you might as well, perhaps better, do so. You do not quarrel with any one else, why cannot you two agree?”
“The disagreement is probably behind, and beyond us, Robert,” I answered. “We are not responsible for it. You have heard me speak of Ann Oddy?”
“Well, then, Ann would say, that your mother’s angel and my angel did not agree. I think Mother’s angel is probably a wise, stern spirit, who has made Mother look well after her own interests, and despise frivolities; and I am sure my angel is one easily entreated, and anxious to give me everything I want—when she can—but she cannot always manage it.”
Robert laughed and said, “Then I suppose your angel and mine are good friends.”
“Yes,” I answered; “they both approved our marriage, and did all they could to forward it.”
“Suppose they had not approved it?”
“Then your mother’s angel would have had her way, and we should have been separated.”
“If you hold such opinions, Milly, you must also believe that angels still retain human feelings?”
“Why not?” I answered. “They are not perfect. They are still going forward, even as we are.”
“Then they cannot be equal.”
“Far from it. Some are in authority, some under authority. Some are tidings bringers, others are invisible helpers of all kinds. Some minister to little children, others to men fainting in the van of a hard life, and many console the dying. I have heard it said that ‘we come into the world alone, and we die alone.’ We do neither. No, indeed!”
“You little preacher! Where do you get such ideas?” asked Robert.
“Ideas do not float about in the air, so then some intelligent being sends them to me. They are the fruits of some soul. A good message will always find a messenger.”
“Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth,
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.”
Every one knows that in times of great anxiety, conversation is sure to turn either on some trivial occurrence, or else on some speculative subject. It was so with Robert and myself. We did not talk more than was necessary about our own affairs; as long as they were in uncertainty and transition, they were at the mercy of contingencies, which we could neither alter nor hurry. A few words every evening informed me of any progress made and then I knew it was wise to turn the conversation upon some irrelevant subject, that would provoke argument.
But joyful or sorrowful time goes by, and at last it was the fifteenth of August. I saw the dawn breaking, and I whispered to myself, “Awake, Amelia! There is a charge for your shield today!” and with this cheerful exhortation I rose. After breakfast, I called Kitty, and she helped me to pack the trunk that was to go with me, wherever my destiny led. Kitty thought Kendal was its limit, and she made a remark about the quantity of the children’s clothing, and the small number and plainness of my own gowns. I made no explanation, but said,
“Now, Kitty, look after your own things. You must be ready to leave the house with me by ten o’clock tomorrow morning. After my train has left, you can then take the carriage direct to the Greenock Station for your own journey.”
There was very little more for me to do, and the day threatened to be sixty hours long. So about noon I resolved to take a walk up Argyle Street, go through the Arcade to Buchanan, and get my luncheon at McLaren’s. It was to be a kind of farewell walk over the well known pavements and I thought if I saw a pretty brooch or bracelet made of Scotch pebbles, I would buy it as a memorial of the happy days, I had spent in Glasgow. The unhappy ones, I was determined to forget. I went into a jeweler’s on Buchanan Street, and turned over a lot of those queer ornaments made of various colored agates set in silver. They were all heavy and ungraceful, but I paid a pound for a pair of bracelets, and I wonder even today what made me do it. I have no love for what is called jewelry, it always looks barbaric to me, and this Scotch jewelry is neither pretty nor rare, nor had I ever before thought of buying it. We do queer things in those hours of anxious suspense, that can find no natural outlet or relief.
As I came out of the jeweler’s with my purchase in my hand, I met Mrs. McIntosh face to face. She smiled, and put out her hand, and I could have cried with pleasure:
“Oh, how glad, how glad I am to see you!” I exclaimed. “Let us go into McLaren’s, and have a hot pie and a cup of tea, and talk about old times.”
So we did, and I told her how I had fretted over their desertion, and how pleasantly I remembered the dances with both old and young Peter, and that I never, never, had such happy evenings in any other house in Glasgow. We laughed, talked, recalled this and that, and ate our pies and drank our tea to delightful memories, that neither of us had forgotten. More than thirty-five years after this happy lunch, I was in Glasgow again, and I had a call from Mrs. McIntosh’s grandson, and an invitation from his family to come down to their seaside home to spend a few days with them. For an unavoidable reason I could not accept the invitation, but I was glad to think they had remembered me so long, because they were still young and fresh in my memory, and never will be old.
My meeting with Mrs. McIntosh made me very happy, and the day got over better than I expected, although Robert was half an hour later than usual. Every wife knows what that unusual half-hour means. It is as long as half a dozen hours; it is filled with fears and shadows of fears, about accidents possible and impossible. For it is not the troubles we are fighting, that weary and depress us; it is the ills we fear, and that never come, that give us our worst hours—the ills that have no message for us, that are passing by our dwelling even while we wait for them. I doubt if there lives a man or a woman who cannot say,
“Oh, the anxious hours I’ve spent,
For ills that never came!”
Indeed when Robert did come he was more cheerful than I expected, and after dinner he told me that he had sold the furniture just as it stood to the man who made it, adding, “he will not remove it until Monday, the twenty-second.”
I smiled faintly, but could not speak, and there was a little silence. Then Robert said, “Sing us a song, Milly.”
“I can not sing tonight, Robert.”
“Try ‘The Kail Brose of Old Scotland.’”
“No,” I answered, “there is only one song that fits tonight—‘Lochaber No More.’”
“Sing it then.”
I shook my head, saying, “It’s overwhelming sadness, would be intolerable. You must be happy, if you dare to sing ‘Lochaber No More.’ If you are not, its broken-hearted melody will haunt you for weeks.”
Then we were silent again, until I suddenly looked up, and found Robert regarding me with eyes so full of love and pity, that I dropped my crochet and covered my face with my hands. I could not bear it. He tenderly took my hands in his, and with kisses and affectionate words, told me that he was not insensible to the generous manner with which I had surrendered all his gifts to me.
“Let the gifts go,” I answered; “I have you.”
“My darling!” he said, “let us take a last walk through the rooms, and bid them farewell. We will fix every item in our memories, and I promise you an American home far more beautiful than this.”
I believed him. Without doubt he would keep his word. So I was comforted; and we went together into every room, recalling how we had decided on the creton and papering for one room in the Windermere woods, and for another, sitting on the grassy slope of Kendal Castle. There was some incident of our love, or home, connected with every picture, with every bronze, with every chair and table. We smiled and wept together. Yes, we both wept, and I am not ashamed of the fact. Of course it was intensely sentimental, but in that quality lay our salvation. If we could have gone through those rooms at this farewell hour, without tears and reminiscent smiles, ours would have been a hopeless case; for it is the men and women who are steeped in sentiment and religion, that do things. They are the high-hearted and hopeful, they can face every emergency, and conquer every situation. It is the materialist and the atheist, who flinch and fail, and who never succeed, because they have lost the Great Companion who alone could give permanence and value to whatever they have done.
The next morning we were up with the dawn, and after a leisurely breakfast reached the Caledonian Line in good time. Here we dismissed Kitty, and Robert stayed with me, until the train was ready to start.
“You need not be anxious about your trunk, Milly,” he said. “I will speak to the guard about it, and also about your dinner at Carlisle.” Very soon I saw him talking to that official, as if they were old friends, and the two men came to the carriage door together. Then Robert bid me good-bye, and with a bright smile promised to see me in Kendal Wednesday or Thursday. The next moment the door was locked, and the comfortable English guard cry, “All’s Right!” ran along the line until it reached the engineer, who answered it at once by starting the train.
The journey was an easy and pleasant one. I was well cared for, the children were quiet and sleepy, and I found Mother and Alethia waiting for me. About this my last visit to my home, I shall say little. A multitude of words could not reach the heart of it, and indeed we were all less disposed to talk than usual. I was exceedingly anxious. I had a fear of Robert’s mother, and while I was taking a walk the next day with Father, I told him a good deal about her. I thought he did not listen with his usual sympathy, and I asked “if he thought we had done wrong to come away without her knowledge?”
“Was it your doing, Milly?” he asked.
“Partly,” I answered. “Yes, Father, it was mainly my doing.”
“I don’t approve it, Milly,” he said. “A mother is a sacred relation. It is a kind of sacrilege to wound her feelings. You would need good reasons to excuse it.”
“We had good reasons, Father. Ask Robert when he comes tomorrow.”
“Yes, I will.” Then he gave me some personal advice, not necessary to write here, but which I hold in everlasting remembrance.
That night when all the house was asleep, and I was sitting with Mother, I told her Father’s opinion about our deceiving Robert’s mother. She was quietly angry.
“Do not mind what he said on that subject, Milly,” she said. “Your father thinks a deal more of mothers than he does of wives. Ever since we were married, he has gone into mourning about his mother on certain days, and he wanted the whole house to mourn and fast with him. I would not hear of such nonsense. We none of us knew the woman. Ann Oddy flatly refused; she was well aware I would stand by her. As for you children, I told your father plainly, you would, if you lived, have plenty of live troubles to fret you without mourning for a dead one, you knew nothing about. But all the same he never forgets certain days—you remember?”
“Yes, Mother, I remember very well.”
“I hope none of you will keep my birthday, or death day, in any such sorrowful way. Try to make happiness out of it, and if you can not, let it be forgotten.”
As we sat talking very softly at the open window of the dark room there was a knock at the door. I hoped it was Robert, and I waited breathlessly for his voice and step. But it was not Robert.
“It is a man from The King’s Arms. He has brought a letter. I think it is for you, Milly,” said Mother.
She was striking a light as she spoke, and I took the letter from her hand.
“It is from Robert,” I said. “He is at the King’s Arms. He would not disturb us so late tonight, but he will be with us after breakfast tomorrow morning.”
“That was thoughtful and kind all round,” answered Mother, and she continued, “we had better try to sleep, Milly. There are three hard days before you.” Then she suddenly turned to me, and said in a little eager way, “O Milly, I do want to go to Liverpool with you! I do want to go so much! Do you think Father will spare me?”
“Mother, dear Mother! He must spare you! I will ask him in the morning.”
In the morning Robert came in like sunshine, just as we were finishing breakfast, and in the pleasant stir of his advent, I asked Father for Mother’s company to Liverpool. “We shall be off before noon, Saturday,” I said, “and she can return to Manchester, stay with Jane over Sunday, and go to Kendal on Monday. Let her go with us, Father.”
Father was easily entreated, and then Mother was as excited as a little child. She wanted new strings to her best bonnet, fresh laces for her gray bombazine dress, and there was a button off her best gloves. So in these and kindred duties for the children, the day passed. We smiled and made believe we were pleasantly occupied, but Father knew, and I knew, it was the last day we should ever spend together. The heart-breaking pathos of those three words—the last day, lay underneath all our pleasant words and smiles. We were really dying to each other every hour of that last day. In after years when the fire of life has cooled down, we wonder why we felt so keenly, and how we endured it!
Fortunately the strain was in a measure lifted early the next morning. We were to leave at nine o’clock and every one was busy dressing or breakfasting. When the carriage was at the door, and I had kissed my sisters, I looked around for Father. “He is in his room,” said Alethia, and as she spoke, I heard him walking about. I went to him, and when he saw me enter, he knew the parting moment had come. He stood still and stretched out his arms, and I clung to him whispering “Father! My Father! I must go!”
Tenderly he stooped and kissed me, saying, “Dear, my dear! My Milly! I know not where you are going, and Robert could not tell me. But this I know, wherever your lot may be cast, ‘your bread shall be given, and your water sure.’”
Then Mother called us, and we went down together. Mother and the children were in the carriage. Robert was waiting for me. Without a word Father kissed us both, and the carriage went hurriedly away but I watched as far as I could, the white lifted head, and eager eyes of the dear soul I was never to see again in this world. He lived about nine years after our parting, and died as he wished to die—“on a Sabbath morning, when the bells are ringing for church.” Perhaps he had some primitive idea of the glory of the Church Celestial, and some hope that he might serve in it. Only to be a doorkeeper in His House, would be heaven to his adoring love.
“O Strong Soul, by what shore
Tarriest thou now? In some far shining sphere,
Conscious or not of the past,
Still thou performest the Word
Of the Spirit, in whom thou didst live.”
. . . . . . . . . .
We reached Manchester in the afternoon, and Robert went to see some old business friends to bid them good-bye, while Mother, I, and the children were thankful to lie down and sleep a little for we expected Jane to dinner, and I was anxious to have a pleasant evening with her. I had not seen her since her marriage, and I wondered what change it had made.
She was the same quiet, authoritative woman I remembered so well, and it being a warm evening she was dressed in a lilac muslin, which was very becoming to her. Her plentiful pale brown hair was neatly arranged; I am sure there was not one hair out of its proper place. I was glad she was not changed; above all I relished the rather advisory manner of “eldest sister” which she still retained. I would have been disappointed if Jane had not found something to counsel, or censure, or warn me about. She looked into my face with the kindest blue eyes, and remarked,
“You are still very pretty, Amelia, and quite young in appearance, too; almost too girlish for a married woman.”
I laughed a little and asked, “Did you expect marriage to make me ugly and old, Jane?”
“I have known it to do so.”
“Not in your case, any more than in mine,” I answered. “You are handsomer than I ever saw you.”
“Yes, I dare say that is so. I was worn out when I married. Poor Father’s affliction is most trying on those who have to witness it, and assist him.”
“Alas!” I said, “Mother feels it much. She will not live long, unless she has some help.”
“Father will have no one but Mother near him. Men are selfish always, and particularly selfish when they are sick. Their wives have to be Providence to them. I pity you, Amelia.”
“What for, Jane?”
“Of course it is to please your husband you are going to America. You never would have thought of such a piece of folly.”
“When I was six years old, I thought of going to India and China and many other places.”
“As a missionary. That makes all the difference. If I understood Mother, you and Mr. Barr are going to America, in order to make more money; leaving a Christian land, to live among pagans for a little money. I do not think that is a justifiable cause, Amelia.”
“But Jane, we are not going among pagans. The United States is a Christian country, and——”
“Oh, I have read the missionary reports! In the big cities, like New York, I suppose the people are Christianized, but on what they call the frontier, I am told there are few churches. Will you go to the frontier?”
“I think so.”
“Well, dear, do not lose your assurance. Among Indians, negroes, cowboys, and atheists of all kinds, hold fast your assurance. Let all see that you are a child of God.”
“You need not fear for me, Jane. I will be good, or at least try to be so.”
Then Mother and Robert came into the parlor together, and a servant followed them with dinner. Robert was in high spirits. He had spent three or four happy hours among old business friends. Jane looked at him with evident pleasure and he drew her out in her best vein, which was a kind of humorous criticism; she gave him personally its first clever shafts. We had a cheerful meal, and I wondered how Mother and I could laugh, when these were probably—and as time proved—our last hours together. Ah! I have learned since then, how often women laugh when care or poverty or cruel pain, fiercer than the Spartan fox, is gnawing their trembling, suffering hearts.
I do not remember whether Jane’s husband or any of her three children were with her. If they were, I have totally forgotten them, which under the circumstances is very likely. When it was time for her to go, I went with her to the dressing-room, and as she was tying her bonnet, she said approvingly, “I like your husband, Amelia, but I fear he is just a little ‘gay.’ Is he not?”
“Yes,” I answered, “he is a little gay, but I like it. Jane are you going to Liverpool to see us off. If so, you could bring Mother back with you.”
“I asked Mother about the time of sailing,” she replied. “Mother said it would be about noon. That renders it impossible. I have so many duties at home, and I am a late riser. I think it is a great folly to make a parting that is a grief to both of us, hours longer than it need be.”
“You are right, Jane,” I answered. “We will say good-bye here,” and I kissed her fondly; for I loved her. We had a thousand memories in common, and she was inextricably bound up with my happy early life. I did not see her again for nearly forty years, and I have sometimes wished I had not seen her then; for the long slow years had brought her many sorrows, and had dealt hardly with the beautiful Jane of my youthful memories. But it was evident to me that she lived among things unseen, as well as things seen, and that the mystical appetite for religious service, which she possessed in her youth, had grown steadily. She valued things at their eternal, not their temporal worth. I was then in the first flush of my literary success, but I felt humbled before her. She was still my eldest sister.
After Jane had gone, we talked the midnight away but I was very weary and fell fast asleep in my chair, Mother’s low, soft monotone in my ears. For the last time, she had charmed me to sleep. I slept that night until the daylight woke me. Then there was a little hurry, and we only reached the Atlantic half an hour before she sailed. We were all cheerful; Mother had set that tone for our last hours together. “I shall not shed a tear,” she said. “Robert has promised me that you shall come to visit us in two years, and he always keeps his word.” Like a little child she accepted a promise; she never thought of its being broken. She was delighted with our cabin, and delighted with the ship, and was talking comfortably to me about the quickness with which two years would pass, when there was the ringing of a bell and an officer politely reminded her, that the call was for those going on shore. She started to her feet with a little cry—a cry like that of a wounded animal—I shall never forget it, and then sobbed,
“Milly! Milly! Two years, dear!”
I could not speak. I cannot write it. They led her away. In a few moments we were parted forever in this world.
I stumbled down to my cabin, and found Robert with the children. There were tears in his eyes, but none in mine. I bowed down heavily as one that mourneth for his mother, but I did not find tears till I was alone with God, and had my baby at my breast. For Fate or Force seemed closing around me, and but one way stood before me—the way this man I had chosen for my husband, should choose to go. He had already taken me from my father, my mother, my sisters, and my home; the friends of my youth, the land of my birth, what, and where next? Then I glanced at the babe in my arms, and she smiled at me, and with that love and hope counseled me, for in my soul I knew:
“’Twould all be well, no need to care,
Though how it would, and when, and where,
I could not see, nor yet declare.
In spite of dreams, in spite of thought,
’Tis not in vain, and not for naught,
The good wind blows, the good ship goes,
Though where it takes me, no one knows.”
Very soon Robert, who had carried Mary to the deck with him, returned and I was able to meet him with a smile. “It will be lunch time in ten minutes, Milly,” he said.
“I will not go to lunch today,” I answered. “They will bring me something for Mary and myself, and after lunch we shall try to sleep. So, Robert, do not disturb us till four o’clock.” However, after lunch I was far from sleep, though the children were good enough to let it take care of them. Then I sent for the stewardess and asked her to hire me a woman from among the steerage passengers, who could assist me in nursing and caring for them. She said, “That can be quickly done;” then she pointed out a siding for the sofa, which slipped easily into places prepared for it, and so made a safe cot for Mary to sleep in.
In two or three hours I had a proper nurse, had put the cabin into comfortable order, and had made all other necessary arrangements for as regular a life as was possible on shipboard. Then I was tired, too tired to dress for dinner, but when the gloaming came I went to the deck with Robert. The blessed sea breeze, full of the potent magic savors of ozone and iodine, soon lifted up my weary body, and my soul and my flesh caught hope and courage, and I talked bravely with Robert of the new life before us.
An hour later I saw a little company gathering near us, and as they turned their faces to the vanishing land, a clear vibrant voice full of pathos started Thomas Haynes Bayly’s unforgettable song, “Isle of Beauty, Fare Thee Well.” They sang it with wonderful feeling, and drew a silent crowd of listeners around them. And as they sang my sorrow seemed to escape on the sweet, sad melody, to vanish, to flutter away, and I went back to our cabin, saying softly as I went:
“Land where all my loved ones dwell,
Isle of Beauty, fare thee well!”
I found Mary sleeping, but the baby was awake, and I thought it would then be well to carry out an intention I had cherished for some time. I sent away the nurse, and asked Robert to unfasten the small trunk which we had with us. As soon as this was done I said, “I want some night clothing out, Robert; will you hold Lilly for a few minutes?”
He looked at me inquiringly, and said, “Lilly! Is it to be that? She was baptized Eliza.”
“I know,” I answered, “but think a moment, Robert. That name would soon become a trial. It is too full of unhappy memories. The child might suffer in more ways than one from being linked with it, and your mother will never know.”
“Perhaps you are right. We might love her too much, or go to the other extreme. But why Lilly?”
“Because Lilly is the Scotch abbreviation for both Elizabeth and Eliza. So she will retain her baptismal name.”
“Very well,” he replied, “that is a good reason for Lilly.”
So from that hour to this, my second daughter has been called Lilly.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.