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knew they were affianced, and regarded Mary with attention. The calm, sweet, elevated expression of her face struck her; it struck her also that that was not the light of any earthly love, — that it had no thrill, no blush, no tremor, but only the calmness of a soul that knows itself no more; and she sighed involuntarily She looked at the Doctor, and seemed to study attentively a face which happiness made this morning as genial and attractive as it was generally strong and fine. There was little said at the breakfasttable; and yet the loud singing of the birds, the brightness of the sunshine, the life and vigor of all things, seemed to make up for the silence of those who were too well pleased to speak.
"Eh bien, ma chere," said Madame, after breakfast, drawing Mary into her little room,—" c'est done Jini t"
"Yes," said Mary, cheerfully.
"Thou art content?" said Madame, passing her arm around her. "Well, then, I should be. But, Mary, it is like a marriage with the altar, like taking the veil, is it not?"
"No," said Mary ; "it is not taking the veil; it is beginning a cheerful, reasonable life with a kind, noble friend, who will always love me truly, and whom I hope to make as happy as he deserves."
"I think well of him, my little cat," ■aid Madame, reflectively; but she stopped something she was going to say, and kissed Mary's forehead. After a moment's pause, she added, "One must have love or refuge, Mary ;— this is thy refuge, child ; thou wilt have peace in it." She sighed again. "Enfin," she said, resuming her gay tone. "what shall be la toilette dt nocett Thou shalt have Virginie's pearls, my fair one, and look like a sea-born Venus. Tiens, let me try them in thy hair." And in a few moments she had Mary's long hair down, and was chattering like a blackbird, wreathing the pearls in and out, and saving a thousand pretty little nothings,— weaving grace and poetry upon the straight thread of Puritan life. CHAPTER XXIX. BUSTLE IS THE PARISH.
The announcement of the definite engagement of two such bright particular stars in the hemisphere of the Doctor's small parish excited the interest that such events usually create among the faithful of the flock. There was a general rustle and flutter, as when a covey of wild pigeons has been started; and all the little elves who rejoice in the name of " says he" and "says I " and " do tell " and "have you heard " were speedily flying through the consecrated air of the parish. The fact was discussed by matrons and maidens, at the spinning-wheel, in the green clothes-yard, and at the foamy wash-tub, out of which rose weekly a new birth of freshness and beauty. Many a rustic Venus of the foam, as she splashed her dimpled elbows in the rainbow-tinted froth, talked of what should be done for the forthcoming solemnities, and wondered what Mary would have on when she was married, and whether she (the Venus) should get an invitation to the wedding, and whether Ethan would go,— not, of course, that she cared in the least whether he did or not
Grave, elderly matrons talked about the prosperity of Zion, which they imagined intimately connected with the event of their minister's marriage; and descending from Zion, speculated on bedquilts and table-cloths, and rummaged their own clean, sweet-smelling stores, fragrant with balm ami rose-leaves, to lay out a bureau-cover, or a pair of sheets, or a dozen napkins for the wedding outfit.
The solemnest of solemn quiltings was resolved upon. Miss Prissy declared that she fairly couldn't sleep nights with the responsibility of the wedding-dresses on her mind, but yet she must give one day to getting on that quilL
The grand tnonde also was in motion. Mrs. General Wilcox called in her own particular carriage, bearing present of a Cashmere shawl for the bride, with the General's best compliments,— also an
oak-leaf pattern for quilting, which had been sent her from England, and which was authentically established to be that used on a petticoat belonging to the Princess Royal. And Mrs. Major Seaforth came also, bearing a scarf of wrought India muslin; and Mrs. Vernon sent a splendid China punch-bowl. Indeed, to say the truth, the notables high and mighty of Newport, whom the Doctor had so unceremoniously accused of building their houses with blood and establishing their city with iniquity, considering that nobody seemed to take his words to heart, and that they were making money as fast as old Tyre, rather assumed the magnanimous, and patted themselves on the shoulder for this opportunity to show the Doctor that after all they were good fellows, though they did make money at the expense of thirty per cent, on human life.
Simeon Brown was the only exception. He stood aloof, grim and sarcastic, and informed some good middle-aged ladies who came to see if he would, as they phrased it, "esteem it a privilege to add his mite" to the Doctor's outfit, that he would give him a likely negro boy, if he wanted him, and, if he was too conscientious to keep him, he might sell him at a fair profit, — a happy stroke of humor which he was fond of relating many years after.
The quilting was in those days considered the most solemn and important recognition of a betrothal. And for the benefit of those not to the manner born, a little preliminary instruction may be necessary.
The good wives of New England, impressed with that thrifty orthodoxy of economy which forbids to waste the merest trifle, had a habit of saving every scrap clipped out in the fashioning of household garments, and these they cut into fanciful patterns and constructed of them rainbow shapes and quaint traceries, the arrangement of which became one of their few fine arts. Many a maiden, as she sorted and arranged fluttering bits of green, yellow,
red, and blue, felt rising in her breast a passion for somewhat vague and unknown, which came out at length in a new pattern of patchwork. Collections of these tiny fragments were always ready to fill an hour when there was nothing else to do; and as the maiden chatted with her beau, her busy flying needle stitched together those pretty bits, which, little in themselves, were destined, by gradual unions and accretions, to bring about at last substantial beauty, warmth, and comfort,— emblems thus of that household life which is to be brought to stability and beauty by reverent economy in husbanding and tact in arranging the little useful and agreeable morsels of daily existence.
When a wedding was forthcoming, there was a solemn review of the stores of beauty and utility thus provided, and the patchwork-spread best worthy of such distinction was chosen for the quilting. Thereto, duly summoned, trooped all intimate female friends of the bride, old and young; and the quilt being spread on a frame, and wadded with cotton, each vied with the others in the delicacy of the quilting she could put upon it. For the quilting also was a fine art, and had its delicacies and nice points,— which grave elderly matrons discussed with judicious care. The quilting generally began at an early hour in the afternoon, and ended at dark with a great supper and general jubilee, at which that ignorant and incapable sex which could not quilt was allowed to appear and put in claims for consideration of another nature. It may, perhaps, be surmised that this expected reinforcement was often alluded to by the younger maidens, whose wickedly coquettish toilettes exhibited suspicious marks of that willingness to get a chance to say "No" which has been slanderously attributed to mischievous maidens.
In consideration of the tremendous responsibilities involved in this quilting, the reader will not be surprised to learn, that, the evening before, Miss Prissy made her appearance at the brown cottage, armed with thimble, scissors, and pincushion, in order to relieve her mind by a little preliminary confabulation.
"You see me, Miss Scudder, run 'most to death," she said; "but I thought I would just run up to Miss Major Seaforth's, and see her best bed-room quilt, 'cause 1 wanted to have all the ideas we possibly could, before I decided on the pattern. Hers is in shells,—just common shells, — nothing to be compared with Miss Wilcox's oak-leaves; and I suppose there isn't the least doubt that Miss Wilcox's sister, in London, did get that from a lady who had a cousin who was governess in the royal family; and I just quilted a little bit to-day on an old piece of silk, and it comes out beautiful; and so I thought I would just come and ask you if you did not think it was best for us to have the oak-leaves."
"Well, certainly, Miss Prissy, if you think so," said Mrs. Scudder, who was as pliant to the opinions of this wise woman of the parish as New England matrons generally are to a reigning dress-maker and factotum.
Miss Prissy had the happy consciousness, always, that her early advent under any roof was considered a matter of especial grace; and therefore it was with rather a patronizing tone that she announced that she would stay and spend the night with them.
"I knew," she added, " that your spare chamber was full, with that Madame de
, what do you call her? — if I was
to die, I could not remember the woman's name. Well, I thought I could curl in with you, Mary, 'most anywhere."
"That's right, Miss Prissy," said Mary; "you shall be welcome to half my bed any time."
"Well, I knew you would say so, Mary; I never saw the thing you would not give away one half of, since you was that high," said Miss Prissy, — illustrating her words by placing her hand about two feet from the Moor.
Just at this moment, Madame de Frontignac entered and asked Mary to come into her room and give her advice as to
a piece of embroidery. When she was gone out, Miss Prissy looked after her and sunk her voice once more to the confidential whisper which we before described.
"I have heard strange stories about that French woman," she said; "but as she is here with you and Mary, I suppose there cannot be any truth in them. Dear me! the world is so censorious about women! But then, you know, we don't expect much from French women. I suppose she is a Roman Catholic, and worships pictures and stone images; but then, after all, she has got an immortal soul, and I can't help hoping Mary's influence may be blest to her. They say, when she speaks French, she swears every few minutes; and if that is the way she was brought up, may-be she isn't accountable. 1 think we can't be too charitable for people that a'n't privileged as we are. Miss Vernon's Polly told me she had seen her sew Sundays, — sew Sabbath-day! She came into her room sudden, and she was working on her embroidery there; and she never winked nor blushed, nor offered to put it away, but sat there just as easy! Polly said she never was so beat in all her life; she felt kind o' scared, every time she thought of it But now she has come here, who knows but she may be converted?"
"Mar)- has not said much about her state of miud," said Mrs. Scudder; "but something of deep interest has passed between them. Mary is such an uncommon child, that I trust everything to her."
We will not dwell further on the particulars of this evening, — nor describe how Madame de Frontiguac reconnoitred Miss Prissy with keen, amused eyes,— nor how Miss Prissy assured Mary, in the confidential solitude of her chamber, that her fingers just itched to get hold of that trimming on Madame de Frog— something's dress, because she was pretty nigh sure she could make some just like it, for she never saw any trimming she could not make.
The robin that lived in the apple-tree was fairly outgeneralled the next morning; for Miss Prissy was up before him, tripping about the chamber on the points of her toes, knocking down all the movable things in the room, in her efforts to be still, so as not to wake Mary; and it was not until she had finally upset the stand by the bed, with the candlestick, snuffers, and Bible on it, that Mary opened her eyes.
"Miss Prissy! dear me! what is it you are doing?"
"Why, I am trying to be still, Mary, Bo as not to wake you up; and it seems to rr<e as if everything was possessed, to tumble down so. But it is only half past three, — so you turn over and go to sleep."
"But, Miss Prissy," said Mary, sitting up in bed, "you are all dressed; where are you going?"
"Well, to tell the truth, Mar}', I am just one of those people that can't sleep when they have got responsibility on their minds; and I have been lying awake more than an hour here, thinking about that quilt. There is a new way of get ting it on to the frame that I want to try; 'cause, you know, when we quilted Cerinthy Stebbins's, it would trouble us in the rolling; and I have got a new way that I want to try, and I mean just to get it on to the frame before breakfast. I was in hopes I should get out without waking
any of you. I am in hopes I shall get by your mother's door without waking her, — 'cause I know she works hard and needs her rest,—but that bed-room door squeaks like a cat, enough to raise the dead!
"Mary," she added, with sudden energy, "if I had the least drop of oil in a teacup, and a bit of quill, I'd stop that door making such a noise." And Miss Prissy's eyes glowed with resolution.
"I don't know where you could find any at this time," said Mary.
"Well, never mind; I'll just go and open the door as slow and careful as I can," said Miss Prissy, as she trotted out of the apartment
The result of her carefulness was very soon announced to Mary by a protracted sound resembling the mewing of a hoarse cat, accompanied by sundry audible grunts from Miss Prissy, terminating in a grand finale of clatter, occasioned by her knocking down all the pieces of the quilting-frame that stood in the corner of the room, with a concussion that roused everybody in the house.
"What is that ?" called out Mrs. Scudder, from her bed-room.
She was answered by two streams of laughter,— one from Mary, sitting up in bed, and the other from Miss Prissy, holding her sides, as she sat dissolved in merriment on the sanded floor.
[To be continued.]
As who, in idly searching o'er
Might, with strange pity, touch the poor
Thus (to their wearer once allied)
These relics of a self that died
"Tis said that seven short years can change,
Cellule by cellule waxing strange, *
Till not an atom is the same.
By what more subtile, slow degrees
Thus may the mind transmute its all, That calmly it should dwell on these,
As on another's fate and fall!
So far remote from joy or bale,
Wherewith each dusky page is rife, I seem to read some piteous tale
Of strange romance, but true to life.
Too daring thoughts! too idle deeds!
A soul that questioned, loved, and sinned I And hopes, that stand like last year's weeds,
And shudder in the dead March wind!
Grave of gone dreams !—could such convulse
Was it this cold and even pulse
That thrilled with life so fierce and quick?
Well, I can smile at all this now,—
But cannot smile when I recall The heart of faith, the open brow,
The trust that once was all in all; —
Nor when Ah, faded, spectral sheet,
Wraith of long-perished wrong and time, Forbear! the spirit starts to meet
The resurrection of its crime I
Starts,— from its human world shut out,—
As some detected changeling elf, Doomed, with strange agony and doubt,
To enter on his former self.
Ill-omened leaves, still rust apart!
No further! — 'tis a page turned o'er, And the long dead and coffined heart
Throbs into wretched life once more.