Eyebright - A Story
by Susan Coolidge
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Do you like to live here?" she asked confidentially, as their fingers met in the blackberry basket.

"Yea," said the little Shakeress, glancing round shyly. Then as she saw that nobody was noticing them, she became more communicative.

"I like it—pretty well," she said. "But I guess I shan't stay here always."

"Won't you? What will you do then? Where will you go?"

"I don't know yet; but Ruth Berguin—she is my sister in the flesh—was once of this family, and she left, and went back to the world's people and got married. She lives up in Canada now, and has got two babies. She came for a visit once, and fetched one of them. Sister Samantha felt real badly when Ruth went, but she liked the baby ever so much. I mean to go back to the world's people too, some day."

"Oh my! perhaps you will get married," suggested Eyebright, greatly excited at the idea.

"Perhaps I shall," answered the small Shakeress with unmoved gravity.

Then she told Eyebright that her name was Jane, and she was an orphan, and that she and sister Orphah, whom she pointed out, slept together in one of the bedrooms which the children had seen upstairs, and had very "good times" after the lights were out, whispering to each other and planning what they would do when they were old enough to do any thing. Sister Orphah, too, had a scheme for returning to the world's people—perhaps they might go together. The idea of these "good times" rather tickled Eyebright's imagination. For a few minutes she reflected that perhaps it might be a pleasant thing to come and join the Shakers. She and sister Jane grew intimate so fast, and chattered so merrily, that Bessie became jealous and drew near to hear what they were saying, and presently one of the elder Shakeresses joined them, and gently sent Jane away on an errand. Eyebright's chance for confidences was over: but she had made the most of it while it lasted, and that is always a comfort.

By the time that they had finished the round of the premises dinner was ready,—welcome news; for the children were all very hungry. It was spread in an enormous dining-room on two long tables. The men Shakers sat at one table, and the women Shakers at the other. Miss Fitch and her scholars were placed with the latter, and some of the young sisters waited on them very neatly and quietly. Sister Jane was one of these and she took especial care of Eyebright whom she seemed to regard as a friend of her own. No one spoke at either table except to ask for something or to say "thank you"; but to make up for this silence, a prodigious amount of eating was done. No wonder, for the dinner was excellent, the very best dinner, the children thought, that they had ever tasted. There was no fresh meat, but capital pork and beans, vegetables of all kinds, delicious Indian pudding, flooded with thick, yellow cream, brown bread and white, rusk, graham gems, oat-meal and grits, with the best of butter, apple-sauce, maple-molasses, and plenty of the richest milk. Every thing was of the nicest material, and as daintily clean as if intended for a queen. Miss Fitch praised the food, and Sister Samantha, who looked pleased, said they tried to do things thoroughly, "as to the Lord." Miss Fitch said afterward that she thought this was an admirable idea, and she wished more people would try it, because then there would be less bad cooking in the world, and less saleratus and dyspepsia. She said that to be faithful and thorough in every thing, even in getting dinner ready, was a real way of serving God, and pleased Him too, because He looks beyond things, and sees the spirit in which we do them.

At three o'clock the wagon came to the door, and they said good-by to the kind Shakers. Miss Fitch paid for the dinner; but the elder was not willing to take much. They entertained the poor for nothing, he said. A small compensation from those who were able and willing to pay, did not come amiss, but a dinner for boys and girls like those, he guessed, didn't amount to much. Miss Fitch privately doubted this. It seemed to her that a regiment of grown men could hardly have devoured more in the same space of time than her hungry twenty-one; but she was grateful to the elder for his kindness, and told him so. Eyebright parted from Sister Jane with a kiss, and gave her, by way of keepsake, the only thing she had,—a china doll about two inches long, which chanced to be at the bottom of her pocket. It was a droll gift to make to a solemn little Shakeress in drab; but Jane was pleased, and said she should always keep it. Then they were packed into the wagon again, and with many good-bys they drove away, kissing their hands to the sisters at the door, and carrying with them a sense of cleanliness, hospitality, and quiet peace, which would make them for ever friendly to the name of Shaker.

The drive home was as pleasant as that of the morning had been. The children were not at all tired, and in the most riotous spirits. They hurrahed every five minutes. They made jokes and guessed riddles, and sang choruses,—"Tranquidillo" was one; "We'll bear the storm, it won't be long," another; and "Ubidee," which Herman Bury had picked up from a cousin in college, and which they all thought grand. Past the farmhouses they went, past the tree where the squirrel had curled himself to sleep, and the fields from which the thievish crows had flown. They stopped a minute at Mr. Wheeler's to leave some maple-sugar for Washington,—not the best diet for measles, perhaps, but pleasant as a proof of kind feeling, and then, one by one, they were dropped at the doors of their own homes.

"Well!" said Wealthy, eying her mop-handle with great satisfaction. "That's what I call sensible. I expected you'd spend your money on some pesky gimcrack or other. I never thought 't would be a handy thing like this, and I am obliged to you for it, Eyebright. Now run up and see your ma. She was asking after you a while ago."



"You've got the black dog on your shoulder, this morning; that's what's the matter with you," said Wealthy.

This metaphorical black dog meant a bad humor. Eyebright had waked up cross and irritable. What made her wake up cross I am not wise enough to explain. The old-fashioned doctors would probably have ascribed it to indigestion, the new-fashioned ones to nerves or malaria or a "febrile tendency"; Deacon Bury, I think, would have called it "Original Sin," and Wealthy, who did not mince matters, dubbed it an attack of the Old Scratch, which nothing but a sound shaking could cure. Very likely all these guesses were partly right and all partly wrong. When our bodies get out of order, our souls are apt to become disordered too, and at such times there always seem to be little imps of evil lurking near, ready to seize the chance, rush in, fan the small embers of discontent to a flame, make cross days crosser, and turn bad beginnings into worse endings.

The morning's mischances had begun with Eyebright's being late to breakfast;—a thing which always annoyed her father very much. Knowing this, she made as much haste as possible, and ran downstairs with her boots half buttoned, fastening her apron as she went. She was in too great a hurry to look where she was going, and the result was that presently she tripped and fell, bumping her head and tearing the skirt of her frock half across. This was bad luck indeed, for Wealthy, she knew, would make her darn it as a punishment, and that meant at least an hour's hard work indoors on one of the loveliest days that ever shone. She picked herself up and went into the sitting-room, pouting, and by no means disposed to enjoy the lecture on punctuality, which papa made haste to give, and which was rather longer and sharper than it would otherwise have been, because Eyebright looked so very sulky and obstinate while listening to it.

You will all be shocked at this account, but I am not sorry to show Eyebright to you on one of her naughty days. All of us have such days sometimes, and to represent her as possessing no faults would be to put her at a distance from all of you; in fact, I should not like her so well myself. She has been pretty good, so far, in this story; but she was by no means perfect, for which let us be thankful; because a perfect child would be an unnatural thing, whom none of us could quite believe in or understand! Eyebright was a dear little girl, and for all her occasional naughtiness, had plenty of lovable qualities about her; and I am glad to say she was not often so naughty as on this day.

When a morning begins in this way, every thing seems to go wrong with us, as if on purpose. It was so with Eyebright. Her mother, who was very poorly, found fault with her breakfast. She wanted some hotter tea, and a slice of toast a little browner and cut very thin. These were simple requests, and on any other day Eyebright would have danced off gleefully to fulfil them. To-day she was annoyed at having to go, and moved slowly and reluctantly. She did not say that she felt waiting on her mother to be a trouble, but her face, and the expression of her shoulders, and her dull, dawdling movements said it for her; and poor Mrs. Bright, who was not used to such unwillingness on the part of her little daughter, felt it so much that she shed a few tears over the second cup of tea after it was brought. This dismayed Eyebright, but it also exasperated her. She would not take any notice, but stood by in silence till her mother had finished, and then, without a word, carried the tray downstairs. A sort of double mood was upon her. Down below the anger was a feeling of keen remorse for what she had done, and a voice inside seemed to say: "Oh dear, how sorry I am going to be for this by and by!" But she would not let herself be sorry then, and stifled the voice by saying, half aloud, as she went along: "I don't care. It's too bad of mother. I wish she wouldn't."

Wealthy met her at the stair-foot.

"How long you've been!" she said, taking the tray from her.

"I can't be any quicker when I have to keep going for more things," said Eyebright.

"Nobody said you could," retorted Wealthy, speaking crossly herself, because Eyebright's tone was cross. "Mercy on me! How did you tear your frock like that? You'll have to darn it yourself, you know; that's the rule. Fetch your work-box as soon as you've done the cups and saucers."

Eyebright almost replied "I won't," but she did not quite dare, and walked, without speaking, into the sitting-room, where the table was made ready for dish-washing, with a tub of hot water, towels, a bit of soap, and a little mop. Since vacation began, Wealthy had allowed her to wash the breakfast things on Mondays and Tuesdays, days on which she herself was particularly busy.

Ordinarily, Eyebright was very proud to be trusted with this little job. She worked carefully and nicely, and had proved herself capable, but to-day her fingers seemed all thumbs. She set the cups away without drying the bottoms, so that they made wet rings on the shelves; she only half rinsed the teapot, left a bit of soap in its spout, and ended by breaking a saucer. Wealthy scolded her, she retorted, and then Wealthy made the speech, which I have quoted, about the black dog.

Very slowly and unwillingly Eyebright sat down to darn her frock. It was a long, jagged rent, requiring patience and careful slowness, and neither good-will nor patience had Eyebright to bring to the task. Her fingers twitched, she "pshawed," and "oh deared," ran the needle in and out and in irregularly, jerked the thread, and finally gave a fretful pull when she came to the end of the first needleful, which tore a fresh hole in the stuff and puckered all she had darned, so that it was not fit to be seen. Wealthy looked in just then, and was scandalized at the condition of the work.

"You can just pick it out from the beginning," she said. "It's a burning shame that a great girl like you shouldn't know how to do better. But it's temper—that's what it is. Nothing in the world but temper, Eyebright. You've been as cross as two sticks all day, Massy knows for what, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself," whereon she gave Eyebright a little shake.

The shake was like a match applied to gunpowder. Eyebright flamed into open revolt.

"Wealthy Ann Judson!" she cried, angrily. "Let me alone. It's all your fault if I am cross, you treat me so. I won't pick it out. I won't darn it at all. And I shall just tell my father that you shook me; see if I don't."

Wealthy's reply was a sound box on the ear. Eyebright's naughtiness certainly deserved punishment, but it was hardly wise or right of Wealthy to administer it, or to do it thus. She was far too angry to think of that, however.

"That's what you want," said Wealthy, "and you'd be a better girl if you got it oftener." Then she marched out of the room, leaving Eyebright in a fury.

"I won't bear it! I won't bear it!" she exclaimed, bursting into tears. "Everybody is cruel, cruel! I'll run away! I'll not stay in this house another minute—not another minute," and, catching up her sun-bonnet, she darted through the hall and was out of the gate and down the street in a flash. Wealthy was in the kitchen, her father was out, no one saw her go. Rosy and Tom Bury, who were swinging on their gate, called to her as she passed, but their gay voices jarred on her ear, and she paid no attention to the call.

Tunxet village was built upon a sloping hill whose top was crowned with woods. To reach these woods, Eyebright had only to climb two stone walls and cross a field and a pasture, and as they seemed just then the most desirable refuge possible, she made haste to do so. She had always had a peculiar feeling for woods, a feeling made up of terror and attraction. They were associated in her mind with fairies and with robbers, with lost children, redbreasts, Robin Hood and his merry men; and she was by turns eager and shy at the idea of exploring their depths, according to which of these images happened to be uppermost in her ideas. To-day she thought neither of Robin Hood nor the fairies. The wood was only a place where she could hide away and cry and be unseen, and she plunged in without a thought of fear.

In and in she went, over stones and beds of moss, and regiments of tall brakes, which bowed and rose as she forced her way past their stems, and saluted her with wafts of woodsy fragrance, half bitter, half sweet, but altogether pleasant. There was something soothing in the shade and cool quiet of the place. It fell like dew on her hot mood, and presently her anger changed to grief, she knew not why. Her eyes filled with tears. She sat down on a stone all brown with soft mosses, and began to cry, softly at first, then loudly and more loud, not taking any pains to cry quietly, but with hard sobs and great gulps which echoed back in an odd way from the wood. It seemed a relief at first to make as much noise as she liked with her crying, and to know that there was no one to hear or be annoyed. It was pleasant, too, to be able to talk out loud as well as to cry.

"They are so unkind to me," she wailed, "so very unkind. Wealthy never slapped me before. She has no right to slap me. I'll never kiss Wealthy again,—never. O-h, she was so unkind"—

"O-h!" echoed back the wood in a hollow tone. Eyebright jumped.

"It's like a voice," she thought. "I'll go somewhere else. It isn't nice just here. I don't like it."

So she went back a little way to the edge of the forest, where the trees were less thick, and between their stems she could see the village below. Here she felt safer than she had been when in the thick wood. She threw herself down in a comfortable hollow at the foot of an oak, and, half sitting, half lying, began to think over her wrongs.

"I guess if I was dead they'd be sorry," she reflected. "They'd hunt and hunt for me, and not know where I was. And at last they'd come up here, and find me dead, with a tear on my cheek, and then they'd know how badly they had made me feel, and their hearts would nearly break. I don't believe father would ever smile again. He'd be like the king in the 'Second Reader':—

'But waves went o'er his son's bright hair, He never smiled again.'

Only, I'm a daughter, and it would be leaves and not waves! Mother, she'd cry and cry, and as for that old Wealthy"—but Eyebright felt it difficult to imagine what Wealthy would do under these circumstances. Her thoughts drifted another way.

"I might go into a convent instead. That would be better, I guess. I'd be a novice first, with a white veil and a cross and a rosary, and I'd look so sweet and holy that all the other children,—no, there wouldn't be any other children,—never mind!—I'd be lovely, anyhow. But I'd be a Protestant always! I wouldn't want to be a Catholic and have to kiss the Pope's old toe all the time! Then by and by I should take that awful black veil. Then I could never come out any more—not ever! And I should kneel in the chapel all the time as motionless as a marble figure. That would be beautiful." Eyebright had never been able to sit still for half an hour together in her life, but that made no difference in her enjoyment of this idea. "The abbess will be beautiful, too, but stern and unrelenting, and she'll say 'Daughters' when she speaks to us nuns, and we shall say 'Holy Mother' when we speak to her. It'll be real nice. We shan't have to do any darning, but just embroidery in our cells and wax flowers. Wealthy'll want to come in and see me, I know, but I shall just tell the porter that I don't want her, not ever. 'She's a heretic,' I shall say to the porter, and he'll lock the door the minute he sees her coming. Then she'll be mad! The Abbess and Mere Genefride"—Eyebright had just read for the fourth time Mrs. Sherwood's exciting novel called "The Nun," so her imaginary convent was modelled exactly after the one there described—"the abbess and Mere Genefride will always be spying about and listening in the passage to hear what we say, when we sit in our cells embroidering and telling secrets, but me and my Pauline—no, I won't call her Pauline—Rosalba—sister Rosalba—that shall be her name—we'll speak so low that she can't hear a word. Then we shall suspect that something strange is taking place down in the cellar,—I mean the dungeons,—and we'll steal down and listen when the abbess and the bishop and all of them are trying the sister, who has a bible tied on her leg!" Here Eyebright gave an enormous yawn. "And—if—the—mob—does come—Wealthy—will be sure to—sure to—"

But of what we shall never know, for at this precise moment Eyebright fell asleep.

She must have slept a long time, for when she waked the sun had changed his place in the sky, and was shining on the western side of the village houses. Had some good angel passed by, lifted the "black dog" from her shoulder, and swept from her mind all its foolish and angry thoughts, while she dreamed there under the trees? For behold! matters and things now looked differently to her, and, instead of blaming other people and thinking hard things of them, she began to blame herself.

"How naughty I was," she thought, "to be so cross with poor mamma, just because she wanted another cup of tea! Oh dear, and I made her cry! I know it was me—just because I looked so cross. How horrid I always am! And I was cross to papa, too, and put my lip out at him. How could I do so? What made me? Wealthy hadn't any business to slap me, though—

"But then I was pretty ugly to Wealthy," she went on, her conscience telling her the truth at last, as consciences will, if allowed. "I just tried to provoke her—and I called her Wealthy Ann Judson! That always makes her mad. She never slapped me before not since I was a little mite of a girl. Oh, dear! And only yesterday she washed all Genevieve's dolly things—her blue muslin, and her overskirt, and all—and she said she didn't mind trouble when it was for my doll. She's very good to me sometimes. Almost always she's good. Oh, I oughtn't to have spoken so to Wealthy—I oughtn't—I oughtn't!" And Eyebright began to cry afresh; not angry tears this time, but bright, healthful drops of repentance, which cleansed and refreshed her soul.

"I'll go right home now and tell her I am sorry," she said, impetuously; and, jumping from her seat, she ran straight down the hill and across the field, eager to make her confession and to be forgiven. Eyebright's fits of temper, big and little, usually ended in this way. She had none of that dislike of asking pardon with which some persons are afflicted. To her it was a relief—a thing to be met and gone through with for the sake of the cheer, the blue-sky-in-the-heart, which lay on the other side of it, and the peace which was sure to follow, when once the "forgive me" was spoken.

In at the kitchen door she dashed. Wealthy, who was ironing, with a worried frown on her brow, started and exclaimed at the sight of Eyebright, and sat suddenly down on a chair. Before she could speak, Eyebright's arms were round her neck.

"I was real horrid and wicked this morning," she cried. "Please forgive me, Wealthy. I won't be so naughty again—not ever. Oh, don't, don't!" for, to her dismay, Wealthy, the grim, broke down and began to cry. This was really dreadful. Eyebright stared a moment; then her own eyes filled, and she cried, too.

"What a fool I be!" said Wealthy, dashing the drops from her eyes. "There, Eyebright, there! Hush, dear; we won't say any more about it." And she kissed Eyebright, for perhaps the tenth time in her life. Kisses were rare things, indeed, with Wealthy.

"Where have you been?" she asked presently. "It's four o'clock and after. Did you know that? Have you had any dinner?"

"No, but I don't want any, Wealthy. I've been in the woods on top of the hill. I ran away and sat there, and I guess I fell asleep," said Eyebright, hanging her head.

"Well, your pa didn't come home to dinner, for a wonder; I reckon he was kept to the mill; so we hadn't much cooked. I took your ma's up to her; but I never let on that I didn't know where you was, for fear of worrying her. She has worried a good lot any way. Here, let me brush your hair a little, and then you'd better run upstairs and make her mind easy. I'll have something for you to eat when you come down."

Eyebright's heart smote her afresh when she saw her mother's pale, anxious face.

"You've been out so long," she said. "I asked Wealthy, and she said she guessed you were playing somewhere, and didn't know how the time went. I was afraid you felt sick, and she was keeping it from me. It is so bad to have things kept from me; nothing annoys me so much. And you didn't look well at breakfast. Are you sick, Eyebright?"

"No, mamma, not a bit. But I have been naughty—very naughty indeed, mamma; and I ran away."

Then she climbed up on the bed beside her mother, and told the story of the morning, keeping nothing back—all her hard feelings and anger at everybody, and her thoughts about dying, and about becoming a nun. Her mother held her hand very tight indeed when she reached this last part of the confession. The idea of the wood, also, was terrible to the poor lady. She declared that she shouldn't sleep a wink all night for thinking about it.

"It wasn't a dangerous wood at all," explained Eyebright. "There wasn't any thing there that could hurt me. Really there wasn't, mamma. Nothing but trees, and stones, and ferns, and old tumbled-down trunks covered with tiny-weeny mosses,—all green and brown and red, and some perfectly white,—so pretty. I wish I had brought you some, mamma."

"Woods are never safe," declared Mrs. Bright, "what with snakes, and tramps, and wildcats, and getting lost, and other dreadful things, I hardly take up a paper without seeing something or other bad in it which has happened in a wood. You must never go there alone again, Eyebright. Promise me that you won't."

Eyebright promised. She petted and comforted her mother, kissing her over and over again, as if to make up for the anxiety she had caused her, and for the cross words and looks of the morning. The sad thing is, that no one ever does make up. All the sweet words and kind acts of a lifetime cannot undo the fact that once—one bad day far away behind us—we were unkind and gave pain to some one whom we love. Even their forgiveness cannot undo it. How I wish we could remember this always before we say the words which we afterward are so sorry for, and thus save our memories from the burden of a sad load of regret and repentance!

When Eyebright went downstairs, she found a white napkin, her favorite mug filled with milk, a plateful of bread and butter and cold lamb, and a large pickled peach, awaiting her on the kitchen table. Wealthy hovered about as she took her seat, and seemed to have a disposition to pat Eyebright's shoulder a good deal, and to stroke her hair. Wealthy, too, had undergone the repentance which follows wrath. Her morning, I imagine, had been even more unpleasant than Eyebright's, for she had spent it over a hot ironing table, and had not had the refreshment of running away into the woods.

"It's so queer," said Eyebright, with her mouth full of bread and butter. "I didn't know I was hungry a bit, but I am as hungry as can be. Every thing tastes so good, Wealthy."

"That's right," replied Wealthy, who was a little upset, and tearful still. "A good appetite's a good thing,—next best to a good conscience, I think."

Eyebright's spirits were mounting as rapidly as quicksilver. Bessie Mather appeared at the gate as she finished her last mouthful, and, giving Wealthy a great hug, Eyebright ran out to meet her, with a lightness and gayety of heart which surprised even herself. The blue sky seemed bluer than ever before, the grass greener, the sunshine was like yellow gold. Every little thing that happened made her laugh. It was as though a black cloud had been rolled away from between her and the light.

"I wonder what makes me so particularly happy to-night," she thought, as she sat on the steps waiting for papa, after Bessie was gone. "It's queer that I should, when I've been so naughty—and all."

But it was not queer, though Eyebright felt it so. The world never looks so fair and bright as to eyes newly washed by tears of sorrow for faults forgiven; and hearts which are emptied of unkind feelings grow light at once, as if happiness were the rule of the world and not the exception.



It happens now and then in life that small circumstances link themselves on to great ones, and in this way become important, when otherwise they might pass out of mind and be forgotten. Such was the case with that day's naughtiness. Eyebright remembered it always, and never without a sharp prick of pain, because of certain things that followed soon afterward, and of which I must tell you in this chapter.

Miss Fitch's winter term opened on the 15th of September. The boys and girls were not sorry to begin school, I think. They had "played themselves out" during the long vacation, and it was rather a pleasant change now to return to lessons and regular hours. Every thing seemed new and interesting after three months' absence, the schoolhouse, the Green, all the cubby-holes and hiding-places, just as shabby playthings laid aside for a while come out looking quite fresh, and do not seem like old ones at all. There was the beautiful autumn weather, beside, making each moment of liberty doubly delightful. Day after day, week after week, this perfect weather lasted, till it seemed as though the skies had forgotten the trick of raining, or how to be of any color except clear, dazzling blue. The wind blew softly and made lovely little noises in the boughs, but there was a cool edge to its softness now which added to the satisfaction of breathing it. The garden beds were gay as ever, but trees began to show tips of crimson and orange, and now and then a brown leaf floated gently down, as though to hint that summer was over and the autumn really begun. Small drifts of these brown leaves formed in the hollows of the road and about fence corners. The boys and girls kicked them aside to get at the chestnut burs which had fallen and mixed with them,—spiky burs, half open, and showing the glossy-brown nut within. It was a great apple-year, too, and the orchards were laden with ripe fruit. Nearly all the Saturday afternoons were spent by the children in apple-gathering or in nutting, and autumn seemed to them as summer had seemed before autumn, spring before summer, and winter in its turn before spring,—the very pleasantest of the four pleasant seasons of the year.

With so many things to do, and such a stock of health and spirits to make doing delightful, it is not strange that for a long time Eyebright remained unconscious of certain changes which were taking place at home, and which older people saw plainly. It did cross her mind once or twice that her mother seemed feebler than usual, and Wealthy and papa worried and anxious, but the thought did not stay, being crowded out by thoughts of a more agreeable kind. She had never in her life been brought very close to any real trouble. Wealthy had spoken before her of Mrs. So-and-so as being "in affliction," and she had seen people looking sad and wearing black clothes, but it was like something in a book to her,—a story she only half comprehended; though she vaguely shrank from it, and did not wish to read further. With all her quick imagination, she was not in the least morbid. Sorrow must come to her, she would never take a step to meet it. So she went on, busy, healthy, happy, full of bright plans and fun and merriment, till suddenly one day sorrow came. For, running in from school, she found Wealthy crying in the kitchen, and was told that her mother was worse,—much worse,—and the doctor thought she could only live a day or two longer.

"Oh, no, no, Wealthy," was all she could say at first. Then, "Why doesn't Dr. Pillsbury give mamma something?" she demanded; for Eyebright had learned to feel a great respect for medicine, and to believe that it must be able to cure everybody.

Wealthy shook her head.

"It ain't no use specylating about more medicines," she said, "your ma's taken shiploads of 'em, and they ain't never done her any good that I can see. No, Eyebright dear; it's got to come, and we must make the best of it. It's God's will I s'pose, and there ain't nothing to be said when that's the case."

"Oh, dear! how can God will any thing so dreadful?" sobbed Eyebright, feeling as if she were brought face to face with a great puzzle. Wealthy could not answer. It was a puzzle to her, also. But she took Eyebright into her lap, held her close, and stroked her hair gently; and that helped, as love and tenderness always do.

Some very sad days followed. The doctor came and went. There was a hush over the house. It seemed wrong to speak aloud even, and Eyebright found herself moving on tiptoe, and shutting the doors with anxious care; yet no one had said, "Do not make a noise." Everybody seemed to be waiting for something, but nobody liked to think what that something might be. Eyebright did not think, but she felt miserable. A great cloud seemed to hang over all her bright little world, so happy till then. She moped about, with no heart to do any thing, or she sat in the hall outside her mother's door, listening for sounds. Now and then they let her creep in for a minute to look at mamma, who lay motionless as if asleep; but Eyebright could not keep from crying, and after a little while, papa would sign to her to go, and she would creep out again, hushing her sobs till she was safely downstairs with the door shut. It was such a melancholy time that I do not see how she could have got through with it, had it not been for Genevieve, who, dumb as she was, proved best comforter of all. With her face buried in the lap of Genevieve's best frock, Eyebright might shed as many tears as she liked, whispering in the waxen ear how much she wished that mamma could get well, how good, how very good she always meant to be if she did, and how sorry she was that she had ever been naughty or cross to her; especially on that day, that dreadful day, when she ran off into the woods, the recollection of which rankled in her conscience like a thorn, Genevieve listened sympathizingly, but not even her affection could pull out the thorn, or make its prick any easier to bear.

I do not like to tell about sad things half so well as about happy ones, so we will hurry over this part of the story. Mrs. Bright lived only a week after that evening when Eyebright first realized that she was so much worse. She waked up before she died, kissed Eyebright for good-by, and said, "My helpful little comfort." These sweet words were the one thing which made it seem possible to live just then. All her life long they came back to Eyebright like the sound of music, and when the thought of her childish faults gave her pain, these words, which carried full forgiveness of the faults, soothed and consoled her. After a while, as she grew older, she learned to feel that mamma in heaven knew much better than mamma on earth could, how much her little daughter really had loved her, and how it grieved her now to remember that ever she should have been impatient or unkind.

But this was not for a long time afterward, and meanwhile her chief pleasure was in remembering, that, for all her naughtiness, mamma had kissed her and called her "a comfort" before she died.

After the funeral, Wealthy opened the blinds, which had been kept tight shut till then, and life returned to its usual course. Breakfast, dinner, and supper appeared regularly on the table, papa went again to to the mill, and Eyebright to school. She felt shy and strange at first, and the children were shy of her, because of her black alpaca frock, which impressed their imaginations a good deal. This wore off as the frock wore out, and by the time that Eyebright had ripped out half the gathers of the waist and torn a hole in the sleeve, which was pretty soon, the alpaca lost its awfulness in their eyes, and had become as any common dress. In the course of a week or two, Eyebright found herself studying, playing, and walking at recess with Bessie, quite in the old way. But all the while she was conscious of a change, and a feeling which she fought with, but could not get rid of, that things were not, nor ever could be, as they had been before this interruption came.

Home was changed and her father was changed. Eyebright was no longer careless or unobservant, as before her mother's death, and she noticed how fast papa's hair was turning gray, and how deep and careworn the lines about his mouth and eyes had become. He did not seem to gain in cheerfulness as time went on, but, if any thing, to look more sad and troubled; and he spent much of his time at the cherry-wood desk calculating and doing sums and poring over account-books. Eyebright noticed all these little things, she had learned to use her eyes now, and though nobody said any thing about it, she felt sure that papa was worried about something, and in need of comfort.

She used to come early from play, and peep into the sitting-room to see what he was doing. If he seemed busy, she did not interrupt him, but drew her low chair to his side and sat there quietly, with Genevieve in her lap, and perhaps a book; not speaking, but now and then stroking his knee or laying her cheek gently against it. All the time she felt so sorry that she could not help papa. But I think she did help, for papa liked to have her there, and the presence of a love which asks no questions and is content with loving, is most soothing of all, sometimes, to people who are in perplexity, and trying to see their way out.

But none of Eyebright's strokes or pats or fond little ways could drive the care away from her father's brow. His trouble was too heavy for that. It was a kind of trouble which he could not very well explain to a child; trouble about business and money,—things which little people do not understand; and matters were getting worse instead of better. He was like a man in a thorny wood, who cannot see his way out, and his mind was more confused and anxious than any one except himself could comprehend.

At last things came to such a pass that there was no choice left, and he was forced to explain to Eyebright. It was April by that time. He was at his desk as usual, and Eyebright, sitting near, had Genevieve cuddled in her lap, and the "Swiss Family Robinson" open before her.

"Now you're done, arn't you, papa!" she cried, as he laid down his pen. "You won't write any more to-night, will you, but sit in the rocking-chair and rest." She was jumping up to get the chair, when he stopped her.

"I'm not through yet, my dear. But I want to talk with you for a little while."

"O papa, how nice! May I sit on your knee while you talk?"

Papa said yes, and she seated herself. He put his arm round her, and for a while stroked her hair in silence. Eyebright looked up, wonderingly.

"Yes, dear, I'll tell you presently. I'm trying to think how to begin. It's something disagreeable, Eyebright,—something which will make you feel very bad, I'm afraid."

"Oh dear! what is it?" cried Eyebright, fearfully. "Do tell me, papa."

"What should you say if I told you that we can't live here any longer, but must go away?"

"Away from this house, do you mean, papa?"

"Yes, away from this house, and away from Tunxet, too."

"Not away for always?" said Eyebright, in an awe-struck tone. "You don't mean that, papa, do you? We couldn't live anywhere else for always!" giving a little gasp at the very idea.

"I'm afraid that's what it's coming to," said Mr. Bright, sadly. "I don't see any other way to fix it I've lost all my money, Eyebright. It is no use trying to explain it to a child like you, but that is the case. All I had is gone, nearly. There's scarcely any thing left,—not enough to live on here, even if I owned this house, which I don't."

Not own their own house! This was incomprehensible. What could papa mean?

"But, papa, it's our house!" she ventured timidly.

Papa made no answer, only stroked her hair again softly.

"And the mill? Isn't the mill yours, papa?" she went on.

"No, dear, I never did own the mill. You were too little to understand about the matter when I took up the business. It belongs to a company; do you know what a 'company' means?—and the company has failed, so that the mill is theirs no longer. It's going to be sold at auction soon. I was only a manager, and of course I lose my place. But that isn't so much matter. The real trouble is that I've lost my own property, too. We're poor people now, Eyebright. I've been calculating, and I think by selling off every thing here I can just clear myself and come out honest but that's all. There'll be almost nothing left."

"Couldn't you get another mill to manage?" asked Eyebright, in a bewildered way.

"No, there is no other mill; and if there were, I shouldn't want to take it. I'm too old to begin life over again in the place where I started when I was a boy to work my way up. I have worked, too,—worked hard,—and now I come out in the end not worth a cent. No, Eyebright, I couldn't do it!"

He set her down as he spoke, and began to walk the room with heavy, unequal steps. The old floor creaked under his tread. There was something very sad in the sound.

A child feels powerless in the presence of sudden misfortune. Eyebright sat as if stunned, while her father walked to and fro. Genevieve slipped from her lap and fell with a bump on the carpet, but she paid no attention. Genevieve wasn't real to her just then; only a doll. It was no matter whether she bumped her head or not.

Mr. Bright came back to his chair again.

"I'll tell you what I've been thinking of," he said. "I own a little farm up in Maine. It's about the only thing I do own which hasn't got a mortgage on it, or doesn't belong to some one else in one way or another. It's a very small farm, but there's a house on it,—some kind of a house,—and I think of moving up there to live. I don't know much about the place, and I don't like the plan. It'll be lonely for you, for the farm is on an island, it seems, and there's no one else living there, no children for you to play with, and no school. These are disadvantages; but, on the other hand, the climate is said to be good, and I suppose I can raise enough up there for our living, and not run into debt, which is the thing I care most for just now. So I've about decided to try it. I'm sorry to break up your schooling, and to take you away from here, where you like it so much; but it seems the only way open. And if you could go cheerfully, my dear, and make the best of things, it would be a great comfort to me. That's all I've got to say."

Eyebright's mind had been at work through this long sentence. Her reply astonished her father not a little, it was so bright and eager.

"What is the island in, papa? A lake?"

"No, not a lake. It's in the sea, but very near the coast. I think there's some way of walking across at low tide, but I'm not sure."

"I think—I'm rather glad," said Eyebright slowly. "I always did want to live on an island and I never saw the sea. Don't feel badly, papa, I guess we shall like it."

Mr. Bright was relieved; but he couldn't help shaking his head a little, nevertheless.

"You must make up your mind to find it pretty lonesome," he said, compassionately.

"The Swiss Family Robinson didn't," replied Eyebright. "But then," she added, "there were six of them. And there'll only be four of us—counting Genevieve."

If Eyebright had taken the news too calmly, Wealthy made up for it by her wild and incredulous wrath when in turn it was broken to her.

"Pity's sakes!" she cried. "Whatever is the man a-thinking about? Carry you off to Maine, indeed, away from folks and church and every thing civilized! He's crazy,—that's what he is,—as crazy as a loon!"

"Papa's not crazy. You mustn't say such things, Wealthy," replied Eyebright, indignantly. "He feels real badly about going. But we've got to go. We've lost all our money, and we can't stay here."

"A desert island, too!" went on Wealthy, pursuing her own train of reflection. "Crocodiles and cannibals, I suppose! I've heard what a God-forsaken place it is up there. Who's going to look after you, I'd like to know?—you, who never in your life remembered your rubber shoes when it rained, or knew winter flannels from summer ones, or best frocks from common?" Words failed her.

"Why, Wealthy, shan't you come with us?" cried Eyebright, in a startled tone.

"I? No, indeed, and I shan't then!" returned Wealthy. "I'm not such a fool as all that. Maine, indeed!" Then, her heart melting at the distress in Eyebright's face, she swooped upon her, squeezed her hard, and said: "What a cross-grained piece I be! Yes, Eyebright dear, I'll go along. I'll go, no matter where it is. You shan't be trusted to that Pa of yours if I can help it; and that's my last word in the matter."

Eyebright flew to papa with the joyful news that Wealthy was willing to go with them. Mr. Bright looked dismayed.

"It's out of the question," he replied. "I can't afford it, for one thing. The journey costs a good deal, and when she got there, Wealthy would probably not like it, and would want to come back again, which would be money thrown away. Beside, it is doubtful if we shall be able to keep any regular help. No, Eyebright; we'd better not think of it, even. You and I will start alone, and we'll get some woman there to come and work when it's necessary. That'll be as much as I can manage."

Of course, when Wealthy found that there were objections, her wish to go increased tenfold. She begged, and Eyebright pleaded, but papa held to his decision. There was no helping it, but this difference in opinion made the household very uncomfortable for a while. Wealthy felt injured, and went about her work grimly, sighing conspicuously now and then, or making dashes at Eyebright, kissing her furiously, shedding a few tears, and then beginning work again, all in stony silence. Papa shut himself up more closely than ever with his account-books, and looked sadder every day; and Eyebright, though she strove to act as peacemaker and keep a cheerful face, felt her heart heavy enough at times, when she thought of what was at hand.

They were to start early in May, and she left school at once; for there was much to be done in which she could help Wealthy, and the time was but short for the doing of it all. The girls were sorry when they heard that Eyebright was going away to live in Maine, and Bessie cried one whole recess, and said she never expected to be happy again. Still, the news did not make quite as much sensation as Eyebright had expected, and she had a little sore feeling at her heart, as if the others cared less about losing her than she should have cared had she been in their place. This idea cost her some private tears; she comforted herself by a poem which she called "Fickleness," and which began:

"It is wicked to be fickle, And very, very unkind, And I'd be ashamed"—

but no rhyme to fickle could she find except "pickle," and it was so hard to work that in, that she gave up writing the verses, and only kept away from the girls for a few days. But for all Eyebright's doubts, the girls did care, only Examination was coming on, and they were too busy in learning the pieces they were to speak, and practising for a writing prize which Miss Fitch had promised them, to realize just then how sorry they were. It came afterward, when the Examination was over, and Eyebright really gone; and it was a long time—a year or two at least—before any sort of festival or picnic could take place in Tunxet without some child's saying, wistfully: "I wish Eyebright was here to go; don't you?" Could Eyebright have known this, it would have comforted her very much during those last weeks; but the pity is, we can't know things beforehand in this world.

So, after all, her chief consolation was Genevieve, to whom she could tell any thing without fear of making mischief or being contradicted.

"There's just one thing I'm glad about," she said to this chosen confidante, "and that is that it's an island. I never saw any islands, neither did you, Genevieve; but I know they must be lovely. And I'm glad it's in the sea, too. But, oh dear, my poor child, how will you get along without any other dolls to play with? You'll be very lonely sometimes—very lonely, indeed—I'm afraid."



"Wealthy," said Eyebright, "I want to tell you something."

Wealthy was kneading bread, her arms rising and falling with a strong, regular motion, like the piston of a steam-engine. She did not even turn her head, but dusting a little flour on to the dough, went straight on saying briefly,—

"Well, what?"

"I've been thinking," continued Eyebright, "that when papa and I get to the Island, perhaps some days there won't be anybody to do the cooking but me, and it would be so nice if you would teach me a few things,—not hard ones, you know,—little easy things. I know how to toast now, and how to boil eggs, and make shortcake, and stew rhubarb, but papa would get tired of those if he didn't have any thing else, I am afraid."

"You and your Pa'll go pretty hungry, I guess, if there's no one but you to do the cooking," muttered Wealthy. "Well, what would you like to learn?"

"Is bread easy to make? I'd like to learn that."

"You ain't hardly strong enough," said Wealthy, with a sigh, but she set her bowl on a chair as she spoke, and proceeded to give Eyebright a kneading lesson on the spot. It was much more fatiguing than Eyebright had supposed it would be. Her back and arms ached for a long time afterward, but Wealthy said she "got the hang of it wonderfully for a beginner," and this praise encouraged her to try again. Every Wednesday and Saturday, after that, she made the bread, from the sifting of the flour to the final wrap of the hot loaf in a brown towel, Wealthy only helping a very little, and each time the task seemed to grow easier, so that, before they went away, Eyebright felt that she had that lesson at her fingers' ends. Wealthy taught her other things also,—to broil a beefsteak, and poach an egg, to make gingerbread and minute biscuit, fry Indian pudding, and prepare and flavor the "dip" for soft toast. All these lessons were good for her, and in more senses than one. Many a heart-ache flew up the chimney and forgot to come down again, as she leaned over her saucepans, stirring, tasting, and seasoning. Many a hard thought about the girls and their not caring as they ought about her going, slipped away, and came back brightened into good-humor, in the excitement of watching the biscuits rise, or moulding them into exact form and size. And how pleasant it was if Wealthy praised her, or papa asked for a second helping of something and said it was good.

Meanwhile, the business of breaking up was going on. Wealthy, whose ideas were of the systematic old-fashioned kind, began at the very top of the house and came slowly down, clearing the rooms out in regular order, scrubbing, sweeping, and leaving bare, chill cleanness behind her. Part of the furniture was packed to go to the Island, but by far the greater part was brought down to the lower floor, and stacked in the best parlor, ready for an auction, which was to take place on the last day but one. It was truly wonderful how many things the house seemed to contain, and what queer articles made their appearance out of obscure holes and corners, in the course of Wealthy's rummagings. There were old fire-irons, old crockery, bundles of herbs, dried so long ago that all taste and smell had departed, and no one now could guess which was sage and which catnip; scrap-bundles, which made Eyebright sigh and exclaim, "Oh dear, what lots of dresses I would have made for Genevieve, if only I had known we had these!" There were boxes full of useless things, screws without heads, and nails without points, stopples which stopped nothing, bottles of medicine which had lost their labels, and labels which had lost their bottles. Some former inhabitant of the house had evidently been afflicted with mice, for six mouse-traps were discovered, all of different patterns, all rusty, and all calculated to discourage any mouse who ever nibbled cheese. There were also three old bird-cages, in which, since the memory of man, no bird had ever lived; a couple of fire-buckets of ancient black leather, which Eyebright had seen hanging from a rafter all her life without suspecting their use, and a gun of Revolutionary pattern which had lost its lock. All these were to be sold, and so was the hay in the barn, as also were the chickens and chicken-coops; even Brindle and old Charley.

The day before the auction, a man came and pasted labels with numbers on them upon all the things. Eyebright found "24" stuck on the side of her own special little stool, which papa had said she might take to the Island, but which had been forgotten. She tore off the label, and hid the stool in a closet, but it made her feel as if every thing in the house was going to be sold whether or no, and she half turned and looked over her shoulder at her own back, as if she feared to find a number there also. Wealthy, who was piling the chairs together by twos, laughed.

"I guess they won't put you up to 'vandoo,'" she said; "or, if they do, I'll be the first to bid. There, that's the last! I never did see such a heap of rubbish as come out of that garret; your Ma, and your Grandma, too, I reckon, never throwed away any thing in all their days. Often and often I used to propose to clean out and kind of sort over the things, but your Ma, she wouldn't ever let me. They was sure to come in useful some day, she said; but that day never come,—and there they be, moth-and-rust-corrupted, sure enough! Well, 'tain't no use layin' up treasures upon earth. We all find that out when we come to clear up after fifty years' savin'."

Next morning proved fine and sunny, and great numbers of people came to the auction. Some of them brought their dinners in pails, and stayed all day, for auctions do not occur very often in the country, and are great events when they do. Eyebright, who did not know exactly how to dispose of herself, sat on the stairs, high up, where no one could see her, and listened to the auctioneer's loud voice calling off the numbers and bids. "No. 17, one clock,—who bids two dollars for the clock? No. 18, lounge covered with calliker. I am offered seven-fifty for the lounge covered with calliker. I am offered seven-fifty for the lounge covered with calliker. Who bids eight? Thank you, Mr. Brown—going at eight—gone." And No. 17 was the kitchen clock, which had told her the hour so many, many times; the lounge covered with "calliker" was mother's lounge, on which she had so often lain. It seemed very sad, somehow, that they should be "going—gone."

Later in the day she saw, from the window, people driving away in their wagons with their bargains piled in behind them, or set between their knees,—papa's shaving-glass, Wealthy's wash-tubs, the bedstead from the best room. She could hardly keep from crying. It seemed as if the pleasant past life in the old house were all broken up into little bits, and going off in different directions in those wagons.

She was still at the window when Wealthy came up to search for her. Eyebright's face was very sober, and there were traces of tears on her cheeks.

"Eyebright, where are you? Don't stay mopin' up here, 'tain't no use. Come down and help me get tea. I've made a good fire in the sittin'-room, and we'll all be the better for supper, I reckon. Auctions is wearin' things, and always will be to the end of time. Your Pa looks clean tuckered out."

"Are all the people gone?" asked Eyebright.

"Yes, they have, and good riddance to them. It made me madder than hops to hear 'em a-boastin' of the bargains they'd got. Mrs. Doolittle, up to the corner, bid in that bureau from the keepin'-room chamber for seven dollars. It was worth fifteen; the auction-man said so himself. But to kind of match that, her daughter-in-law, she giv' thirty cents a yard for that rag-carpet in your room, and it didn't cost but fifty when it was new, and that was twelve years ago next November! So I guess we come out pretty even with the Doolittle family, after all!" added Wealthy, with a dry chuckle.

Eyebright followed downstairs. The rooms looked bare and unhomelike with only the few pieces of furniture left which Wealthy had bid in for her private use; for Wealthy did not mean to live out any more, but have a small house of her own, and support herself by "tailorin'." She had bought a couple of beds, a table, a few chairs, and some cooking things, so it was possible, though not very comfortable, to spend one night more in the house. Eyebright peeped into the empty parlor and shut the door.

"Don't let's open it again," she said. "We'll make believe that every thing is there still, just as it used to be, and then it won't seem so dismal."

But in spite of "make-believes," it would have been dismal enough had they not been too busy to think how altered and forlorn the house looked. One more day of hard work, and all was cleared out and made clean. Wealthy followed with her broom and actually "swept herself out," as Eyebright said, brushing the last shreds and straws through the door on to the steps, where the others stood waiting. Mr. Bright locked the door. The key turned in the rusty lock with a sound like a groan. Mr. Bright stood a moment without speaking; then he handed the key to Wealthy, shook hands with her, and walked quickly away in the direction of Mr. Bury's house, where he and Eyebright were to spend the night.

Wealthy was feeling badly over the loss of her old home; and emotion, with her, always took the form of gruffness.

"No need to set about kissing to-night," she said, as Eyebright held up her face, "I'm a-comin' round to see you off to-morrow."

Then she, too, stalked away. Eyebright looked after her for a little while, then very slowly she opened the garden-gate, and went the round of the place once more, saying good-by with her eyes to each well-known object. The periwinkle bed was blue with flowers, the daffodils were just opening their bright cups. "Old maids," Wealthy had been used to call them, because their ruffled edges were so neatly trimmed and pinked. There was the apple-tree crotch, where, every summer since she could remember, her swing had hung. There was her own little garden, bare now and brown with the dead stalks of last year. How easy it would be to make it pretty again if only they were going to stay! The "cave" had fallen in, to be sure, and was only a hole in the ground, but a cave is soon made. She could have another in no time if only—here Eyebright checked herself, recollecting that "if only" did not help the matter a bit, and, like a sensible child, she walked bravely away from the garden and through the gateway. She paused one moment to look at the sun, which was setting in a sky of clear yellow, over which little crimson clouds drifted like a fleet of fairy boats. The orchards and hedges were budding fast. Here and there a cherry-tree had already tied on its white hood. The air was full of sweet prophetic smells. Altogether, Tunxet was at its very prettiest and pleasantest, and, for all her good resolutions, Eyebright gave way, and wept one little weep at the thought that to-morrow she and papa must leave it all.

She dried her eyes soon, for she did not want papa to know she had been crying, and followed to Mrs. Bury's, where Kitty and the children were impatiently looking out for her, and every one gave her a hearty welcome.

But in spite of their kindness, and the fun of sleeping with Kitty for the first time, it seemed grave and lonesome to be anywhere except in the old place where she had always been, and Eyebright began to be glad that she and papa were to go away so soon. The home feeling had vanished from Tunxet, and the quicker they were off, the better, she thought.

The next morning, they left, starting before six o'clock, for the railroad was five miles away. Early as it was, several people were there to say good-by,—Bessie Mather, Laura Wheelwright,—who hadn't taken time even to wash her face,—Wealthy, very gray and grim and silent, and dear Miss Fitch, to whom Eyebright clung till the very end. The last bag was put in, Mr. Bury kissed Eyebright and lifted her into the wagon, where papa and Ben were already seated. Good-bys were exchanged. Bessie, drowned in tears, climbed on the wheel for a last hug, and was pulled down by some one. Ben gave a chirrup, the horses began to move, and that was the end of dear old Tunxet. The last thing Eyebright saw, as she turned for a final look, was Wealthy's grim, sad face,—poor Wealthy, who had lost most and felt sorriest of all, though she said so little about it.

It was a mile or two before Eyebright could see any thing distinctly. She sat with her head turned away, that papa might not notice her wet eyes. But perhaps his own were a little misty, for he, too, turned his head, and it was a long time before he spoke. The beautiful morning and the rapid motion were helps to cheerfulness, however, and before they reached the railroad station Mr. Bright had begun to talk to Ben, and Eyebright to smile.

She had never travelled on a railroad before, and you can easily imagine how surprising it all seemed to her. At first it frightened her to go so fast, but that soon wore off, and all the rest was enjoyment. Little things, which people used to railroads hardly notice, struck her as strange and pleasant. When the magazine-boy chucked "Ballou's Dollar Monthly" into her lap, she jumped, and said, "Oh, thank you!" and she was quite overcome by the successive gifts, as she supposed, of a paper of pop-corn, a paper of lozenges, and a "prize package," containing six envelopes, six sheets of note-paper, six pens, a wooden pen-handle and a "piece of jewelry,"—all for twenty-five cents!

"Did he really give them to me?" she asked papa, quite gasping at the idea of such generosity.

Then the ice-water boy came along, with his frame of tumblers; she had a delicious cold drink, and told papa "she did think the railroad was so kind," which made him laugh; and, as seeing him laugh brightened her spirits, they journeyed on very cheerfully.

About noon, they changed cars, and presently after that Eyebright became aware of a change in the air, a cool freshness and odor of salt and weeds, which she had never smelt before, and liked amazingly. She was just going to ask papa about it when the train made a sudden curve and swept alongside a yellow beach, beyond which lay a great shining expanse,—gray and silvery and blue,—over which dappled foamy waves played and leaped, and large white birds were skimming and diving. She drew a long breath of delight, and said, half to herself and half to papa, "That is the sea!"

"How did you know?" asked he, smiling.

"Oh, papa, it couldn't be any thing else. I knew it in a minute."

After that, they were close to the sea almost all the way. Eyebright felt as if she could never be tired of watching the waves rise and fall, or of breathing the air, which seemed to fill and satisfy her like food though it made her hungry, too, and she was glad of the nice luncheon which Mr. Bury had packed up for them. But even pleasant things have a tiring side to them, and as night drew on, Eyebright began to think she should be as glad of bed as she had been of dinner.

Her heavy head had been nodding for some time, and had finally dropped upon papa's shoulder, when he roused her with a shake and said,—

"Wake up, Eyebright, wake up! Here we are."

"At the Island?" she asked, drowsily.

"No, not at the Island yet. This is the steamboat."

To see a steamboat had always been one of Eyebright's chief wishes, but she was too sleepy at that moment to realize that it was granted. Her feet stumbled as papa guided her down the stair; she could not keep her eyes open at all. The stewardess—a colored woman—laughed when she saw the half-awake little passenger; but she was very good-natured, whipped off Eyebright's boots, hat, and jacket, in a twinkling, and tucked her into a little berth, where in three minutes she was napping like a dormouse. There was a great deal of whistling and screeching and ringing of bells when the boat left her dock, heavy feet trampled over the deck just above the berth, the water lapped and hissed; but not one of these things did Eyebright hear, nor was she conscious of the rock-ing motion of the waves. Straight through them all she slept; and when at last she waked, the boat was no longer at sea, and there was hardly any motion to be felt.

It was not yet six o'clock. The shut-up cabin was dark and close, except for one ray of yellow sun, which straggled through a crack, and lay across the carpet like a long finger. It flickered, and seemed to beckon, as if it wanted to say, "Get up, Eyebright, it is morning at last; get up, and come out with me." She felt so rested and fresh that the invitation was irresistible; and slipping from the berth, she put on dress and boots, which were laid on a chair near by, tied the hat over her unbrushed hair, and with her warm jacket in hand, stole out of the cabin and ran lightly upstairs to the deck.

Then she gave a great start, and said, "Oh!" with mingled wonder and surprise; for, instead of the ocean which she had expected to see, the boat was steaming gently up a broad river. On either side was a bold, wooded shore. The trees were leafless still, for this was much farther north than Tunxet, but the rising sap had tinted their boughs with lovely shades of yellow, soft red, and pink-brown, and there were quantities of evergreens beside, so that the woods did not look cold or bare. Every half mile or so the river made a bend and curved away in a new direction. It was never possible to see far ahead, and, as the steamer swept through the clear green and silver water, it continually seemed that, a little farther on, the river came to end, and there was no way out except to turn back. But always when the boat reached the place where the end seemed to be, behold, a new reach of water, with new banks and tree-crowned headlands, appeared, so that their progress was a succession of surprises. Here and there were dots of islands too, just big enough to afford standing-room to a dozen pines and hemlocks, so closely crowded together that the trees next the edge almost seemed to be holding fast by their companions while they leaned over to look at their own faces in the water.

These tiny islets enchanted Eyebright. With each one they passed she thought, "Oh, I hope ours is just like that!" never reflecting that these were rather play islands than real ones, and that Genevieve was the only member of the family likely to be comfortable in such limited space as they afforded. She had the deck and the river to herself for nearly an hour before any of the passengers appeared; when they did, she remembered, with a blush, that her hair was still unbrushed, and ran back to the cabin, when the stewardess made it tidy, and gave her a basin of fresh water for her face and hands. She came back just in time to meet papa, who was astonished at the color in her cheek and the appetite she displayed at breakfast, which was served in a stuffy cabin smelling of kerosene oil and bed-clothes, and calculated to discourage any appetite not sharpened by early morning air.

Little did Eyebright care for the stuffy cabin. She found the boat and all its appointments delightful; and when, after breakfast, the old captain took her down to the engine-room and showed her the machinery, she fairly skipped with pleasure. It was a sort of noisy fairy-land to her imagination; all those wonderful cogs and wheels, and shining rods and shafts, moving and working together so smoothly and so powerfully. She was sorry enough when, at eleven o'clock, they left the boat, and landed at a small hamlet, which seemed to have no name as yet, perhaps because it was so very young. Eyebright asked a boy what they called the town, but all he said in reply was, "'Tain't a teown"—and something about a "Teownship," which she didn't at all understand.

Here they had some dinner, and Mr. Bright hired a wagon to take them "'cross country" to Scrapplehead, which was the village nearest to "Causey Island," as Eyebright now learned that their future home was called. "Cosy," papa pronounced it. The name pleased her greatly, and she said to herself, for perhaps the five-hundredth time, "I know it is going to be nice."

It was twenty-two miles from the nameless village to Scrapplehead, but it took all the afternoon to make the journey, for the roads were rough and hilly, and fast going was impossible. Eyebright did not care how slowly they went. Every step of the way was interesting to her, full of fresh sights and sounds and smells. She had never seen such woods as those which they passed through. They looked as if they might have been planted about the time of the Deluge, so dense and massive were their growths. Many of the trees were old and of immense size. Some very large ones had fallen, and their trunks were thickly crusted with fungi and long hair-like tresses of gray moss. Here and there were cushions of green moss, so rich and luxuriant as to be the softest sitting-places imaginable. Eyebright longed to get out and roll on them; the moss seemed at least a yard deep. Once they passed an oddly shaped broad track by the road-side, which the driver told them was the foot-mark of a bear. This was exciting. And a little farther on, at the fording of a shallow brook, he showed them where a deer had stopped to drink the night before, and left the impression of his slender hoofs in the wet clay.

It was as interesting as a story to be there, so near the haunts of these wild creatures. Then, leaving the woods, they would come to wide vistas of country, with pine-clad hills and slopes and beautiful gleaming lakes. And twice from the top of an ascent they caught the outlines of a bold mountain-range. A delicious air blew down from these mountains, cool, crystal clear, and spiced with the balsamic smell of hemlocks and firs and a hundred lovely wood-odors beside.

"Oh, isn't Maine beautiful!" cried Eyebright, in a rapture. She felt a sort of resentment against Wealthy for having called it a "God-forsaken" place. "But Wealthy didn't know: she never was here," was her final conclusion. "If she ever had been here, she couldn't have been so silly."

It was too dark to see much of Scrapplehead when at last they got there. It was a small place, nestled in an angle of the hills. The misty gray ocean lay beyond. Its voice came to their ears as they descended the last steep pitch, a hushed low voice with a droning tone, as though it were sleepy-time with the great sea. There was no tavern in the village, and they applied at several houses before finding any one willing to accommodate them. By this time, Eyebright was very tired, and could hardly keep from crying as they drove away from the third place.

"What shall we do if nobody will take us in?" she asked papa dolefully. "Shall we have to sit in the wagon all night?"

"Guess 't won't come to that," said the cheery driver. "Downs'll take you. I'll bet a cookie he will." When he came to "Downs's," he jumped out and ran in. "They're real clever folks," he told Mrs. Downs; "and the little gal is so tired, it's a pity to see."

So Mrs. Downs consented to lodge them; and their troubles were over for that day. Half blind with sleep and fatigue, Eyebright ate her bread and milk, fried eggs, and doughnuts, fell asleep while she undressed, gave her head a knock against the bedpost, laughed, hurried into bed, and in three minutes was lost in dreamless slumber. The wind blew softly up the bay, the waves sang their droning lullaby, a half-grown moon came out, twinkled, and flashed in the flashing water, and sent one long beam in to peep at the little sleeper in bed. The new life was begun, and begun pleasantly.



When Eyebright awoke next morning, she ran straight to the window, with the hope that she might see Causey Island. But the window did not look toward the sea. Only a barn, a bit of winding road, and a green hill with a rocky top, were to be seen; and she dropped the paper shade with a sense of disappointment.

Dressing herself as fast as she could, she ran downstairs. Mrs. Downs, who was frying fish in the kitchen, pointed with a spoon in answer to her question, and said,—

"It's up that way the island is, but 'taint much to look at. It's too fur for you to see the house."

Eyebright didn't particularly care about seeing the house. She was satisfied with seeing the island. There it lay, long and green, raised high out of the blue sea like a wall, with the water washing its stony shore. There seemed to be a good many trees and bushes on top, and altogether she thought it a beautiful place, and one where a little girl might be happy to live.

"You ain't the folks that's coming to live up to the island, be you?" said Mrs. Downs. "Do tell if you are? We heard there was some one. There hain't been nobody there for quite a spell back, not since the Lotts went away last year. Job Lott, he farmed it for a while; but Miss Lott's father, he was took sick over to Machias, and they moved up to look after him, and nobody's been there since, unless the boys for blueberries. I guess your Pa'll find plenty to do to get things straightened out, and so will the rest of you."

"There isn't any 'rest' but me."

"Do tell now. Hain't you any Ma?"

"No," said Eyebright, sadly. "Mother died last November."

"You poor little thing!" cried kind Mrs. Downs; "and hain't you got no brothers and sisters either?"

"No; not any at all."

"Why, you'll be lonesome, I'm afraid, up to the island. You never lived in such a sort of a place before, did you?"

"Oh, no; we always lived in Tunxet. But I don't believe I shall be lonesome. It looks real pretty from here. Why is it called Cosy Island, Mrs. Downs?"

"Well, I'm sure I don't know. Folks always called it that. I never thought to ask nobody. Perhaps he'll know when he comes in."

"He" was Mr. Downs; but he knew no more than his wife about the name of the island. Mr. Bright, however, was better informed. He told them that the name, in the first place, was "Causeway," from the natural path, uncovered at each low tide, which connected it with the shore, and that this had gradually been changed to "Causey," because it was easier to pronounce. Eyebright was rather disappointed at this explanation.

"I thought it was 'Cosy,'" she said, "because the island was cosey."

Mr. Downs gave a great laugh at this, but papa patted her head kindly, and said,—

"We'll see if we can't make it so, Eyebright."

The tide would not serve for crossing the causeway till the afternoon, but Mr. Downs offered to put them over in his boat without waiting for that. It was arranged that they should come back for the night, and Mrs. Downs packed some bread and cheese and doughnuts in a basket to serve them as dinner. Eyebright took the basket on her arm, and ran down to the shore in high spirits. It was a lovely day. The sea was as blue as the sky, and, as the boat pushed off, little ripples from the incoming tide struck the pebbly beach, with swift flashes of white, like gleaming teeth, and a gay little splash, so like a laugh that Eyebright laughed too, and showed her teeth.

"What are you smiling at?" asked her father.

"I don't know," she answered, in a tone of dreamy enjoyment. "I like it here, papa."

Near as the island looked, it took quite a long time to reach it, though Mr. Downs pulled strongly and steadily. It was very interesting, as each stroke took them nearer and nearer, and showed more and more distinctly what their future home was like. The trees, which at first had seemed a solid green mass, became distinct shapes of pines, hemlocks, and sumachs. A little farther, and openings appeared between them, through which open spaces on top could be seen, bushes, a field, and yes, actually! a little brown patch, which was a house. There it was, and Eyebright held Genevieve up that she might see it, too.

"That's our house, my child," she whispered. "Aren't you glad? But my! don't it look small?"

It was small, smaller even than it looked, as they found, when, after saying good-by to Mr. Downs, and getting directions for crossing the "Causey," they climbed the steep path which led to the top, and came out close to the house. Mr. Bright gave a low whistle as he looked at it, and Eyebright opened her eyes wide.

"It's a comfort that we're not a large family, isn't it?" she said, quaintly. "I'm almost glad now that Wealthy didn't come, papa. Wouldn't she say it was little? Littler than Miss Fitch's schoolhouse, I do believe."

The front door was fastened only by a large cobweb, left by some industrious spider of last year, so it was easy to make their way in. There was no entrance-hall. The door opened directly into a square kitchen, from which opened two smaller rooms. One had shelves round it, and seemed to be a sort of pantry or milk-room. As they went into the other, a trickling sound met their ears, and they saw a slender stream of clear spring water running into a stone sink. The sink never seemed to get any fuller, but the water ran on and on, and there was no way to stop it, as Eyebright found after a little examination.

"Isn't that splendid?" she cried. "It just runs all the time, and we shan't have to pump or any thing. I do like that so much!" Then, as if the sound made her thirsty, she held her head under the spout, and took a good long drink.

"Do taste it. It's the best water that ever was," she declared.

This spring-water, always at hand, was the only luxury which the little house afforded. All the rest was bare and plain as could be. Upstairs were two small chambers, but they were more like chicken-coops than bedrooms; for the walls, made of laths not yet plastered, were full of cracks and peep-holes, and the staircase which led to them resembled a ladder more than was desirable. There was plenty of sunshine everywhere, for there were no blinds, and the sweet yellow light made a cheerfulness in the place, forlorn as it was. Eyebright did not think it forlorn. She enjoyed it very much as though it had been a new doll's-house, and danced about gleefully, planning where this should go, and that; how papa's desk should have a corner by one window, and her little chair by the other, and the big mahogany table, which Wealthy had persuaded them to bring, by the wall. She showed a good deal of cleverness and sense in their arrangement, and papa was well content that things should be as she liked.

"We must have the upstairs rooms plastered, I suppose," he said. "That'll require some time, I'm afraid. Plaster takes so long to dry. We must arrange to wait at Mr. Downs's for a week or two, Eyebright."

He sighed as he spoke, and sat down on the door-step, his elbows on his knees, his chin in his hands, looking tired and discouraged.

"Oh, must we?" cried Eyebright, her face falling. "That won't be nice a bit. Papa! I've got an idea. Don't plaster the walls. Let me fix them. I'll make them real nice, just as nice as can be, if you will, and then we shan't have to wait at all."

"Why, what can you do with them? How do you mean?" demanded her father.

"Oh, papa, it's a secret, I'd rather not tell you. I'd rather have it a surprise,—mayn't I?"

Papa demurred, but Eyebright coaxed and urged, and at last he said,—

"Well, I don't care about it one way or the other. Try your idea if you like, Eyebright. It will amuse you perhaps, and any thing will do for the summer. We can plaster in the fall."

"I don't believe you'll want to," remarked Eyebright, shaking her head mysteriously. "My way is much prettier than plaster. Just you wait and see, papa. I'm sure you'll like it."

But papa seemed down-hearted, and it was not easy to make him smile. To tell the truth, the look of the farm was rather discouraging. He kicked the earth over with his foot, and said the soil was poor and every thing seemed run down. But Eyebright would not give in to this view at all. It was a lovely place, she insisted, and she ran about discovering new beauties and advantages every moment. Now it was a thicket of wild roses just budding into leaf. Next a patch of winter-green, with white starry blossoms and red berries. Then, peeping over the bank, she called papa's attention to a strip of pebbly beach on the side of the island next the sea.

"Here's where we can take baths," she said. "Why, I declare, here's a path down to it. I guess the people who used to live here made it; don't you? Oh, do come and see the beach, papa!"

It was a rough little path which led to the beach, and overgrown with weeds; but they made their way down without much trouble, and Eyebright trampled the pebbles under foot with great satisfaction.

"Isn't it splendid!" she cried. "See that great stone close to the bank, papa. We can go behind there to dress and undress. It's a real nice place. I'm going to call it the 'The Dressing-room.' How wide the sea is on this side! And what is that long point of land, papa?"

For the island lay within a broad curving bay. One end of the curve projected only a little way, but toward the north a long, cape-like tongue of land, with a bold, hilly outline, ran out to sea, and made a striking feature in the landscape.

"Those are the Guinness Hills," said Mr. Bright. "Canada begins just the other side of them. Do you see those specks of white on the point? That is Malachi, and in the summer there is a steamboat once a week from there to Portland. We can see it pass in clear weather, Mr. Downs says."

"That will be nice," said Eyebright, comfortably. "I'm glad we've got a beach of our own, papa; aren't you? Now I want to look about some more."

To the left of the house the ground rose in a low knoll, whose top was covered with sassafras bushes. This was the source of the spring whose water ran into the back kitchen. They came upon it presently, and could trace the line of spouts, each made of a small tree-trunk, halved and hollowed out, which led it from the hill to the house. Following these along, Eyebright made the discovery of a cubby,—a veritable cubby,—left by some child in a choice and hidden corner formed by three overlapping moosewood bushes. The furniture, except for a table made of three shingles, consisted entirely of corn-cobs; but it was a desirable cubby for all that, and would be a pleasant out-door parlor for Genevieve on hot days, Eyebright thought. It made the island seem much more home-like to know that other children had lived there and played under the trees; and, cheered by this idea, she became so merry, that gradually papa brightened, too, and began to make plans for his farming operations with more heart than he had hitherto shown, deciding where to plant corn and where potatoes, and where their little vegetable garden would better be.

"I suppose it's no use to try for fruit," he said; "the climate is too cold."

"Not too cold for blueberries," Eyebright replied. "There are lots of them, Mrs. Downs says, and lots of cranberries, and Mr. Downs's brother has got an apple-tree."

"An apple-tree! Dear! dear! Think of getting to a place where people have only one apple-tree," muttered Mr. Bright.

By the time that they had made the circuit of the island it was twelve o'clock. This was dinner-time, Eyebright declared, and she produced the lunch-basket. Mrs. Downs's bread had yellow specks of saleratus in it, and was very different from Wealthy's delicious loaves; but they were too hungry to criticise, though Eyebright shook her head over it, and thought with satisfaction of the big parcel of yeast-powder which she and Wealthy had packed up. She knew exactly where it was, in the corner of a certain red box, and that reminded her to ask papa when the boxes would be likely to come.

"They are due at this moment," he replied, "I suppose we may look for them at any time now. Mr. Downs says there have been head winds for this week past, and I presume that has kept the sloop back. Perhaps she may come to-day."

"I do hope she will. I want dreadfully to begin and fix the house. Doesn't it seem a great while since we left Tunxet, papa? I can't believe that it is only three days, so much has happened."

The tide had been going out since eleven o'clock, and by four, when they were ready to cross, the causeway was uncovered. It was a wide pathway of sand, not flat and even all the way, but high in some places and low in others, with shells and pebbles shining here and there on its surface. It was like a beach, except for being narrower, and having water on both sides of it, instead of on only one. The sand was still wet enough to make good hard footing, and Eyebright skipped gayly over it, declaring that she felt just like the children of Israel in the middle of the Red Sea.

"It is so strange to think that, just a little while ago, this was all water," she said; "and just a little while longer, and it will be all water again. It is the most interesting thing we've got on our island, I think, papa; but it makes me feel a little afraid, too."

"There's nothing to be afraid of if you're only careful not to come here except when the tide is going out," said her father. "Now remember this, Eyebright,—you must never try to cross when the tide is rising, even if the sand looks perfectly dry and the water seems a good way off. The sea comes in very fast up here on these northern shores, and if you made a misstep and sprained your ankle, or had an accident of any kind, you might be drowned before any one could come to your help. Remember, my child."

"Yes, papa, I will," said Eyebright, looking rather nervously at the water. It was slipping farther away every moment, and seemed the most harmless thing in the world; but papa's words made her feel as if it were a dangerous and deceitful creature which could not be trusted.

It was over a mile from the causeway to the village, though at first sight the distance looked much less Plodding along the sandy shore was slow work, so that they did not reach the village till nearly six. A smell of frying met them as they entered the door. Mrs. Downs, wishing to do them honor, was making blueberry flapjacks for tea. Did any of you ever eat blueberry flapjacks? I imagine not, unless you have summered on the coast of Maine. They are a kind of greasy pancake, in which blueberries are stirred till the cakes are about the color of a bruise. They are served swimming in melted butter and sugar, and in any other place or air would be certain indigestion, if not sudden death, to any person partaking of them. But, somehow, in that place and that air they are not only harmless but seem quite delicious as well. Eyebright thought so. She ate a great many flapjacks, thought them extremely nice, and slept like a top afterward, with never a bad dream to mar her rest.

A big gray sail at the wharf was the glad sight that met their eyes when they came down next morning. The sloop had come in during the night, with all Mr. Bright's goods on board. He had hoped that it might be possible to land them on the island, but the captain said it was out of the question; he couldn't get near enough, for one thing, and if he could, he wouldn't; for how were heavy things like them to be dumped on a shelvin' bank like that, he'd like to know? So the goods were landed on the dock at Scrapplehead, and Mr. Downs undertook to find an ox-team to draw them across the causeway at low tide.

Getting oxen was not an easy matter at that season of the year, but Mr. Downs, who had taken a fancy to his lodgers, bestirred himself, and at last found some one willing to let his yoke go in consideration of a dollar and a quarter. So, at exact low tide, the great cart, piled with boxes and barrels, creaked slowly across the sandy bar, Mr. Downs driving, and papa walking behind with Eyebright, who was more than ever reminded of the crossing of the Red Sea. It took much lugging and straining and "gee"-ing and "haw"-ing to get the load up the steep bank on the other side; but all arrived safely at last in front of the house. There the cart was unloaded as fast as possible, a few things set indoors, the rest left outside, and, getting into the cart, they all drove back across the causeway. It was harder work than when they came, for the tide was rising, and the sand had grown soft and yielding. One great swirling wave ran up and curled around the oxen's hoofs just as they reached firm ground, but, though Eyebright gave a little scream, and Mr. Downs frowned and said, "by gosh!" no harm was done, and the momentary fright only made pleasanter their drive to Scrapplehead, which they reached just as the sun sank for the night into a great soft-looking bed of purple and crimson clouds.

This was their last night with the Downs family. Early next morning they started for the island in Mr. Downs's boat, taking with them their last bundles and bags, and Mrs. Downs, who had kindly offered to give them a day's help. Very helpful it proved, for there was every thing to do.

Mr. Bright, like all men, wanted to do every thing at once, and Eyebright was too inexperienced to know what should come first and what second; so Mrs. Downs's good sense and advice were of great value. Under her directions the bedrooms were swept and cleaned, and the bedsteads put together, first of all, for, as she said, "You've got to sleep, anyhow, and if you don't do it comfortable you'll be sick, and that would never do." Next, while Eyebright swept the kitchen, she and Mr. Bright got the stove into place, fixed the pipe, and lighted a fire, after which Mrs. Downs scoured the pantry shelves, and unpacked china and tins.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse