Elsie's Kith and Kin by Martha Finley
"And, if division come, it soon is past, Too sharp, too strange an agony to last." MRS. NORTON.
Christine and Aunt Phillis, who had been left in charge of Miss Deane, had had a sore trial of patience in waiting upon her, humoring her whims, listening to her fretting and complaints, and trying to soothe and entertain her. She was extremely irritable, and seemed determined not to be pleased with any thing they could do for her.
"Where is your mistress?" she asked at length. "Pretty manners she has, to leave a suffering guest to the sole care of servants."
"Yes, Miss, Ise alluz t'ought Miss Zoe hab pretty manners and a pretty face," replied Aunt Phillis; "but dere is ladies what habn't none, an' doan' git pleased wid nuffin' nor nobody, an eayn't stan' no misery nowhars 'bout deirselves, but jes' keep frettin' and concessantly displainin' 'bout dis t'ing and dat, like dey hasn't got nuffin' to be thankful for."
"Impudence!" muttered Miss Deane, her eyes flashing angrily. Then bidding her attendants be quiet, she settled herself for a nap.
She was waked by a slight bustle in the house, accompanied by sounds as if a number of men were carrying a heavy burden through the entrance-hall, and up the wide stairway leading to the second story.
"What's the matter? What's going on? Has any thing happened?" she asked, starting up to a sitting posture.
Christine had risen to her feet, pale and trembling, and stood listening intently.
"I must go and see," she said, and hurried from the room, Aunt Phillis shambling after her in haste and trepidation.
"Stay!" cried Miss Deane: "don't leave me alone. What are you thinking of?"
But they were already out of hearing. "I was never so shamefully treated anywhere as I am here," muttered the angry lady, sinking back upon her pillows. "I'll leave this house to-morrow, if it is a possible thing, and never darken its doors again."
Listening again, she thought she heard sounds of grief, sobbing and wailing, groans and sighs.
She was by no means deficient in curiosity, and it was exceedingly trying to be compelled to lie there in doubt and suspense.
The time seemed very much longer than it really was before Aunt Phillis came back, sobbing, and wiping her eyes on her apron.
"What is the matter?" asked Miss Deane impatiently.
"Dere's--dere's been a awful commission on de railroad," sobbed Aunt Phillis; "and Marse Ed'ard's 'most killed."
"Oh, dreadful!" cried Miss Deane. "Have they sent for his mother?"
Aunt Phillis only shook her head doubtfully, and burst into fresh and louder sobs.
"Most killed! Dear me!" sighed the lady. "And he was so young and handsome! It will quite break his mother's heart, I suppose. But she'll get over it. It takes a vast deal of grief to kill."
"P'raps Marse Ed'ard ain't gwine ter die," said the old nurse, checking her sobs. "Dey does say Doctah Arthur kin 'most raise de dead."
"Well, I'm sure I hope Mr. Travilla won't die," responded Miss Deane, "or prove to be permanently injured in any way.--Ah, Christine!" as the latter re-entered the room: "what is all this story about a railroad accident? Is Mr. Travilla killed?"
"No, no, he not killed," replied Christine, in her broken English. "How bad hurt, I not know to say; but not killed."
Meantime Edward had been taken to his room, and put comfortably to bed; while Zoe, seated in her boudoir, waited anxiously for the doctor's report of his condition.
Ella was with her, and now and then tried to speak a comforting word, which Zoe scarcely seemed to hear. She sat with her hands clasped in her lap, listening intently to catch every sound from the room where her injured husband lay. She looked pale and anxious, and occasionally a tear would roll quickly down her cheek.
At last the door opened, and Arthur stepped softly across the room to her side.
"Cheer up, little cousin," he said kindly. "Edward seems to be doing very well; and if you will be a good, quiet little woman, you may go and sit by his side."
"Oh, thank you! I'll try," she said, starting up at once. "But mayn't I talk to him at all?"
"Not much to-night," was the reply; "not more than seems absolutely necessary; and you must be particularly careful not to say any thing that would have the least tendency to excite him."
"Oh, then he must be very, very ill,--terribly injured!" she cried, with a burst of tears and sobs.
"That does not necessarily follow," Arthur said, taking her hand, and holding it in a kindly pressure. "But you must be more composed, or," playfully, "I shall be compelled to exert my authority so far as to forbid you to go to him."
"Oh, no, no! don't do that!" she cried pleadingly. "I'll be calm and quiet; indeed, indeed I will."
"That's right," he said. "I think I may venture to try you."
"But won't you please tell me just how much you think he is hurt?" she pleaded, clinging to his hand, and looking up beseechingly into his face.
"My dear little cousin," he said in a tenderly sympathizing tone, "I wish to do all in my power to relieve your anxiety, but am as yet in some doubt myself as to the extent of his injuries. He is a good deal shaken and bruised; but, as I have said before, there are no broken bones; and, unless there should be some internal injury which I have not yet discovered, he is likely to recover entirely in a few days or weeks."
"But you are not sure? Oh! how could I ever bear it if he should"--she broke off with a burst of violent weeping.
He led her to a seat, for she seemed hardly able to stand: her whole frame was shaking with emotion.
"Try not to meet trouble half way, little cousin," he said gently. "'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,' and 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be.' It is God's promise to all who put their trust in him, and cannot fail; all his promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus."
"Yes, I know," she said, making a strong effort to control herself. "And you do hope Ned will soon be well?"
"I certainly do," he responded in cheerful accents. "And now, if you will wipe away your tears, and promise to be very good and quiet, I will take you to him. He was asking for you when I left the room."
She gave the desired promise, and he led her to the bedside.
"I have brought you your wife, Ned," he said in a quiet tone, "and mean to leave her with you for a while; but you are to be a good boy, and not indulge in much chatter with her."
"We'll be good: I'll answer for her, and myself too," Edward returned, with a tenderly affectionate smile up into Zoe's face, as she bent over him, and touched her lips to his forehead.
She dared not trust herself to speak, but silently put her hand in his, dropped on her knees by the bedside, and laid her pretty head on the pillow on which his rested.
"My own darling!" he murmured, softly pressing the hand he held: "my own precious little wife!"
Once more Arthur enjoined quiet, then went out, and left them alone together.
He paid a professional visit to Miss Deane, satisfied her curiosity in regard to Edward's injuries, and learned with pleasure that she was quite resolved to go home the next morning.
"Of course Mrs. Travilla should give all her attention to her husband now," she remarked; "and I shall be only in the way. One disabled person is quite enough to have in a house at one time. So if you, doctor, will be so kind as to have the ambulance sent out for me directly after breakfast, I'll be much obliged."
"I will do so," he said. "The journey will do you no harm, and you will probably be better cared for and happier in your own home than here, under the circumstances."
Zoe's poor heart was longing to pour itself out into her husband's ear in words of contrition, penitence, and love; and only the fear of injuring him enabled her to restrain her feelings, and remain calm and quiet, kneeling there close by his side, with her hand in his. She couldn't rest till she told him how very, very sorry she was for the petulance of the past few days, and especially for the cold rejection of his invitation to accompany him on his drive to Roselands, how firmly resolved never again to give him like cause to be displeased with her, and how dearly she loved him.
But she must refrain, from fear of exciting him: she must wait till all danger from that was past.
It was hard; yet there was strong consolation in the certainty that his dear love was still hers. She read it in his eyes, as they gazed fondly into hers; felt it in the tender pressure of his hand; heard it in the tones of his voice, as he called her his "darling, his own precious little wife."
Yet she was tormented with the fear that his accident had affected his mind and memory for the time, so that he had forgotten the unkindness of the morning; and that, when returning health and vigor should recall the facts to his remembrance, he would again treat her with the coldness and displeasure merited by her behavior.
"But," she comforted herself, "if he does, it will not last long: he is sure to forgive and love me as soon as I tell him how sorry I am."
She did not want to leave him to take either food or rest; but Arthur insisted that she should go down to tea, and later to bed, leaving Edward in his care; and she finally yielded to his persuasions, and exertion of medical authority.
She objected that it was quite useless to go to bed; she was positively sure she could not sleep a wink: but her head had scarcely touched the pillow before she fell into a profound slumber, for she was quite worn out with anxiety and grief.
It was broad daylight when she woke. The events of yesterday flashed instantly upon her mind; and she sprang from her bed and began dressing in haste.
She must learn as speedily as possible how Edward was; not worse, surely, for Arthur had promised faithfully to call her at once if there should be any unfavorable change during the night. Still, a light tap at the door made her start, and turn pale; and she opened it with a trembling hand.
Ella stood there with a bright, smiling countenance. "Good-morning, coz," she said gayly. "I bring you good news,--two pieces of it. Ned is almost himself again; Arthur is entirely satisfied that there is no serious injury,--internal or otherwise; and Miss Deane has already set out for her home, leaving me to give you her adieus. Now are you not happy?"
"Indeed, indeed I am!" cried Zoe, dancing about the room in ecstasy, her eyes shining, and her cheeks flushing with joy.
"May I go to him at once?" she asked, stopping short, with an eager, questioning look.
"Yes. Art says you may, and Ned is asking for you. How fond he is of you, Zoe! though, I think, no fonder than you are of him."
"I don't deserve it," responded Zoe, with unwonted humility, answering the first part of the remark.
"I don't see but you do," said Ella. "Can I help you with your dressing? I know you are in a hurry to get to him."
"Thank you. I don't think you can, but I'll be done in five minutes."
Edward lay watching for her coming, listening for the sound of her light footsteps, and, as she opened the door, looked up, and greeted her with a tenderly affectionate smile.
"O Ned! dear, dear Ned!" she cried, hastening to the bedside; "how like yourself you look again!"
"And feel, too, love," he said, drawing her down till their lips met in a long kiss.
Arthur had stepped out on her entrance, and they were quite alone together.
"God has been very good to us, darling, in sparing us to each other," Edward said, in low, moved tones.
"Oh, yes, yes!" she sobbed. "And I didn't deserve it; for I was so cross to you day before yesterday, when you asked me to go with you: and I'd been cross for days before that. Can you, will you, forgive me, dear Ned?"
"I have not been blameless, and we will exchange forgiveness," he said, drawing her closer, till her head rested against his breast.
"It is so good in you to say that," she sobbed. "Oh, if you had been killed, as I thought for one minute you were, I could never have had an hour of peace or comfort in this world! Those unkind words would have been the last I ever spoke to you; and I should never have been able to forget them, or the sad look that your face must have worn as you turned away. I didn't see it, for I had rudely turned my back to you; but I could imagine it: for I knew you must have been hurt, and grieved too."
"So I was, little wife," he said tenderly, and passing his hand caressingly over her hair and cheek: "but a few moments' honest retrospect showed me that I was not blameless, had not been as forbearing and affectionate in my treatment of my darling little wife, for the past few days, as I ought to have been; and I resolved to tell her so, on the first opportunity."
"O Ned! I don't deserve such a kind, loving husband!" she sighed; "and you ought to have a great deal better wife."
"I am entirely satisfied with the one I have," lifting her hand to his lips. "There isn't a woman in the world I would exchange her for."
"But I often do and say things you don't approve," she murmured, with a regretful sigh.
"Yes; but have I not told you more than once, that I do not want a piece of perfection for my wife, lest there should be far too strong a contrast between her and myself?"
"But there wouldn't be," she asserted. "I don't believe there's another man in all the world quite so dear and good as my husband."
"Sweet flattery from your lips," he returned laughingly. "Now, dearest, go and eat your breakfast. I have had mine."
"Ned, do you know our tormentor is gone?" she asked, lifting her head, and looking into his eyes, with a glad light in her own.
"Yes, and am much relieved to know it," he replied. "And, dearest, she shall never come again, if I can prevent it."