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have called the approval of conscience had she been old enough for introspection and mistress of befitting language.
But this serenity of spirit was not to endure in an ill-starred moment the child was moved to return to the scene of her victory over self. Salome was gone, and gone were all the others; but on the floor, where they had fallen unheeded at Salome's feet, lay the little carefully sought bunch of blossomed weeds, the dear blue bannerblossom in their midst, cruelly trampled and bruised! And the child's heart quaked with the instant perception that she had made a needless sacrifice.
Whether or not she wept memory bears no testimony; but the pang she suffered was of no transient duration. For it was not alone the needlessness of her sacrifice that smote her with a startling certainty: she saw, as if through sudden and blinding light, that her innocent trust had been imposed upon; that the true intent of sending her to seek for flowers had been to secure a riddance of the Little Pitcher. Her impeccable elders, she was shrewdly aware, enjoyed many privileges denied to childhood, and of these privileges the right to disguise the truth might be one; but the exercise of such a right had wounded her sense of personal dignity, a sentiment infancy may entertain distinctly long before its name is known. For of course it was not possible that a child of her tender age should define to herself an impression so intense and soul-searching that it has furnished her food for thought through all the after-years; it was her later development that translated it into words, while she pondered at recurrent intervals that ineradicable memory. But the conclusions she deduced without the intervention of language were none the less inevitable and immediate; whereof the result was that she ceased from that moment to love Salome the Beautiful. She remembers that, subsequently, she was punished time and again for repelling the overtures of the whilom enchantress, but she never gave up the secret of her disillusionment,
too deep a sorrow for a young child's puzzled intelligence to explain. Thus it came to pass, as one of the direful sequences of this small tragedy, that she was called to suffer much anguish of spirit under the imputation of lack of heart.
Through all the after-years, in garden, field, or woodland, the big blue bannerblossom of the ground - trailing pea has worn for her eyes a meek, appealing look of mingled comprehension and reproach. "Do you remember, O Flower, Do you remember, too?"
Jonas and Matilda.
They were English, and their names were Jonas and Matilda ; not their real names, of course, for though one often writes of real individuals, it is the custom to give them fictitious names. In this case I am obliged to use fictitious names, for though this couple lived next door to me for two seasons, I never found out their true names; so, in order to discuss their affairs in the privacy of my family, I christened them Jonas and Matilda. Their dwelling was not over twenty feet from my sitting-room window. It was quite old, but had never before, to my knowledge, been occupied ; and when, one April morning, I saw a couple inspecting it with the evident intention of making it their residence if it proved satisfactory, I became much interested in the prospect of new neighbors.
I was somewhat of an invalid that spring, or thought I was, which is much the same thing, as all physicians can testify, - and as I could neither read nor work long at a time, I welcomed the advent of the newcomers as a pleasant break in watching the clock for medicine hours.
Several visits were made before the couple decided to make the place their local habitation, and I had my couch drawn close to the window, where, behind the friendly screen of the muslin curtains, I could see without being seen. Sometimes, when the discussion over the location became specially lively, I did not scruple to use my operaglass. I may as well confess that, owing to the perfectly open way in which Jonas and Matilda conducted their domestic affairs, by keeping up a daily espionage assisted by the aforementioned glass, I became almost as familiar with their household concerns as with my own, and I can assure you I found them vastly more interesting.
From the very first Matilda showed herself a female of decided opinions, which she aired both in season and out of season. As for Jonas, he proved himself like charity: he bore all things, hoped all things, endured all things, did not behave himself unseemly,
suffered long and was kind. After at least a dozen visits, in which Matilda pointed out every disadvantage of the situation, to which Jonas only ventured to utter a mild protest now and then, they decided to take the place for the season. Then began the moving and settling. All the furnishings were new, and instead of going to look and select for herself, Matilda stayed at home and had everything brought for her inspection. When Jonas brought what he considered a piece of fine floor covering or wall decoration, she turned and twisted it in every conceivable way; and if, after thoroughly examining it, she decided it would do, she laid it down, and Jonas picked it up and fitted it into the house. This did not end the matter, however, for as soon as Jonas came out and began to brush himself, Matilda would pop her head in the door; and if the thing was not arranged to her liking, she would drag it out, and patient Jonas had his work to do over again. A whole morning would often be spent in this way, Jonas putting in order and Matilda pulling to pieces some part of the furniture. When Jonas brought home anything that did not please Matilda, she would snatch it from him, run a short distance, and toss it into the air, so that it would fall over into my yard. Then he would find a choice dainty which he would offer her, and hasten away to get something else while she was for the moment apparently good natured.
In the five weeks which it took Jonas to get the house in order, only once was he seen to rebel against Matilda's tyranny. It was a very hot, close morning, and he had been gone for at least two hours, during which time Matilda had done nothing but prance back and forth in front of the house. Whether the material itself did not please her, or she was angry because Jonas had been gone so long, I do not know, but as soon as he came in sight, with a sharp exclamation she pounced on him and tried to pull his burden away from him. To her great astonishment he refused to let go his hold. She moved away a little, and looked at him as if she could not believe the evidence of her own senses. Then she again caught hold of one end and tugged with all her might, but Jonas held on firmly; and thus they tugged and pulled for nearly five minutes. At last Matilda succeeded in wresting it from Jonas, and run
ning with it endeavored to drop it into my yard; but Jonas was too quick for her, and caught it just as it was falling. Again they contended for its possession, without either gaining any advantage, when suddenly Matilda let go her hold, and going off a little way sat down. Jonas, unexpectedly finding himself the victor, seemed at first undecided what to do; but after waiting a minute and finding Matilda did not renew the attack, he carried the material into the house and fitted it in place. When he came out he waited, as was his custom, for Matilda to inspect his work, but the little minx never so much as looked toward the house.
After a while Jonas went away. As soon as he was out of sight, Mistress Matilda ran to the house, and tore out not only what Jonas had just put in, but also several other things, and tossed them, one by one, into my yard. Then she too went away. Presently Jonas returned with more material for Matilda, but no Matilda was in sight. He called several times, and getting no response peeped into the house. I could not tell what his feelings were on beholding his dismantled home, for feelings cannot be seen even with an opera-glass; but after standing about for a while he laid his bundle down and hurried away, and I saw neither of them again for two days.
The second morning they returned together. Matilda seemed to be in a very peaceful frame of mind, for she allowed Jonas to repair the damage she had wrought and finish the furnishings without further interference. When it was all done she refused to go one step inside. Jonas coaxed and pleaded. He went in and out half a dozen times, and tried his best to persuade Matilda to enter; but no, she would not even cross the threshold. Finding all his entreaties of no avail, he went away, and returned with an elderly looking female, whom I took to be either an aunt or a mother-in-law. Then the two tried their united eloquence, the elderly female talking as rapidly and volubly as a book agent, to induce the obstinate Matilda to set up housekeeping; but their breath was thrown away, -she refused to be persuaded. About a week later I saw Matilda skip into the house and out again in the greatest hurry. She tried this several days in succession, and after a while concluded that she might endure living in the house.
Just at this time I went into the country for a month; but on the evening of my return almost my first inquiry was for Jonas and Matilda. What was my surprise to learn that they had two babies! I thought that with looking after them and taking care of the house the little mistress would have no time to indulge any of her disagreeable characteristics; but I reckoned without knowing all about Matilda. I took a peep at my neighbors the next morning before I went down to breakfast, and what did I see, under the shade of a blossoming cherrytree, but Matilda serenely taking the morning air as if she had not a care in the world, while the long-suffering Jonas sat in the door patiently feeding the babies!
Later reconnoitring revealed the fact that Jonas was still the commissary and general care-taker, and Matilda retained her old office of inspector-general; but now, instead of furnishings for the house it was supplies for the larder. Everything that Jonas brought home Matilda examined carefully, and if she considered it unfit food for the babies promptly gobbled it up herself, without giving Jonas so much as a taste. As for feeding the little ones, I never saw her give them the tiniest crumb. Jonas not only brought the food and fed the babies, but saw that they were snugly tucked into their little bed and warmly covered. It was Jonas who gave them their first lessons in locomotion and taught them everything else they learned; Matilda, meanwhile, looking on with the indifference of a disinterested spectator.
When cold weather came they all went away, as the place was not a desirable winter residence even for an English sparrow,
for of course you have guessed that Jonas and Matilda were English sparrows. Their home was in a knothole of the eaves of the house next door.
I have often wondered where Matilda learned her advanced ways of bird-living. I can think of only one possible explanation. The walls of the old Chapter House on Carolina Avenue were once covered with ivy, which furnished quarters for hundreds of English sparrows. A year ago last winter a series of lectures were given in the hall of the Chapter House on woman suffrage, and on the rights, privileges, and prerogatives of the New Woman. The following spring the ivy was torn from the walls,
and the sparrows had to seek new habitations. Was Matilda one of them, and had she listened to these lectures on the New Woman, and put the theories of the lecturers into practice?
My personal recollections of my grandfather's brother, known to all of us as "Uncle Joe," are very limited, being confined to a dim memory of his carrying me on his back, and swaying from side to side as he walked, to make my ride more exciting and enjoyable. I can recall nothing of his features, but have a distinct impression of the indestructible texture of his felt hat and the broadness of his round shoulders. The honest hats of those days outlasted a lifetime; indeed, were never worn out, but thrown aside or given away to people of low degree when too soiled for seemly wear.
I have been told that Uncle Joe was a stumpy little man with a dull face and bulging eyes, and as clumsy as a clod; in all respects different from my grandfather, who had the beak and eye of an eagle and was as agile as a cat. His bald forehead bore a mark that Uncle Joe had set upon it with a chunk of lead thrown in one of those fits of passion which he never outgrew. This happened when they were boys at their home in Newport, at the time of the war of independence, when Uncle Joe did some service against the enemies of our country. The British held the town, and one night he found a squad of Hessian soldiers carrying off a stick of timber from his father's wharf for firewood. Stealing up behind them, he gave the heavy timber a lusty push, and down it went, carrying some of the men with it. They caught him and gave him a drubbing; but it made as little impression upon him as it would have made upon a turtle, and when they resumed their pilfering he played them the same trick again.
If there were a society of Nephews of the Revolution, I might be eligible on the score of the service of my great-uncle. The family were Quakers and non-combatants, and Uncle Joe's father was called a Tory by the Whigs, and a Whig by the Tories, for taking no part with either. The English and French officers were in turn quartered upon him, as their respective armies held the
When Uncle Joe grew to man's estate and crusty old-bachelorhood he came to
live with my grandfather, who had settled in the youngest State of the young republic. He undertook to clear a piece of land on the new farm, all by himself and without help of a team, but hauling the logs together with a rope. Half a summer gave him enough of such labor, and he left the unfinished work for more skillful hands to complete.
After a few years of life in the new country he was seized with a yearning for his old home, its old fields and salt breezes, its quohogs and tautogs, its succotash and upsqunch, and all the toothsome viands which the born Rhode Islander knows exist nowhere in perfection save within the limits of his native State, narrow, yet broad enough to hold all the best things of the earth. Perhaps he longed to see the playmates of his boyhood, Young Tom Ninnegret and Gid Nocake, last of the Narragansetts, and his old nurse of the same race, who would not speak the language of the destroyers of her people, yet wept that her vow would not let her do so when the beloved white children begged her to.
So it was settled he should go, and that he should make the journey on horseback; for there was no wagon at his disposal, if there were a one-horse wagon in the neighborhood, and there was no direct public conveyance by land. One memorable morning Uncle Joe's tall steed was brought to the door equipped for the long journey, his great bundle of possessions was strapped behind the saddle, and all the farm hands of Rhode Island stock, Bart Jackson, Lige Perry, the Lockes and Jaquays, were summoned to hoist the unwonted horseman to his seat; then, with hearty farewells of his Quaker kindred and the good-bys of the attendant "world's people," he set forth. Doubtless he felt some regret at leaving his kinsfolk, and perhaps some remorse for having been heard to execrate them in a moment of wrath. "Damn Tommy and all his tribe!" was an improper expression from one bred a Quaker, but probably his paramount emotion was trepidation at the thought of the inevitable descent from his horse which must occur before many hours had passed.
At a slow and careful pace he rode through the oldest city of the State, and at noon came to the county-seat, where he was obliged to feed his horse and refresh him
self. Having accomplished these objects and being ready to resume his journey, he could not mount without help, and he was too proud to ask it. So he led his horse out of the village, remarking to the landlord and bystanders that he wanted to stretch his legs a bit, and hoping that when well out of sight he might find some friendly stump or fence by which he could climb to his seat. But he found it not that day, nor the next, nor at all. Thus leading his horse, he walked all the weary way, two hundred and fifty miles or more, to Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and thus, horse and foot, marched into his native town and came to the house of his fathers.
I do not know whether he told the story of his equestrian journey or whether it became known by report of witnesses. I can never think of the intended long ride, that soon became almost as long a walk, without laughing, nor yet without pity for the absurdly pathetic figure of my great-uncle trudging along the stretches of uninhabited road, past the farmsteads and through the villages of three or four States, towing his ample means of transportation close at his heels. One can imagine what a make-believe air of traveling in the manner that exactly suited him he assumed when he met or was overtaken by other travelers, and how adroitly he parried or how testily he answered their questions, and how content he must have been with loneliness. I do not know in what season of the year this journey befell, but I trust it was a comfortable one, neither too hot nor too cold; that the roads, then never good, were at their best; that he saw pleasant sights, and heard the birds singing all the way, and had happy thoughts in the long hours of lonely meditation that were forced upon him ; and that no naughty boys jeered at him when he could not pursue and chastise. How glad he must have been at last to smell the salt air, and see beyond the blue arm of Narragansett Bay the green shore of Aquidneck lying before him!
Many years ago he made the last lonely journey that is allotted to all and that ends in everlasting rest. Yet it seems but a little while since my venerable grandfather, after reading a Newport letter, said, "Ah well, my poor old brother Joe is gone."