Page images
PDF
EPUB

"

CHAPTER XIX.

A man may hear this shower sing in the wind.
MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

ONE summer's afternoon,-this was the first summer of Winthrop's being in Mannahatta,-he went to solace himself with a walk out of town. It was a long and grave and thoughtful walk; so that Mr. Landholm really had very little good of the bright summer light upon the grass and trees. Furthermore, he did not even find it out when this light was curtained in the west with a thick cloud, which straightway became gilt and silver-edged in a marvellous and splendid degree. The cloud of thought was thicker than that, if not quite so brilliant; and it was not until low growls of thunder began to salute his ear, that he looked up and found the silver edge fast mounting to the zenith and the curtain drawing its folds all around over the clear blue sky. His next look was earthward, for a shelter; for at the rate that chariot of the storm was travelling he knew he had not many minutes to seek one before the storm would be upon him. Happily a blacksmith's shop, that he would certainly have passed without seeing it, stood at a little distance; and Winthrop thankfully made for it. He found it deserted; and secure of a refuge, took his place at the door to watch the face of things; for though the edge of the town was near, the storm was nearer, and it would not do to run for it. The blackness covered everything now, changing to lurid light in the storm quarter, and big scattered drops began to come plashing down. This time Winthrop's mind was so much in the clouds that he did not know what was going on in the earth; for while he stood looking and gazing, two ladies almost ran over him. Winthrop's senses came back to the door of the blacksmith's shop, and the ladies recovered themselves.

"How do you do, Mr. Landholm," said the one, with a bow. "O Mr. Winthrop!" cried the other," what shall we do? we can't get home, and I'm so frightened!

[ocr errors]

Winthrop had not time to open his lips, for either civility or consolation, when a phaeton, coming at a furious rate, suddenly pulled up before them, and Mr. Satterthwaite jumped out of it and joined himself to the group. His business was to persuade Miss Haye to take the empty place in his carriage and escape with him to the shelter of her own house or his father's. Miss Haye however preferred getting wet, and walking through the mud, and being blinded with the lightning, all of which alternatives Mr. Satterthwaite presented to her; at least no other conclusion could be drawn, for she very steadily and coolly refused to ride home with him.

"Mr. Landholm," said Mr. Satterthwaite in desperation, "don't you advise Miss Haye to agree to my proposition?

"I never give advice, sir," said Winthrop, "after I see that people's minds are made up. Perhaps Miss Cadwallader may be less stubborn."

Mr. Satterthwaite could do no other than turn to Miss Cadwallader, who wanted very little urging.

"But Rose!" said her cousin,-"you're not going to leave me alone?"

"No, I don't," said Rose. "I'm sure you've got somebody with you; and he's got an umbrella."

แ Don't, Rose!" said Elizabeth,-" stay and go home with me -the storm will be over directly."

"It won't-I can't," said Rose,-"It won't be over this hour, and I'm afraid

[ocr errors]

And into Mr. Satterthwaite's phaeton she jumped, and away Mr. Satterthwaite's phaeton went, with him and her in it.

"You had better step under shelter, Miss Haye," said Winthrop; "it is beginning to sprinkle pretty fast."

แ No," ," said Elizabeth, "I'll go home-I don't mind it. I would rather go right home-I don't care for the rain."

"But you can't go without the umbrella," said Winthrop, "and that belongs to me."

"Well, won't you go with me?" said Elizabeth, with a look half doubtful and half daunted.

"Yes, as soon as it is safe. This is a poor place, but it is better than nothing. You must come in here and have patience till then."

He went in and Elizabeth followed him, and she stood there

looking very doubtful and very much annoyed; eyeing the fast falling drops as if her impatience could dry them up. The little smithy was black as such a place should be; nothing looked like a seat but the anvil, and that was hardly safe to take advantage of.

"I wish there was something here for you to sit down upon," said Winthrop peering about," but everything is like Vulcan's premises. It is a pity I am not Sir Walter Raleigh for your behoof; for I suppose Sir Walter didn't mind walking home without his coat, and I do."

"He only threw off his cloak," said Elizabeth.

"I never thought of wearing mine this afternoon," said Winthrop, "though I brought an umbrella. But see here, Miss Elizabeth, here is a box, one end of which, I think, may be trusted. Will you sit down?

Elizabeth took the box, seeming from some cause or other tongue-tied. She sat looking out through the open door at the storm in a mixture of feelings, the uppermost of which was vexation.

"I hope more than one end of this box may be trusted," she presently roused herself to say. "I have no idea of giving half trust to anything."

"Yet that is quite as much as it is safe to give to most things," said Winthrop.

"Is it?"

"I am afraid so."

"I wouldn't give a pin for anything I couldn't trust entirely," said Elizabeth.

"Which shews what a point of perfection the manufacture of pins has reached since the days of Anne Boleyn," said Winthrop. "Of Anne Boleyn !-What of them then? "

(6 Only that a statute was passed in that time, entitled, ‘An act for the true making of pins;' so I suppose they were then articles of some importance. But the box may be trusted, Miss Haye, for strength, if not for agreeableness. A quarter of agreeableness with a remainder of strength, is a fair proportion, as things go."

"Do you mean to compare life with this dirty box?" said

Elizabeth.

"They say an image should always elevate the subject," said Winthrop smiling.

"What was the matter with the making of pins," said Elizabeth, "that an act had to be made about it?"

"Why in those days," said Winthrop, "mechanics and tradespeople were in the habit occasionally of playing false, and it was necessary to look after them."

Elizabeth sat silently looking out again, wondering-what she had often wondered before-where ever her companion had got his cool self-possession; marvelling, with a little impatient wonder, how it was that he would just as lief talk to her in a blacksmith's shop in a thunder-storm, as in anybody's drawingroom with a band playing and fifty people about. She was no match for him, for she felt a little awkward. She, Miss Haye, the heiress in her own right, who had lived in good company ever since she had lived in company at all. Yet there he stood, more easily, she felt, than she sat. She sat looking straight out at the rain and thinking of it.

She

The open doorway and her vision were crossed a moment after by a figure which put these thoughts out of her head. It was the figure of a little black girl, going by through the rain, with an old basket at her back which probably held food or firing that she had been picking up along the streets of the city. wore a wretched old garment which only half covered her, and that was already half wet; her feet and ancles were naked; and the rain came down on her thick curly head. No doubt she was accustomed to it; the road-worn feet must have cared little for wet or dry, and the round shock of wool perhaps never had a covering; yet it was bowed to the rain, and the little blackey went by with lagging step and a sort of slow crying. It touched Elizabeth with a disagreeable feeling of pain. The thought had hardly crossed her mind, that she was sorry for her, when to her great surprise she saw her companion go to the door and ask the little object of her pity to come in under the shed. The child stopped her slow step and her crying and looked up at him.

"Come in here till the rain's over," he repeated.

She gave her head a sort of matter-of-course shake, without moving a pair of intelligent black eyes which had fixed on his

face.

[blocks in formation]

"Come in," said Winthrop,-and to Elizabeth's exceeding

astonishment he laid hold of the little black shoulder and drew the girl into the shop," it is going to storm hard;—why mustn't you?"

The little blackey immediately squatted herself down on the ground against the wall, and looking up at him repeated,

""Cause."

"It's going to be a bad storm;-you'll be better under here."

The child's eyes went out of the door for a moment, and then came back to his face, as if with a sort of fascination.

"How far have you to go?"

"Home."

"How far is that?"

"It's six miles, I guess," said the owner of the eyes. "That's too far for you to go in the storm. The lightning might kill you."

"Kill me!"

"Yes. It might."

"I guess I'd be glad if it did," she said, with another glance at the storm.

“Glad if it did!—why?'

"'Cause."

"'Cause what?" said Winthrop, entering more into the child's interests, Elizabeth thought, than he had done into hers.

"'Cause," repeated the blackey.-"I don't want to get home."

"Who do you live with?"

"I live with my mother, when I'm to home."
"Where do you live when you are not at home?"
"Nowheres."

The gathered storm came down at this point with great fury. The rain fell, whole water; little streams even made their way under the walls of the shanty and ran across the floor. The darkness asked no help from black walls and smoky roof.

"Isn't this better than to be out?" said Winthrop, after his eyes had been for a moment drawn without by the tremendous pouring of the rain. But the little black girl looked at it and said doggedly,

"I don't care."

"Where have you been with that basket?"

"Down yonder-where all the folks goes," she said with a slight motion of her head towards the built-up quarter of the country.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »