Wives and Widows
Publisher: SIN Libris Digital
“At ten years of age I was the unconscious mistress of a heavy stone farm-house and extensive lands in the interior of Pennsylvania, with railroad-bonds and bank-stock enough to secure me a moderate independence. I shall never, never forget the loneliness of that old house the day my mother was carried out of it and laid down by her husband in the churchyard behind the village. The most intense suffering of life often comes in childhood. My mother was dead; I could almost feel her last cold kisses on my lip as I sat down in that desolate parlor, waiting for the guardian who was expected to take me from my dear old home to his. The window opened into a field of white clover, where some cows and lambs were pasturing drowsily, as I had seen them a hundred times; but now their very tranquility grieved me. It seemed strange that they would stand there so content, with the white clover dropping from their mouths, and I going away forever. My mother’s canary-bird, which hung in the window, began to sing joyously over my head, as if no funeral had passed from that room, leaving its shadows behind, and, more grievous still, as if it did not care that I might never sit and listen to it again.
One of the neighbors had kindly volunteered to take charge of the gloomy old house till my guardian came, but her presence disturbed me more than funereal stillness would have done. I had a family of dolls upstairs, and any amount of tiny household furniture, which I would have given the world to take with me; but this thrifty neighbor protested against it. She said that I was almost a young lady and must forget such childish things, now that I was going into the world to be properly educated.
To a shy, sensitive child, this was enough. So, with a double sense of bereavement, I saw my pretty dolls and delicate toys swept into a basket and carried off to the woman’s house, between two stout Irish girls, who seemed to be taking my heart off with them.”