Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

moment of escape. It grew to seem so to me, somehow, that when our cares for her should be sufficiently lulled, I was expecting to see her rise and flash out of one of the large open windows, and speed on glittering wing back to suppier lands and brighter skies. With this feeling, I put out my hand and let fall the heavy drapery of the window.

“That is well," mamma said, turning toward me-"avoid a draught-your cousin is not accustomed to our air.”

My weird fancy was quickly put to flight, the only presence there endowed with unseen wings.

On the following afternoon, aunt Frances, her husband, Fan and Belle came over from Umberhurst and staid until a late hour in the evening.

I grew to like my cousin daily, marvelous as it may seem, for that Haidee was to me a perfect mystery. I could not understand her entire docility and demureness with her governess, for when alone with me and Belle in the woods of the Glen, I had seen flashes of spirit, a buoyancy, a wildness of delight, which she suddenly checked, and for a moment seemed held in breathless terror. I began to have misgivings that her governess, the elegant and polished Miss Browne, pinched or otherwise punished this poor little Indian maid, and kept her in mortal fear to secure such docility. Added to this, I was strangely puzzled in another way Haidee had received all our kind attentions and expressions of regard, with a manner so placid as to seem almost apathetic, never by look or tone, revealing a thought of reciprocation. I had believed or supposed that beneath this cold surface there might be volcanic fire—now I began to fear there was a sea of ice.

One day we made a family party to Umberhurst, (except Mildred, who had some engagement or occupation at home, and Edgar, who was still at school, and as the carriage was entering through the gate, Haidee caught a sight of young Scipio, and clapping her hands almost screamed with delight. We had taken neither governess or maid, and our bird seemed to feel a freer life. She looked very lovely, was drest very nicely to-day, as indeed she was always, for Miss Browne would not have it supposed she could neglect so important a part of a young lady's education, and Haidee's dress was a plaid silk, crimson barred with grey and deep blue, with frills of the richest lace. She wore few ornaments, these, however, were of great value. She was prettier now, for her still face was rippled with expression.

Something of an exploring mood must have seized herthis was her first visit to the place, and she went flitting through all the chambers, then down through parlors and hall, pausing a moment in the large dining-room, and finally darting away to the kitchen, into Phillis's and Dipah's de partment. I was just in sight. With a cry and a bounce, Haidee threw her arms around Phillis's neck, covering her face with kisses, speaking to her in a rapid flow of gibberish, which I suppose was Hindostanee ; then she flew to Dinah, kissing her handsome, albeit, sable face, patted her cheeks, squeezed her neck and arms, and made every demonstration of unbounded joy.

I was not long puzzled by this scene-a new light dawned upon me. I would not interrupt her in this unusual manifes. tation of delight. After a little time, however, she came to me with a beaming face, uttered some words in an unknown tongue, or at least unknown to me. Anticipating her wish, I went directly to the neatly drest, bright, laughing Phillis, paid my respects to her and to Dinah, told them this young lady was Miss Hastings, my little cousin, who had just come with her father from the East Indies. That she had no mother, and though we loved her very much, I feared her little heart felt a-cold. Haidee, who was watching my face, suddenly lifted her head and kissed me.

"Indeed—I can well believe you all love my little lady, Miss Minnie.” Dinah responded, “She is a nice child for certain."

I think Haidee had never opened her heart to me until then—she evidently had thought us cold and insincere, or was by some secret authority withheld from giving her feelings their warm and natural flow. Phillis brought each of us a cream cake just cooled from the oven, and laid on beautiful china plates. Haidee thanked her and said — You are very kind, Miss Phillis.”

This was her first approach toward adopting our manners. We were soon joined by Fannie, Rose and Bell, who came to claim some portion of their cousin's regard, as also to devise some pleasant little entertainment for her.

The day was filled with varied delights. Miss Standish was looking well and happy, and expressed great pleasure in us. When Haidee was informed that this lady was at one time our governess, as Miss Browne now was hers, she opened her eyes wide as if in exceeding astonishment, then shut them quickly, as if guarding some secret. I immediately took my part as sentinel, determined that my unremitting vigilance should discover the prime cause that produced such effect.

As we returned to Glenelvan that evening, it was not lost upon me that Haidee suddenly fell back upon her quiet, undemonstrative habit-her face, beautiful when lit up with feeling, became impassive, and she returned Miss Browne's graceful and elegant greeting, in polite phrase and even tone, out of which every vestige of life had been wrung.

On the following morning, I preferred my request to this priestess of the soul, to be allowed to share my cousin Haidee's studies.

"Oh, no indeed, Miss Minnie--I cannot grant the favor you ask. Miss Hastings has not been accustomed to a companion in her hours of study."

Her manner was as elegant as study and refinement could make it ; but beneath the surface of gold, I felt the iron which added, “Do not presume to ask this again."

In the great families in England, I well knew that nothing could be done, no measures taken, without a precedent ; in fact, each family, in daily life, strictly observed “ Parliamentary Rules ;” but 1,—with half my blood English, the re, mainder from the sturdy German stock--of American birth! and education, could not be set aside or refused without a satisfactory reason. To my parents, it is true, I often yielded my preferences, out of courtesy, but never a principle ; when understood, it was never required.

I let Miss Browne's refusal pass that day, for reasons of my own, and then, when alone with my uncle, I told him what I wished.

“ Most certainly,” he said, at once. “My dear, you have but to speak to Miss Browne about it.”

“I have, dear uncle. She positively refused me. But I love my cousin too much to be away from her so many hours in the day.”

“Thank you, my pretty niece. I will speak to Haidee about it directly."

And by a strange coincidence, Haidee immediately joined us. Her father lifted her upon his lap, folded his arm about her, spoke to her ; but what he said was even more than Greek to me. Her replies were in the same unknown tongue. Presently, she turned her large, lustrous eyes upon me with a fond, questioning look.

“Pray, assure Haidee, my dear uncle, that I love her very much ; that I wish to know her better, and to win her to love me more.”

Her father spoke to her in a low, earnest tone, not a word of which I could understand ; then she slipt from her father's knee, came, laid her arm softly about my neck, searched my eyes with her eager, piercing glance, then kissed me with great fondness. From that moment we were trusting friends.

On the same evening, we were surprised by Edgar's early arrival home, for his summer vacation. The moment he was released from school, he had flown as if on wings. I was glad ; the surprise was better than wearying expectation. He pleased my uncle greatly. I heard him saying to mamma

“I have no son, Annie, whilst you have two ! I think I shall find some way to make this brave boy my heir."

Return we to Miss Georgina Browne. All in good time my project ripened. On the morning succeeding the day in which I had spoken with my uncle, he walked leisurely into the pleasant room appropriated to Haidee, wherein to pursue her morning studies; and, after some kind enquiries respecting her progress, said —

“My dear Miss Browne, I would suggest that my daughter be not alway a solitary student ; that somewhat of social intercourse, a kind of division of labor be allowed. She has always been accustomed to numerous companions, or attendants, at least."

Miss Browne made no objection ; looked perfectly complacent, fully understanding this suggestion to be a command, which she was too wise to disregard.

It so occurred that Mildred and Edgar had gone out on horseback, Rose was working among her roses, and I, being invited, went with the most placid demeanor into the study. Miss Browne's manner was not distinguished for suavity, but for a uniform politeness and an easy elegance. We talked a little, chiefly of the lessons, of which, for the present time, only the outline was given. I was not to suppose this little maid of India was far advanced in her English studies—if, indeed, in any. I felt that Haidee was happier for my presence ; but if there was a “skeleton,” it was carefully hid away from sight. No matter now-I can wait !

It did not enter into my plans to spend my entire mornings in the little lady's study, but I had secured a “passport” —could go there when I would. And thus I obtained a daily programme, so that as I walked in the garden, sat in the shrubbery or roamed about the woods with Haidee, I drew her little by little into giving abstracts of lessons, helped her to memorize, simplifying and explaining, so that Miss Browne was aware of a more rapid progress in her pupil.

« ПредишнаНапред »