promiscuity. “One of her captains comes of a line where
"Joel Blodgett's widow ought to be above havin' words with a nigger," was Janet's mental comment as she contented herself with a slice of bread and a cup of tea, which, by this time, was of quite a reddish hue.
Her hunger being satisfied, she began to feel more amiably disposed toward the old negress, whose dishes she offered to wipe. This kindness was duly appreciated by Hannah, and that night, in speaking of Janet to her son, she pronounced her "not quite so onery a white woman as she at first took her to be."
As the days wore on Janet's presence in the family was felt in various ways. To Matty it brought a greater degree of happiness than she had experienced since she left her New England home, while even the doctor acknowledged an increased degree of comfort in his household, though not willing at first to attribute it to its proper source. He did not like Janet; her ideas were too extravagant for him, and on several different occasions he hinted quite strongly that she was not wanted there; but Janet was perfectly invincible to hints, and when at one time he embodied them in language that could not be misunderstood, telling her. "'twas a maxim of his that if a person had a home of their own they had better stay there," she promptly replied that "'twas a maxim of hers to stay where she pleased, particularly as she was a woman of property," and so, as she pleased to stay there, she stayed!
It took but a short time for her to understand the doctor, and to say that she disliked him would but feebly express the feeling of aversion with which she regarded him. Not a word, however, would Matty admit of past or present unkindness--neither was it necessary that she should, for Janet saw it all--saw how "Old Maxim," as she called him, had worried her life away, and while cherishing for him a sentiment of hatred, she strove to comfort her young mistress, who grew weaker and weaker every day, until at last the husband himself, aroused to a sense of her danger, strove by little acts of kindness unusual in him, to make amends for years of wrong. Experience is a thorough teacher, and he shrank from the bitter memories which spring from the grave of a neglected wife, and he would rather that Matty, when she died, should not turn away from him, shuddering at his touch, and asking him to take his hand from off her brow; just as one brown-haired woman had done. This feeling of his was appreciated by Janet, who in proportion as he became tender toward Matty, was respectful to him, until at last there came to be a tolerably good understanding between them, and she was suffered, in most matters, to have her own way.
With John she was a special favorite, and through his instrumentality open hostilities were prevented between herself and his mother, until the latter missed another cup of jelly from its new hiding-place. Then, indeed, the indignant African announced her intention of going at once to "Miss Ruggles'," who had offered her "twelve shillings a week and a heap of leisure."
"Let her go," said John, who knew Mrs. Ruggles to be a fashionable woman, the mother of nine children, whose ages varied from one to fifteen; "let her go--she'll be glad to come back," and the sequel proved he was right, for just as it was beginning to grow light on the second day of her absence, someone rapped at his window, and a half-crying voice whispered, "Let me in, John; I've been out to sarvice enough."
John complied with the request, and when Janet came down to the kitchen, how was she surprised at finding Hannah there, leisurely grinding her coffee, with an innocent look upon her sable face, as if nothing had ever happened. John's raillery, however, loosened her tongue at last, and very minutely she detailed her grievances. "She had done a two weeks' washing, besides all the work, and the whole of them young ones under her feet into the bargain. Then at night, when she hoped for a little rest, Mrs. Ruggles had gone off to a party and stayed till midnight, leaving her with that squallin' brat; but never you mind," said she, "I poured a little paregol down its throat, or my, name aint Hannah," and with a sigh of relief at her escape from "Miss Ruggles," she finished her story and resumed her accustomed duties, which for many weeks she faithfully performed, finding but little fault with the frequent suggestions of Mrs. Janet Blodgett, whose rule in the household was for the time being firmly established.
From the tall trees which shade the desolate old house the leaves have fallen one by one, and the November rain makes mournful music as in the stillness of the night it drops upon the withered foliage, softly, slowly, as if weeping for the sorrow which has come upon the household. Matty Kennedy is dead; and in the husband's heart there is a gnawing pain, such as he never felt before; not even when Katy died; for Katy, though pure and good, was not so wholly unselfish as Matty had been, and in thinking of her, he could occasionally recall an impatient word; but from Matty none. Gentle, loving, and beautiful she had been to him in life; and now, beautiful in death, she lay in the silent parlor, on the marble table she had brought from home, while he--oh, who shall tell what thoughts were busy at his heart, as he sat there alone, that dismal, rainy night.
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