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Her grief in parting with her friends was mingled with so much gladness at the prospect of being so soon again with her mamma, that she often thought it necessary to apologize to her grandmamma, by assuring her that it was not because she was glad to leave her, that she went singing about the house, but because the prospect of home was so very delightful, that she could not conceal her happiness. Mrs. Gordon perfectly understood the state of the case, and rejoiced to think that her beloved grandchild had so happy a home awaiting her.
On reaching home, Emma found herself almost embarrassed with the quantity of subjects on which she wished to talk first. The consequence was, that for a little while, she hardly spoke at all, and her mamma began to fear that her silence proceeded from a newly acquired reserve towards herself, and almost regretted having consented to part with her for so long. Her fears on this point were, however, speedily dispersed, and Emma had so much to relate of what she had seen, and what she had heard, of what she had thought, felt, done, and enjoyed, that it appeared there would be a fund of enjoyment in store for the winter's evenings, in conversing with her mamma about it all. Emma was just of an age when the differences of character begin to strike the mind. And she used to discuss these differences, as illustrated by the people she had seen during her absence, very freely--perhaps, more freely than many mothers would have permitted. But Mrs. Gordon was of opinion, that as Emma had no other companion, it was better to accustom her to think aloud when with her, as by this means she obtained a clue to her feelings which she considered it valuable to possess, and which enabled her to assist her in rectifying her ideas on many important subjects.
Emma had been at home nearly a month when, one evening as Mrs. Gordon laid down the magazine she had been reading, she exclaimed with even more than her usual impetuosity, “ Mamma! to think I have been at home all this time, and yet that I have never told you about the best person I saw while I was at Erlingford!”
“Indeed,” replied Mrs Gordon, “I rather wonder at that, but there is no harm in keeping the best to the last, and I shall be very glad to hear what you have to say. Who may the
excellent person be who thus carries away the palm from your grandmamma and aunts, and all their many excellent friends of whom you have told me?"
“ Mamma, just tell me one thing : did you ever hear of Miss Townley?"
“Oh yes, often."
“And did you never hear what a self-denying character she is?”
“Why, Emma, I do not know much of her, though I am aware that she is an old friend of your aunts—that is, a friend from circumstances, there having been a long and close intimacy between many branches of the two families, but I was not aware of anything beyond this. I am very glad to hear she is so valuable a character, and I hope you will have profited by your intercourse with her. I wonder you have never mentioned her before, since she is such a favorite."
“I am not quite sure, mamma, that she is a great favorite of mine: that is, I used not to think she was, when I was at Erlingford : but on thinking her over, I feel sure she is about the best person I ever knew. You have no idea how selfdenying she is.”
“ Did your aunts tell you so?”
“ No, mamma, they never talk about her. I hope you won't be angry at my saying so, but I do not think they are very fond of her. I should not wonder if they feel something of what I do when I am with her. I always feel so inferior, and seem to have so little self-denial about me, that the contrast makes me feel quite uncomfortable ; and then she has a very bustling manner, too, and my aunts like quiet manners, and that may be another reason for their not liking her ; but they never said so."
“I must tell you, Emma, that there is one thing I have admired in your aunts ever since I first knew them, and that is, that although they have the strongest perception of the charm of manner, yet, that whenever there is real worth they never allow any deficiencies in that respect to interfere with their due appreciation of it.”
“Well, I may be wrong; but I do not think they liked me to be very much with her ; but, perhaps, that was only out of consideration, as they knew it would inconvenience her.”
"I should think there was no occasion for you to be with her when it was so inconvenient."
“But, mamma, you do not know how kind she was to me, and she used to like to take me long walks - she said she felt so much for me." And Emma, much to her mamma's surprise, assumed a very resigned tone as she spoke.
“Well, I must confess," said Mrs. Gordon, “I am at a loss to know how you could become an object of sympathy to Miss Townley ?"
“She pitied me, mamma, for being an only child. I used never to think about that, before ; but she said she knew what it was from her own experience, and though it is all very well, now I am young and you are well, yet, if I live to be as old as she is, I shall find it very different."
“You surprise me, Emma!” said Mrs. Gordon, “and you pain me more than I can express—why will it be so different when you are older: do you think that I shall love you less as years roll by? What can you mean?”.
“Oh no, mamma, I am sure you will not, because you are just as unselfish as Miss Townley herself: but it is natural she should think so, for she does not know you, and she has so much to bear from her own father."
“Yes, mamma, he is so cross and inconsiderate; he never seems to think of her pleasures, and he expects her to devote herself so much to him : she has to give up everything to him.”
“And Miss Townley told you all this ? "
“Not exactly in so many words, but—" here Emma hesitated for a few moments, and then added, “Oh, mamma, I am sure you can understand perfectly what I mean."
“Do you mean that Miss Townley told you that her father was old and cross, and that if I live to be as old as he is, that I shall probably be cross too, and that you will have as much to bear from me, as by her own account, she has from him ?”
Emma colored and replied, “I said, mamma, that Miss Townley did not know you, or she could not have supposed such a thing possible, but yet it was natural for her to suppose, that all old people should be the same, was it not?"
“No one, Emma, could have any excuse for thinking all old people the same, when they had the example of your grandmamma before them.”
“Yes, but grandmamma has my three aunts with her, so she cannot be such a tax upon any of them as Mr. Townley is upon his daughter. They can always contrive to be one of them with her, without confining themselves to the house as she has to do.”
Mrs. Gordon was silent for a short time, for she really felt so grieved and disappointed, that she was at a loss what to say. At length she remarked, “ Emma, are you tired of me?"
“My dear, dear mamma,” was Emma's reply ; "how can such a thought enter your head ?”
“But, answer me truly: are you more tired of me now, than you were a year ago, or two years ago ?”
“No indeed! I think as I get older, I love you better and better; and I like to be more with you now than I ever did, when I was little.”
“And did Miss Townley tell you at what age you would begin to be tired of me, and become an object of pity?".
" Indeed, mamma, you misunderstand me : it was only, if you were like her father, and you know that can never be."
" Supposing, then, that if were realized, you would think yourself justified in complaining of me to the first young girl that was thrown in your way?”.
“But Miss Townley did not do it by way of complaining; it is more from my own inferences drawn from what she said, that I know how things stood with her. For instance, one day when we were walking together, she took out her watch, and said there was a very pretty view to be had by going out for ten minutes more, but she must turn back or her father would be displeased at having to wait for his tea; and such kind of things. And she was always in such a bustle, whatever she was about, to get it done in time, to be with him when he expected her: in fact, mamma, whatever enjoyment she had, she always had to break it off in order to do something or other for him. So that I must frankly confess I did admire her self-denial very much indeed, and the more, because I felt how very difficult I should find it, to exercise as much if I were called upon to do it.”
“I hope and trust, Emma, there is one point of self-denial
which you would exercise, which Miss Townley does not seem to have attained to ?”
“Emma looked all astonishment."
“I mean," continued her mother, “self-denial in the exercise of speech. Mr. Townley's temper is, I have reason to know, naturally, a very bad one, and of late years it has been aggravated by ill health and a succession of trials which he has met with. Miss Townley is the only survivor of a large family, and I do not doubt that her domestic duties are sufficiently heavy. Still Emma, had 'she the true spirit of self-denial, she would find them press much less heavily than she does at present, and it would certainly make her strictly abstain from appearing to exalt her own character, at the expense of that of her only parent. But I am not fond of talking about people, when I can only condemn them, so I will tell you who I think the most self-denying person I know my own dear friend Margaret Ward."
“But she looks so happy, mamma-she is always cheerful and contented, and she never seems to be in a hurry; she has always time for everything, and then I do not think she is so fond of reading, and music, and walking, as Miss Townley, so she has not so much to give up."
“I beg your pardon, Emma, I have been behind the scenes, and I know what Margaret has given up, and does daily give up-but certainly I should never have known it from herself. But she feels that the circumstances in which she has been placed, are not of her own seeking, that all she has to do with them is to fulfil the duties which they impose upon her, aright, and instead of spending her time in vain regrets that circumstances were otherwise than they are, she seeks in the first instance for light to see her path clearly, and then for strength to be enabled to walk steadily in it. Margaret is, as it happens, particularly fond of study, but she has had to sacrifice her tasks in this respect almost entirely. Music she delights in, but it jars on her father's nerves, and she never attempts to open the piano; and as to walking and riding, of both of which she is remarkably fond, she often says she thinks she has more enjoyment in a long walk now, from its rarity, than she used to have when it was a thing of daily occurrence.”