“So long as you don’t come in your tea-gown,” said Esther, with a laugh.
“Cruel child!” and then with a way she had of suddenly finding something she wanted to hear of among the interests of her friends, “Now,” she said, “tell me something about Mike. I suppose the course of true love runs as smoothly as ever. Happy children! Give him my love when you see him, won’t you?”
Esther told all there was to tell about Mike up-to-date, and wished she could have repaid her friend’s sympathetic interest with a request for something similar about Williamson. But it was tacitly understood that there was nothing further to be said on that subject, and that the news of Myrtilla’s life could hardly again take any more excitingly personal form than the bric-a-brac excitements of art or literature,—though indeed art and literature were, to be just to them, far more than bric-a-brac in the life of Myrtilla Williamson. They were, indeed, it was easy to see, a very sustaining religion for the lonely little woman who, having no children to study, and having completed her studies of Williamson, was driven a good deal upon the study and development of herself. The Williamson half of the day provided her fully with opportunities for the practice of all the philosophy she was likely to acquire from writers ancient and modern, and for the absorption of all the consolation history and biography was likely to afford in the stories of women similarly circumstanced. It is to be feared that Myrtilla not only wore tea-gowns in advance of her time, but was also somewhat prematurely something of a “new” woman; but this was a subject on which she really did very little to “poison” Esther’s “young mind.” Esther’s young mind, in common with those of her two subsequent sisters, was little in need of “poisoning” from outside on such subjects. Indeed, it was a curious phenomenon to observe how all these young minds, sprung from a stock of such ancient, unquestioning faith, had, so to say, been born “poisoned;” or, to state the matter less metaphorically, had all been born with instincts for the most pitiless and effortless reasoning on all subjects human and divine.
As the hour approached when poor Myrtilla must change back to Williamson, Esther rose to say good-bye.
“Come again soon, dear girl; you don’t know the good you do me.”
The good, dear woman was entirely done by her unwearied, sympathetic discussion of the affairs and dreams of Esther, Mike, and Henry.
“Oh, here is a wonderful new book I intended to talk to you about. You can take it with you; I have finished it. Come next week and tell me what you think of it.”
As Esther walked down the path, Myrtilla watched her, and, as she passed out of the gate, waved her a final kiss of parting, and turned indoors. There seemed something ever so sad about her dainty back as it disappeared into the doorway.
“Poor little woman!” said Esther to herself, as she looked to see the title of the book she was carrying. It included a curious Russian name, the correct pronunciation of which she foresaw she must ask Myrtilla on their next meeting. It was “The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff.”