“Oh, more beautiful and bright and charming than ever she was before, if such a thing can be”—and Hester turned away and fumbled with the medicine-bottles, to hide her shame and grief.
After a little, both aunts were laboring upon a difficult and baffling work in Helen’s chamber. Patiently and earnestly, with their stiff old fingers, they were trying to forge the required note. They made failure after failure, but they improved little by little all the time. The pity of it all, the pathetic humor of it, there was none to see; they themselves were unconscious of it. Often their tears fell upon the notes and spoiled them; sometimes a single misformed word made a note risky which could have been ventured but for that; but at last Hannah produced one whose script was a good enough imitation of Helen’s to pass any but a suspicious eye, and bountifully enriched it with the petting phrases and loving nicknames that had been familiar on the child’s lips from her nursery days. She carried it to the mother, who took it with avidity, and kissed it, and fondled it, reading its precious words over and over again, and dwelling with deep contentment upon its closing paragraph:
“Mousie darling, if I could only see you, and kiss your eyes, and feel your arms about me! I am so glad my practicing does not disturb you. Get well soon. Everybody is good to me, but I am so lonesome without you, dear mamma.”
“The poor child, I know just how she feels. She cannot be quite happy without me; and I—oh, I live in the light of her eyes! Tell her she must practice all she pleases; and, Aunt Hannah —tell her I can’t hear the piano this far, nor hear dear voice when she sings: God knows I wish I could. No one knows how sweet that voice is to me; and to think—some day it will be silent! What are you crying for?”
“Only because—because—it was just a memory. When I came away she was singing, ‘Loch Lomond.’ The pathos of it! It always moves me so when she sings that.”
“And me, too. How heartbreakingly beautiful it is when some youthful sorrow is brooding in her breast and she sings it for the mystic healing it brings. . . . Aunt Hannah?”
“I am very ill. Sometimes it comes over me that I shall never hear that dear voice again.”
“Oh, don’t—don’t, Margaret! I can’t bear it!”
Margaret was moved and distressed, and said, gently:
“There—there—let me put
my arms around you.
Don’t cry. There—put your cheek to mine. Be comforted.
I wish to live. I will live if I can. Ah, what could she
do without me! . . . Does she often speak of me?—but I know she does.”
“Oh, all the time—all the time!”
“My sweet child! She wrote the note the moment she came home?”
“Yes—the first moment. She would not wait to take off her things.”