We filed into the funny little chambers where were the high beds, with their steps to be climbed. What a wilderness of feathers and patchwork! Some of Miss Becky’s work was there. The bureaus nearly to ceilings, ornamented with round glass knobs, had their little mirrors perched up above my head. The candle stands, with spindle legs, wore an antediluvian look, and the chairs were just as queer. The more aspiring ones were prim in starched antimaccassars. Even the footstools belonged to a prehistoric age. There was nothing costly or elegant, but so very ancient and even comical, I had never seen anything like it, anywhere. A few oil-paintings, hung in the very border of the huge-figured paper, were small, but evidently fine.
“These things were brought from Alsace,” explained Miss Chrissy, as I commented freely. “Elsace is the way to call it—and we can’t bear to have strangers meddling with what is sacred to us.”
“Sacred to us,” came from the procession behind.
At last, pausing before a huge hair trunk, they all gathered nearer, and when the lid was raised, they vied with one another in displaying the contents. It would take a great while to tell all that I saw, or their curious little speeches and words and assents. There were samplers in every style of lettering and color. The inevitable tombstone, with the weeping-willow and mourning female, was among them. Bits of painted velvet, huge reticules, bead purses; gay shawls, and curious lace caps—all showed patient handiwork. Gifts and souvenirs were plentiful, even to the blue silk keepsake of the first Mrs. John. Then came old-fashioned silver spoons and knives and tea-pots, heir-looms, they said, from the old country. A bit of coarse paper bore an order for supplies for soldiers upon the Commissaire at Nice, and was signed with the genuine autograph of the great Napoleon. Every article had its history, and rarely, if ever, was the little work-shop so long neglected as on that occasion. When the procession filed back, I took leave with somewhat the feeling of having been buried in wonderland, and suddenly resurrected.
Perhaps the shock of the dreaded vandalism was too much. Perhaps the excitement of the hair trunk struck too deep. At all events. Miss Becky grew to muttering over her quilt, and making long pauses. One day her needle stuck fast in the patchwork, and her head quietly sank to rest on the rolled frame. When I paid my next visit, they said, “You will find it very odd at The Pears’s. Miss Becky is gone.”
I did find it odd. The quilt was rolled forever, and the end window was empty. There was only the chair. Still Miss Suffy sat with her stocking, and Miss Chrissy with her patterns, placid and patient,—they were only waiting; yet working as they waited. Miss Polly sighed once in a while over her pans. Miss Phoebe still went to market and distributed small alms to the poor. Ripe in good works and in holy resignation were The Pears.