Abbie walked hurriedly and unevenly to her room, shut herself in, and fastened the door. She sat down on a chair which stood by the old-fashioned desk in the corner, and it seemed to her she could not rise from it again. A faintness was upon her, which she thought might, perhaps, be death. There was a sensation within her as if a clock had run down in her head, and had dropped the heavy weight into her heart. She could feel the paleness of her face, and the drops of moisture on her forehead. Her breathing was wellnigh imperceptible. She sat quite, still, in a kind of awful expectation, as if listening for the echoless footfall of Death. But he passed by on the other side, and left her to face her life again.
She felt rather tired of it, as she sat up and looked dimly around her. Putting her hand in the pocket of her dark dress, she drew out the small square morocco case which contained the daguerreotype. It was rather mortifying, certainly: every one knows what it is to appear, dressed for a party, and find you have mistaken the night. In what pleasant little episode had Abbie flattered herself that this portrait, with its grave, dark, baby eyes, its soft, light curls, its slender, solemn little face, might be going to play a part? No matter: the hope was gone by; and every day the portrait faded more and more indistinguishably into the dark background. Abbie looked at it a moment or two only, then closed the case, and carefully fastened the two little hooks which kept it shut. Opening the old-fashioned desk, she put the daguerreotype in its little drawer, and locked it up. She held the key—a small brass key—between her finger and thumb, meditating. Presently she went to the window, opened it, and looked out. Beneath, a little to one side, stood a huge black water-butt, half buried in the earth, and partly full of rain-water, contributed by the tin spout whose mouth opened above it. Into this butt Abbie dropped the key. It struck the water with a faint pat, and disappeared, causing two or three circles to expand to the edges of the butt, against which they disappeared also.
She did not immediately draw back, but remained leaning with her arms upon the window-sill. It was a beautiful, cool, September morning, such as makes breathing and eyesight luxurious. The fat Irish girl sat on the back steps, peeling potatoes for dinner. On the step by her side was a large earthen bowl, into which she put the potatoes, while throwing the skins into the swill-pail on her right. She was obliged to give her whole mind to the operation, there being a danger lest, in rapid working, she should happen to throw the potato into the swill-pail, and put the skin into the earthen bowl. She was much too absorbed to notice the beautiful weather, even had she been inclined to do so; but it remained beautiful, nevertheless.
“I’d be a fool to find fault with him,” said Abbie to herself. “How can I expect him to see any thing in me, more than I can see myself in the looking-glass? And then, he loves Sophie, and perhaps he thinks I’d rob her; the Lord knows I only coveted the luxury of giving away my own, and seeing them happy with it. Well, he may set his mind at rest; he shall never suffer the mortification of having to thank a boarding-house keeper for his fortune.