AFTER MANY DAYS
Christmas was drawing near and the people of Loyal were looking forward to the season of cheer and goodwill. Their preparations were meagre, and they did not expect to celebrate as in the past. But they had provided what they could for their little ones, and the women had their cooking all done. The Polly, on her last trip, had brought extra supplies from Portland Point, so there was sufficient food for all. The various houses were decorated with fragrant evergreens, and before blazing fires during the long evenings parents told their children of the happy Christmas seasons before the war.
In one home only there was no cheer, for Colonel Sterling was in no mood for any gaiety. He paid little heed to the preparations that were being made in the settlement, and listened in an absent-minded manner to Old Mammy’s chatter. Even the little Indian baby, of which he was very fond, could not arouse him out of the apathy into which he had sunk. He would sit for hours gazing dreamily into the fire, and would only bestir himself when any of the neighbours called for a friendly chat. But of late such visitors were few, for after the first greeting, the Colonel always lapsed into silence. He would suddenly arouse when the callers were ready to depart, and tell them to come again.
All this was a great worry to Old Mammy. She found the house very lonely, and more often than ever dropped in upon her neighbours during the day.
“I’m sure troubled ’bout de Cun’l,” she confided to Mrs. Watson one afternoon. “He jes sets an’ sets an’ says nuffin’. I know he’s t’inkin’ ’bout Missie Jean, but he nebber speaks ’bout her now. His po’ ol’ heart is jes broke, an’ no wonder.”
The tears flowed down Mammy’s cheeks, telling plainly of her own grief. She wiped them away with a corner of her apron, and swayed her stout body to and fro.
“An’ dis is Christmas time, too,” she continued. “How Missie Jean did lub Christmas. I kin see de dear lamb now, wif her eyes shinin’, an’ her cheeks jes like two rosy apples. But to hear her happy laff was de bes’ of all. An’ she was so good to the chilluns. Why, de house was allus full of dem on Christmas day, an’ Missie Jean, was jes like a chile herse’f, de dear lamb.”
“I know she was,” Mrs. Watson replied. “The very night she was stolen away I showed her the presents we made for Danny. She was so much interested in the toy boat, horse and cart John made. She was very bright and happy that night. Poor dear, she little knew what was in store for her.”