“Thank you, May, that is very nice. I don’t care much about learning such low pursuits; but give me something to eat,” was her polite reply.
May crossed herself when she sat down, and asked the blessing of God on the food she was to partake of. Helen fell to, without a thought of anything but the cravings of hunger. They conversed cheerfully together; and while Helen rallied her cousin on her long absence. May thought, more than once, with sad forebodings, of her encounter with her uncle down town that morning. But she determined to keep her own secrets; for she well knew that if he discovered it, he would forbid her exertions in behalf of old Mabel, her visits, and be perhaps furiously angry at the traffic she was carrying on with Mrs. Tabb.
PAST AND PRESENT.
The day waned; and that soft, silent hour, which the Scotch so beautifully call the “gloaming” was over the earth. Subdued shadows crept in through the windows, and mingled with the red glow which the fire-light diffused throughout the room, and together they formed a phantasmagoria, which seemed to ebb and flow like a noiseless tide. And with the shadows, memories of the past floated in, and knocked with their spirit-hands softly and gently against the portals of those two hearts which life’s tempest had thrown together. Helen wept.
“Do you remember your mother, dear Helen?” asked May, while she folded her hand in her own.
“No and yes. If it is a memory, it is so indistinct that it seems like a dream; and yet, how often at this hour does a vision come to my mind of a dark-eyed, soft-voiced woman, holding kneeling child against her bosom, to whom she taught a whispered prayer to the madonna! And the child seems me—and the lady, my mother; but it flits away, and then I think it is a dream of long ago.”
“Angel mothers! Oh, how beautiful the thought—angel mothers!” said May, in a low, earnest tone. “Do you know, I think with so much pleasure of going to mine! Even when I was a little child, it was sufficient for my old maummy to say, ’Ah, how grieved your poor mamma would be, if she was here!’”
“Do you remember her?”
“Not at all. She died when I was a little wailing infant. Four months afterwards, my father, who was an officer in the navy, died at Canton. He never saw me.”
“And you have been here ever since?”
“Ever since. A faithful servant of my mother’s, who had been many years in the family, brought me in my helplessness to my uncle for protection. But he, unused to interruptions, would not have received me, only the news which came of my father’s death, left him no alternative; so my old maummy remained to nurse me, and keep house for him. I can never express how much I owe her. She was ignorant in worldly knowledge, and only a poor slave; but in her simple and earnest faith, she knew much of the science of the saints. With a mother’s tenderness, she shielded me from spiritual ignorance and error, and led my soul to the green pastures of the fold of Christ.”