When Clara held our wondrous blessing in the early days of its sweet life, she looked sometimes so pensively absent that I one day asked her if she did not wish Emily had come sooner.
“Ah! my Emily, mother; ’tis a wrong, wrong thought, still I cannot deny it;” and a mist covered her tender eyes. My heart stood still, for I knew she felt that her hand would not lead our little one in the first steps she should take, and the thought embittered my joy. I suppose everybody’s baby is the sweetest, and I must forbear and let every mother think how we cared for and tended the little one, and how our heartstrings all vibrated at the touch of her little hand, and if she was ill or worrisome, which she was earthly enough to be, we were all robbed of our comfort till her smiles came back.
Aunt Hildy was an especial favorite, and she would sit with her so contentedly, while that dear old face, illumined by the sun of love, told our hearts it was good for baby’s breath to moisten the cheek of age.
Little Halbert, as we called Hal’s boy, was as proud of his cousin as could be, and my old apple tree, which was still dear, dropped leaves and blossoms on the heads of the children, who loved to sit beneath its branches.
CLARA LEAVES US.
The year 1861 had dawned upon us, and Aunt Hildy had not left us as she had expected to.
I said to her, “I believe you are better to-day than you were one year ago.” She folded her hands and looking at me, said:
“Appearances is often deceitful, Emily; I haint long to stay, neither has the saint among us. Her eyes have a strange look in them nowadays, and the veins in the lids show dreadful plain; we must be prepared for it.”
I could not talk about this, and how was I to prepare for it? I should never love her less, and could I ever bear to lose her, or realize how it would be without her? “Over there” was so far beyond me, I could only think and sigh and wait; but the symptoms of which Aunt Hildy spoke I noticed afterward, and it was true her eyelids seemed more transparent, and her eyes had a watery light.
I knew she was weak, and since the snow had fallen was chilled more easily than before, and had ventured out but little. I did not desire to pain Louis, but feeling uneasy, could not rest until I talked with him, and he said his heart had told him the little mother would leave us ere long. “If she lives till the fall, we will go down and see Southern Mary, if we can.” Little Emily clung very closely to Clara, and if I had not insisted on having the care of her, I believe she never would have asked for me. Mother said we should spoil her, and Ben declared she “would make music for us by and by.” Ben was still interested in his work, and as busy as a bee the long days through.
“Thirty-three years old,” I said to him, “are you never to be married?”