Monday morning came and with it Hal’s departure. We were up betimes. I think Hal slept little, and I heard the old clock strike nearly every hour, and was down stairs before either mother or father were up. He was to take the stage at half-past eight, and ride to the nearest station, and our breakfast was ready at half-past six. It was a sad breakfast, and though mother tried hard to keep up a conversation on different topics, it was useless. Tears would fill our eyes, and brother Ben, though at that time only about thirteen, was forced to leave his breakfast untasted, and, rising hastily, to take himself out of Hal’s sight; but the stage came rumbling down the road, and almost ere we knew it, our good-byes were said, and Hal was waving his handkerchief from his high seat beside the driver, from whence he could see the old home for a long distance.
Everything, so far as his plans were concerned, worked favorably, and a chance inquiry, resulted in a good offer as book-keeping clerk in a wholesale warehouse in Chicago. Chicago was in her youth then. Many changes have passed over the city of the West since those days, but her mercantile houses were never in a more flourishing condition than during Hal’s stay there. Father had informed himself regarding the man with whom he was to be connected, and was well satisfied of his integrity, ability, etc.
When Hal was fairly gone I went to my room and cried disconsolately, and groaned aloud, and did everything but faint, and I might have accomplished that feat if Clara (for she insisted on that appellation) had not come in upon me, resolved to bring about different conditions. She succeeded at last, and the afternoon found us quietly sitting together in our middle room apparently enjoying ourselves, though I did not forget Hal was gone, and a cloud of woe overspread my mental horizon.
Our new friend.
We could not object to the stay of our cousin, and she planned to remain indefinitely. I always smiled at the relationship, and I don’t know exactly how near it was, but this I believe was it—father’s mother and Mrs. Desmonde’s grandmother were cousins; that brought me, you see, into very near kinship. She laughed at it herself, but, nevertheless, I was “her dear cousin Emily” always. “Little Lady” was my name for her, but she forced me call her “Clara.” Her mother, it seemed, had married a gentleman of rank and fortune of French descent, and although she told me she was the picture of her mother, the graceful ways of which she was possessed, her natural urbanity and politeness, together with her fascinating word-emphasis accompanied with so many gestures, were all decidedly French, “Little lady” just expressed it. She was, when she came to our home, only thirty-seven years of age, and looked not more than twenty. Her complexion was that of a perfect blonde; her hair