FROM MARY PENHALE TO HER HUSBAND
Susan sends a hundred kisses, and best loves to you and her brothers and sisters. She’s getting on nicely; and her mistress is as kind and fond of her as can be. Best respects, too, from my sister Martha, and her husband. And now I’ve done giving you all my messages, I’ll tell you some good news for the poor young gentleman who is so bad at Treen.
As soon as I had seen Susan, and read your letter to her, I went to the place where the doctor’s letter directed me. Such a grand house, William! I was really afraid to knock at the door. So I plucked up courage, and gave a pull at the bell; and a very fat, big man, with his head all plastered over with powder, opened the door, almost before I had done ringing. “If you please, Sir,” says I, showing him the name on the doctor’s letter, “do any friends of this gentleman live here?” “To be sure they do,” says he; “his father and sister live here: but what do you want to know for?” “I want them to read this letter,” says I. “It’s to tell them that the young gentleman is very bad in health down in our country.” “You can’t see my master,” says he, “for he’s confined to his bed by illness: and Miss Clara is very poorly too—you had better leave the letter with me.” Just as he said this, an elderly lady crossed the hall (I found out she was the housekeeper, afterwards), and asked what I wanted. When I told her, she looked quite startled. “Step this way, ma’am,” says she; “you will do Miss Clara more good than all the doctors put together. But you must break the news to her carefully, before she sees the letter. Please to make it out better news than it is, for the young lady is in very delicate health.” We went upstairs—such stair-carpets! I was almost frightened to step on them, after walking through the dirty streets. The housekeeper opened a door, and said a few words inside, which I could not hear, and then let me in where the young lady was.
Oh, William! she had the sweetest, kindest face I ever saw in my life. But it was so pale, and there was such a sad look in her eyes when she asked me to sit down, that it went to my heart, when I thought of the news I had to tell her. I couldn’t speak just at first; and I suppose she thought I was in some trouble—for she begged me not to tell her what I wanted, till I was better. She said it with such a voice and such a look, that, like a great fool, I burst out crying, instead of answering as I ought. But it did me good, though, and made me able to tell her about her brother (breaking it as gently as I could) before I gave her the doctor’s letter. She never opened it; but stood up before me as if she was turned to stone—not able to cry, or speak, or move. It frightened me so, to see her in such a dreadful state, that I forgot