“He drew my head down. I had no power of resistance, aunt. There was a spell upon my senses.”
“You did not reject his ardent kisses?”
“I could not.”
“And when he extended his hand, and asked you to lay your own within it, as a sign and a token of love, you gave him the sign and the token. Your hands clasped in a covenant of the heart! So he regarded the act. So do I; and so will all the world regard it. Jessie, the die is cast. You cannot retreat without dishonor.”
“Will you leave me, aunt?” said Jessie, after a long silence. Her tones were sad. “I am very much excited. All this has unnerved me. I would like to be alone again.”
“Better come down into the sitting-room,” replied Mrs. Loring.
“No, aunt. You must let me have my way.”
“Willful, and like your mother,” said Mrs. Loring, as she arose.
“Was my mother willful?” inquired Jessie, looking at her aunt.
“Was she happy?”
“No. I do not think she ever understood or rightly appreciated your father. But, I should not have said this. She was a beautiful, fascinating young creature, as I remember her, and your father was crazy to get her. But I don’t think they were very happy together. Where the blame lay I never knew for certain, and I will make no suggestions now.”
“They were uncongenial in their tastes, perhaps,” said Jessie.
“Dear knows what the reason was! But she died young, poor thing! and your father was in a sad way about it. I thought, of course, he would marry again. But he did not—living a widower until his death.”
“Is my mother’s picture very much like her, Aunt Phoebe?”
“Very like her; but not so handsome.”
“She was beautiful?”
“Oh, yes; and the reigning belle before her marriage.”
Jessie questioned no farther. Her aunt’s recollections of her mother were all too external to satisfy the yearnings of her heart towards that mother. Often had she sat gazing upon the picture which represented to her eyes the form and face of a parent she had never seen; and sought to comprehend some of the meanings in the blue orbs that looked down upon her so calmly. But ever had she turned away with vague, unquiet, restless feelings.
“If my mother had lived!” she would sometimes say to herself, “she could comprehend me. Into her ears I could speak words that now sleep on my lips in perpetual silence.
“Oh, if my mother were alive!” sobbed the unhappy girl, as the door closed on the retiring form of wordly-minded Aunt Phoebe. “If my mother were only alive!