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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Actress' Daughter » CHAPTER VI. TAMING AN EAGLET.
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 "In her heart
Are sown the sparks that kindle fiery war;
Occasion needs but fan them and they blaze."
"Mind's command o'er mind,
Spirits o'er spirit, is the clear effect
And natural action of an inward gift
Given by God."
ll that day little Georgia went wandering aimlessly, restlessly, through the woods, possessed by some walking spirit that would not let her sit still for an instant. She had kept her vow; she had resisted the power of a master mind; she had maintained her free will, and refused to do as he commanded her. Yes, she felt it as a command. She had thrown off the yoke he would have laid on her, and she ought to have exulted in her triumph—in her victory. But, strange to say, it surprised even herself that she had not; she felt angry, sullen and dissatisfied. The consciousness that she was wrong and he was right—that she ought to have done as he told her—would force itself upon her in spite of her efforts. How mean and narrow her own conduct did look now that she came to think it over, and the fever of passion had passed away; had she been brave and generous she felt she would have forgiven him when he so often apologized; it was galling to be laughed at, it was true, but when he was sorry for his fault she[Pg 84] knew she ought to have pardoned him. How they both must despise her; what a wicked, ugly, disagreeable little girl they must think her. How she wished she had been better, and had made up friends, and not let them go away thinking her so cross and sullen and obstinate.
"Miss Jerusha says I'm ugly and good for nothing and bad-tempered, and so does every body else. Nobody loves me or cares for me, and every body says I've got the worst temper they ever knew. People don't do anything but laugh at me and make fun of me and call me names. Mamma and Warren liked me, but they're dead, and I wish I was dead and buried, too—I do so! I'll never dance again; I'll never sing for anyone; I'll go away somewhere, and never come back. I wish I was pretty and good-tempered and pleasant, like Em Murray: every body loved her; but I ain't, and never will be. I'm black and ugly and bad-tempered, and every one hates me. Let them hate me, then—I don't care! I hate them just as much; and I'll be just as cross and ugly as ever I like. I was made so, and I can't help it, and I don't care for any body. I'll do just as I like, I will so! I can hate people as much as they can hate me, and I will do it, too. I don't see what I was ever born for; Miss Jerusha says it was to torment people: but I couldn't help it, and it ain't my fault, and they have no business to blame me for it. Emily Murray says God makes people die, and I don't see why he didn't let me die, too, when mamma did. Mamma was good, and I expect she's in heaven, but I'm so bad they'll never let me there I know! I don't care for that either. I was made bad, and if they send me to the bad place for it, they may. Em Murray'll go to Heaven, because she's good and pretty, and Miss Jerusha says she'll go, but I don't believe it. If she[Pg 85] does, I sha'n't go even if they ask me to, for I know she'll scold all the time up there just as she does down here. If they do let her in, I guess they'll be pretty sorry for it after, and wish they hadn't. I 'pose them two young gentlemen from New York will go, too, and I know that Charley fellow will laugh when he sees me turned off, just as he did this morning. I don't believe I ought to have made up with him, after all. I won't either, if his brother says I must. If he lets me alone I may, but I'll never offer to do anything for him again as long as I live. Oh, dear! I don't see what I ever was born for at all, and I do wish I never had been, or that I had died with mamma and Warren."
And so, with bitterness in her heart, the child wandered on and on restlessly, as if to escape from herself, with a sense of wrong, and neglect, and injustice forcing itself upon her childish uncultivated mind. She thought of all the hard names and opprobrious epithets Miss Jerusha called her, and "unjust! unjust!" was the cry of her heart as she wandered on. She felt that in all the world there was not such a wicked, unloved child as she, and the untutored heart resolved in its bitterness to repay scorn with scorn, and hate with hate.
It was dark when she came home. She had had no dinner, but with the conflict going on within she had felt no hunger. Miss Jerusha's supper was over and long since cleared away, and, as might be expected, she was in no very sweet frame of mind at the long absence of her protegee.
"Well, you've got home at last, have you?" she began sharply, and with her voice pitched in a most aggravating key. "Pretty time o' night this, I must say, to come home, after trampin' round like a vagabone on the face o'[Pg 86] the airth all the whole blessed day. You desarve to be switched as long as you can stand, you worthless, lazy, idle young varmint you! Be off to the kitchen, and see if Fly can't get you some supper, though you oughtn't to get a morsel if you were rightly sarved. Other folks has to toil for what they eat, but you live on other folks' vittals, and do nothing, you indolent little tramper you!"
Miss Jerusha paused for want of breath, expecting the angry retort this style of address never failed to extort from the excitable little bomb-shell before her, but to her surprise none came. The child stood with compressed lips, dark and gloomy, gazing into the fading fire.
"Well, why don't you go?" said Miss Jerusha angrily. "You ought to take your betters' leavin's and be thankful, though there's no such thing as thankfulness in you, I do believe. Go!"
"I don't want your supper; you may keep it," said Georgia, with proud sullenness.
"Oh, you don't! Of course not! it's not good enough for your ladyship, by no manner of means," said Miss Jerusha, with withering sarcasm. "Hadn't I better order some cake and wine for your worship? Dear, dear! what ladies we are, to be sure! Is there anything particularly nice I could get for you, marm, eh? P'raps Fly'd better run to Burnfield for some plum puddin' or suthin', hey? Oh, dear me, ain't we dainty, though."
Georgia actually gnashed her teeth, and turned livid with passion as she listened, and, with a spring, she stood before the startled Miss Jerusha, her eyes glaring in the partial darkness like those of a wild-cat. Miss Jerusha, in alarm, lifted a chair as a weapon of defense against the expected attack; but the attack was not made.[Pg 87]
Clasping her hands over her head with a sort of irrepressible cry, she fled from the room, up the stairs into her own little chamber, fastened the door, and then sank down, white and quivering, on the floor of the room.
How long she lay there she could not tell; gusts of passion swept through her soul. Wild, fierce, and maddening raged the conflict within—one of those delirious storms of the heart—known and felt only by those whose fiery, tropical veins seem to run fire instead of blood.
She heard Miss Jerusha's step on the stairs, heard her approach her door and listen for a moment, and then go to her own chamber and securely lock the door.
In that moment the half crazed child hated her; hated all the world; feeling as though she could have killed her were it in her power. Then this unnatural mood passed away—it was too unnatural to last—and she rose from the floor, looking like a spirit, with her streaming hair, wild eyes, and white face. She went to the window and opened it, for her head throbbed and ached, and leaning her forehead against the cool glass, she looked out.
How still and serene everything was! The river lay bright and beautiful in the dark bright starlight. The pine trees waved dreamily in the soft spring breeze, and the odor of their fragrant leaves came borne to where she sat. The silence of the grave reigned around, the lonesome forest seemed lonelier than ever to-night, and so deep was the stillness that the plaintive cry of the whip-poor-will, as it rose at intervals, sounded startlingly loud and shrill. She lifted her eyes to the high, bright, solemn stars that seemed looking down pityingly upon the poor little orphan child, and all her wickedness and passion passed away, and a mysterious awe, deep and holy, entered that tempest-[Pg 88]tossed young heart. The soft, cool breeze lifted her dark elf locks, and lingered and cooled her hot brow like a friend's kiss. Georgia had often looked at the stars before, but they never seemed to have such high and holy beauty as they possessed to-night.
"God made the stars," thought Georgia; "I wonder what He made them for? Perhaps they are the eyes of the people that die and go to heaven. I wonder if mamma and Warren are up there, and know how bad I am, and how wicked and miserable I feel? I guess they would be sorry for me if they did, for there is nobody in the world to like me now. Some people pray; Emily Murray does, for I've seen her; but I don't know how, and I don't think God would listen to me if I did, I'm so dreadful bad. She taught me a pretty hymn to sing; it sounds like a prayer; but I've forgot it all but the first verse. I'll say that anyway. Let's see—oh, yes! I know two."
And, for the first time in her life, she knelt down and clasped her hands, and in the light of the beautiful solemn stars, she softly whispered her first prayer.
"Oh, Mary, my mother, most lovely, most mild,
Look down upon me, your poor, weak, lonely child;
From the land of my exile, I call upon thee,
Then Mary, my mother, look kindly on me.
In sorrow and darkness, be still at my side,
My light and my refuge, my guard and my guide.
Though snares should surround me, yet why should I fear?
I know I am weak, but my mother is near.
Then Mary, my mother, look down upon me,
'Tis the voice of thy child that is calling to thee."
Georgia's voice died away, yet with her hands still clasped and her dark mystic eyes now upturned to the far-[Pg 89]off stars, her thoughts went wandering on the sweet words she had said.
"'Mary, my mother!' I wonder who that means. My mamma's name was not Mary, and one can't have two mothers, I should think. How good it sounds, too! I must ask Emily what it means; she knows. Oh, I wish—I do wish I was up there where all the beautiful stars are!"
Poor little Georgia! untaught, passionate child! how many years will come and go, what a fiery furnace thou art destined to pass through before that "peace which passeth all understanding" will enter your anguished, world-weary heart!
When breakfast was over next morning, Georgia took her sun-bonnet and set off for Burnfield. She hardly knew herself what was her object in passing so quickly through the village, without stopping at any of her favorite haunts, until she stood before the large, handsome mansion occupied and owned by the one great man of Burnfield, Squire Richmond.
The house was an imposing structure of brown stone, with arched porticoes, and vine-wreathed balconies. The grounds were extensive, and beautifully laid out; and Georgia, with the other children, had often peeped longingly over the high fence encircling the front garden, at the beautiful flowers within.
Georgia, skilled in climbing, could easily have got over and reached them, but her innate sense of honor would not permit her to steal. There was something mean in the idea of being a thief or a liar, and meanness was the blackest crime in her "table of sins." Perhaps another reason was, Georgia did not care much for flowers; she liked well enough to see them growing, but as for culling a bouquet[Pg 90] for any pleasure it could afford her, she would never have thought of doing it. While she stood gazing wistfully at the forbidden garden of Eden, a sweet silvery voice close behind her arrested her attention with the exclamation:
"Why, Georgia, is this really you?"
Georgia turned round and saw a little girl about her own age, but, to a superficial eye, a hundred times prettier and more interesting. Her form was plump and rounded, her complexion snowy white, with the brightest of rosy blooms on her cheek and lip; her eyes were large, bright and blue, and her pale golden hair clustered in natural curls on her ivory neck. A sweet face it was—a happy, innocent, child-like face—with nothing remarkable about it save its prettiness and goodness.
"Oh, Em! I'm glad you've come," said Georgia, her dark eyes lighting up with pleasure. "I was just wishing you would. Here, stand up here beside me."
"Well, I can't stay long," said the little one, getting up beside Georgia. "Mother sent me with some things to that poor Mrs. White, whose husband got killed, you know. Oh, Georgia! she's got just the dearest little baby you ever saw, with such tiny bits of fingers and toes, and the funniest little blinking eyes! The greatest little darling ever was! Do come down with me to see it; it's splendid!" exclaimed Emily, her pretty little face all aglow with enthusiasm.
"No; I don't care about going," said Georgia, coolly. "I don't like babies."
"Don't like babies!—the dearest little things in the world! Oh, Georgia!" cried Emily, reproachfully.
"Well, I don't, then! I don't see anything nice about them, for my part. Ugly little things, with thin faces all[Pg 91] wrinkled up, like Miss Jerusha's hands on wash-day, crying and making a time. I don't like them; and I don't see how you can be bothered nursing them the way you do."
"Oh, I love them! and I'm going to save all the money I get to spend, to buy Mrs. White's little baby a dress. Mother says I may. Ain't these flowers lovely in there? I wish we had a garden."
"Oh, because it's so nice to have flowers. I wonder Squire Richmond never pulls any of his; he always leaves them there till they drop off."
"Well, what would he pull them for?"
"Why, to put on the table, of course. Don't you ever gather flowers for your room?"
"You don't! Why, Georgia! don't you love flowers?"
"No, I don't love them; I like to see them well enough."
"Why, Georgia! Oh, Georgia, what a funny girl you are! Not love flowers! What do you love, then?"
"I love the stars—the beautiful stars, so high, and bright, and splendid!"
"Oh, so do I; but then they're so far off, you know, I love flowers better, because they're nearer."
"Well, that's the reason I don't like them—I mean not so much. I don't care for things I can get so easy—that everybody else can get. Anything I like I want to have all to myself. I don't want anybody else in the world to have it. The bright, beautiful stars are away off—nobody can have them. I call them mine, and nobody can take them from me. I like stars better than flowers."
"Oh, Georgia! you are queer. Why, don't you know[Pg 92] that's selfish? Now, if I have any pleasure, I don't enjoy it at all unless I have somebody to enjoy it with. I shouldn't like to keep all to myself; it doesn't seem right. What else do you like, Georgia?"
"Well, I like the sea—the great, grand, dreadful sea! I like it when the waves rise and dash their heads against the high rocks, and roar, and shriek, and rage as if something had made them wild with anger. Oh! I love to watch it then, when the great white waves break so fiercely over the high rocks, and dash up the spray in my face. I know it feels then as I do sometimes, just as if it should go mad and dash its brains out on the rocks. Oh, I do love the great, stormy, angry sea!"
And the eyes of the wild girl blazed up, and her whole dark face lighted, kindled, grew radiant as she spoke.
The sweet, innocent little face of Emily was lifted in wonder and a sort of dismay.
"Oh, Georgia, how you talk!" she exclaimed: "love the sea in a storm! What a taste you have! Now I like it, too, but only on a sunny, calm morning like this, when it is smooth and shining. I am dreadfully afraid of it on a stormy day, when the great waves make such a horrid noise. What queer things you like! Now I suppose you had rather have a wet day like last Sunday than one like this?"
"No," said Georgia, "I didn't like last Sunday; it kept on a miserable drizzle, drizzle all day, and wouldn't be fine nor rain right down good and have done with it. But I like a storm, a fierce, high storm, when the wind blows fit to tear the trees up, and dashes the rain like mad against the windows. I go away up to the garret then and listen. And I like it when it thunders and lightens, and frightens everybody into fits. Oh, it's splendid then! I feel as if I[Pg 93] would like to fly away and away all over the world, as if I should go wild being caged up in one place, as if—oh, I can't tell you how I feel!" said the hare-brained girl, drawing a long breath and keeping her shining eyes fixed as if on some far-off vision.
"Well, if you ain't the queerest, wildest thing! And you don't like fine days at all?"
"Oh, yes, I do—of course I do; not so much days like this, cold, and clear, and calm, but blazing hot, scorching August noondays, when the whole world looks like one great flood of golden fire—that's the sort I like! Or freezing, wild, frosty winter days, when the great blasts make one fly along as if they had wings—they're splendid, too!"
"Well, I don't know, I don't think so. I like cool, pleasant days like this better, because I have no taste for roasting or freezing," said Emily, laughing. "Oh, I must tell mother about the droll things you like! Let me see what else. Like music?"
"Some sorts. I like the band. Don't care much for any other kind."
"And I like songs and hymns better. And now, which do you prefer—men or women?"
"Men," said Georgia, decidedly.
"You do! Why?"
"Oh, well—because they're stronger and more powerful, and braver and bolder; women are such cowards. Do you know the sort of a man I should like to be?"
"No; what sort?"
"Well, like Napoleon Bonaparte, or Alexander the Great. I should like to conquer the whole world and make[Pg 94] every one in the world do just as I told them. Oh, I wish I was a boy!"
"I don't, then," said Emily, stoutly. "I don't like boys, they're so rude and rough. And these two conquerors weren't good men either. I've read about them. Washington was good. I like him."
"So do I. But if I had been him I would have made myself King of America. I wouldn't have done as he did at all. Now, where are you going in such a hurry?"
"Oh, I shall have to go to Mrs. White's. I've been here a good while already. I wish you would come along."
"No," said Georgia decidedly, "I sha'n't go. Good-by."
Emily nodded and smiled a good-by, and tripped off down the road. Georgia stood for a moment longer, looking at the stately mansion, and then was about to go away when a hand was laid on her and arrested her steps.
Close to the wall some benches ran, hidden under a profusion of flowering vines, and Richmond Wildair had been lying on one of these, studying a deeply exciting volume, when the voices of the children fell upon his ear. Very intently did he listen to their conversation, only revealing himself when he found Georgia was about to leave.
"Good-morning, Miss Georgia," he said, smilingly; "I am very glad to see you. Come, jump over the fence and come in; you can do it, I know."
Now, Georgia was neither timid nor bashful, but while he spoke she recollected her not very courteous behavior the previous day, and, for the first time in her life, she hung her head and blushed.
He appeared to have forgotten, or at least forgiven it, but this only made her feel it all the more keenly.[Pg 95]
"Come," he said, catching her hands, without appearing to notice her confusion; "one, two, three—jump!"
Georgia laughed, disengaged her hands, and with the old mischievous spirit twinkling in her eyes, with one flying leap vaulted clear over his head far out into the garden.
"Bravo!" cried Richmond; "excellently done! I see you understand gymnastics. Now I would offer you some flowers only I heard you say you did not care for them, and as for the stars I regret they are beyond even my reach."
Georgia looked up with a flush that reminded him of yesterday. "You were listening," she said disdainfully; "that is mean!"
"I beg your pardon, Miss Georgia, I was not listening intentionally; I am not an eavesdropper, allow me to insinuate. I was lying there studying before you came, and did not choose to put myself to the inconvenience of getting up and going away to oblige a couple of small young ladies, more particularly when I found their conversation so intensely interesting. Very odd tastes and fancies you have, my little Lady Georgia."
Georgia was silent—she had scarcely heard him—she was thinking of something else. She wanted to ask about Charley, but—she did not like to.
"Well," he said, with a smile, reading her thoughts like an open book, "and what is little Georgia thinking of so intently?"
"I—I—of nothing," she was going to say, and then she checked herself. It would be a falsehood, and Georgia as proud of never having told a lie in her life.
"And what does 'I—I' mean?"[Pg 96]
"I was thinking of your brother Charley," she said, looking up with one of her bright, defiant flashes.
"Yes," he said, quietly, "and what of him?"
"I should like to know how he is."
"He is ill—seriously ill. Charles is delicate, and his ankle is even worse hurt than we supposed. Last night he was feverish and sleepless, and this morning he was not able to get up."
A hot flush passed over Georgia's face, retreating instantaneously, and leaving her very pale, with a wild, uneasy, glitter in her large dark eyes. Oh! If he should die, she thought. It was through her fault he had hurt himself first, and then she had been obstinate, and would not forgive him. Perhaps he would die, she would never be able to tell him how sorry she was for what she had done. She laid her hand on Richmond's arm, and, looking up earnestly in his face, said, in a voice that trembled a little in spite of herself: "Do—do you think he will die?"
"No," he said, gravely, "I hope—I think not; but poor Charley is really ill, and very lonely, up there alone."
"I—I should like to see him."
It was just what Richmond expected; just what he had uttered the last words to hear her say. Her eyes were downcast, and she did not see the almost imperceptible smile that dawned around his mouth. When she looked up he was grave and serious.
"I think he will be able to sit up this afternoon. If you will come up after dinner you shall see him. Meantime, shall I show you through the grounds? Perhaps you have never been here before."
He changed the subject quickly, for he knew it would not do to particularly notice her request. Georgia had[Pg 97] often before wished to wander through the long walks and beautiful gardens around, but now her little dark face was downcast and troubled, and she said, gravely:
"No—thank you!" The last words after a pause, for politeness was not in the little lady's line. "I will go home now, and come back by-and-by. You needn't open the gate; I can jump over the fence. There! don't mind helping me. Good-by!"
She sprang lightly over the wall, and was gone, and pulling her sun-bonnet far over her face, set out for home.
Miss Jerusha wondered that day, in confidence to Fly and Betsey Periwinkle, what had "come to Georgey," she was so still and silent all dinner-time, and sat with such a moody look of dark gravity in her face, all unusual with the sparkling, restless elf. Well, they did not know that the free young forest eaglet had got its wings clipped for the first time, that day, and that Georgia could exult no more in the thought that she was wholly unconquered and free.
Richmond Wildair was at his post immediately after dinner, awaiting the coming of Georgia. He knew she would come, and she did. He saw the small, dark figure approaching, and held the gate open for her to enter.
"Ah! you've come, Georgia!" he said. "That is right. Come along; Charley is here."
"Does he know I am coming?" asked Georgia, soberly.
"Yes, I told him. He expects you. Here—this way. There you are!"
He opened the door, and ushered Georgia into a sort of summer-house in the garden, where, seated in state, in an arm-chair, was Master Charley, looking rather paler than when she saw him last, but with the same half droll, half[Pg 98] indolent, languid air about him that seemed to be his chief characteristic.
"My dear Miss Georgia," he began, with the greatest empressement, the moment he saw her, "you make me proud by honoring so unworthy an individual as I am with your gracious presence. You'll excuse my not getting up, I hope; but the fact is, this unfortunate continuation of mine being resolved to have its own way about the matter, can be induced by no amount of persuasion and liniment to behave prettily, and utterly scouts the idea of being used as a means of support. Pray take a seat, Miss Georgia Darrell, and make yourself as miserable as circumstances will allow."
To this speech, uttered with the utmost verve, and with the blandest and most insinuating tones, Georgia listened with a countenance of immovable gravity, and at its close, instead of sitting down, she walked up, stood before him, and said:
"Yesterday you laughed at me, and I was angry. You said you were sorry, and I—I came to-day to tell you I was willing to make up friends again. There!"
She held out one little brown hand in token of amity. With the utmost difficulty Charley maintained his countenance sufficiently to shake hands with her, which he did with due decorum, and then, without another word, Georgia turned and walked away.
No sooner was she gone than Charley leaned back and laughed until the tears stood in his eyes. While he was yet in a paroxysm Richmond entered.
"Has she gone?" asked Charley, finding voice.
"Yes, looking as sober as Minerva and her owl."
"Oh! that girl will be the death of me, that's certain.[Pg 99] By George! it was good as a play. There she stood with a face as long as a coffin, and as dark and solemn as a hearse," and Charley went off into another fit of laughter at the recollection.
"She condescended to forgive you at last, you see."
"Yes, Miss Georgia and I have, figuratively speaking, smoked the pipe of peace. Touching sight it must have been to a third person. It was a tight fit, though, to get her to do it."
"I think I could manage that proud little lady, if she were a sister of mine. I shall conquer her more thoroughly yet before I have done with her. I have a plan in my head, the result of which you will see pretty soon. I expect she will struggle against it to the last gasp, but she shall obey me," said Richmond.


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