chapter xxii"the grass withereth--the flower fadeth" life passes, with us all, a day at a time;so it passed with our friend tom, till two years were gone. though parted from all his soul held dear,and though often yearning for what lay beyond, still was he never positively andconsciously miserable; for, so well is the harp of human feeling strung, that nothing but a crash that breaks every string canwholly mar its harmony; and, on looking back to seasons which in review appear tous as those of deprivation and trial, we can remember that each hour, as it glided,
brought its diversions and alleviations, sothat, though not happy wholly, we were not, either, wholly miserable. tom read, in his only literary cabinet, ofone who had "learned in whatsoever state he was, therewith to be content." it seemed to him good and reasonabledoctrine, and accorded well with the settled and thoughtful habit which he hadacquired from the reading of that same book. his letter homeward, as we related in thelast chapter, was in due time answered by master george, in a good, round, school-boyhand, that tom said might be read "most
acrost the room." it contained various refreshing items ofhome intelligence, with which our reader is fully acquainted: stated how aunt chloe hadbeen hired out to a confectioner in louisville, where her skill in the pastry line was gaining wonderful sums of money,all of which, tom was informed, was to be laid up to go to make up the sum of hisredemption money; mose and pete were thriving, and the baby was trotting all about the house, under the care of sallyand the family generally. tom's cabin was shut up for the present;but george expatiated brilliantly on
ornaments and additions to be made to itwhen tom came back. the rest of this letter gave a list ofgeorge's school studies, each one headed by a flourishing capital; and also told thenames of four new colts that appeared on the premises since tom left; and stated, in the same connection, that father and motherwere well. the style of the letter was decidedlyconcise and terse; but tom thought it the most wonderful specimen of composition thathad appeared in modern times. he was never tired of looking at it, andeven held a council with eva on the expediency of getting it framed, to hang upin his room.
nothing but the difficulty of arranging itso that both sides of the page would show at once stood in the way of thisundertaking. the friendship between tom and eva hadgrown with the child's growth. it would be hard to say what place she heldin the soft, impressible heart of her faithful attendant. he loved her as something frail andearthly, yet almost worshipped her as something heavenly and divine. he gazed on her as the italian sailor gazeson his image of the child jesus,--with a mixture of reverence and tenderness; and tohumor her graceful fancies, and meet those
thousand simple wants which invest childhood like a many-colored rainbow, wastom's chief delight. in the market, at morning, his eyes werealways on the flower-stalls for rare bouquets for her, and the choicest peach ororange was slipped into his pocket to give to her when he came back; and the sight that pleased him most was her sunny headlooking out the gate for his distant approach, and her childish questions,--"well, uncle tom, what have you got for me today?" nor was eva less zealous in kind offices,in return.
though a child, she was a beautifulreader;--a fine musical ear, a quick poetic fancy, and an instinctive sympathy withwhat's grand and noble, made her such a reader of the bible as tom had never beforeheard. at first, she read to please her humblefriend; but soon her own earnest nature threw out its tendrils, and wound itselfaround the majestic book; and eva loved it, because it woke in her strange yearnings, and strong, dim emotions, such asimpassioned, imaginative children love to feel. the parts that pleased her most were therevelations and the prophecies,--parts
whose dim and wondrous imagery, and ferventlanguage, impressed her the more, that she questioned vainly of their meaning;--and she and her simple friend, the old childand the young one, felt just alike about it. all that they knew was, that they spoke ofa glory to be revealed,--a wondrous something yet to come, wherein their soulrejoiced, yet knew not why; and though it be not so in the physical, yet in moral science that which cannot be understood isnot always profitless. for the soul awakes, a trembling stranger,between two dim eternities,--the eternal
past, the eternal future. the light shines only on a small spacearound her; therefore, she needs must yearn towards the unknown; and the voices andshadowy movings which come to her from out the cloudy pillar of inspiration have each one echoes and answers in her own expectingnature. its mystic imagery are so many talismansand gems inscribed with unknown hieroglyphics; she folds them in her bosom,and expects to read them when she passes beyond the veil. at this time in our story, the whole st.clare establishment is, for the time being,
removed to their villa on lakepontchartrain. the heats of summer had driven all who wereable to leave the sultry and unhealthy city, to seek the shores of the lake, andits cool sea-breezes. st. clare's villa was an east indiancottage, surrounded by light verandahs of bamboo-work, and opening on all sides intogardens and pleasure-grounds. the common sitting-room opened on to alarge garden, fragrant with every picturesque plant and flower of thetropics, where winding paths ran down to the very shores of the lake, whose silvery sheet of water lay there, rising andfalling in the sunbeams,--a picture never
for an hour the same, yet every hour morebeautiful. it is now one of those intensely goldensunsets which kindles the whole horizon into one blaze of glory, and makes thewater another sky. the lake lay in rosy or golden streaks,save where white-winged vessels glided hither and thither, like so many spirits,and little golden stars twinkled through the glow, and looked down at themselves asthey trembled in the water. tom and eva were seated on a little mossyseat, in an arbor, at the foot of the garden. it was sunday evening, and eva's bible layopen on her knee.
she read,--"and i saw a sea of glass,mingled with fire." "tom," said eva, suddenly stopping, andpointing to the lake, "there 't is." "what, miss eva?" "don't you see,--there?" said the child,pointing to the glassy water, which, as it rose and fell, reflected the golden glow ofthe sky. "there's a 'sea of glass, mingled withfire.'" "true enough, miss eva," said tom; and tomsang-- "o, had i the wings of the morning, i'd fly away to canaan's shore;bright angels should convey me home,
to the new jerusalem.""where do you suppose new jerusalem is, uncle tom?" said eva. "o, up in the clouds, miss eva.""then i think i see it," said eva. "look in those clouds!--they look likegreat gates of pearl; and you can see beyond them--far, far off--it's all gold. tom, sing about 'spirits bright.'"tom sung the words of a well-known methodist hymn, "i see a band of spirits bright,that taste the glories there; they all are robed in spotless white,and conquering palms they bear."
"uncle tom, i've seen them," said eva.tom had no doubt of it at all; it did not surprise him in the least.if eva had told him she had been to heaven, he would have thought it entirely probable. "they come to me sometimes in my sleep,those spirits;" and eva's eyes grew dreamy, and she hummed, in a low voice,"they are all robed in spotless white, and conquering palms they bear." "uncle tom," said eva, "i'm going there.""where, miss eva?" the child rose, and pointed her little handto the sky; the glow of evening lit her golden hair and flushed cheek with a kindof unearthly radiance, and her eyes were
bent earnestly on the skies. "i'm going there," she said, "to thespirits bright, tom; i'm going, before long." the faithful old heart felt a suddenthrust; and tom thought how often he had noticed, within six months, that eva'slittle hands had grown thinner, and her skin more transparent, and her breath shorter; and how, when she ran or played inthe garden, as she once could for hours, she became soon so tired and languid. he had heard miss ophelia speak often of acough, that all her medicaments could not
cure; and even now that fervent cheek andlittle hand were burning with hectic fever; and yet the thought that eva's wordssuggested had never come to him till now. has there ever been a child like eva? yes, there have been; but their names arealways on grave-stones, and their sweet smiles, their heavenly eyes, their singularwords and ways, are among the buried treasures of yearning hearts. in how many families do you hear the legendthat all the goodness and graces of the living are nothing to the peculiar charmsof one who is not. it is as if heaven had an especial band ofangels, whose office it was to sojourn for
a season here, and endear to them thewayward human heart, that they might bear it upward with them in their homewardflight. when you see that deep, spiritual light inthe eye,--when the little soul reveals itself in words sweeter and wiser than theordinary words of children,--hope not to retain that child; for the seal of heaven is on it, and the light of immortalitylooks out from its eyes. even so, beloved eva! fair star of thydwelling! thou are passing away; but they that lovethee dearest know it not. the colloquy between tom and eva wasinterrupted by a hasty call from miss
ophelia. "eva--eva!--why, child, the dew is falling;you mustn't be out there!" eva and tom hastened in.miss ophelia was old, and skilled in the tactics of nursing. she was from new england, and knew well thefirst guileful footsteps of that soft, insidious disease, which sweeps away somany of the fairest and loveliest, and, before one fibre of life seems broken,seals them irrevocably for death. she had noted the slight, dry cough, thedaily brightening cheek; nor could the lustre of the eye, and the airy buoyancyborn of fever, deceive her.
she tried to communicate her fears to st.clare; but he threw back her suggestions with a restless petulance, unlike his usualcareless good-humor. "don't be croaking, cousin,--i hate it!" hewould say; "don't you see that the child is only growing.children always lose strength when they grow fast." "but she has that cough!""o! nonsense of that cough!--it is not anything.she has taken a little cold, perhaps." "well, that was just the way eliza jane wastaken, and ellen and maria sanders." "o! stop these hobgoblin' nurse legends.
you old hands got so wise, that a childcannot cough, or sneeze, but you see desperation and ruin at hand. only take care of the child, keep her fromthe night air, and don't let her play too hard, and she'll do well enough."so st. clare said; but he grew nervous and restless. he watched eva feverishly day by day, asmight be told by the frequency with which he repeated over that "the child was quitewell"--that there wasn't anything in that cough,--it was only some little stomachaffection, such as children often had. but he kept by her more than before, tookher oftener to ride with him, brought home
every few days some receipt orstrengthening mixture,--"not," he said, "that the child needed it, but then itwould not do her any harm." if it must be told, the thing that struck adeeper pang to his heart than anything else was the daily increasing maturity of thechild's mind and feelings. while still retaining all a child'sfanciful graces, yet she often dropped, unconsciously, words of such a reach ofthought, and strange unworldly wisdom, that they seemed to be an inspiration. at such times, st. clare would feel asudden thrill, and clasp her in his arms, as if that fond clasp could save her; andhis heart rose up with wild determination
to keep her, never to let her go. the child's whole heart and soul seemedabsorbed in works of love and kindness. impulsively generous she had always been;but there was a touching and womanly thoughtfulness about her now, that everyone noticed. she still loved to play with topsy, and thevarious colored children; but she now seemed rather a spectator than an actor oftheir plays, and she would sit for half an hour at a time, laughing at the odd tricks of topsy,--and then a shadow would seem topass across her face, her eyes grew misty, and her thoughts were afar.
"mamma," she said, suddenly, to her mother,one day, "why don't we teach our servants to read?""what a question child! people never do." "why don't they?" said eva."because it is no use for them to read. it don't help them to work any better, andthey are not made for anything else." "but they ought to read the bible, mamma,to learn god's will." "o! they can get that read to them all theyneed." "it seems to me, mamma, the bible is forevery one to read themselves. they need it a great many times when thereis nobody to read it."
"eva, you are an odd child," said hermother. "miss ophelia has taught topsy to read,"continued eva. "yes, and you see how much good it does. topsy is the worst creature i ever saw!""here's poor mammy!" said eva. "she does love the bible so much, andwishes so she could read! and what will she do when i can't read toher?" marie was busy, turning over the contentsof a drawer, as she answered, "well, of course, by and by, eva, you willhave other things to think of besides reading the bible round to servants.not but that is very proper; i've done it
myself, when i had health. but when you come to be dressing and goinginto company, you won't have time. see here!" she added, "these jewels i'mgoing to give you when you come out. i wore them to my first ball. i can tell you, eva, i made a sensation."eva took the jewel-case, and lifted from it a diamond necklace. her large, thoughtful eyes rested on them,but it was plain her thoughts were elsewhere."how sober you look child!" said marie. "are these worth a great deal of money,mamma?"
"to be sure, they are.father sent to france for them. they are worth a small fortune." "i wish i had them," said eva, "to do whati pleased with!" "what would you do with them?" "i'd sell them, and buy a place in the freestates, and take all our people there, and hire teachers, to teach them to read andwrite." eva was cut short by her mother's laughing. "set up a boarding-school!wouldn't you teach them to play on the piano, and paint on velvet?"
"i'd teach them to read their own bible,and write their own letters, and read letters that are written to them," saideva, steadily. "i know, mamma, it does come very hard onthem that they can't do these things. tom feels it--mammy does,--a great many ofthem do. i think it's wrong." "come, come, eva; you are only a child!you don't know anything about these things," said marie; "besides, your talkingmakes my head ache." marie always had a headache on hand for anyconversation that did not exactly suit her. eva stole away; but after that, sheassiduously gave mammy reading lessons.