Miss Meredith

    • $79.00
    • $79.00

Descripción editorial

It was about a week after Christmas, and we—my mother, my two sisters, and myself—were sitting, as usual, in the parlour of the little house at Islington. Tea was over, and Jenny had possession of the table, where she was engaged in making a watercolour sketch of still life by the light of the lamp, whose rays fell effectively on her bent head with its aureole of Titian-coloured hair—the delight of the Slade school—and on her round, earnest young face as she lifted it from time to time in contemplation of her subject.

My mother had drawn her chair close to the fire, for the night was very cold, and the fitful crimson beams played about her worn, serene, and gentle face, under its widow's cap, as she bent over the sewing in her hands.

A hard fight with fortune had been my mother's from the day when, a girl of eighteen, she had left a comfortable home to marry my father for love. Poverty and sickness—those two redoubtable dragons—had stood ever in the path. Now, even the love which had been by her side for so many years, and helped to comfort them, had vanished into the unknown. But I do not think she was unhappy. The crown of a woman's life was hers; her children rose up and called her blest.

At her feet sat my eldest sister, Rosalind, entirely absorbed in correcting a bundle of proof-sheets which had arrived that morning from Temple Bar. Rosalind was the genius of the family, a full-blown London B.A., who occasionally supplemented her earnings as coach and lecturer by writing for the magazines. She had been engaged, moreover, for the last year or two, to a clever young journalist, Hubert Andrews by name, and the lovers were beginning to look forward to a speedy termination to their period of waiting.

I, Elsie Meredith, who was neither literary nor artistic, neither picturesque like Jenny nor clever like Rosalind, whose middle place in the family had always struck me as a fit symbol of my own mediocrity—I, alone of all these busy people, was sitting idle. Lounging in the arm-chair which faced my mother's, I twisted and retwisted, rolled and unrolled, read and reread a letter which had arrived for me that morning, and whose contents I had been engaged in revolving in my mind throughout the day.

"Well, Elsie," said my mother at last, looking up with a smile from her work, "have you come to any decision, after all this hard thinking?"

"I suppose it will be 'Yes,'" I answered rather dolefully; "Mrs. Gray seems to think it a quite unusual opportunity." And I turned again to the letter, which contained an offer of an engagement for me as governess in the family of the Marchesa Brogi, at Pisa.

"I should certainly say 'Go,'" put in Rosalind, lifting her dark expressive face from her proofs; "if it were not for Hubert I should almost feel inclined to go myself. You will gain all sorts of experience, receive all sorts of new impressions. You are shockingly ill-paid at Miss Cumberland's, and these people offer a very fair salary. And if you don't like it, it is always open to you to come back."

"We should all miss you very much, Elsie," added my mother; "but if it is for your good, why, there is no more to be said."

"Oh, of course we should miss her horribly," cried Rosalind, in her impetuous fashion, gathering together the scattered proof-sheets as she spoke; "you mustn't think we want to get rid of you." And the little thoughtful pucker between her straight brows disappeared as she laid her hand with a smile on my knee. I pressed the inky, characteristic fingers in my own. I am neither literary nor artistic, as I said before, but I have a little talent for being fond of people.

"I'm sure I don't know what I shall do without you," put in Jenny, in her deliberate, serious way, making round, grey eyes at me across the lamplight. "It isn't that you are such a good critic, Elsie, but you have a sort of feeling for art which helps one more than you have any idea of."

I received very meekly this qualified compliment, without revealing the humiliating fact that my feeling for art had probably less to do with the matter than my sympathy with the artist; then observed, "It seems much waste, for me, of all of us, to be the first to go to Italy."

24 de julio
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