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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWeighed And Wanting - Chapter 55. Miss Dasomma And Amy
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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 55. Miss Dasomma And Amy Post by :voltaire11 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :582

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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 55. Miss Dasomma And Amy

CHAPTER LV. MISS DASOMMA AND AMY

Miss Dasomma was quite as much pleased with Amy as she had expected to be, and that was not a little. She found her very ignorant in the regions of what is commonly called education, but very quick in understanding where human relation came in. A point in construction or composition she would forget immediately; but once shown a possibility of misunderstanding avoidable by a certain arrangement, Amy would recall the fact the moment she made again the mistake. Her teachableness, coming largely of her trustfulness, was indeed a remarkable point in her character. It was partly through this that Corney gained his influence over her: superior knowledge was to her a sign of superior goodness.

She began at once to teach her music: the sooner a beginning was made the better! Her fingers were stiff, but so was her will: the way she stuck to her work was pathetic. Here also she understood quickly, but the doing of what she understood she found very hard--the more so that her spirit was but ill at ease. Corney had deceived her; he had done something wrong besides; she was parted from him, and could realize little of his surroundings; all was very different from what she had expected in marrying her Corney! Also, from her weariness and anxiety in nursing him, and from other causes as well, her health was not what it had been. Then Hester's letters were a little stiff! She felt it without knowing what she felt, or why they made her uncomfortable. It was from no pride or want of love they were such, but from her uncertainty--the discomfort of knowing they were no nearer a solution of their difficulty than when they parted at the railway: she did not even know yet what she was going to do in the matter! This prevented all free flow of communication. Unable to say what she would have liked to say, unwilling to tell the uncomfortable condition of things, there rose a hedge and seemed to sink a gulf between her and her sister. Amy therefrom, naturally surmised that the family was not willing to receive her, and that the same unwillingness though she was too good to yield to it, was in Hester also. It was not in her. How she might have taken his marriage had Corney remained respectable, I am not sure; but she knew that the main hope for her brother lay in his love for Amy and her devotion to him--in her common sense, her true, honest, bright nature. She was only far too good for Corney!

Then again Amy noted, for love and anxiety made her very sharp, that Miss Dasomma did not read to her every word of Hester's letters. Once she stopped suddenly in the middle of a sentence, and after a pause went on with another! Something was there she was not to know! It might have some reference to her husband! If so, then something was not going right with him! Was he worse and were they afraid to tell her, lest she should go to him! Perhaps they were treating him as her aunts treated her--making his life miserable--and she not with him to help him to bear it! All no doubt because she had married him! It explained his deceiving her! If he had told them, as he ought to have done, they would not have let her have him at all, and what would have become of her without her Corney! He ought not certainly to have told her lies, but if anything could excuse him, so that making the best of things, and excusing her husband all she could, she was in danger of lowering her instinctively high sense of moral obligation.

She brooded over the matter but not long, she threw herself on her knees, and begged her friend to let her know what the part of her sister's letter she had not read to her was about.

"But, my dear," said Miss Dasomma, "Hester and I have been friends for many years, and we may well have things to say to each other we should not care that even one we loved so much as you should hear?--A lady must not be inquisitive, you know."

"I know that, and I never did pry into other people's affairs. Tell me it was nothing about my husband, and I shall be quite content."

"But think a moment, Amy!" returned Miss Dasomma, who began to find herself in a difficulty; "there might be things between his family and him, who have known him longer than you, which they were not quite prepared to tell you all about before knowing you better. Some people in the way they treated you would have been very different from that angel sister of yours! There is nobody like her--that I know!"

"I love her with my whole heart," replied Amy sobbing--"next to Cornelius. But even she must not come between him and me. If it is anything affecting him, his wife has a right to know about it--a greater right than any one else; and no one has a right to conceal it from her!"

"Why do you think that?" asked Miss Dasomma, entirely agreeing with her that she had a right to know, but thinking also, in spite of logic, that one might have a right to conceal it notwithstanding. She was anxious to temporize, for she did not see how to answer her appeal. She could not tell her a story, and she did not feel at liberty to tell her the truth; and if she declined to answer her question, the poor child might imagine something dreadful.

"Why, miss," answered Amy, "we can't be divided!" I must do what I can--all I can for him, and I have a right to know what there is to be done for him."

"But can you not trust his own father and mother?" said Miss Dasomma--and as she said it, her conscience accused her.

"Yes, surely," replied Amy, "if they were loving him, and not angry with him. But I have seen even that angel Hester look very vexed with him sometimes, and that when he was ill too! and I know he will never stand that: he will run away as I did. I know what your own people can do to make you miserable! They say a woman must leave all for her husband, and that's true; but it is the other way in the Bible--I read it this morning! In the Bible it is--'a man shall leave father and mother and cleave to his wife;' and after that who will say there ought to be anything between him and his parents she don't know about. It's _she that's got to look after the man given to her like that!"

Miss Dasomma looked with admiration at the little creature--showing fight like a wren for her nest. How rapidly she was growing! how noble she was and free! She was indeed a treasure! The man she had married was little worthy of her, but if she rescued him, not from his parents, but from himself, she might perhaps have done as good a work as helping a noble-hearted man!

"I've got him to look after," she resumed, "and I will. He's mine, miss! If anybody's not doing right by him, I ought to be by and see him through it."

Here Miss Dasomma's prudence for a moment forsook her: who shall explain such _accidents_! It stung her to hear her friends suspected of behaving unjustly.

"That's all you know, Amy!" she blurted out--and bit her lip in vexation with herself.

Amy was upon her like a cat upon a mouse.

"What is it?" she cried. "I _must know what it is! You shall _not keep me in the dark! I _must do my duty by my husband. If you do not tell me, I will go to him."

In terror at what might be that result of her hasty remark, Miss Dasomma faltered, reddened, and betrayed considerable embarrassment. A prudent person, lapsing into a dilemma, is specially discomfitted. She had committed no offence against love, had been guilty of no selfishness or meanness, yet was in miserable predicament. Amy saw, and was the more convinced and determined. She persisted, and Miss Dasomma knew that she would persist. Presently, however, she recovered herself a little.

"How can you wonder," she said with confused vagueness, "when you know he deceived you, and never told them he was going to marry you?"

"But they know nothing of it yet--at least from the way Hester writes!"

"Yes; but one who could behave like that would be only too likely to give other grounds of offence."

"Then there _is something more--something I know nothing about!" exclaimed Amy. "I suspected it the moment I saw Hester's face at the door!"--she might have said before that.--"I _must know what it is!" she went on. "I may be young and silly, but I know what a wife owes to her husband; and a wife who cares for nothing but her husband can do more for him than anybody else can. Know all about it I will! It is my business!"

Miss Dasomma was dumb. She had waked a small but active volcano at her feet, which, though without design against vineyards and villages, would go to its ends regardless of them! She must either answer her questions or persuade her not to ask any.

"I beg, Amy," she said with entreaty "you will do nothing rash. Can you not trust friends who have proved themselves faithful?"

"Yes; for myself," answered Amy: "but it is my _husband_!"--She almost screamed the word.--"And I will trust nobody to take care enough of _him_. They can't know how to treat him or he would love them more, and would not have been afraid to let them know he was marrying a poor girl. Miss Dasomma, what have you got against him? I have no fear you will tell me anything but the truth!"

"Of course not!" returned Miss Dasomma, offended, but repressing all show of her feeling.--"Why then will you not trust me?"

"I will believe whatever you say; but I will not trust even you to tell or not tell me as you please where my husband is concerned. That would be to give up my duty to him. Tell me what it is, or--"

She did not finish the sentence: the postman's knock came to the door, and she bounded off to see what he had brought, leaving Miss Dasomma in fear lest she should appropriate a letter not addressed to her. She returned with a look of triumph--a look so wildly exultant that her hostess was momentarily alarmed for her reason.

"Now I shall know the truth!" she said. "This is from himself!"

And with that she flew to her room. Miss Dasomma should not hear a word of it! How dared she keep from her what she knew about her husband!

It was Corney's first letter to her. It was filled, not with direct complaints, but a general grumble. Here is a part of it.

"I do wish you were here, Amy, my own dearest! I love nobody like you--I love nobody but you. If I did wrong in telling you a few diddle-daddies, it was because I loved you so I could not do without you. And what comforts me for any wrong I have done is that I have you. That would make up to a man for anything short of being hanged! You little witch, how did you contrive to make a fool of a man like me! I should have been in none of this scrape but for you! My mother is very kind to me, of course--ever so much better company than Hester! she never looks as if a fellow had to be put up with, or forgiven, or anything of that sort, in her high and mighty way. But you do get tired of a mother always keeping on telling you how much she loves you. You can't help thinking there must be something behind it all. Depend upon it she wants something of you--wants you to be good, I daresay--to repent, don't you know, as they call it! They're all right, I suppose, but it ain't nice for all that. And that Hester has never told my father yet.

"I haven't even seen my father. He has not come near me once! Saffy wouldn't look at me for a long time--that's the last of the litter, you know; she shrieked when they called to her to come to me, and cried, 'That's ugly Corney! I won't have ugly Corney!' So you may see how I am used! But I've got her under my thumb at last, and she's useful. Then there's that prig Mark! I always liked the little wretch, though he is such a precious humbug! He's in bed--put out his knee, or something. He never had any stamina in him! Scrofulous, don't you know! They won't let me go near him--for fear of frightening him! But that's that braggart, major Marvel--and a marvel he is, I can tell you! He comes to me sometimes, and makes me hate him--talks as if I wasn't as good as he,--as if I wasn't even a gentleman! Many's the time I long to be back in the garret--horrid place! alone with my little Amy!"

So went the letter.

When Amy next appeared before Miss Dasomma, she was in another mood. Her eyes were red with weeping, and her hair was in disorder. She had been lying now on the bed, now on the floor, tearing her hair, and stuffing her handkerchief in her mouth.

"Well, what is the news?" asked Miss Dasomma, as kindly as she could speak, and as if she saw nothing particular in her appearance.

"You must excuse me," replied Amy, with the stiffness of a woman of the world resenting intrusion. But the next moment she said, "Do not think me unkind, miss; there is nothing, positively nothing in the letter interesting to any one but myself."

Miss Dasomma said nothing more. Perhaps she was going to escape without further questioning! and though not a little anxious as to what the letter might contain to have put the poor girl in such a state, she would not risk the asking of a single question more.

The solemn fact was, that his letter, in conjunction with the word Miss Dasomma let slip, had at last begun to open Amy's eyes a little to the real character of her husband. She had herself seen a good deal of his family, and found it hard to believe they would treat him unkindly, nor did he exactly say so; but his father had not been once to see him since his return!--Corney had not mentioned that he himself, had all he could, avoided meeting his father.--If then they did not yet know he was married, that other thing--the cause for such treatment of a son just escaped the jaws of death, must be a very serious one! It might be very hard, it might be even unfair treatment--she could not tell; but there must be something to explain it--something to show it not altogether the monstrous thing it seemed! I do not say she reasoned thus, but her genius reasoned thus for her.

Of course it must be the same thing that made him take to the garret and hide there! The more she thought of it the more convinced was she that he had done something hideously wrong. It was a sore conviction to her, and would have been a sorer yet had she understood his playful blame of her in the letter. But such was the truth of her devotion that she would only have felt accountable for the wrong, and bent body and soul to make up for it. From the first glimmer of certainty as to the uncertain facts she saw with absolute clearness what she must do. There was that in the tone of the letter also, which, while it distressed her more than she was willing to allow, strengthened her determination--especially the way in which he spoke of his mother, for she not only remembered her kindness at Burcliff, but loved the memory of her own mother with her whole bright soul. But what troubled her most of all was that he should be so careless about the wrong he had done, whatever it was. "I must know all about it!" she said to herself, "or how am I to help him?" It seemed to her the most natural thing that when one has done wrong, he should confess it and confess it wrong--so have done with it, disowning and casting away the cursed thing: this, alas, Cornelius did not seem inclined to do! But was she, of all women in the world, to condemn him without knowing what he had to say for himself? She was bound to learn the truth of the thing, if only to give her husband fair play, which she must give him to the uttermost farthing? To wrong him in her thoughts was the greatest wrong woman could do him; no woman could wrong him as she could!

By degrees her mind grew calm in settled resolve. It might, she reasoned, be very well for husband and wife to be apart while they were both happy: they had only to think the more of each other; but when anything was troubling either, still more when it was anything _in either, then it was horrible and unnatural that they should be parted. What could a heart then do but tear itself to pieces, think-thinking? It was enough to make one kill oneself!

Should she tell Miss Dasomma what was in her thoughts? Neither she nor Hester had trusted her: needed she trust them? She must take her own way in silence, for they would be certain to oppose it! could there be a design to keep her and Corney apart?

All the indignant strength and unalterable determination of the little woman rose in arms. She would see who would keep them asunder now she had made up her mind! She had money of her own--and there were the trinkets Corney had given her! They must be valuable, for Corney hated sham things! She would walk her way, work her way, or beg her way, if necessary, but nothing should keep her from Corney!

Not a word more concerning their difference passed between her and Miss Dasomma. They talked cheerfully, and kissed as usual when parting for the night.

The moment she was in her room, Amy began to pack a small carpet-bag. When that was done she made a bundle of her cloak and shawl, and lay down in her clothes. Long before dawn she crept softly down the stairs, and stole out.

Thus for the second time was she a fugitive--then _from_, now _to_.

When Miss Dasomma had been down some time, she went up to see why Amy was not making her appearance: one glance around her room satisfied her that she was gone. It caused her terrible anxiety. She did not suspect at first whither she had gone, but concluded that the letter which had rendered her so miserable contained the announcement that their marriage was not a genuine one, and that, in the dignity of her true heart, she had thereupon at once and forever taken her leave of Cornelius. She wrote to Hester, but the post did not leave before night, and would not arrive till the afternoon of the next day. She had thought of sending a telegram, but saw that that might do mischief.

When Amy got to the station she found she was in time for the first train of the day. There was no third-class to it, but she found she had enough money for a second-class ticket, and without a moment's hesitation, though it left her almost penniless, she took one.

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