CHAPTER XXVI. DEATH.
THE deceitful strength which had buoyed Eva up for a little while was fast passing away.
One afternoon, as she was reclining on a lounge by the open window, she heard her mother's voice, in sharp tones, in the verandah.
"You've been picking the flowers, hey?" and Eva heard the sound of a smart slap.
"Law, Missis!—they's for Miss Eva," she heard Topsy reply.
"Miss Eva! A pretty excuse!—you suppose she wants your flowers, you good-for-nothing nigger? Get along off with you!"
In a moment, Eva was of from her lounge, and in the verandah.
"O, don't mother! I should like the flowers; do give them to me; I want them!"
"Why, Eva, your room is full now."
"I can't have too many," said Eva. "Topsy, do bring them here."
Topsy, who had stood sullenly, holding down her head, now came up and offered her flowers. She did it with a look of hesitation and bashfulness, quite unusual to her.
She looked pleased, as Eva said,—"Topsy, you arrange flowers very prettily. Here," she said, "is this vase I haven't any flowers for. I wish you'd arrange something every day for it."
"Well, that's odd!" said Marie. "What in the world do you want that for?"
"Never mind, mamma; you'd as lief as not Topsy should do it,—had you not?"
"Of course, anything you please, dear! Topsy, you hear your young mistress; see that you mind."
Topsy made a short courtesy, and looked down,, and, as she turned away, Eva saw a tear roll down her dark cheek. "You see, mamma, I knew poor Topsy wanted to do something for me," said Eva to her mother.
"O, nonsense! it's only because she likes to do mischief. She knows she mustn't pick flowers; but, if yon fancy to have her pluck them so be it."
"Mamma, I think Topsy is different from what she used to be, she's trying to be a good girl."
"She'll have to try a good while before she gets to be good," said Marie, with a careless laugh.
"Mamma, yon believe, don't you, that Topsy could become an angel, as well as any of us, if she were a Christian?"
"Topsy! what a ridiculous idea! Nobody but you would ever think of it. I suppose she could, though."
"It's such a pity;—oh! such a pity!" said Eva, looking out on the distant lake, and speaking half to herself.
"What's a pity?" said Marie.
"Why, that any one, who could be a bright angel, and
live with angels, should go all down, down, down, and nobody help them!—oh, dear!"
"Mamma," said Eva, "I want to have some of my hair cut off,—a good deal of it."
"What for?" said Marie.
"Mamma, I want, to give some away to my friends, while I am able to give it to them myself. Won't you ask aunty to come and cut it for me?"
"What's that," said St. Clare, who just then entered. "Papa, I just want Aunty to cut off some of my hair; I want to give some of it away."
Miss Ophelia came, with her scissors.
St. Clare closed his lips, and stood gloomily eyeing the long, beautiful curls, which, as they were separated from the child's head, were laid, one by one, in her lap. She raised them up, looked earnestly at them, twined them around her thin fingers, and looked, from time to time, anxiously at her father.
Marie lay back on a lounge, and covered her face with her cambric handkerchief.
Eva's clear blue eye looked earnestly from one to the other. It was evident she saw, felt, and appreciated, the difference between the two. Her father came, and sat down by her.
"Papa, my strength fades away every day, and I know I must go. I want to see all our people together. I have some things I must say to them," said Eva.
Miss Ophelia dispatched a messenger, and soon the whole of the servants were convened in the room.
Eva lay back on her pillows; her hair hanging loosely about her face, her crimson cheeks contrasting painfully with the intense whiteness of her complexion.
Then she raised herself, and looked long and earnestly round at every one.
"I sent for you all, my dear friends," said Eya, "because I love you. I love you all; and I have something to say to you, which I want you always to remember. . . . . I am going to leave you. In a few more weeks, you will see me no more—"
Here the child was interrupted by bursts of groans, sobs, and lamentations, which broke from all present, and in which her slender voice was lost entirely. She waited a moment, and then, speaking in a tone that checked the sobs of all, she said,
"If you love me, you must not interrupt me so. Listen to what I
say. I want to speak to you about your souls. . . . . Many of you, I
am afraid, are very careless. You are thinking only about this world.
I want you to re-
member that there is a beautiful world, where Jesus is. I am going there, and you can go there. It is for you, as much as me. But, if you want to go there, you must not live idle, careless, thoughtless lives. You must be Christians. You must remember that each one of you can become angels, and be angels forever. . . . . If you want to be Christians, Jesus will help you. You must pray to him; you must read—"
The child checked herself, looked piteously at them, and said, sorrowfully,
"O, dear! you can't read,—poor souls!" and she hid her face in the pillow and sobbed, while many a smothered sob from those she was addressing, who were kneeling on the floor, aroused her.
"Never mind," she said, raising her face and smiling brightly through her tears, "I have prayed for you; and I know Jesus will help you, even if you can't read. Try all to do the best you can; pray every day; ask Him to help you, and get the Bible read to you whenever you can; and I think I shall see you all in heaven."
"Amen," was the murmured response from the lips of Tom and Mammy, and some of the elder ones, who belonged to the Methodist church. The younger and more thoughtless ones were sobbing, with their heads bowed upon their knees.
"There isn't one of you that hasn't always been very kind to me; and I want to give you something that, when you look at, you shall always remember me. I'm going to give all of you a curl of my hair; and, when you look at it, think that I loved you and am gone to heaven, and that I want to see you all there."
It is impossible to describe the scene, as, with tears and sobs, they gathered round the little creature, and took from her hands what seemed to them a last mark of her love. They fell on their knees; they sobbed, and prayed, and kissed the hem of her garment; and the elder ones poured forth words of endearment, mingled in prayers and blessings.
St. Clare had been sitting, during the whole time, with his hands shading his eyes, in the same attitude. When they were all gone, he sat so still.
"Papa!" said Eva, gently, laying her hand on his.
He gave a sudden start and shiver; but made no answer. "Dear papa!" said Eva.
"I cannot," said St. Clare, rising, "I cannot have it so! The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me!" and St. Clare pronounced these words with a bitter emphasis, indeed.
"Augustine! has not God a right to do what He will with his own?" said Miss Ophelia.
"Perhaps so; but that doesn't make it any easier to bear," said he, with a dry, hard, tearless manner, as he turned away.
"Papa, you break my heart!" said Eva, rising and throwing herself in his arms; "you must not feel so!" and the child sobbed and wept with a violence which alarmed them all, and turned her father's thoughts at once to another channel.
"There, Eva,—there, dearest! Hush! hush! I was wrong; I was wicked. I will feel any way, do any way, only don't distress yourself; don't sob so. I will be resigned; I was wicked to speak as I did."
Eva soon lay like a wearied dove in her father's arms; and he, bending over her, soothed her by every tender word he could think of.
Marie rose and threw herself out of the apartment into her own, when she fell into violent hysterics.
Uncle Tom was much in Eva's room. The child suffered much from nervous restlessness, and it was a relief to her to be carried; and it was Tom's greatest delight to carry her little frail form in his arms, resting on a pillow, now up and down her room, now out into the verandah; and when the fresh sea-breezes blew—and the child felt freshest in the morning,—he would sometimes walk with her under the orange-trees in the garden, or, sitting down in some of their old seats, sing to her their favorite old hymns.
At last he would not sleep in his room, but lay all night in the outer verandah, ready to rouse at every call.
At midnight, the door of Eva's room was quickly opened. "Go for the doctor, Tom! lose not a moment," said Miss Ophelia; and, stepping across the room, she rapped at St. Clare's door. "Cousin," she said, "I wish you would come."
In a few moments, Tom returned, with the doctor. He entered, gave one look, and stood silent as the rest. Marie roused by the entrance of the doctor, appeared, hurriedly, from the next room.
"Augustine! Cousin!—O!—what!" she hurriedly began.
"Hush!" said St. Clare, hoarsely; "she is dying!"
Mammy heard the words, and flew to awaken the servants. The house
was soon roused,—lights were seen,
footsteps heard, anxious faces thronged the verandah, and looked tearfully through the glass door; but St. Clare heard and said nothing,—he saw only that look on the face of the little sleeper.
"O, if she would only wake, and speak once more!" he said; and, stooping over her, he spoke in her ear,—"Eva, darling!"
"Dear papa," said the child, with a, last effort, throwing her arms about his neck. In a moment they dropped again; and, as St. Clare raised his head, he saw a spasm of mortal agony pass over the face,—she struggled for breath, and threw up her little hands.
"O, God, this is dreadful!" he said. turning away in agony, and wringing Tom's hand, scarce conscious what he was doing, "O, Tom, my boy, it is killing me!"
Tom had his master's hands between his own; and, with tears streaming down his dark cheeks, looked up for help where he had always been used to look.
"Pray that this may be cut short!" said St. Clare, "this wrings my heart."
"O, bless the Lord! its over,—it's over, dear Master!" said Tom; "look at her."
"Eva," said St. Clare, gently. She did not hear.
"O, Eva, tell us what you see! What is it?" said her father.
A bright, a glorious smile passed over her face, and she said, brokenly,—"O! love,—joy,—peace!" gave one sigh, and passed from death unto life!