+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

                   THE WOMAN IN WHITE.


WHEN I reached home again, after my interview
with Mrs. Clements, I was struck by the
appearance of a change in Laura.

The unvarying gentleness and patience which
long misfortune had tried so cruelly and had
never conquered yet, seemed now to have
suddenly failed her. Insensible to all Marian's
attempts to soothe and amuse her, she sat, with
her neglected drawing pushed away on the table;
her eyes resolutely cast down, her fingers twining
and untwining themselves restlessly in her lap.
Marian rose when I came in, with a silent
distress in her face; waited for a moment, to see
if Laura would look up at my approach;
whispered to me, "Try if you can rouse her;" and
left the room.

I sat down in the vacant chair; gently unclasp
the poor, worn, restless fingers; and took
both her hands in mine.

"What are you thinking of, Laura? Tell
me, my darlingtry and tell me what it is."

She struggled with herself, and raised her eyes
to mine. "I can't feel happy," she said; "I
can't help thinking——"  She stopped, bent
forward a little, and laid her head on my shoulder,
with a terrible mute helplessness that struck me
to the heart.

"Try to tell me," I repeated, gently; "try
to tell me why you are not happy."
"I am so useless—— I am such a burden on both
of you," she answered, with a weary, hopeless
sigh. "You work and get money, Walter; and
Marian helps you. Why is there nothing I can
do? You will end in liking Marian better than
you like meyou will, because I am so helpless!
Oh, don't, don't, don't treat me like a

I raised her head, and smoothed away the
tangled hair that fell over her face, and kissed
hermy poor, faded flower! my lost, afflicted
sister! "You shall help us, Laura," I said;
"you shall begin, my darling, to-day."

She looked at me with a feverish eagerness,
with a breathless interest, that made me tremble
for the new life of hope which I had called into
being by those few words.

I rose, and set her drawing materials in order,
and placed them near her again.

"You know that I work and get money by
drawing," I said. "Now you have taken such
pains, now you are so much improved, you shall
begin to work and get money, too. Try to finish
this little sketch as nicely and prettily as you
can. When it is done, I will take it away with
me; and the same person will buy it who buys
all that I do. You shall keep your own earnings
in your own purse; and Marian shall come to
you to help her, as often as she comes to me.
Think how useful you are going to make yourself
to both of us, and you will soon be as happy,
Laura, as the day is long."

Her face grew eager, and brightened into a
smile. In the moment while it lasted, in the
moment when she again took up the pencils
that had been laid aside, she almost looked
like the Laura of past days. I had not
misinterpreted the first signs of a new growth and
strength in her mind, unconsciously expressing
themselves in the notice she had taken of the
occupations which filled her sister's life and mine,
and in the inference that she had truly drawn
from them for herself. Marian (when I told
her what had passed) saw, as I saw, that she
was longing to assume her own little position of
importance, to raise herself in her own estimation
and in oursand, from that day, we tenderly
helped the new ambition which gave promise
of the hopeful, happier future, that might
now not be far off. Her drawings, as she finished
them, or tried to finish them, were placed in my
hands; Marian took them from me and hid them
carefully; and I set aside a little weekly tribute
from my earnings, to be offered to her as the
price paid by strangers for the poor, faint,
valueless sketches, of which I was the only
purchaser. It was hard sometimes to maintain our
innocent deception, when she proudly brought
out her purse to contribute her share towards
the expenses, and wondered, with serious interest,
whether I or she had earned the most that
week. I have all those hidden drawings in my
possession still: they are my treasures beyond
pricethe dear remembrances that I love to
keep alivethe friends, in past adversity, that
my heart will never part from, my tenderness
never forget.

Am I trifling, here, with the necessities of my
task?  Am I looking forward to the happier time
which my narrative has not yet reached? Yes.
Back againback to the days of doubt and
dread, when the spirit within me struggled hard