Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/451

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I well remember Aunt Mary’s first arrival in Elmwood. For two or three weeks it had been rumoured that the cottage on the hill was to receive a new tenant. Some slight repairs were going on, and some one had seen a wagon, loaded with furniture, unladen at the door. This was enough to excite village curiosity; and when we assembled in the church, the next Sabbath, I fear that more than one eye wandered from the pulpit to the door, to catch the first glimpse of our new neighbour. Just as our old pastor was commencing the morning service, a lady, entirely unattended, came slowly up the aisle, and entered the pew designated by the sexton. Her tall and graceful figure was robed in deepest black, and it was evident that grief, rather than years, had dimmed the brightness of her eye, and driven the rich colouring of youth and health from her cheek. But there was something in the quiet, subdued glance of those large, thoughtful eyes, in the intellect that seemed throned upon her lofty forehead, and in the sweet and tender expression that played around her small and delicately formed mouth, that more than compensated for the absence of youthful bloom and freshness. I did not think of these things then; but, child that I was, after one glance I shrank back in my seat, awe struck and abashed by the dignity of her bearing. Yet when she rose from her knees, and I caught another glimpse of her pale face, my little heart seemed drawn towards her by some powerful spell; and after service was concluded, as we passed down the aisle side by side, I timidly placed in her hand a wild rose I had gathered on my way to church. She took it with a smile, and in a sweet low voice thanked me for the simple gift. Our homes lay in the same direction, and ere we reached my father’s gate I imagined myself well acquainted with Miss Atherton.

From that hour my visits to Hillside Cottage were neither “few” nor “far between.” My parents laughed at my enthusiastic praises of my new friend; but they soon became assured that they were well grounded: and it was not long before the answer, “Oh, she has only gone to see Aunt Mary,” was the most satisfactory one that could be given to the oft-repeated query, “Where in the world has Jessie gone now?”