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   Chapter 23 No.23

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 9308

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


MISS SABRINA'S first letters had been so full of grief that they had been vague; to her there had been but the one fact: Ferdie was dead.

She had become much attached to him. There was nothing strange in this; both as boy and as man, Ferdinand Morrison had been deeply loved by many. The poor woman knew his fault (she thought it his only one), for the judge had written an account of all that had happened, and the reasons for Cicely's flight. Nevertheless she loved this prodigal as the prodigal is often so dearly loved by the woman whose heart is pierced the most deeply by his excesses-his mother. And Miss Sabrina, as regarded her devotion, might indeed have been Ferdie's mother; something in him roused the dormant maternal feeling-the maternal passion-which existed in her heart unknown to herself. She did not comprehend what it was that was disturbing her so much, and yet at the same time making her so happy-she did not comprehend that it was stifled nature asserting itself at this late day; the circumstances of her life had made her a gentle, conciliatory old maid; she was not in the least aware that as a mother she could have been a tigress in the defence of her sons. For she was a woman who would have rejoiced in her sons; daughters would never have been important to her.

She thought that she was perfectly reasonable about Ferdie. No, Cicely must not come back to him for the present; baby too-darling little boy!-he must be kept away; and oh! how terrible that flight through the woods, and the escape in the boat; she thought of it every night with tremors. Yet, in spite of all, she loved the man who had caused these griefs. His illness made him dependent upon her, and his voice calling her name in peremptory tones, like those of a spoiled child-this was the sweetest sound her ears had ever heard. He would reform, all her hopes and plans were based upon that; she went about with prayer on her lips from morning till night-prayer for him.

When his last breath had been drawn, it seemed to her as if the daily life of the world must have stopped too, outside of the darkened chamber; as if people could not go on eating and drinking, and the sun go on shining, with Ferdie dead. She was able to keep her place at the head of the household until after the funeral; then she became the prey of an illness which, though quiet and unobtrusive, like everything else connected with her, was yet sufficiently persistent to confine her to her bed. Nanny Singleton, who had come to Romney every day, rowed by Boliver, now came again, this time to stay; she took possession of the melancholy house, re-established order after her inexact fashion, and then devoted herself to nursing her friend.

Two of Nanny Singleton's letters.

Letter number one:

"ROMNEY, Friday evening.

"DEAR JUDGE,-I feel that we have been very remiss in not sending to you sooner the details of this heart-breaking event. But we have been so afflicted ourselves with the unexpectedness of it all, with the funeral, and with dear Sabrina's illness, that we have been somewhat negligent. We feel, Rupert and I, that we have lost not only one who was personally dear to us, but also the most fascinating, the most brilliant, the most thoroughly engaging young man whom it has ever been our good-fortune to meet. Such a death is a public calamity, and you, his nearest and dearest, must admit us (as well as many, many others) to that circle of mourning friends who esteemed him highly, admired him inexpressibly, and loved him sincerely for the unusually charming qualities he possessed.

"Our dearest Sabrina told us all the particulars the morning after his death, for of course we came directly to her as soon as we heard what had happened. He had been making, as you probably know, a visit in Savannah; Dr. Knox had accompanied him, or perhaps it was that he joined him there; at any rate, it was Dr. Knox who brought him home. It seems that he had overestimated his strength-so natural in a young man!-and he arrived much exhausted; so much so, indeed, that the doctor thought it better that dear Sabrina should not see him that evening. And the next day she only saw him once, and from across the room; he was alarmingly pale, and did not open his eyes; Dr. Knox said that he must not try to speak. It was the next morning at dawn that the doctor came to her door and told Powlyne to waken her. (But she was not asleep.) 'He is going, if you wish to come;' this was all he said. Dear Sabrina, greatly agitated, threw on her wrapper over her night-dress, and hastened to the bedside of the dear boy. He lay in a stupor, he did not know

her; and in less than half an hour his breath ceased. She prayed for him during the interval, she knelt down and prayed aloud; it was a wonder that she had the strength to do it when a soul so dear to her was passing. When it had taken flight, she closed his eyes, and made all orderly about him. And she kissed him for Cicely, she told me.

"The funeral she arranged herself in every detail. Receiving no replies to her despatches to you, she was obliged to use her own judgment; she had confessed to me in the beginning that she much wished to have him buried here at Romney, in the little circle of her loved ones, and not hearing from you to the contrary, she decided to do this; he lies beside your brother Marmaduke. Our friends came from all the islands near and far; there must have been sixty persons in all, many bringing flowers. Dr. Knox stayed with us until after the funeral-that is, until day before yesterday; then he took his leave of us, and went to Charleston by the evening boat. He seems a most excellent young man. And if he strikes us as a little cold, no doubt it is simply that, being a Northerner, and not a man of much cultivation, he could not appreciate fully Ferdie's very remarkable qualities. Dear old Dr. Daniels, who has been in Virginia for several weeks, has now returned; he comes over every day to see Sabrina. He tells me that her malady is intermittent fever-a mild form; the only point is to keep her strength up, and this we endeavor to do with chickens. I will remain here as long as I can be of the slightest service, and you may rest assured that everything possible is being done.

"I trust darling Cicely is not burdened by the many letters we have written to her-my own four, and Rupert's three, as well as those of her other friends on the islands about here. All wished to write, and we did not know how to say no.

"With love to Miss Bruce, I am, dear judge, your attached and sorrowing friend,

NANNY SINGLETON."

Letter number two:

"ROMNEY, Saturday Morning.

"MY DEAR MR. TENNANT,-My husband has just received your letter, and as he is much crippled by his rheumatism this morning, he desires me to answer it immediately, so that there may be no delay.

"We both supposed that Dr. Knox had written to you. Probably while he was here there were so many things to take up his time that he could not; and I happen to know that as soon as he reached Charleston, day before yesterday, he was met by this unexpected proposition to join a private yacht for a cruise of several months; one of the conditions was that he was to go on board immediately (they sailed the same evening), and I dare say he had time for nothing but his own preparations, and that you will hear from him later. My husband says, however, that he can give you all the details of the case, which was a simple one. Your brother overestimated his strength, he should not have attempted that journey to Savannah; it was too soon, for his wound had not healed, and the fatigue brought on a dangerous relapse, from which he could not rally. He died from the effects of that cruel shot, Mr. Tennant; his valuable life has fallen a sacrifice (in my husband's opinion) to the present miserable condition of our poor State, where the blacks, our servants, who are like little children and need to be led as such,-where these poor ignorant creatures are put over us, their former masters; are rewarded with office; are intrusted with dangerous weapons-a liberty which in this case has proved fatal to one of the higher race. It seems to my husband as if the death of Ferdinand Morrison should be held up as a marked warning to the entire North; this very superior, talented, and engaging young man has fallen by the bullet of a negro, and my husband says that in his opinion the tale should be told everywhere, on the steps of court-houses and in churches, and the question should be solemnly asked, Shall such things continue?-shall the servant rule his lord?

"We are much alarmed by the few words in Judge Abercrombie's letter (received this morning) concerning our darling Cicely, and we beg you to send us a line daily. Or perhaps Miss Bruce would do it, knowing our anxiety? I pray that the dear child, whom we all so fondly love, may be better very soon; but I will be anxious until I hear.

"As I sent a long letter to the judge last evening, I will not add more to this. Our sympathy, dear Mr. Tennant, with your irreparable loss is heartfelt; you do not need our assurances of that, I know.

"Mr. Singleton desires me to present his respects. And I beg to remain your obedient servant,

N. SINGLETON."

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