"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?"
Marie raised her voice, and called Miss Ophelia, from the other room.
The child half rose from her pillow as she came in, and, shaking down her long golden-brown curls, said, rather playfully, "Come aunty, shear the sheep!"
"What's that?" said St. Clare, who just then entered with some fruit he had been out to get for her.
"Papa, I just want aunty to cut off some of my hair; — there's too much of it, and it makes my head hot. Besides, I want to give some of it away."
Miss Ophelia came, with her scissors.
"Take care, — don't spoil the looks of it!" said her father; "cut underneath, where it won't show. Eva's curls are my pride."
"O, papa!" said Eva, sadly.
"Yes, and I want them kept handsome against the time I take you up to your uncle's plantation, to see Cousin Henrique," said St. Clare, in a gay tone.
"I shall never go there, papa; — I am going to a better country. O, do believe me! Don't you see, papa, that I get weaker, every day?"
"Why do you insist that I shall believe such a cruel thing, Eva?" said her father.
"Only because it is true, papa: and, if you will believe it now, perhaps you will get to feel about it as I do."
St. Clare closed his lips, and stood gloomily eying 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.
"It's just what I've been foreboding!" said Marie; "it's just what has been preying on my health, from day to day, bringing me downward to the grave, though nobody regards it. I have seen this, long. St. Clare, you will see, after a while, that I was right."
"Which will afford you great consolation, no doubt!" said St. Clare, in a dry, bitter tone.
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 the calm, comprehending gaze of a soul half loosed from its earthly bonds; it was evident she saw, felt, and appreciated, the difference between the two.
She beckoned with her hand to her father. He came and sat down by her.
"Papa, my strength fades away every day, and I know I must go. There are some things I want to say and do, — that I ought to do; and you are so unwilling to have me speak a word on this subject. But it must come; there's no putting it off. Do be willing I should speak now!"
"My child, I am willing!" said St. Clare, covering his eyes with one hand, and holding up Eva's hand with the other.
"Then, I want to see all our people together. I have some things I must say to them," said Eva.
"Well," said St. Clare, in a tone of dry endurance.
Miss Ophelia despatched 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 and the thin contour of her limbs and features, and her large, soul-like eyes fixed earnestly on every one.
The servants were struck with a sudden emotion. The spiritual face, the long locks of hair cut off and lying by her, her father's averted face, and Marie's sobs, struck at once upon the feelings of a sensitive and impressible race; and, as they came in, they looked one on another, sighed, and shook their heads. There was a deep silence, like that of a funeral.
Eva raised herself, and looked long and earnestly round at every one. All looked sad and apprehensive. Many of the women hid their faces in their aprons.
"I sent for you all, my dear friends," said Eva, "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 remember 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, for the time completely overcome, were sobbing, with their heads bowed upon their knees.
"I know," said Eva, "you all love me."
"Yes; oh, yes! indeed we do! Lord bless her!" was the involuntary answer of all.
"Yes, I know you do! 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, after the manner of their susceptible race.