As each one took their gift, Miss Ophelia, who was apprehensive for the effect of all this excitement on her little patient, signed to each one to pass out of the apartment.
At last, all were gone but Tom and Mammy.
"Here, Uncle Tom," said Eva, "is a beautiful one for you. O, I am so happy, Uncle Tom, to think I shall see you in heaven, — for I'm sure I shall; and Mammy, — dear, good, kind Mammy!" she said, fondly throwing her arms round her old nurse, — "I know you'll be there, too."
"O, Miss Eva, don't see how I can live without ye, no how!" said the faithful creature. "'Pears like it's just taking everything off the place to oncet!" and Mammy gave way to a passion of grief.
Miss Ophelia pushed her and Tom gently from the apartment, and thought they were all gone; but, as she turned, Topsy was standing there.
"Where did you start up from?" she said, suddenly.
"I was here," said Topsy, wiping the tears from her eyes. "O, Miss Eva, I've been a bad girl; but won't you give me one, too?"
"Yes, poor Topsy! to be sure, I will. There — every time you look at that, think that I love you, and wanted you to be a good girl!"
"O, Miss Eva, I is tryin!" said Topsy, earnestly; "but, Lor, it's so hard to be good! 'Pears like I an't used to it, no ways!"
"Jesus knows it, Topsy; he is sorry for you; he will help you."
Topsy, with her eyes hid in her apron, was silently passed from the apartment by Miss Ophelia; but, as she went, she hid the precious curl in her bosom.
All being gone, Miss Ophelia shut the door. That worthy lady had wiped away many tears of her own, during the scene; but concern for the consequence of such an excitement to her young charge was uppermost in her mind.
St. Clare had been sitting, during the whole time, with his hand 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 into 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.
"You didn't give me a curl, Eva," said her father, smiling sadly.
"They are all yours, papa," said she, smiling — "yours and mamma's; and you must give dear aunty as many as she wants. I only gave them to our poor people myself, because you know, papa, they might be forgotten when I am gone, and because I hoped it might help them remember. . . . You are a Christian, are you not, papa?" said Eva, doubtfully.
"Why do you ask me?"
"I don't know. You are so good, I don't see how you can help it."
"What is being a Christian, Eva?"
"Loving Christ most of all," said Eva.
"Do you, Eva?"
"Certainly I do."
"You never saw him," said St. Clare.
"That makes no difference," said Eva. "I believe him, and in a few days I shall see him;" and the young face grew fervent, radiant with joy.
St. Clare said no more. It was a feeling which he had seen before in his mother; but no chord within vibrated to it.
Eva, after this, declined rapidly; there was no more any doubt of the event; the fondest hope could not be blinded. Her beautiful room was avowedly a sick room; and Miss Ophelia day and night performed the duties of a nurse, — and never did her friends appreciate her value more than in that capacity. With so well-trained a hand and eye, such perfect adroitness and practice in every art which could promote neatness and comfort, and keep out of sight every disagreeable incident of sickness, — with such a perfect sense of time, such a clear, untroubled head, such exact accuracy in remembering every prescription and direction of the doctors, — she was everything to him. They who had shrugged their shoulders at her little peculiarities and setnesses, so unlike the careless freedom of southern manners, acknowledged that now she was the exact person that was wanted.
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 from the lake, — 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.
Her father often did the same thing; but his frame was slighter, and when he was weary, Eva would say to him,
"O, papa, let Tom take me. Poor fellow! it pleases him; and you know it's all he can do now, and he wants to do something!"
"So do I, Eva!" said her father.