"Well, papa, you can do everything, and are everything to me. You read to me, — you sit up nights, — and Tom has only this one thing, and his singing; and I know, too, he does it easier than you can. He carries me so strong!"
The desire to do something was not confined to Tom. Every servant in the establishment showed the same feeling, and in their way did what they could.
Poor Mammy's heart yearned towards her darling; but she found no opportunity, night or day, as Marie declared that the state of her mind was such, it was impossible for her to rest; and, of course, it was against her principles to let any one else rest. Twenty times in a night, Mammy would be roused to rub her feet, to bathe her head, to find her pocket-handkerchief, to see what the noise was in Eva's room, to let down a curtain because it was too light, or to put it up because it was too dark; and, in the daytime, when she longed to have some share in the nursing of her pet, Marie seemed unusually ingenious in keeping her busy anywhere and everywhere all over the house, or about her own person; so that stolen interviews and momentary glimpses were all she could obtain.
"I feel it my duty to be particularly careful of myself, now," she would say, "feeble as I am, and with the whole care and nursing of that dear child upon me."
"Indeed, my dear," said St. Clare, "I thought our cousin relieved you of that."
"You talk like a man, St. Clare, — just as if a mother could be relieved of the care of a child in that state; but, then, it's all alike, — no one ever knows what I feel! I can't throw things off, as you do."
St. Clare smiled. You must excuse him, he couldn't help it, — for St. Clare could smile yet. For so bright and placid was the farewell voyage of the little spirit, — by such sweet and fragrant breezes was the small bark borne towards the heavenly shores, — that it was impossible to realize that it was death that was approaching. The child felt no pain, — only a tranquil, soft weakness, daily and almost insensibly increasing; and she was so beautiful, so loving, so trustful, so happy, that one could not resist the soothing influence of that air of innocence and peace which seemed to breathe around her. St. Clare found a strange calm coming over him. It was not hope, — that was impossible; it was not resignation; it was only a calm resting in the present, which seemed so beautiful that he wished to think of no future. It was like that hush of spirit which we feel amid the bright, mild woods of autumn, when the bright hectic flush is on the trees, and the last lingering flowers by the brook; and we joy in it all the more, because we know that soon it will all pass away.
The friend who knew most of Eva's own imaginings and foreshadowings was her faithful bearer, Tom. To him she said what she would not disturb her father by saying. To him she imparted those mysterious intimations which the soul feels, as the cords begin to unbind, ere it leaves its clay forever.
Tom, at last, would not sleep in his room, but lay all night in the outer verandah, ready to rouse at every call.
"Uncle Tom, what alive have you taken to sleeping anywhere and everywhere, like a dog, for?" said Miss Ophelia. "I thought you was one of the orderly sort, that liked to lie in bed in a Christian way."
"I do, Miss Feely," said Tom, mysteriously. "I do, but now — "
"Well, what now?"
"We mustn't speak loud; Mas'r St. Clare won't hear on 't; but Miss Feely, you know there must be somebody watchin' for the bridegroom."
"What do you mean, Tom?"
"You know it says in Scripture, 'At midnight there was a great cry made. Behold, the bridegroom cometh.' That's what I'm spectin now, every night, Miss Feely, — and I couldn't sleep out o' hearin, no ways."
"Why, Uncle Tom, what makes you think so?"
"Miss Eva, she talks to me. The Lord, he sends his messenger in the soul. I must be thar, Miss Feely; for when that ar blessed child goes into the kingdom, they'll open the door so wide, we'll all get a look in at the glory, Miss Feely."
"Uncle Tom, did Miss Eva say she felt more unwell than usual tonight?"
"No; but she telled me, this morning, she was coming nearer, — thar's them that tells it to the child, Miss Feely. It's the angels, — 'it's the trumpet sound afore the break o' day,'" said Tom, quoting from a favorite hymn.
This dialogue passed between Miss Ophelia and Tom, between ten and eleven, one evening, after her arrangements had all been made for the night, when, on going to bolt her outer door, she found Tom stretched along by it, in the outer verandah.
She was not nervous or impressible; but the solemn, heart-felt manner struck her. Eva had been unusually bright and cheerful, that afternoon, and had sat raised in her bed, and looked over all her little trinkets and precious things, and designated the friends to whom she would have them given; and her manner was more animated, and her voice more natural, than they had known it for weeks. Her father had been in, in the evening, and had said that Eva appeared more like her former self than ever she had done since her sickness; and when he kissed her for the night, he said to Miss Ophelia, — "Cousin, we may keep her with us, after all; she is certainly better;" and he had retired with a lighter heart in his bosom than he had had there for weeks.
But at midnight, — strange, mystic hour! — when the veil between the frail present and the eternal future grows thin, — then came the messenger!
There was a sound in that chamber, first of one who stepped quickly. It was Miss Ophelia, who had resolved to sit up all night with her little charge, and who, at the turn of the night, had discerned what experienced nurses significantly call "a change." The outer door was quickly opened, and Tom, who was watching outside, was on the alert, in a moment.
"Go for the doctor, Tom! lose not a moment," said Miss Ophelia; and, stepping across the room, she rapped at St. Clare's door.
"Cousin," she said, "I wish you would come."
Those words fell on his heart like clods upon a coffin. Why did they? He was up and in the room in an instant, and bending over Eva, who still slept.
What was it he saw that made his heart stand still? Why was no word spoken between the two? Thou canst say, who hast seen that same expression on the face dearest to thee; — that look indescribable, hopeless, unmistakable, that says to thee that thy beloved is no longer thine.
On the face of the child, however, there was no ghastly imprint, — only a high and almost sublime expression, — the overshadowing presence of spiritual natures, the dawning of immortal life in that childish soul.
They stood there so still, gazing upon her, that even the ticking of the watch seemed too loud. In a few moments, Tom returned, with the doctor. He entered, gave one look, and stood silent as the rest.