Anna T. Sadlier

by Anna T. Sadlier

Arabella stood thoughtfully there on that ridge of land, where the brown earth was studded with daisies and mulleins, the common children of the soil. The sky was a clear gold at the horizon, and Arabella, gazing thereon, pondered on something she had just heard. She had suddenly become an heiress. She looked down on her plain, brown frock, at her coarse shoes, and at her hands roughened by work about the house. She had been the orphan, the charity-child, and now--
Her gaze slowly turned from the golden skies to the house, wherein she had spent her childish years. It was large, barn-like, of a dull, cheerless brown, altogether bare and uninviting. The glint of the sun shone upon the attic window of the room wherein she had been lodged. It was the one spot which she regarded with affection. It represented home. Her eyes rested there now, wistfully, with something of longing and of affection. As she stood thus, she heard a voice calling and went slowly towards the house. There was Mrs. Christie waiting for her with a new expression upon her rugged face and a look in the dull eyes as if a light had been suddenly kindled there.
"Arabella," she called, "come in and eat your dinner. We'll have to go to the city this afternoon."
Arabella glanced at her quickly. Her breath came fast. She had never been to the city; she had always longed painfully to go, since to her it was a wonderland. Yet she felt a sudden catch in her throat. She thought, perhaps, she was going forever, and she remembered vividly, painfully, her familiar little room, bare and miserable though it was, her one friend, a woolly, brown-haired dog, and the woods and fields, whither she went in her few leisure hours. She asked, therefore, with something of a gasp in her voice "Not-- not for always?"
The woman looked at her curiously as she answered curtly "No, not for always."
Arabella without further remark followed her passively into the dining-room, where the table was laid as usual, with thick, crockery cups, chipped and otherwise unsightly, and where Silas Christie already sat, heavy-featured and taciturn, taking no manner of notice of the child. Even the recent change in her fortunes had excited no apparent interest in him. In the long years of his residence there he had grown in some sort to resemble those clods of earth upon which he daily worked during the long, summer months. Of late years he scarcely ever read the daily papers. He merely existed. The amount which he made yearly from his farming sufficed to give him a rude sort of comfort. He asked no more.
With Mrs. Christie it was otherwise. True, she, too, had been dulled by the dreary monotone of her cheerless existence. But within her smouldered, as sparks amongst ashes, some fire of imagination, some gleam of her old, girlish enthusiasm.
Arabella had suddenly become to her an object of keen interest, as if a gold mine with more or less limited possibilities had been suddenly discovered upon their premises. She began to dream dreams, realizing as Arabella had not yet done, the power of wealth. Long dead visions woke within her of a black silk dress, a velvet hat with feathers, and other finery wherewith to dazzle the neighbors. She had almost given up church, partly for reasons connected with her wardrobe, though, in fact, the neighbors mostly frequented every other place of worship than the Catholic. Still, the churchward road lay in the direction of many of the homesteads and she saw herself mentally proceeding there, resplendent. This was her one weakness. Otherwise she was a woman of unusual and unbending strength of character, which had lent her a certain hardness.
Arabella devoured her share of the boiled beef and potatoes, and the coarse bread, washed down with water. Then she helped as usual with the dishes, after which she was bidden to go and make ready for the journey. Her little room had an oddly unfamiliar aspect that day. She looked around at the rough, unpainted washstand and chairs, the deal table, and that rudely-contrived recess in the corner for her clothes, hidden by a faded curtain.
She proceeded presently to that receptacle, after the other preliminaries of her toilet, and took down her best jacket and skirt. They were of a nondescript color, and scarcely less shabby than the brown frock she was wearing. She surveyed them with complacency, however, her untrained eye failing to note their deficiencies. As she dressed, she regarded affectionately her few treasures-- two or three colored prints cut out of a Christmas newspaper and stuck upon the wall; a cardboard box with a glass cover, enshrining a rose, which had been a birthday gift
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