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Hentz, Caroline Lee / Helen and Arthur or, Miss Thusa's Spinning Wheel
(This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)





Transcriber's Note

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. A list of changes is
found at the end of this text. A small number of words were spelled
or hyphenated inconsistently. These inconsistencies have been maintained
and a list is found at the end of the text.




HELEN AND ARTHUR;

OR,

Miss Thusa's Spinning Wheel.

BY

MRS. CAROLINE LEE HENTZ.

AUTHOR OF "LINDA," "COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE," "PLANTER'S NORTHERN BRIDE,"
"LOVE AFTER MARRIAGE," "EOLINE," "RENA," ETC.

_Complete in one large volume, bound in cloth, price One Dollar and
Twenty-five cents, or in two volumes, paper cover, for One Dollar._

READ WHAT SOME OF THE LEADING EDITORS SAY OF IT:

"This book, by one of the most popular authors in the country, has been
issued in the publisher's very best style. There are but few readers of
the current literature of the day, who are not acquainted with the name,
and the stories of this authoress. Her style is a pleasing one, and her
stories usually strongly marked in incident. The volume now published
abounds with the most beautiful scenic descriptions, and displays an
intimate acquaintance with all phases of human character; all the
characters being exceedingly well drawn. The moral is of a most
wholesome character, and the plot, incidents, and management, give
evidence of great tact, skill and judgment, on the part of the writer.
It is a work which the oldest and the youngest may alike read with
profit."--_Dollar Newspaper._

"It is a tale of Southern life, where Mrs. Hentz is peculiarly at home,
and so far as we have had time to examine it, it gives proofs of
possessing all the excellencies that have already made her writings so
popular throughout the country. The sound, healthy tone of all Mrs.
Hentz's tales makes them safe as well as delightful reading, and we can
safely and warmly recommend it to all who delight in agreeable fictions.
Mr. Peterson has published it in a beautifully printed volume."--_Evening
Bulletin._

"A story of domestic life, written in Mrs. Hentz's best vein. The
details of the plot are skilfully elaborated, and many passages are
deeply pathetic."--_Commercial Advertiser._

MRS. CAROLINE LEE HENTZ'S OTHER WORKS.

T. B. Peterson having purchased the stereotype plates of all the
writings of Mrs. Hentz, he has just published a new, uniform and
beautiful edition of all her works, printed on a much finer and better
paper, and in far superior and better style to what they have ever
before been issued in, (all in uniform style with Helen and Arthur,)
copies of any one or all of which will be sent to any place in the
United States, free of postage, on receipt of remittances. Each book
contains a beautiful illustration of one of the best scenes. The
following are the names of these celebrated works:

LINDA. THE YOUNG PILOT OF THE BELLE CREOLE. Complete in two volumes,
paper cover, price One Dol., or bound in one volume, cloth gilt,
$1.25.

"We hail with pleasure this contribution to the literature of the South.
Works containing faithful delineations of Southern life, society, and
scenery, whether in the garb of romance or in the soberer attire of
simple narrative, cannot fail to have a salutary influence in correcting
the false impressions which prevail in regard to our people and
institutions; and our thanks are due to Mrs. Hentz for the addition she
has made to this department of our native literature. We cannot close
without expressing a hope that 'Linda' may be followed by many other
works of the same class from the pen of its gifted author."--_Southern
Literary Gazette._

"Mrs. Hentz has given us here a very delightful romance, illustrative of
life in the South-west, on a Mississippi plantation. There is a
well-wrought love-plot; the characters are well drawn; the incidents are
striking and novel; the dénouement happy, and moral excellent. Mrs.
Hentz may twine new laurels above her 'Mob Cap.'"--_Evening Bulletin._

ROBERT GRAHAM. The Sequel to, and continuation of Linda. Complete in two
large volumes, paper cover, price One Dol., or bound in one volume,
cloth gilt, $1.25.

"We cannot admire too much, nor thank Mrs. Hentz too sincerely for the
high and ennobling morality and Christian grace, which not only pervade
her entire writings, but which shine forth with undimmed beauty in the
new novel, Robert Graham. It sustains the character which is very
difficult to well delineate in a work of fiction--_a religious
missionary_. All who read the work will bear testimony to the entire
success of Mrs. Hentz."--_Boston Transcript._

"The thousands who read 'Linda, or, the Young Pilot of the Belle
Creole,' will make haste to procure a copy of this book, which is a
sequel to that history. Like all of this writer's works, it is natural
and graphic, and very entertaining."--_City Item._

"A charming novel; and in point of plot, style, and all the other
characteristics of a readable romance, it will compare favorably with
almost any of the many publications of the season."--_Literary Gazette._

RENA; or, THE SNOW BIRD. A Tale of Real Life. Complete in two volumes,
paper cover, price One Dol., or bound in one volume, cloth gilt,
$1.25.

"'Rena; or, the Snow Bird' elicits a thrill of deep and exquisite
pleasure, even exceeding that which accompanied 'Linda,' which was
generally admitted to be the best story ever written for a newspaper.
That was certainly high praise, but 'Rena' takes precedence even of its
predecessor, and, in both, Mrs. Lee Hentz has achieved a triumph of no
ordinary kind. It is not that old associations bias our judgment, for
though from the appearance, years since, of the famous 'Mob Cap' in this
paper, we formed an exalted opinion of the womanly and literary
excellence of the writer, our feelings have, in the interim, had quite
sufficient leisure to cool; yet, after the lapse of years, we have
continued to maintain the same literary devotion to this best of our
female writers. The two last productions of Mrs. Lee Hentz now fully
confirm our previously formed opinion, and we unhesitatingly commend
'Rena,' now published in book form, in beautiful style, by T. B.
Peterson, as a story which, in its varied, deep, and thrilling interest,
has no superior."--_American Courier._

THE PLANTER'S NORTHERN BRIDE. With illustrations. Complete in two large
volumes, paper cover, 600 pages, price One Dollar, or bound in one
volume, cloth gilt, $1.25.

"We have seldom been more charmed by the perusal of a novel; and we
desire to commend it to our readers in the strongest words of praise
that our vocabulary affords. The incidents are well varied; the scenes
beautifully described; and the interest admirably kept up. But the
_moral_ of the book is its highest merit. The 'Planter's Northern Bride'
should be as welcome as the dove of peace to every fireside in the
Union. It cannot be read without a moistening of the eyes, a softening
of the heart, and a mitigation of sectional and most unchristian
prejudices."--_N. Y. Mirror._

"It is unquestionably the most powerful and important, if not the most
charming work that has yet flowed from her elegant pen; and though
evidently founded upon the all-absorbing subjects of slavery and
abolitionism, the genius and skill of the fair author have developed new
views of golden argument, and flung around the whole such a halo of
pathos, interest, and beauty, as to render it every way worthy the
author of 'Linda,' 'Marcus Warland,' 'Rena,' and the numerous other
literary gems from the same author."--_American Courier._

COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE; or, THE JOYS AND SORROWS OF AMERICAN LIFE. With
a Portrait of the Author. Complete in two large volumes, paper
cover, price One Dollar, or bound in one volume, cloth gilt, $1.25.

"This work will be found, on perusal by all, to be one of the most
exciting, interesting, and popular works that has ever emanated from the
American Press. It is written in a charming style, and will elicit
through all a thrill of deep and exquisite pleasure. It is a work which
the oldest and the youngest may alike read with profit. It abounds with
the most beautiful scenic descriptions; and displays an intimate
acquaintance with all phases of human character; all the characters
being exceedingly well drawn. It is a delightful book, full of
incidents, oftentimes bold and startling, and describes the warm
feelings of the Southerner in glowing colors. Indeed, all Mrs. Hentz's
stories aptly describe Southern life, and are highly moral in their
application. In this field Mrs. Hentz wields a keen sickle, and harvests
a rich and abundant crop. It will be found in plot, incident, and
management, to be a superior work. In the whole range of elegant moral
fiction, there cannot be found any thing of more inestimable value, or
superior to this work, and it is a gem that will well repay a careful
perusal. The Publisher feels assured that it will give entire
satisfaction to all readers, encourage good taste and good morals, and
while away many leisure hours with great pleasure and profit, and be
recommended to others by all that peruse it."

MARCUS WARLAND; or, THE LONG MOSS SPRING. A Tale of the South. Complete
in two volumes, paper cover, price One Dol., or bound in one volume,
cloth gilt, $1.25.

"Every succeeding chapter of this new and beautiful nouvellette of Mrs.
Hentz increases in interest and pathos. We defy any one to read aloud
the chapters to a listening auditory, without deep emotion, or producing
many a pearly tribute to its truthfulness, pathos, and power."--_Am.
Courier._

"It is pleasant to meet now and then with a tale like this, which seems
rather like a narrative of real events than a creature of the
imagination."--_N. Y. Commercial Advertiser._

AUNT PATTY'S SCRAP BAG, together with large additions to it, written by
Mrs. Hentz, prior to her death, and never before published in any
former edition of this or any other work. Complete in two volumes,
paper cover, price One Dol., or bound in one volume, cloth gilt,
$1.25.

"We venture to assert that there is not one reader who has not been made
wiser and better by its perusal--who has not been enabled to treasure up
golden precepts of morality, virtue, and experience, as guiding
principles of their own commerce with the world."--_American Courier._

LOVE AFTER MARRIAGE; and other Stories of the Heart. Complete in two
volumes, paper cover, price One Dol., or bound in one volume, cloth
gilt, $1.25.

"This is a charming and instructive story--one of those beautiful
efforts that enchant the mind, refreshing and strengthening it."--_City
Item._

"The work before us is a charming one."--_Boston Evening Journal._

THE BANISHED SON; and other Stories of the Heart. Complete in two
volumes, paper cover, price One Dol., or bound in one volume, cloth
gilt, $1.25.

"The 'Banished Son' seems to us the _chef d'oeuvre_ of the collection.
It appeals to all the nobler sentiments of humanity, is full of action
and healthy excitement, and sets forth the best of morals."--_Charleston
News._

EOLINE; or, MAGNOLIA VALE. Complete in two volumes, paper cover, price
One Dol., or bound in one volume, cloth gilt, $1.25.

"We do not think that amongst American authors, there is one more
pleasing or more instructive than Mrs. Hentz. This novel is equal to any
which she has written."--_Cincinnati Gazette._

--> Copies of either edition of any of the foregoing works will be sent
to any person, to any part of the United States, _free of postage_, on
their remitting the price of the ones they may wish, to the publisher,
in a letter.

Published and for Sale by T. B. PETERSON,
=No. 102 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.=




[Illustration: I REMEMBER A TALE, SHE RESUMED]




HELEN AND ARTHUR;

OR,

Miss Thusa's Spinning Wheel.


BY MRS. CAROLINE LEE HENTZ.
AUTHOR OF "LINDA," "RENA," "LOVE AFTER MARRIAGE," "ROBERT
GRAHAM," "EOLINE," "COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE," ETC.


"----A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records--promises as sweet--
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles."--_Wordsworth._

"I know not, I ask not,
If guilt's in thy heart--
I but know that I love thee,
Whatever thou art."--_Moore._


Philadelphia:
T. B. PETERSON, NO. 102 CHESTNUT STREET.




Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by
DEACON & PETERSON,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States,
in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


Printed by T. K & P. G Collins.




MISS THUSA'S SPINNING-WHEEL.


CHAPTER I.

"First Fear his hand its skill to try,
Amid the chords bewildered laid--
And back recoiled, he knew not why,
E'en at the sound himself had made."--_Collins._


Little Helen sat in her long flannel night-dress, by the side of Miss
Thusa, watching the rapid turning of her wheel, and the formation of the
flaxen thread, as it glided out, a more and more attenuated filament,
betwixt the dexterous fingers of the spinner.

It was a blustering, windy night, and the window-panes rattled every now
and then, as if the glass were about to shiver in twain, while the stars
sparkled and winked coldly without, and the fire glowed warmly, and
crackled within.

Helen was seated on a low stool, so near the wheel, that several times
her short, curly hair mingled with the flax of the distaff, and came
within a hair's breadth of being twisted into thread.

"Get a little farther off, child, or I'll spin you into a spider's web,
as sure as you're alive," said Miss Thusa, dipping her fingers into the
gourd, which hung at the side of the distaff, while at the same time she
stooped down and moistened the fibres, by slipping them through her
mouth, as it glided over the dwindling flax.

Helen, wrapped in yellow flannel from head to feet, with her little
white face peeping above, looked not unlike a pearl in golden setting. A
muslin night-cap perched on the top of her head, below which her hair
frisked about in defiance of comb or ribbon. The cheek next to the fire
was of a burning red, the other perfectly colorless. Her eyes, which
always looked larger and darker by night than by day, were fixed on Miss
Thusa's face with a mixture of reverence and admiration, which its
external lineaments did not seem to justify. The outline of that face
was grim, and the hair, profusely sprinkled with the ashes of age, was
combed back from the brow, in the fashion of the Shakers, adding much to
the rigid expression of the features. A pair of dark-rimmed spectacles
bestrided her forehead midway, appearing more for ornament than use.
Never did Nature provide a more convenient resting-place for
twin-glasses, than the ridge of Miss Thusa's nose, which rose with a
sudden, majestic elevation, suggesting the idea of unexpectedness in the
mind of the beholder. Every thing was harsh about her face, except the
eyes, which had a soft, solemn, misty look, a look of prophecy, mingled
with kindness and compassion, as if she pitied the evils her
far-reaching vision beheld, but which she had not the power to avert.
Those soft, solemn, prophetic eyes had the power of fascination on the
imagination of the young Helen, and night after night she would creep to
her side, after her mother had prepared her for bed, heard her little
Protestant _pater noster_, and left her, as she supposed, just ready to
sink into the deep slumbers of childhood. She did not know the strange
influence which was acting so powerfully on the mind of her child, _or_
rather she did not seem to be aware that her child was old enough to
receive impressions, deep and lasting as life itself.

Miss Thusa was a relic of antiquity, bequeathed by destiny to the
neighborhood in which she dwelt,--a lone woman, without a single known
relative or connection. Though the title of Aunt is generally given to
single ladies, who have passed the meridian of their days, irrespective
of the claims of consanguinity, no one dared to call her Aunt Thusa, so
great was her antipathy to the name. She had an equal abhorrence to
being addressed as _Mrs._, an honor frequently bestowed on venerable
spinsters. She said it did not belong to her, and she disdained to shine
in borrowed colors. So she retained her virgin distinction, which she
declared no earthly consideration would induce her to resign.

She had formerly lived with a bachelor brother, a sickly misanthropist,
who had long shunned the world, and, as a natural consequence, was
neglected by it. But when it was known that the invalid was growing
weaker and weaker, and entirely dependent on the cares of his lonely
sister, the sympathies of strangers were awakened, and forcing their way
into the chamber of the sick man, they administered to his sufferings
and wants, till Miss Thusa learned to estimate, at its true value, the
kindness she at first repelled. After the death of the brother, the
families which composed the neighborhood where they dwelt, feeling
compassion for her loneliness and sorrow, invited her to divide her time
among them, and make their homes her own. One of her eccentricities (and
she had more than one,) was a passion for spinning on a little wheel.
Its monotonous hum had long been the music of her lonely life; the
distaff, with its swaddling bands of flax, the petted child of her
affections, and the thread which she manufactured the means of her daily
support. Wherever she went, her wheel preceded her, as an _avant
courier_, after the fashion of the shields of ancient warriors.

"Ah! Miss Thusa's coming--I know it by her wheel!" was the customary
exclamation, sometimes uttered in a tone of vexation, but more
frequently of satisfaction. She was so original and eccentric, had such
an inexhaustible store of ghost stories and fairy tales, sang so many
crazy old ballads, that children gathered round her, as a Sibylline
oracle, and mothers, who were not troubled with a superfluity of
servants, were glad to welcome one to their household who had such a
wondrous talent for amusing them, and keeping them still. In spite of
all her oddities, she was respected for her industry and simplicity, and
a certain quaint, old-fashioned, superstitious piety, that made a streak
of light through her character.

Grateful for the kindness and hospitality so liberally extended towards
her, she never left a household without a gift of the most beautiful,
even, fine, flaxen thread for the family use. Indeed the fame of her
spinning spread far and wide, and people from adjoining towns often sent
orders for quantities of Miss Thusa's marvelous thread.

She was now the guest of Mrs. Gleason, the mother of Helen, who always
appropriated to her use a nice little room in a snug corner of the
house, where she could turn her wheel from morning till night, and bend
over her beloved distaff. Helen, who was too young to be sent to school
by day, or to remain in the family sitting-room at night, as her mother
followed the good, healthy rule of _early to bed_ and _early to rise_,
seemed thrown by fate upon Miss Thusa's miraculous resources for
entertainment and instruction. Thus her imagination became
preternaturally developed, while the germs of reason and judgment lay
latent and unquickened.

"Please stop spinning Miss Thusa, and tell me a story," said the child,
venturing to put her little foot on the treadle, and giving the crank a
sudden jerk.

"Yes! Don't tease--I must smooth the flax on the distaff and wet the
thread on the spindle first. There--that will do. Come, yellow bird,
jump into my lap, and say what you want me to tell you. Shall it he the
gray kitten, with the big bunch of keys on its neck, that turned into a
beautiful princess, or the great ogre, who killed all the little
children he could find for breakfast and supper?"

"No," replied Helen, shuddering with a strange mixture of horror and
delight. "I want to hear something you never told before."

"Well--I will tell you the story of the _worm-eaten traveler_. It is
half singing, half talking, and a powerful story it is. I would act it
out, too, if you would sit down in the corner till I've done. Let go of
me, if you want to hear it."

"Please Miss Thusa," said the excited child, drawing her stool into the
corner, and crouching herself upon it, while Miss Thusa rose up, and
putting back her wheel, prepared to commence her heterogeneous
performance. She often "_acted out_" her stories and songs, to the great
admiration of children and the amusement of older people, but it was
very seldom this favor was granted, without earnest and reiterated
entreaties. It was the first time she had ever spontaneously offered to
personate the Sibyl, whose oracles she uttered, and it was a proof that
an unusual fit of inspiration was upon her.

She was very tall and spare. When in the attitude of spinning, she
stooped over her distaff, she lost much of her original height, but the
moment she pushed aside her wheel, her figure resumed its naturally
erect and commanding position. She usually wore a dress of dark gray
stuff, with immense pockets, a black silk neckerchief folded over her
shoulders, a white tamboured muslin cap, with a black ribbon passed two
or three times round the crown. To preserve the purity of the muslin,
and the lustre of the ribbon, she always wore a piece of white paper,
folded up between her head and the muslin, making the top of the cap
appear much more opaque than the rest.

The _worm-eaten traveler_! What an appalling, yet fascinating
communication! Helen waited in breathless impatience, watching the
movements of the Sibyl, with darkened pupils and heaving bosom.

At length when a sudden gust of wind blew a naked bough, with a sound
like the rattling of dry bones against the windows, and a falling brand
scattered a shower of red sparks over the hearth-stone, Miss Thusa,
waving the bony fingers of her right hand, thus began--

"Once there was a woman spinning by the kitchen fire, spinning away for
dear life, all living alone, without even a green-eyed cat to keep her
from being lonely. The coals were all burnt to cinders, and the shadows
were all rolled up in black bundles in the four corners of the room. The
woman went on spinning, singing as she spun--

'Oh! if I'd good company--if I'd good company,
Oh! how happy should I be!'

There was a rustling noise in the chimney as if a great chimney-swallow
was tumbling down, and the woman stooped and looked up into the black
flue."

Here Miss Thusa bowed her tall form, and turned her beaked nose up
towards the glowing chimney. Helen, palpitating with excitement followed
her motions, expecting to see some horrible monster descend all grim
with soot.

"Down came a pair of broad, dusty, skeleton feet," continued Miss Thusa,
recoiling a few paces from the hearth, and lowering her voice till it
sounded husky and unnatural, "right down the chimney, right in front of
the woman, who cried out, while she turned her wheel round and round
with her bobbin, 'What makes your feet so big, my friend?' 'Traveling
long journeys. Traveling long journeys,' replied the skeleton feet, and
again the woman sang--

'Oh! if I'd good company--if I'd good company,
Oh! how happy should I be!'

Rattle--rattle went something in the chimney, and down came a pair of
little mouldering ankles. 'What makes your ankles so small?' asked the
woman. 'Worm-eaten, worm-eaten,' answered the mouldering ankles, and the
wheel went merrily round."

It is unnecessary to repeat the couplet which Miss Thusa sang between
every descending _horror_, in a voice which sounded as if it came
through a fine-toothed comb, in little trembling wires, though it gave
indescribable effect to her gloomy tale.

"In a few moments," continued Miss Thusa, "she heard a shoving, pushing
sound in the chimney like something groaning and laboring against the
sides of the bricks, and presently a great, big, bloated body came down
and set itself on legs that were no larger than a pipe stem. Then a
little, scraggy neck, and, last of all, a monstrous skeleton head that
grinned from ear to ear. 'You want good company, and you shall have it,'
said the figure, and its voice did sound awfully--but the woman put up
her wheel and asked the grim thing to take a chair and make himself at
home.

"'I can't stay to-night,' said he, 'I've got a journey to take by the
moonlight. Come along and let us be company for each other. There is a
snug little place where we can rest when we're tired.'"

"Oh! Miss Thusa, she didn't go, did she?" interrupted Helen, whose eyes,
which had been gradually enlarging, looked like two full midnight moons.

"Hush, child, if you ask another question, I'll stop short. She didn't
do anything else but go, and they must have been a pretty sight walking
in the moonlight together. The lonely woman and the worm-eaten traveler.
On they went through the woods and over the plains, and up hill and down
hill, over bridges made of fallen trees, and streams that had no bridges
at all; when at last they came to a kind of uneven ground, and as the
moon went behind a cloud, they went stumbling along as if treading over
hillocks of corn.

"'Here it is,' cried the worm-eaten traveler, stopping on the brink of a
deep, open grave. The moon looked forth from behind a cloud, and showed
how awful deep it was. She wanted to turn back then, but the skeleton
arms of the figure seized hold of her, and down they both went without
ladder or rope, and no mortal ever set eyes on them more.

'Oh! if I'd good company--if I'd good company,
Oh! how happy should I be!'"

It is impossible to describe the intensity with which Helen listened to
this wild, dark legend, crouching closer and closer to the chimney
corner, while the chillness of superstitious terror quenched the burning
fire-rose on her cheek.

"Was the spinning woman _you_, Miss Thusa?" whispered she, afraid of the
sound of her own voice; "and did you see _it_ with your own eyes?"

"Hush, foolish child!" said Miss Thusa, resuming her natural tone; "ask
me no questions, or I'll tell you no tales. 'Tis time for the yellow
bird to be in its nest. Hark! I hear your mother calling me, and 'tis
long past your bed-time. Come."

And Miss Thusa, sweeping her long right arm around the child, bore her
shrinking and resisting towards the nursery room.

"Please, Miss Thusa," she pleaded, "don't leave me alone. Don't leave me
in the dark. I'm not one bit sleepy--I never shall go to sleep--I'm
afraid of the worm-eaten man."

"I thought the child had more sense," exclaimed the oracle. "I didn't
think she was such a little goose as this," continued she, depositing
her between the nice warm blankets. "Nobody ever troubles good little
girls--the holy angels take care of them. There, good night--shut your
eyes and go to sleep."

"Please don't take the light," entreated Helen, "only just leave it till
I get to sleep; I'll blow it out as soon as I'm asleep."

"I guess you will," said Miss Thusa, "when you get a chance." Then
catching up the lamp, she shot out of the room, repeating to herself,
"Poor child! She does hate the dark so! That _was_ a powerful story, to
be sure. I shouldn't wonder if she dreamed about it. I never did see a
child that listens to anything as she does. It's a pleasure to amuse
her. Little monkey! She really acts as if 'twas all true. I know that's
my master piece; that is the reason I'm so choice of it. It isn't every
one that can tell a story as I can--that's certain. It's my _gift_--I
mustn't be proud of it. God gives some persons one talent, and some
another. We must all give an account of them at last. I hope 'twill
never be said I've hid mine in a napkin."

Such was the tenor of Miss Thusa's thoughts as she wended her way down
stairs. Had she imagined half the misery she was entailing on this
singularly susceptible and imaginative child, instead of exulting in her
_gift_, she would have mourned over its influence, in dust and ashes.
The fears which Helen expressed, and which she believed would prove as
evanescent as they were unreal, were a grateful incense to her genius,
which she delighted with unconscious cruelty in awakening. She had an
insane passion for relating these dreadful legends, whose indulgence
seemed necessary to her existence, and the happiness of the narrator was
commensurate with the credulity of the auditor. Without knowing it, she
was a vampire, feeding on the life-blood of a young and innocent heart,
and drying up the fountain of its joys.

Helen listened till the last sound of Miss Thusa's footsteps died away
on the ear, then plunging deeper into the bed, drew the blankets over
head and ears, and lay immovable as a snow-drift, with the chill dew of
terror oozing from every pore.

"I'm not a good girl," said the child to herself, "and God wont send the
angels down to take care of me to-night. I played going to meeting with
my dolls last Sunday, and Miss Thusa says that was breaking the
commandments. I'll say my prayers over again, and ask God to forgive
me."

Little Helen clasped her trembling hands under the bed-cover, and
repeated the Lord's Prayer as devoutly and reverentially as mortal lips
could utter it, but this act of devotion did not soothe her into
slumber, or banish the phantom that flitted round her couch. Finding it
impossible to breathe under the bed-cover any longer, and fearing to die
of suffocation, she slowly emerged from her burying-clothes till her
mouth came in contact with the cool, fresh air. She kept her eyes
tightly closed, that she might not see the _darkness_. She remembered
hearing her brother, who prided himself upon being a great
mathematician, say that if one counted ten, over and over again, till
they were very tired, they would fall asleep without knowing it. She
tried this experiment, but her heart kept time with its loud, quick
beatings; so loud, so quick, she sometimes mistook them for the skeleton
foot-tramps of the traveler. She was sure she heard a rustling in the
chimney, a clattering against the walls. She thought she felt a chilly
breath sweep over her cheek. At length, unable to endure the awful
oppression of her fears, she resolved to make a desperate attempt, and
rush down stairs to her mother, telling her she should die if she
remained where she was. It was horrible to go down alone in the
darkness, it was more horrible to remain in that haunted room. So,
gathering up all her courage, she jumped from the bed, and sought the
door with her nervous, grasping hands. Her little feet turned to ice, as
their naked soles scampered over the bare floor, but she did not mind
that; she found the door, opened it, and entered a long, dark passage,
leading to the stairway. Then she recollected that on the left of that
passage there was a lumber-room, running out slantingly to the eaves of
the house, with a low entrance into it, which was left without a door.
This lumber-room had long been her especial terror. Whenever she passed
it, even in broad daylight, it had a strange, mysterious appearance to
her. The twilight shadows always gathered there first and lingered last;
she never walked by it--she always ran with all her speed, as if the
avenger of blood were behind her. Now she would have flown if she could,
but her long night dress impeded her motions, and clung adhesively round
her ankles. Once she trod upon it, and thinking some one arrested her,
she uttered a loud scream and sprang forward through the door, which
chanced to be open. This door was directly at the head of the stairs,
and it is not at all surprising that Helen, finding it impossible to
recover her equilibrium, should pass over the steps in a quicker manner
than she intended, swift as her footsteps were. Down she went, tumbling
and bumping, till she came against the lower door with a force that
burst it open, and in rolled a yellow flannel ball into the centre of
the illuminated apartment.

"My stars!" exclaimed Mrs. Gleason, starting up from the centre table,
and dropping a bundle of snowy linen on the floor.

"What in the name of creation is this?" cried Mr. Gleason, throwing down
his book, as the yellow ball rolled violently against his legs.

Louis Gleason, a boy of twelve, who was seated with the fingers of his
left hand playing hide and seek among his bright elf locks, while his
right danced over a slate, making algebra signs with marvelous rapidity,
jumped up three feet in the air, letting his slate fall with a
tremendous crash, and destroying many a beautiful equation.

Mittie Gleason, a young girl of about nine, who was deep in the
abstractions of grammar, and sat with her fore-fingers in her ears, and
her head bent down to her book, so that all disturbing sounds might be
excluded, threw her chair backward in the fright, and ran head first
against Miss Thusa, who was the only one whose self-possession did not
seem shocked by the unceremonious entrance of the little visitor.

"It's nobody in the world but little Helen," said she, gathering up the
bundle in her arms and carrying it towards the blazing fire. The child,
who had been only stunned, not injured by the fall, began to recover the
use of its faculties, and opened its large, wild-looking eyes on the
family group we have described.

"She has been walking in her sleep, poor little thing," said her mother,
pressing her cold hands in both hers.

Helen knew that this was not the case, and she knew too, that it was
wrong to sanction by her silence an erroneous impression, but she was
afraid of her father's anger if she confessed the truth, afraid that he
would send her back to the dark room and lonely trundle-bed. She
expected that Miss Thusa would call her a foolish child, and tell her
parents all her terrors of the _worm-eaten traveler_, and she raised her
timid eyes to her face, wondering at her silence. There was something in
those prophetic orbs, which she could not read. There seemed to be a
film over them, baffling her penetration, and she looked down with a
long, laboring breath.

Miss Thusa began to feel that her legends might make a deeper impression
than she imagined or intended. She experienced an odd mixture of triumph
and regret--triumph in her power, and regret for its consequences. She
had, too, an instinctive sense that the parents of Helen would be
displeased with her, were they aware of the influence she had exerted,
and deprive her hereafter of the most admiring auditor that ever hung on
her oracular lips. She had _meant_ no harm, but she was really sorry she
had told that "powerful story" at such a late hour, and pressed the
child closer in her arms with a tenderness deepened by self-reproach.

"I suspect Miss Thusa has been telling her some of her awful ghost
stories," said Louis, laughing over the wreck of his slate. "I know what
sent the yellow caterpillar crawling down stairs."

"Crawling!" repeated his father, "I think it was leaping, bouncing, more
like a catamount than a caterpillar."

"I would be ashamed to be a coward and afraid of ghosts," exclaimed
Mittie, with a scornful flash of her bright, black eyes.

"Miss Thusa didn't tell about ghosts," said Helen, bursting into a
passion of tears. This was true, in the _letter_, but not in the
_spirit_--and, young as she was, she knew and felt it, and the wormwood
of remorse gave bitterness to her tears. Never had she felt so wretched,
so humiliated. She had fallen in her own estimation. Her father, brother
and sister had ridiculed her and _called her names_--a terrible thing
for a child. One had called her a _caterpillar_, another a _catamount_,
and a third a _coward_. And added to all this was a sudden and
unutterable horror of the color of yellow, formerly her favorite hue.
She mentally resolved never to wear that horrible yellow night dress,
which had drawn upon her so many odious epithets, even though she froze
to death without it. She would rather wear her old ones, even if they
had ten thousand patches, than that bright, new, golden tinted garment,
so late the object of her intense admiration.

"I declare," cried Louis, unconscious of the Spartan resolution his
little sister was forming, and good naturedly seeking to turn her tears
into smiles, "I do declare, I thought Helen was a pumpkin, bursting into
the room with such a noise, wrapped up in this yellow concern. Mother,
what in the name of all that's tasteful, makes you clothe her by night
in Chinese mourning?"

"It was her own choice," replied Mrs. Gleason, taking the weeping child
in her own lap. "She saw a little girl dressed in this style, and
thought she would be perfectly happy to be the possessor of such a
garment."

"I never will put it on again as long as I live," sobbed Helen. "Every
body laughs at it."

"Perhaps somebody else will have a word to say about it," said her
mother, in a grave, gentle voice. "When I have taken so much pains to
make it, and bind it with soft, bright ribbon, to please my little girl,
it seems to me that it is very ungrateful in her to make such a remark
as that."

"Oh, mother, don't," was all Helen could utter; and she made as strong a
counter resolve that she would wear the most hideous garment, and brave
the ridicule of the whole world, rather than expose herself to the
displeasure of a mother so kind and so indulgent.

"You had better put her back in bed," said Mr. Gleason; "children
acquire such bad habits by indulgence."

Helen trembled and clung close to her mother's bosom.

"I fear she may again rise in her sleep and fall down stairs," said the
more anxious mother.

"Turn the key on the outside, till we retire ourselves," observed the
father.

To be locked up alone in the darkness! Helen felt as if she had heard
her death-warrant, and pale even to _blueness_, she leaned against her
mother, incapable of articulating the prayer that trembled on her ashy
lips.

"Give her to me," said Miss Thusa, "I will take her up stairs and stay
with her till you come."

"Oh, no, there is no fire in the room, and you will be cold. Mr.
Gleason, the child is sick and faint. She has scarcely any pulse--and
look, what a blue shade round her mouth. Helen, my darling, do tell me
what _is_ the matter with you."

"Her eyes do look very wild," said her father, catching the infection of
his wife's fears; "and her temples are hot and throbbing. I hope she is
not threatened with an inflammation of the brain."

"Oh! Mr. Gleason, pray don't suggest such a thought; I cannot bear it,"
cried Mrs. Gleason, with quivering accents. They had lost one lovely
child, the very counterpart of Helen, by that fearful disease, and she
felt as if the gleaming sword of the destroying angel were again waving
over her household.

"You had better send for the doctor," she continued; "just so suddenly
was our lost darling attacked."

Mr. Gleason started up and seized his hat, but Louis sprang to the door
first.

"Let me go, father--I can run the fastest."

And those who met the excited boy running through the street, supposed
it was a life-errand on which he was dispatched.

The doctor came--not the old family physician, whose age and experience
entitled him to the most implicit confidence--but a youthful partner, to
whom childhood was a mysterious and somewhat unapproachable thing.

Of what fine, almost imperceptible links is the chain of deception
formed! Helen had no intention of acting the part of a dissembler when
she formed the desperate resolution of leaving her lonely chamber. She
expected to meet reproaches, perhaps punishment, but anything was
preferable to the horrors of her own imagination. But when she found
herself greeted as a sleep-walker, she had not the moral courage to
close, by an avowal of the truth, the door of escape a mother's gentle
hand had unconsciously opened. She did nut mean to dissemble sickness,
but when her mother pleaded sickness as a reason for not sending her
back to the lone, dark chamber, she yielded to the plea, and really
began to think herself very ill.



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