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Angelus-by Eleanor H Porter-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Angelus

Written by: Eleanor H Porter

Category:Fiction, Classics

 

Page 1:

To Hephzibah the world was a place of weary days and unrestful nights, and life was a thing of dishes that were never quite washed and of bread that was never quite baked–leaving something always to be done.

The sun rose and the sun set, and Hephzibah came to envy the sun. To her mind, his work extended from the first level ray shot into her room in the morning to the last rose-flush at night; while as for herself, there were the supper dishes and the mending-basket yet waiting. To be sure, she knew, if she stopped to think, that her sunset must be a sunrise somewhere else; but Hephzibah never stopped to think; she would have said, had you asked her, that she had no time.

First there was the breakfast for Theron and the hired man in the chill gray dawn of each day;–if one were to wrest a living from the stones and sand of the hillside farm, one must be up and at work betimes. Then Harry, Tom, and Nellie must be roused, dressed, fed, and made ready for the half-mile walk to the red schoolhouse at the cross-roads. After that the day was one blur of steam, dust, heat, and stifling fumes from the oven and the fat-kettle, broken always at regular intervals by meal-getting and chicken-feeding.

What mattered the blue of the heavens or the green of the earth outside? To Hephzibah the one was “sky” and the other “grass.” What mattered the sheen of silver on the emerald velvet of the valley far below? Hephzibah would have told you that it was only the sun on Otter Creek down in Johnson’s meadows.

As for the nights, even sleep brought little relief to Hephzibah; for her dreams were of hungry mouths that could not be filled, and of dirt-streaked floors that would not come clean.

Last summer a visitor had spent a week at the farm–Helen Raymond, Hephzibah’s niece from New York; and now a letter had come from this same Helen Raymond, telling Hephzibah to look out for a package by express.

A package by express!

Hephzibah laid the letter down, left the dishes cooling in the pan, and went out into the open yard where she could look far down the road toward the village.

When had she received a package before? Even Christmas brought no fascinating boxes or mysterious bundles to her! It would be interesting to open it; and yet–it probably held a book which she would have no time to read, or a pretty waist which she would have no chance to wear.

Hephzibah turned and walked listlessly back to her kitchen and her dish-washing. Twelve hours later her unaccustomed lips were spelling out the words on a small white card which had come with a handsomely framed photograph:

The Angelus. Jean François Millet. 1859.

Hephzibah looked from the card to the picture, and from the picture back again to the card. Gradually an angry light took the place of the dazed wonder in her eyes. She turned fiercely to her husband.

“Theron, why did Helen send me that picture?” she demanded.

“Why, Hetty, I–I dunno,” faltered the man, “‘nless she–she–wanted ter please ye.”

“Please me!–please me!” scoffed Hephzibah. “Did she expect to please me with a thing like that? Look here, Theron, look!” she cried, snatching up the photograph and bringing it close to her husband’s face. “Look at that woman and that man–they’re us, Theron,–us, I tell you!”

“Oh, come, Hetty,” remonstrated Theron; “they ain’t jest the same, yer know. She did n’t mean nothin’–Helen did n’t.”

“Didn’t mean nothing!” repeated Hephzibah scornfully; “then why did n’t she send something pretty?–something that showed up pretty things–not just fields and farm-folks! Why did n’t she, Theron,–why did n’t she?”

“Why, Hetty, don’t! She–why, she–“

“I know,” cut in the woman, a bright red flaming into her cheeks. “‘T was ’cause she thought that was all we could understand–dirt, and old clothes, and folks that look like us! Don’t we dig and dig like them? Ain’t our hands twisted and old and–“

“Hetty–yer ain’t yerself! Yer–“

“Yes, I am–I am! I’m always myself–there’s never anything else I can be, Theron,–never!” And Hephzibah threw her apron over her head and ran from the room, crying bitterly.

“Well, by gum!” muttered the man, as he dropped heavily into the nearest chair.

For some days the picture stayed on the shelf over the kitchen sink, where it had been placed by Theron as the quickest means of its disposal. Hephzibah did not seem to notice it after that first day, and Theron was most willing to let the matter drop.

Filed in: Classics, Fiction, Short Novel, Short Stories

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