Cover of book Princess
Categories: Fiction » Classic

When the idea of a removal to Virginia was first mooted in the familyof General Percival Smith, ex-Brigadier in the United States service,it was received with consternation and a perfect storm of disa


pproval.The young ladies, Norma and Blanche, rose as one woman--loud indenunciation, vehement in protest--fell upon the scheme, and verballysought to annihilate it. The country! A farm!! The South!!! Theidea was untenable, monstrous. Before their outraged vision floatedpictures whereof the foreground was hideous with cows, and snakes, andbeetles; the middle distance lurid with discomfort, corn-bread, andtri-weekly mails; the background lowering with solitude, ennui, andcolored servants.Rusticity, nature, sylvan solitudes, and all that, were exquisite boundin Russia, with gold lettering and tinted leaves; wonderfully alluringviewed at leisure with the gallery to one's self, and the light at theproper angle, charmingly attractive behind the footlights, but inreality!--to the feeling of these young ladies it could be bestappreciated by those who had been born to it. In their opinion, they,themselves, had been born to something vastly superior, so theyrebelled and made themselves disagreeable; hoping to mitigate the gloomof the future by intensifying that of the present.Their mother, whose heart yearned over her offspring, essayed tocomfort them, casting daily and hourly the bread of suggestion andanticipation on the unthankful waters, whence it invariably returned toher sodden with repinings. The young ladies set their grievances up onhigh and bowed the knee; they were not going to be comforted, norpleased, nor hopeful, not they. The scheme was abominable, and noaspect in which it could be presented rendered its abomination less;they were hopeless, and helpless, and oppressed, and there was the endof it.Poor Mrs. Smith wished it might be the end, or anywhere near the end;for the soul within her was "vexed with strife and broken in pieceswith words." The general could--and did--escape the rhetoricalconsequences of his unpopular measure, but his wife could not: no clubafforded her its welcome refuge, no "down town" offered her sanctuary.She was obliged to stay at home and endure it all. Norma's sulks,Blanche's tears, the rapture of the boys--hungering for novelty as boysonly can hunger--the useless and trivial suggestions of friends, theminor arrangements for the move, the decision on domestic questionspresent and to come, the questions, answers, futile conjectures, allformed a murk through which she labored, striving to please her husbandand her children, to uphold authority, quell mutiny, soothe murmurs,and sympathize with enthusiasm; with a tact which shamed diplomacy, anda patience worthy of an evangelist.After the indulgent American custom, she earnestly desired to please_all_ of her children. In her own thoughts she existed only for them,to minister to their happiness; even her husband was, unconsciously toher, quite of secondary importance, his strongest present claim toconsideration lying in his paternity. Had it been possible, she wouldhave raised her tent, and planted her fig tree in the spot preferred byeach one of her children, but as that was out of the question, in themother's mind of course her sons came first. And this preference mustbe indulged the more particularly that Warner--the elder of her twoboys, her idol and her grief--was slowly, well-nigh imperceptibly, butnone the less surely, drifting away from her. A boyish imprudence, acold, over-exertion, the old story which is so familiar, so hopeless,so endless in its repetition and its pathos. When interests werediverse, the healthy, blooming daughters could hope to make littleheadway against the invalid son. _They_ had all the sunny hours ofmany long years before them; he perhaps only the hurrying moments ofone.For Warner a change was imperative--so imperative that even the --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

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