BOOK III. WAITING FOR DEATH.
33. CHAPTER XXXIII.
Yet she liked her thoughts: a vigorous young mind not overbalanced
by passion, finds a good in making acquaintance with life, and watches
its own powers with interest. Mary had plenty of merriment within.
Her thought was not veined by any solemnity or pathos about
the old man on the bed: such sentiments are easier to affect
than to feel about an aged creature whose life is not visibly
anything but a remnant of vices. She had always seen the most
disagreeable side of Mr. Featherstone. he was not proud of her,
and she was only useful to him. To be anxious about a soul that is
always snapping at you must be left to the saints of the earth;
and Mary was not one of them. She had never returned him a
harsh word, and had waited on him faithfully: that was her utmost.
Old Featherstone himself was not in the least anxious about his soul,
and had declined to see Mr. Tucker on the subject.
To-night he had not snapped, and for the first hour or two he lay
remarkably still, until at last Mary heard him rattling his bunch of
keys against the tin box which he always kept in the bed beside him.
About three o'clock he said, with remarkable distinctness,
"Missy, come here!"
Mary obeyed, and found that he had already drawn the tin box
from under the clothes, though he usually asked to have this done
for him; and he had selected the key. He now unlocked the box,
and, drawing from it another key, looked straight at her with eyes
that seemed to have recovered all their sharpness and said,
"How many of 'em are in the house?"
"You mean of your own relations, sir," said Mary, well used
to the old man's way of speech. He nodded slightly and she went on.
"Mr. Jonah Featherstone and young Cranch are sleeping here."
"Oh ay, they stick, do they? and the rest--they come every day,
I'll warrant--Solomon and Jane, and all the young uns?
They come peeping, and counting and casting up?"
"Not all of them every day. Mr. Solomon and Mrs. Waule are here
every day, and the others come often."