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29. XXIX. MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
Two months had gone by,--two months of steady, fagging work; of cooking, washing, ironing; of mending and caring for the three children, although Jenny was fast becoming a notable little housewife, quick, ready, and capable. They were months in which there had been many a weary night of watching by Aurelia's bedside; of soothing and bandaging and rubbing; of reading and nursing, even of feeding and bathing. The ceaseless care was growing less now, and the family breathed more freely, for the mother's sigh of pain no longer came from the stifling bedroom, where, during a hot and humid August, Aurelia had lain, suffering with every breath she drew. There would be no question of walking for many a month to come, but blessings seemed to multiply when the blinds could be opened and the bed drawn near the window; when mother, with pillows behind her, could at least sit and watch the work going on, could smile at the past agony and forget the weary hours that had led to her present comparative ease and comfort.
No girl of seventeen can pass through such an ordeal and come out unchanged; no girl of Rebecca's temperament could go through it without some inward repining and rebellion. She was doing tasks in which she could not be fully happy,--heavy and trying tasks, which perhaps she could never do with complete success or satisfaction; and like promise of nectar to thirsty lips was the vision of joys she had had to put aside for the performance of dull daily duty. How brief, how fleeting, had been those splendid visions when the universe seemed open for her young strength to battle and triumph in! How soon they had faded into the light of common day! At first, sympathy and grief were so keen she thought of nothing but her mother's pain. No consciousness of self interposed between her and her filial service; then, as the weeks passed, little blighted hopes began to stir and ache in her breast; defeated ambitions raised their heads as if to sting her; unattainable delights teased her by their very nearness; by the narrow line of separation that lay between her and their realization. It is easy, for the moment, to tread the narrow way, looking neither to the right nor left, upborne by the sense of right doing; but that first joy of self-denial, the joy that is like fire in the blood, dies away; the path seems drearier and the footsteps falter. Such a time came to Rebecca, and her bright spirit flagged when the letter was received saying that her position in Augusta had been filled. There was a mutinous leap of the heart then, a beating of wings against the door of the cage, a longing for the freedom of the big world outside. It was the stirring of the powers within her, though she called it by no such grand name. She felt as if the wind of destiny were blowing her flame hither and thither, burning, consuming her, but kindling nothing. All this meant one stormy night in her little room at Sunnybrook, but the clouds blew over, the sun shone again, a rainbow stretched across the sky, while "hope clad in April green" smiled into her upturned face and beckoned her on, saying:--
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