It would do, certainly, to first untie my bonnet and leave it at the table just there; I ought to take my seat also. It would have been irrational to say I had not known that change of such would not be sure to bring on exhaustion, for it came on now. It would unmistakably carry on longer; a year, perhaps, and regardless of this duration, I hadn't any power upon it. It would have been practical to expect further responsibility beyond what it was I had now, and you oughtn't prettily think, reader, that it was any less than plenty.
The window, behind this sofa on which I buried myself among the cushions, was one out of which I would not force myself to look. That would not harm to procrastinate; for now I needn't and there was a great deal of time ahead to do so. There was abundance over which I had unwanted charge. Burden, to be sure, was the better word. To-day, I would have whatever leisure time I had, for I could have no more of it, and if slumber was indeed leisure, then so it had been. To-day's work I would bestow to Eliza, and the rest I would carry forth on the morrow. Ah, there she was! Just following back into the house, moving along quickly so that she might change from her traveling-dress. She read my mind at once! bless her. She saw me sprawled upon this sofa, feigning sleep; and as it was Eliza, I had no doubts she was well aware it was only feigned. But she let it be, and she would permit this for just to-day, despite knowing I had not rid myself of my traveling-cloak still yet. Good, good Eliza! Even she would allow herself to feel compassion now and then, and rid herself of her regulation character I thought best to describe as busy and grumpy.
I thought sudden decisions such queer things. Conspiration is like slow-poison, and quite sure was I it never was kind. The sharp engraving on the stone, of course, was bound to dull, as it finally did now, but long did it take for such deep-set markings to fade. As it does, however, such is taken for granted and appreciated; as long as he who engraved was well away when the curtain rose from the stage, all was well to him. To-day, this was rather literal.
Edgar many people had called my brother, but I must confess I hardly saw it. One must feel a connection of some sort, or something of an understanding among his siblings, regardless of what that may be, of little or great significane: but he always had been treated differently than had I been. Regardless of it, it was he who had been bestowed the charge of being parent once he who was said to be my father felt the need to sail away. I cannot say I knew my father either, but my days were greatly lonelier once he was well passed. Edgar it was who educated me now and then, and less though it was, we both perceived it sufficient enough; my greatest use was found, anyhow, in tending to the sheep, and that was quite all it was.
At age five-and-twenty, I daresay my greatest use was quite the same as it had been for something to the effect of more than a decade, without a doubt. And whilst taking advantage of what it was I was seen as a necessity, I could not say I found the greatest pleasure in the chore; but here I did comprehend what Eliza told me for many years at a time, that I felt far more useful here than any other place (aside from drawing). Working alongside Eliza was a blessing, and I loved such days when I was permitted to at least attempt to bring about something of a conversation. Regardless of her sharp criticism, which I confess was mostly in truth, it passed the time and lightened the work. Such a day as this was but only a day passed. How scorching the sun! How noisy the farm creatures! Normally this stone fencing at the fold kept cool, but it was rather as hot as lit coals. I had never been so exhausted as I had been then; never had I realized how very potentially extreme were these moorland summers.
Just came riding was Edgar himself, when the day reached its close at last, at last a coolness in the currents that passed now and then. At last, the day's work done, I would be glad to relax at once and engage in any company, even if it were solemn, rarely speaking Edgar. Puny little thing he was, sitting at the chair by the window in only evening light! He was well one-and-thirty and I could not tell he was older than I. His puny hands were folded; I normally discerned he dined and slumbered no later than nine, and so it was well justified that I thought it strange to see him awake at the stroke of midnight. Eliza herself was quite asleep in her little room upstairs.
"Edgar," said I, "you have not dined yet."
"I needn't," was his reply. I took my seat, and he continued: "I am leaving early."
"So early that you cannot eat a slice of bread?"
"I am sailing at noon to-day; it would be practical, in saying so, to leave for a train at three."
"Sailing! Sailing! I heard none of it. Where shall you be off to?"
'I have business in America', it seemed, was a sufficient enough explanation. It was translated easily and quickly, as though he would be dining with a friend to-day. It was not seen quite necessary that I ought to know what such business was that he would be gone. This was not quite new: many circumstances were so that he would be off without a word, but I suppose leaving the continent was seen as greater significance.
"How long shall you be gone, then?"
"You shan't expect me returned any less than two years," was his word. No less than two years! I asked him again of his business, but he said his work was no business of mine, and that what he did sustained me in whatever way this was. I did not like to trifle with him; but then I reminded myself I did not quite like him at all, and that I oughtn't care anyhow. As I cared no longer, I told myself neither would I ask any longer. Further was his word that likewise, my work was no business of his, and I was more than ready to retort I hadn't any business in which to interfere, but I kept silent. "Then, Tabitha," continued he: "all of the housekeeping business is yours and Eliza's, as well as I trust you to manage this house altogether." Edgar furthermore explained the money he would leave me and that he did not expect me to manage anything else; and if any help was required I might ask of it from Mr. Carson, who lived only a little more than a mile thence.
All had been planned, I figured, for more than a month gone by. Edgar confided in nobody, and early at two Eliza and I accompanied him to a train, which was a long way off. The train only arrived at nearly five; now it had just struck seven. Slumber, I reassured myself, would do, and I nodded off to the sleep I did not achieve from yester-day's long work. Duty could pass for to-day; I would breakfast as late as I saw fit.