Chapter 16: Good Works

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The Rajah was delayed awhile, and when it sailed poor Mrs. Clara was on board, for everything was ready. All thought she had better go to comfort her husband, and since her boy died she seemed to care very little what became of her. So, with friends to cheer the long voyage, she sailed away, a heavyhearted woman, yet not quite disconsolate, for she knew her mourning was excessively becoming and felt sure that Stephen would not find her altered by her trials as much as might have been expected.

Then nothing was left of that gay household but the empty rooms, silence never broken by a blithe voice anymore, and pictures full of promise, but all unfinished, like poor Charlie’s life.

There was much mourning for the bonny Prince, but no need to tell of it except as it affected Rose, for it is with her we have most to do, the other characters being of secondary importance.

When time had soothed the first shock of sudden loss, she was surprised to find the memory of his faults and failings, short life and piteous death, grew dim, as if a kindly hand had wiped out the record and given him back to her in the likeness of the brave, bright boy she had loved, not as the wayward, passionate young man who had loved her.

This comforted her very much, and folding down the last blotted leaf where his name was written, she gladly turned back to reopen and reread the happier chapters which painted the youthful knight before he went out to fall in his first battle. None of the bitterness of love bereaved marred this memory for Rose, because she found that the warmer sentiment, just budding in her heart, had died with Charlie and lay cold and quiet in his grave. She wondered, yet was glad, though sometimes a remorseful pang smote her when she discovered how possible it was to go on without him, feeling almost as if a burden had been lifted off, since his happiness was taken out of her hands. The time had not yet come when the knowledge that a man’s heart was in her keeping would make the pride and joy of her life, and while she waited for that moment she enjoyed the liberty she seemed to have recovered.

Such being her inward state, it much annoyed her to be regarded as a brokenhearted girl and pitied for the loss of her young lover. She could not explain to all the world, so let it pass, and occupied her mind with the good works which always lie ready to be taken up and carried on. Having chosen philanthropy as her profession, she felt that it was high time to begin the task too long neglected.

Her projects were excellent, but did not prosper as rapidly as she hoped, for, having to deal with people, not things, unexpected obstacles were constantly arising. The “Home for Decayed Gentlewomen,” as the boys insisted on calling her two newly repaired houses, started finely and it was a pleasant sight to see the comfortable rooms filled with respectable women busy at their various tasks, surrounded by the decencies and many of the comforts which make life endurable. But, presently, Rose was disturbed to find that the good people expected her to take care of them in a way she had not bargained for. Buffum, her agent, was constantly reporting complaints, new wants, and general discontent if they were not attended to. Things were very neglected, water pipes froze and burst, drains got out of order, yards were in a mess, and rents behind-hand. Worst of all, outsiders, instead of sympathizing, only laughed and said, “We told you so,” which is a most discouraging remark to older and wiser workers than Rose.

Uncle Alec, however, stood by her staunchly and helped her out of many of her woes by good advice and an occasional visit of inspection, which did much to impress upon the dwellers there the fact that, if they did not do their part, their leases would be short ones.

“I didn’t expect to make anything out of it, but I did think they would be grateful,” said Rose on one occasion when several complaints had come in at once and Buffum had reported great difficulty in collecting the low rents.

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