Louisa May Alcott: Rose in Bloom

Chapter 16. GOOD WORKS

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.

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