Olive Thorn Miller Christmas Story - The Tell Tale Tile

The Tell Tale Tile: Olive Thorne Miller

The Tell Tale Tile: Olive Thorne Miller [2]

Christmas was over all too soon, and New Year’s, and it was about the middle of January that the time came which, all her life, Miss Bennett had dreaded–the time when she should be helpless. She had not money enough to hire a girl, and so the only thing she could imagine when that day should come was her special horror–the poorhouse.

But that good deed of hers had already borne fruit, and was still bearing. When Hetty came over one day, and found her dear friend lying on the floor as if dead, she was dreadfully frightened, of course, but she ran after the neighbours and the doctor, and bustled about the house as if she belonged to it.

Miss Bennett was not dead–she had a slight stroke of paralysis; and though she was soon better, and would be able to talk, and probably to knit, and possibly to get about the house, she would never be able to live alone and do everything for herself, as she had done.

So the doctor told the neighbors who came in to help, and so Hetty heard, as she listened eagerly for news.

“Of course she can’t live here any longer; she’ll have to go to a hospital,” said one woman.

“Or to the poorhouse, more likely,” said another.

“She’ll hate that,” said the first speaker. “I’ve heard her shudder over the poorhouse.”

“She shall never go there!” declared Hetty, with blazing eyes.

“Hoity-toity! who’s to prevent?” asked the second speaker, turning a look of disdain on Hetty.

“I am,” was the fearless answer. “I know all Miss Bennett’s ways, and I can take care of her, and I will,” went on Hetty indignantly; and turning suddenly, she was surprised to find Miss Bennett’s eyes fixed on her with an eager, questioning look.

“There! she understands! she’s better!” cried Hetty. “Mayn’t I stay and take care of you, dear Miss Bennett?” she asked, running up to the bed.

“Yes, you may,” interrupted the doctor, seeing the look in his patient’s face; “but you mustn’t agitate her now. And now, my good women”–turning to the others–“I think she can get along with her young friend here, whom I happen to know is a womanly young girl, and will be attentive and careful.”

They took the hint and went away, and the doctor gave directions to Hetty what to do, telling her she must not leave Miss Bennett. So she was now regularly installed as nurse and housekeeper.

Days and weeks rolled by. Miss Bennett was able to be up in her chair, to talk and knit, and to walk about the house, but was not able to be left alone. Indeed, she had a horror of being left alone; she could not bear Hetty out of her sight, and Hetty’s mother was very willing to spare her, for she had many mouths to fill.

To provide food for two out of what had been scrimping for one was a problem; but Miss Bennett ate very little, and she did not resume her tea so they managed to get along and not really suffer.

One day Hetty sat by the fire with her precious box on her knee, which she was putting to rights for the twentieth time. The box was empty, and her sharp young eyes noticed a little dust on the silk lining.

“I think I’ll take this out and dust it,” she said to Miss Bennett, “if you don’t mind.”

“Do as you like with it,” answered Miss Bennett; “it is yours.”

So she carefully lifted the silk, which stuck a little.

“Why, here’s something under it,” she said–“an old paper, and it has writing on.”

“Bring it to me,” said Miss Bennett; “perhaps it’s a letter I have forgotten.”

Hetty brought it.

“Why, it’s father’s writing!” said Miss Bennett, looking closely at the faded paper; “and what can it mean? I never saw it before. It says, ‘Look, and ye shall find’–that’s a Bible text. And what is this under it? ‘A word to the wise is sufficient.’ I don’t understand–he must have put it there himself, for I never took that lining out–I thought it was fastened. What can it mean?” and she pondered over it long, and all day seemed absent-minded.

After tea, when they sat before the kitchen fire, as they always did, with only the firelight flickering and dancing on the walls while they knitted, or told stories, or talked, she told Hetty about her father: that they had lived comfortably in this house, which he built, and that everybody supposed that he had plenty of money, and would leave enough to take care of his only child, but that when he died suddenly nothing had been found, and nothing ever had been, from that day to this.

“Part of the place I let to John Thompson, Hetty, and that rent is all I have to live on. I don’t know what makes me think of old times so to-night.”

“I know,” said Hetty; “it’s that paper, and I know what it reminds me of,” she suddenly shouted, in a way very unusual with her. “It’s that tile over there,” and she jumped up and ran to the side of the fireplace, and put her hand on the tile she meant.

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