Miss Ludington's Sister by Edward Bellamy

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Page 3

The astonishment of the surveyors and builders at the character of the
work required of them was probably great, and their bills certainly were,
though Miss Ludington would not have grudged the money had they been ten
times greater. However, seeing that the part of the village duplicated
consisted of but one broad maple-planted street, with not over thirty
houses, mostly a story and a half, and that none of the buildings, except
the school-house, the little meeting-house, and the homestead, were
finished inside, the outlay was not greater than an elaborate plan of
landscape gardening would have involved.

The furniture and fittings of the Massachusetts homestead, to the least
detail, had been used to fit up its Long Island duplicate, and when all
was complete and Miss Ludington had settled down to housekeeping, she
felt more at home than in ten years past.

True, the village which she had restored was empty; but it was not more
empty than the other Hilton had been to her these many years, since her
old schoolmates had been metamorphosed into staid fathers and mothers.
These respectable persons were not the schoolmates and friends of her
girlhood, and with no hard feelings toward them, she had still rather
resented seeing them about, as tending to blur her recollections of their
former selves, in whom alone she was interested.

That her new Long Island neighbours considered her mildly insane was to
her the least of all concerns. The only neighbours she cared about were
the shadowy forms which peopled the village she had rescued from
oblivion, whose faces she fancied smiling gratefully at her from the
windows of the homes she had restored to them.

For she had a notion that the spirits of her old neighbours, long dead,
had found out this resurrected Hilton, and were grateful for the
opportunity to revisit the unaltered scenes of their passion. If she had
grieved over the removal of the old landmarks and the change in the
appearance of the village, how much more hopelessly must they have
grieved if indeed the dead revisit earth! The living, if their homes are
broken up, can make them new ones, which, after a fashion, will serve the
purpose; but the dead cannot. They are thenceforth homeless and desolate.

No sense of having benefited living persons would have afforded Miss
Ludington the pleasure she took in feeling that, by rebuilding ancient
Hilton, she had restored homes to these homeless ones.

But of all this fabric of the past which she had resurrected, the central
figure was the school-girl Ida Ludington. The restored village was the
mausoleum of her youth.

Over the great old-fashioned fireplace, in the sitting-room of the
homestead which she had rebuilt in the midst of the village, she had hung
a portrait in oil, by the first portrait-painter then in the country. It
was an enlarged copy of the little likeness on ivory which had formerly
been so great a solace to her.

The portrait was executed with extremely life-like effect, and was fondly
believed by Miss Ludington to be a more accurate likeness in some
particulars than the ivory picture itself.

It represented a very beautiful girl of seventeen or eighteen, although
already possessing the ripened charms of a woman. She was dressed in
white, with a low bodice, her luxuriant golden hair, of a rare sheen and
fineness, falling upon beautifully moulded shoulders. The complexion was
of a purity that needed the faint tinge of pink in the cheeks to relieve
it of a suspicion of pallor. The eyes were of the deepest, tenderest
violet, full of the light of youth, and the lips were smiling.

It was, indeed, no wonder that Miss Ludington had mourned the vanishing
from earth of this delectable maiden with exceeding bitterness, or that
her heart yet yearned after her with an aching tenderness across the gulf
of years.

How bright, how vivid, how glowing had been the life of that beautiful
girl! How real as compared with her own faint and faded personality,
which, indeed, had shone these many years only by the light reflected
from that young face! And yet that life, in its strength and brightness,
had vanished like an exhalation, and its elements might no more be
recombined than the hues of yesterday's dawn.

Miss Ludington had hung the portraits of her father and mother with
immortelles, but the frame of the girl's picture she had wound with
deepest crape.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Wed 17th Aug 2022, 4:15