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Before The Low Green Door
by [?]

The amazed Martha could only chafe the hands, and note sorrowfully the frightful changes in the face of her friend. The weirdly calm, slow voice began to shake a little.

“I’m dyin’, Marthy, without ever gittin’ to the sunny place we girls–used to think–we’d git to, by-an’-by. I’ve been a-gittin’ deeper ‘n’ deeper–in the shade–till it’s most dark. They ain’t been no rest–n’r hope f’r me, Marthy–none. I ain’t–“

“There, there, Tillie, don’t talk so–don’t, dear! Try to think how bright it’ll be over there–“

“I don’t know nawthin’ about over there; I’m talkin’ about here. I ain’t had no chance here, Marthy.”

“He will heal all your care–“

“He can’t wipe out my sufferin’s here.”

“Yes, He can, and He will. He can wipe away every tear and heal every wound.”

“No–he–can’t. God Himself can’t wipe out what has been. Oh, Mattie, if I was only there!–in the past–if I was only young and purty ag’in! You know how tall I was! How we used to run–oh, Mattie, if I was only there! The world was all bright then–wasn’t it? We didn’t expect–to work all our days. Life looked like a meadow, full of daisies and pinks, and the nicest ones and the sweetest birds were just a little ways on–where the sun was–it didn’t look–wasn’t we happy?”

“Yes, yes, dear. But you mustn’t talk so much.” The good woman thought Matilda’s mind was wandering. “Don’t you want some med’cine? Is your fever risin’?”

“But the daisies and pinks all turned to weeds,” she went on, waiting a little, “when we picked ’em. An’ the sunny place–has been always behind me, and the dark before me. Oh, if I was only there–in the sun–where the pinks and daisies are!”

“You mustn’t talk so, Mattie! Think about your children! You ain’t sorry y’had them? They’ve been a comfort to y’? You ain’t sorry you had ’em?”

“I ain’t glad,” was the unhesitating reply of the failing woman; and then she went on, in growing excitement: “They’ll haf to grow old jest as I have–git bent and gray, an’ die. They ain’t be’n much comfort to me: the boys are like their father, and Julyie’s weak. They ain’t no happiness–for such as me and them.”

She paused for breath, and Mrs. Ridings, not knowing what to say, did better than speak. She fell to stroking the poor face and the hands, getting more restless each moment. It was as if Matilda Fletcher had been silent so long, had borne so much without complaint, that now it burst from her in a torrent not to be stayed. All her most secret doubts and her sweetest hopes seemed trembling on her lips or surging in her brain, racking her poor, emaciated frame for utterence. Now that death was sure, she was determined to rid her bosom of its perilous stuff. Martha was appalled.

“I used to think–that when I got married I’d be perfectly happy; but I never have been happy sence. It was the beginning of trouble to me. I never found things better than they looked; they was always worse. I’ve gone further an’ further from the sunshiny meadow, an’ the birds an’ flowers–and I’ll never git back to ’em again, never!” She ended with a sob and a low wail.

Her face was horrifying with its intensity of pathetic regret. Her straining, wide-open eyes seemed to be seeing those sunny spots in the meadow.

“Mattie, sometimes when I’m asleep I think I am back there ag’in–and you girls are there–an’ we’re pullin’ off the leaves of the wild sunflower–‘rich man, poor man, beggar man’–and I hear you all laugh when I pull off the last leaf; and then I come to myself–and I’m an old, dried-up woman, dyin’–unsatisfied!”

“I’ve felt that way a little myself, Matildy,” confessed the watcher, in a scared whisper.

“I knew it, Mattie; I knew you’d know how I felt. Things have been better for you. You ain’t had to live in an old log house all your life, an’ work yourself to skin an’ bone for a man you don’t respect nor like.”