Page images
PDF
EPUB

and sunny, with a far prospect dotted with cottages, |out restraint. Even the pony will saunter in leisurely, orchards, gardens, and bounded by mountains whose and more than once I have suddenly found his head tops mingle with the sky.

thrust over my shoulder into the book in my hand. I live away from the bank nearly a mile distant. The affection of these creatures warms into my heart. Emerging from the wood, I cross divers fields and mea- Their sympathy sometimes appears almost human. dows—then a marsh, then a hill, then I dust my feet When I speak of dumb creatures, I am inclined along the highway a little distance—then I strike into a to include the Irish pair in the category. Blundering, narrow stretch of forest, and leave the road dust behind dull, ignorant, with very little that I can detect above me—then through a lane, over a fence, into a pasture— my dogs in intellect, they are like my dogs in faithfulthen into a garden, and I lift the latch which calls Dess, honesty, and devotion. Pat and Molly may grope, ne master. My cottage is a long, low stretch of pine, and blunder, and stumble on through their duties, painted to a dun brown—which dun brown was only guided by what light their affection affords them, I accomplished by vast courage and resolution. Didn't shall never utter complaint at their shortcomings. If the town painter, and the town carpenter, and town ever I detect a dawn of smartness, however, I shall conclaves generally, protest and declare that white (or be sorely tempted to discharge them. But I do not red) was the only proper, legitimate, Christian-like color think that is possible. They are too old for any such for a pine cottage? To be sure they did, but the misfortune. dun brown was accomplished in the face and to the No other beings live within or around my cottage. scandal of high and low, far and near. This, however, It is full of books, which to me are alınost humanwas a score of years ago. They tell me now that more than friends, because their sympathy stands the in some places the sometime passion for white paint is test of every storm and adversity. There are two dying out. Blessed be the painters !

of them which are my own offspring-children of my My cottage is occupied by two dogs, three cats, a fancy, and who shall blaine me if I love them well ? guinea hen, two rabbits, a peacock, a community of Once—but that was an absurd fancy-I thought ducks and chickens, a pony, a pair of doves, an Irish- it possible to bring unto my lone bachelor life one who man, and Molly his wife. I have a fondness for dumb would shed perpetual day upon my household. It creatures, and surround myself with them. I give them was strange that I should think of falling inlove, if I did free access to iny domicil. They pass in and out with. I fall in love. Can a man of forty love a girl of sixteen?

[graphic]

shall see.

I do not know. Love is supposed to belong only to my veins, but a rigorous course of looking-glass always youth and beauty. I have neither—and yet—but you succeeded in subduing the rebellious sentiment.

Indeed, I grew to be so completely a master of what One day as I was seated “under an oak whose antique threatened at one time to be a mighty passion, and had root peeped out,” there came down through the trees buried my love so deeply in my bosom, that I listened a young girl with her bonnet on her arm, her locks one day to her frank, ingenuous confession of her lifted and floating in the wind, a bright flush upon her betrothal to another, with no other outward emocheeks, a bright and beautiful light in her blue eyes, a tion than a sensible paleness, which I felt spreading bright and radiant smile upon her lips. She paused and over my cheek. A sharp, keen blade was entering my threw up her hands to catch a pendant bough. Her heart as she spoke, but I kissed her on her brow, perwhite arms gleamed above her head, her white neck haps with trembling lips, and hastened away from her shone through the falling tresses. I thought it a rarely side. It needed all my courage, and a pertinacious, beautiful picture, and held my breath to look. Her resolved, philosophical contemplation of the lookform was light but full of wonderful grace; her bust ing-glass that day to preserve the command over my was outlined with delicate fullness; her limbs, traceable emotions. I kept repeating, as if it were a textthrough their drapery, seemed perfect in their sym- “You're old, old boy, old and ugly, too!" metry.

I recalled, too, Goethe's plan, who, upon the occurShe came down to the water, starting as she saw me, rence of any calamity, betook himself forthwith to the and blushing with beautiful confusion. I said a word study of a new science. But, it was sternly difficult to or two to her, and she went on her way. All the rest follow the cold abstrusities of a science, with visions of of that day I found myself musing upon this beautiful what might have been-of trusting, up-looking, confidvision. I dreamed of her at night, and awoke thinking ing love ever at my side, nestling in my heart—of a of her. We met again the next day, and after that radiance upon my hearth-stone, where only a shadow many times. We came to know each other well, and to was now forever to rest-of sunlight in my heart which pass hours together upon the banks of Shady Side. now could never more enter-with visions of youth, and Beatrice was her name. She was the only child of bloom, and beauty thrusting themselves between me and a gloomy, taciturn gentleman, a widower, who had the page! I was weaker than Goethe. The study come up from town to settle amid the rural beauties of afforded me no oblivion. I paced my floor that night our neighborhood. She was very fair, trustful, pure, until the dawn broke into my room, and then I buried gentle, loving—could I have been a mortal not to have my face in my pillow, and half slept, balf dreamed verged upon the flowery precipice? When she would away an hour or two. speak so soft and low, or place her hand in mine, or In the morning, I breakfasted before the lookinglook up into my face with her frank, sweet eyes, or glass, and I sternly said, “Old and ugly! What preplay some girlish prank, such as crowning me fan- sumption to think of love! Study it well, old boy; it is tastically with flowers and oak garlands, as if she your only cure.” were Titania, and I Bottom—could I help the bound The wedding-day came, and I stood up in church, to my heart, and the strange thrill that went through very calm and very passive, to see the ceremony. it?

Every eye was strained to see the bride enter; she But I did penance for these heart-bounds. “Hi, old came, and her course led her within a few feet of me. fellow,” said I, “look in the glass. What do you see the church grow suddenly dark as she swept by. there? Is there a face for sweet sixteen? Look at the A book dropt from my hand. I could neither see crow feet, sir-at the furrows and the wrinkles, and nor hear. the hair and beard already pepper and salt! Is that a It was over, and the crowd passed out. I followed face for beautiful Beatrice ?"

staggeringly, and when I reached the porch the bride I winced a little, but I rigorously enforced myself to came up—so rarely beautiful-called me her old friend, study the looking-glass every day.

and asked my blessing. I pressed back her curls, gave “You're old, old boy, old and ugly, too. Your heart the last kiss, and took the last look. Then the crowd is choked with the ashes of old, dead sensations; it has came in between us, the old church tottered, sky burnt out its fire long ago. Shall you take a withered and earth were commingled, and I grasped at a column heart, and a withered face, and dead hopes, and sluggish for support. brain, and tainted blood, to the pure, fresh, unstained I hardly knew what followed, except that I found youth of Beatrice ? Out upon you, old boy! Don't myself shortly afterwards hastening through the fields you see how monstrous the thought is? Look close in with a wild, irregnlar step, pausing mechanically to the looking-glass, and you will see it fully."

stare up at the sky, following the devious zig-zag fences This plan was a happy one. It cured me of all abstractedly, until at last I came to the old familiar thoughts of loving Beatrice, and kept down into the Shady Side. I flew to the water-side, threw myself recesses of my heart, emotions and passions that other down upon the bank, pulled my hat over my brows, wise would have struggled up. Occasionally, indeed, at and for once allowed the pent up grief to break, unchained some word of hers, or some sweet caress---for we grow and free. to know each other well and freely--my heart would The next morning I brought out & rod, clapped rise in my throat, and the blood run tingling through a small glass in my pocket, went down to the old spoty threw my hook to the stream, and taking out the your rods, and your dogs, and don't ever aspire to so aforesaid glass, read myself a lesson, while with one eye much happiness again. It wouldn't be wise. You'd I watched my reel.

only be dropped down upon earth as harslıly as now. “Old boy ! Sentiment and passion at your time of Be a man—that is, grub—make money, love stocks, life, hey! A pretty how to do, upon my word !count shares, pile up acres, take to Wall street-after You're a man of the world, I should think. Because the manner of manhood! But don't think of beauty you met a pair of pretty eyes, and a bright smile, and a and youth again, old boy !" peachy cheek, you thought they were for you, hey ? My line suddenly shot out. Away went the glass And now you'd like to be melancholy and sentimental, over my head, and I sprang to my feet. A bouncer was and prate about unrequited affection, I suppose. You on my line, that was certain. Now for my skill. Love are an old fool if you do. Shake it off, sir. It was only and such folly, avaunt! What are you to the glorious a dream. Wake up, rub your eyes, dash your head in sport at hand? The fish, a splendid fellow, was safely water-it will be all over with. You were weak, yes- landed, and I went back to the looking-glass. It was terday. You must shake and tremble like a girl, or a shivered into a hundred pieces. schoolboy. Bah! Can't you see beauty or loveliness “Never mind, old boy !” said I, “You're old and without thinking they must belong to you? What ugly, you know, and you'll never be guilty of such folly are you, old, dull, senseless block, that you should dare again! Your passion is shivered as the glass is, as your hope for so much ? Keep along with your books, and foolish dream was!"

NELLIE'S ILLUSIONS.

If ever there was a happy, bustling, comely little morrow would show what they were: and then Carry woman, it was Ellen Fairfield, when the first time for and Margaret would be there; they were not like twelve hours she seated herself beside her bright hearth, Robert, they knew what it was! She had a clear half and looked into the clear fire, with a positive certainty hour before the coach brought them, however; and, as that everything was done, everything prepared for the there was nothing more to be done, she seated herself as eventful morrow.

we have said, and gradually fell into a musing review Ellen—no, let us call her Nellie at once, for that was of the last two years of her life, and the circumstances her pet name, and no one ever said Ellen after a single that had combined to fix her happy lot in that pleasant, day's acquaintance-Nellie was now at housekeeping; it simple home. was the first Christmas eve she had ever spent in her own There are few memories that are not sad ones; for if house, the first Christmas dinner she had ever prepared they are of pleasant hours, those hours are gone for for, on her own responsibility. This was being married, ever; and if of sorrow, there is a scar upon the heart, indeed; and there was that husband of hers, sitting on which burns afresh when touched. the other side of the fire, reading away as if uncon- To judge by the cloud gathering over that smiling sciously as if there was nothing in it, as if any one was brow, by the gradual closing of lips generally parted, as equal to such a task, as if Christmas puddings came if the heart within were ready to disclose itself, the down from heaven ready made, and mince pies grew in drooping of lashes on the round rosy cheeks, Nellie's the garden. Another time Nellie might have gone inemories are very sad ones indeed. We have a right to lim, coaxed the book out of his hands, insisted on to know them, Nellie—what are you thinking of? his taking off those odious spectacles, and claimed his The old, old home, where the first prayer was lisped attention, while she bewildered bis intellect with an at a mother's knee; the dear spot hallowed by such account of frightful perils and narrow escapes which sweet childish memories, remembered always as in an had befallen her in the domestic arena. Not that he atmosphere of Spring; sunshine, and flowers, darkened took in a word of it at all : he only understood that he only by thonght of death, when they who made it home had a dear little wife, whose fair face, upturned with were hidden from the orphan's gaze in the tomb animated glauce, was a pleasanter page to read than the old, old home, when they parted from it, never the rarest author on his well-filled shelves, and compre- to behold it again, conscious that strangers' footsteps hended that she was a very fairy in household manage- would wear out the tracks they had trodden, and sweep ment, inasmuch as she never scolded, did everything away traces mingled with their dearest love. quietly, and religiously abstained from setting his books Two large tears gather slowly on Nellie's lashes. and papers to rights.

an offering on that happy evening to the beloved dead, But Nellie was too dignified to chat to-night; she felt to the sacred past. that even her husband was unworthy a contidence Now comes another phase, a memory of one who he could so little appreciate; no one but a woman could wronged her young heart, won its love, and Aung sympathize in all the conflicts and triumphs of that it idly by; the warm proud flush dries the tear, and day; many of them must die unrecorded, but others to-la tash steals out from the downcast eyes. Nellie, the heart that is so angry still, is hardly healed of a candle. A great confusion, a rush of cold air from its love-wound! She flies the thought as she fled from the frost, & smell of damp straw from the luggage him. In fancy she leaves again the wealthy home an odor of fustian from the guard's coat, a general conwhere he had crossed her path, rejects dependence fusion from every one's talking at once, and chinking on rich relations, for harder dependence on a grudging, money in unison, and then a cheery “Merry Christmas poor one: that was a hard trial, Nellie, but it was to you, sir." “ Health ladies," from the man, as he bravely borne, and it has led thee here. Those long drained the glass Nellie had filled for him, and he was solitary walks of thine, intended to drive away the bit- gone, the door closed; and the three sisters stood togeter thoughts that thronged the heart's still chambers, ther again for the first time for three long years ; how little couldst thou dream, when they were first the first time since they bade adieu to their early home, crossed by that strange, thoughtful-looking man, that he and their mother's grave. would be all to thee one day, the consoler of the past, The memory comes throbbingly to Nellie's heart, it the object of the present, the guide of the future. rises in her voice, and swims in her bright eyes; but she A strange thing is life, Nellie; and it is well sometimes forces it back with words and smiles of welcome. for the prettiest and happiest even to lay a small round “Dear Carry, how handsome you have grown! I chin in the palın of a soft white hand, and ponder on it, can see that, though you're blue with cold." as thou art doing now. It was those primroses that did A quieter, tenderer greeting for Margaret, who is the mischief first (that such innocent-looking flowers already seated in the easy chair, close to the fire, with should so demean themselves!) didn't they grow that dear, clumsy Robert trying to get her out of her in such an unattainable spot, that when Nellie had wraps—he does it, too. Nellie would never have climbed up there, she could not get down again, but believed him capable of such a thing; and Margaret's was obligerl to accept the extended hand, proffered by quiet eyes are raised to thank him—she is too tired to Mr. Fairfield ?

speak; but they seein friends already, that is pleasant ! Nellie did it, blushingly indeed, but still she thought Now to see him greet Carry: he turns to her with frank such an old gentleman it could not matter; and so kindness, a little awkward, perhaps, but brotherly too, she suffered him to walk by her side that day, and and imprints a paternal kiss on her cheek, which she many other days when they met, until she discovered accepts with a certain hauteur, for Carry prefers distant suddenly that he was not so old after all, and that her homage. walks were very lonely when she did not happen Nellie has no time to think what she feels; but as her to meet him.

quiet eye remarks, she does feel something. Nellie would bave repulsed him angrily, had he made Margaret must have some tea, and go to bed, that is love to her. The wounds in her heart were too recent, quite clear, she is so pale and tired. and fancy's ideal still too vividly engraved there, to be What is all this care for Margaret ? why do their displaced quickly, and by such a man, too, as Robert voices sink to gentler, more caressing tones, when Fairfield; but he contrived to get possession of every- speaking to her, and their actions shadow her round thing else, if he had not love; he opened the rich stores with another atmosphere than that of ordinary life? of his mind for her improvement; he won her con- Margaret is an invalid, doomed never to know the fidence, her esteem, her friendship; and at last, when blessed meaning of health and strength; there is no she had accompanied his mother, such a dear old lady hope for her, only a long, lingering life of pain, peras she was, to the lonely cottage he inhabited, and seen haps; but this sad certainty, and the mystery of her how desolate it looked for want of a woman to take patient suffering, make her a holy thing to those two care of it, and set it to rights, pity finished off the busi- kindly natures. Robert has taken off his spectacles, ness, and Nellie suffered Robert to take her hand and forgotten to replace them in his anxiety about her; in his, and promised at the altar to be a true and loving and had Nellie time, she suspects she should detect wife.

tears in those eyes, so occupied with her invalid She had never once repented of it. Busy, merry lit- sister. tle creature that she was, she not only seemed to But it is all bustle (quiet bustle though, for Nellie is be making honey all day long, but always had a quan- never noisy) till Margaret has had her tea, and is safely tity on hand for immediate consumption; and the pret- stowed away in her warm room, too weary to admiro tiest cottage in the village had become, thanks to her its neat cleanness or to say more than a faint “God clever hands, the neatest and most tasteful. Robert bless you, darling!" to her attentive sister. said so, and his mother said so, and so did the neigh- And now they three draw in their chairs round the bors; and as strangers always stood and peeped in fire, and prepare, as Nellie says, for a nice chat. Who as they passed by, it was to be presumed they were of is to begin? Carry sits on one side, very upright; the same opinion.

tired, but refusing to own it; handsome too—a showy Nellie had just reached this pleasant consummation beauty, a fine bust, quick flashing eyes, wanting softness of lier reverie, and had regained the same briglit glad it may be. She is beautifully dressed also, for she lives louk with which she had started on it, when wheels with the wealthy relatives whom Nellie had left for were heard at the garden-gate—a sure sign that the solitude and a maiden-aunt; and her silk dress fits coach was come in, and the sisters at hand.

nicely, and has an evident self-consciousness of being in Nellie ran out in the dark, and Robert stayed to light the newest fashion. It was not a dress she need have has got!

apologized for at any rate, as a travelling one, especially Nellie had never found it out. to Robert, who never knows even what his wife wears, “ You are accustomed to such grand doings, you see, has no knowledge of silk or satin, but calls everything Carry.” stuff, whatever its texture. But when Carry had made “llow you could leave a town for such a place as the apology, which had been on her mind ever since this, Nelly, is what puzzles me; and then to fix yourher arrival, and Robert had begged her not to name it, self in it by marrying? Why did you not wait till and Ellen had siniled at her innocence, the conversation, I was settled ? and then you could have come to me, so feebly begun, came to another dead stop. Why and I would have found you some one worth throwing didn't Robert begin? He sits looking through those yourself away for." dreadful spectacles of his at the fire, thinking abstract- The words implied something distasteful about Robert, edly, when he ought to be talking instead; one of his and Nellie colored violently. funny stories now would set them all off, if he would “I am quite happy, Carry," she said; “I do not wish but tell it.

to change my lot." Had Nellie written a description of Robert at that “Quite happy? Nonsense !” said Carry; “do you moment, and Carry another, how different they would mean to persuade me that any one can be happy withe have been! Nellie would have said, that it was the out society, mewed up the whole day long in small dearest, kindest face in the world ; that the spectacles rooms, with a husband in spectacles, who tells long stoconcealed the mildest, most beaming eyes, that ever ries, and laughs at his own jokes ?" a manly soul looked through; that the scanty hairs on “Oh, Carry, he is the best" his nearly bald head, covered the most clever, sensible My dear, I don't say he isn't, for I'm sure he is all brain. And Carry would have said in three words, that; but you can't deny, and I'm sure it's no disgrace what a queer, old-fashioned-looking husband poor Nellie to him, that he does wear spectacles, is very prosy, and

old-fashioned." But the evening that promised to be so cheerful was “Never mind, when he is kind and good," said going by, and they were all speaking in monosyllables. Nellie. Nellie made a dash; she began upon their childish “No more than he ought to be, with a young, pretty days. Carry let it drop: she had a bad memory, and wife like you, Nellie dear; but still I do maintain, that wasn't sentimental, she said. Nellie talked of the town you ought to bave married better. Fancy the fun that she lived in; Carry grew communicative on the score of would be made of lim, if he were introduced at N. society, gossip, and the fashions. Robert showed great in our set! It would be impossible. But there, don't signs of weariness, and looked wistfully at his book. be angry, it's no use talking now, it's done; you must Nellie made a great effort, forced him into the conver- come without him-say you want change of air, and sation, and at last into one of his best stories. But leave bim at home. I shall expect you very soon, my alas ! just at the very best part, where the interest was dear; for I'm expecting to be married; and when I've a greatest, Carry gave most evident signs of being bored; house of my own, I hope often to

ve my sisters Robert saw them not, but deliberately pursued his way; with me." Carry yawned behind her hand. If he would but talk Nellie forgot everything else in her joy a little faster, and not laugh at his own jokes: no-he is “Dear Carry, are you really engaged? Oll tell me fairly off. Poor Nellie was greatly troubled; were all about it.” it possible to hurry him, or to interest Carry; but no, “I really am; and who to, of all men in the world ?” Carry will not be interested; she begs his pardon just as Nellie shook her he l. be reaches the very point of the whole matter, and asks “Why, Charles Sew l." what time it is, for she really thinks she must go Back, back, wild throbbing heart! what have you to bed. Robert, not a whit disconcerted, answers to do with this ? Back, back, hot blood ! painting tales her question; but Nellie blushes for both, is angry alike that should never be told on the blushing cheek. with the long story, and the rude inattention it received. Should Robert Fairfield's wife start thus, at a name conHowever, it is all over now, and so is the evening nected with falsehood and wrong? she looked forward to; and she marshals Carry upstairs Carry wonders at her emotion; but her triumphant to her room.

pleasure . The visitor's room, par excellence, with a broad, old- | * * We shall be married early in the summer ; we have fashioned lattice casement, half-overgrown in summer- chosen our house, and when I return, shall begin furtime by scented flowers, with a cheerful fire in a modern nishing." grate, picture-covered walls, and a white dimity- Then followed a list of all the furniture, useful and covered bed, the essence of cleanliness, and inviting ornamental, which would be absolutely necessary; the comfort.

catalogue was unheeded by Nellie, though she seemed Carry throws herself into an easy-chair, and yawns to listen attentively; but Carry was startled when she again.

rose at length, and putting her arms round her sister's “How do you contrive to breathe, Nellie, in these neck, said, with a short, quick sob: rooms ?"

“God bless you, dear Carry, and him too; I hope - Very well, dear; why not ?"

you will be very, very happy." "They are so low, they quite suffocate me."

Not another word spake poor Nellie that night in any

this news.

« PreviousContinue »