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quiet, regular life. I had little education used to ring, wakening smiles at least to and few tastes. I had been accustomed join with it, through the low-roofed to spend hours every day, passively laying rooms of the old house. stitch to stitch upon some long monotonous work. I set a square yard of canvas now in a frame, and with my pattern and
II. my colored wools, I quickly set to work. The thing, when finished, I said, should It was an afternoon of early spring. be a cushion for my godmother. At The days were long, and the birds bad which she thanked me, and took up some begun to build their nests under the gahumbler work herself. They were not bles of the old church. There were blosrich, and she had other sewing to do than soms too upon the trees, and pale spring to make cushions.
flowers in the old garden sheltered by the We passed our days alone, for Noel church wall. I sat by the window sewErickson, though he did not often leave ing and singing. It was a pleasant seathe house, had his own work, and his own son to me--this bright spring time. I room to work in. He was an artist, and was not thoughtful —perhaps I underhe labored in his studio early and late. stood only one fraction of its meaning What came of his laboring I did not often and its loveliness; but it had spoken to see. Sometimes his mother took me to me all my life of youth and hope, and I his work-room, and made me look at some was young and hopeful. The sun shone completed drawing - during these first warm upon the old church towers; far months they were generally slight water- away there was a sound of joy-bells; I color sketches-before it left the house ; stopped my singing at times to listen to but these were all I saw, and amongst them-it was a right glad sound for this them, few impressed me much. I used spring day. to tell Mrs. Erickson (for it was necessary « Ruth, will you come ? it is ready," when I looked at them to say something) Mrs. Erickson said. that I was no judge of painting; and that I turned quickly from the outer sunwas true; but it was also true that in my shine with a momentary feeling of comheart I did not like my cousin Noel's pic- punction: something was happening in tures. Even in his slightest drawings the house to-day, and I had forgotten it. there was at all times something feverish My godmother thought it a great thing; and restless. They might have power in it was not great to me, it was only this them-I did not know-but they had no that Noel had completed the picture that repose. I say I did not like nor under had been his chief winter's work, and it stand them ; neither did I like nor under- was to be sent to London to-day. stand him. He was a shadow in the I had never seen it yet. I rose at Mrs. hduse—an unsociable, care-worn, silent Erickson's invitation, and followed her up
His presence made gloom in place stairs. She was excited and glad, and of sunshine; his aspect chilled me with her pale face was even brightened by a winter's cold. He was unhappy himself, flush of color. I was not glad, nor aland he brought discomfort as bis com- most even curious; an entrance into my panion. I was afraid of him a little ; I cousin's studio had long ceased to be pitied him much ; I liked him not at all. looked upon by me as even a possible
Yet I did not regret my coming to my pleasure. godmother's house. If Noel chilled me, He was in the room when we came in, his mother did not. I had known so but not at his easel. The space about little affection in my life that the quiet that was vacant, and upon it stood bis love she presently began to bestow on framed picture. We went up together me, stole into my heart like very sun- and stood before it. shine. I returned her what she gave to It was a large picture, divided into two me; and in spite of Noel Erickson, and compartments, both representing the same the gloominess of the ancient town, my scene--a sea-shore, girt to the right by a new home became very pleasant to me. line of rocks-but in one the water was She said that I made it brighter to her lying calmly under an azure sky, and the too; perhaps I did : I can still remember spars of the rocks glittered in sunshine ; the sound of my merry laughter, as in the other the sea was lashed into high through the months of that first winter it crests of foam, and one red cleft in the VOL XLIV.-NO. I.
heavy thunder-clouds illumined the whole He waited for no answer when he had canvas with a lurid light.
spoken. In a few moments after he was I looked at both pictures, but I turned again engaged at the occupation he had from the second quickly. The warm, soft left, and I was silently on my way down sunshine, the calm, blue water - these stairs. things I liked; that picture had rest and I went back alone to the room, and the beauty and quiet light in it ; I liked it as seat that I had left. My cheek was hotI had liked no other creation I had ever but I took up my sewing again, and seen of Noel's. I was glad to be able to worked. It was drawing towards evening speak what I felt : I exclaimed heartily: then: I worked till the sun set. I was “ This is beautiful.”
still alone, and only when twilight began “Which is beautiful, Ruth ?" Noel sud- to come did I lay my work aside. denly asked.
It was very quiet. The evening brightI looked at him as he came towards us; ness was stealing softly through the narthere was a slight contemptuous scorn in row lights of the accustomed windows, his face that for a moment irritated me. and the church was growing dark against I knew the answer that he expected, and the sky. I began to think how it stood I gave it to him half defiantly.
there, night by night, strong, like an The first !"
eternal shadow. Was it built perhaps in “ You do not like the other, then ?” the strength of sorrow? "I am no judge of pictures.”
I had heard tales of persecutions suf"Perhaps not. But you think—what ?" fered in this city long ago. With a
There was an ungentle smile upon his strange interest I sat and pondered upon lips; another look would have made me the men who might have reared those humble, but that angered me.
blackened stones—upon the hands that “I think,” I answered quickly," that might have cut those old devices. They pictures were meant to make us happy were all solemn and stern—they were not when we look at them — and that one joyous. There was no luxury in them of does not.”
waving leaves—there were no birds flut-, “But pictures can not only be painted tering amidst twisted branches. There when men are happy, Ruth,” my godmo- was neither joy nor laughter in the ther said ; " and if they are unhappy their sculptured forms that, from the grisly pictures will show signs of their sorrow.” heads and outstretched griffin claws down
“Why need they?" I answered boldly. to the solemn angels leaning towards the ** If they feel sorrow can they not learn doors, stood in their broken might and to repress it ? Can they not struggle their stern silence. against, instead of giving way to it, and The yellow light was fading back bebrooding over it, and nursing it as if it hind the starry trefoils of the windows, was some precious thing—as Noel does ?” and God's stars were coming out in
It was a sudden impulse that had made heaven. But these were familiar mysteme speak, The thoughts had come im- ries; I did not think of them to-night. patiently into my mind many a time be- With an earnestness I scarcely understood, fore, but never before had I given utter- I sat till it was dark, thinking of the mysance to them. I spoke them hotly now, teries of the dead hearts of them who .confident in my wisdom and common- once, with living hands and living thoughts, sense. When I ceased, my cousin met cut out the starry traceries upon those me with this answer :
windows “ Who told you, Ruth,” he calmly demanded," that sorrow was not a precious
III. thing? How do you know how much strength lies in it-how weak many a NOEL's picture went. When the exheart and hand might be if it was cast citement attendant on its completion and away? My cousin, you are young, and dispatch were over, my godmother's brief you judge all people by yourself, and look of gladness vanished. After a week would have all the world such as you are. or two she began to get more than ever Take my advice, and in future condemn pale and anxious. only what you understand, lest you “They may reject it, Ruth,” she said chance to condemn some things that are to me one day. “They reject many immeasurably above you."
I had not known that ; to me till now no more. One night when Mrs. Erickson that unknown" Academy” whither it and I were sitting alone together, in the was gone had been a boundless repertory; silence there came a sound above usreceiving this new idea I drew towards the powerless fall of something on the my godmother with a strange sympathy. ground. It was Noel who had fainted at of late I had begun dimly to guess what his work. They raised him up and conNoel's success or Noel's failure were to veyed him to his bed ; and he did not rise her. From that day forward we looked from it. and waited for news together. It was hard for her, I think, but in her anxiety
IV. she had no other companionship than mine.
I did not know it then, but I have learnt After three weeks the decision came. It since, that there are strange turning came in a letter which had to lie with us points in life. We do not walk forever a whole afternoon unopened, for when it upon one straight road forward. Somearrived Noel was from home. It was times, when we suspect its coming least, evening-almost night-when he return- our even course is cut across by a new ed. As he came in, he took it from his path, and we turn sharp aside, to the right mother's hand, and carried it, standing hand or to the left, into light or darkness. with his back to us, to the window; else- When it was past, I knew that Noel's illwhere in the room there was no light to ness had opened such a path to me. read it. There he opened it, and having Swiftly, at once, we entered into the read it, stood utterly silent.
very presence of the Shadow of Death. She bad not sat down. After a few Even now, as I look back, there is somemoments she went up to him and laid her thing in the remembrance of those first hand upon his arm. He turned round at days when Noel was struck down that I the touch and looked at her; they each stiil shrink from and shiver at. It was looked at the other; she never asked to not ordinary pain-it was not like ordinsee the letter. He only said:
ary fear; it was as if the house had been “We can not help it, mother.” swiftly struck with darkness. The va
Then she tried to answer him, and rious incidents and interests of our daily broke down. He took her in his arms, and life ceased utterly before it. Suddenly, kissed her again and again. But he said imperiously, in one single day, all thoughts, no more to her: he left the room without and hopes, and fears seemed set for me another word.
within the walls of that room I never enShe had sunk down into a seat beside tered, and upon the aspect of that face that the window; after a little I went up close I never saw. to her. I had nothing to say, but I knelt For nine days and nights he was "sick down at her feet, and took her hand and unto death.” Only when our hope had put it to my lips. In the darkness she sunk to its last ebb, and our fear had cried a little; we both cried. I was grown to be as a great shadow—"a thick sorry from the bottom of my heart. darkness that could be felt "--did the light
For many days after this night through- at last come back to us. One night I had out the house there was undefined anxiety been wandering about the house the whole and restlessness. My godmother bad night through, listening, hourly, to catch been deeply grieved, but Noel was un- the first sound of the cry that should tell happy with a bitter sorrow to which hers me that the end had come. Hour folbore no parallel. He never spoke of his lowed hour till dawn, and it was not utdisappointment; it would have been tered. When it was morning I went to better if he had; but he brooded over it the passage beside his room. The door until he wore his strength away. Slowly, was open. As I stood, I saw the curtainbut surely, he became bodily ill ; he grew ed bed within ; I saw my godmother, too, so gaunt and thin, that with his flushed sitting by its side. I had been waiting, hollow cheek and burning eyes, he used knowing nothing, all the night; I could to make my heart sad to see him. It not go away. I stood in the doorway till was in vain that my poor godmother she raised her head and saw me, and beckwould urge him to take rest; I do not oned to me to come. think he could help it-he could not He was lying sleeping. Perhaps it was rest. He worked until he could work exhaustion, and not repose; but the
struggle, at least, had ceased. The brow I looked with a vague, half-pained was unknit, the lips were still ; if it was half-joyous wonder; it seemed to me as nothing more, the thing that had come if I was only learning that face for the was, at least, peace. But it was more. I first time to-night. He had never been crept away again noiselessly as I had en- beautiful in my eyes before. To-night I tered, and I did not see his face again; sat and traced each sharpened feature but during that restless night that had and each clear-cut line, till a slow, glad departed, the crisis had come, and God conviction came upon me like the birth of had spared him. Looking back now, I a new sense. can still feel the rolling back through the He staid with us until it was almost succeeding days of that great fear--the dark, when at last he rose to go, leaning lifting up, one by one, of the folds of that on his mother's arm. He called to me to dark curtain,
bid me good night. I went to him, and When I next saw him it was on an offered him my hand, saying something early summer afternoon, and he had come, -I forget what-some hope, perhaps, for the first time, into our common sitting- that he was not tired; to which he made room, and was lying near that west win- me no reply; but a moment after he gave dow where I had grown accustomed to sit. me something better than an answer. I had not spoken one word to him since “Little Ruth,” he said, as he held my that April evening when he had fallen ill. band, “I know you have been very kind
I went up to his couch, and put out my all through this time; God bless you for hand to him.
your goodness to my mother." “ Cousin Noel, I am glad to see you I was left alone à minute afterwards, here."
and I sat down in my place again, and “I am glad, too,” he answered cheer- the hands I pressed against my face were fully. “I thank you, Ruth!”
wetted by two great tears. As I stood by him he looked so worn From this time forward I saw Noel and wan, so changed and helpless. I had Erickson every day; he was far too weak meant to say something more to him, and yet to go into his studio, or even to be on the sudden I found I could not. able to occupy himself for more than a Something rose in my throat and choked small portion of each day. Whilst this my voice. Strangely affected, I went forced idleness lasted, therefore, he reaway from him, and sat down alone. I mained with us, and sat with us in our was half glad; I was half crying. I common sitting-room. Once such long could not have thought once-even a companionship would have been irksome few weeks ago—that any word or look of to me; it was not irksome now. It was Noel Erickson's could ever have moved not irksome, do I say? God help me! me so.
Day after day I was learning to know that I sat all through that afternoon busily to be in Noel's presence, to hear the sound bending over my work. Noel had to be of Noel's voice, to do even the slightest kept quiet, and neither he nor my godmo- things that a child might have done to ther spoke much. Once she read to him serve him, were becoming the very breath for a little while; it was from a book of my life to me. whose name I did not know, which spoke There was one service that he needed, of things that I had never thought of, which it presently became my rightand piereed into places where I could not eagerly taken possession of - jealously follow; yet its fervor and its passionate guarded—to perform for him. While his words caught my ear, and sometimes my sight was weak my godmother used to heart, strangely.
read to him. One day she went for a When the sun had set, she ceased to few hours from home, and he was left with read, and we were all idle. I remember me. He was reading to himself when she it was a breathless, warm-hued evening, went away, but after a time the leaves of and the church windows showed crimson his book ceased to be turned. I looked stars of light. I remember, too, that to him, and found him leaning back with within the church, for a long time, the his hand upon his eyes. organ was playing. We were all very Once, even though I had been afraid quiet. Noel lay looking from us to the of him, I would, at that sight, have asked open window, and from where I sat I to be allowed to read to him. I feared could see his face, and I looked on that. him less now; and yet I could not go.
But the yearning to go rose in me-my never knew that beyond those straitened heart beat fast-my hand shook so that boundaries, and free to the whole of God's I could not work.
creation, lay treasure in heaps not to be He took the book again, and again his counted, of glorious and unimagined sight failed him. This time, when he things. 'I woke to this new knowledge ceased to read, he closed the volume, now as one arises out of sleep. I read, and put it from him. Coward as I was, and new thoughts dawned upon me with I rose from my seat then, and went to him a strange delight, and pain, and wonder, --the longing that was in me grown I read with all the ignorance of a child, stronger at last than the fear of rejec- and all its faith : I read till a new influence tion.
stole upon me like a vail of light, and all “Noel, will you let me read to you?” the world seemed dyed of a new color I asked, fearing to be denied; I expect that changed its gray to crimson, and its cd, at least, hesitation before he would darkness to burnished gold. accept me; instead of hesitation or denial I read to Noel; but I was his reader, there came only this simple answer: and nothing more. He used to thank me
“Thank you, Ruth,” and he gave the at the close of each day's service, but he book into my hands.
never spoke about the book we read. Of I took it, and I read to him. I read for what he thought of it; of whether it an hour, sitting near him-low, near his stirred him as it stirred me; of whether feet-with no living creature between he believed it, I knew nothing. I bore him and me.
this ignorance at first passively; presently Reader, I was happy; and the happi- I bore it, growing feverish under it; ness of that hour made me bold. When finally, I rebelled against it. He might be I gave him back the book, I said that it above me high as the sky was above the made me glad to be allowed to read to earth, yet I was not utterly inanimate him.
clay. He might speak one word to me; He looked at me as I spoke.
I was not wood, that I could not under “Does it, Ruth ?"
stand. “Noel, I have never been able to do When he would not speak, at last I any thing for you before.”
spoke to him. I chose a moment when, "I did not know that you cared to do one day, I had been reading till my cheek
burned with an excitement that took “No: but I do care.”
cowardice away. In that moment I raised My voice was very low; had I been my head. less near to him I do not think he would “Noel,” I cried, "is it true ?” have heard it. As it was, he did hear, My question startled him; for an instant for he answered me:
he was surprised; then: “You may be my reader from this time, “ You must judge for yourself, Ruth," if you will, Ruth."
he said. May I; oh! I shall be glad."
But my lips once unclosed I could speak I felt the color flush into my face with now. joy. He said no more; but I went away “How can I judge for myself when I to my place contented. I took possession know nothing? And I do not want to of my office from that hour.
judge,” I cried, passionately; “I want to No day passed after this on which I believe." did not read to him. I wakened every “ You have what you want there," he morning knowing that the hours had at said ; "you do believe.” least in store for me this one sure joy.I “Yes, I believe! but I have no one to waited patiently through all the interven- tell me if I am right. I am believing ing time, assured that this one hour would like a child, not knowing truth from falsecome.
hood.” I read a book to him full of strange I was speaking like a child too, passionand wonderful things. To me, at least, ately and petulantly; and he made me no it seemed all wonderful, for I was a very reply. In the silence that followed, my child in the great world of learning. I momentarily excited courage passed had grown up like one within four prison away. I had spoken, and what had my walls, thinking that those prison walls speaking gained for me? Deeper than were the earth's limits, and till now I before the color flushed to my cheeks, in