|Newspaper Title||Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951)|
|Trove Title||Two Christmas Eves; or, The Story of a Lost Pocket-Book|
TWO CHRISTMAS EVES
* THE STOR55 OF A LOST
A efeel-blue canopy, pienti&liy .bespangled with stars, that blinked and twinkled, and shone luminously in the frosty oir, impelling one incontinently to quote that mentor of our childhood. Dr. Watts, and witlrhim "?wonder what they are."
The ground was crisped with froet. Neigh bours, as they passed, declared to each other that the weal her was seasonable, or, gazing upward foretold that, lurking somewhere in the depths of that starry -vault, was three feet of snow ready to came down if the wind would but veer round to another point.
.Everyone seemed busy in the busy- city. Ihe greater portion of hurrying humanity had a genial look not worn on ordinary occa sions, for to-night the air is buoyant with peace and goodwill. It is Christinas Eve. In a small, scantily-furnished room,, in a quiet bye-street, sits a woman busily engaged at some coarse needlework. A pile completed and folded is beside her on the floor. The
needle flies in and out unceasingly at the seemingly never ending seam, on which, she
" Half-past eight," she says wearily, as the post-office clock chimes out the half hour. " I shall have quite finished by ten o'clock, and then"-with a glance towards the warmest corner of the room, where, .on a mattrass laid upon the floor, lay three children peacefully sleeping-" then to get food for your my poor
She is young, and passing fair, this toiling mother ; though poverty has laid his gaunt hand on her oval cheek, and sorrow painted dark circles underneath the grave, sweet eves.
Ten years previously Nora Boyle had been, the belle of her small world. K» hand would send a croquet ball flying home witli such true aim. No picnic or garden party was considered complete without Bora. The young men raved about her ; and even the girls loved her, and forebore to slander her. She might have had her pick of half a dozen eligible young men, but, with the proverbial perversity of love, at eighteen she married a handsome ne'er do well. When friends who had known them both from childhood remonstrated with her father on allowing her to marry Richard Yielding, his reply was that he had never crossed a whim of his motherless girl's, and he was not going to cross her now. So there was a gay wedding, and for a time all ?^ent well, fticliard was fast developing into a. harmless country squire when Mr. Boyle died. It was as if a boat had suddenly lost its rudder.' Mr. Boyle had, almost uncon sciously to himself, kept the young man in check, but the old habits had only slumbered, not died ; now they woke up with renewed rigour, and wise people shook their heads, and foretold sorrow to Nora.
The sorrow came all too soon ; cards,horses, everything that Richard dabbled in was un lucky, till at last his name was proverbial. " Dick Fielding's luck," would Iris intimates exclaim, when any piece of particularly bod fortune befel them. In short Eichard Field ing; drifted slowly but surely to that em blematic quarter, commonly called "The Dogs," and, in going, necessarily dragged his joung wife with him. When her small estate was mortgaged to the last penny*, and gaunt poverty sat down with them at their hearth, and kept them uncauny company, by way of improving matters he took to drink. Hitherto, though wickedly improvident, he bad been kind ; but once the demon, drink took possession of him instead of kind words 8nd futile promises of "regeneration-hard words, aye, and blows were Nora's- lot. Curses on her, curses on those heaven-sent gifts, his children, for being-as he pleaded to term it-a drag on him.
At last the home where she had> been born, and her father before her, was- sold, and they removed to Dublin ; where throe eh the influence of her friends, he had obtained one situation after another, and loBt them, all through drink.
Surely this insidious emissary from B&dea must be the bosom friend of Satan.. Ove? how many millions of fhin&d lives have these two clasped hands! How many souls- has the winged son of Jupiter escortcd to the dreary dominions guarded by the- two | pronged fork, from which they shall never [ more emerge, whose destination would have ! been on the opposite side of the gulf bet far j the fatal companionship of his brother!
For a time poor Nora struggled b ravel v- on, hoping against hope. First her jewellery went-one by one, she parted with every article of valuable furniture she had;. 3nd then the end came; outraged nature' oould bear the continued strain on her resources- no longer and Richard Fielding was borne to-the hospital a victim to delirium tremens im its worst form, leaving his wife and three little ones to the mercy of a world that is at best
but a cold foster mother.
Nora sold her few remaining things topay her rent, and removed to the dingy room where we find her and where for three rnoaths past she had supported her children by her i needle. A scanty support it is true, but she
was supremely erjiteful fo Heaven for the work which saved her and her children from the workhouse. Her husband was etiil in the hospital, cured of his madness, weak as a month-old baby, but weak in mind, listless and weary in body, not seeming to care to get well or take up the burden of life again.
" It's no use of my getting well," he told the doctor, when urged bv that gentleman to make souse exertion himself towards so desirous an object. " It's no use my getting well; better, far better, to let me die in peace. If I get well I shall be at that infernal drink again-I know I should-and ill-treat my wife like a savage, as I did before. No, it's better for everyone that I should die. If I were dead alio would have plenty of friends and-and get mr.rried again," he added with a
The doctor pooh-poohed him, but Dick stuck to his resolution with more persistence than he had ever before bsen known to do in anything, and utterly refused to get well, lie longed for death, prayed for death, and his bright, sunken eyes, and liollow, crimson tinted cheek gave evidence only too surely that his prayer would ere long be granted.
On this Christmas Eve, while his wife toiled in her cold, cheerless room to get bread for her little ones, Dick lay on his white bed in the convalescent ward, and longed for " do::'h, the consoler," to come to him. " I should iike To see her just once more," he-told himself, " my pretty, patient wife just to tell he.r how sorry I am. .Perhaps she will come to morrow, and bring the boys," he mused. " Xc, she is too shabby ; no clothes to keep out the co'd, poor girl, nothing to cover the little enr>>, but ehe'3 sure to write. I shall' have a letter m the morning. I wonder"- and here the weary eyes closed, and reality was lost in sleep.
Soon a smile plnyed around the beautifully chiselled, though somewhat- weakmouth. Was sleep mating amends for the we.-iry hours that had preceded it. He dreamed of Nora-dreamt that he and she were sailing in a tiny boat
over a sparkling sun-lit sea.
At the helm sat her father, but all at once be disappeared ; and the boat, left without guidance, began to toss on the rising waves now it was balanced on the crest of a mountain of foam, and anon it sunk between two black walls of water; when it rose again she-Nora -was gone. In vain lie ecanned the FBBte of
-= i\~; waters-:n vaia called on her .name. =? ' dice, hie wife's voice, singing somewhere, vi ra word came distinctly to his ears above
voice of the waves :
S. with coward hopes, with hopes of dying !
/Vway with al! that makes thee less divine! ~ :.o houra are silent angels, swiftly flyiujf
_irise! and u&e theuj while they yet are thine.
-.3 the voice ceased be awoke-ii»ok<3 to
r.- .r the bells pealing forth their glad storj on u -j still aiidui' Ut air, i.i a simultaneous buret : - with clamorous musical tongues.
!! Unto iid a child is bora-unto us a son is
£,->eu, iVace and good-will-good-wiil and peace. " To the world-worn, sinful man the Christmas bells seemed to bring a message of peace and forgiveness. Tears rained down hie :hia cheeks as he listened-tears that were as ... uminer rain to the parched ground. Under their softening influence there germinated in his soul the seeds of repentance and aUrm re bel ?e that if God would spare bis hitherto use less life it should not be spared in vain. His past life was spread as a panorama before him. He would fain hare piled the ashes of forget fulness over that dead past; but the ghost would not be laid. Yet, through all the agonies ot remorse that be endured, oanie the sweet refrain giving him hope and comfort.
Away with coward doiibte, with hopes of dying!
Away with all that makes thee less divine ! The hours are iileut angels, swiltly flying,
Arise! and nee them while they yet are thine.