Chapter 114441435

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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114441435
Full Date1872-12-21
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1996
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Herald (Fremantle, WA : 1867 - 1886)
Trove TitleBertha's Christmas-Box
article text

THE STORY-TELLER. BERTIIA'S OCHRISTMAS-BOX. " There cannot ne another room in all the street so small, and square, and bleak, as this one of ours. Iow tired I am of it! How tired I am of it!" Bertha Faber, lying on her couch be side the fire-place, and looking round upon the ugly brown and blue walls which the firelight strove hard to gild and beautify, uttered this cry in the fret ful, languid tone in which she had uttered it many and many a time before, this Christmas Eve. It was a small room, square and bleak too, as she had said; but the want which hung so chilily in the atmosphere was born of that incessant, unsatisfied cry of Bertha's, If she had been able to feel what it really was that was missing, there would have been somnthing with her, even in her most solitary .momeuts, that must have given the room the character and influence of home. But vaguely feeling the want without considering what it could be, she turned her head upuon the pillow, and let the shadows creep and cling about hetr; and the firelight, softly kissing her pale cheeks, sought in vain for its bright reflection in heavy, gloomy eyes. Up and down the narrow street, out-I side her window, bright and busy faees passed-faces whoso cheery smiles Berthi had never cared to meet, or whose troubled glances could not toich her heart. Ah, Bertha! even the hungry, shivering girl, who stands an instant wistfully watching the genial flicker of the flrelight on the ugly paper of the walls, would not envy you-even though you lie within in warmth-if'she could read how, as you lie alone in the Christ mas twilight, looking fretfully back upon the five and twenty years that lie behind this night, not one day can show itself brightened by the sunny skies of wide, bright, loving thoughts, or beautified by the scattered flowers of kindly words and deeds. "Twenty-five years !" Bertha repeated the words aloud, thinking how great had been the pain and loneliness of these years, how little pleasure any one of them had brought her. "' Bertha, darling, here I am j" Bertha turned her eyes slowly to the door, no smile brightening them, no word of greeting escaping her lips; yet suddenly the room had lost its cheerless ness; a new happy warmth filled it from floor to ceiling, which the Christmas fire light could not do. " I have a whole week's holiday, Bertha! Won't we enjoy it-we two together, here !" " Only a week," sighed Bertha. "How mean to give you only a week ." Nellie, standing on the rug, took off her hat, and stooped to give her sister a long, tender kiss, whispering" I'm very thankful for a week." " You ought to have claimed more," said Bertha, without returning the warm kiss. "You work hard enough to deserve a longer holiday." If Bortha could have raised a glance as clear and loving as that which fell upon her, she would have seen that it was not the hard work only which brought the dark shadows round her sister's wistful eye. " I do not work a bit too hard, pet," said Nellie, lightly, as she rang the bell; " and please don't forget that I have a very good salary, and cannot afford to quarrel with it, because I consider that the addition of a little butter is a great improvement to one's bread-don't you ?" "It is not dark in Summer time, dear." " You ought to have twice as high a salary as you have," continued Bertha, ignoring that idea, "and twice as long a holiday." "Your notions are extravagant, pet," laughed Nellie, as she made the tea. "Let me know when you require a governess, for I should like the situation. Now, tea is ready-at least it will be when you are. Look, I have brought you a pot of marmalade, because you are so of fond it, and because we have broken up." Nellie drew the tea-table up to her sister's couch, talkinug gaily as she ar ranged everything to her hands; then, as they lingcrcd over the meal, she ques tioned Bertha upon the long day they had spent apart. "' It was a lonely Christmas Eve for you, pet," she said, leaving the table when tea was over, and sitting down upon the rug beside Bortha's couch; ":and, hard as I worl:red to-day, 'ny thoughts wore with you a great dieal." " Most days are dull and lonely, so far as I am concerned," replied Bulrtha. ' Why ought to-day to have been less so than otlher days ?" " iecauso it is Christmas Eve, pot." "It has made no difference to me-it sever does. You make a great fuss about it; but Isee no difference that it makes to either." Nellie'U eyee drooped a little, and her lips quivered. "I think it does, Bertha. The hope and tihe remembrance that came with it secem to gladden every word and thought. The Saviour's message seemed to be whispered all round me, pet, as I came home to night in the darkness, and it filled the air with one glad wordless thanksgiving." " I suppose you received your quarter's salary to-day, Nellie " said heur sister, after a pause. "Yeso," replied Nellio, raising her bravoe, unclouded eyeys with a laugh. ' I feaj at this mnoment a perfect Crcosus. Bertha da:ling, I wish you would come with me to do our shopping to-night." "I wonderyou ask me, when you know how impossible it is," replied Poertha, peovishly. c'Not impossible pet," said Nellio, laying one hand tenderly on her sister's. v* I ould carry you down steirs, as I do when I whool you in your chair in the park." * You very seldom wheel me now," said Burthn. BaOEcause," replied her sister, "the mornings alnd oveiungs are too dark and -old, dear. When I can get an hour's leiure in the day we always go, don't We ? Thalt is not very often, certai,.ly; but, if you would come to-night, no coia have a cab-a hansom-that you might see how gay the streets are. I thinu, indeed, pot, that it would do you good; and we could afl;,rd it very well just ior this Christmas night." " It is cruel of you to propose such a

thing,', sobbed Bertha, snatching away her hand; "it is most unfeeling of you. I believe you think I pretend to be helpless. Younever have felt for my suffering. No one has, since mother died." "Ten years ago," said Noellfe, a quick deep shadow falling over her, questioning eyes. " Have you had no sympathy thrdugh all that time, dear Bertha? "Not from you; and I never expect it now. You are always hard and un:. feeling, always wanting me to walk when I cannot. It is very cruel of you even to ask me to make an exertion which you know I cannot make. You are tired of waiting on me, I know ; but I think I shall not trouble you long; and you need not, for that little time, try to add to my sufferings." "After you have made the effort once, Bertha," said Nellie, in a firm, gentle voice, though she winced painfully, "if it hurts you, I will never ask you again. Take my arm, and jutst try to walk a step or two, Bertha darli?H g." ' Your old cry ." interrupted her sister, sharply. " low am I to walk who have not.done o. for twelve years?"u ..'Buttry 4id5 tr3r, I will hold you so that you caniot fall." "-Try ?- oLo \ n am. I to try with, no strength at all ?". whiued Bertha, . '! My mother never tried to inmakie me do this- she pitied my itter- helilesnss"ness .. : " Yes,' . .said Neu!iie, softly, " and waited on you teniderily apid watchfilly;. but oh; I wish with all-uy heart tlhat she had teqmted you to :niko the of'iirt. then. W\tihoi-you lay, day after, day, all througl t!hiat Summer after your illness, I heard Sir Benjaint i telher.the feeling oughti to bei struggled againast-~-that it would otherwise grow uponu you." .'Why didn't he give me strength enouglh to struggle with it then ?" sobbed Bertha. "I cannot do it, and it is truel of you to harass me so;" " Bertha, we. have always .beeni accustomied to give each other Chliristmas presents, haven't we?" asked Nellie, raising.her pleading eyes. " Ah, Bertha, let; this be your Christmas gift 'to me. Try to leave that weary couch for oie minute. My arms shall be firmly around you. ,Oh try, my darling, for my sake," " Do you think that makes it more possible ," fretted Bertha, avoiding hedr sister'is eyes. "If I could do it at all, I could surely do it for the sake of my own poor suffering self." .FIor a few silent minutes Nellie sat with her hands clasped tightly in her lap; then she rose, a smile struggling into the patient, hopeful eyes, "Well, I must go and make my pro parations for Christmas Day." "I cannot think why you mind it, Nellie, giving yourself trouble for nothing." "Not for nothing," returned Nellie, with tears in her bright young eyes. " You are to have a very happy day to morrow; and I-oh, as for me, you know I always do enjoy this bounteous, beauteous earth." I suo but little bouinty or beauty in it," muttered Martha, ' as far as you and I are concerned." "I suppose, pet," said her sister, slowly, as she took out her well.worn leather purse--"I suppose that chiefly depends upon themselves. Our world is bountiful or desolate, just as we choose to see it; our 'lives are beautiful or bleak, just as we choose-to make tilem." " You will be out all the evening now, I dare say,'" mused Bertha, plaintively. "Not longer than I can help," an swvered Nellie, the tears veiy close to her eyes now; "I have many things to do after I comehome. I have set my heart. on finishing your new dress for you to wear to-morrow." " Never mind it," sighted Bertha. ". What does it matter ?" "Did you try to hem that little frill I gave you before I went .iway this mori ing" ? Bertha burst into fretful, childish tears. " You' know how it makes my wrists ache to sewy. I have told you that often." "Never mind,.dear," returned Nellie, quickly. " That little bit of hemming will not take me five minutes. Don't cry, pet." " How can I help crying ?" sobbed Bertha-" I am so miserable." "I will see' to-night," said Nellie, cheerfully, n hile her lips trembled a little, "if I cannot find you a new book that will make the time pass more lightly for you. Now good-bye, don't let. the fire out while I am away, for it would be very cold to sit and sew without any: Stay, I will put my work-basket all ready in my place."--"It looks very ugly there, Nellie." "Do you think so ?"'. I am astoiished. I think it gives the room an inhabited- I mean a domestic look. There is my place preparod for me. Good-bye, once mlore." " Nellie," hbegan Bertha, her oyebrowms contracted a little as the lookled up 'into her sister's face, " you are growing sickly-looking, . like myself. You are a great deal older-looking than you used to be." " Naturally, pot," lIughed Nellie, impulsively kissing again the repining lips; " very few peuvlle grow younger year by year. I am one of those who advance with the age. Shall I show you the gray hairs that lie yerdt ?" "There cannot be anly. You are only two years older than I am. (o be Ctontinued.)