|Chapter Title||A DEATH-BED PROMISE.|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Love and Passion|
A DIATH-BKD PBOMISB.
The weeks and months came and went, and Tiny Rossiter grew up to budding womanhood as fair a creature as the sun ever shone upon, Sbe saw Gor- don Carroll occasionally and at long intervals, when- ever he could get away from college, where Mrs, Rathburn was sparing no expense to educate him > and there was something in Tiny's heart which warned her that she would not soon forget her hand- some boy lover.
I " I shall »eyer forget bim," she said to her own
heart a dozen times a day-" never. I do not know any one like Gordon, and he says he will be good and kind to me always''
And, young as she was, her heart trusted in him implicitly,
As time rolled by, Alicia grew gradually weaker and frailer, and more delicate. Consumption had laid heavy hands upon her slender'frame, and Bhe knew at last that the end could not be far distant, Ob, the agony that she endured at the thought that she muBt leave her child alone in the great, wide, cruel world, to the doubtful mercy of strangers I
Tiny bad been reared in the pine woods, Alicia herself had educated her carefully and conscien- tiously, buttha girl hnd never once passed beyond the boundaries of her green country home, and had no conception or idea of the outside world, save from the questions which her mother had guardedly answered and the bright pictures which Gordon had painted.
She waa like a Beautiful wild bird of the forest, perfectly untamed, possessing a vivid imagination, a poetic fervonr, and a dangerous trust in the good- ness of her fellow-creatures.
Alas, poor Tiny I What a fate was in store for her when once launched upon the broad ocean of life without some wise counsellor. She has grown up a perfect little Bohemian, and her ideas and tastes would have astonished fasionable society by their very novelty and purity. But woe be unto the shams and make-believes with whioh Tiny Rossiter would be forced to come into contract, She would have no patience or tolerance for counterfeits and imitatiens, and would expose them remorselessly whenever it lay in her power. Worldly wisdom she had none and diplomatic she never could be.
Alicia, reading her child as she would an open book, trembled at the thought of what was in store for auch a nature, at sea without some guiding band
" A soul is a dangerous thing to carry straight" through all the spilt saltpeter of this world," and Alicia knew that the child would soon be oil alone. She never rested till she found out everything concern- ing Er-eica's life, and as the days went by, and the insidious dissase took firmer bold upon her enfeebled system, Alicia wrote out a full and freB confession of all her own wrong-doing, together with the whole story of Alton Carroll's sin. This, with a few Words she addresed to her husband begging Guy to claim his child, and in expiation of his own past of- fence to be a father to Tiny. It was only simple justice; and for all these long years Alicia had never once dreamed that he was in total ignor- ance of Tiny's existence.
Daily she grew weaker and frailer, sinking away slowly. There came a day at last when she could not arise, but lay upon her white bed from morning till night, her solemn eyes fixed ever upon the sky, her thoughts-ah, Heaven only knows through what deeps that poor soul was drifting.
It was late in the afternoon of an October day. A soft faint baze bung in the sky, and lay like a dim gauzy veil between the earth and the blue dome above. A perfect day, The autumn flowers held up their pretty faces for the sun's warm kisses ; the birds were trying to delude themselves into the belief that spring had just come, end the air was balmy with the spicy odor peculiar to the Louisiana pine woods. And there in the midst of it all-all the beauty and the fragrance-Alicia Rossiter lay dying. She knew it, and she wa3 ready-ready to meet the end fearlessly, bravely. That her sins bad been forgiven she bad faith to believe, and surely, eurely the long, bitter years of expiation ought to atone.
Poor little Tiny, pale and trembling, and terrified by this, her first glimpse of the mysterious going forth alone into the great unknown, she crouched at the bedside, her face hidden upon the pillow» her slim figqre shaking violently, for Alicia bad told her'the truth, that ere another sun should nee, Tiny
would be motherless.
The dying eyes turned slowly, dimly upon the sobbing girl, and one thin hand growing cold and clammy, was put forth feebly, and lay like a fallen snow flake upon the bowed golden head,
" Tiny, darling child 1-" Alicia's voice*]w«s faint and broken now-*' don't cry for me. I am glad oh, BO glad to go. And I am not afraid to die Listen daughter ; I have something to say to you' When I am-dead, I want yeu to take this letter to your-to the|address upon it. Tiny you must go to your father, my poor forsakenjchild ! It is your only resource ; and he shall take care of you, Go to him ; he has already returned to New Orleans ; tell him who yon are, and when he haB read my letter he will receive you,"
She drew the letter addressed to Guy Rossiter from under her pillow, and slipped it into the girl's cold, shaking hand ; then her eyes closed wearily, for a time she lay in silence.
"Tiny,"she faltered at last-oh, so feebly;yet there was a thrill of eager intensity in her tone, and the dying woman half raised herseIf;upon the pillow, with the unnatural strength which so frequently pre- cedes dissolutien ; " Tiny-I-I have been thinking, darling," she went on, wildly, and-I want you to make me a promise. Will you Tiny ?"
The golden head was lifted bravely.
" Anything, mamma," faltered the girl ! " I will promise you anything"
"Then-then"- ("Alicia's voice arose to a shrill pitch, as she went on, eagerly)-promise me that you will never marry Gordon Carroll, Do you under- stand me, Tiny ? Promise me!"
The girl's face was ashen white ; but the blue, res- olute eyes were full of devotion, as ehe answered, bravely :
" I premise, mamma."
And she knew that she had broken her own heart, Alicia's'head sank upon the pillow again, and her breath began to come and go in labored gasps. Tiny crouched at her side, bathing the clammy brow and chafing the thin, cold hands, keeping her tears back with wonderful courage and self-denial for one so
At last, worn out with her vigils and the long nights of watching by her mother's side, the girl's golden head drooped upon the pillow, and her arms stole around ber mother's neck, her eyes closed wearily, and slumber overtook her.
And so the hours passed. Morning drew neir, slowly and timorously, and calm and clear-eyed, it peered in at the window. Close bebind came the brilliant god of day, glorifying the eastern sky with banners of pink and gold, and sending forth little advance guards of shining light to herald his ap- proach.
Full and bright the sun broke forth at last, and streamed into the chamber. AcrosB the bare floor, across the white bad, resting in a glorious aureole
upon the two heads upon the pililow- mother and child. Both were sleeping peacefully ; but one would
" One on the morrow woke To a world of sin and pain ;
But the other was happier far, For she never woke again I"