|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Vicissitudes of an Orphan|
Vicissitudes of on Orphan.
BY THE AUTHOR OF "ALIVE VERNON."
IT was Sunday morning—a clear, bright day in spring—and the church bell was already ringing for service. The scene was a village at
the foot of a range of hills; a place far away
from great cities. The roar and turmoil of the world never reached that quiet retreat, or only faintly, like echoes from another sphere. It was a picturesque place, nestled in a green valley, with the eternal hills piercing the clouds around it. In summer, for the air was pecu- liarly salubrious, it was often resorted to by travellers in search of health, or by sportsmen who were fond of angling, for the trout streams in the vicinity were celebrated. It boasted, therefore, a well-kept inn; and on this Sunday morning a stranger stood in the porch of the little hotel, looking up and down the street, as if uncertain which way to go. The villagers were passing, in their Sunday attire, every one looking happy and gay. The poorest were neatly clad, and had an air of com- fort about them that forcibly arrested the atten- tion of the stranger, who was fresh from the metropolis, and could not help contrasting their appearance with that of the squalid women and unshaven men who lounged about the door- steps of the meaner quarters of the great city on Sunday mornings. As each group passed, every member of it in succession, from the parent down to the toddling child, looked back at the stranger. The arrival of a new guest at the inn was an event, in fact; and gossip was always busy, within an hour, to decide his name, business, and character. The stranger smiled as he saw these exhibi- tions of curiosity; and his smile was strangely sweet. It is time we described him. He was apparently about twenty-three or twenty-four years of age, of a graceful, manly form, and rather taller than men ordinarily are. His face exhibited very contradictory characteristics. The finely-cut mouth, the full nostril, the ma- jestic sweep of the eye-brow told of a strong will in the possessor; while the heavy lid, the long lashes, and the half dreamy expression of the eye itself, in repose, bespoke as plainly a poetical temperament and a sensitive nature. The perfect union of these opposite qualities, in the present instance, led to a finely developed and harmonious character. When moved by a great occasion, no man was more resolute; but it required a worthy object to rouse him. He was not one to waste his energies after the gew- gaws of mere political, or even intellectual am- bition. He required a sufficient motive to act before he began to work; and, as yet, he had not found this, and so passed for a dreamer. A great destiny, however, was before him. But more of this as we proceed. He was still standing thus, when the landlord came out on the porch. The stranger imme- diately turned. "What places of worship have you here?" he inquired. "The village church and the meeting-house." replied the landlord. "But," he added, proudly, "if you want to hear fine singing, go to the church." The stranger smiled again, but this time there was something of incredulity, and, it might be, a little of scorn, in that smile. He was, in fact, no mean musician himself. Nature had gifted him with a keen sense of harmony, and this had been cultivated to the highest pitch. He had heard the most famous singers of the day, and could detect in the most difficult piece the slightest error of execution. The idea that he was to hear fine singing in an obscure country church, made him smile incredulously, notwith- standing a naturally kind heart. But he was too well bred to say anything; and the smile itself was but momentary, flitting across his face like a sun-cloud over a field of corn—an instant seen and then vanishing. "I will go to there," he said. "I suppose the bell belongs to the church, and that will guide me." "Yes," replied the landlord, "follow the street down till you come to that row of willows. There you'll find the mill-dam, and just beyond it, on the other side of the pond, is the old church. The stranger bowed and set out. It was dusk when he reached the village the night before, and he now became sensible, for the first time, of the beauty of the place. Nearly every house had its little green lawn in front, and its bit of orchard ground in the rear; and as it was now the time of blossoming, the whole air was full of fragrance. At the end of the village street stood an ancient mill, its wheel green with moss, and its wooden walls and roof almost black with age. The dam was prettily edged with willows, now green with their first leaf. The pond being high with the late rains, the gates had been raised, and the water now came wildly tumbling and foaming through. The stranger paused a moment and looked below at the rapid flood shooting like snowy sheets of silver down the trough, and then whirling away in dark eddies under the black loom of the banks. There was always something soothing to his heart in such a scene; and he could have gazed on it longer, but that the quickened tolling of the bell an- nounced that the church service was about to begin, so he turned and walked on. Crossing the rude bridge, he saw before him an open space, where three roads met, and just beyond this, in a grove of ancient trees, stood the time-worn little church. An atmosphere of holy quiet seemed to reign around the place. The grey walls of the ancient building, the venerable trees which overshadowed it, and the graveyard close by, where for a century the righteous dead had lain awaiting a glorious resurrection—these gave an indiscribable but magical look of repose to the whole scene. Just as the traveller crossed the bridge, and while he was yet some two hundred yards from the building, the bell rang out a final peal. The last lingering comer entered the edifice, and the notes of an organ swelled out on the still morn- ing air and died again melodiously away. When the stranger reached the church the congrega- tion were already at prayer. The traveller paused till the prayer should be over, and looked back over the route he had come. In front was the picturesque village street; on his left the ancient graveyard; and on the right the mill-pond stretched away for a mile and more, lying quiet and calm under the azure sky, its surface polished like blue Damas- cus steel. Here and there clumps of woodland ran out into the lake, till the eye was almost de- ceived into thinking them islands; and far away, in the mellow distance, the placid sheet of water suddenly disappeared, land-locked seemingly on both sides. The quiet of the whole scene was inexpressibly soothing. Not a wave stirred on the gravelly beach close at hand, Not a dead
leaf moved on the whole glassy expanse. The trees that overhung the still water were re-pro- duced in the mirror beneath, as sharply and ac- curately as if another forest grew downward from their roots. Suddenly an idle boy, from the opposite side of the pond, gave a hallo. The sound broke strangely on the deep silence, and was followed immediately by an echo that seemed more magical still. But at this instant the organ began again, and the stranger entered the church. It was a low, ancient building, plain to the last degree, and only half filled with worship- pers. The pews were high and straight-backed. The organ-loft was over the entrance; and that instrument, which was one of very fine tone for its size, was the only luxury about the place. The stranger had no sooner found a seat than he turned inadvertently to the choir, so much was he struck with this instrument. A piece of green moreen, hung from brass rods, effectually concealed the performers from his gaze; but he could not help admiring the masterly manner in which the organ was played. When the anthem was sung, he almost started to his feet—for, clear and high, over the deep bass of the instrument and the choral accompani- ment, rose a female voice—so sweet, so full, so exquisite, that, what with the surprise, and what with the serene religious train of mind his walk had induced, he thought he had never heard anything to rival it. "The landlord is right," he reflected; "she is indeed a prodigy. Who would have thought to find such vocalisation, united with such ex- pression, here?" But his surprise was still greater when, the minister having retired to change his robes, in- stead of the hymn usually sung, the same voice began that sublime air of Handel's, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." The stranger sat transfixed. Of a deeply reverential mind him- self, he was an enthusiastic admirer of Handel. And yet, though he had heard that air sung a hundred times, it had never been with the feel- ing and pathos with which it was performed now. The opening words came pouring out, like moulten gold, so soft and mellow, with every note full of a subdued exultation, that almost brought tears to the eyes. As the strain proceeded, the sentiment changed, and profound sorrow agitated the listener's heart; for the theme was of death, burial, and the grave. But when the singer passed, with a rapid, triumphant bound, to the passage, "I know that in my flesh I shall see God," the expression of victory, of joy, of rapture, which swelled out in her voice, making the ancient building ring, thrilled her hearer with an almost divine ecstacy. The serene joy, the deep peace, the sublime faith in Christianity to which the singer gave utterance, were an- swered back from the heart of the listener as if her soul had entered into his and explored its most secret recesses. He gazed, spell-bound, on the curtain, from behind which issued that voice. When the air ceased, and the last tones of the organ had died away, he still remained looking up to the loft, unconscious of all around him, till the entrance of the minister and the re-commencement of the service awakened him from his trance. When the sermon was over, and the congre- gation dispersing, he lingered behind, in hopes to catch a sight of this unknown singer. He thought he should easily be able to detect her, as every eye must be upon her when she came forth. But in this he was disappointed. The last one of the crowd had passed out, and still no person, such as he thought she might be, had appeared. At last the old sexon came to close the doors, and the stranger was forced unwil- lingly to depart—unwillingly, we say—for, as long as he remained within the edifice, it seemed, to his excited fancy, to be ringing with that angelic voice. During his walk back to the inn, his thoughts were entirely occupied with the unknown singer. His nature had been stirred to its lowest depths by the event of the day; and he passed along, unheeding that, soon after he left the church, a young girl, for whom the sexton had waited, had descended the organ-loft; and that, after the old man had carefully locked the door, she placed her arm within his, and the two walked away in a direction opposite to that taken by the traveller. "Well, what do you think of our singing?" asked the landlord, who was standing at the door, waiting for his guest. The stranger was so abstracted that he would have passed the inn, without noticing it, but for this address. He looked up, and found himself already a step or two in advance of the door, so he smiled at his forgetfulness, and, retracting his steps, replied. "It is wonderful! Who is she?" His eye kindled with animation as he spoke; his whole face glowed. The landlord laughed. "I thought you looked incredulous, when I told you we had a fine singer here," he said, "and I am glad you have come round—most people do, when they hear our Dora—but you asked me who she was. The daughter of the old schoolmaster, sir—he is sexton also. They once saw better days, but they pick up only a poor sort of living here, I'm afraid. However, sir, walk in—dinner is waiting—and I'm doubtful it will be cold, and do me no credit if you delay." It was late in the afternoon before the tra- veller left his hotel again. He had learned from the landlord that the old church was opened only for morning service, the minister having to preach in the evening at another parish several miles distant. But when he went out, towards sunset, for a walk, the voice of the school- master's daughter still exercised such a control over him that he bent his steps, almost uncon- sciously, in the direction he had taken in the morning. Arrived at the church, he turned down an old road through the woods, invited by the beauty of the walk. Tall and noble trees, that might have been growing there for centuries, inter- laced their branches overhead, till the canopy thus formed reminded him of the groined vault of some mighty minster. Beneath his feet the path was covered with vegetable mould, with only faint marks of waggon tracks discernible; for the road was evidently but little used. Woodland scenery, however, was the traveller's delight, and he walked leisurely on, admiring now the majestic trunks that rose around him, and now the arched vista ahead, until at last his further progress was cut short by a rude, zig-zag fence, with a cleared field beyond. He might have gone half a mile since he left the church, or might have walked further; he had not thought of time; and he was startled to find, from the comparative obscurity, how late it was. While in the wood he had attri- buted the gloom to the trees, but he now found it was really caused by the advancing evening. Yet not entirely thus caused, for, as he looked up, he saw that the sky was overcast; and, at the same moment, a huge drop falling from the fringe of a cloud, pattered on his face.
A hasty glance around showed him a small house across the field, situated on a more public road. As the rain-drops now began to fall faster, he did not hesitate for an instant, but, placing one hand on the top rail of the fence, vaulted lightly into the field. The shower, like all April ones, was violent as it had been sudden, and he had scarcely reached the house, when the rain descended in a torrent. Without looking to see if the porch in front of the cottage was occupied, he sprang over the low paling, and darted under shelter, taking off his hat as he reached it, and dashing a shower of rain-drops to the ground. Then, for the first time, he became aware that he stood in the presence of two persons, occu- pying the doorway of the cottage, and there- fore just in front of him. They were evidently father and daughter; and a second glance as- sured him that the old man was the sexton, and that the other must be his child. The parent was sitting in an old-fashioned arm-chair, and had evidently been reading, for his Bible lay open on his lap, with the spectacles across the page. The shower had directed his attention perhaps; for, at the moment, the stranger startled him by his sudden intrusion, he had been watching, and apparently with a keen sense of the beautiful, the millions of rain- drops falling across the pond, which lay in sight from where he sat. His daughter, too, had been gazing at the same brilliant panorama; and it was her ex- pression of delight, as she thus looked, which now arrested the stranger, and fixed itself for ever in his memory. Let us endeavor to de- scribe her as she appeared at that moment. She was about seventeen years of age, of the medium height, and with every contour just rounding into the full outlines of womanhood. She sat on a low stool, at her father's side, her elbow resting on his knee, and her head, sup- ported on her hand, bent forward a little, while she gazed, as we have said, on the picturesque effects of light and shade produced by the pass- ing shower. The stranger thought he had never seen so beautiful a countenance. The small, full red lips were slightly parted in wonder and de- light, partially exposing a set of teeth as white and regular as pearls; the delicate nostril was a little expanded, under the same emotions; and the eyes—which, even in that rapid glance, the traveller saw were of a dark hazel—were opened to their full extent, and glowing with all the enthusiasm of a young and pure soul en- tranced in the presence of nature. The stop of the stranger on the perch, and the dash of the rain-drops from his hat, startled her from her reverie, as well as her father; and she sprang at once to her feet, with the lightness of a young doe. Almost any other person than the traveller would have been embarrassed in these circum- stances but he was a man who had already seen much of life, and who was by education, as well as by character, self-possessed. He bowed low, therefore, avoiding with great tact the blushing girl, and addressed her parent. "I beg pardon, sir," he said, in a clear, deep voice, "for my intrusion; but this April shower must be my excuse." The schoolmaster rose immediately from his chair. "You are welcome, sir," he replied, with a dignity the stranger had not expected to find in one so humble. "I hope you are not very wet. Will you take a chair? Dora," he said, addressing his child, "a chair for the gentle- man." The young girl turned to hand a chair to the stranger, but the latter, anticipating her purpose, sprang forward, and took the chair from the still embarrassed Dora." "Pray, let me; and again speaking to the father, he continued—"No, I am not very wet; I have been much worse so, when trout-fishing, and thought nothing of it." "You love the 'gentle sport,' then, as old Isaak says?" replied the schoolmaster. "When I was younger, I was fond of it myself, but my old limbs cannot support the fatigue any longer. "We have fine streams, however, in this vicinity.'' The tone in which the old man spoke, not less than his choice of words and his evident fa- miliarity with books, impressed the stranger with still more respect for his new acquaintance. "I have come to the village," said the stranger, "because of the reputation the streams enjoy in the neighborhood. In fact, I have been a little out of health, and the physicians have ordered me to recruit.'' The easy but deferential air of the stranger, and the agility, yet grace with which he had sprung to relieve her of the chair, had already attracted Dora's attention, accustomed as she was only to young men who were either awk- wardly bashful or impertinently forward; and every word that he said, as the conversation progressed, menaced this favorable impression. She did not join in the conversation of her father and the stranger, but sat at her parent's knee, listening with half averted face. "You could not find a place better suited for your purpose," replied the schoolmaster. "The air is salubrious, and the beauty of the scenery continually invites to out-of-door exercise. Did you ever see anything finer, of its kind, than the view from here across the mill-pond? With this shower dancing over the dark water, what could be more picturesque?" "And the glistening of the rain-drops, as the sunset rays strike them!" responded the stranger. "Every drop seems a diamond. Mark how they are seen for an instant, and then disappear, fleeting downward in a steady stream, one follow- ing the other in quick succession, ever-ceasing, and yet never-ending—one might think it a scene in a fairy tale. But," he added, smiling, "perhaps, like the rest of the modern world, you abjure fairy tales?" "No," said the old man, smiling in turn; "I believe the intellect, as well as the heart, is often reached through the fancy. Our Creator," he added, reverently, "would never have given us imagination if He had not intended it to be em- ployed for high purposes. I could not enjoy my Bible, or glorious John Milton, if it were not for that faculty; and when I remember that fairy tales first, and afterwards the "Pilgrim's Progress," were the delight of my childhood, I dare not join in the modern cry." "We are of one mind," said the stranger, more and more astonished to hear an obscure schoolmaster thus converse, "on that point, at least; and on many others, I fancy," he added, while that kindly smile, which made his face so handsome, again glittered over his fine counten- ance; "I have a suspicion that I heard you play on the organ this morning?" "I love music," quietly answered the old man, "and used to perform a good deal—but that was when I had a—" He stopped here sud- denly, and seemed embarrassed. The stranger noticed it, and with ready tact, came to his aid. "And this was the 'sweet singer of Israel' that I heard. Was it not?" He turned to Dora as he spoke, who, on find- ing his eyes directed to her for the first time
since his entrance, coupled with words of such high eulogy, blushed, and looked down again. "I am passionately fond of music," he said, seeing thas the daughter still felt embarrassed in his presence, and again addressing the parent. "I must really express my pleasure at the grati- fication I received this morning. Had your daughter no instruction?" "I taught her to the best of my poor ability," said the schoolmaster. "Her mother used to be considered a superior vocalist. But it some- times seems to me," he continued, affectionately considering her, "that she even excels her mother. There are few here, however," he added, with a sigh, turning again to his guest, "that appreciate good music." Their conversation continued in a similar strain; and, before long, by the exercise of a little tact, the stranger had overcome the timidity of Dora, when she began to take her share in the conversation. She did not speak much or often, indeed; but what she said was full of good sense, and clothed in pure language. Once or twice she warmed into enthusiasm, and ex- pressed herself accordingly; but, the instant after, she blushed at her own eagerness. This equisite sensibility was, in the eyes of the stranger, a great charm. He had seen so much of mere women of the world. Whose cheeks never crimsoned except artificially, that he was fascinated by a trait that betokened at once purity of soul and a fresh and virgin mind. The feeling which the whole three had for music was a magnetic passport to acquaintance, and even intimacy; and, before half an hour, even Dora, who had lived almost entirely ex- cluded from society, and was of a retiring and shrinking disposition besides, felt that she could speak to their guest as she could to a brother. "I shall remain in the village for many weeks," said the stranger, at last rising to go, for the shower had ceased, and the sun was already touching the horizon; "may I occasionally take the liberty of spending an hour or two with you?" The old schoolmaster, who rarely found a per- son of tastes similar to his own, was only too much flattered by this proposal. He rose from his chair, and, extending his hand, replied— "My humble roof, sir, is always ready with a welcome for you." The stranger extended his hand also to the daughter, who half coyly took it, her little heart, inexplicably to her, all in a flutter. "And will the same welcome come from you, Miss Dora?" he said. She raised her eyes to his; it was a sufficient answer. "We will go with you to the head of the pond. We always take a stroll at this hour on Sunday evenings," said the old man. So they set out, Dora walking between the two men, listening; for their conversation was now of high import, and such as might have passed between sages of old. Science, classical learning, poetry, religion—all were laid under contribution, as the passing scene, or the thoughts that flowed from the different remarks required. In front of the old church they stopped. "I have forgotten to introduce myself,'' said the stranger, laughingly, as he shook hands again with the schoolmaster; "but, lest you should think you have made the acquaintance of some idle ne'er-do-well. let me say that I an- swer to the name of Paul Sidney." "And mine," said the old man, returning the smile—a smile that, in both, had a sort of latent scorn for the uselessness of the conventionalism, in the present case—"is Mr. Atherton. My daughter we call Dora—after a saint," he added, touchingly, "after a saint in heaven " "Good night, Miss Dora!" said Paul, retain- ing her little hand a moment in his own. "Good night, sir," she replied, in her sweet, melting tones. And so they parted. But the old man and his daughter lingered, and often gazed back; and when Paul stopped on the bridge, and, with a sigh, looked to where he had parted from his new acquaintance, he saw them regarding him. He took off his hat and waved it in the air; and then remained watching them till they were lost to sight.
CHAPTER II. We will not describe the numerous interviews that followed. Paul Sydney had little to call him away, and so he lingered in the village. Every evening, after school was closed, he visited the cottage, and, while he and the old man con- versed of books, Dora listened. Or, sometimes, Paul told of his travels, and answered her eager questions about Italy, Greece, Egypt, but most of all, Palestine. The evening was always ended by a song or two, and then Paul went home musing my moonlight. What this was all to lead to, he never stopped to inquire. Paul Sidney had been born to an ample fortune, and had always been indulged, so that he never considered, where his enjoyment was concerned, what might be the consequences. He had not the remotest thought, as yet, of falling in love with the schoolmaster's daughter, nor did the idea that she might possibly fall in love with him enter his mind. He liked to talk with her father, to hear her sing, and to study her open- ing intellect. There was something fresh in all this, to one palled to the conventionalism of the world; and, in tho enjoyment it afforded him, he did not at first look beyond. Neither did the old schoolmaster gaze into the future. Mr. Atherton, indeed, had never been worldly-wise, or, if he had, he might have remained in the comfortable circumstances in which he was born. He had once been a trades- man of some standing, but a love of books and of music, and a generous faith in his fellow- men, had combined to strip him, in the end, of all his means, and render him glad, in his old age, to accept the humble post of schoolmaster in this village, to which he added those of organ- ist and sexton, to eke out a living. His wife had died soon after his retreat to this place, leaving a daughter only seven years old. To- gether father and child had lived, in their se- cluded retreat, seeing little, and caring less for the world, each being all in all to the other. To the simple mind of the old man the idea that Dora might love this fascinating stranger never oc- curred; he did not, in fact, think of her loving anyone but him, but, in a sort of vague way, supposed that they would live and die together. What little money the old schoolmaster could spare, had been spent in adding to his slender stock of books; and this library had formed a mutual solace to him and Dora during the long winter evenings. In consequence of reading but few works, and those all good ones, she was much more thoroughly educated than young ladies generally are at her age. Paul Sidney, in most respects a remarkable man himself, was frequently startled by the acuteness of her re- marks; and came at last to call he jocularly his "little Minerva." But it was neither for her intellectual qualities, nor for her great musical genius, that Paul, after
a month's intimacy, would have praised her, if he had been describing her to a mother or sister whom he desired to love her; it was her purity of heart, her firm principles, her sincere piety, on which he would have dwelt. These qualities she had learned at her father's feet; in this respect, indeed, daughter and sire were one. The summer had come, and was half gone, yet still Paul lingered in the village, putting off has departure from week to week. "Do you know, Dora," he said, one evening, for he had long since learned to call her by her first name, "that your voice would make your fortune on the stage?" "I would not sing, in public, in that way, for millions," answered Dora, with a heightened color. "Why, is there anything wrong in it?" in- quired Paul. "No, I don't think there is," replied Dora. "But I should shrink from it, nevertheless. I should abhor the display, the false character, and the thousand eyes bent on me. Oh! it would kill me." "But you sing in church, and people look at you there." "That is different. Besides, sacred music seems to me so true and earnest, while that of the opera appears false and artificial. And, in our little church, I know everybody, which is very different from the theatre." "Dora has an instinct of what is purest and best," interposed her father, "though she does not know exactly how to explain it to you. The stage is not bad of itself, but only in conse- quence of its accessories; yet it is bad, never- theless—so much so, that no pure-minded woman, if she can help it, will continue on the stage." "Mrs. Siddons?" said Paul. "Mrs. Siddons, never associated, as a rule, with members of her profession, but avoided them. The Bible says, 'enter not into tempta- tion,' and yet, to send a virtuous female on the stage," said the old schoolmaster, warming with this theme, "is to lead them into temptation." "You have silenced me," replied Paul. "In fact, I was only questioning you Socratically, to see what you would say." "I am sorry the stage is what it is," added the old man, after a pause; "for, if anything should happen to me, Dora's musical gifts would, but for that, be an easy road for her to compe- tence." He put his hand on his child's head as he spoke, for she occupied his accustomed seat at his knee; and his words faltered a little as he pronounced the last sentence. "Do not speak of her having to toil for her living," said Paul, hastily. "As society is at present constituted, such a fate to a refined fe- male is terrible." "And yet it is one," said the old schoolmaster, looking up into his guest's face, "that will pro- bably be Dora's. In the order of nature, I must go first—and, when I am gone, what is to become of her? This little cottage, and the bit of land adjoining, are attached to the school. All my worldly possessions, if sold, would not pay a gentleman's hotel bill at a summer water- ing-place. Dora and I often talk of these things, for it is a maxim of mine that there is nothing which may probably happen in life which we ought not to prepare ourselves to meet." The idea of Dora having to labor for her support was so inexpressibly painful to Paul, that it revealed to him the state of his own heart, and, for a moment, he trembled at the precipice on which he so unexpectedly found himself. In love with Dora! and would she return the affection? Or did she look on him only as her father's acquaintance—a sort of gentlemanly bookworm, fond of talking with her parent on abstruse questions of law and morals? Besides, what would his family say to such a marriage? for they not only had a right to be consulted, but the power to prevent the union, or at least to render it difficult. But the old schoolmaster gave him no time for reflection, for he continued, "We have sometimes thought Dora might get a livelihood by teaching music; but she sings altogether by ear, and could not impart even the rudiments. She might teach in a school but not here." "And why here?" said Paul, for this ap- peared to him less painful then any other em- ployment. "Because the school is a sort of foundation, and the terms of the original legacy require that the teacher should be a man. The testator lived when all the old prejudices against the sex were yet unshaken, and when it was considered suf- ficient for a woman to know how to knit, bake, and spin." "The times are wiser now," said Paul, vaguely. "Yes," replied the old man, "but in justice to our fathers we must remember that the family relation was held more sacred then than now, and that consequently it was not necessary, in a utilitarian sense, that women should be edu- cated as intellectually as at present. Then, poor females were supported by contributions from their cousins or other relatives, or were taken into the house—" "And now," interposed Paul, bitterly, "bro- thers even let their sisters starve before they will support them." "But Dora hasn't even a brother—no, not even a near relation in the world, said the father, with a sigh. "We were not speaking of her," said Paul, irritably, "but of the social system as it affects women generally." There was a moment's silence, and then the old man spoke. "There's a poor chance, I hear, for a lone female in a great city," he said, fondly stroking his child's head; "and yet there is even a poorer one in a country village, unless she goes out to service, and some are too frail for that." And he tenderly regarded his daughter, evidently still thinking of her. "Thousands can barely subsist in our great towns," said Paul rising, and walking up and down the narrow room with agitated strides. "Thousands die annually," he continued, as if speaking to himself; "worn down by over-toil, and thousands more perish, in soul as well as body." He said these words wildly. He was think- ing of some of the miserable objects he had seen in cities—once, perhaps, as happy as Dora. The conversation continued for some time longer, on the part of the old schoolmaster; but Paul did not participate in it, except by broken ejaculations. He was, in fact, thinking of Dora and himself. He continued to walk up and down the room, until at last, finding he could not control himself, he seized his hat and abruptly left the house. That night he slept but little. Paul Sidney was entirely dependent on his father, who, being a man of immense wealth, had discoun- tenanced the idea of the son studying a pro- fession. "There will be no necessity for your working," the parent said, "for I have quite enough to spoil you." So Paul, after graduat- ing with high honors, had been allowed to travel. Fond of intellectual pursuits, and, as we have said, of a poetical organisation, he had lived a life of thought rather than of ac- tion.
But with the vision of Dora as his wife, came also the idea of earning his own livelihood. No two men could be more unlike than Paul Sidney and his father. The sire was a cold, hard, conventional man, who thought nothing worth living for but the acquisition of wealth, and who, though he might, perhaps, have par- doned his son's union with a portionless woman of fashion, would never forgive his marriage with one both poor and without position. Had Paul's mother lived, she might have been an intercessor between the son and father; and indeed it was from her that Paul derived all the higher qualities of his nature. But, now that she was dead, there was no one to stand between the anger of the millionaire and the offending son. All this Paul foresaw, and it made him hesi- tate. Not that he thought, for one moment, of giving up Dora, if he should find that she loved him; but the difficulties of his position caused him to reflect seriously, before acting, what it was his duty to do. The conclusion to which he arrived was in accordance with his clear judgment, his upright principles, and his firm- ness of character. "I will first learn Dora's feelings," he said, "and if she loves me, I will offer her my hand. I will then visit my father, and solicit his ap- proval. If he refuses it, I will tell him that I regret that I cannot obey him in this, for that I am a man, capable of knowing in what my hap- piness consists, and not base enough to trifle with the felicity of another or of myself. I will then seek to earn my livelihood, and, when I have succeeded—be it ever so humble—I will marry Dora. Or, if her father dies before that, I will marry her without delay, and trust to heaven and to a willing heart." Dora herself lay awake that night till the early birds began to sing in the thicket close by her window. The sudden departure of Paul and his evident discomposure had agitated her unspeakably; she feared she had offended him, and yet she did not know how. She recalled every word that had been spoken during the evening, in hope to discover what had angered him; but in vain. She had never felt so un- happy. And, at last, she burst into tears. She had so often contemplated the idea of supporting herself that it had ceased to be pain- ful to her; and it never occurred to her, there- fore, that this is what agitated Paul. It was the death of her father, not the penury that would follow, which always made Dora sad in thinking of her future. Her anxiety to know the cause of Paul's con- duct should have revealed to her that she was in love; and, in fact, long before morning it did; for Dora was not entirely a mere girl, but in some respects a woman already. The pain she felt at Paul's rudeness betrayed to her the state of her heart. She blushed, even in that darkened chamber, and hid her face in the pil- low, as the consciousness of her weakness flashed across her mind. And yet—was it weakness? she said to her- self. Could anyone have a nobler heart than Paul? His anger kindled at the slightest act of oppression or injustice to the weak; and he was ever ready to assist the poor with kind words as well as with his purse. Would she ever forget the fervour with which he had sung that air of Handel's, "But who shall abide his coming?— an air whose lofty enthusiasm and divine fervour she had never thoroughly appreciated before. And then his various acquirements, his eloquence in conversation, and the commanding nature of his manly character—how could these but win the admiration, love, and reverence of a poor simple girl like herself? The next evening Paul came early to the cottage. He had stopped, on his way, at the school-house, timing his arrival so as to reach it just as Dora's father, the school being dismissed for the day, was collecting the scattered books, and preparing to lock up. Paul entered and surprised him at the task. "Why, my young friend," said the old man, with some surprise, "this is an unexpected call. You find me, like Cincinnatus, at the plough; for this narrow room is to me what his acres were to him. I fear you were not well last night, you left as in such a hurry?" "I have a few serious words to say to you, Mr. Atherton," said Paul taking a seat at one of the desks, and resting his head on his hand, while he looked the old schoolmaster earnestly in the face. So unusual a seriousness was there in Paul's attitude and voice, that the old man, who had a pile of books in his arms, started, and down came the dog-eared arithmetics with a crash to the floor. "What can it be? Is your father ill? Are you going to leave us?" He said this with evident anxiety, and his aged head shook as he stooped to pick up the books. Paul sprang forward, and collected the vol- umes for him. Then, as he placed them on the old schoolmaster's desk, he said, with more light- ness of manner, for this little accident had brought a smile to his face, "Mr. Atherton, I wish to marry your daughter." Had the Emperor of China come down from the clouds, in all the glory of stiff, yellow bro- cade, and laid his fortune at the feet of Dora, the astonishment of the simple-hearted old man could not have been greater. "Marry my daughter!" he said, stepping back, and looking at Paul from head to foot, as if he doubted whether his young friend was crazy, or whether he was so himself. In spite of his earnestness, Paul could not help smiling again. "Yes," he replied, "marry Dora." The old schoolmaster pulled his spectacles down on his nose, scrutinised Paul again, and then pushed the glasses upon his forehead once more, all the time regarding his visitor earnestly. And now the tears began to gather in his dim old eyes. "You can't be jesting—you are too generous for that," he said, at last, his voice quivering with emotion. "Heaven forbid!" said Paul, fervently. "Then heaven bless you!" cried the old school- master, tottering forward, and grasping the hand of Paul. "My Dora will have a pro- tector when I am gone, and one whose equal, if I had searched the world over," he continued, with a voice shaking with sobs, "I could not have found." "I love your daughter," said Paul, with feel- ing, "but would not speak to her of it until I had first asked your permission." "Ask my permission!—you were sure of it, my dear boy," said the old schoolmaster, laugh- ing through his tears. "But I never thought of such a thing—nobody could have made me believe it," he continued, looking at Paul, and crying and laughing by turns. "Heaven bless you, my son!" The interview between Paul and Dora shall be sacred. But when Paul entered, Dora met him with a conscious blush—the result of that knowledge of herself which she had gained since their last interview; and when Paul left, hours after, it was not a blush only that attended him. Within a week, Paul departed for his father's house; for he was a man who, having once re- solved what to do, lost no time in acting. Even in that short interval he saw a marked improve- ment in the womanliness of Dora. Love had transformed her as if by magic. She was quieter and more subdued, yet without being less light-hearted. Is this paradoxical? Then, reader, you know nothing of love. There was a deeper meaning in her eyes, which Paul had never seen there before; a divine faith and af- fection whenever their looks met, that thrilled him to his inmost soul. And yet her step, if possible, was lighter than even before, and she went about the house singing unconsciously. She was like a happy bird let loose from its cage. She lived for that week, as it were, in a delirium of poetry. Paul had explained to both Dora and her father his entire dependence, for the means of a livelihood, on his father. He had also hinted at the possibility that his parent might object to the match. The old schoolmaster at first shook his head. He had always been a proud man, and poverty had not made him more humble. "My child," he said, "shall enter no unwilling family. If your father refuses his sanction, neither Dora no I wish to see you again; for her marriage with you would, in that event, be impossible, and consequently your presence amongst us would only increase her sufferings as well as yours. But the eloquence of Paul finally prevailed, and he did not depart until he had convinced the old schoolmaster that to separate Dora and himself, for a mere point of etiquette, would, under the circumstances, be cruel and wrong. "I am," said Paul, "legally as well as morally, my own master. I consult my father, because
that much is his due, and because, if he con- sents, it will smooth many difficulties. But heaven forbid I should throw away a life's happiness for the whim even of a parent. If my father should object, it will be with a will as obstinate as mine—for in that one thing we re- semble each other; and the consequenoe will be a breach between us, and my being disinherited. But even that—and the breach I shall regret more than the disinheritance—may be a blessing in the end. I feel daily more and more that it is wrong to rust away life, as I have been doing; and some great disaster, which will rally all my energies, and spur me on to action, will do me good. Dora may not have all the luxuries, in that event, which she deserves; but the com- forts I may earn for her will be sweeter, per- haps. Will they not, Dora?" The last words that Paul spoke, before the final farewell, were to repeat his promise to write the moment he arrived in town. "You will see me in a fortnight," he said, "whatever may happen; uat you will be anxious, I hope, to hear from me at once." The tears stood in Dora's eyes, though she tried hard to smile; but when Paul was out of sight, she hurried up to her chamber and wept uncontrollably. The first four or five days of his absence passed in comparative cheerfulness at the cot- tage. Both Dora and her father missed Paul more than they had thought they would; for his cheerful ways had become almost necessary to their existence. Dora looked up from her needlework a dozen times as the twilight drew on, to see if Paul was in sight coming down the road; and, when she remembered he was far away, sighed, and even sometimes dropped a tear. The old schoolmaster could not sit at his books as he did before Paul had come to their cottage; but would rise up, take a few steps, return to his chair, and then again rise, and walk nervously about. He was now in the garden, now out in the porch, now a few paces down the road and looking towards the village; but never quiet and composed as old. There had been a time when Dora had been sufficient for his happiness, but it was so no longer. He could not be entirely happy now without Paul, that he might converse, as they often had, till the midnight moon rose over the trees. But, weeks passed, and no word came from Paul. "Don't fret, dear," said the old man, striving to speak firmly. "He may come yet, and if not—" but here, breaking completely down, he burst into a sob, "Heaven will temper the wind to the shorn lamb." "Don't think of me, dear father," said Dora, falling on her knees before him; "I can bear it well enough. He is no doubt dead, or he would have got some one to write. And, notwithstand- ing her heroic words just before, she too utterly gave way at this, and wept aloud. When her voilence had partially abated, the old schoolmaster spoke. He had never hinted his suspicions to Dora before; but now he thought she would be comforted a little, if she knew that her lover was false, and not dead; for he judged her proud nature by his own. "No, he is not dead," he said, "but he has forgotten us. It is the way of the world, my child," he continued, piteously, stroking her hair. "The rich soon forget the poor, the proud the humble, and the happy those who are miserable—but miserable we were not till he came among us. I was never deceived as now, though often deceived before. So generous, so noble, so superior to vulgar prejudices—and I thought, too, with so much firmness and such love for you. But never mind—never mind, dear child; we will be happy again, as we used to be. I will serve you as he would have done —you shan't want for that, Dora—won't we be a happy couple, your old father and you?" Something in the tones with which he pro- nounced these last few words had startled Dora, even amid her misery, and she now looked hur- redly up. It was to see a strange smile on her father's face—to hear him break out immediately into immoderate laughter. Alas! the suspense of that week, and the final disappointment of that day, had unsettled his reason. It was weeks before he recovered. He was not violent; he did not cease to know his daughter; but he laughed almost continually. He fancied that he was a bridegroom, and that he must constantly attend on Dora; and yet, with this strange hallucination, he never forgot that she was his daughter. It was a feeling like that which we experience sometimes in a dream, when, while retaining the sense of our personal identity, we yet fancy, in a delirious way, that we are another individual. During all this time, Dora watched him inces- santly. The care of her parent broke, in part, the blow of Paul's baseness—for baseness she at length considered it; and, in this sense, the illness was, perhaps, a blessing. For a fort- night, with some lingering remains of hope, she had sent every day to the post-office, by a lad, the son of a farmer close by; but now she gave us sending, satisfied she should never hear of Paul again. It was now that her character developed itself. Thoughts deep as existence, and feeling profound as eternity, were written on that countenance, which, but a few months before, was as open and as cheerful as an April sky. One day, it was Sunday, her father awoke from a long sleep, and looked round with all the old intelligence in his eye. "Dora," he said, with a smile, raising himself on his elbow, and looking towards where she sat gazing vaguely out of the open window. In an instant she was at his side, delight sparkling in her eyes, for she knew by his tones that he was sane once more. He stared at her for a minute, in astonish- ment. She had changed, as we have said, and he scarcely knew her. At last he spoke, smil- ingly—"How much like your mother's look," he said. "I never saw you appear so much like her before. But—" and here he paused, as if recollecting himself, "how long I have slept! Surely it was later in the evening, and now I recollect I was sitting in that chair. I must have slept all night, and this is Sunday." "This is Sunday," said Dora, almost choking. She saw that to him four weeks of agony had been but a day; and she felt thankful for it. "Well, be of good heart," he continued; "to- morrow will be Monday, and that will bring a letter. I know it will. My long sleep has re- freshed me, and made me sanguine again. We despaired because we were worn out physically and mentally with anxiety. To-morrow—to- morrow"—and he repeated the words. Just then, faint across the water, which, as we have said, was in full sight from the cottage, came the sound of the afternoon hymn, sung in the meeting-house near the bridge. If my readers have heard a hymn, sung thus in a still afternoon, they know how inexpressibly sweet it is. The old schoolmaster caught the sounds, and his whole face brightened up. He looked at Dora, and then both listened silently. It was a hymn that spoke of the redeemed walking by green pastures and beside pleasant waters; and the soft summer day, the bright vegetation, and the calm lake added indescribably to the effect. As it proceeded, the old schoolmaster raised his eyes to heaven, and when it ceased he murmured vaguly, "There the redeemed shall walk. There neither moth nor rust shall cor- rupt. There the saints shall receive us all. There we shall all meet—wife, daughter, hus- band, father—and never again part. Heaven be praised!" He had gradually wrought himself up to a pitch of almost inspired enthusiasm, and, with his last words, he clasped both hands together and half raised himself in bed. Then, suddenly, he sank back. Dora sprang to his side. She saw the whole terrible truth at a glance. His sudden restora- tion to sanity, his rapture, his fall—and, in wild words, chafing his hands all the while, she be- sought him to speak. "Only a word," she said, "just a blessing be- fore you die, dear father—oh! merciful heaven, grant this petition at least!" She raised her agonised face to heaven, kneel- ing at the bedside, tears falling from her eyes. All at once those dear orbs unclosed again, and the father recognised, though perhaps he did not see his child. He felt his way feebly, with his hand, to her forehead, and, while his face was irradiated as if with divine light, mur- mured, "Bless you, my child—your heavenly Father will be a father to you." Again the mellow strain floated over the water, for the congregation had begun another verse; but the old schoolmaster heard it no more. TO BE CONTINUED.