Chapter 58433180

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter Url
Full Date1885-12-25
Page Number3
Word Count738
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)
Trove TitleMildred Austin's Two Christmas Eves
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CHAPTEE In. THE CHRISTMAS CHIMES. Ma. FoRDBRa thought Mildred had dark eyes when -he saw her in the schoolroom-but now he saw they were deep blue-but that the long eyelashes that shaded them were dark and match ed her soft hair. He saw her pretty mouth was more expressive than ever when she looked up with one of her shy sweet smiles, revealing teeth white as daisies. He saw also those smiles were a wonderful charm to a face whose usual expression was little too thought ful and sad for one so young. For the rest, he discovered Miss Austin looked gentle, perfectly unaffected, also that she was able to talk rationally and well on all the subjects he introduced during their walk to the schoolroom. Mrs. Hillyard had deserted her place at the harmonium, and Mr. Bilson, the conductor of the choir, who had been hastily summoned to judge whether Mildred would be able to fill the place vacated by Mrs. Beale, was seated tLere. Mr.Bilson was one who made the most of every opportunity, and though the rehearsals were supposed to be over, when he saw so many of the singers waiting in the schoolroom, he could not resist putting them through a chorus or two. When Mildred and Mr. Fordbam came within hearing, their voices were ringing out in the thrilling, resonant notes of " Lift up your heads." Mrs. Hillyard met them at the school gate. She had been waiting there for some minutes past, watching for their appearance, and she exclaimed " What does Miss Austin say ? Of course, Philip, you have told her why we want her ?" " Imust plead guilty to the omission. In the first place, I had not courage, and in the next, I thought the request would come better from you." "Oh, then, I will tell you all about it at once, Miss Austin. Mrs. Beale has been suddenly called away, we are in despair about getting someone to take her part. Dora Howe suggested you might be able to come to the rescue and save the oratorio from being a failure, so in the name of all the choir I ask you to make the attempt." Mrs. Hillyard spoke rapidly, as she always did when in earnest, and per haps in contrast Mildred's words seemed tame and quiet, as she thouthfully re plied "I know the oratorio all through ; it was papa's favourite, and every Christ mas foryears in succession we had it in the village schoolroom. I shall be glad to help you if I can." " Thank you so much. That is quite the sort of consent I like and that is so rare to find-no fuss, or apologies, or foolish excuses and nonsense, but just the will to assist us, and the kindness of heart that prompts the will." "Perhaps you may not think me skilled enough, Mrs Hillyard." " We will judge of that presently. Mr. Bilson is all impatience to hear you sing. There ! the chorus is over. Come in, Miss Austin, and let me intro duce you to our worthy conductor." To say Mildred was not at all nervous would be false. She knew some ex perienced judges were present - none perhaps more critising than the young ladies of Hillcross, who had been very much inclined to look down on Miss Austin. "Was she not a mere stranger in the village," they said, " who wore rather shabby mourning? Was she not always in clove attendance on her invalid mother, and did she not decline to join in any amusement that was going on I"' Mr. and Mrs. Howe and Dora were the only residents of the place who had called on the Austins, and that was because long ago Mr. Howe and Mr. Austin had been at college together. True the vicar and his wife had paid more than one visit to Laurel Lodge, but they of course called on everybody. Though Mildred was a little timid at first, she determined to do her best, and when Mr. Bilson struck the open ing chords of the anthem that was to be her test, she stepped forward to his side. Her voice and musical talents had been carefully cultivated, for her father-who was passionately fond of music, and no mean performer himself had spared neither trouble nor expense in having her well taught. (To l€ ContiffUd.)