|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Dark or Fair. A Story of Town and Country|
THE NOVELIST. "Dark or Fair."
A STORY OP TOWN AND COUNTRY.
(BY "JENNY WEEN.")
(WHITTEN FOB THE "TOWN AND COTJNTBY JOURNAL.")
Paul Fizzele landed in England just in time to minister comfort to his mother's dying hours ;. to gladden her fond heart with the sight of his handsome face, and hold her hand in his for one brief hour, ere the angels summoned her to her happy home. Then he stood alone in the silent house, the dear old home where he had been born, reared, and idolised by that
devoted mother whose remains he must now
consign to the grave's still keeping. " He might have been kinder to her," he thought, as he stood there, in the fading twilight of the evening hour ; " he wished he had stayed at home with her -*-if he had but known." Ah ! if he had but known she would so soon pas3away from earth-life's joys and sorrows, he would not have left her in the old home alone for so many weary, anxious months.
The last sad rites administered, Paul found himself the possessor of a neat little fortune, the result of many years' strict economy on the part pf his mother. With this he decided to set up a studio, and apply himself diligently to work, that he" might win fame. And perhaps love in the end might crown his life with nobler results than
" Paul Fizzele rose ; and Nellie saw the gentleman who had given her the.half-crown."
. (See tale entitled " Dork or Fair.")
heretofore, and grant him a happy future, with
the chosen of his heart.
Seven weeks later he takes' up 'his abode in Kensington, and begins his work. He has let the house in that quiet country, village, and come up to London to make himself a name. For a while he keeps steadily to his purpose, devoting all his time to the production of a picture he was to hang in the academy in the ensuing season. On this he builds many fond hopes, trusting to realise his ideal, and win the goal of public opinion.
He shuts himself up in his studio, and labors patiently at his beautiful study. The picture represents a young girl standing on a bridge among the ferns ; a background of blue hills in the distance, a sunset-tinted sky ; a strip of bush, through which a little creek is seen wending its way through fern and scrub ; a lovely girl hold ing a basket of strawberries, and looking with soft, dreamy eyes toward the sunlit hills. As he works upon thc canvas his thoughts fly back to Polly ; and he wonders whether she ever thinks of him and the talks they had upon the bridge. " He would be worthy of her," he told himself; "he would not offer her a tarnished name ; but honor and love should go together by and-by to win their rich reward."
Like an inspiration of beauty; the picture grew, until it stood upon the easel a .finished work of love and art, which caused Paul's cheek to glow with hope and pride, as he gazed upon its glowing colors, and felt that it was worthy.
The eventful day came. The picture was hung ; and forthwith the young artist found himself famous. His fellow-students accorded him a supper ; his friends applauded ; the press con gratulated; and orders came to him,from men of influence and wealth. His success was certain, people said; the tide of fortune was at its flood ; and Paul Fizzele's name'-would become as famous as his picture was beautiful. He sent a copy of the REVIEW to Sydney, hoping that it might safely reach the hand of her heloved. But he did not venture to write, to her. He could wait, and make a name worthy of her
before he thrust himself forward as a candidate for her love. He did not think that she would
forget him. Months passed. Paul'moved into a large, handsome studio, and began to engage him self with higher works of art. Landscapes were beautiful. He loved'them. But historical pieces seemed the favorite subjects of the day. So he would seek a lofty inspiration, and strive to com
mit his thoughts to canvas in such forms of beauty as must strike the public eye with won dering admiration.
He must find a model for his pictures-a face of classic beauty, a form of natural grace, to repre sent his subject. Long days he searched. Long nights he waited in the street, down the byways, among the busy crowds of the great city. Yet he found not his ideal ; and there fell upon his spirit a weariness born of disappointment as he sat beneath the spreading branches of a grand old oak in the park one wintry night, watching the white flecks of snow settle softly upon each limb and leafless branch until the smallest twig was clothed in spotless white, wreathed around with crystal particles, which shone forth.in per fect outline against the wintry sky, and seemed to speak to him of Heaven's purity, even amid the darkened ways and sorrowful experiences of earth's failures, fears, and conflicts. The snow fell upon the pathway ; and many footsteps soon reduced the spotless garment of nature to puddles of muddy slush. But the snow upon the tree remained pure and white, because it was nearer Heaven j uplifted from contact with the world, unsullied in the clear atmosphere of God's immortal love. "Nearer my God to Thee,"'the soft refrain rang out upon the wintry air, and Paul remembered how his mother sang those sweet words of prayer ; and he realised their truth and beauty as he had never done before.
What a sweet voice ! Where is the singer ? In the cold, pitiless street, among the mire and slush of melted snow; out there in the keen frosty air, which seemed to penetrate even through Paul's thick overcoat, and she was thinly clad, and
almost barefoot. Dear heaven ! what a beautiful face, upraised to God, each feature expressive of such soul-anguish as only earth's siiffering, sinless angels can feel, as they come in contact with
sorrow and crime !
A little group had gathered round the singer, and stood in silent wonder, listening to the beauty of that song of prayer. Most of them were of the lower sort, to whom such words were new and strange maybe, or if they might have heard the words at some distant period of their sorrow sullied lives, they had not entered into the spirit which breathed in that prayer, or felt the in fluence of that beautiful aspiration. Paul pushed his way through the crowd, and waited until the singer ceased, and the sweet refrain died away
i amid the snow.
j The girl looked round in silent appeal; and Paul caught her pleading eyes,. Bill dim. with tears. Their dark lashes swept her pale cheeks, and told their own sad story. He laid half-a crown in her outstretched hand ; and such a look of grateful surprise lit up those lovely eyes that he was well repaid. She turned away, and hurried toward a narrow street, where Paul saw her enter a shop, and purchase food. ;He waited for her; and followed her till she came to an old house, which was apparently let -out in fiats, for the convenience of several families. There he in quired of a respectable-looking man, who sat patiently behind his little stall, waiting for chance customers for his simple wares, and learned that the young girl , was the daughter of a music master, who had seen better days, but who was reduced by ill health and misfortune to great penury ; so that Nellie was obliged to strive to earn their daily bread.
For some time she had been »able to attend the concert hall near by, where she earned a consider able sum weekly by playing the violin, and sing ing to her mixed audience. ,' But latterly her cough had not allowed her to go out at night, and her father needed her presence more now, as he grew more feeble every day, and no one knew how the two clung together, or how they made a liveli hood. The devotion of the girl was beautiful, he said; and often, when the old man slept, she would steal away to the park, and sing for pence with which to purchase some little comfort or luxury for the invalid. As Paul listened to aU this,, he formed a little plan whereby he might help Nellie, and also for ward his own. interests. .. Instinctively he .knew that he was treading on delicate ground, that
Nellie would be no ordinary model, but must be won by diplomacy; her natural love of the beau ful, and her devotion to her father, forming the two principal factors in the question.
He would paint a picture, in which Nellie should be the central figure; and this should be the first of a series of historical or emblematic subjects, upon which he had set his mind. But over and above all these thoughts rose the sweet refrain, like the June light of Heaven illumining the beauty of earth's fairest scenes, " Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee ;" and Paul knew that it was the inspiration of his guardian angel, st riving to lead him upward to an immortal realisation of beauty which should elevate his own spirit, and enable him to minister to others and then fulfil the perfect law of love. .