|Chapter Title||THE PICTURE.|
|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Dark or Fair. A Story of Town and Country|
" Nellie, my darling," said her father, feebly, " I do not feel able to go out to-day. Will you go down as far as Campion's for me, and see whether he has accepted that article I sent last week ? T hope he has, or I don't see how we can make up the rent. Oh ! dear, what a dreadful thing it is to be so poor !"
" Never mind,".father," replied Nellie, cheer fully; " things will mend soon, and perhaps we may get our own dear little home back some day."
The old man heaved a heavy sigh, and looked out of the window, hopelessly regarding the view to be gained from it of a very small portion of an extremely dirty narrow street, with corresponding evidence of life in poorer localities of the wealthiest city in the world. City arabs, ragged, barefoot, and hungry, sitting among tho dustheaps, searching for such spoils as the gutter might afford, turning somersaults among the rubbish, or jostling each other in the mud, whenever one or another obtained a choice morsel considered worthy of a scuffle.
Old Mr. Hardie looked out upon all this, and shuddered at " tho depravity of human nature," saying, half to himself, in an undertone of bitterness, Nellie thought, " It is a hard world. Why should one half of humanity revei in luxury while the other half is cursed to remain in poverty and misery for the term of its natural life ? Surely, it had been better had they never been
" Oh, father," said Nellie, looking up into his
face like a sunbeam, as if she would try to dispel . the gathering gloom from his clouded spirit ; " surely we are born to labor, love, and suffer for some noble purpose ; and even if we but catch a gleam of love now and then, it helps us to bear the hard things; and we know God loves us through it all, and will supply all our need."
," I don't see it, child," replied the old man; Why did He take your mother; and why am I left in my old age without a son to support me, or at least help me while I finish my book ? That shall yet raise us out of this poverty."
" Poor father," cried Nellie ; " I will go down and see whether there is any good news for you. And neyermind. H I am only a girl, I will try to help you; and wo will love each other through
Yet it was not without a sigh of regret that poor Nellie placed the little table, with writing materials : neatly spread upon it, in the cosiest nook, and saw that all things were as comfortable as she could make them for the querul ous old father, who always seemed to blame her for not being a son, that she might have supported him in his failing health, and given him a better home. His book, the dream of a lifetime, was always in his thoughts ; and the spasmodic efforts he made to obtain a reputation as an author seemed to exhaust the little strength his disappointments and losses had left him. ".Still, it was all he had to live for," he said, plaintively; and Nellie took up her cross, and went bravely on her way. The daily struggle for maintenance sometimes told heavily on the young girl's strongth ; but as long as she could just manage to supply her father's most urgent needs she never murmured. Her own personal feelings were entirely laid aside; and with a de votion which tired not, even of his weary com plainings, she toiled on at her copying, her flower-making, or whatever fate placed in her
This morning she had intended to devote to a new study in wax flower making, from' a model she had seen in a florist's window. ¡But her father's wishes were ever paramount. So she put on her cloak and hat, and, with a cheery word at parting, hurried away to the office of the paper for which her father had been working.
Paul FIzzele, lounging in the park, watchingthe forms and faces which flitted by so swiftly, all tending toward the weary, burden-bearing centre of labor, the metropolis ; saw the fair singer of yester-eve hurrying along, so self-absorbed in anxious thoughts that she scarcely heeded the passing crowd, or heard the turmoil of the city's strife for bread. She hardly dared to hope that any good fortune awaited her ; and when she entered the office she'was certainly surprised to be met by a middle-aged, kind-faced gentleman, who bade her take a seat, while he wrote out a cheque for £2-that being the amount due to her
father for the article in question.
"Tell him to write another on the same sub
ject," said the gentleman kindly; "it is cleverly dealt with. We like such work. It shows an
originality of thought and power of expansion quite refreshing. I wish you a very good, morn ing."
It -was, indeed, a "good" morning for little NeUie Hardie, as she trotted homeward, her heart full of loving thoughts and thankful prayers. Her bright face as she entered her father's room seemed to shed a lustre bf beauty over the sombre surroundings ; and so eager was she td impart her good news that she did not notice the presence of a stranger, sitting in a
shadowed corner of the room.
" NeUie, my dear," said her father, " I have good news for you. This gentleman has offered you employment which I am sure will; be pleasing to you; .and you will be able to. indulge.your
natural taste for art at the same time.-"
Pàul Fizzeïe rose ; and Nellie saw the gentle man who had given her the half-crown. Her conscious blushes were quite unnecessary, for he would not have dreamed of betraying her innocent
"He had called," he said, "to ask her the greatest favor an artist could desire. He" was
engaged upon a .picture representing the ' Children of the People/ taken from a poem of that title, and had long waited to meet with some face which would realise his ideal for the central figure. Would she favor him with two sittings a
week ? Would she allow him to offer her the sum of 20s per week, as a poor requital of the service she would confer upon him ? His studio was not far away ; ho would send a cab for her, and,- if she wished, her father could come with her, and wait her return."
Instinctively, Nellie felt that it was a genuine offer, that in this handsome young artist she had found a friend ; and she trusted him with the simple faith of a child-like soiú.
Soit was all arranged ; and the old man actu ally looked pleased with tho world in general, and himself in particular, as he bowed Paul Pizzelë from his humble lodging, promising td bring Nellie the next morning for her first sitting. Then she told him of tho success of his article, and filled his cup of satisfaction to the brim.
He actually took down his violin, and played a bright composition of his own, written in those happier days when, in company with hiB wife and family, he had roamed among the beauties of Italian scenery, and drunk in the inspiration of the passing hour. Nellie sat down to her flower making with a happy heart, and the old, man lay on the couch, his violin by his side, - dreaming of
(TO BE CONTINUED.)