Chapter 71124005

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Chapter NumberVI
Chapter Url
Full Date1889-09-28
Page Number32
Word Count2378
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleDark or Fair. A Story of Town and Country
article text

THE NOVELIST. " Dark or Fair."






In a stately mansion, where every, luxury abounded, and beautiful Art spread out her trea sures on every hand; where Wealth outspread its bounties with a lavish hand, and men hung

./'Nellie entered his room ; and there, across his bed, with his violin in one hand, lay her

father's inanimate form."

(Seo talo entitled " Dark or Fair.")

upon the lips of the possessor of Buch vast re sources, Lord Loveless lay a-dying. Physicians had exhausted their skill, and priests their prayers. The wealthy owner of vast estates, noble buildings, and regal fortunes, must die, and leave them all !

Silence fell upon the stately home. Men spoke in whispers ; and footfalls were hushed upon the threshold where the death angel lingered, wait ing but the signal of the Infinite to obey His bidding.

And Lord Loveless was afraid of the transition

through which he had to pass. He thought of those significant Avords, " As a man so we th, so even shall he reap ;" and he trembled before the invisible, and prayed that he might live to redeem the errors of the past ; for his eyes were opened, and he saw the worthlessness of wealth without love, of life without some labor of which the angels could bear record. He lay upon his pillow, weak and almost speechless; the physi cians by his side, and the pastor of the church he had himself built and endowed waiting to admin

ister the last words of consolation to his passing soul. But Lord Loveless wanted neither physic nor prayers. His spirit yearned for that which his earth-life had never won-the love and sympathy of one kind human heart. His wiU was made ; his immense wealth bequeathed

An Improved Cable Gar Transfer System.

.?<: (See letterpress on this page.)

to various, benevolent institutions and scientific, societies. But no loving band soothed his last hours ; no tender regrets would be breathed over MB remains. His "trembling hand was raised to

j beckon his valet, who Btood near ; and they heard

him whisper, ." In the Beeret drawer, in the fifth panel of the library, some old papers; fetch them ; quick !" But even as the man went Bwif tly to do his bidding, Lord Loveless was dead.

The stately home was very silent. Sombre draperies and costly funeral arrangements, every thing that could add dignity to the occasion of a rich man's death, were there; all but loving hearts to mourn hiB loss . and there was none to mourn or shed a grateful'tear to hiB memory.

He had lived in luxurious selfishness. He was

to deck his resting-place. The will was read ; and the secret paper was not found, though search was made for it in every possible place. ,,

The vast wealth of Lord Loveless was placed in the hands of the trustees of the institutions to which he had bequeathed it ; and the world forgot the possibility of the existence of that unknown record. And the only daughter of the old earl

knew not of her birthright, knew not that her ! father died with the thought of hor mother's! wrongs resting upon his spirit like the brooding j wings of some dark vampire, and that he strove j

in vain to breathe her name.

? Paul Fizzele waited in his studio for the arrival of Nellie and her father. Again and

again he looked at his watch. The hour appointed for the sitting was long past ; and he had never known them late. Always punctual, and with ever increasing delight at the success of the picture, Nellie had presented herself at the studio at the given time; and those hours were among the bright hours of her life ; times when she could converse with beauty, and feast her soul with the love of the sublime ideas of the poet artist, whose magic touch had unfolded to her wondering view treasures new and old.

But this morning Paul waited for his beautiful model with growing impatience ; for the hours were precious now, as the picture, so near completion, was the constant theme of the artist's thoughts.

" Well, I'll go out," said Paul, looking at his watch ; " here, Tim (to the little lad who served as page), if any one comes while I'm out, just say I've gone round to the club."

"The children of the people, in town and country, are ever subject to changing circum stances. I wonder what has befallen my beauti ful sitter. Perhaps her father is ill!" thought Paul, as he hurried along across the park in the direction of the music-master's home. Inquiring of the landlady as he entered the house, Paul learned that a terrible trouble had fallen upon

that numble lodging. Mr. Hardie had seemed in much better health during the past fèw weeks ; and Nellie's hopes had risen greatly in the anti cipation pf his renewed "vigor, improved circum stances, and cheerful manner. But this morning, receiving no response to her continued call, NeUie entered his room ; and there, across his bed, with his violin in one hand, lay her father's

inanimate form.

Some hours must have elapsed since death took place, the doctor said; and heart disease must nave been the Budden cause of his departure. So Nellie was left alone in the world; and when Paul took her gently by the hand, and asked her to accompany him to the house of a lady who would care for her, she would not suffer him to lead her

said, with touching devotion. "He was all she

ever had to love."

Paul left her there, more beautiful than ever, he thought, in her deep sorrow; and that night the studio was closed, and the artist sat alone with his God, in the depth of his great sympathy

for Nellie's loss.

Tenderly they laid the old man to rest, Paul saw that he had a fitting funeral ; and he followed as mourner. He would paint the kindly intellectual face, and long silvery hair ; the withered hand grasping the beloved instrument, whose chords no other hand should strike ; and the picture should be an inspiration of persever ing toil, and suffering genius. The reality waa ever with him, even in his dreams. The sweet recurring strains of that tender harmony, "Nearer my God, to thee," told him that the father still watched over his orphan child, and left her in his keeping. Then a strange thing happened. Paul took Nellie to the house of a benevolent lady who loved to befriend the suffering children of the people; and the young girl brought.him her father's violin to take care of. He hung it in his studio ; and when Nellie came for her sit ting they would talk of ; the old man and his ambitious dreamings, which had been unfulfilled. And one day Paul took down the violin, and would have played a sweet refrain the old man loved; but suddenly the strings snapped, and his arm fell powerless.

Nellie picked up the instrument, and saw that a piece was broken out of the back, evidently by the fall. She tried to replace it, and in so doing found & narrow ? slip of paper carefully fastened

inside the violin.

Paul, recovering from the shock, came to her side; and together they read;the last will and testament of the old music-master, written in a tremulous hand, the characters scarcely legible in places., Paul saw the words, "I; Michael Angelo Hardie, do hereby certify that I am not the father, of Helena Caroline Bristo, known as 'Nellie Hardie,' but that I married her mother when 'Nellie' was but an infant, in Florence, during an artistic tour. When I was a young man I loved Caroline Bristo. ;She was the daughter of an earl ; and when he knew that we had met he took every precaution tb separate us. Nellie was not my child; her father waB killed in a duel; and Lord Loveless never forgave her mother for eloping with nie. But I was not per mitted to keep my darling very long. The Eng lish climate did not agree with her health. She took cold, my beautiful flower ; and soon she died, leaving her child in my charge. I loved the child, because she resembled her dead mother ; and we have clung together, through all the trials which have come to our , lot. I only write this that when I am gone Nellie may communicate with her relatives, and so be rescued from' a life of poverty. She has been all that a good daughter could be. May God reward her !" ' \

Nellie clung convulsively to Paul's, arm for a moment or two, then sank in a deep swoon by his side. What must be done ? . Here was, á young and beautiful girl, the heiress to a noble property, friendless, alone in the world. A sudden thought sent the hot blood coursing through! Paul's 'veins. It came to him like a revelation/ , Nellie loved him for his kindness in providing for, her step father; for his friendship in her hour of need. Why should he not avail himself of the oppor tunity fate threw in his way ? If he married her ? She was beautiful, gifted, and would be immensely wealthy when her claim was acknowledged. His position would be assured; and NeUie would bo happy. .. .'j' V ,

Yet there caine Jbo him the vision ol.W fair girl standing on a bridge among the ferns, and a basket of ripe strawberries. Tenderly as a mother he Boothed her back to consciousness, and com forted her under this new trial ;: for it was a trial to Nellie's sensitive soul to knowfthat the old man she had so tenderly loved was not hor own father. Carefully he placed her in a cab, and took her home'to Mrs. Arnold, the good lady who would henceforth supply a mother's place to her., Then

he laid the circumstances before the astonished lady, and they decided that the matter should be placed in the hands of a solicitor, to be investi gated as soon as possible. His own feelings he did not divulge ; but Nellie clung to him at part ing as if afraid that some change might come between them; for her own heart told her its hidden secret as she looked into Paul's tear-dimmed eyes j and she knew that she loved him ; her hero, her poet-soul, so good, so noble ; and she only wished for wealth that she might win his lovel .

, Months passed. The beautiful picture was finished, hung, and purchased for a large sum by a noble-hearted gentleman, who read its beautiful lesson of love, and desired to give it, to a public art gallery ; so that many others might see it and feel glad.

Nellie no longer came to the ; studio. She was busily studying to fit herself for her.newposition, -and Paul absented himself strangely from Mrs. Arnold's. That good lady often indulged in a pleasant day dream of her; own, regarding these two young people who had endeared, themselves to her; but she was rather-disappointed that Paul did not avail himself of the opportunity afforded him of winning the heiress. Nellie's heart grew sad as Paul came not; but still she hoped that he would not forget, her. " Perhaps he was very busy doubtless he was ambitious; fame and fortune awaited him, and he was worthy."

Meanwhile, the claim was being established. Papers were discovered proving the marriage of Lady Caroline Bristo with Michael Hardie, pro fessor of music. , But there was no codicil to the will ; and all the properties of the late Lord Love less were, in the: hands of the executors. The death of Horatio Bristo : was also proved; he having fallen in a duel occasioned by a jealous rivalry over a beautiful singer, who waB then the reigning belle of Florentine circles. Slowly the claim was gaining ground; and NeUie became an. object of interest to many people who could noe help acknowledging her extreme likeness to the beautiful Lady Caroline. It became the sensa tion of the day. The papers raved about it; society chattered about it; and the shrinking

girl oould hardly appear abroad without attract

ing notice.

Mrs. Arnold took her abroad, took her to Florence (the beautiful city of her birth), to Venice, to Naples, to Borne. And Nellie's spirit grew strong ; her nature expanded under the influence of beauty as a flower in the sunlight ; until Mrs. Arnold wondered at her beauty and grace, and prophesied a bright future for her favorite. They visited Switzerland, the land of mountain glaciers and snowy heights. They wandered down the valley of the Bhine, and rested in the fatherland of poetry and song. They came through beauti ful Prance, and strolled along the shores of the Mediteranean, till the summer waned, and autumn's wealth of ripening fruit and grain shed its golden sheen over the fields and vine yards.

Then Paul came in his own yacht to fetch them home. Those were golden days. Nellie never forgot them ; when love's young dream filled her eoul with subtle gladness, when the music of the voice she loved filled her with purest joy, and earth seemed like a paradise of beauty. Nellie lost herself in tho Elysian fields of love, for getting past and future alike in the happy present, while Paul was near to smile down upon her from those lovely eyes of his, to whisper tender nothings in her ear, and tell her the soft secret of his inspiration. And in those hours of sweet forgetfulness Paul never thought of the possible cruelty there might be in thus winning a young heart's love and trust, when, perhaps, he would not be able to return them.