[merged small][graphic]




(See Engraving.)

The knowing ones of the pretty little village of Winslow very portentously shook their heads, thereby giving the wisdom contained in them an additional impetus. Some, upon the strength of this impetus, said, "We'll see what we shall see." Others said much more; while some very significantly drew down the left corner of the mouth, and elevating the right eyebrow, said nothing. And all this, because Ellen Grant, the village beauty and the likeliest maiden all the country round, "would throw herself away on that handsome, worthless Ned Ford, when she might have had William Walton, the young schoolmaster, or young Grey, the lawyer, or the rich farmer, Silas Greene; or almost any of the best-to-do bachelors of Winslow, just for the asking—no, for the accepting." Thus spake Aunt Hetty, and Aunt Hetty knew; and Aunt Hetty added, that "all Ned Ford cared for was to play on that eternal fiddle and read Burns and Shakespeare—that he had not three dollars beforehand, and never would have." And what had Ellen to urge in reply? That she loved Edward Ford.

She loved him as such warm gentle natures as her own can love. In those delicious hours when he came wooing, she felt her whole nature drawn in tenderness towards him, and when he took her unresisting hand and poured forth in fervent meaning a question from his soul to hers, he felt her tremble to her heart's core, and insensibly her beautiful head inclined more and more softly toward him, until, as his arm enclosed her nearer, it lay nestling upon his manly breast, and he was answered as, with the warmth and silence of summer dew, he felt her very being in sweet accord melt into his.

Edward Ford owned a snug little cottage with a small farm attached, situated about a mile from the village, and to this home ho took his young bride; and, disproving the predictions of Aunt Hetty, and the rest of the villagers, the loving couple lived on in comfort and harmony.

If Ned Ford would draw forth touching melodies from his violin, and if he would persist in reading Burns and Shakespearo, and if he would occasionally indulge his fancy in

the construction of some plaintive verses of his own, setting them to his own music for Lily, his precious first-born, to try her sweet voice upon—and all this while he might have been patching up fences, or rethatching his sheds for the better comfort of his cattle—still they got on very happily. Ellen loved his music, and loved to hear him read, and loved to see him teach her darling Lily. The indefatigable little woman spun, and churned, and tended her poultry; and sent or took her yarn and butter and eggs to the village market, which greatly added to their means of comfort.

Thus, until their Lily was sixteen, their life glided smoothly on. That winter, however, brought to Ford a severe rheumatism, which lasted all the weary months of that dreary season. Although Ellen spun, working almost night and day, yet her husband required so much of her care, that all her efforts availed not much in keeping that stern truth—poverty —out of their cottage door.

Spring came with its genial influences; and in warming into life the tender grass-blades, and the young crocuses and dandelions, it also thawed out the cold and pain in the stiff limbs of Ford, and to Ellen's great joy he was able to be about again.

The young Spring had gradually matured into the mellow, fruit-yielding Autumn before the bitter knowledge came fully upon Ellen, that her husband's recovery to health had not brought her own recovery to happiness, that her first sorrow was likely to prove her least.

That long illness had put them so far behindhand that Ford, finding bills press upon him that he had no means of paying, was forced to mortgage his little property. Affairs still continued to grow worse. Edward had become lazy or disheartened. His farm was ill-worked or neglected, and by fall, his horse and oxen had to go for necessary expenses.

Ellen still kept her cows and poultry, but it was now very little help she received from her husband. He had taken more and moro to his beloved fiddle, although it was not at home he played. Therein lay Ellen Ford's deepest sorrow. Edward, who had been originally the most temperate of men, now spent his days— often his nights—at the village tavern, wasting in senseless riot the time, the health, the means that God had given him for other purposes. Poor Ellen could not help thinking that his thirst for intoxicating drink commenced with the potions of brandy ordered by his physician during his convalescence.

It was now deep into the month of December. In two days more would come that season of rejoicing and roast turkey, " Merry Christmas." Ellen sighed at the dreary prospect for mirth that lay before her. The sigh had scarcely parted her lips, when the door opened, and Edward, earlier than was his wont and perfectly sober, stood before her. With a lightened and grateful heart, Ellen set about preparing the supper. With gentle homely endeavours she made all that evening as pleasant for him as she could.

Upon the next morning, earlier than usual, Edward was preparing to go out. The weather was bitter cold, and Ellen's wood-pile waned low. She had forborne the evening before to ask him to split her some wood, as she did not wish to vex him in any way. Of late he had often very harshly refused her simple requests. It was now with a timid voice, fearful of a rebuff, that Ellen begged him to split a few logs.

"Why did you not ask me yesterday, when it would have done some good? You saw me doing nothing all the evening. You must get along until night the best way you can. I have engaged to work to-day for Squire Davis, and I shall be late unless I go at once."

"To work! Have you?" said Ellen in a pleased and startled tone.

"Yes, so don't detain me. I am to get a dollar and a half a day as long as I choose to work for him."

"How very fortunate!" ejaculated Ellen. "Very," replied Ford in a bitter tone, for the necessity to work for another as a day labourer, instead of working for himself and of his own sweet will, galled his pride sorely.

After he was gone, Ellen busied herself in making things comfortable for the children. It was market day, and she must carry her heavy basket to the village for the different families who depended upon her for their supply of fresh butter and eggs. A year ago she had a neat little wagon and a good horse to drive. Even now Edward might have helped her with her heavy basket, but somehow he was sadly altered.

A dim presentiment of something not good shot through Ellen's breast as she stepped across the cottage threshold into the chill air.

"Mind, Lily dear, and take good care of the baby. I may be gone longer than usual, for I have to buy some things at the store. If anything should happen, send Hetty for me.

And, darling, be a little woman now, and take the best of care of your little baby brother." Lily promised, and Ellen was gone.

For a time the children got along very comfortably. But the bitter cold without grew colder, and the colder the air grew, the faster and merrier burned the diminishing wood. At length the intense cold seemed to soften. The great black clouds flattened and spread themselves sullenly and murkily over the wide canopy as far as the eye could see. Then the soft white snow came stealthily down, and the baby clapped his tiny hands, and crowed in baby glee to see the little feathery, airy, joyous things chase each other down, down, down so rapidly.

Again the air grew colder. The wood was all burned, not a stick or chip remained. What was poor Lily to do to keep her baby brother warm?

"Hetty, dear, we will go out and see if together we cannot roll in one of those great logs." Hetty was the next child after Lily, and was eleven years old. Lily put the baby in the cradle, and worked hard with Hetty at the unwieldy log. They rolled it to the stone step and up the step, but there, alas! it stuck fast; with all their united strength they could not move it one inch back or forth. What should they do? The door was now fastened wide open; the wind and snow beat in from without; the fire within was gradually settling away in its embers. Poor children! Ellen's presentiment was not a vain one. Before three o'clock that afternoon little Hetty, cloaked and hooded, was sent out to face the whirling storm in search of her mother, with a tale that would almost rob the poor mother of her heart's life.'

"What is it, dear child?"' said she, as Hetty entered the village store. "You look cold and pale. Come to the stove and warm yourself, and tell me what has gone wrong."

"Oh mother! dear mother, make haste home. Little Eddy is dreadfully sick. Lily says it is the croup, and that he is dying. The fire is all out, and the room is full of snow, because the big log we tried to roll in, stuck fast in the doorway. Then, mother, when we went into the garden to find some bits of old fence, the spotted cow followed us. We were afraid she would hurt the bushes, and while we were trying to drive her out, she ran down to the end of the garden where the fence is broken away, and plunged into the frozen pond. And there she is above her knees in the water, freezing to death, for the ice broke and let her feet through, and she could not get out again."

What a chapter of calamities! Ellen's heart vibrated in pain to every word the child uttered. As she was hurriedly crossing the street, there was her husband just entering the tavern. A few words from Ellen, and he was as anxious as she, for in his heart he dearly loved his bright boy. He promised to go for the doctor, »nd to overtake Ellen on her way home. It was not until the mother and daughter had half reached the cottage, that Edward joined them.

The three proceeded in sorrow and silence until they neared their cottage. There stood two of their old cows, who gave them a look of recognition as they passed. But the third—all because Edward had been too lazy to mend the fences—the third was freezing in the pond. But no! as they came up to the cottage, there, in the shed, looking crestfallen and demure, to be sure, but alive, and seemingly like to live, stood their " spotted cow!" And—was it magic ?—from the cottage window gleamed the brightest, cheeriest of roaring fires. The log, too, was away, and the door closed. What could it mean? With a trembling hand and beating heart Ellen opened the door. There in the warm firelight" sat, with her baby in his arms, a form that seemed to her bewildered gaze more divine than human. His clear open eye and brow, his light flowing hair, and radiant

sunny face, as he looked up at her, brought but one image to her mind, and instinctively she felt for him a mysterious awe, in which, strange to say, Lily did not seem to participate. Ellen bent over her baby as he lay in the stranger's arms, and seeing him still, and with closed eyes, she almost breathlessly whispered— "Is he dead?"

"He is not dead, he only sleeps."

"flit very words—-almost his words!" continued Ellen in a low voice, checking herself for her impiety in thus involuntarily mingling the presence of the young man before her with that of the Divine Christ.

And what did the stranger not do for this family? Upon each member of the cottage his presence ever acted like a spell for good. He went to the bottom of Ford's tangled affairs, untwisting all clearly. With order came hope and honest effort. In time the mortgage was paid off, the farm restocked; Burns and Shakespeare were again taken from the shelf; when the fiddle gave forth its voice it was not at the tavern; and when, after a short period, and in the age of her now budding womanhood, the stranger asked in wedlock the hand of Lily Ford, he was not refused. >



u Among the superstitions of the Senecas, Is one remarkable for its singular beauty. When a maiden dies, they imprison a young bird, until it first begins to try its powers of song, and then loading it with messages and caresses, they loose its bonds over her grave, in the belief that it will not fold its wing, nor elose its eyes, until it has flown to the spirit-land, and delivered its precious burden of affection to the loved and lost."

Away thou bird! on fleetest pinions go,
We wait to miss thee, in yon azure high,

Love's holiest treasures on thee we bestow,
Which thou wilt bear to climes beyond the sky.

Falter thou not! 'till Peri-like hast won
An entrance into Paradise—where dwells

The cherished one, that from our side hath gone;
Whose vacant seat our tale of sorrow tells.

If there be amid the angel band,

Whose golden harp gives back the sweeiest tone; If'mid the bright and fair, in that blest land,

One seemeth brightest,/aircst,'tis our own.

Onr own!—thou'lt know her by the gentle smile .Soothing the soul, like whisperings from heaven;

And by the love-lit eye, whose gleams meanwhile Shall vie with starry crowns, to seraphs given.

On that young head thy precious burden shower,
Familiar household greetings,—timt caress,

Whow* faintest murmur had the magic power,
To wake her soul to deepest tenderness.

Tell her—within that heart there is a shrine
Deep—deep—on which no mortal eye may look,

Where glows her image—changeless and divine,
Whose deathless power long hopeless years can brook.

Tell her—how we havo mourned her; that the eyes
That smiled upon her youth, have tearful grown;

The lips that breathed her childhood's melodies,
Like broken harp-strings, tremble in their tone.

Tell her—that when our wonted vesper hymn,
Floats mournfully and cloudlike up to Heaven,

Young hearts are sad, and flashing eyes are dim,
With memories of the link from Love's chain riven.

Tell her—that every "tree and flower" she loved,
Seems like an angel presence to our eyes;

The silvery stream and fount by which she roved,
Glow with a halo shed from out the skies.

From that far spirit-clime, sweet bird, return;

Bring us fond tidings from that land of rest^ IIow will our waiting spirits hope and yearn

For Love's own token, from our crowned and blest.'





"Beware of jealousy; It is the jrreen-eyed monster, which doth make The meat it feeds on."—Shakespeare.

Sometimes in the studios of artists may be seen copies of an old paiuting, of such singular power, that once looked upon, the impression becomes fixed for ever upon the mind. Violating, as it does, the legitimate province of art, which is to beautify or ennoble, the natural effect is that of painful distortion—an impression of maddening force, which rivets the eye, while the very soul writhes with pain if not with disgust. Indeed, all works unaccordant with the harmonies of our nature are productive of pain, and serve, just in proportion as they prevail in the public taste, still farther to remove the human mind from that harmonious sphere which alone can insure its repose. The more finely constituted is the organization of the observer, the more profound is its recoil from all departures from the elements of the beautiful; hence it is, that works, in whatever line of art they may be conceived, which are crude or distorted—intense rather than passionate—morbid more than sentimental—excitable instead of enthusiastic—that is, partial and accidental rather than universal—are at length instinctively rejected by the human mind arid fall into oblivion, while the simplest exhibition of an harmonious truth will live for ever in the affections of man,—

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."

The picture to which we refer represents a young girl, with a countenance at once sweet and impassioned, clasped in the bony arms of a skeleton. Beauty in the embrace of Death may be the name. The eyes of the maiden express a dreamy delight—they are turned away from the observer, and from the ghastly object which detains her; the fingers of one hand tendeily embrace the skull, and the others trifle with the skinless shoulder.

But it is in the skeleton that the artist has exhibited the utmost triumph of skill. There is an exultant bearing of the bony frame, a triumphant pleasure in the lifeless jaws, an

hilarious ecstasy about the eyeless sockets, which rivet the attention, and make us wonder how the framework of a face can be made so expressive; more than this, we feel that it is a portrait, that the particular bones of a particular body only could have been so delineated.

And now to the story connected with this singular production of art.

Agatha was a poor ballad-singer of Rome, who appeared every day at certain angles of the Corso, and warbled songs of a wild and impassioned beauty, in which were blent the gorgeousness of oriental imagery with a sweet Italian tenderness, and touches of mournful depth spell-binding the listener. Indeed the whole aspect of the girl was such as to arrest the observer, for she sang as if her very soul hung in her accents, and looked from the wells of her strange eyes. Then, too, she was so appealing in her looks, yet so courageous in her maidenly bearing, that, child as she was. an instinctive respect pervaded the looker-on, and he went his way with a fervent and unconscious benedicite\

From the rich olive hue of her cheek, and a certain litheness of motion, like that of a fawn, uncertain, startled, yet wildly graceful, and from the dainty accent of her sweet Italian dialect, it was rumoured that Agatha was of Moorish blood; but this was the idle conjecture of people who cared not to inquire into the fortunes of a street-singer.

She had been seen for about three years at her usual stand upon the Corso, singing in her rich low tones, and always habited the same; a pink skirt with bodice of green, and a slight scarf of green also wound amid her black locks. Was she privileged to wear the colour of the Prophet? None knew. Those who began to watch the movements of the girl observed that she invariably retired, after singing her round of ballads, to the ruins of the column of Antonine, where she was joined by a youth, an artist scarcely older than herself. One evening, as she reached her wonted trysting place, Guido, for thus was the youth called, met her with an angry frown, and turned from her proffered lip with an expression of contempt.

The girl placed her slight hand upon his

« 上一页继续 »