ePub 版



dim firmament; and where was Picciola now? Wandering, perbaps, alone in these homeless streets, or sleeping on some doorstep, or in some dark corner where she might remain unnoticed and in peace.

There were thousands like her in this great city, thousands sunk in more heathen darkness than she ever knew; but there was gentle blood in her veins, and through the dross of her dreadful life there struggled always, and often flashed out brightly, a nobility of nature, an elevation of soul, which separated her as by a barrier from the neglected throng. He could not leave her to perish in these streets; that was the uppermost thought in the priest's mind as he pursued his way to Tower Hill. He knew what wish was in his heart, but was it a wish that could become a fact ?

And the next moment he stood in a filthy squalid room, and bent over the wretched bed of a dying mandying of wasting infectious fever. The neighbours had long shrunk from that room, and even the children sought the comparative safety of the street, but the priest had no thought of fear. He took the sick man's hand and knelt beside the ragged couch, and prayed for the soul that would soon be beyond the care of man; and when the glazing eyes closed in death, and the helpless widow wept less for the husband of her youth than for the breadfinder of all, he remained with her, and tried to draw her thought to Him Who “ doeth all things well,” promising when he left to come again the next day; and when he once more turned late at night towards his own home, he left behind him the golden light of faith and trust.

“ The big tears start, but the fluttering heart

Is soothed, and softened, and calm."


“ You will stay this evening, will you not, Electra ? Mr. Merryweather is coming here, and we shall have some music-do stay,” said Naomi Da Costa to her cousin, as that young lady entered the drawing-room in Broad Street, about four o'clock in the afternoon of a hot day in the latter end of May.

"Is Mr. Merryweather musical ?" asked Electra, throwing off her cloak and bonnet. “ Dear! how dread. fully hot it is in London, especially here in the city! You don't seem to feel the heat, Naomi.”

“You forget my southern blood ; and I have never lived in the country.”

“Poor girl ! by the way, you must come with me to Stratton Aubrey in another fortnight. I had a letter from mamma this morning; she is not well now, and wished me to return home in a week or two, and bring you with me. Here is her letter; you must not think of disregarding it.”

Naomi read it; it was a very kind letter, containing a most cordial invitation to her to come to Stratton Aubrey, and spend a few weeks with Electra.

“ You would like to come, wouldn't you ?” said Electra, as the Jewess paused.

Yes, very much ; it is very kind of you and my aunt to ask me to go. I was thinking about father.”

“Oh! he can spare you-he must. You must come and breathe a little fresh air, and I want you besides. I shall ask Uncle Bernard to-night myself. Can you ride, Naomi?” “I never was on a horse in


life.” Electra held up her hands.

We must teach you then. You have a figure made for horseback. Naomi, have you ever seen the sea ?”

“No, I told you that I had never been further out of London than the Crystal Palace.'

“You would like to see it, Naomi, I know.”

“Oh! Electra, yes. It has been one of my day-dreams from childhood to see the sea !” And more eloquent than the words were the flushed cheek and sparkling eyes.

“Then you shall see it !" cried Electra, dancing about the room. “ We are only a mile or two from it. Poor benighted cockney! how I do pity you. Well, I will stop to-night; I can't resist your invitation, and I don't mean that you shall resist mine. Is any one else coming but this Mr. Merrywise ?”

[ocr errors]


Merryweather, Electra; no, not that I know of; and don't think that he is young and handsome; he is middleaged and ugly. He's the Editor of the Messenger

“Dear me, literary-can't I go to the British Museum and read up a bit, so as to talk blue-stocking ? Now, see here, I have brought an album of mine with heaps of views, all about Stratton Aubrey. I want to excite your admiration, so that you will be obliged to leave smoke behind you for a little while."

And the two girls sat down together, Electra chattering volubly, and her cousin listening, smiling occasionally, only speaking to admire the lovely views which the album contained. So the afternoon passed, and in the evening Bernard Da Costa joined them.

“I expect Mr. Merryweather about half-past seven," he said, as they rose from the dinner-table;

80 you young ladies had better see to your toilette."

“Dear me! I hope this dress will do," said Electra, aside to her cousin. “ You see I didn't expect

My dear Electra," replied the Jewess, drawing Miss Chichester with her from the apartment, “they are quite quiet evenings we have, even when there are more than Mr. Merryweather, and there seldom are, for we know few enough people.”

And indeed a young girl could hardly have worn a more becoming garment, than the graceful white and blue promenade dress in which Miss Chichester was attired. And Naomi had little enough to do, for the rich long curls were soon brushed and arranged, and the dark silk dress donned ; and both girls descended again to the drawing-room, and were looking over some pieces of music, when a knock was beard at the door, and the somewhat gruff bass tones of the Editor of the "Messenger” resounded in the narrow passage.

“I hope Merryweather has brought some musical friend with him," said Da Costa, rising. “I asked him to do so; we want a tenor now sadly."

“How complimentary to rank a man just as a cabman ranks his fare," whispered Electra to her cousin as the door opened, giving admittance to Mr. Merry. weather; but not to him alone, for behind him ap

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

peared the fine head and handsome face of Darrell Halifax.

“ You see I kept my promise, Da Costa," said the Editor of the Messenger,' shaking hands with his bost, and then turning to take Naomi's small soft hand in bis; “I've brought a friend whom you will find a decided acquisition, for he's mad about music, and can sing a fugue of Bach's at sight. Allow me, --what, you don't need introduction."

“I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Halifax before on business," said the dignified Israelite, extending bis hand to the writer, and then introducing the two gentlemen to his niece. Naomi too bad frankly welcomed the new comer, as one whose acquaintance she had previously made; and seeing that his friend was not a total stranger, Mr. John Merryweather remarkedWell

, I've only to add, that Mr. Halifax is as mad about Mendelssohn and Beethoven as my young friend here,"-touching Naomi—"and that you will not be startled by any such heresies from his lips, as I utter frequently. By the way, Miss Da Costa,” (this aside to Naomi,)“ mind that I have, He shall feed his flock;' I always expect that.”

"Willingly," she said, smiling; and after a little conversation there was a general move to the piano.

“Now what do you say,” said Da Costa, turning over the music on the table, while Naomi opened the piano and took her seat as pianiste, "to the quartett from 'Elijah,' Cast thy burden upon the LORD;' you can take the soprano, I know, Electra. Mr. Halifax, I sup

I pose you are a tenor po

“I have that honour. This is one of the loveliest quartetts I know."

“Isn't it?” said Naomi, turning round and looking up. “I don't know any composer who understands so well as Mendelssohn the art of making a simple thing beautiful."

“And the art of making an apparently simple thing very difficult," answered Halifax.

They sang the quartett, and after that Mr. Merryweather asked Naomi for the contralto song from the “Messiah,"

"" He shall feed His flock."


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Halifax, too true a musician to take up his position close to the piano, went and sat down beside Electra Chichester on a sofa a little way removed from the instrument, and listened with all a musician's delight to the rich mellow voice. And when the song was finished, and Naomi came and took the vacant place next to her cousin, the three entered upon a musical discussion; while Mr. Da Costa and the Editor of the " Messenger" talked literature and politics.

“Do you not belong to the Sacred Harmonic Society, Miss Da Costa ?” said Halifax, at length, d-propos of a dissection of · Eli,' and natural dissection of its talented composer—“I saw you in the choir at Elijah.' I was there with my friend, the incumbent of S. Michael's."

“Yes, I am a faithful member," she answered. I saw you and Mr. Stewart down in the Hall. I think Rees was never in finer voice, or sang more perfectly than he did that night.'

" I quite agree with you. Miss Chichester, I am afraid, is not a Mendelssohnian pur sang.

"I? oh!" said Electra, lightly, "you know I don't plunge into all these mysteries of oratorios and symphopies; but are you, Mr. Halifax, wedded to Mendelssohn ?"

“I should be sorry to be so. Where would be Beethoven, equally great? who can pass him in symphonies ? And then his two grand masses, epecially the one in D.”

“The mass in D!" said Naomi, earnestly; " bave you ever heard that with full accompaniments, Mr. Halifax ?”

“ Not quite full, but with a very fair band, Miss Da Costa. It is an especial favourite of Angelo Stewart's and he has had it done at his house three or four times. It is a grievous pity that it cannot be brought before the general public."

It is, indeed, it is a sacrilege, is it not, for a great work to be buried ? But now, Mr. Halifax,” she added, rising, "you will surely favour us, will you not ?"

“ With the greatest pleasure; nay, to you the choice, I am not particular."

“ Italian," said Electra, drawing near the table, and Naomi selected the celebrated tenor song in the “ Barbiere.'

Da Costa and Merryweather stopped an earnest dis


[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »