Images de page





A WRITER in some modern magazine, speaking of his heroine, has said: “She had an ideal of life and love, as all women have; but, like almost all women, had neither the courage nor the integrity to cleave to that ideal.

İt is a truth. He was a subtle student in woman nature. And, had he generously added that woman may not go forth and search out her ideal as man may, and may not openly strive to win it as man may, we women would have read his words without writhing.

I live in a quiet, inland town, and know no people whose histories are called romantic and thrilling. Still I know stories of common lives which prove how difficult it is for women, unless they be surpassingly beautiful, or wealthy, or gifted, to obey their best impulses of action, and to live up to the code of conduct laid down for them by men who think finely but have never suffered.

If Amelia Hall had not the beauty which belongs to the complete woman, she had her nature and her peculiar genius. And I hold it is the most poetic order of genius which makes home a beautiful and happy place. The painter and the writing poet have always exquisite and abundant material with which to work. But woman (we speak of her in common homes, not of her in a palace) has often dingy things and doled supply with which to deal; but if she has genius, she always creates a place to which man comes for rest.

All women are said to resemble some flower, as all men some tree. Amelia Hall was like a rose, one of those roses which have a centre of faint star-color and single circle of pink petals as they spring up wild on road-sides and meadows, but which burst out with gorgeous, golden hearts and prodigality of crimson corolla if they are transplanted to cultured gardens.

She was an English girl, an orphan, and a dependent on the bounty of her uncle, a rich old man who lived in my native town.

I think it is a trait of all girls, whether gay or pensive, to tell to each other their aspirations and ambitions.

How often I remember what Amelia Hall used to say,' remarked a friend last week, recounting to me the fates of various dreamers. While some of us hoped to be poets, and one a queen, and one an actress, and another a traveller, and many content to be rich men's wives with splendid wardrobes and jewel-cases, the foreigner used to say: 0 American girls! None of you speak of your homes nor of your husbands, unless to say they must be rich and handsome. Hear how I could be happy. I would have a home in a village of white houses, wide, cool streets, parks, and many gardens and fountains. Half a mile from the village each way, there should be woods, and every where streams of water and rustic bridges. I wish I might have a husband dark, tall, fine, and athletic as an Arab chief, chivalric as an olden knight, tender in

heart as a gentle page, and gifted as the Grecian poets. And unless I can have such a home and husband, I will always remain Amelia Hall, and work in uncle's dairy-room. I remember how we used to laugh at the English girl for being prosy and domestic.'

Until she was twenty-four, Amelia Hall waited for her noble lover to arrive from the picturesque village. She was content the while to make butter and cheese, and to chat with the rustic young men of the adjacent farms. Until then she was content, sandalled with the fairy shoon of fancy, to walk in the folding parlors of her porticoed and balconied future home, to arrange the flowers, pictures, and furniture, and at twilight to sit in the whitepillared portico, or to go down the avenue of trees and watch at the Gothic gate for the noble one beloved. As firmly and coolly as if already affianced, she refused offer after offer from the wealthy and honest farmers.

At this period her uncle lost his property, and then his wife. Then they two were penniless — he an invalid old man, and she a poor, poor orphan. On her twenty-fourth birth-night, as she walked in the orchard as usual at sun-down, her uncle, lame and querulous, joined her and leaned on her arm. She saw hope on his poor old face. His voice was cheery as he began : Well, Millie. Feel old maid-like? Twenty-four this minute and no loser! Is it well, lassie ?

Millie smiled in her subdued fashion. She looked down at her face in the mirror of the brook. It was oval, smooth, and delicately rosy.

I see, I see. You English keep well," said the old man quickly. * But you 'll alter, lassie, when you have to work night and day for bread and calico. What do you mean to do to get these two things ?' and he eyed her cunningly,

'I shall work at something and take care of us. I could teach, I think,' she replied.

• Keep school for eight or ten shillings a week ? Starvation wages, girl. It would n't keep us both. If I was out of the way it might do. But I've a much better way, Millie. Old Yale's son — the one with horses, and chariots, and farms, and mills, and houses — wants you for a wife. He's been to-day talking with me about you. Why do n't you smile, girl ?'

'I never could marry a man like George Yale,' she said. 'He's the comeliest young man in town,' the old man continued. • He'd worship a little lady-like woman like you. You could wind him around your little finger easier than you can that ribbon. He'll always be a home man. Consider him.'

She considered the stalwart farmer six feet high, with his sunburnt face and still, constrained demeanor. 'I dislike to think of him,' she said.

Consider him, I say. I can 't bear to see you a slave for me; you'll soon be a miserable old woman. Marry him and have a home, and let me have a quiet room to die in. Yes, I've heard the girls tell how you was going to marry a grand talking gentle

man. But I'll warn you you 'll live a disappointed old maid if you wait for this fancy man. Stop, not a word. Think of it, think of it, before you make a vow,' and he hobbled to the house muttering

Instead of Fancy, Reason spoke that evening to Miss Hall. 'Romantic young woman,' Reason said, 'do you know that you have never even seen this man whom you prettily call ‘mate ?' There are no such men in your town, and I assure you, you will never be known beyond its boundaries. Better accept the most eligible offer you have while it is open.'

But it is not in me to guide a man to beauty and wisdom, the heart earnestly plead; ‘I would be led to higher summits. I shall only go back into the low-lands if I obey you, for I know I am infinitely superior to George Yale and all his comrades.

Do n't talk metaphysics to me,' said Reason coldly. 'I had rather know what you think of working day and night to support yourself and your uncle while you wait for this fancy man. What do you think of your old uncle's dying in the alms-house? What do

you think of becoming a faded, old maid, eh? — a faded old maid, at whom, if he should meet her, the great gentleman would not look ?,

Millie sighed wearily. More softly Reason continued : 'Is it not better to be mistress of that comfort-full establishment? Is it not better to give your poor uncle a home, even at the sacrifice of a few fine sensations ? Would it be too much for his years of care for you? Be assured,” Reason concluded in an awful tone, be assured I have looked every way, and there is no wonderful knight on the road coming to rescue you.'

Amelia Hall walked once more sad and slow, sad and slow,' through that porticoed and balconied house of the future; she paced once more down the avenue of maples, and bathed in tears the hand of the prince-like one who would have led her back to sit with him in the white-pillared portico. She locked the Gothic gate, and brushed from the mystic sandals the dust of the cool, wide streets of that lovely village, and laid them away in a lonely room of her heart, whose doors she barred.

Then she prepared to marry George Yale. She wore no sacrificial air. Her old uncle laughed like a boy and blessed her with tearful eyes. She was womanly and sympathetic with her lover. She interested herself in his roughly-told plans. He lost some of his ruggedness of manner under her touch, and a little poetry latent in his heart flamed into life beneath her gentle breath. With some pleasure she mused : 'I can change him. May be my life will not be so dreadful."

She was married to him, and smiled as some intimate friend reminded her of her ideal home and husband.

In beautifying and keeping her home beautiful, in infusing her delicate tastes into her husband's nature, Mrs. Yale found a real and womanly pleasure. But she ever grew pure and angel-like.

She was not strengthened ; she did not develop into the luxuriant double-rose.

They had been married three years when they were visited by a distant kinsman of Mr. Yale. Stanwix Mason was a professor in a Southern academy. He was a man of genius, and also a thorough man of the world. He was like Amelia Hall's ideal husband.

Of course he at once read the peculiar disposition of the husband and wife. Then he noticed the lady's still blue eye kindle at a picture he drew of a Southern scene. He watched the veins throb in the white, swelling temples as he talked on in the picturesque style which characterizes his books. A temptation glided to his side.

He saw how little her beautiful arts of house-keeping were appreciated by her husband, (who, though he did love his wife, was extremely matter-of-fact,) and he dared to talk to her in this wise as they sat in the parlor one day: 'I think you are an exquisite artist, Cousin Amie. Do you know I have been admiring the drapery of your rooms and your vases ever since I came ? I seldom see their like, save in pictures. I can read dreams of yours in every bouquet you make for me. Poets compose other things than poems.

I know something of your nature and your history perhaps from that special little library in yon white-draped cabinet that looks like a chapel where a lovely, lonely lady might go to weep and pray.

'I do not know why you talk to me so strangely,' said Mrs. Yale coldly, her pride starting up in arms before the locked doors of her heart.

"Pardon me, fair cousin,' he responded. Become acquainted with me, and then, if I am worthy, confide in me.'

There were many evenings in which the three sat together on the stoop, Mr. Yale balancing his books, and the cousin reading aloud to the lady of the house from the Greek of Homer, and from Shakspeare and the Brownings. The young wife was exhilarated in the new atmosphere. She grew gay and beautiful. Her husband was happy of the change, and the guest grew more genial.

One night, when this cousin had read and talked to her until she was bewildered by the beauty and light he poured upon

her soul, and when at parting for the night, he raised her hands to his mouth and kissed them, and murmured : Poor, poor little Amie;' that night the thrilling truth burst upon her. She was beloved by her cousin.

"Too late, too late!" she cried sharply as she fled along the passage to her room.

An hour later, Stanwix Mason, pacing up and down the gardenwalks, as was his wont, saw through the open casement Amie kneeling by her bed-side in prayer. He saw her rise serene and kiss the swarthy brow of her husband. He understood the peace in her eyes and turned away with a thwarted face. The next day he smilingly bade them adieu for the South; and the husband and

wife took up again the even tenor of their still-gliding lives; the honest husband happy and contented with his home and wife, living his best possible life, and she with half her nature in chains and darkness - her greatest happiness that she has made others happy

And multitudes of women like Amelia Hall are called cowardly and mercenary, while they are really brave and unselfish. They are true to what they deem duty, if not to the instincts of their hearts.



Why in anguish

Make petition
Dost thou languish,

In contrition
Christian! while such bliss awaits thee? O'er thy sins the past inhumeth;
Why lamenting,

For thy spirit,
Though tormenting,

Through Curist's merit,
Cometh oft the foe that hates thee? See ! in future glory bloometh!
Jesus liveth!

Bright suns rise on
Strength He giveth

Thy horizon,
To the soul that needful prayeth: And thine, though veiled with warning,
Lo! He blesses

Joy-beams catcheth,
Him that presses

While it watcheth
Strong his suit, and ne'er delayeth. For the promised light of morning.
Oh! to-morrow,

Rise, and arm thee!
No more sorrow

If alarm thee
Shall with awful weight oppress thee, All the threats of Time wbile fleeing :
If not grieving

Never drooping,
But believing,

Never stooping,
Thou wilt ask Him to caress thee. Spurn the weights of present being.
Be not fearful,

Neither weeping,
E'en though tearful

Neither sleeping,
To His now thine eye upturneth : Be thou found when Christ appeareth:
Cloud-drops lighten,

Seek thy pleasures
Dark souls brighten,

Where its treasures
When in Heaven His glory burneth. Heavenly Hope in wisdom beareth.
Oft His finger

Ever fighting,
Near will linger

Though affrighting
In the hour of death's fierce trial, Satan's shafts around thee rattle,
Backward tracing

Stand thou steady,
Shadows chasing

Bold and ready-
Moments graven on life’s dial.

Drive him from the field of battle!
Or if ever

For life gasping,
Life must sever,

God's sword grasping,
O'er the yawning grave He hovers, And thy loins girt, keep thy station :
And the spirit

Never flying,
Takes t' inherit

E'en though dying,
Homes where saints are guests and lovers. Wear the helmet of salvation !
Child of Heaven!

Onward ever!
Though thine even

Faint thou never,
Ever be to darkness leading,

Though thy brow be dimmed or hoary ;
Still life's zenith

Till in Heaven
Star-lit leaneth

Shall be given
O'er thy soul some radiance spreading. To thee harp and crown of glory!
May, 1855.

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »