« السابقةمتابعة »
in his dark eye; and tender protection in every movement. True, strong, tender, loving —I asked no more.
She loved him fondly. She leaned upon his strong arm, so sure that it would always protect her; and when her step grew weak, her eyes dim with age, she knew his love would watch over her, as it did now over her delicate, fragile form. It seemed to me the beau ideal of true love. He so strong, dignified, and tender; she fair, trusting, and so ready to follow meekly where his judgment led. Her lonely life, her orphanhood, and weak health had made her peculiarly dependent upon love, and she was like the vine that would fall did not a strong heart stand ready to support her clinging love. So I thought then.
My new nephew was the son of my old friend Frank Lawrence, a man of standing and wealth, who gave his consent to the marriage, and iondled my pet's curls with an abstracted air, which we all attributed to absent-mindedness, and thought of no more. Young Frank was a physician, and, as his father desired it, he left home to settle in a small town in Ohio, there to establish a practice. We all thought it odd that Mr. Lawrence should be so anxious for Frank to make his own way so entirely; but the lovers parted, with vows of constancy, and he went to Ohio.
Two years passed away, and my pet was of age. There was a meeting of lawyers, some signing of papers, and Constance was in possession of the large property her father had left. On the day she came of age my old friend Mr. Lawrence died, and Frank was sent for to come home. I knew my child's hope, which was mine, too, that his father's death, making him independent, would allow him to remain at home.
It was the evening after the funeral. We were seated in the parlor, listening to a gentle rain pattering on the window-panes, listening, too, for a well-known footstep, when the bell rang violently, and then, with a hasty step, Frank came in.
We knew he would be sad, for he had loved his father well; but we started as the light fell upon his face. Such a look of utter, despairing misery I never saw before. Constance was beside him instantly.
"Frank, dear, you are ill I" His lip quivered, and he took her in his arms, and looked into her face with a passionate look of love and sorrow that was heart-breaking; then he came to me, and, putting her on the Wipfa beside me, he said, softly:—
"Take her, auntie! I—I must give her up."
"Give her up I"
"I am not inconstant I I love her"—his voice broke here; but, after tr moment, he said: "I will tell you. When my—when Mr. Lawrence's will was read this afternoon, it was found that he had only a few thousand dollars to will away; these he left to me. The rest of his property goes to the heir-at-law, his nephew."
"Surely his son is heir-at-law," I cried.
"I am not his son I"
"Not his son?"
"I never meant to deceive you; I thought until to-day that I had the right to call him father, but I have not. He left me a letter, telling me that years ago he was called to see a dying woman, who had heard that he was rich and charitable; She begged him to care for her baby, and died while she spoke. He did as she requested. May God reward him for it I And—and—that is all 1 I know not who I am; nameless, poor, I came to tell Constance that she is free."
My darling had listened quietly; now she left her place beside me to go to her dearest resting-place, in his arms. She did not speak; she only rested her fair head on his bosom, drew his arms about her waist, and so, silently, lovingly, renewed their engagement. I stole away, leaving them standing there.
The next day he left us to return to Ohio. He wished, he said, to make himself a home and a position before he married, and we respected the noble heart that shrank from seeming to woo the heiress, and he went back. At first his letters were frequent, then longer intervals came between them, and we noticed that each time the writing was less distinct, the words of love more constrained, and the letters shorter. Constance trusted; I—I blush now to own it— I doubted. There was at last an interval of six months, in which our letters were unanswered. Then came one in a strange hand; I opened it, for my pet shook and trembled so that she could not break the seal.
"He is not dead ?" she whispered.
"No; the letter is signed with his name."
So I read the letter:—
Incurably blind! I have tried to believe this gradual dimness, darkening every day, was temporary, and that I might still work on for the dear end I so prayed for—the power to call you wife; but it is all over now. I know my dark future; I can only pray for strength to endure it, and that God will comfort you and bless you in a happier choice.
Constance took the letter, and looked at the name, in large straggling characters which the loved hand had traced; and then she folded the paper and put it in her bosom.
"We must go to-day, auntie. Poor Frank!"
"You will go to him?"
So we went. We took rooms at a hotel, or rather tavern, and then inquired for Dr. Lawrence's office. It was easily found, and we were soon on the door-steps. The door was open, and we entered very softly. He did not hear us. He was seated before a little table, upon which were writing materials, and he was evidently learning to trace the letters without seeing them, and what was on the page—no word but Constance—in large irregular characters, crooked, meeting, crossing each other, often the one name was multiplied upon the sheet.
Constance went close to him, and then bent over and read what he wrote. The next moment she drew the pen from his fingers, and knelt before him; he did not start; he only said, softly—
"Yes, Frank. How could you write such a letter, Frank? If I were in trouble, would you cast me off?"
"Constance !" so softly and tenderly, he said the name again: his hand resting on her head, and his sightless eyes fixed on her face.
I cannot tell how my darling became gradually the strong one to lead the wavering steps of her blind husband. Some there were who pitied her for passing her bright youth with a man blind, poor, and nameless; but I knew that his loving helplessness made him dearer to her than all else the world offered her; and that in heart and truth they were indeed one.
The nightingale is a lively bird to the young and joyous; a melancholy one to the declining and pensive. He has notes for every ear; he
over gentle souls a wider and more welcome