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THE STORY OF A YEAR.
" 'Tis an awkward thing to play with souls,
And matter enough to save one's own."
“The present alone, the present without passion, the calm, regular present, does not suffice for the human soul; it feels narrow and poor in it; it desires more extension, more variety."
“ But after all, peace is not the last word of life, not the highest symbol of happiness.”
“ When you know, and when you love, you shall still suffer. The day dawns in
CLAUDIA AND ROSE.
CLAUDIA VARIAN had been in Nature's studio, on Crofton Rock, examining a wonderful picture. This was an October sunset. Long slant rays of orange red, deepening on the one hand to gorgeous Sienna tints, on the other, fading to dusky, tawny gold, rose, crimson, and a gradual commingling of all hues. They flashed down the hill-sides as if some oldtime god had been shooting his arrows from behind the ruby and sapphire embattlements. What enemy were they in search of, as they penetrated the clumps of evergreens, or skirted the wide stubble-fields ? A drowsy humming of bees, a shrill chirp of insects, and occasionally the tremulous warble of some homeward bird. Did the Titans, when their arrows were spent, listen to these ? Claudia did, when her brain grew confused with azure, opaline, and frost white ; when the beauty of those far reaches of wood and meadow land stole in too powerfully for her mind. The low brown hills sank down, one after another, in purple evening indistinctness. The trees lost their crisp outline, and became weird, moving figures. The stubble-field, so lately golden, melted into gray. A soft, murmurous undertone seemed to follow the wind rather than become an integral part of it; a voice of the dying summer, still tenderly cradled in the arms of autumn.
The girl drew a long, restful breath at last, and turned to descend the hill. The leaves were beginning to ripen and fall. She watched them as they drifted slowly down, to rest on the bosom of their primal mother. Some brilliant flowers starred the edges of the wood. Wide sprays of golden-rod wedded to snowy tufts of balsam. Purple asters stood upright like sen
tinels. Here a vine stretched out its long arms, and gave a ghostly lurch towards the passer-by. A peculiar scent filled the air; a kind of ripe, mature fragrance, compounded of dried leaves, the spicy aroma of spruce, pine, and hemlock, and the countless herbs that thronged the underbrush. At one step she stirred the pungent pennyroyal; farther on, at the brook, she trode ankle deep in watermint. Here she paused, and watched the limpid stream purling over its pebbly bottom, saw the tireless, darting dragon-fly, and myriads of iridescent ephemera shooting hither and thither.
Her eye had been trained in this grand, ever-varying school. Wonderful coloring, shifting light and gloom, dense shades, faintest tints, copses that might serve for dryad-haunts, rocky ridges bold and sharp, gray granite sprinkled with glittering mica, and trees outlined against a sky of such pure, opaque blue that you saw the smallest branch. Claudia never wearicd of detail. Her patience, like her love for nature, was inexhaustible.
Presently she came out to the road. A pleasant enough country road, bordered for a quarter of mile, perhaps, by Lombardy poplars that had been kings in their day. Several of them were half dead. Looking at them she shivered. . She used to wonder if they had not an instinctive consciousness of decay, and suffered as their vitality was exhausted.
Then turning backward, she gave a glance at what she had so lately left. Everything appeared different seen from this point. There was the rock, still gray and beautiful. There was the gentle undulation of the trees, with their tops falling lower and lower. There was the sky above, a rosy evening sky. From the top of the rock, glancing over the wide expanse, the whole world had seemed before her. Now, only a little hill stood between her and heaven.
Her homeward walk was a rather lonely one externally. In her heart, Claudia Varian had yet to learn the true meaning of the term. The part of Crofton, touched by the march of im