« AnteriorContinuar »
will come back to you yet. The man was not a thief; and if I ever see him again—which I'm sure to do, please God—I'll ask him for it; he was just drunk a little, and I'm sure he's sorry now. He did not look like a had, wicked man."
"If he had but taken the money, and left me that!" moaned poor Mrs. Dawson, rocking herself to and fro. "I'd give all I had in the world for that bit of gold; all I had in the world."
And then, standing there, looking at her mother, watching the worn face, and seeing the tears of regret and longing for the lost treasure which rolled quietly over it, Myra vowed a vow that she would never rest until she got that treasure back, and get it back, too, before the year closed: it should be her New Year's gift to her mother.
After the outbreak, upon hearing of its loss, Mrs. Dawson never spoke of the locket again. It seemed as if she had, with a great effort, put the thought of it from her mind; but it was not so—she had always worn it herself, except when Myra went out without her, when she used to hang it round the girl's neck, as she had done upon the evening of its loss ; and a hundred times a day Myra would see her mother's fingers wander to her throat, and feel about vaguely for the little trinket, which she was wont to hold as she might have held the hand of a friend.
And so the days slipped by. Christmas came and went, and New Year's Day was fast approaching. Myra had thought over, at least, a hundred plans for the recovery of the locket, but not one of them were feasible. She had imagined the most extraordinary schemes, not one of which could by any possibility have succeeded. As she sat at her work she saw, not the embroidery before her, but the lost trinket; as she walked through the streets, she kept her eyes upon the ground, as though it were likely that the gleam of the gold might shine upon her from some crevice in the pavement.
At lust, and quite as a forlorn hope, it occurred to her to go to the place where the man had been standing when she had passed on that, to her, eventful evening. Perhaps he might be there again; and, at least, she could appeal to him to let her have the locket back. Yet even to her hopeful young imagination it did not seem probable that he had kept it ever since; but, still, of all her designs for its recovery, it was the only one which she could attempt, or which had any promise of success. And on New Year's Eve, about the same hour that she had before gone to Ladbrook-square, she set out. She had some trifling purchases to make for their modest housekeeping, which served as an excuse for her absence.
Again she walked quickly through the frosty streets, and soon reached the Marble Arch, close to which the tavern was situated. How well she remembered the very look of the place! She would, she thought, have known it out of a hundred, although there was nothing about it
very different from any other establishment of a like nature.
It was brilliantly lighted, of course; but there was no group outside the door. Myra stole up gently, pushed back the swinging panel, and peeped in. Some six or eight men were standing drinking, and her heart gave a great bound as she recognised one or two of the faces; but, alas! the face she wanted, she saw only too soon, was not among them.
"What was to be done? Should she go boldly in, and remind the comrades of the man she was seeking of the adventure, and ask them where he was to be found i But her courage failed: she was just at the age when roughness and coarseness from the other sex was very hard to bear—that is, hard to those who are innately refined and modest, aa was poor Myra. So she let the door swing to again, and, wrapping her arms tightly in her shawl, she remained standing outside, and resolved to wait.
And she did wait, or rather walked, patiently to and fro for more than an hour, listening and watching. The crowd in the street grew somewhat thinner; it was getting very late, and her mother would be wondering what had become of her. Just as she was going to give up in despair, and to return home, the door of the gin-palace opened, and two of the men came out. They were not very tipsy—at least, one of them was not, and he supported his companion. They turned towards Regent-street, and that being her road home, Myra followed them, and she tried to keep as close to them as possible without being observed, in the hope of learning something from their conversation.
But they had no conversation, so to speak. One of them was argumentative, surly, and inclined to be musical—he stammered out snatches of songs, picked up at some theatre or "music-hall:" the other seemed wholly bent upon keeping his companion straight upon his course. At length, under a lamp-post, the drunken man came to a standstill, and seemed to insist upon being taken somewhere out of the direct road; his companion remonstrated, and Myra's heart again beat fast as she heard his words—
"I tell you, Ben, it's no use; he has cut his old mates since, that night, and I, for one, am too proud to push myself where I'm not welcome. Come away home, there's a good chap."
"I'm not a good chap, and I won't go home. I'll go to Will, and tell bim he's a sneak! I must go to Will, I say! Let me go."
And he struggled hard to free himself.
"Well, go, and be to you!" cried
the other at last. "But I tell you he won't speak to you; he was never the same since that night."
"There was poison in the little gold box," hiccupped Ben; "was that it? Never mind, I'll have him out; he won't turn on an old pal. Will was always ready to stand treat to a friend —Will's a rare good un."
Apd on be staggered, Myra following, and
hoping that nothing would turn the drunken man from his purpose now.
On they went, through bye-streets and dark courts, until poor Myra began to fear that she would never be able to make her way home again. At last they stopped before an open door—the door of a lodging-house evidently, for there were lights in almost all the windows, and people were passing in and out and up and down the narrow stairs.
"Will you go up ?" inquired Ben's companion of him.
The fellow looked up the dark entry for a moment, and then turning away, with the inconswttnfy of drunkenness, he swore a great
oath that he would see Will before he'd
climb op that break-neck stair that night.
Without another word,bis companion dragged him off, and before Myra had time to realize foily what had happened, they were out of
She was terribly disappointed ; she had been led almost to the door of the man whom she had been praying to meet, and now she must go back again without finding him. He might be in that bouse, it was true; but how was she to look for him ?—what excuse was she to make for asking for him? Just then she became aware that a ragged girl, of about her own age, was standing leaning against the door-post watching her. She did not look as if she would be civil or obliging; but still it was better to risk a snub than to lose a chance, so going a step forward, Myra asked timidly,
"Does a man called Will lodge here r"
The girl put her head on one side, and peered at Myra with a pair of sharp, bird-like eyes.
"And supposing he does, what does you want of him?" she asked, in a voice sharp as her eyes.
Myra had experience of London children, and the thought she might be able to buy the information she needed. Slipping ber hand into her pocket, she drew out a fourpenny piece, and holding it up, she said—
"I'll give you that if you show me his room."
The child held out her thin, dirty hand.
"Don't you try to gammon me with your tricks," she said. "Is it good?" Then, havingsatisfied herself that the coin was genuine, we added: "You just cut along to the very
top of the bouse, and there you'll find Black
^ ill, as we calls him, and 1 wish you joy of your welcome when you get to him."
Myra asked no more: with a swift step she *eot up sundry flights of stairs, and found herself presently upon a narrow landing, off which one room opened. The girl's heart was beating wildly, and she was obliged to sit down on the topmost step to recover herself. She had formed no plan of action—she could not form one—she must trust to Providence; I fear she called it chance, if she called it anything. The room door was open, and a feeble light streamed out into the lobby—the light from a solitary candle. Myra took courage, aud steal
ing forward on tiptoe, she looked into the room.
It was a good-sized chamber, with a low-coved ceiling, but the furniture in it was shabby and spare. There was a low bed, covered with a coarse coloured rug, in one corner, a small table in the centre, a little painted deal press, and two chairs. Upon one of the latter, with his arms resting upon the table, and his head bent down upon them, sat the strong man, with the swarthy face and the dark hair, who was called by his companions " Will." He was apparently asleep, for he was breathing regularly, and his figure had the relaxed, pliant look which repose always gives.
For some time Myra watched him from the door; then encouraged by the utter stillness, she crept on into the room. Oh, how cautiously she stepped, fearing to wake him, if he were indeed asleep, yet longing for him to start up, and see her, and hear what she had to say. She had been frightened at first, but she was quite calm then. He might be very angry; he might turn upon her for disturbing him; he might even strike her, but she knew lie could not kill her; and if she only got back the locket, what mattered a few hard words, or even a blow? So she crept on and on, and winced whn the boards'creaked, and looked over her shoulder every moment, thinking that her shadow was some one following her.
At last, after many pauses, she reached the table where Will sat; she could hear his breathing plainly enough now; she could see the long, black hair, grizzled with grey, which fell over his hands, and which in another half-hour, when the candle had burned down, would be perilously near the flame. She was very close to him, and a strange, vague, yearning kind of pity crossed her young heart for that strong man, who was so quiet in his deep repose. What was he, and why was he so lonely? He did not seem poor, for his clothes were good; had he neither wife, nor child, not friends, but drunken Ben, and such as he? Myra was very young, scarcely more than a child, but all the desire to give love and sympathy, which is inherent in the hearts of most women, rose up in her heart then. It was New Year's Eve, a solemn snd happy time, when most people, even the poorest, have something, or some one to care for near them; she was poor herself, but she had her mother, and her mother had her. Why was this poor fellow so lonely? As the question again and again recurred to her, she restrained herself with difficulty from passing her hand softly over his hair, and down upon his rough coat.
It was a curious scene — the strong man sleeping quietly, the timid girl standing over him with pity in her eyes; and yet they were strangers to each other.
But where was the locket? She was there to get that, and not to expend sympathy on the man who had taken it; but somehow it did not seem possible that her mother's treasure could be in that poor room. When a thing is precious to ourselves, or to one char to us, we fancy that those in whose sight it is really worthless, will think it precious also, and care for it well. She looked about, and felt that it could not be there; he bad sold it, he had lost it: ah! why had he not kept it? She almost cried aloud in her sore disappointment.
She moved a little nearer to the front of the sleeping man, and as she did so the glitter of something which might be gold caught her eyes upon the table: it was half hidden by the long, falling hair of the sleeper. An exclamation of joy rose to Myra's lips, and she fell upon her knees to bring her eyes closer: she peered under the scattered locks; had she dared she would have pushed them aside, but, after all, what need? She knew the locket—she would have known it had she not seen it half so well. To get it was the next thing. If she could but snatch it out softly without waking him, and fly with it unseen! What matter what he said when he awoke and missed it ?—there was no dishonesty in taking her own; and if she aroused him, she would pray him, on her knees, to give it to her for her mother's sake.
Rising to her feet again she held the table firmly with one band, while with the other she tried to draw the little trinket towards her; but she was too eager and too much excited for such a delicate task, and more than once she touched the bowed head with her trembling fingers, and then suddenly, just as the locket was within her reach, with a start the man awoke and sprang to his feet, and his dazzled and bewildered eyes fixed themselves on Myra in utter amazement: in an instant he seemed to have divined her object in his room, for he clutched the locket and thrust the hand which held it into his bosom.
She flung herself upon her knees before him, and stretched out her hands imploringly; but not one word could she speak. Then as she crouched there looking up at him, with her bonnet falling bark, and her large brown eyes (so like her mother's eyes) fixed upon his face, a great and sudden change passed over him, the expression of anger faded from his eyes; his mouth quivered, and his hand fell gently upon the girl's upturned head.
Then, as if the touch had unloosed her tongue, she cried wildly: "Oh don't keep it from me. Let me have it, for mother's sake! That little bit of gold is all she has left to her of my father."
A gentle voice, a voice which she could hardly think belonged to that great rough man, told her not to fear, and asked her how she had found him out; and when he heard, again the soft light shone in his eyes, and his dark stern ace seemed to soften and grow young.
"Come, my girl," he said at last, when Myra had finished her simple story, "it's late for you to be wandering alone in these streets; I '11 take you home, and perhaps you'll say a prayer for me this blessed New Year's Eve. I am very glad you found me out, for I never meant to rob
you of your locket; see, here it is, I'll carry it safe for you. Won't you trust me?"
"I would rather carry it myself," faltered Myra, " and I can find my way home."
"There," he said, "take it; but at least I must see you safe out of these queer dark streets. Tell me where you want to go."
Myra named the place.
"I'll put you into Oxford Street," he answered, picking up a Glengarry bonnet from the floar. "Don't break your neck in the dark," he added, blowing out the candle.
The girl left the room before him, and stood quietly waiting on the dark landing until he locked the door; then she followed him downstairs, and out into the street. She shivered as the frosty air sent a chill through her.
"You're cold," Will said, abruptly; "tie this round you."
And before she could stop him he had unrolled a thick woollen scarf from his own neck and flung it about hers. His manner was very odd, Myra thought; there was a strange mixture of tenderness and roughness in it which she could not understand. It was as if Nature had made him tender, and habit had made him rough.
Myra remonstrated, but he would not listen, and walked on quickly in front.
In about half an hour they reached Oxfordstreet, and the way had seemed very long to Myra. When she found herself again upon familiar ground she stopped, and, not hearing her footfall after him, Will stopped too. "I am all right now," she said. "Here is your scarf, and thank you."
"Keep it," he answered, laying his broad hand over her two little ones which were loosening the knot upon the scarf; "I gave you a weary tramp after your little box. I said before I never intended to have taken it, but the ribbon snapped sudden-like; but I'm glad now I did, for—"
"You wouldn't if you had seen how mother breaks her heart for it," interrupted Myra, bitterly; "but it's all right now."
"It will be, may-be," he answered; "time will tell. Good night, and a happy new year! Won't you shake hands f"
Myra gave him her hand, but not heartily. She could not forgive him for the drunken frolic which had deprived her poor mother for so long of the one comfort of her life. So they parted, and the girl instantly began to run: every moment was now like an hour until she was by her mother's side. At last her house was reached : it was late for her to be out alone; but she was too happy to think of that now. She ran up the stairs, and into their little sitting-room: it was quite dark, save - a glimmering spark of fire in the small grate. "Mother!" she called softly—"mother!" But there was no answer. She went forward in silent terror, not knowing what she might find; but there, in the old arm-chair, she saw by the dim light the figure she loved. Worn out by watching and fatigue the poor woman bad fallen asleep.
Myra struck a match and lighted a candle; then she softly replenished the dying fire, and drawing a little stool before it, she sat down to warm her ice-cold feet. The house was very still and silent—painfully so, almost; and once or twice Myra thought she heard a stealthy step approaching the door and going back again after as interval.
Tie minutes sped swiftly; eleven struck, the
kit-hour after chimed; it would soon be New
Year's morning! Myra put on more coals, and
sat on, patiently listening, now to her mother's
regular breathing, and again to the stealthy
step upon the stairs. On flew the minutes, the
half-hoar waned, and was gone, and suddenly,
as the last stroke of twelve sounded from many
3 twerand steeple far and near, the merry bells
rsajf oat the old year and rang in the new!
Mrs. Dawson started and awoke, "Where so I >" she cried. "I hear the joy-bells."
"Mother"—and Myra knelt by her side and held up the locket—" see, I have brought it back to you again. It was not lost."
With a glad cry the poor woman interrupted her, and, snatching her treasure she pressed it to her lips and to her heart. "Have you come back to me?" she said, caressing the little trinket as if it had sense and feeliug. "My lore! my husband! it was breaking my heart to be without you when the new year came round!"
Myra laid her face upon her mother's knee, and cried silent tears of joy, and neither of them heard the door softly open and close, neither of them heard a swift, strong tread cross the room, or saw the figure which was gazing at them with tear-dimmed eyes. But all at once some subtle instinct made the woman turn her head, and, though her sight was failing, and though the light was dim, she knew her husband. He held out his arms to her, and she threw herself into them with a low, happy cry, while Myra still sat upon the ground, speechless with surprise.
"Mary!" said the voice which had spoken so kindly to the child at parting an hour or two before — " My true wife! you had such welcome for my picture, that I was not afraid to test your welcome for me. You'll forgive and Wet, won't you?"
The little locket, which had been a slender, hnt strong link of gold between the husband and "ife, slipped, quite unheeded, from Mrs. Dawson's grasp, ae she wound her arms round her Jong-lost William, and strained him to her heart. What was the inanimate likeness now, when the man so loved, so mourned for, and so fondly remembered, had come back to her again? And so the merry bells pealed their glad
welcome to the new year, and awoke glad echoes in the hearts of the husband and wife, so strangely reunited, after long and weary separation ; and presently Myra stole to their side, and took her father's hands in her's; and then he bent down and kissed the upturned face of the child who had been the unconscious means of bringing him back to his home again. And as the first hours of the new year went by, Will Dawson told the story of his life during the old years that had passed—told how he had repented of his desertion of his wife and child, and how he had gone back to his native village only to find that they had disappeared, leaving no clue by which to trace them—how he had returned to London and his evil companions— how he had made money and lost it—how.he had been wild and steady by turns, wildest and most reckless when the thought of the home he had wilfully lost would rush back upon him. He told of the night that he had rudely snatched the locket from Myra's neck—of how he had opened it to find his own face within—of how he had fled from thejeers and questions of his comrades, and of his firm resolve never to be one of them again. He told how he had wandered about, day after day, hoping to find his little daughter, with whom he had been so strangely brought into contact—and how, as the weeks passed, he had given up the search ie despair, and steadily settled down to work again. He told of how, the night Myra had found him, he had been sitting, with the locket before him, trying to devise some means for finding the owner, and of how he had fallen asleep, to awake and find his child beside him. But when his own tale was ended, and he asked, with a voice that faltered, for the story of his wife's life since last he had left her, begging of her not to spare one detail of her struggles or her sufferings, she would not listen to him, but whispered, as she drew his head down upon her faithful heart, "I had no life without you, Will. It will begin again for all of us with this happy new year!"
And Will made answer with a reverent "Amen!"
Remembered Happiness.—Mankind are always happier for having been happy; so that if you make them happy now, you make them happy twenty years hence, by the memory of it. A childhood passed with a due mixture of rational indulgence, under fond and wise parents, diffuses over the whole of life a feeling of calm pleasure, and in extreme old age is the very last remembrance which time can erase from the mind of man. No enjoyment, however inconsiderable, is confined to the present moment I A man 19 the happier for life from having made once an agreeable tour, or lived for any length of time with pleasant people, or enjoyed any considerable interval of innocent pleasure.
SKETCHES IN SCANDINAVIA.
The country of the Vikings! Yes, thither I determined to go whilst the clash of arms and the din of battle was heard; 'twas ere the battlefield had been deluged with blood I set off to the vantage ground, that was free and open to travellers, and reached Christiania about the middle of July.
The town itself is not seen until within gunshot of the place, on account of the numerous islands in the Fjord shutting out the view. These islands answer two important purposes. First, they serve as an advanced guard to warn one of the dangers incidental to a rocky coast, and again as a shelter to craft running in for protection when the Skager-rack is stormy.
The city lies as it were in the basin of an amphitheatre, and is thickly studded with trees of the spruce fir, pine, and beech. The buildings are chiefly of wood. In the country one sees log houses; but in the town they are constructed of painted white boards, with coloured roofs in imitation of tiles.
The people are evidently fond of light and space, for the windows are large and numerous; their rooms are well furnished, but without carpels. The cathedral is of grey stone, and, after that of Dronthjem is the finest in the country. This is only a passing glimpse, for we were again soon under weigh, and clear of the inlet and islands, and steaming away from the Fjord of Christiania at the rate of ten knots an hour. The sun went down as if behind a glowing furnace, leaving such a halo that I could see to read on deck at midnight. I was waiting until it should become dark, but for that result I might have waited long enough, as there is nothing to indicate the approach of night in these latitudes at this time of the year. The numerous islands, the projecting promontories, lofty wooded mountain sides, and the lake-like character of the scenery, render the approach to Christiania very interesting. It is beautifully situated at the northern extremity of the Fjord. The city is built on a slope, and its numerous villas embowered in trees give it a peculiarly attractive appearance. The houses are principally of wood in the suburbs, and look almost as white as snow; in the town they are built of stone, on account of some recent fires. The streets are spacious, and running at right angles. The showy shops are few and far between, and have no shutters, inside or out: they are never found necessary in this honest community.
If cleanliness be next to godliness the Norwegians must certainly rank high in the Christian code; for, go where you will, there are the same indications of fondness for space, air, and water. The palace is in a conspicuous position: it is of a quadrangular form, and has six massive Doric columns in front. In all other de
tails it is unworthy a description. The salons are all decorated a la Frangaise, even to the King's smoking-room. The only pictures aie those of his Majesty's father and mother—the latter a German princess, and a very beautiful woman. Two or three Norwegian scenes, without interest as works of art, complete the gallery. The pleasure-grounds are open to the public, and appear to be a very favourite resort of old people and nursery-maids.
Almost in the same vicinity are the gardens of Kliigensburg—a sort of Cremome on a limited scale. About four miles distant is a pretty little summer villa called " Oscar's Hall," belonging to the Crown Prince, and which is visited annually by his royal highness. It looks like a miniature castle, and commands a fine view of the beautiful environs, but especially of the fjord, and the little islands dotted over its blue surface. All the charm lies in its exterior and the site; within these are only a few royal portraits and'some half-dozen cabinets, but no furniture. I must next tell you of a visit to a Norwegian family residing in the country. The courteousness of some fellowtravellers obtained for me this invitation to tea. Before discussing the viands it was proposed that we should go to a retired lake-like expanse of the fjord in an open boat, accompanied by our hostess, her pretty daughter, and eldest son. There we remained for an hour, having landed on a little island to gather wild strawberries and enjoy the lovely scene around us. In accordance with a national custom we commenced by taking a glass of ale all round. The standing dish of the country is salmon, and the various ways in which it is served reminds one of the variety one gets at a fish-dinner at Greenwich. Here it is presented in every conceivable and inconceivable form that the most appetising could desire. There is cheese, too, ad libitum; but 1 will mention only two kinds— one resembled Gruyere, and the other of a pale chocolate colour. The latter is a compound of goat, cow, and ewe-milk, sugar, ground-nut, cream, and half a hundred other ingredients. It looks like a little pillar on the table, in its white paper-case. Of making of bread, too, there seems uo end. There were rolls like our own, slices of black rye-bread, and piles of flatbrod. The latter were artistically arranged, and the effect produced was that of the scattered remnants of a fleet, and a ruined city unable to withstand the siege . Enough, however, of the bill of fare: it will suffice to give an idea of Norwegian hospitality, of which we had received so excellent a specimen. Let us return to our subject by another glance at the people, wh > may he said to be in a happy case, inasmuch as there is not a soul amongst them who does not receive a suitable education. The