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time is church decoration, and very charming a church looks, with holly and other evergreens gracefully adorning reading-desk and pillar, font and chancel. There is room for the display of considerable taste in such adornments, a taste which is generally better exhibited by women than by men, except, of course, regularly trained decorators. It is very pleasant to see a party of young ladies hard at work twisting wreaths, making floral monograms, and selecting suitable inscriptions, while rector and curate smile approvingly, utter mild and most decorous little jokes, and express themselves as delighted with the result of the day's work in the chilly church. No doubt they are greatly obliged, for the incumbent and curate of St. A feel that the church of St. B-, the next parish, will be greatly inferior in appearance; and even zealous and spiritual clergymen are not always superior to such little vanities, and even jealousies. When Christmas Day comes, the ladies who have worked so well are charmed with the result, and perhaps think that they have performed in a very satisfactory manner a religious duty. Is any one of them quite sure that she was thinking only of spiritual things when she was tying up bunches of evergreens, and pricking her fingers with holly leaves ? It is not beyond the range of possibility that some of them went to the work only because, as somebody else was going, they did not choose to stay away, or because somebody might think they were not so religious as they ought to be, if they were not zealous in the cause of evergreens and red berries. It may be, too, that some feared that absence from the church on such an occasion would insure non-invitation to the delightful party which the wife of the rector always gives at Christmas time, or a glance of cold disapprobation from the particularly gentlemanly and accomplished young curate, whose advice is so instructive when seeing the ladies home from the village school, and who has such an extensive knowledge of botany, and such an admirable taste for embroidery. It is not exactly religious either, in the best sense of the
word, to be very disagreeable after reaching home because the work of another young lady is highly praised, or to go to bed in an ill-temper, with the repeated assertion, “I am sure I have caught my death of cold in that bothering church.” It does not, besides, show a very elevated state of religious feeling if the thoughts are fixed during service on Christmas morning on the floral decorations, and a young lady whispers while kneeling for the general confession, “I knew my monogram would look sweetly pretty, and don't it, mamma ? "
Here, as in other matters, we must not make mistakes, and yet how easy it is to make them. Church decoration is a graceful work, but it is not in itself a religious work: for religion is a matter of conscience and the heart-of conscience, as affects our individual responsibility; of the heart, as enlarging our capacity of Christian love for others. It is the motive of work which sanctifies work; if the young ladies decorated the church from inferior motives, they are no nearer the holy of holies than the masons who reared the edifice for the sake of weekly wages.
Allow us to say a few words about Christmas parties, those pleasant gatherings which we delight so much to attend between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night. There is usually plenty of fun, plenty of flirtation, a dance, with a decided tendency to romp a little, perhaps
-no harm in it—a kiss under the mistletoe. The true intent of these parties is to give young people innocent amusement, in which the natural gaiety of youth may have free play, and accomplishments be exhibited for mutual enjoyment. The absence of affectation or selfishness is essential to enjoyment; so, too, is the absence of manæuvring supervision on the part of the elders. Some mothers try to parade their girls, with matrimonial designs on eligible young men; but, depend upon it, the most really attractive girls in a room are those who are unconscious of their beauty, and who enter in a spirit of frank unaffected cheerfulness into the amusements of the evening.
The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand,
The ocean breathe, and its great breast expand,
And hurrying came on the defenceless land The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar. All thought and feeling and desire, I said,
Love, laughter, and the exultant joy of song
Have ebbed from me for ever! Suddenly o'er me They swept again from their deep ocean-bed,
And in a tumult of delight, and strong
HOLDEN WITH THE CORDS.
DIVATHANE, it is perhaps needless to say, was a child
of the North. Her peculiar type of beauty blossoms only out of soil which, for half the year, withdraws its warmth into its deep heart, and wraps itself in a chill, white robe of snow.
She had made her appearance in Savalla, about a twelvemonth before, unheralded and unknown, had rented the parlour of a decayed aristocratic mansion as a studio, and had tacked on the door a card signifying to the public that she was a painter in oils. She had thenceforth been an example of that freedom and independence of life which Art makes possible for its votaries, of either sex, as a compensation, in some sort, for the sacrifices that they are bound to make to her.
It soon became known that the Youles endorsed Miss Thane to the fullest extent, both socially and financially; else society might have given her a cool reception. But it could scarcely, in its haughtiest mood, have meted out to her a fuller measure of scornful indifference than she accorded to it, when, in due time, it made up its mind to hold out a condescending hand to her. She declined its invitations, she took, no notice of its calls, she would none of its patronage. Just in proportion as it grew more eager, piqued by her indifference, and curious to penetrate the mystery which surrounded her, she became colder and more distant. Finally, society was compelled to understand that the sole favour which she would accept at its hands, was forgetfulness of her existence.
Nor was the public treated much better, in her capacity of artist. Visitors at her studio found free admission, and opportunity to examine, at their leisure, the pictures, sketches, and studies, which crowded the walls; but rarely did she turn from her easel, to give them more than the briefest glimpse of her statuesque beauty, or the most concise of answers to their questions. Generally, she found some reason for declining their orders; and fully one half of the pictures on her walls were labelled, “Not to be Sold,” while the sale of the remainder was plainly a matter of the profoundest indifference to her. It must needs be inferred that she had means of subsistence other than her art, amply sufficient for her quiet, inexpensive mode of life.
Nevertheless, she worked with indefatigable industry, as well as undeniable talent. If her pictures evinced some lack of technical skill, they were endued with a force and feeling which more than atoned for its absence; since the one would address itself chiefly to connoisseurs, while the other went straight to the universal heart. They covered a wide range of subjects, yet a profound observer would have traced a certain connection
and sequence in them all. The earlier and cruder efforts of her pencil were pleasant outdoor scenes,-children wading in a sunshine brook, farm youths and maidens tossing about new-mown hay, and village girls dancing under wide-spreading boughs,-scenes so perfect in their idealization as to seem familiar to every eye, yet never without that inestimable something added or eliminated, which constitutes the difference between the picturesque and the commonplace. After these came works not only marked by greater skill of design and felicity of colour, but informed with a deeper feeling ;-yet so delicately indicated that none but the finest instinct would have perceived how softly Love illumined the landscape, or shone in the smile of the youth, or looked up to the maiden from her own downcast eyes reflected in the water. Then came a sudden change,-pictures and sketches wherein the artist's pencil must have been driven by some terrible intensity of feeling, to have wrought with such sombre power ;-such as an illimitable desert, with a man riding fast toward a wan, setting sun, and his long, backward shadow falling upon a woman's outstretched, yearning hands,
, -or the black silhouette of a drifting and dismantled ship, seen against a blood-red moon, setting in a dun and angry sea,—or a deep and dismal cavern, with a female figure lying bruised and broken at the bottom of a fissure, and a man, also torn and bleeding, seen at the end of a long vista, searching for what he will not find. These pictures affected the spectator like a nightmare ; there was such a fell shadow of unmitigable fate in them all, and so notable an absence of anything like hope or faith, that while he acknowledged their power, he shuddered at their spirit.
Of course, Rumour could not help busying herself with a subject so inviting as the artist, though so bare of definite results. She was variously reported to be an escaped nun, a bride that had nearly lost her life at the hands of an insane bridegroom, a widow-barely a month a wife-seeking to throw off an intolerable burden of grief by the help of new scenes, new faces, and a new manner of life, and an heiress, fled from the importunities of harsh guardians and an unwelcome suitor. It will serve as an indication of the occasional correctness of the popular instinct, that not one of these conjectures cast any shadow upon the whiteness of her fame. Not more inevitably did her face suggest snow, marble, and whatever was at once white and cold, than her demeanour suggested their chill purity. Moreover, notwithstanding that she led so unfettered and independent a life, as compared with the majority of her sex-dwelling under her own guardianship, and ordering her day's routine to her own liking-the closest scrutiny could not detect anything therein, that was not austere, lonely, and laborious enough to suit the cell of an anchorite.
Yet, though there was so little in her way of living to suggest affluence, it soon became known that her hands were open, and her purse deep, to any claim upon her benevolence. While it never appeared that she set herself to seek out objects of charity, to such as came to her, either in person or by proxy, her bounty was generally far in excess of the demand. The only grace which it lacked, was that subtle element of the giver in the gift, which imparts a sympathetic warmth to the silver or the gold, as it is dropped in the outstretched hand; augmenting, to a degree incalculable by any known arithmetic, its power of relieving the distressed heart. Though Miss Thane gave generously, she gave none the less carelessly and coldly.
The only person whom she distinguished by any mark of affection, or measure of confidence, was Coralie Youle. The two had been classmates at a Northern boarding-school, where the native girl had first soothed and petted the stranger through a severe attack of homesickness, and then had been devotedly nursed, in her turn, during a trying dispensation of scarlet fever ; in consequence of which a friendship of more than ordinary warmth and tenacity had grown up between them ; manifesting itself on Coralie's part, by a half-worshipping admiration, and on Diva's, by the strong, yearning clasp of a nature that puts forth no slender, fragile tendrils, but clings only in virtue of a bend or coil of its own tough fibre. To Coralie she was never cold, never unresponsive; the girl knew that there was no veiled, inner chamber of her friend's heart to which she had not some time penetrated, and which she would be allowed to enter again, whenever her presence could throw one ray of light across its dusk. With that she was satisfied.
One thing the two possessed in common--the most absolute trust in each other.
Still, though Diva always received Coralie at her studio with deep-lit eyes of welcome, and a hand-clasp into which she had the power of putting more tenderness than ordinary women would express by a close embrace, and though she often joined her in long walks through the city and suburbs, it was rarely that she could be persuaded to visit her in her own home. If she did so, it was usually at an hour when she would be little likely to meet the other members of the family. It was as a great favour, therefore, that she had consented to stay to dinner, on the day when Bergan had met her. Nevertheless, when Coralie really set her heart upon anything in her friend's power to give, she always gained her point. And so it came to pass that, a few weeks later, when the family left for their summer residence of Farview, in the hill. region of the State, she carried Diva with her, for a visit of a fortnight.
Thither, also, after awhile, came Bergan ; yielding to
Mr. Youle's entreaty that he would close the office, for at least a day or two, and give himself a breath of fresh air. Secure in his dearly bought acclimation, he had not purposed to leave the city; anticipating no worse effect from its summer atmosphere than a kind of dreamy languor, which, in his present state of mind, was perhaps more to be desired than any bracing of his energies. Nevertheless, he had come to feel for Mr. Youle a degree of filial affection ; and he would not pain him by a churlish disregard of his kindness.
He reached Farview about sunset. For the last three or four miles, he had seen the low roof and broad piazzas of his goal looking down upon him from the hill top, as he journeyed up the valley, and when he finally stood on the green and flowery lawn, he felt as if his own being were suddenly and sympathetically magnified an hundred degrees, so wide was the lovely and luxuriant Southern landscape outspread before him. Field and forest spotted it with various verdure; a river drew a bright, wavy line across it ; here, the yellow sunshine brought out clearly every line and tint; there, the clouds dimmed it with patches of shadow; and all around was a massive framework of sunset-gilded hills.
Half involuntarily, Bergan took off his hat. "How good are the works of God, and how harmonious in their relations to one another, when we get high enough to command a wide view of them!” he reverently thought
. “So, too, I doubt not, I shall find it with the dealings of His providence, when once I have climbed to a proper stand-point whence to view them as a whole. Till then, let faith accept the truth which is hidden from sight!”
A larger party than he had expected to see, was gathered in the dining-room. A legal brother, who had received a general invitation from Mr. Youle to visit him during the summer, had hit upon this occasion; one planter from the neighbourhood was present by appointment, and another by accident; and there was also a lady friend of Miss Youle, with her young daughter, Nina, beside Miss Thane. The latter signified her remembrance of Bergan by a cool bow; but it was not until dinner was over, and the evening tolerably well advanced, that he found himself in her immediate vicinity. Coralie had been led to the piano, leaving him in a somewhat isolated position, near one of the long windows; and, while the notes of a fairy-like waltz seemed to be dropping from her slender fingers, as they fitted up and down the ivory key-board, he thought he might venture to step out on the moon-lit piazza, for a few moments, without being missed. Suiting the action to the thought, he discovered that Miss Thane had made her escape before him. She was leaning against a pillar, looking out over the moon-silvered valley with a weary and wistful expression scarcely in keeping with the calm, icy indifference of her wonted. aspect. With a brief apology for interrupting her, he was about to retire, when she spoke, in a tone that seemed to accord him permission to stay if he chose.
sent a burden, and the future a blank, what comfort did it give you?”
“ The comfort of knowing that all things work together for the good of those that love God,'' responded Bergan, not without a momentary wonder at the curious appositeness of the question to his recent experiences, but quickly divining that she was looking more into her own heart than his, in asking it.
Coralie's music ceased suddenly. There was a little stir in the parlour, and a murmur of voices, as if some subject of interest were under discussion.
Go," commanded Miss Thane, “ they will be look
you. I will follow you in a few moments.” He stepped back through the window. Coralie came toward him. “We are talking,” said she, "of going down to the negroes' camp-meeting, a little below here ; Mr. Sypher was just telling us that it is a sight well worth seeing, by night. Will you go.”
“I am entirely at your service,” replied Bergan, courteously.
“And Diva !-where is she? Oh, there she comes."
Bergan turned. Miss Thane was standing between the curtains, with her usual expression of calm indiffer
“ Would you
“Coralie's music sounds sweeter outside than within."
Bergan drew near to her, not to let his voice penetrate to the parlour.
“That is true, I suspect, of many things in life. To feel their full sweetness, one must get a little out of their immediate sphere.”
“Is that true of persons, also ? ” she asked, with a keen glance.
Some moments elapsed before Bergan could answer. Compelled by the question to make a sudden, rapid investigation into the deeper things of the heart, he was confounded at the unexpected result. Too truthful, however, to attempt to hide it, he finally answered, thoughtfully :
“In some measure, I think it is. Miss Thane, did you ever experience quite that deep delight in the presence of a friend, which you sometimes (please remember, I say only sometimes) derive from the thought of him or her in absence?"
She did not answer the question. She only said, in a tone of cool irony: “You do not flatter your friends, Mr. Arling." But in another moment, she exclaimed, with a sudden, startling intensity of passion and longing -"Is there, then, nothing,-neither love, nor friendship, absolutely nothing, which answers expectation, and satisfies desire ? Horrible, horrible thought!”
“I do not think so," replied Bergan, gently; "though I confess that I was troubled, at first, by the necessity of answering your question as I did. But I now recognize the fact thus revealed to me as very satisfactory evidence that our affections, our friendships, are to know a richer and lovelier development than they can ever attain to on this earth. In heaven there must be room for every lofty ideal.”
Then, with a sudden deep intuition of the real necessities of the soul beside him, he went on to say—“Yet there, as here, I suppose, the one satisfying, completing thing will be the love of God. The soul was made to look up, not along a level; it can only find its highest joy in something superior to itself.”
She turned and looked him intently in his face.
"Do you believe what you say?" she asked, doubtfully.
Very solemnly Bergan answered, “I do."
“Belief is nothing," she rejoined, after a pause, "action is the test. Do you live your belief?”
Bergan drew a deep breath. “I try to do so, Miss Thane."
She went on, seemingly so intent upon her own train of thought as to be utterly unmindful of the solemn and Searching nature of the questions that she was putting :
“You feel, then, this all-satisfying love of God in your heart?
“In some measure, I trust I do."
Coralie explained what was wanted. like it?” she inquired, twining her arm round her friend: “ There will be some fine artistic effects."
Miss Thane looked down upon her, with a softness that Bergan had never before seen in her face, and which gave it a marvellous beauty. “I like whatever you like, child," she answered, evasively.
In the hall, she stopped, and took a shawl from the rack.
Oh, Diva,” exclaimed Coralie, “you will not need that, it is so warm.”
Miss Thane stood doubtful, with the shawl in her hand. Bergan took it from ber quietly, and threw it across his broad shoulder. " It is always safe to carry a shawl, if not to wear it," said he, lightly.
There was no formal arrangement of the party. The path lay through the fields, and was often too narrow to admit more than one person ; at other times, partnerships of two or three were formed or broken, very much by chance. A broad glory of moonshine not only lighted them on their
but surrounded them with enchantment,-softening lines, and deepening shadows, and turning the whole earth into a new creation of silver and ebony.
A WORD IN Due Season.
Ere long, the shadowy wood-line was reached, and very soon a red twinkle of light became visible through the trees, broadening and brightening as they advanced. The
sweet and solemn notes of a hymn, sung by many voices, next pervaded the air; and in a few minutes more, they were standing on the edge of the camp-ground, interested observers of a singularly picturesque scene.
Opposite to them was the speaker's stand, well lighted, covered with evergreen boughs, and affording accommodation to a goodly company of preachers, but too distant to be unpleasantly prominent. Between them and it, the whole vast space was crowded with negro worshippers ; some sitting, some kneeling; here, an uncouth figure bowed in an attitude of absorbed meditation (or, it might be, indulging in a peaceful sleep); there, a dusky, upturned face, intent, or agonized, or rapturous, according as the owner was devoutly receptive, torn with conviction of sin, or blissfully assured of pardon. From among them the brown trunks of the forest trees rose straight and shapely as the pillars of a vast temple and overhead, the under surfaces of the leaves showed grey and spectral against the sombre night sky. Here and there, lanterns were fastened to the trees, but the place was chiefly illuminated by great fires of pitch pine, whence clouds of smoke arose ever and anon, and hung trembling in the tree-tops; and the flames of which, as they rose and fell, cast alternate glow and gloom upon the upturned faces, and seemed to work corresponding changes of expression,-sudden transitions of joy and sorrow for which there was no apparent cause.
Outside of these fires, scattered groups of spectators now came out into bold relief, and now lost themselves in shadow; strong profiles caught the eye, and then vanished; here and there, too, white faces offered an effective contrast to their darker neighbours.
Altogether, it was a picture to delight an artist's eye; yet Miss Thane seemed scarcely to enjoy it. On the way hither she had been silent, shut up within herself, neither seeking nor giving amusement; and she now stood a little apart, letting her eyes rove absently from point to point, but without appearing to take intelligent cognizance of any. Yet she seemed to be listening, after awhile, to the voice of the white-haired negro preacher who occupied the stand, and talked of the comfort of religious faith in a way to argue profound personal knowledge of the subject, -albeit, his phraseology was illiterate, and occasionally absurd, calling a smile to some faces in the party. But Diva did not smile ; her thoughts were evidently far below the surface of the subject, in depths where the gleaming ripple of the comic was unfelt and unseen.
The party was considerably scattered. Miss Youle and her friend, tired with their walk, had found a seat on the outermost of the benches, watched over by Judge Emly; the youthful Miss Nina and one of the planters had gone round to get a view from the other side; Coralie stood near a fire, listening to the low comments of Mr. Sypher; and Mr. Youle and Bergan were quite in the background, silent spectators, for the most part, of what was going on.
The white-haired speaker brought his brief address
to a close ; and a number of negroes quitted the benches and came up the path. Mechanically, Coralie stepped back to make way.
“ Take care," exclaimed Mr. Sypher, in a warning voice, "you will catch fire.”
But he was too late. She had moved within reach of the draft, and her light muslin robe was wafted into the blaze. Instantly, she felt the heat, saw over her shoulder a rising tongue of flame, and with the insane impulse which usually seizes upon those in like peril, turned to flee from the danger which it was so impossible to distance. But scarcely had she taken a step, before Bergan's strong arm caught her, and flung her, face downward, on the ground; with a deft movement of the other hand and arm, Miss Thane's shawl was shaken out and thrown over her ; and, in spite of her frantic struggles, she was held fast by one knee, while he applied both hands to the task of smothering the flames. Miss Thane was the first to come to his aid ; then the rest of the party woke from their momentary stupor of alarm, and joined their efforts to hers. In very brief space of time, the work of extioguishment was complete, and Coralie, being lifted to her feet, still enveloped in the friendly shawl, was found to be comparatively uninjured. Her floating curls were singed at the ends, one arm was slightly reddened and smarting, and her nerves were considerably shaken—that was all; -all! where there might so easily have been death, or torture and disfigurement worse than death.
The whole thing had taken place so suddenly and swiftly, that only such persons as were in the immediate vicinity had been aware either of the peril or the rescue ; so that it was by chance, as it were, that the whole vast multitude now burst forth with the solemn old Doxology
“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow." The great wave of sound flowed round and over the little breathless party, and charitably veiled or soothed its emotions. Mr. Youle, standing with his arm round his daughter, bowed his face on her head, and a large tear glistened on her soft curls; Miss Youle sank on her knees by the bench where she had been sitting, and wept silently; others of the party bent their heads, or lifted their hats ; Diva Thane held one of Coralie's hands close clasped in hers, but her face was turned away.
Suddenly, she threw her voice into the last line of the Doxology:
“Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,"
with a richness and power that were like the swell of an organ. It appeared to pervade and sustain the whole chorus of voices, and impressed them inevitably with its own character: which, to Bergan's ear, seemed not so much an expression of thankfulness, as the irresistible outbreak of a feeling that would gladly have given itself the more effectual relief of moaning aloud, had the opportunity been afforded it.