« ZurückWeiter »
from their features. They were looking at one another with dim eyes, and were so absorbed that they did not realize my presence at first. He was the first to speak
“I knew you would come,” he said ; "it is very kind of you—every one is so kind. Look there”-pointing to a table, where lay in tempting heaps, fruit and flowers that had been sent him by “everyone,” as he said.
suffer much?” I asked. “O, I don't mind pain,” he said, seriously ; "one can't help feeling it; but I don't mind it, if I only knew what I should do when I get well again."
“ Is there no hope of your being able to return to your old business ?" “None; the doctor says, none." “But you can make shoes and baskets," said his wife, hopefully.
Yes; but that will be but a poor living for you, dear," he said.
“ Not worse for me than for you, love. Do you think that I shall care, as long as we keep an honest face to the world, and are not ashamed ?”
He pressed her hand. For some time we talked about his future plans; and I think there is scarce any so stern as to think we desccrated the day in doing so. Then, as it was getting late, I bade them good night; and promising soon to return again, left them as I found them-hand in hand, and looking fondly in each other's eyes.
David slowly but surely recovered from the grievous accident, but his limb was too much shattered for him again to resume his business ; and so, disposing of his waggon and horse, he cheerfully set himself to work at his new employmentthat of making and mending shoes. He had formerly been intended for a shoemaker, but finding that he could carn more in his father's way, and having hereditary habits of activity which suited ill with sedentary employment, he had given it up-not, however, without having obtained a competent knowledge of the business. It was quite wonderful to see how soon and how easily he settled to his new work, without seeming to hesitate or repine for a moment—the very picture of patience and content. His wife, also, true to her promise, reconciled herself to the change without any apparent effort, but even assisted him as far as she was able. For two years more, the last I spent at home, I was a constant witness of their cheerful struggles and well-earned success in their new walk of life, and then, called to a home of my own, I left for ever the scene of my childhood.
CHAPTER III.- TIE APTROACH OF NIGHT,
My husband was a lieutenant in the army; and shortly after our marriage, his regiment being ordered to India, we left England. It
was some time before I again heard of my humble friends, and then came tidings of a new trial that had befallen them. It was in a letter from my mother, and ran thus: “You will be sorry to hear that another and more serious affliction has befallen your old friend David. For some time past his sight has been slowly failing. Your father has interested himself to gain for him the best advice, which has unfortunately proved quite powerless to arrest the distressing malady; he is now gradually becoming blind. It is a beautiful sight to see how admirably he bears the daily sense of increasing darkness that he knows must soon end in a hopeless night. As soon as he became aware of the dread certainty, he set himself to make baskets, working with his eyes closed, “for practice,' as he said, with a smile. It makes me sad to think how we used to joke about those eyes that are so soon to shut for ever. His appearance has so much altered through affliction that you would scarcely know him; his hair is almost white, and his honest features look quite handsome now.” Grieved indeed was I to hear this sad news, and my eyes filled with tears as I pictured him sitting singing over his work, with his wife by his side and his children about his knees-whitehaired, with liis eyes closed, as he so touchingly said " for practice.” I did not doubt for an instant that he would manage as he had hitherto done, to “keep an honest face to the world;" and felt that all the afflictions in the world (and even his were not ended,) would be insufficient to daunt his noble spirit, or to reduce him to the necessity of begging his bread.
Each mail brought tidings of his slow descent into the valley of night, though it was almost a year before the full affliction came. Cheerful before, my mother wrote that he seemed cven more so now, and managed, by dint of hard work and the increasing commissions of his friends, to keep himself, his wife, and his family of two children beyond the reach of want. Then we moved again, and I heard no more of him. till, after fifteen years' absence, I arrived, a widow, in England.
CHAPTER IV.-THE ORATORIO.
ABOUT a month after I reached England, when I was staying with some friends at Southwich, the principal town in---shire, there was a musical festival held there. Since my husband's death I had lost all taste for public amusements, but the idea of again hearing the “Messiah” filled me with a strange pleasure, and I determined to go. For some time I listened to the overture, with my eyes closed for its better appreciation and to shut out from my sight the gay and uncongenial sight of the extravagantly-dressed audience. Suddenly I heard a hum of mufllcd applause run through the hall; and on opening my eyes I
saw the singer who was to take the parts allotted to the tenor being ded forward to the chair that was set for him in front of the orchestra. He seemed an old man with long white hair, and was evidently blind. The moment I saw him I experienced the thrill which runs through you when conscious of recognizing something which you can't exactly bring to mind. This sensation always annoys me dreadfully, and I was quite oblivious of the air that followed, puzzling my thoughts to account for the strange impression; but when I heard the notes of a well-remembered voice commence the beautiful air of “ Comfort ye, my people,” looking up with surprise, I recognized so clearly, that I felt astonished I had not done so at first, the familiar face of our old chorister David, and noticed that he bore his arm in a sling.
Very little inquiry sufficed to find out the abode of the now celebrated singer. He was living in handsomely furnished lodgings, and was rejoiced when he heard my voice, recognizing it instantly. His wife had grown into a fine matronly woman, whose clothes, if they were of finer material, were as neat and unpretending as ever.
After the first congratulations were over, I asked him how it was that he had become a public character-knowing that such a thing would never have occurred to him under ordinary circumstances.
This was the cause, miss,” he said, pointing to his arm in the sling. I asked him to explain.
“Why, you see, after I became blind, I took to basket-making, and did not do so badly either, and basket-making I should have been now, if I had not had an accident which deprived me of the use of one hand. One day my wife had gone out for half an hour to get something she wanted in the village. She had forgotten to leave me sufficient withs to keep me employed when she was gone; and so I got up to get some myself. They were kept in a locker beneath the window, and as I was stretching out my hand to feel my way, my foot caught a chair close by the window, and in trying to save myself I fell forward, and dashed my hand through a pane; and my whole weight resting on that hand, a splint of glass cut through it, and completely severed tho tendons of two fingers. I was now debarred from procuring the butsufficient existence derived from basket-making; but still, somehow I felt that the bread that had hitherto never failed would not fail now; and so, living on our savings, we day by day debated what was to be done, without being able to arrive at any satisfactory result. Still, however, we did not despond; and one evening when, according to custom, we were singing before we went to bed, we heard a tap at the door, and a strange gentleman entered. He asked if it was I that was singing? I said, “Yes.' And then he said that his name was Mr. Elliot, and that he was going to give a concert in the neighbourhood, and offered to pay me very handsomely, merely to sing one song.
hesitated, scarcely liking to take money for what would be a great pleasure to do without; but my wife, more sensible, said 'yes' for me.
And so I went and sang my song. I had scarcely finished when I heard loud cheers and clappings, and so unused was I to this sort of thing that I thought it was intended for disapproval; and when Mr. Elliot told me that they wanted me to sing it over again, I was fairly astonished.
I was half displeased on account of the noise when I commenced to sing again; but when I had finished the song, and heard
again the hearty applause that followed, and knew its meaning, I was so overcome that I felt my eyes grow moist as I bowed to show my thanks. Thank God, my eyes are still of some use to me.
I looked upon this as but a piece of luck, that would only put off the evil hour of pennilessness for a week or so. I had as yet no idea that I could obtain my living in this way, and if such an idea had crossed my mind I think I should have thought myself wicked to entertain it. The notion of being paid for doing that which was my chief delight was still so hateful to me. Indeed, when Mr. Elliot offered to take upon himself to procure me the tuition required for making my appearance in a large place, and to give me so large a salary, commencing at once, that six months' pay sounded like a fortune, my brain
was so confused that I could make no answer for some time, and then could only beg to be allowed a week to consider.
When I once more reached my cottage, and sat again in my old seat in the chimney-corner, I began to collect my ideas, and to ponder on the prospect laid open to me. Thus my thoughts ran—“David,” said I, “ you have hitherto lived by labour, now you are asked to live by play ; hitherto, by dint of sheer hard work you have kept the wolf from the door, now, by small and pleasurable exertion, a fortune is waiting for you. David, is it right for you to accept it?” Presently thero came other thoughts; they were these—“David,” said I, “if you don't accept it, what then? You have a wife and two children, anable to support themselves; for you it matters little how you end your days, but for them ?" and then my thoughts became confused again. Suddenly came the sense that by refusing this I should be resisting the will of Him who had reserved his best gift for the last; that by scorning the hand held out to save me and mine from the brink of poverty, I should be guilty of robbery to them, and disobedience to God, and what for? merely to satisfy a feeling which, however natural, was still false; yes, at last I determined, pride, false pride ; I could scarcely realize at first how I, poor humble being that I was, could be actually proud.
A little time soon convinced me that singing was harder work than I imagined, less a pleasure. Yes, now I seldom sing except when I am obliged, and even then, when in the midst of the sublimest of airs, and expecting applause from a gay audience, how often do I think with regret of my humble cottage and the evening hymn.
Tor it is not with me as with others; the pooresti audience would suit me as well as the proudest; the open air better than the unknown brilliance of the concert room ; the finest clothes produce no effect upon me, except one of discomfort ; but still my blindness is a blessing even in this. I have nothing to distract my attention; I cannot see, but I can foel, feel as I never did before, the beauty of music; and it is scarcely too much to say, that my blindness has contributed, as much as my voice, to my success as a singer.
“But it will soon be over now," he said, sighing, after a pause. “Over! what?” I said, with a dimly sad impression of his meaning.
“All! my troubles, my carthly joys, my blindness, and my life! One month, and the blind singer will be no more."
I looked at his wife and children, to whom this sad intelligence was evidently too well known to call up aught but a sad smile. My long absence from them, much as I felt for, nay, wopt for them, made me feel that I could not touch this tender wound with fingers gentle enough not to produce pain, and so with a heavy heart I took my leave.