Page images
PDF
EPUB

A NEW-YEAR'S ENTRY IN JAMES MORTON'S DIARY.

BY FRANCIS XAVIER DESMOND.

One o'clock. The first day of the the same sweet face that seems now New Year ended an hour ago, and yet to look upon me from among the here I sit in my own little room, watch- shadows of my room, dissipated foring the fire in the grate and mingling ever these sentiments unworthy of my my fancies with the bright flames as manhood. Until I came to know the they flicker to and fro. How strange preciousness of one true woman's heart it is ? Many a sleepless hour I have I had judged all the sex as false and passed when my mind was racked vain. And yet, let me think. Have with anxious thoughts, and often have I gone to the other extreme! Have I I tried in vain to close my eyes and become such a miserable being as that shut out the cares that would not go hero-lover I read of in novels, who away. But to-night my heart is full shrines in his heart an idol of clay and of happiness and yet I am possessed grovels in worship before it? No: no! with the spirit of unrest, I do not think God save me from that! Better that of sleep. Joyful visions of the future all my life should be loveless than I press upon me with the same persist- should fetter myself with the bonds of a ency as the forebodings that haunted mere earthly passion. Because I feel me only a few short days ago. I to-night that my soul has found its could live forever amid such waking guardian-soul, I can thank heaven, dreams as these. God has been good without fear or faltering, for this pure to me. He has blessed my life upon and earnest love of mine. the very threshold of the New Year. Let me begin the record of my

Let me draw my little table toward New Year's Day. I awoke yesterme and as the lamp streams its light day morning weary and sick at heart. upon the pages of this record of all my Without, it was dark and gloomy, the joys and sorrows, I shall write out the snow falling in dull, heavy flakes, and story of my love. My love! Can I write the wind howling through the city. I that word without doubt or shame? looked about me.

There was my I ask my heart, and it honestly answers, bare, comfortless room not, as I had Yes. I remember there was a time been dreaming through the night, my when I sneered at love, when in my own cosy retreat at home which loving own petty conceit I questioned woman- hands made bright and cheerful. No ly worth because I had seen a few gentle knock at the door. No tender frivolous women. I recall these cal- voice to wake me with a “Happy New low days of mine with shame. But Year.”

But Year.” Ah, my mother, how well I

your souls !

remember your soft step upon the hood, with matted gray hair and bloodstair. How I wait in vain for that shot eyes, half-clothed, and shivering New Year's message of your love. at every step, staggered along, while a And then my father. I miss the crowd of yelling boys followed her and warm grasp of his hand as he greeted pelted her with lumps of snow and ice. his only child. I miss, oh, how sadly, At last, from sheer weakness the poor the solemn blessing, that every New wretch fell prostrate upon a door-step, Year's morning he invoked upon my and there lay surrounded by the yellhead. Dear father, dear mother-God ing mob. I had barely time to disbless you both! God have mercy on perse the ruffians when the door of the

house opened and a young woman As I looked out upon the world came forward. At a sign from her wrapped in gloom, I thought of that and without a word between us we other love of mine—the only tie left brought the now senseless form into to me unbroken, the one link that the house. I have seen more beautideath had not severed. Unbroken? ful faces in my life but I have never No. Alas, only too surely broken, gazed upon one so like an angel's as leaving within my heart an aching that which bent tearfully over the void, a restless longing for sympathy wretched outcast. No shrinking from and love that could not be satisfied. contact with that miserable remnant A sad certainty possessed me only of humanity. Everything was foryesterday morning that the New Year gotten, save that a woman claimed a had no promise for me, that I must go woman's sympathy. There before my out into the future, friendless and alone eyes was a living picture of heroism, -no kith or kin of mine to bid me God- such as I had often contemptụously asspeed. The one pure, generous heart serted could not be found outside the I had built all my hopes upon seemed world of fiction. I suggested that the separated from me forever, and sorely unfortunate vagrant should be sent to I felt tempted to repress no longer the the hospital, but, with the keener perfierce discontent long slumbering in ception of pity, the girl bade me go for my breast. As I sat by the window the priest and the doctor, as she bewatching the snow-flakes as they fell, lieved that wretched life was fast apthere came back to me the memory of proaching its end. As I turned to go just such another day of storm and I could not resist the inspiration of gloom some two years ago. I can mercy that lighted up the girl's face. never forget that scene. The streets An irresistible impulse of admiration were covered with ice and snow; a seized me, I impressed a kiss upon her cold, sharp sleet dashed into the faces hand, and with a fervent “God bless of the passers-by as they hurried along. you,” left the house. The doctor came, Down the avenue came, or rather but it was too late for his services to rolled along, what seemed to be a bun- be of any avail. The priest came and dle of tatters and rags. A wretched ministered to that friendless outcast as creature in whom it would be hard to solemnly and reverently as if it were recognize any semblance of woman- a princess upon her bed of death. Kneeling around that bedside, the girl, his anger, and he did not hesitate to her mother, and myself recited the show it in more ways than one. Alice litany for the dying, until, with the counselled me to be patient, and did all glory of a new life shining upon her she could to remove the prejudice withered features, the aged wanderer which her uncle had conceived against motioned to the girl, pressed one long me. But I, hot-tempered and headkiss of gratitude upon those pure lips, strong, could not endure what was to and then that sorely tried soul passed me his insolence. I never meant to quietly away

ask his niece in marriage until I could This was my first meeting with offer her a home worthy of her, and sweet Alice M—and it opened to while I was striving day and night for me a new world of hopes and aspira- her sake it galled me to the soul to tions. To win the love of such a noble have to endure his taunts and sneers. woman was worth striving for with all At last I resolved to stand it no longer. my mind and heart. And that she One day he hinted that it was his was not to be won with silly compli- niece's wealth I was seeking. I inments nor petty gallantries made her dignantly denied the accusation and love all the more worth the obtaining charged him with deliberate falsehood. Even in the days when I flung my Her mother, a good-natured but weakharmless shafts of scorn at her sex I minded woman, took sides with him in had dimly cherished an ideal of woman- the quarrel, and I was forbidden the hood that was now realized, and that house. In my unreasoning passion I shamed out of existence all my doubts imagined that Alice herself did not and sneers. She soon discovered my espouse my cause as warmly as she ardent admiration and, with a modest should, and with bitter words from me simplicity, needing no words for its and only a gentle remonstrance from expression, disclosed to me the secret her, we parted. It was solely my own of her heart. I told her all my plans, act. I had wilfully thrown away the all my projects for the future, and she treasure of a true woman's love. Had encouraged, strengthened me with the I followed her guidance all would have inspiration of her pure and earnest been well, for her uncle was at heart a soul. But alas, that happy commun- kind man, and could not long resist the ing of our hearts was soon interrupted, influence of his niece. Burning with and it seemed forever.

Her father a sense of wrong, and determined that had amassed considerable wealth, and I should never allow to myself that any dying, left her under the joint guardian- of the wrong was of my own doing, I ship of her mother and her uncle. wrapped myself up in business and The latter was a good, honest man, but strove to forget this episode in my gruff in his manner and disposed to life. But the effort was fruitless. I sneer at what he called the “ romantic could not bury the memory of the past. notions” of his niece. That she should Yet fortune smiled upon me. An imencourage the attentions of one like me, portant position became vaçant in the a poor, friendless clerk, with only a house in which I was employed, and I small salary to depend upon, aroused was called upon to fill it at an increased salary. What did I care for all that upon the book. Ever before my eyes now 1

was that fair face, exciting now my Such was the history of my life, that hopes, now my apprehensions. At last passed before me in a few minutes as night came. With beating heart I I looked out on the New Year yesterday once more entered the cosy little house morning. With a sad and almost so memorable to me as the scene of a hopeless heart I went over all these noble act of mercy. Alice came scenes again and again, until the clock forward to greet me with smiles and striking the hour broke up my reverie blushes. Her mother seemed oblivious and reminded me that it was time for of the past and gave me a hearty Mass. As I stepped out of the house welcome. We three sat by the blazing the sky was still dark and lowering, but fire together, and whatever restraint the snow had ceased to fall. I entered was upon us soon disappeared under the the church and strove to follow the genial influence of the season. How Holy Sacrifice without distraction or my heart lightened when I came to worldly thought. Mass over, I was know that Alice had obtained her about leaving the church and returning majority and was henceforward her homewards when there in the porch, own mistress! From that moment I deterred by the storm which had heard but little of the long story the commenced again with redoubled force, kind but garrulous Mrs. M— told of I saw Alice. For a moment pride a certain New Year's Day when she held me back, but it was only for a met her husband for the first time, and moment. I was at her side in an how it was a case of love at first sight. instant, offered to shield her from the And when the old lady dozed off into storm, and we left the church together. a quiet slumber I could not help thankIt was a year since I had spoken to ing her in my heart for that kindly her, and though this meeting was one deed. For some minutes Alice and I of joyful surprise to me I could but sat quietly before the fire and then I utter a few disjointed words in con- ventured to break the silence. versation. As we parted at her “Alice," I whispered, “your mother mother's door, with the same sweet has told us the story of a New smile upon her face and in the same Year's Day in her life.

I, too, have low musical tones I had once loved a story to tell this New Year's night. to hear, she insisted that I should that Will you hear it? evening pay her mother and herself a “ There was once a young man left New Year's call. After that, how alone in a great city, without parents long all yesterday seemed. I sat by or friends. Partly from the experience my window watching the troops of he encountered and partly because of reeling men pass along until I became something lacking in himself, he came disgusted with the grossness that turns to look upon the world with a cynical a kindly social custom into abuse, and eye. He felt in his heart a longing makes the first day of the year a scene for sympathy and love which he could of brutish revelry. Then I tried to not altogether repress, but his words read, but could not keep my thoughts were words of bitterness and distrust

THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

ASTOR, LENOX TILDEN FOUNDATIONS

« PreviousContinue »