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only a wild melody), which seemed to give full, fit expression to every pang and pain that could rend a human heart. Never, it seemed to me, were tones so deeply pathetic, so exquisitely sweet, so heart-breakingly mourn ful. Sorrow seemed to have been molten into music. I held my breath to listen, with unconscious tears in my eyes.
But, while the anguish was yet at its profoundest depth, the voice seemed to soar out of it, as it were, and, with only enough of sorrow left for richest sweetness, gradually to rise and float out of hearing.
And thus was it revealed, to Ruth and myself, that she has the faculty of musical improvisation! So, when Signor Canto gets his coveted pupil, he will find her even more gifted than he expects. And he will get her very soon. For, it has been arranged that Ruth shall take my vacant place in Uncle John's household, this winter. Flora has taken an immense fancy to her; so has Uncle John; even Aunt Belle has been quickened into unwonted kindliness of interest by her beauty, her talent, and her misfortune. In the spring, when Paul and I return to set up our temporary home in the city, during the prosecution of his theological studies, she will come to us. So far as human prevision goes, Ruth's future is assured. Needless to add that, so far as human plans and purposes are of avail, it will be musical. That is her desire.
"I must give my life to music, now," she said to me, recently, with an unconscious betrayal of some hidden disappointment, some incommunicable sorrow. "And sometime, no doubt, I shall be quite happy in it," she added, sighing low, yet with eyes deeply lit by inward resolve and hope. Her genius, baptized in pain, will now soar on strong and purified wing!
Essie came to me, a few days since, with a blush on her cheek and a new sweetness in her blue eyes. She, too, is won. I have promised, if I am in life, to be here for her wedding in the spring. I am glad to be furnished with so
pleasant an excuse for an early visit to Shiloh; a spot that will always be thickly embroidered with golden memories and suggestions. I came to it seeking rest. I got, first, work; then, peace; finally, joy. It may be a type. For all healthful life is labor, death may be only a peaceful sleep, and heaven is surely joy!
I learn that Mrs. Thorne is slowly getting the better of the paralytic attack, but will probably be more or less of an invalid, for the rest of her days. Carrie, of course, is with her. So are Rick and Pearl. The latter will soon be in
the enjoyment of their inheritance. Paul saw a good deal of them, at New Orleans, and liked them much. He avers that Pearl has only enough of singularity left, to make her charming; and that the twain are excellently well suited to each other. A degree of friendship sprang up between him and Rick, out of which grew certain confidences that prepared him for your letter, and helped to interpret its meaning.
Mrs. Danforth is still here; also her diamonds. Both will lend their brilliancy to my wedding. But they are not so inseparable as formerly; the lady is sometimes seen, now, without the jewels. She said to me, this morning, laughingly indicating them,
"It is the last time that they will go into St. Jude's; and they will certainly never go into any other church, except to do honor to a wedding! I have learned better than to wear them to service. I wonder that I ever had the bad taste! So much good, you see, if no more, has grown out of my exile in Shiloh,-slow, stupid, dear, delightful spot!
That exile is almost over. Mr. Danforth is expected on the next steamer, his business having been brought to a satisfactory and prosperous termination.
Harry Burcham cannot yet leave his father in that desolate home. It is probable that he will never return to Italy, except for a visit. Life has shifted its human promise, its best reality, to his native land.
The question of the ownership of Leo, mooted by Harry, was referred to Leo, himself. The two masters shook hands, separated in opposite directions, and each called the dog. There was a moment of hesitation; then, Leo rubbed his head against Harry's hand, by way of farewell, and followed the master whose life he had saved, and whom he had served so long and so well. If he had done otherwise, I think it would almost have broken the farmer's heart! Certainly, it is best so. For both, alas! are growing old. Let the last sands of their simple, genuine, and unselfish lives run out together!
Dear, noble, absurd Aunt Vin was one of the visitors turned out of my room at the beginning of this epistle. "She had come," she said, " to offer me her conglomerations. Also, to utter a jeremy; Shiloh would be as dissolute as a grave without Alice, and Ruth, and me." She has promised to visit me in my own home. Aunt Belle could not refrain from a comic lifting of her eyebrows, when she heard the invitation given and accepted; doubtless, she was picturing Aunt Vin's introduction to some of our city friends. Nevertheless, even she has learned to esteem the faithful, self-devoted nurse at an approximation to her real value; and Aunt Vin will meet with all due courtesy at her hands.
In Mr. Warren there is no positive change for the better. The most that can be said, is that he is less cynical, less morose, less ready with his scepticism, than formerly. Also, he has taken to studying the Bible; but whether to find matter for cavil or for faith, I know not. But his wife hopes and prays.
Mrs. Prescott will be left to carry on the Sewing Society, and other lay Church-work, almost alone. She will do it with more tact and discretion than formerly, I think; she cannot do it with more zeal, perseverance, and singleness of heart. With all her faults, would there were more like her!
Mr. Taylor is still in that spell-hedged dwelling,-the Gwynne Place,-whereof it is yet to be written that ever Angel of Life or Death has crossed its threshold. His work
in Shiloh, so far as his temporal support is concerned, at least, will rest hereafter upon a more assured basis. As a thank-offering to God for His tender mercy toward us, Paul has bestowed upon St. Jude's an ample endowment. Many would consider it wasted upon a place so small, so out of the way, and so sparsely populated; but he thinks otherwise. These by-ways of New England, he says, these quiet, out-lying farm districts, hidden away among the hills, are the sources whence the waste of our towns and cities is largely supplied; whence, too, the great West draws much of its best brain and energy. It behooves us of the city, therefore, to see to it that these springs of our being are not poisoned by indifference or infidelity; that this strength, wherewith we continually recruit our exhausted energies, is not of the Spirit of Evil, unto destruction, but of the Spirit of Good, unto God.
And Bona and Mala? Both remain with me. My heart is still to be shaken and trampled by their irreconcilable warfare; the entity called "I" is still to be tossed to and fro on the tide of battle, the will burdened with the everrecurring necessity of declaring for one or the other. Every life, which is not all a miserable defeat, must needs be a conflict. The hour of death, only, is the hour of complete victory. Thanks be to God, who, in that hour, through our Lord Jesus Christ, maketh us "more than conquerors!"
And now, oh, Francesca! they call me Winnie Frost no more! But not less faithfully yours is
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