Obrázky na stránke


the chairs had to be brought from the bedroom and the kitchen to provide seats for the company. The letters were read aloud, and commented upon and rejoiced over.

' It isn't as good as Joshua's being here,' said Dan, looking round with a happy face; but it is next door to it. I tell you what pleases me almost as much as anything in the letters—it is that Jo's a favourite with the men. Hear what he says : "I play to them on my accordion two or three times a week, and according to them I am a splendid musician—which I am not, you know, for I only play simple tunes. Last week the captain sent for me and told me that some passengers who were on board wanted to dance, and wished me to play for them. Of course I fetched the accordion at once. You should have seen us ! I played for them twice after that night; and yesterday when we arrived at Sydney—0 Dan ! such a lovely place, with such a bay !—they gave me a sovereign, which I put into Ellen's purse. Tell Ellen that!"!!

A blush came into Ellen's face, and her heart beat more quickly, when she heard that Joshua was so careful of the purse she had worked for him.

[ocr errors]

Filled with such-like matter, the letters could not fail to be a source of delight. Dan was commissioned to give Joshua's love to Ellen, and Ellen was asked to pay a visit to the Old Sailor, and to tell him that Joshua was doing his duty. Susan received messages for Basil and Minnie, and was to tell Minnie that Joshua would bring her some beautiful shells—shells in which Minnie can hear the waves singing to each other in whispers,' Joshua wrote, almost poetically.

Minnie, sitting in her corner, scarcely spoke a word; she was thinking of the sailor-lad who had been so kind to her, and she was looking with the eyes of her mind upon the picture which Dan had painted of Joshua, with his handsome face and free waving hair, standing on the deck, and laughingly shaking the spray from his eyes.

The Old Sailor nodded approval as the letters were read, and then traced Joshua's course on a map which he had brought with him, stopping many times to tell the eager on-lookers of the wonders and the glories of the beautiful South Pacific. The map was spread on the table, and

. it was not an unattractive picture to see them all clustered round the Old Sailor, peeping over his shoulders and under his arms, as with his great



forefinger he followed the ship from port to port. Mrs. Marvel, who had taken to spectacles, found them of but little use to her on this occasion, for the obstinate tears came into her eyes and dropped into the ocean which the Old Sailor's forefinger was ploughing. Minnie leant over Dan's shoulder, and the table was so small that she had to put her arm round Dan's neck and to put her face close to his, so that she might see.

A strange feeling of happiness came upon Dan as her cheek nestled close to his; a feeling of happiness so exquisite that all his senses were merged in it. The common parlour, the eager faces peering at the map, the pleasant voice of the Old Sailor explaining the route, all faded from before him, and he was conscious of nothing but Minnie's presence. He felt the warm contact of a soft hand; it was Minnie's hand, which in her eager abstraction she had placed on his. He folded it in his, and she allowed it to rest there. It was like a dream. He feared to move, and held his breath lest he should awake. A sudden murmur of voices-voices that sounded for a moment as if they came from afar off-aroused him; he looked into Minnie's face, and saw it lighted up with a happiness that seemed to be a reflex of his own; and as she turned her


eyes to his, so luminous a beauty dwelt in them that he could have fallen at her feet and worshipped her. But the dream was at an end—the blissful silence which had encompassed him was invaded. Minnie had returned to her corner, and his friends were speaking together, and laughing, and appealing to him upon some point which he had not heard. Dan still felt the warm pressure of Minnie's hand and the soft contact of her cheek; and unobserved he rested his lips upon the palm which had clasped hers, and kissed it softly and wonderingly.

There was only one person in the party who did not feel happy. That one was Solomon Fewster. Directly he entered the room he had been greeted with the joyful tidings; and understanding that he was expected to share in the general excitement of pleasure, he professed a delight which he did not experience. That afternoon he had purchased a rare flower, which it was his intention to present to Ellen. He had brooded over the idea for several days, and had decided that it would be a good thing to do. As he entered the room with the flower in the button-hole of his coat, he was already primed with a few complimentary words which he had learnt by heart to say to Ellen when he presented his gift. Ellen had never before looked so pretty, he thought. Her eyes were brighter, and there was a more joyous animation than usual in her manner. She greeted him with a smile so much more gracious than he was accustomed to receive from her, that he congratulated himself upon the purchase of the flower. She gave him her hand with more than her usual warmth, and when he ventured gently to press it, she did not resent the liberty. The fact was, she did not notice it. She was full of joy, and, as is the case with all amiable natures, she dispensed gleams of her happiness to all with whom she came in contact. Unless we are too much engrossed in our own special cares, we sometimes meet with such-like happy faces in the streets -faces which seem to say, 'We are happy; be happy with us'—faces which, although quite strange to us, which we have never seen before and may never see again, will kindle with a smile of welcome upon the smallest encouragement.

But Solomon Fewster was terribly discomfited when he learnt the reason of her cheerfulness and animation; it was because letters had been received from Joshua. He determined not to present his flower just then, for he read something

« PredošláPokračovať »