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- St. Elmo - 100/104 -
And stare on voyagers."
From some lofty campanile, in a distant section of the silent city, sounded the angelus bell; and from the deep shadow of olive, vine, and myrtle that clothed the amphitheatre of hills, the convent bells caught and reechoed it.
"Nature comes sometimes, And says, 'I am ambassador for God';"
and the splendor of the Italian night spoke to Edna's soul, as the glory of the sunset had done some years before, when she sat in the dust in the pine glades at Le Bocage; and she grew calm once more, while out of the blue depths of the starlit sea came a sacred voice, that said to her aching heart:
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
The cup was not passing away; but courage to drain it was given by Him who never calls his faithful children into the gloom of Gethsemane without having first stationed close at hand some strengthening angel. The governess went back to the bed, and there, on the pillow, rested the moth, which at her approach flew away with a humming sound, and disappeared.
After another hour she saw that a change was stealing over the boy's countenance, and his pulse fluttered more feebly against her cold fingers. She sprang into the next room, shook his mother, and hastened back, trying to rouse the dying child, and give him some stimulants. But though the large, black eyes opened when she raised his head, there was no recognition in their fixed gaze; for the soul was preparing for its final flight, and was too busy to look out of its windows.
In vain they resorted to the most powerful restoratives; he remained in the heavy stupor, with no sign of animation, save the low irregular breath, and the weak flutter of the thread-like pulse.
Mrs. Andrews wept aloud and wrung her hands, and Hattie cried passionately, as she stood in her long white nightgown at the side of her brother's bed; but there were no tears on Edna's cold, gray face. She had spent them all at the foot of God's throne; and now that He had seen fit to deny her petition, she silently looked with dry eyes at the heavy rod that smote her.
The night waned, the life with it; now and then the breathing seemed to cease, but after a few seconds a faint gasp told that the clay would not yet forego its hold on the soul that struggled to be free.
The poor mother seemed almost beside herself, as she called on her child to speak to her once more.
"Sing something, Edna; oh! perhaps he will hear! It might rouse him!"
The orphan shook her head, and dropped her face on his.
"He would not hear me; no, no! He is listening to the song of those whose golden harps ring in the New Jerusalem."
Out of the whitening east rose the new day, radiant in bridal garments, wearing a star on its pearly brow; and the sky flushed, and the sea glowed, while silvery mists rolled up from the purple mountain gorges, and rested awhile on the summits of the Apennines, and sunshine streamed over the world once more.
The first rays flashed into the room, kissing the withered flowers on the bosom of the cripple, and falling warm and bright on the cold eyelids and the pulseless temples. Edna's hand was pressed to his heart, and she knew that it had given its last throb; knew that Felix Andrews had crossed the sea of glass, and in the dawn of the Eternal day wore the promised morning-star, and stood in peace before the Sun of Righteousness.
* * * * * * *
During the two days that succeeded the death of Felix, Edna did not leave her room; and without her knowledge Mrs. Andrews administered opiates that stupefied her. Late on the morning of the third she awoke, and lay for some time trying to collect her thoughts.
Her mind was clouded, but gradually it cleared, and she strained her ears to distinguish the low words spoken in the apartment next to her own. She remembered, as in a feverish dream, all that passed on the night that Felix died; and pressing her hand over her aching forehead, she rose and sat on the edge of her bed.
The monotonous sounds in the neighboring room swelled louder for a few seconds, and now she heard very distinctly the words:
"And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth."
She shivered, and wrapped around her shoulders a bright blue shawl that had been thrown over the foot of the bed.
Walking across the floor, she opened the door, and looked in.
The boy's body had been embalmed, and placed in a coffin which rested in the centre of the room; and an English clergyman, a friend of Mr. Manning's, stood at the head of the corpse, and read the burial service.
Mrs. Andrews and Hattie were weeping in one corner and Mr. Manning leaned against the window, with his hand on Lila's curls. As the door swung open and Edna entered, he looked up.
Her dressing gown of gray merino trailed on the marble floor, and her bare feet gleamed like ivory, as one hand caught up the soft merino folds sufficiently to enable her to walk. Over the blue shawl streamed her beautiful hair, making the wan face look even more ghastly by contrast with its glossy jet masses.
She stood irresolute, with her calm, mournful eyes riveted on the coffin, and Mr. Manning saw her pale lips move as she staggered toward it. He sprang to meet and intercept her, and she stretched her hands in the direction of the corpse, and smiled strangely, murmuring like one in a troubled dream:
"You need not be afraid, little darling, 'there is no night there.'"
She reeled and put her hand to her heart, and would have fallen, but Mr. Manning caught and carried her back to her room.
For two weeks she hovered on the borders of eternity; and often the anxious friends who watched her, felt that they would rather see her die than endure the suffering through which she was called to pass.
She bore it silently, meekly, and when the danger seemed over, and she was able to sleep without the aid of narcotics, Mrs. Andrews could not bear to look at the patient white face, so hopelessly calm.
No allusion was made to Felix, even after she was able to sit up and drive; but once, when Mr. Manning brought her some flowers, she looked sorrowfully at the snowy orange-blossoms, whose strong perfume made her turn paler, and said faintly:
"I shall never love them or violets again. Take them away, Hattie, out of my sight; put them on your brother's grave. They smell of death."
From that day she made a vigorous effort to rouse herself, and the boy's name never passed her lips; though she spent many hours over a small manuscript which she found among his books, directed to her for revision. "Tales for Little Cripples," was the title he had given it, and she was surprised at the beauty and pathos of many of the sentences. She carefully revised and rewrote it, adding a brief sketch of the young writer, and gave it to his mother.
About a month after Felix's death the governess seemed to have recovered her physical strength, and Mrs. Andrews announced her intention of going to Germany. Mr. Manning had engagements that called him to France, and, on the last day of their stay at Genoa, he came as usual to spend the evening with Edna.
A large budget of letters and papers had arrived from America; and when he gave her the package containing her share, she glanced over the directions, threw them unopened into a heap on the table, and continued the conversation in which she was engaged, concerning the architecture of the churches in Genoa.
Mrs. Andrews had gone to the vault where the body of her son had been temporarily placed, and Edna was alone with the editor.
"You ought to look into your papers; they contain very gratifying intelligence for you. Your last book has gone through ten editions, and your praises are chanted all over your native land. Surely, if ever a woman had adulation enough to render her perfectly happy and pardonably proud, you are the fortunate individual. Already your numerous readers are inquiring when you will give them another book."
She leaned her head back against her chair, and the little hands caressed each other as they rested on her knee, while her countenance was eloquent with humble gratitude for the success that God had permitted to crown her efforts; but she was silent.
"Do you intend to write a book of travels, embracing the incidents that have marked your tour? I see the public expect it."
"No, sir. It seems now a mere matter of course that all scribblers who come to Europe, should afflict the reading world with an account of what they saw or failed to see. So many noble books have been already published, thoroughly describing this continent, that I have not the temerity, the presumption to attempt to retouch the grand old word-pictures. At present, I expect to write nothing. I want to study some subjects that greatly interest me, and I shall try to inform and improve myself, and keep silent until I see some phase of truth neglected, or some new aspect of error threatening mischief in society. Indeed, I have great cause for gratitude in my literary career. At the beginning I felt apprehensive that I was destined to sit always under the left hand of fortune, whom Michael Angelo designed as a lovely woman seated on a revolving wheel, throwing crowns and laurel wreaths from her right hand, while only thorns dropped in a sharp, stinging shower from the other; but, after a time, the wheel turned, and now I feel only the soft pattering of the laurel leaves. God knows I do most earnestly appreciate His
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