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- Dora Deane - 1/31 -






_Author of "Tempest and Sunshine," "Meadow Brook," "Homestead on the Hillside," "The English Orphans," "Maggie Miller," etc._






Poor little Dora Deane! How utterly wretched and desolate she was, as she crouched before the scanty fire, and tried to warm the little bit of worn-out flannel, with which to wrap her mother's feet; and how hard she tried to force back the tears which would burst forth afresh whenever she looked upon that pale, sick mother, and thought how soon she would be gone!

It was a small, low, scantily furnished room, high up in the third story of a crazy old building, which Dora called her home, and its one small window looked out on naught save the roofs and spires of the great city whose dull, monotonous roar was almost the only sound to which she had ever listened. Of the country, with its bright green grass, its sweet wild flowers, its running brooks, and its shady trees, she knew but little, for only once had she looked on all these things, and then her heart was very sad, for the bright green grass was broken, and the sweet wild flowers were trampled down, that a grave might be made in the dark, moist earth for her father, who had died in early manhood, leaving his wife and only child to battle with the selfish world as best they could. Since that time, life had been long and dreary to the poor widow, whose hours were well-nigh ended, for ere to-morrow's sun was risen, _she_ would have a better home than that dreary, cheerless room, while Dora, at the early age of twelve, would be an orphan.

It was a cold December night, the last one of the year, and the wintry wind, which swept howling past the curtainless window, seemed to take a sadder tone, as if in pity for the little girl who knelt upon the hearthstone, and with the dim firelight flickering over her tear-stained face, prayed that she, too, might die, and not be left alone.

"It will be so lonely--so cold without my mother!" she murmured. "Oh, let me go with her; I _cannot_ live alone."

"Dora, my darling," came faintly from the rude couch, and in an instant the child was at her mother's side.

Winding her arms fondly about the neck of her daughter, and pushing the soft auburn hair from off her fair, open brow, Mrs. Deane gazed long and earnestly upon her face.

"Yes, you are like me," she said at last, "and I am glad that it is so, for it may be Sarah will love you better when she sees in you a look like one who once called her sister. And should _he_ ever return----"

She paused, while her mind went back to the years long ago--to the old yellow farmhouse among the New England hills--to the gray- haired man, who had adopted her as his own when she was written _fatherless_--to the dark-eyed girl, sometimes kind, and sometimes overbearing, whom she had called her sister, though there was no tie of blood between them. Then she thought of the red house just across the way, and of the three brothers, Nathaniel, Richard, and John. Very softly she repeated the name of the latter, seeming to see him again as he was on the day when, with the wreath of white apple blossoms upon her brow, she sat on the mossy bank and listened to his low spoken words of love. Again she was out in the pale starlight, and heard the autumn wind go moaning through the locust trees as _Nathaniel_, the strange, eccentric, woman-hating Nathaniel, but just returned from the seas, told her how madly he had loved her, and how the knowledge that she belonged to another would drive him from his fatherland forever--that in the burning clime of India he would make gold his idol, forgetting, if it were possible, the mother who had borne him! Then she recalled the angry scorn with which her adopted sister had received the news of her engagement with John, and how the conviction was at last forced upon her that Sarah herself had loved him in secret, and that in a fit of desperation she had given her hand to the rather inefficient Richard, ever after treating her rival with a cool reserve, which now came back to her with painful distinctness.

"But she will love my little Dora for _John's_ sake, if not for mine," she thought, at last; and then, as if she had all the time been speaking to her daughter, she continued," And you must be very dutiful to your aunt, and kind to your cousins, fulfilling their slightest wishes."

Looking up quickly, Dora asked, "Have you written to Aunt Sarah? Does she say I can come?"

"The letter is written, and Mrs. Gannis will send it as soon as I am dead," answered Mrs. Deane. "I am sure she will give you a home. I told her there was no alternative but the almshouse;" then, after a pause, she added: "I wrote to your uncle Nathaniel some months ago, when I knew that I must die. It is time for his reply, but I bade him direct to Sarah, as I did not then think to see the winter snow."

"Did you tell him of me?" eagerly asked Dora, on whom the name of Uncle Nathaniel, or "Uncle Nat," as he was more familiarly called, produced a more pleasant impression than did that of her aunt Sarah.

"Yes", answered the mother, "it was of you that I wrote, commending you to his care, should he return to America. And if you ever meet him, Dora, tell him that on my dying bed I thought of him with affection--that my mind wandered back to the years of long ago, when I was young, and ask him, for the sake of one he called his brother, and for her who grieves that ever she caused him a moment's pain, to care for you, their orphan child."

Then followed many words of love, which were very precious to Dora in the weary years which followed that sad night; and then, for a time, there was silence in that little room, broken only by the sound of the wailing tempest. The old year was going out on the wings of a fearful storm, and as the driving sleet beat against the casement, while the drifting snow found entrance through more than one wide crevice and fell upon her pillow, the dying woman murmured, "Lie up closer to me, Dora, I am growing very cold."

Alas! 'twas the chill of death; but Dora did not know it, and again on the hearthstone before the fast dying coals she knelt, trying to warm the bit of flannel, on which her burning tears fell like rain, when through the empty wood-box she sought in vain for chip or bark with which to increase the scanty fire.

"But I will not tell _her_," she softly whispered, when satisfied that her search was vain, and wrapping the flannel around the icy feet, she untied the long-sleeved apron which covered her own naked arms, and laying it over her mother's shoulders, tucked in the thin bedclothes; and then, herself all shivering and benumbed, she sat down to wait and watch, singing softly a familiar hymn, which had sometimes lulled her mother into a quiet sleep.

At last, as her little round white arms grew purple with the cold, she moved nearer to the bedside, and winding them lovingly around her mother's neck, laid her head upon the pillow and fell asleep. And to the angels, who were hovering near, waiting to bear their sister spirit home, there was given charge concerning the little girl, so that she did not freeze, though she sat there the livelong night, calmly sleeping the sweet sleep of childhood, while the mother at her side slept the long, eternal sleep of death!

* * * * *



It was New Year's morning, and over the great city lay the deep, untrodden snow, so soon to be trampled down by thousands of busy feet. Cheerful fires were kindled in many a luxurious home of the rich, and "Happy New Year" was echoed from lip to lip, as if on that day there were no aching hearts--no garrets where the biting cold looked in. on pinching poverty and suffering old age--no low, dark room where Dora and her pale, dead mother lay, while over them the angels kept their tireless watch until human aid should come. But one there was who did not forget--one about whose house was gathered every elegance which fashion could dictate or money procure; and now, as she sat at her bountifully-furnished breakfast table sipping her fragrant chocolate, she thought of the poor widow, Dora's mother, for whom her charity had been solicited the day before, by a woman who lived in the same block of buildings with Mrs. Deane.

"Brother," she said, glancing towards a young man who, before the glowing grate, was reading the morning paper, "suppose you make your first call with me?"

"Certainly," he answered; "and it will probably be in some dreary

Dora Deane - 1/31

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