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- Old Rose and Silver - 1/50 -


OLD ROSE AND SILVER

BY MYRTLE REED

Author's Note

The music which appears in the following pages is from an unpublished piano arrangement, by Grant Weber, of Wilson G. Smith's "Entreaty," published by G. Schirmer, New York.

CONTENTS

I A FALLING STAR

II WELCOME HOME

III THE VOICE OF THE VIOLIN

IV THE CROSBY TWINS

V AN AFTERNOON CALL

VI THE LIGHT ON THE ALTAR

VII FATHER AND SON

VIII "THE YEAR'S AT THE SPRING"

IX A KNIGHT-ERRANT

X "SWEET-AND-TWENTY"

XI KEEPING THE FAITH

XII AN ENCHANTED HOUR

XIII WHITE GLOVES

XIV THE THIRTIETH OF JUNE

XV "HOW SHE WILL COME TO ME"

XVI HOW ISABEL CAME

XVII PENANCE

XVIII "LESS THAN THE DUST"

XIX OVER THE BAR

XX RISEN FROM THE DEAD

XXI SAVED--AND LOST

XXII A BIRTHDAY PARTY

XXIII "TEARS, IDLE TEARS"

XXIV THE HOUSE WHERE LOVE LIVED

I

A FALLING STAR

[Illustration: Musical Notation]

The last hushed chord died into silence, but the woman lingered, dreaming over the keys. Firelight from the end of the room brought red- gold gleams into the dusky softness of her hair and shadowed her profile upon the opposite wall. No answering flash of jewels met the questioning light--there was only a mellow glow from the necklace of tourmalines, quaintly set, that lay upon the white lace of her gown.

She turned her face toward the fire as a flower seeks the sun, but her deep eyes looked beyond it, into the fires of Life itself. A haunting sense of unfulfilment stirred her to vague resentment, and she sighed as she rose and moved restlessly about the room. She lighted the tall candles that stood upon the mantel-shelf, straightened a rug, moved a chair, and gathered up a handful of fallen rose-petals on her way to the window. She was about to draw down the shade, but, instead, her hand dropped slowly to her side, her fingers unclasped, and the crushed crimson petals fluttered to the floor.

Outside, the purple dusk of Winter twilight lay soft upon the snow. Through an opening in the evergreens the far horizon, grey as mother-of- pearl, bent down to touch the plain in a misty line that was definite yet not clear. At the left were the mountains, cold and calm, veiled by distances dim with frost.

There was a step upon the stair, but the strong, straight figure in white lace did not turn away from the window, even when the door opened. The stillness was broken only by the cheerful crackle of the fire until a sweet voice asked:

"Are you dreaming, Rose?"

Rose turned away from the window then, with a laugh. "Why, I must have been. Will you have this chair, Aunt Francesca?"

She turned a high-backed rocker toward the fire and Madame Bernard leaned back luxuriously, stretching her tiny feet to the blaze. She wore grey satin slippers with high French heels and silver buckles. A bit of grey silk stocking was visible between the buckle and the hem of her grey gown.

Rose smiled at her in affectionate appreciation. The little old lady seemed like a bit of Dresden china; she was so dainty and so frail. Her hair was lustreless, snowy white, and beautifully, though simply, dressed in a bygone fashion. Her blue eyes were so deep in colour as to seem almost purple in certain lights, and the years had been kind to her, leaving few lines. Her hands, resting on the arms of her chair, had not lost their youthful contour, but around her eyes and the corners of her mouth were the faint prints of many smiles.

"Rose," said Madame Bernard, suddenly, "you are very lovely to-night."

"I was thinking the same of you," responded the younger woman, flushing. "Shall we organise ourselves into a mutual admiration society?"

"We might as well, I think. There seems to be nobody else."

A shadow crossed Rose's face and her beauty took on an appealing wistfulness. She had been sheltered always and she hungered for Life as the sheltered often do. Madame Bernard, for the thousandth time, looked at her curiously. From the shapely foot that tapped restlessly on the rug beneath her white lace gown, to the crown of dusky hair with red- gold lights in it, Rose was made for love--and Madame wondered how she had happened to miss it.

"Aunt Francesca," said Rose, with a whimsical sadness, "do you realise that I'm forty to-day?"

"That's nothing," returned the other, serenely. "Everybody has been forty, or will be, if they live."

"I haven't lived yet," Rose objected. "I've only been alive."

"'While there's life there's hope,'" quoted Madame lightly. "What do you want, dear child? Battle, murder, and sudden death?"

"I don't know what I want."

"Let's take an inventory and see if we can find out. You have one priceless blessing--good health. You have considerably more than your share of good looks. Likewise a suitable wardrobe; not many clothes, but few, and those few, good. Clothes are supposed to please and satisfy women. You have musical talent, a love of books and flowers, a fine appreciation of beauty, a host of friends, and that one supreme gift of the gods--a sense of humour. In addition to all this, you have a comfortable home and an income of your own that enables you to do practically as you please. Could you ask for more?"

"Not while I have you, Aunt Francesca. I suppose I'm horrid."

"You couldn't be, my dear. I've left marriage out of the question, since, if you'd had any deep longing for it, you'd have chosen some one from the horde that has infested my house for fifteen years and more. You've surely been loved."

Rose smiled and bit her lip. "I think that's it," she murmured. "I've never cared for anybody--like that. At least, I don't think I have."

"'When in doubt, don't,'" resumed the other, taking refuge in a platitude. "Is there any one of that faithful procession whom you particularly regret?"

"No," answered Rose, truthfully.

"Love is like a vaccination," continued the little lady in grey, with seeming irrelevance. "When it takes, you don't have to be told."

Her tone was light, almost flippant, and Rose, in her turn, wondered at the woman and her marvellous self-control. At twenty-five, Madame Bernard married a young French soldier, who had chosen to serve his adopted country in the War of the Rebellion. In less than three months, her gallant Captain was brought home to her--dead.

For a long time, she hovered uncertainly between life and death. Then, one day, she sat up and asked for a mirror. The ghost of her former self looked back at her, for her colour was gone, her hair was quickly turning grey, and the light had vanished from her eyes. Yet the valiant spirit was not broken, and that day, with high resolve, she sent her soul forward upon the new way.

"He was a soldier," she said, "and I, his wife, will be a soldier too. He faced Death bravely and I shall meet Life with as much courage as God will give me. But do not, oh, do not even speak his name to me, or I shall forget I am a soldier and become a woman again."


Old Rose and Silver - 1/50

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