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daughter, with a cheerful temper, and a really pleasing exterior; and it was a pleasant sight to behold the increased affection of mother and daughter towards each other, when their fallen fortunes rendered the sweet solace so doubly welcome.
Domiciled in their humble dwelling, with one little servant maid to assist them, at the end of six months, despite all their pinching economy, and numberless privations, they found that they must still further reduce their expenditure, in order to make “both ends meet,” and to avoid debt, which both these ladies had an especial dread of incurring, honest pride lending its aid to support them in executing their determination.
“If,” sighed Laura, “I could but teach, but I am utterly incapable of that, for what can I teach mamma? I know nothing perfectly myself.”
“Ah,” thought Mrs. Forest, "genius like thine, my lovely one, is ever volatile, and never was intended for such drudgery. However, for once she had the wisdom to hold her peace. For a long time did Laura Forest speculate, as to what she could by any possibility achieve, to help her dear mother; here she was, healthful, willing and able to work, only just twenty years old, and yet obliged to remain a burthen to this widowed parentah! it was very sad. She tried fancy work, but having no taste for it, when the pretty gew-gaws were finished by dint of labour and real perseverance—they would not do, there was no sale for them.
About this time, a lady and gentleman came to reside in the neighbourhood, friends of the family at whose instigation Mrs. Forest had originally settled there; and this lady, to whom Laura became known, aroused in her bosom a train of perfectly novel feelings and ideas. Miss Davis was a poetess of some reputation, and a devotee of literature; her brother, with whom she resided, being a middle aged gentleman, rotund and staid in demeanour, "pornickitie” in his habits, and in short to all outward appearance, a confirmed egotistical bachelor. He enjoyed an ample fortune for all moderate purposes, and though Miss Davis also possessed an independence, yet she preferred a home with her brother, to seeking one elsewhere; and as each had their favourite pursuits, they agreed very well together; she, amid her books, composition, and correspondence; and he, dividing his time pretty equally between preparing his fishing tackle for fine weather, angling when the skies permitted, and strange to say, to this accomplishment, be added that of music; and though he had never learnt a note, and played entirely by ear, yet his execution was brilliant, and he sang with taste and expression. It is usually suggested, that poetry and music accompany each other, hand in hand; but certainly in this case,
all the poetry fell to the share of Miss Davis; her productions were never even read by her brother, and for an idle country squire, he treated the newspapers with undue contempt, and found it irksome to wade through an article. But he would sit for hours listening to his own music, enwrapt and delighted; and had Jenny Lind then arisen to astonish and gratify the world, it is very questionable whether Mr. Davis would have given up the pleasure of hearing his own voice, in order to listen to hers, for the siren's charm would have been rendered powerless by superior attractions.
Now it so happened, that Miss Davis, who was very fond of young people, took a liking to Laura Forest; whilst the latter, by the unbounded interest she expressed, and really felt (for the time) in all Miss Davis's pursuits, more fully cemented the intimacy between them. By and by a change was observable in the fair Laura, which caused her anxious mother much uneasiness; she became abstracted, sought solitude, apostrophized the moon, and frequently exhibited fingers stained with ink, and her dress showing evident tokens of the same, hinting a noviciate in its use.
But at last Laura would no longer resist awarding full confidence to her affectionate mother; and with some timidity and shame-facedness, unfolding her inspired purposes, and reading the poetical effusions of her brain, caused that enraptured parent to prophecy future fame and independence, and to designate her blooming daughter-a second Sappho ! Mrs. Forest immediately placed the verses before Miss Davis, with no little triumph at heart, and exultation of manner; but that lady frankly assured her, they were too tame and common-place to suit her taste, and would not do for publication.
“And yet my mother calls me Sappho,' thought poor Laura, “ah! I see. how it is—the bright idea flashes across my bewildered imagination-I must be a Sappho in reality, and love unhappily to write well! For have not all poets and poetesses of any celebrity indulged in hopeless passions, and immortalized their blighted hearts? Have they not learnt in sorrow what they taught in song ?" There is Dantè, Petrarch, Byron, and a whole host of examples besides. I am too happy to write poetry—I see my error. But what shall I do? there is nobody to fall in love with?”
But her mother could afford Laura no assistance on this point, and became a little alarmed, thinking perhaps that this fancy might end rather more seriously than she altogether approved; but Laura had abundance of womanly delicacy and reserve, and would not single out any young gentleman, whom chaperons usually pronounce "eligible;” and though the
lawyer was a widower, and the clergyman was single, yet by no possible stretch of creative genius, could she pen a sonnet addressed to them.
Miss Davis was appealed to for advice and friendly assistance in this dilemma; and with a demure countenance, though inwardly enjoying the joke, she advised Laura by all means to yield her heart up immediately, a prey to blighted hopes and despairing love; of which her brother, the peaceful and unconscious Mr. Davis, was to be the ostensible object. She pledged her sisterly word, that Laura might be as unhappy as she liked with perfect impunity,-address her Sappho like sonnets to him, and that he would prove invulnerable to all attacks, angling and singing, eating and drinking as usual, in however subtle or fascinating a guise the enemy to his peace approached.
So forthwith, Laura commenced operations in the most approved style she knew of; she sat perched upon a green bank, and watched the patient fisherman for hours together, screened by umbrageous foliage, and endeavouring to catch inspiration ; when if the worthy gentleman chanced to observe her, which was rarely the case, she was rewarded for her devotion, by a finer dish of fish than ordinary being sent to Mrs. Forest, with “Mr. Davis's compliments.” Then she would listen to his music for a whole long evening; and though not particularly appreciating or comprehending what she heard, yet with closed eyes, the falling cadence struck so sweetly on her ear, she could almost forget the performer was a fat, middle aged gentleman.
On this point alone was Mr. Davis in the least vulnerable; but here, there was a slight, a very slight loop-hole for attack; and when by chance he found a sonnet, on which he saw his own name inscribed, evidently addressed to himself, inspired by his charming melodies, and composed by Laura Forest, the thought suddenly struck him, that “really she was a blooming, good tempered, clever girl!” “Really talented” quoth he to his sister. Miss Davis smiled to herself, on hearing the latter encomium passed by her brother, for she had never heard him speak of talent before, as a desirable possession.
However, one day, Laura returned home hastily from a visit to Dell Lodge, so Mr. Davis's villa was named, and in a state of unusual excitement and agitation, exclaimed to her mother:
“How provoking it is ! all my plans are frustrated! No sooner am I hopelessly in love, and on the high road to fame, than this stupid man spoils all! Only think, mamma, instead of treating me with indifference as he ought to have done, Mr. Davis has actually made me a serious offer of marriage; and when I told him that it was impossible, that I had higher aims, and that he must marry some one else, and thus seal my misery
and achieve my renown at the same time, he actually stared, asked me what I meant, and talked about ill usage; for he says I have given him encouragement, but that he is a silly old fellow to let his vanity mislead him, and so on; I could only urge him to wed another, for that would make me really unhappy, and that was just what I wanted, mamma.”
“And would it my child ?” asked Mrs. Forest, anxiously. “Well, if truth were freely spoken, I think it would," answered the half-weeping Laura; “but then you know, my dear mamma, that if by my suffering, I am the better enabled to win my way to fame; thereby, not only enabling me to contribute comforts to your old age, but to wreath my brows with an immortal crown, ought I to shrink from the sacrifice of my high calling ?”
“My darling girl," whispered the now delighted mother, “I had far rather that you strove to gain an immortal crown, by becoming the dutiful and happy wife of that kind and worthy man- leaving fame, and poetry, and blighted hopes to those who have not such a chance as this offered to their acceptance. Who knows but that plenty, contentment, and happiness, may not bring inspiration, even as well, if not better, than poverty and despair?
Two or three years after this conversation had taken place, between Mrs. Forest and her daughter, Miss Davis was in the habit of showing to her friends some pretty verses, addressed by her sister-in-law to her first-born, proving that Laura found her mother's words prophetically true; and to complete her gratification, her husband read them admiringly, asked for a copy, and after having set the words to music, placed it as a valued relic amongst the hoarded treasures of his fishing gear.
Laura hates the very name of Sappho now, and surrounded by an increasing family of blooming children, herself as blooming and joyous as any one of them, she has entirely given up the “poetry department” to her amiable sister, Miss Davis, whose acknowledged taste and genius enables her to fill it with grace and urbanity.
BY NICHOLAS MICHELL ;
AUTHOR OF "THE TRADUCED," ETC.
Day wakes—the trackless desert ’round us sweeps,
Deserted Tadmor!* Queen of Syria's wild !
. Tadmor or Palmyra; each name signifies a palm, indicating that this tree once flourished where now all is sterility. August, 1848. – VOL. LII.-NO. CCVIII.