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"What no harm in sitting day after day, dressed out in all sorts of fantastic ways in order to be stared at by whoever chose to pay for it! How should you like such a life, Fanchon?"
"Oh, Ma'am, I would not do such a thing for a hundred golden guineas—not I !"
Luigia hung down her head, while a burning blush spread over her neck and brow.
"Well, it cannot be helped now," continued Miss Berrington. "And as Mr. Carlyon was kind enough to bespeak my interest in your behalf, I am quite willing to help you as far as it is in my power, to something more respectable than your present calling. What do you say to taking in plain needlework, in which your mother might assist you?"
Poor Luigia, was forced to confess with tears and shame, that she did not even know how to put in her needle. At which Miss Berrington and her attendant exchanged glances, and the latter shrugged up her shonlders with an air of mingled scorn and pity.
"After all," said Edith, "it does not much matter, for I doubt if I could have persuaded any one to trust you with the work. Your best plan, I think, as you seem a strong girl, is to go to service. Of course you are fit for nothing at present, but you could learn, and many people do not object to foreign servants. At any rate there must be no more going out as a model!"
Luigia covered her face with her hands, and the tears gushed through her slender fingers:
"You had better return home now," said Miss Berrington; 1' and you can come again in a few days and let me know what you have made up your mind to do. Or rather I will leave orders about you with the housekeeper, as I shall be going away soon." And the young lady glanced complacently towards the white lace dress with its trimming of orange blossoms, upon which Fanchon was still employed.
Luigia departed without a word. She reached home mechanically, and finding her mother absent, locked the door, and flinging herself upon the ground, wept long and passionately.
"I shall never see him again," murmured the young Italian, in the intervals of her agony and shame. He despises me! And yet how kindly he spoke and looked only this morning, and bid me be sure and come soon. How happy I was then! But how could I tell him what she said, that cold-looking friend of whom he spoke so highly—that a girl with any modesty would have starved sooner than become a model! But she will tell him— Oh, that I had starved !—that we had all died together!"
She was aroused by the angry tones of her mother's voice demanding admission.
"What in the world made you think of fastening the door?"
"Forgive me, mother," replied Luigia, meekly—" I do not know why I did it—but I am not well to-night."
"You never are now. M. Dumont has been here, and I find you might have had employment the day before yesterday, if you had chosen. But you had better go to bed, child," added she more gently, as the light fell on the girl's white and haggard countenance.
Luigia obeyed her in silence, and presently cried herself to sleep; but her slumbers were restless and broken, and she awoke the following morning in a burning fever. Many a weary day and night did the widow watch untiringly by her sick couch. She was all gentleness now, for she loved and feared to lose her beautiful child.
"Mother," said the invalid, on one occasion, as she sat by her, "Was it wrong for me to go and sit for a model?"
"Wrong! Oh, Luigia! What would your poor father and I have done but for that?"
"You would have died, mother. We should all have died. Oh, I wish that we had!"
"Poor child!" thought the widow. "Her brain wanders. If Mr. Freeland could only see her; he is so kind, and would advise me what to do." And leaving Luigia under the care of a neighbour, she went in search of the artist.
Mr. Freeland was, however, too ill to be disturbed; and after an equally fruitless visit to the studio of Mr. Carlyon, where the good-natured Mary insisted upon her resting herself, and regretted that he should be absent just then, she returned to the chamber of the sick child. Luigia appeared better. She was sitting up in bed taking a little warm milk which that kind neighbour had prepared for her; and smiled faintly upon her mother as she approached, but was too weak to speak much.
The following day, Mary asked for a holiday, and came over to see the young Italian; taking care to fill her capacious pockets with numberless little dainties which she thought might tempt the wayward appetite of the sick girl. Luigia thanked her for coming, and endeavoured to gratify her by partaking of the nice things she brought—but it was a vain effort.
"Well, well, put them away, dear, you may fancy them bye-and-by."
"Mary," said Luigia, after a pause, "do you think I shall ever be able to go to service?"
"Certainly not. You are no more fit for it than I am to sit for a picture!" replied her companion, laughing at the idea of any one taking her fat rosy face. "Besides, you can get more at one sitting, than I have for a whole months hard work. Why should you wish to change?"
"Because—because it is very wicked to sit for a model!" And Luigia averted her burning face and began to weep afresh.
"Who said so? Not Mr. Carlyon I am sure."
"Not to me, but he mentioned it to a lady, a friend of his."
"I don't believe a word of it!" interrupted Mary, abruptly. "But I have not told you yet how anxious Mr. Carlyon was because you did not come—and what kind messages he left for you when he went away."
"Oh, do tell me, Mary! What did he say? And where is he gone?"
"Why gone to be married to be sure. Did not you know that?"
"Married!" repeated Luigia, with white lips.
'< Yes, to a Miss Berrington. I know nothing about the lady, only that she is very rich and accomplished; and they do say he doats upon the very ground she treads on. I am sure I hope they will be happy. But good gracious! how pale you are looking!"
"I feel tired," said Luigia; and she leant back and closed her eyes wearily.
At that moment a street organ commenced playing a lively air beneath the window. Mary rose up to send the boy away, but there was something in the altered countenance of Luigia, that made her pause involuntarily. A look of wild agony — a slight convulsive spasm — and then all was still! The mother called vainly upon the name of her child. She laid her hand upon the late throbbing heart—but it had broken and was at rest! While the organ-boy, as if he had known what was going on within, changed into a hymn, the wailing notes of which mingled with the wild voice of the bereaved parent, and poor Mary's weeping efforts at consolation.
Ill as he was, Mr. Freeland, who never missed an opportunity of gaining "an idea," or doing a kind action, came to see the last of his young and beautiful protege—for beautiful she still was, even in death. The poor widow took a melancholy pleasure in shewing him several little things which Luigia had amused herself by modelling in her leisure hours, many of them evincing traces of great natural talent; and told him how she had taught herself to read almost without assistance; while his evident sympathy, and the kind way in which he always spoke of her lost child, fell like balm upon the mother's heart, who never wanted for a friend while the artist lived.
Mr. Carlyon's sincere regret for the early death of the gentle and beautiful Luigia, was, fortunately for his future peace, unmingled with the knowledge of its true cause. Or how that fair girl whom his generous affection had gifted with every virtue, had dared in the pride of her superior rank, to mock and taunt a weaker sister who God alone had made to differ, by placing her in circumstances of poverty and trial, and fearful temptation, of which the haughty child of wealth and affluence could know nothing. Supposing Edith Berrington only spoke the truth in what she said—might it not have been more gently worded? Oh, women should be very tender and pitiful one to another, and especially to the helpless and the beautiful. Let them thank God, if they will, aye, even on their knees, that they are not as others. And then let gratitude teach them mercy and forbearance. We are not sent into the world to judge —but to pity and to comfort!
We can fancy Mrs. Carlyon would soon contrive to have the half-finished, and melancholy countenance of the Italian girl, removed from her husband's studio; since it could only recall much that she must have wished forgotten. And that the artist would part lingeringly with a picture endeared by a thousand sorrowful and yet beautiful associations.
M. Dumont was likewise grieved when he heard of Luigia's death—" he did not know how he should ever manage to complete the Contadina!"
There are numerous portraits of Luigia, besides those we have mentioned, executed by various artists, in different attitudes and costumes, and all characterized by the same strange and sorrowful beauty, the same touching and graceful tenderness. Many of them are of exceeding value. We saw one lately far away in a foreign land, which brought back vividly to our recollection the story of poor Luigia! and that venerable, gifted, and kind-hearted being from whom we first heard it.
CURATE OF GLEN-BEVILLE.
(Concluded from page 96.)
That evening Ravensworth was not amongst the guests at Beville Court. He could perceive that festivities were going on there, as he walked in the direction of Oakwood, with feelings that we cannot trust ourselves to describe. He was presently in the apartment before mentioned. The sun was just setting, and the colored glass reflected its different hues upon the panelled walls, the floor and every surrounding object. Mr. Mordaunt was not in his usual seat in the quaintly carved old chair: in the course of a few minutes he was summoned up stairs to his chamber. The old man had changed since Ravensworth had last seen him, which was but two days before. He was resting on a couch, feeble in body, yet his mind still capable of judgment on the things of this world.
"God bless you" said he, as Ravensworth entered.
It was the first benediction that had fallen from his lips. It came upon the ear of the clergyman as a sign that the dew of Heaven had descended on the old man's heart, that grace and charity of feeling had begun to banish his long cherished misanthropic spirit. He approached the Recluse with a light and quick step and a brightened countenance, as he exclaimed— "I trust all is well with you, that all is hope and peace."
"All is well with me—and you, may you never be as I have been. Remember that fair appearances cover deceitful realities. Trust not in man nor in woman. If you would rely on any, prove that one as I have tested you, and then you may find that kindness springs not always from a view to selfaggrandizement, that there are words which are things, and virtues which are merciful. That there may be sincerity and goodness is more than a dream. Farewell to you, Sydney Ravensworth—I die with the conviction that if on earth dwells a humble spirit with exalted worth, it is centered in you. May God bless you as I bless you. Remember that cabinet—here are the keys. Let my memory have a lordly monument— spare no cost, but have the ablest sculptor of the day; on it may the eye gaze and read not only my greatness, but the scorn with which I treated paltry man. Ay! there may he see the common lot and learn that the heart of the parasite, the voice of the deceitful must one day be hushed, and that honesty and sincerity point the way to heaven."
Mr. Mordaunt laid back his head, exhausted. He continued