THE DAWN OF A NEW LIFE

On mount and mere the moonlight lies
Dim shadows veil the western skies,
On every stream the starlight gleams,
And all is mystery and dreams.
But now Night folds her sombre wings.
The lark his morning carol sings,
A rosy, light glows o’er the lawn,
And lo! in splendour breaks the dawn.

It was about a year since the marriage of Una with Reginald, and they
were standing on the terrace of their hotel at Salerno, which
overlooked the sea. Far below lay the blue ocean with its fringe of
white waves breaking on a shore that extended in a curve round the
base of the lofty mountains, the summits of which were clearly defined
against the opaline sky. And what a wonderful sky it was, for the
setting sun had irradiated the pure ether with most gorgeous colours.
Great golden clouds in the west, forming a canopy over the intolerable
brilliance of the sinking sun, melted into a delicate rose colour,
which, rising towards the zenith, imperceptibly dissolved into a cold,
clear blue, out of which peered a few stars. There were some boats on
the sea with their broad sails, and the young couple on the terrace
could hear every now and then the shrill voice of a minstrel singing a
popular Italian air to the sharp notes of the mandolin.

It was a wonderfully picturesque scene, and one which would have
enchanted the eye of an artist, but Mr. and Mrs. Garsworth, leaning
over the terrace, were not looking at the splendours of sea and sky,
being engaged one in reading and the other in listening to a letter
which appeared to interest them deeply.

They had been wandering about the Continent in a desultory kind of
fashion for many months, exploring all kinds of old-fashioned cities,
with their treasures of bygone ages. They had gazed at the splendours
of the Alhambra at Granada, enjoyed the brilliant glitter of Parisian
life, wandered in quiet Swiss valleys under the white crest of Mont
Blanc, seen the Wagner Festival at Bayreuth, and dreamed of mediæval
ages in the narrow streets of Nuremberg and Frankfort. Then coming
south they had beheld with delighted eyes the white miracle of Milan
Cathedral, passed enchanted moonlit hours in the palace-sided canals
of Venice, idled amid the awesome ruins of the Eternal City, and after
seeing the smoking crest of Vesuvius rise over the marvellous bay of
Naples, had come to pass a few days at Salerno, that wonderfully
picturesque town, which recalls to the student of Longfellow memories
of Elsa and her princely lover.

Reginald was perfectly happy. He had, it is true, lost all the gay
carelessness of youth, but in its place he had found the deeper joy
which arises out of a great sorrow. There never was a more devoted
wife than Una, nor a more attached husband than Reginald, and the
bitter sorrow which had shown them both how truly they loved one
another had borne good fruit, for they had learnt to trust, love, and
honour each other so implicitly that no shadow ever arose between them
to darken their married life. At Salerno, however, they had found a
letter from Miss Cassy, who had been left in charge of Garsworth
Grange, giving all the news and urging them to return home again. Nor
was the request unwelcome, for, now that his heart wound was to a
certain extent cured, Reginald began to tire of the glowing landscapes
of southern Europe, and to long for that cold northern land so fresh
and green under its mists and rain.

Una was reading the letter and Reginald, leaning his arms on the
balustrade of the balcony, gazed idly at the fantastic splendours of
the scene before him, listening eagerly to the news which brought so
vividly before him the long marshes, the dreary Grange, and the quiet
village life of Garsworth.

“I do wish you would come back, Una,” wrote Miss Cassy, who, by the
way, wrote exactly as she spoke, “it seems so odd the long time you’ve
been away. According to your instructions the Grange has been done up
beautiful, and I’m sure you will see how my taste has improved it.
It’s not a bit dreary now, but bright and homelike, and I’m sure you
and dear Reginald will love it when you see it again. I do so long to
hear about your travels–Rome and Santa Lucia, you know–it’s a song,
isn’t it—-?”

Curiously enough, as Una was reading this the unseen minstrel below
broke into the well-known air with its charming refrain. Reginald and
Una looked at one another and laughed.

“What a wonderful coincidence,” said Reginald, peering over the
balcony to see the musician; “if we told that to Miss Cassy she
wouldn’t believe it; but never mind, go on with the letter.”

“I got a letter from Dr. Nestley, the other day,” read Una. “Of
course, you know he married Cecilia Mosser, and went home to his own
place, at some town in the North–I forget its name. He is quite
reformed now, and makes an excellent husband. I hear he is making a
good deal of money, and Cecilia is organist at a church up there. You
remember how beautifully she played?”

“I’m glad they are happy,” interrupted Reginald, heartily. “Poor
Nestley’s life was nearly ruined by that scampish father of mine.”

“I see Aunty says something about him,” said Una, quickly. “She
writes: ‘In the letter I received from Dr. Nestley, he says he heard
that Mr. Beaumont–you remember, Una?–who stayed at Garsworth–a
charming man–is in America, and has married a very rich lady.'”

“I wish her joy of the bargain,” said Reginald, grimly. “I suppose he
has quite forgotten my poor mother.”

“Never mind, dear,” answered Una. “I’m sure your mother is much
happier now.”

“As a Sister of Mercy,” said Reginald, in a musing tone, “poking about
among the slums of London. It’s a curious life for her to take up.”

“I think she always had a leaning that way,” replied Una, with a sigh;
“and it will make her forget the past.”

“I wish she would accept some money, to make her comfortable.”

“I don’t think she will,” said Mrs. Garsworth, folding up the letter;
“but when we go back again, perhaps she’ll give up London, and come
back to Garsworth.”

“I’m afraid not,” replied Reginald, gravely. “My mother is a woman of
strong will, and she thinks she has a sin to expiate, so she’ll stay
and labour there till she dies. Well, what else does Miss Cassy say?”

“Nothing particular,” answered Una, putting the letter in her pocket.
“Mrs. Larcher still labours under ‘The Affliction.’ Dr. Larcher has
been to London, to attend some archæological meeting. Dick Pemberton
has come in for his money and, Aunty thinks, has some idea of asking
Pumpkin to be his wife.”

“Pumpkin?” echoed Reginald, in a shocked tone. “No, Una, you
forget–Eleanora Gwendoline.”

They both laughed, and Una went on giving the news.

“Jellicks and Munks are both well, and Ferdinand Priggs is going to
bring out a new volume of poems.”

“Is he, really?” said Reginald, lightly. “Don’t I pity the unhappy
public! But all this news makes me home-sick, Una.”

“I feel exactly the same,” she replied, rising to her feet, and
slipping her arm into that of her husband. “Let us go home again.’

“Yes, I think we will,” said Reginald, after a pause, “I don’t mind
living at Garsworth, now you are with me, Una.”

“And what about your voice?” she said, playfully. “Your wonderful
voice, that was going to make your fortune?”

“Ah, that is a dream of the past,” he said, half sadly. “I will settle
down into a regular country squire, Una, and the only use I’ll make of
my voice will be to sing Lady Bell to you.”

Then, putting his arm round her, he sang the last verse of the quaint
old ballad:

“My Lady Bell, in gold brocade,
Looked not so fair and sweet a maid,
As when, in linsey woollen gown,
She left for love the noisy town.”

His voice sounded rich and full in the mellow twilight, while the
minstrel below stopped playing, as he heard the song floating through
the shadowy air. The sun had sunk into the sea, and the stars were
shining brilliantly. One long bar of vivid light stretched along the
verge of the horizon, and the air was full of shadows and the perfume
of unseen flowers.

“See!” said Reginald, pointing towards the band of light, “it is like
the dawn.”

“Yes!–the dawn of a new life for you and for me, dear,” she
whispered; and then they wandered along the terrace, through the
shadows, with the hoarse murmur of the distant sea in their ears, but
in their hearts the new-born feelings of joy and contentment.