One NightNEVER did the sun go down with a brighter glory on the quiet comer in Soho, than one memorable evening when Doctor and his daughter sat under the plane-tree together. Never did the moon rise with a milder radiance over great London, than on that night when it found them still seated under the tree, and shone upon their faces through its leaves.
Lucie was to be married to-morrow. She had reserved this last evening for her father, and they sat alone under the plane-tree.
`You are happy, my dear father?'
`Quite, my child.'
They had said little though they had been there a long time. When it was yet light enough to work and read, she had neither engaged herself in her usual work, nor had she read to him. She had employed herself in both ways, at his side under the tree, many and many a time; but, this time was not quite like any other, and nothing could make it so.
And I am very happy to-night, dear father. I am deeply happy in the love that Heaven has so blessed-- my love for Charles, and Charles's love for me. But, if my life were not to be still consecrated to you, or if my marriage were so arranged as that it would part us, even by the length of a few of these streets, I should be more unhappy and self-reproachful now than I can tell you. Even as it is---'
Even as it was, she could not command her voice.
In the sad moonlight, she clasped him by the neck, and lad her face upon his breast. In the moonlight which is always sad, as the light of the sun itself Bas the light called human life is---at its coming and its going.
`Dearest dear! Can you tell me, this last time, that you feel quite, quite sure, no new affections of mine, and no new duties of mine, will ever interpose between us? I know it well, but do you know it? In your own heart, do you feel quite certain?'
Her father answered, with a cheerful firmness of conviction he could scarcely have assumed, `Quite sure, my darling! More than that,' he added, as he tenderly kissed her: `my future is far brighter, Lucie, seen through your marriage, than it could have been--nay, than it ever was--without it.'
`If I could hope that, my father!---'
`Believe it, love! Indeed it is so. Consider how natural and how plain it is, my dear, that it should be so. You, devoted and young, cannot fully appreciate the anxiety I have felt that your life should not be wasted'
She moved her hand towards his lips, but he took it in his, and repeated the word.
`--wasted, my child--should not be wasted, struck aside from the natural order of things--for my sake. Your unselfishness cannot entirely comprehend how much my mind has gone on this; but, only ask yourself how could my happiness be perfect, while yours was incomplete?'
`If I had never seen Charles, my father, I should have been quite happy with you.'
He smiled at her unconscious admission that she would have been unhappy without Charles, having seen him; and replied:
`My child, you did see him, and it is Charles. If it had not been Charles, it would have been another. Or, if it had been no other, I should have been the cause, and then the dark part of my life would have cast its shadow beyond myself and would have fallen on you.'
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