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Thistle-Down
by [?]

THERE is no time like these clear September nights, after sunset, for a revery. If it is a calm evening, and an intense light fills the sky, and glorifies it, and you sit where you can see the new moon, with the magnificent evening star beneath it, you must be a stupid affair, indeed, if you cannot then dream the most heavenly dreams!

But Rosalie Sherwood, poor young creature, is in no dreaming mood this lovely Sabbath night. Her heart is crushed in such an utter helplessness, as leaves no room in it for hope: her brain is too acutely sensitive, just now, for visions. The thistle-down, in beautiful fairy-like procession, floats on and up before her eyes, and as she watches the frail things, they assume a new interest to her; she feels a human sympathy with them. Like the viewless winds they come, from whence she knows not; and go, whither? none can tell. They are homeless, and she is like them; but she is not as they, purposeless.

If you could look into her mind, you would see how she has nerved it to a great determination; how that, mustering visions and hopes once cherished, she had gone forward to a bleak and barren path, and stands there very resolute, yet, in the first moment of her resolve, miserable; no, she had not yet grown strong in the suffering; she cannot this night stand up and bear her burden with a smile of triumph.

Rosalie Sherwood was an only child, the daughter of an humble friend Mrs. Melville had known from girlhood. She, poor creature, had neither lived nor died innocent.

On her death-bed, Cecily Sherwood gave her unrecognised child to the care of one who promised, in the sincerity of her passion, to be a mother to the unfortunate infant. And during the eighteen years of that girl’s life, from the hour of her mother’s death to the day when she was left without hope in the world, Rosalie had found a parent in the rigid but always kind and just Mary Melville.

This widow lady had one son; he was four years old when her husband died, which was the very year that the little Rosalie was brought to Melville House. The boy’s father had been considered a man of great wealth, but when his affairs were settled, after his decease, it was found that the debts of the estate being paid, little more than a competency remained for the widow. But the lady was fitted, by a life of self-discipline, even in her luxurious home, to calmly meet this emergency. With the remnant of an imagined fortune, she retired to an humbler residence, where, in quiet retirement, she gave her time to managing household affairs, and superintending the home education of the children.

Her son Duncan, and the young Rosalie, had grown up together, until the girl’s twelfth birth-day, constant playmates and pupils in the same school. No one, not even the busiest busy-body, had ever been able to detect the slightest partiality in Mrs. Melville’s treatment of her children; and, indeed, it had been quite impossible that she should ever regard a child so winningly beautiful as Rosalie, with other than the tenderest affection. Under a light and careless rein, the girl had been a difficult one to manage, for there was a light little fire in her eyes, that told of strong will and deep passions; and besides, her striking appearance had won sufficient admiration to have completely spoiled her, if a guardian the most vigilant as well as most discerning, had not been ever at hand to speak the right word to and do the right thing with her.

Mrs. Melville was a thoroughly religious woman, and seriously conscious of the responsibility she incurred in adopting the infant. She could not quiet her conscience with the reflection that she had done a wonderfully good thing in giving Rosalie a home and education; the chief pity she felt for the unfortunate orphan, led her to exercise an uncommon care, that all tendency to evil should be eradicated from the heart of the brilliant girl while she was yet young; that a sense of right, such as should prove abiding, might be impressed on her tender mind. And her labour of love met with a return which might well have made the mother proud.