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Beulah   By: (1835-1909)

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This etext was produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.




Author of "Inez," "St. Elmo," "Infelice," "At the Mercy of Tiberius," "Vashti," etc.

"With that gloriole Of ebon hair, on calmed brows."




A January sun had passed the zenith, and the slanting rays flamed over the window panes of a large brick building, bearing on its front in golden letters the inscription "Orphan Asylum." The structure was commodious, and surrounded by wide galleries, while the situation offered a silent tribute to the discretion and good sense of the board of managers who selected the suburbs instead of the more densely populated portion of the city. The whitewashed palings inclosed, as a front yard or lawn, rather more than an acre of ground, sown in grass and studded with trees, among which the shelled walks meandered gracefully. A long avenue of elms and poplars extended from the gate to the principal entrance, and imparted to the Asylum an imposing and venerable aspect. There was very little shrubbery, but here and there orange boughs bent beneath their load of golden fruitage, while the glossy foliage, stirred by the wind, trembled and glistened in the sunshine. Beyond the inclosure stretched the common, dotted with occasional clumps of pine and leafless oaks, through which glimpses of the city might be had. Building and grounds wore a quiet, peaceful, inviting look, singularly appropriate for the purpose designated by the inscription "Orphan Asylum," a haven for the desolate and miserable. The front door was closed, but upon the broad granite steps, where the sunlight lay warm and tempting, sat a trio of the inmates. In the foreground was a slight fairy form, "a wee winsome thing," with coral lips, and large, soft blue eyes, set in a frame of short, clustering golden curls. She looked about six years old, and was clad, like her companions, in canary colored flannel dress and blue check apron. Lillian was the pet of the asylum, and now her rosy cheek rested upon her tiny white palm, as though she wearied of the picture book which lay at her feet. The figure beside her was one whose marvelous beauty riveted the gaze of all who chanced to see her. The child could have been but a few months older than Lillian, yet the brilliant black eyes, the peculiar curve of the dimpled mouth, and long, dark ringlets, gave to the oval face a maturer and more piquant loveliness. The cast of Claudia's countenance bespoke her foreign parentage, and told of the warm, fierce Italian blood that glowed in her cheeks. There was fascinating grace in every movement, even in the easy indolence of her position, as she bent on one knee to curl Lillian's locks over her finger. On the upper step, in the rear of these two, sat a girl whose age could not have been very accurately guessed from her countenance, and whose features contrasted strangely with those of her companions. At a first casual glance, one thought her rather homely, nay, decidedly ugly; yet, to the curious physiognomist, this face presented greater attractions than either of the others. Reader, I here paint you the portrait of that quiet little figure whose history is contained in the following pages. A pair of large gray eyes set beneath an overhanging forehead, a boldly projecting forehead, broad and smooth; a rather large but finely cut mouth, an irreproachable nose, of the order furthest removed from aquiline, and heavy black eyebrows, which, instead of arching, stretched straight across and nearly met. There was not a vestige of color in her cheeks; face, neck, and hands wore a sickly pallor, and a mass of rippling, jetty hair, drawn smoothly over the temples, rendered this marble like whiteness more apparent... Continue reading book >>

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