Thelma (Chapter 5, page 1 of 14)


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Chapter 5

"Elle filait et souriait--et je crois qu'elle enveloppa mon coeur avec son fil."--HEINE.

Before them, close enough for their outstretched hands to have touched it, was what appeared to be a framed picture, exquisitely painted,--a picture perfect in outline matchless in color, faultless in detail,--but which was in reality nothing but a large latticed window thrown wide open to admit the air. They could now see distinctly through the shadows cast by the stately pines, a long, low, rambling house, built roughly, but strongly, of wooden rafters, all overgrown with green and blossoming creepers; but they scarcely glanced at the actual building, so strongly was their attention riveted on the one window before them. It was surrounded by an unusually broad framework, curiously and elaborately carved, and black as polished ebony. Flowers grew all about it,--sweet peas, mignonette, and large purple pansies--while red and white climbing roses rioted in untrained profusion over its wide sill. Above it was a quaintly built dovecote, where some of the strutting fan-tailed inhabitants were perched, swelling out their snowy breasts, and discoursing of their domestic trials in notes of dulcet melancholy; while lower down, three or four ring-doves nestled on the roof in a patch of sunlight, spreading up their pinions like miniature sails, to catch the warmth and lustre.

Within the deep, shadowy embrasure, like a jewel placed on dark velvet, was seated a girl spinning,--no other than the mysterious maiden of the shell cavern. She was attired in a plain, straight gown, of some soft white woolen stuff, cut squarely at her throat; her round, graceful arms were partially bare, and as the wheel turned swiftly, and her slender hands busied themselves with the flax, she smiled, as though some pleasing thought had touched her mind. Her smile had the effect of sudden sunshine in the dark room where she sat and span,--it was radiant and mirthful as the smile of a happy child. Yet her dark blue eyes remained pensive and earnest, and the smile soon faded, leaving her fair face absorbed and almost dreamy. The whirr-whirring of the wheel grew less and less rapid,--it slackened,--it stopped altogether,--and, as though startled by some unexpected sound, the girl paused and listened, pushing away the clustering masses of her rich hair from her brow. Then rising slowly from her seat, she advanced to the window, put aside the roses with one hand, and looked out,--thus forming another picture as beautiful, if not more beautiful, than the first.

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