Beulah (Chapter 2, page 2 of 13)

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Chapter 2

"Hush about her, and run on ahead."

"Do, pray, let me get my breath first. Which way are we going?"

"To the piney woods yonder," cried Lilly, clapping her hands in
childish glee; "won't we have fun, rolling and sliding on the
straw?" The two little ones walked on in advance.

The path along which their feet pattered so carelessly led to a
hollow or ravine, and the ground on the opposite side rose into
small hillocks, thickly wooded with pines. Beulah sat down upon a
mound of moss and leaves; while Claudia and Lillian, throwing off
their hoods, commenced the glorious game of sliding. The pine straw
presented an almost glassy surface, and, starting from the top of a
hillock, they slid down, often stumbling and rolling together to the
bottom. Many a peal of laughter rang out, and echoed far back in the
forest, and two blackbirds could not have kept up a more continuous
chatter. Apart from all this sat Beulah; she had remembered the
matron's words, and stopped just at the verge of the woods, whence
she could see the white palings of the asylum. Above her the winter
breeze moaned and roared in the pine tops; it was the sad but dearly
loved forest music that she so often stole out to listen to. Every
breath which sighed through the emerald boughs seemed to sweep a
sympathetic chord in her soul, and she raised her arms toward the
trees as though she longed to clasp the mighty musical box of nature
to her heart. The far-off blue of a cloudless sky looked in upon
her, like a watchful guardian; the sunlight fell slantingly, now
mellowing the brown leaves and knotted trunks, and now seeming to
shun the darker spots and recesses where shadows lurked. For a time
the girl forgot all but the quiet and majestic beauty of the scene.
She loved nature as only those can whose sources of pleasure have
been sadly curtailed, and her heart went out, so to speak, after
birds, and trees, and flowers, sunshine and stars, and the voices of
sweeping winds. An open volume lay on her lap; it was Longfellow's
Poems, the book Eugene had sent her, and leaves were turned down at
"Excelsior" and the "Psalm of Life." The changing countenance
indexed very accurately the emotions which were excited by this
communion with Nature. There was an uplifted look, a brave, glad,
hopeful light in the gray eyes, generally so troubled in their
expression. A sacred song rose on the evening air, a solemn but
beautiful hymn. She sang the words of the great strength-giving
poet, the "Psalm of Life": "Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream;
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem."

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