OUR FIRST FAMILIES.
A TALE OF RURAL SIMPLICITY.
"Journeys end in lovers' meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know."
WHILE the philosopher was enjoying Yung's entertainment, his daughter had been playing the unaccustomed part of hostess. Scarcely had the philosopher left the hut when Tue, looking from the door, saw Ching, the magnate of the village, coming directly towards her. She was naturally fluttered at the thought of receiving so distinguished a visitor, the more so because she was utterly ignorant of what ought to be done in the present case. To Ching's inquiries about her father, she hesitatingly answered that he had just gone out, but would probably be back in a short time. "Won't you come in and wait?" she added.
Ching's first thought was one of disappointment that he had not seen the philosopher; but before he had taken many steps this feeling began to yield to the sudden admiration he conceived for Tue. In truth, though prouder beauties might for the moment eclipse her, one who could see her at her best would not prefer the favor of the gayer fair. Ching sat heedless of the flight of time, until he at last looked up and saw Mnag returning. He had now no reason for consulting the philosopher; he therefore took a rather incoherent leave of the girl, and started for his home.
The philosopher entered his hut and, in excitement, poured out a confused medley of "dining with Yung" and "the long-sought husband" and "be here to-morrow." Senseless indeed it seemed, but Tue heard enough to assure her that her husband had been chosen for her.
We can fancy the distaste which a high-minded, inexperienced young ape would feel at the announcement that her mate had been selected for her, and was about to take possession of her, regardless of her feelings.
It is a hard thing - a very torture - for a young girl to surrender herself to a master; only perfect love, or abundant C. O. D., can lessen the pain.
"O father," the girl cried, "spare me! I will die for you; but to kill my hope, my will, my soul - I cannot do it! Give me time - let me have a year to get used to the thought. Let me know my master, at least, before I give myself to him."
"Tue, my daughter," said the philosopher, in grave displeasure, "do not excite yourself unduly. It is good neither for the nerves nor for the brain. If the ground were cold, it would also be unhealthy to remain on the knees, as you are doing; but, since it is a hot day, you may use your own pleasure about that. As to objection to any match that I might select for you, I admit that I did not expect it. I have explained my views so often that I supposed you to be familiar with them. If you wish to hear them again -"
Tue shook her head decidedly.
"Then I cannot understand your request for time. You have all your life been taught to expect this. As far as concerns the young person whom I have in view, I think you can bring no rational objection. He is a thoughtful, brainful young person, well fitted to be your husband. Come, now, my dear, run out in the fresh air and think about it; and return in a more reasonable frame of mind." Tue obeyed mechanically, for she could do nothing else.
Toward the south, along the shore, the forest extended for miles, an unbroken stretch of beech and maple. Tue, in her few hasty glances at the surroundings of the village, had selected this as the most beautiful spot in the landscape; perhaps as much because it led to her own sunny native land as for any peculiar charm of its own. Thither she now turned her steps.
The fascination that Tue had cast over Ching was too potent for that youth's peace of mind. With an unwonted trembling of heart he had stayed at a respectful distance, gazing on his fair one's house. After a little - could he believe his luck? - the girl herself came from the house, and walked slowly into the forest. Ching naturally followed her. He found her with her face buried on a mossy log, while the convulsive sobs shook her form.
"Tue!" he exclaimed, in astonishment, "you here, weeping? Pray tell me your trouble."
Tue looked up, with alarm, fear, and astonishment mingled in her face. Seeing Ching, she took courage. "You are too good," she said, "but I cannot tell you - you could not help me."
"Try me," said the youth, with conscious self-satisfaction; "I can do a good deal."
"You cannot change my father's wili," objected she.
"And what is his will?"
"I dare not trust -"
"Any one," guiltily begging the question.
"You must want a friend. Can you not look on me as you would on a brother? Can you not conquer your distrust of a stranger, and tell a friend?"
"I will never tell any one!" she exclaimed with emphasis. "He wants me -"
"He wants you -" encouragingly.
"I will never let a stranger be my master."
"He wants to give you a husband?" he guessed.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, frightened and vexed, "I did n't tell you?"
"I only guessed," reassuringly. But now that her secret was out, Tue, not without frequent blushes, explained her father's idea, and the contemplated fulfilment of it. Ching listened with sympathy, and when she ceased began to plan for her rescue.
How many of our most important acts and thoughts, our friend the philosopher would say, are guided by chance! A sympathetic glance, when the lip is trembling, - a sigh, when the heart is full, - these are the causes of passionate affection; but an ill-timed word, an act of presuming tenderness too soon, will destroy the best-founded hopes.
The close sympathy into which Ching and Tue were come was fast throwing its charm about the girl. She could not but be proud of such intimate association with the pride of Apeland. But soon occurred something that changed the life-histories of a race.
Tue raised her beautiful, tearful eyes to her companion's face, and involuntarily gave him a tender glance. This was a spark in tinder. Ching seized her hand, and poured out his pentup passion in a resistless torrent. The maiden's breath was quite taken away, at the first plunge in this deluge of sentiment. She listened with ever-increasing alarm, until she found a chance to implore, "No more! oh, no more!" But Ching was fairly beside himself; his love told, he prayed her to assure him of its return. He had held her hand; he threw his arm round her waist, drew her to his breast, and bent his lips to hers.
At this bold act Tue, who had been stupefied at Ching's unexpected avowal, started from him in terror, and fled into the forest. Ching, not looking for such an act, had not closed his arm firmly around her. As she melted from his embrace he stood for a moment gazing in vacant surprise at his empty arm; then he gave chase.
He ran on for five minutes, making no account of the dead boughs and thorny vines that impeded his way; then realizing that he must be on the wrong path, he stopped to consider. The girl could not be far from him, that was sure; he therefore rushed to this side and to that, vainly hoping to catch a glimpse of the fair. At last, tired out, he sat down to rest; and then, for the first time, he noticed that day was nearly done. He was frightened, now, for the girl's sake; he shouted, "Tue! Tue! You will be lost! I promise not to touch you; only come here, and let us go home." But the girl did not answer; and after another unsuccessful search for her he was forced to start home without her.
Meanwhile Tue had been lucky in her escape. The noise that Ching made in crashing through the bushes had warned her of his whereabouts; and she had only to keep out of his path. She hurried on for more than a mile, when the distant roar of the ocean called her to herself; she looked around her, and saw the sun setting, and the forest unfamiliar.
She was brave enough at home; but here, alone, exposed to she knew not what perils, her courage failed her. With a wild cry, she turned in the direction in which she supposed the village to be. She had not gone many feet, however, when she saw what she most of all dreaded, - an ape; Ching, of course.
She shrieked, and started back; the ape pursued and soon caught her. When she heard his step behind, she threw up her arms in agony and fainted. The youth stopped, bewildered; he was not Ching.
(To be continued.)