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The Daisy Chain or Aspirations

Chapter I.13
The days are sad, it is the Holy tide,
When flowers have ceased to blow and birds to sing.
F. TENNYSON.
It had been a hard struggle to give up all thoughts of study, and Norman was
not at first rewarded for it, but rather exemplified the truth of his own
assertion, that he was worse without it; for when this sole occupation for his
mind was taken away, he drooped still more. He would willingly have shown
his father that he was not discontented, but he was too entirely unnerved to
be either cheerful or capable of entering with interest into any occupation. If
he had been positively ill, the task would have been easier, but the low
intermittent fever that hung about him did not confine him to bed, only kept
him lounging, listless and forlorn, through the weary day, not always able to
go out with his father, and on Christmas Day unfit even for church.
All this made the want of his mother, and the vacancy in his home, still more
evident, and nothing was capable of relieving his sadness but his father's
kindness, which was a continual surprise to him. Dr. May was a parent who
could not fail to be loved and honoured; but, as a busy man, trusting all at
home to his wife, he had only appeared to his children either as a merry
playfellow, or as a stern paternal authority, not often in the intermediate light
of guiding friend, or gentle guardian; and it affected Norman exceedingly to
find himself, a tall schoolboy, watched and soothed with motherly tenderness
and affection; with complete comprehension of his feelings, and delicate care
of them. His father's solicitude and sympathy were round him day and night,
and this, in the midst of so much toil, pain, grief, and anxiety of his own, that
Norman might well feel overwhelmed with the swelling, inexpressible feelings
of grateful affection.
How could his father know exactly what he would like--say the very things he
was thinking--see that his depression was not wilful repining--find exactly
what best soothed him! He wondered, but he could not have said so to any
one, only his eye brightened, and, as his sisters remarked, he never seemed
half so uncomfortable when papa was in the room. Indeed, the certainty that
his father felt the sorrow as acutely as himself, was one reason of his opening
to him. He could not feel that his brothers and sisters did so, for, outwardly,
their habits were unaltered, their spirits not lowered, their relish for things
around much the same as before, and this had given Norman a sense of
isolation. With his father it was different. Norman knew he could never
appreciate what the bereavement was to him--he saw its traces in almost
every word and look, and yet perceived that something sustained and
consoled him, though not in the way of forgetfulness. Now and then Norman
caught at what gave this comfort, and it might be hoped he would do so
increasingly; though, on this Christmas Day, Margaret felt very sad about him,
 
 
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