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The Daisy Chain or Aspirations

Chapter II.6
So, Lady Flora, take my lay,
And if you find a meaning there,
Oh! whisper to your glass, and say,
What wonder, if he thinks me fair.--Tennyson.
Flora and Norman were dining with one of their county acquaintance, and Dr.
May had undertaken to admit them on their return. The fire shone red and
bright, as it sank calmly away, and the timepiece and clock on the stairs had
begun their nightly duet of ticking, the crickets chirped in the kitchen, and the
doctor sat alone. His book lay with unturned pages, as he sat musing, with
eyes fixed on the fire, living over again his own life, the easy bright days of
his youth, when, without much pains on his own part, the tendencies of his
generous affectionate disposition, and the influences of a warm friendship,
and an early attachment, had guarded him from evil--then the period when
he had been perfectly happy, and the sobering power of his position had
been gradually working on him; but though always religious and highly
principled, the very goodness of his natural character preventing him from
perceiving the need of self-control, until the shock that changed the whole
tenor of his life, and left him, for the first time, sensible of his own
responsibility, but with inveterate habits of heedlessness and hastiness that
love alone gave him force to combat. He was now a far gentler man. His
younger children had never seen, his elder had long since forgotten, his
occasional bursts of temper, but he suffered keenly from their effects,
especially as regarded some of his children. Though Richard's timidity had
been overcome, and Tom's more serious failures had been remedied, he was
not without anxiety, and had a strange unsatisfactory feeling as regarded
Flora. He could not feel that he fathomed her! She reminded him of his old
Scottish father-in-law, Professor Mackenzie, whom he had never understood,
nor, if the truth were known, liked. Her dealings with the Ladies' Committee
were so like her grandfather's canny ways in a public meeting, that he
laughed over them--but they were not congenial to him. Flora was a most
valuable person; all that she undertook prospered, and he depended entirely
on her for household affairs, and for the care of Margaret; but, highly as he
esteemed her, he was a little afraid of her cool prudence; she never seemed
to be in any need of him, nor to place any confidence in him, and seemed
altogether so much older and wiser than he could feel himself--pretty girl as
she was--and very pretty were her fine blue eyes and clear skin, set off by
her dark brown hair. There arose the vision of eyes as blue, skin as clear, but
of light blonde locks, and shorter, rounder, more dove-like form, open,
simple, loving face, and serene expression, that had gone straight to his
heart, when he first saw Maggie Mackenzie making tea.
He heard the wheels, and went out to unbolt the door. Those were a pair for
a father to be proud of--Norman, of fine stature and noble looks, with his high