Page images

did to papa's, for his eyes filled with tears, though he tried to hide them. Mamma, you know, was thinking of the Wrightonshow their father failed, and how they had to live in a miserable cottage, and take in plain sewing, and how poor Tom, in his desperation, went away to sea, and was never heard of any more. And then papa came round to mamma and kissed her, and said, 'Don't be quite broken-hearted, Mary; many a better man has failed before me; and if my wife, that took me for better and for worse, and for richer and for poorer, will keep up her courage, and help me to bear my trouble like a man, and if my children will try to be cheerful and do their best, it will not be 80 very bad after all.' : “But, Milly, you know mamma never could see things on the brightest side, and she only cried and lamented, and said she supposed everything must be sold, and we should not have a roof to cover us. And that seemed to make papa very miserable, and I began to cry; I could not help it, seeing mamma set me on. But Susan looked quite brave and hopeful, and she said the first thing to be done was to bring down our minds to our circumstances, and the servants had better go, and we could all find out what sort of work we could do most easily, for of course we must all get our own living; and papa called her his good, brave little girl, and said she was like the pole-star on a cloudy night; and I felt ashamed of myself for crying, and made up my mind to bear everything courageously and patiently."


* But, Rose, is it really true that everything is to be sold? I know we must go to a smaller house; but all our furniture, all our pretty things, must we lose ther-must they go to strangers ? It is too hard, Rosy."

“Yes, they must all go; there is no question about it, Milly dear. You would not have your father accused of unfair dealing! Everything must be sold; and then, if mything remains after all the debts are paid, it will be ours, of course. Come, Willy, don't give way, let us all make up our minds to bear our misfortunes bravely and cheerily; who knows but that they may do us good in the long run ? And I dare say papa's ill luck will not last for ever; perhaps we shall be richer than we ever were some day.”

“When will the things be sold, Rosy? Will there be a sale ?"

“Yes, to-morrow fortnight; the bills are out in the village and in Radenham already; to-morrow they will be put up on our own gate-posts; they would have been there before, only papa thought it would be 50 sad for you to see them, the very moment you saw the house."

Dear, kind papa! For his sake I will try to be patient and cheerful.” And my eyes were fast filling with long-repressed tears.

“ Tea is ready,” cried Susan, coming into the room, which was hers as well as Rosy's and mine. It was a large, cheerful chamber, containing three little snug white beds, three chests of drawers, a double-handed washing-stand, a capacious oaken ward

robe, and a very pretty toilet-table. The windows, three in number, looked over the fields and over the downs, far, far away, till the horizon blended with the dim and distant sea-line. We each of us had our own particular window, with its low-cushioned chair and footstool, and its little round table for work or books, and many a pleasant summer afternoon had we spent in that familiar room, that had been the night nursery till Susan was twelve years old, and then my mother had sent away the twins to a smaller chamber, and furnished this one with all conveniences and many prettinesses for her three daughters. Rose and Susan had never been to a boarding-school; but they had been accustomed to go every day in the gig to Radenham, where there lived a lady who wished to educate three or four young girls with her own and only daughter; and under her tuition my sisters had learnt all that they knew—which, in point of actual book-knowledge and accomplishments, was not very much; but they had learned something, especially Susan, who had profited to the utmost by her advantages—something which I, at Agenoria House, had altogether failed to acquire—something which I sought for, but could not find the way to be happy in this world.

Mrs. Cooper was a real Christian gentlewoman, and her daughter, sweet Annie Cooper, was one of the loveliest creatures I ever knew ; she was Susan's especial friend. Rose could never bear the idea of leaving home, and, therefore, her joining me at Agenoria House was delayed from half-year to half-year ; . but it had been settled, before I returned to school after the last Christmas vacation, that when I came home “for good” she should take my place for a year or two, and in her turn be succeeded by Susan in process of time. But now all these plans were no more: there was no more money to pay schoolbills and school expenses; we could not even be sure that there would be time to study at all; and, worst of all, we had to leave our house, and the village, and go to live in some town, wherever my father could find employment. We hoped it might be Radenham, and not London; but a few days decided the question, and it was London, and not Radenham, that seemed almost as dear to us as our own pleasant village of Ferndown.

But I anticipate, and gladly would I pass over the incidents of the next few weeks. Putting the best face on it that we could, and cheering each other as best we might, we found it hard work, and a sore vexation, to lay down the old life as a thing that was ours no longer, and take up the new. And if we my sisters, and my eldest brother, and myself —with all the elasticity of youthful spirits, with youthful hope and youthful energy, felt the bitterness of our reverse, what must it have been to our father and mother, who had reached, nay, rather passed, the middle stage of mortal existence! To go back to that first evening at home-it seemed both pain and pleasure to call it home still—Susan begged us to come down to tea; and she pretended to scold Rose for keeping me so long up-stairs, when I must be both tired and hungry. We went down stairs accordingly; and the room with the tea-table, and the old familiar china, seemed so thoroughly to wear its wonted aspect, that I could not realize the fact of its being on the very eve of passing away from our sight for ever.

My father was sitting in his usual place when I entered the room. He rose and took me in his arms. “This is a sad coming home for you, my poor girl,” he said, affectionately. “I thought I should be able to offer my children many advantages that I and your mother never possessed; but it is all over now; God has visited me with misfortune! Still, my child, remember that your father meant to do well by you—by all—but it was not to be.”

Tea-time passed heavily away; we could not talk on indifferent subjects, and we dared not discuss our matters before my mother; for Rose had warned me that any attempt at conversation about our position and our prospects was sure to terminate in floods of hysterical weeping, that greatly distressed my father, and disturbed the serenity of the whole family. Oh! how different from “the coming home” I had anticipated; how unlike the scene I had again and again pictured to myself as transpiring on my · return from school, as a young lady of finished

education, ready to be introduced into society! Was I to be always stretching forth my hand to grasp the golden goblet that was never given to my keeping? Was I to drink always of cisterns that failed


« PreviousContinue »