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But sleep was the last thing we contemplated, for, all discipline being suspended, as was customary when the examinations were fairly over, we fell into a delightful strain of conversation. There were the agreeable reminiscences of the evening to recount, and there were the joyful anticipations of the morrow to keep us awake; for in the hall stood our boxes duly packed and corded, and some of us expected our friends very soon after breakfast. So we chatted, and told each other our plans for the holidays, till the brief summer night waned, and the grey dawn began to glimmer.
My bed-fellow was a girl named Frances Fielding; she was a few months older than myself, and I thought her rather too grave, and too precise, in her general conduct and attention to rules; on the whole, she was not a favourite in the house; yet, though I wished her merrier and less punctilious, I think I liked her, and had some dim idea that she was very religious.
One by one the occupants of the other beds fell asleep, and Frances and myself alone remained wakeful.
“I wish it were morning," I said; "time to get up. I wish breakfast and prayers were over, and you and I at the landing window, watching for the carriages. Oh, I
Oh, I mean to be so happy all the holidays; we are to have such treats all this midsummer! Harry has got rabbits, and I am to go shares with him, and to ride on the donkey as often and as long as I like; and we are to have a gipsying to Marston Woods, and perhaps—I don't
say quite — perhaps we shall go to the sea while I am at home. Oh, I do mean to be so happy : there is nothing in the world like being happy; I do wish to-morrow were come !"
“ To-morrow is come !" said Frances, in a quiet tone, that contrasted strangely with my quick, excited talk; “see; it is getting quite light. I could count the tassels on the curtain, and I hear the birds singing quite loud."
“Ah, but the going home !" I replied; “I mean that, Frances; I don't call it to-morrow till the getting-up bell rings."
For a few minutes there was silence, and I said, Frances, are you going to sleep ?”
“No," she replied, gravely: “I was only thinking of what Miss Stevenson worked upon her sampler."
“ What makes you think of that now?” I answered. "Why, she worked nearly everything on it: there was a border of roses, and lots of trees, and a house, and a bird with red wings and a blue tail, as well as all the alphabet and the figures, and her name and the date at the bottom."
“There was something else; don't you remember ?” said my companion.
“Ah! yes ! it said Worked at Agenoria House;' that is on mine too, and on the best samplers, that are to be framed.” “I did not mean that,” returned Frances;
66 there was a text out of the Bible : ‘Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.'
I wished Frances had not said it; it gave me a most
unpleasant feeling of insecurity; in a moment there was a sense of something undefined, and impending, which marred the happiness in which I had been rejoicing; there was a drop of bitterness in my cup of pleasure ; the draught was no longer unmingled. But as I began to think about it, I fell asleep; and in what appeared to me to be the space of five minutes, the bell rang forth its noisy peal, and it was time to arise : the real to-morrow was come.
It was a fair and sunny morning-I never remember a brighter; the meadows were green and flowery, the river sparkling in the glad, summer sunshine, and the trees in the garden waved gently in the soft, sweet, southern breeze. We gathered together in the schoolroom, and prayers were hastily read. Breakfast followed, but everybody was too much excited to have any appetite, although Miss Johnson declared that no young lady, refusing her bread and butter, should be allowed to go home that day.
The carriages soon began to arrive, and one after another were borne away from the precincts of Agenoria House. As Frances Fielding took her departure, the remembrance of the text she had quoted came afresh into my mind, and I felt quite provoked ; but then I comfortêd myself with reflecting that tomorrow had become to-day, and that I would refrain from any further boasting.
All were gone but two or three, who, to their disgust and mortification, were left the last, and I was one of the number. I had just begun to feel out of all patience, and to debate with myself whether I should be fetched at all, and to wonder whether there had been any mistake about the day, when one of the elder girls, who also remained, came to tell me that Miss Johnson wished to speak to me.
I went down-stairs, wishing that it had been settled for me to go by coach, and entered the diningroom, where Miss Johnson was standing with a letter in her hand, and a very grave countenance.
I cannot now, after the lapse of years, recollect what, she said to me, or how she told me the sad truth; but I understood that my holidays were to be spent at Agenoria House. The small-pox had broken out in our village; my two sisters had taken it, and were both dangerously ill, and I was not to go home for fear of infection.
I felt the blow as keenly as I have felt deeper sorrow since; it was my first sorrow
To such there seemeth no to-morrow !” I scarcely heard the words of consolation proffered by my governess, or the promise that I should have plenty of nice story books, and spend my time exactly as I pleased. I was glad when she was called away, and I ran through the open window, which opened on the grass plot, across the trim garden, and into the solitary play-ground. There I threw myself on a bench, and covering my face with my hands, that I might not see the waving trees, and the happy sunlight, I cried, in the anguish of my heart:-"I will never try to be happy again!" My whole soul sickened as I acknowledged that, in very truth, we can never know what a day may bring forth.
At length I got unto the gladsome hill,
Where lay my hope,
GEORGE HERBERT. As this is a tale for grown-up people as well as for their juniors, I will not inflict upon my readers many more reminiscences of my school-days; I will pass over seven years, which I spent at Agenoria House, and come to my final“ breaking-up day,” when I returned home “ for good," as young people say, when they have done with grammars and histories, and all the apparatus of juvenile study.
Seven years, then, had passed away since I lay sobbing under the trees in the play-ground, making my childish moan over the happiness that had eluded my grasp. I was no longer “little Milly,” but Miss Kendrick, a young lady of seventeen, whose education was supposed to be finished, and whose introduction into society was just about to take place.
And, as regarded apparent and decided changes in my
lot and character, the seven years had been, for the most part, uneventful, and I marked them chiefly by the girls who had come and gone during that period, and by my own standing in the school; and now they