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From the social glass, he grew to be a drunkard—but soft, I meant not to use so harsh a term-he never quarreled with his neighbors, and was uniformly kind to his wife. Sarah still remained with them, waiting on and toiling for her mistress, now taking in any kind of work to eke out a living, for they were very poor. But Phillis had gone out to Como hori be very poorith service, sharing her wages with her former mistress, who,
m s although she might have been most indulgent, had never been very judicious. In her house these girls had grown to womanhood, and learned-never a thing but to work, and for this even, they were indebted to Renee, their mother.
It was winter. Major Peter, now with neither carriage or horse, or means to hire or pay for a conveyance, walked daily to the little village for his “dram," often returning late in the evening, with feeble and tottering steps. One evening he had not returned—it was growing late, the fire was low, and Sarah put her mistress to bed, for she was now an imbecile old woman-and went herself, and was in a moment fast asleep.
A part of their large house had been rented to an old man and his wife. The man was temperate, hale, and an early riser, and in the morning the Major was found by this old man, just beyond the garden, half way across the little lawn, dead-frozen !
He was lying in the little footpath leading across the lawn to the garden gate, within sight, within call of the house. He was enfeebled by intemperance, stupefied, and fell to rise no more.
There were two sincere mourners for this poor man-Sarah, and his little grand-daughter Agnes, a little girl whose mother, (their oldest child) dying, left her helpless babe to the old people. Agnes was a sweet tempered, fair, intelligent and active little girl, and had grown up with Sarah, who had taught her all her own household ways, and their united effort had kept their aged parents in a measure of comfort.
But Mistress Polly had wealthy relatives, who might have
given her some aid—instead, however, they very scrupu: lously avoided all inquiries into her domestic affairs. Time sped on, nor waited for their liberality; at last the feeble old lady was gathered to her ancestors, and Sarah was told that she could "leave,” the relatives would look after the "effects, and send Agnes to school, “ at their own cost."
So, pretty Agnes went--but to a “free school," and paid her own board by her active, industrious little ways.
And aunt Frances was only too glad to take Sarah into her house--she was exactly the person desired at dear, genial and much loved Umberhurst.
Belle and Haidee were in ecstacies. And Sarah soon loved these “delightful little ladies," as she called them, for she felt that they regarded her with sincere good will.
“Dearest aunt Frances,” Haidee said, "you should have been a queen, for you evince royal tastes. You have such handsome people about you, and this is an infallible sign of high birth."
“ This is truly most agreeable, my dear,” aunt Frances answered, “and we must also strive to have good people about us, and people must be made and kept good, by watchful care, and judicious treatment. Do you not think so, little dear ?"
“I could not fail to think so, after what I have seen here and at Glenelvan. When I am older and wiser, I hope I shall be like you and aunt Annie."
“Thank you, pet. I feel that you will be good, even though you should not be like either Annie or me.”
Belle and Haidee wrote a line, or rode over to Glenelvan every day, sometimes taking Sarah with them. I was glad to see the latter now looking so happy, as I had previously seen her, on her brief visits to Phillis, looking worn, and anxious. Now her cheeks were bright with blushes, and her lips with grateful smiles. She had been kind and faithful to her old mistress, and now she had found good and true friends.
I had duties and occupations of varied interest to me, yet, amid them all, came mournfully the memory of an early friend and playmate, the young, orphaned Albertine. My father was pleased that I had taken a fancy to drive out to the wild old place, as offering another and newer object to me for amusement. He much feared I should be growing dull.
Haidee had kindly persisted in leaving her ponies for my use ; these were harnessed to the pretty carriage, and Miss Standish and I set out, on—papa said—“ love's pilgrimage.” It was a serene, autumnal afternoon, the route familiar to me, and I boasted of being a good, and upon an occasion, a rapid driver.
We found Albertine very lonely, looking pale, and very sad. Her mother had died a month before. Fred was away. I sat with her, in her. grandfather's small garden, and she told me of her mother's gradual decay; of her peaceful death ; of her own weariness and useless pining for companionship and family ties ; and then, my own affluent resources of friends--family—home association, and tidal flow of spirits, rose up in contrast to this dear girl's great desolation.
I wiped my face of the gathering moisture, and bade her look on a more cheerful picture. Then I spread out before her, as in a bright panorama, our Mildred's marriage, and a brief history of my charming cousin Haidee. Albertine listened--was greatly pleased, and for the time forgot her own saddened life. I assured my poor, dear little friend, that I should drive over, with those handsome little ponies, at a very early day, and take her back with me to Glenelvan, to spend a week with me, and kind Miss Standish.
"It must be that you are my good genius, Minnie. I can be, and am, grateful for your kindness to me, but I can in no way return it," Albertine said, with a brighter look than had yet dawned upon her pale face.
"You will return it to me a thousand fold, my darling Albertine, by being happier,” I said. And then her grandma came to the garden-door and called us to tea.
Miss Standish had remained within to visit with grandma, as she said ; and also, in her kind and pretty way, helped her to bring out the table and lay the cloth. It was doubtless her intention to cheer the old people, and her success was very evident. Old Mr. Bartell, Albertine's grandpapa, had grown quite cheerful ; said many kind things, and referred with much feeling to the time my own dearest papa took Albertine home with him, to spend the summer at school. Then he said, he should call me “a little rose, only that he could never discover a thorn about me.”
“Ha, ha ļ” I said, laughing, “that, sir, is because you sec me so little.”
“Never a rose without a thorn,” grandma said, smilingly, and the prettier, the more hath it need of this natural protection."
“ And that is true, too,” Miss Standish said, " and should Any one doubt the fact of Miss Minnie's being amply provided with this 'natural protection,' or provision of nature, I have only to say, they had best try a pluck at her.”
This remark was received with much gaiety. “My quondam governess should know,” I said, smiling ; "for though she did not exactly pluck the rose, she was very successful in plucking up the weeds."
“Ah, that is too kind ; I meant it in mere playsulness."
“Pray do not apologize, the occasion was too good to be lost.”
At this moment, Mrs. Bartell passed my friend a plate of most charming apple-jelly, and the conversation turned upon fruits and preserves.
When our tea-table chat was ended, we rose and made ready to leave ; we dared not linger, for it was more than six miles from hence to Glenelvan.
I was happier as we drove home in that soft twilight. I felt that we had carried sunshine beneath a roof all too shaded for a life so young and so frail.
And I softly repeated, as guiding my little ponies gently along
"We are spirits clad in vails,
Did I deem that my poor, pale, drooping Albertine would ever come to me, and lift me up—I drooping hopelessly ! I, crowned with rosy health-guided-guarded on every side, and affluent beyond my capacity to show? How should I ? No. Such thoughts as these rose not upon my horizon. The skies of my early morning still beamed blue, unflecked by fleecy cloud or passing shadow.
All praise for this ! Praise for the inexpressible happiness of my childhood.