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SHALL I read this letter or not? These are the words which keep repeating and repeating themselves to my already weary brain ; for it is weary-weary with thinking of the presentweary with thinking of the future—too weary to recall the past.
I daresay my readers will wonder who is this sad individual who has become so thoroughly tired of existence; and some may picture to themselves an old roué to whom there is nothing new in this world, no excitement to be found on the many race courses of our little island, no excitement worth mentioning to derive from the gambling tables of Monte Carlo, round which one may see seated the young banking clerk anxiously watching the rattling pea and vainly hoping that his may be the number upon which it may rest; there sits the old man, bald with age, his greedy hand stretched out to scratch in the mass of gold which has fallen to his share; two lads travelling with their tutor, watching
him with eager eyes.
No! it is no such person, but a young girl surrounded by wealth and luxury, one evidently to be envied, at least so think my
Iam butjust eighteen, and feelasthough already I must have lived half my life. I fancy Imust look harrowed and old to those who judge impartially ; my looking glass alone silently contradicts these unpleasant facts, for I see therein reflected a small oval face, surrounded by curls of dusky brown hair, and a pair of eyes that really do look a little sad, although they do not give the face the wearied look of which the heart at the present time is composed. We live in the country, and in the lovely old house I will partly describe to my readers; my father has worked his way up the social ladder, and although I am rather ashamed of owning it, is one of the bumptious cotton lords, whose fortunes have been made in busy Manchester.
But our house, although the habitation of a parvenu, does not betray its occupier ; it is a real old English home, two storied and similar to the houses we so often see in the South of England surrounded by trees of centuries growth which are yearly occupied by the busy rooks ; its verandah ladened with sweet smelling roses and the beautiful blossoms of the magnolia.
It has no pretentions to grandeur, but still the many rooms are large and well lighted and furnished, not with gaudy mirrors, but with the old oak furniture belonging to some one else's grandfather.
I have not yet described my mother and feel almost afraid to do so; as whatever words I
may employ, must fail to tell of her gentleness and goodness. She was the youngest daughter of the impoverished Earl of Beauclere, chosen by my father partly for the title which all risen people long and love to possess.
She was Lady Helen Farrar, and the pet of all who knew her ; the
almost worshipped her, and always acted upon any advice she might think well to give ; even the very animals—from
her own favourite horse to the stable catwatched anxiously for her coveted caress.
Such was the woman whom bold John Summers came to woo and whom he eventually won; ever willing to give way to others, ever ready to obey her strict father in all things; after many persuasions and threats of how bad a future lay before the penniless daughter of an Earl, she agreed to accept the risen cotton lord as her betrothed husband; after a short engagement they were married, and two years later I was born, causing my father great anger to think that the looked for baby should prove only to be a girl. Years went by, and still I remained the only child at Fernside, and one of the greatest heiresses of the surrounding counties.
My childhood was spent mostly by wandering in the woods and meadows during the summer months, and with skating during the winter when we had any bearable ice; my chief companion and sharer of my childish joys and sorrows being a boy who lived close by with his grandfather. His parents had both died when he was a baby, and he had been sent when quite young to the dear old gentleman who had been in every sense of the word, both father and mother to the little orphan. An excellent teller of the fairy tales children so dearly love, and at the same time a most interested sharer in all the various collecting fevers that attack boys' ambition as naturally as they must, sometime or other, suffer with the mumps or measles.
I was his companion in scrambles after the bird's eggs, in hunting for caterpillars, which are always to be found at the time of their reign scattered over all parts of the house, and the dear old gentleman did not insist on their total destruction, even after having sat on the fattest and most beautiful of the crawling tribe.
Jack Temple was the favourite of all;
his bright open face was made welcome at every house in our village, all the dogs were ready for a romp which they knew he would not fail to have with them on his way to the house of Mr. Webb, the clergyman of our small parish, who educated the sons of the surrounding gentry and prepared them for Oxford and Cambridge as the case might be. But like all boys, he was far from perfect and got into many scrapes through thoughtlessness, and often got a rare