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BY

THE AUTHOR OF

“ MY LITTLE L A DY.”

" O fearful meditation ! where, alack,

Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid ?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back ?

Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid ?
O none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.”

SHAKESPEARE.

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LONDON:
HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS,

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.

1876.

All rights reserved.

251, d. 85

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ERSILIA.

PROLOGUE.

LE who writes these pages, searching

1 through the dimness of the separating years for the memories of his youth, feels like one who, sailing from his native shores in darkest night, presently sees the day break once more over the grey waters, and the well-loved land rise dream-like from the waves. To that lonely watcher, looking back with forlorn eyes, perhaps, with an inexpressible longing in his heart, the mists seem all at once to lift, to melt away, revealing a

VOL. I.

land ruddy in the ruddy dawn, watched over by the morning star, a land fair with the promise of flowery meadows, of whiteblossoming trees; he seems once more, as in a dream, to breathe the scent of dewy hawthorn in the glen, to see the small folded daisies in the grass, to hear the chorus of awakening birds, to taste the nameless rapture of the summer dawn. Alas! the shore recedes, the morning-star sinks down, winds and waves pipe and moan around. A tardy sun will presently gleam again, kindly breezes will yet waft the wanderer on his way, but the gracious promise that crowned the glory of that morning-land is gone for ever.

So he, who writes these words, sees once more, as in a clear vision, the blossoming years, the far gleaming spaces, the storms and darkness of his youth.

I HAVE a little daughter Fanny, a trim little maiden of seven years old, with

light curling hair and blue eyes and shining black shoes, in which she goes trotting round her father's studio looking at the pictures he is painting, and giving her opinion on them very freely and more honestly, perhaps, than some of his critics. Fanny does not, indeed, profess to care much about pictures, and owns at times with great frankness that she thinks them all very dull; but she has her favourites among them nevertheless, and is not a little affronted when coming again, as sometimes happens, to look at one of these, she finds it has been sent away, never to return. In her disappointment, she will turn then to a half-finished portrait which, as it always stands in the same place, it pleases the child to call her own.

“ This is my picture,” she will say, standing to contemplate it with her hands clasped behind her back, “my beautiful Princess Ersilia. What was her other

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