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her sister, "you have been sorely tried, and have borne the trial nobly. Yes, dear Mary, you have endured with a fortitude which I always admired, but which, alas ! I failed to imitate. God will bless and reward you, my sister: for, sad as you now feel, I am sure brighter days are in store for you.”
“ Never, never," interrupted Mary; “I neither expect nor desire happiness without you."
“ Hush, dear Mary: you must not allow poor weak Martha to chide a sister whose conduct has been so long a reproof to her.”
“ You forget that you were, for years, the nurse and companion of our precious mother, though you were yourself suffering from much weakness."
“Our mother was enfeebled in mind as well as body, or she would have reproved my selfish despondency, which only served to aggravate my disorder and render my condition more unhappy. Ah! I now deeply deplore my error; for it would afford me consolation to feel that, like you, I had not only sympathised in our misfortunes, but done my utmost to alleviate them.”
“ I am strong in body,” returned Mary, humbly; "had I been in your situation, I never could have supported so long and painful an illness with the resignation you have done: but,” she added, perceiving that Martha was about to address her again, “you must now remain quiet ; you have already talked too much."
“ Mary, I must speak. Will you grant me a favour, and fetch our father? Perhaps he is unfit to come alone, and I cannot bear the idea of his remaining out to-night.”
“ Oh ! Martha, in pity do not urge me to leave you," pleaded Mary.
“ You will not be long absent; and, indeed, it must not be said that he was fallen so low as to be intoxicated at a public house when his daughter died."
Mary hastily prepared to comply with her sister's request. To hurry down the back street into the inn-yard was but the work of a few minutes. She advanced into the passage. The bar was lighted up, and her father formed one of a group assembled there. That he was in a state of intoxication, the sport and derision of the spectators, Mary perceived at a glance. Regardless of appearances, and, grudging every moment's delay, she went forward, and, seizing her father's hand to arrest his attention, whispered a few words in his ear. The unhappy man attempted to rise, but staggered so much that the feeble efforts made by his daughter to support him proved completely ineffectual. In addition to the unfeeling group of idlers assembled in the bar, there happened to be a stranger who had arrived by the evening coach, and, owing to the lateness of the hour, had determined to spend the night at Hawton. Disgusted with the scenes passing around him,
he had endeavoured to divert his attention by taking up a newspaper; but, on witnessing Mary’s distress, he respectfully offered his services in conducting her father home. Mr. Harvy, for such was the name of the stranger, had learned enough, from the conversation he had unwillingly overheard, to form some idea of the surgeon's condition; and the appearance and manners of Mary strengthened his impressions. The offer, kindly made, was gratefully accepted; and the distance being short, they speedily reached the door of Mr. Ford's dwelling.
“Can I do anything for you?” inquired Mr. Harvy, breaking silence for the first time since they left the inn.
Mary glanced upwards at her sister's room, and, recollecting her father's helpless state, she begged Mr. Harvy to request his landlady to convey a message to an old and faithful servant who lived near, desiring her immediate attendance. Having received this commission, the stranger took his leave, and the next morning was informed by his hostess that another death had taken place in the doctor's family, and Miss Mary was left alone with a father ill-deserving the name. Much did the good woman say in praise of so exemplary a daughter and sister; adding that her conduct was commended by all who knew the circumstances of the family. But the trials of the surgeon's daughter were not yet ended. She was roused from her deep dejection and bitter grief by the sudden and alarming illness of her father, who had caught a severe cold whilst standing, uncovered, by the grave of poor Martha. Enfeebled by a long course of dissipation, he fell a victim to an attack of acute inflammation; and three short weeks had scarcely passed, ere the newly-filled grave was reopened to receive the remains of the unfortunate man whose errors bad caused so much misery to an innocent and deserving family. A few weeks more, and Mary had left Hawton-gone, as the rector informed her few friends, to fill a situation as governess, in a large and distant city.
Eighteen months had elapsed since Mary left her native town, and the history of Mr. Ford's delinquencies had become an old story, seldom alluded to by the gossips of the neighbourhood. It happened about this period, that Mr. Fletcher, the good rector of the parish of Hawton, was unusually busy in superintending some repairs which were going on at a superior-looking farmhouse, situated at no great distance from the rectory, and dignified by the appellation of the Grange. One fine morning, whilst thus employed, the rector was accosted by a news-loving lady of his acquaintance.
“So,” observed she, “I understand your friend Mr. Harvy has purchased the Grange?"
Mr. Fletcher assented.
had thoughts of settling a long time. He bought the piano and a lady's work-table at Mr. Ford's sale. I recollect remarking to Mrs. Johnstone at the time, he must be engaged.”
Mr. Fletcher smiled; but as a smile is no definite reply, the persevering lady resumed.
“Of course, you are bound to keep your friend's secrets--but, time will show."
" True, my dear madam; and as our alterations here are nearly completed, you may not long be kept in suspense.”
" I imagine not. Mr. Harvy appears to be a sensible gentlemanly man, and, no doubt, the lady he selects for his wife will prove an acquisition to our little society."
Mr. Fletcher bowed.
“By the bye,” continued his interrogator," have you heard anything lately of the surgeon's daughter, poor Mary Ford ?”
At this question, a slight motion of surprise escaped the rector, and he coloured a little, as he replied, “She is well, I believe, and still continues in her situation at
“Ah, poor thing! she is greatly to be pitied. You were her father's executor, I believe. Pray, if the question be not impertinent, may I ask if any property remains, after the old man's debts were paid ? The house, I know, was mortgaged to its full value, and the sale of furniture and other effects would barely suffice to defray funeral expenses, and so on. I fear she was left destitute.”
“Certainly she had not any property,” replied the rector coolly.
“ Well, as I said before, she is greatly to be pitied. It is a sad thing for a young woman to be left alone in the world, without money or friends."
“ It is true that Miss Ford was left without fortune; but friends I presume, she must have so long as we are able to appreciate excellence.”
Very true, very true; she was, as you say, an excellent young person. It is on that very account I pity her so much.”
“Excuse me, dear madam,” said the rector smiling, “ if I assure you that to my knowledge Miss Ford is at this time less an object of pity than most of the young women of fortune amongst our acquaintance."
“ How so, pray?” inquired the lady.
“ The consciousness of having well performed our duty, is ever accompanied by self-respect," observed Mr. Fletcher with seriousness; " and one who is so happy as to possess the approbation of her own heart and the esteem of others, cannot be an object of pity.”
“I dare say you are quite right, my dear sir. I wish the young woman well, I am sure, but I must be going. I hope your friend will do the thing handsomely, and send out cards. Could
you not give him a hint to that effect? We need something to enliven us a little in this quiet place. Good morning.”
And the lady departed to communicate the intelligence that to her certain knowledge Mr. Harvy was about to be married, and judging from the goings on at the Grange, the bride elect was a person of property and consequence. Shortly after this adventure, not merely this inquisitive lady, but most of her friends and acquaintance, received an intimation in the shape of very pretty cards, that there was in existence a Mrs. Harvy, who would be at home at the Grange on the following Monday and Tuesday. There was much talking, wondering, and guessing; but as the Grange was some distance from the public road, there was no peeping, and consequently no alternative but to wait until Sunday morning, when the early attendance of the congregation at church was quite edifying. Thither repaired our curious acquaintance, accompanied by her children, who underwent a small persecution in the shape of jostling, pulling, and dragging, intended to impress upon their tender minds the duty of punctuality as connected with divine worship. Unhappily this exemplary church-goer was near-sighted, and the bridal party, instead of occupying the pew belonging to the Grange, which was just opposite her own, were already seated in the one belonging to the clergyman, between which and the lady's there intervened one of those huge pillars common in country churches, so fatal to laudable curiosity. In vain did she peep, try a slight change of position, and strain her spectacled eyes; nothing could she distinguish save Mr. Harvy and the corner of a white veil. At last the service concluded, and the bridal party retired through the vestry. On leaving the church, they were observed crossing the burial ground in an opposite direction to the road which led from the town. They stopped-yes, certainly, they stood by-could it be the surgeon's grave? With hasty steps did our observant friend follow the fast retreating congregation; she overtook a party of her acquaintances, and inquired
“ Did you observe them stop to look at the Fords' buryingplace? Very odd, is it not ?”
"No," returned one of the party drily, “ I don't think it odd at all."
"I really believe Mrs. Sharples does not know who the bride is," observed another.
“No, indeed. How should I??
“Dear," exclaimed a very young lady, laughing, “how very singular that Mrs. Sharples, who generally knows all the news, should be the last to discover that the bride is Mary Ford.”
“ Mary Ford," shrieked the astonished Mrs. Sharples. “Bless me, wonders will never cease! Mr. Fletcher might well say she was not to be pitied; but as I told him, I wish her well, I'm sure.
Oct. 1844.— VOL. XLI.—NO. CLXII.
Dear me, the surgeon's daughter the mistress of the Grange! I shall certainly call upon her to-morrow; she was always a deserving person, but that Mary Ford should turn out to be Mrs. Harvy almost exceeds my belief !”
It has been said, “ Sweet are the uses of adversity,” and in most cases this will be found true. Mary Ford never forgot in her prosperity the lessons learnt in adversity. Not only could she rejoice with those who rejoice, but weep with those who weep; and her hand was as ready to relieve, as her heart to sympathise in the sufferings of others : whilst her own early struggles and the habits of self-denial and self-helpfulness which the situation in which she had been placed had formed and fostered, rendered her as admirable in the discharge of her duties as a wife and mother as she had been in those of a daughter and sister.
THE TWO SPIRIT S.
BY MRS. ABDY.
He comes with a spell soothing, voiceless, and deep,
To the sands of the parch'd burning desert he flies,
“And he leads his glad subjects in beautiful dreams