« VorigeDoorgaan »
From Chambers's Journal.
THE TWO SISTERS.
* As mine own shadow was this child to me,
A strange woman opened it: seeing A second self, far dearer, and more fair.”— me, she bent down and whispered, “Go to
bed, miss, your mamma is very ill.” But I was born in the village of Offingham, of I would not be repulsed; and pushing past which
father was the vicar. I have her, entered the darkened chamber. When lived long, and have visited many lovely my eyes became accustomed to the dim spots, and have been the inmate of many light, I saw my mother lying very still and happy homes ; but never have I seen pale, and my father sitting on the bed beon earth a paradise like this, my early side her, with his head buried in his hands; home. The village was a small sequestered on a chair by the fire sat my nurse, with a spot, far from the bustling world; our baby on her knee. I did not cry, though house was an old-fashioned stone dwelling, my little heart was bursting with emotion ; with deep mullion windows, tall chimneys, but creeping gently round the bed, I said, and small projecting turrets; a broad ter- “Harris, may I speak to mamma ?”. I think race ran along the front, from which a bank my father must have heard my voice; for of soft green turf sloped to the lawn beyond. with a convulsive sob he said, “ Take her The house was covered to its roof with myr- away !" I was led back to my room, and tles and roses, and the garden was a wilder- desired to lie still until Harris came to me ness of sweet flowers and shrubs.
Yet I cried bitterly when left alone, but fell lovely as was the scene without, within there asleep while listening for her step. It is was a far greater charm-peace and content Deedless to dwell on that time. “By dereigned undisturbed. I have often since grees I was made to understand the truth: wondered whether my parents, up to the my mother had given birth to a little time at which my tale begins, had known girl, and expired a few hours afterwards. what sorrow was ; my remembrance of them It is difficult, even for a mind inured to is like that of a soft yet brilliant evening these bereavements, to comprehend at first sky, where not a cloud chequers the deep their full extent; how much less can a blue vault of heaven, or casts a shadow on child realize the truth of such afflictions. the earth beneath. I cannot recall one They told me that my mother was deadlook of sadness on their faces, or remember that I should see her no more on earth. I one anxious or discordant word. Heaven's saw the hearse that bore her away ; her own peace brooded o'er the house.
chair stood empty by the fireside, and I no But sorrow comes to all sooner or later; longer heard her sweet voice in the house and how heavily it falls on the heart grown and yet I believed that I should see her old in happiness and prosperity! Life again; and often in the daytime I went to opened brightly on me amidst these influen- her favorite haunts in the garden, hoping to ces : a happier, gayer child never gladden- find ber there; and whenever, in the sied its parents' hearts. Soon after Thad at- lence of the evening, I could escape from tained my seventh year, I was awakened observation, I stole into her room with an early one morning by an unusual commotion assured certainty that she would have come in the house. People were hurrying past back : not finding her as I expected, I lay my door'; I heard voices speaking in sub- down on her bed and cried bitterly. dued tones in the passage, and amongst Sorrow cannot, however, dwell long in them recognised my father's, giving hurried the heart of a child; and mine was soon directions to the servants. An undefined dispelled by the smiles of my little sister. sense of coming evil fell on my spirit ; I lay I could not understand the silent abstracstill, scarcely daring to breathe, watching tion of my father; his grief was too deep to with a beating heart the time when my seek relief from any earthly source ; he shut nurse would come to dress me. Several himself up in his study, and allowed no one hours must have elapsed; all was so silent, to enter; he never asked for his children, that even to me, young as I was, the sus- and I observed that the baby was carefully pense became insupportable : I sprang from kept from his sight. Long and fearful my bed, and stealing along the corridor, must have been the struggle in my father's knocked softly at the door of my mother's | soul : the wife who had cheered and blest
his home was gone, and life for him had describe, in seeing her growing partiality lost its brightness. In the first anguish for Miss Franklin, whose gentle and undewhich her loss occasioned, he refused all monstrative manners won Amy's love, comfort; but succeeding months brought whilst my own vehement caresses were recalmer thoughts; his children, her children, ceived with careless indifference. I endurremained to him ; for their sake he would ed all the torments of jealousy, for Amy's rouse himself, and devote the remainder of love was the only thing on earth I really his life to their improvement, and strive, by cared for: yet, in the midst of my unhappiredoubled tenderness, to supply the loss ness, I do not think that I was ever unjust they had sustained. Selfishness was for- to Miss Franklin. I never blamed her, for eign to his nature, and even in grief he for- I felt her superiority; and while I mourned got himself in the desire to benefit those Amy's preference, I could not but acknowaround him. The house gradually resumed ledge how wise it was.
I think few people its cheerfulness; and though we never understand how deeply and silently a child ceased to feel the change that had fallen on may suffer ; childhood is regarded as the our home, yet we were once again a merry, gay, buoyant period of life; and those alone happy family.
who make children their study, can tell As I grew older, my father saw the neces- what a world of joy and sorrow, of struggle sity of placing me under the control of and suffering, lies in their little hearts. some judicious lady: the rough and fear- Insignificant as the events of their babyless girl, the playmate of many brothers, life may seem to the matured mind of man, needed the guidance of a female friend. they are all-important in themselves, as the And never was choice more fortunate than means by which the child is trained for the that made for me: Miss Franklin became coming duties of life. From this, want of . a blessing to us all. Quietly and gently entering into their feelings, I have seen she assumed the management of the house- many a one punished for sullenness, when hold, and we soon unhesitatingly obeyed; a word of sympathy in its little grief would for we loved as well as respected her. Even have saved its temper from the ordeal of unthe impetuous spirit of my brothers yielded just correction. At this period of my life, , to her mild control. I never remember any had my silence and irritability been miscontention between them ; she seemed at construed, how might my character have once to command their obedience, and to suffered ! But Miss Franklin read my guide them as she chose. With me, no heart, traced each feeling to its source, and authority was needed : I followed wherever checked the evil that was springing: she led, an unquestioning and devoted pu- ny,” she said one day when I had long sat pil: to be near her, to listen to her words moodily at work, “ I wonder what you love of kindness and instruction, became the best in the world ?” chief pleasure of my life. I had dreaded “Oh, Miss Franklin, how can you ask ? her arrival, and with childish waywardness Amy, to be sure: I love Amy better than had determined not to love her myself; the whole world beside." and above all things, not to allow her to
but tell tyrannize over my darling Amy. This sis- me what you mean by love ? I think ter had already become the first object of our definitions of the word would differ my life: I loved her passionately, and had strangely." constituted myself her teacher, and control- I remained silent, for indeed I did not ler of all that concerned her; I therefore understand her question. My love for looked upon Miss Franklin as an unwel- Amy seemed a part of my very life ; and I come interloper, a rival to my power over could no more define the feeling, than I Amy. I met her with little courtesy, and could have analysed the beams of light am afraid showed very plainly my predeter- which shone from the bright sun above our mined intention of disliking her. It was heads. I looked up inquiringly, I believe, not, however, in the power of mortal to re- for Miss Franklin continued, “Your love sist Miss Franklin ; at least, it was far be- for Amy springs from love of yourself, not yond mine ; and I not only yielded myself from pure devotion to your sister : you love submissively to her guidance, but, what was her as your plaything, as the creature over far more difficult, learned by degrees to see whom you have a fancied right. That reaher gaining influence over Amy. This child diness to yield our own wishes to promote loved her with an energy peculiar to her na- the happiness of others, which I regard as ture, and I felt at times a pang I cannot an essential attribute of pure disinterested
love, I do not see in you. When Amy is to me. He talked of his early days, of my happy with me, and in the simplicity of her mother, of the unbounded happiness they heart shows a preference for my company had enjoyed together, of her death, and all to yours, a cloud gathers on your brow, that he had since suffered. The thought and the color mounts to your cheeks. of rejoining her was ever present to his Dearest Fanny, this is not love; it is sel-mind; and as I listened to his hopeful fishness."
trust in the mercy of God, and his glad anI was deeply mortified, and Miss Frank- ticipation of a reunion with her he had lost, lin, who never willingly wounded the feel- I learned the best lessons of religion. ings of any one, dropped the subject. I With his own thankfulness to depart and never, however, forgot her words, and as I be at rest, however, mingled many an anxgrew older, I felt them influence my actions ious feeling for his daughters. “My boys,” more and more. Amy's welfare and hap- he would say, “must fight their own way piness became dearer to me than' my own, in the world; for them I am content; but and gradually I learned to feel the bliss of for you, Fanny, and for my little Amy, I resigning my own desire to hers. It was often tremble: yet why distrust our FaMiss Franklin's continual study, as we ther's love? When I am gone, will He not grew older, to render us dependent on each still remain, an all-sufficient Friend, the other for amusement and happiness ; and orphan's sure Protector? Trust in His often she would say, “Fanny, when I leave goodness, my child, He will never fail you, you must be Amy's guardian friend; you." she needs your care; the gay volatile child Then he would talk to me of Amy-that cannot yet stand alone; to you she must precious legacy bequeathed by his dying look for everything." I have since felt that wife; and with tears in his eyes entreat me the chief aim Miss Franklin had in view in never to leave her ; to watch over her, and all her instruction, was to give a right di- be her guide, adding these words, which rection to the love I bore my sister, to sank deep into my soul, and became the render me a safe guide and judicious friend spring of my future actions, “Live for your to the creature whose beauty and talent sister ; study her happiness before your already threatened to be dangers in her own : thus when we meet in Heaven, you path. Amy was the idol of the house ; may present her to the mother who died in caressed and spoiled by all, she manifested giving her birth, with the joyful consciousthe faults peculiar to a child thus situated. ness that you have faithfully fulfilled your To make me aware of these faults, to point mission on earth.” out to me the perils that beset her, was Miss Soon after this my father died: the Franklin's constant endeavor. It was, as lonely desolation of the weeks that followed if a foreshadowing of the peculiar trials that his decease I will not describe. I was were to be our portion was ever present to stunned by the blow; but soon recognising her soul. Alas! how soon were my pru- the importance of my task, I roused myself dence and wisdom to be tested.
to fulfil the duties which now devolved upon My father's health had been long failing. me. Had it not been for my excellent In spite of his efforts to shake off grief, it friend Miss Franklin, all my efforts would had slowly done its work: he was no longer have failed: she was my support, my counyoung when
my mother died, and the rava- sellor : in the painful arrangements which ges made in his constitution by sorrow for followed our bereavement, she spared me her loss were never repaired. He gradually every needless pang; and consulting with became feebler, and Miss Franklin did not my brothers, she arranged our future plan conceal from me the knowledge that death of life. It was of course necessary to quit was fast approaching. My brothers had all the vicarage immediately, as the new inquitted our home: one by one they had cumbent was impatient to take possession. taken their places in the world. Two were The property destined for us was invested already in India, one at college, and the in the hands of my eldest brother, a meryoungest was studying engineering in a dis- chant in Calcutta, and had been the nucleus tant town. I was therefore the only child of his present immense fortune. The interleft to comfort my father's declining days. est was carefully remitted to us, and as I look back with melancholy pleasure to far as pecuniary means went, we the hours I spent with him at this period. without anxiety. A pretty cottage, which I was old enough to be his iend and com- ( had fo part of my mother's fortune, panion, and he loved to pour out his heart! was chosen for our future residence. With an aching heart I left the home of my happy utter hopelessness over the fate before us. childhood : in spite of my better reason, a All passed in rapid vision before my mind : foreboding of coming evil seized upon me; poverty, with all its attendant miseries ; and as I entered the carriage that was to poverty, not for myself alone—that I could convey us to our new abode, I felt as if all have faced—but for Amy, my sister, the my happiness were left behind in the dear child of so much tender love—the gay, old vicarage we were quitting. It was not bright, sunny creature, whose step bounded so, however; though sorrow and difficulty over the carth as if it yielded naught but awaited me, and long years of self-denial flowers-must the chill hand of penury and labor were in store for me, yet peace blight her young life, and wither ere its and content lay beyond. In the severe prime that bud of promise? The thought school of adversity, my spirit gained strength had agony in it. Then did my father's and vigor; and the blessedness which ac- solemn injunction recur to me, nerving my contpanies every act of self-sacrifice, the heart to bear, and strengthening my soul to peace which attends every conscientious do, all that might be demanded from me. effort to perform the painful duties of life, In that moment I bound myself to shrink were eventually to be my portion.
from no effort, to dare all things, so that We were so far happy as to retain our my beloved sister might be shielded from dear friend with us for some years, until I the impending evil. I prayed for strength; was old enough to take upon myself the full I implored Heaven to guide and aid me in responsibility of directing our little house- my firm resolve. As I rose from my knees, hold. I had attained my twentieth year the sound of her sweet voice came from the when she left us. She had, for our sake, garden beneath. “Fanny, sister,” it said, postponed her marriage with one to whom what keeps you away from me so long? she had been long and devotedly attached, I am waiting for you." I hastened to join and whose urgent and reiterated claim upon her; and with all the calmness I could her she felt it wrong longer to resist. Her command, told her of our misfortune. The loss was irreparable ; but we could not op- gentle girl scarcely comprehended the pose her departure. In quitting Amy and meaning of my words; but seeing the sormyself, she had the happiness of seeing us rowful expression of my face, she laid her united in the closest bonds of affection : head upon my shoulder, and with her sisters in hearts and soul, firm and faithful sweetest smile said, “We may be poor, friends. Her lessons had not been lost on dear Fanny, but we shall still be together: either of us.
Amy was the joy and pride poverty cannot separate us." I clasped of my life. Often as I looked at her, I her to my heart : "No, Amy, our hearts thought how easy was the duty my father can never be disunited.” I already felt had bequeathed me, and recalled the so that we must part, and her unconscious lemnity of his manner with a smile. Alas, words pierced me to the soul. alas for the weakness of human nature ! the I wrote to our dearest friend, now Mrs. struggle was yet to come.
Wentworth, begging her advice. The next Miss Franklin had not quitted us more day brought her to us, and again she stood than a few months, and we were already between us and sorrow. She saw that we planning a visit to our friend in her new could no longer keep up our little establishhome, when one morning a letter was put ment, and wisely counselled us to give it up into my hand, the contents of which struck at once. She arranged all for us; and dismay to my heart. Hastily folding it, I after seeing everything put in a right train, rose, and with all the self-command I could she carried us to her house, where we were assume, walked to my own room. There I welcomed with cordial kindness by her again read the letter: it was all true. In husband. plain legible characters I saw that ruin- I had now leisure to think on the course worldly ruin-stared us in the face. It I must pursue. My brothers were all incontained the news of the death of our volved with ourselves in this ruin, and were, brother in India, and at the same time an- moreover, either married, and with families nounced to us that, as he died insolvent, dependent on them, or still struggling to all remittances would henceforth cease. establish themselves in the world : we could The business-like tone of the letter struck a look for no help from them. For the first chill sense of the extent of our calamity time I stood alone. I could not ask advice home to my very heart. I buried my face from Mrs. Wentworth: she would hear of noin my hands, and for a while brooded in thing but our remaining with her and her
husband, and this I could not listen to her advantage. It was long before I could Their means were limited, and I could not make her listen patiently to my reasons : consent to be a burden to our friends. God she clung to me, and with passionate sobs had given me strength and health ; to the entreated me not to “ degrade” myself—to liberality of my father, and the care of stay with her. Finding arguments fail, I Miss Franklin, I owed an excellent educa- determined to appeal to her feelings, and tion; and I felt that I could myself main- gently told her that, by such conduct, she tain Amy. For her sake labor would be rendered my task doubly difficult ; that sweet. I resolved to seek for a situation as without her assistance I did not feel equal a governess; and though well knowing the to the duty that lay before me; that she trials and difficulties of such a career, I felt must try to help me to do that which I was as if the motive would give me courage to sure her better judgment would show her to meet them all. The thought that my dear be right. She looked wistfully at me sister was safe from harm would animate through her tears, and struck with the my drooping spirit, and send me on my calm sadness of my manner, “ Fanny," way rejoicing. Having taken my resolution, she said, “ I am very selfish. While you I sought Mrs. Wentworth. At first she are thinking only of me, I am making you opposed my plan, bringing forward all the more unhappy. Kind sister! teach me to difficulties it would entail upon me, all the be like you ; teach me how I may help you, sacrifices I must make, and urging me, with and you shall not find me ungrateful or the warmth of a loving friend, not to leave unworthy of all your goodness." I then the home she offered me. Seeing that my explained to her the various reasons that purpose was unalterably fixed, and in her rendered the step necessary ; to which she heart, I am sure, approving the spirit that gradually yielded her assent, ever repeating, urged me to seek an independence, she however, that when she was old enough, she gradually yielded. I accepted, without would work for me; to which I answered, hesitation, her proposal, that Amy should we would then work together. This thought remain under her care. With her I knew seemed to cheer her, and she soon regained my sister would be happy, and in no other her wonted gaiety. situation could I have been satisfied to leave I will not dwell upon our parting, or deher. Amy was now thirteen, and from her tail the many trials that awaited me in my peculiar disposition, needed the guidance of new abode. I am sure that it was the deone who understood her well. Proud and sire of the whole family amongst whom I haughty by nature, she would have been a now became domesticated to be kind and tyrant had she not lived with those whom considerate ; but none except those who she respected and loved, whose intellectual have tried this mode of life can know the as well as moral superiority she was com- lonely feelings that attend it. To exchange pelled to acknowledge. With a warm a happy home, in which I had been the enthusiastic temperament, she loved the loved and honored mistress, for the chill few to whom she gave her affection with and enforced courtesy of strangers, was passionate devotion, and by this love she painful enough; but more than all did I could be guided like a little child. Mrs. suffer from the contrast between my pupils Wentworth and myself alone possessed this and my darling Amy. At first, it seemed power over Amy, and to her ) gratefully all labor in vain to endeavor to influence confided my treasure.
these wild and giddy creatures, and often It so happened that my friends had been have I wept to think how little success atapplied to a few weeks before to find a go- tended my utmost efforts. I was, however, verness for two little girls whose mother, but a novice in the work of education; and from delicacy of health, was obliged to give had yet to learn, that before the seed time up the charge of their education. The comes, the ground must be weeded and situation promised many advantages, and I tilled, or the harvest will fail. I have thankfully accepted it. My hardest task lived to see my dear pupils grow into senstill remained. As yet, Amy was ignorant sible and refined women, and to bless God of my design. I knew that she would that I did not abandon my task as hopeoppose it with vehemence ; her pride less. would rebel against the idea of her sister's The neighborhood in which Sir William becoming a governess; while her generous Monkton's residence was situated was penature would shrink from the thought that, culiarly devoid of society, and Lady Monkwhile she remained idle, I was laboring for ton's health rendered all formal visiting