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His Mother stroked bis hair and cheek,
MY GRANDMOTHER'S SECRET.
BY MISS POWER.
My grandmother, I have heard say, was one of the most beautiful women of her time,- which, by the way, we are often told of our grandmothers; but I am inclined to think that with regard to mine there was more of truth in the tale than there is generally, for her picture by Reynolds, which forms the chief ornament of my sunny breakfast-room, certainly represents a very lovely creature. Well, when my grandmother, Lady Millicent Harwood, was only fourteen years of age, she had the misfortune to lose her father, Lord Amesford; her mother had died while she was still an infant. She was an only child, and but little of her father's large property being entailed, she naturally, at his death, became heiress to a splendid fortune, while the title passed to a distant relation, a cousin in the third or fourth degree, who — why or wherefore nobody very well knew—was appointed by Lord Amesford guardian to his daughter, who was notso the will set forth – to come to her majority till she was five-and-twenty.
Accordingly, as soon as the funeral was over, my grandmother was taken away from Marston Abbey, the dear, beautiful old place where she had been brought up, and had hitherto lived so happily, to go to Harwood Hall, the residence of the new Lord Amesford, an ugly, bleak, bare place, in the north, which was the only estate that accompanied the title. Marston was left to Lady Millicent; but of course she could not occupy it till she became of age or married, and who could tell what might happen before then ? Her departure, therefore, was almost as great a heart-break to the poor child as if she were never to see her beloved home again; and her pets — her birds and dogs, and, worse, her poor pensioners in the village and cottages — what was to become of them when she was gone ? It was a cruel trial, and as she stepped into the great coach with her governess and her old nurse, and looked round, it might be for the last time, on the scenes wlich, since the earliest days she could remember, had each morning greeted her sight; as she heard the sobs, and prayers, and blessings of her poor tenantry, Lady Millicent threw herself back in the carriage and wept herself almost into hysterics.
It was a long and dreary journey from Marston to Harwood. In these days the railroad would take you there in a few hours, but in my grandmother's time you may imagine it was a very different affair, what with bad roads and travelling in a great, heavy, old-fashioned coach, by slow stages. However, at last they arrived, and Lady Millicent was ushered with due ceremony into the grand drawing-room, where her guardian was waiting to receive her. You may suppose how her heart beat at that moment; she had never seen the new Lord Amesford, and from the little she had been able to gather concerning him from her old nurse, who had known something of him in former days, she felt much more of uneasiness and alarm than of confidence or pleasure at the prospect of the meeting; and when, on entering the large, cold, uninhabited-looking saloon, she saw before her an elderly, hard-featured, stern-looking man, who stood up to receive her with stiff, ungenial formality, her heart seemed to die within her, and it was only by the strongest effort that she could restrain the tears that seemed choking her. It was the greatest relief to her when Lord Amesford, after a few
questions as to her journey, and two or three set phrases of welcome, proposed that she should be shown her apartments, to which she retired with an aching heart.
I need not tell you all that took place while my grandmother was establishing herself in her new home, if home it could be called, where not one single person or thing bore the aspect of welcome or comfort. The house was large, and had been handsomely furnished, but in a style that was neither antique nor modern—a sort of empire fashion, which is to my taste one of the ugliest ever invented. The silks and damasks were faded, the carpets the same, the gilding tarnished, and all had the chill, stiff, uninhabited look of some show-place which had for years been deserted by its owners; as, indeed, it might have been, for all the life, or gaiety, or hospitality Lord Amesford brought about it. He lived quite alone; his wife had been dead years and years. They said her stern, ill-tempered husband, and the lonely, dreary life she led at Harwood, had shortened her days, poor soul ! and his only son had always been away at school and college since he was ten years old. This was a gay place for an orphan girl, rich, and young, and handsome, and clever, though she was, to be shut up in, with an ugly country round, and a chill, damp climate, and not a soul in the neighbourhood who was ever asked to cross the threshold. Happily for the poor child, her governess, who had been with her from the time she was three years old, was not only one of the best, but one of the most cheerful, well-informed, and judicious of women; and as Lady Millicent was naturally of a remarkably gay and lively temperament, she escaped the vapours wonderfully, and, after a time, yielded herself to the dull monotony of her cheerless home with resignation. To her guardian she never could get accustomed. It could not be said that he troubled her much, for he left her nearly to herself, which certainly was the kindest thing he could do ; but she never met him, never encountered his cold, gloomy look, or heard the harsh tones of his voice, without a feeling of dread and uneasiness, that only subsided when she could escape from his presence.
When my grandmother had reached the age of eighteen, she was informed that Lord Wharton, her guardian's son, was about to return home from college, having completed his education. Such an event in the dull house was enough to turn it topsyturvy, one would think; and yet, such was the cloud of gloom that seemed to have settled over it, that it produced little change in the aspect of affairs. Lord Amesford sat all day in his study, or walked about, with his thick stick and his surly dog, among the ploughed fields and over the commons, just as he always did ; the servants, dull and formal as their lord, prepared everything for the arrival of the heir with immovable tranquillity ; no one in the house seemed to be animated with the least sentiment of joy or sorrow, curiosity or interest, at the approaching event, except my grandmother, who could not but feel a certain flutter of feminine anxiety on the subject. Shut up there, never seeing a new face, or meeting a companion approaching to her own age, it is little to be wondered at that such an event would have a good deal of interest for a lively, sprightly girl of eighteen, who knew nothing of the world, and in whose monotonous, dull life, every such circumstance became of importance.
At last the eventful day arrived. At the expected hour the carriage drove up the avenue ; a young man stepped forth, and proceeded at once to the study of Lord Amesford, who had not condescended to come to the door to receive his only son; there he remained until the dressing-bell rung, and when my grandmother, accompanied by Mrs. Hartwell, descended to the small withdrawing-room, where the party were wont to assemble before and after dinner, she found Lord Wharton already down. With