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julep, were spared any anxiety on the score of their parent's sufferings; looking upon her condition as the normal one of middle-aged ladies, who, having conscientiously done their husbands and the state good service in their time, sink afterwards (and according to the laws of nature) into inactivity and decay. Their world that is to say, their companions and familiar friends -- confidentially stigmatised them as utterly selfish and incurably heartless; pitying greatly the amiable and deserted mother, left by "those giddy, thoughtless girls” to the "enjoyment of her own ill health, and the depressing study of her favourite authors id est, the "Buchans," ,"Reeces, and “Grahams,” whose “Medicine made Easy” has long been the solace of many an ailing and apprehensive female.
Helen was the first of a second instalment of family blessings which made their appearance after a respite of some half-dozen years had been mercifully accorded to the mourning mother of many children. She was not welcomed warmly not so warmly indeed as a little stranger (who might in time become a friend) had a right to expect; moreover she was a troublesome child, petulant and vociferous, requiring an amount of attention that was rarely paid her, and receiving more cuffs than caresses from the elder sisters, whose maternal instincts had yet to be developed. Both as an infant and as she grew to child's estate, Helen Langton may fairly be said to have been what is called “neglected.” To teach her was no one's particular business, and thus she went her way; picking up her small mental living by such scraps (not always of the wholesomest description) as
fell in her way, and finding no favour with the elders and betters, to whom she was but little inclined to order herself either lowly or reverently.
It was perhaps well for the girl that, when she had arrived at the age of ten, an orphan boy, Mrs. Langton's nephew, was received into the Doctor's house, there to pass the holidays allowed by the head of the "seminary for young gentlemen," where he received his education. He was a lank ugly lad, with sharp bones and a hungry face, and was besides sandyhaired and freckled; but, unprepossessing as was his appearance, Helen took kindly to him, and was moreover grateful and attentive when the boy, whose love of reading was beyond his years, put books into her hands and, pitying her ignorance, taught her how to lear
There was a something in the nature of Edward Burrowes that led him to fraternise with the neglected little cousin, whose frank nature and robust and rosy beauty formed so strong a contrast to his own scant personal gifts and many shortcomings.
To a woman it is a great curse to know no “natural fear;" and keenly did Helen feel this truth when, in after years, she stood alone before the tribunal of the world's opinion; but as a fearless child she was very happy happy especially in her protection of the friendless boy, who clung to her as the feeble will to the energetic and self-confiding.
With her cousin Edward's help, and through her own keen desire for the kind of reading which pleased her fancy, Helen amassed in her young mind a good store of information. It is true that she could never hope to become either that ingenious piece of mechanism,
an accomplished young lady, or that anomalous and graceless thing, a "learned girl;" but she had grown to love reading for its own sake, and had also begun to appreciate the beauty of high thoughts clothed in immortal verse feeding on the melody of poetry as on sweet and intellectual music. But perhaps what the child enjoyed the most, were truthful records of perils encountered in distant wildernesses, far away among the heathen savages of torrid lands, where adventurous explorers, wandering into tangled jungles, rouse the startled wild beast from his lair, and make him feel man's sovereignty. Of bold men such as these, Helen, as she sat entranced over her semichildish books, would make heroes, worshipping them as female creatures will whether the foe their gods have conquered be the lion in his den, the burning sun of the arid desert, or the tempestuous waves that surge beneath the wanderers on the distant ocean.
Meanwhile, Millicent and Sarah Langton had progressed into oldish-young womanhood, and as yet no partnership of the kind long since anticipated by the Doctor had been more than talked about for either of them. They were handsome, showy girls, well dressed, and what men call “jolly;" and for awhile (blessed with rude health, high spirits, and an utter absence of sensitiveness) they went on their way rejoicing. But, unfortunately for them and for their future prospects, troops of Dragoons, at once light and heavy, fast and slow, were 'accustomed to make periodical descents upon their native city, coming and going like the swallows, bringing with them a summer of hope, but leaving nothing but a winter of discontent behind.
Many a “smart young civilian," well-to-do and
eligible, would have gladly shared his future prospects
- clerical, medical, or legal (as they might chance to be)with one or other of the Doctor's daughters. There was the Curate, whose father (a small landed gentleman of no particular family, but a worthy man withal) having bought a moderate-sized living for his son, was naturally anxious that he should, with as little delay as possible, give, in the shape of wife and children, hostages to fortune. The Curate himself, being sentimental and musical, entered fully into his parent's views, and as a preparation for the mild matrimony he contemplated, sang simple ballads, tinctured with melancholy; and would infallibly have asked for the hand and heart of the melody-loving Millicent but for the intervention of a fast young Cavalry Captain, who bolted off the course at the first hint savouring of serious intentions, but whose black whiskers and scarlet broadcloth (the Devil's own colours) drove the mild Curate to seek a wife elsewhere the moment the cloven foot was seen in the Doctor's drawing-room.
Millicent was the eldest and, perhaps, the best of those two ill-brought-up and somewhat weak-minded young women. Her matrimonial failures had been frequent and conspicuous; and, with every wish to conceal from herself the mortifying fact, she could not but be aware that her beauty was on the wane, and that a ten years' warfare with adverse fate had told upon the roundness of her form, and produced angles where angles should not bę.
Under those circumstrances, is it surprising that she had her moments of peevishness and her hours of gloom, and that a little jealousy of younger and brighter faces should sometimes bring a cloud upon
her own? Faults and failings such as these might too truly be laid to the charge of Millicent Langton; but let us have patience with her, oh! my Reader: for with a woman's weaknesses she has a woman's heart, and, unless exasperated overmuch by the sneers of her own unsympathising sex, she will pass bravely through the hard trial of incipient old-maidenism, and come forth again the better and the wiser for the struggle. Give her a few more years of painful transition, and then the sight of the silver lines traced on the dark hair having ceased to grieve her, and the first wrinkles having done their worst, she will gather her garments over her shoulders, and, bidding adieu to vanity, will let her youth die decently.
Meanwhile Helen, as the Cinderella of the family, would but for the solace of her beloved books have led a rather unhappy as well as an unprofitable existence. She was a useful, handy little being, doing diligent service with her small fingers, and spending many a weary hour among heaps of faded finery, listening to talk of lovers and to readings of romance.
Of what was said or done, read or thought, in that secluded little
upper chamber, the father never inquired. The pulse of the heart, though beating in the breasts of his own fair daughters, he had no leisure to feel; nor was the "unruly member" a thing of interest to him, save as a guide to the internal condition of a profitable patient. In short, it may be doubted whether concern for his children could have been fairly awakened by anything short of the chance fracture of their bones, or the breaking out of a malignant fever in the household.
When Edward Burrowes returned to Warminster Recommended to Mercy. I.