Page images

the strict self-control at which she had aimed, she fell on her knees on the floor, mingling her heart-wrung sobs with prayers and incoherent and bitter lamentations.

“Lydia!” said her husband, "my dear Lydia, recollect thyself," and as he bent over her his tears dropped fast upon her smooth cap; "our Heavenly Father doeth all things well! we are allowed to mourn, but we must not murmur."

And when the mourner accepted his offered assistance, and meekly suffered herself to be raised from the floor and placed on the sofa, she wept in silence, and seemed to suppress forcibly the passionate grief into which she had at first been surprised. And she might have observed that of the circle whose smiling faces had brightened the fireside none remained to witness her distress except Mr. and Mrs. Hay and Caroline, the rest having, with a delicacy not unknown in the woods, retired silently to another room.

Few words were required to tell the particulars of a casualty but too common where the country is thinly inhabited, and the

dwellings built with little precaution against fire.

The result is not often so fatal, but when a fire occurs during the night, children may perish by wholesale without a possibility of rescue.

Some two or three broad stones for the hearth, and one or two more for the back of the chimney, are usually the only parts of a log-house not made of wood; the parts adjacent to the fire, and the chimney itself, being all of oak, the latter slightly covered within with clay. When the chimney takes fire, as it is very apt to do in spots where the clay has crumbled off, the loft where the children usually sleep may be all in flames before the inmates of the lower room are


In the present case nothing was ever known but that Mr. Ellingham returning home late in the evening, after a short absence, found his two little daughters crying in the wood, and learned from them that the light which he saw at some distance proceeded, not as he supposed from a brush-heap, but from his own dwelling. When he reached the spot a

blazing ruin was all that remained. The poor babes said mother had brought them out, and then went back and did not come any more.

It is not surprising that Mrs. Thurston, learning that Mr. Ellingham was provided with another dwelling, still desired to proceed at once. To see the dear motherless infants would be, at least, a melancholy satisfaction. And Seymour, learning this from Mrs. Hay, offered to be their guide through the woods, an offer which was thankfully accepted, as the road was newly cut, and abounded in stumps and fallen

[blocks in formation]


"Art thou not changed? Do the same feelings now
Come fresh and joyous that were once thine own?
When clustering locks lay on thy childish brow,
And life was new, and almost all unknown?"


BEFORE Caroline Hay had been three days at home, she had become painfully sensible that her father's forebodings as to the effect of a city residence had not been groundless. All was changed to her eye if not to her heart. Much as she loved the dear inmates of the plentiful farm-house, and she loved them as dearly as ever, an air of coarseness, which she had never before observed, met her at every turn. Her mother's dress and occupations, the homely phraseology of her sisters, the furniture, the style of living, though certainly unchanged, or at least not changed for the worse, struck her unpleasantly and chilled her feelings, even against the pleadings of her heart and of her better

judgment. She saw and acknowledged that all was good and true, generous and contented and happy; that her father's house was a well-spring of bounty to all who were in need, and that to him and to his excellent partner and help in all good things the whole neighbourhood looked with undoubting trust for sympathy and kindness. She compared the simplicity and ease of her rustic home with the feverish excitement of the scene she had left; and though her reason and her good sense told her which to approve, she found that habit had become tyrannical, and likely to maintain a struggle in her mind which would cost her many bitter tears.

The acquaintance which she had accidentally formed in the city beyond her aunt's sober circle had been rather showy than solid people, who were, however, possessed of sufficient refinement to add a degree of fascination to their gay tastes and habits; so that the eyes and ears of the inexperienced country girl were at once dazzled and delighted, and she learned to

« PreviousContinue »