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THE sun sank lower; the western breeze
floated cool and fresh into the house. As the
evening advanced, the cheerful ring of the village
clock came nearer and nearer. Field and flower-
garden felt the influence of the hour, and shed
their sweetest fragrance. The birds in Norah's
aviary sunned themselves in the evening stillness,
and sang their farewell gratitude to the dying

Staggered in its progress for a time only, the
pitiless routine of the house went horribly on
its daily way. The panic-stricken servants took
their blind refuge in the duties proper to the
hour. The footman softly laid the table for
dinner. The maid sat waiting in senseless
doubt, with the hot-water jugs for the bedrooms
ranged near her in their customary row. The
gardener, who had been ordered to come to his
master, with vouchers for money that he had
paid in excess of his instructions, said his
character was dear to him, and left the vouchers at
his appointed time. Custom that never yields,
and Death that never spares, met on the wreck
of human happinessand Death gave way.

Heavily the thunder-clouds of Affliction had
gathered over the househeavily, but not at
their darkest yet. At five, that evening, the
shock of the calamity had struck its blow.
Before another hour had passed, the disclosure of
the husband's sudden death was followed by the
suspense of the wife's mortal peril. She lay
helpless on her widowed bed; her own life, and
the life of her unborn child, trembling in the

But one mind still held possession of its
resourcesbut one guiding spirit now moved
helpfully in the house of mourning.

If Miss Garth's early days had been passed as
calmly and as happily as her later life at Combe-
Raven, she might have sunk under the cruel
necessities of the time. But the governess's
youth had been tried in the ordeal of family
affliction; and she met her terrible duties with
the steady courage of a woman who had learnt
to suffer. Alone, she had faced the trial of telling
the daughters that they were fatherless. Alone, she
now struggled to sustain them, when the dreadful
certainty of their bereavement was at last
impressed on their minds.

Her least anxiety was for the elder sister. The
agony of Norah's grief had forced its way
outward to the natural relief of tears. It was not
so with Magdalen. Tearless and speechless, she
sat in the room where the revelation of her
father's death had first reached her; her face,
unnaturally petrified by the sterile sorrow of old
agea white changeless blank, fearful to look
at. Nothing roused, nothing melted her. She
only said, "Don't speak to me; don't touch me.
Let me bear it by myself"—and fell silent again.
The first great grief which had darkened the
sisters' lives, had, as it seemed, changed their
every-day characters already.

The twilight fell, and faded; and the summer
night came brightly. As the first carefully
shaded light was kindled in the sick-room, the
physician who had been summoned from Bristol,
arrived to consult with the medical attendant of
the family. He could give no comfort: he could
only say, "We must try, and hope. The shock
which struck her, when she overheard the news
of her husband's death, has prostrated her
strength at the time when she needed it most.
No effort to preserve her shall be neglected. I
will stay here for the night."

He opened one of the windows to admit more
air as he spoke. The view overlooked the drive
in front of the house, and the road outside.
Little groups of people were standing before the
lodge-gates, looking in. "If those persons make
any noise," said the doctor, "they must be
warned away." There was no need to warn
them: they were only the labourers who had
worked on the dead man's property, and here
and there some women and children from the
village. They were all thinking of himsome
talking of himand it quickened their sluggish
minds to look at his house. The gentlefolks
thereabouts were mostly kind to them (the men
said) but none like him. The women whispered
to each other of his comforting ways, when he
came into their cottages. "He was a cheerful
man, poor soul; and thoughtful of us, too: he
never came in, and stared at meal times; the
rest of 'em help us, and scold usall he ever
said was, better luck next time." So they stood,
and talked of him, and looked at his house and