+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

Lettie was seventeen, and I was four years
older. We were both dressmakers, and either
worked at home or went out by the day. We
lived in a small, thatched, three-roomed cottage
outside the town, which had a nice garden
in front. Some people had told us that
if we moved into the town we should get
better employ; but both Lettie and I liked the
place where we had been born so much better
than the closed-in streets, that we had never
got changed, and were not wishful to. Our rent
was not much, but we were rather put to it
sometimes to get it made up by the day,
for our landlady was very sharp upon
her tenants, and if they were ever so
little behindhand, she gave them notice

I set my wits to work how to get the money
to take Lettie to London; but all that night
no idea came to me, and the next day it was
the same. With two pair of hands we
had maintained ourselves decently; but how
was it going to be now that there was only
one! Rich folks little think how hard it is
for many of us poor day-workers to live on
our little earnings, much more to spare for
an evil day.


SUNDAY found me still undecided, but that
was our holiday, and I meant to see Doctor
Nash myself while Lettie was gone to chapel.
She made herself very nice, for she had a
modest pride in her looks which becomes a
girl. I thought her very pretty myself, and so
did the neighbours; she had clear, small
features, and a pale colour in her cheeks,
soft brown hair, and hazel eyes. It was
not easy to see that anything ailed them,
unless you looked into them very closely,
and then there was a dimness to be seen
about them, which might be disease. She had
put off thinking about herself, and was as
merry as a cricket when she went down the
lane in her white bonnet and clean muslin
gown. She nodded to me (I was watching
her from the doorway), and smiled quite
happily. I was as proud of Lettie as ever
my mother had been. She was always such
a clever, warm-hearted little thing; for all
her high temper.

When she was fairly gone, and the church
bells ceased, I dressed myself in haste, and
set off into the town to see Doctor Nash. He
was at home, and his man showed me into
the surgery, where I had to wait may-be an
hour. When the doctor came in, he asked
sharply why I could not have put off my
visit till Monday; was my business so pressing?
He did not consider how precious were
the work-days to us, or may-be he would not
have spoken sofor he was a benevolent
man, as we had every reason to know; he
having attended our mother through her
last illness as carefully as if she had been a
rich lady, though we could never hope to pay
him. I explained what I had come about,
and he softened then, but would not alter
what he had told Lettie himself.

"She has been with me three or four times,"
he said. "She is an interesting little girl; it is
a great pity, but I do not think her sight can
be savedI don't indeed, Jane."

He explained to me why he was of this
opinion, and how the disease would advance,
more lengthily than needs to be set down here.
Then he said he could get her admitted into the
Blind Institution if we liked; and that I
must keep her well, and send her out of doors
constantly. And so I went home again, with
very little hope left, as you may well think,
after what I had heard.

I did not tell Lettie where I had been,
and she never suspected. There was no
chapel that afternoon, and we were getting
ready to take a walk along the river bank,
as we generally did on fine Sundays (for all
the town went there, and it freshened us up
to see the holiday people far more than if we
had stopped at home reading our books, as
many say it is only right to do), when one of
our neighbours came in with her son. Mrs.
Crofts was a widow, and Harry was studying
medicine with Doctor Nash. They were
both kind friends of ours; and, between
Lettie and the young man, there had been for
ever so long a sort of boy and girl liking;
but I do not think they had spoken to each
other yet. Lettie coloured up when Harry
appeared, and went into the garden to show
him, she said, the white moss-rose that was
full of bloom by the kitchen window; but they
stayed whispering over it so long, that I did
not think it was only that they were talking
about. Then Harry went out at the gate
looking downcast and vexed, and Lettie came
back into the house with a queer wild look in
her face that I did not like. Mrs. Crofts said,
"Is Harry gone?" and my sister made her a
short answer, and went into the bed-room.

"Harry is going up to London very soon;
I shall be glad to have the examinations over
and him settled. Doctor Nash thinks very
well of him; he is a good young fellow,
Jane." I replied that he had always been a
favourite of mine, and I hoped he would do
well; but, listening for Lettie's coming to
us, perhaps I seemed rather cold and stiff;
for Mrs. Crofts asked if I was not well, or if
there was anything on my mind; so I told
her about poor Leltie's sight.

"I've seen no appearance of blindness;
Harry never said a word. You don't think
it can be true?" she asked. I did not know
what to think. I was sure that, in that
whispering over the rose-tree, my sister had
told young Mr. Crofts; and I wished his mother
would go away, that I might comfort her. At
last she went. Then I called to Lettie, who
came at once. She had been fretting; but, as
she tried to hide it, I made no remark, and we
went, down the lane to the river meadows
in silence. The first person we met was
Harry Crofts. Lettie seemed put out when