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THE LONGEST NIGHT IN A LIFE.

IT was one of those old fashioned winters
in the days of the Georges, when the snow
lay on the ground for weeks, when railways
were unknown, and the electric telegraph
had not been dreamed of save by the speculative
Countess of London. The mails had
been irregular for a month past, and the
letter-bags which did reach the post-office
had been brought thither with difficulty.
The newspapers were devoid of all foreign
intelligence, the metropolis knew nothing of
the doings of the provinces, and the provinces
knew little more of the affairs of the metropolis;
but the columns of both were crowded
with accidents from the inclemency of the
weather, with heart-rending accounts of
starvation and destitution, with wonderful
escapes of adventurous travellers, and of still
more adventurous mailcoachmen and guards.
Business was almost at a standstill, or was
only carried on by fits and starts; families
were made uneasy by the frequent long
silence of their absent members, and the
poor were suffering great misery from cold
and famine.

The south road had been blocked up
for nearly a month, when a partial thaw
almost caused a public rejoicing; coaches
began to run, letters to be dispatched and
delivered, and weatherbound travellers to
have some hope of reaching their destination.

Among the first ladies who undertook the
journey from the west of Scotland to London
at this time, was a certain Miss Stirling, who
had, for weeks past, desired to reach the
metropolis. Her friends assured her that it
was a foolhardy attempt, and told her of
travellers who had been twice, nay three
times, snowed up on their way to town; but
their advice and warnings were of no avail;
Miss Stirling's business was urgent, it
concerned others more than herself, and she was
not one to be deterred by personal discomfort
or by physical difficulties from doing what
she thought was right.

So, she kept to her purpose, and early in
February took her seat in the mail for
London, being the only passenger who was
booked for the whole journey.

The thaw had continued for some days;
the roads though heavy were open; and with
the aid of extra horses here and there the
first half of the journey was performed pretty
easily though tediously.

The second day was more trying than the
first; the wind blew keenly, and penetrated
every crevice of the coach; the partial thaw
had but slightly affected the wild moorland
they had to cross; thick heavy clouds were
gathering round the red rayless sun; and
when on reaching a little road-side inn the
snow began to fall fast, both the guard and
coachman urged their solitary passenger to
remain there for the night, instead of tempting
the discomforts and perhaps the perils of the
next stage. Miss Stirling hesitated for a
moment, but the little inn looked by no means
a pleasant place to be snowed up in, so she
resisted their entreaties, and, gathering her
furs more closely round her, she nestled
herself into a corner of the coach. Thus, for a
time she lost all consciousness of outward
things in sleep.

A sudden lurch awoke her; and she soon
learned that they had stuck fast in a snow-
drift, and that no efforts of the tired horses
could extricate the coach from its unpleasant
predicament. The guard, mounting one of
the leaders, set off in search of assistance,
while the coachman comforted Miss Stirling
by telling her that as nearly as they could
calculate they were only a mile or two from
"the squire's," and that if the guard could
find his way to the squire's the squire was
certain to come to their rescue with his
sledge. It was not the first time that the
squire had got the mailbags out of a snow-
wreath by that means.

The coachman's expectations were fulfilled.
Within an hour, the distant tinkling of the
sledge bells was heard, and lights were seen
gleaming afar; they rapidly advanced nearer
and nearer; and soon a hearty voice was
heard hailing them. A party of men with
lanterns and shovels came to their assistance;
a strong arm lifted Miss Stirling from the
coach, and supported her trembling steps to a
sledge close at hand; and almost before she
knew where she was, she found herself in a
large hall brilliantly lighted by a blazing
wood fire. Numbers of rosy glowing childish
faces were gathered round her, numbers of
bright eager eyes were gazing curiously upon
her, kindly hands were busied in removing

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