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




I SUPPOSE that, to be successful, one should see
only one side of the object to be attained. At
all events, I believe this to have been my sister
Anna's case; and she succeeded, if to gain what
one strives for, be success. Now that I have
written those words, they scarcely seem to convey
my meaning. Perhaps I should have expressed
it better, if I had written——but no;
let it stand as it is.

The reverse of the medal has been my stumbling-
block through life. I have always allowed
my imagination to busy itself too much with
what might be said against, as well as for, any
plan, purpose, or speech, of mine. But at this
quiet twilight-time of my life, and in these pages
which will not be read until the twilight shall
have deepened into night, and the nightas I
reverently hopeshall have brightened into the
dawn of a heavenly day, I resolve to keep but
one object in view, and to endeavour to attain it
in all simplicity and single-mindedness. And
this is my object, Lucy. I want you to know
the true story of those who have gone before
you, and who have nurtured your youth. The
story of two women, who were once young, as
you are now young; who lived, and loved, and
suffered, as you must one day live, and love,
and suffer. I have little hope that our warning
beacon will avail to keep you from the rocks.
The records of our common humanity date back
ages and ages beyond the days of my youth,
Lucythough I dare say your twelve-year-old
imagination can hardly conceive a time when
Aunt Margaret was young!—and yet I never
heard of a case in which one human being’s
heart-experience served to teach any but himself
or herself. We are truly the “heirs of all the
ages” in one sense. Science bequeathes its
treasures of research and labour. Intellect
stumbles, and wavers, and sometimes falls, but
progresses, still progresses. The pioneers of
thought do good service; and noble band after
band, succeeding each other, have hewn out paths
for us, on which we travel contentedly, with
scant gratitude to, or thought of, the hewers.
But, in the science of Life, we must all begin
for ourselves where our great-grandfathers and
great-grandmothers began. Just as to-morrow
will bring with it the same sequence of morning,
noon, and night, that dawned, and flamed, and
faded, in Eden. Still, it will be well that you
should one day know the truth of a family
story which you are as yet too young thoroughly
to understand. It will be well if it make you
think gently and pitifully of the dead; if it help
you to see that “nought’s had, all’s spent, if our
desire be got without content;” and, above all,
if it convince you that unless your desire be a
worthy one, its attainment can assuredly never,
never, bring content.

Your grandmother was my sister Anna; that
sister of whom I have said that she succeeded in
gaining what she strove for. You never saw her
after you were an infant two years old, and I
know not how I can make you picture to yourself
my sisterthe sister of pale, wrinkled,
grey-haired Aunt Margaretas a bright, handsome,
brilliant girl, full of life, and with a wonderfully
high and haughty spirit. She had dark
brown eyes of my colour, but larger and brighter
eyes that flashed and sparkled, and sometimes
shone with too fierce a lustre when she was
excited or angry. She was somewhat shorter
than I, but bore herself so erectly as to seem the
taller of the two. There was a family likeness
between us; but I was never a beauty, while
Anna always was. We were brought up together
by a guardian; for our parents died when I was
five, and Anna three years old. Our father and
mother were taken away by the same infectious
fever within a fortnight of each other. I have
been toldmy remembrance of that time is too
vague for me to speak of my own knowledge
that our mother died first in delirium, all unconscious
of the fond and faithful hand which clasped
her to the last; and that from that moment
our father, who had kept up to tend and nurse
her, drooped and sickened, and seemed to yield
himself to death. What hurt him most, was,
that she should not have recognised him at the
end, nor said one word of farewell; and I think
the very last words he spoke were, “Phœbe will
know me when I see her, now!” They used to
say I was like him. Well! Our guardian came,