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Full text of "His little mother"

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>r.tJU I JlAIN?il-J-.lC 




COSYCORNeR SeRI€S 




^ -^1 



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* Cosy Comer Series " 



HIS LITTLE MOTHER 



KV 

MISS MULOCK 

AUTHOR OF " JOHN HALIFAX, GKNTLKMAN," ETC. 



Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry 




BOSTON 

JOSEPH KNIGHT COMPANY 

1896 



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57) ^/ 



JULY 10. Ib4j 



:...^Y 



Copyright, 1895 

BY 

Joseph Knight Company 



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As,. 



lUySTRATIOf^ 




His Little Mother .... Frontispiece, 

Headpiece to Part I I 

"The Trio settled Themselves to entire enjoy- 
ment OF THE SIGHT " 12 

" Two RATHER FORLORN FIGURES " .... 23 

Headpiece to Part H 25 

" Dorcas laid it aside, and opened Cyprian's " . 37 

Tailpiece to Part II 44 

Headpiece to Part III 45 

" Dorcas with Her Two Children, One in each 

HAND " 58 

Tailpiece 65 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 



PART I 

TEN YEARS OLD 

1^ I ^ HEY sat close together — a rather 
W I isolated little pair, boy and girl, 

apparently brother and sister — at the 
merry tea-table of a children's party. 

Children's parties then were not ex- 
actly what they are now. We used to 
be invited at four o'clock, and we always left 
at half past eight — on our feet, generally — for 
our toilets were not of a kind which would 
startle the streets of that innocent country town. 
We had short sleeves, certainly, and compara- 
tively low necks, but tippets and long white 
linen gloves made all right, and our frocks 
descended comfortably to the ankle. Besides 
which we wore beautiful white frilly "trousers" 
— or plain ones of the same material as the 
dress. Hats, too, which really covered the 
head, and were tied down, gypsy fashion, over 



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2 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

a bush of curls — if our hair would curl ; "if not, 
it was plaited into tails — the more the better. 
I remember on state occasions my mother used 
to plait mine into six, three on each side, tied 
with bright ribbons, of which I was exceedingly- 
proud. 

This little girl — perhaps she had no mother 
to be conceited about her hair, for it was only- 
divided into two tails, not very carefully plaited, 
and tied with rather shabby brown ribbon. 
Neither she nor the little boy was quite as well 
dressed as the rest of the young party ; but they 
were neat and clean, and, though not exactly 
blooming children, were interesting, if only 
from the way they seemed to hang together, as 
though accustomed to depend upon themselves, 
or rather upon one another, for everything. 

At least, so it seemed to the lady who watched 
them — one Miss Waldershare, a rich and lonely 
woman, glad of any interest, especially when it 
came in the shape of a child. She was only a 
passing visitor in the town, and had come almost 
accidentally to the party, where she had nobody 
belonging to her. Neither had these two little 
people, apparently. All the other young guests 
had come with mothers, aunts, or nurses ; but 
these, Miss Waldershare had observed, had 
walked in, walked up-stairs to take their things 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 3 

off, and walked down again, hand-in-hand, quite 
alone. 

The two little faces, unlike, and yet with a 
certain family look which satisfied her as to 
their relationship, touched her more than all the 
merry faces round the table. Particularly so 
when dangerous dainties circulated round it, and 
the boy would look appealingly to the girl, who 
smiled back either a **No'* or a "Yes.'* But 
both were given smilingly and accepted obedi- 
ently. He was a big, handsome boy, much 
bigger and handsomer than his sister, with a 
soft, good-natured, rather weak expression : 
whereas she was small, dark, thin, with sharp, 
firm features ; an ** old '* face rather, which 
might almost have been called plain but for the 
look of love in her eyes, and the sweet decision 
of her' mouth. All the better, since the boy, 
pretty as he was, seemed of an undecided na- 
ture ; as if it were almost a relief to have some- 
body to settle everything for him. 

So at least thought Miss Waldershare, amused 
to notice how character shows itself even at ten 
years old. 

"You are about ten, I suppose, my dear,'* 
said she to the little girl, "and a sensible girl 
you are, too, not to let your brother eat too 
much plum-cake. And he is a good boy to mind 



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4 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

what you say," added she, patting the handsome 
head, which had dropped disconsolately when, 
for the third time, the tempting dish was al- 
lowed to pass. 

"We are both ten, ma'am" (children were 
always taught to say "ma'am" and "sir" in 
those days), "we are twins, though I am so 
little, and he is so big and tall. I am obliged to 
be very careful what he eats. He is not as 
strong as he looks, and he does not like being 
ill or taking physic." 

" Nobody does, I think. But he is a lucky 
boy to have such a wise little sister." 

" I am his little mother," answered the child, 
in a grave, old-fashioned way. " Mamma told 
me I was to be his little mother till she came 
back again." 

" Is she away from home, then ? " 

" A long way from home — in India. She 
has been gone two years and a month. It will 
be four years and eleven months before she and 
papa are back again." 

" Four years, ten months, and two weeks — 
we counted yesterday, Dor," corrected the little 
boy — to which the sister assented, looking 
quite pleased, and saying that " he was always 
so good at arithmetic." 

" And what was it he called you ? " asked Miss 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 5 

Waldershare, more and more interested, yet not 
liking to seem too curious, as she thought the 
ordinary reticence of politeness ought to be ob- 
served with children as much as with grown-up 
folks. 

The little girl laughed. " Oh, Dor — or Dor- 
mouse — or Dor-beetle — I have lots of names. 
But my right name is Dorcas. Rather ugly, is 
it not } But then his is a very pretty one — 
Cyprian. Mamma said he was always to be 
called Cyprian in full. She is very fond of him. 
She thinks there never was such a boy." This 
was said in a confidential whisper, as the child's 
heart warmed instinctively to the motherly, 
childless heart of her questioner. 

Somebody now called upon Miss Waldershare 
to start a game, and she was separated from her 
two small friends, and swamped in the general 
vortex for an hour or two ; at the end of which 
time, however, she had contrived to find out all 
that was to be found out concerning Dorcas and 
Cyprian. 

Their parents, though remotely connected 
with the little town, where everybody knew 
everybody, had never been seen there, having 
gone to Calcutta, or Benares, or Bombay — no- 
body .was quite sure where — leaving behind 
these children with three old ladies, distant re- 



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6 HIS LITTLE Mother. 

lations, who resided here. The giver of the 
party scarcely knew the names of her small 
guests — they were merely '*the next-door chil- 
dren/' invited " for kindness." 

And, though both their hostess and every- 
body else was really kind to them — or would 
have been, had they mixed themselves up easily 
with the rest — still, to the very end of the 
evening, Miss Waldershare noticed a certain 
forlornness in the little pair, who went about to- 
gether, or sat close together, hand-in-hand, as if 
unused to general society, and belonging spe- 
cially to one another, and not to anybody else ; 
so much so that even she, generally so success- 
ful in shaking up a party together, found them 
a difficult element to deal with. 

First, the boy was so exceedingly shy that 
there was no doing anything with him. He 
would not, or could not, play at any gam.e — 
not even simple **hunt the slipper," or merry 
"kiss-in-the-ring." He refused absolutely to 
give or to "cry" a forfeit ; and when, tempted 
by the fun and laughing, he was at last lured 
into blind-man's-buff, he somehow got into 
everybody's way, and being accidentally knocked 
down, burst into such a piteous howl that he 
was obliged to be carried off at once up-stairs. 

There, ever so long after. Miss Waldershare 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 



found him, with his faithful little sister sitting 
patiently beside him, in the deserted bedroom. 

" Is he hurt ? " the lady asked, anxiously. 

"Oh no ; only he had rather stay here." 

" But why should you stay, my little girl ? 
You like fun ; I saw you playing very merrily. 
Go back to the rest." 

" Without Cyprian ? " said Dorcas, with wide- 
open eyes ; as if such an idea produced in her 
mind simple astonishment. ** Oh dear, no ! He 
does not like being alone. Mamma told me 
never to leave Cyprian." 

"That settles the point," said Miss Walder- 
share, smiling; and went down-stairs again. 
But several times she returned, and tried to 
coax the little fellow back to the gay party be- 
low. However, he was either too shy, or too 
sulky, or too much accustomed to have every- 
thing his own way, with his " little mother " for 
his devoted slave ; for though once or twice he 
yielded to persuasion so far as to go to the top 
of the stairs — being evidently of a soft and 
yielding disposition — still he always came back 
again, and sheltered himself behind his sister, 
as if, though so much less than himself, she was 
his natural refuge. 

For Dorcas, she did her utmost, poor little 
woman, to get him into a better mind ; and 



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8 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

when all failed — and the boy's gentle obstinacy 
and hesitating sweetness were most difficult to 
make anything out of — she soothed him, she 
comforted him, she apologized for him. Finally, 
when all the kindly inquirers left him and her 
together, she sat beside the little fellow in the 
somewhat dreary bedroom, listening to the 
noisy rout down-stairs, for very nearly two 
hours. 

"Would you like to go and have a dance? 
They are dancing, you hear ? '* 

Dorcas looked up at Miss Waldershare with a 
world of grateful pleasure in her eyes. She was 
not pretty ; but she had that sort of airy, well- 
set figure which seems made for dancing. Al- 
ready her little feet were beating time to the 
music. 

" Do go, child,*' said the kind lady. ** Run 
away ; I will stay with your brother." 

Poor little ** Dor '' was almost off — the music 
was playing such a lovely tune, nearly as entic- 
ing as that of the Pied Piper of Hamelin — 
when she felt her dress caught by Cyprian's im- 
ploring hand. 

She sat down again. ^^ He doesn't dance — 
he doesn't like it. Thank you — no. Perhaps 
I had better stay with Cyprian. It will soon be 
time for going home. Mamma said we were 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 9 

never to be out after dark, on account of 
Cyprian. He catches cold so soon." 

*' But this is a warm summer night," began 
Miss Waldershare, feeling inclined to argue the 
point ; and doubtful of the wisdom of allowing 
one child to sacrifice everything to another 
child. Still, there was something so pathetic in 
this literal obedience to the wishes of the far- 
away mother — this entire devotion to a rather 
trying little brother — that the kind stranger 
lady, unto whom it had pleased Heaven to give 
neither the sweetness nor the bitterness of 
family duties, held her tongue and remonstrated 
no more. 

When next time she went after them — for 
amid all the fun and frolic down-stairs she was 
haunted by a vision of the little forlorn twins 
sitting in the deserted bedroom all alone — she 
found her birds were flown. 

Dorcas, she learned, had quietly crept away 
with her little brother, not waiting for supper ; 
though she had been seen standing for several 
minutes at the hall door till she could say good- 
by " politely " to the hostess. 

"Mamma said we were never to go away from 
any visit without thanking the lady of the house 
for our pleasant evening," she had explained to 
somebody ; and been laughed at a good deal 
for her " old-fashioned " ways. 



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lO HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

JJo doubt, the family thought, she learned 
them from those three prim elderly ladies with 
whom she must lead such a dull life, " to say 
nothing of that fanciful, disagreeable little 
brother, to whom she gives up everything, ap- 
parently never thinking of herself at all. Poor 
little soul ! 

But Miss Waldershare, who had seen many a 
child who thought of itself a great deal, who 
was everybody's pet, from whom nobody ever 
expected anything — and certainly never got it 
— turn out to be not only the most unpleasant 
but most unhappy of young people, did not al- 
together pity ** Dor." The child had at least — 
so one of the other children said — " somebody 
to make a fuss over." 

But having a firm belief in compensation — 
also some sadly humble belief in herself as an 
instrument of the same — for there are those to 
whom Heaven seems to deny all personal joys, 
in order that they should be better able to make 
other people happy — Miss Waldershare set her 
benevolent wits to work to invent some small 
pleasure for these two children, whose pleasures 
were so few. 

Fate, kindly seized upon, often turns kind. 
The very next day every vacant wall in the town 
broke out into an eruption of huge handbills, 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. II 

announcing that Signor Bianchini, the cele- 
brated pyrotechnist, would on a certain evening 
have a grand display in the High Street ; and 
would end by walking — under patronage of the 
Worshipful the Mayor — from one of the win- 
dows in the Town-hall to a window opposite, on 
the tight-rope, amid a shower of rockets and 
Roman candles. 

Now, the noble art of pyrotechny was then in 
its infancy, and Blondin the Great had neither 
been born nor thought of. Consequently, the 
little town was much excited ; and on the rumor 
being spread that the hero of the day was no 
other than a certain Jem White — who had once 
fled the town in disgrace for throwing crackers 
and squibs on Gunpowder Plot day, to return in 
honor and glory as the celebrated Signor Bian- 
chini — a touch of romance added to the inter- 
est. All the towns-people, high and low — the 
low in the street, and the high upon every 
available shop-front and first-floor wii^dow — as- 
sembled to witness the show. 

Miss Waldershare, putting off her departure 
for a day, engaged a tiny room with a balconied 
window, over a bookseller's shop ; and thither, 
after much perturbation and great hesitation on 
the part of the three old ladies, she succeeded 
in carrying off her little friends, Dorcas and 



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12 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

Cyprian Hall. There, by seven o'clock on a 
July night, she established herself, with the 
twins one on each side of her, which arrange- 
ment, however, was soon modified. 

" May he come beside me, ma'am ? If there 
should be a — a noise — fireworks do make a 

noise some- 
times, I think ? 
— he will like to 
be closer beside 
me. He is rather 
timid, you see," 
added, with a 
half -apologetic 
- air, the *' little 
mother." 

She was not 
timid — not -even 
when the balcony gave a sudden crack, and 
* with involuntary instinct she used all her small 
strength to push Cyprian back upon the safe 
window-ledge, remaining outside herself. But 
it was a false alarm, though it frightened Miss 
Waldershare a little, and Cyprian very much — 
until there was proved to be no danger, and the 
trio settled themselves to entire enjoyment of 
the sight. 

What a sight it was ! One of the many chil- 




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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 1 3 

dren who saw it remembers it still : even after 
five-and-forty years ! the proud delight of sitting 
up till eleven at night, and being initiated into 
the mysteries of the nocturnal world — the 
streets, lit with oil-lamps (gas being still un- 
known there), the houses, dim and tall, and the 
quiet starry sky overhead, such a contrast to 
the noisy crowd below. Then that black plat- 
form, whence all the wonderful show was to 
come — what dozens of young eyes gazed on it 
in eager suspense! till, punctual to the ap- 
pointed minute, there shot forth, with a whiz, 
a whir, and a glare, the first rocket. Up it 
went — making everybody jump, and Cyprian 
utter an audible cry — up like a live creature, 
flying, or rather shooting, right into the sky, no 
one could exactly see where, till it fell down, in 
a shower of fiery rain, on the very heads of the 
crowd, who screamed and laughed, and ran 
hither and thither ; trying, some to avoid, some 
to snatch at the blazing sparks. 

Another, and another, and another — each ris- 
ing higher and falling steadier than the last ; 
then a grand illumination of " Roman candles," 
showing all the faces of the people below, and 
lighting up the architecture of the old Town- 
hall, which the townsfolk were so proud of. 
Finally, a most wonderful set piece — a wheel of 



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14 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

light, which kept turning and turning, every mo- 
ment more rapidly, throwing out a shower of 
sparks all round. 

" The most beautiful thing we ever saw in all 
our life — isn't it, Cyprian ? '* cried Dor. " What 
can it be?" 

" A Catherine-wheel,*' said Miss Waldershare, 
smiling at the *' we " and the "our life " in the 
singular number — so natural to the twins. 

"A Catherine-wheel?" repeated the sister, 
meditatively. " I wonder has that anything to 
do with St. Catherine ? Mamma had a picture 
of her leaning against a wheel. She was so 
pretty — but with a sweet, sad kind of face, 
something like mamma's." 

" You have a pretty mamma, then ? " said 
Miss Waldershare, ignoring the other adjective. 
" And you have heard of St. Catherine — and 
very likely about Raffaelle, who painted her ? " 

" Oh, yes," brightening up extremely. " I 
like to read all I can about painters, for I am so 
fond of drawing. I often try to draw. Mamma 
says I shall learn properly some day, and then I 
can teach Cyprian." 

" Does Cyprian like reading ? " 

"N — no," with a slight hesitation. "Indeed 
he has not time for reading. He learns Latin, 
you know. So I read for both of us, and then 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 1$ 

I can tell him anything interesting. It saves 
him so much trouble/' 

" I don't like trouble, and I can't imagine how 
anybody could like reading," said Cyprian, with 
his most attractive smile. 

*' But he likes writing, and he writes so well 
— small hand — and a great deal better than I," 
eagerly said the little sister. " And he can read 
written-hand beautifully — makes out every word 
in mamma's letters. If you knew how delight- 
ful are mamma's letters — as interesting as a 
story-book. We get one every mail, and we 
look for it days before it comes. It has been 
coming for a week now. Perhaps we shall find 
it when we get home to-night." 

"I hope so," said the lady, with a slight 
tremble in her voice. Never, either as child or 
woman, had Miss Waldershare got any mother's 
letters. 

** If it does come, and if she cared to call to- 
morrow, perhaps we might let her see it," whis- 
pered Cyprian to his sister, who slightly hesi- 
tated, as if that were a privilege too great for 
any mortal creature. 

" To-morrow, my dears, I shall be miles and 
miles away. I shall not see you for a very long 
time, I fear." 

"What a pity ! Because I shall tell mamma 



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l6 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

all about you — we always tell her everything — 
and if she knew how kind you have been to us 
both, she would let me show you her letters. 
But I should like to ask her first ; and it will be 
six months before we get the answer." 

** Of course it will/' said Miss Waldershare, 
thinking of the great gulf of time and space 
between mother and children — of the letters 
received ignorantly, months after date, on both 
sides — and of how sad it was, that with such 
tender love between children and parents, the 
one should grow up, and the other should grow 
old in such a long separation that when they did 
meet again it would be almost as strangers. 

" But come, my dears, the fireworks are be- 
ginning again. And there is Signor Bianchini 
on the tight-rope. See how beautifully he bal- 
ances himself with that long pole. Would you 
like to be a tight-rope dancer, Cyprian ? " 

" He is to be a gentleman, and go to college, 
and then go out to India to papa," said Dorcas, 
with a little touch of pride. And when the 
boy, boy-like, clapped his hands with delight, 
watching the ci-devant Jem White make his 
perilous journey over the upturned heads of the 
crowd, the more sensitive girl shuddered, and 
turned pale. 

" Would you like to go in, and not look any 
more ? " said Miss Waldershare, kindly. 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 1/ 

" No, thank you; something might happen — 
Cyprian riiight overbalance himself. No, I would 
rather stay by Cyprian/' 

And though still white and trembling, she did 
stay till the very last. But, besides the buns 
and oranges, a glass of wine had to be admin- 
istered to the child before she was able to walk 
home. She seemed but a fragile little thing, 
despite her spirit and — only the word was not 
known in those days — her *' pluck.*' 

The last of the fireworks shot up — a sheaf 
of flame, hissing and crackling — above the 
Town-hall and the old church-tower, right into 
the silent stars ; there was a shout of ecstatic 
cheering from the crowd, and a final ** sending 
round the hat," which ceremony had been gone 
through several times already, from window to 
window, Dorcas apologizing sadly that she had 
no penny to drop into it — *' But mamma told 
us that papa was not rich, and that we were not to 
spend more pennies than we could help." And 
then the signer bowed his thanks — in a the- 
atrical attitude, beside the very biggest of 
Catherine-wheels — and the crowd began to 
separate. The night's delight was ended. 

Miss Waldershare walked through the fast- 
thinning street with her two prot^g^Sy one in 
each hand. Cyprian, no longer shy, was chat- 



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1 8 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

tering like a magpie, but Dorcas, who had 
hitherto done the talking, now began to be si- 
lent, evidently very tired. Her friend would 
have liked to take her up and carry her; she 
was strong enough and the child small enough I 
but Dorcas was so astonished at the idea that 
she gave it up, and merely helped the poor lit- 
tle girl as well as she could till they reached the 
Terrace. 

" I will just wait and see if you have got your 
letter, and then I will bid you good-by. I am 
going away to-morrow morning," said Miss 
Waldershare, with a slight regret at her heart. 
Her life was almost as solitary as that of these 
little people. 

" Is that the children ? Bring them in at once 
to me," said a sharp voice behind the sleepy 
maid-servant who opened the door. 

" Oh, Miss MofFatt, is that you ? - Have you 
got mamma's letters ? " 

" There are letters." 

"I am so glad!" said Miss Waldershare. 
She kissed the two children, and walked quickly 
away. 

By one of those accidental delays which visit 
us all, she, however, did not leave next morn- 
ing. Business — other people's business, of 
course — rose up, which detained her nearly a 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. IQ 

week-; and being rather troublesome business, 
her mind was so full of it that she hardly gave 
a thought to the twins, Dorcas and Cyprian, 
till, coming home from church, she passed the 
end of the Terrace, and saw two little figures 
walking down it, slowly and quietly, hand*in- 
hand, two little black figures, so far as her 
short sight enabled her to judge, which made 
her at first think it could not possibly be they. 
Nevertheless, she felt a strong inclination to 
call and say good-by over again — for she was 
going abroad, on a mission of mercy, with a sick 
friend, and it might be months, nay years, before 
she was in England again. 

So she sent up her card, asking to see ** little 
Miss HalL*' 

The servant, looking rather surprised, showed 
her into an empty parlor, where she waited sev- 
eral minutes, and then the two poor little chil- 
dren, still hand-in-hand, walked in. 

Truly, "poor" children, having sustained the 
utmost loss a child can know. 

They were dressed in black from head to 
foot — not even a v/hite collar — and their faces 
were very grave, Cyprian's being rosy still, but 
out of Dorcas's every ray of color had departed. 
Her eyes looked as if she had been crying all 
day long, and the voice she spoke in, though 
quiet, was forced and strange. 



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20 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

" How do you do, ma'am ? It is kind of you to 
come and see us." 

" My poor little girl, what has happened ? " 

** Mamma is dead ! " cried Cyprian, with a 
burst of tears. 

" Yes, our mamma is dead," said Dorcas, but 
without crying. She seemed to have wept all 
her tears away. 

" But — the letter ? " 

" It was from papa. He said mamma had been 
dead a week. That is two months ago. So it 
is two months and a week since we had any 
mamma. I can't understand it at all," added 
the boy, shaking his head in a forlorn sort of way. 

His sister put her arm round him, and drew 
him to her, at which he began sobbing afresh. 
In truth, they all wept together; Miss Walder- 
share never thinking till afterward how strange 
it was that she, who had had no tears for many 
a year, should shed them now, over a woman 
whom she had never seen and scarcely heard of. 

She wondered what kind of person the father 
was, and even went so far as to ask if she might 
see his letter. 

"Oh yes "(no hesitation now). "But I re- 
member Miss Moffatt has it. She said she 
should keep it, lest papa might forget his prom- 
ise, and take us away from here." 

" Would you wish to go ? " 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 21 

" Oh no. It doesn't matter. The Miss Mof- 
fatts are very kind to us. Everything goes on 
as usual, except for mamma's letters. She has 
been a year away, and this is the first time the 
mail ever came in without bringing us one of 
mamma's letters." 

The child spoke in a dull, sad, almost com- 
plaining tone ; evidently even she did not yet 
realize — how difficult it is for any of us to real- 
ize ! — that sudden pause of death-silence. 

"Did your mamma ever say — had you any 
idea — ? " began Miss Waldershare, and stopped. 
What use was it to question ? The plain, hard 
fact was there — the children were motherless. 

" And you are going abroad, too > " said Dor- 
cas, when she had sat a good while, holding the 
kind hand whose firm clasp was the only way in 
which Miss Waldershare could express sym- 
pathy. "We shall never .see you again. It 
will be just like mamma's going — only you have 
no little children to leave behind." 

" No, nobody." 

" Mamma would not have left us if she could 
have helped it — she told me so ; but she had 
to go with papa. She said so once — I was not 
to tell Cyprian, and I almost forgot it myself 
till now — it seemed so impossible ; but she 
said — " Dorcas hesitated. 

"Said what, my dear ? " 



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22 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

" That even if she died we were not to mind, 
as she would not be much farther away from us 
than when she was in India, perhaps not so far. 
What did she mean ? " 

Miss Waldershare tried to explain ; tried to 
put into the child's heart, without giving any 
impression of fear or pain, that heavenly conso- 
lation of the continual nearness of the dead, of 
the narrow barrier that for all pure and loving 
souls exists between the life here and the life 
everlasting. 

*' I understaitd," Dorcas said, at last. " And 
that is why we were to remember what she used 
to say to us, and do what she wished us to do, 
just as much as if she were here beside. us. It 
will be much the same now. Do you hear what 
the lady says ? Do you understand her, Cy- 
prian } " 

Poor Cyprian ! He had ceased crying now, 
and was squatting on the hearth-rug, playing 
with two kittens, quite merry and content. 
None the less, possibly all the more, did Miss 
Waldershare say, "Poor Cyprian!" 

Her time was limited, and she rose to go. 

" But I shall not forget you, dear. I shall 
write to you now and then." 

" Oh, how nice ! We never get letters from 
anybody, except mamma.** Here came a sudden 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 



23 



shudder of recollection and a wild look, almost 
of despair. " I forgot. We shall never have 
any more letters from mamma. What shall we 
do ? Oh, Cyprian, Cyprian ! ** 

That cry, so shrill, so full of intolerable agony, 
made the little boy spring to his feet. 

" Dor — Dor, what is the matter ? Please be 
quiet. You frighten me so — you make me so 
miserable." 

Then the sister, with a violent effort, checked 
what was growing into an almost hysterical 
scream. She put her arms 
round Cyprian, and hid her 
face on his shoulder till the 
sobs ceased, and she lifted 
up her face, deadly white, in- 
deed, but quite composed. 

"Yes, he is right; I must 
be quiet. He has nobody to 
take care of him but me now. 
Thank you. Miss Walder- 
share, and we shall be de- 
lighted to get your letters. 
And Cyprian shall write — he writes so very 
well, you know," with a faint smile, as she put 
up her lips for a farewell kiss. 

It had not quite vanished, that piteous smile, 
even when Miss Waldershare caught her last 




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24 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

glimpse of the twins, standing watching her 
down the Terrace, with their faces pressed 
against the window-pane. Two rather for- 
lorn figures, with their mourning clothes, and 
grave, sad looks ; but they were two — and they 
stood close together, hand-in-hand, as usual. 
Also, Cyprian had his head safely nestled into 
the shoulder of his "little mother." 

The dead mother — could she have beheld 
them — might have felt that life was not alto- 
gether hopeless to her children. 



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^^N5^V«^^^5^?^- 



TVEMTYYEAR50LD 

MISS WALDERSHARE did not return 
to England for ten years. 
Part of that time she spent with her friend, 
very peacefully, even happily; and when the 
invalid needed her no" more there were many 
others who did need her. That sweet, sunny 
nook of southern France was always full of sick 



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26 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

and sorrowful folk, come to die, or to watch 
their beloved die, beside the blue Mediterra- 
nean. Consequently, this rich and kind-hearted 
English lady, who had no home ties, never 
wanted — who ever does want.? — an object, 
whereon to expend her time, her money, and 
her sympathies. And this was well. Sad she 
might sometimes be ; but she was never either 
idle or lonely ; as in truth no woman ever is, 
unless she wishes to be the one, and deserves, 
by her unlovableness, to be the other. 

Miss Waldershare thus lingered on, year after 
year, in the place whither she had accidentally 
drifted, until it almost became a second home. 
She might never have come home at all — that 
is, to England — had not business called her to 
the little town where she had happened to be 
born, but where, nevertheless, she had not a sin- 
gle living tie. And in ten years even her few 
acquaintances there had so entirely disappeared 
that there was not a house she cared to go to. 
She put up at the inn. And in spite of what the 
cynic writes about the man who, going through 
life, finds "his warmest welcome at an inn,*' 
this well-beloved maiden lady was so accustomed 
to find every door open to her and every face 
a friendly face, that the inn appeared just a lit- 
tle solitary, even dull. 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 2/ 

Having transacted her business, she wandered 
about, noticing how many new houses had 
sprung up on the. skirts of the old town; but 
the place itself remained unchanged. There 
were the same names over the shops in the 
High Street ; the usual market went on just be- 
low the Town-hall, from the windows of which 
Signor Bianchini had taken his memorable tight- 
rope promenade, watched by herself and the lit- 
tle twins, Dorcas and Cyprian Hall, on the night 
of the fireworks. The fatal night — how long 
they must have remembered it ! — when, on com- 
ing home, they got the news of their mother's 
death. 

"Poor little souls!** she thought, recalling 
that time. Familiar as she was with sorrow, 
the expression of the children's faces, as she last 
saw them looking out of the parlor window that 
Sunday afternoon, had never gone out of her 
mind. "But they cannot be children now. 
They must nearly be grown up by this time. 1 
wonder what has become of them." 

For though she had faithfully written, and re- 
ceived, at long intervals, several letters in return, 
not from Cyprian — "he had so little time," his 
sister said — but from Dorcas, still ten years is 
a long period to keep up any correspondence, es- 
pecially a foreign one, and with such very small 



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28 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

correspondents. Miss Waldershare was scarcely 
surprised when it gradually ceased. Two years 
at least had passed since she had had any tid 
ings of the young Halls. 

She was a shy and sensitive person, curiously so 
for a middle-aged woman of good position, whom 
nobody would have expected to have any doubt 
of herself at all. But she had — though circum- 
stances rather than natural temperament had 
caused this. She never liked to intrude her- 
self upon anybody, especially the young, and 
was only too ready to accept the fact that people 
had forgotten her. Therefore, even when she 
passed the end of the Terrace where the twins 
used to live, she hesitated, and was some min- 
utes in making up her mind to knock at Miss 
Moffatt's door. 

There it was, the brass plate with " The 
Misses Moffatt '* — who had begun by keeping a 
school — staring her in the face. She lingered, 
looked round, might even have gone back again, 
but that a lady and gentleman crossed the road 
to her. He tall, fair, handsome ; the girl hang- 
ing on his arm (people usually walked arm-in- 
arm in those days) small, dark, and decidedly 
plain. Miss Waldershare might have recog- 
nized them had she not forgotten the lapse of 
time. But they knew her at once, and called 
her by name. 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 29 

"We had no idea you were in England. 
When did you come ? Why did you not let us 
know?" said the young man, impulsively; and, 
in spite of the incipient beard, she recalled at 
once the pretty boy-face of Cyprian Hall. His 
sister — yes, of course, it was his sister — his 
** little mother'* that used to be. She looked 
like it still — being both graver and older in ap- 
pearance than her twin. 

"Then you have not quite forgotten me.?" 
said the lady, pleased, as most middle aged la- 
dies are, at being recognized after so long a 
time. 

" Oh ! Dor knew you at once. Dor never 
forgets anybody." 

And though Dor scarcely said a word, leav- 
ing all the talk to her brother, who seemed to 
have a great gift that way, the pleasure in her 
eyes, and the warm grasp of her hand, proved to 
Miss Waldershare the truth of that character. 
Yes, Dorcas Hall looked like a person " who 
never forgot anybody." 

"You will come in, of course? It is just 
tea-time ; and Miss Moffatt will be glad to see 
you, or any friend of ours. There is only one 
Miss Moffatt now. The other two are dead; 
poor old dears ! so Dor and I have almost the 
house to ourselves — except for Mr. Moffatt, a 



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30 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

nephew of theirs ; but he is a great scholar, and 
as quiet as a tame cat. Bless me ! I hope he 
didn't hear me. There he is.'* 

And Cyprian nodded to a half bald head, 
with bright eyes, which eyes had evidently been 
watching them from the window. 

" Very quiet, but a good fellow, for all that," 
continued the youth, with a slightly patronizing 
air. " He and I shall be off to Oxford in two 
months more, and then Dor will have to make 
the best of it alone." 

Dor smiled, as if quite accustomed to " make 
the best of it," and they entered the house to- 
gether. 

When she took Miss Waldershare up-stairs to 
arrange her dress a little — for the "old maid " 
was just a shade " particular" as to her appear- 
ance — Dorcas explained, with a look of proud 
pleasure, that her brother was just going up for 
his matriculation examination. 

'* Papa was a long time in consenting ; he 
was never at college himself, and does not see 
why a young man should go at all, especially 
one who might be a Calcutta merchant. But 
Cyprian does not want to be a merchant, and 
does not care to go out to Calcutta." 

" No, indeed," cried Cyprian, meeting them 
on the staircase and overhearing; '*papa has 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 3 1 

married again^ and there is a horrid lot of chil- 
dren. I had much rather stop at home with 
Dor. She makes me work — that is, if anybody 
could do it. But Tm an idle fellow — I shall 
never do much, anyhow; shall I, Dor.? ** said he, 
with that charming frankness and engaging con- 
trition which, in some people, seems equivalent 
to doing what they ought to do. They feel as 
if confessing a fault were almost as good as 
amending it. 

" You will do more by and by," said the sis- 
ter, with a sad expression flitting through her 
smile. ** Cyprian has had a great deal to con- 
tend against, Miss WaldersJiare. Papa could 
not afford to send him to a public school, so he 
was obliged to get educated here ; and when at 
last he went to a clergyman to study — he — he 
came back again." 

" Was sent back," laughed the young fellow, 
with charming candor, which, however, sent the 
hot blood into his sister's face. "But I am 
sure if I told the whole story to Miss Walder- 
share she would agree with me that it was a 
confounded shame." 

"Tea is waiting," said Dorcas, hastily, and 
then introduced the bald-headed man — not such 
a very old man either — as "Mr. Moffatt, from 
Oxford, who has been so very kind to Cyprian," 



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32 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

" Kindness itself! " added Cyprian. " I am 
sure, if I pass, it is his coaching I have to thank 
for it." 

"You must pass," said Mr. Moffatt ; and " He 
will pass," said Dorcas. 

" Oh, don't lecture ! I hate lecturing. But 
I mean to be such a good boy — some day." 

That day, however, had been evidently long 
of coming. Not that he was in the least a 
"naughty" boy. On the contrary. Miss Wal- 
dershare liked him extremely, and could quite 
understand how everybody liked him too. He 
had that invincible attractiveness, born of a 
pleasant inward conviction that he did attract, 
which makes some people so charming. They 
throw themselves on you with the simplicity of 
a child to whom no one has ever said a hard 
word ; they are quite sure of your regard — so 
sure that you have not the heart to refuse it. 
Before she had been an hour in the room with 
him. Miss Waldershare felt a weak consciousness 
that, were he to ask her, she would do almost 
anything for young Cyprian Hall. 

And his "little mother." 

" Yes, I am still his * little mother,' " Dorcas 
answered, smiling, to some question which Miss 
Waldershare put on bidding good-by — not a 
farewell at all, for she had been already per- 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 33 

suaded by Cyprian to remain in the town a few 
days longer ("just to comfort poor Dor after I 
am gone/* said he, with a pleasing conviction 
that she would want comfort, and that nobody 
could make up to her for the loss of himself — 
which, perhaps, was not untrue). ** He needed 
a * little mother * more than most boys ; and, 
besides, mamma told me to take care of him." 

"Mamma said that" — '* Mamma wished 
that," seemed, even after all these years, to be 
the invisible law of right to the orphans, evi- 
dently as completely orphans as if they had 
been left without either father or mother. And 
Dorcas, with her silentness and somewhat care- 
worn face, much older looking than that of her 
twin, seemed to have taken upon herself all the 
duties and anxieties of a mother. 

Altogether, Miss Waldershare quitted the lit- 
tle household — where Miss Moffatt, its nominal 
head, had never once appeared (she was an in- 
valid, and Miss Hall managed everything) — with 
a somewhat heavy heart. The brightest bit, 
however — she being of a rather '* sentimental" 
turn — was in the fancy she took for Mr. Mof- 
fatt's honest countenance, and the pleasure she 
had in watching how he seemed to do every- 
thing he could think of for quaint, plain, gentle 
Dorcas Hall. 



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34 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

She saw a good deal of both him and the 
twins during the next two days, and after Cy- 
prian had started for Oxford in the highest spir- 
its, and without a doubt concerning his "exam.,'* 
she and his sister had much talk together. But 
Dorcas was not very confidential, not even on 
the subject of Cyprian. In all she said there 
seemed to be some arrikre pensh^ a sense of 
past disappointment and future doubt, almost 
amounting to fear, which, putting together frag- 
ments which she rather betrayed than told, gave 
a still deeper uneasiness to the older and more 
experienced woman. 

Cyprian did not much care for reading; found 
study difficult ; his sister had taught herself 
Latin, a bit of Greek, and even something of 
mathematics, in order to teach him. He had 
never had any systematic education of any kind 
— well, that was not his fault, but Miss Walder- 
share knew that real students, true workers, who 
mean to make their way in the world, whether 
boy or girl, will, when they get into their teens, 
begin to educate themselves. And self-educa- 
tion is perhaps the soundest of all. 

But Cyprian was twenty, and had not begun 
earnestly to study yet. If he passed even the 
preliminary examination for Oxford, it would 
be, Dorcas was forced to own, chiefly owing to 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 35 

the excellent and gratuitous " coaching " given 
him for the last eight weeks by Mr. Moffatt. 

" But oh ! Miss Waldershare, you see how 
much my poor boy has had to fight against ! " 
pleaded the sister, in fond deprecation. "Even 
his good looks and his winning ways have been 
dangerous to him, because everybody is always 
admiring him and inviting him out. Yet he is 
as steady as a rock — never gets into any ill- 
ways, late hours, or the like, and he is always 
so easily led, and so good and affectionate. To 
part from him will be dreadful, but I shall be 
content if I know he is all right, and if I can 
sometimes go and see him — Oxford men like to 
have their sisters visiting them, Mr. Moffatt 
said; only it must be pretty sisters — not such 
as me." 

Miss Waldershare asked, gravely, " if it were 
Mr. Moffatt who said that } " because she her- 
self thought the little dark-eyed face and dainty 
figure made up a sister quite well-looking 
enough for any college " man." 

" Well, then," said Dorcas, laughing, " I 
really will go up next Commemoration. It will 
be so grand to take a walk with Cyprian in his 
cap and gown ! How handsome he will look — 
how proud mamma would have been ! Mamma 
always said Cyprian must go to Oxford." 



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36 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

So talked they — the elder and the younger 
woman — in the dim evening light ; waiting for 
the letter — there were no telegraphs then — 
which was to bring the important news. 

At last it came: two letters arrived — the sec- 
ond being from Mr. Moffatt. Dorcas laid it 
aside, and opened Cyprian's. 

Only one line — Miss Waldershare could see. 
She saw also that Dorcas's poor little hands fell 
helplessly on her lap — she had instinctively sat 
down — and then were clasped together in a 
mute acceptance of the inevitable. 

" I always expected it — he could not help it. 
He says he did his best. My poor boy ! " 

"Poor girl!" Miss Waldershare felt inclined 
to say; but she said nothing — only kissed her 
silently. Then Dorcas leaned her head on her 
friend's shoulder and wept bitterly. 

"Tears won't do," she said, at last, drying 
them. " He will be here to-night, no doubt — 
or to-morrow morning — for he will have to go 
out to India at once. Papa said he must, if he 
failed in his matriculation. He has lost only too 
much time already ; and we are wholly depend- 
ent upon papa. Oh, my poor boy ! " 

She wrung her hands, oblivious of everything 
— even of the second letter — which Miss Wal- 
dershare proposed to open and read. 



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HIS LITTLK MOTHER 



37 




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38 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

" Dear Miss Hall, — * Plucked ' is a hard 
word, but Cyprian must not let his courage 
sink. Many a man has succeeded in the world 
after being plucked. Perhaps, after all, he is 
scarcely fit for university life, and this may be 
for the best in the end. Try to believe so — 
though I know it is hard. We shall be with you 
almost as soon as this letter. 

** Yours sincerely, James Moffatt.*'. 

" How kind he is ! " said Miss Waldershare, 
** YeSj very kind." I 

And so he was — as kind as Miss Waldersharl 
herself — for the two took counsel together over 
the helpless sister many a time during the mel- 
ancholy days which ensued, when it was neces- 
sary to arrange everything for Cyprian's depart- 
ure, and for the parting of the twins, literally 
for the first time in their lives — except that brief 
attempt at tutoring of which everybody had 
said as little as possible. 

So great was the despair of both at first that 
Miss Waldershare suggested Dorcas's going out 
with him to India. 

The girl shook her head. " No ; it would be 
too expensive. It would vex papa — he only 
sent home money for one. Besides " — with a 
sad casting down of the eyes — " papa does not 
want me. He never did want us, you know." 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER.- 39 

Miss Waldershare asked no explanation of 
what was evidently some family difficulty. She 
saw that Cyprian must go, and Dorcas stay be- 
hind — at least for the present. It was very 
sad — so sad that, being more accustomed to go 
to the house of mourning than to the house of 
feasting, she put off a grand London visit, and 
remained still a few days more in the dull little 
town, where she knew not a creature but these, 
her sorrowful friends. 

It was a terrible time. Most people nowadays 
know it — have witnessed or gone through it — 
when some young member of the family has to 
be sent away abroad — an agony sharp as death 
even under the best of circumstances. Coming 
nearer and nearer each day to the fatal day was 
almost, as Cyprian declared, " like going to be 
hanged." 

He felt it very much at first, poor boy ! grew 
quite thin and white, and could never look at 
Dorcas without the tears coming into his eyes. 
But by and by the excitement of preparation 
comforted him a little. He became such an 
important person in his little circle, and even in 
the town, where seldom such a thing was heard 
of as a young man ** going out to India.*' Even 
his outfit created a secondary interest, and also 
his trunks, which the shop-keeper exhibited at 



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40 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

the door, marked, in white letters, " Cyprian 
Hall, Esq., Calcutta." There was a pleasant 
and consolatory side even to this cruel parting. 

"But it shall not be for long, that I am deter- 
mined on ! " said Cyprian, with great energy. 
"As soon as ever lam settled I will send out for 
Dor, and we will live together — bachelor brother 
and maiden sister — and be as happy as the day 
is long ; won't we, * little mother * ? " 

She half smiled, half sobbed at the word. 
" Cyprian always sees the bright side of things 
— and he is right. Don't you think so. Miss 
Waldershare ? " 

" Yes," answered the elder woman, but thought 
also how little he thought who it was that had 
invariably madie life turn its sunny side to him, 
if possible, even though somebody else had to 
walk in the shade. 

So much so that even the last day was not 
such a very dreary day at the Terrace, where 
Miss Waldershare paid her final call at least 
forty-eight hours before Cyprian's departure. 
With her constitutional shyness, she thought it 
best not to stay to the very end, not being a 
relative, nor exactly a "friend of the family." 
And, judging by herself, she considered that, 
after the two were really gone — Mr. Moffatt 
was to see the poor fellow off from Liverpool, 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 4 1 

and then come iack, e7i route for Oxford, with 
the latest news — after that it would be easier 
for Dorcas to be left quite alone. 

Therefore she bade the twins a cheerful good- 
by, reminded them both how young they were, 
and how the world was all before them, and 
their lot in their own hands, to do what they 
liked with it almost ; for at twenty, with health, 
strength, work to do, and the capacity and will 
to do it, what young man or young woman need 
feel hopeless or forlorn t She ** preached '* a 
little, yet feeling all the while how vain " preach- 
ing '* is, and how each young soul must buy its 
own experience in its own way. 

And then she kissed and blessed them both 
— poor young things ! — now going through the 
sharpest experience of their existence, and feel- 
ing their anguish with all the passionate inten- 
sity of youth, to whom every sorrow appears at 
the time like a sorrow eternal. 

She understood this — and them : the solitary 
woman to whom life was no longer a vista of 
the future, but a dream of the past. And then 
she went away, walking rather slowly and sadly, 
and trying hard to believe all the hopeful things 
she had been saying a few minutes before to 
both Cyprian and Dorcas, when she was over- 
taken by a quick footstep : it was Mr. Moffatt*s. 



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42 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

** Allow me to walk home with you/* he said. 
•*Oh," seeing she hesitated, "that is no matter! 
They don't want me." 

A fact which Miss Waldershare could not 
deny — which, indeed, she had noticed, and been 
almost sorry for : feeling that the twins did not 
half appreciate the kindness of a friend so much 
older than themselves, and so familiar that they 
both took his devotion for granted. But she, 
who knew the world better, respected it as a 
thing only too rare. 

He walked on beside her, talking a good deal 
about them both, or rather about Cyprian. He 
did not seem to consider Dorcas as a person to 
be discussed at all — not even her sorrow, which 
she bore so silently that her friends instinctively 
were silent too. 

"Do you think there is the making of a man 
in that boy?*' said Miss Waldershare, at last, 
when they were face to face at the hotel door. 

" I hope there is — I think there is — if only 
he falls into good hands. There are some 
people, you know, who make themselves and 
their career ; others are made by circumstances 
or influences. It remains to be seen under 
what category we may place Cyprian Hall." 

" And Dorcas ? " said Miss Waldershare, 
looking fixedly in the eyes of the good, honest 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 43 

man — a curious, penetrating, half-sad. but ex- 
ceedingly tender look, not unbefitting a kind 
old woman who had once been young. 

Mr. Moffatt's sallow face blushed all over, but 
he unhesitatingly returned the gaze. 

"Dorcas cares more for that boy's little 
finger than for any one alive. I know that. 
Still, I shall take care of her. I am a poor man 
— a very poor man— but I shall manage some- 
how to take care of her." 

" I believe that," was the cordial answer. 
" God bless you. Good by." 

Six months after this, business again called 
Miss Waldershare to her native town, and of 
course she went at once to the Terrace to see 
Dorca? Hall. Only to look at her, having 
already heard by letter all the news of Cyprian ; 
exceedingly good news, so that she was hardly 
surprised at the gentle content of his sister's 
face, and the more than usually hopeful tone in 
which Dorcas spoke of him and everything. 

" Papa " — that long invisible, seldom-named 
father — - had been quite glad to see his eldest 
son ; he was growing elderly, with a lot of young 
children. Cyprian might become of the greatest 
use to him. Cyprian had taken kindly to busi- 
ness, found it rather "amusing" than other- 
wise, and liked the gay Calcutta life, where, no 



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44 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

doubt, he was as great a favorite as he had al- 
ways been everywhere. He was poor, certainly, 
for his father only allowed him a clerk's salary, 
probably all he deserved at first, but he hoped 
to " make it do,'* and to earn more by and by. 

" And what does he plan about bringing you 
out to him ? You must have a dull life here 
with Miss Moffatt, and he knows it. What does 
he say ? " 

" Nothing," answered the sister, casting down 
her eyes. Then, suddenly, in the old apologetic 
way, "I did not expect anything else. Cyprian 
used to leave me to do all the planning. He is 
content with the present. He never looks 
ahead in any way. I know that." 

" But, surely, as soon as he can, he will send 
for you or fetch you } " 

Dorcas again cast down her eyes, and a vivid 
blush overspread her face. 

" Perhaps — Mr. Moffatt might not quite like 
me to go." 




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Part in 

THIRTY YEAR5 OLD 





HE second decade of Miss Walder- 
^y share's acquaintance with the twin 
brother and sister differed a little 
from the first one. It flew faster — years do 
fly much faster between twenty and thirty than 
between ten and twenty. How then must it be 
between fifty-five and sixty-five? — which she 
was now : no longer an " elderly," but an old 
lady. 

A fact which she had at last learned patiently 
to recognize. Like other active, energetic, and 
unselfish women, she had resisted fate to the 



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46 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

last ; maintained her youth and her bright-heart- 
edness ; refused to succumb to many a cruel 
shock ; resolved to " die with harness on her 
back.*' But the wear and tear of life gradually 
overcame her. After one bad illness she sud- 
denly found out that she could not revive as 
heretofore — that she had grown, to all intents 
and purposes, an old woman. 

After that she had to learn to be quiet, to let 
others do her work instead of doing it all her- 
self ; content if she were still the head, though 
not the hands as well ; and more than content, 
thankful, to see the young rising up to do her 
duties for her, and to work in her stead, against 
the time when her place should know her no 
more. 

Something on this wise she wrote to her friend 
Dorcas Hall. For they had long become 

" A pair of friends 
Affectionate and true," 

in spite of the difference in their ages, and the 
great gaps of time that intervened between their 
meetings, owing to the busy life of both. But 
they corresponded regularly ; and Dorcas's sim- 
ple history, as told in her letters, became the 
strongest interest Miss Waldershare had. Es- 
pecially so, when for this active woman all the 
pleasures of existence slowly dwindled down to 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 4/ 

her own house and garden ; and at last, during 
the winter months, to the limits of four silent 
walls. 

Dorcas's letters — they are now arranged and 
labelled and packed together in a box, to go 
some day possibly to some rightful owner, if 
not consigned previously, by still tenderer hands, 
to that safest receptacle of all treasures — the 
fire. They began immediately after Cyprian 
left for India, and were full of him and his doings. 
Sometimes his letters were enclosed therein — 
bright, clever, funny, but by no means confiden- 
tial epistles, if, indeed, he had had anything to 
confide, even to his " little mother." At first 
they came every mail, then less frequently, then 
they stopped entirely for a while ; and Dorcas 
had to deaden her anxiety by the brief tidings 
she got of him through father and step-mother. 

After that — sudden, startling news ! Cy- 
prian was married — actually married ! at the age 
of two-and-twenty ; unknown to any one, and to 
a girl whom nobody had ever heard of. He had 
met her at some hill-station — a mere child of 
sixteen — most charming, in spite of a slight 
touch of the despised Hindoo blood shining 
through her beautiful brown face. So said Cy- 
prian, who had fallen madly in love, and in three 
weeks brought her home to Calcutta as his bride. 



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48 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

But the father — irritated, and not without 
cause, at such an imprudent proceeding — turned 
him adrift, thus depriving him of his clerk's 
salary, the only income he had. 

" Yet he is so clever — has so many friends 
— he will speedily find other work," wrote the 
sister, trying to look on the bright side of things. 
And it was so, for Cyprian seemed always to 
fall on his feet. But the breach between him 
and his father was made — and made for life. 

This was Dorcas's agony ; not the marriage : 
she forgave that. In the heart of the ''little 
mother " jealousy — sisterly jealousy — was im- 
possible. 

** He was sure to fall in love ; and to marry 
early was the best thing that could happen to 
him. I always told him so. Cyprian could 
never do without a woman to take care of him. 
Only I wish he had waited till he had just a lit- 
tle more money — and — I wish he had not 
vexed papa ! For all else — look at her likeness. 
Isn't it a sweet face ? My pretty * sister ! ' 
How could he help loving her ? And after all, 
dear friend, don't you think that love is best ? " 

Whether Miss Waldershare did or not — that 
Dorcas did, she knew. For James Moffatt had 
just persuaded her to wait indefinite years, till 
the Fellowship he now held should result in a 
College living. 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 49 

" We are not like Cyprian " — and her friend 
fancied she could almost have seen the smile, 
half-tender, half-amused, yet just a little sad, 
with which Dorcas always spoke or wrote of 
Cyprian — " we can wait. Papa will never need 
to be angry with us.** Which, indeed, was not 
likely, as Mr. Hall, senior, had always been too 
indifferent to his daughter to feel either pleas- 
ure or displeasure at any of her proceedings. 

So time went on ; and Dorcas still lived with 
Miss Moffatt — upon a very small allowance, ap- 
parently ; for she began to supplement it in va- 
rious silent ways, especially in selling her draw- 
ings, which were remarkably good for an amateur. 
It was a dull life, except in the long vacation, 
when Mr. Moffatt came to share her devoted 
care of his infirm old aunt, and to speculate with 
her on the chances of that College living which 
was to open all paradise to these simple souls. 
But more than one living fell in, and was given 
to somebody else — somebody more "pushing," 
or with more College influence than honest 
James Moffatt. Year after year went by, and 
he was still a Fellow, and Miss Hall a spinster 
— travelling through her twenties as she had 
done through her teens — complaining to no 
one and troubling no one. Few even knew that 
she was engaged — she and James being both 



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50 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

silent people, who preferred not to perplex any 
one with their affairs. 

Thus she drifted on, till she had ceased to feel 
herself a girl any more, and one day told Miss 
Waldershare, with a sort of pathetic amuse- 
ment, of somebody who had called her a " born 
old maid.'* This was about the middle of the 
ten years. Very soon after, she arrived, quite 
suddenly and unexpectedly, at Miss Walder- 
share's door, dressed in deep mourning, looking 
pale and grave, but with a strange smile, not 
at all of hopeless misery, creeping about her 
mouth. 

" I come to you in my trouble," she said ; ** I 
wanted to consult you — James would not un- 
derstand — it is only a woman that would under- 
stand." 

"What — what has happened.?" looking in 
dread at her black dress. " Not — not Cyprian ? " 

"No; his wife — poor Issa. She has died, 
and left him with twins. Think ! twins — 
brother and sister — just like Cyprian and me 
— only a month old ! " 

And then her self-restraint of many hours 
gave way, and Dorcas burst out weeping in her 
friend's opened arms. 

It was a very sad story, to which, elderly and 
prudent woman as she was. Miss Waldershare 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 5 1 

could not refuse her sympathy. Rash and 
foolish as the young couple had been, they had 
paid for their folly in keen suffering. At the 
last, the poor dying mother would have wanted 
the commonest comforts of life, but for the kind- 
ness which even strangers often show to one 
another in India. 

** And what of the babies ? Surely your 
father will relent now, and take the poor help- 
less babies ! " 

" N — no,*' said Dorcas, looking down. ** In 
fact, Cyprian would not have let them go. He 
preferred sending them, in charge of his wife's 
ayah, to me.'* 

" To you ? Good heavens ! " 

"Oh — you could not say I am not to take 
them ! My poor little babies — Cyprian's own 
children. Where should he have sent them ex- 
cept to me ? I was his * little mother,' you 
remember ? " 

" But the burden — the trouble — the ex- 
pense even — in case he does not send money 
enough to maintain them." 

" He will, or, if not, I can work," said Dorcas, 
calmly. " I do work as it is. It will be merely 
keeping the money here instead of sending it." 

Here she stopped, blushing so violently that 
Miss Waldershare turned her head another 



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52 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

way. But she bad only found out a fact long 
guessed, that every penny the sister earned and 
could spare went out to the poor young couple 
in India. 

" God bless you, my dear ! If you come for 
my advice, it is — just follow your own. But — 
Mr. Moffatt?" 

** James is a man who always does his duty — 
he will never hinder me in doing mine,'* was the 
answer, given with much proud confidence. 

" Well, and when do your twins arrive ? " 

" Cyprian put them on board a merchant- 
vessel, in charge of the captain and his wife. 
They may arrive any day. Only think — me 
with my two babies, my dear little twins !" 

" You foolish girl ! and how do you intend to 
manage them ? " 

" Doesn't somebody — yourself, I think — say 
that any woman with common sense and a 
motherly heart can soon learn how to manage 
a baby ? " 

So, caught in her own trap, Miss Walder- 
share ceased to look ** severe," and entered 
heartily into the joy, almost extinguishing grief, 
that filled the heart of Cyprian's ** little mother," 
in having these motherless babies to take care 
of. The burden of them — and Miss Walder- 
share foresaw how heavy it was likely to be, 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 53 

for willing shoulders never lack a weight — was 
wholly forgotten in the inexpressible pride and 
delight. 

So the two spinsters, young and old, made 
every preparation for the reception of the 
babies, feeling as happy as children with a new 
doll. It was foolish, perhaps, but natural, con- 
sidering the sort of women they were ; women 
whom it often pleases Heaven to make child- 
less, if only for the sake of the many children 
in this world who are, outwardly, or in reality, 
motherless. 

And when at last the twins arrived — two 
poor little skinny things, with great dark eyes 
and brown, wizened faces, not at all like whole- 
some English babies — their aunt's pride in 
them knew no bounds ; for were they not her 
very own flesh and blood — Cyprian's children, 
bearing his name ? And as they began to 
improve in looks, they were not unlike him — 
or she fancied so. Her happiness in them was 
something absolutely inexpressible. 

And when, after a month or two, the ayah 
sailed for India — no slight relief — she took 
them entirely under her own charge, and, 
despite the forebodings of neighbors and friends, 
made a most capital nurse. Instead of dying, 
which everybody fully expected, the twins — 



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54 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

" Miss Hall's twins," as they were somewhat 
oddly called — were, though still brown and 
thin, as nice and even as pretty children as any 
on the Terrace — nay, in the whole town. Even 
old Miss Moffatt was proud of ** our children ; " 
and in her second childhood rather enjoyed 
having the silent house filled with young voices 
and the sound of pattering feet. Especially as, 
being thoroughly healthy, happy, and well 
cared for, the twins were almost always good. 
Their education, begun by their aunt at two 
months old, and never intrusted to any one but 
herself, was certainly no failure, as many a grave 
matron had prognosticated it would be, in 
smiling over the proverbial perfection of '* old 
maids* children." 

** Trouble ? " wrote Dorcas in answer to some 
questions of Miss Waldershare's — " the poor 
little things are no trouble at all. I never 
amuse them — I teach them to amuse themselves. 
* Two kittens and a ball of worsted ' — the grand 
remedy for low spirits — why my * kittens ' are 
far the best, and they never hinder work '* 
(the work which she now owned had become 
vitally necessary). '' * Auntie busy — must not 
interrupt auntie,' they say, settle together in a 
corner of my painting-room — their * den ' we 
call it, and there they play together for hours. 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 55 

I keep an eye — or half an eye — upon them, 
and that is all ; they never trouble me. ' They 
are such good little children/* 

It did occur to Miss Waldershare that a good 
nurse generally makes good children, and that 
those who complain of unruly ones might often, 
if they looked within, find better cause to com- 
plain of themselves. But she said nothing. 
There is a common but shrewd proverb, **The 
proof of the pudding is in the eating,"and certain- 
ly no one could see the merry, wholesome, easily 
managed children and their contented aunt, 
and not feel that, however she did it, she con- 
trived to make both them and herself thoroughly 
happy, without interfering with the happiness 
of anybody else. Even Mr. Moffatt, though at 
first a trifle jealous, soon became quite satisfied. 
For he saw her satisfied ; with her heart full of 
love, and her life full of duties, which, though 
not always easy, were always sweet. 

And Cyprian ? — 

Cyprian's letters — which Miss Waldershare 
sometimes got a sight of — were clever and 
charming as ever, and became gradually less and 
less sad. He was not of the temperament that 
grieves eternally, even for a lost wife. And 
presently he found plenty of .work to do ; though 
it was hard work, and such small pay, Dorcas 



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56 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

said, that it was " fortunate " she herself was 
able to maintain the twins entirely. Dressed 
very plainly, and brought up simply, they were 
yet children whom any father might be proud 
of ; and so would their father be, she hoped, 
when he came home. 

" Papa's coming home " — the ideal " papa" 
whom the twins were constantly told of, and 
. taught to believe in with a passionate admiration, 
as soon as their little minds could take in any- 
thing — was now the dream of Dorcas's life. 

" If I could see him once again ! — give his 
children into his arms, and watch him with them 
— he used to be so fond of children, and such a 
favorite with them, as he was with everybody. 
It is very hard for him to be parted from his 
pretty twins — many things have been very 
hard for him ; but I think all is brightening. 
He is much better off now than he was. Poor 
Cyprian ! " 

In spite of the advancing prosperity, which 
showed itself, if not in regular payments, in very 
valuable Indian presents to herself and the chil- 
dren — she still called him " poor Cyprian ! " 
But — it was a curious fact — she never by any 
chance called Mr. Moffatt " poor James ! " 

No, not though he worked hard and had few 
pleasures : his Fellowship barely gave him 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. $7 

enough to live on, and the College living still 
hung afar off " in the clouds/' But he trusted 
Dorcas, and she trusted him ; they wrote con- 
stantly, and met occasionally, whenever they 
could. And what is it that makes happiness ? 
I think, not prosperity ; not even the attainment 
of all one wishes, but the power of enjoying 
what one has. A clean heart, a quiet conscience, 
a loving and faithful soul — these, in spite of 
outward circumstances, will create a happy, at 
least a not unhappy life. Therefore, I refuse 
to consider James Moffatt and Dorcas Hall al- 
together miserable. 

Miss Waldershare, seeing this, ceased to be 
needlessly miserable concerning them. In truth, 
as the years slipped by, her restless anxiety over 
those she loved somewhat abated. She learned 
to trust Heaven a little more, and herself a little 
less ; to believe that the Father above would 
take care of her dear ones as well as she could 
— possibly a little better. Therefore, though 
she and Dorcas, tied by many duties, seldom 
met face to face, still she rested content about 
her friend, until one day, when, to her great 
surprise, she got a letter from Cyprian. 

** I am not quite easy concerning my sister," 
he wrote ; ** and would be grateful to you to tell 
me exactly how she is. She rarely speaks of 



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58 



HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 



herself, but now she owns to being * not strong;' 
and is very anxious that I should come home. 
Why ? She is young still — we are not thirty 
yet** — that half-comical, yet infinitely pathetic 
" we *' of twins. ** But if her health is really 




failing, what should I do.-* Who would take 
care of my children ? I trust to you, her faith- 
ful friend, to tell me the exact truth concerning 
her." 

Which, having exerted all her small strength 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. $9 

in a four days* visit to Dorcas, Miss Waldershare 
did. 

** I do not consider your sister 'failing/ *' was 
the letter that went out to Calcutta by the next 
mail, " but she is naturally delicate, and she has 
had a hard life. Two children to bring up — 
first to earn the money, and then to spend it '* 
(Miss Waldershare- could be severely candid 
when she thought right), ** a feeble old lady to 
take charge of, and the anxiety of a doubtful fu- 
ture ; being torn in two, as it were — for when 
Mr. Moffatt does get the living which is prom- 
ised him, and seems very near now, what is she 
to do.^ No man likes to enter on married life 
burdened with another man's children. Yes, 
my dear Cyprian, though not failing now, she 
may fail. I do think it would be right and best 
for you to come home.'* 

Having written thus strongly, and without 
delay — for she felt these things ought to be 
said, and who was there to say them but her- 
self.'* — Miss Waldershare was a long time be- 
fore she heard any further ; for shortly afterwards 
she fell ill, and lingered weeks and months in 
that sort of semi-existence when everything but 
the things close at hand seems to grow dim, and 
she began to understand clearer how, by and 
by, the outside world and all its interests might 



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60 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

fade away from her altogether, almost without 
pain. 

She had been a little surprised that Dorcas 
Hall never came to see her, never offered to 
come ; though writing regularly, and telling all 
the news about everybody, except herself. But 
these letters, so sweet and cheerful, as well as 
punctual, took away all suspicion that anything 
was wrong. 

More especially as each letter brought brighter 
tidings. Mr. Moffatt had at last got the ex- 
pected living in Derbyshire, such a pretty neigh- 
borhood, and a prettier parsonage — everything 
they could both desire. And Cyprian was com- 
ing home — they hoped in time for the marriage. 
Also, not alone. The twins would have to wel- 
come not only their unknown father, but a step- 
mother — young, and, by her letters, very sweet 
and good. 

This last piece of news Dorcas communicated 
by word of mouth, waiting beside Miss Walder- 
share at the station, whither, on her way to Bux- 
ton Baths, the invalid had begged to be met. 
By a battalion, as it turned out — Mr. Moffatt, 
Dorcas, and the little twins, now growing quite 
big children. 

" I have told them they must learn to say 
* mamma,* and that they are sure to love her. I 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 6l 

was not surprised — indeed I was quite glad," 
she added. " Cyprian needed a wife so much ; 
and he has waited a long time." 

" Yes, six years is a long time, and men don't 
like waiting," said Miss Waldershare, rather 
satirically. "There is almost no such thing 
as a faithful man " 

" Except James," said Dorcas, gently, as she 
held out her hand to him with a smile. To the 
end of her days Miss Waldershare will never 
forget that look and that smile. 

Somewhat to her friend's surprise, Dorcas 
never referred to the question as to what was to 
be done with the twins when the father came 
home, or after he went back to India again. 
Nor did she speak much of her own future, 
scarcely of the future at all. She seemed quite 
absorbed in the happy present. 

** Only to think, in one week Cyprian will be 
at home ! After ten years — ten long, anxious 
years. He will look quite middle-aged, I dare 
say. I shall hardly know him — or he me. 
Oh yes, we shall, — we shall ! And I shall show 
him his children, just like what he and I were 
in the days when I was his * little mother.' Do 
you remember .J*" 

Miss Waldershare did remember ; and thought, 
irradiated by this wonderful flood of joy, Dorcas, 



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62 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

pale and thin as she was, looked almost like the 
little Dorcas of the children's tea-party so many 
years ago. They spoke of it — and of heaps 
of other things — spending a most jnerry hour 
together : till at last the train started, and 
Miss Waldershare caught her last glimpse of 
the little group standing, as they would so soon 
stand on Southampton Quay — Dorcas with her 
two children, one in each hand — waiting for the 
ship with " papa " on board. 

After that day, for more than ten days she 
heard nothing of the Halls. She thought, per- 
haps, they were too happy to remember her, 
and, being very suffering herself, was almost 
glad. When just making up her mind to write 
and say so, in the tenderest and least obtrusive 
way, she took up a two-days-old TimeSy and there 
read, in that fatal column which we often glance 
over so idly — as being no concern of ours — 
the " Deaths." 

"On the 24th, very suddenly, aged thirty 
years. Miss Dorcas Hall." 

That same day a letter from James Moffatt, 
brief and subdued, full of the quiet grief of one 
who knows he has half a lifetime still to work 
and to grieve in, explained everything. 

People have died of joy, it is said : if any one 
ever did so die, it was surely Dorcas Hall. 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 63 

As they found out afterward, she had been 
ailing for some time, but said nothing ; and had 
even supported, with a marvellous courage, five 
days of killing suspense, when the Indian mail 
became overdue ; and there were vague reports 
of some terrible disaster having happened in the 
Red Sea. But on the sixth day there came a 
telegram from Southampton, from Cyprian : 
^^ Arrived safe and well ; shall be with you this 
evening^ 

It was too much. Uttering a cry, almost a 
shriek of joy, she clasped her hands in thank- 
fulness, then put them suddenly to her heart. 
In a moment, without a word or moan, with the 
smile still on her lips, and the telegram grasped 
in her fingers, Dorcas was "away/' She had 

" Taken up her crown and gone home," 

according to a sweet childish song — American 
and negro — which she was fond of singing to 
her little twins. All that day and night it rung 
in Miss Waldershare's half-stunned brain, 

" She has taken up her crown and gone home, 
And the angels are waiting at the door." 

But, poor Cyprian. Feeble as she was, the 
very next day Miss Waldershare put herself in 
the train, and went to see Cyprian. 

The terrace looked exactly as usual ; just as 



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64 HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 

it had done twenty years before, when she 
went to the children's tea-party. Old Miss 
Moffatt sat at the open window, basking in the 
summer sunshine, in her peaceful second child- 
hood. There were no Winds down, of course ; 
all had happened a week ago ; they had resumed 
that old life — Dorcas was quite-t-quite ** away.*' 

Miss Waldershare was shown into the draw- 
ing-room, where sat writing a tall, handsome 
bearded man — farther off a lady, very sweet 
looking, was trying to amuse two children — her 
children. 

" We try to make them happy, and we shall 
succeed by and by," said Cyprian, after the first 
bitter half-hour. ** They are our own dear 
children/' 

" And such good children," added Cyprian's 
wife. "I never saw such good children." 

'* It is all her doing," the father exclaimed. 
** You knew what she was, and what she was to 
me, even when we were no older than these 
twins. They will never forget her — nor I. 
She has done everything for me all my life ; and 
now when I might have done something for 
her—" 

" God has done it differently," said Miss 
Waldershare, laying her hand on the shoulder 
of the big, strong man, who had sunk down 



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HIS LITTLE MOTHER. 



65 



sobbing like a baby. " Be content. He knows 
best." 

" I believe that. But oh my ' little mother ' 
— my Mittle mother!'*' 




r\w/^ 




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Digitized by LjOOQ IC 



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cloth, gilt top. I volume, square i2mo, $1.50. 

THE SONG OF THE BROOK. 

By Alfred Tennyson. Fifteen original and beautiful photo- 
gravure illustrations, after original drawings by William J. Mo- 
zart. The title-page and text of the poem is printed in red and 
black, and each stanza is illustrated, i volume, square i2mo, vel- 
lum cloth, gilt top. I1.50. 

WILD FLOWER SONNETS. By Emily Shaw Forman. With 
twelve illustrations from original drawings by Abbott Graves. 
One volume, i6mo, fancy cloth and satine, gilt top, $1.00. 

A series of graceful and exquisite verses in praise of our familiar 
wild flowers. A well-known writer says of them, " 1 would to all the 
nine muses that our songsters and rhymsters could give us always 
something as pure as these sonnets. No one could have written them 
who did not comprehend nature. There is no mistake about the 
author's being a botanist, a lover of nature's accuracies ; she has the 
5kill of a collector, as.well as the music of a singer and the eye of a poet." 

Published by JOSEPH KNIQHT COMPANY, 

X96 SUMMER STREET, BOSTON. 



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DAINTY BOOKS OF POETRY. 

PIPE AND POUCH. The Smoker's Own Book of Poetry. Com- 
piled by Joseph Knight. With Frontispiece illustration in 
half-tone. One volume, square i6mo, ornamental cloth binding, 
gilt top, $1.25 ; or full Havana colored leather, flexible, round 
corners, gilt edges, $2.50. 

THE SAME. Large paper Edition. Limited to 250 signed copies. 
Printed on Van Gelder hand-made paper, with photogravure 
frontispiece from Meissonier's "The Smoker." One volume, 
i2mo, uncut edges, net, >3.oo. 

Unmistakably for a man, for the man who smokes, is this dainty 
book. In size it fits an outside coat pocket ; in color 'tis a tobacco- 
leaf green ; and in price, modest. Even the smokmg man who doesn't 
care Tor poetry, unless he makes it himself, may teel poetically in- 
clined, with his pipe beside the fire, and find in this exhaustive ath- 
ology some verselet suited to his tasX:^. — Philadelphia Society. 

CAP AND GO>VN. Some College Verse. Chosen by Joseph 
LeRoy "Harrison, i volume, square i6mo, white and gold orna- 
mental binding, gilt top, $1.25. Full white morocco, $2.50. 

The above book, although one of the daintiest and most artistic 
publications which has yet been issued, is something more than an or- 
nament. It has a distinct literary flavor and includes the best verse 
which has appeared in the leading college journals. 

A relief to the reader weary with distilling tears from the alembic 
of the contemporaneous muse will be f urnisned by ' Cap and Gown.' 
Happy, careless, witty, everything but artificial or doleful are its 
moods. — The Cnautauquan. 

A volume which is full of happy and exuberant youth. — Chris- 
tian Register. 

OUT OF THE HEART. Poems for Lovers, Young and Old. Se- 
lected by John White Chadwick and Annie Hathaway Chadwick. 
I volume, square i6mo, $1.25. 

FROM QUEEN'S GARDENS. Selected poems of Mrs. Browning, 
Jean Ingelow, Adelaide Proctor and others. Edited by Rose 
Porter. 1 volume, square i6mo, $1.25. 

THE TWO VOICES. Poems of the mountains and the sea. Edited 
by John WnitE Chadwick. i volume, square i6mo, >i.25. 
All in white cloth binding, with fancy paper sides, gilt edges. 

Published by JOSEPH KNIGHT COMPANY, 

196 SUMMER STREET, BOSTON. 



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