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Lucy Raymond; Or, The Children's Watchword By Agnes Maule Machar Characters: 15432

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Introductions.

"My God, my Father, while I stray

Far from my home in life's rough way,

Oh teach me from my heart to say,

'Thy will be done.'"

he short January afternoon was closing in when Lucy's train drew near its destination. Gradually thickening clusters of houses, a momentary glimpse of distant steeples, a general commotion and hunting-up of tickets, packages, and bandboxes, betokened, even to Lucy's inexperienced eyes, that the city was nearly reached.

She had made no acquaintances on the way; but a polite elderly gentleman, who had been sitting beside her, and had occasionally exchanged a kind word with her, seeing that she was alone, stopped to hand her out with great courtesy.

"Any one to meet you?" he asked, seeing that she seemed at a loss what to do next.

"Yes-that is-I expect"-faltered Lucy, looking round to see if Stella was not to be seen among the hurrying crowd. But no familiar face was to be seen; and the gentleman, who had caught only the first word of her answer, hurried off with a friend he met, forgetting all about Lucy.

It seemed to her a long time that she stood there, wistfully watching the people who were meeting their friends, or hurrying away alone; and her spirits, temporarily excited by the journey, began to sink fast. It seemed so strange that no one should be there to meet her, as her uncle had promised; and if no one should appear, what was she to do?

At last, after about five minutes had elapsed, a slight, delicate-looking young man, very fashionably dressed, with an eyeglass at one eye and a cigar in his mouth, sauntered along, lightly swinging his cane and looking leisurely around him. Presently he came up to Lucy, and, after a scrutinizing glance, he said, touching his hat:

"My cousin Lucy Raymond, I presume?" and seeing he was right, he added, with a nonchalant air, "Glad to see you; been waiting long?"

"About a quarter of an hour," Lucy replied, thinking she was speaking the exact truth.

"Hardly that," he replied. "I expected to have been here in time, but these trains are never to be depended on."

Then he motioned to a cabman, who advanced and asked for the checks for the luggage.

Lucy had forgotten all about them, and her cousin mentally set her down as "green," while she nervously searched for them.

"Take your time," he said good-humouredly.

They were found at last, and everything being collected, Lucy and her cousin were soon driving away from the station.

"You are cousin Edwin, I suppose?" Lucy ventured to say timidly.

"The same, at your service. I suppose Stella posted you up about us all? You've never been in a place as big as this, have you?" he said, observing her eager, watching look.

"No, never; Ashleigh is hardly more than a village. How is Stella?"

"Stella! Oh, she's quite well; she was out walking when I left."

Lucy's heart sank at the apparent coldness of her reception. Had Stella been coming to visit her, she would have been watching for the steamboat for an hour before its arrival!

"Left all well at home?" inquired Edwin. "Oh, I forgot; I suppose you're all broken up there now?" he added, glancing at her black dress and crape veil. "Fred's gone to college again, I suppose?"

"Yes," replied Lucy. She could not have added a word more. It was all she could do to keep back the tears that started to her eyes, as the sad realization that she had no longer a home came back to her. Edwin, however, had happily exhausted his stock of conversation for the present, and Lucy did not try to renew it.

After driving, as it seemed to her, an interminably long way, they stopped opposite a tall stone house, one of a row all just alike, and looking very monotonous and sombre to Lucy's eyes, accustomed to the variety of the Ashleigh houses.

Light gleamed already through the hall-door, which was speedily opened; and the next moment Stella, looking as pretty as ever, rushed down the wide staircase, and met her cousin with an affectionate embrace.

"Mamma, here's Lucy," she said as she led the way up the staircase. At its head stood a lady, who reminded Lucy strongly of the pictures of her dear mother, except that there was the difference of expression between a worldly and an unworldly character. Mrs. Brooke never had had-perhaps now never could have-the pure spiritual beauty which had been Mrs. Raymond's chief charm; but she was a graceful, stylish-looking woman, rather languid and unenergetic in appearance, as she was in character. Her kiss was affectionate, as she told Lucy that she was very glad to see her, and that she reminded her a little of her poor mother; "though you're much more like your papa," she added.

"And here are Ada and Sophy, just in time," exclaimed Stella, as two young ladies, very fashionably attired in walking dress, ascended the stairs and were duly introduced. Ada, who was the smaller of the two, resembled her mother and Stella, with all their softness and winning grace of manner. Sophy was a tall, handsome girl, with a somewhat haughty air, and her greeting was colder and more dignified. She suggested that Stella should take her cousin at once to her room, saying she should think Lucy would wish to rest for awhile before dinner,-a proposal to which she was only too glad to accede, feeling somewhat uncomfortable in the heavy travelling attire, which was such a contrast to her cousins' elegant dresses.

Stella led the way to a room much larger and more handsomely furnished than Lucy's old one at home, though it all looked so strange and unfamiliar, that she wondered whether it would ever seem home to her. Stella showed her all its conveniences and arrangements for her comfort, and then observed, "But you're not to have it all to yourself;" which Lucy heard with some disappointment, for she had been always accustomed at home to have a room to herself, and hoped to have one still.

"Amy's to sleep with you, and I think you'll like her. She's a good little thing, though she's not a bit pretty; and she's named after your mamma, you know, who was my Aunt Amy. It sounds odd, doesn't it? Ada and I sleep together, because we get on best; and Sophy can't be troubled with a child sleeping with her, especially as Amy is delicate, and sometimes restless at night. Do you think you'll mind having her?"

"Oh no!" said Lucy, somewhat relieved. "I always used to think I should like to have a little sister of my own."

"Here she is, to speak for herself," said Stella, as the door opened, and a fragile-looking little girl of about seven timidly peeped in.

"Come in, Amy, and be introduced."

The child stole quietly in, encouraged by Lucy's smile, and held out to her a hand so thin and tiny, that she thought she had never felt anything like it before. Amy had fair hair and a colourless complexion; but when the soft grey eyes looked up wistfully at Lucy, and a sweet smile lighted up the pale face, her cousin thought Stella hardly justified in calling her "not a bit pretty."

"So you're my little cousin Amy?" said Lucy, kissing her. "And you're going to sleep with me and be my little sister, are you not?"

Amy nodded. She evidently had not Stella's flow of language.

"Shall I help you to unpack, Lucy?" interposed her loquacious cousin, "or would you rather lie down and rest awhile?"

Lucy preferred the latter. She wanted to be alone; and as she was very tired with the fatigue and excitement of the journey and arrival, it is scarcely to be wondered at that, when she was left alone, she found relief in a hearty fit of crying. However, she soon remembered she could do something better than that, so she knelt to thank her heavenly Father

for His protecting care during her journey. She asked, too, that as she was far away from all dear home friends and familiar surroundings, she might be helped to love those around her now, and to do her duty in her new circumstances.

Her heart was much lighter and calmer now, and she was nearly ready to go down to dinner, when Stella came in to help her, and to insist on arranging her hair in a new fashion she had lately learned, before escorting her down to the dining-room. Lucy had dreaded a good deal her introduction to her uncle, of whom she had not a very pleasant impression. He was a brisk, shrewd-looking man, a great contrast to his listless-looking son; and his manner, though patronizing, was not ungenial, as Lucy had feared it would be, from his harsh opinions, quoted by Stella, in regard to the poor. All the rest of the family she had already seen, Edwin being the only son who had survived, and on that account, probably, a good deal spoilt.

Lucy could not help noticing the very slight mourning worn by the family, if indeed it could be called mourning at all. But even this slight mark of respect would hardly have been accorded to Mr. Raymond's memory, but for Lucy's coming among them in her deep mourning. "People would notice, and it wouldn't look well," Sophy had said; and this decided the question, though the girls grumbled a good deal at the inconvenience of it, especially at a time of the year when they were usually so gay, and wanted to wear colours. Stella was the only one who did not object. She had imbibed a strong respect for her uncle, and wore her black dress with a certain satisfaction, in the feeling that she was doing honour to his memory.

There was a good deal of lively talk during dinner, almost unintelligible, however, to Lucy, from her ignorance of the persons and things talked about. The tone of conversation, however, was as uncongenial as were the subjects. Edwin had a cynical air, partly real, partly affected; and the girls' remarks were characterized by the same sort of flippancy which had often jarred upon her in Stella.

After dinner Edwin disappeared, Mr. Brooke became absorbed in his newspapers, Sophy was soon engrossed with a novel, and Ada and her mother employed themselves in some very pretty worsted embroidery. Lucy, of course, had no work as yet, and Stella resorted to her old fashion of lounging about doing nothing in particular, except talking. She expatiated largely, for Lucy's benefit, upon the classes and masters in the fashionable school to which her cousin was to accompany her, giving her various scraps of information respecting her future classmates, with a list of their foibles and peculiarities amusingly described, but rather wearisome to a stranger. Mrs. Brooke questioned Lucy about her previous studies, looking doubtful when she heard of Latin and mathematics, and saying she was afraid "she had been made a little of a blue." At her aunt's request, she sat down at the handsome piano, and rather nervously got through a simple air, the only one she knew by heart. She felt she had not done herself justice, and Stella said apologetically, "You know she never had any teacher but Mrs. Steele, and she has no style."

Lucy's cheek flushed at the disparaging remark, but Mrs. Brooke only said, "I hope you will play better than that, my dear, when you have had Signor Goldoni for awhile. Do you sing?"

"Only hymns, aunt. We often sing them on Sundays at home."

"Well, if you have anything of a voice, you will soon do better than that. Any one can sing hymns."

Lucy made no reply, but she privately thought that very few could sing them like her Aunt Mary. Then, recollecting that Stella had told her how well Sophy played and sang, she turned rather timidly to her with the request, "Won't you sing, Cousin Sophy?"

"Do, Sophy," added her mother and Stella, both at once.

But Sophy, reclining in a luxurious easy-chair near the fire, and absorbed in a sensational novel, was too comfortable to think of moving.

"I really can't just now," she said rather coldly. "I'm tired, and I'm just at the most interesting place in this book."

"Sophy never will sing to please any one but herself and-some people," said Stella mischievously. "And then, sometimes, if she takes the notion, there's no stopping her. Now, if a certain person I know were here-"

Ada laughed. Sophy just said haughtily, "I'll be much obliged to you, Stella, not to disturb me;" at which Stella, with mock gravity, put her finger on her lip.

"Well, I am tired," Mrs. Brooke at last said, rising; "and I am sure Lucy must be so too. Lucy, I advise you to go to bed at once; and, Stella, don't stay in your cousin's room talking, and don't wake Amy, if she is asleep."

It seemed very strange to Lucy that the family circle should break up for the night without the united acknowledgment of the protecting kindness which had carried them in safety through the day-without invoking the same protecting care through the watches of the night-without the acknowledgment of the sins of the day, and the prayer for forgiveness, and the petitions for dear absent ones-to which she had always been accustomed. It was plain that no custom of the kind existed in Mr. Brooke's family.

Notwithstanding her mother's prohibition, Stella did linger long in Lucy's room, chattering about one thing after another, Amy's wide-open eyes watching them from her pillow. "I'm going just in a minute," she would say, when Lucy reminded her of what her mother had said, and then she would rush into some new subject. Lucy was tired, and was longing to have a little quiet time to herself; but Stella, who was undressing beside her, and would be in bed and asleep as soon as she should go back to her own room, did not consider that.

"There's Stella chattering away yet," said Ada, as she and Sophy came up-stairs. "Stella, how naughty of you to stay here so long, keeping Lucy up!"

"I was just talking about two or three things," said Stella.

"I have no doubt of that," Sophy remarked; "but I'm sure Lucy would prefer to have the conversation postponed till to-morrow."

Ada was examining the various little possessions of Lucy's, which were already on the dressing-table. "Well, if she hasn't got her Bible out already!" she exclaimed. "What a good child it is! Does it read it every night?"

"I thought every one did," said Lucy simply, though her cheek flushed at the tone of the remark.

Ada laughed, and Sophy smiled satirically, though she did not speak.

"Well, you are a simple little thing," said Ada. "When you've lived in town for awhile you'll know better."

"Oh, they're all such good people in Ashleigh! I never knew I did so many wicked things till I was there," said Stella.

Lucy looked pained, and Sophy interposed. "Well, you've shocked Lucy enough for one night, and it's high time she and you too were in bed. So come at once, Stella."

Ada and Stella kissed Lucy affectionately, as they followed Sophy out of the room, and Lucy was left alone, to think with surprise and distress of the total want of religious feeling which her cousins' remarks betrayed. When she had once more thanked God for His goodness, and implored His supporting help, and had read a few comforting verses out of her Bible, she did not forget to pray that her cousins, who so little appreciated its treasures of divine counsel and consolation, might yet be led to know them for themselves. But the fatigue and excitement of the day had thoroughly tired her out, and almost as soon as her head sank on the pillow she was fast asleep, dreaming of the happy times past, and the dear friends now so far away.

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