At the end of a week I found that my father and mother had gone out very early in the morning. Mr. Hartley took me home to his own house, and I expected to find them there; but, oh, what anguish did I feel, when I heard him tell Mrs. Hartley they had quitted England, and that he had brought me home to live with them! In tears and sullen silence I passed the first day of my entrance into this despised house. Maria was from home. All the day I sate in a corner of the room, grieving for the departure of my parents; and if for a moment I forgot that sorrow, I tormented myself with imagining the many ways which Maria might invent, to make me feel in return the slights and airs of superiority which I had given myself over her. Her mother began the prelude to what I expected, for I heard her freely censure the imprudence of my parents. She spoke in whispers; yet, though I could not hear every word, I made out the tenor of her discourse. She was very anxious, lest her husband should be involved in the ruin of our house. He was the chief clerk in my father’s counting-house; towards evening he came in and quieted her fears, by the welcome news that he had obtained a more lucrative situation than the one he had lost.
At eight in the evening Mrs. Hartley said to me, “Miss Wilmot, it is time for you to be in bed, my dear;” and ordered the servant to shew me up stairs, adding, that she supposed she must assist me to undress, but that when Maria came home, she must teach me to wait on myself. The apartment in which I was to sleep was at the top of the house. The walls were white-washed, and the roof was sloping. There was only one window in the room, a small casement, through which the bright moon shone, and it seemed to me the most melancholy sight I had ever beheld. In broken and disturbed slumbers I passed the night. When I awoke in the morning, she whom I most dreaded to see, Maria, who I supposed had envied my former state, and who I now felt certain would exult over my present mortifying reverse of fortune, stood by my bedside. She awakened me from a dream, in which I thought she was ordering me to fetch her something; and on my refusal, she said I must obey her, for I was now her servant. Far differently from what my dreams had pictured, did Maria address me! She said, in the gentlest tone imaginable, “My dear miss Wilmot, my mother begs you will come down to breakfast. Will you give me leave to dress you?” My proud heart would not suffer me to speak, and I began to attempt to put on my clothes; but never having been used to do any thing for myself, I was unable to perform it, and was obliged to accept of the assistance of Maria. She dressed me, washed my face, and combed my hair; and as she did these services for me, she said in the most respectful manner, “Is this the way you like to wear this, miss Wilmot?” or, “Is this the way you like this done?” and curtsied, as she gave me every fresh article to put on. The slights I expected to receive from Maria, would not have distressed me more, than the delicacy of her behaviour did. I hung down my head with shame and anguish.