‘Never I, while you stay here,’ I answered.
‘It repents me often,’ she said, ’that I discovered to you my design of coming up hither. I would you were safe at home again.’
‘I have no home, but where you are,’ said I.
‘Poor faithful little heart!’ she says, sighing. ’Well, get on with thy history-writing; I must go forth presently, when all is quiet again; and when I return thou shalt show me what thou hast written. Tell the tale orderly, Lucy; begin at the beginning with “Once upon a time there lived two sisters; the elder was a fool, but the younger one loved her"’—and before I could say a word she had slipt away.
I sat awhile, too much disquieted to write, listening against my will for the heavy sounds that told how the dead man next door was being carried forth and laid in the cart; but the thing lumbered away at last, its cracked bell tinkling dolefully; and I found courage to take to my work.
But to begin at the beginning is not so easy, especially for one so unskilful with her pen as I. And who shall say what are the beginnings of the things that befall us? Perhaps they lie far off, long before our little life itself began.
HOW WE WERE VISITED BY TWO OF OUR KINSFOLK, OUR FATHER BEING DEAD; AND HOW THEY BEHAVED THEMSELVES TOWARD US.
Think, however, that the troubles that now lie upon us might not have been ours had not our father died when he did, which was the cause of our being taken into the house of our mother’s sister, Mrs. Margaret Golding;—a happy thing we then thought it, that she would receive us, for we were in great straits;—so I will begin my history at that sad period.
Our father, William Dacre, was indeed a gentleman, born to a competent estate, and married into an honest stock and to some fortune, but his fair prospects were all blighted and our mother’s money well-nigh wasted before he died. To his great loss, he stood steadily for the king against the Parliament all through the late Rebellion, as he would ever call it; and, our mother’s people being very stiff on the other side, and she dying while we were little children, we were sundered from them while our father lived. He took such care of us as he could, striving to breed us up like gentlewomen; sometimes we lived with him in London lodgings, sometimes were left at his manor-house of Milthorpe; but the last two years of his life were very uneasy to him and to us.
For when the young king, Charles the Second, was brought in again, five years agone, our father was drawn up to Court by some I will not name, who tempted him with hopes of preferments and rewards to recompense his loyalty. He wasted his means much through the ill counsel of these false friends, but obtained no fruit of their promises, and at last he died suddenly; whether broken-hearted or not I leave to the judgment of God, and to the consciences of the men who for their own ends had betrayed him into those vain expectations. At that time Althea was barely nineteen, and I a little past sixteen; we had no brother nor other sister.