This story is not with the details of their early orphan life. When Edward Shiere was buried came family consultations. The two aunts were the nearest friends. Nobody thought of Mr. Titus Oldways. He never was counted. He was Mrs. Shiere’s uncle,—Aunt Oldways’ uncle-in-law, therefore, and grand-uncle to these children. But Titus Oldways never took up any family responsibilities; he had been shy of them all his single, solitary life. He seemed to think he could not drop them as he could other things, if he did not find them satisfactory. Besides, what would he know about two young girls?
He saw the death in the paper, and came to the funeral; then he went away again to his house in Greenley Street at the far West End, and to his stiff old housekeeper, Mrs. Froke, who knew his stiff old ways. And, turning his back on everybody, everybody forgot all about him. Except as now and then, at intervals of years, there broke out here or there, at some distant point in some family crisis, a sudden recollection from which would spring a half suggestion, “Why, there’s Uncle Titus! If he was only,”—or, “if he would only,”—and there it ended. Much as it might be with a housewife, who says of some stored-away possession forty times, perhaps, before it ever turns out available, “Why, there’s that old gray taffety! If it were only green, now!” or, “If there were three or four yards more of it!”
Uncle Titus was just Uncle Titus, neither more nor less; so Mrs. Oferr and Aunt Oldways consulted about their own measures and materials; and never reckoned the old taffety at all. There was money enough to clothe and educate; little more.
“I will take home one,” said Mrs. Oferr, distinctly.
So, they were to be separated?
They did not realize what this was, however. They were told of letters and visits; of sweet country-living, of city sights and pleasures; of kittens and birds’ nests, and the great barns; of music and dancing lessons, and little parties,—“by-and-by, when it was proper.”
“Let me go to Homesworth,” whispered Frank to Aunt Oldways.
Laura gravitated as surely to the streets and shops, and the great school of young ladies.
“One taken and the other left,” quoted Luclarion, over the packing of the two small trunks.
“We’re both going,” says Laura, surprised. “One taken? Where?”
“Where the carcass is,” answered Luclarion.
“There’s one thing you’ll have to see to for yourselves. I can’t pack it. It won’t go into the trunks.”
“What your father said to you that night.”
They were silent. Presently Frank answered, softly,—“I hope I shan’t forget that.”
Laura, the pause once broken, remarked, rather glibly, that she “was afraid there wouldn’t be much chance to recollect things at Aunt Oferr’s.”
“She isn’t exactly what I call a heavenly-minded woman,” said Luclarion, quietly.