Towards evening a servant came softly into the sick-room, bringing a sealed letter for her lady. There was no post-mark upon it, and the girl informed her mistress that the gentleman who had brought it was waiting in the garden for a reply. The first glance at the hand-writing, at the well-known seal, brought colour to the cheek of the lady. But it was a hand-writing which she had been forbidden to read; it was a seal which she must not break! She motioned to the maid to take her place beside the invalid who happened at that moment to be sleeping and with a quick step and a throbbing heart she hurried away to find her husband.
He was in his study, his arms resting on his open desk, and his head bowed down upon them. Bills and papers, scattered in profusion on the table, showed what had been the nature of the occupation which he had not had the courage to finish. He started from his posture of despair as his wife laid a gentle touch on his shoulder; and, without uttering a word, she placed the unopened letter in his hand.
My reader shall have the privilege of looking over Sir Gilbert’s shoulder, and perusing the contents of that letter:—
“Dearest Sister,—We have heard of your trials, and warmly sympathize in your sorrow. Let Sir Gilbert know that we have placed at his banker’s, after having settled it upon you, double the sum which caused our unhappy differences. Let the past be forgotten; let us again meet as those should meet who have gathered together round the same hearth, mourned over the same grave, and shared joys and sorrows together, as it is our anxious desire to do now. I shall be my own messenger, and shall wait in person to receive your reply.—Your ever attached brother,
A few minutes more and Lady Grange was in the arms of her brother; while Sir Gilbert was silently grasping the hand of one whom, but for misfortune, he would never have known as a friend.
All the neighbourhood pitied the gentle lady, the benefactress of the poor, when she dismissed her servants, sold her jewels, and quitted her beautiful home to seek a humbler shelter. Amongst the hundreds who crowded to the public auction of the magnificent furniture and plate, which had been the admiration of all who had seen them, many thought with compassion of the late owners, reduced to such sudden poverty, though the generosity of the lady’s family had saved them from want or dependence.
And yet truly, never since her marriage had Lady Grange been less an object of compassion.