’It is, however, in the hour of bereavement that we most value the ties that are broken, and yearn for the sympathy of kindred.’
Here came a little distich of French verse, of which I could only read ciel and l’amour.
’Our quiet household here is clouded with a new sorrow. How inscrutable are the ways of Providence! I—though a few years younger—how much the more infirm—how shattered in energy and in mind—how mere a burden—how entirely de trop—am spared to my sad place in a world where I can be no longer useful, where I have but one business—prayer, but one hope—the tomb; and he—apparently so robust—the centre of so much good—so necessary to you—so necessary, alas! to me—is taken! He is gone to his rest—for us, what remains but to bow our heads, and murmur, “His will be done”? I trace these lines with a trembling hand, while tears dim my old eyes. I did not think that any earthly event could have moved me so profoundly. From the world I have long stood aloof. I once led a life of pleasure—alas! of wickedness—as I now do one of austerity; but as I never was rich, so my worst enemy will allow I never was avaricious. My sins, I thank my Maker, have been of a more reducible kind, and have succumbed to the discipline which Heaven has provided. To earth and its interests, as well as to its pleasures, I have long been dead. For the few remaining years of my life I ask but quiet—an exemption from the agitations and distractions of struggle and care, and I trust to the Giver of all Good for my deliverance—well knowing, at the same time, that whatever befalls will, under His direction, prove best. Happy shall I be, my dearest niece, if in your most interesting and, in some respects, forlorn situation, I can be of any use to you. My present religious adviser—of whom I ventured to ask counsel on your behalf—states that I ought to send some one to represent me at the melancholy ceremony of reading the will which my beloved and now happy brother has, no doubt, left behind; and the idea that the experience and professional knowledge possessed by the gentleman whom I have selected may possibly be of use to you, my dearest niece, determines me to place him at your disposal. He is the junior partner in the firm of Archer and Sleigh, who conduct any little business which I may have from time to time; may I entreat your hospitality for him during a brief stay at Knowl? I write, even for a moment, upon these small matters of business with an effort—a painful one, but necessary. Alas! my brother! The cup of bitterness is now full. Few and evil must the remainder of my old days be. Yet, while they last, I remain always for my beloved niece, that which all her wealth and splendour cannot purchase—a loving and faithful kinsman and friend,
‘Is not it a kind letter?’ I said, while tears stood in my eyes.
‘Yes,’ answered Lady Knollys, drily.