John had never been very happy at home—never liked Snowdon much, and hence the efforts they were putting forth to make it attractive to him after his long absence. He could not help but like home now, the ladies said to each other, as, a few days before his arrival, they rode from the village, where they had been shopping, up the winding terraced hill, admiring the huge stone building embosomed in evergreens, and standing out so distinctly against the wintry sky. And indeed Terrace Hill mansion was a very handsome place, exciting the envy and admiration of the villagers, who, while commenting upon its beauty and its well-kept grounds, could yet remember a time when it had looked better even than it did now—when the house was oftener full of city company, of sportsmen who came up to hunt, and fish, and drink, as it was sometimes hinted by the servants, of whom there was then a greater number than at present—when high-born ladies rode up and down in carriages, or dashed on horseback through the park and off into the leafy woods—when sounds of festivity were heard in the halls from year’s end to year’s end, and the lights in the parlors were rarely extinguished, or the fires on the hearth put out. All this was during the lifetime of its former owner. With his death there had come a change to the inhabitants of Terrace Hill. In short it was whispered rather loudly now that the ladies of Terrace Hill were restricted in their means, that it was harder to collect a bill from them than it used to be, that there was less display of dress and style, fewer fires, and lights, and servants, and withdrawal from society, and an apparent desire to be left to themselves.
This was what the village people whispered, and none knew the truth of the whisperings better than the ladies in question. They knew they were growing poorer with each succeeding year, but it was not the less mortifying to be familiarly accosted by Mrs. Deacon Briggs, or invited to a sociable by Mrs. Roe.
How Miss Asenath and Miss Eudora writhed under the infliction, and how hard they tried to appear composed and ladylike just as they would deem it incumbent upon them to appear, had they been on their way to the gallows. How glad, too, they were when their aristocratic doors closed upon the little, talkative Mrs. Roe, and what a good time they had wondering how Mrs. Johnson, who really was as refined and cultivated as themselves, could associate with such folks to the extent she did. She was always present at the Snowdon sewing circles, they heard, and frequently at its tea-drinkings, while never was there a sickbed but she was sure to find it, particularly if the sick one were poor and destitute. This was very commendable and praiseworthy, they admitted, but they did not see how she could endure it. Once Miss Asenath had ventured to ask her, and she had answered that all her best, most useful lessons, were learned in just such places—that she was better for