Miss Simmonds had often invited me to pay her a visit in her home at Littleton, but I had as yet found no convenient opportunity for so doing. One Friday evening I decided to pay the long promised visit, and remain over the Sabbath with Miss Simmonds. She seemed very glad to see me, and gave me a friendly welcome to her humble home. But, humble as it was, it presented a picture of neatness and cozy comfort. After tea, and when her light household duties had all been carefully performed, we seated ourselves by a cheerful fire in her little sitting-room, and prepared to spend the long evening in social conversation. I had always been very fond of the company of Miss Simmonds. Her conversational powers were very good, and she was sufficiently well informed to render her a very agreeable companion. As the night closed in, one of those violent storms of wind and rain came on, which are so frequent in the Eastern States during the month of November. The beating of the storm without caused our warm and well-lighted room to seem all the more cheerful. As the evening advanced I observed that Miss Simmonds grew thoughtful; and, although she endeavored to be social, it was evident that her mind was occupied by something else than the subject of conversation. After a short silence, she addressed me suddenly, saying,—
“I feel inclined, Clara, to relate a story to you, which at least has the merit of truth; for it is a chapter from my own life.”
I gladly assented to listen to her story, for since I first met Miss Simmonds I had entertained an idea that there was something of romance attached to her life.
“Thirty years ago,” began Miss Simmonds, “I was not the faded, care-worn woman which you now see before you. I was born in this village. My parents were poor but industrious people. They were blessed with two children, myself, and a brother, who was two years younger than I; but, ere he reached the age of ten, we were called to lay him in the grave, leaving me the sole comfort and joy of my bereaved parents. They had very much loved my little brother; and, when death claimed him, all the love which he would have shared with me, had he lived, was lavished upon me. There is little in my childhood and youth worthy of notice, as we occupied an humble sphere in life. I suppose you will hardly credit me, Clara, when I tell you that, at the age of sixteen I was called beautiful. It was something to which I had given but little thought; but the ear of youth is ever open to flattery, and I must confess that my vanity was flattered by being called beautiful by the residents of the then small village of Littleton.
“When I was about eighteen years of age,” continued Miss Simmonds, “a young lawyer, by the name of Almont, opened an office in this village, for the practice of his profession. He came among us suddenly, and he informed those with whom he first made acquaintance, that he had formerly resided in Massachusetts. Many wondered at his locating himself here, as the village was then but small, and offered few inducements to professional men.