In a few moments the blind man had returned to his home.
“WELL, Mary,” said Aunt Frances, “how do you propose to spend the summer? It is so long since the failure and death of your guardian, that I suppose you are now familiar with your position, and prepared to mark out some course for the future.”
“True, aunt; I have had many painful thoughts with regard to the loss of my fortune, and I was for a time in great uncertainty about my future course, but a kind offer, which I received, yesterday, has removed that burden. I now know where to find a respectable and pleasant home.”
“Is the offer you speak of one of marriage?” asked Aunt Frances, smiling.
“Oh! dear, no; I am too young for that yet. But Cousin Kate is happily married, and lives a few miles out of the city, in just the cosiest little spot, only a little too retired; and she has persuaded me that I shall do her a great kindness to accept a home with her.”
“Let me see. Kate’s husband is not wealthy, I believe?”
“No: Charles Howard is not wealthy, but his business is very good, and improving every year; and both he and Kate are too whole-souled and generous to regret giving an asylum to an unfortunate girl like me. They feel that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
“A very noble feeling, Mary; but one in which I am sorry to perceive that you are a little wanting.”
“Oh! no, Aunt Frances, I do feel it deeply; but it is the curse of poverty that one must give up, in some measure, the power of benefiting others. And, then, I mean to beguile Kate of so many lonely hours, and perform so many friendly offices for her husband, that they will think me not a burden but a treasure.”
“And you really think you can give them as much comfort as the expense of your maintenance could procure them in any other way?”
“Yes, aunt; it may sound conceited, perhaps, but I do really think I can. I am sure, if I thought otherwise, I would never consent to become a burden to them.”
“Well, my dear, then your own interest is all that remains to be considered. There are few blessings in life that can compensate for the loss of self-reliance. She who derives her support from persons upon whom she has no natural claim, finds the effect upon herself to be decidedly narrowing. Perpetually in debt, without the means of reimbursement, barred from any generous action which does not seem like ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ she sinks too often into the character of a sponge, whose only business is absorption. But I see you do not like what I am saying, and I will tell you something which I am sure you will like—my own veritable history.
“I was left an orphan in childhood, like yourself, and when my father’s affairs were settled, not a dollar remained for my support. I was only six years of age, but I had attracted the notice of a distant relative, who was a man of considerable wealth. Without any effort of my own, I became an inmate of his family, and his only son, a few years my elder, was taught to consider me as a sister.