And can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one weak creature makes a void in any heart, so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of vast eternity can fill it up! Florence, in her innocent affliction, might have answered, `Oh my brother, oh my dearly loved and loving brother! Only friend and companion of my slighted childhood! Could any less idea shed the light already dawning on your early grave, or give birth to the softened sorrow that is springing into life beneath this rain of tears!'
`My dear child,' said Mrs. Chick, who held it as a duty incumbent on her, to improve the occasion, `when you are as old as I am--'
`Which will be the prime of life,' observed Miss Tox.
`You will then,' pursued Mrs. Chick, gently squeezing Miss Tox's hand in acknowledgment of her friendly remark, `you will then know that all grief is unavailing, and that it is our duty to submit.'
`I will try, dear aunt. I do try,' answered Florence, sobbing.
`I am glad to hear it,' said Mrs. Chick, `because, my love, as our dear Miss Tox--of whose sound sense and excellent judgment, there cannot possibly be two opinions--'
`My dear Louisa, I shall really be proud, soon,' said Miss Tox.
-- `will tell you, and confirm by her experience,' pursued Mrs. Chick, `we are called upon on all occasions to make an effort. It is required of us. If any--my dear,' turning to Miss Tox, `I want a word. Mis--Mis--'
`Demeanour?'suggested Miss Tox.
`No, no, no,' said Mrs. Chick. `How can you! Goodness me, it's on the end of my tongue. Mis--'
`Placed affection?' suggested Miss Tox, timidly.
`Good gracious, Lucretia!' returned Mrs. Chick. `How very monstrous! Misanthrope, is the word I want. The idea! Misplaced affection! I say, if any misanthrope were to put, in my presence, the question "Why were we born?" I should reply, "To make an effort."' `Very good indeed,' said Miss Tox, much impressed by the originality of the sentiment. `Very good.'
`Unhappily,' pursued Mrs. Chick, `we have a warning under our own eyes. We have but too much reason to suppose, my dear child, that if an effort had been made in time, in this family, a train of the most trying and distressing circumstances might have been avoided. Nothing shall ever persuade me,' observed the good matron, with a resolute air, `but that if that effort had been made by poor dear Fanny, the poor dear darling child would at least have had a stronger constitution.'
Mrs. Chick abandoned herself to her feelings for half a moment; but, as a practical illustration of her doctrine, brought herself up short, in the middle of a sob, and went on again.
`Therefore, Florence, pray let us see that you have some strength of mind, and do not selfishly aggravate the distress in which your poor Papa is plunged.'
`Dear aunt!' said Florence, kneeling quickly down before her, that she might the better and more earnestly look into her face. `Tell me more about Papa. Pray tell me about him!Is he quite heartbroken?'
Miss Tox was of a tender nature, and there was something in this appeal that moved her very much. Whether she saw it in a succession, on the part of the neglected child, to the affectionate concern so often expressed by her dead brother--or a love that sought to twine itself about the heart that had loved him, and that could not bear to be shut out from sympathy with such a sorrow, in such sad community of love and grief--or whether she only recognised the earnest and devoted spirit which, although discarded and repulsed, was wrung with tenderness long unreturned, and in the waste and solitude of this bereavement
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