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Miss Theodora A West End Story   By: (1860-1926)

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Miss Theodora

A West End Story


Helen Leah Reed

[Illustration: Logo]


[Illustration: Frontispiece]

Copyright, 1898, by Richard G. Badger & Co.

All Rights Reserved

The frontispiece and chapter headings are from drawings by Florence Pearl England, the latter being after photographs.



The tourist, with his day or two at a down town hotel, calls Boston a city of narrow streets and ancient graveyards; the dweller in one of the newer avenues is enthusiastic about the modern architecture and regular streets of the Back Bay region. Yet neither of these knows the real Boston, the old West End, with its quaint tree lined streets sloping from the top of Beacon Hill toward the river.

Near the close of any bright afternoon, walk from the State House down the hill, pause half way, and, glancing back, note the perfect Gothic arch formed by the trees that line both sides of Mount Vernon Street. Admire those old houses which have taken on the rich, deep tones that age so kindly imparts to brick. Then look across the river to the sun just setting behind the Brookline hills, and admit that even in a crowded city we may catch glimpses of the picturesque.

Half way down one of the quiet, hilly West End streets is the house of Miss Theodora no, I will not tell you her true name. If I should, you would recognize it at once as that of a great New England jurist. This jurist was descended from a long line of scholars, whose devotion to letters had not prevented their accumulating a fair amount of wealth. Much of this wealth had fallen to the jurist, Miss Theodora's father, with whom at first everything went well, and then everything badly.

It was not entirely the great man's extravagance that wrought the mischief, although many stories were long told of his too liberal hospitality and lavish expenditure. He came, however, of a generous race; it was a cousin of his who divided a small fortune between Harvard College and the Provident Association, and for more than a century back the family name might be found on every list of contributions to a good cause.

Yet it was not extravagance, but blind faith in the financial wisdom of others, as well as an undue readiness to lend money to every man who wished to borrow from him, which brought to Miss Theodora's father the trouble that probably hastened him to his grave. When he died, it was found that he had lost all but a fraction of a former fortune. His widow survived him only a few years, and before her death the family had to leave their roomy mansion on the hill, with its pleasant garden, for a smaller house farther down the street.

Here Miss Theodora tried to make a pleasant home for John, her brother. He had just begun to practise law, and, with his talents, would undoubtedly do well, especially if he married as he should. Thus, with a woman's worldliness in things matrimonial, reasoned Miss Theodora, sometimes even going so far as to commend to John this girl or that among the family connections. But one day John put an end to all her innocent scheming by announcing his betrothal to the orphan daughter of a Plymouth minister, "a girl barely pretty, and certainly poor." It was only a half consolation to reflect that Dorothy had a pedigree going back to John Alden and Priscilla.

Ernest, John's boy, was just a month old when Sumter surrendered; yet John would go to the war, leaving Dorothy and the baby to the care of his sister. Eagerly the two women followed his regiment through each campaign, thankful for the bright and cheerful letters he sent them. They bore bravely that awful silence after Antietam, until at length they knew that John would never come home again.

It was simply of a broken heart that Dorothy died, said every one, for little Ernest was scarcely three years old when he was left with no one to care for him but Miss Theodora. How she saved and scrimped to give him what he needed, I will not say; but gradually her attire took on a quaintness that would have been thought impossible for her even to favor in the days of her girlhood, when she had been a critic of dress... Continue reading book >>

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