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Modern Broods   By: (1823-1901)

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"Whate'er is good to wish, ask that of Heaven, Though it be what thou canst not hope to see." HARTLEY COLERIDGE.

The scene was a drawing room, with old fashioned heavy sash windows opening on a narrow brick walled town garden sloping down to a river, and neatly kept. The same might be said of the room, where heavy old fashioned furniture, handsome but not new, was concealed by various flimsy modernisms, knicknacks, fans, brackets, china photographs and water colours, a canary singing loud in the window in the winter sunshine.

"Miss Prescott," announced the maid; but, finding no auditor save the canary, she retreated, and Miss Prescott looked round her with a half sigh of recognition of the surroundings. She was herself a quiet looking, gentle lady, rather small, with a sweet mouth and eyes of hazel, in a rather worn face, dressed in a soft woollen and grey fur, with headgear to suit, and there was an air of glad expectation, a little flush, that did not look permanent, on her thin cheeks.

"Is it you, my dear Miss Prescott?" was the greeting of the older hostess as she entered, her grey hair rough and uncovered, and her dress of well used black silk, her complexion of the red that shows wear and care. "Then it is true?" she asked, as the kiss and double shake of the hand was exchanged.

"May I ask? Is it true? May I congratulate you?"

"Oh, yes, it is true!" said Miss Prescott, breathlessly. "I suppose the girls are at the High School?"

"Yes, they will be at home at one. Or shall I send for them?"

"No, thank you, Mrs. Best. I shall like to have a little time with you first. I can stay till a quarter past three."

"Then come and take off your things. I do not know when I have been so glad!"

"Do the girls know?" asked Miss Prescott, following upstairs to a comfortable bedroom, evidently serving also the purposes of a private room, for writing table and account books stood near the fire.

"They know something; Kate Bell heard a report from her cousins, and they have been watching anxiously for news from you."

"I would not write till I knew more. I hope they have not raised their expectations too high; for though it is enough to be an immense relief, it is not exactly affluence. I have been with Mr. Bell going into the matter and seeing the place," said Miss Prescott, sitting comfortably down in the arm chair Mrs. Best placed for her, while she herself sat down in another, disposing themselves for a talk over the fire.

"Mr. Bell reckons it at about 600 pounds a year."

"And an estate?"

"A very pretty cottage in a Devonshire valley, with the furniture and three acres of land."

"Oh! I believe the girls fancy that it is at least as large as Lord Coldhurst's."

"Yes, I was in hopes that they would have heard nothing about it."

"It came through some of their schoolfellows; one cannot help things getting into the air."

"And there getting inflated like bubbles," said Miss Prescott, smiling. "Well, their expectations will have a fall, poor dears!"

"And it does not come from their side of the family," said Mrs. Best. "Of course not! And it was wholly unexpected, was it not?"

"Yes, I had my name of Magdalen from my great aunt Tremlett; but she had never really forgiven my mother's marriage, though she consented to be my godmother. She offered to adopt me on my mother's death, and once when my father married again, and when we lost him, she wrote to propose my coming to live with her; but there would have been no payment, and so "

"Yes, you dear good thing, you thought it your duty to go and work for your poor little stepmother and her children!"

"What else was my education good for, which has been a costly thing to poor father? And then the old lady was affronted for good, and never took any more notice of me, nor answered my letters. I did not even know she was dead, till I heard from Mr. Bell, who had learnt it from his lawyers!"

"It was quite right of her... Continue reading book >>

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