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The Old Homestead   By: (1810-1886)

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THE OLD HOMESTEAD

A STORY OF NEW ENGLAND FARM LIFE.

BY MRS. ANN S. STEPHENS.

AUTHOR OF "FASHION AND FAMINE," "THE REIGNING BELLE," "THE GOLD BRICK," "MABEL'S MISTAKE," "THE WIFE'S SECRET," "BELLEHOOD AND BONDAGE," "LORD HOPE'S CHOICE," "BERTHA'S ENGAGEMENT," "THE CURSE OF GOLD," "NORSTON'S REST," "A NOBLE WOMAN," "THE SOLDIER'S ORPHANS," "THE HEIRESS," "MARRIED IN HASTE," "PALACES AND PRISONS," "DOUBLY FALSE," "MARY DERWENT," "THE REJECTED WIFE," "RUBY GRAY'S STRATEGY," "THE OLD COUNTESS," "SILENT STRUGGLES," "WIVES AND WIDOWS," ETC.

"THE OLD HOMESTEAD" is a superb story of quaint New England farm life in the vein now so popular both in fiction and on the stage. With an absorbing plot, effective incidents and characters entirely true to nature, it holds attention as very few stories do. It possesses all that powerful attraction which clings to a romance of home, the family fireside and the people who gather about it. Simplicity and strength are happily combined in its pages, and no one can begin it without desiring to read it through. All the works of Mrs. Ann S. Stephens are books that everybody should read, for in point of real merit, wonderful ingenuity and absorbing interest they loom far above the majority of the books of the day. She has a thorough knowledge of human nature, and so vividly drawn and natural are her characters that they seem instinct with life. Her plots are models of construction, and she excels in depicting young lovers, their trials, troubles, sorrows and joys, while her love scenes fascinate the young as well as the old. In short, Mrs. Stephens' novels richly merit both their vast renown and immense popularity, and they should find a place in every house and in every library.

CHAPTER I.

THE FATHER'S RETURN.

She kneels beside the pauper bed, As seraphs bow while they adore! Advance with still and reverent tread, For angels have gone in before!

"I wonder, oh, I wonder if he will come?"

The voice which uttered these words was so anxious, so pathetic with deep feeling, that you would have loved the poor child, whose heart gave them forth, plain and miserable as she was. Yet a more helpless creature, or a more desolate home could not well be imagined. She was very small, even for her age. Her little sharp features had no freshness in them; her lips were thin; her eyes not only heavy, but full of dull anguish, which gave you an idea of settled pain, both of soul and body, for no mere physical suffering ever gave that depth of expression to the eyes of a child.

But all was of a piece, the garret, and the child that inhabited it. The attic, which was more especially her home, was crowded under the low roof of a tenant house, which sloped down so far in front, that even the child could not stand upright under it, except where it was perforated with a small attic window, which overlooked the chimneys and gables of other tenement buildings, hived full of poverty, and swarming with the dregs of city life.

This was the prospect on one side. On the other a door with one hinge broken, led into a low open garret, where smoke dried rafters slanted grimly over head, like the ribs of some mammoth skeleton, and loose boards, whose nails had rusted out, creaked and groaned under foot. They made audible sounds even beneath the shadowy tread of the little girl, as she glided toward the top of a stair case unrailed and out in the floor like the mouth of a well. Here she sat down, supporting her head with one hand, in an attitude of touching despondency.

"I wonder oh, I wonder, if he will come!" she repeated, looking mournfully downward.

It was a dreary view, those flights of broken stairs, slippery and sodden with the water daily carried over them. They led by other tenement rooms, which sent forth a confusion of mingled voices, but opened with a glimpse of pure light upon the street below.

But for this gleam of light, breaking as it were, like a smile through the repulsive vista, Mary Fuller might have given up in absolute despair, for she was an imaginative child, and glimpses of light like that came like an inspiration to her... Continue reading book >>




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