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'I know better,' was the ungracious reply ; 'and I will wait no longer. Jane turned away with a feeling of apprehension. Something of undefined evil took possession of her mind; and instead of returning to Elinor, she impatiently waited at the head of the stairs till the men were gone. When the door closed upon them, she again sought her husband. He was flushed and agitated.
What do you want?' said he roughly as she entered. 'I came to see if you had got Elinor's ear-rings.'
'Don't torment me about such nonsense,' replied he; 'you worry my life out !'
Tane had caught his retaliating spirit. “Something worries you, it is evident. Who were those men that have just gone?'
“That is my affair,' said he.
She was silent for a moment, and then affectionately exclaimed : “My dear Frank, how can you say so? Are not your affairs and mine the same? If anything makes you unhappy, ought I not to know it?'
How true it is that a 'soft answer turneth away wrath.' He evidently felt the forbearance of his wife, and replied more gently : 'Indeed, Jane, if I had anything pleasant to tell you, I should be glad to tell it. But the truth is, it is from kindness to you that I do not speak.' “Then there is something unpleasant to be communicated?'
Yes; but wait till this horrid ball is over, and then I will tell you all. Here,' said he, taking a little box from his pocket; 'carry these to Elinor, and tell her No; tell her nothing.'
'Indeed, Frank, it is cruel in you to leave me in this state of suspense. Tell me the worst.
"We are ruined ! Now, Jane, go and finish your preparations for the ball. You would know all, and you have got it.'
What a day was this for poor Jane! Earnestly she entreated that the ball might be given up. But Frank said if anything could increase their misery, it would be making it so public; and, after seas of tears on the part of Jane, it was finally settled that everything should proceed the same.
Amidst the preparations for the evening, Mrs Fulton's depression was not observed. The only hope that remained to Frank was, that his affairs might be arranged with some degree of secrecy ; and for this the ball, he conceived, was actually necessary. When the evening arrived, and Elinor came to shew herself, all equipped for her first appearance, any mother might have been proud of such a daughter, with her bright happy face, her sunny blue eyes, and a figure set off by her white satin bodice, and splendid necklace and ear-rings—the last present of her father. 'Does she not look like a queen, ma'am?' said the chambermaid, following her, and holding the light high above her head. Mrs Fulton cast upon her a look of anguish.
The company came. Everybody congratulated Jane on the beauty and elegance of her daughter. Everybody prophesied she would be the belle of the winter. Then came the supper ; and at last the visitors departed. Elinor retired to bed, full of happy dreams; and her parents were left alone.
Jane attempted to converse with her husband; but he had done the honours of the whisky-punch and champagne till he had not a clear idea left; and broken slumbers and sad thoughts followed her through the night.
The next morning came, with bitter consciousness of what was before them. Frank had not the consolation of feeling that misfortune had reduced him; he had not lost any large amount by the sudden changes to which mercantile speculations are subject. He had been extravagant in his amusements ; had thrown away a great deal of money in pictures and other works of art beyond his means ; had lavished not a little on horses and an equipage; but, above all, he had allowed his wife to pursue a system of reckless extravagance both in her domestic concerns and expenditure on herself and children. All the money which could be commanded had been thus expended, and, to supply the deficiency of ready money, credit had been got, and bills signed to a ruinous amount.
When the circumstances of his somewhat disgraceful insolvency became known, they formed a tale which enlivened many an evening circle and morning gossip. The sagacity of the world was truly astonishing. It was incredible how many 'had expected such a crash. Nearly all were loud in condemning Mrs Fulton's extravagance. Among their former friends, a few appeared to sympathise, but none to take the responsibility of counselling. Yet such a one appeared ; and this was Samuel Watson-Uncle Joshua's 'vulgar friend.
It was necessary that Frank should disappear from the scene of action ; and Mr Watson was indefatigable in seeing that everything was transacted in the best possible manner, and in shielding Frank's conduct from reproach, as far as that was compatible with truth. His house was an asylum for Mrs Fulton and her children till something more eligible could be thought of. Among these early friends of her uncle, Jane's former impressions revived. She remembered his kind and judicious counsel, and wondered that she could so far have strayed from it. She spoke with perfect candour to Mr and Mrs Watson, and, in return, received counsel and consolation.
Uncle Joshua's legacy was a blessed resource for Mrs Fulton and her children. His house was a home to them; and to take possession of it was retiring as completely from the circle in which she had moved, as if she had followed her husband to the western country, where he went to begin life anew, and once more put up his sign'Dr Fulton practises gratis.'
Elinor was at an age to feel the change that had taken place with poignancy ; but she was also at an age when the mind opens to new impressions, and when virtuous principles are easily stamped upon it." Her intercourse with the Watson family had been a real blessing. This was still left to her; and she soon found, in constant employment, and the necessary labour of her own industry, a tranquillity that was new to her. Poor Jane !-her task was the hardest. She had much to unlearn-habits of self-indulgence, feelings of mortification, of pride, and even of envy, to struggle against.
In their dreary lot, the family had one thing to cheer them. The accounts they received from Dr Fulton and of him were on the whole encouraging; and his wife was anxious to join him with her family. But he was wise enough to forbid it, as premature. The last letter he wrote to Elinor contained the following passages, which may appropriately conclude the narrative :
'I begin to hope we may all again be gathered into one family, even in this world. My business is prosperous; and I have reasonable expectations of being able, in the course of a few years, to convince my creditors that however wide I have travelled from the right course, it is not irrecoverable. I willingly submit to every privation in this blessed hope. In the meantime, I daily thank God for my domestic relations--that He has preserved to me my wife and children-has given me such a child as you have proved yourself and taught us all that real independence consists in living within the means.'
THE CHILD OF ELLE.
With walls and towers bedight,
A young and lovely knight.
The Child of Elle to his garden went,
And stood at his garden pale,
Come tripping down the dale.
I wis he stood not still,
Come climbing up the hill.
Now rest thee here with me;
And what may thy tidings be?'
And the tears they fill her een ;
Between her house and thine.
And here she sends thee a siken scars,
Berned with many a tear,
Who loved thee so dear.
The last boon thou mayst have
When she is laid in grave.
And in grave soon must she be;
And forbid her to think of thee.
Her father hath brought her a carlish knight
Sir John of the north country;
Or he vows he will her slay:'
And greet thy lady from me,
Will die, or set her free.
And let thy fair lady know
Betide me weal or woe.'
He neither stint nor stayed
When, kneeling down, he said :
And he greets thee well by me;
And die, or set thee free.'
And all were fast asleep,
Who sat in her bower to weep.
Low whispering at the wall: "Awake, awake, my dear lady;
'Tis I, thy true love, call.