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MY QUEEN.

Our home was an old garbled iarmhouse that nestled in its embowering orchards on the side of one of the Clee Hills in Shropshire. The distant landscape I have heard my father compare to the fabled land of Beulah in Bunyan’s quaint old allegory, which was his favorite work; and often, as I sat on his knee when a child, I wondered if the winged messengers who came to Christian would ever flutter over the hill-tops that encircled our beautiful home.* Those angels I always... fancied;. must iuv& rfe. sembled my .mother,., for; she. war.;mjr childish ideal of all that was gentle and lovely in mind and person. i r I was her only child, a shy, strange t , elfin-like sprite, and, from beirtg sueji, I had acquired an old-fashioned pre- 1cocious manner which made- me stand I aloof from companions of my own age. I played my solitary games under the old apple-trees in the orchard, knowing, each of their gnarled grey trunks ‘by heart, as it were, and loving them as friends. A rippling stream was my mirror, and therein for hours, shoeless ! and stockingless, ! would paddle about in the warm summer weather.. I often ? caught a glimpse of my strange little face reflected in the sparkling water, but the only thing about it I can distinctly remember were a pair of grave dark eyes and a “ shock " of brovvn hair. :

The latticed window of my little, room looked out on to the tops of the apple-trees; and often in the springv; time I would nestle on the broad ledge*, and gaze down on the sweet pink and white profusion of bloom that decked my old favorites. ■ I never closed my eyes in happy* slumber at night without a gentle kiss from my mother’s dear lips upon ipy brown hair, for she always stole quietly, to my room to see that her only ; child was safe and warm in her riest, as happy and free from care as any bird in the orchard-trees without. - h. One night, when I was, about twelve years old, she did not come as usual; but my father came to me, and said that she was not able To see me that night, but that I should go id her inlhe: morning. He said no more, for he was a grave and undemonstrative man, and, though I loved him dearly, he was not., one to invite The confidence of a child,' 1 ’ even if his own ; so I- 'kissed him with- ‘ out another word, and turned to sleep. But I was uneasy about my mother, and I woke often at, the unusual sound of footsteps moving about the house, and subdued whispering voices. l At The ' , first streak of dawn I rose and .dressed ' and went to the door of my‘ mother's room, tapping for admittance. A strange woman with a kind face met me, and led me to ~|he.f . .gde,r mother’s bed, whereon she lay white,,as a snowflake. By her side was a sleeping infant. ‘ Come here, May,’ she- whispered, faintly. ‘My child, Heaven has sent . you a little sister ; and you must jnaks $ me a promise, May, to take care of her as long as you and she live, and never let anyone harm her if you can help it.’ ' I answered as earnestly that I' would do so, and with all the fervor of a new , affection kissed my new-born sister, ~ The nurse banished me from the room, , and I saw my mother only once; again. That night I was roused from sleep by my father, who, with a pale' and agonised lace, told me my mother wished to see me, for she was very 'ill, and the doctor had said she could not live till morning. Stunned end . be-, wildered, I followed him timber bted^ ! ' side, where her last, fond kiss . was given ; and before the morning dawned on our home my little sister and I were x motherless. I

After the first agony of, childish grief had passed, I turned eagerly to my baby-sister, Lily, as she was named—; for, although my father’s sister was her nominal guardian and nurse, I wais Her ‘ most devoted attendant, and in her my ; ~ hungry and desolate little heart centred ; its warmest affections. No idol bad ever a more devoted worshipper, *and at her baby-shrine was offered thesacri- .0 fice of a love which grew and strengthened with her growth. y My mother’s last words were never forgotten, and I treasured them as" 8 ; sacred charge, never to be neglected. 1 ' When Lily grew beyond infancy, she . shared my room and my couch, and tp, , nurse and tend her was the most exquisite pleasure of my life. I spent . hours with her in my favorite orchard,; f and crowned her baby-curls with the ! brightest flowers I could find ; and, when her innocent prattle could win a smile from my father’s sad face, I felt happy indeed. *My Queen M always rj called her, and no sovereign .'exercised « more absolute authority than .she, I , carried her down-stairs every morning, for, although she was four years Old, I feared her little feet might slip on the 11 polished oak staircase. One luckless morning I was coming down-stairs, with my darling in, my arms, when my foot slipped and I fell, clasping Lily tightly to my breast. For some moments I was unconscious, but when, as I recovered, and found my father bending over me, I attempted to rise, I found I could not do so, for my ankle was broken, I was a prisoner for some weeks, and when at last I was allowed to walk I found I was slightly j lame ; but Lily was safe —so I was con-

tent that it should be so. I often saw;, nly father’s eyes fill with tears. as they followed my halting steps; but when ! I • held ‘my Queen ’ to him she never failed to recall the smile to his lips. Cur Aunt Grizel stayed on,'and she taught Lily all she knew, for she was a well-educated woman for one iri ' her 1 class of life, and the little one would bring her tasks and con them - • over, and, with her coaxing, winning *' s ways, she would make me explain them to her, and teach her all i knew myself. As she grew towards womanhood she became more dainty and precise in her attire, and would ask me to make her : , many little adornments of dress.. For . her I crimped delicate frills of lace to, encircle her slender throat, knotted bows of pink ribbon for her white straw r bonnet, and netted long silk iriittdns- to ' cover her delicate hands*—-ana thrbugh the network her pure skin would gleam like polished ivory. ■ > 1 / .i ’> i 'iV ”/r Our pew in the old village church f was next to the Squire’s, and I often.: : followed the direction of the .young Squire’s glances as they wandered to my sister’s lovely face, surrounded with its ‘ wealth of sunny curls, which' wpUld ' rebel and escape Ip goldeh ptofuaon beyond her bonnet’s rigorous limits.

Lily was now about twenty y She was the acknowledged belle of the village; and, although she was ] erf n’v conscious of this supremacy, it did i < t in the least detract from her unafiVi ud grace and charm of face and manner. Squire Morton’s family had lived in the old Manor House for generations, and my father’s ancestors had rented the Manor Farm for almost as long a period; so that between the two families a strong bond of almost feudal relationship existed. Whenever a great festival was held at the Manor House, we had always been invited, and Mrs

Morton, visited my dear mother now

and then, when a sense of the honor done to the house was marked by a hospitable display of cake and cowslip wine. After my mother’s death Mrs Morton continued to visit us, and I fancied she always took a warm interest in the motherless children of her old friend.

It was a sunny Sunday morning in

May, and we were lingering in the churchyard waiting for our father, who liked to speak a few words with the Rector, whep, as we were slowly .sauntering towards the gate, the young Squire passed us, with his sister on his arm.,

* Good morning, Miss Lily,’ he said. * I hope you have not forgotten my birthday this week. We shall look for your bright presence to grace the fete ; and you must promise me you will dance the first minuet with my friend Leonard Campbell. lam sure even Miss May wopld not disapprove of him for your partner,’ he added, laughingly, glancing at me, for he knew I kept a careful watch over my beautiful sister. ‘You must forgive him, Miss Lily,’ said his sister, mischeviously, ‘that he i. does not offer you his own hand for the first dance; but you will soon see the . reason for yourself;’ and she nodded and laughed as her brother colored slightly, and with a bow passed on to overtake her father and mother, who were in advance.

On the following week Frank Morton would come'of age, and the event was to be marked by a dinner to the ten- ! antry and a ball in the evening at the •flail; the dance was to be in the long ; oatroohi which ran the whole length -of the house, and many a fair cheek flushed with pleasure at the anticipated ' happiness of the eventful day. It dawned 'at last —as bright and beautiful as hope could wish ; and as I dressed my sister for the festival I thought in my fond heart that no one could vie with her in loveliness. She wore a skirt of white Indian • muslin, and over it a dress which had once been my mother’s, but which I ' had altered into a modern form. It was of a pale blue taffeta, open in front . to display the richly-worked petticoat; . the sleeves were tight to the elbow, and from them hung ruffles of old lace, the creamy folds of which half hid the delicately-white arms beneath, the same lace shading the snowy neck. At her bosom and on her arms were knots of pink ribbon, and a blush rose was the only ornament of the clustering curls . .which shaded her innocent face.

Her image rises before me as she looked then, in ail her fresh beauty, be--7 fore a shadow of care had crossed her as, with a happy arch smile, she ‘turned tp see the effect her appearance ..would reflect from my tell-tale eyes. Ah -mej Memory is cruel sometimes—and ■her-very accuracy gives intensity to the pain of the wounds which she forbids even Time to heal ! {To ht continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18810514.2.8

Bibliographic details

MY QUEEN., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 344, 14 May 1881

Word Count
1,799

MY QUEEN. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 344, 14 May 1881

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