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The large house that had been the home of Mr. Milling
was now the home of another, and its former occupants,
who had passed so many pleasant years beneath its roof,
whose hearts were woven with it, as though it were a
part of themselves, had removed to other quarters, more
in keeping with their present circumstances. But a
small remnant of his former wealth remained to Mr. Milling.
His fortune had crumbled beneath him like a shelf
of sand, and he had gone down to a depth of ruin corresponding
with his former exaltation. His integrity
was unimpaired in the estimation of those who best
knew him; but the story gained circulation that he had
been a party in the transaction that had ruined his
house, and his presence on 'change was marked by a
coldness on the part of many with whom he had formerly


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been on the most intimate terms. His heart had
sunk with the first blow; but the discovery of his
waning credit gave him the most pain. Where the
stories originated, it was not known. They could not
be traced to any reliable source, and worked with subtle
and secret influence, until, unable to withstand the look
of suspicion that was cast upon him, he left the scene
of his former labors, a broken man. His mind was
gloomy, almost morose, and even his family failed to
awaken him to anything like his former cheerfulness.
The feeling that was gnawing at his heart wore upon
his frame, and it was evident that he was sinking beneath
the sorrow that was preying upon him.

His wife endeavored by every means in her power to
cheer him. Her words, however, were mechanical and
worldly-wise, and had little effect. His oldest daughter
said nothing. Her high spirit and pride sustained her
in her new position. She had withdrawn from a society
she still could have graced, from a sense of her fallen
fortunes, and a determination to avoid all association
that would remind her of them. She made no complaint;
but her heart was deeply touched by her father's
distress, surpassing even the keen sensibility felt at
her lover's desertion — for that was subdued by the
pride that filled her and gave her strength.

Much talk to a grieving heart is an addition to its
affliction. Even words of kindness are of non-effect.
A tear, shed in sympathy, is better to the one who
grieves than a whole vocabulary of terms. So felt Mr.
Milling. The words his wife spoke were addressed to
his ambition, mixed, occasionally, with half reproaches,
that added bitterness to his despondency. There was
but one comfort for him. His little Lily was ever by
his side, by her attentions endeavoring to soothe him;


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her face not gloomy with the clouds of disappointment,
but radiant with love and faith. Her young eye saw
beyond the present of earthly trial, and knew that
through affliction alone could be won the crown of the
faithful. Her voice was music to him, and when by her
side his heart beat with a lighter pulsation. He was
stricken so deeply, however, that even her ministrations
could not bear him wholly up. He felt that he was done
for earth, and that the world would be better to be rid
of him — the hallucination of a morbid fancy. The feeling
at length, by insidious advances, gained entire hold
upon him; his body gave way before it, and he was
brought at last to a condition compelling him to take
to his bed. The kindness of old friends — among whom
were his successors, Partelot and Savage — failed to
revive him, the assiduity of those around him was ineffective,
and Lily's face and Lily's voice alone gave him
pleasure. It seemed now to his distempered fancy like
the voice of one long gone before — a sister of his
early years — and her eyes appeared to reflect the
glories of the world to which he was hastening. There
were no tears wetting the face he saw, — the little face
that bent over him, — but there was a sublime expression
resting there, as though she were an angel waiting
patiently by the gates of time, to bear his soul to its
immortal home — seeing the end of human woe from
the beginning, and its need in the scheme of man's

It was Christmas, and the usual hilarity attending the
day was observed. Parties were given in all directions,
and the fires of the genial season burned brightly. But
there was one home, that was wont to observe its festivities,
now silent. Mr. Milling was dying! The angel
had entered his abode, and waited for a little while ere


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he should clip the slender thread that bound him to life.
His family ranged around his bed — Lily, with her
solemn eyes, gazing upon him with an almost super-human
earnestness and tenderness. Suddenly, the dying
man revived from a stupor in which he had long lain.
He turned his gaze with a meaningless expression upon
those who surrounded his bed, until it rested upon Lily.
His face brightened, and, seizing her hand with sudden
ecstasy, he cried, “Welcome, sister! I am ready.” His
hand fell upon the coverlet, and Mr. Milling was no

The wife and eldest daughter were borne from the
chamber. The earthly tie — the whole that they knew
— was sundered, and the mortal mourned for mortality,
the earth for the earthly. Lily, the delicate and beautiful,
stood gazing calmly upon the wreck before her.
The brightness of heaven was around her brow, and
her face assumed the soft expression of an angel.
Serene and calm she stood gazing down upon the immovable
features; there was to her no division of the
tender chord that had bound them — soul had been knit
to soul, and in the mortal dissolution she felt that the
sweet compact had not been interrupted. In this consciousness
there was no room for terror or despair.
Something like a tear trembled in her eye; but there
was a joy in it that gave it a glory like a star, as passed
before her young vision the remembered kindness and
devotion of the one who lay there still and cold. But
the triumph that burned in her expression dried up the
tear, as the sun dries up the dew that the night, in its
darkness, has wept.

She passed from the chamber to make way for those
whose duty it was to prepare the body for sepulture,
and proceeded to her mother's room to endeavor, by her


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attentions, to soothe her grief. This was an impossible
task. Outward comfort in such a crisis is unavailing;
and, though ministerial consolation was tendered, the
blackness of darkness rested over the tomb, unpenetrated
by a hopeful ray. They had been of the world's
people, and their spiritual light was obscured by the
mist of materialism; and the ministers, themselves as
spiritually dull, knew no solace beyond the mere word
of hope — no living faith, no sweet trust in the future
of life and love.

Mr. Milling was buried with becoming honors. Many
of his old friends attended his funeral, and paid him the
respect, as they rode to his grave, of talking over again
the transaction by which he was ruined, the slanders
that had followed it, the credit of his successors, and
the probable condition of his family, ending with profound
expressions of regret for the unpleasant affair,
and the melancholy circumstances in which his family
had been left. The cheap sympathy was all expended
and the price of stocks mingled with the regretful
words awakened by the demise of the unfortunate

When the melancholy cortège returned to the house,
Mr. Partelot stood by the door of the carriage containing
the family, and handed them out. His eyes were
red with weeping, and his hand trembled as he took
the hand of Matilda Milling within his own. Following
them into the house, he proffered his condolence with
them in their loss, and assured them of his life-long devotion
to their interest, from a sense of gratitude to
Mr. Milling, and a personal regard for themselves. All
that he knew of prosperity, he said, had been attained
through his beloved employer, and he could not do
enough in return for such kindness. His words were


Page 241
full of sweetness, and fell upon the stricken hearts of
the family like the small rain upon thirsty ground, and
grief broke out anew as he spoke. When he left, it
seemed to the mother and eldest daughter that some
exalted being from another sphere had paid them a visit
with the special object of comforting them. Lily had
heard him not. Her eyes were directed towards the
western sky, glowing with the brightness of wintry sunset,
and were drinking in the inspiration of the glory
that rested there, filling her with peace and joy.

Turning to her mother, she threw her arms about her
neck, and pressed a kiss upon her forehead.

“Mother!” said she, “is it not selfish to cry for those
who have left us? Does n't my father still live — more
loving and more beautiful than before?”

“I hope so,” was the reply.

“Then, why mourn? We are told to rejoice with
those that rejoice; and, if my father is living, should
we not rejoice that it is so? His cares and pains are
all over for earth, unless, seeing the grief which enshrouds
us, he feels sad at our weakness. O, mother, I
am but a simple child, and can teach you nothing; but
my spirit feels much. It goes with yonder sinking sun
to its resting-place, and sees a glorious to-morrow following
the night that intervenes; so the resurrection
follows the darkness of the grave, as you have told me.
Be comforted, my mother.”

“Child, you do not know what you have lost!” said
the poor woman. “It does me good to nurse my grief.”
She indulged in a fresh paroxysm, and Lily left her
to time and self-pride to work the peace that she had
failed to implant.

Thus was the dreary Christmas passed, and the hearth
and hearts of the household of the late Mr. Milling were


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desolate and wretched, with scarce a hope to flash its
light forward upon the darkness that lay beyond.