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– But conjugal affection
After remaining two months at Kensington Gravel Pits, I began to think that I had given myself a sufficiently long holiday, and that I ought to return to my old vocation.
I was in the act of preparing to answer an application made to me by a lady of high rank, when a letter was put into my hands bearing the Paris post-mark. It was from Mrs. Kelly, the attached servant of Lady Eustace.
The letter contained only a few hurried lines, and conveyed the melancholy intelligence of the death of Lord Eustace. He had been in a precarious state of health for some time, and on that account had been residing for the last five months in the south of France.
Feeling worse, his lordship had exerted himself (contrary to the advice of his physicians) beyond his strength, in hopes of being able to return to England. He reached Paris, exhausted by the effort, and after a week's suffering expired in the arms of his fond and distracted wife.
Mrs. Kelly added, that her dear lady was very ill from the shock, and that she herself was almost wild with sorrow at seeing her in such a state.
“ I wish you were here, dear Miss Dornay,"
she concluded,“ to help me to nurse and comfort my poor, darling lady."
This hint was sufficient. I instantly wrote to the lady to whom I was partly engaged, and explained that it was impossible for me to accept her obliging offer ; and I made instant preparations for a journey to Paris. My duty as well as inclination urged me to lose not a moment in hastening to my beloved and suffering friend. Feeling rather uneasy at the idea of travelling so far alone, I requested the go-verness of the school to recommend a respectable person to accompany me. She informed me that one of her French teachers was most anxious to return to Paris ; and I offered to pay her expenses if she would be ready to set off with me the following day. This she willingly agreed to do; and at the time appointed we left Kensington, and on the fourth day I found myself at the door of the hotel occupied by my dear and afflicted friend. I sent to speak to Mrs. Kelly without mentioning my name. She could scarcely credit her senses when she saw me, as she hardly thought I could have received her letter.
She embraced me with all the affectionate ardour of her warm-hearted country.
“Ah! my dear darlin', Miss Terasy, it's joy in the middle of my sorrow to set my eyes on you. Come up to my darlin' lady, it will do her heart good to see you, though she's nigh broken-hearted.”
I advised good Mrs. Kelly to break my arrival to my beloved friend, though as she returned in less than a minute, I feared she was not very careful in doing so.
“Come up, come up,” she cried.
I did so, and entered trembling into the bedroom of Lady Eustace. She was lying on a sofa half dressed, so pale and so altered by grief, that I should hardly, if unprepared, have recognised her dear, lovely, and cheerful countenance. She held out her arms to me, and in a moment clasped me to her bosom. Neither of us spoke for several minutes. At length she said, while tears streamed down her cheeks, “ My dear, kind Theresa, I could hardly have expected this, even from you."
It was a considerable time before she was restored to composure, and able to inform me in what way I could be most useful to her.
In accordance with the dying wish of Lord Eustace, he was buried in the country where he died. As soon as the last sad ceremony was over, and Lady Eustace was in a sufficiently composed state to travel, preparations were made for our return to England.
I exerted myself to the utmost for the comfort of her who deserved all the duty and affection it was in my humble power to bestow. She rallied a little a day or two after we bad landed at Dover, where we stopped a week. The evening before we left that place for town, Lady Eustace, drawing me towards her on the sofa, said, “ You need never leave me again, Theresa, unless you wish it.”
“ Never leave you again ?” I exclaimed ; while surprise, joy and gratitude almost overcame me. “Never leave you again? Oh!