Truly was there something high, generous, and noble in the native

composition of our poor old Hepzibah! Or else,--and it was quite as

probably the case,--she had been enriched by poverty, developed by

sorrow, elevated by the strong and solitary affection of her life, and

thus endowed with heroism, which never could have characterized her in

what are called happier circumstances. Through dreary years Hepzibah

had looked forward--for the most part despairingly, never with any

confidence of hope, but always with the feeling that it was her

brightest possibility--to the very position in which she now found

herself. In her own behalf, she had asked nothing of Providence but

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the opportunity of devoting herself to this brother, whom she had so

loved,--so admired for what he was, or might have been,--and to whom

she had kept her faith, alone of all the world, wholly, unfalteringly,

at every instant, and throughout life. And here, in his late decline,

the lost one had come back out of his long and strange misfortune, and

was thrown on her sympathy, as it seemed, not merely for the bread of

his physical existence, but for everything that should keep him morally

alive.

She had responded to the call. She had come forward,--our

poor, gaunt Hepzibah, in her rusty silks, with her rigid joints, and

the sad perversity of her scowl,--ready to do her utmost; and with

affection enough, if that were all, to do a hundred times as much!

There could be few more tearful sights,--and Heaven forgive us if a

smile insist on mingling with our conception of it!--few sights with

truer pathos in them, than Hepzibah presented on that first afternoon.

How patiently did she endeavor to wrap Clifford up in her great, warm

love, and make it all the world to him, so that he should retain no

torturing sense of the coldness and dreariness without! Her little

efforts to amuse him! How pitiful, yet magnanimous, they were!

Remembering his early love of poetry and fiction, she unlocked a

bookcase, and took down several books that had been excellent reading

in their day. There was a volume of Pope, with the Rape of the Lock in

it, and another of the Tatler, and an odd one of Dryden's Miscellanies,

all with tarnished gilding on their covers, and thoughts of tarnished

brilliancy inside. They had no success with Clifford. These, and all

such writers of society, whose new works glow like the rich texture of

a just-woven carpet, must be content to relinquish their charm, for

every reader, after an age or two, and could hardly be supposed to

retain any portion of it for a mind that had utterly lost its estimate

of modes and manners. Hepzibah then took up Rasselas, and began to

read of the Happy Valley, with a vague idea that some secret of a

contented life had there been elaborated, which might at least serve

Clifford and herself for this one day. But the Happy Valley had a

cloud over it.