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plans, which she thought so wicked, went out all of a sudden, in a certain dull amaze and dismay, to which no words could give any expression. Such was the second inconceivable reverse of fortune which happened to Miss Marjoribanks, more unexpected, more incomprehensible still than the other, in the very midst of her most important activities and hopes.
When the first whisper of the way in which she was — as people say—" left," reached Lucilla, her first feeling was incredulity. It was conveyed to her by aunt Jemima, who came to her in her room after the funeral with a face blanched with dismay. Miss Marjoribanks took it for grief; and, though she did not look for so much feeling from Mrs John, was pleased and comforted that her aunt should really lament her poor papa. It was a compliment which, in the softened and sorrowful state of Lucilla's mind, went to her heart. Aunt Jemima came up and kissed her in a hasty excited way, which showed genuine and spontaneous emotion, and was not like the solemn pomp with which sympathising friends generally embrace a mourner; and then she made Lucilla sit down by the fire and held her hands. "My poor child," said aunt Jemima—" my poor, dear, sacrificed child! you know, Lucilla, how fond I am of you, and you can always come to me"
"Thank you, dear aunt Jemima," said Miss Marjoribanks, though she was a little puzzled. "You are the only relative I have, and I knew you would not forsake me. What should I do without you at such a time? I am sure it is what dear papa would have wished"
"Lucilla," cried Mrs John, impulsively, "I know it is natural yon should cry for your father; but when you know all,—you that never knew what it was to be without money—that never were straitened even, or obliged to give up things, like most other young women. Oh, my dear, they said I was to prepare you, but how can I prepare you? I feel as if I never could forgive my brother-in-law; that he should bring you up like this, and then"
"What is it?" said Miss Marjoribanks, drying her tears. "If it is anything new, tell me, but don't speak so of—of What is it? say it right out."
"Lucilla," said aunt Jemima, solemnly, "you think you have a great deal of courage, and now is your time to show it. He has left you without a farthing— he that was always thought to be so rich. It is quite true what I am saying. He has gone and died and left nothing, Lucilla. Now I have told you; and oh, my poor, dear, injured child," cried Mrs John, with fervour, "as long as I have a home there will be room in it for you."
But Lucilla put her aunt away softly when she was about to fall upon her neck. Miss Marjoribanks was struck dumb; her heart seemed to stop beating for the moment. "It is quite impossible—it cannot be true," she said, and gave a gasp to recover her breath. Then Mrs John came down upon her with facts, proving it to be true—showing how Dr Marjoribanks's money was invested, and how it had been lost. She made a terrible muddle of it, no doubt, but Lucilla was not very clear about business details any more than her aunt, and she did not move nor say a word while the long, involved, endless narrative went on. She kept saying it was impossible in her heart for half of the time, and then she crept nearer the fire and shivered, and said nothing even to herself, and did not even seem to listen, but knew that it must be true. It would be vain to attempt to say that it was not a terrible blow to Lucilla; her strength was weakened already by grief and solitude and want of food, for she could not find it in her heart to go on eating her ordinary meals as if nothing had happened; and all of a sudden she felt the cold seize her, and drew closer and closer to the fire. The thoughts which she had been thinking in spite of herself, and for which she had so greatly condemned herself, went out with a sudden distinctness, as if it had been a lamp going out and leaving the room in darkness, and a sudden sense of utter gloom and cold and bewildering uncertainty came over Lucilla. When she lifted her eyes from the fire, into which she had been gazing, it almost surprised her to find herself still in this warm room where there was every appliance for comfort, and where her entire wardrobe of new mourning—everything, as aunt Jemima said, that a woman could desire—was piled up on the bed. It was impossible that she could be a penniless creature, left on her own resources, without father or supporter or revenue; and yet—good heavens! could it be true? "If it is true, aunt Jemima," said Lucilla, "I must try to bear it; but my poor head feels all queer. I'd rather riot think any more about it to-night."
"How can you help thinking about it, Lucilla?" cried Mrs John. "I can think of nothing else; and I am not so much concerned as you."
Upon which Lucilla rose and kissed aunt Jemima, though her head was all confused and she had noises in her ears. "I don't think we are much like each other, you know," she said. "Did you hear how Mrs Chiley was? I am sure she will be very sorry;" and with that Miss Marjoribanks softened, and felt a little comforted, and cried again—not for the money, but for her father. "If you are going down-stairs, I think I will come down to tea, aunt Jemima," she said. But after Mrs John had gone away full of wonder at her philosophy, Lucilla drew close to the fire again