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Mr. Howard, and had been married previously to an officer in the East India Company's service, and her health had suffered much from a long residence in a hot climate. She had lost two children in India, and at Colonel Clifford's death, came to England to have a home for her only surviving child during his holidays. Frank Clifford obtained a cadetship, through the interest of some of his father's old friends, and sailed for India a few months after his mother's death, having promised to act a brother's part by the little Edith. He went to see her at school before he left England, and parted from her with a much happier heart after witnessing how affectionately the little girl was treated.
He always kept up a correspondence, first with Mrs. Sinclair, and, in later years, with his half-sister, but they had not met since, for having very limited means independent of his pay, he could not afford a journey to England, nor, indeed, excepting Edith, had he any near relations to induce him to do so.
Hating the melancholy of his desolate home, Mr. Howard resolved to let Harrington Court and go abroad for a year or two.
He wandered far and wide, and the charms of an ever-changing life, to one who felt homeless from having no dear one to make any place a home to him, were great for a time; but he was beginning to weary at last, when he became interested in a lady who, with her little girl about two years older than his own Edith, was residing at Naples. Mrs. Merton saw the favourable impression she had made, and, on due inquiry, thought the match would be deserving of her attention, so she soon discovered how to please Mr. Howard, and flattered him by appealing to his good sense and judgment to advise her respecting her darling Eleanor, lamenting, most pathetically, her desolate condition, without any one on whom to lean for help and guidance. This had the result she desired and intended, and so Mr. Howard's choice fell a second time on a widow, and he offered to become her authorized protector, and adviser for life. He soon found out that the lady intended to manage her own affairs and him too; however, he was an easy, goodnatured, and good-tempered man. She made him a very good wife, and he found her a
pleasant companion; he had no more trouble of housekeeping, and had a home again, though a foreign one, for Madame, except accompanying him a few times on his occasional visits to England to see his child, preferred a séjour abroad on her daughter's account, whom she placed, when old enough, at a French pension, that she might have every advantage and be fit, as her mother deemed, to fill the position of an heiress.
Mr. Howard, on looking into his affairs, found that they were in a very unsatisfactory state, and that living abroad would be conducive to restoring them to a better condition, so he satisfied himself with seeing Edith twice a year, sometimes taking her to spend a part of her holidays with him abroad, but generally at a cottage near Harrington, which
him the opportunity of looking after his estate. So Edith grew up, rarely seeing either her step-mother or half-brother and sister, but enjoying her holiday at Harrington extremely. The cottage where they always lodged belonged to her old nurse, who loved to wait on, and take care of, her former charge.
Mrs. Sinclair had well discharged her dying friend's request, and Edith, in return, loved her with all the warmth of her affectionate disposition, and felt the grief of parting very bitterly; also, knowing so little of her new relatives, she looked forward with fear and sadness to her permanent return to Harrington Court, where Mr. Howard had now come to take
his abode, his wife no longer having any objection, as her daughter's education was completed, and both liked the idea of keeping up plenty of society in a fine old country house.
When Edith retired to bed on the last evening of her happy school life, she felt scarcely able to control herself sufficiently to wish good night to her companions, and on reaching her room, threw herself into a chair, and laying her head on the bed, burst into tears, in which state she was found by Mrs. Sinclair, who had come up to give a few parting words of affectionate advice.
Edith, dearest child, you must not give way thus—indeed, you must not; it is wrong. This is not cheerfully obeying God's holy will in all things. Do you not remember our last Sunday evening's conversation, dearest ?"
Edith put her arms round her kind friend, and said
Oh, I know it is very weak and wrong, but to feel I shall not have you to come to in any trouble or sorrow! I know Mrs. Howard, or mamma, as I must call her, even if she is kind in some ways, can never help me like
But, Edith, dearest, you may always write to me of anything which only concerns yourself; your own doubts and fears, failings and weaknesses; and remember, above all, my child, that there is One who is ever near, to guide and keep you by His love. He, perhaps, takes you from your earthly friend, to teach you to lean on and trust in Him alone.”
By degrees, the young girl became calm, and tried to look forward to her new life with cheerfulness and hope.
The next morning she started at an early hour with a schoolfellow, whose father had promised to take charge of Edith also, to the station, where her family would meet her. The journey was long, and it was one of