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Man and Wife

Prologue -- The Irish Marriage
Part First.
The Villa At Hampstead
I
ON a summer's morning, between thirty and forty years ago, two girls were crying
bitterly in the cabin of an East Indian passenger ship, bound outward, from Gravesend to
Bombay.
They were both of the same age--eighteen. They had both, from childhood upward, been
close and dear friends at the same school. They were now parting for the first time--and
parting, it might be, for life.
The name of one was Blanche. The name of the other was Anne.
Both were the children of poor parents, both had been pupil-teachers at the school; and
both were destined to earn their own bread. Personally speaking, and socially speaking,
these were the only points of resemblance between them.
Blanche was passably attractive and passably intelligent, and no more. Anne was rarely
beautiful and rarely endowed. Blanche's parents were worthy people, whose first
consideration was to secure, at any sacrifice, the future well-being of their child. Anne's
parents were heartless and depraved. Their one idea, in connection with their daughter,
was to speculate on her beauty, and to turn her abilities to profitable account.
The girls were starting in life under widely different conditions. Blanche was going to
India, to be governess in the household of a Judge, under care of the Judge's wife. Anne
was to wait at home until the first opportunity offered of sending her cheaply to Milan.
There, among strangers, she was to be perfected in the actress's and the singer's art; then
to return to England, and make the fortune of her family on the lyric stage.
Such were the prospects of the two as they sat together in the cabin of the Indiaman
locked fast in each other's arms, and crying bitterly. The whispered farewell talk
exchanged between them--exaggerated and impulsive as girls' talk is apt to be--came
honestly, in each case, straight from the heart.
"Blanche! you may be married in India. Make your husband bring you back to England."
"Anne! you may take a dislike to the stage. Come out to India if you do."
"In England or out of England, married or not married, we will meet, darling--if it's years
hence--with all the old love between us; friends who help each other, sisters who trust
each other, for life! Vow it, Blanche!"
"I vow it, Anne!"
"With all your heart and soul?"
"With all my heart and soul!"
 
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