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Maria

Chapter 8
"I HAVE perhaps dwelt too long on a circumstance, which is only of importance
as it marks the progress of a deception that has been so fatal to my peace; and
introduces to your notice a poor girl, whom, intending to serve, I led to ruin. Still it
is probable that I was not entirely the victim of mistake; and that your father,
gradually fashioned by the world, did not quickly become what I hesitate to call
him--out of respect to my daughter.
"But, to hasten to the more busy scenes of my life. Mr. Venables and my
mother died the same summer; and, wholly engrossed by my attention to her, I
thought of little else. The neglect of her darling, my brother Robert, had a violent
effect on her weakened mind; for, though boys may be reckoned the pillars of the
house without doors, girls are often the only comfort within. They but too
frequently waste their health and spirits attending a dying parent, who leaves
them in comparative poverty. After closing, with filial piety, a father's eyes, they
are chased from the paternal roof, to make room for the first-born, the son, who
is to carry the empty family-name down to posterity; though, occupied with his
own pleasures, he scarcely thought of discharging, in the decline of his parent's
life, the debt contracted in his childhood. My mother's conduct led me to make
these reflections. Great as was the fatigue I endured, and the affection my
unceasing solicitude evinced, of which my mother seemed perfectly sensible,
still, when my brother, whom I could hardly persuade to remain a quarter of an
hour in her chamber, was with her alone, a short time before her death, she gave
him a little hoard, which she had been some years accumulating.
"During my mother's illness, I was obliged to manage my father's temper,
who, from the lingering nature of her malady, began to imagine that it was merely
fancy. At this period, an artful kind of upper servant attracted my father's
attention, and the neighbours made many remarks on the finery, not honestly
got, exhibited at evening service. But I was too much occupied with my mother to
observe any change in her dress or behaviour, or to listen to the whisper of
scandal.
"I shall not dwell on the death-bed scene, lively as is the remembrance, or on
the emotion produced by the last grasp of my mother's cold hand; when blessing
me, she added, 'A little patience, and all will be over!' Ah! my child, how often
have those words rung mournfully in my ears--and I have exclaimed--'A little
more patience, and I too shall be at rest!'
"My father was violently affected by her death, recollected instances of his
unkindness, and wept like a child.
"My mother had solemnly recommended my sisters to my care, and bid me be
a mother to them. They, indeed, became more dear to me as they became more
forlorn; for, during my mother's illness, I discovered the ruined state of my
father's circumstances, and that he had only been able to keep up appearances,
by the sums which he borrowed of my uncle.
"My father's grief, and consequent tenderness to his children, quickly abated,
the house grew still more gloomy or riotous; and my refuge from care was again
at Mr. Venables'; the young 'squire having taken his father's place, and allowing,
 
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