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A Sorrowful Guest
by [?]


Dear Helen,–What do you say to our going to housekeeping together? I’m a very old bachelor, with many whims; but I’m your brother, and I don’t know that there was ever an act of Parliament that we should spend our lives on opposite shores of the Atlantic. The Athertons’ lease of our house is out next month, and I have a fancy for taking it myself. We will call it merely an experiment, if you like; but I’m tired of the way I live now. I’m growing gray, and I shall be dreadfully glad to see you. We will make a real home of it, and see something of each other; you must not ask for any more pathos than this. Pick up whatever you can to make the house look fine, but don’t feel in the least obliged to come, or put it off until the spring. Do just as you like. I hear the Duncans are coming home in October; perhaps you could take passage on the same steamer. I can’t believe it is three years since I went over last. Do you think we shall know each other?
“L’absence diminue les petits amours et augmente les grandes, comme le vent qui eteint les bougies et rallume la feu.”

I met that sentiment in a story I was reading to-day, and I thought it would seem very gallant and alluring if I put it into my letter. I think you will not be homesick here: you will find more friends than seems possible at first thought. I’m in a hurry to-day; but I’m none the less

Your very affectionate brother,

JOHN AINSLIE.

Boston, Aug. 2, 1877.

This was a letter which came to me one morning a year or two ago from my only brother. We had been separated most of the time since our childhood; for my father and mother both died then, and our home was broken up, as Jack was to be away at school and college. During the war he was fired with a love of his country and a longing for military glory, and entered the army with many of his fellow-students at Harvard. I was at school for a time, but afterwards went to live with an aunt, whose winter home was in Florence; and when Jack left the army he came to Europe to go on with his professional studies. He was most of the time in Dublin and London and Paris at the medical schools; but we were together a good deal, and he went off for several long journeys with my aunt and me before he went back to America. I always hoped that we might some day live together: but my aunt wished me never to leave her; for she was somewhat of an invalid, and had grown to depend on me more or less in many ways. She could not live in Boston, for the climate did not suit her. If Jack and I had not written each other so often, we should have drifted far apart; but, as it was, I think our love and friendship grew closer year by year. I should have begged him to come to live with me; but he was always in a hurry to get back to his own city and his own friends when he sometimes came over to pay us a visit in my aunt’s lifetime, and I knew he would not be contented in Florence.

At Aunt Alice’s death I went on with the same old life for a time from force of habit; and it was just then, when I was with some friends in the Tyrol, and had been wondering what plans I should make for the winter,–whether to go to Egypt again, or to have some English friends come to me in Florence,–that Jack’s letter came. I was only too glad that he made the proposal, and I could not resist sending him a cable despatch to say, “Hurrah!” I had not realized before how lonely and adrift I had felt since Aunt Alice died. I had a host of kind friends; but there is nothing like being with one’s own kindred, and having one’s own home. It was very hard work to say so many good-byes; and my heart had almost failed me when I saw some of my friends for, it might be, the last time, as some of them were old people. And, though I said over and over again that I should come back in a year or two, who could be certain that I should take up the dear familiar life again? But, though I had been so many long years away from dear old Boston, I never had been so glad in my life to catch sight of any city as I was that chilly, late October morning, when I came on deck, and somebody pointed out to me a dull glitter of something that looked higher and brighter than the land, and said it was the dome of the State House.