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The Failing Hope
by [?]

“SHALL I read to you, ma?” said Emma Martin, a little girl, eleven years of age, coming up to the side of her mother, who sat in a musing attitude by the centre-table, upon which the servant had just placed a light.

Mrs. Martin did not seem to hear the voice of her child; for she moved not, nor was there any change in the fixed, dreamy expression of her face.

“Ma,” repeated the child, after waiting for a few moments, laying, at the same time, her head gently upon her mother’s shoulder.

“What, dear?” Mrs. Martin asked, in a tender voice, rousing herself up.

“Shall I read to you, ma?” repeated the child.

“No–yes, dear, you may read for me”–the mother said, and her tones were low, with something mournful in their expression.

“What shall I read, ma?”

“Get the Bible, dear, and read to me from that good book,” replied Mrs. Martin.

“I love to read in the Bible,” Emma said, as she brought to the centre-table that sacred volume, and commenced turning over its pages. She then read chapter after chapter, while the mother listened in deep attention, often lifting her heart upwards, and breathing a silent prayer. At last Emma grew tired with reading, and closed the book.

“It is time for you to go to bed, dear,” Mrs. Martin observed, as the little girl showed signs of weariness.

“Kiss me, ma,” the child said, lifting her innocent face to that of her mother, and receiving the token of love she asked. Then, breathing her gentle,

“Good-night!” the affectionate girl glided off, and retired to her chamber.

“Dear child!” Mrs. Martin murmured, as Emma left the room. “My heart trembles when I think of you, and look into the dark and doubtful future!”

She then leaned her head upon her hand, and sat in deep, and evidently painful abstraction of mind. Thus she remained for a long time, until aroused by the clock which struck the hour of ten.

With a deep sigh she arose, and commenced pacing the room backwards and forwards, pausing every now and then to listen to the sound of approaching footsteps, and moving on again as the sound went by. Thus she continued to walk until nigh eleven o’clock, when some one drew near, paused at the street door, and then opening it, came along the passage with a firm and steady step.

Mrs. Martin stopped, trembling in spite of herself, before the parlour door, which a moment after was swung open. One glance at the face of the individual who entered, convinced her that her solicitude had been unnecessary.

“Oh, James!” she said, the tears gushing from her eyes, in spite of a strong effort to compose herself,–“I am so glad that you have come!”

“Why are you so agitated, Emma?” her husband said, in some surprise, looking inquiringly into Mrs. Martin’s face.

“You staid out so late–and–you know I am foolish sometimes!” she replied, leaning her head down upon his shoulder, and continuing to weep.

A change instantly passed upon Mr. Martin’s countenance, and he stood still, for some time, his face wearing a grave thoughtful expression, while his wife remained with her head leaning upon him. At last he drew his arm tenderly around her, and said–

“Emma, I am a sober man.”

“Do not, dear James! speak of that. I am so happy now!”

“Yes, Emma, I will speak of it now.” And as he said so, he gently seated her upon the sofa, and took his place beside her.

“Emma”–he resumed, looking her steadily in the face. “I have resolved never again to touch the accursed cup that has so well-nigh destroyed our peace for ever.”

“Oh, James! What a mountain you have taken from my heart!” Mrs. Martin replied, the whole expression of her face changing as suddenly as a landscape upon which the sun shines from beneath an obscuring cloud. “I have had nothing to trouble me but that–yet that one trouble has seemed more than I could possibly bear.”