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The First Marriage In The Family
by [?]

“HOME!” How that little word strikes upon the heart strings, awakening all the sweet memories that had slept in memory’s chamber! Our home was a “pearl of price” among homes; not for its architectural elegance–for it was only a four gabled, brown country house, shaded by two antediluvian oak trees; nor was its interior crowded with luxuries that charm every sense and come from every clime. Its furniture had grown old with us, for we remembered no other; and though polished as highly as furniture could be, by daily scrubbing, was somewhat the worse for wear, it must be confessed.

But neither the house nor its furnishing makes the home; and the charm of ours lay in the sympathy that linked the nine that called it “home” to one another. Father, mother, and seven children–five of them gay-hearted girls, and two boys, petted just enough to be spoiled–not one link had ever dropped from the chain of love, or one corroding drop fallen, upon its brightness.

“One star differeth from another in glory,” even in the firmament of home. Thus–though we could not have told a stranger which sister or brother was dearest–from our gentlest “eldest,” an invalid herself, but the comforter and counsellor of all beside, to the curly-haired boy, who romped and rejoiced in the appellation of “baby,” given five years before–still an observing eye would soon have singled out sister Ellen as the sunbeam of our heaven, the “morning star” of our constellation. She was the second in age, but the first in the inheritance of that load of responsibility, which in such a household falls naturally upon the eldest daughter. Eliza, as I have said, was ill from early girlhood; and Ellen had shouldered all her burden of care and kindness, with a light heart and a lighter step. Up stairs and down cellar, in the parlour, nursery, or kitchen–at the piano or the wash-tub–with pen, pencil, needle, or ladle–sister Ellen was always busy, always with a smile on her cheek and a warble on her lip.

Quietly, happily, the months and years went by. We never realized that change was to come over our band. To be sure, when mother would look in upon us, seated together with our books, paintings, and needle-work, and say, in her gentle way, with only a half-sigh, “Ah, girls, you are living your happiest days!” we would glance into each other’s eyes, and wonder who would go first. But it was a wonder that passed away with the hour, and ruffled not even the surface of our sisterly hearts. It could not be always so–and the change came at last!

Sister Ellen was to be married!

It was like the crash of a thunderbolt in a clear summer sky! Sister Ellen–the fairy of the hearthstone, the darling of every heart–which of us could spare her? Who had been so presumptuous as to find out her worth? For the first moment, this question burst from each surprised, half-angry sister of the blushing, tearful, Ellen! It was only for a moment; for our hearts told us that nobody could help loving her, who had looked through her loving blue eyes, into the clear well-spring of the heart beneath. So we threw our arms around her and sobbed without a word!

We knew very well that the young clergyman, whose Sunday sermons and gentle admonitions had won all hearts, had been for months a weekly visiter to our fireside circle. With baby Georgie on his knee, and Georgie’s brothers and sisters clustered about him, he had sat through many an evening charming the hours away, until the clock startled us with its unwelcome nine o’clock warning; and the softly spoken reminder, “Girls, it is bed-time!” woke more than one stifled sigh of regret. Then sister Ellen must always go with us to lay Georgie in his little bed; to hear him and Annette repeat the evening prayer and hymn her lips had taught them; to comb out the long brown braids of Emily’s head; to rob Arthur of the story book, over which be would have squandered the “midnight oil;” and to breathe a kiss and a blessing over the pillow of each other sister, as she tucked the warm blankets tenderly about them.