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The Ruined Family
by [?]

PART FIRST.

“HOW beautiful!” ejaculated Mary Graham, as she fixed her eyes intently on the western sky, rich with the many-coloured clouds of a brilliant sunset in June.

“Beautiful indeed!” responded her sister Anna.

“I could gaze on it for ever!” Ellen, a younger and more enthusiastic sister remarked, with fervent admiration. “Look, Ma! was ever anything more gorgeous than that pure white cloud, fringed with brilliant gold, and relieved by the translucent and sparkling sky beyond?”

“It is indeed very beautiful, Ellen,” Mrs. Graham replied. But there was an abstraction in her manner, that indicated, too plainly, that something weighed upon her mind.

“You don’t seem to enjoy a rich sunset as much as you used to do, Ma,” Anna said, for she felt the tone and manner in which her mother had expressed her admiration of the scene.

“You only think so, perhaps,” Mrs. Graham rejoined, endeavouring to arouse herself, and to feel interested in the brilliant exhibition of nature to which her daughter had alluded. “The scene is, indeed, very beautiful, Anna, and reminds me strongly of some of Wordsworth’s exquisite descriptions, so full of power to awaken the heart’s deepest and purest emotions. You all remember this:

“‘Calm is the evening air, and loth to lose
Day’s grateful warmth, though moist with falling dews
Look for the stars, you’ll say that there are none;
Look up a second time, and, one by one,
You mark them twinkling out with silvery light,
And wonder how they could elude the sight.'”

“And this:

“‘No sound is uttered,–but a deep
And solemn harmony pervades
The hollow vale from steep to steep,
And penetrates the glades.
Far distant images draw nigh,
Called forth by wondrous potency
Of beamy radiance, that imbues
Whate’er it strikes with gem-like hues!
In vision exquisitely clear,
Herds range along the mountain-side;
And glistening antlers are descried;
And gilded flocks appear.
Thine is the tranquil hour, purpureal Eve!
But long as god-like wish, or hope divine,
Informs my spirit, ne’er can I believe
That this magnificence is wholly thine!
From worlds not quickened by the sun
A portion of the gift is won.'”

“How calm and elevating to the heart, like the hour he describes,” Ellen said, in a musing tone, as she sat with her eyes fixed intently on the slow-fading glories of the many-coloured clouds.

The influence of the tranquil hour gradually subdued them into silence; and as the twilight began to fall, each sat in the enjoyment of a pure and refined pleasure, consequent upon a true appreciation of the beautiful in nature, combined with highly cultivated tastes, and innocent and elevated thoughts.

“There comes Pa, I believe,” Anna remarked, breaking the silence, as the hall door opened and then closed with a heavy jar; and the well-known sound of her father’s footsteps was heard along the passage and on the stairs.

None of her children observed the hushed intensity with which Mrs. Graham listened, as their father ascended to the chamber. But they noticed that she became silent and more thoughtful than at first. In about ten minutes she arose and left the room.

“Something seems to trouble Ma, of late,” Ellen observed, as soon as their mother had retired.

“So I have thought. She is certainly, to all appearance, less cheerful, “Mary replied.

“What can be the cause of it?”

“I hardly think there can be any very serious cause. We are none of us always in the same state of mind.”

“But I have noticed a change, in Ma, for some months past–and particularly in the last few weeks,” Anna said. “She is not happy.”

“I remember, now, that I overheard her, about six weeks ago, talking to Alfred about something–the company he kept, I believe–and that he seemed angry, and spoke to her, I thought, unkindly. Since that time she has not seemed so cheerful;” Ellen said.