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of the old lady, had not only indulged their weaknesses, and forbade any correction of their errors, but had introduced them into all her parties; so that their little heads were filled with the love of dress and visiting.
The death of their father in India, and the return of their mother, after an absence of six years, suddenly put a stop to these injudicious plans; and Susan and Ann had been under their mother's care about three months, when the preceding dialogue took place.
Mrs. Spencer was a woman of too sincere piety, and too good an understanding, to allow her grief, deep as it was, for her departed husband, to interfere with her duties towards her children. She knew that the best test she could give of affection to his memory, was to render them worthy of his name, and, if possible, inheritors of *his virtues. She loved them with the tenderest affection, but she was not blind to their faults; and whilst she strove to gain their confidence, she endeavoured, by gentle means, to counteract their foibles.
Whilst she was endeavouring to arrange her plans, she received an invitation from her cousin, Mr. Wilmot, an elderly gentleman, and the guardian of her children, to pay him a visit of some months; and knowing that she should receive from him that advice and co-operation, which long experience, a sound judgment, and a well-informed mind could bestow, she hesitated not to accept so desirable a proposal.
On the following morning the party left Brook-street, and in a few days reached the place of their destination, without the occurrence of any material incident on the road. They were received with the hospitality and politeness inseparable from benevolence and good-breeding; and even Susan and Ann, prejudiced as they were, could not help silently allowing, that he was neither quite so ugly, nor so old-fashioned, as they expected.
The evening passed cheerfully in detailing the little events of their journey; and when, as their cousin took them by the hand, in bidding them good night, he kindly said, "I have known both your parents from infancy, and hope that I shall find, on further acquaintance, that you, my dear girls, are equally worthy of my love," they involuntarily dropped their best curtseys, and returned his salutation with their most good-humoured smiles.
Mr. Wilmot was fond of children, and he devised many schemes for Susan's and Ann's amusement. "When we are become better known to each other," said he to Mrs. Spencer, "I shall submit some plans for their instruction; till then, allow me to dissipate the gloomy ideas that, I dare say, have crept into their minds, from the notion of visiting a recluse old man." And so completely did he succeed, that, in a few weeks, the two girls wondered that they could ever have imagined such an agreeable visit could be a dull one.
The summer was no^ in its beauty, and a party was proposed for an excursion on the water. Mr. Wilmot, who had entered into more company since the arrival of his relations, readily acquiesced in the invitation of a neighbouring family, that he and the ladies should partake of the proposed pleasure. The little girls anticipated with youthful impatience the happy morning; and scarcely had day-light entered their chamber, when, jumping out of bed, they drew aside their curtains, in the hope of beholding a resplendent day; and their disappointment was extreme, in finding it pouring with rain, without the slightest prospect of its cessation.
With heavy hearts they descended to the breakfast-table; and after watching for some time the continued pattering of the rain, Susan at last exclaimed, "How mortifying! I cannot think what we shall do with ourselves to-day." Mr. Wilmot smiled, and said, "I hope, my dear, all our stores of amusement are not exhausted, even though the elements are unpropitious to our excursion. When you have finished your bread and butter, I fancy this key (drawing at the same time one from his pocket,) will unlock some little store of entertainment.
"Oh, Sir, we will be ready in a few minutes," said the girls, brightening up at this intelligence; and eagerly dispatching the remains of their meal, they followed their kind cousin through the hall, till he stopped at an oaken door, to which he applied the key; and in an instant they found themselves within a spacious and handsome Picture Gallery.
"Stop, stop, my dears," cried Mr. Wilmot, in answer to the girls' repeated enquiries: "one question, if you please, at a time. What did you say, Ann?"
"J. was wondering, Sir," answered Ann, "that you should have, amongst this beautiful collection of paintings, an engraving of London Bridge: I have passed over it repeatedly, and never saw any thing remarkable in it."
"Perhaps not, my dear," said Mr. Wilmot; "but might not this proceed from your ignorance of the events connected with it. For my own part, I never cross it without musing on the 'mighty past,' and contrasting the eventful scenes that have taken place either upon it, or in its immediate vicinity, with the present happy state of commercial bustle and national peace."
"And pray, Sir, what were those events?" asked Ann: "when did they take place, and when was the bridge built? If it is not too much trouble, perhaps you will have the kind