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|True Riches||T.S. Arthur|
|Page 2 of 6||
And so Fanny Elder grew up to womanhood, in the full belief that she was the child of Mr. and Mrs. Claire. The new trial through which this excellent couple were now to pass, the reader can easily imagine. The time had come when Fanny must know the real truth in regard to herself--must be told that she had no natural claim upon the love of those whose love she prized above all things.
It seemed cruel to take away the conscious right to love and be loved, which had so long blessed her. And yet the truth must now be made known, and Mrs. Claire took upon herself the task of breaking it as gently as possible.
A woman in age and stature, yet with all the gentle deference of a daughter, Fanny moved by the side of Mrs. Claire with a loving thoughtfulness, daily sharing her household duties. Some months before she had left school, but was still taking lessons in music and French, and devoting a portion of time to practice in drawing, for which she had a decided taste.
On the day after Mr. Claire's interview with Jasper, Mrs. Claire said to Fanny, with a seriousness of tone and manner that brought a look of surprise to her face--
"Come to my room with me, dear. I have something to say to you."
Fanny moved along by her side, wondering to herself what could be in her mother's mind. On entering the chamber, Mrs. Claire shut the door, and then, as she sat down, with an arm around the young girl's waist, she said, in a thoughtful, earnest voice--
"Fanny, I want you to tell me the first thing you recollect in life."
"The first thing, mother?" She smiled at a request so unexpected, and Mrs. Claire smiled in return, though from a different cause.
"Yes, dear. I have a reason for asking this. Now, let your thoughts run back--far back, and recall for me the very first thing you can recollect."
The countenance of Fanny grew thoughtful, then serious, and then a half-frightened look flashed over it.
"Why, mother," said she, "what can you mean? What do you want to know?"
"Your first recollection, dear?" returned Mrs. Claire, with an assuring smile, although her heart was full, and it required the most active self-control to prevent her feelings from becoming manifest in her voice.
"Well, let me see! The first? The first? I was playing on the floor with a dear little baby? It was our Edie, wasn't it?"
"Yes--so far your memory is correct. I remember the time to which you refer as perfectly as if but a week had passed. Now, dear, try if you can recall any thing beyond that."
"Beyond that, mother? Oh, why do you ask? You make me feel so strangely. Can it be that some things I have thought to be only the memory of dreams, are indeed realities?"
"What are those things, my child?"
"I have a dim remembrance of a pale, but beautiful woman who often kissed and caressed me--of being in a sick-room--of a strange confusion in the house--of riding in a carriage with father to a funeral. Mother! is there any thing in this; if so, what does it mean?"
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