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A week later when James Morris breathed his last, Jack found himself, at the early age of 22, in the highly responsible position of guardian to a very pretty girl of 17, and to her sister, a baby in
The brother was apprenticed and well looked after. The question of how to dispose of the baby was finally settled by an aunt in England, who offered to take charge of her, if the elder sister Ethel would bring her home.
“I cannot offer you a home," wrote Miss Araminta Morris, “as I neither liked nor approved of your mother, and my brother has often said in his letters how much you resembled her. If you had taken after your dear father, I might have found you some work to do here. I always considered your mother frivolous and worldly minded and never could understand how my brother could be so led away by a pretty face. Your stepmother I never knew, but from all accounts she does not seem to. have been much better than your own mother.”
After receiving this letter, Ethel declared that she would rather beg her bread than depend on the so-called charity of any relations.
So she started for England with the baby, determined to seek a situation companion or nursery governess when she had fulfilled her charge.
dull old cathedral town where her father's
prim maiden sister resided. lady evidently much given to good works, who spent her spare time in back-biting her neighbours, a not altogether uncommon type. Even if Ethel had not already determined to seek her own fortune, nothing would have persuaded her to accept any help from Miss Araminta. She delivered her little sister into her safe custody and went to stay with an elderly cousin of Jack's until such time as she could find suitable employment.
Guardian and Ward.
JACK left alone in Ceylon to wind up the affairs of the estate, found himself often thinking of the pretty face of his ward, and wondering what would become of her. When at last all was settled, he found himself possessed of a nice little sum of money. With this he determined to go “ home" to Heather-sea and buy a grocer's business.
Night and day the thought of the responsibility of his guardianship weighed upon him. How could he, so young a man
in any way help and advise Ethel. The only way he could see out of it was to ask her to come and keep house for him in the capacity of his wife. True he hardly knew the owner of the pretty face, but he felt sure she would make a good wife, and had proved her sterling qualities during the trouble she had been through since he had met her. She was well used to hard work, but had always lived an utterly independent life, free from all restraint and unfettered by the trammels of society. He was certain she would be impatient of the endless petty annoyances which she must meet in any sort of service. Though it might be good for her from an ethical point of view, he could not bear to think of that wild hawklike nature, with its spirit broken,
tamed to submission.