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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER VIII. "THE union."
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 Lydia had just then plenty of cause for anxiety; for that kind of anxiety which such a woman would feel. She was anxious about the gold she had been so carefully saving, putting by here a pound and there a pound, until the bank held a goodly sum sufficient to support her in comfort in the not very distant day when her residence in Warren's Grove would come to an end.  
Whenever Mrs. Bell died, Lydia knew she must look out for a fresh home, and that day could surely now not be very distant.
The old woman had seen her eighty-fifth birthday. Death must be near one so feeble, who was also eighty-five years of age. Lydia would be comfortably off when Mrs. Bell died, and she often reflected with satisfaction that this money, as she enjoyed it, need trouble her with no qualms of conscience—it was all the result of hard work, of patient industry. In her position she could have been dishonest, and it would be untrue to deny that the temptation to be dishonest when no one would be the wiser, when not a soul could possibly ever know, had come to her more than once. But she had never yet yielded to the temptation. "No, no," she had said to her own heart, "I will enjoy my money by and by with clean hands. It shall be good money. I'm a hard woman, but nothing mean nor unclean shall touch me." Lydia made these resolves most often sitting by Mercy's grave. For week after week did she visit this little grave, and kept it bright with flowers and green with all the love her heart could ever know.
But all the same it was about this money which surely she had a right to enjoy, and feel secure and happy in possessing, that Lydia was so anxious now.
She had ground for her fears. As I said before Lydia Purcell had once done a foolish thing. Now her folly was coming home to her. She had been tempted to invest two hundred pounds in an unlimited company. Twenty per cent. she was to receive for this money. This twenty per cent. tempted her. She did the deed, thinking that for a year or two she was safe enough.
But this very morning she had been made uneasy by a letter from Mr. Preston, her own and Mrs. Bell's man of business.
He knew she had invested this money. She had done so against his will.
He told her that ugly rumors were afloat about this very company. And if it went, all Lydia's money, all the savings of her life would be swept away in its downfall.
When he called, which he did that same morning, he could but confirm her fears.
Yes, he would try and sell out for her. He would go to London for the purpose that very day.
Lydia, anxious about her golden calf, the one idol of her life, was not a pleasant mistress of the farm. She was never particularly kind to the children; but now, for the next few days, she was rough and hard to everyone who came within her reach.
The dairymaid and the cook received sharp words, which, fortunately for themselves, they were powerful enough to return with interest. Poor old Mrs. Bell cowered lonely and sad by her fireside. Now and then she asked querulously for Mercy, but no Mercy, real or imaginary, ever came near her; and then her old mind would wander off from the land of Beulah, where she really lived, right across to the Celestial City at the other side of the river. Mrs. Bell was too old and too serene to be rendered really unhappy by Lydia's harsh ways! Her feet were already on the margin of the river, and earth's discords had scarcely power to touch her.
But those who did suffer, and suffer most from Lydia's bad temper, were the children.
They were afraid to stay in her presence. The weather had suddenly turned cold, wet, and wintry. Cecile dared not take Maurice out into the sleet showers which were falling about every ten minutes. All the bright and genial weather had departed. Their happy days in the woods and fields ............
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