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The Battle of Life. Charles Dickens

′And when the time comes, as it must one day,′ said Alfred, - ′I wonder it has never come yet, but Grace knows best, for Grace is always right - when SHE will want a friend to open her whole heart to, and to be to her something of what she has been to us - then, Marion, how faithful we will prove, and what delight to us to know that she, our dear good sister, loves and is loved again, as we would have her!′

Still the younger sister looked into her eyes, and turned not - even towards him. And still those honest eyes looked back, so calm, serene, and cheerful, on herself and on her lover.

′And when all that is past, and we are old, and living (as we must!) together - close together - talking often of old times,′ said Alfred - ′these shall be our favourite times among them - this day most of all; and, telling each other what we thought and felt, and hoped and feared at parting; and how we couldn′t bear to say good bye - ′

′Coach coming through the wood!′ cried Britain.

′Yes! I am ready - and how we met again, so happily in spite of all; we′ll make this day the happiest in all the year, and keep it as a treble birth-day. Shall we, dear?′

′Yes!′ interposed the elder sister, eagerly, and with a radiant smile. ′Yes! Alfred, don′t linger. There′s no time. Say good bye to Marion. And Heaven be with you!′

He pressed the younger sister to his heart. Released from his embrace, she again clung to her sister; and her eyes, with the same blended look, again sought those so calm, serene, and cheerful.

′Farewell, my boy!′ said the Doctor. ′To talk about any serious correspondence or serious affections, and engagements and so forth, in such a - ha ha ha! - you know what I mean - why that, of course, would be sheer nonsense. All I can say is, that if you and Marion should continue in the same foolish minds, I shall not object to have you for a son-in-law one of these days.′

′Over the bridge!′ cried Britain.

′Let it come!′ said Alfred, wringing the Doctor′s hand stoutly. ′Think of me sometimes, my old friend and guardian, as seriously as you can! Adieu, Mr. Snitchey! Farewell, Mr. Craggs!′

′Coming down the road!′ cried Britain.

′A kiss of Clemency Newcome for long acquaintance′ sake! Shake hands, Britain! Marion, dearest heart, good bye! Sister Grace! remember!′

The quiet household figure, and the face so beautiful in its serenity, were turned towards him in reply; but Marion′s look and attitude remained unchanged.

The coach was at the gate. There was a bustle with the luggage. The coach drove away. Marion never moved.

′He waves his hat to you, my love,′ said Grace. ′Your chosen husband, darling. Look!′

The younger sister raised her head, and, for a moment, turned it. Then, turning back again, and fully meeting, for the first time, those calm eyes, fell sobbing on her neck.

′Oh, Grace. God bless you! But I cannot bear to see it, Grace! It breaks my heart.′

CHAPTER II - Part The Second

SNITCHEY AND CRAGGS had a snug little office on the old Battle Ground, where they drove a snug little business, and fought a great many small pitched battles for a great many contending parties.

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