I am the elder of the two daughters of Mary Fairfax, widow of Richard Fairfax, Esq., of Thornly Hall, Sussex. My mother was his second wife, a good deal younger than her husband and almost a contemporary of her stepson, the present owner of Thornly. The children of such a marriage fall between two generations. Our Thornly first cousins are old enough to be our uncles and aunts, and we are only just old enough to avoid being of the same age as our half-nephews and nieces at Thornly Hall. Mary and I used to tell each other that this, and the fact that my mother had been an only child, accounted for the lack of companions of our own age. But there were other reasons, simple enough though unknown to us then, why our lives were somewhat isolated.
My father must have been a delightful man. I regretted his early death profoundly, in an abstract reflective sort of way. I had none of the personal grief of remembrance, and my mother never mentioned him to her children. His death was the whole story of her after-life, and that life was sheathed in a complete silence. I think that much of her vitality and almost all her powers of expansion were buried with him. Her life was lived by routine, and I never remember to have seen her without a tired look on her thin beautiful