In the Heart of the Rockies

#Fiction #Classics
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Excerpt CHAPTER I TOM'S CHOICE "I can be of no use here, Carry. What am I good for? Why, I could not earn money enough to pay for my own food, even if we knew anyone who would help me to get a clerkship. I am too young for it yet. I would rather go before the mast than take a place in a shop. I am too young even to enlist. I know just about as much as other boys at school, and I certainly have no talent anyway, as far as I can see at present. I can sail a boat, and I won the swimming prize a month ago, and the sergeant who gives us lessons in single-stick and boxing says that he considers me his best pupil with the gloves, but all these things put together would not bring me in sixpence a week. I don't want to go away, and nothing would induce me to do so if I could be of the slightest use to you here. But can I be of any use? What is there for me to look forward to if I stay? I am sure that you would be always worrying over me if I did get some sort of situation that you would know father and mother would not have liked to see me in, and would seem to offer no chance for the future, whereas if I went out there it would not matter what I did, and anything I earned I could send home to you." The speaker was a lad of sixteen. He and his sister, who was two years his senior, were both dressed in deep mourning, and were sitting on a bench near Southsea Castle looking across to Spithead, and the Isle of Wight stretching away behind. They had three days before followed their mother to the grave, and laid her beside their father, a lieutenant of the navy, who had died two years before. This was the first time they had left the house, where remained their four sisters—Janet, who came between Carry and Tom; Blanche, who was fourteen; Lucie, twelve; and Harriet, eight. Tom had proposed the walk. "Come out for some fresh air, Carry," he had said. "You have been shut up for a month. Let us two go together;" and Carry had understood that he wanted a talk alone with her. There was need, indeed, that they should look the future in the face. Since Lieutenant Wade's death their means had been very straitened. Their mother had received a small pension as his widow, and on this, eked out by drafts reluctantly drawn upon the thousand pounds she had brought him on her marriage, which had been left untouched during his lifetime, they had lived since his death. Two hundred pounds had been drawn from their little capital, and the balance was all that now remained. It had long been arranged that Carry and Janet should go out as governesses as soon as they each reached the age of eighteen, but it was now clear that Carry must remain at home in charge of the young ones. That morning the two girls had had a talk together, and had settled that, as Janet was too young to take even the humblest place as a governess, they would endeavour to open a little school, and so, for the present at any rate, keep the home together. Carry could give music lessons, for she was already an excellent pianist, having been well taught by her mother, who was an accomplished performer, and Janet was sufficiently advanced to teach young girls....
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