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At that moment a little accident supervened, which seemed
decreed by fate purposely to prove the truth of the adage, that
‘misfortunes never come singly,’ and to add to their distresses the
vexing one of the slip between the cup and the lip. St. John passed
the window reading a letter. He entered.
‘Our uncle John is dead,’ said he.
Both the sisters seemed struck: not shocked or appalled; the tidings
appeared in their eyes rather momentous than afflicting.
‘Dead?’ repeated Diana.
‘Yes.’ She riveted a searching gaze on her brother’s face. ‘And what
then?’ she demanded, in a low voice.
‘What then, Die?’ he replied, maintaining a marble immobility of
feature. ‘What then? Why-nothing. Read.’ He threw the letter into
her lap. She glanced over it, and handed it to Mary.
Mary perused it in silence, and returned it to her brother. All three
looked at each other, and all three smiled-a dreary, pensive smile
‘Amen! We can yet live,’ said Diana at last.
‘At any rate, it makes us no worse off than we were before,’
‘Only it forces rather strongly on the mind the picture of what
might have been; said Mr. Rivers, ‘and contrasts it somewhat too
vividly with what is.’
He folded the letter, locked it in his desk, and again went out.
For some minutes no one spoke. Diana then turned to me.
‘Jane, you will wonder at us and our mysteries,’ she said, ‘and
think us hardhearted beings not to be more moved at the death of
so near a relation as an uncle; but we have never seen him or
known him. He was my mother’s brother. My father and he
quarrelled long ago. It was by his advice that my father risked
most of his property in the speculation that ruined him. Mutual
recrimination passed between them: they parted in anger, and
were never reconciled. My uncle engaged afterwards in more
prosperous undertakings: it appears he realised a fortune of twenty
thousand pounds. He was never married, and had no near kindred
but ourselves and one other person, not more closely related than
we. My father always cherished the idea that he would atone for
his error by leaving his possessions to us; that letter informs us that
he has bequeathed every penny to the other relation, with the
exception of thirty guineas, to be divided between St. John, Diana,
and Mary Rivers, for the purchase of three mourning rings. He had
a right, of course, to do as he pleased: and yet a momentary damp
is cast on the spirits by the receipt of such news. Mary and I would
have esteemed ourselves rich with a thousand pounds each; and to