"You took me up a tender flower." ________________________________________ Mrs. Meridith was the heiress of two considerable estates, one of which was in Sussex, on which she was born, and where, at the commencement of this history, she came to reside: her earliest and happiest days of childhood had been spent in the village adjoining, where she was nursed by a respectable farmer's wife, having had the misfortune to lose her mother, who died in[Pg 2] bringing her into the world. Various sorrows, and the loss of an affectionate husband very early in life, made Mrs. Meridith prefer the quiet scenes of the country to the glitter of dissipation, or the more uniform amusements of a provincial town; and on entering Rosewood, the name of her estate, she hoped to lose the remembrance of her distresses, which had hitherto heavily oppressed her, in endeavouring to alleviate those of her tenants and the neighbouring poor. Her father, Mr. Woodville, was a great fox-hunter, and on the death of his wife, which he did not feel so keenly as might be expected from the amiable character she possessed, earnestly entreated Mrs. Campbell, who was the wife of his favourite tenant, to take charge of the helpless infant. He could have wished she had been a boy, as she was his only child; "yet," said he, "she must be taken care of, though a female, and I will not injure the fortune to which[Pg 3] she will be entitled; and by and by, when she is old enough, I shall be glad to see her at the head of my table;" but while she was a baby, he thought if he entrusted her to a careful nurse, such as he was sure Mrs. Campbell would be, it was all that could be required of him. Nor was he desirous of having her in his own house, but perfectly satisfied that she should be removed to the farm, where he could see her as often as he wished. He frequently called on his return from the chace, and repeated his thanks to Mrs. Campbell for her kind attention to his child, earnestly requesting her not to want any thing which his house afforded; but Mr. and Mrs. Campbell were above want, and possessed every comfort which their moderate wishes required, so that, except the allotted stipend which Mr. Woodville engaged to pay, she sought no other recompence, and seldom went to Rosewood, but when its owner was confined by accident or illness, and[Pg 4] wished his daughter to be brought to him.