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´╗┐Title: Mary Erskine
Author: Abbott, Jacob, 1803-1879
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mary Erskine" ***

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[Illustration: MARY ERSKINE'S FARM]


MARY ERSKINE


A Franconia Story,


BY THE AUTHOR OF THE ROLLO BOOKS.



NEW YORK: HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS. FRANKLIN SQUARE.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850, by HARPER &
BROTHERS, In the Clerk's Office for the Southern District of New York.



PREFACE.


The development of the moral sentiments in the human heart, in early
life,--and every thing in fact which relates to the formation of
character,--is determined in a far greater degree by sympathy, and
by the influence of example, than by formal precepts and didactic
instruction. If a boy hears his father speaking kindly to a robin in
the spring,--welcoming its coming and offering it food,--there arises
at once in his own mind, a feeling of kindness toward the bird,
sympathetic action, a power somewhat similar to what in physical
philosophy is called _induction_. On the other hand, if the
father, instead of feeding the bird, goes eagerly for a gun, in order
that he may shoot it, the boy will sympathize in that desire, and
growing up under such an influence, there will be gradually formed
within him, through the mysterious tendency of the youthful heart to
vibrate in unison with hearts that are near, a disposition to kill and
destroy all helpless beings that come within his power. There is no
need of any formal instruction in either case. Of a thousand children
brought up under the former of the above-described influences, nearly
every one, when he sees a bird, will wish to go and get crumbs to feed
it, while in the latter case, nearly every one will just as certainly
look for a stone. Thus the growing up in the right atmosphere, rather
than the receiving of the right instruction, is the condition which
it is most important to secure, in plans for forming the characters of
children.

It is in accordance with this philosophy that these stories, though
written mainly with a view to their moral influence on the hearts and
dispositions of the readers, contain very little formal exhortation
and instruction. They present quiet and peaceful pictures of happy
domestic life, portraying generally such conduct, and expressing such
sentiments and feelings, as it is desirable to exhibit and express in
the presence of children.

The books, however, will be found, perhaps, after all, to be useful
mainly in entertaining and amusing the youthful readers who may peruse
them, as the writing of them has been the amusement and recreation of
the author in the intervals of more serious pursuits.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER

I.--JEMMY

II.--THE BRIDE

III.--MARY ERSKINE'S VISITORS

IV.--CALAMITY

V.--CONSULTATIONS

VI.--MARY BELL IN THE WOODS

VII.--HOUSE-KEEPING

VIII.--THE SCHOOL

IX.--GOOD MANAGEMENT

X.--THE VISIT TO MARY ERSKINE'S



ENGRAVINGS.


MARY ERSKINE'S FARM--FRONTISPIECE.

CATCHING THE HORSE

THE LOG HOUSE

MARY BELL AT THE BROOK

THE WIDOW AND THE FATHERLESS

MRS. BELL

MARY BELL AND QUEEN BESS

MARY BELL GETTING BREAKFAST

THE SCHOOL

GOING TO COURT

THE STRAWBERRY PARTY



THE FRANCONIA STORIES.


ORDER OF THE VOLUMES.

MALLEVILLE.

WALLACE.

MARY ERSKINE.

MARY BELL.

BEECHNUT.

RODOLPHUS.

ELLEN LINN.

STUYVESANT.

CAROLINE.

AGNES.



SCENE OF THE STORY


The country in the vicinity of Franconia, at the North.


PRINCIPAL PERSONS


MARY ERSKINE.

ALBERT.

PHONNY and MALLEVILLE, cousins, residing at the house of Phonny's
mother.

MRS. HENRY, Phonny's mother.

ANTONIO BLANCHINETTE, a French boy, residing at Mrs. Henry's; commonly
called Beechnut.

MRS. BELL, a widow lady, living in the vicinity of Mrs. Henry's.

MARY BELL, her daughter.

MARY ERSKINE.



CHAPTER I.

JEMMY.


Malleville and her cousin Phonny generally played together at
Franconia a great part of the day, and at night they slept in two
separate recesses which opened out of the same room. These recesses
were deep and large, and they were divided from the room by curtains,
so that they formed as it were separate chambers: and yet the children
could speak to each other from them in the morning before they got up,
since the curtains did not intercept the sound of their voices. They
might have talked in the same manner at night, after they had gone to
bed, but this was against Mrs. Henry's rules.

One morning Malleville, after lying awake a few minutes, listening to
the birds that were singing in the yard, and wishing that the window
was open so that she could hear them more distinctly, heard Phonny's
voice calling to her.

"Malleville," said he, "are you awake?"

"Yes," said Malleville, "are you?"

"Yes," said Phonny, "I'm awake--but what a cold morning it is!"

It was indeed a cold morning, or at least a very _cool_ one.
This was somewhat remarkable, as it was in the month of June. But the
country about Franconia was cold in winter, and cool in summer. Phonny
and Malleville rose and dressed themselves, and then went down stairs.
They hoped to find a fire in the sitting-room, but there was none.

"How sorry I am," said Phonny. "But hark, I hear a roaring."

"Yes," said Malleville; "it is the oven; they are going to bake."

The back of the oven was so near to the partition wall which formed
one side of the sitting-room, that the sound of the fire could be
heard through it. The mouth of the oven however opened into
another small room connected with the kitchen, which was called the
baking-room. The children went out into the baking-room, to warm
themselves by the oven fire.

"I am very glad that it is a cool day," said Phonny, "for perhaps
mother will let us go to Mary Erskine's. Should not you like to go?"

"Yes," said Malleville, "very much. Where is it?"

The readers who have perused the preceding volumes of this series
will have observed that Mary Bell, who lived with her mother in the
pleasant little farm-house at a short distance from the village, was
always called by her full name, Mary Bell, and not ever, or scarcely
ever, merely Mary. People had acquired the habit of speaking of her in
this way, in order to distinguish her from another Mary who lived with
Mrs. Bell for several years. This other Mary was Mary Erskine. Mary
Erskine did not live now at Mrs. Bell's, but at another house which
was situated nearly two miles from Mrs. Henry's, and the way to it
was by a very wild and unfrequented road. The children were frequently
accustomed to go and make Mary Erskine a visit; but it was so long a
walk that Mrs. Henry never allowed them to go unless on a very cool
day.

At breakfast that morning Phonny asked his mother if that would not be
a good day for them to go and see Mary Erskine. Mrs. Henry said that
it would be an excellent day, and that she should be very glad to have
them go, for there were some things there to be brought home. Besides
Beechnut was going to mill, and he could carry them as far as Kater's
corner.

Kater's corner was a place where a sort of cart path, branching off
from the main road, led through the woods to the house where Mary
Erskine lived. It took its name from a farmer, whose name was Kater,
and whose house was at the corner where the roads diverged. The main
road itself was very rough and wild, and the cart path which led from
the corner was almost impassable in summer, even for a wagon, though
it was a very romantic and beautiful road for travelers on horseback
or on foot. In the winter the road was excellent: for the snow buried
all the roughness of the way two or three feet deep, and the teams
which went back and forth into the woods, made a smooth and beautiful
track for every thing on runners, upon the top of it.

Malleville and Phonny were very much pleased with the prospect of
riding a part of the way to Mary Erskine's, with Beechnut, in the
wagon. They made themselves ready immediately after breakfast, and
then went and sat down upon the step of the door, waiting for Beechnut
to appear. Beechnut was in the barn, harnessing the horse into the
wagon.

Malleville sat down quietly upon the step while waiting for Beechnut.
Phonny began to amuse himself by climbing up the railing of the
bannisters, at the side of the stairs. He was trying to poise himself
upon the top of the railing and then to work himself up the ascent
by pulling and pushing with his hands and feet against the bannisters
themselves below.

"I wish you would not do that," said Malleville. "I think it is very
foolish, for you may fall and hurt yourself."

"No," said Phonny. "It is not foolish. It is very useful for me to
learn to climb." So saying he went on scrambling up the railing of the
bannisters as before.

Just then Beechnut came along through the yard, towards the house. He
was coming for the whip.

"Beechnut," said Malleville, "I wish that you would speak to Phonny."

"_Is_ it foolish for me to learn to climb?" asked Phonny. In
order to see Beechnut while he asked this question, Phonny had to
twist his head round in a very unusual position, and look out under
his arm. It was obvious that in doing this he was in imminent danger
of falling, so unstable was the equilibrium in which he was poised
upon the rail.

"Is not he foolish?" asked Malleville.

Beechnut looked at him a moment, and then said, as he resumed his walk
through the entry,

"Not very;--that is for a boy. I have known boys sometimes to do
foolisher things than that."

"What did they do?" asked Phonny.

"Why once," said Beechnut, "I knew a boy who put his nose into the
crack of the door, and then took hold of the latch and pulled the
door to, and pinched his nose to death. That was a _little_ more
foolish, though not much."

So saying Beechnut passed through the door and disappeared.

Phonny was seized with so violent a convulsion of laughter at the idea
of such absurd folly as Beechnut had described, that he tumbled off
the bannisters, but fortunately he fell _in_, towards the stairs,
and was very little hurt. He came down the stairs to Malleville, and
as Beechnut returned in a few minutes with the whip, they all went out
towards the barn together.

Beechnut had already put the bags of grain into the wagon behind,
and now he assisted Phonny and Malleville to get in. He gave them the
whole of the seat, in order that they might have plenty of room, and
also that they might be high up, where they could see. He had a small
bench which was made to fit in, in front, and which he was accustomed
to use for himself, as a sort of driver's seat, whenever the wagon was
full. He placed this bench in its place in front, and taking his seat
upon it, he drove away.

When the party had thus fairly set out, and Phonny and Malleville had
in some measure finished uttering the multitude of exclamations of
delight with which they usually commenced a ride, they began to wish
that Beechnut would tell them a story. Now Beechnut was a boy of
boundless fertility of imagination, and he was almost always ready to
tell a story. His stories were usually invented on the spot, and were
often extremely wild and extravagant, both in the incidents involved
in them, and in the personages whom he introduced as actors. The
extravagance of these tales was however usually no objection to them
in Phonny's and Malleville's estimation. In fact Beechnut observed
that the more extravagant his stories were, the better pleased his
auditors generally appeared to be in listening to them. He therefore
did not spare invention, or restrict himself by any rules either of
truth or probability in his narratives. Nor did he usually require any
time for preparation, but commenced at once with whatever came into
his head, pronouncing the first sentence of his story, very often
without any idea of what he was to say next.

On this occasion Beechnut began as follows:

"Once there was a girl about three years old, and she had a large
black cat. The cat was of a jet black color, and her fur was very soft
and glossy. It was as soft as silk.

"This cat was very mischievous and very sly. She was _very_ sly:
very indeed. In fact she used to go about the house so very slyly,
getting into all sorts of mischief which the people could never find
out till afterwards, that they gave her the name of Sligo. Some people
said that the reason why she had that name was because she came from
a place called Sligo, in Ireland. But that was not the reason. It was
veritably and truly because she was so sly."

Beechnut pronounced this decision in respect to the etymological
import of the pussy's name in the most grave and serious manner, and
Malleville and Phonny listened with profound attention.

"What was the girl's name?" asked Malleville.

"The girl's?" repeated Beechnut. "Oh, her name was--Arabella."

"Well, go on," said Malleville.

"One day," continued Beechnut, "Sligo was walking about the house,
trying to find something to do. She came into the parlor. There was
nobody there. She looked about a little, and presently she saw a
work-basket upon the corner of a table, where Arabella's mother had
been at work. Sligo began to look at the basket, thinking that it
would make a good nest for her to sleep in, if she could only get it
under the clock. The clock stood in a corner of the room.

"Sligo accordingly jumped up into a chair, and from the chair to the
table, and then pushing the basket along nearer and nearer to the edge
of the table, she at last made it fall over, and all the sewing and
knitting work, and the balls, and needles, and spools, fell out upon
the floor. Sligo then jumped down and pushed the basket along toward
the clock. She finally got it under the clock, crept into it, curled
herself round into the form of a semicircle inside, so as just to fill
the basket, and went to sleep.

"Presently Arabella came in, and seeing the spools and balls upon
the floor, began to play with them. In a few minutes more, Arabella's
mother came in, and when she saw Arabella playing with these things
upon the floor, she supposed that Arabella herself was the rogue that
had thrown the basket off the table. Arabella could not talk much.
When her mother accused her of doing this mischief, she could only say
"No;" "no;" but her mother did not believe her. So she made her go and
stand up in the corner of the room, for punishment, while Sligo peeped
out from under the clock to see."

"But you said that Sligo was asleep," said Phonny.

"Yes, she went to sleep," replied Beechnut, "but she waked up when
Arabella's mother came into the room."

Beechnut here paused a moment to consider what he should say next,
when suddenly he began to point forward to a little distance before
them in the road, where a boy was to be seen at the side of the road,
sitting upon a stone.

"I verily believe it is Jemmy," said he.

As the wagon approached the place where Jemmy was sitting, they
found that he was bending down over his foot, and moaning with, pain.
Beechnut asked him what was the matter. He said that he had sprained
his foot dreadfully. Beechnut stopped the horse, and giving the
reins to Phonny, he got out to see. Phonny immediately gave them to
Malleville, and followed.

"Are you much hurt?" asked Beechnut.

"Oh, yes," said Jemmy, moaning and groaning; "oh dear me!"

Beechnut then went back to the horse, and taking him by the bridle,
he led him a little way out of the road, toward a small tree, where
he thought he would stand, and then taking Malleville out, so that
she might not be in any danger if the horse should chance to start, he
went back to Jemmy.

"You see," said Jemmy, "I was going to mill, and I was riding along
here, and the horse pranced about and threw me off and sprained my
foot. Oh dear me! what shall I do?"

"Where is the horse?" asked Beechnut.

"There he is," said Jemmy, "somewhere out there. He has gone along the
road. And the bags have fallen off too. Oh dear me!"

Phonny ran out into the road, and looked forward. He could see the
horse standing by the side of the road at some distance, quietly
eating the grass. A little this side of the place where the horse
stood, the bags were lying upon the ground, not very far from each
other.

The story which Jemmy told was not strictly true. He was one of the
boys of the village, and was of a wild and reckless character. This
was, however, partly his father's fault, who never gave him any kind
and friendly instruction, and always treated him with a great degree
of sternness and severity.

A circus company had visited Franconia a few weeks before the time of
this accident, and Jemmy had peeped through the cracks of the fence
that formed their enclosure, and had seen the performers ride around
the ring, standing upon the backs of the horses. He was immediately
inspired with the ambition to imitate this feat, and the next time
that he mounted his father's horse, he made the attempt to perform it.
His father, when he found it out, was very angry with him, and sternly
forbade him ever to do such a thing again. He declared positively that
if he did, he would whip him to death, as he said. Jemmy was silent,
but he secretly resolved that he would ride standing again, the very
first opportunity.

Accordingly, when his father put the two bags of grain upon the horse,
and ordered Jemmy to go to mill with them, Jemmy thought that the
opportunity had come. He had observed that the circus riders, instead
of a saddle, used upon the backs of their horses a sort of flat pad,
which afforded a much more convenient footing than any saddle; and as
to standing on the naked back of a horse, it was manifestly impossible
for any body but a rope-dancer. When, however, Jemmy saw his father
placing the bags of grain upon the horse, he perceived at once that a
good broad and level surface was produced by them, which was much
more extended and level, even than the pads of the circus-riders. He
instantly resolved, that the moment that he got completely away from
the village, he would mount upon the bags and ride standing--and ride
so, too, just as long as he pleased.

Accordingly, as soon as he had passed the house where Phonny lived,
which was the last house in that direction for some distance, he
looked round in order to be sure that his father was not by any
accident behind him, and then climbing up first upon his knees, and
afterward upon his feet, he drew up the reins cautiously, and then
chirruped to the horse to go on. The horse began to move slowly along.
Jemmy was surprised and delighted to find how firm his footing was
on the broad surface of the bags. Growing more and more bold and
confident as he became accustomed to his situation, he began presently
to dance about, or rather to perform certain awkward antics, which
he considered dancing, looking round continually, with a mingled
expression of guilt, pleasure, and fear, in his countenance, in order
to be sure that his father was not coming. Finally, he undertook to
make his horse trot a little. The horse, however, by this time,
began to grow somewhat impatient at the unusual sensations which
he experienced--the weight of the rider being concentrated upon one
single point, directly on his back, and resting very unsteadily
and interruptedly there,--and the bridle-reins passing up almost
perpendicularly into the air, instead of declining backwards, as they
ought to do in any proper position of the horseman. He began to trot
forward faster and faster. Jemmy soon found that it would be prudent
to restrain him, but in his upright position, he had no control
over the horse by pulling the reins. He only pulled the horse's head
upwards, and made him more uneasy and impatient than before. He then
attempted to get down into a sitting posture again, but in doing
so, he fell off upon the hard road and sprained his ankle. The horse
trotted rapidly on, until the bags fell off, first one and then the
other. Finding himself thus wholly at liberty, he stopped and began
to eat the grass at the road-side, wholly unconcerned at the mischief
that had been done.

Jemmy's distress was owing much more to his alarm and his sense of
guilt, than to the actual pain of the injury which he had suffered. He
was, however, entirely disabled by the sprain.

"It is rather a hard case," said Beechnut, "no doubt, but never mind
it, Jemmy. A man may break his leg, and yet live to dance many a
hornpipe afterwards. You'll get over all this and laugh about it one
day. Come, I'll carry you home in my wagon."

"But I am afraid to go home," said Jemmy.

"What are you afraid of?" asked Beechnut.

"Of my father," said Jemmy.

"Oh no," said Beechnut. "The horse is not hurt, and as for the grist
I'll carry it to mill with mine. So there is no harm done. Come, let
me put you into the wagon."

"Yes," said Phonny, "and I will go and catch the horse."

While Beechnut was putting Jemmy into the wagon, Phonny ran along the
road toward the horse. The horse, hearing footsteps, and supposing
from the sound that somebody might be coming to catch him, was at
first disposed to set off and gallop away; but looking round and
seeing that it was nobody but Phonny he went on eating as before.
When Phonny got pretty near to the horse, he began to walk up slowly
towards him, putting out his hand as if to take hold of the bridle and
saying, "Whoa--Dobbin,--whoa." The horse raised his head a little
from the grass, shook it very expressively at Phonny, walked on a few
steps, and then began to feed upon the grass as before. He seemed
to know precisely how much resistance was necessary to avoid the
recapture with which he was threatened.

"Whoa Jack! whoa!" said Phonny, advancing again. The horse, however,
moved on, shaking his head as before. He seemed to be no more disposed
to recognize the name of Jack than Dobbin.

[Illustration: CATCHING THE HORSE.]

"Jemmy," said Phonny, turning back and calling out aloud, "Jemmy!
what's his name?"

Jemmy did not answer. He was fully occupied in getting into the wagon.

Beechnut called Phonny back and asked him to hold his horse, while he
went to catch Jemmy's. He did it by opening one of the bags and taking
out a little grain, and by means of it enticing the stray horse near
enough to enable him to take hold of the bridle. He then fastened him
behind the wagon, and putting Jemmy's two bags in, he turned round and
went back to carry Jemmy home, leaving Malleville and Phonny to walk
the rest of the way to Mary Erskine's. Besides their ride, they lost
the remainder of the story of Sligo, if that can be said to be lost
which never existed. For at the time when Beechnut paused in his
narration, he had told the story as far as he had invented it. He had
not thought of another word.



CHAPTER II.

THE BRIDE.


Mary Erskine was an orphan. Her mother died when she was about twelve
years old. Her father had died long before, and after her father's
death her mother was very poor, and lived in so secluded and solitary
a place, that Mary had no opportunity then to go to school. She
began to work too as soon as she was able to do any thing, and it was
necessary from that day forward for her to work all the time; and this
would have prevented her from going to school, if there had been one
near. Thus when her mother died, although she was an intelligent and
very sensible girl, she could neither read nor write a word. She told
Mrs. Bell the day that she went to live with her, that she did not
even know any of the letters, except the round one and the crooked
one. The round one she said she _always_ knew, and as for S she
learned that, because it stood for Erskine. This shows how little she
knew about spelling.

Mrs. Bell wanted Mary Erskine to help her in taking care of her own
daughter Mary, who was then an infant. As both the girls were named
Mary, the people of the family and the neighbors gradually fell
into the habit of calling each of them by her full name, in order to
distinguish them from each other. Thus the baby was never called Mary,
but always Mary Bell, and the little nursery maid was always known as
Mary Erskine.

Mary Erskine became a great favorite at Mrs. Bell's. She was of a
very light-hearted and joyous disposition, always contented and happy,
singing like a nightingale at her work all the day long, when she
was alone, and cheering and enlivening all around her by her buoyant
spirits when she was in company. When Mary Bell became old enough to
run about and play, Mary Erskine became her playmate and companion,
as well as her protector. There was no distinction of rank to separate
them. If Mary Bell had been as old as Mary Erskine and had had a
younger sister, her duties in the household would have been exactly
the same as Mary Erskine's were. In fact, Mary Erskine's position was
altogether that of an older sister, and strangers visiting, the family
would have supposed that the two girls were really sisters, had they
not both been named Mary.

Mary Erskine was about twelve years older than Mary Bell, so that when
Mary Bell began to go to school, which was when she was about five
years old, Mary Erskine was about seventeen. Mrs. Bell had proposed,
when Mary Erskine first came to her house, that she would go to school
and learn to read and write; but Mary had been very much disinclined
to do so. In connection with the amiableness and gentleness of her
character and her natural good sense, she had a great deal of pride
and independence of spirit; and she was very unwilling to go to
school--being, as she was, almost in her teens--and begin there to
learn her letters with the little children. Mrs. Bell ought to have
required her to go, notwithstanding her reluctance, or else to have
made some other proper arrangement for teaching her to read and write.
Mrs. Bell was aware of this in fact, and frequently resolved that she
would do so. But she postponed the performance of her resolution from
month to month and year to year, and finally it was not performed at
all. Mary Erskine was so very useful at home, that a convenient time
for sparing her never came. And then besides she was so kind, and so
tractable, and so intent upon complying with all Mrs. Bell's wishes,
in every respect, that Mrs. Bell was extremely averse to require any
thing of her, which would mortify her, or give her pain.

When Mary Erskine was about eighteen years old, she was walking home
one evening from the village, where she had been to do some shopping
for Mrs. Bell, and as she came to a solitary part of the road after
having left the last house which belonged to the village, she saw a
young man coming out of the woods at a little distance before her. She
recognized him, immediately, as a young man whom she called Albert,
who had often been employed by Mrs. Bell, at work about the farm and
garden. Albert was a very sedate and industrious young man, of frank
and open and manly countenance, and of an erect and athletic form.
Mary Erskine liked Albert very well, and yet the first impulse was,
when she saw him coming, to cross over to the other side of the road,
and thus pass him at a little distance. She did in fact take one or
two steps in that direction, but thinking almost immediately that it
would be foolish to do so, she returned to the same side of the road
and walked on. Albert walked slowly along towards Mary Erskine, until
at length they met.

"Good evening, Mary Erskine," said Albert.

"Good evening, Albert," said Mary Erskine.

Albert turned and began to walk along slowly, by Mary Erskine's side.

"I have been waiting here for you more than two hours," said Albert.

"Have you?" said Mary Erskine. Her heart began to beat, and she was
afraid to say any thing more, for fear that her voice would tremble,

"Yes," said Albert. "I saw you go to the village, and I wanted to
speak to you when you came back."

Mary Erskine walked along, but did not speak.

"And I have been waiting and watching two months for you to go to the
village," continued Albert.

"I have not been much to the village, lately," said Mary.

Here there was a pause of a few minutes, when Albert said again,

"Have you any objection to my walking along with you here a little
way, Mary?"

"No," said Mary, "not at all."

"Mary," said Albert, after another short pause, "I have got a hundred
dollars and my axe,--and this right arm. I am thinking of buying a
lot of land, about a mile beyond Kater's corner. If I will do it, and
build a small house of one room there, will you come and be my wife?
It will have to be a _log_ house at first."

Mary Erskine related subsequently to Mary Bell what took place at this
interview, thus far, but she would never tell the rest.

It was evident, however, that Mary Erskine was inclined to accept this
proposal, from a conversation which took place between her and Mrs.
Bell the next evening. It was after tea. The sun had gone down,
and the evening was beautiful. Mrs. Bell was sitting in a low
rocking-chair, on a little covered platform, near the door, which they
called the stoop. There were two seats, one on each side of the stoop,
and there was a vine climbing over it. Mrs. Bell was knitting. Mary
Bell, who was then about six years old, was playing about the yard,
watching the butterflies, and gathering flowers.

"You may stay here and play a little while," said Mary Erskine to Mary
Bell. "I am going to talk with your mother a little; but I shall be
back again pretty soon."

Mary Erskine accordingly went to the stoop where Mrs. Bell was
sitting, and took a seat upon the bench at the side of Mrs. Bell,
though rather behind than before her. There was a railing along
behind the seat, at the edge of the stoop and a large white rose-bush,
covered with roses, upon the other side.

Mrs. Bell perceived from Mary Erskine's air and manner that she
had something to say to her, so after remarking that it was a very
pleasant evening, she went on knitting, waiting for Mary Erskine to
begin.

"Mrs. Bell," said Mary.

"Well," said Mrs. Bell.

The trouble was that Mary Erskine did not know exactly _how_ to
begin.

She paused a moment longer and then making a great effort she said,

"Albert wants me to go and live with him."

"Does he?" said Mrs. Bell. "And where does he want you to go and
live?"

"He is thinking of buying a farm," said Mary Erskine.

"Where?" said Mrs. Bell.

"I believe the land is about a mile from Kater's corner."

Mrs. Bell was silent for a few minutes. She was pondering the thought
now for the first time fairly before her mind, that the little
helpless orphan child that she had taken under her care so many years
ago, had really grown to be a woman, and must soon, if not then, begin
to form her own independent plans of life. She looked at little Mary
Bell too, playing upon the grass, and wondered what she would do when
Mary Erskine was gone.

After a short pause spent in reflections like these, Mrs. Bell resumed
the conversation by saying,

"Well, Mary,--and what do you think of the plan?"

"Why--I don't know," said Mary Erskine, timidly and doubtfully.

"You are very young," said Mrs. Bell.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "I always was very young. I was very young
when my father died; and afterwards, when my mother died, I was very
young to be left all alone, and to go out to work and earn my living.
And now I am very young, I know. But then I am eighteen."

"Are you eighteen?" asked Mrs. Bell.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "I was eighteen the day before yesterday."

"It is a lonesome place,--out beyond Kater's Corner," said Mrs. Bell,
after another pause.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "but I am not afraid of lonesomeness. I
never cared about seeing a great many people."

"And you will have to work very hard," continued Mrs. Bell.

"I know that," replied Mary; "but then I am not afraid of work any
more than I am of lonesomeness. I began to work when I was five years
old, and I have worked ever since,--and I like it."

"Then, besides," said Mrs. Bell, "I don't know what I shall do with
_my_ Mary when you have gone away. You have had the care of her
ever since she was born."

Mary Erskine did not reply to this. She turned her head away farther
and farther from Mrs. Bell, looking over the railing of the stoop
toward the white roses. In a minute or two she got up suddenly from
her seat, and still keeping her face averted from Mrs. Bell, she went
in by the stoop door into the house, and disappeared. In about ten
minutes she came round the corner of the house, at the place where
Mary Bell was playing, and with a radiant and happy face, and tones
as joyous as ever, she told her little charge that they would have one
game of hide and go seek, in the asparagus, and that then it would be
time for her to go to bed.

Two days after this, Albert closed the bargain for his land, and began
his work upon it. The farm, or rather the lot, for the farm was yet
to be made, consisted of a hundred and sixty acres of land, all in
forest. A great deal of the land was mountainous and rocky, fit only
for woodland and pasturage. There were, however, a great many fertile
vales and dells, and at one place along the bank of a stream, there
was a broad tract which Albert thought would make, when the trees
were felled and it was brought into grass, a "beautiful piece of
intervale."

Albert commenced his operations by felling several acres of trees, on
a part of his lot which was nearest the corner. A road, which had been
laid out through the woods, led across his land near this place. The
trees and bushes had been cut away so as to open a space wide enough
for a sled road in winter. In summer there was nothing but a wild
path, winding among rocks, stumps, trunks of fallen trees, and other
forest obstructions. A person on foot could get along very well, and
even a horse with a rider upon his back, but there was no chance for
any thing on wheels. Albert said that it would not be possible to get
even a wheelbarrow in.

Albert, however, took great pleasure in going back and forth over this
road, morning and evening, with his axe upon his shoulder, and a pack
upon his back containing his dinner, while felling his trees. When
they were all down, he left them for some weeks drying in the sun, and
then set them on fire. He chose for the burning, the afternoon of a
hot and sultry day, when a fresh breeze was blowing from the west,
which he knew would fan the flames and increase the conflagration. It
was important to do this, as the amount of subsequent labor which he
would have to perform, would depend upon how completely the trees were
consumed. His fire succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations,
and the next day he brought Mary Erskine in to see what a "splendid
burn" he had had, and to choose a spot for the log house which he was
going to build for her.

Mary Erskine was extremely pleased with the appearance of Albert's
clearing. The area which had been opened ascended a little from the
road, and presented a gently undulating surface, which Mary Erskine
thought would make very beautiful fields. It was now, however, one
vast expanse of blackened and smoking ruins.

Albert conducted Mary Erskine and Mary Bell--for Mary Bell had come in
with them to see the fire,--to a little eminence from which they could
survey the whole scene.

"Look," said he, "is not that beautiful? Did you ever see a better
burn?"

"I don't know much about burns," said Mary Erskine, "but I can see
that it will be a beautiful place for a farm. Why we can see the
pond," she added, pointing toward the south.

This was true. The falling of the trees had opened up a fine view of
the pond, which was distant about a mile from the clearing. There
was a broad stream which flowed swiftly over a gravelly bed along the
lower part of the ground, and a wild brook which came tumbling down
from the mountains, and then, after running across the road, fell into
the larger stream, not far from the corner of the farm. The brook and
the stream formed two sides of the clearing. Beyond them, and along
the other two sides of the clearing, the tall trees of those parts of
the forest which had not been disturbed, rose like a wall and hemmed
the opening closely in.

Albert and Mary Erskine walked along the road through the whole length
of the clearing, looking out for the best place to build their house.

"Perhaps it will be lonesome here this winter, Mary," said Albert. "I
don't know but that you would rather wait till next spring."

Mary Erskine hesitated about her reply. She did, in fact, wish to
come to her new home that fall, and she thought it was proper that
she should express the cordial interest which she felt in Albert's
plans;--but, then, on the other hand, she did not like to say any
thing which might seem to indicate a wish on her part to hasten the
time of their marriage. So she said doubtfully,--"I don't know;--I
don't think that it would be lonesome."

"What do you mean, Albert," said Mary Bell, "about Mary Erskine's
coming to live here? She can't come and live here, among all these
black stumps and logs."

Albert and Mary Erskine were too intent upon their own thoughts and
plans to pay any attention to Mary Bell's questions. So they walked
along without answering her.

"What could we have to _do_ this fall and winter?" asked Mary
Erskine. She wished to ascertain whether she could do any good by
coming at once, or whether it would be better, for Albert's plans, to
wait until the spring.

"Oh there will be plenty to do," said Albert. "I shall have to work a
great deal, while the ground continues open, in clearing up the land,
and getting it ready for sowing in the spring; and it will be a great
deal better for me to live here, in order to save my traveling back
and forth, so far, every night and morning. Then this winter I shall
have my tools to make,--and to finish the inside of the house, and
make the furniture; and if you have any leisure time you can spin.
But after all it will not be very comfortable for you, and perhaps you
would rather wait until spring."

"No," said Mary Erskine. "I would rather come this fall."

"Well," rejoined Albert, speaking in a tone of great satisfaction.
"Then I will get the house up next week, and we will be married very
soon after."

There were very few young men whose prospects in commencing life were
so fair and favorable as those of Albert. In the first place, he was
not obliged to incur any debt on account of his land, as most young
farmers necessarily do. His land was one dollar an acre. He had one
hundred dollars of his own, and enough besides to buy a winter stock
of provisions for his house. He had expected to have gone in debt for
the sixty dollars, the whole price of the land being one hundred and
sixty; but to his great surprise and pleasure Mary Erskine told him,
as they were coming home from seeing the land after the burn, that she
had seventy-five dollars of her own, besides interest; and that she
should like to have sixty dollars of that sum go toward paying for
the land. The fifteen dollars that would be left, she said, would be
enough to buy the furniture.

"I don't think that will be quite enough," said Albert.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine. "We shall not want a great deal. We shall
want a table and two chairs, and some things to cook with."

"And a bed," said Albert.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "but I can make that myself. The cloth will
not cost much, and you can get some straw for me. Next summer we can
keep some geese, and so have a feather bed some day."

"We shall want some knives and forks, and plates," said Albert.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "but they will not cost much. I think
fifteen dollars will get us all we need. Besides there is more than
fifteen dollars, for there is the interest."

The money had been put out at interest in the village.

"Well," said Albert, "and I can make the rest of the furniture that
we shall need, this winter. I shall have a shop near the house. I have
got the tools already."

Thus all was arranged. Albert built his house on the spot which Mary
Erskine thought would be the most pleasant for it, the week after her
visit to the land. Three young men from the neighborhood assisted him,
as is usual in such cases, on the understanding that Albert was to
help each of them as many days about their work as they worked
for him. This plan is often adopted by farmers in doing work which
absolutely requires several men at a time, as for example, the raising
of heavy logs one upon another to form the walls of a house. In order
to obtain logs for the building Albert and his helpers cut down fresh
trees from the forest, as the blackened and half-burned trunks, which
lay about his clearing, were of course unsuitable for such a work.
They selected the tallest and straightest trees, and after felling
them and cutting them to the proper length, they hauled them to
the spot by means of oxen. The ground served for a floor, and the
fire-place was made of stones. The roof was formed of sheets of
hemlock bark, laid, like slates upon rafters made of the stems of
slender trees. Albert promised Mary Erskine that, as soon as the snow
came, in the winter, to make a road, so that he could get through the
woods with a load of boards upon a sled, he would make her a floor.

From this time forward, although Mary Erskine was more diligent and
faithful than ever in performing all her duties at Mrs. Bell's, her
imagination was incessantly occupied with pictures and images of the
new scenes into which she was about to be ushered as the mistress of
her own independent household and home. She made out lists, mentally,
for she could not write, of the articles which it would be best to
purchase. She formed and matured in her own mind all her house-keeping
plans. She pictured to herself the scene which the interior of her
dwelling would present in cold and stormy winter evenings, while she
was knitting at one side of the fire, and Albert was busy at some
ingenious workmanship, on the other; or thought of the beautiful
prospect which she should enjoy in the spring and summer following;
when fields of waving grain, rich with promises of plenty and of
wealth, would extend in every direction around her dwelling. She
cherished, in a word, the brightest anticipations of happiness.

[Illustration: THE LOG HOUSE.]

The house at length was finished. The necessary furniture which Albert
contrived in some way to get moved to it, was put in; and early in
August Mary Erskine was married. She was married in the morning, and a
party of the villagers escorted her on horseback to her new home.



CHAPTER III.

MARY ERSKINE'S VISITORS.


Mary Erskine's anticipations of happiness in being the mistress of her
own independent home were very high, but they were more than realized.

The place which had been chosen for the house was not only a suitable
one in respect to convenience, but it was a very pleasant one. It was
near the brook which, as has already been said, came cascading down
from among the forests and mountains, and passing along near one side
of Albert's clearing, flowed across the road, and finally emptied into
the great stream. The house was placed near the brook, in order that
Albert might have a watering-place at hand for his horses and cattle
when he should have stocked his farm. In felling the forest Albert
left a fringe of trees along the banks of the brook, that it might be
cool and shady there when the cattle went down to drink. There was a
spring of pure cold water boiling up from beneath some rocks not far
from the brook, on the side toward the clearing. The water from this
spring flowed down along a little mossy dell, until it reached the
brook. The bed over which this little rivulet flowed was stony, and
yet no stones were to be seen. They all had the appearance of rounded
tufts of soft green moss, so completely were they all covered and
hidden by the beautiful verdure.

Albert was very much pleased when he discovered this spring, and
traced its little mossy rivulet down to the brook. He thought that
Mary Erskine would like it. So he avoided cutting down any of the
trees from the dell, or from around the spring, and in cutting down
those which grew near it, he took care to make them fall away from
the dell, so that in burning they should not injure the trees which he
wished to save. Thus that part of the wood which shaded and sheltered
the spring and the dell, escaped the fire.

The house was placed in such a position that this spring was directly
behind it, and Albert made a smooth and pretty path leading down to
it; or rather he made the path smooth, and nature made it pretty. For
no sooner had he completed his work upon it than nature began to adorn
it by a profusion of the richest and greenest grass and flowers,
which she caused to spring up on either side. It was so in fact in all
Albert's operations upon his farm. Almost every thing that he did was
for some purpose of convenience and utility, and he himself undertook
nothing more than was necessary to secure the useful end. But his kind
and playful co-operator, nature, would always take up the work
where he left it, and begin at once to beautify it with her rich and
luxuriant verdure. For example, as soon as the fires went out over the
clearing, she began, with her sun and rain, to blanch the blackened
stumps, and to gnaw at their foundations with her tooth of decay. If
Albert made a road or a path she rounded its angles, softened away all
the roughness that his plow or hoe had left in it, and fringed it with
grass and flowers. The solitary and slender trees which had been left
standing here and there around the clearing, having escaped the fire,
she took under her special care--throwing out new and thrifty branches
from them, in every direction, and thus giving them massive and
luxuriant forms, to beautify the landscape, and to form shady retreats
for the flocks and herds which might in subsequent years graze upon
the ground. Thus while Albert devoted himself to the substantial and
useful improvements which were required upon his farm, with a view
simply to profit, nature took the work of ornamenting it under her own
special and particular charge.

The sphere of Mary Erskine's duties and pleasures was within doors.
Her conveniences for house-keeping were somewhat limited at first, but
Albert, who kept himself busy at work on his land all day, spent the
evenings in his shanty shop, making various household implements and
articles of furniture for her. Mary sat with him, usually, at such
times, knitting by the side of the great, blazing fire, made partly
for the sake of the light that it afforded, and partly for the warmth,
which was required to temper the coolness of the autumnal evenings.
Mary took a very special interest in the progress of Albert's work,
every thing which he made being for her. Each new acquisition, as one
article after another was completed and delivered into her possession,
gave her fresh pleasure: and she deposited it in its proper place in
her house with a feeling of great satisfaction and pride.

"Mary Erskine," said Albert one evening--for though she was married,
and her name thus really changed, Albert himself, as well as every
body else, went on calling her Mary Erskine just as before--"it
is rather hard to make you wait so long for these conveniences,
especially as there is no necessity for it. We need not have paid for
our land this three years. I might have taken the money and built a
handsome house, and furnished it for you at once."

"And so have been in debt for the land," said Mary.

"Yes," said Albert. "I could have paid off that debt by the profits of
the farming. I can lay up a hundred dollars a year, certainly."

"No," said Mary Erskine. "I like this plan the best. We will pay as
we go along. It will be a great deal better to have the three hundred
dollars for something else than to pay old debts with. We will build a
better house than this if we want one, one of these years, when we get
the money. But I like this house very much as it is. Perhaps, however,
it is only because it is my own."

It was not altogether the idea that it was her own that made Mary
Erskine like her house. The interior of it was very pleasant indeed,
especially after Albert had completed the furnishing of it, and had
laid the floor. It contained but one room, it is true, but that was a
very spacious one. There were, in fact, two apartments enclosed by the
walls and the roof, though only one of them could strictly be called
a room. The other was rather a shed, or stoop, and it was entered from
the front by a wide opening, like a great shed door. The entrance to
the house proper was by a door opening from this stoop, so as to be
sheltered from the storms in winter. There was a very large fire place
made of stones in the middle of one side of the room, with a large
flat stone for a hearth in front of it. This hearth stone was very
smooth, and Mary Erskine kept it always very bright and clean. On
one side of the fire was what they called a settle, which was a long
wooden seat with a very high back. It was placed on the side of the
fire toward the door, so that it answered the purpose of a screen to
keep off any cold currents of air, which might come in on blustering
winter nights, around the door. On the other side of the fire was a
small and \ very elegant mahogany work table. This was a present to
Mary Erskine from Mrs. Bell on the day of her marriage. There were
drawers in this table containing sundry conveniences. The upper drawer
was made to answer the purpose of a desk, and it had an inkstand in
a small division in one corner. Mrs. Bell had thought of taking this
inkstand out, and putting in some spools, or something else which Mary
Erskine would be able to use. But Mary herself would not allow her to
make such a change. She said it was true that she could not write, but
that was no reason why she should not have an inkstand. So she filled
the inkstand with ink, and furnished the desk completely in other
respects, by putting in six sheets of paper, a pen, and several
wafers. The truth was, she thought it possible that an occasion
might arise some time or other, at which Albert might wish to write
a letter; and if such a case should occur, it would give her great
pleasure to have him write his letter at her desk.

Beyond the work table, on one of the sides of the room, was a
cupboard, and next to the cupboard a large window. This was the only
window in the house, and it had a sash which would rise and fall. Mary
Erskine had made white curtains for this window, which could be parted
in the middle, and hung up upon nails driven into the logs which
formed the wall of the house, one on each side. Of what use these
curtains could be except to make the room look more snug and pleasant
within, it would be difficult to say; for there was only one vast
expanse of forests and mountains on that side of the house, so that
there was nobody to look in.

On the back side of the room, in one corner, was the bed. It was
supported upon a bedstead which Albert had made. The bedstead had high
posts, and was covered, like the window, with curtains. In the other
corner was the place for the loom, with the spinning-wheel between the
loom and the bed. When Mary Erskine was using the spinning-wheel,
she brought it out into the center of the room. The loom was not yet
finished. Albert was building it, working upon it from time to time as
he had opportunity. The frame of it was up, and some of the machinery
was made.

Mary Erskine kept most of her clothes in a trunk; but Albert was
making her a bureau.

Instead of finding it lonesome at her new home, as Mrs. Bell had
predicted, Mary Erskine had plenty of company. The girls from the
village, whom she used to know, were very fond of coming out to see
her. Many of them were much younger than she was, and they loved to
ramble about in the woods around Mary Erskine's house, and to play
along the bank of the brook. Mary used to show them too, every time
they came, the new articles which Albert had made for her, and to
explain to them the gradual progress of the improvements. Mary Bell
herself was very fond of going to see Mary Erskine,--though she was of
course at that time too young to go alone. Sometimes however Mrs. Bell
would send her out in the morning and let her remain all day, playing,
very happily, around the door and down by the spring. She used to play
all day among the logs and stumps, and upon the sandy beach by the
side of the brook, and yet when she went home at night she always
looked as nice, and her clothes were as neat and as clean as when she
went in the morning. Mrs. Bell wondered at this, and on observing that
it continued to be so, repeatedly, after several visits, she asked
Mary Bell how it happened that Mary Erskine kept her so nice.

"Oh," said Mary Bell, "I always put on my working frock when I go out
to Mary Erskine's."

The working frock was a plain, loose woolen dress, which Mary Erskine
made for Mary Bell, and which Mary Bell, always put on in the morning,
whenever she came to the farm. Her own dress was taken off and
laid carefully away upon the bed, under the curtains. Her shoes and
stockings were taken off too, so that she might play in the brook if
she pleased, though Mary Erskine told her it was not best to remain in
the water long enough to have her feet get very cold.

When Mary Bell was dressed thus in her working frock, she was allowed
to play wherever she pleased, so that she enjoyed almost an absolute
and unbounded liberty. And yet there were some restrictions. She
must not go across the brook, for fear that she might get lost in the
woods, nor go out of sight of the house in any direction. She might
build fires upon any of the stumps or logs, but not within certain
limits of distance from the house, lest she should set the house on
fire. And she must not touch the axe, for fear that she might cut
herself, nor climb upon the wood-pile, for fear that it might fall
down upon her. With some such restrictions as these, she could do
whatever she pleased.

She was very much delighted, one morning in September, when she was
playing around the house in her working frock, at finding a great hole
or hollow under a stump, which she immediately resolved to have for
her oven. She was sitting down upon the ground by the side of it, and
she began to call out as loud as she could,

"Mary Erskine! Mary Erskine!"

But Mary Erskine did not answer. Mary Bell could hear the sound of the
spinning-wheel in the house, and she wondered why the spinner could
not hear her, when she called so loud.

She listened, watching for the pauses in the buzzing sound of the
wheel, and endeavored to call out in the pauses,--but with no better
success than before. At last she got up and walked along toward the
house, swinging in her hand a small wooden shovel, which Albert had
made for her to dig wells with in the sand on the margin of the brook.

"Mary Erskine!" said she, when she got to the door of the house,
"didn't you hear me calling for you?"

"Yes," said Mary Erskine.

"Then why did not you come?" said Mary Bell.

"Because I was disobedient," said Mary Erskine, "and now I suppose I
must be punished."

"Well," said Mary Bell. The expression of dissatisfaction and reproof
upon Mary Bell's countenance was changed immediately into one of
surprise and pleasure, at the idea of Mary Erskine's being punished
for disobeying _her_. So she said,

"Well. And what shall your punishment be?"

"What did you want me for?" asked Mary Erskine.

"I wanted you to see my oven."

"Have you got an oven?" asked Mary Erskine.

"Yes," said Mary Bell, "It is under a stump. I have got some wood, and
now I want some fire."

"Very well," said Mary Erskine, "get your fire-pan."

Mary Bell's fire-pan, was an old tin dipper with a long handle. It had
been worn out as a dipper, and so they used to let Mary Bell have it
to carry her fire in. There were several small holes in the bottom of
the dipper, so completely was it worn out: but this made it all the
better for a fire-pan, since the air which came up through the holes,
fanned the coals and kept them alive. This dipper was very valuable,
too, for another purpose. Mary Bell was accustomed, sometimes, to go
down to the brook and dip up water with it, in order to see the water
stream down into the brook again, through these holes, in a sort of a
shower.

Mary Bell went, accordingly, for her fire-pan, which she found in its
place in the open stoop or shed. She came into the house, and Mary
Erskine, raking open the ashes in the fire-place, took out two large
coals with the tongs, and dropped them into the dipper. Mary Bell held
the dipper at arm's length before her, and began to walk along.

"Hold it out upon one side," said Mary Erskine, "and then if you fall
down, you will not fall upon your fire."

Mary Bell, obeying this injunction, went out to her oven and put the
coals in at the mouth of it. Then she began to gather sticks,
and little branches, and strips of birch bark, and other silvan
combustibles, which she found scattered about the ground, and put them
upon the coals to make the fire. She stopped now and then a minute or
two to rest and to listen to the sound of Mary Erskine's spinning. At
last some sudden thought seemed to come into her head, and throwing
down upon the ground a handful of sticks which she had in her hand,
and was just ready to put upon the fire, she got up and walked toward
the house.

"Mary Erskine," said she, "I almost forgot about your punishment."

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "I hoped that you had forgot about it,
altogether."

"Why?" said Mary Bell.

"Because," said Mary Erskine, "I don't like to be punished."

"But you _must_ be punished," said Mary Bell, very positively,
"and-what shall your punishment be?"

"How would it do," said Mary Erskine, going on, however, all the time
with her spinning, "for me to have to give you two potatoes to roast
in your oven?--or one? One potato will be enough punishment for such a
little disobedience."

"No; two," said Mary Bell.

"Well, two," said Mary Erskine. "You may go and get them in a pail out
in the stoop. But you must wash them first, before you put them in the
oven. You can wash them down at the brook."

"I am afraid that I shall get my fingers smutty," said Mary Bell, "at
my oven, for the stump is pretty black."

"No matter if you do," said Mary Erskine. "You can go down and wash
them at the brook."

"And my frock, too," said Mary Bell.

"No matter for that either," said Mary Erskine; "only keep it as clean
as you can."

So Mary Bell took the two potatoes and went down to the brook to wash
them. She found, however, when she reached the brook, that there was
a square piece of bark lying upon the margin of the water, and she
determined to push it in and sail it, for her ship, putting the two
potatoes on for cargo. After sailing the potatoes about for some time,
her eye chanced to fall upon a smooth spot in the sand, which she
thought would make a good place for a garden. So she determined to
_plant_ her potatoes instead of roasting them.

She accordingly dug a hole in the sand with her fingers, and put the
potatoes in, and then after covering them, over with the sand, she
went to the oven to get her fire-pan for her watering-pot, in order to
water her garden.

The holes in the bottom of the dipper made it an excellent
watering-pot, provided the garden to be watered was not too far from
the brook: for the shower would always begin to fall the instant the
dipper was lifted out of the water.

[Illustration: MARY BELL AT THE BROOK.]

After watering her garden again and again, Mary Bell concluded on the
whole not to wait for her potatoes to grow, but dug them up and began
to wash them in the brook, to make them ready for the roasting. Her
little feet sank into the sand at the margin of the water while she
held the potatoes in the stream, one in each hand, and watched the
current as it swept swiftly by them. After a while she took them out
and put them in the sun upon a flat stone to dry, and when they were
dry she carried them to her oven and buried them in the hot embers
there.

Thus Mary Bell would amuse herself, hour after hour of the long
day, when she went to visit Mary Erskine, with an endless variety of
childish imaginings. Her working-frock became in fact, in her mind,
the emblem of complete and perfect liberty and happiness, unbounded
and unalloyed.

The other children of the village, too, were accustomed to come out
and see Mary Erskine, and sometimes older and more ceremonious company
still. There was one young lady named Anne Sophia, who, having been
a near neighbor of Mrs. Bell's, was considerably acquainted with Mary
Erskine, though as the two young ladies had very different tastes and
habits of mind, they never became very intimate friends. Anne Sophia
was fond of dress and of company. Her thoughts were always running
upon village subjects and village people, and her highest ambition
was to live there. She had been, while Mary Erskine had lived at Mrs.
Bell's, very much interested in a young man named Gordon. He was a
clerk in a store in the village. He was a very agreeable young man,
and much more genteel and polished in his personal appearance than
Albert. He had great influence among the young men of the village,
being the leader in all the excursions and parties of pleasure which
were formed among them. Anne Sophia knew very well that Mr. Gordon
liked to see young ladies handsomely dressed when they appeared in
public, and partly to please him, and partly to gratify that very
proper feeling of pleasure which all young ladies have in appearing
well, she spent a large part of earnings in dress. She was not
particularly extravagant, nor did she get into debt; but she did
not, like Mary Erskine, attempt to lay up any of her wages. She often
endeavored to persuade Mary Erskine to follow her example. "It is of
no use," said she, "for girls like you and me to try to lay up money.
If we are ever married we shall make our husbands take care of us; and
if we are not married we shall not want our savings, for we can always
earn what we need as we go along."

Mary Erskine had no reply at hand to make to this reasoning, but she
was not convinced by it, so she went on pursuing her own course,
while Anne Sophia pursued hers. Anne Sophia was a very capable and
intelligent girl, and as Mr. Gordon thought, would do credit to any
society in which she might be called to move. He became more and more
interested in her, and it happened that they formed an engagement to
be married, just about the time that Albert made his proposal to Mary
Erskine.

Mr. Gordon was a very promising business man, and had an offer from
the merchant with whom he was employed as a clerk, to enter into
partnership with him, just before the time of his engagement.
He declined this offer, determining rather to go into business
independently. He had laid up about as much money as Albert had, and
by means of this, and the excellent letters of recommendation which he
obtained from the village people, he obtained a large stock of goods,
on credit, in the city. When buying his goods he also bought a small
quantity of handsome furniture, on the same terms. He hired a store.
He also hired a small white house, with green trees around it, and
a pretty garden behind. He was married nearly at the same time with
Albert, and Anne Sophia in taking possession of her genteel and
beautiful village home, was as happy as Mary Erskine was in her sylvan
solitude. Mr. Gordon told her that he had made a calculation, and he
thought there was no doubt that, if business was tolerably good that
winter, he should be able to clear enough to pay all his expenses and
to pay for his furniture.

His calculations proved to be correct. Business was very good. He
paid for his furniture, and bought as much more on a new credit in the
spring.

Anne Sophia came out to make a call upon Mary Erskine, about a
month after she had got established in her new home. She came in the
morning. Mr. Gordon brought her in a chaise as far as to the corner,
and she walked the rest of the way. She was dressed very handsomely,
and yet in pretty good taste. It was not wholly a call of ceremony,
for Anne Sophia felt really a strong attachment to Mary Erskine, and
had a great desire to see her in her new home.

When she rose to take her leave, after her call was ended, she asked
Mary Erskine to come to the village and see her as soon as she could.
"I meant to have called upon you long before this," said she, "but I
have been so busy, and we have had so much company. But I want to see
you very much indeed. We have a beautiful house, and I have a great
desire to show it to you. I think you have got a beautiful place here
for a farm, one of these days; but you ought to make your husband
build you a better house. He is as able to do it as my husband is to
get me one, I have no doubt."

Mary Erskine had no doubt either. She did not say so however, but only
replied that she liked her house very well. The real reason why she
liked it so much was one that Anne Sophia did not consider. The reason
was that it was her own. Whereas Anne Sophia lived in a house, which,
pretty as it was, belonged to other people.

All these things, it must be remembered, took place eight or ten years
before the time when Malleville and Phonny went to visit Mary Erskine,
and when Mary Bell was only four or five years old. Phonny and
Malleville, as well as a great many other children, had grown up from
infancy since that time. In fact, the Jemmy who fell from his horse
and sprained his ankle the day they came, was Jemmy Gordon, Anne
Sophia's oldest son.



CHAPTER IV.

CALAMITY.


Both Mary Erskine and Anne Sophia went on very pleasantly and
prosperously, each in her own way, for several years. Every spring
Albert cut down more trees, and made new openings and clearings. He
built barns and sheds about his house, and gradually accumulated quite
a stock of animals. With the money that he obtained by selling the
grain and the grass seed which he raised upon his land, he bought oxen
and sheep and cows. These animals fed in his pastures in the summer,
and in the winter he gave them hay from his barn.

Mary Erskine used to take the greatest pleasure in getting up early
in the cold winter mornings, and going out with her husband to see
him feed the animals. She always brought in a large pile of wood every
night, the last thing before going to bed, and laid it upon the hearth
where it would be ready at hand for the morning fire. She also had a
pail of water ready, from the spring, and the tea-kettle by the side
of it, ready to be filled. The potatoes, too, which were to be roasted
for breakfast, were always prepared the night before, and placed in an
earthen pan, before the fire. Mary Erskine, in fact, was always very
earnest to make every possible preparation over night, for the work of
the morning. This arose partly from an instinctive impulse which made
her always wish, as she expressed it, "to do every duty as soon as it
came in sight," and partly from the pleasure which she derived from a
morning visit to the animals in the barn. She knew them all by name.
She imagined that they all knew her, and were glad to see her by
the light of her lantern in the morning. It gave her the utmost
satisfaction to see them rise, one after another, from their straw,
and begin eagerly to eat the hay which Albert pitched down to them
from the scaffold, while she, standing below upon the barn floor, held
the lantern so that he could see. She was always very careful to hold
it so that the cows and the oxen could see too.

One day, when Albert came home from the village, he told Mary Erskine
that he had an offer of a loan of two hundred dollars, from Mr. Keep.
Mr. Keep was an elderly gentleman of the village,--of a mild and
gentle expression of countenance, and white hair. He was a man of
large property, and often had money to lend at interest. He had an
office, where he used to do his business. This office was in a wing of
his house, which was a large and handsome house in the center of the
village. Mr. Keep had a son who was a physician, and he used often to
ask his son's opinion and advice about his affairs. One day when Mr.
Keep was sitting in his office, Mr. Gordon came in and told him that
he had some plans for enlarging his business a little, and wished to
know if Mr. Keep had two or three hundred dollars that he would like
to lend for six months. Mr. Keep, who, though he was a very benevolent
and a very honorable man, was very careful in all his money dealings,
said that he would look a little into his accounts, and see how much
he had to spare, and let Mr. Gordon know the next day.

That night Mr. Keep asked his son what he thought of lending Mr.
Gordon two or three hundred dollars. His son said doubtfully that he
did not know. He was somewhat uncertain about it. Mr. Gordon was doing
very well, he believed, but then his expenses were quite heavy, and it
was not quite certain how it would turn with him. Mr. Keep then said
that he had two or three hundred dollars on hand which he must dispose
of in some way or other, and he asked his son what he should do with
it. His son recommended that he should offer it to Albert. Albert
formerly lived at Mr. Keep's, as a hired man, so that Mr. Keep knew
him very well.

"He is going on quite prosperously in his farm, I understand," said
the doctor. "His land is all paid for, and he is getting quite a stock
of cattle, and very comfortable buildings. I think it very likely that
he can buy more stock with the money, and do well with it. And, at all
events, you could not put the money in _safer_ hands."

"I will propose it to him," said Mr. Keep.

He did propose it to him that very afternoon, for it happened that
Albert went to the village that day. Albert told Mr. Keep that he was
very much obliged to him for the offer of the money, and that he would
consider whether it would be best for him to take it or not, and let
him know in the morning. So he told Mary Erskine of the offer that he
had had, as soon as he got home.

"I am very glad to get such an offer," said Albert.

"Shall you take the money?" said his wife.

"I don't know," replied Albert. "I rather think not."

"Then why are you glad to get the offer?" asked Mary Erskine.

"Oh, it shows that my credit is good in the village. It must be very
good, indeed, to lead such a man as Mr. Keep to offer to lend me
money, of his own accord. It is a considerable comfort to know that I
can get money, whenever I want it, even if I never take it."

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "so it is."

"And it is all owing to you," said Albert.

"To me?" said Mary Erskine.

"Yes," said he; "to your prudence and economy, and to your contented
and happy disposition. That is one thing that I always liked you
for. It is so easy to make you happy. There is many a wife, in your
situation, who could not have been happy unless their husband would
build them a handsome house and fill it with handsome furniture--even
if he had to go in debt for his land to pay for it."

Mary Erskine did not reply, though it gratified her very much to hear
her husband commend her.

"Well," said she at length, "I am very glad that you have got good
credit. What should you do with the money, if you borrowed it?"

"Why, one thing that I could do," said Albert, "would be to build a
new house."

"No," said Mary Erskine, "I like this house very much. I don't want
any other--certainly not until we can build one with our own money."

"Then," said Albert, "I can buy more stock, and perhaps hire some
help, and get more land cleared this fall, so as to have greater crops
next spring, and then sell the stock when it has grown and increased,
and also the crops, and so get money enough to pay back the debt and
have something over."

"Should you have much over?" asked Mary.

"Why that would depend upon how my business turned out,--and that
would depend upon the weather, and the markets, and other things which
we can not now foresee. I think it probable that we should have a good
deal over."

"Well," said Mary Erskine, "then I would take the money."

"But, then, on the other hand," said Albert, "I should run some risk
of embarrassing myself, if things did not turn out well. If I were
to be sick, so that I could not attend to so much business, or if I
should Jose any of my stock, or if the crops should not do well, then
I might not get enough to pay back the debt."

"And what should you do then?" asked Mary Erskine.

"Why then," replied Albert, "I should have to make up the deficiency
in some other way. I might ask Mr. Keep to put off the payment of the
note, or I might borrow the money of somebody else to pay him, or I
might sell some of my other stock. I could do any of these things well
enough, but it would perhaps cause me some trouble and anxiety."

"Then I would not take the money," said Mary Erskine. "I don't like
anxiety. I can bear any thing else better than anxiety."

"However, I don't know any thing about it," continued Mary Erskine,
after a short pause. "You can judge best."

They conversed on the subject some time longer, Albert being quite
at a loss to know what it was best to do. Mary Erskine, for her part,
seemed perfectly willing that he should borrow the money to buy more
stock, as she liked the idea of having more oxen, sheep, and cows. But
she seemed decidedly opposed to using borrowed money to build a new
house, or to buy new furniture. Her head would ache, she said, to lie
on a pillow of feathers that was not paid for.

Albert finally concluded not to borrow the money, and so Mr. Keep lent
it to Mr. Gordon.

Things went on in this way for about three or four years, and then
Albert began to think seriously of building another house. He had
now money enough of his own to build it with. His stock had become so
large that he had not sufficient barn room for his hay, and he did not
wish to build larger barns where he then lived, for in the course of
his clearings he had found a much better place for a house than the
one which they had at first selected. Then his house was beginning to
be too small for his family, for Mary Erskine had, now, two children.
One was an infant, and the other was about two years old. These
children slept in a trundle-bed, which was pushed under the great bed
in the daytime, but still the room became rather crowded. So Albert
determined to build another house.

Mary Erskine was very much interested in this plan. She would like to
live in a handsome house as well as any other lady, only she preferred
to wait until she could have one of her own. Now that that time had
arrived, she was greatly pleased with the prospect of having her
kitchen, her sitting-room, and her bed-room, in three separate rooms,
instead of having them, as heretofore, all in one. Then the barns and
barn-yards, and the pens and sheds for the sheep and cattle, were all
going to be much more convenient than they had been; so that Albert
could take care of a greater amount of stock than before, with the
same labor. The new house, too, was going to be built in a much more
pleasant situation than the old one, and the road from it to the
corner was to be improved, so that they could go in and out with a
wagon. In a word, Mary Erskine's heart was filled with new hopes and
anticipations, as she saw before her means and sources of happiness,
higher and more extended than she had ever before enjoyed.

When the time approached for moving into the new house Mary Erskine
occupied herself, whenever she had any leisure time, in packing up
such articles as were not in use. One afternoon while she was engaged
in this occupation, Albert came home from the field much earlier than
usual. Mary Erskine was very glad to see him, as she wished him to
nail up the box in which she had been packing her cups and saucers.
She was at work on the stoop, very near the door, so that she could
watch the children. The baby was in the cradle. The other child, whose
name was Bella, was playing about the floor.

Albert stopped a moment to look at Mary Erskine's packing, and then
went in and took his seat upon the settle.

"Tell me when your box is ready," said he, "and I will come and nail
it for you."

Bella walked along toward her father--for she had just learned to
walk--and attempted to climb up into his lap.

"Run away, Bella," said Albert.

Mary Erskine was surprised to hear Albert tell Bella to run away, for
he was usually very glad to have his daughter come to him when he got
home from his work. She looked up to see what was the matter. He was
sitting upon the settle, and leaning his head upon his hand.

Mary Erskine left her work and went to him.

"Are you not well, Albert?" said she.

"My head aches a little. It ached in the field, and that was the
reason why I thought I would come home. But it is better now. Are you
ready for me to come and nail the box?"

"No," said Mary, "not quite; and besides, it is no matter about it
to-night. I will get you some tea."

"No," said Albert, "finish your packing first, and I will come and
nail it. Then we can put it out of the way."

Mary Erskine accordingly finished her packing, and Albert went to it,
to nail the cover on. He drove one or two nails, and then he put the
hammer down, and sat down himself upon the box, saying that he could
not finish the nailing after all. He was too unwell. He went into the
room, Mary Erskine leading and supporting him. She conducted him to
the bed and opened the curtains so as to let him lie down. She helped
him to undress himself, and then left him, a few minutes while she
began to get some tea. She moved the box, which she had been packing,
away from the stoop door, and put it in a corner. She drew out the
trundle-bed, and made, it ready for Bella. She sat down and gave Bella
some supper, and then put her into the trundle-bed, directing her to
shut up her eyes and go to sleep. Bella obeyed.

Mary Erskine then went to the fire and made some tea and toast for
Albert, doing every thing in as quiet and noiseless a manner as
possible. When the tea and toast were ready she put them upon a small
waiter, and then moving her little work-table up to the side of the
bed, she put the waiter upon it. When every thing was thus ready, she
opened the curtains. Albert was asleep.

He seemed however to be uneasy and restless, and he moaned now and
then as if in pain. Mary Erskine stood leaning over him for some time,
with a countenance filled with anxiety and concern. She then turned
away, saying to herself, "If Albert is going to be sick and to die,
what _will_ become of me?" She kneeled down upon the floor at
the foot of the bed, crossed her arms before her, laid them down very
quietly upon the counterpane, and reclined her forehead upon them. She
remained in that position for some time without speaking a word.

Presently she rose and took the tea and toast upon the waiter, and
set them down by the fire in order to keep them warm. She next went to
look at the children, to see if they were properly covered. Then
she opened the bed-curtains a little way in order that she might see
Albert in case he should wake or move, and having adjusted them as she
wished, she went to the stoop door and took her seat there, with her
knitting-work in her hand, in a position from which, on one side she
could look into the room and observe every thing which took place
there, and on the other side, watch the road and see if any one went
by. She thought it probable that some of the workmen, who had been
employed at the new house, might be going home about that time, and
she wished to send into the village by them to ask Dr. Keep to come.

Mary Erskine succeeded in her design of sending into the village by
one of the workmen, and Dr. Keep came about nine o'clock He prescribed
for Albert, and prepared, and left, some medicine for him. He said he
hoped that he was not going to be very sick, but he could tell better
in the morning when he would come again.

"But you ought not to be here alone," said he to Mary Erskine. "You
ought to have some one with you."

"No," said Mary Erskine, "I can get along very well, alone,
to-night,--and I think he will be better in the morning."

Stories of sickness and suffering are painful to read, as the reality
is painful to witness. We will therefore shorten the tale of Mary
Erskine's anxiety and distress, by saying, at once that Albert grew
worse instead of better, every day for a fortnight, and then died.

During his sickness Mrs. Bell spent a great deal of time at Mary
Erskine's house, and other persons, from the village, came every day
to watch with Albert, and to help take care of the children. There was
a young man also, named Thomas, whom Mary Erskine employed to come and
stay there all day, to take the necessary care of the cattle and of
the farm. They made a bed for Thomas in the scaffold in the barn. They
also made up a bed in the stoop, in a corner which they divided off
by means of a curtain. This bed was for the watchers, and for Mary
Erskine herself, when she or they wished to lie down. Mary Erskine
went to it, herself very seldom. She remained at her husband's bedside
almost all the time, day and night. Albert suffered very little
pain, and seemed to sleep most of the time. He revived a little the
afternoon before he died, and appeared as if he were going to be
better. He looked up into Mary Erskine's face and smiled. It was
plain, however, that he was very feeble.

There was nobody but Mrs. Bell in the house, at that time, besides
Mary Erskine and the baby. Bella had gone to Mrs. Bell's house, and
Mary Bell was taking care of her. Albert beckoned his wife to come to
him, and said to her, in a faint and feeble voice, that he wished Mrs.
Bell to write something for him. Mary Erskine immediately brought her
work-table up to the bedside, opened the drawer, took out one of the
sheets of paper and a pen, opened the inkstand, and thus made every
thing ready for writing. Mrs. Bell took her seat by the table in such
a manner that her head was near to Albert's as it lay upon the pillow.

"I am ready now," said Mrs. Bell.

"I bequeath all my property,"--said Albert.

Mrs. Bell wrote these words upon the paper, and then said,

"Well: I have written that."

"To Mary Erskine my wife," said Albert.

"I have written that," said Mrs. Bell, a minute afterwards.

"Now hand it to me to sign," said Albert.

They put the paper upon a book, and raising Albert up in the bed,
they put the pen into his hand. He wrote his name at the bottom of the
writing at the right hand. Then moving his hand to the left, he wrote
the word '_witness_' under the writing on that side. His hand
trembled, but he wrote the word pretty plain. As he finished writing
it he told Mrs. Bell that she must sign her name as witness. When this
had been done he gave back the paper and the pen into Mary Erskine's
hand, and said that she must take good care of that paper, for it was
very important. He then laid his head down again upon the pillow and
shut his eyes. He died that night.

Mary Erskine was entirely overwhelmed with grief, when she found that
all was over. In a few hours, however, she became comparatively calm,
and the next day she began to help Mrs. Bell in making preparations
for the funeral. She sent for Bella to come home immediately. Mrs.
Bell urged her very earnestly to take both the children, and go with
her to _her_ house, after the funeral, and stay there for a few
days at least, till she could determine what to do.

"No," said Mary Erskine. "It will be better for me to come back here."

"What do you think you shall do?" said Mrs. Bell.

"I don't know," said Mary Erskine. "I can't even begin to think now. I
am going to wait a week before I try to think about it at all."

"And in the mean time you are going to stay in this house."

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "I think that is best."

"But you must not stay here alone," said Mrs. Bell. "I will come back
with you and stay with you, at least one night."

"No," said Mary Erskine. "I have got to learn to be alone now, and
I may as well begin at once. I am very much obliged to you for all
your--"

Here Mary Erskine's voice faltered, and she suddenly stopped. Mrs.
Bell pitied her with all her heart, but she said no more. She remained
at the house while the funeral procession was gone to the grave; and
some friends came back with Mary Erskine, after the funeral. They all,
however, went away about sunset, leaving Mary Erskine alone with her
children.

As soon as her friends had gone, Mary Erskine took the children and
sat down in a rocking-chair, before the fire, holding them both in
her lap, the baby upon one side and Bella upon the other, and began to
rock back and forth with great rapidity. She kissed the children again
and again, with many tears, and sometimes she groaned aloud, in the
excess of her anguish. She remained sitting thus for half an hour. The
twilight gradually faded away. The flickering flame, which rose from
the fire in the fire-place, seemed to grow brighter as the daylight
disappeared, and to illuminate the whole interior of the room, so as
to give it a genial and cheerful expression. Mary Erskine gradually
became calm. The children, first the baby, and then Bella, fell
asleep. Finally Mary Erskine herself, who was by this time entirely
exhausted with watching, care, and sorrow, fell asleep too. Mary
Erskine slept sweetly for two full hours, and then was awaked by the
nestling of the baby.

[Illustration: THE WIDOW AND THE FATHERLESS.]

When Mary Erskine awoke she was astonished to find her mind perfectly
calm, tranquil, and happy. She looked down upon her children--Bella
asleep and the baby just awaking--with a heart full of maternal joy
and pleasure. Her room, it seemed to her, never appeared so bright and
cheerful and happy as then. She carried Bella to the bed and laid her
gently down in Albert's place, and then, going back to the fire, she
gave the baby the food which it required, and rocked it to sleep.
Her heart was resigned, and tranquil, and happy, She put the baby, at
length, into the cradle, and then, kneeling down, she thanked God with
her whole soul for having heard her prayer, and granted her the spirit
of resignation and peace. She then pushed open the curtains, and
reclined herself upon the bed, where she lay for some time, with a
peaceful smile upon her countenance, watching the flashing of a little
tongue, of flame, which broke out at intervals from the end of a brand
in the fire. After lying quietly thus, for a little while, she closed
her eyes, and gradually fell asleep again.

She slept very profoundly. It was a summer night, although, as usual,
Mary Erskine had a fire. Clouds rose in the west, bringing with them
gusts of wind and rain. The wind and the rain beat against the window,
but they did not wake her. It thundered. The thunder did not wake her.
The shower passed over, and the sky became, serene again, while Mary
Erskine slept tranquilly on. At length the baby began to move in the
cradle. Mary Erskine heard the first sound that its nestling made, and
raised herself up suddenly. The fire had nearly gone out. There was
no flame, and the room was lighted only by the glow of the burning
embers. Mary Erskine was frightened to find herself alone. The
tranquillity and happiness which she had experienced a few hours ago
were all gone, and her mind was filled, instead, with an undefined and
mysterious distress and terror. She went to the fire-place and built
a new fire, for the sake of its company. She took the baby from the
cradle and sat down in the rocking-chair, determining not to go to
bed again till morning. She went to the window and looked out at the
stars, to see if she could tell by them how long it would be before
the morning would come. She felt afraid, though she knew not why, and
holding the baby in her arms, with its head upon her shoulder, she
walked back and forth across the room, in great distress and anguish,
longing for the morning to come. Such is the capriciousness of grief.



CHAPTER V.

CONSULTATIONS.


Mrs. Bell went home on the evening of the funeral, very much exhausted
and fatigued under the combined effects of watching, anxiety, and
exertion. She went to bed, and slept very soundly until nearly
midnight. The thunder awaked her.

She felt solitary and afraid. Mary Bell, who was then about nine years
old, was asleep in a crib, in a corner of the room. There was a little
night lamp, burning dimly on the table, and it shed a faint and dismal
gleam upon the objects around it. Every few minutes, however, the
lightning would flash into the windows and glare a moment upon the
walls, and then leave the room in deeper darkness than ever. The
little night lamp, whose feeble beam had been for the moment entirely
overpowered, would then gradually come out to view again, to diffuse
once more its faint illumination, until another flash of lightning
came to extinguish it as before.

Mrs. Bell rose from her bed, and went to the crib to see if Mary Bell
was safe. She found her sleeping quietly. Mrs. Bell drew the crib out
a little way from the wall, supposing that she should thus put it into
a somewhat safer position. Then she lighted a large lamp. Then
she closed all the shutters of the room, in order to shut out the
lightning. Then she went to bed again, and tried to go to sleep. But
she could not. She was thinking of Mary Erskine, and endeavoring to
form some plan for her future life. She could not, however, determine
what it was best for her to do.

In the morning, after breakfast, she sat down at the window, with her
knitting work in her hand, looking very thoughtful and sad. Presently
she laid her work down in her lap, and seemed lost in some melancholy
reverie.

Mary Bell, who had been playing about the floor for some time, came
up to her mother, and seeing her look so thoughtful and sorrowful, she
said,

"Mother, what is the matter with you?"

"Why, Mary," said Mrs. Bell, in a melancholy tone, "I was thinking of
poor Mary Erskine."

"Well, mother," said Mary Bell, "could not you give her a little
money, if she is poor? I will give her my ten cents."

[Illustration: MRS. BELL.]

Mary Bell had a silver piece of ten cents, which she kept in a little
box, in her mother's room up stairs.

"Oh, she is not poor for want of money," said Mrs. Bell. "Her husband
made his will, before he died, and left her all his property."

"Though I told Mr. Keep about it last night," continued Mrs. Bell,
talking half to herself and half to Mary, "and he said the will was
not good."

"Not good," said Mary. "I think it is a very good will indeed. I am
sure Mary Erskine ought to have it all. Who should have it, if not
she?"

"The children, I suppose," said her mother.

"The children!" exclaimed Mary Bell. "Hoh! They are not half big
enough. They are only two babies; a great baby and a little one."

Mrs. Bell did not answer this, nor did she seem to take much notice of
it, but took up her knitting again, and went on musing as before. Mary
Bell did not understand very well about the will. The case was this:

The law, in the state where Mary Erskine lived, provided that when a
man died, as Albert had done, leaving a wife and children, and a farm,
and also stock, and furniture, and other such movable property, if
he made no will, the wife was to have a part of the property, and the
rest must be saved for the children, in order to be delivered to them,
when they should grow up, and be ready to receive it and use it. The
farm, when there was a farm, was to be kept until the children should
grow up, only their mother was to have one third of the benefit of
it,--that is, one third of the rent of it, if they could let it--until
the children became of age. The amount of the other two thirds was to
be kept for them. In respect to all movable property, such as stock
and tools, and furniture, and other things of that kind, since they
could not very conveniently be kept till the children were old enough
to use them, they were to be sold, and the wife was to have half the
value, and the children the other half.

In respect to the children's part of all the property, they were
not, themselves, to have the care of it, but some person was to be
appointed to be their guardian. This guardian was to have the care of
all their share of the property, until they were of age, when it was
to be paid over into their hands.

If, however, the husband, before his death, was disposed to do so, he
might make a will, and give all the property to whomsoever he pleased.
If he decided, as Albert had done, to give it all to his wife, then
it would come wholly under her control, at once. She would be under no
obligation to keep any separate account of the children's share, but
might expend it all herself, or if she were so inclined, she might
keep it safely, and perhaps add to it by the proceeds of her own
industry, and then, when the children should grow up, she might give
them as much as her maternal affection should dictate.

In order that the property of men who die, should be disposed of
properly, according to law, or according to the will, if any will be
made, it is required that soon after the death of any person takes
place, the state of the case should be reported at a certain public
office, instituted to attend to this business. There is such an office
in every county in the New England states. It is called the Probate
office. The officer, who has this business in charge, is called the
Judge of Probate. There is a similar system in force, in all the
other states of the Union, though the officers are sometimes called by
different names from those which they receive in New England.

Now, while Albert was lying sick upon his bed, he was occupied a great
deal of the time, while they thought that he was asleep, in thinking
what was to become of his wife and children in case he should die.
He knew very well that in case he died without making any will, his
property must be divided, under the direction of the Judge of Probate,
and one part of it be kept for the children, while Mary Erskine would
have the control only of the other part. This is a very excellent
arrangement in all ordinary cases, so that the law, in itself, is a
very good law. There are, however, some cases, which are exceptions,
and Albert thought that Mary Erskine's case was one. It was owing,
in a great measure, to her prudence and economy, to her efficient
industry, and to her contented and happy disposition, that he had been
able to acquire any property, instead of spending all that he earned,
like Mr. Gordon, as fast as he earned it. Then, besides, he knew
that Mary Erskine would act as conscientiously and faithfully for the
benefit of the children, if the property was all her own, as she
would if a part of it was theirs, and only held by herself, for safe
keeping, as their guardian. Whereas, if this last arrangement went
into effect, he feared that it would make her great trouble to keep
the accounts, as she could not write, not even to sign her name. He
determined, therefore, to make a will, and give all his property, of
every kind, absolutely to her. This he did, in the manner described in
the last chapter.

The law invests every man with a very absolute power in respect to his
property, authorizing him to make any disposition of it whatever, and
carrying faithfully into effect, after his death, any wish that he may
have expressed in regard to it, as his deliberate and final intention.
It insists, however, that there should be evidence that the wish, so
expressed, is really a deliberate and final act. It is not enough that
the man should say in words what his wishes are. The will must be in
writing, and it must be signed; or if the sick man can not write, he
must make some mark with the pen, at the bottom of the paper, to stand
instead of a signature, and to show that he considers the act, which
he is performing, as a solemn and binding transaction. Nor will it do
to have the will executed in the presence of only one witness; for if
that were allowed, designing persons would sometimes persuade a sick
man, who was rich, to sign a will which they themselves had written,
telling him, perhaps, that it was only a receipt, or some other
unimportant paper, and thus inducing him to convey his property in a
way that he did not intend. The truth is, that there is necessity for
a much greater degree of precautionary form, in the execution of a
will, than in almost any other transaction; for as the man himself
will be dead and gone when the time comes for carrying the will into
effect,--and so can not give any explanation of his designs, it is
necessary to make them absolutely clear and certain, independently
of him. It was, accordingly, the law, in the state where Mary Erskine
lived, that there should be three witnesses present, when any person
signed a will; and also that when signing the paper, the man should
say that he knew that it was his will. If three credible persons thus
attested the reality and honesty of the transaction, it was thought
sufficient, in all ordinary cases, to make it sure.

Albert, it seems, was not aware how many witnesses were required. When
he requested Mrs. Bell to sign his will, as witness, he thought that
he was doing all that was necessary to make it valid. When, however,
Mrs. Bell, afterwards, in going home, met Mr. Keep and related to
him the transaction, he said that he was afraid that the will was not
good, meaning that it would not stand in law.

The thought that the will was probably not valid, caused Mrs. Bell a
considerable degree of anxiety and concern, as she imagined that its
failure would probably cause Mary Erskine a considerable degree of
trouble and embarrassment, though she did not know precisely how. She
supposed that the children's share of the property must necessarily be
kept separate and untouched until they grew up, and that in the mean
time their mother would have to work very hard in order to maintain
herself and them too. But this is not the law. The guardian of
children, in such cases, is authorized to expend, from the children's
share of property, as much as is necessary for their maintenance while
they are children; and it is only the surplus, if there is any, which
it is required of her to pay over to them, when they come of age. It
would be obviously unjust, in cases where children themselves have
property left them by legacy, or falling to them by inheritance, to
compel their father or mother to toil ten or twenty years to feed and
clothe them, in order that they might have their property, whole and
untouched, when they come of age. All that the law requires is
that the property bequeathed to children, or falling to them by
inheritance, shall always be exactly ascertained, and an account of it
put upon record in the Probate office: and then, that a guardian shall
be appointed, who shall expend only so much of it, while the children
are young, as is necessary for their comfortable support and proper
education; and then, when they come of age, if there is any surplus
left, that it shall be paid over to them. In Mary Erskine's case,
these accounts would, of course, cause her some trouble, but it would
make but little difference in the end.

Mrs. Bell spent a great deal of time, during the day, in trying to
think what it would be best for Mary Erskine to do, and also in trying
to think what she could herself do for her. She, however, made very
little progress in respect to either of those points. It seemed to her
that Mary Erskine could not move into the new house, and attempt to
carry on the farm, and, on the other hand, it appeared equally out
of the question for her to remain where she was, in her lonesome log
cabin. She might move into the village, or to some house nearer the
village, but what should she do in that case for a livelihood. In a
word, the more that Mrs. Bell reflected upon the subject, the more at
a loss she was.

She determined to go and see Mary Erskine after dinner, again, as the
visit would at least be a token of kindness and sympathy, even if it
should do no other good. She arrived at the house about the middle
of the afternoon. She found Mary Erskine busily at work, putting the
house in order, and rectifying the many derangements which sickness
and death always occasion. Mary Erskine received Mrs. Bell at first
with a cheerful smile, and seemed, to all appearance, as contented and
happy as usual. The sight of Mrs. Bell, however, recalled forcibly to
her mind her irremediable loss, and overwhelmed her heart, again, with
bitter grief. She went to the window, where her little work-table
had been placed, and throwing herself down in a chair before it, she
crossed her arms upon the table, laid her forehead down upon them in
an attitude of despair, and burst into tears.

Mrs. Bell drew up toward her and stood by her side in silence. She
pitied her with all her heart, but she did not know what to say to
comfort her.

Just then little Bella came climbing up the steps, from the stoop,
with some flowers in her hand, which she had gathered in the yard. As
soon as she had got up into the room she stood upon her feet and went
dancing along toward the baby, who was playing upon the floor, singing
as she danced. She gave the baby the flowers, and then, seeing that
her mother was in trouble, she came up toward the place and stood
still a moment, with a countenance expressive of great concern. She
put her arm around her mother's neck, saying in a very gentle and
soothing tone,

"Mother! what is the matter, mother?"

Mary Erskine liberated one of her arms, and clasped Bella with it
fondly, but did not raise her head, or answer.

"Go and get some flowers for your mother," said Mrs. Bell, "like those
which you got for the baby."

"Well," said Bella, "I will." So she turned away, and went singing and
dancing out of the room.

"Mary," said Mrs. Bell. "I wish that you would shut up this house and
take the children and come to my house, at least for a while, until
you can determine what to do."

Mary Erskine shook her head, but did not reply. She seemed, however,
to be regaining her composure. Presently she raised her head, smoothed
down her hair, which was very soft and beautiful, readjusted her
dress, and sat up, looking out at the window.

"If you stay here," continued Mrs. Bell, "you will only spend your
time in useless and hopeless grief."

"No," said Mary Erskine, "I am not going to do any such a thing."

"Have you begun to think at all what you shall do?" asked Mrs. Bell.

"No," said Mary Erskine. "When any great thing happens, I always have
to wait a little while till I get accustomed to knowing that it has
happened, before I can determine what to do about it. It seems as if
I did not more than half know yet, that Albert is dead. Every time the
door opens I almost expect to see him come in."

"Do you think that you shall move to the new house?" asked Mrs. Bell.

"No," said Mary Erskine, "I see that I can't do that. I don't wish to
move there, either, now."

"There's one thing," continued Mrs. Bell after a moment's pause, "that
perhaps I ought to tell you, though it is rather bad news for you. Mr.
Keep says that he is afraid that the will, which Albert made, is not
good in law."

"Not good! Why not?" asked Mary Erskine.

"Why because there is only one witness The law requires that there
should be three witnesses, so as to be sure that Albert really signed
the will."

"Oh no," said Mary Erskine. "One witness is enough, I am sure. The
Judge of Probate knows you, and he will believe you as certainly as he
would a dozen witnesses."

"But I suppose," said Mrs. Bell, "that it does not depend upon the
Judge of Probate. It depends upon the law."

Mary Erskine was silent. Presently she opened her drawer and took out
the will and looked at it mysteriously. She could not read a word of
it.

"Read it to me, Mrs. Bell," said she, handing the paper to Mrs. Bell.

Mrs. Bell read as follows:


    "I bequeath all my property to my wife, Mary Erskine. Albert
    Forester. Witness, Mary Bell."


"I am sure that is all right," said Mary Erskine. "It is very plain,
and one witness is enough. Besides, Albert would know how it ought to
be done."

"But then," she continued after a moment's pause, "he was very sick
and feeble. Perhaps he did not think. I am sure I shall be very sorry
if it is not a good will, for if I do not have the farm and the stock,
I don't know what I shall do with my poor children."

Mary Erskine had a vague idea that if the will should prove invalid,
she and her children would lose the property, in some way or other,
entirely,--though she did not know precisely how. After musing upon
this melancholy prospect a moment she asked,

"Should not I have _any_ of the property, if the will proves not
to be good?"

"Oh yes," said Mrs. Bell, "you will have a considerable part of it, at
any rate."

"How much?" asked Mary Erskine.

"Why about half, I believe," replied Mrs. Bell.

"Oh," said Mary Erskine, apparently very much relieved. "That will
do very well. Half will be enough. There is a great deal of property.
Albert told me that the farm and the new house are worth five hundred
dollars, and the stock is worth full three hundred more. And Albert
does not owe any thing at all."

"Well," said Mrs. Bell. "You will have half. Either half or a third, I
forget exactly which."

"And what becomes of the rest?" asked Mary Erskine.

"Why the rest goes to the children," said Mrs. Bell.

"To the children!" repeated Mary Erskine.

"Yes," said she, "you will have to be appointed guardian, and take
care of it for them, and carry in your account, now and then, to the
Judge of Probate."

"Oh," said Mary Erskine, her countenance brightening up with an
expression of great relief and satisfaction. "That is just the same
thing. If it is to go to the children, and I am to take care of it for
them, it is just the same thing. I don't care any thing about the will
at all."

So saying, she threw the paper down upon the table, as if it was of no
value whatever.

"But there's one thing," she said again, after pausing a few minutes.
"I can't keep any accounts. I can not even write my name."

"That is no matter," said Mrs. Bell. "There will be but little to
do about the accounts, and it is easy to get somebody to do that for
you."

"I wish I had learned to write," said Mary Erskine.

Mrs. Bell said nothing, but in her heart she wished so too.

"Do you think that I could possibly learn now?" asked Mary Erskine.

"Why,--I don't know,--perhaps, if you had any one to teach you."

"Thomas might teach me, perhaps," said Mary Erskine, doubtfully. Then,
in a moment she added again, in a desponding tone,--"but I don't know
how long he will stay here."

"Then you don't know at all yet," said Mrs. Bell, after a short pause,
"what you shall conclude to do."

"No," replied Mary Erskine, "not at all. I am going on, just as I am
now, for some days, without perplexing myself at all about it. And I
am not going to mourn and make myself miserable. I am going to make
myself as contented and happy as I can, with my work and my children."

Here Mary Erskine suddenly laid her head down upon her arms again, on
the little work-table before her, and burst into tears. After sobbing
convulsively a few minutes she rose, hastily brushed the tears away
with her handkerchief, and went toward the door. She then took the
water pail, which stood upon a bench near the door, and said that
she was going to get some water, at the spring, for tea, and that she
would be back in a moment. She returned very soon, with a countenance
entirely serene.

"I have been trying all day," said Mrs. Bell, "to think of something
that I could do for you, to help you or to relieve you in some way or
other; but I can not think of any thing at all that I can do."

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "there is one thing that you could do
for me, that would be a very great kindness, a very great kindness
indeed."

"What is it?" asked Mrs. Bell.

"I am afraid that you will think it is too much for me to ask."

"No," said Mrs. Bell, "what is it?"

Mary Erskine hesitated a moment, and then said,

"To let Mary Bell come and stay here with me, a few days."

"Do you mean all night, too?" asked Mrs. Bell.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "all the time."

"Why, you have got two children to take care of now," replied Mrs.
Bell, "and nobody to help you. I should have thought that you would
have sooner asked me to take Bella home with me."

"No," said Mary Erskine. "I should like to have Mary Bell here, very
much, for a few days."

"Well," said Mrs. Bell, "she shall certainly come. I will send her,
to-morrow morning."



CHAPTER VI.

MARY BELL IN THE WOODS.


Mary Erskine had a bible in her house, although she could not read
it. When Albert was alive he was accustomed to read a chapter every
evening, just before bed-time, and then he and Mary Erskine would
kneel down together, by the settle which stood in the corner, while he
repeated his evening prayer. This short season of devotion was always
a great source of enjoyment to Mary Erskine. If she was tired and
troubled, it soothed and quieted her mind. If she was sorrowful, it
comforted her. If she was happy, it seemed to make her happiness more
deep and unalloyed.

Mary Erskine could not read the bible, but she could repeat a
considerable number of texts and verses from it, and she knew, too,
the prayer, which Albert had been accustomed to offer, almost by
heart. So after Mrs. Bell had gone home, as described in the last
chapter, and after she herself had undressed the children and put them
to bed, and had finished all the other labors and duties of the day,
she took the bible down from its shelf, and seating herself upon the
settle, so as to see by the light of the fire, as Albert had been
accustomed to do, she opened the book, and then began to repeat such
verses as she could remember. At length she closed the book, and
laying it down upon the seat of the settle, in imitation of Albert's
custom, she kneeled down before it, and repeated the prayer. The use
of the bible itself, in this service, was of course a mere form:--but
there is sometimes a great deal of spiritual good to be derived from
a form, when the heart is in it, to give it meaning and life. Mary
Erskine went to bed comforted and happy; and she slept peacefully
through each one of the three periods of repose, into which the care
of an infant by a mother usually divides the night.

In the morning, the first thought which came into her mind was, that
Mary Bell was coming to see her. She anticipated the visit from her
former charge with great pleasure. She had had Mary Bell under her
charge from early infancy, and she loved her, accordingly, almost as
much as if she were her own child. Besides, as Mary Bell had grown up
she had become a very attractive and beautiful child, so kind to all,
so considerate, so gentle, so active and intelligent, and at the
same time so docile, and so quiet, that she was a universal favorite
wherever she went. Mary Erskine was full of joy at the idea of having
her come and spend several days and nights too, at her house, and she
was impatient for the time to arrive when she might begin to expect
her. At eight o'clock, she began to go often to the door to look down
the road. At nine, she began to feel uneasy. At ten, she put on
her hood and went down the road, almost to the corner, to meet
her--looking forward intensely all the way, hoping at every turn to
see her expected visitor advancing along the path. She went on thus
until she came in sight of the corner, without seeing or hearing any
thing of Mary Bell; and then she was compelled to return home alone,
disappointed and sad. She waited dinner from twelve until one, but
no Mary Bell appeared. Mary Erskine then concluded that something had
happened to detain her expected visitor at home, and that she might
be disappointed of the visit altogether. Still she could not but hope
that Mary would come in the course of the afternoon. The hours of
the afternoon, however, passed tediously away, and the sun began to
decline toward the west; still there was no Mary Bell. The cause of
her detention will now be explained.

When Mary Bell came down to breakfast, on the morning after her
mother's visit to Mary Erskine, her mother told her, as she came
into the room, that she had an invitation for her to go out to Mary
Erskine's that day.

"And may I go?" asked Mary Bell.

"Yes," said her mother, "I think I shall let you go."

"I am _so_ glad!" said Mary Bell, clapping her hands.

"Mary Erskine wishes to have you stay there several days," continued
her mother.

Mary Bell began to look a little sober again. She was not quite sure
that she should be willing to be absent from her mother, for so many
days.

"Could not I come home every night?" said she.

"Why, she wishes," answered Mrs. Bell, "to have you stay there all the
time, day and night, for several days. It is an opportunity for you
to do some good. You could not do Mary Erskine any good by giving her
your money, for she has got plenty of money; nor by carrying her any
thing good to eat, for her house is full of abundance, and she knows
as well how to make good things as any body in town. But you can do
her a great deal of good by going and staying with her, and keeping
her company. Perhaps you can help her a little, in taking care of the
children."

"Well," said Mary Bell, "I should like to go."

So Mrs. Bell dressed Mary neatly, for the walk, gave her a very small
tin pail, with two oranges in it for Mary Erskine's children, and then
sent out word to the hired man, whose name was Joseph, to harness the
horse into the wagon. When the wagon was ready, she directed Joseph to
carry Mary to the corner, and see that she set out upon the right road
there, toward Mary Erskine's house. It was only about half a mile
from the corner to the house, and the road, though crooked, stony, and
rough, was very plain, and Mary Bell had often walked over it alone.

There was, in fact, only one place where there could be any danger
of Mary Bell's losing her way, and that was at a point about midway
between the corner and Mary Erskine's house, where a road branched off
to the right, and led into the woods. There was a large pine-tree at
this point, which Mary Bell remembered well; and she knew that she
must take the left-hand road when she reached this tree. There were
various little paths, at other places, but none that could mislead
her.

When Joseph, at length, set Mary Bell down in the path at the corner,
she stood still, upon a flat rock by the side of the road, to see him
turn the wagon and set out upon his return.

"Good-bye, Joseph," said she. "I am going to be gone several days."

"Good-bye," said Joseph, turning to look round at Mary Bell, as the
wagon slowly moved away.

"Bid mother good-bye," said Mary Bell,--"and Joseph, don't you forget
to water my geranium."

"No," said Joseph, "and don't you forget to take the left-hand road."

"No," said Mary Bell.

She felt a slight sensation of lonesomeness, to be left there in
solitude at the entrance of a dark and somber wood, especially when
she reflected that it was to be several days before she should see her
mother again. But then, calling up to her mind a vivid picture of Mary
Erskine's house, and of the pleasure that she should enjoy there, in
playing with Bella and the baby, she turned toward the pathway into
the woods, and walked resolutely forward, swinging her pail in her
hand and singing a song.

There were a great many birds in the woods; some were hopping about
upon the rocks and bushes by the road-side. Others were singing in
solitary places, upon the tops of tall trees in the depths of the
forest, their notes being heard at intervals, in various directions,
as if one was answering another, to beguile the solemn loneliness of
the woods. The trees were very tall, and Mary Bell, as she looked up
from her deep and narrow pathway, and saw the lofty tops rocking to
and fro with a very slow and gentle motion, as they were waved by the
wind, it seemed to her that they actually touched the sky.

At one time she heard the leaves rustling, by the side of the road,
and looking in under the trees, she saw a gray squirrel, just in the
act of leaping up from the leaves upon the ground to the end of a log.
As soon as he had gained this footing, he stopped and looked round at
Mary Bell. Mary Bell stopped too; each looked at the other for several
seconds, in silence,--the child with an expression of curiosity and
pleasure upon her countenance, and the squirrel with one of wonder and
fear upon his. Mary Bell made a sudden motion toward him with her hand
to frighten him a little. It did frighten him. He turned off and ran
along the log as fast as he could go, until he reached the end of it,
and disappeared.

"Poor Bobbin," said Mary Bell, "I am sorry that I frightened you
away."

A few steps farther on in her walk, Mary Bell came to a place where
a great number of yellow butterflies had settled down together in the
path. Most of them were still, but a few were fluttering about, to
find good places.

"Oh, what pretty butterflies!" said Mary Bell. "They have been flying
about, I suppose, till they have got tired, and have stopped to rest.
But if I were a butterfly, I would rest upon flowers, and not upon the
ground."

Mary Bell paused and looked upon the butterflies a moment, and then
said,

"And now how shall I get by? I am sure I don't want to tread upon
those butterflies. I will sit down here, myself, on a stone, and wait
till they get rested and fly away. Besides, I am tired myself, and
_I_ shall get rested too."

Just as she took her seat she saw that there was a little path, which
diverged here from the main road, and turned into the woods a little
way, seeming to come back again after a short distance. There were
many such little paths, here and there, running parallel to the main
road. They were made by the cows, in the spring of the year when the
roads were wet, to avoid the swampy places. These places were now all
dry, and the bye-paths were consequently of no use, though traces of
them remained.

"No," said Mary Bell. "I will not stop to rest; I am not very tired;
so I will go around by this little path. It will come into the road
again very soon."

Mary Bell's opinion would have been just, in respect to any other path
but this one; but it so happened, very unfortunately for her, that
now, although not aware of it, she was in fact very near the great
pine-tree, where the road into the woods branched off, and the path
which she was determining to take, though it commenced in the main
road leading to Mary Erskine's, did not return to it again, but after
passing, by a circuitous and devious course, through the bushes a
little way, ended in the branch road which led into the woods, at a
short distance beyond the pine-tree.

Mary Bell was not aware of this state of things, but supposed, without
doubt, that the path would come out again into the same road that
it left, and that, she could pass round through it, and so avoid
disturbing the butterflies. She thought, indeed, it might possibly be
that the path would not come back at all, but would lose itself in
the woods; and to guard against this danger, she determined that after
going on for a very short distance, if she found that it did not come
out into the road again, she would come directly back. The idea of
its coming out into a wrong road did not occur to her mind as a
possibility.

She accordingly entered the path, and after proceeding in it a little
way she was quite pleased to see it coming out again into what she
supposed was the main road. Dismissing, now, all care and concern, she
walked forward in a very light-hearted and happy manner. The road
was very similar in its character to the one which she ought to have
taken, so that there was nothing in the appearances around her to lead
her to suppose that she was wrong. She had, moreover, very little idea
of measures of time, and still less of distance, and thus she went on
for more than an hour before she began to wonder why she did not get
to Mary Erskine's.

She began to suspect, then, that she had in some way or other lost
the right road. She, however, went on, looking anxiously about for
indications of an approach to the farm, until at length she saw signs
of an opening in the woods, at some distance before her. She concluded
to go on until she came to this opening, and if she could not tell
where she was by the appearance of the country there, she would go
back again by the road she came.

The opening, when she reached it, appeared to consist of a sort of
pasture land, undulating in its surface, and having thickets of
trees and bushes scattered over it, here and there. There was a small
elevation in the land, at a little distance from the place where Mary
Bell came out, and she thought that she would go to the top of
this elevation, and look for Mary Erskine's house, all around. She
accordingly did so, but neither Mary Erskine's house nor any other
human habitation was anywhere to be seen.

She sat down upon a smooth stone, which was near her, feeling tired
and thirsty, and beginning to be somewhat anxious in respect to her
situation. She thought, however, that there was no great danger, for
her mother would certainly send Joseph out into the woods to find her,
as soon as she heard that she was lost. She concluded, at first, to
wait where she was until Joseph should come, but on second thoughts,
she concluded to go back by the road which had led her to the opening,
and so, perhaps meet him on the way. She was very thirsty, and wished
very much that one of the oranges in the pail belonged to her, for she
would have liked to eat one very much indeed. But they were not either
of them hers. One belonged to Bella, and the other to the baby.

She walked back again to the woods, intending to return toward the
corner, by the road in which she came, but now she could not find the
entrance to it. She wandered for some time, this way and that, along
the margin of the wood, but could find no road. She, however, at
length found something which she liked better. It was a beautiful
spring of cool water, bubbling up from between the rocks on the side
of a little hill. She sat down by the side of this spring, took off
the cover from her little pail, took out the oranges and laid them
down carefully in a little nook where they would not roll away, and
then using the pail for a dipper, she dipped up some water, and had an
excellent drink.

"What a good spring this is!" said she to herself. "It is as good as
Mary Erskine's."

It was the time of the year in which raspberries were ripe, and Mary
Bell, in looking around her from her seat near the spring, saw at
a distance a place which appeared as if there were raspberry bushes
growing there.

"I verily believe that there are some raspberries," said she. "I will
go and see; if I could only find plenty of raspberries, it would be
all that I should want."

The bushes proved to be raspberry bushes, as Mary had supposed, and
she found them loaded with fruit. She ate of them abundantly, and was
very much refreshed. She would have filled her pail besides, so as
to have some to take along with her, but she had no place to put the
oranges, except within the pail.

It was now about noon; the sun was hot, and Mary Bell began to be
pretty tired. She wished that they would come for her. She climbed up
upon a large log which lay among the bushes, and called as loud as she
could,

"_Mary Erskine! Mary Erskine!_"

Then after pausing a moment, and listening in vain for an answer, she
renewed her call,


    "_Thom--as! Thom--as!_"

    Then again, after another pause,

    "_Jo--seph! Jo--seph!_"


She listened a long time, but heard nothing except the singing of the
birds, and the sighing of the wind upon the tops of the trees in the
neighboring forests.

She began to feel very anxious and very lonely. She descended from the
log, and walked along till she got out of the bushes. She came to a
place where there were rocks, with smooth surfaces of moss and grass
among them. She found a shady place among these rocks, and sat down
upon the moss. She laid her head down upon her arm and began to weep
bitterly.

Presently she raised her head again, and endeavored to compose
herself, saying,

"But I must not cry. I must be patient, and wait till they come. I am
very tired, but I must not go to sleep, for then I shall not hear
them when they come. I will lay my head down, but I will keep my eyes
open."

She laid her head down accordingly upon a mossy mound, and
notwithstanding her resolution to keep her eyes open, in ten minutes
she was fast asleep.

She slept very soundly for more than two hours. She was a little
frightened when she awoke, to find that she had been sleeping, and she
started up and climbed along upon a rock which was near by, until she
gained a projecting elevation, and here she began to listen again.

She heard the distant tinkling of a bell.

"Hark," said she. "I hear a bell. It is out _that_ way. I wonder
what it is. I will go there and see."

So taking up her pail very carefully, she walked along in the
direction where she had heard the bell. She stopped frequently to
listen. Sometimes she could hear it, and sometimes she could not.
She, however, steadily persevered, though she encountered a great many
obstacles on the way. Sometimes there were wet places, which it was
very hard to get round. At other times, there were dense thickets,
which she had to scramble through, or rocks over which she had to
climb, either up or down. The sound, however, of the bell, came nearer
and nearer.

"I verily believe," said she at length, "that it is Queen Bess."

Queen Bess was one of Mary Erskine's cows.

The idea that the sound which she was following might possibly be
Queen Bess's bell, gave her great courage. She was well acquainted
with Queen Bess, having often gone out to see Mary Erskine milk
her, with the other cows. She had even tried many times to milk her
herself, Mary Erskine having frequently allowed her to milk enough, in
a mug, to provide herself with a drink.

"I hope it is Queen Bess," said Mary Bell. "She knows me, and she will
give me a drink of her milk, I am sure."

Mary Bell proved to be right in her conjecture. It was Queen Bess. She
was feeding very quietly, Mary Erskine's other cows being near, some
cropping the grass and some browsing upon the bushes. Queen Bess
raised her head and looked at Mary Bell with a momentary feeling of
astonishment, wondering how she came there, and then put down her head
again and resumed her feeding.

"Now," said Mary Bell, "I shall certainly get home again, for I shall
stay with you until Thomas comes up after the cows. He will find you
by your bell. And now I am going to put these oranges down upon the
grass, and milk some milk into this pail."

So Mary Bell put the oranges in a safe place upon the grass, and then
went cautiously up to the side of the cow, and attempted to milk
her. But it is very difficult to milk a cow while she is grazing in
a pasture. She is not inclined to stand still, but advances all the
time, slowly, step by step, making it very difficult to do any thing
at milking. Mary Bell, however, succeeded very well. She was so
thirsty that she did not wait to get a great deal at a time, but as
soon as she had two or three spoonfuls in the pail, she stopped to
drink it. In this manner, by dint of a great deal of labor and pains,
she succeeded, in about a quarter of an hour, in getting as much as
she wanted.

[Illustration: MARY BELL AND QUEEN BESS.]

She remained in company with the cows all the afternoon. Sometimes she
would wander from them a little way to gather raspberries, and then
she would creep up cautiously to Queen Bess, and get another drink of
milk. When she had thus had as many raspberries, and as much milk, as
she wished, she amused herself for some time in gathering a bouquet
of wild flowers to give to Mary Erskine on her return. The time, being
thus filled up with useful occupation, passed pleasantly and rapidly
along, and at length, when the sun was nearly ready to go down, she
heard a distant voice shouting to the cows. It was Thomas, coming to
drive them home.

Thomas was of course greatly astonished to find Mary Bell in the
woods, and his astonishment was not at all diminished at hearing her
story. He offered to carry her, in going home,--but she said that
she was not tired, and could walk as well as not. So they went down
together, the cows running along before them in the paths. When they
reached the house, Thomas went to turn the cows into the yard, while
Mary Bell went into the house to Mary Erskine, with her little pail in
one hand, and her bouquet of flowers in the other.



CHAPTER VII.

HOUSE-KEEPING.


One of the greatest pleasures which Mary Bell enjoyed, in her visits
at Mary Erskine's at this period, was to assist in the house-keeping.
She was particularly pleased with being allowed to help in getting
breakfast or tea, and in setting the table.

She rose accordingly very early on the morning after her arrival
there from the woods, as described in the last chapter, and put on
the working-dress which Mary Erskine had made for her, and which was
always kept at the farm. This was not the working-dress which was
described in a preceding chapter as the one which Mary Bell used to
play in, when out among the stumps. Her playing among the stumps was
two or three years before the period which we are now describing.
During those two or three years, Mary Bell had wholly outgrown her
first working-dress, and her mind had become improved and enlarged,
and her tastes matured more rapidly even than her body had grown.

She now no longer took any pleasure in dabbling in the brook, or
planting potatoes in the sand,--or in heating sham ovens in stumps and
hollow trees. She had begun to like realities. To bake a real cake for
breakfast or tea, to set a real table with real cups and saucers, for
a real and useful purpose, or to assist Mary Erskine in the care of
the children, or in making the morning arrangements in the room, gave
her more pleasure than any species of child's play could possibly
do. When she went out now, she liked to be dressed neatly, and take
pleasant walks, to see the views or to gather flowers. In a word,
though she was still in fact a child, she began to have in some degree
the tastes and feelings of a woman.

"What are you going to have for breakfast?" said Mary Bell to Mary
Erskine, while they were getting up.

"What should you like?" asked Mary Erskine in reply.

"Why I should like some roast potatoes, and a spider cake," said Mary
Bell.

The spider cake received its name from being baked before the fire
in a flat, iron vessel, called a spider. The spider was so called
probably, because, like the animal of that name, it had several legs
and a great round body. The iron spider, however, unlike its living
namesake, had a long straight tail, which, extending out behind,
served for a handle.

The spider cake being very tender and nice, and coming as it usually
did, hot upon the table, made a most excellent breakfast,--though this
was not the principal reason which led Mary Bell to ask for it. She
liked to _make_ the spider cake; for Mary Erskine, after mixing
and preparing the material, used to allow Mary Bell to roll it out to
its proper form, and put it into the spider. Then more than all the
rest, Mary Bell liked to _bake_ a spider cake. She used to
take great pleasure in carrying the cake in her two hands to the
fire-place, and laying it carefully in its place in the spider, and
then setting it up before the fire to bake, lifting the spider by
the end of the tail. She also took great satisfaction afterward in
watching it, as the surface which was presented toward the fire became
browned by the heat. When it was sufficiently baked upon one side it
had to be turned, and then set up before the fire again, to be baked
on the other side; and every part of the long operation was always
watched by Mary Bell with great interest and pleasure.

Mary Erskine consented to Mary Bell's proposal in respect to
breakfast, and for an hour Mary Bell was diligently employed in making
the preparations.

[Illustration: MARY BELL GETTING BREAKFAST.]

She put the potatoes in the bed which Mary Erskine opened for them in
the ashes. She rolled out the spider cake, and put it into the spider;
she spread the cloth upon the table, and took down the plates, and
the cups and saucers from the cupboard, and set them in order on the
table. She went down into the little cellar to bring up the butter.
She skimmed a pan of milk to get the cream, she measured out the tea;
and at last, when all else was ready, she took a pitcher and went
down to the spring to bring up a pitcher of cool water. In all these
operations Bella accompanied her, always eager to help, and Mary Bell,
knowing that it gave Bella great pleasure to have something to do,
called upon her, continually, for her aid, and allowed her to do
every thing that it was safe to entrust to her. Thus they went on very
happily together.

At length, when the breakfast was ready they all sat down around the
table to eat it, except the baby. He remained in the trundle-bed,
playing with his play-things. His play-things consisted of three or
four smooth pebble stones of different colors, each being of about the
size of an egg, which his mother had chosen for him out of the
brook, and also of a short piece of bright iron chain. The chain was
originally a part of a harness, but the harness had become worn out,
and Albert had brought in the chain and given it to the baby. The baby
liked these play-things very much indeed,--both the pebbles and the
chain. When he was well, and neither hungry nor sleepy, he was never
tired of playing with them,--trying to bite them, and jingling them
together.

"Now," said Mary Erskine to the children, as they were sitting at the
table, at the close of the breakfast, and after Thomas had gone away,
"you may go out and play for an hour while I finish my morning work,
and put the baby to sleep, and then I want you to come in and have a
school."

"Who shall be the teacher?" said Mary Bell.

"You shall be _one_," said Mary Erskine.

"Are you going to have two teachers?" asked Mary Bell. "If you do,
then we can't have any scholars;--for the baby is not old enough to go
to school."

"I know it," said Mary Erskine, "but we can have three scholars
without him."

"Who shall they be?" asked Mary Bell.

"You and I, and Bella," answered Mary Erskine. "I will tell you what
my plan is. I expect that I shall conclude to stay here, and live in
this house alone for some years to come, and the children can not go
to school, for there is now nobody to take them, and it is too far for
them to go alone. I must teach them myself at home, or else they can
not learn. I am very sorry indeed now that I did not learn to read and
write when I was a child: for that would have saved me the time and
trouble of learning now. But I think I _can_ learn now. Don't you
think I can, Mary?"

"Oh, yes, indeed," said Mary Bell, "I am sure you can. It is very easy
to read."

"I am going to try," continued Mary Erskine, "and so I want you to
teach me. And while you are teaching me, Bella may as well begin at
the same time. So that you will have two scholars."

"Three--you said three scholars," rejoined Mary Bell.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine. "You shall be the third scholar. I am going
to teach you to draw."

"Do you know how to draw?" asked Mary Bell, surprised.

"No," said Mary Erskine, "but I can show _you_ how to learn."

"Well," said Mary Bell, "I should like to learn to draw very much
indeed. Though I don't see how any body can teach a thing unless they
can do it themselves."

"Sometimes they can," said Mary Erskine. "A man may teach a horse to
canter, without being able to canter himself."

Mary Bell laughed at the idea of a man attempting to canter, and said
that she should be very glad to try to learn to draw. Mary Erskine
then said that after they had finished their breakfast the children
might go out an hour to walk and play, and that then when they should
come in, they would find every thing ready for the school.

Mary Bell concluded to take a walk about the farm during the time
which they were allowed to spend in play, before the school was to
begin. So she and Bella put on their bonnets, and bidding Mary Erskine
good morning, they sallied forth. As they came out at the great stoop
door their attention was arrested by the sound of a cow-bell. The
sound seemed to come from the barn-yard.

"Ah," said Mary Bell, "there is Queen Bess going to pasture this
morning. How glad I was to see her yesterday in the woods! Let us go
and see her now."

So saying she led the way around the corner of the house, by a
pleasant path through the high grass that was growing in the yard,
toward the barns. Bella followed her. They passed through a gate, then
across a little lane, then through a gate on the other side of the
lane, which led into the barn-yards. The barns, like the house, were
built of logs, but they were very neatly made, and the yards around
them were at this season of the year dry and green.

Mary and Bella walked on across the barn-yard until they got to the
back side of the barn, when they found Thomas turning the cows into a
little green lane which led to the pasture. It was not very far to the
pasture bars, and so Mary Bell proposed that they should go and help
Thomas drive the cows. They accordingly went on, but they had not gone
far before they came to a brook, which here flowed across the lane.
The cows walked directly through the brook, while Thomas got across it
by stepping over some stones at one side. Mary Bell thought that the
spaces were a little too wide for Bella to jump over, so she concluded
not to go any farther in that direction.

Bella then proposed that they should go and see the new house. This
Mary Bell thought would be an excellent plan if Bella's mother would
give them leave. They accordingly went in to ask her. They found her
in the back stoop, employed in straining the milk which Thomas had
brought in. She was straining it into great pans. She said that she
should like to have the children go and see the new house very much
indeed, and she gave them the key, so that they might go into it. The
children took the key and went across the fields by a winding path
until they came out into the main road again, near the new house. The
house was in a very pleasant place indeed. There was a green yard in
front of it, and a place for a garden at one side. At the other side
was a wide yard open to the road, so that persons could ride up to the
door without the trouble of opening any gate. The children walked up
this open yard.

They went to the door, intending to unlock it with their key, but they
were surprised to find that there was not any key hole. Mary Bell said
that she supposed the key hole was not made yet. They tried to open
the door, but they could not succeed. It was obviously fastened on the
inside.

"Now how can we get in?" said Bella.

"I don't see," replied Mary Bell, "and I can't think how they locked
the door without any key-hole."

"Could not we climb in at one of the windows?" said Mary Bell,--"only
they are so high up!"

The children looked around at the windows. They were all too high
from the ground for them to reach. There was, however, a heap of short
blocks and boards which the carpenters had left in the yard near the
house, and Mary Bell said that perhaps they could build up a "climbing
pile" with them, so as to get in at a window. She accordingly went to
this heap, and by means of considerable exertion and toil she rolled
two large blocks--the ends of sticks of timber which the carpenters
had sawed off in framing the house--up under the nearest window.
She placed these blocks, which were about two feet long, at a little
distance apart under the window, with one end of each block against
the house. She then, with Bella's help, got some short boards from
the pile, and placed them across these blocks from one to the other,
making a sort of a flooring.

"There," said Mary Bell, looking at the work with great satisfaction,
"that is _one_ story."

Then she brought two more blocks, and laid them upon the flooring over
the first two, placing the second pair of blocks, like the first, at
right angles to the house, and with the ends close against it to
keep them steady. On these blocks she laid a second flooring of short
boards, which made the second story. She then stepped up upon the
staging which she had thus built, to see if it was steady. It was very
steady indeed.

"Let _me_ get up on it," said Bella.

Bella accordingly climbed up, and she and Mary Bell danced upon it
together in great glee for some time to show how steady it was.

Mary Bell then attempted to open the window. She found that she could
open it a little way, but not far enough to get in. So she said that
she must make one more "story." They then both went back to the pile,
and got two more blocks and another board to lay across upon the top
of them for a flooring, and when these were placed, Mary Bell found
that she could raise the window very high. She got a long stick to put
under it to hold it up, and then tried to climb in.

She found, however, that the window sill over which she was to climb
was still rather too high; but, at length, after various consultations
and experiments, _Bella_ succeeded in getting up by means of the
help which Mary Bell, who was large and strong, gave her, by "boosting
her," as she called it, that is, pushing her up from below while she
climbed by means of her arms clasped over the window sill above. Bella
being thus in the house, took the key, which Mary Bell handed her for
the purpose, and went along to the entry to unlock the door, while
Mary Bell, stepping down from the scaffolding, went to the door on the
outside, ready to enter when it should be opened. The children had no
doubt that there was a key-hole in the lock on the inside, although
there was none made in the door on the outside.

When, however, Bella reached the door on the inside, she called out
to Mary Bell, through the door, to say that she could not find any
key-hole.

"It is in the lock," said Mary Bell.

"But there is not any lock," said Bella.

"Is not there any thing?" asked Mary Bell.

"Yes," said Bella, "there is a bolt."

"Oh, very well, then, open the bolt," replied Mary Bell.

After a great deal of tugging and pushing at the bolt, Bella succeeded
in getting it back, but even then the door would not come open. It
was new, and it fitted very tight. Bella said that Mary Bell must push
from the outside, while she held up the latch. Mary Bell accordingly
pushed with all her force, and at length the door flew open, and to
their great joy they found themselves both fairly admitted to the
house.

They rambled about for some time, looking at the different rooms,
and at the various conveniences for house-keeping which Albert had
planned, and which were all just ready for use when Albert had died.
There was a sink in the kitchen, with a little spout leading into it,
from which the water was running in a constant stream. It came from
an aqueduct of logs brought under ground. There was a tin dipper there
upon the top of the post which the water-spout came out of, and Mary
Bell and Bella had an excellent drink from it the first thing. The
kitchen floor was covered with shavings, and the children played in
them for some time, until they were tired. Then they went and got
another drink.

When they at last got tired of the kitchen, they went to a window at
the back side of the sitting-room, which looked out toward the garden,
and commanded also a beautiful prospect beyond. They opened this
window in order to see the garden better. A fresh and delightful
breeze came in immediately, which the children enjoyed very much.
The breeze, however, in drawing through the house, shut all the doors
which the children had left open, with a loud noise, and then having
no longer any egress, it ceased to come in. The air seemed suddenly to
become calm; the children stood for some time at the window, looking
out at the garden, and at the pond, and the mountains beyond.

At length they shut the window again, and went to the door at which
they had entered, and found it shut fast. They could not open it,
for there was now no one to push upon the outside. Mary Bell laughed.
Bella looked very much frightened.

"What shall we do?" said she. "We can't get out."

"Oh, don't be afraid," said Mary Bell, "we will get out some way or
other."

She then tried again to open the door, exerting all her strength in
pulling upon the latch, but all in vain. They were finally obliged to
give up the attempt as utterly hopeless.

Mary Bell then led the way to the window where Bella had got in, and
looked out upon the little scaffolding. It looked as if the window was
too high above the scaffolding for them to get down there safely. One
of them might, perhaps, have succeeded in descending, if the other had
been outside to help her down; but as it was, Mary Bell herself did
not dare to make the attempt.

"I will tell you what we will do," said Mary Bell. "We will go to
another window where there are no blocks below, and throw all the
shavings out from the kitchen. That will make a soft bed for us to
jump upon."

"Well," said Bella, "let us do that."

So they went to the kitchen, and opening one of the windows, they
began to gather up the shavings in their arms from off the floor, and
to throw them out. They worked very industriously at this undertaking
for a long time, until the kitchen floor was entirely cleared. They
picked out carefully all the sticks, and blocks, and pieces of board
which were mixed with the shavings, before throwing them out, in order
that there might be nothing hard in the heap which they were to jump
upon. When the work was completed, and all the shavings were out, they
went to the window, and leaning over the sill, they looked down.

"I wish we had some more shavings," said Mary Bell.

"Yes," said Bella, "that is too far to jump down. We can't get out any
way at all." So saying, she began to cry.

"Don't cry, Bella," said Mary Bell, in a soothing tone. "It is no
matter if we can't get out, for your mother knows that we came here,
and if we don't come home in an hour, she will come for us and let us
out."

"But perhaps there is a ladder somewhere," added Mary Bell, after a
short pause. "Perhaps we can find a ladder that the carpenters have
left somewhere about. If there is, we can put it out the window, and
then climb down upon it. Let us go and look."

"Well," said Bella, "so we will."

The two children accordingly set off on an exploring tour to find a
ladder. Mary Bell went toward the front part of the house, and Bella
into the back kitchen. They looked not only in the rooms, but also in
the passage-ways and closets, and in every corner where a ladder could
possibly be hid. At length, just as Mary Bell was going up the stairs,
in order to look into the little attic chambers, she heard Bella
calling out from the back part of the house, in a tone of voice
expressive of great exultation and joy.

"She has found the ladder," said Mary Bell, and leaving the stairs she
went to meet her.

She found Bella running through the kitchen toward the entry where
Mary Bell was, calling out with great appearance of delight,

"I've found the key-hole, Mary Bell! I've found the key-hole!"

This was indeed true. The lock to which the key that Mary Erskine
had given the children belonged, was upon the _back_ door, the
principal door of the house being fastened by a bolt. Mary Bell went
to the back door, and easily opened it by means of the key. Glad to
discover this mode of escape from their thraldom, the children ran
out, and capered about upon the back stoop in great glee. Presently
they went in again and shut all the windows which they had opened,
and then came out, locking the door after them, and set out on their
return home.

When they arrived, they found that Mary Erskine had got every thing
ready for the school.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE SCHOOL.


Good teachers and proper conveniences for study, tend very much, it
is true, to facilitate the progress of pupils in all attempts for
the acquisition of knowledge. But where these advantages cannot be
enjoyed, it is astonishing how far a little ingenuity, and resolution,
and earnestness, on the part of the pupil, will atone for the
deficiency. No child need ever be deterred from undertaking any
study adapted to his years and previous attainments, for want of
the necessary implements or apparatus, or the requisite means of
instruction. The means of supplying the want of these things are
always at the command of those who are intelligent, resolute, and
determined. It is only the irresolute, the incompetent, and the
feeble-minded that are dependent for their progress on having a
teacher to show them and to urge them onward, every step of the way.

When Mary Bell and Bella returned home they found that Mary Erskine
had made all the preparations necessary for the commencement of the
school. She had made a desk for the two children by means of the
ironing-board, which was a long and wide board, made very smooth on
both sides. This board Mary Erskine placed across two chairs, having
previously laid two blocks of wood upon the chairs in a line with the
back side of the board, in such a manner as to raise that side and
to cause the board to slope forward like a desk. She had placed two
stools in front of this desk for seats.

Upon this desk, at one end of it, the end, namely, at which Bella was
to sit, Mary Erskine had placed a small thin board which she found in
the shop, and by the side of it a piece of chalk. This small board and
piece of chalk were to be used instead of a slate and pencil.

At Mary Bell's end of the desk there was a piece of paper and a pen,
which Mary Erskine had taken out of her work-table. By the side of the
paper and pen was Bella's picture-book. This picture-book was a small
but very pretty picture-book, which Mary Bell had given to Bella for a
present on her birth-day, the year before. The picture-book looked,
as it lay upon the desk, as if it were perfectly new. Mary Erskine
had kept it very carefully in her work-table drawer, as it was the
only picture-book that Bella had. She was accustomed to take it out
sometimes in the evening, and show the pictures to Bella, one by one,
explaining them at the same time, so far as she could guess at the
story from the picture itself, for neither she herself, nor Bella,
could understand a word of the reading. On these occasions Mary
Erskine never allowed Bella to touch the book, but always turned over
the leaves herself, and that too in a very careful manner, so as to
preserve it in its original condition, smooth, fresh, and unsullied.

Mary Bell and Bella looked at the desk which Mary Erskine had prepared
for them, and liked it very much indeed.

"But where are _you_ going to study?" asked Mary Bell.

"I shall study at my work-table, but not now. I can't study until the
evening. I have my work to do, all the day, and so I shall not begin
my studies until the evening when you children are all gone to bed.
And besides, there is only one pen."

"Oh, but you will not want the pen," said Mary Bell. "You are going to
learn to read."

"No," said Mary Erskine. "I am going to learn to write first."

"Not _first_," said Mary Bell. "We always learn to _read_,
before we learn to write."

"But I am going to learn to write first," said Mary Erskine. "I have
been thinking about it, and I think that will be best. I have got
the plan all formed. I shall want you to set me a copy, and then this
evening I shall write it."

"Well," said Mary Bell, "I will. The first copy must be straight
marks."

"No," said Mary Erskine, "the first thing is to learn to write my
name. I shall never have any occasion to write straight marks, but I
shall want to write my name a great many times."

"Oh, but you can't _begin_ with writing your name," said Mary
Bell.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "I am going to begin with _Mary_: only
_Mary_. I want you to write me two copies, one with the letters
all separate, and the other with the letters together.

"Well," said Mary Bell, "I will." So she sat down to her desk, taking
up her pen, she dipped it into the inkstand. The inkstand had been
placed into the chair which Mary Bell's end of the ironing-board
rested upon. It could not stand safely on the board itself as that was
sloping.

Mary Bell wrote the letters M--A--R--Y, in a large plain hand upon
the top of the paper, and then in a same line she wrote them again,
joining them together in a word. Mary Erskine stood by while she
wrote, examining very attentively her method of doing the work, and
especially her way of holding the pen. When the copy was finished,
Mary Erskine cut it off from the top of the paper and pinned it up
against the side of the room, where she could look at it and study the
names of the letters in the intervals of her work during the day.

"There," said she in a tone of satisfaction when this was done. "I
have got my work before me. The next thing is to give Bella hers."

It was decided that Bella should pursue a different method from her
mother. She was to learn the letters of the alphabet in regular order,
taking the first two, _a_ and _b_, for her first lesson.
Mary Bell made copies of those two letters for her, with the chalk,
upon the top of the board. She made these letters in the form of
printed and not written characters, because the object was to teach
Bella to read printed books.

"Now," said Mary Erskine to Bella, "you must study _a_ and
_b_ for half an hour. I shall tell you when I think the half hour
is out. If you get tired of sitting at your desk, you may take your
board and your chalk out to the door and sit upon the step. You must
spend all the time in making the letters on the board, and you may say
_a_ and _b_ while you are making the letters, but besides
that you must not speak a word. For every time that you speak, except
to say _a_ and _b_, after I tell you to begin, you will have
to pick up a basket of chips."

Picking up baskets of chips was the common punishment that Bella was
subjected to for her childish misdemeanors. There was a bin in the
stoop, where she used to put them, and a small basket hanging up by
the side of it. The chip-yard was behind the house, and there was
always an abundant supply of chips in it, from Albert's cutting. The
basket, it is true, was quite small, and to fill it once with chips,
was but a slight punishment; but slight punishments are always
sufficient for sustaining any just and equitable government, provided
they are certain to follow transgression, and are strictly and
faithfully enforced. Bella was a very obedient and submissive child,
though she had scarcely ever been subjected to any heavier punishment
than picking up chips.

"Shall I begin now?" said Bella.

"No," replied her mother, "wait, if you like, till Mary Bell has taken
her lesson."

"I don't see how I am going to draw," said Mary Bell, "without any
pencil."

"You will have to draw with the pen," said Mary Erskine. "I am very
sorry that I have not got any pencil for you."

So saying, Mary Erskine took up the picture-book, and began turning
over the leaves, to find, as she said, the picture of a house. She
should think, she said, that the picture of a house would be a good
thing to begin with.

She found a view of a house in the third picture in the book. There
was a great deal in the picture besides the house, but Mary Erskine
said that the house alone should be the lesson. There was a pond near
it, with a shore, and ducks and geese swimming in the water. Then
there was a fence and a gate, and a boy coming through the gate, and
some trees. There was one large tree with a swing hanging from one of
the branches.

"Now, Mary," said Mary Erskine, speaking to Mary Bell, "you may take
the house alone. First you must look at it carefully, and examine all
the little lines and marks, and see exactly how they are made. There
is the chimney, for example. See first what the shape of the outline
of it is, and look at all _those_ little lines, and _those_,
and _those_," continued Mary Erskine, pointing to the different
parts of the chimney. "You must examine in the same way all the other
lines, in all the other parts of the picture, and see exactly how fine
they are, and how near together they are, so that you can imitate them
exactly. Then you must make some little dots upon your paper to mark
the length and breadth of the house, so as to get it of the right
shape; and then draw the lines and finish it all exactly as it is in
the book."

Bella looked over very attentively, while her mother was explaining
these things to Mary Bell, and then said that _she_ would rather
draw a house than make letters.

"No," said her mother, "you must make letters."

"But it is harder to make letters than it is to make a house," said
Bella.

"Yes," said her mother, "I think it is."

"And I think," said Bella, "that the littlest scholar ought to have
the easiest things to do."

Mary Erskine laughed, and said that in schools, those things were not
done that seemed best to the scholars, but those that seemed best to
the teachers.

"Then," said Mary Bell, "why must not you write marks."

Mary Erskine laughed still more at this, and said she acknowledged
that the children had got her penned up in a corner.

"Now," said Mary Erskine, "are you ready to begin; because when you
once begin, you must not speak a word till the half hour is out."

"Yes," said the children, "we are ready."

"Then _begin_," said Mary Erskine.

The children began with great gravity and silence, each at her
separate task, while Mary Erskine went on with her own regular
employment. The silence continued unbroken for about five minutes,
when Bella laid down her chalk in a despairing manner, saying,

"O dear me! I can't make a _a_."

"There's one basket of chips," said Mary Erskine.

"Why I really can't," said Bella, "I have tried three times."

"Two baskets of chips," said her mother. "Make two marks on the corner
of your board," she continued, "and every time you speak put down
another, so that we can remember how many baskets of chips you have to
pick up."

Bella looked rather disconsolate at receiving this direction. She
knew, however, that she must obey. She was also well aware that she
would certainly have to pick up as many baskets of chips as should
be indicated by the line of chalk marks. She, therefore, resumed her
work, inwardly resolving that she would not speak another word. All
this time, Mary Bell went on with her drawing, without apparently
paying any attention to the conversation between Bella and her mother.

[Illustration: THE SCHOOL.]

Bella went on, too, herself after this, very attentively, making the
letters which had been assigned her for her lesson, and calling the
names of them as she made them, but not speaking any words.

At length Mary Erskine told the children that the half hour had
expired, and that they were at liberty. Bella jumped up and ran away
to play. Mary Bell wished to remain and finish her house. Mary Erskine
went to look at it. She compared it very attentively with the original
in the picture-book, and observed several places in which Mary Bell
had deviated from her pattern. She did not, however, point out any of
these faults to Mary Bell, but simply said that she had done her work
very well indeed. She had made a very pretty house. Mary Bell said
that it was not quite finished, and she wished to remain at her desk a
little longer to complete it. Mary Erskine gave her leave to do so.

Bella, who had gone away at first, dancing to the door, pleased to be
released from her confinement, came back to see Mary Bell's picture,
while her mother was examining it. She seemed very much pleased with
it indeed. Then she asked her mother to look at her letters upon the
board. Mary Erskine and Mary Bell both looked at them, one by one,
very attentively, and compared them with the letters which Mary Bell
had made for patterns, and also with specimens of the letters in the
books. Bella took great interest in looking for the letters in the
book, much pleased to find that she knew them wherever she saw them.
Her mother, too, learned _a_ and _b_ very effectually by
this examination of Bella's work. Mary Erskine selected the two best
letters which Bella had made, one of each kind, and rubbed out all the
rest with a cloth. She then put up the board in a conspicuous place
upon a shelf, where the two good letters could be seen by all in the
room. Bella was much pleased at this, and she came in from her play
several times in the course of the day, to look at her letters and to
call them by name.

When Bella's board had thus been put up in its conspicuous position,
Mary Bell sat down to finish her drawing, while Bella went out to
pick up her two baskets of chips. Mary Bell worked upon her house for
nearly the whole of another half hour. When it was finished she cut
the part of the paper which it was drawn upon off from the rest, and
ruled around it a neat margin of double black lines. She obtained a
narrow strip of wood, from the shop which served her as a ruler. She
said that she meant to have all her drawing lessons of the same size,
and to put the same margin around them. She marked her house No. 1,
writing the numbering in a small but plain hand on one corner. She
wrote the initials of her, name, M.B., in the same small hand, on the
opposite corner.

Mary Erskine did not attempt _her_ lesson until the evening. She
finished her work about the house a little after eight o'clock, and
then she undressed the children and put them to bed. By this time it
was nearly nine o'clock. The day had been warm and pleasant, but the
nights at this season were cool, and Mary Erskine put two or three dry
sticks upon the fire, before she commenced her work, partly for the
warmth, and partly for the cheerfulness of the blaze.

She lighted her lamp, and sat down at her work-table, with Mary Bell's
copy, and her pen, ink, and paper, before her. The copy had been
pinned up in sight all the day, and she had very often examined it,
when passing it, in going to and fro at her work. She had thus learned
the names of all the letters in the word Mary, and had made herself
considerably familiar with the forms of them; so that she not only
knew exactly what she had to do in writing the letters, but she felt a
strong interest in doing it. She, however, made extremely awkward
work in her first attempts at writing the letters. She, nevertheless,
steadily persevered. She wrote the words, first in separate letters,
and then afterwards in a joined hand, again and again, going down the
paper. She found that she could write a little more easily, if not
better, as she proceeded,--but still the work was very hard. At ten
o'clock her paper was covered with what she thought were miserable
scrawls, and her wrist and her fingers ached excessively. She put her
work away, and prepared to go to bed.

"Perhaps I shall have to give it up after all," said she. "But I will
not give up till I am beaten. I will write an hour every day for six
months, and then if I can not write my name so that people can read
it, I will stop."

The next day about an hour after breakfast Mary Erskine had another
school for the children. Bella took the two next letters _c_ and
_d_ for her lesson, while Mary Bell took the swing hanging from
the branch of the tree in the picture-book, for the subject of her
second drawing. Before beginning her work, she studied all the touches
by which the drawing was made in the book, with great attention and
care, in order that she might imitate them as precisely as possible.
She succeeded very well indeed in this second attempt. The swing made
even a prettier picture than the house. When it was finished she cut
the paper out, of the same size with the other, drew a border around
it, and marked it No. 2. She went on in this manner every day as long
as she remained at Mary Erskine's, drawing a new picture every day.
At last, when she went home, Mary Erskine put all her drawings up
together, and Mary Bell carried them home to show them to her mother.
This was the beginning of Mary Bell's drawing.

As for Mary Erskine, her second lesson was the word _Erskine_,
which she found a great deal harder to write than Mary. There was one
thing, however, that pleased her in it, which was that there was one
letter which she knew already, having learned it in Mary: that was the
_r_. All the rest of the letters, however, were new, and she had
to practice writing the word two evenings before she could write it
well, without looking at the copy. She then thought that probably by
that time she had forgotten _Mary_; but on trying to write that
word, she was very much pleased to find that she could write it
much more easily than she could before. This encouraged her, and she
accordingly took Forester for her third lesson without any fear of
forgetting the Mary and the Erskine.

The Forester lesson proved to be a very easy one. There were only
three new letters in it, and those three were very easy to write. In
fine, at the end of the four days, when Mary Bell was to go home, Mary
Erskine could read, write, and spell her name very respectably well.

Mrs. Bell came herself for Mary when the time of her visit expired.
She was very much pleased to learn how good a girl and how useful her
daughter had been. She was particularly pleased with her drawings. She
said that she had been very desirous to have Mary learn to draw, but
that she did not know it was possible to make so good a beginning
without a teacher.

"Why I _had_ a teacher," said Mary Bell. "I think that Mary
Erskine is a teacher; and a very good one besides."

"I think so too," said Mrs. Bell.

The children went out to get some wild flowers for Mary Bell to carry
home, and Mrs. Bell then asked Mary if she had begun to consider what
it was best for her to do.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine. "I think it will be best for me to sell
the farm, and the new house, and all the stock, and live here in this
house with my children."

Mrs. Bell did not answer, but seemed to be thinking whether this would
be the best plan or not.

"The children cannot go to school from here," said Mrs. Bell.

"No," said Mary Erskine, "but I can teach them myself, I think, till
they are old enough to walk to the school-house. I find that I can
learn the letters faster than Bella can, and that without interfering
with my work; and Mary Bell will come out here now and then and tell
us what we don't know."

"Yes," said Mrs. Bell, "I shall be glad to have her come as often
as you wish. But it seems to me that you had better move into the
village. Half the money that the farm and the stock will sell for,
will buy you a very pleasant house in the village, and the interest
on the other half, together with what you can earn, will support you
comfortably."

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "but then I should be growing poorer, rather
than richer, all the time; and when my children grow large, and I want
the money for them, I shall find that I have spent it all. Now if I
stay here in this house, I shall have no rent to pay, nor shall I lose
the interest of a part of my money, as I should if I were to buy a
house in the village with it to live in myself. I can earn enough here
too by knitting, and by spinning and weaving, for all that we shall
want while the children are young. I can keep a little land with this
house, and let Thomas, or some other such boy live with me, and raise
such things as we want to eat; and so I think I can get along very
well, and put out all the money which I get from the farm and the
stock, at interest. In ten or fifteen years it will be two thousand
dollars. Then I shall be rich, and can move into the village without
any danger.

"Not two thousand dollars!" said Mrs. Bell.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine, "if I have calculated it right."

"Why, how much do you think the farm and stock will sell for?" asked
Mrs. Bell.

"About eight hundred dollars," said Mary Erskine. "That put out at
interest will double in about twelve years."

"Very well," rejoined Mrs. Bell, "but that makes only sixteen hundred
dollars."

"But then I think that I can lay up half a dollar a week of my own
earnings, especially when Bella gets a little bigger so as to help me
about the house," said Mary Erskine.

"Well;" said Mrs. Bell.

"That," continued Mary Erskine, "will be twenty-five dollars a year.
Which will be at least three hundred dollars in twelve years."

"Very well," said Mrs. Bell, "that makes nineteen hundred."

"Then," continued Mary Erskine, "I thought that at the end of the
twelve years I should be able to sell this house and the land around
it for a hundred dollars, especially if I take good care of the
buildings in the mean while."

"And that makes your two thousand dollars," said Mrs. Bell.

"Yes," replied Mary Erskine.

"But suppose you are sick."

"Oh, if I am sick, or if I die," rejoined Mary Erskine, "of course
that breaks up all my plans. I know I can't plan against calamities."

"Well," said Mrs. Bell, rising from her seat with a smile of
satisfaction upon her countenance, "I can't advise you. But if ever I
get into any serious trouble, I shall come to you to advise me."

So bidding Mary Erskine good-bye, Mrs. Bell called her daughter, and
they went together toward their home.



CHAPTER IX.

GOOD MANAGEMENT.


Whenever any person dies, leaving property to be divided among
his heirs, and not leaving any valid will to determine the mode of
division, the property as has already been said, must be divided on
certain principles, established by the law of the land, and under
the direction of the Judge of Probate, who has jurisdiction over
the county in which the property is situated. The Judge of Probate
appoints a person to take charge of the property and divide it among
the heirs. This person is called the administrator, or, if a
woman, the administratrix. The Judge gives the administrator or the
administratrix a paper, which authorises him or her to take charge of
the property, which paper is called, "Letters of Administration."
The letters of administration are usually granted to the wife of the
deceased, or to his oldest son, or, if there is no wife or son, to the
nearest heir who is of proper age and discretion to manage the trust.
The person who receives administration is obliged to take a solemn
oath before the Judge of Probate, that he will report to the Judge a
full account of all the property that belonged to the deceased which
shall come to his knowledge. The Judge also appoints three persons to
go and examine the property, and make an inventory of it, and appraise
every article, so as to know as nearly as possible, how much and what
property there is. These persons are called appraisers. The inventory
which they make out is lodged in the office of the Judge of Probate,
where any person who has an interest in the estate can see it at any
time. The administrator usually keeps a copy of the inventory besides.

If among the property left by a person deceased, which is to go in
part to children, there are any houses and lands,--a kind of property
which is called in law _real estate_, to distinguish it from
moveable property, which is called _personal estate_,--such
real estate cannot be sold, in ordinary cases, by the administrator,
without leave from the Judge of Probate. This leave the Judge of
Probate will give in cases where it is clearly best for the children
that the property should be so sold and the _avails of it_ kept
for them, rather than the property itself. All these things Mrs. Bell
explained to Mary Erskine, having learned about them herself some
years before when her own husband died.

Accordingly, a few weeks after Albert died, Mary Erskine went one
day in a wagon, taking the baby with her, and Thomas to drive, to the
county town, where the Probate court was held.

[Illustration: GOING TO COURT.]

At the Probate court, Mary Erskine made all the arrangements necessary
in respect to the estate. She had to go twice, in fact, before all
these arrangements were completed. She expected to have a great deal
of trouble and embarrassment in doing this business, but she did not
find that there was any trouble at all. The Judge of Probate told her
exactly what to do. She was required to sign her name once or twice
to papers. This she did with great trepidation, and after writing her
name, on the first occasion which occurred requiring her signature,
she apologized for not being able to write any better. The Judge of
Probate said that very few of the papers that he received were signed
so well.

Mary Erskine was appointed administratrix, and the Judge gave her
a paper which he said was her "Letters of Administration." What the
Judge gave to her seemed to be only one paper, but she thought it
probable, as the Judge said "Letters" that there was another inside.
When she got home, however, and opened the paper she found that there
was only one. She could not read it herself, her studies having yet
extended no farther than to the writing of her name. The first time,
however, that Mary Bell came to see her, after she received this
document, she asked Mary Bell to read it to her. Mary Bell did so,
but after she had got through, Mary Erskine said that she could not
understand one word of it from beginning to end. Mary Bell said that
that was not strange, for she believed that lawyers' papers were only
meant for lawyers to understand.

The appraisers came about this time to make an inventory of the
property. They went all over the house and barns, and took a complete
account of every thing that they found. They made a list of all the
oxen, sheep, cows, horses, and other animals, putting down opposite
to each one, their estimate of its value. They did the same with the
vehicles, and farming implements, and utensils, and also with all
the household furniture, and the provisions and stores. When they had
completed the appraisement they added up the amount, and found that
the total was a little over four hundred dollars, Mary Erskine was
very much surprised to find that there was so much.

The appraisers then told Mary Erskine that half of that property was
hers, and the other half belonged to the children; and that as much of
their half as was necessary for their support could be used for that
purpose, and the rest must be paid over to them when they became of
age. They said also that she or some one else must be appointed their
guardian, to take care of their part of the property; and that the
guardian could either keep the property as it was, or sell it and
keep the money as she thought would be most for the interest of the
children; and that she had the same power in respect to her own share.

Mary Erskine said that she thought it would be best for her to sell
the stock and farming tools, because she could not take care of
them nor use them, and she might put the money out at interest. The
appraisers said they thought so too.

In the end, Mary Erskine was appointed guardian. The idea appeared
strange to her at first of being _appointed_ guardian to her own
children, as it seemed to her that a mother naturally and necessarily
held that relation to her offspring. But the meaning of the law, in
making a mother the guardian of her children by appointment in such
a case as this, is simply to authorize her to take care of
_property_ left to them, or descending to them. It is obvious
that cases must frequently occur in which a mother, though the natural
guardian of her children so far as the personal care of them is
concerned, would not be properly qualified to take charge of any
considerable amount of property coming to them. When the mother is
qualified to take this charge, she can be duly authorized to do
it; and this is the appointment to the guardianship--meaning the
guardianship of the property to which the appointment refers.

Mary Erskine was accordingly appointed guardian of the children, and
she obtained leave to sell the farm. She decided that it would be best
to sell it as she thought, after making diligent enquiry, that she
could not depend on receiving any considerable annual rent for it, if
she were to attempt to let it. She accordingly sold the farm, with the
new house, and all the stock,--excepting that she reserved from the
farm ten acres of land around her own house, and one cow, one horse,
two pigs, and all the poultry. She also reserved all the household
furniture. These things she took as a part of her portion. The
purchase money for all the rest amounted to nine hundred and fifty
dollars. This sum was considerably more than Mary Erskine had expected
to receive.

The question now was what should be done with this money. There are
various modes which are adopted for investing such sums so as to get
an annual income from them. The money may be lent to some person who
will take it and pay interest for it. A house may be bought and let to
some one who wishes to hire it; or shares in a rail-road, or a bank,
or a bridge, may be taken. Such kinds of property as those are managed
by directors, who take care of all the profits that are made, and
twice a year divide the money among the persons that own the shares.

Mary Erskine had a great deal of time for enquiry and reflection in
respect to the proper mode of investing her money, for the man who
purchased the farm and the stock was not to pay the money immediately.
The price agreed upon for the farm, including of course the new house,
was five hundred dollars. The stock, farming utensils, &c, which he
took with it, came to three hundred and sixty dollars. The purchaser
was to pay, of this money, four hundred dollars in three months,
and the balance in six months. Mary Erskine, therefore, had to make
provision for investing the four hundred dollars first.

She determined, after a great deal of consideration and inquiry, to
lay out this money in buying four shares in the Franconia bridge.
These shares were originally one hundred dollars each, but the bridge
had become so profitable on account of the number of persons that
passed it, and the amount of money which was consequently collected
for tolls, that the shares would sell for a hundred and ten dollars
each. This ten dollars advance over the original price of the shares,
is called _premium_. Upon the four shares which Mary Erskine was
going to buy, the premium would be of course forty dollars. This money
Mary Erskine concluded to borrow. Mr. Keep said that he would very
gladly lend it to her. Her plan was to pay the borrowed money back out
of the dividends which she would receive from her bridge shares. The
dividend was usually five per centum, or, as they commonly called
it, _five per cent._, that is, five dollars on every share of a
hundred dollars every six months.[A] The dividend on the four shares
would, of course, be twenty dollars, so that it would take two
dividends to pay off the forty dollar debt to Mr. Keep, besides a
little interest. When this was done, Mary Erskine would have property
in the bridge worth four hundred and forty dollars, without having
used any more than four hundred dollars of her farm money, and she
would continue to have forty dollars a year from it, as long as she
kept it in her possession.

[Footnote A: _Per_ is a Latin word meaning _for_, and
_centum_ another meaning _a hundred_.]

When the rest of the money for the farm was paid, Mary Erskine
resolved on purchasing a certain small, but very pleasant house with
it. This house was in the village, and she found on inquiry, that it
could be let to a family for fifty dollars a year. It is true that
a part of this fifty dollars would have to be expended every year in
making repairs upon the house, so as to keep it in good order; such as
painting it from time to time, and renewing the roof when the shingles
began to decay, and other similar things. But, then, Mary Erskine
found, on making a careful examination, that after expending as much
of the money which she should receive for the rent of her house, as
should be necessary for the repairs, she should still have rather more
than she would receive from the money to be invested, if it was put
out at interest by lending it to some person who wanted to borrow it.
So she decided to buy the house in preference to adopting any other
plan.

It happened that the house which Mary Erskine thus determined to buy,
was the very one that Mr. Gordon lived in. The owner of the house
wished to sell it, and offered it first to Mr. Gordon; but he said
that he was not able to buy it. He had been doing very well in his
business, but his expenses were so great, he said, that he had not any
ready money at command. He was very sorry, he added, that the owner
wished to sell the house, for whoever should buy it, would want to
come and live in it, he supposed, and he should be obliged to move
away. The owner said that he was sorry, but that he could not help it.

A few days after this, Mr. Gordon came home one evening, and told
Anne Sophia, with a countenance expressive of great surprise and some
little vexation, that her old friend, Mrs. Forester, had bought their
house, and was going to move into it. Anne Sophia was amazed at this
intelligence, and both she and her husband were thrown into a state of
great perplexity and trouble. The next morning Anne Sophia went out
to see Mary Erskine about it. Mary Erskine received her in a very kind
and cordial manner.

"I am very glad to see you," said Mary Erskine. "I was coming to your
house myself in a day or two, about some business, if you had not come
here."

"Yes," said Anne Sophia. "I understand that you have been buying our
house away from over our heads, and are going to turn us out of house
and home."

"Oh, no," said Mary Erskine, smiling, "not at all. In the first place,
I have not really bought the house yet, but am only talking about it;
and in the second place, if I buy it, I shall not want it myself, but
shall wish to have you live in it just as you have done."

"You will not want it yourself!" exclaimed Anne Sophia, astonished.

"No," said Mary Erskine, "I am only going to buy it as an investment."

There were so many things to be astonished at in this statement, that
Anne Sophia hardly knew where to begin with her wonder. First, she was
surprised to learn that Mary Erskine had so much money. When she heard
that she had bought the house, she supposed of course that she had
bought it on credit, for the sake of having a house in the village to
live in. Then she was amazed at the idea of any person continuing to
live in a log house in the woods, when she had a pretty house of
her own in the middle of the village. She could not for some time be
satisfied that Mary Erskine was in earnest in what she said. But when
she found that it was really so, she went away greatly relieved. Mary
Erskine told her that she had postponed giving her final answer about
buying the house, in order first to see Mr. Gordon, to know whether
he had any objection to the change of ownership. She knew, of course,
that Mr. Gordon would have no right to object, but she rightly
supposed that he would be gratified at having her ask him the
question.

Mary Erskine went on after this for two or three years very
prosperously in all her affairs. Thomas continued to live with her,
in her log-house, and to cultivate the land which she had retained. In
the fall and winter, when there was nothing to be done in the fields
or garden, he was accustomed to work in the shop, making improvements
for the house, such as finishing off the stoop into another room, to
be used for a kitchen, making new windows to the house, and a regular
front door, and in preparing fences and gates to be put up around
the house. He made an aqueduct, too, to conduct the water from a new
spring which he discovered at a place higher than the house, and so
brought a constant stream of water into the kitchen which he had
made in the stoop. The stumps, too, in the fields around the house,
gradually decayed, so that Thomas could root them out and smooth over
the ground where they had stood. Mary Erskine's ten acres thus became
very smooth and beautiful. It was divided by fences into very pleasant
fields, with green lanes shaded by trees, leading from one place to
another. The brook flowed through this land along a very beautiful
valley, and there were groves and thickets here and there, both along
the margin of the brook, and in the corners of the fields, which
gave to the grounds a very sheltered, as well as a very picturesque
expression. Mary Erskine also caused trees and shrubbery to be planted
near the house, and trained honey-suckles and wild roses upon a
trellis over the front door. All these improvements were made in a
very plain and simple manner, and at very little expense, and yet
there was so much taste exercised in the arrangement of them all, that
the effect was very agreeable in the end. The house and all about it
formed, in time, an enchanting picture of rural beauty.[A]

[Footnote A: See Frontispiece.]

It was, however, only a few occasional hours of recreation that Mary
Erskine devoted to ornamenting her dwelling. The main portion of her
time and attention was devoted to such industrial pursuits as were
most available in bringing in the means of support for herself and her
children, so as to leave untouched the income from her house and her
bridge shares. This income, as fast as it was paid in, she deposited
with Mr. Keep, to be lent out on interest, until a sufficient sum was
thus accumulated to make a new investment of a permanent character.
When the sum at length amounted to two hundred and twenty dollars, she
bought two more bridge shares with it, and from that time forward
she received dividends on six shares instead of four; that is, she
received thirty dollars every six months, instead of twenty, as
before.

One reason why Mary Erskine invested her money in a house and in a
bridge, instead of lending it out at interest, was that by so doing,
her property was before her in a visible form, and she could take a
constant pleasure in seeing it. Whenever she went to the village
she enjoyed seeing her house, which she kept in a complete state of
repair, and which she had ornamented with shrubbery and trees, so that
it was a very agreeable object to look upon of itself, independently
of the pleasure of ownership. In the same manner she liked to see the
bridge, and think when teams and people were passing over it, that a
part of all the toll which they paid, would, in the end, come to her.
She thus took the same kind of pleasure in having purchased a house,
and shares in a bridge, that any lady in a city would take in an
expensive new carpet, or a rosewood piano, which would cost about the
same sum; and then she had all the profit, in the shape of the annual
income, besides.

There was one great advantage too which Mary Erskine derived from
owning this property, which, though she did not think of it at all
when she commenced her prudent and economical course, at the time of
her marriage, proved in the end to be of inestimable value to her.
This advantage was the high degree of respectability which it gave her
in the public estimation. The people of the village gradually found
out how she managed, and how fast her property was increasing, and
they entertained for her a great deal of that kind of respect which
worldly prosperity always commands. The store-keepers were anxious to
have her custom. Those who had money to lend were always very ready to
let her have it, if at any time she wished to make up a sum for a new
investment: and all the ladies of the village were willing that their
daughters should go out to her little farm to visit Bella, and to
have Bella visit them in return. Thus Mary Erskine found that she was
becoming quite an important personage.

Her plan of teaching herself and her children succeeded perfectly. By
the time that she had thoroughly learned to write her own name, she
knew half of the letters of the alphabet, for her name contained
nearly that number. She next learned to write her children's names,
Bella Forester and Albert Forester. After that, she learned to write
the names of all the months, and to read them when she had written
them. She chose the names of the months, next after the names of
her own family, so that she might be able to date her letters if she
should ever have occasion to write any.

Mary Bell set copies for her, when she came out to see her, and Mary
Erskine went on so much faster than Bella, that she could teach her
very well. She required Bella to spend an hour at her studies every
day. Thomas made a little desk for her, and her mother bought her a
slate and a pencil, and in process of time an arithmetic, and other
books. As soon as Mary Erskine could read fluently, Mary Bell used to
bring out books to her, containing entertaining stories. At first Mary
Bell would read these stories to her once, while she was at her work,
and then Mary Erskine, having heard Mary Bell read them, could read
them herself in the evening without much difficulty. At length she
made such progress that she could read the stories herself alone, the
first time, with very little trouble.

Thus things went on in a very pleasant and prosperous manner, and this
was the condition of Mary Erskine and of her affairs, at the time when
Malleville and Phonny went to pay her their visit, as described in the
first chapter of this volume.



CHAPTER X.

THE VISIT TO MARY ERSKINE'S.


Malleville and Phonny arrived at Mary Erskine's about an hour after
Beechnut left them. They met with no special adventures by the way,
except that when they reached the great pine-tree, Phonny proposed to
climb up, for the purpose of examining a small bunch which he saw upon
one of the branches, which he thought was a bird's nest. It was the
same pine-tree that marked the place at which a road branched off into
the woods, where Mary Bell had lost her way, several years before.
Malleville was very unwilling to have Phonny climb up upon such a high
tree, but Phonny himself was very desirous to make the attempt. There
was a log fence at the foot of the tree, and the distance was not very
great from the uppermost log of the fence, to the lowermost branch
of the tree. So Phonny thought that he could get up without any
difficulty.

Malleville was afraid to have him try, and she said that if he did, he
would be acting just as foolish as the boy that Beechnut had told them
about, who nipped his own nose; and that she should not stop to see
him do any such foolishness. So she walked along as fast as she could
go.

Phonny unfortunately was rendered only the more determined to climb
the tree by Malleville's opposition. He accordingly mounted up to the
top of the fence, and thence reaching the lower branches of the tree
he succeeded at length, by dint of much scrambling and struggling, in
lifting himself up among them. He climbed out to the limb where he had
seen the appearances of a bird's nest, but found to his disappointment
that there was no bird's nest there. The bunch was only a little tuft
of twigs growing out together.

Phonny then began to shout out for Malleville to wait for him.

"Mal--le--ville! Mal--le--ville!" said he. "Wait a minute for me. I am
coming down."

He did not like to be left there all alone, in the gloomy and solitary
forest. So he made all the haste possible in descending. There are a
great many accidents which may befall a boy in coming down a tree. The
one which Phonny was fated to incur in this instance, was to catch his
trowsers near the knee, in a small sharp twig which projected from a
branch, and tear them.

When he reached the ground he looked at the rent in dismay. He was
generally nice and particular about his clothes, and he was very
unwilling to go to Mary Erskine's, and let her and Bella see him in
such a plight. He was equally unwilling to go home again, and to lose
his visit.

"Provoking!" said he. "That comes from Malleville's hurrying me so.
It is all her fault." Then starting off suddenly, he began to run,
shouting out, "Malleville! Malleville!"

At length, when he got pretty near her, he called out for her to stop
and see what she had made him do.

"Did I make you do that?" said Malleville, looking at the rent, while
Phonny stood with his foot extended, and pointing at it with his
finger.

"Yes," said Phonny,--"because you hurried me."

"Well, I'm sorry;" said Malleville, looking very much concerned.

Phonny was put quite to a nonplus by this unexpected answer. He had
expected to hear Malleville deny that it was her fault that he had
torn his clothes, and was prepared to insist strenuously that it was;
but this unlooked-for gentleness seemed to leave him not a word to
say. So he walked along by the side of Malleville in silence.

"Was it a pretty bird's-nest?" said Malleville in a conciliatory tone,
after a moment's pause.

"No," said Phonny. "It was not any bird's nest at all."

When the children reached the farm as they called it, Mary Erskine
seated Phonny on the bed, and then drawing up her chair near to him,
she took his foot in her lap and mended the rent so neatly that there
was afterwards no sign of it to be seen.

Little Albert was at this time about three years old, and Bella was
seven. Phonny, while Mary Erskine was mending his clothes, asked where
the children were. Mary Erskine said that they had gone out into
the fields with Thomas, to make hay. So Phonny and Malleville, after
getting proper directions in respect to the way that they were to go,
set off in pursuit of them.

They went out at a back-door which led to a beautiful walk under
a long trellis, which was covered with honey-suckles and roses.
Malleville stopped to get a rose, and Phonny to admire two
humming-birds that were playing about the honey-suckles. He wished
very much that he could catch one of them, but he could not even get
near them. From the end of the trellis's walk the children entered a
garden, and at the back side of the garden they went through a narrow
place between two posts into a field. They walked along the side of
this field, by a very pleasant path with high green grass and flowers
on one side, and a wall with a great many raspberry bushes growing
by it, and now and then little thickets of trees, on the other. The
bushes and trees made the walk that they were going in very cool and
shady. There were plenty of raspberries upon the bushes, but they were
not yet ripe. Phonny said that when the raspberries were ripe he meant
to come out to Mary Erskine's again and get some.

Presently the children turned a sort of a corner which was formed by a
group of trees, and then they came in sight of the hay-making party.

"Oh, they have got the horse and cart," said Phonny. So saying he set
off as fast he could run, toward the hay-makers, Malleville following
him.

The horse and cart were standing in the middle of the field among the
numerous winrows of hay. The two children of Mrs. Forester, Bella
and Albert, were in the cart, treading down the hay as fast as Thomas
pitched it up. As soon as Phonny and Malleville reached the place,
Malleville stood still with her hands behind her, looking at the scene
with great interest and pleasure. Phonny wanted to know if Thomas had
not got another pitch-fork, so that he might help him pitch up the
hay.

Thomas said, no. He, however, told Phonny that he might get into the
cart if he pleased, and drive the horse along when it was time to
go to a new place. Phonny was extremely pleased with this plan. He
climbed into the cart, Bella helping him up by a prodigious lift which
she gave him, seizing him by the shoulder as he came up. Malleville
was afraid to get into the cart at all, but preferred walking along
the field and playing among the winrows.

Phonny drove along from place to place as Thomas directed him, until
at length the cart was so full that it was no longer safe for the
children to remain upon the top. They then slid down the hay to the
ground, Thomas receiving them so as to prevent any violent fall.
Thomas then forked up as much more hay as he could make stay upon the
top of his load, and when this was done, he set out to go to the barn.
The children accompanied him, walking behind the cart.

When the party reached the barn, the children went inside to a place
which Phonny called the bay. Thomas drove his cart up near the side of
the barn without, and began to pitch the hay in through a great square
window, quite high up. The window opened into the bay, so that the
hay, when Thomas pitched it in, fell down into the place where the
children were standing. They jumped upon it, when it came down, with
great glee. As every new forkful which Thomas pitched in came without
any warning except the momentary darkening of the window, it sometimes
fell upon the children's heads and half buried them, each new accident
of this kind awakening, as it occurred, loud and long continued bursts
of laughter.

After getting in two or three loads of hay in this manner, dinner
time came, and the whole party went in to dinner. They found when
they entered the house that Mary Erskine had been frying nut-cakes and
apple-turnovers for them. There was a large earthen pan full of such
things, and there were more over the fire. There were also around the
table four bowls full of very rich looking milk, with a spoon in each
bowl, and a large supply of bread, cut into very small pieces, upon
a plate near the bowls. The children were all hungry and thirsty, and
they gathered around the table to eat the excellent dinner which Mary
Erskine had provided for them, with an air of great eagerness and
delight.

After their dinner was over, Mary Erskine said that they might go out
and play for half an hour, and that then she would go with them
into the fields, and see if they could not find some strawberries.
Accordingly, when the time arrived, they all assembled at the door,
and Mary Erskine came out, bringing mugs and baskets to put the
strawberries in. There were four mugs made, of tin; such as were there
called _dippers_. There were two pretty large baskets besides,
both covered. Mary Erskine gave to each of the children a dipper, and
carried the baskets herself. She seemed to carry them very carefully,
and they appeared to be heavy, as if there might be something inside.
Phonny wanted very much to know what there was in those baskets. Mary
Erskine said he must guess.

"Some cake," said Phonny.

"Guess again," said Mary Erskine.

"Apples," said Phonny.

"Guess again," said Mary Erskine.

"Why, have not I guessed right yet?" asked Phonny.

"I can't tell you," replied Mary Erskine. "Only you may guess as much
as you please."

Phonny of course gave up guessing, since he was not to be told whether
he guessed right or not; though he said he was sure that it was cake,
or else, perhaps, some of the turn-overs. The party walked along by
very pleasant paths until they came to a field by the side of the
brook. There were trees along the banks of the brook, under which,
and near the water, there were a great many cool and shady places
that were very pleasant. Mary Erskine led the way down to one of these
where there was a large flat stone near the water. She hid her two
baskets in the bushes, and then directed the children to go up into
the field with her and get the strawberries. The strawberries were not
only very abundant, but also very large and ripe. Mary Erskine said
that they might all eat ten, but no more. All that they got, except
ten, they must put into their dippers, until the dippers were full.
She herself went busily at work, finding strawberries and putting them
into the dippers of the children, sometimes into one and sometimes
into another. In a short time the dippers were full.

The whole party then went back to the brook and sat down upon the
great flat stone, with their dippers before them. Mary Erskine then
brought out one of her baskets, and lifting up the cover, she took out
five saucers and five spoons.

"There," said she, "I brought you some saucers and spoons to eat your
strawberries with. Now take up the bunches from your dippers, and pull
off the strawberries from the stems, and put them in the saucers."

While the children were all busily engaged in doing this, Mary Erskine
opened the other basket, and took out a pitcher of very rich looking
cream. The sight of this treasure of course awakened in all the
party the utmost enthusiasm and delight. They went on hulling their
strawberries very industriously, and were soon ready, one after
another, to have the cream poured over them, which Mary Erskine
proceeded to do, giving to each one of the children a very abundant
supply.

[Illustration: THE STRAWBERRY PARTY.]

Phonny finished his strawberries first, and then went to the margin of
the brook to look into the water, in order, as he said, "to see if he
could see any fishes." He did see several, and became greatly excited
in consequence, calling eagerly upon the rest of the party to
come down and look. He said that he wished very much that he had a
fishing-line. Mary Erskine said that Thomas had a fishing-line,
which he would lend him, she had no doubt; and away Phonny went,
accordingly, to find Thomas and to get the line.

This procedure was not quite right on Phonny's part. It is not right
to abandon one's party under such circumstances as these, for the sake
of some new pleasure accidentally coming into view, which the whole
party cannot share. Besides, Phonny left his dipper for Mary Erskine
or Malleville to carry up, instead of taking care of it himself. Mary
Erskine, however, said that this was of no consequence, as she could
carry it just as well as not.

Mary Erskine and the three remaining children, then went back to the
house, where Bella and Malleville amused themselves for half an hour
in building houses with the blocks in Thomas's shop, when all at once
Malleville was surprised to see Beechnut coming in. Beechnut, was
returning from the mill, and as the children had had to walk nearly
all the way to Mary Erskine's, he thought it very probable that they
would be too tired to walk back again. So he had left his horse
and wagon at the corner, and had walked out to the farm to take the
children home with him, if they were ready to go.

"I am not _ready_ to go," said Malleville, after having heard
this story, but I _will_ go for the sake of the ride. I am
too tired to walk all the way. But Phonny is not here. He has gone
a-fishing."

"Where has he gone?" said Beechnut.

"Down to the brook," replied Malleville.

"I will go and find him," said Beechnut.

So saying, Beechnut left the shop, went out into the yard, and began
to walk down the path which led toward the brook. Very soon he
saw Phonny coming out from among the bushes with his pole over his
shoulder, and walking along with quite a disconsolate air. Beechnut
sat down upon a log by the side of the road, to wait for him.

"Did you catch any fishes?" said Beechnut, as Phonny approached him.

"No," said Phonny, despondingly.

"I am glad of that," said Beechnut.

"Glad!" said Phonny, looking up surprised, and somewhat displeased.
"What are you glad for?"

"For the sake of the fishes," said Beechnut.

"Hoh!" said Phonny. "And the other day, when I did catch some, you
said you were glad of that."

"Yes," said Beechnut, "then I was glad for your sake. There is always
a chance to be glad for some sake or other, happen what may."

This, though very good philosophy, did not appear to be just at that
time at all satisfactory to Phonny.

"I have had nothing but ill-luck all this afternoon," said Phonny, in
a pettish tone. "That great ugly black horse of Thomas's trod on my
foot."

"Did he?" said Beechnut; his countenance brightening up at the same
time, as if Phonny had told him some good news.

"Yes," said Phonny, "Thomas came along near where I was fishing, and I
laid down my fishing-line, and went up to the horse, and was standing
by his head, and he trod on my foot dreadfully."

"Did he?" said Beechnut, "I am very glad of that."

"Glad of that!" repeated Phonny. "I don't see whose sake you can be
glad of that for. I am sure it did not do the horse any good."

"I am glad of that for your sake," said Beechnut. "There never was a
boy that grew up to be a man, that did not have his foot trod upon at
some time or other by a horse. There is no other possible way for
them to learn that when a horse takes up his foot, he will put it down
again wherever it happens, and if a boy's foot is under it, it will
get trod upon. There is no possible way for boys to learn that but
by experiencing it. The only difference is, that some boys take the
treading light, and others get it heavy. You have got it light. So if
you have only learned the lesson, you have learned it very easily, and
so I am glad."

"No, it was not light," said Phonny. "It was very heavy. What makes
you think it was light?"

"By your walking," replied Beechnut. "I have known some boys that when
they took their lesson in keeping out of the way of horses' forefeet,
could not stand for a week after it. You have had most excellent luck,
you may depend."

By the time that Beechnut and Phonny reached the house, Malleville
had put on her bonnet and was ready to go. Mary Erskine said that she
would go with them a little way. Bella and Albert then wanted to go
too. Their mother said that she had no objection, and so they all went
along together.

"Did you know that we were going to have a new road?" said Mary
Erskine to Beechnut.

"Are you?" asked Phonny eagerly.

"Yes," said Mary Erskine. "They have laid out a new road to the
corner, and are going to make it very soon. It will be a very good
wagon road, and when it is made you can ride all the way. But then it
will not be done in time for my raspberry party."

"Your raspberry party?" repeated Phonny, "what is that?'

"Did not I tell you about it? I am going to invite you and all the
children in the village that I know, to come here some day when the
raspberries are ripe, and have a raspberry party,--like the strawberry
party that we had to-day. There are a great many raspberries on my
place."

"I'm _very_ glad," said Malleville. "When are you going to invite
us?"

"Oh, in a week or two," said Mary Erskine. "But then the new road will
not be done until the fall. They have just begun it. We can hear them
working upon it in one place, pretty soon."

The party soon came to the place which Mary Erskine had referred to.
It was a point where the new road came near the line of the old one,
and a party of men and oxen were at work, making a causeway, across a
low wet place. As the children passed along, they could hear the sound
of axes and the voices of men shouting to oxen. Phonny wished very
much to go and see. So Mary Erskine led the way through the woods a
short distance, till they came in sight of the men at work. They were
engaged in felling trees, pulling out rocks and old logs which were
sunken in the mire, by means of oxen and chains, and in other similar
works, making all the time loud and continual vociferations, which
resounded and echoed through the forest in a very impressive manner.

What interested Phonny most in these operations, was to see how
patiently the oxen bore being driven about in the deep mire, and the
prodigious strength which they exerted in pulling out the logs. One of
the workmen would take a strong iron chain, and while two others would
pry up the end of a log with crow-bars or levers, he would pass
the chain under the end so raised, and then hook it together above.
Another man would then back up a pair of oxen to the place, and
sometimes two pairs, in order that they might be hooked to the chain
which passed around the log. When all was ready, the oxen were started
forward, and though they went very slowly, step by step, yet they
exerted such prodigious strength as to tear the log out of its bed,
and drag it off, roots, branches, and all, entirely out of the way.

Monstrous rocks were lifted up and dragged out of the line of the road
in much the same manner.

After looking at this scene for some time, the party returned to the
old road again, and there Mary Erskine said that she would bid her
visitors good-bye, and telling them that she would not forget to
invite them to her raspberry party, she took leave of them and went
back toward her own home.

"If all the children of the village that Mary Erskine knows, are
invited to that party," said Phonny, "what a great raspberry party it
will be!"

"Yes," said Beechnut, "it will be a raspberry _jam_."



THE END.





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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