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´╗┐Title: Aunt Mary
Author: Perring, Mrs.
Language: English
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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.

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AUNT MARY

by

MRS. PERRING

Author of
'The Story of a Mouse,' 'The Story of a Cat,' 'The Castle
and the Cottage,' Etc.



London
George Routledge and Sons
Broadway, Ludgate Hill
New York: 416 Broome Street
1881.



[Illustration: AUNT MARY.]



AUNT MARY.



CHAPTER I.

AUNT MARY.


In one of those very pretty suburban villas which are to be seen in the
neighbourhood of all our large towns, Aunt Mary lived, at the time when
my tale commences.

Indeed she had lived there the greater part of her life, for her father,
Mr. Livesay, who had been a highly respected merchant in London for a
great many years, had, unlike the generality of this prosperous class,
retired from business as soon as he had secured a moderate competency
for himself, his wife, and their four daughters, of whom our Aunt Mary
was the eldest.

Mr. Livesay had purchased the pretty house, to which he had retreated
from the hurry and bustle of the great city, but before doing so, he had
taken care to ascertain that the inhabitants of the adjoining villa were
likely to prove agreeable neighbours; and this he had done to his
entire satisfaction, as Mr. and Mrs. Maitland, with their two sweet
little children, gave promise of pleasurable society.

At the time of his retirement from business, the four daughters of Mr.
Livesay were grown up to woman's estate; though perhaps that can hardly
be said of the youngest, Irene, who was only sixteen, while her two
sisters, Ada and Alice, were of the respective ages of eighteen and
twenty.

Great pains had been taken in the _real_ education of these young
ladies, for their excellent mother had spared no pains in their early
training; and as they were all quick and clever children, the task of
'teaching the young idea how to shoot,' in their case, proved
'delightful.' We wish this were oftener the case; but to proceed: Aunt
Mary, as we have said, was the eldest of these young ladies; she was at
the discreet age of four-and-twenty--indeed, she might have been thirty,
for the aptitude she displayed in household matters, taking all the care
of housekeeping off her good mother's hands, and being looked up to, and
appealed to, in all doubtful matters by her sisters.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Livesay considered their daughter Mary their chief
treasure; indeed, she was everything that a daughter ought to be.

There was one thing, however, lacking that her three sisters possessed:
she was not beautiful. Aunt Mary, if she had been pretty in infancy, had
been spoiled by that dreadful ravager, the small-pox, which she had
caught, through the carelessness of a nurse, when she was five years
old.

It had not, however, left her entirely without good looks; for the
kindly feelings of her heart beamed forth in the eloquent dark eyes and
the sweet smile that almost invariably lighted up her face.

Laughingly, she used to say to her sisters, 'Well, you may all get
married, and I shall live at home with my mother and father.'

And even as Aunt Mary said, so it came to pass: her sisters all married,
and she remained at home, the loving daughter, the tender nurse, the
deepest mourner for the loss of their dear parents, whom she had so
dutifully cherished in their old age.

At the death of Mr. and Mrs. Livesay, which happened about ten years
after the marriage of their two daughters, Ada and Alice--whom I must
now introduce to the reader as Mrs. Ellis and Mrs. Beaumont--Aunt Mary
was warmly entreated to give up housekeeping, and go and reside with one
or other of her sisters, especially as Irene, the youngest, who had for
the last twelve months undertaken the task of governess to the two Miss
Maitlands, their next-door neighbours, was now engaged to be married,
and the house, it was urged, would be too large and too lonely for Aunt
Mary to reside in with any comfort.

This proposition, however, did not at all suit one who had for so many
years acted independently; nor, although she was fond of children, would
she on any account undertake a partial teaching of them. 'Let me have
all the say, or none,' was Aunt Mary's maxim, so she decided to remain
where she was, promising however, that when her sister Irene should
marry Captain Gordon, she would take into serious consideration Mr. and
Mrs. Maitland's earnest request, that she would continue the education
of their two dear girls at her own house.

This, after the lapse of six months, Miss Livesay had agreed to, and had
also sent for the eldest daughter of her sister Mrs. Beaumont, who was
now a widow, with three children, though she had been left very well
off, and could have sent her daughter Clara to a first-rate school, had
she been so disposed. Mrs. Beaumont, however, knew too well the benefit
her child was likely to derive from the real education she would receive
from her sister Mary, to hesitate for a moment as to putting her under
that lady's exclusive care; and thus at the same time that Oak Villa
received Mrs. Maitland's two little girls, Annie and Dora, it became
also the pleasant home of Clara Beaumont, who although she was the
youngest of the trio, was certainly the most seriously disposed;
perhaps, poor child, on account of the loss of her dear papa, who had
died very unexpectedly, in the prime of life, from neglected cold, which
terminated in acute bronchitis. This, though it had occurred six months
previous to Clara's advent at Oak Villa, was an event still deeply felt
and lamented by the sensitive child, and produced a seriousness of
character seldom seen in children of her age; but the change was likely
to prove very beneficial both to her health and spirits, and it was not
long before Aunt Mary saw, with much pleasure, that her niece gladly
entered upon her studies, and appeared very desirous to overtake her
young companions in their several lessons, which, as she was exceedingly
industrious, she was very likely to do before many weeks had passed
away.

We must now, however, look after Aunt Mary's second sister, Mrs. Ellis,
whose eldest daughter, Mabel, was only a few months older than Clara
Beaumont, but whose character at this time was as unlike that of her
young cousin as could possibly be imagined, which the reader will soon
perceive when we introduce her in the next chapter, associated as she
will be with the gentle and amiable daughters of Mrs. Maitland, who,
together with her niece Clara, had been Aunt Mary's pupils for some
months, though at present it was holiday-time.



CHAPTER II.

A GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT.


'Mamma dear,' said Dora Maitland, the eldest of that lady's two
daughters, a sweet gentle-looking girl about twelve years of age, 'may
Annie and I go and ask Mabel and Julia Ellis to take a walk with us this
afternoon? We are going to see John Hutton's beehives; he has got some
new glass ones, and he says it is so interesting to watch the little
creatures at work. I am sure we should all like to see them, and I do so
wish that Clara was here, to go with us, she is such a dear girl.'

While this request was making, Dora's younger sister, Annie, stood
looking with beseeching eyes at mamma, evidently very anxious for that
lady's reply, which was not immediately given, for Mrs. Maitland was
apparently debating in her own mind whether it were desirable, or not,
to attend to Dora's request.

'May we, mamma?' urged the young pleader timidly. 'You are not afraid to
let us go, are you?' she inquired.

'Oh no, not afraid,' replied Mrs. Maitland; 'at least, not afraid of
your going alone; but what I am afraid of is, that it may be
inconvenient to Mrs. Ellis to let your young friends accompany you, as
at present I know that their nurse is away, and--and she herself is not
at all well.'

'Then do you think, mamma, that we may ask Julia to go with us? We like
her best, and Mabel could stay at home and take care of the children, as
she is the eldest.'

'Not a bad suggestion, my dear Dora,' replied her mother, 'only I fear
there would be some objection on Mabel's part to such an arrangement.
From what I have observed in that young lady,' continued Mrs. Maitland,
'she is not very loving, nor very tractable, and I fear she has been
spoiled by over indulgence. However, if you will promise not to press
the matter, should you see that it is likely to be inconvenient to Mrs.
Ellis, you may go; it is a lovely afternoon, and I hope you will enjoy
yourselves.'

With light hearts and buoyant footsteps, the two fair girls set off on
their errand of inquiry to Camden Terrace, where Mr. Ellis resided,
meeting with a very kind reception from Mrs. Ellis, and a joyful
greeting from Mabel and Julia, who, to say the truth, were getting
rather tired of the monotony of home, especially as, the nursemaid
being away for a fortnight, and mamma not being well, they were under
the necessity of taking care of the children, if care it could be
called, where neither love nor forbearance were in exercise; but the
little ones were only prevented from doing mischief, or hurting each
other.

As the engagements of Mr. Ellis kept him from home all day, he had very
little time, and I am sorry to say that he had very little inclination,
to attend to his children, though we must do him the justice to say that
he _wished_ sincerely for their proper training; but he thought, as I
fear too many papas do, that this duty belonged exclusively to his wife.
This _we_ think is a grave mistake. Children cannot be taught too early
the lesson of obedience; and often it happens that the weakness or
tenderness of a mother prevents her from enforcing this very salutary
precept.

But I return to our young friends, who were under the necessity of
making their request in the presence of both Mabel and Julia, though
they had agreed between themselves not to do so, but to ask their mamma
alone, so that if it were inconvenient to her they would not press the
matter.

Without waiting for their mamma's answer, both the girls immediately
begged to be allowed to go, indeed using every entreaty, so that poor
Mrs. Ellis appeared quite distressed; and the young Maitlands were no
less so, for they remembered what their mamma had said to them.

'I really scarcely know what to do,' said Mrs. Ellis, at last; 'I should
be sorry to deprive you of any pleasure, but you know, Mabel, I am not
well, and nurse is not with us: besides which, your papa made a
particular request this morning that I would not let you go out to-day.'

'Oh, that is always the way with papa,' broke in Mabel, impetuously. 'I
believe he would never let us go even for a walk, if he were at home.'

'Hush, hush, Mabel!' said her mother; 'I wonder you are not ashamed to
speak of your papa in this disrespectful manner. Besides, you know that
you are not speaking the truth.'

'Don't let them go, Mrs. Ellis, if it is inconvenient to you,' said Dora
Maitland; 'we will call another day. I am sure mamma would be very sorry
to hear that our coming brought any trouble to you.'

'It is not a trouble, of course,' again broke in the impetuous Mabel,
without waiting her mamma's reply; 'and we shall be home long before
papa, so nothing need be said to him about our having been out.'

The two young visitors looked at each other, and appeared quite
distressed at this suggestion. They had been, and rightly so, taught to
consider deception of any kind as falsehood; but Mrs. Ellis did not
appear to be of the same opinion, and though she still urged her own ill
health and the absence of the nurse, she was evidently inclined to yield
to the continued and earnest request of her daughters.

'We will promise you not to be away more than an hour, dear mamma,' said
Julia, who was certainly the best of the two girls; and this promise
being seconded by Mabel very earnestly, poor Mrs. Ellis foolishly gave
her consent to their going, which consent had no sooner been obtained,
than the selfish girls darted off to make ready for their walk, leaving
Dora and Annie very much concerned about what had passed, and determined
in their own minds to forego the anticipated pleasure of seeing the
glass beehives till a more convenient season, for fear they should not
be back at the appointed time.

Mrs. Ellis, as I think I have before stated, had long been very
delicate; she was of a nervous temperament, and nothing appeared to
affect her health so much as excitement of any kind. She had been
ordered lately to be kept perfectly quiet, but this is one of those
rules that are more easily made than complied with by the mistress of a
house, and the mother of a family; and, unfortunately for Mrs. Ellis,
she had no strength of mind to aid her in the discharge of the duties
that devolved upon her, for she was weakly indulgent both to her
children, and her servants, and thus she was too often the slave of the
one, and the dupe of the other.

After the young people had set off for their walk, she sat down to
consider whether she had done right in letting them go; and remembering
her husband's prohibition, and the uncertainty of the time at which he
would return home, she evidently came to an unfavourable conclusion in
the matter, as she exclaimed aloud; 'I wish I had not let them go!'

Wishing, however, now, was of no avail, and as sundry screams from the
nursery betokened a misfortune of some kind, the bell was rung for the
cook to go, and ascertain the cause of the tumult. Fortunately, there
was no great harm done: poor little Willie had contrived to mount on two
boxes, which stood side by side, but not close enough together to
prevent the chubby fat legs from slipping between them; and as Freddy
and Gertrude in vain attempted to extricate the little fellow from his
awkward position, they set up a simultaneous scream in token of their
distress.

Kind-hearted Susan, however, soon set all to rights, for she was
well-known to carry in her pocket sundry mysterious little sweet balls,
which, if they were not over-clean, had a remarkable tendency to
soothe, insomuch that sagacious Master Fred, seeing his sister Mabel one
day crying with passion, inquired if he should go and ask Susan for one
of her sugar balls, to do her good; a proposition which that young lady
highly resented, though the very mention of the said sweets had stopped
the crying.

But we must return to poor mamma, who had in vain endeavoured to follow
Susan upstairs, she trembled so violently. When, however, Willie was
placed on her knee, and she saw the slight nature of the hurt he had
sustained, she began to feel more composed, for there was really no harm
done.

The poor lady, however, was not suffered to calm down thus easily, for
before Susan had time to quit the room, the sound of a key in the front
door betokened the dreaded return of her husband, and again excited all
her nervous fears.

'Why have you got the children with you, Ada?' said Mr. Ellis to his
wife, reproachfully. 'You know that the doctor has told you to keep
quiet.'

'Yes, I know,' replied Mrs. Ellis, meekly, 'but poor Willie has hurt his
leg, so Susan brought him down to me.'

'But what has Susan to do with the children?' inquired Mr. Ellis.
'Surely Mabel and Julia are quite old enough to take care of them,
without calling Susan from her work in the kitchen! Where are the
girls?' demanded Mr. Ellis, sharply; 'I hope you have not let them go
out after what I said this morning.'

'Mrs. Maitland's little girls came to ask them to take a walk, and I did
not like to refuse them,' said Mrs. Ellis, timidly.

'Then I can only tell you, Ada,' said her husband, with suppressed
passion, 'that by your foolish weakness you have deprived them of a
great pleasure. It is not often that I can spare time to go out with
them, but as I have had some tickets given me to go to a panorama, I
have, at great inconvenience, come home, in order to take them, and you
tell me that they are gone out.'

Poor Mrs. Ellis! This was a terrible mortification to her; she felt for
her husband, and she felt for the disappointment of the girls, though
they certainly deserved it.

'I am very sorry I let them go, dear Arthur,' she said, 'but they
pressed me so much that I did not like to refuse.'

'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Ellis, 'I know; it is the old story: you are too
weak-minded to refuse, and our children are to be ruined for want of
proper restraint, or else _I_ am to be appealed to in case of
punishment, and so must be considered by them harsh and unkind. I cannot
help saying that it is very cruel of you, Ada, to give way to this
nervous weakness of yours,' continued Mr. Ellis, as he saw the poor lady
begin to cry; 'the only way will be, I suppose, to send the girls to a
boarding-school, before you have quite spoiled them.'

Having thus delivered his opinion, Mr. Ellis walked out of the room; and
soon the rather violent shutting of the front door gave token that he
had left the house, to the really great sorrow of his wife, who now
heartily repented having given her consent to what had been the cause of
so much trouble. But we must leave her to repent at leisure, and follow
the gay young party, who, notwithstanding some few qualms of conscience
on their first setting out, soon found plenty to interest them in the
surrounding villas and gardens, where such diversity of taste is
displayed.



CHAPTER III.

THE LOST BROOCH.


It was a lovely afternoon in the beginning of August. Some few fleecy
clouds occasionally intercepted the rather too warm beams of the sun,
from which our young friends intended to take shelter under the trees in
the Regent's Park; for Dora and Annie Maitland had wisely determined
not to mention Thomas Hutton and his glass beehives after what they had
seen and heard at Camden Terrace, for they well knew that it would be
impossible to walk that distance, and back again, in an hour.

'I have a beautiful book that my papa gave me yesterday,' said Dora
Maitland; 'I thought you would like to see it, so I brought it with me.
We can look at it while we sit to rest in the Park.'

'Oh yes, that will be delightful,' said Mabel; but she almost
immediately added, 'I think I would rather look at the gay dresses of
the ladies; we can look at books when we are at home.'

'Mabel is always talking about dress,' said her sister, laughing. 'I'm
sure I don't care how I am dressed, if I am only clean and neat; it is
such a trouble to be afraid of spoiling what one has on.'

Julia's opinion was echoed by Dora and Annie Maitland, so Mabel found
she had no seconder; and they tripped along silently until they arrived
at the desired spot for resting, a nice seat under the shade of a large
tree. Here they were just going to seat themselves, when an exclamation
from Mabel attracted the attention of the others, who inquired eagerly
what was the matter.

'Oh, the brooch--mamma's beautiful brooch!' said the excited girl, in
great distress; 'it is gone out of my necktie. Oh, what shall I do? what
shall I do? It is mamma's favourite brooch; the one that papa gave her
many years ago. Oh, I cannot go home without it!' continued Mabel, in a
state of great distress.

'How could you be so foolish as to put it on, when you were only going
for a country walk?' said Dora Maitland.

'I can't think why you should wear your mamma's brooch at all,' remarked
Annie, 'unless she gave you leave.'

'But mamma did not give her leave; mamma has forbidden us to wear it,'
said Julia, 'and I begged Mabel not to put it into her necktie to-day,
for fear she should lose it; but she would do it, and now all our
pleasure is spoilt.'

'You need not talk in that way,' angrily retorted her sister; 'you are
fond enough of putting on mamma's gold chain when she leaves it out of
the box, though she has often told you not to do so.'

'Hush, hush!' said Dora Maitland; 'quarrelling won't find the brooch;
and see, there are a lady and gentleman coming toward us. Let us return
home at once, the same way that we came: there were not many people on
the road, and if we all look diligently we may find it, though I am much
afraid that we shall not.'

This advice seemed the best that could be adopted by the young party,
and they turned their steps homewards in no very enviable state of
mind. There had been, indeed, much to damp the spirits, and prevent the
enjoyment of this afternoon's walk. It is true that all around was
beautiful, but that little monitor within, which insists upon being
heard whether it is attended to or not, had acted like a thorn in the
flesh to Mabel and Julia: and though Dora and Annie Maitland had nothing
really to reproach themselves with, yet they could not forget the pale
face of poor Mrs. Ellis, and her words of remonstrance to her selfish
children seemed still to sound in their ears; and now they were
returning home with a fresh trouble to the invalid lady.

Dora's beautiful book, which had been presented to her by her papa as a
reward for her kind and dutiful attention to him, when he was suffering
severely for some days from nervous headache, had of course not been
thought of; the brooch, the unfortunate brooch, engrossed every faculty;
yet with all the search, and research, it was not found, and the young
people took a dolorous leave of each other, and repaired to their
respective homes.

'Now don't you say a word about the brooch to mamma to-night,' said
Mabel to her sister; 'I dare say it will be found, and it is no use
teasing her about it, now she is poorly.

'Mamma is sure to miss the brooch off the dressing-table in the
morning,' replied Julia; 'and if I am spoken to about it, I am not
going to tell a story, Mabel.'

'Who wants you to tell a story?' exclaimed Mabel, sharply. 'I know you
are always very ready to tell tales, when it would be much better for
you to hold your tongue.'

'You always go on in that way when you are vexed about anything,'
replied Julia. 'I'm sure I wish we had not gone for a walk; we have had
no pleasure, all because you would try to make yourself look smart. You
know, I begged of you not to put on the brooch, but, as papa says, you
are so wilful!'

'You have no right to repeat what papa says. Better look at your own
faults than talk about mine,' cried the angry girl, as she opened the
garden-gate that led to the back door of their residence.

Freddy was looking out of the window, but Mabel took no notice of him,
but ran straight upstairs to her own bedroom, to take off her things and
examine minutely her dress, if happily the missing brooch might have
slipped down into her bosom.

Julia, however, went to inquire how her mamma was, and therefore was the
first to hear the dismal tidings that papa had come home on purpose to
take his daughters to a place of entertainment, but finding they were
not at home, had gone out again very angry, without eating any dinner.
This, though it put the finishing stroke to that day's disaster, poor
Julia knew would not be an end to the troubles they would have to
encounter; for though indeed she was innocent of blame with regard to
the brooch, she felt she had acted selfishly in leaving her mamma with
the children, when she saw how tired and poorly Mrs. Ellis appeared to
be.

'I am very sorry, dear mamma,' said Julia, 'that you have been so
troubled with the children; I hoped that Susan would have minded them
while we were out.'

'Well, go now and take off your things, my dear,' replied Mrs. Ellis;
'then you and Mabel can have tea in the nursery with the children, while
I rest on the sofa.'

'Yes, dear mamma; they shall go with me at once,' said Julia. 'Come,
Freddy; come, Gerty; and come, little Willie,' she added, as she took
the chubby hand in her own, and was leading him away, when her mamma
said, 'Mind you don't hurt his poor leg, Julia, for he has fallen and
scraped the skin off.'

'Oh, poor boy!' said his sister, as she took Willie up in her arms; 'let
us go and put a "passer" on it.' This was always what the little fellow
called out for, when he hurt himself: 'Oh, put a "passer" on--put a
"passer" on!'

Mabel was very glad when Julia brought up the children, and told her
that their mamma was lying down on the sofa, for she had no wish to talk
just then with anybody. She felt indeed much disquieted, but what her
feelings were when her sister related the circumstance of their papa's
coming home, on purpose to take them to a place of amusement, may be
more easily imagined then described; and yet we fear that self-reproach
did not, in the smallest degree, mingle with their feelings, so little
do some people know of _self_.



CHAPTER IV.


THE RECOVERED TREASURE.


It was with a feeling of great uneasiness that Mabel awoke the next
morning. She had not at all made up her mind what to do. She was, as I
have shown, a very selfish girl, and not by any means of a good
disposition; indeed, I should say, that no selfish person could be. But
she was not in the habit of telling direct falsehoods, though she did
not scruple to prevaricate, if such a course suited her purpose; and
this practice is certainly not only near akin to falsehood, but leads
directly to it.

Nothing was said at breakfast-time to make any disturbance, and papa
went out as usual; while Mabel and Julia, with minds still oppressed by
the loss on the preceding day, requested mamma to permit them to take
the children for a walk, before they began lessons.

'It is such a lovely morning,' said Mabel, 'and we can go towards the
Park, the same way that we went yesterday.'

Of course the brooch was uppermost in Mabel's mind, and indeed in
Julia's too, though nothing was then said.

'I am quite willing that you should all go, my dears,' said the kind
mother; 'only remember, little Willie can't walk as fast and as far as
you can.'

'Et me tan, ma; me walk a long, long way wid pa, and me not tired a
bit,' said Willie, shaking his curly poll, and running off with Julia,
who was his favourite, to get dressed.

'Susan, where's my gold brooch?' inquired Mrs. Ellis of the servant, who
happened to be in the bedroom dusting, when her mistress entered.

'I don't know, I'm sure, ma'am,' replied Susan. 'I saw it on the
pincushion yesterday, before the young ladies went out; I have not seen
it since. Perhaps Miss Mabel may be wearing it.'

'Nonsense, Susan!' said Mrs. Ellis; 'how could you think Miss Mabel
would do such a thing without my leave?'

'Well, ma'am,' answered the steady servant, 'I don't know whether you
gave leave or not, but I know I have often seen the young lady with the
brooch in her necktie.'

Mrs. Ellis felt greatly displeased, not of course with Susan, but with
her daughter; she thought it best, however, to make no further remark at
present, but to wait until Mabel returned for an explanation of the
affair.

It is almost needless to say that the morning's walk had neither been
pleasant nor satisfactory to the two girls, for the treasure they went
out to seek had not been found, and they returned home sick at heart. I
say 'they,' because though poor Julia had not been really to blame, she
sorrowed both on her mamma's and her sister's account; besides which,
she had a dread of her papa's coming to the knowledge of the untoward
event.

'Mabel,' said Mrs. Ellis, as soon as that young lady came in, 'have you
had my brooch on to-day?'

'No, mamma,' was the immediate and the only response to the question,
the words _to-day_ forming a loophole to creep out at, so as to avoid
explanation, though that was the very time to make one. Accordingly
search was again commenced--as we know, without any result.

The midday dinner-hour passed away uncomfortably enough, except for the
little folks, whose appetite did not seem to be in the least impaired
by surrounding circumstances; and strange as it may appear, Mrs. Ellis,
notwithstanding what the servant had told her respecting Mabel's wearing
the brooch, instead of closely questioning that young lady, permitted
her to leave the room with the children, while she herself renewed the
fruitless search. Tired out at last, she sat down in the dining-room, to
await the coming home of her husband in no very pleasurable state of
mind. Of course she must tell him of her loss; but she well knew how
angry he would be, and what a commotion was likely to ensue. However,
there was no help for it.

'Ada,' said Mr. Ellis to his wife, after he had enjoyed a comfortable
dinner, and had taken his customary seat in the arm-chair, newspaper in
hand, 'what has become of that valuable brooch that I gave you on your
birthday? You used to wear it every day; why have you not got it on
now?'

The usually pale face of Mrs. Ellis flushed all over at this inquiry,
but she answered truthfully--Mabel had certainly not learned to tell
falsehoods, either from her mamma or papa:

'I am very sorry to tell you, Arthur,' said Mrs. Ellis, 'that the brooch
is missing; I have searched in vain for it, and Susan does not know
anything about it.'

'Have you inquired of the girls, and the children?' said Mr. Ellis;
'perhaps they may have seen it.'

'I did ask Mabel when she came in from her walk if she had had it on,'
replied the lady,' and she said she had not.'

'Call Mabel and Julia down, and let me question them,' said papa;
'perhaps I may learn more about the brooch than you think.'

'Oh, I'm sure it is no use, my dear,' replied Mrs. Ellis, dreading a
scene, for she knew how severely her husband was inclined to visit
faults which she, poor lady, had not courage to grapple with. 'Better
not disturb yourself about the brooch to-night,' she added; 'we will
have another search for it to-morrow, and I am sure the girls know
nothing about it.'

'_I_ am not sure of any such thing,' replied Mr. Ellis, 'and I insist
upon Mabel and Julia being told to come to me.'

As there was no resisting her husband's authority, the girls were
summoned to their papa's presence; and though they knew not why it was,
there was a conscious uneasiness in their minds which certainly did not
lend wings to their feet.

'Come here, girls,' said their papa, though not in an unkindly tone, as
they entered the dining-room. 'I want to ask you a few questions. Mind,
I must have truthful and straightforward answers--no prevarication.'

Mrs. Ellis looked at the two girls, and then at her husband, with
astonishment, not having the least idea of what was coming; yet she felt
very uneasy.

'Mabel,' said Mr. Ellis, addressing his eldest daughter, 'you were out
yesterday?'

'Yes, papa,' replied that young lady; 'Julia and I went for a walk with
Dora and Annie Maitland.'

'And where did you go?' was the next inquiry, and one very easily
answered.

'To the Regent's Park, papa,' said Julia; 'but we were there only a
short time.'

'Now just one more question, and I have done,' said papa; 'did either of
you girls lose anything while you were out?'

'Oh, papa, yes,' answered Julia instantly--'mamma's brooch. Oh, have you
found it, papa?' she exclaimed.

'Mamma's brooch!' said Mr. Ellis, with a look of assumed astonishment.
'Why, which of you presumed to wear your mamma's brooch?' But he added
almost immediately, 'I need not inquire further: I am sorry to say I
have had some sad experience of deception in my eldest daughter, and
have observed in her that silly vanity, that makes outside show a cover
for inward defects. Go!' he added sternly to Mabel; 'I have nothing
more to say to you to-night. It nearly sickens me to think that I have a
daughter base enough to conceal faults, which she is not afraid of
committing.'

With conscious shame and distress, Mabel quitted the dining-room; and
Julia also was retreating, when her papa told her to remain, as he had
something to say to her.

Though Julia felt very sorry for her sister, and would have been glad to
speak a word of comfort to her, yet she was so anxious to hear from her
papa something about the lost brooch, that she was not at all reluctant
to remain; so planting herself by her mother's side, she stood patiently
to listen to what further Mr. Ellis had to say.

'Did you know, Julia, that Mabel had on your mamma's brooch when you
went for a walk?' inquired papa.

Julia hung down her head, yet she answered truthfully;

'Yes, papa, I did know, for I begged her not to wear it.'

'And when she persisted in doing so, why did you not appeal to your
mamma?'

To this question there came no response, so Mr. Ellis continued:

'Let me warn you, my little girl,' he said kindly, 'never to connive at
faults in your brothers or sisters; it is to them a cruel kindness,
which both they and you may live to be sorry for in after life.'

As Mr. Ellis said this, he drew from his waistcoat-pocket the glittering
trinket, which had been the innocent cause of so much anxiety, and
placing it in his wife's hand, said:

'Now, my dear, I advise you to be more careful of your _jewels_, or you
may lose far more precious ones than this brooch.'

As he made this remark he nodded to Julia, though Mrs. Ellis well
understood what her husband meant.

'Now, my little girl, you may go and join the children, while I tell
mamma how I came by the brooch.'



CHAPTER V.

A FRIEND IN NEED.


Julia was very glad indeed to see the brooch again, and glad also to
receive a dismissal, as she longed to tell her sister the good news.

'And now, my dear,' said Mr. Ellis, when they were alone, 'I suppose you
want to learn the particulars respecting the lost and found.'

'Indeed I do, Arthur,' replied his wife; 'it seems a marvellous thing
to me how the brooch should have come into your possession, or indeed
how it was found at all.'

'Well, it all came about without any magic, as you shall hear,' said her
husband. 'You remember the young lady, Miss Vernon, who was staying a
short time in the winter with our friends the Maitlands, and whom we
were invited to meet?'

'Oh yes, I remember her quite well; I thought her so very pretty, and
she sang so delightfully. But what of her?' inquired Mrs. Ellis.

'Well,' replied the gentleman, 'that lady is now a Mrs. Norton; she is
married to a friend of mine--an old friend, I should say, for we went to
school together.'

'Then he must be considerably older than the lady,' said Mrs. Ellis,
'for I think she is not twenty yet.'

'You are right there, my dear,' said her husband; 'I dare say Norton is
twice her age: but he is a fine-looking man--and,' added Mr. Ellis, with
a significant smile, 'he has plenty of money, Ada: you know what a bait
that is for the ladies.'

'No, I don't know any such thing, Arthur,' replied the lady, warmly;
'and I don't like to hear such things said. Men much oftener marry for
money than women do.'

'Well, we will discuss that point some other time, my dear,' said Mr.
Ellis; 'but now for my story:

'As I was walking through the Strand this morning, who should I meet but
the couple we were speaking of. I did not know them at first, but as
they stopped short, and prevented my passing, I soon recognised both
lady and gentleman, though it is many years since I saw the latter.

'After the usual congratulations and shaking of hands had been gone
through, my friend said:

'"Well, I certainly did not expect to meet you here, Ellis, though,
strange to say, you are the very person we came out to call upon; for,
strangely enough, I have in my possession a brooch, which, I feel sure,
must belong to your good wife, as it has her name, Ada Ellis, engraven
on the back. Am I right?" added Norton, taking the brooch from his
pocket, and handing it to me.

'"Yes," I said, "this is certainly my wife's brooch, but how it could
come into your possession is a mystery to me."

'"It need not be so long, if you will just walk into the Temple Gardens
with us. I am going to call on a friend there, and we shall be out of
all this noise and bustle," said Norton.

'As I was not just then under any engagement, I turned back with them,
and heard the story of the lost and found. It is a very simple one, and
I give it in his own words,' said Mr. Ellis.

'"You know Mr. and Mrs. Maitland," began Mr. Norton; "my wife says that
she met you at their house last winter, and as they are very old and
kind friends of hers, and our stay in town will be short, we set off
yesterday morning to call upon them. Unfortunately, the two nice little
girls were out, so we did not see them, though I hope we shall do so
before we leave London. After leaving Mr. Maitland's, we strolled
towards the Regent's Park; and when we had pretty well tired ourselves,
we made towards a pleasant seat under the shade of a magnificent tree. A
party of young ladies were just leaving the spot which we had selected,
but as they were intently looking on the ground, with their backs
towards us, they, I suppose, did not notice our approach; nor could we,
at the distance we were, recognise them.

'"In this pleasant spot we remained for some time, and on rising to go,
my wife saw just at her foot, though it was partially hidden by a tuft
of grass, the valuable brooch which I have just had the pleasure to
restore to you, and which it was our intention to place in your hands at
your own home, had we not thus accidentally met you. Very glad indeed I
am that we should have come upon the track of the young ladies, who
could be none other but the little Maitlands and your fair daughters.
To-morrow, I hope to bring my wife to Camden Terrace, and to introduce
her to your good lady as Mrs. Norton, instead of Laura Vernon."

'Now, my dear,' said Mr. Ellis, 'you have got your brooch, and its
recent history. I strongly advise you to take more care of the one, and
on no account to forget the other.'

'I will try to take your advice, my dear,' said the lady. 'I am so glad,
so very glad, that my brooch is found.'

'And I am so sorry, so very sorry, Ada,' said Mr. Ellis, 'that we have a
daughter so prone to the detestable vices of pride, vanity, and deceit!'

'Oh, don't be too hard upon poor Mabel, dear,' said her mamma; 'she is
very young. You must forgive this childish trick.'

'Trick!' said Mr. Ellis, bitterly--'yes, you have given it a right name,
Ada; but I hate tricks.'



CHAPTER VI.

A FRIENDLY PROPOSITION.


The morning after the foregoing occurrence found Mabel very dull, and
very captious. She was of course glad to know that the brooch had been
found, but very uneasy at the manner of finding it. She was not, in
truth, sorry for the fault that she had committed, but her proud spirit
chafed at the idea of being talked about in the Maitland family,
especially as she knew that a young cousin of theirs, Harry Maitland,
was expected to pay them a visit on this very day, when the whole affair
was sure to be canvassed.

But we will leave Mabel to her own uneasy thoughts, and look in at the
pleasant family party assembled in the breakfast-room of the Laurels, as
Mr. Maitland's residence was designated. This villa, as we know,
adjoined that of Aunt Mary, who at this time was on a visit with her
niece Clara to that young lady's widowed mother, Mrs. Beaumont. Cousin
Harry had arrived, and made one of the happy group, who were sitting,
books and work in hand, for they were never idle, enjoying the fresh
pure air of the morning, and the delicious smell of flowers, of which
there was a profusion both outside and in. The garden, indeed, was
resplendent with variety and beauty of colouring, softly shaded down by
the laurels, which gave their name to the villa.

Mr. Maitland had been reading a book of travels, and he was now
descanting on the uses and properties of the Eucalyptus, or blue
gum-tree of Australia, which is said to grow as much in seven years, as
an oak will grow in twenty; attains sometimes the height of three and
four hundred feet, drains the ground, attracts rain, prevents malaria,
etc.

'But do you really believe, sir, all that is written about this
wonderful tree?' inquired Harry Maitland, who had been making a sketch
of the said tree, from the description which his uncle had been reading
to them.

'Certainly, I do believe all that is stated of it,' replied Mr.
Maitland. 'Why should I doubt well-accredited writers and eye-witnesses?
The most extraordinary fact respecting it is, its health-diffusing
properties, which, as I read, makes me wonder why strenuous efforts have
not been made for its cultivation in England. I know there have been,
and there are, some efforts made, but not on an extensive scale. There
are some young trees in the Kew Gardens, which, before you leave us,
Harry, I hope we shall go to see.'

Just as Mr. Maitland was beginning to read again, he was interrupted by
a smart rap-tap at the front door; and immediately after, the servant
announced Mr. and Mrs. Norton.

'Dear Laura,' exclaimed Mrs. Maitland, kissing her young friend,' I am
very glad to see you again, though I did not expect you would be out so
early this morning. I see,' added the lady, 'I need not introduce Dora
and Annie; though you did not see them yesterday, it is evident they
have not forgotten you.'

Indeed they had not, for each had seized a hand of their favourite, and
had given and received a warm salute.

While these kindly salutations were going on, Mr. Maitland and Harry
were exchanging courtesies with their friend Mr. Norton, for Cousin
Harry was no stranger to that gentleman, who had often been a visitor at
his father's house--or rather I should say rectory, in Kent--always an
agreeable one, for he had travelled much, and could make himself a most
interesting companion.

'I did not tell you yesterday, Mr. Maitland,' said their visitor, 'that
we leave England for Australia in a week's time; I know under the
circumstances you will excuse this early and unceremonious visit, as we
wish to spend as much time as possible with our friends, and to have
some little excursions with the young people.'

'Are you really going to leave England so soon, and going so far away?'
inquired Mr. Maitland, rather dolefully. 'I am so sorry for our own
sakes, but I hope it will be to your own great advantage.'

'Yes, I hope so too,' replied Mr. Norton; 'our prospects are very fair;
the climate is good, and I have many friends located there.'

'And you will be in the native land of this magnificent tree we have
been reading about,' said Harry, 'the blue gum tree. Do, Mr. Norton,
write and tell us all you know about it.'

'Harry is quite sceptical respecting its merits,' said Mr. Maitland,
laughing. 'I do hope you will be able to convince him that what he has
read and heard about it is all quite true.'

'I am sorry to say that I have never yet turned my attention to the
subject, but I make Master Harry a promise that I will do so, and that I
will give him all possible information I can gain on the subject; but
just now,' added the gentleman, 'we have a proposal to make, which we
must not defer, as our time is so short. It is this,' continued Mr.
Norton, 'that we all spend a pleasant day together at some place of
amusement, to be chosen by the young ladies. We are to spend this
evening at Camden Terrace, with our kind friends Mr. and Mrs. Ellis. I
hope you will be there, and then we can settle our plans for to-morrow.'

'We have been invited,' said Mrs. Maitland, 'but unfortunately we had a
prior engagement; but I promise you, Mr. Norton, that in whatever
direction you may decide to go to-morrow, we will accompany you.'

'Stop, stop, my dear,' interrupted Mr. Maitland; 'you are reckoning
without your host, although he happens to be in the room with you. Do
you forget that I have to set off early in the morning to pay a visit to
a sick friend who is particularly anxious to see me?'

'Well, we shall be very sorry to go without you, Maitland,' replied Mr.
Norton; 'but I suppose Master Harry, here, will try to supply your place
to the young ladies, and we must do as well as we can.'

'Did you hear about our finding Mrs. Ellis's brooch yesterday, in the
Regent's Park?' inquired Mrs. Norton; 'but perhaps you have not seen any
of them. It was a curious accident.'

'The brooch!' exclaimed Dora and Annie, simultaneously. 'Did you really
find the brooch? Oh, we are so glad! We told dear mamma about it, and
she was as sorry as we were, but we have not seen Mabel or Julia since.
How did you happen to find it, Mrs. Norton?'

'We went to seat ourselves under the shade of the trees,' replied the
lady. 'We saw you in the distance, but did not know who you were; and I
dare say you did not see us, for you were all looking on the ground.'

'Yes, of course we were,' said Dora; 'we were searching for the brooch.
And I remember we did see a lady and gentleman coming towards us; we
went away sooner on that account, for Mabel was in such a temper I felt
ashamed of anyone coming near us, though she was the only person to
blame, as she ought not to have worn her mamma's brooch.'

'Hush, hush! my little girl!' said papa; 'don't you know that our motto
is, "If you cannot speak good of a person, say nothing at all of them."'

'Bravo! bravo!' cried Mr. Norton. 'I heartily wish that this golden rule
were adopted in every family. What a world of trouble would be saved,
and how much more time there would be for profitable conversation!'

'Well,' said Mrs. Maitland, 'we are all heartily glad that the treasure
is recovered; and perhaps its temporary loss, and the uneasiness it
occasioned, may be a useful lesson to the young people.'

The visitors now took leave of their friends, promising themselves the
pleasure of seeing them in the morning, at the early hour of eleven, in
order that they might have a long day together. It was also agreed that,
to save time and trouble, the parties were to meet at the Park, if no
objection were raised to the proposed plan by Mr. and Mrs. Ellis.



CHAPTER VII.

THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS.


It was a lovely day, this 10th of August; there was scarcely a cloud to
be seen in the sky. The trees, it is true, were beginning to put on
their russet tints here and there, but this only added to the beauty of
their colouring; there certainly was at present no disagreeable
appearance of coming changes.

It had been agreed, on the preceding evening, that Mr. and Mrs. Norton
should call for Mabel and Julia, as Mr. Ellis had declared that he could
not spare time for a day's pleasure, and poor Mrs. Ellis said that she
felt too weak at present to undertake the task of wandering about in the
Gardens.

This was a great disappointment to their friends the Nortons, who were
not quite sure that Mrs. Maitland would be able to accompany her young
people, as she had intimated a doubt on the subject before they bade
adieu on the preceding evening: however, they made up their minds that
it would be a pleasant day for the juveniles. Mr. Ellis had strongly
objected to Mabel's making one of the party; he insisted that it would
be only a proper punishment to deprive her of the pleasure on account
of the recent delinquency. He was, however, over-ruled in his opinion,
both by his wife and his friends, and so, very reluctantly, he was
induced to give up the point.

As usual, Mabel's first consideration in the morning, after her papa had
gone out, was what she should wear on this eventful day; and on her
mamma's suggesting that she and Julia should put on their grey dresses,
she was vehemently opposed by that young lady, who declared she would
rather stay at home than go to the Gardens with Mr. and Mrs. Norton in
such a dowdy dress.

Julia, on the contrary, was quite content to follow her mamma's advice,
as she very wisely agreed that if they put on their light silk dresses,
they might have them soiled, or perhaps spoiled. This idea, however, was
treated with contempt by Mabel, and the young lady waxed so warm in the
discussion, that the too indulgent, peace-loving Mrs. Ellis gave way,
and gave permission to her daughters to do as they thought proper, only
she warned them that they had no time to lose.

Away tripped the sisters to make ready--Julia with a determination to
follow her mamma's advice, Mabel with the intention of keeping her own
foolish resolve of pride and vanity.

An obstacle, however, presented itself on the first putting on of the
silk dress: it had not been worn for some time, as during the summer
muslins had superseded silk, and Mabel found, to her great disgust, that
the sleeves were too short. She had certainly known of this before, but
as she was by no means remarkable for provident care of her clothes, in
taking pains to keep them in order, a button wanting, or a rent
unmended, or a sleeve too short, were things not at all to be wondered
at in Mabel's wardrobe.

'How provoking!' she exclaimed, as she looked at her wrists; 'I cannot
possibly go out unless I have under-sleeves, and I haven't a pair.'

'Oh, do as mamma wished,' said Julia; 'put on your grey frock. You will
be much more comfortable, because you won't be afraid of spoiling it.'

'Hold your tongue, you foolish little thing,' replied Mabel. 'I tell you
I wouldn't be seen out with Mr. and Mrs. Norton, with such a dress as
you are wearing; besides,' she continued, 'Harry Maitland will be with
his cousins.'

'And what of that?' exclaimed Julia, in astonishment; 'surely you don't
mind what he thinks about your dress!'

There was no direct answer to this remark, but Mabel declared she was
not going to submit to her younger sister's dictation; and as a capital
idea seemed just then to strike her, she went to one of the small
drawers which indeed belonged to her mamma, and took from thence a pair
of beautiful lace sleeves and proceeded to put them on.

'Oh, don't, don't!' cried Julia; 'pray do not wear those beautiful
sleeves of mamma's! you know dear Aunt Mary gave them to her, and as
they are her work, mamma values them so much! Pray remember the brooch,'
she added; 'or if you will persist in putting them on, go and ask leave
first.'

'I mean to ask mamma when we go downstairs,' said Mabel, 'but you know I
have not time now. I wish you would not be so officious with your advice
and your cautions, just as if I didn't know how to act as well as you
do.'

With the promise that mamma should be spoken to, Julia was obliged to be
satisfied, as a loud tapping at the front-door betokened the arrival of
their friends Mr. and Mrs. Norton; and the two girls hastily finished
their dressing and their discussion, and went down to join their
friends.

Whether, in the hurry of salutations and leave-taking, Mabel actually
_forgot_ her promise to speak to her mamma about the sleeves, we shall
not undertake to say; certain it is, that there was no mention made of
them. And the party set off in high spirits to join their young friends
the Maitlands, as had been agreed, at the gate of the Zoological
Gardens.

There had been strict punctuality on both sides, for neither party had
to wait.

But great was Mabel's mortification to find Dora and Annie had, like her
sister Julia, dressed themselves in their plain grey frocks, so _she_
looked like a golden pheasant among a set of barn-door fowls: and
however much vanity she possessed, her common sense taught her that she
had laid herself open to ridicule; though of course no one spoke of her
dress, and even the beautiful sleeves seemed at the time to attract no
attention.

In a very short time, the whole party were intently gazing with wonder
and admiration on the marvels of creation.

The elephants, the giraffe, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, etc., all
passed in review, and elicited remarks of wonder and astonishment from
the young visitors, such as their monstrous size and great strength were
well calculated to draw forth. The lions, tigers, leopards and bears
came in for a share of applause; but as the strength of these animals is
not evidenced by their size, I must acknowledge they were taken less
notice of than either the huge creatures or the smaller and more elegant
and delicate quadrupeds, which, generally speaking, won the admiration
of the party. The bipeds, we may be sure, were not neglected; but the
congregated tribe of them kept up such an incessant clatter, that having
borne it for some little time, Harry Maitland was fain to stop his ears
and run out of their house, declaring that 'their noise was worse than
could be made by a hundred scolding women.' A very ungallant
declaration, certainly, for a young gentleman, and one that he had not,
and was never likely to have, the opportunity of proving the truth of.
Harry was soon joined by the young ladies, whom the noise of the
parrot-house had nearly deafened, and a general resolution was put, and
carried by the whole party, Mabel herself not excepted, that fine
plumage did not at all make amends for disagreeable propensities.

'And now,' said Harry Maitland, with just one sly glance at the bright
silk frock, whose wearer was standing beside him, 'suppose we go and pay
a visit to our friends the monkeys? That is to say, young ladies,' he
added, 'if you don't think it would be jumping out of the frying-pan
into the fire, and can endure smell better than noise.'

'Oh yes!' was the general exclamation; 'do let us go and see the
monkeys.'

'Who has got any biscuits or nuts?' inquired Dora Maitland. 'I haven't
got anything.'

'I have some pieces of biscuit left from what I bought for the
elephants,' said Mabel.

'And I have nuts in my pocket,' said Harry; 'while the monkeys are
cracking them, we can be cracking our jokes.' But these proved to be
rather unpleasant ones, to one at least of the party, who, nevertheless,
as she could not foresee what was coming, was the first to laugh at
Harry's silly speech.

The monkey-house proved, as they thought it would, anything but
agreeable to the olfactory nerves of our young friends; though their
attention was soon diverted from what was offensive, by the very amusing
gymnastics of the monkeys, who, while they performed their various feats
of skill, had evidently an eye to the main chance, and kept a vigilant
look-out for something more substantial than applause.

'Give this old fellow a bit of your biscuit, Mabel,' said Dora Maitland;
'he is evidently expecting some from us.'

Now we know that monkeys, though they are anxious expectants, are not
very gracious receivers, which poor Mabel, who seemed to, be the doomed
person, found to her cost, when, on stretching out her arm to give the
required morsel, the ungrateful recipient caught hold of the beautiful
lace sleeve, tore it from her arm, doubled it up in an instant, and
thrust it into his mouth, clambering with great rapidity to the very
top of his habitation, as if afraid of pursuit, and looking down with a
hideous grin on the astonished and disgusted parties below.

'Oh, poor mamma's beautiful lace sleeve!' ejaculated Julia, to the great
annoyance of the trembling and affrighted Mabel, on whom all eyes were
now turned.

'Oh, what a pity! what a pity!' sounded on every side; but there was no
redress, and Mabel, unable to restrain her tears, or to give vent to her
varied feelings of anger, scorn, and vexation, rushed out of the
monkey-house, leaving Julia to explain, and her friends to condole. All
the party except Harry Maitland had before seen, and very greatly
admired, these sleeves of Mrs. Ellis's, which, as I said before, were
Aunt Mary's work; and sorry, very sorry, were both Dora and Annie
Maitland to hear that Mabel had put them on without her mamma's leave.
'Well, it's no use being sorry now,' cried Harry Maitland; 'we can't
restore the sleeve, that's certain. I wonder how girls can be so foolish
as to dress themselves up, when they come to such a place as
this--especially,' he added sarcastically, 'in other people's finery.'

'I am glad Mabel was not near enough to hear your remarks, Harry,' said
his cousin Dora; 'I am sure she must be quite enough troubled, without
our saying anything disagreeable.'

'Yes, but she brought the trouble upon herself, and therefore she
deserves to suffer,' persisted Harry; 'the worst of it is,' he added,
'she makes innocent people suffer for her fault.'

'Let us go and see after Mabel,' said the kind-hearted Annie; 'I think
we have all had enough of the monkeys to-day.'

'Yes, one young lady has had rather too much of them,' said Harry, 'or
rather, I should say, the monkey has had too much of her; though the old
fellow appears to be quite satisfied with the trick he has played.'

'There is Mabel,' cried Julia, as they came out of the monkey-house.
'Poor thing, don't let us say anything more about the sleeve; I am sure
she must feel very uncomfortable.'

'I wonder where we shall find Mr. and Mrs. Norton,' said Dora; 'we have
been a long time away from them: perhaps they are looking after us.'

'I'll tell you where I think they are,' said Harry; 'it is about the
time for the sea-lion to exhibit himself, and we had better bend our
steps that way, for we are almost sure of finding the lady and gentleman
there;' and it proved to be the fact, for among the numerous spectators
which the sea-lions had attracted, our young friends soon singled out
Mr. and Mrs. Norton. The flushed face and tear-swollen eyes of Mabel did
not escape the notice of the lady, but seeing that she turned away, and
appeared anxious to avoid observation, Mrs. Norton made no remark, and
soon all the party were interested spectators of the various exploits of
the marine prodigy.

Suddenly, however, a violent plunge of the animal into the water, on the
side near which our friends were standing, sent a rather unpleasant
shower-bath among the crowd, and caused a sudden retreat, though it did
not take place in time for all of them to avoid a wetting. I am sorry to
say that Mabel's silk frock came in for a share; but this would not
really have mattered much, if, in her hurry to get out of the way, she
had not unfortunately set her foot on the skirt of it, which made her
fall on one knee, and thus come in contact with the wet soil and gravel,
which, however harmless they might have proved to a grey dress, by no
means improved the colour of a light silk one. 'Misfortunes never come
alone,' it is said; and though I am not myself a firm believer in this
proverb, it certainly proved true with regard to Mabel Ellis, though
these misfortunes were entirely the results of her pride and self-will,
so she does not deserve our commiseration.

It was evident, too, that she did not wish for sympathy just then, for
brushing off the soil from her dress, and making very light of the
matter, she seemed to say: 'I don't want your sympathy; please to keep
it to yourselves.'

Of course my readers will not suppose that the young lady really was
indifferent to the spoiling of her dress, but she had so much silly
pride in her composition, that she thought to appear sorry would lower
her in the eyes of her companions. She certainly did not judge _them_
correctly, nor had she as yet, poor girl, reached the climax of her
troubles; but for this we must go a little further, and see the party
comfortably seated at one of the marble tables in the elegant
refreshment-rooms, where tea, and sandwiches, and buns are plentifully
provided, and highly appreciated by the young ramblers after their long
walk and sight-seeing, which are both very exhausting, and require
refreshment, and relaxation, and rest. Seated round this pleasant table,
and in the enjoyment of the good things that were placed thereon, the
spirits of the young ones of the party rose considerably; and Harry
Maitland, who was quick-witted and fond of joking, created plenty of
juvenile mirth by his remarks upon the monkey tribe, though of course he
avoided saying anything that might lead to unpleasant inquiries.

It happened, unfortunately, that when the lace sleeve had been so
ruthlessly torn from Mabel's arm by the audacious monkey, it did not
occur to that young lady to make sure of the other sleeve by taking it
off and putting it into her pocket. Instead of acting thus prudently,
she contented herself with tucking the lace up under its elastic band--a
very treacherous safeguard, as it proved.

Our friend Harry, as the young squire of the party, was very attentive
to the ladies, as indeed he always was; but it happened unfortunately
that in handing a plate of buns to his opposite neighbour, Mabel, he
became the innocent cause of another disaster to that most luckless
damsel, for the lace that had been so unceremoniously tucked out of
sight, having escaped from the elastic band, attached itself to the
handle of Mabel's cup, as she reached out her hand to take the offered
bun, and upset the whole of its contents, which, though the greater part
of the fluid went into the saucer, quite sufficient found its way into
Mabel's dress to put the finishing stroke to her misfortunes.

Hastily jumping up, and without waiting for any condolence or
assistance, the excited girl rushed out of the room, followed by Julia,
whose kind heart really ached to see her sister so distressed.

'Don't follow them out, my dears,' said Mrs. Norton to Dora and Annie
Maitland, who had risen from their chairs to do so. 'I am sure,' she
continued, 'that Mabel would much rather be without your sympathy, and
you cannot possibly render her any assistance. Poor foolish girl,' added
the lady, 'I cannot say I am sorry for _her_; but I well know what
trouble she must give her mamma, whom I really am sorry for.'

'But, Laura dear,' inquired Mr. Norton, 'don't you suspect that some
blame must attach itself to the young lady's mother? Faults, you know,
like ill weeds, grow apace if they are not corrected; and the weeds, if
suffered to grow rank, will destroy the beautiful flowers which we
expected to see in our gardens. Is it not so, do you think?'

'Yes, you are quite right, no doubt,' replied the lady; 'and I fear that
my poor friend, Mrs. Ellis, will find it very difficult, if not
impossible, to correct faults, which, through weak indulgence, seem to
have taken deep root. But,' added Mrs. Norton, rising to go, 'this is no
place for sermonising. We have had a pleasant day, notwithstanding the
troubles of our young friends; we had better look after them now, and
wend our way homewards.'



CHAPTER VIII.

A BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT.


'No, my dear, I am determined that Mabel shall not go with her sister to
Mrs. Maitland's juvenile party. You over-ruled my wish yesterday, and
suffered her to go to the Gardens, and I think you have been properly
punished for that' (alluding to the sleeves). 'To-day I insist on having
my way. It is most painful to me to see, as I cannot help doing, that
through your weakness of character, or want of discipline, Mabel has
grown up to be a plague to us, instead of a comfort.'

This unwelcome truth was uttered by Mr. Ellis before he left home on the
morning after the visit to the Gardens; and he added, before he left the
room:

'I am very glad that your sister, Aunt Mary, is coming home this week,
for I intend to ask her as a particular favour to take Mabel under her
care. I wish we had sent her to Oak Villa twelve months ago; we might
have been spared much trouble.'

This parting rebuke and warning had the usual effect of making Mrs.
Ellis very nervous; she could not bear the thought of communicating the
ill news it contained to Mabel. She had come to have almost a childish
dread of the girl's temper, yet she knew well that her husband's mandate
must be obeyed. There could no greater trial come to Mabel, at least so
she thought, than to deprive her of the pleasure of this visit; and the
indulgent mamma shrunk with great pain from the task, which had been
imposed upon her: yet there was no escape.

As the girls had finished breakfast and left the room before their papa
went out, they of course had not heard his disagreeable intimation, and
they were now in their own rooms, looking over their dresses.

'What will you do, Mabel?' inquired Julia, 'about your silk frock? You
cannot possibly wear it to-day; it is quite spoiled in front with the
tea. I know mamma did not notice it last night, though she and papa were
so angry about your wearing it, and about the sleeves too.'

'Now just mind your own business, if you please,' said the uncourteous
Mabel. 'I hear,' she added, 'that papa has gone out, so I shall go down
and coax mamma to get a dress for me. I have seen plenty of pretty
dresses in the shop windows, some of them very cheap; I dare say she
won't object to buy me one.'

After the delivery of this speech Mabel hastily left the room, and, as
she had expected, found her mamma still seated in the breakfast-room,
but looking very sad.

She had not, however, at all _expected_ to hear the unwelcome truth
which had now to be told, and which greeted her on the first mention of
a new dress.

'You need not trouble yourself about a new dress, my dear Mabel,' said
her mother, sorrowfully. 'Your papa says, that he will not allow you to
go with your sister to Mrs. Maitland's party.'

'Not to go!' exclaimed the astonished girl; 'and do _you_, mamma, say
that I am not to go?' she inquired, actually stamping her foot in rage.

'_I_ have no say in the matter, Mabel,' replied her mother; 'your papa's
will must be obeyed. He thinks that it is my fault that you are so proud
and wilful, and he has made up his mind to send you next week to your
aunt Mary, where you will be taught and disciplined, and he hopes in
time become a sensible girl, like your cousin Clara.'

'Mamma, mamma!' exclaimed the passionate girl, with vehemence, 'I hate
Clara, and Aunt Mary too. I would rather die than go and live at Oak
Villa, with that cross-grained old aunt and stupid cousin.'

'Mabel,' said Mrs. Ellis, greatly shocked at hearing such expressions,
'it is very wicked of you to give way to your passion, and to make such
unjust remarks as you have made, both of your aunt and cousins. Neither
is your aunt cross, nor your cousin Clara stupid; though cross if they
were, you would still be obliged to submit to your papa's decision.
Remember,' continued Mrs. Ellis, 'you have brought the trouble upon
yourself, and you have been repeatedly warned of the consequences if you
did not amend. Now it is too late, for I am persuaded that nothing
either you or I could say would alter your papa's determination.'

A passionate burst of tears was all the reply that the humbled, but not
penitent, Mabel, could make. She sat herself down on a low stool, and
covering her face with her hands, continued to cry and sob, in spite of
the kind remonstrances of her mamma, and even of her promises to
intercede for her. Mabel knew that what her mother had before stated was
quite true, and that all intercession with papa now would be in vain;
and she was too much absorbed in selfish sorrow to care anything, even
if she thought anything, of the pain she was giving to her poor mother,
though she well knew that any trouble of mind increased the malady with
which that lady was affected. Her own mortification, her own bitter
disappointment, it was the thought of these that kept the sluices of
sorrow open such an unreasonable time; and when Julia, on coming into
the room, went to speak some words of comfort to her sister, she
received a blow on the face which made her nose bleed, though certainly
it was not intended, for the passionate girl was not aware of Julia's
close proximity, as she threw out her hand only to indicate that she
wanted no condolence.

This accident, however, had the beneficial effect, for a time, of
turning the current of Mabel's ideas from self. She was indeed shocked
to see what she had done, though kind-hearted Julia made light of the
blow, and declared it did not pain her at all.

'I am sure you must all hate me--I think everybody hates me,' cried
impetuous Mabel; 'but I didn't mean to hurt you, Julia, and I am very,
very sorry for what I have done.'

'Oh, I know you are,' replied her sister; 'don't think anything more
about it. And don't cry any more, dear; I can't bear to see you cry;'
and she added in a whisper, 'It makes mamma ill.'

This little episode had done more to convince Mrs. Ellis of the wisdom
of her husband's plan, with regard to his daughter Mabel, than all that
he had said previously on the subject; and she made up her mind to offer
no opposition to anything he might propose. Coming to this conclusion,
she dismissed Mabel and Julia, under the plea that it was absolutely
necessary that she should remain quiet for a time.



CHAPTER IX.

THE JUVENILE PARTY.


The morning after the visit to the Gardens was temptingly fine; and at
breakfast-time, Harry Maitland proposed a trip to the Kew Gardens,
where, he said, there would be no fear of monkey tricks, and they would
have the satisfaction of seeing specimens of the famous blue gum tree.

'But you have forgotten, I think,' said his cousin Dora, 'that we are
expecting two of your school-fellows and their two sisters; Mabel and
Julia Ellis, and the vicar's son and daughter, Robert and Edith
Newland.'

'Oh yes, I had quite forgotten the party,' replied Harry; 'I beg
everybody's pardon for being so careless. I will do as you suggest,
aunt, and help Dora and Annie to prepare for the guests.'

'Thank you, my dear,' said Mrs. Maitland; 'I shall be glad to avail
myself of your services, especially as I hear your cousins wish to have
tea on the lawn, where there will be plenty of room for you to display
your taste. I am only sorry that our good neighbour Miss Livesay, and
her niece Clara, have not yet come home; so that we shall not have the
pleasure of their company.'

'O, we are all very sorry on that account,' said Dora, 'for there is no
one like Aunt Mary, as we call her, for making everybody feel happy and
joyful. We call her the _sunbeam_,' added Dora; 'and Clara Beaumont we
call the _evening star_, she is so gentle and quiet, though she is
quicker at her lessons than we are, a great deal.'

'I remember Clara,' said Harry Maitland; 'poor girl, I think she was in
mourning for her father when I was here in the winter. I thought she was
a very nice girl, and I too am sorry that she won't be here this
afternoon.'

'I believe Miss Livesay is expected home to-morrow,' said Mrs. Maitland,
'so you will have an opportunity of meeting with both her and her niece,
Harry; but now, young people, you must set yourself to work, for I have
many things to arrange in household matters, and can have nothing to do
with decoration. Fruits and flowers, festoons and garlands, I leave
entirely in your hands; I have the fullest confidence in your taste,'
added the lady, laughing, and bidding them good-morning, and wishing
them all success in their delightful occupation.

The Laurels, or Laurel Villa, as it was sometimes called, was a most
desirable residence. Exactly like Oak Villa, its next-door neighbour,
in size and appearance, so far as the house was concerned; but the
gardens differed very materially, Mr. Maitland's being so well stocked,
or so over-stocked with laurels, that they had actually given a name to
the pleasant abode.

We won't complain of them, for they formed a delightful shade to many a
rustic seat in the large back garden, and kept quite secluded the front
of the house. The breakfast-room, which was at the back part of the
house, opened on to the lawn with large folding glass doors; over which
the balcony of the drawing-room formed a pleasant and very convenient
shade in the summer season, at which time it rejoiced in a profusion of
sweet-scented clematis, whose delicate tendrils hung luxuriantly over
the balustrade, and in some places even swept the gravel walk.

The balcony itself was filled with choice flowers, and was attended to
with great care, by the lady of the villa herself. The wall surrounding
the garden was almost hidden by the profusion of laurels, and half a
dozen rather tall trees at the bottom of the garden formed a picturesque
background to the whole. The smooth-shaven lawn must not be unmentioned;
it made a delightful promenade; it had been the scene of many a joyous
party, and it was to be the arena on which the young invited guests of
to-day were to bear witness to the artistic taste, as well as to do
justice to the profusion of good things provided by their kind
entertainers.

'I hope Maurice Firman won't play any of his foolish pranks to-day,'
said Harry. 'He is always getting into trouble at school, yet the boys
like him because he is so good-natured, and so ready to help them with
their lessons; he seems as if he could not keep out of mischief. Edward
is quite a different fellow, and his sisters, Ella and Lucy, are very
nice girls; but they always seem afraid of Maurice, he is so fond of
practical jokes.'

'I hope he won't play any while he is here,' said Dora. 'I was going to
ask mamma to let us have her gold and purple cups and saucers, but if
Maurice Firman is so mischievous, they might be broken.'

'Oh, as to that,' said Harry, 'I don't suppose he would attack the tea
equipage, though he is a very good hand at clearing bread-and-butter
plates,' he added, laughing; 'and I expect if that Miss Mabel Ellis
comes, that we shall have a scene, for he is sure to turn her into
ridicule.'

'Oh, I hope he wouldn't be so rude,' said Annie Maitland; 'surely he
knows better how to behave himself when he is in company, and where
there are young ladies?'

'I am not at all sure of him, Cousin Annie,' said Harry; 'but I do hope
that silly conceited girl will not be here, to put Maurice to the
test.'

'I really don't think that she will come,' said Dora; 'her papa appeared
to be so angry about her going with us yesterday, that she told me that
he perhaps would not give his consent to her being of our party to-day.'

'Well done, Mr. Ellis!' said Harry. 'Keep the young lady at home; we can
do much better without than with her.'

'But Julia, I am sure, will not like to come without her sister,' said
Annie. 'I don't think she would enjoy herself, if Mabel were not here.'

'Ah, you judge other people's feelings by your own, my kind cousin,'
said the patronising Harry; 'you mustn't always do that, though I
believe there is some truth in what you say about Julia Ellis.'

A silvery laugh ringing from the balcony just then made the young party
look up, when they saw Mrs. Maitland, who was busy watering and
rearranging her flowers, and who had been amused at her nephew's
sententious speech.

'Doesn't Harry lay down the law well, mamma?' inquired Dora. 'I think,'
she added, 'he will make a good barrister; he is beginning to practise
so early.'

'I hope he will _practise_, as well as preach,' replied his aunt,
laughing; 'example, you know, my dear boy, is better than precept,' she
added, addressing herself to Harry.

'But we boys and girls require both, aunt; and I and my cousins ought to
be very good, for I am sure we have both,' said the polite young
gentleman, with a bow.

'At present you are all that I could wish you, my dears,' replied Mrs.
Maitland; 'and I can only say now, "Go on and prosper."'

'Mamma, mamma dear, don't go just this minute,' cried Dora, as Mrs.
Maitland was retreating through the drawing-room window; 'Harry has a
favour to ask of you.'

'Well, what is it, Mr. Special Pleader?' inquired the lady, resuming her
place on the balcony.

'Now, aunt,' said Harry, laughing, 'I don't think it is quite fair of my
cousins to _engage_ me in such a trifling matter, especially as I am not
likely to get anything for my _brief_, except perhaps a rebuke from
you.'

'Well, go on, my good sir,' said his aunt; 'I have some curiosity to
learn what you have to do in the Court of Request to-day.'

'It is simply this,' replied Harry; 'my instructions are to plead for
the loan of the purple and gold tea equipage, in order to make a
magnificent display before the astonished eyes of a parcel of school
girls and boys. That's my case, madam,' added the juvenile pleader, with
a bow. 'I beg to say,' he added, after a moment's pause, 'that _I_ am
no advocate in this cause; I leave it entirely in the judge's hands.'

'Yes, we leave it in your hands, mamma,' said both the girls; 'we think
we have confided our case to a very one-sided lawyer, and that one side
is certainly against his clients.'

'I am sorry to say "no" to any petition you make, my dears,' said the
kind lady; 'but prudence forbids my granting your request to-day, as
misfortunes will happen, and are very likely to happen, where such a
young gentleman as you describe Master Maurice Firman to be is of the
party. Besides, I really think myself,' added prudent mamma, 'that the
white and green tea service, though not so gorgeous as purple and gold,
will be much more suitable for your present entertainment.'

'All right, aunt,' 'All right, dear mamma,' was the response to this
decision.

Fortunately, in Mrs. Maitland's family, what mamma said was always right
with her daughters, and this saved a world of trouble.

The happy trio went on with their preparations, and when the table was
brought out on to the lawn, and had received not only the pure white and
green tea-service, but the very elegant floral decorations invented by
the cousins, it really had a most imposing appearance, and was
pronounced by the highest authority to be perfect.

'Well, now we have prepared the feast, or at least adorned it,' said
Harry, 'I think we had better look after our own adornment, for we don't
appear to be in a very fit state to receive visitors--at least I can
answer for myself that I am not;' and he held up his hands in proof of
this affirmation, though it was evident that Dora and Annie needed no
such proof, as they were pretty much in the same condition.

The young people had performed their ablutions, and were together again
on the grass plot admiring their own handiwork, or rearranging here and
there leaf or fern-wreath, when a ringing at the bell sounded an
arrival, and Harry and his cousins met and saluted their young friends,
the Firmans, in the hall: two very nice-looking girls and their two
brothers, Maurice and Edward, of whom my readers have heard before.

'You will take the young gentlemen into the garden with you, dear
Harry,' said Mrs. Maitland, who had come out of the dining-room to
salute the guests, 'and Dora and Annie will go with the young ladies to
the bedroom.'

'Mamma thinks, Mrs. Maitland,' said the eldest Miss Firman, whose name
was Lucy, 'that we are too large a party to come of one family; she is
afraid of giving you trouble.'

'Not in the least, my dear Lucy,' replied the kind lady. 'I wonder,'
she added, 'what your mamma would say if she knew that we turned you
out of doors as soon as you came.'

Lucy looked up inquiringly, and Dora explained laughingly:

'Mamma means, Lucy, that we are all going to drink tea out of doors.'

'Oh, that _will_ be delightful!' exclaimed both Lucy and Ella, as they
followed their young friends upstairs to remove their hats and jackets;
Harry having done as his aunt had suggested, taken Maurice and Edward
down the steps into the garden in the meantime. The young gentleman was
well aware that he had rather a rough customer to deal with in Master
Maurice, as he had more than once been the object of his school-fellow's
practical jokes; so he thought proper to give him a caution.

'Now, I say, Maurice,' began Harry Maitland, 'don't let's have any of
your school-boy tricks here, that's a good fellow; you know we have
young ladies to deal with this afternoon, and we must try to please
them.'

'Oh, I'm not going to do anything foolish; don't be afraid, old fellow,'
said his companion. 'Why, Harry, you look as solemn as though you
expected me to fly away with the tea-table and all the good things upon
it,' he remarked, as he glanced with a well-satisfied and complacent
look at the said tea-table; and added, 'I assure you that I don't mean
to do anything so shocking, but shall content myself with a moderate
share of the excellent provisions with which it is stocked.'

This speech was delivered with mock gravity, and our friend Harry was
fain to be satisfied with the promise, as the young ladies just then
made their appearance, and there was a very general exclamation of
pleasure and admiration at the really pretty and tasteful surroundings.

Another ring at the bell announced more visitors, and the good vicar's
children, Robert and Edith Newlove, made their appearance on the top of
the steps, and soon joined the rest in their admiration of what had been
effected by the artistic efforts of their young friends. Harry cordially
greeted his school companion and especial favourite, Robert Newlove,
while Dora and Annie welcomed with a kiss his gentle sister Edith; and
soon the happy party were seated round the table, where Dora was to
preside, though she had much wished that her mamma should take that
important office upon herself.

'I thought you told me that Mabel and Julia Ellis were to be here,
Dora,' said Edith Newlove, who was seated near her friend. 'Are they not
coming?' she inquired.

'I really don't know how it will be,' replied Dora, quietly, for she did
not wish to attract notice. 'Julia I hope will be here soon, but I fear
Mabel will not be permitted to come; her papa is very much displeased
with her.'

Another ring at the bell made the young party suspend operations for a
few minutes, and Julia Ellis received a cordial welcome, and soon found
a seat near Harry Maitland, who had risen to receive her.

Maurice Firman, not wishing to be less courteous than his friend Harry,
had also risen from his seat, but very unfortunately--or shall I say
clumsily?--in doing so, the contents of his cup went over on to his
trousers, and he was too much engaged in keeping off the hot beverage
from touching his skin, to deal in matters of courtesy.

'What a clumsy fellow you are, Maurice,' said his brother Edward;
'always getting into hot water.'

'Oh, don't bother!' exclaimed Maurice, petulantly, and still shaking his
trousers. 'I'd rather get into hot water than have the hot water poured
upon me;' and having said, as he thought, a witty thing, and made the
whole party laugh (which I must confess they had all been very much
inclined to do before at his expense), he seated himself again at the
table, cooling down as the hot beverage had done, and trying to make
himself agreeable to his young friends by his very lively remarks, of
which he had a good store.

'Why is your sister Mabel not with you, Julia?' inquired Lucy Firman.
'I hope she is not unwell?' she added, seeing the colour rise on the
cheeks of the poor girl.

'Mrs. Ellis is not very well,' replied Dora Maitland, answering for her
friend; while Harry, in order to check further inquiries, asked Maurice
Firman if he had ever been to the Zoological Gardens.

'I should just think I had,' replied Maurice, with a very significant
shake of the head; 'but you won't catch me there again in a hurry. Why,
I tumbled over into the bear's den, or cage, or whatever you call it;
and if Master Bruin had been at the bottom of the pole, instead of the
top, I can't tell you where my poll would have been now. Fortunately,
the keeper was there, and I was got out somehow or other, I can't tell
you how, for I was insensible when they picked me up; and that was no
wonder, for I think I could not have been very _sensible_ when I tumbled
over. When I came round I found myself lying on my own bed, and mamma,
and the doctor, and the girls all crying: no, the doctor wasn't
crying--doctors never do cry, I suppose, it is beneath their dignity;
but the others made fuss enough, and it was nearly a month before I was
able to go out again. And depend upon it, when I did go out, I didn't
walk to the Zoological Gardens, for I can't bear the name of the
place.' Maurice doubtless thought that he had made a good hit, but alas!
it only fell on one pair of ears.

Fortunately the tea passed over without any other mishap than the
upsetting of the cup. Maurice Firman was certainly the chief spokesman
of the party; and though I am compelled to admit that he displayed great
attachment for plates of cake and bread and butter, I am also bound in
justice to say that he was not at all wanting in courtesy to the young
ladies, by whom he was surrounded. Everything, indeed, was pleasant, and
as it should be, and the now antiquated game of croquet was proposed, as
soon as the table with its adjuncts could be removed.

'Now I'll toss this ball, and catch it ten times running, with one hand,
while you are waiting for your game,' cried the impatient Maurice; and
though there was a general exclamation of 'No, no, not until the table
is cleared!' away went the ball into the air, and returned safely into
the hand that sent it.

The next descent, however, was a disastrous one, for the ball fell
exactly in the middle of the table, smashing more than one of the
bread-and-butter plates, to the great distress and consternation of the
whole party.

'Oh, how fortunate it is that we had not the best china tea-things,'
said Dora; 'they are very expensive ones. It does not matter much about
these; we can easily get them matched.'

'Well, I am _very very_ sorry,' said the author of the mischief; 'but
I'll save up all my pocket-money, and buy some more plates,' he added.

'No, no, you won't,' said a kind voice from the balcony; and on Maurice
looking up, he saw Mrs. Maitland, who had come out of the drawing-room
to ascertain the cause of the commotion. 'Don't let this trifling
accident spoil your sport, dear Maurice,' said the lady, smiling on the
impetuous yet generous-hearted boy; 'only take care that you do not hurt
your young friends, the ladies, by too rough play.' Having given this
necessary caution, Mrs. Maitland left them to their sports, and as the
unfortunate breakage had been the means of checking somewhat of the
exuberant spirits of the youthful offender, everything went on very
satisfactorily, and game succeeded game, with great amiability, until an
unfortunate cat, belonging to Aunt Mary, which had accustomed itself to
take an evening's promenade along the garden wall, made her usual
appearance, and attracted the attention of the mischief-loving Maurice.

'Oh, I must have a fling at that cat,' cried that young gentleman,
taking up a rather thick piece of stick from the bushes. 'Now see if I
don't hit her right down from the wall,' he added; and he was just
going to suit the action to the word, when he felt his arms pinioned
from behind, and tried in vain to make his escape.

The cat, however, was more fortunate, for seeing that she had attracted
attention, and very likely having had some acquaintance with school-boy
tricks, she very prudently contented herself with a short walk this
evening, and quietly slipped down into her own domain before the
pinioned arms were set at liberty.

'There, now you may go, old fellow,' said Harry Maitland, releasing the
arms, which he had held so tightly that Maurice was fain to rub them
violently to restore the circulation, while the whole party laughed
heartily at his expense.

'I wish Harry was at home with you sometimes,' said Edward Firman, who
did not seem at all to relish his boisterous ways.

'I wish he was,' replied Maurice, who looked rather red and angry at
having been so ignominiously made captive. 'But you don't think,' he
added, 'that I would let him master me so easily as he has done now,
Ned; I was taken unawares, and that's not fair.'

'But that was the only way to save the poor cat,' said Dora Maitland:
'she might have been killed if you had struck her with that large piece
of wood; and I think Cousin Harry did quite right in holding your
arms.'

'Such a fuss about a cat!' cried Maurice, still smarting under the
supposed affront. 'You should see how I served one the other day, when
she came prowling about the house to steal anything she could lay hold
of.'

'Don't let him tell--don't let him tell it, 'cried both Lucy and Ethel
Firman; 'it is a great shame of you, Maurice, to boast of your own bad
deeds,' said both his sisters; and as the servants were just then again
setting out the table with refreshments, the young party were saved the
infliction of hearing an exploit boasted of, which would certainly have
lowered Maurice Firman considerably in the eyes of all present.

'I did not intend to hurt you, Maurice,' said Harry Maitland, as he
clapped his friend on the back, and held out his hand in token of amity.

'Oh, I know that,' replied the boy; 'I shouldn't play tricks with cats
where there are girls.'

'Nor at all, I think,' responded his friend; 'it is a cowardly thing to
hurt a dumb creature that cannot speak or fight for itself.'

'Can't they, though!' cried Maurice; 'I know, if they don't speak, they
can make a horrible outcry. And as to fighting, just look here, my boy,
what do you think of that for a scratch, which a wretch of a cat gave me
because I took up her kitten and made it squall? Why, she flew at me
like mad, and before I could put the kitten down, she gave me this
wound;' and Maurice uncovered his wrist, and showed a very red and
angry-looking scratch.

'It's your own fault; you should let the cats alone,' said his sisters.
'Mamma is always scolding you for teasing them.'

'Well, I think we have had enough of cats,' said Robert Newlove; 'I
don't like them myself, but I should be very sorry to hurt them;' and in
this charitable declaration he was seconded by the whole party, Maurice
excepted.

We must now bid good-night to our young friends, as they will soon do to
each other. Aunt Mary and Clara are expected home to-morrow, and that
careful domestic of hers, Bridget Morley, who has lived so many years at
Oak Villa, has got everything in apple-pie order for her much-esteemed
mistress, and a lovely brood of chickens, which have been hatched since
they went away, to present to the young lady who has the charge of all
the poultry.



CHAPTER X.

THE BROKEN BOX.


Before we congratulate ourselves on Aunt Mary's return home, let us just
take a look at the disappointed Mabel, after her sister Julia had gone
to the tea-party.

It was in vain that her too indulgent mother tried to soften her
affliction, very injudiciously, we think, as every remark of hers only
elicited a fresh burst of feeling; and Mrs. Ellis felt it quite a relief
when the self-tormenting girl rose up hastily and retreated to her
bedroom, there to ponder over, not her own delinquencies, we fear, but
the wrongs inflicted on her by others.

A little voice which said, 'May I come in, Mabel?' roused her for a
moment, and she answered very crossly: 'What is it you want, Fred? I
wish you would not come teasing me. Go away; I don't want any of you.

'I only want to show you the nice box of puzzles papa has brought home
for me,' replied Freddy. 'I want you, Mabel dear, to help me to put it
together. I won't tease you.'

'I don't want to see your box, and I shan't open the door,' said the
ungracious girl. 'Take your box away, and get some one else to help you
to put your puzzle together,' she added; and poor Fred, thus rudely
repressed, turned to wend his way downstairs again. Unfortunately, his
foot caught the fringe of the door-mat, which caused him to fall heavily
and strike his head against the railing of the banisters, while the
pretty box, escaping from his hand, went right down the stairs into the
hall, where it burst open, and scattered the inclosed pieces right and
left.

Mabel was now quite roused, and fearing that her papa, attracted by the
noise, might come up to see what was the matter, rather than being moved
by any sisterly feeling, she reluctantly opened the door, and lifted up
the prostrate Freddy, who, although he had received a rather severe blow
on the forehead from coming in contact with the railings, was too much
of a man to cry, and seemed more anxious about the fate of his new
plaything, than desirous of obtaining either aid or sympathy; nor was he
very likely to obtain either from Mabel, though she took him into her
room to scold him for what he had done.

'Now just see what you have done,' said the selfish girl, 'by bringing
up that nasty box, and then letting it fall down the stairs. I hear
papa's voice in the hall; he will most likely come up here, and I shall
get scolded for your stupidity.'

'I will go down to him,' said Freddy, 'and then I can tell him all about
the box falling; papa needn't come up here.'

'How came you to let your box fall, Fred?' inquired Mr. Ellis, helping
the boy to pick up the scattered pieces.

'I caught my foot in the fringe of the bedroom mat, papa,' replied
Freddy; 'I am so sorry the box is broken.'

'Yes, so am I,' said his father; 'but why did you take it upstairs? that
is what I should like to know.'

As there was no answer returned to this question, Mr. Ellis stated the
truth himself.

'I suppose,' he continued, 'you went to show it to your sister
Mabel--was that it?'

'Yes, papa,' said the boy, still holding down his head; and kind papa,
seeing there was something wrong, would not then press further questions
on his little boy, though he remarked to his wife, when they were again
seated, that he should indeed be very glad when Mabel was under the care
of someone who knew how to manage her, for he was quite disgusted with
her exhibitions of temper.

'My sister will I dare say be here to-morrow,' said Mrs. Ellis; 'and I
will tell her what you wish respecting Mabel, though I know she does not
like the poor girl: and Mabel will find Oak Villa very different to
home, I am afraid.'

'That is not what I am afraid of,' replied Mr. Ellis; 'my fear is, that
Miss Livesay will find the girl so intolerable, that we shall soon have
her back on our hands again.'

'Oh, Arthur! you are so very severe in your remarks,' said the too
indulgent mother. 'My sister is very patient, and very kind to children,
though she is so firm.'

'Which I am sorry to say you are not, my dear; and it is this want of
firmness which occasions all the mischief,' said the gentleman; adding,
rather bitterly, 'You order a thing to be done, but you take no care to
see your orders enforced, and thus we are plagued with unruly children
and wilful servants.'

'Well, dear, you are always finding fault with me, whatever I do,' said
the poor self-afflicted lady, though she must have felt that what her
good husband had said was quite true; and well would it have been for
him, for herself, and indeed for the whole household, if, instead of
considering herself a martyr, she had set to work to amend the errors
which he had pointed out; but, alas! we don't see ourselves as others
see us.



CHAPTER XI.

AUNT MARY'S RETURN.


On the evening of the day after the juvenile party, a cab drove up to
the garden gate of Oak Villa, and Dora and Annie Maitland, who had been
on the look-out for some time at the window of an upper room, had the
satisfaction of seeing their kind preceptress, and her niece Clara
Beaumont, alight from it, receiving and giving at the same time the
welcome nod and smile of recognition. But here is the trusty Bridget,
with her merry face beaming with gladness, and her voice almost
tremulous with joy, for she has had rather a dull time of it while her
mistress and Clara have been away; though Jane Somers, a young girl
living not far off from Oak Villa, came regularly to sleep at the house.

'Well, Bridget, and how have you been all this time? not idle, I can see
at the first glance,' said Aunt Mary, looking round at the
brightly-polished furniture and fire-irons.

'Oh no, ma'am, I don't think anybody can be idle at your house,' replied
Bridget; 'and I have had plenty to do, for I have cleaned the house from
top to bottom, and have taken care of the cat and the fowls. And oh,
Miss Clara, the old hen has brought out such a beautiful set of chickens
as you never seed afore; but I dare say you be too tired to come and
look at them now,' added Bridget.

'Yes, we are too tired now,' said Miss Livesay, answering for her niece;
'we want to take off our wraps, and have some tea. Besides, you forget,
my good woman,' added her mistress, 'that the chickens are now all
hidden under their mother's wing, and she wouldn't suffer us to disturb
them.'

'Dear me, I quite forgot that,' said Bridget, as she busied herself in
assisting in the removal of cloaks and shawls, and carrying off trunks
and band-boxes; one of the latter of which her kind mistress told her
was for her, and contained a new cap and bonnet.

'Oh, ma'am, you are so kind,' said the pleased domestic; 'you never
forget anyone.' And she hurried away with her load, with a glad tear
glistening in her eye.

It was quite true what Bridget had said about Aunt Mary--she was indeed
kind-hearted and open-handed: but with all this she was not foolishly
indulgent. Her judgment was correct, and having made up her mind as to
what was the right course to pursue, she took pains to see her plans
carried out. Often and often had she remonstrated with her sister, Mrs.
Ellis, on her laxity of discipline, both with her children and servants;
and sometimes she had ventured, though that perhaps was not very wise,
to set their mutual friend Mrs. Maitland before her as a pattern for
mothers and mistresses. This, however, invariably produced some angry
retort, or at least a flood of tears, and ended with a secret
determination on the part of the elder sister to say no more on the
subject, but permit things to take their course; though she had made up
her mind on coming home to do as Mr. Ellis had once suggested to her,
that was, to receive Mabel as one of her pupils.

This was entirely with the idea of relieving her sister, and effecting a
reformation, if possible, in the character of her niece; though she
almost dreaded the introduction of such an element of discord into their
peaceful and happy household. Mabel, we have seen, had a great dislike
to her gentle cousin Clara, perhaps because she had heard her praises
often sounded; and she disliked her Aunt Mary quite as much, though it
would have been difficult for her to have given a 'reason why,' if it
had been asked for.

'I shall hate them both, I know I shall,' said Mabel to her sister
Julia, on the morning of the day on which Miss Livesay was expected to
come to Camden Terrace. 'There will be lessons and work, lessons and
work, all the day long. I shall be miserable, I know I shall; and I'll
tell mamma so, and beg of her not to let me go.'

'No, don't do that, Mabel; you will only make poor mamma unhappy, and
papa angry,' said the wise younger sister; and she added, 'I wish I
could go to Oak Villa. I like Cousin Clara very much, and Dora and Annie
Maitland too; I am sure you will find them very nice companions, all of
them.'

'Oh yes, it's all very fine what you are saying,' said Mabel; 'but I
know very well that you only want to get rid of me, and so does papa,
for I heard him say so; and I think it's unkind and cruel of you both,'
exclaimed the angry girl.

'Well, at any rate, you are not going very far away from us,' said
Julia; 'it is only a nice walk from Oak Villa to our house, so I and
Freddy can come and see you often, and you can come to see us.'

Just then a cab was heard to stop at the door, and the dreaded lady and
her niece Clara alighted, each with parcels in their hands; presents, no
doubt, to the small fry who had climbed up to the window to see who was
coming.

'Now don't look so cross, Mabel; don't let Aunt Mary see that you don't
like to go to Oak Villa,' entreated Julia.

'But I shall let her see!' replied the perverse girl; 'and I _shall_
tell her so, too--see if I don't,' she added, nodding her head; though,
when she came into the presence of that good lady, she had not a word to
say for herself, such a charm is there in the manner of some people to
overawe presumption.

Mabel and Julia made their appearance in the dining-room, just after the
first kindly greetings and affectionate salutations of the sisters had
been exchanged, and the same process had to be gone over with cousins
and aunt, the latter showing no difference whatever in the warm embrace
of Mabel and Julia, though we well know the great difference there was
in her estimate of the character of the two girls.

'Well, my dear Mabel,' said Miss Livesay, after a little conference had
been held, 'so it appears your papa and mamma wish that we should become
better acquainted with each other. Shall you like to pay me a visit at
Oak Villa?'

Here was a grand opportunity for Mabel to display her boasted courage,
and to speak her mind; instead of which, she only looked very sad, hung
down her head, and, rudely enough, made no reply; while her aunt said,
with a smile:

'That is well; silence gives consent. So you had better go, my dear, and
get ready, for I do not wish to keep the cabman waiting; and I have just
a few words to say to your mamma. Clara and Julia will therefore go
upstairs with you.'

All this was said kindly, but very decidedly: it was evident that there
was no appeal to be made, no authority to be questioned; and with hardly
suppressed passion and tears, the vanquished girl quitted the room with
her sister and cousin.

'And now, my dear Ada,' said Miss Livesay to her sister, 'see what are
the fruits of your over-indulgence, or want of firmness! They are not
very lovely, are they? Will you not take your good husband's advice, and
strive against this constitutional weakness, which is so detrimental to
your happiness, to your husband's comfort, and to your children's
welfare?'

'I can't be always scolding the children, Mary,' replied Mrs. Ellis,
peevishly. 'It isn't my fault, surely, that Mabel is so ill-tempered and
disobedient, and yet you and Arthur just talk to me as if it were.'

'And in a great measure, I think, it is your fault, my sister,' said the
kind monitor. 'Children should be watched from infancy; tenderly cared
for in mind as well as body. Good seed must be sown then, and the little
weeds which we are apt to disregard, or what is worse, cherish, in our
folly, must be rooted out while the soil is moist, and the root is not
deep in the ground. Never laugh at childish exhibitions of temper, nor
for the sake of _peace_ give way to the doctrine of _expediency_,
injurious alike to nations and to families.'

Here poor Mrs. Ellis interposed; she could never sit out a long sermon,
especially one that she really could not understand. So she interrupted
Aunt Mary's profitable discourse by promising to try, when Mabel had
gone away, to be more careful for the future, though she candidly
admitted that she did not know how to begin to make any change, as Mabel
was the only one of the children who gave her any trouble. And yet the
weeds were growing up thick and strong in Master Freddy, who just then
put his head in at the door, the little ones being behind him, and all
running to salute their aunt, and receiving from her a loving embrace,
as well as the very pretty playthings which were spread out on the table
for their acceptance and admiration. Nor had Mabel and Julia been
forgotten by their aunt; both a workbox and a writing-case were laid
aside for the latter: those intended for her sister Miss Livesay had not
brought, thinking it unnecessary, as Mabel was to return with her to Oak
Villa.

'Well, my dear Mabel,' said Aunt Mary, as the two girls entered the
room; 'so you are equipped and ready for a start, I see. I do hope you
will like your new mode of life, and your young companion's society.
Clara, I know, will be delighted to have a companion in her visits to
our poor people: and you, I trust, will soon learn to take an interest
in them.'

There was no response to this kind speech from the unamiable girl; and
with the somewhat painful feeling on the part of Miss Livesay that she
was going to introduce into her hitherto peaceful household the apple of
discord, she rose to take leave, with the promise, however, of renewing
her visit in the next week if all things went on well.

Mabel was quick enough to notice this speech: she would have known that
it had reference to herself, even if it had not been accompanied by a
smile and a nod from her aunt; and the naughty pride in her heart made
her resent it, though she felt obliged to submit.

There were loving adieus from all but Master Freddy, who said to his
sister, as she shook hands with him:

'Good-bye, Mabel; I'm glad you're going, you are always so cross with
us.'



CHAPTER XII.

NIGHT AND MORNING.


And now an entirely new mode of life was presented to Mabel; and Miss
Livesay found, as, indeed, she had expected to find, a fruitful source
of trouble in her newly adopted pupil. Of course, on the first day of
Mabel's arrival at Oak Villa there were no lessons talked about, and the
young ladies next door were not expected to resume their school duties,
until the Monday following Miss Livesay's return home; so there was a
little time afforded for breaking _out_, and breaking _in_. We shall see
how it was employed.

This afternoon had been a very pleasant one; the chickens had been
looked at and greatly admired; flowers, the great favourites both of
aunt and niece, Mabel did not care for, though she liked, as we have
seen, to deck herself in gay colours. In the house they had plenty of
amusement, with books and pretty specimens of work of various kinds from
the ready fingers and artistic taste of Aunt Mary and Clara; indeed,
what had been produced by their skill, industry, and steady
perseverance, was worthy of admiration. To Mabel's astonishment, nine
o'clock struck, and she had not yet finished her pleasant occupation of
examining, when her aunt said:

'Now, my dears, it is your bed-time.'

Clara instantly began to put away books and work, but Mabel exclaimed:

'Oh, aunt! must we go to bed so soon? I never go till ten, at home!'

'Perhaps you never rise at six in the morning?' replied Miss Livesay;
'we do. And I dare say you have heard the old proverb--

  '"Early to bed, and early to rise,
  Is the way to be healthy, wealthy, and wise."'

'I go to bed when I like, and I get up when I like, at home,' said
Mabel, without noticing the unwelcome quotation.

'_We_ have no _likes_ and _dislikes_ here, my dear Mabel,' said her
aunt. 'We do what we know to be our duty, and you will have to do the
same. Good-night!'

An affectionate kiss accompanied the _good-night_; Mabel saw that it was
a _decided_ one; there was no room for further parley, and the short
time spent by the proud and petulant girl at Oak Villa gave signs of an
authority, to which she must of necessity submit, as from it there could
be no appeal.

'Mabel dear, it is time to get up; don't you hear the bell ringing?'
said Clara, as she jumped out of bed and began to dress. The
sleepy-headed girl turned lazily round, but did not seem to be at all
disposed to attend to the summons.

'You _must_ get up; indeed you must!' urged Clara, gently shaking her
cousin by the shoulder. 'I shall not have done all I have to do before
prayers, if we don't make haste.'

'Why, what have we to do before breakfast? And what time do you have
breakfast?' drowsily inquired Mabel, rising, however, at this second
appeal of her cousin's.

'We have prayers at eight, then breakfast; but I have my chickens to
feed, and my lessons to prepare before that time,' said Clara.

'Lessons before breakfast! Oh, I shall hate that!' exclaimed Mabel. 'I
hope they are not hard ones, for I shall never learn them if they are.'

'Well, I don't know what you call hard,' replied her cousin. 'I find
mine rather difficult sometimes, but Aunt Mary is so kind in explaining
everything, that it is quite a pleasure to learn with her.'

'I'm sure I shouldn't think her kind,' said the ungrateful Mabel. 'I
can't bear people that are so prim and stiff as Aunt Mary is, always
seeming determined to make you do just what they like, whether you wish
it or not.'

'Oh, Mabel!' said her cousin, 'I wonder how you can speak so
disrespectfully of dear Aunt Mary; and what you are saying is quite
untrue.'

'And I suppose,' retorted the ill-conditioned girl, 'you will go and
tell her what I have said, and we shall have a row.'

Clara was so astonished at hearing this speech from her cousin, that she
suspended the operation of dressing for a moment.

Then she said quickly:

'Mabel, we don't tell tales here; and I never before heard anyone speak
unkindly of our aunt, nor did I ever hear her speak unkindly to anyone.
Don't let us talk any more,' she added; 'I am going to say my prayers.
Come, kneel down with me, and let us thank our Father in heaven for
taking care of us through the night, and ask Him to bless us before we
begin our day's work.'

Mabel knelt down beside the bed with her cousin. She had always been
accustomed to repeat a set form of words; whether they were the
utterances of the 'soul's sincere desire,' we cannot say: but we do know
that if we _pray_ in sincerity against sin, we shall _strive_ against
it, and Mabel was not doing this. Clara's first occupation on going down
stairs was to look after her feathered family; and in this she had a
ready seconder in Mabel, whose delight in seeing the pretty chickens was
unbounded.

'Oh, do let me take one out, Clara! I won't hurt it; dear, sweet little
thing!' she exclaimed, as she was just putting out her hand to take one
of them up, but was held back by her cousin, and so prevented from
receiving the meditated peck which the old hen was evidently preparing
for her.

'Just in time,' said Clara; 'old Netty would have made you repent of
your boldness, had you taken hold of one of her pets.'

'Why, I shouldn't have hurt it by just holding it in my hand,' replied
Mabel.

'Netty doesn't know that; and I'm sure she would have hurt you, so it is
very well I held you back,' said Clara. 'Now we had better go in; I hear
Aunt Mary's voice. I must go and say good-morning to her, as usual.'

'Good-morning, my dears,' said Miss Livesay, in her usual genial, happy
tone of voice, for she was always bright and cheerful, though her niece
Mabel chose to take such a distorted view of her. 'I hope you have slept
well, and are refreshed for another day's work, my children; you both
look the picture of health, and health is one of our greatest blessings,
is it not?'

'Yes, dear aunt, indeed it is,' replied Clara. 'I think we both slept
well; and I was so glad to see, when I woke, that the morning was fine,
for I thought perhaps you would wish us to go and see how poor Mr.
Simmons is, when we have done our lessons.'

'That is just what I wish you to do,' said Aunt Mary. 'The lessons I
intend to postpone, except that you may show your cousin what you and
your school-fellows are learning. I shall be delighted to find that you
can all study together; it will save much time and trouble, and be much
more agreeable. Now ring for Bridget; after prayers and breakfast, we
must cut out our work, dear Clara. You know we have a great deal to do,'
said the lady.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE FIRST DAY'S WORK.


IN the pleasant breakfast-room, which was also a schoolroom, the two
girls were left by Aunt Mary, while she gave some orders on household
matters. Everything was arranged here with order and neatness, but there
was nothing superfluous; there was a place for everything, and
everything seemed to be in its place, if we except a large quantity of
unbleached calico, which had been unrolled, and had spread itself upon
the floor.

'What is all that coarse stuff for?' inquired Mabel of her cousin. 'You
surely don't call that your work, do you, Clara? I brought some
embroidery with me, for I hate plain work. I hope aunt will not set me
to do any.'

'I am quite sure she will, though,' replied Clara; 'and this very day,
too; for she is going to cut out two night-shirts for the poor man we
are going to see, and we shall have to make them, as well as pinafores
for the children, and flannel petticoats for two old women who are in
Aunt Mary's district. Oh, such nice old dames they are, Mabel! I am sure
you will like them, dear; and they are so thankful for any little
kindness we do for them.'

'Such stupid, humdrum work!' exclaimed Mabel. 'I'm sure I shall be
miserable here. Hard lessons, coarse work, and looking after old and
sick people! I wonder you are not moped to death, Clara; it's even worse
than I thought it would be.'

'Well, wait a little while,' said patient Clara; 'you have had no
experience yet. I know very well you will alter your mind before six
months are over.'

'Six months!' exclaimed Mabel; 'why, I should be dead in that time, if
mamma suffers me to remain here. But I shall tell her all about it, and
beg her to let me go home.'

The entrance of Aunt Mary broke off the dialogue of the cousins, and
soon the obnoxious calico was spread out, and fashioned into useful
articles of wearing apparel.

'Here is your new workbox, my dear Mabel,' said her aunt; 'you will find
it stocked with all necessary things--thimble, and scissors, and
needles, and cotton--and all that I require of you is to keep it tidy.'

It was impossible for Mabel not to dismiss _some_, at least, of her
foolish prejudice against this kind friend, and the thanks she returned
for the really handsome present were hearty and genuine; and on fitting
on her thimble, and examining the bright scissors and the very pretty
needle, even her feelings respecting the coarse work on which they were
expected to be employed appeared to undergo a wonderful change.

'I can't do plain work very quickly, aunt,' said Mabel, when that lady
had given her a pair of sleeves to make; 'I never did much at home.'

'All right, my child; if you do your best, I promise you I shall be
satisfied. I know you will improve in time,' said Aunt Mary, kindly.

There was no reading this morning, because Clara and Aunt Mary, who
were both rapid seamstresses, had agreed, if possible, to finish the
night-shirt that had been cut out, and take it with them in the evening,
when they went to call at the cottage of poor Simmons, whom they had not
seen since their return home, but of whom they had learned from Bridget
a pretty satisfactory account. The good woman had taken them under her
especial care while her mistress was away.

There was no lack of pleasant conversation when Aunt Mary was in the
room, and the work progressed well during the morning hours; but,
unfortunately, about three o'clock in the afternoon some friends came to
call, and as it was evident to Miss Livesay that this would prevent
their visit to the cottage that evening, she bade the young people put
away their work, and try to find some amusement in the garden. Clara
felt sorry and disappointed at this postponement, though she said
nothing, but prepared to obey her aunt. With Mabel, however, this was
quite an unexpected pleasure, and so rapidly did she gather up her work,
without folding it neatly together, that the needle ran into her finger,
and brought the blood so quickly that two or three large spots were
deposited on the sleeves.

'Oh, aunt will be so cross when she sees what I have done!' said the too
hasty Mabel. 'Must I try to wash the spots out, Clara?' she inquired.

'No, no!' replied her cousin; 'Bridget will do that for you with a
little brush. But I wonder, Mabel,' she added, 'at your thinking dear
aunt would be _cross_ because you have had an accident. You seem to have
some very strange ideas in your head; you will know better soon, I
hope.'

The room was quickly cleared, and Clara, taking the soiled sleeve in her
hand, went with her cousin into the kitchen, where they found the tidy
servant-of-all-work already clean, and sitting comfortably with her
knitting in hand, and the cat on her knee. Bridget readily undertook the
task required of her; and the young people, having obtained the food for
the poultry, ran off to distribute it.

A capital house Clara's feathered family had, with no rent nor taxes to
pay. It was a long shed under the tall trees at the bottom of the
garden, boarded over at the top, but with wire-work all across the
front, where a door was made to go in at, in order to clean out the
floor.

Inside, it was the picture of comfort, and of cleanliness too, for
careful Bridget took care of that. Old Netty and her chicks had a place
to themselves--a house within a house--so that the little ones could not
make an escape.

'Oh, I see there are two new-laid eggs,' said Clara. 'I am so glad; we
can take them to poor Simmons when we go to-morrow. I dare say there are
two or three more in the house that I may have.'

'I thought you said the fowls were your own, to do what you liked with,'
said Mabel. 'If I were you, I should sell the eggs, and not give them
away,' she added.

'And what should I do with the money?' inquired Clara. 'I have
everything I want; aunt takes care of that.'

'But you might buy nice gloves and neckties with the money you would get
for the eggs,' urged Mabel. 'I don't see that you have much of that sort
of thing.'

'I have all that I want in that way,' replied her cousin. 'I would ten
times rather give away the eggs than take money for them. When I first
came to live with dear aunt, she had this place fitted up on purpose for
me; and she bought the fowls, and food, and everything that was wanted,'
said Clara. 'In three months' time I had a beautiful brood of chickens;
and when they were grown, aunt asked me what I meant to do with my
surplus stock. I said that I really did not know; so she suggested that
I should sell the chickens, and give the money to the poor. "Sell that
ye have, and give alms," said my aunt. "This, dear Clara, is our
Saviour's advice," she added, and I was only too glad and thankful to
follow her advice. So I made a purse, in which I save up my
egg-and-chicken money, and we buy calico, and print, and flannel, and
provide other things,' said Clara, in great glee, for it was, indeed,
one of her chief sources of pleasure to give to the poor.

'I'm sure you would not catch me doing in that way,' said Mabel. 'I see
no fun in keeping fowls only for the sake of giving to other people.'

'No _fun_, perhaps,' replied her cousin; 'but you would find real
pleasure, Mabel, in being able to relieve the wants of the sick and the
afflicted. Oh, I know,' she added, 'you will--you _must_ change your
mind when you go with us to some of the neighbouring cottages. I do hope
we shall not be prevented from going to-morrow.'

Whatever effect time and scenes were to have on our young friend Mabel,
certainly her cousin's arguments and declarations produced none at the
present; so we must close the chapter of the first day, and begin
another.



CHAPTER XIV.

VISIT TO THE COTTAGE.


The evening of this first day at Oak Villa had been very pleasantly
spent by Aunt Mary and her nieces at Mr. Maitland's, where the young
people engaged themselves on the lawn, while the elders talked over the
various events of the very eventful times, without being able to come to
any conclusion as to how they were to be mended.

Mabel either really _was_ in a very gracious humour this evening, or the
fact of a young gentleman being of their party made her careful not to
give way to temper; though it must be confessed that Harry tried it two
or three times. However, all went on smoothly enough, and at nine
o'clock the friends separated.

The gorgeous sunset gave token of a fine day on the morrow, when Clara
anticipated the pleasure of finishing her labour of love, and taking a
most acceptable present to her poor friends the Simmonses. The bell rang
at the usual time in the morning, and after breakfast the work of the
day before was resumed.

'Two hours, I think, will finish what you want to take with you to-day,'
said Aunt Mary, 'so you will have time to go before dinner. You can take
poor Simmons some eggs, and Bridget has a rice pudding in the oven for
the children.'

'How delighted they will be to see us again; only I wish you could have
gone with us, aunt,' said Clara.

'I wish I could have done so, but I expect a person to call on business
this morning, so I must not be out of the way,' said the lady.

Steadily the work progressed; even Mabel, by the aid of her bright
silver thimble and sharp needle, seemed to get on better than she had
done the day before: so that not only was the night-shirt finished, but
a little pinafore had been cut out and completed in less than the two
hours. And now all had been packed up, the two girls were ready for
their walk; and the careful Bridget had placed the pudding and the eggs
in an oval basket for Clara to carry, while they were preparing for
their walk.

'It will be frightfully hot walking this morning, I know,' said Mabel.
'I wish our visit to the cottage could be put off until the evening; go
and ask Aunt Mary if it may, Clara,' she added.

'No, I couldn't do that,' replied her cousin. 'Aunt never tells us to do
anything that is unreasonable, and I know that she wishes very much that
the children should have the pudding for their dinner, and that the poor
sick man should have the new-laid eggs. Come, Mabel dear, be quick,' she
added; 'we shall be under the shade of the trees great part of the way.'

'And who is to carry the basket and this parcel?' inquired Mabel, giving
a rather contemptuous look at the rolled-up work.

'You may carry whichever you like,' said Clara; 'it does not matter to
me which I take. Indeed, I shouldn't mind if I had to carry both,
neither of them are heavy.'

'Perhaps not,' said the proud girl, 'but it is so servant-like to be
carrying parcels and baskets; I wonder Aunt Mary likes you to do it.'

'Oh, Mabel!' cried her cousin, 'I can't help laughing at you. Why, you
should see what bundles aunt and I do carry sometimes. I suppose you
would be quite shocked.'

'I shouldn't wish to be seen with you,' replied the silly girl. 'I don't
think, either, that it is any laughing matter.' And Clara, knowing that
it was a waste of time to argue the case any further, took up the
obnoxious bundle, and ran downstairs; while Mabel followed, to find on
the hall-table her share of the disagreeable, in the closely-packed
basket.

It really was a very hot walk that the cousins had before them, in spite
of the occasional shade of the tall trees, and they were not at all
sorry when they reached the small cottage of James Simmons, and were
invited to sit and rest on the chairs, which the good wife dusted and
put ready for them.

The cottage was very poorly supplied with furniture--one table, and four
chairs, and a stool, on which stood the washing-tub, out of which Mrs.
Simmons was wringing some clothes from very hot water, when her visitors
entered. If, however, there was but little furniture, there was no lack
of children, and three of them were rolling about the floor, while a
girl, it might be of the age of seven, was making an attempt to wash
some stockings. Her small fingers did not seem to be equal to the task
of rubbing and wringing, yet she was evidently proud of her
occupation--a great deal more so than her brother appeared of his, in
trying to take care of the youngest child, a chubby infant of six months
old, who would persist in rolling off his knee, and making towards the
fireplace, there to become a regular Cinderella.

This scene, I need hardly say, was anything but delightful to the new
visitor, though she did not refuse to seat herself on the offered chair;
while poor Mrs. Simmons, with many apologies for being found in such a
rough state, wiped her hot face with her apron, and took the little one
up from the floor, to the great relief of her brother Johnny, who
appeared particularly interested in the contents of the basket, which
Clara was proceeding to set upon the table.

'Let me take the baby, Mrs. Simmons, while you put the eggs into a
basin; I am afraid of their rolling off the table,' said Clara, as she
held out her arms to take the very pretty, but certainly not very clean
little one.

'Oh, miss! she is not in a fit state for you to nurse,' replied the
woman; 'I am quite ashamed that you should have found us all so dirty,
but indeed I cannot help it. What with my husband being ill so long, and
the washing, which must be done, I don't know sometimes which way to
turn.'

'My aunt wants much to know how your husband is,' said Clara; 'she would
have come with us this morning, but she had an engagement.'

'The doctor thinks, miss, that my husband may get well, though he says
it may be many weeks yet before he will be able to walk. He has had a
weary time of it, and if it had not been for Miss Livesay's kindness,
and that of our good vicar and his wife, I think he could not have
lived; for he required more nourishment than I could obtain for him, if
I worked ever so hard.'

'I know how glad my aunt will be to hear this good news,' said Clara;
'and she has sent one of the night-shirts that we have made; I dare say
she will bring the other herself. And now let me try on the pinafore for
baby; I want to see whether it will fit.' Baby, however, stoutly
resisted this trial, using arms and legs with marvellous dexterity, and
almost twisting herself out of mother's arms; so the contest was given
up for fear of creating a noise, which would have disturbed the invalid:
while Clara's second suggestion, that baby should have some pudding,
appeared to give entire satisfaction, and produced perfect calm, under
which state of things the visitors rose to go, Mabel not having
exchanged a word either with mother or children the whole time, and
standing on the threshold of the door, waiting for her cousin, who was
shaking hands with Mrs. Simmons, and bestowing a parting kiss on the red
round cheeks of the now smiling baby.

The young people walked on a short distance in silence; each had their
own peculiar thoughts of the other. Mabel was the first to break calm.
Then she said: 'How you could kiss that dirty little thing and offer to
nurse it, I can't conceive, Clara; it quite sickens me to think of it,'
said Mabel, with something like a shudder. 'I wonder Aunt Mary sends us
to such places; it is work for Bridget to do, and not for us,' she
continued. 'I don't think my mamma would approve of my going.'

'Oh, you are mistaken there, I know,' said Clara; 'for I have often
heard aunt tell of the poor people your mamma and she used to visit,
before Aunt Ada married--yes, and for a long time after she was married,
until she was poorly, and then of course she was obliged to give up; but
I'm quite sure she will be glad to hear of your doing the same. Now we
must make haste, for fear we should be too late for dinner.'



CHAPTER XV.

A CATASTROPHE.


It was not a very pleasant trio that sat at the table the morning after
the visit to the cottage. If Mabel had disliked the coarse work on which
she had been employed the day before, her repugnance to the examination
to which she was subjected by Aunt Mary, in order to test the
capabilities of her niece, and to find out what lessons would be most
appropriate for her, showed itself so plainly in fits of sullenness, or
tears of vexation, that even Miss Livesay herself could not help
feeling-dispirited; while Clara, though she tried to think only of her
lessons, felt very much disposed to shed tears on her aunt's account.
More than once, indeed, a subdued expression of rage escaped from the
irritated Mabel; but it was so instantly and authoritatively checked by
her aunt, that Mabel was made to feel that it would be useless for her
to contend: so she sat and pored over her book in sullen silence.

This lasted until near dinner-time, so that the results of this
morning's work, so far as Mabel was concerned, had been anything but
satisfactory when the books were put away; and it was with very painful
feelings that Miss Livesay contemplated not only the drudgery she would
be subjected to, in having to go through _early lessons_ with this
refractory niece of hers (who was far, very far behind both Clara and
the Maitlands in her learning), but the conflict she was likely to
encounter with pride and obstinacy, evils she never before had to
contend with.

Aunt Mary, however, was not one to give way to despondency, and at the
dinner-table she had resumed all her usual cheerfulness; nor did she
make the least difference in her manners to her nieces, but chatted with
them both, as if nothing had occurred to disturb her serenity.

The mornings at Oak Villa were always devoted to lessons; in the
afternoon there were two hours spent in work and reading; then the day's
duties were finished, if we except the looking over the lessons for the
following day, which Clara never omitted doing. And on this day she had
a scheme in her head, both for doing Mabel good, and saving her dear
aunt trouble.

In short, she determined, if possible, to induce her cousin to exert
herself in learning extra lessons, in order to overtake the young
Maitlands and herself.

She thought, perhaps, that the very pride in the young girl's
composition would aid her in this task, and in this she was not
mistaken. Mabel this afternoon was permitted to do some of the work she
had brought from home; and what with this indulgence, and the clever and
amusing book her aunt had been reading to them, she had quite recovered
her spirits, and was as lively and cheerful as possible.

'Isn't it time to feed the fowls, Clara?' inquired Mabel, when work and
books were laid aside.

'Yes, dear, it is,' replied her cousin; 'but I should be obliged if you
would feed them for me to-day, as Aunt Mary wants me to write a letter
to dear mamma before post-time.'

'Oh, I shall be glad to do so, very glad!' said Mabel, who had her own
motives for the alacrity she displayed.

'Must I ask Bridget for the corn?' she inquired.

'I dare say you will find it set ready on the kitchen table; Bridget
never forgets,' said Clara, as she arranged her desk and writing
materials.

Mabel ran off in great glee, and was soon busily engaged in her very
agreeable task; yet in spite of her endeavours, she found that it was
impossible to give satisfaction to all her feathered friends. Some were
too greedy, and would insist upon having more than their share, while
others were not courageous enough to stand up for their rights, and so
were easily repulsed, and came very badly off in the general scramble,
notwithstanding Mabel's spirited attempts to make an equitable
distribution. At last she got tired of trying to teach manners to the
cock and hens, so she went to look after the pets, as she called the
chickens. These, as we have before stated, had with their mother a
separate establishment, and so they were permitted to peck their grains
in peace, being in no danger of losing their share; though even among
these tiny things there were contentions for a single grain, which
perhaps three or four would strive after. As Mabel stood watching and
admiring the little downy creatures, the desire came strongly over her,
as it had done before, to take one up in her hand.

'What harm could I do the little creature by just holding it in my hand
for a minute?' said Mabel. 'And as to the old hen pecking at me, I don't
care for that; and I dare say,' she added, 'Clara only told me this to
frighten me.'

As Mabel made this very unjust remark concerning her cousin, she opened
the small door in the wire-work, and put her hand in to seize one of the
chicks; but she was saluted with such a terribly hard peck from Dame
Netty, that, had she not been very determined in the matter, she would
have let the little chick go. Unfortunately for the little creature, her
captor was very determined, and in spite of the hard peck, and the
struggles of the bird, she took it out, and was in the act of shutting
to the door, when the soft trembling thing slipped out of her hand, and
fluttered away to its own destruction.

Yes, there on the wall, slyly watching all that had been going on, and
with as great a desire after the chicken as Mabel herself had, though
for a vastly different purpose, sat the fine sleek cat, to whom my young
readers have before been introduced, and quick as lightning she pounced
down upon the poor chick, and carried it off.

This was a terrible catastrophe, and Mabel stood for a moment in bitter
dismay; she did not know what to do--how should she? The cat had
disappeared, and by this time the poor chicken was killed, and perhaps
eaten. Should she tell Clara? no, that would never do, for it would be
sure to come to Aunt Mary's ears. It was not the first scrape that Mabel
had got into, and we are sorry to add got out of by dissimulation; and
now, after a little further consideration, she came to the unwise
conclusion that it would be better to say nothing about the matter.
After all, it was only one chick out of twelve; it perhaps would not be
missed. And though she was sorry that the poor little thing had been
killed, she solaced herself with the idea that there would soon be a
fresh brood to attract her cousin's attention.

Comforting herself with this idea, she walked into the dining-room,
where she found the tea ready, and was soon joined by her aunt and
cousin, who had finished their correspondence, and were now at liberty
to take their evening walk as soon as the pleasant meal was ended.



CHAPTER XVI.

A VISIT TO THE VICARAGE.


During tea-time, Aunt Mary proposed a walk to the vicarage, as she
wanted to ask Mr. Newlove's opinion of the state of poor Simmons, as
well as to inquire after the welfare of some of her pensioners, whom she
had not yet had time to visit since her return home. The proposal
pleased Clara, with whom the gentle Newlove was an especial favourite;
though Mabel had conceived a dislike that she could give no reason for,
to this quiet, sensible, and affectionate girl.

It was with very different feelings that the cousins went upstairs to
dress. Mabel, we must suppose, thought that as she was going to a
clergyman's house, she should have to listen to a sermon; or if not
that, to sit still, and say nothing, while the seniors talked about sick
folks, and old men and women, till she should be quite wearied out; and
this was certainly no pleasant prospect for a lively young lady. But
Mabel said nothing of all this; as usual, her conversation turned on
what she should wear.

'Are you not going to change your dress, Clara?' said her cousin; 'you
are surely not going to the vicarage in that dowdy-looking frock? Why,
it is only fit to wear in the mornings, or to go visiting to dirty
cottages, such as we went to yesterday.'

'Now don't let us talk about dress,' said Clara; 'my frock is what Aunt
Mary bought for me, and if she thinks it good enough for me to wear, I'm
sure I do too. Besides, Mabel, you are very much mistaken if you think
that Mr. or Mrs. Newlove would notice your dress, unless, indeed, it
were a very smart one, such as I know they wouldn't like.'

'Then I shan't care for _their_ likes, but I shall just put on what _I
like_ myself,' said the graceless girl, as she took from her drawer a
very pretty printed muslin, and proceeded to array herself in it,
finishing off by donning a little black hat with a white feather in it.

'Now, suppose it should rain,' suggested Clara, 'what becomes of your
pretty frock and your white feather?'

'There is not the least likelihood of rain,' replied Mabel; 'I never saw
a finer evening;' and away she ran downstairs, but taking care to avoid
a meeting with her aunt until they were all ready to start.

It was indeed a lovely evening for a walk. It had been very hot at one
time of the day, but there had been a thunder-shower in the afternoon,
which had cooled the air, and given freshness of colouring to the
surrounding vegetation, deepening the tints on flower and shrub and
tree, while,

  'The ling'ring sun seem'd loth to leave
  Landskip so fair, to gentle eve.'

Aunt Mary, though of course she noticed the difference in the dresses of
her nieces, said nothing about it; but kept up, as she usually did, a
conversation both amusing and instructive. Even Mabel forgot her fine
clothes in listening to her aunt, and for the present seemed to be
thrown out of self. Such a charm is there in wise teaching.

Nor when they reached the pretty, secluded vicarage, and were heartily
welcomed by its inmates, were the fears of Mabel at all likely to be
realised, as instead of having to listen to a sermon, or details of old
and sick people, she and Clara were walked off by Robert and Edith
Newlove, to see the rabbits, and the ringdoves, and the poultry in their
respective habitations.

'How beautiful they are--- how very beautiful!' said Clara, speaking of
the ringdoves; 'and so gentle too--they don't fight and squabble like my
hens do over a few grains of wheat.'

'Oh, they can peck one another sometimes,' said Edith; 'but they are
not noisy about it like the fowls.'

'And my rabbits are not at all noisy either,' said Robert; 'but the buck
can be very cruel, for if we don't take care he makes nothing of eating
up one or two of the little ones.'

'Horrid creatures!' said Mabel. 'I shall never like rabbits again; it is
quite shocking.'

'It would indeed be quite shocking if they knew better,' replied Robert;
'but they don't, so we must try to prevent them from acting cruelly. And
after all,' he added, 'it is not half so bad as boys and girls doing
wrong when they know better; yet we should not say of them that we
should never like them again, should we, Miss Mabel?'

'No, I suppose not,' said the conscience stricken girl, as she found
herself standing before the fowls' house, which was the very model of
Clara's, and indeed had been made by the same industrious hands, namely
those of poor Simmons, who was now, and had been for months, lying on
the bed of languishing.

'You see the fowls are all gone to roost,' said Edith; 'the dear little
chicks are under their mother's wing. I do wish you could have seen
them; there are ten such beauties!'

'Oh, I have got twelve,' cried Clara; 'and in a few days' time I expect
we shall have twelve more, if Dame Partlet is as fortunate as Netty. Do
come and see them, Edith dear, next week. Think what a family I, or
rather Aunt, will have to provide for--twenty-four!'

This was indeed not only counting the chickens before they were hatched,
but not counting on misfortunes to those that were already hatched, and
Mabel did not feel at all comfortable at the turn the conversation had
taken; she was not sorry, therefore, when the servant came to say that
Miss Livesay thought it time to go home.

Of course the summons was immediately obeyed, and with very kind adieus,
the friends, old and young, separated; Aunt Mary observing that 'they
must walk rather quicker in returning home than they had in coming, as
there were some stormy-looking clouds hanging overhead.'

The mention of clouds and showers turned Mabel's attention to her dress,
which, to say the truth, she had forgotten; and no wonder, as no one had
taken the slightest notice of it, though the foolish girl had been at
such trouble to make herself attractive. The mention of clouds and rain
brought back Mabel's thoughts to the delicate frock and the new hat. She
and Clara were a little in advance of their aunt, who had stopped for a
moment to place a trifle in Mr. Newlove's hand for a very poor
parishioner of his, of whom they had been talking.

'Oh, do let us run!' cried Mabel, as she looked up, and noticed the
gathering clouds; 'perhaps we may get home before it begins to rain, if
we make haste.'

'But Aunt Mary can't run,' replied Clara, 'and I am sure I shall not
leave her; so you will have to run by yourself, Mabel, if you do go.'

'I'm not going to have my dress spoiled,' said the excited girl, as she
gathered up her pretty skirt, and commenced to walk very rapidly at
first; but as her fears increased from feeling, as she thought, a drop
of rain, the rapid walking turned into a run, not quick enough, however,
to bring her to the desired haven before the threatened shower
descended, and, in spite of her exertion, seemed likely to drench her to
the skin before she could arrive at Oak Villa. There had been trees in
the way home, under which she might have found shelter if she had not
been in such a violent hurry. Now it was too late for Mabel, though
Clara and her aunt were actually at the time standing secure beneath the
leafy screen; not certainly in a very comfortable state of mind, for
Miss Livesay knew that her niece could not have reached home before the
drenching shower descended, and she felt very uneasy on her account.

'I do hope that Bridget will take care that Mabel changes all her
clothes,' said Aunt Mary; 'she must be wet through if she has been out
in the rain. The showers are so very heavy, though they do not last
long.'

'I think this shower is nearly over now; do you think we may venture to
go, aunt?' inquired Clara, who partook of her aunt's anxiety respecting
her cousin.

'Yes, dear; we have nothing on to spoil. A few drops will not do us any
harm, and I fancy we shall have another downpour if we wait longer.'

This was Aunt Mary's decided opinion, and on the strength of it, the
anxious pair set forward on their way home, which place they certainly
would not have reached with dry clothing, had not careful Bridget
suddenly made her appearance with cloaks and umbrellas.

This was rather an uncomfortable ending to a pleasant evening, but life
has ever its ups and downs, its sunlight and its shadows, for the young
as well as for the old. So it has ever been, and so it will ever be to
the end of time.

It would have been well for Mabel Ellis if the spoiling of her dress had
been the worst result of her foolish pride. And yet, perhaps, I ought
not to say that it would not have been well had the trouble ended there.
Adversity is a _very stern_, but a _very wise_ teacher. We may not
always see this to be so, and we may be very loth to acknowledge it,
but it is a fact nevertheless. Aunt Mary's first thought, when she
entered the house, was for Mabel, whom she found by the kitchen fire
drying her petticoat, the muslin dress having been taken off, and hung
over a chair.

'Have you changed shoes and stockings, my dear?' was the first question,
which was answered in the negative. But we will leave further details
for the next chapter.



CHAPTER XVII.

A SERIOUS ILLNESS.


As we have before stated, Mabel had only changed her upper garments.
Stockings and shoes, though soaked through in coming along the wet
grass, she had not thought of, and her wet petticoat steamed and smoked
as she stood drying it by the kitchen fire.

'Dear me! dear me!' exclaimed Aunt Mary; 'why did you not immediately
take off all your wet clothes? Clara dear, go with Mabel upstairs, help
her to undress and get into bed, and I will bring some warm tea up as
soon as possible. I am quite distressed to see the state you are in, my
dear,' she added.

Mabel, though of course obliged to obey, went off very reluctantly,
declaring all the time that she should be no worse for the wetting, and
feeling far more concerned about the spoiling of her dress and her hat,
than fearful of any consequence that might ensue from keeping on her wet
clothes.

The room in which the cousins slept opened into one that was occupied by
their aunt, so that she could easily communicate with them if anything
was the matter. Strict in requiring obedience to her commands, and in
not permitting any of her rules to be disregarded, Miss Livesay was
still a most loving and unselfish relative and friend, untiring in the
kind attentions to the sick, ever glad and ready to relieve the needy,
or to give a word of advice or sympathy when it was likely to be well
received. All the household had retired to rest but herself; she had
seen her dear children, as she often called Clara and Mabel, fast asleep
in their separate little white beds, but she still felt anxiety on
Mabel's account.

'Poor, foolish girl,' said the kind aunt to herself, 'I wonder whether I
shall ever be able to convince her of her folly. I cannot change her
heart, but I will pray that it may be changed; and I will do everything
in my power, both by example and precept, to show her that "Wisdom's
ways are ways of pleasantness, and her paths peace."' As Miss Livesay
said this, she once more went to look at the sleepers in the adjoining
room. Clara lay pale, peaceful, and soundly asleep; but Mabel, though
also asleep, looked flushed, and appeared restless.

This, Aunt Mary thought, might arise from the hurry and agitation of
running home so quickly; she did not wish to meet evils half-way, yet,
on retiring from the room, she made up her mind to take another look at
the sleeping girl during the night. This she accordingly did, but
observing no fresh symptoms for alarm, she lay down again, and only
waked when Clara came to tell her that Mabel complained of great pains
in her limbs. This sad news completely awed the kind aunt, for she
dreaded an attack of rheumatic fever, as Mabel's mamma had been a
dreadful sufferer two years before from that very serious malady. As
soon as possible, the doctor was sent for. Aunt Mary was no alarmist,
and could herself have dealt with any ordinary complaint; but she wished
to have the doctor's opinion, and, if possible, his decision, on the
real nature of the illness from which her niece was suffering, in order
that she might act with befitting caution, if there were any likelihood
of infection.

Clara sat disconsolate by the side of the pretty white bed, where her
poor cousin lay with feverish head and aching limbs. The stricken girl
was very quiet, except when she made an attempt to move, and then the
pain caused her to utter a faint cry, which thrilled through Clara's
kind heart; for she had never before been called upon to watch by a
sick-bed.

'Oh, dear Mabel, I am so sorry for you,' said the affectionate
child-nurse; 'I wish I could do anything to give you relief from your
pains.'

'Thank you, dear Clara,' said the poor girl, in a quiet, subdued tone,
very unlike that of the preceding day; even in this short time
reflection had been at work, conscience had not been inactive, for
retribution seemed to have come so suddenly as a necessary consequence
of wrongdoing.

But the doctor is here now; we must not keep him waiting. A kind,
fatherly, benevolent-looking man stands beside the bed of pain, on one
side, and the loving, anxious aunt and cousin on the other.

'You are quite right in your idea as to the nature of the complaint,
dear madam,' said Dr. Madox. 'Your niece is suffering from an attack of
rheumatic fever; a very sharp attack it appears to be, but it need not
on that account be a long one, though, just now, it is impossible to
predict. However, we will do all we can for her,' added the doctor,
cheerfully; 'in the meantime, you know, of course, that there is no
danger of infection, though I should advise the patient to be kept
perfectly quiet.'

This was indeed a very painful trial for all parties; but Aunt Mary felt
that the hand that afflicts can also sustain. She knew, also, that pain
and suffering and sorrow are often antidotes to the much more serious
evils of pride and vanity and sinful tempers, and that, when they are
submitted to patiently, they bring forth excellent fruits.

'Let me nurse dear Mabel myself, aunt,' said Clara; 'I will do
everything I can do for her night and day. Oh, I do hope she will soon
be well again!'

'And I _hope_ so too, my dear Clara,' replied her aunt; 'but you must
not think that you can attend to your cousin without help. You may of
course remain with her for company; and this need not perhaps hinder
your lessons, unless she should become very impatient, as is often the
case with sufferers in this severe malady. But health, your health, my
child, must be attended to; you must have air and exercise. And I fear
that we shall all be required to lend a helping hand to the poor invalid
should the fever greatly increase. I am just going to write to my
sister, Mabel's mamma. I must be careful not to alarm her, in her weak
state, as she is very nervous. You can return now to your cousin,'
continued Aunt Mary, 'and be sure you do not leave her alone until I
come to you. Ring for anything that is wanted.'

And now for weeks and weeks, this same selfish, self-willed girl, Mabel
Ellis, lay on the bed of pain and languishing, and I may add, I am
rejoiced to say, on the bed of sincere repentance. Yes, the salutary
lessons of adversity had not been taught in vain, for they were not
transitory ones, they had taken deep root; while the Divine precepts and
heavenly counsels, which she had heard daily from her most loving and
tender nurses, sank deep into a heart out of which had been weeded, to
make room for them, the rank and bitter weeds of pride and passion.

Mabel Ellis was indeed an altered character, when able once more to sit
up in the arm-chair; though so weak that she could scarcely speak above
her breath, her looks of love and thankfulness, and the soft eyes often
filled with glad tears, spoke most expressively to the hearts of her
aunt and cousin, for they felt that their labour of love had not been in
vain; and though all Aunt Mary's usual routine had been put aside, and
for a time a new phase of life had been set before her, in this trial
she could feel thankful.

  'The seeds of affliction and pain,
  When the soil has been moistened with rain
  That flow'd from a penitent heart,
  Into beauty, and fragrance will start.

  'Oh flowers of celestial birth!
  Though springing from clods of the earth,
  How rich are the odours ye shed
  O'er the couch where the languishing head

  'Is pillow'd in gentle repose,
  Forgetting awhile its past woes;
  Then waking, the incense of praise,
  With your odorous breathings, to raise.'

None but those who are recovering from a serious illness can conceive
the feelings of gratitude and love which take possession of the heart
when it is rightly disposed, what time the rod of affliction is removed.
Mabel seemed to feel herself a new creature, and as she threw her arms
round her cousin's neck, she gave expression to feelings of thankfulness
and love for the kind attention she had received from her and from her
aunt. She did not fail to lament bitterly the pride and sinful temper,
which now appeared to her to have been the principal cause of all her
trouble.

It was while she was thus bitterly lamenting the past, and weeping on
Clara's shoulder, that Aunt Mary came rather suddenly into the room and
surprised them.

'Come, my children,' said the kind lady, 'this will never do! Nurse and
convalescent both in tears,' she added, for Clara was also weeping; 'I
am afraid, dear Mabel, I shall have to dismiss your young attendant, and
engage one with more judgment and with less sympathy.'

'Oh no, no, dear aunt,' was the ready response. '_I_ will behave better,
I assure you,' said Clara. 'Poor Mabel is weak, and a little thing makes
her cry. She is only sorrowing now for the past; you will teach her, I
know, to hope for the future.'

'Yes, even while we sorrow, we must hope; hope is the great lightener of
all trouble. Come, cheer up, my child,' said Aunt Mary; 'I have some
pleasant news for you to-day. I have just had a letter from Camden
Terrace, to say that your papa and mamma and Freddy are coming to see
you this afternoon, and to drink tea with me. Ah, I see you can smile,
and be glad. We must have no more tears to-day; entertain only thoughts
of love and thankfulness.'



CHAPTER XVIII.

A FAMILY PARTY.


What a blessing it is to be possessed of a happy and cheerful
disposition!

And who so likely to have such blessing as those who not only _say_ 'Our
Father which art in Heaven,' but believing what they say, 'try to walk
with Him in love, as dear children.' Such persons diffuse cheerfulness
all around them; while on the contrary, those who are selfish and
passionate, sow the seeds of trouble and discontent broadcast around
them. And pride--oh, that hateful sin--what have children to do with
pride? Helpless and dependent as they are on parents or friends, what
have they to be proud of? Nothing!

Look at that curly-headed little boy, Freddy Ellis, who would be
beautiful were it not for the disdainful curl on his upper lip, and the
indignant expression in his eye when he has received some supposed
affront. Listen to the passionate vehemence of his words when he is
refused some indulgence which he has been teasing his mamma to grant
him, though it would surely try your patience, as it has done mine, to
hear the stamping and screaming that is going on just outside the
parlour-door; and yet, for all this, Freddy receives no punishment. Oh
no! 'It would break his spirit.' What absurd reasoning!

Do we inquire from whom is this spirit, which has more of the _serpent_
than the _dove_? The answer will be, 'It is _not_ from the meek and
lowly Saviour!'

Oh parents, whoever you be, take care lest you foster the serpent that
will diffuse its subtle poison over the cherished blossoms which you
are, or _ought to be_, training for heaven, and leave a sting which may
pierce your own hearts. One thing we may be sure of, that the faults
which we, through negligence or weak indulgence, leave unchecked in our
children in early life, a wiser though severer hand than ours will use
the rod of correction to eradicate. And can this really be _love_, that
puts off the proper time of chastisement, knowing that it is likely to
be doubled on that account? Alas, no!

But I must crave pardon for sermonising, and return to the sick chamber,
for Mabel's papa and mamma have come to pay their promised visit. Poor
girl, she is so thin and pale that papa, who has only seen her twice
during her illness, is quite shocked, and sitting down beside the
arm-chair, declares that he can scarcely believe she is his once plump,
rosy girl. Mamma has seen her often, and has shed many a tear over her
suffering child; but still it was a comfort to her to know that Mabel
was in such good hands. Sister Julia is also here, looking very
sorrowful; but Aunt Mary says:

'Now I am not going to permit anybody who draws a long face to remain in
my nursery; so those who look as if they were preparing to cry, instead
of to smile, must please take a walk in the garden, till they have
recovered themselves. What say you, Freddy, to this?' inquired Aunt Mary
of her little nephew, who stood looking on, not knowing seemingly
whether he was expected to smile or to cry, though on hearing his aunt's
cheery address, he came to the conclusion that it was not necessary for
him to commence the disagreeable alternative, although it must be
confessed he was a ready practitioner in yelling bouts.

'I should like to go into the garden, aunt,' responded Freddy. 'I want
to see Clara's hens and chickens; may I go now?'

'No, not just now, dear,' replied his aunt; 'your cousin will go with
you presently; she is engaged just at present, so you will have to
wait.'

This waiting, however, did not at all suit the impatient spirit of
Master Fred, and on Aunt Mary's going out of the room he gave expression
to his vexation.

'Why can't I go into the garden by myself, I wonder?' he exclaimed
passionately to his mamma, by whose chair he was standing. 'Aunt needn't
think that I should hurt the fowls; it is very unkind of her.'

All this was said in a subdued tone, that papa, who was talking with
Mabel, might not hear.

'Hush, hush, Freddy!' said his mother; 'your Aunt Mary is never unkind:
you should not say such things of her.'

'But _I_ think she is very unkind,' repeated the boy emphatically, as if
what he said must settle the point; but it only drew the attention of
his papa, who inquired what the vehement talking was about, and
threatened severe punishment if any of Fred's tempers were exhibited at
Oak Villa.

'Don't check the poor child so harshly,' said unwise mamma; 'he only
wants his aunt to let him go and see the fowls. And really I think she
might let him go, for he could do no harm.'

Mr. Ellis had a strong inclination to reply to this ill-advised speech,
but he looked at the pale face beside him, and prudently forbore any
further remark.

A nicely spread tea-table, on which there were plenty of cakes, smoothed
down the ruffled temper of the spoilt boy; yet he did not forget what
had all along been uppermost in his mind, namely, that he was to go and
see the chickens as soon as tea was over. Had Mr. Ellis not been afraid
of creating a disturbance at Oak Villa, he would certainly have
prevented Fred's going into the garden, after his display of temper in
his sister's room. He, however, made no opposition when the impatient
boy, having despatched his tea and cake, made the announcement to his
cousin Clara, that he was ready to go with her to see the fowls; and she
good-naturedly rose from the table to attend him--not, however, without
asking her aunt's leave.

Freddy of course was delighted with all he saw, though he said he
thought the chickens were very large ones, and inquired after those he
had seen a month ago, being very difficult to be persuaded that those he
was now looking at were really the very identical chickens.

Like his sister Mabel, Freddy wanted to nurse one of the chickens; nor
did he ask if he might do so, but while Clara went for the corn he
opened the wire door and boldly thrust his hand in: only, however, to
receive, as she had done, a severe peck from the hen, which sent him
stamping and screaming up and down, no doubt to the great astonishment
of the cock and hens, and the immediate disarrangement of the family
party, who all rushed out to know what was the matter. It certainly was
a severe peck that the old hen had given, and a very great fright that
the household had been put into by the screams and the roaring of the
cowardly boy, which continued as he clung to his mamma's dress, until he
accidentally caught sight of his papa, and then the storm ceased as if
by magic; and so much of sham had there been in the affair, that the
tempest calmed down without leaving trace of sob or tear.

Mr. Ellis saw that his presence had been effectual, so he only said a
few words to the young rebel, but he cast a half-sorrowful, half-angry
glance at his wife; and Aunt Mary could not help whispering, 'Ada, what
troubles you are making for yourself!'



CHAPTER XIX.

MAY DAY.


It was months before Mabel could really be said to have regained her
health and strength. The dreary winter had passed away, and the tender
leaves, and blossoms of April, had put forth their signs of returning
spring.

It must not however be supposed that the cold and dark season had been
an unprofitable one; far from it. Though Mabel had been an occasional
sufferer, during all that time, she and Clara had diligently attended to
their studies, and had, Aunt Mary said, made rapid advance; while the
inward change which had been experienced by the invalid left no room for
regret either to herself or her friends.

Mabel knew and felt that she had been healed of a far worse malady than
any bodily one, and though, as in the case of rheumatic pains, hidden
evils still gave occasional inward spasms, she had learned at whose
hands she was to receive the healing draught, and she never failed to
apply for it in the hour of need.

I ought perhaps to have informed my readers, that soon after Mabel had
been taken ill, Mr. and Mrs. Maitland, with their two daughters, Dora
and Annie, had gone to spend the winter months in the west of England,
with that lady's mother, who was now far advanced in years, and very
desirous of having the company of this her last surviving child, and to
feel the cheering influence of lively girlhood in the society of her
truly loving and attentive granddaughters.

And now, as I have before said, the winter had gone, and dewy April,
with its smiles and tears, its soft green, tender leaves, its embryo
buds and blossoms, its morning salutations which blithe birds sang in
the half-clothed trees or in the air, made fragrant by the breath of
primrose pale, or violet blue, or polyanthus bright--yes, dewy April,
notwithstanding all these delights, was about to take its departure, in
order to make way for the pleasant month of May, whose praises Aunt Mary
celebrated in rhyme. Oak Villa was indeed a highly privileged home; no
young girl, whose mind was properly balanced, could have considered it
otherwise. Its owner was cheerful as the lark, industrious as the bee,
thoughtful and provident as the ant, benevolent as!--well, I won't liken
her to any of our four-footed friends; indeed, just at this moment, I
must confess that no comparison occurs to me: but Aunt Mary loved her
nieces, delighted to impart to them those stores of knowledge to which
she was herself constantly adding, and which a very retentive memory
enabled her to draw on for almost any occasion.

Master Freddy, who, in his visit to the truly happy home I have been
speaking of, had contrived to make himself as disagreeable as possible,
had been punished for his conduct by being prevented from going with his
sister Julia in her occasional visits to Oak Villa; this, of course, was
by papa's order, and the prohibition was almost as grievous to mamma as
it was to Freddy, but there was no redress. Julia had enjoyed many a
pleasant walk with her sister and cousin, and she was particularly fond
of going to see the poor people, especially Mrs. Simmons, whose husband
had in a great measure regained his strength, and was now able to do at
least some little towards the maintaining of his family. It had been
very dull at home for Julia, after her sister had gone to Oak Villa; but
she had her mamma to attend to, and to teach the children, though to say
the truth this latter was almost an impossibility where Freddy was
concerned, so he was often sent down to stay with mamma, being
pronounced incorrigible.

But May morning has come at last; it is Aunt Mary's birthday, and such a
lovely day! The cousins have a great deal of work to do before
breakfast-time: may-blossoms to gather, garlands to twine, vases to fill
with the sweet-scented early flowers, the breakfast-table to arrange
with the best possible taste. As to Bridget, she had the day before
been preparing for this special holiday; and even now she is very busy
with her hot cakes and buns, which bid fair to be of the very best
quality. Nine o'clock was the appointed hour for breakfast, and as Aunt
Mary was not permitted by the young decorators to see what had been done
in the way of preparation, it had been agreed that prayers were to be
read in her bedroom, where, at half-past eight, Clara and Mabel, and
Bridget, made their appearance; the former clasping Aunt Mary's neck,
kissing her, and offering their most sincere and loving good wishes, the
latter looking on the while, with no less kindly feeling, and with the
honest tears of a faithful and devoted heart in her eyes.

Punctually at nine, a cab drove up to the garden-gate of Oak Villa,
which Bridget stood ready to open, while Clara and Mabel waited at the
hall-door, to receive the joyful little party, and Aunt Mary formed the
background of the scene.

'How smart you are, Freddy,' remarked Clara, as she handed that young
gentleman out of the cab; 'why, I never saw you in that dress before.'

'We were kept waiting some time,' said his mamma, 'because he would not
have his other clothes on. I was afraid we should be too late, so I let
him have his own way.'

'As usual, my dear sister,' said Aunt Mary, smiling, as she kissed and
welcomed her sister. 'I'm afraid Freddy's light clothes will come to
grief before the day is over, but he must take care.'

'Oh, how beautifully you have set out the table!' was the general
exclamation as they all entered the breakfast-room together; and really,
it was a very imposing sight, and the juveniles thought a very
appetising sight, for ham, and eggs, and tongue, and chicken, and cakes,
and buns, make a strong appeal for their share of commendation, even
where the more delicate and refined tastes are attracted by beautiful
colours and delicious odours.

It is really a very pleasant party that sits round this well-appointed
table, though the kind and hospitable hostess regrets much that her
brother-in-law, Mr. Ellis, was not able to be of the company. Aunt Mary
knew who it was that kept order at home, and much, very much did she
wish that her sister would be guided by her husband in the management of
their children. But now there is nothing but bright looks and smiling
happy faces, if we except that of Master Fred, who is looking round at
the several dainties, apparently considering which he shall choose from
first.

Unfortunately for the peace of society, Aunt Mary helped Freddy to some
ham without being asked, and before that young gentleman had made up
his mind as to what he should choose. This was indeed a sad mistake,
though done without the slightest suspicion of giving offence; but the
offence was very quickly manifested.

'I didn't want ham,' said the rude boy, as he pushed his plate from him;
'I wanted some tongue.'

'That is not a proper way to speak, my dear,' said his aunt; 'and you
must eat what I have given you first, then you shall have some tongue.'

This was strange language to the wayward boy; he resented it by another
push of his plate, and leaning back in his chair with the determination
of a martyr.

Wonderful, he thought it, that no one at the breakfast-table, not even
mamma, took the slightest notice of him, or seemed to care whether he
had any breakfast or not. The fact was that a very significant look from
Aunt Mary had imposed silence upon mamma, and sisters, and cousins, and
the little ones were far too busy on their own account to give heed to
Freddy, who was quarrelling with his bread and butter. In short, neither
by word nor look had any effort been made to soothe the perturbed spirit
of the really hungry boy.

This state of things, however, was not to be endured; so thought Fred,
when, after waiting a considerable time, and casting furtive glances
around to see if there were any signs in his favour, but perceiving
none, he pushed his chair away from the table and rushed out of the
room, quite unable longer to suppress his passion or his tears. This was
the signal for Mrs. Ellis to remonstrate, which she had all along wished
to do.

'Really, Mary, you are too severe on the poor boy,' she began, but was
immediately, though kindly, silenced by Miss Livesay.

'Not now, if you please, dear,' said Aunt Mary; 'we will not discuss
this point before the juveniles, we will talk it over by-and-by. In the
meantime, Freddy has, I hear, gone into the garden, where he can amuse
himself without getting into mischief.'

The latter part of this speech might have been omitted with propriety,
but we must not forestall. The absence of the high-spirited young
gentleman did not seem at all to lessen the enjoyment of the little
people, who really behaved remarkably well, being for the most part
under the management of a good nursery-maid, except when they were
having their little lessons with Julia. Mrs. Ellis did not like the
trouble of children herself, but through her weak-mindedness she
certainly did what she could to make them a trouble to other people. The
breakfast-party were just on the eve of breaking up, when a violent
screaming in the back garden seemed to upset Aunt Mary's idea that
Freddy could not get into any mischief there, and soon the whole party
were in the back garden to ascertain the cause of the disturbance.
There, at the large rain-water barrel, covered with wet and dirt, yet
holding fast by the top, stood the unfortunate Fred, his face crimson
with fear and excitement, while he still tried with all his might to
turn back the tap which he had so unluckily loosened, and which now,
like himself, refused to submit to a weak hand, but was readily reduced
to order by a strong one; for Bridget was at the scene of action, and
set free the boy, now completely shamed, if not subdued, by having to
appear before the whole party as an object of commiseration, if not
ridicule.

Of course there were no boy's habiliments at Oak Villa, and Fred had to
undergo the further humiliation of being put into his sister's bed in
one of her nightdresses, while his own clothes were drying.

It must be confessed that a great reaction had taken place since the
cold water had been thrown on the fiery young spirit, for there had been
more than the mere wetting of the body. Fasting also had done its
beneficial work; the craving stomach seemed to be resisting the defiant
will. And when Freddy found himself quietly between the sheets, with
only his sister Mabel--who had brought some breakfast up--to witness his
humiliation, he very gladly, I might almost say thankfully, turned _to_
the tempting viands which he had so short a time ago turned _from_ with
disgust. Yes, the piece of ham was there, and this time it was not
pushed back; but there was no tongue, which had been desired and denied
before. Aunt Mary never did things by halves.

Here we will leave this graceless Freddy; he will have no lack of
amusement while his clothes are drying, for Mabel and Clara have brought
him books and pictures, and some old toys which had been put by: but
Aunt Mary insists that Freddy is to be left to himself, after she has
seen him, and kindly, but forcibly, shown him the foolishness, as well
as the wickedness, of indulging in pride and evil temper. After all, May
Day was at Oak Villa a very happy day to all who were there.



CHAPTER XX.

AN EXCHANGE.


Though the cold-water system had acted as a sedative with Master Fred,
during the afternoon and evening of May Day, and though every precaution
had been used to prevent any serious effects afterwards from the
wetting, yet the boy did take cold; and so feverish and restless did he
become, that the good Dr. Maddox, who had attended Mabel, was sent for
without delay. His prescription, however, was not a very alarming one:
namely, castor oil and some spirits of sweet nitre.

'Don't frighten yourself, dear madam,' said the doctor: '_this_ is not a
case of rheumatic fever; nothing but a slight influenza cold. But you
must take care to give him the medicine.' The doctor laid great stress
on this.

Of course the medicine was procured, but, alas! papa was not at home,
and no amount of persuasion or coaxing would induce the obstinate little
fellow to take it. It was in vain that mamma promised all sorts of toys,
and produced preserves and lumps of sugar to take the taste out of his
mouth, or threatened him with severe illness and more nauseous stuff, if
this were not taken. It was no use, poor Mrs. Ellis was obliged to give
it up; and heartily did she wish that her good sister Mary would call in
the course of the day, for she dreaded her husband's coming home, and
finding that the doctor's advice had not been followed. It was about
three o'clock in the afternoon when the anxiously-expected visitor
arrived at Camden Terrace. Of course she knew nothing about Fred being
poorly; she had merely come to make general inquiries, and to see that
Mrs. Ellis was no worse for the fatigue of May Day.

'Oh, I am better than usual, dear Mary,' she replied to the kind
inquiry; 'but I am troubled about Fred now. He is very poorly, in bed,
and the doctor has ordered medicine for him, which I cannot get him to
take. I have been longing for you to come; will you try if you can
induce him to take it?'

Aunt Mary smiled, as she said: 'Do you remember, dear, a former trial
that I had with this young tyrant of yours, when, being very determined
myself, I held him fast and pressed the glass to his mouth, whereupon he
actually bit a great piece out of it, at the same time kicking me so
violently that I was fain to let him go, with, I believe, a mental
promise that I would never again subject myself to such an indignity?'

Mrs. Ellis could not help laughing; she had not forgotten the
circumstance, but she pleaded now that Fred was two years older, and was
not likely to repeat his exploit.

'I know he is two years older,' said Aunt Mary, 'but I don't feel at all
certain that he is two years better than he was; though he may be so
much stronger as to increase my difficulty.'

'Oh, do try, Mary dear,' urged Mrs. Ellis; 'I must get him to take it
before his papa comes home.'

'Oh, Ada, Ada!' exclaimed her sister, 'how is it that you have allowed
this boy to gain the mastery over you, to your own great sorrow, and to
his great disadvantage? But, come,' added the kind friend, 'give me the
medicine, and I will try what I can do.'

'Now, Freddy,' said his aunt, as she came into the bedroom, cup in hand,
'I am come to see you, and to make you better if I can. I suppose you
are not fond of lying in bed this fine day,' she added.

'Oh no, aunt; I want to get up, but mamma won't let me.'

'Well, dear, you know, you must always try to do as mamma wishes you,
because she knows what is best for you; but I have brought something
from the doctor that is sure to do you good, and it is to be taken
immediately.'

'I can't take it, aunt, it is such nasty stuff,' said the boy, with
disgust.

'I know it is very nasty stuff, Freddy, and, like you, I can't bear to
take medicine; but when I know that it is to make me well, I am not so
foolish as to refuse it. So now sit up like a man, and take the cup in
one hand, and this little mint-drop in the other; drink off the nasty
stuff in a moment, and pop the mint-drop into your mouth at once; you
will never feel the taste of the medicine after that.'

Whether it was the decisive manner in which Aunt Mary spoke, or the
belief in the efficacy of the mint-drop, or the appeal to the manliness
of the patient, we cannot say, but a magical effect had been produced,
for the contents of the cup had been swallowed; and Fred, greatly
relieved in mind, if not yet in body, laid down his head on the pillow
and listened, evidently with much pleasure, to his aunt's commendations.

This short illness of Freddy's was followed by a much more serious one
of his mamma's. It had been a long time coming on, and it was the
doctor's opinion that it might be of some months' continuance; rest and
quiet were ordered, but they are not easily obtained where there are
refractory children at Freddy's age. It would be easy enough to keep the
little ones quiet, but Mrs. Ellis had permitted this turbulent boy of
hers to make appeals to her on every trifling occasion, and to stand and
whine and cry until he obtained what he wanted, because mamma was worn
out with his teasing. Now that she was really so ill as to be more than
usually affected by any disturbance, it became a question with Aunt Mary
(though it was to her a very painful one) whether it would not be
expedient, and the right thing to do, to make an exchange in favour of
the invalid, and to substitute Mabel for her brother Fred, taking the
responsibility of that rather notorious rebel upon herself, and giving
her dear sister the benefit of a tender nurse, who had grown wise beyond
her years, through much suffering and good teaching.

If there had been the shadow of a doubt on the kind lady's mind as to
what course she should pursue, her visit to Camden Terrace the day after
the doctor had given his opinion respecting Mrs. Ellis, would have
determined her; for on the front-door being opened, she heard a violent
screaming and kicking, sufficient to disturb the nerves of a much less
sensitive person than Mrs. Ellis.

'Oh, that is Fred making that noise,' said Mabel, who had come with her
aunt to visit mamma. 'Shall I go up to him?' she inquired.

'No, my dear; go to the sick-room. I will myself encounter the rebel;'
and Aunt Mary went straight upstairs, just as nurse opened the room-door
to remonstrate with the unruly boy, who was quickly and unceremoniously
caught up from the floor, and made to stand on his feet.

'Let me not hear another sound from you while I am here,' said his aunt.
'And, Jane,' she added, speaking to the nurse, 'please to put up in a
small basket this young gentleman's night-clothes. I intend to take him
home with me; he must not remain here to make his poor mamma worse than
she is.' So saying, Miss Livesay left the nursery, and proceeded to her
sister's bedroom, where she found Mabel arranging the pillows, and
making the bed rather more comfortable for her poor mamma.

Master Freddy had been completely taken by surprise, and he seemed at a
loss at first how to give vent to the suppressed passion that was
swelling within; but when nurse said, 'I am very glad indeed that your
aunt is going to take you away, for then we shall have some peace in the
house,' he jumped off the stool on which he had been sitting, and would
have struck her with a brush which he took from the table, had she not
forcibly held both his hands, and threatened to take him at once to the
room where Aunt Mary was.

'You needn't put up my night-shirt,' said passionate Fred, 'for I shan't
go with that nasty old thing!' This was, however, uttered in a subdued
tone, and elicited 'Shame, shame!' from nurse, and even from little
Gerty.

'I think,' added Jane, 'you are the very worst boy I ever did see, and I
wouldn't stop here if you was obliged to be kept in the nursery, which I
suppose you would be, now your mamma's so poorly, for it isn't to be
expected that you will be allowed to go teasing her about every little
thing. I _am_ glad, very glad, you are going away; and I hope Miss
Livesay will keep you a very long time,' added nurse, while Fred, not
daring to explode, on account of his aunt's being so near, vented his
passion on the poor kitten by kicking it violently from under the stool,
where he had again seated himself.

'Ada dear,' said Aunt Mary to her sister, 'I am going to propose a
transfer, which, though I must confess it will be a very painful one to
me, yet perhaps may in the end be good for all parties; and, I think,
will prove for your especial benefit now you are so unwell. It is my
intention--if you do not object,' continued Miss Livesay, 'to leave dear
Mabel with you, and to take that refractory young gentleman, whose
kicking and shouting, as I came to the door, must have disturbed you,
home with me to Oak Villa. I intend to remain with you this afternoon,
while Mabel goes to our house to tell Bridget to prepare a bed for Fred.
I dare say, before I want to leave, Mr. Ellis will be home, and then I
shall have no fear of a scene with Master Freddy: he will not venture on
opposition when his papa is here.'

'Oh, dear Mary!' said Mrs. Ellis, 'how kind it is of you to care for me
and mine so much! I can never thank you enough for what you have done
for dear Mabel; but she, poor girl, won't like to stay in a sick-room.'

'Mamma dear, don't say that!' exclaimed the now affectionate Mabel; 'I
will nurse you day and night. I shall only be doing for you what dear
aunt and Clara did for me, when I was so ill.'

'Well now, you must give me some work to do,' said Aunt Mary; 'I will
sit with your mamma while you go down and tell Bridget to prepare a bed
in my dressing-room for your brother. I shall take care to keep him near
me day and night.' This speech was addressed to Mabel, who was very
glad to find that it was her aunt's intention to remain till the
evening; she soon set off on her errand, though she feared she should be
the bearer of no very pleasant news to Bridget, who would certainly not
at all like the advent of such an unruly boy at their peaceful home.

'I'm sure our mistress will not let him have the lamp lighted in his
bedroom all night, as nurse says he has at home,' said Bridget; 'so most
likely that will be the first row he will make.'

'Oh, leave aunt to settle all that, Bridget,' said Mabel; 'you know how
well she manages these matters.'

''Deed I do, Miss Mabel; and who knows,' said the honest, plain-spoken
servant, 'but what she may make as great a change in Fred as she did in
you!'

Bridget did not take into account the severe illness and mental
suffering that had helped, with Aunt Mary's wise efforts, to work this
reformation. She attributed all to her kind mistress. While Bridget
attended to the commands of her mistress, Mabel went into the garden to
gather some flowers for her mamma, as her aunt had requested her; and
after bidding good-morning to the faithful servant, she wended her way
quickly to her early home, thinking, as she went, what a blessing it was
to have so kind a friend as Aunt Mary. During the time that Mrs. Ellis
had been so unwell, the children had all dined together in the nursery
at two o'clock; and Aunt Mary insisted that there should be no departure
from this rule on her account, as she intended to make one of the party.
At the hour appointed, the bell rang for dinner, and soon all were
seated at the table but Fred; that young gentleman had chosen to make
himself scarce, and notwithstanding the ringing of the bell, out of
doors and in, a second time, he did not make his appearance.

Great was the consternation of nurse at not being able to find Freddy;
she began to fear that he had run away from home to avoid going to Oak
Villa. He had once played such a trick, and made everybody miserable
until he was found in the evening, and brought home by a woman who
washed for his mamma. Mabel and Julia did not feel at all comfortable,
though Aunt Mary would not let them leave the table to go in search of
the truant.

'Don't distress yourselves, my dears,' said Miss Livesay; 'depend upon
it, the culprit is not very far off. Nurse and cook will look after
him.'

And so the dinner proceeded, though Mabel would much rather have gone
without, had she been permitted. All at once a thought struck her, and
she exclaimed: 'I'll tell you where I think he is, aunt; where we once
found him before!' and Mabel rose up and went to the window which looked
on the side of the house where there was a large dog-kennel, and over
it a wooden shed with a window in it, to which shed access was gained by
a ladder. 'Yes!' exclaimed Mabel, 'I see the key is in the door where
the apples are kept. We once found Fred there asleep on the straw;
perhaps he is there now!' and the anxious girl was making her way out of
the room, when a loud scream brought her back to the window, from which
she beheld Freddy with his foot caught in the top step of the ladder,
and his head ignominiously resting on the hard step.

Mabel was off in an instant, but quick as she was, cook was there before
her, and Fred had been turned right side upwards, and his blubbered face
wiped with that towel of all work, Susan's apron; while his forehead
presented a lump sufficiently large to account for the explosion they
had been treated to.

No doubt it had been Master Freddy's intentions, when he went into this
hiding-place, to remain there all day, until Aunt Mary should take her
leave; he did not know of her intention to remain at Camden Terrace
until his papa came home, or perhaps he might have hit upon some other
expedient. His idea was, that they would all be so frightened at having
lost him, that when he did make his appearance, he would be received
joyfully.

Whether it was that the sound of the dinner-bell had created a
sensation of hunger not to be resisted, or the savoury smell of the
nicely cooked viands had stimulated the stomach to rebellion, we cannot
say; but Freddy roused himself from his recumbent position, and, as we
have seen, came (very unintentionally) head foremost down the steps.
Alas, there is no one to sympathise with him in his self-made trouble,
Aunt Mary won't permit it; and Master Frederick Ellis has to dine in the
kitchen, a most humiliating necessity which would not have been
submitted to, but for the inward cravings which would not be resisted.

It was with the greatest satisfaction that Mr. Ellis, when he came home,
heard of the kind proposal of his sister-in-law to take Freddy home with
her; he said that he could never sufficiently thank her for the good she
had done to Mabel, but he feared that Freddy would prove a more
troublesome inmate to Oak Villa than ever she had been. Aunt Mary
declared, however, to the great astonishment of Freddy, who was in the
room at the time, that Oak Villa would not hold naughty people, whether
they were men, women, or children; and that as soon as Fred had slept
there one night, he would find himself quite another boy, and be ready
to do anything that he was desired. Fred heard all this with
'wonder-working eyes;' we don't know whether he really believed it. But
as he trudged silently along by his aunt's side, with the little basket
in one hand, and her hand clasping his other, he thought what a strange
place Oak Villa must be to make people good, whether they liked it or
not.

Mr. Ellis wished very much to accompany his sister home, but she would
not permit this.

'How can you think that I want a protector when I have Fred with me,
papa?' she inquired. 'I know very well,' she added, 'that we shall soon
be the best friends in the world; and Freddy will take all the trouble
off my hands of feeding cousin Clara's chickens while she is away.'

I should have stated that Clara had gone on a short visit to her mamma.

The reference to the chickens was an excellent stroke of policy of
aunt's; she felt the small hand, which she held, tighten in hers, and an
inward feeling of satisfaction came over her spirit, as she said within
herself, 'Love is a constraining power.'



CHAPTER XXI.

THE NEW INMATE OF OAK VILLA.


And now a new sort of life began, both at Oak Villa, and at Camden
Terrace.

Mabel had promised her aunt (and she meant faithfully to fulfil that
promise) to give what portion of the time she could spare from her
attendance on mamma, to the lessons of her sister Julia, who was now far
behind Mabel, and sadly needed a preceptress.

Well and amicably the two girls worked together; though there were
trials of temper at times, when Julia did not seem to make such progress
as her youthful instructress had anticipated. This, however, was only a
trifling matter; there was peace in the house, and papa came home, not
to be burdened with complaints, by domestic irregularities, but to be
solaced by the loving attentions of his two girls, and amused by the
sententious sayings of little prudish Gertrude, or the high spirits and
happy gleefulness of Willie.

It was also a source of great comfort to him to know that Fred was in
such good keeping; he could not doubt this, when he had practical proof
before him daily, in the change that had been wrought in his eldest
daughter. But how do they get on at Oak Villa, I wonder?

Admirably, I must say, considering that this is Aunt Mary's first
attempt at taming an embryo lord of the creation. Is she very severe? By
no means! Fred finds, to his great surprise, that 'this nasty old thing'
works by love! and he is positively so full of employment and
enjoyment, that he has no time to think of himself or to give way to
evil temper. It must be owned (for there was no miracle in the case)
that kind Aunt Mary had determined to give up this week, while Clara was
away, to the instruction, amusement, and management of the Camden
Terrace rebel; and though no outward sign betrayed the good lady's
inward trials, it really was a week of trial to her. But she had
succeeded to a wonder, so far as outward appearance testified, and
worthy Bridget, who, by her good-nature helped on the reformation,
declared herself astonished to find Master Freddy such a different boy
to what she expected.

And so the weeks passed by. Fred still lived on at Oak Villa, a happy
and a loving inmate. Clara had come home, and contributed not a little
to Fred's enjoyment; they went out together to see all the poor people,
and particularly the Simmons family, who were getting on very well, now
that the father was recovered. Fred had a wheelbarrow and a nice box
that Simmons had made him, and Clara and he worked away famously in the
garden, weeding, or planting, or picking up stones. Aunt Mary says,
'This is what we have been trying to do for you, dear Freddy. Weeding
out the naughty bitter weeds, putting in seeds that we hope will spring
up, and grow to be beautiful flowers, and picking up the stones, that
the soil may look smooth, and show that it is well taken care of.'

We must not forget the visits paid to dear mamma, twice a week, when
that good lady was moved, even to tears, to see the great change, both
in appearance and manner, that had taken place in her beloved child. She
was much better, and the doctor thought that change of air would be the
very best thing to restore her to health; but there were many things to
be considered in the carrying out of such a proposal. Time may do
wonders, but that time had not yet come; and we have travelled on a
little too fast, I think, so we will go back to the first morning of
Master Freddy's advent at Oak Villa. The first bell had rung, but
Bridget was not satisfied to let the little boy's getting up depend on
that, so she went and knocked at his door, and then peeped in.

'Why, bless me, Master Fred, are you not up yet?' exclaimed the good
woman in pretended surprise. 'Why, the sun has been up a long time, and
the birds are a-singing; and the fowls I know are wanting their
breakfast, so I hope you will not keep them waiting very long. You must
wash yourself well, and dress yourself nicely, and brush your hair, for
I know your aunt can't abide to see slovenly children.'

After these instructions, Bridget made her exit; and Fred, the tiresome
Fred, who when at home would only get up when he thought proper, jumped
out of bed, put on his socks and shoes, performed his ablutions, and
finished his dressing in a most satisfactory manner. Then he went down,
and joined his aunt in the breakfast-room.

'Well, my dear Fred,' said the kind lady, taking her nephew by the hand
and kissing him, 'I hope you are no worse for your fall yesterday, and
that you have had a good night's rest?'

'Oh, I slept so well, aunt. It is such a nice little bed, I like it so
much!'

'And have you, my child,' said his aunt, 'thanked the good God who gave
you sleep, and rest, and kind friends?'

'I haven't said my prayers, aunt,' replied Freddy; 'I don't always say
them.'

'But you always wish to have kind friends, and a nice bed, and peaceful
sleep, don't you, dear Fred?' said Aunt Mary.

'Yes, aunt, I do,' replied the boy.

'And don't you think you ought to be thankful when you have them?' was
the next question.

Freddy hung down his head, but he whispered 'Yes.'

'Well, go then, my dear, and thank your heavenly Father for His
goodness, and ask Him to bless you, and keep you from all evil to-day.'

And Freddy went back to his room, and knelt beside his little bed, and
repeated the same prayer that he had said so many times before, without
thinking even of what he was saying; but this time he did think.

After breakfast Fred went to feed the fowls, though this ought to have
been done before; but this was a beginning, so it did not much matter.
At ten o'clock he was called to his books, and Aunt Mary expected a
trial, for Freddy had never been at school, and his teaching at home had
been only such as he chose to receive from his mamma or his sisters,
when he happened to be in the humour. Yet he was naturally a quick
child, and but for temper, his aunt did not at all contemplate any
difficulty; indeed, she had no reason to do so, with her method of
teaching. She was never harsh, but she was strict in discipline. She
knew, that to make children happy, it was not at all necessary that they
should have their own way, though she never contradicted them without
occasion. She, in short, treated them as reasonable creatures, as loving
creatures, who required love to draw them out; and she had seen, and
felt, the happy results of this treatment. After the first week there
was no more trouble about lessons; and with the assistance of Bridget
and Clara, who were both now really fond of the boy, and did many little
things to contribute to his pleasure, Aunt Mary found that she need no
longer have any dread of having taken into her happy domicile an
inmate, who would destroy its hitherto peaceful character; and Fred
never once expressed a wish to go and live at home again.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE OAK AND THE LAUREL UNITED.


More than four months had elapsed since Mabel had left Oak Villa to
attend to her mamma, and Freddy had found a happy and delightful home in
that very desirable locality. The days were shortening now, and the
splendid autumn sunsets threw their gorgeous colouring over the trees,
that had already put on their russet mantles, as if in anticipation of
some great change. In human affairs it often happens that great changes
come very unexpectedly, and so it occurred in the families with whom we
have been the most familiar.

It was the beginning of October, when Aunt Mary received a letter from
her friend Mrs. Maitland which greatly surprised, and at first grieved
her not a little. It contained the startling intelligence that Mr.
Maitland wished to let their pretty homes, the Laurels, as the very
precarious state of health Mrs. Maitland's mother was in, rendered it
absolutely necessary that they should remain with her for perhaps a very
long time.

'Oh, Clara dear,' said her aunt, 'is not this sad news for us? I can
scarcely believe it. Mrs. Maitland says they are not coming back; but
are going to let the Laurels.

'How we shall miss them all, I fear we shall never get such good
neighbours again,' said the lady, in a much more dolorous tone than was
usual with her.

'Oh, I am so sorry!' exclaimed Clara, 'and so will Mabel be I know, for
Dora and Annie were our very best friends. But who is that other letter
from?' inquired the niece; 'I hope that does not contain bad news,
aunt!'

Miss Livesay took up the letter spoken of; she had been so taken by
surprise with the information contained in the first letter, that she
had almost forgotten the other, which she now opened, and a glad
exclamation which she uttered on reading the first line convinced Clara
that there was salve for the wound which had been inflicted.

She was not kept in a state of suspense, the letter was from Irene (Mrs.
Gordon), and the first line was: 'We are coming home to you, dear Mary!'

'Oh, when, aunt, when?' cried Clara.

'Wait, my dear, and you shall hear all,' replied Miss Livesay. '"Captain
Gordon has got leave of absence for six months; will you, can you, dear
Mary, let me come again to the dear old home? there is no place like
it!" Dear Irene,' cried Aunt Mary, she little thinks how I long to see
her, and the quick tears testified the melting heart.

Freddy all this time had stood an amazed listener; he could not at all
make it out why the breakfast should be delayed, but he remembered Aunt
Irene, and Captain Gordon, too, and he could somewhat enter into the
pleasure manifested at the idea of their coming to see them, only he
wished, notwithstanding, that Aunt Mary would pour the tea out, and
allow him to begin his breakfast. This was done almost mechanically by
Aunt Mary, her mind was already so full of projects, which, however,
must be explained some time hence.

'Now the first thing we do, dear Clara, after breakfast,' said the kind
aunt, 'must be to go to Camden Terrace; I hope your uncle will not have
gone out, as I have a message for him from Mr. Maitland.'

'Oh then, do let Freddy and me go at once,' entreated Clara; 'we can be
so quick, and we can tell Uncle Ellis that you are coming immediately,
so that you need not hurry yourself, dear aunt.'

'Not a bad proposition, my little girl,' said her aunt; 'and Freddy, is
he ready to go?'

'Oh yes, I am quite ready, and we can run all the way, and we can tell
mamma that Aunt Irene is coming to see her; won't she be pleased? and so
will Mabel and Julia. Oh, I am so glad, and Fred gave a remarkable
caper, which not only threw himself down, but _overthrew_ the gravity of
both aunt and cousin, who laughed heartily at the grotesque way in which
he exhibited his joy.

'We won't say anything about Aunt Irene's letter till you come,'
whispered Clara to her aunt, but that lady said:

'Depend upon it, dear Clara, your mamma has got a letter, as well as
myself, so this will be no news to her, though the Maitlands'
communications will, and of this you need not say anything.'

Mr. Ellis was just preparing to leave home when Clara and Fred made
their appearance.

'Why, you are early visitors this morning,' said that gentleman,
kissing, and shaking hands with the fresh, healthy looking messengers,
and adding; 'has the postman's news made you run off in such a hurry?'

'Yes, it is the postman's news, uncle, that sent us here so soon,' said
Clara, 'because Aunt Mary wants to see, and talk with you, before you go
out; she will be here in less than half an hour, if you will kindly
wait.'

'That I will do with pleasure, my little girl, and you and Fred can go
and find out mamma, and Mabel, and Julia, and Gertrude, and Willie, for
I can hear them all making a noise; this news about Aunt Irene has
caused a great commotion in the house,' said Mr. Ellis.

Away ran Clara and Freddy, to find, as papa had said, a glad and rather
noisy company in mamma's room. The invalid herself seeming evidently
better for this piece of joyous excitement.

We may well believe that the noise was not lessened in the room by the
advent of Clara and Freddy; the latter having, since his departure from
home, and the good accounts received of him from Aunt Mary, become
somewhat of a hero in the estimation of the little people and even of
his sisters. But here are other visitors, Aunt Mary and Mr. Ellis appear
upon the scene, and they both stand for a moment in silent astonishment
at the uproar that is made.

'Well,' said Aunt Mary, after a moment's pause, 'this is not much like
the chamber of an invalid; and yet you look wonderfully bright, my dear
Ada,' she said to her sister, putting her arms round and kissing Mrs.
Ellis, who was already up, and seated in her arm-chair.

'Oh, I am so much better, dear Mary; Irene's letter has acted like a
cordial to me this morning; of course _you_ have received one from her?'
said Mrs. Ellis.

'Yes; and I have also had one from our friend Mrs. Maitland, which, as
it requires advice and consideration, will also require a little peace
and quietness, so we had better dismiss the joyous young party; they can
finish off, and talk over pleasant affairs, in the nursery. What do you
say to this, my dears?' inquired Aunt Mary.

'We all say yes, yes, aunt!' replied Mabel, catching up Willie, and
making a speedy exit, followed by the whole troop of rejoicing spirits,
who were not at all sorry to leave grave discussions to their seniors.

'And now,' said Miss Livesay, after the young tribe had left the room,
'let us proceed to business. I have had a letter this morning from our
friends the Maitlands, and in it, a request from Mr. Maitland to you,
dear brother, to help him in the letting of his house, as they do not
intend to return.'

'Oh, how I wish we could take the Laurels, Arthur!' said Mrs. Ellis,
eagerly; 'it would be so delightful to be near dear Mary; the thought
almost makes me well, I declare,' she continued, as the colour mounted
to her pale cheeks.

'It was the very idea that entered my head when I read the letter,' said
Miss Livesay. 'I do think, dear Ada, that such a change of air and scene
would be very beneficial to you; but, of course, it will require
consideration, which, I know, your husband will give it.'

'I don't think that we should find any difficulty in letting _this_
house,' observed Mr. Ellis; 'and I assure you, I am as anxious for a
change as my wife is; though the distance from my office will be
greater, I should not mind that; I think we should all be greatly
benefited in health. I will myself write to Mr. Maitland this very day,
and run the risk of letting our own house, rather than lose such a
golden opportunity.'

My young readers, I dare say, know nothing about the troubles of a
removal; I do, and I am not at all disposed to inflict details on them.
All I have to say on the subject is, that matters were so speedily and
amicably arranged, that the Laurels or Laurel Villa, received its new
occupants before the month of November had commenced, and that so great
an improvement had taken place in the health of Mrs. Ellis, as made the
doctor, aye, and Aunt Mary too, suspect that the _nerves_ had received a
great deal too much consideration, and that henceforth they were not to
claim more than their due share. We may imagine how busy Mabel, and
Clara, and Julia, and even Freddy had been; and, oh! what a comfort it
was to all parties, that now, neither Laurel Villa, nor Oak Villa, would
receive ill-conditioned men, women, or children, for did not the kind
and benevolent fairy preside over both houses?

Yes, she did; and I am bound to say that there was no opposition, for
Aunt Mary's ways and doings had worked such wonders as disinterested
love alone _can_ work, and her heart was filled with joy and
thankfulness at the success achieved.

Captain Gordon and Aunt Irene did not arrive in England so soon as had
been expected, but they put in an appearance before Christmas, and were
quite delighted with the change that had been made; and, oh! what a
joyous party helped to make the splendid wreath for the decoration of
Mr. Norton's church, at Christmas time; plenty of laurels, we know, they
had close at hand, so that though there were other kind workers in this
delightful employ, I think we may say that none excelled in design or
quantity the productions of the two villas.

Our former friend, Harry Maitland, was on a visit to Mr. Newlove, and
not a day passed during the Christmas week in which there was not an
interchange of visits with the young people; and when on Christmas Day
they all assembled at church, I don't think there could have been in
England a happier or more thankful family party than that which came
from the intertwined _Oak and Laurel_!

  '_Order_ is Heaven's first law!'

But _Love_ is the elastic, all-embracing band, which, wreathed with
amaranthine flowers, endures when time shall be no more!


THE END.


       *       *       *       *       *


BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

  The Story of a Mouse.
  The Story of a Cat.
  The Village School.
  The Story of a Penny.
  Our Poor Neighbours.
  The Three Sisters.
  Ellen and Frank.
  The Twin Brothers.
  Lilian Seacroft.


BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS AND ELECTROTYPERS, GUILDFORD.





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