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´╗┐Title: Five Happy Weeks
Author: Sangster, Margaret Elizabeth, 1838-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Five Happy Weeks" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: Front cover]


[Illustration: Frontispiece]



                              FIVE HAPPY WEEKS.

                                     BY
                            MARGARET E. SANGSTER.



                          _American Tract Society_,
                         150 NASSAU STREET, NEW YORK.



  ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, by
  THE AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY,
  in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.



FIVE HAPPY WEEKS.



CHAPTER I.

"GOOD-BY, MAMMA!"


"I don't see how I can do such a thing," said mamma, shading her eyes
with a hand so white and thin that you could almost see through it.
"I never, never can go away, for five weeks, and leave these children;
I should not have a moment's peace."

"But, my darling," said papa, "the doctor says it is the only thing that
will restore your health. The children will be nicely taken care of, and
I am sure they will be as good and obedient as possible while you are
gone."

"You are going too, William; you seem to forget that. And we have never
been away from them before. What if Edith or Mabel should be sick, or
Johnnie should fall and break his arm, or--"

"Don't conjure up dreadful possibilities, Helen," said papa; "I'll tell
you how we will manage it. This house shall be shut, and we'll take
grandma and the children with us as far as Norfolk, and leave them there
with your Aunt Maria, while we make our trip. And we will stop for them
on our way home. What do you think of that plan?"

"Well," said mamma, with a faint smile, "I think I'll leave it to you.
It tires me to have to reason things out. Auntie would be kind to them,
I know, and I should feel easier if this house were shut up altogether."

Mrs. Evans had been ailing all the long cold winter, and as Spring began
to approach, she drooped more and more, until her husband and her
friends feared she would die. Then Dr. Phelps advised a short journey to
Florida and Mexico. He said she needed sea-air, and change, and flowers.
So it was settled that she should attempt it.

The children were having a frolic in the play-room while this talk had
been going on. Johnnie and Mabel had been arranging a little basket of
fruit for their mother, oranges, apples and grapes, and now they were
disputing as to which should present it to her.

"I ought to, I'm the oldest," said Johnnie. "I'm the biggest and the
strongest, and I will take it in to mamma myself."

"The bigger and the stronger ought to yield to the smaller and the
weaker," said a sweet voice. The children looked round, and saw a little
lady whom they all liked. She was Miss Simms, the dressmaker. Her face
was as round as an apple, she had two bright black eyes, and when she
laughed the dimples seemed to chase each other over her cheeks.

"I'm so glad you've come," said Mabel, running away from the fruit to
put her two fat arms as far round Miss Simms as they would reach.

"I am glad, too; it's jolly," said Johnnie. "But I'd like to know why
you think the bigger ought to give up to the littler. That's what I
can't understand. In the history books they never do it. The strong
always whip the weak."

"Well," said Miss Simms, "I'm not much of a scholar, and I've never read
many history books, as you call them, Master Johnnie; but I've read my
Bible, and I get my learning out of that. I'll tell you some of my
verses, and you can see what you make of them.

"'Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee
turn not thou away.'

"'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.'

"'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of
God.'

"'All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even
so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.'

"There," finished Miss Simms, "if that is the law and the prophets,
Johnnie, oughtn't you to give up to Mabel and Edith, once in a while?"

"I don't ask him to very often," said Edith.

"Well, I do!" said Mabel.

"Yes, Miss Simms, I believe I ought to, more'n I have," said Johnnie,
quite earnestly. "I'm bound to be a gentleman; and a gentleman is always
polite to the ladies. I've seen that with father and mother many a time.
So, Mabel, you take mamma her fruit;" and with that, Johnnie handed her
the basket, and made a low bow.

Miss Simms seated herself in the window, took out her scissors and a
great roll of patterns, and then said,

"Edith, dearie, will you ask your grandma or Aunt Catharine, if they
know where the merino is for your new dresses?"

"Are we to have new dresses?" said Edith; "it's the first I've heard of
it."

"Oh, children don't know everything in _this_ house," said Miss
Simms, laughing. Grandma came bustling in with bundles nearly as big as
herself.

"You had better measure Edie first, as she is on the spot; and then I'll
help sew on her skirt, while you are cutting out for Mabel."

"I'm glad I'm not a girl," said Johnnie, "always having to bother with
new frocks."

"Mrs. Evans is wise to go South now," said Miss Simms to grandma. "I've
been hoping she would, it's far too bleak for her here."

Edith opened her blue eyes very wide, and then they filled with tears.
She hid her head in her grandma's bosom.

"Why, child, you little goose, it is to make your dear mother well. And
you three small folks are going part way with her."

At this Edith's sudden tears dried up very quickly, and her face made
itself into a question mark.

"You three children, and I myself, are going to see your Aunt Maria, in
Virginia."

Johnnie began to turn somersaults to show his delight at the news. He
ran off for further information, and came back saying, "I never heard
anything so splendid in my life. We are to start a week from to-day
Edith. Mamma's going South to get well, and we're going South too, to
get acquainted with our Aunt Maria."

The children thought they must pack up their treasures at once; and as
everybody was just then too busy to notice them very much, they made a
remarkable collection. Edith brought out her Paris doll, and its
wardrobe, her baby carriage hung with blue satin, and its pillows
trimmed and ruffled with lace, her favorite books, and her best china
tea-set.

"I could not travel in comfort without Miss Josephine," she said with
much dignity, as she seated herself in the parlor, with her treasures
around her. "I could not stir a step without her."

Mabel brought her Maltese kitten, and her Spitz dog, and tied a cherry
ribbon round Fido's neck, and a blue one round Queenie's.

"Now I am ready to go!" she said.

As for Johnnie, he had so large a collection of must-haves, and
can't-do-withouts, that he went to ask his father's advice. Mr. Evans
came into the parlor, and laughed as he looked at his little girls, and
their anxious faces.

"My dears," he said, "we are not to be off for a week yet, and when we
start we cannot carry much baggage. The old Romans called baggage
_impedimenta_, because it hindered them on their way; and that is
just what it is, a hinderance. We must leave all our treasures at home."

"Even Queenie and Fido? They will break their hearts," said Mabel.

"Even Miss Josephine?" said Edith. "She will pale away and die without
me!"

"If I could take my wheelbarrow and my box of tools, I would be
satisfied," exclaimed Johnnie.

"Now, children," Mr. Evans explained, "you are going to see a good many
new things; and if you leave your property at home, it will be safe, and
will seem new and delightful when you get back. Fido and Queenie will go
to Aunt Catharine's and pay a visit too."

"I don't believe the week will ever come to an end," sighed Edith, and
she repeated the sigh a dozen times that busy week. But it did. Miss
Simms cut and basted and fitted. Friends came to help. The furniture was
covered. The house was securely fastened. At last they all went on board
the Richmond steamer, on which they spent two very sea-sick nights and a
day. After that it stopped at the Norfolk wharf. It lay there some
hours, but before it started again, Aunt Maria came with a great roomy
carriage, and took away the children. At the last moment grandma had
decided not to go, so the brother and sisters felt rather forlorn when
they went away with the strange auntie.

"Good-by, mamma!" cried three brave little voices, however, and three
handkerchiefs were waved, as they saw mamma smiling back cheerfully to
them from the deck of the "Old Dominion."

"In five weeks we'll see her again. It seems like for ever," said Edith
to Johnnie.

"Five weeks," said Aunt Maria, "is a very short while, when people are
having a really happy time. Just make up your minds to make each other
as happy as you can, my dears; you are going to see my family pretty
soon."

"There's the thea-thickness going back," little Mabel murmured.

"Never cross a bridge till you come to it, Mabel. It's a poor way to
fret over troubles that are five weeks off. I have known people who were
very sea-sick coming, and not in the least so going back. It may be that
way with you, little one; so look on the bright side."



CHAPTER II.

AUNT MARIA'S FAMILY.


But where were Aunt Maria's family? The carriage, when it left the
wharf, had been driven up a long narrow street, quite different from any
the children had ever seen before. On either side irregularly built
houses, most of them old and dingy, stood close together. Here and there
was a new one, which had the air of having dropped down by mistake. They
left this street, and turning into another, crossed a bridge, which
spanned an arm of the river that ran through part of the town. Now the
houses began to be large and stately, and were surrounded by ample
gardens, and walls of brick or iron railings separated them from each
other and the street.

Aunt Maria's coachman drove on and on, and the children began to think
he was going to drive into the river, for he seemed to be approaching
nearer and nearer to it. They looked out and saw a broad sheet of water,
over which many sloops and schooners, and many little row-boats were
moving. The light of the setting sun was touching the white sails and
the waves with a rosy glow. At the very water's edge they stopped, and
Aunt Maria led the way into her house.

It was a large mansion. One side of it was covered with ivy, and an
immense live-oak tree stood in the garden. Two or three tall magnolias,
and a number of fig-trees were scattered through the yard. Though it was
still wintry and cold at home, here the trees were in leaf, and there
were flowers in bloom.

A colored woman, with a red and yellow turban on her head, and a blue
and white checked dress on, came forward to receive the children. Their
trunks were carried up stairs, and opened, and they took off their
travelling dresses, and proceeded to get ready for dinner.

"Aunt Chloe will help you dress," Mrs. MacLain said. But Edith and Mabel
were unused to colored servants, and stood in great awe of her. They
were glad when she left the room to get some wood.

[Illustration]

"It too cold for missy without any fire," said she, as she went away.

"O Edith," Mabel whispered, "if we were only at home! I don't like it
here, I just hate it!"

"Never mind, it won't last always," said Edith. "I wish I had asked
mamma what to wear. Do you think we ought to put on our best frocks the
first day?"

"We're company, and company always _do_ put on their goodest
things," said Mabel.

"But not when they've come to stay so long. I suppose mamma would say,
'Use your own judgment,' but I haven't any judgment, I'll ask Aunt
Chloe."

"La, honey, _I_ don't know," said she. "Reckon I'll 'quire o' Miss
Mariar."

Aunt Maria came back with her, looked over the children's wardrobe, and
told them to put on a crimson delaine dress, and a white apron. It was
what they usually wore afternoons at home.

Johnnie had had no such trouble. His clothing was to him of no great
importance, so long as it had buttons and strings on.

But where was Aunt Maria's family? The table was only spread for four.
The children looked at each other, but were too polite to ask questions.

"Bring Lucifer Matches," said Aunt Maria to Henry the waiter. As it was
broad daylight, the children wondered why she asked for matches. Henry
came back soon, followed by a funny little Scotch terrier, who bounded
up to his mistress, and looked at her with intelligent eyes.

"Lucifer Matches," said Mrs. MacLain, "is my special and particular pet.
I call him Luce for short. Johnnie, you may play with him as much as you
like."

"Come in, you angel!" the lady then exclaimed, as if to encourage
somebody who was hesitating at the door. Six eyes followed hers. The
angel was a huge black cat, with green eyes, that shone like emeralds.
Mabel felt like getting down to pet her, and Edith who did not admire
cats, felt a cold chill creep down her back.

So, you see, the dog, the cat, the horses, the geese, the cow, and the
chickens, with the people who took care of them, composed Aunt Maria's
family.

After dinner, they had family worship. "We will have family prayers
before you are all tired and sleepy," their aunt said. The servants all
came in, and Mrs. MacLain read a chapter from John, and gave out a hymn,
which everybody sang. It was the beautiful hymn,


  "Dear refuge of my weary soul,
    On Thee, when sorrows rise,
  On Thee, when storms of trouble roll,
    My fainting hope relies."


It was a great comfort to Edith to sing this, for it was one of her
mamma's favorites. After the singing they all knelt in prayer and Aunt
Maria asked God to take care of this family that was divided for the
present. "Be with the sick mother, and make her well," she prayed, "and
bless these dear little ones under this roof."

So the children felt safe, and at home. It makes everybody feel safe and
at home even in a strange house, if there is prayer in it, and Jesus is
loved and worshipped there.

Bright and early next morning, Mabel was dressed and out of doors, with
a piece of corn-bread in her hand to feed the chickens and geese. She
felt the least bit of terror when the geese craned their long necks and
hissed at her, but they soon stopped this and became very friendly.

Folks talk about dumb creatures, but they are not very dumb, are they,
children? though they have not the gift of speech. They soon learn to
know who love them, and they testify their affection in many pleasant
ways. Now Luce was not a dog to strike up friendships with everybody,
but he and Johnnie seemed to like each other at first sight. Of course,
the very first evening, bedtime came early, and weary eyes were very
glad to shut. But before noon the next day Johnnie had discovered that
his new companion could perform ever so many tricks: he could shoulder
arms, stand on his hind feet, pretend to smoke a pipe, carry a basket,
and beg in the most enchanting manner. Johnnie played soldier with Luce
for flag-bearer, for nearly an hour, till his auntie called him in.

"I think, dear," she said, "that I must have you read a while every
morning. Edie has promised to practise an hour a day, and Mabel is going
to sit by me and crochet. All work and no play would never do, but all
play and no work would make you all wish you had never seen Locust
Hall."

"Now, Aunt Maria, how can you say that! I am sure I should be perfectly
happy if I could play with Luce and do nothing else all day long."

"Well, I'll let you try it, some day, on this condition: you will
promise, as an honorable boy, that no matter how tired you get, you will
keep to your part of the bargain."

Johnnie was about to promise, when Edith called out:

"Better think about it first, Johnnie. I once tried playing a whole day,
and it was tiresome enough, I can tell you, before I got through with
it. It was _dreadful_."

[Illustration]

"If we agree to do it, I'll keep to my part, Aunt Maria; but as Edith
says, I'll think about it first." So Johnnie went off to the library,
and took down a volume of stories about the Revolutionary war.



CHAPTER III.

VIOLETS AND ROSES.


A few days passed by, and there came a letter from papa saying that
mamma was feeling better. This was very delightful to the little girls
and Johnnie, though they had had a talk before it came about the duty of
being sorrowful under the circumstances. It happened this way: they were
outdoors playing May Queen.

"I never saw anything so sweet as these violets," cried Edith, in a
rapture. They were as sweet as they could be, little English violets,
white as snow, and perfuming the air. The flowers had come to Virginia
early in the new spring, and already there were early roses, slender
lilies of the valley, with tiny cups to catch the dewdrops, and the
fragrant yellow jasmine flinging its golden bells over every roadside
fence and tree. Old Uncle Moses had taken the children to the woods, and
there they had seen the jasmine in its glory, and the white stars of the
dogwood shining through the green branches far and near.

"'Pears like," said Uncle Moses, after one of these expeditions, "'pears
like God must love posies, de way he scatter dem roun' dis yer land."

For all that Miss Josephine had been left at home, the little girls had
not been obliged to live without a doll. Kind Aunt Maria had given them
each one soon after their arrival. Out in the garden, then, with the
dollies, Luce full of enthusiasm, and barking and rolling like an
animated puff-ball, or else sitting up as straight as a judge, they were
playing queen. Mabel had just fastened the wreath on Edith's head, when
Johnnie very gravely observed,

"I think we are heartless wretches."

"Johnnie, where _do_ you learn those big words?"

"Well, we're having such nice times, and never thinking of poor mamma.
We ought to be miserable, if we had any feeling. I heard Aunt Chloe the
other day say, 'Pore things, dey a'n't ole 'nuff to know what dey'd
lose, if dey done lose dere mudder.'"

[Illustration]

Mabel's ready tears began to flow.

"O dear! O dear!" she sobbed, "mamma is going to die! What shall we do?"

"Hush, Mabel!" said Edith. "If we ought not to play, why we'll stop; but
there isn't any use in crying so. Do please hush this instant."

A quick step came down the walk. The children, looking up, saw the young
lady who lived in the next house. She had a sunbonnet on her head, and a
light shawl was thrown around her, and in her hand was a pretty little
bark canoe, in which was her knitting-work.

"O Miss Rose, beautiful Miss Rose!" exclaimed Edith, "you're the very
person we wanted to see."

"Mith Rothe, when thith canoe geth too old for you, you'll give it to
me, won't you?" said Mabel, putting her hands lovingly up towards the
fanciful basket.

"Mabel," Johnny said in a tone of reproof, "how often has mamma told you
never to ask for things in that way?"

"Never mind your little sister, Johnnie," the young lady said, "but sit
down and let me hear why you were all looking so serious when I came up.
What lovely garlands you have made, and what a charming morning this is!
God is very good to give us so many bright days, and so much joy in
them, isn't he?"

Before any one could reply, a servant came up, with a request that the
children would go to their Aunt Maria on the porch, and hear a message
from their mother.

"Good! good!" Johnnie said, clapping his hands; but Edith and Mabel went
more soberly. Miss Rose seated herself in a favorite spot of hers, a
rustic chair under the oak-tree, and waited their return. She was fond
of children, and since the little visitors had been there, she had often
gone in with her knitting to talk and play with them.

After they had heard the letter, they were dismissed by Mrs. MacLain,
who had her key-basket on her arm, and was very busy with her
housekeeping. They trooped back to their friend Miss Rose, and grouped
themselves around her, and the little girls began to weave a wreath for
her hair, while Johnnie made her a bouquet.

"The question is, Miss Rose, whether we ought to be happy while we are
away from mamma and papa."

"And while mamma is sick."

"And perhaps might die."

Miss Rose put her work down on her lap, and with one soft hand smoothed
away the thick curls that had a way of falling over and shading
Johnnie's forehead and eyes. She thought to herself, "What a pretty boy
he is! How noble and open and candid those eyes and that brow!" Johnnie
was a very truthful little fellow, and though he had faults, he would
have scorned to tell a lie or do anything mean. At this moment Charlie
Hill, Aunt Chloe's boy, passed by with his fishing-rod and line. So
Johnnie could not stay to hear Miss Rose then. He caught up his straw
hat, seized his shrimp-net, and ran off, without even saying, "Excuse
me."

"That wath very imperlite," observed Mabel. "And Johnnie began asking
the questions too! He ithn't very thad."

"Dear children," said Miss Rose, "you are only little and young, to be
sure, but you may as well learn that God never wants you to _try_
to be miserable. He means you to be as merry and happy as you can be.
Consider a minute. Have you ever been very unhappy when you have been
good?"

"No," said Edith.

"I have," said Mabel, "when I've had the teethache."

Miss Rose laughed.

"Well, that was a pretty good cause; but generally, when children are
not naughty, they are happy. You would only vex your dear mamma, and
make her feel badly, if you were moping and fretting here, where she
sent you to be with your auntie. Then you would spoil auntie's pleasure
if, instead of laughing and singing, you were crying and sitting in the
corner. She would say, 'O dear, what queer children these are! I'll be
glad when they're gone away.'"

"That would be dreadful! to have Aunt Maria think that," said Edith.
"But tell us your opinion about it."

"My opinion is, that it is every one's duty to be as cheerful as he can
be all the time. If things vex us and trouble us, let us say, 'Never
mind.' If it rains to-day, it will be clear to-morrow. If we pray to our
Father, about everything, we will never need to be sorrowful long."

Then Miss Rose taught them a pretty little verse:

"Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you."

Kneeling that night by her little white bed, Edith said her prayers as
usual, and then added another petition:

"Dear Lord Jesus, make me happy every night and day, so that I shall
love everybody, and everybody love me."

Edith was already one of those children whose lives are like "a little
light, within the world to shine."



CHAPTER IV.

CHERRIES ARE RIPE.


Faster and faster flew the May days by, and all the world was beautiful.
The strawberries grew red and sweet upon the vines, and the children
went out with the pickers to gather them, but they didn't work very
steadily at this, for the sun was hot, and picking berries is apt to
make the back ache. But the cherries most delighted them, and when Aunt
Maria told them that they could have just as many cherries to eat as
they wanted, and gave them one tree all to themselves, they hardly knew
how to express their joy. It was not only in eating the cherries, that
they had pleasure, for Aunt Maria let them have a tea-party, and said
they might choose their guests.

"They don't know anybody but the Lesters and the Randolphs," she said
complacently to Miss Rose.

"I shouldn't be a bit surprised if Edith and Johnnie invited a lot of
little ragamuffins from Wood's Alley," replied Miss Rose.

Wood's Alley was one of those wretched neighborhoods, which in cities
have a way of setting themselves down near rich people's doors. It was
the short cut to Main street, and when the people near Aunt Maria's were
in haste, they often took it, rather than go a long way round. The
windows in Wood's Alley were broken and dingy, and the interiors--which
means all you could see as you passed by, looking at open doors--were
dirty, smoky, and uninviting. Children fairly swarmed there, black and
white, and as ragged as they could be. Mabel had made Aunt Maria very
angry one day, by taking off her best hat, and giving it to a little
beggar girl from Wood's Alley, who had been lingering near the gate, and
casting admiring looks at it.

"She ought to have known better than to take it from you," Aunt Maria
said. "She is nothing but a little thief, and you are a very improvident
child. To-morrow I'll take you to church in your old hat."

This did not trouble Mabel much. Mabel did not yet care enough for her
clothes, and more than once she had given her things away before. Her
mother had been trying to teach her discretion in giving, for some time.

"Well, Rose," said Aunt Maria, "if I thought they would do that, I would
tell them to have a picnic out-doors, for I don't want Wood's Alley in
my dining-room. Those children are just as like their mother as they can
be."

"Auntie," said Johnnie, "there's a splendid boy named Jim Cutts. He's
been fishing with Charlie and me. Can he come to the party?"

"Jim Cutts!" echoed Mrs. MacLain with a sigh. Then she answered,

"Yes, dear, have whom you please; but let your table be out under the
trees, on the lawn."

"That'll be splendid!" said Johnnie, running off.

They had ten or twelve little children at their party, and Dinah brought
them sandwiches, cakes, and milk, and they had all the cherries they
could eat. Edith taught them one of her Sunday-school hymns, and Johnnie
made Luce perform all his most cunning tricks for their entertainment.
Mabel lent her new doll to the poorest girl, to take home for the night,
on the promise that it should surely come home next morning.

The promise was kept.

When the company had gone, Aunt Maria called them in, and made them take
a thorough bath, and put on clean clothes all the way through. Then she
bade each sit down, in the room with her, and read a chapter in the
Bible. As Mabel could not read, she gave her a picture Bible to look at.
She sat by, with so grave a face, and had so little to say, that they
all began to feel uncomfortable, and wished themselves somewhere else.
Edith's face was covered with blushes, Mabel began to swallow a lump in
her throat, and Johnnie at last, growing angry, determined to stand it
no longer. He shut up his Bible, and marched to Aunt Maria, who looked
at him through her spectacles, and said:

"Well, sir? Who told you to shut up your book?"

"It does no good to read the Bible when anybody's mad with you," said
Johnnie. "What have we done, Aunt Maria?"

"I did not _say_ you had done anything."

"But you look so cross, and sit up so straight, and--who ever heard of
reading the Bible, in the middle of the afternoon, on a week day?" said
Johnnie with an air of assurance.

"Well, Johnnie, to tell the truth, I did _not_ like your bringing
all the riff-raff of the town to eat my nice cherries."

"But you said we might do it."

"I should think, Johnnie, you would have liked better to have such
friends as Percival Lester and Reginold Randolph, or Maggie and Clara
Vale, to play with. I fear you have low tastes, child."

At this charge, little Johnnie colored up, but he stood his ground.

"The reason we asked them was because they couldn't buy any fruit, if
they wanted it ever so much; and we thought it would please them and
make them happy."

Edith had been thoughtfully turning over the leaves of her Bible, and
now she said:

"Auntie, here are some verses I once read to mamma:

"'When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy
brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors, lest they also
bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.

"'But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the
blind; and thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee, for
thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.'"

"There," said Johnnie, "haven't we made a Bible feast?"

"Yes, my dears," Aunt Maria replied, "and I beg your pardon. The truth
is, I have not been very much displeased with you, but thought I would
try you a little. Now as you have had a good rest, you may all go out
and play."

"I think Aunt Maria ith a naughty woman," said Mabel in a very low voice
to Edith, as they left the room.

Rose, who had been present all the while, heard her, and so did Aunt
Maria, but neither said a word, till the children were out of hearing.
Then Rose said,

"I'm afraid I agree with little Mabel. Dear Mrs. MacLain, what made you
pretend to be vexed, if you were not?"

"I am not obliged to explain my actions to every one, am I, Rose?" said
the lady. "Children are a sort of a puzzle to me, never having had any
of my own; and I don't believe I know how to bring them up. But these of
Helen's are pretty good, especially Johnnie."

Aunt Maria had some very stylish friends who occasionally visited her.
They sent word beforehand concerning their coming, and great
preparations were made. On the day of their arrival, the little folks
were arrayed in their very best, and Edith and Mabel took their dolls,
and were seated in the parlor, that they might not get into the least
disorder.

"Mrs. Featherfew is very particular," said Aunt Maria. "She will be sure
to take notice, if you don't behave splendidly."

"I'll be glad when she's been and gone," remarked Johnnie.

Mrs. Featherfew however was quite different from what the children had
been led to expect. She was a slender pretty looking lady, who seemed to
float down the long parlor, she walked so lightly and gracefully, her
long silk dress trailing behind her. The next day the two little girls
amused themselves by playing "Mrs. Featherfew," Edith putting on a long
gown of her aunt's for the purpose.

Two very elegant children came with Mrs. Featherfew, Wilhelmine and
Victorine. They spoke very primly and politely, and seemed to our little
folks like grown-up ladies cut down short. But when after dinner they
all went out into the grounds to play, Mine and Rine, as they called
each other, could play as merrily as the others.

The little girl to whom the dolly had been lent happened to be looking
through the palings, just when the fun was at its height. She had rather
a dirty face, and a very torn dress.

"Do look at that impertinent creature actually staring at us, as if she
belonged here!" exclaimed Victorine, with amazement.

"Go right away, child," said Wilhelmine.

Now as these little girls were guests themselves, they were taking too
much responsibility in ordering anybody off. Edith's face flushed, and
she felt vexed. She would have preferred, after all her Aunt Maria had
said about it, to have the Alley children keep a little more distance;
but she could not let anybody hurt their feelings.

"That little girl is a friend of mine, Wilhelmine," spoke out the loyal
little soul bravely. It was not in Edith, to be ashamed of any friend,
no matter how humble.

Wilhelmine looked surprised, and Johnnie went on to tell how they had
gotten acquainted. Before he had finished, the little visitors were so
interested in the ragged girl, that they each gave her a bright
five-cent piece.

So Edith did good by her fearlessness. We never know how much good we
may do, by speaking according to our conscience.

The Featherfew girls had a very nice time, and went away well pleased;
but they told their mamma that the Evans children were very droll.

"It's the way they have been brought up, I imagine," said Mrs.
Featherfew.

Two or three days after that, the children were in a part of the garden,
in which was a bridge over a darling little brook, as Edith called it.
They were expecting their parents by the first steamer, and Johnnie had
been gathering a basket of the ripest and reddest cherries he could
find, to have them all ready for offering to mamma on her arrival. As he
was running lightly over the bridge, his foot slipped, and he came near
falling in, but Edith and Mabel flew to the rescue, and held him up by
his cap, and his curls, and his arm, till he recovered his balance. One
foot was very wet. It had gone "way, way in," and in that condition,
splashed and barefoot, for he pulled off the wet boot and stocking, he
went back to the house with the girls.

Just as they reached the front door, a carriage drove up. A gentleman
sprang out, and lifted a lady next, and the servants began to take off
the bags and trunks. Could that be mamma? It needed only a glance to
satisfy the eager children, and in a moment all three were rapturously
hugging and kissing her and their father.

[Illustration]

Mamma had grown quite plump and rosy. She was ever so much better, and
Johnnie asked, the first thing, whether she could bear a noise now.

"A little noise, dear, I hope," she said smiling. It had been a great
trial to Johnnie to keep so still as had been necessary when they were
at home.

"She is not so very strong yet, Master John," said Mr. Evans. "I'm
afraid an earthquake or a volcano would use her up. We'll have to take
care of her yet awhile."

But the children found that they had gotten their old mamma back. She
was a great deal nicer than anybody else, they thought.

That night, when it grew almost bedtime, and Chloe appeared as usual at
the parlor door, with the candles on a silver tray, and the great silver
snuffers, ready to light the young folks up stairs, they went and kissed
their father and mother and Aunt Maria for good night. But when they
were undressed, and the little dresses and skirts were hung smoothly
over the chairs, the little shoes and stockings set side by side on the
floor, and the little nightgowns on, somebody came quietly in, somebody
who sat down in the rocking-chair, and with one little white-robed
figure in her lap, and another with an arm thrown around her neck, and
another on a footstool at her feet, heard their hymns, and told them a
little story, and listened while each prayed to the dear Saviour. The
three little hearts were satisfied that night, because they had had
their mother to comfort them and bless them again.

A few days after that, they bade good-by to the beautiful seaside home,
and to Luce, and the black cat, and the horses and cow, the geese and
the chickens. To Miss Rose and Aunt Maria they gave a very warm
invitation to come and see them in their own home.

Fido and Queenie had been well taken care of at Aunt Catharine's house,
but they seemed very glad indeed to have their little mistress back.
Johnnie declared that Fido couldn't hold a candle to Luce, and he and
Mabel had several disputes over it. Indeed one day they became so angry
at each other, that Mrs. Evans sent the little brother to his own room
and the little sister to hers, to stay until they were ready to ask each
other's pardon. Edith, serene and peaceful, kept out of all such
troubles.

"Miss Simms," said Johnnie one day, "what is the reason nobody ever is
angry with Edith? She seems to please people without trying to."

"I think Edith has found out a great secret very early in her life,"
Miss Simms answered.

"I wish I knew it, then; I'm always being scolded, and I try to be as
good as the other fellows. But it isn't of any use, that I can see.
To-day I had been perfect all day in school, you know, Miss Simms, and
just a minute before recess, I spoke; and Miss Clark was mean enough to
make me stay in. She read off the boys' names who had violated any rule,
this way:

"'Willie Simpson, late;

"'Thomas Miller, missed his geography;

"'Johnnie Evans, whispering.

"'These little boys must spend this recess in the school-room.' I leave
it to you, Miss Simms, if that wasn't mean."

"Was it the rule that you must lose your recess, if you spoke?"

"Yes, if we spoke without permission."

"And you knew all about it?"

"Oh! yes!"

"Well, _I_ don't see how Miss Clark could help herself or you, if
you disobeyed. You were both bound by the rule, you see, Johnnie."

"That's only one thing. I forget to hang up my hat on the nail, and I
bring mud in on my boots, and I lose my speller, and I lose my temper
too, and I'm just tired of trying any more."

Johnnie stood like a little "knight of the rueful countenance," hat in
hand.

Miss Simms measured two breadths of silk; "snip, snip," went her shining
scissors, and she threaded her needle. "Dear me, what a hard needle to
thread; my eyes are beginning to fail me," she said.

"I'll thread it for you, let me. My eyes are bright and sharp," said
Johnnie.

"Thank you," she said. "Now, Johnnie, don't you want to know Edith's
secret. It is a word of four letters, LOVE. Love to God, and
love to everybody else. That makes Edie's good time."

"How can I get it too?" said Johnnie.

"I must tell you some of my verses, I think:

"'Ask, and ye shall receive.

"'Seek, and ye shall find.

"'Knock, and it shall be opened to you.

"'For every one that asketh receiveth.

"'And he that seeketh findeth.

"'And to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.'"

"I'll ask," said Johnnie.

These five happy weeks were long spoken of as "the time when we stayed
at Aunt Maria's house," and their memory has not yet faded away from the
children's minds. They are expecting a visit soon from Aunt Maria, Miss
Rose, and Chloe; and Lucifer Matches is coming too.





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