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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.'
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.