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her the pretty book-marker and little flowerbasket which their own hands so assiduously had made. And now, with their little treasure of hoarded pence, and bright visions of rose-coloured ribbon flitting before them on their way, they were going to the largest shop the village afforded, and talking about their intended purchase with as much interest, and far more real happiness than many a child of affluence who has hundreds at her command.
Mrs. Lester, who knew what was passing in her children's minds, had planned this walk on purpose to give them the opportunity they so much needed; and as she stood by the garden-gate, and watched her treasures till they were out of sight, a feeling of thanksgiving rose to her heart and lips, for those great blessings which made life still precious to her, and she went back into the house, and with renewed vigour resumed her household duties, for the spirit of love had infused his blessed influence anew amid them all, and tho toil was forgotten in gratitude and joy.
Tho children arrived at Mr. Draper's, and were busily engaged at the further end of tho shop, looking over a drawer of ribbons, when tho two Miss Thorntons with their governess camo in, Maria talking loud as she often did, and looking as though she thought it a condescension to buy anything in so small a shop. They did not see the Lesters, or, if they did, they took no notice of them, and Ellen Lester, who was naturally very timid, always shrank away from Maria Thornton, whose decided and somewhat imperious manner impressed her with a feeling of fear.
They turned over several drawers of goods, complaining of the want of variety; bought several expensive things for ornamental fancywork, begged Mr. Draper would send to London for a particular kind of netting-silk, and gave as much trouble, within the time, as two such very young ladies could well do. Maria paid for the things she had bought, and in giving the change, Mr. Draper apologized for being obliged to give halfpence, as he had not one silver fourpence left. Maria took it, but she looked annoyed, and as she went out of the shop, a beggar woman, with her child on her back, begged of her very clamorously, so Maria, to get rid of her halfpence, gave them to the beggar, who loudly invoked blessings upon her.
Minnie Lester had watched all this. She had looked with a longing eye at the beautiful chenille trimmings and costly fringes, which were to ornament the handiwork of those children of affluence, and she turned again to the drawer of narrow ribbons, which, but a few minutes ago, had filled her heart with joy; and lo! all their beauty had passed away. Her eyes filled with tears, but Ellen did not perceive it, for her thoughts were very similarly engaged; and as the shopman returned to his quiet, patient little customers, they silently selected the ribbons they preferred, and then left the shop.
"Where are we to go now?" said Minnie.
"To Mr. Clark's," said Ellen; "mama wants some letter-stamps and writing-paper."
So to Mr. Clark's they went; but, as fato would have it, their ill-fortune followed, or rather preceded, them here. The Thorntons were looking over and selecting new books, and many a tempting cover and beautiful frontispiece was lying on the counter, to greet the children's eyes as they entered. Miss Willis saw them, and shook hands with them with evident kindness. Maria turned round, and gave a kind of patronizing nod, and little Flora was so engrossed in examining the blue and gold cover of "Ministering Children," that she did not see them. Flora was to have this book for her own. She had never seen it before, and sitting down before the counter, she soon became so absorbed in the history of poor Patience, that all external objects were forgotten. It was a happy day for the children of England when this well-written tale was first circulated among them, and few, we believe, are the homes in which it will not now be found. The heart of childhood is so well understood by the writer, and its feelings and trials so truthfully and kindly met, that the tribute of praise and grateful acknowledgment may well be paid by all who are regarding with loving interest the present rising generation.
Ellen and Minnie Lester had seen the book once, and had read enough to excite their most eager desire for its possession. But trained as they were by their judicious mother to put aside, as far as was possible, every fretful longing for pleasures beyond their reach, they had ceased to think about it, until now again they saw the precious volume in the hands of another, and heard Maria giving orders for other books, the cost of which would have furnished their little library for a twelvemonth.
However, their purchases being concluded, they commenced their walk home, in a very different mood from that in which they had left their mother an hour ago. Disappointed and unhappy, they yet decided that they would not grieve their mother by showing before her the fretful state of their feelings. But some relief they must have, and so sitting down