Imagens da página

the garden gate. There was a look of vexation on her countenance, and she kept turning round towards the house, as though waiting for some one. At last the quick step of her young brother was heard, and he came up to her panting for breath, and calling at the top of his voice

“Yes, Maria, we are to go round by the windmill, to Langley Heath, and call for Charles Stuart, and bring him home to dinner. Grandmama says so."

“Of course she says so, if you have asked her. You are very unkind and selfish, Percy, and grandmama only makes you worse. You know how much I wish to go the other way to-day.”

“Well, it's all settled now. I shall go and fetch Louisa, and if you don't want to go, you can stay at home.”

“Yes, I shall stay at home," said Maria, as she moodily turned from the garden gate, and began to walk towards the house. On her return to the school-room, she found her sister Flora bending over the table, with a flushed face and a tearful countenance. « What is the matter, Flora? you are always crying. I wish you were not so faint-hearted.”

“I wish I was not, Maria, but I cannot help it. I think I get worse instead of better. The more I study this lesson, the more impossible it seems to me to understand it. I am quite bewildered over it.”

“ Then why don't you tell grandmama about it?

“I have told her, and she says if Miss Willis has given it me, I must do it, and I am sure I would if I could. Oh, Maria, I wish I was a farmer's daughter, and had nothing to do with these horrid books. How I do envy Janet Green. She is out in the bright sun. shine all day, and never feels as I do."

Maria took the book, and tried to help her sister; but not having yet recovered her own serenity of temper, she was scarcely able to infuse any portion of hope into the dispirited little girl, and soon gave it up in despair.

Flora was a very delicate child, and had always shown a great disinclination to study of all kinds. From her earliest childhood she had been sensitive, subject to nervous fears, could not bear to be left alone, and required great patience, and judicious care. She was a thin, pale girl, with an anxious cast of countenance; but she had a sweet temper and a loving, affectionate heart.

Louisa, the youngest of the party, was a bright, lively child, and was always to be seen with her brother Percy, whose shadow she may be said to have been. She gave up her will to him without a struggle, always thought him right, gladly bore the blame of his faults, and loved her grandmother all the more for her spoiling and injudicious fondness for him. This self-devotion is very beautiful in childhood, but it most frequently ends in disappointment. Indeed it can hardly be otherwise, when we consider of what materials it is composed selfishness on one side, and a self-abandon-. ment amounting to a kind of idolatry on the

other. At present, however, it made the sunlight of little Louisa’s life, and as she looked no further than to-morrow's dawn she saw no clouds in her horizon.

The cousins arrived at Mrs. Thornton's about half-past twelve o'clock, and Maria gladly accepted the invitation to join them in their walk. The younger children went with Miss Willis, and Flora remained at home, as the unfinished lesson was considered by Miss Willis only another proof of the idleness she so lamented in Flora.

The next morning Flora came down to breakfast looking more than usually ill, and her grandmother did not fail to observe it. Quick to take alarm when any symptom of illness appeared among the children, she was very slow in profiting by the advice which, on such occasions, she called in. She had a high opinion of her own judgment, and could very rarely be made to surrender it. Now, however, Flora’s looks alarmed her, and, after breakfast, she despatched a note to Dr. Trevor, her medical attendant, requesting him to call in the course of the day.

Mrs. Thornton was not aware of the prevailing motive which actuated her in carrying out the education of her son's children. She had, indeed, a certain regard for their best interests, and she thought it was her first motive, but it was not so. During her younger days, she had mingled a good deal in gay society, and had imbibed the spirit of its laws, to an extent of which she was perhaps herself unconscious. To shine in this arena, personal charms, grace of manner, accomplishments, external advantages of all kinds, she knew were indispensable. Her son was holding a high official appointment in India, and his chil. dren would, in after life, mingle with the noble and the wealthy of the land, and the thought came again and again into her mind, “Shall I not prepare them for their high position ?” And so it came to pass that the energies of these young minds were being frittered away upon subjects all unworthy of their pains, and

« AnteriorContinuar »