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« Oh live a life of holiness, .
Your child is looking on;
He heeds your life alone."
The news of Mrs. Thornton's expected roturn to England soon spread through the little village of Oakhurst, and everybody felt more or less interested in it. In a small community, every little event is of importance, and where children are concerned (especially children deprived, by whatever circumstance, of their natural protectors) this interest is generally found to deepen. They become, as it were, public property, and their welfare is sought, and their happiness rejoiced in, by many a humble and unobtrusive spirit who would shrink from any open demonstration of feeling. And in spite of the exclusiveness which had marked all Mrs. Thornton's relations with her country neighbours, in spite of the petty feelings and proud reserve which too often characterized the children themselves, their presence in the village was always welcomed with kind looks and words, and the good news which had just arrived, shed a reflected glow of happiness upon many a poor and sympathizing heart.
“And when will she come, Master Percy?" said the old wheelwright, as Percy stopped his pony to watch the process of some work in which the old man was engaged.
"In about a month, Thompson, grandmama says; and it does seem so long to wait. I wish it was only a week.”
“Ay, I dare say you do. And how long is it since you saw her?”
“My little sister and I came home about three years ago, but it is much longer since my other sisters saw her. I don't think they will remember her, but I shall.”
“It's a long journey she'll have to make, sir, is it not?”
“Oh yes,” said Percy, proud of being appealed to ; “more than two thousand miles."
“And she'll have the dangers of the sea to encounter ?”
“Yes," said Percy, who had a very indistinct idea of the route by which his mother would return.
“Then we must pray for her safe keeping to Him who holds the waters in the hollow of his hand,” said the old man.
Percy took no notice of this, and soon after, touching his pony with the whip, he left the old man to pursue his work and his reflections together.
In the meantime, the train of thought which had been awakened in the mind of the elder Mrs. Thornton by this new aspect of affairs, was in keeping with the prevailing tone of feeling which actuated her in all her daily work, though, as usual, she was totally unaware of the extent of its influence in her
heart. Important as it seemed to her, at all times, that the children should grace their position in life by every exterior attraction that dress, manner, accomplishments, etc., could bestow, she was particularly anxious that their mother's first impression of them should be in all these respects favourable. Miss Willis, the governess, was called to the consultation, and urged to bestow more than usual pains upon Maria's musical studies. She had a great talent for music, and played remarkably well.
With regard to their dress, Mrs. Thornton had always taken the arrangement of this into her own hands, priding herself greatly upon the style and elegance of their appearance. And, certainly, the most fastidious taste could not have found fault with the fairy-like forms which the London milliners had done so much to adorn and beautify. But the effect of all this care and anxiety was most apparent in the children, leading them instinctively to take a wrong estimate of these outward and