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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 215 pages of information about Mother Carey's Chickens.

“That’s true,” agreed Nancy; “it would be hard to keep it up forever.  And you have to love somebody or something like fury every minute or you can’t do it at all.  How do the people manage that can’t love like that, or haven’t anybody to love?”

“I don’t know.” said Kathleen sleepily.  “I’m so worn out with being good, that every night I just say my prayers and tumble into bed exhausted.  Last night I fell asleep praying, I honestly did!”

“Tell that to the marines!” remarked Nancy incredulously.

IV

THE BROKEN CIRCLE

The three weeks were running into a month now, and virtue still reigned in the Carey household.  But things were different.  Everybody but Peter saw the difference.  Peter dwelt from morn till eve in that Land of Pure Delight which is ignorance of death.  The children no longer bounded to meet the postman, but waited till Joanna brought in the mail.  Steadily, daily, the letters changed in tone.  First they tried to be cheerful; later on they spoke of trusting that the worst was past; then of hoping that father was holding his own.  “Oh! if he was holding all his own,” sobbed Nancy.  “If we were only there with him, helping mother!”

Ellen said to Joanna one morning in the kitchen:  “It’s my belief the Captain’s not going to get well, and I’d like to go to Newburyport to see my cousin and not be in the house when the children’s told!” And Joanna said, “Shame on you not to stand by ’em in their hour of trouble!” At which Ellen quailed and confessed herself a coward.

Finally came a day never to be forgotten; a day that swept all the former days clean out of memory, as a great wave engulfs all the little ones in its path; a day when, Uncle Allan being too ill to travel, Cousin Ann, of all people in the universe,—­Cousin Ann came to bring the terrible news that Captain Carey was dead.

Never think that Cousin Ann did not suffer and sympathize and do her rocky best to comfort; she did indeed, but she was thankful that her task was of brief duration.  Mrs. Carey knew how it would be, and had planned all so that she herself could arrive not long after the blow had fallen.  Peter, by his mother’s orders (she had thought of everything) was at a neighbor’s house, the centre of all interest, the focus of all gayety.  He was too young to see the tears of his elders with any profit; baby plants grow best in sunshine.  The others were huddled together in a sad group at the front window, eyes swollen, handkerchiefs rolled into drenched, pathetic little wads.

Cousin Ann came in from the dining room with a tumbler and spoon in her hand.  “See here, children!” she said bracingly, “you’ve been crying for the last twelve hours without stopping, and I don’t blame you a mite.  If I was the crying kind I’d do the same thing.  Now do you think you’ve got grit enough—­all three of you—­to bear up for your mother’s sake, when she first comes in?  I’ve mixed you each a good dose of aromatic spirits of ammonia, and it’s splendid for the nerves.  Your mother must get a night’s sleep somehow, and when she gets back a little of her strength you’ll be the greatest comfort she has in the world.  The way you’re carrying on now you’ll be the death of her!”

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