“O! well,” said Maria, brightening up, “then I am sure I will not go: so run, George, for father is almost ready to start.”
Thus the matter was amicably settled. George went with his father, and Maria remained at home to help take care of little Willy.
Maria loved her little brother very much, and she never seemed tired of taking care of him, even when he was ever so fretful or restless. She would leave her play, at any moment, to run and rock the baby, or to hold him in her lap; for, even if she felt inclined, at any time, to be a little out of patience for a moment, she would recollect how many hours she had herself been nursed, by night and by day, and she was glad of an opportunity to relieve her mother of some of her care and fatigue. Her cousin, Ellen Weston, called, one afternoon, to ask her to accompany a party of little girls, who were going to gather berries in the wood near Maria’s house. It happened that Maria had been left with the care of Willy, just as her cousin called; and it happened, too, that Willy was that afternoon unusually fretful and difficult to please. If Maria left him for a moment, or if she did not hold him exactly in the posture which suited him, or if she had not precisely the thing ready which he wanted at the moment, he would act just as all babies of nine or ten months sometimes take it into their heads to act. With all her patience and good-humor, she hardly knew how to manage him; and especially after having been obliged to reject so agreeable an invitation as the one her cousin brought, she found her task a little irksome.
She could hardly repress an occasional expression of impatience, as she tried in vain to please the wayward little fellow. But her patience and good-humor were very soon restored; and as she reflected that she was doing her mother a great deal of good, by staying at home with Willy, she felt quite willing to dismiss all thoughts of the berrying expedition. The girls, however, did not forget her. It was proposed by one of the party, when Ellen had stated the reason why Maria could not join them, that each should contribute some portion of her berries to be carried to her on their way home. All agreed very readily to the plan, and each took pains to select the largest and the ripest of her berries for Maria’s basket. The gratification afforded Maria by this little token of kind remembrance, more than compensated for the self-denial which she had practised. It is almost always the case when persons cheerfully submit to any privation, for the sake of other persons, or because it is duty, that they are amply rewarded for it. They enjoy, at least, the consciousness of doing right, which is one of the very highest sources of pleasure. Maria would, at any time, have been satisfied with only this reward; but it very often happened, very unexpectedly, that something more was in store for her. This was the case upon the time when she gave up her ride, and her visit to the caravan, for the sake of her brother. I have not said that it was absolutely Maria’s duty to yield to her brother, in this case: perhaps it would have been perfectly right for her to have maintained her own claims; and yet there is no doubt that she felt a great deal happier for the sacrifice she had made.