“Who amongst this merry party will become sufficiently sober to assist me in a work of charity?” was Mrs. Hamilton’s address, one afternoon, as she entered her daughter’s room, where Emmeline, her young friends Lady Florence and Lady Emily Lyle, and even the usually quiet Ellen, were employing themselves in drawing, embroidery, and such light amusements as diligently as the merry speech, the harmless joke, and the joyous laugh of truly innocent enjoyment would permit.
“A case of extreme distress has come before me,” she continued, “for which alms and other relief will not be sufficient; clothing is principally required. Can any of you consent to put aside these pretty things for a few days, merely for the sake of obliging me and doing good? I have set every hand to work, and now for further assistance come to you. To whom shall I appeal?”
“To me—to me—to me!” every voice exclaimed spontaneously, and they eagerly crowded round her to know what she required, what case of distress had occurred, for whom they were to work.
Gratified and pleased at their eagerness, Mrs. Hamilton smilingly imparted all they wished to know. The simple tale drew from the artless group many exclamations of pity, combined with the earnest desire to relieve in whatever way their kind friend would dictate, and their task was received by all with every demonstration of pleasure.
“You, too, Ellen,” said Mrs. Hamilton, smiling; “I thought you once said you had no time for work.”
“Not for ornamental work, aunt! but I hope you have never asked in vain for my assistance in such a case as this,” answered Ellen, blushing as she spoke.
“No, love; my words did you injustice. But you appear to have found time for ornamental work also, if this very pretty wreath be yours,” said Mrs. Hamilton, bending over her niece’s frame, and praising the delicacy of her flowers.
“Oh, I have time for any and everything now,” exclaimed Ellen, in a tone of animation, so very unusual, that not only her aunt but her young companions looked at her with astonishment.
“Ellen, yon are becoming more and more incomprehensible,” said Emmeline, laughing. “If Edward do not come home soon, as I suspect this extraordinary mood is occasioned by the anticipation of his arrival, I am afraid your spirits will carry you half way over the Channel to meet him. Mamma, take my advice, and keep a strict watch over the person of your niece.”
“You know, Ellen, you are as full of fun and mischief as I am, quiet and demure as we once thought you,” said Lady Emily.
“Is she? I am glad of it,” said Mrs. Hamilton, playfully. “Do not look so very much ashamed of your mirth, my dear Ellen, and bend over your work as if you had been guilty of some extraordinary misdemeanour. You know how pleased I always am to see you happy, Ellen,” she added, in a lower voice, as she laid her hand sportively on her niece’s head, which was bent down to conceal the confusion Emmeline’s words had called forth.