[Illustration: Yes, father, your dinner is ready.]
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“Have you put up my dinner, Maude?”
John Melvin asked the question almost timidly. His daughter’s face was clouded, her lips were compressed, and she was making a great deal of unnecessary noise as she moved about the kitchen. She did not reply at once, and when she spoke it was in no pleasant voice.
“Yes, father, your dinner is ready. Now I must put up the children’s dinners, and there is the ironing to do, and I must do some cooking also. This will be a busy day with me, but all my days seem to be busy. Perhaps I do not understand how to keep ahead of the work. I have no time for recreation; there seems to be nothing in life for me but drudgery.”
Mr. Melvin sighed heavily.
“I am sorry, Maude. If last season’s crops had not failed, I should have hired some stout woman to do the heavy work. It is too much for you, a girl of nineteen, to have all these cares; but what can I do?”
“You can do nothing, father, and no one is to blame. I expect to be a drudge. Amy,” raising her voice, “where are you? Go and pick up the breakfast dishes, and be quick about it. It isn’t time to get ready for school. Fred, what are you doing? Haven’t I told you not to whistle in the kitchen? Oh, dear! one needs more patience than any mortal ever had!”
“I am sorry, Maude,” said Mr. Melvin, again. “It was a sad day for us all when your mother died.”
And then the discouraged man, old and worn before his time, took his dinner-pail and started for the distant wood-lot.
Maude continued to move rapidly about the kitchen and pantry, doing the morning’s work and scolding the children in a shrill voice.
“What’s the use of being so cross, Maude?” asked Amy, a bright-eyed girl of twelve. “I can’t see that it does any good.”
“I can’t be so easy as you are, Amy. I wish things didn’t fret me, but they do. And you have an easy time, while I have to work like a slave.”
“I’m sure I help you all I can, Maude. I don’t suppose you want me to stay out of school to work.”
“You know I don’t. You won’t have time to do any more this morning. Now, Fred, I told you to study hard to-day and not fail in your lessons.”
“All right sis,” rejoined Fred carelessly.
“Fred, how many times have I told you not to call me ‘Sis?’ I am tired beyond endurance. I don’t want to hear another word from you this morning, sir,” she added as she saw the boy was about to speak.
As the children left the house, Fred looked significantly at his sister.
“Wasn’t Maude cross this morning? How she did bang things!”
Amy puckered up her brow.
“I can’t understand it, Fred. Maude is always scolding.”