“Yes, and she belongs to the church. I’m glad I’m not a Christian, if she’s one.”
“Oh, hush, Fred! Christian people are happier than we are.”
“Humph! Maude professes to be a Christian, but she can’t be happy. Seems to me she’s the unhappiest person I know. Papa doesn’t belong to the church, but he isn’t always scolding.”
“Well, I can’t understand it,” sighed Amy. “But, Fred, you know mama was a Christian.”
“She was a real Christian, too,” said Fred soberly. “But I guess it’s hard work to be the real thing. Maude must be a make-believe one,” he added.
“Oh, hush, Fred! I don’t like to hear you say such things.”
Left alone, Maude’s hands were busy. At dinner time she ate a lunch, and at two o’clock was through her work.
“Everything’s in order,” she thought, as she looked about the neat kitchen. “And I’m not going to touch a bit of sewing this afternoon. I’ll go into the sitting-room and rest until it’s time to think about supper.”
In the pleasant little sitting-room Maude sat down in an easy rocker at the front window and looked out over the snow-covered fields. Presently she saw the bent form of a little old lady in a black coat and red hood coming up the path.
“Aunt Sarah Easler,” she said to herself, “and coming here, too.”
The old lady came in without knocking and Maude rose to meet her. Aunt Sarah seemed much agitated. She took both of the girl’s hands in hers, tears streaming from her eyes.
“What is it, Aunt Sarah?” cried Maude. “Has anything happened?”
“My poor child! My poor child! May God help you!”
Maude felt herself growing faint, but she resolutely banished the feeling.
“What has happened?” she asked, in a voice so calm that it astonished herself. “The children?”
“The children are all right, my dear. It is your father.”
“My father! What of him? Is he hurt?”
[Illustration: “Tired father? Supper’s all ready.”]
The old lady bowed her head and replied in a broken voice: “Badly hurt, my dear.”
[Illustration: "What is it, Aunt Sarah?"]
Maude grasped Aunt Sarah’s arm.
“Your face tells me that it is even worse than that,” she said, calmly. “Is he dead?”
“My poor child!”
“You need say no more. I know he is.”
Even as Maude spoke, she looked out of the window and saw four men bearing her father’s form on a stretcher. She did not faint or cry out, but in a moment her mind went back over the three years that had passed since her mother’s death, and she saw wherein she had failed as a daughter and sister.
Tears came to her relief, and as they gushed down over her cheeks she awoke with a start. She looked out of the window. Oh, thank God! no men were in sight, bearing her father’s form on a stretcher.