“It was a dream,” she murmured. “Heavenly Father, I thank thee!” And she formed a few resolutions and lifted up her heart in prayer for help.
“How terribly I have erred and wandered from the way,” she said aloud. “This dream has opened my eyes, and I see what I have been doing. What must have papa thought of me? No wonder that he is not a Christian. I have wondered, too, that the children have been so indifferent to religious teaching, but the influence of my life has spoiled everything. But, thank God! the present is mine, my dear ones are spared to me, and henceforth I will strive to have my life count for Christ.”
When the children came that night they looked in wonder at their sister. There was a smile on her face, and her voice was gentle when she spoke to them. The tea-table was neatly spread and Fred saw his favorite hot rolls. Presently Mr. Melvin came in, somewhat timidly, expecting as usual to hear complaints and impatient exclamations from Maude. Instead, she greeted him pleasantly.
“Tired, father? Supper’s ready. I’ve made some of the toast you like and opened a can of peaches.
“I suppose you are very tired, Maude,” said Mr. Melvin, looking wonderingly at his daughter.
“I’m a little tired, father, but I’m thankful for the privilege of getting tired. I have a comfortable home, and we are all in good health. You see, father, I am beginning to count my blessings. I have been a fault-finding, ungrateful girl, and have made you all unhappy; but I hope to make some amends for the past.”
“God bless you, my daughter!” said John Melvin, huskily.
* * * * *
“Duty first, and pleasure afterward,” wrote Amy Leslie in her copy-book one fine morning.
Line after line she penned, making many a mistake, for her thoughts were far away. At last her mother, who was sitting near her, said, “Amy, this is the third time you have spelled pleasure without a ‘p,’ and left out the ‘f’ in afterward. Put down your pen and tell me what you are thinking about; for I am sure it is not of your copy.”
“I was only thinking,” replied Amy, “how glad I should be if my copy said, ‘Pleasure first—duty afterward.’ It is very hard always to have the disagreeable part first. I wish I could have one whole week with no duties at all! How I should enjoy myself!”
Mrs. Leslie remained silent for a moment; then she said, while a quiet smile played round her lips, “Well, Amy, for once you shall have what you want. For a whole week you may amuse yourself; no duties, mind, my child,—none at all.”
“There is no chance of my wanting any, I assure you, mama,” said Amy, joyfully; “I shall be so happy, you’ll see!”
“Very well, then,” said Mrs. Leslie; “you may begin to-morrow. To-day I shall expect you to do as usual.”