Both Mary Erskine and Anne Sophia went on very pleasantly and prosperously, each in her own way, for several years. Every spring Albert cut down more trees, and made new openings and clearings. He built barns and sheds about his house, and gradually accumulated quite a stock of animals. With the money that he obtained by selling the grain and the grass seed which he raised upon his land, he bought oxen and sheep and cows. These animals fed in his pastures in the summer, and in the winter he gave them hay from his barn.
Mary Erskine used to take the greatest pleasure in getting up early in the cold winter mornings, and going out with her husband to see him feed the animals. She always brought in a large pile of wood every night, the last thing before going to bed, and laid it upon the hearth where it would be ready at hand for the morning fire. She also had a pail of water ready, from the spring, and the tea-kettle by the side of it, ready to be filled. The potatoes, too, which were to be roasted for breakfast, were always prepared the night before, and placed in an earthen pan, before the fire. Mary Erskine, in fact, was always very earnest to make every possible preparation over night, for the work of the morning. This arose partly from an instinctive impulse which made her always wish, as she expressed it, “to do every duty as soon as it came in sight,” and partly from the pleasure which she derived from a morning visit to the animals in the barn. She knew them all by name. She imagined that they all knew her, and were glad to see her by the light of her lantern in the morning. It gave her the utmost satisfaction to see them rise, one after another, from their straw, and begin eagerly to eat the hay which Albert pitched down to them from the scaffold, while she, standing below upon the barn floor, held the lantern so that he could see. She was always very careful to hold it so that the cows and the oxen could see too.
One day, when Albert came home from the village, he told Mary Erskine that he had an offer of a loan of two hundred dollars, from Mr. Keep. Mr. Keep was an elderly gentleman of the village,—of a mild and gentle expression of countenance, and white hair. He was a man of large property, and often had money to lend at interest. He had an office, where he used to do his business. This office was in a wing of his house, which was a large and handsome house in the center of the village. Mr. Keep had a son who was a physician, and he used often to ask his son’s opinion and advice about his affairs. One day when Mr. Keep was sitting in his office, Mr. Gordon came in and told him that he had some plans for enlarging his business a little, and wished to know if Mr. Keep had two or three hundred dollars that he would like to lend for six months. Mr. Keep, who, though he was a very benevolent and a very honorable man, was very careful in all his money dealings, said that he would look a little into his accounts, and see how much he had to spare, and let Mr. Gordon know the next day.