“And that was our mamma!” cried the children, once more crowding about her to lavish caresses upon her.
They thanked their grandfather for his story, and Vi looking in at the closet door again, said in her most coaxing tones, “Mamma, I should so, so like to play a little with some of those lovely things; and I would be very careful not to spoil them.”
“Not now, daughter, though perhaps I may allow it some day when you are older. But see here! will not these do quite as well?”
And rising, Mrs. Travilla opened the door of another closet displaying to the children’s delighted eyes other toys as fine and in as great profusion and variety as those she considered sacred to her mother’s memory.
“Oh, yes, yes, mamma! how lovely! how kind you are! are they for us?” they exclaimed in joyous tones.
“Yes,” she said, “I bought them for you while we were in New Orleans, and you shall play with them whenever you like. And now we will lock the doors and go down to dress for dinner. The first bell is ringing.”
After dinner the play-room and the contents of the two closets were shown to Mrs. Dinsmore, Rosie, and the Carringtons: then Mrs. Travilla locked the door of the one that held the treasured relics of her departed mother, and carried away the key.
“She’d lift the teapot lid
To peep at what was in it,
Or tilt the kettle if you did
But turn your back a minute.”
Meta Carrington had many excellent traits of character; was frank, generous, unselfish and sincere; but these good qualities were offset by some very serious faults; she was prying and full of desire for whatever was forbidden.
The other children played contentedly with the toys provided for them; but Meta secretly nursed a great longing for those Mrs. Travilla had chosen to withhold; and was constantly endeavoring to devise some plan by which to get possession of them.
She attempted to pick the lock with a nail, then with a knife, but failing in that, seized every opportunity of doing so unobserved, to try the keys from other doors in different parts of the house, till at length she found one that would answer her purpose; then she watched her chance to use it in the absence of her mates.
At length such a time came. The ladies had all gone out for an airing, the little ones, too, in charge of their nurses, Vi and the boys were sporting on the lawn, and Elsie was at the piano practicing; certain, faithful little worker that she was, not to leave it till the allotted hour had expired.
Having satisfied herself of all this, Meta flew to the play-room, and half trembling at her own temerity, admitted herself to the forbidden treasures.