They had had some past experience of the ways of Lucy’s children, and she knew they had not forgotten it; and reminding them of the Bible declaration, that “evil communications corrupt good manners,” she bade them, while refraining as far as possible from judging their little friends, at the same time to carefully avoid following their example in anything they knew to be wrong.
“Mamma,” said Vi, “perhaps sometimes we mightn’t know if it was wrong!”
“I think you will, daughter, if you take a moment to think; and if you are doubtful, you may be pretty sure it is wrong.”
“Mamma, we mustn’t tell tales to you?”
“No, dear; but perhaps you can consult me without that; and do not forget that you can always lift up your heart to God for help to know and do the right.”
“Yes, mamma,” returned the little girl thoughtfully, “and I do believe Elsie will ’most always be there and know what’s right.”
“I’m not sure,” said her sister, with a grave shake of the head, “I wish we could always have mamma by to tell us.”
“But mamma cannot be with you always, darlings,” Elsie said, regarding them with yearning tenderness, “and so, as your papa and I have often told you, you must learn to think and decide for yourselves; about some things now, and about others as you grow older and wiser. Some things the Bible tells us plainly, and in regard to those we have nothing to do but obey.”
“A child left to himself
bringeth his mother to shame.”
—Proverbs xxix. 15.
Lucy, too, had a talk with her children, in which she begged them quite pathetically, not to disgrace her before the expected guests, Mr. Dinsmore especially, who was so very strict in his ideas of how children ought to be brought up, and how they should behave.
They promised readily enough to “behave splendidly” and for a few days did so astonishingly well that, as she laughingly said, “she began to grow frightened lest they were becoming too good to live.”
But she need not have been alarmed; the reaction was not long in coming and was sufficient to relieve all apprehension that they were in immediate danger from an overplus of goodness.
It began on the morning after Mr. Dinsmore’s departure. Gertrude was late to breakfast, and when reproved by her mother answered in a manner so disrespectful as to quite astonish the young Travillas. They expected to see her banished at once from the table and the room; but her mother only looked grave and said in a tone of displeasure, “Gertrude, I cannot have you speak to me in that way—Don’t do it again.”
“I don’t care; you needn’t scold so about every little trifle then,” muttered the delinquent in an undertone, pulling the dish of meat toward her, helping herself and spilling the gravy on the clean tablecloth.
Mrs. Ross did not seem to hear, she was spreading a piece of bread with the sweetest and freshest of butter, for Sophie.