“Yes, sir. But his—” What the girl was going to say was stopped by a jovial voice in the next door, calling out: “Uncle, here! How are you?” And a moment more the pleasant old gentleman was caught by both hands and drawn along to the next house. His nephew Charley saying: “I’m so delighted to see you! Come in!”
Into the parlor he was carried, and seated in a very comfortable arm-chair. The interior was more inviting than the outside. It told very plainly that the wife did her duty toward making everything as nice as possible; in a word, making the best of her means.
A very short time after a sweet-faced little woman entered, and was presented by Charley, saying:
“Here is your niece, uncle.”
The old gentleman received her welcome greeting by a return of real affection. His heart warmed immediately to his nephew’s wife. She bore the traces of beauty which had been chased away by an over-amount of care, the uncle very soon felt sure. There was an unmistakable look of weariness and anxiety in her eyes.
Very soon Nellie, as Charley called her, excused herself, and went out, saying she had a very inexperienced servant, and had to oversee and assist her in her work.
Breakfast was announced, which was one that Uncle Hiram enjoyed, notwithstanding the feeling which was uppermost in his mind, that the strong, fragrant coffee, the delicate rolls, and the steak which was cooked just as it should be, in a word, all that was so nice, was the result of Nellie’s skilful hands. And she looked so tired and heated when she sat down to do the honors of her table. Again Uncle Hiram noticed that constantly her eyes wandered from the table to a door which entered the next room, which was partially opened. Her ear seemed strained to catch every sound. At length a little, feeble wail told the cause of her anxiety.
“Will you excuse me a moment, uncle?” she asked, and continued: “Our babe was quite sick all night, and I feel anxious about her.”
A moment or so after Nellie withdrew, the servant came in, bringing a fresh supply of hot rolls. Then Uncle Hiram had a chance of seeing the help Nellie had with her many duties—a half-grown girl.
“Inexperienced, truly, inefficient and insufficient,” said the kind old man to himself; and he made a note of that on the tablets of his heart.
Soon Nellie came back, looking much relieved, and said, smiling:
“She seems much better this morning. How these little ones fill our heart with anxiety! I was up with her all night!”
Down went another note on Uncle Hiram’s tablets. Awake all night with a sick baby, and up cooking breakfast in the morning! No wonder her youth and beauty have been chased away, poor, weary, over-worked mother!
“Who lives next door, Charley?” asked his uncle, after they had withdrawn from the breakfast-room.
“Why, I have a surprise for you—Henry lives there.”