“Here she is!—here’s Susan!” they exclaimed joyfully.
“Here’s the Queen of the May!”
“And here’s her crown!” cried Rose, pressing forward.
But Susan put her finger to her lips, and pointed to her mother’s window. Philip’s pipe stopped at once.
“Thank you,” said Susan, “but my mother is ill. I can’t leave her, you know.” Then as she gently put aside the crown, her companions asked her to say who should wear it for her.
“Will you, dear Rose?” she said, placing the garland upon her friend’s head. “It’s a charming May morning,” she added, with a smile; “good-by. We shall not hear your voices or the pipe when you have turned the corner into the village, so you need only stop till then, Philip.”
“I shall stop for all day,” said Philip: “I’ve no wish to play any more.”
“Good-by, poor Susan! It is a pity you can’t come with us,” said all the children.
Little Mary ran after Susan to the cottage door. “I forgot to thank you,” she said, “for the cowslips. Look how pretty they are, and smell how sweet the violets are that I wear, and kiss me quick or I shall be left behind.”
Susan kissed the little breathless girl, and returned softly to the side of her mother’s bed. “How grateful that child is to me for a cowslip only! How can I be grateful enough to such a mother as this?” she said to herself, as she bent over the pale face of her sleeping mother.
Her mother’s unfinished knitting lay upon a table near the bed, and Susan sat down in her wicker armchair, and went on with the row, in the middle of which Mrs. Price had stopped the evening before. “She taught me to knit, she taught me everything that I know,” thought Susan, “and best of all, she taught me to love her, to wish to be like her.” Mrs. Price, when she awoke, felt much better, but slowly there came back to her memory the sad news she had heard the evening before. She asked herself if it could have been a dream, but no, it was all too true. She could recall her husband’s look as he had said, “I must leave you in three days.” Then suddenly she roused herself. “Why! he’ll want, he’ll want a hundred things,” she said. “I must get his linen ready for him. I’m afraid it’s very late. Susan, why did you let me sleep so long?”
“Everything shall be ready, dear mother; only don’t hurry,” said Susan. And indeed her mother was not able to bear any hurry, or to do any work that day. Susan’s loving help was never more wanted. She understood so well, she obeyed so exactly, and when she was left to herself, judged so wisely, that her mother had little trouble in directing her. She said that Susan never did too little or too much.
Susan was mending her father’s linen, when Rose tapped softly at the window, and beckoned to her to come out. She went.
“How is your mother, in the first place?” said Rose.
“Better, thank you.”