Charlotte, whose conscience had very soon explained to her the moral of all this, now turned from the tantalizing table in confusion, and burst into an agony of tears. Caroline wept also; and Mrs. Dawson, after an interval of silence, thus addressed her daughters:
“It is quite needless for me to explain my reasons for making you such presents, Charlotte. I assure you your papa and I have had a very painful employment the past hour in spoiling them all for you. If I had found on your table in the schoolroom any one thing that had been properly finished, you would have received one complete present to answer it; but this you know was not the case. I should be very glad if this disappointment should teach you what I have hitherto vainly endeavored to impress upon you—that as all those things, pretty or useful as they are in themselves, are rendered totally useless for want of completeness, so exertion without perseverance is no better than busy idleness. That employment does not deserve the name of industry which requires the stimulus of novelty to keep it going. Those who will only work so long as they are amused will do no more good in the world, either to themselves or others, than those who refuse to work at all. If I had required you to pass the six weeks of my absence in bed or in counting your fingers, you would, I suppose, have thought it a sad waste of time; and yet I appeal to you whether (with the exception of an hour or two of needlework) the whole mass of articles on your table could produce anything more useful. And thus, my dears, may life be squandered away, in a succession of busy nothings.