Celestina’s eyes sparkled with pleasure, and so did her mother’s. The two families had grown very much attached to each other in these few weeks.
‘Won’t they all be happy when he gets well?’ said the little girl. ’And oh, mother, isn’t dear little Biddy different from what she was? She is so gentle and thoughtful, and she’s hardly never cross. She does so many little things to help.’
Mrs. Fairchild smiled. In her heart she thought that Celestina had certainly had a hand in this pleasant change, but she would not say so. Children got less praised ‘then-a-days,’ as a little friend of mine calls long ago, for their parents were exceedingly afraid of spoiling them, and the thought of taking any credit to herself had never entered the child’s mind.
‘I do hope,’ she went on, ’that Biddy’s papa will be nearly quite well by her birthday. It’ll come in a month, you know, mother, and the doll-house is almost quite ready. Mrs. Vane has begun working at it again the last few days, and Rosalys and I and Miss Neale have all been helping. It will be so lovely, mother,’ and Celestina’s face lighted up with pleasure quite as great as if it was all for herself.
Truly, selfish people have no idea what happiness they miss!
‘Rare as is true love,
true friendship is still rarer.’
Bridget’s birthday came in May—the middle of May. From the time I have told you about in the last chapter Mr. Vane went on getting slowly better; at least he got no worse. But it did seem very slow. At last there came a day on which the doctor gave him leave to go downstairs.
‘I want to see what he can do,’ the doctor explained. ’At this rate we might go on for months and gain little ground. Perhaps he is stronger than he seems.’
They were all very eager and excited about this great step. It was an ‘afternoon’ day, as the little girls called those days on which Celestina and Miss Neale came back again, and this afternoon Mrs. Fairchild came with them. Mrs. Vane was thankful to have her at hand in case of any help being needed. And all the children were sent out for a walk, with the promise of finding papa in the drawing-room when they came in again.
But as they were coming home they were met by Rough at the Rectory gate. It was one of his occasional half-days. He ran out to meet them, but he looked rather grave.
‘Is papa down? Is he in the drawing-room?’ cried Rosalys and Biddy.
‘Yes,’ said Rough; ’but mamma’s been rather frightened about him. He seems so weak. She’s sent me for the doctor, and he’s there now. So you must not go in to see papa. That’s why I came to meet you.’
Alie’s face fell and Biddy’s grew very red.
‘I’m sure we shouldn’t hurt him,’ she said. ’It’s all that nasty doctor,’ and she almost looked as if she were going to get into one of her old tempers.