“I will tell you what you can do, if you choose. Your uncle has just returned from a visit to his mother. He finds her a mere child, gentle and amiable, but wholly unfit to take charge of herself. Her clothes have taken fire repeatedly, from her want of judgment with regard to fuel and lights, and she needs a companion for every moment of the day. This, with their present family, is impossible, and they are desirous to secure some one who will devote herself to your grandmother during the hours when your aunt and the domestics are necessarily engaged. You were always a favourite there, and I know they would be very much relieved if you would take this office for a time, but they feel a delicacy in making any such proposal. You can have all your favourites about you—books, flowers, and piano; for the dear old lady delights to hear reading or music, and will sit for hours with a vacant smile upon her pale, faded face. Then your afternoons will be entirely your own, and Robert is empowered to pay any reliable person a salary of a fixed and ample amount, which will make you independent for the time.”
“But, aunt, you will laugh at me, I know, yet I do really fear that Kate will feel this arrangement as a disappointment.”
“Suppose I send her a note, stating that you have given me some encouragement of assuming this important duty, but that you could not think of deciding without showing a grateful deference to her wishes?”
“That will be just the thing. We shall get a reply to-morrow.” With to-morrow came the following note:—
“My Dear Aunt Frances:—Your favour of yesterday took us a little by surprise, I must own I had promised myself a great deal of pleasure in the society of our Mary; but since she is inclined (and I think it is very noble in her) to foster with the dew of her youth the graceful but fallen stem that lent beauty to us all, I cannot say a word to prevent it. Indeed, it has occurred to me, since the receipt of your note, that we shall need the room we had reserved for Mary, to accommodate little Willie, Mr. Howard’s pet nephew, who has the misfortune to be lame. His physicians insist upon country air, and a room upon the first floor. So tell Mary I love her a thousand times better for her self-sacrifice, and will try to imitate it by doing all in my power for the poor little invalid that is coming.
“With the kindest regards, I remain “Your affectionate niece,
“Are you now decided, Mary?” asked Aunt Frances, after their joint perusal of the letter.
“Not only decided, but grateful. I have lost my fortune, it is true; but while youth and health remain, I shall hardly feel tempted to taste the luxuries of dependence.”
JUMP in, if you would ride with the doctor. You have no time to lose, for the patient horse, thankful for the unusual blessing which he has enjoyed in obtaining a good night’s rest, stands early at the door this rainy morning, and the worthy doctor himself is already in his seat, and is hastily gathering up the reins, for there have been no less than six rings at his bell within as many minutes, and immediate attendance is requested in several different places.