“I didn’t say anything, but I kept on doing whatever came along, and before I knew it ever so many duties slipped out of Mamma’s hands into mine, and seemed to belong to me. I don’t mean that I liked them, and didn’t grumble to myself; I did, and felt regularly crushed and injured sometimes when I wanted to go and have my own fun. Duty is right, but it isn’t easy, and the only comfort about it is a sort of quiet feeling you get after a while, and a strong feeling, as if you’d found something to hold on to and keep you steady. I can’t express it, but you know?” And Maggie looked wistfully at the other faces, some of which answered her with a quick flash of sympathy, and some only wore a puzzled yet respectful expression, as if they felt they ought to know, but did not.
“I need not tire you with all my humdrum doings,” continued Maggie. “I made no plans, but just said each day, ’I’ll take what comes, and try to be cheerful and contented.’ So I looked after the children, and that left Maria more time to sew and help round. I did errands, and went to market, and saw that Papa had his meals comfortably when Mamma was not able to come down. I made calls for her, and received visitors, and soon went on as if I were the lady of the house, not ‘a chit of a girl,’ as Cousin Tom used to call me.
“The best of all were the cosey talks we had in the twilight, Mamma and I, when she was rested, and all the day’s worry was over, and we were waiting for Papa. Now, when he came, I didn’t have to go away, for they wanted to ask and tell me things, and consult about affairs, and make me feel that I was really the eldest daughter. Oh, it was just lovely to sit between them and know that they needed me, and loved to have me with them! That made up for the hard and disagreeable things, and not long ago I got my reward. Mamma is better, and I was rejoicing over it, when she said,’ Yes, I really am mending now, and hope soon to be able to relieve my good girl. But I want to tell you, dear, that when I was most discouraged my greatest comfort was, that if I had to leave my poor babies they would find such a faithful little mother in you.’
“I was so pleased I wanted to cry, for the children do love me, and run to me for everything now, and think the world of Sister, and they didn’t use to care much for me. But that wasn’t all. I ought not to tell these things, perhaps, but I’m so proud of them I can’t help it. When I asked Papa privately, if Mamma was really better and in no danger of falling ill again, he said, with his arms round me, and such a tender kiss,—
“’No danger now, for this brave little girl put her shoulder to the wheel so splendidly, that the dear woman got the relief from care she needed just at the right time, and now she really rests sure that we are not neglected. You couldn’t have devoted yourself to a better charity, or done it more sweetly, my darling. God bless you!’”