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use trying to hold up any longer, and when the first rays of light streamed through the chinks of the shutter, she called to her daughter, saying
Madeline, dear, make haste and get up; I cannot, my head aches so; you must be my little housekeeper to-day."
"All right; here I am," cried Madeline, as she jumped out of bed and stood beside her mother; "tell me what I'm to do first. I'm a big girl now, for I was thirteen yesterday, you know! But oh mother darling, whatever is the matter with you? your cheeks are so red!
"I am very feverish this morning, dear, and my head aches worse than usual.”
"Poor mother! I'll dress as quickly as ever I can, and bring you a cup of coffeethat's sure to do you good; and presently, when you've given me some money, I'll run to the butcher's for a piece of meat to make broth with. Perhaps when you've had some nice broth you'll be able to get up.
"I've no money left, dear, to buy meat,
and what is to become of us I really don't know; I'm too sick to work, and you're too young."
"Oh no! I'm not. Now just don't trouble I shall manage somehow; I've lots of ideas in my head; wait and see."
Saying this, Madeline let down the shutter and opened the window; for a moment she stood and looked out on the dewy fields and bright clear sky, then shut it again, and, kneeling down at the foot of her mother's bed, said her prayers.
"Now let me see," she said in a low voice after she had washed and dressed herself, "what's the first thing to be done?"
"Light the fire and put the kettle on," was her mother's answer, "and then take some potatoes out, and wash them at the pump, for there's nothing else for dinner to-day, and don't use more wood than you can help, we've so little left."
"No, no, you may trust me; you'll see how careful I can be. I shan't use a bit more than you do; I know exactly how you lay it. Dear,
if only you weren't ill, mother, what fun it would be lighting the fire. Now must I wake the children?" said Madeline, with comic gravity and importance.
"No, let them sleep if they will, poor darlings! Bless them! they know nothing of the trouble in store."
"Now, mother, you're not to fret about us; you really mustn't, for we're happy enough, aren't we? Why, haven't I got you? And there's Jacky, he laughs all day long, so, of course, he's happy; now, mother, you know he is; and as for Andrew".
"Poor little Andrew! he cried for a bit of sugar yesterday, and to think that I hadn't it to give him!"
"Now, mother darling, it's too bad; you noticed his tears, and never noticed that the very next minute he was laughing and clapping his hands at the paper cap I made him."
"Well, well! You're a good girl, Maddy, and always know how to comfort everybody, and I ought not to complain with such a daughter as you to help and comfort me.
Your father was right when he said, 'I'm not leaving you alone, wife, with the little ones; you've got Madeline to help you.' Those were his last words. But there, I musn't be thinking of that now; it'll do no good. Dear, how my poor head throbs. Be as quiet as you can, and perhaps I shall be able to sleep."
"That's right, mother; turn your face to the wall, shut your eyes, and don't trouble any more about things."
Bridget gave the girl a loving look and shut her eyes, but she could not sleep. How was she not to "trouble about things"? Were not her children constantly in her thoughts? and was not her anxiety concerning them always present with her, waking and sleeping? And now, as she lay half-dozing, horrible visions of hunger and want crowded upon her.
And yet, no doubt, Madeline, though in one way a cause of anxiety, was also an immense comfort to her; she daily felt the worth of her loving tender heart and quiet good sense. The girl was thoughtful beyond her years, and her
small mind had early taken a practical turn. She never did anything hastily without thinking, and showed a wise discretion, even in the smallest concerns. On this particular day she deserved special credit for her cheerful readiness and desire to be useful, for it was the day of the village fair-a day long and eagerly looked forward to by the whole neighbouring population; and now, as Madeline stood outside at the pump, washing the potatoes, she saw her playmates collecting at the cottage doors, or running down the village street in their Sunday clothes, looking out for the wonders that were to come. Madeline knew those wonders all by anticipation: the incomparable African giant, the hairy boy from the wilds of Siberia, the performing monkeys, the talking calf, the roundabout, the wheel of fortune—one turn of which would make you the happy possessor of a lovely string of beads, a gingerbread crown, a gay-coloured kerchief, or some other treasure equally precious in a girl's eyes—and last, not least, her favourite marionettes. Just as she lifted the great pump-handle to give her pota