Page images
PDF
EPUB

room; the sun was shining on Blanche's head, and into the precious box, lighting up the soft. brown hair and the treasured memories of bygone days. We shall see how the promise which first broke the stillness, given in low and earnest tones as Blanche reverently closed the box, was kept in days to come.

[graphic]

CHAP. VI.--THE LAMB IS SOLD TO THE BUTCHER.

H

AVE we not all again and again felt that

in great trials, as in great joys, the details, the small accessories, are what affect us mostcause us the keenest pain or pleasure? We cannot grasp the sum, but the items come home

to us at once.

Madeline's lamb had been the small pleasure of her life; it had its own special corner in her loving heart, it fed from her hand, and followed her wherever she went; and now it must be sold to the butcher! Poor Loulou! poor Madeline! Her mother had often told her that poor people could not afford to get fond of their animals; she was to be kind to the lamb and treat it well, but never to forget that the butcher must have it in the end. And now the end had come, and was harder even than she had ex

pected it would be, for she must take it to the butcher herself, and ask him whether it was fat enough to kill, and what he would give for it. There was nothing in the house-the baker had given them credit for three or four days, but with those half-muttered asides which make favours so hard to accept. Bridget was no better, and terribly cast down. Pride was her fault; she hid her misery from the eyes of others, and could not bear that her richer neighbours should know how destitute she was; and now she suffered cruelly.

It is needless to say, Mrs. Tenassy, who had heard the old beggar's story from Nanny, had sent the faithful servant down to the cottage at once, to find out the true state of things, and ascertain what help was needed. Nanny was delighted to go; but the sick woman gave such a cheerful account of herself, and made so light of her troubles, that Nanny had not dared to suggest any more substantial help than a few delicacies, such as beef-tea, jelly, or wine, which might tempt the appetite of an invalid, who had no one but an inexperienced child to cook

for her. In the most guarded and discreet way Nanny tried to penetrate Bridget's reserve, but without success. Bridget spoke of having

means at her command to which she was just intending to have recourse, but volunteered no further information on the subject, so that Nanny did not like to press the point, and told Mrs. Tenassy, on her return, that she had not liked to offer her money, for fear of wounding her feelings. By the means at her command she, of course, meant Loulou, Madeline's little friend; he had been lying under the table all the time in happy ignorance of his approaching fate; though he did not understand what Bridget said, Madeline did, and nearly burst into tears.

When Nanny was gone, her mother said, "It'll be a long while before I am able to work, and you must make up your mind to it at once; it must have happened anyhow, sooner or later, do you understand?"

"Yes, mother," replied Madeline, and the words seemed to stick in her throat, so low was her answer. But she loved her mother so un

selfishly, that by a great effort she managed to hide at least half her grief.

"When will you go to the butcher's?"
"Whenever you like, mother."

"The sooner the better, dear; he has no doubt sold a great deal of meat this week, on account of the fair, and is very likely to have run short, so now's your best time. I know it's a great sacrifice, but then, you remember, we were only bringing it up to sell it."

"I know that, mother; and you often say that poor people can only afford to have useful things. I'm a little sorry, of course, but I'll go at once."

She got up and went out. It was a beautiful sunny day-the lamb's last day.

Poor creature! His little mistress called to him in the usual manner-why not? Oughtn't she to make him as happy as she could, now that his life was so soon to end? He came directly, expecting to be fondled, or to have some milk given him to drink, and rubbed himself confidingly against her; it cost her a fresh pang, but she walked steadily on, the lamb after her.

« PreviousContinue »