« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. I.-THE LITTLE HOUSEKEEPER.
OUR hens, a lamb, and three long-eared rabbits were Madeline's only possessions. Madeline was thirteen years old, and the comfort and stay of her poor widowed mother. Her father had been dead two years, and her brothers, Jack and Andrew, were too little to be of use to any one. Life had been a hard struggle since the father's death, for his little family was left with no other means of support than the work of one pair of woman's hands. And now the owner of those hands felt her
strength beginning to fail. The rough work on the neighbouring farm and the constant exposure had been too much for poor Bridget;
and in spite of a brave heart and a willing spirit, the dread of starvation had begun to haunt her day and night.
Poverty looks ugly and repulsive in the narrow dark alleys and close
city; not so in the country.
courts of a great
garden was full of roses, the swallows built under the spreading thatch, the air was pure and sweet, and the green upland and wide expanse of sky were the property of all to enjoy. Then, too, Bridget was proud, so she did her best to hide her poverty. Many and many were the hours she spent, when the children were asleep, patching, and washing, and darning their clothes; no matter if her back ached and her eyes burned, so that she could keep them tidy and clean.
But day by day she grew less fit for work; the thought of what would become of them if she fell sick was always present with her, and when she laid her head on the pillow at night, it burned and throbbed so that she could not sleep.
At last one morning she felt that it was no