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Doubtless, our Charlotte had to learn and to feel the difference between living at home and in the house of strangers; but she was not unhappy. The fact is, we felt for her in her sorrows and adversities; and her amiable disposition and good sense very soon endeared her to us all. Let me also do our mother justice in adding that she strictly enjoined us to treat our attendant with consideration and respect. Thus it came to pass, after a short time, that Charlotte Evans was looked upon by us more as a pleasant companion than as a menial. She never presumed upon this rather equivocal position, however; nor abated, in the slightest degree, in the respect she evidently felt to be due to us, as the daughters of her employer.
A few months after Charlotte came to live with us, our sister Kate was married. From that time, our maid's services were restricted to my sister Bessie and myself; she was "our Charlotte."
, We had only one fault to find with Charlotte Evans; she was religious. Strange that this should have been considered a fault, perhaps; but we did think it so. Not that we should have said in so many words that religion is objectionable: we used another term, and said what a pity it was that our Charlotte was methodistical. We really knew nothing about methodism; but it was common enough then, and it is not quite unusual now, to call all earnestness in personal religion by that name.
It was this methodism on the part of our Charlotte which eventually led to our parting. I need not state the particulars, as there was nothing remarkable about them. I would only say that the circumstances which immediately preceded our parting, which was not an unfriendly one, were trying to her principles and honourable to her, as showing great decision of character and disregard to selfinterest, combined with a meek and gentle spirit. The option was put to her whether she would (to put the matter in its proper light) pay greater deference to us, her young mistresses, than to her God. She did not hesitate; and by her choice she lost all the advantages which might probably have accrued from her continuance in our employ.
A few weeks afterwards we knew that Charlotte had obtained another situation, but one in almost every respect inferior to that which she had lost. I am afraid. I must add that this knowledge did not displease us. We did not wish the poor girl any harm, we said, and said truly perhaps; but people are generally pleased when their predictions are verified, although they happen to be predictions of evil import to others.
We were not long in getting another maid: there was, no difficulty about that; and we congratulated ourselves (Bessie and I) that we should no longer be troubled with methodistical scruples. Our new maid was, indeed, as far from being a methodist as we could possibly desire. Bat we soon found that there are other things more objectionable even than methodism. Prevarication, deceit, and dishonesty are worse; and our new maid proved an adept in these bad practices, so that after a few weeks' trial we were glad to get rid of her. Others followed; but as we made it one main feature in our inquiries, whether the candidate for our favour were methodistical, and peremptorily rejected every one who had this taint, or a suspicion of it, it is not much to be wondered at that our success was very small. We were constantly changing our attendant, and were constantly complaining that it was impossible to obtain a good and trustworthy servant. Thus matters went on for two years.
"I tell you what, girls," said our father one day, when we had given our last maid a month's wages, and had dismissed hor at a day's notice, for gross misconduct, "I am tired of hearing this perpetual grumbling about your maids. I do not believe that all the faults are on their side. Servants are flesh and blood like ourselves; and if employers will be inconsiderate and exacting, it is to be expected that the employed will be resentful and unaccommodating. My opinion is that good mistresses make good servants."
We thought this reflection upon us was unjust. "But, papa," said Bessie, " our being inconsiderate and exacting, if we are so, does not justify a servant in taking what is not her own."
"It is my opinion," said our mother, "that Bessie and Emily are only too kind and indulgent; their first girl, Charlotte Evans, spoiled them for being mistresses."
"I wish we could get another like her," I said.
"And I wish so too, heartily," said Bessie.
"Then why do you not get her back again if you can?" demanded our father, quickly. "I daresay she did not better herself much by leaving you," he added.
"No indeed," said our mother. "I fancy she had a hard place afterwards; and it served her right too."
I need not say what more passed; but that same day Bessie and I went over to the village where Mrs. Evans lived, and explained to her our errand.
The poor woman—and it was plain to us that Mrs. Evans was very poor, though her little cottage was neat and clean, and she looked respectable, in a certain sort of way, as we should have said ;—but as soon as we told the occasion of our calling, Mrs. Evans looked very sorrowful.
"I am sure I am very much obliged to you for your kindness, ladies," she said; "but you do not know how ill my poor Charlotte is."
"Ill, Mrs. Evans?"
"Yes, indeed: she came home a few weeks ago from her situation; and so altered, and weak! I think you would scarcely know her again."
"We have not heard of this, indeed," said Bessie. "Our father has not heard of it either, for he advised us to come to you."
"No, Mr. Millman has not heard of Charlotte's illness from me. I have thought of calling on him for advice and medicines; but—"
I guessed what that "but" meant. Mrs. Evans dreaded another doctor's bill. "Oh, but," said I, "you should have let papa know. I am sure he would be glad to give his advice."
"I know that, miss; for Mr. Millman is always very kind; but poor Charlotte was not quite willing he should be troubled. Indeed, she does not herself know how ill she is, I think, and is always trying to persuade me that she is getting better; but—" and here Mrs. Evans's composure entirely failed her;—" but I have seen too much of such illnesses to be easily deceived."
"May we see Charlotte?" Bessie asked.
"Certainly: she will be pleased to see you, I am sure," said Mrs. Evans; and after a few minutes' absence, she returned with her daughter, who until then had been in her chamber.
Mrs. Evans had said quite truly that we should scarcely know Charlotte. Indeed, she was greatly altered, very much fallen away, very pallid and feeble.
"I am glad to see you, ladies," said she, sweetly and softly: "it is very kind of you to call."
"We did not know you were ill, Charlotte," said my sister, "or we should not have come—on our present errand at least; but I am glad we have called. You must let us send our father to see you."
"Yes, indeed you must," I added.
"How strange it is everybody should think I am ill," said Charlotte. "I am only a little weak with over-exertion, I think. A few weeks' rest will make me strong again, I hope."
She spoke so cheerfully and sanguinely and sincerely, that inexperienced as we were we could not but catch the reflection of her hopefulness, though we observed that the anxious mother shook her head, and smiled mournfully.
"And when you get better and stronger, Charlotte," said I, "you will not refuse "—and then I repeated what Mrs. Evans had already heard from us.
"I should be very willing and thankful to live with you again, for you were always very kind and good to me," said Charlotte, "only—"
We knew what this hesitation meant; and Bessie hastened to reply.
"You shall not be interfered with again," she said. "We do not think as you do about religion; but we have found out that we were wrong in making any difficulty about it, and it will not be repeated."
Charlotte thanked us and seemed pleased; and so after a little further conversation, we said good-bye to her and considered the matter settled. Mrs. Evans, however, accompanied us from the cottage door to her little garden gate; and then we saw that her eyes were filled with tears.
"It is very kind of you to think of poor Charlotte in that way," she said, in a low, cautious tone; "but it would be deceiving you, ladies, to leave you to suppose that she will ever be well enough to go to service again. She is very, very ill; and will never be better."
That same day, our father rode over to Mrs. Evans' cottage, as we had promised that he should; and, on his return, we eagerly asked him what he thought of our Charlotte.
"You must look out for another maid unless you mean to do without such assistance," he replied.
"Do you mean, papa, that she will never get well again?" demanded Beasie, alarmed by her father's manner.
"I mean neither more nor less than I say," he answered.
"Charlotte Evans is not likely to be your Charlotte again."
And with this rejoinder we were obliged to content ourselves.
THE NEW SONG.
It was a fine evening in autumn: the last portion of a plentiful harvest had just been brought home, and every one looked busy and cheerful about that most hospitable of all dwellings, a comfortable Irish farm-house. The farmer and his labourers were giving a few finishing touches to the newly-erected corn stacks which crowded the yard; and his wife was superintending the milking of her cows and sheep; while the young girls who performed this part of the domestic duties, beguiled the pleasant toil by singing snatches of the mirthful but always touching melodies of their native land. A group of noisy children at play completed the scene.
It was a cheerful one, which it would have been difficult for any person of kind feeling to contemplate without forming a wish responding to the salutation of an old woman who was observed tottering up a lane leading from the high road; and who, entering the yard, addressed each busy group as she walked through it, in these words: "God save all here, and keep you long happy."
From the appearance of the newly arrived visitor it was evident that she was one of a very humble kind: still her greeting was everywhere answered with a warm, "Welcome, Nelly, kindly welcome."
The mistress of the establishment seemed particularly pleased to see her; while her little daughter, who was at play with the other children, left them the moment she saw the old woman, and springing into her arms, exclaimed, "You're welcome at last, Nelly. It is a very long time since you came to us."
"So it is, my darling," added her mother; "and as I am busy here, do you take her into the house, and make her sit down to rest herself; and when I go in, Nelly, you shall have as good a cup of tea as ever you tasted, for you look tired."
The child, taking their aged guest by the hand, led her towards the house, seeming well pleased with the commission to take care of her, for Nelly was a favourite everywhere, especially among young people. She had