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"Oh, mother, don't say so,” said Ruth, sobbing behind the bed-curtains ; “you worked yourself, and let me sit idle.”
“Ah, because I said it was less trouble to do things myself than to teach you; but I ought to have taken the greater trouble and made you learn, for now, my poor child, you'll be sadly put out to do for them all.”
Ruth promised to do her best, but the night before she died, Mrs. Davies told her husband she should die easier if he could get his sister, a sensible dependable woman, to come for two or three weeks to put Ruth in the way of managing.
“She'll try to learn, I'm sure, and she likes her aunt, and she knows my ways."
And so Mrs. Davies's weary life ended, and as Ruth's aunt could not come for three weeks, she had time to feel how utterly incapable she was of making those around her comfortable.
The three next children were boys, two at work, one at school; all three were constantly in disgrace for being late, though they often went with only bread and butter in their hands, because no fire was lit-no tea made. Yet Ruth was up, but went muddling about with damp wood and a dirty grate, uncleaned kettle and no water pumped.
At last her aunt arrived, and after her tea and a little conversation, Ruth said:
“Now, aunt, you are tired, and will like to go to bed, and in the morning you must show me how to get on. It is so tiresome; father and brothers have to be off so early—by eight.”
“Do you call that early, my dear? my girl milks the cows at six, and lights the fire first—but in your case I should advise your beginning to-night.”
“ To-night, aunt ! you must be joking.”
“It will be no joke to-morrow to come down to a place like this—first those cups and saucers must be washed, and put away.”
"Not to-night, aunt, surely.”
“ Most surely they must; crockery set up dirty is ten times the trouble to wash. You have hot water in your kettle; fill your wooden bowl, and I will help you. Then clean the table. The fire is out, so you may rake out the grate, and lay the fire-put your cinders in the cinder-sifter.”
“Our sifter has been broken ever so long; I put the ashes in the dust-hole."
“Do you ? you must give your dustmen quite a good income, and lessen your father's to that amount: it shall be mended to-morrow. And, oh dear, the wood-do you think you have to build a house, instead of to light a fire ? I never use more than six bits, they should be well dried in the oven, and the cinders laid lightly over then, and a little coal at the back, and when you come down to-morrow, two minutes will be enough to make a bright, cheerful fire. Fill the kettle, and put it on the hob; and now, dear Ruth, we can go peacefully to bed, knowing that we have done all we can towards an early, comfortable breakfast for those whose work makes the pot boil, or, at any rate, gives us something to boil in
The next morning Ruth could hardly believe how
quickly everything was done, owing to all being made tidy over night.
“I can't think how it is,” she said ; “I was always setting to rights.”
“That's what it is,” said her aunt, "things should never want setting to rights; they won't, if you don't set them to wrongs. Get into the way of putting everything in its proper place the minute you have done with it. Now that plate with the bread on it; first you put it on the dresser, then on a chair, then on the table. Why not put the loaf into its brown pan at once, and the plate in the rack ? ”
“But, aunt, the children keep the place in such a mess, and they break ever so many things.”
“Of course they will if you leave them within their reach, and nothing is so bad for children as to keep on dinning them with 'don't touch that ; don't meddle with the other. They care no more for what you say, than they do for the wind blowing. Put the things on their proper shelves ; have two or three strong paper bags hung up against the wall, for snippings, bits of string, and odds and ends, and then make the children some playthings—old cotton-reels, birds' feathers tied to a string, horse chestnuts; there are no ends of scraps that will amuse them; and while you are cooking and cleaning, give them a word or a look which brightens them up, poor little wee things.”
Long before the fortnight was over, Ruth and her aunt discovered that she decidedly had a turn for house-work, she took quite a pride in her bright windows, tidy cottage, and clean floors; nor did she forget her school learning, neatness saves a good deal of time, and there was hardly a day in which she did not read a little of some books out of the village library. She was able to make out bills of parcels when she got stores from the co-operative, to which her father belonged, and from having been a subject of great vexation to him, he found her the blessing of his life.
THE SAILOR BOY.
BY ONE OF THE AUTHORS OF “CHILD-WORLD.”
O SAILOR BOY! this is the day,
We count each hour and each minute;
As the ship that brings you in it.
The hearth is blazing with light;
And laugh to think of to-night.
Alas! they have passed into days;
And only a weary hope stays :
As silently, by-and-by,
And with each a hope must die.
To turn all our grief to fêting !
Our hearts are so tired with waiting;
Your mother's step is so sad,
Her heart is heavy with pain; Oh, darling! she would be glad
To see your sweet face again!
And when we were eager with joy,
Adorning the room in our bliss, And saying fond things of our boy,
Disputing who'd get the first kiss, List’ning for steps on the path,
Smiling with tremulous lips, The wicked storm in its wrath
Was slaying our ship of ships !
Our darling was dragg’d on the wave,
(Oh, had we dreamt of it only !) The sea is a wonderful grave,
So wide, and deep, and lonely. With a wild and dreadful shock,
The wicked storm was so proud, It drove the ship on a rock,
And changed her sail to a shroud !
And when he could never come back,
And our hearts were ready to break, And even the baby wore black
For his dear sailor brother's sake, There came a hope and a cry,
A joy that was almost pain,
Was clasped in our arms again!