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“Well, mother, I’ve got you a Southport ticket,” said Bessy Lee, as she burst into a room where a pale, sick woman lay dressed on the outside of a bed. “Aren’t you glad?” asked she, as her mother moved uneasily, but did not speak.
“Yes, dear, I’m very thankful to you; but your sudden coming in has made my heart flutter so, I’m ready to choke.”
Poor Bessy’s eyes filled with tears: but, it must be owned, they were tears half of anger. She had taken such pains, ever since the doctor said that Southport was the only thing for her mother, to get her an order from some subscriber to the charity; and she had rushed to her, in the full glow of success, and now her mother seemed more put out by the noise she had made on coming in, than glad to receive the news she had brought.
Mrs. Lee took her hand and tried to speak, but, as she said, she was almost choked with the palpitation at her heart.
“You think it very silly in me, dear, to be so easily startled; but it is not altogether silliness; it is I am so weak that every little noise gives me quite a fright. I shall be better, love, please God, when I come back from Southport. I am so glad you’ve got the order, for you’ve taken a deal of pains about it.” Mrs. Lee sighed.
“Don’t you want to go?” asked Bessy, rather sadly. “You always seem so sorrowful and anxious when we talk about it.”
“It’s partly my being ailing that makes me anxious, I know,” said Mrs. Lee. “But it seems as if so many things might happen while I was away.”
Bessy felt a little impatient. Young people in strong health can hardly understand the fears that beset invalids. Bessy was a kind-hearted girl, but rather headstrong, and just now a little disappointed. She forgot that her mother had had to struggle hard with many cares ever since she had been left a widow, and that her illness now had made her nervous.
“What nonsense, mother! What can happen? I can take care of the house and the little ones, and Tom and Jem can take care of themselves. What is to happen?”
“Jenny may fall into the fire,” murmured Mrs. Lee, who found little comfort in being talked to in this way. “Or your father’s watch may be stolen while you are in, talking with the neighbours, or ——”
“Now come, mother, you know I’ve had the charge of Jenny ever since father died, and you began to go out washing — and I’ll lock father’s watch up in the box in our room.”
“Then Tom and Jem won’t know at what time to go to the factory. Besides, Bessy,” said she, raising herself up, “they’re are but young lads, and there’s a deal of temptation to take them away from their homes, if their homes are not comfortable and pleasant to them. It’s that, more than anything, I’ve been fretting about all the time I’ve been ill — that I’ve lost the power of making this house the cleanest and brightest place they know. But it’s no use fretting,” said she, falling back weakly upon the bed and sighing. “I must leave it in God’s hands. He raiseth up and He bringeth low.”
Bessy stood silent for a minute or two. Then she said, “Well, mother, I will try to make home comfortable for the lads, if you’ll but keep your mind easy, and go off to Southport quiet and cheerful.”
“I’ll try,” said Mrs. Lee, taking hold of Bessy’s hand, and looking up thankfully in her face.
The next Wednesday she set off, leaving home with a heavy heart, which, however, she struggled against, and tried to make more faithful. But she wished her three weeks at Southport were over.