Two ladies sat together, in earnest conversation, in a little boudoir, fitted up more for an invalidŐs room than a dressing-room generally is. One of the ladies was a young, blooming girl, about nineteen years of age, with a profusion of light hair, and brightly blue eyes, which looked as if mischielf and pleasure were the aim of their owner. The other lady, who was some three or four years older, was lying on a sofa. Her complexion was as white, and the color on her cheeks as rich as her companionŐs; but, alas, hers was not the bloom of health. Consumption had marked her for his own. Her face was very sad, while that of her companion flashed with indignation.
"It is cruel and unnatural, Emily; and I wonder you will do so, and that Frank will consent to it is stranger still. A baby, not a year old, sent away from its mother to be nursed in the country, and for its health! Stuff and nonsense! as if it was not as healthy here as anywhere."
"Do you suppose it costs me nothing, Clara?" said the invalid, gently.
"Forgive my scolding, Emily," said Clara, throwing her arms around her sister. "I know you must feel badly; but why do you do it?"
"Because it is for little Bertha's own good. You know how delicate I have always beeen; and now I am pronounced in consumption. Bertha is a very frail baby, and Doctor Greaves says countyr airis positively necessary for her life; not her health alone, Clara, but her very life. Frank cannot go, and I cannot leave him. I have the greatest confidence in Mrs. Ellis, and feel safe trusting my baby to her care; besides, I can see her whenever I am able to ride out, and, when I am called away, you will watch over her for my sake."
"Indeed, indeed I will!" said Clara earnestly.
"You cannot enter into my fears fully," added Emily; "you who have never known a day's sickness in your life, cannot understand the fear I have that Bertha will inherit my complaints. Believe me, Clara, there is no unalloyed happiness without health."
"But, Emily, it must be pleasant to be sick now and then, just to find out how much people love you. I actually feel a pang of envy sometimes when Frank hangs so lovingly over you, and leaves all his pleasures away from home to sit and read to his poor, sick wifey; then I sometimes wonder if my husband, supposing I ever have one, will care so much for his healthy, laughter-loving spouse as my brother does for the dear new sister he brought home some two years ago."
"True, Clara, I have every reason to be thankful that my lot is cast among such loving friends, and, since my cross is to be ill-health, that Ihave such tender care bestowed upon me; but look at the other side of the picture. Frank is very fond of society; and a, although it is given very cheerfully for my sake, I feel whie he is with me that he is longing to mkae me among his friends, and enjoy their pleasant gatherings; then, you speak of envying my monopoly of Frank's evenings. How often do I long to send both you and he upon some pleasure-seeking jaunt, but may not because I cannotbe left alone; and Frank wil not leave me with hired assistance. He did not know, when he married the porr, orphaned, friendless girl, that his own and his sister's pleasures would pay the penalty."
"Don't talk so, Emily. You know there is no pleasure so sweet to me as tending you and Bertha; and, if I want to go out, you are aware that I am not wholly dependent on Frank." And a bright blush showed who took Frank's place.
" We have wandered dreadfully from our subject, Clara dear, which was to decide about taking Bertha to Mrs. Ellis this afternoon."
The afternoon of the same day on which this conversation took place, Emily, Clara, Emily's husband, and Clara's brother, Frank Wharton, with Bertha, the baby, started for a farm in the country, about five miles from Mr. Wharton's house in town. We have seen the reasons Emily had for trusting her child to the care of another; but none knew the bitter struggle it cost the mother to part with her first-born. When the party arrived at Mrs. Ellis's, they found the dame and her three children watching for them at the door. They went in; and Sarah Ellis, the eldest daughter, undertook to show Clara, who was about her own age, where to find some flowers. Tom, the boy, about ten years old, took Mr Wharton to see mother's new cow, and little Lizzie, the two year old baby, went with them, while Mrs. Wharton and Mrs. Ellis sat down to talk about the baby; they were together for a long time before Emily could go away from Bertha. Finally, Frank came in, and the party prepared to start for home again.
" You understand, Mrs. Ellis, I want Bertha to be treated just like your own children, and allowed to be in the open air as much as possible. See how soon you can make her show such chceks as these," she said, pinching Lizzie's rosy ones; " and now good-by, mother's little one. We shall come to see her very often, dame."
Another trial awaited Emily. As the autumn months became cold, Doctor Greeves insisted upon her seeking a warmer climate, and even held out hopes of a final cure of her troubles if she would consent to spend the winter in Havana. Bertha had improved wonderfully in the few months she had been with Mrs. Ellis and it was decided that she had better remain there. To leave husband and her baby for a whole winter! Emily was perfectly aghast at the prospect; but her strong common sense decided that so it must be, and she determined to conquer her own weakness, and act again for the good of her little one.
In the corner of a carriage, which was rapidly conveying her toward home, sat Emily; she was altered, much altered, since we saw her last. Her cheeks were filled out, and the hectic flush was replaced by a pure, healthy glow. Her eyes were filled with happy anticipations; she was going home ! The carriage stopped at last, and there stood Frank and Clara at the door.
Why, Emily, how well you look!" was the first exclamation. I cannot give all that followed; my readers can imagine the joy of that meeting.
" Emily, you won't know Bertha," said Clara, as she stood by her sister, arranging her riding habit; "she has altered as much as you have."
" Trust a mother to recognize her, sister," answered Emily, gayly.
" Emily, I made one addition to our party."
"Ah! Who is it ?"
" Why, you see" said Clara, blushing, "Everard and I have been riding out to see Bertha together since you went, that is, when Frank could not go; and he wanted to go so much to-day that"--
" That, like a dutiful wife that is to be, you invited him to join us. Well, it is pleasanter so; you two will be so much engrossed with each other that you will not laugh if Frank and I do the lovers after such a long absence. Come, are you ready? There are the horses. Here comes Everard up the street, and I am all impatience."
" Ready !" said Clara, springing lightly down stairs.
After Everard had exhausted a multitude of exclamations on Emily's improved looks, the whole party started for Mrs. Ellis's farm. They were almost there, when Clara suddenly left Everard's side, and, Ieaving him to come after with Frank, took Emily forward with her.
" See, sister !" she said, pointing to a group a little before them. "Is not that picturesque? A little boy raking, a wheelbarrow full of sods, a baby and tiny girl playing with a dog, and the young girl watching all to keep them in order."
" Clara, it is Sarah, Tom, and Lizzie, and the baby must be Bertha ;" and, touching her horse, she was beside the group in an instant.
"Lift her up, Sarah," she said, "and walk beside the horse to the cottage. No, no, give her to me. See how she jumps, Clara; I believe the darling knows me!"
" Highly probable!" said Clara, laughing.
Taking Bertha upon the horse before her, Emily led the way to the farm house.
"Emily," said Clara, affecting an air of languor, "I don't think you and Bertha are half so interesting as you were a year ago; then you both had such white, clear complexions, and were so spiritual; now you are in such rude bloom, and Bertha is positively sunburned."
"And so well," said Emily, "Doctor Greeves says I may take her home again. Oh, Clara, I am so happy now! Last year, I was sick, and Bertha delicate; and I feared I should die, and leave my little one motherless. Then came that dreadful parting, first for a short distance, then the long, long journey. Now see us ! I have my baby; and, God willing, we may both live many years together. I feel another being! Believe me, Clara, there is no union more delightfut than ' Health and Happiness."'