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Mary Erskine and her children, asleep.
genial and cheerful expression. Mary Erskine gradually became calm. The children, first the baby, and then Bella, fell asleep. Finally Mary Erskine herself, who was by this time entirely exhausted with watching, care, and sorrow, fell asleep too. Mary Erskine slept sweetly for two full hours, and then was awaked by the nestling of the baby.
When Mary Erskine awoke she was astonished to find her mind perfectly calm, tranquil, and happy. She looked down upon her children-Bella asleep and the baby just awaking with a heart full of maternal joy and pleas
Her room, it seemed to her, never appeared so bright and cheerful and happy as then. She carried Bella to the bed and laid her gently down in Albert's place, and then, going back to the fire, she gave the baby the food which it required, and rocked it to sleep. Her heart was resigned, and tranquil, and happy. She put the baby, at length, into the cradle, and then, kneeling down, she thanked God with her whole soul for having heard her prayer, and granted her the spirit of resignation and peace. She then pushed open the curtains, and reclined herself upon the bed, where she lay for some time, with a peaceful smile upon her coun
tenance, watching the flashing of a little tongue of flame, which broke out at intervals from the end of a brand in the fire. After lying quietly thus, for a little while, she closed her eyes, and gradually fell asleep again.
She slept very profoundly. It was a summer night, although, as usual, Mary Erskine had a fire. Clouds rose in the west, bringing with them gusts of wind and rain. The wind and the rain beat against the window, but they did not wake her. It thundered. The thunder did not wake her. The shower passed over, and the sky became serene again, while Mary Erskine slept tranquilly on. At length the baby began to move in the cradle. Mary Erskine heard the first sound that its nestling made, and raised herself up suddenly. The fire had nearly gone out. There was no flame, and the room was lighted only by the glow of the burning embers. Mary Erskine was frightened to find herself alone. The tranquillity and happiness which she had experienced a few hours ago were all gone, and her mind was filled, instead, with an undefined and mysterious distress and terror. She went to the fire-place and built a new fire, for the sake of its company. She took the baby from the cradle and sat down in
Watching for morning.
the rocking-chair, determining not to go to bed again till morning. She went to the window and looked out at the stars, to see if she could tell by them how long it would be before the morning would come. She felt afraid, though she knew not why, and holding the baby in her arms, with its head upon her shoulder, she walked back and forth across the room, in great distress and anguish, longing for the morning to come. Such is the capriciousness of grief.
The night lamp and the lightning.
Mrs. Bell went home on the evening of the funeral, very much exhausted and fatigued under the combined effects of watching, anxiety, and exertion. She went to bed, and slept very soundly until nearly midnight. The thunder awaked her.
She felt solitary and afraid. Mary Bell, who was then about nine years old, was asleep in a crib, in a corner of the room. There was a little night lamp, burning dimly on the table, and it shed a faint and dismal gleam upon the objects around it. Every few minutes, however, the lightning would flash into the windows and glare a moment upon the walls, and then leave the room in deeper darkness than ever. The little night lamp, whose feeble beam had been for the moment entirely overpowered, would then gradually come out to view again, to diffuse once more its faint illumination, until another flash of lightning came to extinguish it as before.
Mrs. Bell's sympathy for Mary Erskine.
Mrs. Bell rose from her bed, and went to the crib to see if Mary Bell was safe. She found her sleeping quietly. Mrs. Bell drew the crib out a little way from the wall, supposing that she should thus put it into a somewhat safer position. Then she lighted a large lamp. Then she closed all the shutters of the room, in order to shut out the lightning. Then she went to bed again, and tried to go to sleep. But she could not. She was thinking of Mary Erskine, and endeavoring to form some plan for her future life. She could not, however, determine what it was best for her to do.
In the morning, after breakfast, she sat down at the window, with her knitting work in her hand, looking very thoughtful and sad. Presently she laid her work down in her lap, and seemed lost in some melancholy reverie.
Mary Bell, who had been playing about the floor for some time, came up to her mother, and seeing her look so thoughtful and sorrowful, she said,
Mother, what is the matter with you ?”
Why, Mary,” said Mrs. Bell, in a melancholy tone, “I was thinking of poor Mary Erskine.”
“Well, mother," said Mary Bell, “could not