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and saw how she had alarmed poor blind Alice: but spoken words cannot be recalled.
The poor blind girl, who loved her mother, not only because she was her mother, but because she was the only precious thing she had in the whole world to love, turned her sightless eyes quickly on the speaker, and as quickly tears gushed from them. “My mother ill !-pale !— lame !” she sobbed : “ how can it be? her voice is not feebler than it was ! I cannot feel paleness; and when I pass my hand over her dear face, it seems to me the same as ever. I can hear the halt when she walks, but I do not think it increases. Oh, ladies-Mary Browne-do tell me the truth; is my dear mother so changed ?"
“ Alice,” said Miss Eltham, “ I am very sorry that these thoughtless words, spoken by my heedless sister, should cause you so much emotion. We have been away for six months, and I really think that little Chatterbox has forgotten how your mother looked when we saw her last. I do not perceive any change, except that she may be a little paler; but I only wish, Alice, you could see how bright and animated the good dame is looking at this moment, and how anxious to find out what we are talking about: do not let her observe your tears, Alice; for she never could bear to see you in trouble.” The poor blind girl wiped her eyes, and kissed Miss Eltham's hand; and Dame Burden bustled about to get them some fruit and goat's milk: while little Chatterbox, eager to repair the evil she had done, crept to the side of poor Alice.
“My sister is right,” she said ; “ I dare say I did forget how she looked when we went away, which you must remember is six months ago: and I am sure I did not mean to give you pain : will you forgive me ?"
“Oh yes, Miss, to be sure I will,” she replied: “but I am sure what you said is true. Hush !” and she listened for her mother's step. “Yes, she certainly presses more heavily upon that foot than she used. She is more lame, and yet I did not find it out before : she should have seen the doctor if I had.”
“ Indeed, Alice, you are mistaken,” said Fanny; "she is as active and kind as possible.”
“ Yes,” observed the poor girl, in her soft low voice, “I well know she is kind, Miss — oh, so kind! I could not tell you all her acts of love and tenderness if I were to talk a whole summer day. She may not look so to you, Miss, but to me she seems bright as an angel.”
Fanny could hardly forbear smiling at the idea that the brown, shrivelled woman, dressed in black stuff and a mob cap, was “ bright as an angel ;” but she had the prudence not to wound poor Alice a second time; and Mary Browne grieved to see the anxious expression that disturbed the ordinary calmness of Alice's face, and how she listened for every tone of her mother's voice and every step she made: at last, while the children were otherwise engaged, she drew close to her side. “Alice,” she said, “ do not distress yourself because of Miss Fanny's words; they were spoken, as she too often speaks, foolishly; and I assure you there is no cause for your anxiety."
“Mary,” she answered, “I have often found that children's words are the words of truth, and I am convinced my mother is ill; but it cannot be that she will not live long ; – surely God would not take her from me!”.
Mary reasoned with her, and endeavoured to assure her that Fanny had spoken merely from the desire of talking ; but she found that poor Alice, naturally nervous, and always dreading lest anything should happen to her mother, was not to be convinced. The foolish words, spoken at random, had done what foolish words often do — very great mischief. A strong-minded person would not have suffered as Alice did ; but you must remember, she could not see her mother, and she knew, by experience, that the dame, when indisposed, always endeavoured to conceal it from her beloved and only child.
The young party quitted the cottage dispirited and annoyed; for they left the poor blind girl endeavouring to restrain her tears. Chatterbox was sorely grieved at first, and listened for some time attentively to her eldest sister's advice, who pointed out to her the evil of speaking at random. “ I cannot tell you,” she said, “how frequently you hurt people's feelings by your inconsiderate words. Papa was going to give the coachman warning the other day, in consequence of something you misunderstood and talked about: and poor Jane Conway told me, that though her present employer is quite convinced of her honesty, she never can forget that she was once considered a thief, from your misrepresentation.”
“ I am sure, sister," answered Fanny, “I never intended it; and I explained all about it to Jane, and to her mistress. I did not think she would ever feel it again, after all I cried, and she knew I did not intend it."
“ Tears, my love, cannot wash out words ; and words, make wounds, more hastily than they can heal them. You have been told, that all those who talk a great deal, are apt to mingle
truth and falsehood together; and this must be especially the case with you, who cannot understand all you hear, or all you see.”
“ I do my best, I'm sure,” sobbed poor Fanny: “ I do my very best. Papa said, the other day, I was like a note of interrogation.”
“ Not quite,” observed Sophy, “ for that waits for an answer."
“It is the old story over and over again about me," continued Fanny, pettishly; " and you tell me the same thing over and over again."
“ When you conquer that love of chattering, my own dear Fanny,” observed her sister, “ we shall find it difficult to discover a fault in one we love so dearly.”.
The young folk frequently paused on their homeward walk : the fresh air, the variety and beauty of the trees, the singing of the birds, and the clouds, tinged by the beams of the setting sun into every variety of rose and saffron colour, delighted them much; and they all agreed in thinking the country far more charming than the town. By degrees the blind girl and her mother were forgotten by all except Mary Browne. Harry kept blowing the “puffs," as he called them, off the dandelion heads, to ascertain what o'clock it was : Miss Eltham gathered wild flowers, and told their botanical names and properties to her sisters, thus rendering the walk as profitable as it was pleasing. Fanny had remained tolerably silent (for her) for some time, until she saw a dog run in among some sheep that were grazing in a field near the common, and after setting them all scampering, run out again, barking and wagging his tail as if he had performed a brave and gallant action ; and
she then began to talk about sheep and shepherds, and their dogs, exaggerating as she talked on, until, at last, forgetting the advice she had received, she burst into her usual torrent of words, some with meaning, and some without ;-now uttering one extravagance and then another.
“What is that you say, Chatter, about a rabbit a yard in length, and a stone in weight?" inquired little Harry, who was three years younger than Fanny.
“ Indeed, Harry, Charles Jeffry said in the square, one day, that he had a rabbit that was a yard long, and weighed a stone."
“ Did he, Mary?” inquired Harry, who had learned to distrust what his sister said ; and the worst of it was she did not feel the degradation of being doubted.
“I did not hear him say that, Master Harry,” replied Mary. “ There!” said the boy. “What did he say?"
“He said what I say,” persisted Fanny, “a rabbit-a white rabbit—with lop ears, pink eyes, and a roman nose; he did, indeed, but all rabbits have roman noses; and it was a yard long, and weighed a stone.”
“No, Miss Fanny, I beg your pardon; he said it was so large that, if it had lived, he thought it might have grown to be a yard long, and a stone in weight.” said Mary.
“Oh, oh!" laughed Harry.
“Fanny, Fanny !” exclaimed Miss Eltham, in a reproving voice.
“Well, it is pretty much the same thing, is it not ?" replied the exaggerating little girl ; “for you see- ".
“Stop, my dear,” said her sister, “I must insist upon your attending to me. If I said my sister Fanny is as