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ILLUSTRATIONS

“Now, MOTHER, DO YOU LIKE JULIA CAREY ?” (p. 36)

Frontispiece

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PETER CROUCHED ON THE HEARTH AND LIGHTED THE FIRE 264

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MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKENS

I

MOTHER CAREY HERSELF

“By and by there came along a flock of petrels, who are Mother Carey's own chickens. . . . They flitted along like a flock of swallows, hopping and skipping from wave to wave, lifting their little feet behind them so daintily that Tom fell in love with them at once.”

Nancy stopped reading and laid down the copy of “Water Babies” on the sitting-room table. “No more just now, Peter-bird,” she said; “I hear mother coming.'

It was a cold, dreary day in late October, with an east wind and a chill of early winter in the air. The cab stood in front of Captain Carey's house, with a trunk beside the driver and a general air of expectancy on the part of neighbors at the opposite windows.

Mrs. Carey came down the front stairway followed by Gilbert and Kathleen; Gilbert with his mother's small bag and travelling cloak, Kathleen with her umbrella; while little Peter flew to

the foot of the stairs with a small box of sandwiches pressed to his bosom.

Mrs. Carey did not wear her usual look of sweet serenity, but nothing could wholly mar the gracious dignity of her face and presence. As she came down the stairs with her quick, firm tread, her flock following her, she looked the ideal mother. Her fine height, her splendid carriage, her deep chest, her bright eye and fresh color all bespoke the happy, contented, active woman, though something in the way of transient anxiety lurked in the eyes and lips.

“The carriage is too early,” she said; “let us come into the sitting room for five minutes. I have said my good-byes and kissed you all a dozen times, but I shall never be done until I am out of your sight.”

“O mother, mother, how can we let you go!" wailed Kathleen.

“Kitty! how can you!” exclaimed Nancy. “What does it matter about us when mother has the long journey and father is so ill?”

“It will not be for very long, - it can't be," said Mrs. Carey wistfully. “The telegram only said 'symptoms of typhoid’; but these low fevers sometimes last a good while and are very weakening, so I may not be able to bring father back for two or three weeks; I ought to be in Fortress Monroe day after to-morrow; you must take turns in writing to me, children!”

“Every single day, mother!”
“Every single thing that happens.”

“A fat letter every morning,” they promised in chorus.

“If there is any real trouble remember to telegraph your Uncle Allan did you write down his address, 11 Broad Street, New York? Don't bother him about little things, for he is not well,

you know.”

وو

Gilbert displayed a note-book filled with me. moranda and addresses.

“And in any small difficulty send for Cousin Ann,” Mrs. Carey went on.

“The mere thought of her coming will make me toe the mark, I can tell you that!” was Gilbert's rejoinder.

“Better than any ogre or bug-a-boo, Cousin Ann is, even for Peter!” said Nancy.

“And will my Peter-bird be good and make Nancy no trouble?” said his mother, lifting him to her lap for one last hug.

“I'll be an angel boy pretty near all the time,' he asserted between mouthfuls of apple, “or most pretty near,” he added prudently, as if unwilling to promise anything superhuman in the way of behavior. As a matter of fact it required only

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