Two Kinds of Service by Unknown

[Illustration: <i> Yes, father, your dinner is ready</i>.]

"Have you put up my dinner, Maude?"

John Melvin asked the question almost timidly. His daughter's face was clouded, her lips were compressed, and she was making a great deal of unnecessary noise as she moved about the kitchen. She did not reply at once, and when she spoke it was in no pleasant voice.

"Yes, father, your dinner is ready. Now I must put up the children's dinners, and there is the ironing to do, and I must do some cooking also. This will be a busy day with me, but all my days seem to be busy. Perhaps I do not understand how to keep ahead of the work. I have no time for recreation; there seems to be nothing in life for me but drudgery."

Mr. Melvin sighed heavily.

"I am sorry, Maude. If last season's crops had not failed, I should have hired some stout woman to do the heavy work. It is too much for you, a girl of nineteen, to have all these cares; but what can I do?"

"You can do nothing, father, and no one is to blame. I expect to be a drudge. Amy," raising her voice, "where are you? Go and pick up the breakfast dishes, and be quick about it. It isn't time to get ready for school. Fred, what are you doing? Haven't I told you not to whistle in the kitchen? Oh, dear! one needs more patience than any mortal ever had!"

"I am sorry, Maude," said Mr. Melvin, again. "It was a sad day for us all when your mother died."

And then the discouraged man, old and worn before his time, took his dinner-pail and started for the distant wood-lot.

Maude continued to move rapidly about the kitchen and pantry, doing the morning's work and scolding the children in a shrill voice.

"What's the use of being so cross, Maude?" asked Amy, a bright-eyed girl of twelve. "I can't see that it does any good."

"I can't be so easy as you are, Amy. I wish things didn't fret me, but they do. And you have an easy time, while I have to work like a slave."

"I'm sure I help you all I can, Maude. I don't suppose you want me to stay out of school to work."

"You know I don't. You won't have time to do any more this morning. Now, Fred, I told you to study hard to-day and not fail in your lessons."

"All right sis," rejoined Fred carelessly.

"Fred, how many times have I told you not to call me 'Sis?' I am tired beyond endurance. I don't want to hear another word from you this morning, sir," she added as she saw the boy was about to speak.

As the children left the house, Fred looked significantly at his sister.

"Wasn't Maude cross this morning? How she did bang things!"

Amy puckered up her brow.

"I can't understand it, Fred. Maude is always scolding."

"Yes, and she belongs to the church. I'm glad I'm not a Christian, if she's one."

"Oh, hush, Fred! Christian people are happier than we are."

"Humph! Maude professes to be a Christian, but she can't be happy. Seems to me she's the unhappiest person I know. Papa doesn't belong to the church, but he isn't always scolding."

"Well, I can't understand it," sighed Amy. "But, Fred, you know mama was a Christian."

"She was a real Christian, too," said Fred soberly. "But I guess it's hard work to be the real thing. Maude must be a make-believe one," he added.

"Oh, hush, Fred! I don't like to hear you say such things."

Left alone, Maude's hands were busy. At dinner time she ate a lunch, and at two o'clock was through her work.

"Everything's in order," she thought, as she looked about the neat kitchen. "And I'm not going to touch a bit of sewing this afternoon. I'll go into the sitting-room and rest until it's time to think about supper."


THE DREAM

In the pleasant little sitting-room Maude sat down in an easy rocker at the front window and looked out over the snow-covered fields. Presently she saw the bent form of a little old lady in a black coat and red hood coming up the path.

"Aunt Sarah Easler," she said to herself, "and coming here, too."

The old lady came in without knocking and Maude rose to meet her. Aunt Sarah seemed much agitated. She took both of the girl's hands in hers, tears streaming from her eyes.

"What is it, Aunt Sarah?" cried Maude. "Has anything happened?"

"My poor child! My poor child! May God help you!"

Maude felt herself growing faint, but she resolutely banished the feeling.

"What has happened?" she asked, in a voice so calm that it astonished herself. "The children?"

"The children are all right, my dear. It is your father."

"My father! What of him? Is he hurt?"

[Illustration: "<i>Tired father? Supper's all ready</i>."]

The old lady bowed her head and replied in a broken voice: "Badly hurt, my dear."

Maude grasped Aunt Sarah's arm.

"Your face tells me that it is even worse than that," she said, calmly. "Is he dead?"

"My poor child!"

"You need say no more. I know he is."

[Illustration: <i>"What is it, Aunt Sarah?"</i>]

Even as Maude spoke, she looked out of the window and saw four men bearing her father's form on a stretcher. She did not faint or cry out, but in a moment her mind went back over the three years that had passed since her mother's death, and she saw wherein she had failed as a daughter and sister.

Tears came to her relief, and as they gushed down over her cheeks she awoke with a start. She looked out of the window. Oh, thank God! no men were in sight, bearing her father's form on a stretcher.

"It was a dream," she murmured. "Heavenly Father, I thank thee!" And she formed a few resolutions and lifted up her heart in prayer for help.

"How terribly I have erred and wandered from the way," she said aloud. "This dream has opened my eyes, and I see what I have been doing. What must have papa thought of me? No wonder that he is not a Christian. I have wondered, too, that the children have been so indifferent to religious teaching, but the influence of my life has spoiled everything. But, thank God! the present is mine, my dear ones are spared to me, and henceforth I will strive to have my life count for Christ."

When the children came that night they looked in wonder at their sister. There was a smile on her face, and her voice was gentle when she spoke to them. The tea-table was neatly spread and Fred saw his favorite hot rolls. Presently Mr. Melvin came in, somewhat timidly, expecting as usual to hear complaints and impatient exclamations from Maude. Instead, she greeted him pleasantly.

"Tired, father? Supper's ready. I've made some of the toast you like and opened a can of peaches.

"I suppose you are very tired, Maude," said Mr. Melvin, looking wonderingly at his daughter.

"I'm a little tired, father, but I'm thankful for the privilege of getting tired. I have a comfortable home, and we are all in good health. You see, father, I am beginning to count my blessings. I have been a fault-finding, ungrateful girl, and have made you all unhappy; but I hope to make some amends for the past."

"God bless you, my daughter!" said John Melvin, huskily.