Chapter Thirteenth.
 
    "Affliction is the wholesome soil of virtue;
     Where patience, honor, sweet humanity,
     Calm fortitude, take root, and strongly flourish."
                        --MALLET AND THOMSON'S ALFRED.

A bath, a nap, and a dainty supper had refreshed Molly somewhat before the children were admitted to her room, but they found her looking pale and thin, and oh, so sorrowful! so different from the bright, merry, happy "Cousin Molly" of six months ago.

Their little hearts swelled with sympathetic grief, and tears filled their eyes as one after another they took her hand and kissed her lovingly.

"Poor child, I so solly for oo!" said Herbert, and Molly laughed hysterically, then put her hands over her face, and sobbed as though her heart would break. First, it was the oddity of being called "child" by such a mere baby, then the thought that she had become an object of pity to such an one.

"Don' ky," he said, pulling away her hand to kiss her cheek. "Herbie didn't mean to make oo ky."

"Come, Herbie dear, let us go now; we mustn't tease poor sick cousin," whispered his sister Elsie, drawing him gently away.

"No, no! let him stay; let him love me," sobbed Molly. "He is a dear little fellow," she added, returning his caresses, and wiping away her tears.

"Herbie will love oo, poor old sing," he said, stroking her face, "and mamma and papa, and all de folks will be ever so dood to oo."

Molly's laugh was more natural this time, and under its inspiring influence, the little ones grew quite merry, really amusing her with their prattle, till their mammy came to take them to bed.

Elsie was beginning to say good-night too, thinking there was danger of wearying the invalid, but Molly said, "I don't wonder you want to leave me; mother says nobody could like to stay with such a----" she broke off suddenly, again hid her face in her hands and wept bitterly.

"Oh, no, no! I was only afraid of tiring you," Elsie said, leaning over her and stroking her hair with soft, gentle touch. "I should like to stay and talk if you wish; to tell you all about our visit to the Crags, and mamma's old governess, and----"

"Oh, yes, do; anything to help me to forget, even for a few minutes. Oh, I wish I was dead! I wish I was dead! I can't bear to live and be a cripple!"

"Dear Molly, don't cry, don't feel so dreadfully about it!" Elsie said, weeping with her. "Jesus will help you to bear it; he loves you, and is sorrier for you than anybody else is; and he won't let you be sick or in pain in heaven."

"No, he doesn't love me! I'm not good enough; and if he did, he wouldn't have let me get such a dreadful fall."

Little Elsie was perplexed for the moment, and knew not what to answer.

"Couldn't he have kept me from falling?" demanded Molly, almost fiercely.

"Yes, he can do everything."

"Then I hate him for letting me fall!"

Elsie was inexpressibly shocked. "Oh, Molly!" in an awed, frightened tone, was all that she could say.

"I'm awfully wicked, I know I am; but I can't help it. Why did he let me fall? I couldn't bear to let a dog be so dreadfully hurt, if I could help it!"

"Molly, the Bible says 'God is love.' And in another place, 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' 'God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' He must have loved you, Molly, when he died that dreadful death to save you."

"Not me."

"Yes, if you will believe. 'Whosoever believeth.'"

"It was just for everybody in a lump," said Molly, sighing wearily. "Not for you or me, or anybody in particular; at least not anybody that's living now; because we weren't made then; so how could he?"

"But mamma says he knew he was going to make us, just the same as he does now; and that he thought of each one, and loved and died for each one just as much as if there was only one."

"Well, it's queer if he loved me so well as that, and yet would let me fall and be so awfully injured. What's this? You didn't have it before you came North," taking hold of the gold chain about Elsie's neck.

Out came the little watch and Elsie told about the aching tooth and the trip to New York to have it extracted.

"Seems to me," was Molly's comment, "you have all the good things: such a nice mother and everything else. Such a good father too, and mine was killed when I was a little bit of a thing; and mother's so cross.

"But Dick's good to me; dear old Dick," she added, looking up at him with glistening eyes as he came in and going up to her couch, asked how she was.

"You'd better go to sleep now," he said. "You've been talking quite awhile, haven't you?"

At that Elsie slipped quietly away and went in search of her mother.

She found her alone on the veranda looking out meditatively upon the restless moonlit waters of the sea.

"Mamma," said the child softly, "I should like a stroll on the beach with you. Can we go alone? I want to talk with you about something."

"Come then, daughter," and hand in hand they sought the beach, only a few yards distant.

It was a clear still night, the moon nearly at the full, and the cool salt breeze from the silver-tipped waves was exceedingly refreshing after the heat of the day; which had been one of the hottest of the season.

For a while they paced to and fro in silence; then little Elsie gave her mother the substance of her conversation with Molly in which the latter expressed her disbelief in God's love for her because he had not prevented her fall. "Mamma," she said in conclusion, "how I wished you were there to make her understand."

"Poor child!" said the mother, in low, moved tones, "only he who permitted this sore trial can convince her that it was sent in love."

"But you will talk to her, mamma?"

"Yes, when a suitable opportunity offers; but prayer can do more for her than any words of ours, addressed to her."

The presence of Molly and her mother proved a serious drawback to the enjoyment of our party during the remainder of their sojourn at the seashore. The burden fell heaviest upon Elsie and her children, as the principal entertainers, and the mother had often to counsel patience and forbearance, and to remind her darlings of their promise to be ready to do all they could for the comfort and happiness of the sufferer.

All made praiseworthy efforts to fulfil their engagement, and Elsie and Vi, particularly the former, as nearest to Molly in age, and therefore most desired by her as a companion, gave up many a pleasure excursion for her sake, staying at home to talk with and amuse her when all the rest were out driving or boating.