Two Little Pilgrims' Progress
Two Little Pilgrims' Progress
"AUNT MATILDA," SHE SAID, SUDDENLY.
"Well," said Aunt Matilda, looking her over sharply, "they've been complaining about the work being too much for them, lately. You go in there this morning and see what you can do. You shall have a dollar a week if you're worth it. You're right about its being time that you should begin earning something."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Meg, and she turned round and walked away in the direction of the dairy, with two deep red spots on her cheeks and her heart thumping again-though this time it thumped quickly.
She reached the scene of action in the midst of a rush of work, and after their first rather exasperated surprise at so immature and inexperienced a creature being supposed to be able to help them, the women found plenty for her to do. She said so few words and looked so little afraid that she made a sort of impression on them.
"See," she said to the head woman, "Aunt Matilda didn't send me to do things that need teaching. Just tell me the little things, it does not matter what, and I'll do them. I can."
How she worked that morning-how she ran on errands-how she carried this and that-how she washed and scrubbed milk-pans-and how all her tasks were menial and apparently trivial, though entirely necessary, and how the activity and rapidity and unceasingness of them tried her unaccustomed young body, and finally made her limbs ache and her back feel as if it might break at some unexpected moment, Meg never forgot. But such was the desperation of her indomitable little spirit and the unconquerable will she had been born with, that when it was over she was no more in the mood for giving up than she had been when she walked in among the workers after her interview with Aunt Matilda.
When dinner-time came she walked up to Mrs. Macartney, the manager of the dairy work, and asked her a question.
"Have I helped you?" she said.
"Yes, you have," said the woman, who was by no means an ill-natured creature for a hard-driven woman. "You've done first-rate."
"Will you tell Aunt Matilda that?" said Meg.
"Yes," was the answer.
Meg was standing with her hands clasped tightly behind her back, and she looked at Mrs. Macartney very straight and hard from under her black brows.
"Mrs. Macartney," she said, "if I'm worth it, Aunt Matilda will give me a dollar a week; and it's time I began to work for my living. Am I worth that much?"
"Yes, you are," said Mrs. Macartney, "if you go on as you've begun."
"I shall go on as I've begun," said Meg. "Thank you, ma'am," and she walked back to the house.
After dinner she waited to speak to Aunt Matilda again.
"I went to the dairy," she said.
"I know you did," Aunt Matilda answered. "Mrs. Macartney told me about it. You can go on. I'll give you the dollar a week."
She looked the child over again, as she had done in the morning, but with a shade of expression which might have meant a touch of added interest. Perhaps her mind paused just long enough to bring back to her the time when she had been a worker at twelve years old, and also had belonged to no one.
"She'll make her living," she said, as she watched Meg out of the room. "She's more like me than she is like her father. Robert wasn't worthless, but he had no push."
Having made quite sure that she was not wanted in the dairy for the time being, Meg made her way to the barn. She was glad to find it empty, so that she could climb the ladder without waiting. When she reached the top and clambered over the straw the scent of it seemed delightful to her. It was like