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MY AWKWARD COUSIN.
TIIE POULTRY YARD.
I was twelve years old when my parents were obliged to make a journey to Berry. They were to be occupied with important business, and could not take me with them, as they knew no one where they were going, and my mother had never left me for a single day to the care of a nurse.
After some hesitation, it was decided that I should stay, during their absence, with my father's aunt, who lived in a little village near Paris. I felt very sad at the idea, not only because I had never parted from my father and mother before, but I knew very little of my greataunt, and my great-cousin. Both, however, came to see us now and then, but
they were so different from the fashionable company received at my father's, that more than once, in my childish pride, I felt ashamed to call them aunt and cousin before other visiters.
My aunt was a sprightly little woman, though full sixty years of age. She was fond of laughing and making a good joke, and never felt ashamed of walking on our parlour carpet with her great iron-shod shoes. Every time she came, she brought me fresh eggs from her poultry yard, and fruits from her garden, and loaded me with kindnesses, without being able to obtain my affection in return, for I still thought her dress and her manners so plain and very, very old-fashioned, that I could hardly bring myself to look upon her as really our relation.
My cousin was no better off in my good graces. Extremely tall and thin, his eyes hid by green spectacles bound with green, wearing on his bald head a large brimmed hat, his tall body wrapped in a coat of claret colour, great iron-heeled shoes on his feet, and his hand armed with a huge knotty club, instead of a genteel walking-stick; all this produced
so disagreeable an effect on me, that I would willingly have run away every time I heard his voice in the next room. But I dared not show my dislike of him and my aunt, for my father, as well as my mother, loved them very much.
However, when the question arose as to leaving me with them during the absence of my parents, which would be six weeks at least,) I could scarcely contain myself. I acknowledged to my mother that I could not bear either of them.
“Put me in a boarding-school, put me in a convent, anywhere you please, but not with my aunt,” said I, weeping bitterly.
My mother wished to know why I felt so strong an aversion to going there, but I had no good reason to give her, and dared not say that I did not think they were proper persons to take charge of a young girl like myself, because neither of them were fashionable, nor had the manners of the
gay world. No, my daughter,” replied my mother, “you shall neither go to a boarding-school, nor to a convent. These places do not suit your father. He has
better' reasons why you should not go there than you have why you should not go to our good aunt's. I advise you to submit with a good grace, for it is all settled.”
My sobs redoubled.
“ Six weeks will soon be passed,” tenderly added my mother; "and, as I know the kindness of your heart, I hope our aunt will never regret that she has consented to take charge of you from her friendship to us.
A little girl of your age is a great charge to so old a person. I do not doubt your aunt will find something to divert and please you, if you indulge in no bad humour, which will only trouble her. If you take all in good part, you will have at least the satisfaction of pleasing her, and that is something for my Caroline's comfort, I am
I did not venture an answer, and much of the ensuing night passed in tears.
The next day my father said to me:
“ Your reddened eyes show how unreasonable you are, Caroline. At first I thought it was the sorrow of leaving us that caused so many tears, but I believe
now, that it is the idea of going to our good aunt's that distresses you so much. Is it not, my daughter ?”
I hung down my head ashamed.
“ After passing a week with her,” continued my father, “you will thank me for asking her to receive you; as for a convent or boarding-school, I am prised you should have thought of it, for you know well that I think a public education is not suited for young girls when their parents can educate them. Your mother and I have consecrated ourselves to that care, and you have been accustomed, at an early age, not to have companions around you, but to be contented with being alone.
Would it be well for all three of us to lose in six weeks the work of twelve years ?”
My father was right this time, as he always was. So keeping back my tears, ready to gush forth again, I submissively said, “I will go to my aunt's, father, and try to like it."
He kissed me and praised me for my obedience, assuring me that I never need be dissatisfied a single day at my aunt's