"Boys," said Mrs. Howard one morning, looking up from a letter she was
reading, "I have had a letter from your grandmamma. She writes that
she is returning to England shortly."
The boys went on with their breakfast without showing any great amount
of interest in this piece of news, for they had never seen their
grandmother, and therefore could not very well be expected to show any
affection for her.
Now Mrs. Howard, the mother of two of the boys and aunt to the third
little fellow, was a widow and very poor, and often found it a hard
task to provide for her "three boys," as she called them, for, having
adopted her little orphan nephew, she always treated him as her own
son. She had sometimes thought it strange that old Mrs. Howard should
not have offered to provide for Leslie herself but she had never done
so, and at last Mrs. Howard had ceased to expect it. But now, right at
the end of her letter, Grandmamma Howard wrote:--
"I have been thinking that perhaps it would come a little hard on you
to support not only your own two boys, but poor Alice's son, and so,
on my return to England, I propose, if you are willing, to adopt one
of them, for I am a lonely old woman and shall be glad of a young face
about me again."
After thinking the matter over, Mrs. Howard decided she would say
nothing about their grandmother's intention to the boys, as she
thought that it was just possible she might change her mind again.
Time passed on, and winter set in, and full of the delights of
skating, the boys forgot all about the expected arrival of their
During the Christmas holidays the boys one morning started off to
Broome Meadow for a good day's skating on the pond there. They carried
their dinner with them, and were told to be sure and be home before
As they ran along the frosty road they came suddenly upon a poor old
woman, so suddenly that Leslie ran right up against her before he
could stop himself. The old woman grumbled about "lazy, selfish boys,
only thinking of their own pleasure, and not caring what happened to a
poor old woman!"
But Leslie stopped at once and apologized, in his polite little way,
for his carelessness.
"I _am_ sorry," he said. "I hope I did not hurt you; and you have such
heavy parcels to carry too. Won't you let me help you?"
"Oh! come on, Leslie," said his cousins; "we shall never get to the
pond at this rate!"
"Yes, go on," said the old woman sharply; "your skating is of a great
deal more importance than an old woman, eh?"
But Leslie's only answer was to take the parcels and trudge merrily
along beside his companion.
On the way to her cottage the old woman asked him all sorts of
questions about himself and his cousins, and then, having reached her
cottage, dismissed him with scarcely a "thank you" for the trouble he
had taken. But Leslie did not take it much to heart.
He raced along, trying his hardest to overtake his cousins before they
reached the pond, and was soon skimming about with the rest of them.
Squire Leaholme, in whose grounds the boys were skating, afterwards
came down to the pond to watch the fun, and, being a kind-hearted old
gentleman, offered to give a prize of a new pair of skates to the boy
who should win the greatest number of races.
As it was getting late, it was arranged that the racing should come
off on the following day, and the Squire invited all the boys who took
part in it, to come up to his house to a substantial tea, after the
fun was over.
How delighted Leslie was, for he was a first-rate skater, and he _did_
so want a new pair of skates!
But the Squire's skates were not to be won by him, for on the
following day as he and his cousins were on their way to the pond,
they came across the queer old woman whom they had met on the previous
She was sitting on the ground, and seemed to be in great pain. The
boys stopped to ask what ailed her, and she told them that she had
slipped and twisted her foot, and was afraid that her ankle was
sprained, for she could not bear to put it to the ground.
"You musn't sit here in the cold," said Leslie; "come, try and get up,
and I will help you home."
"Oh! Leslie," cried both his cousins, "don't go. You will be late for
the races, and lose your chance of the prize."
Poor Leslie! He turned first red, then white, and then said, in a
husky tone of voice--
"Never mind--you go on without me."
"You're a good laddie," said the old woman. "Will you be _very_ sorry
to miss the fun?"
Leslie muttered something about not minding _much_, and then the brave
little fellow set himself to help the poor old woman home, as gently
and tenderly as he could.
She would not let him come in with her, but told him to run off as
quickly as he could, and perhaps after all, he would not be too late
for the skating. But Leslie could not bear to leave her alone and in
pain, so he decided to run home and fetch his Aunt.
When Mrs. Howard arrived at the cottage, you can think how surprised
she was to find that Leslie's "poor old woman" was none other than
Grandmamma Howard herself, who wishing to find out the real characters
of her grandsons, had chosen to come in this disguise to the little
village where they lived.
You will easily guess which of the three boys Grandmamma chose to be
her little companion. And oh! what a lovely Grandmamma she was, as not
only Leslie, but his cousins too, found out. She always seemed to know
exactly what a boy wanted, and still better, to give it to him.
Walter and Stanley often felt terribly ashamed of the selfish manner
in which they had behaved, and wished they were more like Leslie.
But Grandmamma told them that it was "never too late to mend," and
they took her advice, and I am quite sure that at the present moment
if they were to meet a poor old woman in distress by the roadside,
they would not pass her by, as they once did Grandmamma Howard.