Excerpt from What Katy Did, by Susan Coolidge. I loved this book as a kid, and it's now on Elayna's shelf, but she hasn't read it yet.
....Katy’s face had grown thin, and her eyes had red circles about them from continual crying. Her hair had been brushed twice that morning by Aunt Izzie, but Katy had run her fingers impatiently through it, till it stood out above her head like a frowsy bush.
She wore a calico dressing-gown, which, though clean, was particularly ugly in pattern; and the room, for all its tidiness, had a dismal look, with the chairs set up against the wall, and a row of medicine-bottles on the chimney-piece.
“Isn’t it horrid?” sighed Katy, as Cousin Helen looked around. “Everything’s horrid. But I don’t mind so much now that you’ve come. Oh, Cousin Helen, I’ve had such a dreadful, dreadful time!”
“I know,” said her cousin, pityingly. “I’ve heard all about it, Katy, and I’m so. very sorry for you. It is a hard trial, my poor darling.”
“But how do you do it?” cried Katy. “How do you manage to be so sweet and beautiful and patient, when you’re feeling badly all the time, and can’t do anything, or walk, or stand?”—her voice was lost in sobs.
Cousin Helen didn’t say anything for a little while. She just sat and stroked Katy’s hand.
“Katy,” she said at last, “has papa told you that he thinks you are going to get well by and by?”
“Yes,” replied Katy, “he did say so. But perhaps it won’t be for a long, long time. And I wanted to do so many things. And now I can’t do anything at all “
“What sort of things?”
“Study, and help people, and become famous. And I wanted to teach the children. Mamma said I must take care of them, and I meant to. And now I can't go to school or learn anything myself. And if I ever do get well, the children will be almost grown up, and they won’t need me.”
“But why must you wait till you get well?” asked Cousin Helen, smiling.
“Why, Cousin Helen, what can I do lying here in bed?”
"A good deal. Shall I tell you, Katy, what it seems to me that I should say to myself if I were in your place?"
"Yes, please,” replied Katy, wonderingly.
"I should say this: ‘Now, Katy Carr, you wanted to go to school and learn to be wise and useful, and here's a chance for you. God is going to let you go to His school—where He teaches all sorts of beautiful things to people. Perhaps He will only keep you for one term or perhaps it may be for three or four; but whichever it is, you must make the very most of the chance because He gives it to you Himself.”
"But what is the school?” asked Katy. “I don’t know what you mean.”
"It is called The School of Pain,” replied Cousin Helen with her sweetest smile. “And the place where the lessons are to be learned is this room of yours. The rules of the school are pretty hard, but the good scholars who keep them best, find out after a while how right and kind they are. And the lessons aren’t easy either, but the more you study the more interesting they become.”
"What are the lessons?” asked Katy, getting interested, and beginning to feel as if Cousin Helen were telling her a story.
“Well, there’s the lesson of Patience. That's one of the hardest studies. You can’t learn much of it at a time, but every bit you get by heart, makes the next bit easier. And there’s the lesson of Cheerfulness. And the lesson of Making the Best of Things.”
“Sometimes there isn’t anything to make the best of,” remarked Katy, dolefully.
“Yes there is, always! Everything in the world has two handles. Didn’t you know that? One is a smooth handle. If you take hold of it, the thing comes up lightly and easily, but if you seize the rough handle, it hurts your hand and the thing is hard to lift. Some people always manage to get hold of the wrong handle." ...