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neither was any cookery so enti ely satisfactory as Miss Fortune's fried pork and potatoes. - Yet her tea-spoon was not silver ; her knife could not boast of being either sharp or bright; and her fork was certainly made for any thing else in the world but comfort and convenience, being of only two prongs, and those so far apart that Ellen had no small difficulty to carry the potato safely from her plate to her mouth. It mattered nothing; she was now looking on the bright side of things, and all this only made her breakfast taste the sweeter.
Ellen rose from the table when she had finished, and stood a few minutes thoughtfully by the fire.
“ Aunt Fortune," she said at length timidly,“ if you've no objection, I should like to go and take a good look all about.??
“O yes,” said Miss Fortune, “ go where you like ; I'll give you a week to do what you please with yourself.”
“Thank you, ma'am,” said Ellen, as she ran off for her bonnet; "a week's a long time. I suppose,” thought she, t
å “I shall go to school at the end of that."
Returning quickly with her white bonnet, Ellen opened the heavy kitchen door by which she had entered last night, and went out. She found herself in a kind of long shed. It
a had very rough walls and floor, and overhead showed the brown beams and rafters; two little windows and a door were on the side. All manner of rubbish lay there, especially at the farther end. There was scattered about and piled up various boxes, boards, farming and garden tools, old pieces of rope and sheepskin, old iron, a cheese-press, and what not. Ellen did not stay long to look, but went out to find something pleasanter. A few yards from the shed door was the little gate through which she had stumbled in the dark, and outside of that Ellen stood still a while. It was a fair, pleasant day, and the country scene she looked upon was very pretty. Ellen thought so. Before her, at a little distance, rose the great gable end of the barn, and a long row of outhouses stretched away from it towards the left. The ground was strewn thick with chips; and the reason was not hard to find, for a little way off, under an old stunted apple-tree, lay a huge log, well chipped on the upper surface, with the axe rest. ing against it; and close by were some sticks of wood both
chopped and unchopped. To the right the ground descended gently to a beautiful plane meadow, skirted on the hither side by a row of fine apple-trees. The smooth green flat tempted Ellen to a run, but first she looked to the left. There was the garden, she guessed, for there was a paling fence which enclosed a pretty large piece of ground; and between the garden and the house a green slope ran down to the spout. That reminded her that she intended making a journey of discovery up the course of the long trough. No time could be better than now, and she ran down the slope.
The trough was supported at some height from the ground by little heaps of stones placed here and there along its whole course. Not far from the spout it crossed a fence. Ellen must cross it too to gain her object, and how that could be done was a great question; she resolved to try, however. But first she played awhile with the water, which had great charms for her. She dammed up the little channel with her fingers, forcing the water to flow over the side of the trough; there was something very pleasant in stopping the supply of the spout, and seeing the water trickling over where it had no business to go; and she did not heed that some of the drops took her frock in their way. She stooped her lips to the trough and drank of its sweet cur. rent,-only for fun's sake, for she was not thirsty. Finally, she set out to follow the stream up to its head. But poor Ellen had not gone more than half way towards the fence, when she all at once plunged into the mire. The green grass growing there had looked fair enough, but there was running water and black mud under the green grass, she found to her sorrow. Her shoes, her stockings, were full. What was to be done, now? The journey of discovery must be given up. She forgot to think about where the water came from, in the more pressing question, “ What will aunt Fortune say ?"—and the quick wish came that she had her mother to go to. However, she got out of the slough, and wiping her shoes as well as she could on the grass, she hastened back to the house.
The kitchen was all put in order, the hearth swept, the irons at the fire, and Miss Fortune just pinning her ironing blanket on the table, “Well,—what's the matter ?" she said, when she saw Ellen's face; but as her glance reached
the floor, her brow darkened. “Mercy on me!” she exclaimed, with slow emphasis,—“what on earth have you been about? where have you been ?"
“Well, you have made a figure of yourself! Sit down !" said her aunt, shortly, as she thrust a chair down on the hearth before the fire; “I should have thought you'd have wit enough at your age to keep out of the ditch.”
“I didn't see any ditch," said Ellen.
“No, I suppose not,” said Miss Fortune, who was energetically twitching off Ellen's shoes and stockings with her fore finger and thumb; “I suppose not ! you were staring up at the moon or stars, I suppose.
“ It all looked green and smooth,” said poor Ellen; one part just like another; and the first thing I knew I was up to my ankles.”
“What were you there at all for ?" said Miss Fortune, shortly enough.
“I couldn't see where the water came from, and I wanted to find out.”
“Well you've found out enough for one day I hope. Just look at those stockings! Ha’n't you got never a pair of coloured stockings, that you must go poking into the mud with white ones ?”
“Do you mean to say you never wore any but white ones at home?” “Yes, ma'am;
I never had
others." Miss Fortune's thoughts seemed too much for speech, from the way in which she jumped up and went off without saying any thing more. She presently came back with an old pair of grey socks, which she bade Ellen put on as soon as her feet were dry.
“How many of those white stockings have you ?" she said.
“Mamma bought me half a dozen pair of new ones just before I came away, and I had as many as that of old ones
“Well, now go up to your trunk and bring 'em all down to me-every pair of white stockings you have got. There's a pair of old slippers you can put on till your shoes are
dry,” she said, flinging them to her;—“They arn't much too big for you.”
“ They're not much too big for the socks—they're a great deal too big for me," thought Ellen. But she said nothing. She gathered all her stockings together and brought them down stairs, as her aunt had bidden her.
“Now you may run out to the barn, to Mr. Van Brunt, you'll find him there,—and tell him I want him to bring me some white maple bark, when he comes home to dinner,—white maple bark, do you hear?”
Away went Ellen, but in a few minutes came back. "I can't get in,” she said.
“ What's the matter ?”
“Those great doors are shut, and I can't open them. I knocked, but nobody came."
“ Knock at a barn door !” said Miss Fortune. “ You must go in at the little cowhouse door, at the left, and go round. He's in the lower barn-floor."
The barn stood lower than the level of the chip-yard, from which a little bridge led to the great doorway of the second floor. Passing down the range of outhouses, Ellen came to the little door her aunt had spoken of. “ But what in the world should I do if there should be cows inside there ?" said she to herself. She peeped in;—the cowhouse was perfectly empty; and cautiously, and with many a fearful glance to the right and left, lest some terrible horned ani. mal should present itself, Ellen made her way across the cowhouse, and through the barn-yard, littered thick with straw wet and dry, to the lower barn-floor. The door of this stood wide open.
Ellen looked with wonder and pleasure when she got in. It was an immense room—the sides showed nothing but hay up to the ceiling, except here and there an enormous upright post; the floor was perfectly clean, only a few locks of hay and grains of wheat scattered upon it; and a pleasant sweet smell was there, Ellen could not tell of what. But no Mr. Van Brunt. She looked about for him, she dragged her disagreeable slippers back and forth over the floor, in vain.
“Hilloa! what's wanting ?" at length cried a rough voice she remembered very well. But where was the speaker ? On every side, to every corner, her eyes turned withcut
finding him. She looked up at last. There was the round face of Mr. Van Brunt peering down at her through a large opening or trap-door, in the upper floor.
“Well !” said he,“ have you come out here to help me thrash wheat !”
Ellen told him what she had come for.
“ White maple bark,—well,”—said he, in his slow way, “I'll bring it. I wonder what's in the wind now.”
So Ellen wondered, as she slowly went back to the house; and yet more, when her aunt set her to tacking her stockings together by two and two.
“ What are you going to do with them, aunt Fortune ?" she at last ventured to say.
“You'll see,—when the time comes."
“ Mayn't I keep out one pair ?” said Ellen, who had a vague notion that by some mysterious means her stockings were to be prevented from ever looking white any more.
“No ;-just do as I tell you."
Mr. Van Brunt came at dinner-time with the white maple bark. It was thrown forthwith into a brass kettle of water which Miss Fortune had already hung over the fire. Ellen felt sure this had something to do with her stockings, but she could ask no questions, and as soon as dinner was over she went up to her room. It didn't look pleasant now. The brown wood-work and rough dingy walls had lost their gilding. The sunshine was out of it; and what was more, the sunshine was out of Ellen's heart too. She went to the window and opened it, but there was nothing to keep it open; it slid down again as soon as she let it go. Baffled and sad, she stood leaning her elbows on the window-sill, looking out on the grass-plat that lay before the door, and the little gate that opened on the lane, and the smooth meadow, and rich broken country beyond.
It was a very fair and pleasant scene in the soft sunlight of the last of October; but the charm of it was gone for El
. len; it was dreary. She looked without caring to look, or knowing what she was looking at; she felt the tears rising to her eyes; and sick of the window, turned away. Her eye fell on her trunk; her next thought was of her desk inside of it; and suddenly her heart sprang ;—“I will write to mamma!" No sooner said than done. The trunk was