Page images

“I am sure,

She hesitated. Her aunt's words came to mind, that this was not a good girl

, and that she must have nothing to do with her, but she had not more than half believed them, and she could not possibly bring herself now to go in and ask Miss Fortune's leave to take this walk. thought Ellen, “ she would refuse me if there was no reason in the world." . And then the delight of rambling through the beautiful country, and being for awhile in other company than that of her aunt Fortune and the old grandmother! The temptation was too great to be withstood.

“Well, what are you thinking about?" said the girl ; what's the matter ? won't you come ?" Yes,” said Ellen, “ I'm ready. Which way shall we


With the assurance from the other that she would show her plenty of ways, they set off down the lane; Ellen with a secret fear of being seen and called back, till they had gone some distance, and the house was hid from view. Then her pleasure became great. The afternoon was fair and mild, the footing pleasant, and Ellen felt like a bird out of a cage. She was ready to be delighted with every trifle; her companion could not by any means understand or enter into her bursts of pleasure at many a little thing which she of the black eyes thought not worthy of notice. She tried to bring Ellen back to higher subjects of conversation. “How long have you been here ?" she asked.

0, a good while," said Ellen, “I don't know exactly; it's a week, I believe."

“Why, do you call that a good while ?" said the other. “ Well, it seems a good while to me," said Ellen, sighing; it seems as long as four, I am sure. “Then you don't like to live here much, do you?” “I had rather be at home, of course. “How do you like your aunt Fortune ?"

“How do I like her?" said Ellen, hesitating," I think she's good-looking, and very smart.

“ Yes, you needn't tell me she's smart,-every body knows that; that ain't what I ask you ;-how do you like her ?"

“ How do I like her ?” said Ellen, again; “how can I

[ocr errors]


I tell you.”.

[ocr errors]

tell how I shall like her? I haven't lived with her but a week yet."

“ You might just as well ha’ spoke out," said the other, somewhat scornfully ;—“ do you think I don't know you half hate her already ? and it'll be whole hating in another week more.

When I first heard you'd come, I guessed you'd have a sweet time with her.”

Why ?" said Ellen. “O don't ask me why," said the other, impatiently, " when you know as well as I do. Every soul that speaks of you says 'poor child!' and 'I'm glad I ain't her.' You needn't try to come cunning over me. I shall be too much for

you, “I don't know what you mean,” said Ellen.

“O no, I suppose you don't," said the other, in the same tone,—“of course you don't; I suppose you don't know whether your tongue is

your own or somebody's else. You think Miss Fortune is an angel, and so do I; to be sure she is !”

Not very well pleased with this kind of talk, Ellen walked on for a while in grave silence. Her companion mean time recollected herself; when she spoke again it was with an altered tone.

“How do you like Mr. Van Brunt ?”
“I don't like him at all," said Ellen, reddening.

“ Don't you !" said the other surprised, —" why, every body likes him. What don't you like him for ?"

“I don't like him,” repeated Ellen. “ Ain't Miss Fortune queer to live in the way she does ?" “What way ?” said Ellen.

“Why, without any help,--doing all her own work, and living all alone, when she's so rich as she is."

" Is she rich ?" asked Ellen.

“ Rich! I she is! she's one of the very best farms in the country, and money enough to have a dozen help, if she wanted 'em. Van Brunt takes care of the farm, you know ?"

“ Does he?" said Ellen. “Why, yes, of course he does; didn't you know that ? what did you think he was at your house all the time for ?"


"I am sure I don't know," said Ellen. " And are those aunt Fortune's oxen that he drives?" “ To be sure they are. Well, I do think you are green,

. to have been there all this time, and not found that out. Mr. Van Brunt does just what he pleases over the whole farm though; hires what help he wants, manages every thing; and then he has his share of all that comes off it. tell you what you'd better make friends with Van Brunt, for if any body can help you when your aunt gets one of her ugly fits, it's him; she don't care to meddle with him much."

Leaving the lane, the two girls took a foot-path leading across the fields. The stranger was greatly amused here with Ellen's awkwardness in climbing fences. Where it was a possible thing, she was fain to crawl under; but once or twice that could not be done, and having with infinite difficulty mounted to the top rail, poor Ellen sat there in a most tottering condition, uncertain on which side of the fence she should tumble over, but seeing no other possible way of getting down. The more she trembled the more her companion laughed, standing aloof meanwhile, and insisting she should get down by herself. Necessity enahled her to do this at last, and each time the task became easier ; but Ellen secretly made up her mind that her new friend was not likely to prove a very good one.

As they went along, she pointed out to Ellen two or three houses in the distance, and gave her not a little gossip about the people who lived in them; but all this Ellen scarcely heard, and cared nothing at all about. She had paused by the side of a large rock standing alone by the wayside, and was looking very closely at its surface.

“ What is this curious brown stuff,” said Ellen,“growing all over the rock ?-like shrivelled aud dried-up leaves ? Isn't it curious ? part of it stands out like a leaf, and part of it sticks fast; I wonder if it grows here, or what it is.”

“O never mind,” said the other; "it always grows on the rocks everywhere; I don't know what it is, and what's inore I don't care. 'Tain't worth looking at.

Come !" Ellen followed her. But presently the path entered an open woodland, and now her delight broke forth beyond bounds.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


“O, how pleasant this is ! how lovely this is! Isn't it beautiful ?" she exclaimed.

“ Isn't what beautiful? I do think you are the queerest girl, Ellen.”

“Why, every thing,” said Ellen, not minding the latter part of the sentence; the ground is beautiful, and those tall trees, and that beautiful blue sky-only look at it."

“The ground is all covered with stones and rocks—is that what you call beautiful ? and the trees are as homely as they can be, with their great brown stems and no leaves. Come! what are you staring at ?"

Ellen's eyes were fixed on a string of dark spots which were rapidly passing overhead.

“ Hark!” said she; “do you hear that noise ? what is that? what is that ?”

“Isn't it only a flock of ducks," said the other, contemptuously ; "come! do come !"

But Ellen was rooted to the ground, and her eyes follow- . ed the airy travellers till the last one had quitted the piece of blue sky which the surrounding woods left to be seen. And scarcely were these gone when a second flight came in view, following exactly in the track of the first.

“Where are they going?" said Ellen.

“I am sure I don't know where they are going; they never told me. I know where I am going; I should like to know whether you are going along with me.”

Ellen, however, was in no hurry. The ducks had disappeared, but her eye had caught something else that charmed it.

What is this?" said Ellen. “Nothing but moss."

“ Is that moss! How beautiful ! how green and soft it is! I declare it's as soft as a carpet.”

“ As soft as a carpet !" repeated the other : “I should like to see a carpet as soft as that! you never did, I guess.

“ Indeed I have, though,” said Ellen, who was gently jumping up and down on the green moss to try its softness, with a face of great satisfaction.

“I don't believe it a bit,” said the other; "all the carpets I ever saw were as hard as a board, and harder; as soft as that, indeed!"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“ Well,” said Ellen, still jumping up and down, with bonnet off, and glowing cheek, and hair dancing about her face, "you may believe what you like; but I've seen a carpet as soft as this, and softer too; only one, though.”

6 What was it made of ?".

“ What other carpets are made of, I suppose. Come, I'll go with you now. I do think this is the loveliest place I ever did see. Are there any flowers here in the spring?"

“I don't know-yes, lots of 'em.'
“ Pretty ones ?” said Ellen.
“ You'd think so, I suppose ; I never look at 'em.”

“O, how lovely that will be !" said Ellen, clasping her hands; “how pleasant it must be to live in the country !"

“ Pleasant, indeed !" said the other ; “I think it's hateful. You'd think so, too, if you lived where I do. It makes me mad at granny every day because she won't


to Thirlwall. Wait till we get out of the wood, and I'll show you where I live. You can't see it from here."

Shocked a little at her companion's language, Ellen again walked on in sober silence. Gradually the ground became more broken, sinking rapidly from the side of the path, and rising again in a steep bank on the other side of a narrow dell; both sides were thickly wooded, but stripped of green, now, except where here and there a hemlock flung its graceful branches abroad and stood in lonely beauty among its leafless companions. Now the gurgling of waters was heard.

“ Where is that ?" said Ellen, stopping short. “'Way down, down, at the bottom there. It's the brook."

“What brook ? Not the same that goes by aunt Fortune's ?" “ Yes, it's the very same. It's the crookedest thing you

It runs over there," said the speaker, pointing with her arm," and then it takes a turn and goes that way, and then it comes round so, and then it shoots off in that way again and passes by your house ; and after that the deer knows where it goes, for I don't. But I don't suppose it could run straight if it was to try to."

“ Can't we get down to it?" asked Ellen.

“ To be sure we can, unless you're as afraid of steep banks as you are of fences.”

Very steep indeed it was, and strewn with loose stones ;


ever saw.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »