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that “that poor little thing was going wandering about like a ghost, and growing thinner and paler every day; and he didn't know what she would come to if she went on so."
Ellen longed now for a letter with unspeakable longing, but none came;
day after day brought new disappointment, each day more hard to bear. Of her only friend, Mr. Van Brunt, she saw little; he was much away in the fields during the fine weather, and when it rained Ellen herself was prisoner at home, whither he never came but at meal times. The old grandmother was very much disposed to make much of her ; but Ellen shrank, she hardly knew why, from her fond caresses, and never found herself alone with her if she could help it; for then she was regularly called to the old lady's side and obliged to go through a course of kissing, fondling, and praising, she would gladly have escaped. In her aunt's presence this was seldom attempted, and never permitted to go on. Miss Fortune was sure to pull Ellen away and bid her mother“
stop that palavering,” ing that “it made her sick.” Ellen had one faint hope that her aunt would think of sending her to school, as she employed her in nothing at home, and certainly took small delight in her company; but no hint of the kind dropped from Miss Fortune's lips; and Ellen's longing look for this as well as for a word from her mother was daily doomed to be ungratified and to grow more keen by delay.
One pleasure only remained to Ellen in the course of the day, and that one she enjoyed with the carefulness of a miser. It was seeing the cows milked, morning and evening. For this she got up very early and watched till the men came for the pails; and then away she bounded out of the house and to the barnyard. There were the milky mothers, five in number, standing about, each in her own corner of the yard or cowhouse, waiting to be relieved of their burden of milk. They were fine gentle animals, in excellent condition, and looking every way happy and comfortable; nothing liv. ing under Mr. Van Brunt's care was ever suffered to look otherwise. He was always in the barn or barnyard at milking time, and under his protection Ellen felt safe and looked on at her ease. It was a very pretty scene—at least she thought so. The gentle cows standing quietly to be milked as if they enjoyed it, and munching the cud; and the white
stream of milk foaming into the pails; then there was the interest of seeing whether Sam or Johnny would get through first; and how near Jane or Dolly would come to rivalling Streaky's fine pailful; and at last Ellen allowed Mr. Van Brunt to teach herself how to milk. She began with trembling, but learnt fast enough; and more than one pailful of milk that Miss Fortune strained had been, unknown to her, drawn by Ellen's fingers. These minutes in the farmyard were the pleasantest in Ellen's day. . While they lasted every care was forgotten and her little face was as bright as the morning; but the milking was quickly over, and the cloud gathered on Ellen's brow alınost as soon as the shadow of the house fell upon it.
“ Where is the post-office, Mr. Van Brunt ?" she asked one morning, as she stood watching the sharpening of an axe upon the grindstone. The axe was in that gentleman's hand, and its edge carefully laid to the whirling-stone, which one of the farm-boys was turning.
“Where is the post-office? Why, over to Thirlwall to be sure," replied Mr. Van Brunt, glancing up at her from his work,—“Faster, Johnny."
6 And how often do the letters come here?” said Ellen.
“ Take care, Johnny !- -some more water,-mind your business, will you l-Just as often as I go to fetch 'em, Miss Ellen, and no oftener."
“ And how often do you go, Mr. Van Brunt ?"
“Only when I've some other errand Miss Ellen ; my grain would never be in the barn if I was running to the post-office every other thing, -and for what ain't there too. I don't get a letter but two or three times a year I s'pose, though I call,—I guess,-half a dozen times."
” “Ah but there's one there now, or soon will be, I know, for me,” said Ellen. “When do you think you'll go again Mr. Van Brunt ?" “Now if I'd ha' knowed that I'd ha'
to Thirlwall yes. terday-I was within a mile of it. I don't see as I can go this week anyhow in the world; but I'll make some errand there the first day I can, Miss Ellen, that you may depend on. You sha'n't wait for your letter a bit longer than I can help.”
“O thank you, Mr. Van Brunt-you're very kind. Then the letters never come except when you go after them ?”
“No ;-yes—they do come once in a while by old Mr. Swaim, but he ha'n't been here this great while.”
“ And who's he?" said Ellen.
“O, he's a queer old chip that goes round the country on all sorts of errands; he comes along once in a while. That'll do, Johnny, I believe this here tool is as sharp as I have any occasion for.”
“What's the use of pouring water upon the grindstone ?" said Ellen; “ why wouldn't it do as well dry ?"
“I can't tell, I am sure,” replied Mr. Van Brunt, who was slowly drawing his thumb over the edge of the axe; "your questions are a good deal too sharp for me, Miss Ellen; I only know it would spoil the axe, or the grindstone, or both most likely."
“ It's very odd,” said Ellen, thoughtfully; “ I wish I knew every thing.
But, oh dear! I am not likely to know any thing,” said she, her countenance suddenly changing from its pleased inquisitive look to a cloud of disappointment and sorrow. Mr. Van Brunt noticed the change.
" Ain't your aunt going to send you to school, then ?" said he.
“I don't know," said Ellen, sighing ; "she never speaks about it, nor about any thing else. But I declare I'll make her !” she exclaimed, changing again. “I'll go right in and ask her, and then she'll have to tell me. I will! I am tired of living so. I'll know what she means to do, and then I can tell what I must do."
Mr. Van Brunt, seemingly dubious about the success of this line of conduct, stroked his chin and his axe alternately two or three times in silence, and finally walked off. Ellen, without waiting for her courage to cool, went directly into the house.
Miss Fortune, however, was not in the kitchen ; to follow her into her secret haunts, the dairy, cellar, or lower kitchen was not to be thought of. Ellen waited awhile, but her aunt did not come, and the excitement of the moment cooled down. She was not quite so ready to enter upon the business as she had felt at first; she had even some qualms about it.
“But I'll do it," said Ellen to herself; "it will be hard, but I'll do it!”
For my part, he keeps me here rustically
As You LIKE IT.
MHE next morning after breakfast Ellen found the chance
she rather dreaded than wished for. Mr. Van Brunt had gone out; the old lady had not left her room, and Miss Fortune was quietly seated by the fire, busied with some mysteries of cooking. Like a true coward, Ellen could not make up her mind to bolt at once into the thick of the matter, but thought to come to it gradually,—always a bad way.
“What is that, aunt Fortune ?" said she, after she had watched her with a beating heart for about five minutes.
" What is what ?"
“I mean, what is that you are straining through the colander into that jar ?" “Hop-water."
What is it for ?" " I'm scalding this meal with it to make turnpikes."
“ Turnpikes !" said Ellen; “I thought turnpikes were high, smooth roads with toll-gates every now and thenthat's what mamma told me they were.
“That's all the kind of turnpikes your mamma knew any thing about, I reckon," said Miss Fortune, in a tone that conveyed the notion that Mrs. Montgomery's education had been very incomplete. “And indeed," she added immedi
” ately after, “if she had made more turnpikes and paid fewer tolls, it would have been just as well, I'm thinking.'
Ellen felt the tone, if she did not thoroughly understand the words. She was silent a moment; then remembering her purpose, she began again,
“What are these then, aunt Fortune ?"
Cakes, child, cakes!-turnpike cakes—what I raise the bread with."
“ What, those little brown cakes I have seen you melt in water and mix in the flour when you make bread ?"
“Mercy on us ! yes ! you've seen hundreds of 'em since you've been here if you never saw one before.”
“I never did,” said Ellen. “But what are they called turnpikes for ??
“ The land knows !—I don't. For mercy's sake stop asking me questions, Ellen; I don't know what's got into you; you'll drive me crazy."
“But there's one more question I want to ask very much,” said Ellen, with her heart beating.
“Well, ask it then quick, and have done, and take yourself off. I have other fish to fry than to answer all your questions."
Miss Fortune, however, was still quietly seated by the fire stirring her meal and hop-water, and Ellen could not be quick; the words stuck in her throat,-came out at last.
“Aunt Fortune, I wanted to ask you if I may go to school.”
Ellen's heart sprang with a feeling of joy, a little qualified by the peculiar dry tone in which the word was uttered. “When may I go?"
I " As soon as you like.” “O thank you, ma'am. To which school shall I go
aunt Fortune ?"
“ To whichever you like.” “But I don't know any thing about them,” said Ellen; -“ how can I tell which is best ?" Miss Fortune was silent. “ What schools are there near here?" said Ellen,
“ There's Captain Conklin's down at the Cross, and Miss Emerson's at Thirlwall.”
Ellen hesitated. The name was against her, but nevertheless she concluded on the whole that the lady's school would be the pleasantest.
“Is Miss Emerson any relation of yours ?" she asked. « No."
“I think I should like to go to her school the best. I will go there if you will let me,-may I?"