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« There's no difficulty about that I hope. Nay, there may be some difficulty, but we shall get there I think in good safety after
a while. I wish we were there now, for your sake, my child.”
“Oh never mind me," said Ellen gratefully; “I am sorry for you, Miss Alice; you have the hardest time of it with that heavy load to carry; I wish I could help you.”
“ Thank you, my dear, but nobody could do that; I doubt if Captain would lie in any arms but mine."
“Let me carry the basket then,” said Ellen,~"do, Miss Alice.”
“No, my dear, it hangs very well on my arm. Take it gently; Mrs. Van Brunt's isn't very far off; we shall feel the wind less when we turn."
But the road seemed long. The storm did not increase in violence, truly there was no need of that, but the lookedfor turning was not soon found, and the gathering darkness warned them day was drawing towards a close. As they neared the bottom of the hill Alice made a pause.
“ There's a path that turns off from this and makes & shorter cut to Mrs. Van Brunt's, but it must be above here; I must have missed it, though I have been on the watch constantly."
She looked up and down. It would have been a sharp eye indeed that had detected any slight opening in the woods on either side of the path, which the driving snowstorm blended into one continuous wall of trees. They could be seen stretching darkly before and behind them; but more than that,—where they stood near together and where scattered apart,-was all confusion, through that fastfalling shower of fakes.
“Shall we go back and look for the path ?" said Ellen. . “I am afraid we shouldn't find it if we did," said Alice; we should only lose our time, and we have none to lose. I think we had better go straight forward."
“ Is it much further this way than the other path we have missed ?" “A good deal—all of half-a-mile. I am sorry ;
but courage, my child! we shall know better than to go out in snowy weather next time, -on long expeditions at least.”
They had to shout to make each other hear, so drove the
snow and wind through the trees and into their very faces and ears. They plodded on. It was plodding; the snow lay thick enough now to make their footing uneasy, and grew deeper every moment; their shoes were full; their feet and ankles were wet; and their steps began to drag heavily over the ground. Ellen clung as close to Alice's cloak as their hurried travelling would permit; sometimes one of Alice's hands was loosened for a moment to be passed round Ellen's shoulders, and a word of courage or comfort in the clear calm tone cheered her to renewed exertion. The night fell fast; it was very darkling by the time they reached the bottom of the hill, and the road did not yet allow them to turn their faces towards Mrs. Van Brunt's. A wearisome piece of the way this was, leading them from the place they wished to reach. They could not go fast either ; they were too weary and the walking too heavy. Captain had the best of it; snug and quiet he lay wrapped in Alice's cloak and fast asleep, little wotting how tired his mistress's arms were.
The path at length brought them to the long-desired turning; but it was by this time so dark that the fences on each side of the road showed but dimly. They had not spoken for a while; as they turned the corner a sigh of mingled weariness and satisfaction escaped from Ellen's lips. It reached Alice's ear.
“What's the matter, love ?" said the sweet voice. No trace of weariness was allowed to come into it.
“I am so glad we have got here at last,” said Ellen, looking up with another sigh, and removing her hand for an instant from its grasp on the cloak to Alice's arm.
“My poor child! I wish I could carry you too. Can you hold on a little longer ?"
“O yes, dear Miss Alice; I can hold on."
But Ellen's voice was not so well guarded. It was like her steps, a little unsteady. She presently spoke again. " Miss Alice
are you afraid ?” “I am afraid of your getting sick, my child, and a little afraid of it for myself;-of nothing else. What is there to be afraid of?”
“ It is very dark,” said Ellen ; "and the storm is so thick, do you
think you can find the way ?"
“I know it perfectly; it is nothing but to keep straight on; and the fences would prevent us from getting out of the road. It is hard walking I know, but we shall get there
I by and by; bear up as well as you can, dear. I am sorry I can give you no help but words. Don't
think a nice bright fire will look comfortable after all this ?”
O dear, yes!" answered Ellen, rather sadly. “Are you afraid, Ellen ?"
?? “No, Miss Alice-not much I don't like its being so dark, I can't see where I am going.”
“The darkness makes our way longer and more tedious; it will do us no other harm, love. I wish I had a hand to give you, but this great cat must have both of mine. The darkness and the light are both alike to our Father; we are in his hand; we are safe enough, dear Ellen.”
Ellen's hand left the cloak again for an instant to press Alice's arm in answer; her voice failed at the minute. Then clinging anew as close to her side as she could get they toiled patiently on. The wind had somewhat lessened of its via lence, and besides it blew not now in their faces, but against their backs, helping them on. Still the snow continued to fall very fast, and already lay thick upon the ground; every half hour increased the heaviness and painfulness of their march; arů Jarkness gathered till the very fences could no longer be seen. It was pitch dark; to hold the middle of the road was impossible; their only way was to keep along by one of the fences; and for fear of hurting themselves against some outstanding post or stone it was necessary to travel quite gently. They were indeed in no condition to travel otherwise if light had not been wanting. Slowly and patiently, with painful care groping their way, they pushed on through the snow and the thick night. Alice could feel the earnest ness of Ellen's grasp upon her clothes; and her close pressing up to her made their progress still slower and more difficult than it would otherwise have been. “ Miss Alice,"'
said Ellen. “ What, my child ?" “I wish you would speak to me once in a while.” Alice freed one of her hands and took hold of Ellen's."
“I have been so busy picking my way along, I have neg. lected you, haven't I?"
“O no, ma'am. But I like to hear the sound of your voice sometimes, it makes me feel better."
“This is an odd kind of travelling, isn't it ?” said Alice cheerfully ;—“in the dark, and feeling our way along? This will be quite an adventure to talk about, won't it ??
“Quite,” said Ellen.
“It is easier going this way, don't you find it so ? The wind helps us forward."
“ It helps me too much,” said Ellen; "I wish it wouldn't be quite so very kind. Why, Miss Alice, I have enough to do to hold myself together sometimes. It almost makes me run, though I am so very tired."
“Well, it is better than having it in our faces at any rate. Tired you are, I know, and must be. We shall want to rest all day to-morrow,
shan't we?" “Oh I don't know !” said Ellen sighing; “I shall be glad when we begin. How long do you think it will be, Miss Alice, before we get to Mrs. Van Brunt's ?"
My dear child I cannot tell you. I have not the least notion whereabouts we are. I can see no waymarks, and I cannot judge at all of the rate at which we have come.”
“But what if we should have passed it in this darkness ?" said Ellen.
“No, I don't think that,” said Alice, though a cold doubt struck her mind at Ellen's words ;-—"think we shall see the glimmer of Mrs. Van Brunt's friendly candle by and by."
But more uneasily and more keenly now she strove to see that glimmer through the darkness; strove till the darkness
3 seemed to press painfully upon her eyeballs, and she almost doubted her being able to see any light if light there were; it was all blank thick darkness still. She began to question anxiously with herself which side of the house was Mrs. Van Brunt's ordinary sitting-room ;-whether she should see the light from it before or after passing the house; and now her glance was directed often behind her, that they might be sure in any case of not missing their desired haven. În vain she looked forward or back; it was all one; no cheering glimmer of lamp or candle greeted her straining eyes. Hurriedly now from time to time the comforting words were spoken to Ellen, for to pursue the long stretch of way that led onward
any real harm.”
from Mr. Van Brunt's to Miss Fortune's would be a very serious matter; Alice wanted comfort-herself.
“Shall we get there soon, do you think, Miss Alice?" said poor Ellen, whose wearied feet carried her painfully over the deepening snow.
The tone of voice went to Alice's heart.
“I don't know, my darling, I hope so," she answered, but it was spoken rather patiently than cheerfully. "Fear nothing, dear Ellen; remember who has the care of us; darkness and light are both alike to him; nothing will do us
« How tired you must be, dear Miss Alice, carrying pussy !" Ellen said with a sigh.
For the first time Alice echoed the sigh; but almost immediately Ellen exclaimed in a totally different tone, “There's a light !—but it isn't a candle—it is moving about ; -what is it? what is it, Miss Alice ?"
They stopped and looked. A light there certainly was, dimly seen, moving at some little distance from the fence on the opposite side of the road. All of a sudden it disappeared.
" What is it ?" whispered Ellen fearfully. “I don't know, my love, yet; wait-" They waited several minutes.
“What could it be ?" said Ellen. " It was certainly & light, I saw it as plainly as ever I saw any thing ;—what can it have done with itself—there it is again !-going the other way!"
Alice waited no longer, but screamed out, “Who's there?” But the light paid no attention to her cry; it travelled on. “Halloo!” called Alice again as loud as she could.
“Halloo !" answered a rough deep voice. The light suddenly stopped.
“That's he! that's he !” exclaimed Ellen in an ecstasy and almost dancing.--"I know it,-—it's Mr. Van Brunt ! it's Mr. Van Brunt !-oh, Miss Alice !
Struggling between crying and laughing Ellen could not stand it, but gave way to a go
fit of crying Alice felt the infection, but controlled herself, though her eyes watered as her heart sent up its grateful tribute ; as well as she could she answered the halloo,