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The light was seen advancing towards them. Presently it glimmered faintly behind the fence, showing a bit of the dark rails covered with snow, and they could dimly see the figure of a man getting over them. He crossed the road to where they stood. It was Mr. Van Brunt.
“I am very glad to see you, Mr. Van Brunt,” said Alice's sweet voice; but it trembled a little.
That gentleman, at first dumb with astonishment, lifted his lantern to survey them, and assure his eyes that his ears had not been mistaken.
“Miss Alice !—My goodness alive!—How in the name of wonder !—And my poor little lamb !—But what on 'arth, ma'am! you must be half dead. Come this way,--just come back a little bit,—why, where were you going, ma'am ?"
“To your house, Mr. Van Brunt; I have been looking for it with no little anxiety, I assure you."
“Looking for it! Why how on 'arth! you wouldn't see the biggest house ever was built half a yard off such a plaguy night as this.”
"I thought I should see the light from the windows, Mr. Van Brunt.”
“The light from the windows! Bless my soul! the storm rattled so again the windows that mother made me pull the great shutters to. I won't have 'em shut again of a stormy night, that's a fact; you'd ha' gone far enough afore you'd ha' seen the light through them shutters."
“Then we had passed the house already, hadn't we?"
“Indeed had you, ma'am. I guess you saw my light, ha’n't you ?"
“ Yes, and glad enough we were to see it, too." “I suppose so. It happened so to-night—now that is a
queer thing-I minded that I hadn't untied my horse; he's a trick of being untied at night, and won't sleep well if he ain't; and mother wanted me to let him alone 'cause of the awful storm, but I couldn't go to my bed in
till I had seen him to his'n. So that's how my lantern came to be going to the barn in such an awk’ard night as this.”
They had reached the little gate, and Mr. Van Brunt with some difficulty pulled it open. The snow lay thick upon
the neat brick walk which Ellen had trod the first time with wet feet and dripping garments. A few steps further, and they
came to the same door that had opened then so hospitably to receive her. As the faint light of the lantern was thrown upon the old latch and door-posts, Ellen felt at home, and a sense of comfort sank down into her heart which she had not known for some time.
True is, that whilome that good poet said,
and weary travellers stepped after him into the same cheerful, comfortable-looking kitchen that had received Ellen once before. Just the same, tidy, clean swept up, a good fire, and the same old red-backed chairs standing round on the hearth in most cosy fashion. It seemed to Ellen a perfect storehouse of comfort; the very walls had a kind face for her. There were no other faces however; the chairs were all empty. Mr. Van Brunt put Alice in one and Ellen in another, and shouted, "Mother !--here!"-muttering that she had taken herself off with the light somewhere. Not very far; for in half a minute answering the call Mrs. Van Brunt and the light came hurriedly in.
“What's the matter, 'Brahm ?—who's this ?-why, 'tain't Miss Alice! My gracious me and all wet !-oh, dear, dear! poor lamb! Why, Miss Alice, dear, where have you been ?-and if that ain't my little Ellen! oh dear! what a fix you are in ;-well, darling, I'm glad to see you again aʼmost any way.”
She crossed over to kiss Ellen as she said this; but surprise was not more quickly alive than kindness and hospitality. She fell to work immediately to remove Alice's wet things, and to do whatever their joint prudence and experience might suggest to ward off any ill effects from the fatigue and exposure the wanderers had suffered ; and while she was thus employed Mr. Van Brunt busied himself with Ellen,
who was really in no condition to help herself. It was curious to see him carefully taking off Ellen's wet hood (not the blue one) and knocking it gently to get rid of the snow; evidently thinking that ladies' things must have delicate handling. He tried the cloak next, but boggled sadly at the fastening of that, and at last was fain to call in help.
Here, Nancy !-where are you ? step here and see if you can undo this here thing, whatever you
I believe my fingers are too big for it.”
It was Ellen's former acquaintance who came forward in obedience to this call. Ellen had not seen before that she was in the room. Nancy grinned a mischievous smile of recognition as she stooped to Ellen's throat and undid the fastening of the cloak, and then shortly enough bade her
get up, that she might take it off!" Ellen obeyed, but was very glad to sit down again. While Nancy went to the door to shake the cloak, Mr. Van Brunt was gently pulling off Ellen's wet gloves, and on Nancy's return he directed her to take off the shoes, which were filled with snow. Nancy sat down on the floor before Ellen to obey this order; and tired and exhausted as she was, Ellen felt the different manner in which her hands and feet were waited upon.
“ How did you get into this scrape ?" said Nancy; " this was none of my doings any how. It'll never be dry weather, Ellen, where you are. I won't put on my Sunday-go-tomeeting clothes when I go a walking with you. You had ought to ha' been a duck or a goose, or something like that.
What's that for, Mr. Van Brunt !" This last query, pretty sharply spoken, was in answer to a light touch of that gentleman's hand upon Miss Nancy's ear, which came rather as a surprise. He deigned no reply.
“You're a fine gentleman !" said Nancy, tartly.
“ Have you done what I gave you to do ?” said Mr. Van Brunt coolly.
“ Yes—there !” said Nancy, holding up Ellen's bare feet on one hand, while the fingers of the other secretly applied in ticklish fashion to the soles of them caused Ellen sud. denly to start and scream.
“Get up!” said Mr. Van Brunt; Nancy didn't think best to disobey ;-"Mother, ha'n't you got nothing you wan Nancy to do ?"
“Sally,” said Mrs. Van Brunt, “ you and Nancy go and fetch here a couple of pails of hot water, - right away.
Go, and mind what you are about," said Mr. Van Brunt; “and after that keep out of this room and don't whisper again till I give you leave. Now Miss Ellen dear, how do you feel ?"
Ellen said in words that she felt “nicely.” But the eyes and the smile said a great deal more; Ellen's heart was running over. "Oh she'll feel nicely directly, I'll be bound," said Mrs.
wait till she gets her feet soaked, and then!
“I do feel nicely now," said Ellen. And Alice smiled in answer to their inquiries, and said if she only knew her father was easy there would be nothing wanting to her happiness.
The bathing of their feet was a great refreshment, and their kind hostess had got ready a plentiful supply of hot herb tea, with which both Alice and Ellen were well dosed. While they sat sipping this, toasting their feet before the fire, Mrs. Van Brunt and the girls meanwhile preparing their room, Mr. Van Brunt suddenly entered. He was cloaked and hatted and had a riding-whip in his hand.
" “Is there any word you'd like to get home, Miss Alice ? I'm going to ride a good piece that way, and I can stop as good as not."
“To-night, Mr. Van Brunt!” exclaimed Alice in astonishment.
Mr. Van Brunt's silence seemed to say that to-night was the time and no other.
“But the storm is too bad,” urged Alice. "Pray don't go till to-morrow.
“ Pray don't, Mr. Van Brunt!” said Ellen.
“Can't help it—I've got business; must go. What shall I say, ma'am.” “I should be very glad,” said Alice, “to have my father
“ know where I am. Are you going very near the Nose ?"
“Then I shall be greatly obliged if you will be so kind as to stop and relieve my father's anxiety. But how can you go
in such weather ? and so dark as it is." “Never fear,” said Mr. Van Brunt. 66 We'll be back in