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"I don't think it's a bad way after all," said Alice; "what's the use of taking it hard, Miss Fortune ?"
"The way one goes on!" said that lady, picking away at her beans very fast and not answering Alice's question,"I'm tired of it;-toil, toil, and drive, drive,-from morning to night;-and what's the end of it all?"
"Not much," said Alice gravely, "if our toiling looks no further than this world. When we go we shall carry nothing away with us. I should think it would be very wearisome to toil only for what we cannot keep nor stay long to enjoy." "It's a pity you warn't a minister, Miss Alice," said Miss Fortune dryly.
"O no, Miss Fortune," said Alice smiling, "the family would be overstocked. My father is one and my brother will be another; a third would be too much. You must be so good as to let me preach without taking orders."
"Well, I wish every minister was as good a one as you'd make," said Miss Fortune, her hard face giving way a little; -"at any rate nobody'd mind any thing you'd say, Miss Alice."
"That would be unlucky, in one sense," said Alice; "but I believe I know what you mean. But, Miss Fortune, no one would dream the world went very hard with you. I don't know any body I think lives in more independent comfort and plenty, and has things more to her mind. I never come to the house that I am not struck with the fine look of the farm and all that belongs to it."
"Yes," said the old lady, nodding her head two or three times, "Mr. Van Brunt is a good farmer-very goodthere's no doubt about that."
"I wonder what he'd do," said Miss Fortune, quickly and sharply as before, "if there warn't a head to manage for him the farm's well enough, Miss Alice,-tain't that; every one knows where his own shoe pinches.'
"I wish you'd let me into the secret then, Miss Fortune; I'm a cobbler by profession."
Miss Fortune's ill-humor was giving way, but something disagreeable seemed again to cross her mind. Her brow darkened.
"I say it's a poor kind of world and I'm sick of it! One
may slave and slave one's life out for other people, and what thanks do you get?-I'm sick of it."
"There's a little body up-stairs, or I'm much mistaken, who will give you very sincere thanks for every kindness shown her."
Miss Fortune tossed her head, and brushing the refuse beans into her lap, she pushed back her chair with a jerk to go to the fire with them.
"Much you know about her, Miss Alice! Thanks, indeed! I haven't seen the sign of such a thing since she's been here, for all I have worked and worked and had plague Deliver me from other peoenough with her I am sure. ple's children, say I!"
"After all, Miss Fortune," said Alice soberly, "it is not what we do for people that makes them love us,—or at least every thing depends on the way things are done. A look of love, a word of kindness, goes further towards winning the heart than years of service or benefactions mountain-high without them."
"Does she say I am unkind to her?" asked Miss Fortune fiercely.
"Pardon me," said Alice, "words on her part are unnecessary; it is easy to see from your own that there is no love lost between you, and I am very sorry it is so.'
"Love, indeed!" said Miss Fortune with great indignaShe tion; "there never was any to lose I can assure you. plagues the very life out of me. Why, she hadn't been here three days before she went off with that girl Nancy Vawse that I had told her never to go near, and was gone all night; that's the time she got in the brook. And if you'd seen her face when I was scolding her about it!-it was like seven thunder clouds. Much you know about it! I dare say she's very sweet to you; that's the way she is to every body beside me—they all think she's too good to live; and it just makes me mad!"
"She told me herself," said Alice, "of her behaving ill another time, about her mother's letter."
"Yes-that was another time. I wish you'd seen her?" "I believe she saw and felt her fault in that case. Didn't she ask your pardon? she said she would."
"Yes," said Miss Fortune dryly, "after a fashion."
"Has she had her letter yet?"
"How is she to-day?"
"O she's well enough-she's sitting up. You can go up and see her."
"I will directly," said Alice. "But now, Miss Fortune, I am going to ask a favour of you,—will you do me a great pleasure?"
"Certainly, Miss Alice,-if I can."
"If you think Ellen has been sufficiently punished for her ill-behaviour-if you do not think it right to withhold her letter still,-will you let me have the pleasure of giving it to her? I should take it as a great favour to myself."
Miss Fortune made no kind of reply to this, but stalked out of the room, and in a few minutes stalked in again with the letter, which she gave to Alice, only saying shortly, "It came to me in a letter from her father."
"You are willing she should have it?" said Alice. "O yes!-do what you like with it."
Alice now went softly up stairs. She found Ellen's door a little ajar, and looking in could see Ellen seated in a rocking-chair between the door and the fire, in her double-gown, and with her hymn-book in her hand. It happened that Ellen had spent a good part of that afternoon in crying for her lost letter; and the face that she turned to the door on hearing some slight noise outside was very white and thin indeed. And though it was placid too, her eye searched the crack of the door with a keen wistfulness that went to Alice's heart. But as the door was gently pushed open, and the eye caught the figure that stood behind it, the sudden and entire change of expression took away all her powers of speech. Ellen's face became radiant; she rose from her chair, and as Alice came silently in and kneeling down to be near her took her in her arms, Ellen put both hers round Alice's neck and laid her face there;-one was too happy and the other too touched to say a word.
"My poor child!" was Alice's first expression.
"No I ain't," said Ellen, tightening the squeeze of her arms round Alice's neck; "I am not poor at all now." Alice presently rose, sat down in the rocking-chair and
took Ellen in her lap; and Ellen rested her head on her bosom as she had been wont to do of old time on her mother's.
"I am too happy," she murmured. But she was weeping, and the current of tears seemed to gather force as it flowed. What was little Ellen thinking of just then? O those times gone by!-when she had sat just so; her head pillowed on another as gentle a breast; kind arms wrapped round her, just as now; the same little old double-gown; the same weak helpless feeling; the same committing herself to the strength and care of another;-how much the same, and oh! how much not the same!—and Ellen knew both. Blessing as she did the breast on which she leaned and the arms whose pressure she felt, they yet reminded her sadly of those most loved and so very far away; and it was an odd mixture of relief and regret, joy and sorrow, gratified and ungratified affection, that opened the sluices of her eyes. Tears poured.
"What is the matter, my love?" said Alice softly. "I don't know," whispered Ellen.
you so glad to see me? or so sorry? or what is it?" "Oh, glad and sorry both, I think," said Ellen with a long breath, and sitting up.
"Have you wanted me so much, my poor child?"
"I cannot tell you how much," said Ellen, her words cut short.
"And didn't you know that I have been sick too? What did you think had become of me? Why, Mrs. Vawse was with me a whole week, and this is the very first day I have been able to go out. It is so fine to-day I was permitted to ride Sharp down."
"Was that it?" said Ellen. "I did wonder, Miss Alice, I did wonder very much why you did not come to see me, but I never liked to ask aunt Fortune, because-'
"I don't know as I ought to say what I was going to ;-I had a feeling she would be glad about what I was sorry about."
"Don't know that you ought to say," said Alice. "Remember, you are to study English with me."
Ellen smiled a glad smile.
"And you have had a weary two weeks of it, haven't you, dear ?"
"Oh," said Ellen, with another long-drawn sigh, "how weary! Part of that time, to be sure, I was out of my head; but I have got so tired lying here all alone; aunt Fortune coming in and out was just as good as nobody."
"Poor child!" said Alice, "you have had a worse time than I."
"I used to lie and watch that crack in the door at the foot of my bed," said Ellen, "and I got so tired of it I hated to see it, but when I opened my eyes I couldn't help looking at it, and watching all the little ins and outs in the crack till I was as sick of it as could be. And that button too that fastens the door, and the little round mark the button has made, and thinking how far the button went round. And then if I looked towards the windows I would go right to counting the panes, first up and down and then across; and I didn't want to count them, but I couldn't help it; and watching to see through which pane the sky looked brightest. Oh I got so sick of it all! There was only the fire that I didn't get tired of looking at; I always liked to lie and look at that, except when it hurt my eyes. And oh how I wanted to see you, Miss Alice! You can't think how sad I felt that you didn't come to see me. I couldn't think what could be the matter."
"I should have been with you, dear, and not have left you, if I had not been tied at home myself."
"So I thought; and that made it seem so very strange. But O! don't you think," said Ellen, her face suddenly brightening," don't you think Mr. Van Brunt came up to see me last night? Wasn't it good of him? He even sat down and read to me; only think of that. And isn't he kind? he asked if I would like a rocking-chair; and of course I said yes, for these other chairs are dreadful, they break my back; and there wasn't such a thing as a rockingchair in aunt Fortune's house, she hates 'em, she says; and this morning, the first thing I knew, in walked Mr. Van Brunt with this nice rocking-chair. Just get up and see how nice it is;-you see the back is cushioned, and the elbows, as well as the seat;-it's queer-looking, ain't it? but it's very comfortable. Wasn't it good of him?”