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“Won't you come in, sir ?” said Ellen.
No," said he, “ I can't this time I must go home to dinner."
“And shan't I see you any more, sir?" said Ellen, a shade coming over her face, which a minute before had been quite joyous. “Well, I don't know," said he kindly_“I
hope you will. You shall hear from me again at any rate I promise you. We've spent one pleasant morning together, haven't we? Good-by, good-by.”
Ellen's hands were full, but the old gentleman took them in both his, packages and all, and shook them after a fashion, and again bidding her good-by, walked away down the street:
The next morning Ellen and her mother were sitting quietly together, and Ellen had not finished her accustomed reading, when there came a knock at the door. “My old gentleman!” cried Ellen, as she sprung to open it. No-there was no old gentleman, but a black man with a brace of beautiful woodcock in his hand. He bowed very civilly, and said he had been ordered to leave the birds with Miss Montgomery. Ellen, in surprise, took them from him, and likewise a note which he delivered into her hand. Ellen asked from whom the birds came, but with another polite bow the man said the note would inform her, and went away. In great curiosity she carried them and the note to her mother, to whom the letter was directed. It read thus:
“Will Mrs. Montgomery permit an old man to please himself in his own way, by showing his regard for her little daughter, and not feel that he is taking a liberty? The birds are for Miss Ellen.”
“Oh, mamma!" exclaimed Ellen, jumping with delight, “ did you ever see such a dear old gentleman ? Now I know what he meant yesterday, when he asked me if I would rather have something for myself or for you. How kind he is! to do just the very thing for me that he knows would give me the most pleasure. Now, mamma, these birds are
, mine, you know, and I give them to you. You must pay me a kiss for them, mamma; they are worth that. Aren't they beauties?”
“They are very fine indeed," said Mrs. Montgomery;
"this is just the season for woodcock; and these are in beautiful condition."
“Do you like woodcocks, mamma ?" .: Yes, very much.”
“O, how glad I am !” said Ellen. “ I'll ask Sam to have them done very nicely for you, and then you will enjoy them so much."
The waiter was called, and instructed accordingly, and to him the birds were committed, to be delivered to the care of the cook.
“Now, mamma,” said Ellen, “I think these birds have made me happy for all day."
“Then I hope, daughter, they will make you busy for all day. You have ruffles to hem, and the skirts of your dresses to make, we need not wait for Miss Rice to do that; and when she comes you will have to help her, for I can do little. You can't be too industrious.”
"Well, mamma, I am as willing as can be.”
This was the beginning of a pleasant two weeks to Ellen; weeks to which she often looked back afterwards, so quietly and swiftly the days fled away in busy occupation and sweet intercourse with her mother. The passions which were apt enough to rise in Ellen's mind upon occasion, were for the present kept effectually in check. She could not forget that her days with her mother would very soon be at an end, for a long time at least; and this consciousness, always present to her mind, forbade even the wish to do any thing that might grieve or disturb her. · Love and tenderness had absolute rule for the time, and even had power to overcome the sorrowful thoughts that would often rise, so that in spite of them peace reigned. And perhaps both mother and daughter enjoyed this interval the more keenly because they knew that sorrow was at hand.
All this while there was scarcely a day that the old gentleman's servant did not knock at their door, bearing a present of game. The second time he came with some fine larks; next was a superb grouse; then woodcock again. Curiosity strove with astonishment and gratitude in Ellen's mind. Mamma,” she said, after she had admired the grouse for five minutes, “ I cannot rest without finding out who this old gentleman is."
“I am sorry for that,” replied Mrs. Montgomery gravely, “ for I see no possible way of your doing it.”
Why, mamma, couldn't I ask the man that brings the birds what his name is ? He must know it." “ Certainly not; it would be very
dishonourable." “ Would it, mamma?—why ?"
“ This old gentleman has not chosen to tell you his name; he wrote his note without signing it, and his man has obviously been instructed not to disclose it; don't you remember, he did not tell it when you asked him, the first time he
Now this shows that the old gentleman wishes to keep it secret, and to try to find it out in any way would be a very unworthy return for his kindness."
“ Yes, it wouldn't be doing as I would be done by, to be sure; but would it be dishonourable, mamma ?"
“ Very. It is very dishonourable to try to find out that about other people which does not concern you, and which they wish to keep from you. Remember that, my dear daughter.”
“I will, mamma. I'll never do it, I promise you.”
“Even in talking with people, if you discern in them any unwillingness to speak upon a subject, avoid it immediately, provided of course that some higher interest do not oblige you to go on. That is true politeness, and true kindness, which are nearly the same; and not to do SO,
assure you, Ellen, proves one wanting in true honour.”
“Well, mamma, I don't care what his name is,—at least I won't try to find out :-but it does worry me that I cannot thank him. I wish he knew how much I feel obliged to him."
Very well; write and tell him so." “Mamma!” said Ellen, opening her eyes very wide,can I ?-would ?" “Certainly,--if you like. It would be very proper."
“ Then I will! I declare that is a good notion. I'll do it the first thing, and then I can give it to that man if he comes to-morrow, as I suppose he will. Mamma," said she, on opening her desk, “how funny ! don't you remember you wondered who I was going to write notes to ? here is one now, mamma; it is very lucky I have got note-paper.'
More than one sheet of it was ruined before Ellen had
satisfied herself with what she wrote. It was a full hour from the time she began when she brought the following note for her mother's inspection
“Ellen Montgomery does not know how to thank the old gentleman who is so kind to her. Mamma enjoys the birds very much, and I think I do more; for I have the double pleasure of giving them to mamma, and of eating them afterwards; but kindness is the best of all. I can't tell you how much I am obliged to you, sir, but I will always love you for all you have done for me.
“ ELLEN MONTGOMERY." This note Mrs. Montgomery approved; and Ellen having with great care and great satisfaction enclosed it in an envelope, succeeded in sealing it according to rule and very well. Mrs. Montgomery laughed when she saw the direction, but let it go. Without consulting her, Ellen had written on the outside, “ To the old gentleman.” She sent it the next morning by the hands of the same servant, who this time was the bearer of a plump partridge “ To Miss Montgomery;" and her mind was a great deal easier on this subject froin that time.
Mac. What is the night?
CTOBER was now far advanced. One evening, the even
ing of the last Sunday in the month, Mrs. Montgomery was lying in the parlour alone. Ellen had gone to bed some time before; and now in the stillness of the Sabbath evening the ticking of the clock was almost the only sound to be heard. The hands were rapidly approaching ten. Captain Montgomery was abroad; and he had been 80,according to custom-or in bed, the whole day. The ,
. mother and daughter had had the Sabbath to themselves ; and most quietly and sweetly it had passed. They had read together, prayed together, talked together a great deal; and the evening had been spent in singing hymns; but Mrs. Montgomery's strength failed here, and Ellen sang alone. She was not soon weary. Hymn succeeded hymn, with fresh and varied pleasure; and her mother could not tire of listening. The sweet words, and the sweet airs,—which were all old friends, and brought of themselves many a les son of wisdom and consolation, by the mere force of association,-needed not the recommendation of the clear childish voice in which they were sung which was of all things the sweetest to Mrs. Montgomery's ear. She listened,—till she almost felt as if earth were left behind, and she and her child already standing within the walls of that city where sorrow and sighing shall be no more, and the tears shall be wiped from all eyes for ever. Ellen's next hymn, however, brought her back to earth again, but though her tears flowed freely while she heard it, all her causes of sorrow could not render them bitter.