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quickly open, and hasty hands pulled out one thing after another till the desk was reached.
"But what shall I do?" thought she,-" there isn't a sign of a table. O what a place! I'll shut my trunk and put it on that. But here are all these things to put back first."
They were eagerly stowed away; and then kneeling by the side of the trunk, with loving hands Ellen opened her desk. A sheet of paper was drawn from her store, and properly placed before her; the pen dipped in the ink, and at first with a hurried, then with a trembling hand, she wrote, "My dear Mamma." But Ellen's heart had been swelling and swelling, with every letter of those three words, and scarcely was the last "a" finished, when the pen was dashed down, and flinging away from the desk, she threw herself on the floor in a passion of grief. It seemed as if she had her mother again in her arms, and was clinging with a deathgrasp not to be parted from her. And then the feeling that she was parted!—As much bitter sorrow as a little heart can know was in poor Ellen's now. In her childish despair she wished she could die, and almost thought she should. After a time, however, though not a short time, she rose from the floor and went to her writing again; her heart a little eased by weeping, yet the tears kept coming all the time, and she could not quite keep her paper from being blotted. The first sheet was spoiled before she was aware; she took another. "MY DEAREST MAMMA,
"It makes me so glad and so sorry to write to you, that I don't know what to do. I want to see you so much, mamma, that it seems to me sometimes as if my heart would break. O, mamma, if I could just kiss you once more, I would give any thing in the whole world. I can't be happy as long as you are away, and I am afraid I can't be good either; but I will try. I will try, mamma. I have so much to say to you that I don't know where to begin. I am sure my paper will never hold it all. You will want to know about my journey. The first day was on the steamboat, you know. I should have had a dreadful time that day, mamma, but for something I'll tell you about. I was sitting up on the upper deck, thinking about you, and feeling very badly indeed, when a gentleman came and spoke to me, and asked
me what was the matter. Mamma, I can't tell you how kind he was to me. He kept me with him the whole day. He took me all over the boat, and showed me all about a great many things, and he talked to me a great deal. O, mamma, how he talked to me. He read in the Bible to me, and explained it, and he tried to make me be a Christian. And O, mamma, when he was talking to me, how I wanted to do as he said, and I resolved I would. I did, mamma, and I have not forgotten it. I will try indeed, but I am afraid it will be very hard without you or him, or any body else to help me. You couldn't have been kinder yourself, mamma; he kissed me at night when I bid him good-by, and I was very sorry indeed. I wish I could see him again. Mamma, I will always love that gentleman if I never see him again in the world. I wish there was somebody here that I could love, but there is not. You will want to know what sort of a person my aunt Fortune is. I think she is very good looking, or she would be if her nose was not quite so sharp: but, mamma, I can't tell you what sort of a feeling I have about her; it seems to me as if she was sharp all over. I am sure her eyes are as sharp as two needles. And she don't walk like other people; at least sometimes. She makes queer little jerks and starts and jumps, and flies about like I don't know what. I am afraid it is not right for me to write so about her; but may I not tell you, mamma? There's nobody else for me to talk to. I can't like aunt Fortune much yet, and I am sure she don't like me; but I will try to make her. I have not forgotten what you said to me about that. O, dear mamma, I will try to mind every thing you ever said to me in your life. I am afraid you won't like what I have written about aunt Fortune; but indeed I have done nothing to displease her, and I will try not to. If you were only here, mamma, I should say it was the loveliest place I ever saw in my life. Perhaps, after all, I shall feel better, and be quite happy by and by; but O, mamma, how glad I shall be when I get a letter from you. I shall begin to look for it soon, and I think I shall go out of my wits with joy when it comes. I had the funniest ride down here from Thirlwall that you can think; how do you guess I came? In a cart drawn by oxen. They went so slow we were an age getting here;
but I liked it very much. There was a good-natured man driving the oxen, and he was kind to me; but, mamma, what do you think? he eats at the table. I know what you would tell me; you would say I must not mind trifles. Well, I will try not, mamma. O darling mother, I can't think much of any thing but you. I think of you the whole time. Who makes tea for you now? Are you better? Are you going to leave New York soon? It seems dreadfully long since I saw you. I am tired, dear mamma, and cold; and it is getting dark. I must stop. big room to myself; that is a good thing. I should not like to sleep with aunt Fortune. Good-night, dear mamma. I wish I could sleep with you once more. O, when will that be again, mamma? Good-night. Good-night.
I have a good
"Your affectionate ELLEN."
The letter finished was carefully folded, enclosed, and directed; and then with an odd mixture of pleasure and sadness, Ellen lit one of her little wax matches, as she called them, and sealed it very nicely. She looked at it fondly a minute when all was done, thinking of the dear fingers that would hold and open it; her next movement was to sink her face in her hands, and pray most earnestly for a blessing upon her mother, and help for herself,-poor Ellen felt she needed it. She was afraid of lingering lest tea should be ready; so, locking up her letter, she went down stairs.
The tea was ready. Miss Fortune and Mr. Van Brunt were at the table, and so was the old lady, whom Ellen had not seen before that day. She quietly drew up her chair to its place.
"Well," said Miss Fortune, "I hope you feel better for your long stay up stairs."
"I do, ma'am," said Ellen;
a great deal better."
"I have been writing to mamma."
Perhaps Miss Fortune heard the trembling of Ellen's voice, or her sharp glance saw the lip quiver and eyelid droop. Something softened her. She spoke in a different tone; asked Ellen if her tea was good; took care she had plenty
of the bread and butter, and excellent cheese, which was on the table; and lastly cut her a large piece of the pumpkin pie. Mr. Van Brunt too looked once or twice at Ellen's face as if he thought all was not right there. He was not so sharp as Miss Fortune, but the swollen eyes and tear-stains were not quite lost upon him.
After tea, when Mr. Van Brunt was gone, and the teathings cleared away, Ellen had the pleasure of finding out the mystery of the brass kettle and the white maple bark. The kettle now stood in the chimney corner. Miss Fortune, seating herself before it, threw in all Ellen's stockings except one pair, which she flung over to her, saying, "There I don't care if you keep that one." Then, tucking up her sleeves to the elbows, she fished up pair after pair out of the kettle, and wringing them out hung them on chairs to dry. But, as Ellen had opined, they were no longer white, but of a fine slate colour. She looked on in silence, too much vexed to ask questions.
"Well, how do you like that?" said Miss Fortune at length, when she had got two or three chairs round the fire pretty well hung with a display of slate-coloured cotton legs. "I don't like it at all," said Ellen.
"Well, I do. How many pair of white stockings would you like to drive into the mud and let me wash out every week?" "You wash!" said Ellen in surprise; "I didn't think of your doing it."
"Who did you think was going to do it? There's nothing in this house but goes through my hand, I can tell you, and so must you. I suppose you've lived all your life among people that thought a great deal of wetting their little finger; but I'm not one of 'em, I guess you'll find."
Ellen was convinced of that already.
"Well, what are you thinking of?" said Miss Fortune presently.
"I'm thinking of my nice white darning-cotton," said Ellen. "I might just as well not have had it."
"Is it wound or in the skein ?"
"In the skein."
"Then just go right up and get it. I'll warrant I'll fix it so that you'll have a use for it."
Ellen obeyed, but musing rather uncomfortably what else
there was of hers that Miss Fortune could lay hands on. She seemed in imagination to see all her white things turning brown. She resolved she would keep her trunk well locked up; but what if her keys should be called for?
She was dismissed to her room soon after the dyeing business was completed. It was rather a disagreeable surprise to find her bed still unmade; and she did not at all like the notion that the making of it in future must depend entirely upon herself; Ellen had no fancy for such handiwork. She went to sleep in somewhat the same dissatisfied mood with which the day had been begun; displeasure at her coarse heavy coverlid and cotton sheets again taking its place among weightier matters; and dreamed of tying them together into a rope by which to let herself down out of the window; but when she had got so far, Ellen's sleep became sound, and the end of the dream was never known.