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Downward, and ever farther,
And ever the brook beside ;
LONGFELLOW. From the German.
CLOUDS and rain and cold winds kept Ellen within
doors for several days. This did not better the state of matters between herself and her aunt. Shut up with her in the kitchen from morning till night, with the only variety of the old lady's company part of the time, Ellen thought neither of them improved upon acquaintance. Perhaps they thought the same of her; she was certainly not in her best mood. With nothing to do, the time hanging very heavy on her hands, disappointed, unhappy, frequently irritated, Ellen became at length very ready to take offence, and nowise disposed to pass it over or smooth it away. She seldom showed this in words, it is true, but it rankled in her mind. Listless and brooding, she sat day after day, comparing the present with the past, wishing vain wishes, indulging bootless regrets, and looking upon her aunt and grandmother with an eye of more settled aversion. The only other person she saw was Mr. Van Brunt, who came in regularly to meals; but he never said any thing unless in answer to Miss Fortune's questions and remarks about the farm concerns. These did not interest her; and she was greatly wearied with the sameness of her life. She longed to go out again; but Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday passed, and the weather still kept her close prisoner. Monday brought a change, but though a cool, drying wind blew all day, the ground was too wet to venture out.
On the evening of that day, as Miss Fortune was setting
the table for tea, and Ellen sitting before the fire, feeling weary of every thing, the kitchen door opened, and a girl somewhat larger and older than herself came in. She had a pitcher in her hand, and marching straight up to the teatable, she said,
“Will you let granny have a little milk to-night, Miss Fortune? I can't find the cow. I'll bring it back to-morrow.”
“You ha'n't lost her, Nancy ?" “Have, though," said the other; "she's been away these
, two days.
“Why didn't you go somewhere nearer for milk ???
“Oh! I don't know-I guess your'n is the sweetest,” said the girl, with a look Ellen did not understand.
Miss Fortune took the pitcher and went into the pantry. While she was gone, the two children improved the time in looking very hard at each other. Ellen's
Ellen's gaze was modest enough, though it showed a great deal of interest in the new object; but the broad, searching stare of the other seemed intended to take in all there was of Ellen from her head to her feet, and keep it, and find out what sort of a creature she was at once. Ellen almost shrank from the bold black
eyes, but they never wavered, till Miss Fortune's voice broke the spell.
“How's your grandmother, Nancy?" “She's tolerable, ma'am, thank you."
“Now if you don't bring it back to-morrow, you won't get any more in a hurry," said Miss Fortune, as she handed the pitcher back to the girl.
“I'll mind it,” said the latter, with a little nod of her head, which seemed to say there was no danger of her forgetting.
“ Who is that, aunt Fortune ?" said Ellen, when she was gope.
“She is a girl that lives up on the mountain yonder.” “ But what's her name?"
“I had just as lief you wouldn't know her name. She ain't a good girl. Don't you never have any thing to do with her."
Ellen was in no mind to give credit to all her aunt's opinions, and she set this down as in part at least coming from ill-humour.
The next morning was calm and fine, and Ellen spent nearly the whole of it out of doors. She did not venture near the ditch, but in every other direction she explored the ground, and examined what stood or grew upon it as thoroughly as she dared. Towards noon she was standing by the
little gate at the back of the house, unwilling to go in, but not knowing what more to do, when Mr. Van Brunt came from the lane with a load of wood. Ellen watched the oxen toiling up the ascent, and thought it looked like very hard work; she was sorry for them.
“Isn't that a very heavy load ?" she asked of their driver, as he was throwing it down under the apple tree.
“Heavy? Not a bit of it. It ain't nothing at all to 'em. They'd take twice as much any day with pleasure.”
“I shouldn't think so,” said Ellen;" they don't look as if there was much pleasure about it. What makes them lean over so against each other when they are coming up hill ?"
“Oh, that's just a way they've got. They're so fond of each other, I suppose.
Perhaps they've something particular to say, and want to put their heads together for the purpose.
"No," said Ellen, half laughing, “it can't be that; they wouldn't take the very hardest time for that; they would wait till they got to the top of the hill; but there they stand just as if they were asleep, only their eyes are open. Poor things!”
They're not very poor any how," said Mr. Van Brunt; there ain't a finer yoke of oxen to be seen than them are, nor in better condition."
He went on throwing the wood out of the cart, and Ellen stood looking at him.
“What'll you give me if I'll make you a scup one of
“A scup !” said Ellen.
“A scup!-may be you don't know it by that name;
“A swing! O yes,” said Ellen, “now I know. O, I like
it very much.”
“Would you like to have one ?”
“Yes, indeed I should, very much."
i'u be very much obliged to you, indeed."
“Well now, come, I'll make a bargain with you; I'll engage to fix up a scup for you, if you'll give me a kiss.”
Poor Ellen was struck dumb. The good.natured Dutchman had taken a fancy to the little pale-faced, sad-looking stranger, and really felt very kindly disposed toward her, but she neither knew, nor at the moment cared about that. She stood motionless, utterly astounded at his unheard of proposal, and not a little indignant; but when, with a goodnatured smile upon his round face, he came near to claim the kiss he no doubt thought himself sure of, Ellen shot from him like an arrow from a bow. She rushed to the house, and bursting open the door, stood with flushed face and sparkling eyes in the presence of her astonished aunt.
“What in the world is the matter?” exclaimed that lady.
“He wanted to kiss me!” said Ellen, scarce knowing whom
she was talking to, and crimsoning more and more. “ Who wanted to kiss you ?" “ That man out there." 6 What man ?" " The man that drives the oxen."
“What, Mr. Van Brunt?" And Ellen never forgot the loud ha! ha! which burst from Miss Fortune's wide-open mouth. “Well, why didn't you let him kiss you ?"
1 The laugh, the look, the tone, stung Ellen to the very quick. In a fury of passion she dashed away out of the kitchen, and up to her own room. And there, for a while, the storm of anger drove over her with such violence that conscience had hardly time to whisper. Sorrow came in again as passion faded, and gentler but very bitter weeping took the place of convulsive sobs of rage and mortification, and then the whispers of conscience began to be heard a little. “O mamma! mamma!” cried poor Ellen in her heart, “how miserable I am without you! I never can like aunt Fortune—it's of no use I never can like her; I hope I sha'n't get to hate her !—and that isn't right. I am forgetting all that is good, and there's nobody to put me in
mind. O mamma! if I could lay my head in your lap for a minute!" Then came thoughts of her Bible and hymnbook, and the friend who had given it; sorrowful thoughts they were; and at last, humbled and sad, poor Ellen sought that great friend she knew she had displeased, and prayed earnestly to be made a good child; she felt and owned she was not one now.
It was long after mid-day when Ellen rose from her knees. Her passion was all gone; she felt more gentle and pleasant than she had done for days; but at the bottom of her heart resentment was not all gone. She still thought she had cause to be angry, and she could not think of her aunt's look and tone without a thrill of painful feeling. In a very different mood, however, from that in which she had flown up stairs two or three hours before, she now came softly down, and went out by the front door, to avoid meeting her aunt. She had visited that morning a little brook which ran through the meadow on the other side of the road. It had great charms for her; and now crossing the lane and creeping under the fence, she made her way again to its banks. At a particular spot, where the brook made one of its sudden turns, Ellen sat down upon the grass, and watched the dark water,—whirling, brawling over the stones, hurrying past her, with ever the same soft pleasant sound, and she was never tired of it. She did not hear footsteps drawing near, and it was not till some one was close beside her, and a voice spoke almost in her ears, that she raised her startled eyes and saw the little girl who had come the evening before for a pitcher of milk.
“What are you doing ?” said the lattor. “I'm watching for fish," said Ellen. “Watching for fish !" said the other, rather disdainfully.
“Yes," said Ellen,—“there, in that little quiet place they come sometimes; I've seen two.
“ You can look for fish another time. Come now and take a walk with me.
“ Where?” said Ellen.
“O, you shall see. Come! I'll tal you all about and show you where people live; you ha'n't been anywhere yet, have you ?"
"No," said Ellen,--and I should like dearly to go, but"