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“Yes, ma'am, a little."
“I'll tell you the reason, my child. It is for the love of my old home and the memory of my young days. Till I was as old as you are, and a little older, I lived
the mountains and upon them ;
and after that, for many a year, they were just before my eyes every day, stretching away for more than one hundred miles, and piled up one above another, fifty times as big as any you ever saw; these are only molehills to them. I loved them-oh how I love them still! If I have one unsatisfied wish,” said the old lady, turning to Alice, “it is to see my Alps again; but that will never be. Now, Miss Ellen, it is not that I fancy, when I get to the top of this hill that I am among my own mountains, but I can breathe better here than down in the plain. I feel more free; and in the village I would not live for gold, unless that duty bade me.”
“But all alone so far from every body,” said Ellen.
“I am never lonely; and old as I am I don't mind a long walk or a rough road any more than your young feet do."
“ But.isn't it very cold ?" said Ellen.
“Yes, it is very cold;—what of that? I make a good blazing fire, and then I like to hear the wind whistle.”
“ Yes, but you wouldn't like to have it whistling inside as well as out,” said Alice. “I will come and do the listing and caulking for you in a day or two. Oh you have it done without me! I am sorry.
“No need to be sorry, dear-I am glad ; you don't look fit for any troublesome jobs.”
“I am fit enough,” said Alice. “Don't put up the curtains; I'll come and do it."
“ You must come with a stronger face, then,” said her old friend; “have you wearied yourself with walking all this way ?"
“I was a little weary,” said Alice, “but your nice tea has made me up again.
“I wish I could keep you all night,” said Mrs. Vawse, looking out, “but your father would be uneasy. I afraid the storm will catch you before you get home; and you aren't fit to breast it. Little Ellen too don't look as if she was made of iron. Can't you stay with me?"
“I must not-it wouldn't do,” said Alice, who was has
tily putting on her things; we'll soon run down the hill. But we are leaving you alone ;-where's Nancy ?"
“She'll not come if there's a promise of a storm,” said Mrs. Vawse; “she often stays out all night.”
“ And leaves you alone!"
“I am never alone,” said the old lady quietly; “I have nothing to fear; but I am uneasy about you, dear. Mind my words; don't try to go back the way you came; take the other road; it's easier; and stop when you get to Mrs. Van Brunt's; Mr. Van Brunt will take you the rest of the way in his little wagon.”
think it is needful ?" said Alice doubtfully. I am sure it is best. Hasten down. Adieu, mon enfant.”
They kissed and embraced her and hurried out.
November chill blaws loud wi' angry sough;
it had been. They took the path Mrs. Vawse had spokeu of; it was broader and easier than the other, winding more gently down the mountain ; it was sometimes, indeed, travelled by horses, though far too steep for any kind of carriage. Alice and Ellen ran along without giving much heed to any thing but their footing, down, down, running and bounding, hand in hand, till want of breath obliged them to slacken their pace.
“Do you think it will snow?-soon ?” asked Ellen.
“I think it will snow,-how soon I cannot tell. Have you had a pleasant afternoon ?"
“Oh, very !"
"I always have when I go there. Now, Ellen, there is an example of contentment for you. If ever a woman loved husband and children and friends Mrs. Vawse loved hers; I know this from those who knew her long ago; and now look at her. Of them all she has none left but the orphan daughter of her youngest son, and you know a little what sort of a child that is.'
“She must be a very bad girl," said Ellen ; "you can't think what stories she told me about her grandmother.'
“ Poor Nancy !” said Alice. “Mrs. Vawse has no money nor property of any kind, except what is in her house; but there is not a more independent woman breathing. She does all sorts of things to support herself. Now, for instance, Ellen, if any body is sick within ten miles round, the family are too happy to get Mrs. Vawse for a nurse.
She is an admirable one. Then she goes out tailoring at the farmers'
houses; she brings home wool and returns it spun into yarn; she brings home yarn and knits it up into stockings and socks; all sorts of odd jobs. I have seen her picking hops; she isn't above doing any thing, and yet she never forgets her own dignity. I think wherever she goes and whatever she is about, she is at all times one of the most truly ladylike persons I have ever seen. And every body respects her; every body likes to gain her good-will; she is known all over the country; and all the country are her friends.”
“ They pay her for doing these things, don't they ??
“ Certainly ; not often in money; more commonly in various kinds of matters that she wants,-flour, and sugar, and Indian meal, and pork, and ham, and vegetables, and wool, -any thing; it is but a little of each that she wants. She has friends that would not permit her to earn another sixpence if they could help it, but she likes better to live as she does.
And she is always as you saw her to-daycheerful and happy, as a little girl.”
Ellen was turning over Alice's last words and thinking that little girls were not always the cheerfullest and happiest creatures in the world, when Alice suddenly exclaimed, “It is snowing ! Come, Ellen, we must make haste now !”—and set off at a quickened pace. Quick as they might, they had gone not a hundred yards when the whole air was filled with the falling flakes, and the wind which had lulled for a little now rose with greater violence and swept round the mountain furiously. The storm had come in good earnest and promised to be no trifling one. Alice and Ellen ran on, holding each other's hands and strengthening themselves against the blast, but their journey became every moment more difficult. The air was dark with the thick-falling snow; the wind seemed to blow in every direction by turns, but chiefly against them, blinding their eyes with the snow and making it necessary to use no small effort to keep on their way. Ellen hardly knew where she went, but allowed herself to be pulled along by Alice, or as well pulled her along; it was hard to say which hùrried most. In the midst of this dashing on down the hill Alice all at once came to a sudden stop.
“ Where's the Captain ?” said she.
“I don't know,” said Ellen,—“I haven't thought of him since we left Mrs. Vawse's."
Alice turned her back to the wind and looked up the road they had come,—there was nothing but wind and snow there; how furiously it blew! Alice called, "Pussy!"
“Shall we walk up the road a little way, or shall we stand and wait for him here ?" said Ellen, trembling half from exertion and half from a vague fear of she knew not what.
Alice called again ;-no answer, but a wild gust of wind and snow that drove past.
“I can't go on and leave him," said Alice; "he might perish in the storm.” And she began to walk slowly back, calling at intervals,“ Pussy!-kitty !-pussy !”—and listening for an answer that came not. Ellen was very unwilling to tarry, and nowise inclined to prolong their journey by going backwards. She thought the storm grew darker and wilder every moment.
Perhaps Captain staid up at Mrs. Vawse's,” she said, "and didn't follow us down.'
“No,” said Alice, “I am sure he did. Hark!—wasn't that he ?"
“I don't hear any thing," said Ellen, after a pause of anxious listening.
Alice went a few steps further.
“I hear him!” she said ;—“I hear him! poor kitty!"— and she set off at a quick pace up the hill. Ellen followed, but presently a burst of wind and snow brought them both to a stand. Alice faltered a little at this, in doubt whether to go up or down. But then to their great joy Captain's faroff cry was heard, and both Alice and Ellen strained their voices to cheer and direct him. In a few minutes he came in sight, trotting hurriedly along through the snow, and on reaching his mistress he sat down immediately on the ground without offering any caress; a sure sign that he was tired. Alice stooped down and took him up in her arms.
“Poor kitty!" she said, “ you've done your part for today, I think ; I'll do the rest. Ellen, dear, it's of no use to tire ourselves out at once; we will go moderately. Keep hold of my cloak, my child; it takes both of my arms to hold this big cat. Now, never mind the snow; we can bear being blown about a little; are you very tired ?".
“No,” said Ellen,—"not very ;-I am a little tired; but I don't care for that if we can only get home safe.”