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“Oh Mr. Van Brunt," sobbed Ellen, "I am so glad to see you! won't you please send Nancy away?"
“What are you doing here?" said the astonished Dutch
"Look and see, Mr. Van Brunt," said Nancy with a smile of mischief's own curling; "you won't be long finding out I guess."
"Take yourself off, and don't let me hear of your being caught here again."
"I'll go when I'm ready, thank you,” said Nancy; " and as to the rest I haven't been caught the first time yet; I don't know what you mean."
She sprang as she finished her sentence, for Mr. Van Brunt made a sudden movement to catch her then and there. He was foiled; and then began a running chase round the room, in the course of which Nancy dodged, pushed, and sprang, with the power of squeezing by impassibles and overleaping impossibilities, that to say the least of it was remarkable. The room was too small for her and she was caught at last.
“I vow!" said Mr. Van Brunt as he pinioned her hands, “I should like to see you play blind-man's-buff for once, if I waren't the blind man.”
How'd you see me if you was?" said Nancy, scornfully.
"Now, Miss Ellen," said Mr. Van Brunt, as he brought her to Ellen's bedside, “here she is safe; what shall I do with her?"
"If you will only send her away, and not let her come back, Mr. Van Brunt!" said Ellen, "I'll be so much obliged to you!"
"Let me go!" said Nancy. "I declare you're a real mean Dutchman, Mr. Van Brunt.”
He took both her hands in one, and laid the other lightly over her ears.
"I'll let you go," said he. "Now, don't you be caught here again if you know what is good for yourself."
He saw Miss Nancy out of the door, and then came back to Ellen, who was crying heartily again from nervous vexation. "She's gone," said he. "What has that wicked thing been doing, Miss Ellen? what's the matter with you?"
"Oh, Mr. Van Brunt," said Ellen, "you can't think how
she has worried me; she has been here this great while; just look at all my things on the floor, and that isn't the half."
Mr. Van Brunt gave a long whistle as his eye surveyed the tokens of Miss Nancy's mischief-making, over and through which both she and himself had been chasing at full speed, making the state of matters rather worse than it was before.
"I do say," said he, slowly, "that is too bad. I'd fix them up again for you, Miss Ellen, if I knew how; but my hands are a'most as clumsy as my feet, and I see the marks of them there; it's too bad I declare; I didn't know what I was going on."
"Never mind, Mr. Van Brunt," said Ellen,-"I don't mind what you have done a bit. I'm so glad to see you!" She put out her little hand to him as she spoke. He took it in his own silently, but though he said and showed nothing of it, Ellen's look and tone of affection thrilled his heart with pleasure.
"How do you do?" said he kindly.
"I'm a great deal better," said Ellen. "Sit down, won't you, Mr. Van Brunt? I want to see you a little."
Horses wouldn't have drawn him away after that. He sat down.
"Ain't you going to be up again some of these days?" said he.
"O yes, I hope so," said Ellen sighing; "I am very tired of lying here."
He looked round the room; got up and mended the fire; then came and sat down again.
"I was up yesterday for a minute," said Ellen, "but the chair tired me so I was glad to get back to bed again.
It was no wonder; harder and straighter-backed chairs never were invented. Probably Mr. Van Brunt thought so. "Wouldn't you like to have a rocking-cheer?" said he suddenly, as if a bright thought had struck him.
"Oh yes, how much I should!" said Ellen, with another long-drawn breath, "but there isn't such a thing in the house that ever I saw."
"Ay, but there is in other houses though," said Mr. Van Brunt, with as near an approach to a smile as his lips commonly made; we'll see!"
Ellen smiled more broadly.
"But don't you give your
self any trouble for me,” said she.
"Trouble indeed!" said Mr. Van Brunt; "I don't know any thing about that. How came that wicked thing up here to plague you?"
"She said aunt Fortune left her to take care of me."
"That's one of her lies. Your aunt's gone out, I know; but she's a trifle wiser than to do such a thing as that. She has plagued you badly, ha'n't she?"
He might have thought so. The colour which excitement brought into Ellen's face had faded away, and she had settled herself back against her pillow with an expression of weakness and weariness that the strong man saw and felt. "What is there I can do for you?" said he, with a gentleness that seemed almost strange from such lips.
"If you would," said Ellen faintly,-" if you could be so kind as to read me a hymn ?—I should be so glad. I've had nobody to read to me.'
Her hand put the little book towards him as she said so. Mr. Van Brunt would vastly rather any one had asked him to plough an acre. He was to the full as much confounded as poor Ellen had once been at a request of his. He hesitated, and looked towards Ellen wishing for an excuse. But the pale little face that lay there against the pillow, the drooping eyelids, the meek helpless look of the little child, put all excuses out of his head; and though he would have chosen to do almost any thing else, he took the book and asked her "Where?" She said anywhere; and he took the first he saw.
"Poor, weak, and worthless though I am,
Jesus the Saviour is his name,
He freely loves, and without end."
"Oh," said Ellen with a sigh of pleasure, and folding her hands on her breast,-"how lovely that is!"
He stopped and looked at her a moment, and then went on with increased gravity.
"He ransom'd me from hell with blood,
"Fold?" said Ellen, opening her eyes; "what is that?" "It's where sheep are penned, ain't it?" said Mr. Van Brunt, after a pause.
"Oh yes!" said Ellen, "that's it; I remember; that's like what he said, 'I am the good shepherd,' and 'the Lord is my shepherd;' I know now. Go on, please."
He finished the hymn without more interruption. Looking again towards Ellen, he was surprised to see several large tears finding their way down her cheeks from under the wet eyelash. But she quickly wiped them away.
"What do you read them things for," said he, "if they make you feel bad?"
"Feel bad!" said Ellen. "Oh they don't; they make me happy; I love them dearly. I never read that one before. You can't think how much I am obliged to you for reading it to me. Will you let me see where it is ?" He gave it her.
"Yes, there's his mark!" said Ellen, with sparkling eyes. "Now, Mr. Van Brunt, would you be so very good as to read it once more?"
He obeyed. It was easier this time. She listened as before with closed eyes, but the colour came and went once
"Thank you very much," she said, when he had done. "Are you going?"
"I must; I have some things to look after." She held his hand still.
"Mr. Van Brunt,-don't you love hymns?" "I don't know much about 'em, Miss Ellen." "Mr. Van Brunt, are you one of that fold ?" "What fold?"
"The fold of Christ's people."
"I'm afeard not, Miss Ellen," said he soberly, after a minute's pause.
"Because," said Ellen, bursting into tears, "I wish you were, very much."
She carried the great brown hand to her lips before she let it go. He went without saying a word. But when he got out he stopped and looked at a little tear she had left on the back of it. And he looked till one of his own fell there to keep it company.
O that had, how sad a passage 'tis!
HE next day, about the middle of the afternoon, a light step crossed the shed, and the great door opening gently, in walked Miss Alice Humphreys. The room was all "redd up," and Miss Fortune and her mother sat there at work; one picking over white beans at the table, the other in her usual seat by the fire, and at her usual employment, which was knitting. Alice came forward, and asked the old lady how she did.
"Pretty well-O pretty well!" she answered, with the look of bland good-humour her face almost always wore,"and glad to see you, dear. Take a chair."
Alice did so, quite aware that the other person in the room was not glad to see her.
"And how goes the world with you, Miss Fortune?" "Humph! it's a queer kind of world, I think," answered that lady dryly, sweeping some of the picked beans into her pan;-"I get a'most sick of it sometimes."
"Why, what's the matter?" said Alice, pleasantly; may I ask? Has any thing happened to trouble you?" "Ŏ no!" said the other somewhat impatiently; "nothing that's any matter to any one but myself; it's no use speaking about it."
"Ah! Fortune never would take the world easy," said the old woman, shaking her head from side to side; "never would ;-I never could get her."
"Now do hush, mother, will you!" said the daughter, turning round upon her with startling sharpness of look and tone;"take the world easy!' you always did; I am glad I ain't like you."