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Chapter 16 Counsel, cakes and Captain Parry

  • > After long storms and tempests overblowne, > The sunne at length his joyous face doth cleare; > So when as fortune all her spight hath showne, > Some blissfull houres at last must needs appeare; > Else should afflicted wights oft-times despeire.
  • >                      FAERIE QUEENE.
  • EARLY next morning Ellen awoke with a sense that something pleasant ha_appened. Then the joyful reality darted into her mind, and jumping out of be_he set about her morning work with a better heart than she had been able t_ring to it for many a long day. When she had finished she went to the window.
  • She had found out how to keep it open now, by means of a big nail stuck in _ole under the sash. It was very early, and in the perfect stillness the sof_urgle of the little brook came distinctly to her ear. Ellen leaned her arm_n the window-sill, and tasted the morning air; almost wondering at it_weetness and at the loveliness of field and sky and the bright easter_orizon. For days and days all had looked dark and sad.
  • There were two reasons for the change. In the first place Ellen had made u_er mind to go straight on in the path of duty; in the second place, she ha_ound a friend. Her little heart bounded with delight and swelled wit_hankfulness at the thought of Alice Humphreys. She was once more at peac_ith herself, and had even some notion of being by and by at peace with he_unt; though a sad twinge came over her whenever she thought of her mother'_etter.
  • "But there is only one way for me," she thought; "I'll do as that dear Mis_umphreys told me–it's good and early, and I shall have a fine time befor_reakfast yet to myself. And I'll get up so every morning and have it!–that'l_e the very best plan I can hit upon."
  • As she thought this she drew forth her Bible from its place at the bottom o_er trunk; and opening it at hazard she began to read the l8th chapter o_atthew. Some of it she did not quite understand but she paused with pleasur_t the 14th verse. "That means me," she thought. The 21st and 22d verse_truck her a good deal, but when she came to the last she was almost startled.
  • "There it is again!" she said. "That is exactly what that gentleman said t_e. I thought I was forgiven, but how can I be, for I feel I have not forgive_unt Fortune."
  • Laying aside her book, Ellen kneeled down; but this one thought so presse_pon her mind that she could think of scarce any thing else; and her praye_his morning was an urgent and repeated petition that she might be enabled
  • "from her heart" to forgive her aunt Fortune "all her trespasses." Poor Ellen!
  • she felt it was very hard work. At the very minute she was striving to feel a_eace with her aunt, one grievance after another would start up t_emembrance, and she knew the feelings that met them were far enough from th_pirit of forgiveness. In the midst of this she was called down. She rose wit_ears in her eyes, and "What shall I do?" in her heart. Bowing her head onc_ore she earnestly prayed that if she could not yet  _feel_  right toward he_unt, she might be kept at least from acting or speaking wrong. Poor Ellen! I_he heart is the spring of action; and she found it so this morning.
  • Her aunt and Mr. Van Brunt were already at the table. Ellen took her place i_ilence, for one look at her aunt's face told her that no "good-morning" woul_e accepted. Miss Fortune was in a particularly bad humour, owing among othe_hings to Mr. Van Brunt's having refused to eat his breakfast unless Elle_ere called. An unlucky piece of kindness. She neither spoke to Ellen no_ooked at her; Mr. Van Brunt did what in him lay to make amends. He helped he_ery carefully to the cold pork and potatoes, and handed her the well-pile_latter of griddle-cakes.
  • "Here's the first buckwheats of the season," said he,–"and I told Miss Fortun_ warn't a going to eat one on 'em if you didn't come down to enjoy 'em alon_ith us. Take two–take two!–you want 'em to keep each other hot."
  • Ellen's look and smile thanked him, as following his advice she covered on_enerous "buckwheat" with another as ample.
  • "That's the thing! Now here's some prime maple. You like 'em, I guess, don'_ou?"
  • "I don't know yet–I have never seen any," said Ellen.
  • "Never seen buckwheats! why, they're most as good as my mother's splitters.
  • Buckwheat cakes and maple molasses,–that's food fit for a king,  _I_hink–when they're good; and Miss Fortune's are always first-rate."
  • Miss Fortune did not relent at all at this compliment.
  • "What makes you so white this morning?" Mr. Van Brunt presently went on;–" yo_in't well, be you?"
  • "Yes,"–said Ellen doubtfully,–"I'm well–"
  • "She's as well as I am, Mr. Van Brunt, if you don't go and put her up to an_otions!" Miss Fortune said in a kind of choked voice.
  • Mr. Van Brunt hemmed, and said no more to the end of breakfast-time.
  • Ellen rather dreaded what was to come next, for her aunt's look was ominous.
  • In dead silence the things were put away, and put up, and in course of washin_nd drying, when Miss Fortune suddenly broke forth.
  • "What did you do with yourself yesterday afternoon?"
  • "I was up on the mountain," said Ellen.
  • "What mountain?"
  • "I believe they call it the 'Nose.'"
  • "What business had you up there?"
  • "I hadn't any business there."
  • "What did you go there for?"
  • "Nothing."
  • "Nothing!–you expect me to believe that? you call yourself a truth-teller, _uppose?"
  • "Mamma used to say I was," said poor Ellen, striving to swallow her feelings.
  • "Your mother!–I dare say–mothers always are blind. I dare say she took ever_hing you said for gospel!"
  • Ellen was silent, from sheer want of words that were pointed enough to sui_er.
  • "I wish Morgan could have had the gumption to marry in his own country; but h_ust go running after a Scotch woman! A Yankee would have brought up his chil_o be worth something. Give me Yankees!"
  • Ellen set down the cup she was wiping.
  • "You don't know any thing about my mother," she said. "You oughtn't to spea_o–it's not right."
  • "Why ain't it right, I should like to know?" said Miss Fortune;–"this is _ree country, I guess. Our tongues ain't tied–we're all free here."
  • "I wish we were," muttered Ellen;–"I know what I'd do."
  • "What would you do?" said Miss Fortune.
  • Ellen was silent. Her aunt repeated the question in a sharper tone.
  • "I oughtn't to say what I was going to," said Ellen;–"I'd rather not."
  • "I don't care," said Miss Fortune, "you began, and you shall finish it. I wil_ear what it was."
  • "I was going to say, if we were all free I would run away."
  • "Well, that  _is_  a beautiful, well-behaved speech! I am glad to have hear_t. I admire it very much. Now what were you doing yesterday up on the Nose?
  • Please to go on wiping. There's a pile ready for you. What were you doin_esterday afternoon?"
  • Ellen hesitated.
  • "Were you alone or with somebody?"
  • "I was alone part of the time."
  • "And who were you with the rest of the time?"
  • "Miss Humphreys."
  • "Miss Humphreys!–what were you doing with her?"
  • "Talking."
  • "Did you ever see her before?"
  • "No, ma'am."
  • "Where did you find her?"
  • "She found me, up on the hill."
  • "What were you talking about?"
  • Ellen was silent.
  • "What were you talking about?" repeated Miss Fortune.
  • "I had rather not tell."
  • "And I had rather you  _should_  tell–so out with it."
  • "I was alone with Miss Humphreys," said Ellen; "and it is no matter what w_ere talking about–it doesn't concern any body but her and me."
  • "Yes it does, it concerns me," said her aunt, "and I choose to know;–what wer_ou talking about?"
  • Ellen was silent.
  • "Will you tell me?"
  • "No," said Ellen, low but resolutely.
  • "I vow you're enough to try the patience of Job! Look here," said Mis_ortune, setting down what she had in her hands,–"I  _will_  know! I don'_are what it was, but you shall tell me or I'll find a way to make you. I'l_ive you such a–"
  • "Stop! stop!" said Ellen wildly,–"you must not speak to me so! Mamma neve_id, and you have no  _right_  to! If mamma or papa were here you would no_dare_  talk to me so."
  • The answer to this was a sharp box on the ear from Miss Fortune's wet hand.
  • Half stunned, less by the blow than the tumult of feeling it roused, Elle_tood a moment, and then throwing down her towel she ran out of the room, shivering with passion, and brushing off the soapy water left on her face a_f it had been her aunt's very hand. Violent tears burst forth as soon as sh_eached her own room,–tears at first of anger and mortification only; bu_onscience presently began to whisper, "You are wrong! you are wrong!"–an_ears of sorrow mingled with the others.
  • "Oh," said Ellen, "why couldn't I keep still!–when I had resolved so thi_orning, why couldn't I be quiet!–But she ought not to have provoked me s_readfully,–I couldn't help it." "You are wrong," said conscience again, an_er tears flowed faster. And then came back her morning trouble–the duty an_he difficulty of forgiving. Forgive her aunt Fortune!–with her whole heart i_ passion of displeasure against her. Alas! Ellen began to feel an_cknowledge that indeed all was wrong. But what to do? There was just on_omfort, the visit to Miss Humphreys in the afternoon. "She will tell me,"
  • thought Ellen; "she will help me. But in the mean while?"
  • Ellen had not much time to think; her aunt called her down and set her t_ork. She was very busy till dinner-time, and very unhappy; but twenty time_n the course of the morning did Ellen pause for a moment, and covering he_ace with her hands pray that a heart to forgive might be given her.
  • As soon as possible after dinner she made her escape to her room that sh_ight prepare for her walk. Conscience was not quite easy that she was goin_ithout the knowledge of her aunt. She had debated the question with herself, and could not make up her mind to hazard losing her visit.
  • So she dressed herself very carefully. One of her dark merinos wa_ffectionately put on; her single pair of white stockings; shoes, ruffle, cape,–Ellen saw that all was faultlessly neat, just as her mother used to hav_t; and the nice blue hood lay upon the bed ready to be put on the last thing, when she heard her aunt's voice calling.
  • "Ellen!–come down and do your ironing–right away, now! the irons are hot."
  • For one moment Ellen stood still in dismay; then slowly undressed, dresse_gain, and went down stairs.
  • "Come! you've been an age," said Miss Fortune; "now make haste; there ain'_ut a handful and I want to mop up."
  • Ellen took courage again; ironed away with right good will; and as there wa_eally but a handful of things she had soon done, even to taking off th_roning blanket and putting up the irons. In the mean time she had changed he_ind as to stealing off without leave; conscience was too strong for her; an_hough with a beating heart, she told of Miss Humphreys' desire and her hal_ngagement.
  • "You may go where you like–I am sure I do not care what you do with yourself,"
  • was Miss Fortune's reply.
  • Full of delight at this ungracious permission, Ellen fled up stairs, an_ressing much quicker than before, was soon on her way.
  • But at first she went rather sadly. In spite of all her good resolves an_ishes, every thing that day had gone wrong; and Ellen felt that the root o_he evil was in her own heart. Some tears fell as she walked. Further from he_unt's house, however, her spirits began to rise; her foot fell lighter on th_reensward. Hope and expectation quickened her steps; and when at length sh_assed the little wood-path it was almost on a run. Not very far beyond tha_er glad eyes saw the house she was in quest of.
  • It was a large white house; not very white either, for its last dress of pain_ad grown old long ago. It stood close by the road, and the trees of the woo_eemed to throng round it on every side. Ellen mounted the few steps that le_o the front door, and knocked; but as she could only just reach the hig_nocker, she was not likely to alarm any body with the noise she made. After _reat many little faint raps, which if any body heard them might easily hav_een mistaken for the attacks of some rat's teeth upon the wainscot, Elle_rew weary of her fruitless toil of standing on tiptoe, and resolved, thoug_oubtfully, to go round the house and see if there was any other way o_etting in. Turning the far corner, she saw a long, low out-building or she_utting out from the side of the house. On the further side of this Elle_ound an elderly woman standing in front of the shed, which was there open an_aved, and wringing some clothes out of a tub of water. She was a pleasan_oman to look at, very trim and tidy, and a good-humored eye and smile whe_he saw Ellen. Ellen made up to her and asked for Miss Humphreys.
  • "Why, where in the world did you come from?" said the woman. "I don't receiv_ompany at the back of the house."
  • "I knocked at the front door till I was tired," said Ellen, smiling in return.
  • "Miss Alice must ha' been asleep. Now, honey, you have come so far round t_ind me, will you go a little further and find Miss Alice? Just go round thi_orner and keep straight along till you come to the glass door–there you'l_ind her. Stop!–maybe she's asleep; I may as well go along with you myself."
  • She wrung the water from her hands and led the way.
  • A little space of green grass stretched in front of the shed, and Ellen foun_t extended all along that side of the house like a very narrow lawn; at th_dge of it shot up the high forest trees; nothing between them and the hous_ut the smooth grass and a narrow worn foot-path. The woods were now all brow_tems, except here and there a superb hemlock and some scattered silver_irches. But the grass was still green, and the last day ofthe Indian summe_ung its soft veil over all; the foliage of the forest was hardly missed. The_assed another hall door, opposite the one where Ellen had tried her strengt_nd patience upon the knocker; a little further on they paused at the glas_oor. One step led to it. Ellen's conductress looked in first through one o_he panes, and then opening the door motioned her to enter.
  • "Here you are, my new acquaintance," said Alice, smiling and kissing her. "_egan to think something was the matter, you tarried so late. We don't kee_ashionable hours in the country, you know. But I'm very glad to see you. Tak_ff your things and lay them on that settee by the door. You see I've a sette_or summer and a sofa for winter; for here I am, in this room, at all times o_he year; and a very pleasant room I think it, don't you?"
  • "Yes, indeed I do, ma'am," said Ellen, pulling off her last glove.
  • "Ah, but wait till you have taken tea with me half a dozen times, and then se_f you don't say it is pleasant. Nothing can be so pleasant that is quite new.
  • But now come here and look out of this window, or door, whichever you choos_o call it. Do you see what a beautiful view I have here? The wood was just a_hick all along as it is on the right and left; I felt half smothered to be s_hut in, so I got my brother and Thomas to take axes and go to work there; an_any a large tree they cut down for me, till you see they opened a way throug_he woods for the view of that beautiful stretch of country. I should gro_elancholy if I had that wall of trees pressing on my vision all the time; i_lways comforts me to look off, far away, to those distant blue hills."
  • "Aren't those the hills I was looking at yesterday?" said Ellen.
  • "From up on the mountain?–the very same; this is part of the very same view, and a noble view it is. Every morning, Ellen, the sun rising behind thos_ills shines in through this door and lights up my room; and in winter h_ooks in at that south window, so I have him all the time. To be sure if _ant to see him set I must take a walk for it, but that isn't unpleasant; an_ou know we cannot have every thing at once."
  • It was a very beautiful extent of woodland, meadow, and hill, that was see_icture-fashion through the gap cut in the forest;–the wall of trees on eac_ide serving as a frame to shut it in, and the descent of the mountain, fro_lmost the edge of the lawn, being very rapid. The opening had been skilfull_ut; the effect was remarkable and very fine; the light on the picture bein_ften quite different from that on the frame or on the hither side of th_rame.
  • "Now, Ellen," said Alice turning from the window, "take a good look at m_oom. I want you to know it and feel at home in it; for whenever you can ru_way from your aunt's this is your home,–do you understand?"
  • A smile was on each face. Ellen felt that she was understanding it very fast.
  • "Here, next the door, you see, is my summer settee; and in summer it ver_ften walks out of doors to accommodate people on the grass plat. I have _reat fancy for taking tea out of doors, Ellen, in warm weather; and if you d_ot mind a mosquito or two I shall be always happy to have your company. Tha_oor opens into the hall; look out and see, for I want you to get th_eography of the house.–That odd-looking, lumbering, painted concern, is m_abinet of curiosities. I tried my best to make the carpenter man at Thirlwal_nderstand what sort of a thing I wanted, and did all but show him how to mak_t; but as the Southerners say, 'he hasn't made it right no how!' There I kee_y dried flowers, my minerals, and a very odd collection of curious things o_ll sorts that I am constantly picking up. I'll show you them some day, Ellen.
  • Have you a fancy for curiosities?"
  • "Yes, ma'am, I believe so."
  • "Believe so!–not more sure than that? Are you a lover of dead moths, and empt_eetle-skins, and butterflies' wings, and dry tufts of moss, and curiou_tones, and pieces of ribbon-grass, and strange bird's nests? These are som_f the things I used to delight in when I was about as old as you."
  • "I don't know, ma'am," said Ellen. "I never was where I could get them."
  • "Weren't you! Poor child! Then you have been shut up to brick walls an_aving-stones all your life?"
  • "Yes, ma'am, all my life."
  • "But now you have seen a little of the country,–don't you think you shall lik_t better?"
  • "Oh, a great deal better!"
  • "Ah, that's right. I am sure you will. On that other side, you see, is m_inter sofa. It's a very comfortable resting-place I can tell you, Ellen, as _ave proved by many a sweet nap; and its old chintz covers are very pleasan_o me, for I remember them as far back as I remember any thing."
  • There was a sigh here; but Alice passed on and opened a door near the end o_he sofa.
  • "Look in here, Ellen; this is my bedroom."
  • "Oh, how lovely!" Ellen exclaimed.
  • The carpet covered only the middle of the floor; the rest was painted white.
  • The furniture was common but neat as wax. Ample curtains of white dimit_lothed the three windows, and lightly draped the bed. The toilet-table wa_overed with snow-white muslin, and by the toilet-cushion stood, late as i_as, a glass of flowers. Ellen thought it must be a pleasure to sleep there.
  • "This," said Alice when they came out,–"between my door and the fireplace, i_ cupboard. Here be cups and saucers, and so forth. In that other corne_eyond the fireplace you see my flower-stand. Do you love flowers, Ellen?"
  • "I love them dearly, Miss Alice."
  • "I have some pretty ones out yet, and shall have one or two in the winter; bu_ can't keep a great many here; I haven't room for them. I have hard work t_ave these from frost. There's a beautiful daphne that will be out by and by, and make the whole house sweet. But here, Ellen, on this side between th_indows, is my greatest treasure–my precious books. All these are mine. –Now, my dear, it is time to introduce you to my most excellent of easy chairs–th_est things in the room, aren't they? Put yourself in that–now do you feel a_ome?"
  • "Very much indeed, ma'am," said Ellen laughing, as Alice placed her in th_eep easy chair.
  • There were two things in the room that Alice had not mentioned, and while sh_ended the fire Ellen looked at them. One was the portrait of a gentleman, grave and good-looking; this had very little of her attention. The other wa_he counter-portrait of a lady; a fine dignified countenance that had a char_or Ellen. It hung over the fireplace in an excellent light; and the mild ey_nd somewhat of a peculiar expression about the mouth bore such likeness t_lice, though older, that Ellen had no doubt whose it was.
  • Alice presently drew a chair close to Ellen's side, and kissed her. "I trust, my child," she said, "that you feel better to-day than you did yesterday?"
  • "Oh, I do, ma'am,–a great deal better," Ellen answered.
  • "Then I hope the reason is that you have returned to your duty, and ar_esolved, not to be a Christian by and by, but to lead a Christian's lif_ow?"
  • "I have resolved so, ma'am,–I did resolve so last night and this morning,–bu_et I have been doing nothing but wrong all to-day."
  • Alice was silent. Ellen's lips quivered for a moment, and then she went on,
  • "Oh, ma'am, how I have wanted to see you to-day to tell me what I  _should_o! I resolved and resolved this morning, and then as soon as I got dow_tairs I began to have bad feelings toward aunt Fortune, and I have been ful_f bad feelings all day and I couldn't help it."
  • "It will not do to say that we cannot help what is wrong, Ellen.–What is th_eason that you have bad feelings toward your aunt?"
  • "She don't like me, ma'am."
  • "But how happens that, Ellen? I am afraid you don't like her."
  • "No, ma'am, I don't to be sure; how can I?"
  • "Why cannot you, Ellen?"
  • "Oh, I can't, ma'am! I wish I could. But oh, ma'am, I should have liked her–_ight have liked her, if she had been kind, but she never has. Even that firs_ight I came she never kissed me, nor said she was glad to see me."
  • "That was failing in kindness certainly, but is she unkind to you, Ellen?"
  • "Oh, yes, ma'am, indeed she is. She talks to me, and talks to me, in a wa_hat almost drives me out of my wits; and to-day she even struck me! She ha_o right to do it," said Ellen, firing with passion,–"she has no  _right_o!–and she has no right to talk as she does about mamma. She did it to-day, and she has done it before;–I can't bear it!–and I can't bear  _her!_  I can'_bear_  her!"
  • "Hush, hush," said Alice, drawing the excited child to her arms, for Ellen ha_isen from her seat;–"you must not talk so, Ellen;–you are not feeling righ_ow."
  • "No, ma'am, I am not," said Ellen coldly and sadly. She sat a moment, and the_urning to her companion put both arms round her neck, and hid her face on he_houlder again; and without raising it she gave her the history of th_orning.
  • "What has brought about this dreadful state of things?" said Alice after a fe_inutes. "Whose fault is it, Ellen?"
  • "I think it is aunt Fortune's fault," said Ellen raising her head; "I don'_hink it is mine. If she had behaved well to me I should have behaved well t_er. I meant to, I am sure."
  • "Do you mean to say you do not think you have been in fault at all in th_atter?"
  • "No, ma'am–I do not mean to say that. I have been very much in fault–ver_ften–I know that. I get very angry and vexed, and sometimes I say nothing, but sometimes I get out of all patience and say things I ought not. I did s_o-day; but it is so very hard to keep still when I am in such a passion;–an_ow I have got to feel so toward aunt Fortune that I don't like the sight o_er; I hate the very look of her bonnet hanging up on the wall. I know i_sn't right; and it makes me miserable; and I can't help it, for I grow wors_nd worse every day –and what shall I do?"
  • Ellen's tears came faster than her words.
  • "Ellen, my child," said Alice after a while,–"There is but one way. You kno_hat I said to you yesterday?"
  • "I know it, but dear Miss Alice, in my reading this morning I came to tha_erse that speaks about not being forgiven if we do not forgive others; and, oh! how it troubles me; for I can't feel that I forgive aunt Fortune; I fee_exed whenever the thought of her comes into my head; and how can I behav_ight to her while I feel so?"
  • "You are right there, my dear; you cannot indeed; the heart must be set righ_efore the life can be."
  • "But what shall I do to set it right?"
  • "Pray."
  • "Dear Miss Alice, I have been praying all this morning that I might forgiv_unt Fortune, and yet I cannot do it."
  • "Pray, still, my dear," said Alice, pressing her closer in her arms,–"pra_till; if you are in earnest the answer will come. But there is something els_ou can do, and must do, Ellen, besides praying, or praying may be in vain."
  • "What do you mean, Miss Alice?"
  • "You acknowledge yourself in fault–have you made all the amends you can? Hav_ou, as soon as you have seen yourself in the wrong, gone to your aunt Fortun_nd acknowledged it, and humbly asked her pardon?"
  • Ellen answered "no" in a low voice.
  • "Then, my child, your duty is plain before you. The next thing after doin_rong is to make all the amends in your power–confess your fault, and as_orgiveness, both of God and man. Pride struggles against it,–I see your_oes,–but my child, 'God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto th_umble.'
  • Ellen burst into tears and cried heartily.
  • "Mind your own wrong doings, my child, and you will not be half so disposed t_uarrel with those of other people. But, Ellen dear, if you will not humbl_ourself to this you must not count upon an answer to your prayer. 'If tho_ring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath augh_gainst thee,'–what then?–'Leave there thy gift before the altar;' go firs_nd be reconciled to thy brother, and then come."
  • "But it is so hard to forgive?" sobbed Ellen.
  • "Hard? yes it is hard when our hearts are so. But there is little love t_hrist and no just sense of his love to us in the heart that finds it hard.
  • Pride and selfishness make it hard; the heart full of love to the dear Saviou_cannot_ lay up offences against itself."
  • "I have said quite enough," said Alice after a pause; "you know what you want, my dear Ellen, and what you ought to do. I shall leave you for a little whil_o change my dress, for I have been walking and riding all the morning. Make _ood use of the time while I am gone."
  • Ellen did make good use of the time. When Alice returned she met her wit_nother face than she had worn all that day, humbler and quieter; and flingin_er arms around her, she said, "I will ask aunt Fortune's forgiveness;–I fee_ can do it now."
  • "And how about  _forgiving_ , Ellen?"
  • "I think God will help me to forgive her," said Ellen; "I have asked him. A_ny rate I will ask her to forgive me. But oh, Miss Alice! what would hav_ecome of me without you. "
  • "Don't lean upon me, dear Ellen; remember you have a better friend than _lways near you; trust in him; if I have done you any good, don't forget i_as he brought me to you yesterday afternoon."
  • "There's just one thing that troubles me now," said Ellen,–"mamma's letter. _m thinking of it all the time; I feel as if I should fly to get it!"
  • "We'll see about that. Cannot you ask your aunt for it?"
  • "I don't like to."
  • "Take care, Ellen; there is some pride there yet."
  • "Well, I will try," said Ellen, "but sometimes, I know, she would not give i_o me if I were to ask her. But I'll try, if I can."
  • "Well, now to change the subject–at what o'clock did you dine to-day?"
  • "I don't know, ma'am,–at the same time we always do, I believe."
  • "And that is twelve o'clock, isn't it?"
  • "Yes, ma'am; but I was so full of coming here and other things that I couldn'_at."
  • "Then I suppose you would have no objection to an early tea?"
  • "No, ma'am,–whenever you please," said Ellen laughing.
  • "I shall please it pretty soon. I have had no dinner at all today, Ellen; _ave been out and about all the morning, and had just taken a little nap whe_ou came in. Come this way and let me show you some of my housekeeping."
  • She led the way across the hall to the room on the opposite side; a large, well-appointed, and spotlessly neat kitchen. Ellen could not help exclaimin_t its pleasantness.
  • "Why, yes–I think it is. I have been in many a parlour that I do not like a_ell. Beyond this is a lower kitchen where Margery does all her rough work; nothing comes up the steps that lead from that to this but the very nicest an_aintiest of kitchen matters. Margery, is my father gone to Thirlwall?"
  • "No, Miss Alice–he's at Carra-carra–Thomas heard him say he wouldn't be bac_arly."
  • "Well, I shall not wait for him. Margery, if you will put the kettle on an_ee to the fire, I'll make some of my cakes for tea."
  • "I'll do it, Miss Alice; it's not good for you to go so long without eating."
  • Alice now rolled up her sleeves above the elbows, and tying a large whit_pron before her, set about gathering the different things she wanted for he_ork,–to Ellen's great amusement. A white moulding-board was placed upon _able as white; and round it soon grouped the pail of flour, the plate of nic_ellow butter, the bowl of cream, the sieve, tray, and sundry etceteras. An_hen, first sifting some flour into the tray, Alice began to throw in th_ther things one after another and toss the whole about with a carelessnes_hat looked as if all would go wrong, but with a confidence that seemed to sa_ll was going right. Ellen gazed in comical wonderment.
  • "Did you think cakes were made without hands?" said Alice, laughing at he_ook. "You saw me wash mine before I began."
  • "Oh, I'm not thinking of that," said Ellen; "I am not afraid of your hands."
  • "Did you never see your mother do this?" said Alice, who was now turning an_olling about the dough upon the board in a way that seemed to Ellen curiou_eyond expression.
  • "No, never," she said. "Mamma never kept house, and I never saw any body d_t."
  • "Then your aunt does not let you into the mysteries of bread and butter- making!"
  • "Butter-making! Oh," said Ellen with a sigh, "I have enough of that!"
  • Alice now applied a smooth wooden roller to the cake, with such quickness an_kill that the lump forthwith lay spread upon the board in a thin even layer, and she next cut it into little round cakes with the edge of a tumbler. Hal_he board was covered with the nice little white things, which Ellen declare_ooked good enough to eat already, and she had quite forgotten all possibl_auses of vexation, past, present, or future,–when suddenly a large grey ca_umped upon the table, and coolly walking upon the moulding-board planted hi_aw directly in the middle of one of his mistress's cakes.
  • "Take him off–Oh, Ellen!" cried Alice,–"take him off! I can't touch him."
  • But Ellen was a little afraid.
  • Alice then tried gently to shove puss off with her elbow; but he seemed t_hink that was very good fun,–purred, whisked his great tail over Alice's bar_rm, and rubbed his head against it, having evidently no notion that he wa_ot just where he ought to be. Alice and Ellen were too much amused to try an_iolent method of relief, but Margery happily coming in seized puss in bot_ands and set him on the floor.
  • "Just look at the print of his paw in that cake," said Ellen.
  • "He has set his mark on it certainly. I think it is his now, by the right o_ossession if not the right of discovery."
  • "I think he discovered the cakes too," said Ellen laughing.
  • "Why, yes. He shall have that one baked for his supper."
  • "Does he like cakes?"
  • "Indeed he does. He is very particular and delicate about his eating, i_aptain Parry."
  • "Captain Parry!" said Ellen,–"is that his name?"
  • "Yes," said Alice laughing; "I don't wonder you look astonished, Ellen. I hav_ad that cat five years, and when he was first given me by my brother Jack, who was younger then than he is now, and had been reading Captain Parry'_oyages, he gave him that name and would have him called so. Oh, Jack!"–sai_lice, half laughing and half crying.
  • Ellen wondered why. But she went to wash her hands, and when her face wa_gain turned to Ellen it was unruffled as ever.
  • "Margery, my cakes are ready," said she, "and Ellen and I are ready too."
  • "Very well, Miss Alice–the kettle is just going to boil; you shall have tea i_ trice. I'll do some eggs for you."
  • "Something–any thing," said Alice; "I feel one cannot live without eating.
  • Come, Ellen, you and I will go and set the tea-table."
  • Ellen was very happy arranging the cups and saucers and other things tha_lice handed her from the cupboard; and when a few minutes after the tea an_he cakes came in, and she and Alice were cosily seated at supper, poor Elle_ardly knew herself in such a pleasant state of things.