> This life, sae far's I understand, > Is a' enchanted fairy-land, > Where pleasure is the magic wand, > That wielded right, > Makes hours like minutes, hand in hand, > Dance by fu'light.
NEW YEAR'S morning dawned.
"How I wish breakfast was over!"–thought Ellen as she was dressing. However, there is no way of getting _over_ this life but by going through it; so whe_he bell rang she went down as usual. Mr. Marshman had decreed that he woul_ot have a confusion of gifts at the breakfast table; other people might mak_resents in their own way; they must not interfere with his. Needlecases, bags, and so forth, must therefore wait another opportunity; and Elle_hauncey decided it would just make the pleasure so much longer, and was _reat improvement on the old plan. "Happy New Years" and pleasant greeting_ere exchanged as the party gathered in the breakfast room; pleasure sat o_ll faces, except Ellen's, and many a one wore a broad smile as they sat dow_o table. For the napkins were in singular disarrangement this morning; instead of being neatly folded up on the plates, in their usual fashion, the_ere in all sorts of disorder,–sticking up in curious angles, some high, som_ow, some half folded, some quite unfolded, according to the size and shape o_hat which they covered. It was worth while to see that long tableful, and th_aces of the company, before yet a napkin was touched. An anxious glance a_er own showed Ellen that it lay quite flat; Alice's which was next, had a_dd little rising in the middle, as if there were a small dumpling under it.
Ellen was in an agony for this pause to come to an end. It was broken by som_f the older persons, and then in a trice every plate was uncovered. And the_hat a buzz!–pleasure and thanks and admiration, and even laughter. Elle_readed at first to look at her plate; she bethought her, however, that if sh_aited long she would have to do it with all eyes upon her; she lifted th_apkin slowly–yes–just as she feared–there lay a clean bank-note–of what valu_he could not see, for confusion covered her; the blood rushed to her cheek_nd the tears to her eys. She could not have spoken, and happily it was n_ime then; every body else was speaking; she could not have been heard. Sh_ad time to cool and recollect herself; but she sat with her eyes cast down, fastened upon her plate and the unfortunate bank-bill, which she detested wit_ll her heart. She did not know what Alice had received; she understoo_othing that was going on, till Alice touched her and said gently, "Mr.
Marshman is speaking to you, Ellen."
"Sir!" said Ellen, starting.
"You need not look so terrified," said Mr. Marshman, smiling;–"I only aske_ou if your bill was a counterfeit–something seems to be wrong about it."
Ellen looked at her plate and hesitated. Her lip trembled.
"What is it?" continued the old gentleman. "Is any thing the matter."
Ellen desperately took up the bill, and with burning cheeks marched to his en_f the table.
"I am very much obliged to you, sir, but I had a great deal rather not;–if yo_lease–if you will please to be so good as to let me give it back to you–_hould be very glad."–
"Why hoity toity!" said the old gentleman,–"what's all this? what's th_atter? don't you like it? I thought I was doing the very thing that woul_lease you best of all."
"I am very sorry you should think so, sir," said Ellen, who had recovered _ittle breath, but had the greatest difficulty to keep back her tears;–"_ever thought of such a thing as your giving me any thing sir, till somebod_poke of it, and I had rather never have any thing in the world than that yo_hould think what you thought about me."
"What did I think about you?"
"George told me that somebody told you, sir, I wanted money for my present."
"And didn't you say so?"
"Indeed I didn't, sir!" said Ellen with a sudden fire. "I never thought o_uch a thing!"
"What _did_ you say then?"
"Margaret was showing us her ear-rings, and she asked me if I wouldn't like t_ave some like them; and I couldn't help thinking I would a great deal rathe_ave the money they would cost to buy something for Alice; and just when _aid so you came in sir, and she said what she did. I was very much ashamed. _asn't thinking of you, sir, at all, nor of New Year."
"Then you would like something else better than money."
"No, sir, nothing at all if you please. If you'll only be so good as not t_ive me this I will be very much obliged to you indeed; and please not t_hink I could be so shameful as you thought I was."
Ellen's face was not to be withstood. The old gentleman took the bill from he_and.
"I will never think any thing of you," said he, "but what is the very tip-to_f honourable propriety. But you make _me_ ashamed now–what am I going to d_ith this? Here have you come and made me a present, and I feel very awkwar_ndeed."
"I don't care what you do with it, sir," said Ellen, laughing, though i_mminent danger of bursting into tears;–"I am very glad it is out of _my_ands."
"But you needn't think I am going to let you off so," said he; "you must giv_e half-a-dozen kisses at least to prove that you have forgiven me for makin_o great a blunder."
"Half-a-dozen is too many at once," said Ellen, gayly; "three now and thre_o-night."
So she gave the old gentleman three kisses, but he caught her in his arms an_ave her a dozen at least; after which he found out that the waiter wa_olding a cup of coffee at his elbow, and Ellen went back to her place with _ery good appetite for her breakfast.
After breakfast the needlecases were delivered. Both gave the most entir_atisfaction. Mrs. Chauncey assured her daughter that she would quite as lie_ave a yellow as a red rose on the cover, and that she liked the inscriptio_xtremely; which the little girl acknowledged to have been a joint device o_er own and Ellen's. Ellen's bag gave great delight, and was paraded all ove_he house.
After the bustle of thanks and rejoicing was at last over, and when she had _inute to herself, which Ellen Chauncey did not give her for a good while, Ellen bethought her of her flowers,–a sweet gift still to be made. Why no_ake it now? why should not Alice have the pleasure of them all day? A brigh_hought! Ellen ran forthwith to the housekeeper's room, and after a lon_dmiring look at her treasures, carried them glass and all to the library, where Alice and John often were in the morning alone. Alice thanked her in th_ay she liked best, and then the flowers were smelled and admired afresh.
"Nothing could have been pleasanter to me, Ellie, except Mr. Marshman's gift."
"And what was that, Alice? I haven't seen it yet."
Alice pulled out of her pocket a small round morocco case, the very thing tha_llen had thought looked like a dumpling under the napkin, and opened it.
"It's Mr. John!" exclaimed Ellen. "Oh, how beautiful!" Neither of her hearer_ould help laughing.
"It is very fine, Ellie," said Alice; "you are quite right. Now I know wha_as the business that took John to Randolph every day, and kept him there s_ong, while I was wondering at him unspeakably. Kind, kind Mr. Marshman."
"Did Mr. John get any thing?"
"Ask him, Ellie."
"Did you get any thing, Mr. John?" said Ellen, going up to him where he wa_eading on the sofa.
"I got this," said John, handing her a little book which lay beside him.
"What is this? Wime's–Wiem's–Life of Washington–Washington? he was–May I loo_t it?"
She opened the book, and presently sat down on the floor where she was by th_ide of the sofa. Whatever she had found within the leaves of the book, sh_ad certainly lost herself. An hour passed. Ellen had not spoken or move_xcept to turn over leaves.
"Ellen!" said John.
She looked up, her cheeks coloured high.
"What have you found there?" said he, smiling.
"Oh, a great deal! But–did Mr. Marshman give you this?"
"Oh!" said Ellen, looking puzzled,–"I thought you said you got this morning."
"No, I got it last night. I got it for you, Ellie."
"For me!" said Ellen, her colour deepening very much,–"for me! did you? Oh, thank you!–oh, I'm so much obliged to you, Mr. John."
"It is only an answer to one of your questions."
"This! is it?–I don't know what, I am sure. Oh, I wish I could do something t_lease you, Mr. John!"
"You shall, Ellie; you shall give me a brother's right again."
Blushingly Ellen approached her lips to receive one of his grave kisses; an_hen, not at all displeased, went down on the floor and was lost in her book.
Oh, the long joy of that New Year's day!–how shall it be told? The pleasure o_hat delightful book, in which she was wrapped the whole day; even when calle_ff, as she often was, by Ellen Chauncey to help her in fifty little matter_f business or pleasure. These were attended to, and faithfully an_heerfully, but _the book_ was in her head all the while. And this pleasur_as mixed with Alice's pleasure, the flowers and the miniature, and Mr.
Marshman's restored kindness. She never met John's or Alice's eye that da_ithout a smile. Even when she went to be dressed her book went with her, an_as laid on the bed within sight, ready to be taken up the moment she was a_iberty. Ellen Chauncey lent her a white frock which was found to answer ver_ell with a tuck let out; and Alice herself dressed her. While this was doing, Margaret Dunscombe put her head in at the door to ask Anne, Miss Sophia'_aid, if she was almost ready to come and curl her hair.
"Indeed I can't say that I am, Miss Margaret," said Anne. "I've something t_o for Miss Humphreys, and Miss Sophia hasn't so much as done the first thin_oward beginning to get ready yet. It'll be a good hour and more."
Margaret went away exclaiming impatiently that she could get nobody to hel_er, and would have to wait till every body was down stairs.
A few minutes after she heard Ellen's voice at the door of her room asking i_he might come in.
"Yes–who's that?–what do you want?"
"I'll fix your hair if you'll let me," said Ellen.
"You? I don't believe you can."
"Oh, yes I can; I used to do mamma's very often; I am not afraid if you'l_rust me."
"Well, thank you, I don't care if you try then," said Margaret, seatin_erself,–"it won't do any harm at any rate; and I want to be down stair_efore anybody gets here; I think it's half the fun to see them come in. Bles_e! you're dressed and all ready."
Margaret's hair was in long thick curls; it was not a trifling matter to dres_hem. Ellen plodded through it patiently and faithfully, taking great pains, and doing the work well; and then went back to Alice. Margaret's thanks, no_ery gracefully given, would have been a poor reward for the loss of three- quarters of an hour of pleasure. But Ellen was very happy in having don_ight. It was no longer time to read; they must go down stairs.
The New Year's party was a nondescript,–young and old together; a goodl_umber of both were gathered from Randolph and the neighbouring country. Ther_ere games for the young, dancing for the gay, and a superb supper for all; and the big bright rooms were full of bright faces. It was a very happ_vening to Ellen. For a good part of it Mr. Marshman took possession of her, or kept her near him; and his extreme kindness would alone have made th_vening pass pleasantly; she was sure he was her firm friend again.
In the course of the evening, Mrs. Chauncey found occasion to ask her abou_er journey up the river, without at all mentioning Margaret or what she ha_aid. Ellen answered that she had come with Mrs. Dunscombe and her daughter.
"Did you have a pleasant time?" asked Mrs. Chauncey.
"Why, no, ma'am." Said Ellen,–"I don't know–it was partly pleasant and partl_npleasant."
"What made it so, love?"
"I had left mamma that morning, and that made me unhappy."
"But you said it was partly pleasant?"
"Oh, that was because I had such a good friend on board," said Ellen, her fac_ighting up as his image came before her.
"Who was that?"
"I don't know, ma'am, who he was."
"A stranger to you?"
"Yes, ma'am–I never saw him before–I wish I could see him again."
"Where did you find him?"
"I didn't find him–he found me, when I was sitting up on the highest part o_he boat."
"And your friends with you?"
"Mrs. Dunscombe and her daughter."
"No, ma'am–they were down in the cabin."
"And what business had you to be wandering about the boat alone?" said Mr.
"They were strangers, sir," said Ellen, colouring a little.
"Well, so was this man–your friend–a stranger too, wasn't he?"
"Oh, he was a very different stranger," said Ellen, smiling,–"and he wasn't _tranger long, besides."
"Well, you must ell me more about him,–come, I'm curious;–what sort of _trange friend was this?"
"He wasn't a _strange_ friend," said Ellen, laughing;–"he was a very, ver_ood friend; he took care of me the whole day; he was very good and ver_ind."
"What kind of a man?" said Mrs. Chauncey;–"a gentleman?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am!" said Ellen, looking surprised at the question. "I am sure h_as."
"What did he look like?"
Ellen tried to tell, but the portrait was not very distinct.
"What did he wear? Coat or cloak?"
"Coat–dark brown, I think."
"This was the end of October, wasn't it?"
Ellen thought a moment and answered "yes."
"And you don't know his name?"
"No, ma'am; I wish I did."
"I can tell you," said Mrs. Chauncey, smiling;–"he is one of my best friend_oo, Ellen; it is my brother, Mr. George Marshman."
How Ellen's face crimsoned! Mr. Marshman asked how she knew.
"It was then he came up the river, you know, sir; and don't you remember hi_peaking of a little girl on board the boat who was travelling with strangers, and whom he endeavoured to befriend? I had forgotten it entirely till a minut_r two ago."
"Miss Margaret Dunscombe!" cried George Walsh, "what kind of a person was tha_ou said Ellen was so fond of when you came up the river?"
"I don't know, nor care," said Margaret. "Somebody she picked up somewhere."
"It was Mr. George Marshman!"
"Uncle George!" exclaimed Ellen Chauncey, running up to the group her cousi_ad quitted;–" _My_ uncle George? Do you know uncle George, Ellen?"
"Very much–I mean–yes," said Ellen.
Ellen Chauncey was delighted. So was Ellen Montgomery. It seemed to bring th_hole family nearer to her, and they felt it too. Mrs. Marshman kissed he_hen she heard it, and said she remembered very well her son's speaking o_er, and was very glad to find who it was. And now, Ellen thought, she woul_urely see him again some time.
The next day they left Ventnor. Ellen Chauncey was very sorry to lose her ne_riend, and begged she would come again "as soon as she could." All the famil_aid the same. Mr. Marshman told her she must give him a large place in he_eart, or he should be jealous of her "strange friend;" and Alice was charge_o bring her whenever she came to see them.
The drive back to Carra-carra was scarcely less pleasant than the drive ou_ad been; and home, Ellen said, looked lovely. That is, Alice's home, whic_he began to think more her own than any other. The pleasure of the past te_ays, though great, had not been unmixed; the week that followed was one o_erfect enjoyment. In Mr. Humphreys' household there was an atmosphere o_eace and purity that even a child could feel, and in which such a child a_llen throve exceedingly. The drawing lessons went on with great success; other lessons were begun; there were fine long walks, and charming sleigh- rides, and more than one visit to Mrs. Vawse; and what Ellen perhaps liked th_est of all, the long evenings of conversation and reading aloud, and brigh_ire-lights, and brighter sympathy and intelligence and affection. That wee_id them all good, and no one more than Ellen.
It was a little hard to go back to Miss Fortune's and begin her old lif_here. She went on the evening of the day John had departed. They were a_upper.
"Well!" said Miss Fortune, as Ellen entered,–"have you got enough of visiting?
I should be ashamed to go where I wasn't wanted, for my part."
"I haven't, aunt Fortune," said Ellen.
"She's been nowhere but what's done her good," said Mr. Van Brunt; "she'_eely growed handsome since she's been away."
"Grown a fiddlestick!" said Miss Fortune.
"She couldn't grow handsomer than she was before," said the old grandmother, hugging and kissing her little grand-daughter with great delight;–"th_weetest posie in the garden she always was!"
Mr. Van Brunt looked as if he entirely agreed with the old lady. That, whil_t made some amends for Miss Fortune's dryness, perhaps increased it. Sh_emarked, that "she thanked Heaven she could always make herself contented a_ome;" which Ellen could not help thinking was a happiness for the rest of th_orld.
In the matter of the collar, it was hard to say whether the giver or receive_ad the most satisfaction. Ellen had begged him not to speak of it to he_unt; and accordingly one Sunday when he came there with it on, both he an_he were in a state of exquisite delight. Miss Fortune's attention was at las_roused; she made a particular review of him, and ended it by declaring that
"he looked uncommonly dandified, but she could not make out what he had don_o himself;" a remark which transported Mr. Van Brunt and Ellen beyond al_ounds of prudence.
Nancy's Bible, which had been purchased for her at Randolph, was given to he_he first opportunity. Ellen anxiously watched her as she slowly turned i_ver, her face showing, however, very decided approbation of the style of th_ift. She shook her head once or twice, and then said,
"What did you give this to me for, Ellen?"
"Because I wanted to give you something for New Year," said Ellen,–"and _hought that would be the best thing,–if you would only read it,–it would mak_ou so happy and good."
" _You_ are good, I believe," said Nancy, "but I don't expect ever to b_yself–I don't think I _could_ be. You might as well teach a snake not t_riggle."
"I am not good at all," said Ellen,–"we're none of us good,"–and the tear_ose to her eyes,–"but the Bible will teach us how to be. If you'll only rea_t!–please Nancy, do! say you will read a little every day."
"You don't want me to make a promise I shouldn't keep, I guess, do you?"
"No," said Ellen.
"Well, I shouldn't keep that, so I won't promise it; but I tell you what _will_ do,–I'll take precious fine care of it, and keep it always for you_ake."
"Well," said Ellen sighing,–"I am glad you will even do so much as that. Bu_ancy–before you begin to read the Bible you may have to go where you neve_an read it, nor be happy nor good neither."
Nancy made no answer, but walked away, Ellen thought, rather more soberly tha_sual.
This conversation had cost Ellen some effort. It had not been made without _ood deal of thought and some prayer. She could not hope she had done muc_ood, but she had done her duty. And it happened that Mr. Van Brunt, standin_ehind the angle of the wall, had heard every word.