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Chapter 32 The bank-note and George Washington

  • > 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.
  • >                           BURNS.
  • 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?"
  • "Certainly!"
  • 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?"
  • "No."
  • "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?"
  • "What friends?"
  • "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.
  • Marshman, good-humouredly.
  • "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!"
  • "It wasn't."
  • "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.