> Poor little, pretty, fluttering thing, > Must we no longer live together?
> And dost thou prune thy trembling wing > To take thy flight thou knowest not whither?
AS soon as she could Ellen carried this wonderful news to Alice, and eagerl_oured out the whole story, her walk and all. She was somewhat disappointed a_he calmness of her hearer.
"But you don't seem half as surprised as I expected, Alice; I thought yo_ould be so much surprised."
"I am not surprised at all, Ellie."
"Not!–aren't you?–why, did you know any thing of this before?"
"I did not _know_ , but I suspected. I thought it was very likely. I a_very_ glad it is so."
"Glad! are you glad? I am so sorry;–why are you glad, Alice?"
"Why are you sorry, Ellie?"
"Oh, because!–I don't know–it seems so queer!–I don't like it at all. I a_ery sorry indeed."
"For your aunt's sake, or for Mr. Van Brunt's sake?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, do you think he or she will be a loser by the bargain?"
"Why he, to be sure; I think he will; I don't think she will. I think he is _reat deal too good. And besides–I wonder if he wants to really;–it wa_ettled so long ago–maybe he has changed his mind since."
"Have you any reason to think so, Ellie?" said Alice smiling.
"I don't know–I don't think he seemed particularly glad."
"It will be safest to conclude that Mr. Van Brunt knows his own mind, my dear; and it is certainly pleasanter for us to hope so."
"But then, besides," said Ellen with a face of great perplexity an_exation,–"I don't know–it don't seem right! How can I ever–must I, do yo_hink I shall have to call him any thing but Mr. Van Brunt?"
Alice could not help smiling again.
"What is your objection, Ellie?"
"Why, because I _can't_ –I couldn't do it, somehow. It would seem s_trange. Must I, Alice?–Why in the world are you glad, dear Alice?"
"It smooths my way for a plan I have had in my head; you will know by and b_hy I am glad, Ellie."
"Well I am glad if you are glad," said Ellen sighing;–"I don't know why I wa_o sorry, but I couldn't help it; I suppose I shan't mind it after a while."
She sat for a few minutes, musing over the possibility or impossibility o_ver forming her lips to the words "uncle Abraham," "uncle Van Brunt," o_arely "uncle;" her soul rebelled against all three. "Yet if he should thin_e unkind,–then I must,–oh, rather fifty times over than that!" Looking up, she saw a change in Alice's countenance, and tenderly asked,
"What is the matter, dear Alice? what are you thinking about?"
"I am thinking, Ellie, how I shall tell you something that will give yo_ain."
"Pain! you needn't be afraid of giving me pain," said Ellen fondly, throwin_er arms around her,–"tell me, dear Alice; is it something I have done that i_rong? what is it?"
Alice kissed her, and burst into tears.
"What is the matter, oh, dear Alice!" said Ellen, encircling Alice's head wit_oth her arms;–"oh, don't cry! do tell me what it is!"
"It is only sorrow for you, dear Ellie."
"But why?" said Ellen in some alarm;–"why are you sorry for me? I don't care, if it don't trouble you, indeed I don't! Never mind me; is it something tha_roubles you, dear Alice?"
"No–except for the effect it may have on others."
"Then I can bear it," said Ellen;–"you need not be afraid to tell me dea_lice;–what is it? don't be sorry for me!"
But the expression of Alice's face was such that she could not help bein_fraid to hear; she anxiously repeated "what is it?"
Alice fondly smoothed back the hair from her brow, looking herself somewha_nxiously and somewhat sadly upon the up-lifted face.
"Suppose Ellie," she said at length,–"that you and I were taking a journe_ogether–a troublesome dangerous journey–and that _I _had a way of gettin_t once safe to the end of it;–would you be willing to let me go, and you d_ithout me for the rest of the way?"
"I would rather you should take me with you," said Ellen, in a kind of maze o_onder and fear;–"why where are you going, Alice?
"I think I am going home, Ellie,–before you."
"Home?" said Ellen.
"Yes,–home I feel it to be; it is not a strange land; I thank God it is m_home_ I am going to."
Ellen sat looking at her, stupefied.
"It is your home too, love, I trust, and believe," said Alice tenderly;–"w_hall be together at last. I am not sorry for myself; I only grieve to leav_ou alone,–and others,–but God knows best. We must both look to him."
"Why Alice," said Ellen starting up suddenly,–"what do you mean? what do yo_ean?–I don't understand you–what do you mean?"
"Do you not understand me, Ellie?"
"But Alice!–but Alice– _dear_ Alice–what makes you say so? is there any thin_he matter with you?"
"Do I look well, Ellie?"
With an eye sharpened to painful keenness, Ellen sought in Alice's face fo_he tokens of what she wished and what she feared. It _had_ once or twic_ately flitted through her mind that Alice was very thin, and seemed to wan_er old strength, whether in riding, or walking, or any other exertion; and i_had_ struck her that the bright spots of colour in Alice's face were jus_ike what her mother's cheeks used to wear in her last illness. These thought_ad just come and gone; but now as she recalled them and was forced t_cknowledge the justness of them, and her review of Alice's face pressed the_ome anew,–hope for a moment faded. She grew white, even to her lips.
"My poor Ellie! my poor Ellie!" said Alice, pressing her little sister to he_osom,–"it must be! We must say 'the Lord's will be done;'–we must not forge_e does all things well."
But Ellen rallied; she raised her head again; she could not believe what Alic_ad told her. To her mind it seemed an evil _too great to happen;_ it coul_ot be! Alice saw this in her look, and again sadly stroked her hair from he_row. "It must be, Ellie, she repeated."
"But have you seen somebody?–have you asked somebody?" said Ellen;–"som_octor?"
"I have seen and I have asked," said Alice;–"it was not necessary, but I hav_one both. They think as I do."
"But these Thirlwall doctors–"
"Not them; I did not apply to them. I saw an excellent physician at Randolph, the last time I went to Ventnor."
"And he said–"
"As I have told you."
Ellen's countenance fell–fell.
"It is easier for me to leave you than for you to be left,–I know that, m_ear little Ellie! You have no reason to be sorry for me–I _am_ sorry fo_ou; but the hand that is taking me away is one that will touch neither of u_ut to do us good;–I know that too. We must both look away to our dea_aviour, and not for a moment doubt his love. I do not–you must not. It is no_aid that 'he loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus?' "
"Yes," said Ellen, who never stirred her eyes from Alice's.
"And might he not–did it not rest with a word of his lips, to keep Lazaru_rom dying, and save his sisters from all the bitter sorrow his death cause_hem?"
Again Ellen said, "yes," or her lips seemed to say it.
"And yet there were reasons, good reasons, why he should not, little as poo_artha and Mary could understand it.–But had he at all ceased to _love the_when he bade all that trouble come? Do you remember, Ellie–oh, how beautifu_hose words are!–when at last he arrived near the place, and first one siste_ame to him with the touching reminder that he might have saved them fro_his, and then the other,–weeping and falling at his feet, and repeating
'Lord, if thou hadst been here!'–when he saw their tears, and more, saw th_orn hearts that tears could not ease,–he even wept with them too! Oh, I than_od for those words! He saw reason to strike, and his hand did not sprare; bu_is love shed tears for them! And he is just the same now."
Some drops fell from Alice's eyes, not sorrowful ones; Ellen had hid her face.
"Let us never doubt his love, dear Ellie, and surely then we can bear whateve_hat love may bring upon us. I do trust it. I do believe it shall be well wit_hem that fear God. I believe it will be well for me when I die,–well for yo_y dear, dear Ellie,–well even for my father–"
She did not finish the sentence, afraid to trust herself.–But oh, Ellen kne_hat it would have been; and it suddenly startled into life all the load o_rief that had been settling heavily on her heart. Her thoughts had not looke_hat way before;–now when they did, this new vision of misery was too much t_ear. Quite unable to contain herself, and unwilling to pain Alice more tha_he could help, with a smothered burst of feeling she sprang away, out of th_oor, into the woods, where she would be unseen and unheard.
And there in the first burst of her agony, Ellen almost thought she shoul_ie. Her grief had not now indeed the goading sting of impatience; she kne_he hand that gave the blow, and did not raise her own against it; sh_elieved too what Alice had been saying, and the sense of it was, in a manner, present with her in her darkest time. But her spirit died within her; sh_owed her head as if she were never to lift it up again; and she was ready t_ay with Job, "what good is my life to me?"
It was long, very long after, when slowly and mournfully she came in again t_iss Alice before going back to her aunt's. She would have done it hurriedl_nd turned away; but Alice held her and looked sadly for a minute into th_oe-begone little face, then clasped her close and kissed her again and again.
"Oh, Alice," sobbed Ellen on her neck,–"aren't you mistaken? maybe you ar_istaken."
"I am not mistaken, my dear Ellie, my own Ellie," said Alice's clear swee_oice;–"nor sorry, except for others. I will talk with you more about this.
You will be sorry for me at first, and then I hope you will be glad. It i_nly that I am going home a little before you. Remember what I was saying t_ou a while ago. Will you tell Mr. Van Brunt I should like to see him for _ew minutes some time when he has leisure?–And come to me early to-morrow, love."
Ellen could hardly get home. Her blinded eyes could not see where she wa_tepping; and again and again her fulness of heart got the better of ever_hing else, and unmindful of the growing twilight she sat down on a stone b_he wayside or flung herself on the ground to let sorrows have full sway. I_ne of these fits of bitter struggling with pain, there came on her mind, lik_ sunbeam across a cloud, the thought of Jesus weeping at the grave o_azarus. It came with singular power. Did he love them so well? though_llen–and is he looking down upon us with the same tenderness even now?–Sh_elt that the sun was shining still, though the cloud might be between; he_roken heart crept to His feet and laid its burden there, and after a fe_inutes she rose up and went on her way, keeping that thought still close t_er heart. The unspeakable tears that were shed during those few minutes wer_hat softened out-pouring of the heart that leaves it eased. Very, ver_orrowful as she was, she went on calmly now and stopped no more.
It was getting dark, and a little way from the gate, on the road, she met Mr.
"Why I was beginning to get scared about you," said he. "I was coming to se_here you was. How come you so late?"
Ellen made no answer, and as he now came nearer and he could see mor_istinctly, his tone changed.
"What's the matter?" said he,–"you ha'n't been well! what has happened? wha_ils you, Ellen?"
In astonishment and then in alarm, he saw that she was unable to speak, an_nxiously and kindly begged her to let him know what was the matter, and if h_ould do any thing. Ellen shook her head.
"Ain't Miss Alice well?" said he;–"you ha'n't heerd no bad news up there o_he hill, have you?"
Ellen was not willing to answer this question with yea or nay. She recovere_erself enough to give him Alice's message.
"I'll be sure and go," said he,–"but you ha'n't told me yet what's the matter!
Has any thing happened?"
"No," said Ellen;–"don't ask me–she'll tell you–don't ask me."
"I guess I'll go up the first thing in the morning then," said he,–"befor_reakfast."
"No," said Ellen;–"better not–perhaps she wouldn't be up so early."
"After breakfast then,–I'll go up right after breakfast. I was a going wit_he boys up into that 'ere wheat lot, but anyhow I'll do that first. The_on't have a chance to do much bad or good before I get back to them, _eckon."
As soon as possible she made her escape from Miss Fortune's eye and question_f curiosity which she could not bear to answer, and got to her own room.
There the first thing she did was to find the eleventh chapter of John. Sh_ead it as she never had read it before;–she found in it what she never ha_ound before; one of those cordials that none but the sorrowing drink. On th_ove of Christ, as there shown, little Ellen's heart fastened; and with tha_ne sweetening thought amid all its deep sadness, her sleep that night migh_ave been envied by many a luxurious roller in pleasure.
At Alice's wish she immediately took up her quarters at the parsonage, t_eave her no more. But she could not see much difference in her from what sh_ad been for several weeks past; and with the natural hopefulness o_hildhood, her mind presently almost refused to believe the extremity of th_vil which had been threatened. Alice herself was constantly cheerful, an_ought by all means to further Ellen's cheerfulness; though careful at th_ame time, to forbid, as far as she could, the rising of the hope she sa_llen was inclined to cherish.
One evening they were sitting together at the window, looking out upon th_ame old lawn and distant landscape, now in all the fresh greenness of th_oung spring. The woods were not yet in full leaf; and the light of th_etting sun upon the trees bordering the other side of the lawn showed them i_he most exquisite and varied shades of colour. Some had the tender green o_he new leaf, some were in the red or yellow browns of the half-opened bud; others in various stages of forwardness mixing all the tints between, and th_vergreens standing dark as ever, setting off the delicate hues of th_urrounding foliage. This was all softened off in the distance; the very ligh_f the spring was mild and tender compared with that of other seasons; and th_ir that stole round the corner of the house and came in at the open windo_as laden with aromatic fragrance. Alice and Ellen had been for some tim_ilently breathing it and gazing thoughtfully on the loveliness that wa_broad.
"I used to think," said Alice, "that it must be a very hard thing to leav_uch a beautiful world. Did you ever think so, Ellie?"
"I don't know," said Ellen faintly,–"I don't remember."
"I used to think so," said Alice. "But I do not now, Ellie; my feeling ha_hanged.–Do _you_ feel so now, Ellie?"
"Oh, why do you talk about it, dear Alice?"
"For many reasons, dear Ellie. Come here and sit in my lap again."
"I am afraid you cannot bear it."
"Yes I can. Sit here, and let your head rest where it used to;"–and Alice lai_er cheek upon Ellen's forehead;–"you are a great comfort to me, dear Ellie."
"Oh, Alice, don't say so–you'll kill me!" exclaimed Ellen in great distress.
"Why should I not say so, love?" said Alice soothingly. "I like to say it, an_ou will be glad to know it by and by. You are a _great_ comfort to me."
"And what have you been to me!" said Ellen weeping bitterly.
"What I cannot be much longer; and I want to accustom you to think of it, an_o think of it rightly. I want you to know that if I am sorry at all in th_hought, it is for the sake of others, not myself. Ellie, you yourself will b_lad for me in a little while;–you will not wish me back."
Ellen shook her head.
"I know you will not–after a while;–and I shall leave you in good hands–I hav_rranged for that, my dear little sister!"
The sorrowing child neither knew nor cared what she meant, but a mute cares_nswered the _spirit_ of Alice's words.
"Look up Ellie–look out again. Lovely–lovely! all that is,–but I know heave_s a great deal more lovely. Feasted as our eyes are with beauty, I believ_hat eye has not seen, nor heart imagined the things that God has prepared fo_hem that love him. _You_ believe that, Ellie, you must not be so _very_orry that I have gone to see it a little before you."
Ellen could say nothing.
"After all, Ellie, it is not beautiful things nor a beautiful world that mak_eople happy–it is loving and being loved; and that is the reason why I a_appy in the thought of heaven. I shall, if he receives me–I shall be with m_aviour; I shall see him and know him, without any of the clouds that com_etween here. I am often forgetting and displeasing him now,–never serving hi_ell nor loving him right. I shall be glad to find myself where all that wil_e done with for ever. I shall be like him!–Why do you cry so, Ellie?" sai_lice tenderly.
"I can't help it, Alice."
"It is only my love for you–and for two more–that could make me wish to sta_ere,–nothing else;–and I give all that up, because I do not know what is bes_or you or myself. And I look to meet you all again before long. Try to thin_f it as I do, Ellie."
"But what shall I do without you?" said poor Ellen.
"I will tell you, Ellie. You must come here and take my place, and take car_f those I leave behind; will you?–and they will take care of you."
"But,"–said Ellen, looking up eagerly,–"aunt Fortune–"
"I have managed all that. Will you do it, Ellen? I shall feel easy and happ_bout you, and far easier and happier about my father, if I leave yo_stablished here, to be to him as far as you can, what I have been. Will yo_romise me, Ellie?"
In words it was not possible; but what silent kisses, and the close pressur_f the arms round Alice's neck could say was said.
"I am satisfied, then," said Alice presently. "My father will be you_ather–think him so, dear Ellie,–and I know John will take care of you. And m_lace will not be empty. I am very, very glad."
Ellen felt her place surely would be empty, but she could not say so.
"It was for this I was so glad of your aunt's marriage, Ellie," Alice soo_ent on. "I foresaw she might raise some difficulties in my way,–hard t_emove perhaps;–but now I have seen Mr. Van Brunt, and he has promised me tha_othing shall hinder your taking up your abode and making your home entirel_ere. Though I believe, Ellie, he would truly have loved to have you in hi_wn house."
"I am sure he would," said Ellen,–"but oh, how much rather–"
"He behaved very well about it the other morning,–in a very manly, frank, kin_ay,–showed a good deal of feeling I think, too. He gave me to understand tha_or his own sake he should be extremely sorry to let you go; but he assured m_hat nothing over which he had any control should stand in the way of you_ood."
"He is _very_ kind–he is _very_ good–he is always so," said Ellen. "I lov_r. Van Brunt very much. He always was as kind to me as he could be."
They were silent for a few minutes, and Alice was looking out of the windo_gain. The sun had set, and the colouring of all without was graver. Yet i_as but the change from one beauty to another. The sweet air seemed stil_weeter than before the sun went down.
"You must be happy, dear Ellie, in knowing that I am. I am happy now. I enjo_ll this, and I love you all,–but I can leave it and can leave you,–yes, both,–for I would see Jesus! He who has taught me to love him will not forsak_e now. Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and _hall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. I thank him! Oh, I thank him!"
Alice's face did not belie her words, though her eyes shone through tears.
"Ellie, dear,–you must love him with all your heart, and live constantly i_is presence. I know if you do he will make you happy, in any event. He ca_lways give more than he takes away. Oh, how good he is!–and what wretche_eturns we make him!–I was miserable when John first went away to Doncaster; _id not know how to bear it. But now, Ellie, I think I can see it has done m_ood, and I can even be thankful for it. All things are ours–all things;–th_orld, and life, and death too."
"Alice," said Ellen, as well as she could,–"you know what you were saying t_e the other day?"
"About what, love?"
"That about–you know,–that chapter–'
"About the death of Lazarus?"
"Yes. It has comforted me very much."
"So it has me, Ellie. It has been exceeding sweet to me at different times.
Come sing to me,–'How firm a foundation.' "
From time to time, Alice led to this kind of conversation, both for Ellen'_ake and her own pleasure. Meanwhile she made her go on with her usual studie_nd duties; and but for these talks Ellen would have scarce known how t_elieve that it could be true which she feared.
The wedding of Miss Fortune and Mr. Van Brunt was a very quiet one. I_appened at far too busy a time of the year, and they were too coo_alculators, and looked upon their union in much too business-like a point o_iew, to dream of such a wild thing as a wedding-tour, or even resolve upon s_roublesome a thing as a wedding-party. Miss Fortune would not have left he_heese and butter-making to see all the New Yorks and Bostons that ever wer_uilt; and she would have scorned a trip to Randolph. And Mr. Van Brunt woul_s certainly have wished himself all the while back among his furrows an_rops. So one day they were quietly married at home, the Rev. Mr. Clark havin_een fetched from Thirlwall for the purpose. Mr. Van Brunt would hav_referred that Mr. Humphreys should perform the ceremony; but Miss Fortune wa_uite decided in favor of the Thirlwall gentleman, and of course he it was.
The talk ran high all over the country on the subject of this marriage, an_pinions were greatly divided; some congratulating Mr. Van Brunt on havin_ade himself one of the richest land-holders "in town" by the junction o_nother fat farm to his own; some pitying him for having got more than hi_atch within doors, and "guessing he'd missed his reckoning for once."
"If he has, then," said Sam Larkens, who heard some of these condolin_emarks,–"it's the first time in his life, I can tell you. If _she_ ain't _ittle mistaken, I wish I mayn't get a month's wages in a year to come. I tel_ou, you don't know Van Brunt; he's as easy as any body as long as he don'_are about what you're doing; but if he once takes a notion you can't make hi_ee nor haw no more than you can our near ox Timothy when he's out o' yoke; and he's as ugly a beast to manage as ever I see when he ain't yoked up. Wh_less you! there ha'n't been a thing done on the farm this five years but jus_hat he liked– _she_ don't know it. I've heerd her," said Sam chucking,–"I'v_eerd her a telling him how she wanted this thing done, and t'other, and he'_ust not say a word and go and do it right t'other way. It'll be a wonder i_omebody ain't considerably startled in her calculations 'afore summer's out."