Chapter 44 The little spirit that haunted the big house
> A child no more!–a maiden now– > A graceful maiden with a gentle brow; > A cheek tinged lightly, and a dove-like eye, > And all hearts bless her as she passes by.
> MARY HOWITT.
THE whole Marshman family returned to Ventnor immediately after the funeral, Mr. George excepted; he stayed with Mr. Humphreys over the Sabbath, an_reached for him; and much to every one's pleasure lingered still a day or tw_onger; then he was obliged to leave them. John also must go back to Doncaste_or a few weeks; he would not be able to get home again before the early par_f August. For the month between and as much longer indeed as possible, Mrs.
Marshman wished to have Ellen at Ventnor; assuring her that it was to be he_ome always whenever she chose to make it so. At first neither Mrs. Marshma_or her daughters would take any denial; and old Mr. Marshman was fixed upo_t. But Ellen begged with tears that she might stay at home and begin at once, as far as she could, to take Alice's place. Her kind friends insisted that i_ould do her harm to be left alone for so long, at such a season. Mr.
Humphreys at the best of times kept very much to himself, and now he woul_ore than ever; she would be very lonely. "But how lonely _he_ will be if _o away !" said Ellen;–"I can't go." Finding that her heart was set upon it, and that it would be a real grief to her to go to Ventnor, John at last joine_o excuse her; and he made an arrangement with Mrs. Vawse instead that sh_hould come and stay with Ellen at the parsonage till he came back. This gav_llen great satisfaction; and her kind Ventnor friends were oblige_nwillingly to leave her.
The first few days after John's departure were indeed sad days–very sad t_very one; it could not be otherwise. Ellen drooped miserably. She had, however, the best possible companion in her old Swiss friend. Her good sense, her steady cheerfulness, her firm principle were always awake for Ellen'_ood, ever ready to comfort her, to cheer her, to prevent her from givin_ndue way to sorrow, to urge her to useful exertion. Affection and gratitude, to the living and the dead, gave powerful aid to these efforts. Ellen rose u_n the morning and lay down at night with the present pressing wish to do an_e for the ease and comfort of her adopted father and brother all that it wa_ossible for her. Very soon, so soon as she could rouse herself to any thing, she began to turn over in her mind all manner of ways and means for this end.
And in general, whatever Alice would have wished, what John did wish, was la_o her.
"Margery," said Ellen one day, " I wish you would tell me all the things Alic_sed to do; so that I may begin to do them, you know, as soon as I can."
"What things, Miss Ellen ?"
"I mean, the things she used to do about the house, or to help you,–don't yo_now?–all sorts of things. I want to know them all, so that I may do them a_he did. I want to very much."
"Oh, Miss Ellen, dear," said Margery, tearfully, "you are too little an_ender to do them things;–I'd be sorry to see you, indeed!"
"Why no, I am not, Margery," said Ellen; "don't you know how I used to do a_unt Fortune's? Now tell me–please, dear Margery! If I can't do it, I won'_ou know."
"Oh, Miss Ellen, she used to see to various things about the house;–I don'_now as I can tell 'em all directly; some was to help me; and some to pleas_er father or Mr. John, if he was at home; she thought of every one befor_erself, sure enough."
"Well what, Margery? what are they? Tell me all you can remember."
"Why, Miss Ellen,–for one thing,–she used to go into the library ever_orning, to put it in order, and dust the books and papers and things; in fac_he took the charge of that room entirely; I never went into it at all, unles_nce or twice in the year, or to wash the windows."
Ellen looked grave; she thought with herself there might be a difficulty i_he way of her taking this part of Alice's daily duties; she did not feel tha_he had the freedom of the library.
"And then," said Margery, "she used to skim the cream for me, most mornings, when I'd be busy; and wash up the breakfast things,–"
"Oh, I forgot all about the breakfast things!" exclaimed Ellen,–"how could I!
I'll do them to be sure, after this. I never thought of them, Margery. An_'ll skim the cream too."
"Dear Miss Ellen, I wouldn't want you to; I didn't mention it for that, bu_ou was wishing me to tell you–I don't want you to trouble your dear littl_ead about such work. It was more the thoughtfulness that cared about me tha_he help of all she could do, though that wasn't a little;–I'll get along wel_nough!–"
"But I should like to,–it would make me happier; and don't you think _I_ant to help you too, Margery?"
"The Lord bless you, Miss Ellen," said Margery, in a sort of desperation, setting down one iron and taking up another, "don't talk in that way, o_ou'll upset me entirely.–I ain't a bit better than a child," said she, he_ears falling fast on the sheet she was hurriedly ironing.
"What else, dear Margery?" said Ellen presently. "Tell me what else."
"Well, Miss Ellen," said Margery, dashing away the water from either eye,–"sh_sed to look over the clothes when they went up from the wash; and put the_way; and mend them if there was any places wanted mending."
"I am afraid I don't know how to manage that," said Ellen very gravely.–"
There is one thing I can do,–I can darn stockings very nicely; but that's onl_ne kind of mending. I don't know much about the other kinds."
"Ah, well, but _she_ did, however," said Margery, searching in her basket o_lothes for some particular pieces. "A beautiful mender she was to be sure!
Look here, Miss Ellen,–just see that patch–the way it is put on–so evenly by _hread all round; and the stitches, see–and see the way this rent is darne_own;–oh, that was the way she did every thing!"
"I can't do it so," said Ellen sighing,–"but I can learn;–that I can do. Yo_ill teach me, Margery, won't you?"
"Indeed, Miss Ellen, dear, it's more than I can myself; but I will tell yo_ho will; and that's Mrs. Vawse. I am thinking it was her she learned of i_he first place,–but I ain't certain. Any how she's a first-rate hand."
"Then I'll get her to teach me," said Ellen;–"that will do very nicely. An_ow, Margery, what else?"
"Oh, dear, Miss Ellen,–I don't know,–there was a thousand little things tha_'d only recollect at the minute; she'd set the table for me when my hands wa_ncommon full; and often she'd come out and make some little thing for th_aster when I wouldn't have the time to do the same myself;–and I can'_ell–one can't think of those things but just at the minute. Dear Miss Ellen, I'd be sorry indeed to see you a trying your little hands to do all that sh_one."
"Never mind, Margery," said Ellen, and she threw her arms round the kind ol_oman as she spoke,–"I won't trouble you and you won't be troubled if I a_wkward about any thing at first, will you?"
Margery could only throw down her holder to return most affectionately as wel_s respectfully Ellen's caress and press a very hearty kiss upon her forehead.
Ellen next went to Mrs. Vawse to beg her help in the mending and patchin_ine. Her old friend was very glad to see her take up any thing with interest, and readily agreed to do her best in the matter. So some old clothes wer_ooked up; pieces of linen, cotton, and flannel gathered together; a larg_asket found to hold all these rags of shape and no shape; and for the nex_eek or two Ellen was indefatigable. She would sit making vain endeavours t_rrange a large linen patch properly, till her cheeks were burning wit_xcitement; and bend over a darn, doing her best to make invisible stitches, till Mrs. Vawse was obliged to assure her it was quite unnecessary to tak_so much_ pains. Taking pains, however, is the sure way to success. Elle_ould not rest satisfied till she had equalled Alice's patching and darning; and though when Mrs. Vawse left her she had not quite reached that point, sh_as bidding fair to do so in a little while.
In other things she was more at home. She could skim milk well enough, an_mmediately began to do it for Margery. She at once also took upon herself th_are of the parlour cupboard and all the things in it, which she well knew ha_een Alice's office; and thanks to Miss Fortune's training, even Margery wa_uite satisfied with her neat and orderly manner of doing it. Ellen begged he_hen the clothes came up from the wash, to show her where every thing went, s_hat for the future she might be able to put them away; and she studied th_helves of the linen closet, and the chests of drawers in Mr. Humphreys' room, till she almost knew them by heart. As to the library, she dared not venture.
She saw Mr. Humphreys at meals and at prayers,–only then. He had never aske_er to come into his study since the night she sang to him, and as for _her_sking–nothing could have been more impossible. Even when he was out of th_ouse, out by the hour, Ellen never thought of going where she had not bee_xpressly permitted to go.
When Mr. Van Brunt informed his wife of Ellen's purpose to desert her servic_nd make her future home at the parsonage, the lady's astonishment was onl_ess than her indignation; the latter not at all lessened by learning tha_llen was to become the adopted child of the house. For a while her words o_ispleasure were poured forth in a torrent; Mr. Van Brunt meantime saying ver_ittle, and standing by like a steadfast rock that the waves dash _past,_ot _upon._ She declared this was "the cap-sheaf of Miss Humphrey's doing; she _might_ have been wise enough to have expected as much; she wouldn'_ave been such a fool if she had! This was what she had let Ellen go ther_or! a pretty return!" But she went on. "She wondered who they thought the_ad to deal with; did they think she was going to let Ellen go in that way?
_she_ had the first and only right to her; and Ellen had no more business t_o and give herself away than one of her oxen; they would find it out, sh_uessed pretty quick; Mr. John and all; she'd have her back in no time!" Wha_ere her thoughts and feelings, when after having spent her breath she foun_er husband quietly opposed to this conclusion, words cannot tell. _Her_ords could not; she was absolutely dumb, till he had said his say; and the_ppalled by the serenity of his manner she left indignation on one side fo_he present and began to argue the matter. But Mr. Van Brunt coolly said h_ad promised; she might get as many help as she liked, he would pay for the_nd welcome; but Ellen would have to stay where she was. He had promised Mis_lice; and he wouldn't break his word "for kings, lords, and commons." A mos_xtraordinary expletive for a good republican,–which Mr. Van Brunt ha_robably inherited from his father and grandfather. What can waves do agains_ rock? The whilome Miss Fortune disdained a struggle which must end in he_wn confusion, and wisely kept her chagrin to herself, never even approachin_he subject afterwards, with him or any other person. Ellen had left the whol_atter to Mr. Van Brunt, expecting a storm and not wishing to share it.
Happily it all blew over.
As the month drew to an end, and indeed long before, Ellen's thoughts began t_o forward eagerly to John coming home. She had learned by this time how t_end clothes; she had grown somewhat wonted to her new round of littl_ousehold duties; in every thing else the want of him was felt. Study flagged; though knowing what his wish would be, and what her duty was, she faithfull_ried to go on with it. She had no heart for riding or walking by herself. Sh_as lonely; she was sorrowful; she was weary; all Mrs. Vawse's pleasan_ociety was not worth the mere knowledge that _he_ was in the house; sh_onged for his coming.
He had written what day they might expect him. But when it came, Ellen foun_hat her feeling had changed; it did not look the bright day she had expecte_t would. Up to that time she had thought only of herself; now she remembere_hat sort of a coming home this must be to him; and she dreaded almost as muc_s she wished for the moment of his arrival. Mrs. Vawse was surprised to se_hat her face was sadder that day than it had been for many past; she coul_ot understand it. Ellen did not explain. It was late in the day before h_eached home, and her anxious watch of hope and fear for the sound of hi_orse's feet grew very painful. She busied herself with setting the tea-table; it was all done; and she could by no means do anything else. She could not g_o the door to listen there; she remembered too well the last time; and sh_new he would remember it.
He came at last. Ellen's feeling had judged rightly of his, for the greetin_as without a word on either side; and when he left the room to go to hi_ather; it was very, very long before he came back. And it seemed to Ellen fo_everal days that he was more grave and talked less than even the last time h_ad been at home. She was sorry when Mrs. Vawse proposed to leave them. Bu_he old lady wisely said they would all feel better when she was gone; and i_as so. Truly as she was respected and esteemed, on all sides, it was felt _elief by every one of the family when she went back to her mountain-top. The_ere left to themselves; they saw what their numbers were; there was n_estraint upon looks, words, or silence. Ellen saw at once that the gentleme_elt easier, that was enough to make her so. The extreme oppression that ha_rieved and disappointed her the first few days after John's return, gav_lace to a softened gravity; and the household fell again into its old ways; only that upon every brow there was a chastened air of sorrow, in everythin_hat was said a tone of remembrance, and that a little figure was going abou_here Alice's used to move as mistress of the house.
Thanks to her brother, that little figure was an exceeding busy one. She ha_n the first place, her household duties, in discharging which she wa_erfectly untiring. From the cream skimmed for Margery, and the cups of coffe_oured out every morning for Mr. Humphreys and her brother, to the famou_ending which took up often one half of Saturday, whatever she did was don_ith her best diligence and care; and from love to both the dead and th_iving, Ellen's zeal never slackened. These things however filled but a smal_art of her time, let her be as particular as she would; and Mr. Joh_ffectually hindered her from being too particular. He soon found a plenty fo_oth her and himself to do.
Not that they ever forgot or tried to forget Alice; on the contrary. The_ought to remember her, humbly, calmly, hopefully, thankfully! By diligen_erformance of duty, by Christian faith, by conversation and prayer, the_trove to do this; and after a time succeeded. Sober that winter was, but i_as very far from being an unhappy one.
"John," said Ellen one day, some time after Mrs. Vawse had left them,–"do yo_hink Mr. Humphreys would let me go into his study every day when he is out, to put it in order and dust the books?"
"Certainly. But why does not Margery do it?"
"She does, I believe, but she never used to; and I should like to do it ver_uch if I was sure he would not dislike it. I would be careful not to distur_nything; I would leave everything just as I found it."
"You may go when you please, and do what you please there, Ellie."
"But I don't like to–I couldn't without speaking to him first; I should b_fraid he might come back and find me there, and he might think I hadn't ha_eave."
"And you wish _me_ to speak to him,–is that it? Cannot you muster resolutio_nough for that, Ellie?"
Ellen was satisfied, for she knew by his tone he would do what she wanted.
"Father," said John, the next morning at breakfast;–"Ellen wishes to take upo_erself the daily care of your study, but she is afraid to venture ther_ithout being assured it will please you to see her there."
The old gentleman laid his hand affectionately on Ellen's head, and told he_he was welcome to come and go when she would;–the whole house was hers.
The grave kindness and tenderness of the tone and action spoiled Ellen'_reakfast. She could not look at any body nor hold up her head for the rest o_he time.
As Alice had anticipated, her brother was called to take the charge of _hurch at Randolph, and at the same time another more distant was offered him.
He refused them both, rightly judging that his place for the present was a_ome. But the call from Randolph being pressed upon him very much, he a_ength agreed to preach for them during the winter; riding thither for th_urpose every Saturday, and returning to Carra-carra on Monday.
As the winter wore one, a grave cheerfulness stole over the household. Elle_ittle thought how much she had to do with it. She never heard Margery tel_er husband, which she often did with great affection, "that that blesse_hild was the light of the house." And those who felt it the most sai_othing. Ellen was sure, indeed, from the way in which Mr. Humphreys spoke t_er, looked at her, now and then laid his hand on her head, and sometimes, very rarely, kissed her forehead, that he loved her and loved to see he_bout; and that her wish of supplying Alice's place was in some little measur_ulfilled. Few as those words and looks were, they said more to Ellen tha_hole discourses would from other people; the least of them gladdened he_eart with the feeling that she was a comfort to him. But she never knew ho_uch. Deep as the gloom still over him was, Ellen never dreamed how muc_eeper it would have been, but for the little figure flitting round an_illing up the vacancy; how much he reposed on the gentle look of affection, the pleasant voice, the watchful thoughtfulness that never left any thin_ndone that she could do for his pleasure. Perhaps he did not know it himself.
She was not sure he even noticed many of the little things she daily did o_ried to do for him. Always silent and reserved, he was more so now than ever; she saw him little, and very seldom long at a time, unless when they wer_iding to church together; he was always in his study or abroad. But th_rifles she thought he did not see were noted and registered, and repaid wit_ll the affection he had to give.
As for Mr. John, it never came into Ellen's head to think whether she was _omfort to him; he was a comfort to _her;_ she looked at it in quite anothe_oint of view. He had gone to his old sleeping-room upstairs, which Marger_ad settled with herself he would make his study; and for that he had take_he sitting-room. This was Ellen's study too, so she was constantly with him; and of the quietest she thought her movements would have to be.
"What are you stepping so softly for?" said he, one day, catching her hand a_he was passing near him.
"You were busy–I thought you were busy," said Ellen.
"And what then?"
"I was afraid of disturbing you."
"You never disturb me," said he;–"you need not fear it. Step as you please, and do not shut the doors carefully. I see you and hear you; but without an_isturbance."
Ellen found it was so. But she was an exception to the general rule; othe_eople disturbed him, as she had one or two occasions of knowing.
Of one thing she was perfectly sure, whatever he might be doing,–that he sa_nd heard her; and equally sure that if any thing were not right she shoul_ooner or later hear of it. But this was a censorship Ellen rather loved tha_eared. In the first place, she was never misunderstood; in the second, however ironical and severe he might be to others, and Ellen knew he could b_oth when there was occasion, he never was either to her. With great plainnes_lways, but with an equally happy choice of time and manner, he either said o_ooked what he wished her to understand. This happened indeed only abou_omparative trifles; to have seriously displeased him, Ellen would hav_hought the last great evil that could fall upon her in the world.
One day Margery came into the room with a paper in her hand.
"Miss Ellen," said she in a low tone,–"here is Anthony Fox again–he ha_rought another of his curious letters that he wants to know if Miss Elle_ill be so good as to write out for him once more. He says he is ashamed t_rouble you so much."
Ellen was reading, comfortably ensconced in the corner of the wide sofa. Sh_ave a glance, a most ungratified one, at the very original document i_argery's hand. Unpromising it certainly looked.
"Another! Dear me!–I wonder if there isn't somebody else he could get to do i_or him, Margery? I think I have had my share. You don't know what a piece o_ork it is, to copy out one of those scrawls. It takes me ever so long in th_irst place to find out what he has written, and then to put it so that an_ne else can make sense of it–I've got about enough of it. Don't you suppos_e could find plenty of other people to do it for him?"
"I don't know, Miss Ellen,–I suppose he could."
"Then ask him, do; won't you, Margery? I'm so tired of it! and this is th_hird one; and I've got something else to do. Ask him if there isn't somebod_lse he can get to do it;–if there isn't, I will;–tell him I am busy."
Margery withdrew and Ellen buried herself again in her book. Anthony Fox was _oor Irishman, whose uncouth attempts at a letter Ellen had once offered t_rite out and make straight for him, upon hearing Margery tell of hi_amenting that he could not make one fit to send _home_ to his mother.
Presently Margery came in again, stopping this time at the table which Mr.
John had pushed to the far side of the room to get away from the fire.
"I beg your pardon, sir," she said,–"I am ashamed to be so troublesome,–bu_his Irish body, this Anthony Fox, has begged me, and I didn't know how t_efuse him, to come in and ask for a sheet of paper and a pen for him, sir,–h_ants to copy a letter,–if Mr. John would be so good; a quill pen, sir, if yo_lease; he cannot write with any other."
"No," said John coolly. "Ellen will do it."
Margery looked in some doubt from the table to the sofa, but Ellen instantl_ose up and with a burning cheek came forward and took the paper from the han_here Margery still held it.
"Ask him to wait a little while, Margery," she said hurriedly,–"I'll do it a_oon as I can,–tell him in half an hour."
It was not a very easy nor quick job. Ellen worked at it patiently, an_inished it well by the end of the half hour; though with a burning chee_till; and a dimness over her eyes frequently obliged her to stop till sh_ould clear them. It was done, and she carried it out to the kitchen herself.
The poor man's thanks were very warm; but that was not what Ellen wanted. Sh_ould not rest till she had got another word from her brother. He was busy; she dared not speak to him; she sat fidgeting and uneasy in the corner of th_ofa till it was time to get ready for riding. She had plenty of time to mak_p her mind about the right and the wrong of her own conduct.
During the ride he was just as usual, and she began to think he did not mea_o say anything more on the matter. Pleasant talk and pleasant exercise ha_lmost driven it out of her head, when as they were walking their horses ove_ level place, he suddenly began,
"By the by, you are too busy, Ellie," said he. "Which of your studies shall w_ut off?"
" _Please,_ Mr. John," said Ellen blushing,–"don't say any thing about that!
I was not studying at all–I was just amusing myself with a book–I was onl_elfish and lazy."
" _Only_ –I would rather you were too busy, Ellie."
Ellen's eyes filled.
"I was wrong," she said,–"I knew it at the time,–at least as soon as you spok_ knew it; and a little before;–I was very wrong!"
And his keen eye saw that the confession was not out of compliment to hi_erely; it came from the heart.
"You are right now," he said smiling. "But how are your reins?"
Ellen's heart was at rest again.
"Oh, I forgot them," said she gayly,–"I was thinking of something else."
"You must not talk when you are riding, unless you can contrive to manage tw_hings at once; and no more lose command of your horse than you would o_ourself."
Ellen's eye met his with all the contrition, affection, and ingenuousness tha_ven he wished to see there; and they put their horses to the canter.
This winter was in many ways a very precious one to Ellen. French gave her no_o trouble; she was a clever arithmetician; she knew geography admirably, an_as tolerably at home in both English and American history; the way wa_leared for the course of improvement in which her brother's hand led an_elped her. He put her into Latin; carried on the study of natural philosoph_hey had begun the year before, and which with his instructions was perfectl_elightful to Ellen; he gave her some works of stronger reading than she ha_et tried, besides histories in French and English, and higher branches o_rithmetic. These things were not crowded together so as to fatigue, no_urried through so as to overload. Carefully and thoroughly she was obliged t_ut her mind through every subject they entered upon; and just at that age, opening as her understanding was, it grappled eagerly with all that he gav_er, as well from love to learning as from love to him. In reading too, sh_egan to take new and strong delight. Especially two or three new Englis_eriodicals, which John sent for on purpose for her, were mines of pleasure t_llen. There was no fiction in them either; they were as full of instructio_s of interest. At all times of the day and night, in her intervals o_usiness, Ellen might be seen with one of these in her hand; nestled among th_ushions of the sofa, or on a little bench by the side of the fireplace in th_wilight, where she could have the benefit of the blaze, which she loved t_ead by as well as ever. Sorrowful remembrances were then flown, all thing_resent were out of view, and Ellen's face was dreamingly happy.
It was well there was always somebody by, who whatever he might himself b_oing, never lost sight of her. If ever Ellen was in danger of bending to_ong over her studies or indulging herself too much in the sofa-corner, sh_as sure to be broken off to take an hour or two of smart exercise, riding o_alking, or to recite some lesson (and their recitations were very livel_hings), or to read aloud, or to talk. Sometimes if he saw that she seemed t_e drooping or a little sad, he would come and sit down by her side or cal_er to his, find out what she was thinking about; and then, instead o_lurring it over, talk of it fairly and set it before her in such a light tha_t was impossible to think of it again gloomily, for that day at least.
Sometimes he took other ways; but never when he was present allowed her lon_o look weary or sorrowful. He often read to her, and every day made her rea_loud to him. This Ellen disliked very much at first, and ended with as muc_iking it. She had an admirable teacher. He taught her how to manage her voic_nd how to manage the language; in both which he excelled himself, and wa_etermined that she should; and besides this their reading often led t_alking that Ellen delighted in. Always when he was making copies for her sh_ead to him, and once at any rate in the course of the day.
Every day when the weather would permit, the Black Prince and the Brownie wit_heir respective riders might be seen abroad in the country far and wide. I_he course of their rides Ellen's horsemanship was diligently perfected. Ver_ften their turning-place was on the top of the Cat's back, and the horses ha_ rest and Mrs. Vawse a visit before they went down again. They had long walk_oo, by hill and dale; pleasantly silent or pleasantly talkative,–all pleasan_o Ellen!
Her only lonely or sorrowful time was when John was gone to Randolph. It bega_arly Saturday morning and perhaps ended with Sunday night; for all Monday wa_ope and expectation. Even Saturday she had not much time to mope; that wa_he day for her great week's mending. When John was gone and her mornin_ffairs were out of the way, Ellen brought out her work-basket, an_stablished herself on the sofa for a quiet day's sewing without the leas_ear of interruption. But sewing did not always hinder thinking. And the_ertainly the room did seem very empty and very still; and the clock, whic_he never heard the rest of the week, kept ticking an ungracious reminder tha_he was alone. Ellen would sometimes forget it in the intense interest of som_ice little piece of repair which must be exquisitely done in a wristband o_love; and then perhaps Margery would softly open the door and come in.
"Miss Ellen, dear, you're lonesome enough; isn't there something I can do fo_ou? I can't rest for thinking of your being here all by yourself."
"Oh, never mind, Margery," said Ellen, smiling,–"I am doing very well. I a_iving in hopes of Monday. Come and look here, Margery,–how will tha_o?–don't you think I am learning to mend?"
"It's beautiful, Miss Ellen! I can't make out how you've learned so quick.
I'll tell Mr. John some time who does these things for him."
"No, indeed, Margery! don't you. _Please_ not, Margery. I like to do it ver_uch indeed but I don't want he should know it, nor Mr. Humphreys. Now yo_on't, Margery, will you?"
"Miss Ellen, dear, I wouldn't do the least little thing as would be worrisom_o you for the whole world. Aren't you tired sitting here all alone?"
"Oh, sometimes, a little," said Ellen sighing. "I can't help that, you know."
"I feel it even out there in the kitchen," said Margery;–"I feel it lonesom_earing the house so still; I miss the want of Mr. John's step up and down th_oom. How fond he is of walking so, to be sure! How do you manage, Miss Ellen, with him making his study here? don't you have to keep uncommon quiet?"
"No," said Ellen,–"no quieter than I like. I do just as I have a mind to."
"I thought, to be sure," said Margery, "he would have taken up stairs for hi_tudy, or the next room, one or t'other; he used to be mighty particular i_ld times; he didn't like to have anybody round when he was busy; but I a_lad he is altered however; it is better for you, Miss Ellen, dear, though _idn't know how you was ever going to make out at first."
Ellen thought for a minute, when Margery was gone, whether it could be tha_ohn was putting a force upon his liking for her sake, bearing her presenc_hen he would rather have been without it. But she thought of it only _inute; she was sure, when she recollected herself, that however it happened, she was no hinderance to him in any kind of work; that she went out and cam_n, and as he had said, he saw and heard her without any disturbance. Beside_e had said so; and that was enough.
Saturday evening she generally contrived to busy herself in her books. Bu_hen Sunday morning came with its calmness and brightness; when the busines_f the week was put away, and quietness abroad and at home invited t_ecollection, then Ellen's thoughts went back to old times, and then sh_issed the calm sweet face that had agreed so well with the day. She misse_er in the morning, when the early sun streamed in through the empty room. Sh_issed her at the breakfast-table, where John was not to take her place. O_he ride to church, where Mr. Humphreys was now her silent companion, an_very tree in the road and every opening in the landscape seemed to call fo_lice to see it with her. Very much she missed her in church. The empty sea_eside her,–the unused hymn-book on the shelf,–the want of her sweet voice i_he singing,–oh how it went to Ellen's heart. And Mr. Humphreys' grav_teadfast look and tone kept it in her mind; she saw it was in his. Thos_unday mornings tried Ellen. At first they were bitterly sad; her tears use_o flow abundantly whenever they could unseen. Time softened this feeling.
While Mr. Humphreys went on to his second service in the village beyond, Elle_tayed at Carra-carra and tried to teach a Sunday school. She determined a_ar as she could to supply beyond the home circle the loss that was not fel_nly there. She was able however to gather together but her own four childre_hom she had constantly taught from the beginning, and two others. The res_ere scattered. After her lunch, which having no companion but Margery was no_ short one, Ellen went next to the two old women that Alice had bee_ccustomed to attend for the purpose of reading, and what Ellen calle_reaching. These poor old people had sadly lamented the loss of the faithfu_riend whose place they never expected to see supplied in this world, an_hose kindness had constantly sweetened their lives with one great pleasure _eek. Ellen felt afraid to take so much upon herself, as to try to do for the_hat Alice had done; however she resolved; and at the very first attempt thei_ratitude and joy far overpaid her for the effort she had made. Practice an_he motive she had, soon enabled Ellen to remember and repeat faithfully th_reater part of Mr. Humphreys' morning sermon. Reading the Bible to Mrs.
Blockson was easy; she had often done that; and to repair the loss of Alice'_leasant comments and explanations she bethought her of her Pilgrim'_rogress. To her delight the old woman heard it greedily, and seemed to tak_reat comfort in it; often referring to what Ellen had read before and beggin_o hear such a piece over again. Ellen generally went home pretty thoroughl_ired, yet feeling happy; the pleasure of doing good still far overbalance_he pains.
Sunday evening was another lonely time; Ellen spent it as best she could.
Sometimes with her Bible and prayer, and then she ceased to be lonely; sometimes with so many pleasant thoughts that had sprung up out of th_mployments of the morning that she could not be sorrowful; sometimes sh_ould not help being both. In any case, she was very apt when the darknes_ell to take to singing hymns; and it grew to be a habit with Mr. Humphrey_hen he heard her to come out of his study and lie down upon the sofa an_isten, suffering no light in the room but that of the fire. Ellen never wa_etter pleased than when her Sunday evenings were spent so. She sung wit_onderful pleasure when she sung for him; and she made it her business to fil_er memory with all the beautiful hymns she ever knew or could find, or tha_e liked particularly.
With the first opening of her eyes on Monday morning came the thought, "Joh_ill be at home to-day!" That was enough to carry Ellen pleasantly throug_hatever the day might bring. She generally kept her mending of stockings fo_onday morning, because with that thought in her head she did not mind an_hing. She had no visits from Margery on Monday; but Ellen sang over her work, sprang about with happy energy, and studied her hardest; for John in what h_xpected her to do made no calculations for work of which he knew nothing. H_as never at home till late in the day; and when Ellen had done all she had t_o, and set the supper-table with punctilious care, and a face of bus_appiness it would have been a pleasure to see if there had been any one t_ook at it, she would take what happened to be the favourite book and plan_erself near the glass door; like a very epicure, to enjoy both the presen_nd the future at once. Even then the present often made her forget th_uture; she would be lost in her book, perhaps hunting the elephant in Indi_r fighting Nelson's battles over again, and the first news she would have o_hat she had set herself there to watch for would be the click of the door- lock or a tap on the glass, for the horse was almost always left at th_urther door. Back then she came, from India or the Nile; down went the book; Ellen had no more thought but for what was before her.
For the rest of that evening the measure of Ellen's happiness was full. It di_ot matter whether John were in a talkative or a thoughtful mood; whether h_poke to her and looked at her or not; it was pleasure enough to feel that h_as there. She was perfectly satisfied merely to sit down near him, though sh_id not get a word by the hour together.