> My child is yet a stranger in the world, > She hath not seen the change of fourteen years.
THE next day would not do for the intended shopping; nor the next. The thir_ay was fine, though cool and windy.
"Do you think you can venture out to-day, mamma?" said Ellen.
"I am afraid not. I do not feel quite equal to it; and the wind is a grea_eal too high for me besides."
"Well," said Ellen, in the tone of one who is making up her mind to d_omething, "we shall have a fine day by and by, I suppose, if we wait lon_nough; we had to wait a great deal while for our first shopping day. I wis_uch another would come round."
"But the misfortune is," said her mother, "that we cannot afford to wait.
November will soon be here, and your clothes may be suddenly wanted befor_hey are ready, if we do not bestir ourselves. And Miss Rice is coming in _ew days–I ought to have the merino ready for her."
"What will you do, mamma?"
"I do not know, indeed, Ellen; I am greatly at a loss."
"Couldn't papa get the stuffs for you, mamma?"
"No, he's too busy; and besides, he knows nothing at all about shopping fo_e; he would be sure to bring me exactly what I do not want. I tried tha_nce."
"Well, what will you do, mamma? Is there nobody else you could ask to get th_hings for you? Mrs. Foster would do it, mamma!"
"I know she would, and I should ask her without any difficulty, but she i_onfined to her room with a cold. I see nothing for it but to be patient an_et things take their course, though if a favorable opportunity should offer, you would have to go, clothes or no clothes; it would not do to lose th_hance of a good escort."
And Mrs. Montgomery's face showed that this possibilty, of Ellen's goin_nprovided, gave her some uneasiness. Ellen observed it.
"Never mind me, dearest mother; don't be in the least worried about m_lothes. You don't know how little I think of them or care for them. It's n_atter at all whether I have them or not."
Mrs. Montgomery smiled, and passed her hand fondly over her little daughter'_ead, but presently resumed her anxious look out of the window.
"Mamma!" exclaimed Ellen, suddenly starting up, "a bright thought has jus_ome into my head! _I'll_ do it for you, mamma!"
"I'll get the merino and things for you, mamma. You needn't smile,–I will, indeed, if you let me."
"My dear Ellen," said her mother, "I don't doubt you would if goodwill onl_ere wanting; but a great deal of skill and experience is necessary for _hopper, and what would you do without either?"
"But see, mamma," pursued Ellen, eagerly, "I'll tell you how I'll manage, an_ know I can manage very well. You tell me exactly what coloured merino yo_ant, and give me a little piece to show me how fine it should be, and tell m_hat price you wish to give, and then I'll go to the store and ask them t_how me different pieces, you know, and if I see any I think you would like, I'll ask them to give me a little bit of it to show you; and then I'll brin_t home, and if you like it you can give me the money, and tell me how man_ards you want, and I can go back to the store and get it. Why can't I, mamma?"
"Perhaps you could; but my dear child I am afraid you wouldn't like th_usiness."
"Yes I should; indeed, mamma, I should like it dearly if I could help you so.
Will you let me try, mamma?"
"I don't like, my child, to venture you alone on such an errand, among crowd_f people; I should be uneasy about you."
"Dear mamma, what would the crowds of people do to me? I am not a bit afraid.
You know, mamma, I have often taken walks alone,–that's nothing new; and wha_arm should come to me while I am in the store? You needn't be the leas_neasy about me;–may I go?"
Mrs. Montgomery smiled, but was silent.
"May I go, mamma?" repeated Ellen. "Let me go at least and try what I can do.
What do you say, mamma?"
"I don't know what to say, my daughter, but I am in difficulty on either hand.
I will let you go and see what you can do. It would be a great relief to me t_et this merino by any means."
"Then shall I go right away, mamma?"
"As well now as ever. _You_ are not afraid of the wind?"
"I should think not," said Ellen; and away she scampered up stairs to ge_eady. With eager haste she dressed herself; then with great care an_articularity took her mother's instructions as to the article wanted; an_inally set out, sensible that a great trust was reposed in her, and feelin_usy and important accordingly. But at the very bottom of Ellen's heart ther_as a little secret doubtfulness respecting her undertaking. She hardly kne_t was there, but then she couldn't tell what it was that made her fingers s_nclined to be tremulous while she was dressing, and that made her heart bea_uicker than it ought, or than was pleasant, and one of her cheeks so muc_otter than the other. However, she set forth upon her errand with a ver_risk step, which she kept up till on turning a corner she came in sight o_he place she was going to. Without thinking much about it, Ellen had directe_er steps to St.Clair and Fleury's. It was one of the largest and best store_n the city, and the one she knew where her mother generally made he_urchases; and it did not occur to her that it might not be the best for he_urpose on this occasion. But her steps slackened as soon as she came in sigh_f it, and continued to slacken as she drew nearer, and she went up the broa_light of marble steps in front of the store very slowly indeed, though the_ere exceeding low and easy. Pleasure was not certainly the uppermost feelin_n her mind now; yet she never thought of turning back. She knew that if sh_ould succeed in the object of her mission her mother would be relieved fro_ome anxiety; that was enough; she was bent on accomplishing it.
Timidly she entered the large hall of entrance. It was full of people, and th_uzz of business was heard on all sides. Ellen had for some time past seldo_one a shopping with her mother, and had never been in this store but once o_wice before. She had not the remotest idea where, or in what apartment of th_uilding, the merino counter was situated, and she could see no one to spea_o. She stood irresolute in the middle of the floor. Every body seemed to b_usily engaged with somebody else; and whenever an opening on one side o_nother appeared to promise her an opportunity, it was sure to be filled u_efore she could reach it, and disappointed and abashed she would return t_er old station in the middle of the floor. Clerks frequently passed her, crossing the store in all directions, but they were always bustling along in _reat hurry of business; they did not seem to notice her at all, and were gon_efore poor Ellen could get her mouth open to speak to them. She knew wel_nough now, poor child, what it was that made her cheeks burn as they did, an_er heart beat as if it would burst its bounds. She felt confused, and almos_onfounded, by the incessant hum of voices, and moving crowd of strange peopl_ll around her, while her little figure stood alone and unnoticed in the mids_f them; and there seemed no prospect that she would be able to gain the ea_r the eye of a single person. Once she determined to accost a man she sa_dvancing toward her from a distance, and actually made up to him for th_urpse, but with a hurried bow, and "I beg your pardon, miss!" he brushe_ast. Ellen almost burst into tears. She longed to turn and run out of th_tore, but a faint hope remaining, and an unwillingness to give up he_ndertaking, kept her fast. At length one of the clerks in the desk observe_er, and remarked to Mr.St.Clair who stood by, "There is a little girl, sir, who seems to be looking for something, or waiting for somebody; she has bee_tanding there a good while." Mr.St.Clair, upon this, advanced to poor Ellen'_elief.
"What do you wish, miss?" he said.
But Ellen had been so long preparing sentences, trying to utter them an_ailing in the attempt, that now, when an opportunity to speak and be hear_as given her, the power of speech seemed to be gone.
"Do you wish any thing, miss?" inquired Mr.St.Clair again.
"Mother sent me," stammered Ellen,–"I wish, if you please, sir,–mamma wishe_e to look at the merinoes, sir, if you please."
"Is your mamma in the store?"
"No, sir," said Ellen, "she is ill, and cannot come out, and she sent me t_ook at merinoes for her, if you please, sir."
"Here, Saunders," said Mr.St.Clair, "show this young lady the merinoes."
Mr. Saunders make his appearance from among a little group of clerks, wit_hom he had been indulging in a few jokes by way of relief from the tedium o_usiness. "Come this way," he said to Ellen; and sauntering before her, with _ather dissatisfied air, led the way out of the entrance hall into another an_uch larger apartment. There were plenty of people here too, and just as bus_s those they had quitted. Mr. Saunders having brought Ellen to the merin_ounter, placed himself behind it; and leaning over it and fixing his eye_arelessly upon her, asked what she wanted to look at. His tone and manne_truck Ellen most unpleasantly, and made her again wish herself out of th_tore. He was a tall lank young man, with a quantity of fair hair combed dow_n each side of his face, a slovenly exterior, and the most disagreeable pai_f eyes, Ellen thought, she had ever beheld. She could not bear to meet them, and cast down her own. Their look was bold, ill-bred, and ill-humoured; an_llen felt, though she couldn't have told why, that she need not expect eithe_indness or politeness from him.
"What do you want to see, little one?" inquired this gentlemen, as if he had _usiness on hand he would like to be rid of. Ellen heartily wished he was ri_f it, and she too. "Merinoes, if you please," she answered, without lookin_p.
"Well, what kind of merinoes? Here are all sorts and descriptions of merinoes, and I can't pull them all down, you know, for you to look at. What kind do yo_ant?"
"I don't know without looking," said Ellen, "won't you please to show m_ome?"
He tossed down several pieces upon the counter, and tumbled them about befor_er.
"There," said he, "is that any thing like what you want? There's a pin_ne,–and there's a blue one,–and there's a green one. Is that the kind?"
"This is the kind," said Ellen; "but this isn't the colour I want."
"What colour do you want?"
"Something dark, if you please."
"Well, there, that green's dark; won't that do? See, that would make up ver_retty for you."
"No," said Ellen, "mamma don't like green."
"Why don't she come and choose her stuffs herself, then? What colour _does_he like?"
"Dark blue, or dark brown, or a nice grey, would do," said Ellen, "if it i_ine enough."
"'Dark blue,' or 'dark brown,' or a 'nice grey,' eh! Well, she's pretty eas_o suit. A dark blue I've shown you already, –what's the matter with that?"
"It isn't dark enough," said Ellen.
"Well," said he discontentedly, pulling down another piece, "how'll that do?
That's dark enough."
It was a fine and beautiful piece, very different from those he had showed he_irst. Even Ellen could see that, and fumbling for her little pattern o_erino, she compared it with the piece. They agreed perfectly as to fineness.
"What is the price of this?" she asked, with trembling hope that she was goin_o be rewarded by success for all the trouble of her enterprise.
"Two dollars a yard."
Her hopes and countenance fell together. "That's too high," she said with _igh.
"Then take this other blue; come,–it's a great deal prettier than that dar_ne, and not so dear; and I know your mother will like it better."
Ellen's cheeks were tingling and her heart throbbing, but she couldn't bear t_ive up.
"Would you be so good as to show me some grey?"
He slowly and ill-humouredly complied, and took down an excellent piece o_ark grey, which Ellen fell in love with at once; but she was agai_isappointed; it was fourteen shillings.
"Well, if you won't take that, take something else," said the man; "you can'_ave every thing at once; if you will have cheap goods of course you can'_ave the same quality that you like; but now here's this other blue, onl_welve shillings, and I'll let you have it for ten if you'll take it."
"No, it is too light and too coarse," said Ellen, "mamma wouldn't like it."
"Let me see," said he, seizing her pattern and pretending to compare it; "it'_uite as fine as this, if that's all you want."
"Could you," said Ellen timidly, "give me a little bit of this grey to sho_amma?"
"Oh, no!" said he, impatiently, tossing over the cloths and throwing Ellen'_attern on the floor; "we can't cut up our goods; and if you cannot decid_pon any thing I must go and attend to those that can. I can't wait here al_ay."
"What's the matter, Saunders?" said one of his brother clerks, passing him.
"Why, I've been here this half hour showing cloths to a child that doesn'_now merino from a sheep's back," said he, laughing. And some other customer_oming up at the moment, he was as good as his word, and left Ellen, to atten_o them.
Ellen stood a moment stock still, just where he had left her, struggling wit_er feelings of mortification; she could not endure to let them be seen. He_ace was on fire; her head was dizzy. She could not stir at first, and i_pite of her utmost efforts she _could_ not command back one or two rebe_ears that forced their way; she lifted her hand to her face to remove them a_uietly as possible. "What is all this about, my little girl?" said a strang_oice at her side. Ellen started, and turned her face, with the tears but hal_iped away, toward the speaker. It was an old gentleman, an odd old gentlema_oo, she thought; one she certainly would have been rather shy of if she ha_een him under other circumstances. But though his face was odd, it looke_indly upon her, and it was a kind tone of voice in which his question ha_een put; so he seemed to her like a friend. "What is all this?" repeated th_ld gentleman. Ellen began to tell what it was, but the pride which ha_orbidden her to weep before strangers gave way at one touch of sympathy, an_he poured out tears much faster than words as she related her story, so tha_t was some little time before the old gentleman could get a clear notion o_er case. He waited very patiently till she had finished; but then he se_imself in a good earnest about righting the wrong. "Hallo! you, sir!" h_houted, in a voice that made every body look round; "you merino man! come an_how your goods: why aren't you at your post, sir?"–as Mr. Saunders came u_ith an altered countenance–"here's a young lady you've left standin_nattended-to I don't know how long; are these your manners?"
"The young lady did not wish any thing, I believe, sir," returned Mr. Saunder_oftly.
"You know better, you scoundrel," retorted the old gentleman, who was in _reat passion; "I saw the whole matter with my own eyes. You are a disgrace t_he store, sir, and deserve to be sent out of it, which you are like enough t_e."
"I really thought, sir," said Mr. Saunders, smoothly,–for he knew the ol_entleman, and knew very well he was a person that must not be offended,–"_eally thought–I was not aware, sir, that the young lady had any occasion fo_y services."
"Well, show your wares, sir, and hold your tongue. Now, my dear, what did yo_ant?"
"I wanted a little bit of this grey merino, sir, to show to mamma;–I couldn'_uy it, you know, sir, until I found out whether she would like it."
"Cut a piece, sir, without any words," said the gentleman. Mr. Saunder_beyed.
"Did you like this best?" pursued the old gentleman.
"I like this dark blue very much, sir, and I thought mamma would; but it's to_igh."
"How much is it?" inquired he.
"Fourteen shillings," replied Mr. Saunders.
"He said it was two dollars!" exclaimed Ellen.
"I beg pardon," said the crest-fallen Mr. Saunders, "the young lady mistoo_e; I was speaking of another piece when I said two dollars."
"He said this was two dollars, and the grey was fourteen shillings," sai_llen.
"Is the grey fourteen shillings," inquired the old gentleman.
"I think not, sir," answered Mr. Saunders–"I believe not, sir,–I think it'_nly twelve,–I'll inquire, if you please, sir."
"No, no," said the old gentleman, "I know it was only twelve –I know you_ricks, sir. Cut a piece off the blue. Now, my dear, are there any more piece_f which you would like to take patterns, to show your mother?"
"No, sir," said the overjoyed Ellen; " I am sure she will like one of these."
"Now shall we go, then?"
If you please, sir," said Ellen, "I should like to have my bit of merino tha_ brought from home; mamma wanted me to bring it back again."
"Where is it?"
"That gentleman threw it on the floor."
"Do you hear, sir?" said the old gentleman; "find it directly."
Mr. Saunders found and delivered it, after stooping in search of it till h_as very red in the face; and he was left, wishing heartily that he had som_afe means of revenge, and obliged to come to the conclusion that none wa_ithin his reach, and that he must stomach his indignity in the best manner h_ould. But Ellen and her protector went forth most joyously together from th_tore.
"Do you live far from here?" asked the old gentleman.
"Oh, no, sir," said Ellen, "not very; it's only at Green's Hotel, in Southin_treet."
"I'll go with you," said he, "and when your mother has decided which merin_he will have, we'll come right back and get it. I do not want to trust yo_gain to the mercy of that saucy clerk."
"Oh, thank you, sir!" said Ellen, "that is just what I was afraid of. But _hall be giving you a great deal of trouble, sir," she added, in another tone.
"No you won't," said the old gentleman, "I can't be troubled, so you needn'_ay any thing about that."
They went gayly along–Ellen's heart about five times as light as the one wit_hich she had travelled that very road a little while before. Her old frien_as in a very cheerful mood too, for he assured Ellen laughingly, that it wa_f no manner of use for her to be in a hurry, for he could not possibly se_ff and skip to Green's Hotel, as she seemed inclined to do. They got there a_ast. Ellen showed the old gentleman into the parlour, and ran up stairs i_reat haste to her mother. But in a few minutes she came down again, with _ery April face, for smiles were playing in every feature, while the tear_ere yet wet upon her cheeks.
"Mamma hopes you'll take the trouble, sir, to come up stairs," she said, seizing his hand; "she wants to thank you herself, sir."
"It is not necessary," said the old gentleman, "it is not necessary at all;"
but he followed his little conductor nevertheless to the door of her mother'_oom, into which she ushered him with great satisfaction.
Mrs. Montgomery was looking very ill–he saw that at a glance. She rose fro_er sofa, and extending her hand thanked him with glistening eyes for hi_indness to her child.
"I don't deserve any thanks, ma'am," said the old gentleman; "I suppose m_ittle friend has told you what made us aquainted?"
"She gave me a very short account of it," said Mrs. Montgomery.
"She was very disagreeably tried," said the old gentleman. "I presume you d_ot need to be told, ma'am, that her behaviour was such as would have becom_ny years. I assure you, ma'am, if I had had no kindness in my composition t_eel for the _child_ , my honour as a gentleman would have made me interfer_or the _lady_."
Mrs. Montgomery smiled, but looked through glistening eyes again on Ellen. "_m _very_ glad to hear it," she replied. "I was very far from thinking, whe_ permitted her to go on this errand, that I was exposing her to any thin_ore serious than the annoyance a timid child would feel at having to transac_usiness with strangers."
"I suppose not," said the gentleman; "but it isn't a sort of thing that shoul_e often done. There are all sorts of people in this world, and a little on_lone in a crowd is in danger of being trampled upon."
Mrs. Montgomery's heart answered this with an involuntary pang. He saw th_hade that passed over her face as she said sadly:
"I know it, sir; and it was with strong unwillingness that I allowed Elle_his morning to do as she had proposed; but in truth I was but making a choic_etween difficulties. I am very sorry I chose as I did. If you are a father, sir, you know better than I can tell you, how grateful I am for your kin_nterference."
"Say nothing about that, ma'am; the less the better. I am an old man, and no_ood for much now, except to please young people. I think myself best off whe_ have the best chance to do that. So if you will be so good as to choose tha_erino, and let Miss Ellen and me go and despatch our business, you will b_onferring and not receiving a favour. And any other errand that you please t_ntrust her with I'll undertake to see her safe through."
His look and manner obliged Mrs. Montgomery to take him at his word. A ver_hort examination of Ellen's patterns ended in favour of the grey merino; an_llen was commissioned not only to get and pay for this, but also to choose _ark dress of the same stuff, and enough of a certain article called nankee_or a coat; Mrs. Montgomery truly opining that the old gentleman's care woul_o more than see her scathless,–that it would have some regard to the justnes_nd prudence of her purchases.
In great glee Ellen set forth again with her new old friend. Her hand was fas_n his, and her tongue ran very freely, for her heart was completely opened t_im. He seemed as pleased to listen as she was to talk; and by little an_ittle Ellen told him all her history; the troubles that had come upon her i_onsequence of her mother's illness, and her intended journey and prospects.
That was a happy day to Ellen. They returned to St. Clair and Fleury's; bough_he grey merino, and the nankeen, and a dark brown merino for a dress. "Do yo_ant only one of these?" asked the old gentleman.
"Mamma said only one," said Ellen; "that will last me all the winter."
"Well," said he, "I think two will be better. Let us have another off the sam_iece, Mr. Shopman."
"But I am afraid mamma won't like it, sir," said Ellen, gently.
"Pho, pho," said he, "your mother has nothing to do with this; this is m_ffair." He paid for it accordingly. "Now, Miss Ellen," said he, when the_eft the store, "have you got any thing in the shape of a good warm winte_onnet? For it's as cold as the mischief up there in Thirlwall; you_asteboard things won't do; if you don't take good care of your ears you wil_ose them some fine frosty day. You must quilt and pad, and all sorts o_hings, to keep alive and comfortable. So you haven't a hood, eh? Do you thin_ou and I could make out to choose one that your mother would think wasn'_uite a fright? Come this way, and let us see. If she don't like it she ca_ive it away, you know."
He led the delighted Ellen into a milliner's shop and after turning over _reat many different articles chose her a nice warm hood, or quilted bonnet.
It was of dark blue silk, well made and pretty. He saw with great satisfactio_hat it fitted Ellen well, and would protect her ears nicely; and having pai_or it and ordered it home, he and Ellen sallied forth into the street again.
But he wouldn't let her thank him. "It is just the very thing I wanted, sir,"
said Ellen; "mamma was speaking about it the other day, and she did not se_ow I was ever to get one, because she did not feel at all able to go out, an_ could not get one myself; I know she'll like it very much."
"Would you rather have something for yourself or your mother, Ellen, if yo_ould choose, and have but one?"
"Oh, for mamma, sir," said Ellen–"a great deal!"
"Come in here," said he; "let us see if we can find anything she would like."
It was a grocery store. After looking about a little, the old gentlema_rdered sundry pounds of figs and white grapes to be packed up in papers; an_eing now very near home he took one parcel and Ellen the other till they cam_o the door of Green's Hotel, where he commited both to her care.
"Won't you come in, sir?" said Ellen.
"No," said he, "I can't this time–I must go home to dinner."
"And shan't I see you any more, sir?" said Ellen, a shade coming over he_ace, which a minute before had been quite joyous.
"Well, I don't know," said he kindly; "I hope you will. You shall hear from m_gain at any rate I promise you. We've spent one pleasant morning together, haven't we? Good-by, good-by."
Ellen's hands were full, but the old gentleman took them in both his, package_nd all, and shook them after a fashion, and again bidding her good-by, walke_way down the street.
The next morning Ellen and her mother were sitting quietly together, and Elle_ad not finished her accustomed reading, when there came a knock at the door.
"My old gentleman!" cried Ellen, as she sprung to open it. No–there was no ol_entleman, but a black man with a brace of beautiful woodcock in his hand. H_owed very civilly, and said he had been ordered to leave the birds with Mis_ontgomery. Ellen, in surprise, took them from him, and likewise a note whic_e delivered into her hand. Ellen asked from whom the birds came, but wit_nother polite bow the man said the note would inform her, and went away. I_reat curiousity she carried them and the note to her mother, to whom th_etter was directed. It read thus:–
"Will Mrs. Montgomery permit an old man to please himself in his own way, b_howing his regard for her little daughter, and not feel that he is taking _iberty? The birds are _for Miss Ellen_."
"Oh, mamma!" exclaimed Ellen, jumping with delight, "did you ever see such _ear old gentleman? Now I know what he meant yesterday, when he asked me if _ould rather have something for myself or for you. How kind he is! to do jus_he very thing for me that he knows would give me the most pleasure. Now, mamma, these birds are mine, you know, and I give them to you. You must pay m_ kiss for them, mamma; they are worth that. Aren't they beauties?"
"They are very fine indeed," said Mrs. Montgomery; "This is just the seaso_or woodcock, and these are in beautiful condition."
"Do you like woodcocks, mamma?"
"Yes, very much."
"Oh, how glad I am!" said Ellen. "I'll ask Sam to have them done very nicel_or you, and then you will enjoy them so much."
The waiter was called, and instructed accordingly, and to him the birds wer_ommitted, to be delivered to the care of the cook.
"Now, mamma," said Ellen, "I think these birds have made me happy for al_ay."
"Then I hope, daughter, they will make you busy for all day. You have ruffle_o hem, and the skirts of your dresses to make, we need not wait for Miss Ric_o do that; and when she comes you will have to help her, for I can do little.
You can't be too industrious."
"Well, mamma, I am as willing as can be."
This was the beginning of a pleasant two weeks to Ellen; weeks to which sh_ften looked back afterwards, so quietly and swiftly the days fled away i_usy occupation and sweet intercourse with her mother. The passions which wer_pt enough to rise in Ellen's mind upon occasion, were for the present kep_ffectually in check. She could not forget that her days with her mother woul_ery soon be at an end, for a long time at least; and this consciousness, always present to her mind, forbade even the wish to do any thing that migh_rieve or disturb her. Love and tenderness had absolute rule for the time, an_ven had power to overcome the sorrowful thoughts that would often rise, s_hat in spite of them peace reigned. And perhaps both mother and daughte_njoyed this interval the more keenly because they knew that sorrow was a_and.
All this while there was scarcely a day that the old gentleman's servant di_ot knock at their door, bearing a present of game. The second time he cam_ith some fine larks; next was a superb grouse; then woodcock again.
Curiousity strove with astonishment and gratitude in Ellen's mind. "Mamma,"
she said, after she had admired the grouse for five minutes, "I cannot res_ithout finding out who this old gentleman is."
"I am sorry for that," replied Mrs. Montgomery gravely, "for I see no possibl_ay of your doing it."
"Why, mamma, couldn't I ask the man that brings the birds what his name is? H_ust know it."
"Certainly not; it would be very dishonourable."
"Would it, mamma?–why?"
"This old gentleman has not chosen to tell you his name; he wrote his not_ithout signing it, and his man has obviously been instructed not to disclos_t; don't you remember, he did not tell it when you asked him, the first tim_e came. Now this shows the old gentleman wishes to keep it secret, and to tr_o find it out in any way would be a very unworthy return for his kindness."
"Yes, it wouldn't be doing as I would be done by, to be sure; but would it b_dishonourable_ , mamma?"
"Very. It is very dishonourable to try to find out that about other peopl_hich does not concern you, and which they wish to keep from you. Remembe_hat, my dear daughter."
"I will, mamma. I'll never do it, I promise you."
"Even in talking with people, if you discern in them any unwillingness t_peak upon a subject, avoid it immediately, provided of course that som_igher interest do not oblige you to go on. That is true politeness, and tru_indness, which are nearly the same; and _not_ to do so, I assure you, Ellen, proves one wanting in true honour."
"Well, mamma, I don't care what his name is,–at least I won't try to fin_ut:–but it does worry me that I cannot thank him. I wish he knew how much _eel obliged to him."
"Very well; write him and tell him so."
"Mamma!" said Ellen, opening her eyes very wide,–"can I? –would you?"
"Certainly,–if you like. It would be very proper."
"Then I will! I declare that is a good notion. I'll do it the first thing, an_hen I can give it to that man if he comes tomorrow, as I suppose he will.
Mamma," said she, on opening her desk, "how funny! don't you remember yo_ondered who I was going to write notes to? here is one now, mamma; it is ver_ucky I have got note-paper."
More than one sheet of it was ruined before Ellen had satisfied herself wit_hat she wrote. It was a full hour from the time she began when she brough_he following note for her mother's inspection:–
"Ellen Montgomery does not know how to thank the old gentleman who is so kin_o her. Mamma enjoys the birds very much, and I think I do more; for I hav_he double pleasure of giving them to mamma, and of eating them afterwards; but your kindness is the best of all. I can't tell you how much I am oblige_o you, sir, but I will always love you for all you have done for me.
This note Mrs. Montgomery approved; and Ellen having with great care and grea_atisfaction enclosed it in an envelope, succeeded in sealing it according t_ule and very well. Mrs. Montgomery laughed when she saw the direction, bu_et it go. Without consulting her, Ellen had written on the outside, "To th_ld gentleman." She sent it the next morning by the hands of the same servant, who this time was the bearer of a plump partridge "To Miss Montgomery;" an_er mind was a great deal easier on this subject from that time.