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“I was thinking I was afraid that perhaps I had said too much last night,-more than I ought-to you. If you knew my feeling you would not blame me, but the words might seem unkind; and I was very sorry, I will try not to fail in that way again.'
“My dear little sister,” said Thornton, laughing, "you really are too absurd! To hear you make promises of amendment is very like hearing you say that for the future you intend to look pretty, or any such work of supererogation. You-who never thought, said, or did anything but goodness in your whole life.” " Which proves how little you
know me. “We will agree to have different opinions on that point. At present you are my standard of perfection."
“Ah! but you have no right to take any such standard, dear Thornton. Think what perfection is, and what the Bible standard, before you apply either word to me.'
I must be allowed to have my own ideas on the subject, nevertheless,” said Thornton. “But, Alie, you fairly frightened me by getting up so early this morning. I didn't know but you were going to pay your friend, Mrs. Raynor, a visit:”
The implication raised so very slight a colour, that Thornton's spirits improved at once.
Alie!" called out Hulda's little voice from over the balusters, “wont you please come? because Martha isn't here, and I want to get up so much.'
Run!" said Thornton, laughing: “ It is hard to take care of two people, isn't it? Here you have been bestowing your attentions upon me, leaving that child to get out of bed alone, at the risk of breaking her neck. I wonder, by the way, what getting up' is supposed to mean, in infant parlance."
And I wonder who gave you leave to come out and stand on the cold oil-cloth, little one?” said Rosalie, as she ran up-stairs, and stooped down by the little night-gowned and night-capped figure. Hulda's arms were quickly about her sister's neck, and her little bare feet curled up in her lap; and then she was lifted up and carried back into the room.
“Who was that you were talking to?" said Hulda.
“Oh, yes," said Hulda; “but then I didn't feel cross last night. I think it's very disagreeable to have people cross."
“ Then you and I will try to be always pleasant. If Thornton does not want the horses this morning, we will go and see Miss Morsel.”
The horses were not wanted, and after breakfast they set forth; - all but Hiram well pleased with the prospect. He thought it was hardly worth while to risk an overturn in a narrow street, for anything that street could contain. Not that he had the least intention of being overturned, by the bye.
The street was narrow, and the sleighing therein most disagreeable. Irregular heaps of snow that had been thrown from the sidewalks stood up, and shook hands across the narrow track which the sleighs of the milkman, the woodman, and the baker, had marked out for themselves. Nothing wider than those humble vehicles had been that way, and it was hard for anything wider to go; the sleigh was obliged to content itself with having one runner at a time on smooth ground, and the other on a snow-bank, which state of things did not at all content Hiram. Ugly the snow-banks were, as well as inconvenient; for when gutters were choked up, the unfortunate snow did duty instead, and no rigid enforcement of law prevailed in this district. Also, the pigs had been dilatory in seeking their breakfast; and that which had been very white as it fell, was now agreeably diversified with cinders, cabbage leaves, lemon peels, potato parings, buckwheat cakes, oyster shells, and the like ; according as dinner, breakfast, or supper, had been the last prominent meal in the different houses.
The house where Hiram at length paused, was distinguished by less of a snow bank and what there was, cleaner. No decorations lay there but dry Christmas greens--a wreath and a festoon, all falling to pieces and sinking into the snow; the hemlock leaves scattering about, and the cedar shrinking and shrivelling up within itself.
"O Miss Morsel has thrown away her wreath !" said Hulda.
“I don't know as you can get out, ma'am,” said Hiram, while he lent careful aid to the undertaking. “The snow's quite deep. It's an astonishing promotion to a street when the families keeps their carriage !"
But she got out nicely—as she did everything—and went lightly up the steps and opened the unlocked door ; its want of fastening a sure sign that there was no family bond within. The house was but what a botanist would call "an involucre.” That might be guessed from the sickly smell spread through the hall and passages, one of those compounds which will not bear resolving.
Two flights of stairs and a short entry brought the visitors to Miss Morsel's door; where they had no sooner knocked than it was opened. Miss Morsel indeed, having watched the whole preliminaries from the first jingle of the sleigh bells, and having got very warm with anxiety lest the snow bank should prove insurmount. able, was now equally cold with standing at her own door; and she would certainly have saved Rosalie the trouble of knocking had not elegant propriety, to her mind, forbidden it. So she stood as close to the door as she could get, and waited for her visitors to demand entrance. It was given them with every demonstration of joy.
The room looked comfortable, though with that strict, severe sort of comfort where everything is fastened up and fastened down, and must remain just so or it will not look comfortable A doll's dress, sewed to the doll and not meant to be taken off.
Of the chintz curtains, Lydia Sharpe might have said that they had "no folds in nature-nor drapery,”—and yet they were cur, tains; and when they hung as they were bid, you did not at first see how old they were. The rug did not match the carpet, but was a rug nevertheless; and of the fire appendages it could not be said in the words of the song,
“ The shovel and tongs
To each other belongs,”they belonged only to Miss Morsel.
The bed was not visible. Whether Miss Morsel kept it in the closet, and underwent severe bodily exercise to get it out every night-or whether she gave it her company in the closet, doth not appear. The chairs were rush-bottomed, and begun to be cushioned; and a little pine box by the fire held a supply of fuel-Rosalie was glad that she did not know for how long.
A few things in the room, however, bore token of more outlay,towards Miss Morsel's old mother her purse-strings were evidently lenient. Her chair was most carefully cushioned-back, arms, and all; and the cover was of some red stuff, and her footstool clad with the same. By the window stood two or three geraniums in dark ruffled earthen pots ; while a little work-table, placed with evident care and tenderness, looked as if it and the books upon it were of no Miss Morsel's choice.
I don't suppose there's anybody else in the world could have come here this morning!” said poor little Miss Morsel, taking hold of both Rosalie's hands and looking up into her face. Because I have felt rather downhearted you see, and most people don't happen in when you feel so.'
" Then I have just come at the right time. How is your mother to-day?"
“O pretty well,” said Miss Morsel, “ though it does seem queer to call a person pretty that's got so little pretence to it. I'll tell her you're here. And the fact was announced in no very measured voice.
“What's she come for ?" was the old lady's first and most distinct question.
* Why to see you, ma, to see you and me. “O no,” said Mrs. Morsel, “that's not it—that couldn't be it. No person comes to see you and me now.
“What do you suppose she did come for, then?" said Miss Morsel, who from policy or respect never argued with her mother.
“Well, perhaps she did,” said the old woman doubtfully. “Miss Clyde, hey. Ask her to sit down, Bettie."
But Miss Clyde was in no haste to sit down. She went to the window and looked at the plants; examined the state of the chair cushions, and recommended that two or three of them should be covered with some particularly bright chintz which she had at home.
“I will send Tom down with it,” she said, “I think it will please your mother.'
“There's a scarcity of the people that ever think of that, now-adays," said Miss Morsel, with a little sorrowful shake of her head. “ It's queer, too, for if ever anybody wanted pleasing, she does. But haven't you got everything in the world at home! And after all, as I tell ma, there's no store closet like one's own heart.”
What's she going to send down?" said old Mrs. Morsel.
“Bettie, tell her she needn't send no more o' them fine shirts, we don't take in sewing now.' “She knew that before you did, ma,” replied her daughter, “My eyes ain't strong to do fine work, now," continued Mrs. Morsel, drawing herself up, "and I like other work better. So does Bettie. We don't do it no longer. Tell her so."
“It does really seem, sometimes,” said the daughter in a kind of aside, “as if ma'd forgot all the little English she ever did know! You would really suppose that she had never been to school or studied grammar; and yet I dare say she knows the noun of multitude and all those rules quite respectably for her age of society.'
“So that's what she come for?" said old Mrs. Morsel, “I told you she wanted something. She must go to some poor person; we don't take in sewing:'
“How much patience do you suppose Job had?" said Miss Morsel in the same undertone to Rosalie. “Because sometimes I think he must have had so much more than me, that it's hardly worth while to try. Never mind her, dear, just you sit down and tell me about the battles.'
“There's very little use in battles," said the old woman. “Folks said the Revolutionary War did the country a power of good, but we didn't get none of it. I've heerd tell of a great deal more than I ever was knowing to. We've been good for nothing
“It's a singular fact,” said Miss Morsel softly, " that if pa hadn't been killed in the Revolutionary War, we shouldn't have anything to live on now. Queer, isn't it?"
It was so queer, altogether, that Rosalie was somewhat divided between the
desire to laugh and the desire to cry; “But now do tell me," continued Miss Morsel, "you never did tell me--how did you get the pension money? Who did the business ?” “O, I spoke to a friend of mine about it,” said Rosalie.
No wonder it got done, then," said Miss Morsel, with a loving look up at her guest. “I should think anybody would do anything, and glad. Ah, it's a great help in the world to be young, my dear, and pretty, and rich! However, we all have what is best for us.
“I don't think bread and cheese is a healthy dinner,” said Mrs. Morsel sourly. "Bettie will have it sometimes. And she says it's best, and I say it ain't."
“ Just think of her saying that?" said the daughter, evidently distressed that her guest should hear it, but only from the most generous and disinterested feeling. “To be sure we do have it sometimes, but it's very good. I daresay those poor men that are out fighting Tecumseh don't get a bit better. But you said he was taken prisoner.”
"I thought,” said Rosalie softly," I thought you were taking better care of yourself ; you promised that you would.”.
" Take good enough care, my dear-oh yes, so I do; bụt you see the thing is, ma's liable to be sick, of course, anybody is; and if
she is to be sick I should like her to have just what she's a mind to call for; and the things wouldn't be few nor far between, neither. And it's so easy to take money out of the trunk when you've got it there ready.
“But let her have it now, she shall never miss it, nor you either.'
Yes, but I sha'n't let you do that,” said Miss Morsel, dashing off the tears which those glistening eyes had called up;
so don't talk about it, or you'll upset me at once. Everybody ought to live on his income; and my income comes in regularly, and when it don't I'll let you know. There's Hulda gone to sleep this minute."
“No I haven't,” said Hulda, looking up with a weary little face. "What made you throw away your greens, Miss Morsel ?".
Why they got dry and fell over the world, and made such a muss as I couldn't stand, so I thought they might come down. I reasoned in this way-if Christmas greens put me out of patience they wont do me much good, and down they came. But I kept the laurel, because that isn't crumbly; and it helps one to think that there are woods in existence somewhere."
Why didn't you come before ?" said the old woman, suddenly turning towards her visitor. “It's better than six months since you were here."
“O no, it is not so many weeks,” said Rosalie, smiling.
“ It isn't more than half so many,” said Miss Morsel. “You forget, ma.
"old folks always does forget,” said Mrs. Morsel, with a somewhat piqued air. * Only if they do, it's
a wonder to my mind how young folks comes to know anything. They don't know much. I say it's six months.”
“ You wont mind her, dear," said Miss Morsel in a low voice, " because she's had a good many sticks in her way, and somehow she likes to take 'em all. It's only a little cup of crossness she's got to pour out, and then she'll be done for a while. She used to have just what she wanted once, you know, and somehow it makes one good-natured to be comfortable. But we are comfortable now, very-if you have everything, you can't wish. I've nothing to complain of. I never wanted to complain since what you told me once-do you remember? how when the children of Israel mur. mured, it displeased the Lord.' I've thought of it a great many times.”
It would be easy not to murmur if we thought more of the promised land and less of the wilderness,” said Rosalie with a half-checked sigh.
“Yes, dear. And I'm glad for my part to recollect that this isn't the promised land ;-80 in that point of view, you see, bread and cheese is quite wholesome.”
“Can you leave your mother for awhile!” said Rosalie. “I want you to go and take a sleigh ride. I came on purpose.
“Did you really?" said Miss Morsel, -"then I'll go ; though I don't think I could if you hadn't come on purpose. Just like you! wonder who else would want to parade me up and down Broada