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at the farther end of a large room, and by the side of the fire sat a girl, gazing so intently into the glowing coals, that she seemed unaware of the old woman's entrance. When she spoke to her, she started and rose.
“So you're come home, Lucy, and searching the fire for a wishing-cap, as usual !" said the old lady, cheerily.
The girl did not reply, and she resumed, with a little change of tone
“I do declare, child, I'll never let him cross the door again, if he drives you into the dumps that way. Take heart of grace, my girl ; you're good enough for him any day, though he be a fine gentleman. He's no better gentleman than my son, anyhow, though he's more of a buck.”
Lucy moved about a little uneasily ; turned to the high mantlepiece, took up some trifle and played with it nervously, set it down with a light sigh, the lightness of which was probably affected; went across the room to a chest of drawers, in doing which she turned her back on the old woman; and then only replied, in
a low pleasant voice, which wavered a little, as if a good cry were not far off
“ I'm sure, grannie, you're always kind to him when he comes."
“ I'm civil to him, child. Who could help it ? Such a fine handsome fellow! And has got very winning ways with him, too! That's the mischief of it! I always had a soft heart to a frank face. A body would think I wasn't a bit wiser than the day I was born.” · And she laughed a toothless old laugh which must once have been very pleasant to her husband to hear, and indeed was pleasant to hear now. By this time she had got her black bonnet off, revealing a widow's cap, with gray hair neatly arranged down the sides of a very wrinkled old face. Indeed, the wrinkles were innumerable, so that her cheeks and forehead looked as if they had been crimped with a penknife, like a piece of fine cambric frill. But there was not one deep rut in her forehead or cheek. Care seemed to have had nothing at all to do with this condition of them.
“Well, grannie, why should you be so cross with me for liking him, when you like him just as much yourself ?” said Lucy, archly.
“ Cross with you, child! I'm not cross with you, and you know that quite well. You know I never could be cross with you even if I ought to be. And I didn't ought now, I'm sure. But I am cross with him ; for he can't be behaving right to you when your sweet face looks like that.”
“Now don't, grannie, else I shall have to be cross with you. Don't say a word against him. Don't now, dear grannie, or you and I shall quarrel, and that would break my heart.”
“Bless the child ! I'm not saying a word for or against him. I'm afraid you're a great deal too fond of him, Lucy. What hold have you of him now ?”
“What hold, grannie !” exclaimed Lucy, indignantly. “Do you think if I were going to be married to him to-morrow, and he never came to the church-do you think I would lift that honnet to hold him to it? Indeed, then, I wouldn't.”
· And Lucy did not cry, but she turned her back on her grandmother as if she would rather her face should not be seen.
“ What makes you so out of sorts, to-night, then, lovey?”
Lucy made no reply, but moved hastily to the window, made the smallest possible chink between the blind and the window-frame, and peeped out into the court. She had heard a footstep which she knew ; and now she glided, quiet and swift as a ghost, out of the room, closing the door behind her.
“I wonder when it will come to an end. Always the same thing over again, I suppose, to the last of the world. It's no use telling them what we know. It wont make one of them young things the wiser. The first man that looks at them turns the head of them. And I must Confess, if I was young again myself, and hearkening for my John's foot in the court, pretty fast I'd hobble—no; not hobble then, but run down the stairs like Lucy there to open the door for him. But then John was a good
one; and there's few othem like him now, I doubt.”
Something like this, I venture to imagine, was passing through the old woman's mind when the room-door opened again, and Lucy entered with Thomas Worboise. Her face was shining like a summer morning now, and a conscious pride sat on the forehead of the young man, which made him look far nobler than he has yet shown himself to my reader. The last of a sentence came into the room with him.
" — so you see, Lucy, I could not help it. Myfather- How do you do, Mrs.Boxall? What a blowing night it is! But you have a kind of swallow's nest here, for hardly a breath gets into the court, when our windows down below in the counting-house are shaking themselves to bits.”
It was hardly a room to compare to a swallow's nest. It was a very large room indeed. The floor, which was dark with age, was uncarpeted, save just before the fire, which blazed brilliantly in a small kitchen-range, curiously contrasting with the tall, carved chimney-piece above it.