« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
and the wood, and the nut-copse, and the green meadows at the opposite side of the bridge, better than the churchyard or the street of the pretty village, or the trim avenues of Eltham House; but, best of all, they like Dame Burden's garden and cottage, which are about a quarter of a mile from the bridge.
Mary Browne never suffers them to go into any of the cottages without their mamma's leave; but Mrs. Eltham has said, “ Mary, you may always take the young ladies into Dame Burden's cottage:” and the very evening they arrived at Eltham, they requested Mary to let them cross the bridge, and walk through the copse which leads to the dame's. Dame Burden's only daughter, Alice, is blind : she had not been always so, but lost her sight when she was about ten years old. Everybody loved Alice, she was so cheerful under affliction; and so industrious, although blind, that she was the principal support of her mother. She netted, and knitted, and plaited, singing all the time like a nightingale; and when she paused, it was to say an affectionate word to her mother, or a sentence of gratitude to God for His goodness to a poor blind girl.
When the young party arrived at the end of the copse, they perceived Alice seated at the cottage door, knitting so rapidly, that they could not distinguish how her fingers moved. Before they entered the cottage garden, Alice rose up to meet them.
“ Alice, Alice," exclaimed Chatterbox, “how did you know we were coming ?”
Alice smiled : “ O Miss Fanny,” she answered, “I heard your voice ten minutes ago, in the wood.”
“ There, Chatterbox — Chatterbox !” — laughed her little brother Harry; “ Alice heard your voice above the hooting of the owls, and the rippling of the river, and the cackling of the geese, and the lowing of the cows, and the braying of the donkey.”
“ I wonder who is the Chatterbox now?” said Fanny: “my tongue never went faster than that : did it, Alice ?".
“ I think it did, Miss,” answered Alice, smiling so sweetly, as she turned her bright though sightless face towards the speaker—“I think it did; but fast or slow, it is a great pleasure to poor Alice to hear it again, and to hear you all : this is Miss Eltham, I know," she continued, stretching her hand in the direction where the eldest young lady stood. “ Dear me! why you are as tall as I am! And there is Miss Sophia : and here is Miss Fanny: how you are grown, dear; and your hair — it is as long again as it was when you left Eltham!”
Fanny ran from beneath her gentle hand, which was as soft and as white as her own mamma's, and bounded into the cottage, calling “ Dame Burden! Dame Burden !” Although the dame was very deaf, she heard Fanny's voice, and greeted her most kindly. “Here is Dame Burden !” exclaimed the Chatterbox: “ here she is, Sophy!- Mary! here is dear Dame Burden: but she is looking ill:” and, lowering her voice, so that the dame should not hear her, but at the same time quite forgetting, that, although Alice was blind, she was not deaf, she added: “I am sure she will not live long: she ought to have the doctor immediately. See how pale she is; and how lame !"
“ Oh, Miss Fanny, why will you speak so thoughtlessly?" said Mary. In a moment Fanny felt she had done wrong,