MRS. BROOKS fulfilled her promise, and
so faithfully did she work in the good
cause, that a dozen little pupils were
engaged for Miss Milly's school before
preparations were fairly made to open
it. These did not take long, however,
as Miss Felix, the teacher, who was
going away, sent to Mrs. Harrow's house
two long forms of desks and benches,
with her compliments and best wishes
to Milly for her future success.
Milly fairly began to dance around
the room, in the new joy of her heart,
on receiving this, to her, valuable present
"Everybody," she said, "must not be
so kind to us, or I shall have a sickness brought on by too much happiness."
Poor Milly! she had so long had a
"sorrow-sickness," that the present good
fortune was almost too much to endure.
For a week she went about cleaning,
and sweeping, and dusting, and making
ready generally, for the great event,
the opening of her school. Singing as
gayly as a lark, she moved furniture
up-stairs and down, and debated over
and over again upon the best arrangement for effect. The front room was
to be especially devoted to the use of
her class. The carpet was removed, and
thoughtful Miss Felix's desks and benches placed in it, along the walls. Mrs.
Brooks sent an old white muslin dress
to be made into window-curtains, and
Martin spent a whole day in forming a little platform out of boards, on
which, when covered with green baize,
the teacher's table and chair were to rest.
Even Elinor's sick-chamber assumed a
different aspect. One day, when Mr.
Brooks was in the village on business, he
stepped into a paper-hanger's, and chose
a cheap, but pretty paper for the lime-
washed wall. It was very cheerful-looking, being formed of alternate stripes of
white and rose-color; "for," said the
farmer, when he reached home, "I warrant Miss Elinor grows tired of seeing
the same cracks in the plaster, year in
and year out. She must have something
new and gay, like this, that will help
to keep her spirits up!"
Mrs. Harrow and the farmer's wife
pasted this paper on the walls themselves, with a little assistance from Nelly, who stood ready to lift benches, hand
the scissors back and forth, and give
any other slight aid of which she was
The house was only one-story high,
with a garret, so Elinor's room had a
slanting roof and a dormer window. Mrs.
Brooks said it would be a great improvement, if the striped paper were
pasted on the ceiling too, and joined in.
the peak with a wood-colored border resembling a heavy cord or rope. This
made the place look, when it was done,
like a pink canvas tent. The change
was wonderful. An imitation of a pair
of tassels of the same color and style as
the rope border, which the paper-hanger,
hearing of the design, sent to the house
as a present to Miss Elinor, when pasted
carefully at each end of the peak,
against the wall, made the illusion perfect.
Elinor said she lived in the Tent of
The neighbors who came in to inspect
all these preparations, said Elinor's was
the very prettiest dormer-room they had
ever seen. There was enough left of
the old dress to curtain the single window, which being done, everything was
at last pronounced to be in a state of
And now we must go back to Nelly,
who, I suppose, some of my readers
remember, is the adopted daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. Brooks. Nelly had
known much sorrow in her short life,
as will be seen on reference to the little
story called "NELLY AND HER FRIENDS."
She had never experienced what it was
to be loved by father and mother till
now, and when the farmer and his wife
began to teach her to call them by
those sacred titles, she felt herself a
very happy little girl. She was delighted at the prospect of attending school.
She had never been to one, and, there-
fore, perhaps, the novelty of the thing
was half the attraction.
When the important day arrived, and
the child found herself seated in the
class-room with twelve or fourteen other
little folks, she was filled with awe and
dismay, so much so, that she scarcely
dared turn around to take a good look
at her next neighbor, a girl of twelve,
in the shy dread that she might be
caught in the act, which circumstance
would, doubtless, have occasioned her
Miss Harrow did not give her pupils
any lessons to learn this first morning.
She said, as no one had books, it should
be a day of pleasure and not of work,
and on the morrow they would begin to
study in earnest.
So, during the whole morning, the
children drew funny little pictures on
slips of paper, which were handed them
for the purpose of amusing them, and.
in the afternoon, the teacher made them
pull their benches close to the fire, in cosy rows, while she told them
As, with the deepest interest, Nelly
gravely listened, she came to the conclusion that this was just the best
school of which she had ever heard,
everything was so pleasant.
There was a little dark-haired boy in a
blue jacket, who sat near, and who whittled her pencil, oh so sharp, every time
she blunted it! She told Comfort, in confidence, when she went home, that this
little boy's pictures were quite as good
as any Martin could make. He drew
ships under full sail, oh, beautiful! and
as for those men, squaring off to fight,
up in the corner of the paper, they
made you think at once of Uz and Buz
the two roosters, that quarrelled every
morning in the barnyard, about which
should have the most corn.
In a week or two, however, Nelly's
rapture abated somewhat; and one day
she came home with her books in
her hands, and threw herself on one
of the chairs in the kitchen, crying
"Heyday," cried Comfort, looking up
from the fire, over which she was broiling a fish. " Heyday, what ar's the
matter now ? "
"0 Comfort," cried Nelly, "she struck
me, she struck me, before them all!"
"What!" cried Comfort, standing erect
with surprise. "Miss Nelly's been for
whippin' a'ready ? Why, Nelly, shame,
shame! Dis yer conduct is oncommon
bad of yer."
'"It wasn't Miss Harrow, at all," said
Nelly, reddening; "it was that horrid, old
"Oh, Melindy," echoed Comfort, in a
tone of relief
"Yes," continued Nelly, "she tries to
get me to laugh in school, every day.
She makes eyes at me, big, round ones,
"I don't wonder yer laugh, if she
does that way, chile."
"But that isn't all," added Nelly indignantly. " She chews paper-balls, and
sends them over the room, right at the
tip of my nose. Sometimes they stick
there a second or so, till I can put up
my hand; and then the scholars giggle-
like. Oh, you've no idea. Comfort, what
an awful girl Melindy is. She punches
" Punches, Nelly ? "
"Yes, and to-day, when school was
out, she gave me such a whack,—right
in my ribs; shall I show you how, Comfort?"
"No, thank yer," answered the old
woman, laughing. She had a cause for
being good-humored that day. "But
why whack such a little critter as you
be, Nell?" .
"Oh," said Nelly, hesitating, "she
Something in her manner made Comfort suspicious. She sat down and called
Nelly to her. Taking hold of both her
hands, she looked her full in the eyes.
"Speak the truff," she said; "didn't
yer whack Melindy fust ? "
"Yes," said Nell, with a curious mixture of honesty and triumph, " I did,
Comfort; I gave her a good one, I tell
you! I didn't stop to think about what
I was doin' till I felt her whackin' o' me
"Then she sarved yer right," said the
old colored woman, going back to her
fish, "and I hope she'll treat yer so every time yer begin the aggravation."
" But she snowballed me first, and
called out that I was nobody's child,
and was taken out of the streets, and
such like. I couldn't stand that, anyhow.
I had to whack her, Comfort."
" No you hadn't," said Comfort, sternly, and at the same time gesticulating
earnestly with the fish-fork. It wasn't
your part to do any punishin', whatsomever. Leastways, no punishment but
"And what's that?" demanded Nelly,
making large A's and 0's in the steam
that had settled on the windows. Here
Martin suddenly put down a big news-
paper he had been reading in a corner,
and which had hidden him entirely
"Have you so soon forgotten your old
rule of good for evil, Nell?" he asked.
"Don't you know that is what Comfort
means ? "
Comfort nodded at him approvingly.
" But Melindy is ugly, powerful ugly,
Martin," said Nell, coloring, " and anyway she will knock all us little girls.
It's born in her. I think she must have
been meant for an Indian, that pulls the
hair off your head, like mother told us
about. Doing good to Melindy is just
of no account at all."
"Did you ever try it?" asked Martin.
''"Well, no-o. You see I could tell it
was of no use. And Miss Harrow, she
stands Melindy on a chair with a paper
cap on her head, every day, at dinnertime.
"Poor girl, " said Martin, "I am sorry
"I'm not," said Nell, promptly, "it
keeps her from mischief, you know."
Martin was silent.
Comfort began to sing a tune over
her fish, interrupting herself at times
with a low, quaint laugh, as though particularly well pleased with some thought.
"What's the matter, Comfort?" asked
"Oh, nuthin'," was the answer; "I
guess I'm not very miserable to-day,
that's all," and off she went in a chuckle
"Nelly," said Martin, after another
grave pause, "you used to be a better
girl than you are now. Last summer,
about the time Marm Lizy died, you
tried ever, so hard to be good, and you
improved very much indeed."
"I .know it," said Nell, a little sadly,
" and I would be good now, if it wasn't
for Melindy Porter. Ever since I've
been to school I've felt hard and wicked. She torments and worries me so,
that I think sometimes there's no use in
tryin' to be good at all. I do and say
wrong things, just when I don't mean
to, all along o' Melindy"
"If you and Melindy were friends, you
wouldn't feel so, would you?"
" I s'pose not, but who wants to be
friends with anybody like that?" was
the ready retort.
"Still, you .would rather be friends
than enemies, Nell, wouldn't you? You
would prefer that this little girl"—
"Big one, ever so big," interrupted Nelly, quickly.
"You would prefer that this big girl then, should bear
you no malice, even
if you didn't like her, and she didn't
like you. Isn't it so?"
" Well, yes. I would like to have her
stop pinchin' and pullin' the hairs of all
o' us little ones. That's what I'd like,
"That's easy done, Nelly," said Martin
in a confident tone.
"Easy, Martin? How easy?"
"Be kind to her. Show her that you
bear her no ill feeling."
"But I do bear her ill feeling, Martin!
What's the good of fibbing about it to
her? I can't go to her and say, 'Melindy, I like you ever so much,' when all
the time I despise her like poison, can I?
I am sure that wouldn't be right."
"No," broke in Comfort, "that ar
wouldn't be right, Martin, for sartain."
Martin looked a little puzzled.
"But, Comfort," he said at length, "I
don't want her to speak pleasantly to
Melindy till she feels pleasantly. That's
the thing. I wouldn't have Nell act an
untruth, a bit more than I'd have her
tell one. But I do want her to try
to feel like givin' Melindy a little good
for her evil."
Martin said this with such a pleading,
earnest look, smiling coaxingly on Nelly
as he spoke, that, for the moment, the
heart of the little girl was softened.
"Well, Martin," she said, "you are
always preachin' ar'n't you ? But it's
nice preachin' and I don't hate it a bit.
Some day, when I get real, awful good,
you'll leave off, won't you? I'll think
about Melindy, and may-be I can screw
my courage up to not mind bein'
cracked at by her."
"Pray for them that uses yer spitefully," said Comfort with solemnity.
Nelly seemed struck by this.
" What, pray for Melindy ? " she asked
"Chil'en," said the old woman, "don't
never forget that ar mighty sayin'. Yer
may be kind and such like to yer enemys, but if yer don't take time to
pray for his poor ole soul's salvation,
you might as well not do nuthin'. That's
the truff, the Gospil truff."
"Well," said Nell with a deep sigh,
"I'll pray for Melindy then, and for
that bad, little Johnny Williams, too,
to-night when I go to bed; but I shall
have, oh, Comfort, such hard work to
mean it, here!" and her hands were
pressed for an instant over her breast.
The next morning, just as Nelly was
starting for school, Martin drew her,
"Which hand will you have, Nell?"
he asked, holding both behind him.
" This one," she said, eagerly, touching
the right hand, in which she had caught
a side glimpse of something glittering
like burnished gold.
Martin smilingly extended towards her
a small, oval box, covered with a beautiful
" How very, very lovely," cried Nell,
" It is yours," said Martin, " but only
yours to give away. I want you to do
something with it."
" Can't I keep it ? Who must I give ,
" Oh, Martin, I can't, I just can't, —
"Then you don't wish to make her
good, Nell! You want her to be cruel
and wicked and hard as long as she
" Oh no, no, I don't wish that now. I
prayed for her last night." The last sentence was added in a very low tone.
"You refuse then?"
She looked at him, sighed, and turned
Martin put his box in his pocket, and
walked off in the direction of the barn.
At dinner-time, Nelly came home quite
radiant. Lessons had gone smoothly.
Miss Harrow had praised her for industry at her books, " and, would you
believe it, Martin," she added in an accent of high satisfaction, "Melinda didn't
make but two faces at me all the whole
morning ! Wasn't that nice ? They
were pretty bad ones, though,—bad
enough to last I She screwed her nose
all up, this way! Well, if. you'll give
me the box now, I'll take it
this afternoon. I don't feel hard against
Melindy at all, now."
Martin brought it to her after dinner,
with great alacrity; and Nell walked
very slowly to school with it in her
hands, opening and shutting the lid a
dozen times along the road, and eyeing
it in an admiring, fascinated way, as
though she would have no objection
in the world to retain possession of it
It was a hard effort to offer it to
Melinda. So pretty a box she had
never seen before.
"I mean to ask. Martin", she thought,
"if he cannot find me another just like it."
Near the door of Mrs. Harrow's little
house, Nelly encountered her tormentor,
quite unexpectedly. She was standing
outside, talking in a loud, boisterous
way to two or three of the other children. Melinda was a tall, rather good-
looking girl, of about fourteen years of
age. She was attired in a great deal of
gaudy finery, but was far from being
neat or clean in appearance. At the
present time, a large, freshly-torn hole
in her dress, showed that in the interval between schools, she had been
exercising her warlike propensities, and
had come off, whether victor or not, a
little the worse for wear. Her quilted
red silk hood was now cocked fiercely
over her eyes, in a very prophetic way.
Nelly knew from that, as soon as she saw
her, that she was in a bad frame of mind.
Not daring to speak to her then,
Nelly was quietly proceeding towards
the door of the school, when with one
or two tremendous strides, Melinda met
her face to face.
" How did you like the big thumping
I gave you yesterday ? " she asked, with
a grim smile.
Nelly walked on very fast, trying to
keep from saying anything at all, in the
fear that her indignation might express
itself too plainly.
" Why don't you speak up ? " cried
Still Nelly went on in silence. Melinda walked mockingly side by side
with her, burlesquing her walk and serious face. At last, irritated beyond control, Melinda put out suddenly one of
her feet, and deliberately tripped up her
little schoolmate, who, before she. could
even cry out, found herself lying flat on
her nose, on the snow.
The attack was made so abruptly, that
Nelly had no time to see what was coming. Confused, stunned, angry, and hurt,
she raised herself slowly to her knees
and looked around her. There was at
first, a dull, bruised feeling, about her
head, but this passed away. Something
in the deadly whiteness of her face
made Melinda look a little alarmed, as
she stood leaning against the wall, ready
to continue the battle, if occasion required any efforts of the kind; but
knowing well, in the depths of her cowardly heart, that, as the largest and
strongest child at school, her victims
could not, personally, revenge themselves upon her, to any very great
extent. Looking her companion in the
eyes, like a hunter keeping a wild animal at bay, Nelly staggered to her feet.
She had meant to be so good that day!
And this was the encouragement she received ! Truly, the influence of Melinda
on Nelly's character was most pernicious. All the evil in her nature seemed
aroused by the association. Tears, not
resulting from physical pain, but from
the great effort she still made to control
her temper, rose to her eyes, as she saw
a sneering smile on Melinda's countenance. Till now she had striven to bear
Martin's advice in mind; but as this
sneering smile broke into an ill-natured
laugh, Nelly's self-control gave way
Her face burned. She tossed the little
golden gift, with disdainful roughness, at
her persecutor's feet, and said, in a
gruff, and by no means conciliating
" There's a box for you, Melindy.
And Martin says I mustn't hate you any
more. But I do, worse than ever!
Melinda gave a contemptuous snort.
She walked up to the little gilt box, set
her coarse, pegged shoe upon it, and
quietly ground it to pieces. Then, without another word, she pushed open the
school-room door, entered, and banged it
to again, in poor Nelly's red and angry
face. The child leaned against the house
and cried quietly, but almost despairingly.
"I wanted, to be good," she sobbed,
" I wanted to be good so much, but she
will not let me!"
" COMFORT," said Nell, that night, leaning her head on her hand, and looking
at the old woman sideways out of one
eye, as she had seen the snowbirds do
when they picked up the crumbs every
morning around the kitchen door, "Comfort, can't you tell me what you were
laughing about yesterday afternoon,
when you were br'iling of the fish for
"Yes," said Comfort, "I think I can"
Nelly sat waiting to hear the expected
revelation, yet none came. Comfort was
busy with her pipe. She paused every now and then to puff out great
misty wreaths of bluish-gray smoke,
but she didn't condescend to utter one
" Comfort," said Nelly, getting impatient,
" why don't you tell me, then, Comfort ? "
" Tell yer what, chile ? "
" What you said you would."
" I never said I would ; I said I could .
Be more petik'lar with yer 'spressions,
Nelly. And 'sides that, yer hadn't
oughter say ' br'iling fish.' Missus don't.
Leave such words to cullu'd passons,
"Well, but tell me," persisted Nelly,
smilingly, brimming with the curiosity
she could not restrain. " I know it was
something good, because you don't often
"No," said Comfort, "that ar's afact.
I don't 'prove of little bits o' stingy
laughs, every now and then. I likes
one good guffaw and done with it."
"Well," said Nelly, "go on. Tell me
"Yer see," said Comfort, taking her
pipe from between her lips, and giving
a sudden whirl to the smoke issuing
from them, " Yer see, Nelly, I was laughin' 'bout my neffy."
"Your neffy, Comfort? What's that?"
" Lor ! do tell! Don't yer know what
a neffy is yet? I didn't 'spect yer to
know much when yer was Mann Lizy's
gal, but now, when Mrs. Brooks has
adopted of yer, and sent yer to school
to be edicated, we look for better
things. Don't know what a neffy is,
"No," said Nelly, looking somewhat
disturbed. "Tell me, Comfort. Is it
something that grows ? "
" Grows! " screamed Comfort, bursting
into a laugh that certainly was not a
stingy one; " Grows! Goodness! hear this
yere chile ! Ho, ho, ho ! I-'blieve-1
shall-crack my poor ole sides! Grows!
Oh my! "
"You mustn't laugh so, Comfort," said
Nelly, with dignity, "you make me feel,-well, leastways, you make me feel
"Oh dear, dear," mumbled the old
woman in a faint voice. "That does
beat all! Why, see here, Nelly,-'spose
now, I had a sister once, and that ar
sister got married and had a little boy,
what ought he to call me, eh ? "
" Why, his Aunt Comfort, to be sure,"
was the reply.
' "And I ought to call him neffy John,
or Johnny, for short, oughtn't I? Well,
it was 'bout my neffy Johnny I was
laughin' yesterday. Now I'll tell yer
how it was, sence I've done laughin.'
'bout him to-day,-oh my! You see,
Johnny is a slave down South, ever so
far off, on a rice plantation."
" Slave ? " repeated Nelly, with growing interest; "What's slave, Comfort?"
" Oh, somethin' that grows," answered
Comfort, chuckling. '" A slave is a black
man, woman, or chile that has a marster.
This marse, as we call him, can sell the
slave to anybody for a lot o' money, and
the poor slave, as has been a t'ilin',
strivin' soul all his days, can say nuthin'
ag'in' it. It's the law, yer see."
"Comfort," said Nelly, "stop a minute.
Do you think that is a right law?"
"No," said Comfort, "I can't say as I
does. Some marsters are good, and some,
on the contrary, are oncommon bad.
Now my little neffy has a good 'un.
Ever sence his poor mammy's death, I've
been savin' and savin', and t'ilin' and
t'ilin', to buy Johnny and bring him
North, 'cause I set a good deal on him.
This ere good marse of his agreed to
let me buy him, when he was nuffin'
but a baby; and he's been keepin'
of him for me all this yere long
"I'm glad I'm not Johnny," said Nell,
earnestly; "If bein' a slave is getting
bought and sold like a cow or a dog, a
slave is just what I don't want to be.
Hasn't Johnny any relations down there,
The old woman shook her head.
"I'm the only one of his kin in the
"Poor little fellow!" said Nelly meditating; "I don't wonder you want to
buy him. How old is he ? "
"And you've got enough money,
A bright smile beamed suddenly all
over that dark face.
" Ho ! " she cried, " that ar's just what
I was laughin' at yesterday. I want
only a leetle more, and 'deed, my nefly
will have no marse ag'in,-only a missus, and that'll be me, thank the Lord! "
The old colored woman tossed her
apron over her head, and from the odd
puffing noises that immediately began to
sound from behind it, Nelly supposed she
was weeping. She thought she must
have been mistaken, however, the next
moment, for Comfort pulled down the
apron a little savagely, as though
ashamed of having indulged in such a
luxury as a private groan or two, and
in a stern voice bade Nelly go up in
her (Comfort's) room, feel under the
bolster, on the side nearest the wall,
and bring down to her the foot of a
stocking which she would find there.
"And don't let the grass grow under
yer feet, neither," said Comfort, by way
of a parting benediction, as the child
softly closed the door. It was reopened
almost immediately, and Nelly's smiling
" I say, Comfort."
"Well chile, what. now ? "
"I'm real, real sorry for that little
neffy of yours you've been tellin' me
about. And, Comfort, when he comes
I'll be as good to him as I can. I was
thinkin' I would knit a pair of gray,
woollen stockings to have ready for
him, shall I? How big is he?"
" 'Bout your size," replied Comfort.
"The notion of them stockings is quite
nice. I'm much obleeged to yer, Nelly."
Nelly looked delighted, and started to
go up-stairs once more. In about a
minute and a .half, her face was peering;
into the kitchen again.
"Comfort, I guess I'll knit a red.
binding at the top of the stockings, to
look handsome, shall I?"
"Why, yes," said Comfort, mightily
pleased; " that will make 'em smart,
"A red yarn binding," continued
the little girl, "knit on after the
stocking is toed off,-a binding full of
little scallops and such like! "
"Laws, chile," said Comfort, benignantly, " I sorter think yer might stop short
of them scallops. Neffy won't be anxious about scallops, I reckon, seein' as
how he has only wored nater's stockings so far, with no petik'lar bindin'
at all, that I knows on. Come, now,
mind yerself and run up-stairs. I can't
be wastin' all my time, a-waitin'."
Nelly shut the door, and went singing up-stairs, two at once, while the old
woman employed her valuable time in
smoking her pipe.
In a short time eager, young footsteps
were heard dancing along the entry, and
into the room came Nelly, looking as
happy as though for her there existed
no ill-natured schoolmate in all the
" Here it is! " she said, holding triumphantly up the foot of an old stocking, ragged at the edges, but scrupulously clean,-the same in fact, from which
Comfort had once given her a small
gift of money; "here it is, Comfort; but
didn't I have a powerful hunt for it! I
dived under the bolster and under the
mattrass,-at the foot,-at the head,-
at the sides;-and then I found it on the
sacking. Hear how it jingles! What
fun it must be to earn money, Comfort!
Do look at my hair,-if I haven't got
it full of feathers, poking among your
pillows!" Sure enough, starting up all
over her curls were gray and white
"Laws sakes," exclaimed Comfort, helping her to pick them off, "that ar hole
rnust a broke loose ag'in in my bolster!
I can sew it up every Saturday night,
and sure as I'm livin', it bursts ag'in
"That's 'cause your brain is too heavy;
you've got too many thoughts in it, perhaps," laughed Martin, who entered at
that moment, and began to stamp the
snow from his feet on the kitchen doormat.
"0 Martin," cried Nell, "see how rich
Comfort is! She has saved that fat
stocking full of money, to buy her
" Buy her neffy ! " repeated Martin, unbuttoning his overcoat.
"Yes, he's a slave, you know."
"No," said the boy, "I don't know, Nelly; I never even heard of neffy before."
" Oh, his name isn't neffy, Martin. Oh,
no, not at all," said the little girl, with
an air of importance. " He is called
John, and Comfort is going to buy him,
and I am to begin a pair of stockings
for him to-morrow."
Comfort held up her bag half full.
"This yere is my money-box," she
said, overflowing with satisfaction.
"Box!" repeated Nell. "Why, it is
not a box at all, Comfort. It's the foot
of a worn-out stocking."
The old woman turned upon her a
little grimly, " stockin' or no stockin'
I calls it my money-box, and that's
enough. Box it is."
"That's funny," said Nelly; "I don't
see much good in calling a stocking a
box as long as it is a stocking."
" Well, I does," said Comfort, sharply;
and with some of the old ill-temper she
once used to vent so largely on Nell,
she snatched up the bag, and giving it
a toss upon a pantry shelf, slammed the
door with a mighty noise.
For a little while silence descended on
the group. It was an uncomfortable silence. No one in the room felt happy
or at ease. Of such power is a single
Comfort was restless, because her conscience reproached her, while at the
same .time Nelly was experiencing secret remorse for having irritated her by
thoughtless words. Perhaps Martin Wray
was more distressed than either of his
companions, at what had taken place.
His was naturally a peaceable disposition, and he could not bear to witness
scenes of discord. The sight of his
pleasant face saddened, did not tend to
make little Nell feel happier. She
longed to have him reprove her, or
exhort her, as he so often did, to better behavior; but Martin sat in his chair
by the fire, sorrowful and mute.
Nothing was heard but the hissing of
the burning wood on the wide hearth,
and the whistling sounds and muffled
roars of the wind without.
It was too much to bear this any
longer. Nelly got up with a long, penitent face, and hovered rather wistfully
around the chair where Comfort sat,
still smoking her pipe. The old domestic had taken advantage of the fact of
her eyes being half closed, to pretend
that she did not see the little figure
standing at her side, on account of just
going off into a most delightful doze.
She even went so far as to get up a
gentle, extempore fit of snoring, but
Nelly was not to be deceived.
" Comfort," she said, in a mild, quiet
No answer, excepting three exceedingly distinct snores.
" Com fort," was repeated, in a louder
" WHAT ! ! " growled the old woman,
opening her eyes so suddenly that the
child started back. Comfort began to
laugh, however, so Nell felt no fear of
having disturbed her in reality.
"I am sorry I said that wasn't your
money-box, Comfort. I didn't mean
to contradict, or such like. It was all
along o' my contrary temper, and if
you'll forgive me, I'll try not to act so
The old colored woman appeared a
"'Deed, honey," she said, "yer haven't
done nuthin' wrong; it's all me. I dunno
what gits into me sometimes. Well, now,
hand me that ar plaguey stocking, and
I'll let you and Martin count my money"
Nelly smiled, looked delighted at being restored to favor, and flew to the
The bag was on too high a shelf for
her to reach, however, and she had got
the poker and was in the act of violently
punching and hooking it down, as she
best could, her eyes and cheeks bright
with the exertion, when Martin - the
sadness quite gone from his face - advanced to help her. Comfort took the
bag from him, and with a grand flourish, emptied it on the vacant table.
The flourish was a little too grand, however, and much more effective than Comfort had intended. The shining silver
dollars, with which the stocking was
partially filled, fell helter-skelter on the
table, and many of them rolled jingling
and glittering over the floor.
Nelly laughed and scrambled after
them, Martin shouted and tumbled down
on hands and knees to help find them,
while the owner, quite dismayed, stood
still and did nothing.
" 'Deed, 'deed ! " she said ; " how could
I be so keerless? But there's thirty of
'em, and thirty I'll find."
Before the children knew what-she
was about, she seized the broom and
began to sweep the rag-carpet with
great nervous dashes, that had no other effect than to raise a tremendous
"Stop!" cried Martin; "don't sweep,
please, Comfort; Nelly and I will find
them for you. That dust just goes into
our eyes and blinds us. If you are sure
there were thirty, it is easy enough to
search till we make up the number."
Comfort relinquished the broom at
this, and began to count; as fast as the
children found any of the coins they
dropped them into her lap.
"Twenty-six, twenty-seven," she said,
at length; " three more, and we've got
all the little shiners back."
" Here's two," cried Martin, " behind
"And here's the thirtieth," exclaimed.
Nelly, "sticking out from under your
shoe, Comfort! How funny!"
And so, laughing, the children saw
Comfort's money-box bulge again to its
" That ar's only my last five months'
wages. Mrs. Brooks paid me yesterday,"
said the old woman, proudly, as she tied
the stocking together with a piece of
yellow, time-stained tape. "I've got
three hundred jes' like 'em in a bank
in the city , and when with a little extry
t'ilin' and savin', I git in all, three hundred and fifty, my neffy will never be a
slave no more ! "
Here the kind voice of Mrs. Brooks
was heard calling the children into the
" Good-night, Comfort," said Martin;
" I wish I had thirty dollars, yet I do
not envy you yours, one bit,-no, not
" Yes," added Nell, rising to go, " and
I don't envy either, but I wouldn't mind
owning another stocking just like that.
And, Comfort, I am going to ask mother
to let me set all the eggs of my white
bantam hen, early in the spring; and
I'll sell the chickens and give you the
money to help buy your neffy."
On to chapter 4
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