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Malleville's Night of Adventure by E. V. Lucas

 

I

The Story of Agnes

In a few minutes Beechnut returned with a large rocking-chair, which he placed by the fire, on one side. He then took Malleville in his arms, and carried her to the chair, and sat down. Next he asked Phonny to go out into the entry, and look by the side of the door, and to bring in what he should find there.

'What is it?' said Malleville.

'You will see,' replied Beechnut. So saying, he placed Malleville in his lap in such a position that she could see the door and the fire. Her head rested upon a small pillow which Beechnut had laid upon his shoulder. By the time that Malleville was thus placed, Phonny came back. He had in his hand a small sheet-iron pan, with three large and rosy apples in it. Beechnut directed Phonny to put this pan down upon the hearth where the apples would roast.

'Who are they for?' asked Malleville.

'One is for you,' replied Beechnut, 'one for Phonny, and one for me. But we are not going to eat them till to-morrow morning.'

'There ought to be one for Hepzibah,' said Malleville.

'Why, Hepzibah can get as many apples as she wants,' said Beechnut, 'and roast them whenever she pleases. Only,' he continued, after a moment's pause, 'perhaps it would please her to have us remember her, and roast her one together with ours.'

'Yes,' said Phonny. 'I think it would.'

'Then,' said Beechnut, 'you may go, Phonny, and get her an apple. You can make room for one more upon the pan.'

'Well,' said Phonny, 'but you must not begin the story until I come back.'

So Phonny went away to get an apple for Hepzibah. In a short time he returned, bringing with him a very large and beautiful apple, which he put upon the pan with the rest. There was just room for it. He then set the pan down before the fire, and took his own seat in the little rocking-chair, which still stood in its place by the side of the light-stand.

'Now, Beechnut,' said he, as soon as he was seated, 'now for the story.'

'What sort of story shall I tell you, Malleville?' asked Beechnut. 'Shall it be the plain truth, or shall it be embellished?'

'Embellished,' said Malleville. 'I wish you would embellish it as much as ever you can.'

'Well,' said Beechnut, 'I will tell you about Agnes.'

'Agnes!' repeated Phonny. 'Who was she?'

'You must not speak, Phonny,' said Malleville. 'Beechnut is going to tell this story to me.'

'Yes,' said Beechnut, 'it is altogether for Malleville, and you must not say a word about it from beginning to end.'

'One night,' continued Beechnut, 'about three weeks ago, I sat up very late in my room, writing. It was just after I had got well from my hurt, and as I had been kept away from my desk for a long time, I was very glad to get back to it again, and I used to sit up quite late in the evenings, writing and reading. The night that I am now speaking of, I sat up even later than usual. It had been a very warm day, and the evening air, as it came into my open window, was cool and delightful. Besides, there was a bright moon, and it shone very brilliantly upon the garden, and upon the fields and mountains beyond, as I looked upon them from my window.

'At last I finished my writing just as the clock struck twelve, and as I still did not feel sleepy, notwithstanding that it was so late, and as the night was so magnificent, I thought that I would go out and take a little walk. So I put my books and papers away, took my cap, and put it upon my head, and then stepped out of the window upon the roof of the shed, which, you know, is just below it. I thought it better to go out that way rather than to go down the stairs, as by going down the stairs I might possibly have disturbed somebody in the house.

'I walked along the roof of the shed, without meeting anybody or seeing anybody except Moma. She was lying down asleep behind one of the chimneys.'

Moma was a large black cat belonging to Malleville.

'Poor Moma!' said Malleville. 'Has not she got any better place to sleep in than that? I mean to make her a bed as soon as I get well.'

'When I reached the end of the shed,' continued Beechnut, 'I climbed down by the great trellis to the fence, and from the fence to the ground. I went along the yard to the steps of the south platform, and sat down there. It looked very pleasant in the garden, and I went in there. I walked through the garden, and out at the back gate into the woods, and so up the glen. I rambled along different glens and valleys for half an hour, until at last I came to a most beautiful place among groves and thickets where there was a large spring boiling out from under some mossy rocks. This spring was in a deep shady place, and was overhung with beautiful trees. In front of the spring was a large basin of water, half as large as this room. The water was very clear, and as the moonlight shone upon it through the interstices of the trees, I could see that the bottom was covered with yellow sands, while beautiful shells and pebbles lined the shore.

'The water fell down into the basin from the spring in a beautiful cascade. All around there were a great many tall wild flowers growing. It seemed to me the most beautiful place I ever saw. I sat down upon a large round stone which projected out from a grassy bank just below this little dell, where I could see the basin of water and the spring, and the flowers upon its banks, and could hear the sound of the water falling over the cascade.

'There was a very large oak-tree growing near the basin on the one side. I could only see the lower part of the stem of it. The top was high in the air, and was concealed from view by the foliage of the thickets. The stem of the tree was very large indeed, and it had a very ancient and venerable appearance. There was a hollow place in this tree very near the ground, which had in some degree the appearance of a door, arched above. The sides of this opening were fringed with beautiful green moss, which hung down within like a curtain, and there were a great many beautiful flowers growing upon each side of it. Another thing which attracted my attention and excited my curiosity very strongly, was that there seemed to be a little path leading from this door down to the margin of the water.

'While I was wondering what this could mean, I suddenly observed that there was a waving motion in the long moss which hung down within the opening in the trunk of the tree, and presently I saw a beautiful little face peeping out. I was, of course, very much astonished, but I determined to sit perfectly still, and see what would happen.

'I was in such a place that the person to whom the face belonged could not see me, though I could see her perfectly. After looking about for a minute or two timidly, she came out. She was very beautiful indeed, with her dark hair hanging in curls upon her neck and shoulders. Her dress was very simple, and yet it was very rich and beautiful.'

'What did she have on?' asked Malleville.

'Why, I don't know that I can describe it very well,' said Beechnut. 'I am not much accustomed to describe ladies' dresses. It was, however, the dress of a child. She had in her hand a very long feather, like a peacock's feather, only, instead of being of many colours, it was white, like silver, and had the lustre of silver. I verily believe it must have been made of silver.'

'I don't believe it would be possible,' said Phonny, 'to make a feather of silver.'

'Why not?' asked Beechnut, 'as well as to make a tassel of glass? However, it looked like silver, and it was extremely graceful and brilliant as she held it in her hands waving in the moonbeams.

'After looking about for a minute or two, and seeing nobody, she began to dance down the little path to the brink of the basin, and when she reached it she began to speak. “Now,” said she, “I'll freeze the fountain, and then I'll have a dance.”

'As she said this, she stood upon the pebbles of the shore, and began gently to draw the tip of her long feather over the surface of the water, and I saw, to my amazement, that wherever the feather passed it changed the surface of the water into ice. Long feathery crystals began to shoot in every direction over the basin wherever Agnes moved her wand.'

'Was her name Agnes?' asked Malleville.

'Yes,' said Beechnut.

'How do you know?' asked Malleville.

'Oh, she told me afterwards,' replied Beechnut. 'You will hear how presently. When she had got the surface of the water frozen, she stepped cautiously upon it to see if it would bear.'

'Would it?' asked Malleville.

'Yes,' replied Beechnut, 'it bore her perfectly. She advanced to the middle of it, springing up and down upon her feet to try the strength of the ice as she proceeded. She found that it was very strong.

'“Now,” said she, “for the cascade.”

'So saying, she began to draw her silver feather down the cascade, and immediately the same effect was produced which I had observed upon the water. The noise of the waterfall was immediately hushed. Beautiful stalactites and icicles were formed in the place of the pouring and foaming water. I should have thought that the cascade had been wholly congealed were it not that I could see in some places by the moonlight that the water was still gurgling down behind the ice, just as it usually does when cascades and waterfalls are frozen by natural cold.'

[Illustration: Wherever the feather passed it changed the surface of the water.—Page 302.]

'Yes,' said Phonny, 'I have watched it very often on the brook.'

'On what brook?' asked Malleville.

'On the pasture brook,' said Phonny.

Beechnut took no notice of Phonny's remark, but went on with his narrative as follows:

'Agnes then walked back and forth upon the ice, and began to draw the tip of her long silver feather over the branches of the trees that overhung the basin, and over the mossy banks and the tall grass and flowers. Everything that she touched turned into the most beautiful frost-work. The branches of the trees were loaded with snow, the banks hung with icicles, and the tall grass and flowers seemed to turn white and transparent, and they glittered in the moonbeams as if they were encrusted with diamonds. I never saw anything so resplendent and beautiful.

'At last she looked round upon it all and said: “There, that will do. I wonder now if the ice is strong enough.”

'Then she went into the middle of the ice, and standing upon it on tiptoe, she sprang up into the air, and then came down upon it again, as if she were trying its strength. At the same instant she said or sung in a beautiful silvery voice, like a bird, the word, “Peep!”

'When she had done this, she stopped for a moment to listen. I sat perfectly still, so as not to let her know that I was near. Presently she leaped up again twice in succession, singing, “Peep! Peep!”

'Then, after pausing a moment more, she began to dance away with the utmost agility and grace, singing all the time a little song, the music of which kept time with her dancing. This was the song:

    '“Peep! peep! chippeda dee,
    Playing in the moonlight—nobody to see;
    The boys and girls are gone away,
    They've had their playtime in the day,
    And now the night is left to me.
    Peep! peep! chippeda dee!
“'

'That's a pretty song,' said Malleville.

'Yes,' said Beechnut, 'and you cannot imagine how beautifully she sang it, and how gracefully she danced upon the ice while she was singing. I was so delighted that I could not sit perfectly still, but made some movement that caused a little rustling. Agnes stopped a moment to listen. I was very much afraid that she would see me. She did not see me, however, and so she began the second verse of her song:

    '“Peep! peep! chippeda dee!
    The moon is for the mountains, the sun is for the sea!

'When she had got so far,' continued Beechnut, 'she suddenly stopped. She saw me. The fact was, I was trying to move back a little farther, so as to be out of sight, and I made a little rustling, which she heard. The instant she saw me, she ran off the ice, and up her little path to the opening in the oak, and in a moment disappeared. Presently, however, I saw the fringe of moss moving again, and she began to peep out.

'“Beechnut,” said she, “how came you here?”

'“Why, I was taking a walk,” said I, “and I came along this path. Don't you want me to be here?”

'“No,” said she.

'“Oh, then I will go away,” said I. “But how came you to know me?”

'“Oh, I know you very well,” said she. “Your name is Beechnut.”

'“And do you know Malleville?” said I.

'“Yes,” said she. “I know her very well. I like Malleville very much. I like her better than I do you.”

'“Ah,” said I; “I am sorry for that. Why do you like her better than you do me?”

'“Because she is a girl,” said Agnes.

'“That is a good reason,” said I, “I confess. I like girls myself better than I do boys. But how came you to know Malleville?”

'“Oh, I have seen her a great many times,” said she, “peeping into her windows by moonlight, when she was asleep.”

'“Well,” said I, “I will tell Malleville about you, and she will want to come and see you.”

'“No,” said Agnes, “she must not come and see me; but she may write me a letter.”

'“But she is not old enough to write letters,” said I.

'“Then,” said she, “she must tell you what to write, and you must write it for her.”'

Beechnut observed that, though Phonny and Malleville neither of them spoke, they were both extremely interested, and somewhat excited by the story, and that he was far from accomplishing the object which he had in view at first in telling a story, namely, lulling Malleville to sleep. He therefore said to Malleville that, though he had a great deal more to tell her about Agnes, he thought it would be better not to tell her any more then; but that he would sing Agnes's song to her, to the same tune that Agnes herself sung it. He would sing it several times, he said, and she might listen, laying her head upon his shoulder.

Malleville said that she should like very much to hear Beechnut sing the song, but that after he had sung it, she hoped he would tell her a little more about Agnes that night. She liked to hear about her, she said, very much indeed.

So Beechnut changed Malleville's position, placing her in such a manner that her head reclined upon his shoulder.

'Shut your eyes now,' said he, 'and form in your mind a picture of the little dell and fountain, with the frost-work beaming in the moonlight, and Agnes dancing on the ice while I sing.'

Then Beechnut began to sing the first verse of the song to a very lively and a pretty tune. He could not sing the second verse, he said, because he had not heard it all. But the first verse he sung over and over again.

    'Peep! peep! chippeda dee!
    Playing in the moonlight, nobody to see;
    The boys and girls have gone away.
    They've had their playtime in the day,
    And now the night is left for me.
    Peep! peep! chippeda dee!
'

Malleville lay very still, listening to the song for about five minutes, and then Beechnut found that she was fast asleep. He then rose very gently, and carried her to her bed. He laid her in the bed, and Phonny, who stood by, covered her with the clothes. He and Phonny then crept softly out of the room.

II

A Sound Sleeper

About nine o'clock, Hepzibah, having finished her work for the day, covered up the kitchen fire, and fastened the outer doors. Beechnut had gone to bed, and so had Phonny. Hepzibah went into Phonny's room to see if all was safe, and to get the light. She then went into Malleville's room.

The room had a very pleasant aspect, although the fire had nearly gone down. The lamp was burning on the stand at the foot of the bed where Phonny had left it. Hepzibah advanced softly to the bedside. Malleville was lying asleep there, with her cheek upon her hand.

'Poor child!' said Hepzibah to herself. 'She has gone to sleep. What a pity that I have got to wake her up by-and-by, and give her some medicine.'

Hepzibah then looked at a clock which stood upon the mantel-shelf, and saw that it was a little past nine. It was an hour or more before it would be time to give Malleville the drops. Hepzibah thought that if she went to bed, she should fall asleep, and not wake up again until morning, for she always slept very soundly. She determined, therefore, that she would sit up until half-past ten, and then, after giving Malleville the medicine, go to bed. She accordingly went and got her knitting-work, intending to keep herself awake while she sat up by knitting. When she came back into the room, she began to look for a comfortable seat. She finally decided on taking the sofa.

Mary Bell, after using the sofa for Malleville while she was making the bed, had put it back into its place by the side of the room. Hepzibah, however, easily brought it forward again, for it trundled very smooth and noiselessly upon its castors. Hepzibah brought the sofa up to the fire, placing one end of it near to the stand, in order that she might have the benefit of the lamp in case of dropping a stitch. She prepared the medicine for Malleville by mixing it properly with water in a little cup, and put it upon the stand, so that it should be all ready to be administered when the time should come, and then sat down upon the sofa, next to the sofa cushions, which were upon the end of the sofa, between herself and the light.

Things went on very well for almost half an hour, but then Hepzibah, being pretty tired in consequence of her long day's work, and of her want of rest the night before, began to grow sleepy. Twice her knitting-work dropped out of her hands. The dropping of the knitting-work waked her the first and second time that it occurred. But the third time it did not wake her. After falling half over and recovering herself two or three times, she at length sank down upon the cushions, with her head upon the uppermost of them, and there in a short time she was fast asleep.

She remained in this condition for nearly two hours, Malleville in her bed sleeping all the time quietly too. When Malleville went to sleep, she did so resolving not to wake up for her medicine. She did not resolve not to take it, if any one else waked her up for it, but she determined not to wake up for it of her own accord. Whether this had any influence in prolonging her sleep it would be difficult to say. She did, however, sleep very soundly, and without changing her position at all, until a little after eleven o'clock, when she began to move her head and her arms a little, and presently she opened her eyes.

She looked around the room and saw nobody. The light was burning, though rather dimly, and the fire had nearly gone out. She sat up in the bed, and after a few minutes' pause, she said in a gentle voice, as if speaking to herself:

'I wish there was somebody here to give me a drink of water.' Then, after waiting for a moment, she added, 'but I can just as well get down and find it myself.'

So saying, she climbed down from the bed, and put on her shoes and stockings, singing gently all the time, 'Peep! peep! chippeda dee!'

This was all of Agnes's song that she could remember.

She went toward the fire, wondering who had drawn out the sofa and what for, and on passing round before it, her wonder was changed into amazement at finding Hepzibah asleep upon it.

'Why,' she exclaimed, in a very low and gentle tone, just above a whisper, 'here is Hepzibah. I suppose she is sitting up to watch with me. How tired she is.'

She stood looking at Hepzibah a minute or two in silence, and then said, speaking in the same tone and manner as before:

'She is not comfortable. I mean to put her feet upon the sofa.'

So saying, Malleville stooped down, and clasping Hepzibah's feet with both her arms, she lifted them up as gently as she could, and put them upon the sofa. Hepzibah's sound sleep was not at all disturbed by this. In fact, her position being now much more easy than before, she sank away soon into a slumber deeper and more profound than ever.

Malleville, finding that her first attempt to render Hepzibah a service was so successful, immediately began to feel a strong interest in taking care of her, and, observing that her feet were not very well covered as she lay upon the sofa, she thought it would be a good plan to go and find something to cover them up. So she went to a bureau which was standing in the room, and began to open one drawer after another, in search of a small blanket which was sometimes used for such a purpose. She found the blanket at length in the lowermost drawer of the bureau.

'Ah! here it is,' said she. 'I knew it was somewhere in this bureau.'

Saying this, she took out the blanket, and carried it to the sofa, doing everything in as noiseless a manner as possible. She spread the blanket over Hepzibah's feet, tucking the edges under very gently and carefully all around.

'Now,' said Malleville to herself, 'I will make up the fire a little, so that she shall not catch cold.'

There were two sticks remaining of those which Beechnut had brought up, and they were lying upon the carpet by the side of the fire, near the rocking-chair in which Beechnut had rocked Malleville to sleep. The wood which had been put upon the fire had burned entirely down, nothing being left of them but a few brands in the corners. Malleville took up the two sticks, one after another, and laid them upon the andirons, one for a back-stick and the other for a fore-stick, as she had often seen Phonny do. She then brought up a little cricket in front of the andirons, and sitting down upon it there, she took the tongs and began to pick up the brands and coals, and to put them into the interstice which was left between the two sticks. She did all this in a very noiseless and gentle manner, so as not to disturb Hepzibah; and she stopped very frequently to look round and see if Hepzibah was still sleeping.

The air soon began to draw up through the coals which Malleville had placed between the sticks of wood, and thus fanning them, it brightened them into a glow. The brands began to smoke, and presently there appeared in one part a small flickering flame.

'There!' said Malleville, in a tone of great satisfaction, 'it is burning. Phonny said that I could not make a fire, but I knew that I could.'

Malleville had been very careful all the time not to allow her night-dress to get near the fire, and now, as the fire was beginning to burn, she thought that she must move still further away. She accordingly rose, and moved the cricket back. The fire burned more and more brightly, and Malleville observed that the light of it was flashing upon Hepzibah's face.

'I must make a screen for her,' said she, 'or the flashes will wake her up.'

So she went to the bureau again, and brought forth a shawl, one which she had often seen her aunt Henry use for this purpose. Then, putting a chair between the sofa and the fire, she spread the shawl upon the back of it, and found that it produced the effect of keeping the flashes of light from Hepzibah's face entirely to her satisfaction.

Malleville then began to wonder whether it was not time for her to take her medicine. She looked at the clock, to see if she could tell what o'clock it was. She could not, of course, for she had never learned to tell the time by the clock. Accordingly, after looking at the hands and figures a few minutes in silence, and listening to the ticking, she said:

'I cannot tell what o'clock it is, but it looks pretty late. I have a great mind to take my medicine myself.'

She then turned to the table, where the lamp and the medicines were standing. The cup was there in which Hepzibah had prepared Malleville's medicine. Malleville took it up, looked at it, and stirred it a little with the spoon.

'I wonder if this is my medicine,' said she. 'I have a great mind to take it. But, then perhaps, it is not my medicine. Perhaps it is poison.'

So she put the cup down upon the table again, glad, in fact, of a plausible excuse for not taking the draught.

'I'll sit down in this rocking-chair,' he said, 'and wait till Hepzibah wakes up. She will wake up pretty soon.'

So she went to the rocking-chair and sat down. She began to rock herself to and fro, watching the little flames and the curling smoke that were ascending from the fire. She remained thus for nearly a quarter of an hour, and then she began to be a little tired.

'What a long night!' said she. 'I did not know that nights were so long. I wish that Hepzibah would wake up. But I suppose she is very tired. I mean to go and look out of the window, and see if the morning is not coming. Beechnut said that we could always see it coming in the east, at the end of the night.'

Malleville did not know which the east was, but she thought she would at any rate go and look out of the window. She accordingly went to the window, and pushing the curtains aside and opening the shutters, she looked out. She saw the moon in the sky, and several stars, but there were no appearances of morning.

There was a bronze ink-stand upon the table near the window, and some pens upon it. The idea occurred to Malleville that perhaps she might write a little while, to occupy the time till Hepzibah should wake up.

'If I only had some paper,' said she, 'I would write a letter to Agnes.'

Malleville carried the lamp now to the table by the window, and taking great care to put it down in a place where it would not be at all in danger of setting fire to the curtain, she took the pen and began her writing. She worked patiently upon the task for half an hour. The letter was then completed. Of course, it is impossible to give any idea in a printed book of the appearance of the writing, but the letter itself, as Malleville intended to express it, was as follows:

    Wednesday, midnight.

    'DEAR AGNES,

'I like you because Beechnut says you like me. Please to answer this letter.

    'Your affectionate friend,

    M.

Malleville only wrote M. instead of her whole name, Malleville, at the bottom of her letter, because, just as she was finishing her work, the lamp began to burn very dim. She was afraid that it was going out. So she stopped with the M., saying to herself that Agnes would know who it was from, and, besides, if she did not, Beechnut could tell her when he gave it to her. She folded the note and slipped it into the envelope, and then, hastily wetting a wafer, which she found in a small compartment in the centre of the bronze ink-stand, she put it in its place, and pressed down the flap of the envelope upon it. She then took the lamp and went to find a pin to prick up the wick a little, to keep it from going out.

She could not find any pin, and the lamp burned more and more dimly.

'I must go downstairs and find another lamp,' said Malleville, 'or else Hepzibah will be left all in the dark.'

She turned and looked towards Hepzibah a moment as she said this, and then added, 'Poor Hepzibah! How tired she must be to sleep so long.'

She then took the lamp and walked softly out of the room. The stairs creaked a little as she descended, though she stepped as carefully as she could. When she reached the kitchen door, she found it shut. She opened it and went in.

The kitchen was pretty warm, as there had been a fire in it all the day, although the fire was now all covered up in the ashes. The andirons were standing one across the other upon the hearth, idle and useless. Malleville looked about the room for a lamp, but she did not see any. The kitchen was in perfect order, everything being put properly away in its place.

'I will look into the closets,' said Malleville.

So she opened a closet door and looked in. There were various articles on the shelves, but no lamps. She then shut this door, and opened another closet door at the back of the room. Here Malleville found four lamps standing in a row upon the second shelf. She was very much pleased to see them. She took one of them down and carried it to the kitchen table, and then lighted it by means of a lamp-lighter, which she obtained from a lamp-lighter case hanging up by the side of the fireplace. She then blew out her own lamp, and carrying it into the closet, she put it up upon the shelf in the place of the one which she had taken away.

On the lower shelf Malleville saw, much to her satisfaction, a plate of bread with some butter by the side of it. There was a little pitcher near, too, and Malleville, on looking into it, found that it was half full of milk.

'I am very glad that I have found this,' said she, 'for now I can have some supper. I wanted something, and I could not tell what. I know now. I was hungry.'

She brought out the bread and butter and the milk to the kitchen table, and then drawing up a chair, she began to eat her supper, feeling a most excellent appetite.

She went on very prosperously for a time, having eaten two slices of bread and drank nearly all the milk, when suddenly her attention was arrested by a movement at the head of the kitchen stairs. These stairs ascended from very near the door where Malleville had entered the kitchen, and as Malleville had left the door open, the light from her lamp shone out into the entry, and she could also, while in the kitchen, hear any sound upon the stairs. The sound which attracted her attention was like that of a person opening a door and coming out. Malleville immediately stopped drinking from her pitcher and listened.

'Who is that down in the kitchen?' said a voice. Malleville immediately recognised the voice as that of Beechnut.

'I,' said Malleville.

'I?' repeated Beechnut. 'Who do you mean? Is it Malleville.'

'Yes,' replied Malleville.

'Why, Malleville,' exclaimed Beechnut, in a tone of profound astonishment, 'what are you doing in the kitchen?'

'I am eating some supper,' said Malleville.

'But, Malleville,' exclaimed Beechnut, 'you ought not to be down there eating supper at this time of night. How came you to go down?'

'Oh, I came down,' replied Malleville, 'to get a lamp for Hepzibah.'

'For Hepzibah!' repeated Beechnut. 'Did she send you down there for a lamp?'

'Oh, no,' said Malleville, 'I came myself.'

'Where is Hepzibah?' asked Beechnut.

'She is asleep,' said Malleville, 'and you must not speak so loud or you will wake her up.'

Malleville could now hear Beechnut laughing most immoderately, though evidently making great efforts to suppress the sound of his laughter. Presently he regained his composure in a sufficient degree to speak, and Malleville heard his voice again, calling:

'Malleville!'

'What?' said Malleville.

'Have you nearly finished your supper?' asked Beechnut.

'Yes,' replied Malleville. 'I have only got a little more milk to drink.'

'Well,' said Beechnut, 'when you have drank your milk, you had better go directly back to your room again, and get into bed and go to sleep.'

'And what shall I do with Hepzibah?' said Malleville.

'Where is Hepzibah?' asked Beechnut. 'Is she asleep in your room?'

'Yes,' replied Malleville.

'On the sofa?' asked Beechnut.

'Yes,' replied Malleville.

'Then leave her where she is,' replied Beechnut, 'and go to bed and go to sleep. If you do not get to sleep in half an hour, ring your bell, and I will dress myself, and come and see what to do.'

'Well,' said Malleville, 'I will.' So, taking her new lamp, she went upstairs again to her room. Hepzibah was sleeping as soundly as ever.

Malleville, in obedience to Beechnut's directions, after putting her lamp upon the stand, went directly to her bed and lay down. She shut her eyes to try to go to sleep, thinking of Beechnut's injunction to ring the bell if she did not get to sleep in half an hour, and wondering how she was to determine when the half hour would be ended. Long, however, before she had decided this perplexing question, she was fast asleep.

The next morning Hepzibah awoke at half-past five, which was her usual time of rising. She started up, amazed to find that it was morning, and that she had been asleep all night upon the sofa in Malleville's room. Her amazement was increased at finding her feet enveloped in a blanket, and a screen placed carefully between her face and the remains of the fire. She went hastily to Malleville's bedside, and finding that the little patient was there safe and well, she ran off to her own room, hoping that Phonny and Beechnut would never hear the story of her watching, and tell it to the men; for if they did, the men, she said to herself, would tease her almost to death about it.

When the doctor came the next morning, and they told him about Malleville's supper, he laughed very heartily, and said that food was better for convalescents than physic after all, and that, though patients often made very sad mistakes in taking their case into their own hands, yet he must admit that it proved sometimes that they could prescribe for themselves better than the doctor.

 
 
 

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