“And if you had not given me the work-box,” said Alice, “perhaps no one would ever have found it out.
“But,” continued she, excitedly, “let us see if there is any thing more in there.”
Again reaching into the hole in the mantel-piece, she sprung back with a look of amazement that frightened Mrs. Reed.
“Why, Alice, what is the matter?” inquired the old lady.
“Matter!” exclaimed Alice. “Why, dear me! Mrs. Reed, there are lots and lots of bags in there yet!”
“Is it possible!” said Mrs. Reed hoarsely. Then reaching her hand into the hole, she drew out bag after bag, handling them very carefully, so that they would not fall to pieces as the first one had done.
In the meantime Alice had pushed a table up near the fire-place. The bags were emptied upon it, until the glittering gold made a heap that struck Mrs. Reed and Alice with greater amazement than ever.
“Alice,” said Mrs. Reed, “this is a blessing from Heaven that I do not deserve. I can not tell you how thankful I am for it. My happiness now will be in doing for others.”
Alice said nothing; her heart was too full. A look of sadness came over her face.
She was wondering whether Mrs. Reed would continue to love her, and thinking, with a mingled feeling of fear and dread, that now her friend was rich, perhaps she, the poor orphan girl, might not be so welcome at the cottage as before.
Mrs. Reed seemed to understand somewhat the nature of Alice’s thoughts. “Cheer up, Alice,” said she; “this is not a time to be sad! Come, help me put away this gold.
“By the way, Alice, now is the time to use your pocket-book; you know I told you it was handy to have things in the house, they might be needed,” she continued, smilingly.
“Why, certainly, Mrs. Reed; do you want to borrow my pocket-book? here it is.”
“Yes, my dear,” replied Mrs. Reed, “I shall want a new one myself, and I want to see yours. I wonder how many pieces of gold it will hold.”
Then Mrs. Reed crammed the pocket-book full of gold pieces.
“There!” said she, handing it to Alice; “that is the Christmas present I wanted to give you this morning, but did not have it.”
“What! this for me! O no, no! I do not deserve it!” cried Alice.
“But you must take it, Alice, and listen; for I have something to tell you. I want you to be my daughter now. I will have abundant means to make both of us comfortable and happy.”
“O Mrs. Reed,” said Alice, bursting into tears; “I would love to be your daughter, nothing could make me happier.”
In a very short time every thing was changed in the little cottage. Mrs. Reed had legally adopted Alice as her daughter and was sending her to school.
Fresh paint, inside and out, and many new comforts, made the old house charming and bright. But nothing could change the happy relations between the two friends, and a more contented and cheerful household could not be found anywhere.