Very tragic indeed the maiden looked as she tossed off her hat and flung herself face downward on the bed, refusing to cast even a glance at the cell which was to be her hateful prison. “For of course I shall spend my time here!” she said to herself. “They may send me here, keep me here for years, if they will; but they cannot make me associate with these people.” And she recalled with a shudder the gnarled, horny hand which she had touched in jumping from the cart,—she had never felt anything like it; the homely speech, and the nasal twang with which it was delivered; the uncouth garb (good stout butternut homespun!) and unkempt hair and beard of the “odious old savage,” as she mentally named Farmer Hartley.
After all, however, Hilda was only fifteen; and after a few minutes, Curiosity began to wake; and after a short struggle with Despair, it conquered, and she sat up on the bed and looked about her.
It was not a very dreadful cell. A bright, clean, fresh little room, all white and blue. White walls, white bedstead, with oh! such snowy coverings, white dimity curtains at the windows, with old-fashioned ball fringes, a little dimity-covered toilet-table, with a quaint looking-glass framed with fat gilt cherubs, all apparently trying to fold their wings in such a way as to enable them to get a peep at themselves in the mirror, and not one succeeding. Then there was a low rocking-chair, and another chair of the high-backed order, and a tall chest of drawers, all painted white, and a wash-hand-stand with a set of dark-blue crockery on it which made the victim of despair open her eyes wide. Hilda had a touch of china mania, and knew a good thing when she saw it; and this deep, eight-sided bowl, this graceful jug with the quaint gilt dragon for a handle, these smaller jugs, boxes, and dishes, all of the same pattern, all with dark-blue dragons (no cold “Canton” blue, but a rich, splendid ultramarine), large and small, prancing and sprawling on a pale buff ground,—what were these things doing in the paltry bedroom of a common farm-house? Hilda felt a new touch of indignation at “these people” for presuming to have such things in their possession.
When her keen eyes had taken in everything, down to the neat rag-carpet on the floor, the girl bethought her of her trunk. She might as well unpack it. Her head could not ache worse, whatever she did; and now that that little imp Curiosity was once awake, he prompted her to wonder what the trunk contained. None of the dresses she had been wearing, she was sure of that; for they were all hanging safely in her wardrobe at home. What surprise had mamma been planning? Well, she would soon know. Hastily unlocking the trunk, she lifted out one tray after another and laid them on the bed. In the first were piles of snowy collars and handkerchiefs, all of plain, fine linen, with no lace or embroidery; a broad-brimmed straw hat with a simple wreath of daisies round it; another hat, a small one, of rough gray