The morning came laughing into Hilda’s room, and woke her with such a flash of sunshine and trill of bird-song that she sprang up smiling, whether she would or no. Indeed, she felt happier than she could have believed to be possible. The anger, the despair, even the self-humiliation and anguish of repentance, were gone with the night. Morning was here,—a new day and a new life. “Here is the new Hildegarde!” she cried as she plunged her face into the clear, sparkling water. “Do you see me, blue dragons? Shake paws, you foolish creatures, and don’t stand ramping and glaring at each other in that way! Here is a new girl come to see you. The old one was a minx,—do you hear, dragons?” The dragons heard, but were too polite to say anything; and as for not ramping, why they had ramped and glared for fifty years, and had no idea of making a change at their time of life.
The gilt cherubs round the little mirror were more amiable, and smiled cheerfully at Hilda as she brushed and braided her hair, and put on the pretty blue gingham frock. “We have no clothes ourselves,” they seemed to say, “but we appreciate good ones when we see them!” Indeed, the frock fitted to perfection. “And after all,” said the new Hilda as she twirled round in front of the glass, “what is the use of an overskirt?” after which astounding utterance, this young person proceeded to do something still more singular. After a moment’s hesitation she drew out one of the white aprons which she had scornfully laid in the very lowest drawer only twelve hours before, tied it round her slender waist, and then, with an entirely satisfied little nod at the mirror, she tripped lightly downstairs and into the kitchen. Dame Hartley was washing dishes at the farther end of the room, in her neat little cedar dish-tub, with her neat little mop; and she nearly dropped the blue and white platter from her hands when she heard Hilda’s cheerful “Good morning, Nurse Lucy!” and, turning, saw the girl smiling like a vision of morning.
“My dear,” she cried, “sure I thought you were fast asleep still. I was going up to wake you as soon as I had done my dishes. And did you sleep well your first night at Hartley’s Glen?”
“Oh, yes! I slept very sound indeed,” said Hilda, lightly. And then, coming close up to Dame Hartley, she said in an altered tone, and with heightened color: “Nurse Lucy, I did not behave well last night, and I want to tell you that I am sorry. I am not like mamma, but I want to grow a little like her, if I can, and you must help me, please!”
Her voice faltered, and good Nurse Lucy, laying down her mop, took the slender figure in her motherly arms, from which it did not now shrink away.
“My lamb!” she said; “Miss Mildred’s own dear child! You look liker your blessed mother this minute than I ever thought you would. Help you? That I will, with all my heart!—though I doubt if you need much help, coming to yourself so soon as this. Well, well!”