Hilda watched him for some moments, many new thoughts revolving in her head. How many country boys were there who taught themselves in this way? How many, among the clever girls at Mademoiselle Haut-ton’s school, had this sort of ambition to learn, of pride in learning? Had she, the best scholar in her class, had it? She had always known her lessons, because they were easy for her to learn, because she had a quick eye and ear, and a good memory. She could not help learning, Mademoiselle said. But this,—this was something different!
“What is your name?” she asked, with a new interest.
“Bubble Chirk,” replied the freckled boy, with one eye on his book, and the other measuring a tall spire of pigweed, towards which he stretched his hand.
“WHAT!” cried Hilda, in amazement.
“Bubble Chirk!” said the boy. “Kin’ o’ curus name, ain’t it? The hull of it’s Zerubbabel Chirk; but most folks ain’t got time to say all that. It trips you up, too, sort o’. Bubble’s what they call me; ’nless it’s Bub.”
The contrast between the boy’s earnest and rather pathetic face, and his absurdly volatile name, was almost too much for Hilda’s gravity. But she checked the laugh which rose to her lips, and asked: “Don’t you go to school at all, Bubble? It is a pity that you shouldn’t, when you are so fond of study.”
“Gin’lly go for a spell in the winter,” replied Bubble. “They ain’t no school in summer, y’ know. Boys hes to work, round here. Mam ain’t got nobody but me ’n Pink, sence father died.”
“Who is Pink?” asked Hilda, gently.
“My sister,” replied Bubble. “Thet ain’t her real name, nuther. Mam hed her christened Pinkrosia, along o’ her bein’ so fond o’ roses, Mam was; but we don’t call her nothin’ only Pink.”
“Pink Chirk!” repeated Hilda to herself. “What a name! What can a girl be like who is called Pink Chirk?”
But now Bubble seemed to think that it was his turn to ask questions. “I reckon you’re the gal that’s come to stay at Mr. Hartley’s?” he said in an interrogative tone.
Hilda’s brow darkened for a moment at the word “gal,” which came with innocent frankness from the lips of the ragged urchin before her. But the next moment she remembered that it was only the old Hilda who cared about such trifles; so she answered pleasantly enough:
“Yes, I am staying at Mr. Hartley’s. I only came yesterday, but I am to stay some time.”
“And what mought your name be?” inquired Master Chirk.
“Hildegardis Graham.” It was gently said, in a very different voice from that which had answered Farmer Hartley in the same words the night before; but it made a startling impression on Bubble Chirk.
“Hildy—” he began; and then, giving it up, he said simply: “Well, I swan! Do ye kerry all that round with ye all the time?”
Hilda laughed outright at this.
“Oh, no!” she said; “I am called Hilda generally.”