And, taking up his instrument, he played an air sweeter than any Nelly had yet heard from him, and the little girl sang, in her liquid voice, a little song, the words of which she could not understand, for they were Italian.
“Now we must go,” said the man. “Good-bye, my good girl; if I were home in my country, I would do as much for you.” And the father and daughter pursued their weary way, Nelly’s eyes following wistfully the forms of those whom she regarded as friends already, for were they not, like herself, poor, lonely strangers in a strange land?
Then she began to wonder whether she had done wrong in asking them to come in. She knew instinctively that she could not have done it had Mrs. Williams been at home. But yet she could not feel such a simple, common act of kindness to have been wrong. No harm had been done to anything belonging to her mistress; and the “cup of cold water,” had she not a right to offer it to those who needed it so much?
After that the organ-grinder and his child passed frequently through that street, and whenever she could, Nelly would exchange a few kind words with them, and the man would play for her, knowing well that she had no pennies to offer in return; but at such times she used to wish so much that she had a little money of her own.
The Italian would sometimes look at her tattered dress, and her face, gradually growing thinner and paler, as if he thought her quite as forlorn as himself; and once, when he heard her mistress call her in, and scold her for “talking to such characters in the street,” he shook his head, and muttered something in his native tongue.
And so it came to pass that the poor Italian and his daughter became Nelly’s only friends in that great, busy city.
“Tell me the same old
When you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory
Is costing me too dear.”
Lucy’s interest in her studies, and the zeal with which she pursued them, had had a wonderful effect in reconciling her to her new circumstances. She could sometimes hardly believe that only a few short months lay between her and her old life, now seeming so far back in the distance. Her progress in study had been very rapid, as her abilities were above the average, and her love of study was much greater than was usual among her companions, most of whom looked upon their school education chiefly as a matter of form, which it was expected of them to go through before entering on the real object of life, the entrance into “society,” with its pleasures and excitements. That it was intended to be a means of disciplining their minds for better doing their future duties, enlarging their range of thought, and opening to them new sources of interest and delight, had never entered into their heads. Lucy indeed pursued her studies more for the sake of the pleasure they afforded her at the time than with any ulterior views, though she did feel the advantages placed in her way to be a sacred trust, and, like all other privileges, to be accounted for to Him who had bestowed them.