Finding the uselessness of prosecuting her inquiries there, Lucy bade Mrs. Williams good-day, feeling sure that Nelly’s conduct had been misrepresented,—an opinion shared by Stella, who had taken a strong dislike to the woman’s grim demeanour and spiteful tone,—and very sorry for having lost the only clue to her protegee once more.
had been girlish friends,
With hearts that, like the summer’s half-oped buds,
Grew close, and hived their sweetness for each other.”
Lucy and Amy were soon settled in Mrs. Browne’s pleasant little cottage at Oakvale, a pretty sheltered village surrounded by hills, clothed principally with noble oaks, whence it derived its name. Mrs. Browne’s house lay a little way out of the village, amid green fields and lanes, which, after the hot, dusty city streets, were inexpressibly refreshing to Lucy, recalling old times at Ashleigh.
Mrs. Browne was a kind, motherly person, a doctor’s widow, herself possessing a good deal of medical skill, which rendered her house especially eligible for invalids, and she established a careful watch over little Amy, whose very precarious condition her practised eye saw at a glance. Whenever the child, feeling better than usual, would have overtasked her failing strength in the quiet country rambles, which were such a delightful novelty to one who had scarcely ever been really in the country before, and when Lucy’s inexperience might have allowed her to injure herself without knowing it, Mrs. Browne would interpose a gentle warning, which was always cheerfully obeyed. It was with some surprise, indeed, that she noticed with what perfect submission the little girl bore all the deprivations of innocent pleasure which her weak state compelled, as well as the feverish languor which often oppressed her in the hot August days. This submission arose from the implicit belief which, child as she was, she had, that everything that befell her was ordered by the kind Saviour, who would send nothing that was not for her real good. Such a belief, fully realized, would soon relieve most of us from the fretting cares and corroding anxieties that arise from our “taking thought” about things we cannot control.
“I never saw a child like her,” Mrs. Browne would say; “indeed, she’s more like an angel than a child, and it’s my belief she’ll soon be one in reality. And I’m sure heaven’s more the place for her than this rough world.”
However, Amy seemed to improve under the healthful influences of Oakvale, living almost wholly in the fresh open air, perfumed with mignonette and other sweet summer flowers, sitting with Lucy under the trees before Mrs. Browne’s house, or in her shady verandah, where, even on the warmest day, there was a breeze to cool the sultry air. Lucy would read to her, sometimes some of Longfellow’s simpler