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'How black your face used to be !' exclaimed Ellen.
' And yours too, Ellen !' retorted Joshua saucily. Whereat Ellen blushed, and did not reply.
What passed between Susan and Dan was never divulged. It was nothing very dreadful, you may be sure; for when Dan called to Joshua and Ellen to come in, they found him smiling. Susan was gone, but presently she entered again with a radiant face and nodded to Dan, who nodded to Susan in return, and said gaily,
* Thank you, Susey!'
When Susan went into the passage, she wiped her eyes, and did not once look round to see if anything was behind her. That day, over the washing-tub, Susan was happier than she had been for a long time.
Then Dan rubbed his hands, and said, 'I really think this is going to be the happiest day of my life.
The happiest day of my life! How often, and with what various meaning, are those words uttered! At dinner-parties, when the invited guest rises to respond to the toast of his health, and commences by saying in tones which falter from emotion, 'This is the happiest day of my life !'
At wedding-feasts, if healths are being proposed, when the bridegroom, the bridegroom's father, and the bride's father, each in his turn declares, 'This is the happiest day of my life !' At the presentation of testimonials, whether to humbug, worthy man, or fool, it is “The happiest day of my life! with one and all of them. With copious use of pocket-handkerchief, and with face more suitable for a funeral than for a joyful occasion. But a fig for moralising on such a day as this !
Dan's countenance was suffused with a flush of genuine delight, as he repeated,
'Yes, Ellen, this is going to be the happiest day of my life.
She gave him a questioning imploring look, which asked the reason why as plainly as any words could put the question.
• Come here, and I'll whisper,' said Dan.
Ellen put her ear close to his mouth, but Dan, instead of whispering, blew into her ear, which caused her to start away with a pleasant shiver, and to cry out that he tickled her. Nothing daunted, however, she placed her ear a second time to his lips; and then he whispered something which made Ellen jump for joy, and hug him round the neck, and tear out of the room as if she were mad.
And almost before you could say Jack Robinson ! there she was back again, her eyes all aglow with excitement, in her modest Sunday dress and pretty Sunday bonnet.
Susan's voice was heard calling out,
She means our carriage, Jo,' said Dan merrily, as Joshua carried him out.
And there they were, the three of them in the cart; Dan lying his full length on some straw between Joshua and Ellen, who sat upon a kind of bench in a state of perfect happiness. And there were the bullfinches in their cage, wondering what on earth it all meant, but very blithe and merry notwithstanding. And there was the cart moving along slowly, so that Dan should not be jolted. And there they were, presently, looking at each other, and laughing and nodding pleasantly without any apparent cause.
Not among all the stars that gem the heavens (which some wise men assert are really worlds in which forms that have life fulfil the task ordained by the Master of all the worlds) could there be found a more beautiful world than this was to our young holiday-folk on that bright summer morning. Whitechapel the Dingy was as a flowergarden in their eyes; and as they rode through the busy neighbourhood a great many persons turned to look at the crazy cart—the springs in which were the only uneasy part of the whole affair-and at the three joyful faces that peered about, enjoying everything, and thankful for everything, from the flying clouds to the lazy gutters.
Soon they were at the waterside; and soon they were on the barge, with the Old Sailor welcoming them in downright sailor fashion. Directly Dan put out his little hand, and felt it imprisoned in the Old Sailor's immense palm, and directly he looked at the great. open face, pock-marked as it was, and into the staring pleasant eyes, which returned his look honestly and pleasantly, he nodded to himself in satisfaction. His delight was unbounded when the Old Sailor lifted him tenderly, and placed him in a hammock specially prepared for him. deeply impressed by the Old Sailor's thoughtful kindness. The mere fact of his lying in a hammock was entrancing. And there Dan swung, and, gazing in wonder upon the busy life of the flowing river, fancied himself in dreamland.
Before he gave himself up to that trance, however, there was much to be done and much to be
observed. When the Old Sailor lifted him into the hammock and arranged him comfortably—Dan was surprised that those great strong hands could be so light and tender-he said to the Old Sailor, * Thank you, sir ;' and the Old Sailor replied, “Ay, ay, my lad, just as he had read of, and in just the kind of tone he imagined a sailor would use.
The next thing the Old Sailor did was to rest his hand upon Ellen's head. Thereupon Joshua said, “You don't mind, Mr. Praiseworthy, do you?' referring to the liberty they had taken in bringing Ellen without an invitation. • Mind !' the Old Sailor exclaimed. “A pretty little lass like this !' and he stooped and kissed her. And Ellen did not even blush, but seemed to like it. The Old Sailor seemed to like it too. There was something wonderfully charming in his manner of saying “Pretty little lass ;' none but a downright thoroughbred old tar could have said it in such a way. And there was something wonderfully charming in the rough grace with which he accepted the bunch of flowers from Ellen. His first intention was to stick them in the bosom of his shirt; but second consideration led him to reflect that their circumference rendered such a resting-place inappropriate. So he placed them