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pair to lend her. She dried her eyes and washed them well with cold water, and altogether managed so successfully, that breakfast was over, and she and Dan and the birds were all together in the parlour, without Dan ever suspecting what had occurred.
Those two children sitting there were fully aware that a grave crisis was approaching. Young as they were to bear the weight of serious trouble, they bore it cheerfully, and strove in their humble way to fight with the world and with the hard circumstances of their lives. Dan, cripple as he was, had much hope; and often, when he was thinking over certain schemes which had been suggested by the stern necessity of his condition, a quaint smile would play upon his lips, and a humorous light would shine in his eyes. Ellen, looking up from her work, would sometimes see that smile, which, for all its quaintness, had a shade of thoughtfulness in it; and on her lips, too, a pleasant smile would wreathe in sympathy. They were very tender towards each other; their love made them strong.
Ellen, busy with her needle, sat close to the table, so that Dan should not catch a glimpse of her shoeless feet. Dan was industriously at work
training two birds, which were to replace those in the window when they were sold.
The education of this second pair of birds was almost completed, and Dan said as much to Ellen. He had taught them different tricks, and had fitted two ladders in the cage, up and down which they hopped, keeping time, step for step.
'But will they ever be sold ?' exclaimed Ellen almost despairingly.
'It is a long time before we make a commencement,' said Dan. "There's Susan.'
When Susan entered, she examined the dress which Ellen was making, and suddenly exclaimed,
'Why, Ellen, where are your boots ?'
Dan looked up quickly, and then directed his eyes to Ellen's feet. Poor Ellen stammered a good deal, and striving to hide the truth from Dan, got into a sad bewilderment of words.
'Nay, but, Ellen,' interposed Dan in a grave voice, 'you don't mean to say that you have been sitting all the morning without your boots?'
'Yes, I have,' said Ellen, compelled to con
'But why, my dear?'
'When I got up this morning, I looked for them, and could not find them. Perhaps I can
find them now.' And Ellen ran out of the room; but she soon returned, shaking her head, and saying, 'No, they're gone. Never mind; it can't be helped.'
'You really don't know what has become of them ?'
'Did you see father last night ?'
Ellen shook her head.
Nor this morning?'
Ellen shook her head again.
'I can't quite see what is to be the end of all this,' said Dan sadly. It is almost too dreadful to think of. Father must have taken your boots, Ellen dear. The night before last he took a bird-cage; that was the reason I had all my birds in my bedroom last night. It is very, very dreadful. Poor dear mother! Poor dear Joshua!
I do wish you were here now to advise us what to do!'
And the three children drew closer together, and strove to comfort each other.
'Dry your eyes, Ellen,' said Dan stoutly; 'brighter days will come. Susan, have you a pair of old boots that you can lend to Ellen ?'
Susan ran out of the house and returned with
a pair of boots which she had bought at a secondhand clothes-shop, and which Ellen was very thankful for, although they were much too large for her.
Mr. Taylor came home at midnight in a state of drunken delirium. He had drunk deeply-so deeply, that when he slammed the street-door behind him, he found himself in the midst of a thousand mocking eyes, growing upon him and blasting him with their hideous looks; and as he groped his way in terror up the dark stairs, a thousand misshapen hands strove to bar his progress. They fastened on him and clung to him; and the faster his trembling hands beat them down and tore them away, the more thickly they multiplied. So, fighting and suffering and groaning in his agony, the drunkard staggered to his room, and Dan and Ellen shuddered as they lay and listened. Well for them that they could not see as well as hear; well for them that they could not see him pick the crawling things (existing only in his imagination) off his bedclothes and throw them off with loathing; that they could not see him, bathed in perspiration, writhing in his bed and fighting with his punishment. He could not endure it. It was too hor
rible to bear. The room was full of creeping shapes, visible in the midst of the darkness. He would go out into the streets, into the light, where they could not follow him. Where was the door? He felt about the walls for it. It was gone; he was closed in, imprisoned with his terrors. He beat about with his hands deliriously. The window! ah, they had not closed that! He dashed at the panes, and tearing open the casement with his bleeding fingers, fell from a height of twenty feet and met a drunkard's death.