Read CHAPTER IV. of The House in Town , free online book, by Susan Warner, on ReadCentral.com.

It was needful for Norton and Matilda, or they thought so, to take the early train which left the station at half past seven o’clock.  The next train would not be till near eleven; and that, it was decided, would not do at all for their purposes.  Taking the early train, they would have to go without breakfast; but that was no matter; they would get breakfast at Poughkeepsie, and have so much the more fun.  The omnibus came for them a little after half past six, and they were ready; Matilda with an important basket on her arm, which Norton gallantly took charge of.

It was a delightful experience altogether.  The omnibus did not immediately take the road to the station; there were several other passengers to gather up, and they drove round corners and stopped at houses in different streets of the village.  First they took in old Mr. Kurtz; he was going to New York for his business, Norton whispered to Matilda; he had a large basket and an old lady with him.  Then the omnibus went round into the street behind the parsonage and received Mr. Schonfloecken, the Lutheran minister, and from another house another old lady with another basket.  Two men got in from the corner.  Lastly the omnibus stopped before a house near the baker’s; and here they waited.  The people were not ready.  There were two children missing from the travelling party, it seemed.  Inquiries and exclamations were bandied about; the stage driver knocked impatiently and cried out to hurry; Matilda was very much afraid they might miss the train.  “Never mind; he knows his business,” Norton remarked coolly.  At last a man who had been in quest, brought back the stray children from an opposite lumber yard, calling out that they were found; then there were kisses and leave takings, and “Good bye, grandma!” and “Come back again!” ­and finally the mother put her children into the omnibus, the first, the second, the third, and the fourth; then got in herself, and the vehicle lumbered on.  The omnibus was crowded now; and the new comers had been eating a breakfast of fried cakes and fish, pretty near the stove where it was cooked; for the smoke of the fry had filled their clothes.  Of course it filled the omnibus also.  This could be borne only a few minutes.

“Dear Norton,” Matilda whispered, “can’t you open this window for me?  I cannot breathe.”

“You’ll catch cold,” said Norton.

“No I won’t.  Please do! it is choking me.”

Norton laughed, and opened the window, and Matilda putting her face close to the opening was able to get a breath of fresh air.  Then she enjoyed herself again.  The grey dawn was brightening over the fields; the morning air was brisk and frosty; and as soon as Matilda’s lungs could play freely again, so could her imagination.  How pretty the dusky clumps of trees were against the brightening sky; how lovely that growing light in the east, which every moment rose stronger and revealed more.  The farm houses they passed looked as if they had not waked up yet; barns and farmyards were waiting for the day’s work to begin; a waggoner or two, going slowly to the station, were all the moving things they saw.  The omnibus passed them, and lumbered on.

“Norton,” said Matilda suddenly, bringing her face round from the window, “it’s delicious to be up so early.”

“Unless you are obliged to take other people’s breakfast before you get your own,” said Norton.  He looked disgusted, and Matilda could not help laughing in her turn.

“Put your nose to my window, ­you can,” she said.  “The air is as sweet as can be.”

“Outside” ­grumbled Norton.

“Well, that is what I am getting,” said Matilda.  “Can’t you get some of it? ­poor Norton!”

“What I don’t understand,” said Norton, “is how people live.”

At this point, the old woman with the basket got out, where a cross road branched off.  Matilda was obliged to move up into the vacated place, to make more room for the others; and she lost her open window.  However, the river came in sight now; the end of the ride was near; and soon she and Norton stood on the steps of the station house.

“I don’t believe my coat will get over it all day,” said the latter.  “There ought to be two omnibuses.”

“The poor people cannot help it, Norton; they are not to blame.”

“Yes, they are,” said Norton.  “They might open their windows and air their houses.  They are not fit to be in a carriage with clean people.”

“I guess they don’t know any better,” said Matilda; “and they were rather poor people, Norton.”

“Well?” said Norton.  “That is what I say.  There ought to be a coach for them specially.”

He went in to buy the tickets, and Matilda remained on the steps, wondering a little why there should be poor people in the world.  Why could not all have open windows and free air and sweet dresses?  Being poor, she knew, was somehow at the bottom of it; and why should there be such differences?  And then, what was the duty of those better off?  “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,” ­that opened a wide field.  Too big to be gone over just now.  Matilda was sure that she was in the right way so far, in going to give pleasure to Maria; and by the way she would take all the pleasure she could herself.  How sweet it was now!  The sun was up, and shining with bright yellow light upon the hills of Rosendale and the opposite shore.  The river was all in lively motion under the breeze; the ferry boat just coming in from Rondout; the sky overhead clearing itself of some racks of grey vapour and getting all blue.  Could anything be more delicious?  Now the passengers came trooping over from the “Lark,” to get their tickets; and presently came the rumble of the train.  She and Norton jumped into one of the cars, and then they were off.

“I’m hungry,” was Norton’s first confidence in the cars.

“So am I, very,” said Matilda.  “It will not take more than an hour, will it, to go to Poughkeepsie?”

“Not that,” said Norton.  Then the very first thing will be, to go up to Smith’s and get our breakfast.”

“That’s that restaurant?”

“Yes.  A good one too.”

“I never was in a restaurant in my life,” said Matilda.

“We’ll see how you like it, Pink; it’s delightful that you have never seen anything.”

“Why?”

“You have got so much to see.  And I want to know what you will think of it all.”

Matilda was almost too happy.  So happy, that not a sunbeam, nor a ripple on the water, nor a cloud in the sky, but seemed to bring her more to be glad of.  It was only that her joy met these things and glanced back.  So Norton said.  But Matilda thought it was something beside.

“Why Norton, I am glad of those things themselves,” she insisted.

“Of the waves on the river?” said Norton.

“Yes, to be sure I am.”

“Nonsense, Pink!  What for?”

“I don’t know what for,” said Matilda.  “They are so pretty.  And they are so lively.  And there is another thing, Norton,” she said with a change of voice.  “God made them.”

“Do you like everything he has made?” said Norton.

“I think I do.”

“Then you must like those poor people in the omnibus, and poor people everywhere.  Do they give you pleasure?”

Matilda could not say that they did.  She wished with all her heart there were no such thing as poverty in the world.  She could not answer immediately.  And before she could answer the whistle blew.

“Is this Poughkeepsie?”

“Yes, this is Poughkeepsie.  Now we’ll have breakfast!  Look sharp, Pink” ­

In another minute, the two were standing on the platform of the station.

“Is this the place?” Matilda inquired a little ruefully.  She saw, inside the glass door, a large room with what seemed like a shop counter running down the length of it; and on this counter certainly eatables were set out; she could see cups of tea or coffee, and biscuits, and pieces of pie.  People were crowding to this counter, and plates and cups seemed to have a busy time.

“This is Poughkeepsie,” said Norton.  “You have been here before.  This our restaurant?  I should think not!  Not precisely.  We have got to take a walk before we get to it.  Smith’s is at the top of the street.”

“I am glad; I am ready to walk,” said Matilda joyously; and they set off at a pace which shewed what sort of time their spirits were keeping.  Nevertheless, all the way, between other things, Matilda was studying the problem of poverty which Norton had presented to her.  The walk was quite a walk, and the footsteps were a little slower before the “top of the street” was reached.  Why Norton called it so, Matilda did not see.  The street went on, far beyond; but they turned aside round a corner, and presently were at the place they wanted.

They entered a nice quiet room, somewhat large, to be sure, and with a number of little tables set out; but nobody at any of them.  Matilda and Norton went towards the back of the room, where it took an angle, and they could be a little more private.  Here they took possession of one of the tables.  Norton set down his basket, and Matilda took off her hat.  Nothing, she thought, could possibly be any pleasanter than this expedition in which they were engaged.  This was a rare experience; unparalleled.

“Now what shall we have?” said Norton.

“What can we have?” said Matilda.

“Everything.  That is, any common thing.  You couldn’t get dishes of French make-ups, I suppose; and we don’t want them.  I am just as hungry as a bear.”

“And I am as hungry as a bear_ess_.”

Norton went off into a great laugh.  “You look so like it!” he said.  “But you might be as hungry as a bear; that don’t say anything against your ladylike character.  Though I always heard that she bears were fiercer than the others, when once they got their spirits up.  Oh, Pink, Pink!” ­

He was interrupted by the waiter.

“Now Pink, we’ve got to be civilized, and say what we’ll have.  You may have a cup of coffee.”

“Yes, I would like it, Norton.”

“And beefsteak? or cold chicken?  We’ll have chicken.  I know you like it best.”

It was nice of Norton; for he didn’t.

“Buckwheats, Pink?”

“Yes.  I like them,” said Matilda.

“So do I, when they are good.  And rolls, in case they shouldn’t be.  And good syrup ­Silver Drip, mind.”

Norton gave his order, and the two sat waiting.  Matilda examined the place and its appointments.  It was neat, if it was very plain.

“It’s a good place enough,” said Norton.  “The country people come here in the middle of the day when they have driven in to Poughkeepsie to market and do shopping.  Then the place is busy and all alive; now, you see, we have got it to ourselves.  But anyhow, they have always good plain things here.”

So the breakfast proved when it came.  Matilda was very much amused with the little coffee pot, holding just enough for two, and the cream pitcher to match.  But there was hot milk in plenty; and the cakes were feathery light; and the cold fowl very good; and the rolls excellent.  And the two, Norton and Matilda, were very hungry.  So much exercise and so much business and pleasure together made them sharp.  Eating stopped talking a little.  But the very goodness of the breakfast made Matilda think only the more, in the intervals, of that question Norton had given her; why were there poor people, who could have nothing like this?

“Shall we go to Blodgett’s next? or will you see Maria first?” Norton asked.

“O, Maria first, Norton; and then we need not be hurried about the plants.”

“The roots,” said Norton.  “Well, I’ll see you there, and then I have some other business to attend to.  I’ll come for you about dinner time; then we can go to Blodgett’s after dinner.  You’ll want a good deal of time with Maria, I suppose.”

So after breakfast the two went down the town again and turned into the cross street where Maria lived.  At the door of the humble-looking house, Norton left Matilda and went off again.  Yes, it was a plain, small brick house, with wooden steps and little windows.  Matilda had the door opened to her by Maria herself.  She could not understand, though she surely saw, the cloud which instantly covered a flash of pleasure in Maria’s face.  The two went in, went up the stairs to a little back room, which was Maria’s own.  A chill came over Matilda here.  It was so different from her room.  A little close stove warmed it; the bed was covered with a gay patchwork quilt which had seen its best days; the chairs were but two, and those rush-bottomed.  A painted wooden chest of drawers stood under the tiny bit of looking glass; the wash stand in the corner had but one towel thrown over it, and that not clean; one or two of Maria’s dresses hung up against the wall.  But a skirt of rich blue silk lay across the bed, for contrast; and yards of blue satin ribband lay partly quilled on the skirt, partly heaped on the patchwork quilt, and part had fallen on the floor.  So one life touched another life.

“Well!” said Maria, for Matilda did not immediately begin what she had to say, ­“how came you to be here so early?”

“We came down in the early train.  I wanted to have a good long time to talk to you; and the next train is so late.”

“Who came with you?”

“O, Norton.  Norton Laval.”

“Norton Laval!  He came with you before.  How came aunt Candy to let you come?”

“She could not help it.”

“No,” said Maria scornfully; “anything that Mrs. Laval wanted, she would say nothing against.  She would go down on her knees, if she could get into Mrs. Laval’s house.  Did Mrs. Laval ask her to get you those new things?”

“No.  Mrs. Laval” ­

“How came she to do it, then?” interrupted Maria.  “They are just as handsome as they can be; and in the fashion too.  But she always liked you.  I knew it.  She never gave me anything, but a faded silk neckerchief.  She is too mean” ­

“O don’t, Maria!” Matilda interrupted in her turn.  “Aunt Candy had nothing to do with these things; she never gave me much either; she did not get these for me.”

“Who did, then?” said Maria opening her eyes.

“Mrs. Laval.”

“Mrs. Laval!  How came she to do it?”

“Yes, Maria, because ­Maria, I have gone away from aunt Candy’s.”

“For a visit.  I know.  It has been a tremendously long visit, I think.”

“Not for a visit now.  Maria, I am not to go back there at all any more; I mean, I am not going back to aunt Candy.  Mrs. Laval has taken me to keep ­to be her own child.  I am there now, for always.”

“What?” Maria exclaimed.

“Mrs. Laval has taken me for her own, ­for her own child.”

“She hasn’t!” said Maria; and if the wish did not point the expression, it was hard to tell what did.  Matilda made no answer.

“Mrs. Laval has taken you? for her own child?” repeated Maria.  “Do you mean that?  To be with her, just like her own daughter? always?”

Matilda bowed her head, and her eyes filled.  She was so disappointed.

“You aren’t ever going to call her mamma?  Don’t you do it, Matilda!  See you don’t.  If you do, I’ll not be your sister any more.  She shall not have that!”

Matilda was silent still, utterly dismayed.

“Why don’t you speak?  What made her do that, anyhow?”

“I don’t know,” said Matilda in a trembling voice.  “She had a little daughter once, and she took me” ­Matilda’s eyes were glittering.  She nearly broke down, but would not, and in the resistance she made to the temptation, her head took its peculiar airy turn upon her neck.  Maria ought to have known her well enough to understand it.

“Everything comes to you!” she exclaimed.  “I wonder why nothing comes to me!  There are you, set up now, you think, above all your relations; you will not want to look at us by and by; I dare say you feel so now.  And you are dressed, and have dresses made for you, and you ride in a carriage, and you have everything you want; and I here make dresses for other people, and live anyhow I can; sew and sew, from morning till night, and begin again as soon as morning comes; and never a bit of pleasure or rest or hope of it; and can’t dress myself decently, except by the hardest!  I don’t know what I have done to deserve it!” said Maria furiously.  “It has always been so.  Mamma loved you best, and aunt Candy treated you best, ­she didn’t love anybody; ­and now strangers have taken you up; and nobody cares for me at all.”

Here Maria completed her part of the harmony by bursting into tears.  And being tears of extreme mortification and envy, they were hard to stop.  The fountain was large.  Matilda sat still, with her eyes glittering, and her head in the position that with her was apt to mean disapproval, and meant it now.  But what could she say.

“It’s very hard!” ­Maria sobbed at last.  “It’s very hard!”

“Maria,” said her little sister, “does it make it any harder for you, because I am taken such good care of?”

“Yes!” said Maria.  “Why should good care be taken of you any more than of me?  Of course it makes it harder.”

There was nothing that it seemed wise to say; and Matilda, sometimes a wise little child in her way, waited in silence, though very much grieved.  She began to think it was hard for Maria, though the whole thing had got into a puzzle with her.  And she thought it was a little bit hard for herself, that she should have taken such pains to prepare a present for her sister, and meet such a reception when she came to offer it.

“Just look what a place I live in!” sobbed Maria.  “Not a nice thing about it.  And here I sit and sew and sew, to make other people’s things, from morning till night; and longer.  I had to sit up till ten o’clock last night, puckering on that ribband; and I shall have to do it again to-night; till twelve, very likely; because I have spent time talking to you.  All that somebody else may be dressed and have a good time.”

“But Maria, what would you do if you hadn’t this to do?” suggested Matilda.

“I don’t know, and I don’t care!  I’d as lieve die as do this.  I should like to put those pieces of blue ribband in the stove, and never see them again!”

“Isn’t it pleasant work, Maria?  I think it is pretty nice work.  It isn’t hard.”

“Isn’t it!” said Maria.  “How would you like to try it?  How would you like to exchange your room at Mrs. Laval’s for this one?  Haven’t you got a nice room there?”

Matilda answered yes.

“How would you like to exchange it for this one, and to sit here making somebody’s dress for a party, instead of riding about on the cars and going where you like and seeing everything and doing what you’ve a mind to?  Nice exchange, wouldn’t it be?  Don’t you think you’d like to try it?  And I would come and see you and tell you how pleasant it is.”

Matilda had nothing to say.  Her eye glanced round again at the items of Maria’s surroundings:  the worn ingrain carpet; the rusty, dusty little stove; the patch-work counterpane, which the bright silk made to look so very coarse; and she could not but confess to herself that it would be a sore change to leave her pleasant home and easy life and come here.  But what then?

“Maria, it isn’t my fault,” she said at last.  “It is not my doing at all.  And I think this is a great deal better than living with aunt Candy; and I would a great deal rather do it.”

“I wouldn’t,” said Maria.

Matilda sat still and waited; her gayety pretty well taken down.  She was very sorry for her sister, though she could not approve her views of things.  Neither did she know well what to say to them.  So she kept silence; until Maria stopped sobbing, dried her eyes, washed her hands, and began to quill her blue trimming again.

“What did you come to Poughkeepsie for, to-day?”

“To see you; nothing else.”

“I think it is time.  You haven’t been here for weeks, and months, for aught I know.”

“Because I wrote you why, Maria.  There was sickness at Briery Bank, and Norton and I were at the parsonage ever so long.  I couldn’t come to see you then.”

“What have you got in that basket? your dinner?”

“O no; something that I wanted to shew to you.  I wanted to bring you something, Maria; and I did not know what you would like; and I thought about it and thought about it all yesterday, and I didn’t know.  I wanted to bring you something pretty; but I remembered when I was here before you said you wanted gloves and handkerchiefs so much; and so, I thought it was better to bring you those.”

While Matilda was making this speech, she was slowly taking out of her basket and unfolding her various bundles; she had half a hope, and no more now, that Maria would be pleased.  Maria snatched the bundles, examined the handkerchiefs and counted them; then compared the gloves with her hand and laid them over it.  Finally she put both gloves and handkerchiefs on the bed beside her, and went on sewing.  She had not said one word about them.

“Are they right, Maria?” said her little sister.  “They are the right number, I know; do you like the colours I have chosen?”

“They are well enough,” Maria answered.

“Green and chocolate, I thought you liked,” Matilda went on; “and the dark brown I liked.  So I chose those.  Do you like the handkerchiefs, Maria?”

“I want them badly enough,” said Maria.  “Did you get them at Cope’s?”

“Yes, and I thought they were very nice.  Are they?”

“A child like you doesn’t know much about buying such things,” said Maria, quilling and turning her blue ribband with great energy.  “Yes, they’ll do pretty well.  What sort of handkerchiefs have you got?”

“Just my old ones.  I haven’t got any new ones.”

“I should like to see those, when you get them.  I suppose they’ll be worked, and have lace round the borders.”

“I shouldn’t like it, if they had,” said Matilda.

“We’ll see, when you get them.  I wonder how many things Anne and Letitia want? and can’t get.”

“I shall see them soon,” said Matilda.  “We are going to New York for the winter.”

“You are!” exclaimed Maria, again ruefully.  Matilda could not understand why.  “But you won’t see much of Anne and Letty, I don’t believe.”

“Perhaps I shall be going to school, and so not have much chance.  Where do they live, Maria?  I have forgotten.”

“You will forget again,” said Maria.

“But tell me, please.  I will put it down.”

“Number 316 Bolivar street.  Now how much wiser are you?”

“Just so much,” said Matilda, marking the number on a bit of paper.  “I must know the name before I can find the place.”

“You won’t go there much,” said Maria again.  “Might just as well let it alone.”

“Are the people here pleasant, Maria? are they good to live with?”

“They are not what you would call good.”

“Are they pleasant?”

“No,” said Maria.  “They are not at all pleasant.  I don’t care who hears me say it.  All the woman cares for, is to get as much work out of me as she can.  That is how I live.”

There was no getting to a smooth track for conversation with Maria.  Begin where she would, Matilda found herself directly plunged into something disagreeable.  She gave it up and sat still, watching the blue ribband curling and twisting in Maria’s fingers, and wondering sadly anew why some people should be rich and others poor.

“Aren’t you going to take off your things and have dinner with me?” said Maria, glancing up from her trimming.

“I cannot do that very well; Norton is coming for me; and I do not know how soon.”

“I don’t suppose I could give you anything you would like to eat.  Where will you get your dinner then?”

“Somewhere with Norton.”

“Then you didn’t bring it with you?”

“No.”

Matilda did not feel that it would do to-day, to invite Maria to go with them to the restaurant.  Norton had said nothing about it; and in Maria’s peculiar mood Matilda could not tell how she might behave herself or what she would say.  Perhaps Maria expected it, but she could not help that.  The time was a silent one between the sisters, until the expected knock at the house door came.  It was welcome, as well as expected.  Matilda got up, feeling relieved if she felt also sorry; and after kissing Maria, she ran down-stairs and found herself in the fresh open air, taking long breaths, like a person that had been shut up in a close little stove-heated room.  Which she had.  And Norton’s cheery voice was a delightful contrast to Maria’s dismal tones.  With busy steps, the two went up the street again to the restaurant.  It was pretty full of people now; but Norton and Matilda found an unoccupied table in a corner.  There a good dinner was brought them; and the two were soon equally happy in eating it and in discussing their garden arrangements.  After they had dined, Norton ordered ice cream.

Matilda was as fond of ice cream as most children are who have very seldom seen it; but while she sat enjoying it she began to think again, why she should have it and Maria not have it?  The question brought up the whole previous question that had been troubling her, about the rich and the poor, and quite gave a peculiar flavour to what she was tasting.  She lost some of Norton’s talk about bulbs.

“Norton,” she exclaimed at last suddenly, “I have found it!”

“Found what?” said Norton.  “Not a blue tulip?”

“No, not a blue tulip.  I have found the answer to that question you asked me, ­you know, ­in the cars.”

“I asked you five hundred and fifty questions in the cars,” said Norton.  “Which one?”

“Just before we got to Poughkeepsie, don’t you remember?”

“No,” said Norton laughing.  “I don’t, of course.  What was it, Pink?  The idea of remembering a question!”

“Don’t you remember, you asked me if I didn’t like poverty and poor people, for the same reason I liked other things?”

But here Norton’s amusement became quite unmanageable.

“How should you like poverty and poor people for the same reason you like other things, you delicious Pink?” he said.  “How should you like those smoky coats in the omnibus, for the same reason that you like a white hyacinth or a red tulip?”

“That is what I was puzzling about, Norton; you don’t recollect; and I could not make it out; because I knew I didn’t enjoy poverty and poor things, and you said I ought.”

“Excuse me,” said Norton.  “I never said you ought, in the whole course of my rational existence since I have known you.”

“No, no, Norton; but don’t you know, I said I liked everything, waves of the river and all, because God made them? and you thought I ought to like poor people and things for the same reason.”

“O, that!” said Norton.  “Well, why don’t you?”

“That is what I could not tell, Norton, and I was puzzling to find out; and now I know.”

“Well, why?”

“Because, God did not make them, Norton.”

“Yes, he did.  Doesn’t he make everything?”

“In one way he does, to be sure; but then, Norton, if everybody did just right, there would be no poor people in the world; so it is not something that God has made, but something that comes because people won’t do right.”

“How?” said Norton.

“Why Norton, you know yourself.  If everybody was good and loved everybody else as well as himself, the people who have more than enough would give to the people who are in want, and there would not be uncomfortable poor people anywhere.  And that is what the Bible says.  ’He that hath two coats,’ ­don’t you remember?”

“No, I don’t,” said Norton.  “Most people have two coats, that can afford it.  What ought they to do?”

“The Bible says, ‘let him impart to him that hath none.’”

“But suppose I cannot get another,” said Norton; “and I want two for myself?”

“But somebody else has not one? suppose.”

“I can very easily suppose it,” said Norton.  “As soon as we get out of the cars in New York I’ll shew you a case.”

“Well, Norton, that is what I said.  If everybody loved those poor people, don’t you see, they would have coats, and whatever they need.  It is because you and I and other people don’t love them enough.”

“I don’t love another boy well enough to give him my overcoat,” said Norton.  “But coats wouldn’t make a great many poor people respectable.  Those children in the omnibus this morning had coats on, comfortable enough; the trouble was, they were full of buckwheat cake smoke.”

“Well if people are not clean, that’s their own fault,” said Matilda.  “But those people this morning hadn’t perhaps any place to be in but their kitchen.  They might not be able to help it, for want of another room and another fire.”

Matilda was eager, but Norton was very much amused.  He ordered some more ice cream and a charlotte.  Matilda eat what he gave her, but silently carried on her thoughts; these she would have given to Maria, if she could; she was having more than enough.

Moralizing was at an end when she got to the gardener’s shop.  The consultations and discussions which went on then, drove everything else out of her head.  The matter in hand was a winter garden, for their home in New York.

“I’ll have some aurículas this year,” said Norton.  “You wouldn’t know how to manage them, Pink.  You must have tulips and snowdrops; O yes, and crocuses.  You can get good crocuses here.  And polyanthus narcissus you can have.  You will like that.”

“But what will you have, Norton?”

“Auriculas.  That’s one thing.  And then, I think I’ll have some Amaryllis roots ­but I won’t get those here.  I’ll get tulips and hyacinths, Pink.”

“Shall we have room for so many?”

“Lots of room.  There’s my room has two south windows ­that’s the good of being on a corner; and I don’t know exactly what your room will be, but I’ll get grandmother to let us live on that side of the house anyhow.  Nobody else in the family cares about a south window, only you and I. Put up a dozen Van Tols, and a dozen of the hyacinths, and three polyanthus narcissus, and a dozen crocuses; ­and a half dozen snowdrops.”

“Will you plant them while we are in Shadywalk?”

“Of course,” said Norton; “or else they’ll be blossoming too late, don’t you see?  Unless we go to town very soon; and in that case we’ll wait and keep them.”

The roots were paid for and ordered to be sent by express; and at last Norton and Matilda took their journey to the station house to wait for the train.  It was all a world of delight to Matilda.  She watched eagerly the gathering people, the busy porters and idle hack drivers; the expectant table and waiters in the station restaurant; every detail and almost every person she saw had the charm of novelty or an interest of some sort for her unwonted eyes.  And then came the rumble of the train, the snort and the whistle; and she was seated beside Norton in the car, with a place by the window where she could still watch everything.  The daylight was dying along the western shore before they reached the Shadywalk station; the hills and the river seemed to Matilda like a piece of a beautiful vision; and all the day had been like a dream.