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

It was near dark by the time they got home, and Matilda was tired.  Tea and lights and rest were very pleasant; and after tea she sat down on a cushion by Mrs. Laval’s side, while Norton told over the doings of the day.

“Which room will Matilda have, mamma, in New York?” Norton asked.

“I don’t know.  Why are you anxious?”

“We want south windows for our plants.”

“She shall have a south window,” said Mrs. Laval fondly.  “And I have had a letter from your grandmother, Norton.  I think I shall go to town next week.”

“Before December!” cried Norton.  “Hurra!  That is splendid.  After we get into December and I am going to school, the days and the weeks get into such a progress that they trip each other up, and I don’t know where I am.  And there’s Christmas.  Mamma, don’t send Pink to school!  Let me teach her.”

“I don’t think you know very well where you are now,” said his mother smiling.  “What will you do with your own lessons?”

“Plenty of time,” said Norton.  “Too much time, in fact.  Mamma, I don’t think Pink would enjoy going to school.”

“We will see,” Mrs. Laval said.  “But there is something else Pink would enjoy, I think.  You have not got your allowance yet, Matilda.  Have you a purse, love? or a porte-monnaie, or anything?”

“O yes, ma’am!  Don’t you remember, ma’am, you gave me your pocket book? a beautiful red morocco one, with a sweet smell?”

“No,” said Mrs. Laval laughing.

“It was before the sickness ­O, long ago; you gave it to me, with money in it, for Lilac lane.”

“Is the money all gone?”

“It is all gone,” said Matilda; “for you remember, Mrs. Laval, Norton and I had a great many things to get for that poor woman and her house.  It took all the money.”

“You had enough?”

“O yes, ma’am; Norton helped.”

“Well then you have a pocket book; that will serve to hold your future supplies.  I shall give you the same as I give Norton, five dollars a month; that is fifteen dollars a quarter.  Out of that you will provide yourself with boots and shoes and gloves; you may consult your own taste, only you must be always nice in those respects.  Here is November’s five dollars.”

“Mamma, November is half out,” said Norton.

“Matilda has everything to get; she has to begin without such a stock as you have on hand.”

“Mamma, you will give her besides for her Christmas presents, won’t you?”

“Certainly.  As I do you.”

“How much will you give her, mamma?  For I foresee we shall have a great deal of work to attend to in New York stores before Christmas; and Matilda will naturally want to know how much she has to spend.”

“She can think about it,” said Mrs. Laval smiling.  “You do not want your Christmas money yet.”

“We shall get into great trouble,” said Norton with a mock serious face.  “I foresee I shall have so much advising to do ­and to take ­that it lies like a weight on me.  I can’t think how Pink will settle things in her mind.  At present she is under the impression that she must not keep more than one pair of boots at a time.”

“You want several, my darling,” said Mrs. Laval, “for different uses and occasions.  Don’t you understand that?”

“Yes ma’am, I always did” ­

Matilda would have explained, but Norton broke in.  “She thinks two overcoats at once is extravagant, mamma; I ought to give one of them away.”

Matilda wanted to say that Norton was laughing, and yet what he said was partly true.  She held her peace.

“You do not really think that, my darling,” said Mrs. Laval, putting her arm round Matilda, and bending down her face for a kiss.  “You do not think that, do you?”

It was very difficult to tell Mrs. Laval what she really did think.  Matilda hesitated.

“Don’t you see,” said the lady, laughing and kissing her again, “don’t you see that Norton wants two overcoats just as much as he wants one?  The one he wears every day to school would not be fit to go to church in.  Hey?” said Mrs. Laval with a third kiss.

“Mamma, there are reasons against all that; you do not understand,” said Norton.

“It’s very hard to say,” Matilda spoke at length, rousing herself; for her head had gone down on Mrs. Laval’s lap.  “May I say exactly what I do mean?”

“Certainly; and Norton shall not interrupt you.”

“I don’t want to interrupt her,” said Norton.  “It is as good as a book.”

“What is it, my love?”

Matilda slipped off her cushion and kneeling on the rug, with her hands still on Mrs. Laval’s lap, looked off into the fire.

“The Bible says” ­she began and checked herself.  The Bible was not such authority there.  “I was only thinking ­Ma’am, you know how many poor people there are in the world?”

“Yes, dear.”

She doesn’t,” said Norton.

“People that have no overcoats at all, nor under coats neither, some of them.  I was thinking ­if all the people who have plenty, would give half to the people who have nothing, there would be nobody cold or miserable; I mean, miserable from that.”

“Yes, there would, my darling,” said Mrs. Laval.  “People who are idle and wicked, and won’t work and do not take care of what they have, they would be poor if we were to give them, not half but three quarters, of all we have.  It would be all gone in a week or two; or a month or two.”

Matilda looked at Mrs. Laval.  “But the poor people are not always wicked?”

“Very often.  Industrious and honest people need never suffer.”

That would alter the case, Matilda thought.  She sat back on her cushion again and laid her head down as before.  But then, what meant the Bible words; “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise”?  The Bible could not be mistaken.  Matilda was puzzled with the difficult question; and presently the warm fire and her thoughts together were too much for her.  The eyelids drooped over her eyes; she was asleep.  Mrs. Laval made a sign to Norton to keep quiet.  Her own fingers touched tenderly the soft brown locks of the head which lay on her lap; but too softly to disturb the sleeper.

“Mamma,” said Norton softly, “isn’t she a darling?”

“Hush!” said Mrs. Laval.  “Don’t wake her.”

“She is perfectly fast asleep,” said Norton.  “She don’t sham sleeping any more than awake.  Mamma, how will grandmamma like her?”

“She cannot help it,” said Mrs. Laval.

“Aunt Judy won’t,” said Norton.  “But mamma, she is twenty times prettier than Judith Bartholomew.”

“She is as delicate as a little wood flower,” said Mrs. Laval.

“She has more stuff than that,” said Norton; “she is stiff enough to hold her head up; but I’ll tell you what she is like.  She is like my Penelope hyacinth.”

“Your Penelope hyacinth!” Mrs. Laval echoed.

“Yes; you do not know it, mamma.  It is not a white hyacinth; just off that; the most delicate rose pearl colour.  Now Judy is like a purple dahlia.”

“Matilda is like nothing that is not sweet,” said Mrs. Laval fondly, looking at the little head.

“Well, I am sure hyacinths are sweet,” said Norton.  “Mamma, will you let me teach her?”

“You will not have time.”

“I will.  I have plenty of time.”

“What will you teach her?”

“Everything I learn myself ­if you say so.”

“Perhaps she would like better to go to school.”

“She wouldn’t,” said Norton.  “She likes everything that I say.”

“Does she!” said his mother laughing.  “That is dangerous flattery, Norton.”

“Her cheeks are just the colour of the inside of a pink shell,” said Norton.  “Mamma, there is not a thing ungraceful about her.”

“Not a thing,” said Mrs. Laval.  “Not a movement.”

“And she is so dainty,” said Norton.  “She is just as particular as you are, mamma.”

“Or as my boy is,” said his mother, putting her other hand upon his bright locks.  “You are my own boy for that.”

“Mamma,” Norton went on, “I want you to give Pink to me.”

“Yes, I know what that means,” said his mother.  “That will do until you get to school and are going on skating parties every other day; then you will like me to take her off your hands.”

Norton however did not defend himself.  He kissed his mother, and then stooped down and kissed the sleeping little face on her lap.

“Mamma, she is so funny!” he said.  “She actually puzzles her head with questions about rich and poor people, and the reforms there ought to be in the world; and she thinks she ought to begin the reforms, and I ought to carry them on.  It’s too jolly.”

“It will be a pleasure to see her pleasure in New York.”

“Yes, won’t it!  Mamma, nobody is to take her first to the Central Park but me.”

The questions about rich and poor were likely to give Matilda a good deal to do.  She had been too sleepy that night to think much of anything; but the next day, when she was putting her five dollars in her pocket-book, they weighed heavy.

“And this is only for November,” she said to herself; “and December’s five dollars will be here directly; and January will bring five more.  Fifteen.  How many shoes and boots must I get for that time?”

Careful examination shewed that she had on hand one pair of boots well worn, another pair which had seen service as Sunday boots, but were quite neat yet, and one pair of nice slippers.  The worn boots would not do to go out with Mrs. Laval, nor anywhere in company with Matilda’s new pelisse.  “They will only do to give away,” she concluded.  They would have seen a good deal of service in Shadywalk, if she had remained there with her aunt Candy; Mrs. Laval was another affair.  One pair for every day and one pair for best, would do very well, Matilda thought.  Then gloves?  She must get some gloves.  How many?

She went to Mr. Cope’s that very afternoon, and considered all the styles of gloves he had in his shop.  Fine kid gloves, she found, would eat up her money very fast.  But she must have them; nothing else could be allowed to go to church or anywhere in company with Mrs. Laval, and even Norton wore nothing else when he was dressed.  Matilda got two pair, dark brown and dark green; colours that she knew would wear well; though her eyes longed for a pair of beautiful tan colour.  But besides these, Matilda laid in some warm worsted gloves, which she purposed to wear in ordinary or whenever she went out by herself.  She had two dollars left, when this was done.  The boots, Mrs. Laval had told her, she was to get in New York; she could wait till December for them.

And now everybody was in a hurry to get to New York.  The house was left in charge of the Swiss servants.  The grey ponies were sent down the river by the last boat from Rondout.  Matilda went to see Mrs. Eldridge once, during these days of bustle and expectancy; and the visit refreshed all those questions in her mind about the use of money and the duties of rich people.  So much work a little money here had done!  It was not like the same place.  It was a humble place doubtless, and would always be that; but there was cozy warmth instead of desolation; and comfortable tidiness and neatness instead of the wretched condition of things which had made Matilda’s heart sick once; and the poor woman herself was decently dressed, and her face had brightened up wonderfully.  Matilda read to her, and came away glad and thoughtful.

The farewell visit was paid at the parsonage the last thing; and on the first of December the party set out to go to the new world of the great city.  It was a keen, cold winter’s day; the sky bleak with driving grey clouds; the river rolling and turbulent under the same wind that sped them.  Sitting next the window in the car, where she liked to sit, Matilda watched it all with untiring interest; and while she watched it, she thought by turns of Mr. Richmond’s words the evening before.  Matilda had asked him how she should be sure to know what was right to do always?  Mr. Richmond advised her to take for her motto those words ­“Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus;” ­and to let every question be settled by them.  He said they would settle every one, if she was willing they should.  And now as Matilda sat musing, she believed they would; but a doubt came up, ­if she lived by that rule, and all around her without exception went by another rule, how would they get along?  She was obliged to leave it; she could not tell; only the doubt came up.

It seemed a long way to New York.  After Poughkeepsie had been some time left behind, Matilda began to think it was time to hear about the end of the journey; but Norton told her they were only in the Highlands.  Matilda watched the changing shores, brown and cold-looking, till the hills were left behind, and the river took a look she was more accustomed to.  Still Norton only laughed at her, when she appealed to him; they were not near New York, he said; it was Haverstraw bay.  It seemed to take a great while to pass that bay and Tappan Sea.  Then Norton pointed out to her the high straight line of shore on the opposite side of the river.  “Those are the Palisades, Pink,” he said; “and when you see the Palisades come to an end, then New York is not far off.”

But it seemed as if the Palisades would never come to an end, in Matilda’s tired fancy.  She was weary of the cars by this time, and eager for the sight of the new strange place where her life was to be for so long.  And the cars sped on swiftly, and still the straight line of the Palisades stretched on too.  At last, at last, that straight line shewed signs of breaking down.

“Yes,” said Norton, to whom Matilda pointed this out, ­“we’ll soon be in now, Pink.”

Matilda roused up, to use her eyes with fresh vigilance.  She noticed one or two places where carts and men were busy, seemingly, with the endeavour to fill up the North river; at least they were carrying out loads of earth and dumping it into the water.  She was tired of talking by this time, and waited to ask an explanation till the roar of the car-wheels should be out of her ears.  They came to scattered buildings; then the buildings seemed less scattered; then the train slackened its wild rate of rushing on, and Matilda could better see what she was passing.  They were in a broad street at last, broader than any street in Shadywalk.  But it was dismal!  Was this New York?  Matilda had never seen such forlorn women and children on the sidewalks at home.  Nor ever so much business going on there.  Everybody was busy, except one or two women lounging in a doorway.  Carts, and builders, and hurried passers by; and shops and markets and grocery stores in amazing numbers and succession.  But with a sort of forlornness about them.  Matilda thought she would not like to have to eat the vegetables or the meat she saw displayed there.

Then came the slow stopping of the cars; and the passengers turned out into the long shed of the station house.  Here Norton left them, to go and find the carriage; while Matilda lost herself in wonder at the scene.  So many people hurrying off, meeting their friends, hastening by in groups and pairs, and getting packed into little crowds; such numbers of coachmen striving for customers at the doors, with their calls of “Carriage, sir?” “Carriage, ma’am?” pattering like hail.  It was wonderful, and very amusing.  If this was only the station house of the railway, and the coming in of one train, Matilda thought New York must be a very large place indeed.  Presently Norton came back and beckoned them out, through one of those clusters of clamorous hackney coachmen, and Matilda found herself bestowed in the most luxurious equipage she had ever seen in her life.  Surely it was like nothing but the appointments of fairy land, this carriage.  Matilda sunk in among the springs as if they had been an arrangement of feathers; and the covering of the soft cushions was nothing worse than satin, of dark crimson hue.  Nothing but very handsome dresses could go in such a carriage, she reflected; she would have to buy an extremely neat pair of boots to go with the dresses or the carriage either.  It was Mrs Lloyd’s carriage; and Mrs. Lloyd was Mrs. Laval’s mother.

The carriage was the first thing that took Matilda’s attention; but after that she fell to an eager inspection of the houses and streets they were passing through.  These changed rapidly, she found.  The streets grew broad, the houses grew high; groceries and shops were seldomer to be seen, and were of much better air; markets disappeared; carmen and carts grew less frequent; until at last all these objectionable things seemed to be left behind, and the carriage drew up before a door which looked upon nothing that was not stately.  Up and down, as far as Matilda could see, the street was clean and splendid.  She could see this in one glance, almost without looking, as she got out of the carriage, before Norton hurried her in.

She felt strange, and curious; not afraid; she knew the sheltering arms of her friends would protect her.  It was a doubtful feeling, though, with which she stepped on the marble floor of the hall and saw the group which were gathered round Mrs. Laval.  What struck Matilda at first was the beautiful hall, or room she would have called it, though the stairs went up from one side; its soft warm atmosphere; the rustle of silks and gleam of colours, and the gentle bubbling up of voices all around her.  But she stood on the edge of the group.  Soon she could make more detailed observations.

That stately lady in black silk and lace shawl, she was Mrs. Laval’s mother; she heard Mrs. Laval call her so.  Very stately, in figure and movement too; a person accustomed to command and have her own way, Matilda instinctively felt.  Now she had her arms round Norton; she was certainly very fond of him.  The lady with lace in her gleaming hair, and jewels at her breast, and the dress of crimson satin falling in rich folds all about her, sweeping the marble, that must be Mrs. Laval’s sister.  She looked like a person who did not do anything and had not anything she need do, like Mrs. Laval.  Then this girl of about her own age, with a very bright mischievous face and a dress of sky blue, Matilda knew who she must be; would they like each other, she questioned?  And then she had no more time for silent observations; Norton called upon her, and pulled her forward into the group.

“Grandmamma, you have not seen her,” he cried; “you have not seen one of us.  This is mamma’s pet, and my ­darling.”  It was evident the boy’s thought was of “daughter” and “sister,” but that a tender feeling stopped his tongue.  Mrs. Lloyd looked at Matilda.

“I have heard of her,” she said.

“Yes, but you must kiss her.  She is one of us.”

“She is mine,” said Mrs. Laval meaningly, putting both arms around Matilda and drawing her to her mother.

The stately lady stooped and kissed the child, evidently because she was thus asked.

“Grandmamma, she is to have half my place in your heart,” said Norton.

“Will you give it up to her?” Mrs. Lloyd asked.

“It is just as good as my having it,” said Norton.

Perhaps he would have presented Matilda then to his aunt, but that lady had turned off into the drawing room; and the travellers mounted the stairs with Mrs. Lloyd to see their apartments and to prepare for dinner.  The ladies went into a large room opening from the upper hall; Norton and the girl Matilda had noticed went bounding up the second flight of stairs.

Mrs. Laval lay down on a couch, and said she would have a cup of tea before dressing.  While she took it, Mrs. Lloyd sat beside her and the two talked very busily.  Matilda, left to herself, put off her coat and hat and sat down at the other side of the fire, for a fire was burning in the grate, and pondered the situation.  The house was like a palace in a fairy tale, surely, she thought.  Her eyes were dazzled with the glimmer from gildings and mirrors and lamps hanging from the ceilings.  Her foot fell on soft carpets.  The hangings of the bed were of blue silk.  The couches were covered with rich worsted work.  Pictures made the walls dainty.  Beautiful things which she could not examine yet, stood on the various tables.  It immediately pressed on Matilda’s attention, that to be of a piece with all this elegance and not out of place among the people inhabiting there, she had need to be very elegant herself.  The best dress in her whole little stock was the brown merino she had worn to travel in.  She had thought it very elegant in Shadywalk; but how did it look alongside of Miss Judy’s blue silk?  Matilda had nothing better, at any rate.  She glanced down at her boots, to see how they would do.  They were her best Sunday boots.  They were neat, she concluded.  They wanted a little brushing from dust; then they would do pretty well.  But she did not think they were elegant.  The soles of them were rather too thick for that.  At this point her attention was drawn to what was saying at the other side of the fire.

“Do the children dine with us?”


“Not in ordinary?”

“It is bad for the boys; puts them out.  One o’clock suits them a great deal better.  And six is a poor hour for children always.  And with company of course it is impossible; and that makes irregularity; and that is bad.”

“I suppose it is best so,” said Mrs. Laval with half a sigh.  “What room is Matilda to have, mother?”

“Matilda? ­O, your new child.  You want her to have a room to herself?”


“I will let her have the little front corner room, if you like.  There is room enough.”

“That will do,” said Mrs. Laval.  “Come, darling, let us go upstairs and look at it.  Then you will begin to feel at home.”

She sprang off the sofa, and taking Matilda’s hand they mounted together the second flight of stairs; wide, uncarpeted, smooth, polished stairs they were; to the upper hall.  Just at the head of the stairs Mrs. Laval opened a door.  It let them into a pretty little room; little indeed only by comparison with other larger apartments of the house; it was of a pleasant size, with two great windows; and being a corner room, its windows looked out in two directions, over two several city views.  Matilda had no time to examine them just then; her attention was absorbed by the room.  It had a rich carpet; the hangings and covering of the bed were dark green; an elegant little toilet table was furnished with crystal, and the washcloset had painted green china dishes.  There were pictures here too, and little foot cushions, and a beautiful chest of drawers, and a tall wardrobe for dresses.  The room was full.

“This will do very nicely,” said Mrs. Laval.  “You wanted a south window, Matilda; here it is.  I think you will like this room better than one of those large ones, darling; they are large enough for you to get lost in.  See, here is the gas jet, when you want light; and here are matches, Matilda.  And now you will have a place where you can be by yourself when you wish it; and at other times you can come down to me.  You will feel at home, when you get established here, and have some dresses to hang up in that wardrobe.  That is one of the first things you and I must attend to.  I could not do it at Shadywalk.  So come down now, dear, to my room, and we will get ready for dinner.  Are you tired, love?”

Matilda met and answered the kiss that ended this speech, and went downstairs again a very contented child.  However, all her getting ready for dinner that day consisted in a very thorough brushing of her short hair, and a little furtive endeavour to get rid of some specks of dust on her boots.  She sat down then and waited, while Mrs. Laval changed her travelling dress, and Mrs. Bartholomew alternately assisted and talked to her.  That elegant crimson satin robe swept round the room in a way that was very imposing to Matilda.  She could not help feeling like a little brown thrush in the midst of a company of resplendent parrots and birds of paradise.  But she did not much care.  Only she thought it would be very pleasant to have the wardrobe upstairs furnished with a set of dresses to correspond somewhat with her new splendid surroundings.  Mrs. Bartholomew had not spoken to her yet, nor anybody, except Mrs. Laval’s mother.  Matilda thought herself forgotten; but when the ladies were about to go downstairs, Mrs. Laval called her sister’s attention to the subject.

“Judith, this is my new child.”

Mrs. Bartholomew cast a comprehensive glance at Matilda, or all over her.  Matilda could not have told whether she had looked at her until then.

“Where did you pick her up, Zara?”

“I did not pick her up,” said Mrs. Laval, smiling at Matilda.  “A wave wafted her into my arms.”

“What sort of a wave?” said the other lady dryly.

“No matter what sort of a wave.  You see from what sort of a shore this flower must have drifted.”

“You are poetical,” said the other, laughing slightly.  “You always were.  Shall we go down?”

Mrs. Laval stretched out her hand to Matilda and held it in a warm clasp as they went down the stairs; and still held her fast and seated her by herself in the drawing room.  It was the only point of connection with the rest of the world that Matilda felt she had just then.  Until Norton came running downstairs with his two cousins, and entered the room.

“Come here, Judy,” said Mrs. Laval.  “This is my new little daughter, Matilda.  You two must be good cousins and friends.”

Miss Black-eyes took Matilda’s hand; but somehow Matilda could perceive neither the friendship nor the cousinship in the touch of it.

“Matilda what?” Miss Judith asked.  Her aunt hesitated an instant.

“She has not learned yet to do without her old name.  Her new name is mine, of course.”

Matilda was a good deal startled and a little dismayed.  Was she to give up her own name then, and be called Laval? she had not heard of it before.  She was not sure that she liked it at all.  There was no time to think about it now.

“David,” Mrs. Laval went on, “come here.  I want you all to be good friends as soon as possible.”

She put Matilda’s hand in his as she spoke.  But David said never a word; only he bowed over Matilda’s hand in the most calmly polite manner, and let it drop.  He was not shy, Matilda thought, or he could not have made such an elegant reverence; but he did not speak a word.  His aunt laughed a little, and yet gave a glance of admiration at the boy.

“You are not changed,” she said.

Changed in what?  Matilda wondered; and she looked to see what she could make out in David Bartholomew.  He was not so dark as his sister; he had rich brown hair; and the black eyes were not snapping and sparkling like hers, but large, lustrous, proud, and rather gloomy, it seemed to the little stranger’s fancy.  She looked away again; she did not like him.  In another minute they were called to dinner.

It was but to walk across the hall, and Matilda found herself seated at the most imposing board she had ever beheld.  Certainly everything at Mrs. Laval’s table was beautiful and costly; but there it had been only a table for two or three; no company, and the simplest way of the house.  Here there was a good tableful, and a large table; and the sparkle of glass and silver quite dazzled the child’s unaccustomed eyes.  How much silver, and what brilliant and beautiful glass!  She wondered at the profusion of forks by her own plate, and almost thought the waiter must have made a mistake; but she saw Norton was as well supplied.  The lights, and the flowers, and the fruit in the centre of the table, and the gay silks and laces around it, and all the appointments of the elegant room, almost bewildered Matilda.  Yet she thought it was very pleasant too, and extremely pretty; and discovered that eating dinner was a great deal more of a pleasure when the eyes could be so gratified at the same time with the taste.  However, soup was soup, she found, to a hungry little girl.

“Pink,” said Norton, after he had swallowed his soup, ­“where do you think we will go first?” Norton had got a seat beside her and spoke in a confidential whisper.

“I am going with your mother to-morrow,” Matilda returned in an answering whisper.  “So she said.”

“That won’t tire you out,” said Norton.  “After she goes, or before she goes, you and I will go.  Where first?”

“You and I alone?” said Matilda softly.


“Norton,” said Matilda very softly, “I think I want to go first of all to the shoemaker’s.”

Norton had nearly burst out into a laugh, but he crammed his napkin against his face.

“You dear Pink!” he said; “that isn’t anywhere.  That’s business.  I mean pleasure.  You see, next week I shall begin to go to school, and my time will be pretty nicely taken up, except Saturday.  We have got three days before next week.  And you have got to see everything.”

“But Norton, I do not know what there is to see.”

“That’s true.  You don’t, to be sure.  Well Pink, there’s the Park; but we must have a good day for that; to-day is so cold it would bite our noses.  We can go every afternoon, if it’s good.  Then there is the Museum; and there is a famous Menagerie just now.”

“Oh Norton!” ­said Matilda.


“Do you mean a Menagerie with lions? and an elephant?”

“Lions, and splendid tigers, David says; and an elephant, and a hippopotamus; and ever so many other creatures besides.  All of them splendid, David says.”

“I did not use that word,” David remarked from the other side of the table.

“All right,” said Norton.  “It is my word.  Then, Pink, we’ll pay our respects to the lions and tigers the first thing.  After the shoe” ­

“Hush, Norton,” said Matilda.  “You forget yourself.”

Norton laughed, pleased; for Matilda’s little head had taken its independent set upon her shoulders, and it shewed him that she was feeling at ease, and not shy and strange, as he had feared she might.  In truth the lions and tigers had drawn Matilda out of herself.  And now she was able to enjoy roast beef and plum pudding and ice cream as well as anybody, and perhaps more; for to her they were an unusual combination of luxuries.  Now and then she glanced at the other people around the table.  Mrs. Lloyd always seemed to her like a queen; the head of the house; and the head of such a house was as good as a queen.  Judith looked like a young lady who took, and could take, a great many liberties in it.  David, like a grave, reserved boy who never wanted to take one.  Mrs. Bartholomew seemed a luxurious fine lady; Matilda’s impression was that she cared not much for anybody or anything except herself and her children.  And how rich they all must be!  Not Mrs. Lloyd alone; but all these.  Their dress shewed it, and their talk, and their air still more.  It was the air of people who wanted nothing they could not have, and did not know what it meant to want anything long.  Mrs. Lloyd was drinking one sort of wine, Mrs. Bartholomew another, and Mrs. Laval another; one had a little clear wineglass, another a yellow bowl-like goblet, much larger; the third had a larger still.  Every place was provided with the three glasses, Matilda saw.  Just as her observations had got thus far, she was startled to see Norton sign the servant and hold his claret glass to be filled.

Matilda’s thoughts went into a whirl immediately.  She had not seen Norton take wine at home; it brought trooping round her, by contrast, the recollections of Shadywalk, the Sunday school room, the meetings of the Commission, and Mr. Richmond, and talk about temperance, and her pledge to do all she could to help the cause of temperance.  Now, here was a field.  Yes, and there was David Bartholomew on the other side of the table, he also was just filling his glass.  But what could Matilda do here?  Would these boys listen to her?  And yet, she had promised to do all she could for the cause of temperance.  She could certainly do something, in the way of trying at least.  She must.  To try, is in everybody’s power.  But now she found as she thought about it, that it would be very difficult even to try.  It is inconceivable how unwilling she felt to say one word to Norton on the subject; and as for David! ­Well, she need not think of David at present; he was a stranger.  If she could get Norton to listen ­ But she could not get Norton to listen, she was sure; and what was the use of making a fuss and being laughed at just for nothing?  Only, she had promised.

The working of these thoughts pretty well spoiled Matilda’s ice cream.  There was a trembling of other thoughts, too, around these, that were also rather unwelcome.  But she could not think them out then.  The company had left the table and gathered in another room, and there a great deal of talk and discussion of many things went on, including winter plans for the children and home arrangements, in which Matilda was interested.  Shopping, also, and what stuffs and what colours were most in favour, and fashions of making and wearing.  Matilda had certainly been used to hear talk on such subjects in the days of her mother’s life-time, when the like points were eagerly debated between her and her older children.  But then it was always with questions. What is fashionable; and What can we manage to get?  Now and here, that questioning was replaced by calm knowledge and certainty and the power to do as they pleased.  So the subject became doubly interesting.  The two boys had gone off together; and the two girls, mixing with the group of their elders, listened and formed their own opinions, of each other at least.  For every now and then, the black eyes and the brown eyes met; glances inquiring, determining, but almost as nearly repellent as anything else.  So passed the evening; and Matilda was very glad when it was time to go to bed.

Mrs. Laval went with her to her pretty room, and saw with motherly care that all was in order and everything there which ought to be there.  The room was warm, though no fire was to be seen; the gas was lit; and complete luxury filled every corner and met every want, even of the eye.  And after a fond good night, Matilda was left to herself.  She was in a very confused state of mind.  It was a strange place; she half wished they were back in Shadywalk; but with that were mixed floating visions of shopping and her filled wardrobe, visions of driving in the Park with Norton, fancies of untold wonderful things to be seen in this new great city, with its streets and its shops and its rich and its poor people.  No, she could not forego the seeing of these; she was glad to be in New York; were there not the Menagerie and Stewart’s awaiting her to-morrow?  But what sort of a life she was to live here, and how far it would be possible for her to be like the Matilda Englefield of Shadywalk why, she was not to be Matilda Englefield at all, but Laval.  Could that be the same?  Slowly, while she thought all this, Matilda opened her little trunk and took out her nightdress and her comb and brush, and her Bible; and then, the habit was as fixed as the other habit of going to bed, she opened her Bible, brought a pretty little table that was in the room, put it under the gas light, and knelt down to read and pray.  She opened anywhere, and read without very well understanding what she read; the thoughts of lions and tigers, and green poplin, and red cashmere, making a strange web with the lines of Bible thought, over which her eye travelled.  Till her eyes came to a word so plain, so clear, and touching her so nearly, that she all at once as it were woke up out of her maze.

Who mind earthly things.”

What is that?  Must one not mind earthly things?  Then she went back to the beginning of the sentence, to see better what it meant.

“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:  whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”

Must one not mind earthly things? thought Matilda.  How can one help minding them?  How can I help it?  All the people in this house mind nothing else.  Neither did they all at home, when mother was alive, mind anything else.  Mr. Richmond does. ­

She went back now to the beginning of the chapter and read it anew.  It was easier to read than to think.  The chapter was the third of Philippians.  She did not know who wrote it; she did not exactly understand a good part of it; nevertheless one thing was clear, a heart set on something not earthly, and minding nothing that interfered with or did not help that.  So much was clear; and also that the chapter spoke of certain people not moved by a like spirit, as enemies of the cross of Christ.  It was the hardest reading, Matilda thought, she had ever done in her Bible.  If this is what it is to be a Christian, it was easier to be a Christian when she was darning lace for Mrs. Candy and roasting coffee beans in her kitchen for Maria.  But she did not wish to be back there.  Some way could be found, surely, of being a Christian and keeping her pretty room and having her wardrobe filled.  And here Matilda became so sleepy, the fatigue and excitement of this long day settling down upon her now that the day was over, that she could neither think nor read any more.  She was obliged to go to bed.