MRS. BROOKS fulfilled her promise, and so faithfully did she work in the good cause, that a dozen little pupils were engaged for Miss Milly's school before preparations were fairly made to open it. These did not take long, however, as Miss Felix, the teacher, who was going away, sent to Mrs. Harrow's house two long forms of desks and benches, with her compliments and best wishes to Milly for her future success.

Milly fairly began to dance around the room, in the new joy of her heart, on receiving this, to her, valuable present

"Everybody," she said, "must not be so kind to us, or I shall have a sickness brought on by too much happiness."

Poor Milly! she had so long had a "sorrow-sickness," that the present good fortune was almost too much to endure.

For a week she went about cleaning, and sweeping, and dusting, and making ready generally, for the great event, the opening of her school. Singing as gayly as a lark, she moved furniture up-stairs and down, and debated over and over again upon the best arrangement for effect. The front room was to be especially devoted to the use of her class. The carpet was removed, and thoughtful Miss Felix's desks and benches placed in it, along the walls. Mrs. Brooks sent an old white muslin dress to be made into window-curtains, and Martin spent a whole day in forming a little platform out of boards, on which, when covered with green baize, the teacher's table and chair were to rest.

Even Elinor's sick-chamber assumed a different aspect. One day, when Mr. Brooks was in the village on business, he stepped into a paper-hanger's, and chose a cheap, but pretty paper for the lime- washed wall. It was very cheerful-looking, being formed of alternate stripes of white and rose-color; "for," said the farmer, when he reached home, "I warrant Miss Elinor grows tired of seeing the same cracks in the plaster, year in and year out. She must have something new and gay, like this, that will help to keep her spirits up!"

Mrs. Harrow and the farmer's wife pasted this paper on the walls themselves, with a little assistance from Nelly, who stood ready to lift benches, hand the scissors back and forth, and give any other slight aid of which she was capable.

The house was only one-story high, with a garret, so Elinor's room had a slanting roof and a dormer window. Mrs. Brooks said it would be a great improvement, if the striped paper were pasted on the ceiling too, and joined in. the peak with a wood-colored border resembling a heavy cord or rope. This made the place look, when it was done, like a pink canvas tent. The change was wonderful. An imitation of a pair of tassels of the same color and style as the rope border, which the paper-hanger, hearing of the design, sent to the house as a present to Miss Elinor, when pasted carefully at each end of the peak, against the wall, made the illusion perfect.

Elinor said she lived in the Tent of Kindness.

The neighbors who came in to inspect all these preparations, said Elinor's was the very prettiest dormer-room they had ever seen. There was enough left of the old dress to curtain the single window, which being done, everything was at last pronounced to be in a state of .readiness.

And now we must go back to Nelly, who, I suppose, some of my readers remember, is the adopted daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Brooks. Nelly had known much sorrow in her short life, as will be seen on reference to the little story called "NELLY AND HER FRIENDS." She had never experienced what it was to be loved by father and mother till now, and when the farmer and his wife began to teach her to call them by those sacred titles, she felt herself a very happy little girl. She was delighted at the prospect of attending school. She had never been to one, and, there- fore, perhaps, the novelty of the thing was half the attraction.

When the important day arrived, and the child found herself seated in the class-room with twelve or fourteen other little folks, she was filled with awe and dismay, so much so, that she scarcely dared turn around to take a good look at her next neighbor, a girl of twelve, in the shy dread that she might be caught in the act, which circumstance would, doubtless, have occasioned her much confusion.

Miss Harrow did not give her pupils any lessons to learn this first morning. She said, as no one had books, it should be a day of pleasure and not of work, and on the morrow they would begin to study in earnest.

So, during the whole morning, the children drew funny little pictures on slips of paper, which were handed them for the purpose of amusing them, and. in the afternoon, the teacher made them pull their benches close to the fire, in cosy rows, while she told them stories. .

As, with the deepest interest, Nelly gravely listened, she came to the conclusion that this was just the best school of which she had ever heard, everything was so pleasant.

There was a little dark-haired boy in a blue jacket, who sat near, and who whittled her pencil, oh so sharp, every time she blunted it! She told Comfort, in confidence, when she went home, that this little boy's pictures were quite as good as any Martin could make. He drew ships under full sail, oh, beautiful! and as for those men, squaring off to fight, up in the corner of the paper, they made you think at once of Uz and Buz the two roosters, that quarrelled every morning in the barnyard, about which should have the most corn.

In a week or two, however, Nelly's rapture abated somewhat; and one day she came home with her books in her hands, and threw herself on one of the chairs in the kitchen, crying heartily.

"Heyday," cried Comfort, looking up from the fire, over which she was broiling a fish. " Heyday, what ar's the matter now ? "

"0 Comfort," cried Nelly, "she struck me, she struck me, before them all!"

"What!" cried Comfort, standing erect with surprise. "Miss Nelly's been for whippin' a'ready ? Why, Nelly, shame, shame! Dis yer conduct is oncommon bad of yer."

'"It wasn't Miss Harrow, at all," said Nelly, reddening; "it was that horrid, old thing, Melindy."

"Oh, Melindy," echoed Comfort, in a tone of relief

"Yes," continued Nelly, "she tries to get me to laugh in school, every day. She makes eyes at me, big, round ones, so, Comfort."

Comfort chuckled.

"I don't wonder yer laugh, if she does that way, chile."

"But that isn't all," added Nelly indignantly. " She chews paper-balls, and sends them over the room, right at the tip of my nose. Sometimes they stick there a second or so, till I can put up my hand; and then the scholars giggle- like. Oh, you've no idea. Comfort, what an awful girl Melindy is. She punches me, too."

" Punches, Nelly ? " "Yes, and to-day, when school was out, she gave me such a whack,—right in my ribs; shall I show you how, Comfort?"

"No, thank yer," answered the old woman, laughing. She had a cause for being good-humored that day. "But why whack such a little critter as you be, Nell?" .

"Oh," said Nelly, hesitating, "she .knows."

Something in her manner made Comfort suspicious. She sat down and called Nelly to her. Taking hold of both her hands, she looked her full in the eyes.

"Speak the truff," she said; "didn't yer whack Melindy fust ? "

"Yes," said Nell, with a curious mixture of honesty and triumph, " I did, Comfort; I gave her a good one, I tell you! I didn't stop to think about what I was doin' till I felt her whackin' o' me back again."

"Then she sarved yer right," said the old colored woman, going back to her fish, "and I hope she'll treat yer so every time yer begin the aggravation."

" But she snowballed me first, and called out that I was nobody's child, and was taken out of the streets, and such like. I couldn't stand that, anyhow. I had to whack her, Comfort."

" No you hadn't," said Comfort, sternly, and at the same time gesticulating earnestly with the fish-fork. It wasn't your part to do any punishin', whatsomever. Leastways, no punishment but one."

"And what's that?" demanded Nelly, making large A's and 0's in the steam that had settled on the windows. Here Martin suddenly put down a big news- paper he had been reading in a corner, and which had hidden him entirely from view.

"Have you so soon forgotten your old rule of good for evil, Nell?" he asked.

"Don't you know that is what Comfort means ? "

Comfort nodded at him approvingly.

" But Melindy is ugly, powerful ugly, Martin," said Nell, coloring, " and anyway she will knock all us little girls. It's born in her. I think she must have been meant for an Indian, that pulls the hair off your head, like mother told us about. Doing good to Melindy is just of no account at all."

"Did you ever try it?" asked Martin. ''"Well, no-o. You see I could tell it was of no use. And Miss Harrow, she stands Melindy on a chair with a paper cap on her head, every day, at dinnertime.

"Poor girl, " said Martin, "I am sorry for her."

"I'm not," said Nell, promptly, "it keeps her from mischief, you know."

Martin was silent.

Comfort began to sing a tune over her fish, interrupting herself at times with a low, quaint laugh, as though particularly well pleased with some thought.

"What's the matter, Comfort?" asked Nelly.

"Oh, nuthin'," was the answer; "I guess I'm not very miserable to-day, that's all," and off she went in a chuckle again.

"Nelly," said Martin, after another grave pause, "you used to be a better girl than you are now. Last summer, about the time Marm Lizy died, you tried ever, so hard to be good, and you improved very much indeed."

"I .know it," said Nell, a little sadly, " and I would be good now, if it wasn't for Melindy Porter. Ever since I've been to school I've felt hard and wicked. She torments and worries me so, that I think sometimes there's no use in tryin' to be good at all. I do and say wrong things, just when I don't mean to, all along o' Melindy"

"If you and Melindy were friends, you wouldn't feel so, would you?"

" I s'pose not, but who wants to be friends with anybody like that?" was the ready retort.

"Still, you .would rather be friends than enemies, Nell, wouldn't you? You would prefer that this little girl"—

"Big one, ever so big," interrupted Nelly, quickly.

"You would prefer that this big girl then, should bear you no malice, even if you didn't like her, and she didn't like you. Isn't it so?"

" Well, yes. I would like to have her stop pinchin' and pullin' the hairs of all o' us little ones. That's what I'd like, Martin."

"That's easy done, Nelly," said Martin in a confident tone.

"Easy, Martin? How easy?"

"Be kind to her. Show her that you bear her no ill feeling."

"But I do bear her ill feeling, Martin! What's the good of fibbing about it to her? I can't go to her and say, 'Melindy, I like you ever so much,' when all the time I despise her like poison, can I? I am sure that wouldn't be right."

"No," broke in Comfort, "that ar wouldn't be right, Martin, for sartain."

Martin looked a little puzzled.

"But, Comfort," he said at length, "I don't want her to speak pleasantly to Melindy till she feels pleasantly. That's the thing. I wouldn't have Nell act an untruth, a bit more than I'd have her tell one. But I do want her to try to feel like givin' Melindy a little good for her evil."

Martin said this with such a pleading, earnest look, smiling coaxingly on Nelly as he spoke, that, for the moment, the heart of the little girl was softened.

"Well, Martin," she said, "you are always preachin' ar'n't you ? But it's nice preachin' and I don't hate it a bit. Some day, when I get real, awful good, you'll leave off, won't you? I'll think about Melindy, and may-be I can screw my courage up to not mind bein' cracked at by her."

"Pray for them that uses yer spitefully," said Comfort with solemnity.

Nelly seemed struck by this.

" What, pray for Melindy ? " she asked meditatingly.

"Chil'en," said the old woman, "don't never forget that ar mighty sayin'. Yer may be kind and such like to yer enemys, but if yer don't take time to pray for his poor ole soul's salvation, you might as well not do nuthin'. That's the truff, the Gospil truff."

"Well," said Nell with a deep sigh, "I'll pray for Melindy then, and for that bad, little Johnny Williams, too, to-night when I go to bed; but I shall have, oh, Comfort, such hard work to mean it, here!" and her hands were pressed for an instant over her breast.

The next morning, just as Nelly was starting for school, Martin drew her, mysteriously, aside.

"Which hand will you have, Nell?" he asked, holding both behind him.

" This one," she said, eagerly, touching the right hand, in which she had caught a side glimpse of something glittering like burnished gold.

Martin smilingly extended towards her a small, oval box, covered with a beautiful golden paper.

" How very, very lovely," cried Nell, opening it.

" It is yours," said Martin, " but only yours to give away. I want you to do something with it."

" Can't I keep it ? Who must I give , it to?"

" Melindy!"

" Oh, Martin, I can't, I just can't, — there! "

"Then you don't wish to make her good, Nell! You want her to be cruel and wicked and hard as long as she lives!"

" Oh no, no, I don't wish that now. I prayed for her last night." The last sentence was added in a very low tone.

"You refuse then?"

She looked at him, sighed, and turned away.

Martin put his box in his pocket, and walked off in the direction of the barn.

At dinner-time, Nelly came home quite radiant. Lessons had gone smoothly. Miss Harrow had praised her for industry at her books, " and, would you believe it, Martin," she added in an accent of high satisfaction, "Melinda didn't make but two faces at me all the whole morning ! Wasn't that nice ? They were pretty bad ones, though,—bad enough to last I She screwed her nose all up, this way! Well, if. you'll give me the box now, I'll take it this afternoon. I don't feel hard against Melindy at all, now."

Martin brought it to her after dinner, with great alacrity; and Nell walked very slowly to school with it in her hands, opening and shutting the lid a dozen times along the road, and eyeing it in an admiring, fascinated way, as though she would have no objection in the world to retain possession of it herself.

It was a hard effort to offer it to Melinda. So pretty a box she had never seen before.

"I mean to ask. Martin", she thought, "if he cannot find me another just like it."

Near the door of Mrs. Harrow's little house, Nelly encountered her tormentor, quite unexpectedly. She was standing outside, talking in a loud, boisterous way to two or three of the other children. Melinda was a tall, rather good- looking girl, of about fourteen years of age. She was attired in a great deal of gaudy finery, but was far from being neat or clean in appearance. At the present time, a large, freshly-torn hole in her dress, showed that in the interval between schools, she had been exercising her warlike propensities, and had come off, whether victor or not, a little the worse for wear. Her quilted red silk hood was now cocked fiercely over her eyes, in a very prophetic way. Nelly knew from that, as soon as she saw her, that she was in a bad frame of mind.

Not daring to speak to her then, Nelly was quietly proceeding towards the door of the school, when with one or two tremendous strides, Melinda met her face to face.

" How did you like the big thumping I gave you yesterday ? " she asked, with a grim smile.

Nelly walked on very fast, trying to keep from saying anything at all, in the fear that her indignation might express itself too plainly.

" Why don't you speak up ? " cried Melinda.

Still Nelly went on in silence. Melinda walked mockingly side by side with her, burlesquing her walk and serious face. At last, irritated beyond control, Melinda put out suddenly one of her feet, and deliberately tripped up her little schoolmate, who, before she. could even cry out, found herself lying flat on her nose, on the snow.

The attack was made so abruptly, that Nelly had no time to see what was coming. Confused, stunned, angry, and hurt, she raised herself slowly to her knees and looked around her. There was at first, a dull, bruised feeling, about her head, but this passed away. Something in the deadly whiteness of her face made Melinda look a little alarmed, as she stood leaning against the wall, ready to continue the battle, if occasion required any efforts of the kind; but knowing well, in the depths of her cowardly heart, that, as the largest and strongest child at school, her victims could not, personally, revenge themselves upon her, to any very great extent. Looking her companion in the eyes, like a hunter keeping a wild animal at bay, Nelly staggered to her feet. She had meant to be so good that day! And this was the encouragement she received ! Truly, the influence of Melinda on Nelly's character was most pernicious. All the evil in her nature seemed aroused by the association. Tears, not resulting from physical pain, but from the great effort she still made to control her temper, rose to her eyes, as she saw a sneering smile on Melinda's countenance. Till now she had striven to bear Martin's advice in mind; but as this sneering smile broke into an ill-natured laugh, Nelly's self-control gave way Her face burned. She tossed the little golden gift, with disdainful roughness, at her persecutor's feet, and said, in a gruff, and by no means conciliating voice,—

" There's a box for you, Melindy. And Martin says I mustn't hate you any more. But I do, worse than ever! There! "

Melinda gave a contemptuous snort. She walked up to the little gilt box, set her coarse, pegged shoe upon it, and quietly ground it to pieces. Then, without another word, she pushed open the school-room door, entered, and banged it to again, in poor Nelly's red and angry face. The child leaned against the house and cried quietly, but almost despairingly.

"I wanted, to be good," she sobbed, " I wanted to be good so much, but she will not let me!"



" COMFORT," said Nell, that night, leaning her head on her hand, and looking at the old woman sideways out of one eye, as she had seen the snowbirds do when they picked up the crumbs every morning around the kitchen door, "Comfort, can't you tell me what you were laughing about yesterday afternoon, when you were br'iling of the fish for tea?" "Yes," said Comfort, "I think I can"

Nelly sat waiting to hear the expected revelation, yet none came. Comfort was busy with her pipe. She paused every now and then to puff out great misty wreaths of bluish-gray smoke, but she didn't condescend to utter one word.

" Comfort," said Nelly, getting impatient, " why don't you tell me, then, Comfort ? "

" Tell yer what, chile ? "

" What you said you would."

" I never said I would ; I said I could . Be more petik'lar with yer 'spressions, Nelly. And 'sides that, yer hadn't oughter say ' br'iling fish.' Missus don't. Leave such words to cullu'd passons, like me."

"Well, but tell me," persisted Nelly, smilingly, brimming with the curiosity she could not restrain. " I know it was something good, because you don't often laugh, Comfort."

"No," said Comfort, "that ar's afact.

I don't 'prove of little bits o' stingy laughs, every now and then. I likes one good guffaw and done with it."

"Well," said Nelly, "go on. Tell me about it."

"Yer see," said Comfort, taking her pipe from between her lips, and giving a sudden whirl to the smoke issuing from them, " Yer see, Nelly, I was laughin' 'bout my neffy."

"Your neffy, Comfort? What's that?"

" Lor ! do tell! Don't yer know what a neffy is yet? I didn't 'spect yer to know much when yer was Mann Lizy's gal, but now, when Mrs. Brooks has adopted of yer, and sent yer to school to be edicated, we look for better things. Don't know what a neffy is, eh?"

"No," said Nelly, looking somewhat disturbed. "Tell me, Comfort. Is it something that grows ? "

" Grows! " screamed Comfort, bursting into a laugh that certainly was not a stingy one; " Grows! Goodness! hear this yere chile ! Ho, ho, ho ! I-'blieve-1 shall-crack my poor ole sides! Grows! Oh my! "

"You mustn't laugh so, Comfort," said Nelly, with dignity, "you make me feel,-well, leastways, you make me feel real bad."

"Oh dear, dear," mumbled the old woman in a faint voice. "That does beat all! Why, see here, Nelly,-'spose now, I had a sister once, and that ar sister got married and had a little boy, what ought he to call me, eh ? "

" Why, his Aunt Comfort, to be sure," was the reply.

' "And I ought to call him neffy John, or Johnny, for short, oughtn't I? Well, it was 'bout my neffy Johnny I was laughin' yesterday. Now I'll tell yer how it was, sence I've done laughin.' 'bout him to-day,-oh my! You see, Johnny is a slave down South, ever so far off, on a rice plantation."

" Slave ? " repeated Nelly, with growing interest; "What's slave, Comfort?"

" Oh, somethin' that grows," answered Comfort, chuckling. '" A slave is a black man, woman, or chile that has a marster. This marse, as we call him, can sell the slave to anybody for a lot o' money, and the poor slave, as has been a t'ilin', strivin' soul all his days, can say nuthin' ag'in' it. It's the law, yer see."

"Comfort," said Nelly, "stop a minute. Do you think that is a right law?"

"No," said Comfort, "I can't say as I does. Some marsters are good, and some, on the contrary, are oncommon bad. Now my little neffy has a good 'un. Ever sence his poor mammy's death, I've been savin' and savin', and t'ilin' and t'ilin', to buy Johnny and bring him North, 'cause I set a good deal on him. This ere good marse of his agreed to let me buy him, when he was nuffin' but a baby; and he's been keepin' of him for me all this yere long time."

"I'm glad I'm not Johnny," said Nell, earnestly; "If bein' a slave is getting bought and sold like a cow or a dog, a slave is just what I don't want to be. Hasn't Johnny any relations down there, Comfort?:"

The old woman shook her head.

"I'm the only one of his kin in the 'varsel world."

"Poor little fellow!" said Nelly meditating; "I don't wonder you want to buy him. How old is he ? "

"Twelve year."

"And you've got enough money, Comfort?"

A bright smile beamed suddenly all over that dark face.

" Ho ! " she cried, " that ar's just what I was laughin' at yesterday. I want only a leetle more, and 'deed, my nefly will have no marse ag'in,-only a missus, and that'll be me, thank the Lord! "

The old colored woman tossed her apron over her head, and from the odd puffing noises that immediately began to sound from behind it, Nelly supposed she was weeping. She thought she must have been mistaken, however, the next moment, for Comfort pulled down the apron a little savagely, as though ashamed of having indulged in such a luxury as a private groan or two, and in a stern voice bade Nelly go up in her (Comfort's) room, feel under the bolster, on the side nearest the wall, and bring down to her the foot of a stocking which she would find there.

"And don't let the grass grow under yer feet, neither," said Comfort, by way of a parting benediction, as the child softly closed the door. It was reopened almost immediately, and Nelly's smiling face appeared.

" I say, Comfort." "Well chile, what. now ? " "I'm real, real sorry for that little neffy of yours you've been tellin' me about. And, Comfort, when he comes I'll be as good to him as I can. I was thinkin' I would knit a pair of gray, woollen stockings to have ready for him, shall I? How big is he?"

" 'Bout your size," replied Comfort. "The notion of them stockings is quite nice. I'm much obleeged to yer, Nelly."

Nelly looked delighted, and started to go up-stairs once more. In about a minute and a .half, her face was peering; into the kitchen again.

"Comfort, I guess I'll knit a red. binding at the top of the stockings, to look handsome, shall I?"

"Why, yes," said Comfort, mightily pleased; " that will make 'em smart, won't it?"

"A red yarn binding," continued the little girl, "knit on after the stocking is toed off,-a binding full of little scallops and such like! "

"Laws, chile," said Comfort, benignantly, " I sorter think yer might stop short of them scallops. Neffy won't be anxious about scallops, I reckon, seein' as how he has only wored nater's stockings so far, with no petik'lar bindin' at all, that I knows on. Come, now, mind yerself and run up-stairs. I can't be wastin' all my time, a-waitin'."

Nelly shut the door, and went singing up-stairs, two at once, while the old woman employed her valuable time in smoking her pipe.

In a short time eager, young footsteps were heard dancing along the entry, and into the room came Nelly, looking as happy as though for her there existed no ill-natured schoolmate in all the world.

" Here it is! " she said, holding triumphantly up the foot of an old stocking, ragged at the edges, but scrupulously clean,-the same in fact, from which Comfort had once given her a small gift of money; "here it is, Comfort; but didn't I have a powerful hunt for it! I dived under the bolster and under the mattrass,-at the foot,-at the head,- at the sides;-and then I found it on the sacking. Hear how it jingles! What fun it must be to earn money, Comfort! Do look at my hair,-if I haven't got it full of feathers, poking among your pillows!" Sure enough, starting up all over her curls were gray and white downy particles.

"Laws sakes," exclaimed Comfort, helping her to pick them off, "that ar hole rnust a broke loose ag'in in my bolster! I can sew it up every Saturday night, and sure as I'm livin', it bursts ag'in Monday mornin'."

"That's 'cause your brain is too heavy; you've got too many thoughts in it, perhaps," laughed Martin, who entered at that moment, and began to stamp the snow from his feet on the kitchen doormat.

"0 Martin," cried Nell, "see how rich Comfort is! She has saved that fat stocking full of money, to buy her neffy."

" Buy her neffy ! " repeated Martin, unbuttoning his overcoat.

"Yes, he's a slave, you know."

"No," said the boy, "I don't know, Nelly; I never even heard of neffy before."

" Oh, his name isn't neffy, Martin. Oh, no, not at all," said the little girl, with an air of importance. " He is called John, and Comfort is going to buy him, and I am to begin a pair of stockings for him to-morrow."

Comfort held up her bag half full. "This yere is my money-box," she said, overflowing with satisfaction.

"Box!" repeated Nell. "Why, it is not a box at all, Comfort. It's the foot of a worn-out stocking."

The old woman turned upon her a little grimly, " stockin' or no stockin' I calls it my money-box, and that's enough. Box it is."

"That's funny," said Nelly; "I don't see much good in calling a stocking a box as long as it is a stocking."

" Well, I does," said Comfort, sharply; and with some of the old ill-temper she once used to vent so largely on Nell, she snatched up the bag, and giving it a toss upon a pantry shelf, slammed the door with a mighty noise.

For a little while silence descended on the group. It was an uncomfortable silence. No one in the room felt happy or at ease. Of such power is a single ill-natured expression!

Comfort was restless, because her conscience reproached her, while at the same .time Nelly was experiencing secret remorse for having irritated her by thoughtless words. Perhaps Martin Wray was more distressed than either of his companions, at what had taken place. His was naturally a peaceable disposition, and he could not bear to witness scenes of discord. The sight of his pleasant face saddened, did not tend to make little Nell feel happier. She longed to have him reprove her, or exhort her, as he so often did, to better behavior; but Martin sat in his chair by the fire, sorrowful and mute.

Nothing was heard but the hissing of the burning wood on the wide hearth, and the whistling sounds and muffled roars of the wind without.

It was too much to bear this any longer. Nelly got up with a long, penitent face, and hovered rather wistfully around the chair where Comfort sat, still smoking her pipe. The old domestic had taken advantage of the fact of her eyes being half closed, to pretend that she did not see the little figure standing at her side, on account of just going off into a most delightful doze. She even went so far as to get up a gentle, extempore fit of snoring, but Nelly was not to be deceived.

" Comfort," she said, in a mild, quiet voice.

No answer, excepting three exceedingly distinct snores.

" Com fort," was repeated, in a louder tone.

" WHAT ! ! " growled the old woman, opening her eyes so suddenly that the child started back. Comfort began to laugh, however, so Nell felt no fear of having disturbed her in reality.

"I am sorry I said that wasn't your money-box, Comfort. I didn't mean to contradict, or such like. It was all along o' my contrary temper, and if you'll forgive me, I'll try not to act so again,"

The old colored woman appeared a little confused.

"'Deed, honey," she said, "yer haven't done nuthin' wrong; it's all me. I dunno what gits into me sometimes. Well, now, hand me that ar plaguey stocking, and I'll let you and Martin count my money"

Nelly smiled, looked delighted at being restored to favor, and flew to the pantry.

The bag was on too high a shelf for her to reach, however, and she had got the poker and was in the act of violently punching and hooking it down, as she best could, her eyes and cheeks bright with the exertion, when Martin - the sadness quite gone from his face - advanced to help her. Comfort took the bag from him, and with a grand flourish, emptied it on the vacant table. The flourish was a little too grand, however, and much more effective than Comfort had intended. The shining silver dollars, with which the stocking was partially filled, fell helter-skelter on the table, and many of them rolled jingling and glittering over the floor.

Nelly laughed and scrambled after them, Martin shouted and tumbled down on hands and knees to help find them, while the owner, quite dismayed, stood still and did nothing.

" 'Deed, 'deed ! " she said ; " how could I be so keerless? But there's thirty of 'em, and thirty I'll find."

Before the children knew what-she was about, she seized the broom and began to sweep the rag-carpet with great nervous dashes, that had no other effect than to raise a tremendous dust.

"Stop!" cried Martin; "don't sweep, please, Comfort; Nelly and I will find them for you. That dust just goes into our eyes and blinds us. If you are sure there were thirty, it is easy enough to search till we make up the number."

Comfort relinquished the broom at this, and began to count; as fast as the children found any of the coins they dropped them into her lap.
Comfort relinquished the broom at this and began to count. (illus facing pg. 68)

"Twenty-six, twenty-seven," she said, at length; " three more, and we've got all the little shiners back."

" Here's two," cried Martin, " behind the dustpan."

"And here's the thirtieth," exclaimed. Nelly, "sticking out from under your shoe, Comfort! How funny!"

And so, laughing, the children saw Comfort's money-box bulge again to its original size.

" That ar's only my last five months' wages. Mrs. Brooks paid me yesterday," said the old woman, proudly, as she tied the stocking together with a piece of yellow, time-stained tape. "I've got three hundred jes' like 'em in a bank in the city , and when with a little extry t'ilin' and savin', I git in all, three hundred and fifty, my neffy will never be a slave no more ! "

Here the kind voice of Mrs. Brooks was heard calling the children into the sitting-room.

" Good-night, Comfort," said Martin; " I wish I had thirty dollars, yet I do not envy you yours, one bit,-no, not one bit!"

" Yes," added Nell, rising to go, " and I don't envy either, but I wouldn't mind owning another stocking just like that. And, Comfort, I am going to ask mother to let me set all the eggs of my white bantam hen, early in the spring; and I'll sell the chickens and give you the money to help buy your neffy."

On to chapter 4

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