The old man was ready, and in a few seconds they were on their road. The child thought he rather avoided her eye, and appeared to expect that she would tell him of her loss. She felt she must do that, or he might suspect the truth.
Grandfather, she said in a tremulous voice, after they had walked about a mile in silence, do you think they are honest people at the house yonder?
Why? returned the old man trembling. Do I think them honest yes, they played honestly.
Ill tell you why I ask, rejoined Nell. I lost some money last night out of my bedroom I am sure. Unless it was taken by somebody in jest only in jest, dear grandfather, which would make me laugh heartily if I could but know it
Who would take money in jest? returned the old man in a hurried manner. Those who take money, take it to keep. Dont talk of jest.
Then it was stolen out of my room, dear, said the child, whose last hope was destroyed by the manner of this reply.
But is there no more, Nell? said the old man; no more anywhere? Was it all taken every farthing of it? was there nothing left?
Nothing, replied the child.
We must get more, said the old man, we must earn it, Nell, hoard it up, scrape it together, come by it somehow. Never mind this loss. Tell nobody of it, and perhaps we may regain it. Dont ask how: we may regain it, and a great deal more; but tell nobody, or trouble may come of it. And so they took it out of thy room, when thou wert asleep! he added in a compassionate tone, very different from the secret, cunning way in which he had spoken until now. Poor Nell, poor little Nell!
The child hung down her head and wept. The sympathising tone in which he spoke, was quite sincere; she was sure of that. It was not the lightest part of her sorrow to know that this was done for her.
Not a word about it to any one but me, said the old man, no, not even to me, he added hastily, for it can do no good. All the losses that ever were, are not worth tears from thy eyes, darling. Why should they be, when we will win them back?
Let them go, said the child looking up. Let them go, once and forever, and I would never shed another tear if every penny had been a thousand pounds.
Well, well, returned the old man, checking himself as some impetuous answer rose to his lips, she knows no better. I ought to be thankful of it.
But listen to me, said the child earnestly, will you listen to me?
Aye, ay, Ill listen, returned the old man, still without looking at her; a pretty voice. It has always a sweet sound to me. It always had when it was her mothers, poor child.
Let me persuade you, then oh, do let me persuade you, said the child, to think no more of gains or losses, and to try no fortune but the fortune we pursue together.
We pursue this aim together, retorted her grandfather, still looking away and seeming to confer with himself. Whose image sanctifies the game?
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