There, as elsewhere, they had an interest in Nell. They would gather round her in the porch, before and after service; young children would cluster at her skirts; and aged men and women forsake their gossips, to give her kindly greeting. None of them, young or old, thought of passing the child without a friendly word. Many who came from three or four miles distant, brought her little presents; the humblest and rudest had good wishes to bestow.
She had sought out the young children whom she first saw playing in the churchyard. One of these he who had spoken of his brother was her little favourite and friend, and often sat by her side in the church, or climbed with her to the tower-top. It was his delight to help her, or to fancy that he did so, and they soon became close companions.
It happened, that, as she was reading in the old spot by herself one day, this child came running in with his eyes full of tears, and after holding her from him and looking at her eagerly for a moment, clasped his little arms passionately about her neck.
What now? said Nell, soothing him. What is the matter?
She is not one yet! cried the boy, embracing her still more closely. No, no. Not yet.
She looked at him wonderingly, and putting his hair back from his face, and kissing him, asked what he meant.
You must not be one, dear Nell, cried the boy. We cant see them. They never come to play with us, or talk to us. Be what you are. You are better so.
I do not understand you, said the child. Tell me what you mean.
Why, they say, replied the boy, looking up into her face, that you will be an angel, before the birds sing again. But you wont be, will you? Dont leave us. Nell, though the sky is bright. Do not leave us!
The child dropped her head, and put her hands before her face.
She cannot bear the thought! cried the boy, exulting through his tears. You will not go. You know how sorry we should be. Dear Nell, tell me that youll stay amongst us. Oh! Pray, pray, tell me that you will.
The little creature folded his hands, and knelt down at her feet.
Only look at me, Nell, said the boy, and tell me that youll stop, and then I shall know that they are wrong, and will cry no more. Wont you say yes, Nell?
Still the drooping head and hidden face, and the child quite silent save for her sobs.
After a time, pursued the boy, trying to draw away her hand, the kind angels will be glad to think that you are not among them, and that you stayed here to be with us. Willy went away, to join them; but if he had known how I should miss him in our little bed at night, he never would have left me, I am sure.
Yet the child could make him no answer, and sobbed as though her heart were bursting. Why would you go, dear Nell? I know you would not be happy when you heard that we were crying for your loss. They say that Willy is in Heaven now, and that its always summer there, and yet Im sure he grieves when I lie down upon his garden bed, and he cannot turn to kiss me. But if you do go, Nell, said the boy, caressing her, and pressing his face to hers, be fond of him for my sake. Tell him how I love him still, and how much I loved you; and when I think that you two are together, and are happy, Ill try to bear it, and never give you pain by doing wrong indeed I never will!
The child suffered him to move her hands, and put them round his neck. There was a tearful silence, but it was not long before she looked upon him with a smile, and promised him, in a very gentle, quiet
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