“You were always,” repeated Pa.

“A vexatious — ”

“No you weren’t,” said Pa.

“A vexatious (do you hear, sir?), a vexatious, capricious, thankless, troublesome, Animal; but I hope you’ll do better in the time to come, and I bless you and forgive you!” Here, she quite forgot that it was Pa’s turn to make the responses, and clung to his neck. “Dear Pa, if you knew how much I think this morning of what you told me once, about the first time of our seeing old Mr Harmon, when I stamped and screamed and beat you with my detestable little bonnet! I feel as if I had been stamping and screaming and beating you with my hateful little bonnet, ever since I was born, darling!”

“Nonsense, my love. And as to your bonnets, they have always been nice bonnets, for they have always become you — or you have become them; perhaps it was that — at every age.”

“Did I hurt you much, poor little Pa?” asked Bella, laughing (notwithstanding her repentance), with fantastic pleasure in the picture, “when I beat you with my bonnet?”

“No, my child. Wouldn’t have hurt a fly!”

“Ay, but I am afraid I shouldn’t have beat you at all, unless I had meant to hurt you,” said Bella. “Did I pinch your legs, Pa?”

“Not much, my dear; but I think it’s almost time I— ’”

“Oh, yes!” cried Bella. “If I go on chattering, you’ll be taken alive. Fly, Pa, fly!”

So, they went softly up the kitchen stairs on tiptoe, and Bella with her light hand softly removed the fastenings of the house door, and Pa, having received a parting hug, made off. When he had gone a little way, he looked back. Upon which, Bella set another of those finger seals upon the air, and thrust out her little foot expressive of the mark. Pa, in appropriate action, expressed fidelity to the mark, and made off as fast as he could go.

Bella walked thoughtfully in the garden for an hour and more, and then, returning to the bedroom where Lavvy the Irrepressible still slumbered, put on a little bonnet of quiet, but on the whole of sly appearance, which she had yesterday made. “I am going for a walk, Lavvy,” she said, as she stooped down and kissed her. The Irrepressible, with a bounce in the bed, and a remark that it wasn’t time to get up yet, relapsed into unconsciousness, if she had come out of it.

Behold Bella tripping along the streets, the dearest girl afoot under the summer sun! Behold Pa waiting for Bella behind a pump, at least three miles from the parental roof-tree. Behold Bella and Pa aboard an early steamboat for Greenwich.

Were they expected at Greenwich? Probably. At least, Mr John Rokesmith was on the pier looking out, about a couple of hours before the coaly (but to him gold-dusty) little steamboat got her steam up in London. Probably. At least, Mr John Rokesmith seemed perfectly satisfied when he descried them on board. Probably. At least, Bella no sooner stepped ashore than she took Mr John Rokesmith’s arm, without evincing surprise, and the two walked away together with an ethereal air of happiness which, as it were, wafted up from the earth and drew after them a gruff and glum old pensioner to see it out. Two wooden legs had this gruff and glum old pensioner, and, a minute before Bella stepped out of the boat, and drew that confiding little arm of hers through Rokesmith’s, he had had no object in life but tobacco, and not enough of that. Stranded was Gruff and Glum in a harbour of everlasting mud, when all in an instant Bella floated him, and away he went.

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