Old Tom and Nancy
In the little attic room Nancy swept and scrubbed vigorously, paying particular attention to the corners. There were times, indeed, when the vigor she put into her work was more of a relief to her feelings than it was an ardor to efface dirtNancy, in spite of her frightened submission to her mistress, was no saint.
IjustwishI coulddigout the cornersofhersoul! she muttered jerkily, punctuating her words with murderous jabs of her pointed cleaning-stick. Theres plenty of em needs cleanin all right, all right! The idea of stickin that blessed child way off up here in this hot little roomwith no fire in the winter, too, and all this big house ter pick and choose from! Unnecessary children, indeed! Humph! snapped Nancy, wringing her rag so hard her fingers ached from the strain; I guess it aint children what is most unnecessary just now, just now!
For some time she worked in silence; then, her task finished, she looked about the bare little room in plain disgust.
Well, its donemy part, anyhow, she sighed. There aint no dirt hereand theres mighty little else. Poor little soul!a pretty place this is ter put a homesick, lonesome child into! she finished, going out and closing the door with a bang, Oh! she ejaculated, biting her lip. Then, doggedly: Well, I dont care. I hope she did hear the bang,I do, I do!
In the garden that afternoon, Nancy found a few minutes in which to interview Old Tom, who had pulled the weeds and shovelled the paths about the place for uncounted years.
Mr. Tom, began Nancy, throwing a quick glance over her shoulder to make sure she was unobserved; did you know a little girl was comin here ter live with Miss Polly?
Awhat? demanded the old man, straightening his bent back with difficulty.
A little girlto live with Miss Polly.
Go on with yer jokin, scoffed unbelieving Tom. Why dont ye tell me the sun is a-goin ter set in the east ter-morrer?
But its true. She told me so herself, maintained Nancy. Its her niece; and shes eleven years old.
The mans jaw fell.
Sho!I wonder, now, he muttered; then a tender light came into his faded eyes. It aintbut it must beMiss Jennies little gal! There wasnt none of the rest of em married. Why, Nancy, it must be Miss Jennies little gal. Glory be ter praise! ter think of my old eyes a-seein this!
Who was Miss Jennie?
She was an angel straight out of Heaven, breathed the man, fervently; but the old master and missus knew her as their oldest daughter. She was twenty when she married and went away from here long years ago. Her babies all died, I heard, except the last one; and that must be the one whats a-comin.
Shes eleven years old.
Yes, she might be, nodded the old man.
And shes goin ter sleep in the atticmore shame ter her! scolded Nancy, with another glance over her shoulder toward the house behind her.
Old Tom frowned. The next moment a curious smile curved his lips.
Im a-wonderin what Miss Polly will do with a child in the house, he said.
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