"I know it cannot," murmured Ruth; "and that is why I cry. I cry because nothing will ever bring them hack again." She sobbed afresh, but more gently, for his kind words soothed her, and softened, if they could not take away, her sense of desolation.
"Come away; I cannot have you stay here, full of painful associations as these rooms must be. Come"--raising her with gentle violence--"show me your little garden you have often told me about. Near the window of this very room, is it not? See how well I remember everything you tell me."
He led her round through the back part of the house into the pretty old-fashioned garden. There was a sunny border just under the windows, and clipped box and yew-trees by the grass-plat, further away from the house; and she prattled again of her childish adventures and solitary plays. When they turned round they saw the old man, who had hobbled out with the help of his stick, and was looking at them with the same grave, sad look of anxiety.
Mr. Bellingham spoke rather sharply--
"Why does that old man follow us about in that way? It is excessively impertinent of him, I think."
"Oh, don't call old Thomas impertinent. He is so good and kind, he is like a father to me. I remember sitting on his knee many and many a time when I was a child, whilst he told me stories out of the 'Pilgrim's Progress.' He taught me to suck up milk through a straw. Mamma was very fond of him, too. He used to sit with us always in the evenings when papa was away at market, for mamma was rather afraid of having no man in the house, and used to beg old Thomas to stay; and he would take me on his knee, and listen just as attentively as I did while mamma read aloud."
"You don't mean to say you have sat upon that old fellow's knee?"
"Oh, yes! many and many a time."