"Now, I wonder who it can be about?" said I, pretending to consider.
"It's about--" said Ada in a whisper. "It's about--my cousin Richard!"
"Well, my own!" said I, kissing her bright hair, which was all I could see. "And what about him?"
"Oh, Esther, you would never guess!"
It was so pretty to have her clinging to me in that way, hiding her face, and to know that she was not crying in sorrow but in a little glow of joy, and pride, and hope, that I would not help her just yet.
"He says--I know it's very foolish, we are both so young--but he says," with a burst of tears, "that he loves me dearly, Esther."
"Does he indeed?" said I. "I never heard of such a thing! Why, my pet of pets, I could have told you that weeks and weeks ago!"
To see Ada lift up her flushed face in joyful surprise, and hold me round the neck, and laugh, and cry, and blush, was so pleasant!
"Why, my darling," said I, "what a goose you must take me for! Your cousin Richard has been loving you as plainly as he could for I don't know how long!"
"And yet you never said a word about it!" cried Ada, kissing me.
"No, my love," said I. "I waited to be told."
"But now I have told you, you don't think it wrong of me, do you?" returned Ada. She might have coaxed me to say no if I had been the hardest-hearted duenna in the world. Not being that yet, I said no very freely.
"And now," said I, "I know the worst of it."
"Oh, that's not quite the worst of it, Esther dear!" cried Ada, holding me tighter and laying down her face again upon my breast.
"No?" said I. "Not even that?"
"No, not even that!" said Ada, shaking her head.
"Why, you never mean to say--" I was beginning in joke.
But Ada, looking up and smiling through her tear's, cried, "Yes, I do! You know, you know I do!" And then sobbed out, "With all my heart I do! With all my whole heart, Esther!"
I told her, laughing, why I had known that, too, just as well as I had known the other! And we sat before the fire, and I had all the talking to myself for a little while (though there was not much of it); and Ada was soon quiet and happy.
"Do you think my cousin John knows, dear Dame Durden?" she asked.
"Unless my cousin John is blind, my pet," said I, "I should think my cousin John knows pretty well as much as we know."
"We want to speak to him before Richard goes," said Ada timidly, "and we wanted you to advise us, and to tell him so. Perhaps you wouldn't mind Richard's coming in, Dame Durden?"
"Oh! Richard is outside, is he, my dear?" said I.
"I am not quite certain," returned Ada with a bashful simplicity that would have won my heart if she had not won it long before, "but I think he's waiting at the door."
There he was, of course. They brought a chair on either side of me, and put me between them, and really seemed to have fallen in love with me instead of one another, they were so confiding, and so trustful, and so fond of me. They went on in their own wild way for a little while--I never stopped them; I enjoyed it too much myself-- and then we gradually fell to considering how young they were, and how there must be a lapse of several years before this early love could come to anything, and how it could come to happiness only if it were real and lasting and inspired them with a steady resolution to do their duty to each other, with constancy, fortitude, and perseverance, each always for the other's sake. Well! Richard said that he would work his fingers to the bone for Ada, and Ada said that she would work her fingers to the bone for Richard, and they called me all sorts of endearing and sensible names, and we sat there, advising and talking, half the night. Finally, before we parted, I gave them my promise to speak to their cousin John to- morrow.
So, when to-morrow came, I went to my guardian after breakfast, in the room that was our town-substitute for the growlery, and told him that I had it in trust to tell him something.
"Well, little woman," said he, shutting up his book, "if you have accepted the trust, there can be no harm in it."
"I hope not, guardian," said I.