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"That seems too bad, Ailie."

"There is a deal of things too bad in this
world, miss, that we have to bide. You're
young yet; you don't know. How do you
like your place, miss? This question is
confidential."

"Very well, Ailie; I am quite contented."

"That's lucky, I am sure. But it must be
dull for you at Moorbeck, isn't it, now?"

"No, Ailie, I'm never dull; I have a
kitten."

"A kittenoh! yes; we all know your
white kitten, with its red necklace; but you
would not get a beau if you were to stop here
for twenty years."

I laugh, and say it does not matter, and
I do not care; a profession which the old
woman scouts as utterly ridiculous and false.
Then she bids me be of good heart, and never
despair, for who knows what may happen,
for I can't be so very, very old, after all.
"Not much over thirty," I tell her, smiling.

"You thirty! Nay, that you're not; I'll
not credit it. You're twenty-two, maybe."

"I am grey-headed, Ailie, and shall never
see old maid's corner again."

"Old maidsI never could bide old maids.
Don't you be one, whatever you are. Grey
hairs are honourable, but old maids are
abominable!"

"Then, the two togetherthe grey old
maidwill be just tolerable."

"Nay, I don't agree to that."

A lurching country lad comes to the gate
with a loosely-tied newspaper, and pushes it
into the slit of the letter-box.

"You'll never get that in, lad. Just go
into the house and bring the tongs to pull it
out again."

While the youth drags his newspaper out
of the slit, Ailie tells me that she always
puts the poker down, lest any letters should
have stuck, which is often the case. I wonder
what is the state of my correspondence
when it reaches the hands to which it is
addressed. The intrusion of the boy with
the paper has broken the thread of our
discourse, so in earnest I say I must really go.

"Well, miss, thank you. It is very good
of you to come and talk (?) to an old woman.
Bless me, if there is not your kitten!"

I turn round and see my snowball Charlie
hastily descending the orchard wall. He
comes, and is duly petted and admired.

"The gamekeepers will shoot him," Ailie
observes.

"No, they won't; I introduced him formally,
and they promised not, and to let him
out of traps, if he was caught."

"I lay you're fond of him, miss ?"

"Very; he is so compassionable. He lies
on the table watching me write, and sometimes
he walks over the paper, and acts as
very bad blotting-paper. We are great
friends, Charlie and I."

"Some people don't like cats."

"Then I pity them. Good-bye, Ailie."

I take my little cat in my arms. Ailie
calls after me that she is afraid it is a bad
sign, as I saunter up the hill. Midway I
encounter a group of small children going
home from school. They curtsey reverently
before my face; but when they have got
past I hear a little laugh, and one says: " It's
her cat; she gave our Tom sixpence for
getting it out of a tree."

At the turn to the gates I come suddenly
on a group of young peoplemy pupils and
some of their friends.

"Miss Lee and her cat, of course: ugly
Charliehorrible Charlie! " cries the owner
of a fat terrier, which is pussy's sworn foe.

"You have had him out for a walk. I
wonder what you will do next? " cries the
amiable Amelia.

"I shall roll a ball on the lawn for him to
run after;" and I go and do it defiantly. So
ends my half-holiday. I recommend every
governess to have a pet; it gives her a feeling
of independence, and fills up spare moments
when she would be likely to mope, and fancy
herself miserable. I think the affection of
even a kitten worth having.

THE ROVING ENGLISHMAN

IN BELGIUM.

I AM in one of the third class carriages
of a Belgian railway-train, and travelling
between Mechlin and Gand. I take the
liberty to observe (not altogether without a
pang of wounded patriotism) that a third
class carriage on a Belgian railway is
infinitely superior in comfort and accommodation
to a second class carriage on a British
railway. It has more air, more light, more
room, more conveniences. It has seats so
contrived that no man's knees are necessarily
in the lap of his fat friend opposite. A
passengeralthough only a common labourer
or mechanicmay sit forward or backward
or sideways as he listeth. He may stand up,
and even walk about and stretch his legs a
little. There are blinds to a third class carriage
in Belgium; so that it actually appears
to have occurred to the directors or the
government (I know not which) that there is
perhaps now and then some slight, if scarcely
perceptible, difference between poor persons
and cattle. Why the advantages here
described exist in Belgian third class carriages,
and do not exist in British third class
carriages, I confess myself entirely unable to
determine. Indeed, I take the present cramped
and gloomy state of travellers in Britain to be
something very much like a personal affront
to myself; for, is it not now nearly five years
ago that I was enabled to suggest some very
simple and practical improvements in railway
carriages, derived from the most benighted
portion of sluggish Austria? * I will not,
however, further advert to my valuable

* In the first volume of Household Words, page 449.

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