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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER X. "TOPSY-TURVY."
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 It may have seemed a strange thing, but, nevertheless, it was a fact, that one who appeared to make no difference to anybody while she was alive should yet be capable of causing quite a commotion the moment she was dead.  
This was the case with old Mrs. Bell. For years she had lived in her pleasant south room, basking in the sun in summer, and half sleeping by the fire in winter. She never read; she spoke very little; she did not even knit, and never, by any chance, did she stir outside those four walls. She was in a living tomb, and was forgotten there. The four walls of her room were her grave. Lydia Purcell, to all intents and purposes, was mistress of all she surveyed.
But from the moment it was discovered that Mrs. Bell was dead—from the moment it was known that the time had come to shut her up in four much smaller walls—the aspect of everything was changed. She was no longer a person of no importance.
No importance! Her name was in everybody's mouth. The servants talked of her. The villagers whispered, and came and asked to look at her; and then they commented on the peaceful old face, and one or two shed tears and inwardly breathed a prayer that their last end might be like hers.
The house was full of subdued bustle and decorous excitement; and all the bustle and all the excitement were caused by Mrs. Bell.
Mrs. Bell, who spent her days from morning to night alone while she was living, who had even died alone! It was only after death she seemed worth consideration.
Between the day of death and the funeral, Mr. Preston, the lawyer, came over to Warren's Grove many times. He was always shut up with Lydia Purcell when he came, though, had anyone listened to their conversation, they would have found that Mrs. Bell was the subject of their discourse.
But the strange thing, the strangest thing about it all, was that Lydia Purcell and Mrs. Bell, from the moment Mrs. Bell was dead, appeared to have changed places. Lydia, from ruling all, and being feared by all, was now the person of no account. The cook defied her; the dairymaid openly disobeyed her in some important matter relating to the cream; and the boy whose business it was to attend to Lydia's own precious poultry, not only forgot to give them their accustomed hot supper, but openly recorded his forgetfulness over high tea in the kitchen that same evening; and the strange thing was that Lydia looked on, and did not say a word. She did not say a word or blame anybody, though her face was very pale, and she looked anxious.
The children noticed the changed aspect of things, and commented upon them in the way children will. To Maurice it was all specially surprising, as he had scarcely been aware of Mrs. Bell's existence during her lifetime.
"It must be a good thing to be dead, Cecile," he said to his little sister, "people are very kind to you after you are dead, Cecile. Do you think Aunt Lydia Purcell would give me a fire in our room after I'm dead?"
"Oh, Maurice! don't," entreated Cecile, "you are only a little baby boy, and you don't understand."
"But I understood about the yard of rope," retorted Maurice slyly.
Yes, Cecile owned that Maurice had been very clever in that respect, and she kissed him, and told him so, and then, taking his hand, they ran out.
The weather was again fine, the short spell of cold had departed, and the children could partly at least resume their old life in the woods. They had plenty to eat, and a certain feeling of liberty which everyone in the place shared. The cook, who liked them and pitied them, supplied them with plenty of cakes and apples, and the dairymaid treated Maurice to more than one delicious drink of cream.
Maurice became a thoroughly happy and contented little boy again, and he often remarked to himself, but for the benefit of Cecile and Toby, what a truly good thing it was that Mrs. Bell had died. Nay, he was even heard to say that he wished someone could be always found ready to die, and so make things pleasant in a house.
Cecile, however, looked at matters differently. To ............
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