A SAD FRIGHT.
Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her 19th-Century Girls' Series website;
please do not use on other sites without permission
BUT the next afternoon, as the two little girls were walking home together, Dotty said to Jennie, with a very wise face,—
"Grandma has told me what the Bible means. Now I understand every single thing."
Jennie did not seem as much delighted as had been expected.
" She says God can get that camel through a needle."
"0, I remember," said Jennie; "you mean that Bible camel."
"There isn't anything He can't do," continued Dotty; " the richest men, richer than your father, can get to heaven if God's a mind to take 'em."
"Not bad people," said Jennie, shaking her head.
" I don't know about that; she didn't say," said Dotty, looking puzzled. " 0, no, I s'pose not. God wouldn't be a mind to. For don't you see, Jennie Vance, it's just like a camel. There can't anybody go through themselves unless God pulls 'em through."
I don't know what Grandma Parlin would have thought if she had heard her words chopped up in this way; but it made very little difference to Jennie, who paid no attention at all.
" You're father'll get there," added Dotty; " so I thought I'd tell you."
" Your shoestring's untied," said Jennie, coolly.
" And I don't care now if you are the richest," said Dotty, stooping to tie the string; " for God loves me just as well when I wear Prudy's old things; and so do all the good people in this town, and the minister too; grandma said so. I don't care how much you talk about our old Deacon, or our eating molasses. That isn't anything! Grandma says its harder for rich children to be good, and I told her I was real glad I was half-poor."
" You're stepping right in the mud," cried Jennie.
"And then Grandma said that it didn't make any difference any way about that, if I only loved God; but if I didn't love God, it did."
"There," said Jennie, "I haven't heard half you've said; and I guess you've forgotten all about going strawberrying."
" I almost know grandma won't be willing," replied Dotty ; " we've got company, too; see those ladies in the window."
" All the better," replied Jennie, cheerily. "You go in and behave as beautifully as ever you can, and your grandma 'll be so busy talking, she'll say yes before she thinks. That's the way my mamma does. Say ' Crossman's orchard,' remember, but don't tell which one."
So Jennie staid outside while Dotty entered the parlor softly, and stood by her grandmother's chair, waiting the proper time to speak.
"Strawberrying, did you say ?" asked Mrs. Parlin, presently.
" Yes, grandma; the berries are just as thick."
" 0, just as fick!" repeated Katie, clapping her hands.
" In the Crossman orchard," added Dotty.
" Prosser Horcher," put in Katie, choking a little at the large words. " May her, gamma ?"
Now, Dotty knew, as her grandmother did not, that there were two orchards; and the one she meant was a mile and a half away.
" Yes, you may go, Alice; it is only a few steps; but put on an old dress, and don't stay late; you know you are hardly well since your sore throat."
Dotty had not actually told a wrong story but for almost the first time she had deceived, and she knew the sin was the same. While she was exchanging her pretty pink frock for one of dark calico, her conscience pricked so painfully that she almost wished to stay at home.
"'Just as soon as we get out of the village," said Jennie, "I'm going barefoot; mother said I might."
" How splendid your mother is !" sighed Dotty. " Grandma's so particular! But any way I'm going without my stockings ; I declare I will. My throat's so far away from my feet, what hurt will it do ?"
" Children, obey your parents," said the troublesome voice.
" Grandma isn't my parent," thought Dotty, tugging away at her boot-lacings. They went out through the kitchen, to get Dotty's red and white picnic basket; but they crept like a pair of thieves, lest Ruthie, who was mixing waffles, should hear them, and take notice of Dotty's bare ankles.
Once out of the village, it did not take long for Miss Dimple to slip off her boots and tuck them in her pocket.
" 0, how nice and cool !" murmured she, poking her little pink toes into the burning sand; till presently, a thorn, which appeared to be waiting for that very purpose, thrust its way deep into her foot. She sat down in the middle of the road and screamed. Jennie tried her best to draw out the thorn, but only succeeded in breaking it off. Then, with a clumsy pin, she made a voyage of discovery round and round in the soft flesh of Dotty's foot, never hitting the thorn, or coming anywhere near it.
"0, dear!" said Jennie, petulantly; "we've wasted half an hour ] What's the use for you to be always getting into trouble ? A great many berries we shall have at this rate! and I was going to ask my mamma to let me have a party."
" There!" said Dotty, bravely, " I'm going right along now, and no more fuss about it."
It was hard work; Dotty limped badly; and all the while the cruel thorn was triumphantly working its way farther in. The Crossman orchard was not very far away now; but when they had reached it, and had crept under the fence, why, where were the strawberries ? What the boys had not gathered they had trampled down ; and the truth was, there had been very few in the first place. There was nothing to do but pluck here and there a stray berry, and make the most of it.
" This is what I call a shame," sighed Jennie ; " and look at the sky; it's growing as black as a pickpocket."
" Why, yes," moaned Dotty; " how fast that sun has gone down! "
Bat this was a mistake. It was only six o'clock. The sun, understanding his business perfectly, had not hurried one jot. The clouds were merely spreading a dark background for some magnificent fireworks; in other words, a thunder-shower was coming up.
" Let's go right straight home," said Jennie; and Dotty was glad to hear the words, for in her own brave little heart she had determined not to be the first to surrender.
" Let's go across the fields," she replied; " it's the nearest way home."
By this time heavy drops were pattering down on the long grass, and making a hollow sound on the little girls' hats.
"Why, it's raining," remarked Dotty.
" You don't say so," sniffed Jennie, whose temper was quite upset, " perhaps you think you're telling some news."
Then came the frightful boom of thunder.
"What's that?" whispered Dotty, with white lips. " I'm afraid, Jennie; I certainly am."
"For shame, Dotty Dimple! I thought you were the girl that knew all about God and the Bible. I shouldn't think you'd be afraid of thunder! "
" 0. but I am! " was the meek reply. " I'm as afraid as I can live."
" There, hush up, Dotty! When you've been and got us into a fix, you'd better keep still."
"I, Jennie Vance? I never! What a story! "
"You did, Miss Dimple; you spelt it out in the Reader,—' straw-bry; ' or I shouldn't have thought of such a thing."
" Well, I didn't care much about going, now truly, Jennie; for I don't feel very well."
"You seemed to be very much pleased. You said, ' How nice ! ' as much as twice; and didn't you almost laugh out loud in the spelling class ? Hark! what a clap ! "
" I should think you'd be ashamed," said poor Dotty, hopping on one foot. "When I laughed it was to see Charlie Gray make up faces. And should I have gone barefoot if it hadn't been for you?"
"Well, there, Dotty Dimple, you're a smart little girl, I must say! I don't mean to ask you to my party, if my mother lets me have one; and I've a great mind not to speak to you again as long as I live."
" I shouldn't think you'd dare to quarrel, Jennie Vance, when you may die the next minute. Let's get under this tree."
" Lightning strikes trees, you goosie! "
" 0, Jennie Vance! isn't there a barn anywhere in this great pasture ? "
" Men don't keep barns in their pastures, Dot Dimple; and lightning strikes barns too, quicker'n a flash! "
Dotty covered her face with her hands.
" You don't seem to know scarcely anything," continued Jennie, soothingly. " I don't believe you know what a conductor is."
" Of course I do. It's the man on the cars that takes your ticket."
" No ; that's one kind; but in storms like this a conductor is a—a conductor is a— why, I mean if a thing is a conductor, Dotty,—why then the thunder and lightning conducts it all to pieces, and that's the last there is of it! My father's got a book of hijommerty that tells all about such things. You can't know for certain. Just as likely as not, now, our baskets are conductors; and then again perhaps they are non ; and I don't know which is the worst. If we were sure they were either one, we ought to throw 'em away ! that's a fact!"
"Yes, indeed!" cried Dotty, tossing hers behind her as if it bad been a living scorpion. "Do you s'pose hats will conduct?"
" Nonsense! no. I didn't say baskets would, did I?" returned Jennie, who still held her own dangling from her arm. " Yours was a perfect beauty, Dot. What a fuss you make!"
As Dotty had all this while been stifling her groans of pain, and had also been careful not to express a hundredth part of her real terror of lightning, she thought her friend's words were, to say the least, a little severe.
" Why, this is queer," cried Jennie, stopping short. " It's growing wet here; haven't you noticed it ? Now I've thought of something. There's a bog in this town, somewhere, so awful and deep that once a boy slumped into it, don't you think, up to his waist; and the more he tried to get out the more he couldn't ; and there he was, slump, slump, and got in as far as his neck. And he screamed till he was black and blue; and when they went to him there wasn't a bit of him out but the end of his nose, and he couldn't scream any more; so all they could do was to pull him out by the hair of his head."
" Is that a true story, now, honest ?" cried Dotty, wringing her hands. "How dreadful, dreadful, dreadful! What shall we do ?"
" Do ?" was the demure reply; " stand as stock-still as ever we can, and try not to shake when we breathe. Next thing we might slump."
" I do shake," said Dotty; " I can't help it."
" Don't you say anything, Dotty Dimple. I never should have thought of going across lots if you hadn't wanted to; and now you'd better keep still."
So even this horrid predicament was owing to Dotty; she was to blame for every- thing. " Stock-still" they stood under the beating rain, their hearts throbbing harder than the drops.
Yes, there certainly was a bottomless pond —Dotty had heard of it; on its borders grew the pitcher-plant which Uncle Henry had brought home once. It was a green pitcher, very pretty, and if it had been glass it could have been set on the table with maple molasses in it (only nobody but poor people used molasses).
0, there was a deep, deep pond, and grass grew round it and in it; and Uncle Henry had said it was no place for children; they could not be trusted to walk anywhere near it, for one false step might lead them into danger. And now they had come to this very spot, this place of unknown horrors!
What should they do ? Should they stand there and be struck by lightning, or try to go on, and only sink deeper and deeper till they choked and drowned ?
Never in all Dotty's little life had she been in such a strait as this. She cried so loud that her voice was heard above the storm, in unearthly shrieks. She didn't want to die! 0, it was so nice to be alive! She would as lief have the sore throat all the time, if she might only be alive. She said not a word, but the thoughts flew through her mind like a flock of startled swallows,—not one after another, but all together; and so fast that they almost took her breath away.
And 0, such a naughty girl as she had been! Going barefoot! Telling a story about Crossman's orchard ! Making believe she never fibbed, when she did the same thing as that, and she knew she did. Running off to play when grandma wished her to stay with Flyaway. Feeding Zip Coon with plum cake to see him wag his tail, and never telling hut it was brown bread. Getting angry with the chairs and tables, and people. Doing all manner of wickednesses.
Dotty was appalled by the thought of one sin in particular. She remembered that in repeating the Lord's prayer once, she had asked for "daily bread and butter." Her mother had reproved her for it, but she had done the same thing again and again. By and by, when her mother positively forbade her to say "butter," she had said "bread and molasses;" "for, mamma," said she, "you know I don't like bare bread."
" I s'pose Miss Preston would say that was the awfulest wickedness of all, and I guess it was. 0, dear!"
Well, if she ever got home she would be a better girl. But it wasn't likely she ever should get home.
"Why, Jennie," said she, speaking now for the first time, "here we are; and when we stand still we don't move at all; we don't go home a bit, Jennie."
" Of course not, Dotty Dimple; that's a very bright speech! I've thought the same thought my own self before ever you did ! "
Another silence, broken only by the pitter patter of the rain; for the thunder was growing less and less frequent.
" But we must go home some time," cried Jennie with energy. " If it kills us to death we must go home. Just you put your foot out, Dotty dear, and see if it sinks way down, down. I thought it was beginning to grow a little soft right here."
"0, dear, I don't dare to!" groaned Dotty, shaking with a nervous chill; " you put your foot in your own self, Jennie Vance, and see where it goes to. I don't want to slump down up to my hair any more 'n you do. What do you s'pose ! "
" Fie ! for shame, Dotty Dimple! I always thought you were a coward, and now I know it! What if I should give you my ring, made of all carrot gold, would you do it then ? Just nothing but put your foot out ? "
" Would you give me the ring now, honest?" said Dotty, raising her little foot cautiously ; " certain true ? "
"Why, you know, Dotty, if I said I would, I would."
A sudden thought was darting across Dotty's mind, like another startled swallow; only this one came alone, and did not take her breath away; for it was a pleasant thought—Where were they ? Whose field was this?
Why, it was Mr. Gordon's pasture. And Johnny came here for the cow every night of his life. And, as true as the world, there was the Gordon cow now, the red and white one, standing by the fence, lowing for Johnny.
"A great deal of bottomless pond this is, and so I should think !" said Dotty to herself with a smile. " Where a cow can go I guess I can go with my little feet. Soft? why, it isn't any softer than anybody's field is after it rains."
So, without saying a word, the little girl put her foot out, and of course it touched solid earth.
"There!" she cried, "I did it, I did it! You said I was a coward; and who's a coward now ? Where's your gold ring, Jeanie Vance?"
" Why, the ground is as hard as a nut, I declare," said Jennie, walking along after Dotty with great satisfaction. "I didn't much think there was a swamp in this field all the time. Only I thought, if there was, what a scrape it would be! Come to think of it, I believe that bottomless pond is in the town of Augusta."
"No," replied Dotty, "it's on the other side of the river. I know, for Uncle Henry went to it in a boat. But where's my ring?"
" I don't know anything about your ring; didn't know you had any."
" I mean yours, Jennie Vance; or it was yours; the one on your forefinger, with a red stone in it, that yon said you'd give to me if I'd put my foot in it."
" Put your foot in what ?"
" Why, you know, Jennie Vance; in the mud."
"Well, there wasn't any mud; 'twas as hard as a nut."
"You know what I mean, Jennie," exclaimed Dotty, growing excited. " So you needn't pretend ! "
"I'm not pretending, nor any such a thing," replied Jennie, with a great show of candor; " it's you that are making up a story, Dotty Dimple. I didn't say I'd give you my ring. No, ma'am; if 'twas the last words I was to speak, I never!"
"0, Jennie Vance! Jane Sidney Vance! I should think the thunder and lightning would conduct you to pieces this minute; and a bear out of the woods, and every thing else in this world. I never saw a little girl, that had a father named Judge, that would lie so one to another in all the days of my life."
"Well," said Jennie, coolly, "if you've got done your preaching, I'll tell you what I said. I said, 'What if I should;' so there! I didn't say I would, and I never meant to; and you may ask my father if I can get it off my finger without sawing the bone in two."
" Indeed! " replied Dotty, poising her head backward with queenly dignity; " indeed!"
"I didn't tell a story," said Jennie, uneasily. " I should think any goosie might know people wouldn't give away jewels just for patting your foot out."
"It's just as well," said Dotty, with extreme dignity; "just precisely as well ! I have one grandmamma who is a Quakeress, and she don't think much of little girls that wear rings. Ahem! "
Jennie felt rather uncomfortable. She did not mind Dotty's anger, but her quiet contempt was another thing.
" I think likely I may go to Boston next week," said she; "and if I do, this is the last time we shall go strawberrying together this summer."
" 0, is it ? " said Dotty.
After this the two little creatures trudged on in silence till they reached Mr. Parlin's gate. Jennie ran home in great haste as soon as she was free from her limping companion ; and Dotty entered the side-door dripping like a naiad.
"Why, Alice Parlin! " said grandmamma, in dismay; " how came you in such a plight? We never thought of you being out in this shower. We supposed, of course, you would go to Mrs. Gray's, and wait till it was over."
" We were nowhere near Mr. Gray's," faltered Dotty, " nor anywhere else, either."
" I should think you had been standing under a water-spout," said Aunt Louise.
" Grandma, can't you put her through the wringer ? " asked Prudy, laughing.
Dotty sank in a wet heap on the floor, and held up her ailing foot with a groan.
" Why, child, barefoot?" cried Aunt Louise. Dotty said nothing, but frowned with pain.
"It is a cruel thorn," said her good grandmother, putting on her spectacles and surveying the wound.
" Yes, 'm," said Dotty, finding her tongue. " I almost thought 'twould go clear through, and come out at the top of my foot."
Katie took a peep. " So, it didn't," said she; "it hided."
"There, there, poor little dear," said grandmother; "we'll put her right to bed. Ruthie, don't you suppose you and I can carry her up stairs ? "
Not a word yet about the naughtiness; but plenty of pity and soft poultices for the wounded foot.
" She's a very queer child," thought Ruth, coming down stairs afterwards to steep hops for some beer; " a very odd child. She has something on her mind; but we shan't be any the wiser till she gets ready to tell it."
BUT when Prudy had come to bed, Dotty could talk more freely.
" 0, dear," said she, hiding her face in her sister's bosom; " I don't want them to laugh at me, but I've lost my boots and my basket, and been dripped in the rain, and got a thorn in my foot too, till it seems as if I should die!"
"But you'll never do so again, little sister," said Prudy, who could think of no other consolation to give.
" And lightning besides, Prudy! And she made me throw away my beautiful picnic basket, and she kept hers, and it never hurt her a bit! Don't you think she was just as mean! What makes grandma let me go with her, do you s'pose ? I shall grow real bad ! Won't you tell her to stop it ?"
Dotty moaned with pain, and between her moans she talked very fast.
" And all this time," said she, "we haven't any ducks!"
Prudy, who was dropping off to sleep, murmured, '"No."
"But it's real too bad, Prudy. I never saw such a lazy old hen-did you ? Prudy, did you?"
Presently, when Prudy thought it must be nearly morning, there was a clutch upon her shoulder, and a voice cried in her ear,-
" I don't see what makes you go to sleep, Prudy Parlin, when my foot aches so bad! And 0, how I want a drink o' water !"
Prudy thought she should never find the match-box; but she did at last, and lighted the lamp after several trials. It was dreary work, though, going down stairs with those sticks in her eyes, 'to get the water.
Dotty drained the nipperkin at two draughts, and said it wasn't half enough.
" 0, you shall have all you want, little sister," said Prudy, kindly; "you may drink up the whole barrel if you like."
So down she went again, and this time brought a pitcher. On her return she found Dotty weeping in high displeasure.
" You told me to drink up that whole barrel, you did," cried the unreasonable child, shaking her head.
"Did I?" said Prudy; "well, dear, I didn't mean anything.*'
"But you said so-the whole, whole barrel," repeated Dotty rocking back and forth; " you talk to me just as if I-was -black!"
" Hush!" said Prudy, " or you'll wake grandma. Let me see ; do you want me to tell you a conundrum ? Why does an elephant carry his trunk ?"
" I don't know ; I s'pose he can't help it; it grows on the end of his nose."
" That isn't the answer, though, Dotty; it's because-because he's a traveller!"
"An elephant a traveller? Where does he travel to ? I don't believe it."
"Well," replied Prudy, "I can't see any sense in it myself. 0, stop a minute! Now I know ; I didn't tell it right. This is the way; 'Why is an elephant like a traveller? Because he carries a trunk!' Isn't that funny ?"
" I don't care anything about your elephants," said Dotty; " if you don't try to please me, Prudy Parlin, you'll have to wake up grandma, and call her in here, or I shall cry myself sick!"
Patient Prudy crept into bed, but left the lamp burning.
" Suppose we make up some poetry?" said she.
" Why, you don't know how to make up poetry-do you?" said Dotty, leaning on her elbow, and looking with dreamy eyes at the engraving of Christus Consolator at the foot of the bed. " I love poetry when they read it in concert at school. Don't you know,-
' Tremendous torrents ! For an Instant hush !'
Isn't that splendid?"
"Very splendid, indeed," replied Prudy, pinching herself to keep awake.
" I think Torrence is such a nice name," pursued Dotty; "don't you tell anybody; but when I'm married and have some boys, I'm going to name some of them Torrence."
" Not more than one. Dotty!"
" 0, no, I couldn't; could I? There mustn't but one of them have the same name; I for- got. ' Tremendous Torrence !' I shall say ; and then he'll come in and ask, ' What do you want, mother?' "
Prudy suddenly hid her face under the sheet. The absurdity of little Dotty's ideas had driven the sleep out of her eyes.
" It would do very well for a name for a very queer boy," said she, stifling a laugh; " but a torrent generally means the Niagara Falls."
" Does it ?" said Dotty; "who told you so ? But I guess I shall call him by it just the same though-if his father is willing."
Dotty looked very much interested.
"What will you call the rest of your boys ?" asked Prudy, glad to talk of any- thing which kept her little sister pleasant.
" I shan't have but two boys, and I shall name the other one for his father," replied Dotty, thoughtfully; "I shall have eight girls, for I like girls very much; and I shall dress them in silk and velvet, with gold rings on their fingers, a great deal handsomer than Jennie Vance's; but they won't be proud a bit. They never will have to be punished; for when they do wrong I shall look through my spectacles and say, ' Why, my eight daughters, I am very much surprised!' And then they will obey me in a minute."
"Yes," returned Prudy; "but don't you think now we'd better go to sleep? "
'"No, indeed," said Dotty, drawing herself up in a little heap and holding her throbbing foot in her hand ; "if you don't
make poetry I'm going to make it myself Hark! -
'Once there was a little boy going down hill ; He leaped, he foamed, he struggled; and all was o'er. "
" Do you call that poetry ?" said Prudy, laughing. " Why, where's the rhyme ?"
" The rhyme ? I s'pose I forgot to put it in. Tell me what a rhyme is, Prudy; maybe I don't know!"
" A rhyme," replied her wise sister, " is a jingle like this: 'A boy and a toy,' 'A goose and a moose.' "
"0, is it? how queer! 'A hill and a pill,' that's a rhyme, too."
" .Now," continued Prudy, " I'll make up some real poetry, and show you how. It won't take me more than a minute ; its just as easy as knitting-work."
Prudy thought for a few seconds, and then recited the following lines in a sing-song tone: -
"When the sun
Had got his daily work done,
He put a red silk cloud on his head,
(For a night-cap you know,)
And went to bed.
He was there all sole alone ;
For just at that very time the moon
(That isn't a very nice rhyme, but I can't help it,)
Was dressed and up,
And had eaten her sup-
Per. 'Husband,' said Mrs. Moon, ' I can't
stop to kiss you good by;
I've got to leave you now and go up in
the sky.' "
" 0, how pretty !" said Dotty; " how it jingles! Did yon make that up in your own head ?"
" Yes, indeed; just as fast as I could knit once round. I could do a great deal better if I should spend more time. I mean to take a slate some time and write it all full of stars, and clouds, and everything splendid. I shall say, ' What a pity it is that a nice husband and wife, like the sun and moon, can't ever live together, but have to keep following each other round the sky and never get near enough to shake hands !' I'll pretend that it makes the moon look very sober indeed, but the sun isn't so tender- hearted ; so he can bear it better. 0, Dotty, don't you let me forget to put that into poetry! I can jingle it off, and make it sound beautiful!"
" I should think you might put my verse into poetry, too. Can't you say ' a pill rolled down hill?'" said Dotty.
" 0, I can make poetry of it easier than that. You don't need to change but one word: -
' There was a little boy going down hill,
He leaped, he foamed, he struggled; - and all was still.' "
Dotty repeated it several times with much delight. "That's beautiful," said she, "now honest; and I did almost the whole of it myself!"
After this she began to grow drowsy, and, forgetting her troubles, fell asleep, to the great relief of poor sister Prudy, who was not long in following her.
Next morning Prudy awoke at nearly the usual time; but her sister was still in the land of dreams, and she stole out of the room without disturbing her.
"Grandmamma," said she," Dotty has had an awful night ! I've had to be up with her, and trying to pacify her, most of the time."
" A whole hour," said grandma, smiling.
" 0, grandma, it was nearly all night, but there didn't anybody know it; we talked low, so we needn't disturb you."
Grandmother and Aunt Maria smiled at each other across the table.
"I dare say, my dear," said Aunt Maria, "you thought you were as quiet as two little mice; but I assure you you kept everybody awake, except grandpa and Susy."
"Why, Aunt 'Ria!'
"But we learned a lesson in poetry-making," said Aunt Louise, " which was worth lying awake to hear. Don't you suppose, Maria, that even prosy people, like you and me, might jingle poetry till in time it would become as easy as knitting-work?"
Prudy blushed painfully.
" I thought," said Grace, " the sun must look very jolly in his red silk night-cap, only I was sorry you forgot to tell what he had for breakfast."
"Nothing but cold potatoes out of the cupboard," said Horace; "he keeps bachelor's hall. It's just as well the old fellow can't meet his wife, for she's made of green cheese, and he'd be likely to slice her up and eat her."
A tear glittered on Prudy's eyelashes. Horace wag the first to observe it, and he hastened to change the subject by saying his johnny-cake was so thin he could cut it with a pair of scissors. By that time Prudy's tears had slyly dropped upon her napkin, and she would have recovered her spirits if Aunt Louise had not remarked carelessly,-
" Seems to me our little poetess is rather melancholy this morning."
Prudy's heart was swollen so high with tears that there would have been a flood in about a minute; but Horace exclaimed suddenly,-
"0, mother, may I tell a story? Once there were two old-two maiden ladies in Nantucket, and they earned their living by going round the island picking up the 'tag-locks ' the sheep had left hanging to the bushes and rocks. Now, you wouldn't believe, would you, mother, that those two women could get rich by selling tag-locks ?"
"I certainly should not," replied Mrs. Clifford, smiling fondly on her young son; for she saw and approved of his kind little scheme for diverting his cousin's attention.
" Well, mother, they lived to be more than sixty years old; and when they made their wills, how much money do you suppose they had to leave? I wish you'd try to guess."
"Dear me," said Mrs. Clifford, " I'm sure I can't imagine: I shall have to give it up."
" So must I," said grandmamma; "I make such poor work at guessing: I suppose they lived very frugally?"
"A thousand dollars?" suggested Grace.
" A million ?" said Susy.
"A shilling ?" chimed in Aunt Louise.
"Not one cent! " replied. Horace.
" Well, well, " said grandmother, "you've caught us napping this time."
But only she and Aunt Maria appreciated Horace's gallantry towards his sensitive cousin Prudy.
A DAY ON THE SOFA.
WHEN Dotty Dimple awoke that morning, she was very much astonished to see the sun so high.
"The sky looks very clean," said she, "and I should think it might after such a washing."
She did not know it, but for some reason the pure blue of the heavens made her feel dissatisfied with herself. Since she had slept upon it, her last night's conduct seemed worse to her than ever. All this while her grandmamma's forgiveness had not been asked. Must it be asked ? Dotty hung her proud head for shame. Then she offered her morning prayer, and promised God that henceforth she would try to he good.
" If Jennie Vance only stays away," added she, meekly.
The fact was, Dotty was losing faith in herself. She had boasted that she never told a lie; she had "preached" to Jennie Vance ; and now, behold, what had she been doing herself! The child was full of good resolutions to-day, but she began to find that her strongest purposes did not hold together any longer than her gingham dresses.
Her foot was so lame and swollen that she made believe the staircase was a hill, and slid down it accordingly. As she hobbled by the parlor door, she saw her Aunt Maria seated on the sofa sewing. It must be very late, she knew. Little Flyaway, who had been chasing the cat, ran to meet her, looking very joyful because her cousin had overslept herself.
" It's half past o'clock," said she, clapping her little hands; " half past o'clock, Dotty Dimple! "
Dotty felt quite ashamed, but her grandmother assured her that although it was nearly ten o'clock, she was perfectly excusable. She seated her in an easy chair, and gave her a cracker to nibble; for Dotty said she was not hungry, and did not care for breakfast.
There was one thought uppermost in the little girl's mind: she must ask her grand- mother's forgiveness. Some children might not have seen the necessity, but Dotty had been well instructed at home; she knew this good, kind grandmamma was deserving of the highest respect, and if any of her grandchildren disobeyed her, they could do no less than acknowledge their fault. But Dotty was a very proud child; she could not humble herself yet.
Mrs. Parlin dressed the lame foot, and pitied it, and was very sorry the little girl had any soreness of the throat; but not a word of reproach did she utter; she was waiting to see if Dotty had anything to say for herself.
Susy and Prudy had gone to Aunt Martha's and, till " the Charlie boy " came, there was no one at home for company but little Katie. Dotty did not wish to think; so she made the best of the little ones, and played " keep school."
Black Dinah was the finest-looking pupil, but there were several others made of old shawls and table-covers, who sat bolt upright, and bore their frequent whippings very meekly. Katie and Charlie each held a birch switch, and took the government of the school, while Dotty did the teaching.
" Spell man," said Dotty, sternly, pointing with a bodkin at Dinah.
Dinah was sulky, and kept her red silk mouth shut; but Dotty answered for her; " m, a, n, man."
" To," said she to the black and white shawl: "t, o, to." "Put," to the green table-cover: "p, u, t, put."
" We 'shamed o' you," said Katie, beating the whole school unmercifully. "Why don't you mind in a minute ? Let me spell 'em ! Hush, Dinah! Say put! T, o, put!"
"I think," said Dotty, laughing, "it is time now for Dinah to take her music lesson."
"Yes," said Katie, "lady wants um to packus."
So the colored miss was set on the music stool, and both her kid hands spread out upon the keys.
" Don't um packus booful ? " said Katie, admiringly.
But next moment Charlie was punishing the pupil because she didn't "breeve."
"Kidy wanth her to breeve when her packithith."
As it was an ingrain misfortune of Dinah's that she could not breathe, she showed no signs of repentance.
" Stop!" said Dotty; " she looks faint; it is rheumatism, I think."
" 0, 0, roosum-tizzum! Poo' Dinah! " said Katie.
" We must pack her in a wet sheet," said Dotty.
Katie was sent to the kitchen for a towel and a basin of water; and very soon Dinah's clothes were removed, and she was rolled up in a pack; like the boy in the swamp, with "not a bit of her out but the end of her nose."
" Ow! Ow! " cried Katie, in a tone of agony, speaking for Dinah. " Ow! 0, dear!"
This was what the black patient would have said, no doubt, if she had had her faculties. Aunt Maria came in, a little alarmed, to inquire what was the matter with Katie.
"Nuffin, mamma, only we suffer Dinah," replied the child, dancing round the patient; "her wants to ky, but her can't. Gets caught in her teef comin' out! "
"Very well," said Mrs. Clifford, kissing the small nurse, " you may ' suffer ' Dinah as much as you like, but please don't scream quite so loud."
" Is grandma busy, Aunt 'Ria ? " said Dotty; " because I'd like to see her a moment."
The child had seized her knitting-work. Her face was flushed and eager. She thought she felt brave enough to open her heart to her grandmother ; but when Mrs. Parlin entered the nursery, her face beaming with kindness, Dotty was not ready.
" 0, grandma," stammered she, " are there any ducks hatched ? Don't you think that hen is very slow and very lazy ? "
Mrs. Parlin knew her little granddaughter had not called her out of the kitchen merely to ask about the poultry. She seated herself on the sofa, and drew Dotty's head into her lap.
" Please look at my knitting-work, grand- ma, Shall I seam that stitch or plain it?"
" You are doing very well," said Mrs. Parlin, looking at the work; " you seamed in the right place."
Dotty cast about in her mind for something more to say.
" Grandma, you know what fireflies are ? Well, if you scratch 'em will they light a lamp? Susy says they have fosfos under their wings, like a match."
"No, Alice; with all the scratching in the world, they could not be made to light a lamp."
" Grandma, there are some things in this world I hate, and one is skeetos."
" They are vexatious little creatures, it is true."
There was a long pause.
"Grandma, are skeetos idiotic? Yon said people without brains were idiotic, and there isn't any place in a skeeto's head for brains."
"Dotty," said grandma, rising with a smile, " if you sent for me to ask me such foolish questions as these, I must really beg to be excused. I have a pudding to make for dinner.'
" Grandma, 0, grandma," cried Dotty, seizing her skirts, " I have something to say, now truly; something real sober. I- I --"
" Well, my dear," said Mrs. Parlin, encouragingly.
"I-I-O, grandma, which do you think can knit the best, Prudy or I ?"
"My dear Dotty," said the kind grandmother, stroking the child's hair, " don't be afraid to tell the whole story. I know you have a trouble at your heart. Do you think you were a naughty girl last night ?"
Dotty's head drooped. She tried to say, " Yes, ma'am ;" but, like Dinah, " the words got caught in her teef comin' out."
" We didn't go where you thought we did, grandma," faltered she at last. " Mr. Crossman has two orchards, and we went to just the one you wouldn't have s'posed."
"Yes, dear; so I have learned to-day."
" I deceived you a-purpose, grandma; for if I hadn't deceived you, you wouldn't have let me go."
There was a sorrowful expression on Mrs. Parlin's face as she listened to these words, though they told her nothing new.
" Has you got a pain, gamma?" said little Katie, tenderly.
"I did another wickedness, grandma," said Dotty, in a low voice; " I went barefoot, and you never said I might."
"Poor little one, you were sorely punished for that," said grandma, kindly.
"And another, too, I did; I threw my basket away; but that wasn't much wicked; Jennie made me think perhaps 'twas a non."
"A non, that catches lightning, yon know; so I threw it away to save my life."
"And now," continued Dotty, twirling her fingers, " can you-can you-forgive me, grandma ?"
" Indeed I can and will, child, if you are truly sorry."
" There now, grandma," said Dotty, looking distressed, " you think I don't feel sorry because I don't cry. I can't cry as much as Prudy does, ever; and besides, I cried all my tears away last night."
Dotty rubbed her eyes vigorously as she spoke, but no " happy mist" came over them.
"Why, my dear little Alice," said grandmamma, " it is quite unnecessary for you to rub your eyes. Don't you know you can prove to me that you are sorry ? "
" How, grandma ? "
"Never do any of these naughty things again. That is the way I shall know that you really repent. Sometimes children think they are sorry, and make a great parade, but forget it next day, and repeat the offence."
" Indeed, grandma, I don't mean ever to deceive or disobey again," said Dotty, with a great deal more than her usual humility.
"Ask your heavenly Father to help you keep that promise," said Mrs. Parlin, solemnly.
On to chapter eight
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