WASHING THE PIG.
AFTER her grandmother had left the room, Miss Dotty lay on the sofa for five minutes, thinking.
" Then it doesn't make any difference how much anybody cries, or how much they don't cry. If they are truly sorry, then they won't do it again; that's all."
Then she wondered if Jenny Vance had asked her step-mother's pardon. She thought she ought to talk to Jennie, and tell her how much happier she would feel if she would only try to be a good little girl.
" That child is growing naughty every day of her life," mused Miss Dimple, with a feeling of pity.
There was plenty of time to learn the morning's lesson by heart, for Dotty was obliged to keep very quiet all day. The thorn had been removed from her foot, but the healing must be a work of time; and more than that, her throat was quite sore.
It seemed as if Susy and Prudy would never come; and when at last their cheerful voices were heard ringing through the house, it was a welcome Bound indeed. They had brought some oranges for Katie and Dotty, with sundry other niceties, from Aunt Martha's.
" Did you know," said Dotty, " I haven't had any breakfast to-day ? I've lost one meal, and I never shall make it up as long as I live; for I couldn't eat two breakfasts, you know."
" I'll tell you what we'll do," said Aunt Louise, laughing; " if you'll wake me up at twelve o'clock some night, I'll rise and prepare a breakfast for yon, and that will make it all right."
Dotty looked at her auntie as if she did not know whether to take her in earnest or not
" I've been sick at home all day, Prudy," said she; ' and I s'pose you've been having a good time."
"Splendid! And lightning Dodger brought us home."
"Who's Lightning Dodger?"
"Why, Aunt Martha's horse; don't you know ? They call him that because they say he goes so fast the lightning don't have time to hit him."
"0, you don't believe it—do you?" cried Dotty; " I guess that's poetry."
" Little sister," replied Prudy, speaking in a low voice, " don't say 'poetry' ever again. There's something about it that's very queer I thought I knew how to make poetry, but they all laugh at me, even grandma."
Dotty looked greatly surprised.
" Yes," continued Prudy, with a trembling voice; "I can rhyme verses and jingle them; bat there's something else I don't put in, I s'pose, that belongs there. Some time I'll look in the big dictionary and see what it is."
" Is Prudy telling about the party ?" asked Busy, from the corner.
" What party ?" cried 'Dotty, dancing on her well foot.
" There, now, don't feel so happy, darling, for you can't go; its a family party, and Cousin Lydia wrote she hadn't room for the two youngest; that's you and Flyaway."
Dotty looked as if she had received a blow. True, she knew nothing about Couisn [sic] Lydia, who lived twenty miles away; but if that individual was going to have a party; of course Dotty wished to go to it.
" Uncle John is going, all his wife and children," said Prudy ; " and I don't see why Dotty can't."
Uncle John was Aunt Martha's husband; and " all his wife and children " meant only Aunt Martha and Lonnie.
" Cousin Lydia wanted to make me cry," exclaimed Dotty, her eyes shooting out sparks of displeasure; " she 'spected I'd cry, and that's why—Katie," added she, drawing the little one up to her, " Cousin Lydia won't let you come to her house."
" What for she won't?" cried Katie, looking defiant. " If I good would her put me in the closet? I don't like her tall, tenny rate."
This was the strongest expression of wrath Katie dared use; and when she said she did not like a person " tall tenny rate," it meant that she was very, very angry.
" Has Cousin Yiddy got some heart ?" asked she indignantly.
" Not a bit," replied Dotty, fiercely.
Mrs. Parlin now tried to explain. She said Mrs. Tenny did not intend any disrespect to the two youngest ones; but she really had no room for them, as her guests were to spend the night.
" The mistake she made was in asking Susy and Prudy," said Aunt Louise; " hut I suppose she was curious to see our little poetess."
Prudy blushed, and hid her face behind the curtain.
" Poor little sister," thought she, " how she feels !" For Dotty sat in the rocking- chair, as stiff as a jointed doll, looking as if she loved nobody and nobody loved her. Her beautiful eyes had ceased to shoot sparks of fire, and now appeared hard and frozen, like thick blue ice. In fact, a fit of the pouts was coming on very fast, and gentle Prudy dreaded it. She had been so happy in the thought of riding to Bloomingdale; could she give up that pleasure, and stay at home with Dotty ? Nothing less, she knew, would satisfy the child. All her life Prudy had been learning to think of the happiness of others before her own. She cast another glance at the still face.
"I'm not going to Bloomingdale," sighed she, behind the curtain.
But when she told Mrs. Parlin so, that night, her voice was very tremulous.
"Yon dear little girl," said grandma, giving her a hearty kiss; " you need not make any such resolve. Your sister Alice must learn to bear disappointments as well as you. You are going to Bloomingdale with us, my child; so bring your blue dress to me, and let me see if it is in order."
Though Prudy's offer to remain at home had been made in all good faith, and though she was really sorry to think of leaving Dotty alone, still I cannot say her heart did not bound with delight on being told she must go.
Thursday morning came clear and bright, and with it Miss Polly, downcast and sad, in a mournful brown bonnet, the front of which, as Prudy said, was " making a courtesy." Miss Polly was, however, in as good spirits as usual, and had come to keep house with Ruth, and help take care of the children for this day and the next.
Till the last minute Prudy and Dotty walked the piazza, their arms about each other's waist.
"I s'pose," said Dotty, sullenly, "when you are at that old Cousin Lydia's, having good times, you won't think anything about me and Katie, left here all alone."
" Why, little sister ! "
" Maybe," continued Dotty, " the ducks will hatch while you're gone. I saw the white hen flying over the fence with one of those eggs in her mouth."
"A piece of the shell ? "
"0, no, a whole egg, right in her bill," replied Dotty, who supposed she was telling the truth. " And you know those big straw- berries that cost a cent apiece, Prudy; you'll be sorry you couldn't be here to help eat 'em in cream."
Perhaps Dotty hoped, even at this last moment, that Prudy would be induced to stay at home. If so, she was doomed to be disappointed.
" Well," said Prudy, " I'm glad you'll have such nice times, Dotty."
" 0, it won't be nice at all. Something will happen; now you see if it don't," said Dotty, determined to be miserable.
After the two carriages, with the horses " Deacon " and " Judge," had driven off, and grandpa had given his last warning about fire, and Horace and the girls had waved their handkerchiefs for the last time, Dotty proceeded to the kitchen to see if she could find anything wherewith to make herself unhappy. Ruth stood by the flour-board kneading bread, and cutting it with a chop- ping-knife in a brisk, lively way. Polly sat by the stove sighing and rubbing silver.
"Dear me, child, what are you doing with my starch ? " said Ruth as she saw
Dotty with the bowl at her lips, and a sticky stream tickling down her apron.
" Starch ? " cried Dotty, in disgust; " and you never told me, Ruthie! How did I Know it wasn't arrow-root ? "
" You see, Polly," said Ruth in a discouraged tone, "just what we are to expect from these children to-day. Next thing we know, that morsel of a Katie will be running away. They are enough to try the patience of Job when they both of them set oat to see what theycan do. And if Jennie Vance comes, the house will be turned upside down in five minutes. "
Ruth might have known better than to complain to Polly, who always had some- thing in her own experience which was worse than anybody else had known.
" We all have our trials," sighed that sorrowful woman; " if it isn't children, it's aches and pains. Now, for my part, I've been troubled for ten years with—"
Here followed a list of diseases. Ruth shut her lips together, resolved to say no- thing more about her own trials
"They don't either of them like me." thought Dotty. " I'm going off in the barn, and perhaps they'll think I'm dead. Katie," said she, sternly, " I'm going off somewhere, and you mustn't try to find me."
Then there was some one else who felt quite alone in the world, and that was little Katie. Her cousin had pushed her one side as if she was of no value. Katie was a very little child, bat she was old enough to feel aggrieved. She went into the parlor, and threw herself face downwards on the sofa, thinking.
"Somebody leave me alone. 0, dear! Some naughty folks don't think I'm any gooder than a baby."
Then the poor little thing ran out to "breve the fleshy air." No, she wasn't quite alone in the world after all, for there was Charlie Gray at the gate.
"Is um you?" she cried gleefully.
Charlie said it was.
"You didn't came to see big folks—did you ? You camed to see Katie. I love you deely."
Then she tried to kiss him; but Charlie drew away.
" 0, is your face sore ?" asked the little girl.
By this time they had got as far as the seat in the trees, and Charlie had found his tongue.
"I didn't come thee you," said he. "I came thee your grandpa'th pig."
" 0," said Katie, perfectly satisfied.
Off they started for the pig-pen.
" I'm glad Dotty Dimble goed away," said Katie, swinging Charlie's hand; " her's stinchy and foolidge."
" Good girlth don't thay tho," said sweet little Charlie rather shocked.
"Well, I do; stinchy and foolidge!" repeated Katie, as severely as if she had known what the words meant.
The pig was not expecting any visitors, and when he found that Charlie and Katie had brought him nothing to eat, he did not seem very glad to see them.
"How you do, piggy?" said Katie, swinging a stick through the opening by the trough.
Piggy ran away, looking very unamiable; and then he came back again, rolling his little eyes, and grunting sulkily.
"He don't look pleathant," said Charlie.
"No," replied Katie, archly; " I guess um don't want to be kissed."
Piggy winked his pink eyes, as if to say, " Ah, but I do."
"Does you?" said Katie, kindly, "then I'll frow you one; " and she did it from the tips of her clean fingers.
"But piggy's velly dirty," said she, wiping her lips on her apron.
"Don't they wath him?" said Charlie; " they wath theep."
" Um isn't a sheep," returned Katie; " um's a pig."
" But your gwampa could wath him."
" No, gampa couldn't; gampa's deaf. I'll tell Ruthie, and Ruthie 'll wash him with the toof-brush."
" I with thee would," sighed Charlie; "thee ought to. O ho !"he added, a bright thought striking him; " you got a mop ?"
" A mop ?"
"Yes; a bwoom 'thont any bwoom on it; only wags."
Katie knew what he meant in a minute; and soon her hair was flying in the wind, as she ran into the house for her handled mop. She looked first in the parlor, and then in the front hall; but at last she found it in the wash-room. She was very sly about it, for she was not cure Ruthie would approve of this kind of housework. Then Charlie tugged out a pail of water, and dipped, in the mop; and between them both they thrust it through the opening of the pen, upon piggy's back. But the dirty creature did not love clean water. When he felt the mop coming down, he thought the sky was falling, and ran as fast as Chicken Little frightened by the rose-leaf.
It was of no use. The mop was wilful, and fell into the trough; and there it staid, though the children spent the rest of the forenoon in vain attempts to hook it out
When Ruthie went that noon to feed the pig, she found the trough choked with a mop, a hoe, a shovel, and several clothes-pins. She did not stop to inquire into the matter, hut took the articles out, one by one, saying to herself, with a smile,—
" Some of that baby's work. I couldn't think what had become of my mop; she's enough to try the patience of Job. And now," added Ruth, throwing her apron over her head, " I may as well look up Miss Dimple. There's not a better child in the world than she is when she pleases; but deary me, when things do go wrong! "
Just then a wagon drove up to the gate, and Ruth said, as she saw a burly figure alight from it,—
" Why, that can't be Uncle Seth ? I'm afraid something has happened at our house! "
A DARK DAY.
MEANWHILE Dotty was lying on the hay in the barn scaffold. It is very easy to be unhappy when we particularly try to be so; and Dotty had arrived at the point of almost believing that she almost wished she was actually dead.
And, to add to her gloom, a fierce-looking man, with a long horse-whip in his hand, came and peeped in at the barn door, and screamed to Dotty in a hoarse voice that " Ruth Dillon wanted her right off, and none of her dilly-dallying."
And then, on going into the house what
should she learn but that this man had come to take Ruth home, because her mother was sick. The children-so Ruth said-must stay with Polly and be little ladies.
0, dear, it was as lonesome as a line-storm, after lively Ruth had gone away. Dotty began to think she liked her brisk little scoldings, after all.
"Does you feel so bad?" said little Flyaway, gazing on her sober cousin with pity; "your mouth looks just this way;" and, putting up both hands, she drew down her own little lips at the corners.
"Yes, I feel bad," said Dotty. "You needn't talk to me; where's your orange ? "
' ' I squoze it," replied Flyaway; " and falled it down my froat. But I didn't had enough. If you pees, um, give me some more."
" Why, what an idea! " said Dotty, laughing.
But when she began to divide her own orange into sections, Katie looked on expectantly, knowing she should have a share. Dotty ate two quarters, gave one to Katie, and reserved the fourth for Polly. She longed to eat this last morsel herself, but Polly had praised her once for giving away some toys, and she wished to hear her say again, " Why, what a generous little girl !"
But when she smilingly offered the bite, what was her surprise to hear Polly say in an indifferent tone, -
"Well, well, child, you needn't have saved such a tiny piece for me; it doesn't amount to anything!"
At the same time she ate the whole at a mouthful. Dotty felt very much irritated. Did Miss Polly think oranges grew on bushes ? What was the use to be generous if people wouldn't say " thank you?"
" I don't feel much better than I did when I gave the beggar my money. But I didn't do my ' alms before men' this time, though," said she, looking at her little fat arms and wondering what her grandmother meant by talking of her giving them away.
"I s'pose if's my fingers that grow on the ends of my arms, and that's what I give with," she concluded.
On the whole she was passing a dismal day. She had been told that she must not go away; and it happened that nobody came, not even Jennie Vance.
"If Prudy had been left alone, all the girls in town would have come to see her," thought the forlorn Miss Dimple, putting a string round one of her front teeth, and trying to pull it out by way of amusement.
" 0, dear, I can't move my tooth one inch. If I could get it out, and put my tongue in the hole, then there'd be a gold one come. But I can't. 0, dear!"
" Where is your little cousin ?" said Miss Polly, coming into the room with her knitting in her hand. " I thought she was with you: I don't wonder they call her Flyaway."
"I don't know where she is, I'm sure, Miss Polly. Won't you please pull my tooth ! And do you 'spose I can keep my tongue out of the hole ?"
" Why, Dotty, I thought you were going to take care of that child," said Miss Polly, dropping her knitting without getting around to the seam-needle, and walking away faster than her usual slow pace.
" There's nothing so bad for me as worry of mind: I shall be sick as sure as this world!"
Dotty knew she had been selfish and careless. She not only felt ashamed of herself, but also very much afraid that some- thing dreadful had happened to Katie, in which case she would be greatly to blame. She anxiously joined in the search for the missing child. I am sure you would never guess where she was found. In the watering trough! Not drowned, because the water was not deep enough !
" I was trying to srim," said she, as they drew her out; " and THAT'S what is it."
Even Miss Polly smiled at the dripping little figure with hair clinging close to its bead; but Flyaway looked very solemn.
"It makes me povokin'," said she, knitting her brows, " to have you laugh at me!"
" It would look well in you, Dotty," said Miss Polly," [sic] " to pay more attention to this baby, and let your teeth alone."
Dotty twisted a lock of her front hair, and said nothing; but she remembered her grandmother's last words,-"Alice, I depend upon you to amuse your little cousin, as your Aunt Maria told you. You know you can make her very happy when you please."
" Seems to me," thought Dotty, " that baby might grow faster and have more sense. I never got into a watering-trough in my life!-Why, how dark it is! Hark!" said she, aloud; "what is that rattling against the windows?"
For she heard
"the driving hail
Upon the window beat with icy flail."
"That is hail," replied Polly-"frozen drops of rain."
" Why Miss Polly," said Dotty, giving a fierce twitch at her tooth, " rain can't freeze the least speck in the summer. You don't mean to tell a wrong story, but you've made a mistake."
"Her's made a 'stake," said Katie.
" Now, look, Polly, it's stones ! They're pattering, clickety-click, all over the yard. Dear, dear! The grass will look just like the gravel-path, and the windows will crack in two."
" Never you mind," said Polly, knitting as usual; " if it does any harm, 'twill only kill a few chickens."
Upon this there was another wail; for next to ducks Dotty loved chickens. But lo! before her tears had rolled down to meet her dimples, the patter of hail was over.
" Come and see the rainbow," said Polly, from the door-stone.
It was a glorious sight, an arch of varied splendor resting against the blue sky.
" That isn't a rainbow," said Dotty; " it's a hail-bow!"
" What a big, big, big bubbil !" shouted Katie.
" She thinks somebody is blowing all that out of soapsuds, I s'pose," said Dotty; " I guess 'twould take a giant with a 'normous pipe-don't you, Polly ?"
" There, now," said Miss Polly, " I just want you to hold some of this hail in your hand. What do you call that but ice ?"
" So it is," said Dotty; " cold lumps of frozen ice, as true as this world."
"And not stones," returned Polly. "Now you won't think next time you know so much better than older people - will you?"
" But I don't see, Miss Polly, how it got here from Greenland; I don't, now honest."
" I didn't say anything about Greenland, child. I said it was rain, and it froze in the air coming down ; and so it did."
" Did it ? Why, you know a great deal -don't you. Miss Polly ? Did you ever go to school ?"
Polly sighed dismally.
" 0, yes, I went now and then a day. I was what is called a ' bound girl.' I didn't have nice, easy times, like you little ones. You have no idea of my hardships. It was delve and dig from sunrise to sunset."
*' Why, what a naughty mother to make you dig! Did you have a ladies' hoe ?"
" My mother died, Dotty, when I was a creeping baby. The woman who took me to bring up was a hard-faced woman. She made me work like a slave."
" Did she ? But by and by you grew up, Miss Polly, and, when you had a husband, he didn't make you a dog-did he ?"
" I never had a husband or anybody else to take care of me," said Polly. " Come, children, we must go into the house."
They all three entered the parlor, and Miss Whiting fastened the window tightly to exclude the air, for it was one of her afflictions that she was " easy to take cold."
" I don't see," queried Dotty, " why your husband didn't marry you. I should have thought he would."
" He didn't want to, I suppose," said Polly, grimly.
Dotty fell into a brown study. It was certainly very unkind in some man that he hadn't married Miss Polly and taken care of her, so she need not have wandered around the world with a double-covered basket and a snuff-box. It was a great pity; still Dotty could not see that just now it had anything to do with Polly's forgetting to set the table.
"I'm so hungry," said she; "isn't it 'most supper time ? "
" It's only five ; but you appear to be so lonesome that I'll make a fire this minute and put on the tea-kettle," replied the kind-hearted Polly. "What does your grandmother generally have for supper ? "
" Cake sometimes," answered Dotty, her eyes brightening; " and tarts."
"And perjerves," added Katie; "and- and-yice puddin'.'
" She keeps the cake in a stone jar," said Dotty, eagerly; " and the strawberries are down cellar in a glass dish-cost a cent apiece."
" The slips they grew from cost a cent apiece; that is what you mean," said Polly; " you hear things rather hap-hazard sometimes, Dotty, and you ought to be more careful."
The tea-kettle was soon singing on the stove, and Dotty forgot her peculiar trials when she saw the table covered with dainties. She was not sure grandma would have approved of the cake and tarts, but they were certainly very nice, and it was a pleasure to see how Polly enjoyed them. Dotty presumed she bad never had such things when she lived with the "hard-faced woman."
" It wasn't everywhere," she said, " that she saw such thick cream as rose to the tops of Mrs. Parlin's pans."
She poured it freely over the strawberries and into her own tea, which it made so delicious that she drank three cups. Then after supper she seemed to feel quite cheery for her, and, taking Katie in her arms, rocked her to sleep to the tune of " China," which is not very lively music, it must be confessed.
" Aunt 'Ria puts her to bed awake," said Dotty. " She's going to sleep in my bed to-night."
" Very well," said Polly, " but you will sleep with me."
"Why, Miss Polly! what if Katie should wake up ?"
" She won't be likely to; but I can't help it if she does. I may have the nightmare in the night."
" What is the nightmare ? "
" It is something perfectly dreadful, child ! I sincerely hope you'll never know by sad experience. It's the most like dying of any feeling I ever had in my life. I can't move a finger, but if I don't move it's sure death; and somebody has to shake me to bring me out of it."
Dotty turned pale.
" Miss Polly, 0, please, I'd rather sleep with Katie !"
" But how would you feel to have me die in the night ?"
" 0, dear, dear, dear," cried Dotty; " let me go for the doctor this minute!"
" Why, child, I haven't got it now, and perhaps I shan't have it at all ; but if I do, I shall groan, and that's the way you will know."
Dotty ran into the shed, threw her apron, still sticky with starch, over her head, and screamed at the wood-pile.
"0, if grandma were only at home, or Ruth, or Abner!"
"Why, what's the matter, little Goody-Two-Shoes?" said a manly voice. Abner had just come from his day's work in the meadow.
"Polly's here," gasped Dotty. "She's afraid she's going to die in the night, and she wants me to shake her."
Abner leaned against a beam and laughed heartily.
" Never you fear, little one! I have heard that story about Polly's dying in the night ever since I can remember; and she hasn't died yet. You just say your prayers, dear, and go to sleep like a good little girl, and that's the last you'll know about it till morning."
So saying, he caught Dotty by the shoulders, and tossed her up to the rafters. The child's spirits rose at once. It was such a comfort to have that strong Abner in the house in case of accidents.
She said her prayers more earnestly than usual, but it was nearly five minutes before she fell asleep. The last thing she heard was Miss Polly singing a very mournful hymn through her nose; and, while she was wondering why it should keep people alive to shake them, she passed into dreamland. Very little good would such a heavy sleeper have done if Miss Polly had had an ill turn. It was Polly who was obliged to shake Dotty, and that rather roughly, before she could rouse her.
"Where am I? Who is it?" said she. " 0, Miss Polly, are you dead?"
" Hush, child; don't speak so loud, or you'll wake Abner. Little Katie is sick, and I want you to stay with her while I go down stairs and light a fire.." [sic]
THE END OF THE WORLD.
Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her
19th-Century Girls' Series website;
please do not use on other sites without permission
DOTTY shuddered. It seemed so unearthly and horrible to be awake at night; to see a lamp burning, and Katie looking so very white. It was the strawberries which had made her ill, as Miss Polly confessed. When that good but ignorant woman had gone down stairs, Dotty had much ado to keep from screaming outright.
" I thought somebody would die," said she to herself; " but I didn't s'pose it would be Katie. 0, Katie, Katie Clifford ! you're the cunningist child. We can't have you die!" "Somebody leave me alone," moaned Katie; " and 'twas you'n the Polly woman. I don't love anybody in this world ! "
" Darling! I didn't mean to," said Dotty, " now honest. Polly said, ' 0, dear! she was going to die '; but I might have known she wouldn't. She told a wrong story-I mean she made a mistake."
"You was naughty," said Katie, "velly naughty; but you didn't mean to."
" No, Katie; 'twas Polly that was naughty."
"The krilt got off o' me," said Katie, picking at the tufted coverlet; " and then I was sick."
" Miss Polly said it was the strawberries, darling; and the cream poured over them so thick."
" And getting into the watering-trough," added Dotty to herself, uneasily.
" Yes," sighed Katie; " 'twas the stawbollies. Did I ask for the stawbollies? No, but the Polly woman gave 'em to me. I didn't want 'em; I wanted to be well."
After two weary hours, which seemed as long as days almost, poor little Katie was easier, and fell asleep. Dotty, who had taken several naps in her chair, would now have gone to bed again; but Miss Polly was dressed, and said she could not close her eyes if she tried; she meant to go down stairs to her knitting. Dotty was afraid to stay alone. She was always a little timid, and to-night her nerves had been considerably tried. The lamp cast frightful shadows, and the newly-risen moon shone through the white curtains with ghostly light. She could "preach" to Jennie Vance about God's " holding the whole world in his arms;" but she could not always remember it herself. She put on a white wrapper of Susy's, and, looking like a wimpled nun, followed Polly down stairs. If she thought of wee Katie at all, she thought there were good angels in the room to guard her; but she could not trust herself with them; she would rather keep close to Polly.
" I think," whispered Polly, unlocking the back door and looking out at the sky, " it must be very near morning; but the clocks have both run down, and I can only guess at the time by my feelings."
Then Polly made a brisk fire in the stove, and set the tea-kettle to humming.
" Now I will get the milk-pail," said she, " and you may put on the tea-pot. I am faint for want of something to drink."
It was one of Polly's peculiarities that she always talked to children as if they had as much judgment as grown people. Dotty did not know where to look for any tea-pot except the very best one, which stood on a shelf in the china closet; that she brought and set on the stove, empty.
"Let me go too, let me go too!" cried she, as Polly was walking out with the milk-pails.
The daisies, with "their little lamps of dew," seemed still asleep, and so did all the " red-monthed flowers" in the garden. The cows looked up with languid surprise at eight of their visitors, but offered no objections to being milked. Dotty gave one hasty peep at the white hen sitting on the venerable duck's eggs; but the hen seemed offended. Dotty ran away, and took a survey of the " green gloom " of the trees, in the midst of which was suspended the swing, looking now as melancholy as a gallows.
"0, what a dreadful night this is!" thought the child, standing bolt upright, lest she should fall asleep. " Where's the sun ? He hasn't taken off his red silk night-cap. He hasn't got back from China yet. Only think,-if he shouldn't come back at all! I heard somebody say, the other day, the world was coming to an end. Miss Polly," said she, aloud, re-entering the barn, " isn't this the longest night you ever saw in all the days of your life ?"
" Yes, it has been considerable long, I am free to confess," replied Polly, who thought she had had a very hard time keeping house, as was indeed the truth.
" Do you s'pose, Miss Polly, that some morning the sun won't rise any more ?"
" 0, yes," replied Miss Polly, who was always ready with a hymn :-
" ' God reigns above,-he reigns alone;
Systems burn out. and leave His throne.'
Why, yes, dear; the world will certainly come to an end one of these days; and then the sun won't rise, of course; there won't be any sun."
And Miss Polly began to hum one of her sorrowful tunes, beating time with the two streams of milk which dripped mournfully into the pail.
" She is afraid this is the end of the world," thought Dotty, with a throbbing heart, and a stifling sensation at the throat; " she don't believe the sun is ever going to rise any more."
The music suddenly ceased.
" These are very poor cows," said Polly, in a reflective tone; " or else they don't give down their milk. I understood you to say, Dotty, that Ruth milked very early."
" If everything's coming to an end, it's no wonder the cows act so," said Dotty, to herself, but she dared not say it aloud. They went into the house, the trail of Susy's long wrapper following after little Dotty Dimple like the closing feet in one of Polly's long-metre verses. Still the moon shone with the same white, ghostly light, and the sun continued to keep away.
" This beats all," said Polly, mournfully; as she washed her hands, strained the milk, and set the pans away. "If I judged by my feelings, I should say it must be six o'clock, or very near it. At any rate, I'm going to have a cup of tea. What's this smell ?"
On the stove stood a pool of something which looked like liquid silver, and proved to be the remains of the best tea-pot. At any other time Dotty would have felt very sorry; but now the accident seemed a mere trifle, when compared with the staying away of the sun. Who could tell "if ever morn should rise?"
Even Miss Polly, with her constitutional gloom, was not just now so miserable as Dotty, and never dreamed that it was anything but sleepiness which made the little girl so sober. Dotty was not a child who could tell all the thoughts which troubled her youthful brain.
" Well, well," said Polly, giving another inquiring glance at the sky; " not a streak of daylight yet! I'll tell you what it is, Dotty; we might as well go to bed."
But hark! As she spoke there was a loud report as of a pistol. It seemed to come from the cellar.
Miss Polly clapped both hands to her ears. Dotty shrieked, and hid her face in her lap, and shrieked again.
" It has come ! It has come !" cried she, -meaning the end of the world,-and stopped her ears.
''What, what, what!" whispered Polly, in sore affright, walking back and forth, and taking snuff as she went. It was certainly startling to hear a pistol go off so unexpectedly, at that solemn hour, under one's very roof. Polly naturally thought first of housebreakers. She had barred and double-barred every door and window; but now she remembered with dreadful remorse she had not fastened the outside cellar door. No doubt it had been left open, and burglars had got into the cellar. 0, what a responsibility had been put upon her! and why hadn't somebody particularly warned her to attend to that door ? Perhaps the burglars were stealing pork. But they would not have fired a pistol at the barrel-would they ? 0, no; they were trying to blow up the house !
Polly took three pinches of snuff, one after the other, as fast as she could, slipped off her shoes, went to the kitchen window, and peeped through the blinds. Not much to be seen but moonlight, and the deep shadows of the ragged trees.
Another pistol-shot; then another. The sound came from that part of the cellar called the soap-room, directly under Polly's feet.
She did not wait for further warning. Every moment was precious. She meant to save what lives she could, for Polly was strictly conscientious. She took the nearly frantic Dotty into the china closet, dragging her like a sack of meal, and turned the key.
" Stay there, child, if you know when you're well off," whispered she through the keyhole. " The house is blowing up. I'm going to call Abner."
In her consternation Polly had not reflected that Dotty was as likely to be blown up in the closet as anywhere else. The unfortunate little girl screamed and struggled in her prison in vain. There was no way of escape, Night of horrors! As far as she was concerned, there were two ends to the world, and they were coming right together. Her agony is not to be described.
Abner came very soon; but it seemed an age. Being a brave man who had served three months in the army, he had the courage to walk down cellar and face the enemy.
He found nothing worse, however, than a few bottles of beer which had blown off their own heads. He brought them up in his arms.
" Here," said he, " are your burglars, with their throats cut from ear to ear."
" Well, if I ever bad such a fright in all the days of my life!" cried Polly, staring at the bottles, and catching her breath.
Abner poured some of the beer into a goblet, and drank to the health of Miss Dimple, who climbed upon his knee, and felt as if the world had suddenly stopped coming to an end; and she was greatly relieved.
" But who fired the guns ?" said she, not understanding yet what it all meant.
" It was only the beer coming out to get the air," said Abner, taking another glass. "You couldn't expect beer with the spirit of a hop in it to stay bottled up with a stopper in!"
"I never had such queer feelings," exclaimed Polly, rolling up her eyes; " and now it's all over, I feel as if I was going to faint away."
" I wouldn't advise you to," said Abner, coolly. " The enemy is routed, and victory is ours. Drink a little beer, Polly; it will revive your spirits. But what is the object, may I ask, of your prowling about the house with this poor little girl at this hour of night?"
" Why, what time is it? I thought by my feelings it must have been daybreak long enough ago."
It was Abner's private opinion that Polly would do well to think less of her " feelings " now and always; but he only said, consulting his watch,-
"It's just one o'clock, ladies; time for respectable people to be in bed."
Polly said she had never felt such surprise before in her life. She was afraid she should be sick; for sitting up in the night was always too much for her.
Dotty said her prayers over again, and fell into a sleep " sweeter than a nest of nightingales." And with her last waking thought she thanked God the round red sun was not worn out yet, and the world had not come to an end.
WHEN the family came home, Miss Polly had a most doleful story to tell about Katie's experiment in the watering-trough, the child's illness, the explosion of the beer, and her own fright and "dreadful feelings."
Mrs. Parlin regretted the loss of the teapot; Miss Louise said she had heard of "witches making tea," and perhaps this was the way they did it.
In return for Miss Whiting's laborious services in taking care of the children, Mrs. Parlin gave her various articles of food to carry home; for Polly had one room in Mr. Grant's house, which she was accustomed to call her home, though she did not stay there very much. Polly sighed her gratitude, put on her dark bonnet, and said, as she went away,-
" Now, Mrs. Parlin, if it should so happen that you should all go away again, don't fail to ask me to come and keep house. You have always been so kind to me that I feel it a privilege to do any such little thing for you."
But in her heart poor Polly thought it was anything but a "little thing," and it cost her a great effort to promise to undertake it again. Mrs. Parlin thanked Miss Polly very politely; but for her part she thought privately it would be a long while before they would, any of them, be willing to trust such a nervous person with the care of the children a second time.
" Good by, all," said Polly, going off with her double-covered basket on her arm ; " remember me to Margaret when you write."
" What a funny thing to say !" remarked Prudy; "how can we remember people to anybody, or forget them to anybody either ?"
" 0, it was awful," said Dotty, linking arms with Prudy and walking her off to the seat in the trees. "Miss Polly scared me so I don't believe I shall ever be afraid of lightning again!"
Little Flyaway ran after them, holding her nipperkin of milk close to her bosom, to keep off the flies, as she thought.
"I was defful sick," said she; "and did I ask the Polly woman for the stawbollies ? No, she was naughty; I didn't want 'em. She gived me stawbollies and stawbollies."
Prudy had to hear over and over again the trials which both the children had suffered.
She had had a delightful time herself, as she always did have, wherever she was. She told Dotty and Flyaway of several interesting events which had happened; but, best of all, she had brought them a quantity of beautiful shells, which they were to divide with Ruthie. The brisk Ruth had come back again as energetic as ever. It proved that her mother had not been so very ill, after all.
"Bless that Prudy's little white heart," said she, kissing her on both cheeks; " she never forgets anybody but herself."
Ruthie did not praise children as a general thing; but she loved Prudy in spite of herself.
Aunt Maria had brought Dotty a beautiful doll. "Because," said she, "I knew you would try to take good care of my little Katie."
" 0, thank you ever so much, Aunt 'Ria," cried Dotty, handing the dolly at once to Prudy to be admired. But next minute her conscience pricked her. She had no right to a present. True, Katie ought to have known better than to try to swim; still, as Dotty acknowledged,-
"I needn't have felt so sober, I s'pose, and then I should have taken care of her."
Dotty was learning to pay heed to these little pricks of conscience. Slowly and sadly she walked back to her Aunt Maria, who was standing on the piazza training the clematis.
" I s'pose, auntie, you thought I took care of the baby; but I didn't. I let her swim. Miss Polly said she had the 'blues,' and so did I."
Aunt Maria smiled. " Very well," said she; " then keep the doll as a recompense for the suffering you have endured. I hope you will not see two such gloomy days again during the summer."
" 0, you darling auntie ! May I keep the dolly?"
There was no sting now to mar Dotty's pleasure in her new possession. Her troubles seemed to be over; life was blossoming into beauty once more.
" Good news! Good news ! " she cried, rushing into the house, her head, with its multitude of curl-papers, looking like a huge corn-ball. " Two duckies have pecked out!"
" You don't say so !" said Susy, coolly. " High time, I should think !"
So thought the patient and astonished old hen, who had been wondering every day for a week if this wasn't an uncommonly " backward season." But at last the eggs, like riches, had taken to themselves wings.
The soft, speckled creatures found plenty of admiring friends to welcome them as they tried their first " peep " at the world. They did not see much of the world, however, for some time, it must be confessed, on account of the corn-meal dough which the children sprinkled into their eyes.
" We won't let yon starve, our ony dony Ducky Daddleses," said Dotty.
" Our deenty doiny Diddleses," said Katie after her, running hither and thither like a squirrel.
It was a time of great satisfaction. Dotty regretted that Jennie Vance had gone to Boston, for it would have been pleasant to see Jennie envious. What were gold rings compared to ducklings? The blunt little beaks pecked out very fast. As soon as they were all out, except the two eggs which were addled, the step-mother hen gathered her family together and went to house-keeping, gipsy fashion, in the back yard. She clucked to the ducklings, and they followed her, their little feet going pat, pat, on the soft grass. A nice time they had, no doubt, eating picked-up dinners, with now and then a banquet of corn-meal dough. There were eleven ducklings, five for Dotty, five for Prudy, and one for Katie, the little girl with flying hair.
After they had been alive two days, Prudy thought they ought to have a bath; so she took the large iron pan which Ruth used for baking johnny-cakes, filled it with water, put the tiny creatures in, and bade them " swim," to Madam Biddy's great alarm. They did it well, though they were as badly crowded as the five and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
Katie wished the Charlie boy to see the ducklings, which were "velly difrunt from a piggie; " but dear Charlie was very ill, and when the children went with the milk, they were not allowed to see him.
I may as well give you here the history of the ducklings.
The next morning after their "swim" there were only ten left, and Dotty's lamentations could be heard all over the house. It was Katie's odd one, she said, that was gone, the one with a black picture on his back that looked like a clover. Next morning there were nine; and on the tenth day there was but one solitary duckling left to pipe out his sorrows all alone. The anguish of the children was painful to be behold. Dotty's grief affected her somewhat like the jumping toothache. Who could have carried away those dear, dear little duckies ?
Who indeed? About this time the unprincipled old cat was found in the cellar, wiping her lips and purring over a little soft, speckled down.
" It was you that did it, was it, you wicked mizzable kitty ? " burst forth the bereaved Dotty behind the swinging broomstick. " I must strike you with the soft end. I will! I will! If I'd known before that you'd eat live duckies! 0, pussy, pussy, when I've given you my own little bones on a plate with gravy! "
"Whose little bones did you say, my dear! " asked Abner.
" Chickens and turkeys, and so forth ! " replied Dotty, dancing about in her rage.
"Why, dear little damsel, do I really understand you to say you eat chickens? Then you are as bad as the cat."
" Why, Abner ! "
" And worse, for you have no claws."
"No-have you? If you had, I should conclude they had been made to tear little birds and mice in pieces."
"Is that what kitty's claws were made for?'
"So I am told. The truth is, she behaves much better for a cat than you do for a little girl."
Dotty scowled at her feet and patted them with the broom.
" And better than I do for a young man."
" But she ate my duckies-so there! "
"And Prudy's too," said Abner. "But Prudy doesn't beat her for it. It isn't pleasant to see nice little girls show so much temper, Dotty. Now I'm going to tell you something; all those ducklings were a little crazy, and it didn't make much difference what became of them."
" Crazy ?"
" Yes, their minds were not properly balanced. There's one left, I believe. I'm going to make a lunatic asylum for him, and put him in this very day."
Dotty calmed herself and watched Abner as he made a pen with high stakes, and set in one corner of it a pan. of water for swimming purposes.
The " speckling," as she called him, was Dotty's own; and when he was put into this insane hospital, all safe from the cat, his little mistress was in a measure consoled.
" I am sorry he is crazy," said she; "but I s'pose the hen didn't hatch him well. Maybe he'll get his senses by and by."
All this while dear little Charlie Gray was very ill. But I will tell you more about him in another chapter.
"THE CHARLIE BOY."
DOTTY heard of Charlie's illness every day; but, like all young children, she thought very little about it. Some one said he was " as white as his pillow." Dotty was amazed, for she had never seen any one as white as that. Then she heard her grandmother say she was " afraid Charlie would die."
" Die ?" It sounded to Dotty like a word heard in a dream. She only knew that people must die before they went to heaven, and when they died they were very, very cold.
One night, when she went with the milk, Mrs. Gray was weeping. She asked Dotty if she would like to see little Charlie " once more."
Dotty entered the darkened room with a strange feeling of awe. There he lay, so still she hardly dared to breathe. Darling, darling Charlie !
But when she had touched the little hot hand and kissed the sweet wasted face, her heart grew lighter. What had made them think he was going to heaven ? He did not look any more like an angel now than he had always looked. His face was not as white as the pillow; no, indeed; and he was not cold; his lips were warmer than hers.
"He used to have three chins once," whispered Dotty, "darling Charlie!"
" You love my little Charlie-don't you, darling?" said Mrs. Gray; and then she clasped Dotty in her arms and sobbed over her; but Charlie did not seem to notice it.
"Yes, 'm, I do love him," said Dotty; " Prudy says he's the cunningest boy there is in this town."
And then she softly kissed Mrs. Gray's cheek, though she had never kissed her before, and did not know why she was doing it now.
" When he gets well, won't you let him come to our house and play croquet ? We play it now with marbles, a teenty-tonty game, and the wickets are made of hairpins spread out wide."
Dotty spoke very low, and Charlie did not pay the least attention; but Mrs. Gray sobbed still more, and held Dotty closer in her arms, saying,-
"Don't talk so, dear!"
"How sorry you do feel to have him so sick! He won't grow up, I s'pose, if he can't play. When he stays in bed it makes him grow littler and littler! Why, how little his neck is! It looks like a dandelion stem! "
"Don't, don't, dear child ! Every word you say strikes right to my heart! "
Dotty looked up in Mrs. Gray's face with surprise. What had she said that was wrong? Perhaps she ought not to have talked about dandelions; she would not do it again.
" Dotty," said Mrs. Gray, looking sorrowfully towards the bed, " when fathers and mothers are not very wise, and do not know very well how to take proper care of their families, sometimes the Saviour calls their little children away."
Dotty knew what she meant now. She meant that Charlie was really going to heaven.
" 0, Mrs. Gray," said she, "how Prudy and I will feel !" She would have said more, but was afraid she should make another mistake.
She kissed the unconscious little sufferer good by, though still it all seemed like a dream. Was this the same boy who had tried to wash the piggy ? The same who had meal-bags tied to his feet ?
" A long kiss is a heart-kiss," she repeated to herself; and somehow she wondered if Charlie couldn't take it to heaven with him. Then she walked home all alone with her thoughts.
Next day they told her Charlie was dead. Dotty sat on the sofa for a long time without saying a word; then she went into the nursery, and staid by herself for an hour or two. When she returned she had her new doll in her arms, dressed in black. She wore a strip of black crape about her own neck, and had caught Flyaway long enough to put one upon her arm, as well as upon the knobs of the nursery doors.
"Prudy," said she, "it is polite to do so when we lose people we love. Charlie was my friend and Katie's friend, and we shall treat him with the respect of a friend."
"' Yes," said Katie, skipping after a fly, " spec of a fend."
Dotty had never looked on death.
" You musn't be frightened, little sister," said Prudy, as they walked hand in hand to Mrs. Gray's, behind the rest of their own family, on the day of the funeral. " Charlie is just as cold as marble, lying in a casket; but he doesn't know it. The part of him that knows is in a beautiful world where we can't see him."
"Why can't we see him?" said Dotty, peering anxiously into the sky.
" I don't know exactly why," replied Prudy, " but Grandma Read says God doesn't wish it. And He has put a seal over our eyes, so an angel could stand right before us, and we shouldn't know it."
" Ah ! " said Dotty in a low voice; and though she could see nothing, it seemed to her the air was full of angels.
" But I think likely Charlie can see us, Dotty, for the seal has been taken off his eyes. 0, it is beautiful to be dead! "
After this Dotty was not at all afraid when she touched the cold face in the casket, for she knew Charlie was not there.
" It is beautiful to be dead! " said she next day to Katie. " Charlie is very glad of it."
" Yes, he's in the ground-up,-in heaven ! " said Katie in a dreamy way; for, in her small mind, she believed heaven was a place called " in the ground-up," and that was all she cared about it.
" Yes, Charlie is in the ground," replied Dotty, "but he doesn't know it. That dog Pincher was put in the ground ; but I think likely he knew it, for his soul wasn't in heaven; and he hadn't any soul, not a real one."
"Well," said Katie, dancing out at the door, "when will the Charlie boy come back? I want um play."
"Why, Katie," said Dotty, in a tone of reproof, "haven't I told you he is all dead?"
"Well, YOU isn't dead-is you ? Less us go an' swing ! "
The little girls ran out to the trees, and soon forgot all about their old playmate. But, after this, whenever any one spoke of Charlie, Katie thought,-
" The Charlie boy's in the ground-up,- in heaven," and Dotty thought,-
" 0, it is beautiful to be dead ! "
For the present, we will leave them swinging under the tree at Grandma Parlin's; but if we see Miss Dimple again, she will have been spirited away to her own mother's home in the city of Portland.
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