Note: Sophie May's famous series characters Prudy and Susy Parlin and Dotty Dimple made their first appearance in short stories for periodicals.
"Dotty's Beads and Tea," from The Little Pilgrim in early 1866, is one such example.
One morning at the breakfast table, after the silent blessing had been asked, Dotty Dimple softly whispered "Amen." Grandma Read did not hear it. She was still looking down upon her plate with a gentle smile, as she thought how merciful God had been through all the years of her life.
The table-cloth, as pure as snow, was spread with plenty of excellent food, and all around the table were ranged happy morning faces. About Susy's head was a long yellow ribbon, which dangled against her left cheek and swept down her shoulder as far as her arm. On Dotty Dimple's bosom rested a green satin bow. Grandma Read looked upon these unusual adornments with surprise.
"Susan," said she mildly, "does thee wish to make thyself look silly and ridiculous ?"
"Why, grandma," replied Susy blushing, "all the girls at school wear ribbons flowing; it's the fashion."
"Indeed," said Grandma Bead, "that alters the case."
" Mother," asked Prudy eagerly, "mayn't I have some, flowing down as far as my pocket? Striped red and yellow ?"
" Me too," interposed Dotty Dimple. "I haven't had any red and yellow ribbon since I was born."
" When you don't like anything, Dotty, and feel abused, your nose turns up like the nose of a teakettle," suggested Prudy.
"Hush," said Mrs. Parlin, "no more talking at the table." But after breakfast the conversation was resumed.
" I don't have anything to wear," said Miss Dimple, sorrowfully, "nothing but just clothes."
"Enough, I should think," laughed Susy.
"No, it isn't," replied Dotty, whose attention had lately been called to ornaments. " You and Prudy has got red shoe strings, both of you, with teenty tassels, and I never."
" You will next Sunday," said Prudy, soothingly, "mother said so."
" But no beads," moaned Dotty, shaking her head, " I can't never have a single bead to save .my whole life."
" I wish you could though. Dotty. It's too bad you can't go to school and can't have any beads either. Ugh, how shivery cold it is," added Prudy, shrugging her shoulders, " Wish you went to school, so we could sit three in a seat to-day."
"Children," said a pleasant voice from Mrs. Bead's rocking-chair, "do beads and fine clothes make people happy ?"
"No ma'am," replied Susy, dutifully.
"Oh, yes'm, they do though," cried Prudy, skipping across the room. " Why grandma, there's my teacher, when she has on that brown silk she's just as pleasant, but when she puts on the calico, oh my, she's so cross!"
" Has she got any beads ?" asked Dotty.
" Just hear that child," murmured Susy in a voice of pity, " all she thinks of is just beads."
"I think big round white ones would be the nicest," continued Dotty, thoughtfully, "don't you, Prudy ?"
"Poh, no indeed, they'd look like sugar-coated pills."
Grandma Read said nothing farther, but that morning she happened to be on the street, buying book-muslin for some new caps, and as she stood at a counter in one of the stores, she saw, through the glass of the show-case, a few strings of beads which shone like silver. Remembering Dotty's despairing wish for such an article, Mrs. Read said to the shop-girl, " Thee may show me those beads if thee pleases,"
The young girl did as requested, but was a little surprised that the sweet-looking Quaker customer should be attracted by such vanities as beads.
"Price ten cents, ma'am," said she, as she gave Mrs. Read one of the strings.
" They are mere bubbles," said the good woman, at the same time paying for them, "I could crush them with my fingers, don't thee see ?"
Then Mrs. Read carried the baubles home with her book muslin.
Dotty was busy roasting acorns, which she had put into the iron pan with Norah's coffee. At that particular moment it may be she was not thinking of beads, although the longing for them had left in her young heart an aching void of which she was conscious from time to time.
"Alice, thee may carry my bonnet up stairs," said Mrs. Read, " and when thee comes back I have something to show thee."
Dotty obeyed with such alacrity that it nearly took her breath away.
"For me ? Oh, grandma!" cried she at sight of the quicksilver beads. "My owny dony? Oh, grandma!" This was all that could be said in the first shock of surprise and delight. If she had suddenly "struck oil," she could not have been more completely overwhelmed,
She ran into the kitchen, where her mother was making cake,
" For me !" she burst forth. "All silver! Just you look ! Touch 'em ! Grandma gave 'em to me! She did! Sober, positive, true, lay me down and cut me in two. Oh, mamma!".
" What did you say to your grandmother ?"
" Nothing as I know of! I couldn't ! I can't! But I love her down to her feet and up to her cap. I'll do anything for her in this world, hunt her glasses, and-. Please tie 'em on my neck in a bow-knot. Oh, my stars!"
Dotty had already poured out a wonderful flood of words, and wanted to be doing something. She preferred doing to talking. She seized a pitcher, filled it at the pump, and carried it into the sitting-room, with a goblet.
"I thought p'r'aps you'd like a drink grandma," said she, her face fairly shining with love. Mrs. Read was not thirsty, but made an effort to swallow a little.
" Want me to hunt your glasses, grandma? Shall I bring your Bible ? Wouldn't you. like some o' the Bartnot pears, grandma ?"
Dotty was devoured with anxiety to show her untold and unspeakable gratitude. How the beads did shine as she gazed at them in the looking-glass! But they were not so bright as her beaming eyes.
"She's every bit as sweet to-day as Prudy," mused Grandma Read behind her knitting-work.
" None of her cross behaviour appears when she is pleased. "Beads are foolishness, to be sure, but happiness is worth considerable."
Dotty ran back to the kitchen, hoppity-skip. " Oh, have you got a box, mamma, to put 'em in ? Don't tell Prudy, I want to tell her myself. No, I'll let her spy 'em on my neck-I never 'spected I'd have any beads! They don't look like pills. Did you ever see any pills like these in all the days of your life?"
" Why, no, child, I never did."
"Just like silver bubbles," continued the little girl in an ecstasy. "Do you 'spose grandma's got any money left in her pork-monnaie ? I guess these beads cost fifty-five or a hundred dollars, don't you? But 'tisn't polite to ask."
Dotty, with a pretty box in her hand, went singing about the house. Sometimes the beads were in the box, sometimes gleaming from her neck.
It seemed as if the potatoes never would boil ; as if Prudy never would come home. Little did Prudy suspect the silver secret Dotty was keeping, the secret which was better than gold.
But she came at last, after what Dotty regarded as the longest school forenoon on record. She was duly charmed with the beautiful beads ; but deep in her heart fluttered a wish which she tried to stifle.
Grandma Read watched her tell-tale face. " Prudence," said she, "I begged of thee a little basket the other day to send to the Clifford baby; I've tried to find one like it, but could not. Is there anything else thee would like better?"
"Oh," cried Prudy, and then her voice wavered, "oh. Grandma Read, I wouldn't dare to say."
" Well, Prudence, how would thee like some beads like thy little sister's ?"
" Oh, dear me, sure grandma, would you give me some ? Oh, could I have some beads " I don't know what I should say, I should be so happy."
"All foolishness, thought Mrs. Read, "but I have made a beginning, and cannot draw back."
Since the beads had once come into the family, it was necessary to supply Susy also. After that, rose-colored ribbon must be purchased for every airing.
They were not a long-lived pleasure, these quick-silver ornaments; being of delicate constitution, they were shortly crushed out of existence, one at a time. Yet for all that, I believe they performed a good work in the world while they lasted, for they gave much innocent pleasure to three happy children. So much for the beads, and now for the tea.
It seemed as if Dotty Dimple could not half express her love for her kind grandmother. The difficulty was to find things to do for her.
One morning Mrs. Read came down stairs looking rather languid. She said she was threatened with one of her serious headaches. The headache was a dim and unknown horror to Dotty Dimple, She only knew that it whitened her poor grandmother's cheeks, and dimmed her eyes, and shut her in a dark room.
About ten o'clock it began to rain furiously. Mrs., Read looked out of the window wearily, as if even the gloomy light made her eyes ache.
"I hoped the pain in your head would wear away by this time," said Mrs. Parlin, "If it is not gone before eleven, you are doomed to a miserable day of it. I'll go at once and make you some tea."
"Thee may, if thee pleases, my dear. A cup of strong tea works like a charm."
But on going to the little tin chest, not a tea leaf was to be found. Norah had forgotten to say the tea was out. She had gone off in haste the night before to see her sick brother, and had not yet returned.
"What a pity!" said Mrs. Parlin. "Poor mother must have a headache-day, in spite of all I can do."
"Mother," said Dotty at her elbow, "let me go buy some tea-with my own money."
" But it rains in torrents."
" My water-proof, mamma, and my rubbers."
" Yes, you may go child."
" That twenty-five cents Mr. Gilman gave me."
"Yes, dear, 'twill buy several cups of tea for your grandmother, Oolong or Japan, remember; either will do."
Off sped Dotty, on her errand of love, never heeding the blinding rain, which poured like a cataract over her brisk little figure.
" Please, Mr. Morse, I want three, four pounds of tea."
The grocer began to weigh it out.
"For twenty-five cents," added Dotty with a business air, as she took out her purse.
The man laughed. He knew the child well.
" I want the headache-kind, Shoolong. Please hurry, sir. If I don't get home before eleven o'clock, 'twill be all over."
" What, the rain ?"
"No, grandma's head; sometimes her head wears away by eleven. If she drinks tea, she says. Oh, hum, I'm afraid it's Japtha they sent me for. Scuse me," added Dotty, looking as dignified as a duchess.
" Japan tea, you mean. Yes, your father usually prefers it; I'll change it, if you say so." Mr. Morse was very respectful to Dotty, always.
If the young lady had enjoyed the beads, she now enjoyed the tea far better, as she trudged home with a tiny bundle of it in her pocket.
With her own dimpled hands, and only a little advice from her mother, she steeped it, only scalding herself twice.
True, when she introduced the wire-strainer into the nose of the teapot, it. did not go in far enough, and the grounds in a great hurry rushed into the teacup. But it was, for all that, a delicious drink to poor Grandma Read, and charmed her headache like magic, so that it wore away by noon. So much for the tea.
--The Little Pilgrim, Jan. 1866
Courtesy of Pat Pflieger. Visit her Nineteenth-Century American Children and What They Read site for more articles from and information about 19th-century juvenile periodicals.
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