The Table of Contents was not in the original edition.
CONNOR MAGAN'S LUCK
And Other Stories
Boston: D. Lothrop & Company, Franklin St., Corner of Hawley.
Connor Magan's Luck Why Mammy Delphy's Baby Was Named Grief Sammy Sealskin's Enemy Nannette's Live Baby Brothers For Sale A Story of a Clock Naughty Zay The Legend of the Salt Sea The Man with the Straw Hat Ruffles and Puffs Sugar River A Pioneer "Wide Awake" Surprised April Fools and Other Fools
CONNOR MAGAN'S LUCK.
"I'm in luck, hurrah!" cried Connor Magan, as he threw up his brimless hat into the air—the ringing, jubilant shout he sent after it could only spring from the reservoir of glee in the heart of a twelve-year-old boy. Giving a push to the skiff in which his father sat waiting for him, he jumped from the shore to the boat, and struck out into the Ohio river.
Tim Magan, father, and Connor Magan, son, were central figures in a very strange picture.
Let us take in the situation.
It was a Western spring freshet. The Ohio was on a rampage—a turbulent, coffee-colored stream, it had risen far beyond its usual boundaries, washed out the familiar land-marks, and, still insolent and greedy, was licking the banks, as if preparatory to swallowing up the whole country. Trees torn up by the roots, their green branches waving high above the flood, timbers from cottages, and wrecks of bridges, were floating down to the Gulf of Mexico.
It was curious to watch the various things in the water as they sailed slowly along. Demijohns bobbed about. Empty store boxes mockingly labelled dry goods elbowed bales of hay. Sometimes a weak cock-a-doodle-doo from a travelling chicken-coop announced the whereabouts of a helpless though still irrepressible rooster. Back yards had been visited, and oyster-cans, ash-barrels and unsightly kitchen debris brought to light. It was a mighty revolution where the dregs of society were no longer suppressed, but sailed in state on the top wave.
"It is an idle wind which blows no one good," and amid the general destruction the drift-wood was a God-send to the poor people, and they caught enough to supply them with fire-wood for months. Logs, fences, boards and the contents of steamboat woodyards were swept into the current. On high points of land near the shore were collected piles bristling with ragged stumps and limbs of trees. The great gnarled branches of forest trees sometimes spread over half the river, while timbers lodging among them formed a sort of raft which kept out of the water the most wonderful things—pieces of furniture, and kitchen utensils which shone in the sun like silver.
Cullum's Ripple is a few miles below Cincinnati. Here the deep current sets close to the shore, making a wild kind of whirlpool or eddy that brings drift-wood almost to land; the rippling water makes a sudden turn and scoops out a little cove in the sand. It is a splendid place for fishermen, but quite dangerous for boats.
Not far above Cullum's Ripple is situated the Magan family mansion, or shanty. The river is on one side, and two parallel railroads are on the other. On the top of the bank, and on a level with the railroads, is a piece of land not much longer or wider than a rope-walk, and on this only available scrap the Railroad Company have built a few temporary houses for their workmen. They are all alike, except that a morning-glory grows over Magan's door.
The colony is called Twinrip possibly the short of "Between Strip." (If the name does not mean that, will some one skilled in digging up language roots, please tell me what it does mean?) The atmosphere around these cabins is as filled with bustling, whistling confusion as a chimney with smoke.
Besides the water highway, on the other side, just a few feet beyond the iron roads, a horse-car track and a turnpike offer additional facilities for locomotion. Birds perch on the numerous telegraph wires amid wrecks of kites and dingy pennons—once kite-tails—nothing hurts them; and below the children of Twinrip appear just as free and safe, and seem to have as much delight in mere living as their feathered friends.
The Magans were a light-hearted Irish family, whose cheerfulness seemed better than eucalyptus or sunflowers to keep off the fever and ague, and who made the most of the little bits of sunshine that came to them. Tim, a strong-armed laborer, was brakeman on the Road. His wife, a hopeful little body, a woman of expedients, was voted by her neighbors the "cheeriest, condolingest" woman in Twinrip.
Good luck, according to her, was always coming to the Magans. It was good luck brought them to America—by good luck Tim became brakeman. It was good luck that the school for Connor was free of expense, and so convenient.
Her loyalty to her husband rather modified the expression of her views, yet she often expatiated to her eldest on his advantages, beginning, "There's your father, Connor—I hope you'll be as good a man! remember it wasn't the fashion in the ould country to bother over the little black letters—people don't have to read there—but you just mind your books, and some day you may come to be a conductor, and snap a punch of your own."
No doubt Connor made good resolutions, but when he sat by the window in the school-room and looked at the dimpling, sparkling river, so suggestive of fishing, or at the green trees filled with birds, he was not as devoted to literature as a free-born expectant American citizen ought to be. The teacher was somewhat strict, and it may have been in some of her passes with Connor, the "bubblingoverest" of all her youngsters, that she earned the name of a "daisy lammer."
But the boy knew some things by heart that could not be learned at school. To his ear, the steam whistle of each boat spoke its name as plainly as if it could talk. He need not look to tell whether a passing train was on the O. & M. or on the I.C. & L. He knew the name of every fiery engine, and felt an admiration—a real friendship for the resistless creatures.
To climb a tree was as easy for him as if he were a cat; there were rumors that he had worked himself to the top of the tall flag-staff—which was as smooth as a greased pole—but I will not vouch for their truth. He could swim like a duck, and paddled about on a board in the river till an ill-natured flat-boatman often snarled out that "that youngster would certain be drowned, if he wasn't born to be hanged."
But the delight of Connor's life was to "catch the first wave" from a big steamer. Dennis Maloney was his comrade in this perilous game. They rowed their egg-shell of a boat close to the wheel. Drenched with spray—for a moment they felt the wild excitement of danger. Four alert eyes, four steady hands kept them from being sucked under—then came the triumph of meeting the first wave that left the steamboat, and the extatic rocking motion of the skiff as she rode the other waves in the wake—but to catch the first was the point in the frolic! Connor was known to many of the pilots as an adept in "catching the first wave." Sometimes he was "tipped" by an unlooked for motion of the machinery, but was as certain as an india-rubber ball to rise to the surface, and a swim to shore was but fun to the young Magan.
In the house, Mother Maggie was happy when little Mike was tied in his chair, and a bar put in the doorway to keep him from crawling into the attractive water, if he should break loose; and when the door was bolted on the railroad side, he was allowed to gaze through the window at the engines smoking and thundering by all day, and fixing each blazing red eye on him at night—an entrancing spectacle to the child. And when the still younger Pat was tucked up in bed sucking a moist rag, with sugar tied up in it, her world was all right, and at rest.
But it would have taken a person of considerable penetration, or as Maggie said one who knew all "the ins and the outs" to see the peculiar good luck of this day. The water was swashing round within a few feet of the door. Some of the workmen had moved their beds to the space between the tracks, which was piled up with kitchen utensils, and looked like a second-hand store.
In these days of devotion to antiques, we hear dealers in such wares say that things are more valuable for being carefully used. This would not apply to Twinrip's relics. The poor shabby furniture looked more than ever dilapidated in the open daylight. The social air of a home that was lived in, pervaded this temporary baggage-room between the tracks. One child was asleep in a cradle, others were eating their coarse food off a board. When a sprinkling of rain fell, an old grandmother under an umbrella fastened to a bed-post went on knitting, serenely.
Youngsters who needed rubbers and waterproofs about as much as did Newfoundland dogs, enjoyed the fun. One four-year old, sitting on a tub turned upside down, was waving a small flag, a relic of the Fourth of July—and looking as happy and independent as a king.
It took all his wife's hopeful eloquence to comfort Tim. There was no water in Tim's cellar, because he had no cellar. The cow, their most valuable piece of property, was taken beyond the tracks up on the hillside, and fastened to a stake in a deserted vineyard. If the worst came to the worst, and they were drowned out of house and home, their neighbors were no better off, and they would all be lively together. That was the way Maggie put it.
"Do you moind, Tim," she said, "when Keely O'Burke trated his new wife to a ride on a hand-car? Soon as your eyes lighted on him you shouted like a house-a-fire, 'Number Five will be down in three minutes!' Didn't Keely clane lose his head? But between you, you pushed the car off the track in a jiffy. And Mrs. O'Burke's new bonnet was all smashed in the ditch, an' the bloody snort of Number Five knocked you senseless. Who would have thought that boost of the cow-catcher was jist clear good luck? And you moped about with a short draw in your chist, and seemed bound to be a grouty old man in the chimney corner that could niver lift a stroke for your childer, ah' you didn't see the good luck, you know, Tim—but when the prisident sent the bran new cow with a card tied to one horn, an' Connor read it when he came home from school: 'For Tim Magan, who saved the train. Good luck to him!'—wasn't it all right then? Now you are as good as new, and our mocley is quiet as a lamb, and if I was Queen Victoria hersel, she couldn't give any sweeter milk for me. She's the born beauty."
Well, Connor was his mother's own boy for making the most and the best of everything, and he saw several items of good luck this day.
First: The river had risen so near the school-house that the desks and benches were moved up between the tracks and the school dismissed; therefore there was perfect freedom to enjoy the excitement of the occasion. It was as good as a move or a fire.
Second: There was so much danger that the track might be undermined that all trains were stopped by order of the Railroad Company; therefore his father was at liberty.
Third, and best of all: Larry O'Flaherty, who lived up Bald Face Creek, had lent him his skiff for the day. The boys had had an extatic time the evening before, hauling in drift-wood. Though the coal-barges had bright red lights at their bows, and the steamboats were ablaze with green and red signals, and blew their gruff whistles continually, yet it was hardly safe to go far from the shore at night because the Ripple was so near. When the river was rising the drift was driven close to land, while falling it floated near the middle of the river. Connor could see the flood was still rising, and there were possibilities of a splendid catch, for it was daylight, and they could go where they pleased with Larry's boat.
Father and son pushed out into the river. Connor felt as if he owned the world. Short sticks and staves were put in the bottom of the boat. Both fishermen had a long pole with a sharp iron hook at the end with which, when they came close to a log, they harpooned it. Bringing it near, they drove a nail into one end, and tying a rope round the nail, they fastened their prize to the stern of the boat. They took turns rowing and spearing drift-wood; and when the log-fleet swimming after them became large, they went to shore and secured it.
When the dripping logs were long and heavy, it was the custom to fasten them with the rope close to a stake in the bank, and leave them floating. At low water they were left high and dry on the sand.
No other drift-wood gatherers meddled with such logs. They were considered as much private property as if already burning on the hearth.
"I'm going up the hill to feed the cow, Connor," said his father, after a great deal of wood of every size and shape had been landed. "Mind what you are about, and take care of Larry's gim of a boat. It was mighty neighborly to lind it for the whole day. See now, how much drift you can pick up by yourself."
Connor felt the responsibility, and worked diligently. He had twice taken a load to shore, and was quite far again in the stream, when he saw a strange sight. It was not Moses in the bulrushes, to be sure—but a child in a wicker wagon, floating down the current amid a lot of sticks and branches. The hoarse whistle of a steamboat near meant danger; and to the eye of Connor the baby-craft seemed but a little above the water, and to be slowly sinking.
Connor's shout rang back from the Kentucky hills as if it came from the throat of an engine.
No one answered.
There were great logs between his skiff and the child—logs and child were all moving together. Should he abandon Larry's precious boat?
Connor could not consider this. He plunged into the water and swam round the logs. He never knew how he did it—he never knew how he cut his hand—he never felt the pounding of the logs—he only knew that he caught the wagon, kept those black eyes above the water, and pulled the precious freight to shore. Then, while the water was streaming from him in every direction, he sprang up the few steps to his mother's cabin, and without a word placed the child, still in the wagon, inside the door!
Running back as swiftly as his feet would carry him, Connor had the good luck to find the deserted boat close to shore, jammed in a mass of drift-wood, just in the turn of the Riffle.
Dragging it up and along the shore, he fastened it to a fisherman's stake just by Twinrip. Then Connor felt he had discharged his duty—Larry O'Flaherty's boat was safe—high and dry out of reach of eddying logs.
Now, eager, dripping, and breathless—with eyes like stars, he flew home again.
"Oh, mother," he said, "she's fast to the post and not a hole knocked into her, and ain't her eyes black and soft as our mooley cow's and I found her before the General Little ran her down—and I'm going to keep her always—I found her—isn't it lucky we have a cow?"
What the boy said was rather mixed—you could not parse it, but you could understand it.
The baby's big black eyes looked around, and she acknowledged a cup of milk and her deliverer by a smile. It was a strange group. In the midst of a puddle of water Mother Maggie was leaning over the new comer and trying to untie the numerous knots in a shawl which had kept the child in her wicker nest. Little Mike was staring open-eyed at the beads round baby's neck, and at the coral horseshoe which hung from them. The pretty little girl seemed quite contented, and with the happy unconsciousness of infancy was evidently quite at home.
"Poor baby, where did she come from?" said Mother Maggie. "Won't her mother cry her eyes out when she can't see her? We must advertise her in one of those big city papers."
"I found her," said Connor, "she's mine."
"Why, my boy," said his mother, "she's not a squirrel—you can't keep her as you did the bunny you found in the hickory tree, and not ask any questions!"
"I wish there were no newspapers, and that people couldn't read besides," wrathfully exclaimed Connor.
"Maybe," he added, with hopeful cheerfulness, "both her father and mother are drowned. May I keep her then? She may have half of my bread and milk."
Babies were no great rarity in Twinrip, but never was there such a happy, bright-eyed little maiden as this waif proved to be. Among the children she glowed like a dandelion in the grass, and reigned like a queen among her subjects.
Connor was the scholar of the family, and at length his conscience was sufficiently roused to make him indite an advertisement which did him much credit. He hoped it might be placed in some obscure corner of the paper where it would be overlooked.
But next day, in a conspicuous part of the Cincinnati Commercial, with four little hands pointing to it, appeared this rather unusual notice:
"Found in the Ohio river a baby in white dress with black eyes and red horseshoe round her neck, now belonging to Connor Magan. If the father and mother are not drowned they can enquire at the house of Tim Magan in Twinrip, where all is convenient for her with a cow given by the President. None others need apply."
It was but the very next day after the "ad" appeared that a wagon drove down to Twinrip, with the father and mother of the baby.
Didn't they cry and kiss and hug the lost, the found child! They lived on a farm in Palestine, a few miles up the river. A little stream ran into the Ohio close by their door, and the baby was often tied in her carriage and placed on the bridge under the charge of a faithful dog. It was a great amusement for her to watch the ducks and geese in the water. A sudden rise swept bridge and all away. Search had been made everywhere, but nothing had been heard of little Minnie. It had seemed like a return from death to read Connor's advertisement.
And was not the brave lad that saved their child a hero! Again and again they made him tell all about the rescue. Of course they had to take their daughter home, but they made Connor promise to visit them at Palestine.
Soon after the happy parents left, a watch came by express to the Magan homestead, and when Connor opened the hunting-case cover, after changing its position till he could see something besides his own twisted face reflected in it, and after wiping away the spray that would come into his eyes, he read:
CONNOR MAGAN. From the grateful parents of MINNIE RIVERS.
Was not her name a prophecy?
At the sill of the Magan homestead the flood had stopped, hesitated, and then gone back. Maggie always said she knew it would—they always had good luck. The little woman was happier than ever when she thought of the whole train of people that might have been thrown into the ditch—of the cut-off legs, arms and heads, and the poor creatures without them that might have been cast bleeding on the track, if it had not been for her faithful old Tim—and of the home with niver a baby, and of the darlint that would have been drowned in the bottom of the Ohio with her ears and eyes full of mud, if it had not been for her slip of a boy.
As for Connor, he felt as if that bright-eyed girl belonged to him, and now that he had a watch towards it, he seemed almost a ready-made Conductor.
When the waters subsided and he went back to school, he studied with a will. His percentage grew higher.
"Sometime," he said to himself, "I will go to Palestine. I will be somebody—maybe a Conductor! And a beautiful young woman with soft black eyes will wave her handkerchief to me as I pass by in my train! And after I make a lot of money"—how full the world is of money that young people are so sure of getting—"after I make this money I will bring Minnie back with me! And she will live in my house with me! And she will say, 'Conor I am so glad you fished me out of the Ohio with your drift-wood!' And won't that be good luck for Connor Magan!"
WHY MAMMY DELPHY'S BABY WAS NAMED GRIEF.
Mammy Delphy was sitting out under the vines that climbed over the kitchen gallery, picking a chicken for dinner, and singing. And such singing! Some of the words ran this way:
"Aldo you sees me go 'long so, I has my trials here below, Sometimes I'se up, sometimes I'se down, Sometimes I'se lebel wid de groun; Oh, git out, Satan Hallalu!"
And these words sound queer to you as you read them, perhaps, but they did not sound queer when Mammy Delphy was singing them. I don't believe that a song out of heaven could be sweeter than this and other songs like it that dear old Mammy sings, with her turbaned head bobbing up and down and her foot softly keeping time to the melody. There is a sort of plaintive—what shall I call it?—twist in her voice that makes you choke up about the throat, if you are a boy, and sob right out if you are a girl. And it makes you, somehow, remember, in hearing it, all the sweet, sad little stories that your mother has told you about your little baby sister who died before you were born; or, if you have stood in a darkened room, holding fast to some tender and loving hand, and looked at a face that was dear to you lying upon its coffin pillow, you think of that strange and sad time. And with these thoughts come, as you listen, other thoughts of flying angels and shining crowns, and wide-opened gates of pearl. A sweetness mixed with pain—that is, the feeling which Mammy Delphy's singing brings to you, though you could not describe it, perhaps, if you tried—at least that's the feeling it brings to me.
"I'll take my shoes from off'n my feet, And walk into de golden street, Glory, Hallalu!"
sang Mammy. Sam and Jim and Joe came filing in. They had been—well, where hadn't they been! They had been down to the Bayou, which ran a good quarter of a mile back of the place, "fishin for cat," and chunking at an unwary rabbit that had taken refuge in a hollow tree; they had been out in the field, cutting open two or three half-grown watermelons to see if they were ripe; they had been across the prairie to a mott of sweet-gum trees, where they had stuck up the cuffs and bosoms of their shirts with gum and torn their trousers in climbing a persimmon tree to peep into a bird's-nest. And they were rushing across the yard in chase of a horned-frog when they caught sight of Mammy Delphy under the kitchen shed.
"Let's go and get Mammy Delphy to give us some meat and go a crawfishin', boys," suggested Sam.
"And I'm hungry, for one," added Joe.
Accordingly they filed in, as I said, and stood for a moment listening to Mammy Delphy's song.
"Give us somethin' to eat, Mammy, please," said Jim.
"An' some craw-fish bait and a piece of string," put in the other two in a breath.
"I ain't a gwine to do it, chillun," replied Mammy Delphy, giving them a gentle push with her elbow, for they were leaning coaxingly against her shoulders, "I ain't a gwine to do it. Yer ma's got comp'ny for dinner and dat sassy Marthy-Ann done tuk herself to 'Mancipation-Day, an' Jin, she totin of Mis' May's baby to sleep, an' I ain't got no time to wase on yer. Go'long!" And as she spoke Mammy arose, chicken in hand, and went into the kitchen to get whatever the boys wanted, as they were perfectly aware she would, from the beginning.
"Lawd o' mussy! Jest look at dat lazy nigger! Grief!" she exclaimed as she entered, "Grief, yer lazy good-for-nuthin' nigger, is yer gwine ter let dem sweet-taters burn clar up?"
And seizing the collar of a negro man who sat nodding by the stove, she gave him a sound shaking. He opened his eyes, grinned and got up slowly, looking a little sheepish as he did so. At that moment the woolly head of Jin, the baby's little black nurse, was poked in at the door.
"Daddy," she cried, "Miss May say as how she want you to come an' tie up her Malcasum rose, whar dem boys is done pull down."
And Jin bestowed a withering look upon the culprits, who were already digging their fingers into the remnants of a meat-pie, and disappeared, followed by her father.
"Mammy Delphy," said Joe, when they were out under the vines again and Mammy had recommenced her work, "what made you name Uncle Grief, Grief? That's a mighty funny name, ain't it, boys?"
"Well, chillun," said Mammy, plucking away at the chicken, "dat's so; it is a curus name like; me'n de ole man—he dead an' gone, chillun, long fo' you was born;—me'n de ole man 'sulted long time 'bout dat chile's name an' he war goin' on six months old fo' we name him at all."
"Well, how did you happen to call him Grief?" insisted Joe.
"Yes, honey, yes. 'Twar a long time ago, chile, when Mas' Will—dat's yer pa (she nodded towards Joe) war a little fellow, heap littler'n you, heap littler, an' Mas' Charley—dat's yer pappy (to the other two) war a baby. I war nussen him long o' Grief an' Grief warn't name yet. Miss May—dat's yer all's Gramma whar died las' year—she use to come out to de back steps an' watch dem two babies nussen', Grief an' Mas' Charley bof at de same time in my lap; an' Mas' Will an' Jerry—dat's my little boy what war jes' 'bout his age—a-playing in de back-yard, an' sometime she laugh an' cry all at de same time an' she say: 'We is all one fam'ly, Delphy!' she say. Law's, chillun, dem was times! You don't know nuthin' 'bout dem times. Disher house was full up all de time wid comp'ny; gran' comp'ny, what dress all de time in silk an' go walkin' 'bout under de trees an' ridin' 'bout over de prairie in de day time; and mos' every night dey call my ole man in to play de fiddle an' den, laws, how dem young folks dance! An' ole Mas' an' ole Mis' an' all de young ladies an gentlemen use to come down to de cabins—dey was all burnt up, time o' de war—an' sakes, honey! de hosses an' de cayages an' de niggers an' disher big plantation, all shinin' wid corn an' cotton! Dem was times!" And Mammy's old eyes lighted up as she went back to her youth and the glory of her family, for she still speaks with pride of her "fam'ly."
"But Grief, Mammy?" said Jim.
"Yes, honey, yes. Yer pappy and Grief war babies, an' Grief warn't named, an' Mas' Will an' Jerry was little boys, littler'n you. 'N one day Miss May, she come to the back do' an' call me. I was sittin' in disher very place dat day, nussin dem two babies, an' my mammy (she de cook), gittin' dinner in de kitchen. 'Delphy,' Miss May say, 'Delphy, does you know whar Will an' Jerry is? Dey ain't been seen sence breakfast dis mornin'.
"I felt curus-like dat minit, an' I jump up an' run all over de place lookin' for dem boys. 'Rectly all de house gals an' everybody—Mas' and Mis' an' everybody—commence to hunt for dem chillun. We look everywhere—in de hay-top, in de cotton gin-house, out on de prairie—everywhere. Den I saw Miss May—dat's yer granma, turn white-like, an' she say, 'Oh Delphy, oh James'—dat's yer grandpa—'de ole well in de field! de ole well in de field!'
"Over in de bayou-field—it done full up now, ole Mas' had a well dug to water de hosses out in. It war kivered up wid some bodes.
"I don't 'zactly 'member 'bout goin' over to de field, but when I got dar wid dem two babies in my arms an' stood 'long side o' Miss May—"
Mammy Delphy spoke more and more slowly. She had stopped picking the chicken, and great tears were rolling down her cheeks. The boys stood stricken and silent.
—"Stood 'long side o' Miss May, fus thing I hear war Jerry sayin' weak-like an' way down in de well: 'Don't you cry, Mas' Will! Hol' on to my neck, Mas' Will! Hol' tight, Mas' Will! I kin hol' you up. Don't you be feerd Mas' Will, I kin hol' you up! Don't you be feerd Mas' Will; I kin hol' you up!'
"Ole Mas' lean over de well an' look in. Mas' Will he warn't as high as Jerry, an' Jerry he war standin in de water up to his neck an' hol'in' Mas' Will up out'n de water. An' dem chillun had been in dat well all day, honey, 'all day, an' my Jerry holdin Mas' Will out'n de water; an' dat water col' as ice! Den ole Mas' let down de rope dey fotch an' tole Mas' Will to ketch hol'. An Mas' Will—dat yer pappy, honey—he say, weak-like, 'Take Jerry too, pappy, take Jerry too!'
"'We'll get Jerry next time,' says ole Mas'. An' Jerry help Mas' Will fix de rope roun' him an' dey pull him up out'n de water. He done fainted when dey got him out, an' he tuk de fever, an' dat chile war sick mos' six months, an' all de time he had de fever, he say: 'Take Jerry too, pappy, take Jerry too!' And when he come to hisself, he say right off:
"'Where's Jerry? I want Jerry.'"
Mammy Delphy stopped.
"And where was Jerry, mammy?" cried the boys, breathless.
"'Where war Jerry?' Ole Mas' let down de rope an' say right loud: 'Ketch holt, Jerry my boy!' But Jerry couldn't ketch holt, chillen. Jerry war dead."
"Yes, chillun, yes. Dey rub him an' rub him, an' do everything to fotch him to life. But, my Jerry war dead. An' when me'n de ole man come home from de funeral—dey buried him in de white folks' buryin'-groun,' long side o' Miss May's little gal what died—an' put a tombstone at de head—when we come home from de funeral dat night, de ole man look at de baby on my lap an' he say, 'Delphy, honey,' he say, 'I think disher baby mout be name Grief.' An' we name him Grief."
Mammy Delphy wiped her eyes and resumed her work. Then, looking up to the blue sky which shone between the vines, she began singing again:
"Call me in de mornin' Lord, Or call me in de night, I'se always ready Lord, Glory Hallalu!"
And the boys, subdued and silent, and for a moment forgetful of horned-frogs and crawfish, went away softly, as if leaving a grave.
SAMMY SEALSKIN'S ENEMY.
"Where going, Sammy Sealskin?".
"Down to my kayah, Tommy Fishscales."
"Is there any fish to-day?"
"A few, they say, but there is lots of seals—plenty of 'em on the rocks in the bay."
"All right; bring home something to your friend, Tommy."
Sammy pushed off his kayah from shore. It was a funny sort of boat, according to our notions. It was only nine inches deep, and about a foot and a half wide in the middle, tapering to a point at either end and curving upward. It was about sixteen feet long. Its frame was of very light wood, and this was covered with tanned seal-skin. Sammy's mother was a Greenlander, and she could sew on seal-skin very handily, using sinews for thread; and she had covered her little boy's boat with seal-skin, leaving a hole in the centre just large enough to receive Sammy.
When he had dropped into his place, he then laced the lower border of his jacket to the rim of the hole, and there he was all snug—not a drop of water could get in. Grasping his single oar, about six feet long, with a paddle at either end, and flourishing it in the water right and left, away swept the young fisherman.
"I should think his craft would be top-heavy, and over he would go," says some reader.
One naturally would think his craft would be top-heavy and over he would go, as the kayah has no keel and carries no ballast, and if we should try a kayah, it would certainly be on land. But those Greenlanders learn to handle themselves so well that their kayahs will go dancing over the big billows and then fly through a ragged, dangerous surf. From their kayahs, too, they will fight the fierce white bear.
Ah! Sammy, what is the matter?
Sammy gives a melancholy groan. He begins to suspect that his boat is leaking.
Could any one have slit the seal-skin bottom?
The kayah is really settling.
Sammy feels troubled. "I must go home," he says.
He turns his back upon the bright, beautiful sea, tufted with cakes of ice that seem in the distance like the white, pure lilies on a glassy pond, and paddles off home with good-by to the fishing, good-by to the black-headed seals, good-by to the low islands with their gulls and mollimucks and burgomeisters and tern and kittiwakes and eider-ducks—good-by to the long day's fun!
"It makes me feel like a mad whale," said Sammy, "to be cheated out of my fishing. I wonder who cut my kayah!"
Just then he looked off to the shore, and there stood Billy Blubber, an ancient enemy.
"There's the fellow," said Sammy. "He slit my kayah, I know. If I had him, I'd eat him quicker than a tern's egg. Just see how he looks!"
Billy did look exasperating. He saw everything and he enjoyed everything. Plainly he was the miscreant. He was waddling round on his stout little legs, flourishing a huge jack-knife, and grinning as if he were going to have a big dish of whale-fat for dinner. He looked comical enough. He was dressed in seal-skin, and was bobbing up and down in his mother's seal-skin boots. The women's boots are of tanned seal-skin, bleached white and then colored. The boots of Billy's mother were very gay. They were bright red ones. When Billy from his tent-door saw Sammy coming, he crawled into the huge big boots, and bare-headed rushed—no, waddled out, to greet the discomfited fisherman.
"Billy, I'll give it to you?"
"Will you, Sammy? Try it, old boy."
Thereupon, he put his thumb to his nose and wriggled his finger as exasperatingly as any Yankee boy here in this enlightened land. His flat face, his black little eyes, his stubby little nose, his hair black as coal and long behind, but fashionably "banged" in front, the seal-skin suit, mother's big red boots, and the nasal gesture made a very interesting picture, and a most provoking one also.
"Billy, you will catch it!"
"I should rather think you had caught it already. Did you bring any seal-fat, Sammy?"
Sammy felt mad enough and hot enough to set the water to boiling between his kayah and the shore.
"You had better run, Billy."
"Plenty of time, Sammy."
Sammy's kayah was now ashore. Sammy unlaced his jacket and let himself out of jail. Pulling his kayah high up the shore, he turned it over and let the water escape. There were two ugly gashes in the seal-skin bottom—just as he expected.
"Now where's that Billy?" asked Sammy at last. But mother's red boots had prudently withdrawn.
"I will give it to him," said Sammy; "but I will mend this first."
He took up his beloved kayah and walked to the little village. It was not very large. There were half a dozen seal-skin tents, a few houses of stone and turf, and one or two wooden buildings, besides the government-house that proudly supported the flag of Denmark.
"What do you want, Sammy?" said his mother, as he appeared at the door of one of the seal-skin tents. She was sitting on a bed of reindeer skins.
"I want needle and thread, mother. That Billy Blubber cut some holes in my kayah."
"Billy Blubber did?"
"Yes," said Sammy, "and I would like to sew him up in a seal-skin and drop him from the top of an iceberg into the sea."
"Tut, tut, Sammy. It's a boy's trick. Let it go."
"There," thought Sammy, shouldering his kayah and moving off, "that is what mother always says when Billy harms me."
"Where are you going, Sammy?"
"Off to mend my kayah, mother."
"Nonsense! Only women can mend kayahs. I will fix it. You go off and take a walk, and then come to dinner. We are going to have a young seal."
A seal! Wasn't that nice? Who wouldn't be a young Greenlander, own a kayah, and have seal for dinner? The prospect before Sammy made him feel better. The world, too, looked different.
"What a nice place we live in!" thought Sammy. "I wouldn't live in Denmark for anything, old Denmark, where our rulers come from."
The scenery about the Greenland village was indeed interesting. There was the blue sea before it, dotted with "pond-lilies." Off the mouth of the harbor, the icebergs went sailing by, so white, so stately, so slow, like a fleet almost becalmed. Back of the village swelled the rocky cliffs bare of snow now, and many rivulets went flashing down their sides from ponds and pools nestling in granite recesses. Away off, towered the mountains, their still snowy tops suggesting the powdered heads of grand old Titans sitting there in state.
"Who wouldn't live in Greenland?" thought Sammy, entirely forgetting the long, cold, dark winter.
However, it was summer then. He went back of his mother's seal-skin tent. There he could see a beautiful valley in the shadow of the cliffs. Moss and grasses thickly carpeted it. Little brooks went sparkling through it. There were flowers in bloom, poppies of gold, dandelions and buttercups, saxifrages of purple, white and yellow. "And trees were there?" asks a reader. Do you see that shrub just before Sammy? That is the nearest thing to a tree. It is pine. If the fat for cooking the dinner should give out, young Miss Seal may be warmed up by the help of this giant pine. As a rule, we are inclined to think that Sammy takes his seal same as folks who like "oysters on the shell"—raw.
"My!" exclaimed Sammy. "What is that noise? It must be a dog somewhere—hurt!"
Sammy started to the rescue.
"It must be a dog," declared Sammy, and he expected to see one of those large Greenland dogs, wolf-like, with sharp, pointed nose, and ears held up stiff as if to catch every sound of danger in their dangerous travels.
Sammy rushed up a little hill before him, and rushed in such a hurry that he did not think how steep the other side was. He lost his balance, and over he went, head down, seal-skin boots up, turning over like a cart-wheel.
"Ky-ey! Ky-ey! Ah, Sammy! Ky-ey! Ky-ey! Catch him!"
It was that old enemy, Billy Blubber, ky-eying in part, and laughing also as if he would split. He only expected to get Sammy to the top of the hill and there tell him he was fooled.
"This though is better than a sea-lion hunt," thought Billy, and he roared again and shook till he threatened to come in pieces like a barrel when the hoops are off.
"I will catch you and pay you," said Sammy.
"Try it," defiantly shouted Billy, wearing now his own boots, having dropped his mother's red casings.
Off went Billy. Right ahead, was a great gray ledge. There was a crack in the ledge big enough for a boy's foot. Billy was the boy to have his foot caught in it! He tried to pull it out, but the sudden wrench was not good for his foot, and there he stood yelling—he was ky-eying now in good earnest.
"I have a great mind," thought Sammy, "to let you stay there. I wonder how you would like to stay and have a duck come along and nip off your nose."
It would have been a nice little nip, for Billy's nose was quite plump. It looked like a fat plum stuck on to the side of a pumpkin.
Well, how long should Sammy have kept him there?
"Till the sun went down," says some one.
The idea! Why, the sun in summer goes round and round and round, never setting through June and July. Then the sun begins to dip below the horizon, going lower and lower, till at last it disappears. For one hundred and twenty-six days Sammy and Billy did not see the sun. Through that long, dark night, the stars would shine, so white and solemn, down upon the ice and snow everywhere stretching. Until the last of July would have been a long time for plum-nosed Billy to stand with his foot in that crack. Suddenly, Sammy heard a noise. "What is that?" he asked.
It was a walrus bellowing in the bay. Sammy turned toward the blue water. As he turned, he saw the minister standing near his chapel. Sammy thought of the text he preached from, the Sunday before, and he began to repeat it to himself:
"Love your enemies—"
"I guess I will let Billy stay here about an hour," said Sammy, meditating.
"Bless them that curse you—"
"I guess I will let Billy stay here half an hour."
"Do good to them that hate you—"
"I guess I will let Billy stay here ten minutes."
"And pray for them which despitefully use you—"
"I guess I will take Billy out now!" And Sammy ran towards the prisoner.
"Billy, are you hurt?"
Billy turned his head away, ashamed to speak.
"Let me take your foot out."
Billy's foot was about as fat as a bear's in July, and it came hard. He shook his head. His tongue stuck to his mouth like a clam to his shell, and moved not. Neither could he step.
"I will take you on my back, Billy!" said Sammy.
And that's the way they went home. Billy in his dress generally looked like a seal standing on his hind flippers, and Sammy resembled one also—nevertheless it was a pleasant sight.
NANNETTE'S LIVE BABY.
A good many years ago, in the city of Philadelphia, lived a little girl, named Nannette.
One summer afternoon her mother went to pay a short visit to her aunt, who lived near by, and gave her little girl permission to amuse herself on the front door-steps until her return. So Nannette, in a clean pink frock and white apron, playing and chatting with her big, wax "Didy," which was her doll's name, formed a pretty picture to the passers-by, some of whom walked slowly, in order to hear the child's talk to her doll.
"You'se a big, old girl," she went on, smoothing out Didy's petticoats, "and I've had you for ever and ever, and I'se mos' six. But you grow no bigger. You never, never cry, you don't. You'se a stupid old thing, and I'm tired of you, I am! I b'leve you'se only a make b'leve baby, and I want a real, live baby, I do—a baby that will cry! Now don't you see," and she gave the doll's head a whack—"that you don't cry? If anybody should hit me so, I'd squeam m-u-r-d-e-r, I would! And then the p'lissman would come, and there would be an awful time. There, now sit up, can't you? Your back is like a broken stick. Oh, hum, I'm tired of you, Didy."
Leaving the doll leaning in a one-sided way against the door, Nannette posed her dimpled chin in her hands, and sat quietly looking into the street. Presently a woman came along with a bundle in her arms, and seeing Nannette and "Didy" in the doorway, went up the steps and asked the little girl if she would not like to have a real little live baby.
"One that will cry?" eagerly asked Nannette.
"Yes, one that will cry, and laugh, too, after a bit," answered the woman, all the time looking keenly about her; and then in a hushed voice she asked the child if her mother was at home.
"No—she's gone to see my auntie, shall I call her?" replied Nannette, jumping to her feet, and clapping her hands, from a feeling as if in some way she was to have her long-wished-for live baby.
"No; don't call her; and if you want a baby that will cry, you must be very quiet, and listen to me. Mark me now—have you a quarter of a dollar, to pay for a baby?"
"I guess so," answered Nannette; "I've a lot of money up stairs." And running up to her room, she climbed into a chair, took down her money box from a shelf, and emptying all her pennies and small silver coin into her apron, ran down again.
"This is as much as a quarter of a dollar, isn't it?"
The woman saw at a glance that there was more than that amount, and hastily taking poor little Nannette's carefully hoarded pennies, she whispered:
"Now carry the baby up-stairs and keep it in your own little bed. Be careful to make no noise, for it is sound asleep. Don't tell anybody you have it, until it cries. Mind that. When you hear it cry, you may know it is hungry."
Then the woman went hurriedly away, and Nannette never saw her again.
Nannette's little heart was nearly breaking with delight at the thought of having a real, live baby; and holding the bundle fast in her arms, where the woman had placed it, she began trudging up-stairs with it. Finally puffing and panting, her cheeks all aglow, she reached her little bed, and turning down the covers, she put in the bundle and covering it up carefully, she gave it some loving little pats, saying softly, "My baby, my real, little live baby that will cry!" And then she carefully tripped out of the room and down-stairs again.
Very soon Nannette's mother came home, bringing her a fine large apple, which drove all thoughts of the baby from her mind, and it was only when night came, and she was seated at the supper-table with her papa and mamma that she remembered her baby; but at that time, suddenly, from somewhere that surely was in the house, came a baby's cry; and clapping her hands, her eyes dancing with joy, Nannette began to slide down from her chair, saying with great emphasis, "That's my baby."
Her mother laughed. "Your baby, Nannette?"
"Yes, mamma, my baby; don't you hear it cry? 'Tis hungry!" And she started to run up-stairs, but her mother called her back.
"Why, Nannette, what ails you? What do you mean about your baby?" she asked in surprise.
"Why MY BABY, mamma! I bought it for a quarter of a dollar! a baby that cries—not a mis'ble make b'leve baby. Oh, how it does cry! it must be awful hungry!" And away she darted up the stairs.
Her father and mother arose from their seats in perfect amazement, and followed their little girl to her room, where, lying upon her bed, was a bundle from which came a baby's cries. Nannette's mother began to unfasten the wrappings, and sure enough there was a wee little girl not more than two or three weeks old looking up at them with two great wet eyes.
Of course Nannette was questioned, and she related all she could remember of her talk with the woman from whom she bought the baby. Her papa said perhaps the baby had been stolen, and that something had been given to it to make it sleep.
"But what shall we do with it?" asked both the father and mother. "Do with it?" cried Nannette. "Why, it is my baby, mamma! I paid all my money for it. It cries, it does! I will keep it always."
So it was decided, that the baby should stay, if nobody came to claim it, which nobody ever did, although Nannette's papa put an advertisement in a newspaper about it.
It would take a larger book than this one in which to tell all of Nannette's experiences in taking care of "my baby," as she called the little girl, whom she afterward named Victoria, in honor of the then young queen of England.
Victoria is now a woman, and she lives, as does Nannette, in the city of Philadelphia. She has a little girl of her own, "mos' six" who is named Nannette for the good little "sister-mother," who once upon a time bought her mamma of a strange woman for a quarter of a dollar, as she thought. And this other little Nannette never tires of hearing the romantic story of the indolent "Didy" and the "real little live baby that will cry."
BROTHERS FOR SALE.
Molly was six years old; a plump, roly-poly little girl with long, crimpy golden hair and great blue eyes. She had ever so many brothers; Fred, a year older than herself, and who went to the Kindergarten with her, was her favorite. Molly was very fond of swinging on the front-yard gate; a forbidden pleasure, by the way. This is the preface to my story about Molly.
One windy, sunny day the little girl was "riding to Boston" on the front gate; she had swung out and let the wind blow her back again a half dozen times, and she was happy as a captain on the high seas, enjoying the swaying, dizzy motion.
Every little girl—and many a boy—has swung on a gate, standing tip-toe on the lower bar, leaning the chin on the upper bar; and as the gate swayed outward, watched the brick pavement rush under foot like a swift stream, all the time dreaming she was a steamboat.
In some such position, with some such thoughts. I suppose, was our Molly when a strange cry reached her ears.
"Brothers for sale? Brothers for sale? Got any brothers for sale?"
"Dot a plenty," said Molly as the gate swung plump against the oddest great man.
He was very tall, wore a huge fur cap, and great coat that reached from his chin to his ankles. The pockets were evidently so full that they bulged out on all sides, and his red belt was stuck full of every odd toy imaginable.
He had besides, an enormous pack on his back.
Molly's eyes, always wholly devoted to the business of seeing, observed all this.
But she only remarked, "What makes your face so rusty?"
Perhaps he didn't hear her; anyway he repeated his cry, "Brothers for sale? Got any brothers for sale?" and was moving on when Molly's piping voice screamed after him, "Tell yer yes; dot a plenty!"
This time he stood still.
"Dot one, two, free—many's ten I fink. Tommy, he's naughty, calls my rag dolly a meal-bag—I'll sell him. He's a drefful wicked boy; he snaps beans at the teacher and gets a whipping every single day."
"I'll take him," said the big man. "How much shall I pay you—what shall I give you for him?"
"A han'kercher with some perfoomery on it."
"Yes, yes, here you have it," he said, and taking a great bottle from his belt, and a little blue-bordered handkerchief from one pocket, he sprinkled it profusely with some real cologne and gave it to the delighted child.
"Any more brothers for sale, little girl? I'm in want of some boys?"
"Yes, sir! You can have Johnny, he tears up my dolls and mamma lets him wear my bestest sash—and the baby, he gets the coli'c and screams—and Harry, he won't bring in the wood for mamma, and he eats up my candy and has cookies for supper and I don't, and—"
"I'll take 'em all," grunted the big man.
"I'll sell Harry for a doll with truly hair and a black silk and ear-rings and some choc'late ca'mels," said she with the air of an old trader.
"What luck!" he laughed; and diving into another pocket, he brought forth a handful of candy and filled Molly's apron pockets, then taking off his great cap he shook down a lovely doll, with truly hair indeed, long and curly, dressed in a black silk with train and pull-back just like mamma's.
"And what'll you sell Jonathan for?"
"Johnny, you mean—you can have him for a kitten sir."
In an instant the fur cap was off, and a little mewing kitten was produced, for her wondering and delighted gaze.
"And the baby—he wouldn't be worth much to me—"
"Well, he is to me—but I'll sell him for a red cardinal sash and a little sister 'bout as big as Tilly White."
"Whew!" he exclaimed, "you most take my breath away! but here's the sash—a beauty, too—I don't happen to have any little sisters with me," feeling of the outside of his pockets, peering into his pack, and even taking off the great cap and shaking it as if a little girl might be folded up in that. "No, really I haven't a little sister about me, but don't you cry; I'll bring one round to-morrow—and now I must be picking up these brothers—where are they?"
"Baby Willie is in the back-yard in his carriage and Johnny and Harry are playing fooneral with him," said she, gravely.
"But that wasn't all; don't cheat me, little girl!" frowned the big freckled-faced man.
"No! I wasn't going to—Tommy—he's in the yard round the corner there with the big boys—he's 'leven—he's my greatest brother—he's a drefful wicked boy—" Molly was going on with the bean-story very likely, but at that moment the funeral procession of a baby carriage and two followers filed up.
The great man darted forward, seized three-year-old Johnny and Harry in his arms, stuffed one head-first, the other legs-first, into the monstrous pack.
The one that went in head-first had his fat legs left dangling; the one that went in legs-first, his head sticking out.
The baby went into one of his deep pockets where his screams were stifled.
This was the work of a second and the man hurried out of sight, saying cheerily over his shoulder to Molly, "I'll bring round the little sister to-morrow."
Molly had so many things to take her attention that she had no time to be conscience-smitten.
There was her odorous handkerchief; her sash, which she hung over her arm; her pockets full of candy; under one arm the wonderful doll; under the other, the live kitten.
But in a half hour the doll had ceased to charm; she couldn't tie the sash herself; the "perfoomery" had evaporated; the kitten had scratched her hand because Molly had picked her up by the tail; only a few chocolate caramels were left, and, I suspect that all seemed as "vanity of vanities" to poor Molly. Just then Fred, her favorite and only remaining brother, came dancing down the path and stopped, amazed before Molly's display of wealth.
Somehow the "choc'late ca'amels" tasted sweeter again when she shared them with Fred, and she couldn't help saying, "Ain't they boolicious, Freddie?"
She hadn't time to tell Freddie how she came possessed of all her treasures, for there again appeared at the gate the same great man, with his cry, "Brother for sale!"
"No, no!" screamed Molly, throwing her two fat arms round Fred, at the same time crying, "Run away Freddie, quick! run away."
Now considering that Fred had the doll and the kitten in his lap, and his sister's arms around his neck, it wasn't strange that the little fellow didn't run.
"I'll give you ten dollars for this boy," said the great man, unwinding Molly's arms, and picking fat Fred up, and thrusting him like a roll of cotton batting under his arm.
Molly screamed and—and—well—she woke.
She hadn't been swinging on the gate at all; there wasn't any horrid, rusty-faced man standing by her; she had been asleep in school and dreaming.
But she couldn't believe it; and with all Miss Winche's kind coaxing, she wouldn't lift her face from her desk, and would only sob, "I want my Freddie! I want my Freddie!"
The funniest part of it was, the child hadn't been asleep five minutes. She had been idly listening to a spelling class, and just after the word "sail" dropped into a nap.
By the way, perhaps I should not omit to mention that before she went to school that morning she had declared to her mother that boys were bothers; no wonder! baby Willie, at breakfast, had punched his little fist down into her mug, spilled the milk, and sent the mug crashing on the floor. Johnny had taken the orange out of her sacque pocket, and she had to let him have it because he was "a little fellow," and Harry and Tommy had carried all the cookies to school in their pockets.
But now—after the dream, Molly hugged the baby; and she said confidentially to mamma, "Isn't he sweet?—I don't think boys are a bother, do you, mamma?"
And a little later, while rocking her old rag-doll, "mamma," said she, "I won't ever swing on the front-gate again ever—ever—ever in my life."
A STORY OF A CLOCK.
My real name was so short that I was called Nancy, "for long." I was the fourth child in a very large family. The three elder were a brother and two sisters. The first, very quick at books and figures, finished his education at an early age, and seemed to me about as old and dignified as my father. My sisters, Sarah and Mary, were exemplary in school and out. The former, at eight, read Virgil; painted "Our Mother's Grave" at eleven—'twas an imaginary grave judging from the happy children standing by; wrote rhymes for all the albums, printed verses on card-board and kept on living. Mary read every book she could find; had a prize at six years of age for digesting "Rollins' Ancient History;" had great mathematical talent, and though she sighed in her fourteenth year that she had grown old, yet continues to add to her age, being one of the oldest professors in a flourishing college.
With such precedences, it is not strange that my parents were astonished when their fourth child developed other and less exaggerated traits, with no inclination to be moulded. Within ten months of my eighth year, my teacher, who had previously dealt with Sarah and Mary with great success, made the following remark to me: "If thou wilt learn to answer all those questions in astronomy," passing her pencil lightly over two pages in Wilkin's Elements "before next seventh day, I'll give thee two cents and a nice note to thy parents" (my father was a scientific man, and my mother a prime mover in our education).
"Two cents" did seem quite a temptation, but the lesson I concluded not to get. "I worked wiser than I knew." I may have wanted a "two cents" many a time since, but I never was sorry about that. Spelling, arithmetic, grammar, geography, history and reading, though they were the Peter-Parley edition, seemed about enough food for a child that was hungering and thirsting for a doll like Judith Collin's, and for capacity to outrun the neighboring boys. To be sure the recitation in concert, where the names of the asteroids, only four in number (instead of a million and four) were brought out by some of us, as "vesper," "pallid," "you know," and "serious" showed that we did not confine ourselves too closely to the book.
Seventh-day afternoon was a holiday, and on one of these occasions I was sent to stay with my grandmother, as my mother, as my maiden aunt (the latter lived with my grandmother) were going to Polpis to a corn-pudding party. I was too troublesome to be left at home, therefore, two birds were to be killed with one stone.
Now I had for a long time desired to be left alone with my lame and deaf grandmother and the Tall Clock, especially the Tall Clock. I went, therefore, to her old house on Plover street in a calm and lovely frame of mind and helped get my aunt ready for the ride.
'Twas a cold day though September; and after she took her seat in the flag-chair tied into the cart, I conceived the notion to add my grandmother's best "heppy" to the wraps which they had already put into the calash. I always had wanted a chance at that camphor-trunk; and the above cloak, too nice to be worn, lay in the bottom underneath a mighty weight of neatly-folded articles of winter raiment. It came out with a "long pull" and many a "strong pull" and I got to the door with the head of it, while the whole length of this precious bright coating was dragging on the floor. But the cart had started, and when my aunt looked back, I was flourishing this "heppy" to see the wind fill it.
I returned to the room, restored the article to the chest quite snugly, leaving one corner hanging out and that I stuffed in afterwards and jumped upon the cover of the trunk so that it shut. Very demurely I sat down before the open fire by my grandmother's easy chair, rocking furiously, watching my own face in the bright andirons, whose convex surfaces reflected first a "small Nancy" far off, then as I rocked forward, a large and distorted figure. My rapid motions made such rapid caricatures that I remained absorbed and attentive. My grandmother, not seeing the cause of my content, decided (as she told my mother afterwards), "that the child was sick, or becoming regenerated." Happy illusion!
At last, my grandmother got to nodding and I sprang to my long-contemplated work.
Putting a cricket into one of the best rush-bottom chairs, I climbed to the Clock; took off the frame glass and all, from its head, placing it noiselessly on the floor; opened the tall door in the body of the clock; drew out and unhung the pendulum—the striking weight, whose string was broken, was made all right and put for the time being on the table. Then the "moon and stars" which had been fixed for a quarter of a century, were made to spin; the "days of the month" refused to pass in review without a squeak that must be remedied, so I flew into the closet to get some sweet oil which was goose-grease; but shutting the closet-door I roused my grandmother.
I quietly went at the old rocking again, the bottle of goose-grease in my pocket, which I feared might melt and I should lose the material—the bottle was already low.
Fortunately my grandmother began napping again, and I resumed my task. Applying the oil with a bird's wing was a lavish process—the wheels moved easily; the hands became quite slippy; the moon "rose and set" to order; the days of the month glided thirty times a minute, and I was just using a pin to prove the material of the dial when my grandmother turned her head, at the same time reaching for her cane (the emergency had been foreseen and special care had I taken that the cane should not be forthcoming). "Nancy! Nancy! is thee crazy?"
Thinking to strengthen this idea, I jumped into the clock and held the door fast; but finally thinking 'twas cowardly not to face it I jumped out again, up into the chair, saying, "I am mending this old clock;" and notwithstanding her remonstrances, continued my work putting back the various pieces. When I was afraid of "giving out and giving up," I decided I would just answer her back once and say "I wont." The wickedness would certainly discourage her beyond a hope, and then I could finish.
So I put the moon on, staring full; in putting on the hands I got, I thought, sufficiently worked up to venture my prepared reply to her repeated "get down!"
I accordingly approached my grandmother, stopping some feet from her; bent my body half-over, my long red hair covering my eyes, and my head suiting its action to my earnestness, and in a decided rebellious tone, I spelled, "I W-O-N-T;" but accidently giving myself a turn on my heel I fell to the floor, with the pronunciation still unexpressed.
I quickly rose, though I saw stars without any "two cents," and returned to, and finished my work. I had just put the last touch on when I heard the wheels. How I dreaded my aunt's appearance! As she entered the door I was found "demurely rocking" to the pictures in the andirons.
My aunt thought I did not seem natural, and kissed me as being "too good, perhaps, to be well." My grandmother tried to speak, but I interrupted:
"I must go home without my tea. I am not afraid of the dark, and I better go."
This was another proof of indisposition to the aunt. I left the house, kissing as I thought, my grandmother into silence; but as I looked back I saw she could not utter a word without laughing at the aunt's anxiety, and so had to put off the narration till after my departure.
I went home about as fast as possible; desired to go to bed immediately—never went before without being sent, and then not in a very good mood. My mother followed me with a talk of "herb tea," and as I thought I must have some "end to the farce," I agreed that a little might do me good. My mother consequently brought me, I do believe, a "Scripture measure" pint of bitter tea, which I hurriedly drank, as I knew my sisters had already started for my grandmother's, to see how I had been through the afternoon. When they returned, though I heard the laughing and talking in the sitting-room below, I was, to all intents and purposes, sound asleep and snoring.
No allusion was ever made to my demeanor. I went to school as usual, and told the school-girls that I had had such a good time at my aunt's the day before that I would never go there again "as long as I lived."
My grandmother and aunt died long ago. For years I had no reason to believe that my afternoon's tragedy was known to any one. But once, not long since, speaking of that clock, I said, "I'm glad it did not descend to me;" when a friend replied, with a very knowing look, "So is your grandmother!"
Once upon a time there was a dear little naughty girl, not bad, she would not have been so dear had she been really bad, but just naughty sometimes, and I must confess "sometimes" came pretty often. She had all sorts of loving scolding names, such as "precious torment," "darling bother," and she kept her poor dear grandmother on a continuous trot to see what mischief she was in, and frightened her mother (who thought everybody must want to steal Zay) by hiding behind the Missouri currant bush until every nook and corner had been searched; and she made her uncle shake his head gravely because she never could get beyond the first question in the Catechism, "what is your name?" and even then would answer Zay, although he had told her that "that was not her name at all; she had been baptized Salome; and Zay was a name she had no right to whatever." Nor can I begin to tell you the times I have exhausted all my strength putting her sturdy little self into the closet, and then standing first on one foot, then on the other, until I was ready to drop, listening at the keyhole for the first small sob of repentance.
Things had gone wrong with our naughty little Zay this morning. Mary, the good old cook, who had been in the house years before Zay was born, had actually refused to let her make any more mud-pies on her kitchen window; and mamma and grandma had sided with the enemy.
Zay was a little dumpling of a girl, with hard round cheeks like red apples, fat dimpled arms, and such wide-open eyes, and she looked very funny now as she drew herself up to her fullest height, which was not much of a height after all, brushed off her pretty blue dress, shook down her clean ruffled apron, and addressed us all in very solemn tones:
"I jes' want to tell you, I've been resulted, and I am never going to live here anymore! I'll go 'way; clear off in the woods! And then I guess you'll all be sorry! Mary need never make any more scrambled eggs for breakfast, cause" (she almost broke down at the bare thought of so direful a catastrophe), "cause there'll never be any chil'en to eat 'em anymore! And then I guess grandpa will be sorry when he comes home tired, and doesn't have his s'ippers all yeddy!"
"O," said her mamma, gravely, "you are going right off, are you, before dinner?"
"Yes, wight st'ait away, now! I'll go get my hat."
Down stairs the quick feet pattered to the hall-closet where the little sun hat hung, always ready for the garden. Soon she was back, and held her chin up with great composure for grandma to tie the strings.
The dear grandmother quietly laid her fine sewing down beside her on the sofa. "Is my little girl going away off by herself in the woods?"
"Yes, miles and mileses!"
"And what will you do when you get hungry?"
"Why, I'm going to take all my money," forthwith going to a drawer in the old-fashioned book-case, and taking out a diminutive porte-monnaie, which contained her whole fortune, three silver three-cent pieces, and hanging it on her fat little hand, "and I can go to some g'ocery in the woods, and buy lots of butter crackers."
I, sitting in an easy chair, just recovered from a long illness, suggested, "But, Zay, you might want something besides crackers. I know a little girl who is very fond of 'drum-sticks' and 'wish-bones'!"
"I can eat bears and wolves. I can make gravy, and," she added, "I'm going to take grandpa's gun wif me."
"Very well," answered her mamma, going to grandfather's closet and bringing out the gun, which was twice as large as the child.
There she stood before us—a little blue-eyed girl with a demure sun-hat shading a very resolute and, as yet, untroubled face, the gun held up tight against her with one fat dimpled hand, while from the other dangled the little purse.
"I'm all yeddy now, so good-bye ev'ybody," she said at last.
"Good-bye," said gentle grandma, holding up the little face to kiss the firm red lips. "I am afraid I shall miss my little girl to-night when I want the red stand drawn out for the drop light; and I'm sure grandpa will need his slippers."
Zay looked somewhat irresolute; but her mamma here spoke:
"I think," said she, "if you intend to reach the woods before dark you should start at once, for it is almost two o'clock now."
"Good-bye ev'ybody," said Zay again.
"And," said Lita, "I'll carry the gun down and open the front gate for you."
Bravely the child marched out of the room, out of the front door and gate. There Lita handed her the gun; but after trying several times to walk with it, she told Lita that she didn't know as she should care for any wolf wish-bone with her butter crackers, and asked her to take the gun back in the house, and then she banged the gate, hoping Mary saw her, with an air of importance, and pattered off on a fast little dog-trot down the street.
Meanwhile we were all watching her behind the blinds.
"Don't lose sight of her," said mamma, "but don't let her see you!"
This is what Lita saw. A sturdy little figure walking steadily onward, never looking back. At length it stops, opens the little purse, counts its money, but never noting that in the trouble with the clasps the three little coins fall, like three silver rain drops, to the pavement. It goes on and on, till Lita fears it will really go out of sight. Then the little figure "slows up" again, opens the little purse, and stops short!
Ah, the horrors of poverty! Lita understands the poor little irresolute figure. No money means no butter crackers, and no butter crackers means despair. The little steps come homeward. The blue eyes are bent on the ground. She does not know that grandpa has come quietly up behind her, and found each little silver piece.
The little rebel appeared in the hall just as dinner was carried in. There was a most savory odor of fricassee. Grandma and mamma and Lita were just entering the dining room.
"Well," Zay calmly announced, "I 'cluded not to go till after dinner."
"Is that so?" quietly replied her mother. "But you might better have gone on. Any little girl who wants to leave a nice home because she can't have her own way, needn't look for any dinner here! I expected you to dine on butter crackers and bears."
"I like chicken, I do," said proud little Zay with appealing eyes, but no tears; "and then I lost all my pennies!"
In vain did the tender hearted grandma pull mamma's dress,—mamma entered the dining room and shut the door; and up came poor Zay to the room where I awaited my dinner, for she had seen a tray borne hither. But she did not know that her mamma's parting injunction had been, "you must not give her anything! I must—indeed, I wish to teach my child a lesson."
Little sun-hat and empty porte-monnaie put away, quietly she seated herself on the sofa opposite me, with two little fat feet hanging dangling down. Dignity kept her silent, and amusement mingled with pity made me so.
This state of things lasted for some moments, while the dainties were diminishing from my plate. Every mouthful was wistfully watched. At length with grave old-fashioned face, she asked, "Are you sorry for beggar chil'en, Aunty?"
"Very sorry indeed," I replied with composure.
Then with a tremor in the voice:
"Aunty, if you saw a little child in the street a starvin' to death for some bread and butter wif jelly on it, wouldn't you give her some?"
I shook my head. Another pause, and then with little fat hands clasped, and voice full of sobs, poor little Zay cried out, "Oh, Aunty, if you saw a little girl starvin' to death for sponge cake, wouldn't you give her some?"
"How could I, Zay, if the little girl's mamma had forbidden it?"
All her fortitude was gone. She burst into tears. She laid her head down on the sofa and sobbed.
"Oh, oh! and they had fricasseed chicken, with Mary's nice toast under it; and you have sponge-cake and wine-jelly; and I haven't nuffin; there isn't one single butter cracker in the house!"
At this climax of misery the house resounded with her lamentations, in which my tears would mingle; but fortunately the dear grand-parents soon appeared to comfort their darling. And so, somehow, up on grandpa's lap it became easier to see how naughty it was to annoy good old Mary, and how ungrateful it was to wish to run away from home. And pardons were begged and kisses were given, and the three little silver pieces crept back into the tiny porte-monnaie, and Zay had some of Mary's nice toast with lots of gravy, and a drum-stick and a wish-bone.
Zay is a young lady now, and I presume when she reads this story she will pout and blush, and the more because it is every word true.
THE LEGEND OF THE SALT SEA.
Once upon a time there lived by the great sea two brothers, named Klaus and Koerg; the elder inheriting the rich estates of his ancestors; the younger a woodchopper, and so poor that it was ofttimes a difficult task for him to provide bread for his wife and little children.
Hard as life often seems it may be even harder; and so bitterly realized Koerg when, nigh on to one merry Christmas-tide, an accident deprived him of his strong right hand, thereby cutting off forever his slender means of livelihood. There was but one resource, and, with crushed spirit Koerg betook himself to his elder brother to crave some mercy for his starving babes.
Klaus was a harsh man, with love only for his yellow gold. He frowned impatiently when Koerg interrupted his selfish dreams, and, for answer to his pitiful story, threw him a loaf of bread and a pudding, bidding him begone and be satisfied. And Koerg went forth with a heavy heart, his faint hope dead.
His homeward path followed the raging sea. The night was dark and stormy, the waves bellowed and lashed at the shore like an army of infuriated beasts; but Koerg heeded it not, only clutched his bread and pudding, and walked on with a white despairing face. Suddenly, as he emerged from a thick bit of woods, he became conscious of a strange light encircling him, and halting, quite terrified at the phenomenon, he beheld a little old man, snow-haired and bearded, standing plump in the path before him.
"You seem in trouble, friend," he ejaculated, with a chuckle. "Something twists in your world, I trow."
Koerg was not slow to recognize a geist; his knees shook, and he dared not utter a word. The elf looked down upon him half displeased, yet chuckling merrily withal.
"You have nothing to fear from me," he continued, sweetly. "I am the guardian of the honest poor. This night I come to reveal to you a secret, which, rightly used, will bestow upon you riches, life-lasting and unlimited."
Koerg, bewildered, could not yet yield simple faith. He clutched desperately his bread and pudding. He found no joyful words.
The little man frowned scathingly on the gift of Klaus, then burst into a scornful laugh.
"It is always thus, friend, with the money elves; they deal niggardly, even at the full. But, care not, since this meagre chip will prove to you a barter for millions. Follow me! The great estates to Klaus; the treasures of the sea Koerg shall know, to-night!" And, with a hand-wave, the elf led the way over the rough cliffs, Koerg mutely following.
He paused at the base of a hillock, shaped like a horseshoe—a spot which Koerg knew well—a place of rocks, reefs, and general ill-report.
"The time is favorable," muttered the little man, "my children are hungry, to-night." And, turning to Koerg, he continued: "Take the gift of Klaus and go down into the sea. A crowd will swarm upon you, as persistent and voracious as any in this upper world. Ask for the wonder-mill, and sacrifice your treasures only in its exchange. I will await you here."
A spell immediately enwrapped the senses of Koerg. Calm and fearless, he descended into the deep, floating dreamily downward to the glittering caves from whence, exactly as the elf had depicted, swarmed forth troops of mermen and mermaids, with eyes and arms voraciously extended towards the bread and the pudding he held tightly clutched to his breast. But Koerg, spurred on by the elf, resisted them all, nor parted with a single crumb till the wonder-mill lay safe in his embrace. The little man stood waiting on the brink.
"I dedicate this to the honest poor," he said, softly. "Yes, Koerg, it is yours. Ask of it what you will, and it shall never fail you—gold, silver, hundreds of loaves and puddings. But—" and here the little man paused, a shudder quivered through his frame, and he continued, solemnly—"remember, that by no hand but yours can it be controlled. Guard it carefully, for the day you part with it your portion shall be ashes, and mine annihilation."
When Koerg dared lift his eyes the elf had disappeared.
Rahel sat at home with the children, weeping. She knew well the heart of her brother Klaus, and how vain would be Koerg's last effort to save them from starvation. A step sounded on the path without. Rahel and the babes stopped to listen. It was not dull and heavy as they had expected, but blithe as the jingle of sleigh-bells, and, in a second, Koerg burst in upon them, dimpling all over with merry laughter. Rahel regarded him, amazed.
"You bring no bread to our starving babes, and yet you laugh," she said. "Oh, Koerg! Koerg! trouble has made you mad!"
Still chuckling he slipped the wonder-mill from beneath his coat and said, softly:
"Hush, Rahel! A geist has been with me to-night. I have brought endless fortune from the depths of the sea." And, plump in the eyes of his astonished wife, he began turning out loaves and puddings with such a gusto that the room was soon filled, and Rahel fain to implore him to cease his elfish work.
From that night, just as the little man had said, riches unlimited came to the house of Koerg. No treasure too great for the mill to produce; and, though the woodchopper strove hard at secrecy, its fame spread far and wide from the mountains back to the sea, and folks flocked by thousands to view the magic engine that Koerg had fished up from the the ocean's depths. And though, always good humoredly, he tested its powers and loaded his guests with princely gifts, yet he rested night after night more uneasily upon his pillow, remembering the solemn words of the geist:
"The day you part with it your portion shall be ashes, and mine annihilation."
One day, after the space of a year, there came to the woodchopper's door a captain from far-off lands.
"I am here," he said, "to see the famous wonder-mill that blesses the house of Koerg."
There was a simplicity about the old tar that completely dismantled Koerg. With less than ordinary caution he brought forth the mill, and displayed it, in all its phases, before his astonished guest.
"It is a clever trickster," finally he quoth. "I wonder if it could grind so common a thing as salt."
Koerg chuckled contemptuously, and speedily spurted right and left such a briny shower as made the old tar blink spasmodically and walk hurriedly away.
But, alas! that night Koerg missed the mill from his side; and when, pale and shivering, he sought the golden treasures hid 'neath the floor, he found only an ashy heap, heard only the mournful words:
"The mermen and mermaids are dead. The geists have ceased to reign."
Far out on the blue bosom of the sea the jolly captain rode, shouting uproariously over the treasure he had secured.
"Precious wonder-mill," he sang, "I will try thee in all thy ways. First salt for savor, then ducks for food, and gold to the end of my days." And he started the tiny wheels, and clapped his hands frantically at its ready compliance to his will.
Forth poured the sparkling, crusty grain in one buzzing maze of whiteness. Thick gathered the milky drifts from bow to stern. Still shouted the captain his savage joy till—a-sudden he paused, gazed as if spell-bound on the mill's mad work, with a cry of terror sprang forward and grasped the check. But, in vain. There was no surcease to its labor. Higher and higher up lifted the mighty salt banks, and, in a twinkling, both destroyed and destroyer sank helpless into the depths of the sea.
And, down amid the green sea-weeds, the wonder-mill still stands, pouring forth salt the whole day long—no hand to check its raging; for the mermen and mermaids are all dead, and the geists have ceased to reign.
And this is why the sea-water is salt.
THE MAN WITH THE STRAW HAT.
It is nothing strange that a man should wear a straw hat; but—well, listen to my story.
One winter I was travelling near Lake Ontario, and, as the day was dark, I could not see every one in the car very plainly. There was a little old man near whose face I could but just see—for he had on a small black hat, and his coat collar was turned up. Soon after I noticed him the train stopped at the station where I was to get off. The old man and five or six other persons also left the train. We all stepped into a sleigh, and were driven several miles over the snow to a hotel.
"It is very cold," said the little old man as we started.
"Yes," said one of the passengers; "but we shall not be long going."
After a short pause, he again spoke:
"It is certainly very cold. I am truly afraid I shall freeze before we get there."
"O, no! not so very cold," said I, drawing my fur cap tightly over my ears.
"I was never so cold in my life!" growled the little man. "My ears are freezing, now."
"Sorry I can't help you," I said, with a feeling of true sympathy; "but we have not much further to go."
Presently he growled again:
"I know I shall freeze, anyhow. Can I take your muffler?"
I spared my muffler. But, pretty soon, I heard from him again:
"The top of my head is very cold, and I shall have a fearful headache."
We soon reached the hotel and entered the office, where a warm fire welcomed us. The little old man undid the muffler and handed it to me. He then removed his hat, and I discovered that it was of straw, and, also, that he was very bald.
My pity for the man was all gone in a moment. It could not be that he had no other hat, for he was dressed well enough to own twenty hats. I never found out what his reason was for wearing such a hat in the winter.
I fell to moralizing presently; but I will not here write down my reflections. Suffice it to say that every day in the year I meet children, and grown people too, for that matter, who are "wearing straw hats in the winter," and suffering various dreadful things in consequence thereof. The very next time you get into trouble, before you grumble and fret, see if it is not because you are wearing a straw hat in winter.
RUFFLES AND PUFFS.
She stood looking down upon her neat plaid dress with a very dissatisfied face.
"Mamma," she said, "why can't I wear pretty clothes every day like Irene Clarke? She always has puffs and ruffles, and her aprons are trimmed so nice."
Mamma finished buttoning the tippet and tied down the snug little hat.
"Puffs and ruffles and dainty aprons are nice," she replied gently. "Mamma likes pretty things as well as Lou, but always in their place, dearie."
But mamma's words did not help. Little Lou went out with the same dissatisfied face.
"They say mammas know best," she spoke. "It's funny, though. Irene's mamma knows a different best from mine—O, there she is!" and Lou hurried to meet the little city girl whose puffs and ruffles had made her plaid frock seem so mean.
It chanced that Irene wore a fresh suit, one that Lou had never seen. Delightedly she spied the dainty robe.
"Ain't that sweet!" she exclaimed, and feasted her eyes till, suddenly looking down at Irene's gaiters, she caught a glimpse of a curious field-bug trotting along on the ground. My little lady forgot the ruffles, forgot everything but her desire for a closer view.
"O, see—see!" she cried excitedly, half-running, half-crawling after the bug, "see this funny thing! I can't catch him! But, O my—ain't he cunnin'! Irene, do get down here and see!"
Irene took a step forward, then stood still.
"I can't," she said, "I might soil my dress."
But Lou scarcely heard. She was absorbed in the funny bug. On she went trying to catch him, till finally he slipped round a tree-root and was seen no more.
Back came Lou to Irene brushing the dirt from her frock.
"It's cold standin' here," she said, "let's play tag."
"I can't," spoke Irene again, "I might trip and soil my dress."
Lou's eyes went up and down the dainty robe. "It isn't much of a tag-frock," she thought. But she was a restless maid. Between hopping and dancing she glanced up at the sky and exclaimed:
"I guess it'll snow to-night. If it does, come over to my house to-morrow and we'll get out the sled. We can take turns bein' horse, you know."
But Irene shook her head.
"I'd like to," she replied, "but mamma won't let me. I haven't a dress that's fit."
Lou's face gleamed with surprise.
"O, my!" she said, "can't you ever take a hill-ride, or build a snow-man, or—" but Irene looked so sober that Lou's sympathies awoke. "Never mind," she added, "you'll come up to your grandpa's again in the summer; then you'll wear do-up clothes, and we'll have lots of fun."
"The do-up clothes are the worst," replied Irene sadly. "Mamma don't want them soiled."
Lou looked down at her plaid frock; she thought of the plentiful ginghams at home. Suddenly she turned and rushed headlong back to mamma.
"O my!" she began, "Irene Clarke can't have no fun! She ain't got no slide-dresses, she can't soil her do-up clothes, and—O my! mamma—it's all them ruffles and puffs! I wouldn't wear 'em for the world! No, I just wouldn't!"
Mamma could but smile.
"I am glad my little girl has changed," she said. "I feared, a while ago, that because she could not have ruffles and puffs on her dresses she was going to wear them up in her face."
The free little out-of-doors girl blushed; and then she could have hugged her plaid frock for very joy.
"Sugar River!" The little cup-bearing hand stood transfixed halfway from table to lip. The silver cup tilted part way over in sheer astonishment. Drip, drip, drip, dripped the contents down into Tot's scrap of ruffled and embroidered lap.
"Bless me! Look at that child!" cried Tot's papa. And Tot was looked at and hustled away, and the little silver mug tried to drown itself in a yellow stream of sunshine flowing across the table; and, failing in that, tried to sparkle just as Tot's eyes had sparkled, and failed in that, too. For that was O, very bright—nothing was brighter than Tot's eyes.
"Well, Totchen," said Tot's boy-uncle Will, looking up from his book as something pierced his knee, as only Tot's small elbow could pierce. "Well, Totchen; what is it? Stories? Then jump!"
O, what happy state to sit enthroned upon a big boy-uncle's knee, and listen, listen, listen, with eyes like the dog's in the fairy story—"as big as the great round tower at Copenhagen"—more or less!
"What shall I tell you? Aladdin? Puss in Boots? Cin—"
"Soogar Wiver" interrupted Tot, promptly.
"Soogar Wiver? Why, what a little pitcher for ears! What do you know about Soogar Wiver?"
"Oo said," said Tot, with decision, "that oo went fisin' in Soogar Wiver."
"Why, so I did," said the boy, reflectively.
"Is it vewy sweet?" asked Tot.
"Sweet?" echoed the boy, taking his wicked cue and with a prolonged drawing in of the lips. "I should say so! Why, its bed is solid sugar, with as many grades of sugar grains for sand as one finds in a grocer shop."
"Do wivers do to bed dus 'ike 'ittle dirls?" demanded Tot, whose young existence was embittered by that seemingly needless ceremony.
"You see," said the boy, with the air of communicating much useful information, "it is even worse than that. They never get up at all. Only once in a while they get into tantrums and break loose and make every one scatter; for a river is one of the quickest fellows at a run you ever saw. And well they might be, for they are at it all the time, asleep or awake."
"I sood 'ike to see Soogar Wiver," said Tot.
"Wouldn't you!" And Will, fairly launched, tossed all conscientious scruples overboard, and steered boldly out into the deep waters of wildest imagination. "You just would! Why, as I said, the river bed is solid sugar. Think how nice to be able to turn over and take a gnaw at your bed-post when you feel hungry! The pebbles are sugar plums, the bigger stones are broken sugar loaves, and the rocks, why, the rocks are made out of rock candy, of course."
Tot sighed, blissfully.
"It is the jolliest place to go fishing. You just lie down on a rock, nibble it occasionally, chew up a few pebbles, take a bite at a stone, and if you are thirsty—as, of course, you would be—there is a whole river of eau sucre—that is what the French call sweetened water—running right by, enough to supply all France. And, all the time, you are hauling up the fish just as fast as they can bite. They are a peculiar kind of fish, wouldn't look at a worm. Nothing short of taffy bait will tempt them. They look like those fishes you buy at the confectioners—penny apiece—very high-colored, very flat, and mostly tail; and, when cooked, they taste very much like them."
Tot still gazed up into the remorseless boy's face in unblinking confidence. And, indeed, from one who, for the last two weeks, together with Tot, had been on the most familiar footing with giants, ogres, and hop-o-my-thumbs, and held the most sympathizing relations towards enchanted princesses and conquering knights, an account of a "Soogar Wiver," was not to be regarded as startling. As for Will's conscience—well, his mission with Tot was to amuse, not instruct—if Tot was amused the whole end and aim of his efforts was attained.
"We tried having dories made of the same material of those candy marbles that nothing but time and long-enduring patience will ever make an end of. But the fellows had such a habit, as they floated down the stream, of eating up the oars, we had to give it up—"
"Will," said Tot's mamma, at the open door, "are you ready? Run away to Ellen, Tot, and be a good little girl."
Tot descended from her throne, slowly and unwillingly, and, going obediently away, never knew about the beautiful river fairy just then springing to life, like Minerva in the brain of Jove, in Will's fancy, purposely to make Tot's acquaintance.
With glistening wonder in her eyes, in robe of trailing, snowy, sun-shot mist, with water lilies dropping from her hair, and the cave—Will could have provided for her such a cave, the water tinkling and trickling from the walls hung with silver spray, stalactites of purest barley sugar glittering, pillars of creamiest cream candy shimmering; and, to crown all and above all, the fairy would have had a daily diet of cream cakes and caramels.
But, before all this splendor of material could be built up into words, the builder had departed, the river fairy had melted back and away into her native mist, and Tot never knew.
That night, Will tossed Tot flying once more into the air, rescued once more his fresh collar from her crumpling embrace, kissed her once more, good-by this time, and was off and away on the cars to school. No more stories. No more fairies. No more anything. Only a wonderful river winding and gleaming and leaping through Tot's childish dreams—beautiful, wonderful "Soogar Wiver," where happy Uncle Will went fishing, lying on the bed of rock candy.
One morning, all in the gray and quiet, Tot had a queer dream. She thought some one said, with a funny little catch in the voice: "Wake up, little Tot, mamma's treasure," and some one held her so tightly she could hardly breathe. And she opened her eyes and shut them again, quite dazzled; but she thought she saw papa and mamma standing beside her bed, and the room was all on fire it was so bright to two, poor, sleepy, baby eyes, and papa's voice seemed to say, a great way off:
"Poor, little, sleepy Tot."
It was such a queer dream, but not half so queer as what followed; for, after a while, she woke up and went right on dreaming just the same. That was very strange. How could it be anything else than a dream, to be taken up by gaslight and dressed all in her little street coat and hat before breakfast, to be made to drink milk and eat when she wasn't hungry, to be petted and cried over and half crushed in mamma's arms, to be taken by papa out into the cool, clear dawning, with the sky just beginning to flush like a sea shell and a waking bird or two to twitter about getting up, to be put into a coach that rolled and rumbled, to be put into something else that rolled and rumbled a thousand times worse; nothing had ever happened anything like this in any of Tot's waking hours before.
After the sun had climbed up a little way into the sky, grown blue and bluer, Tot began to accept the situation a little, and lay very still in papa's arms (the fresh morning breeze tapping her cheek and lifting her long crimped hair with cool, gentle fingers), watching the fences running away like mad, the trees gliding gracefully by in long endless procession, little white cottages and funny little hovels, and pretty little villages hopping suddenly in and then as suddenly out of the scene, a glimpse into shady depths of woods, a glint of a blue, nestling, lily-pad-speckled pond, an emerald gleam of peaceful meadows, a sight at a snowy tethered goat, of dappled grazing cows, a roll and rush and roar through riven, dripping rocks.
Papa told his little girl all about it. How little children in the town where Tot lived were very sick of a dangerous disease—diptheria. And how, coming home last evening from business and learning of several fresh cases, he had become alarmed for his darling and consulted mamma, and had succeeded in frightening her so thoroughly, that she had sat up all night to get Tot's things ready so that she might start the very next morning, on the very first early morning train, to where grandmamma lived.
"And, there," said papa, after they had ridden all the long forenoon, "there's Sugar River, Tot, where I used to fish when I was a boy!"
"O!" cried Tot, and then, immediately, with a roll and a pitch, they came to a little white farmhouse and stopped again, and Tot was at grandmamma's.
Tot didn't like being kissed quite so much all at a time, if it was by a grandmamma. The chickens, though, were fascinating, and as for some plushy round balls of yellow fuzz, rolling about—little ducks just hatched—Tot had never seen anything at all to compare with them. But there was a dreadful and discordant procession of big ducks that struck terror to Tot's soul, and it was very still and lonely when the night and dark crept on. The crickets and the frogs did their best, but they only made it stiller and lonelier; and the hills gleamed against the sky, and Tot missed her mamma. But yet, Tot was very sleepy, and the next she knew it was morning and she was at grandma's, where Uncle Will lived, and Uncle Will was coming pretty soon, and, better than that, mamma was coming, too; and there was a little girl, a short distance up the road, whom Tot was to play with, and then there were the chickens and the ducks, and old Brindle and the pigs, and the pony and the hay cart, and—yes, it was very delightful at grandmamma's.