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BY J. G. AUSTIN,
AUTHOR OF "DORA DARLING, OR THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT," &C.
CHAPTER I. SUNSHINE CHAPTER II. THE LITTLE WIFE CHAPTER III. CHERRYTOE CHAPTER IV. THE CHILDREN OF MERRIGOLAND CHAPTER V. THE RUNAWAY CHAPTER VI. MOTHER WINCH CHAPTER VII. TEDDY'S LITTLE SISTER CHAPTER VIII. THE FAYVER CHAPTER IX. THE NIGHT-WATCH CHAPTER X. THE EMPTY NEST CHAPTER XI. A TRACE AND A SEARCH CHAPTER XII. TEDDY'S TEMPTATION CHAPTER XIII. THE CACHUCA CHAPTER XIV. GIOVANNI AND PANTALON CHAPTER XV. THE PINK-SILK DRESS CHAPTER XVI. BEGINNING A NEW LIFE CHAPTER XVII. WHOLESALE MURDER CHAPTER XVIII. DORA DARLING CHAPTER XIX. A CHAMBER OF MEMORIES CHAPTER XX. A LETTER AND AN OFFER CHAPTER XXI. GIOVANNI'S ROOM CHAPTER XXII. THE CONFESSION CHAPTER XXIII. TEDDY LOSES AND FINDS HIS HOME CHAPTER XXIV. MR. BURROUGHS'S BUSINESS CHAPTER XXV. MAN VERSUS DOG CHAPTER XXVI. MRS. GINNISS HAS A VISITOR CHAPTER XXVII. TEDDY FINDS A NEW PATRON CHAPTER XXVIII. WELCOME HOME CHAPTER XXIX. LIFE AT OUTPOST CHAPTER XXX. KITTY IN THE WOODS CHAPTER XXXI. THE FOX UNDER THE ROBE CHAPTER XXXII. THE PAINTER AND UNCLE 'SIAH'S HARNAH CHAPTER XXXIII. A GLEAM OF DAWN CHAPTER XXXIV. THE FIRST CHANCE CHAPTER XXXV. THE SECOND CHANCE CHAPTER XXXVI. TREASURE-TROVE CHAPTER XXXVII. TEDDY'S PRIVILEGE CHAPTER XXXVIII. WHAT DORA SAID CHAPTER XXXIX. A SURPRISE FOR MRS. GINNISS CHAPTER XL. THE WEDDING-DAY CHAPTER XLI. KARL TO DORA
"The last day of October!" said the Sun to himself,—"the last day of my favorite month, and the birthday of my little namesake! See if I don't make the most of it!"
So the Sun called to all the winds and all the breezes, who, poor things! had but just gone to bed after a terrible night's work, ordering them to get up directly, and sweep the sky as clear as a bell; and bid all the clouds, whether big white mountains, little pinky islands, sweeping mares'-tails, or freckled mackerel-back, to put themselves out of the way, and keep out of it until November; when, as the Sun remarked with a sigh, they would have it all their own way.
"And as soon as that job's done," continued he, "you may go to bed again in the Mountains of the Moon; for you will only disturb me if you are about."
So the winds, grumbling and sighing a little, went to their work; and the Sun, after a good dip in the Atlantic Ocean, began to roll up the eastern sky, flecking the waves with diamond spray, touching up the gay-colored leaves still clinging to the forest-trees, blazing on the town and city clocks to let every one know how late it was, and finally thrusting his saucy glances into all the windows to see how many persons had needed him.
"Come, come, you city-folks!" cried the Sun. "Your neighbors in the country were up before I was, and have eaten their breakfasts, and half cleared it away by this time; and here are you just beginning to dress yourselves! Hurry up, I say! hurry up! It is the last day of October, don't you know? and to-morrow will be November.
"But, at the corner house of a handsome square, the Sun found himself better satisfied; for through the windows of the dining-room he saw a lady and gentleman seated at the table, having apparently almost finished their breakfast.
"That is better," remarked the Sun: and, thrusting one of his slender golden fingers through the window, he touched the stag's head upon the cover of the silver coffee-pot; glanced off, and sparkled in the cut glass of the goblets and egg-glasses; flickered across the white and gilt china; pierced the fiery heart of the diamond upon the first finger of the lady's left hand, and then, creeping swiftly up her white throat, played joyously in her golden curls, and even darted into her soft blue eyes, making them sparkle as brilliantly as the diamond.
"The sun shines directly in your face, Fanny," said Mr. Legrange, admiring the color in his wife's hair. "Shall I lower the shade?"
"Oh, no! thank you. I never want the sunshine shut out," replied she, moving her chair a little.
"Not to-day of all days in the year, I suppose; not on the birthday of our little Sunshine. And where is she?" asked Mr. Legrange, half turning his chair from the table to the fire, and unfolding the damp newspaper beside his plate.
"I told Susan to send her down as soon as she had done her breakfast. Hark! I hear her." And the Sun, drawing his finger across the mother's lips, helped them to so bright a smile, that her husband said,—
"I am afraid we have more than our share of Sunshine, or at least that I have, little wife."
The bright smile grew so bright as the lady bent a little toward her husband, that the Sun whispered,—
"There's no need of sun here, I plainly see," but, for all that, crept farther into the room; while the door opened, and in skipped a little girl, who might have been taken for the beautiful lady at the head of the table suddenly diminished to childish proportions, and dressed in childish costume, but with all her beauty intensified by the condensation: for the blue eyes were as large and clear, and even deeper in their tint; the clustering hair was of a brighter gold; and the fair skin pearlier in its whiteness, and richer in its rosiness; while the gay exuberance of life, glowing and sparkling from every curve and dimple of the child's face and figure, was, even in the happy mother's face, somewhat dimmed by the shadows that still must fall upon every life past its morning, be it never so happy, or never so prosperous.
"Morning, mamma and papa. It's my birthday; and I'm six years old,—six, six years old! One, two, three, four, five, six years old! Susan told them all to me, and Susan said she guessed papa didn't forgotten it. She didn't forgotten it; and see!"
The child held up a gay horn of sugar-plums fluttering with ribbons, and then, hugging it to her breast with one hand, plunged the other in, and offered a little fistful of the comfits, first to her father, and then to her mother. Both smilingly declined the treat, explaining that they had but just done breakfast: and the young lady, dropping some back into the horn, thrust the rest into her own mouth, saying, "So has I; but I like candy all the day."
"Come here, you little Sunshine," said Mr. Legrange, drawing her toward him. "So Susie thought I hadn't forgotten your birthday, eh? Well, do you know what they always do to people on their birthdays?"
"Give 'em presents," replied the child promptly, as she desperately swallowed the mouthful of candy.
"Ho, ho! that's it is it? No; but, besides that, they always pull their ears as many times as they are years old. Now, then, don't you wish I had forgotten it?"
Sunshine's eyes grew a little larger, and travelled swiftly toward her mother's face, coming back to her father's with a smile.
"I don't believe you'd hurt me much, papa," said she, nestling close to his side.
The father folded her tightly in his arms, lifting her to a seat upon his knee.
"I don't believe I would, little Sunshine. Well, then, sometimes, instead of pinches, they give little girls as many kisses as they are years old. How will that do?"
The rosy mouth, gathering for a kiss, answered without words; but Mr. Legrange, taking the dimpled face between his hands, said,—
"No, no! we must go on deliberately. One for the forehead, two for the eyes,—that makes three; one for each cheek makes five; and now the last and best for the lips makes six. Next year, there will be another for the chin, and, after that, one in each ear: won't that be nice?"
"And mamma? Hasn't Sunshine any kisses for her this morning?" asked Mrs. Legrange.
The child slid from her father's knee to the floor, and, with her arms round her mother's neck, whispered,—
"I'll give mamma all these kisses papa just gave me, and some more too."
And for a minute or two it would have been hard to say to which head the showery golden curls belonged, or which pair of lips was the kisser's, and which the kissed; while the Sun fairly danced with delight as he wrapped the two in a beautiful golden mantle woven of his choicest beams.
Mr. Legrange looked on, laughing, for a moment, and then said,—
"So Susan told you people get presents on their birthdays, did she, 'Toinette?"
"Yes, papa;" and the child, half turning from her mother, but still clinging round her neck, looked at her father roguishly.
"And I guess you knew it before, and didn't forgotten about it, did you, papa?" asked she.
"Well, yes, I believe I have heard something of the kind," said Mr. Legrange, gravely considering; "but, dear me! did you expect me to make you a present?"
'Toinette's face grew rather blank; and a sudden impulse turned down the corners of her mouth with a little tremble across the lips. But the instinct of native refinement and delicacy overcame the disappointment; and, coming to her father's side, the child put her hand in his with a brave little smile, saying,—
"It's no matter, papa dear. I've got ever so many pretty things up in the nursery; and Susan gave me the candy."
Mr. Legrange looked at his wife.
"Your own child, Fanny. O Sunshine, Sunshine! what are you coming to by and by? But bless me! what is this in the pocket of my dressing-gown? Let me take it out, lest it should hurt you when I set you in my lap again. Funny-looking little box, isn't it?"
As he spoke, Mr. Legrange laid upon the table a long, flat box of red morocco, with some gilt letters upon the top.
"Yes, papa. What's in the box?" asked 'Toinette, still with a little effort.
"What do you think, Sunshine?"
"I guess it's some cigars, papa."
"It would make a good cigar-case, to be sure; but you know I have one already, and mamma says I ought not to have any. Let us peep in, and see what else the box would be good for besides cigars."
He unfastened the little hooks holding down the cover as he spoke, and placed the casket in 'Toinette's hands. She raised the lid, and uttered a low cry; while her face flushed scarlet with surprise and pleasure.
Upon the white satin lining, lay two bracelets of coral cameos, linked with gold, and fastened by a broad golden clasp.
"Are they pretty?" asked Mr. Legrange, smiling at the eager little face upraised to his.
"Oh! they are lovely pretty. O papa! oh! is they?"—
"Yes they are yours, Sunshine. Mamma said you had been begging for some bracelets like Minnie Wall's; and so, as I had heard that people sometimes liked presents on their birthdays, and as I had not forgotten when Sunshine's came, I thought I would bring her a pair."
The excess of 'Toinette's rapture would not allow of speech; but Mrs. Legrange, peeping over her shoulder, exclaimed,—
"Why, Paul! those are not what I asked you to get. I told you common coral beads, strung on elastic, and fastened with a little snap."
"But these were so much prettier, my dear, and will be of some value when she grows up, as the others would not. At any rate, they are marked: so we must keep them now. See!"
Mr. Legrange touched a tiny spring; and the upper part of the clasp, opening upon a hinge, showed a plate beneath, engraved with the name, "Antoinette Legrange."
"Yes: they are certainly very handsome; and 'Toinette must be as careful of them as possible. They will be just right to loop up her sleeves while she is so little, and, when she is older, to wear as bracelets," said Mrs. Legrange admiringly.
"I may wear them this afternoon at my party, mayn't I, mamma?" asked 'Toinette, trying to clasp one upon her little arm.
"Oh, we are to have a party, are we!" exclaimed Mr. Legrange raising his eyebrows in dismay.
"Just half a dozen children to play with 'Toinette, and to go home after a nursery-tea," explained his wife.
"Oh, well! I shall be a little late to dinner, very likely: so it will all be over when I arrive. Shall I bring Tom Burroughs home with me to dine?"
"I want Cousin Tommy to come to my party, papa. Tell him to come, please, and Sunshine's love."
"Your party, chick? Why! he would be Gulliver among the Liliputians. He would tread on a dozen of the guests at the first step, and never know it."
"I don't think he would, papa; and he's my little wife, and I want him," persisted 'Toinette.
"No, no, dear," interposed Mrs. Legrange. "Cousin Tom wouldn't want to come, and my little girl mustn't tease."
"No, mamma; but he's my little wife," murmured 'Toinette, going back to her bracelets with a shadow of disappointment in the curve of her pretty mouth.
"If mamma is willing, I will ask Cousin Tom, and he can do as he likes about accepting," said the fond father, watching his Sunshine's face.
Mamma smiled roguishly, murmuring,—"'So long as a woman's possessed of a tear, She'll always have her own way;'" and then, added aloud,—
"Just as you like, of course, papa; but here is Susan, ready to take 'Toinette for her walk."
The dining-room door opened softly, and a fresh, pretty-looking nursery-maid stepped in, saying
"Is Miss 'Toinette ready to come up stairs, ma'am?"
Yes, Susan. You may take the bracelets, pet; but, when you go out, leave them in the drawer of your bureau."
"Yes, mamma. Good-by, mamma and papa; and don't forget my little wife, papa."
"I won't forget, Sunshine," said Mr. Legrange, laughing, as he followed the child and nurse to the door, and watched them up stairs.
THE LITTLE WIFE.
THREE o'clock came at last, although 'Toinette had become fully persuaded it never would; and the little guests arrived as punctually as juvenile guests are apt to arrive. Later on in life, people either expect less pleasure from meeting each other, or are more willing to defer securing it; or perhaps it is that they are willing to allow their friends the first chance of appropriating the happiness in store for all. If none of these, what is the reason, children, that, at grown parties, the struggle is to see who shall arrive last, while at ours it is to see who shall come first?
'Toinette was dressed, and in the drawing-room ready to receive her little friends, by half-past two; and very nice she looked in her light-blue merino frock, with its pretty embroideries, her long golden hair curled in the feathery ringlets Susan was so proud of making, her sleeves looped up with new bracelets, and a little embroidered handkerchief just peeping out of her pockets
Mrs. Legrange, who sat reading by the fire, watched with some amusement and more anxiety the movements of the little beauty, who walked slowly up and down the room, twisting her head to look now at one shoulder and now at the other, now at the flow of her skirts behind, and now at the dainty fit of her bronze cloth gaiter-boots. At last, stopping before the long mirror, Miss 'Toinette began practicing the courtesy she had learned at dancing-school, finishing by throwing a kiss from the tips of her fingers to the graceful little shadow in the mirror.
"She will be spoiled, entirely spoiled, before she is a year older," thought the mother anxiously. "She is so beautiful! and every one tells her of it. What shall I do?"
But sometimes, when our task seems too difficult for us, God takes it into his own hand, and does it in his own way, though that way to us be strange and painful.
While Mrs. Legrange still hesitated whether to speak, and what to say, the doorbell rang, and 'Toinette rushed away to meet her friends, and take them to the dressing room, where they were to leave their outside garments; and the mother laid aside her book, and prepared to help in entertaining the little people.
Another ring at the bell; another troop of little feet, and peal of merry voices; another and another; and, following the last, a firmer step upon the stair, and the appearance in the drawing-room of a tall, fine-looking young man, of twenty two or three years old, who came forward, offering his hand to Mrs. Legrange.
"Why, Tom," said she, "did you really come?"
"As you see, Cousin Fanny. Paul gave me the invitation, with my little wife's love; and how could I decline?"
"I am sure it is very good of you to come and help entertain; but I am afraid it will be a sad bore. Miss Minnie Wall, the oldest of the young ladies, is but just fourteen; and Bessie Rider, the youngest, is not yet six."
"But I came to visit my little wife," persisted Mr. Burroughs, laughing gayly.
"Here she is, then, with all the rest behind her;" and, as the little hostess caught sight of her new guest, she flew toward him, crying,—
"Oh, my little wife has come!—my little, wife!"
Every one laughed, except the young man thus oddly addressed, who gravely extended his hand, saying,—
"Miss 'Toinette, allow me to wish you many happy returns of this fortunate day."
'Toinette looked at him a moment in surprise, then, glancing at the other guests, said innocently,—
"I guess you talk that way because the girls are here; but I like the way you are always, best."
This time Tom laughed as loud as the rest, and, catching the child in his arms, kissed her a dozen times, saying,—
"That is it, Sunshine. Let us be natural, and have a good time. Get the table-cloth, and make an elephant of me."
"LET us have a dance!" exclaimed Minnie Wall, when all the games had been played, and the little people stood for a moment, wondering what they should do next.
"O Mrs. Legrange! will you play for us?"
"Certainly. What will you have, Minnie? But, in the first place, can you all dance?"
"Yes'm, every one of us. Even 'Toinette and Bessie have learned at their Kindergarten; and the rest of us all go to Mr. Papanti. O Mrs. Legrange! last Saturday, when you let Susan bring 'Toinette to dancing-school, I told Mr. Papanti what a pretty little dancer she was; and he made her stand up, and she learned the cachuca with half a dozen others of us; and he did laugh and bow so at her, you never saw; and he called her enfant Cherrytoe, or something like that"—
"Cerito," suggested Mrs. Legrange, smiling.
"Yes'm, I guess that was it; and she learned it beautifully. Have you seen her dance it?"
"Yes, the old gentleman called me Cherrytoe; and you must, mamma, and every one, because I dance so pretty, with my little toes. Will you call me Cherrytoe always, mamma?" asked 'Toinette, with such a complacent delight in her own accomplishments, that her mother's smile was sad as it was tender. But she felt that this was not the time or place to reprove the vanity so rankly springing in the child's heart; so she only said,—
"Mr. Papanti was in fun when he called you Cherrytoe, darling. She was a woman who danced better than I hope you ever will. Now, who is ready for Virginia reel?"
Tom Burroughs led Minnie Wall to the head of the set, other children rushed for places, Mrs. Legrange seated herself at the piano, and the merry dance went on; but, when it was over, Minnie Wall returned to Mrs. Legrange's side, followed by two or three more, begging her to play the cachuca, and see how nicely 'Toinette could dance it. Half unwillingly the mother complied, and found really astonished as she noticed the graceful evolutions and accurate time of the child, who went through the intricate motions of the dance without a single mistake, and, at the close, dropped her little courtesy, and kissed her little hand, with the grace and self-possession of a danseuse.
The children crowded around her with a clamor of delight and surprise; but the mother, anxiously watching her darling's flushed face and sparkling eyes, whispered to her cousin, as he playfully applauded,—
"Oh, don't, Tom! The child will be utterly ruined by so much flattery and admiration. I feel very badly about it, I assure you."
"But she is absolutely so bewitching! How can we help admiring her?" replied he, laughing.
"No: but it is wrong; it won't do," persisted Mrs. Legrange. "Just see how excited and happy she looks because they are all admiring her! You must help me to check it, Tom. Come, you are so famous for stories, tell them one about a peacock, or something,—a story with a moral about being vain, you know, only not too pointed."
"A pill with a very thick sugar-coat," suggested Mr. Burroughs, and, as his cousin nodded, continued, in a louder voice,—
"A story, ladies and gentlemen! Who will listen to the humble attempts of an unfortunate improvisator?"
"Yes, yes, a story; let us have a story!" shouted with one accord both girls and boys; and with 'Toinette perched upon his knee, and the rest grouped about him, Cousin Tom began the story of THE CHILDREN OF MERRIGOLAND.
THE CHILDREN OF MERRIGOLAND.
ONCE upon a time, in the pleasant country of Merrigoland, all the fathers and mothers, the uncles and aunts, the grandpas and grandmas, in fact, all the grown-up people of every sort, were invited to the governor's house to spend a week; and all the cooks and chambermaids, and nurses and waiters, and coachmen and gardeners, in Merrigoland, were invited to go and wait upon them: so there was nobody left at home in any of the houses but the children; not even the babies; for their mothers had carried them in their arms to the governor's house.
"What fun!" shouted the children. "We can do every thing we have a mind to now."
"We'll eat all the cake and pies and preserves and candies in the country," said Patty Pettitoes.
"We'll swing on all the gates, and climb all the cherry-trees, and chase all the roosters, and play ball against the parlor-windows," said Tom Tearcoat.
"We'll lie down on the sofas, and read stories all day, and go to sleep before the fire at night," said Dowsabelle Dormouse.
"We'll dress up in all our mothers' clothes, and put on their rings and breastpins," said little Finnikin Fine, pushing a chair in front of the looking-glass, and climbing up to look at herself.
"We'll get our stockings dirty, and tear our frocks, and tumble our hair, and not wash our hands at dinner-time, nor put on our eating-aprons," said Georgie Tearcoat, Tom's younger sister.
"Yes, yes: we'll all do just as we like best for a whole week; for father and mother said we might!" shouted all the children in Merrigoland, and then laughed so loud, that the mice ran out of their holes to see what was the matter; and the cats never noticed them, they were so busy sticking the hair straight up on their backs, and making their tails look like chimney-brushes; while all the birds in the pleasant gardens of Merrigoland fluttered their wings, and sung,—
"Only listen to the row! What in the world's the matter now? Tweet, tweet! Can't sing a note; My heart's just jumping out of my throat. Bobolink, bobolink, What do you think? Is the world very glad, Or has it gone mad?"
So the children all did what they liked best, and frolicked in the sunshine like a swarm of butterflies, or like several hundred little kittens, until it came night; and then they went into the houses, and put themselves to bed. But some of them, I am afraid, forgot to say their prayers when their mammas were not there to remind them of it.
The next morning they all jumped up, and dressed very gayly (for children do not often lie in bed), and came down to breakfast: but, lo and behold! there was no breakfast ready, nor even any fire in the ranges and cooking-stoves, and in some houses not even any shavings and kindling wood to make a fire; and the cows, who were mostly of a Scotch breed, came to the bars, calling,—
"Moo, moo, moo! Who'll milk us noo?"
and the hens all stuck their heads through the bars of the poultry-yard fence, and cried,—
"Kah-dah-cut, kah-dah-cut! Are you having your hair cut? Can you give us some corn This beautiful morn?"
and the pigeons came flying down to the back door, murmuring,—
"Coo, coo, coo! Must we breakfast on dew?"
and all the little children began to cry as loud as they could, and call,—
"Mamma, mamma, mamma! I want you and papa!"
So, altogether, the older children were just about crazy, and felt as if they'd like to cry too. But that never would do, of course; for nobody cries when old enough to know better: so after running round to each others' houses, and talking a little, they agreed they would all work together, and that every one should do what he could do best. So Tom Tearcoat, instead of climbing trees, and smashing the furniture with his hatchet, went and split kindlings in all the wood-houses; and his sister Georgie, who never wanted to be in the house, carried them into the kitchens; and Patty Pettitoes tried her hand at cooking, instead of eating; and Dowsabelle Dormouse made the beds, and beat up the sofa-pillows; and Mattie Motherly, whose chief delight was playing at housekeeping in her baby-house, set the tables, and put the parlors to rights. But there seemed to be nothing that Finnikin Fine could do; for she had never thought of any thing but dressing, in all the gay clothes she could get, and looking into the mirror until she had worn quite a place in the carpet before it. But, at last, someone said,—
"Oh! Finnikin may dress the little children: that will suit her best."
So Finnikin tried to do that. But she spent so much time tying up the little girls' sleeves with ribbons, and parting the little boys' hair behind, that, when breakfast-time came, they were not half ready, and began to cry,—
"O Finnikin, O! Don't spend your time so, But put on our dresses, And smooth out our tresses; We don't care for curls, Either boys or girls, If we are but neat, And may sit down to eat."
So at last Finnikin followed their advice, and, when she had dressed all the children, was so tired and hungry, that she was glad to sit down and eat her breakfast without even looking in the mirror once while she was at table.
But nobody knew how to milk the cows; and, although Tom and Georgie Tearcoat tried with all their might, they could not manage to get a drop of milk from one of them, and no one else even tried. But, just as the children were all wondering what they should do, little Peter Phinn, who had been listening and looking, with his hands in the pockets of his ragged trousers, and a broad grin on his freckled face, said slowly,—
"I know how to milk."
"You do! Why didn't you say so, Peter Phinn?" cried all the children angrily.
"Oh! I didn't know as you'd want me and Merry amongst you," said Peter.
"Why not? Of course we do," said Patty Pettitoes, who was a very good-natured little girl.
"Because Finnikin Fine told Merry once she wasn't fit to play with her, when her clothes was so poor," said Peter.
"Did Finnikin say that?" asked Patty.
"Yes, she did, sure; and she called her a little Paddy, and said, if she wore such an old, mean gown and bonnet, she'd ought to keep out of the way of folks that dressed nicer, as she did."
Then all the children turned and looked at Finnikin Fine, and said,—
"Oh, shame, Finnikin! for shame to talk so to good little Merry Phinn!"
Then Finnikin hung down her head, and blushed very much, and began to cry; but Merry Phinn went close to her, and whispered,—
"Never mind them, honey. I'll forget it sooner than you will, and I'll come and help you dress the children tomorrow morning."
"And I'll give you my new pink muslin, and my white beads, and my bronze slippers with pink rosettes, and, and," began Finnikin; but Merry put her little brown hand over her mouth, and said, laughing,—
"And, if I get all these fine things, I'd be as bad as yourself, Finny darling. No: I'll wear my calico gown, and my sun-bonnet, and my strong shoes; and you'll see I can get to my work or my play without half the bother you'd make in your finery."
So Finnikin, still blushing, and crying a little, put her arm round Merry's neck, and kissed her; and then she ran and took off the rinses and pins and ribbons and flowers she had found time since breakfast to put on, and changed her blue silk dress for a neat gingham and a white apron, and put her hair into a net, instead of the wreath and curls it had cost her so much trouble to arrange. And, when she came down stairs again, all the children cried,—
"Only see how pretty Finnikin Fine is in her plain dress! She looks like a little girl now, instead of a wax doll in a toy-shop window."
"Yes," said Tom Tearcoat; "and a fellow could play with her now in some comfort. It used to be,—
"'Dear me, you rude boy! you've gone and torn my flounce!' or, 'You've spoilt my bow!' or, 'Dear me, you troublesome creature! you've made me so nervous!'"
Every one laughed to hear Tom mimic Finnikin, he did it so well; but, when they saw that the little girl herself was troubled by it, they left off directly, and began to talk of other things; and Tom came and tucked a big green apple into her pocket, and a lump of maple-sugar into her hand.
Then Peter and Merry, who had always been used to waiting upon themselves, and doing all the work they were able to do, showed the other children many things which they needed to know, and helped them in so many ways, that the troubles of the morning were soon forgotten; and when, after clearing away the dinner, the little people all came out to play upon the green, they agreed to crown Peter and Merry King, and Queen of Merrigoland from three o'clock in the afternoon until sunset, because they were the only boy and girl in all the land who knew how to do the work that must every day be done to make us all comfortable. But Peter and Merry, who were very sensible as well as very good-natured children, said,—
"No, no, no! There shall be no kings or queens in Merrigoland. We will teach you all that we know, and you shall teach us all that you know, and so we will help each other; and no one shall think himself better than any one else, or forget that none of us can do well without the help of all the rest."
So the children shouted,—
"Hurrah for Peter and Merry, and down with fine ways and fine clothes!"
And then they gave three cheers so loud, that the fathers and mothers, and grandpas and grandmas, and uncles and aunts, and brothers and sisters, heard them, as they sat at dinner in the governor's house; and all came trooping home in a great hurry to see what was the matter.
But when they heard the story, and found how well the children were going on, they said,—
"We could teach them nothing better than what they are learning for themselves. We may let them alone."
So they all went back to the governor's house, and spent the rest of the week, and"—
"Tea is ready, Mrs. Legrange," said James at the parlor-door.
TEA was over, and the little guests made ready to go home. Cousin Tom, declining Mrs. Legrange's invitation to dinner on plea of another engagement, delighted Miss Minnie Wall's heart by offering to wait upon her home, but rather injured the effect of his politeness by taking Willy and Jerry Noble upon the other side, and talking pegtop with them as glibly as he talked opera with the young lady.
As for the rest, some went alone, some with their nurses, some with each other. Little Bessie Rider was the last; and, when the nurse did not come for her as had been promised, Mrs. Legrange bid Susan lead her home, leaving 'Toinette in the drawing-room till her return.
"And I must go and lie down a little before I dress for dinner," continued she to 'Toinette. "So, Sunshine, I shall leave you here alone, if you will promise not to touch anything you should not, or to go too near the fire."
The little girl promised; and, with a lingering kiss, her mother left her.
Alone in the twilight, 'Toinette sat for a while upon the rug, watching the bright coals as they tinkled through the grate, or rushed in roaring flame up the chimney.
"I wish I was a fire-fairy, and lived in that big red hole right in the middle of the fire," thought 'Toinette. "Then I would wear such a beautiful dress just like gold, and a wreath on my head all blazing with fire; and I would dance a-tiptoe away up the chimney and into the sky: and perhaps I should come to heaven; no, to the sun. I wonder if the sun is heaven for the fire-fairies, and I wonder if they dance in the sunset."
So 'Toinette jumped up, and, running to one of the long windows, put her little eager face close to the glass, and looked far away across the square, and down the long street beyond, to the beautiful western sky, all rosy and golden and purple with the sunset-clouds; while just above them a great white star stood trembling in the deep blue, as if frightened at finding itself out all alone in the night.
"No," thought 'Toinette; "I don't want to be a fire-fairy, and dance in the sunset: I want to be a—a angel, I guess, and live in that beautiful star. Then I'd have a dress all white and shining like mamma's that she wore to the ball. But mamma said the little girl in the story was naughty to like her pretty dress, and she weared a gingham one when she was good. Guess I won't be any fairy. I'll be Finnikin Fine, and wear a gingham gown and apron. I'll tell papa to carry away the bracelets too. I'm going to be good like Merry that weared a sun-bonnet."
Eager to commence the proposed reform, 'Toinette tugged at the bracelet upon her left shoulder until she broke the clasp and tore the pretty lace of her under-sleeve.
"Dear, dear, what a careless child!" exclaimed the little girl, remembering the phrase so often repeated to her. "But it ain't any matter, I guess," added she, brightening up; "for I shan't have any under-sleeve to my gingham dress. Susan's aunt doesn't."
'Toinette paused, with her hand upon the other bracelet trying to remember whether Susan, or the little girl who came to see her, was the aunt. The question was not settled, when the sound of music in the street below attracted 'Toinette's attention. Clinging to the window-ledge so as to see over the iron railing of the balcony, she peeped down, and saw a small dark man walking slowly by the house, turning the crank of a hand-organ which he carried at his side. Upon the organ was perched a monkey, dressed in a red coat with gilt buttons, a little cocked hat, and blue trousers. He was busily eating a seed-cake; pausing now and then to look about him in a sort of anxious way, chattering all the while as if he thought some one wanted to take it away from him.
'Toinette had never before seen a monkey; and she stared at this one in great surprise and delight, taking him for a little man, and his inarticulate chattering for words in some foreign language such as she had sometimes heard spoken.
The music also suited the little girl's ear better than the best strains of the Italian opera would have done; and altogether she was resolved to see and hear more both of the monkey and the music.
"Mamma's asleep, and Susan gone out; so I can't ask leave, but I'll only stay a little tiny minute, and tell the little man what is his name, and what he is saying," reasoned the pretty runaway, primly wrapping herself in her mother's breakfast-shawl left lying upon the sofa, and tying her handkerchief over her head.
"Now I's decent, and the cold won't catch me," murmured she, regarding herself in the mirror with much satisfaction, and then running softly down stairs. Susan, thinking she should be back directly, had left the catch-latch of the front-door fastened up: so 'Toinette had only to turn the great silver handle of the other latch; and this, by putting both hands to it and using all her strength, she finally succeeded in doing, although she could not close the door behind her. Leaving it ajar, 'Toinette ran down the steps, and looked eagerly along the square until she discovered the hand-organ man with his monkey just turning the corner, and flew after him as fast as her little feet would carry her. But, with all her haste, the man had already turned another corner before she overtook him, and was walking, more quickly than he had yet done, down a narrow street. He was not playing now; but the monkey, who had finished his cake, was climbing over his master's shoulders, running down his arms and back, chattering, grinning, making faces, and evidently having a little game of romps on his own account.
'Toinette, very much amused, tripped along behind, talking as fast as the monkey, and asking all manner of questions, to none of which either monkey or man made any reply; while all the time the beautiful rosy light was fading out of the west, and the streets were growing dark and crowded; and as the organ-grinder, followed by 'Toinette, turned from one into another, each was dirtier and narrower and more disagreeable than the last.
All at once, the man, after hesitating for a moment, dashed across the street, and into a narrow alley opposite. Two or three dirt-carts were passing at the same time; and 'Toinette, afraid to follow, stood upon the edge of the sidewalk, looking wistfully after him, and beginning to wonder if she ought not to be going home.
While she wondered, a number of rude boys came rushing by; and, either by accident or malice, the largest one, in passing the little girl, pushed her so roughly, that she stumbled off the sidewalk altogether, and fell into the gutter.
A little hurt, a good deal frightened, and still more indignant, 'Toinette picked herself up, and looked ruefully at the mud upon her pretty dress, but would not allow herself to cry, as she longed to do.
"If I'd got my gingham dress on, it wouldn't do so much harm," thought she, her mind returning to the story she had that afternoon heard; and then all at once an anxious longing for home and mother seized the little heart, and sent the tiny feet flying up the narrow street as fast as they could move. But, at the corner, 'Toinette, who never had seen the street before, took the wrong turn; and, although she ran as fast as she could, every step now led her farther from home, and deeper into the squalid by-streets and alleys, among which she was lost.
IN a narrow court, hardly lighted by the one gas-light flaring at its entrance, 'Toinette stopped, and, looking dismally about her, began at last to cry. At the sound, a crooked old woman, with a great bag on her back, who had been resting upon the step of a door close by, although the little girl had not noticed her, rose, and came toward her.
"What's the matter, young one?" asked the old woman harshly.
"I don't know the way home, and I'm lost!" said 'Toinette, wiping her eyes, and looking doubtfully at the old woman, who was very dark and hairy as to the face, very blinking and wicked as to the eyes, and very crooked and warped as to figure, while her dress seemed to be a mass of rags held together by dirt.
"Lost, be you?" asked this unpleasant old woman, seizing Mrs. Legrange's beautiful breakfast-shawl, and twitching it off the child's shoulders. "And where'd you git this 'ere pretty shawl?"
"It's my mamma's, and you'd better not touch it; you might soil it, you know," said 'Toinette anxiously.
"Heh! Why, I guess you're a little lady, ain't you? B'long to the big-bugs, don't you?"
"I don't know. I want to go home," stammered 'Toinette, perplexed and frightened.
"Well, you come right in here along o' me, and wait till I get my pack off; then I'll show you the way home," said the woman, as, seizing the little girl's hand, she led her to the bottom of the court, and down some steps into a foul-smelling cellar-room, perfectly dark, and very cold.
"You stop right there till I get a light," said the woman, letting go the child's hand when they reached the middle of the room. "Don't ye budge now."
Too much frightened to speak, or even cry, 'Toinette did as she was bid, and stood perfectly still until the old woman had found a match, and, drawing it across the rusty stove, lighted a tallow candle, and stuck it into the mouth of a junk-bottle. This she set upon the table; and, sinking into a chair beside it, stretched out a skinny hand, and, seizing 'Toinette by the arm, dragged her close to her.
"Yes, you kin let me have that pooty shawl, little gal, cause—Eh, what fine clo'es we've got on!" exclaimed the hag, as, pulling off the shawl 'Toinette had again wrapped about her, she examined her dress attentively for a moment, and then, fixing her eyes sternly upon the child, continued angrily,—
"Now look at here, young un. Them ain't your clo'es; you know they ain't. You stole 'em."
"Stealed my clothes!" exclaimed 'Toinette in great indignation. "Why, no, I didn't. Mamma gave them to me, and Susan sewed them."
"No sech a thing, you young liar!" returned the old woman, shaking her roughly by one arm. "You stole 'em; and I'm a-going to take 'em off, and give you back your own, or some jist like 'em. Then I'll carry these fine fixings to the one they b'long to. Come, now, no blubbering. Strip off, I tell yer."
As she spoke, she twirled the little girl round, and began to pull open the buttons of her dress. In doing this, her attention was attracted by the bracelet looping up the right sleeve; 'Toinette having, it will be remembered, pulled off the other, and left it at home.
"Hi, hi! What sort o' gimcrack you got here?" exclaimed she, pulling at it, until, as 'Toinette had done with the other, she broke the links between two of the cameos, without unclasping the bracelet.
"Hi! that's pooty! Now, what a young wretch you be for to go and say that ere's yourn!" added she severely, as she held the trinket out of reach of the little girl, who eagerly cried,—
"It is, it is mine! Papa gave me both of them, 'cause it's my birthday. They're my bracelets; only mamma said I was too little to wear them on my arms like she does, and she tied up my sleeves with them."
"Where's t'other one, then?"
"It's at home. I pulled it off 'cause I was going to be like Merry, that weared a sun-bonnet, and didn't have any bracelets."
"Sun-bonnet! What d'ye want of a sun-bonnet, weather like this? I'll give you my old hood; that's more like it, I reckon," replied the hag, amused, in spite of herself, by the prattle of the child. 'Toinette hesitated.
"No," said she at last: "I guess you'd better give me my own very clo'ses, and carry me home. Then mamma will give me a gingham dress and a sun-bonnet; and maybe she'll give you my pretty things, if you want them."
"Thanky for nothing, miss. I reckon it'll be a saving of trouble to take em now. I don't b'lieve a word about your ma'am giving 'em to you; and, more'n all, I don't b'lieve you've got no ma'am."
So saying, she rudely stripped off, first the dress, then the underclothes, and finally even the, stockings and pretty gaiter-boots; so that the poor child, frightened, ashamed, and angry, stood at last with no covering but the long ringlets of her golden hair, which, as she, sobbing, hid her face in her hands, fell about her like a veil.
Leaving her thus, the old woman rummaged for a few moments in a heap of clothes thrown into the corner of the room,—the result, apparently, of many a day's begging or theft. From them she presently produced a child's nightgown, petticoat, and woollen skirt, a pair of coarse shoes much worn, and an old plaid shawl: with these she approached 'Toinette.
"See! I've got your own clo'es here all ready for you. Ain't I good?"
"They ain't my clothes: I won't have 'em on. Go away, you naughty lady, you ain't good a bit!" screamed 'Toinette, passionately striking at the clothes and the hand that held them.
"Come, come, miss, none o' them airs! Take that, now, and mend your manners!" exclaimed the old woman with a blow upon the bare white shoulder, which left the print of all her horny fingers. It was the first time in all her life that 'Toinette had been struck; and the blood rushed to her face, and then away, leaving her as white as marble. She cried no more, but, fixing her eyes upon the face of the old woman, said solemnly,—
"Now the Lord doesn't love you. Did you know it was the bad spirits that made you strike me? Mamma said so when I struck Susan."
"Shut up! I don't want none of your preaching, miss," replied the woman angrily. "Here, put on these duds about the quickest, or I'll give you worse than that. Lor, what a mess of hair! What's the good on't? Maybe, though, they'd give some'at for it to the store."
She took a large pair of shears from the table-drawer as she spoke, and, grasping the shining, curls in her left hand, rapidly snipped them from the head, leaving it rough, tangled, and hardly to be recognized.
'Toinette no longer resisted, or even cried. The blow of that rough hand seemed to have stunned or stupefied her, and she stood perfectly quiet, her face pale, her eyes fixed, and her trembling lips a little apart; while the old woman, after laying the handful of curls carefully aside, dragged on the clothes she had selected, in place of those she was stealing, and finished by trying the plaid shawl around the child's shoulders, fastening it in a great knot behind, and placing a dirty old hood upon the shorn head.
"There, now, you'll do, I guess; and we'll go take you home: only mind you don't speak a word to man, woman, nor child, as we go; for, if you do, I'll fetch you right back here, and shut you up with Old Bogy in that closet."
So saying, she bundled up 'Toinette's own clothes, slipped the bracelet into her pocket, then, with the parcel in one hand, grasped the child's arm with the other, and led her out into the street.
"Will you really take me home?" asked 'Toinette piteously, as they climbed the broken steps leading from the cellar to the pavement.
"There, now! What did I tell yer?" exclaimed the woman angrily, and turning as if to go back. "Now come along, and I will give you to Old Bogy."
"No, no! oh, please, don't! I will be good. I won't say a word any more. I forgotten that time, I did;" and the timid child, pale and trembling, clung to the wretch beside her as if she had been her dearest friend.
"Well, then, don't go into fits, and I'll let you off this time; but see that you don't open your head agin, or it'll be all up with yer."
"Yes'm," said the poor child submissively; and, taking her once more by the hand, the old woman led her rapidly along the filthy street, now entirely dark except for the gaslights, and more strange to 'Toinette's eyes than Fairy-land would have been. As they turned the corner, a tall, broad-shouldered man, dressed in a blue coat with brass buttons, and a glazed cap, who stood leaning against the wall, looked sharply at them, and called out,
"Hullo, Mother Winch! What's up to-night?"
"Nothing, yer honor,—nothing at all. Me and little Biddy Mahoney's going to leave some duds at the pawnbroker's for her mother, who's most dead with the fever."
"Well, well, go along; only look out you carry no more than you honestly come by," said the policeman, walking leisurely up the street.
Mother Winch turned in the opposite direction, and, still tightly grasping 'Toinette's arm, led her through one street after another, until, tired and bewildered, the poor child clung with half-closed eyes to the filthy skirts of the old woman, and stumbled along, neither seeing nor knowing which way they went.
"Hold up, can't ye, gal!" exclaimed Mother Winch, as the child tripped, and nearly fell. "Or, if you're so tired as all that, set down on that door-stone, and wait for me a minute." Pushing her down upon the step as she spoke, Mother Winch hurried away so fast, that, before 'Toinette's tired little brain could fairly understand what was said, she found herself alone, with no creature in sight all up and down the narrow street, except a cross-looking dog walking slowly along the pavement toward her. For one moment, she sat wondering what she had better do; and then, as the cross-looking dog fixed his eyes upon her with a sullen growl, she started to her feet, and ran as fast as she could in the direction taken by Mother Winch. Just at the corner of the alley, something glittering upon the sidewalk attracted her attention; and, stooping to pick it up, she uttered a little cry of surprise and pleasure. It was her own coral bracelet, which had traveled round in Mother Winch's pocket until it came to a hole in the bottom, and quietly slipping out, and down her skirts to the pavement, lay waiting for its little mistress to pick it up.
'Toinette kissed it again and again, not because it was a bracelet but because her father had given it to her; and it seemed somehow to take her back a little way toward him and home. It must have been this she meant, in saying as she did,—
"I guess you have come after me, pretty bracelet, hasn't you? and we'll go home together."
And so, hugging the toy as close to her heart as she would have liked herself to be hugged to her mother's heart, 'Toinette wandered on and on through the dark and lonely streets, her little face growing paler and paler, her little feet more and more weary, her heart swelling fuller and fuller with fright and desolation; until at last, stopping suddenly, she looked up at the sky, all alive now with the crowding stars, and with a great sob whispered,—
"Pretty stars, please tell God I'm lost. I think he doesn't know about it, or he'd send me home."
And then, as the wild sob brought another and another, 'Toinette sank down in the doorway of a deserted house, and, covering her face with her hands, cried as she had never cried in all her little life.
TEDDY'S LITTLE SISTER.
"THERE, honey!" said Mrs. Ginniss, giving the last rub to the shirt-bosom she was polishing, and setting her flat-iron back on the stove with a smack,—"there, honey; and I couldn't have done better by that buzzum if ye'd been the Prisidint."
Mrs. Ginniss was alone, so that one might at first have been a little puzzled to know whom she addressed as "honey;" but as she continued to talk while unfolding another shirt, and laying it upon her ironing-board, it became evident that she was addressing the absent owner of the garments.
"And sure it's many a maner man they've made their prisidints out on, and sorra a better one they'd find betune here and Canady. It's yees that have the free hand and the kind way wid yees, for all your grand looks. The good Lord save and keep ye all the days of yer life!"
A wrinkle in the wristband here absorbed the attention of the laundress; and, while smoothing it out, she forgot to continue what she had been saying, but, as she once more ironed briskly upon the sleeve, began upon a new subject.
"And it's late ye're agin, Teddy Ginniss, bad 'cess to yees! And thin it's mesilf that should take shame for saying it; for niver a b'y of them all is so good to his ould mother, and niver a one of 'em all that his mother's got so good a right to be proud on, as Ted. But where is the cratur? His supper's cowld as charity wid stannin."
At this moment a heavy step was heard upon the stairs, as of some one climbing slowly up with a heavy burden in his arms. Mrs. Ginniss paused to listen, holding the iron suspended over the collar she had just smoothed ready for it.
"Murther an' all!" muttered she. "And what's the crather got wid him anyhow? Shure an it's him; for, if it wor Jovarny with his orgin, he'd ha' stopped below."
The heavy steps reached the top of the stairs as she spoke, and clumped along the narrow passage to the door of Mrs. Ginniss's garret. She was already holding it open.
"Teddy, b'y, an' is it yersilf?" asked she, peering out into the darkness.
"Yes, mother, its meself," panted a boy's voice, as a stout young fellow, about fifteen years old, staggered into the room, and sank upon a chair.
"Saints an' angels, child! and what have ye got there?" exclaimed his mother, bending over the something that filled Teddy's arms and lap.
"It's a little girl, mother; and I'm feared she's dead!" panted Teddy.
"A little girl, an' she's dead! Oh, wurra, wurra, Teddy Ginniss, that iver I should be own mother to a murderer! An' is it yersilf that kilt the purty darlint?"
"Meself, mother!" exclaimed the boy indignantly. "Sure and it wasn't; and I wouldn't 'a thought you'd have needed to ask. I found her on a doorstep in Tanner's Court: and first I thought she was asleep, and so I shook her to tell her to go home before the Charley got her; and then, when she wouldn't wake up, I saw she was either fainted or dead; and I fetched her home to you,—and it's you that go for to call me a murtherer! Oh, oh!"
As he uttered these last sounds, the boy's wide mouth puckered up in a comical look of distress, and he rubbed the cuff of his jacket across his blinking eyes. Mrs. Ginniss gave him a slap, on the shoulder, intended to be playful, but actually heavy enough to have thrown a slighter person out of the chair.
"Whisht, honey, whisht!" said she. "And it's an ould fool I am wid me fancies an' me frights. But let us looks at the poor little crather ye've brought home to me. Sure and it was like yees, Teddy, b'y."
As she spoke, she took from Teddy's arms the little lifeless form, with its pale, still face, and laid it gently upon her own bed.
"Oh thin! an' it's a shame to see the party darlint lay like that and I'm 'feared, unless the breath's in her yet, she's dead intirely," muttered the good woman, rubbing the little hands in her own, and gently feeling for the beating of the heart.
"Maybe it's only the cold and the hunger that's ailing her, and she'll come to with the fire and vittels. She can have my supper and my breakfast too, and a welcome with it," said Teddy eagerly.
"The cowld, maybe, it is; for her clothes is nixt to nothing, an' the flesh of her's like a stone wid the freezing: but she's got enough to ate, or she never'd be so round an' plump. It's like she's the child of some beggar-woman that's fed her on broken vittels, an', whin she got tired ov trampin' wid her, jist dropped her on the doorstep where yees got her.—Howly mother! what's this?"
Mrs. Ginniss, as she spoke, had taken the little lifeless form upon her lap close to the stove, and was undressing it, when, among the folds of the old shawl crossed over the bosom, she found a bracelet of coral cameos, set in gold, and fastened with a handsome clasp.
She held it up, stared at it a moment, and then looked anxiously at Teddy.
"An' where did this splindid armlit come from, Teddy Ginniss?" asked she sharply.
"Sorra a bit of me knows, thin; an' is it a thafe ye'll be callin' me as well as a murtherer!" exclaimed the boy, falling, in his agitation, into the Irish brogue he was generally so careful to avoid.
"Whisht, ye spalpeen! an' lave it on the mantletry till we see if the breath's in her yit. Sure an' sich a little crather niver could have stole it."
Teddy, with an air of dignified resentment, took the bracelet from his mother's hand, and laid it upon the mantlepiece; while Mrs. Ginniss, with a troubled look upon her broad face, finished stripping the little form, and began rubbing it all over with her warm hands.
"Power some warm wather into the biggest wash-tub, Teddy, an' I'll thry puttin' her in it. It's what the Yankee doctor said to do wid yees, whin yees had fits; an' it niver did no harm, anyways."
"Is it a fit she's got?" asked Teddy, with a look of awe upon his face.
"The good Lord knows what's she's got, or who she is. Mabbe the good folk put her where yees got her. Niver a beggar-brat before had a skin so satin-smooth, an' hands an' feet like rose-leaves and milk. An' look how clane she is from head to heel! Niver a corpse ready for the wakin' was nater."
"The water's ready now," said Teddy, pushing the tub close to his mother's side, and then walking away to the window. For some moments, the gentle plashing of the water was the only sound he heard; but then his mother hastily exclaimed,—
"Glory be to God an' to his saints! The purty crather's alive, and lookin' at me wid the two blue eyes av her like a little angel! Han' me the big tow'l till I rub her dhry."
Teddy ran with the towel; and as his mother hastily wrapped her little charge in her apron, and reseated herself before the fire, he caught sight of two great bright eyes staring up at him, and joyfully cried,—
"She's alive, she's alive! and she'll be my little sister, and we'll keep her always, won't we, mother?"
"Wait, thin, till we see if it's here she is in the morning, said his mother mysteriously.
"And where else would she be, if not here?" asked Teddy in surprise.
"If it war the good folks, Meaning the fairies, whom the Irish people call by this name. that browt her, it's they that will fetch her away agin 'fore the daylight. Wait till mornin', Teddy darlint."
But, in spite of her suspicions, Mrs. Ginniss did all for the little stranger that she could have done for her own child, even to heating and giving to her the cupful of milk reserved for her own "tay" during the next day, and warming her in her own bosom all through the long, cold night.
"AND is she here, mother?" asked Teddy, rushing into his mother's room next morning as soon as there was light enough to see.
"Yis, b'y, she's here; but it's not long she'll be, savin' the mercy o' God. It's the heavy sickness that's on her the morn."
"And will she die, mother?"
"The good Lord knows, not the likes of me, Teddy darlint."
"And you'll keep her, and do for her, mother, won't you?" asked the boy anxiously.
"Sure and it wouldn't be Judy Ginniss that'd turn out a dying child, let alone sending her to the poor'us. Thim that sint her to us will sind us the manes to kape her," said the Irish woman confidently; and leaving her little moaning, feverish charge dozing uneasily, she rose, and went about the labors of the day.
"Here's the masther's shirts done, Teddy; and ye'd betther take thim to his lodgings before yees go to the office. More by token, it's him as u'd tell us what we'd ought to be doin' wid the darlint, if she lives, or if she dies. Tell the masther all ye know uv her, Teddy; an' ax him to set us sthraight."
"No, no, mother!" exclaimed Teddy eagerly; "I'll be doing no such thing: for it's ourselves wants her, and any thing the master would say would take her away from us. Sure and how often I've said I'd give all ever I had for a little sister to be my own, and love me, and go walking with me, and be took care by me; and, now one is sent, if it's the good folks or if it's the good God sent her, I'm going to keep her all myself. Sure, mother, you'll never be crossing me in this, when it's yourself never crossed me yet; and more by token, it'll keep me out of the streets, and such."
"Thrue for ye, Teddy; though it's you was alluz the good b'y to shtop at home, an' niver ax fur coompany savin' yer poor owld mother," said the washerwoman, looking fondly at her son.
"And you'll keep the child, and say nothing to nobody but she's our own; won't you, mother?" persisted Teddy.
"Yis, b'y, if it's yer heart is set on it."
"It is that, mother; and you're the good mother, and it's I always knowed, I mean knew it. And will I bring home a doctor to the little sister?"
"No, Teddy; not yit. Faix, an' it's hard enough to live when we're well; but it's too poor intirely we are to be sick. Whin the time cooms to die, it's no doctherin' 'll kape us."
Teddy looked wistfully at the little burning face upon the coarse, clean pillow: but he knew that what his mother said was true; and, without reply, he took up the parcel of clothes, and left the room.
All through the long day, Mrs. Ginniss, toiling at her wash-tubs, found a moment here and another there to sit upon the edge of the bed, and smooth her little patient's hair, or moisten her glowing lips and burning forehead, trying at intervals to induce her to speak, if even but one word, in answer to her tender inquiries; but all in vain: for the child already lay in the stupor preceding the delirium of a violent fever, and an occasional moan or sigh was the only sound that escaped her lips.
Toward night, Teddy, returning home an hour earlier than usual, came bounding up the stairs, two at a time, but, pausing at the door, entered as softly as a cat.
"How is the little sister now, mother?" asked he anxiously.
"Purty nigh as bad as bad can be, Teddy," said his mother sorrowfully, standing aside as she spoke that the boy might see the burning face, dull, half-closed eyes, and blackening lips of the sick child, and touch the little hands feebly plucking at the blanket with fingers that seemed to scorch the boy's healthy skin as he closed them in his palm.
Teddy looked long and earnestly,—looked up at his mother's sad face, and down again at the "little sister" whom he had taken to his heart when he first took her to his arms; and then, shutting his lips close together, and swallowing hard to keep down the great sob that seemed like to strangle him, he turned, and rushed out of the room. Mrs. Ginniss looked after him, and wiped her eyes.
"It's the luvin' heart he has, the crather," murmured she. "An' if the baby wor his own sisther, it's no more he could care for her. Sure an' if the Lord spares her to us, it's Teddy's sisther she shall be, forever an' aye, while me two fists hoold out to work fer 'em."
An hour later, Teddy returned, conducting a stranger. Rushing into the room before him, the boy threw his arms around his mother's neck, and whispered hastily, in his broadest brogue,—
"It's a docther; an' he'll cure the sisther; an' it's not a cint he'll be afther axin' us: but don't let on that she's not our own."
Mrs. Ginniss rose, and courtesied to the young man, who now followed Teddy into the room, saying pleasantly,—
"Good evening, ma'am. I am Dr. Wentworth; and I came to see your little girl by request of Teddy here, who said you would like a doctor if you could have one without paying him."
Mrs. Ginniss courtesied again, but with rather a wrathful look at Teddy, as she said,—
"And it's sorry I am the b'y should be afther beggin' of yees, docther. I thought he'd more sinse than to be axin' yees to give away yer time, that's as good as money to yees."
"But my time is not as good as money by any means," said Dr. Wentworth, laughing as he took off his hat and coat; "for I have very little to do except to attend patients who cannot give more than their thanks in payment. That is the way we young doctors begin."
"An' is that so indade! Sure an' 'Meriky's the place fur poor folks quite an' intirely," said Mrs. Ginniss admiringly.
"For some sorts of poor people, and not for others. Unfortunately, bakers, butchers, and tailors do not practise gratuitously; so we poor doctors, lawyers, and parsons have to play give without take," said the young man, warming his hands a moment over the cooking-stove.
"An' sure it was out of a Protistint Bible that I heard wonst, 'Him as gives to the poor linds to the Lord:' so, in the ind, it's yees that'll come in wid your pockets full, if ye belave yer own Scripter," said Mrs. Ginniss shrewdly.
The young doctor gave her a sharp glance out of his merry brown eyes, but only answered, as he walked on to the bedside,—
"You have it there, my friend."
For several moments, there was silence in the little room while Dr. Wentworth felt his patient's pulse, looked at her tongue, examined her eyes, and passed his hand over the burning skin.
"H'm! Typhoid, without doubt," said he to himself, and then to Mrs. Ginniss,—
"Can you tell the probable cause of the child's illness, ma'am? Has she been exposed to any sudden chill, or any long-continued cold or fatigue?"
Mrs. Ginniss was about to reply by telling all she knew of the little stranger; but catching Teddy's imploring look, and the gesture with which he seemed to beg her to keep the secret of his "little sister's" sudden adoption, she only answered,—
"Sure an' it's the cowld she took last night but one is workin' in her."
"She took cold night before last? How was it?" pursued the doctor.
"She was out late in the street, sure, an' the clothes she'd got wasn't warm enough," said the washwoman, her eyes still fixed on Teddy, who, from behind the doctor, was making every imploring gesture he could invent to prevent her from telling the whole truth. The doctor did not fail to notice the hesitation and embarrassment of the woman's manner, but remembering what Teddy had told him of his mother's poverty, and her own little betrayal of pride when he first entered, naturally concluded that she was annoyed at having to say that the child had been sent into the street without proper clothing, and forbore to press the question.
Ah Teddy and Teddy's mother! if you had loved the truth as well as you loved little lost 'Toinette, how much suffering, anxiety, and anguish you would have saved to her and her's!
But the doctor asked no more questions, except such as Mrs. Ginniss could answer without hesitation; and pretty soon went away, promising to come again next day, and taking Teddy with him to the infirmary where medicine is furnished without charge to those unable to pay for it.
Before the boy returned, 'Toinette had passed from the stupid to the delirious stage of her fever; and all that night, as he woke or dozed in his little closet close beside his mother's door, poor Teddy's heart ached to hear the wild tones of entreaty, of terror, or of anger, proving to his mind that the delicate child he already loved so well had suffered much and deeply, and that at no distant period.
Toward morning, he dressed, and crept into his mother's room. The washerwoman sat in the clothes she had worn at bed-time, patiently fanning her little charge, and, half asleep herself, murmuring constantly,—
"Ah thin, honey, whisht, whisht! It's nothin' shall harm ye now, darlint! Asy, now, asy, mavourneen! Whisht, honey, whisht!"
"Lie down and sleep, mother, and let me sit by her," whispered Teddy in his mother's ear; and, with a nod, the weary woman crept across the foot of the bed, and was asleep in a moment.
TEDDY, waving the old palm-leaf fan up and down with as much care as if it had carried the breath of life to his poor little charge, sat for some time very quiet, listening to her wild prattle without trying to interrupt it; until, after lying still for a few moments, she suddenly fixed her eyes upon him, and said,—
"Oh! you're Peter Phinn, sister to Merry that weared a sun-bonnet, ain't you?"
The question seemed so conscious and rational, that Teddy answered eagerly,—
"No, honey; but I'm Teddy Ginniss; and I'm going to be your brother forever and always. What's your name, sissy?"
"I'm Finny; no, I'm Cherrytoe,—I'm Cherrytoe, that dances. Want to see me dance, Peter?"
As she spoke, she started up, and would have jumped out of bed; but Teddy laid his hand upon her arm, and said soothingly,—
"No, no, sissy; not now. Another day you shall dance for Teddy, when you're all well. And you mustn't call me Peter, 'cause I'm Teddy."
"Teddy, Teddy," repeated 'Toinette vaguely, and then, with a sudden shrill laugh, shouted,—"'Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief; Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef.' Guess you're Taffy, ain't you?"
"No: I'm Teddy. I'm your brother Teddy," repeated the boy patiently; and then, to change the subject, added coaxingly, "And what's the pretty name you called yourself, darlint?"
"I'm Cherrytoe,—Cherrytoe that dances so pretty. Don't you hear, you great naughty lady?—Cherrytoe, Cherrytoe, Cherrytoe!"
The wild scream in which the name was repeated woke even tired Mrs. Ginniss, who started upright, crying,—
"What's it, what's it, Teddy? Ochone! what ails the crather?"
"It's only her name she's telling, mother; and sure it's a pretty one. It's Cherrytoe."
"And what sort of a quare name is that for a christened child? Sure we'll call it Cherry; for wunst I heerd of a lady as was called that way," said Mrs. Ginniss.
"Yes, we'll call her Cherry, little sister Cherry," said Teddy, delighted with the promise implied in his mother's words of keeping the child for her own. "And, mother," added he, "mind you don't be telling the doctor nor any one that she ain't your own, or maybe they'll take her away to the 'sylum or somewheres, whether we'd like it or not: and, if they do, I'll run off to sea; I will, by ginger!"
"Whisht, thin, with your naughty words, Teddy Ginniss! Didn't I bate ye enough whin ye wor little to shtop ye from swearin'?"
"Ginger ain't swearing," replied Teddy positively. "I asked the master if it wor, and he said it worn't."
"Faith, thin, and he says it hisself, I'm thinkin'," half asked the mother, with a shrewd twinkle of her gray eyes. Teddy faltered and blushed, but answered manfully,—
"No, he don't; and he said it was low and vulgar to talk that way; and I don't, only by times."
"Well, thin, Teddy, see that yer don't, only thim times whin yer hears the masther do it forninst ye: thin it'll be time enough for ye. And don't ye be forgettin', b'y, that ye're bound to be a gintleman afore ye die. It was what yer poor daddy said when yer wor born, a twelvemonth arter we landed here. 'There, Judy,' says he, 'there's a native-born 'Merican for yees, wid as good a right to be Prisidint as the best ov 'em. Now, don't yer let him grow up a Paddy, wid no more brains nor a cow or a horse. Make a gintleman, an' a 'Merican gintleman, of the spalpeen; an' shtrike hands on it now.'
"'Troth, thin, Michael alanna, an' it's a bargain,' says I, an', wake as I wor, give him me fist out ov the bed; an' he shuk it hearty. An', though Michael died afore the year wor out, the promise I'd made him stood; an' it's more ways than iver ye'll know, Teddy Ginniss, I've turned an' twisted to kape ye dacent, an' kape ye out ov the streets, niver forgittin' for one minute that Michael had towld me there was the makin's of a gintleman in yees, an' that he'd left it to me to work it out."
To this story, familiar as it was, Teddy listened with as much attention as if he had never heard it before, and, when it was ended, said,—
"And tell about your putting me to the squire, mother."
"Yis, b'y; an' that wor the biggest bit of loock that iver I wor in yet. Two twelvemonth ago come Christmas it wor, an' iver an' always I had been thinkin' what 'ud I do wid ye nixt, when Ann Dolan towld me how her sisther's son had got a chance wid a lawyer to clane out his bit ov an office, and run wid arrants an' sich, an' wor to have fifty dollars a year, wid the chance ov larnin' what he could out ov all thim big books as does be in sich places. Thin it somehow kim inter my head so sudden like, that it's sartain sure I am it was Michael come out ov glory to whishper it in my ear: 'There's Misther Booros'll mebbe do as much for your Teddy.' I niver spoke the first word to Ann Dolan, but lapped my shawl about me, an' wint out ov her house with no more than, 'God save ye, Ann!' an' twenty minutes later I wor in Misther Booros's office.
"'Good-evenin', Mrs. Ginniss,' says he, as ginteel as yer plaze. 'An' how is yer health?'
"'Purty good, thank ye kindly, sir,' says I; 'an' its hopin' you have yours the same, I am.'
"'Thank you, I am very well; and what can I do for you this evening? Pray, be sated,' says he, laning back in his chair wid sech a rale good-natured smile on the handsome face of him, that I says to myself, 'It's the lucky woman you are, Judy Ginniss, to put yer b'y wid sech a dacent gintleman: an' I smiled to him agin, an' begun to the beginnin', and towld him the whole story,—what Michael said to me, an' what I said to Michael; an' how Mike died wid the faver; an' how I'd worked an 'saved, an' wouldn't marry Tom Murphy when he axed me, an' all so as I could kape my b'y dacent, an' sind him to the school, an' give him his books an' his joggerphy-picters"—
"Them's maps, mother," interposed Teddy.
"Niver yer mind, b'y, what they be. Yer had 'em along wid the best of yer schoolmates; an' so I towld the squire. 'An' now,' says I, 'he's owld enough to be settlin' to a thrade; an' I likes the lawyer thrade the best, an' so I've coom to git yer honor to take him 'printice.'
"At that he stared like as he'd been moonsthruck; an' thin he laughed a little to hisself; and thin he axed mighty quite like, 'How do you mane, Mrs. Ginniss?' So I towld him about Ann Dolan's sisther's son, an' what wor the chance he'd got; an' thin I made bowld to ax him would he take my b'y the same way, on'y I'd like he'd larn more, an' I wouldn't mind the fifty dollars a year, but 'ud kape him mesilf, as I had kep' him since his daddy died, if the wuth uv it might be give him in larnin'."
"And what did the master say to that, mother?" asked Teddy, with a bright look that showed he foresaw and was pleased with the answer.
"Sure and he said what a gintleman the likes uv him should say, and said with his own hearty smile that's as good as the goold dollar uv another man,—
"'My good 'oman,' says he, 'sind along your b'y as soon as you plaze; an' if he's as—as'—what's that agin, Teddy, darlint?"
"Amberitious," pronounced Teddy with a grand sort of air; "and it means, he told me, wanting to be something more than you wor by nater."
"Faith, and that's it, Teddy: that's the very moral uv what I wants to see in yees. Well, the masther said if the b'y was as amberitious an' as 'anest as his mother afore him (that's me, yer see, Teddy),"—
"Yes, yes, mother, I know. Well?"
"That he'd make a man uv him that should be a pride an' a support to the owld age uv me, an' a blissin' to the day I med up my mind to eddicate him. That wor two year ago, Teddy Ginniss; an', so far, hasn' the gintleman done by yees as niver yer own daddy could? Hasn' he put yees to the readin' an' the writin' an' the joggerphy— picters, an' the nate figgers that yees puts on me washin'—bills, till it's proud I am to hand 'em to the gintlefolks, an' say, 'If ye plaze, the figgers is pooty plain. It's me b'y made 'em'? Now till me, Teddy, hasn' the shquire done all this by yees, an' give yees the fifty dollars by the year, all the same as if he give ye nothin' else?"
"He has so, mother."
"An' whin I wanted to wash for him widout a cint uv charge, an' towld him it was jist foon to rinshe out his bit things, bekase he is that good—natered an' quite that there's niver the fust roobin' to do to 'em, he says,—
"'An' if I let yees do 'em widout charge, I'd as lieve wear the shirt of Misther Nessus;' an' more by token, Teddy Ginniss, I told ye iver and oft to look in the big books an' see who was Misther Nessus, an' what about his shirt."
"Faith and ye did, mother; but I never could find him yet. Some day I'll ask the master," said Teddy with a puzzled look.
"An' so he pays me what I ax, an' it isn' for the likes uv him to be knowin' what the others ud charge; an', whin he gives me forty cints the dozen, he thinks, the poor innercint! that it's mooch as I would ax uv any one. Now, Teddy b'y, isn' all I've towld ye God's truth? and haven't ye heerd it as many times as yees are days owld out uv yer own moother's lips?"
"Faith and I have, mother."
"An' wud yer moother till yees a lie, or bid yees do what wasn't plazin' to God, Teddy?"
"Sure she wouldn't; and I'll lick the first fellow that'll say she would, if he was as big as Goliah in the Bible," said Teddy, doubling up his fist, and nodding fiercely.
"Thin, Teddy Ginniss, we cooms to this; an' it's not the first time, nor yet the last, we'll coom to it. If iver ye can do yer masther a service, be it big or be it little; if iver the stringth, or the coorage, or the life itself, of yees, or thim as is dear to yees, ud sarve him or plaze him,—I bid yees now to give it him free an' willin' as ye'd give it to God. An' so ye mind me, it's my blissin' an' the blissin' uv yer dead father that's iver wid ye; an' so ye fail me, it's the black curse uv disobedience, an' yer moother's brukken heart, that shall cling to yees for iver and iver, while life shall last. Do ye mind that, b'y?"
"I mind it, and I'll heed it, mother, as I've promised you before," said Teddy solemnly; and mother and son exchanged as tender and as true a kiss as young Bayard and his lady-mother could have done when she gave him to be a knight and chevalier.
All through this long conversation, which had been carried on in a low tone of voice, and frequently interrupted when it seemed to disturb her, 'Toinette had slept feverish and restlessly; but as the washwoman crept away to begin her daily labors, and Teddy lingered for a moment more to look at the poor little sister whose beauty was to him an ever-new delight, her great blue eyes suddenly opened, and fixed upon him, while with an airy little laugh she said,—
"We're King and Queen of Merrigoland, Peter; isn't we? Does you love me, Peter?"
"I couldn't tell how well I love you, Cherry dear; but it's Teddy I am, and not Peter," said the boy, bashfully kissing the little hot hand upon the outside of the bed.
To his dismay, the delirious child snatched it from him with a wild cry, and burst into a storm of tears and sobs, crying,—
"Go away, wicked lady! go away, I say! God won't love you when you strike me, you know. He won't: my mamma said so. Oh, oh, oh!"
Her cries brought Mrs. Ginniss to her side in a moment, who, tenderly soothing her, turned upon Teddy.
"Bad 'cess to yees, ye spalpeen! An' what ud ye be afther vexin' her for, an' her in a faver? What did yees say to her?"
"I said my name was Teddy, and not Peter; and then she said I was a lady, and struck her," replied the boy, bewildered, and a little indignant.
"And sure ye'r Peter or Paul, or Judas hissilf, if so be she likes to call ye so while she's this way; an', if ye shtrike her, it's the weight uv my fist ye'll feel; mind that, young man!—Whisht, thin, darlint! asy, mavourneen!"
'Toinette, hushed upon the motherly bosom of the good woman, soon ceased her cries, and presently fell again to sleep; while Teddy, with rather an injured look upon his uncouth face, and yet pleased to see the little sister in his mother's arms, crept softly from the room, with his breakfast in his hand.
THE EMPTY NEST.
WHEN Susan returned from carrying Bessie Rider home, she was quite surprised to find the front-door ajar, as she thought she had been sure of latching it in going out; but, without stopping to make any inquiries of the other servants, she ran up the stairs, took off her shawl and hood, and then went to the drawing-room for 'Toinette. The room was empty; and Susan at once concluded that Mrs. Legrange had taken the child to her own chamber while she dressed for dinner, as 'Toinette often begged to be present at this ceremony, and was often indulged.
"I'll just ready up the nursery a bit before I fetch her," said Susan, looking round the littered room; and so it was half an hour before she knocked at Mrs. Legrange's chamber-door with, "I came for Miss 'Toinette, ma'am."
"Come in, Susan. Miss 'Toinette, did you say? She is down in the drawing-room by herself, and you had better put her to bed at once. She must be very tired."
Alas! the tender mother little guessed how tired!
Without reply, Susan closed the door, and ran down stairs; an uneasy feeling creeping over her, although she would not yet confess it even to herself.
The drawing-room was still empty; but James had lighted the gas and stirred the fire, so that every corner was as light as day. In every window-recess, under every couch and sofa, behind every large chair, even in the closet of the tagre, Susan searched for her little charge, hoping, praying to find her asleep, or roguishly hiding, as she had known her to do before. But all in vain: no merry face, no sunny curls, no laughing eyes, peeped out from recess or corner or hiding place; and Susan's ruddy face grew pale even to the lips.
She flew to the dining-room, and searched it as narrowly as she had done the drawing-room.
No: she was not there!
The library, the bath-room, the chambers, the nursery again, the servants' chambers, the kitchen, laundry, pantries, the very cellar!
No, no, no! 'Toinette was in none of them. 'Toinette was not in any nook of the whole wide house, that, without her, seemed so empty and desolate. Standing in one of the upper entries, mute and bewildered, Susan heard a latch-key turn in the front-door lock, and presently Mr. Legrange's pleasant voice speaking in the hall. A sudden hope rushed into Susan's heart. The child might possibly have gone to meet her father, and was now returned with him. She rushed down stairs as fast as her feet could carry her; but in the hall stood only Mr. Legrange, talking to James, who had some message to deliver to him.
As Susan flew down the stairs, the master turned and looked at her in some surprise.
"Be careful, Susan: you nearly fell then. Is any thing the matter?"
"Miss 'Toinette, sir: I can't find her, high nor low!" gasped Susan.
"Can't find her! Good heavens! you don't mean to say she's lost!" exclaimed the father, turning, and staring at the nurse in dismay.
"Oh! I don't know, sir, I'm sure; but I can't find her," cried Susan, wildly bursting into tears.
"Where is her mother? Where is Mrs. Legrange, James?"
"I don't know, sir, I'm sure," said the footman blankly.
"She's in her own room, sir; and I'm afraid to go to tell her, she'll feel that bad. And indeed it wasn't any fault of mine: I only went"—
"Hush!" exclaimed Mr. Legrange, who had heard his wife close her chamber-door and begin to descend the stairs, and did not wish her to be frightened.
"Wait here a moment, Susan," added he, and, running up stairs, entered the drawing-room just after his wife, who stood before the fire, looking so pretty and so gay in her blue silk-dress, with a ribbon of the same shade twisted among her golden curls, that her husband shrunk back, dreading to ask the question that must so shock and startle her. But Mrs. Legrange had caught sight of him, and, running to the door, opened it suddenly, crying,—
"Come in, you silly boy! Are you playing bo-beep? I don't do such things since my daughter is six years old, I would have you to understand."
Mr. Legrange, forcing a laugh and a careless tone, came forward as she spoke, and, stooping to kiss her, asked,—
"And where is your daughter, my love?"
"'Toinette? Oh! I suppose she is with Susan," began Mrs. Legrange carelessly; and then, as something in her husband's voice or manner attracted her attention, she drew back, and hurriedly looked into his face, crying,—
"O Paul! what is it? What has happened? Is 'Toinette hurt? Where is she?"
"Be quiet, darling; don't be alarmed. Wait till we know more.—Susan, come up here," called Mr. Legrange; and Susan, with her face buried in her apron, and sobbing as if her heart would break, crept timidly up the stairs and into the room.
At sight of her, Mrs. Legrange turned pale, and clung to her husband for support.
"O Susan! what is it? Tell me quick!"
"She's gone, ma'am, and I don't know where!" sobbed the nurse.
"Gone! What, 'Toinette gone! Lost, do you mean?" cried the mother wildly, while her pale cheeks flushed scarlet, and her soft eyes glittered with terror.
"Oh! I don't know, ma'am; but I can't find her."
"Lost! What, 'Toinette lost!" repeated the mother in the same wild tone, and trying to tear herself away from her husband's detaining arms. But, soothing her as he would a child, Mr. Legrange, by a few calm and well-directed questions, drew from both mistress and maid all that was to be known of 'Toinette's disappearance, and, when the whole was told, said,—
"Well, Susan, you are not to blame. You merely obeyed your mistress's directions, and need not feel that this misfortune is at all your fault. No doubt 'Toinette has gone out by herself, and is, for the moment, lost, but, I trust, will soon be found. You may go at once to the houses of the neighbors whose children she has been in the habit of visiting. Be as quick as you can about it; and, if you do not find her, come directly home, and I will warn the police. Send James up to me as you go down."
"Yes, sir," said Susan, a little comforted; and, as she closed the door, Mr. Legrange returned to his wife, and, clasping her tenderly in his arms, kissed the burning cheeks and glittering eyes that frightened him, until the dangerous calm broke up in a gracious flood of tears and wild sobs of, "My child!—O my little child!"
"Hush, darling, hush! You must be calm, or I cannot leave you,—cannot go to look for her. I will not leave you so, even to search for her."
"Yes, yes, go! I will try—O Paul, Paul! do go and look for her!"
"When I see you calmer, love; not till then;" and the tender-hearted man could himself have wept to see the heroic efforts of that delicate nature to control itself and put his fears to rest. He still was soothing her, when, with a tap at the door, entered James, followed by Susan, who hurriedly announced that 'Toinette was not to be heard of at any of the neighbors, and asked where she should go next.
"Nowhere! Stay here and attend to Mrs. Legrange until I return. I shall go at once to the police-station. James, you know where Mr. Burroughs lives?"
"Go to him. Or stay: he is dining with a friend to-day. Here is the direction. Go to this house at once; see Mr. Burroughs; tell him that 'Toinette is lost, and beg him to come up here directly. Keep your eyes open as you go: you may possibly meet her yourself. Hurry, man; hurry for your life!"
"Yes, sir," replied the man heartily; and Mr. Legrange returned to his wife, who was walking quickly up and down the room, her hands clasped tight before her, her lips rigid, and her eyes set.
"There, darling, I have sent for Tom to help us; and no one could do it better than he will. I am going to the police myself. Take courage, dearest, and hope, as I do, that, before morning, we shall have our pet back, safe and sound. But you—O Fanny! how can I leave you so? Try, try, for my sake, for 'Toinette's sake, to be calm and hopeful."
"Yes—I—will—try!" sobbed the poor mother; and Mr. Legrange, not daring to trust himself to look at her again, lest he also should break down, hastened from the room.
But morning came, and night, and yet another morning and as the father, the mother, the cousin who was almost brother to both, the assistants, and poor broken-hearted Susan, looked into each other's wan, worn faces, they found nothing there but discouragement, and almost hopeless despair.
Mrs. Legrange who had not eaten or slept since 'Toinette's disappearance, was already too ill to sit up, but insisted upon remaining dressed, and waiting in the drawing-room for the reports that some one of those engaged in the search brought almost hourly to the house. Her husband, looking like the ghost of his former self, wandered incessantly from his own home to the police-office and back again, each time through some new street, and peering curiously into the face of every child he met, that more than one of them ran frightened home to tell their mothers that they had met a crazy man, who stared at them as if he would eat them up.
And yet no clew, no faintest trace, of the little 'Toinette, who lay tossing in her fever-dreams upon good Mrs. Ginniss's humble bed, while the young doctor day by day shook his head more sadly over her, and said to his own heart that it was only by God's special mercy she could ever rise from that cruel illness.
A TRACE AND A SEARCH.
THREE weary nights and two days had passed, when as Mr. Legrange, bending over his wife's sofa, entreated her to take the food and drink he had himself prepared for her, a sharp peal at the bell, followed by a bounding step upon the stair, startled them both.
"It is Tom, and he has news!" exclaimed Mrs. Legrange in a low voice, as she pushed away the tray and rose to her feet.
The door opened, and the young man entered, his tired face glowing with hope and satisfaction. In his hand he held a little bundle; and sitting down, with no more than word of greeting, he hastily untied it upon his knee.
"Aren't these her clothes?" asked he breathlessly, as he held up by one sleeve a little sky-blue merino-dress, with a torn lace undersleeve hanging from the shoulder, and in the other hand a pair of dainty little boots of bronze cloth.
Mrs. Legrange, with a wild cry, darted forward, and, grasping the pretty dress, buried her face in it, covering it with kisses, while she cried,—
"Yes, yes! O Tom! where is she? Tell me quick, before my poor heart breaks with joy!"
Mr. Burroughs remained silent. How could he say that he knew as little as ever how to answer this appeal?
"Where did you get them, Tom?" asked Mr. Legrange hurriedly.
"Billings found them in a pawn-broker's shop. You know we gave all the detectives a list of the clothing, and full description of the child. Billings has been all over the city, examining at every pawn-broker's shop all the children's clothes brought in since we lost her, you know"—
"Yes, yes! And when"—
"Last night he found this in a little out-of-the-way place (I didn't stop to ask where), and, thinking they looked like the right thing, brought them to me. I was asleep, and the people stupidly would not wake me: so he waited; and this morning, when I rose, there he was. I snatched the bundle, and came right along with it. Now, of course, they'll soon find who left them: only, unluckily, they weren't pawned, but sold outright; so they didn't take the name; but the man thinks it was an old woman who sold them to him. He is in custody; and we will go down and hear the examination, Paul."
"Certainly, at once." And Mr. Legrange nervously buttoned his coat, and moved toward the door.
"It is to be at ten, and it is now half-past nine. I suppose we had better go at once. Good-by, dear cousin Fanny!" said Mr. Burroughs, looking sorrowfully at the wan face upraised to his, as the poor mother replied,—