صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

“Nay, my Redforth,” said Alice, "say not so. Call not names, my Redforth, or they will apply to Pa."

“ Let 'em !” said the Colonel. “I don't care! Who's he?”

Tinkling here undertook the perilous task of remonstrating with his lawless friend, who consented to withdraw the moody expressions above quoted.

“ What remains for us to do?" Alice went on in her mild wise way. “We must educate, we must pretend in a new manner, we must wait.”

The Colonel clenched his teeth - four out in front, and a piece off another, and he had been twice dragged to the door of a dentist-despot, but had escaped from his guards. “How educate ? How pretend in a new manner? How wait ?"

“ Educate the grown-up people,” replied Alice. “We part to-night. Yes, Redforth!” – for the Colonel tucked up his cuffs, -"part to-night! Let us, in these next Holidays now going to begin, throw our thoughts into something educational for the grown-up people, hinting to them how things ought to be. Let us veil our meaning under a mask of romance ; you, I, and Nettie. William Tinkling being the plainest and quickest writer shall copy out. Is it agreed ?”

The Colonel answered, sulkily, “ I don't mind!” He then asked, “ How about pretending ?”

“ We will pretend,” said Alice, “ that we are children ; not that we are those grown-up people who won't help us out as they ought, and who understand us so badly."

The Colonel, still much dissatisfied, growled, " How about waiting ?”

“We will wait," answered little Alice, taking Nettie's hand in hers, and looking up at the sky, “we will wait - ever constant and true till the times have got so changed as that everything helps us out, and nothing makes us ridiculous, and the fairies have come back. We will wait -- ever constant and true - till we are eighty, ninety, or one hundred. And then the fairies will send us children, and we will help them out, poor pretty little creatures, if they pretend ever so much.”

“So we will, dear,” said Nettie Ashford, taking her round the waist with both arms, and kissing her. “And now if my husband will go and buy some cherries for us, I have got some money.”

In the friendliest manner I invited the Colonel to go with me; but he so far forgot himself as to acknowledge the invitation by kicking out behind, and then lying down on his stomach on the grass, pulling it up and chewing it. When I came back, however, Alice had nearly brought him out of his vexation, and was soothing him by telling him how soon we should all be ninety.

As we sat under the willow-tree and ate the cherries (fair, for Alice shared them out), we played at being ninety. Nettie complained that she had a bone in her old back and it made her hobble, and Alice sang a song in an old woman's way, but it was very pretty, and we were all merry. At least I don't know about merry exactly, but all comfortable.

There was a most tremendous lot of cherries, and Alice always had with

her some neat little bag or box or case, to hold things. In it that night was a tiny wineglass. So Alice and Nettie said they would make some cherrywine to drink our love at parting.

Each of us had a glassful, and it was delicious, and each of us drank the toast, “ Our love at parting.” The Colonel drank his wine last, and it got into my head directly that it got into his directly. Anyhow his eyes rolled immediately after he had turned the glass upside down, and he took me on one side and proposed in a hoarse whisper that we should “ Cut 'em out still.”

“ How did he mean ?" I asked my lawless friend.

“ Cut our Brides out,” said the Colonel," and then cut our way, without going down a single turning, Bang to the Spanish Main !”

We might have tried it, though I did n't think it would answer ; only we looked round and saw that there was nothing but moonlight under the willow-tree, and that our pretty pretty wives were gone. We burst out crying. The Colonel gave in second, and came to first; but he gave in strong.

We were ashamed of our red eyes, and hung about for half an hour to whiten them. Likewise a piece of chalk round the rims, I doing the Colonel's, and he mine, but afterwards found in the bedroom looking-glass not natural, besides inflammation. Our conversation turned on being ninety. The Colonel told me he had a pair of boots that wanted soling and heeling, but he thought it hardly worth while to mention it to his father, as he himself should so soon be ninety, when he thought shoes would be more convenient. The Colonel also told me with his hand upon his hip that he felt himself already getting on in life, and turning rheumatic. And I told him the same. And when they said at our house at supper (they are always bothering about something) that I stooped, I felt so glad ! This is the end of the beginning-part that you were to believe most.

Charles Dickens.



UR little friend, Miss Emily Proudie, had on the whole a very pleasant

summer of it at the farm. By the time that huckleberries were ripe, in August, she could take her basket on her arm, and, in company with Pussy, take long walks, and spend whole afternoons in the pastures, sitting down on the great wide cushions of white foamy moss, such as you always find in huckleberry pastures, and picking pailfuls of the round, shining black fruit. She never found herself tired and panting for breath, as she used to in her city life; for there were no bandages or strings around her lungs to confine her breathing, and in place of the hot, close air of city pavements there were the spicy odors of the sweet-fern and the pine-trees and the bayberry-bushes.

Then Pussy had brought her to be acquainted with all the birds, so that she knew every one just as well as she used to know her old calling acquaintance on Fifth Avenue. There was frisky Master Catbird, who sang like every other bird in the woods in turn, - five minutes like this one, and the next five minutes like that one, -and ended by laughing at them all, with as plain a laugh as ever a bird could make. And there were the Bobolinks, with the white spots on their black wings, that fluttered and said, “Chack, chack, chack !” as if they did n't know how to sing a word, and then all of a sudden broke out into a perfect bird babble of “ Chee-chees” and “ Twitter-twitters,” and said, “ O limph, O limph, O limp-e-te! sweetmeats, sweetmeats !” and, “ Veni si-no pi-le-cheer-ene!” And then too, there was the shy white-throated finch, that never sings unless it is perfectly sure of being all alone by itself in the deepest, shadiest little closet of an old pinetree or a thick-leaved maple.

Pussy had taught Emily how to creep round among the bushes, holding her breath, and moving in perfect silence, till at last they would get directly under the tree where the shy little beauty was sitting; and then they would see her dress herself, and plume her feathers, and pour forth just six clear, measured musical notes, - a little plaintive, but so sweet that one who heard her once would want to hear again.

Pussy used to insist that the bird uttered just six words in the tune of one of her Sunday-school hymns, — “No war nor battle sound.” By close listening, you might after a time be quite sure that the bird sung exactly these words in her green, still retirement.

Then there were a whole crowd more of meadow-larks, and finches, and yellow-birds, that used to sit on thistle-tops, and sing, and pick out the downy thistle-seeds, and snap them up, and send the little silvery plumes flying like fairy feathers through the summer air.

Emily used to suppose that there were no sights to look at in the country, where there was no theatre, and no opera, and no museum ; but she soon found that she could see, every day, out in a common pasture-lot, things more beautiful and curious than any which could be gotten up to entertain people in the city.

On Sundays they used to ride two good miles over hill and dale to the village church, and there Pussy had her Sunday-school class of nice rosy boys and girls, whom she seemed so fond of, and who were always so glad to see her.

Many times the thought occurred to Emily, “How happy this girl is! Not a day of her life passes when she does not feel that she is bringing some good and useful thing to pass, feeling her own powers, and brightening the life of every one around her by the use of them. And 1,” Emily thought, “have lived all my life like some broken-winged bird or sick chicken, just to be taken care of, — always to receive, and never to give ; always to be waited on, and never to wait on anybody."

With health and strength and cheerfulness came a sort of consciousness of power, and a scorn of doing nothing, in this young girl's mind. “Because I am rich, is that any reason why I should be lazy,” she thought to herself, " and let my body and mind absolutely die out from sheer laziness? If I am not obliged to work to support myself, as Pussy is, still, ought I not to work for others, as she does ? If I can afford to have all my clothes made, is that any reason why I should not learn to cut and fit and sew so as to help those who have not money? Besides,” thought the sensible Miss Emily, "my papa may lose his money, and become poor. Now being poor is no evil to Pussy; she contrives to be just as happy, to look pretty, to dress well and neatly, and to make her home charming and agreeable, — all by using her own faculties to the utmost, instead of depending on others, and being a drag and a burden on them. I will try and do so too. To be sure it is late in the day for me, I have indulged laziness so long, — and I am lazy, that 's a fact. But then —” And then Emily went on thinking over the explanation that she had heard Pussy give to her Sunday-school class, on the Sunday before, of the parable of the talents, and the uses different people made of them. “ These talents,” she thought, “ are all our advantages for doing good ; and I have had so many! I am like the man who just digged in the earth and buried his Lord's money in darkness; I have not done anything with my talents; I have not cultivated my mind, though I have had every advantage for it; I have not even perfectly acquired any accomplishment. I have not done anybody any good, and I have not even been happy myself. My talent has not only not been increased, but it has grown less ; for I have lost my health, and come almost to the grave by foolish ways of dressing, by sitting up late nights, and living generally without any sensible worthy object. And now, if my Lord should come to reckon with me, what could I say about the use I have made of my talents ? "

This was more serious thinking than our Miss Emily had ever done before, and it ended in a humble, hearty prayer to her Saviour to enable her for the future to lead a better life; and then she began to study as earnestly to learn how to do everything about a house, as if she were in very deed a poor girl, and needed to know. She insisted on taking the care of her own room, and early in the morning you might have heard her stepping about her apartment in a thrifty way, throwing open her window, and beating up her pillows and bolster, and putting them to air. Then she would insist on helping Pussy wash the breakfast things, and she would get her to teach every step of the way to make bread and biscuit and butter, and all nice things. “It does me good, it amuses me, it gives me my health, and it makes me good for something,” she said. “If ever I should have use for this knowledge, I shall be at no loss, and you don't know how much happier I am than when I did nothing."

“Now, Pussy dear,” she used to add, “when I go back to New York this winter, you must come and visit me; for I cannot do without you.”

“Oh!” Pussy would say, laughing, “ you won't like me in New York. I do very well in the country, among the sweet-fern bushes and the bobolinks, but I should be quite lost in one of your New York palaces.”

“No, but you must come and show New-Yorkers what a country girl can be. Why, Pussy, you are a great deal better educated than I am, even in things where I have had more advantages than you, just because you have had to struggle for them; you have really set your heart on them, and so have got them. Knowledge has just been rubbed on to me upon the outside, while you have opened your mind, and stretched out your arms to it, and taken it in with all your heart.”

Emily would not be denied, and Pussy's mother said that she ought to have some little holiday, she had always been such a good girl; and so it was arranged that she should go back to New York with Emily when she went.

But Emily was in no hurry to go back, for, as autumn came on, and the long fine days grew cooler, she found that she could walk farther and farther, and spend more and more time in the open air. She had great fun in going chestnutting, out under the bright gold-colored chestnut-trees, where the prickly burrs opened and showered down abundance of ripe, glossy nuts. Emily would sometimes come home long after dark, having spent a whole afternoon in searching and tossing about the golden leaves, and bearing her bag of chestnuts in triumph, - and so hungry that good brown bread and milk tasted like the most delicious luxury.

Then there were walnuts, and butternuts, and wild forest grapes, and bright-crimson barberries, all of which the young maidens went forth to seek, and in pursuit of which they garnered health and strength and happiness. “Why, Dr. Hardhack," said Emily's mother, “I don't see as we shall

our Emily home again. I keep writing and writing, and still she says she is n't ready; there is always something ahead.”

“ Let her alone, ma'am, let her alone,” said the Doctor. “Give Nature a chance more ; you 'll all be tumbling on to her, and trying to undo all the good she's getting as soon as you get her home ; so let her stay as long as possible."

" O Dr. Hardhack, you are so queer !"

“ Truth, ma'am!” said the Doctor. “ You are perfectly longing to kill that child ; it's all you can do to allow her a chance to breathe. But I insist upon it that she shall keep away from you as long as she has a mind to."

“ Did you ever see such a queer old dear as Dr. Hardhack ?" said Emily's mother. “ He does say the oddest things !” So in our next we shall tell you about Pussy's adventures in New York.

Harriet Beecher Stowe.


« السابقةمتابعة »