Dick and Dollyñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Dick and Dolly were twins and had been twins for nine years.
Most of these years had been spent with Grandma Banks and Aunt Helen, for Dick and Dolly were orphaned when they were tiny tots, and Aunt Helen Banks was their mother’s sister.
Then, about two years ago, Grandma Banks had died, and now Aunt Helen was to be married and go far away across the sea to live.
So their Chicago home was broken up, and the twins were sent to the old Dana homestead in Connecticut, to live with their father’s people.
This transfer of their dwelling-place didn’t bother Dick and Dolly much, for they were philosophical little people and took things just as they happened, and, moreover, they were so fond of each other, that so long as they were together, it didn’t matter to them where they were.
But to the two people who lived in the old Dana place, and who were about to receive the twin charges, it mattered a great deal.
Miss Rachel and Miss Abbie Dana were maiden ladies of precise and methodical habits, and to have their quiet home invaded by two unknown children was, to say the least, disturbing.
But then Dick and Dolly were the children of their own brother, and so, of course they were welcome, still the aunts felt sure it would make a great difference in the household.
And indeed it did.
From the moment of the twins’ arrival, – but I may as well tell you about that moment.
You see, Aunt Helen was so busy with her wedding preparations that she didn’t want to take the time to bring Dick and Dolly all the way from Chicago to Heatherton, Connecticut, so she sent them East in charge of some friends of hers who chanced to be coming. Mr. and Mrs. Halkett were good-natured people, and agreed to see the twins safely to Dana Dene, the home of the waiting aunts.
And the aunts were waiting somewhat anxiously.
They had never seen Dick and Dolly since they were tiny babies, and as they had heard vague reports of mischievous tendencies, they feared for the peace and quiet of their uneventful lives.
“But,” said Miss Abbie to Miss Rachel, “we can’t expect children to act like grown people. If they’re only tidy and fairly good-mannered, I shall be thankful.”
“Perhaps we can train them to be,” responded Miss Rachel, hopefully; “nine is not very old, to begin with. I think they will be tractable at that age.”
“Let us hope so,” said Miss Abbie.
The Dana ladies were not really old, – even the family Bible didn’t credit them with quite half a century apiece, – but they were of a quiet, sedate type, and were disturbed by the least invasion of their daily routine.
Life at Dana Dene was of the clock-work variety, and mistresses and servants fell into step and trooped through each day, without a variation from the pre-arranged line of march.
But, to their honest souls, duty was pre-eminent, even over routine, and now, as it was clearly their duty to take their brother’s children into their household, there was no hesitation, but there was apprehension.
For who could say what two nine-year-olds would be like?
But in accordance with their sense of duty, the Misses Dana accepted the situation and went to work to prepare rooms for the new-comers.
Two large sunny bedrooms, Dolly’s sweet and dainty, Dick’s more boyish, were made ready, and another large room was planned to be used as a study or rainy-day playroom for them both.
Surely, the aunts were doing the right thing, – if the children would only respond to the gentle treatment, and not be perfect little savages, all might yet be well.
Now it happened that when Mr. and Mrs. Halkett reached New York with their young charges, the trip from Chicago had made Mrs. Halkett so weary and indisposed that she preferred to remain in New York while her husband took the twins to Heatherton. It was not a long trip, perhaps three hours or less on the train, so Mr. Halkett started off to fulfil his trust and present Dick and Dolly at the door of their new home, assuring his wife that he would return on the first train possible after accomplishing his errand. Mrs. Halkett took pride in seeing that the children were very spick and span, and prettily arrayed, and gave them many injunctions to keep themselves so.
Sturdy Dick looked fine in his grey Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, with wide white collar and correct tie. Pretty little Dolly was in white piqu?, very stiff and clean, with a tan-coloured coat and flower-trimmed hat.
The twins looked alike, and had the same big, dark eyes, but Dick’s hair was a dark mass of close-cropped curls, while Dolly’s was a tangle of fluffy golden ringlets. This striking effect of fair hair and dark eyes made her an unusually attractive-looking child, and though they had never thought of it themselves, the twins were a very beautiful pair of children. Docilely obedient to Mrs. Halkett’s injunctions, they sat quietly in the train, and did nothing that could by any possibility be termed naughty.
Truth to tell, they were a little awed at the thought of the two aunts, whom they did not yet know, but had every reason to believe were not at all like Auntie Helen. They chatted together, as they looked out of the window at the landscape and stations, and Mr. Halkett read his paper, and then looked over his timetable to see how soon he could get back to New York.
There was a train that left Heatherton for New York about half an hour after their own arrival, so he hoped he could leave the twins at Dana Dene and return to the metropolis on that train. But owing to a delay of some sort they did not reach the Heatherton station until about twenty minutes after schedule time.
After the train Mr. Halkett desired to take back to New York, there was no other for two hours, and greatly annoyed was that gentleman. When they stood at last on the station platform, a pleasant-faced Irishman approached and informed Mr. Halkett that he was from Dana Dene, and had been sent to meet Master Dick and Miss Dolly. As the man appeared so capable and responsible, Mr. Halkett was tempted to put the children in his care, and return himself at once to New York.
He explained about the trains, and told of his wife’s illness, and the intelligent Michael said at once:
“Shure, sor, do yez go back to New York. I’ll be afther takin’ the childher safe to the house. Don’t yez moind, sor, but go right along. Lave all to me, sor.”
Impressed with the man’s decisive words, and sure of his trustworthiness, Mr. Halkett assisted the children into the carriage, and bidding them good-bye turned back to the station.
Dolly looked a little wistful as he turned away, for though no relative, he had been a kind friend, and now she felt like a stranger in a strange land.
But Dick was with her, so nothing else really mattered. She slipped her hand in her brother’s, and then Michael picked up his reins and they started off.
It was early May, and it chanced to be warm and pleasant. The carriage was an open one, a sort of landau, and the twins gazed around with eager interest.
“Great, isn’t it, Dolly?” exclaimed Dick, as they drove along a winding road, with tall trees and budding shrubs on either side.
“Oh, yes!” returned Dolly. “It’s beautiful. I love the country a whole heap better than Chicago. Oh, Dick, there’s woods, – real woods!”
“So it is, and a brook in it! I say, Michael, can’t we get out here a minute?”
“I think not,” said the good-natured coachman. “The leddies is forninst, lookin’ for yez, and by the same token, we’re afther bein’ late as it is.”
“Yes, I know,” said Dick, “but we won’t stay a minute. Just let us run in and see that brook. It’s such a dandy! I never saw a brook but once or twice in all my life.”
“Yez didn’t! The saints presarve us! Wherever have yez lived?”
“In the city, – in Chicago. Do stop a minute, please, Michael.”
“Please, Michael,” added Dolly, and her sweet voice and coaxing glance were too much for Michael’s soft heart.
Grumbling a little under his breath, he pulled up his horses, and let the children get out.
“Just a minute, now,” he said, warningly. “I’ll bring yez back here some other day. Can yez get under the brush there?”
“We’ll go over,” cried Dick, as he climbed and scrambled over a low thicket of brush.
Dolly scrambled through, somehow, and the two children that emerged on the other side of the brush were quite different in appearance from the two sedate-looking ones that Mr. Halkett had left behind him.
Dick’s white collar had received a smudge, his stocking was badly torn, and his cheek showed a long scratch.
Dolly’s white frock was a sight! Her pretty tan coat had lost a button or two, and her hat was still in the bushes.
“Hey, Doddy, hey, for the brook!” shouted Dick, and grasping each other’s hands, they ran for the rippling water.
“Oh!” cried Dolly, her eyes shining. “Did you ever!”
To the very edge of the brook they went, dabbling their fingers in the clear stream, and merrily splashing water on each other.
All this would have been a harmless performance enough if they had been in play clothes, but the effect on their travelling costumes was most disastrous.
Leaning over the mossy bank to reach the water caused fearful green stains on white piqu? and on light-grey knickerbockers. Hands became grimy, and faces hot and smudgy. But blissfully careless of all this, the children frolicked and capered about, rejoiced to find the delightful country spot and quite oblivious to the fact that they were on their way to their new home.
“Let’s wade,” said Dick, and like a flash, off came four muddy shoes, and four grass-greened stockings. Oh, how good the cool ripply water did feel! and how they chuckled with glee as they felt the wavelets plashing round their ankles.
Across the brook were the dearest wild flowers, – pink, yellow, and white.
“We must gather some,” said Dolly. “Can we wade across?”
“Yep; I guess so. It doesn’t look deep. Come on.”
Taking hands again, they stepped cautiously, and succeeded in crossing the shallow brook, though, incidentally, well dampening the piqu? skirt, and the grey knickerbockers.
Sitting down on the mossy bank, they picked handfuls of the flowers and wondered what they were.
“Hollo! Hollo!” called Michael’s voice from the road, where he sat holding his horses.
“All right, Michael! In a minute,” shrilled back the childish voices.
And they really meant to go in a minute, but the fascination of the place held them, and they kept on picking flowers, and grubbing among the roots and stones at the edge of the water.
“We really ought to go,” said Dolly. “Come on, Dick. Oh, look at the birds!”
A large flock of birds flew low through the sky, and as they circled and wheeled, the children watched them eagerly.
“They’re birds coming North for the summer,” said Dick. “See those falling behind! They don’t like the way the flock is going, and they’re going to turn back.”
“So they are! We must watch them. There, now they’ve decided to go on, after all! Aren’t they queer?”
“Hollo! Hollo! Come back, yez bad childher! Come back, I say!”
“Yes, Michael, in a minute,” rang out Dolly’s sweet, bird-like voice.
“In a minute, nothin’! Come now, roight sthraight away! Do yez hear?”
“Yes, we’re coming,” answered Dick, and together they started to wade back across the brook.
Then there were shoes and stockings to be put on, and with sopping wet feet, and no towels, this is not an easy task.
They tugged at the unwilling stockings and nearly gave up in despair, but succeeded at last in getting them on, though the seams were far from the proper straight line at the back. Shoes were not so hard to put on, but were impossible to button without a buttonhook, so had to remain unbuttoned.
Meantime, Michael was fairly fuming with angry impatience. He could not leave his horses, or he would have gone after the truants, and no passers-by came along whom he could ask to hold his restive team.
So he continued to shout, and Dick and Dolly continued to assure him that they were coming, but they didn’t come.
At last they appeared at the thicket hedge, and as the two laughing faces peeped through, Michael could scarcely recognise his young charges. Torn, soiled, dishevelled, unkempt, there was absolutely no trace of the spick and span toilets Mrs. Halkett had looked after so carefully, in spite of her aching head and tired nerves.
“Yez naughty little rascals!” cried Michael. “Whativer possessed yez to tousel yersilves up loike that! Shame to yez! What’ll yer aunties say?”
For the first time, the twins realised their disreputable appearance.
What, indeed, would their new aunties say to them? Aunt Helen would have laughed, in her pretty, merry way, and sent them trotting away to clean up, but with new and untried aunties they couldn’t be sure. Moreover, they had an idea that Aunt Rachel and Aunt Abbie were not at all like pretty, young Auntie Helen.
Rescuing her hat from the thorn bush where it hung, Dolly looked ruefully at its twisted flowers. The more she tried to pull them into shape, the worse they looked.
She put it on her head, dismayed meanwhile to find her broad hair-ribbon was gone, and her sunny curls a moist, tangled mop.
Dick was conscious of a growing feeling of wrong-doing, but there was nothing to be done but face the music.
“Get in,” he said, briefly to his sister, and they clambered into the carriage.
Michael said no more; it was not his place to reprimand the children of the house, but he sat up very straight and stiff, as he drove rapidly toward home. To be sure, his straightness and stiffness was to conceal a fit of merriment caused by the thought of presenting these ragamuffins at the portals of Dana Dene, but the ragamuffins themselves didn’t know that, and regretful and chagrined, they sat hand in hand, awaiting their fate.
In the dark and somewhat sombre library at Dana Dene, Miss Rachel and Miss Abbie sat awaiting their guests. The room might have been called gloomy, but for the sunshine that edged in through the long, narrow, slit-like windows, and made determined golden bars across the dark-red carpet. Both the Misses Dana showed clearly their anxiety to have the children arrive and end their suspense.
“If only they’re tidy children,” said Miss Rachel for the fiftieth time; and Miss Abbie responded, as she always did, “Yes, and quiet-mannered.”
Miss Rachel Dana was of rather spare build, and sharp features. Her brown hair, only slightly tinged with grey, was deftly arranged, and every curled lock in its right place. Her pretty house-dress of dark blue foulard silk, with white figures, was modishly made and carefully fitted.
Miss Abbie was a little more plump, and her gown was of a shade lighter blue, though otherwise much like her sister’s.
The ladies had a patient air, as if they had waited long, but though they now and then glanced at the clock, they expressed no surprise at the delayed arrival. Trains were apt to be late at Heatherton, and they knew Michael would return as soon as possible. They had not gone themselves to the station to meet the twins, for it had seemed to them more dignified and fitting to receive their young relatives in their own home. Meantime, the young relatives were drawing nearer, and now, quite forgetting their own untidy appearance, their thoughts had turned to the waiting aunts, and the welcome they would probably receive.
“I don’t believe they’ll be as nice as Aunty Helen,” said Dick, candidly, “but I hope they’ll be jolly and gay.”
“I hope they’ll like us,” said Dolly, a little wistfully. She had always missed a mother’s love more than Dick had, and her affectionate little heart hoped to find in these aunties a certain tenderness that merry Aunt Helen had not possessed.
Dick eyed his sister critically. “I don’t believe they will,” he said, honestly, “until we get some clean clothes on. I say, Dollums, we look like scarecrows.”
“So we do!” said Dolly, fairly aghast as she realised the state of her costume. “Oh, Dick, can’t we get dressed up before we see them?”
“’Course we can’t. Our trunks and bags haven’t come yet; and, anyway, they’ll probably be on the porch or somewhere, to meet us. Buck up, Dolly; don’t you mind. You’re just as nice that way.”
“Is my face dirty?”
“Not so much dirty, – as red and scratched. How did you get so chopped up?”
“It was those briers. You went over, but I went through.”
“I should say you did! Well, I don’t believe they’ll mind your looks. And, anyway, they’ll have to get used to it; you ’most always look like that.”
This was cold comfort, and Dolly’s feminine heart began to feel that their appearance would be greatly in their disfavour.
But she was of a sanguine nature, and, too, she was apt to devise expedients.
“I’ll tell you, Dick,” she said, as an idea came to her; “you know, ‘a soft answer turneth away wrath’; no, – I guess I mean ‘charity covereth a multitude of sins.’ Yes, that’s it. And charity is love, you know. So when we see the aunties, let’s spring into their arms and kiss ’em and love ’em ’most to death, and then they won’t notice our clothes.”
“All right, that goes. Let me see, – yes, your face is clean,” – Dick made a dab or two at it with his handkerchief. “How’s mine?”
“Yes, it’s clean,” said Dolly, “at least, there aren’t any smudges; but you’d better wash it before supper.”
“All right, I will. Here we go now, turning in at the gate. Be ready to jump out and fly at them if they’re on the porch.”
They weren’t on the porch, so the twins went in at the great front door, which was opened for them by a smiling maid, whose smile broadened as she saw them. Then, repressing her smile, she ushered them to the library door and into the presence of the two waiting aunts.
“Now!” whispered Dick, and with a mad rush, the two flew across the room like whirlwinds and fairly banged themselves into the arms of Miss Rachel and Miss Abbie Dana.
This sudden onslaught was followed by a series of hugs and kisses which were of astonishing strength and duration.
What Miss Rachel and Miss Abbie thought can never be known, for they had no power of thought. Victims of a volcanic visitation do not think, – at least, not coherently, and the Dana ladies were quite helpless, both mentally and physically.
“Dear Auntie,” cooed Dolly, patting the cheek of the one she had attacked, though not knowing her name; “are you glad to see us?”
Miss Rachel stared stupidly at her, but the stare was not reassuring, and Dolly’s heart fell.
“Jolly glad to get here,” cried Dick, loyally trying to carry out Dolly’s plan, as he nearly choked the breath out of the other aunt. Miss Abbie had a little more sense of humour than her sister, – though neither of them was over-burdened with it, – so she said to Dick:
“Then do stop pommeling me, and stand off where I can see what you look like!”
But this was just what Dick was not anxious to do. So he only clung closer, and said, “Dear Auntie, which is your name?”
“I’m your Aunt Abbie,” was the response, not too gently given, “and now stand up, if you please, and stop these monkey-tricks!”
Of course, since she put it that way, Dick had to desist, and he released his struggling aunt, and bravely stood up for inspection.
Miss Rachel, too, had pushed Dolly away from her, and the twins stood, hand in hand, waiting for the verdict. It was an awful moment. The physical exertion of the manner they had chosen of greeting their aunts had made their flushed little faces still redder, and the scratches stood out in bold relief.
Also, their soiled and torn garments looked worse in this elegantly appointed room even than they had in the woods or in the carriage.
Altogether the twins felt that their plan of defence had failed, and they were crestfallen, shy, homesick, and pretty miserable all ’round.
But the funny part was, that the plan hadn’t failed. Though the aunts never admitted it, both their hearts were softened by the feeling of those little arms round their necks, and those vigorous, if grimy kisses that fell, irrespectively, on their cheeks, necks, or lace collars.
Had it not been for this tornado of affection, the greeting would have been far different. But one cannot speak coldly to a guest who shows such warmth of demonstration.
“Well, you are a pretty-looking pair!” exclaimed Miss Rachel, veiling her real disapproval behind a semblance of jocularity. “Do you always travel in ragged, dirty clothes?”
“No, Aunt Rachel,” said Dick, feeling he must make a strike for justice; “at least, we don’t start out this way. But you see, we had hardly ever seen a brook before – ”
“And it was so lovely!” put in Dolly, ecstatically.
“And wild flowers to it!” cried Dick, his eyes shining with the joy of the remembrance.
“And pebbly stones!”
“And ripply water!”
“And birds, flying in big bunches!”
“Oh, but it was splendid!”
“And so you went to the brook,” said Aunt Rachel, beginning to see daylight.
“Yes’m; on the way up from the station, you know.”
“Did Michael go with you?”
“No; he sat and held the horses, and hollered for us to come back.”
“Why didn’t you go when he called you?”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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