Dick and Dolly
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“And how about you, sir?” she said. “Did you think it amusing to threaten a guest with a carving-knife?”
Dick came over and looked at her with his straightforward eyes.
“I didn’t mean to threaten you, of course,” he said. “But it was naughty, and I’m sorry, – we’re both sorry, – and can we do anything to make you forgive us?”
“No, you can’t,” said Aunt Penninah, “but when you look at me like that, – with your father’s very eyes, – there is no question of forgiveness. You’re all Dana – both of you!”
And then the strange old lady kissed both the twins and peace was restored all around.
Dinner went on smoothly. Miss Abbie and Miss Rachel were secretly impatient, because there was much yet to be done before the Reading Circle came, but Miss Penninah’s presence admitted of no scanting of ceremony.
Hannah’s service was more punctilious than the twins had ever before known it, for Hannah had been at Dana Dene many years, and knew the exactions and demands of a visit from Miss Penninah.
But at last the lengthy meal reached its close.
“Will you go to your room for a rest, Aunt Nine?” said Miss Abbie, hopefully, as they rose from the table.
“No, I won’t; I’m not tired at all. I’ll make the further acquaintance of these very astonishing young relatives of mine.”
“Oh, do, Aunt Nine! Do come and play with us!” cried Dick, with such unmistakable sincerity that the old lady was greatly pleased.
“Yes, come out and see our gardens,” said Dolly, dancing by her side, and to the great relief of the other two aunties, Miss Penninah walked off with the twins.
Then Hannah and the two ladies flew ’round like mad. They put leaves in the table until it was as long as possible; they set it with all the best china and glass and silver for the Reading Circle’s tea. For the feast was not a tea at all, but a most elaborate supper, and Aunt Nine’s coming had sadly delayed the preparations.
Meantime, that elderly dame was walking round the children’s playground. She was greatly pleased with their gardens, and was surprised to learn that they tilled and weeded them all themselves.
“You’re really very smart little people,” she said, “and quite worthy to bear the Dana name.”
The twins were flattered, for they well knew how highly all their aunts thought of the Dana name, and, too, they had already begun to like the peculiar old lady who had scolded them so harshly at the very beginning of their acquaintance.
When it was nearly time for the ladies of the Reading Circle to arrive, Aunt Rachel told the twins they must go out to their playground and stay there all the afternoon.
“For,” she said, “I cannot run the risk of having some ridiculous thing happen during our programme. You don’t mean to do wrong, but you’re just as likely as not to stand Lady Eliza up beside our President when she’s making her address. So take Eliza with you, and go out to the garden, and stay there until Delia rings the bell, or Hannah comes to call you.”
“All right,” said Dick, “and if any of the boys or girls come over, may Hannah send them out there to us?”
“Yes, I’ll tell her.Now, run along.”
They ran along, though slowly, because of Lady Eliza’s difficult transportation. But at last they reached the playground, and stood Eliza in a corner, ready for action when they needed her.
“Jiminy Crickets!” remarked Dick, “but Aunt Nine’s the funny old lady, isn’t she, Doll?”
“Yep; but I sort of like her. After she got through blowing us up, she was real jolly.”
“Yes, and wasn’t Auntie Rachel the brick to stand up for us at dinner time?”
“She was so. I wonder how long Aunt Nine is going to stay.”
“I dunno. A week, I guess. Hello, here comes Pinkie. Hello, Pinkie!”
“Hello!” she returned, and then almost before she and Dolly had said “Hello!” Jack Fuller came.
This quartette were almost always together on pleasant afternoons, and as Dana Dene had attractions that the other homes didn’t possess, they played there oftener than elsewhere.
“Hello, Lady Eliza Dusenbury,” said Jack, shaking hands with that silent partner.
Of course, all the boys and girls knew Lady Eliza now, and indeed the citizens of the village had ceased to be surprised when the twins rode to town in the farm wagon, with Eliza accompanying them.
The servants at Dana Dene took her as a matter of course, and Michael was fond of bowing politely, and saying, “The top of the mornin’ to ye, ma’am!”
“Let’s build a throne and crown Eliza queen,” suggested Jack, and the rest at once agreed.
“What shall we make the throne of?” asked Dolly.
“I’ll ask Michael,” said Dick, “he always helps us out.”
But Michael was busy with some extra work connected with the visit of the Reading Circle, and had no time for bothering with youngsters.
“Throne, is it?” he said; “I’ve no time to be buildin’ ye royal palaces! Take the wheelbarry fer a throne, shure!”
It was a chance suggestion, but it served, and Dick returned to the waiting group, trundling the wheelbarrow.
“We can’t bother Michael much,” he said, “’cause he has to run that Reading Circle thing. But I guess we can fix up this wheelbarrow with flowers and greens and make it do. Hello, Maddy; Hello, Cliff!”
Madeleine and Clifford Lester had arrived during Dick’s absence, but greetings were soon spoken, and the more the merrier.
Then the half dozen went to work with a will, using both heads and hands to devise ingenious plans for the coronation of Eliza.
“She ought to be dressed in white,” said Dolly, looking disapprovingly on Eliza’s blue dress; “but she hasn’t a white frock to her name.”
“Hasn’t your aunt any?” asked Pinkie, realising the real need of white.
“I can’t bother her to-day,” said Dolly, decidedly; “she’s got the Reading Circle and Aunt Nine both at once; and she told me to keep out.”
“Couldn’t you get a big white apron from Delia,” suggested Maddy Lester.
“No; queens don’t wear aprons.”
Then Dolly’s eye lighted on the clothes line, full of the Monday wash, which busy Delia had not yet taken in, though it was thoroughly dry.
“I might get something there!” she cried. “Come on, girls!”
The three girls ran to the big, sunny bleaching ground, where three long lines of white clothes waved in the breeze.
“They’re all too little,” said Pinkie, as she viewed Dolly’s own dresses and petticoats.
“No, here’s Aunt Rachel’s nightgown! This will do!” cried Dolly, and in a jiffy she had the clothespins pulled off, and the voluminous, ruffled garment in her arms.
“Just the thing!” cried Maddy, and they raced back to the playground.
It made a beautiful white robe for Eliza, and when belted with a large bath-towel, also brought from the clothes line, Eliza looked like an Oriental princess.
“Get another towel and make a turban,” said Clifford, and this gave their queen a still more foreign look.
“The throne thing ought to be white, too,” said Pinkie, who had an eye for color effect. “It’ll be a lot prettier to pin the flowers and greens on, if it’s white first. Let’s get sheets, – shall we, Dolly?”
“I don’t care,” said Dolly, absorbed in making Eliza’s turban stay on her head.
So Pinkie and Madeleine flew for the sheets, and stripped the clothesline of all there were there.
“Now!” they exclaimed, coming back triumphantly, with their arms full of billows of white linen.
“Now!” cried Dick, and they fell to work, and draped and twisted the sheets, until the wheelbarrow was a lovely white throne. This they decked with their flower garlands, and then lifted Queen Eliza up on it. As she, too, had been decked with blossoms and garlands, it was really a pretty sight, and the children clapped their hands and danced about in glee at their own success.
“Now, we’ll crown her,” said Dick, “but I say, Dollums, we all ought to be in white, too!”
“That’s easy,” said Dolly, recklessly; “there’s lots of things on the clothesline yet.”
Back there they all ran, and chose costumes to please their varying tastes.
The three girls chose more ruffled nightgowns like Eliza’s and looped them up with flowers on either side, like fancy overskirts.
The boys selected lace-ruffled petticoats that belonged variously to the aunts or to Hannah and Delia, and round their shoulders they draped tablecloths or pillowshams in toga fashion.
Some table centrepieces and carving-scarfs formed fine head-gear, and by the time all the costumes were completed, the clotheslines looked as if the wash had been taken in after all.
The white-garbed half dozen pranced back to the queen on her throne, and the ceremonies began.
“First, we sing a dirge,” said Jack Fuller.
“Not a dirge,” said Dolly. “Don’t you mean a chant?”
“Well, some waily kind of a thing, anyway.”
So they all droned an inharmonious series of wailings that might have been imitative of Chinese tom-toms, only it wasn’t meant to be.
“Now we must have a speech,” said Pinkie; “you make it, Dick; you’re good at that.”
“All right,” said Dick, and stepping forward, while his tablecloth toga trailed in the dust, he began:
“Oh, Queen Eliza Dusenbury, we beg you to accept this crown. We want you for our beloved queen, and we will obey all your rules and reggilations. We bow our hominage – ”
“Homage,” corrected Jack.
“’Taint, it’s hominage! bow, anyway!”
So they all bowed in token of homage to their queen.
“Now we have to back away,” said Maddy; “they always do at court.”
The six backed away from the queen’s throne, but as backing with long trailing robes is not to be neatly done without practice, they one and all tripped over their trains and togas and went tumbling around on the ground.
“Get up, all of you!” cried Dick, who had scrambled to his feet. “Now we must sing.”
“What shall we sing?”
“I don’t care – ‘John Brown’s Body,’ I guess.”
So they all sang “John Brown’s Body” with great gusto, and then the coronation ceremonies were declared over.
And none too soon, for just then they saw Michael coming with a huge trayful of good things, which he placed on the table in the arbour.
“Fer the land’s sake!” he exclaimed as the children crowded round. “Whativer have yez been up to now! The clean clo’es from the line, as I’m a sinner! Arrah, but ye’ll catch it, ye bad babies!”
“Wow! they did get dirty, didn’t they?” exclaimed Jack, realising for the first time how they had tumbled about on the ground.
“Yes, they’re all dirt and grass stains. Will your aunts mind, Dolly?”
“I don’t know,” said Dolly, “but anyway it isn’t your fault, any of you. Let’s take ’em off and eat supper now.”
It was characteristic of Dolly to spare her guests’ feelings, though she had herself a sudden uneasy sense of naughtiness at having taken the clean clothes to play with. But it was also her nature to put off an evil hour, if possible, so the children gaily scrambled out of their white raiment and sat down to the feast with good appetites.
“The girls is waitin’ on the Readin’ ladies,” said Michael, as he came out with a second trayful, “so ye’re to wait on yerselves with these things.”
Then Dolly and Pinkie arranged the table, and soon the group were eating sandwiches and cakes and strawberries and ice cream, and all the good things that went to make up a Reading Circle feast.
“The little raskills!” said Michael, as he gathered up the sheets and garments they had thrown off. “Whativer is the rayson, I dunno, but Miss Dolly and Masther Dick is just the baddest little shpalpeens I iver saw, an’ yet I love ’em, ivery breath they draws!”