Dick and Dollyñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Why, we did; at least, we went in a minute. But, Aunt Rachel, we never had seen a real live brook before, not since we were little bits of kiddy-wids, – and we just couldn’t bear to leave it.”
“We waded in it!” said Dolly, almost solemnly, as if she had referred to the highest possible earthly bliss.
The Dana ladies were nonplussed. True, the affection showered on them had tempered their severity, yet now justice began to reassert itself, and surely it would not be just or fair to have these semi-barbaric children installed at Dana Dene.
“Did your aunt in Chicago let you act like this?” asked Aunt Abbie, by way of trying to grasp the situation.
“Well, you see, there never was a brook there,” said Dick, pleasantly. “Only Lake Michigan, and that was too big to be any fun.”
“Oh, isn’t Heatherton lovely?” exclaimed Dolly, her big, dark eyes full of rapture.
She had again possessed herself of Miss Rachel’s hand and was patting it, and incidentally transfering some “good, brown earth” to it, from her own little paw.
Though Dolly had planned their mode of entrance, she had forgotten all about it now, and her affectionate demonstrations were prompted only by her own loving little heart, and not by an effort to be tactful.
In her enthusiasm over the beautiful country-side, she fairly bubbled over with love and affection for all about her.
“Are you both so fond of the country, then?” said Miss Abbie, a little curiously.
“Yes, we love it,” declared Dick, “and we’ve ’most never seen it. Auntie Helen always liked fashionable places in summer, and of course in winter we were in Chicago.”
“And we were naughty,” said Dolly, with a sudden burst of contrition, “to go wading in the brook in our good clothes. Mrs. Halkett told us ’spressly not to get soiled or even rumpled before we saw you. And we’re sorry we did, – but, oh! that brook! When can we go there again? To-morrow?”
“Or this afternoon,” said Dick, sidling up to Aunt Rachel; “it isn’t late, is it?”
The twins had instinctively discerned that Miss Rachel was the one of whom to ask permission. Aunt Abbie seemed more lovable, perhaps, but without a doubt Aunt Rachel was the fixer of their fate.
“This afternoon! I should say not!” exclaimed Miss Rachel. “It’s nearly supper time now, and how you’re going to be made presentable is more than I know! Have you any other clothes?”
“In our trunks, – lots of ’em,” said Dick, cheerfully. “But these are our best ones. Mrs. Halkett put them on us purpose to come to you. I’m sorry they’re smashed.”
Dick’s sorrow was expressed in such blithe and nonchalant tones, that Miss Rachel only smiled grimly.
“Are you hungry?” she said.
“No’m,” said Dick, slowly, and Dolly added, “Not very. Of course we’re always some hungry. But Aunt Rachel, can’t we go out and scoot round the yard? Just to see what it’s like, you know. Of course, this room is, – beautiful, but we do love to be out doors.
“No,” said Miss Rachel, decidedly, and though Miss Abbie said, timidly, “Why don’t you let them?” the elder sister resumed:
“Go out on my lawn looking like that? Indeed you can’t! I’d be ashamed to have the chickens see you, – let alone the servants!”
“Oh, are there chickens?” cried Dolly, dancing about in excitement. “I’m so glad we’re going to live here!”
She made a movement as if to hug her Aunt Rachel once again, but as she saw the involuntary drawing away of that lady’s shoulders, she transferred her caress to Dick, and the tattered twins fell on each other’s necks in mutual joy of anticipation.
“You are a ridiculous pair of children,” said Aunt Abbie, laughing at the sight; “but as I hope you’ll show some of your father’s traits, you may improve under our training.”
“If we can train such hopeless cases,” said Miss Rachel. “Has nobody ever taught you how to behave?”
“Yes,” said Dick, growing red at the implication. “Auntie Helen is a lovely lady, and she taught us to be honourable and polite.”
“Oh, she did! and do you call it honourable to go off wading in your best clothes, while we were waiting for you to come here?”
Dick’s honest little face looked troubled.
“I don’t know,” he said, truly, but Dolly, who was often the quicker-witted of the two, spoke up:
“It may have been naughty, Aunt Rachel, but I don’t ’zackly think it was dishonourable. Do you?” Thus pinned down, Miss Rachel considered.
“Perhaps ‘dishonourable’ isn’t quite the right word,” she said, “but we won’t discuss that now. I shall teach you to behave properly, of course, but we won’t begin until you look like civilised beings, capable of being taught. Just now, I think hot baths, with plenty of soap, will be the best thing for you, but as you have no clean clothes, you’ll have to go to bed.”
“At five o’clock! Whew!” said Dick. “Oh, I say, Aunt Rachel, not to bed!”
“Anyway, let us go for a tear around the yard first,” begged Dolly. “We can’t hurt these clothes now; and I don’t believe the chickens will mind. Are there little chickens, Aunt Abbie?”
“Yes, little woolly yellow ones.”
“Like the ones on Easter souvenirs? Oh, please let us see them now, —please!”
More persuaded by the violence of her niece’s plea than by her own inclination, Miss Rachel said they might go out for half an hour, and then they must come in to baths and beds.
“And supper?” asked Dick, hopefully.
“Yes, bread and milk after you’re clean and tucked into bed.”
“Only bread and milk?” said Dolly, with eyes full of wheedlesomeness.
“Well, perhaps jam,” said Aunt Abbie, smiling, and somehow her smile augured even more than jam. Out they scampered then, and soon found Michael, who introduced them to the chickens and also to Pat, who was the gardener.
“I like you,” said Dolly, slipping her little hand into Pat’s big one, both being equally grimy. “Please show us all the flowers and things.”
There was so much to look at, they could only compass a small part of it in their allotted half-hour. Dana Dene covered about thirty acres, but it was not a real farm. A vegetable garden supplied the household wants, and the rest of the estate was park and flower beds and a bit of woods and an orchard and a terrace, and the poultry yard and stables, and other delights of which the children could only guess.
“Aren’t you glad we came?” said Dolly, still hanging on to Pat’s hand.
“I – I guess so, Miss,” he replied, cautiously; “but I can’t say yet, for sure. Ye’re rampageous, I’m afraid. Ain’t ye, now?”
“Yes,” said Dick, who was always honest, “I think we are. At least, everybody says so. But, Pat, we’re going to try not to make you any trouble.”
“Now, that’s a good boy. If ye talk like that, you ’n me’ll be friends.”
Dolly said nothing, but she smiled happily up into Patrick’s kind eyes, and then, with their usual adaptability to circumstances, the twins began to feel at home.
AN EARLY STROLL
Soon after daybreak next morning, Dolly woke, and surveyed with satisfaction her pretty room.
Pink roses clambered over the wall paper, and over the chintz hangings and furniture, and over the soft, dainty bed-coverlet.
It was much more attractive than her room at Aunt Helen’s, and as Dolly loved pretty things, she gave a little sigh of content and nestled comfortably into her pillows. Then she heard Dick’s voice whispering through the closed door between their rooms.
“Hi, Dolly; I say! Aren’t you up yet?”
“No, are you?”
“Yes, and ’most dressed. Hustle, can’t you? and let’s go out and chase around the place.”
“Yes; breakfast isn’t until eight o’clock, and it’s only six now.”
“All right, I’ll hustle,” and Dolly sprang out of bed, and began to dress.
The twins were a self-reliant pair, and quite capable and methodical when they had time to be.
Dolly dressed herself neatly in a clean blue and white plaid gingham; and as she could tie her hair ribbon quite well enough, except for special occasions, the blue bow on her golden curls was entirely satisfactory.
“I’m all ready, Dick,” she whispered at last, through the door, “and we mustn’t make any noise, for maybe the aunties are asleep yet.”
“All right; I’ll meet you in the hall.”
So both children went on tiptoe out into the big, light hall, and softly down the stairs.
No one seemed to be stirring, but they unfastened the locks and chains of the front doors, and stepped out into the beautiful fresh morning.
“I’ve got to holler!” said Dick, still whispering. “They can’t hear us now.”
“Yes, they can; wait till we get farther away from the house.”
So, hand in hand, they ran down the garden path, and when a grape arbour and a cornfield were between them and their sleeping aunts, they decided they were out of hearing.
“Hooray!” yelled Dick, as loud as he could, at the same time turning a jubilant handspring.
Dolly was quite as glad as her brother, but contented herself with dancing about, and giving little squeals of delight as she saw one rapturous sight after another.
“Oh, Dick,” she cried, “there’s a fountain! ’way over there on the little hill. Do you s’pose that’s on our grounds?”
“’Course it is. This is all ours, as far as you can see, and more too. That woodsy place over there is ours; Pat told me so.”
“We’ll have picnics there. And Dick, maybe there are fairies in the woods.”
“Sure there are. That’s just the kind of woods that has fairies. But they only come out at night, you know.”
“Yes, but it’s only just a little past night now. The sun has only been up a short time. Maybe there are some fairies there yet.”
“Maybe; let’s go and see.”
With a skip and a jump the children started for the woods, which, however proved to be farther away than they had thought.
They trudged merrily on, stopping now and then to speak to a robin, or kick at a dandelion, but at last they came to the edge of the grove.
“Oh, Dick!” cried Dolly, in ecstasy, “think of having a real woods, right in our own yard! Isn’t it gorgeous!”
“Great! but go softly now, if we want to see fairies. I’m ’fraid they’ve all gone.”
Hand in hand the children tiptoed into the wood. They moved very cautiously, lest they should step on a twig, or make any noise that should frighten the fairies.
“There’s where they dance,” whispered Dick, pointing to a smooth, green mossy place. “But of course they always fly away when the sun rises.”
“Yes, I s’pose so,” said Dolly, regretfully. “Shall we come out earlier to-morrow?”
“Yes; or we might come out to see them some night. Moonlight nights; that’s the time!”
“Would you dare? Oh, Dick, wouldn’t it be grand!”
“Hey, Dolly, there’s a squirrel; a real, live one! That’s better’n fairies. Oh, look at him!”
Sure enough, a grey squirrel ran past them, and now sat, turning his head back to look at them, but ready for instant flight if they moved.
But they didn’t move, they knew better; and scarce daring to breathe, they sat watching the wonderful sight.
Meantime, there was consternation in the household. At seven o’clock Miss Rachel had sent Hannah, the waitress, to call the twins.
The maid returned with a scared face, and announced that the children had gone.
“Gone!” cried Miss Rachel, who was engaged in making her own toilet; “where have they gone?”
“I don’t know, ma’am; but they’re not in their rooms, and the front door is wide open.”
“Oh, they’ve run away!” cried Miss Rachel, and hastily throwing on a dressing gown, she went to her sister’s room.
“Get up, Abbie,” she exclaimed. “Those children have run away!”
“Run away? What do you mean?”
“Why, they’ve gone! I suppose they didn’t like us. Perhaps they were homesick, or something. Abbie, do you suppose they’ve gone back to Chicago, all alone?”
“Nonsense, Rachel, of course they haven’t! Children always rise early. They’re probably walking in the garden.”
“No, I don’t think so. Something tells me they’ve run away because they don’t like us. Oh, Abbie, do you think that’s it?”
“No, I don’t. Go on and dress. They’ll be back by the time you’re ready for breakfast. If you’re worried, send Hannah out to hunt them up.”
So Hannah was sent, but as she only looked in the verandas and in the gardens near the house, of course, she didn’t find the twins. By the time the ladies came downstairs, Hannah had impressed Pat and Michael into service, and all three were hunting for the missing guests.
But it never occurred to them to go so far as the woods, where Dick and Dolly were even then sitting, watching the grey squirrel, and looking for fairies.
“I’m thinkin’ they’ve fell in the pond,” said Pat, as he gazed anxiously into the rather muddy water.
“Not thim!” said Michael; “they’re not the sort that do be afther drownin’ thimsilves. They’re too frisky. Belikes they’ve run back to the brook where they shtopped at yisterday. Do yez go there an’ look, Pat.”
“Yes, do,” said Miss Rachel, who, with clasped hands and a white face was pacing the veranda.
“Don’t take it so hard, sister,” implored Miss Abbie. “They’re around somewhere, I’m sure; and if not, – why, you know, Rachel, you didn’t want them here very much, anyway.”
“How can you be so heartless!” cried Miss Rachel, her eyes staring reproachfully at her sister. “I do want them; they’re brother’s children, and this is their rightful home. But I wish they wanted to stay. I’m sure they ran away because they didn’t like us. Do you think we were too harsh with them yesterday?”
“Perhaps so. At any rate, they have run away. I thought they were in the garden, but if so, they would have been found by now. Do you suppose they took an early train back to New York?”
“Oh, Abbie, how can you say so! Those two dear little mites alone in a great city! I can’t think it!”
“It’s better than thinking they are drowned in the pond.”
“Either is awful; and yet of course some such thing must have happened.”
The two ladies were on the verge of hysterics, and the servants, who had all been hunting for the children, were nonplussed. Pat had jumped on a horse, and galloped off to the brook which had so taken their fancy the day before, and Michael stood, with his hands in his pockets, wondering if he ought to drag the pond. Delia, the cook, had left the waiting breakfast and had come to join the anxious household.
“I’m thinkin’ they’re not far off,” she said; “why don’t ye blow a horn, now?”
“That’s a good idea,” said Miss Abbie; “try it, Michael.”
So Michael found an old dinner-horn that had hung unused in the barn for many years, and he blew resounding blasts.
But unfortunately, the babes in the woods were too far away to hear, and forgetful of all else they watched two squirrels, who, reassured by the children’s quiet, ran back and forth, and almost came right up to Dick and Dolly’s beckoning fingers.
“If only we had something to feed them,” said Dick, vainly hunting his pockets for something edible.
“If only we had something to feed ourselves,” said Dolly; “I’m just about starved.”
“So’m I; let’s go back now, and come to see the squirrels some other time, and bring them some nuts.”
“All right, let’s.”
So back they started, but leisurely, for they had no thought of how the time had slipped by. They paused here and there to investigate many things, and it was well on toward nine o’clock when they came within hearing of Michael’s horn, on which he was blowing a last, despairing blast.
“Hear the horn!” cried Dick. “Do you s’pose that’s the way they call the family to breakfast?”
“Oh, it isn’t breakfast time, yet,” said Dolly, confidently. “I’m hungry enough, but it can’t be eight o’clock, I know. And, besides, I want time to tidy up.”
The clean frock had lost its freshness, and the blue bow was sadly askew, for somehow, try as she would, Dolly never could keep herself spick and span.
They trudged along, through the barnyard and the garden, and finally came to the kitchen door, which stood invitingly open.
“Let’s go in this way,” said Dolly; “it’s nearer, and I can skin up to my room and brush my hair. I don’t want Auntie Rachel to think I’m always messy.”
In at the back door they went, and as the kitchen was deserted, they looked around in some surprise.
“Might as well catch a bun,” said Dick, seeing a panful of rolls in the warming oven.
The hungry children each took a roll, and then sped on up to their rooms, intent on tidying themselves for breakfast.
“For goodness’ sake, Dolly!” exclaimed Dick’s voice through the door, “it’s after nine o’clock! Do you s’pose they’ve had breakfast, and where is everybody?”
“After nine o’clock!” said Dolly, opening the door, to make sure she had heard aright. “Well, if this isn’t the queerest house! Hurry up, Dick, and brush your hair, and we’ll go down and see what’s the matter. I know they haven’t had breakfast, for the kitchen range was all full of cereals and things.”
A few moments later, two neat and well-brushed children tripped gaily downstairs. They went into the library, where their two aunts, nearly in a state of collapse, were reposing in armchairs.
“Good-morning, aunties,” said the twins, blithely. “Are we late?”
Miss Abbie gasped and closed her eyes, at the astonishing sight, but Miss Rachel, who was of a different nature, felt all her anxiety turn to exasperation, and she said, sternly:
“You naughty children! Where have you been?”
“Why, we just got up early, and went to look around the place,” volunteered Dolly, “and we didn’t know it got late so soon.”
“But where were you? We’ve searched the place over.”
“We went to the woods,” said Dick. “You see, Aunt Abbie, I felt as if I must screech a little, and we thought if we stayed too near the house, we might wake you up. It was awful early then. I don’t see how nine o’clock came so soon! Did we keep breakfast back? I’m sorry.”
“Why did you want to screech?” said Miss Abbie, quickly. “Are you homesick?”
“Oh, no! I mean screech for joy. Just shout, you know, for fun, and jump around, and turn somersaults. I always do those things when I’m glad. But as it turned out, we couldn’t, very much, for we were watching for fairies, and then for squirrels, so we had to be quiet after all.”
“And so you wanted to shout for joy, did you?” asked Aunt Rachel, much mollified at the compliments they paid so unconsciously.
“Oh, yes’m! Everything is so beautiful, and so – so sort of enchanted.”
“Yes; full of fairies, and sprites. The woods, you know, and the pond, and the fountain, – oh, Dana Dene is the finest place I ever saw!”
Dick’s enthusiasm was so unfeigned, and his little face shone with such intense happiness, that Miss Rachel hadn’t the heart to scold him after all. So, resolving to tell the twins later of the trouble they had caused, she went away to tell Delia to send in breakfast, and to tell Michael to go and find Patrick, for the twins had returned.
“You see,” explained Dolly, as they sat at breakfast, “we went out of the house at half-past seven, by the big, hall clock. And I thought then we’d stay an hour, and get back in time to fix up before we saw you. We’re not very good at keeping clean.”
“So I see,” said Aunt Abbie, glancing at several grass stains and a zigzag tear that disfigured Dolly’s frock.
“Yes’m; so we ’most always try to get in to meals ahead of time, and that ’lows us to spruce up some.”
“We try to,” said Dick, honestly, “but we don’t always do it.”
“No,” returned Dolly, calmly; “’most never. But isn’t it ’stonishing how fast the time goes when you think there’s plenty?”
“It is,” said Aunt Rachel, a little grimly. “And now that you’re to live here, you’ll have to mend your ways, about being late, for I won’t have tardiness in my house.”
“All right,” said Dolly, cheerfully; “I’ll hunt up my watch. It doesn’t go very well, except when it lies on its face; but if I put it in my pocket upside down, maybe it’ll go.”
“It must be a valuable watch,” remarked Aunt Abbie.
“Yes’m, it is. Auntie Helen gave it to me for a good-by gift, but I looked at it so often, that I thought it would be handier to wear it hanging outside, like a locket, you know. Well, I did, and then it banged into everything I met. And the chain caught on everything, and the watch got dented, and the crystal broke, and one hand came off. But it was the long hand, so as long as the hour hand goes all right, I can guess at the time pretty good. If I’d just had it with me this morning, we’d been all right. I’m real sorry we were late.”
Aunt Rachel smiled, but it was rather a grim smile.
“I don’t set much store by people who are sorry,” she said; “what I like, are people who don’t do wrong things the second time. If you are never late to breakfast again, that will please me more than being sorry for this morning’s escapade.”
“I’ll do both,” said Dolly, generously, and indeed, the twins soon learned to be prompt at meals, which is a habit easily acquired, if one wishes to acquire it.
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