Dorothy's House Partyñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Did anybody ever know such a succession of beautiful days?” asked Helena, next morning, stepping out into a world full of bird-song and sunshine. “And without doing anything extraordinary, nothing that anybody in the world couldn’t have done, what a happy time we’re having. Why, Dolly darling, you – what’s wrong, honey? Are you in trouble? Can I help you?”
Dorothy had been sitting on the broad piazza, waiting for her guests and breakfast, a very sober, worried girl. But she now sprang up to greet her friend and tossing back her dark curls seemed to toss away anxiety also. A smile rose the more readily, too, for at that moment there came around the corner Monty Stark and Danny Smith, kindred spirits, each singing at the top of his voice:
“The elephant now goes round and round,
The band begins to play,
The little boys under the monkeys’ cage
Had better get out of the way —
Better get out of the wa-a-a-ay!”
“Mornin’ ladies! And let me assure you there’ll be peanuts and pink lemonade enough to go around; for Daniel, my friend here, has just unearthed a quarter from one of his multitudinous pockets and I’ll agree – to-lay-it-out-for-him-to-the-best-possible-advantage – Right this way, ladies and gentlemen, only ten cents to see the Double Headed Woman and to witness the astonishing feat of an Anaconda Swallowing his own Skin! Right this way, only ten – ”
“Monty Stark, behave yourself! The place for you, young sir, is in the monkeys’ cage, not under it! What have you horrid boys been doing out there in the barn so early, waking tired little girls out of their beauty-sleep?” demanded Molly B., appearing on the scene and interrupting the boy’s harangue.
“Oh! Just doing a few stunts. Practising, you know, against they call on us to take part in the ‘ceremonies.’ But it’s a pity about that beauty-sleep. You needed it and I apologize! I mean I never saw you so charming! Hooray for the circus!”
“Hooray!” answered Herbert, coming through the doorway, a twin on either arm. “Say it, ’Nias! Say it, ’Phira!”
The youngsters squirmed to get away, to slide down out of the boy’s grasp, but he held them securely till, at last grown desperate, one of them began gravely and distinctly to recite the doggerel which Monty and Daniel had just sung.
The performance received great applause and amid the jests and laughter all turned to follow the summons to breakfast; Herbert restraining the little ones long enough to adjure them to: “Mind, you’ve promised! And you know what happened to some folks you’re named for! No, I shouldn’t have said that, poor innocents! I mean you must do what I told you or you’ll lose what I promised.”
“Yep. We’s do it, we’s do it! I wants my brekkus!” answered one, while the other echoed: “Brekkus, brekkus!”
Herbert placed them at a small low table in the corner where Dinah had decided they must eat, or “take deir meals; fo’ as fo’ eatins, dey’s cwyin’ fo’ dem all de whole endu’in time! ’Peahs lak dem li’l ones nebah would get filled up an’ nebah had ernough yet in dis yere world.”
Yet once at table nobody could find fault with their behavior, except for the extreme rapidity with which they stowed away their rations.
They seemed afraid to drop a crumb or mess themselves in any way and the furtive looks they shot out from beneath their long lashes were pitiful, as if they feared their food would be snatched from them and themselves punished with blows. That many blows had been administered, Dinah had early found out, since when bathing them she saw the scars upon their poor little bodies.
This had been sufficient to reconcile her to the extra care and labor their presence imposed upon her; for labor, indeed, they caused. For instance: stealing into the kitchen where Aunt Malinda had set upon the hearth a big pan of bread “sponge,” to rise, they industriously dotted its top with lumps of coal from the hod, in imitation of a huckleberry pudding which had appeared at table. They even essayed to eat the mixture; but finding this impracticable set to work to force one another down into the pan of dough – with sufficient success to ruin the new suits they wore as well as Aunt Malinda’s “risin’.” Having discovered that sugar was sweet they emptied a jar of what looked like it into a fine “floating island” and turned the custard to brine. They hid Ephraim’s glasses, and Dinah’s bandana; they unloosed the dogs, let the chains be fastened ever so securely; they opened the gate to the “new meadow” and let the young cattle wander therein; and with the most innocent, even angelic expressions, they plotted mischief the livelong day. But they redeemed all their wickedness by their entire truthfulness. Despite their handicap of names, they acknowledged every misdemeanor and took every punishment without a whimper.
“They’re regular little imps! But, alanna, what’d this big house be widout ’em and their pranks?” cried poor Norah, laughing and frowning together, when called upon for the third time that morning to change the youngsters’ clothes; the last necessity arising from the fact that they had filled the bathtub and taken a glorious dip without the formality of removing their garments. “You’re the plague of my life, so you are; but poor motherless darlin’s, I can’t but love you! And sorra the day, when him ’t you belongs to comes for you again!”
When that morning’s meal was over, the Master planned their day as had become his habit. Said he:
“A circus day and the first day of the county fair, as this is, will crowd the streets of the city with all sorts of teams and people. I’ve decided not to risk Mrs. Calvert’s horses in Newburgh to-day. We can all go up by train and have no anxiety about anything. It’s but a down-hill walk, if a rather long one, from here to our own station, and in town there’ll be plenty of stages to carry us to the grounds. Jim has consented to ride over on horseback early and secure our places on the front row of seats, if this is possible. I’ve seen no reserved seats advertised, but I don’t like those insecure upper benches – or boards – of the tiers of scaffolding, where a fellow has to swing his feet in space or jab his toes into the back of the spectator below. Besides, I always did like to be close to the ‘ring’ when I go to the circus.”
“O, Teacher! As if you ever went!” cried Alfaretta, giggling.
“Go? Of course I go every chance I get – to a real country circus – which isn’t often. There’s nothing so convinces me that I am still a little boy as the smell of tanbark and sawdust, and the sound of the clown’s squeaking voice!”
They laughed. It was so easy and so natural to laugh that morning. Even Helena, who had enjoyed many superior entertainments, felt her pulses thrill in anticipation of that day’s amusement; and she meant to let herself “go” for all the fun there might be, with as full – if not as noisy an abandon – as any “mountain girl” among them.
Continued Mr. Seth, closely observing Dorothy who, alone of all the company, was not smiling: “Now, for the morning. I suggest that you pass it quietly at home; tennis, reading, lounging in hammocks – any way to leave yourselves free from fatigue for the afternoon. Dinah says ‘Y’arly dinnah’; because all the ‘help’ want to go to the circus and I want to have them. So we must get the dishes washed betimes, for the ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ opens its afternoon performance at two o’clock sharp precisely to the minute! and I, for one, cannot, positively cannot, miss the Grand Entrance! Umm. I see them now, in fancy’s eye, the cream colored horses, the glittering spangles, the acrobats in tights, the monkeys, the – the – ”
“Oh! Don’t say any more, dear Master, or I shall have to ride over with Jim this morning and see the street parade!” cried Molly Breckenridge clasping her plump hands in absurd entreaty, while every lad present looked enviously upon the thus honored James.
“I could buy circus tickets if I put my whole mind to it. How about you, Littlejohn Smith?” observed Monty.
“Give me the cash and let me try!”
Danny said nothing but his eyes were wistfully fixed upon vacancy, while Frazer Moore sadly stated:
“All I ever did see about a circus – so far – was the parade. I run away to that – once.”
“And got a lickin’ for it afterwards, I remember,” commented Mike Martin.
This was too much for the discipline of that dear old “boy,” Seth Winters, and he cried:
“See here, lads! I can’t stand for that. Nor need I be afraid of fatigue for you. Nothing will tire a single boy of the lot, to-day, except missing some part of this delectable Show! Scamper! Scatter! Trot! Vamoose! In short, run to the stables and see if there are horses enough to go around, counting in the workers. There’ll none of them be needed at Deerhurst to-day. Then you can all ride to town with our treasurer and put your horses up at the big livery on the High Street back of the town. See to it that they are made perfectly safe and comfortable for the day, and tell the proprietor that they are to be looked after for me. Here, Jamie lad, is an extra ten dollar bill. Use it judiciously, for anything needed, especially for luncheon for eight hungry boys. Better get that at some reputable restaurant and not on the grounds. Also, one of you meet the rest of us at the station at one o’clock with the tickets. Our whole big Party will make our own Grand Entrance!”
“Oh! thank you, thank you!”
With a simultaneous cry of rapture the lads sped stablewards, leaving some rather downcast girlish faces behind them.
“I – I can ride horseback,” said Molly B., with a sigh.
“So can I; and ’tain’t far to our house. I guess Pa Martin’d have let me have old Bess to ride on,” responded the other Molly.
“Shucks! Molly M. How’d you look, rockin’ along on that old mare? Besides, you couldn’t keep in sight, even, of the way them boys’ll tear along. Another besides; you know, well’s I do, that Mr. Martin wouldn’t hold with no such nonsense as your trapesin’ after a circus parade. Who wants to, anyway? We’re born girls and we can’t be boys, no matter how much we try. Since I ain’t let to go I’d rather – I guess I’d rather stay to home and crochet some lace,” said practical Alfaretta and pushed back from table.
“Wait a minute, Alfy. There’s something else I’ve got to say. It has been a secret between Dolly and me, but of course we can’t keep it always and I can’t a minute longer. It’s this: We two girls have adopted for all their lives the two twins! We’ve adopted them with our pocket-money,” proudly stated Molly B.
“Molly! Molly!” cried Dorothy, her face aflame and her eyes swiftly filling.
“Yes I shall tell, too. Secrets are the killingest things to bear. I expect Papa will scold and Auntie Lu make fun but I’m doing it for charity. I shall put away every bit of my allowance to educate my – my son – and I shall call him Augustus Algernon Breckenridge. I thought you might as well know,” and with this startling statement the Judge’s daughter threw back her head and eyed the company defiantly.
The girls stared, all save Dorothy, and the Master laughed, while from their corners the twins echoed a shrill cackle; then immediately began to practice the somersaults which Herbert had been at such pains to teach them. Then Molly rose, with what she considered great dignity, and, forcing Ananias to stand upon his feet, said in a sweet maternal tone:
“Come, my little boy. I want you to keep nice and rested till I take you to the circus.” Then she led him away, Sapphira tugging at her skirts and Alfaretta remarking:
“Guess you’ll have to adopt the pair, Molly Breckenridge. Them two stick closer’n glue!”
In another moment all but the Master and Dorothy had left the room, and seizing this opportunity he called her to him.
“Dolly Doodles, I want to talk with you a little. Let’s go out to the old barn – I mean the new one – and have a visit. We haven’t had any cosy confidence talks, remember, since this House Party began.”
It was the very thing she craved. Frank and outspoken by nature, long used to telling everything to this wise old friend, they had no sooner settled themselves upon the straw divan, than out it came, with a burst of sobs:
“Oh! dear Mr. Seth, I’m so unhappy!”
“Yes, child. I’ve seen it. Such a pity, too, on a circus day!”
“Please, please don’t tease me now. Aunt Betty thinks – thinks – I hardly know – only – read that!”
From the tiny pocket of her blouse she pulled the fateful telegram and thrust it into his hand. He had some ado to smooth it out and decipher the blurred writing, for it had been wet with many tears and frequently handled.
“You have made me dangerously angry. You must find that money. Heretofore there has been no thievery in my house.” Signed, “Mrs. Elisabeth Cecil Somerset-Calvert.”
The farrier whistled softly, and slowly refolded the document; then drew Dorothy’s wet face to his shoulder and said:
“Yes, little girl, we must find that money. We must. There is no other way.”
“But how can we? And why should she – she be so angry after having told me I was all the world to her and that all she had was mine, or would be.”
“Well, dearie, ‘would be’ and ‘is’ are two widely differing conditions. Besides, she is Betty Calvert and you are you.”
“That’s no answer, as I can see.”
“It is all the answer there is. She is an old, old lady though she doesn’t realize it herself. All her life long she has been accustomed to doing exactly what she wished and when she wished. She has idealized you and you have idealized her. Neither of you is at all perfect – though mighty nice, the pair of you! – and you’ve got to fit yourselves to one another. Naturally, most of the fitting must be on your part, since you’re the younger. You will love each other dearly, you do now, despite this temporary cloud, but you, my child, will have to cultivate the grace of patience; cultivate it as if it were a cherished rose in your own old garden. It will all come right, don’t fear.”
“How can it come right? How ever in this world? I’ve promised to adopt one of the twins and Molly trusts me in that and I haven’t a cent. I’m poorer than I used to be before I was an heiress. Molly will never believe me again. Then there’s all this expense you’re paying – the circus tickets and railway fares and all. It was to be my House Party, my very own, to celebrate my coming into my rightful name and home and it isn’t at all. It’s yours and – Oh! dear! Oh! dear! Nothing is right. I wish I could run away and hide somewhere before Aunt Betty comes home. I shall never dare to look at her again after I’ve made her ‘dangerously angry.’ What can that mean? I used to vex Mother Martha, often, but never like that. Oh! I wish I was her little girl again and not this – ”
Seth laid his finger on her lip and the wish she might have uttered and bitterly regretted was never spoken. But the old man’s face was grave as he said:
“You did not know, but my Cousin Betty means that you have excited her beyond physical safety. She has a weak heart and has always been cautioned against undue agitation. It has been a sad business altogether and I wish you had had more confidence in me and come to me with that letter before you sent it. As for the ‘expenses’ of your Party – it is yours, dear, entirely – they are slight and my contribution to the general happiness. The only real thing that does matter, that will be most difficult to set straight is – your suspicion of old Ephraim. It was that I believe which angered Mrs. Calvert, far more than the money loss, although she is exact enough to keep a cent per cent account of all her own expenses – giving lavishly the meanwhile to any purpose she elects. Poor Ephraim! His heart is wellnigh broken, and old hearts are hard to mend!”
Dorothy was aghast.
“Does he know? Oh! has anybody told him that I suspected him?”
“Not in words; and at first he didn’t dream it possible that his honesty could be doubted. But – that’s the horrible part of suspicion – once started it’s incurable. Side glances, inuendoes, shrugged shoulders – Oh! by many a little channel the fact has come home to him that he is connected in all our minds with the loss of your one hundred dollars. Haven’t you seen? How he goes about with bowed head, with none of his quaint jests and ‘darkyisms, a sober, astonished old man whose world is suddenly turned upside down. That’s why he refused my money this morning which I offered him for his circus expenses. ‘No, Massa Seth, I’se gwine bide ter home.’ Yet of all the family of Deerhurst, before this happened, he would have been the most eager for the ‘Show.’ However, he refuses; and in a certain way maybe it is as well. Otherwise the place would be left unguarded. I should keep watch myself, if I didn’t think my Dorothy and her mates were better worth protecting than all Deerhurst.
“So now, shorten up that doleful countenance. The mischief that has been done must be undone. Aunt Betty must come home to a loving, forgiving child; old Ephraim must be reinstated in his own and everybody’s respect; and to do this – that money must be found! Now, for our friends – and brighter thoughts!”
“That money shall be found! I don’t know how, I cannot guess – but it shall!” answered Dorothy with great confidence, born of some sudden inspiration. The talk with the Master had lightened her heart and it was with a fine resolution to be everything that was dutiful and tender toward Aunt Betty that she left the barn and rejoined her mates.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
Deerhurst was deserted.
With a down-sinking heart old Ephraim had watched the last of the merry-makers vanish through the gateway, even gray haired Hans and Griselda joining their fellow employees on this trip to the circus. The watcher’s disappointment was almost more than he could bear. His love of junketing was like a child’s and for many days, as he drove his bays about the countryside, he had gloated over the brilliant posters which heralded the coming of “The Greatest Show on Earth.” He had even invited Aunt Malinda to accompany him at his expense, and now she had gone but he was left.
“Hmm. It do seem pow’ful ha’d on me, hit sutney do. But – if all dem folkses is suspicionin’ ’t ole Eph’aim is a t’ief – My lan’, a T’IEF! Not a step Ah steps to no ca’yins’ on, scusin dey fin’s Ah isn’t. If my Miss Betty was to home! Oh! fo’ my Miss Betty! She’s gwine tole dese yeah Pa’ty folks somepin’ when she comes ma’chin’ in de doah. Dey ain’ no suspicions ertwixt my Miss Betty an’ me.”
His thoughts having taken this course Ephraim found some comfort. Then the responsibility of his position forced itself to mind. No, he couldn’t go stretch himself on the back porch in the September sunshine and sleep just yet. Though it was against all custom and tradition in that honest locality, he would lock up the whole house. He would begin at the front door and fasten every window and entrance even to the scullery. There should nothing more be missing, and no more suspicion fixed on a poor old man. He didn’t yet know who had set the miserable idea afloat in the beginning, and he didn’t dream of its being Dorothy. He had found himself strangely questioned by the other servants and had met curious glances from the visitors in the house. Finally, a stable lad had suddenly propounded the inquiry:
“What did you do with that money, anyway, Ephy? If you don’t hand it back pretty soon there’ll be trouble for you, old man.”
He had returned indignant inquiries himself, at last worming the whole matter out; and then, with almost bursting heart, had gone to Seth Winters with his trouble. The farrier had comforted as best he could, had assured the old negro of his own utmost faith in him, but – he could not explain the absence of the money and his assurances had been of small avail.
Whenever he was alone poor Ephraim brooded over the matter. He now avoided his fellow workers as much as he could. His appetite failed, his nights were sleepless, and Dinah impressively declared that: “He’s yeitheh been hoodooed or he stole dat money.” She was inclined to accept the first possibility, but with the superstition of her race felt that one was about as derogatory as the other. So nobody, except Mr. Winters, had been very sorry to have him stay behind on this occasion when jollity and not low spirits was desirable.
At last when all was secure, the care-taker retired to his bench and his nap, and had been enjoying himself thus for an hour or so, when the sound of wheels and somebody’s “Whooa-a!” aroused him.
“Ah, friend! Can thee afford to waste time like this?” demanded a blandly reproving voice; and Ephraim opened his eyes to behold George Fox and his owner reined up before him. He knew that equipage and wondered to see it at Deerhurst, whose mistress, he knew, had scant liking for the miller.
“Yes, sah. I’se reckon Ah c’n afford hit; bein’ mo’ inclined to take mah rest ’an to go rampagin’ eroun’ to circuses an’ such. On yo’ way dar, sah?”
“I? I! On my way to a circus? Thee must know little of a Friend’s habits to accuse me of such frivolity. Where is that Seth Winters?” asked Oliver Sands, well knowing what the answer would be and having timed his visit with that knowledge.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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