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“And of course she has been spoiling you - after the manner of grandmothers!” I said, smiling.
The child looked doubtful, and made no direct answer. After a time she explained in her quaint, decided way:
“Mothers and grandmothers are different. Grandmothers give little girls cookies and they don't tell them to go to bed at half-past seven; but they have n't such good ways of tucking people in bed, and their kisses are n't the same.
“I did n't know until yesterday that I was going home to-day,” she went on after a scarcely perceptible pause. “I had a hard time to get presents for mamma. I had made two daisy chains; they were ready; and all day yesterday I was trying to think of some other things that would be nice and could n't make her tired. Papa and I always try not to let her grow tired, but she often does, anyhow.”
She crossed the aisle, and getting the box I had noticed when she entered the car, opened it and proudly displayed two chains of withered daisies, a bird's egg wrapped in cotton, several picture cards, and a stiff, new cotton handkerchief with a gorgeous border.
“All these are for her!” she said. “The daisies have faded but she won't mind that. I know, because once before I made her a daisy chain and it withered before I got home, but she liked it as it was. She really liked it very much. She told me so, and even if she had n't I could have told from the way she smiled. A big boy gave me the bird's egg. Then I had a nickel grandma gave me last week, and for a long time I could n't decide whether to buy this handkerchief or a pin with a
diamond in it; but papa gave her a pin on her birthday and she's never had any kind of handkerchiefs except plain white ones: that's what decided me. This one is very pretty, don't you think so?”
I blinked at the flaming colors and murmured something noncommittal.
The child hardly paused for breath before she continued her quaint chatter. She loved to talk, and as I was only too glad to have someone-anyone to listen to, all went well.
"It seems a long time since I left papa and mamma. I can hardly wait to see them. I was never away from home before. Do you think she's well enough to be at the station? She's been at a hospital, and papa says a hospital's a place where they make people well.”
I told her not to count on finding her mother grown quite strong in so short a time.
“Is n't it wonderful how things happen just when you don't expect them to?” she exclaimed, not heeding my warning in the least. “When I got out of bed yesterday morning I did n't know I was going to see her and papa so soon! I was just throwing them a kiss from my window when grandma called me. She had been crying, and she told me that papa wanted me at home. I suppose it was because she was going to lose me that she cried. I'd been very good to her. But I did n't feel a bit like crying. I was glad all inside of me. And by and by Mrs. Dodge, who knew mamma when she was no bigger than I am, she came to see grandma and they talked and talked, and she cried too-I saw her. I think she must have caught the tears from grandma, like I did the measles from our butcher's little boy.”
As she chattered, my heart grew heavy. I understood that her mother was dead; buried, too, no doubt. Poor motherless child! Poor, poor child! And she had no suspicion of the truth. She was all eagerness, all hope.
When we reached RM, we got off the train together, but the moment she caught sight of her father she forgot
existence. I looked at him with keen, sympathetic interest. He appeared to be almost fifty years of age. His face was kindly and rather handsome. He lifted his little girl into his arms and almost smothered her with kisses; then they walked away, hand in hand, and I lost sight of them in the crowd. I was not sorry. I wondered how he could tell her.
Ten minutes later, having attended to my baggage, I passed out of the station and saw them again. The father had lifted the child on the low stone wall that runs along that side of the building, and was talking to her, gently and seriously. Her big eyes were fastened on his and great tears were pouring unheeded over her cheeks. She still held her apple. The box was tucked under one arm, but the lid was gone and the precious daisy chains were hanging out of it. She did not see me, and I hurried past them.
My car was long in coming, and feeling restless I walked a square or two and let it overtake me. When I seated myself in it I found to my regret that I was face to face with the father and child. She was as pale as he, now; her hat hung uncherished at the back of her neck, and from time to time tears rolled down her cheeks. I have never seen another face bespeak such utter desolation.
Her father held one of her hands tightly clasped in his, but for some minutes neither of them spoke. Once or twice she did try to ask him something, but although she opened her lips, no sound came.
At length he said gently, “You'll have to be very good to me now, Ruth. There's no one else to take care of me.
She looked up at him then. Her eyes brightened a little and a faint smile spread slowly over her tearstained face. “Yes, papa,” she answered, with a little motherly air; and sighed, and snuggled closer to him.
After a second she spoke again, rather more briskly: “You'd better eat this apple right away. You have n't had your' dinner, and it's afternoon. You might get sick, if you are n't more careful."
He took the apple and obediently tried to eat some of it, and Ruth watched him with satisfaction. “I'm going to take such good care of you!” she whispered.
MY BABES IN THE WOOD
THE CONTRIBUTORS' CLUB
DURING an experience of seventeen years as supervisor of rural schools in one of the most favored counties in the South, it has been my habit, several times a year, to travel twenty or thirty miles a day, often for five days of the week, visiting schools.
I have frequently driven for hours along dreary stretches of sandy road, with scrub oaks on both sides, here and there a pine grove, an abandoned field, or sometimes a freshly ploughed one; and when I have reached the schoolhouse, hidden away in a thicket, and seen thirty or forty children, I have wondered where they came from. No house appears in sight, and to one's question, the teacher answers, “Oh, they come from all about here, from two to three miles."
The one-room schoolhouse, which is the rule here, is generally about twenty by thirty feet, with six windows, two doors, no piazza, and no cloakroom. Sometimes it is painted — white, with green blinds, the inevitable combination in our rural districts. A flue in the centre of the room makes an outlet for the stovepipe, and the stove is always a box stove for wood, holding half a dozen sticks, usually of the rich resinous pine so abundant in the Southern woods. There is never any lack of fuel in our schools, for all that is needed is to organize the large boys into a wood brigade, and a few minutes'