PLAYING KING AND QUEEN.
" WHAT are you hunting for on your hands and knees, Alice ?" said grandmamma, next day.
"0, nothing, only pins, grandma; but I can't find any. Isn't this a hidden-mist carpet ?"
"No, dear; a hit-and-miss carpet is made of rags. But what do you want of pins?"
" She has given away what Aunt Ria paid her for Christmas," said Prudy, speaking for her; "she gave it all to the beggar."
"Yes, she did; one, two, free, four, nineteen, tenteen," said Katie; "and the gemplum didn't love little goorls."
" Why, Alice! to that man who was here yesterday ?"
Dotty was frowning at Prudy behind a chair. "Yes 'm," she answered, in a stifled voice.
" Were you sorry for him ?"
"Did you hear me say I did not believe he was in need of charity?"
Grandma looked puzzled, till she remembered that Alice had always been fond of praise; and then she began to understand her motives.
"Did you suppose Jennie Vance and your sisters would think you were generous?" asked she, in a low voice.
Dotty looked at the carpet, but made no reply.
"Because, if that was your reason, Alice, it was doing ' your alms before men, to be seen of them.' God is not pleased when you do so. I told you about that the other day."
Still the little girl did not understand. Her thoughts were like these:
"Grandma thinks I'm ever so silly! Prudy thinks I'm silly! But isn't Jennie silly too? And O, she takes cake, all secret, out of her new mother's tin chest. I don't know what will become of Jennie Vance."
Mrs. Parlin was about to say more, when Miss Flyaway, who had been all over the house in two minutes, danced in, saying, "the Charlie boy" had come!
It was little lisping Charlie Gray, saying, "If you pleathe, 'm, may we have the Deacon to go to mill ? And then, if we may, can you thpare uth a quart 'o milk every thingle night? Cauthe, if you can't, then you muthn't."
Deacon was the old horse; and as Mr. Parlin was quite willing he should go to mill. Harry Gray came an hour afterwards and led him away. With regard to the other request, Mrs. Parlin had to think a few minutes.
"Yes, Charlie," said she, at last; "you may have the milk, because I would like to oblige your mother; and you may tell her I will send it every night by the children."
Now, Mrs. Gray was the doctor's wife. She was a kind woman, and kept one closet shelf full of canned fruit and jellies for sick people; but for all that, the children did not like her very well. Prudy thought it might be because her nose turned up " like the nose of a tea-kettle; " but Susy said it was because she asked so many questions. If the little Parlins met her on the street when they went of an errand, she always stopped them to inquire what they bad been buying at the store, or took their parcels out of their hands and felt them with her fingers. She was interested in very little things, and knew how all the parlors in town were papered and carpeted, and what sort of cooking-stoves everybody used.
Dotty hung her head when her grandmother said she wished her to go every night to Mrs. Gray's with a quart of milk.
"Must I?" said she. "Why, grandma, she'll ask me if my mother keeps a girl, and how many teaspoons we've got in the house; she will, honestly. Mayn't somebody go with me ? "
"Ask me will I go?" said Katie, "for I love to shake my head! "
"And, grandma," added Dotty, "Mrs. Gray's eyes are so sharp, why, they're so sharp they almost prick! And it's no use for Katie to go with me, she's so little."
" 0, I'm isn't much little," cried Katie. "I's growing big."
" I should think Prudy might go," said Dotty Dimple, with her finger in her mouth ; " you don't make Prudy do a single thing! "
" Prudy goes for the ice every morning," replied Mrs. Parlin. " I wish you to do as I ask you, Alice, and make no more remarks about Mrs. Gray."
"Yes, 'm," said Dotty in a dreary tone; " mayn't Katie come too ? she's better than nobody."
Katie ran for her hat, delighted to be thought better than nobody. The milk was put into a little covered tin pail. Dotty watched Ruth as she strained it, and saw that she poured in not only a quart, but a great deal more. "Why do you do so?" said Dotty. " That's too much."
"Your grandmother told me to," replied Ruth, washing the milk-pail. " She said ' Good measure, pressed down and running over.' That's her way of doing things."
"But I don't believe grandma 'spected you to press it down and run it all over. Why, there's enough in this pail to make a pound of butter. Come, Katie."
" Let me do some help," said the little one, catching hold of the handle, and making the pail much heavier. Dotty endured the weight as long as she could; then, gently pushing off the " little hindering " hand, she said,—
"And now, as we go along, we might as well be playing, Flyaway."
" Fwhat ? "
" Playing a play, dear. We'll make believe you're the queen with a gold crown on your head."
Katie put her hand to her forehead. "O, no, dear; you haven't anything on your head now but the broadest-brimmedest kind of a hat; we'll call it a crown. And I'm the king that's married to you."
" 0, yes, mallied."
" And we're going—going—"
"Rouspin," suggested Flyaway.
"No; great people like us don't go raspberrying. Sit down here, Queenie, under this acorn tree, and I'll tell you.; we're going to the castle."
" 0, yes, the cassil ? "
"Where we keep our throne, dear, and our gold dresses."
" Does we have any gold dollies to the sassil ?"
"O, yes, Queenie; all sizes."
"Does we have," continued Flyaway, winking slowly, " does we have—dip toast ? "
"Why, Queenie, what should we want of that ? Yes, we can have dip toast, I s'pose; the girl can make it on the gold stove, with a silver pie-knife. But we shall have nicer things than ever you saw."
" Nicer than turnipers ? "
" Pshaw! turnovers are nothing, Queenie; we shall give them to the piggy. We shall live on wedding cake and strawberries. Tea and coffee, and such low things, we shall give to ducks. 0, what ducks they will be! They will sing tunes such as canaries don't know how. We'll give them our tea and coffee, and we'll drink—what d'ye call it? 0, here's some."
Dotty took up the pail.
" You see how white it is; sugar frosting in it. Drink a little, it's so nice."
" It tastes just like moolly cow's milk," said Flyaway, wiping her lips with her finger.
"No," said Dotty, helping herself; "it's nectar; that's what Susy says they drink; now I remember."
" Stop !" said a small voice in the ear of Dotty's spirit; "that is what I should call taking other people's things."
"Poh!" said Dotty, sipping again; "it's grandpa's cow. When Jennie Vance takes cake, it's wicked, because—because it is. This is only play, you know."
Dotty took another draught.
" Come, Queenie," said she, " let's be going to the castle."
Katie sprang up so suddenly that she fell forward on her nose, and said her foot was "dizzy." It had been taking a short nap as she sat on the stump; but she was soon able to walk, and shortly the royal pair arrived at the castle, which was, in plain language, a wooden house painted white.
" So you have come at last," said Mrs. Gray, from the door-way. " They don't milk very early at your house—do they?"
"No, ma'am, not so very."
"Have you seen anything of my little Charlie?"
" No, ma'am, not since a great while ago, —before supper."
"How is your grandfather?"
" Pretty well, thank you, ma'am."
"No, gampa isn't," said Katie, decidedly; "he's deaf."
" And what about your Aunt Maria ? Didn't I see her go off in the stage this morning ? "
" Yes, 'm," replied Dotty, determined to give no more information than was necessary.
" She's gone off," struck in Katie ; "gone to Dusty, my mamma has."
"Ah indeed! to Augusta?" repeated Mrs. Gray, thoughtfully. " Any of your friends sick there ? "
" No, ma'am," replied Dotty, scowling at her shoes.
" She's gone," continued Katie, gravely, "to buy me Free Little Kittens."
Mrs. Gray smiled. "I should think your mother could find kittens enough in this town, without going to Augusta. I thought I saw Horace on the top of the stage, but I wasn't sure."
Dotty made no reply.
" Hollis was," cried Katie, eagerly; " he good to Dusty too. I fink they put Hollis in jail! "
"In jail!" exclaimed Mrs. Gray, throwing up her hands.
"He stealed, Hollis did," added Katie, solemnly.
"Hush, Katie, hush!" whispered Dotty Dimple, seizing the child by the hand and hurrying her away. Mrs. Gray followed the children to the door.
" What does she mean, Dotty! what can she have heard ?"
" She doesn't mean anything, ma'am," replied Dotty, beginning to run; " and she hasn't heard anything, either."
Dotty's behavior was so odd, that Mrs. Gray's curiosity was aroused. For the moment she quite forgot her anxiety about her little Charlie, who had been missing for some time.
" What made you say Horace stole ?" said Dotty, as soon as they were out of hearing.
"Hollis did," answered Katie, catching her breath ; " he stealed skosh seeds out of gampa's razor cupbard."
" What did Horace want of squash seeds ?"
" He eated 'em; I sawed him !"
" There, you're the funniest baby, Katie Clifford ! Now you've been and made Mrs. Gray think your brother's carried to jail."
This was not quite true. Mrs. Gray had no idea Horace had been taken to jail; but she did fancy something had gone wrong at Mrs. Parlin's. She put on her bonnet and ran across the road to Mrs. Gordon's to ask her what she supposed Horace Clifford had been doing, which Dotty Dimple did not wish to hear talked about, and which made her run away when she was questioned.
"I can't imagine," said Mrs. Gordon, very much surprised. " He is a frolicsome boy, but I never thought there was anything wicked about Horace."
Then by and by she remembered how Miss Louise Parlin had lost a breastpin in a very singular manner, and both the ladies wondered if Horace could have taken it.
" One never can tell what mischief children may fall into," said Mrs. Gray, rubbing her cheek-bone; " and that reminds me how anxious I am about my little Charlie; he ought to have been at home an hour ago."
While Mrs. Gray was saying this in Mrs. Gordon's parlor, there was a scene of some confusion in Mr. Parlin's door-yard.
" Who's this coming in at the gate?" cried Dotty.
It was Deacon, but Deacon was only a part of it; the rest was two meal-bags and a small boy. The meal-bags were full, and hung dangling down on either side of the horse, and to each was tied a leg of little Charlie Gray. It was droll for a tiny boy to wear such heavy clogs upon his feet, but droller still to see him resting his curly head upon the horse's mane.
" Ums the Charlie boy," said Katie; " um can't sit up no more."
" Ah, my boy, seems to me you take it very easy," said Abner, who was just coming in from the garden, giving some weeds a ride in the " one-wheeled coach," or wheelbarrow.
" Why don't you hold your head up, darling ?" said Dotty.
" 0, bring the camphor," screamed Susy; " he's fainted away! he's fainted away !"
"Not exactly," said Abner, untying the strings which held him to the bags. " Old Deacon has done very well this time; the boy is sound asleep."
As soon as Abner had wheeled away his weeds, he mounted the horse and trotted to Mrs. Gray's with the meal-bags, singing for Katie's ear,—
"Ride away, ride away; Charlie shall ride;
He shall have bag of meal tied to one side;
He shall have little bag tied to the other,
And Charlie shall ride to see our grandmother."
The little boy stood rubbing his eyes.
" Why, Charlie, darling," said Prudy, " who tied you on ?"
" The man'th boy over there. Hally didn't come cauthe he played ball; and then the man'th boy tied me on."
Charlie made up a lip.
" Let's take him out to the swing," said Prudy. " That will wake him up, and then we'll make a lady's chair and carry him home."
" Don't want to thwing," lisped Charlie.
" What for you don't?" said wee Katie.
" Cauthe the ladieth will thee me."
" 0, you's a little scat-crow!"
" Hush, Katie," said the older children; " do look at his hair; it curls almost as tight as dandelion stems."
" Thee the dimple in my chin! "
"Which chin?'' said Prudy; "you've got three of them."
" And the wuffle wound my neck! Gueth what we've got over to my houthe ? Duckth."
"0, ducks?" cried Dotty; "that's what I want to make me happy. There, Prudy, think of their velvet heads and beads of eyes, waddling about this yard."
" People sometimes take ducks' eggs and put them in a hen's nest." said Prudy, reflectively.
"0, there now," whispered Dotty, " shouldn't you think Mrs. Gray might give me three or four eggs for carrying the milk every single night?"
"Why, yes, I should; and perhaps she will."
" I gueth my mamma wants me at home," said Charlie, yawning.
Prudy and Dotty went with him; and in her eagerness concerning the ducks' eggs Dotty quite forgot the secret draughts of milk she and Katie had quaffed under the acorn-tree, calling it nectar. But this was not the last of it.
On to chapter 3