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´╗┐Title: Baby Pitcher's Trials - Little Pitcher Stories
Author: May, Carrie L.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Baby Pitcher's Trials - Little Pitcher Stories" ***

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[Illustration: Frontispiece.--The Funeral, p. 52]



  LITTLE PITCHER-STORIES.


  BABY PITCHER'S TRIALS.

  BY

  MRS. MAY.



  BOSTON:
  PUBLISHED BY CLARK & FISKE,
  32 CORNHILL.

  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
  CLARK & FISKE,
  In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.



  CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.
  How the Little Pitcher made Sunshine,                                7

  CHAPTER II.
  Flora Waits for the Sun to Drink up the Water,                      19

  CHAPTER III.
  The Story of the Poor Robin,                                        30

  CHAPTER IV.
  "Going to Have a Funeral,"                                          41

  CHAPTER V.
  Bertie Meets Jack Midnight at the Spring,                           53

  CHAPTER VI.
  A Deadly Snare for the Muskrat,                                     65

  CHAPTER VII.
  Something in the Trap,                                              76

  CHAPTER VIII.
  Jack Pulls off the Warm Jacket,                                     84

  CHAPTER IX.
  Flora in Exile,                                                     96

  CHAPTER X.
  Flora Goes to Ride in the Little Blue Cart,                        105

  CHAPTER XI.
  She says Good-bye to the Soap Man,                                 114

  CHAPTER XII.
  And Loses her Way,                                                 124

  CHAPTER XIII.
  Charley Swallows the Rooster,                                      133

  CHAPTER XIV.
  Happy Towzer,                                                      142

  CHAPTER XV.
  Flora Never Opens the Big Gate,                                    152



  BABY PITCHER'S TRIALS.



CHAPTER I.

HOW THE LITTLE PRINCESS MADE SUNSHINE.


It was raining fast, and it had rained for two days. This was the third.
Flora had become tired of the leaden sky and the wet earth. She had
watched the moving clouds and the swaying branches of the trees long
enough, and now she was ready for fair weather. But it seemed as if fair
weather would never come, and she looked in vain for a bit of blue sky.
There was not even a light streak. It was stormy without and it was
stormy within. The gray side of the sky was all that could be seen, and
the gray side of Flora's temper was out also. There was a sunny side to
both, but that was carefully hidden by the sober clouds.

Flora was tired of the big drops that chased each other down the pane.
She was tired of trying to look abroad through the wet glass and the
mist. When she did get a glimpse of the outer world there was nothing to
see, and that was the worst of it. There was nothing but muddy roads,
pools of water and little patches of green grass. It was not to be
borne.

Flora crept down from her high chair to the lowly footstool, leaned her
head upon her hand and sighed. Sister Amy had gone to school, and
Charley and Bertie were big boys. Of course they could go anywhere in
any weather, with "yubber" boots. How she envied them! Only she the
youngest of the flock, the Baby Pitcher, was forced to stay at home
because it rained. So she sighed. Mamma heard the sigh and said
inquiringly, "Well?"

"If I was a lady," said Flora, "a certain true lady, I wouldn't stay in
for the weather. I would put on my water-prooth and go a-fishing."

"In the rain?"

"I would."

Mamma laughed. Now Flora was not in a mood to be laughed at, so she shut
her eyes to keep back the tears, for she knew they would come if she did
not shut the covers down tightly. She did not keep them all back
however, for mamma saw two or three rolling slowly down her little
girl's cheek.

"Wouldn't go fishing without a water-prooth," she added, petulantly;
"might fall in and get wet."

Mamma did not laugh now. She was very grave. She had not had an easy
time of it since falling weather set in. She could do nothing right. All
her efforts had failed to amuse Flora. So mamma sighed.

Flora, forgetting that she must keep the covers shut down tightly,
opened wide her eyes and was astonished. Mamma looked so very sober. Was
she too going to cry because the pleasant sunshine staid away so long?

"I wouldn't," she said, earnestly. Mamma looked up. "I never would cry
for the rain," hastily brushing the moisture from her own cheek. "Ladies
don't, nor good children; only cross ones."

"I am glad to hear it," said mamma; but she did not smile.

"It will be pleasant when it clears off, I guess; don't you?"

"It generally is," said mamma, quietly; and then she went on with her
work and paid no more attention to Flora. Now that was unusual conduct.
What did mamma mean? In thinking about it, Flora forgot her own
troubles, and forgot all about the rain, though at that moment it was
beating fiercely against the window, and the cold wind was begging to
come in. By and by she carried the footstool to her mother's side and
seated herself demurely.

"I am going to tell you a story," she said. "It is a story, but it is
the truth, too. Want to hear it?"

Mamma assented.

"Well. Once, a good while ago, almost as much as a week, somebody went
a-fishing. It wasn't Charley or Bertie or Amy or me. His mother told him
never to do it because he might tumble in, you know. But he did; he
went."

"What a naughty boy!" said mamma, gravely.

"But he wasn't a boy."

"Excuse me," said mamma, "I thought he was."

"And he wasn't a girl."

"No?"

"No. You could never guess what he was."

"Then you will have to tell me."

"He was a fly."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, he was a fly; a sure enough fly. And where do you think the pond
was? Not a truly pond, but play it was, you know."

"It might have been the sirup pitcher or the plum jar. Flies are very
fond of sweets."

"But it wasn't. It was the cream jug. He was trying to catch some milk
and he tumbled in."

"What a pity!"

"Yes, and his mamma wasn't there, and the milk drownded him. And I hope
he will remember it as long as he lives, and never do so any more.
Wasn't that a good story?"

"It was a very good story."

"Did it make you feel better?"

"A great deal better; and now I will tell you a story."

"Oh, goody!"

Flora brushed the curls back from her face and prepared to listen.

"Once upon a time," said mamma.

"Long ago?"

"Not so very long ago."

"Much as a week?"

"Oh, no; not so much as a week. We will say about two days."

"Well."

"Once upon a time--"

"About two days ago?"

"Yes, dear. In a little white palace no larger than this house, there
lived a king and a queen, a tall princess and a little princess."

"Oh oo!" said Flora.

"And the king could not always remain in the pretty palace, because it
was necessary for him to go abroad to provide food and clothing for his
family. The queen, the tall princess and the little princess, were his
family."

"Yes," said Flora.

"And the tall princess could not always stay in the palace, because she
expected to be a queen herself some day, and her mamma--I mean the
queen--wanted her to be a wise one; so she sent her away to school every
morning. But the queen and the little princess stayed in the palace, and
it often happened that they were left at home together."

"Just like us."

"Yes, dear. The princess used to run about and play out of doors like
other little girls when the weather was pleasant, and when it was not
she amused herself in doors with her toys and her pets."

"Did she have a white mouse, do you think?"

"I think she had a white mouse."

"And a grandma?"

"I am almost certain that she had a grandma."

"But the grandma did not live in the palace?"

"Oh, no. The grandma lived in a house not far from the palace, and the
tall princess and the little princess used to visit her almost every
day."

"Well."

"The queen and the little princess were very happy together until
something happened. It was a long storm that happened, and there was no
sunshine in the palace for more than two days."

Flora, reminded of the rain, glanced at the window against which the big
drops were rattling merrily, but quickly turned to mamma again, for she
did not wish to lose one word of the story.

"Now when the sun did not shine in the palace it was a very gloomy
place, not like a palace at all, and the queen was sad and the princess
unhappy. The princess did not know why she was unhappy, but the queen
knew. It was because there was no sunshine to make little faces look
pleasant and cheerful. It made the queen sad to see the little princess
unhappy and discontented, so she thought she would try to make some
sunshine."

"Did she?"

"No," said mamma. "I am sorry to say that the poor queen worked very
hard, but she had forgotten how to make it."

"Too bad!" said Flora.

"But when the poor queen was quite discouraged the little princess
thought that she would try; and what her poor mamma--I mean the
queen--had failed to do, she did. The little princess made the
sunshine."

"Oh, goody!" exclaimed Flora, clapping her hands. "How did she do it?"

"Why," said mamma, smiling, and putting her arm round the little girl's
neck, "she brought her footstool to the queen's side and told the queen
a story."

"Just like me!"

"Yes, dear. And the queen was very happy because the palace was no
longer dark and gloomy; it was bright with the sunshine her little girl
had made."

"The princess, you mean."

"The princess was a little girl."

"And was the queen a lady?"

"The queen was the little girl's mamma."

"Oh, I know!" said Flora, jumping about in high glee, "I am the little
princess and you are the queen, and this is the palace."

"Yes," said mamma.

"And papa is the king, and sister is the tall princess."

"Yes, dear."

"And I hope," she added, earnestly, "that the princess will never forget
that she knows how to make sunshine."

"The queen hopes so too," said mamma.



CHAPTER II.

FLORA WAITS FOR THE SUN TO DRINK UP THE WATER.


The next morning there was sunshine everywhere; inside of the palace and
out. The long storm was over. Flora waited in the porch for the sun to
drink up the moisture from the soaked ground, that she might run about
and enjoy her freedom. She had been housed so long--three whole days!
And now the grass was springing up all around, and the swelling buds
were ready to burst forth into leaves. And the birds were singing gaily
as if they too were glad to come out and play.

Flora watched them as they hopped from twig to twig, and wished she
could borrow their brown wings, for she wanted to fly away over the tops
of the houses and sing with them a joyful song. But she could not borrow
the brown wings, and she could not turn herself into a bird. So she sat
down on the upper step which the sun had dried, and tried to feel
satisfied with the nimble feet and curious fingers that God had given to
her instead of wings and claws.

The steam was rising from the ground, and the bright drops sparkled on
the tender blades of grass. When the last bright drop had disappeared,
and there was no longer any steam, she was at liberty to go where she
pleased. She felt very comfortable in her thick jacket and leather
boots, for it was as yet too early in the season to lay them by, but if
she could have had her own way, she would have welcomed the pleasant
morning in ankle-ties and a shaker.

"Mamma knows best," she whispered to Dinah, the black baby, with blue
buttons for eyes and ravelled-out yarn for hair. "Mamma knows best, and
I hope you are 'vinced of it."

The sun had gone away from the step, and Flora was somewhat chilly, so
she pinned the shawl tightly about Dinah and walked up and down the
porch. "You don't know everything," she said, sharply, "because you
ain't old enough. And I ain't. Did you think I was? No. I will tell you
who is. Mamma is. She is ever so old, and she knows all there is in the
world. When she tells me to put on my warm jacket, I don't cry. But you
do, and you ought to be ashamed of it. Will you do it without crying
next time? Eh?" She gave the baby a little shake and went on with her
lecture. "Naughty children say 'no' when mamma says 'yes.' Good ones
don't. Good ones say just as mamma says. And naughty children tell
stories. I don't tell stories and good children don't. If you say you
don't cry when you do cry, that's a story. And if you say you do cry
when you don't cry, _that's_ a story. It is a story both ways, and both
ways are wicked. Mamma says so, and she knows. When you are as old as
mamma, you will know too. And I will. So don't ask any more questions
about it."

Dinah had come out to take the air and be company for Flora. To be sure,
Amy, the tall princess spoken of in the last chapter, was sitting at the
window that opened on to the porch; but then she was busy. She could not
be company for anybody, for she was studying her home lesson. Flora
pitied her very much, for she looked very sober and kept repeating to
herself words that Flora could not understand. It was a hard lesson, and
Amy was determined to conquer it. Flora felt like talking, and there
was no one to talk to but Dinah. Dinah was a good listener, but not much
of a talker. In fact, she could not speak a word; so if she had any
ideas, she did not express them. Flora was tired of having everything
her own way. She thought it would be a great deal nicer if Amy would put
down that stupid book, and pay some attention to her; but she did not
say so aloud. She whispered it to Dinah in a tone that only Dinah could
hear. By and by Amy did put down the book, and with it the sober,
earnest look.

"Goody!" said Flora, clapping her hands, regardless of Dinah's peril.
But Dinah did not fall. Flora caught her by the neck just in time to
prevent a terrible blow. When Flora said "Goody," Amy opened the window.

"It is you, is it?" she said. "I thought it was a mouse."

"It is only me," said Flora. "I am going out when the sun has drunk up
all the water."

"The sun is a thirsty fellow, my dear."

"He is," sighed Flora. "Dinah is tired of waiting."

"Flora is tired of waiting, I guess."

"Yes, Flora is."

"And what would she like to do while the sun is drinking?"

"Have fun," said Flora, laying the black baby down for a nap, with the
shawl drawn up over her head. "Dinah is asleep and I am ready."

"You are a dear little thing for keeping so still while I was studying,
and we will have some fun."

"Oo!" said Flora. "I have fifteen minutes to do whatever I please with,
and then I must be off. Now, what would you like to do?"

"Play something," said Flora, joyfully.

"Well."

"I should like to get out my china set and play dinner, with real sugar
in the sugar bowl, and apple cut up for meat."

"That would be jolly if we only had the time; but we have not."

"Oh!" sighed Flora.

Amy put on hat and coat, and tightened the strap around her books.

"How would you like 'mother' or 'tag?'"

"First rate," said Flora. "I will be the mother, and you may be 'it.'"

"All at once?"

"Yes. But if you catch me, it won't be fair."

"No, indeed," said Amy. "And you musn't start till I get my hand on the
post."

"No."

"And if you don't 'bey the rules we must begin over again."

"Yes."

"Ready?"

"Ready."

As Flora started to run, somebody called "Holloa!" So she stopped short
and asked, "Who is that?"

It was Charley passing by on his way to school, alone.

"You had better hurry up," he cried. "If you stop there fooling with the
Baby Pitcher, you will be late."

"It is early yet," said Amy; but Flora was angry and she stamped her
foot and screamed,

"'Taint late, either, Charley Waters; and you are an ugly boy to call me
that. My name ain't Baby Pitcher; my name is Flora Lee!"

"Whew!" said Charley. "The Lee spunk is running away with the little
pet. Catch it somebody!"

"You must not tease her," said Amy; "she wants to play."

"Don't either," pouted Flora.

"I thought you did."

"She wants coaxing," said Charley.

"Don't either, Charley Waters."

"You will play to oblige sister, won't you?" said Amy, soothingly.

No, Flora would not. Charley had interfered with their plans and ruffled
her temper. It was too bad of Charley, but then Charley was not wholly
to blame, for the Baby Pitcher's temper was easily ruffled. And now it
was really time for Amy to go. The fifteen minutes had melted away.

"I do not like to leave the little sister with such a sour face," she
whispered in Flora's ear. "If you will brush away the black looks and
be pleasant, you may ask mamma to let you write on my white slate."

"Till you come home?"

"Yes."

Flora with a quick motion brushed away the gloomy clouds and held up her
sunny face for a kiss.

"That is a lady," said Amy, approvingly.

"I will be very careful, and I won't break it," said Flora, gratefully;
"and Dinah must not touch it."

"Well! If you haven't got an April face I wouldn't say so," declared
Charley, at the risk of banishing the smiles.

But Flora did not care. She was thinking of the pretty white slate. She
had never held it in her hands but once, and then Amy stood by to watch
and to caution her. Now she was to have it all to herself.

"I am off," said Charley. "Will somebody kiss me before I go?"

"Dinah will."

Flora held up the black baby, but Charley made a wry face and said
"Pah!" That amused Flora, and she ran after Charley and insisted upon
his kissing Dinah, but before she knew it, Charley caught her in his
arms and left a kiss on the tip of her nose. He did not mean to leave it
there, he was trying to put it on her cheek, but the little nose was
right in the way, so it caught the kiss.

"Ho, ho!" laughed Charley. "Let me take it back and put it where it
belongs."

So Flora held quite still, and Charley made believe take it back; and he
put another one on the cheek. Then he and Amy trudged along to school,
leaving Flora and Dinah in a very happy mood.



CHAPTER III.

THE STORY OF POOR ROBIN.


Flora waited until they had turned the corner. When they looked back,
she waved her hand, and, before passing out of sight, Charley threw a
farewell kiss.

"It was not for you," she said to the black baby, "so you need not look
so pleasant about it. It was for me. And now we will go in and write on
the white slate; but you must not touch it, for somebody has clumsy
fingers and black fingers. It isn't me--my fingers are white; and it
isn't Amy. It is you. Dolls don't know so much as other folks, and dolls
break things. I don't. If you break that slate, Amy will cry. She said
I might take it; she didn't say nothing to you. Will you 'member?"

They went in, but they soon came out again. The sunny morning called so
loudly that Flora could not stay in doors. Not even the white slate had
power to keep her. She played with it a while, and then it was cast
aside, because Dinah wanted to take a walk. How she knew it, I am sure I
cannot tell. Perhaps the black baby whispered her wishes in the ear of
her mistress, and Flora was quite willing to oblige her. When they went
out, the steps of the porch were dry, and there was no longer any mist;
so Flora was at liberty to go where she pleased. That is to say, she was
at liberty to go wherever mamma pleased. Down to the barn, over to
auntie's, where Charley and Bertie lived, or in to see Grandma; but she
was not to wander away or play in the public street, and she was on no
account to go where she could not keep home in view. She might roam
about the grounds all day if she liked; and there was the big tree down
in the garden, with a broad seat around it, where she could play house
or picnic, or anything that could be played with only Dinah to help her.
But it often happened that she did not care to go to any of these
places. She would have liked to open the big gate (but that was
forbidden,) and follow the noisy ducks down to the pond, and now she
looked with longing eyes to a group of merry boys who ought to have been
in school, but were playing in the muddy street instead. She thought how
nice it would be to have one's own way always, and not be obliged to ask
mamma everything. She was strongly tempted to join the party of rough,
rude boys. There was not a girl among them.

"I think it is too bad," she complained to Dinah, "and it ought to be a
pity. Big girls know where they want to go better than mamma does. Don't
they? Course they do. Did you say no? That is what mamma says. So you
may turn your head round. If you don't look that way, you will forget
all about it. And I will."

Flora was right. She turned her head and forgot all about it. There was
something else to think of. Somebody was getting over the wall at the
foot of the garden. Who was it? She ran to the other end of the porch to
see.

"Is that you?" she called. No answer. "Is that _you_, I say?"

Bertie (for it was Bertie,) looked up and nodded. He came across the
beds that were covered with the dry stalks and stems of last year's
flowers, and up the path, quite slowly.

"Hurry," cried Flora, impatiently.

Bertie shook his head to signify that he could not hurry, and then she
saw that he carried something in both hands, and he carried it
carefully.

"What is it," she demanded.

"Hush!" said Bertie. "It is a timid little thing, and you must not make
a noise. You can come up softly and look."

He cautiously parted his hands, and Flora looked in; but the space was
very narrow, and she was so eager that she could not see very well. So
he separated his hands a little more, and then she saw the bright eyes
and round head of a bird.

"Oo!" she exclaimed.

"Robin," said Bertie.

"Alive?"

"Can't you see?"

He stopped, and Flora took another look.

"It _is_ alive. I am so glad."

"But you must not clap your hands. That makes a wind, and he is awfully
afraid of a wind. It makes him shake like everything. I wish you could
feel his heart beat."

Flora eagerly held out her hands.

"Do let me," she pleaded, earnestly. But Bertie said, "Not yet; wait
till he gets acquainted."

"Will he, do you think?"

"Oh, yes. He knows me first rate now. I have had him ever since last
night. I was home yesterday, sick. I am home sick to-day. That is why I
am here. I didn't go to school. I got my feet wet."

"Through your rubber boots?"

"Over them. I went in knee deep, filled my boots full. Took them off,
and emptied out the water; but that didn't do any good. The cold stayed
in. I had caught it, you know, and there was no shaking it out. When you
once catch a cold, it sticks. There is something growing in my throat.
Tonsils, mother calls it, I believe; but I guess it won't amount to
much."

"Does it hurt?"

"Oh, no! It was awful in the night, though. You see I could not get out
yesterday for the rain."

"No more could I."

"It was precious dull staying in the house with the tonsils, so I kept
looking out of the window, and wishing it would clear off."

"Just like me," said Flora, gleefully.

"And I got awful tired of that window!"

"Me, too."

"I wanted to smash my fist through it, but that would not have been
doing the proper thing, so I kept my feelings to myself. By-and-by I
heard something go, peep! peep! I couldn't think at first what it was."

"It was the robin."

"Yes, but I did not know it was the robin. I thought it was some other
bird up in a tree. By-and-by it came again. Peep! peep! right under the
window, and then I began to look about me. But I did not see anything
for a long time. At last I opened the window, and there, hopping about
the wet piazza, was Mr. Robin. I went out and got him in a twinkling."

"Did he want to be caught?"

"Couldn't help himself."

"I should have flied away."

"With that?" Bertie pointed to a broken wing.

"With two of them."

"You could not fly if you had a dozen wings like that. It is broken."

"Oh!"

"And that accounts for his being on our piazza. I don't know what lamed
him, but I think it was the gale or a stone."

"I guess it was something," said Flora, eagerly.

"And it was lucky that I happened to hear him when he cried peep, peep,
instead of puss. If puss had been round, wouldn't she have snapped at
him?"

"Wouldn't she?" echoed Flora.

"She would have made mince meat of Mr. Robin. There would not have been
so much as a feather left. I tell you what I mean to do. Nurse him up
till he gets well."

"Me, too."

"Yes, you can be the doctor, while I am at school; and if he _does_ get
well, won't I make a tip-top cage for him?"

"He will get well."

"Perhaps. But you must be careful about his diet. Don't give him
anything hurtful to eat, you know."

"I won't. Give him milk and sponge cake."

"And worms. You must not forget the worms."

"Dig some?"

"Yes."

"Dig some now?"

"That wouldn't be a bad idea. He was not hungry last night, and he would
not eat this morning. Perhaps a nice fat worm will tempt him."

Flora knew where to look for nice, fat worms, so she left Bertie to take
care of Dinah and the robin, while she went in pursuit of a breakfast
for the birdy. There was a family that lived under a certain plank, and
as it was a large family there was always somebody at home. When she
tried the door it would not open; that is to say when she got to the
plank she could not lift it. The wet clay sucked it down so hard that
although she tugged till she was red in the face, she could not move it.

"Oh, dear!" she cried.

And then she went to the other end of the plank and tried that. But it
stuck fast. It would not move an inch. Then she got angry and talked to
it as she sometimes talked to Dinah, and with no better result. She
could not move it by force or by persuasion. There was no other way but
to go back to Bertie without the robin's breakfast.

"I can manage it," said Bertie, "if you will take the chick. I should
like to see the plank that could hold out against me."

Flora gladly took the chick, and her countenance brightened as she felt
the little heart flutter against her hand. This was much pleasanter than
hunting worms. She sat down upon the step and held the birdy very
tenderly till Bertie came back.



CHAPTER IV.

"GOING TO HAVE A FUNERAL."


The plank did not hold out against Bertie, and he found several of the
worm family at home. They were very much disturbed by his presence, and
wriggled about in all directions, as if in pursuit of hiding places, or
their company dress and manners. They were evidently not prepared to
receive visitors. But that did not make any difference to Bertie. He
hung as many as he thought the robin could relish across a stick, and
with much difficulty--for the worms were constantly dropping off--he
made his way back to the porch without the loss of a single crawler.
But when he got there the birdy would not eat. Was not that a pity? They
coaxed in every way. Flora even talked to him with tears in her eyes,
but it was of no use. He did not open his bill or take any notice of the
nice breakfast spread before him.

"Too bad!" said Flora. "Will he die?"

"I am afraid he will."

Bertie gazed sadly at the writhing worms.

"He will starve in a land of plenty, and I don't see how anybody is to
help it. Who could resist such a tempting breakfast as that?"

"I couldn't," said Flora.

"And I couldn't. And if he does not hurry up, there won't be any
breakfast to eat. Look at that--and that."

Bertie pointed to a well-fattened, tender morsel, in such haste to be
off that it was hanging over the very edge of the flooring, and to
another whose thick-set body was fast disappearing between the boards.

"That is what I call a tight squeeze. They might stop to say good
morning."

"Worms don't know everything," returned Flora.

"Not quite everything," said Bertie.

"What shall we do next?"

"Perhaps he is thirsty. Dinah is."

"And you are?"

"Yes, I are."

Water was brought; but the birdy would not drink, although he opened his
bill so wide when Flora pushed his head into the porringer that she
thought he was drinking.

"He is only gasping," said Bertie. "Birds cannot breathe with their
heads under water. Nobody can."

"I can."

"No, dear."

"Minims can."

"Oh, yes, minims can. But minims are fishes, and they live in the water.
That is their home. Birds live in the air. They build little houses in
the trees."

"Live in the sky. I have seen them way up."

"They do fly almost as high as the sky; but when night comes and they
are tired of flying, they go home to rest."

"In the little houses?"

"Yes, dear."

"Want to see them."

"They are high up in the trees, out of sight. By and by, when the leaves
fall off and the birds fly away, I will get you one of the round nests."

"To put the robin in."

"If we have any robin."

"Got one now."

"But his wing is broken, and he will not eat."

"Too bad!"

"And if he will not eat, he may as well die. I do believe he is thinking
about it now. Look at him!"

Flora had made a bed by robbing Dinah of her dress and shawl; but the
bird had not moved since she placed him upon it. He was now lying on his
side, with closed eyes, and he was breathing very hard.

"He is asleep," said Flora.

Bertie shook his head.

"Feel better when he wakes up."

"If he _does_ wake up."

"Course he will! You do, don't you?"

"Yes."

"And I do. And Dinah does. Cover him up warm; course he will wake up!"

Flora covered him with her pocket handkerchief, which she called a
blanket, and tried to wait patiently for him to finish his nap. But she
could not help lifting a corner of the blanket, now and then, to see
how he was getting on; and every time she looked he seemed to be
breathing harder, until at last he lay quite still, and did not breathe
at all. She took that as a good sign, because the eye that she could see
was partially open; and she called to Bertie, who had gone to the barn
for a box to keep the robin in till the new cage was made, to come quick
and turn the birdy over, for he had waked up on one side. She did not
like to disturb him; but she wanted to know if the other eye was open.
Bertie came up, with the box in his hand. He watched the bird closely
for a moment.

"No need to turn him over," he said, sadly. "He is asleep clear
through."

"Waked up on one side," persisted Flora; but Bertie knew that the robin
would never wake again. He dropped the box, and took up the poor little
bird. It was quite dead.

When Flora saw the drooping head, and knew that the birdy would never
hop about and chirp or eat worms any more, she cried bitterly. It was
too bad for it to go and die just as she was getting acquainted. They
would have had such nice times together when the new cage was done.

"Never mind," said Bertie; but he too felt very sorry. He had been
looking forward to a tame bird in a pretty cage, singing the sweetest of
songs. And now that could never be.

"Get well, some time," sobbed Flora.

"Never," said Bertie, at which Flora cried louder than ever.

"We must bury him, and forget all about it."

"Have a funeral?"

"Yes."

"In a pretty box?"

"Yes."

Flora wiped her eyes. The prospect of a funeral was consoling. It helped
her to forget her loss.

"Tie a ribbon round your hat?"

"If you wish."

"Mine too?"

"Yes."

"And wait till Charley and Amy come?"

"Yes, dear."

"Goody!"

She caught up Dinah, and went skipping about the porch.

"Going to have a funeral. Did you know it? Why don't you ask who is
dead? Course somebody is. Couldn't have a funeral without somebody dead!
It isn't me, and it isn't you. Nor anybody in this house. Did you think
it was? No. It is a robin. You can go because you have a black face.
Always wear black to funerals. I will, and Bertie will,--round our hats.
You mustn't laugh. Good folks don't laugh at funerals, and I don't.
Only bad. There's a worm. Want to look? That is the robin's breakfast
going home. He lives down there under a plank. I can't lift it, and you
can't. Bertie can. He don't want no more breakfast. Course not! He is
going to be dead. Bury him when Amy and Charley come. Somewhere. Do you
know where? I don't. Bertie does."

With Dinah in her arms, she met Charley and Amy at the corner when
school was done, with the cheerful tidings.

"Going to have a funeral!"

"No!" said Charley.

"Are too, Charley Waters."

"When?"

"Now."

"Where?" inquired Amy, anxiously.

"There," pointing towards home.

"Not at our house?"

"Yes."

"It cannot be. Nobody is dead."

"Couldn't have a funeral without somebody dead."

"Flora, is anybody dead?"

"He is."

"Who?"

"The robin. Died to-day. Going to have a funeral in the porch."

"Ho, ho!" laughed Charley.

"You have given me such a fright!" said Amy. "I have not strength enough
left to take me home."

Charley offered to carry her on his back, but she declined the offer.
After leaning against a tree for a moment, she was able to go on.

"I don't know what the dear child means, do you?"

"Haven't the least idea," said Charley.

"And what is Bertie so busy about?"

"Can't make that out either."

"What is Bertie doing, pet?"

"Making the box," said Flora.

"What box?"

"Can't bury the robin without making a box!"

"Oh!"

"Course not. You ought to know better."

"That's so. When did Mr. R. shuffle off, &c.?"

"Didn't go nowhere, only to be dead."

"Oh!"

"And when Bertie gets the box done, we must form a line and march. Me
and Dinah will go first, because she is the blackest."

"Good. She shall be chief mourner."

"Me, too."

"You shall be the marshal."

"Well."

She had not the slightest idea what it was to be the marshal but she
liked the sound of it. Bertie was not long in finishing the box. Before
they put the birdy in, Amy brought a handful of hay and made a soft
nest. She could not bear to see it lying on the bottom of the hard box.
Bertie nailed the cover on, and bored a hole with a gimlet. "To look
through," he said. But as the hole was very small, and it was very dark
inside, you could not see anything.

Bertie wanted to march with the box under his arm and the spade over his
shoulder, but Flora insisted upon the wheelbarrow, and as Flora was the
marshal, the wheelbarrow was brought out to head the procession. Flora
and Dinah followed as chief mourners, while Amy and Charley walked in
single file to make the procession as long as possible. They marched
round and round the grounds as long as Flora wished, and then Bertie dug
a deep hole in the middle of Amy's garden, and buried the robin.



CHAPTER V.

BERTIE MEETS JACK MIDNIGHT AT THE SPRING.


Flora enjoyed the funeral very much. She had never had a dead bird to
bury before, and she thought it a very nice thing; so nice in fact, that
she meant to come back some day and have it over again. So she marked
the spot with a stick, that she might know where to find the bird when
she wanted it for another funeral. That it was hid from her sight
forever she had not the least idea, or that she could not re-bury it
whenever she choose. So she planted the stick, and went away with a
happy heart.

When she knew that the birdy could be buried only once, and that she was
not to disturb the spot, she mourned her loss afresh. But Amy told her
she would plant a daisy on the little mound, and it should be her own,
and she should think of her bird whenever the flowers bloomed. And
Charley promised to buy a bright yellow canary, if he could ever save
money enough, and it should be "a regular screamer." She wanted Bertie
to make the cage at once, but Bertie thought he could not make a cage
good enough for a canary. He would have a beauty on hand, however, by
the time Charley got ready to purchase the bird. This was meant as a sly
hit at Charley who never had any money. He fully intended to buy the
bird, but canaries cost money, and Charley's pockets were always empty,
so far as money was concerned.

Flora had little faith in Charley's promises. Bertie had a new idea in
his head. He wanted to prepare a trap for a musk-rat. That was why he
could not attend to making the cage. If he succeeded in catching
one--and he thought he should, for the spring was full of them--Flora
was to have all the perfumery she wanted. So she was comforted, and in
time--a very short time--forgot all about the robin. Bertie set his
trap, and waited. Nobody believed in the musk-rat but Flora. She had
faith in the success of all Bertie's undertakings. Everybody else
laughed at him for his pains. Charley said he was a "goney," whatever
that may be, and Amy advised him to turn his attention to something
sensible. He travelled down to the spring every morning before
breakfast, and with quickly beating heart examined the trap. There was
nothing in it, but there were tracks all around. He resolved to follow
up those tracks, and see what would come of them. It was a long walk to
the spring, and a lonely walk. Other traps were set thereabouts, but
their owners lived near by, or came from the upper road. Of course he
never asked for Charley's company. Charley had no faith, and he
ridiculed the idea of going so often on a wild-goose chase. But Bertie
reasoned within himself,--other fellows caught musk-rats, why should not
he? His traps were as good as theirs, his bait the same. To be sure he
never had caught one, but that was no reason he never should. There must
be a first time for every thing. And when he did trap one, wouldn't
Charley change his tune? The spring was alive with musk-rats. One
_should_ find the way into his trap. He hoped it would be a "buster." He
was on the road to the spring, when these thoughts passed through his
mind. There had been a white frost, and the air was keen. He thrust his
hands into his pockets, and ran along, whistling cheerfully. His
spirits were light, and his hopes high. He half expected to find a
musk-rat in his trap. He had made the path to it so easy and inviting,
surely something must have found the way thither. Not a musk-rat,
perhaps, but something. When he got there, he was surprised to find a
boy examining his trap. It was not an agreeable surprise, for the boy
was Jack Midnight; the very last person in the world with whom he
desired to have any dealings. It was the same Jack who dishonestly made
way with Charley's calico rooster. Bertie was angry. Without stopping to
inquire into the circumstances, as he would have done if it had been any
other boy, he at once jumped to a wrong conclusion. He thought that Jack
was plotting mischief, and without waiting for his hot blood to cool, he
called, quickly,

"Come out of that!"

"Do you know what you are gabbing about?" queried Jack.

"I guess I do."

"And I guess you don't. Supposing you hold your horses a minute?"

"It is a mean thing, any how, to meddle with another fellow's trap."

"It is your trap, is it?"

"Yes, it is."

"Well, who's a meddling?"

"You."

"I ain't."

"You are."

"I say I ain't; and who knows best, I should like to know?"

You may know that Bertie was angry, or he would not have stooped to
bandy words with such a boy. Besides he would have been afraid, for Jack
was a big boy. He was larger, stronger, and a great deal older than
Bertie, and he was much better qualified for fighting in every way. He
had had a deal of practice. But when a boy is angry, he does not stop to
consider consequences. It was fortunate for Bertie that Jack did not
feel disposed to quarrel with him. He could have shaken him as easily as
a dog shakes a squirrel, and resistance would have been of no avail. For
once, Jack was doing nothing to be ashamed of, and he knew he was right.
That helps a boy a great deal. When he knows he is right, he does not
feel half so much like striking back. Perhaps you think he did strike
back when he replied to Bertie's uncivil words; but you must remember
that Jack was a desperate fellow, and if he had not been well disposed
he would hardly have taken the trouble to strike with his tongue. And
language that would sound very rough from the lips of a better bred boy,
was not so bad, after all, coming from Jack Midnight. He was secretly
very much ashamed of his conduct towards the rooster, particularly as
Charley and Bertie had never taken any notice of it. They had simply
allowed him to go his own way, taking care, however, that his track
never crossed theirs. When they could avoid it, they did not speak to
him; when they could not, they were civil in speech--never rude. This
annoyed and humbled Jack. To have enemies that were not enemies, was a
new experience. He looked upon all as against him who were not his
avowed friends. But here were two boys who could not be friends, and,
although he had deeply injured them, he could not call them enemies. He
wanted to do something to show that he was very sorry about the rooster;
something to show that he was not bad, clear through. Bertie's quick
temper flashed, and then went out.

"It looked very much like it, as I came up," he said, in a more gentle
tone.

"Somebody's been a meddling," retorted Jack; "but 'twas not me."

"Who then?"

Jack pointed to the trap. The bait was gone! Yes, somebody had been
meddling.

"I should like to know who," said Bertie.

Jack laughed.

"Follow them tracks, and may be you'll find him. It is easy getting out
of your trap as well as in."

Bertie eagerly examined the tracks.

"Musquash," said Jack.

"You don't mean to say that there has really been one in the trap?"

"Been in and out again. He has had one good meal, perhaps he will come
for another."

Bertie was so delighted at having caught something that at first he did
not mind its getting away at all; but when he came to reflect, he was
sorry to have lost such a prize. If he could only have carried it home
in triumph, how Charley would have stared!

"If that was my trap," said Jack, "I'd fix it."

"What would you do?"

"Tinker that spring so that it wouldn't hold fire, you bet."

"I did not know it needed tinkering."

"It would puzzle a musquash to get out of _my_ trap. I'd fix it so that
it would go off if he touched it with a whisker."

"I don't know how," said Bertie.

Jack gladly offered his services. Here was a chance to make a small
payment on account.

"If you would be so kind, and not mind my speaking cross just now."

"That's nothing," returned Jack, shortly. "Now if I can find anything
to 'couter' with."

He searched his pockets and brought up a coil of wire, some string, a
file, a pair of pincers, and so many different articles that Bertie
laughingly inquired if he was a travelling tool-chest.

"Pockets is handy," said Jack, "if they ain't holey. Whenever I come
across anything, I jest drops it in."

And so he did. Many things went into Jack's pockets that did not belong
there.

"Now hand us the trap, and we will get ready for the musquash."

"Will he come again, do you think?"

"What's to hinder? He knows what good grub is as well as you do. He will
be poking his nose in again as sure as you're born."

"I hope he will," said Bertie.

"Did you ever catch one?"

"No."

"Never skun one, I suppose?"

"Never."

"I have, heaps of all kinds. Sold 'em too. That's a neat trade."

"Selling them?"

"Skinning 'em."

"I expect it is," said Bertie.



CHAPTER VI.

A DEADLY SNARE FOR THE MUSK-RAT.


"I have been in the business, off and on," continued Jack, "ever since I
was the size of a hop toad."

"It pays, doesn't it?"

"That depends. Sometimes it does, and then again it don't. It's
accordin' to the critter. Mink, now, fitches a fancy price when you can
catch 'em. They are a mighty scarce article now-a-days. But rabbits
ain't worth shucks. It is a job to skin 'em, they are so tender; and
they won't fetch nothing."

"How about musk-rats?"

"Got an eye to business, eh?"

"If I am lucky enough to catch one, I should like to sell the skin."

"Well, musquash pays if it is skun right."

"How is that? A skin is a skin, isn't it?"

"Yes; but a skin with the head on is one thing, and a skin with the head
off is another, as you will find out if you ever try it on."

"I shouldn't think that would make any difference."

"It does a heap. A quarter is the most you can get without the head."

"And with it?"

"Fifty cents for a big one."

"Is that so?"

"Well, it is."

"I am very glad you told me," said Bertie.

"It is a little thing worth knowing," returned Jack. "Never caught a
pole-cat, I take it."

"I never caught anything," said Bertie.

"Seen 'em?"

"I don't know that ever I did."

"Smelt 'em?"

Bertie confessed that he had no acquaintance whatever with the animal,
but mentioned that once they found a skunk in Charley's chicken-house
sucking eggs, and they killed it.

"Him's um," said Jack.

"Oh!"

"Didn't cook it, I suppose."

"Cook it!"

"Yes."

"What for?"

"Eat, of course."

Bertie could not conceal his disgust.

"You needn't turn up your nose at _him_," continued Jack. "Good eating
_he_ is. Tender as a sucking pig, and tastes so nigh like I'd stump
_you_ to tell the difference."

Jack was going to say "tender as a chicken," but he remembered the
calico and so avoided the use of the word.

"I am sure you are joking," declared Bertie.

"Not a bit of it," said Jack. "I wouldn't ask for a better dinner. The
critter is like some other folks, not half so bad as you try to make him
out. He has got a bad name, and that is the worst thing there is about
him."

"Except his odor."

"That's not so bad either after you get used to it."

"Ugh!"

"Musquash is no better, if they do pay a good price for it."

"Do they?"

"They do. To make scent of for the ladies. One of them little bags will
make gallons and gallons, they say. I know a man that buys all he can
get. There you are! A heap better off than you was before. I reckon
that trap will hold a musquash next time it catches one."

"Thank you," said Bertie.

"And if the spring don't happen to kill him, just touch him on the head
with a stone. A little tap will do it, for he is mighty tender about the
head."

Bertie said "Thank you" again, and Jack helped him bait and set the
trap, and this time a deadly snare was laid for the musk-rat. Bertie was
late to breakfast. Charley looked up inquiringly as he walked in and
took his seat at the table; but Bertie had not a word of explanation to
offer. Charley had laughed at him so often that he meant to keep his own
counsel till the game was sure; but he could not help showing in his
face that something unusual had happened.

"Catch anything?" said Charley.

"No."

"Trap sprung?"

"No."

"Nothing in it, eh?"

"No."

"I thought so."

Bertie laughed as he considered how _very_ empty the trap was.

"What are you laughing at?"

"I was thinking," said Bertie.

"Meet anybody up there?"

"One fellow."

"Who?"

"Jack Midnight."

"What was he doing?"

"Looking round."

"Give you any of his impudence?"

"No. He was very civil and obliging. He offered to fix the spring of my
trap."

"You didn't let him?"

"I could not refuse without hurting his feelings, and I did not want to
do that."

"I should, plump. My feelings are not seared over yet. I have not
forgotten the calico."

"And he has not."

"Do you believe it?"

"I do, Charley. I think he feels awful cheap about it."

"I hope he does."

"I know he does."

"He didn't say so?"

"No; but he acted so."

"If he feels cheap I hope he will stay so and keep his distance."

Bertie hoped so too. He was very much obliged to Jack for helping him
with the trap, but he did not care to be on familiar terms with him. He
was not the right sort of boy for a companion. On the whole he was sorry
to have met him at the spring.

"I hope I shall not fall in with him to-morrow morning," he said, half
to himself, half to Charley.

"You won't if you stay at home."

"I shall not do that."

"You intend to follow up the trapping business then?"

"I do."

"If you meet Jack Midnight every morning?"

"Certainly."

"How long?"

"Till I catch something."

"If it takes all summer?"

"Yes."

"Well, you _are_ a goose."

"You have told me that so often, I begin to believe it."

"I wouldn't take that early walk for nothing."

"No more would I. But if you felt sure of your game, you wouldn't mind
the walk."

"No," said Charley.

"Well, I am sure."

"Whew!"

"I am as sure as I can be of anything that has not really happened."

"Ho, ho! That is very well put in. I wish I had as many dollars as I
know you won't catch a musk-rat. I could buy the Baby Pitcher's canary
to-morrow. Couldn't I, pet?"

Flora had come in, as she did every morning, to inquire about the
musk-rat.

"Buy it to-day," said Flora.

"Couldn't buy it to-day for want of money."

"You must not think anything about the bird," said Bertie, "for Charley
never will have any money."

"What a prospect!" said Charley.

"Not a very bright one for Flora, I must confess."

"She has my word, and that is as good as gold."

"Mustn't tell a story," said Flora. "If you don't have any money that
will be a story."

"And if Bertie does not catch a musk-rat, that will be a story."

"Yes. He said he would."

"And I will. You believe that I will keep my word?"

"I do, and Dinah does."

"Do you believe in the musk-rat?"

"I do. Is he in the trap?"

"He was not in the trap this morning."

"May be there now."

"Yes, dear, he may be."

"And then again he mayn't," said Charley. "If I were in the Baby
Pitcher's place I would give up looking for that animal. Her poor little
black eyes will be all faded out."

"Won't either, Charley Waters. I am going home."

"Say good by, dear."

Flora would not say good by. She did not like Charley's manner. She
wished to be treated with proper respect as she informed Dinah on the
way home.

"Gemplemen don't talk so, and ladies don't. Gemplemen say 'Yes, I thank
you,' and 'If you please.' And I do. Charley Waters don't. But you must
not mind what he says. He don't know nothing. Bertie does."



CHAPTER VII.

SOMETHING IN THE TRAP.


The next time Bertie went to the spring, he expected to find Jack
awaiting him. No one was there, however; not even the musk-rat. The trap
remained just as he left it, and the bait was undisturbed. He was glad
not to meet Jack (who had been and gone); but he was not a little
disappointed about the musk-rat. He began to cherish hard feelings
towards it. It was too bad of him not to come into the trap and be
caught, when such pains had been taken to receive him properly. The trap
was as inviting as trap could be. It said quite plainly, "Will you walk
into my parlor?" and never dropped a word as to getting out again. What
more could a musk-rat ask? He examined the tracks in the wet ground, but
could not make out that any of them were fresh. He did not believe that
anything had been near the trap during the night. It was quite
provoking, for to-morrow would be Sunday. Of course he could not travel
down to the spring on Sunday, and Monday was so far off! He declared
that he could not wait till Monday. But there was no help for it. The
hours were not at all disposed to humor his impatience. They moved along
at their usual slow pace, and wore away minute by minute, as was their
custom. But they brought Monday morning at last. He rose early, and set
out in quite a hopeful mood; but as he walked, his spirits began to
flag. The nearer he got to the spring, the less hope he had. He was
trying to prepare himself for the very worst that could happen--a trap
with nothing in it--when somebody called "Hooray!" It was Jack, who had
been waiting almost an hour. When he saw Bertie coming, he danced and
threw his arms about in a manner wonderful to behold. Bertie started
into a run, for he inferred from Jack's antics that something unusual
had happened.

"Hooray!" cried Jack again, as Bertie came up, panting and blowing equal
to Jack himself, who always breathed as if he had been running.

"What have you got to say to _that_ critter?"

Bertie could hardly believe his eyes, for they rested on the biggest
musk-rat he had ever seen. It was a beauty, too! Such dark fur! And such
a length of smooth, hairless tail! Bertie was delighted; and though the
musk-rat was a large one, his eyes magnified it to such a degree that
it looked three times as large as it really was.

[Illustration: What have you got to say to that critter?--p. 78.]

"That is a sight worth looking at, ain't it now?"

"It is a buster!" said Bertie.

"It is the biggest fellow that has been trapped this season. You won't
catch nary 'nother like _him_. He is a whopper!"

"And it is alive, too!"

"Half and half. He is hurt that bad, it won't take much to finish him.
He would show fight if he wasn't dead beat. Shall I pop him over?"

"I don't want to kill him," said Bertie.

"Have you had a fair squint at him?"

"Yes."

"I won't be long settling of his hash."

Jack tapped him on the head with a stone, and after a few shivers the
animal was still.

"That killed him so sudden he didn't know what was a hurting of him."

"Why did he shiver then?"

"They always do that. They always wiggle when the heart's a-beating.
They are dead all the same, though. Now you want to take his hide off."

"Not yet," said Bertie, quickly.

"Better be a doing of it while he is warm."

"I must show him up first."

As he raised the musk-rat tenderly by the long, bare tail, his heart
swelled in his breast. What would Charley say to musk-rat catching now?
He himself had never dreamed of luck like this, and Charley would be
astounded. He was absently moving off, when Jack called:

"Here, you young trapper! Don't be a-dodging off without making ready
for more of the same family!"

"I shall not set the trap again," said Bertie.

"What's the reason?"

"It is a long walk up here, and I am satisfied with my game," he added,
proudly.

"Do you mind lending of it to a feller?"

"Certainly not. You can keep it as long as you wish."

"That is clever, now. I'll set it in the same place, jest for luck. I
say, don't you want some help about skinning the critter?"

Bertie thought he could manage it alone.

"It will be an awkward job, if you never tried it."

"I suppose it will," said Bertie.

"And you may spile the head. I don't mind showing of you how it's done."

Bertie thanked Jack, but declined to trouble him. The fact was, he was
in a hurry to get home with his prize. He could not stop to talk about
anything, for Charley had not seen it. Didn't he open his black eyes
when he saw what Bertie had brought?

And didn't Bertie feel proud and happy? But he did not make much ado
about his good fortune, as Charley would have done under similar
circumstances. He allowed the game to speak for itself. At first Charley
was inclined to doubt that it was caught in Bertie's trap; but Bertie
asked--with some vanity, we confess--if he could mention any boy who
would be likely to give up an animal like that, and Charley could not.

Everybody came out to examine Bertie's prize, and everybody said it was
a beauty. Flora clapped her hands, for now she was to have all the
'fumery she wanted. It lay at full length on the piazza, until it had
been duly admired by every one on the premises, and then it was carried
over to Grandma's.

"Bless me!" exclaimed the old lady, as the children rushed in and laid
the musk-rat at her feet.

"Bless me! Open that window, Amy dear. I never can breathe with a
creetur like that in the house. Take it right out, dears."

"But we want you to look at it, Grandma. Bertie caught it."

"In the trap," added Flora.

She patted Bertie on the head, and said he was a dear boy, but she
should stifle if they did not carry the creetur out. So to please
Grandma they carried it out and laid it on the door-stone. She could
look at it from the open window with a handkerchief at her nose.

"Ain't it a stunner?" said Charley.

"It is a proper large one," said Grandma. "It makes me think of your
father, Amy, dear, when he was a boy. He was always fetching home some
sort of a creetur. La! how natural it does seem. I remember once he took
to killing black cats. He fetched home as many as twenty altogether, and
their skins, stretched out to dry on the side of the barn, stared me in
the face every time I went into the yard. How this creetur does carry a
body back, to be sure."

"This fellow wears a pretty jacket," said Charley. "I wish we knew the
easiest way of getting it off. Do you know, Grandma?"

"La, child, I never was no hand for such doings."

"What a question," said Amy. "Of course Grandma does not know."

"We had better commence operations, if we expect to get through before
school time," said Bertie. "That is, if Grandma has looked at him long
enough. Have you, Grandma?"

"Bless the child!" said Grandma, who had endured the creature simply to
please her darlings. "Never mind staying longer on my account. But drop
in as you go to school, and get your luncheon."

"Tarts?" queried Bertie.

But Grandma smiled and closed the window, to shut out, if possible, the
stifling odor of musk.

"I almost wish I had taken up with Jack's offer," Bertie said to
Charley, as they carried the musk-rat home.

"What was that?"

"He wanted to skin the fellow for me."

"I can boss that job," said Charley.

"And so can I?"

That was a part both understood, and it was the only part.



CHAPTER VIII

JACK PULLS OFF THE WARM JACKET.


Bertie sharpened his knife and prepared to commence operations, Charley,
Amy and Flora looking on.

"You begin on the inside of the hind leg," said Charley.

"Oh, I know where to begin and where to leave off; but the thing is to
do it neatly, without making a botch. Here goes."

Bertie flourished his knife and began to cut. He made a long slit on the
inside of one hind leg.

"Treat them both alike," said Charley.

Flora, who had been watching the operation, suddenly cried out:

"Take your arms down and go away. You are a bad boy. Charley Waters says
so; and I do."

Bertie turned quickly to see what, was the matter; and there stood Jack,
with folded arms, resting upon the fence. He tried to call Flora off;
but she flew at Jack with all the fury of a little terrier, her light
curls flying and her dark eyes flashing.

"You are a bad boy, and you must go away. You cut his head off and his
feet. I looked under the table. He hadn't any clothes on. Had drumsticks
on. Couldn't walk with drumsticks on. Bad boy!"

Here was a revelation that made Jack feel very small indeed. He came as
near blushing as was possible. The red blood actually showed through his
dark, grimy skin. Bertie was sorry for him. He hastened to open the gate
and bid him come in, a movement that astonished Flora. She had not
another word to say. When the boy that killed the calico-rooster was
invited to walk in at the gate, as if nothing had happened, she was
struck dumb.

"You were very good to look in upon us," said Bertie, kindly, trying to
make Jack comfortable. "Walk right along. You are in the nick of time;
we had only just started."

Jack was completely taken aback by Flora's reception, for he was sure
now that the fate of the calico was well known. There had been a
pleasant doubt in his mind before. He had always said to himself, "They
can't prove nothing." He hung his head in an awkward way, and blamed
himself for getting into a scrape.

"I thought I'd peek in and see how you were getting along," he answered,
sheepishly; "and now I am here, I may as well be a-lending a hand. Give
us yer knife."

"I had barely got his stockings off," said Bertie, passing the knife.
Jack felt the edge and then examined Bertie's work.

"Pooty well done to begin with, I call it."

"Do you, though?"

"For a green-horn, you know."

"Oh, yes, I know."

Jack began where Bertie left off, and he worked so skilfully that in a
few minutes legs and arms were free, and the warm jacket was turned and
pulled over the animal's head.

"He isn't quite so much of a beauty, come to peel him," said Jack.

"He is frightful!" declared Amy. "What a net-work of blue veins! They
make me shudder."

"He looks like a map, with rivers running all over him," said Charley.

"And how he shines. Ugh!"

Bertie held up the empty skin.

"He is as much beholden to dress as anybody that ever I saw, and he
wears the best of cloth too. Custom made, and no danger of a misfit.
None of your slop work about _that_ garment!"

"I hope you don't call that a garment," said Amy.

"It is a wardrobe in itself, hat and boots included. He did not carry a
'Saratoga' when he went journeying."

"Not much," said Charley.

"What is Jack doing now?"

He was detaching the little sacks that hold the musk, and he passed them
to Bertie, with the remark that they were worth as much as the critter's
hide.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Charley, examining them curiously.

"Flora ought to be here. I suppose the 'fumery' belongs to her."

"To the little miss, is it?"

"Yes."

"There is scent enough in one of them bags," said Jack, "to drive the
whole family out of the house."

Bertie thought if that was the case, one would be better for Flora than
two; so he put one aside and gave the other to Jack, who carefully
wrapped it in paper and dropped it into his roomy pocket. The skin was
then stretched on a board to dry, and, after receiving hearty thanks for
his timely assistance, Jack left the garden, feeling much better
satisfied with himself than when he entered it. He felt that he had
shown his good will, and that the score against him was partially rubbed
out. And so it was. Charley and Bertie were more kindly disposed towards
him than they had ever expected to be, and they concluded that he was
not such a very bad boy, after all.

"I believe there is good in every one," said Bertie, "if you can only
get at it."

"Of course there is," said Amy, quickly. "Have you just found that out?"

"I admit that I have always looked upon Jack as bad clear through."

"Same here," confessed Charley.

"Nobody is," declared Amy, with emphasis.

"It takes these girls to stand up for a fellow, doesn't it?"

"That's so, Charley. Girls in general, and our Amy in particular."

"She always did side with Jack; but she was down on me when the poor
calico turned over her garden."

"Why, Charley!"

"It is a fact. I leave it to Bert."

"Don't ask me," said Bertie.

"You flared up and were truly eloquent on the subject."

"I never was eloquent in my life."

"And you never flared up?"

"I did not say that. But whatever I may be, I am not a genius of any
sort, not even a poet."

"There's a sly dab at you, Charley."

"I have not made any poetry lately," said Charley, dubiously.

"Perhaps the fire in your soul has gone out," said Bertie. "Can't you
kindle it up again?"

"I am out of kindlings at present. Can I borrow of you, Amy?"

"It wouldn't be the first time," observed Amy, with a merry twinkle in
her eye.

"Stabbed again!" declared Bertie, who knew that Charley was in the habit
of borrowing.

Amy's purse being well fed, was always fat, and Charley's was ever lean
and hungry. Amy was obliging, and Charley not backward in asking favors,
so the lean and hungry purse often brought its pressing needs to the
notice of its rich relation.

"Amy is a trump!" said Charley, penitently, "and I take it all back. I
am as good a friend to Jack as she is, but I can't exactly swallow the
rooster. He sticks in my throat yet."

"That will wear away in time," said Bertie.

"If the rooster troubles you, what do you think of Jack? He has a bigger
lump in his throat than you have, and one that will not go down in a
hurry, I'll warrant."

"And I pity him," added Amy. "He stole the poor rooster and murdered him
in cold blood, but he is sorry for it, and would bring him to life again
if he could. But he cannot do that. He must be haunted forever by its
ghost instead."

"Ghost of a rooster!" murmured Charley, in an undertone. But Amy heard
it.

"Ghost of an evil action," she said, looking at Charley, severely. "He
would be rather a respectable boy, if he was not a Midnight. You cannot
expect much of a born Midnight."

"No," said Charley.

It was agreed that to be a born Midnight was a serious misfortune, which
might happen to anybody. It did happen to poor Jack, and so they pitied
him.



CHAPTER IX.

FLORA AN EXILE.


Flora did not wait to receive her perfumery. When Jack appeared on the
field she left it, to express her views to Dinah on the subject of bad
boys; and as Dinah had not the power of expressing her sentiments in
return, she was not disturbed by the spirit of contradiction.

When she got tired of talking to Dinah, she walked over to state her
grievance to Grandma, and to be on hand when the tarts were distributed.
Flora was not old enough to go to school. Her troubles in that direction
had not yet begun, but lunch with her was a very important matter, and
she never failed to be present when it was passed round. Grandma always
had something good ready for the children. "The dear things get so
hungry studying," she said. When she was young, three months schooling
in the winter was enough for any one.

It was early in the day for lunch, (breakfast was a little more than an
hour old), but Flora could not be put off. She did not possess the
virtue of patience. So when the children happened in as they were going
to school, she stood at the window eating her way through an enormous
tart, which had been made expressly for her: but why the Baby Pitcher
should have the largest tart, only Grandma could tell. The children came
in bringing the full odor of musk in their clothes and in their hair,
and Bertie had the little bag in his pocket. Grandma gasped and opened
all the windows, for she could not breathe the stifling air.

"Bless the dear things!" she exclaimed. "How they do smell, to be sure!"

"Smells good!" said Flora, holding out her hand for the "'fumery."

Bertie gave it to her, and as Grandma could not bear it in the house,
she was obliged to take it out of doors.

"The air is better now, isn't it, Grandma?" said Bertie, feelingly.

It was not much better, though Grandma did not say so. The small
particles were floating about, and she was inhaling them with every
breath. She passed round the tarts as speedily as possible, and then the
Little Pitchers were in a hurry to be off. But they did not carry all
the musk away; they left enough to pervade Grandma's house for several
days. But that was only a beginning. Everybody grew tired of the odor
before the skin of the musk-rat was carried away and sold. There was
musk everywhere, in doors and out; and wherever Flora was, the perfume
was sickening. But she would not give it up. She carried the little
sack, which had become dry and hard, in the pocket of her dress from
morning until night, and mamma waited in vain for her to weary of it. At
last it was banished from the house. Mamma decided that it could not
longer be endured. Flora hid it somewhere in the garden, (the place was
known only to herself and Dinah,) and every day enjoyed it as best she
could, in the open air and alone. Even Charley and Bertie were tired of
musk, and they tried first to coax and then to bribe Flora, without
success. Finally they laughed at her, and called her a little cosset.

"I ain't that," she said to Charley, who gave her the name. She always
doubted Charley. "I ain't anything but a little girl."

"And a cosset."

"No."

"You are turned out to grass, any how."

"Am I, Bertie?"

"Not exactly. We will play you are an exile."

"Well."

"She had no clear idea of an exile, nor of a cosset; but she had faith
in Bertie, and she felt that an exile must be something very nice."

"You are an exile," said Charley, "because you cannot go into Grandma's
house."

"Am I, Bertie?"

"Yes, dear."

It was true. She could not go into Grandma's house. She had to choose
between Grandma and the perfumery. But she could stay out on the
door-stone, as the musk-rat had done; and when Grandma talked to her
from the window, she was not obliged to hold a handkerchief to her
nose, as she did when the musk-rat was there. She well knew how to make
amends to the dear child for her cruelty in keeping her out of doors;
and such tempting sweetmeats passed through the window, and such
wonderful shapes of gingerbread, that Flora was very happy in her
banishment. The little exile was not wholly deprived of society, for it
happened, fortunately, that the black baby had no sense of smell.
Whether she had lost it or was born without it, Flora never knew; but
she did not possess it, and so was not annoyed by the odor that troubled
everybody else. It was not long before she was as highly perfumed as her
mistress, and could not be tolerated in the house even for a nap. The
black baby was in disgrace, and she was knocked about so roughly that
her complexion was spoiled and her fine figure very much injured. Flora
had serious thoughts of sending her to be repaired; but she wondered
how she got so many bumps. She did not know that everybody took the
liberty of tossing her out whenever she was found in doors. It was a
common thing to come upon her in unexpected places. Sometimes Flora met
her at the foot of the steps, sometimes at the bottom of the garden; and
once, after a long search, she was discovered hanging from the bough of
a tree, with arms extended as if pleading for help. Flora could not
reach her, and she was brought down from her perilous position by
Charley and a ladder.

"I don't blame her for trying to hang herself," said Charley, who saw
the housemaid when she threw her out of an upper window, "and I hope she
will have better luck next time."

"Didn't hang herself," replied Flora.

"Wanted to fly."

"Like a bird."

"She did."

"Thought she was a blackbird, may be."

"Yes," said Flora, clapping her hands and laughing, "thought she was."

"She was flying away from the musk."

"No!"

"I believe she was," said Charley, solemnly, "and if you take your eyes
off I am afraid you will lose her. You must watch her closely."

"I will."

Flora held the baby tightly in her arms, to prevent her soaring out of
sight.

"Can't fly now, Charley Waters."

"No, but you must hold on."

Flora held on tighter than ever.

"And I would not let her go into the house any more," continued Charley.
"It does not agree with her. She cannot stay in the house."

"Keep her in the garden."

"I would."

"In the arbor?"

"Yes," said Charley, after pausing to weigh the matter, "I would keep
her in the arbor."

So Dinah was forced to give up her old quarters in the house for a new
home in the arbor, and Flora informed her why the change was made. For a
time she was closely watched, but as she did not again attempt to fly
away, Flora concluded she was contented in her new situation, and, after
a while, ventured to carry her indoors occasionally. But Charley was
right. Dinah could not stay in the house. She was sure to be tossed out
by somebody, though Flora did not know that. She thought the black baby
was pining for the outer air.



CHAPTER X.

FLORA GOES TO RIDE IN THE LITTLE BLUE CART.


Flora began to grow tired of staying so much alone, but she was not
ready to give up the "'fumery," so she had to continue an exile. Dinah
was no longer good company, for she had lost many of her faculties, and
one eye. She glanced at Flora, with the one that was left, in a very
singular manner. Perhaps she wanted to explain to her mistress that
somebody had taken a fancy to the blue button, but you must remember she
could not talk. She could only stare in a very startling way. Flora did
not like it at all, and at Amy's suggestion tied a bandage round her
head, which completely hid the defect, and softened the expression of
the blue button remaining. She was supposed to be sweetly sleeping in
the library this pleasant afternoon. She was really lying in a heap on
the kitchen door step, and Flora, for lack of something better to do was
hanging lazily on the big gate, gazing down the road. She was in that
critical condition when mischief "takes."

She had climbed the gate and was hanging there, ready to be swayed by
the first wind that blew, whether fair or foul. It happened to be a foul
wind, and it came in the form of a queer little cart drawn by a limping
horse moving slowly up the road. The body of the cart was a square box,
and it was painted blue. The wheels were red. The old horse had been
gray in his palmy days; he was now a dingy white. Flora liked him
because he looked sober, and because he jumped so high when he walked;
and when the cart got near enough for her to see its bright colors, she
concluded to take a ride. So she got down, drew the bolt and opened the
big gate (thereby breaking one of mamma's rules), and then she went out
and waited at the side of the road for her carriage. The limping horse
jumped so high at every step that he did not get over the ground very
fast, and Flora had some time to wait. Long enough to realize that she
was about to do a very wrong thing, and grieve mamma. But she did not
once think of that; her head was turned by the little blue cart, and the
old white horse. When the driver came within speaking distance, she
nodded as a signal for him to stop, and he, thinking the child had
business with him said "Whoa!" and the horse stopped.

"Anything in my line to-day, little girl?"

"Yes," said Flora. "I should like--"

"Any soap grease, old boots--iron, bottles, rags, newspapers? Carry the
best of soap, and pay cash on the nail. Eight cents for white, three for
colored."

"To take a ride," said Flora, somewhat bewildered, but finishing her
sentence.

"Hey?"

"If you please, I should like to take a ride."

"Not with me?"

"I should."

"Not in this cart?"

"I think it is a very pretty cart, and I like your horse very much."

"You do, eh?"

"Yes," said Flora.

"And I don't. That's the odds. He is rayther antiquated even for my
business. The crows will have a bone or two to pick with him one of
these days. Think they won't?"

[Illustration: If you please, I should like to take a ride?--p. 109.]

"If you please I should like to take a ride," said Flora, for the third
time.

"Polly want a cracker?"

Flora did not understand what the driver meant by that, so she again
repeated her request, at which he laughed heartily and said,--

"Polly does want a cracker."

"Then why don't you give it to her?" queried Flora.

"Would you?"

"I would."

"You are particular who you ride with, I reckon."

"I am."

"You pick and choose your company, you do."

"I do."

"Well, then, scramble up. The seat is rayther narrow, but we can stow
close."

"That is not polite. Gemplemen don't do that way."

"They don't, eh?"

"No. They get down and help ladies up."

"You don't expect me to get down!"

"I do."

"What! when I have been bobbing round all day?"

"Yes!" said Flora.

"Can't do it. I've got the rheumatiz."

"My Grandma has that,--in her back."

"She does, eh?"

Flora nodded.

"Well, you may give my respects to the old lady, when you see her, and
tell her I have got it too."

"I will. Want to go to ride, now."

"And you won't scramble up?"

"Want you to get down."

The driver laughed, but held out his hand, and bade her take a good
hold. The hand was very red, and it was greasy; but Flora did not mind
that. She grasped it firmly, and was lifted to the narrow seat, and then
the lame horse started into a jog. Beside being narrow, the seat was so
short that Flora had to sit very close to the greasy driver, and her
pretty blue dress was not improved by contact with his frock, which was
blue, also.

"Papa's horse does not dance that way," she said, regretfully.

"It isn't every horse that can be trained to that sort of thing,"
returned the driver, gravely. "Mine, now, is one out of a thousand. How
will your pa swap?"

"I wish he would," she answered earnestly, for the first time looking
her companion full in the face. "Why!" she exclaimed, joyfully, "It is
you, isn't it?"

"Oh, yes! it's me. Have you just found that out?"

"I thought you was a stranger."

"You did, eh!"

"I did."

"I knew you was a stranger all the time."

"But I ain't."

"No?"

"No. I am Flora Lee."

"And who am I?"

"You are Mr. Podge."

"Podge?"

"You are."

"Not if I know myself."

"You are, too, Mr. Hodge Podge. That's what you told me. Don't you
remember your own name?"

He remembered all about it now, and he laughed so heartily at the
recollection, that he dropped the reins, and had to get down to pick
them up, which pleased Flora very much. When the reins dropped, the
limping horse stood still.

"I didn't know it was you, Miss Fiddle-de-dee," he said, as he mounted
to his seat, and urged him into a jog again.

"How is Deacon Brown?"

"He is pretty well, I thank you. My name is Flora Lee."

"And how are all the Sunday children?"

"Oh! they are pretty well, I thank you too. And I am; and Dinah is. She
is asleep."

"You have had your face washed since I saw you last. That is the reason
I didn't know you. I never saw you with a clean face before."

"Hands, too," said Flora, holding out one plump hand. She was holding on
with the other.

"How we are slicked up!" he exclaimed, "and it isn't Sunday, either!"



CHAPTER XI.

SHE SAYS GOOD-BY TO THE SOAP MAN.


The readers of the Little Pitcher stories will recognize this young man.
Flora met him one day in a crowd around a peddler's wagon, drawn thither
by a poor blind kitten that had been brought to light from the depths of
the peddler's rag-bag. She had not forgotten him, but he never would
have thought of her again, if she had not addressed him by the odd name
he had given her as his own. That refreshed his memory, and he laughed
to think that she really believed him when he told her his name was
Hodge Podge.

As the little cart was jerked along over the rough ground, Flora became
very chatty. She did not in the least mind being jolted, and she was not
afraid of falling from the seat for she held fast to the driver's greasy
frock. The blue box behind her was full of soap grease, but the cover
was down, and the baskets that hung upon the iron hooks that bristled
from all sides, were filled with bottles and scraps of various kinds,
that made a pleasant jingle as they were jostled against each other by
the motion of the cart. She had never enjoyed a ride so much. Her
father's easy carriage, with cushioned seat and elastic springs, could
not be compared to the soap man's little box on red wheels. Besides,
papa's horse could not dance, he had never learned how; and he ran so
fast that she could not see the flowers and the pretty sights as they
rode along. She was not at all concerned as to how the ride would end,
and where she was going she had not the slightest idea. So the old horse
jogged along, carrying her farther and farther from home every minute,
and she chatted sociably with Mr. Podge, and never felt so happy in her
life.

The soap man was going home. He felt good-natured and comfortable, for
he had had a prosperous day. It was only four o'clock, but his little
cart was well loaded, and his last call had been made. And that was the
reason he did not stop at any of the houses in the village. If he had,
somebody would have recognized Flora. And they passed a very few persons
on the road, but not one who knew that the little girl in the blue dress
did not belong to the man in the blue frock. When he thought Flora had
rode far enough, he stopped the cart and told her to "hop down." But she
was not ready to hop down; she was just beginning to enjoy the ride.

"You won't know the way back," he said, warningly.

"I shall," said Flora.

"And if you ride any farther, I may not let you go home at all. You
don't know where you are now."

"I do. Going to take a ride."

"It will be dark by-and-by."

"Not dark now."

"And it is going to rain."

"Make the horse jump."

The old horse started off once more, and this time a little faster. He
seemed to know that he was heading towards home. The driver was really
troubled about Flora, for he knew the little girl had rode far enough.
He was willing to indulge her by carrying her a little way but he wanted
her to get down when he said the word. He tried to frighten her by
saying he should not stop the horse again.

"Don't want to stop," she answered, taking the musk from her pocket and
holding it to his nose. "Smell?"

He started back and made a wry face.

"What is that?" he asked.

"My 'fumery."

"Your fumery."

"It is. Bertie caught it in a trap."

"_That's_ what I have been smelling all along."

"Yes," said Flora.

"I thought there was a musquash somewhere near."

"It is only me."

She took a prolonged sniff, and restored the precious perfume to her
pocket.

"Mamma don't like it, and Grandma don't. I do. And Dinah does. And you
do."

"Not much, I don't."

"Smells good?"

"Good and strong, yes. Now little musquash, farewell."

"No," said Flora.

"Look here, miss. Won't you catch it for running away?"

"Why, Mr. Podge! What a funny man! Ain't running away. Taking a ride.
Runned away once. To Deacon Brown. Had dinner and a nap."

"Didn't you tell me you was one of the Sunday children?"

"I did."

"Don't believe it."

Flora's eyes flashed. Not believe that she was one of the Sunday
children!

"I don't," he repeated solemnly. "They know how to behave. Sunday
children don't run away, they don't, and good girls mind their mother."

"I do."

"A tough one to mind you are."

"Do, too, Mr. Podge. Want to go home now."

"You can't stop the horse."

"I can. Whoa!"

But he did not stop, for his master slyly urged him on. She was in
earnest now: she really wanted to go home, and she called "Whoa!" again,
but the old horse still jogged on.

"I told you so," said the driver.

"Oh, Mr. Horse!" she cried in alarm. "Won't you please to stop. I want
to get out. Just one minute, dear Mr. Horse, if you please."

This appeal seemed to touch his feelings, and, to her great delight, he
stopped.

"He knows what politeness is, he does," said the driver. "Now look sharp
before you get down, and see if you ever were in this place before."

Flora did as she was bid, and she saw orchards white with blossoms, a
rustic bridge, a few scattering houses; but not one familiar object.
They had passed out of the village, and the country was strange to her.
In vain she looked for papa's house, or Grandma's; they were nowhere to
be seen.

"Well, Miss Fiddle-de-dee?"

Flora sighed heavily.

"You are lost, eh?"

"Can't see papa's house. Too bad!"

"I thought so."

He took up the reins, and the poor tired horse turned about unwillingly.
He did not want to go back, and would not believe his master was in
earnest till he felt a sharp tingle from the whip.

"Don't want to ride any more," said Flora, wearily; "want to get out."

"Getting scared, eh?"

"Flora is tired."

She was beginning to realize her situation, and felt in a hurry to see
home again.

"I shan't dump you here, miss," said the man, "so you may as well set
still a while longer. If you are lost, likely as not somebody will blame
me. I will carry you back a piece, and when you think you know the road
I will put you down. Lean your head against my arm if you are tired."

Flora would not do that for she suddenly discovered that the sleeve was
greasy, and she moved as far away from it as the narrow seat would
permit. But she did not dare let go for the cart jolted worse than ever.
The man drove slowly along, and she anxiously scanned the houses as they
passed. Once or twice he stopped, but Flora could not tell where she
was, and not till they got into the village did the surroundings look
familiar. Then she exclaimed--

"Goody! I know now."

"You are sure?"

"I am. Go that way," pointing in the right direction.

"Well, then, hop down; and when you beg a ride again, be sure you know
the driver before you get in. Do you hear?"

"I do. Good-by, Mr. Podge."



CHAPTER XII.

AND LOSES HER WAY.


Flora jumped down and ran away without thanking the soap man for the
ride, or for his kindness in bringing her so far on her journey home.
She was glad to get away from the cart and the limping horse, and the
poor old horse was glad too. You ought to have seen him when his head
was turned the other way again. He trotted along so briskly with the
little blue cart, that anybody could have told he was running away from
Flora. Perhaps his supper was waiting for him, as Flora's was for her,
and he was in a hurry to eat it. They went so fast in opposite
directions that in a few minutes they were out of sight of each other.

Flora was now glad to walk. She had been so long cramped upon the narrow
seat, that it was a pleasure to stretch her limbs and skip about; or
would have been, only she was so hungry. It is dreadful to be hungry
when there is nothing good to eat in your pocket. There was nothing good
to eat in Flora's pocket. She turned it wrong side out, hoping to find a
few crumbs in the corners, but there was not one; and then she
remembered that it was her blue dress which had been worn but a few
days; not long enough to gather woolly crumbs.

"Too bad!" she murmured, and the tears came into her eyes, for she was
now more hungry than before. And at that moment a bowl of nice bread and
milk was on the table waiting for her; but between her and it was a
long, weary walk. It would not have seemed far to Charley or Bertie,
and it really was only a mile, but a mile is a long journey for little
tired feet, and Flora was hungry too. She could not see very well as she
put the things back into her pocket, the tears blinded her. Perhaps that
was the reason she left something out. And what do you suppose it was?
She walked away and left her precious "'fumery" lying on the ground. Of
course she did not know it, and she felt dreadfully about it afterwards,
but she never could tell where she lost it.

While she was putting the things back, she felt some spatters on her
head. She looked up, and there was such a black cloud overhead. It was
true, then, what the driver of the blue cart had said. The rain was
coming, and it seemed to be growing dark, too. What if the rain and
darkness should both overtake her before she got home? She must make
haste now. She hurried on as fast as her little feet would carry her.
She was running away from the rain and the night. She did not think of
applying at any of the houses for shelter, or of asking for food; she
had but one wish, to get home to dear mamma. By-and-by the tired feet
began to flag, but she felt no more spatters, and she was glad that she
had left the shower behind. It was lighter, too; she could run faster
than the night. As there was to be no rain, she concluded to rest if she
came to a nice place, and soon she came to a very nice place just off
the road, which looked so inviting that she sat down and leaned her head
against the smooth, grassy mound. It was sheltered by fine old trees,
and the new grass and the fresh earth smelt sweet, as she laid her wet
cheek against the cool pillow, that she could not make up her mind to
leave it. She said to herself that she would rest one little minute, but
when the little minute was gone, she had forgotten the night was
following so fast upon her footsteps. She lay drowsily watching the
shining bugs and creeping things that shared her green pillow, and
thought how happy she should feel if it were not for being so very
hungry. And then she was no longer hungry, for sleep stole upon her
unawares, and no one in passing noticed the curly-haired child lying on
the damp ground, with tears upon her cheek, and the night that was
creeping on so surely, overtook her and passed by, dropping his mantle
of darkness upon her as she lay asleep. And the shower came next, and
tried to wake her by sprinkling her with gentle drops. It said quite
plainly, "The night has come, and the rain. Hurry, little one!" But
Flora did not wake till the north wind shook her roughly, asking, in
gruff tones, "What are you doing here?" Then she sat up, rubbed her
eyes, and tried to collect her scattered ideas. Why was the wind
shaking her so roughly? And what made her pillow cold and wet? She
thought she was at home in her own bed, and she called aloud, "mamma!"
But there was no mamma to answer. Then she felt the raindrops upon her
face, and heard them pattering on the leaves of the big trees, and the
wind whistled among the branches, and shook them as it had shaken her,
making them cry out with pain, and she remembered all at once that she
had laid down for one little minute to rest, but what made it so dark
and cold she did not know.

She was certain that she had left the night far behind; yet here it was,
and the rain. Her pretty blue dress was wet through, and the dampness
had taken the life out of her garden hat, so that its broad rim flapped
about her face in a very uncomfortable way. Little rivulets trickled
down from it upon her neck and shoulders, and her wet curls clung
closely; but they could not keep her warm. She got up and tried to find
the road. She had wandered from it in search of a resting place, and now
it was lost. She could not find it anywhere. She was afraid to venture
far from the grassy mound, yet the road was but a short distance away. A
few steps more, and she would have seen friendly lights glancing from
two or three houses; but the darkness confused her, and sleep had
benumbed her senses. Oh, if some one would come and carry her to mamma!
It was so dreadful to be alone in the night. It was worse than hunger
and cold. If she only had Dinah! Dinah would be sorry. Poor Dinah! She
was in as bad a plight as her mistress. No one had taken her from the
door-step where she was lying in a heap, soaked through and through by
the rain. All her faculties were gone now, all her members disordered.
There was nothing about her worth preserving but the one glass eye.
Flora happily was spared this knowledge, and the very thought of the
black baby was a comfort. Suddenly, something cold touched her hand and
startled her. It was the nose of a large dog. She was not at all
frightened when the great creature looked up at her and inquired what
the trouble was. She was overjoyed at finding something to speak to. She
clasped her arms around his neck and kissed him twice on the forehead,
and he was much pleased with the reception. He kissed her many times,
and wagged his tail with vigor. He was telling her that he was very
sorry to find such a nice little girl out so late; but that he knew she
_was_ a nice little girl, and he should like the pleasure of seeing her
home. And Flora understood him perfectly. She was no longer alone. She
held the dog's shaggy head close to the bosom of her wet dress and told
him she was lost, and that he was a splendid old fellow to poke his
nose into her hand, and that if he would show her the way to mamma's
house he should have as many bones as he could eat. And the bones made
her think of her own bowl of bread and milk, waiting on the table at
home. Was it waiting there now, or had somebody carried it away,
thinking she would never need it? She sighed, and patted her friend's
cold nose, and whispered that she was very hungry. He understood all
about that, too. Many a time he had gone to bed without any supper; but
he said nothing to Flora of his own sufferings. He licked her hand in
silent sympathy.



CHAPTER XIII.

CHARLEY SWALLOWS THE ROOSTER.


They went out into the road together, Flora clinging closely to the
dog's shaggy coat and talking pleasantly as they trotted along, side by
side.

"Do you live somewhere? I do. When I get there. Don't know the way. You
do, nice doggy. I like you. Are you all wet? I am. And cold? I am too.
Musn't cry if you are wet. I don't, and good dogs don't. Get home pretty
soon."

When she saw houses and the lights shining, she was rejoiced, for now
she would have supper, dry clothes and a warm bed. She fell on her new
friend's neck and embraced him again; but for him, she would not have
found the road. She might have wandered about all night in the cold and
rain. The dog started off with a purpose. There was no doubt in his mind
as to the best course. Finding a brisk trot unsuited to Flora's weak
condition, he toned down and trudged along steadily at a moderate pace
till he reached a shabby dwelling, with ricketty steps in front, that
creaked as he went up, and an old door that shook when he pressed his
nose against it. There was one small window through which the light of
the fire was dancing, and it looked very pleasant to Flora. The dog gave
a short, quick bark, and a woman appeared at the window; but no one
opened the door. Flora saw the woman very plainly, but she could not see
Flora. The dog waited patiently a moment, and then barked again, at the
same time scratching upon the door with his big paw. It opened this
time, and a sharp voice said: "Come in."

Doggy simply looked in and wagged his tail.

"Well, then, stay out."

The door was about to close when another voice said, "Old woman, the
brute is a-telling of us something. Can't you sense nothing?" and Flora
clambered up the steps as well as she could with her wet clothes hanging
about her, and went in with her new friend, who introduced her as a
young lady in distress he had taken the liberty to bring home.

"Well, I never!" exclaimed the woman Flora had seen at the window. "Did
you rain down?"

"I did," said Flora.

"And who do you belong to anyhow?"

"Belong to mamma, and I want to go home, if you please."

"Jack?"

"What is it, old woman?"

"I can't make it out. Come here."

Jack, who was in the pantry eating his supper, came in with his mouth
full. Flora knew him at once. It was Jack Midnight; but he did not
recognize her till she cried, "Oh, I am so glad!"

"Well, if it ain't the little miss!" said Jack. "Whatever have you been
a-doing?"

"What little miss?" queried the woman.

"Mr. Lee's little miss. She belongs to the white cottage."

"You don't say!"

"Appears like quality folks, don't she?"

"Set right up and dry yourself off a bit," said the woman, bustling
about to make Flora comfortable; "you are as wet as a drowned rat. Have
you had your supper?"

"No," said Flora. "Want to go now."

"Take a bite first," said Jack, offering a piece of his bread and
butter.

But Flora would not eat, and she would not sit by the fire; she stood
with her arms round the dog's neck, and waited for Jack to carry her to
mamma. When she refused the bread, Jack remembered that Towzer was
hungry and gave it to him; but it was a very light meal for Towzer, and
Flora whispered to him that he should have a whole supper when she got
to mamma: and her friend wagged his tail as if he should enjoy that very
much. When Jack got ready to go, the dog was ready too. Jack took the
poor child in his arms, and Towzer trotted by his side. There was quite
a pool of water where Flora had been standing, which had dripped from
her wet clothes.

"Well!" said Jack. "If you ain't a soppy bundle! Where _have_ you been?"

"Been to ride," said Flora. "In a blue cart with Mr. Podge."

"Run away?"

"No. Got lost."

"And Towzer found you."

"He did."

She reached over and patted Towzer's cold nose.

"He is a good dog. I like him."

Then out of gratitude to Jack, who was carrying her in his arms, she
added, "I like you too."

"You can sing more than one tune, can't you?" said Jack, laughing.
"Which do you like most now, me or Towzer?"

"Towzer, a little bit; because he _is_ a dog, you know, and you are a
boy."

"A bad boy."

"Not a bad boy."

Flora had suddenly changed her mind; and when Jack opened the big gate
and she had found her dear old home once more, she actually kissed his
grimy face and said she should "'member him long as she lived."

What a commotion he created by walking in, with Flora clinging to his
neck! Charley was the first to cry out, "There she is!" and everybody
flocked to hear all about it. But Flora crept into mamma's lap and had
not a word to say, and all that Jack knew was told in a few words.

"My dog picked her up somewhere and fetched her home," and then Flora
asked for Towzer, who had been shut out, and Charley went out and
invited him in. Inquiries had been made in all directions; but no one
could give any clue to Flora, and papa had gone to the town crier with a
"Lost" notice, describing the little girl and the dress she wore when
she left her home. Bertie was sent after him with all despatch, and Amy
ran over to relieve the anxious heart of Grandma. The little pet was
found, and she had been guided to a place of safety by Jack Midnight's
dog! They could not praise him enough. They had never noticed him
before, because he belonged to Jack; but now, both Jack and his dog were
in high favor.

Charley declared to Bertie, afterwards, that there was no longer a lump
in his throat. He had swallowed the rooster. While mamma was making her
little girl dry and warm, Towzer was being feasted in the kitchen, and
for the first time since he was a puppy he had what Flora called "a
whole supper." He was generally put off with a few scraps or a crust;
but to-night he had all that he could eat, and he was not bashful about
having his plate re-filled or backward in asking for more. Jack
protested against such a waste. There was "enough to victual him a
week," he said; "the brute never would know when he was full." But
Charley was determined to give him a chance to know, and at last he
poked over a dainty morsel with his cold nose, left it, went back to
it, left it again, unable to clear his plate.

"Lost his appetite," said Bertie; but Amy said he was a sensible dog and
left the last piece for manners' sake, which was probably true. After
his hearty meal, Towzer made himself at home, and laid down before the
fire with his shaggy head upon his paws, as if he had been used to high
living from puppyhood.



CHAPTER XIV.

HAPPY TOWZER.


Towzer lay on the warm hearth and blinked at the fire, while his thick
coat was drying.

"I tell you what it is," said Bertie; "if there is any virtue in good
living, I mean to put a streak of fat on that fellow's bones."

"You can't do it," returned Jack. "I have been a-working on him these
two years. He is one of your lean kind."

"I intend to try it, to pay for his kindness to Flora."

"How would it do to plaster him all over with beef steak?" queried
Charley.

"That is my plan," said Bertie. "What do you think of it, my dog?"

He thought it the best piece of news he had ever heard, and he left his
warm, corner to thank Bertie in his dumb but eloquent way. He looked up
into Bertie's face and wagged his tail, and said as plainly as a dog
could say, that he was grateful. Mamma exchanged the blue dress for a
flannel wrapper. It never could be called pretty again. Then she brushed
out the wet curls and chafed the rosy feet with her own warm hands.
Under such treatment, Flora began to revive.

"Going to be a good girl," she said, gratefully.

"And mind mamma?"

"I will. Never open the big gate again."

"Did you open it?"

"I did. Flora is hungry."

How happy she was, sitting on papa's knee with a bowl of bread and milk
in her lap!

When Amy brought it, she grasped it eagerly with both fat hands and took
a long, deep draught.

"The little pet is nearly starved," said Amy.

"The little pet will never forget this day," said papa; "she has had a
hard lesson."

After she had eaten all the bread and milk, Jack and Towzer were brought
in to say good night; and Towzer poked his nose against the rosy feet,
to make sure that they were no longer cold and wet, and rested his head
for a moment upon papa's knee.

"Come again," said Flora.

"He will be a-fetching up here every other thing," said Jack. "You
needn't bother about asking of him. All is, if he gets sassy you must
kick him out."

"I should like to see anybody kick that dog when I am round," said
Charley, doubling up his fist and looking warlike. "He would find that
he had got his match."

"We will shake hands on that," said Bertie. Which they did quite
solemnly.

And then they shook hands with Jack, and Towzer went back to have more
last words with Flora, and a parting embrace: and after they were gone
Flora was so drowsy, that she could not tell about her ride in the soap
man's little blue cart, her head drooped upon papa's shoulder, and her
eyelids were very heavy.

"She has not said her prayer," observed Bertie, who hoped she would keep
awake long enough to tell the story of her adventure.

"Try," said Charley.

"Yes, darling, try," urged Bertie.

But Flora was too far gone even to try; so mamma laid her gently down in
her own comfortable bed, where the rain and the wind could not disturb
her slumbers, and lovingly stroked the fair hair and the soft cheek.
She was very thankful that her little daughter was safe once more under
the dear home roof. But Flora thought she was lying out under the old
trees, and in her dreams could smell the sweet grass and the fresh
earth, and once she laughed aloud in her sleep; she was running away
from the rain and from the night.

When Charley and Bertie went home it was still raining fast. But they
had not far to go. They lived in the new brown cottage over the way, you
will remember, that was built to take the place of their old home,
destroyed by fire. When they were going down the steps, Charley struck
some object with his foot. "Holloa!" he said, and Bertie asked "What
now?"

"I have run against a snag," said Charley.

"Where away?"

"Down here next the bottom step. I have sent something flying."

"I don't see anything," said Bertie, groping about in the dark. "It
can't be good for much, if it has been out in this shower. Where did she
land?"

"Somewhere in the path. I should say you could not go far wrong, if you
were to follow your nose."

"Indeed!"

"It is precious damp."

"Awful!" said Bertie. "I cannot bear to think of Flora wandering round
in such a storm."

"It was rather rough on the Baby Pitcher," asserted Charley.

"It is bad enough to be lost in fair weather with daylight before you."

"I believe you. What is this?"

Bertie had stumbled upon the object.

"That must be the article," said Charley. "Bring it to the light."

They carried it into the hall and threw it upon a mat, for it was
dripping, and Charley turned it over with his foot.

"What do you make of it?" queried Bertie.

"It is the black baby," said Charley.

"Or her remains?"

"Yes, there isn't much left of her."

"It does not look much like Dinah, and that is a fact."

"She is pretty well used up, all but one eye. That looks natural."

"Yes," said Bertie, "very. Can't she be brought round?"

"I am afraid not. One sound eye isn't enough to build on."

"What a pity!" said Bertie. "If she cannot be patched up what are we
going to do?"

Charley shook his head.

"We must keep it from Flora."

"Yes."

"We will hide it."

"Where?"

"Anywhere so that Flora may never find it."

"Good!" said Charley. "We will hide it, and she will think her baby has
turned into a blackbird and flown away."

So they carried the black baby home with them, and Flora never saw her
again. But they saved the blue glass button; it would do for an eye if
Grandma should chance to make another Dinah.

What had become of Dinah was a wonder. Flora sought her first in the
library, where she had left her sleeping, then in every place she could
think of; but the baby was gone; there was not a trace of it anywhere.
And the perfumery was gone too. Flora was not long in making that
discovery, and she felt worse about the perfumery than she did about
Dinah. She knew that was lost when she put her hand in the pocket of her
blue dress, but she did not give up Dinah for a long, long time. In fact
she never felt certain that the black baby would not return to her. If
she had gone to be a blackbird, as Charley suggested, why, she might be
coming back some day. Perhaps she would get tired of being a bird, or
she might break a wing as the robin had done, and if she did, she should
never get another chance to fly away.

Grandma did not make another Dinah. It would have been a new one, and
could never take the place of the old; and as Flora was so hopeful,
Grandma thought she would be happier in looking forward to the return of
her long-tried friend than she could ever be with a new favorite. But
Dinah's place was not long vacant. Towzer fitted into it quite
naturally, and, as he was in many respects a more pleasant companion,
Flora did not miss the black baby as she otherwise would have done.



CHAPTER XV.

FLORA NEVER OPENS THE BIG GATE.


Flora seemed to be none of the worse for her perilous adventure. After a
refreshing sleep, she awoke happy and bright, not the least like the
miserable child of the night before. And indeed, she could not remember
how miserable she had been. When she tried to think how cold and wet and
lonely it was out there in the night, she could not; for now it was no
longer cold; the sun was shining, and there was no more darkness. Papa
had said she would never forget that day; she had almost forgotten it
already. So hard is it to realize our perils, when we look back upon
them. But there was the blue dress that never could be worn again, and
the water-soaked garden hat. The sight of these brought back a momentary
feeling of loneliness, and when she looked out upon the pleasant
morning, there was Jack Midnight's dog, with his nose between the bars
of the big gate. It was really true, then, the groping about in the
dark, and all the rest; and Towzer had not forgotten yet. When Flora
appeared at the window, he dropped his ears and turned sadly away. He
was looking for his friend of the night before, the little girl that
clung so closely around his neck, and begged him to take her to mamma.
He did not know Flora. But when she called to him, he answered with a
joyful cry. He knew the voice.

"Keep away from the big gate," she said, warningly. "Must not open
that."

"Bow-wow!" said Towser; "I don't care a straw for the big gate. I would
jump over it if I was younger, and I would squeeze myself through the
bars if the space was only wide enough. Bow-wow, who cares for the big
gate?"

"Go round the other side," said Flora, "and I will let you in."

Towzer wagged his tail, and started off, as if he meant to go round, but
he was only making believe. He was back again in a moment, dancing about
like a young puppy. You would never have supposed him to be the old,
sedate dog that he was.

"What makes you so frisky," asked Flora.

"Bow-wow," said he. "Cannot a poor old cur be frisky when he is happy?"

He was happy, because a stream of sunshine had struggled into his sober
life. It promised him friends and kind words, and that which he needed
most of all,--a streak of fat to cover his bare bones. Flora said they
were "nice, fat bones;" she called them fat because they were so large;
and indeed they were sadly large and prominent. Bertie's plaster proved
to be the proper remedy.

Under its influence the bones gradually disappeared, and, according to
Flora's theory, became leaner and smaller. Jack declared that the way
that dog was a picking up, beat all nature! Flora never admitted Towzer
at the big gate, and he very soon learned to go round. It was the big
gate that opened the way to Flora's troubles, and she had a wholesome
fear of it in consequence.

"Never open it again," she said, when she had finished the story of her
trials.

And she never did, without permission. The little blue cart and the
limping horse sometimes passed, and, although the soap man was always on
the lookout, he never again found Flora waiting to take a ride. She did
not forget what mamma told her: "Ladies do not ride in carts, and they
never ask to ride with strangers. Little girls cannot be expected to
_do_ right always; but good children always _try_ to do right."

"I am glad I did not see you riding with the soap man," said Amy. "I
should have felt ashamed of my little sister."

"She would have come off that box in a hurry if I had been anywhere
about," added Charley, in a threatening tone.

That stirred up the Baby Pitcher.

"Wouldn't either," she answered, tartly.

Charley tossed his head in a provoking way, that made Bertie say
"Don't!"

"I shall do so again," said Flora.

"I wouldn't," said Bertie.

"Wouldn't you, truly?"

"No," answered Bertie, seriously, "not if I were a little girl."

"Then I won't, and Dinah won't. Oh! She has gone to be a blackbird--I
forgot."

Amy kissed her little sister and talked to her in a gentle, soothing
manner, that smoothed out all the wrinkles. And then Charley felt sorry
he had roused the "Leo spunk," and he told such funny stories that Flora
felt very placid and comfortable, and quite at peace with everybody. In
losing the perfumery she lost a treasure, and for that she was sorry;
but she was glad to be restored to all her social rights and privileges.
She was no longer obliged to stand out on the door-stone when she talked
to Grandma, for the odor of musk was dying out. Grandma's doors were
thrown wide open, and no one was more welcome than the Baby Pitcher.





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