It was a long time before the children ceased to talk and laugh over tha_olly evening. Dorry declared he wished there could be a Valentine's-Day ever_eek.
"Don't you think St. Valentine would be tired of writing verses?" asked Katy.
But she, too, had enjoyed the frolic, and the bright recollection helped he_long through the rest of the long, cold winter.
Spring opened late that year, but the Summer, when it came, was a warm one.
Katy felt the heat very much. She could not change her seat and follow th_reeze about from window to window as other people could. The long burnin_ays left her weak and parched. She hung her head, and seemed to wilt like th_lowers in the garden-beds. Indeed she was worse off than they, for ever_vening Alexander gave them a watering with the hose, while nobody was able t_ring a watering-pot and pour out what she needed—a shower of cold, fresh air.
It wasn't easy to be good-humored under these circumstances, and one coul_ardly have blamed Katy if she had sometimes forgotten her resolutions an_een cross and fretful. But she didn't—not very often. Now and then bad day_ame, when she was discouraged and forlorn. But Katy's long year of schoolin_ad taught her self-control, and, as a general thing, her discomforts wer_orne patiently. She could not help growing pale and thin however, and Pap_aw with concern that, as the summer went on, she became too languid to read, or study, or sew, and just sat hour after hour, with folded hands, gazin_istfully out of the window.
He tried the experiment of taking her to drive. But the motion of th_arriage, and the being lifted in and out, brought on so much pain, that Kat_egged that he would not ask her to go again. So there was nothing to be don_ut wait for cooler weather. The summer dragged on, and all who loved Kat_ejoiced when it was over.
When September came, with cool mornings and nights, and fresh breezes, smelling of pine woods, and hill-tops, all things seemed to revive, and Kat_ith them. She began to crochet and to read. After a while she collected he_ooks again, and tried to study as Cousin Helen had advised. But so many idl_eeks made it seem harder work than ever. One day she asked Papa to let he_ake French lessons.
"You see I'm forgetting all I knew," she said, "and Clover is going to begi_his term, and I don't like that she should get so far ahead of me. Don't yo_hink Mr. Bergèr would be willing to come here, Papa? He does go to house_ometimes."
"I think he would if we asked him," said Dr. Carr, pleased to see Katy wakin_p with something like life again.
So the arrangement was made. Mr. Bergèr came twice every week, and sat besid_he big chair, correcting Katy's exercises and practising her in the verbs an_ronunciation. He was a lively little old Frenchman, and knew how to mak_esson-time pleasant.
"You take more pain than you used, Mademoiselle," he said one day; "if you g_n so, you shall be my best scholar. And if to hurt the back make you study, it would be well that some other of my young ladies shall do the same."
Katy laughed. But in spite of Mr. Bergèr and his lessons, and in spite of he_ndeavors to keep cheerful and busy, this second winter was harder than th_irst. It is often so with sick people. There is a sort of excitement in bein_ll which helps along just at the beginning. But as months go on, an_verything grows an old story, and one day follows another day, all just alik_nd all tiresome, courage is apt to flag and spirits to grow dull. Sprin_eemed a long, long way off whenever Katy thought about it.
"I wish something would happen," she often said to herself. And something wa_bout to happen. But she little guessed what it was going to be.
"Katy!" said Clover, coming in one day in November, "do you know where th_amphor is? Aunt Izzie has got _such_ a headache."
"No," replied Katy, "I don't. Or—wait—Clover, it seems to me that Debby cam_or it the other day. Perhaps if you look in her room you'll find it."
"How very queer!" she soliloquized, when Clover was gone; "I never knew Aun_zzie to have a headache before."
"How is Aunt Izzie?" she asked, when Papa came in at noon.
"Well, I don't know. She has some fever and a bad pain in her head. I hav_old her that she had better lie still, and not try to get up this evening.
Old Mary will come in to undress you, Katy. You won't mind, will you, dear?"
"N-o!" said Katy, reluctantly. But she did mind. Aunt Izzie had grown used t_er and her ways. Nobody else suited her so well.
"It seems so strange to have to explain just how every little thing is to b_one," she remarked to Clover, rather petulantly.
It seemed stranger yet, when the next day, and the next, and the next afte_hat passed, and still no Aunt Izzie came near her. Blessings brighten as the_ake their flight. Katy began to appreciate for the first time how much sh_ad learned to rely on her aunt. She missed her dreadfully.
"When _is_ Aunt Izzie going to get well?" she asked her father; "I want he_o much."
"We all want her," said Dr. Carr, who looked disturbed and anxious.
"Is she very sick?" asked Katy, struck by the expression of his face.
"Pretty sick, I'm afraid," he replied. "I'm going to get a regular nurse t_ake care of her."
Aunt Izzie's attack proved to be typhoid fever. The doctors said that th_ouse must be kept quiet, so John, and Dorry, and Phil were sent over to Mrs.
Hall's to stay. Elsie and Clover were to have gone too, but they begged s_ard, and made so many promises of good behavior, that finally Papa permitte_hem to remain. The dear little things stole about the house on tiptoe, a_uietly as mice, whispering to each other, and waiting on Katy, who would hav_een lonely enough without them, for everybody else was absorbed in Aun_zzie.
It was a confused, melancholy time. The three girls didn't know much abou_ickness, but Papa's grave face, and the hushed house, weighed upon thei_pirits, and they missed the children very much.
"Oh dear!" sighed Elsie. "How I wish Aunt Izzie would hurry and get well."
"We'll be real good to her when she does, won't we?" said Clover. "I neve_ean to leave my rubbers in the hat-stand any more, because she don't like t_ave me. And I shall pick up the croquet-balls and put them in the box ever_ight."
"Yes," added Elsie, "so will I, when she gets well."
It never occurred to either of them that perhaps Aunt Izzie might not ge_ell. Little people are apt to feel as if grown folks are so strong and s_ig, that nothing can possibly happen to them.
Katy was more anxious. Still she did not fairly realize the danger. So it cam_ike a sudden and violent shock to her, when, one morning on waking up, sh_ound old Mary crying quietly beside the bed, with her apron at her eyes. Aun_zzie had died in the night!
All their kind, penitent thoughts of her; their resolutions to please—thei_lans for obeying her wishes and saving her trouble, were too late! For th_irst time, the three girls, sobbing in each other's arms, realized what _ood friend Aunt Izzie had been to them. Her worrying ways were all forgotte_ow. They could only remember the many kind things she had done for them sinc_hey were little children. How they wished that they had never teased her, never said sharp words about her to each other! But it was no use to wish.
"What shall we do without Aunt Izzie?" thought Katy, as she cried herself t_leep that night. And the question came into her mind again and again, afte_he funeral was over and the little ones had come back from Mrs. Hall's, an_hings began to go on in their usual manner.
For several days she saw almost nothing of her father. Clover reported that h_ooked very tired and scarcely said a word.
"Did Papa eat any dinner?" asked Katy, one afternoon.
"Not much. He said he wasn't hungry. And Mrs. Jackson's boy came for hi_efore we were through."
"Oh dear!" sighed Katy, "I do hope _he_ isn't going to be sick. How i_ains! Clovy, I wish you'd run down and get out his slippers and put them b_he fire to warm. Oh, and ask Debby to make some cream-toast for tea! Pap_ikes cream-toast."
After tea, Dr. Carr came up stairs to sit a while in Katy's room. He often di_o, but this was the first time since Aunt Izzie's death.
Katy studied his face anxiously. It seemed to her that it had grown older o_ate, and there was a sad look upon it, which made her heart ache. She longe_o do something for him, but all she could do was to poke the fire bright, an_hen to possess herself of his hand, and stroke it gently with both hers. I_asn't much, to be sure, but I think Papa liked it.
"What have you been about all day?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing, much," said Katy. "I studied my French lesson this morning. An_fter school, Elsie and John brought in their patchwork, and we had a 'Bee.'
"I've been thinking how we are to manage about the housekeeping," said Dr.
Carr. "Of course we shall have to get somebody to come and take charge. But i_sn't easy to find just the right person. Mrs. Hall knows of a woman who migh_o, but she is out West, just now, and it will be a week or two before we ca_ear from her. Do you think you can get on as you are for a few days?"
"Oh, Papa!" cried Katy, in dismay, "must we have anybody?"
"Why, how did you suppose we were going to arrange it? Clover is much to_oung for a housekeeper. And beside, she is at school all day."
"I don't know—I hadn't thought about it," said Katy, in a perplexed tone.
But she did think about it—all that evening, and the first thing when she wok_n the morning.
"Papa," she said, the next time she got him to herself, "I've been thinkin_ver what you were saying last night, about getting somebody to keep th_ouse, you know. And I wish you wouldn't. I wish you would let _me_ try.
Really and truly, I think I could manage."
"But how?" asked Dr. Carr, much surprised. "I really don't see. If you wer_ell and strong, perhaps—but even then you would be pretty young for such _harge, Katy."
"I shall be fourteen in two weeks," said Katy, drawing herself up in her chai_s straight as she could. "And if I _were_ well, Papa, I should be going t_chool, you know, and then of course I couldn't. No, I'll tell you my plan.
I've been thinking about it all day. Debby and Bridget have been with us s_ong, that they know all Aunt Izzie's ways, and they're such good women, tha_ll they want is just to be told a little now and then. Now, why couldn't the_ome up to me when anything is wanted—just as well as to have me go down t_hem? Clover and old Mary will keep watch, you know, and see if anything i_rong. And you wouldn't mind if things were a little crooked just at first, would you? because, you know, I should be learning all the time. Do let m_ry! It will be real nice to have something to think about as I sit up her_lone, so much better than having a stranger in the house who doesn't know th_hildren or anything. I am sure it will make me happier. Please say 'Yes,'
Papa, please do!"
"It's too much for you, a great deal too much," replied Dr. Carr. But it wa_ot easy to resist Katy's "Please! Please!" and after a while it ended with—
"Well, darling, you may try, though I am doubtful as to the result of th_xperiment. I will tell Mrs. Hall to put off writing to Wisconsin for a month, and we will see.
"Poor child, anything to take her thoughts off herself!" he muttered, as h_alked down stairs. "She'll be glad enough to give the thing up by the end o_he month."
But Papa was mistaken. At the end of a month Katy was eager to go on. So h_aid,
"Very well—she might try it till Spring."
It was not such hard work as it sounds. Katy had plenty of quiet thinking-tim_or one thing. The children were at school all day, and few visitors came t_nterrupt her, so she could plan out her hours and keep to the plans. That i_ great help to a housekeeper.
Then Aunt Izzie's regular, punctual ways were so well understood by th_ervants, that the house seemed almost to keep itself. As Katy had said, al_ebby and Bridget needed was a little "telling" now and then.
As soon as breakfast was over, and the dishes were washed and put away, Debb_ould tie on a clean apron, and come up stairs for orders. At first Kat_hought this great fun. But after ordering dinner a good many times, it bega_o grow tiresome. She never saw the dishes after they were cooked; and, bein_nexperienced, it seemed impossible to think of things enough to make _ariety.
"Let me see—there is roast beef—leg of mutton—boiled chicken," she would say, counting on her fingers, "roast beef—leg of mutton—boiled chicken. Debby, yo_ight roast the chickens. Dear!—I wish somebody would invent a new animal!
Where all the things to eat are gone to, I can't imagine!"
Then Katy would send for every recipe-book in the house, and pore over them b_he hour, till her appetite was as completely gone as if she had swallowe_wenty dinners. Poor Debby learned to dread these books. She would stand b_he door with her pleasant red face drawn up into a pucker, while Katy rea_loud some impossible-sounding rule.
"This looks as if it were delicious, Debby, I wish you'd try it: Take a gallo_f oysters, a pint of beef stock, sixteen soda crackers, the juice of tw_emons, four cloves, a glass of white wine, a sprig of marjoram, a sprig o_hyme, a sprig of bay, a sliced shalott—"
"Please, Miss Katy, what's them?"
"Oh, don't you know, Debby? It must be something quite common, for it's i_lmost all the recipes."
"No, Miss Katy, I never heard tell of it before. Miss Carr never gave me n_hell-outs at all at all!"
"Dear me, how provoking!" Katy would cry, flapping over the leaves of he_ook; "then we must try something else."
Poor Debby! If she hadn't loved Katy so dearly, I think her patience must hav_iven way. But she bore her trials meekly, except for an occasional grumbl_hen alone with Bridget. Dr. Carr had to eat a great many queer things i_hose days. But he didn't mind, and as for the children, they enjoyed it.
Dinner-time became quite exciting, when nobody could tell exactly what an_ish on the table was made of. Dorry, who was a sort of Dr. Livingstone wher_trange articles of food were concerned, usually made the first experiment, and if he said that it was good, the rest followed suit.
After a while Katy grew wiser. She ceased teasing Debby to try new things, an_he Carr family went back to plain roast and boiled, much to the advantage o_ll concerned. But then another series of experiments began. Katy got hold o_ book upon "The Stomach," and was seized with a rage for wholesome food. Sh_ntreated Clover and the other children to give up sugar, and butter, an_ravy, and pudding-sauce, and buckwheat cakes, and pies, and almost everythin_lse that they particularly liked. Boiled rice seemed to her the most sensibl_essert, and she kept the family on it until finally John and Dorry started _ebellion, and Dr. Carr was forced to interfere.
"My dear, you are overdoing it sadly," he said, as Katy opened her book an_repared to explain her views; "I am glad to have the children eat simpl_ood—but really, boiled rice five times in a week is too much."
Katy sighed, but submitted. Later, as the Spring came on, she had a fit o_ver-anxiousness, and was always sending Clover down to ask Debby if her brea_as not burning, or if she was sure that the pickles were not fermenting i_heir jars? She also fidgeted the children about wearing india-rubbers, an_eeping on their coats, and behaved altogether as if the cares of the worl_ere on her shoulders.
But all these were but the natural mistakes of a beginner. Katy was too muc_n earnest not to improve. Month by month she learned how to manage a littl_etter, and a little better still. Matters went on more smoothly. Her care_eased to fret her. Dr. Carr watching the increasing brightness of her fac_nd manner, felt that the experiment was a success. Nothing more was sai_bout "somebody else," and Katy, sitting up stairs in her big chair, held th_hreads of the house firmly in her hands.