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Chapter 12 Two years afterward

  • It was a pleasant morning in early June. A warm wind was rustling the trees, which were covered thickly with half-opened leaves, and looked like fountain_f green spray thrown high into the air. Dr. Carr's front door stood wid_pen. Through the parlor window came the sound of piano practice, and on th_teps, under the budding roses, sat a small figure, busily sewing.
  • This was Clover, little Clover still, though more than two years had passe_ince we saw her last, and she was now over fourteen. Clover was neve_ntended to be tall. Her eyes were as blue and sweet as ever, and her apple- blossom cheeks as pink. But the brown pig-tails were pinned up into a roun_not, and the childish face had gained almost a womanly look. Old Mar_eclared that Miss Clover was getting quite young-ladyfied, and "Miss Clover"
  • was quite aware of the fact, and mightily pleased with it. It delighted her t_urn up her hair; and she was very particular about having her dresses made t_ome below the tops of her boots. She had also left off ruffles, and wor_arrow collars instead, and little cuffs with sleeve-buttons to fasten them.
  • These sleeve-buttons, which were a present from Cousin Helen, Clover like_est of all her things. Papa said that he was sure she took them to bed wit_er, but of course that was only a joke, though she certainly was never see_ithout them in the daytime. She glanced frequently at these beloved button_s she sat sewing, and every now and then laid down her work to twist the_nto a better position, or give them an affectionate pat with her forefinger.
  • Pretty soon the side-gate swung open, and Philly came round the corner of th_ouse. He had grown into a big boy. All his pretty baby curls were cut off, and his frocks had given place to jacket and trousers. In his hand he hel_omething. What, Clover could not see.
  • "What's that?" she said, as he reached the steps.
  • "I'm going up stairs to ask Katy if these are ripe," replied Phil, exhibitin_ome currants faintly streaked with red.
  • "Why, of course they're not ripe!" said Clover, putting one into her mouth.
  • "Can't you tell by the taste? They're as green as can be."
  • "I don't care, if Katy says they're ripe I shall eat 'em," answered Phil, defiantly, marching into the house.
  • "What did Philly want?" asked Elsie, opening the parlor door as Phil went u_tairs.
  • "Only to know if the currants are ripe enough to eat."
  • "How particular he always is about asking now!" said Elsie; "he's afraid o_nother dose of salts."
  • "I should think he would be," replied Clover, laughing. "Johnnie says sh_ever was so scared in her life as when Papa called them, and they looked up, and saw him standing there with the bottle in one hand and a spoon in th_ther!"
  • "Yes," went on Elsie, "and you know Dorry held his in his mouth for ever s_ong, and then went round the corner of the house and spat it out! Papa sai_e had a good mind to make him take another spoonful, but he remembered tha_fter all Dorry had the bad taste a great deal longer than the others, so h_idn't. I think it was an  _awful_  punishment, don't you?"
  • "Yes, but it was a good one, for none of them have ever touched the gree_ooseberries since. Have you got through practising? It doesn't seem like a_our yet."
  • "Oh, it isn't—it's only twenty-five minutes. But Katy told me not to sit mor_han half an hour at a time without getting up and running round to rest. I'_oing to walk twice down to the gate, and twice back. I promised her I would."
  • And Elsie set off, clapping her hands briskly before and behind her as sh_alked.
  • "Why—what is Bridget doing in Papa's room?" she asked, as she came back th_econd time. "She's flapping things out of the window. Are the girls up there?
  • I thought they were cleaning the dining-room."
  • "They're doing both. Katy said it was such a good chance, having Papa away, that she would have both the carpets taken up at once. There isn't going to b_ny dinner today, only just bread and butter, and milk, and cold ham, up i_aty's room, because Debby is helping too, so as to get through and save Pap_ll the fuss. And see," exhibiting her sewing, "Katy's making a new cover fo_apa's pincushion, and I'm hemming the ruffle to go round it."
  • "How nicely you hem!" said Elsie. "I wish I had something for Papa's room too.
  • There's my washstand mats—but the one for the soap-dish isn't finished. Do yo_uppose, if Katy would excuse me from the rest of my practising, I could ge_t done? I've a great mind to go and ask her."
  • "There's her bell!" said Clover, as a little tinkle sounded up stairs; "I'l_sk her, if you like."
  • "No, let me go. I'll see what she wants." But Clover was already half-wa_cross the hall, and the two girls ran up side by side. There was often _ittle strife between them as to which should answer Katy's bell. Both like_o wait on her so much.
  • Katy came to meet them as they entered. Not on her feet: that, alas! was stil_nly a far-off possibility; but in a chair with large wheels, with which sh_as rolling herself across the room. This chair was a great comfort to her.
  • Sitting in it, she could get to her closet and her bureau-drawers, and hel_erself to what she wanted without troubling anybody. It was only lately tha_he had been able to use it. Dr. Carr considered her doing so as a hopefu_ign, but he had never told Katy this. She had grown accustomed to her invali_ife at last, and was cheerful in it, and he thought it unwise to make he_estless, by exciting hopes which might after all end in fresh disappointment.
  • She met the girls with a bright smile as they came in, and said:
  • "Oh, Clovy, it was you I rang for! I am troubled for fear Bridget will meddl_ith the things on Papa's table. You know he likes them to be left just so.
  • Will you please go and remind her that she is not to touch them at all? Afte_he carpet is put down, I want you to dust the table, so as to be sure tha_verything is put back in the same place. Will you?"
  • "Of course I will!" said Clover, who was a born housewife, and dearly loved t_ct as Katy's prime minister.
  • "Sha'n't I fetch you the pincushion too, while I'm there?"
  • "Oh yes, please do! I want to measure."
  • "Katy," said Elsie, "those mats of mine are most done, and I would like t_inish them and put them on Papa's washstand before he comes back. Mayn't _top practising now, and bring my crochet up here instead?"
  • "Will there be plenty of time to learn the new exercise before Miss Phillip_omes, if you do?"
  • "I think so, plenty. She doesn't come till Friday, you know."
  • "Well, then it seems to me that you might just as well as not. And Elsie, dear, run into papa's room first, and bring me the drawer out of his table. _ant to put that in order myself."
  • Elsie went cheerfully. She laid the drawer across Katy's lap, and Katy bega_o dust and arrange the contents. Pretty soon Clover joined them.
  • "Here's the cushion," she said. "Now we'll have a nice quiet time all b_urselves, won't we? I like this sort of day, when nobody comes in t_nterrupt us."
  • Somebody tapped at the door, as she spoke. Katy called out, "Come!" And i_arched a tall, broad-shouldered lad, with a solemn, sensible face, and _ittle clock carried carefully in both his hands. This was Dorry. He has grow_nd improved very much since we saw him last, and is turning out clever i_everal ways. Among the rest, he has developed a strong turn for mechanics.
  • "Here's your clock, Katy," he said. "I've got it fixed so that it strikes al_ight. Only you must be careful not to hit the striker when you start th_endulum."
  • "Have you, really?" said Katy. "Why, Dorry, you're a genius! I'm ever so muc_bliged."
  • "It's four minutes to eleven now," went on Dorry. "So it'll strike prett_oon. I guess I'd better stay and hear it, so as to be sure that it is right.
  • That is," he added politely, "unless you're busy, and would rather not."
  • "I'm never too busy to want you, old fellow," said Katy, stroking his arm.
  • "Here, this drawer is arranged now. Don't you want to carry it into Papa'_oom and put it back into the table? Your hands are stronger than Elsie's."
  • Dorry looked gratified. When he came back the clock was just beginning t_trike.
  • "There!" he exclaimed; "that's splendid, isn't it?"
  • But alas! the clock did not stop at eleven. It went on—Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen!
  • "Dear me!" said Clover, "what does all this mean? It must be day after to- morrow, at least."
  • Dorry stared with open mouth at the clock, which was still striking as thoug_t would split its sides. Elsie, screaming with laughter, kept count.
  • "Thirty, Thirty-one—Oh, Dorry! Thirty-two! Thirty-three! Thirty-four!"
  • "You've bewitched it, Dorry!" said Katy, as much entertained as the rest.
  • Then they all began counting. Dorry seized the clock—shook it, slapped it, turned it upside-down. But still the sharp, vibrating sounds continued, as i_he clock, having got its own way for once, meant to go on till it was tire_ut. At last, at the one-hundred-and-thirtieth stroke, it suddenly ceased; an_orry, with a red, amazed countenance, faced the laughing company.
  • "It's very queer," he said, "but I'm sure it's not because of anything I did.
  • I can fix it, though, if you'll let me try again. May I, Katy? I'll promis_ot to hurt it."
  • For a moment Katy hesitated. Clover pulled her sleeve, and whispered, "Don't!"
  • Then seeing the mortification on Dorry's face, she made up her mind.
  • "Yes! take it, Dorry. I'm sure you'll be careful. But if I were you, I'd carr_t down to Wetherell's first of all, and talk it over with them. Together yo_ould hit on just the right thing. Don't you think so?"
  • "Perhaps," said Dorry; "yes, I think I will." Then he departed with the cloc_nder his arm, while Clover called after him teasingly, "Lunch at 132 o'clock; don't forget!"
  • "No, I won't!" said Dorry. Two years before he would not have borne to b_aughed at so good-naturedly.
  • "How could you let him take your clock again?" said Clover, as soon as th_oor was shut. "He'll spoil it. And you think so much of it."
  • "I thought he would feel mortified if I didn't let him try," replied Katy, quietly, "I don't believe he'll hurt it. Wetherell's man likes Dorry, an_e'll show him what to do."
  • "You were real good to do it," responded Clover; "but if it had been mine _on't think I could."
  • Just then the door flew open, and Johnnie rushed in, two years taller, bu_therwise looking exactly as she used to do.
  • "Oh, Katy!" she gasped, "won't you please tell Philly not to wash the chicken_n the rain-water tub? He's put in every one of Speckle's, and is jus_eginning on Dame Durden's. I'm afraid one little yellow one is dead already—"
  • "Why, he mustn't—of course he mustn't!" said Katy; "what made him think o_uch a thing?"
  • "He says they're dirty, because they've just come out of egg-shells! And h_nsists that the yellow on them is yolk-of-egg. I told him it wasn't, but h_ouldn't listen to me." And Johnnie wrung her hands.
  • "Clover!" cried Katy, "won't you run down and ask Philly to come up to me?
  • Speak pleasantly, you know!"
  • "I spoke pleasantly—real pleasantly, but it wasn't any use," said Johnnie, o_hom the wrongs of the chicks had evidently made a deep impression.
  • "What a mischief Phil is getting to be!" said Elsie. "Papa says his name ough_o be Pickle."
  • "Pickles turn out very nice sometimes, you know," replied Katy, laughing.
  • Pretty soon Philly came up, escorted by Clover. He looked a little defiant, but Katy understood how to manage him. She lifted him into her lap, which, bi_oy as he was, he liked extremely; and talked to him so affectionately abou_he poor little shivering chicks, that his heart was quite melted.
  • "I didn't mean to hurt 'em, really and truly," he said, "but they were al_irty and yellow—with egg, you know, and I thought you'd like me to clean 'e_p."
  • "But that wasn't egg, Philly—it was dear little clean feathers, like a canary- bird's wings."
  • "Was it?"
  • "Yes. And now the chickies are as cold and forlorn as you would feel if yo_umbled into a pond and nobody gave you any dry clothes. Don't you think yo_ught to go and warm them?"
  • "How?"
  • "Well—in your hands, very gently. And then I would let them run round in th_un."
  • "I will!" said Philly, getting down from her lap. "Only kiss me first, becaus_ didn't mean to, you know!"—Philly was very fond of Katy. Miss Petingill sai_t was wonderful to see how that child let himself be managed. But I think th_ecret was that Katy didn't "manage," but tried to be always kind and loving, and considerate of Phil's feelings.
  • Before the echo of Phil's boots had fairly died away on the stairs, old Mar_ut her head into the door. There was a distressed expression on her face.
  • "Miss Katy," she said, "I wish  _you'd_  speak to Alexander about putting th_oodshed in order. I don't think you know how bad it looks."
  • "I don't suppose I do," said Katy, smiling, and then sighing. She had neve_een the wood-shed since the day of her fall from the swing. "Never mind, Mary, I'll talk to Alexander about it, and he shall make it all nice."
  • Mary trotted down stairs satisfied. But in the course of a few minutes she wa_p again.
  • "There's a man come with a box of soap, Miss Katy, and here's the bill. H_ays it's resated."
  • It took Katy a little time to find her purse, and then she wanted her penci_nd account book, and Elsie had to move from her seat at the table.
  • "Oh dear!" she said, "I wish people wouldn't keep coming and interrupting us.
  • Who'll be the next, I wonder?"
  • She was not left to wonder long. Almost as she spoke, there was another knoc_t the door.
  • "Come in!" said Katy, rather wearily. The door opened.
  • "Shall I?" said a voice. There was a rustle of skirts, a clatter of boot- heels, and Imogen Clark swept into the room. Katy could not think who it was, at first. She had not seen Imogen for almost two years.
  • "I found the front door open," explained Imogen, in her high-pitched voice,
  • "and as nobody seemed to hear when I rang the bell, I ventured to come righ_p stairs. I hope I'm not interrupting anything private?"
  • "Not at all," said Katy, politely. "Elsie, dear, move up that low chair, please. Do sit down, Imogen! I'm sorry nobody answered your ring, but th_ervants are cleaning house to-day, and I suppose they didn't hear."
  • So Imogen sat down and began to rattle on in her usual manner, while Elsie, from behind Katy's chair, took a wide-awake survey of her dress. It was o_heap material, but very gorgeously made and trimmed, with flounces and puffs, and Imogen wore a jet necklace and long black ear-rings, which jingled an_licked when she waved her head about. She still had the little round curl_tuck on to her cheeks, and Elsie wondered anew what kept them in thei_laces.
  • By and by the object of Imogen's visit came out. She had called to say good- by. The Clark family were all going back to Jacksonville to live.
  • "Did you ever see the Brigand again?" asked Clover, who had never forgotte_hat eventful tale told in the parlor.
  • "Yes," replied Imogen, "several times. And I get letters from him quite often.
  • He writes  _beau_ tiful letters. I wish I had one with me, so that I coul_ead you a little bit. You would enjoy it, I know. Let me see—perhaps I have."
  • And she put her hand into her pocket. Sure enough there  _was_  a letter.
  • Clover couldn't help suspecting that Imogen knew it all the time.
  • The Brigand seemed to write a bold, black hand, and his note-paper an_nvelope was just like anybody else's. But perhaps his band had surprised _edlar with a box of stationery.
  • "Let me see," said Imogen, running her eye down the page. "'Adore_mogen'—that wouldn't interest you—hm, hm, hm—ah, here's something! 'I too_inner at the Rock House on Christmas. It was lonesome without you. I ha_oast turkey, roast goose, roast beef, mince pie, plum pudding, and nuts an_aisins. A pretty good dinner, was it not? But nothing tastes first-rate whe_riends are away.'"
  • Katy and Clover stared, as well they might. Such language from a Brigand!
  • "John Billings has bought a new horse," continued Imogen; "hm, hm, hm—him. _on't think there is anything else you'd care about. Oh, yes! just here, a_he end, is some poetry:
  • "'Come, little dove, with azure wing, And brood upon my breast,'
  • "That's sweet, ain't it?"
  • "Hasn't he reformed?" said Clover; "he writes as if he had."
  • "Reformed!" cried Imogen, with a toss of the jingling ear-rings. "He wa_lways just as good as he could be!"
  • There was nothing to be said in reply to this. Katy felt her lips twitch, an_or fear she should be rude, and laugh out, she began to talk as fast as sh_ould about something else. All the time she found herself taking measure o_mogen, and thinking—"Did I ever really like her? How queer! Oh, what a wis_an Papa is!"
  • Imogen stayed half an hour. Then she took her leave.
  • "She never asked how you were!" cried Elsie, indignantly; "I noticed, and sh_idn't—not once."
  • "Oh well—I suppose she forgot. We were talking about her, not about me,"
  • replied Katy.
  • The little group settled down again to their work. This time half an hour wen_y without any more interruptions. Then the door bell rang, and Bridget, wit_ disturbed face, came up stairs.
  • "Miss Katy," she said, "it's old Mrs. Worrett, and I reckon's she's come t_pend the day, for she's brought her bag. What ever shall I tell her?"
  • Katy looked dismayed. "Oh dear!" she said, "how unlucky. What can we do?"
  • Mrs. Worrett was an old friend of Aunt Izzie's, who lived in the country, about six miles from Burnet, and was in the habit of coming to Dr. Carr's fo_unch, on days when shopping or other business brought her into town. This di_ot occur often; and, as it happened, Katy had never had to entertain he_efore.
  • "Tell her ye're busy, and can't see her," suggested Bridget; "there's n_inner nor nothing, you know."
  • The Katy of two years ago would probably have jumped at this idea. But th_aty of to-day was more considerate.
  • "N-o," she said; "I don't like to do that. We must just make the best of it, Bridget. Run down, Clover, dear, that's a good girl! and tell Mrs. Worret_hat the dining-room is all in confusion, but that we're going to have lunc_ere, and, after she's rested, I should be glad to have her come up. And, oh, Clovy! give her a fan the first thing. She'll be  _so_  hot. Bridget, you ca_ring up the luncheon just the same, only take out some canned peaches, by wa_f a dessert, and make Mrs. Worrett a cup of tea. She drinks tea always, _elieve.
  • "I can't bear to send the poor old lady away when she has come so far," sh_xplained to Elsie, after the others were gone. "Pull the rocking-chair _ittle this way, Elsie. And oh! push all those little chairs back against th_all. Mrs. Worrett broke down in one the last time she was here—don't yo_ecollect?"
  • It took some time to cool Mrs. Worrett off, so nearly twenty minutes passe_efore a heavy, creaking step on the stairs announced that the guest was o_er way up. Elsie began to giggle. Mrs. Worrett always made her giggle. Kat_ad just time to give her a warning glance before the door opened.
  • Mrs. Worrett was the most enormously fat person ever seen. Nobody dared t_uess how much she weighed, but she looked as if it might be a thousan_ounds. Her face was extremely red. In the coldest weather she appeared hot, and on a mild day she seemed absolutely ready to melt. Her bonnet-strings wer_lying loose as she came in, and she fanned herself all the way across th_oom, which shook as she walked.
  • "Well, my dear," she said, as she plumped herself into the rocking-chair, "an_ow do you do?"
  • "Very well, thank you," replied Katy, thinking that she never saw Mrs. Worret_ook half so fat before, and wondering how she  _was_  to entertain her.
  • "And how's your Pa?" inquired Mrs. Worrett. Katy answered politely, and the_sked after Mrs. Worrett's own health.
  • "Well, I'm so's to be round," was the reply, which had the effect of sendin_lsie off into a fit of convulsive laughter behind Katy's chair.
  • "I had business at the bank," continued the visitor, "and I thought while _as about it I'd step up to Miss Petingill's and see if I couldn't get her t_ome and let out my black silk. It was made quite a piece back, and I seem t_ave fleshed up since then, for I can't make the hooks and eyes meet at all.
  • But when I got there, she was out, so I'd my walk for nothing. Do you kno_here she's sewing now?"
  • "No," said Katy, feeling her chair shake, and keeping her own countenance wit_ifficulty, "she was here for three days last week to make Johnnie a school- dress. But I haven't heard anything about her since. Elsie, don't you want t_un down stairs and ask Bridget to bring a—a—a glass of iced water for Mrs.
  • Worrett? She looks warm after her walk."
  • Elsie, dreadfully ashamed, made a bolt from the room, and hid herself in th_all closet to have her laugh out. She came back after a while, with _erfectly straight face. Luncheon was brought up. Mrs. Worrett made a goo_eal, and seemed to enjoy everything. She was so comfortable that she neve_tirred till four o'clock! Oh, how long that afternoon did seem to the poo_irls, sitting there and trying to think of something to say to their vas_isitor!
  • At last Mrs. Worrett got out of her chair, and prepared to depart.
  • "Well," she said, tying her bonnet-strings, "I've had a good rest, and fee_ll the better for it. Ain't some of you young folks coming out to see me on_f these days? I'd like to have you, first-rate, if you will. 'Tain't ever_irl would know how to take care of a fat old woman, and make her feel t_ome, as you have me, Katy. I wish your aunt could see you all as you are now.
  • She'd be right pleased; I know that."
  • Somehow, this sentence rang pleasantly in Katy's ears.
  • "Ah! don't laugh at her," she said later in the evening, when the children, after their tea in the clean, fresh-smelling dining-room, were come up to si_ith her, and Cecy, in her pretty pink lawn and white shawl, had dropped in t_pend an hour or two; "she's a real kind old woman, and I don't like to hav_ou. It isn't her fault that she's fat. And Aunt Izzie was fond of her, yo_now. It is doing something for her when we can show a little attention to on_f her friends. I was sorry when she came, but now it's over, I'm glad."
  • "It feels so nice when it stops aching," quoted Elsie, mischievously, whil_ecy whispered to Clover.
  • "Isn't Katy sweet?"
  • "Isn't she!" replied Clover. "I wish I was half so good. Sometimes I think _hall really be sorry if she ever gets well. She's such a dear old darling t_s all, sitting there in her chair, that it wouldn't seem so nice to have he_nywhere else. But then, I know it's horrid in me. And I don't believe she'_e different, or grow slam-bang and horrid, like some of the girls, even i_he were well."
  • "Of course she wouldn't!" replied Cecy.