From Best Things From American Literature (The Christian Herald New York: 1899)
Sixty years ago there were twelve hundred inhabitants and over in the village, but there was only one doll. She was a member of the doctor's family, being the property of his daughter Caroline, and spent most of her time in the top of the great mahogany chest in the spare chamber, because she was too handsome and too costly to be played with every day.
When I say there was only one doll in the village, I mean only one boughten doll, or store doll. There were plenty of common, home-made dolls, manufactured from linen rags, and even from corncobs, but there was only one painted, wax, real-haired doll, made, no one knew how or where, by some cunning workman with marvelous means at his command.
She was as much a real doll as flesh-and-blood baby was a real baby. The mystery of existence was hers. If the truth had been told, many a little girl scarcely believed that if the Doll's beautiful kid body were wounded, it would bleed cotton wool, like that of her own doll. Eunice was especially skeptical.
Once, when she had the pleasure of taking tea with Caroline Tucker, the owner of the Doll, she questioned her.
“What do you suppose she's made of inside?” she asked, timidly. Eunice was rather shy of Caroline Tucker, who was a year older than she, had a silk dress, was the doctor's daughter, and owned the Doll.
“Oh, I don't know; cotton wool, perhaps,” replied Caroline Tucker. She spoke quite carelessly. Long possession had cheapened for her the wonder and charm of the Doll. Eunice shook her head doubtfully.
“What do you suppose it is, then?” asked Caroline Tucker.
“When I held her once I thought I felt something like bones,” said Eunice in a whisper.
There were three other girls at the tea-party. They all shivered and stared at the Doll. Caroline Tucker laughed, and tossed back her curls with a grown-up and superior air, which was usual with her.
“Oh, I have felt it, too,” said she. “Mother says she thinks the Doll is made of wooden framework. That's all, Eunice Field.”
The five little girls, the four guests and Caroline Tucker, sat in the best parlor, and the Doll with them in a little haircloth rocking-chair of her own.
The Doll was arrayed in her company frock of spangled pink tarlatan, cut low in the neck. Her whole array might have been considered of somewhat too festive a character for an afternoon tea-party, being better adapted to a ball, or even a circus, but the girls considered it eminently proper. They themselves wore low-necked and short-sleeved dresses, though the material was delaine or cambric, instead of tarlatan.
They had come to the party at half-past one o'clock, and brought their work. Each was making a black silk apron for herself, embroidering it with a wreath of red roses with green leaves across the top of the hem. Embroidered black silk aprons were very fashionable at that time, and the little girls were very much interested in theirs. They were all presents from Caroline's mother. She had given her daughter and each of her daughter's particular friends, black silk enough for an apron, and had herself drawn the rose pattern on tissue paper. The tea-party was given partly for the purpose of furthering work on the aprons. Caroline was not very swift nor skillful with her needle, and her mother thought that this might stimulate her to improvement.
Caroline Tucker had a very placid and contented disposition; all her life she had heard about this other little girl who had knitted a whole stocking before she was near her age, and that other little girl who had pieced a whole bed-quilt, without being in the least disturbed by her own remissness in those particulars. However, now she really wanted the black silk apron; it was much more interesting than a stocking or a bed-quilt, and she worked quite industriously.
Eunice thought Caroline's mother was beautiful. Her admiration was divided between Mrs. Tucker and the Doll.
The five girls embroidered industriously, and the Doll sat still and stared past them all with her unwinking blue eyes and smiled sweetly at nobody, though none of them knew that. Each thought that one of the others must catch that bright blue glance and sweet pink smile, if she did not.
At four o'clock Caroline's mother came in again and bade them all fold their work away nicely, then put on their hats and run out in the garden for an hour before tea. Just then Caroline's brother Peter came in. He was much older than Caroline, a grown-up young man in Harvard College. This was his vacation time. When he entered the little girls courtesied, and he greeted them with a gay friendliness which was very engaging. Peter Tucker was a handsome young man, with brown hair curling over a high, white forehead, red cheeks, and eyes as blue as the Doll's.
He walked straight up to the Doll, in her little chair, and stood looking down at her. Eunice was of the firm opinion that she was then staring and smiling at him.
“Well,” said Mr. Peter Tucker, with a deep sigh, “I am thankful that this poor Doll-baby isn't crying now, as she cried all last night in that awful chest in the spare chamber where she is kept shut up.”
“Oh, Peter!” said his mother, remonstratingly.
The guests nudged one another. They did not know whether to laugh or sigh with him; Mr. Peter was so very serious. Caroline tossed back her curls.
“Brother Peter is always talking that way,” said she.
“Now, Sister Caroline,” returned Mr. Peter Tucker, and he looked almost as if he were going to weep, the corners of his mouth were so drawn down, “you know there isn't one night, and you know there are not many days, when this poor precious Doll-baby is shut up in the chest that she doesn't cry and cry and sob enough to break your heart, and say over and over that she's afraid of the dark and mice in there, and beg to be let out.”
Mr. Peter imitated the Doll's voice with a lamentable little squeak, and it did seem as if he would presently break into sobs. Caroline tossed back her curls again.
“He always talks that way,” said she, and the guests laughed knowingly — all except Eunice Field. She looked soberly into Mr. Peter's face, and her forehead between her smooth scallops of black hair was knitted in a troubled frown.
Mr. Peter looked straight at her when he spoke again. “And that is not all,” he said, solemnly. “That Doll has been known to move around in that chest.”
“He's telling fibs,” declared Caroline Tucker, but a shiver crept over the others, and Eunice turned quite pale.
“Such kickings and thumpings against the lid, which it is no use to say are due to rats and mice,” Mr. Peter went on impressively; “and when it is raised that poor Doll-baby, lying all twisted up on her stomach, all worn out with her struggles. If you don't believe it, look at the toes of her shoes. How do you suppose the morocco got so worn unless she kicked the chest to get out? Dolls don't walk, do they?”
Mr. Peter pointed triumphantly at the Doll's little pink morocco toes, which were undoubtedly rubbed, and the little girls eyed them curiously.
“If we don't go out now we shan't have any time in the garden before tea,” declared Caroline Tucker, though not impatiently. She was very fond and proud of her big brother, though she was conscious of an entire superiority to his teasing. She and her guests all flocked out, but Eunice turned for one more wistful look at Mr. Peter, and he nodded at her with intense meaning.
There was a beautiful old garden with an arbor in it behind Doctor Tucker's house. The girls strolled up and down the box-bordered path, picked some gooseberries, and finally began to play hide-and-seek.
Caroline was “it,” and Eunice was hunting for her near the garden gate when she heard her name called. “Eunice,” some one said softly; “Eunice.”
She looked, and there stood Mr. Peter, with a roguish and ingratiating smile on his masculine face. He raised a finger and beckoned her toward the house. “Come in a minute,” he whispered. “I've got something to show you.”
Eunice looked at him shyly and doubtfully. “Come,” said Mr. Peter; “you can play hide-and-seek any time, and you don't know what I've got to show you.”
Mr. Peter motioned so beseechingly toward the house that Eunice yielded and followed him in.
Mr. Peter led the way into the parlor, and Eunice noticed the minute she entered that something about the room was changed. A large high-backed chair had been drawn forward, and a screen which had stood before the fireplace had been moved to a position at right-angles with it. Between the screen and high-backed chair sat the Doll in her old place.
Eunice looked at her, and noted the fluffy spread of her pink tarlatan skirts, the mild stare of her blue eyes, and her sweet, set smile. Mr. Peter stopped and pointed at the Doll, with one of his commiserating sighs. “Looks quite cheerful now, doesn't she?” said he.
“Yes, sir,” replied Eunice.
“That pink dress is pretty, isn't it?”
“And she has a pretty smile, though she might smile a little more and look happier?”
Mr. Peter sighed again and motioned Eunice into the square room at the right of the chimney. There was a window in it, and the shutters were open. They were the only shutters which were open in the room; all the others had been closed during Eunice's absence.
Mr. Peter pushed Eunice gently forward, close to the window. From that place she could not have seen the Doll, even if she had not been concealed by the screen.
“Now,” said Mr. Peter, mysteriously, “you see that tree?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Eunice. She could not well avoid seeing the tree, since it was a tall elm only a few yards from the window. “Well,” said Mr. Peter, “now you look straight up in the top of the tree, a little toward the right — see anything?”
Eunice looked very hard, but she saw nothing except the green network of elm leaves. “No, sir,” she replied, doubtingly, and then she jumped and was turning around, for she thought she heard a soft rustle and stir in front of the fireplace where the Doll sat, but Mr. Peter laid a gentle, detaining hand on her shoulder. “Look sharp,” said he; “you don't look far enough to the left. See anything?”
“No, sir,” replied Eunice. She began to feel quite stupid and guilty.
“Something that shines,” said Mr. Peter. “See it?”
Eunice shook her head.
“It is odd you don't see it,” said Mr. Peter. “Try again.”
Eunice looked and looked. She thought again that she heard a slight rustle in the vicinity of the Doll, but she did not turn her head. She stared up into the green maze of the elm, and Mr. Peter waited.
“See it now?” he inquired, finally, but before Eunice could reply he cried out, “Well, I declare, that Doll has changed her dress!”
Eunice turned, and her eyes followed Mr. Peter's pointing finger. There sat the Doll, but instead of her pink tarlatan frock, she wore one of white muslin. That was not all. The Doll was smiling a smile fully one-quarter of an inch wider than before. She seemed to be actually laughing.
“Only see her smile. She is pleased because she has changed her dress herself,” said Mr. Peter.
Eunice drew a long breath and looked at the Doll.
Eunice never quite knew what happened next, what she said and did, nor what Mr. Peter said. The first that she could remember, after seeing the Doll dressed in that other frock and smiling that wider smile, was being walked up and down the south yard by Mr. Peter, and his voice in her ears, telling her about the mysterious object in the top of the elm tree.
“It is the hoodoo's nest, at least that's what I suspect it is,” said Mr. Peter. “Did you ever hear of a hoodoo?”
“No, sir,” replied Eunice, faintly.
Mr. Peter, as he talked, kept a sharp watch to see if Eunice's black eyes were losing their bewildered stare, and her mouth its helpless, breathless expression.
If the Doll had startled Eunice, Eunice had rather startled Mr. Peter. He talked very fast about the hoodoo's nest. “Well, you see, Eunice, a hoodoo is a very vain bird,” said he. “I doubt if the oldest person in this town ever saw a hoodoo. I never have myself. It is a bird about as large as a small hen, of a pretty pink color, with three long and two short tail feathers, and a tufted head; but the queerest thing about it is, it is hindside before, and topsy-turvy, and every which way generally. The left wing of a hoodoo is where the right wing ought to be, and the right where the left ought to be; the tail feathers are where the head ought to be, and head where the tail ought to be; the feet and the head are topsy-turvy, so it has to tumble over and hop the wrong side up, and it has always to fly to the left when it wants to go to the right, and to go to the right when it wants to go to the left. Now, look up in the tree, Eunice, just at the right of that big bough; see the hoodoo's nest? See it shine?”
Eunice looked obediently, and that time she did see an indistinct something in the top of the tree, giving out a dull reflection from the afternoon sun.
“See it?” repeated Mr. Peter.
“Looks like gold, doesn't it? Well, maybe it is gold. No one will ever know. No one can ever get that hoodoo's nest; did you know that, Eunice?”
Mr. Peter's voice was very impressive. Eunice looked at him.
“Well, I'll tell you why,” said Mr. Peter. “Once I tried to get that hoodoo's nest, and I fell and broke my arm; and once Sam Brown tried, and he fell and put his shoulder out of joint; and once his brother Willy tried, and he came down with a fever next day. Nobody has ever tried to get that hoodoo's nest that something hasn't happened to him.”
Eunice look earnestly at Mr. Peter and laughed shyly. Her boundary-line between the real and ideal was more marked in the case of birds than of dolls.
Just then Mr. Peter's mother came to the south door to tell them that tea was ready. “What are you telling that child, Peter?” she asked.
“Only about the hoodoo's nest in the tree, mother,” replied Mr. Peter, quite seriously and innocently.
Mrs. Tucker looked up in the tree and laughed. “Oh, that old paint pail,” she said, “it has been up there ever since the house was painted one Spring twenty years ago. I never knew how it got there — I suppose one of the painters tossed it into the tree and it caught. The boys were always trying to climb the tree and get it. That was the way Peter broke his arm when he was ten years old. There isn't any such bird as a hoodoo, dear; now, come right in to tea. Sally has gone to call the others in from the garden.”
Eunice, as she passed the parlor door on her way to the dining-room, saw the Doll in her little rocking-chair, and she was dressed in her pink spangled tarlatan, and the wide smile had disappeared; she displayed, instead, her usual little, sweet, set pucker.
The tea was very nice, even sumptuous, according to the ideas of the guests. Only Caroline and her friends sat at the table; Mrs. Tucker thought they would enjoy their tea better by themselves. Miss Sally Tucker waited on them. Miss Sally was Doctor Tucker's sister, but she was very much younger. Indeed, she was scarcely older than Mr. Peter, and her ways were even more lively than his. She was very pretty and very smart; she could play on the piano and harp, and draw and paint, and make wax flowers, and do worsted work. The little girls admired her very much. Eunice thought that she was even more beautiful than Mrs. Tucker, and Miss Sally noticed her more than she did any of the others.
After tea Miss Sally took Eunice up to her room, and presented her with a beautiful little blue glass bottle filled with cologne. Eunice was delighted. She had never seen anything so pretty. Then Miss Sally smoothed back her hair and kissed her. “You are a darling,” said she. Then she hesitated. Eunice thought she was going to say something very particular, but she did not; she only laughed, and said she was not very much frightened when the doll changed her dress, was she? And when Eunice said, “No, ma'am,” kissed her again, and told her that she was the sweetest little thing in the world, Eunice smiled shyly up in the beautiful young lady's face, and felt very loving and grateful, though she was still much bewildered when she thought of the Doll.
When Eunice got home that night, she seemed so sober that her aunt Maria noticed it. Eunice's parents had died when she was a baby, and she had lived with her aunt ever since she could remember. Miss Maria Staples was a school-teacher and considered very strict. All the scholars stood in awe of her, Eunice as well as the rest, although the teacher was her own aunt. It was possible that Miss Staples was so afraid of being partial that she was even more strict with Eunice than with the others.
“What ails you, child?” she asked that night, after Eunice had read her chapter. Eunice was reading the Bible through, a chapter every night.
Eunice jumped. She had been sitting with her closed Bible on her knees, gazing straight ahead, her mouth drooping, her forehead knitted.
“Nothing, ma'am,” replied Eunice. She could not tell her aunt Maria about the Doll.
“Well, you had better go right to bed,” said her aunt Maria. She thought that Eunice must be tired, and that was why she looked so sober. Eunice went to bed, but she lay awake a long time thinking about the Doll, and wondering if she was crying, shut up in the closet in the Tucker spare chamber.
The next day the fall term of school began, and Eunice went in a clean pink calico dress and a blue gingham tie. All her friends who had been at the tea party were there, except Caroline Tucker. At the recess of the afternoon session Eunice heard some wonderful news about her.
“Only think, Caroline is going West to stay six months with her grandmother Whiting,” said Esther Green to the girls, who were eating the apples which they had brought from luncheon out in the playground.
They all stared. “Out West” had a tremendous sound in those times. Caroline Tucker's grandmother lived no further west than New York State, but that was a goodly distance in those days of stage coaches.
“Don't believe it,” said one, stoutly.
“Me, neither,” said another.
“It's so,” declared Esther Green. “Her mother told my mother. That's why she didn't come to school. Caroline, she ain't been very well lately, and her grandmother Whiting is all alone since Caroline's aunt Jane got married, and so she's sent for Caroline right away; the letter came this morning. Think the change will do Caroline good, and her grandmother's lonesome. There's a lady that lives where her grandmother does, out West, is going home from Boston day after to-morrow, and Caroline is going with her. Caroline is going in the stage to Boston to-morrow, so.” Esther Green gave a triumphant and conclusive nod. She was a stout girl with an obstinate chin, who did not like to be contradicted.
“My!” said a girl, drawing a long breath.
“I s'pose she'll take the Doll,” said Eunice Field. Eunice had not spoken before.
“Of course she will,” replied Esther Green; “it ain't likely she'd leave a doll like that at home.”
“Why, I don't believe there's a doll as big as that, with real hair, out West. Course she'll take it, Eunice Field.”
“Yes, I s'posed she would,” agreed Eunice, meekly. She reflected that she would stay home from out West all the days of her life, rather than go away and have such a doll as that shut up in a chest in the spare chamber for six months.
Caroline Tucker started on her travels at eight o'clock in the morning, in the stage coach, which in those days plied between the villages and Boston. At recess that forenoon, all her friends got together to discuss it, and then Eunice inquired of Esther Green, who had seen Caroline, what the Doll wore.
“She didn't carry the Doll,” replied Esther Green, with a slightly crestfallen air.
Eunice was never known to contradict any one, but this was an exception. “I don't believe it,” said she.
“Well, she didn't, so there, Eunice Field. I saw her start my own self, and she didn't carry the Doll.”
Eunice was incredulous for three days. Then, as she was going home from school one night she met Mr. Peter Tucker. He bowed gravely when she courtesied, and she had almost passed him when he sighed deeply, and she knew what was coming. “Oh,” said Mr. Peter, “you ought to hear that poor Doll-baby cry, now her mother has gone and she's shut up day and night in that chest; it's awful.”
Eunice cast such a pitiful, beseeching glance at Mr. Peter Tucker that his conscience smote him a little, but he only nodded with grave emphasis, and went on.
Eunice was so very sober that night that her aunt resolved to mix her up some sulphur and molasses, to take three mornings and skip three, and give it to her at once. She thought that she could not be well.
It so happened that the next day, after school, Eunice's aunt Maria sent her on an errand to Doctor Tucker's house. She was part way there when she met Mr. Peter Tucker, and Mrs. Tucker and Miss Sally were a little way behind him.
Mr. Peter had his fishing rod. He bowed to Eunice and sighed.
“She had a dreadful night,” he whispered, hurriedly, and then Mrs. Tucker and Miss Sally came up and spoke to Eunice. They wore their best bonnets and carried parasols and were going out to make calls.
“Were you going up to our house for that cape pattern for your aunt, my dear?” inquired Mrs. Tucker.
“Yes, ma'am,” replied Eunice.
“I thought you might be. Your aunt said she would send for it some night after school. Well, my dear, there isn't a soul in the house, but the key to the south door is under the mat. You unlock the door and go right in. You know where Caroline's chamber is, dear?”
“Well, you go right up there and you will see the patterns tied up with a pink tape on Caroline's bed. You must lock the door when you go out and put the key under the mat.”
“Yes, ma'am,” answered Eunice.
Eunice went on to Doctor Tucker's house. She found the key under the rush mat, unlocked the south door and entered. The house was still and echoed so that she stood hesitating at the foot of the stairs. Her heart beat hard, and she looked around fearfully. Then she shut her mouth tightly and ran upstairs as fast as she could go, as if she were fleeing from her own fear.
Caroline's chamber was a pretty little room, with white curtains, a white valanced bed and a white frilled dressing-table. The cape pattern tied with the pink tape lay on the bed.
Eunice took it and went out. She was at the head of the stairs, when she glanced in an open door on her right. It was the door of the spare chamber. Right opposite stood a beautiful carved oak chest, which might have come over in the Mayflower. Eunice stopped. She thought she heard. It was only her imagination, or the cry in her own ears of her own pitying, loving little heart; but she thought she heard.
Five minutes later the south door of Doctor Tucker's house was locked, the key was under the mat, and a little girl, with a great doll clasped fast to her bosom, was flying as for her life through the fields and gardens behind the houses on the east side of the village street, never stopping until she reached Miss Staples's little garden patch.
There was a tall asparagus bed in Miss Staples's garden, and in this, as in the green and feathery glens of a veritable doll's forest, Eunice hid the Doll. She caught a glimpse of her aunt Maria moving past the kitchen windows, preparing supper, and she determined to conceal the Doll in the asparagus bed until she could take her into the house without detection.
Aunt Maria was frying flap-jacks for supper; she was so busy turning a big brown one that she did not look around when Eunice entered the kitchen.
“I declare, I should think you had flown, you have been so quick; did you get the pattern?” said she.
“Yes, ma'am,” replied Eunice.
“Well, take it into the sitting-room, and then you can set the table for supper.”
Eunice's aunt never looked at her, she was so busy with the flap-jacks, until she sat opposite her at the tea-table. Then she laid down the knife and fork, with which she was raising a section of the pile of sugared and spiced flap-jacks, and stared at her.
“Eunice Field,” said she; “what ails you? Are you sick?”
“No, ma'am,” replied Eunice, faintly.
“Did you run going to Doctor Tucker's?”
“Did you run coming home?”
“Well, I thought you did. I wondered how you ever went so quick. How many times have I got to tell you not to run? You look all beat out. You eat your supper, and then you go straight to bed.”
Eunice was usually very fond of flap-jacks, but that night she had hard work to swallow a mouthful. After tea she went obediently to bed, though it was scarcely twilight.
That evening Aunt Maria cut out her cape from some brown ladies'-cloth, stealing every now and then to the foot of the stairs to listen to some restless movement on the part of Eunice, for she felt anxious about her. At nine o'clock she went to bed herself; at ten o'clock she was sound asleep, and the house was very dark and still.
Then it was that a little white figure crept stealthily out of the west chamber, and downstairs, feeling every step in the darkness, then through the kitchen and out the back door, after cautiously slipping the bolt.
Eunice had never been out-of-doors alone at night before, and the familiar garden seemed like a strange land to her. She sprang aside like a shying colt at a moonbeam athwart the potato patch; a white cat slunk across the path, and her heart stood still, but she went on to the asparagus bed, and caught up the Doll in her trembling little arms.
Then back she fled into the house, locked the door, and went upstairs in her own chamber and her own bed, and Aunt Maria had not stirred. Eunice's feet were icy cold; she trembled from head to foot, and she slept no more that night, but she held the Doll cuddled close and warm, released from the lonely prison in the chest in the spare chamber of the Tucker house. “Mr. Peter won't hear you cry to-night. You are safe now, you precious,” she whispered.
The next morning, long before Aunt Maria was stirring, at the first glimmer of dawn, Eunice was up. She tip-toed up the garret stairs with the Doll, and hid her away in a chest where Aunt Maria kept her winter bed-clothes. She kissed the Doll's pink face lovingly, before she closed the lid.
“Don't you be afraid; I'll take you out to-night,” she whispered.
Miss Maria Staples, during the next two weeks, had no idea of the double life which her little niece was leading; she worried considerably about her health, she looked so unnaturally grave and thoughtful, and even had a little tonic prepared for her by Doctor Tucker, but she did not dream of the true state of things. Every night, after her aunt was asleep, Eunice stole up the garret-stairs, in fear and trembling, for the garret was an awful place to be in at night. She was afraid of mice; she was afraid of the dark and all the intangible horrors which it might conceal, but she braved everything for the sake of the beloved Doll, who was lifted tenderly from the chest, carried down to her own bed, and cuddled in her arms until dawn. Sometimes, too, during the day, when Aunt Maria was away or busy, Eunice would steal up to the garret and comfort the Doll a little while in her loneliness.
So matters went on for two weeks; then Caroline Tucker came home. Eunice heard of it at school, the day afterward.
“Caroline has got home,” said Esther Green at recess, with the importance of a bearer of surprising news.
“Why, she hasn't been gone six months yet,” said another girl, wonderingly; and the rest crowded around to hear.
“Well, she's got home, anyhow,” said Esther Green. “My mother was in there last night and she saw her. Caroline had come home because there was scarlet fever in the neighborhood out West where her grandmother lives, and her grandmother's youngest son, Caroline's uncle Ephraim, died with it when he was a baby, and Caroline's aunt never had it. Her grandmother brought her home — why, Eunice Field, what is the matter with you?”
All the girls stared at Eunice, who was white, and trembling as if she had a chill.
“Have you got the toothache?” asked Esther Green.
Eunice shook her head and ran into the schoolroom. She sat down at her desk and leaned her head on it, and her aunt came to her and anxiously inquired, as Esther had done, what was the matter. Eunice only sobbed pitifully in such a weak, convulsive way that Miss Staples was terrified. She called in the girls and questioned them, but they did not know what ailed Eunice. Finally Aunt Maria sent her home, giving her the house-key.
“You take this, and run right straight home,” said she, “and you lie down on the sitting-room lounge and keep quiet, till I get home.”
Aunt Maria made up her mind to call in the doctor after school as she watched the miserable, trembling little figure creep out of the schoolhouse yard. Eunice went home — most of the way kept her arm in its blue gingham sleeve crooked over her face. Just as she reached her own gate, Mr. Peter Tucker overtook her. He bent his head low as he came near her.
“That poor Doll-baby had a dreadful —” he began, then he fairly jumped at the look which Eunice gave him. It was at once grieved and reproachful, terrified and accusing. Suddenly Eunice saw through Mr. Peter.
“No, she didn't,” she cried; “you didn't hear her cry last night. You tell fibs —” with that Eunice was inside her own gate and Mr. Peter was standing, staring after her. He walked on a little way, then he returned and paused before the gate, as if he had a mind to enter, then he strolled slowly past.
Presently Eunice came hurriedly out of the house, and she carried the Doll in her arms. Straight out of the gate and up the street she went, without a turn to the right or left. The flaxen head and pink face of the Doll showed over her shoulder as she marched along. Mr. Peter followed.
Eunice kept on until she reached the Tucker house. She went up to the south door and knocked, and some one opened it before Mr. Peter entered the yard. When he opened the door, a moment later, he heard a shrill, clear, childish voice, from the parlor. He went in, and there sat Mrs. Tucker, and Miss Sallie Tucker, Grandmother Whiting, and Caroline with her unfinished black silk apron in her lap, and there stood Eunice holding the Doll, and speaking very fast.
“I took her,” said Eunice. “He —” and she looked at Mr. Peter — “told me she changed her dress, and smiled, and how she cried nights. He told me how dreadful she cried nights after Caroline went. He said he heard her last night. He didn't. He tells fibs. I had her. I took her — I came for Aunt Maria's pattern, and I saw the chest where she was, and — I — I thought I heard her, and I — took her to sleep with me while Caroline was gone, and now I've brought her back.”
Grandmother Whiting was a large, fair-faced old lady, in black bombazine and a white lace kerchief and white lace cap. The first thing that Eunice knew she and the Doll were both gathered into her wide, soft embrace.
“You poor little puppet,” said Grandmother Whiting, “the Doll-baby don't cry; doll-babies don't ever cry, bless your little heart.” Grandmother Whiting choked a little as she spoke. “I don't see what the child means by the Doll's changing her dress and smiling,” she said in an anxious aside to Mrs. Tucker. “She isn't out of her head, is she?”
Miss Sally Tucker came swiftly across the room and knelt in a swirl of pink flounces beside Grandmother Whiting. She got hold of Eunice's little hand and kissed it penitently.
“It was a shame,” she said, tearfully. “Peter put me up to it, but I was as much to blame as he.”
Then Miss Sally confessed how she had aided Mr. Peter to play upon poor Eunice's credulity, and had hidden herself behind the screen in the afternoon of the tea-party, and while Mr. Peter diverted Eunice's attention, had changed the Doll's dress and widened her smile by drawing a tiny upward line of carmine at each corner of her mouth. “I was afraid I could not get it off and had spoiled Caroline's Doll, but I did,” faltered Miss Sally. “I never thought the dear child would take it the way she did. I wanted to tell her all about it, but Peter thought it would spoil the joke.”
“I don't call it a joke,” Mrs. Tucker said, quite severely.
“All I can say is, I am sorry, mother,” Mr. Peter said, soberly. “I had no idea of the child's taking it so to heart. I thought she was too old to really believe it. I've kept it up ever since, for every time I have met the poor little thing I have told her how that Doll was taking on nights.”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Peter Tucker,” said Grandmother Whiting.
“I am, grandmother,” returned Mr. Peter, ruefully.
“Now,” said Grandmother Whiting to Caroline, who had let her black silk apron slip to the floor, and sat staring in utter bewilderment at everybody and her Doll, of which she had not thought since her return, but which she certainly had supposed to be safe in the chest in the spare chamber, “I want you to do an errand. You go upstairs to my chamber, and you open the drawer in my table and you'll find a paper of peppermints. You bring them down.”
“There, there, poor little soul!” said she to Eunice, who was crying softly in her friendly bosom, “don't you think any more about it. Grandma's going to give you some nice peppermints.”
Miss Maria Staples hastened home from school — she was so anxious about Eunice — and found Mrs. Tucker watching for her in her front parlor. Eunice was out in the sitting-room on the lounge, where Mrs. Tucker had bade her lie quietly, and she heard for some time a hum of voices in the parlor. Finally the front door shut, and her aunt came into the sitting-room. She stooped over Eunice, smoothed her hair, and kissed her. “You did very wrong to deceive me, and make so free with other folk's belongings,” said she. “You mustn't ever do such a thing again, and you mustn't be so silly, and believe such silly things. You're getting to be a big girl now.” Then Aunt Maria kissed Eunice again.
It was a week after that, when one evening, as Eunice was reading her chapter and Aunt Maria was sewing, Mr. Peter Tucker knocked. When Eunice opened the door he entered, bearing a strange burden for a young man in Harvard. He carried the Doll becomingly attired in a traveling costume of red cloak and white hat with blue ribbons. He also carried the Doll's wardrobe in a little trunk. Mr. Peter made a low bow and stated his errand at once.
“I have bought a new doll for my sister which she is pleased to prefer to her old one,” said he. “She does not feel able to care for two such children and finish her black silk apron, and therefore I have come to beg Miss Eunice to accept the Doll-baby, of which she took such loving care during her mother's absence.”