From Peterson Magazine Vol. VII No. 12 (December, 1897)
Grover and Berryville were only twenty miles apart, but there was no railroad.
When Charlotte Ellen Beals, who lived in Grover, went to visit Aunt Lizy Martin and Mary Jane, in Berryville, she traveled in a stage coach.
Charlotte Ellen's mother and her Aunt Eunice went out to the stage coach with her, when it stopped before the house, the morning she started. Aunt Eunice carried the bandbox, which was very large and covered with blue and white wall paper. Charlotte Ellen had pleaded to be allowed to use the valise, but her mother had been resolved upon the bandbox. “The bandbox is lighter, and holds just as much,” said she; “then there's another thing — your Aunt Lizy hasn't got any valise. The last time she was here she carried a bandbox, and I don't want her feelings hurt.”
“She might feel it,” assented Aunt Eunice.
“They don't have things in Berryville as they do in Grover. It makes such a difference about a place being on a railroad.”
So Charlotte Ellen's dotted muslin dress and her pink gingham were packed in the bandbox.
“Now, mind you are a good girl,” admonished Charlotte Ellen's mother at the stage door.
“And give in to Mary Jane,” said Aunt Eunice.
“And mind Aunt Lizy,” said her mother, “and don't tell about things in Grover as if they were any better than they are in Berryville. Lizy was always dreadful sensitive.”
“Yes, she was,” assented Aunt Eunice.
“You must look out not to hurt her feelings, or Mary Jane's,” said her mother. “Don't act as if anything you've got is any better than Mary Jane's, and if you don't like anything Aunt Lizy cooks, don't show it. Eat what's set before you, whether you like it or not. If there's anything Lizy is sensitive about, it's her victuals. She tries hard, and she's always dreadful afraid she hasn't got things as nice as folks are used to at home. Remember, Charlotte Ellen.”
“Yes, ma'am,” replied Charlotte Ellen.
When the good-byes and the parting counsels were over, and the stage coach was bouncing and swaying down the road, she felt rather timid and forlorn. She had never taken a journey alone before. Charlotte Ellen's feet did not touch the floor; she clung to a strap with one hand to steady herself, with the other she held the bandbox on the seat beside her. After all, the bandbox was more in keeping with the old stage coach than the valise would have been. Charlotte Ellen's little face, with its high forehead and serious wondering blue eyes, was the only one which looked out of the stage that morning until five miles of the route had been traversed. Then a very old man and his old daughter got in. The old man was stout and very feeble, and had to be pushed in by the stage driver and pulled in by his daughter.
Charlotte Ellen caught up her bandbox in great haste, and the old man settled heavily into the seat beside her. Then the daughter, who also was very stout, with hard lines of black hair over a worried forehead, looked sharply at Charlotte Ellen, who felt guilty without knowing why.
“Ain't your mother brought you up to have manners?” the woman inquired, in a stern voice.
Charlotte Ellen looked at her with scared and bewildered eyes.
“Why don't you speak, when you're spoken to?” said the woman.
“Yes, ma'am,” Charlotte Ellen answered, in a faint voice.
“Why don't you get up then, and set back to the horses when you see other folks that's older gettin' in?” demanded the woman, conclusively.
Charlotte Ellen started up and retreated into a corner of the opposite seat. She felt terribly crestfallen and ashamed. She held the blue and white bandbox on her lap, though she was almost hidden behind it, feeling fearful that the woman might not think it manners if she placed it on the seat beside her. Charlotte Ellen had some luncheon in a little basket, but she did not venture to eat it because her fellow passengers had none, and she did not know if it would be polite to offer them some of hers or not.
The stout woman fanned herself with a palm leaf fan, for it was a very warm day. With every wave of the fan Charlotte Ellen perceived a curious odor of camphor and clove apple, with which the woman's best black silk shawl had been confined in a bureau drawer. The old man went to sleep; now and then, when he nodded too hard, his daughter nudged him. The stage stopped for the two to get out at Jessop's Corner, a little settlement about three miles from Berryville. Charlotte Ellen was very glad.
When the stage started again she set the bandbox on the seat beside her and opened her luncheon basket; she was very hungry. She had not eaten much breakfast. By the time she had finished eating the stage coach was jolting into Berryville, and up to the store, and there stood Mary Jane, who had come to meet her. Mary Jane stood on the store steps and saw Charlotte Ellen in the stage, but she never said a word, nor smiled, until her guest alighted. Then she advanced shyly with blushes mounting high on her cheeks.
“Hullo,” said she.
“Hullo,” said Charlotte Ellen, decorously. Then they stood looking at each other for a moment.
Mary Jane was only a year older than Charlotte Ellen, but she shot up head and shoulders above her. She had a round, rather pretty face which looked out from a shaker bonnet with a green cape. She wore a very bright pink calico skirt, and a linen sacque hanging loosely in the back, stout, low shoes, and white stockings.
“I s'pose we might as well be going,” said she, finally.
“I am ready when you are,” replied Charlotte Ellen, precisely.
Then they started. There was no sidewalk, and they went in the middle of the road.
“Ain't your bandbox pretty heavy?” Mary Jane asked timidly.
“Not so very.”
“Don't you want me to take hold with you?”
“No, I guess not.”
“I'd just as lives as not.”
“Yes, want me to?”
“I don't care, if you'd just as lives.”
Mary Jane grasped one side of the tape which tied the bandbox.
The road was up hill.
“How far is it?” Charlotte Ellen inquired presently. She had not been to Berryville since she was a very little girl.
“Oh, it ain't very far — you see that hill?”
“Well, you go up that hill, and you go along a ways, and you come to another little hill, but it's dreadful steep. Then you go up that hill and you pass Mr. Carter's, and Mr. Jackson's, and an old barn, and then you come to our house.”
Mary Jane kept eyeing Charlotte Ellen as she walked beside her. She noted anxiously her pretty checkered dress, her leghorn hat, and her trim black stockings.
“Do they wear black stockings in Grover?” she asked.
“Yes, don't they wear them here?”
“Not much — Maria Baker has got some. Don't they wear white stockings where you live?”
Charlotte Ellen hesitated. “I guess so, some,” said she. She was afraid of hurting Mary Jane's feelings. “I think white stockings look real nice,” she added.
“I think they look neat,” rejoined Mary Jane, with dignity.
When they had reached the top of the steep hill, Mary Jane inquired if Charlotte Ellen liked butternuts, then, if she liked maple sugar, then, if she liked pie. Charlotte Ellen replied yes to all three questions.
“Mother made nine kinds of pie yesterday,” said Mary Jane.
“Yes, she did. Mother makes splendid pies. Everybody says so. She makes the best pies of anybody round. She took the prize at a fair.”
“I don't see how she could make so many kinds of pie as that,” said Charlotte Ellen, wonderingly.
“Easy 'nough,” replied Mary Jane. “There's apple pie, that's one, and squash, that's two, and mince, that's three, and cranberry's four, and lemon's five, and rhubarb's six, and currant's seven, and raspberry's eight, and custard's nine.”
Charlotte Ellen looked at Mary Jane with awe.
The way home was not so long as it had seemed from Mary Jane's description. They arrived there in about twenty minutes, and Mary Jane's mother, Aunt Lizy Martin, stood in the doorway watching for them. She was not really Charlotte Ellen's aunt, being her mother's second cousin, but she was always called Aunt Lizy.
She seemed to fairly fill the doorway with loving and hearty welcome. She was a very large, sweet-faced woman, in a purple muslin dress and a wide, white apron. She wore a string of gold beads around her neck, instead of a collar.
Aunt Lizy beamed upon Charlotte Ellen like a mild and affectionate moon. “The blessed child,” she cried, “she did come to see Aunt Lizy, didn't she? Come right in.”
Charlotte Ellen felt as if she were taken up bodily in her large, soft embrace, and borne into the house.
“Sit right down in the rocking-chair,” said Aunt Lizy. “Mary Jane, you take her things.”
Charlotte Ellen sat, politely and shyly, her feet dangling from the big rocking-chair, while Aunt Lizy inquired about her father's and mother's and her Aunt Eunice's health.
Mary Jane went to her mother, and whispered mysteriously in her ear. “Oh, I don't care, child,” Aunt Lizy said. “I guess it's time. Young folks get hungry pretty often.”
Mary Jane went out with alacrity, and straightway Charlotte Ellen heard a clinking of plates in the next room.
Soon Mary Jane returned. She bore, with an air of smiling importance, a large plate containing two pieces of pie, one of apple and one of mince, a little heap of butternut-meats, and a scalloped cake of maple sugar. She advanced toward Charlotte Ellen, and extended the plate without a word.
Charlotte Ellen took it and thanked her politely.
“I thought maybe you'd feel kind of faint,” remarked Aunt Lizy. “I think folks are apt to after riding in the stage-coach.”
She and Mary Jane sat by and watched Charlotte Ellen eat — Aunt Lizy with motherly complacency, and Mary Jane with interest tempered by a touch of anxiety.
She was afraid Charlotte Ellen would not do justice to the luncheon, or show her appreciation of its general sumptuousness.
Mary Jane had cracked those butternuts, and picked out the meats with a two-tined fork. She was conscious herself that it was an exceedingly delicate attention to her guest.
Charlotte Ellen was not hungry — it was such a little time since she had eaten her luncheon in the stage-coach, but she remembered her mother's parting injunction. She ate everything but a little of the maple sugar, and Mary Jane felt gratified.
“Dear child! went right to the spot, didn't it?” said Aunt Lizy. “She was real hungry after her journey, wasn't she? Now I think she had better lie right down here on the sofa, and have a little nap. Mary Jane, you get a pillow out of the bedroom.”
Charlotte Ellen was not sleepy, but she lay down obediently. There was in Aunt Lizy's character such a strong overflow of kindness that it almost amounted to tyranny, and people quite generally did what she planned they should do.
Charlotte Ellen lay upon the sofa, and stared patiently at the engraving of the Declaration of Independence, one of Daniel Webster, a worsted motto, and the satin scrolled wall paper, for an hour. Then Mary Jane came tiptoeing in to see if she was awake, for supper was ready.
There was only Aunt Lizy and the two little girls to sit down to the supper table. Mary Jane's father had died when she was a baby, and she and her mother comprised the family. Aunt Lizy's company china was on the table, and a very nice supper. There were hot cream of tartar biscuits, maple syrup, three kinds of pie, and two kinds of cake, besides sugar gingerbread and doughnuts. There were also cup custards.
Charlotte Ellen was not as hungry for the supper as she had been for the luncheon, but she remembered what her mother had said. After supper she and Mary Jane played checkers, and Mary Jane let her win. Charlotte Ellen felt dishonest and distressed, though she said nothing. She never liked anyone to let her win, but that was Mary Jane's way of being polite to company. She would have considered it a great breach of hospitality had she won the game herself, and she let all her kings be jumped, though it went to her heart.
Charlotte Ellen had the spare bedroom out of the parlor for her apartment. Mary Jane and Aunt Lizy slept in another little bedroom out of the sitting room, and all the doors between were left open so Charlotte Ellen would not be afraid.
It seemed to her that it was in the middle of the night when she woke and smelled breakfast, but it was only very early in the morning, and scarcely daybreak. Aunt Lizy had been an early riser all her life.
Charlotte Ellen could hear her and Mary Jane stepping about in the kitchen, and the sizzling of something over the fire, so she got up and dressed herself.
“Bless her little heart!” cried Aunt Lizy when she appeared, “she was hungry and smelled the breakfast cooking, didn't she?”
She was bidden to sit in the calico-covered rocking chair, while the breakfast preparations went on. There were some eggs with salt pork frying in a pan on the stove, and Aunt Lizy kept peeping into the oven at baking biscuits. On the table were more pies. Up here, in the heart of the country, there was very little fresh meat to be had at this season of the year; salt pork, eggs, and an occasional fowl had to serve instead. The fare at Aunt Lizy's resolved itself into pork, eggs, hot biscuits, summer vegetables in the middle of the day, and cake and pie always.
Breakfast was so early that Aunt Lizy judged a luncheon before noon to be necessary, and there was always a luncheon at three o'clock in the afternoon. All the nine kinds of pie began to threaten Charlotte Ellen like a nine-headed dragon, with the devouring process reversed. She had always liked maple sugar, but now she began to loathe it, and she hated to hear Mary Jane laboriously cracking butternuts on a flat stone out in the yard, but she always remembered what her mother and her Aunt Eunice had said to her.
Charlotte Ellen was naturally a very quiet little girl; now she became more so. She talked little, she seldom laughed, though she smiled a sweet, obedient smile when spoken to. She had brought her fancy work — a silk patchwork sofa pillow. She sat soberly by a window and made silk patchwork from morning until night, unless bidden directly to do something else. Sometimes Aunt Lizy sent her out of doors with Mary Jane.
“I'm afraid she'll get sick, sitting, sewing on that patchwork so steady,” Aunt Lizy told Mrs. Loomis, one of the neighbors, who came in one afternoon.
“I should make her go out of doors,” said Mrs. Loomis. “She looks dreadful pindlin'.”
“I know she does,” returned Aunt Lizy, “and I can't understand why, unless it is sitting sewing so steady. She eats well — she's got a better appetite than Mary Jane — seems as hungry as a bear all the time.”
“Well, I should make her put up that patchwork, and go out of doors,” repeated the neighbor, and Aunt Lizy followed her advice. She sent Charlotte Ellen and Mary Jane berrying, and gave them a luncheon of bread and butter and pie, so that they could remain all day in the pasture lands fragrant with sweet fern and wild honeysuckle.
She planned a picnic to a beautiful pine grove three miles distant. She baked all one day to fill the luncheon baskets, and got Mr. Loomis to drive them to the grove in his covered wagon, and they stayed there until sunset; she thought that must do Charlotte Ellen good. She got Mr. Loomis to put up a swing between the maples in the north yard and charged Mary Jane to swing Charlotte Ellen, and not expect to be swung in turn. Aunt Lizy did everything she could think of to bring the rosy color back to Charlotte Ellen's cheeks, and the cheerful light to her eyes.
“I can't bear to send her home looking so,” she told Mrs. Loomis, “I don't know what her mother will say. She don't begin to look as well as she did when she came.”
Poor Charlotte Ellen had many trials which robbed her of her rosy cheeks and cheerful looks, which Aunt Lizy never dreamed of. One very severe one began the second night of her stay in Berryville. It might have begun the first night, had she not been so sleepy after her journey. On that second night Charlotte Ellen had just fallen asleep, when something made her wake with a start, but the start quieted whatever had awakened her. She lay still, her heart beating hard, then it came again, and she jumped, and it stopped again.
Charlotte Ellen was panic-stricken. She was so frightened that her breath came in little gasps. There was certainly in the bed something that scampered and rustled under her, until she moved and frightened it. Charlotte Ellen waited again, it came again. She kicked hard with her two little feet and it stopped. Suddenly Charlotte Ellen, as if by a flash of inspiration, divined what it was — mice in the straw bed! There was a straw bed underneath the feather bed on which she lay, and a mouse had a nest there.
Charlotte Ellen's discovery did not lessen her terror. She was horribly afraid of mice. All night long she lay there, kicking frantically when the mice began to stir, and never once spoke. She did not dare call to Aunt Lizy. She remembered how easily her feelings were hurt, and it seemed to her truly an awful and a disgraceful thing to have mice in the spare bedroom.
She could not tell her. After that poor Charlotte Ellen dreaded bedtime unspeakably, and they kept early hours at Aunt Lizy's, too. She begged to sit up until Aunt Lizy began to wonder if late hours at home had not made her delicate. When she was in bed and the light out her tormentors began.
Charlotte Ellen always kept her stockings on, lest the mice nibble her toes, and she kicked at intervals all night. She could get nothing but cat naps before the mice awakened her, and she had to kick to quiet them. She had to use caution about that, too, lest she waken Aunt Lizy and Mary Jane.
Once she heard Aunt Lizy in the other bedroom say to Mary Jane: “How that child does thrash.”
Charlotte Ellen grew more and more homesick, but she could not speak of going home, for she had come to spend a month, and she was afraid of hurting Aunt Lizy's feelings if she proposed to shorten her visit. She said nothing, only every day grew thinner, and paler, and more sober.
“Something's got to be done,” Aunt Lizy told Mrs. Loomis, when Charlotte Ellen had been there nearly three weeks. “I never saw a child run down so in my life. I shall have to send for her mother, or send her home, but I declare I hate to. It'll frighten her mother most to death if I send word she's poorly, and I'm afraid she'll think I haven't taken care of her.”
“I know what I'd do,” said Mrs. Loomis, who was a small, wiry, imperious woman.
“I'd send her and Mary Jane to Grandma Dix's to spend a week, and see if that won't make her pick up.”
“I declare I might,” said Aunt Lizy. “They always called it very healthy on the hill, and mother is a splendid nurse, most as good as a doctor: I declare I believe that is a good plan, Mrs. Loomis.”
Charlotte Ellen brightened wonderfully when the visit to Grandma Dix was proposed. “How young folks do like a change, and something new,” thought Aunt Lizy. She could not help feeling a little sad, because Charlotte Ellen was so ready to leave her when she had tried so hard to make her happy, but she did not know about the mice.
Grandma Dix, who was Aunt Lizy's mother, lived in a large old house on a breezy hill, about five and a half miles from Berryville. Mr. Loomis took the little girls over there in his covered wagon. They started early, so as not to be on the road during the hottest part of the day. Charlotte Ellen looked quite happy when she climbed into the wagon, with her blue and white bandbox, and she seemed cheerful all the way. There was quite a color in her cheeks when Grandma Dix met her at the door, and gathered her into a large, soft embrace, very much as Aunt Lizy had done.
Grandma Dix looked as Aunt Lizy would twenty years hence, being a large, fair-faced old lady, in a short-waisted, black gown, and she spoke like her. “Bless their hearts, here they are!” she cried, and Charlotte Ellen almost thought she was Aunt Lizy.
Grandma Dix lived all alone except for another old woman, a distant relative, who had been with her ever since they were both girls. The house was a fine, large, old-fashioned one, and there was a beautiful old garden on the south side.
Grandma Dix sent Charlotte Ellen and Mary Jane out to play in the garden.
“You can pick all the flowers you want to,” said she. Charlotte Ellen went out happily enough. “That child doesn't look so very poorly, after all. I guess Lizy got scared,” Grandma Dix told the other old woman who lived with her — her name was Lydia Crabb.
“Lizy always was dreadfully scared if anybody eat a crumb less for supper than they did for dinner,” rejoined Lydia Crabb.
However, when Charlotte Ellen came in from the garden, though her hands were full of bachelor's buttons and pinks, she was very sober, and all her smiles and roses had fled. She ate very little dinner, and afterward Grandma Dix sent her into the cool parlor to lie down on the sofa and take a nap.
“I don't know but she does look rather peaked after all,” she told Lydia Crabb.
“She looks as if she was worried about something,” said Lydia Crabb.
When Charlotte Ellen got up, Grandma Dix gave her a glass of blackberry wine.
“There,” she said, “drink that, child, and then go and sit down on the north door step with Mary Jane.” Charlotte Ellen obeyed, but she was very quiet. Grandma Dix and Lydia Crabb, listening, heard Mary Jane's voice often, but seldom Charlotte Ellen's.
Grandma Dix sent both the girls to bed very soon after supper. “I declare,” she confided to Lydia Crabb, “I do begin to be anxious about that child. I don't like her looking so dreadful sober. If she was older, I should say she had something on her mind.”
“Sometimes children have things on their mind,” returned Lydia Crabb, who had the name of being a very bright old woman. She had taught school when she was young.
“Of course they do,” assented Grandma Dix, “but that little innocent Charlotte Ellen, what could she have on her mind, I'd like to know?”
“Little things weigh heavy on little minds,” said Lydia Crabb.
“Well, we'll wait and see how she seems after a good night's rest,” said Grandma Dix.
But the good night's rest was exactly what poor Charlotte Ellen failed to get.
It was a very hot night, the hottest of the season. Grandma Dix thought best for Mary Jane to sleep with Charlotte Ellen, who might be timid in a strange place, and she put them in her best northwest chamber, in her best feather bed.
Grandma Dix and Lydia Crabb were both somewhat lame, so neither of them went upstairs with the little girls.
“You know the way, Mary Jane,” said her grandmother. “You be careful, and don't set the candle near the curtains and blow it out when you are done with it. Go right to bed, and to sleep, and don't talk. Don't let me hear a word from either of you, mind.”
“Yes, ma'am,” said Mary Jane.
The chamber seemed very warm when they entered it: the windows were all shut.
“Don't you suppose we can open the windows?” asked Charlotte Ellen.
“I don't know whether Grandma Dix would want us to or not,” replied Mary Jane, who had very little moral decisiveness.
“Do you suppose she would care?”
“I don't know. I'm kind of afraid she would,” said Mary Jane.
So the windows were left shut.
Mary Jane climbed first into the great feather bed, and Charlotte Ellen after her. There were two blankets, two comfortables, and a rising-sun quilt for coverings.
“Do you suppose your Grandma Dix would care if we took some off?” ventured Charlotte Ellen.
“I don't know,” replied Mary Jane, doubtfully.
“Do you suppose she would?”
“I'm kind of afraid she might. This is the way she has the bed made up for company.”
So all the coverlids remained.
Mary Jane had not so sensitive a nervous organization as Charlotte Ellen. She slept soundly, though she sweltered in the heat; but poor little Charlotte Ellen did not sleep at all, and the next morning her head ached so badly that she could not get up.
“For the land sakes, this room is just like an oven!” Grandma Dix cried, when she came upstairs, after Mary Jane had told her that Charlotte Ellen was sick. “Why haven't you got the windows open? And you haven't slept under all those clothes?”
“I didn't know as you would want us to open the windows, and take off any of the clothes,” said Mary Jane, apologetically.
“I shouldn't think you were bright,” returned Grandma Dix, severely. “Open that north window, this minute.”
Charlotte Ellen's face was flushed and her head ached terribly. It felt better when it had been bathed in saleratus and water, and she went down stairs to the cool parlor; still she was far from seeming well. Mary Jane sat down beside her with the Pictorial Bible, and they looked at the pictures, but she appeared very sad and uninterested.
“That poor child does look so sober, it's enough to make you cry. She'll be down sick if this keeps on,” Grandma Dix told Lydia Crabb.
“She's got something on her mind,” said Lydia Crabb decidedly.
“I begin to think she has,” replied Grandma Dix.
“You had better send for her mother, she won't tell anyone else, and she'll be sick if she don't tell someone,” said Lydia Crabb.
“I do hate to send for her, it will scare her so,” Grandma Dix said.
However, before three days were over, Charlotte Ellen's mother came and Aunt Eunice, too, riding over from Berryville with Aunt Lizy, in Mr. Loomis's covered wagon.
Aunt Lizy wept all the way. “I did the best I could by her,” she sobbed. “I did the very best I knew how, just as I would have had you done by my Mary Jane.”
“Of course you did, Lizy,” said Mrs. Beals, but she wept, too, and so did Aunt Eunice. Grandma Dix had tried to word the message in such a way that it would not alarm them, but they were alarmed.
When they reached the house on the hill, Grandma Dix met them at the door.
“How — is she?” panted Charlotte Ellen's mother, who could scarcely speak.
“Now, don't you be scared!” cried Grandma Dix; “she ain't dreadful sick, she ain't abed. She's sitting on the north door step. She's kind of pindling, that's all. She don't sleep, and she looks as if something worried her. Lydia Crabb says she's got something on her mind.”
“Something on her mind?” gasped Aunt Eunice.
Charlotte Ellen's mother stared wildly at Grandma Dix. “What — has — she — been — doing?” she said, in a faint whisper.
“Land sakes, I guess she hasn't been doing anything so very dreadful!” returned Grandma Dix, “but I thought if there was anything on her mind that she was fretting over it might make her sick, and Lydia Crabb said she'd tell her mother better than anybody, and she didn't seem able to travel to Grover alone, so I thought I'd send for you. That's all. Now, you'd better go right through the house and see her. She don't know you are coming.”
Grandma Dix had not finished speaking before Charlotte Ellen's mother was running through the house, with Aunt Eunice and Aunt Lizy at her heels.
Charlotte Ellen was sitting all alone on the north door step, her melancholy head on her hand, like an old woman. She looked up suddenly, and there was her mother.
“Oh, mother!” she gasped. “Oh, mother!” Then she began sobbing hysterically, while her mother led her into the parlor and seated her on the sofa beside her.
“Now Charlotte Ellen Beals,” said she, in a voice which she tried hard to make firm and strong, “you tell me right off what the matter is.”
Charlotte Ellen sobbed.
“Are you sick?”
“No — ma'am.”
“Is anything troubling you?”
Charlotte Ellen nodded, with a great sob.
“Have you done something wrong?”
Charlotte Ellen nodded, catching her breath convulsively.
“Tell mother, then, all about it, and don't be afraid. Mother won't say one word to blame you, if you're sorry.”
Charlotte Ellen hesitated.
“Tell me right away,” said her mother.
“I — I — threw the pie out of — the window!” cried Charlotte Ellen, with a wild outburst of grief.
“What?” exclaimed her mother.
“The child's out of her head,” said Grandma Dix, while Aunt Eunice clutched Aunt Lizy's arm so hard that she hurt her.
“I did, I did,” sobbed Charlotte Ellen. “I — couldn't eat — all the pie, nor all — the maple sugar, nor — the butternuts; so every chance I — got, when — they weren't looking — I — threw them out of — the window, I couldn't — eat — all, and you said Aunt Lizy was — sensitive, and I — mustn't hurt her — feelings. I threw lots out of the window, and — they thought I'd eaten it, when I — hadn't.”
“For the land sake!” cried Aunt Lizy, “what window, child?”
“My — bedroom — window, and — that ain't all.”
“What else, tell me quick,” said Charlotte Ellen's mother, who was half laughing and half crying.
“There's — there's mice in the bed I slept in at Aunt Lizy's.”
“What!” screamed Aunt Lizy.
“There's mice in the bed, and she asked me if I slept well, and I said I did, and told a lie,” said Charlotte Ellen.
“For the land sake!” cried Aunt Lizy, “mice in my bed, you poor child!”
“I've known it to happen; they got in a straw bed of my mother's when I was a girl,” said Lydia Crabb.
“For the land sake!” cried Aunt Lizy again. Suddenly she began to laugh, and laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks. “Oh,” she said, “to think of that poor child throwing that pie out of the window because she couldn't eat it, when I had been telling Mrs. Loomis that I didn't know but one thing that ailed her was eating too much pie, but she seemed to relish it so. I didn't like to say anything for fear she'd think I didn't want her to have it. And I didn't know but she was eating too many butternuts, and Mary Jane got tired of cracking them, but I told her she must.”
Aunt Lizy went over to Charlotte Ellen, and kissed the little wet, hot face on her mother's shoulder. “There, you poor child,” said she, “don't you think any more about it, but I'll tell you one thing for your future good. It doesn't pay to go too katty-cornered to the truth to save folks' feelings, especially if they think as much of you, as your Aunt Lizy.”