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قراءة كتاب Little Folks A Magazine for the Young (Date of issue unknown)

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‏اللغة: English
Little Folks
A Magazine for the Young (Date of issue unknown)

Little Folks A Magazine for the Young (Date of issue unknown)

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 2

shouldn't be long if it was fine, but if 'twas wet we might have to wait up in places. I must sit down an' see if I can find out the way to go from the map."

"We shan't be to school in time," Duncan protested.

"Well, an' I dunno that I care," Elsie replied. "What's the odds o' one afternoon more or less? It'll be many a day I shall be called truant, I reckon. But they might be after tellin' of us, an' she'd be lockin' me up in the loft, which isn't what I want, so we'll get to school to-day," she added, meditatively. "Here, take the basket, while I try to make the map out as we walk along."

Now, Elsie had a great many faults indeed, but there was one thing you may have noticed about her that had something of a good point about it: it never occurred to her to desert Duncan. She might have said, "You run on to the shop with the beans while I study the map," for Duncan knew his way well enough; but the little fellow had ever depended upon her, and been her inseparable companion. She would guide him into stray paths, but it would never occur to her to forsake him, or withdraw from him the protection of her fearless, daring spirit. One good point, however small and obscure it is, may be taken as a proof that there is some good soil in the nature which has developed it where other similar plants may flourish. We have room to hope, therefore, that Elsie was not without her better side.

"It don't look far," Elsie said, meditatively, tracing the space with her finger on the map, which was a small one, and to the inexperienced eyes that were studying it reduced distance to a mere nothing. "Here's London printed very big. It's a goodish way down, is London, gettin' on to the end of England, only England's a very little place, accordin' to the map. Any way, it wouldn't be so very long, for that old guide they've got at home with the map in it makes this road look just about six times as long as it is."

"You're quite sure we're goin' to run away?" Duncan asked, rather dolefully.

"I won't say whether it'll be walkin' or runnin', but I'm quite sure I shall go," Elsie replied.

"I think they'll cry when they can't find us," Duncan said, meditatively.

"Poor bodies! if they cry it'll be with rage to think we're gone," Elsie said contemptuously. "I just wonder if they'll guess then I've got the letter, an' that I've found out all about it. I'm no silly like you, Duncan, or I'd never have made head or tail of it; and then, what 'ud become of us when we're big?"

"We shan't be hungry, or tired, or anything bad, shall we?" asked the matter-of-fact Duncan.

Elsie's mind had passed over the trivial matter of the journey, and all such minor details, to the grand result, when she had found their father, and would be living with him in a beautiful place, with all that heart could desire. But Duncan's imagination could put on no such seven-league boots. It stuck fast at the first disagreeable details, and was not even rewarded by the prospect which so delighted Elsie, for his mind could not picture any other life than his present one.

"And what would you be the worse for a wee bit of hunger or tiredness? Ain't we often that? I'm hungry now without any dinner, an' you'll be fit to eat your head before you get your tea," said Elsie.

"Only, we shall get it," Duncan replied, in his provokingly straight way. "If we was long on the road, where'd we get anything at all?"

"I've pennies in my box, an' so have you," Elsie replied impatiently. "A loaf an' a drop o' milk'll be all we want."

"Oh, yes, it'll do very well on the road. There'll be shops, of course."

"Of course there will. Runnin' away isn't bad. I'd almost like to do it just for the fun. Lots o' the books teacher's lent me out o' the school library has got runnin' away in them. Sometimes they get into troubles, and all sorts o' queer things happen, but it always comes right in the end. I've noticed that particular."

They were near the village shop now, and as Duncan had no reply to make, they went on without further conversation till they reached it. "We had to bring you these instead o' takin' our dinners," Elsie grumbled.

"Dear, dear! poor little bodies!" said the kindly shop-dame, compassionately. "It's bad for the bairnies to be hungry. I'll fetch you a bit of cold puddin' with plums enough to put a stop to countin'. You can eat it as you go along."

She went into her room, and cut two slices.

"There," said Elsie, triumphantly, "I told you anybody 'ud be kind to children. Mrs. Callam thought it was a shame for us to be hungry, an' so'd anyone else. I ain't a bit afraid of runnin' away, are you?"

"Afraid?" Duncan replied, with alacrity. "You needn't think I'm afraid."

They reached school in time, and put the borrowed atlas back into its place unobserved. "I'd like to take it with me," Elsie said to herself, "only I couldn't give it back, an' then it 'ud be stealin'; but I can't forget the way."

Duncan got through his tasks in his usual fashion, not brilliantly or quickly, but pretty accurately. Elsie was in trouble more than once during the afternoon for inattention, and earned several bad marks, over which she did not fret.

On their way home Elsie appeared quite to have forgotten her grand scheme, for she said positively not one word about it. "P'raps she won't do it after all," thought Duncan, for it was no uncommon thing for Elsie to utter dreadful-sounding threats, and make boasts which came to nothing. Duncan grew quite gay and cheerful at this thought, and went dancing along with all his usual light-heartedness.

But he was quite wrong. Elsie had not tired of her idea, but she was dreadfully afraid stupid little Duncan might unwittingly betray them, and so, with the craftiness which soon comes to those who plot, she was bent upon turning his mind quite away from her schemes until the time came for action. She even went so far as to talk about all sorts of things in the most ordinary way, as if she and Duncan were to pass all their lives in the cottage on the moor.

The afternoon meal was waiting for them when they went in. Their mother had cooked them a nice slice of bacon, and had baked them each what the children called a bun, which was a little piece of dough from the regular bread-making, baked separately. It always seemed much sweeter than the ordinary loaf, and was crisp and crusty, like our rolls, so I don't think there was much to grumble over, although they had not had any dinner.

When it was ended Mrs. MacDougall sat down to her knitting, while Elsie cleared away. She was making stockings for the coming winter, and was employed on Elsie's at present.

"It's gettin' a long stocking," the old grandmother said, as she watched the length of leg and foot dangling from the pins. "You can't get to the end o' it so quick as you used when it was about three inches from toe to heel, an' the baby's five toes like so many pink beads."

All the children laughed at the idea. It seemed so funny to think of Elsie, big-limbed, strong, and sunburnt, as a tiny babe.

"But a bonnie baby was Elsie," the old grandmother went on: "the bonniest of all, eh, Meg?"

"Elsie was a beautiful baby," Mrs. MacDougall replied. "Her father was real proud of her, and used to carry her about with him evening times, long after she ought by good rights to have been a-bed. You remember that, mother?"

"Eh, well enough," the old woman replied.

Duncan glanced at Elsie uneasily, but he could read nothing in her face. Then he was guilty of laying a little trap.

"Was Elsie prettier than Robbie, then?" he asked.

"She was a prettier baby," Mrs. MacDougall answered, looking from one to the other, and putting her hand on Robbie's fair curls, almost as if she were doing him an injustice to say it. "Yes, I think every one would say Elsie was the bonnier baby. Robbie was but a puling, pasty-faced little thing, thin and miserable, not a crowing, bright little