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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: 3

thing like the others. He wanted a deal o' care, did Robbie, an' I will say he's had it always."

"That he has, that he has," the old grandmother assented, warmly. "His poor——"

"Father wouldn't know him if he was to see him now," said Mrs. MacDougall, finishing her old mother's sentence.

For Duncan this little commonplace conversation had much more interest than those who were speaking could have any idea of. It puzzled him sorely too, for it seemed to tell such a different tale from the one Elsie had put together. He was watching Elsie closely, wondering what she could say to it. It was not so much what she had said that made Duncan uncomfortable as the way she said it. "Just as if she was our mother!" he thought to himself. "And then the letter said 'weak and delicate,' an' after all we was stronger babies than Robbie—leastways, Elsie was, and father used to be so proud of her. Elsie must have made a mistake. I feel quite sure she has."

Perhaps Elsie guessed what he was thinking, for the first moment they were alone she whispered to Duncan, "I can see through it," in a tone of so much confidence that Duncan was unsettled again. "D'you think I can't see through that?" Elsie said, contemptuously. "She talks like that o' purpose to misguide us an' every one else that comes near. She makes believe she's our mother always, even to granny, who knows she isn't, for fear anybody should get thinkin' about it. Besides, I doubt not we grew strong after a bit, maybe; an' if we ain't the babies, I'd like to know where they are."

"P'raps they was fetched away again after a bit."

"You've always got an answer ready, for all you look so stupid," Elsie said, crossly. "When did they go away, I'd like to know? Can you remember? I can't; an' I can call to mind as long ago as when Robbie was the baby, an father died."

To this Duncan could certainly find no reply. He himself had not the faintest recollection of any other babies than Robbie, and of course Elsie could remember better than he. He could not prove Elsie wrong, and yet he could not bring himself to realise that such a strange thing had been going on all these years in such a quiet, unnoticeable way—that Mrs. MacDougall could seem so exactly like a mother to them, and yet not be one. He was in a state of bewilderment, in which he could neither believe nor disbelieve, and so he went to sleep with a weary sigh, and left the mystery to unravel itself.

Not so Elsie. Her thoughts were very busy as she lay awake in her little room. At last a happy idea seemed to strike her. "Yes, that'll be the very time," she said softly to herself, and then settled herself to sleep.


Several days passed away, in which Elsie said nothing more to Duncan of her plans. Robbie's birthday passed off, and Elsie did serve the cake and milk under the alder-tree, after all. She was even kind to the little lad, and played with the two boys. Robbie was trying hard to deserve her attention, running himself quite out of breath after the ball she threw, and using all his strength to keep up with Duncan, who was ever so much stronger.

By-and-by, when Elsie proposed a run on the moor, Robbie looked timidly in her face, and said, "I wish I might come too."

"Well, go an' ask," Elsie said, condescendingly; and Robbie having obtained permission, coupled with many injunctions not to go far or run too much, they started, with Robbie in a radiant state of delight. And Elsie was so gentle with him that Robbie could not help saying, "I do like coming out here with you," in his own little gentle way; and Duncan, who loved peace, was quite happy.

Two or three days later there was a slaying of fowls, while Elsie and Duncan were set to pick a gathering of plums, apples, and beans, and arrange them in baskets. As a rule, Elsie disliked this day, and went about when she was at home with a cloudy face and many an impatient exclamation. This time, however, she seemed quite cheerful, and helped readily.

Very early the next morning Mrs. MacDougall was waiting at the cottage door in her bonnet and shawl for Farmer Jarrett's cart. Presently it came along, the farmer's round jolly face surmounting a heap of baskets, packed with butter, cheese, eggs, and poultry. Mrs. MacDougall handed her few baskets up to him, and when these were arranged in various odd corners she put her foot on the cart-wheel, jumped up by his side, and off they started for the little market town, where Mrs. MacDougall could get a better price for the few things she had to sell than in the village shop, and could also purchase more cheaply the groceries, calicoes, and other necessaries of her household.

"Tell granny to take care o' Robbie," Mrs. MacDougall called, as she waved her good-bye. "I shan't be later than six about."

"Take care o' Robbie, indeed!" muttered Elsie, just loud enough for Duncan to hear. "It's always Robbie. Why should he be taken more care of than any other body? P'raps she thinks he'll melt in the sun, or be drowned by the rain, or blown away by the wind, which can't never hurt us."

As Mrs. MacDougall drove off in the early morning, she looked somewhat anxiously at the heavy mist which hung over the moor, and remarked to her neighbour that there was a chilliness about the air this morning which felt like the approach of cold weather.

"Well, we mustn't grumble," the farmer said, in his northern dialect; "it's over fine for the time o' year; but when the weather does break we shall have the winter early upon us, and a long, hard one too, I reckon."

"If I have a good day I'll just take some warm stuff home for the children," Mrs. MacDougall said to herself. Then she pulled out her purse and looked over its contents, turning them over and over, and reckoning them up, as if by dint of careful arithmetic they might, perchance, come to a little more. In one part of it there was a little packet of money done up in paper, marked "Robbie." There was more there than in all the other divisions put together. It was clear Robbie would not go short. Mrs. MacDougall looked at it with a little sigh.


"I must get yarn to finish Elsie's stockings," she said to herself. "Duncan will have her old ones that she's grown out of. A fine lassie she'll be in a few more years, growing like this; but it's hard work to keep them without a man's earnings to look to."

"You're thinking out some very hard question, judging by your silence," the farmer said, after a while.

"Yes, it's just a puzzle to know how to bring the children up," Mrs. MacDougall replied. "Since my good man died and left me with them, it's been a hard matter at times, but never so hard as now. There's my Elsie, growing as fine a lass as may be, though a deal bit wilful without a man to intimidate her. She'll have to take service in a few years more, for what else can I do with her? an' I'm thinking she'll take it hard, for she's got rare notions, an' is a bit clever above the common. Duncan's over young yet to fret about; Robbie'll be provided for, no doubt, when the proper time comes."

"I wouldn't fret at all," the farmer replied, heartily; "you've done the best, and worked hard for the bairnies since your good man was taken. They'll find a good provision, I doubt not. There's a special protection for the fatherless and the widow, so the minister's always saying."

"It's just the one interest of my life to see the children started," Mrs. MacDougall replied, "although sometimes I