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قراءة كتاب The Adopting of Rosa Marie (A Sequel to Dandelion Cottage)

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‏اللغة: English
The Adopting of Rosa Marie
(A Sequel to Dandelion Cottage)

The Adopting of Rosa Marie (A Sequel to Dandelion Cottage)

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 4

class="x-ebookmaker-pageno" title="[11]"/> the lumber in the hut was of the poorest possible quality.

On this long-to-be-remembered day, a small object moving in the clearing that surrounded the shack attracted Mabel's attention. Curiosity led her closer to investigate.

"It's just as I thought!" exclaimed Mabel, peering rapturously through the bushes. "It's a real baby!"

Sure enough! It was a baby.

Mabel edged closer, moving cautiously for fear of frightening her unexpected find. She saw a small toddler, aged somewhere between two and three years, roving aimlessly about the chip-strewn clearing. The child's round cheeks, chubby wrists, bare feet and sturdy legs were richly brown. A straggling fringe of jet-black hair overhung the stout baby's black, beadlike eyes.

Near the doorway of the rickety shack a man, half French, half Indian, stood talking earnestly and with many gesticulations to a dark-skinned woman, framed by the doorway. The woman had large black eyes, shaded by very long black lashes. She wore her rather coarse black hair in two long, thick braids that hung in front of her straight shoulders. In spite of her dark color, her worn shoes, her ragged, untidy gown, she seemed to Mabel an exceedingly pretty woman. The man, too, was handsome, after a bold, picturesque fashion; but the woman was the more pleasing.

Mabel approached timidly. She felt that she was intruding.

"Good-morning," said she, ingratiatingly. "Is this your little boy?"

"Him girl," returned the woman, with a sudden flash of white teeth between parted crimson lips. "Name Rosa Marie. Yes, him ma petite daughtaire. You like the looks on him, hey?"

"Oh, so much," cried Mabel, impulsively. "Oh, would you do me a favor?"

"A favaire," repeated the woman, with a puzzled glance. "W'at ees a favaire?"

"Oh, would you lend your baby to me? Would you let me have her to play with for—— Oh, for all day?"

"Here?" queried the mother, doubtfully.

"No, not here. In my own home—up there, on the hill. Could I keep her until six o'clock? I just adore babies, and she's so fat and cunning! Oh, please, please! I'd be just awfully obliged."

A look of understanding flashed suddenly between the man and the woman; but Mabel, stooping to make friends with little Rosa Marie, did not observe it.

"Your fodder 'ave nice house, plainty food, plainty money?" queried the woman, running a speculative eye over Mabel's plain but substantial wardrobe.

"Oh yes," returned Mabel, thoughtlessly. "And besides I have a playhouse. That is, it isn't exactly mine, but I just about live in it with three other girls, and that's where I want to take Rosa Marie. I'll be awfully careful of her if you'll only let me take her. Oh, do you think she'll come with me? Couldn't you tell her to?"

The woman, bending to look into Rosa Marie's black eyes, talked loudly and rapidly in some foreign tongue. The mother's voice was harsh, but her eyes, Mabel noticed, seemed soft and tender, and much more beautiful than Rosa Marie's.

"Now," said the woman, turning to Mabel and speaking in broken English, "eef you want her, you must go at once. Go now, I tell you. Go queek, queek! Pull hard eef she ees drag behind. But go, I tell you, go!"

The voice rose to an unpleasant, almost too stirring pitch that jarred suddenly on Mabel's nerves; but, obeying these hasty instructions, the little girl drew Rosa Marie out of the inclosure, led her across the street and lifted her to the sidewalk. Looking back from the slight elevation, Mabel noticed that the man was again talking earnestly and gesticulating excitedly; while the woman, once more framed by the doorway, followed, with her big black eyes, the chubby figure of Rosa Marie.

"I'll bring her back all safe and sound," shouted Mabel, over her shoulder. "Don't be afraid. Good-by, until six o'clock!"

Escorting Rosa Marie to Dandelion Cottage proved no light task. Her legs were very short, it soon became evident that she was not accustomed to using them for walking purposes, the way was mostly uphill and the little brown feet were bare. At first Mabel led, coaxed and encouraged with the utmost patience; but presently Rosa Marie sat heavily on the sidewalk and refused to rise. That is, she didn't say that she wouldn't rise. She remained sitting with such firmness of purpose that it seemed hopeless to attempt to break her of the habit.

Mabel walked round and round her firmly seated charge in helpless despair. Rosa Marie and the sidewalk were one.

"Want any help?" asked a friendly voice. It belonged to a large, freckled boy who was carrying two pails of water from the lake to one of the tumble-down houses.

Toddler on sidewalk with girl trying to lift her
ROSA MARIE AND THE SIDEWALK WERE ONE.

"Yes, I do," responded Mabel, promptly. "If you could just lift this child high enough for me to get hold of her I think I could carry her."

So the boy, setting his pails down, obligingly lifted Rosa Marie's solid little person, Mabel clasped the barrel-shaped body closely, and, after a word of thanks to the kind boy, proceeded homeward. But even now her troubles were not ended. By silently refusing to cuddle, Rosa Marie converted herself into a most uncomfortable burden. Her entire body was a silent protest against leaving her home.

"Do make yourself soft and bunchy," pleaded Mabel, giving Rosa Marie sundry pokes, calculated to make her double up like a jack-knife. "Here, bend this way. Haven't you any joints anywhere? Do hold tight with your arms and legs. This way. Pshaw! You're just like a stuffed crocodile. Well, walk then, if you can't hang on like a real child. There's one thing certain, you shan't sit down again. I s'pose we'll get there sometime."


CHAPTER III
Mabel's Day

ALMOST hopeless as it seemed at times, Mabel and the silent brown baby finally reached Dandelion Cottage. There they found Jean, seated in a chair with her lovely little cousin Anne Halliday perched like a pink and white blossom on the edge of the dining table before her, tying Anne's bewitching yellow curls with wide pink ribbons. Anne was a perpetual delight, for, besides being a picture during every moment of the long day, her ways were so quaint and so attractive that no one could help admiring her.

Marjory, her countenance carefully arranged to depict the deepest sorrow, stood guard over the Marcotte twins, who, touchingly covered with nasturtiums, were laid out on the parlor cozy corner, awaiting burial. Their blue eyes blinked and their pink toes twitched; but, on the whole, they played their parts in a most satisfactory manner.

Bettie, with two small but attractive Tucker babies clinging to her brief skirts, was exclaiming: "These are my jewels," when tired, dusty Mabel, pushing reluctant Rosa Marie before her, walked in.

"For mercy's sake, what's that!" gasped Jean, sweeping Anne Halliday into her protecting arms.

"Is—is it something the cat dragged in?" asked Marjory.

"Is—can it be a real child?" demanded Bettie.

"This," announced Mabel, with dignity, "is my child. Her name is Rosa Marie—with all the distress on the ee."

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