Chapter X.


Dolly went to bed that night, her little soul surging and boiling with conjecture. All day scraps of talk about the election had reached her ears; her nerves had been set vibrating by the tones of her father's prayer, some words of which yet rung in her ear—tones of passionate pleading whose purport she could scarcely comprehend. What was this dreadful thing that had happened or was going to happen? She heard her brother Will emphatically laying off the state of the case to Nabby in the kitchen, and declaring that "the Democrats were going to upset the whole State, for father said so."

Exactly what this meant, Dolly could not conceive; but, coupled with her mother's sorrowful face and her father's prayer, it must mean something dreadful. Something of danger to them all might be at hand, and she said her "pray God to bless my dear father and mother" with unusual fervor.

Revolving the matter on her pillow, she had a great mind, the next time she met General Lewis with his smiling face, to walk boldly up to him and remonstrate, and tell him to let her papa alone and not upset the State!

Dolly had a great store of latent heroism and felt herself quite capable of making a courageous defense of her father—and her heart swelled with a purpose to stand by him to the last gasp, no matter what came.

But sleep soon came down with her downy wings, and the great blue eyes were closed, and Dolly knew not a word more till waked by the jingling of sleigh bells and the creaking of sleds at early sunrise.

She sprang up, dressed quickly, and ran to the window. Evidently the State had not been upset during the night, for the morning was clear, bright and glorious as heart could desire.

The rosy light of morning filled the air, the dreary snow wreaths lay sparkling in graceful lines with tender hues of blue and lilac and pink in their shadows, and merry sleigh bells were ringing and the boys were out snow-balling each other in mere wantonness of boy life, while Spring was barking frantically, evidently resolved to be as frisky a boy as any of them.


"And wasn't you running to look at him?" asked Dolly.

"Land o' Goshen, no!" said Nabby. "I jest wanted to see——well, them horses he's got." ... "Oh" said Dolly.—p. 109.

The fears and apprehensions of last night were all gone like a cloud, and she hurried down into the kitchen to find Nabby stirring up her buckwheat batter, and running to the window to see Hiel go by on the stage, kissing his hand to her as he passed.

"I declare! the imperence of that cretur," said Nabby.

"What, Hiel?" asked Dolly.

"Yes, Hiel Jones! he's the conceitedest fellow that ever I did see. You can't look out of a window but he thinks your running to look at him."

"And wasn't you running to look at him?" asked Dolly.

"Land o' Goshen, no! What should I want to look at him for? I jest wanted to see—well, them horses he's got."

"Oh," said Dolly.

Upon reflection she added,

"I thought you liked Hiel, Nabby."

"You thought I liked Hiel?" said Nabby laughing. "What a young 'un! Why, I can't bear the sight of him," and Nabby greased her griddle with combative energy. "He's the saassiest fellow I ever see. I cant bear him!"

Dolly reflected on this statement gravely, while Nabby dropped on the first griddleful of cakes; finally she said,

"If you don't like Hiel, Nabby, what made you sit up so late with him Christmas night?"

"Who said I did?" said Nabby, beginning to turn griddle-cakes with velocity.

"Why, Will and Tom; they both say so. They heard when Hiel went out the kitchen door, and they counted the clock striking twelve just as he went. Will says he kissed you, too, Nabby. Did he?"

"Well, if ever I see such young 'uns!" said Nabby, flaming carnation color over the fire as she took off the cakes. "That Bill is saassy enough to physic a hornbug. I never see the beat of him!"

"But did Hiel stay so late, Nabby?"

"Well, yes, to be sure he did. I thought I never should have got him out of the house. If I hadn't let him kiss me I believe in my soul I'd a had to set up with him till morning; he said he wouldn't go without. I've been mad at him ever since. I told him never to show his face here again; but I know he'll come. He does it on purpose to plague me."

"That is dreadful!" said Dolly, meditatively. "I wouldn't let him. I'll tell you what," she added, with animation, "I'll talk to him and tell him he mustn't come here any more. Sha'n't I, Nabby?"

But Nabby laughed and said, "No, no; little girls mustn't talk so. Don't you never say nothin' to Hiel about it; if you do I won't tell you no more. Here, carry in this plate o' cakes, for they're eatin' breakfast. I heard your pa askin' blessin' just after you came down. You carry these in while I get on the next griddleful."

Dolly assumed her seat at table, but there again the trouble met her. Her father and mother were talking together with sad, anxious faces.

"It is a most mysterious dispensation why this is allowed," said her mother.

"Yes, my dear, 'clouds and darkness are round about Him,' but we must have faith."

Here Spring varied the discourse by putting his somber black visage over Dolly's arm and resting his nose familiarly on the table, whereat she couldn't help giving him the half of a griddle-cake.

"How many times must I tell you, Dolly, that Spring is never to be fed at the table?" said her mother. "I love dogs," she added, "but it spoils them to be fed at table."

"Why, papa does it sometimes," pleaded Tom.

Mrs. Cushing was obliged to confess to the truth of this, for the doctor when pursuing the deeper mazes of theology was sometimes so abstracted that his soul took no note of what his body was doing, and he had been more than once detected in giving Spring large rations under the table while expounding some profound mysteries of foreknowledge and free will.

Tom's remark was a home-thrust, but his mother said, reprovingly:

"Your father never means to do it; but he has so much to do and think of that he is sometimes absent-minded."

A conscious twinkle might have been observed playing about the blue eyes of the doctor, and a shrewd observer might have surmised that the offense was not always strictly involuntary, for the doctor, though a most docile and tractable husband, still retained here and there traces of certain wild male instincts and fell at times into singular irregularities. He had been known to upset all Mrs. Cushing's nicely arranged yarn-baskets and stocking-baskets and patch-baskets, pouring the contents in a heap on the floor, and carrying them off bodily to pick up chestnuts in, when starting off with the children on a nutting expedition. He would still persist at intervals in going to hunt eggs in the barn with Dolly, and putting the fruits of the search in his coat-tail pocket, though he had once been known to sit down on a pocketful at a preparatory lecture, the bell for which rung while he was yet on the hay-mow.

On this occasion, therefore, Spring made an opportune diversion in the mournful turn the conversation was taking. The general tone of remark became slightly admonitory on the part of Mrs. Cushing and playfully defensive on the part of the doctor. In their "heart of heart" the boys believed their father sometimes fed Spring when he did know what he was about, and this belief caused constant occasional lapses from strict statute law on their part.

That morning, in prayers, their father read: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed; though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;" and at those verses he stopped and said: "There, my dear, there must be our comfort." And then they sung:

"Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home."

Then in prayer he plead for the Church—the Church of God, the vine of his planting—and said:

"When the enemy cometh in like a flood, may Thy spirit lift up a standard against them;" and again Dolly trembled and wondered. But after prayers Bill suddenly burst back into the house.

"Oh! mamma, there is a bluebird! Spring is come!"

"A bluebird! Impossible so early in March. You must be mistaken."

"No. Come to the door; you can hear him just as plain!"

And, sure enough, on the highest top of the great button-ball tree opposite the house sat the little blue angel singing with all his might—a living sapphire dropped down from the walls of the beautiful city above. A most sanguine and imprudent bluebird certainly he must have been, though the day was so lovely and the great icicles on the eaves of the house were actually commencing to drip. But there undoubtedly he was—herald and harbinger of good days to come.

"It is an omen," said the doctor, as he put his arms fondly round his wife. "The Lord liveth, and blessed be our rock!"

And the boys and Dolly ran out, shouting wildly,

"There's been a bluebird. Spring is coming—spring is coming!"

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