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   Chapter 6 UP IN THE APPLE TREE

Gypsy Breynton By Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Characters: 17497

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"Gypsy! Gypsy!"

"What's wanted?"

"Where are you?"

"Here."

"I don't know where 'here' is."

"Well, you'll find out after a while."

Winnie trotted along down the garden-path, and across the brook. "Here" proved to be the great golden-russet tree. High up on a gnarled old branch, there was a little flutter of a crimson and white gingham dress, and a merry face peeping down through the dainty pink blossoms that blushed all over the tree. It looked so pretty, framed in by the bright color and glistening sunlight, and it seemed to fit in so exactly with the fragrance and the soft, dropping petals, and the chirping of the blue-birds overhead, that I doubt if even Mrs. Surly would have had the heart to say, as Mrs. Surly was much in the habit of saying,-

"A young lady, twelve years old, climbing an apple-tree! Laws a massy! I pity your ma-what a sight of trainin'clock she must ha' wasted on you!"

"It looks nice up there," said Winnie, admiringly, looking up with his mouth open; "I'm acomin'clock up."

"Very well," said Gypsy.

Winnie assailed a low-hanging bough, and crawled half way up, where he stopped.

"Why don't you come?" said Gypsy.

"Oh, I-well, I think I like it better down here. You can see the grass, and things. There's a black grasshopper here, too."

"What do you want, anyway?" asked Gypsy, taking a few spasmodic stitches on a long, white seam; "I'm busy. I can't talk to little boys when I'm sewing."

"Oh, I guess I don't want anythin'clock, very much," said Winnie, folding his arms composedly, as if he had seated himself for the day; "I'm five years old."

Down went Gypsy's work, and a whole handful of pink and white blossoms came fluttering into Winnie's eyes.

"How am I going to sew?" said Gypsy, despairingly; "you're so exactly in the right place to be hit. I don't believe Mrs. Surly herself could help snowballing you."

"Mrs. Surly snowball! Why, I never saw her. Wouldn't it be just funny?"

"Winnie Breynton, will you please to go away?"

"I say, Gypsy,-if you cut off a grasshopper's wings, and frow him in a milk-pan, what would he do?" remarked Winnie, inclining to metaphysics, as was Winnie's custom when he wasn't wanted. Gypsy took several severe stitches, and made no answer.

"Gypsy-if somebody builded a fire inside of me and made steam, couldn't I draw a train of cars?"

"Look here-Gyp., when a cat eats up a mouse--"

Winnie forgot what he was aiming at, just there, coughed, and began again.

"Samson could have drawed a train of cars, anyway."

"Oh, Winnie Breynton!"

"Well, if he had a steam-leg, he'd be jest as good as an engine-wouldn't I like to seen him!" Just then a branch struck Winnie's head with decidedly more emphasis than the handful of blossoms, and Winnie slid to the ground, and remarked, with dignity, that he was sorry he couldn't stay longer. He would come again another day. About half way up the walk, he stopped, and turned leisurely round.

"Oh-Gypsy! Mother want's to know where's the key of the china-closet she let you have. She's in a great hurry. That's what I come down for; I s'posed there was something or nuther."

"Why, Winnie Breynton! and you've been sitting there all this--"

"Where's the key?" interrupted Winnie, severely; "mother hadn't ought to be kept waitin'clock."

"It's up-stairs in-in, I guess in my slippers," said Gypsy, stopping to think.

"Slippers!"

"Yes. I was afraid I should forget to put it up, so I put it in my slipper, because I should feel it, and remember it. Then I took off the slippers, and that was the last I thought of it."

"It was very careless," said Winnie, with a virtuous air. It was noticeable that he took good care to be out of hearing of Gypsy's reply.

Gypsy returned to her seam, and the apple-blossoms, and to her own little meditations about the china-closet key; which, being of a private and somewhat humiliating nature, are not given to the public.

The apple-tree stood in one corner of a very pleasant garden. Mr. Breynton had a great fancy for working over his trees and flowers, and, if he had not been a publisher and bookseller, might have made a very successful landscape-gardener. Poor health had driven him out of the professions, and the tastes of a scholar drove him away from out-door life; he had compromised the matter by that book-store down opposite the post-office. The literature of a Vermont town is not of the most world-stirring nature, and it did occur to him, occasionally, that business was rather dull, but his wife loved the old home, the children were comfortable and happy, and he himself, he thought, was getting rather old to start out on any new venture elsewhere; so Yorkbury seemed likely to be the family nest for life.

It was the same methodical kind-heartedness that made him at once so thoughtful and tender a father, and yet so habitually worried by the children's little failings, that gave him his taste for beautiful flowers and shrubbery, and his skill in cultivating them. This garden was his pet enterprise. It was gracefully laid out with winding walks, evergreens, fruit-trees and flower-beds; not in stiff patterns, but with a delightful studied negligence, such as that with which an artist would group the figures on a landscape. Rocks and vines and wild flowers were scattered over the garden very much as they would be found in the fields; stately roses and dahlias, delicate heliotrope and aristocratic fuchsias, would grow, side by side, with daisies and buttercups. But, best of all, Gypsy liked the corner where the golden russet stood. A bit of a brook ran across it, which had been caught in a frolic one day, as it went singing away to the meadows, and dammed up and paved down into a tiny pond.

The short-tufted grass swept over its edge like a fringe, and in their season slender hair-bells bent over, casting little blue shadows into the water; the apple-boughs, too, hung over it, and flung down their showers of pearls and rubies, when the wind was high. Moreover, there was a statue. This statue was Gypsy's pride and delight. It was Aladdin's Palace, the Tuilleries, Versailles, and the Alhambra, all in one. The only fault to be found with it was that it was not marble. It was a species of weather-proof composition, but very finely carved, and much valued by Mr. Breynton. It was a pretty thing-a water-nymph rising from an unfolded lily, with both hands parting her long hair from a wondering face, that, pleased with its own beauty, was bent to watch its reflection in the water.

Altogether, the spot was so bewitching, that it is little wonder Gypsy's work kept dropping into her lap, and her eyes wandering away somewhere into dreamland.

One of those endless seams on a white skirt that you have torn from the placket to the hem, is not a very attractive sight, if you have it to mend, and don't happen to like to sew any better than Gypsy did.

She seemed fated to be interrupted in her convulsive attempts at "run-and-back stitching." Winnie was hardly in the house, before Sarah Rowe came out in the garden to hunt her up.

"Oh, dear," said Gypsy, as Sarah's face appeared under the apple-boughs; "I'm not a bit glad to see you."

"That's polite," said Sarah, reddening; "I'll go home again."

"Look," said Gypsy, laughing; "just see what I've got to mend, and I came out here on purpose to get it done, so I could come over to your house. You see I oughtn't to be glad to see you at all, but I am exceedingly."

Sarah climbed up, and sat down beside her upon a long, swaying bough.

"Now don't you speak a single word," said Gypsy, with an industrious air, "till I get this done."

"No, I won't," said Sarah. "What do you have to sew for, Saturday afternoons?"

"Why, it's my mending: mother wants me to do it Saturday morning, and of course it's a great deal easier, because then you have all the afternoon to yourself, only I never seem to get time; I'm sure I don't know why. This morning I had my history topics to write."

"Why, I wrote mine yesterday!"

"I meant to, but I forgot; Miss Melville said I musn't put it off another day. There! I wasn't going to talk."

"Mother does my mending for me," said Sarah.

"She does! Well, I just wish my mother would. She says it wouldn't be good for me."

"How did you tear such a great place, I'd like to know?"

"Put my foot right through it," said Gypsy, disconsolately. "It was hanging on a chair, and I just stepped in it and started to run, and down I went,-and here's the skirt. I was running after the cat. I'd put her under my best hat, and she was spinning down stairs. You never saw anything so funny! I'm always doing such things,-I mean like the skirt

. I do declare! you mustn't talk."

"I'm not," said Sarah, laughing; "it's you that are talking. You haven't sewed a stitch for five minutes, either."

Gypsy sighed, and her needle began to fly savagely. There was a little silence.

"You see," said Gypsy, breaking it, "I'm trying to reform."

"Reform?" said Sarah, with some vague ideas of Luther and Melancthon, and Gypsy's wearing a wig and spectacles, and reading Cruden's "Concordance."

"Yes," nodded Gypsy, "reform. I never knew anybody need it as much as I. I never do things anyway, and then I do them wrong, and then I forget all about them. Mother says I'm improving. She says my room used to look like a perfect Babel, and now I keep the wardrobe door shut, and dust it out-sometimes. Then there's my mending. I came out here so's to be quiet and keep at it. The poor dear woman is so afraid I won't learn to do things in a lady-like way. It would be dreadful not to grow up a lady, wouldn't it?"

"Dreadful!" said Sarah; "only I wish you'd hurry and get through, so we can go down to the swamp and sail. Couldn't you take a little bigger stitches?"

"No," said Gypsy, resolutely; "I should have to rip it all out. I'm going to do it right, if it takes me all day."

Gypsy began to sew with a will, and Sarah, finding it was for her own interest in the end, stopped talking; so the fearful seam was soon neatly finished, the work folded up, and the thimble and scissors put away carefully in the little green reticule.

"I lose so many thimbles,-you don't know!" observed Gypsy, by way of comment. "I'm going to see if I can't keep this one three months."

"Now let's go," said Sarah.

"In a minute; I must carry my work up first. I'm going to jump off-it's real fun. You see if I don't go as far as that dandelion."

So Gypsy sprang from the tree, carrying a shower of blossoms with her.

"Oh, look out for the statue!" cried Sarah.

The warning came too late. Gypsy fell short of her mark, hit the water-nymph heavily, and it fell with a crash into the water, where the paved bottom was hard as rock.

"Just see what you've done!" said Sarah, who had not a capacity for making comforting remarks. "What do you suppose your father will say?"

Gypsy stood aghast. The water gurgled over the fallen statue, whose pretty, upraised hands were snapped at the wrist, and the wondering face crushed in. There was a moment's silence.

"Don't you tell!" said Sarah at length; "nobody saw it fall, and they'll never think you did it. You just seem surprised, and keep still about it."

Gypsy flushed to her forehead.

"Why, Sarah Rowe! how can you say such a thing? I wouldn't tell a lie for anything in this world!"

"It wouldn't be a lie!" said Sarah, looking ashamed and provoked. "You needn't say you didn't do it."

"It would be a lie!" said Gypsy, decidedly. "He'd ask if anybody knew,-I wouldn't be so mean, even if I knew he couldn't find out. I am going to tell him this minute."

Gypsy started off, with her cheeks still very red, up the garden paths and down the road, and Sarah followed slowly. Gypsy's sense of honor had received too great a shock for her to take pleasure just then in Sarah's company, and Sarah had an uneasy sense of having lowered herself in her friend's eyes, so the two girls separated for the afternoon.

It was about a mile to Mr. Breynton's store. The afternoon was warm for the season, and the road dusty; but Gypsy ran nearly all the way. She was too much troubled about the accident to think of anything else, and in as much haste to tell her father as some children would have been to conceal it from him.

Old Mr. Simms, the clerk, looked up over his spectacles in mild astonishment, as Gypsy entered the store flushed, and panting, and pretty. To Mr. Simms, who had no children of his own, and only a deaf wife and a lame dog at home for company, Gypsy was always pretty, always "such a wonderful development for a young person," and always just about right in whatever she did.

"Why, good afternoon, Miss Gypsy," said Mr. Simms; "I'm surprised to see you such a warm day-very much surprised. But you always were a remarkable young lady."

"Yes," panted Gypsy; "where's father, Mr. Simms?"

"He's up in the printing-room just now, talking with the foreman. Can I carry any message for you, Miss Gypsy?"

"Oh, Mr. Simms," said Gypsy, confidentially, "I've done the most dreadful thing!"

"Dear me! I don't see how that is possible," said Mr. Simms, taking his spectacles off nervously, and putting them on again.

"I have," said Gypsy; "I've broken the water-nymph!"

"Is that all?" asked Mr. Simms, looking relieved; "why, how did it happen?"

"I jumped on it."

"Jumped on it!"

"Yes; I'm sure I don't know what father'll say."

"Well, I must say you are a wonderful young person," said Mr. Simms, proudly. "I'm sure I'm glad that's all. Don't you fret, my dear. Your father won't care much about water-nymphs, when he has such a daughter."

"But he will," said Gypsy, who regarded Mr. Simm's compliments only as a tiresome interruption to conversation, and by no means as entitled to any attention; "he will be very sorry, and I am going to tell him right off. Please, Mr. Simms, will you speak to him?"

"Remarkable development of veracity!" said Mr. Simms, as he bowed himself away in his polite, old-fashioned way, and disappeared up the stairway that led to the printing-rooms. It seemed to Gypsy, waiting there so impatiently, as if her father would never come down. But come he did at last, looking very much surprised to see her, and anxious to know if the house were on fire, or if Winnie were drowned.

"No," said Gypsy, "nothing has happened,-I mean nothing of that sort. It's only about me. I have something to tell you."

"I think I will walk home with you," said her father. "There isn't much going on Saturday afternoons. Simms, you can lock up when you go home to supper. I hope you haven't been giving your mother any trouble, or thrown your ball into Mrs. Surly's windows again," he added, nervously, as they passed out of the door and up the street together.

"No, sir," said Gypsy, faintly; "it's worse than that."

Mr. Breynton heaved a sigh, but said nothing.

"I know you think I'm always up to mischief, and I don't suppose I'll ever learn to be a lady and know how not to break things, and I'm so sorry, but I didn't suppose there was any harm in jumping off an apple-tree, and the water-nymph went over and perhaps if you sent me to school or something I'd learn better where they tie you down to a great board," said Gypsy, talking very fast, and quite forgetting her punctuation.

"The water-nymph!" echoed Mr. Breynton.

"Yes," said Gypsy, dolefully; "right over, head-first-into the pond-broken to smash!"

"Oh, Gypsy! that is too bad."

"I know it," interrupted Gypsy; "I know it was terribly careless-terribly. Did you ever know anything so exactly like me? The worst of it is, being sorry doesn't help the matter. I wish I could buy you another. Won't you please to take my five dollars, and I'll earn some more picking berries."

"I don't want your money, my child," said Mr. Breynton, looking troubled and puzzled. "I'm sorry the nymph is gone; but somehow you do seem to be different from other girls. I didn't know young ladies ever jumped."

Gypsy was silent. Her father and mother seemed to think differently about these things. To her view, and she felt sure, to her mother's, the fault lay in the carelessness of not finding out whether the image was in her way. She could not see that she was doing anything wrong in going out alone into an apple-tree, and springing from a low bough, upon the soft grass. Very likely, when she was a grown-up young lady, with long dresses and hair done up behind, she shouldn't care anything about climbing trees. But that was another question. However, she had too much respect for her father to say this. So she hung her head, feeling very humble and sorry, and wondering if Mr. Simms couldn't plaster the nymph together somehow, he was always so ready to do things for her.

"Well," said her father, after a moment's thought, in which he had been struggling with a sense of disappointment at the destruction of his statue, that would have made a less kind-hearted man scold.

"Well, it can't be helped; and as to the climbing trees, I suppose your mother knows best. I am glad you came and told me, anyway-very glad. You are a truthful child, Gypsy, in spite of your faults."

"I couldn't bear to tell lies," said Gypsy, brightening a little.

It is possible this was another one of the reasons why people had such a habit of loving Gypsy. What do you think?

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