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   Chapter 13 No.13

The Poor Little Rich Girl By Eleanor Gates Characters: 19440

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


So far, the Piper had seemed to be no one's friend-unless, perhaps, his own. He had lagged along, surly or boisterous by turns, and careless of his manners; not even showing respect to the Man-Who-Makes-Faces and the Policeman! But now Gwendolyn remarked a change in him. For as he spoke to her, he took his pipe out of his mouth-under the pretext of cleaning it.

"Say!" he began in a cautious undertone: "I'll give you some advice about Jane."

Gwendolyn was looking about her at the Zoo. Its roofs seemed countless. They touched, having no streets between them anywhere, and reached as far as she could see. They were all heights, all shapes, all varieties-some being level, others coming to a point at one corner, a few ending in a tower. One tower, on the outer-most edge of the Zoo, was square, and tapered.

"Jane?" she said indifferently. "Oh, she's only a top."

"Only a top!" It was the little old gentleman. "Why, that makes her all the more dangerous!"

"Because she's spinning so fast"-the Policeman balanced on one arm while he shook an emphatic finger-"that she'll stir up trouble!"

"Well, then, what shall I do?" asked Gwendolyn. For, elated over seeing Thomas disposed of so completely-and yet with so much mercy-she was impatient at hearing that she still had reason to fear the nurse.

The Piper took his time about replying. He sharpened one end of a match, thrust the bit of pine into the stem of his pipe, jabbed away industriously, threw away the match, blew through the stem once or twice, and turned the bowl upside down to make it plop, plop against a palm. Then, "Keep Jane laughin'," he counseled, "-and see what happens."

Jane was alongside, spinning comfortably on her shoe-leather point. Now, as if she had overheard, or guessed a plot, sudden uneasiness showed on both her countenances, and she increased her speed.

"You done up Thomas, the lot of you," she charged, as she whirled away. "But you don't git me."

"And we won't," declared Gwendolyn, "if we don't hurry up and trip her."

"A good idear!" chimed in the Piper.

"If we only had some string!" cried the little old gentleman.

"String won't do," said the Policeman. "We need rope."

There was a high wind sweeping the roofs. And as the three began to run about, searching, it fluttered the Policeman's coat-tails, swelled out the Piper's cap, and tugged at the ragged garb of the Man-Who-Makes-Faces.

"Here's a piece of clothes-line!"

The Policeman made the find-catching sight of the line where it dangled from the edge of a roof. The others hastened to join him. And each seized the rope in both hands, the Piper staying at one end of it, the little old gentleman at the opposite, while Gwendolyn and the Policeman posted themselves at proper distances between. Then forward in a row swept all, carrying the rope with them. It was a curious one of its kind-as black as if it had been tarred, thick at the middle, but noticeably thin at one end.

Jane saw their design. "Ba-a-a!" she mocked. "I'm not afraid of you! I'm goin' to turn the Big Rock. Then you'll see!" And she made straight toward the square tower in the distance.

"Oh!" It was the little old gentleman, beard blown sidewise by the wind. "We musn't let her!"

The Piper, in his excitement, jounced the pig so hard that it squealed. "We ought to be able," he panted, "to manage a top."

"Jane!" bellowed the Policeman, galloping hard. "You must not injure that shaft!"

Then Gwendolyn realized that the square tower toward which the nurse was spinning was the Big Rock. And she recognized it as a certain great pillar of pink granite, up and down the sides of which, deep cut by chisels, were written strange words.

It rose just ahead. Answering the Officer with a shrill, scoffing laugh, Jane bore down upon it. Aided by the wind, she made top speed.

There was not a moment to lose. Her pursuers fairly tore after her. And the Piper, who made the fastest progress, gained-until he was at her very heels. Then with a final leap, he passed her, and circled, dragging the rope.

It made a loop about the buttonless shoes-a loop that tightened as the little old gentleman came short, as the Piper halted. Each gave a pull-

With disastrous result! For as the line came taut, up Jane went!-caught bodily from the ground. And still spinning, whizzed forward in that high wind and struck the granite squarely.

She fell to the ground, toppling sidewise, and bulking large.

But the shaft! It began to move-slowly at first-to tip forward, farther and farther. When, gaining velocity, with a great grinding noise, down from off the massive cube upon which it stood it came crashing!

Instantly a chorus of cries arose: "Oh, she's bumped over the obelisk! She's bumped over the obelisk!"

With the cries, and sounding from beneath the tapered end of the Big Rock, mingled ferocious growls-"Rar! Rar! Rar! Rar!"

And in that same moment, the four who were holding the rope felt it begin to writhe and twist in their grasp!-like a live thing. And its black length took on a scaly look, glittering in that pink glow as if it were covered with small ebon paillettes. It grew cold and clammy. At its thicker end Gwendolyn saw that the Piper was supporting a head-a head with small, fiery eyes and a tongue flame-like in its color and swift darting. Next, "Hiss-s-s-s-s!" And with one hideous contortion, the huge black body wrung itself free and coiled.

Once Gwendolyn had boasted that she was not afraid of snakes. And now she did not flee, though the black coils were piled at her very feet. For she recognized the serpent. There was no mistaking that thin face and those small eyes. Moreover, a pocket-handkerchief was bound round the reptilian jaws and tied at the top of the head in a bow-knot.

She had gotten rid of Thomas. But here was Miss Royle!

There was no time for greetings. Again were sounding those furious growls-"Rar! Rar! Rar!"

Jane swung round in a half-circle to warn the governess. "It's that Bear!" she hummed. "Can't you drive him away?"

Miss Royle began to uncoil.

The Policeman was tick-tocking up and down. "The Den's damaged!" he lamented.

"Now, who's goin' to pay?" demanded the Piper.

"I'm afraid the Bear's hurt," declared the Man-Who-Makes-Faces.

In her eagerness to trip Jane, Gwendolyn had utterly forgotten the Bear's Den. Now she saw it-a large cage, light in color, its bars woven closely together. And she saw too-with horror-that what the Policeman said was true: In falling, the Big Rock had broken the cover of the Den. This cover was flopping up and down on its hinges.

"Oh, he's loose!" she gasped.

"Rar! Rar! Rar-r-r!"

The Bear himself was knocking the cover into the air. The top of his head could be seen as he hopped about, evidently in pain.

And now an extraordinary thing happened: A black glittering body shot rustling through the grass to the side of the Den. Then up went a scaly head, and forth darted a flaming tongue-driving the Bear back under the cover!

At which the Bear rebelled. For his growls turned into a muffled protest-"Now, you stop, Miss Royle! I won't be treated like this! I won't!"

Then Gwendolyn understood Jane's hum! And why the governess had obeyed it so swiftly. The light-colored cage with the loose cover was nothing else than the old linen-hamper! As for the Bear-!

Hair flying, cheeks crimson, eyes shining with quick tears of joy, she darted past Jane, leaped the glittering snake-folds before the hamper, and swung the cover up on its hinges.

"Puffy!" she cried. "Oh, Puffy!"

It was indeed Puffy, with his plushy brown head, his bright, shoe-button eyes, his red-tipped, sharply pointed nose, his adorably tiny ears, and deep-cut, tightly shut, determined mouth. It was Puffy, as dear as ever! As old and as squashy!

He stood up in the hamper to look at her, leaning his front paws-in rather a dignified manner-on the broken edge of the basketry. He was breathing hard from his contest, but smiling nevertheless.

"Ah!" said he, affably. "The Poor Little Rich Girl, I see!"

Gwendolyn's first impulse was to take him up in her arms. But his proud air, combined with the fact that he had grown tremendously, caused her to check the impulse.

"How do you do?" she inquired politely.

"I'm pretty shabby, thank you."

"Oh, it's so good to hear your voice again!" she exclaimed. "When you left, I didn't have a chance to tell you good-by."

It was then that she noticed a white something fluttering at his breast, just under his left fore-leg. "Excuse me," she said apologetically, "but aren't you losing your pocket handkerchief?"

Sadly he shook his head. "It's my stuffing," he explained. And gently withdrawing his paw from her eager grasp, laid it upon his breast. "You see, the Big Rock-"

The little old gentleman was beside him, examining the wound; muttering to himself.

"Can you mend him?" asked Gwendolyn. "Oh, Puffy!"

The little old gentleman began to empty his pockets of the articles with which he had provided himself-the ear, the handful of hair, the plump cheek. "Ah! Ah!" he breathed as he examined each one; and to and fro wagged the grizzled beard. "I'm afraid-! I must have help. This is a case that will require a specialist."

The tone was so solemn that it frightened her. "Oh, do you mean we need a Doctor?"

Puffy was trembling weakly. "I lost some cotton-batting once before," he half-whispered to Gwendolyn. "It was when you were teething. Oh, I know it was unintentional! You were so little. But-I can't spare any more."

Down into the patch-pocket went her hand. Out came the lip-case. She thrust it into his furry gra

sp. "Keep this," she bade, "till I come back. I'll go for the Doctor."

The Man-Who-Makes-Faces leaned down. "Fly!" he urged.

At that, Jane began to circle once more. "Lovie," she hummed, "don't you go! He'll give you nasty medicine!"

"Hiss-s-s-s!" chimed in Miss Royle, her bandaged head rising and lowering in assent. "He'll cut out your appendix."

One moment she hesitated, feeling the old fear drive the blood from her cheeks-to her wildly beating heart. Then she saw Puffy sway, half fainting. And obeying the command of the little old gentleman, she grasped her gingham dress at either side-held it out to its fullest width-and with the wind pouching the little skirt, left the high grass, passed up through the lights of the nearby trees-and rose into the higher air!

She gave a glance down as she went. How excitedly Jane was circling! How Miss Royle was lashing the ground!

But the faces of the other three were smiling encouragement. And she flew for her very life. Lightly she went-as if there were nothing to her but her little gingham dress; as if that empty dress, having tugged at some swagging clothes-line until it was free, were now being wafted across the roofs, the tree-tops, the smooth windings of a road, to-

A bake-shop, without doubt! For her nostrils caught the good smell of fresh bread. Suddenly the shop loomed ahead of her. She alighted to have a look at it.

It was a round, high, stone building, with stone steps leading up to it from every side, and columns ranged in a circle at the top of the steps. Seated on the bottom step, engrossed in some task, was a man.

As Gwendolyn looked at him she told herself that the Man-Who-Makes-Faces had given this customer such a nice face; the eyes, in particular, were kind.

He had a large pan of bread-dough beside him. Out of it, now, he gouged a spoonful, which he began to roll between his palms. And as he rolled the dough, it became rounder and rounder, until it was ball-like. It turned browner and browner, too, precisely as if it were baking in his hands! When he was finished with it, he piled it to one side, atop other brown pellets.

She advanced to speak. "Please," she began, pointing a small finger, "what is this place?"

He glanced up. "This, little girl, is the Pillery."

The Pillery! Instantly she knew what he was making-bread-pills.

And the bread-pills helped her to recognize him. She dimpled cordially. "I haven't seen you since I had the colic," she said, nodding, "but I know you. You're the Doctor!"

The Doctor was most cordial, shaking her hand gently; after which, naturally enough, he felt her pulse.

"But there's nothing the matter with me," she protested. "It's my dear Puffy. You remember."

Now he rose solemnly, selected a fresh-baked pill, bowed to the right, again to the left, last of all, to her-and presented the pill.

"In that case, Miss Gwendolyn," he said, smiling down, "a toast!"

And-quite in contrast to the evening of her seventh birthday anniversary-toast there was, deliciously crisp and crunchy!

"Oo! How good!" she exclaimed, not nibbling conventionally, but taking big bites. "'Cause I hate cake!"

The next moment she became aware of the munching of others. And on looking round, found that she was back at the Den. She was not surprised. Things had a way of coming to pass in a pleasantly instantaneous fashion. And she was glad to see the little old gentleman, the Piper and the Policeman each fairly gobbling up a pellet. Miss Royle was eating, too, and Jane was stuffing both mouths.

But Puffy was having quite different fare. In front of him stood the Doctor, busily feeding filmy white bits into the tear just under a fore-leg.

"I think you'll find," assured the latter, "that a proper amount of cotton-batting is most refreshing."

"Once I wanted Jane to take me to the Doll Hospital," complained Puffy, his shoe-button eyes hard with resentment; "but she said I was only a little beast."

Gwendolyn looked severe. "Jane, you'll be sorry for that," she scolded.

"Ah-ha! my dear!" said the Man-Who-Makes-Faces, addressing the nurse, "at last one of your chickens is coming home to roost!"

Gwendolyn glanced up. And, sure enough, a chicken was going past-a small blue hen, who looked exceedingly fagged. (This was an occurrence worth noting. How often had she heard the selfsame remark-and never seen as much as a feather!)

Jane also saw the blue hen. And appeared much disconcerted. "I think I'll take forty winks," she hummed; "-twenty for the front face, and twenty for the back." Whereupon she made a few quick revolutions, landing up against the granite base of the obelisk.

The Doctor had been sewing up the tear in Puffy's coat. Now he finished his seam and knotted the thread. "There!" said he, cheerily. "You're as good as new!"

"Thank you," said Puffy. "And I feel so grateful to you, Miss Gwendolyn, that I must repay your kindness. You've always heard a certain statement about Jane, yonder. Well, I'm going to prove that it's true."

"What's true?" asked Gwendolyn, puzzled.

He made no answer. But after a short whispered conference with the Policeman, turned his back and began sniffing and snarling under his breath, while a fore-paw was busy in the region of his third rib. When he faced round again, the shoe-button eyes were shining triumphantly, and he was holding both fore-paws together tightly.

"I found one!" he cried. And wabbling over to Jane, stationed himself on one side of her, at the same time motioning the Officer to steal round to the other side on quiet hands.

And now Gwendolyn saw that Jane, though she was only feigning sleep, was ignorant of what was happening. For her double equipment of faces had its disadvantages. Even when upright she had not been able to roll one eye forward while its mate was on guard in the rear. And reclining flat upon her back, she could not rumble her eyes forward to her front face for the reason that they would not roll up-hill. Both stayed in the back of her head, where they could see only the ground.

Very cautiously Puffy put his fore-paws to Jane's ear-suddenly separated them-and waited.

A moment. Then, "Well, finding this out, you can wager I don't stay heels over head no more!" cried the Policeman. And with a wriggle and a twist and a bound, he gave a half somersault and stood on his feet!

At once, the bottoms of his trouser-legs came down over his shoes, his coat-tails fell about him properly, uncovering his shield and his belt, and his club took its place at his right side. "Ouch!" he exclaimed. And began to scratch hard at the spot just between his shoulder-blades. At the same time, the tears that were in his cap flowed out and down his face. So that he seemed to be weeping.

The Doctor, leaning close beside Gwendolyn, was all sympathy. "There is no reason to feel bad," he said kindly. "The operation was successful."

"Feel bad!" repeated the Policeman. "Why, I'm laughing. Ha! Ha! We put a flea in her ear!"

At that, Jane began to laugh "Oh, laws!" she exclaimed, sleeve to mouth once more. "Oh, I never heard the like of it!"

"Rar!" growled Puffy, delighted. "The plan is working! See her growl!"

"That flea went in one ear and came out the other," declared the little old gentleman, poking Jane with the toe of a worn shoe.

Jane laughed the harder. "Oh, it's awful funny!" she cried, rocking herself to and fro-and steadily increasing her girth. "Oh! Oh! Oh!"

"We've proved that you're empty-headed," said Puffy.

And now the nurse was seized by a very paroxysm of mirth. Both faces distorted, she whopped over and over.

"That's right! Split your sides alaughin'," cried the Piper.

At these words, sudden terror showed on her face. For the first time she saw the trap into which she had been led!

Yet she could not check her laughter. "Oh, ho!" she gasped hysterically; "oh!-"

It was her last. Black sateen could stand no more.

She gave a final and feeble rock. Both revolving faces paled. Then there sounded a loud pop-like the bursting of an automobile tire. Next, a ripping-

"Look!" cried Gwendolyn.

There were great rents down the front seams of Jane's waist!

The nurse guessed what had happened, and clutched desperately at the gaping seams with both fat hands-now in front, now at the sides, striving to hold the rips together.

To no avail! All the laughter was gone out of her. Quickly she collapsed, her sateen hanging in loose, ragged strips. Once more she was just ordinary nurse-maid size.

"Oh, will she die?" asked Gwendolyn, anxiously.

The Doctor knelt to grasp Jane's wrist. "No," he answered gravely; "she'll only have to go back to the Employment Agency."

"I won't!" cried Jane. "I won't!-Miss Royle!"

"Hiss-ss-ss!"

"Get you-know-what out of the way! A certain person musn't talk to it! If she does she'll find-"

"I understand!" hissed back the snake.

You-know-what? Gwendolyn was troubled.

Now the Policeman and the Piper, assisted by Puffy, picked the nurse up and packed her into the linen-hamper. Whereupon the little old gentleman slapped down the cover and tied a large tag to it. On the tag was written-Employment Agency, Down-Town!"

"I'm done with her" said Gwendolyn; "-if she is a perfectly good top."

"You're rid of me," answered Jane, calling through the weave of the hamper "Yes! But how about Miss Royle?"

"We'll send her back too," declared the Man-Who-Makes-Faces. "Here! Where are you?" He ran about, searching.

The others searched also-through the grass, behind the granite shift, everywhere. Concern sobered each face.

For the snake-in-the-grass was gone!

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