MoboReader> Literature > A Flight with the Swallows; Or, Little Dorothy's Dream

   Chapter 1 DOROTHY'S DREAM.

A Flight with the Swallows; Or, Little Dorothy's Dream By Emma Marshall Characters: 6876

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


In a deep window seat, hidden by crimson curtains from the room beyond, a little girl was curled up, looking out upon a trim garden, where the first autumn leaves were falling one September afternoon. The view was bounded by a high wall, and above the wall, the east end of Coldchester Cathedral stood up a dark mass against the pale-blue sky. Every now and then a swallow darted past the window, with its forked tail and whitish breast; then there was a twittering and chirping in the nests above, as the swallows talked to each other of their coming flight. Little Dorothy was an only child; she had no brothers and sisters to play with; thus she made playmates of her two fluffy kittens, who were lying at her feet; and she made friends of the twittering swallows and the chattering jackdaws, as they flew in and out from the cathedral tower, and lived in a world of her own.

The position of an only child has its peculiar pleasures and privileges; but I am inclined to think that all little girls who have brothers and sisters to play with are more to be envied than little Dorothy. To be sure, there was no one to want Puff and Muff but herself; no one to dispute the ownership of Miss Belinda, her large doll; no one to say it was her turn to dust and tidy Barton Hall, the residence of Miss Belinda; no one to insist on his right to spin a top or snatch away the cup and ball just when the critical moment came, and the ball was at last going to alight on the cup.

Dorothy had none of these trials; but then she had none of the pleasures which go with them; for the pleasure of giving up your own way is in the long run greater than always getting it; and it is better to have a little quarrel, and then "make it up" with a kiss and confession of fault on both sides, than never to have any one to care about what you care for, and no one to contradict you!

As little Dorothy watched the swallows, and listened to their conversation above her head, she became aware that some one was in the drawing-room, and was talking to her mother.

She was quite hidden from view, and she heard her name.

"But how can I take little Dorothy?"

"Easily enough. It will do her no harm to take flight with the swallows."

"You don't think she is delicate?" she heard her mother exclaim, in a voice of alarm. "Oh, Doctor Bell, you don't think Dorothy is delicate?"

"No, she is very well as far as I see at present, but I think her life is perhaps rather too dreamy and self-absorbed. She wants companions; she wants variety."

Dr. Bell knew he was venturing on delicate ground.

"Dorothy is very happy," Mrs. Acheson said, "very happy. Just suppose San Remo does not suit her, does not agree with her; then think of the journey!"

"My dear madam, the journey is as easy in these days as if you could fly over on the backs of the swallows-easier, if anything. You ask my serious advice, and it is this, that you lose no time in starting for San Remo or Mentone."

"San Remo is best," said Mrs. Acheson, "for I have a friend who has a house there, and she will be there for the winter."

"Very well; then let me advise you to be quick in making your preparations. I shall call again this day week, and expect to find you are standing, like the swallows, ready for flight. Look at them now on the coping of the old wall, talking about their departure, and settling."

When Dr. Bell was gone, Mrs. Acheson sat quietly b

y the fire, thinking over what he had said. She had tried to persuade herself that her cough was better, that if she kept in the house all the winter it would go away. She had felt sure that in this comfortable room, out of which her bed-room opened, she must be as well as in Italy or the south of France. Dr. Bell was so determined to get his own way, and it was cruel to turn her out of her home. And then Dorothy, little Dorothy! how hard it would be for her to leave Puff and Muff, and her nursery, and everything in it. And what was to be done about Nino, the little white poodle, and--

A host of objections started up, and Mrs. Acheson tried to believe that she would make a stand against Dr. Bell, and stay in Canon's House all the winter.

Meantime little Dorothy, who had been lying curled up as I have described, had heard in a confused way much of what Dr. Bell said. "A flight with the swallows." The swallows, her uncle, Canon Percival, had told her, flew away to sunshine and flowers; that the cold wind in England gave them the ague, and that they got all sorts of complaints, and would die of hunger, or cramp, or rheumatism if they stayed in England!

"As easy a journey as if you were on a swallow's back," the doctor had said; and Dorothy was wondering who could be small enough to ride on a swallow's back, when she heard a tap at the window, a little gentle tap.

"Let me in, let me in," said a small voice, which was like a chirp or a twitter, rather than a voice.

And then Dorothy turned the old-fashioned handle which closed the lower square of the lattice window, and in came the swallow. She recognised it as one she knew-the mother-bird from the nest in the eaves.

"Come to the sunny South," it said. "Come to the sunny South."

"I can't, without mother," Dorothy said.

"Oh yes, you can. Get on my back."

"I am much too big. I am nearly eight years old."

The swallow twittered, and it sounded like a laugh.

"You are not too big; just get on."

And then the swallow turned its tail towards little Dorothy; and, to her surprise, she saw her hands were tiny hands as she put them round the swallow's neck, and tucked a pair of tinier feet under its wings.

"Are you ready?" said the swallow.

"I don't know. Stop-I--"

But in another minute she was flying through the air on the swallow's back. Over the great cathedral tower, over the blue hills, away, away. Presently there was water beneath, dancing and sparkling in the western sunshine; then there were boats and ships, looking so tiny. Everything did look so small. Then it grew dark, and Dorothy was asleep-she felt she was asleep-and presently the swallow put her down on something very soft, and there was a great light, and she sat up and found herself, not in the sunny South, but on her mother's knee by the bright fire in the drawing-room.

"Why, Dorothy, you are quite cold," her mother said. "I did not know you were curled up in the window seat, and so fast asleep."

"Why, mother," said Dorothy, rubbing her eyes and giving a great yawn, "I thought I was flying off to the sunny South with the swallows. How funny!" she exclaimed. "It was, after all, a dream! I heard Dr. Bell talking about your taking flight with the swallows, and then I thought I got ever so wee and tiny, and then the old mother-swallow carried me off. Are you going to fly off with the swallows, mother, to the sunny South?"

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