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A Flight with the Swallows; Or, Little Dorothy's Dream By Emma Marshall Characters: 11834

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Well, Dorothy Dormouse!" exclaimed Canon Percival, when he came into the drawing-room after dinner that evening.

"Don't call me Dorothy Dormouse, Uncle Crannie."

"Oh, but we call people what they are; and when little girls roll up into a ball, and sleep away their time, they are like nothing so much as-dormice."

"Mother has been telling you at dinner all about my dream, Uncle Crannie. I know she has, else how do you know?"

"Oh, perhaps one of the swallows told me. I say, Dorothy, I have to talk seriously to you for once. I am not joking this time."

Dorothy looked up in her uncle's face, and saw that he really did look grave-almost sad.

"Before mother comes into the room, I want to tell you that Dr. Bell thinks her cough is a bad cough, and that Coldchester is not the right place for her to live in during the winter months. So poor Uncle Crannie will be left alone all the long winter, and you must go with mother and Ingleby to the sunny South-to Italy; think of that!"

"I don't want to go," said Dorothy. "I mean-I mean I don't want to leave Puff and Muff and old Nino, and--"

"Poor old Uncle Crannie; but, my dear little niece, this is not a question of what you like or what you want. It is a question of what is right to do. Perhaps, little Dorothy, neither mother nor I have taught you enough the meaning of the word duty. It means, what you owe to others of service or love. Now, you owe it to your mother to be as merry and happy as a bird; and, after all, many little girls would jump for joy to be off to San Remo."

Dorothy was silent. "How long will it take to get there," she asked-"to the sunny South?"

"Well, you won't go quite as fast as the swallows, but I daresay we shall get there in less than a week; it depends upon the weather, and upon how your mother bears the journey. You must ask God to-night to bless your dear mother, and to make you a very good, helpful little daughter to her. Will you do this?"

"Yes," Dorothy said-"yes, Uncle Crannie. Why won't you stay with us there all the time?"

"Well! the cathedral might run away if I was not here to prevent it; and what would the old Canons do if I deserted them?"

"You are the young Canon, I know," Dorothy said. "Ingleby says that's what you are called."

"Ah!" said the Canon, rubbing his bald head, "there are degrees of comparison, and I am afraid it is old, older, olderer, and oldest, in the cathedral chapter. But I wanted to tell you that at San Remo you will have playfellows-nice little girls and boys, who are living there with their grandmother; and that is what we cannot find for you in Coldchester."

"YOU ARE THE YOUNG CANON"

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"I don't want any little girls and boys," Dorothy said. "I shan't play with them."

"Oh, nonsense! you will learn to play with them-Hoodman Blind, and Tom Tickler's ground; won't that be jolly?"

Dorothy made no response, and her mother coming into the room, with her shawl wrapped closely round her, she slipped down from her uncle's knee and took up her position at her mother's feet, with one of the kittens in her lap, saying-

"Read, mother; please read."

"Your mother can't read to-night, Dorothy," said the Canon, who had taken up the Times. "She has coughed so much to-day, and is very hoarse."

Dorothy pouted, and her mother, clearing her throat, said-

"Oh, I will try to finish the chapter we left unfinished last night. That will not hurt me."

It was a pity that Dorothy was so seldom denied anything. It was simply that there was no absolute necessity for refusing her what she asked, and she had no idea yet that giving up her own will was a sweet gift the youngest child may offer to her Father in heaven-the Father of the dear Lord Jesus Christ, who offered Himself in life and in death for the sinful, sad world He came to save. So Mrs. Acheson finished the chapter of the story, and then it was time for Dorothy to go to bed, for Ingleby appeared at the door, and said it was past eight o'clock, and much too late for a little girl to be in the drawing-room.

I daresay you wish to know what Dorothy was like, and as she goes up the wide staircase of Canon's House, she makes a very pretty picture. She had long, silky, fair hair, which was not frizzed and crimped, but hung down to her waist, and even below it, with soft, curled ends.

As Ingleby had no other child to look after, it was natural that she should bestow much pains on Dorothy's appearance. She wore a pretty white cashmere frock, with a wide rose-coloured sash, her black silk stockings fitted her legs precisely, and her dainty shoes had pretty buckles.

Puff and Muff had been sent to bed downstairs, and only old Nino was allowed to come into the nursery. He was a favoured dog, and slept at the foot of his little mistress's bed.

Dorothy went slowly upstairs, heedless of Ingleby's repeated "Come, my dear, come!" And when at last they had reached the nursery, Dorothy seated herself in the old rocking-chair, put her head back, and swinging gently backwards and forwards, said seriously, almost solemnly-

"Jingle"-it was her pet name for her faithful nurse-"I hate 'playmates,' as Uncle Crannie calls them. If I go to the sunny South, I shall not play with any one."

"Well, that will be very uncivil, my dear, though, to be sure, you are an odd child, for when the little Miss Thompsons and Master Benson came to tea on your last birthday, it did not seem to make you happy."

"It made me miserable," said Dorothy. Then, with a sudden impulse, she got up, and throwing her arms round her old friend's neck, she said, "I want nobody but you and mother, and Puff and Muff, and Nino."

Ingleby was certainly flattered by her darling's preference, and took her on her knee and undressed her as if she were seven months, instead of nearly eight years old, and brushed and combed the silky hair with gr

eat pride and pleasure. Dorothy's face was rather too thin and colourless for childhood; but her features were regular, and her large, blue eyes, shaded by dark lashes, were really beautiful.

"She is too much of a little woman," the Miss Thompsons' mother said; "the child wants companions, and to be roused from her dreams;" while Master Benson went away from the birthday party declaring it was slow and stupid, and that Dorothy was a stiff starched little thing, and he longed to shake her!

Dorothy could not remember her father; he had died when she was scarcely a year old, and just at that time her uncle, Canon Percival, went to live in Canon's House, at Coldchester, and invited his sister to come and take up her abode there, with her little girl, and Ingleby, her nurse.

Canon Percival was a bachelor, and till Dorothy came he had never had much to do with children. His friends pitied him, and said that for the most part children were noisy and troublesome, and that he would find the peace of his house disturbed. But Dorothy-Dorothy Dormouse, as he liked to call her-set these preconceived notions at defiance. She was quiet and gentle, and she and her uncle Cranstone-Crannie, as she called him-were great friends. She would sit on one of the red leather chairs by her uncle, at his great writing table, and draw pictures by the hour of birds, and butterflies, and flowers, and portraits, too-of Miss Belinda, and Puff and Muff, and even of her uncle himself. Then she would walk with him to the service in the cathedral, and sit demure and quiet while the prayers were said and the organ rolled its waves of music overhead.

The Canon's little niece was a great favourite with the old vergers, though they would say, one to the other, that she was too wise and knowing for a little one.

"It all comes of being with old people. There ain't enough of young life about her. It's a thousand pities she has not some playmate."

So it seemed, you see, a general opinion that Dorothy wanted companions; and when she got to the sunny South the companions were ready for her.

But it took some time to prepare for flight. People can get to the south of France and Italy very quickly, it is true; but they are not like the swallows, who don't want any luggage, and fly with no encumbrance.

Ingleby's preparations were very extensive indeed, and Dorothy had also a great deal in hand. She had to put Barton Hall in order, for one thing, and to put up a notice on the door that this house was to let furnished. Then Belinda had to have a little travelling ulster and warm hat, like her mistress's, and Puff and Muff had to be settled comfortably in their new quarters; for though they did not sleep in the nursery, they were there all day, and were carried about the house by their little mistress, while Nino trotted behind. The preparations were an amusement to Dorothy, and she began to feel that if anything prevented her going to the sunny South, she would feel sorry and disappointed after all!

Ingleby grew more and more serious as the time drew near. She murmured a good deal about "foreign parts," and once Dorothy felt sure she heard her say something about going away to die. Could these words possibly refer to her mother? Poor little girl! She had lived so securely with her mother, and had never been accustomed to think of her as apart from her own comfort and pleasure, that a sharp pain shot through her heart as she heard Ingleby's murmured words.

Once, too, when Ingleby thought she was asleep in the inner nursery, she heard her talking in low tones to the housemaid.

"The child has no notion that her mamma is so ill. Childlike!" said Ingleby.

"Well, I don't call it childlike," was the reply. "Miss Dorothy is not childlike; she is just eaten up with herself."

"She is as dear a lamb as you could find anywhere," said Ingleby, wrathfully; "a dear, sweet lamb. I suppose you like rampaging, noisy children, like your own brothers and sisters in your mother's farmhouse?"

"I like children," said Susan, bravely, "to think of other folks a little, as well as themselves. But there! it's not the poor child's fault; everyone in the house spoils her, and you are the worst of all, Mrs. Ingleby."

"I tell you what, Susan, I'd advise you, as a friend, to mind your own business. If you are such a blind bat as not to see what Miss Dorothy is-well, I am sorry for you, and I can't help it."

"I did not mean any offence, I am sure," said Susan, as she left the nursery. "As I said, it's not the child's fault; but it would be hard lines for her if she lost her mamma, and you too, Mrs. Ingleby."

A few minutes later, Ingleby was startled by the appearance of a little white figure in the doorway.

"Jingle," she said, in a low, choking voice, "is-my-mamma so very ill? I want to know."

"Ill? why, no. She has got a cough which shakes her rather. But, bless your little heart-don't, Miss Dorothy, my sweet, don't."

For, in a passion of weeping, Dorothy had thrown herself into her nurse's arms.

"Am I such a spoiled child?-am I, Jingle?"

"You are a dear little creature; nothing could spoil you. There, there; let me put you back to bed. Don't cry."

But Dorothy did cry, and when Ingleby had left her at last, she buried her face in the pillow, saying over to herself-

"Oh, is my mamma so ill? Will she die? Will she die? And I am such a spoiled child. Oh dear, oh dear! I never thought of it before-never, never."

There are times when many older people than little Dorothy catch suddenly, as it were, a glimpse of their true selves, and are saddened at the sight, with what results for the future depends upon the means they take to cure themselves of their faults.

There is but one way for the children and for those who have left childhood far behind-only one way-to watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation.

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