Read CHAPTER IX - “WAXERATION.” of Aunt Madge's Story , free online book, by Sophie May, on

Still, in spite of cheeses, beehives, bossies, and kittens, I had many lonesome hours, and sometimes cried after I went to bed.  Samantha must have known it, for I slept with her; I was afraid to sleep alone.

There were times when I thought I would start off secretly, and go home on foot.  I asked the hired man how long he supposed it would take a little girl to walk to Willowbrook, and what were the chances of her getting lost if she should try it?  I thought I spoke in such a guarded way that Seth would not have the least idea what I meant; but he must have been very quick-witted, for he understood in a minute.  He did not let me know it, though, and only answered coolly, ­

“Wal, I should think now it would take her about a week’s steady travel, and no knowing but she’d starve to death on the road.  Why, you hain’t heerd of a little gal that thinks of such a thing, I hope?”

“No; I don’t see many little girls,” said I, with a dismal sigh; “they don’t have anything here but bossies and horses.”

I did not know, till Seth nipped it in the bud, what a sweet hope I had been cherishing.  Should I truly starve to death if I took my little cheese in a basket on my arm, and some doughnuts and turn-overs?  But no, it would be stealing to take things out of cousin Lydia’s cupboard, and run off with them.  I would rather stay at Bloomingdale and suffer, than be a thief.

I know now that Seth told cousin Lydia what I said to him, and her kind heart was touched.  I am sure she must have had a hard time with me, for she knew nothing about children, and was as busy as she could be with her dairy and her “fall work.”  I ought not to have been so unhappy.  Some children at that age, with so much done for their amusement, would have felt perfectly contented; but I had naturally a restless disposition, and wanted, as Ned said, “sumpin diffunt.”

Ah, Horace! very gallant in you to say I have “got bravely over it.”  Thank you, dear; I hope I have, to some degree; still I might have got over it much younger if I had only tried a little harder.  A child of seven is old enough to be grateful to its friends, when they do all they can for its comfort and pleasure.

Cousin Lydia wrote mother about my state of mind; and it troubled her.  She talked with Madam Allen, who was always full of plans.  Madam thought a minute, and then said, ­

“Poor Marjie, we can’t have her homesick.  Do you suppose she would like to have Ruphelle go there and stay with her?”

Of course mother knew I would be happy with Ruphelle.

Then Madam Allen wished mother would please write cousin Lydia, and ask if Fel might go to Bloomingdale a few weeks.  She hoped the mountain air would be strengthening to the dear little girl, who seemed rather drooping.

Cousin Lydia was willing; and Madam Allen sent Ruphelle by cars, with a gentleman and lady who were going to Boston.  Not a word was said to me; and when Seth harnessed the horse and went to the station to meet her, I supposed he was only “going to see his mother;” for that was what he always said when I asked any questions.  It was about three miles to the flag station, and I believe his mother lived somewhere on the way.

I was not watching for him to come back, or thinking anything about him, when I happened to look out of the window and see him helping a little girl out of the wagon.  The red and white plaid looked exactly like Fel’s dress; and as the little girl turned around, there were the soft, brown eyes, and the dark, wavy hair, and the lovely pale face of Fel Allen herself!

I never expect to be much happier till I get to heaven than I was for the next hour or two.  I danced and screamed, and laughed and cried, and wondered how Fel could keep so calm, when we hadn’t seen each other for as much as three weeks.

“I don’t see what’s the matter with me,” sobbed I; “I never was so glad in my life; but I can’t help a-crying!”

Fel was not one of the kind to go wild.  She usually knew what she was about.  Supper was ready, and she sat at the table, and ate honey on her bread and butter, as if she really enjoyed it; also answered every one of cousin Lydia’s many questions like a little lady.

I had no appetite, and could hardly have told what my name was if any one had asked me.

But from that time my homesickness was gone.  I took my little friend all about the farm, which was a very nice place, only I had never thought of it before, and showed her the speckled bossy, which seemed to have grown handsomer all in one night.

“Here are some black currants, Fel; do you like ’em?”

“O, yes.”

“Why, I don’t; I just despise ’em.”

“Well, I don’t like ’em very well,” said Fel; for after our long separation she could not bear to disagree with me in anything.

“Cousin Lydia,” said I, very soon after Fel came, “may we tell scare stories after we go to bed?  She wants us to.”

Cousin Lydia did not know what I meant by “scare stories.”

“It’s all the awful things we can think of,” said I, eagerly.  “And we like to, for we want to see ’f our hair ’ll stand out straight.”

Cousin Lydia laughed, and said “children were perfect curiosities.”

“It makes us shiver all over.  It’s splendid,” said I.

“Well, you may try it this once,” said cousin Lydia, “if you’ll stop talking the moment I tap on the wall.”

So, as soon as we got into bed we began.  “You tell first,” said Ruphelle; “you can tell the orfulest, and then I’ll tell.”

“Mine’ll be about the Big Giant,” said I, clearing my throat.

The Big Giant.

“Once upon a time he had three heads, and he roared so you could hear him a mile.”

“That isn’t anything,” said Fel; “my hair don’t stand out a bit.”

“Why, I hadn’t but just begun.  You wait and see what comes next.  Did I say the Big Giant had three heads?  He had sixteen.  And every one of ’em had three mouths, and some had ten; and they made a noise when he chewed grass like ­like thunder.”

“It don’t scare me a bit,” said Fel, stoutly.

“Did I say the Big Giant ate grass?  He ate fire; he ate live coals, the liver the better.”

“I should have thought ’twould have burnt him all up,” said Fel.

“There, miss, you needn’t pretend not to be scared!  I’m so scared myself I can’t but just tell! ­No, it didn’t burn him up; it came out at his great big nose.  And when the Big Giant walked along the streets folks ran away, for he blazed so.  And there wasn’t enough water in Willowbrook to put him out!”

“He didn’t live at Willowbrook?”

“O, yes, right between your house and my house; and lives there now!”

By that time Fel began to tremble and creep closer to me.

“Tell some more,” said she, laughing.  “It don’t scare me a bit.”

And I told, and I told.  There was no end to the horrible things that Big Giant had done, was doing, or was going to do.

“Does your hair stand up, Fel?”

“No; feel and see if it does.  But there’s a creepy feeling goes over me; don’t it over you?”

“Yes,” said I, highly excited.  “Got your eyes shut, Fel?”

“Yes, shut up tight.”

“Open ’em,” said I, solemnly; “for how do you know but that Big Giant’s got into this room?  Can’t you see the fire coming out of his nose?”

Fell couldn’t, exactly.

“Get out,” said I, “and get the wash-bowl and pitcher, and let’s throw it at him kersplash.”

“I dassent,” said Fel, faintly.

“Nor I dassent neither.”

By that time I was out of bed, much more frightened than Fel was, and calling “Cousin Lydia,” as loud as I could shout.  She came in in great surprise, and it was some time before she could succeed in calming us.  I remember how heartily she laughed, and how my teeth chattered.  I actually had to be wrapped in a blanket and dosed with ginger tea.  I wonder how many times cousin Lydia said, ­

“Well, children ARE perfect curiosities.”

We could not think of such a thing as spending the night alone after all this, and Samantha was obliged to get into our bed and sleep in the middle.  Cousin Lydia said we made too much hard work for the family by telling “scare stories,” and we must not do it again while we staid at her house.

“I have just found out, Marjie, why it is that you are afraid to sleep alone,” said she; “it is because you allow yourself to think about such frightful things.  Is it not so?”

“Yes’m,” said I, quivering in the blanket.

“Well, child, you must stop it at once; it is a very foolish habit, and may grow upon you.  Never think of dreadful things.  Say your little prayer, asking God to take care of you, and then lie down in peace, for he will certainly do it.  Ruphelle, are you ever afraid?”

“No’m, only when I’m with Marjie; but I like to hear her tell things; I ask her to.”

Fel often said she had beautiful thoughts about angels after she went to bed, and dreamed that they came and stood by her pillow.

Ah, that was no common child; she lived very near the gates of heaven.  Strange I could have associated with her so much, and still have been so full of wrong desires and naughty actions!

Julia Tenney, who was not very fond of children, certainly not of me, took a decided fancy to Fel the moment she saw her.  I soon found this out, for she did not try to conceal it, and said more than once that “that child was too good for this world.”  I thought everybody liked her better than me, from Miss Julia down to the cat.  I did not consider this at all strange; only I longed to do something to show myself worthy of praise, as well as she.

There was a panic at that time about small-pox, and the doctor came one day to vaccinate everybody in the house.  We children looked on with great interest to see the lancet make a scratch in cousin Lydia’s arm, and then in Miss Samantha’s, and Miss Julia’s.

“Now for the little folks,” said the doctor, and drew Fel along to him; but she broke away in great alarm, and began to cry.  “Well, well,” said the doctor, turning to me, “here’s a little lady that will come right up, I know she will; she won’t mind such a thing as a prick of a needle.”

No, I really didn’t mind it; why should I, when I had been gashed and slashed all my life?  So I walked up very quickly to show my courage.  I guessed they wouldn’t laugh about my Big Giant now!  I rolled back my sleeve with an air of triumph, and looked down on Fel, who shrank into a corner.  Everybody was surprised, and said, “Well done!” and hoped I wasn’t all the brave child there was in the house.

I walked on thrones, I assure you; for there was Fel crying, and begging to wait till after dinner.  Why, she hadn’t any more courage than a chicken.  I was ashamed of her.  The doctor said he would wait till after dinner if she would surely have it done then.

“O, you little scare-girl!” said I, as he walked out to talk with cousin Joseph, and we two children were left alone in the room.

The doctor had laid his lancet and the little quill of vaccine matter on the table, having no thought, I suppose, that such small children as we would dare touch them.

“I can waxerate as well as he can,” said I, taking up the lancet, “for I watched him.  Push up your sleeve, Fel, and I’ll waxerate you, and then when the doctor does it, you’ll get used to it, you know.”

“Don’t you, don’t you touch that sharp thing, Madge Parlin.”

“Poh! do you think I’m a little scare-girl like you?” returned I, proudly, for my little head was quite turned with flattery.  “He didn’t say folks musn’t touch it, did he, Miss Fel?  It’s just like a needle; and who’s afraid of a needle but you?  I’ll waxerate me, if you don’t dast.  Just you look!  When I’ve done it three times to me, will you let me do it to you?”

Fel wouldn’t promise, but I went boldly to work.  Let me count the scars ­yes, twenty scratches I made above my elbow, never forgetting the vaccine, saying, as I stopped to take breath, ­

“Ready now, Fel?”

She never was ready, but she stood looking on with such meekness and awe, that I was just as well satisfied.  After the doctor was gone, and she was in cousin Lydia’s lap, quite overcome by the fright of “waxeration,” I told what I had done, expecting to be praised.

“Why, Maggie!” said cousin Lydia, really shocked, “what will you do next?  It was very, very wrong for you to meddle with the doctor’s lancet.”

“Ah, well,” said Miss Julia, “I guess she’ll be a sick enough child when it ‘takes.’”

I did not understand that, but I saw I had sunk again in everybody’s esteem.  And that very afternoon Miss Julia allowed Fel, who had been such a coward, to dress up in her bracelets, rings, pin, and even her gold watch, only “she must be sure and not let Maggie touch them.”

Of course I see now what a heedless child I was, and don’t wonder Miss Julia wished to preserve her ornaments from my fingers; still she ought not to have given them to Fel before my very eyes.  I thought it was hard, after scratching myself so unmercifully, not to have either glory or kisses, or even a bosom-pin to wear half an hour.  My arm smarted, and I felt cross.  As Miss Julia went out of the room she patted Fel’s head, but took no notice of me, and cousin Lydia did the very same thing two minutes afterwards.  It was more than I could bear.

“Ho, little borrow-girl,” said I to Fel, “got a gold watch, too!  ’Fore I’d wear other folks’s things!  I don’t wear a single one thing on me but b’longs to me; you may count ’em and see!”

It seemed as if I could not let her alone; but such was the sweetness of nature in that dear little girl that she loved me through everything.

“I thought you wanted to go out doors and play with me,” said I; “and if you do, you’d better take off your borrowed watch!”

Fel did not answer, but tucked the watch into her bosom; and we went out in no very pleasant mood.