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New mother.

From Anyhow stories by Lucy Lane Clifford.

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THE children were always called Blue-Eyes and the Turkey, and they came by the names in this manner. The elder one was like her dear father who was far away at sea, and when the mother looked up she would often say, " Child, you have taken the pattern of your father's eyes;" for the father had the bluest of blue eyes, and so gradually his little girl came to be called after them. The younger one had once, while she was still almost a baby, cried bitterly because a turkey that lived near to the cottage, and sometimes wandered into the forest, suddenly vanished in the middle of the winter ; and to console her she had been called by its name. Now the mother and Blue-Eyes and the Turkey and the baby all lived in a lonely cottage on the edge of the forest. The forest was so near that the garden at the back seemed a part of it, and the tall fir-trees were so close that their big black arms stretched over the little thatched roof, and when the moon shone upon them their tangled shadows were all over the white-washed walls. It was a long way to the village, nearly a mile and a half, and the mother had to work hard and had not time to go often herself to see if there was a letter at the post-office from the dear father, and so very often in the afternoon she used to send the two children. They were very proud of being able to go alone, and often ran half the way to the post- office. When they came back tired with the long walk, there would be the mother waiting and watch- ing for them, and the tea would be ready, and the baby crowing with delight ; and if by any chance there was a letter from the sea, then they were happy indeed.



The cottage room was so cosy : the walls were as white as snow inside as well as out, and against them hung the cake-tin and the baking- dish, and the lid of a large saucepan that had been worn out long before the children could remember, and the fish-slice, all polished and shining as bright as silver. On one side of the fireplace, above the bellows hung the almanac, and on the other the clock that always struck the wrong hour and was always running down too soon, but it was a good clock, with a little picture on its face and sometimes ticked away for nearly a week without stopping. The baby's high chair stood in one corner, and in another there was a cupboard hung up high against the wall, in which the mother kept all manner of little surprises. The children often wondered how the things that came out of that cupboard had got into it, for they seldom saw them put there. " Dear children," the mother said one afternoon late in the autumn, " it is very chilly for you to go to the village, but you must walk quickly, and who knows but what you may bring back a letter saying that dear father is already on his way to England." Then Blue-Eyes and the Turkey made haste and were soon ready to go. " Don't be long," the mother said, as she always did before they started. "Go the nearest way and don't look at any strangers you meet, and be sure you do not talk with them." " No, mother," they answered; and then she kissed them and called them dear good children, and they joyfully started on their way. The village was gayer than usual, for there had been a fair the day before, and the people who had made merry still hung about the street as if reluc- tant to own that their holiday was over. THEN SHE KISSED THEM. P. J " I wish we had come yesterday," Blue-Eyes said to the Turkey ; " then we might have seen something."



" Look there," said the Turkey, and she pointed to a stall covered with gingerbread; but the children had no money. At the end of the street, close to the Blue Lion where the coaches stopped, an old man sat on the ground with his back resting against the wall of a house, and by him, with smart collars round their necks, were two dogs. Evidently they were dancing dogs, the children thought, and longed to see them perform, but they seemed as tired as their master, and sat quite still beside him, looking as if they had not even a single wag left in their tails. " Oh, I do wish we had been here yesterday," Blue-Eyes said again as they went on to the grocer's, which was also the post-office. The post -mistress was very busy weighing out half-pounds of coffee, and when she had time to attend to the children she only just said "No letter for you to-day," and went on with what she was doing. Then Blue-Eyes and the Turkey turned away to go home. They went back slowly down the village street, past the man with the dogs again. One dog had roused himself and sat up rather crookedly with his head a good deal on one side, looking very melancholy and rather ridiculous; but on the children went towards the bridge and the fields that led to the forest. They had left the village and walked some way, and then, just before they reached the bridge, they noticed, resting against a pile of stones by the way- side, a strange dark figure. At first they thought it was some one asleep, then they thought it was a poor woman ill and hungry, and then they saw that it was a strange wild-looking girl, who seemed very unhappy, and they felt sure that something was the matter. So they went and looked at her, and thought they would ask her if they could do any- thing to help her, for they were kind children and sorry indeed for any one in distress.



The girl seemed to be tall, and was about fifteen years old. She was dressed in very ragged clothes. Round her shoulders there was an old brown shawl, which was torn at the corner that hung down the middle of her back She wore no bonnet, and an old yellow handkerchief which she had tied round her head had fallen backwards and was all huddled up round her neck. Her hair was coal black and hung down uncombed and unfastened, just anyhow. It was not very long, but it was very shiny, and it seemed to match her bright black eyes and dark freckled skin. On her feet were coarse gray stock- ings and thick shabby boots, which she had evidently forgotten to lace up. She had something hidden away under her shawl, but the children did not know what it was. At first they thought it was a baby, but when, on seeing them coming towards her, she carefully put it under her and sat upon it, they thought they must be mistaken. She sat watching the children approach, and did not move or stir till they were within a yard of her ; then she wiped her eyes just as if she had been crying bitterly, and looked up. The children stood still in front of her for a moment, staring at her and wondering what they ought to do. " Are you crying ?" they asked shyly. To their surprise she said in a most cheerful voice, " Oh dear, no ! quite the contrary. Are you ? " They thought it rather rude of her to reply in this way, for any one could see that they were not crying. They felt half in mind to walk away ; but the girl looked at them so hard with her big black eyes, they did not like to do so till they had said something else. "Perhaps you have lost yourself?" they said gently. But the girl answered promptly, " Certainly not. Why, you have just found me. Besides," she added, " I live in the village."

       



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