Holiday Luck by Sara Conant

MOTHER, mother!” with a prolonged er.

“Mary, where’s mother?” and the children raced through the house, looking into every room on the way.

“Here, Willie; what do you want?”

“O, mother, we are to have a holiday. Miss Mortimer has gone home.”

“Isn’t it fun!” cried Ada, swinging on her mother’s arm.

“That depends upon how you spend it,” Mrs. Constant replied.

“Why, a holiday means to have fun, and do just what you please,” asserted Willie.

“And not get any lessons,” said Dolly, snipping the tape with her mother’s scissors.

Mrs. Constant took them from her, and smiled on the excited three.

 “I hope you will have a pleasant day, and try to be good.”

“Not too good, mother,” expostulated Willie.

“No, only don’t get into mischief.”

“What shall we do first?” asked Ada.

“I don’t know,” replied Dolly. “Isn’t it fun to have one whole day which is not Christmas or Thanksgiving?”

For a short time the children remained in Mrs. Constant’s room, upsetting her baskets, tangling her silk, and plying her with numberless questions.

“I think you had better take a run in the garden,” she finally said. “You are so restless and full of holiday, I think the fresh air would relieve you.”

“What a dear mother!” they cried; and having tumultuously kissed her, they repaired to the garden.

They lived in a country town, and had a large plot of ground at the back of the house, through the farther end of which flowed a brook. Each one had his garden bed, and at one side was a summer-house, where they kept their garden tools and many of their playthings, also a pet rabbit, named Blackhawk. It was too late in the fall for flowers, only a few sturdy asters and hardy verbenas being in blossom, and they played tag, hide-and-seek, and chased each other with handfuls of dead leaves. While they were thus occupied, their mother called them, and told them that aunt Clara had sent for her to come and spend the day; she had sprained her ankle, and wanted some one to sit with her.

“Won’t you be home to dinner?” they asked in despairing chorus.

“No; but Mary will take care of you, and you can enjoy yourselves; but don’t do foolish things, or your holiday will be spoiled. Now, you must all be mother to each other, that I may find you well and happy when I come home.”

For a while after she had gone, they amused themselves being mother to one another; but Willie made such a failure that they gave it up.

“Let us play with the dolls a little while,” suggested Dolly.

The proposition met with favor, and they went to the summer-house. Ada had a large family of paper dolls, and Dolly of wooden ones. They played tea party, and dinner, and visiting; but Willie could not forget that they had a holiday, and he longed to do something unusual.

“You have too many girls, Ada,” he cried. “Let us play China, and burn some up.”

A funeral pyre was soon constructed with splinters of wood, Dolly ran to the kitchen for matches, and Willie turned his jacket inside out, tied Ada’s sack about his neck by the sleeves, put the watering-pot on his head, and was ready to personate the priest. Ada selected four victims, who were securely bound with thirty cotton, and laid on the pile.

“Let us have Blackhawk for the idol,” cried Ada.

Blackhawk was brought forth, a string of colored beads put about his neck, and he was bolstered up in the arm-chair of the Princess Widdlesbee, Dolly’s largest doll. But when the match was struck and applied with a great flourish, he sprang from his throne, and fled to the farthest corner.

“The god is displeased; the sacrifice must cease,” cried Ada, who began to feel remorse as her dolls crisped and turned to ashes.

“No,” shouted Willie, “I am the priest; I know he means burn all;” and seizing a brand, he applied it to Dolly’s village, which stood near by. For a moment it was fun to see the flames bursting from the roofs of houses, and lapping about the fences; but Dolly soon gave a cry of dismay.

“Susanna and Posy are in the church; I don’t want them burned.”

 “To the rescue!” shouted the heathen priest, snatching the pot from his head, and running to fill it with water.

But Dolly could not wait, and had already burned a hole in her apron, and singed her hair, trying to save her favorites. Blackhawk cowered in the corner, stamping his hind feet, while Ada was pulling apart the pyre on which her dolls had perished.

“O, Willie, the floor is burned. Hurry, hurry!” cried Dolly.

Willie ran, deluged the burning village, and Dolly seized Susanna and Posy, free from damage, with the exception of Posy’s legs, which were so long, they lay outside the church door, and were burned off. When they cleared away the ruins, there was a round, black spot on the floor, where the village had stood, and the children’s hands and clothes were wet and grimy.

“Do you think mother will care?” asked Dolly, after they had looked solemnly at one another.

“I don’t believe she will as long as we did not burn any more,” replied Willie, stepping back on the rest of the matches.

They were explosive, and lighted with a snap that made him jump. When he saw what he had done, he turned the watering-pot over them, and put his foot on it.

“Now they are safe,” he cried. “Let us bury the pieces of the village.”

“No,” said Ada. “After I get a carrot for Blackhawk, let us make a raft of some of them, and put the rest on, and let them float away on the brook.”

This was speedily done, and when the little craft had passed the boundaries of their garden, Willie proposed they should build a dam, and some time he would put up a mill. They were hardly fairly at work when Mary called them to dinner.

Willie took the head of the table, and was rather offended that Mary did not let him cut the meat.

“At any rate, I’ll help the pie,” he declared.

Mary prudently cut the pieces before she put it on, and while they were eating it, Willie very grandly said,—

“You may go now, Mary.”

His mother usually dismissed her at dessert, and Willie wished to have all the privileges of the place he occupied. Mary retired with a smile, and when the first pieces of pie were disposed of, Willie offered the girls a second. It was mince pie, very nice and tempting; and though Ada knew a second piece was not generally allowed, she thought a holiday might make a difference. Dolly was busy feeding Prig,—a brisk Scotch terrier, with large, bright eyes, stiff, rough hair, and a tail about two inches long,—and refused.

After dinner they returned to their dam, Ada and Dolly bringing the material, and Willie building. But Dolly became dissatisfied, and insisted on being allowed to work in the water, while Ada deserted altogether, and played with Blackhawk, whom they had let out.

“Dolly,” cried Willie, “won’t you go to my room and get my hammer? and be quick, for I’ve got to hold this while you are gone.”

The dam was nearly finished, and both were much excited with the success of their work; for the water had collected in quite a pool above, and would soon flow over in a fine fall. Dolly ran, leaving the doors open behind her. Back she came, and Willie was carefully adjusting the last beam, when Ada shouted,—

“Here’s Prig, and Blackhawk’s out.”

All three started, calling Prig, and running after her and Blackhawk in wild confusion. Prig misunderstood their anxiety, and supposing they were setting her on the rabbit, joined in the hunt. Poor Blackhawk tried to escape, but Prig caught him, gave one shake, and the pretty rabbit lay dead.

 “O, you wicked dog!” cried Ada, while Willie and Dolly stood quite overcome by the misfortune.

Prig saw in a moment she had made a mistake, and when Willie rushed at her with uplifted hammer, hid behind the summer-house. With loud grief and many tears, the children raised their dead pet, and laid it on a bench in the out-house. Its blue eyes were half open, its soft black-and-white fur wet and rumpled, and they cried and blamed Prig as they tenderly arranged it on the bench. Ada fairly howled, and Bridget and Mary ran out to see what was the matter.

“Ay,” said Bridget, “and it was Dolly herself left the door open, though I told her to shut it.”

“I didn’t know Prig was there,” sobbed Dolly.

“It’s all Prig’s fault,” said Willie, “and I’ll kill her.”

“No, no,” pleaded Dolly, with whom Prig was an especial favorite.

A consultation was held over the bench, and it was finally decided that the case should be referred to Mrs. Constant on her return, though Willie still vowed vengeance. Prig had crept back, and crouched in the doorway; but when the children saw her, they drove her away, throwing stones and calling her the worst names they could invent. She skulked outside very unhappy, until Willie shut her up in the summer-house, while the children spent the rest of the long afternoon over their dead rabbit. Dolly tied the Princess Widdlesbee’s best blue sash about his neck, Willie emptied his toolbox to lay him in, and Ada spread her best doll’s bed-quilt over him. Then they sat and cried together until Dolly started up, and said,—

“There’s mother.”

The first thing Mrs. Constant heard when she entered the house was the cry of,—

“Mother, mother!”

Not with the joyous ring it had in the morning, but with an appeal in it which told her some trouble had come which mother could best heal. All told the story separately and together, laying Blackhawk on her knees, and crying on her shoulder.

“And I’m going to hang Prig for a wicked, bad dog,” said Willie, to conclude. “She is a murderer!” and he fiercely wiped his tears.

“My dear little boy, I don’t think poor Prig was to blame at all.”

“O, mother!” cried a mournful chorus.

“No; Dolly left the door open, you all excited her, and I begin to think you were having too much of what Willie calls a holiday.”

“But it wasn’t her holiday, and she’s killed Blackhawk. O-o-o!” and they all cried again.

Mrs. Constant soothed them, and sympathized.

“Don’t cry any more. You will be sick. I would not kill Prig, for then she would be gone too, and to-morrow you would be sorry. And besides, she was only trying to do as you wanted her to, and following out her doggish instinct.”

But half convinced, the children went to the summer-house and called Prig; but she would not come. Then they drove her out, and as she stood trembling before them, reproached her, and raising their arms, shouted,—

“Go!”

Prig hesitated a moment, looked from one to another, then with her tail between her legs, her hair on end, she uttered an unearthly howl, and fled at full speed, crowded under the gate, and disappeared.

The children went to bed early, as Mrs. Constant thought the excitement was bad for them, and in the night she was called to the little girl’s room. Dolly was feverish, and ill with a sore throat, and Ada in great pain. They were sick all night, and  in the morning Mrs. Constant heard about the second piece of pie and Dolly’s dam building. Her sleeves had been wet all the afternoon, and the grief, added to the pie and wet, had made them both ill.

They were not able to go out that day, and Willie buried Blackhawk alone, while they watched him sadly from the window. They took their last farewell of their pet at the kitchen door, and would have given all their yesterday’s sport to have helped Willie with the funeral. He had meant that Prig should have attended as chief mourner, but she was nowhere to be found. No one had seen her since her flight, and for days they could find no trace of her. This added to their discomfort; for they all loved her, and Ada and Dolly were confined to the house for some time, and wanted her to play with them.

About a week after, on a rainy night, Bridget found her at the kitchen door, and with great difficulty persuaded her to come in. She was very thin and unhappy, and hid from the children, when they, already sorry for their harshness, were kind to her, and tried to play with her. It was a long time before she was the lively Prig she used to be, and was always a little lame in her left fore foot. Something had hurt her in those days of absence; and though after a while the children forgot their holiday and the consequences, I am afraid poor Prig never did.