How Fidelia went to the Store
by Mary E. Wilkins
"I don't know what we're goin' to do," said
Aunt Maria Crooker. She sat in a large arm-chair,
and held in her lap a bowl of sugar and
butter that she was creaming. Aunt Maria filled
up the chair from arm to arm, for she was very
portly; she had a large, rosy, handsome face, and
she creamed with such energy that she panted
"Well, I don't know, either," rejoined her sister,
Mrs. Lennox. "I can't go to the store with
my lame foot, that's certain."
"Well, I know I can't," said Aunt Maria, with
additional emphasis. "I haven't walked two
mile for ten year, an' I don't believe I could get
to that store and back to save my life."
"I don't believe you could, either. I don't
know what is goin' to be done. We can't make
the cake without raisins, anyhow. It's the queerest
thing how father happened to forget them.
Now here he is gone over to East Dighton after
the new cow, and Cynthy gone to Keene to buy
her bonnet, an' me with a scalt foot, an' you not
able to walk, an' not one raisin in the house to
put into that weddin'-cake."
Mrs. Lennox stated the case in full, with a despairing
eloquence, and Aunt Maria sighed and
wrinkled her forehead.
"If there were only any neighbors you could
borrow from," she observed.
"Well, there ain't any neighbors 'twixt here
and the store except the Allens and the Simmonses,
and the Allens are so tight they never
put raisins into their Thanksgivin' pies. Mis'
Allen told me they didn't. She said she thought
most folks made their pies too rich, an' her folks
liked them just as well without raisins. An' as
for the Simmonses, I don't believe they see a raisin
from one year's end to the other. They're
lucky if they can get enough common things to
eat for all those children. I don't know what's
goin' to be done. Here's the dress-maker comin'
to-morrow, an' Cynthy goin' to be married in two
weeks, and the cake ought to be made to-day if
it's ever goin' to be."
"Yes, it had," assented Aunt Maria. "We've
put it off full long enough, anyway. Weddin'-cake
ain't near so good unless it stands a little while."
"I know it."
Just then there was a shrill, prolonged squeak.
It came from the yard. The doors and windows
were open; it was a very warm day.
"What's that?" cried Aunt Maria.
"Oh, it's nothin' but Fidelia's little wagon.
She's draggin' it round the yard."
The two women looked at each other; it was as
if a simultaneous idea had come suddenly to them.
Aunt Maria gave expression to it first. "Fidelia
couldn't go, could she?"
"Maria Crooker, that little thing! She ain't
six years old, an' she's never been anywhere
alone. Do you s'pose I'm goin' to send her a
mile to that store?" Mrs. Lennox's tone was full
of vehement indignation, but her eyes still met
Aunt Maria's with that doubtful and reflective
"I don't see a mite of harm in it," Aunt Maria
maintained, sturdily. She set her bowl of sugar
and butter on the table, and leaned forward with
a hand on each aproned knee. "I know Fidelia
ain't but five year old, but she's brighter than
some children of seven. It's just a straight road
to the store, an' she can't get lost, to save her
life. And she knows where 'tis. You took her
down to Mis' Rose's three or four weeks ago,
"Yes; that day father went down for grain.
I s'pose she would remember."
"Of course she'd remember. I don't see one
thing, as far as I'm concerned, to hinder that
child's goin' down to the store an' bringin' home
some raisins. I used to go on errands before I
was as old as she is. Folks didn't fuss over their
children so much in my day."
"Well," said Mrs. Lennox, finally, with a great
sigh, "I don't know but I may as well send her."
Mrs. Lennox was much smaller than her sister,
and she had a rather sickly but pleasant face.
She had to push a chair before her as she walked,
for she had scalded her foot quite badly the week
before, and it was now all swathed in bandages.
It had been a very unfortunate accident in more
ways than one, for Cynthia, her elder daughter,
was going to be married soon, and the family
were busily engaged in the wedding preparations.
It was very hard for poor Mrs. Lennox to
have to limp about with one knee in a chair,
while she made wedding-cake and arranged for
the bridal festivities, but she made the best of it.
Now she pushed over to the door, and called,
Directly the squeak increased to an agonizing
degree, the rattle of small wheels accompanied
it, and Fidelia came trudging around the corner
of the house. She was a chubby little girl, and
her blue tier seemed rather tight for her. She
had a round, rosy face, and innocent and honest
black eyes. She wore a small Shaker bonnet with
a green cape, and she stubbed her toes into the
grass every step she took.
"Don't stub your toes so," said her mother, admonishingly.
"You'll wear your shoes all out."
Fidelia immediately advanced with soft pats
like a kitten. When she got into the kitchen her
mother took off her Shaker bonnet and looked at
her critically. "You'll have to have your hair
brushed," said she. "Fidelia, do you remember
how you went with mother down to Mis' Rose's
three or four weeks ago?"
Fidelia nodded and winked.
"There was a big pussy cat there, do you remember?
and Mis' Rose gave you a cooky."
Fidelia's affirmative wink seemed to give out
"Well, you remember how we went to the
side door and knocked—the door with some roses
over the top of it—and Mis' Rose came—the side
Fidelia, intensely attentive, standing before her
mother and Aunt Maria, remembered about the
"Well, you remember how there was a piazza
across the front of the house, don't you? Father
hitched the horse to a post there. Well, there's
another door there opening on the piazza, don't
you remember—a door with panes of glass in it
like a window?"
"Well, now, Fidelia, do you suppose you can
go down to the store and buy some raisins for
mother to put in sister Cynthy's weddin'-cake,
"An' be a real smart little girl," put in Aunt
Fidelia gave one ecstatic roll of her black eyes
at them, then she broke into a shout, "Lemme
go! lemme go!" She oscillated on her small
stubbed toes like a bird preparing to fly, and she
tugged energetically at her mother's apron.
"I'll give you a penny, an' you can buy you a
nice stick of red-and-white twisted candy," added
Fidelia actually made a little dash for the door
then, but her mother caught her. "Stop!" she
said, in an admonitory voice which was quieting
to Fidelia, and made her realize that the red-and-white
candy was still in the future. "Now you
just wait a minute, an' not be in such a pucker.
You ain't goin' this way, with your apron just as
dirty as poison, and your hair all in a snarl.
You've got to have on your clean apron, and
have your hair brushed and your face washed."
So Fidelia climbed obediently into her high
chair, and sat with her eyes screwed up and her
fists clinched, while her mother polished her face
faithfully with a wet, soapy end of a towel, and
combed the snarls out of her hair. When it was
all done, her cheeks being very red and shiny,
and her hair very damp and smooth, when she
was arrayed in her clean starched white tier, and
had her Shaker tied on with an emphatic square
bow, she stood in the door and drank in the
parting instructions. Her eyes were wide and
intent, and her mouth drooped soberly at the
corners. The importance of the occasion had begun
to impress her. She held a penny tight in
her hand; the raisins were to be charged, it not
being judged advisable to trust Fidelia with so
"I don't believe that little thing can carry
three pounds of raisins," Mrs. Lennox said to
Aunt Maria. She was becoming more and more
uneasy about Fidelia's going.
"Let her take her little wagon an' drag 'em;
that'll be just the thing," said Aunt Maria, complacently.
So Fidelia started down the road, trundling
behind her the little squeaking cart. It was a
warm July day, and it was very dusty. Directly
Fidelia started she forgot her mother's injunctions
about stubbing her toes; she disappeared
in a small cloud of dust, for she walked in the
middle of the road, and flirted it up with great
"'WHOSE LITTLE GAL AIR YOU?'"
In the course of the mile Fidelia met one team.
It was an old rocking chaise and a white horse,
and an old farmer was driving. He drove slower
when he came alongside of Fidelia. When he
had fairly passed her he stopped entirely, twisted
about in his seat, and raised his voice.
"Whose little gal air you?" he asked.
Fidelia was a little frightened. Instead of
giving her father's name, she gave her own with
shy precision—"Fidelia Ames Lennox," she said,
retiring into her Shaker bonnet.
"You ain't runnin' away, be you?"
Fidelia's pride was touched. "I'm going to
the store for my mother," she announced, in quite
a shrill tone. Then she took to her heels, and
the little wagon trundled after, with a wilder
squeak than ever.
Fidelia kept saying over to herself, "Three
pounds of your best raisins, and Mr. Lennox will
come in and pay you." Her mother and Aunt
Maria wished after she had gone that they had
written it out on a piece of paper; they had not
thought of that. But Aunt Maria said she knew
that such a bright child as Fidelia would remember
three pounds of raisins when she had been
told over and over, and charged not to come
home without them.
Fidelia had started about ten o'clock in the
morning, and her mother and Aunt Maria had
agreed that they would not worry if she should
not return until one o'clock in the afternoon.
That would allow more than an hour for the
mile walk each way, and give plenty of time for
a rest between; for Fidelia had been instructed
to go into the store and sit down on a stool and
rest a while before starting upon her return trip.
"Likely as not Mis' Rose will give her a cooky
or something," Aunt Maria had whispered to
So when noon came the two women pictured
Fidelia sitting perched upon a stool in the store,
being fed with candy and cookies, and made
much of, or even eating dinner with the Rose
family. "Mis' Rose made so much of her when
you took her there before that I shouldn't wonder
a mite if she'd kept her to dinner," said Aunt
Maria. She promulgated this theory the more
strenuously when one o'clock came and Fidelia
had not appeared. "Of course that's what 'tis,"
she kept repeating. "It would take 'em a good
hour to eat dinner. I shouldn't be a bit surprised
if she didn't get here before two o'clock. I think
you're dreadful silly to worry, Jane."
For poor Mrs. Lennox was pushing her chair
every few minutes over to the door, where she
would stand, her face all one anxious frown,
straining her eyes for a glimpse of the small figure
trudging up the road. She had made the
blueberry dumpling that Fidelia loved for dinner,
and it was keeping warm on the back of the
stove. Neither she nor Aunt Maria had eaten a
When two o'clock came Mrs. Lennox broke
down entirely. "Oh dear!" she wailed; "oh
dear! I ought to have known better than to let
Aunt Maria was now pacing heavily between
her chair and the door, but she still maintained a
brave front. "For goodness' sake, Jane, don't
give up so," said she. "I don't see anything
to worry about, for my part; they're keepin'
At half-past two Mrs. Lennox stood up with a
determined air. "I ain't goin' to wait here another
minute," said she. "I'm goin' to find her.
I don't know but she's fell into the brook, or got
run over." Mrs. Lennox's face was all drawn
"I'd like to know how you're goin'," said Aunt
"I guess I can push this chair along the road
just as well as in a room."
"Pretty-lookin' sight you'd be goin' a mile
with one knee in a wooden chair."
"I guess I don't care much how I look if I
only find—her." Mrs. Lennox's voice broke into
"You just sit down and keep calm," said Aunt
Maria. "If anybody's goin', I am."
"Oh, you can't."
"Yes, I can, too. I ain't quite so far gone that
I can't walk a mile. You ain't goin' a step on
that scalt foot an' get laid up, with that weddin'
comin' off, not if I know it. I'm just goin' to
slip on my gaiter-shoes an' my sun-bonnet, an'
take the big green umbrella to keep the sun off."
When Aunt Maria was equipped and started,
Mrs. Lennox watched her progress down the road
with frantic impatience. It seemed to her that
she could have gone faster with her chair. Truth
was, that poor Aunt Maria, plodding heavily
along in her gaiter-shoes, holding the green umbrella
over her flaming face, made but slow and
painful progress, and it was well that Mr. Lennox
and Cynthia Lennox came home two hours before
they were expected. It was three o'clock
when Mr. Lennox came driving into the yard in
the open buggy. Cynthia, erect and blooming,
with her big bandbox in her lap, sat beside him,
and the new Jersey cow, fastened by a rope to
the tail of the buggy, came on behind with melancholy
moos. Cynthia had bought her wedding-bonnet
sooner than she had expected, so she had
come home on the three o'clock train instead of
the five; and her father had bought the cow
sooner than he had expected, and had come to
the railroad crossing just about the time that
Cynthia's train arrived. So he had stopped and
taken in her and her bandbox, and they had all
ridden home together.
Mrs. Lennox stood in the kitchen door when
they drove in.
"Oh, mother," Cynthia cried out, "I've had
splendid luck! I've got the handsomest bonnet!"
"I guess you won't care much about bonnets,"
answered her mother; "Fidelia's lost." She spoke
quite slowly and calmly, then she began to weep
wildly and lament. It was quite a time before
she could make the case plain to them, and Cynthia
and her bandbox, and Mr. Lennox and the
horse and buggy and cow, all remained before
her in a petrified halt.
As soon as Mr. Lennox fairly understood, he
sprang out of the buggy, untied the cow, led her
into the barn, turned the team around, with a
sharp grate of the wheels, jumped in again, and
gathered up the reins. Cynthia, her rosy cheeks
quite pale, still sat in her place, and the tears
splashed on her new bandbox cover. Mrs. Lennox
had set her chair outside the door, and followed
it, with a painful effort. "Stop, father!"
she cried; "I'm goin' too!"
"Oh, mother, you can't!" said Mr. Lennox
and Cynthia, together.
"I'm goin'. You needn't say a word. Father,
you get out an' help me in."
Mr. Lennox got out and lifted, while Cynthia
pulled. Mrs. Lennox's injured foot suffered, but
she set her mouth hard, and said nothing. They
started at a good pace, three on a seat, with Mr.
Lennox in the middle, driving.
They had got about half-way to the store when
they overtook Aunt Maria. Aunt Maria, with
the green umbrella overhead, was proceeding
steadily, with a sideways motion that seemed
more effective than the forward one.
"I'll get out, and let her get in," said Cynthia.
"No," said her father; "it won't do; it 'ill
break the springs. We can't ride three on a
seat with Aunt Maria, anyhow, and I've got to
So they passed Aunt Maria.
"Don't go any farther, Aunt Maria," Cynthia
called, sobbingly, back to her. "You sit down
on the wall and rest."
But Aunt Maria shook her head, she could not
speak, and kept on.
It was quarter-past three when they reached
the Rose house and the store. The store was in
the front of the house, and the Rose family occupied
the rear portion. The house stood on a
street corner, so a good deal of it was visible, and
the whole establishment had a shut-up air; not
a single farmer's wagon stood before the store.
However, as Mr. Lennox drove up, a woman's
head appeared at a window; then a side door
opened, and she stood there. She had on a big
apron, and her face was flushed as if she had
been over the stove; she held a great wooden
spoon, too. She began talking to the Lennoxes,
but they paid no attention to her—their eyes
were riveted upon the store door. There was a
speck of white against its dark front, and suddenly
it moved. It was Fidelia's white tier.
"Why, there's Fidelia!" gasped Cynthia. She
jumped out, not waiting for her father to turn
the wheel, and ran to the store door. The bandbox
rolled out and the lid came off, and there
was her wedding-bonnet in the dust, but she did
not mind that. She caught Fidelia. "Oh, you
naughty little girl, where have you been all this
time?" cried she.
Fidelia's eyes took on a bewildered stare, her
mouth puckered more and more. She clung to
her sister, and sobbed something that was quite
inaudible. It was quite a time before her father
and mother and Cynthia and Mrs. Rose, surrounding
her with attention, could gather that the
import of it all was that she had knocked and
knocked and nobody had come to the door.
"Knocked!" gasped Mrs. Rose; "why, the
poor little lamb! Here Mr. Rose and Sam have
been away all day, an' I've been makin' currant-jell'
out in the kitchen. An' there's the bell on
the counter, that customers always ring when
there ain't anybody round. I've been listenin'
for that all day. It's been so hot, an' everybody
hayin', that I don't suppose a soul but her has
been near the store since nine o'clock this mornin',
and there she's stood an' knocked. I never
heard anything like it in my life. See here,
Pussy, haven't you been asleep?"
Fidelia shook her head in a sulky and down-cast
manner, but there was a suspiciously flushed
and creasy look about her, and they agreed that
it was more than probable that a nap on the
store steps had softened and shortened her vigil.
Mrs. Lennox had her up in the wagon on
her lap. She took her Shaker bonnet off, and
smoothed her hair and kissed her. "She thought
she'd got to knock, I s'pose," said she. "I ought
to have told her she didn't have to when she
went to a store. Poor little soul! mother won't
send her to the store again till she's bigger."
"I knocked an' knocked," wailed Fidelia, piteously.
She looked cross and worn out. Mrs. Rose
ran into the house, and brought out a plate of
cookies and a mug of milk, and then Fidelia sat
in her mother's lap and ate and drank and felt
comforted. But after the raisins had been finally
purchased, Cynthia's bonnet picked up out of
the dust and shaken, the little squeaking wagon
stowed under the seat of the buggy, and the
team turned around, Fidelia set up a grievous
and injured cry: "My candy! my candy! I
'ain't—got my candy!" And she held up to
view the copper cent still clutched in her moist
"Poor little lamb, she shall have her candy!"
cried Mrs. Rose. Fidelia had never seen such a
handful of candy as Mrs. Rose brought out from
the store. There was a twisted red-and-white
stick of peppermint, pink checkerberry, clear barley—a
stick of every kind in the glass jars in
Mr. Rose's store window. And Mrs. Rose would
not take Fidelia's one penny at all; she bade her
keep it until she came to the store again.
Aunt Maria was almost up to the store when
they left it, and it was decided that she should
remain and make a call upon Mrs. Rose while Mr.
Lennox carried the others home, then he would
return for her. Aunt Maria folded her green
umbrella and sank down on the door-step, and
Mrs. Rose brought her a palm-leaf fan and a
glass of ginger water. "I 'ain't walked a mile
before for ten year," gasped Aunt Maria; "but
I'm so thankful that child's safe that I can't
think of anything else." There were tears in her
eyes as she watched the wagon-load disappearing
under the green branches of the elm-trees.
And Fidelia, in her mother's lap, rode along and
sucked a stick of barley candy in silent bliss.
Griefs in childhood soon turn to memories;
straightway, as she sucked her barley candy,
Fidelia's long and painful vigil at the store door
became a thing of the past.