And her Gold Ring
Mary E. Wilkins
Author of Prembroke, Jane Field, A Humble Romance, etc., etc.
Fleming H. Revell Company
New-York Chicago Toronto
One of the first things which Comfort remembered being told was
that she had been named for her Aunt Comfort, who had given her a
gold ring and a gold dollar for her name. Comfort could not
understand why. It always seemed to her that her aunt, and not she,
had given the name, and that she should have given the ring and
the dollar; but that was what her mother had told her. “Your
Aunt Comfort gave you this beautiful gold ring and this gold dollar
for your name,” said she.
The ring and the dollar were kept in Mrs. Pease's little rosewood
work-box, which she never used for needlework, but as a repository
for her treasures. Her best cameo brooch was in there, too, and a
lock of hair of Comfort's baby brother who died.
One of Comfort's chiefest delights was looking at her gold ring
and gold dollar. When she was very good her mother would unlock the
rosewood box and let her see them. She had never worn the
ring—it was much too large for her. Aunt Comfort and her mother
had each thought that it was foolish to buy a gold ring that she
could outgrow. “If it was a chameleon ring I wouldn't
care,” said Aunt Comfort; “but it does seem a pity when
it's a real gold ring.” So the ring was bought a little too
large for Comfort's mother. She was a very small woman, and Comfort
was a large baby, and, moreover, favored her father's family, who
were all well grown, and Aunt Comfort feared she might have larger
“Why, I've seen girls eight years old with fingers a good
deal bigger than yours, Emily,” she said. “Suppose
Comfort shouldn't be able to get that ring on her finger after she's
eight years old, what a pity 'twould be, when it's real gold,
But when Comfort was eight years old she was very small for her
age, and she could actually crowd two of her fingers—the little
one and the third—into the ring. She begged her mother to let
her wear it so, but she would not. “No,” said she,
“I sha'n't let you make yourself a laughing-stock by wearing a
ring any such way as that. Besides, you couldn't use your fingers.
You've got to wait till your hand grows to it.”
So poor little Comfort waited, but she had a discouraged feeling
sometimes that her hand never would grow to it. “Suppose I
shouldn't be any bigger than you, mother,” she said,
“couldn't I ever wear the ring?”
“Hush! you will be bigger than I am. All your father's folks
are, and you look just like them,” said her mother,
conclusively, and Comfort tried to have faith. The gold dollar also
could only impart the simple delight of possession, for it was not to
be spent. “I am going to give her a gold dollar to keep beside
the ring,” Aunt Comfort had said.
“What is it for?” Comfort asked sometimes when she
gazed at it shining in its pink cotton bed in the top of the
“It's to keep,” answered her mother.
Comfort grew to have a feeling, which she never expressed to
anybody, that her gold dollar was somehow like Esau's birthright, and
something dreadful would happen to her if she parted with it. She
felt safer, because a “mess of pottage” didn't sound
attractive to her, and she did not think she would ever be tempted to
spend her gold dollar for that.
Comfort went to school when she was ten years old. She had not
begun as early as most of the other girls, because she lived three
quarters of a mile from the school-house and had many sore throats.
The doctors had advised her mother to teach her at home; and she
could do that, because she had been a teacher herself when she was a
Comfort had not been to school one day before everybody in it knew
about her gold ring and her dollar, and it happened in this way: She
sat on the bench between Rosy and Matilda Stebbins, and Rosy had a
ring on the middle finger of her left hand. Rosy was a fair, pretty
little girl, with long light curls, which all the other girls admired
and begged for the privilege of twisting. Rosy at recess usually had
one or two of her friends standing at her back twisting her soft
curls over their fingers.
Rosy wore pretty gowns and aprons, too, and she was always
glancing down to see if her skirt was spread out nicely when she sat
on the bench. Her sister Matilda had just as pretty gowns, but she
was not pretty herself. However, she was a better scholar, although
she was a year younger. That day she kept glancing across Comfort at
her sister, and her black eyes twinkled angrily. Rosy sometimes sat
with her left hand pressed affectedly against her pink cheek, with
the ring-finger bent slightly outward; and then she held up her
spelling-book before her with her left hand, and the same
Finally Matilda lost her patience, and she whispered across
Comfort Pease. “You act like a ninny,” said she to Rosy,
with a fierce pucker of her red lips and a twinkle of her black
Rosy looked at her, and the pink spread softly all over her face
and neck; but she still held her spelling-book high, and the middle
finger with the ring wiggled at the back of it.
“It ain't anything but brass, neither,” whispered
“It ain't,” Rosy whispered back.
“Smell of it.”
Rosy crooked her arm around her face and began to cry. However,
she cried quite easily, and everybody was accustomed to seeing her
fair head bent over the hollow of her arm several times a day, so she
created no excitement at all. Even the school-teacher simply glanced
at her and said nothing. The school-teacher was an elderly woman who
had taught school ever since she was sixteen. She was called very
strict, and the little girls were all afraid of her. She could ferule
a boy just as well as a man could. Her name was Miss Tabitha Hanks.
She did not like Rosy Stebbins very well, although she tried to be
impartial. Once at recess she pushed Charlotte Hutchins and Sarah
Allen, who were twisting Rosy's curls, away, and gathered them all up
herself in one hard hand. “I'd cut them all off if I were your
mother,” said she, with a sharp little tug; but when Rosy
rolled her scared blue eyes up at her, she only laughed grimly and
Now Miss Hanks just looked absently at Rosy weeping in the hollow
of her blue gingham arm, then went over to the blackboard and began
writing, in fair, large characters, “A rolling stone gathers no
moss,” for the scholars to copy in their copy-books. The
temptation and the opportunity were too much for Comfort Pease. She
nudged Matilda Stebbins and whispered in her ear, although she knew
that whispering in school was wrong. “I've got a real gold
ring,” whispered Comfort.
Matilda turned astonished eyes upon her. “You
“Yes, I have.”
“Who gave it to you?”
“My Aunt Comfort, for my name.”
“Were you named for her?”
“Yes, and she gave me a real gold ring for it.”
“Matilda Stebbins and Comfort Pease, stand out on the
floor,” said Miss Tabitha Hanks, sharply. Comfort gave a great
jump—the teacher had been standing at the blackboard with her
back toward them, and how had she seen? Never after that did Comfort
feel quite safe from Miss Tabitha's eyes; even if they were on the
other side of the wall she could not quite trust it.
“Step right out on the floor, Matilda and Comfort,”
repeated Miss Tabitha, and out the two little girls stepped.
Comfort's knees shook, and she was quite pale. Matilda looked very
sober, but her black eyes gave a defiant flash when she was out on
the floor and saw that her sister Rosy had lowered her arm and was
looking at her with gentle triumph. “You see what you've got
because you called my ring brass,” Rosy seemed to say; and
Matilda gave a stern little nod at her, as if she replied, “It
Poor little Comfort did not feel much sustained by the possession
of her real gold ring. It was dreadful to stand out there facing the
school, which seemed to be a perfect dazzle of blue and black eyes
all fastened upon her in her little red gown and gingham tier, in her
little stout shoes, which turned in for very meekness, with her
little dangling hands, which could not wear the gold ring, and her
little strained face and whispering lips, and little vain heart,
which was being punished for its little vanity.
They stood on the floor until recess. Comfort felt so weak and
stiff that she could scarcely move when Miss Hanks said harshly,
“Now you can go.” She cast a piteous glance at Matilda,
who immediately put her arms around her waist and pulled her along to
the entry, where their hoods and cloaks hung. “Don't you
cry,” she whispered. “She's awful strict, but she won't
hurt you a mite. She brought me a whole tumbler of currant jelly when
I had the measles.”
“I sha'n't whisper again as long as I live,” half
sobbed Comfort, putting on her hood.
“I sha'n't, either,” said Matilda. “I never had
to stand out on the floor before. I don't know what my mother will
say when I tell her.”
The two little girls went out in the snowy yard, and there was
Rosy, with Charlotte Hutchins and Sarah Allen, and she was showing
them her ring. It was again too much for sensible little Matilda,
weary from her long stand on the floor. “Rosy Stebbins, you are
a great ninny, acting so stuck up over that old brass ring,”
said she. “Comfort Pease has a real solid gold one, and she
don't even wear it.”
Rosy and Charlotte Hutchins and Sarah Allen all stared at Comfort.
“Have you?” asked Charlotte Hutchins, in an awed tone.
She was a doctor's daughter, and had many things that the other
little girls had not; but even she had no gold ring—nothing but
“Yes, I have,” replied Comfort, blushing modestly.
“Real gold?” asked Rosy, in a subdued voice.
Some other girls came up—some of the older ones, with their
hair done up; and even some of the boys, towering lankily on the
outskirts. Not one of these scholars in this country district school
fifty years ago had ever owned a gold ring. All they had ever seen
were their mothers' well-worn wedding-circlets.
“Comfort Pease has got a real gold ring,” went from
one to the other.
“Why don't she wear it, then?” demanded one of the big
girls. She had very red cheeks, and her black hair was in two glossy
braids, crossed and pinned at the back of her head, and surmounted by
her mother's shell comb she had let her wear to school that day. She
had come out to recess without her hood to show it.
“She's waiting for her hand to grow to it,” explained
Matilda, to whom Comfort had shyly whispered the whole story.
“Hold up your hand,” ordered the big girl; and Comfort
held up her little hand pink with the cold.
“H'm! looks big enough,” said the big girl, and she
adjusted her shell comb.
“I call it a likely story,” said another big girl, in
an audible whisper.
“The Peases don't have any more than other folks,”
said still another big girl. The little crowd dispersed with scornful
giggles. Comfort turned redder and redder. Rosy and Charlotte and
Sarah were looking at her curiously; only Matilda stood firm.
“You are all just as mean as you can be!” she cried.
“She has got a gold ring!”
Matilda Stebbins put her arm around Comfort, who was fairly
crying. “Come,” said she, “don't you mind anything
about 'em, Comfort. Le'ss go in the school-house. I've got a splendid
Baldwin apple in my dinner-pail, and I'll give you half of it.
They're mad 'cause they haven't got any gold ring.”
“I have got a gold ring,” sobbed Comfort:
“Honest and true,
Black and blue,
Lay me down and cut me in two.”
That was the awful truth-testing formula of the village
“Course you have,” said Matilda, with indignant
backward glances at the others. “Le'ss go and get that Baldwin
Comfort went with Matilda; but it took more than a Baldwin apple
to solace her; and her first day at school was a most unhappy one. It
was very probable that the other scholars, and especially the elder
ones, who had many important matters of their own in mind, thought
little more about her and her gold ring after school had begun; but
Comfort could not understand that. She had a feeling that the minds
of the whole school were fixed upon her, and she was standing upon a
sort of spiritual platform of shame, which was much worse than the
school-room floor. If she saw one girl whisper to another, she
directly thought it was about her. If a girl looked at her, her color
rose, and her heart began to beat loudly, for she thought she was
saying to herself, “Likely story!”
Comfort was thankful when it was time to go home, and she could
trudge off alone down the snowy road. None of the others lived her
way. She left them all at the turn of the road just below the
“Good-night, Comfort,” Matilda Stebbins sang out
loyally; but the big girl with red cheeks followed her with,
“Wear that gold ring to school to-morrow, an' let us see
it.” Then everybody giggled, and poor Comfort fled out of
sight. It seemed to her that she must wear that ring to school the
next day. She made up her mind that she would ask her mother; but
when she got home she found that her Grandmother Atkins had come, and
also her Uncle Ebenezer and Aunt Susan. They had driven over from
Barre, where they lived, and her grandmother was going to stay and
make a little visit; but her uncle and aunt were going home soon, and
her mother was hurrying to make some hot biscuits for supper.
So when Comfort came in she stopped short at the sight of the
company, and had to kiss them all and answer their questions with shy
politeness. Comfort was very fond of her grandmother, but this time
she did not feel quite so delighted to see her as usual. As soon as
she had got a chance she slipped into the pantry after her mother.
“Mother,” she whispered, pulling her apron softly,
“can't I wear my gold ring to school to-morrow?”
“No, you can't. How many times have I got to tell
you?” said her mother, mixing her biscuit dough
“Please let me, mother. They didn't believe I've got
“Let them believe it or not, just as they have a mind
to,” said her mother.
“They think I'm telling stories.”
“What have you been telling about your ring in school for,
when you ought to have been studying? Now, Comfort, I can't have you
standing there teasing me any longer. I've got to get these biscuits
into the oven; they must have some supper before they go home. You go
right out and set the table. Get the clean table-cloth out of the
drawer, and you may put on the best knives and forks. Not another
word. You can't wear that gold ring until your hand grows to it, and
that settles it.”
Comfort went out and set the table, but she looked so dejected
that the company all noticed it. She could not eat any of the hot
biscuits when they sat down to supper, and she did not eat much of
the company cake. “You don't feel sick, do you, child?”
asked her grandmother, anxiously.
“No, ma'am,” replied Comfort, and she swallowed a big
lump in her throat.
“She ain't sick,” said her mother, severely.
“She's fretting because she can't wear her gold ring to
“O Comfort, you must wait till your hand grows to it,”
said her Aunt Susan.
“Yes, of course she must,” said her Uncle
“Eat your supper, and your hand will grow to it before
long,” said her father, who, left to himself, would have let
Comfort wear the ring.
“It wouldn't do for you to wear that ring and lose it. It's
real gold,” said her grandmother. “Have another piece of
But Comfort wanted no more sweet-cake. She put both hands to her
face and wept, and her mother sent her promptly out of the room and
to bed. Comfort lay there and sobbed, and heard her Uncle Ebenezer's
covered wagon roll out of the yard, and sobbed again. Then she fell
asleep, and did not know it when her mother and grandmother came in
and looked at her and kissed her.
“I'm sorry she feels so bad,” said Comfort's mother,
“but I can't let her wear that ring.”
“No, you can't,” said her grandmother. And they went
out shading the candle.
Comfort said no more about the ring the next morning. She knew her
mother too well. She did not eat much breakfast, and crept off
miserably to school at a quarter past eight, and she had another
unhappy day. Nobody had forgotten about the gold ring. She was teased
about it at every opportunity. “Why didn't you wear that
handsome gold ring?” asked the big girl with red cheeks, until
poor Comfort got nearly distracted. It seemed to her that the time to
go home would never come, and as if she could never endure to go to
school again. That night she begged her mother to let her stay at
home the next day. “No,” said her mother; “you've
begun to go to school, and you're going to school unless you're sick.
Now this evening you had better sit down and write a letter to your
Aunt Comfort. It's a long time since you wrote to her.”
So Comfort sat down and wrote laboriously a letter to her Aunt
Comfort, and thanked her anew, as she always did, for her gold ring
and the gold dollar. “I wish to express my thanks again for the
beautiful and valuable gifts which you presented me for my
name,” wrote Comfort, in the little stilted style of the
After the letter was written it was eight o'clock, and Comfort's
mother said she had better go to bed.
“You look tired out,” said she; “I guess you'll
have to go to bed early if you're going to school.”
“Can't I stay home to-morrow, mother?” pleaded
Comfort, with sudden hope.
“No,” said her mother; “you've got to go if
“Mother, can't I wear it just once?”
“Don't you bring that ring up again,” said her mother.
“Take your candle and go right upstairs.”
Comfort gave a pitiful little sob.
“Now don't you go to crying over it,” ordered her
mother; and Comfort tried to choke back another sob as she went out
of the room.
Comfort's father looked up from the Old Farmer's
Almanac. He was going to Bolton the next day with a load of
wood, and wanted to see what the weather would be, and so was
consulting the almanac.
“What was it Comfort wanted?” he inquired.
“She wanted to wear that gold ring her Aunt Comfort gave her
to school,” replied Mrs. Pease. “And I've told her over
and over again I shouldn't let her do it.”
“It's a mile too big for her, and she'd be sure to lose it
off,” said Grandmother Atkins; “and it would be a pity to
have anything happen to it, when it's real gold, too.”
“She couldn't wind a rag round her finger under it, could
she?” asked Comfort's father, hesitatingly.
“Wear a rag round her finger under it!” repeated Mrs.
Pease. “I rather guess she can wait till her finger grows to
it. You'd let that child do anything.”
Mr. Pease did not say anything more, but studied the Old
Farmer's Almanac again, and found out it was likely to be fair
weather for the season.
It was past midnight, and the hearth fire was raked down, and
Comfort's father and mother and grandmother were all in bed and
asleep, when a little figure in a white nightgown, holding a lighted
candle, padding softly on little cold bare feet, came down the
stairs. Comfort paused in the entry and listened. She could hear the
clock tick and her father snore. The best parlor door was on the
right. She lifted the brass catch cautiously, and pushed the door
open. Then she stole into the best parlor. The close, icy air smote
her like a breath from the north pole. There was no fire in the best
parlor except on Thanksgiving day, and perhaps twice besides, when
there was company to tea, from fall to spring. The cold therein
seemed condensed and concentrated; the haircloth sofa and chairs and
the mahogany table seemed to give out cold as stoves did heat.
There were two coffin-plates and funeral wreaths, which had
belonged to the uncles of Comfort who had died before she was born,
in frames on the wall, and these always scared Comfort.
She kept her eyes away from them as she went swiftly on her little
bare feet, which had no feeling in them as they pressed the icy
floor, across to the mahogany card-table, whereon was set the
Comfort set her candle on the table, and turned the key of the box
with her stiff fingers. Then she raised the lid noiselessly, and
there lay the ring in a little square compartment of the tray. Next
to it, in the corner square, lay the gold dollar.
Comfort took the ring out, shut the box-lid down, turned the key,
and fled. She thought some one called her name as she went upstairs,
and she stopped and listened; but all she heard was the clock ticking
and her father snoring and her heart beating. Then she kept on to her
own chamber, and put out her candle, and crept into her feather-bed
under the patchwork quilts. There she lay all night, wide awake, with
the gold ring clasped tightly in her little cold fist.
When Comfort came downstairs the next morning there was a bright
red spot on each cheek, and she was trembling as if she had a
Her mother noticed it, and asked if she was cold, and Comfort
said, “Yes, ma'am.”
“Well, draw your stool up close to the fire and get
warm,” said her mother. “Breakfast is 'tmost ready. You
can have some of the pancakes to carry to school for your
Comfort sat soberly in the chimney-corner until breakfast was
ready, as her mother bade her. She was very silent, and did not say
anything during breakfast unless some one asked her a question.
When she started for school her mother and grandmother stood in
the window and watched her.
It was a very cold morning, and Mrs. Pease had put her green shawl
on Comfort over her coat; and the little girl looked very short and
stout as she trudged along between the snow-ridges which bordered the
path, and yet there was a forlorn air about her.
“I don't know as the child was fit to go to school
to-day,” Mrs. Pease said, doubtfully.
“She didn't look very well, and she didn't eat much
breakfast, either,” said Grandmother Atkins.
“She was always crazy after hot pancakes, too,” said
“Hadn't you better call her back, Em'ly?”
“No, I won't,” said Mrs. Pease, turning away from the
window. “She's begun to go to school, and I'm not going to take
her out unless I'm sure she ain't able to go.”
So Comfort Pease went on to school; and she had the gold ring in
her pocket, which was tied around her waist with a string under her
dress skirt, as was the fashion then. Comfort often felt of the
pocket to be sure the ring was safe as she went along. It was
bitterly cold; the snow creaked under her stout shoes. Besides the
green shawl, her red tippet was wound twice around her neck and face;
but her blue eyes peering over it were full of tears which the frosty
wind forced into them, and her breath came short and quick. When she
came in sight of the school-house she could see the straight column
of smoke rising out of the chimney, it was so thin in the cold air.
There were no scholars out in the yard, only a group coming down the
road from the opposite direction. It was too cold to play out of
doors before school, as usual.
Comfort pulled off her mittens, thrust her hand in her pocket
dangling against her blue woolen petticoat, and drew out the gold
Then she slipped it on over the third and fourth fingers of her
left hand, put her mittens on again, and went on.
It was quite still in the school-house, although school had not
begun, because Miss Tabitha Hanks had arrived. Her spare form, stiff
and wide, and perpendicular as a board, showed above the desk. She
wore a purple merino dress buttoned down the front with dark black
buttons, and a great breastpin of twisted gold. Her hair was looped
down over her ears in two folds like shiny drab satin. It scarcely
looked like hair, the surface was so smooth and unbroken; and a great
tortoise-shell comb topped it like a coronet.
Miss Tabitha's nose was red and rasped with the cold; her thin
lips were blue, and her bony hands were numb; but she set copies in
writing-books with stern patience. Not one to yield to a little fall
in temperature was Tabitha Hanks. Moreover, she kept a sharp eye on
the school, and she saw every scholar who entered, while not seeming
to do so.
She saw Comfort Pease when she came shyly in, and at once noticed
something peculiar about her. Comfort wore the same red tibet dress
and the same gingham apron that she had worn the day before; her
brown hair was combed off her high, serious forehead and braided in
the same smooth tails; her blue eyes looked abroad in the same sober
and timid fashion; and yet there was a change.
Miss Tabitha gave a quick frown and a sharp glance of her gray
eyes at her, then she continued setting her copy. “That child's
up to something,” she thought, while she wrote out in her
beautiful shaded hand, “All is not gold that
Comfort went forward to the stove, which was surrounded by a ring
of girls and boys. Matilda Stebbins and Rosy were there with the
rest. Matilda moved aside at once when she saw Comfort, and made room
for her near the stove.
“Hullo, Comfort Pease!” said she.
“Hullo!” returned Comfort.
Comfort held out her numb right hand to the stove, but the other
she kept clenched in a little blue fist hidden in her dress
“Cold, ain't it?” said Matilda.
“Dreadful,” said Comfort, with a shiver.
“Why don't you warm your other hand?” asked
“My other hand ain't cold,” said Comfort. And she
really did not think it was. She was not aware of any sensation in
that hand, except that of the gold ring binding together the third
and fourth fingers.
Pretty soon the big girl with red cheeks came in. Her cheeks were
redder than ever, and her black eyes seemed to have caught something
of the sparkle of the frost outside. “Hullo!” said she,
when she caught sight of Comfort. “That you, Comfort
“Hullo!” Comfort returned, faintly. She was dreadfully
afraid of this big girl, who was as much as sixteen years old, and
studied algebra, and was also said to have a beau.
“Got that gold ring” inquired the big girl, with a
giggle, as she held out her hands to the stove.
Comfort looked at her as if she was going to cry.
“You're real mean to tease her, so there!” said
Matilda Stebbins, bravely, in the face of the big girl, who persisted
“Got that gold ring?” she asked again, with her
teasing giggle, which the others echoed.
Comfort slowly raised her left arm. She unfolded her little blue
fist, and there on the third and fourth fingers of her hand shone the
Then there was such an outcry that Miss Tabitha Hanks looked up
from her copy, and kept her wary eyes fixed upon the group at the
“My sakes alive, look at Comfort Pease with a gold ring on
two fingers!” screamed the big girl. And all the rest joined
in. The other scholars in the room came crowding up to the stove.
“Le'ss see it!” they demanded of Comfort. They teased her
to let them take it. “Lemme take it for just a minute. I'll
give it right back, honest,” they begged. But Comfort was firm
about that; she would not let that ring go from her own two fingers
for one minute.
“Ain't she stingy with her old ring?” said Sarah Allen
to Rosy Stebbins.
“Maybe it ain't real gold,” whispered Rosy; but
Comfort heard her.
“'Tis, too,” said she, stoutly.
“It's brass; I can tell by the color,” teased one of
the big boys. “'Fore I'd wear a brass ring if I was a
“It ain't brass,” almost sobbed Comfort.
Miss Tabitha Hanks arose slowly and came over to the stove. She
came so silently and secretly that the scholars did not notice it,
and they all jumped when she spoke.
“You may all take your seats,” said she, “if it
is a little before nine. You can study until school begins. I can't
have so much noise and confusion.”
The scholars flocked discontentedly to their seats.
“It's all the fault of your old brass ring,” whispered
the big boy to Comfort, with a malicious grin, and she trembled.
“Your mother let you wear it, didn't she?” whispered
Matilda to Comfort, as the two took their seats on the bench. But
Comfort did not seem to hear her, and Miss Tabitha looked that way,
and Matilda dared not whisper again. Miss Tabitha, moreover, looked
as though she had heard what she said, although that did not seem
However, Miss Tabitha's ears had a reputation among the scholars
for almost as fabulous powers as her eyes. Matilda Stebbins was quite
sure that she heard, and Miss Tabitha's after-course confirmed her
The reading-class was out on the floor fixing its toes on the
line, and Miss Tabitha walked behind it straight to Comfort.
“Comfort Pease,” said she, “I don't believe your
mother ever sent you to school wearing a ring after that fashion. You
may take it off.”
Comfort took it off. The eyes of the whole school watched her;
even the reading-class looked over its shoulders.
“Now,” said Miss Tabitha, “put it in your
Comfort put the ring in her pocket. Her face was flushing redder
and redder, and the tears rolled down her cheeks.
Miss Tabitha drew out a large pin, which was quilted into the
bosom of her dress, and proceeded to pin up Comfort's pocket.
“There,” said she, “now you leave that ring in
there, and don't you touch it till you go home; then you give it
right to your mother. And don't you take that pin out; if you do I
shall whip you.”
Miss Tabitha turned suddenly on the reading-class, and the faces
went about with a jerk. “Turn to the fifty-sixth page,”
she commanded; and the books all rustled open as she went to the
front. Matilda gave Comfort a sympathizing poke and Miss Tabitha an
indignant scowl under cover of the reading-class, but Comfort sat
still, with the tears dropping down on her spelling-book. She had
never felt so guilty or so humble in her life. She made up her mind
she would tell her mother about it, and put the ring back in the box
that night, and never take it out again until her finger grew to it;
and if it never did she would try to be resigned.
When it was time for recess Miss Tabitha sent them all out of
doors. “I know it's cold,” said she, “but a little
fresh air won't hurt any of you. You can run around and keep
Poor Comfort dreaded to go out. She knew just how the boys and
girls would tease her. But Matilda Stebbins stood by her, and the two
hurried out before the others and ran together down the road.
“We've got time to run down to the old Loomis place and back
before the bell rings,” said Matilda. “If you stay here
they'll all tease you dreadfully to show that ring, and if you do
she'll whip you. She always does what she says she will.”
The two girls got back to the school-house just as the bell rang,
and, beyond sundry elbow-nudges and teasing whispers as they went in,
Comfort had no trouble. She took her seat and meekly opened her
Once in a while she wondered, with a qualm of anxiety, if her ring
was safe. She dared not even feel of her pocket under her dress.
Whenever she thought of it Miss Tabitha seemed to be looking straight
at her. Poor Comfort had a feeling that Miss Tabitha could see her
The Stebbinses and Sarah Allen usually stayed at noon, but that
day they all went home. Sarah Allen had company and the Stebbinses
had a chicken dinner. So Comfort stayed alone. The other scholars
lived near enough to the school-house to go home every day unless it
was very stormy weather.
After everybody was gone, Miss Tabitha and all, the first thing
Comfort did was to slide her hand down over the bottom of her pocket,
and carefully feel of it under her dress skirt.
Her heart gave a great leap and seemed to stand still—she
could not feel any ring there.
Comfort felt again and again, with trembling fingers. She could
not believe that the ring was gone, but she certainly could not feel
it. She was quite pale, and shook as if she had a chill. She was too
frightened to cry. Had she lost Aunt Comfort's ring—the real
gold ring she had given her for her name? She looked at the pin which
Miss Tabitha had quilted into the top of her pocket, but she dared
not take it out. Suppose Miss Tabitha should ask if she had, and she
had to tell her and be whipped? That would be almost worse than
losing the ring.
Comfort had never been whipped in her life, and her blood ran cold
at the thought of it.
She kept feeling wildly of the pocket. There was a little roll of
writing-paper in it—some leaves of an old account-book which
her mother had given her to write on. All the hope she had was that
the ring had slipped inside that, and that was the reason why she
could not feel it. She longed so to take out that pin and make sure,
but she had to wait for that until she got home at night.
Comfort began to search all over the school-room floor, but all
she found were wads of paper and apple-cores, slate-pencil stumps and
pins. Then she went out in the yard and looked carefully, then she
went down the road to the old Loomis place, where she and Matilda had
walked at recess—Miss Tabitha Hanks went home that
way—but no sign of the ring could she find. The road was as
smooth as a white floor, too, for the snow was old and well
Comfort Pease went back to the school-house and opened her
dinner-pail. She looked miserably at the pancakes, the bread and
butter, and the apple-pie and cheese, and tried to eat, but she could
not. She put the cover on the pail, leaned her head on the desk in
front, and sat quite still until the scholars began to return. Then
she lifted her head, got out her spelling-book, and tried to study.
Miss Tabitha came back early, so nobody dared tease her; and the cold
was so bitter and the sky so overcast that they were not obliged to
go out at recess. Comfort studied and recited, and never a smile came
on her pale, sober little face. Matilda whispered to know if she were
sick, but Comfort only shook her head.
Sometimes Comfort saw Miss Tabitha watching her with an odd
expression, and she wondered forlornly what it meant. She did not
dream of going to Miss Tabitha with her trouble. She felt quite sure
she would get no sympathy in that quarter.
All the solace Comfort had was that one little forlorn hope that
the ring might be in that roll of paper, and she should find it when
she got home.
It seemed to her that school never would be done. She thought
wildly of asking Miss Tabitha if she could not go home because she
had the toothache. Indeed, her tooth did begin to ache, and her head
too; but she waited, and sped home like a rabbit when she was let out
at last. She did not wait even to say a word to Matilda. Comfort,
when she got home, went right through the sitting-room and upstairs
to her own chamber.
“Where are you going, Comfort?” her mother called
“What ails the child?” said Grandmother Atkins.
“I'm coming right back,” Comfort panted as she
The minute she was in her own cold little chamber she took the pin
from her pocket, drew forth the roll of paper, and smoothed it out.
The ring was not there. Then she turned the pocket and examined it.
There was a little rip in the seam.
“Comfort, Comfort!” called her mother from the foot of
the stairs. “You'll get your death of cold up there,”
chimed in her grandmother from the room beyond.
“I'm coming,” Comfort gasped in reply. She turned the
pocket back and went downstairs.
It was odd that, although Comfort looked so disturbed, neither her
mother nor grandmother asked her what was the matter. They looked at
her, then exchanged a meaning look with each other. And all her
mother said was to bid her go and sit down by the fire and toast her
feet. She also mixed a bowl of hot ginger-tea plentifully sweetened
with molasses, and bade her drink that, so she could not catch cold;
and yet there was something strange in her manner all the time. She
made no remark, either, when she opened Comfort's dinner-pail and saw
how little had been eaten. She merely showed it silently to
Grandmother Atkins behind Comfort's back, and they nodded to each
other with solemn meaning.
However, Mrs. Pease made the cream-toast that Comfort loved for
supper, and obliged her to eat a whole plate of it.
“I can't have her get sick,” she said to Grandmother
Atkins after Comfort had gone to bed that night.
“She ain't got enough constitution, poor child,”
assented Grandmother Atkins.
Mrs. Pease opened the door and listened. “I believe she's
crying now,” said she. “I guess I'll go up
“I would if I was you,” said Grandmother Atkins.
Comfort's sobs sounded louder and louder all the way, as her
mother went upstairs.
“What's the matter, child?” she asked when she opened
the door; and there was still something strange in her tone. While
there was concern there was certainly no surprise.
“My tooth aches dreadfully,” sobbed Comfort.
“You had better have some cotton-wool and paregoric on it,
then,” said her mother. Then she went downstairs for
cotton-wool and paregoric, and she ministered to Comfort's aching
tooth; but no cotton-wool or paregoric was there for Comfort's aching
She sobbed so bitterly that her mother looked alarmed.
“Comfort, look here; is there anything else the matter?”
she asked, suddenly; and she put her hand on Comfort's shoulder.
“My tooth aches dreadfully—oh!” Comfort
“If your tooth aches so bad as all that, you'd better go to
Dr. Hutchins in the morning and have it out,” said her mother.
“Now you'd better lie still and try to go to sleep, or you'll
Comfort's sobs followed her mother all the way downstairs.
“Don't you cry so another minute, or you'll get so nervous
you'll be sick,” Mrs. Pease called back; but she sat down and
cried awhile herself after she returned to the sitting-room.
Poor Comfort stifled her sobs under the patchwork quilt, but she
could not stop crying for a long time, and she slept very little that
night. When she did she dreamed that she had found the ring, but had
to wear it around her aching tooth for a punishment, and the tooth
was growing larger and larger, and the ring painfully tighter and
She looked so wan and ill the next morning that her mother told
her she need not go to school. But Comfort begged hard to go, and
said she did not feel sick; her tooth was better.
“Well, mind you get Miss Hanks to excuse you, and come home,
if your tooth aches again,” said her mother.
“Yes, ma'am,” replied Comfort.
When the door shut behind Comfort her Grandmother Atkins looked at
her mother. “Em'ly,” said she, “I don't believe you
can carry it out; she'll be sick.”
“I'm dreadfully afraid she will,” returned Comfort's
“You'll have to tell her.”
Mrs. Pease turned on Grandmother Atkins, and New England
motherhood was strong in her face. “Mother,” said she,
“I don't want Comfort to be sick, and she sha'n't be if I can
help it; but I've got a duty to her that's beyond looking out for her
health. She's got a lesson to learn that's more important than any
she's got in school, and I'm afraid she won't learn it at all unless
she learns it by the hardest; and it won't do for me to help
“Well, I suppose you're right, Em'ly,” said
Grandmother Atkins; “but I declare I'm dreadfully sorry for the
“You ain't any sorrier than I am,” said Comfort's
mother. And she wiped her eyes now and then as she cleared away the
As for Comfort, she went on her way to school, looking as
industriously and anxiously at the ground as if she were a little
robin seeking for her daily food. Under the snowy blackberry-vines
peered Comfort, under frozen twigs, and in the blue hollows of the
snow, seeking, as it were, in the little secret places of nature for
her own little secret of childish vanity and disobedience. It made no
difference to her that it was not reasonable to look on that part of
the road, since she could not have lost the ring there. She had a
desperate hope, which was not affected by reason at all, and she
determined to look everywhere.
It was very cold still, and when she came in sight of the
school-house not a scholar was to be seen. Either they had not
arrived, or were huddling over the red-hot stove inside.
Comfort trudged past the school-house and went down the road to
the old Loomis place. She searched again every foot of the road, but
there was no gleam of gold in its white, frozen surface. There was
the cold sparkle of the frost-crystals, and that was all.
Comfort went back. At the turn of that road she saw Matilda
Stebbins coming down the other. The pink tip of Matilda's nose, and
her winking black eyes, just appeared above her red tippet.
“Hullo!” she sung out, in a muffled voice.
“Hullo!” responded Comfort, faintly.
Matilda looked at her curiously when she came up.
“What's the matter?” said she.
“Nothing,” replied Comfort.
“I thought you acted funny. What have you been up that road
Comfort walked along beside Matilda in silence.
“What have you been up that road for?” repeated
“Won't you ever tell?” said Comfort.
“No, I won't:
“Honest and true,
Black and blue,
Lay me down and cut me in two.”
“Well, I've lost it.”
Matilda knew at once what Comfort meant. “You ain't!”
she cried, stopping short and opening wide eyes of dismay at Comfort
over the red tippet.
“Yes, I have.”
“Where'd you lose it?”
“I felt of my pocket after I got back to school yesterday,
after we'd been up to the old Loomis house, and I couldn't find the
“My!” said Matilda.
Comfort gave a stifled sob.
Matilda turned short around with a jerk. “Le'ss go up that
road and hunt again,” said she; “there's plenty of time
before the bell rings. Come along, Comfort Pease.”
So the two little girls went up the road and hunted, but they did
not find the ring. “Nobody would have picked it up and kept it;
everybody around here is honest,” said Matilda. “It's
Comfort wept painfully under the folds of her mother's green shawl
as they went back.
“Did your mother scold you?” asked Matilda. There was
something very innocent and sympathizing and honest about Matilda's
black eyes as she asked the question.
“No,” faltered Comfort. She did not dare tell Matilda
that her mother knew nothing at all about it.
Matilda, as they went along, put an arm around Comfort under her
shawl. “Don't cry; it's too bad,” said she. But Comfort
“Look here,” said Matilda. “Comfort, your mother
wouldn't let you buy another ring with that gold dollar, would
“That gold dollar's to keep,” sobbed Comfort;
“it ain't to spend.” And, indeed, she felt as if
spending that gold dollar would be almost as bad as losing the ring;
the bare idea of it horrified her.
“Well, I didn't s'pose it was,” said Matilda,
abashedly. “I just happened to think of it.” Suddenly
she gave Comfort a little poke with her red-mittened hand.
“Don't you cry another minute, Comfort Pease,” she cried.
“I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll ask my Uncle Jared to give me
a gold dollar, and then I'll give it to you to buy a gold
“I don't believe he will,” sobbed Comfort.
“Yes, he will. He always gives me everything I ask him for.
He thinks more of me than he does of Rosy and Imogen, you know,
'cause he was going to get married once, when he was young, and she
died, and I look like her.”
“Were you named after her?” inquired Comfort.
“No; her name was Ann Maria; but I look like her. Uncle
Jared will give me a gold dollar, and I'll ask him to take us to
Bolton in his sleigh Saturday afternoon, and then you can buy another
ring. Don't you cry another mite, Comfort Pease.”
And poor Comfort tried to keep the tears back as the bell began to
ring, and she and Matilda hastened to the school-house.
Matilda put up her hand and whispered to her in school-time.
“You come over to my house Saturday afternoon, and I'll get
Uncle Jared to take us,” she whispered. And Comfort nodded
soberly. Comfort tried to learn her arithmetic lesson, but she could
not remember the seven multiplication table, and said in the class
that five times seven were fifty-seven, and went to the foot. She
cried at that, and felt a curious satisfaction in having something to
cry for besides the loss of the ring.
Comfort did not look any more for the ring that day nor the next.
The next day was Friday, and Matilda met her at school in the morning
with an air of triumph. She plunged her hand deep in her pocket, and
drew it out closed in a tight pink fist. “Guess what I've got
in here, Comfort Pease,” said she. She unclosed her fingers a
little at a time, until a gold dollar was visible in the hollow of
her palm. “There, what did I tell you” she said.
“And he says he'll take us to Bolton if he don't have to go to
Ware to see about buying a horse. You come over to-morrow, right
The next morning after breakfast Comfort asked her mother if she
might go over to Matilda's that afternoon.
“Do you feel fit to go?” her mother said, with a keen
look at her. Comfort was pale and sober and did not have much
appetite. It had struck her several times that her mother's and also
her grandmother's manner toward her was a little odd, but she did not
try to understand it.
“Yes, ma'am,” said Comfort.
“What are you going to do over there?”
Comfort hesitated. A pink flush came on her face and neck. Her
mother's eyes upon her were sharper than ever. “Matilda said
maybe her Uncle Jared would take us a sleigh-ride to Bolton,”
“Well,” said her mother, “if you're going a
sleigh-ride you'd better take some yarn stockings to pull over your
shoes, and wear my fur tippet. It's most too cold to go
Directly after dinner Comfort went over to Matilda Stebbins's,
with her mother's stone-marten tippet around her neck and the blue
yarn stockings to wear in the sleigh under her arm.
But when she got to the Stebbins's house, Matilda met her at the
door with a crestfallen air. “Only think,” said she;
“ain't it too bad? Uncle Jared had to go to Ware to buy the
horse, and we can't go to Bolton.”
Comfort looked at her piteously.
“Guess I'd better go home,” said she.
But Matilda was gazing at her doubtfully. “Look here,”
“What?” said Comfort.
“It ain't mor'n three miles to Bolton. Mother's walked
there, and so has Imogen—”
“Do you s'pose—we could?”
“I don't b'lieve it would hurt us one mite. Say, I tell you
what we can do: I'll take my sled, and I'll drag you a spell and then
you can drag me, and that will be riding half the way for both of us,
“So it will,” said Comfort.
But Matilda looked doubtful again. “There's only one
thing,” she said. “Mother ain't at home—she and
Rosy went over to grandma's to spend the day this morning—and I
can't ask her. I don't see how I can go without asking her,
Comfort thought miserably, “What would Matilda Stebbins say
if she knew I took that ring when my mother told me not
“Well,” said Matilda, brightening, “I don't know
but it will do just as well if I ask Imogen. Mother told me once that
if there was anything very important came up when she was away that I
could ask Imogen.”
Imogen was Matilda's eldest sister. She was almost eighteen, and
she was going to a party that night, and was hurrying to finish a
beautiful crimson tibet dress to wear.
“Now don't you talk to me and hinder me one moment. I've
everything I can do to finish this dress to wear to the party,”
she said, when Matilda and Comfort went into the sitting-room.
“Can't I go to Bolton with Comfort Pease, Imogen?”
“I thought you were going with Uncle Jared—didn't
mother say you might? Now don't talk to me, Matilda.”
“Uncle Jared's got to go to Ware to buy the horse, and he
can't take us.”
“Oh, I forgot. Well, how can you go, then? You and Comfort
had better sit down and play checkers, and be contented.”
“We could walk,” ventured Matilda.
“Walk to Bolton? You couldn't.”
“It's only three miles, and we'd drag each other on my
Imogen frowned over a wrong pucker in the crimson tibet, and did
not appreciate the absurdity of the last. “I do wish you
wouldn't bother me, Matilda,” said she. “If I don't get
this dress done I can't go to the party to-night. I don't know what
mother would say to your going to Bolton any such way.”
“It wouldn't hurt us a mite. Do let us go,
“Well, I'll tell you what you can do,” said Imogen.
“You can walk over there—I guess it won't hurt you to
walk one way—and then you can ride home in the stage-coach; it
comes over about half-past four. I'll give you some money.”
“Oh, that's beautiful! Thank you, Imogen,” cried
“Well, run along and don't say another word to me,”
said Imogen, scowling over the crimson tibet. “Wrap up
When they started, Matilda insisted upon dragging Comfort first in
the sled. “I'll drag you as far as Dr. Hutchins's,” said
she. “Then you get off and drag me as far as the meeting-house.
I guess that's about even.”
It was arduous, and it is probable that the little girls were much
longer reaching Bolton than they would have been had they traveled on
their two sets of feet all the way; but they persuaded themselves
“We can't be—a mite—tired,” panted
Matilda, as she tugged Comfort over the last stretch, “for we
each of us rode half the way, and a mile and a half ain't anything.
You walk that every day to school and back.”
“Yes, I do,” assented Comfort. She could not believe
that she was tired, either, although every muscle in her body
Bolton was a large town, and the people from all the neighboring
villages went there to do their trading and shopping. There was a
wide main street, with stores on each side; and that day it was full
of sleighs and pungs and wood-sleds, and there were so many people
that Comfort felt frightened. She had never been to Bolton without
her father or mother. “Just look at all the folks,” said
she. And she had an uncomfortable feeling that they all stared at her
suspiciously, although she did not see how they could know about the
ring. But Matilda was bolder. “It's such a pleasant day that
they're all out trading,” said she. “Guess it'll storm
to-morrow. Now we want to go to Gerrish's. I went there once with
mother and Imogen to buy a silver spoon for Cousin Hannah Green when
she got married.”
Comfort, trailing the sled behind her, started timidly after
Gerrish's was a small store, but there was a large window full of
watches and chains and clocks, and a man with spectacles sat behind
it mending watches.
The two little girls went in and stood at the counter, and a thin
man with gray whiskers, who was Mr. Gerrish himself, came forward to
wait upon them. Matilda nudged Comfort.
“You ask him—it's your ring,” she whispered.
But Comfort shook her head. She was almost ready to cry.
“You'd ought to when I'm giving you the dollar,”
whispered Matilda, with another nudge. Mr. Gerrish stood waiting, and
he frowned a little; he was a nervous man. “Ask him,”
whispered Matilda, fiercely.
Suddenly Comfort Pease turned herself about and ran out of
Gerrish's, with a great wail of inarticulate words about not wanting
any ring. The door banged violently after her. Matilda Stebbins
looked after her in a bewildered way; then she looked up at Mr.
Gerrish, who was frowning harder. “If you girls don't want
anything, you'd better stay out of doors with your sled,” said
he. And Matilda trembled and gathered up the sled-rope, and the door
banged after her. Then Mr. Gerrish said something to the man mending
watches in the window, and went back to his desk in the rear of the
Matilda could just see Comfort running down the street toward
home, and she ran after her. She could run faster than Comfort. As
she got nearer she could see people turning and looking curiously
after Comfort, and when she came up to her she saw she was crying.
“Why, you great baby, Comfort Pease,” said she,
“going along the road crying!”
Comfort sobbed harder, and people stared more and more curiously.
Finally one stout woman in a black velvet bonnet stopped. “I
hope you haven't done anything to hurt this other little girl?”
she said, suspiciously, to Matilda.
“No, ma'am, I ain't,” replied Matilda.
“What's the matter, child?” said the woman in the
black velvet bonnet to Comfort. And Comfort choked out something
about losing her ring.
“Where did you lose it?” asked the woman.
“I don't k—n—o—w,” sobbed
“Well, you'd better go right home and tell your mother about
it,” said the stout woman, and went her way with many backward
Matilda dragged her sled to Comfort's side and eyed her
“Why didn't you get the ring when we were right there with
the gold dollar?” she demanded. “What made you run out of
Gerrish's that way?”
“Ain't you going to wait and ride in the stage
“Imogen said to go in the stage-coach. I don't know as
mother'll like it if we walk. Why didn't you get the ring, Comfort
“I don't want—any—ring. I'm going
“Your mother would have been real pleased to have you get
the ring,” said Matilda, in an injured tone; for she fancied
Comfort meant to complain of her to her mother.
Then Comfort turned on Matilda in an agony of confession.
“My mother don't know anything about it,” said she.
“I took the ring unbeknownst to her when she said I couldn't,
and then I lost it, and I was going to get the new ring to put in the
box so she wouldn't ever know. I'm going right home and tell
Matilda looked at her. “Comfort Pease, didn't you ask your
mother?” said she.
Comfort shook her head.
“Then,” said Matilda, solemnly, “we'd better go
home just as quick as we can. We won't wait for any
stage-coach—I know my mother wouldn't want me to. S'pose your
mother should die, or anything, before you have a chance to tell her,
Comfort Pease! I read a story once about a little girl that told a
lie, and her mother died, and she hadn't owned up. It was dreadful.
Now you get right on the sled, and I'll drag you as far as the
meeting-house, and then you can drag me as far as the
Comfort huddled herself up on the sled in a miserable little
bunch, and Matilda dragged her. Her very back looked censorious to
Comfort, but finally she turned around.
“The big girls were real mean, so there; and they pestered
you dreadfully,” said she. “Don't you cry any more,
Comfort. Just you tell your mother all about it, and I don't believe
she'll scold much. You can have this gold dollar to buy you another
ring, anyway, if she'll let you.”
The road home from Bolton seemed much longer than the road there
had done, although the little girls hurried, and dragged each other
with fierce jerks. “Now,” said Matilda, when they reached
her house at length, “I'll go home with you while you tell your
mother, if you want me to, Comfort. My mother's got home—I can
see her head in the window. I'll run and ask her.”
“I'd just as lief go alone, I guess,” replied Comfort,
who was not crying any more, but was quite pale. “I'm real
obliged to you, Matilda.”
“Well, I'd just as lief go as not, if you wanted me
to,” said Matilda. “I hope your mother won't say much.
“Good-by,” returned Comfort.
Then Matilda went into her house, and Comfort hurried home alone
down the snowy road in the deepening dusk. She kept thinking of that
dreadful story which Matilda had read. She was panting for breath.
Anxiety and remorse and the journey to Bolton had almost exhausted
poor little Comfort Pease. She hurried as fast as she could, but her
feet felt like lead, and it seemed to her that she should never reach
home. But when at last she came in sight of the lighted kitchen
windows her heart gave a joyful leap, for she saw her mother's figure
moving behind them, and knew that Matilda's story was not true in her
When she reached the door she leaned against it a minute. She was
so out of breath, and her knees seemed failing under her. Then she
opened the door and went in.
Her father and mother and grandmother were all in there, and they
turned round and stared at her.
“Comfort Pease,” cried her mother, “what is the
“You didn't fall down, or anythin', did you?” asked
Then Comfort burst out with a great sob of confession.
“I—took—it,” she gasped. “I took my
gold ring that Aunt Comfort gave me for her name—and—I
wore it to school, and Miss Tabitha pinned it in my pocket, and I
lost it. And Matilda she gave me the gold dollar her Uncle Jared gave
her to buy me another, and we walked a mile and a half apiece to
Bolton, to buy it in Gerrish's, and I couldn't; and I was afraid
something had happened to mother; and I'm sorry.” Then Comfort
sobbed until her very sobs seemed failing her.
Her father wiped his eyes. “Don't let that child cry that
way, Em'ly,” said he to Mrs. Pease. Then he turned to Comfort.
“Don't you feel so bad, Comfort,” he coaxed.
“Father'll get you some peppermints when he goes down to the
store to-night.” Comfort's father gave her a hard pat on her
head; then he went out of the room with something that sounded like
an echo of Comfort's own sobs.
“Comfort,” said Mrs. Pease, “look here, child.
Stop crying, and listen to what I've got to say. I want you to come
into the parlor with me a minute.”
Comfort followed her mother weakly into the best parlor. There on
the table stood the rosewood work-box, and her mother went straight
across to it and opened it.
“Look here, Comfort,” said she; and Comfort looked.
There in its own little compartment lay the ring. “Miss Tabitha
Hanks found it in the road, and she thought you had taken it
unbeknownst to me, and so she brought it here,” explained her
mother. “I didn't let you know because I wanted to see if you
would be a good girl enough to tell me of your own accord, and I'm
glad you have, Comfort.”
Then Comfort's mother carried her almost bodily back to the warm
kitchen and sat her before the fire to toast her feet, while she made
some cream-toast for her supper.
Her grandmother had a peppermint in her pocket, and she slid it
into Comfort's hand. “Grandma knew she would tell, and she
won't never do such a thing again, will she?” said she.
“No, ma'am,” replied Comfort. And the peppermint in
her mouth seemed to be the very flavor of peace and forgiveness.
After Comfort was in bed and asleep that night her elders talked
the matter over. “I knew she would tell finally,” said
Mrs. Pease; “but it's been a hard lesson for her, poor child,
and she's all worn out—that long tramp to Bolton,
“I 'most wish her Aunt Comfort hadn't been so dreadful
careful about getting her a ring big enough,” said Grandmother
Mr. Pease looked at his wife and cleared his throat. “What
do you think of my getting her a ring that would fit her finger,
Em'ly?” he asked, timidly.
“Now, father, that's all a man knows!” cried Mrs.
Pease. “If you went and bought that child a ring now it would
look just as if you were paying her for not minding. You'd spoil all
the lesson she's got, when she's worked so dreadful hard to learn it.
You wait awhile.”
“Well, I suppose you know best, Em'ly,” said Mr.
Pease; but he made a private resolution. And so it happened that
three months later, when it was examination day at school, and
Comfort had a new blue tibet dress to wear, and some new ribbon to
tie her hair, that her mother handed her a little box just before she
“Here,” said she. “Your father has been over to
Gerrish's, and here's something he bought you. I hope you'll be
careful and not lose it.”
And Comfort opened the box, and there was a beautiful gold ring,
which just fitted her third finger; and she wore it to school, and
the girls all seemed to see it at once, and exclaimed, “Comfort
Pease has got a new gold ring that fits her finger!”
And that was not all, for Matilda and Rosy Stebbins also wore gold
rings. “Mother said I might as well spend Uncle Jared's dollar
for it, 'cause your mother didn't want you to have it,” said
Matilda, holding her finger up; “and father bought one for
Then the two little girls took their seats, and presently went
forward to be examined in spelling before the committee-men, the
doctor, the minister, and all the visiting friends.
And Comfort Pease, with all the spelling lessons of the term in
her head, her gold ring on her finger, and peace in her heart, went
to the head of the class, and Miss Tabitha Hanks presented her with a
prize. It was a green silk pincushion with “Good Girl”
worked on it in red silk, and she had it among her treasures long
after her finger had grown large enough to wear her Aunt Comfort's