Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

The Story of the Summer Boarder,

Moses, And the Two Visitors

by the Family Story Teller

 

I warn you, said Family Story-Teller, looking round upon the family circle the next evening, that this is a story of mistakes. It will be a hard story to follow, and unless you pay close attention, you will forget which is Evelyn and which is the other girl, and why it was that Mrs. Stimpcett thought her boy Moses had broken his leg. I mean, of course, Mrs. Stimpcett of the village of Gilead.

Mrs. Stimpcett's summer boarder, Mr. St. Clair, was forgetful. He liked well to gaze at a brook, a pond, the clouds, the blue sky, the flowery fields, and often he forgot to stop doing so, and kept on gazing when it was meal time, or bed-time, or some other time.

Mrs. Stimpcett took also another summer boarder, a rich lady of the name of Odell. Mrs. Odell was tall, and slim, and pale, and in her cap, just above her forehead, was set in a row three pink muslin roses. Mrs. Odell was silly enough to be proud of being rich, and stingy enough to like to save her own money at other people's expense.

EVELYN. EVELYN.

Mrs. Odell had a six-year-old niece named Evelyn, a pale, delicate little girl, who lived in the city, and this Evelyn was coming to Gilead to visit her aunt Odell. She was coming in the cars to Mill Village in care of the conductor, and her aunt Odell was to send a carriage to the station to fetch her to Gilead. If the carriage was not there when the cars arrived, she was to stay with the station-man till it should arrive. I trust my story is plain thus far.

It happened that Mr. Stimpcett was going to Mill Village that same day, to get some corn ground, and Mrs. Odell, though it would take him very far out of his way, asked him to go round by the station and get Evelyn. This would save hiring a carriage.

Now Mr. St. Clair thought it would be a pleasant thing to go to mill, and asked if he might go in the place of Mr. Stimpcett. Mr. Stimpcett said, "Oh yes, if you will be sure to bring back the meal." So Mr. St. Clair went to mill; and Moses Stimpcett, a boy about nine years old, went with him, for the sake of the ride, and to see his aunt Debby, who lived not far from the mill.

They set off soon after the hour of noon. Moses wore his Zouave cap, and his second-best summer clothes, and Mr. St. Clair wore a black alpaca coat, a blue neck-tie tied in a bow, a broad-brimmed straw hat, a white vest, and white trousers. Moses drove the horse, and they reached the mill without accident. While the miller was taking in the corn, Moses bought a roll of lozenges at a store near by, and as he came out with them a man passed that way, leading a small but valuable dog. Said this man to Moses, "I wish you would hold my dog while I step into the mill;" and Moses took the string.

Mr. St. Clair hitched his horse a little way from the mill, and then said to Moses, "When the man takes his dog, you can go to your aunt Debby's. I will call for you there, after I have been to the station and got the little girl." Mr. St. Clair then walked up the bank of the stream to see the waters flow.

MOSES LETS THE DOG FALL. MOSES LETS THE DOG FALL.

Moses led the dog along to the mill, and leaned against the building awhile; then sat down on a barrel. Soon the barrel began to move. The reason of this was that it stood on an elevator. Moses had not noticed that the barrel stood on an elevator. First he wondered what the matter was, and second, he thought he would jump; but by that time the barrel was quite a way off the ground, and, besides, he was troubled by holding the string of the dog, and the lozenges. The barrel rose higher and higher, and when the little dog found himself swinging in the air, he kicked and yelped, and jerked the string so that Moses was obliged to let it go, and also to drop the lozenges, for he had to grasp the barrel with both hands. The dog fell, and broke one of his legs. [Please remember that it was the dog, and not Moses.] Moses and the barrel were taken in at the third story. A traveller passing through the place heard of this elevator accident, and told of it that afternoon at a house in Gilead. But this person understood that it was the boy who broke his leg—"a Stimpcett boy," he said, in telling the news. Mrs. Stimpcett heard of it soon after milking-time; but this will be spoken of farther on in the story.

Mr. St. Clair walked far up the bank of the stream, and when he came back, the miller told him that his bag of meal had been put into his cart. He went out, and seeing a cart with a bag of meal lying at the bottom, he stepped in, and drove around to the station.

Now this cart which Mr. St. Clair took belonged to a man who came from Cherry Valley. Here, you see, was a mistake. But Mr. St. Clair not only took the wrong cart, he took the wrong little girl, as will now be told. He drove in haste to the station, knowing he had staid too long walking up the bank of the stream. On the platform of the station sat a roly-poly, chubby-cheeked little girl, with a carpet-bag and a heavy bundle. He asked her, "Are you waiting for some one to come for you?" "Yes, sir," she answered. "All right," said Mr. St. Clair; and he helped her into the cart. I hope you understand that this very fleshy child was not Evelyn Odell. She was Maggie Brien. Maggie Brien lived with her grandmother, not far from the station. Her mother did the cooking in a family two miles away, and she had promised to send that day for Maggie to come and make her a visit, and Maggie was sitting on the platform waiting for the man to take her.

Mr. St. Clair took her, and drove from the station, thinking to go to Aunt Debby's and get Moses, and set off for Gilead; but while he was gazing up at the sky, the horse—which you will remember was not Mr. Stimpcett's horse—turned into a road which led to his own master's house at Cherry Valley. Mr. St. Clair had now the wrong horse and cart, the wrong meal, the wrong girl, and the wrong road. Presently the horse trotted up to the door of a farm-house, and stopped. Three heads of three young maidens popped out of three chamber windows, and a bare-armed woman, wiping her hands on her apron, rushed to the door. "Where is my husband?" she cried. "Is he hurt? Is he killed? Tell me the truth at once!"

"I assure you, madam," answered Mr. St. Clair, mildly, "that I have not seen your husband."

"Why, then, have you come with his horse and cart?" she asked.

"This horse and cart, madam," said Mr. St. Clair, still mildly, "belongs to Mr. Stimpcett, of Gilead."

"Do you think I don't know our horse and cart?" cried the woman, in an angry tone. "Besides, here's my husband's name on the bag—I. Ellison."

"I must have taken the wrong horse and cart," said Mr. St. Clair. "I will go back at once and find Mr. Ellison."

"The quicker the better," said the woman, as he turned the horse.

Just after Mr. St. Clair had passed from the Cherry Valley road into the mill road, a man came out of a wood path and sprang at the horse, crying, "Stop thief!"

"Where is the thief?" asked Mr. St. Clair, looking all around.

"You are the thief!" cried the man. "You have stolen my horse and cart."

Maggie Brien began to cry.

"Are you Mr. I. Ellison?" asked Mr. St. Clair.

"Yes, I am," said the man, angrily.

Mr. St. Clair explained his mistake, and gave up the horse and cart to Mr. I. Ellison. He then took Maggie's carpet-bag and heavy bundle, and walked all the way to Aunt Debby's.

By the time they reached Aunt Debby's it was nearly dark, and as for Moses, he was already travelling home in his father's cart. It happened in this way. Aunt Debby heard that Mr. St. Clair had been seen driving off, and knew he must have taken the wrong horse and cart, for Mr. Stimpcett's was still standing near the mill. Therefore, as Moses had already waited until after supper, she let him take his father's horse and cart and drive home behind a man with an ox team who was going by a roundabout way to Gilead.

Now as soon as Moses had driven off, Aunt Debby locked her doors and went to an evening meeting, so that when Mr. St. Clair came there on foot, with Maggy Brien and her bag and bundle, to find Moses, he found no one. He questioned some boys standing by a fence, and they told him that Moses had gone home in his father's cart, behind an ox team. Maggy Brien began to cry again. "Don't cry, dear," said Mr. St. Clair. "I'll hire a buggy."

He hired from the stable a buggy, a fast horse, and a driver, and away they started for Gilead, and reached Mr. Stimpcett's house at about half past eight o'clock in the evening. Moses had not arrived.

Mr. St. Clair found Mrs. Stimpcett, with her bonnet and shawl on, walking the floor, sobbing and sighing and wringing her hands. Grandma, also crying, was wrapping a bottle of the Sudden Remedy in a piece of newspaper.

"Oh, how is Moses?" cried Mrs. Stimpcett. "Will it have to be taken off?"

"Is not Moses here?" asked Mr. St. Clair, in a mild voice.

"Here!" cried Mrs. Stimpcett. "How can he be here, when he has broken his leg? I am going to him as soon as Mr. Stimpcett can borrow a horse."

Mr. St. Clair thought that Moses must have fallen from the cart on his way home; but before he had time to speak, Mrs. Odell came in.

"Where is my niece?" she cried. "Where is Evelyn?"

"'HERE SHE IS,' SAID MR. ST. CLAIR." "'HERE SHE IS,' SAID MR. ST. CLAIR."

"Here she is," said Mr. St. Clair, presenting Maggie Brien.

"What do you mean?" shrieked Mrs. Odell. "That my niece? No! no! no! Oh, Evelyn! Evelyn! Evelyn! Dear child, where are you?"

Maggie Brien began to cry bitterly.

"Alas! what a wretch I am, to have made this mistake!" cried Mr. St. Clair. "But I'll find your Evelyn. I'll go for a horse. I'll take this child back. Don't cry, little girl. I won't rest till I find your Evelyn;" and he rushed from the house, almost knocking down several children in the passageway—the Stimpcett children; for Obadiah, Debby, and little Cordelia had been awakened by the noise, and had come down in their night-gowns.

But the lost Evelyn was near, and coming nearer every moment. You will remember that Maggie's mother, Mrs. Brien, was to send for Maggie to come and visit her. The man whom she sent went back and told her that he could not find Maggie, and that her grandmother was afraid she had been stolen from the station. Mrs. Brien hired a horse and wagon, and drove to the station, and inquired of the station-master. A stable-boy who stood near told her he saw a little girl who looked like Maggie riding off in a buggy with a man, and that the man hired the buggy to go to Gilead.

"The wretch!" cried Mrs. Brien; "to be stealing away my child! I will keep on to Gilead. I will follow him up."

"I wish you would let this little girl ride with you to Gilead," said the station-master. "She has been waiting a long time for some one to call and take her to Mr. Stimpcett's, and Mr. Stimpcett will help you find your Maggie." He then brought out a slender, flaxen-haired little girl, and placed her in Mrs. Brien's wagon. This child was Evelyn Odell, and Mrs. Brien took her to Gilead.

It happened that they reached Mr. Stimpcett's just as Moses was driving into the yard with his father's horse and cart, and they three, Mrs. Brien, Moses, and Evelyn, went into the house together.

Scarcely had they entered before Mr. Stimpcett, and then Mr. St. Clair, arrived in haste, each with a horse and wagon. Mr. Stimpcett rushed in to get his wife, and Mr. St. Clair to get Maggie. There they found Mrs. Stimpcett with her arms around Moses, Mrs. Odell with hers around Evelyn, and Mrs. Brien with hers around Maggie; and there were huggings and kissings and laughings and cryings, and it was, "Oh, you dear!" and, "Oh, you darling!" and "Oh, my child!" and, oh other things! Grandma held the Sudden Remedy bottle, looking at Moses's legs as if not quite sure yet that they did not need some of it rubbed on, while Obadiah, and Deborah, and little Cordelia stood staring and sniffling and smiling, now and then wiping their eyes with their night-gown sleeves.

"Will nobody hug me?" cried Mr. Stimpcett. Upon this little Cordelia climbed into his arms, and they two hugged each other.

Mr. St. Clair told his part of the story, Moses his part, and Mrs. Brien her part.

"After all," said Mr. Stimpcett, "Mr. St. Clair did not bring back the meal!"