“It is a great distance, mother,” said Esther Ellis, who was busily plying her needle; “and I don’t think he has been quite so long as you suppose.”
“Yes; he has been gone a good hour,” repeated Mrs. Ellis. “It is now six o’clock, and it wanted three minutes to five when he left. I do hope he won’t forget that I told him half black and half green—he is so forgetful!” And Mrs. Ellis rubbed her spectacles and looked peevishly out of the window as she concluded.—“Where can he be?” she resumed, looking in the direction in which he might be expected. “Oh, here he comes, and Caddy with him. They have just turned the corner—open the door and let them in.”
Esther arose, and on opening the door was almost knocked down by Charlie’s abrupt entrance into the apartment, he being rather forcibly shoved in by his sister Caroline, who appeared to be in a high state of indignation.
“Where do you think he was, mother? Where do you think I found him?”
“Well, I can’t say—I really don’t know; in some mischief, I’ll be bound.”
“He was on the lot playing marbles—and I’ve had such a time to get him home. Just look at his knees; they are worn through. And only think, mother, the tea was lying on the ground, and might have been carried off, if I had not happened to come that way. And then he has been fighting and struggling with me all the way home. See,” continued she, baring her arm, “just look how he has scratched me,” and as she spoke she held out the injured member for her mother’s inspection.
“Mother,” said Charlie, in his justification, “she began to beat me before all the boys, before I had said a word to her, and I wasn’t going to stand that. She is always storming at me. She don’t give me any peace of my life.”
“Oh yes, mother,” here interposed Esther; “Cad is too cross to him. I must say, that he would not be as bad as he is, if she would only let him alone.”
“Esther, please hush now; you have nothing to do with their quarrels. I’ll settle all their differences. You always take his part whether he be right or wrong. I shall send him to bed without his tea, and to-morrow I will take his marbles from him; and if I see his knees showing through his pants again, I’ll put a red patch on them—that’s what I’ll do. Now, sir, go to bed, and don’t let me hear of you until morning.”
Mr. and Mrs. Ellis were at the head of a highly respectable and industrious coloured family. They had three children. Esther, the eldest, was a girl of considerable beauty, and amiable temper. Caroline, the second child, was plain in person, and of rather shrewish disposition; she was a most indefatigable housewife, and was never so happy as when in possession of a dust or scrubbing brush; she would have regarded a place where she could have lived in a perpetual state of house cleaning, as an earthly paradise. Between her and Master Charlie continued warfare existed, interrupted only by brief truces brought about by her necessity for his services as water-carrier. When a service of this character had been duly rewarded by a slice of bread and preserves, or some other dainty, hostilities would most probably be recommenced by Charlie’s making an inroad upon the newly cleaned floor, and leaving the prints of his muddy boots thereon.