PATSY COMES TO CALL.
bairnies are hushed to their hame
By aunty, or cousin, or frecky grand-dame,
Wha stands last and lanely, an’ naebody carin’?
’Tis the puir doited loonie,—the mitherless bairn!”
Suddenly I was awakened by a subdued and apologetic cough. Starting from my nap, I sat bolt upright in astonishment, for quietly ensconced in a small red chair by my table, and sitting still as a mouse, was the weirdest apparition ever seen in human form. A boy, seeming—how many years old shall I say? for in some ways he might have been a century old when he was born—looking, in fact, as if he had never been young, and would never grow older. He had a shrunken, somewhat deformed body, a curious, melancholy face, and such a head of dust-colored hair that he might have been shocked for a door-mat. The sole redeemers of the countenance were two big, pathetic, soft dark eyes, so appealing that one could hardly meet their glance without feeling instinctively in one’s pocket for a biscuit or a ten-cent piece. But such a face! He had apparently made an attempt at a toilet without the aid of a mirror, for there was a clean circle like a race-track round his nose, which member reared its crest, untouched and grimy, from the centre, like a sort of judge’s stand, while the dusky rim outside represented the space for audience seats.
I gazed at this astonishing diagram of a countenance for a minute, spellbound, thinking it resembled nothing so much as a geological map, marked with coal deposits. And as for his clothes, his jacket was ragged and arbitrarily docked at the waist, while one of his trousers-legs was slit up at the side, and flapped hither and thither when he moved, like a lug-sail in a calm.
“Well, sir,” said I at length, waking up to my duties as hostess, “did you come to see me?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Let me think; I don’t seem to remember; I am so sleepy. Are you one of my little friends?”
“No, I hain’t yit, but I’m goin’ to be.”
“That’s good, and we’ll begin right now, shall we?”
“I knowed yer fur Miss Kate the minute I seen yer.”
“How was that, eh?”
“The boys said as how you was a kind o’ pretty lady, with towzly hair in front.” (Shades of my cherished curls!)
“I’m very much obliged to the boys.”
“Kin yer take me in?”
“What? Here? Into the Kindergarten?”
“Yes; I bin waitin’ this yer long whiles fur to git in.”
“Why, my dear little boy,” gazing dubiously at his contradictory countenance, “you’re too—big, aren’t you? We have only tiny little people here, you know; not six years old. You are more, aren’t you?”
“Well, I’m nine by the book; but I ain’t more ‘n scerce six along o’ my losing them three year.”
“What do you mean, child? How could you lose three years?” cried I, more and more puzzled by my curious visitor.