Then the shoes were turned into spans of horses, and chirruped and trotted softly into their cricket-stables; and then—what else was there to do, until the strings were cut, and the flannel night-gowns taken off?
It was so still out here, in the big, busy, day-time room; it was like getting back where the world had not begun; surely one must do something wonderful with the materials all lying round, and such an opportunity as that.
It was old-time then, when kitchens had fire-places; or rather the house was chiefly fire-place, in front of and about which was more or less of kitchen-space. In the deep fire-place lay a huge mound of gray ashes, a Vesuvius, under which red bowels of fire lay hidden. In one corner of the chimney leaned an iron bar, used sometimes in some forgotten, old fashioned way, across dogs or pothooks,—who knows now? At any rate, there it always was.
Mark, ambitious, put all his little strength to it this morning and drew it down, carefully, without much clatter, on the hearth. Then he thought how it would turn red under those ashes, where the big coals were, and how it would shine and sparkle when he pulled it out again, like the red-hot, hissing iron Jack-the-Giant-Killer struck into the one-eyed monster’s eye. So he shoved it in; and forgot it there, while he told Luke—very much twisted and dislocated, and misjoined—the leading incidents of the giant story; and then lapsed off, by some queer association, into the Scripture narrative of Joseph and his brethren, who “pulled his red coat off, and put him in a fit, and left him there.”
“And then what?” says Luke.
“Then,—O, my iron’s done! See here, Luke!”—and taking it prudently with the tongs, he pulled back the rod, till the glowing end, a foot or more of live, palpitating, flamy red, lay out upon the broad open bricks.
“There, Luke! You daresn’t put your foot on that!”
Dear little Luke, who wouldn’t, at even four years old, be dared!
And dear little white, tender, pink-and-lily foot!
The next instant, a shriek of pain shot through Mrs. Grapp’s ears, and sent her out of her dreams and out of her bed, and with one single impulse into the kitchen, with her own bare feet, and in her night-gown.
The little foot had only touched; a dainty, timid, yet most resolute touch; but the sweet flesh shriveled, and the fierce anguish ran up every fibre of the baby body, to the very heart and brain.
“O! O, O!” came the long, pitiful, shivering cries, as the mother gathered her in her arms.
“What is it? What did you do? How came you to?” And all the while she moved quickly here and there, to cupboard and press-drawer, holding the child fast, and picking up as she could with one hand, cotton wool, and sweet-oil flask, and old linen bits; and so she bound it up, saying still, every now and again, as all she could say,—“What did you do? How came you to?”