“O, see—see!” she cried excitedly, half-running, half-crawling after the bug, “see this funny thing! I can’t catch him! But, O my—ain’t he cunnin’! Irene, do get down here and see!”
Irene took a step forward, then stood still.
“I can’t,” she said, “I might soil my dress.”
But Lou scarcely heard. She was absorbed in the funny bug. On she went trying to catch him, till finally he slipped round a tree-root and was seen no more.
Back came Lou to Irene brushing the dirt from her frock.
“It’s cold standin’ here,” she said, “let’s play tag.”
“I can’t,” spoke Irene again, “I might trip and soil my dress.”
Lou’s eyes went up and down the dainty robe. “It isn’t much of a tag-frock,” she thought. But she was a restless maid. Between hopping and dancing she glanced up at the sky and exclaimed:
“I guess it’ll snow to-night. If it does, come over to my house to-morrow and we’ll get out the sled. We can take turns bein’ horse, you know.”
But Irene shook her head.
“I’d like to,” she replied, “but mamma won’t let me. I haven’t a dress that’s fit.”
Lou’s face gleamed with surprise.
“O, my!” she said, “can’t you ever take a hill-ride, or build a snow-man, or—” but Irene looked so sober that Lou’s sympathies awoke. “Never mind,” she added, “you’ll come up to your grandpa’s again in the summer; then you’ll wear do-up clothes, and we’ll have lots of fun.”
“The do-up clothes are the worst,” replied Irene sadly. “Mamma don’t want them soiled.”
Lou looked down at her plaid frock; she thought of the plentiful ginghams at home. Suddenly she turned and rushed headlong back to mamma.
“O my!” she began, “Irene Clarke can’t have no fun! She ain’t got no slide-dresses, she can’t soil her do-up clothes, and—O my! mamma—it’s all them ruffles and puffs! I wouldn’t wear ’em for the world! No, I just wouldn’t!”
Mamma could but smile.
“I am glad my little girl has changed,” she said. “I feared, a while ago, that because she could not have ruffles and puffs on her dresses she was going to wear them up in her face.”
The free little out-of-doors girl blushed; and then she could have hugged her plaid frock for very joy.
“Sugar River!” The little cup-bearing hand stood transfixed halfway from table to lip. The silver cup tilted part way over in sheer astonishment. Drip, drip, drip, dripped the contents down into Tot’s scrap of ruffled and embroidered lap.
“Bless me! Look at that child!” cried Tot’s papa. And Tot was looked at and hustled away, and the little silver mug tried to drown itself in a yellow stream of sunshine flowing across the table; and, failing in that, tried to sparkle just as Tot’s eyes had sparkled, and failed in that, too. For that was O, very bright—nothing was brighter than Tot’s eyes.