‘Smuttie,’ she said, ’I’m very unhappy. This is only the second day at Seacove and I’ve vexed mamma already. I made good resol—— never mind; you know what I mean, Smut—to begin new here, and it’s all gone. I don’t know what to do, Smuttie, I truly don’t. Alie means to be kind, but it’s quite easy for her to be good, I think. And it’s no good me trying. It really isn’t, so I think I’ll just leave off and be comfortable.’
Smut looked up and wagged his tail. He was quite ready to agree with anything Biddy proposed, so long as she spoke cheerfully and did not cry.
‘Good little Smuttie, kind little Smut,’ said the child; ’you’re so nice and understanding always.’
But Smut seemed restless; he fidgeted about in front of Bride, first running a step or two, then stopping to wag his tail and look back appealingly at her in an insinuating doggy way of his own. Biddy pretended not to know what he meant, but she could not long keep up this feint.
‘I do know what you want,’ she said at last with a sigh. ’It’s a scamper, and I hate running, and I’m sure you know I do. But I suppose I must do it to please you. You won’t roar after me like Rough, anyway.’
And off she set, her short legs exerting themselves valiantly for Smuttie’s sake. He of course could have run much faster, but he was far too much of a gentleman to do so, and he stayed beside her, contenting himself every now and then by stopping short to look up at her, with a quick cheery bark of satisfaction and encouragement.
A TRYING CHILD
’I think words are
little live creatures,
A species of mischievous elves.’
Bride and Smuttie did not overtake Mrs. Vane and Rosalys, for they were running towards the sea, whereas the others were walking straight along the shore. But the dog’s bark and the sound once or twice of the child’s voice speaking to him came clearly through the still winter air.
Mrs. Vane stopped for a moment and looked after them. She and Alie had been talking about Bridget as they walked.
‘There she is again,’ said her mother, ’as merry and thoughtless as can be. That is the worst of her, Alie, you can make no impression on her.’
‘I don’t think it’s quite that, mamma,’ Rosalys replied, ’though I know it often seems so. She was really very, very sorry about her frock. And she’s so young—she’s not eight yet, mamma.’
‘You were quite different at eight,’ answered Mrs. Vane. ’Just think—that time I was so ill and papa was away. You were barely seven, and what a thoughtful, careful little body you were! I shall never forget waking up early one morning and seeing a little white figure stealthily putting coal on the fire, which was nearly out; taking up the lumps with its own little cold hands not to make a noise. My good little Alie!’ and she stroked the hand that lay on her arm fondly.