Holding her skirts nearly up to her knees Miss Minerva stepped gingerly along the wet and muddy street till she got to her gate, where her nephew met her, looking a little guilty, but still holding his head up with that characteristic, manly air which was so attractive.
“William,” she said sternly, “I see you have been getting into mischief, and I feel it my duty to punish you, so that you may learn to be trustworthy. I said nothing to you about the hose because I did not think you would know how to use it.”
Billy remained silent. He did not want to betray his little companions of the morning, so he said nothing in his own defense.
“Come with me into the house,” continued his aunt, “you must go to bed at once.”
But the child protested vigorously.
“Don’ make me go to bed in the daytime, Aunt Minerva; me an’ Wilkes Booth Lincoln ain’t never went to bed in the daytime since we’s born, an’ I ain’t never hear tell of a real ’ligious ’oman a-puttin’ a little boy in bed ‘fore it’s dark; an’ I ain’t never a-goin’ to meddle with yo’ ole hose no mo’.”
But Miss Minerva was obdurate, and the little boy spent a miserable hour between the sheets.
I have a present for you,” said his aunt, handing Billy a long, rectangular package.
“Thank you, ma’am,” said her beaming nephew as he sat down on the floor, all eager anticipation, and began to untie the string. His charming, changeful face was bright and happy again, but his expression became one of indignant amaze as he saw the contents of the box.
“What I want with a doll?” he asked angrily, “I ain’t no girl.”
“I think every little boy should have a doll and learn to make clothes for it,” said Miss Minerva. “I don’t want you to be a great, rough boy; I want you to be sweet and gentle like a little girl; I am going to teach you how to sew and cook and sweep, so you may grow up a comfort to me.”
This was a gloomy forecast for the little boy accustomed, as he had been, to the freedom of a big plantation, and he scowled darkly.
“Me an’ Wilkes Booth Lincoln ain’t never hafter play with no dolls sence we’s born,” he replied sullenly, “we goes in swimmin’ an’ plays baseball. I can knock a home-run an’ pitch a curve an’ ketch a fly. Why don’t you gimme a baseball bat? I already got a ball what Admiral Farragut gimme. An’ I ain’t agoin’ to be no sissy neither. Lina an’ Frances plays dolls, me an’ Jimmy—” he stopped in sudden confusion.
“Lina and Frances and James!” exclaimed his aunt. “What do you know about them, William?”
The child’s face flushed. “I seen ’em this mornin’,” he acknowledged.
Miss Minerva put a hand on either shoulder der and looked straight into his eyes.
“William, who started that sprinkling this morning?” she questioned, sharply.