Billy felt a little more cheerful, though he still dreaded confessing to his aunt and he loitered along the way till it was nearly dark. Supper was ready when he got home and he walked into the diningroom with his customary ease and grace. But he took his seat uneasily, and he was so quiet during the meal and ate so little that his aunt asked him if he were sick. He was planning in his mind how to break the news of the day’s disaster to her.
“You are improving, William,” she remarked presently, “you haven’t got into any mischief to-day. You have been a mighty good little boy now for two days.”
Billy flushed at the compliment and shifted uneasily in his seat. That patch seemed to burn him.
“If God’d jest do His part,” he said darkly, “I wouldn’t never git in no meanness.”
After supper Miss Minerva washed the dishes in the kitchen sink and Billy carried them back to the dining-room. His aunt caught him several times prancing sideways in the most idiotic manner. He was making a valiant effort to keep from exposing his rear elevation to her; once he had to walk backward.
“William,” she said sharply, “you will break my plates. What is the matter with you to-night?”
A little later they were sitting quietly in Miss Minerva’s room. She was reading “The Christian at Home,” and he was absently looking at a picture book.
“Sam Lamb’s wife Sukey sho’ is a beautiful patcher,” he remarked, feeling his way.
She made no answering comment, and the discouraged little boy was silent for a few minutes. He had worn Aunt Cindy’s many-colored patches too often to be ashamed of this one for himself, but he felt that he would like to draw his aunt out and find how she stood on the subject of patches.
“Aunt Minerva,” he presently asked, “what sorter patches ‘d you ruther wear on yo’ pants, blue patches or brown?”
“On my what?” she asked, looking at him severely over her paper.
“I mean if you’s me,” he hastily explained. “Don’t you think blue patches is the mos’ nat’ral lookin’?”
“What are you driving at, William?” she asked; but without waiting for his answer she went on with her reading.
The child was silent for a long time, his little mind busy, then he began, “Aunt Minerva?”
She peered at him over her glasses a second, then dropped her eyes to the paper where an interesting article on Foreign Missions held her attention.
“Aunt Minerva, I snagged—Aunt Minerva, I snagged my—my skin, to-day.”
“Let me see the place,” she said absently, her eyes glued to a paragraph describing a cannibal feast.
“I’s a-settin’ on it right now,” he replied.
Another long silence ensued. Billy resolved to settle the matter.
“I’s gettin’ sleepy,” he yawned. “Aunt Minerva, I wants to say my prayers and go to bed.”
She laid her paper down and he dropped to his knees by her side. He usually sprawled all over her lap during his lengthy devotions, but to-night he clasped his little hands and reared back like a rabbit on its haunches.