The letter was addressed to Elizabeth Ann and it was from Aunt Frances. She read it to herself while Uncle Henry read the newspaper. Aunt Frances wrote that she had been perfectly horrified to learn that Cousin Molly had not kept Elizabeth Ann with her, and that she would never forgive her for that cruelty. And when she thought that her darling was at Putney Farm ... ! Her blood ran cold. It positively did! It was too dreadful. But it couldn’t be helped, for a time anyhow, because Aunt Harriet was really very sick. Elizabeth Ann would have to be a dear, brave child and endure it as best she could. And as soon ... oh, as soon as ever she could, Aunt Frances would come and take her away from them. “Don’t cry too much, darling ... it breaks my heart to think of you there! Try to be cheerful, dearest! Try to bear it for the sake of your distracted, loving Aunt Frances.”
Elizabeth Ann looked up from this letter and across the table at Aunt Abigail’s rosy, wrinkled old face, bent over her darning. Uncle Henry laid the paper down, took a big mouthful of pop-corn, and beat time silently with his hand. When he could speak he murmured: An hundred dogs bayed deep and strong, Clattered an hundred steeds along.
Old Shep woke up with a snort and Aunt Abigail fed him a handful of pop-corn. Little Eleanor stirred in her sleep, stretched, yawned, and nestled down into a ball again on the little girl’s lap. Betsy could feel in her own body the rhythmic vibration of the kitten’s contented purr.
Aunt Abigail looked up: “Finished your letter? I hope Harriet is no worse. What does Frances say?”
Elizabeth Ann blushed a deep red and crushed the letter together in her hand. She felt ashamed and she did not know why. “Aunt Frances says, ... Aunt Frances says, ...” she began, hesitating. “She says Aunt Harriet is still pretty sick.” She stopped, drew a long breath, and went on, “And she sends her love to you.”
Now Aunt Frances hadn’t done anything of the kind, so this was a really whopping fib. But Elizabeth Ann didn’t care if it was. It made her feel less ashamed, though she did not know why. She took another mouthful of pop-corn and stroked Eleanor’s back. Uncle Henry got up and stretched. “It’s time to go to bed, folks,” he said. As he wound the clock Betsy heard him murmuring:
But when the sun his beacon red. ...
ELIZABETH ANN FAILS IN AN EXAMINATION
I wonder if you can guess the name of a little girl who, about a month after this, was walking along through the melting snow in the woods with a big black dog running circles around her. Yes, all alone in the woods with a terrible great dog beside her, and yet not a bit afraid. You don’t suppose it could be Elizabeth Ann? Well, whoever she was, she had something on her mind, for she walked more and more slowly and had only a very absent-minded pat for the dog’s head when he thrust it up for a caress. When the wood road led into a clearing in which there was a rough little house of slabs, the child stopped altogether, and, looking down, began nervously to draw lines in the snow with her overshoe.