Dorothy at Sixteen.
THE door of the study was closed, and only Nero was to be seen. He, poordog, stood in the wide hall gazing wistfully at the knob, and prickingup his ears whenever sounds of movement in the room aroused his hope ofbeing admitted. Suddenly he gave a yelp of delight. Somebody surely wasapproaching the door. The steps—they were a man’s—halted. There was asoft, rolling sound, as if the master’s chair were being drawn to thetable; next, a rustling of paper; a deep-voiced moan; the rapidscratching of a quill pen; then silence—silence—and poor Nero againstood at half-mast.
Any ordinary dog would have barked, or pawed impatiently at the door.But Nero was not an ordinary dog. He knew that something unusual wasgoing on, something with which even he, the protector and pet of thehousehold, the frisky Master of Ceremonies, must not interfere. But whenthe bell-pull within the room clicked sharply, and a faint tinkle cameup from below, he flew eagerly to the head of the basement stairs, andwagged his bushy tail with a steady, vigorous stroke, as though it werethe crank of some unseen machine which slowly and surely would drawLiddy, the housemaid, up the stairway.
The bell rang again. The machine put on more steam. Still no Liddy.Could she be out? Nero ran back to take an agonized glance at themotionless knob, leaped frantically to the stairs again—and, at thatmoment, the study-door opened. There was a heavy tread; the ecstaticNero rushed in between a pair of dignified legs moving toward the greathall door; he spun wildly about for an instant, and then, with a deepsigh of satisfaction, settled down on the rug before the study fire. Forthere was not a soul in the room.
THE house is there still; so is Nero, now an honored old dog frisky onlyin his memories. But old as he is in teeth and muscle, he is hardly pastmiddle-age in the wag of his still bushy tail, and is as young as everin happy devotion to his master. Liddy, too, is down stairs, promoted,but busy as in the days gone by; and the voice of that very bell tinkledbut an hour ago.
Here is the same study; some one within, and the door closed. Opposite,on the other side of the wide hall, is the parlor, its windows lookingacross piazza, sloping lawn, road-way, and field, straight out to thesparkling lake beyond. Back of the parlor is a sunny sitting-room, itsbay-window framing a pleasant view of flower-garden, apple-orchard, andgrape-arbor—a few straggling bunches clinging to the almost leaflessNovember vines. And within, throughout the house indeed, floats asunny-shady combination of out-door air, with a faint, delightful odorof open wood-fires. What a quiet, homelike, beautiful place it is!
Let us look into the sitting-room.
A boy, with his back toward the door, mounted upon the end of a bigsofa, his bended knee tightly held between his arms, his head thrustforward earnestly,—altogether, from the rear view, looking like aremarkable torso with a modern jacket on,—that’s Donald. Near him, onthe sofa, a glowing face with bright brown hair waving back from it, thechin held in two brownish little hands, and beneath that a mass of darkred merino, revealing in a meandering, drapery way that its wearer ishalf-kneeling, half-sitting,—that’s Dorothy.
The Sparkling Lake Beyond.
I am obliged to confess it, these two inelegant objects on a veryelegant piece of furniture are the hero and heroine of my story.
Do not imagine, however, that Donald and Dorothy could not, if theychose to do so, stand before you comely and fair as any girl and boy inthe land. It is merely by accident that we catch this first glimpse ofthem. They have been on that sofa in just those positions for at leastfive minutes, and, from present appearances, they intend to remain sountil further notice.
Dorothy is speaking, and Donald is—not exactly listening, but waitingfor his turn to put in a word, thus forming what may be called a lull inthe conversation; for up to this point both have been speaking together.
“It’s too much for anything, so it is! I’m going to ask Liddy about it,that’s what I’m going to do; for she was almost ready to tell me theother day, when Jack came in and made her mad.”
“Don’t you do it!” Donald’s tone is severe, but still affectionate andconfidential. “Don’t you do it. It’s the wrong way, I tell you. What didshe get mad at?”