Chapter 15 – Ear-Rings

Louisa May Alcott2016年11月04日'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Rose’s sprain proved to be a serious one, owing to neglect, and Dr.
Alec ordered her to lie on the sofa for a fortnight at least; whereat
she groaned dismally, but dared not openly complain, lest the boys
turn upon her with some of the wise little sermons on patience
which she had delivered for their benefit.

It was Mac’s turn now, and honourably did he repay his debt; for,
as school was still forbidden, he had plenty of leisure, and devoted
most of it to Rose. He took many steps for her, and even allowed
her to teach him to knit, after assuring himself that many a brave
Scotchman knew how to "click the pricks." She was obliged to
take a solemn vow of secrecy, however, before he would consent;
for, though he did not mind being called "Giglamps," "Granny"
was more than his boyish soul could bear, and at the approach of
any of the Clan his knitting vanished as if by magic, which
frequent "chucking" out of sight did not improve the stripe he was
doing for Rose’s new afghan.

She was busy with this pretty work one bright October afternoon,
all nicely established on her sofa in the upper hall, while Jamie
and Pokey (lent for her amusement) were keeping house in a
corner, with Comet and Rose’s old doll for their "childerns."

Presently, Phebe appeared with a card. Rose read it, made a
grimace, then laughed and said

"I’ll see Miss Blish," and immediately put on her company face,
pulled out her locket, and settled her curls.

"You dear thing, how do you do? I’ve been trying to call every day
since you got back, but I have so many engagements, I really
couldn’t manage it till to-day. So glad you are alone, for mamma
said I could sit awhile, and I brought my lace-work to show you,
for it’s perfectly lovely." cried Miss Blish, greeting Rose with a
kiss, which was not very warmly returned, though Rose politely
thanked her for coming, and bid Phebe roll up the easy chair.

"How nice to have a maid!" said Ariadne, as she settled herself
with much commotion. "Still, dear, you must be very lonely, and
feel the need of a bosom friend."

"I have my cousins," began Rose, with dignity, for her visitor’s
patronising manner ruffled her temper.

"Gracious, child! you don’t make friends of those great boys, do
you? Mamma says she really doesn’t think it’s proper for you to be
with them so much."

"They are like brothers, and my aunts do think it’s proper," replied
Rose, rather sharply, for it struck her that this was none of Miss
Blish’s business.

"I was merely going to say I should be glad to have you for my
bosom friend, for Hatty Mason and I have had an awful quarrel,
and don’t speak. She is too mean to live, so I gave her up. Just
think, she never paid back one of the caramels I’ve given her, and
never invited me to her party. I could have forgiven the caramels,
but to be left out in that rude way was more than I could bear, and
I told her never to look at me again as long as she lived."

"You are very kind, but I don’t think I want a bosom friend, thank
you," said Rose, as Ariadne stopped to bridle and shake her flaxen
head over the delinquent Hatty Mason.

Now, in her heart Miss Blish thought Rose "a stuck-up puss," but
the other girls wanted to know her and couldn’t, the old house was
a charming place to visit, the lads were considered fine fellows,
and the Campbells "are one of our first families," mamma said. So
Ariadne concealed her vexation at Rose’s coolness, and changed
the subject as fast as possible.

"Studying French, I see; who is your teacher?" she asked, flitting
over the leaves of "Paul and Virginia," that lay on the table.

"I don’t study it, for I read French as well as English, and uncle and
I often speak it for hours. He talks like a native, and says I have a
remarkably good accent."

Rose really could not help this small display of superiority, for
French was one of her strong points, and she was vain of it, though
she usually managed to hide this weakness. She felt that Ariadne
would be the better for a little crushing, and could not resist the
temptation to patronise in her turn.

"Oh, indeed!" said Miss Blish, rather blankly, for French was not
her strong point by any means.

"I am to go abroad with uncle in a year or two, and he knows how
important it is to understand the languages. Half the girls who
leave school can’t speak decent French, and when they go abroad
they are so mortified. I shall be very glad to help you, if you like,
for, of course, you have no one to talk with at home."

Now Ariadne, though she looked like a wax doll, had feelings
within her instead of sawdust, and these feelings were hurt by
Rose’s lofty tone. She thought her more "stuck up" than ever, but
did not know how to bring her down, yet longed to do it, for she
felt as if she had received a box on the ear, and involuntarily put
her hand up to it. The touch of an ear-ring consoled her, and
suggested a way of returning tit for tat in a telling manner.

"Thank you, dear; I don’t need any help, for our teacher is from
Paris, and of course he speaks better French than your uncle."
Then she added, with a gesture of her head that set the little bells
on her ears to tingling: "How do you like my new ear-rings? Papa
gave them to me last week, and everyone says they are lovely."

Rose came down from her high horse with a rapidity that was
comical, for Ariadne had the upper hand now. Rose adored pretty
things, longed to wear them, and the desire of her girlish soul was
to have her ears bored, only Dr. Alec thought it foolish, so she
never had done it. She would gladly have given all the French she
could jabber for a pair of golden bells with pearl-tipped tongues,
like those Ariadne wore; and, clasping her hands, she answered, in
a tone that went to the hearer’s heart

"They are too sweet for anything! If uncle would only let me wear
some, I should be perfectly happy."

"I wouldn’t mind what he says. Papa laughed at me at first, but he
likes them now, and says I shall have diamond solitaires when I
am eighteen," said Ariadne, quite satisfied with her shot.

"I’ve got a pair now that were mamma’s, and a beautiful little pair
of pearl and turquoise ones, that I am dying to wear," sighed Rose.

"Then do it. I’ll pierce your ears, and you must wear a bit of silk in
them till they are well; your curls will hide them nicely; then,
some day, slip in your smallest ear-rings, and see if your uncle
don’t like them."

"I asked him if it wouldn’t do my eyes good once when they were
red, and he only laughed. People do cure weak eyes that way, don’t

"Yes, indeed, and yours are sort of red. Let me see. Yes, I really
think you ought to do it before they get worse," said Ariadne,
peering into the large clear eye offered for inspection.

"Does it hurt much?" asked Rose, wavering.

"Oh dear, no; just a prick and a pull, and it’s all over. I’ve done lots
of ears, and know just how. Come, push up your hair and get a big

"I don’t quite like to do it without asking uncle’s leave," faltered
Rose, when all was ready for the operation.

"Did he ever forbid it?" demanded Ariadne, hovering over her prey
like a vampire.

"No, never!"

"Then do it, unless you are afraid," cried Miss Blish, bent on
accomplishing the deed.

That last word settled the matter, and, closing her eyes, Rose said
"Punch!" in the tone of one giving the fatal order "Fire!"

Ariadne punched, and the victim bore it in heroic silence, though
she turned pale and her eyes were full of tears of anguish.

"There! Now pull the bits of silk often, and cold-cream your ears
every night, and you’ll soon be ready for the rings," said Ariadne,
well pleased with her job, for the girl who spoke French with "a
fine accent" lay flat upon the sofa, looking as exhausted as if she
had had both ears cut off.

"It does hurt dreadfully, and I know uncle won’t like it," sighed
Rose, as remorse began to gnaw. "Promise not to tell, or I shall be
teased to death," she added, anxiously, entirely forgetting the two
little pitchers gifted with eyes as well as ears, who had been
watching the whole performance from afar.

"Never. Mercy me, what’s that?" and Ariadne started as a sudden
sound of steps and voices came up from below.

"It’s the boys! Hide the needle. Do my ears show? Don’t breathe a
word!" whispered Rose, scrambling about to conceal all traces of
their iniquity from the sharp eyes of the Clan.

Up they came, all in good order, laden with the proceeds of a
nutting expedition, for they always reported to Rose and paid
tribute to their queen in the handsomest manner.

"How many, and how big! We’ll have a grand roasting frolic after
tea, won’t we?" said Rose, plunging both hands into a bag of glossy
brown nuts, while the Clan "stood at ease" and nodded to Ariadne.

"That lot was picked especially for you, Rosy. I got every one
myself, and they are extra whackers," said Mac, presenting a
bushel or so.

"You should have seen Giglamps when he was after them. He
pitched out of the tree, and would have broken his blessed old
neck if Arch had not caught him," observed Steve, as he lounged
gracefully in the window seat.

"You needn’t talk, Dandy, when you didn’t know a chestnut from a
beech, and kept on thrashing till I told you of it," retorted Mac,
festooning himself over the back of the sofa, being a privileged

"I don’t make mistakes when I thrash you, old Worm, so you’d
better mind what you are about," answered Steve, without a ray of
proper respect for his elder brother.

"It is getting dark, and I must go, or mamma will be alarmed," said
Ariadne, rising in sudden haste, though she hoped to be asked to
remain to the nut-party.

No one invited her; and all the while she was putting on her things
and chatting to Rose the boys were telegraphing to one another the
sad fact that someone ought to escort the young lady home. Not a
boy felt heroic enough to cast himself into the breach, however;
even polite Archie shirked the duty, saying to Charlie, as they
quietly slipped into an adjoining room

"I’m not going to do all the gallivanting. Let Steve take that chit
home and show his manners."

"I’ll be hanged if I do!" answered Prince, who disliked Miss Blish
because she tried to be coquettish with him.

"Then I will," and, to the dismay of both recreant lads, Dr. Alec
walked out of the room to offer his services to the "chit."

He was too late, however, for Mac, obeying a look from Rose, had
already made a victim of himself, and trudged meekly away,
wishing the gentle Ariadne at the bottom of the Red Sea.

"Then I will take this lady down to tea, as the other one has found
a gentleman to go home with her. I see the lamps are lighted
below, and I smell a smell which tells me that auntie has
something extra nice for us to-night."

As he spoke, Dr. Alec was preparing to carry Rose downstairs as
usual; but Archie and Prince rushed forward, begging with penitent
eagerness for the honour of carrying her in an arm-chair. Rose
consented, fearing that her uncle’s keen eye would discover the
fatal bits of silk; so the boys crossed hands, and, taking a good grip
of each curly pate, she was borne down in state, while the others
followed by way of the banisters.

Tea was ordered earlier than usual, so that Jamie and his dolly
could have a taste, at least, of the holiday fun, for they were to stay
till seven, and be allowed twelve roasted chestnuts apiece, which
they were under bonds not to eat till next day.

Tea was despatched rapidly, therefore, and the party gathered
round the wide hearth in the dining-room, where the nuts were
soon dancing gaily on hot shovels or bouncing out among the
company, thereby causing delightful panics among the little ones.

"Come, Rosy, tell us a story while we work, for you can’t help
much, and must amuse us as your share," proposed Mac, who sat
in the shade pricking nuts, and who knew by experience what a
capital little Scheherazade his cousin was.

"Yes, we poor monkeys can’t burn our paws for nothing, so tell
away, Pussy," added Charlie, as he threw several hot nuts into her
lap and shook his fingers afterwards.

"Well, I happen to have a little story with a moral to it in my mind,
and I will tell it, though it is intended for younger children than
you," answered Rose, who was rather fond of telling instructive

"Fire away," said Geordie, and she obeyed, little thinking what a
disastrous story it would prove to herself.

"Well, once upon a time, a little girl went to see a young lady who
was very fond of her. Now, the young lady happened to be lame,
and had to have her foot bandaged up every day; so she kept a
basketful of bandages, all nicely rolled and ready. The little girl
liked to play with this basket, and one day, when she thought no
one saw her, she took one of the rolls without asking leave, and put
it in her pocket."

Here Pokey, who had been peering lovingly down at the five warm
nuts that lay at the bottom of her tiny pocket, suddenly looked up
and said, "Oh!" in a startled tone, as if the moral tale had become
intensely interesting all at once.

Rose heard and saw the innocent betrayal of the small sinner, and
went on in a most impressive manner, while the boys nudged one
another and winked as they caught the joke.

"But an eye did see this naughty little girl, and whose eye do you
think it was?"

"Eye of Dod," murmured conscience-stricken Pokey, spreading
two chubby little hands before the round face, which they were not
half big enough to hide.

Rose was rather taken aback by this reply, but, feeling that she was
producing a good effect, she added seriously

"Yes, God saw her, and so did the young lady, but she did not say
anything; she waited to see what the little girl would do about it.
She had been very happy before she took the bandage, but when it
was in her pocket she seemed troubled, and pretty soon stopped
playing, and sat down in a corner looking very sober. She thought
a few minutes, and then went and put back the roll very softly, and
her face cleared up, and she was a happy child again. The young
lady was glad to see that, and wondered what made the little girl
put it back."

"Tonscience p’icked her," murmured a contrite voice from behind
the small hands pressed tightly over Pokey’s red face.

"And why did she take it, do you suppose?" asked Rose, in a
school-marmish tone, feeling that all the listeners were interested
in her tale and its unexpected application.

"It was so nice and wound, and she wanted it deffly," answered the
little voice.

"Well, I’m glad she had such a good conscience. The moral is that
people who steal don’t enjoy what they take, and are not happy till
they put it back. What makes that little girl hide her face?" asked
Rose, as she concluded.

"Me’s so ‘shamed of Pokey," sobbed the small culprit, quite
overcome by remorse and confusion at this awful disclosure.

"Come, Rose, it’s too bad to tell her little tricks before everyone,
and preach at her in that way; you wouldn’t like it yourself," began
Dr. Alec, taking the weeper on his knee and administering
consolation in the shape of kisses and nuts.

Before Rose could express her regret, Jamie, who had been
reddening and ruffling like a little turkey-cock for several minutes,
burst out indignantly, bent on avenging the wound given to his
beloved dolly.

"I know something bad that you did, and I’m going to tell right out.
You thought we didn’t see you, but we did, and you said uncle
wouldn’t like it, and the boys would tease, and you made Ariadne
promise not to tell, and she punched holes in your ears to put
ear-rings in. So now! and that’s much badder than to take an old
piece of rag; and I hate you for making my Pokey cry."

Jamie’s somewhat incoherent explosion produced such an effect
that Pokey’s small sin was instantly forgotten, and Rose felt that
her hour had come.

"What! what! what!" cried the boys in a chorus, dropping their
shovels and knives to gather round Rose, for a guilty clutching at
her ears betrayed her, and with a feeble cry of "Ariadne made me!"
she hid her head among the pillows like an absurd little ostrich.

"Now she’ll go prancing round with bird cages and baskets and
carts and pigs, for all I know, in her ears, as the other girls do, and
won’t she look like a goose?" asked one tormentor, tweaking a curl
that strayed out from the cushions.

"I didn’t think she’d be so silly," said Mac, in a tone of
disappointment that told Rose she had sunk in the esteem of her
wise cousin.

"That Blish girl is a nuisance, and ought not to be allowed to come
here with her nonsensical notions," said the Prince, feeling a strong
desire to shake that young person as an angry dog might shake a
mischievous kitten.

"How do you like it, uncle?" asked Archie, who, being the head of
a family himself, believed in preserving discipline at all costs.

"I am very much surprised; but I see she is a girl, after all, and
must have her vanities like all the rest of them," answered Dr.
Alec, with a sigh, as if he had expected to find Rose a sort of
angel, above all earthly temptations.

"What shall you do about it, sir?" inquired Geordie, wondering
what punishment would be inflicted on a feminine culprit.

"As she is fond of ornaments, perhaps we had better give her a
nose-ring also. I have one somewhere that a Fiji belle once wore;
I’ll look it up," and, leaving Pokey to Jamie’s care, Dr. Alec rose as
if to carry out his suggestion in earnest.

"Good! good! We’ll do it right away! Here’s a gimlet, so you hold
her, boys, while I get her dear little nose all ready," cried Charlie,
whisking away the pillow as the other boys danced about the sofa
in true Fiji style.

It was a dreadful moment, for Rose could not run away she could
only grasp her precious nose with one hand and extend the other,
crying distractedly

"O uncle, save me, save me!"

Of course he saved her; and when she was securely barricaded by
his strong arm, she confessed her folly in such humiliation of
spirit, that the lads, after a good laugh at her, decided to forgive
her and lay all the blame on the tempter, Ariadne. Even Dr. Alec
relented so far as to propose two gold rings for the ears instead of
one copper one for the nose; a proceeding which proved that if
Rose had all the weakness of her sex for jewellery, he had all the
inconsistency of his in giving a pretty penitent exactly what she
wanted, spite of his better judgment.


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