Neither spoke for a minute, astonishment being too great for words;
then, as by one impulse, both stole up and touched the cake with a timid
finger, quite prepared to see it fly away in some mysterious and
startling manner. It remained sitting tranquilly in the basket, however,
and the children drew a long breath of relief, for, though they did not
believe in fairies, the late performances did seem rather like
"The dog didn’t eat it!"
"Sally didn’t take it!"
"How do you know?"
"She never would have put it back."
"Can’t tell, but I forgive ’em."
"What shall we do now?" asked Betty, feeling as if it would be very
difficult to settle down to a quiet tea-party after such unusual
"Eat that cake up just as fast as ever we can", and Bab divided the
contested delicacy with one chop of the big knife, bound to make sure of
her own share at all events.
It did not take long, for they washed it down with sips of milk, and ate
as fast as possible, glancing round all the while to see if the queer
dog was coming again.
"There! now I’d like to see any one take my cake away," said Bab,
defiantly crunching her half of the pie-crust B.
"Or mine either," coughed Betty, choking over a raisin that wouldn’t go
down in a hurry.
"We might as well clear up, and play there had been an earthquake,"
suggested Bab, feeling that some such convulsion of Nature was needed to
explain satisfactorily the demoralized condition of her family.
"That will be splendid. My poor Linda was knocked right over on her
nose. Darlin’ child, come to your mother and be fixed," purred Betty,
lifting the fallen idol from a grove of chickweed, and tenderly brushing
the dirt from Belinda’s heroically smiling face.
"She’ll have croup to-night as sure as the world. We’d better make up
some squills out of this sugar and water," said Bab, who dearly loved to
dose the dollies all round.
"P’r’aps she will, but you needn’t begin to sneeze yet awhile. I can
sneeze for my own children, thank you, ma’am," returned Betty, sharply,
for her usually amiable spirit had been ruffled by the late occurrences.
"I didn’t sneeze! I’ve got enough to do to talk and cry and cough for my
own poor dears, without bothering about yours," cried Bab, even more
ruffled than her sister.
"Then who did? I heard a real live sneeze just as plain as anything,"
and Betty looked up to the green roof above her, as if the sound came
from that direction.
A yellow-bird sat swinging and chirping on the tall lilac-bush, but no
other living thing was in sight. Birds don’t sneeze, do they?" asked
Betty, eying little Goldy suspiciously.
"You goose! of course they don’t."
"Well. I should just like to know who is laughing and sneezing round
here. "May be it is the dog," suggested Betty looking relieved.
"I never heard of a dog’s laughing, except Mother Hubbard’s. This is
such a queer one, may be he can, though. I wonder where he went to?" and
Bab took a survey down both the side-paths, quite longing to see the
funny poodle again.
"I know where I ‘m going to," said Betty, piling the dolls into her
apron with more haste than care. "I’m going right straight home to tell
Ma all about it. I don’t like such actions, and I ‘m afraid to stay."
"I ain’t; but I guess it is going to rain, so I shall have to go any
way," answered Bab, taking advantage of the black clouds rolling up the
sky, for she scorned to own that she was afraid of any thing.
Clearing the table in a summary manner by catching up the four corners
of the cloth, Bab put the rattling bundle into her apron, flung her
children on the top and pronounced herself ready to depart. Betty
lingered an instant to pick up and ends that might be spoilt by the
rain, and, when she turned from taking the red halter off the knocker,
two lovely pink roses lay on the stone steps.
"Oh, Bab, just see! Here’s the very ones we wanted. Wasn’t it nice of
the wind to blow ’em down?" she called out, picking them up and running
after her sister, who had strolled moodily along, still looking about
for her sworn foe, Sally Folsom. The flowers soothed the feelings of the
little girls, because they had longed for them, and bravely resisted the
temptation to climb up the trellis and help themselves, since their
mother had forbidden such feats, owing to a fall Bab got trying to reach
a honeysuckle from the vine which ran all over the porch.
Home they went and poured out their tale, to Mrs. Moss’s great
amusement; for she saw in it only some playmate’s prank, and was not
much impressed by the mysterious sneeze and laugh.
"We’ll have a grand rummage Monday, and find out what is going on over
there," was all she said. But Mrs. Moss could not keep her promise, for
on Monday it still rained, and the little girls paddled off to school
like a pair of young ducks, enjoying every puddle they came to, since
India-rubber boots made wading a delicious possibility. They took their
dinner, and at noon regaled a crowd of comrades with an account of the
mysterious dog, who appeared to be haunting the neighborhood, as several
of the other children had seen him examining their back yards with
interest. He had begged of them, but to none had he exhibited his
accomplishments except Bab and Betty; and they were therefore much set
up, and called him "our dog" with an air. The cake transaction remained
a riddle, for Sally Folsom solemnly declared that she was playing tag in
Mamie Snow’s barn at that identical time. No one had been near the old
house but the two children, and no one could throw any light upon that
It produced a great effect, however; for even "teacher" was interested,
and told such amazing tales of a juggler she once saw, that doughnuts
were left forgotten in dinner-baskets, and wedges of pie remained
suspended in the air for several minutes at a time, instead of vanishing
with miraculous rapidity as usual. At afternoon recess, which the girls
had first, Bab nearly dislocated every joint of her little body trying
to imitate the poodle’s antics. She had practised on her bed with great
success, but the wood-shed floor was a different thing, as her knees and
elbows soon testified.
"It looked just as easy as any thing; I don’t see how he did it," she
said, coming down with a bump after vainly attempting to walk on her
"My gracious, there he is this very minute!" cried Betty, who sat on a
little wood-pile near the door. There was a general rush, – and sixteen
small girls gazed out into the rain as eagerly as if to behold
Cinderella’s magic coach, instead of one forlorn dog trotting by through
"Oh, do call him in and make him dance!" cried the girls, all chirping
at once, till it sounded as if a flock of sparrows had taken possession
of the shed.
"I will call him, he knows me," and Bab scrambled up, forgetting how she
had chased the poodle and called him names two days ago.
He evidently had not forgotten, however; for, though he paused and
looked wistfully at them, he would not approach, but stood dripping in
the rain, with his frills much bedraggled, while his tasselled tail
wagged slowly, and his pink nose pointed suggestively to the pails and
baskets, nearly empty now.
"He’s hungry; give him something to eat, and then he’ll see that we
don’t want to hurt him," suggested Sally, starting a contribution with
her last bit of bread and butter.
Bab caught up her new pail, and collected all the odds and ends; then
tried to beguile the poor beast in to eat and be comforted. But he only
came as far as the door, and, sitting up, begged with such imploring
eyes that Bab put down the pail and stepped back, saying pitifully, –
"The poor thing is starved; let him eat all he wants, and we won’t touch
The girls drew back with little clucks of interest and compassion; but I
regret to say their charity was not rewarded as they expected, for, the
minute the coast was clear, the dog marched boldly up, seized the handle
of the pail in his mouth, and was off with it, galloping down the road
at a great pace.
Shrieks arose from the children, especially Bab and Betty, basely
bereaved of their new dinner-pail; but no one could follow the thief,
for the Ben rang, and in they went, so much excited that the boys rushed
tumultuously forth to discover the cause. By the time school was over
the sun was out, and Bab and Betty hastened home to tell their wrongs
and be comforted by mother, who did it most effectually.
"Never mind, dears, I’ll get you another pail, if he doesn’t bring it
back as he did before. As it is too wet for you to play out, you shall
go and see the old coach-house as I promised, Keep on your rubbers and
This delightful prospect much assuaged their woe, and away they went,
skipping gayly down the gravelled path, while Mrs. Moss followed, with
skirts well tucked up, and a great bunch of keys in her hand; for she
lived at the Lodge, and had charge of the premises.
The small door of the coach-house was fastened inside, but the large one
had a padlock on it; and this being quickly unfastened, one half swung
open, and the little girls ran in, too eager and curious even to cry out
when they found themselves at last in possession of the long-coveted old
carriage. A dusty, musty concern enough; but it had a high seat, a door,
steps that let down, and many other charms which rendered it most
desirable in the eyes of children.
Bab made straight for the box and Betty for the door; but both came
tumbling down faster than they went up, when from the gloom of the
interior came a shrill bark, and a low voice saying quickly, "Down,
"Who is there?" demanded Mrs. Moss, in a stern tone, backing toward the
door with both children clinging to her skirts.
The well-known curly white head was popped out of the broken window, and
a mild whine seemed to say, "Don’t be alarmed, ladies; we won’t hurt
you." Come out this minute, or I shall have to come and get you," called
Mrs. Moss, growing very brave all of a sudden as she caught sight of a
pair of small, dusty shoes under the coach.
"Yes, ‘m, I’m coming, as fast as I can," answered a meek voice, as what
appeared to be a bundle of rags leaped out of the dark, followed by the
poodle, who immediately sat down at the bare feet of his owner with a
watchful air, as if ready to assault any one who might approach too
"Now, then, who are you, and how did you get here?" asked Mrs. Moss,
trying to speak sternly, though her motherly eyes were already full of
pity, as they rested on the forlorn little figure before her.