The Pigeon TaleVirginia Bennett
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Markus Brenner and theOnline Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net
THE PIGEON TALE
BY VIRGINIA BENNETT.
ILLUSTRATED BY E. STUART HARDY.
_LONDON:_ _NEW YORK:_ ERNEST NISTER. E. P. DUTTON & CO.
E.N. No. 2074.
Flower ornament] Pigeons] Branch ornament] The boy Laurie with a pigeon]
The Pigeon Tale
Something unusual was about to happen--any one could see that; the tallpine trees swayed and nodded to each other as if whispering together,the leaves blew up against a corner of the fence as though they meant tosweep the old-fashioned brick path clean, and the gate swung to and froon its hinges as in anticipation of a visitor.
In a far-away corner of the United States stood an old farm-house whichhad put on its company manners and quite left off being an every-dayhouse, though it really never could be called an "every-day" house--itwas too old for that.
Ever so many children had been born there, and had grown up under itssheltering roof, loved, married and had gone out into the world; it wasa _very_ old house, and could have told wonderful stories if any one hadlistened to them; no, it could not be called an every-day house at all,but to-day it had a look of expectancy quite different from its usualsleepy air.
The ancient box-hedge by the rose-garden stood like an old soldier atattention, so! The fresh muslin curtains at the window were stiff withstarch, they would not stir an inch to the breeze blowing in. The oldfarm-house was trying to look young again, that was it! To look youngagain: how many of us can do that, eh! for it was expecting a visitor, avery young visitor indeed, a little boy was coming.
He was not an ordinary little boy, or at least the people at thefarm-house (Aunt Laura and Uncle Sam) did not think so--because hismother when she was a little girl had gone there for a visit years andyears ago, just as he was coming to-day, and she had loved every nookand cranny of the old house as they hoped he would love it, and to thosetwo people, it seemed almost as if she were coming back again, whichreally couldn't happen, for that was ever so long ago.
But she had sent her little boy instead, hoping that the change of airwould do him good after the winter months spent leaning over schoolbooks. So in the quaint low-ceiled bedroom upstairs, sheets that smelledof lavender, with beautiful hand-embroidered initials, made by somebride for her trousseau long ago, were spread on the tall four-posterbed with its curious starched valence and silk patch-work quilt; thepitcher on the wash-stand had been filled to the brim with cool clearspring water, queer knit towels in basket weave design hung ready foruse, and a delicious odor of home-made bread floated up from theregions below.
It was the little boy's first journey, everything was new to him--whenhe got off at the station Uncle Sam met him and lifted him up to thefront seat of the carriage with his hand bag tucked in behind, as he hadlifted the little boy's mother up and seated her beside him, years ago.And so they drove out together along the broad country roads, past thegreen meadows, where quiet cows cropped the grass, until they camewithin sight of the farm and windmill and turned into the leafy laneunder the spreading chestnut trees and stopped at the gate.
_Aunt Laura was there to welcome him._]
Aunt Laura was there to welcome him--the little boy's name was Laurie,he had been given the name out of compliment to Aunt Laura; somehow orother it was almost like "coming home" instead of "going away" hethought, it was so home-like; perhaps it was because everything was sovery, very old, that their newness and strangeness had entirely wornoff. Perhaps it was because his mother had so often told him about itall, that everything seemed so familiar.
He had to ask ever so many questions, polite questions you know, for hewas not a rude little boy at all, but it seemed so wonderful to him tobe here at last that he could not help exclaiming at everything.
There was the parlor just as he had imagined it, with the row ofseashells across the mantle and the door opening into the porch andgarden and beyond the library with its great deep fireplace, itsold-fashioned andirons and red brick hearth.
Nothing was new in the old house, everything had been made years andyears ago when there was no machinery, and chairs and furniture had tobe turned by hand; for that reason people who made them took more painsthan they do now, so that they would last a long time, and only thecolours in the brocades had faded and the silk worn away in thecross-stitch work of the antimacassars.
Laurie went from room to room with Aunt Laura, looking at everything."Will you show me the cow-pitcher, Aunt Laura?" he asked, and Aunt Lauralaughed and opened a deep cupboard, where the best china was kept, andtook the pitcher down from a high shelf. Such a curious pitcher, it was,a brown and white china cow--I'm sure it must have been very, very old,for I never see pitchers like it now-a-days. The tail was curved into ahandle, and the mouth was the spout!
Aunt Laura said that she would keep it on the table every day, full ofcream for his porridge, just as she had done for his mother, when she,as a little girl, had stayed at the farm.
Aunt Laura shows Laurie the cow-pitcher]
When supper came, how good everything tasted! The home-cured ham,delicious butter made on the farm, great slices of fresh bread andschmeirkase--I don't believe many of you boys and girls know what"Schmeirkase" is, do you? Well, anyway, it is made somehow from thicksour cream, so thick that it is put in a bag and hung up in the dairyuntil it is time to be eaten--when I was a little girl and visited afarm they used to have schmeirkase for supper, and I always hoped theywould offer me a second helping and they always did! There werestrawberries too, and stewed rhubarb, and chocolate layer cake. And AuntLaura put the cake away after supper in a round tin box, in a corner ofthe cupboard, and gave Laurie a great slice the next morning to eat, forfear he would grow hungry before dinner.
"I'm as glad as I can be that I've come," he said, and Uncle Sam andAunt Laura smiled at each other. "So like his mother," said Aunt Lauraand Laurie wondered how he could be like his mother, for his mother wasever so much taller then he, and ever so much more "grown up."