General Frankie: A Story For Little People/III
"How many days more, mamma?"
Frankie pulled his mother's sleeve and shook the newspaper she held until she turned around to look at him.
"Days before what?" said she, looking down on the General's freshly-washed face.
"Why, before Fred and Dot and Aunt Fanny come? Isn't it Tuesday to-day, and won't they be here to-morrow?"
"To-morrow?" and mamma counted her finger tips over. "To-day they will start from Stonyford, be in Princeton for Commencement, and if Fred is ready they will come directly here the day after to-morrow."
"Oh, won't it be jolly! Dot can play as good as a boy; and Fred takes me with him to the brook to fish, and learns me how to drive. Oh, he is splendid! Ain't he, Cousin Rosa?"
Now Rosa wasn't a bit of a cousin to him—only a far-off young relative of his father's, who was spending the summer with them, but Frankie loved her dearly. She opened her brown eyes when she heard Fred Graham was coming, and to the child's question she answered quickly, "Yes indeed he is; I have always liked Fred very much;" and went on with her knitting as usual, never dreaming that the General wouldn't discriminate between the words like and love.
The happy Thursday came at last, and with it Aunt Fanny, fresh and rosy as one of the apples from her own orchard; Dot, merry as cricket; and Fred, taller and stouter than ever. Indeed when Frankie found that the collegian was actually a young gentleman, he began to be afraid that his jolly times wouldn't come off. But he soon found out that all the wise books hand not banished the love of fun. He could hardly believe that Dot was really the little bit of a girl that he remembered. He somehow expected to see her in the same pink calico, and Shaker bonnet with a bow on top, which she wore when she was at Stonyford a year ago.
Mamma was very glad to see Aunt Fanny, and they found a great deal to talk about. Frankie was particularly delighted when he saw a certain basket in her hand, for he had never known it to be without something very nice inside. And sure enough it was filled with dainties that could have come from nowhere else than Stonyford Farm. There were cool fresh clover leaves on top covering a roll of golden butter, all marked by Aunt Fanny's skillful ladle; a round ball of cottage cheese; then a loaf of rye bread; two tiny eggs for Frankie that the speckled pullet had laid; and wherever there was room for them, great ripe red plums that would melt in one's mouth. There were as many as the basket would hold; but when they were put in a fruit dish they did not seem to fill it, and Frankie began to be alarmed lest he should not have as many as he would like: so he crammed those his mother had given him down his throat as fast as he could, and came back holding out his fat little hands both together—"More plums, mamma!"
Without waiting for her consent he grasped a dozen more, and was about to eat them when mamma said, "Frankie, listen a moment until I read you the news from the war."
Frankie fancied his mother looked mischievous when she took up the paper; and this was what she read or pretended to read:
"'This morning a prisoner was taken without any trouble. His name is General Frankie. While he was trying to secure a great quantity of plums General Greedy came up and captured him. General Greedy is well known as a fat, red-faced man always waiting about for any unwary children. We hope the prisoner may be soon released.'"
Frankie's face grew very rosy, and he slipped off quietly to the table and laid the plums back without saying a word. Mamma seemed then to find a new item; for she went on reading:
"'Second Edition.—We are happy to state that General Frankie has escaped after a severe encounter with General Greedy, in which he drove him completely out of sight.'"
The little rogue's face brightened up, and he ran off with his cousin to the play-room, leaving Aunt Fanny and mamma to chat in one corner, and Fred and Rosa to renew an old acquaintance. Dot had brought her old but beloved doll, and it was now seated in a little arm-chair while they were at play, and she would run to see if it was enjoying itself all the while. It was a doleful, shabby-looking doll enough. Its head was of India rubber, and the paint had cracked and come off in every direction, leaving the end of the nose quite black. The corner of the mouth had been torn and sewed up again. Then one foot always did, and always would, turn around the wrong way, and both hands were grimy on every one of the four fingers the maker had allowed it. But Dot did not care a bit: it seemed to her to look kindly and affectionately while she was at play in spite of its old wrinkled face.
"Let's take her to ride," said Frankie; "this little chair turned down will be the carriage, and we will be the ponies."
So Mistress Doll was seated therein, supposed to be an old lady taking an airing. Now if the doll had really been an old lady she never would have sat so still with such frisky ponies, but she wasn't; so she bounced about. Sometimes her crooked foot would fly up, and sometimes her four-fingered hand; and when they went over the door-sill she would make a low bow. Dot enjoyed this a while, but she began to feel that Doll's life was in danger; so she let go the lines, and said,
"There—that's enough; Dolly's tired."
But he wouldn't stop, and she called louder,
"Stop, stop! that's my doll, and I want her. You have played enough!"
"Oh, Dot, don't be cross. Go 'long, two-forty!" and Frankie jumped and capered so that the lady fell out of the carriage, and would have broken her nose if she had had any to break.
Mamma heard the noise and confusion, and came up to see about it, and found Dot in tears. She restored the draggled doll to her arms, and went down stairs without saying a word. She soon came back with a written paper.
"Now," said she, "you know we are living in war times, and it is quite common to have the latest news posted up somewhere, so that every body can it. There's news to-day from General Frankie. I'll read it to you:
"'ANOTHER SKIRMISH!!!—We are sorry to hear that General Frankie has again fallen into the hands of the enemy for a short time. Colonel Selfish and Sergeant Thoughtless attacked him this morning, and he would have been obliged to surrender if a detachment of Home Guards had not come up in time to prevent it. It is very much to be regretted that the General does not keep picket-guards out to watch, for Colonel Selfish is always lying in ambush somewhere near.'"