General Frankie: A Story For Little People/VII
General Fever had gone away back to his doleful swamps and forests, and you may be sure nobody was sorry; but he left Captain Weakness to watch a long while afterward. It was a great many days before Susan could say to the people who came to the door to inquire, "Frankie is better;" but every body was so good to him that he didn't mind it very much. There was dear merry Cousin Rosa, who had come back on purpose to take care of him, and she had such funny, pleasant ways of amusing him. She could cut horses, dogs, and cats out of paper, or a long row of dancing girls, or of soldiers, each one with a feather in his hat and a musket over his shoulder. She could make little fat pigs out of bread-crumbs, that looked as though they could squeal if they chose, and set them up on his lunch-tray beside his plate. She could make up stories about all the pictures in his book, with plenty about fairies and wonderful knights who always came up in time to help the good people and punish the bad ones, and dogs and cats that could talk sensibly on all subjects. Cousin Rosa knew just how to talk to a little sick boy—to amuse him without making him guess out any of it. A very wise story would have tired his head, which was yet weak. But Rosa couldn't sing so sweetly as mamma, who would come and sit beside him and knit and sing by the hour. "Auld Robin Gray" was his favorite, and next to that was the song of the "three little kittens that washed their mittens and hung them up to dry." Cousin Rosa could "m-e-o-w" splendidly in the chorus, and even the General began to chime in faintly once in a while.
There was Uncle Charlie too, who came in with a noisy step so different from every body else, who crept about on tip-toe, that it was quite reviving to hear. He would come up to the child's chair, and take the little pale hand in his big brown one ever so gently while he talked.
Now you know men don't like to have people see them cry. And so when Uncle Charlie looked at the frail little creature—when he felt how slender the wrist was, and how faint the heart beat even yet, he would feel great tears coming in his eyes; so he would make believe that his spectacles hurt him, and made his eyes water, and turn away to wipe them off; and then look around, and try to make them think he felt uncommonly jolly.
"Well, General, you're getting on splendidly, ain't you? Don't you want some rations?"
And out of that wonderful coat-pocket would come bananas or oranges so ripe that the room was filled with their perfume, or a box of pale green grapes, or a pippin as big as Frankie's head, and put them just beside his plate. Frankie noticed that though he called her Miss Merrian, and didn't speak to her very often, he always brought Cousin Rosa something too, and that her oranges were as large and ripe as his own.
he sometimes brought packages of farina or biscatina, or some other sort of 'ina that he had heard or thought would make the General grow fat a little faster; and, man like, insisted upon it that he needed nothing but plenty of food to make him stout again.
"Well, General, we'll soon have you up again, won't we? S'pose you and I should have a wrestle, I wonder who would beat."
Frankie would smile and double up the feeble hand, and Uncle Charlie would somehow find those troublesome glasses quite misty again, and fidget about miserably, and whisper slyly to Frankie's mother, "Mary, do feed that boy up a little more. I can't stand it to see him so thin any longer."
Frankie always loved to see Uncle Charlie come in, he was so kind and so merry. But he couldn't help wondering nowadays how it felt to be such a great big man, and to be able to walk about so strong and firm. He loved to lie in his arms and listen to his stories too—all about his march to Washington and his life in the camp—when he slept in a tent with five other men, and no bureaus or wash-stands to be seen, or closets to hold their clothes; how they cooked their dinner and tried to wash greasy tin plates in cold water, and wiped them on any thing that came to hand; how they walked to and fro on guard, and challenged an old white horse one dark night. That made Frankie laugh very much, you may be sure, and Cousin Rosa would laugh a little bit of a merry peal too.
It was just at twilight, and in Uncle Charlie's strong arms lay Frankie, listening to his stories and watching the fire-light as it flickered pleasantly on them. They had both been still a long while; and as Charlie Rinell sat dreaming there a shadow seemed to settle on his face. Frankie saw it, and turning the bearded chin round with his little hand, he asked,
"What are you thinking about? Can't you make a story for me out of it?"
Uncle Charlie's clear blue eyes came back from the fire to the boy's face as he answered, "Can I make a story of it? I'll try. This is the way to begin:
"Once upon a time there was a great giant, old and homely, who wandered about the earth a long while. At last the giant thought it was time to think about building himself a castle. SO he went to work and built a splendid castle in the air. It was rose-colored, and looked so bright that the giant thought that it would always stand, and that some day he could find a fair maiden who would be the Queen of the Castle. He spent a good many years in trying to find one worthy, and at last he succeeded. Her name was—well—suppose we say Rosabel—with bright brown eyes and shining curlsand she was as good as she was lovely; and before he knew it this ugly-looking giant loved her very dearly, and thought he would be perfectly happy if she would be the Queen. He was afraid to ask her too soon for fear she would say 'No;' and while he was waiting there came along a young and handsome knight called Lord Graham, who began to bow and court the fair Rosabel. Then the poor old giant feared that she was lost to him for evermore, and that she loved the handsome knight. At first he wanted to kill him; but he thought he would make the matter sure, and so he sent her a note, making her the offer of his heart and hand, and sent it by a little page named Franklin. He was very unhappy until the page came back, you may be sure. But oh how sad it was to hear that Rosabel had not a word to say—not a single line to help him bear the disappointment; so the little page said, and I suppose that she couldn't love the giant, when there was such a handsome knight coming to woo her. But the giant loved her so well that he didn't kill Lord Graham for her sake, and so he tore down his castle and once more went wandering to and fro in the world."
All this while there had been sitting by the window, half behind the curtain, Cousin Rosa. Frankie spied her as the story was finished, for the coal just then fell apart and shot up in new bright flames. So he called her.
"Cousin Rosa, come here, please and bring me that orange. And oh, Rosa," he added, as she drew near to him, "did you hear that beautiful story?" and the child held her hand—orange and all—in both his own, waiting for her answer. "Did you ever hear it before, Cousin Rosa?"
"Not quite that way, Frankie;" and she tried gently to pull her hand away, but he did not mean to let her go. "Here, Uncle Charlie, hold this hand until she answers."
The old smile came back ot his face as he felt it flutter within his own, and his eyes were lefted to her averted face as she spoke softly,
"Lord Graham loved Rosabel's sister Minnie, as I have heard the story."
"And the note which she did not answer—?" chimed in Charles Rinell's deep, earnest tones.
"Never reached the eye or hand of Rosabel!"
He held the little hand tighter yet, and half drew her toward him.
"And if it had?"
"She wouldn't have known where to look for the ugly giant."
"Would she look now?"
She didn't seem to see any thing frightful about the bright honest face, with its shining blue eyes so full of love; nay, she wasn't afraid to sit down by the said giant with his big hand on her clustering curls, and pretty soon the weak voice of the invalid complained:
"Uncle Charlie, you like Rosa the best now. That isn't fair. I'm sick, you know."
Somehow, to make the peace, Rosa was obliged to kiss Frankie; and Uncle Charlie was so confused that I don't know who he kissed but I suppose he did.
General Frankie grew rapidly stronger now, and before long he was able to be dressed in his proper clothes; and the very first day this happened he pulled out from the forgotten pocket a note for Miss Rosa Merrian, which she put to her lips, very much to the amusement of our little hero, who couldn't imagine any reason for such a proceeding. And now, with thanks for renewed health, a new aunty in prospect, and spring-time coming, we bid adieu to General Frankie, hoping that always and evermore he may watch, and fight, and pray, never forgetting the most important thing, "and help divine implore."