Three Little Women: A Story for Girls

 

E-text prepared by Roger Frank
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
(http://www.pgdp.net)

 


 

cover image
“Good-bye, Baltie, dear”

“Good-bye, Baltie, dear”

CHAPTER I—The Carruths

The afternoon was a wild one. All day driving sheets of rain had swept along the streets of Riveredge, hurled against windowpanes by fierce gusts of wind, or dashed in miniature rivers across piazzas. At noon it seemed as though the wind meant to change to the westward and the clouds break, but the promise of better weather had failed, and although the rain now fell only fitfully in drenching showers, and one could “run between the drops” the wind still blustered and fumed, tossing the wayfarers about, and tearing from the trees what foliage the rain had spared, to hurl it to the ground in sodden masses. It was more like a late November than a late September day, and had a depressing effect upon everybody.

“I want to go out; I want to go out; I want to go out, out, OUT!” cried little Jean Carruth, pressing her face against the window-pane until from the outside her nose appeared like a bit of white paper stuck fast to the glass.

“If you do you’ll get wet, wet, WET, as sop, sop, SOP, and then mother’ll ask what we were about to let you,” said a laughing voice from the farther side of the room, where Constance, her sister, nearly five years her senior, was busily engaged in trimming a hat, holding it from her to get the effect of a fascinating bow she had just pinned upon one side.

“But I haven’t a single thing to do. All my lessons for Monday are finished; I’m tired of stories; I’m tired of fancy work, and I’m tired of—everything and I want to go out,” ended the woe-begone voice in rapid crescendo.

“Do you think it would hurt her to go, Eleanor?” asked Constance, turning toward a girl who sat at a pretty desk, her elbows resting upon it and her hands propping her chin as she pored over a copy of the French Revolution, but who failed to take the least notice of the question.

Constance made a funny face and repeated it. She might as well have kept silent for all the impression it made, and with a resigned nod toward Jean she resumed her millinery work.

But too much depended upon the reply for Jean Carruth to accept the situation so mildly. Murmuring softly, “You wait a minute,” she slipped noiselessly across the room and out into the broad hall beyond. Upon a deep window-seat stood a papier-mâché megaphone. Placing it to her lips, her eyes dancing with mischief above its rim, she bellowed:

“Eleanor Maxwell Carruth, do you think it would hurt me to go out now?”

The effect was electrical. Bounding from her chair with sufficient alacrity to send the French Revolution crashing upon the floor, Eleanor Carruth clapped both hands over her ears, as she cried:

“Jean, you little imp of mischief!”

“Well, I wanted to make you hear me,” answered that young lady complacently. “Constance had spoken to you twice but you’d gone to France and couldn’t hear her, so I thought maybe the megaphone would reach across the Atlantic Ocean, and it did. Now can I go out?”

Can you or may you? which do you mean,” asked the eldest sister somewhat sententiously.

Constance laughed softly in her corner.

“O, fiddlesticks on your old English! I get enough of it five days in a week without having to take a dose of it Saturday afternoon too. I know well enough that I can go out, but whether you’ll say yes is another question, and I want to,” and Jean puckered up her small pug-nose at her sister.

“What a spunky little body it is,” said the latter, laughing in spite of herself, for Jean, the ten-year-old baby of the family was already proving that she was likely to be a very lively offspring of the Carruth stock.

“And where are you minded to stroll on this charming afternoon when everybody else is glad to sit in a snug room and take a Saturday rest?”

“Mother isn’t taking hers,” was the prompt retort. “She’s down helping pack the boxes that are to go to that girls’ college out in Iowa. She went in all the rain right after luncheon, and I guess if she can go out while it poured ‘cats and dogs,’ I can when—when—when—well it doesn’t even pour cats. It’s almost stopped raining.”

“Where do you get hold of those awful expressions, Jean? Whoever heard of ‘cats and dogs’ pouring down? What am I to do with you? I declare I feel responsible for your development and—”

“Then let me go out. I need some fresh air to develop in: my lungs don’t pump worth a cent in this stuffy place. It’s hot enough to roast a pig with those logs blazing in the fire-place. I don’t see how you stand it.”

“Go get your rubber boots and rain coat,” said Eleanor resignedly. “You’re half duck, I firmly believe, and never so happy as when you’re splashing through puddles. Thank goodness your skirts are still short, and you can’t very well get them sloppy; and your boots will keep your legs dry unless you try wading up to your hips. But where are you going?”

“I’m going down to Amy Fletcher’s to see how Bunny is. He got hurt yesterday and it’s made him dreadfully sick,” answered Jean, as she struggled with her rubber boots, growing red in the face as she tugged at them. In five minutes she was equipped to do battle with almost any storm, and with a “Good bye! I’ll be back pretty soon, and then I’ll have enough fresh air to keep me in fine shape for the night,” out she flew, banging the front door behind her.

Eleanor watched the lively little figure as it went skipping down the street, a street which was always called a beautiful one, although now wet and sodden with the rain, for Mr. Carruth had built his home in a most attractive part of the delightful town of Riveredge. Maybe you won’t find it on the map by that name, but it’s there just the same, and quite as attractive to-day as it was several years ago.

Bernard Carruth had been a man of refined taste and possessed a keen appreciation of all that was beautiful, so it was not surprising that he should have chosen Riveredge when deciding upon a place for his home. Situated as it was on the banks of the splendid stream which had suggested its name, the town boasted unusual attractions, and drew to it an element which soon assured its development in the most satisfactory manner. It became noted for its beautiful homes, its cultured people and its delightful social life.

Among the prettiest of its homes was Bernard Carruth’s. It stood but a short way from the river’s bank, was built almost entirely of cobble-stones, oiled shingles being used where the stones were not practicable.

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