Julie P. Smith.

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"There's the colt; see bow lame he is 1 he draws h.'s hind
foot after him, and travels with his hoof up, as if the leg were
too long for him."

" Yes, sir ; his knee is out of joint, I think."

" He's been shut up too much; that's his trouble, Ollam
Folda ; and his stifle slips, because his muscles relax ; but I can
cure him. Don't you call him a pretty fellow ? — he is nearly
pure-bred."

"Very handsome, indeed, ar, and very gentle, too, isn't he?
See 1 he licks my hand 1 "

" rd like you to ride that colt, Sonsie, when he gets well ;
just to give him exercise, you know. I'll never let a man
mount him."

" Me, sir ? Sure I nivir rode a horse in my life. I'd be cer^
tain to tumble offl You brii^ to me mind the old saying,
* Set a beggar on horseback ; ' not that I ever begged ; but folks
might say it and me passin' by, and Pd be sure to thmk it ;
only for * beggar,* I'd put * crossing-sweeper.* "

" How extremely ui^leasant you can be, Sonsie ! But I
am not going to be annoyed byyour perverseness, to-day. You
shall let me teach you how to ride. I've been waiting for you
lo come up here and name my colt, and as soon as the cere-
mony is completed, I am determined he shalJ be your prop-
el ty. You let Captain Slocum give you an orphan pig, and
here is a sick colt to keep him company."

" It takes two to make a present, sir, — one to give, and one
to take ; but I won't be unpleasant I'll call the creature OUaro



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SONSIR NAME^ THE COLT. 207

Folda, and so get shut tA the name mesdf : I don't like it for
a Christian lassie/*

" Very well, Sonsie, I will agree to hand it over to the colt,
if you will promise to ride him."

" You must cure him first, sir ; there's plenty of time to talk
when he gets four legs to stand on." *

" That's easy done, you unbeliever. I have a peck of bark,
steeping in the bam now, in twelve quarts of spring water ; and
when that leg is washed six or eight times, and well rubbed,
you'll see he'll go as free as the wind. I think you might
j)romise now, Sonsie, There is a Spanish proverb, * By the road
of by and by, we come to the town of never.' You see the colt
takes to you. Peter is kind to his animals. I must say that
in his praise. They are as sweet-tempered and trusty as he
is. Horses are full of love and also of revenge. They nevei
forget an abuse, and they often revenge their injuries. Har^.
language, used to a high-bred horse in his stable, will cause
his pulse to rise many beats in a minute."

" Poor creatures 1 Mr. Vedder, and 'tis -plenty of beats that
soihe of 'em gets inside and out ; and I hear the folks sayin'
that Mr. Nickson's watch-eye is a great horse ; he axes a big
price for him. Deacon Proddy is talkin* of buyin' him for
Patience."

" He can't be such a guy, Sonsie, if he is a deacon. Why,
he is a long-legged, thin-chested, flat-sided, brute ; what jock-
eys call "weedy," — no strength, no bottom; and he's got a
moan, nasty trick of biting, besides ; he took a piece out of his
gn)om's shoulder, the other day.'

" I've heard say, you could tell the temper of the master '
from his stock. Folks call donkeys stubborn brutes, but I can
tell you, sir, 'tis not so; the little ones that live wid tlie chil-
dren in the shealings to home, are as kind as cats, and the3''ll



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208 SOATS/E NAMES THE COLT,

sob and cry after their playfellows when they're out of sight
rm sure yours should be gentle and generous, Mr. Vedder."

" I don't keep any donkeys, Sonsie."

'< Indeed, I meant your horses and cows, and all that belong!
to you."

Sonsie burst into a merry laugh, and pointed with her finger.

" The dumb animals know their friends, sir. Is not yon an
odd sight, now ? Rainbow has got his ride before any of us."

The deft Egyptian was perched upon the pretty coifs arch-
ing neck, and comfortably purring between his fine-pointed
ears, greatly to the satisfaction, as it seemed, of both parties.

" That cat is a gay fellow He is on friendly terms with
everybody except the widow. Look, Sonsie, how do you like
this place ? there's about thirty acres in it That's the house
you see down yonder, with the old-fashioned porch in front, and
the tall well-sweep. This is the only hill I've got on my prop^
erty ; and that guUey below, is where I found my handsome
Mandrake, dying."

"'Twas a wicked deed, sir," replied Sonsie, growing sober on
the instant, "but the poor lad was main sorry for it after-
wards."

" I was not thinking of Bax, Sonsie. I bear no malice, I
assure you. But let your blue eyes glance around you, and tell
me what you think. I am going to send oflf my tenant this
spring, and Peter advises me to farm the place myself. I have
my own views on that score, though. Those great stacks of
poles, are for the hops we raise here."

** Oh, yes, sir, I know it well. Pauline and Gracie brought
me down here one time, and I dressed their hats with the purty
wreaths, like to a picture I saw in a book at Miss Ruthie's ; you
can't tell how lovely they looked. I think 'tis a sweet purty



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SONS IE, NAMES THE COLT. 209

place, Itself, sir. I should suppose the tenant would dool to
leave it"

" He is not the 'noblest work of God, Sonsie, — an honwt
nun, or I should not dismiss him."

** And what will ye do with it then, Mr. Vedder?"
" I shall make it missionary ground, Sonsie."
The Ulster maiden looked at him, and could not account
for the triumph which sat on his flushed face, and they bade the
colt " good-by,*' and walked on together. Mrs. Vedder received
them in a great room, oak-pannelled, and the walls painted in
landscapes of boar-hunts and African scenes, palm-trees and
elephants, and whole jungles full of lions and tigers. The pain-
ter came over from Holland, on purpose to immortalize himself,
on these walls, though unfortunately, his name is lost to us. The
carved mantel arrived also in the ship, as well as the porcelain
tiles, which were four deep around the great fireplace ; also the
odd jugs, and China monsters on the high shelf, almost out of
reach ; also the cuckoo-clock on the wall, and the oaken beau-
fets in the comers, heaped and piled with old painted china and
solid silver.

Sonsie took in the whole in one sweeping glance, even while
she was answering the kind talk of the small lady, who stood
like a beneficent fairy in the centre of the room, and stretched
out her jewelled hand, and gave her visitor cordial greeting.
So petite was she, that she was forced to look up at the well-
grown lassie ; and she looked in pleased surprise. Evidently,
she had not expected so much beauty. Her fancy had fiir
nished her with a picture of a coarsish, rather red-fingered
young woman, with thick waist, and heavy shoulders, who had
somehow got a place in her boy's heart ; and she smiled most
glad approval into the well-opened, honest eyes, that met hers
so frankly, and she placed her in a chair close to her owr^
18*



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210 SOXSIE NAMES THE COLT.

keeping the fine, warm, clean-feeling hand clasped in her littl*;
soft one.

" Mamma ! mamma ! why don't the * men propose ? " in
quiied a shiill voice behind Sonsie, which made her start. The
tone of the question signified such utter disgust with the dilato
liness of the " masculine persuasion," that she could hardly
help turning her head to get a view of the young woman who
preferred so odd a query, and who had so evidently a cold in
her nose.

" Polly, put the kettle on, and we'll all have tea," remarked
the young person.

As no move was made to comply with the command, the
shrill female called sharply, " Jan, Ester, Jasper, Polly Ann,
Maria ! " and proceeded, apropos to nothing, to relate the
touching history of Jack and Gill, who went up the hill to draw
a pail of water ; and she went off into convulsions of heartless
laughter over their unlucky tiunble, mixed with such vociferous
crowing, permowing, and barking, that Sonsie could not re-
frain firom jumping up, and gazing about her in utter astonish-
ment.

"My panot, my dear," explained Mrs. Vedder, smiUng.
"Talks well, doesn't she? and she's quite a beauty. Come
here, Polly."

Instantly there was a flutter of wings, and a heavy thud on
to the floor of the next room, and a scarlet and green parrot
came waddling up to her mistress, whose dress she climbed
with beak and claws, till she reached her shoulder where she sat
in state, and said, " Sing. Polly, sing ! " and opened her throat,
and gave out a trill and a cadenza as finished as any opera
girl's, and complimented herself upon her execution, saying,
blandly and confidentially, " What a darling little Polly 1 Oh, my,
what a Polly ! Good gracious, what a Polly 1 " Jau laughed



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SONSIB NAMES THE COLT. 211

at Sonsie's bright-eyed astonishment, and began to whistle a
polka. Polly changed her eyes into balls of coppery-orange
light, and said, severely, "Cut your ears off, Jan Vedder.
Good-by, sh 1 sh ! " and spread her wings and tail, showing hei
beautiful scarlet back, and the lovely cobalt blue of her long
pens, and weaved swiftly hither and thither, as if about to
pounce upon the young gentleman directiy.

" WeU, indade and sure, I niver in me life seen the likes oi
that bird ! " said Sonsie.

Jan glanced uneasily at his mother, fearful of the effect of
the brogue, and Polly cut in with a remark upon the weather,

" Pretty cold, Jan ! Go and take a smoke."

Jan need not have troubled himself, for his mother was more
than pleased with her guest, — the free grace of her motions, the
proud pose of her listening head, and her milk-white skin, un-
spotted by a single freckle ; she saw great possibiUties in her,
and was fully reconciled to her as a daughter. She took her
over the great house, and exhibited the curious old furniture,
the family pictures ; pointing out Jan*s baby self, all curls and
dimples, whom Sonsie was beguiled into pronouncing a " purty
dear," much to the young fellow's delight, before the identity
was explained, and even then she failed to discover any re-
semblance. She took her to the farm-yard, and showed off her
pets ; and to the loose box, where ha: colts were watching their
approach with bright, intelligent eyes.

" Ah, those are the color ! " exclaimed Sonsie with enthusi-
asm ; " the/re the hue of the Kerry cows' crame, the handsome
darlings."

" They are beauties, Sonsio>" replied Mrs. Vedder ; " ai'd of
the exact shade which has always been deemed fit for the use of
kings and queens."

** ITiey be just fit for yer sweet bonnie self, I think, ma'am ;



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213 SONSIE NAMES THE COLT.

aLd 'tis thrae for ye, Mr. Jan, the/re a deal puttier llian Ollara
Folda up yon," said Sonsie, laughing. The youngster explained
*o his mother's inquiring look, that they had come <lown from
the up-pasture, and that the Ulster maiden had named his new
colt, and promised to ride him when he was cured.

"Not precisely just, I think, Mr. Vedder," corrected she.
•* Mr. Jan asks me to do a many things which I can't see my
way clear to, ma'am. He's a very troublesome young gentle-
man to a poor girl sometimes, through being over kind ; but
there's no harm in him."

Jan was thoroughly vexed with this careless set-down ; and
walked away without a word ; and after they were left alone,
Mrs. Vedder set herself to find out the color of Sonsie's
thoughts. Woman's wit against woman's wit The Celt with
her early gotten, sharp intuition of motives and character
would have been an overmatch for the little lady, if she had
had any thing to conceal, or any plot to mature ; but she had
come on purpose to talk, and set her hostess at ease ; and she
spoke very freely, and very modestly, about herself, her family,
and her futiwe plans.

" I've a swate hope to go back to Ireland, and be a teacher!
I seem to remember quite well the green valley and the spring-
ing com, and the little shealing, and the poor barefoot boys to
home ; and I should think meself happy to carry idication on
me tongue, and work in me hand, to them. I'm dreamin'
about it oft and oft, and I believe I shall be let somehow to
have me wish."

" Oh, you will be falling in love, and getting married before
long, my child ; and then where' 11 be all your fine schemes ? "

" I don't think that likely, ma'am. What I've seen of mar-
lied folks so far, don't make me crave to be it meself I can't



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SONS/E NAMES THE COLT, 218

say what I might do :f a nic*; tidyyoiing Irish b py should come
along and ask me."

Jan, who could not stay long away, came back just in time
for this confession of faith, and he looked so abjectly misera-
ble, that his motiier pitied him, though all such talk went for
nutliiiig in her estimation where her Jan was concerned ; and
she told him to take Sonsie to the library, and show her the
books* He took down the History of Ireland, in ten volumes,
but all his pleasure in it was spoiled by her last speech. •Sonsie
readily accepted the invitation to stop to supper, and acquitted
herself beautifully. She was so observing, and so quick-witted,
that it was very difficult to take her at disadvantage. Though
there were many pieces of old-fashioned silver on the table,
of which she only guessed the use, and some odd Dutch viands,
and queer cakes and pickles, she looked as much at home as
though she had taken the like for dinner and su^^er frequently^
and was modest and attentive, and thoroughly charmed with her
fairy hostess, and readily promised to repeat her visit, leaving
the precise period of time of her next coming indefinite. Mrs.
Vedder ordered out her " creams," and took the young people
to the Horseshoe ; and all the way back to Brookedge, after
takin J leave of Sonsie, she talked about her, to happy Jan, who
declaicd that he'd certainly got the best mother that ever a boy
had. She warmly approved his choice, and promised him help,
and was so eager and delighted that the young fellow could
not resist taking her in his arms when the carriage stopped ; and
he carried hoi all about the rooms, before he finally deposited
her on the sofa ; full of plans to get rid of the brogue, and get
on the necessaiy polish, though. "She's a natural, graceful
lady in feeling, and extremely re^lwd also in her heart and
intentions, my boy. Those can't bo :i:ii>roved ; all we need is a
wee bit of outside furbushuig."



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214 SONS IE NAMES THE COLT.

" Rosenbloom is the school for all tlmt sort of thing, motlier,"
said Jan, decidedly.

" Very well, Rosenbloom it shall be, then ; and she shall go
wtill dressed afid on a level footing with the other girls ; thcA
slmll be my care, Jan."

He was about to treat her to another trip in his arms, but
she dispatched him for pencil and paper, with which to not«
down the needful outfit, and very meny they got among the
feminJhe garment^.

" But mother — what if, after all, she won't consent, but per-
sists in being 011am Folda the stubborn ?" said Jan, with a very
long face.

" I shall manage that, my boy. It will be a battle. I've
already learned enough to be sure she will not surrender
her convictions easily; but I think I can conquer her. Oh,
yes, we will have her for ours, my darling, and be ever so
happy."

When Jan blew out his candle that night, and gave himself
up to a last quiet think about Sonsie, her sayings and doings, he
got hold of a brilliant idea, and rose very early in the morning
to put it in execution. He wrote a long letter, and mailed it
secretly, and waited in hot impatience for a reply.

lilrs. Vedder had a good think also; and the result of hers
was, a determination to pay a visit to the Horseshoe, and in-
vite Sonsie to go with her and fix upon the site of the new
chapel, and try to gain her confidence.

It was a strikingly clear-eyed, rosy girl who opened the door
upon her arrival, fresher and prettier than ever, the lady tliought
She had bound about her purple black tresses the green satin
snood she loved to wear, and her trim figure was buttoned
close into Baxter's plaid gingh*>m, adorned by a white apron.



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SONSIE NAMES THE COLT. 215

elaborate in fluting (a specialty of Sonsie*s), a pair of gay slip-
pers on her feet, embroidered with her own hands, in the sham-
rock and thistle, and her face all dressed in welcoming smiles ;
*for she had conceived a violent liking for the faiiy matron, and
she touclied her hand and heard her voice with intense pleasm e,
ushered her in with pliant motions, and erect, modest-boldnet^
and set the great arm chair, as if it had been a throne, and
waited to hear what she would say, with her face alive and her
eyes so fixed upon her visitor, that the lady-kin felt intuitively
the pleasure her presence was conferring.

When the excursion was proposed, Sonsie peeped out at
. the carriage, and the ** blue-coat " on the box, and the " creams,"
and said merrily, setting her hands on her hips, and speaking
over her shoulder, —

" And is it me, Sonsie Eagan ! that Mrs. Vedder would be
afther wanting to sit beside her in yon carriage for a pleasure
drive, sure ? "

Mrs. Vedder recognized the attitude her son had described,
and she could not help admiring the girPs cherry lips and white
teeth, and her full, compact figure, even while she thought hovi
intensely Irish she was, and she laughed enjoyingly as she re-
plied, —

" Certainly, my dear ; and come quickly : you see my horses
are impatient, and so am I. IVe planned a chat, with you close
by my side. Women have whims, you know, and I have a liking
for you, Sonsie. It won't hurt you any, and will do you good if
you are not, as my Jan says, a daughter of * 011am Folda the
Ftubbom ' I would not let him come, because he'd only be in
tlin way, you know ; putting jokes into our serious conversa-
tion. It is exceedingly important that we decide immediately
where we will place our chapeL"

" Mrs. Vedder," said Sonsie, laughing inside, at the way she



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216 SONS/E NAMES THE COLT.

was following the lead of the gentlefolks, and doing it with a
puri)ose, — " Mrs. Vedder, 1*11 be glad and pleased to go, if you
will let me introjuice you to me mother."

" Tve just come from her, Sonsie," replied the matron, easily.
" I carried her a basket of primroses and iris to plant out in
her patch ; and a nice clump of yellow and purple crocus all
abloom. My Jan took them up so deftly for me in their mould,
tliat they won't ever suspect that weVe meddled with them, and
you will be surprised at their beauty. Our spring is so early
this year, a month ahead of last ; this is only the first of March,
and my bulbs are all up. I had a rare frolic with the baby
called Briefne. I love babies, Sonsie ; I mean to make a gay
grandmother. What ever possessed you to give such a queer
name to that youngling, dear ? "

" It is rather queer, I suppose, to you Yankees, but not to
me, who've been used to hear it always. It is the country of the
old O'Roukes to home. Me mother was an O'Rouke, ma'am,
of Ulster. We call baby 'Branny,' for short ; she's a purty little
bit, I tliink. They say she grows very like me those times.
I'll be afther sending Brenny to school one day — when I've
earned the money."

"Yes, yes, Sonsie, a capital plan; we'll discuss it as we ride.
You're going to let me talk very plainly to you, I know ; you
like me^ don't you ?"

" Indade, ma'am, ye may well say that wid yer pretty mouth ;
ye're lovely to look at : such eyes ! as blue as the flax-flower, and
fine skin as white as a waxen lily, and soft hair like sunshine ;
you're a winsome lady. It makes me heart dance to see you."

" Thank you, my dear," replied the small matron, -who took
very easily Sonsie' s rather particular enumeration of her
clianns. " I was reckoned quite a beauty when I was a girl like
you. They say my Jan is his mother's boy in face ; thojgh he



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SONS IE NAMES THE COLT. 911

overgrew me before he was fifteen, and I have been looking
up to him ever since."

" Mr. Jan 41 bear looking up to, Mrs. Vedder. Indeed IVe
i vast respect for him meself."

" He* 11 be getting a wife, I suppose, after a while, my dear." ^
lllrs. Vedder watched the effect of her words.

" Oh, yes, in course he will. Mr. Jan'U be mating wid a fine
lad} , some of those days, and give ye a bonnie daughter, full of
idication and goodness."

" I hope he will give me a good, loving one, Sonsie ; one
whom Nature has made a lady. I don't care much about
grandfathers, after the/re dead.

" * Great Caesar, dead and turned to day.

Now stops some hole to keep the wind away.'

A fresh, rosy, good-tempered, bright girl, who will love my Jan
and me, is what I desire and expect to have."

She closed with a peculiar smile, which called up the crimson
carnation into Sonsie* s cheeks."

" Will you excuse me for a minute, ma*am, while I fetch me
hat I'll not be kapeing ye longer. Yer colts is prancing and
skelping wid impatience."

It was one of those glad days, when all budding things are
full of life and promise, and the air so rich with oxygen, or oz-
one, or some other life-giving principle, that, without being able
to assign any reason for your conviction, you are sure and cer-
tain that the dearest aspirations of your soul are about to be
realized, your fondest hopes just on the verge of certainty, and
you pick up life's burdens like gay fardels, and dance in spirit
to the ecstacy of your inner being. You breathe no common
air laden with sighs, freighted with groans, damp with tears, but
an elixir which sends the blood sparkling through your vein?.



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218 SOXSIE NAMES THE COLT,

They drove to Captain Slocum's meadow, and got out of the
carriage, and walked and talked all over it, and selected the
most charming site for the new chapel, just where it could sit
and overlook the last mad leap of Roaring River, and watch
the orchards and the homes — mindful the while of the gentle
slopes and wooded dells where slept the village dead ; and
Mrs. Vedder drew the conversation to the school plans, and
set them out in choice words, and with motherly kindness and
caresses, and Sonsie's heart kindled within her : she felt as if
she could almost give up her life to her new friend. But the
result of it all was : with hot tears raining down her cheeks, and
her new friend's hand to her lips, she replied, —

" But the debt, ma'am ! Sure I couldn't see my way clear
at all. I'll fare on wid Miss Ruthie, till I can keep a little
school ; and then I'll go half the year, and pay my own way.
I am young and strong; don't think me ungrateful. Don't I
wish ye could see me naked heart, how it thanks you ; such
goodness to a slip of a wild Irish ^1 ! but 'tis onpossible, just
onpossible — 'tis indeed."

"Well, Sonsie, we'll put it differently then, and nicer. Come
and be my good daughter, and let me have the right of adop-
tion, to love and care for you. I am rich. I could enjoy
your presence in my house, your fresh face at my table, your
cc«npany in my drives, your daughter-love everywhere."

<*And is it a sister to Mr. Jan that ye'd be makin' of me,
ma'am ? " asked Sonsie. Her eyes twinkled through her tears
with a modest, bold look, half arch, half saucy, and wholly pro-
voking ; and Mrs. Vedder was covered with confusion by the
directness of the question.

"My Jan is a fine fellow, Sonsie Eagan," said she, eva-
sively. " You might hunt the world over, and not find a bet-
ter brother."



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Sni\rs/E NsiMES THE COLT. ^19

" He*s a broth of a gentleman, intirely, ma'am, indeed and,
by the same token, yer the very sweetest lady-mother tl-at I
iver looked upon. If the two of us had opened our eye i in die
;ame nest, I'd love your boy dear, and be main proud of him,
but you see 'twas far otherwise. Mr. Jan was cradled on fine
irxii, and Sonsie Eagan crawled over the mud floor of an Irk<a
shealing. The O'Roukes was good blood in the olden times ;
had lands : me papa was an Ulster weaver, and a very hand-
some man, I remember him too. But whisper, Mrs. Vedder :
they've a little wanderer up there at Deacon Prodd/s from the
home for the friendless, and I hear 'em callin' her a * gutter-
snipe ' — I could niver bear that indeed ; there's the soil and
mud of the streets on me garments yet, and I can scarce shut
me eyes but I see litde Sonsie Eagan, a wee bit of a dirty lassie,
wid a big broom in her fist, wandering up and down ; lookin'
into folk's faces for a gleam of God's charity. I must get up



Online LibraryJulie P. SmithChris and Otho; the pansies and orange-blossoms they found in Roaring River ... → online text (page 16 of 39)