The Furry Thief (B-Mommy and Grandfather Travel Series Book 1)
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He was three years old at this time, and so full of high spirits and health, that he was rather a troublesome child to manage. Parlin sometimes remarked, with a sigh and a smile,—. If she had said, "I don't know what I should do without him," it would have been nearer the truth; for never did mother dote more on a child. He was the youngest, and two little children next older—a son and a daughter—had been called to their heavenly [Pg 12] home before he was born.
People said Mrs.
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Parlin was in a fair way to spoil Willy, and her husband was so afraid of it, that he felt it his duty to be very stern with the boy. Seth, the oldest son, helped his father in this, and seemed to be constantly watching to see what Willy would do that was wrong. Stephen, two years younger than Seth, was not so severe, and hardly ever scolded, but had a very "hectoring disposition," and loved dearly to tease his little brother.
Love, the only sister, and the eldest of the family, was almost as soothing and affectionate to Willy as Mrs. Parlin herself.
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She was tall, fair, and slender, like a lily, and you could hardly believe it possible that she would ever grow to be such [Pg 13] a very large woman as her mother, or that Mrs. Parlin had once been thin and delicate, like Love. There was another, besides these two, who petted Willy; and that was "Liddy," the housemaid. Lydia was a Quaker woman, and every "First Day" and "Fifth Day"—that is, Sunday and Thursday—she went off to a meeting, which was held over the river, three miles away, in a yellow "meeting-house" without any steeple.
It was not always convenient to spare Lydia on "Fifth Day," for, Mr. Parlin kept a country hotel, or, as it was called in those days, a "tavern," and there was plenty of work to be done; but no matter how much company came, "Liddy" would leave her pies half rolled out on the board, or her goose half stuffed, and walk off to the [Pg 14] Quaker settlement to meeting.
But when she came back, she went steadily to work again, and was such a good, honest, pious woman, that nobody thought of finding any fault with her. She was all the "regular help" Mrs. Parlin had; but Mrs. Knowles did the washing, and often Siller Noonin came in to help Lydia with an extra baking. Caleb Cushing—or, as the country people called him, "Kellup"—was the man of all work, who took care of the sheep and cattle, and must always be ready to "put up" the horses of any traveller who happened to stop at the house.
Parlin, the four children, and Caleb and Lydia, made up the household, with the addition of great shaggy Fowler, the dog, and speckled Molly, the cat, with double fore-paws. Grandfather Cheever, with his hair done up in a queue, came sometimes from Boston, and made a long visit; but you could hardly say he belonged to the family. Now, my story is to be about Willy, and I would like to describe him; but how can I, when I have heard such various accounts of the child? I suppose, if you had questioned the family about him, you would have heard a different story from every one.
His father would have shaken his head, and said, Willy was a "singular child; there was no regulation to him. Lydia might possibly have called him a "rogue," because he would spy out her doughnuts and pies, no matter where she hid them away for safe keeping. But I know very well how his mother would have answered your question about Willy. She would have said, "Don't talk of his faults; he is my own little darling.
And then she would have opened her arms wide, and taken him right in: that is the way it is with mothers. Thus you see our Willy was not the same to everybody; and no child ever is. To those who loved him he was "sweet as summer;" but not so to those who loved him not. I suspect Willy was rather contrarily [Pg 17] made up; something like a mince pie, perhaps.
Let us see. Short and crusty, now and then; rich, in good intentions; sweet, when he had his own way; sour, when you crossed him; well-spiced, with bright little speeches. All these qualities made up Willy's "points;" and you know a mince pie is good for nothing without points. Some people brought out one of these "points," and some another.
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Seth expected him to be as sharp as cider vinegar; and so I am afraid he was, whenever Seth corrected him. But his mother looked for sweet qualities in her little darling, and was never disappointed. Willy slept in the bedroom, in a trundle-bed which had held every one of the children, from the oldest to the youngest. After he [Pg 18] had said his prayers, Mrs.
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Parlin tucked him up nice and warm, and even while she stood looking at his rosy cheeks, with the rich fringes of his eyelids resting on them, he often dropped off into dreamland. She had a way of watching him in his sleep, and blessing him without any words, only saying in her heart,—. But if that may not be, O, lay it up for me in heaven.
Willy was afraid to go to bed alone, which is hardly to be wondered at; for he had a strange and dreadful habit of walking in his sleep. Such habits are not as common now as they were in old times, I believe.
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Whether Willy's walks had anything to do with the cider and doughnuts, which were sometimes given him in the evening, unknown [Pg 19] to his mother, I cannot say; but Mrs. Parlin was never sure, when she "tucked" him into his trundle-bed, that he would spend the night there. Quite as likely he would go wandering about the house; and one cold winter, when he was a little more than seven years old, he got up regularly every night, and walked fast asleep into the bar-room, which was always full of men, and took his seat by the fireplace.
This was such a constant habit, that the men expected to see him about half past eight o'clock, just as much as they expected to see the cider and apples which "Kellup" brought out of the cellar. In those days cider was almost as freely drunk as water, and so, I grieve to say, was New England rum and brandy; and you [Pg 20] must not suppose Mr. Parlin was a bad man because he allowed such drinking in his bar-room. There were no pledges signed in those days, but he was a perfectly temperate man, and a church member; he would have thought it very strange indeed if any one had told him he was doing wrong to sell liquor to his neighbors.
And now, having introduced Master Willy and the rest of the family as well as I can, I will go on to tell you a few of Willy's adventures, some of which occurred while he was asleep, and some while he was awake. About seven o'clock, one cold evening, Willy was in the bar-room, sitting on Caleb's knee, and holding a private conversation with him, while he nibbled a cookie.
Why, Caleb Cushing! Love said so. Then you'd better take care of him, Willy. He walked up to the kitchen door to-day, to see if he could find anything there to lay his hands on. He hasn't any hands, Caleb!
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And then, when she gets to be a ox—". Didn't the squire offer to swap his baby for him? Guess I don't want a girl-baby. Caleb laughed at this very quietly, but his whole frame was shaking; and Willy turned round and looked him in the eye with strong displeasure. You mustn't make fun of my bossy. I'll tell you what I'll do with her. I'll keep her to haul hay with.
Pretty high this winter, for hay is plenty. There was a man along from the west'ard, and, Willy, what think he offered your pa for that brindled yoke of his? Think of that," added Caleb, dropping his voice, and appearing to talk to the beech-wood fire, which was crackling in the big fireplace. Ninety dollars! Enough to buy a small farm!
Just what I should have got in the logging-swamp, winter before last, if Dascom hadn't cheated me out of it. I was only thinking how easy money comes to some folks, and how hard it comes to others. You see I worked a whole winter once, and never got a cent of pay; and I couldn't help feeling it when your pa put that ninety dollars away in his drawer. It was mine by good rights, and I hadn't ought to be cheated out of it.
Willy looked up astonished. What did Caleb mean by saying it was "his by good [Pg 27] rights"?