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Try it, honey. Let's hear the sound of the babypianny," said Hannah, who always took a share in the family joys and sorrows.
So Beth tried it; and every one pronounced it the most remarkable piano ever heard. It evidently had been newly tuned and put in apple-pie order. But, perfect as it was, I think the real charm of it lay in the happiest of all happy faces which leaned over it, as Beth lovingly touched the beautiful black and white ivory keys and pressed the bright pedals.
"You'll have to go and thank him," said Jo, by way of a joke; for the idea of the child's really going never entered her head.
"Yes, I mean to. I guess I'll go now, before I get frightened thinking about it." And, to the utter amazement of the assembled family, Beth walked deliberately down the garden, through the hedge, and in at the Laurences' door.
They would have been still more amazed if they had seen what Beth did afterward. If you will believe me, she went and knocked at the study door before she gave herself time to think; and when a gruff voice called out, "Come in!" she did go in, right up to Mr. Laurence, who looked quite taken aback, and held out her hand, saying, with a small quaver in her voice, "I came to thank you, sir, for-" but she didn't finish; for he looked so friendly that she forgot her speech, and only remem
bering that he had lost a little girl he loved, she put both arms round his neck and kissed him.
If the roof of the house had flown off, the old gentleman wouldn't have been more astonished. But he liked it, oh, dear, yes, he liked it amazingly!and was so touched and pleased by that confiding little kiss that all his crustiness vanished; and he just set her on his knee, and laid his wrinkled cheek against her rosy one, feeling as if he had got his own little granddaughter back again.
Beth ceased to fear him from that moment, and sat there talking to him as cosily as if she had known. him all her life; for love casts out fear, and gratitude can conquer pride.
When she went home, he walked with her to her own gate, shook hands cordially, and touched his hat as he marched back again, looking very stately and erect, like a handsome, soldierly old gentleman, as he was.
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT.
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON.
Old Baltus van Tassel was a perfect picture of a thriving, contented, liberal-hearted farmer. He seldom, it is true, sent either his eyes or his thoughts beyond the boundaries of his own farm; but within those everything was snug, happy, and well-conditioned. He was satisfied with his wealth, but not proud of it; and piqued himself upon the hearty abundance rather than the style in which he lived.
His stronghold was situated on the banks of the Hudson, in one of those green, sheltered, fertile nooks in which the Dutch farmers are so fond of nestling. A great elm tree spread its broad branches over it; at the foot of which bubbled up a spring of the softest and sweetest water, in a little well formed of a barrel; and then stole sparkling away through the grass, to a neighboring brook that bubbled along among alders and dwarf willows.
Hard by the farmhouse was a vast barn that might have served for a church; every window and crevice of which seemed bursting forth with the treasures of the farm.
The flail was busily resounding within from morn
ing till night; swallows and martins skimmed twittering about the eaves; and rows of pigeonswith one eye turned up, as if watching the weather, some with their heads turned under their wings or buried in their bosoms, and others cooing and bowing about their dames were enjoying the sunshine on
A stately squadron of snowy geese were riding in an adjoining pond, convoying whole fleets of ducks; regiments of turkeys were gobbling through the farmyard, and guinea fowls fretting about it, like illtempered housewives, with their peevish, discontented cry.
Before the barn door strutted the gallant cock, that pattern of a husband, a warrior, and a fine gentleman, clapping his burnished wings, and crowing in the pride and gladness of his heart; sometimes tearing up the earth with his feet, and then generously calling his ever hungry family of wives and children to enjoy the rich morsel which he had discovered.
It was one of those spacious farmhouses, with highridged, but lowly-sloping roofs, built in the style handed down from the first Dutch settlers; the low projecting eaves forming a piazza in front, capable of being closed in bad weather. Under this were hung flails, harness, various utensils of husbandry, and nets for fishing in the neighboring river.
Benches were built along the sides, for summer use; and a great spinning wheel at one end, and a churn at the other, showed the various uses to which this important porch might be devoted.
From this piazza the wondering Ichabod entered the hall, which formed the center of the mansion and the place of usual residence. Here rows of resplendent pewter, ranged on a long dresser, dazzled his eyes.
In one corner stood a huge bag of wool ready to be spun; in another a quantity of linsey-woolsey just from the loom; ears of Indian corn, and strings of dried apples and peaches, hung in gay festoons along the walls, mingled with the gaud of red peppers. A door left ajar gave him a peep into the best parlor, where the claw-footed chairs and dark mahogany tables shone like mirrors; andirons, with their accompanying shovel and tongs, glistened from their covert of asparagus tops; mock oranges and conch shells decorated the mantelpiece; strings of various colored birds' eggs were suspended above it; a great ostrich egg was hung from the center of the room, and a corner cupboard, knowingly left open, displayed immense treasures of old silver and well-mended china. WASHINGTON IRVING.