15. In The Willow
The old tree saw and heard a good many little scenes and confidences that
summer, because it became the favorite retreat of all the children, and the willow
seemed to enjoy it, for a pleasant welcome always met them, and the quiet hours
spent in its arms did them all good. It had a great deal of company one Saturday
afternoon, and some little bird reported what went on there.
First came Nan and Daisy with their small tubs and bits of soap, for now and then
they were seized with a tidy fit, and washed up all their dolls' clothes in the brook.
Asia would not have them "slopping round" in her kitchen, and the bath-room
was forbidden since Nan forgot to turn off the water till it overflowed and came
gently dripping down through the ceiling. Daisy went systematically to work,
washing first the white and then the colored things, rinsing them nicely, and
hanging them to dry on a cord fastened from one barberry-bush to another, and
pinning them up with a set of tiny clothes-pins Ned had turned for her. But Nan
put all her little things to soak in the same tub, and then forgot them while she
collected thistledown to stuff a pillow for Semiramis, Queen of Babylon, as one
doll was named. This took some time, and when Mrs. Giddy-gaddy came to take
out her clothes, deep green stains appeared on every thing, for she had forgotten
the green silk lining of a certain cape, and its color had soaked nicely into the
pink and blue gowns, the little chemises, and even the best ruffled petticoat.
"Oh me! what a mess!" sighed Nan.
"Lay them on the grass to bleach," said Daisy, with an air of experience.
"So I will, and we can sit up in the nest and watch that they don't blow away."
The Queen of Babylon's wardrobe was spread forth upon the bank, and, turning
up their tubs to dry, the little washerwomen climbed into the nest, and fell to
talking, as ladies are apt to do in the pauses of domestic labor.
"I'm going to have a feather-bed to go with my new pillow," said Mrs. Giddy-
gaddy, as she transferred the thistledown from her pocket to her handkerchief,
losing about half in the process.
"I wouldn't; Aunt Jo says feather-beds aren't healthy. I never let my children sleep
on any thing but a mattress," returned Mrs. Shakespeare Smith, decidedly.
"I don't care; my children are so strong they often sleep on the floor, and don't
mind it," (which was quite true). "I can't afford nine mattresses, and I like to make
"Won't Tommy charge for the feathers?"
"May be he will, but I shan't pay him, and he won't care," returned Mrs. G., taking
a base advantage of the well-known good nature of T. Bangs.
"I think the pink will fade out of that dress sooner than the green mark will,"
observed Mrs. S., looking down from her perch, and changing the subject, for
she and her gossip differed on many points, and Mrs. Smith was a discreet lady.
"Never mind; I'm tired of dolls, and I guess I shall put them all away and attend to
my farm; I like it rather better than playing house," said Mrs. G., unconsciously
expressing the desire of many older ladies, who cannot dispose of their families
so easily however.