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Under the Lilacs

Ben Gets A Place
When Ben awoke next morning, he looked about him for a moment half bewildered,
because there was neither a canvas tent, a barn roof, nor the blue sky above him, but a
neat white ceiling, where several flies buzzed sociably together, while from without
came, not the tramping of horses, the twitter of swallows, or the chirp of early birds, but
the comfortable cackle of hens and the sound of two little voices chanting the
multiplication table.
Sancho sat at the open window, watching the old cat wash her face, and trying to imitate
her with his great ruffled paw, so awkwardly that Ben laughed; and Sanch, to hide his
confusion at being caught, made one bound from chair to bed, and licked his master's
face so energetically that the boy dived under the bedclothes to escape from the rough
tongue. A rap on the floor from below made both jump up, and in ten minutes a shiny-
faced lad and a lively dog went racing downstairs, -- one to say, "Good-mornin', ma'am,"
the other to wag his tail faster than ever tail wagged before, for ham frizzled on the stove,
and Sancho was fond of it.
"Did you rest well?" asked Mrs. Moss, nodding at him, fork in hand.
"Guess I did! Never saw such a bed. I'm used to hay and a horse-blanket, and lately
nothin' but sky for a cover and grass for my feather-bed," laughed Ben, grateful for
present comforts and making light of past hardships.
"Clean, sweet corn-husks ain't bad for young bones, even if they haven't got more flesh
on them than yours have," answered Mrs. Moss, giving the smooth head a motherly
stroke as she went by.
"Fat ain't allowed in our profession, ma'am. The thinner the better for tight-ropes and
tumblin'; likewise bareback ridin' and spry jugglin'. Muscle's the thing, and there you
Ben stretched out a wiry little arm with a clenched fist at the end of it, as if he were a
young Hercules, ready to play ball with the stove if she gave him leave. Glad to see him
in such good spirits, she pointed to the well outside, saying pleasantly, --
"Well, then, just try your muscle by bringing in some fresh water."
Ben caught up a pail and ran off, ready to be useful; but, while he waited for the bucket to
fill down among the mossy stones, he looked about him, well pleased with all he saw, --
the small brown house with a pretty curl of smoke rising from its chimney, the little
sisters sitting in the sunshine, green hills and newly-planted fields far and near, a brook
dancing through the orchard, birds singing in the elm avenue, and all the world as fresh
and lovely as early summer could make it.