American Fairy Tales HTML version

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No one intended to leave Martha alone that afternoon, but it
happened that everyone was called away, for one reason or another.
Mrs. McFarland was attending the weekly card party held by the
Women’s Anti-Gambling League. Sister Nell’s young man had called
quite unexpectedly to take her for a long drive. Papa was at the
o?ce, as usual. It was Mary Ann’s day out. As for Emeline, she
certainly should have stayed in the house and looked after the
little girl; but Emeline had a restless nature.
”Would you mind, miss, if I just crossed the alley to speak a word
to Mrs. Carleton’s girl?” she asked Martha.
”’Course not,” replied the child. ”You’d better lock the back door,
though, and take the key, for I shall be upstairs.”
”Oh, I’ll do that, of course, miss,” said the delighted maid, and
ran away to spend the afternoon with her friend, leaving Martha
quite alone in the big house, and locked in, into the bargain.
The little girl read a few pages in her new book, sewed a few
stitches in her embroidery and started to ”play visiting” with her
four favorite dolls. Then she remembered that in the attic was a
doll’s playhouse that hadn’t been used for months, so she decided
she would dust it and put it in order.
Filled with this idea, the girl climbed the winding stairs to the
big room under the roof. It was well lighted by three dormer windows
and was warm and pleasant. Around the walls were rows of boxes and
trunks, piles of old carpeting, pieces of damaged furniture, bundles
of discarded clothing and ot her odds and ends of more or less value.
E very well-regulated house has an attic of this sort, so I need not
describe it.
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1The doll’s house had been moved, but after a search Martha found it
away over in a corner near the big chimney.
She drew it out and noticed that behind it was a black wooden chest
which Uncle Walter had sent over from Italy years and years
ago–before Martha was born, in fact. Mamma had told her about it
one day; how there was no key to it, because Uncle Walter wished it
to remain unopened until he returned home; and how this wandering
uncle, who was a mighty hunter, had gone into Africa to hunt
elephants and had never been heard from afterwards.
The little girl look ed at the chest curiously, now that it had by
accident attracted her attention.
It was quite big–bigger even than mamma’s traveling trunk–and was
studded all over with tarnished brassheaded nails. It was heavy,
too, for when Martha tried to lift one end of it she found she could
not stir it a bit. But there was a place in the side of the cover
for a key. She stooped to ex amine the lock, and saw that it would
take a rather big key to open it.
Then, as you may suspect, the little girl longed to open Uncle
Walter’s big box and see what was in it. For we are all curious, and
little girls are just as curious as the rest of us.