Twice Told Tales HTML version
Little Annie's Ramble
Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong!
The town-crier has rung his bell at a distant corner, and little Annie stands on her father's
doorsteps trying to hear what the man with the loud voice is talking about. Let me listen
too. Oh, he is telling the people that an elephant and a lion and a royal tiger and a horse
with horns, and other strange beasts from foreign countries, have come to town and will
receive all visitors who choose to wait upon them. Perhaps little Annie would like to go?
Yes, and I can see that the pretty child is weary of this wide and pleasant street with the
green trees flinging their shade across the quiet sunshine and the pavements and the
sidewalks all as clean as if the housemaid had just swept them with her broom. She feels
that impulse to go strolling away—that longing after the mystery of the great world—
which many children feel, and which I felt in my childhood. Little Annie shall take a
ramble with me. See! I do but hold out my hand, and like some bright bird in the sunny
air, with her blue silk frock fluttering upward from her white pantalets, she comes
bounding on tiptoe across the street.
Smooth back your brown curls, Annie, and let me tie on your bonnet, and we will set
forth. What a strange couple to go on their rambles together! One walks in black attire,
with a measured step and a heavy brow and his thoughtful eyes bent down, while the gay
little girl trips lightly along as if she were forced to keep hold of my hand lest her feet
should dance away from the earth. Yet there is sympathy between us. If I pride myself on
anything, it is because I have a smile that children love; and, on the other hand, there are
few grown ladies that could entice me from the side of little Annie, for I delight to let my
mind go hand in hand with the mind of a sinless child. So come, Annie; but if I moralize
as we go, do not listen to me: only look about you and be merry.
Now we turn the corner. Here are hacks with two horses and stage-coaches with four
thundering to meet each other, and trucks and carts moving at a slower pace, being
heavily laden with barrels from the wharves; and here are rattling gigs which perhaps will
be smashed to pieces before our eyes. Hitherward, also, comes a man trundling a
wheelbarrow along the pavement. Is not little Annie afraid of such a tumult? No; she does
not even shrink closer to my side, but passes on with fearless confidence, a happy child
amidst a great throng of grown people who pay the same reverence to her infancy that
they would to extreme old age. Nobody jostles her: all turn aside to make way for little
Annie; and, what is most singular, she appears conscious of her claim to such respect.
Now her eyes brighten with pleasure. A street-musician has seated himself on the steps of
yonder church and pours forth his strains to the busy town—a melody that has gone
astray among the tramp of footsteps, the buzz of voices and the war of passing wheels.
Who heeds the poor organ-grinder? None but myself and little Annie, whose feet begin to
move in unison with the lively tune, as if she were loth that music should be wasted
without a dance. But where would Annie find a partner? Some have the gout in their toes
or the rheumatism in their joints; some are stiff with age, some feeble with disease; some
are so lean that their bones would rattle, and others of such ponderous size that their