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HOME > Children's Novel > Little Prudy's Sister Susy > CHAPTER VI. ROSY FRANCES EASTMAN MARY.
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 Prudy had enjoyed a great many rides in Susy's beautiful sleigh; but now the doctor forbade her going out, except for very short distances, and even then, he said, she must sit in her mother's lap. He wanted her to lie down nearly all the time, and keep very quiet.  
At first, Mrs. Parlin wondered how it would be possible to keep such a restless child quiet; but she found, as time passed, and the disease made progress, that poor little Prudy was only too glad to lie still. Every motion seemed to hurt her, and sometimes she cried if any one even jarred the sofa suddenly.
These were dark days for everybody in the house. Susy, who was thoughtful beyond her years, suffered terribly from anxiety about her little sister. More than that, she suffered from remorse1.
"O, grandma Read," said she one evening, as she sat looking up at the solemn, shining stars, with overflowing2 eyes—"O, grandma!" The words came from the depths of a troubled heart. "I may live to be real old; but I never shall be happy again! I can't, for, if it hadn't been for me? Prudy would be running round the house as well as ever!"
Mrs. Read had a gentle, soothing3 voice. She could comfort Susy when anybody could. Now she tried to set her heart at rest by saying that the doctor gave a great deal of hope. He could not promise a certain cure, but he felt great faith in a new kind of splint which he was using for Prudy's hip4.
"O, grandma, it may be, and then, again, it may not be," sobbed5 poor Susy; "we can't tell what God will think best; but anyhow, it was I that did it."
"But, Susan, thee must think how innocent thee was of any wrong motive6. Thee did not get angry, and push thy little sister, thee knows thee didn't, Susan! Thee was only in a hurry, and rather thoughtless. The best of us often do very foolish things, and cause much mischief7; but thee'll find it isn't best to grieve over these mistakes. Why, my dear little Susan, I have lived eight years to thy one, and if I should sit down now and drop a tear for every blunder I have made, I don't know but I could almost make a fountain of myself, like that woman thee tells about in the fairy story."
"The fountain of Pirene that Pegasus loved," said Susy; "that was the name of it. Why, grandma, I never should have thought of your saying such a queer thing as that! Why, it seems as if you always did just right, and thought it all over before you did it. Do you ever do wrong? How funny!"
Mrs. Read smiled sadly. She was not an angel yet; so I suppose she did wrong once in a while.
"Now, grandma, I want to ask you one question, real sober and honest. You know it was so dark that morning in the middle of the night, when we were going down the back stairs? Now, if I'd made a great deal worse mistake than calling Prudy a snail,—if I'd pushed her real hard, and she had fallen faster,—O, I can't bear to think! I mean, if the chair-prongs had hit her head, grandma—and—killed her! What would they have done to me? I thought about it last night, so I couldn't go to sleep for the longest while! I heard the clock strike once while I was awake there in bed! Would they have put me in the lock-up, grandma, and then hung me for murder?"
"My dear child, no, indeed! How came such horrible ideas in thy tender little brain? It is too dreadful to think about; but, even if thy little sister had died, Susan, thee would have been no more to blame than thee is now, and a great, great deal more to be pitied."
Susy sat for a long while gazing out of the window; but the stars did not wink10 so solemnly; the moon looked friendly once more. Susy was drinking in her grandmother's words of comfort. The look of sadness was disappearing from the young face, and smiles began to play about the corners of her mouth.
"Well," said she, starting up briskly, "I'm glad I wasn't so very terribly wicked! I wish I'd been somewhere else, when I stood on those back-stairs, in the middle of the night; but what's the use? I'm not going to think any more about it, grandma; for if I should think till my head was all twisted up in a knot, what good would it do? It wouldn't help Prudy any; would it, grandma?"
"No, dear," said the mild, soothing voice again; "don't think, I beg of thee; but if thee wants to know what would do Prudence11 good, I will tell thee: try thy best to amuse her. She has to lie day after day and suffer. It is very hard for a little girl that loves to play, and can't read, and doesn't know how to pass the time; don't thee think so, Susan?"
It was certainly hard. Prudy's round rosy12 face began to grow pale; and, instead of laughing and singing half the time, she would now lie and cry from pain, or because she really did not know what else to do with herself.
It was worst at night. Hour after hour, she would lie awake, and listen to the ticking of the clock. Susy thought it a pitiable case, when she, heard the clock strike once; but little Prudy heard it strike again and again. How strangely it pounded out the strokes in the night! What a dreary13 sound it was, pealing14 through the silence! The echoes answered with a shudder15. Then, when Prudy had counted one, two, three, four, and the clock had no more to say at that time, it began to tick again: "Prudy's sick! Prudy's sick! O, dear me! O, dear me!"
Prudy could hardly believe it was the same clock she saw in the daytime. She wondered if it felt lonesome in the night, and had the blues16; or what could ail8 it! The poor little girl wanted somebody to speak to in these long, long hours. She did not sleep with Susy, but in a new cot-bed of her own, in aunt Madge's room; for, dearly as she loved to lie close to any one she loved, she begged now to sleep alone, "so nobody could hit her, or move her, or joggle her."
It was a great comfort to have aunt Madge so near. If it had been Susy instead, Prudy would have had no company but the sound of her breathing. It was of no use to try to wake Susy in the dead of night. Pricking17 her with pins would startle her, but she never knew anything even after she was startled. All she could do was to stare about her, cry, and act very cross, and then—go to sleep again.
But with aunt Madge it was quite different. She slept like a cat, with one eye open. Perhaps the reason she did not sleep more soundly, was, that she felt a care of little Prudy. No matter when Prudy spoke18 to her, aunt Madge always answered. She did not say, "O, dear, you've startled me out of a delicious nap!" She said, "Well, darling, what do you want?" Prudy generally wanted to know when it would be morning? When would the steamboat whistle? What made it stay dark so long? She wanted a drink of water, and always wanted a story.
If aunt Madge had forgotten to provide a glass of water, she put on her slippers19, lighted the little handled lamp, and stole softly down stairs to the pail, which Norah always pumped full of well-water the last thing in the evening.
Or, if Prudy fancied it would console her to have a peep at her beautiful doll which "would be alive if it could speak," why, down stairs went auntie again to search out the spot where Susy had probably left it when "she took it to show to some children."
The many, many times that kind young lady crept shivering down stairs to humor Prudy's whims20! Prudy could not have counted the times; and you may be sure aunt Madge never would.
Then the stories, both sensible and silly, which Prudy teased for, and always got! Aunt Madge poured them forth21 like water into the sieve22 of Prudy's mind, which could not hold stories any better than secrets. No matter how many she told, Prudy insisted that she wanted "one more," and the "same one over again."
It touched Susy to the heart to see how much her little sister suffered, and she spent a great deal of time at first in trying to amuse her. Aunt Madge told stories in the night; but Susy told them in the daytime, till, as she expressed it, her "tongue ached." She cut out paper dolls when she wanted to read, and played go visiting, or dressed rag babies, when she longed to be out of doors. But while the novelty lasted, she was quite a Florence Nightingale.
Her Wednesday and Saturday after-noons were no longer her own. Before Prudy's lameness23, Susy had used her new skates a great deal, and could now skim over the ice quite gracefully24, for a little girl of her age. The reason she learned to skate so well, was because she was fearless. Most children tremble when they try to stand on the ice, and for that very reason are nearly sure to fall; but Susy did not tremble in the face of danger: she had a strong will of her own, and never expected to fail in anything she undertook.
She had spent half of her short life out of doors, and almost considered it lost time when she was obliged to stay in the house for the rain.
Mrs. Parlin kept saying it was high time for her eldest25 daughter to begin to be womanly, and do long stints26 with her needle: she could not sew as well now as she sewed two years ago.
But Mr. Parlin laughed at his wife's anxiety, and said he loved Susy's red cheeks; he didn't care if she grew as brown as an Indian. She was never rude or coarse, he thought; and she would be womanly enough one of these days, he was quite sure.
"Anything," said Mr. Parlin, "but these womanly little girls, such as I have seen sitting in a row, sewing seams, without animation27 enough to tear rents in their own dresses! If Susy loves birds, and flowers, and snowbanks, I am thankful, and perfectly28 willing she should have plenty of them for playthings."
Then, when Mrs. Parlin smiled mischievously29, and said, "I should like to know what sort of a wild Arab you would make out of a little girl," Mr. Parlin answered triumphantly,— "Look at my sister Margaret! I brought her up my own self! I always took her out in the woods with me, gunning and trouting. I taught her how to skate when she was a mere30 baby. I often said she was all the brother I had in the world! She can remember now how I used to wrap her in shawls, and prop31 her up on the woodpile, while I chopped wood."
"And how you hired her to drop ears of corn for you into the corn-sheller; and how, one day, her fingers were so benumbed, that one of them was clipped off before she knew it!"
"Well, so it was, that is true; but only the tip of it. Active children will meet with accidents. She was a regular little fly-away, and would sooner climb a tree or a ladder any time, than walk on solid ground. Now look at her!"
And Mr. Parlin repeated the words, "Now look at her," as if he was sure his wife must confess that she was a remarkable32 person.
Mrs. Parlin said, if Susy should ever become half as excellent and charming as Miss Margaret Parlin, she should be perfectly satisfied, for her part.
Thus Susy was allowed to romp33 to her heart's content; "fairly ran wild," as aunt Eastman declared, with a frown of disapproval34. She gathered wild roses, and wore them in her cheeks, the very best place in the world for roses. She drank in sunshine with the fresh air of heaven, just as the flowers do, and thrived on it.
But there was one objection to this out-of-doors life: Susy did not love to stay in the house. Eainy days and evenings, to be sure, she made herself very happy with reading, for she loved to read, particularly fairy books, and Rollo's Travels.
But now, just as she had learned to skate on the basin with other little girls and young ladies, and could drive Wings anywhere and everywhere she pleased, it was a sore trial to give up these amusements for the sake of spending more hours with poor little Prudy. She was very self-denying at first, but it grew to be an "old story." She found it was not only pony35 and skates she must give up, but even her precious reading, for Prudy was jealous of books, and did not like to have Susy touch them. She thought Susy was lost to her when she opened a book, and might as well not be in the house, for she never heard a word that anybody said.
Now I know just what you will think: "O, I would have given up a great deal more than ponies36 and books for my dear little sister! I would have told her stories, and never have complained that my 'tongue ached.' It would not have wearied me to do anything and everything for such a patient sufferer as little Prudy!"
But now I shall be obliged to confess one thing, which I would have gladly concealed37.
Prudy was not always patient. Some sweet little children become almost like the angels when sickness is laid upon them; but Prudy had been such a healthy, active child, that the change to perfect quiet was exceedingly tiresome38. She was young, too,—too young to reason about the uses of suffering. She only knew she was dreadfully afflicted39, and thought everybody ought to amuse her.
"O, dear me!" said Susy, sometimes, "I just believe the more anybody does for Prudy, the more she expects."
Now this was really the case. When Prudy first began to lie upon the sofa, everybody pitied her, and tried to say and do funny things, in order to take up her attention. It was not possible to keep on giving so much time to her; but Prudy expected it. She would lie very pleasant and happy for hours at a time, counting the things in the room, talking to herself, or humming little tunes40; and then, again, everything would go wrong. Her playthings would keep falling to the floor, and, as she could not stoop at all, some one must come and pick them up that very minute, or they "didn't pity her a bit."
Every once in a while, she declared her knee was "broken in seven new places," and the doctor must come and take off the splint. She didn't want such a hard thing "right on there;" she wanted it "right off."
Her mother told her she must try to be patient, and be one of God's little girls. "But, mamma," said Prudy, "does God love me any? I should think, if he loved me, he'd be sorrier I was sick, and get me well."
Then, sometimes, when she had been more fretful than usual, she would close her eyes, and her mother would hear her say, in a low voice,—
"O, God, I didn't mean to. It's my knee that's cross!"
Upon the whole, I think Prudy was as patient as most children of her age would have been under the same trial. Her father and mother, who had the most care of her, did not wonder in the least that her poor little nerves got tired out sometimes.
While Susy was at school, Prudy had a long time to think what she wanted her to do when she should come home. She would lie and watch the clock, for she had learned to tell the time quite well; and when the hour drew near for Susy to come, she moved her head on the pillow, and twisted her fingers together nervously41.
If Susy was in good season, Prudy put up her little mouth for a kiss, and said,—
"O, how I do love you, Susy! Ain't I your dear little sister? Well, won't you make me a lady on the slate42?"
Susy's ladies had no necks, and their heads were driven down on their shoulders, as if they were going to be packed into their chests; but, such as they were, Prudy wanted them over and over again.
But if Susy stopped to slide, or to play by the way, she would find little Prudy in tears, and hear her say, "O, what made you? Naughty, naughty old Susy! I'm goin' to die, and go to God's house, and then you'll be sorry you didn't 'tend to your little sister."
Susy could never bear to hear Prudy talk about going to God's house. Her conscience pricked43 her when she saw that the poor child was grieved; and she resolved, every time she was late, that she would never be late again.
Prudy had a great many odd fancies now: among others, she had a fancy that she did not like the name of Prudy.
"Why; only think," said she, "you keep a-calling me Prudy, and Prudy, and Prudy. It makes my head ache, to have you say Prudy so much."
"But, my dear child," said Mr. Parlin, smiling, "it happens, unfortunately, that Prudy is your name; so I think you will have to try and bear it as well as you can."
"But I can't bear it any longer," said the child, bursting into tears. "Prudy is all lame9 and sick, and I never shall walk any more while you call me Prudy, papa."
Mr. Parlin kissed his little daughters's pale cheek, and said, "Then we will call you pet names; will that do?"
Prudy smiled with delight.
"I've thought of a real beautiful, splendid name," said she. "It is Rosy Frances Eastman Mary; ain't it splendid?"
After this announcement, Prudy expected the family would be sure to call her Rosy Frances Eastman Mary; and, indeed, they were quite willing to please her, whenever they could remember the name. They all supposed it was a fancy she would forget in a day or two; but, instead of that, she clung to it more and more fondly. If any one offered her an orange, or roasted apple, and said, "Look, Prudy; here is something nice for you," she would turn her face over to one side on the pillow, and make no reply. If she wanted a thing very much, she would never accept it when she was addressed by the obnoxious44 name of Prudy. Even when her father wanted to take her in his arms to rest her, and happened to say, "Prudy, shall I hold you a little while?" she would say, "Who was you a-talkin' to, papa? There isn't any Prudy here!" Then her father had to humble45 himself, and ask to be forgiven for being so forgetful.
The child had a delicate appetite, and her mother tried to tempt46 it with little niceties; but, no matter what pains she took, Prudy relished47 nothing unless it was given to her as Rosy Frances, the little girl who was not Prudy.
"O, here is a glass of lemonade for you, Prudy; made on purpose for you," Susy would say; "do drink it!"
"O, dear me, suz," cried Prudy, with tears falling over her cheeks; "O, Susy, you plague me, and I never done a thing to you! You called me Prudy, and I ain't Prudy, never again! Call me Rosy Frances Eastman Mary, and I'll drink the lemonade."
"You precious little sister," said Susy, bending over her gently, "you'll forgive me; won't you, darling?"
"I'll try to," replied Prudy, with a look of meek48 forbearance, as she sipped49 the lemonade.

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