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A Little Girl in Old Chicago

A Little Girl in Old Chicago
Title: A Little Girl in Old Chicago
Release Date: 2018-12-04
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 63
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Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Examples include "vandue" and "vendue", "Cahoky" and "Cahooky", "infare and "infair", and "Pettingil and Pettengill."

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

On page 126, "Champaign squibs" should possibly be "Campaign squibs."

On page 225, the sentence '"You weigh about seventy-five pounds,"gravely.' seems to be missing some text.

Book cover

A Little Girl in Old Chicago








Copyright, 1904,
By Dodd, Mead & Company
Published September, 1904


IThe Little Girl1
IIGetting Dinner15
IIIThrough the Winter30
IVA Political Difference44
VOf Common Daily Things61
VIThen the Uncommon85
VIIFrom the Little Girl's Side100
VIIIWithout Norman117
IXWas Ever Letter Half so Dear?130
XA Wild Ride147
XIA Time for Love165
XIINot Merry, but Wedding Bells179
XIIIA Shaded Side194
XIVA Turn in the Lane209
XVHow Much was Love224
XVIHer Rivals243
XIXHow Norman Came Home294
XXThe Passing of Old Chicago312



It is one of the compensations of Providence thatafter the storm and stress of active life is through, onecan go back to the beautiful world of memory andlive over the earlier joys with a delight not experiencedin youth.

So the time I first saw the Little Girl is one of thepictures that line the halls of remembrance, softened,and it may be rendered more beautiful, by the interveningyears, and love.

It was a late September evening, at least the dayhad waned. All the west still held the peculiar richglow of a magnificent sunset that had melted nowinto one great sheet of softened tints, with no onedistinct color predominating, and changing every instant.Over the great lake it dropped iridescent hues,and even the river, with its muddy banks, shimmeredin a glorified light. And I, Norman Hayne, sat idlyoutside the log end of the house, that was our realliving place, though the frame addition had beenadded, for we had long ago outgrown the other. There2was a rude porch over the door, where the Michiganrose rioted in the early summer, and morning-glorieslater on. Beyond this was a bench with a pail, one ortwo basins and a dishpan piled with dishes, where mymother would presently stand, washing up. Variousutensils hung from the edge of a narrow shelf, a gourddipper and one of cocoanut. Out beyond, on thegarden fence, was the churn dasher and the churn on alow pole.

Early August had been hot and dry, then had fallencopious rains and everything had taken a new leaseof life. I was looking idly over to the eastward, wonderingwhat the "States" were like, though it wouldseem from the influx of emigrants and their tales thatthey held every variety of climate and productionsknown to the world.

I watched a great covered wagon lumbering along,drawn by two not over large but stocky horses.In a vague fashion I said to myself—"Some onefrom the States." It had not the air of a near-bynative.

The driver jumped down with a loud "whoa," andthe animals, nothing loth, stood still. We were backperhaps fifty feet from the road, though it had a nameas a street.

Mother came out just as the man walked up thepath. She was rather stout, somewhat weather-beatenwith our fierce winds, but fresh and wholesome looking,with a kindly smile, that had not been banishedby the scoldings she had found necessary to use. Herhair was a soft dun-colored brown, her eyes brown3also, with a sort of twinkle in them that sometimesflashed in the heat of anger.

The man gave his faded wool hat a tug. He wasof medium height, much seamed and wrinkled by exposure,with shrewd blue eyes, rather reddish hair anda sparse ragged beard, the sort of man who wouldhardly attract a second look.

"Ma'am," he began, in a respectful tone, "can youtell me just how I shall find the Towner place, and canI reach it to-night?"

"Well—" mother looked over westward—"I can'tsay I should advise you to attempt it. It's crost theriver. An' ther' ain't much but a tumble-down loghut. Be you the man goin' to live ther'? Townertraded off the place an' was in high feather 'bout hisbargain."

The man looked rather crestfallen. "I was in hopesI could. But then it's good to be so near," with a sighof content in the voice. "There's some taverns about,I suppose, though, for that matter, we could takeanother night in the wagon."

"What fambly is ther'?" and mother peered outrather curiously.

"Only me and my little gal. There's such bigstories told about Chicago."

"An' they're comin' out the little end of the horn,"said mother with a short laugh. "You can hardlygive lots away."

The man stood rather uncertain.

"See here," began mother, who was hospitalityitself, "we can put you up for the night. S'pose you4unhitch and take a bite of supper. It's tough goin' toa strange place in the dark, an' a tavern ain't jest theplace for a little gal. Norme, you great lazy lout,stir your stumps, and show the way to the barn.Bring your little gal in here, Mister. I declare for it,a gal is quite a treat. I've five boys an' I'm countin' onthe time they get married so's I can see a petticoataround."

"Do I come up here?"

"Yes." I was off with a bound and began to turnthe tired beasts up the roadway. Just at the stoop Ipaused.

"I'm mighty obliged to you," he began, bowingto mother. "'Tisn't everybody you find willing totake in a stranger. But I'm going to stay if I cansqueeze out any sort of a living. Times are hardeverywhere. Seems as though the bottom's fallen outof everything."

"When the bottom falls out 'er Chicago we fill it inagen," returned mother with a heartsome laugh."You've come to a queer place, stranger. First, we'reway out top of the chimbly wavin' defiance to everybodyand braggin' like all possessed, then down wecome kerflunk! But we rub our bruises and knock offthe soot an' go at it agen."

"That's the way you have to do," was the almostcheerful response. Then he went to the side of thewagon and chirped, and lifted out the Little Girl andput her down. I looked intently at her and she wasimpressed upon my brain.

A little girl of seven or eight in a faded blue cotton5frock that came two or three inches from her ankles,and her dainty feet were encased in a pair of beadedmoccasins. Her light hair, more flaxen than golden,hung about in short loose curls. Her skin was veryfair, her mouth like an opening rosebud. But her eyestransfixed one even in the growing darkness. Theyseemed bathed in dewy sunshine and were of the depthof sapphire, or the blue of a winter night. The browsand lashes were much darker than the hair, the eyeslarge and clear, but after she had once glanced upfearlessly they drooped and seemed to shine throughthe lashes.

"You are just a little dear," said mother, and shestooped to kiss her, though she was not at all givento caresses. "And now while they go out to lookafter the horses I'll fix some supper. I've just clearedit away. My, but it's dark as a pocket in here. I'lllight a candle. Have you had a long journey?"

"Oh, days and days! Sometimes we stayed at housesand sometimes in the wagon. There were wolves onenight and father shot two, and we stayed one night inan Indian wigwam. The squaws were kind, but thebabies were so funny, tied to a board and standinground. I didn't like the food though. I can cooksome."

"Haven't you any mother?"

The child sighed. "Mother died a long, long whileago. Why do they have to be put in the ground? Ishould think they'd be carried up on some highmountain, where it would be easier for the angels toget them."6

"And who took care of you?"

"Aunt Getty did. Then she married Silas Bowersand he had seven children. I didn't like them though.Then Gran came out of the poorhouse, and after thatsome of the things were sold, only what we couldpack in the wagon. It was very nice at first. Westopped by the woods and made fires and broiledfish and birds that father shot. You make a littlestone fireplace so—" and she described the outlinewith her hands. "And when the wood gets allburned to coals you can broil, or you can fry in askillet."

"You're a smart little thing," declared mother inamazement. "Why you're not much bigger than aminute."

"Why a minute is sixty seconds, and what do yousuppose the seconds are?"

"I'm sure I don't know," and mother laughed.

It looked cheery enough when I came in. It shouldhave been painted as an "Interior in Old Chicago."The room was large with a great fireplace at one end,the logs had been chinked in with plaster and thenplastered over again, quite roughly to be sure. Everyspring and fall mother whitewashed it. Now it wasrather smoky. Dan and I had put up a kind of dresseron one side, shelves braced up by side brackets and acurtain hung over them. Our chairs had tough reedgrass bottoms, braided in a fashion learned from theIndians. There were several gun racks, and sometrophies of hunting. On one side was a roomy settlethat did duty as a bed, with dried grass pillows and7cured skins, some quite valuable. Mother had twocandles lighted on the table, and they shed a sort ofweird light around. She was warming up somechicken potpie, and there was a great plate of brownbread and white, and another of gingerbread and anappetizing sauce of wild grapes.

Mr. Gaynor had stopped at the bench and washedface and hands with a great flourish of enjoyment.Now he sniffed at the savory fragrance with the eagernessof a hungry man.

"Jest draw up," said mother, nodding to a chair.But she placed one for the Little Girl and would havelifted her in it, only she slipped by with the litheness ofa fairy.

"What is your name, Sissy?"

"Ruth—Ruth Gaynor," was the gentle reply.

"And I am John Gaynor from old Massachusetts.I've wondered along the route what evil spirit enticedme to leave the State where I was born, but somehowluck turned against me, and the farm was a bedof rocks, as one may say—worn-out land. There's tobe a great wheat-growing country out here, folks say,and bread is one of the things that doesn't seem to goout of fashion. Jerusalem! but there's a sight of folksgrowing up all the time. When the world gets fullI s'pose it'll have to come to an end, for if it is full offolks, stands to reason there won't be no room forwheat growing."

"Laws a' massy, I never thought of that," saidmother. "But ther's wars and plagues an' what not.Sissy, you ain't eating no supper."8

"I'm eating slow, tastes so good," returned Ruthgravely, looking up with shining eyes.

There was a sudden rush and howl and she startedin terror, turning pale.

"It's them dratted boys," explained mother, goingto the door. "Boys—" one or two of them had a resoundingcuff—"you air worse'n a pack of wolves!Now jes' wash up in some sort o' quiet or you'll getyour father's horsewhip. An' then go straight to bed.Go round 'tother way."

"Who's here?" both in a breath.

"That's nothin' to you. Do as I tell

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