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There is no need of dwelling further on the reasons for or against the step we proposed. We thought a great deal and talked it over several times. Finally my wife agreed that the change would be wise and best for all. Then the children were taken into our confidence, and they became more delighted every day as the prospect grew clearer to them.
"We'll all be good soon, won't we?" said my youngest, who had a rather vivid sense of his own shortcomings, and kept them in the minds of others as well.
"Why so, Bobsey?"
"'Cause mamma says that God put the first people in a garden and they was very good, better'n any folks afterwards. God oughter know the best place for people."
Thus Bobsey gave a kind of divine sanction to our project. Of course we had not taken so important a step without asking the Great Father of all to guide us; for we felt that in the mystery of life we too were but little children who knew not what should be on the morrow, or how best to provide for it with any certainty. To our sanguine minds there was in Bobsey's words a hint of something more than permission to go up out of Egypt.
So it was settled that we should leave our narrow suite of rooms, the Daggetts and the Ricketts, and go to the country. To me naturally fell the task of finding the land flowing with milk and honey to which we should journey in the spring. Meantime we were already emigrants at heart, full of the bustle and excitement of mental preparation.
I prided myself somewhat on my knowledge of human nature, which, in regard to children, conformed to comparatively simple laws. I knew that the change would involve plenty of hard work, self-denial and careful managing, which nothing could redeem from prose; but I aimed to add to our exodus, so far as possible, the elements of adventure and mystery so dear to the hearts of children. The question where we should go was the cause of much discussion, the studying of maps, and the learning of not a little geography.
Merton's counsel was that we should seek a region abounding in Indians, bears, and "such big game." His advice made clear the nature of some of his recent reading. He proved, however, that he was not wanting in sense by his readiness to give up these attractive features in the choice of locality.
Mousie's soft black eyes always lighted up at the prospect of a flower-garden that should be as big as our sitting-room. Even in our city apartments, poisoned by gas and devoid of sunlight, she usually managed to keep a little house-plant in bloom, and the thought of placing seeds in the open ground, where, as she said, "the roots could go down to China if they wanted to," brought the first color I had seen in her face for many a day.
Winnie was our strongest child, and also the one who gave me the most anxiety. Impulsive, warm-hearted, restless, she always made me think of an overfull fountain. Her alert black eyes were as eager to see as was her inquisitive mind to pry into everything. She was sturdily built for a girl, and one of the severest punishments we could inflict was to place her in a chair and tell her not to move for an hour. We were beginning to learn that we could no more keep her in our sitting-room than we could restrain a mountain brook that foams into a rocky basin only to foam out again. Melissa Daggett was of a very different type--I could never see her without the word "sly" coming into my mind--and her small mysteries awakened Winnie's curiosity. Now that the latter was promised chickens, and rambles in the woods, Melissa and her secrets became insignificant, and the ready promise to keep aloof from her was given.
As for Bobsey, he should have a pig which he could name and call his own, and for which he might pull weeds and pick up apples. We soon found that he was communing with that phantom pig in his dreams.
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