LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
LITTLE CATHARINE CHICKEN made a
very pleasing picture as she stood
in the doorway of the schoolmas-
ter's house and looked wistfully out to-
ward the river.
She was a slender little witch, with
wide, fawn-like eyes and a frowzy shock
of short lint-white hair not crisp enough
to curl, yet too soft and fine to lie
smoothly when tangled by every passing
breeze. Her face wore the pallor of heat,
for May in the Province of Carolina in
the year 1748 was-as it is to-day in the
same region-a very enervating month.
The little girl felt listless and weary,
and did not know what ailed her, nor
were her elders any wiser as to why she
and they alike were out of sorts. Ma-
6 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
dame Dutarque, the schoolmaster's wife,
had called Catharine lazy, and Monsieur
Dutarque himself had just rebuked his
wife for "temper" in a tone not over-
mild. There seemed to be an undercur-
rent of unpleasantness in and about the
house. It was no doubt the climate that
affected them all, each in a different way.
More than the climate, however, affect-
ed little Catharine. About a year before,
her mother, a young widow, Mistress
Lydia Chicken, had been married to Mr.
Elias Ball, who was very wealthy, and
whom she had known quite well when
they were children together, before she
had ever met her first husband, Captain
Mr. Elias Ball had taken his wife and
little Catharine to live at Kensington-a
beautiful place miles away from Childbury
-in which was the school, and miles
away from Luckins Plantation, her
grandfather's home, where the child had
always lived with her dear, pretty mother.
As Catharine stood in the schoolmas-
ter's door she fancied she could see the
tree-tops of dear Luckins across the river.
Indeed, this child, not yet eight years old,
knew not what troubled her as she gazed
on the trees and forgot the long seam in
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 7
her hands that Madame Dutarque had
given her to sew as a punishment.
Catharine perfectly remembered her
father, Captain George Chicken, and the
thrilling stories he had been wont to tell
her about the exploits of his father,
Colonel George. Chicken, who had been
Commissioner on Indian Affairs for the
Province, and one of the bravest and
most active of the Goose Creek militia-
men, who had driven the Yemassee In-
dians out of Carolina far down into the
Everglades of Florida.
Catharine's other grandfather, Mr.
Isaac Child, was a very rich man, and
had owned almost the whole of the town
of Childbury. It had been given to him
by his father, Mr. James Child, the
founder, who had also given an educa-
tional endowment to the inhabitants of
the Parish of St. John's, Berkeley. This
gift, or "foundation," included land up-
on which to build a chapel and school,
with money to assist in supporting both.
He had also given the town a pretty
grove near the river. This was called
"Colledge Square," because he had in-
tended that a college should be built
The college had not been built. All
8 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
the rich Carolina planters of those days
sent their sons "home" to England to be
educated, and then for "the grand tour"
on the continent of Europe, from which
they returned full of French phrases and
Parisian airs. So there appeared no need
for a college in Childbury town.
The public gifts of her Grandfather
Child, the military renown of her Grand-
father Chicken, the wealth of her step-
father and her mother, and the wide con-
nections of her family with the Carolina
aristocracy made Catharine a much more
important little figure in,the community
than she guessed herself to be.
Until her mother had remarried and
taken her to Kensington, Catharine had
thought that Mistress Lydia belonged to
her alone, and she wept many tears on
the breast of her mauma Amy because
she wanted her mother all to herself
again. But all that, even including the
tears, had been happiness compared with
what came on the day when her mother
told her that she was to leave Kensing-
ton, to go to school at Monsieur Du-
tarque's, and board there! This was the
horrible part of it.
To be away from that sweet mother all
the day as well as all the night-to be
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 9
away from the kittens, the pony, the
calves and the puppies, from Dido and
Judy and Ephraim and Amy, her mau-
ma, from all the dear delights of planta-
tion life-this was exile indeed!
More than this, baby though she was,
Catharine had felt keenly the force of
Maum' Amy's expostulation: "Eh, eh,
Mis' Lyddy, Mis' Cat'rin' ain' no po'
buckra! Y' ain' gwine put she on no
foundation,' sho' 'nough, lak Mis' Green
da'ter, is yer?"
Catharine wondered why her mother
had flushed up and straightened her
throat so, as she replied:
"Hold your tongue, Amy; you know
nothing about it," and had clasped her
little girl close to her breast, and left a
warm kiss and a tear together on her
Not very long after Catharine had
come to board at Monsieur Dutarque's
house her new father, Mr. Elias Ball, had
ridden down from Kensington to tell her
that she had a baby sister who was to be
named Elizabeth. At first she had been
delighted; but when Betty Green, the
other child who boarded at Monsieur Du-
tarquels, had said, "Now your nose is out
of joint," Catharine had cried for half an
10 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
hour, and had almost hated the new baby
Several of Catharine's cousins were
taught by Monsieur Dutarque; but she
could not understand why she alone
must board there she-and Mrs. Green's
daughter I Surely she had money enough
to do as she chose; for little Catharine
had been always treated like a princess,
and bad thought the world was but a
pretty place made for her to play in.
Now she found it a bigger and sadder
place than she had fancied.
Still the child was not yet eight years
old; so it is not to be supposed that she
had any very deep or connected thoughts
as she stood there in the door of the
schoolmaster's house, with that long seam
Madame Dutarque had bidden her sew
hanging limply from her little hand.
Something in the sight of the burgeoning
beauty outside the dim little schoolhouse
gave a singular swelling to her heart.
By craning her neck out from the
doorway, Catharine could see straight
between the mulberry-trees of Craven
Street, down the steep slope at the bot-
tom of which the river lay. If she
looked across Craven Street, Strawberry
Chapel confronted her, with its graveyard
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 11
bounded out by locust-trees and a cedar
Strawberry was a Chapel-of-Ease, as
they called it in those days, built for the
convenience of the neighboring planters,
who lived at a long distance from the
parish church of Biggin-to which, how-
ever, they were obliged by law to resort
on high feast days, such as Christmas,
Easter Sunday, and Whitsunday.
There were few houses to obstruct
Catharine's view of Childbury town-
only fifteen beside the chapel, the school,
and the tavern. When she turned her
head the other way the view was alto-
gether changed; for looking eastward,
one might see straight to where the mar-
ket-or "merket" as the old plats have
it-stood right in the center of the town.
This was Saturday, one of the regular
market days. So the market square was
thronged with hawkers, peddlers, and
petty chapmen or "dusty-foot" traders,
as wandering pedestrian merchants were
Catharine delighted in the bright pic-
ture they made in their motley garb,
slipping in and out between the crowding
cattle and horses, with their packs of mer-
chandise, their little carts of grain or
12 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
victuals, and their panniers of brightly-
colored West Indian fruit. The little
girl forgot her languor as she gazed.
Once, at some remarkable antics of a
negro boy in livery, who held a high-
mettled bay mare by the bridle, Catharine
clapped her hands and laughed aloud.
This negro was Cupid, her Aunt Sarah
Harleston's "boy," and she felt very sure
his antics were intended to amuse her.
The sound of her own laugh recalled the
little girl to her surroundings'
Slowly she gathered up her work and
prepared to go within. But oh, the house
looked so dim and homely after the glory
without! How could she go back to
Madame Dutarque's sharp tongue, Mon-
sieur Dutarque's long face, and that
dreadful, dreary seam!
Madame Dutarque had gone to mar-
ket, followed by her "boy" with an enor-
mous basket, else Catharine could never
have had the chance to idle as long as
this. As for Monsieur Dutarque, he was
holding his ugly head up by one lean
hand over a ponderous Latin volume in
a room above, and had forgotten the
Catharine sighed, and put her hand in
her pocket for her thimble. It was not
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 13
there; but something else was which
caused her eyes to dilate with rapture.
She drew out a tiny "cooter," or terrapin,
about the size of a shilling-the only pet
she had ventured to bring with her from
Kensington when she had parted from
her dear, pretty mother two weary
She had pleaded hard for her kitten
or her Chickasaw pony, but they told
her that Monsieur Dutarque did not like
pets, and she had brought the cooter by
Down went the long seam again, and
with a faint color touching her pale
cheeks the little girl got down on her
knees and set her cooter quietly out into
Her new father, Mr. Elias Ball, had
named the little tortoise "Flying Chil-
ders,"after a famous fast horse,"because
it was so slow,"he said. Catharine re-
membered how deeply vexed she had been
with her dear mother because she had
laughed as if this were a very funny joke.
The little girl could see no joke about it.
The cooter, feeling the soft earth be-
neath it, put forth its black claws and its
odd, snakelike head, and began to trot off,
not in a manner to justify its name, yet
14 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
with sufficient speed to fill Catharine with
a fear of losing it. Off it went, stealing
in and out of the red partridge-berries,
and the short grass and the ragged weeds
and the fallen buds of yellow jessamine,
and off went Catharine in pursuit.
The bit of checkered linen she had been
trying to sew trailed behind her, for the
thread was still attached to the needle,
which she had stuck into the bosom of
It was wonderful how clever Flying
Childers was in concealing himself.
Twice Catharine thought she had lost
him, and both times she finally descried
him still gliding on, like a moving ink-
spot, across the clear patches of sunshine,
and anon losing himself among the shad-
ows of the leaves.
Up Craven Street, round through
Church Street, down Ferry Street to
Mulberry went Catharine, pursuing the
cooter. She pounced upon him just
where Bay Street clings along the top
of the bluff overlooking the river.
The checkered linen had fallen from
the needle long ago carrying with it the
long white thread; and when Catharine
dropped down under a great live-oak
and gathered her treasured cooter close
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 15
in both hands, she had forgotten alike
the schoolmaster and the seam. She had
even forgotten that she was a truant.
There was nothing to rouse her con-
science under the oak. Like many an
older sinner, Catharine was simply drift-
ing, not consciously doing wrong.
Below her lay the ferry, with the lum-
bering ferry-boat, freighted with many
passengers, heavily lurching across the
river. that ferry belonged to her mother,
Catharine knew; and she knew, too, that
every passenger had to pay a royal, or
riall, to cross, except on Sunday, or in
times of alarm, when they might cross
free of charge.
Everybody was at the market, and
Catharine, lying with her head against
the oak's mossy root, felt quite alone in
the world. One little tear gathered in
either soft gray eye as she gazed over
there where the trees grew so thick
around her beloved Luckins Plantation,
and longed for her dear, pretty mother.
Little Catharine, with her black, unre-
sponsive pet close clasped in one hot
hand, knew not what ailed her, but was
sad and heartsick and angry and wistful
by turns, though unable to formulate the
grievances that so oppressed her heart.
16 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
A flat, wide-bottomed Pettiauger hove
into sight down the river, and she
spelled out the red letters painted upon
it, "Elias Ball, Coming T." Then she
sat up, with her hair clinging in moist
rings to her forehead, and her lips a little
parted with the excitement of a sudden
She adjusted her little mob-cap firmly
on her head. Over there, next to Luck
ins's, was Coming T-a fine old planta-
tion, owned by the father of the gentle-
man her mother had last married. Might
she not get there before night by walking
very fast along the little path that led
through Luckins? The big house was
empty, for old Mr. Ball now lived in
town, but she knew Cato and Fortune
and Eneas and January, his house serv-
ants, very well.
Surely they would let her stay there
until her mother should come for her, as
she certainly would when she should learn
how very unhappy she was at school. Or
if they would not, might she not find com-
fort at Fish Pond, which was the very
next plantation, with her Aunt Hannah
and her Uncle John Harleston?
It was at Fish Pond that she always
went to spend her Saturdays and Sun-
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 17
days-only-to-day-alas! She remem-
bered. She had been kept in to-day as
a punishment for idleness, and told to sew
that interminable seam.
Now the child looked about her with
a growing fear. Doubts, born of all these
recent revelations of the untoward possi-
bilities of life, began to throng her mind.
What if she should go, and her mother
should not come for her, after all, but
should send her back to be dealt with by
Or-as she instinctively marked the
mellowing light slanting through the cur-
tains of moss that hung between her and
the western sky-what if she were to lose
her way through Luckins? She might
even meet with a bear or an Indian; or
worse still, with the Ghost of the Robin-
Poor little Catharine arose, trembling
with the terror of her thoughts. Well
might she tremble, poor mite! For what
was this that approached, lowering upon
her from behind the oak?
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