LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
MONSIEUR DUTARQUE, the schoolmas-
ter, had been aroused from his
perusal of Plato by the shrill and
growing clamor of his wife, who, on find-
ing Catharine absent, had searched for
her in every likely and unlikely spot, and
had finally braved her husband's wrath
by pouring out to him her suspicions that
the child had fallen into the river, been
carried off by a bear, scalped by an In-
dian, or had bribed the boy Cupid to take
her to her aunt's, where she would proba-
bly complain of them, to their great hurt
They did not pause to consider that a
baby soon forgets, and has no power to
harbor thoughts of vengeance, nor that
timid little Catharine had scarcely mental
or physical force to plan any bold or
daring scheme of escape.
But Mr. Elias Ball was a very impor-
tant personage in the Parish of St.
John's, and little Catharine was con-
nected on both sides with some of the
most influential people in the Province.
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 19
She had been put in the care of the Du-
tarques only temporarily, and if aught
should befall her while with them, woe
betide the unlucky schoolmaster and his
If the usher, Mr. Macnamara, had not
chosen to absent himself this day, Mon-
sieur Dutarque felt sure this thing would
not have happened, for the child and the
usher had from the first shown such a
liking for one another's society that the
schoolmaster and his wife had long ago
ceased to concern themselves overmuch
about their whereabouts outside of school.
The truth was that Monsieur Du-
tarque was by no means a fit person to
be master of Childbury School.
It could not be denied that he had the
requisite qualifications prescribed by law.
It was ordained "That the Master shall
be of the religion of the Church of Eng-
land and conform to the same, and shall
be capable to teach the learned languages
-that is to say, the Latine and Greek
tongues-and also the useful part of the
Mathematicks, and to catechize and in-
struct the youth in the principles of the
Christian religion as professed in the
Church of England."
But these attainments were far from
20 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
qualifying him to have the care of the
soul and body of such a will-o'-the-wisp
little woodland princess as Catharine
Chicken, whose eyes were always wide
and brilliant with dreams, and whose lips
were as tremulous as moonlight.
The poor, shy, underpaid usher, in his
shabby kerseys- "just like the negroes
wore!" (Catharine thought with wonder
when first she saw him)-who taught
writing at thirty shillings per annum,
arithmetic at fifty shillings, and "mathe-
maticks," including the art of navigation
and surveying, at a sum not exceeding
six pounds per annum, was far better
suited to guard the soul of a child.
For, despite his shabby clothes, he
could meet Catharine on her own high
ground, where gnomes and elves disport-
ed nightly under every quick-set hedge,
where kindly giants and malicious dwarfs
were every-day affairs, and where the
whole round world was made for little
boys and girls by a God Who loved and
All this aside, the master was dread-
fully angry at being interrupted, and
being a coward, was mortally afraid of
blame in case aught of harm should befall
his missing pupil.
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 21
When dinner-time came and passed
and Catharine came not, he straightened
his rather dingy neck-cloth before the
mirror, adjusted the buckles at his knee,
exchanged his shabby beaded moccasins
for low-cut shoes with buckles, put on his
three-cornered hat, gave a parting pat to
his enormous cuffs, smoothed down his
waistcoat till it reached nearly to his
knees, and bade his wife bring him
forthwith his brace of horse-pistols and a
This the woman did in haste. She was
not afraid of what might have befallen
Catharine; but, like her husband, she was
mightily afraid of blame, and she agreed
with great promptness to Monsieur Du-
tarque's parting injunction not to say a
word of the affair until he should return.
Then Monsieur Dutarque strode down
Craven Street-trying, even in his ex-
citement, to impart by his high bearing
a look of majesty to his diminutive form
-his long coat flapping against his thin
legs, and a sense of mingled wrath and
perturbation in his breast.
He was prepared for anything-to
slay a whole tribe of Cussoes or Chero-
kees with his horse-pistols, to lasso an
angry bear, or to pull Catharine out of
22 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
the deepest depths of Cooper River with
When he found the familiar piece of
linen lying where Catharine had dropped
it, midway between his house and the now
fast-emptying Market Square, it seemed
to him an omen confirming his worst
fears; and, turning, he waved it with a
gesture of despair toward where he knew
his wife was watching him through an
But when, after long wanderings, he
entered at length the grove which oc-
cupied the greater part of "Colledge
Square," and there rose before him from
the foot of the oak Catharine herself,
frightened and pale, but unharmed, a
wild and ungovernable rage against the
child shook him through and through.
As was the measure of his former fears,
so was the present measure of his wrath.
Like all cowards, he was a bully, and
the sight of this startled little sinner-
who had had no dinner, and who had
really never meant to run away, though
she grew so guiltily pale at sight of him
-instead of appealing to his softer na-
ture, woke a real demon within him.
He would have liked to lash her with
a cowhide, as he had lashed slaves when
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 23
he had been an overseer-which part of
his career he had carefully concealed thus
far, since making his debut in the aristo-
cratic parish of St. John's.
But he could not do that. He could
not even strike her, as she stood before
him, for fear of the Harlestons, the Balls,
and the Ashbys. But he must avenge
upon her the inconvenience of his inter-
rupted study, his uncomfortable dinner,
his alarm; the haughty look Colonel
Broughton's liveried coachman had given
him as he passed Market Square, and
this oppressive weather, which made loco-
motion and exertion of any kind a weari-
ness to the flesh.
He would not thus have accounted for
his acts in words, but all these were, nev-
ertheless, goads to the irritability with
which he seized the childish arm and
" Sacr-r-r-r! " he hissed, with multitu-
dinous r's that, like the rattlesnake's
warning, seemed to Catharine to fill the
entire atmosphere. "What mean you-
naughty, wilful wench! Do you know
what hour of the day it is? What am I
to say to madame, your mother?"
Catharine's lip quivered. She tried to
speak, tried to hold her head high. as she
24 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
had seen her mother do, tried to answer
that she had meant no harm; but it all
broke out in one feeble, sobbing, childish
"I wanted to be outdoors! I wanted
to be outdoors!"
"Aha! Outdoors, is it?" said the
schoolmaster, with a malevolent uplifting
of the lip that left the long and cruel
teeth exposed. "Outdoors? I, myself,
will give you enough of outdoors, ma'm-
selle. Outdoors-parbleu! She shall haf
In his wrath, the excellent English of
the schoolmaster had momentarily es-
caped him. Straight up Ferry Street he
dragged her, she making no resistance,
and along Church Street as far as the
wicket gate made in the cedar fence. The
grip on her arm was like iron, and they
met no one to whom Catharine could call
to deliver her from her angry captor.
She kept Flying Childers tightly
clasped, glad in her extremity that her
pet would suffer without a sound. What
was Monsieur Dutarque about to do with
I doubt if he had formed any definite
plan of punishment, but a diabolical idea
suddenly occurred to him. Perhaps he
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 25
meant only to frighten her for a little
while. Perhaps he-was really half-insane
for the moment, carried away by the
tumult of his anger.
Perhaps if she had cried out he might
have paused and considered what he was
doing, and fear might have prevented
him from going on. But little Catharine
was limp and white in his grasp, and
uttered only a frightened moan, which he
found intensely exasperating.
So, in the shadow of the locust-trees,
so full of fragrance and the humming of
bees, he tied Catharine tightly with her
back against a tombstone, her hands be-
hind her and her shoulders strained back
with cruel knots.
"V'la!" he said, pausing to look at his
work. "You s'all haf yo' outdoors! and
ven you s'all be fatigue, you may call.
Maybe I come."
In adjusting a final knot, he noticed
her tight-clenched hand, forced it open,
and saw Flying Childers hidden there.
He snatched it away from her, and the
next moment Catharine's pet was dashed
to the ground, with all the force of the
schoolmaster's arm. Then he strode
It was a moment too great for tears
26 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
or sobs. Catharine cried out suddenly
in a voice of extreme pathos:
"M'sieu' Dutarque-dear M'sieu' Du-
Then her voice broke and failed her.
The plaintive, imploring words echoed
against the walls of the church, but did
not move the cruel heart of the master.
"Dear M'sieu' Dutarque!" she cried
The schoolmaster looked at her over
his shoulder and slammed the gate behind
him. He was gone.
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