The elders stopped breathing, and listened. Foot-steps! faintly caught between the gusts of wind. They came nearer, nearer—louder, louder—then passed by and faded away. The elders drew deep breaths of relief, and the papa said: “A story, is it? A gay one?”

“No, papa: a dreadful one.”

Papa wanted to shift to the gay kind, but the child stood by her rights—as per agreement, she was to have anything she commanded. He was a good Puritan soldier and had passed his word—he saw that he must make it good. She said:

“Papa, we mustn’t always have gay ones. Nurse says people don’t always have gay times. Is that true, papa? She says so.”

The mamma sighed, and her thoughts drifted to her troubles again. The papa said, gently: “It is true, dear. Troubles have to come; it is a pity, but it is true.”

“Oh, then tell a story about them, papa—a dreadful one, so that we’ll shiver, and feel just as if it was us. Mamma, you snuggle up close, and hold one of Abby’s hands, so that if it’s too dreadful it’ll be easier for us to bear it if we are all snuggled up together, you know. Now you can begin, papa.”

“Well, once there were three Colonels—”

“Oh, goody! I know Colonels, just as easy! It’s because you are one, and I know the clothes. Go on, papa.”

“And in a battle they had committed a breach of discipline.”

The large words struck the child’s ear pleasantly, and she looked up, full of wonder and interest, and said:

“Is it something good to eat, papa?”

The parents almost smiled, and the father answered:

“No, quite another matter, dear. They exceeded their orders.”

“Is that someth—”

“No; it’s as uneatable as the other. They were ordered to feign an attack on a strong position in a losing fight, in order to draw the enemy about and give the Commonwealth’s forces a chance to retreat; but in their enthusiasm they overstepped their orders, for they turned the feint into a fact, and carried the position by storm, and won the day and the battle. The Lord General was very angry at their disobedience, and praised them highly, and ordered them to London to be tried for their lives.”

“Is it the great General Cromwell, papa?”


“Oh, I’ve seen him, papa! and when he goes by our house so grand on his big horse, with the soldiers, he looks so—so—well, I don’t know just how, only he looks as if he isn’t satisfied, and you can see the people are afraid of him; but I’m not afraid of him, because he didn’t look like that at me.”

“Oh, you dear prattler! Well, the Colonels came prisoners to London, and were put upon their honor, and allowed to go and see their families for the last—”


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