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My Visitor

From Ailenroc鈥檚 Book, by Cornelia Alexander

There was a tap at my door, and, upon opening it, I found a visitor. At first I thought it was a demure little maiden, not quite five years old, with whom I am well acquainted; but when I saw the company air and the gayly-flowered clothes bag pinned around her, I knew she must be a stranger, so I seriously invited her in.

鈥淲hat is your name?鈥 I asked, after we had said 鈥淕ood morning鈥 and remarked upon the coldness of the same.

鈥淢y name is 鈥楳iss Happy Land,鈥欌 she answered; and, looking into the guileless face, the trusting, innocent eyes, I believed her.

A few judicious questions loosened Miss Happy Land鈥檚 tongue, and she told me the following remarkable story:

鈥淚 have a baby,鈥 she said, airily, patting a bang which fell too low on her forehead鈥斺渁 very beautiful baby, two years old. It can walk, but it can鈥檛 talk鈥攃an鈥檛 say a word鈥攋ust hollers and bawls all day long. It can cut paper dolls; it sits on the floor and cuts paper dolls all day long. Its name is 鈥楥obanjo.鈥欌

When asked who was caring for Cobanjo in her absence, she said she had a good negro woman to look after her, that the woman was real careful and was quite a help to her, and was named 鈥淐amangy.鈥 The baby鈥檚 papa, she said, was dead鈥攈ad died only the day before with neuralgia or something. She had a good doctor with him, she told me, and the doctor鈥檚 name was 鈥淣inkumgoo.鈥 She didn鈥檛 know he was going to die, and he didn鈥檛, either鈥攈e just died.

I expressed my sympathy and asked her how she took his death. With a long sigh, she answered that she felt 鈥渢ired out鈥攋ust tired out鈥攂ecause he died.鈥

鈥淏ut my father lives with me,鈥 she said, brightening. 鈥淗is name is 鈥業go Pup;鈥 but he can鈥檛 do much, for he fell down and broke two of his legs off, and has to hop on two big sticks, and his hair hangs down to the floor.鈥

I was thunderstruck at his misfortunes, and hinted that I thought an old gentleman with two broken legs and such long hair must be quite a burden to her.

鈥淥 no!鈥 she said. 鈥淏ut we鈥檝e had very cold weather, and didn鈥檛 have much fire, and my baby鈥檚 nose froze off.鈥

鈥淔roze off?鈥 I repeated. 鈥淒ear, dear! How unfortunate!鈥

She swallowed a few times and looked searchingly into my face. Seeing no incredulity there, she resumed: 鈥淵essum, it had a sore on its nose, and the sore froze and the whole nose come off.鈥

鈥淚t must be a great deal of trouble,鈥 I said, when I could speak.

鈥淪o it is,鈥 she assured me, 鈥渂ut the other children take care of it for me. Did you know I had seventy-five children?鈥

I told her I never dreamed of such a thing, and hinted that I would like to hear their names.

鈥淢y oldest,鈥 she said, 鈥渋s Aba Jonsin, then there is Lula Brit and John and Mary Whitlock, and my baby has two dolls鈥擶ebb and Cozette. I鈥檝e forgot the other names.鈥

I said I didn鈥檛 wonder at her forgetfulness, and she then told me she had a good neighbor named Mrs. Arbreeching, who often invited her to tea, and whose table was as long as the closet door. Her neighbor often kept the baby for her when she wanted to attend oyster suppers, etc., and was a good neighbor鈥攄id I not think so? I assured her that I did, and, gathering the drapery of the gay clothes bag around her and giving me a pressing invitation to call, the embryo author, actress, or housekeeper bowed herself out, and I had a good laugh behind her back.

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