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My Visitor

From Ailenroc’s 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.

“What is your name?” I asked, after we had said “Good morning” and remarked upon the coldness of the same.

“My name is ‘Miss Happy Land,’” she answered; and, looking into the guileless face, the trusting, innocent eyes, I believed her.

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

“I have a baby,” she said, airily, patting a bang which fell too low on her forehead—“a very beautiful baby, two years old. It can walk, but it can’t talk—can’t say a word—just 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 ‘Cobanjo.’”

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 “Camangy.” The baby’s papa, she said, was dead—had died only the day before with neuralgia or something. She had a good doctor with him, she told me, and the doctor’s name was “Ninkumgoo.” She didn’t know he was going to die, and he didn’t, either—he just died.

I expressed my sympathy and asked her how she took his death. With a long sigh, she answered that she felt “tired out—just tired out—because he died.”

“But my father lives with me,” she said, brightening. “His name is ‘Igo Pup;’ but he can’t 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.”

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.

“O no!” she said. “But we’ve had very cold weather, and didn’t have much fire, and my baby’s nose froze off.”

“Froze off?” I repeated. “Dear, dear! How unfortunate!”

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

“It must be a great deal of trouble,” I said, when I could speak.

“So it is,” she assured me, “but the other children take care of it for me. Did you know I had seventy-five children?”

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

“My oldest,” she said, “is Aba Jonsin, then there is Lula Brit and John and Mary Whitlock, and my baby has two dolls—Webb and Cozette. I’ve forgot the other names.”

I said I didn’t 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—did 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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