Dicky Smiley’s Birthday by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Story type: Literature“In order to be especially beneficial and effective, story-telling should be connected with the events and occurrences of life.” …

Story type: Literature

“In order to be especially beneficial and effective, story-telling should be connected with the events and occurrences of life.”– Froebel.

Dicky Smiley was eight years old when all these things happened that I am going to tell you; eight years old, and as bright as a steel button. It was very funny that his name should be Smiley, for his face was just like a sunbeam, and if he ever cried at all it was only for a minute, and then the smiles would creep out and chase the tear-drops away from the blue sky of his eyes.

Dicky’s mother tried to call him Richard, because it was his papa’s name, but it never would say itself somehow, and even when she did remember, and called him “Richard,” his baby sister Dot would cry, “Mamma, don’t scold Dicky.”

He had once a good, loving papa like yours, when he was a tiny baby in long white clothes; but the dear papa marched away with the blue- coated soldiers one day, and never came back any more to his little children; for he died far, far away from home, on a green battlefield, with many other soldiers. You can think how sad and lonely Dicky’s mamma was, and how she hugged her three babies close in her arms, and said:–

“Darlings, you haven’t any father now, but the dear God will help your mother to take care of you!”

And now she was working hard, so very hard, from morning till night every day to get money to buy bread and milk and clothes for Bess and Dot and Dicky.

But Dicky was a good little fellow and helped his mamma ever so much, pulling out bastings from her needlework, bringing in the kindling and shavings from the shed, and going to the store for her butter and potatoes and eggs. So one morning she said:–

“Dicky, you have been such a help to me this summer, I’d like to give you something to make you very happy. Let us count the money in your bank–you earned it all yourself–and see what we could buy with it. To be sure, Bess wants a waterproof and Dot needs rubbers, but we do want our little boy to have a birthday present.”

“Oh, mamma,” cried he, clapping his hands, “what a happy day it will be! I shall buy that tool-box at the store round the corner! It’s such a beauty, with a little saw, a claw-hammer, a chisel, a screw-driver, and everything a carpenter needs. It costs just a dollar, exactly!”

Then they unscrewed the bank and found ninety-five cents, so that it would take only five cents more to make the dollar. Dicky earned that before he went to bed, by piling up wood for a neighbor; and his mamma changed all the little five and ten cent pieces into two bright half- dollars that chinked together joyfully in his trousers pocket.

The next morning he was up almost at the same time the robins and chimney-swallows flew out of their nests; jumped down the stairs, two at a time, and could scarcely eat his breakfast, such a hurry as he was in to buy the precious tool-box. He opened the front door, danced down the wooden steps, and there on the curb in front of the house stood a little girl, with a torn gingham apron, no shoes, no hat, and her nut-brown curls flying in the wind; worse than all, she was crying as if her heart would break.

“Why, little girl, what’s the matter?” asked Dicky, for he was a kind- hearted boy, and didn’t like to see people cry.

She took down her apron and sobbed:–

“Oh, I’ve lost my darling little brown dog, and I can never get him back!”

“Why, has somebody poisoned him–is he dead?” said Dicky.

She shook her head.

“No, oh no! The pound-man took him away in his cart–my sweet little bit of a dog; he has such a cunning little curly tail, and long, silky ears; he does all kinds of tricks, and they’ll never let me in at home without Bruno.”

And then she began to cry harder than ever, so that Dicky hardly knew what to say to her.

Now the pound, children, is a very large place somewhere near the city, with a high fence all around it, and inside are kept colts and horses, the little calves and mother cows, and the sheep and goats that run away from home, or are picked up by the roadside. The pound- man rides along the street in a big cart, which has a framework of slats built over it, so that it looks something like a chicken-coop on wheels, and in it–some of you have seen him do it–he puts the poor dogs that haven’t collars on, and whose masters haven’t paid for them. Then he rides away and locks them up in the great place inside the high fence, and they have to stay awhile. The dogs are killed if nobody comes for them.

“Well,” said Dicky, “let us go and see the pound-man. Do you know where he lives?”

“Yes, indeed,” answered the little girl, whose name was Lola. “I ran behind the cart all the way to the pound. I cried after Bruno, and Bruno whined for me, and poked his nose between the bars and tried to jump out, but he couldn’t. It’s a pretty long way there, and the man is as cross as two sticks.”

But they started off, and on and on they walked together, Dicky having tight hold of Lola’s hand, while she told him about the wonderful things Bruno could do; how he could go up and down a ladder, play the fife and beat the drum, make believe go to sleep, and dance a jig. It was by these tricks of his that Lola earned money for her uncle, with whom she lived; for her father and mother were both dead, and there was no one in the whole world who loved the little girl. The dear mother had died in a beautiful mountain country far across the ocean, and Lola and Bruno had been sent in a ship over to America. Now this dear, pretty mamma of Lola’s used to sing to her when she rocked her to sleep, and as she grew from a baby to a tiny girl she learned the little songs to sing to Bruno when he was a little puppy. Would you like to hear one of them? She used to sing it on the street corners, and at the end of the last verse that knowing, cunning, darling Bruno would yawn as if he could not keep awake another minute, tuck his silky head between his two fore paws, shut his bright eyes, give a tired little sigh, and stay fast asleep until Lola waked him. This is the song:-

Wake, lit-tle Bru-no! Wake, lit-tle Bru-no,

Wake, lit-tle Bru-no quick-ly!

When the two children came to the pound and saw the little house at the gate where the pound-man lived, Dicky was rather frightened and hardly dared walk up the steps; but after a moment he thought to himself, “I won’t be a coward; I haven’t done anything wrong.” So he gave the door a rousing knock, for an eight-year-old boy, and brought the man out at once.

“What do you want?” said he, in a gruff voice, for he did seem rather cross.

“Please, sir, I want Lola’s little brown dog. He’s all the dog she has, and she earns money with him. He does funny tricks for ten cents.”

“How do you think I know whether I’ve got a brown dog in there or not?” growled he. “You’d better run home to your mothers, both of you.”

At this Lola began to cry again, and Dicky said quickly:–

“Oh, you ‘d know him soon as anything,–he has such a cunning curly tail and long silky ears. His name is Bruno.”

“Well,” snapped the man, “where’s your money? Hurry up! I want my breakfast.”

“Money!” cried Dicky, looking at Lola.

“Money!” whispered little Lola, looking back at Dicky.

“Yes,” said he, “of course! Give me a dollar and I will give you the dog.”

“But,” answered Lola, “I haven’t a bit of money; I never have any.”

“Neither have”–began Dicky; and then his fingers crept into his trousers pocket and felt the two silver half-dollars that were to buy his tool-box. He had forgotten all about that tool-box for an hour, but how could he–how could he ever give away that precious money which he had been so long in getting together, five cents at a time? He remembered the sharp little saw, the stout hammer, the cunning plane, bright chisel, and shining screw-driver, and his fingers closed round the money tightly; but just then he looked at pretty little Lola, with her sad face, her swollen eyes and the brave red lips she was trying to keep from quivering with tears. That was enough; he quickly drew out the silver dollar, and said to the pound-man:–

“Here’s your dollar–give us the dog!”

The man looked much surprised. Not many little eight-year-old boys have a dollar in their trousers pocket.

“Where did you get it?” he asked.

“I earned every cent of it,” answered poor Dicky with a lump in his throat and a choking voice. “I brought in coal and cut kindlings for most six months before I got enough, and there ain’t another tool-box in the world so good as that one for a dollar–but I want Bruno!”

Then the pound-man showed them a little flight of steps that led up to a square hole in the wall of the pound, and told them to go up and look through it and see if the dog was there. They climbed up and put their two rosy eager faces at the rough little window. “Bruno! Bruno!” called little Lola, and no Bruno came; but every frightened homesick little doggy in that prison poked up his nose, wagged his tail, and started for the voice. It didn’t matter whether they were Fidos, or Carlos, or Rovers, or Pontos; they knew that they were lonesome little dogs, and perhaps somebody had remembered them. Lola’s tender heart ached at the sight of so many fatherless and motherless dogs, and she cried,–

“No, no, you poor darlings! I haven’t come for you; I want my own Bruno.”

“Sing for him, and may be he will come,” said Dicky; and Lola leaned her elbow on the window sill and sang:–

Lit-tle shoes are sold at the gate-way of Heaven,

And to all the tattered lit-tle an-gels are giv-en;

Slum-ber my dar-ling, Slum-ber my dar-ling,

Slum-ber my dar-ling sweet-ly.

Now Bruno was so tired with running from the pound-man, so hungry, so frightened, and so hoarse with barking that he had gone to sleep; but when he heard Lola’s voice singing the song he knew so well, he started up, and out he bounded half awake–the dearest, loveliest little brown dog in the world, with a cunning curly tail sticking up in a round bob behind, two long silky ears that almost touched the ground, and four soft white feet.

Then they were two such glad children, and such a glad little brown dog was Bruno! Why, he kissed Lola’s bare feet and hands and face, and nearly chewed her apron into rags, he was so delighted to see his mistress again. Even the cross pound-man smiled and said he was the prettiest puppy, and the smartest, he had ever had in the pound, and that when he had shut him up the night before he had gone through all his funny tricks in hopes that he would be let out.

Then Dicky and Lola walked back home over the dusty road, Bruno running along beside them, barking at the birds, sniffing at the squirrels, and chasing all the chickens and kittens he met on the way, till at last they reached the street corner, where Lola turned to go to her home, after kissing her new friend and thanking him for being so good and kind to her.

But what about Master Dicky himself, who had lost his tool-box? He didn’t feel much like a smiling boy just then. He crept in at the back door, and when he saw his dear mother’s face in the kitchen he couldn’t stand it a minute longer, but burst out crying, and told her all about it.

“Well, my little son,” said she, “I’m very, very sorry. I wish I could give you another dollar, but I haven’t any money to spare. You did just right to help Lola find Bruno, and buy him back for her, and I’m very proud of my boy; but you can’t give away the dollar and have the tool-box too. So wipe your eyes, and try to be happy. You didn’t eat any breakfast, dear, take a piece of nice bread and sugar.”

So Dicky dried his tears and began to eat.

After a while he wanted to wipe his sticky, sugary little mouth, and as he took his clean handkerchief out of his pocket, two shining, chinking, clinking round things tumbled out on the floor and rolled under the kitchen table! What could they have been! Why, his two silver half-dollars, to be sure. And where in the world did they come from, do you suppose? Why, it was the nicest, funniest thing! The pound-man was not so cross after all, for he thought Lola and Dicky were two such kind children, and Bruno such a cunning dog, that he could not bear to take Dicky’s dollar away from him; so while the little boy was looking the other way the pound-man just slipped the money back into Dick’s bit of a pocket without saying a word. Wasn’t that a beautiful surprise?

So Dicky ran to the corner store as fast as his feet could carry him, and bought the tool-box.

Every Saturday afternoon he has such a pleasant time playing with it! And who do you suppose sits on the white kitchen floor with Dot and Bess, watching him make dolls’ tables and chairs with his carpenter’s tools? Why, Lola, to be sure, and a little brown dog too, with a cunning curly tail turned up in a round bob behind, and two long silky ears touching the floor. For Dick’s mamma had such a big heart that I do believe it would have held all the children in the world, and as Lola’s uncle didn’t care for her the least little bit, he gave her to this mamma of Dicky’s, who grew to love this little girl almost as well as she loved her own Dicky and Dot and Bess.

Was this helpful?

0 / 0

Leave a Reply 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *