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The National Stockman and Farmer.

by Willa Cather.

From The National Stockman and Farmer.,  (November 26, 1896):  18.

Wee Winkie's Wanderings.

Wee Winkie sat looking sadly about her that July afternoon. She was tired of playing and nothing would go right. The acorn cups would not stand up properly on the little moss bank around which her dolls were seated, and the pies made of pinning sassafras leaves together over ripe cherries did not taste as good as usual. Winkie explained to her corn-cob doll that the pies did not "rise." She was not absolutely sure that this was right, but she had a vague idea that everything that was baked should rise. Then her dolls were glum and would not talk; they were all pouting, Winkie said, because she would not let them play in the mint bed along the creek and soil their white frocks. Winkie considered it a great misfortune to have children with sullen dispositions. As she was meditating upon these things she heard the sharp click of the mower in the meadow.

Now she had it! She would bundle every one of those sullen dolls into bed, it would be good enough for them, and she would break the unsatisfactory acorn cups and give the sassafras pies that had not risen to her pet pink pig, and she herself would put on her wide white sun hat with the blue ribbons and go down and ride on the mower with her father. That would be something like it.

So Wee Winkie caught up six dolls at once and rushed into the house. "Mamma, I am going down into the meadow to ride the mower. Please get my hat."

Winkie's mamma looked up with some surprise from the book she was reading.

"No, I think you had better not go to-day, little daughter. You remember how the yellow jackets flew up and stung you the last time. I think you are tired now and need a nap more than anything else."

When Winkie wanted anything she wanted it very much, as mamma knew. Her bright face clouded over and she dropped her dolls.

"I think it's real mean you won't let me go. O please, do! I won't cry if the yellow jackets do sting."

"No, Winkie, not this afternoon. I think you had better go upstairs and lie down, or I shall have to make you hem some towels."

Winkie began to pout.

"No, I don't want to hem towels. I don't like anything about this place and I just think I'll run away to the mountains, so I do."

Now this was not the first time Winkie had threatened to run away, and her mamma thought this was as good a time as any to cure her of the notion.

"Now don't say that Winkie, you know you won't."

"Some day I will," said Winkie, tossing her head.

Her mamma got up and said in a voice that was strange to Winkie and hurt her feelings more than ever.

"Very well then, get your hat and go. Just run away now and have done with it."

"But I must take some cookies and my dolls and things," objected Winkie, rather startled, "people always do when they run away."

"Lay what you want on the table and I will tie it up for you. You will have to start very soon now if you are going to get to the mountains to-night."

Winkie did not understand this sort of treatment at all, she had expected her mother to ask how she could ever get along without her little girl. She did not feel quite so happy about running away now. She laid her small possessions out on the table, and mamma tied them up in one of papa's big handkerchiefs and put on Winkie's hat. Then she said, "Hurry up, little daughter, you will have to go fast if you get to the mountains," and shut the door without even kissing Winkie good-bye.

Some way it seemed to Winkie that the sun did not shine so brightly as it had, and the mountain seemed further away than it ever had before. She walked slowly down the dusty road carrying her little bundle over her shoulder, as she had seen the gipsy women do. Now that no one cared for her any more and she had no place to live she would be a gipsy too. That seemed to be a good idea. She walked down the old Hollow road a little way to where she could see the gipsies' covered wagons through the trees. But she did not feel very much like going up to them and asking to join them. The women were tanned so dark and the men were so rough that she was rather afraid of them, so she decided she would go off and start a gipsy camp of her own.

Slowly Wee Winkie turned her steps back toward the mountain that seemed so big and dark and steep. As she crossed the little foot bridge of the creek she wondered what would happen if she should fall in with no one there to fish her out. She would drown probably, but her mother wouldn't care much if she did. Winkie cried a little when she thought about it. She stopped to pick a spray of golden rod, but a big noisy bee, all splashed with pollen, flew out at her so fiercely that she ran away in fright. Then she met their old cow Pinkey grazing by the roadside, and was a little cheered by the sight of that familiar cow. But nothing went right with Winkie that day, and even Pinkey, the gentlest old animal about the place, lowered her head and ran away with a loud "Moo!" and her bell clattering wildly. This was entirely too much, Winkie felt like an outcast indeed. She resolved that she would not speak to anything else, not to a single living creature. She climbed over the rail fence and climbed slowly up the big hill in front of the house; that was the nearest way to the mountain. But when she got on top someway she could not go over the brow of the hill and lose sight of the house. She sat down despondently on a stump and watched the sun going down, without the heart to even eat her cookies. Mamma, from the window where she watched, saw that disconsolate little figure sitting upon the hill top in the sunset, and she laughed and cried a little too. She watched a long time, but Winkie sat very still. At last mamma saw her get up and come slowly down the hill toward the house. Then mamma went about her work, and presently she heard the door open softly and poor tired little Wee Winkie with her head hanging low and her bundle in her hand came slipping in. Her dress was wet with the dew of the long grass, and her shoes were scratched by the briars, and her ears were full of dust. But mamma washed her and gave her supper, and tucked her into her little bed and never said a word about her running away, and neither did Winkie.