Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher


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Page 1




ILLUSTRATIONS

Uncle Henry looked at her, eying her sidewise
over the top of one spectacle-glass Frontispiece

Elizabeth Ann stood up before the doctor.
"Do you know," said Aunt Abigail, "I think
it's going to be real nice, having a little girl
in the house again"

She had greatly enjoyed doing her own hair.

"Oh, he's asking for more!" cried Elizabeth Ann

Betsy shut her teeth together hard, and started across
"What's the matter, Molly? What's the matter?"

Betsy and Ellen and the old doll

He had fallen asleep with his head on his arms

Never were dishes washed better!

Betsy was staring down at her shoes, biting her
lips and winking her eyes






CHAPTER I

AUNT HARRIET HAS A COUGH

When this story begins, Elizabeth Ann, who is the heroine of it, was a
little girl of nine, who lived with her Great-aunt Harriet in a medium-
sized city in a medium-sized State in the middle of this country; and
that's all you need to know about the place, for it's not the important
thing in the story; and anyhow you know all about it because it was
probably very much like the place you live in yourself.

Elizabeth Ann's Great-aunt Harriet was a widow who was not very rich or
very poor, and she had one daughter, Frances, who gave piano lessons to
little girls. They kept a "girl" whose name was Grace and who had asthma
dreadfully and wasn't very much of a "girl" at all, being nearer fifty
than forty. Aunt Harriet, who was very tender-hearted, kept her chiefly
because she couldn't get any other place on account of her coughing so
you could hear her all over the house.

So now you know the names of all the household. And this is how they
looked: Aunt Harriet was very small and thin and old, Grace was very
small and thin and middle-aged, Aunt Frances (for Elizabeth Ann called
her "Aunt," although she was really, of course, a first-cousin-once-
removed) was small and thin and if the light wasn't too strong might be
called young, and Elizabeth Ann was very small and thin and little. And
yet they all had plenty to eat. I wonder what was the matter with them?

It was certainly not because they were not good, for no womenkind in all
the world had kinder hearts than they. You have heard how Aunt Harriet
kept Grace (in spite of the fact that she was a very depressing person)
on account of her asthma; and when Elizabeth Ann's father and mother
both died when she was a baby, although there were many other cousins
and uncles and aunts in the family, these two women fairly rushed upon
the little baby-orphan, taking her home and surrounding her henceforth
with the most loving devotion.

They had said to themselves that it was their manifest duty to save the
dear little thing from the other relatives, who had no idea about how to
bring up a sensitive, impressionable child, and they were sure, from the
way Elizabeth Ann looked at six months, that she was going to be a
sensitive, impressionable child. It is possible also that they were a
little bored with their empty life in their rather forlorn, little brick
house in the medium-sized city, and that they welcomed the occupation
and new interests which a child would bring in.

But they thought that they chiefly desired to save dear Edward's child
from the other kin, especially from the Putney cousins, who had written
down from their Vermont farm that they would be glad to take the little
girl into their family. But "ANYTHING but the Putneys!" said Aunt
Harriet, a great many times. They were related only by marriage to her,
and she had her own opinion of them as a stiffnecked, cold-hearted,
undemonstrative, and hard set of New Englanders. "I boarded near them
one summer when you were a baby, Frances, and I shall never forget the
way they were treating some children visiting there! ... Oh, no, I don't
mean they abused them or beat them ... but such lack of sympathy, such
perfect indifference to the sacred sensitiveness of child-life, such a
starving of the child-heart ... No, I shall never forget it! They had
chores to do ... as though they had been hired men!"

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 22nd Sep 2019, 16:32