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Dely’s Cow
by [?]

I went down to the farm-yard one day last month, and as I opened the gate I heard Pat Malony say, “Biddy! Biddy!” I thought at first he was calling a hen, but then I remembered the hens were all shut into the poultry-house that day, to be sorted, and numbered, and condemned: so I looked again, thinking perhaps Pat’s little lame sister had strayed up from the village and gone into the barn after Sylvy’s kittens, or a pigeon-egg, or to see a new calf; but, to my surprise, I saw a red cow, of no particular beauty or breed, coming out of the stable-door, looking about her as if in search of somebody or something; and when Pat called again, “Biddy! Biddy! Biddy!” the creature walked up to him across the yard, stretched out her awkward neck, sniffed a little, and cropped from his hand the wisp of rowen hay he held, as composedly as if she were a tame kitten, and then followed him all round the yard for more, which I am sorry to say she did not get. Pat had only displayed her accomplishments to astonish me, and then shut her in her stall again. I afterward hunted out Biddy’s history, and here it is.

On the Derby turnpike, just before you enter Hanerford, everybody that ever travelled that road will remember Joseph German’s bakery. It was a red brick house, with dusty windows toward the street, and just inside the door a little shop, where Mr. German retailed the scalloped cookies, fluted gingerbread, long loaves of bread, and scantly filled pies, in which he dealt, and which were manufactured in the long shop, where in summer you caught glimpses of flour-barrels all a-row, and men who might have come out of those barrels, so strewed with flour were all their clothes,— paper-cap and white apron scarcely to be distinguished from the rest of the dress, as far as color and dustiness went. Here, too, when her father drove out the cart every afternoon, sitting in front of the counter with her sewing or her knitting, Dely German, the baker’s pretty daughter, dealt out the cakes and rattled the pennies in her apron-pocket with so good a grace, that not a young farmer came into Hanerford with grain or potatoes or live stock, who did not cast a glance in at the shop-door, going toward town, and go in on his return, ostensibly to buy a sheet of gingerbread or a dozen cookies for his refreshment on the drive homeward. It was a curious thing to see how much hungrier they were on the way home than coming into town. Though they might have had a good dinner in Hanerford, that never appeased their appetites entirely, while in the morning they had driven their slow teams all the way without so much as thinking of cakes and cheese! So by the time Dely was seventeen, her black eyes and bright cheeks were well known for miles about, and many a youth, going home to the clean kitchen where his old mother sat by the fire knitting, or his spinster sister scolded and scrubbed over his muddy boot-tracks, thought how pretty it would look to see Dely German sitting on the other side, in her neat calico frock and white apron, her black hair shining smooth, and her fresh, bright face looking a welcome.

But Dely did not think about any one of them in a reciprocal manner; she liked them all pretty well, but she loved nobody except her father and mother, her three cats and all their kittens, the big dog, the old horse, and a wheezy robin that she kept in a cage, because her favorite cat had half killed it one day, and it never could fly anymore. For all these dumb things she had a really intense affection: as for her father and mother, she seemed to be a part of them; it never occurred to her that they could leave her, or she them; and when old Joe German died one summer day, just after Dely was seventeen, she was nearly distracted. However, people who must work for their living have to get over their sorrows, practically, much sooner than those who can afford time to indulge them; and as Dely knew more about the business and the shop than anybody but the foreman, she had to resume her place at the counter before her father had been buried a week. It was a great source of embarrassment to her rural admirers to see Dely in her black frock, pale and sober, when they went in; they did not know what to say; they felt as if their hands and feet had grown very big all at once, and as if the cents in their pockets never could be got at, at which they turned red and hot and got choked, and went away, swearing internally at their own blundering shyness, and deeper smitten than ever with Dely, because they wanted to comfort her so very much, and didn’t know how!