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The Two Altars, Or Two Pictures In One
by [?]


The wellsweep of the old house on the hill was relieved, dark and clear, against the reddening sky, as the early winter sun was going down in the west. It was a brisk, clear, metallic evening; the long drifts of snow blushed crimson red on their tops, and lay in shades of purple and lilac in the hollows; and the old wintry wind brushed shrewdly along the plain, tingling people’s noses, blowing open their cloaks, puffing in the back of their necks, and showing other unmistakable indications that he was getting up steam for a real roistering night.

“Hurrah! How it blows!” said little Dick Ward, from the top of the mossy wood pile.

Now Dick had been sent to said wood pile, in company with his little sister Grace, to pick up chips, which, every body knows, was in the olden time considered a wholesome and gracious employment, and the peculiar duty of the rising generation. But said Dick, being a boy, had mounted the wood pile, and erected there a flagstaff, on which he was busily tying a little red pocket handkerchief, occasionally exhorting Grace “to be sure and pick up fast.”

“O, yes, I will,” said Grace; “but you see the chips have got ice on ’em, and make my hands so cold!”

“O, don’t stop to suck your thumbs! Who cares for ice? Pick away, I say, while I set up the flag of liberty.”

So Grace picked away as fast as she could, nothing doubting but that her cold thumbs were in some mysterious sense an offering on the shrine of liberty; while soon the red handkerchief, duly secured, fluttered and snapped in the brisk evening wind.

“Now you must hurrah, Gracie, and throw up your bonnet,” said Dick, as he descended from the pile.

“But won’t it lodge down in some place in the wood pile?” suggested Grace, thoughtfully.

“O, never fear; give it to me, and just holler now, Gracie, ‘Hurrah for liberty;’ and we’ll throw up your bonnet and my cap; and we’ll play, you know, that we are a whole army, and I’m General Washington.”

So Grace gave up her little red hood, and Dick swung his cap, and up they both went into the air; and the children shouted, and the flag snapped and fluttered, and altogether they had a merry time of it. But then the wind–good for nothing, roguish fellow!–made an ungenerous plunge at poor Grace’s little hood, and snipped it up in a twinkling, and whisked it off, off, off,–fluttering and bobbing up and down, quite across a wide, waste, snowy field, and finally lodged it on the top of a tall, strutting rail, that was leaning, very independently, quite another way from all the other rails of the fence.

“Now see, do see!” said Grace; “there goes my bonnet! What will Aunt Hitty say?” and Grace began to cry.

“Don’t you cry, Gracie; you offered it up to liberty, you know: it’s glorious to give up every thing for liberty.”

“O, but Aunt Hitty won’t think so.”

“Well, don’t cry, Gracie, you foolish girl! Do you think I can’t get it? Now, only play that that great rail is a fort, and your bonnet is a prisoner in it, and see how quick I’ll take the fort and get it!” and Dick shouldered a stick and started off.

* * * * *

“What upon airth keeps those children so long? I should think they were making chips!” said Aunt Mehetabel; “the fire’s just a going out under the tea kettle.”

By this time Grace had lugged her heavy basket to the door, and was stamping the snow off her little feet, which were so numb that she needed to stamp, to be quite sure they were yet there. Aunt Mehetabel’s shrewd face was the first that greeted her as the door opened.