A True Story
The sun was shining as we sat with our little cousins in the grass, wondering what game we should play. There weren’t enough “big kids” to play Red Rover, and we could only wade in the creek if the moms were watching. But the grown-ups were busy.
“Let’s swing,” said my little sister, remembering one of her favorite activities.
“I—I don’t like that swing,” said my small round-eyed cousin. He was only four and had fallen off once. “You don’t want to either, huh, Eddie?” His two-year-old brother only shook his head solemnly.
“Let’s do something,” my brother said, impatiently.
I was nine, and the oldest, so of course I was “boss.” Plucking a dandelion, I looked around at the big yard, the swing in the tall fir tree, and the old pump house by the pond. “Then we can play house,” I said in my most grown-up voice. “I will be a rich lady and you are the poor people that have to come work for me.”
“I’ll live on the porch,” said little sister. “Eddie can be my baby.”
“I don’t want to be any poor person,” my brother said stubbornly. “I won’t play.”
“You can be my guard then.” I rose and headed off toward the shadows of the tall fir.
“Okay, I guess.” And my stalwart companion fell into line.
“Me, too!” cried my small cousin, trotting after us.
“Fine,” I said, and waved my arms grandly. “Here is the castle. Fetch me some stones to make a fireplace. I’ll need to hunt up a cook right away.” The boys went about their work rather slowly, but soon we had a fire circle and some old cans to serve for kitchen pots.
“We can use pinecones for corn,” my brother suggested, surveying our pine needle carpet. “There are so many here that we’ll be really rich!”
“And grass!” said his little echo, not wanting to be outdone. He grabbed two fistfuls and added them to our growing storeroom. And so the minutes ticked by happily for awhile. Our poor neighbors were soon at work in the castle, with little sister installed as cook.
“Let’s make corn cakes and chicken stew and brown pudding for the feast tomorrow,” I told the cook. “And we need the whole palace swept and in tip-top shape,” I commanded the guards with my fir-branch broom.
“I won’t,” a voice said defiantly. “I’m tired of working.”
“Dare you disobey the queen’s orders?” I cried, and swished at him with my broom. He took to his heels across the dandelions, his round-eyed shadow dancing after him. “Worthless guards,” I muttered disgustedly, and turned to my cook. “You must do the sweeping while I make the feast.”
The work had hardly commenced when the boys jaunted back again. “Come, Eddie!” they called to the little fellow, who had been helping gather cones. “Come play!” Soon Eddie and little sister were off in the grass romping around with the boys. That was too much, and I fell in hot pursuit.
“Come back, naughty little servants! I am the queen and you must obey me!” We were closing in for a jolly pile-up when little Eddie started hopping.
“Ooo, he’s stepped in some poo!” my sister squealed. And there Eddie stood, in his little, dirty bare feet, within easy reach.
“You’ll not get away now!” I cried, and scooped him up. Holding his leg I waved the foot in the air and cried, “You shall get this in your face if you ever try running away from me again!”
Fresh squeals broke out as they scattered. “Ooo, ooo! Get away!” cried my brother as I lumbered after them, the little fellow still in my arms. It was at this awful moment that the unexpected happened: my uncle appeared on the scene.
“Daddy! Daddy!” my small cousin cried, running up to him. “She’s going to get poo on me!”
A dark look swept over his stern face as he turned to me. Frightened, I dropped Eddie’s leg and plopped him into the grass. He sat, startled for a second, then began to whimper. I stood frozen, wishing I could disappear from sight.
My uncle picked the little fellow up. “What were you doing with Eddie?” he asked coldly.
“I—I wasn’t trying to,” I said, fumbling for some excuse for my actions, “wasn’t going to do—do anything. He stepped in some poo and I was just picking him up.” I looked up hopefully, but his dark face didn’t soften. My heart beat faster as I realized that my cousin would be sure to tell everything. I must somehow convince him I wasn’t at fault; I did not want to get in trouble.
“I wasn’t going to get it on them,” I insisted desperately. “I was only going to help him, and—and I was holding his leg ’cause I was going to wipe the poo off in the grass.”
There was a long moment of silence as my uncle looked at me sharply. His dark eyes seemed to drill right through my deception. Without a word he turned toward the house, with my little cousins trotting after him.
It wasn’t long until my aunt and parents were informed and I was in total disgrace. I felt it pressing around at me in their silent and unsmiling faces. First my aunt, then my mother urged me to tell plainly what had happened, but to no avail. I would not disclose that horrid act. In fact, as far as I was concerned, I had never done it. It was a bad dream to forget.
“Daughter, I must speak with you.” It was my father this time, and reluctantly I followed him to the bedroom. The bed was wide; I sat on one side, and he sat on the other. I could tell he was very disappointed and displeased with me. The usual smile and warmth had disappeared from his strong face and now the kind eyes were sad.
“Daughter, the others have talked with you already, and your uncle is convinced of what you did. Will you not tell me the truth?” I began again with my story, hoping somehow that I would be freed from the shame and that he would believe me.
He looked at me searchingly and said very softly, “That wasn’t the truth, was it?” I sat rigidly and didn’t say anything. Why didn’t they believe me? Daddy sighed, and lay back on the bed. I watched his face as it wrinkled and his lips pressed together in thought. But I was startled by his next words:
“Tell me a story, dear.” I looked up at him, and saw that he was smiling kindly at me. Me tell a story? That shouldn’t be hard; I liked telling stories. I put my chin in my hands and thought. It was a castle banquet and naughty servants that swirled in my head. And there had been a lot of work to do.
“There was once a rich lady,” I began. “And there were poor people that came to work for her in the castle….” Daddy listened without saying a word until I had finished my tale.
“That was you, wasn’t it?” he asked in a low voice. I looked into his strong kind face and the sorrowful look in his eyes went right to my heart. Could I tell him?
“Oh, Daddy!” I burst out, throwing my arms around his neck. “Oh, Daddy, it is true! It was me.”
He spanked me then and tears ran down his cheeks. The spanking didn’t hurt nearly as badly as his tears did, for they smote me deep inside. What a horrible thing I had done to make him cry! I couldn’t imagine anything worse than seeing his big shoulders shake with sobs. At last he held me close and I felt his wet cheek against my forehead, and I knew that he hadn’t wanted to do it.
“My child, I love you very much,” he said in a husky voice. “But God loves you much more. We must tell the truth… God wants to help us do right.” He let out a long, heavy sigh and gave me a squeeze. I was a naughty little girl, but safe in his strong, loving arms. Together we bowed our heads to pray.
We left the room together, hand in hand. There were still the others to face with my confession, but now it was all right. There was nothing to hide and I could meet the world with peace inside.