from What Tommy Did by Emily Huntington Miller

Monday was Tommy’s own day,and he like it the very best of all. First, because it was washing day, which was the very reason mamma didn’t like it. He knew it was Monday the minute he waked up, because there was his red plaid dress and gingham apron for him to wear. He always wore that dress on washing days, and baking days, and days when mamma was too busy to look after him; and Tommy’s heart gave a great jump of delight when he saw it, for he knew he could dig in the dirt with the fire shovel, and nobody would say,

Why Tommy Bancroft, look at your new clothes!

When his mamma dressed him, she said,

“I can’t stop to curl your hair this morning, because it’s washing day;” and then Tommy was gladder yet. When he was a man, he meant to have all his hair cut close to his head, so nobody could curl it — it always made him so cross to have it pulled.

After breakfast, his mamma tied his old straw hat under his chin, and told him to run and play, like a good boy. Tommy went straight out to the sink drain in the back yard. There was quite a little river of soap suds running through it, and Tommy fished in it awhile with the handle of his mother’s parasol that he found on the hall table. She shouldn’t have left it there, you know. Then he thought he would build a dam across the drain, and he threw down the parasol and went in to get the fire shovel to dig with. Bridget was cross, and said she wanted the shovel herself; did he think she was going to put in coal with her fingers? Then he thought he would take a knife, and while he was looking for one he spied his mother’s silver pie knife in the spoon basket. It was broad and flat, pretty much like a shovel, and Tommy thought he could make it do.

“Course she’d let me take it; won’t hurt it, ‘tall,” said Tommy to his conscience; but he was very careful to keep it out of Bridget’s sight as he trudged back to the drain. He found a nice, soft place to dig dirt, in the middle of one of mamma’s flower beds. It was full of little sticks, to show where the seeds were planted a few days before; but the seeds had not come up, and Tommy thought it must be because there was too much dirt. He pulled off his hat for a cart, and it was splendid fun to load it up with the pie knife, and drag it to the drain by the ribbons. Pie knives are not made to dig with in the dirt, and pretty soon it began to curl up at the point, and then the handle doubled down sidewise, and Tommy threw it down with the parasol, saying to himself, “I guess Uncle Jim can fix it.”

While he ws squatted up in the very middle of the drain, somebody emptied another tub full of suds, and it came swashing along and washed Tommy and the dam away together. He gave one little squeal of astonishment; but, though he was very wet and muddy, he only put on his dirty little hat and started after the gray kitten that was watching a bird under the raspberry bushes. He chased her three times around the garden and twice under the fence, but he couldn’t catch her, though he tore the brim half off from his hat, and did something to the skirt of his plaid dress that made it hang down around his feet. Then he went into the coal cellar, and climbed up and down the great mountain of coal, and played he was a traveler, climbing up some icy mountains, like some men Uncle Jim read about. When he was tired of this he thought it must be dinner time, so he started for the house.

There was an elegant carriage at the gate, and he wondered if his Aunt Louise hadn’t come to bring him the velocipede she promised him. He went to look for his mamma, but she was not in her room, or the dining room, or the nursery. So he walked straight into the parlor, and there was his pretty mamma, in her nice, ruffled morning dress, and there were two strange ladies and the minister’s wife!

Dear, dear! how his mamma looked! She felt as if she should faint away; and the strange ladies said, “Is this your youngest, Mrs. Bancroft?” and tried not to laugh; but the minister’s wife said, “Come here, Tommy;” and then she gave right up and laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks. Tommy’s mamma laughed, too, though she looked at first as if she were going to cry; and Tommy stood there with his old, torn skirt hanging down over his muddy little trousers and stockings, his old torn hat brim flopping about his shoulders, and his hands and face and his long, yellow hair all black and grimy with coal dust, and wasn’t one bit ashamed!