Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
E sure, my child," said the widow to her little daughter,
"that you always do just as you are told."
"Very well, mother."
"Or at any rate do what will do just as well," said the
small house-dog, as he lay blinking at the fire.
"You darling," cried little Joan, and she sat down on
the hearth and hugged him. But he got up and shook
himself, and moved three turns nearer the stove, to be
out of the way; for though her arms were soft, she had
kept her doll in them, and that was made of wood, which
"What a dear, kind house-dog you are!" said little
Joan, and she meant what she said, for it does feel
nice to have the sharp edges of one#s duty a little
softened off for one.
He was no particular kind of dog, but he was very
smooth to stroke, and had a nice way of blinking with
his eyes, which it was soothing to see. There had been
a difficulty about his name. The name of the house-dog
before him was Faithful, and well it became him, as his
tombstone testified. The one before that was called
Wolf. He was very mild and came to a bad end for
worrying sheep. The little house-dog never chased
anything, to the widow's knowledge. There was no reason
whatever for giving him a bad name, and she thought of
several good ones, such as Faithful, and Trusty, and
Keeper, which are fine old-fashioned titles, but none
of these seemed quite perfectly to suit him. So he was
called So-so; and a very nice soft name it is.
The widow was only a poor woman, though she contrived
 her industry to keep a decent home together,
and to get now one and now another little comfort for
herself and her child. One day she was going out on
business, and she called her little daughter and said
to her, "I am going out for two hours. You are too
young to protect yourself and the house, and So-so is
not as strong as Faithful was. But when I go, shut the
house door and bolt the big wooden bar, and be sure you
do not open it for any reason until I return. If
strangers come So-so may bark, which he can so as well
as a bigger dog. Then they will go away. With this
summer's savings I have bought a quilted petticoat for
you and a duffle coat for myself against the winter,
and if I get the work I am going after to-day, I shall
buy enough wool to knit warm stockings for us both, so
be patient till I return, and then we will have the
plum-cake that is in the cupboard for tea."
"Thank you, Mother."
"Good-bye, my child. Be sure you do just as I have told
you," said the woman.
"Very well, Mother."
Little Joan laid down her doll, and shut the house
door, and fastened the big bolt. It was very heavy, and
the kitchen looked gloomy when she had done it.
"I wish Mother had taken us all three with her, and had
locked the house and put the key in her big pocket, as
she has done before," said little Joan, as she got into
the rocking-chair, to put her doll to sleep.
"Yes, it would have done just as well," So-so replied,
as he stretched himself on the hearth.
By and by Joan grew tired of hush-a-bying the doll, who
looked none the sleepier for it, and she took the
three-legged stool and sat down in front of the clock
to watch the hands. After awhile she drew a deep sigh.
"There are sixty seconds in every single minute,
So-so," said she.
 "So I have heard," said So-so. He was snuggling
in the back place, which was not usually allowed.
"And sixty whole minutes in every hour, So-so."
"You don't say so," growled So-so. He had not found a
bit, and the cake was on the top shelf. There was not
so much as a spilt crumb, though he snuffed in every
corner of the kitchen, till he stood snuffling under
the house door.
"The air smells fresh," said he.
"It's a beautiful day, I know," said little Joan. "I
wish Mother had allowed us to sit on the doorstep. We
could have taken care of the house—"
"Just as well," said So-so.
Little Joan came to smell the air at the key-hole, and,
as So-so had said, it smelt very fresh. Besides, one
could see from the window how fine the evening was.
"It's not exactly what mother told us to do," said
Joan, "but I do believe—"
"It would do just as well," said So-so.
By and by little Joan unfastened the bar, and opened
the door, and she and the doll and So-so went out and
sat on the doorstep.
Not a stranger was to be seen. The sun shone
delightfully. An evening sun, and not too hot. All day
it had been ripening the corn in the field close by,
and his glowed and waved in the breeze.
"It does just as well, and better," said little Joan,
"for if any one comes we can see him coming up the
"Just sun," said So-so, blinking in the sunshine.
Suddenly Joan jumped up.
"Oh!" cried she, "there's a bird, a big bird. Dear
So-so, can you see him? I can't, because of the sun.
What a queer noise he makes—Crake! Crake! Oh, I can see
him now! He is not flying, he is running, and he has
gone into the corn. I do
 wish I were in the corn.
I would catch him and put him in a cage."
"I'll catch him," said So-so, and he put up his tail,
and started off.
"No, no!" cried Joan. "You are not to go. You must stay
and take care of the house, and bark if any one comes."
"You could scream, and that would do just as well,"
replied So-so, with his tail still up.
"No, it would n't," cried little Joan.
"Yes, it would," reiterated So-so.
Whilst they were bickering, an old woman came up to the
door; she had a brown face, and black hair, and a very
old red cloak.
"Good-evening, my little dear," said she. "Are you all
at home this fine evening?"
"Only three of us," said Joan; "I, and my doll, and
So-so. Mother had gone to the town on business, and we
are taking care of the house, but So-so wants to go
after the bird we saw run into the corn."
"Was it a pretty bird, my little dear?" asked the old
"It was a very curious one," said Joan, "and I should
like to go after it myself, but we can't leave the
"Dear, dear! Is there no neighbor would sit on the
doorstep for you, and keep house till you slip down to
the field after the curious bird?" said the old woman.
"I'm afraid not," said little Joan. "Old Martha, our
neighbor, is now bed-ridden. Of course, if she had been
able to mind the house instead of us, it would have
done just as well."
"I have some distance to go this evening," said the old
woman, "but I do not object to a few minutes' rest, and
sooner than that you should lose the bird, I will sit
on the doorstep to oblige you, while you run down to
 "But can you bark if any one comes?" asked little
Joan. "For if you can't So-so must stay with you."
"I can tell you and the dog if I see any one coming,
and that will do just as well," said the old woman.
"So it will," replied little Joan, and off she ran to
the cornfield, where, for that matter, So-so had run
before her and was bounding and barking and springing
among the corn stalks.
They did not catch the bird, though they stayed longer
than they had intended, and though So-so seemed to know
more about hunting that was supposed.
"I dare say Mother has come home," said little Joan, as
they went back up the field-path. "I hope she won't
think we ought to have stayed in the house."
"It was taken care of," said So-so, "and that must do
just as well."
When they reached the house, she had not come home.
But the old woman had gone, and she had taken the
quilted petticoat and the duffle cloak, and the
plum-cake from the top shelf away with her; and no more
was ever heard of any of the lot.
"For the future, my child," said the widow, "I hope you
will always do just as you are told, whatever So-so may
"I will, Mother," said little Joan (and she did). But
the house-dog sat and blinked. He dared not speak, he
was in disgrace.
I don not feel quite sure about So-so. Wild dogs often
amend their ways, and the Faithful sometimes fall; but
when any one begins by being only So-so, he is very apt
to be So-so to the end. So-sos so seldom change.
But this one was very soft and nice, and he got
no cake that tea-time. On the whole, we will hope that
he lived to be a good dog ever after.