“Come, Peggy, put your toys away; you needn’t shake your head,
Your bear’s been working overtime; he’s panting for his bed.
He’s turned a thousand somersaults, and now his head must ache;
It’s cruelty to animals to keep the bear awake.”
At this she stamped in mutiny, and then she urged her plea,
Her wonted plea, “A little time, a minute more, for me.”
“Be off, you little rogue of rogues,” I sternly made reply;
“It’s wicked to be sitting up with sand in either eye.
“To bed, to bed, you sleepy head; and then, and then—who knows?—
Some day you’ll be a grown-up girl, and lovely as a rose.
And some day some one else will come, a gallant youth and gay,
To harry me and marry you and carry you away.”
At this the storm broke out afresh:—”You know I hate the boys;
They’re only good at taking things, and breaking things, and noise.
So, Daddy, please remember this, because—I—want—you—to:—
I’ll never marry any boy; I’ll only marry you.”
“Agreed,” I cried—the imp, of course, had won the bout of wits;
Had gained her point and got her time and beaten me to fits—
“Agreed, agreed,”—she danced for joy—”we’ll leave no room for doubt,
But bind ourselves with pen and ink, and write the contract out:-”
This is a contract, firm and clear
Made, as doth from these presents appear,
Between Peggy, being now in her sixth year,
A child of laughter,
A sort of funny actress,
Referred to hereinafter
As the said contractress—
Between the said contractress, that is to say,
And a person with whom she is often good enough to play;
Who happens to have been something of a factor
In bringing her into the world, who, in short, is her father,
And is hereinafter spoken of as the said contractor.
Now the said contractress declares she would rather
Marry the said contractor than any other.
At the same time she affirms with the utmost steadiness
Her perfect readiness
To take any other fellow on as a brother.
Still, she means to marry her father, and to be his wife,
And to live happily with him all the rest of her life.
This contract is made without consideration,
And is subject to later ratification.
The said contractress had it read through
to see that nothing was missed,
And she took her pen, and she held it tight
in a chubby and cramped-up fist,
And she made her mark with a blotted cross,
instead of signing her name;
And the said contractor he signed in full,
and they mean to observe the same.
“Now give me, Peg, that old brown shoe, that battered shoe of yours,
I’ll stow the contract in its toe, and, if the shoe endures,
When sixteen years or so are gone, I’ll hunt for it myself
And take it gently from its drawer, or get it from its shelf.
“And when, mid clouds of scattered rice, through all the wedding whirl
A laughing fellow hurries out a certain graceless girl,
Unless my hand have lost its strength, unless my eye be dim,
I’ll lift the shoe, the contract too, and fling the lot at him.”