The Light At The Big Dipper (1906)

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"Don't let Nellie run out of doors, Mary Margaret, and be careful of the fire, Mary Margaret. I expect we'll be back pretty soon after dark, so don't be lonesome, Mary Margaret."

Mary Margaret laughed and switched her long, thick braid of black hair from one shoulder to the other.

"No fear of my being lonesome, Mother Campbell. I'll be just as careful as can be and there are so many things to be done that I'll be as busy and happy as a bee all day long. Nellie and I will have just the nicest kind of a time. I won't get lonesome, but if I should feel just tempted to, I'll think, Father is on his way home. He will soon be here.' And that would drive the lonesomeness away before it dared to show its face. Don't you worry, Mother Campbell."

Mother Campbell smiled. She knew she could trust Mary Margaret—careful, steady, prudent little Mary Margaret. Little! Ah, that was just the trouble. Careful and steady and prudent as Mary Margaret might be, she was only twelve years old, after all, and there would not be another soul besides her and Nellie on the Little Dipper that whole day. Mrs. Campbell felt that she hardly dared to go away under such circumstances. And yet she must dare it. Oscar Bryan had sailed over from the mainland the evening before with word that her sister Nan—her only sister, who lived in Cartonville—was ill and about to undergo a serious operation. She must go to see her, and Uncle Martin was waiting with his boat to take her over to the mainland to catch the morning train for Cartonville.

If five-year-old Nellie had been quite well Mrs. Campbell would have taken both her and Mary Margaret and locked up the house. But Nellie had a very bad cold and was quite unfit to go sailing across the harbour on a raw, chilly November day. So there was nothing to do but leave Mary Margaret in charge, and Mary Margaret was quite pleased at the prospect.

"You know, Mother Campbell, I'm not afraid of anything except tramps. And no tramps ever come to the Dippers. You see what an advantage it is to live on an island! There, Uncle Martin is waving. Run along, little mother."

Mary Margaret watched the boat out of sight from the window and then betook herself to the doing of her tasks, singing blithely all the while. It was rather nice to be left in sole charge like this—it made you feel so important and grown-up. She would do everything very nicely and Mother would see when she came back what a good housekeeper her daughter was.

Mary Margaret and Nellie and Mrs. Campbell had been living on the Little Dipper ever since the preceding April. Before that they had always lived in their own cosy home at the Harbour Head. But in April Captain Campbell had sailed in the Two Sisters for a long voyage and, before he went, Mrs. Campbell's brother, Martin Clowe, had come to them with a proposition. He ran a lobster cannery on the Little Dipper, and he wanted his sister to go and keep house for him while her husband was away. After some discussion it was so arranged, and Mrs. Campbell and her two girls moved to the Little Dipper. It was not a lonesome place then, for the lobstermen and their families lived on it, and boats were constantly sailing to and fro between it and the mainland. Mary Margaret enjoyed her summer greatly; she bathed and sailed and roamed over the rocks, and on fine days her Uncle George, who kept the lighthouse on the Big Dipper, and lived there all alone, often came over and took her across to the Big Dipper. Mary Margaret thought the lighthouse was a wonderful place. Uncle George taught her how to light the lamps and manage the light.

When the lobster season dosed, the men took up codfishing and carried this on till October, when they all moved back to the mainland. But Uncle Martin was building a house for himself at Harbour Head and did not wish to move until the ice formed over the bay because it would then be so much easier to transport his goods and chattels; so the Campbells stayed with him until the Captain should return.

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