Her Brothers and
Louisa M. Alcott
Once upon a time there was a very wise old spirit called Mother Nature,
who lived in a beautiful place, and had a large family of children, whom
she found it rather hard to manage. When they obeyed her, all went well;
but when they played pranks or quarrelled, everything was in confusion,
and all sorts of trouble came.
Sunshine, the eldest girl, was a sweet creature, always good, and a
great comfort to her mother at all seasons. So were South and West Winds
nice little girls; but Lightning, Thunder's twin sister, was very
naughty, and liked to do mischief. Snow, the fourth daughter, was a
cold, quiet spirit, fond of covering up the world with the nice white
sheets she kept folded away in the sky. Rain was always crying, East
Wind sulking, Thunder and Hail scolding and growling, and North Wind,
the biggest of the boys, went roaring and blustering about so fiercely
that every one ran before him, though his wholesome breath freshened the
world, and blew away much rubbish, which his gentle sisters could not
manage as they kept house.
"Now, my dears, I'm very tired and going to take a nap, so be good
children; do your tasks nicely, and wake me in March," said Mother
Nature, one November day, when her summer work was over, and her time
for rest had come.
"Yes, mamma," said Sunshine, as she tucked her up with a kiss. "I will
do my best to keep the girls busy and the boys in order. Have a good
sleep, and I'll call you in time for the spring work."
Then the old lady tied her night-cap over her ears, and dozed off quite
comfortably, while her good daughter, after a last smile at the frosty
world, went to her spinning, that there might be plenty of sunshine for
the next summer.
"It's my turn now, and I'll cry as much as I like, for mother isn't here
to stop me, and Sunny can't," said Rain; and down came floods of tears,
while his brother, East Wind, began to blow till every one shivered, and
coughs and colds and fog and mud made the world a dismal place. Sunny
begged them to stop and give her a chance now and then, but they would
not; and everybody said what a dreadful month November was that year.
Fortunately it was soon time for North Wind and his favorite sister Snow
to come back from Iceland; and the moment the older brother's loud voice
was heard, Rain and East ran and hid, for they were rather afraid of
"Ha, what a mess those rascals have made! Never mind, we'll soon have it
all nice and tidy for Christmas," said North, as he dried up the mud,
blew away the fog, and got the world ready for Snow to cover with her
beautiful down quilt. In a day or two it looked like a fairy world, and
Sunshine peeped out to do her part, making the ice on the trees glitter
like diamonds, the snowy drifts shine like silver, and fill the blue sky
full of light.
Then every one rejoiced, bells jingled merrily, children coasted and
snow-balled; Christmas trees began to grow, and all faces to glow as
they never do at any other time.
"The holydays shall be pleasant if I can only keep those bad boys in a
good humor," said Sunny; and to make sure of them she fed Rain and East
Wind on plum-cake with poppy-seeds in it, so they slept like dormice
till the New Year was born.
Snow had her frolics, and no one minded, because she was so pretty; and
North was so amiable just then that the white storms only made fine
sleighing, and the fresh air kept cheeks rosy, eyes sparkling, lips
laughing, and hearts happy as they should be at that blessed season.
Sunshine was so pleased that she came out to see the fun, and smiled so
warmly that a January thaw set in.
"Dear me, I forgot that I must not be too generous at this season, or it
makes trouble; for, though people enjoy my pleasant days, they leave off
their furs and get cold. I'll go back to my spinning and only smile
through the window; then no harm will be done."
Thunder and Lightning had been in Italy all this time, and they too got
into mischief. Their mother had shut the twins up in a volcano to keep
them out of the way till summer, when they were useful. Down there they
found playmates to suit them, and had fine times rumbling and boiling,
and sending out hot lava and showers of ashes to scare the people who
lived near by. Growing tired of this, they at last planned to get up an
earthquake and escape. So they kicked and shook the world like children
tumbling about under the bed-clothes; and the fire roared, and Thunder
growled, and Lightning flew about trying to get the lid of the volcano
off. At last she did, and out they all burst with such a dreadful noise
that the poor people thought the end of the world had come. Towns fell
down, hills moved, the sea came up on the shore, ashes and stones
covered up a whole city, and destruction and despair were everywhere.
"There! wasn't that a fine frolic? Mother won't dare to shut us up
again, I fancy, when she sees what a piece of work we make for her,"
said naughty Lightning, dashing about to peep through the smoke at the
sad scene below.
"Grand fun! but if Sunshine wakes mother we shall wish we had not done
it. Let's run away to Africa and hide till this is all forgotten,"
answered Thunder, rather ashamed of such a dreadful prank.
So they flew off, leaving great sorrow behind them; but Sunshine did not
wake mamma, though West Wind came home from Italy to tell her all about
it. There was trouble here also, for Rain and East Wind had waked up,
and were very angry to find they had been dosed with poppy-seeds.
"Now we'll pay Sunny for that, and turn everything topsy-turvy," they
said; and calling Hail, they went to work.
Rain emptied all his water-buckets till the rivers rose and flooded the
towns; the snow on the hills melted and covered the fields, washed away
the railroads, carried off houses, and drowned many poor animals; Hail
pelted with his stones, and East Wind blew cold and shrill till there
was no comfort anywhere.
Poor Sunny was at her wits' end with all these troubles; but she would
not wake her mother, and tried to manage her unruly brothers alone. West
helped her, for while Sunny shone, and shone so sweetly that Rain had to
stop crying, West tugged at the weather-cocks till she made East give
way, and let her blow for a while. He was out of breath and had to
yield; so the "bad spell of weather" was over, and the poor,
half-drowned people could get dry and fish their furniture out of the
flood, and moor their floating houses at last. Sunny kept on smiling
till she dried up the ground. West sent fresh gales to help her, and by
March things looked much better.
"Now do be good children, and let us get ready for the spring-cleaning
before mother wakes. I don't know what she will say to the boys, but
I've done my best, and I hope she will be pleased with me," said
Sunshine, when at last she sat down to rest a moment, tired out.
All the brothers and sisters except the naughty twins, gathered about
her, and promised to be very good, for they loved her and were sorry for
their pranks. Each tried to help her, and March was a very busy month,
for all the winds blew in turn; even gentle South from far away came
home to do her part. Snow folded up her down quilts and packed them
away; Rain dropped a few quiet showers to swell the buds and green the
grass, and Sunny began to shake out the golden webs of light she had
been spinning all winter. Every one worked so well that April found that
part of the world in fine order; and when South Wind blew open the first
hyacinths, Mother Nature smelt them, began to rub her eyes and wake up.
"Bless me, how I've slept. Why didn't you rouse me sooner, dear? Ah, my
good child, I see you've tried to do my work and get all ready for me,"
said the old lady, throwing away her night-cap, and peeping out of
window at the spring world budding everywhere.
Then sitting in her mother's lap, Sunny told her trials and
tribulations. At some Mamma Nature laughed, at others she frowned; and
when it came to the earthquake and the flood, she looked very sober,
saying, as she stroked her daughter's bright hair,—
"My darling, I can't explain these things to you, and I don't always
understand why they happen; but you know we have only to obey the King's
orders and leave the rest to him. He will punish my naughty children if
he sees fit, and reward my good ones; so I shall leave them to him, and
go cheerfully on with my own work. That is the only way to keep our
lovely world in order and be happy. Now, call your brothers and sisters
and we will have our spring frolic together."
They all came, and had a merry time; for as every one knows, April has
every kind of weather; so each had a turn to show what he or she could
do, and by May-day things were in fine trim, though East would nip the
May queen's little nose, and all Sunny's efforts could only coax out a
few hardy dandelions for the eager hands to pick.
But the children were happy, for spring had come; Mother Nature was
awake again, and now all would be well with the world.