Baa! Baa! by Louisa M. Alcott
BAA THE FIRST.
They did n't look at all like heroines, those
two shabby little girls, as they trotted
down the hill, leaving a cloud of dust behind
them. Their bare feet were scratched and
brown, their hands were red with berry stains,
and their freckled faces shone with heat under
the flapping sun-bonnets. But Patty and Tilda
were going to do a fine piece of work, although
they did not know it then, and were very full
of their own small affairs as they went briskly
toward the station to sell berries.
The tongues went as fast as the feet; for this
was a great expedition, and both were much
excited about it
"Don't they look lovely?" said Tilda, proudly
surveying her sister's load as she paused to change
a heavy pail from one arm to the other.
"Perfectly de-licious! I know folks will buy
'em, if we ain't too scared to offer 'em,"
answered Patty, stopping also to settle the two
dozen little birch baskets full of red raspberries
which she carried, prettily set forth, on an old
waiter, trimmed with scarlet bunch-berries, white
everlasting, and green leaves.
"I sha'n't be. I 'll go right along and holler
real loud,--see if I don't. I'm bound to have
our books and boots for next winter; so just
keep thinking how nice they'll be, and push
ahead," said stout-hearted Tilda, the leader of
"Hurry up. I want to have time to sprinkle
the posies, so they'll look fresh when the train
comes. I hope there'll be lots of children in it;
they always want to eat, ma says."
"It was real mean of Elviry Morris to go and
offer to sell cheaper up to the hotel than we did,
and spoil our market. Guess she'll wish she'd
thought of this when we tell what we 've done
down here." And both children laughed with
satisfaction as they trudged along, never
minding the two hot, dusty miles they had to go.
The station was out of the village, and the long
trains carrying summer travellers to the
mountains stopped there once a day to meet the stages
for different places. It was a pleasant spot, with
a great pond on one side, deep forests on the
other, and in the distance glimpses of gray peaks
or green slopes inviting the weary city people
to come and rest.
Every one seemed glad to get out during the
ten minutes' pause, even if their journey was not
yet ended; and while they stood about, enjoying
the fresh air from the pond, or watching the
stages load up, Tilda and Patty planned to offer
their tempting little baskets of fresh fruit and
flowers. It was a great effort, and their hearts
beat with childish hope and fear as they came
in sight of the station, with no one about but the
jolly stage-drivers lounging in the shade.
"Plenty of time. Let's go to the pond and
wash off the dust and get a drink. Folks won't
see us behind those cars," said Tilda, glad to slip
out of sight till the train arrived; for even her
courage seemed to ooze away as the important
A long cattle-train stood on a side track waiting
for the other one to pass; and while the little
girls splashed their feet in the cool water, or
drank from their hands, a pitiful sound filled the
air. Hundreds of sheep, closely packed in the
cars and suffering agonies from dust and heat and
thirst, thrust their poor noses through the bars,
bleating frantically; for the sight of all that water,
so near yet so impossible to reach, drove them
wild. Those farther down the track, who could
not see the blue lake, could smell it, and took up
the cry till the woods echoed with it, and even the
careless drivers said, with a glance of pity,--
"Hard on the poor critters this hot day, ain't it?"
"Oh, Tilda, hear 'em baa, and see 'em crowd
this side to get at the water! Let's take 'em
some in our pickin' dishes. It's so dreadful
to be dry," said tender-hearted Patty, filling her
pint cup, and running to offer it to the nearest
pathetic nose outstretched to meet it. A dozen
thirsty tongues tried to lap it, and in the struggle
the little cup was soon emptied; but Patty ran
for more, and Tilda did the same, both getting so
excited over the distress of the poor creatures
that they never heard the far-off whistle of their
train, and continued running to and fro on their
errand of mercy, careless of their own weary feet,
hot faces, and the precious flowers withering in the sun.
They did not see a party of people sitting near
by under the trees, who watched them and
listened to their eager talk with smiling interest.
"Run, Patty; this poor little one is half dead.
Throw some water in his face while I make this
big one stop walking on him. Oh, dear! There
are so many! We can't help half, and our
mugs are so small!"
"I know what I 'll do, Tilda,--tip out the
berries into my apron, and bring up a nice lot
at once," cried Patty, half beside herself with pity.
"It will spoil your apron and mash the berries,
but never mind. I don't care if we don't sell one
if we can help these poor dear lammies,"
answered energetic Tilda, dashing into the pond
up to her ankles to fill the pail, while Patty piled
up the fruit in her plaid apron.
"Oh, my patience me! the train is coming!"
cried Patty, as a shrill shriek woke the echoes,
and an approaching rumble was heard.
"Let it come. I won't leave this sheep till it's
better. You go and sell the first lot; I 'll come
as quick as I can," commanded Tilda, so busy
reviving the exhausted animal that she could not
stop even to begin the cherished new plan.
"I don't dare go alone; you come and call
out, and I 'll hold the waiter," quavered poor
Patty, looking sadly scared as the long train
rolled by with a head at every window.
"Don't be a goose. Stay here and work,
then; I 'll go and sell every basket. I 'm so
mad about these poor things, I ain't afraid of
anybody," cried Tilda, with a last refreshing
splash among the few favored sheep, as she
caught up the tray and marched off to the
platform,--a very hot, wet, shabby little girl, but
with a breast full of the just indignation and
tender pity that go to redress half the wrongs
of this great world.
"Oh, mamma, see the pretty baskets! do buy
some, I 'm so thirsty and tired," exclaimed more
than one eager little traveller, as Tilda held up
her tray, crying bravely,--
"Fresh berries! fresh berries! ten cents! only
They were all gone in ten minutes; and if Patty
had been with her, the pail might have been
emptied before the train left. But the other
little Samaritan was hard at work; and when her
sister joined her, proudly displaying a handful
of silver, she was prouder still to show her woolly
invalid feebly nibbling grass from her hand.
"We might have sold everyone,--folks liked
'em ever so much; and next time we 'll have
two dozen baskets apiece. But we 'll have to
be spry, for some of the children fuss about
picking out the one they like. It's real fun,
Patty," said Tilda, tying up the precious dimes
in a corner of her dingy little handkerchief.
"So's this," answered the other, with a last
loving pat of her patient's nose, as the train
began to move, and car after car of suffering
sheep passed them with plaintive cries and vain
efforts to reach the blessed water of which they
were in such dreadful need.
Poor Patty could n't bear it. She was hot,
tired, and unhappy because she could do so
little; and when her pitying eyes lost sight of that
load of misery, she just sat down and cried.
But Tilda scolded as she carefully put the
unsold berries back into the pail, still unconscious
of the people behind the elder-bushes by the pond.
"That's the wickedest thing that ever was;
and I just wish I was a man, so I could see
about it. I 'd put all the railroad folks in those
cars, and keep 'em there hours and hours and
hours, going by ponds all the time; and I 'd
have ice-cream, too, where they could n't get a
bit, and lots of fans, and other folks all cool and
comfortable, never caring how hot and tired and
thirsty they were. Yes, I would! and then we'd
see how they like it."
Here indignant Tilda had to stop for breath,
and refreshed herself by sucking berry-juice off
"We must do something about it. I can't be
happy to think of those poor lammies going so
far without any water. It's awful to be dry,"
sobbed Patty, drinking her own tears as they fell.
"If I had a hose, I 'd come every day and
hose all over the cars; that would do some
good. Anyway, we 'll bring the other big pail,
and water all we can," said Tilda, whose active
brain was always ready with a plan.
"Then we sha'n't sell our berries," began
Patty, despondently; for all the world was
saddened to her just then by the sight she had
"We 'll come earlier, and both work real hard
till our train is in. Then I 'll sell, and you go
on watering with both pails. It's hard work,
but we can take turns. What ever shall we do
with all these berries? The under ones are
smashed, so we 'll eat 'em; but these are nice,
only who will buy 'em?" And Tilda looked
soberly at the spoiled apron and the four quarts
of raspberries picked with so much care in the
"I will," said a pleasant voice; and a young
lady came out from the bushes just as the good
fairy appears to the maidens in old tales.
Both little girls started and stared, and were
covered with confusion when other heads popped
up, and a stout gentleman came toward them,
smiling so good-naturedly that they were not afraid.
"We are having a picnic in the woods, and
would like these nice berries for our supper, if
you want to sell them," said the lady, holding
out a pretty basket.
"Yes, ma'am, we do. You can have 'em all.
They 're a little mashed; so we won't ask but
ten cents a quart, though we expected to get
twelve," said Tilda, who was a real Yankee, and
had an eye to business.
"What do you charge for watering the sheep?"
asked the stout gentleman, looking kindly at
Patty, who at once retired into the depths of her
sun-bonnet, like a snail into its shell.
"Nothing, sir. Was n't it horrid to see those
poor things? That's what made her cry. She's
real tender-hearted, and she could n't bear it; so
we let the berries go, and did what we could,"
answered Tilda, with such an earnest little face
that it looked pretty in spite of tan and freckles
"Yes, it was very sad, and we must see about
it. Here's something to pay for the berries,
also for the water." And the gentleman threw
a bright half-dollar into Tilda's lap and another
into Patty's, just as if he was used to tossing
money about in that delightful manner.
The little girls did n't know what to say to
him; but they beamed at every one, and surveyed
the pretty silver pieces as if they were
very precious in their sight.
"What will you do with them?" asked the
lady, in the friendly sort of voice that always
gets a ready answer.
"Oh, we are saving up to buy books and
rubber boots, so we can go to school next winter.
We live two miles from school, and wear out
lots of boots, and get colds when it's wet. We
had Pewmonia last spring, and ma said we must
have rubber boots, and we might earn 'em in
berry-time," said Tilda, eagerly.
"Yes, and she's real smart, and she's going
to be promoted, and must have new books, and
they cost so much, and ma ain't rich, so we get
'em ourselves," added sister Patty, forgetting
bashfulness in sisterly pride.
"That's brave. How much will it take for
the boots and the books?" asked the lady, with
a glance at the old gentleman, who was eating
berries out of her basket.
"As much as five dollars, I guess. We want
to get a shawl for ma, so she can go to meetin'.
It's a secret, and we pick every day real
hard, 'cause berries don't last long," said Tilda,
"She thought of coming down here. We
felt so bad about losing our place at the
hotel, and did n't know what to do, till Tilda
made this plan. I think it's a splendid one." And
Patty eyed her half-dollar with immense
"Don't spoil the plan, Alice. I 'm passing
every week while you are up here, and I 'll see
to the success of the affair," said the old
gentleman, with a nod; adding, in a louder tone,
"These are very fine berries, and I want you
to take four quarts every other day to Miller's
farm over there. You know the place?"
"Yes, sir! yes, sir!" cried two eager voices;
for the children felt as if a rain of half-dollars
was about to set in.
"I come up every Saturday and go down
Monday; and I shall look out for you here, and
you can water the sheep as much as you like.
They need it, poor beasts!" added the old
"We will, sir! we will!" cried the children,
with faces so full of innocent gratitude and good
will that the young lady stooped and kissed them
"Now, my dear, we must be off, and not keep
our friends waiting any longer," said the old
gentleman, turning toward the heads still
bobbing about behind the bushes.
"Good-by, good-by. We won't forget the
berries and the sheep," called the children,
waving the stained apron like a banner, and
showing every white tooth in the beaming smiles
they sent after these new friends.
"Nor I my lambs," said Alice to herself, as
she followed her father to the boat.
"What will ma say when we tell her and show
her this heap of money?" exclaimed Tilda,
pouring the dimes into her lap, and rapturously
chinking the big half-dollars before she tied
them all up again.
"I hope we sha'n't be robbed going home.
You 'd better hide it in your breast, else some
one might see it," said prudent Patty, oppressed
by the responsibility of so much wealth.
"There goes the boat!" cried Tilda. "Don't
it look lovely? Those are the nicest folks I
"She's perfectly elegant. I 'd like a white
dress and a hat just like that. When she kissed
me, the long feather was as soft as a bird's wing
on my cheeks, and her hair was all curling round
like the picture we cut out of the paper." And
Patty gazed after the boat as if this little touch of
romance in her hard-working life was delightful
"They must be awful rich, to want so many
berries. We shall have to fly round to get
enough for them and the car folks too. Let's
go right off now to that thick place we left this
morning, else Elviry may get ahead of us," said
practical Tilda, jumping up, ready to make hay
while the sun shone. But neither of them
dreamed what a fine crop they were to get in
that summer, all owing to their readiness in
answering that pitiful "Baa! baa!"
BAA THE SECOND.
A very warm and a very busy week followed,
for the berries were punctually delivered at the
farm, and successfully sold at the station; and,
best of all, the sheep were as faithfully watered
as two little pails and two little girls could do
it. Every one else forgot them. Mr. Benson
was a busy old gentleman far away in the city;
Miss Alice was driving, boating, and picnicking
all day long; and the men at the depot had no
orders to care for the poor beasts. But Tilda
and Patty never forgot; and, rain or shine, they
were there when the long train came in, waiting
to do what they could, with dripping pails,
handfuls of grass, or green branches, to refresh these
suffering travellers for whom no thought was
The rough stage-drivers laughed at them, the
brakemen ordered them away, and the station-master
said they were "little fools;" but nothing
daunted the small sisters of charity, and in a
few days they were let alone. Their arms were
very tired lifting the pails, their backs ached
with lugging so much water, and mother would
not let them wear any but their oldest clothes
for such wet work; so they had their trials,
but bore them bravely, and never expected to
When Saturday came round, and Miss Alice
drove to meet her father, she remembered the
little girls, and looked for them. Up at the
farm she enjoyed her berries, and ordered
them to be promptly paid for, but was either
asleep or away when they arrived, and so had
not seen the children. The sight of Patty,
hastily scrambling a clean apron over her old
frock, as she waited for the train with her
tray of fruit, made the young lady leave the
phaeton and go to meet the child, asking, with
"Where is the black-eyed sister? Not ill, I hope.
"No, ma'am; she's watering the sheep. She's
so strong she does it better 'n I do, and I sell
the baskets," answered Patty, rejoicing secretly in
the clean faded apron that hid her shabbiness.
"Ah, I forgot my lambs; but you were faithful
to yours, you good little things! Have you
done it every day?"
"Yes, 'm. Ma said, if we promised, we must
do it; and we like it. Only there 's such a lot of
'em, and we get pretty tired." And Patty rubbed
her arms as if they ached.
"I 'll speak to papa about it this very day.
It will be a good time; for Mr. Jacobs, the
president of the road, is coming up to spend
Sunday, and they must do something for the poor
beasts," said Miss Alice, ashamed to be outdone
by two little girls.
"That will be so nice. We read a piece in a
paper our teacher lends us, and I brought it
down to show Mr. Weed, the depot man. He
said it was a shame, but nobody could help it;
so we thought we 'd tell him about the law we
found." And Patty eagerly drew a worn copy of
"Our Dumb Animals" from her pocket to show
the little paragraph to this all-powerful friend
who knew the railroad king.
Miss Alice read:--
"An act of Congress provides that at the end of
every twenty-eight hours' journey animals shall be
given five hours' rest, and duly fed and watered,
unless shipped in cars having accommodations for the
care of live-stock on board."
"There!" cried Patty, "that's the law; and
ma says these sheep come ever so far, and ought
to be watered. Do tell the president, and ask
him to see to it. There was another piece about
some poor pigs and cows being ninety-two hours
without water and food. It was awful."
"I will tell him. Here 's our train. Run to
your berries. I 'll find papa, and show him this."
As Miss Alice spoke, the cars thundered into
the little station, and a brief bustle ensued,
during which Patty was too busy to see what
Mr. Benson and another stout old gentleman
got out; and the minute Miss Alice had been
kissed, she said very earnestly,--
"Wait a little, please; I want to settle a
very important piece of business before we go home."
Then, while the gentlemen listened indulgently,
she told the story, showed the bit in the paper,
and pointing out Patty, added warmly,--
"That's one good child. Come and see the
other, and you will agree with me that
something ought to be done to relieve their kind
little hearts and arms, if not out of mercy to the
animals, who can't be called dumb in this case,
though we have been deaf too long."
"My wilful girl must have her way. Come
and get a whiff of fresh air, Jacobs." And
Mr. Benson followed his daughter across the track,
glad to get out of the bustle.
Yes, Tilda was there, and at work so energetically
that they dared not approach, but stood
looking and laughing for a moment. Two pails
of water stood near her, and with a long-handled
dipper she was serving all she could reach;
those which were packed on the upper tier she
could only refresh by a well-aimed splash, which
was eagerly welcomed, and much enjoyed by all
parties,--for Tilda got well showered herself, but
did not care a bit, for it was a melting July day.
"That is a very little thing to do, but it is the
cup of cold water which we have forgotten,"
said Miss Alice, softly, while the air was full of
cries of longing as the blue lake shone before
the thirsty beasts.
"Jacobs, we must attend to this."
"Benson, we will. I 'll look into the matter,
and report at the next meeting."
That was all they said; but Alice clapped her
hands, for she knew the thing would be done,
and smiled like sunshine on the two old
gentlemen, who presently watched the long train
rumble away, with shakes and nods of the gray heads,
which expressed both pity and determination.
The other train soon followed, and Patty came
running over with her empty tray and a handful
of silver to join Tilda, who sat down upon her
upturned pail, tired out.
"Papa will see to it, children; and, thanks to
you, the sheep will soon be more comfortable,"
said Miss Alice, joining them.
"Oh, goody! I hope they'll be quick; it's
so hot, there 's ever so many dead ones to-day,
and I can't help 'em," answered Tilda, fanning
herself with her bonnet, and wiping the drops
off her red face.
Miss Alice took a pretty straw fan out of her
pocket and handed it to her, with a look of
respect for the faithful little soul who did her
duty so well.
"Ask for me when you come to the farm
to-night. I shall have some hats and aprons for
you, and I want to know you better," she said,
remembering the broad-brimmed hats and
ready-made aprons in the village store.
"Thank you, ma'am. We 'll come. Now we
won't have to do this wet work we 'd like to be
neat and nice," said Patty, gratefully.
"Do you always sell all your berries down
here?" asked Miss Alice, watching Tilda tie up
"Yes, indeed; and we could sell more if both
of us went. But ma said we were making lots
of money, and it was n't best to get rich too
fast," answered Tilda, wisely.
"That's a good thing for us to remember,
Benson, especially just now, and not count the
cost of this little improvement in our cattle cars
too closely," said Mr. Jacobs, as the old gentlemen
came up in time to hear Tilda's speech.
"Your mother is a remarkable woman; I
must come and see her," added Mr. Benson.
"Yes, sir; she is. She'd be pleased to see
you any day." And Tilda stood up respectfully
as her elders addressed her.
"Getting too rich, are you? Then I suppose
it would n't do to ask you to invest this in your
business for me?" asked Mr. Jacobs, holding
up two silver dollars, as if he felt bashful about
Two pairs of eyes sparkled; and Patty's hand
went out involuntarily, as she thought how many
things she could get with all that money.
"Would they buy a lamb? and would you
like to use it that way?" asked Tilda, in a
"I guess Miller would let you have one for that
sum if Miss Alice makes the bargain, and I should
very much like to start a flock if you would
attend to it for me," answered Mr. Jacobs, with a
laughing nod at the young lady, who seemed to
understand that way of making bargains.
"We 'd like it ever so much! We 've wanted
a lamb all summer; and we've got a nice rocky
pasture, with lots of pennyroyal and berry bushes
and a brook, for it to live in. We could get
one ourselves now we are so rich; but we 'd
rather buy more things for ma, and mend the
roof 'fore the snow comes: it's so old, rain runs
down on our bed sometimes."
"That's bad; but you seem fond of water,
and look as if it agreed with you," said
Mr. Jacobs, playfully poking Tilda's soaked apron
with his cane.
They all laughed; and Mr. Benson said,
looking at his watch,--
"Come, Alice, we must go. I want my
dinner, and so does Jacobs. Good-by, little
water-witches. I 'll see you again."
"Do you s'pose they 'll remember the lambs
and hats, and all they promised?" asked Patty,
as the others turned away.
"I don't believe they will. Rich folks are so
busy having good times they are apt to forget
poor folks, seems to me," answered Tilda,
shaking her head like a little Solomon.
"Bless my heart, what a sharp child that is!
We must not disappoint her; so remind me,
Alice, to make a memorandum of all this business,"
whispered Mr. Benson, who heard every word.
"The President is a very nice man, and I know
he 'll keep his word. See! he dropped the
money in my tray, and I never saw him do it,"
cried Patty, pouncing on the dollars like a robin
on a worm.
"There's a compliment for you, and well
worth the money. Such confidence is beautiful,"
said Mr. Jacobs, laughing.
"Well, I 've learned a little lesson, and I 'll
lay it to heart so well I won't let either of you
forget," added Alice, as they drove away; while
Tilda and Patty trudged home, quite unconscious
that they had set an example which their elders
were not ashamed to follow.
So many delightful things happened after this
that the children felt as if they had got into a
fairy tale. First of all, two nice rough straw hats
and four useful aprons were given them that very
night. Next day Miss Alice went to see their
mother, and found an excellent woman, trying to
bring up her girls, with no one to help her.
Then somehow the roof got mended, and the
fence, so that passing cattle could not devastate
the little beds where the children carefully
cultivated wild flowers from the woods and hills.
There seemed to be a sudden call for berries
in the neighborhood,--for the story of the small
Samaritans went about, and even while they
laughed, people felt an interest in the children,
and were glad to help them; so the dimes in
the spoutless teapot rose like a silver tide, and
visions of new gowns, and maybe sleds, danced
through the busy little brains.
But, best and most wonderful of all, the old
gentlemen did not forget the sheep. It was
astonishing how quickly and easily it was all
done, when once those who had the power
found both the will and the way. Every one
was interested now: the stage-drivers joked no
more; the brakemen lent a hand with the buckets
while waiting for better means of relief; and
cross Mr. Weed patted Tilda and Patty on the
head, and pointed them out to strangers as the
"nice little girls who stirred up the railroad
folks." Children from the hotel came to look at
them, and Elviry Morris was filled with regret
that she had no share in this interesting affair.
Thus the little pail of water they offered for
pity's sake kept the memory of this
much-needed mercy green till the lake poured its
full tide along the channel made for it, and
there was no more suffering on that road.
The first day the new pumps were tried every
one went to see them work; and earliest of all
were Tilda and Patty, in pink aprons and
wreaths of evergreens round their new hats, in
honor of the day. It was sweet to see their
intense satisfaction as the water streamed into
the troughs, and the thirsty sheep drank so
gratefully. The innocent little souls did not
know how many approving glances were cast
upon them as they sat on a log, with the tired
arms folded, two trays of berries at their feet
now, and two faces beaming with the joy of a
great hope beautifully fulfilled.
Presently a party from the hotel appeared;
and something was evidently going to happen,
for the boys and girls kept dodging behind the
cars to see if they were coming. Tilda and
Patty wondered who or what, but kept modestly
apart upon their log, glad to see that the fine
folks enjoyed the sight about as much as they did.
A rattle was heard along the road, a wagon
stopped behind the station, and an excited boy
came flying over the track to make the mysterious
announcement to the other children,--
"They 've got 'em, and they are regular beauties."
"More pumps or troughs, I guess. Well, we
can't have too many," said Tilda, with an eye to
the business under way.
"I wish those folks would n't stare so. I
s'pose it's the new aprons with pockets,"
whispered bashful Patty, longing for the old
cape-bonnet to retire into.
But both forgot pumps and pockets in a
moment, as a striking procession appeared round
the corner. Mr. Benson, trying not to laugh,
but shining with heat and fun, led a very white
lamb with a red bow on its neck; and behind
him came Miss Alice, leading another lamb with
a blue bow. She looked very much in earnest,
and more like a good fairy than ever, as she
carried out her little surprise. People looked
and laughed; but every one seemed to
understand the joke at once, and were very quiet
when Mr. Benson held up his hand, and said, in
a voice which was earnest as well as merry,--
"Here, my little girls, are two friends of those
poor fellows yonder come to thank you for your
pity, and to prove, I hope, that rich people are
not always too busy with their own good times
to remember their poorer neighbors. Take
them, my dears, and God bless you!"
"I did n't forget my lambs this time, but have
been taming these for you; and Mr. Jacobs
begs you will accept them, with his love," added
Miss Alice, as the two pretty creatures were led
up to their new owners, wagging their tails and
working their noses in the most amiable manner,
though evidently much amazed at the scene.
Tilda and Patty were so surprised that they
were dumb with delight, and could only blush
and pat the woolly heads, feeling more like
story-book girls than ever. The other children,
charmed with this pleasant ending to the pretty
story, set up a cheer; the men joined in it with
a will; while the ladies waved their parasols, and
all the sheep seemed to add to the chorus their
grateful "Baa! baa!"