The Skipping Shoes by Louisa M. Alcott
Once there was a little girl, named Kitty,
who never wanted to do what people
asked her. She said "I won't" and "I can't,"
and did not run at once pleasantly, as obliging
One day her mother gave her a pair of new
shoes; and after a fuss about putting them on,
Kitty said, as she lay kicking on the floor,--
"I wish these were seven-leagued boots, like
Jack the Giant Killer's; then it would be easy to
run errands all the time. Now, I hate to keep
trotting, and I don't like new shoes, and I won't
stir a step."
Just as she said that, the shoes gave a skip,
and set her on her feet so suddenly that it scared
all the naughtiness out of her. She stood looking
at these curious shoes; and the bright
buttons on them seemed to wink at her like eyes,
while the heels tapped on the floor a sort of
tune. Before she dared to stir, her mother called
from the next room,--
"Kitty, run and tell the cook to make a pie
for dinner; I forgot it."
"I don't want to," began Kitty, with a whine
But the words were hardly out of her mouth
when the shoes gave one jump, and took her
downstairs, through the hall, and landed her at
the kitchen door. Her breath was nearly gone;
but she gave the message, and turned round,
trying to see if the shoes would let her walk
at all. They went nicely till she wanted to turn
into the china-closet where the cake was. She
was forbidden to touch it, but loved to take a
bit when she could. Now she found that her
feet were fixed fast to the floor, and could not
be moved till her father said, as he passed the
window close by,--
"You will have time to go to the post-office
before school and get my letters."
"I can't," began Kitty; but she found she
could, for away went the shoes, out of the house
at one bound, and trotted down the street so
fast that the maid who ran after her with her
hat could not catch her.
"I can't stop!" cried Kitty; and she did not
till the shoes took her straight into the office.
"What's the hurry to-day?" asked the man,
as he saw her without any hat, all rosy and
breathless, and her face puckered up as if she
did not know whether to laugh or to cry.
"I won't tell any one about these dreadful
shoes, and I 'll take them off as soon as I get
home. I hope they will go back slowly, or
people will think I 'm crazy," said Kitty to
herself, as she took the letters and went away.
The shoes walked nicely along till she came
to the bridge; and there she wanted to stop and
watch some boys in a boat, forgetting school and
her father's letters. But the shoes would n't
stop, though she tried to make them, and held
on to the railing as hard as she could. Her feet
went on; and when she sat down they still
dragged her along so steadily that she had to go,
and she got up feeling that there was something
very strange about these shoes. The minute she
gave up, all went smoothly, and she got home
in good time.
"I won't wear these horrid things another
minute," said Kitty, sitting on the doorstep and
trying to unbutton the shoes.
But not a button could she stir, though she
got red and angry struggling to do it.
"Time for school; run away, little girl,"
called mamma from upstairs, as the clock struck
"I won't!" said Kitty, crossly.
But she did; for those' magic shoes danced
her off, and landed her at her desk in five
"Well, I 'm not late; that's one comfort," she
thought, wishing she had come pleasantly, and
not been whisked away without any luncheon.
Her legs were so tired with the long skips
that she was glad to sit still; and that pleased the
teacher, for generally she was fussing about all
lesson time. But at recess she got into trouble
again; for one of the children knocked down the
house of corn-cobs she had built, and made her
"Now, I 'll kick yours down, and see how you
like it, Dolly."
Up went her foot, but it did n't come down;
it stayed in the air, and there she stood looking
as if she were going to dance. The children
laughed to see her, and she could do nothing
till she said to Dolly in a great hurry,--
"Never mind; if you didn't mean to, I'll
Then the foot went down, and Kitty felt so
glad about it that she tried to be pleasant,
fearing some new caper of those dreadful shoes. She
began to see how they worked, and thought she
would try if she had any power over them. So,
when one of the children wanted his ball, which
had bounced over the hedge, she said kindly,--
"Perhaps I can get it for you, Willy."
And over she jumped as lightly as if she too
were an india-rubber ball.
"How could you do it?" cried the boys,
much surprised; for not one of them dared try
such a high leap.
Kitty laughed, and began to dance, feeling
pleased and proud to find there was a good side
to the shoes after all. Such twirlings and
skippings as she made, such pretty steps and airy
little bounds it was pretty to see; for it seemed
as if her feet were bewitched, and went of
themselves. The little girls were charmed, and tried
to imitate her; but no one could, and they stood
in a circle watching her dance till the bell rang,
then all rushed in to tell about it.
Kitty said it was her new shoes, and never
told how queerly they acted, hoping to have
good times now. But she was mistaken.
On the way home she wanted to stop and see
her friend Bell's new doll; but at the gate her
feet stuck fast, and she had to give up her wishes
and go straight on, as mamma had told her
always to do.
"Run and pick a nice little dish of
strawberries for dinner," said her sister, as she
"I 'm too ti--" There was no time to finish,
for the shoes landed her in the middle of the
strawberry bed at one jump.
"I might as well be a grasshopper if I 'm to
skip round like this," she said, forgetting to feel
tired out there in the pleasant garden, with the
robins picking berries close by, and a cool wind
lifting the leaves to show where the reddest and
ripest ones hid.
The little dish was soon filled, and she wanted
to stay and eat a few, warm and sweet from the
vines; but the bell rang, and away she went, over
the wood-pile, across the piazza, and into the
dining-room before the berry in her mouth was
"How this child does rush about to-day!"
said her mother. "It is so delightful to have
such a quick little errand-girl that I shall get her
to carry some bundles to my poor people this
"Oh, dear me! I do hate to lug those old
clothes and bottles and baskets of cold victuals
round. Must I do it?" sighed Kitty, dismally,
while the shoes tapped on the floor under the
table, as if to remind her that she must, whether
she liked it or not.
"It would be right and kind, and would please
me very much. But you may do as you choose
about it. I am very tired, and some one must go;
for the little Bryan baby is sick and needs what
I send," said mamma, looking disappointed.
Kitty sat very still and sober for some time,
and no one spoke to her. She was making up
her mind whether she would go pleasantly or
be whisked about like a grasshopper against
her will. When dinner was over, she said in a
"I 'll go, mamma; and when all the errands
are done, may I come back through Fairyland,
as we call the little grove where the tall ferns grow?"
"Yes, dear; when you oblige me, I am happy
to please you."
"I 'm glad I decided to be good; now I shall
have a lovely time," said Kitty to herself, as she
trotted away with a basket in one hand, a bundle
in the other, and some money in her pocket for
a poor old woman who needed help.
The shoes went quietly along, and seemed to
know just where to stop. The sick baby's
mother thanked her for the soft little
nightgowns; the lame girl smiled when she saw the
books; the hungry children gathered round the
basket of food, like young birds eager to be fed;
and the old woman gave her a beautiful pink
shell that her sailor son brought home from sea.
When all the errands were done Kitty skipped
away to Fairyland, feeling very happy, as people
always do when they have done kind things. It
was a lovely place; for the ferns made green
arches tall enough for little girls to sit under,
and the ground was covered with pretty green
moss and wood-flowers. Birds flew about in
the pines, squirrels chattered in the oaks,
butterflies floated here and there, and from the pond
near by came the croak of frogs sunning their
green backs on the mossy stones.
"I wonder if the shoes will let me stop and
rest; it is so cool here, and I 'm so tired," said
Kitty, as she came to a cosey nook at the foot of a tree.
The words were hardly out of her mouth
when her feet folded under her, and there she
sat on a cushion of moss, like the queen of the
wood on her throne. Something lighted with
a bump close by her; and looking down she saw
a large black cricket with a stiff tail, staring at
"Bless my heart! I thought you were some
relation of my cousin Grasshopper's. You came
down the hill with long leaps just like him; so
I stopped to say, How d' ye do," said the cricket,
in its creaky voice.
"I 'm not a grasshopper; but I have on fairy
shoes to-day, and so do many things that I
never did before," answered Kitty, much surprised
to be able to understand what the cricket said.
"It is midsummer day, and fairies can play
whatever pranks they like. If you did n't have
those shoes on, you could n't understand what
I say. Hark, and hear those squirrels talk, and
the birds, and the ants down here. Make the
most of this chance; for at sunset your shoes
will stop skipping, and the fun all be over."
While the cricket talked Kitty did hear all
sorts of little voices, singing, laughing, chatting
in the gayest way, and understood every word
they said. The squirrels called to one another
as they raced about,--
"Here's a nut, there's a nut;
In a hole, under leaves,
Acorns sweet are plenty,
Skip and scamper lively
Till the last ones fall."
The birds were singing softly,--
"Rock a bye, babies,
Soft down your pillow,
Father will feed you,
And shelter our darlings
And the ants were saying to one another as
they hurried in and out of their little houses,--
"Work, neighbor, work!
Wander far and wide,
We are never like
But like the busy bees,
"Ants always were dreadfully good, but
butterflies are ever so much prettier," said Kitty,
listening to the little voices with wonder and
Come down below,--
It's lovely and cool
Out here in the pool;
On a lily-pad float
For a nice green boat.
Here we sit and sing
In a pleasant ring;
Or leap-frog play,
In the jolliest way.
Our games have begun,
Come join in the fun."
"Dear me! what could I do over there in the
mud with the queer green frogs?" laughed Kitty,
as this song was croaked at her.
"No, no, come and fly
Through the sunny sky,
Or honey sip
From the rose's lip,
Or dance in the air,
Like spirits fair.
Come away, come away;
'T is our holiday."
A cloud of lovely yellow butterflies flew up
from a wild-rose bush, and went dancing away
higher and higher, till they vanished in the light
beyond the wood.
"That is better than leap-frog. I wish my
skipping shoes would let me fly up somewhere,
instead of carrying me on errands and where
I ought to go all the time," said Kitty,
watching the pretty things glitter as they flew.
Just at that minute a clock struck, and away
went the shoes over the pool, the hill, the road,
till they pranced in at the gate as the tea-bell
rang. Kitty amused the family by telling what
she had done and seen; but no one believed the
Fairyland part, and her father said, laughing,--
"Go on, my dear, making up little stories,
and by and by you may be as famous as Hans
Christian Andersen, whose books you like so well."
"The sun will soon set, and then my fun will
be over; so I must skip while I can," thought
Kitty, and went waltzing round the lawn so
prettily that all the family came to see her.
"She dances so well that she shall go to
dancing-school," said her mother, pleased with the
pretty antics of her little girl.
Kitty was delighted to hear that; for she had
longed to go, and went on skipping as hard as
she could, that she might learn some of the
graceful steps the shoes took before the day
"Come, dear, stop now, and run up to your
bath and bed. It has been a long hot day, and
you are tired; so get to sleep early, for Nursey
wants to go out," said her mother, as the sun
went down behind the hills with a last bright
glimmer, like the wink of a great sleepy eye.
"Oh, please, a few minutes more," began
Kitty, but was off like a flash; for the shoes
trotted her upstairs so fast that she ran against
old Nursey, and down she went, splashing the
water all over the floor, and scolding in such
a funny way that it made Kitty laugh so that
she could hardly pick her up again.
By the time she was ready to undress the sun
was quite gone, and the shoes she took off were
common ones again, for midsummer day was
over. But Kitty never forgot the little lessons
she had learned: she tried to run willingly when
spoken to; she remembered the pretty steps
and danced like a fairy; and best of all, she
always loved the innocent and interesting little
creatures in the woods and fields, and whenever
she was told she might go to play with them, she
hurried away almost as quickly as if she still
wore the skipping shoes.