Lulu's Library, Volume III by Louisa M. Alcott
Recollections of My Childhood
A Christmas Turkey, and How It Came
The Silver Party
The Blind Lark
Music and Macaroni
The Little Red Purse
Louisa May Alcott
RECOLLECTIONS OF MY CHILDHOOD.
One of my earliest memories is of playing
with books in my father's study,--building
towers and bridges of the big dictionaries,
looking at pictures, pretending to read, and
scribbling on blank pages whenever pen or
pencil could be found. Many of these first
attempts at authorship still exist; and I often
wonder if these childish plays did not influence
my after-life, since books have been my greatest
comfort, castle-building a never-failing delight,
and scribbling a very profitable amusement.
Another very vivid recollection is of the day
when running after my hoop I fell into the Frog
Pond and was rescued by a black boy, becoming
a friend to the colored race then and there,
though my mother always declared that I was
an abolitionist at the age of three.
During the Garrison riot in Boston the
portrait of George Thompson was hidden under a
bed in our house for safekeeping; and I am
told that I used to go and comfort "the good
man who helped poor slaves" in his captivity.
However that may be, the conversion was
genuine; and my greatest pride is in the fact that I
have lived to know the brave men and women
who did so much for the cause, and that I had
a very small share in the war which put an end
to a great wrong.
Being born on the birthday of Columbus, I
seem to have something of my patron saint's
spirit of adventure, and running away was one
of the delights of my childhood. Many a social
lunch have I shared with hospitable Irish beggar
children, as we ate our crusts, cold potatoes,
and salt fish on voyages of discovery among
the ash heaps of the waste land that then lay
where the Albany station now stands.
Many an impromptu picnic have I had on
the dear old Common, with strange boys, pretty
babies, and friendly dogs, who always seemed
to feel that this reckless young person needed looking after.
On one occasion the town-crier found me fast
asleep at nine o'clock at night, on a doorstep
in Bedford Street, with my head pillowed on
the curly breast of a big Newfoundland, who
was with difficulty persuaded to release the
weary little wanderer who had sobbed herself
to sleep there.
I often smile as I pass that door, and never
forget to give a grateful pat to every big dog I
meet, for never have I slept more soundly than
on that dusty step, nor found a better friend
than the noble animal who watched over the
lost baby so faithfully.
My father's school was the only one I ever
went to; and when this was broken up because
he introduced methods now all the fashion, our
lessons went on at home, for he was always sure
of four little pupils who firmly believed in their
teacher, though they have not done him all the
credit he deserved.
I never liked arithmetic or grammar, and
dodged these branches on all occasions; but
reading, composition, history, and geography
I enjoyed, as well as the stories read to us with
a skill which made the dullest charming and useful.
"Pilgrim's Progress," Krummacher's "Parables,"
Miss Edgeworth, and the best of the
dear old fairy tales made that hour the
pleasantest of our day. On Sundays we had a simple
service of Bible stories, hymns, and conversation
about the state of our little consciences and
the conduct of our childish lives which never
will be forgotten.
Walks each morning round the Common
while in the city, and long tramps over hill and
dale when our home was in the country, were a
part of our education, as well as every sort of
housework, for which I have always been very
grateful, since such knowledge makes one
independent in these days of domestic
tribulation with the help who are too often only
Needle-work began early; and at ten my skilful
sister made a linen shirt beautifully, while at
twelve I set up as a dolls' dressmaker, with
my sign out, and wonderful models in my
window. All the children employed me; and my
turbans were the rage at one time, to the great
dismay of the neighbor's hens, who were hotly
hunted down that I might tweak out their
downiest feathers to adorn the dolls' head-gear.
Active exercise was my delight from the time
when a child of six I drove my hoop round the
Common without stopping, to the days when I
did my twenty miles in five hours and went to
a party in the evening.
I always thought I must have been a deer or
a horse in some former state, because it was
such a joy to run. No boy could be my friend
till I had beaten him in a race, and no girl if
she refused to climb trees, leap fences, and be a tomboy.
My wise mother, anxious to give me a strong
body to support a lively brain, turned me loose
in the country and let me run wild, learning of
Nature what no books can teach, and being led,
as those who truly love her seldom fail to be,
"Through Nature up to Nature's God."
I remember running over the hills just at
dawn one summer morning, and pausing to rest
in the silent woods, saw, through an arch of
trees, the sun rise over river, hill, and wide green
meadows as I never saw it before.
Something born of the lovely hour, a happy
mood, and the unfolding aspirations of a child's
soul seemed to bring me very near to God; and
in the hush of that morning hour I always felt
that I "got religion," as the phrase goes. A
new and vital sense of His presence, tender and
sustaining as a father's arms, came to me then,
never to change through forty years of life's
vicissitudes, but to grow stronger for the sharp
discipline of poverty and pain, sorrow and success.
Those Concord days were the happiest of
my life, for we had charming playmates in the
little Emersons, Channings, Hawthornes, and
Goodwins, with the illustrious parents and
their friends to enjoy our pranks and share
Plays in the barn were a favorite amusement,
and we dramatized the fairy tales in great style.
Our giant came tumbling off a loft when Jack
cut down the squash-vine running up a ladder
to represent the immortal bean. Cinderella
rolled away in a vast pumpkin; and a long black
pudding was lowered by invisible hands to fasten
itself on the nose of the woman who wasted her
Little pilgrims journeyed over the hills with
scrip and staff, and cockle-shells in their hats;
elves held their pretty revels among the pines,
and "Peter Wilkins'" flying ladies came
swinging down on the birch tree-tops. Lords and
ladies haunted the garden, and mermaids
splashed in the bath-house of woven willows
over the brook.
People wondered at our frolics, but enjoyed
them; and droll stories are still told of the
adventures of those days. Mr. Emerson and
Margaret Fuller were visiting my parents one
afternoon; and the conversation having turned
to the ever-interesting subject of education, Miss
"Well, Mr. Alcott, you have been able to
carry out your methods in your own family, and
I should like to see your model children."
She did in a few moments,--for as the
guests stood on the doorsteps a wild uproar
approached, and round the corner of the house
came a wheelbarrow holding baby May arrayed
as a queen; I was the horse, bitted and bridled,
and driven by my elder sister Anna, while
Lizzie played dog and barked as loud as her
gentle voice permitted.
All were shouting, and wild with fun, which,
however, came to a sudden end as we espied
the stately group before us, for my foot tripped,
and down we all went in a laughing heap, while
my mother put a climax to the joke by saying
with a dramatic wave of the hand,--
"Here are the model children, Miss Fuller!"
My sentimental period began at fifteen, when
I fell to writing romances, poems, a "heart
journal," and dreaming dreams of a splendid
Browsing over Mr. Emerson's library, I found
"Goethe's Correspondence with a Child," and
was at once fired with the desire to be a second
Bettine, making my father's friend my Goethe.
So I wrote letters to him, but was wise enough
never to send them, left wild flowers on the
doorsteps of my "Master," sung Mignon's
song in very bad German under his window, and
was fond of wandering by moonlight, or sitting
in a cherry-tree at midnight till the owls scared
me to bed.
The girlish folly did not last long, and the
letters were burned years ago; but Goethe is still
my favorite author, and Emerson remained my
beloved "Master" while he lived, doing more
for me, as for many another young soul, than
he ever knew, by the simple beauty of his life,
the truth and wisdom of his books, the example
of a good great man untempted and unspoiled
by the world which he made nobler while in it,
and left the richer when he went.
The trials of life began about this time, and
my happy childhood ended. Money is never
plentiful in a philosopher's house; and even
the maternal pelican could not supply all our
wants on the small income which was freely
shared with every needy soul who asked for help.
Fugitive slaves were sheltered under our roof;
and my first pupil was a very black George
Washington whom I taught to write on the
hearth with charcoal, his big fingers finding
pen and pencil unmanageable.
Motherless girls seeking protection were
guarded among us; hungry travellers sent on
to our door to be fed and warmed; and if the
philosopher happened to own two coats, the best
went to a needy brother, for these were practical
Christians who had the most perfect faith in
Providence, and never found it betrayed.
In those days the prophets were not honored
in their own land, and Concord had not yet
discovered her great men. It was a sort of refuge
for reformers of all sorts, whom the good natives
regarded as lunatics, harmless but amusing.
My father went away to hold his classes and
conversations, and we women folk began to feel
that we also might do something. So one
gloomy November day we decided to move to
Boston and try our fate again after some years
in the wilderness.
My father's prospect was as promising as a
philosopher's ever is in a money-making world;
my mother's friends offered her a good salary
as their missionary to the poor; and my sister
and I hoped to teach. It was an anxious
council; and always preferring action to discussion,
I took a brisk run over the hill and then
settled down for "a good think" in my favorite retreat.
It was an old cart-wheel, half hidden in grass
under the locusts where I used to sit to wrestle
with my sums, and usually forget them scribbling
verses or fairy tales on my slate instead.
Perched on the hub, I surveyed the prospect and
found it rather gloomy, with leafless trees, sere
grass, leaden sky, and frosty air; but the hopeful
heart of fifteen beat warmly under the old red
shawl, visions of success gave the gray clouds a
silver lining, and I said defiantly, as I shook my
fist at fate embodied in a crow cawing dismally
on a fence near by,--
"I will do something by-and-by. Don't care
what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help
the family; and I'll be rich and famous and
happy before I die, see if I won't!"
Startled by this audacious outburst, the crow
flew away; but the old wheel creaked as if it
began to turn at that moment, stirred by the
intense desire of an ambitious girl to work for
those she loved and find some reward when the
duty was done.
I did not mind the omen then, and returned
to the house cold but resolute. I think I began
to shoulder my burden then and there, for when
the free country life ended, the wild colt soon
learned to tug in harness, only breaking loose
now and then for a taste of beloved liberty.
My sisters and I had cherished fine dreams of
a home in the city; but when we found ourselves
in a small house at the South End with not a
tree in sight, only a back yard to play in, and
no money to buy any of the splendors before
us, we all rebelled and longed for the country again.
Anna soon found little pupils, and trudged
away each morning to her daily task, pausing at
the corner to wave her hand to me in answer
to my salute with the duster. My father went to
his classes at his room down town, mother to
her all-absorbing poor, the little girls to school,
and I was left to keep house, feeling like a
caged sea-gull as I washed dishes and cooked
in the basement kitchen, where my prospect was
limited to a procession of muddy boots.
Good drill, but very hard; and my only
consolation was the evening reunion when all met
with such varied reports of the day's adventures,
we could not fail to find both amusement and
Father brought news from the upper world,
and the wise, good people who adorned it;
mother, usually much dilapidated because she
would give away her clothes, with sad tales of
suffering and sin from the darker side of life;
gentle Anna a modest account of her success as
teacher, for even at seventeen her sweet nature
won all who knew her, and her patience quelled
the most rebellious pupil.
My reports were usually a mixture of the
tragic and the comic; and the children poured
their small joys and woes into the family bosom,
where comfort and sympathy were always to be found.
Then we youngsters adjourned to the kitchen
for our fun, which usually consisted of writing,
dressing, and acting a series of remarkable plays.
In one I remember I took five parts and Anna
four, with lightning changes of costume, and
characters varying from a Greek prince in silver
armor to a murderer in chains.
It was good training for memory and fingers,
for we recited pages without a fault, and made
every sort of property from a harp to a fairy's
spangled wings. Later we acted Shakespeare;
and Hamlet was my favorite hero, played with
a gloomy glare and a tragic stalk which I have
never seen surpassed.
But we were now beginning to play our parts
on a real stage, and to know something of the
pathetic side of life, with its hard facts, irksome
duties, many temptations, and the daily sacrifice
of self. Fortunately we had the truest,
tenderest of guides and guards, and so learned the
sweet uses of adversity, the value of honest
work, the beautiful law of compensation which
gives more than it takes, and the real significance
At sixteen I began to teach twenty pupils,
and for ten years learned to know and love
children. The story-writing went on all the
while with the usual trials of beginners. Fairy
tales told the Emersons made the first printed
book, and "Hospital Sketches" the first
Every experience went into the caldron to
come out as froth, or evaporate in smoke, till
time and suffering strengthened and clarified
the mixture of truth and fancy, and a
wholesome draught for children began to flow
pleasantly and profitably.
So the omen proved a true one, and the wheel
of fortune turned slowly, till the girl of fifteen
found herself a woman of fifty, with her
prophetic dream beautifully realized, her duty done,
her reward far greater than she deserved.
Chapter I tailpiece
Kitty gives the bunch of holly to the little girl.--PAGE 36
A CHRISTMAS TURKEY, AND HOW IT CAME.
"I know we could n't do it."
"I say we could, if we all helped."
"How can we?"
"I've planned lots of ways; only you mustn't
laugh at them, and you must n't say a word to
mother. I want it to be all a surprise."
"She 'll find us out."
"No, she won't, if we tell her we won't get
"Fire away, then, and let's hear your fine plans."
"We must talk softly, or we shall wake father.
He's got a headache."
A curious change came over the faces of the
two boys as their sister lowered her voice, with
a nod toward a half-opened door. They looked
sad and ashamed, and Kitty sighed as she
spoke, for all knew that father's headaches
always began by his coming home stupid or
cross, with only a part of his wages; and mother
always cried when she thought they did not see
her, and after the long sleep father looked as
if he did n't like to meet their eyes, but went
They knew what it meant, but never spoke of
it,--only pondered over it, and mourned with
mother at the change which was slowly altering
their kind industrious father into a moody
man, and mother into an anxious over-worked
Kitty was thirteen, and a very capable girl,
who helped with the housekeeping, took care
of the two little ones, and went to school.
Tommy and Sammy looked up to her and
thought her a remarkably good sister. Now,
as they sat round the stove having "a go-to-bed
warm," the three heads were close together;
and the boys listened eagerly to Kitty's plans,
while the rattle of the sewing-machine in
another room went on as tirelessly as it had done
all day, for mother's work was more and more
needed every month.
"Well!" began Kitty, in an impressive tone,
"we all know that there won't be a bit of Christmas
in this family if we don't make it. Mother's
too busy, and father don't care, so we must see
what we can do; for I should be mortified to
death to go to school and say I had n't had any
turkey or plum-pudding. Don't expect
presents; but we must have some kind of a decent
"So I say; I'm tired of fish and potatoes,"
said Sammy, the younger.
"But where's the dinner coming from?"
asked Tommy, who had already taken some of
the cares of life on his young shoulders, and
knew that Christmas dinners did not walk into
people's houses without money.
"We 'll earn it;" and Kitty looked like a
small Napoleon planning the passage of the
Alps. "You, Tom, must go early to-morrow
to Mr. Brisket and offer to carry baskets. He
will be dreadfully busy, and want you, I know;
and you are so strong you can lug as much as
some of the big fellows. He pays well, and if
he won't give much money, you can take your
wages in things to eat. We want everything."
"What shall I do?" cried Sammy, while
Tom sat turning this plan over in his mind.
"Take the old shovel and clear sidewalks.
The snow came on purpose to help you."
"It's awful hard work, and the shovel's half
gone," began Sammy, who preferred to spend
his holiday coasting on an old tea-tray.
"Don't growl, or you won't get any dinner,"
said Tom, making up his mind to lug baskets
for the good of the family, like a manly lad as
"I," continued Kitty, "have taken the hardest
part of all; for after my work is done, and the
babies safely settled, I 'm going to beg for the
leavings of the holly and pine swept out of
the church down below, and make some wreaths
and sell them."
"If you can," put in Tommy, who had tried
pencils, and failed to make a fortune.
"Not in the street?" cried Sam, looking alarmed.
"Yes, at the corner of the Park. I 'm bound
to make some money, and don't see any other
way. I shall put on an old hood and shawl,
and no one will know me. Don't care if they
do." And Kitty tried to mean what she said,
but in her heart she felt that it would be a trial
to her pride if any of her schoolmates should
happen to recognize her.
"Don't believe you 'll do it."
"See if I don't; for I will have a good dinner
one day in the year."
"Well, it does n't seem right for us to do it.
Father ought to take care of us, and we only
buy some presents with the little bit we earn.
He never gives us anything now." And
Tommy scowled at the bedroom door, with a
strong sense of injury struggling with affection
in his boyish heart.
"Hush!" cried Kitty. "Don't blame him.
Mother says we never must forget he's our
father. I try not to; but when she cries, it's
hard to feel as I ought." And a sob made the
little girl stop short as she poked the fire to
hide the trouble in the face that should have
been all smiles.
For a moment the room was very still, as the
snow beat on the window, and the fire-light
flickered over the six shabby little boots put
up on the stove hearth to dry.
Tommy's cheerful voice broke the silence,
saying stoutly, "Well, if I 've got to work all
day, I guess I 'll go to bed early. Don't fret,
Kit. We 'll help all we can, and have a good
time; see if we don't."
"I 'll go out real early, and shovel like fury.
Maybe I 'll get a dollar. Would that buy a
turkey?" asked Sammy, with the air of a
"No, dear; one big enough for us would
cost two, I 'm afraid. Perhaps we 'll have one
sent us. We belong to the church, though
folks don't know how poor we are now, and we
can't beg." And Kitty bustled about, clearing
up, rather exercised in her mind about going
and asking for the much-desired fowl.
Soon all three were fast asleep, and nothing
but the whir of the machine broke the quiet
that fell upon the house. Then from the inner
room a man came and sat over the fire with his
head in his hands and his eyes fixed on the
ragged little boots left to dry. He had heard the
children's talk; and his heart was very heavy
as he looked about the shabby room that used
to be so neat and pleasant. What he thought no
one knows, what he did we shall see by-and-by;
but the sorrow and shame and tender silence
of his children worked a miracle that night
more lasting and lovely than the white beauty
which the snow wrought upon the sleeping city.
Bright and early the boys were away to their
work; while Kitty sang as she dressed the little
sisters, put the house in order, and made her
mother smile at the mysterious hints she gave
of something splendid which was going to
happen. Father was gone, and though all
rather dreaded evening, nothing was said; but
each worked with a will, feeling that Christmas
should be merry in spite of poverty and care.
All day Tommy lugged fat turkeys, roasts of
beef, and every sort of vegetable for other
people's good dinners on the morrow,
wondering meanwhile where his own was coming from.
Mr. Brisket had an army of boys trudging here
and there, and was too busy to notice any
particular lad till the hurry was over, and only a
few belated buyers remained to be served. It
was late; but the stores kept open, and though
so tired he could hardly stand, brave Tommy
held on when the other boys left, hoping to
earn a trifle more by extra work. He sat down
on a barrel to rest during a leisure moment,
and presently his weary head nodded sideways
into a basket of cranberries, where he slept
quietly till the sound of gruff voices roused him.
It was Mr. Brisket scolding because one
dinner had been forgotten.
"I told that rascal Beals to be sure and carry
it, for the old gentleman will be in a rage if
it does n't come, and take away his custom.
Every boy gone, and I can't leave the store,
nor you either, Pat, with all the clearing up
"Here's a by, sir, slapin illigant forninst the
cranberries, bad luck to him!" answered Pat,
with a shake that set poor Tom on his legs,
wide awake at once.
"Good luck to him, you mean. Here,
What's-your-name, you take this basket to that number,
and I 'll make it worth your while," said
Mr. Brisket, much relieved by this unexpected help.
"All right, sir;" and Tommy trudged off as
briskly as his tired legs would let him, cheering
the long cold walk with visions of the turkey
with which his employer might reward him, for
there were piles of them, and Pat was to have
one for his family.
His brilliant dreams were disappointed,
however, for Mr. Brisket naturally supposed Tom's
father would attend to that part of the dinner,
and generously heaped a basket with vegetables,
rosy apples, and a quart of cranberries.
"There, if you ain't too tired, you can take
one more load to that number, and a merry
Christmas to you!" said the stout man,
handing over his gift with the promised dollar.
"Thank you, sir; good-night," answered
Tom, shouldering his last load with a grateful
smile, and trying not to look longingly at the
poultry; for he had set his heart on at least a
skinny bird as a surprise to Kit.
Sammy's adventures that day had been more
varied and his efforts more successful, as we
shall see, in the end, for Sammy was a most
engaging little fellow, and no one could look
into his blue eyes without wanting to pat his
curly yellow head with one hand while the other
gave him something. The cares of life had not
lessened his confidence in people; and only the
most abandoned ruffians had the heart to
deceive or disappoint him. His very tribulations
usually led to something pleasant, and whatever
happened, sunshiny Sam came right side up,
lucky and laughing.
Undaunted by the drifts or the cold wind, he
marched off with the remains of the old shovel
to seek his fortune, and found it at the third
house where he called. The first two sidewalks
were easy jobs; and he pocketed his ninepences
with a growing conviction that this was his
chosen work. The third sidewalk was a fine
long one, for the house stood on the corner, and
two pavements must be cleared.
"It ought to be fifty cents; but perhaps they
won't give me so much, I'm such a young one.
I'll show 'em I can work, though, like a man;"
and Sammy rang the bell with the energy of a
Before the bell could be answered, a big boy
rushed up, exclaiming roughly, "Get out of
this! I'm going to have the job. You can't
do it. Start, now, or I'll chuck you into a snow-bank."
"I won't!" answered Sammy, indignant at
the brutal tone and unjust claim. "I got here
first, and it's my job. You let me alone. I
ain't afraid of you or your snow-banks either."
The big boy wasted no time in words, for
steps were heard inside, but after a brief scuffle
hauled Sammy, fighting bravely all the way,
down the steps, and tumbled him into a deep
drift. Then he ran up the steps, and respectfully
asked for the job when a neat maid opened
the door. He would have got it if Sam had
not roared out, as he floundered in the drift,
"I came first. He knocked me down 'cause
I 'm the smallest. Please let me do it; please!"
Before another word could be said, a little old
lady appeared in the hall, trying to look stern,
and failing entirely, because she was the picture
of a dear fat, cosey grandma.
"Send that bad big boy away, Maria, and
call in the poor little fellow. I saw the whole
thing, and he shall have the job if he can do it."
The bully slunk away, and Sammy came
panting up the steps, white with snow, a great
bruise on his forehead, and a beaming smile on
his face, looking so like a jolly little Santa Claus
who had taken a "header" out of his sleigh
that the maid laughed, and the old lady
exclaimed, "Bless the boy! he's dreadfully hurt,
and does n't know it. Come in and be brushed
and get your breath, child, and tell me how
that scamp came to treat you so."
Nothing loath to be comforted, Sammy told
his little tale while Maria dusted him off on the
mat, and the old lady hovered in the doorway
of the dining-room, where a nice breakfast
smoked and smelled so deliciously that the boy
sniffed the odor of coffee and buckwheats like
a hungry hound.
"He 'll get his death if he goes to work till
he's dried a bit. Put him over the register,
Maria, and I 'll give him a hot drink, for it's
bitter cold, poor dear!"
Away trotted the kind old lady, and in a
minute came back with coffee and cakes, on
which Sammy feasted as he warmed his toes
and told Kitty's plans for Christmas, led on by
the old lady's questions, and quite unconscious
that he was letting all sorts of cats out of the bag.
Mrs. Bryant understood the little story, and
made her plans also, for the rosy-faced boy was
very like a little grandson who died last year,
and her sad old heart was very tender to
all other small boys. So she found out where
Sammy lived, and nodded and smiled at him
most cheerily as he tugged stoutly away at the
snow on the long pavements till all was done,
and the little workman came for his wages.
A bright silver dollar and a pocketful of
gingerbread sent him off a rich and happy boy to
shovel and sweep till noon, when he proudly
showed his earnings at home, and feasted the
babies on the carefully hoarded cake, for Dilly
and Dot were the idols of the household.
"Now, Sammy dear, I want you to take my
place here this afternoon, for mother will have
to take her work home by-and-by, and I must
sell my wreaths. I only got enough green for
six, and two bunches of holly; but if I can sell
them for ten or twelve cents apiece, I shall be
glad. Girls never can earn as much money as
boys somehow," sighed Kitty, surveying the
thin wreaths tied up with carpet ravellings, and
vainly puzzling her young wits over a sad problem.
"I 'll give you some of my money if you
don't get a dollar; then we'll be even. Men
always take care of women, you know, and
ought to," cried Sammy, setting a fine example
to his father, if he had only been there to profit
With thanks Kitty left him to rest on the
old sofa, while the happy babies swarmed over
him; and putting on the shabby hood and
shawl, she slipped away to stand at the Park
gate, modestly offering her little wares to the
passers-by. A nice old gentleman bought two,
and his wife scolded him for getting such bad
ones; but the money gave more happiness than
any other he spent that day. A child took a
ten-cent bunch of holly with its red berries,
and there Kitty's market ended. It was very
cold, people were in a hurry, bolder hucksters
pressed before the timid little girl, and the
balloon man told her to "clear out."
Hoping for better luck, she tried several
other places; but the short afternoon was soon
over, the streets began to thin, the keen wind
chilled her to the bone, and her heart was very
heavy to think that in all the rich, merry
city, where Christmas gifts passed her in every
hand, there were none for the dear babies and
boys at home, and the Christmas dinner was a failure.
"I must go and get supper anyway; and I 'll
hang these up in our own rooms, as I can't sell
them," said Kitty, wiping a very big tear from
her cold cheek, and turning to go away.
A smaller, shabbier girl than herself stood
near, looking at the bunch of holly with wistful
eyes; and glad to do to others as she wished
some one would do to her, Kitty offered the
only thing she had to give, saying kindly, "You
may have it; merry Christmas!" and ran away
before the delighted child could thank her.
I am very sure that one of the spirits who
fly about at this season of the year saw the
little act, made a note of it, and in about fifteen
minutes rewarded Kitty for her sweet remembrance
of the golden rule.
As she went sadly homeward she looked up
at some of the big houses where every window
shone with the festivities of Christmas Eve, and
more than one tear fell, for the little girl found
life pretty hard just then.
"There don't seem to be any wreaths at these
windows; perhaps they 'd buy mine. I can't
bear to go home with so little for my share,"
she said, stopping before one of the biggest and
brightest of these fairy palaces, where the
sound of music was heard, and many little
heads peeped from behind the curtains as if
watching for some one.
Kitty was just going up the steps to make
another trial, when two small boys came racing
round the corner, slipped on the icy pavement,
and both went down with a crash that would
have broken older bones. One was up in a
minute, laughing; the other lay squirming and
howling, "Oh, my knee! my knee!" till Kitty
ran and picked him up with the motherly
consolations she had learned to give.
"It's broken; I know it is," wailed the small
sufferer as Kitty carried him up the steps, while
his friend wildly rang the doorbell.
It was like going into fairy-land, for the house
was all astir with a children's Christmas party.
Servants flew about with smiling faces; open
doors gave ravishing glimpses of a feast in one
room and a splendid tree in another; while a
crowd of little faces peered over the balusters
in the hall above, eager to come down and
enjoy the glories prepared for them.
A pretty young girl came to meet Kitty, and
listened to her story of the accident, which
proved to be less severe than it at first
appeared; for Bertie, the injured party, forgot
his anguish at sight of the tree, and hopped
upstairs so nimbly that every one laughed.
"He said his leg was broken, but I guess
he's all right," said Kitty, reluctantly turning
from this happy scene to go out into the night
"Would you like to see our tree before the
children come down?" asked the pretty girl,
seeing the wistful look in the child's eyes, and
the shine of half-dried tears on her cheek.
"Oh, yes; I never saw anything so lovely.
I 'd like to tell the babies all about it;" and
Kitty's face beamed at the prospect, as if the
kind words had melted all the frost away.
"How many babies are there?" asked the
pretty girl, as she led the way into the brilliant
room. Kitty told her, adding several other
facts, for the friendly atmosphere seemed to
make them friends at once.
"I will buy the wreaths, for we have n't any,"
said the girl in silk, as Kitty told how she was
just coming to offer them when the boys fell.
It was pretty to see how carefully the little
hostess laid away the shabby garlands and
slipped a half-dollar into Kitty's hand; prettier
still, to watch the sly way in which she tucked
some bonbons, a red ball, a blue whip, two
china dolls, two pairs of little mittens, and some
gilded nuts into an empty box for "the babies;"
and prettiest of all, to see the smiles and tears
make April in Kitty's face as she tried to tell
her thanks for this beautiful surprise.
The world was all right when she got into the
street again and ran home with the precious
box hugged close, feeling that at last she had
something to make a merry Christmas of.
Shrieks of joy greeted her, for Sammy's nice
old lady had sent a basket full of pies, nuts and
raisins, oranges and cake, and--oh, happy
Sammy!--a sled, all for love of the blue eyes
that twinkled so merrily when he told her about
the tea-tray. Piled upon this red car of triumph,
Dilly and Dot were being dragged about, while
the other treasures were set forth on the table.
"I must show mine," cried Kitty; "we 'll
look at them to-night, and have them
to-morrow;" and amid more cries of rapture her box
was unpacked, her money added to the pile in
the middle of the table, where Sammy had laid
his handsome contribution toward the turkey.
Before the story of the splendid tree was
over, in came Tommy with his substantial
offering and his hard-earned dollar.
"I 'm afraid I ought to keep my money for
shoes. I 've walked the soles off these to-day,
and can't go to school barefooted," he said,
bravely trying to put the temptation of skates
"We 've got a good dinner without a turkey,
and perhaps we 'd better not get it," added
Kitty, with a sigh, as she surveyed the table, and
remembered the blue knit hood marked seventy-five
cents that she saw in a shop-window.
"Oh, we must have a turkey! we worked so
hard for it, and it's so Christmasy," cried Sam,
who always felt that pleasant things ought to
"Must have turty," echoed the babies, as
they eyed the dolls tenderly.
"You shall have a turkey, and there he is,"
said an unexpected voice, as a noble bird fell
upon the table, and lay there kicking up his
legs as if enjoying the surprise immensely.
It was father's voice, and there stood father,
neither cross nor stupid, but looking as he used
to look, kind and happy, and beside him was
mother, smiling as they had not seen her smile
for months. It was not because the work was
well paid for, and more promised, but because
she had received a gift that made the world
bright, a home happy again,--father's promise
to drink no more.
"I 've been working to-day as well as you,
and you may keep your money for yourselves.
There are shoes for all; and never again, please
God, shall my children be ashamed of me, or
want a dinner Christmas Day."
As father said this with a choke in his voice,
and mother's head went down on his shoulder
to hide the happy tears that wet her cheeks,
the children did n't know whether to laugh or
cry, till Kitty, with the instinct of a loving heart,
settled the question by saying, as she held out
her hands, "We have n't any tree, so let's
dance around our goodies and be merry."
Then the tired feet in the old shoes forgot
their weariness, and five happy little souls
skipped gayly round the table, where, in the
midst of all the treasures earned and given,
father's Christmas turkey proudly lay in state.
Chapter II tailpiece
"Grandpapa Ladle cheered them on, like a fine old gentleman as he was."--PAGE 55
THE SILVER PARTY.
"Such a long morning! Seems as if
dinner-time would never come!" sighed
Tony, as he wandered into the dining-room for
a third pick at the nuts and raisins to beguile
his weariness with a little mischief.
It was Thanksgiving Day. All the family
were at church, all the servants busy preparing
for the great dinner; and so poor Tony, who
had a cold, had not only to stay at home, but
to amuse himself while the rest said their
prayers, made calls, or took a brisk walk to get
an appetite. If he had been allowed in the
kitchen, he would have been quite happy; but
cook was busy and cross, and rapped him on
the head with a poker when he ventured near
the door. Peeping through the slide was also
forbidden, and John, the man, bribed him with
an orange to keep out of the way till the table
That was now done. The dining-room was
empty and quiet, and poor Tony lay down on
the sofa to eat his nuts and admire the fine
sight before him. All the best damask, china,
glass, and silver was set forth with great care.
A basket of flowers hung from the chandelier,
and the sideboard was beautiful to behold with
piled-up fruit, dishes of cake, and many-colored
finger-bowls and glasses.
"That's all very nice, but the eating part is
what I care for. Don't believe I 'll get my
share to-day, because mamma found out about
this horrid cold. A fellow can't help sneezing,
though he can hide a sore throat. Oh, hum! nearly
two more hours to wait;" and with a
long sigh Tony closed his eyes for a luxurious
When he opened them, the strange sight he
beheld kept him staring without a thought of
sleep. The big soup-ladle stood straight up at
the head of the table with a face plainly to be
seen in the bright bowl. It was a very heavy,
handsome old ladle, so the face was old, but
round and jolly; and the long handle stood
very erect, like a tall thin gentleman with a big head.
"Well, upon my word that's queer!" said
Tony, sitting up also, and wondering what would
To his great amazement the ladle began to
address the assembled forks and spoons in a
silvery tone very pleasant to hear:--
"Ladies and gentlemen, at this festive season
it is proper that we should enjoy ourselves.
As we shall be tired after dinner, we will at
once begin our sports by a grand promenade.
Take partners and fall in!"
At these words a general uprising took place;
and before Tony could get his breath a long
procession of forks and spoons stood ready.
The finger-bowls struck up an airy tune as if
invisible wet fingers were making music on their
rims, and led by the stately ladle like a
drum-major, the grand march began. The forks were
the gentlemen, tall, slender, and with a fine
curve to their backs; the spoons were the
ladies, with full skirts, and the scallops on the
handles stood up like silver combs; the large
ones were the mammas, the teaspoons were the
young ladies, and the little salts the children.
It was sweet to see the small things walk at the
end of the procession, with the two silver rests
for the carving knife and fork trotting behind
like pet dogs. The mustard-spoon and pickle-fork
went together, and quarrelled all the way,
both being hot-tempered and sharp-tongued.
The steel knives looked on, for this was a very
aristocratic party, and only the silver people
could join in it.
"Here 's fun!" thought Tony, staring with
all his might, and so much interested in this
remarkable state of things that he forgot hunger
and time altogether.
Round and round went the glittering train, to
the soft music of the many-toned finger-bowls,
till three turns about the long oval table had
been made; then all fell into line for a
contradance, as in the good old times before every
one took to spinning like tops. Grandpa Ladle
led off with his oldest daughter, Madam Gravy
Ladle, and the little salts stood at the bottom
prancing like real children impatient for their
turn. When it came, they went down the middle
in fine style, with a cling! clang! that made
Tony's legs quiver with a longing to join in.
It was beautiful to see the older ones twirl
round in a stately way, with bows and
courtesies at the end, while the teaspoons and small
forks romped a good deal, and Mr. Pickle and
Miss Mustard kept every one laughing at their
smart speeches. The silver butter-knife, who
was an invalid, having broken her back and
been mended, lay in the rack and smiled sweetly
down upon her friends, while the little Cupid
on the lid of the butter-dish pirouetted on one
toe in the most delightful manner.
When every one had gone through the dance,
the napkins were arranged as sofas and the
spoons rested, while the polite forks brought
sprigs of celery to fan them with. The little
salts got into grandpa's lap; and the silver dogs
lay down panting, for they had frisked with
the children. They all talked; and Tony could
not help wondering if real ladies said such
things when they put their heads together and
nodded and whispered, for some of the remarks
were so personal that he was much confused.
Fortunately they took no notice of him, so he
listened and learned something in this queer way.
"I have been in this family a hundred years,"
began the soup-ladle; "and it seems to me that
each generation is worst than the last. My first
master was punctual to a minute, and madam
was always down beforehand to see that all was
ready. Now master comes at all hours; mistress
lets the servants do as they like; and the
manners of the children are very bad. Sad
state of things, very sad!"
"Dear me, yes!" sighed one of the large
spoons; "we don't see such nice housekeeping
now as we did when we were young. Girls
were taught all about it then; but now it is all
books or parties, and few of them know a
skimmer from a gridiron."
"Well, I 'm sure the poor things are much
happier than if they were messing about in
kitchens as girls used to do in your day. It is
much better for them to be dancing, skating,
and studying than wasting their young lives
darning and preserving, and sitting by their
mammas as prim as dishes. I prefer the present
way of doing things, though the girls in this
family do sit up too late, and wear too high
heels to their boots."
The mustard-spoon spoke in a pert tone, and
the pickle-fork answered sharply,--
"I agree with you, cousin. The boys also
sit up too late. I 'm tired of being waked to
fish out olives or pickles for those fellows when
they come in from the theatre or some dance;
and as for that Tony, he is a real pig,--eats
everything he can lay hands on, and is the
torment of the maid's life."
"Yes," cried one little salt-spoon, "we saw
him steal cake out of the sideboard, and he
never told when his mother scolded Norah."
"So mean!" added the other; and both the
round faces were so full of disgust that Tony
fell flat and shut his eyes as if asleep to hide
his confusion. Some one laughed; but he
dared not look, and lay blushing and listening
to remarks which plainly proved how careful
we should be of our acts and words even when
alone, for who knows what apparently dumb
thing may be watching us.
"I have observed that Mr. Murry reads
the paper at table instead of talking to his
family; that Mrs. Murry worries about the
servants; the girls gossip and giggle; the boys
eat, and plague one another; and that small
child Nelly teases for all she sees, and is never
quiet till she gets the sugar-bowl," said Grandpa
Ladle, in a tone of regret. "Now, useful and
pleasant chat at table would make meals
delightful, instead of being scenes of confusion and
"I bite their tongues when I get a chance,
hoping to make them witty or to check unkind
words; but they only sputter, and get a lecture
from Aunt Maria, who is a sour old spinster,
always criticising her neighbors."'
As the mustard-spoon spoke, the teaspoons
laughed as if they thought her rather like Aunt
Maria in that respect.
"I gave the baby a fit of colic to teach her to
let pickles alone, but no one thanked me," said
"Perhaps if we keep ourselves so bright that
those who use us can see their faces in us, we
shall be able to help them a little; for no one
likes to see an ugly face or a dull spoon. The
art of changing frowns to smiles is never
old-fashioned; and lovely manners smooth away the
little worries of life beautifully." A silvery voice
spoke, and all looked respectfully at Madam
Gravy Ladle, who was a very fine old spoon,
with a coat of arms on it, and a polish that all envied.
"People can't always be remembering how
old and valuable and bright they are. Here in
America we just go ahead and make manners
and money for ourselves. I don't stop to ask
what dish I 'm going to help to; I just pitch in
and take all I can hold, and don't care a bit
whether I shine or not. My grandfather was a
kitchen spoon; but I'm smarter than he was,
thanks to my plating, and look and feel as good
as any one, though I have n't got stags' heads
and big letters on my handle."
No one answered these impertinent remarks
of the sauce-spoon, for all knew that she was
not pure silver, and was only used on occasions
when many spoons were needed. Tony was
ashamed to hear her talk in that rude way to the
fine old silver he was so proud of, and resolved
he 'd give the saucy spoon a good rap when he
helped himself to the cranberry.
An impressive silence lasted till a lively fork
exclaimed, as the clock struck, "Every one is
coasting out-of-doors. Why not have our share
of the fun inside? It is very fashionable this
winter, and ladies and gentlemen of the best
families do it, I assure you."
"We will!" cried the other forks; and as the
dowagers did not object, all fell to work to
arrange the table for this agreeable sport. Tony
sat up to see how they would manage, and was
astonished at the ingenuity of the silver people.
With a great clinking and rattling they ran to
and fro, dragging the stiff white mats about; the
largest they leaned up against the tall caster,
and laid the rest in a long slope to the edge of
the table, where a pile of napkins made a nice
snowdrift to tumble into.
"What will they do for sleds?" thought Tony;
and the next minute chuckled when he saw them
take the slices of bread laid at each place, pile
on, and spin away, with a great scattering of
crumbs like snowflakes, and much laughter as
they landed in the white pile at the end of the
"Won't John give it to 'em if he comes in
and catches 'em turning his nice table topsy-turvy!"
said the boy to himself, hoping nothing
would happen to end this jolly frolic. So he
kept very still, and watched the gay forks and
spoons climb up and whiz down till they were
tired. The little salts got Baby Nell's own
small slice, and had lovely times on a short
coast of their own made of one mat held up by
grandpa, who smiled benevolently at the fun,
being too old and heavy to join in it.
They kept it up until the slices were worn
thin, and one or two upsets alarmed the ladies;
then they rested and conversed again. The
mammas talked about their children, how sadly
the silver basket needed a new lining, and what
there was to be for dinner. The teaspoons
whispered sweetly together, as young ladies
do,--one declaring that rouge powder was not as
good as it used to be, another lamenting the sad
effect of eggs upon her complexion, and all
smiled amiably upon the forks, who stood about
discussing wines and cigars, for both lived in
the sideboard, and were brought out after dinner,
so the forks knew a great deal about such
matters, and found them very interesting, as all
gentlemen seem to do.
Presently some one mentioned bicycles, and
what fine rides the boys of the family told about.
The other fellows proposed a race; and before
Tony could grasp the possibility of such a thing,
it was done. Nothing easier, for there stood a
pile of plates, and just turning them on their
edges, the forks got astride, and the big wheels
spun away as if a whole bicycle club had
Old Pickle took the baby's plate, as better
suited to his size. The little salts made a
tricycle of napkin-rings, and rode gayly off,
with the dogs barking after them. Even the
carving-fork, though not invited, could not resist
the exciting sport, and tipping up the wooden
bread-platter, went whizzing off at a great pace,
for his two prongs were better than four, and his
wheel was lighter than the china ones.
Grand-papa Ladle cheered them on, like a fine old
gentleman as he was, for though the new craze
rather astonished him, he liked manly sports,
and would have taken a turn if his dignity and
age had allowed. The ladies chimed their
applause, for it really was immensely exciting
to see fourteen plates with forks astride racing
round the large table with cries of, "Go it,
Pickle! Now, then, Prongs! Steady, Silver-top!
Hurrah for the twins!"
The fun was at its height when young Prongs
ran against Pickle, who did not steer well, and
both went off the table with a crash. All
stopped at once, and crowded to the edge to
see who was killed. The plates lay in pieces,
old Pickle had a bend in his back that made
him groan dismally, and Prongs had fallen down
Wails of despair arose at that awful sight, for
he was a favorite with every one, and such a
tragic death was too much for some of the
tender-hearted spoons, who fainted at the idea
of that gallant fork's destruction in what to them
was a fiery volcano.
"Serves Pickle right! He ought to know he
was too old for such wild games," scolded Miss
Mustard, peering anxiously over at her friend,
for they were fond of one another in spite of
"Now let us see what these fine folks will do
when they get off the damask and come to grief.
A helpless lot, I fancy, and those fellows deserve
what they 've got," said the sauce-spoon, nearly
upsetting the twins as she elbowed her way to
the front to jeer over the fallen.
"I think you will see that gentle people are
as brave as those who make a noise," answered
Madam Gravy, and leaning over the edge of the
table she added in her sweet voice, "Dear
Mr. Pickle, we will let down a napkin and pull you
up if you have strength to take hold."
"Pull away, ma'am," groaned Pickle, who well
deserved his name just then, and soon, thanks
to Madam's presence of mind, he was safely laid
on a pile of mats, while Miss Mustard put a
plaster on his injured back.
Meanwhile brave Grandpapa Ladle had slipped
from the table to a chair, and so to the floor
without too great a jar to his aged frame; then
sliding along the carpet, he reached the register.
Peering down that dark, hot abyss he cried,
while all listened breathlessly for a reply,
"Prongs, my boy, are you there?"
"Ay, ay, sir; I 'm caught in the wire screen.
Ask some of the fellows to lend a hand and get
me out before I 'm melted," answered the fork,
with a gasp of agony.
Instantly the long handle of the patriarchal
Ladle was put down to his rescue, and after a
moment of suspense, while Prongs caught firmly
hold, up he came, hot and dusty, but otherwise
unharmed by that dreadful fall. Cheers greeted
them, and every one lent a hand at the napkin
as they were hoisted to the table to be embraced
by their joyful relatives and friends.
"What did you think about down in that
horrid place?" asked one of the twins.
"I thought of a story I once heard master
tell, about a child who was found one cold day
sitting with his feet on a newspaper, and when
asked what he was doing, answered, 'Warming
my feet on the "Christian Register."' I hoped
my register would be Christian enough not to
melt me before help came. Ha! ha! See
the joke, my dears?" and Prongs laughed as
gayly as if he never had taken a header into
"What did you see down there?" asked the
other twin, curious, as all small people are.
"Lots of dust and pins, a doll's head baby
put there, Norah's thimble, and the big red
marble that boy Tony was raging about the
other day. It's a regular catch-all, and shows
how the work is shirked in this house," answered
Prongs, stretching his legs, which were a little
damaged by the fall.
"What shall we do about the plates?" asked
Pickle, from his bed.
"Let them lie, for we can't mend them.
John will think the boy broke them, and he'll
get punished, as he deserves, for he broke a
tumbler yesterday, and put it slyly in the
ash-barrel," said Miss Mustard, spitefully.
"Oh! I say, that's mean," began Tony; but
no one listened, and in a minute Prongs answered
"I 'm a gentleman, and I don't let other
people take the blame of my scrapes. Tony has
enough of his own to answer for."
"I'll have that bent fork for mine, and make
John keep it as bright as a new dollar to pay for
this. Prongs is a trump, and I wish I could tell
him so," thought Tony, much gratified at this
"Right, grandson. I am pleased with you;
but allow me to suggest that the Chinese
Mandarin on the chimney-piece be politely requested
to mend the plates. He can do that sort of
thing nicely, and will be charmed to oblige us,
I am sure."
Grandpapa's suggestion was a good one;
and Yam Ki Lo consented at once, skipped to
the floor, tapped the bits of china with his fan,
and in the twinkling of an eye was back on his
perch, leaving two whole plates behind him,
for he was a wizard, and knew all about blue china.
Just as the silver people were rejoicing over
this fine escape from discovery, the clock struck,
a bell rang, voices were heard upstairs, and it
was very evident that the family had arrived.
At these sounds a great flurry arose in the
dining-room, as every spoon, fork, plate, and
napkin flew back to its place. Pickle rushed to
the jar, and plunged in head first, regardless of
his back; Miss Mustard retired to the caster;
the twins scrambled into the salt-cellar; and the
silver dogs lay down by the carving knife and
fork as quietly as if they had never stirred a
leg; Grandpapa slowly reposed in his usual
place; Madam followed his example with
dignity; the teaspoons climbed into the holder,
uttering little cries of alarm; and Prongs stayed
to help them till he had barely time to drop
down at Tony's place, and lie there with his
bent leg in the air, the only sign of the great
fall, about which he talked for a long time
afterward. All was in order but the sauce-spoon,
who had stopped to laugh at the Mandarin till
it was too late to get to her corner; and before
she could find any place of concealment, John
came in and caught her lying in the middle of
the table, looking very common and shabby
among all the bright silver.
"What in the world is that old plated thing
here for? Missis told Norah to put it in the
kitchen, as she had a new one for a present
to-day--real silver--so out you go;" and as he
spoke, John threw the spoon through the
slide,--an exile forevermore from the good society
which she did not value as she should.
Tony saw the glimmer of a smile in Grand-papa
Ladle's face, but it was gone like a flash,
and by the time the boy reached the table
nothing was to be seen in the silver bowl but his
own round rosy countenance, full of wonder.
"I don't think any one will believe what I 've
seen, but I mean to tell, it was so very curious,"
he said, as he surveyed the scene of the late
frolic, now so neat and quiet that not a wrinkle
or a crumb betrayed what larks had been going on.
Hastily fishing up his long-lost marble, the
doll's head, and Norah's thimble, he went
thoughtfully upstairs to welcome his cousins,
still much absorbed by this very singular affair.
Dinner was soon announced; and while it
lasted every one was too busy eating the good
things before them to observe how quiet the
usually riotous Tony was. His appetite for
turkey and cranberries seemed to have lost its
sharp edge, and the mince-pie must have felt
itself sadly slighted by his lack of appreciation
of its substance and flavor. He seemed in a
brown-study, and kept staring about as if he
saw more than other people did. He examined
Nelly's plate as if looking for a crack, smiled at
the little spoon when he took salt, refused
pickles and mustard with a frown, kept a certain
bent fork by him as long as possible, and tried
to make music with a wet finger on the rim of
his bowl at dessert.
But in the evening, when the young people
sat around the fire, he amused them by telling
the queer story of the silver party; but he very
wisely left out the remarks made upon himself
and family, remembering how disagreeable the
sauce-spoon had seemed, and he privately
resolved to follow Madam Gravy Ladle's advice
to keep his own face bright, manners polite, and
speech kindly, that he might prove himself to
be pure silver, and be stamped a gentleman.
"Presently she sat down and let them tap her cheeks."--PAGE 82
THE BLIND LARK.
High up in an old house, full of poor
people, lived Lizzie, with her mother and
Baby Billy. The street was a narrow, noisy
place, where carts rumbled and dirty children
played; where the sun seldom shone, the fresh
wind seldom blew, and the white snow of
winter was turned at once to black mud. One bare
room was Lizzie's home, and out of it she
seldom went, for she was a prisoner. We all pity
the poor princesses who were shut up in towers
by bad fairies, the men and women in jails, and
the little birds in cages, but Lizzie was a sadder
prisoner than any of these.
The prince always comes to the captive princess,
the jail doors open in time, and the birds
find some kind hand to set them free; but there
seemed no hope of escape for this poor child.
Only nine years old, and condemned to
life-long helplessness, loneliness, and
darkness,--for she was blind.
She could dimly remember the blue sky,
green earth, and beautiful sun; for the light
went out when she was six, and the cruel fever
left her a pale little shadow to haunt that room
ever since. The father was dead; the mother
worked hard for daily bread; they had no friends;
and the good fairies seemed to have forgotten
them. Still, like the larks one sees in Brittany,
whose eyes cruel boys put out that they may
sing the sweeter, Lizzie made music in her cage,
singing to baby; and when he slept, she sat
by the window listening to the noise below for
company, crooning to herself till she too fell
asleep and forgot the long, long days that had
no play, no school, no change for her such as
other children know.
Every morning mother gave them their porridge,
locked the door, and went away to work,
leaving something for the children's dinner, and
Lizzie to take care of herself and Billy till
night. There was no other way, for both were
too helpless to be trusted elsewhere, and there
was no one to look after them. But Lizzie
knew her way about the room, and could find
the bed, the window, and the table where the
bread and milk stood. There was seldom any
fire in the stove, and the window was barred, so
the little prisoners were safe; and day after day
they lived together a sad, solitary, unchildlike
life that makes one's heart ache to think of.
Lizzie watched over Billy like a faithful little
mother, and Billy did his best to bear his trials
and comfort sister like a man. He was not a
rosy, rollicking fellow, like most year-old boys,
but pale and thin and quiet, with a pathetic
look in his big blue eyes, as if he said,
"Something is wrong; will some one kindly put it
right for us?" But he seldom complained
unless in pain, and would lie for hours on the old
bed, watching the flies, which were his only
other playmates, stretching out his little hands
to the few rays of sunshine that crept in now
and then, as if longing for them, like a flower in
a cellar. When Lizzie sang, he hummed softly;
and when he was hungry, cold, or tired, he
called, "Lib! Lib!" meaning "Lizzie," and
nestled up to her, forgetting all his baby woes
in her tender arms.
Seeing her so fond and faithful, the poor
neighbors loved as well as pitied her, and did
what they could for the afflicted child. The busy
women would pause at the locked door to ask
if all was right; the dirty children brought her
dandelions from the park; and the rough
workmen of the factory opposite, with a kind word,
would toss an apple or a cake through the open
window. They had learned to look for the
little wistful face behind the bars, and loved to
listen to the childish voice which caught and
imitated the songs they sang and whistled, like
a sweet echo. They called her "the blind lark;"
and though she never knew it, many were the
better for the pity they gave her.
Baby slept a great deal, for life offered him
few pleasures, and like a small philosopher, he
wisely tried to forget the troubles which he
could not cure; so Lizzie had nothing to do
but sing, and try to imagine how the world
looked. She had no one to tell her, and the
few memories grew dimmer and dimmer each
year. She did not know how to work or to
play, never having been taught, and mother was
too tired at night to do anything but get supper
and go to bed.
"The child will be an idiot soon, if she does
not die," people said; and it seemed as if this
would be the fate of the poor little girl, since
no one came to save her during those three
weary years. She often said, "I'm of some
use. I take care of Billy, and I could n't live
But even this duty and delight was taken
from her, for that cold spring nipped the poor
little flower, and one day Billy shut his blue
eyes with a patient sigh and left her all alone.
Then Lizzie's heart seemed broken; and
people thought she would soon follow him, now
that her one care and comfort was gone. All
day she lay with her cheek on Billy's pillow,
holding the battered tin cup and a little worn-out
shoe, and it was pitiful to hear her sing the
old lullabies as if baby still could hear them.
"It will be a mercy if the poor thing does n't
live; blind folks are no use and a sight of
trouble," said one woman to another as they
gossiped in the hall after calling on the child
during her mother's absence, for the door was
left unlocked since she was ill.
"Yes, Mrs. Davis would get on nicely if she
had n't such a burden. Thank Heaven, my
children are n't blind," answered the other,
hugging her baby closer as she went away.
Lizzie heard them, and hoped with all her
sad little soul that death would set her free, since
she was of no use in the world. To go and be
with Billy was all her desire now, and she was
on her way to him, growing daily weaker and
more content to be dreaming of dear baby well
and happy, waiting for her somewhere in a
lovely place called heaven.
The summer vacation came; and hundreds of
eager children were hurrying away to the
mountains and seashore for two months of healthful
pleasure. Even the dirty children in the lane
felt the approach of berry-time, and rejoiced in
their freedom from cold as they swarmed like
flies about the corner grocery where over-ripe
fruit was thrown out for them to scramble over.
Lizzie heard about good times when some of
these young neighbors were chosen to go on
the poor children's picnics, and came back with
big sandwiches buttoned up in their jackets,
pickles, peanuts, and buns in their pockets,
hands full of faded flowers, and hearts brimming
over with childish delight at a day in the
woods. She listened with a faint smile,
enjoyed the "woodsy" smell of the green things,
and wondered if they had nice picnics in
heaven, being sorry that Billy had missed them
here. But she did not seem to care much, or
hope for any pleasure for herself except to see
I think there were few sadder sights in that
great city than this innocent prisoner waiting so
patiently to be set free. Would it be by the
gentle angel of death, or one of the human angels
who keep these little sparrows from falling to
One hot August day, when not a breath came
into the room, and the dust and noise and evil
smells were almost unendurable, poor Lizzie lay
on her bed singing feebly to herself about "the
beautiful blue sea." She was trying to get to
sleep that she might dream of a cool place, and
her voice was growing fainter and fainter, when
suddenly it seemed as if the dream had come,
for a sweet odor was near, something damp and
fresh touched her feverish cheek, and a kind
voice said in her ear,--
"Here is the little bird I 've been following.
Will you have some flowers, dear?"
"Is it heaven? Where's Billy?" murmured
Lizzie, groping about her, half awake.
"Not yet. I'm not Billy, but a friend who
carries flowers to little children who cannot go
and get them. Don't be afraid, but let me sit
and tell you about it," answered the voice, as a
gentle hand took hers.
"I thought maybe I 'd died, and I was glad,
for I do want to see Billy so much. He's baby,
you know." And the clinging hands held the
kind one fast till it filled them with a great bunch
of roses that seemed to bring all summer into the
close, hot room with their sweetness.
"Oh, how nice! how nice! I never had such a
lot. They 're bigger 'n' better 'n dandelions,
are n't they? What a good lady you must be
to go 'round giving folks posies like these!"
cried Lizzie, trying to realize the astonishing fact.
Then, while the new friend fanned her, she
lay luxuriating in her roses, and listening to the
sweet story of the Flower Mission which, like
many other pleasant things, she knew nothing of
in her prison. Presently she told her own little
tale, never guessing how pathetic it was, till
lifting her hand to touch the new face, she
found it wet with tears.
"Are you sorry for me?" she asked. "Folks
are very kind, but I 'm a burden, you know,
and I 'd better die and go to Billy; I was some
use to him, but I never can be to any one else.
I heard 'em say so, and poor mother would do
better if I was n't here."
"My child, I know a little blind girl who is
no burden but a great help to her mother, and
a happy, useful creature, as you might be if you
were taught and helped as she was," went on
the voice, sounding more than ever like a good
fairy's as it told fresh wonders till Lizzie was
sure it must be all a dream.
"Who taught her? Could I do it? Where's
the place?" she asked, sitting erect in her
eagerness, like a bird that hears a hand at the
door of its cage.
Then, with the comfortable arm around her,
the roses stirring with the flutter of her heart,
and the sightless eyes looking up as if they
could see the face of the deliverer, Lizzie heard
the wonderful story of the House Beautiful
standing white and spacious on the hill, with
the blue sea before it, the fresh wind always
blowing, the green gardens and parks all about,
and inside, music, happy voices, shining faces,
busy hands, and year after year the patient
teaching by those who dedicate themselves to
this noble and tender task.
"It must be better'n heaven!" cried Lizzie,
as she heard of work and play, health and
happiness, love and companionship, usefulness
and independence,--all the dear rights and
simple joys young creatures hunger for, and
perish, soul and body, without.
It was too much for her little mind to grasp
at once, and she lay as if in a blissful dream
long after the kind visitor had gone, promising
to come again and to find some way for Lizzie
to enter into that lovely place where darkness
is changed to light.
That visit was like magic medicine, and the
child grew better at once, for hope was born in
her heart. The heavy gloom seemed to lift;
discomforts were easier to bear; and solitude was
peopled now with troops of happy children
living in that wonderful place where blindness
was not a burden. She told it all to her
mother, and the poor woman tried to believe
it, but said sadly,--
"Don't set your heart on it, child. It's easy
to promise and to forget. Rich folks don't
trouble themselves about poor folks if they can help it."
But Lizzie's faith never wavered, though the
roses faded as day after day went by and no
one came. The mere thought that it was
possible to teach blind people to work and study
and play seemed to give her strength and
courage. She got up and sat at the window again,
singing to herself as she watched and waited,
with the dead flowers carefully arranged in
Billy's mug, and a hopeful smile on the little
white face behind the bars.
Every one was glad she was better, and
nodded to one another as they heard the soft
crooning, like a dove's coo, in the pauses of the
harsher noises that filled the street. The
workmen tossed her sweeties and whistled their
gayest airs; the children brought their
dilapidated toys to amuse her; and one woman
came every day to put her baby in Lizzie's lap,
it was such a pleasure to her to feel the soft
little body in the loving arms that longed for Billy.
Poor mother went to her work in better
spirits, and the long hot days were less
oppressive as she thought, while she scrubbed, of
Lizzie up again; for she loved her helpless
burden, heavy though she found it.
When Saturday came around, it rained hard,
and no one expected "the flower lady." Even
Lizzie said with a patient sigh and a hopeful
"I don't believe she 'll come; but maybe
it will clear up, and then I guess she will."
It did not clear up, but the flower lady came;
and as the child sat listening to the welcome
sound of her steps, her quick ear caught the
tread of two pairs of feet, the whisper of two
voices, and presently two persons came in to
fill her hands with midsummer flowers.
"This is Minna, the little girl I told you of.
She wanted to see you very much, so we
paddled away like a pair of ducks, and here we
are," said Miss Grace, gayly; and as she spoke,
Lizzie felt soft fingers glide over her face, and
a pair of childish lips find and kiss her own.
The groping touch, the hearty kiss, made the
blind children friends at once, and dropping
her flowers, Lizzie hugged the new-comer,
trembling with excitement and delight. Then they
talked; and how the tongues went as one asked
questions and the other answered them, while
Miss Grace sat by enjoying the happiness of
those who do not forget the poor, but seek them
out to save and bless.
Minna had been for a year a pupil in the
happy school, where she was taught to see with
her hands, as one might say; and the tales she
told of the good times there made Lizzie cry
"Can I go? Oh, can go?"
"Alas, no, not yet," answered Miss Grace,
sadly. "I find that children under ten cannot
be taken, and there is no place for the little
ones unless kind people care for them."
Lizzie gave a wail, and hid her face in the
pillow, feeling as if she could not bear the
Minna comforted her, and Miss Grace went
on to say that generous people were trying to
get another school for the small children; that
all the blind children were working hard to help
on the plan; that money was coming in; and
soon they hoped to have a pleasant place for
every child who needed help.
Lizzie's tears stopped falling as she listened,
for hope was not quite gone.
"I 'll not be ten till next June, and I don't
see how I can wait 'most a year. Will the little
school be ready 'fore then?" she asked.
"I fear not, dear, but I will see that the long
waiting is made as easy as possible, and perhaps
you can help us in some way," answered Miss
Grace, anxious to atone for her mistake in
speaking about the school before she had
made sure that Lizzie could go.
"Oh, I 'd love to help; only I can't do
anything," sighed the child.
"You can sing, and that is a lovely way to
help. I heard of 'the blind lark,' as they call
you, and when I came to find her, your little
voice led me straight to the door of the cage.
That door I mean to open, and let you hop out
into the sunshine; then, when you are well and
strong, I hope you will help us get the home
for other little children who else must wait
years before they find the light. Will you?"
As Miss Grace spoke, it was beautiful to see
the clouds lift from Lizzie's wondering face, till
it shone with the sweetest beauty any face can
wear,--the happiness of helping others. She
forgot her own disappointment in the new
hope that came, and held on to the bedpost
as if the splendid plan were almost too much
"Could I help that way?" she cried.
"Would anybody care to hear me sing? Oh,
how I 'd love to do anything for the poor little
ones who will have to wait."
"You shall. I 'm sure the hardest heart
would be touched by your singing, if you look
as you do now. We need something new for
our fair and concert, and by that time you will
be ready," said Miss Grace, almost afraid she
had said too much; for the child looked so
frail, it seemed as if even joy would hurt her.
Fortunately her mother came in just then;
and while the lady talked to her, Minna's childish
chatter soothed Lizzie so well that when
they left she stood at the window smiling down
at them and singing like the happiest bobolink
that ever tilted on a willow branch in spring-time.
All the promises were kept, and soon a new
life began for Lizzie. A better room and
well-paid work were found for Mrs. Davis. Minna
came as often as she could to cheer up her
little friend, and best of all, Miss Grace taught
her to sing, that by and by the little voice might
plead with its pathetic music for others less
blest than she. So the winter months went by,
and Lizzie grew like mayflowers underneath the
snow, getting ready to look up, sweet and rosy,
when spring set her free and called her to be
glad. She counted the months and weeks, and
when the time dwindled to days, she could
hardly sleep or eat for thinking of the happy
hour when she could go to be a pupil in the
school where miracles were worked.
Her birthday was in June, and thanks to Miss
Grace, her coming was celebrated by one of the
pretty festivals of the school, called Daisy Day.
Lizzie knew nothing of this surprise, and when
her friends led her up the long flight of steps
she looked like a happy little soul climbing to
the gates of heaven.
Mr. Constantine, the ruler of this small
kingdom, was a man whose fatherly heart had room
for every suffering child in the world, and it
rejoiced over every one who came, though the
great house was overflowing, and many waited
as Lizzie had done.
He welcomed her so kindly that the strange
place seemed like home at once, and Minna
led her away to the little mates who proudly
showed her their small possessions and filled
her hands with the treasures children love, while
pouring into her ears delightful tales of the
study, work, and play that made their lives so
Lizzie was bewildered, and held fast to Minna,
whose motherly care of her was sweet to see.
Kind teachers explained rules and duties with
the patience that soothes fear and wins love;
and soon Lizzie began to feel that she was a
"truly pupil" in this wonderful school where
the blind could read, sew, study, sing, run, and
play. Boys raced along the galleries and up
and down the stairs as boldly as if all had eyes;
girls swept and dusted like tidy housewives;
little fellows hammered and sawed in the
workshop and never hurt themselves; small girls
sewed on pretty work as busy as bees; and in
the schoolroom lessons went on as if both
teachers and pupils were blessed with eyes.
Lizzie could not understand it, and was
content to sit and listen wherever she was placed,
while her little fingers fumbled at the new
objects near her, and her hungry mind opened
like a flower to the sun. She had no tasks that
day, and in the afternoon was led away with a
flock of children, all chattering like magpies, on
the grand expedition. Every year, when the
fields were white with daisies, these poor little
souls were let loose among them to enjoy the
holy day of this child's flower. Ah, but was n't
it a pretty sight to see the meeting between
them, when the meadows were reached, and the
children scattered far and wide with cries of
joy as they ran and rolled in the white sea, or
filled their eager hands, or softly felt for the
dear daisies and kissed them like old friends?
The flowers seemed to enjoy it too, as they
danced and nodded, while the wind rippled the
long grass like waves of a green sea, and the
sun smiled as if he said,--
"Here's the sort of thing I like to see. Why
don't I find more of it?"
Lizzie's face looked like a daisy, it was so
full of light as she stood looking up, with the
wide brim of her new hat like the white petals
all round it. She did not run nor shout, but
went slowly wading through the grass, feeling
the flowers touch her hands, yet picking none,
for it was happiness enough to know that they
were there. Presently she sat down and let
them tap her cheeks and rustle about her ears
as though telling secrets that made her smile.
Then, as if weary with so much happiness, she
lay back and let the daisies hide her with their
Miss Grace was watching over her, but left
her alone, and by and by, like a lark from its
nest in the grass, the blind girl sent up her
little voice, singing so sweetly that the children
gathered around to hear, while they made chains
and tied up their nosegays.
This was Lizzie's first concert, and no little
prima donna was ever more pelted with
flowers than she; for when she had sung all her
songs, new and old, a daisy crown was put
upon her head, a tall flower for a sceptre in
her hand, and all the boys and girls danced
around her as if she had been Queen of the May.
A little feast came out of the baskets, that
they might be empty for the harvest to be
carried home, and while they ate, stories were
told and shouts of laughter filled the air, for all
were as merry as if there was no darkness, pain,
or want in the world. Then they had games;
and Lizzie was taught to play,--for till now
she never knew what a good romp meant. Her
cheeks grew rosy, her sad little face waked up,
she ran and tumbled with the rest, and actually
screamed, to Minna's great delight.
Two or three of the children could see a little,
and these were very helpful in taking care of
the little ones. Miss Grace found them playing
some game with Lizzie, and observed that all
but she were blindfolded. When she asked
why, one whispered, "We thought we should
play fairer if we were all alike." And another
added, "It seems somehow as if we were proud
if we see better than the rest."
Lizzie was much touched by this sweet spirit,
and a little later showed that she had already
learned one lesson in the school, when she
gathered about her some who had never seen,
and told them what she could remember of
green fields and daisy-balls before the light went
"Surely my little lark was worth saving, if
only for this one happy day," thought Miss
Grace, as she watched the awakened look in the
blind faces, all leaning toward the speaker,
whose childish story pleased them well.
In all her long and useful life, Lizzie never
forgot that Daisy Day, for it seemed as if she were
born anew, and like a butterfly had left the
dark chrysalis all behind her then. It was the
first page of the beautiful book just opening
before the eyes of her little mind,--a lovely
page, illustrated with flowers, kind faces,
sunshine, and happy hopes. The new life was so
full, so free, she soon fell into her place and
enjoyed it all. People worked there so heartily,
so helpfully, it was no wonder things went as if
by magic, and the poor little creatures who came
in so afflicted went out in some years independent
people, ready to help themselves and often
to benefit others.
There is no need to tell all Lizzie learned and
enjoyed that summer, nor how proud her mother
was when she heard her read in the curious
books, making eyes of the little fingers that felt
their way along so fast; when she saw the neat
stitches she set, the pretty clay things she
modelled, the tidy way she washed dishes, swept, and
dusted, and helped keep her room in order.
But the poor woman's heart was too full for
words when she heard the child sing,--not as
before, in the dreary room, sad, soft lullabies to
Billy, but beautiful, gay songs, with flutes and
violins to lift and carry the little voice along on
waves of music.
Lizzie really had a great gift; but she was
never happier than when they all sang together,
or when she sat quietly listening to the band as
they practised for the autumn concert. She
was to have a part in it; and the thought that
she could help to earn money for the Kindergarten
made the shy child bold and glad to do
her part. Many people knew her now, for she
was very pretty, with the healthful roses in her
cheeks, curly yellow hair, and great blue eyes
that seemed to see. Her mates and teachers
were proud of her, for though she was not as
quick as some of the pupils, her sweet temper,
grateful heart, and friendly little ways made her
very dear to all, aside from the musical talent
Every one was busy over the fair and the
concert; and fingers flew, tongues chattered, feet
trotted, and hearts beat fast with hope and fear
as the time drew near, for all were eager to
secure a home for the poor children still waiting
in darkness. It was a charity which appealed
to all hearts when it was known; but in this
busy world of ours, people have so many cares
of their own that they are apt to forget the wants
of others unless something brings these needs
very clearly before their eyes. Much money was
needed, and many ways had been tried to add to
the growing fund, that all might be well done.
"We wish to interest children in this charity
for children, so that they may gladly give a part
of their abundance to these poor little souls who
have nothing. I think Lizzie will sing some of
the pennies out of their pockets, which would
otherwise go for bonbons. Let us try; so make
her neat and pretty, and we 'll have a special song for her."
Mr. Constantine said this; and Miss Grace
carried out his wish so well that when the time
came, the little prima donna did her part better
even than they had hoped.
The sun shone splendidly on the opening day
of the fair, and cars and carriages came rolling
out from the city, full of friendly people with
plump purses and the sympathetic interest we
all take in such things when we take time to see,
admire, and reproach ourselves that we do so
little for them.
There were many children; and when they
had bought the pretty handiwork of the blind
needle-women, eaten cake and ices, wondered
at the strange maps and books, twirled the big
globe in the hall, and tried to understand how
so many blind people could be so busy and so
happy, they all were seated at last to hear the
music, full of expectation, for "the pretty little
girl was going to sing."
It was a charming concert, and every one
enjoyed it, though many eyes grew dim as they
wandered from the tall youths blowing the
horns so sweetly to the small ones chirping
away like so many sparrows, for the blind faces
made the sight pathetic, and such music touched
the hearts as no other music can.
"Now she's coming!" whispered the eager
children, as a little girl climbed up the steps and
stood before them, waiting to begin.
A slender little creature in a blue gown, with
sunshine falling on her pretty hair, a pleading
look in the soft eyes that had no sign of
blindness but their steadfastness, and a smile on the
lips that trembled at first, for Lizzie's heart beat
fast, and only the thought, "I 'm helping the
poor little ones," gave her courage for her task.
But when the flutes and violins began to play
like a whispering wind, she forgot the crowd
before her, and lifting up her face, sang in clear
THE BLIND LARK'S SONG.
We are sitting in the shadow
Of a long and lonely night,
Waiting till some gentle angel
Comes to lead us to the light;
For we know there is a magic
That can give eyes to the blind.
Oh, well-filled hands, be generous!
Oh, pitying hearts, be kind!
Help stumbling feet that wander
Teach hands that now lie idle
The joys of work and play.
Let pity, love, and patience
That though the eyes be blinded,
The little souls may see.
Your world is large and beautiful,
Our prison dim and small;
We stand and wait, imploring,
"Is there not room for all?
Give us our children's garden,
Where we may safely bloom,
Forgetting in God's sunshine
Our lot of grief and gloom."
A little voice comes singing;
A little child is pleading
For those who suffer wrong.
Grant them the patient magic
That gives eyes to the blind!
Oh, well-filled hands, be generous!
Oh, pitying hearts, be kind!
It was a very simple little song, but it proved
wonderfully effective, for Lizzie was so carried
away by her own feeling that as she sang the
last lines she stretched out her hands
imploringly, and two great tears rolled down her
cheeks. For a minute many hands were too
busy fumbling for handkerchiefs to clap, but the
children were quick to answer that gesture and
those tears; and one impetuous little lad tossed
a small purse containing his last ten cents at
Lizzie's feet, the first contribution won by her
innocent appeal. Then there was great applause,
and many of the flowers just bought were thrown
to the little lark, who was obliged to come back
and sing again and again, smiling brightly as she
dropped pretty courtesies, and sang song after
song with all the added sweetness of a grateful
Hidden behind the organ, Miss Grace and
Mr. Constantine shook hands joyfully, for this
was the sort of interest they wanted, and they
knew that while the children clapped and threw
flowers, the wet-eyed mothers were thinking
self-reproachfully, "I must help this lovely
charity," and the stout old gentlemen who
pounded with their canes were resolving to go
home and write some generous checks, which
would be money invested in God's savings-bank.
It was a very happy time for all, and made
strangers friends in the sweet way which teaches
heart to speak to heart. When the concert was
over, Lizzie felt many hands press hers and
leave something there, many childish lips kiss
her own, with promises to "help about the
Kindergarten," and her ears were full of kind
voices thanking and praising her for doing her
part so well. Still later, when all were gone,
she proudly put the rolls of bills into
Mr. Constantine's hand, and throwing her arms
about Miss Grace's neck, said, trembling with
earnestness, "I 'm not a burden any more, and
I can truly help! How can I ever thank you
both for making me so happy?"
One can fancy what their answer was and how
Lizzie helped; for long after the Kindergarten
was filled with pale little flowers blooming slowly
as she had done, the Blind Lark went on singing
pennies out of pockets, and sweetly reminding
people not to forget this noble charity.
Chapter IV tailpiece
Tino runs away from home.--PAGE 105
MUSIC AND MACARONI.
Among the pretty villages that lie along the
wonderful Cornice road which runs from
Nice to Genoa, none was more beautiful than
Valrose. It deserved its name, for it was indeed
a "valley of roses." The little town with its old
church nestled among the olive and orange
trees that clothed the hillside, sloping up to
purple mountains towering behind. Lower
down stretched the vineyards; and the valley
was a bed of flowers all the year round. There
were acres of violets, verbenas, mignonette, and
every sweet-scented blossom that grows, while
hedges of roses, and alleys of lemon-trees with
their white stars made the air heavy with perfume.
Across the plain, one saw the blue sea rolling to
meet the bluer sky, sending fresh airs and soft
rains to keep Valrose green and beautiful even
through the summer heat. Only one ugly thing
marred the lovely landscape, and that was the
factory, with its tall chimneys, its red walls, and
ceaseless bustle. But old ilex-trees tried to
conceal its ugliness; the smoke curled gracefully
from its chimney-tops; and the brown men
talked in their musical language as they ran
about the busy courtyard, or did strange things
below in the still-room. Handsome black-eyed
girls sang at the open windows at their
pretty work, and delicious odors filled the place;
for here the flowers that bloomed outside were
changed to all kinds of delicate perfumes to
scent the hair of great ladies and the
handkerchiefs of dainty gentlemen all the world over.
The poor roses, violets, mignonette, orange-flowers,
and their sisters, were brought here in
great baskets to yield up their sweet souls in
hot rooms where, fires burned and great vats
boiled; then they were sent up to be imprisoned
in pretty flasks of all imaginable shapes and
colors by the girls, who put gilded labels on them,
packed them in delicate boxes, and sent them
away to comfort the sick, please the rich, and
put money in the pockets of the merchants.
Many children were employed in the light
work of weeding beds, gathering flowers, and
running errands; among these none were busier,
happier, or more beloved than Florentino and
his sister Stella. They were orphans, but they
lived with old Mariuccia in her little stone
house near the church, contented with the small
wages they earned, though their clothes were
poor, their food salad, macaroni, rye bread, and
thin wine, with now and then a taste of meat
when Stella's lover or some richer friend gave
them a treat on gala days.
They worked hard, and had their dreams of
what they would do when they had saved up a
little store; Stella would marry her Beppo and
settle in a home of her own; but Tino was more
ambitious, for he possessed a sweet boyish voice
and sang so well in the choir, at the merrymakings,
and about his work, that he was called
the "little nightingale," and much praised and
petted, not only by his mates, but by the good
priest who taught him music, and the travellers
who often came to the factory and were not
allowed to go till Tino had sung to them.
All this made the lad vain; and he hoped one
day to go away as Baptista had gone, who now
sang in a fine church at Genoa and sent home
gold napoleons to his old parents. How this
was to come about Tino had not the least idea,
but he cheered his work with all manner of wild
plans, and sang his best at Mass, hoping some
stranger would hear, and take him away as
Signor Pulci had taken big Tista, whose voice
was not half so wonderful as his own, all had
said. No one came, however, and Tino at
thirteen was still at work in the valley,--a happy
little lad, singing all day long as he carried his
fragrant loads to and fro, ate his dinner of bread
and beans fried in oil, with a crust, under the
ilex-trees, and slept like a dormouse at night on
his clean straw in the loft at Mariuccia's, with
the moon for his candle and the summer warmth
for his coverlet.
One day in September, as he stood winnowing
mignonette seed in a quiet corner of the vast
garden, he was thinking deeply over his hopes
and plans, and practising the last chant Father
Angelo had taught him, while he shook and
held the sieve high, to let the wind blow away
the dead husks, leaving the brown seeds behind.
Suddenly, as he ended his lesson with a clear
high note that seemed to rise and die softly
away like the voice of an angel in the air, the
sound of applause startled him; and turning, he
saw a gentleman sitting on the rude bench
behind him,--a well-dressed, handsome, smiling
gentleman, who clapped his white hands and
nodded and said gayly, "Bravo, my boy, that
was well done! You have a wonderful voice;
But Tino was too abashed for the moment,
and could only stand and stare at the stranger,
a pretty picture of boyish confusion, pleasure,
"Come, tell me all about it, my friend. Who
taught you so well? Why are you here, and
not where you should be, learning to use this
fine pipe of yours, and make fame and money
by it?" said the gentleman, still smiling as he
leaned easily in his seat and swung his gloves.
Tino's heart began to beat fast as he thought,
"Perhaps my chance has come at last! I must
make the most of it." So taking courage, he
told his little story; and when he ended, the
stranger gave a nod, saying,--
"Yes, you are the 'little nightingale' they
spoke of up at the inn. I came to find you.
Now sing me something gay, some of your
folk-songs. That sort will suit you best."
Anxious to make the most of his chance,
Tino took courage and sang away as easily as a
bird on a bough, pouring out one after another
the barcaroles, serenades, ballads, and drinking-songs
he had learned from the people about him.
The gentleman listened, laughed, and
applauded as if well pleased, and when Tino
stopped to take breath, he gave another nod
more decided than the first, and said with his
"You are indeed a wonder, and quite wasted
here. If I had you I should make a man of
you, and put money in your pocket as fast as
you opened your mouth."
Tino's eyes sparkled at the word "money,"
for sweet as was the praise, the idea of having
full pockets bewitched him, and he asked
eagerly, "How, signor?"
"Well," answered the gentleman, idly tapping
his nose with a rose-bud which he had pulled
as he came along, "I should take you to my
hotel at Nice; wash, brush, and trim you up a
little; put you into a velvet suit with a lace
collar, silk stockings, and buckled shoes; teach
you music, feed you well, and when I thought
you fit carry you with me to the salons of the
great people, where I give concerts. There you
would sing these gay songs of yours, and be
petted, praised, and pelted with bonbons, francs,
and kisses perhaps,--for you are a pretty lad
and these fine ladies and idle gentlemen are
always ready to welcome a new favorite. Would
you fancy that sort of life better than this?
You can have it if you like."
Tino's black eyes shone; the color deepened
in his brown cheeks; and he showed all his
white teeth as he laughed and exclaimed with
a gesture of delight,--
"Mio Dio! but I would, signor! I 'm tired
of this work; I long to sing, to see the world, to
be my own master, and let Stella and the old
woman know that I am big enough to have
my own way. Do you really mean it? When
can I go? I'm ready now, only I had better
run and put on my holiday suit and get my guitar."
"Good! there 's a lad of spirit. I like that
well. A guitar too? Bravo, my little
troubadour, we shall make a sensation in the
drawing-rooms, and fill our pockets shortly. But there
is no haste, and it would be well to ask these
friends of yours, or there might be trouble. I
don't steal nightingales, I buy them; and I
will give the old woman, whoever she may be,
more than you would earn in a month. See,
I too am a singer, and this I made at Genoa in
a week." As he spoke, Signor Mario pulled
a well-filled purse from one pocket, a handful
of gold and silver coin from the other, and
chinked them before the boy's admiring eyes.
"Let us go!" cried Tino, flinging down the
sieve as if done with work forever. "Stella is
at home to-day; come at once to Mariuccia,--it
is not far; and when they hear these fine plans,
they will be glad to let me go, I am sure."
Away he went across the field of flowers,
through the courtyard, up the steep street,
straight into the kitchen where his pretty sister
sat eating artichokes and bread while the old
woman twirled her distaff in the sun. Both
were used to strangers, for the cottage was a
picturesque place, half hidden like a bird's nest
in vines and fig-trees, with a gay little plot of
flowers before it; travellers often came to taste
Mariuccia's honey, for her bees fared well, and
their combs were running over with the sweetness
of violets and roses, put up in dainty little
waxen boxes made by better workmen than any
found at the factory.
The two women listened respectfully while
Signor Mario told his plan in his delightfully
gracious way; and Stella was much impressed
by the splendor of the prospect before her
brother. But the wise old woman shook her
head, and declared decidedly that the boy was
too young to leave home yet. Father Angelo
was teaching him well; he was safe and happy
where he was; and there he should remain, for
she had sworn by all the saints to his dying
mother that she would guard him as the apple
of her eye till he was old enough to take care
In vain Mario shook his purse before her
eyes, Stella pleaded, and Tino stormed; the
faithful old soul would not give up, much as
she needed money, loved Stella, and hated to
cross the boy who was in truth "the apple of her
eye" and the darling of her heart. There was
a lively scene in the little room, for every one
talked at once, gesticulated wildly, and grew
much excited in the discussion; but nothing
came of it, and Signor Mario departed wrathfully,
leaving Mariuccia looking as stern as fate
with her distaff, Stella in tears, and Tino in such
a rage he could only dash up to the loft and
throw himself on his rude bed, there to kick
and sob and tear his hair, and wish there might
be ten thousand earthquakes to swallow that
cruel old woman up in the twinkling of an eye.
Stella came to beg him to be comforted and
eat his supper, but he drew the wooden bolt
and would not let her in, saying sternly,--
"I never will come down till Mariuccia says
I may go; I will starve first. I am not a child
to be so treated. Go away, and let me alone;
I hate you both!"
Poor Stella retired, heart-broken, and when
all her entreaties failed to change their
guardian's decision, she went to consult Father
Angelo. He agreed with the old woman that
it was best to keep the boy safe at home, as they
knew nothing of the strange gentleman nor
what might befall Tino if he left the shelter of
his own humble home and friends.
Much disappointed, Stella went to pray
devoutly in the church, and then, meeting her
Beppo, soon forgot all about the poor little lad
who had sobbed himself to sleep upon his straw.
The house was quiet when he awoke; no
lights shone from any neighbor's windows; and
all was still except the nightingales singing in
the valley. The moon was up; and her friendly
face looked in at the little window so brightly
that the boy felt comforted, and lay staring at
the soft light while his mind worked busily.
Some evil spirit, some naughty Puck bent on
mischief must have been abroad that night, for
into Tino's head there suddenly popped a
splendid idea; at least he thought it so, and in his
rebellious state found it all the more tempting
because danger and disobedience and defiance
all had a part in it.
Why not run away? Signor Mario was not
to leave till next morning. Tino could easily
slip out early and join the kind gentleman
beyond the town. This would show the women
that he, Tino, had a will of his own and was
not to be treated like a child any more. It
would give them a good fright, make a fine
stir in the place, and add to his glory when he
returned with plenty of money to display
himself in the velvet suit and silk stockings,--a
famous fellow who knew what he was about and
did not mean to be insulted, or tied to an old
woman's apron-string forever.
The longer he thought the more delightful
the idea became, and he resolved to carry it out,
for the fine tales he had heard made him more
discontented than ever with his present simple,
care-free life. Up he got, and by the light of the
moon took from the old chest his best suit.
Moving very softly, he put on the breeches and
jacket of rough blue cloth, the coarse linen
shirt, the red sash, and the sandals of russet
leather that laced about his legs to the knee.
A few clothes, with his rosary, he tied up in a
handkerchief, and laid the little bundle ready
with his Sunday hat, a broad-brimmed, pointed-crowned
affair with a red band and cock's
feather to adorn it.
Then he sat at the window waiting for dawn
to come, fearing to sleep lest he be too late.
It seemed an almost endless night, the first he
had ever spent awake, but red streaks came in
the east at last, and he stole to the door,
meaning to creep noiselessly downstairs, take a good
hunch of bread and a gourd full of wine and
slip off while the women slept.
To his dismay he found the door barred on
the outside. His courage had ebbed a little as
the time for action came; but at this new insult
he got angry again, and every dutiful impulse
flew away in a minute.
"Ah, they think to keep me, do they?
Behold, then, how I cheat the silly things!
They have never seen me climb down the
fig-tree, and thought me safe. Now I will vanish,
and leave them to tear their hair and weep for
me in vain."
Flinging out his bundle, and carefully lowering
his old guitar, Tino leaned from the little
window, caught the nearest branch of the tree
that bent toward the wall, and swung himself
down as nimbly as a squirrel. Pausing only to
pick several bunches of ripe grapes from the
vine about the door, he went softly through the
garden and ran away along the road toward
Nice as fast as his legs could carry him.
Not till he reached the top of the long hill a
mile away, did he slacken his lively pace; then
climbing a bank, he lay down to rest under
some olive-trees, and ate his grapes as he
watched the sun rise. Travellers always left the
Falcone Inn early to enjoy the morning
freshness, so Tino knew that Signor Mario would
soon appear; and when the horses paused to
rest on the hill-top, the "little nightingale"
would present himself as unexpectedly as if he
had fallen from heaven.
But Signor Mario was a lazy man; and Tino
had time to work himself into a fever of
expectation, doubt, and fear before the roll of
wheels greeted his longing ears. Yes, it was
the delightful stranger!--reading papers and
smoking as he rode, quite blind to the beauty
all around him, blind also to the sudden
appearance of a picturesque little figure by the
roadside, as the carriage stopped. Even when
he looked, he did not recognize shabby Tino in
the well-dressed beggar, as he thought him,
who stood bare-headed and smiling, with hat in
one hand, bundle in the other, and guitar slung
on his back. He waved his hand as if to say,
"I have nothing for you," and was about to
bid the man drive on, but Tino cried out boldly,--
"Behold me, signor! I am Tino, the singing
boy of Valrose. I have run away to join you
if you will have me. Ah, please do! I wish so
much to go with you."
"Bravo!" cried Mario, well pleased. "That
is a lad of spirit; and I am glad to have you.
I don't steal nightingales, as I told you down
yonder; but if they get out of their cages and
perch on my finger, I keep them. In with you,
boy! there is no time to lose."
In scrambled happy Tino, and settling
himself and his property on the seat opposite,
amused his new master with a lively account of
his escape. Mario laughed and praised him;
Luigi, the servant, grinned as he listened from
the coach-box; and the driver resolved to tell
the tale at the Falcone, when he stopped there
on his return to Genoa, so the lad's friends
might know what had become of him.
After a little chat Signor Mario returned to
his newspapers, and Tino, tired with his long
vigil and brisk run, curled himself up on the
seat, pillowed his head on his bundle and fell
fast asleep, rocked by the motion of the
carriage as it rolled along the smooth road.
When he waked, the sun was high, the
carriage stood before a wayside inn, the man and
horses were gone to their dinners, and the
signor lay under some mulberry-trees in the
garden while Luigi set forth upon the grass
the contents of a well-filled hamper which they
had brought with them, his master being one
who looked well after his own comfort. The sight
of food drew Tino toward it as straight as a
honey-jar draws flies, and he presented himself
with his most engaging air. Being in a good
humor, the new master bade the hungry lad sit down
and eat, which he did so heartily that larded fowl,
melon, wine, and bread vanished as if by magic.
Never had food tasted so good to Tino; and
rejoicing with true boyish delight in the prospect
of plenty to eat, he went off to play Morso
with the driver, while the horses rested and
Mario took a siesta on the grass.
When they set forth again, Tino received his
first music lesson from the new teacher, who
was well pleased to find how quickly the boy
caught the air of a Venetian boat-song, and
how sweetly he sang it. Then Tino strummed
on his guitar and amused his hearers with all
the melodies he knew, from church chants to
drinking-songs. Mario taught him how to
handle his instrument gracefully, speak a few
polite phrases, and sit properly instead of
sprawling awkwardly or lounging idly.
So the afternoon wore away; and at dusk they
reached Nice. To Tino it looked like an
enchanted city as they drove down to it from the
soft gloom and stillness of the country. The
sea broke gently on the curving shore, sparkling
with the lights of the Promenade des Anglais
which overlooks it. A half circle of brilliant
hotels came next; behind these the glimmer of
villas scattered along the hillside shone like
fireflies among gardens and orange groves; and
higher still the stars burned in a violet sky.
Soon the moon would be up, to hang like a great
lamp from that splendid dome, turning sea and
shore to a magic world by her light. Tino
clapped his hands and looked about him with
all the pleasure of his beauty-loving race as they
rattled through the gay streets and stopped at
one of the fine hotels.
Here Mario put on his grand air, and was
shown to the apartment he had ordered from
Genoa. Tino meekly followed; and Luigi
brought up the rear with the luggage. Tino
felt as if he had got into a fairy tale when he
found himself in a fine parlor where he could
only sit and stare about him, while his master
refreshed in the chamber beyond, and the man
ordered dinner. A large closet was given the
boy to sleep in, with a mattress and blanket, a
basin and pitcher, and a few pegs to hang his
clothes on. But it seemed very nice after the
loft; and when he had washed his face, shaken
the dust off, and smoothed his curly head as
well as he could, he returned to the parlor to
gloat over such a dinner as he had never eaten before.
Mario was in a good humor and anxious to
keep the lad so, therefore he plied him with good
things to eat, fine promises, and the praise in
which that vain little soul delighted. Tino went
to bed early, feeling that his fortune was made,
and his master went off to amuse himself at a
gaming-table, for that was his favorite pastime.
Next day the new life began. After a late
breakfast, a music lesson was given which both
interested and dismayed Tino, for his master
was far less patient than good old Father Angelo,
and swore at him when he failed to catch a new
air as quickly as he expected. Both were tired
and rather cross when it ended, but Tino soon
forgot the tweaking of his ear and the scolding,
when he was sent away with Luigi to buy the
velvet suit and sundry necessary articles for the
It was a lovely day; and the gay city was all
alive with the picturesque bustle which always
fills it when the season begins. Red-capped
fishermen were launching their boats from the
beach, flower-girls hastening from the gardens
with their fragrant loads to sell on the
Promenade, where invalids sunned themselves, nurses
led their rosy troops to play, fine ladies strolled,
and men of all nations paced to and fro at
certain hours. In the older part of the city, work
of all sorts went on,--coral-carvers filled their
windows with pretty ornaments; pastry-cooks
tempted with dainty dishes; milliners showed
hats fresh from Paris; and Turkish merchants
hung out rich rugs and carpets at their doors.
Church-bells chimed; priests with incense and
banners went through the streets on holy
errands; the Pifferoni piped gayly; orange-women
and chestnut-sellers called their wares
in musical voices; even the little scullions who
go about scouring saucepans at back doors
made a song of their cry, "Casserola!"
Tino had a charming time, and could hardly
believe his senses when one fine thing after
another was bought for him and ordered home.
Not only the suit, but two ruffled shirts, a
crimson tie for the lace collar, a broad new ribbon
for the guitar, handkerchiefs, hose, and delicate
shoes, as if he was a gentleman's son. When
Luigi added a little mantle and a hat such as
other well-dressed lads of his age wore, Tino
exclaimed, "This also! Dio mio, never have I
known so kind a man as Signor Mario. I shall
serve him well and love him even better than
Luigi shrugged his shoulders and answered
with a disagreeable laugh, "Long may you
think so, poverino; I serve for money, not
love, and look to it that I get my wages, else
it would go ill with both of us. Keep all
you can get, boy; our master is apt to forget
Tino did not like the look, half scornful, half
pitiful, which Luigi gave him, and wondered why
he did not love the good signor. Later he
found out; but all was pleasant now, and lunch
at a café completed the delights of that long morning.
The rooms were empty when they returned;
and bidding him keep out of mischief, Luigi
left Tino alone for several hours. But he found
plenty of amusement in examining all the
wonders the apartment contained, receiving the
precious parcels as they arrived, practising his
new bow before the long mirror, and eating the
nuts that he had bought of a jolly old woman
at a street corner.
Then he went to lounge on the balcony that
ran along the front of the hotel, and watched
the lively scene below, till sunset sent the
promenaders home to dress for dinner. Feeling a
sudden pang of homesickness as he thought of
Stella, Tino got his guitar and sang the old
songs to comfort his loneliness.
The first was hardly ended before one after
the other five little heads popped out of a
window farther down the balcony; and presently
a group of pretty children were listening and
smiling as the nice boy played and sang to
them. A gentleman looked out; and a lady
evidently listened, for the end of a lace flounce
lay on the threshold of the long window, and a
pair of white hands clapped when he finished
a gay air in his best style.
This was his first taste of applause, and he
liked it, and twanged away merrily till his
master's voice called him in just as he was
beginning to answer the questions the eager children
"Go and dress! I shall take you down to
dinner with me presently. But mind this, I
will answer questions; do you keep quiet, and
leave me to tell what I think best. Remember,
or I pack you home at once."
Tino promised, and was soon absorbed in
getting into his new clothes; Luigi came to help
him, and when he was finished off, a very
handsome lad emerged from the closet to make his
best bow to his master, who, also in fine array,
surveyed him with entire approval.
"Very good! I thought you would make a
passable butterfly when you shed your grub's
skin. Stand up and keep your hands out of
your pockets. Mind what I told you about
supping soup noisily, and don't handle your
fork like a shovel. See what others do, smile,
and hold your tongue. There is the gong.
Let us go."
Tino's heart beat as he followed Mario down
the long hall to the great salle à manger with its
glittering table d'hôte and many guests. But the
consciousness of new clothes sustained him, so
he held up his head, turned out his toes, and
took his place, trying to look as if everything
was not very new and dazzling to him.
Two elderly ladies sat opposite, and he heard
one say to the other in bad Italian, "Behold the
lovely boy, Maria; I should like to paint him."
And the other answered, "We will be
amiable to him, and perhaps we may get him for
a model. Just what I want for a little Saint
Tino smiled at them till his black eyes
sparkled and his white teeth shone, for he
understood and enjoyed their praise. The artistic
ladies smiled back, and watched him with
interest long after he had forgotten them, for that
dinner was a serious affair to the boy, with a
heavy silver spoon and fork to manage, a
napkin to unfold, and three glasses to steer clear
of for fear of a general upset, so awkward did
Every one else was too busy to mind his
mistakes; and the ladies set them down to
bashfulness, as he got red in the face, and dared not
look up after spilling his soup and dropping a roll.
Presently, while waiting for dessert, he forgot
himself in something Mario was saying to his
neighbor on the other side:--
"A poor little fellow whom I found starving
in the streets at Genoa. He has a voice;
I have a heart, and I adore music. I took him
to myself, and shall do my best for him. Ah,
yes! in this selfish world one must not forget
the helpless and the poor."
Tino stared, wondering what other boy the
good signor had befriended, and was still more
bewildered when Mario turned to him with a
paternal air, to add in that pious tone so new
to the boy,--
"This is my little friend, and he will gladly
come and sing to your young ladies after dinner.
Many thanks for the honor; I shall bring him
out at my parlor concerts, and so fit him for his
place by and by. Bow and smile, quick!"
The last words were in a sharp whisper; and
Tino obeyed with a sudden bob of the head
that sent his curls over his eyes, and then
laughed such a boyish laugh as he shook them
back that the gentleman leaning forward to
look at him joined in it, and the ladies smiled
sympathetically as they pushed a dish of
bonbons nearer to him. Mario gave him an
indulgent look, and went on in the same benevolent
tone telling all he meant to do, till the kindly
gentleman from Rome was much interested,
having lads of his own and being fond of music.
Tino listened to the fine tales told of him and
hoped no one would ask him about Genoa, for
he would surely betray that he had never been
there and could not lie as glibly as Mario did.
He felt rather like the little old woman who did
not know whether she was herself or not, but
consoled himself by smiling at the ladies and
eating a whole plateful of little cakes standing
When they rose, Tino made his bow, and
Mario walked down the long hall with his hand
on the boy's shoulder and a friendly air very
impressive to the spectators, who began at once
to gossip about the pretty lad and his kind
protector, just as the cunning gentleman planned
to have them.
As soon as they were out of sight, Mario's
manner changed; and telling Tino to sit down
and digest his dinner or he would n't be able to
sing a note, he went to the balcony to smoke
till the servant came to conduct them to Conte
"Now mind, boy; do exactly as I tell you, or
I 'll drop you like a hot chestnut and leave you
to get home as you can," said Mario, in a
sharp whisper, as they paused on the threshold
of the door.
"I will, signor, indeed I will!" murmured
Tino, scared by the flash of his master's black
eye and the grip of his hand, as he pulled the
bashful boy forward.
In they went, and for a moment Tino only
perceived a large light room full of people,
who all looked at him as he stood beside Mario
with his guitar slung over his shoulder, red
cheeks, and such a flutter at his heart that he
felt sure he could never sing there. The
amiable host came to meet and present them to a
group of ladies, while a flock of children drew
near to look at and listen to the "nice singing
boy from Genoa."
Mario, having paid his thanks and compliments
in his best manner, opened the little concert by
a grand piece upon the piano, proving that he
was a fine musician, though Tino already began
to fancy he was not quite so good a man as he
wished to appear. Then he sang several airs
from operas; and Tino forgot himself in listening
delightedly to the mellow voice of his master,
for the lad loved music and had never heard
any like this before.
When Tino's turn came, he had lost his first
shyness, and though his lips were dry and breath
short, and he gave the guitar an awkward bang
against the piano as he pulled it round ready
to play upon, the curiosity in the faces of the
children and the kindly interest of the ladies
gave him courage to start bravely off with
"Bella Monica,"--the easiest as well as gayest
of his songs. It went well; and with each verse
his voice grew clearer, his hand firmer, and his
eyes fuller of boyish pleasure in his own power
For please he did, and when he ended with
a loud twang and kissed his hand to the
audience as he always used to do to the girls at
home, every one clapped heartily, and the
gentlemen cried, "Bravo, piccolo! He sings
in truth like a little nightingale; encore,
These were sweet sounds to Tino; and he
needed no urging to sing "Lucia" in his softest
tones, "looking like one of Murillo's angels!"
as a young lady said, while he sang away with
his eyes piously lifted in the manner Mario had
Then followed a grand march from the master
while the boy rested; after which Tino gave
more folk-songs, and ended with a national air
in which all joined like patriotic and enthusiastic
Italians, shouting the musical chorus, "Viva
Italia!" till the room rang.
Tino quite lost his head at that, and began
to prance as if the music had got into his heels.
Before Mario could stop him, he was showing
one of the little girls how to dance the Salterello
as the peasants dance it during Carnival;
and all the children were capering gayly about
the wide polished floor with Tino strumming
and skipping like a young fawn from the woods.
The elder people laughed and enjoyed the
pretty sight till trays of ices and bonbons
came in; and the little party ended in a general
enjoyment of the good things children most
delight in. Tino heard his master receiving the
compliments of the company, and saw the host
slip a paper into his hand; but, boylike, he
contented himself with a pocket full of sweetmeats,
and the entreaties of his little patrons to come
again soon, and so backed out of the room,
after bowing till he was dizzy, and bumping
against a marble table in a very painful manner.
"Well, how do you like the life I promised
you? Is it all I said? Do we begin to fill our
pockets, and enjoy ourselves even sooner than
I expected?" asked Mario, with a good-natured
slap of the shoulder, as they reached his
"It is splendid! I like it much, very much! and
I thank you with all my heart," cried Tino,
gratefully kissing the hand that could tweak
sharply, as well as caress when things suited its
"You did well, even better than I hoped;
but in some things we must improve. Those
legs must be taught to keep still; and you must
not forget that you are a peasant when among
your betters. It passed very well to-night with
those little persons, but in some places it would
have put me in a fine scrape. Capers! but I
feared at one moment you would have
embraced the young contessa, when she danced
Mario laughed as poor Tino blushed and
stammered, "But, signor, she was so little, only
ten years old, and I thought no harm to hold
her up on that slippery floor. See, she gave
me all these, and bade me come again. I would
gladly have kissed her, she was so like little
Annina at home."
"Well, well, no harm is done; but I see the
pretty brown girls down yonder have spoiled
you, and I shall have to keep an eye on my
gallant young troubadour. Now to bed, and
don't make yourself ill with all those
confections. Felice notte, Don Giovanni!" and away
went Mario to lose at play every franc of the
money the generous count had given him "for
the poor lad."
That was the beginning of a new and charming
life for Tino, and for two months he was a
busy and a happy boy, with only a homesick fit
now and then when Mario was out of temper,
or Luigi put more than his fair share of work
upon his shoulders. The parlor concerts went
well, and the little nightingale was soon a
favorite toy in many salons. Night after night Tino
sang and played, was petted and praised, and
then trotted home to dream feverishly of new
delights; for this exciting life was fast
spoiling the simple lad who used to be so merry
and busy at Valrose. The more he had, the
more he wanted, and soon grew discontented,
jealous, and peevish. He had cause to complain
of some things; for none of the money earned
ever came to him, and when he plucked up
courage to ask for his promised share, Mario
told him he only earned his food and clothes as
yet. Then Tino rebelled, and got a beating,
which made him outwardly as meek as a lamb,
but inwardly a very resentful, unhappy boy, and
spoiled all his pleasure in music and success.
He was neglected all day and left to do what
he liked till needed at night, so he amused
himself by lounging about the hotel or wandering
on the beach to watch the fishermen cast their
nets. Lazy Luigi kept him doing errands when
he could; but for hours the boy saw neither
master nor man, and wondered where they were.
At last he found out, and his dream of fame and
fortune ended in smoke.
Christmas week was a gay one for
everybody, and Tino thought good times had come
again; for he sang at several childrens' fêtes,
received some pretty gifts from the kind
Alborghettis, and even Mario was amiable enough to
give him a golden napoleon after a run of good
luck at the cards. Eager to show his people
that he was getting on, Tino begged Antoine,
the friendly waiter who had already written one
letter to Stella for him, to write another, and
send by a friend going that way a little parcel
containing the money for Mariuccia, a fine
Roman sash for Stella, and many affectionate
messages to all his old friends.
It was well he had that little satisfaction, for
it was his last chance to send good news or
exult over his grand success. Troubles came
with the new year; and in one week our poor
little jay found himself stripped of all his
borrowed plumes, and left a very forlorn bird
Trotting about late at night in silk stockings,
and getting wet more than once in the winter
rains, gave Tino a bad cold. No one cared for
it; and he was soon as hoarse as a crow. His
master forced him to sing several times in spite
of the pain he suffered, and when at the last
concert he broke down completely, Mario swore at
him for "a useless brat," and began to talk of
going to Milan to find a new set of singers and
patrons. Had Tino been older, he would have
discovered some time sooner that Signor Mario
was losing favor in Nice, as he seldom paid a
bill, and led a very gay, extravagant life. But,
boylike, Tino saw only his own small troubles,
and suspected nothing when Luigi one day
packed up the velvet suit and took it away "to
be repaired," he said. It was shabby, and Tino,
lying on the sofa with a headache and sharp
cough, was glad no one ordered him to go with
it, for the Tramontana was blowing, and he
longed for old Mariuccia's herb tea and Stella's
cosseting, being quite ill by this time.
That night as he lay awake in his closet
coughing, feverish and restless, he heard his
master and Luigi moving about till very late,
evidently packing for Paris or Milan, and Tino
wondered if he would like either place better
than Nice, and wished they were not so far from
Valrose. In the midst of his meditations he fell
asleep, and when he woke, it was morning. He
hurried up and went out to see what the order
of the day was to be, rather pleased at the idea
of travelling about the world.
To his surprise no breakfast appeared; the
room was in confusion, every sign of Mario had
vanished but empty bottles and a long hotel
bill lying unpaid upon the table. Before Tino
could collect his wits, Antoine came flying in to
say with wild gesticulations and much French
wrath that "the rascal Mario had gone in the
night, leaving immense debts behind him, and
the landlord in an apoplexy of rage."
Poor Tino was so dismayed he could only sit
and let the storm pelt about his ears; for not
only did the waiter appear, but the chambermaid,
the coachman, and at last the indignant
host himself, all scolding at once as they
rummaged the rooms, questioned the bewildered
boy, and wrung their hands over the escape of
these dishonest wretches.
"You also, little beast, have grown fat upon
my good fare! and who is to pay me for all you
have eaten, not to mention the fine bed, the
washing, the candles, and the coaches you have
had? Ah, great heavens! what is to become
of us when such things occur?" and the poor
landlord tore his hair with one hand while he
shook his other fist at Tino.
"Dear sir, take all I have; it is only an old
guitar, and a few clothes. Not a centime do I
own; but I will work for you. I can clean
saucepans and run errands. Speak for me,
Antoine; you are my only friend now."
The lad looked so honest and ill and pathetic,
as he spoke with his poor hoarse voice, and
looked beseechingly about him, that Antoine's
kind heart was melted, and he advised the boy
to slip away home as soon as possible, and so
escape all further violence and trouble. He
slipped two francs into Tino's empty pocket,
and as soon as the room was cleared, helped
him tie up the few old clothes that remained.
The host carried off the guitar as the only thing
he could seize, so Tino had less to take away
than he brought, when Antoine led him out by
the back way, with a good sandwich of bread
and meat for his breakfast, and bade him go to
the square and try to beg a ride to Valrose
on some of the carriages often going thither on
the way to Genoa.
With many thanks Tino left the great hotel,
feeling too miserable to care much what
became of him, for all his fine dreams were spoiled
like the basket of china the man kicked over in
the "Arabian Nights," while dreaming he was a
king. How could he go home, sick, poor, and
forsaken, after all the grand tales he had lately
told in his letter? How they would laugh at
him, the men and girls at the factory! How
Mariuccia would wag her old head and say,
"Ecco! is it not as I foretold?" Even Stella
would weep over him and be sorry to see her
dear boy in such a sad plight, yet what could
he do? His voice was gone and his guitar, or
he might sing about the streets, as Mario
described his doing at Genoa, and so earn his
daily bread till something turned up. Now he
was quite helpless, and much against his will,
he went to see if any chance of getting home
The day was showery, and no party was
setting off for the famous drive along the Cornice
road. Tino was glad of it, and went to lie on
a bench at the café where he had often been
with Luigi. His head ached, and his cough
left him no peace, so he spent some of his
money in syrup and water to quell the trouble,
and with the rest paid for a good dinner and
He told his sad tale to the cook, and was
allowed to sleep in the kitchen after scrubbing
saucepans to pay for it. But no one wanted
him; and in the morning, after a cup of coffee
and a roll he found himself cast upon the world
again. He would not beg, and as dinner time
approached, hunger reminded him of a humble
friend whom he had forgotten in his own days
He loved to stroll along the beach, and read
the names on the boats drawn up there, for all
were the names of saints; and it was almost as
good as going to church to read the long list of
Saint Brunos, Saint Francises, and Saint Ursulas.
Among the fishermen was one who had always
a kind word for the lad, who enjoyed a sail or
a chat with Marco whenever nothing better
turned up to amuse his leisure hours. Now in
his trouble he remembered him, and went to
the beach to ask help, for he felt ill as well as
sad and hungry.
Yes, there sat the good fellow eating the
bread and macaroni his little daughter had
brought for his dinner, and a smile welcomed
poor Tino as he sat down beside this only friend
to tell his story.
Marco growled in his black beard and shook
his knife with an awful frown when he heard
how the lad had been deserted. Then he
smiled, patted Tino's back, thrust the copper
basin of food into one hand and a big lump
of the brown-bread into the other, inviting him
to eat in such a cordial way that the poor
meal tasted better than the dainty fare at the
A draught of red wine from the gourd
cheered Tino up, as did the good and kind
words, and when Marco bade him go home
with little Manuela to the good wife, he gladly
went, feeling that he must lie down somewhere,
his head was so giddy and the pain in the
breast so sharp.
Buxom Teresa received him kindly, put him
straight to bed in her own boy's little room,
laid a cool cloth on his hot head, a warm one
on his aching chest, and left him to sleep, much
comforted by her motherly care. It was well
the good soul befriended him, for he needed
help sorely, and would have fared ill if those
humble folk had not taken him in.
For a week or two he lay in Beppo's bed
burning with fever, and when he could sit up
again was too feeble to do anything but smile
gratefully and try to help Manuela mend nets.
Marco would hear of no thanks, saying, "Good
deeds bring good luck. Behold my haul of
fish each day thou hast been here, poverino!
I am well paid, and Saint Peter will bless my
boat for thy sake."
Tino was very happy in the little dark,
shabby house that smelt of onions, fish, and tar,
was full of brown children, and the constant
clack of Teresa's lively tongue as she gossiped
with her neighbors, or fried polenta for the
hungry mouths that never seemed filled.
But the time came when Tino could go about,
and then he begged for work, anxious to be
independent and earn a little so that in the spring
he could go home without empty pockets.
"I have taken thought for thee, my son, and
work warm and easy is ready if thou wilt do it.
My friend Tommaso Neri, makes the good
macaroni near by. He needs a boy to mind the
fire and see to the donkey who grinds below
there. Food, shelter, and such wages as thou art
able to earn, he will give thee. Shall it be?"
Tino gratefully accepted, and with hearty
embraces all round went off one day to see his
new place. It was in the old part of Nice,
a narrow, dirty street, a little shop with one
window full of the cheaper sorts of this favorite
food of all Italians, and behind the shop a room
where an old woman sat spinning while two
little boys played with pine cones and pretty
bits of marble at her feet.
A fat jolly man, with a shining face and loud
voice, greeted Marco and the lad, saying he
"was worn to a thread with much work, since
that bad imp of a donkey-boy had run away
leaving the blessed macaroni to spoil, and
poor Carmelita to perish for want of care.
Come below at once, and behold the
desolation of the place."
With that he led the way to the cellar, where
a small furnace-fire burned, and an old gray
donkey went round and round, turning a wheel
which set some unseen machinery in motion
with a dismal creaking sound. Down through
many holes in one part of the wooden floor
overhead came long pipes of macaroni, hardening
as they hung quivering in the hot air till stiff
enough to be cut off in handfuls and laid to
dry on wire trays over the furnace.
Tino had never seen the good macaroni
made before, and was much interested in the
process, though it was of the rudest kind. In
a room upstairs a great vat of flour and water
was kept stirring round and round and forced
down to the place below by the creaking wheel
which patient Carmelita turned all day. The
cellar was dark but warm; and Tino felt that it
would be comfortable there with the old donkey
for a comrade, jolly Tommaso for a master,
and enough to eat,--for it was evident the family
lived well, so plump and shining were all the
faces, so cheery the tempers of the old women
and little lads.
There Marco left him, well satisfied that he
had done his best for the poor boy; and there
Tino lived for three months, busy, well fed, and
contented, till spring sunshine made him long
for the sweet air, the green fields, and dear
faces at Valrose. Tommaso was lazy but kind,
and if the day's work was done in time, let Tino
out to see Marco's children or to run on the
beach with little Jacopo and Seppi. The
grandmother gave him plenty of rye bread, thin
wine, and macaroni fried in oil; old Carmelita
learned to love him and to lean her gray head
on his shoulder with joyful waggings of her
long ears as he caressed her, and each week
increased the little hoard in an old shoe hidden
behind a beam.
But it was a dull life for a boy who loved
music, flowers, light, and freedom; and he soon
grew tired of seeing only a procession of legs
go by the low windows level with the street;
the creak of the wheel was not half so welcome
as the brisk rattle of the mill at home, and the
fat little lads always climbing over him could
not be so dear as sister Stella and pretty
Annina, the wine-maker's daughter, at Valrose.
Even the kind old woman who often saved an
orange for him, and gave him a gay red cotton
handkerchief on his birthday, was less to his
taste than Mariuccia, who adored him in spite
of her scolding and stern ways.
So he looked about for travellers going to
Genoa; and one happy day as he returned from
church, he saw, sitting under two red umbrellas
before two easels beside the road, the two
elderly ladies of the hotel. Both wore brown
hats like mushrooms; both had gray curls
bobbing in the wind; and both were painting away
for dear life, trying to get a good sketch of the
ruined gateway, where passion-flowers climbed,
and roses nodded through the bars.
Tino stopped to look, as many another passer-by
had done; and glancing up to see if he
admired their work, the good ladies recognized
their "Saint John," as they called the pretty
boy who had vanished before they could finish
the pictures they had begun of him.
They were so glad to see him that he opened
his heart to them, and found to his great joy
that in a week they were to drive to Genoa, and
would gladly take him along if he would sit to
them meantime. Of course he agreed, and
ran home to tell his master that he must go.
Tommaso bewailed his loss, but would not keep
him; and as Marco's son Beppo was willing to
take his place till another lad could be found,
Tino was free to sit in a sheepskin for the
Misses Blair as often as they liked.
It was a very happy week; and when the
long-desired day came at last, Tino was so gay he
danced and sang till the dingy cellar seemed to
be full of birds in high spirits. Poor Carmelita
gratefully ate the cabbage he gave her as a
farewell offering; the old woman found her box
full of her favorite snuff; and each small boy
grew more shiny than ever over a new toy
presented by Tino. Tommaso wept as he held
him in his fat arms, and gave him a bundle of
half-baked macaroni as a reward for his faithful
service, while Marco and all his family stood
at the hotel door to see the carriage depart.
"Really quite like a wedding, with all those
orange-flowers and roses," said Miss Priscilla,
as Teresa and Manuela threw great bunches of
flowers into their laps, and kissed their hands
to the departing travellers.
Sitting proudly aloft, Tino waved his old hat
to these good friends till he could see them no
more, then having, with some difficulty,
bestowed his long bundle from Tommaso, his
basket of fish from Marco, his small parcel of
clothes, and the immense bouquet the children
had made for him, he gave himself up to the
rapture of that lovely April day.
The kind ladies had given him a new suit of
clothes like the old ones, and paid him well
besides; so he felt quite content with the
picturesque peasant garments he wore, having had
enough of fine feathers, and gayly jingled the
money in his pocket, though it was not the
fortune he had foolishly hoped to make so
easily. He was a wiser boy than the one who
went over that road six months before, and
decided that even if his voice did come back
in time, he would be in no hurry to leave home
till he was sure it was the wisest thing to do.
He had some very serious thoughts and
sensible plans in his young head, and for a time
was silent and sober. But soon the delicious
air, the lovely scenery, and the many questions
of the ladies raised his spirits, and he chattered
away till they stopped for dinner.
All that long bright day they drove along
the wonderful road, and as night fell, saw
Valrose lying green and peaceful in the valley as
they paused on the hill-top to enjoy its beauty.
Then they went slowly down to the Falcone,
and the moment the luggage was taken in, rooms
secured, and dinner ordered, Tino, who had been
quivering with impatience, said eagerly,--
"Dear signoras, now I go to my own people
to embrace them; but in the morning we come
to thank you for your great kindness to me."
Miss Priscilla opened her mouth to send some
message; but Tino was off like an arrow, and
never stopped till he burst into the little kitchen
where Mariuccia sat shelling dry beans, and
Stella was packing mandarinas in dainty baskets
for market. Like an affectionate little bear did
the boy fall upon and embrace the two
astonished women; while Stella laughed and cried,
and Mariuccia called on all the saints to behold
how tall and fat and beautiful her angel had
become, and to thank them for restoring him
to their arms. The neighbors rushed in; and
till late that night there was the sound of many
voices in the stone cottage under the old fig-tree.
Tino's adventures were listened to with the
deepest interest, and a very hearty welcome
given him. All were impressed with the
splendors he had seen, afflicted by his trials, and
grateful for his return. No one laughed or
reproached, but regarded him as a very
remarkable fellow, and predicted that whether his
voice came back or not, he was born for good
luck and would prosper. So at last he got to
bed in the old loft, and fell asleep with the same
friendly moon looking in at him as it did
before, only now it saw a quiet face, a very happy
heart, and a contented boy, glad to be safe again
under the humble roof that was his home.
Early next morning a little procession of
three went to the Falcone bearing grateful offerings
to the dear signoras who sat on the portico
enjoying the balmy air that blew up from the
acres of flowers below. First came Tino, bearing
a great basket of the delicious little oranges
which one never tastes in their perfection unless
one eats them fresh from the tree; then Stella
with two pretty boxes of perfume; and bringing
up the rear, old Mariuccia with a blue jar of her
best honey, which like all that of Valrose was
The ladies were much delighted with these
gifts, and promised to stop and see the givers
of them on their return from Genoa, if they
came that way. Tino took a grateful farewell
of the good souls; Stella kissed their hands,
with her dark eyes full of tender thanks, and
Mariuccia begged the saints to have them in
their special keeping by land and by sea, for
their kindness to her boy.
An hour later, as the travellers drove down
the steep road from the village, they were
startled by a sudden shower of violets and roses
which rained upon them from a high bank
beside the path. Looking up, they saw Tino
and his sister laughing, waving their hands, and
tossing flowers as they called in their musical
"A rivederla, signoras! Grazia, grazia!"
till the carriage rolled round the corner looking
as if it were Carnival-time, so full was it of
fragrant violets and lovely roses.
"Nice creatures! how prettily they do things!
I hope we shall see them again; and I wonder
if the boy will ever be famous. Such a pity
to lose that sweet voice of his!" said Miss Maria,
the younger of the sisters, as they drove along
in a nest of sweet and pretty gifts.
"I hope not, for he will be much safer and
happier in this charming place than wandering
about the world and getting into trouble as
these singers always do. I hope he will be
wise enough to be contented with the place in
which his lot is cast," answered Miss Priscilla,
who knew the world and had a good old-fashioned
love for home and all it gives us.
She was right; Tino was wise, and though
his voice did come back in time, it was no
longer wonderful; and he was contented to live
on at Valrose, a busy, happy, humble gardener
all his life, saying with a laugh when asked
about his runaway adventures,--
"Ah, I have had enough of music and macaroni;
I prefer my flowers and my freedom."
"Fortunately aunty came down in time to see what was going on, and found Lu busily buttoning the waterproof."--PAGE 152
THE LITTLE RED PURSE.
Among the presents which Lu found on
her tenth birthday was a pretty red plush
purse with a steel clasp and chain, just like
mamma's, only much smaller. In it were ten
bright new cents, that being the sum Lu
received each week to spend as she liked. She
enjoyed all her gifts very much; but this one
seemed to please her even more than the
French doll in blue silk, the pearl ring, or
"Alice in Wonderland,"--three things which
she had wanted for a long time.
"It is so cunning, and the snap makes such
a loud noise, and the chain is so nice on my
arm, and the plush so red and soft, I can't help
loving my dear little purse. I shall spend all
the money for candy, and eat it every bit
myself, because it is my birthday, and I must
celebrate it," said Lu, as she hovered like a bee
round a honey-pot about the table where the
gifts were spread.
Now she was in a great hurry to go out
shopping, with the new purse proudly carried in her
small fat hand. Aunty was soon ready, and
away they went across the pleasant Park, where
the pretty babies were enjoying the last warm
days of autumn as they played among the
"You will be ill if you eat ten cents' worth
of candy to-day," said aunty.
"I 'll sprinkle it along through the day,
and eat each kind seppyrut; then they won't
intersturb me, I am sure," answered Lu, who
still used funny words, and always got interrupt
and disturb rather mixed.
Just then a poor man who had lost his legs
came creeping along with a tray of little
flower-pots to sell.
"Only five cents, miss. Help an unfortnit
man, please, mum."
"Let me buy one for my baby-house. It
would be sweet. Cora Pinky May would love
to have that darling little rose in her best
parlor," cried Lu, thinking of the fine new doll.
Aunty much preferred to help the poor man
than to buy candy, so the flower-pot was soon
bought, though the "red, red rose" was unlike
any ever seen in a garden.
"Now I 'll have five cents for my treat, and
no danger of being ill," said Lu, as they went
But in a few moments a new beggar appeared,
and Lu's tender heart would not let her pass
the old woman without dropping two of her
bright cents in the tin cup.
"Do come to the candy-place at once, or I
never shall get any," begged Lu, as the red
purse grew lighter and lighter every minute.
Three sticks of candy were all she could buy,
but she felt that she could celebrate the
birthday on that, and was ready to go home and
begin at once.
As they went on to get some flowers to dress
the cake at tea-time, Lu suddenly stopped short,
lifted both hands, and cried out in a tone of
"My purse! my purse! I 've lost it. Oh,
I 've lost it!"
"Left it in the store probably. Come and
look for it," said aunty; and back they turned,
just in time to meet a shabby little girl running
after them with the precious thing in her hand.
"Ain't this yours? I thought you dropped
it, and would hate to lose it," she said, smiling
"Oh, I should. It's spandy new, and I love
it dearly. I 've got no more money to pay
you, only this candy; do take a stick," and Lu
presented the red barley sugar.
The little girl took it gladly, and ran off.
"Well, two sticks will do. I 'd rather lose
every bit of it than my darling purse," said Lu,
putting it carefully in her pocket.
"I love to give things away and make people
happy," began Lu, but stopped to watch a dog
who came up to her, wagging his tail as if he
knew what a kind little girl she was, and wanted
to be made happy. She put out her hand to
pat him, quite forgetting the small parcel in it;
but the dog snapped it up before she could
"Oh, my last stick! I did n't mean to give
it to him. You naughty dog, drop it this
minute!" cried poor Lu.
But the beautiful pink cream candy was forever
lost, and the ungrateful thief ran off, after
a vain attempt to eat the flower-pot also. It
was so funny that aunty laughed, and Lu joined
her, after shaking her finger at the dog, who
barked and frisked as if he felt that he had
done a clever thing.
"Now I am quite satisfied, and you will have
a pleasanter birthday for having made four
people and a dog happy, instead of yourself
sick with too many goodies. Charity is a nice
sort of sweetie; and I hope you will buy that
kind with your pocket-money now and then,
my dear," said aunty, as they walked on again.
"Could I do much with ten cents a week?"
"Yes, indeed; you could buy a little book
for lame Sammy, who loves to read, or a few
flowers for my sick girl at the hospital, or a
loaf of bread for some hungry person, or milk
for a poor baby, or you could save up your
money till Christmas, and get presents for
children who otherwise would have none."
"Could I do all those things? I'd like to
get presents best, and I will--I will!" cried
Lu, charmed with the idea of playing Santa
Claus. "I did n't think ten cents would be so
useful. How long to Christmas, aunty?"
"About ten weeks. If you save all your
pocket-money till then, you will have a
dollar to spend."
"A truly dollar! How fine! But all that
time I should n't have any candy. I don't think
I could get along without some. Perhaps if I
was very good some one would give me a bit
now and then;" and Lu looked up with her
most engaging smile and a twinkle in her eye.
"We will see about that. Perhaps 'some
one' will give extra cents for work you may do,
and leave you to decide which kind of sweeties
you would buy."
"What can I do to earn money?" asked Lu.
"Well, you can dry and fold the paper every
morning for grandpa. I will pay you a cent for
that, because nurse is apt to forget it, and he
likes to have it nicely ready for him after
breakfast. Then you might run up and down for
mamma, and hem some towels for me, and take
care of Jip and the parrot. You will earn a good
deal if you do your work regularly and well."
"I shall have dreadful trials going by the
candy-shops and never buying any. I do long
so to go in that I have to look away when you
say No. I want to be good and help poor
people, but I 'm afraid it will be too hard for
me," sighed Lu, foreseeing the temptations before her.
"We might begin to-day, and try the new
plan for a while. If it is too hard, you can give
it up; but I think you will soon like my way
best, and have the merriest Christmas you ever
knew with the money you save."
Lu walked thoughtfully home, and put the
empty purse away, resolved to see how long she
could hold out, and how much she could earn.
Mamma smiled when she heard the plan, but at
once engaged the little girl to do errands about
the house at a cent a job, privately quite sure
that her pretty express would soon stop running.
Grandpapa was pleased to find his paper ready,
and nodded and patted Lu's curly head when
she told him about her Christmas plans. Mary,
the maid, was glad to get rid of combing Jip and
feeding Polly, and aunty made towel hemming
pleasant by telling stories as the little
needle-woman did two hems a day.
Every cent went into the red purse, which Lu
hung on one of the gilt pegs of the easel in the
parlor, for she thought it very ornamental, and
hoped contributions might drop in occasionally.
None did; but as every one paid her
in bright cents, there was soon a fine display,
and the little bag grew heavy with delightful rapidity.
Only once did Lu yield to temptation, and
that was when two weeks of self-denial made
her trials so great that she felt as if she really
must reward herself, as no one else seemed to
remember how much little girls loved candy.
One day she looked pale, and did not want
any dinner, saying she felt sick. Mamma was
away, so aunty put her on the bed and sat by
her, feeling very anxious, as scarlet-fever was
about. By and by Lu took her handkerchief
out, and there, sticking to it, was a large brown
cough-drop. Lu turned red, and hid her face,
saying with a penitent sob, "I don't deserve
to be cuddled. I 've been selfish and silly, and
spent some of my money for candy. I had a
little cold, and I thought cough-drops would do
me good. I ate a good many, and they were
bitter and made me sick, and I 'm glad of it."
Aunty wanted to laugh at the dear little
sinner and her funny idea of choosing bitter candy
as a sort of self-denial; but she comforted her
kindly, and soon the invalid was skipping about
again, declaring that she never would do so
Next day something happened which helped
her very much, and made it easier to like the
new kind of sweeties better than the old. She
was in the dining-room getting an apple for her
lunch, when she saw a little girl come to the
lower door to ask for cold food. The cook was
busy, and sent her away, telling her begging
was forbidden. Lu, peeping out, saw the little
girl sit down on the steps to eat a cold potato
as if she was very hungry, and while she ate she
was trying to tie on a pair of very old boots
some one had given her. It was a rainy day,
and she had only a shawl over her head; her
hands were red with cold; her gown was a faded
cotton one; and her big basket seemed to have
very few scraps in it. So poor, so sad, and
tired did she look, that Lu could not bear to
see it, and she called out in her pitiful child's
"Come in and get warm, little girl. Don't
mind old Sarah. I 'll give you something to
eat, and lend you my rubber boots and
waterproof to go home in."
The poor child gladly went to sit by the
comfortable fire, while Lu with hospitable haste got
crackers and cheese and cake and apples, and
her own silver mug of milk, for her guest,
forgetting, in her zeal, to ask leave. Fortunately
aunty came down for her own lunch in time to
see what was going on, and found Lu busily
buttoning the waterproof, while the little girl
surveyed her rubber boots and small umbrella
"I 'm only lending my things, and she will
return them to-morrow, aunty. They are too
small for me, and the umbrella is broken; and
I 'd love to give them all to Lucy if I could.
She has to go out in the rain to get food for her
family, like a bird, and I don't."
"Birds don't need waterproofs and umbrellas,"
began aunty; and both children laughed
at the idea of sparrows with such things, but
looked a little anxious till aunty went on to say
that Lucy could have these comforts, and to fill
the basket with something better than cold
potatoes, while she asked questions and heard
the sad little story: how father was dead, and the
baby sick, so mother could not work, and the
boys had to pick up chips and cinders to burn,
and Lucy begged food to eat. Lu listened with
tears in her blue eyes, and a great deal of pity
as well as admiration for poor little Lucy, who
was only nine, yet had so many cares and
troubles in her life. While aunty went to get some
flannel for baby, Lu flew to her red purse and
counted out ten cents from her store, feeling so
rich, so glad to have it instead of an empty
bonbon box, and a headache after a candy feast.
"Buy some nice fresh milk for little Totty,
and tell her I sent it--all myself--with my
love. Come again to-morrow, and I will tell
mamma all about you, and you shall be my
poor people, and I 'll help you if I can," she
said, full of interest and good-will, for the sight
of this child made her feel what poverty really
was, and long to lighten it if she could.
Lucy was smiling when she went away, snug
and dry in her comfortable clothes, with the
full basket on her arm; and all that day Lu
talked and thought about her "own poor
people," and what she hoped to do for them.
Mamma inquired, and finding them worthy of
help, let her little girl send many comforts to
the children, and learn how to be wisely
"I shall give all my money to my 'Lucy
children' on Christmas," announced Lu, as that
pleasant time drew near. "I know what they
want, and though I can't save money enough to
give them half the things they need, maybe I
can help a good deal, and really have a nice
bundle to s'prise them with."
This idea took possession of little Lu, and she
worked like a beaver in all sorts of funny ways
to fill her purse by Christmas-time. One thing
she did which amused her family very much,
though they were obliged to stop it. Lu danced
very prettily, and often had what she called
ballets before she went to bed, when she tripped
about the parlor like a fairy in the gay costumes
aunty made for her. As the purse did not fill
as fast as she hoped, Lu took it into her head
one fine day to go round the square where she
lived, with her tambourine, and dance as some
of the girls with the hand-organ men did. So
she dressed herself in her red skirt and black
velvet jacket, and with a fur cap on her head
and a blue cloak over her shoulders, slipped
out into the quiet square, and going to the
farther corner, began to dance and beat her
tambourine on the sidewalk before a house
where some little children lived.
As she expected, they soon came running to
the window, and were charmed to see the pretty
dancer whirling to and fro, with her ribbons
flying and her tambourine bells ringing, till her
breath was gone. Then she held up the
instrument and nodded smilingly at them; and
they threw down cents wrapped in paper,
thinking her music much better than any the organ
men made. Much encouraged, Lu went on
from house to house, and was doing finely,
when one of the ladies who looked out
recognized the child, and asked her if her mother
knew where she was. Lu had to say "No;" and
the lady sent a maid to take her home at once.
That spoiled all the fun; and poor Lu did not
hear the last of her prank for a long time. But
she had made forty-two cents, and felt comforted
when she added that handsome sum to her store.
As if to console her for this disappointment, after
that day several bright ten-cent pieces got into
the red purse in a most mysterious manner.
Lu asked every one in the house, and all
declared that they did not do it. Grandpa could
not get out of his chair without help, and nurse
said she never took the purse to him; so of
course it could not be he who slipped in those
welcome bits of silver. Lu asked him; but he
was very deaf that day, and did not seem to
understand her at all.
"It must be fairies," she said, pondering over
the puzzle, as she counted her treasure and
packed it away, for now the little red purse was
full. "Aunty says there are no fairies; but I
like to think so. Perhaps angels fly around at
Christmas-time as they did long ago, and love
to help poor people, and put those beautiful
bright things here to show that they are pleased
with me." She liked that fancy, and aunty
agreed that some good spirit must have done
it, and was sure they would find out the secret
Lucy came regularly; and Lu always tried to
see her, and so learned what she and Totty and
Joe and Jimmy wanted, but never dreamed of
receiving Christmas morning. It did both little
girls much good, for poor Lucy was comforted
by the kindness of these friends, and Lu learned
about far harder trials than the want of
sugarplums. The day before Christmas she went on
a grand shopping expedition with aunty, for the
purse now held three dollars and seven cents.
She had spent some of it for trifles for her
"Lucy children," and had not earned as much
as she once hoped, various fits of idleness and
other more amusing but less profitable work
having lessened her wages. But she had enough,
thanks to the good spirit, to get toys and books
and candy for her family, and went joyfully away
Christmas Eve to carry her little basket of gifts,
accompanied by aunty with a larger store of
comforts for the grateful mother.
When they got back, Lu entertained her
mother with an account of the delight of the
children, who never had such a Christmas
"They could n't wait till morning, and I
could n't either, and we opened the bundles
right away; and they screamed, mamma, and
jumped for joy and ate everything and hugged
me. And the mother cried, she was so pleased;
and the boys can go to school all neat now, and
so could Lucy, only she has to take care of
Totty while her mother goes to work. Oh, it
was lovely! I felt just like Santa Claus, only
he does n't stay to see people enjoy their things,
and I did."
Here Lu stopped for breath, and when she
got it, had a fine ballet as the only way to work
off her excitement at the success of her "s'prise." It
was a trial to go to bed, but she went at last,
and dreamed that her "Lucy children" all had
wings, and were flying round her bed with
tambourines full of heavenly bonbons, which they
showered down upon her; while aunty in an
immense nightcap stood by clapping her hands
and saying, "Eat all you like, dear; this sort
won't hurt you."
Morning came very soon; and she popped up
her head to see a long knobby stocking hanging
from the mantel-piece. Out of bed skipped
the little white figure, and back again, while
cries of joy were heard as the treasures
appeared one by one. There was a tableful
beside the stocking, and Lu was so busy looking
at them that she was late to breakfast. But
aunty waited for her, and they went down
together some time after the bell rang.
"Let me peep and see if grandpa has found
the silk handkerchief and spectacle-case I
made for him," whispered Lu, as they passed
the parlor door, which stood half open,
leaving a wide crack for the blue eyes to spy
The old gentleman sat in his easy-chair as
usual, waiting while nurse got his breakfast;
but what was he doing with his long staff? Lu
watched eagerly, and to her great surprise saw
him lean forward, and with the hook at the end
take the little red purse off the easel, open it,
and slip in a small white parcel, then hang it
on the gilt peg again, put away the cane, and
sit rubbing his hands and laughing to himself
at the success of his little trick, quite sure that
this was a safe time to play it. Lu was about
to cry out, and rush in, but aunty whispered,
"Don't spoil his fun yet. Go and see what is
in the purse, then thank him in the way he
So Lu skipped into the parlor, trying to look
very innocent, and ran to open the dear red
purse, as she often did, eager to see if the good
fairy had added to the charity fund.
"Why, here 's a great gold medal, and some
queer, shaky writing on the paper. Please see
what it is," said Lu, very loud, hoping grandpa
would hear her this time, for his face was
hidden behind the newspaper he pretended to
"For Lu's poor's purse, from Santa Claus,"
read aunty, glad that at last the kind old fairy
was discovered and ready for his reward.
Lu had never seen a twenty-dollar gold-piece
before; but she could not stop to find out
whether the shining medal was money or a
locket, and ran to grandpa, crying as she pulled
away the paper and threw her arms about his
"I 've found you out, I 've found you out,
my dear old Santa Claus! Merry Christmas,
grandpa, and lots of thanks and kisses!"
It was pretty to see the rosy cheek against
the wrinkled one, the golden and the silver
heads close together, as the old man and the
little girl kissed and laughed, and both talked
at once for a few minutes.
"Tell me all about it, you sly grandpa.
What made you think of doing it that way, and
not let any one know?" cried Lu, as the
old gentleman stopped to rest after a kindly
"cuddle," as Lu called these caresses.
"Well, dear, I liked to see you trying to do
good with your little pennies, and I wanted to
help. I 'm a feeble old man, tied to my chair
and of no use now; but I like a bit of fun, and
love to feel that it is not quite too late to make
some one happy."
"Why, grandpa, you do heaps of good, and
make many, many people happy," said Lu, with
another hug. "Mamma told me all about the
hospital for little children you built, and the
money you gave to the poor soldiers in the war,
and ever so many more good things you 've
done. I won't have you say you are of no use
now. We want you to love and take care of;
and we could n't do without you, could we,
Aunty sat on the arm of the chair with her
arm round the old man's shoulder, and her only
answer was a kiss. But it was enough, and
grandpa went on quite cheerfully, as he held
two plump hands in his own, and watched the
blooming face that looked up at him so eagerly:
"When I was younger, I loved money, and
wanted a great deal. I cared for nothing else,
and worked hard to get it, and did get it after
years of worry. But it cost me my health, and
then I saw how foolish I had been, for all my
money could not buy me any strength or
pleasure and very little comfort. I could not take
it with me when I died, and did not know what
to do with it, because there was so much. So
I tried to see if giving it away would not amuse
me, and make me feel better about having
wasted my life instead of using it wisely. The
more I gave away the better I felt; and now
I'm quite jolly, though I'm only a helpless
old baby just fit to play jokes and love little
girls. You have begun early at this pretty
game of give-away, my dear, and aunty will see
that you keep it up; so that when you are old
you will have much treasure in the other world
where the blessings of the poor are more
precious than gold and silver."
Nobody spoke for a minute as the feeble old
voice stopped; and the sunshine fell on the
white head like a blessing. Then Lu said very
soberly, as she turned the great coin in her
hand, and saw the letters that told its worth,--
"What shall I do with all this money? I
never had so much, and I 'd like to spend it in
some very good and pleasant way. Can you
think of something, aunty, so I can begin at
once to be like grandpa?"
"How would you like to pay two dollars a
month, so that Totty can go to the Sunnyside
Nursery, and be taken care of every day while
Lucy goes to school? Then she will be safe
and happy, and Lucy be learning, as she longs
to do, and the mother free to work," said aunty,
glad to have this dear child early learn to help
those less blessed than herself.
"Could I? How splendid it would be to
pay for a real live baby all myself! How long
would my money do it?" said Lu, charmed
with the idea of a living dolly to care for.
"All winter, and provide clothes besides.
You can make them yourself, and go and see
Totty, and call her your baby. This will be a
sweet charity for you; and to-day is a good day
to begin it, for this is the birthday of the Divine
Child, who was born in a poorer place even than
Lucy's sister. In His name pity and help this
baby, and be sure He will bless you for it."
Lu looked up at the fine picture of the Good
Shepherd hanging over the sofa with holly-leaves
glistening round it, and felt as if she too
in her humble way was about to take a helpless
little lamb in her arms and comfort it. Her
childish face was very sweet and sober as she
"Yes, I will spend my Christmas money so;
for, aunty, I do think your sort of sweetie is
better than mine, and making people happy a
much wiser way to spend my pennies than in
buying the nicest candy in the world."
Little Lu remembered that morning long
after the dear old grandfather was gone, and
kept her Christmas promise so well that very
soon a larger purse was needed for charity
money, which she used so wisely and so
happily. But all her life in one corner of her desk
lay carefully folded up, with the bit of paper
inside, the little red purse.
Chapter VI tailpiece
"Sophie came and sat beside her while she dried her curly hair." PAGE 178
,, class:: center medium
A party of young girls, in their gay
bathing-dresses, were sitting on the
beach waiting for the tide to rise a little
higher before they enjoyed the daily frolic which
they called "mermaiding."
"I wish we could have a clam-bake; but we
have n't any clams, and don't know how to cook
them if we had. It's such a pity all the boys
have gone off on that stupid fishing excursion,"
said one girl, in a yellow-and-black striped suit
which made her look like a wasp.
"What is a clam-bake? I do not know that
kind of fête," asked a pretty brown-eyed girl,
with an accent that betrayed the foreigner.
The girls laughed at such sad ignorance, and
Sophie colored, wishing she had not spoken.
"Poor thing! she has never tasted a clam.
What should we do if we went to Switzerland?"
said the wasp, who loved to tease.
"We should give you the best we had, and
not laugh at your ignorance, if you did not
know all our dishes. In my country, we have
politeness, though not the clam-bake," answered
Sophie, with a flash of the brown eyes which
warned naughty Di to desist.
"We might row to the light-house, and have
a picnic supper. Our mammas will let us do
that alone," suggested Dora from the roof of
the bath-house, where she perched like a
"That's a good idea," cried Fanny, a slender
brown girl who sat dabbling her feet in the
water, with her hair streaming in the wind.
"Sophie should see that, and get some of the
shells she likes so much."
"You are kind to think of me. I shall be
glad to have a necklace of the pretty things, as
a souvenir of this so charming place and my
good friend," answered Sophie, with a grateful
look at Fanny, whose many attentions had won
the stranger's heart.
"Those boys have n't left us a single boat, so
we must dive off the rocks, and that is n't half
so nice," said Di, to change the subject, being
ashamed of her rudeness.
"A boat is just coming round the Point;
perhaps we can hire that, and have some fun,"
cried Dora, from her perch. "There is only
a girl in it; I 'll hail her when she is near
Sophie looked about her to see where the
hail was coming from; but the sky was clear,
and she waited to see what new meaning this
word might have, not daring to ask for fear of
While the girls watched the boat float around
the farther horn of the crescent-shaped beach,
we shall have time to say a few words about
our little heroine.
She was a sixteen-year-old Swiss girl, on a
visit to some American friends, and had come
to the seaside for a month with one of them
who was an invalid. This left Sophie to the
tender mercies of the young people; and they
gladly welcomed the pretty creature, with her
fine manners, foreign ways, and many
accomplishments. But she had a quick temper, a
funny little accent, and dressed so very plainly
that the girls could not resist criticising and
teasing her in a way that seemed very ill-bred
and unkind to the new-comer.
Their free and easy ways astonished her,
their curious language bewildered her; and their
ignorance of many things she had been taught
made her wonder at the American education she
had heard so much praised. All had studied
French and German; yet few read or spoke
either tongue correctly, or understood her easily
when she tried to talk to them. Their music
did not amount to much, and in the games they
played, their want of useful information amazed
Sophie. One did not know the signs of the
zodiac; another could only say of cotton that
"it was stuff that grew down South;" and a
third was not sure whether a frog was an animal
or a reptile, while the handwriting and
spelling displayed on these occasions left much to
be desired. Yet all were fifteen or sixteen,
and would soon leave school "finished," as
they expressed it, but not furnished, as they
should have been, with a solid, sensible
education. Dress was an all-absorbing topic,
sweetmeats their delight; and in confidential moments
sweethearts were discussed with great freedom.
Fathers were conveniences, mothers comforters,
brothers plagues, and sisters ornaments or
playthings according to their ages. They were not
hard-hearted girls, only frivolous, idle, and fond
of fun; and poor little Sophie amused them
immensely till they learned to admire, love, and
Coming straight from Paris, they expected to
find that her trunks contained the latest fashions
for demoiselles, and begged to see her dresses
with girlish interest. But when Sophie
obligingly showed a few simple, but pretty and
appropriate gowns and hats, they exclaimed with
"Why, you dress like a little girl! Don't
you have ruffles and lace on your dresses; and
silks and high-heeled boots and long gloves
and bustles and corsets, and things like ours?"
"I am a little girl," laughed Sophie, hardly
understanding their dismay. "What should I
do with fine toilets at school? My sisters go
to balls in silk and lace; but I--not yet."
"How queer! Is your father poor?" asked
Di, with Yankee bluntness.
"We have enough," answered Sophie, slightly
knitting her dark brows.
"How many servants do you keep?"
"But five, now that the little ones are grown up."
"Have you a piano?" continued undaunted
Di, while the others affected to be looking at
the books and pictures strewn about by the
"We have two pianos, four violins, three
flutes, and an organ. We love music, and all
play, from papa to little Franz."
"My gracious, how swell! You must live in
a big house to hold all that and eight brothers
"We are not peasants; we do not live in a
hut. Voilà, this is my home." And Sophie
laid before them a fine photograph of a large
and elegant house on lovely Lake Geneva.
It was droll to see the change in the faces of
the girls as they looked, admired, and slyly
nudged one another, enjoying saucy Di's
astonishment, for she had stoutly insisted that the
Swiss girl was a poor relation.
Sophie meanwhile was folding up her plain
piqué and muslin frocks, with a glimmer of
mirthful satisfaction in her eyes, and a tender
pride in the work of loving hands now far away.
Kind Fanny saw a little quiver of the lips
as she smoothed the blue corn-flowers in the
best hat, and put her arm around Sophie,
"Never mind, dear, they don't mean to be
rude; it's only our Yankee way of asking
questions. I like all your things, and that hat
is perfectly lovely."
"Indeed, yes! Dear mamma arranged it for
me. I was thinking of her and longing for my
"Do you do that every day?" asked Fanny,
forgetting herself in her sympathetic interest.
"Surely, yes. Papa and mamma sit always
on the sofa, and we all have the hand-shake and
the embrace each day before our morning
coffee. I do not see that here," answered Sophie,
who sorely missed the affectionate respect
foreign children give their parents.
"Have n't time," said Fanny, smiling too, at
the idea of American parents sitting still for
five minutes in the busiest part of the busy day
to kiss their sons and daughters.
"It is what you call old-fashioned, but a
sweet fashion to me; and since I have not
the dear warm cheeks to kiss, I embrace my
pictures often. See, I have them all." And
Sophie unfolded a Russia-leather case, displaying
with pride a long row of handsome brothers
and sisters with the parents in the midst.
More exclamations from the girls, and
increased interest in "Wilhelmina Tell," as they
christened the loyal Swiss maiden, who was
now accepted as a companion, and soon became
a favorite with old and young.
They could not resist teasing her, however,--her
mistakes were so amusing, her little flashes
of temper so dramatic, and her tongue so quick
to give a sharp or witty answer when the new
language did not perplex her. But Fanny
always took her part, and helped her in many
ways. Now they sat together on the rock, a
pretty pair of mermaids with wind-tossed hair,
wave-washed feet, and eyes fixed on the
The girl who sat in it was a great contrast to
the gay creatures grouped so picturesquely on
the shore, for the old straw hat shaded a very
anxious face, the brown calico gown covered a
heart full of hopes and fears, and the boat that
drifted so slowly with the incoming tide carried
Tilly Reed like a young Columbus toward the
new world she longed for, believed in, and was
resolved to discover.
It was a weather-beaten little boat, yet very
pretty; for a pile of nets lay at one end, a creel
of red lobsters at the other, and all between
stood baskets of berries and water-lilies, purple
marsh rosemary and orange butterfly-weed,
shells and great smooth stones such as artists
like to paint little sea-views on. A tame gull
perched on the prow; and the morning sunshine
glittered from the blue water to the bluer sky.
"Oh, how pretty! Come on, please, and
sell us some lilies," cried Dora, and roused
Tilly from her waking dream.
Pushing back her hat, she saw the girls
beckoning, felt that the critical moment had come,
and catching up her oars, rowed bravely on,
though her cheeks reddened and her heart beat,
for this venture was her last hope, and on its
success depended the desire of her life. As
the boat approached, the watchers forgot its
cargo to look with surprise and pleasure at its
rower, for she was not the rough country lass
they expected to see, but a really splendid girl
of fifteen, tall, broad-shouldered, bright-eyed,
and blooming, with a certain shy dignity of her
own and a very sweet smile, as she nodded and
pulled in with strong, steady strokes. Before
they could offer help, she had risen, planted
an oar in the water, and leaping to the shore,
pulled her boat high up on the beach, offering
her wares with wistful eyes and a very expressive
wave of both brown hands.
"Everything is for sale, if you 'll buy," said she.
Charmed with the novelty of this little
adventure, the girls, after scampering to the
bathing-houses for purses and portemonnaies,
crowded around the boat like butterflies about
a thistle, all eager to buy, and to discover who
this bonny fisher-maiden might be.
"Oh, see these beauties!" "A dozen lilies
for me!" "All the yellow flowers for me,
they'll be so becoming at the dance to-night!"
"Ow! that lob bites awfully!" "Where do
you come from?" "Why have we never seen
These were some of the exclamations and
questions showered upon Tilly, as she filled
little birch-bark panniers with berries, dealt out
flowers, or dispensed handfuls of shells. Her
eyes shone, her cheeks glowed, and her heart
danced in her bosom; for this was a better
beginning than she had dared to hope for, and as
the dimes tinkled into the tin pail she used for
her till, it was the sweetest music she had ever
heard. This hearty welcome banished her
shyness; and in these eager, girlish customers she
found it easy to confide.
"I 'm from the light-house. You have never
seen me because I never came before, except
with fish for the hotel. But I mean to come
every day, if folks will buy my things, for I
want to make some money, and this is the only
way in which I can do it."
Sophie glanced at the old hat and worn shoes
of the speaker, and dropping a bright half-dollar
into the pail, said in her pretty way:
"For me all these lovely shells. I will make
necklaces of them for my people at home as
souvenirs of this charming place. If you will
bring me more, I shall be much grateful to you."
"Oh, thank you! I 'll bring heaps; I know
where to find beauties in places where other
folks can't go. Please take these; you paid
too much for the shells;" and quick to feel the
kindness of the stranger, Tilly put into her
hands a little bark canoe heaped with red
Not to be outdone by the foreigner, the other
girls emptied their purses and Tilly's boat also
of all but the lobsters, which were ordered for
"Is that jolly bird for sale?" asked Di, as
the last berry vanished, pointing to the gull
who was swimming near them while the chatter
"If you can catch him," laughed Tilly, whose
spirits were now the gayest of the party.
The girls dashed into the water, and with
shrieks of merriment swam away to capture the
gull, who paddled off as if he enjoyed the fun
as much as they.
Leaving them to splash vainly to and fro,
Tilly swung the creel to her shoulder and went
off to leave her lobsters, longing to dance and
sing to the music of the silver clinking in her
When she came back, the bird was far out of
reach and the girls diving from her boat, which
they had launched without leave. Too happy
to care what happened now, Tilly threw herself
down on the warm sand to plan a new and still
finer cargo for next day.
Sophie came and sat beside her while she
dried her curly hair, and in five minutes her
sympathetic face and sweet ways had won Tilly
to tell all her hopes and cares and dreams.
"I want schooling, and I mean to have it.
I 've got no folks of my own; and uncle has
married again, so he does n't need me now.
If I only had a little money, I could go to
school somewhere, and take care of myself.
Last summer I worked at the hotel, but I did n't
make much, and had to have good clothes, and
that took my wages pretty much. Sewing is
slow work, and baby-tending leaves me no time
to study; so I 've kept on at home picking
berries and doing what I could to pick up
enough to buy books. Aunt thinks I 'm a
fool; but uncle, he says, 'Go ahead, girl, and
see what you can do.' And I mean to show him!"
Tilly's brown hand came down on the sand
with a resolute thump; and her clear young
eyes looked bravely out across the wide sea, as
if far away in the blue distance she saw her
hope happily fulfilled.
Sophie's eyes shone approval, for she
understood this love of independence, and had come
to America because she longed for new scenes
and greater freedom than her native land could
give her. Education is a large word, and both
girls felt that desire for self-improvement that
comes to all energetic natures. Sophie had
laid a good foundation, but still desired more;
while Tilly was just climbing up the first steep
slope which rises to the heights few attain, yet
all may strive for.
"That is beautiful! You will do it! I am
glad to help you if I may. See, I have many
books; will you take some of them? Come to
my room to-morrow and take what will best
please you. We will say nothing of it, and it
will make me a truly great pleasure."
As Sophie spoke, her little white hand
touched the strong, sunburned one that turned
to meet and grasp hers with grateful warmth,
while Tilly's face betrayed the hunger that
possessed her, for it looked as a starving girl's
would look when offered a generous meal.
"I will come. Thank you so much! I
don't know anything, but just blunder along
and do the best I can. I got so discouraged I
was real desperate, and thought I 'd have one
try, and see if I could n't earn enough to get
books to study this winter. Folks buy berries
at the cottages; so I just added flowers and
shells, and I 'm going to bring my boxes of
butterflies, birds' eggs, and seaweeds. I 've got
lots of such things; and people seem to like
spending money down here. I often wish I
had a little of what they throw away."
Tilly paused with a sigh, then laughed as an
impatient movement caused a silver clink; and
slapping her pocket, she added gayly,--
"I won't blame 'em if they 'll only throw their
money in here."
Sophie's hand went involuntarily toward her
own pocket, where lay a plump purse, for papa
was generous, and simple Sophie had few wants.
But something in the intelligent face opposite
made her hesitate to offer as a gift what she
felt sure Tilly would refuse, preferring to earn
her education if she could.
"Come often, then, and let me exchange
these stupid bills for the lovely things you
bring. We will come this afternoon to see you
if we may, and I shall like the butterflies. I
try to catch them; but people tell me I am too
old to run, so I have not many."
Proposed in this way, Tilly fell into the little
trap, and presently rowed away with all her
might to set her possessions in order, and put
her precious earnings in a safe place. The
mermaids clung about the boat as long as they
dared, making a pretty tableau for the artists
on the rocks, then swam to shore, more than
ever eager for the picnic on Light-house Island.
They went, and had a merry time; while
Tilly did the honors and showed them a room
full of treasures gathered from earth, air, and
water, for she led a lonely life, and found friends
among the fishes, made playmates of the birds,
and studied rocks and flowers, clouds and waves,
when books were wanting.
The girls bought gulls' wings for their hats,
queer and lovely shells, eggs and insects,
seaweeds and carved wood, and for their small
brothers, birch baskets and toy ships, made by
Uncle Hiram, who had been a sailor.
When Tilly had sold nearly everything she
possessed (for Fanny and Sophie bought
whatever the others declined), she made a fire of
drift-wood on the rocks, cooked fish for supper,
and kept them till moonrise, telling sea stories
or singing old songs, as if she could not do
enough for these good fairies who had come to
her when life looked hardest and the future
very dark. Then she rowed them home, and
promising to bring loads of fruit and flowers
every day, went back along a shining road, to
find a great bundle of books in her dismantled
room, and to fall asleep with wet eyelashes and
a happy heart.
,, class:: center medium
For a month Tilly went daily to the Point
with a cargo of pretty merchandise, for her
patrons increased; and soon the ladies engaged
her berries, the boys ordered boats enough to
supply a navy, the children clamored for shells,
and the girls depended on her for bouquets and
garlands for the dances that ended every
summer day. Uncle Hiram's fish was in demand
when such a comely saleswoman offered it; so
he let Tilly have her way, glad to see the old
tobacco-pouch in which she kept her cash fill
fast with well-earned money.
She really began to feel that her dream was
coming true, and she would be able to go to the
town and study in some great school, eking out
her little fund with light work. The other girls
soon lost their interest in her, but Sophie never
did; and many a book went to the island in the
empty baskets, many a helpful word was said
over the lilies or wild honeysuckle Sophie loved
to wear, and many a lesson was given in the
bare room in the light-house tower which no
one knew about but the gulls and the sea-winds
sweeping by the little window where the two
heads leaned together over one page.
"You will do it, Tilly, I am very sure. Such
a will and such a memory will make a way for
you; and one day I shall see you teaching as
you wish. Keep the brave heart, and all will
be well with you," said Sophie, when the grand
breaking-up came in September, and the girls
were parting down behind the deserted bathhouses.
"Oh, Miss Sophie, what should I have done
without you? Don't think I have n't seen and
known all the kind things you have said and
done for me. I 'll never forget 'em; and I do
hope I 'll be able to thank you some day," cried
grateful Tilly, with tears in her clear eyes that
seldom wept over her own troubles.
"I am thanked if you do well. Adieu; write
to me, and remember always that I am your friend."
Then they kissed with girlish warmth, and
Tilly rowed away to the lonely island; while
Sophie lingered on the shore, her handkerchief
fluttering in the wind, till the boat vanished and
the waves had washed away their footprints on the sand.
,, class:: center medium
December snow was falling fast, and the
wintry wind whistled through the streets; but it
was warm and cosey in the luxurious parlor
where Di and Do were sitting making
Christmas presents, and planning what they would
wear at the party Fanny was to give on Christmas Eve.
"If I can get mamma to buy me a new dress,
I shall have something yellow. It is always
becoming to brunettes, and I 'm so tired of
red," said Di, giving a last touch to the lace that
trimmed a blue satin sachet for Fanny.
"That will be lovely. I shall have pink, with
roses of the same color. Under muslin it is
perfectly sweet." And Dora eyed the sunflower
she was embroidering as if she already saw the
new toilet before her.
"Fan always wears blue, so we shall make a
nice contrast. She is coming over to show me
about finishing off my banner-screen; and I
asked Sophie to come with her. I want to
know what she is going to wear," said Di,
taking a little sniff at the violet-scented bag.
"That old white cashmere. Just think! I
asked her why she did n't get a new one, and
she laughed and said she could n't afford it.
Fan told me Sophie's father sent her a hundred
dollars not long ago, yet she has n't got a thing
that we know of. I do think she 's mean."
"She bought a great bundle of books. I was
there when the parcel came, and I peeped while
she was out of the room, because she put it away
in a great hurry. I 'm afraid she is mean, for
she never buys a bit of candy, and she wears
shabby boots and gloves, and she has made over
her old hat instead of having that lovely one with
the pheasant's breast in it."
"She's very queer; but I can't help liking
her, she's so pretty and bright and obliging.
I 'd give anything if I could speak three
languages and play as she does."
"So would I. It seems so elegant to be able
to talk to foreigners. Papa had some
Frenchmen to dinner the other day, and they were so
pleased to find they need n't speak English to
Sophie. I could n't get on at all; and I was
so mortified when papa said all the money he
had spent on my languages was thrown away."
"I would n't mind. It's so much easier to
learn those things abroad, she would be a goose
if she did n't speak French better than we do.
There's Fan! she looks as if something had
happened. I hope no one is ill and the party spoiled."
As Dora spoke, both girls looked out to see
Fanny shaking the snow from her seal-skin sack
on the doorstep; then Do hastened to meet her,
while Di hid the sachet, and was hard at work
on an old-gold sofa cushion when the new-comer
"What's the matter? Where's Sophie?"
exclaimed the girls together, as Fan threw off
her wraps and sat down with a tragic sigh.
"She will be along in a few minutes. I 'm
disappointed in her! I would n't have believed
it if I had n't seen them. Promise not to breathe
a word to a living soul, and I 'll tell you
something dreadful," began Fanny, in a tone that
caused her friends to drop their work and draw
their chairs nearer, as they solemnly vowed
"I 've seen Sophie's Christmas presents,--all
but mine; and they are just nothing at all! She
has n't bought a thing, not even ribbons, lace,
or silk, to make up prettily as we do. Only
a painted shell for one, an acorn emery for
another, her ivory fan with a new tassel for a
third, and I suspect one of those nice
handkerchiefs embroidered by the nuns for me, or her
silver filigree necklace. I saw the box in the
drawer with the other things. She's knit
woollen cuffs and tippets for the children, and got
some eight-cent calico gowns for the servants. I
don't know how people do things in Switzerland,
but I do know that if I had a hundred dollars
in my pocket, I would be more generous than that!"
As Fanny paused, out of breath, Di and Do
groaned in sympathy, for this was indeed a sad
state of things; because the girls had a code
that Christmas being the season for gifts,
extravagance would be forgiven then as at no
"I have a lovely smelling-bottle for her; but
I 've a great mind not to give it now," cried Di,
feeling defrauded of the bracelet she had plainly
hinted she would like.
"I shall heap coals of fire on her head by
giving her that;" and Dora displayed a very
useless but very pretty apron of muslin, lace,
and carnation ribbon.
"It is n't the worth of the things. I don't care
for that so much as I do for being disappointed
in her; and I have been lately in more ways than
one," said Fanny, listlessly taking up the screen
she was to finish. "She used to tell me everything,
and now she does n't. I 'm sure she has
some sort of a secret; and I do think I ought to
know it. I found her smiling over a letter one
day; and she whisked it into her pocket and
never said a word about it. I always stood by
her, and I do feel hurt."
"I should think you might! It's real naughty
of her, and I shall tell her so! Perhaps she 'll
confide in you then, and you can just give me a
hint; I always liked Sophie, and never thought
of not giving my present," said Dora, persuasively,
for both girls were now dying with
curiosity to know the secret.
"I 'll have it out of her, without any dodging
or bribing. I 'm not afraid of any one, and I
shall ask her straight out, no matter how much
she scowls at me," said dauntless Di, with a
"There she is! Let us see you do it now!"
cried Fanny, as the bell rang, and a clear voice
was heard a moment later asking if
Mademoiselle was in.
"You shall!" and Di looked ready for any
"I 'll wager a box of candy that you don't
find out a thing," whispered Do.
"Done!" answered Di, and then turned to
meet Sophie, who came in looking as fresh as
an Alpine rose with the wintry wind.
"You dear thing! we were just talking of you.
Sit here and get warm, and let us show you our
gifts. We are almost done, but it seems as if it
got to be a harder job each Christmas. Don't
you find it so?"
"But no; I think it the most charming work
of all the year," answered Sophie, greeting her
friend, and putting her well-worn boots toward
the fire to dry.
"Perhaps you don't make as much of Christmas
as we do, or give such expensive presents.
That would make a great difference, you know,"
said Di, as she lifted a cloth from the table
where her own generous store of gifts was set
"I had a piano last year, a set of jewels, and
many pretty trifles from all at home. Here is
one;" and pulling the fine gold chain hidden
under her frills, Sophie showed a locket set
thick with pearls, containing a picture of her
"It must be so nice to be rich, and able to
make such fine presents. I 've got something
for you; but I shall be ashamed of it after I see
your gift to me, I 'm afraid."
Fan and Dora were working as if their bread
depended on it, while Di, with a naughty twinkle
in her eye, affected to be rearranging her pretty
table as she talked.
"Do not fear that; my gifts this year are
very simple ones. I did not know your custom,
and now it is too late. My comfort is that
you need nothing, and having so much, you
will not care for my--what you call--coming short."
Was it the fire that made Sophie's face look
so hot, and a cold that gave a husky sort of tone
to her usually clear voice? A curious expression
came into her face as her eyes roved from the
table to the gay trifles in her friend's hands; and
she opened her lips as if to add something
impulsively. But nothing came, and for a moment
she looked straight out at the storm as if she
had forgotten where she was.
"'Shortcoming' is the proper way to speak
it But never mind that, and tell me why you
say 'too late'?" asked Di, bent on winning her
"Christmas comes in three days, and I have
no time," began Sophie.
"But with money one can buy plenty of
lovely things in one day," said Di.
"No, it is better to put a little love and hard
work into what we give to friends, I have done
that with my trifles, and another year I shall be
There was an uncomfortable pause, for Sophie
did not speak with her usual frankness, but
looked both proud and ashamed, and seemed
anxious to change the subject, as she began to
admire Dora's work, which had made very little
progress during the last fifteen minutes.
Fanny glanced at Di with a smile that made
the other toss her head and return to the charge
with renewed vigor.
"Sophie, will you do me a favor?"
"With much pleasure."
"Do has promised me a whole box of French
bonbons, and if you will answer three questions,
you shall have it."
"Allons," said Sophie, smiling.
"Haven't you a secret?" asked Di, gravely.
"Will you tell us?"
Di paused before she asked her last question,
and Fan and Dora waited breathlessly, while
Sophie knit her brows and looked uneasy.
"Because I do not wish to tell it."
"Will you tell if we guess?"
"You are engaged."
At this absurd suggestion Sophie laughed
gayly, and shook her curly head.
"Do you think we are betrothed at sixteen
in my country?"
"I know that is an engagement ring,--you
made such a time about it when you lost it in
the water, and cried for joy when Tilly dived
and found it."
"Ah, yes, I was truly glad. Dear Tilly, never
do I forget that kindness!" and Sophie kissed
the little pearl ring in her impulsive way, while
her eyes sparkled and the frown vanished.
"I know a sweetheart gave it," insisted Di,
sure now she had found a clew to the secret.
"He did," and Sophie hung her head in a
sentimental way that made the three girls crowd
nearer with faces full of interest.
"Do tell us all about it, dear. It's so interesting
to hear love-stories. What is his name?" cried Dora.
"Hermann," simpered Sophie, drooping still
more, while her lips trembled with suppressed
emotion of some sort.
"How lovely!" sighed Fanny, who was very romantic.
"Tell on, do! Is he handsome?"
"To me the finest man in all the world,"
confessed Sophie, as she hid her face.
"And you love him?"
"I adore him!" and Sophie clasped her
hands so dramatically that the girls were a little
startled, yet charmed at this discovery.
"Have you his picture?" asked Di, feeling
that she had won her wager now.
"Yes," and pulling out the locket again,
Sophie showed in the other side the face of
a fine old gentleman who looked very like herself.
"It's your father!" exclaimed Fanny, rolling
her blue eyes excitedly. "You are a humbug!"
cried Dora. "Then you fibbed about the ring,"
said Di, crossly.
"Never! It is mamma's betrothal ring; but
her finger grew too plump, and when I left home
she gave the ring to me as a charm to keep me
safe. Ah, ha! I have my little joke as well as
you, and the laugh is for me this time." And
falling back among the sofa cushions, Sophie
enjoyed it as only a gay girl could. Do and
Fanny joined her; but Di was much disgusted,
and vowed she would discover the secret and
keep all the bonbons to herself.
"You are most welcome; but I will not tell
until I like, and then to Fanny first. She will
not have ridicule for what I do, but say it is
well, and be glad with me. Come now and
work. I will plait these ribbons, or paint a
wild rose on this pretty fan. It is too plain
now. Will you that I do it, dear Di?"
The kind tone and the prospect of such an
ornament to her gift appeased Di somewhat;
but the mirthful malice in Sophie's eyes made
the other more than ever determined to be even
with her by and by.
Christmas Eve came, and found Di still in
the dark, which fact nettled her sadly, for
Sophie tormented her and amused the other girls
by pretended confidences and dark hints at the
mystery which might never, never be disclosed.
Fan had determined to have an unusually
jolly party; so she invited only her chosen
friends, and opened the festivities with a Christmas
tree, as the prettiest way of exchanging gifts
and providing jokes for the evening in the shape
of delusive bottles, animals full of candy, and
every sort of musical instrument to be used in
an impromptu concert afterward. The presents
to one another were done up in secure parcels,
so that they might burst upon the public eye in
all their freshness. Di was very curious to know
what Fan was going to give her,--for Fanny
was a generous creature and loved to give. Di
was a little jealous of her love for Sophie, and
could n't rest till she discovered which was to
get the finer gift.
So she went early and slipped into the room
where the tree stood, to peep and pick a bit, as
well as to hang up a few trifles of her own. She
guessed several things by feeling the parcels;
but one excited her curiosity intensely, and she
could not resist turning it about and pulling
up one corner of the lid. It was a flat box,
prettily ornamented with sea-weeds like red
lace, and tied with scarlet ribbons. A tantalizing
glimpse of jeweller's cotton, gold clasps,
and something rose-colored conquered Di's last
scruples; and she was just about to untie the
ribbons when she heard Fanny's voice, and had
only time to replace the box, pick up a paper
that had fallen out of it, and fly up the back
stairs to the dressing-room, where she found
Sophie and Dora surveying each other as girls
always do before they go down.
"You look like a daisy," cried Di, admiring
Dora with great interest, because she felt
ashamed of her prying, and the stolen note in
"And you like a dandelion," returned Do,
falling back a step to get a good view of Di's
gold-colored dress and black velvet bows.
"Sophie is a lily of the valley, all in green
and white," added Fanny, coming in with her
own blue skirts waving in the breeze.
"It does me very well. Little girls do not
need grand toilets, and I am fine enough for a
'peasant,'" laughed Sophie, as she settled the
fresh ribbons on her simple white cashmere and
the holly wreath in her brown hair, but secretly
longing for the fine dress she might have had.
"Why didn't you wear your silver necklace?
It would be lovely on your pretty neck," said
Di, longing to know if she had given the trinket
But Sophie was not to be caught, and said
with a contented smile, "I do not care for
ornaments unless some one I love gives me them.
I had red roses for my bouquet de corsage; but
the poor Madame Page was so triste, I left them
on her table to remember her of me. It seemed
so heartless to go and dance while she had only
pain; but she wished it."
"Dear little Sophie, how good you are!"
and warm-hearted Fan kissed the blooming
face that needed no roses to make it sweet and gay.
Half an hour later, twenty girls and boys
were dancing round the brilliant tree. Then
its boughs were stripped. Every one seemed
contented; even Sophie's little gifts gave
pleasure, because with each went a merry or
affectionate verse, which made great fun on being
read aloud. She was quite loaded with pretty
things, and had no words to express her
gratitude and pleasure.
"Ah, you are all so good to me! and I have
nothing beautiful for you. I receive much and
give little, but I cannot help it! Wait a little
and I will redeem myself," she said to Fanny,
with eyes full of tears, and a lap heaped with
gay and useful things.
"Never mind that now; but look at this, for
here's still another offering of friendship, and a
very charming one, to judge by the outside,"
answered Fan, bringing the white box with the
Sophie opened it, and cries of admiration
followed, for lying on the soft cotton was a lovely
set of coral. Rosy pink branches, highly
polished and fastened with gold clasps, formed
necklace, bracelets, and a spray for the bosom.
No note or card appeared, and the girls crowded
round to admire and wonder who could have
sent so valuable a gift.
"Can't you guess, Sophie?" cried Dora,
longing to own the pretty things.
"I should believe I knew, but it is too costly.
How came the parcel, Fan? I think you must
know all," and Sophie turned the box about,
searching vainly for a name.
"An expressman left it, and Jane took off the
wet paper and put it on my table with the other
things. Here's the wrapper; do you know
that writing?" and Fan offered the brown paper
which she had kept.
"No; and the label is all mud, so I cannot
see the place. Ah, well, I shall discover some
day, but I should like to thank this generous
friend at once. See now, how fine I am! I do
myself the honor to wear them at once."
Smiling with girlish delight at her pretty
ornaments, Sophie clasped the bracelets on her
round arms, the necklace about her white throat,
and set the rosy spray in the lace on her bosom.
Then she took a little dance down the room and
found herself before Di, who was looking at her
with an expression of naughty satisfaction on
"Don't you wish you knew who sent them?"
"Indeed, yes;" and Sophie paused abruptly.
"Well, I know, and I won't tell till I like.
It's my turn to have a secret; and I mean to
"But it is not right," began Sophie, with
"Tell me yours, and I 'll tell mine," said Di,
"I will not! You have no right to touch my
gifts, and I am sure you have done it, else how
know you who sends this fine cadeau?" cried
Sophie, with the flash Di liked to see.
Here Fanny interposed, "If you have any
note or card belonging to Sophie, give it up at
once. She shall not be tormented. Out with
it, Di. I see your hand in your pocket, and
I 'm sure you have been in mischief."
"Take your old letter, then. I know what's
in it; and if I can't keep my secret for fun,
Sophie shall not have hers. That Tilly sent
the coral, and Sophie spent her hundred
dollars in books and clothes for that queer girl,
who'd better stay among her lobsters than try
to be a lady," cried Di, bent on telling all she
knew, while Sophie was reading her letter
"Is it true?" asked Dora, for the four girls
were in a corner together, and the rest of the
company busy pulling crackers.
"Just like her! I thought it was that; but
she would n't tell. Tell us now, Sophie, for I
think it was truly sweet and beautiful to help
that poor girl, and let us say hard things of
you," cried Fanny, as her friend looked up with
a face and a heart too full of happiness to help
overflowing into words.
"Yes; I will tell you now. It was foolish,
perhaps; but I did not want to be praised, and
I loved to help that good Tilly. You know she
worked all summer and made a little sum. So
glad, so proud she was, and planned to study
that she might go to school this winter. Well,
in October the uncle fell very ill, and Tilly gave
all her money for the doctors. The uncle had
been kind to her, she did not forget; she was
glad to help, and told no one but me. Then I
said, 'What better can I do with my father's gift
than give it to the dear creature, and let her lose
no time?' I do it; she will not at first, but I
write and say, 'It must be,' and she submits.
She is made neat with some little dresses, and
she goes at last, to be so happy and do so well
that I am proud of her. Is not that better than
fine toilets and rich gifts to those who need
nothing? Truly, yes! yet I confess it cost me
pain to give up my plans for Christmas, and to
seem selfish or ungrateful. Forgive me that."
"Yes, indeed, you dear generous thing!"
cried Fan and Dora, touched by the truth.
"But how came Tilly to send you such a
splendid present?" asked Di. "Should n't
think you 'd like her to spend your money in
"She did not. A sea-captain, a friend of the
uncle, gave her these lovely ornaments, and she
sends them to me with a letter that is more
precious than all the coral in the sea. I cannot
read it; but of all my gifts this is the dearest
and the best!"
Sophie had spoken eagerly, and her face, her
voice, her gestures, made the little story
eloquent; but with the last words she clasped the
letter to her bosom as if it well repaid her for
all the sacrifices she had made. They might
seem small to others, but she was sensitive and
proud, anxious to be loved in the strange
country, and fond of giving, so it cost her many tears
to seem mean and thoughtless, to go poorly
dressed, and be thought hardly of by those she
wished to please. She did not like to tell of her
own generosity, because it seemed like boasting;
and she was not sure that it had been wise to
give so much. Therefore, she waited to see
if Tilly was worthy of the trust reposed in her;
and she now found a balm for many wounds in
the loving letter that came with the beautiful
and unexpected gift.
Di listened with hot cheeks, and when Sophie
paused, she whispered regretfully,--
"Forgive me, I was wrong! I 'll keep your
gift all my life to remember you by, for you are
the best and dearest girl I know."
Then with a hasty kiss she ran away, carrying
with great care the white shell on which Sophie
had painted a dainty little picture of the
mermaids waiting for the pretty boat that brought
good fortune to poor Tilly, and this lesson to
those who were hereafter her faithful friends.
Chapter VII tailpiece
"Everything is quite clean; I am sure of that, for I washed the sheets and coverlet myself not long ago."--PAGE 207
"Aunt Pen, where is Ariadne to sleep,
please? I wanted to bring her cradle,
but mamma said it would take up so much
room I could not."
And Alice looked about her for a resting-place
for her dolly as anxiously as if Ariadne
had been a live baby.
"Can't she lie on the sofa?" asked Aunt
Pen, with that sad want of interest in such
important matters which grown-up people so often
"No, indeed! Some one would sit down on
her, of course; and I won't have my darling
smashed. You would n't like it yourself, aunty,
and I 'm surprised at your proposing such a
thing!" cried Alice, clasping her babe with a
face full of maternal indignation.
"I beg your pardon! I really forgot that
danger. I 'm not so used to infants as you are,
and that accounts for it. Now I think of it,
there's a little bedstead up garret, and you
can have that. You will find it done up in a
paper in the great blue chest where all our old
toys are kept."
Appeased by Aunt Pen's apology, Alice
trotted to the attic, found the bedstead, and
came trotting back with a disappointed look
on her face.
"It is such a funny, old-fashioned thing I
don't know that Ariadne will consent to lie in
it. Anyway, I must air the feather-bed and
pillows first, or she will get cold. I wish I
could wash the sheets too, they are so yellow;
but there is no time now," said the little girl,
bustling round as she spoke, and laying the
little bed-furniture out on the rug.
"Everything is quite clean, my dear; I am
sure of that, for I washed the sheets and coverlet
myself not long ago, because I found a nest
of little mice there the last time I looked,"
answered Aunt Pen, with her eyes fixed thoughtfully
on the small bedstead.
"I guess you used to be fond of it when you
were a little girl; and that's why you keep it so
nicely now, isn't it?" asked Alice, as she
dusted the carved posts and patted the canvas
"Yes, there's quite a little romance about
that bed; and I love it so that I never can give
it away, but keep it mended up and in order
for the sake of old times and poor Val," said
Aunt Pen, smiling and sighing in the same
"Oh, tell about it! I do like to hear stories,
and so does Ariadne!" cried Alice, hastily
opening dolly's eyes, that she might express
her interest in the only way permitted her.
"Well, dear, I 'll tell you this true tale of
long ago; and while you listen you can be
making a new blanket for the bed. Mrs. Mouse
nibbled holes in the other one, and her babies
made a mess of it, so I burned it up. Here is
a nice little square of flannel, and there are
blue, red, and green worsteds for you to work
round the edges with."
"Now that is just splendid! I love to work
with crewels, and I 'll put little quirls and things
in the corners. I can do it all myself, so tell
away, please, aunty." And Alice settled
herself with great satisfaction, while Ariadne sat
bolt upright in her own armchair and stared
at Aunt Pen in a way that would have been
very embarrassing if her round blue eyes had
had a particle of expression in them.
"When I was about ten years old, it was the
joy of my heart to go every Saturday afternoon
to see my nurse, Betsey Brown. She no longer
lived out, but was married to a pilot, and had
a home of her own down in what we used to
call 'the watery part' of the city. A funny
little house, so close to the wharves that when
one looked out there were masts going to and
fro over the house-tops, and from the upper
windows I could see the blue ocean.
"Betsey had a boy with club feet, and a
brother who was deformed; but Bobby was my
pet playmate, and Valentine my best friend.
My chief pleasure was in seeing him work at
his turning-lathe, for he was very ingenious, and
made all sorts of useful and pretty things.
"But the best thing he did was to cure the
lame feet of his little nephew. In those days
there were few doctors who attended to such
troubles, and they were very expensive; so
poor Bobby had gone hobbling about ever since
he was born with his little feet turned in.
"Uncle Val could sympathize with him; and
though he knew there was no cure for his own
crooked back, he did his best to help the boy.
He made a very simple apparatus for straightening
the crippled feet (just two wooden splints,
with wooden screws to loosen or tighten the
pressure), and with patience, hope, and faith,
he worked over the child till the feet were
right, and Bobby could run and play like other
"Oh, Aunt Pen, was n't that lovely? And did
he really do it all himself? How clever he
must have been!" cried Alice, puckering the
new blanket in the pleasant interest of the
"He was very clever for a lad of eighteen.
But that was not all he did. Bobby's cure was
a long one, and I only saw the happy end of it;
yet I remember how we all rejoiced, and how
proud Betsey was of her brother. My father
wrote an account of it for some medical journal,
and it was much talked about in our little
circle; so much, indeed, that an aunt of ours who
had a lame boy came to see Val and talked it
all over with him.
"Val was much pleased, and offered to try
and cure her son if she would let the boy come
and live with him; for it needed great skill and
constant care to work the screws just right, and
tend the poor little feet gently.
"Aunt Dolly said no at once to that plan;
for how could she let her precious boy go and
live in that little house down in the poor part
of the city?
"There was no other way, however, for Val
would not leave his sister and his beloved lathe,
and was wise enough to see how impossible it
would be to have his own way with the child in
a house where every one obeyed his whims and
petted him, as such afflicted children usually
"So Val stood firm, and for a time nothing
"I was much interested in the affair, and
every time I saw my cousin Gus I told him
what nice times I had down there; how strong
and lively Bobby was, and declared my firm
belief that Val could cure every disease under
"These glowing accounts made Gus want to
go, and when he set his heart on anything he
always got it; so in the end Aunt Dolly
consented, and Gus went to board in the little
house, much to the wonder of some folks.
"The plan succeeded capitally, however, and
Gus thrived like a dandelion in springtime;
for simple food, plenty of air, no foolish
indulgence, and the most faithful care, built up the
little lad in a way that astonished and delighted
"The feet improved slowly; and Val was
sure that in time they would be all right, for
everything helped on the good work.
"Dear me, what happy days I used to spend
at Betsey's! Sometimes Isaac, the jolly, bluff
pilot, would take us out in his boat; and then
what rosy cheeks and good appetites we got!
Sometimes we played in Val's shop, and
watched him make pretty things or helped him
in some easy job, for he liked to have us near
him. And, oh, my heart, what delicious
suppers Betsey used to get us in the front room,
where all sorts of queer sea treasures were
collected,--shells, coral, and seaweed; odd
pictures of ships and fish, and old books full of
sailor songs and thrilling tales of wrecks."
"I wish I had been there!" interrupted
Alice. "Is the house all gone, aunty?"
"All gone, dear, and every one of that merry
party but myself," answered Aunt Pen, with a sigh.
"Don't think about the sad part of it, but go
on and tell about the bed, please," said Alice,
feeling that it was about time this interesting
piece of furniture appeared in the story.
"Well, that was made to comfort me when
Gus went home, as he did after staying two
years. Yes, he went home with straight feet,
the heartiest, happiest little lad I ever saw.
"I was heart-broken at losing my playmate,
and mourned for him as bitterly as a child
could, till Val comforted me, not only by the
cunning bedstead for my doll, but by a hundred
kindly words and acts, for which I never
thanked him half enough.
"Aunt Dolly and my father were so grateful
and pleased at Val's success with Gus that they
helped him in a plan he had some years later,
when he took a larger house in a better place,
and with Betsey as nurse, opened a small hospital
for the cure of deformed feet. It was an
excellent plan; and all was going well, when
poor Val wasted rapidly away, and died just as
his work began to bring him money and some
"That was very bad! But what became of
Bobby and Gus?" asked Alice, who was not
of an age to care much about the "sad part"
of any story.
"Bob became a sea-captain, and was an excellent
fellow till he went down with his ship in
a storm after rescuing all his crew, even to the
cabin-boy. I'm proud of Bob, and keep those
two great pearly shells in memory of him, for
he brought them to me after his first voyage."
Aunt Pen's eyes lit up, and her voice rose as
she spoke with real pride and affection of
honest Captain Brown, who to her was always little Bob.
"I like that, it was so brave and good; but
I do wish he had been saved, for then I could
have seen him. And maybe he would have
brought me a big green parrot that could say
funny things. What became of Gus?" asked
Alice, after a moment spent in the delightful
thought of owning a green parrot with a red tail.
"Ah, my dear, I wish I knew!" exclaimed
Aunt Pen, so earnestly that Alice dropped her
work, astonished at the change in that usually
"Don't tell any more if you 'd rather not,"
said the little girl, feeling instinctively that she
had touched some tender string.
But Aunt Pen only stroked her curly head
and went on in a softer tone, with her eyes fixed
upon a faded picture that had hung over her
work-table ever since Alice could remember.
"I like to tell you, dear, because I want you
to love the memory of this old friend of mine.
Gus went to sea also, much against his mother's
will, for the years spent in the little house near
the wharf had given the boy a taste for salt
water, and he could not overcome it, though he tried.
"He sailed with Captain Bob all round the
world, and would have been with him on that
last voyage if a sudden whim had not kept him
ashore. More than this we don't know; and
for seven years have had no tidings of him.
The others give him up, feeling sure that he
was lost in the wild hill-country of India, whither
he went in search of adventures. I suppose
they are right; but I cannot make it true, and
still hope to see the dear boy back, or at least
to hear some news of him."
"Would n't he be rather an old boy now,
Aunt Pen?" asked Alice, softly; for she wanted
to chase away the load of pain with a smile if
"Bless my heart, so he would! Forty, at
least. Well, well, he never will seem old to me,
though his hair should be gray when he comes
home." And Aunt Pen did smile as her eyes
went back to the faded picture with a tender
look that made Alice say timidly, while she laid
her blooming cheek against her aunt's hand,--
"Would you mind if I asked if it was Gus
who gave you this pretty ring, and was your
sweetheart once? Mamma told me you had
one, and he was dead; so I must never ask
why you did n't marry as she did."
"Yes, he gave me this, and was to come back
in a year or two; but I have never seen him
since, and never shall, I fear, till we all meet
over the great sea at last."
There Aunt Pen broke down, and spreading
her hands before her face, sat so still that Alice
feared to stir.
Even her careless child's heart was full of
pity now; and two great tears rolled down upon
the little blanket, to lie sparkling like drops of
dew in the heart of the very remarkable red
rose she was working in the middle.
Then it was that Ariadne distinguished
herself, and proved beyond a doubt that her blue
china eyes were worth something. A large,
brown, breezy-looking man had been peeping
in from the door for several moments, and
listening in the most improper manner. No one
saw him but Ariadne, and how could she warn
the others, poor thing, when she had n't a
tongue in her head? Don't tell me that dolls
have n't hearts somewhere in their sawdust
bosoms! I know better; and I am firmly
convinced that Ariadne's was full of sympathy for
Aunt Pen; else why should she, a well-bred
doll, suddenly and without the least apparent
cause, slip out of her chair and fall upon her
china nose with a loud whack?
Alice jumped up to catch her darling, and
Aunt Pen lifted her head to see what was the
matter, and the big brown man, giving his hat
a toss, came into the room like a whirlwind!
Alice, Ariadne, bedstead, and blanket, were
suddenly swept into a corner by some mysterious
means, and lay there in a heap, while the
two grown people fell into each other's arms,
I don't know which stared the hardest at this
dreadful proceeding, Alice or Ariadne, but I do
know that every one was very happy afterward,
and that the precious little bedstead was not
smashed, for I have seen it with my own eyes.
Chapter VIII tailpiece
"Well, dear, this is the story."--PAGE 220
"Grandmother, what is this curious
picture about?" said little Gertrude, or
"Trudel," as they called her, looking up from
the red book that lay on her knee, one Sunday
morning, when she and the grandmother sat
sadly together in the neat kitchen; for the
father was very ill, and the poor mother seldom
The old woman put on her round spectacles,
which made her look as wise as an owl, and
turned to answer the child, who had been as
quiet as a mouse for a long time, looking at
the strange pictures in the ancient book.
"Ah, my dear, that tells about a very famous
and glorious thing that happened long ago at
the siege of Leyden. You can read it for
yourself some day."
"Please tell me now. Why are the houses
half under water, and ships sailing among them,
and people leaning over the walls of the city?
And why is that boy waving his hands on the
tower, where the men are running away in a
great smoke?" asked Trudel, too curious to
wait till she could read the long hard words on
the yellow pages.
"Well, dear, this is the story: and you shall
hear how brave men and women, and children
too, were in those days. The cruel Spaniards
came and besieged the city for many months;
but the faithful people would not give up,
though nearly starved to death. When all the
bread and meat were gone and the gardens
empty, they ate grass and herbs and horses,
and even dogs and cats, trying to hold out till
help came to them."
"Did little girls really eat their pussies? Oh,
I 'd die before I would kill my dear Jan," cried
Trudel, hugging the pretty kitten that purred in
"Yes, the children ate their pets. And so
would you if it would save your father or mother
from starving. We know what hunger is; but
we won't eat Jan yet."
The old woman sighed as she glanced from the
empty table to the hearth where no fire burned.
"Did help come in the ships?" asked the
child, bending her face over the book to hide
the tears that filled her eyes, for she was very
hungry, and had had only a crust for breakfast.
"Our good Prince of Orange was trying to
help them; but the Spaniards were all around
the city and he had not men enough to fight
them by land, so he sent carrier-doves with
letters to tell the people that he was going to cut
through the great dikes that kept the sea out,
and let the water flow over the country so as to
drive the enemy from his camp, for the city
stood upon high ground, and would be safe.
Then the ships, with food, could sail over the
drowned land and save the brave people."
"Oh, I 'm glad! I 'm glad! These are the
bad Spaniards running away, and these are
poor people stretching out their hands for the
bread. But what is the boy doing, in the funny
tower where the wall has tumbled down?" cried
Trudel, much excited.
"The smoke of burning houses rose between
the city and the port so the people could not
see that the Spaniards had run away; and
they were afraid the ships could not get safely
by. But a boy who was scrambling about as
boys always are wherever there is danger, fire,
and fighting, saw the enemy go, and ran to the
deserted tower to shout and beckon to the ships
to come on at once,--for the wind had changed
and soon the tide would flow back and leave
"Nice boy! I wish I had been there to see
him and help the poor people," said Trudel,
patting the funny little figure sticking out of
the pepper-pot tower like a jack-in-the-box.
"If children keep their wits about them and
are brave, they can always help in some way,
my dear. We don't have such dreadful wars
now; but the dear God knows we have troubles
enough, and need all our courage and faith to
be patient in times like these;" and the
grandmother folded her thin hands with another sigh,
as she thought of her poor son dying for want
of a few comforts, after working long and
faithfully for a hard master who never came to offer
any help, though a very rich man.
"Did they eat the carrier-doves?" asked
Trudel, still intent on the story.
"No, child; they fed and cared for them
while they lived, and when they died, stuffed
and set them up in the Staat Haus, so grateful
were the brave burghers for the good news the
dear birds brought."
"That is the best part of all. I like that
story very much!" And Trudel turned the
pages to find another, little dreaming what a
carrier-dove she herself was soon to become.
Poor Hans Dort and his family were nearly
as distressed as the besieged people of Leyden,
for poverty stood at the door, hunger and
sickness were within, and no ship was anywhere
seen coming to bring help. The father, who
was a linen-weaver, could no longer work in the
great factory; the mother, who was a
lace-maker, had to leave her work to nurse him;
and the old woman could earn only a trifle by
her knitting, being lame and feeble. Little
Trudel did what she could,--sold the stockings
to get bread and medicine, picked up wood for
the fire, gathered herbs for the poor soup, and
ran errands for the market-women, who paid her
with unsalable fruit, withered vegetables, and
now and then a bit of meat.
But market-day came but once a week; and
it was very hard to find food for the hungry
mouths meantime. The Dorts were too proud
to beg, so they suffered in silence, praying that
help would come before it was too late to save
the sick and old.
No other picture in the quaint book interested
Trudel so much as that of the siege of
Leyden; and she went back to it, thinking over
the story till hunger made her look about for
something to eat as eagerly as the poor starving burghers.
"Here, child, is a good crust. It is too hard
for me. I kept it for you; it's the last except
that bit for your mother," said the old woman,
pulling a dry crust from her jacket with a
smile; for though starving herself, the brave
old soul thought only of her darling.
Trudel's little white teeth gnawed savagely at
the hard bread, and Jan ate the crumbs as if
he too needed food. As she saw him purring
about her feet, there came into the child's head
a sudden idea, born of the brave story and of
the cares that made her old before her time.
"Poor Jan gets thinner and thinner every day.
If we are to eat him, we must do it soon, or he
will not be worth cooking," she said with a
curious look on the face that used to be so round
and rosy, and now was white, thin, and anxious.
"Bless the child! we won't eat the poor
beast! but it would be kind to give him away
to some one who could feed him well. Go now,
dear, and get a jug of fresh water. The father
will need it, and so will you, for that crust is a
dry dinner for my darling."
As she spoke, the old woman held the little
girl close for a minute; and Trudel clung to her
silently, finding the help she needed for her
sacrifice in the love and the example grandma
Then she ran away, with the brown jug in one
hand, the pretty kitten on her arm, and courage
in her little heart. It was a poor neighborhood
where the weavers and lace-makers lived; but
nearly every one had a good dinner on Sunday,
and on her way to the fountain Trudel saw many
well-spread tables, smelled the good soup in
many kettles, and looked enviously at the plump
children sitting quietly on the doorsteps in
round caps and wooden shoes, waiting to be
called in to eat of the big loaves, the brown
sausages, and the cabbage-soup smoking on the hearth.
When she came to the baker's house, her
heart began to beat; and she hugged Jan so
close it was well he was thin, or he would have
mewed under the tender farewell squeezes his
little mistress gave him. With a timid hand
Trudel knocked, and then went in to find Vrow
Hertz and her five boys and girls at table, with
good roast meat and bread and cheese and
beer before them.
"Oh, the dear cat! the pretty cat! Let me
pat him! Hear him mew, and see his soft
white coat," cried the children, before Trudel
could speak, for they admired the snow-white
kitten very much, and had often begged for it.
Trudel had made up her mind to give up to
them at last her one treasure; but she wished
to be paid for it, and was bound to tell her
plan. Jan helped her, for smelling the meat,
he leaped from her arms to the table and began
to gnaw a bone on Dirck's plate, which so
amused the young people that they did not
hear Trudel say to their mother in a low voice,
with red cheeks and beseeching eyes,--
"Dear Vrow Hertz, the father is very ill; the
mother cannot work at her lace in the dark
room; and grandma makes but little by knitting,
though I help all I can. We have no food; can
you give me a loaf of bread in exchange for Jan?
I have nothing else to sell, and the children
want him much."
Trudel's eyes were full and her lips trembled,
as she ended with a look that went straight to
stout Mother Hertz's kind heart, and told the
whole sad story.
"Bless the dear child! Indeed, yes; a loaf
and welcome; and see here, a good sausage
also. Brenda, go fill the jug with milk. It is
excellent for the sick man. As for the cat, let
it stay a while and get fat, then we will see. It
is a pretty beast and worth many loaves of
bread; so come again, Trudel, and do not
suffer hunger while I have much bread."
As the kind woman spoke, she had bustled
about, and before Trudel could get her breath,
a big loaf, a long sausage, and a jug of fresh
milk were in her apron and hands, and a
motherly kiss made the gifts all the easier to take.
Returning it heartily, and telling the children to
be kind to Jan, she hastened home to burst into
the quiet room, crying joyfully,--
"See, grandmother, here is food,--all mine.
I bought it! Come, come, and eat!"
"Now, dear Heaven, what do I see? Where
did the blessed bread come from?" asked the
old woman, hugging the big loaf, and eying the
sausage with such hunger in her face that Trudel
ran for the knife and cup, and held a draught of
fresh milk to her grandmother's lips before she
could answer a single question.
"Stay, child, let us give thanks before we eat.
Never was food more welcome or hearts more
grateful;" and folding her hands, the pious old
woman blessed the meal that seemed to fall
from heaven on that bare table. Then Trudel
cut the crusty slice for herself, a large soft one
for grandmother, with a good bit of sausage,
and refilled the cup. Another portion and cup
went upstairs to mother, whom she found asleep,
with the father's hot hand in hers. So
leaving the surprise for her waking, Trudel crept
down to eat her own dinner, as hungry as a little
wolf, amusing herself with making the old
woman guess where and how she got this fine feast.
"This is our siege, grandmother; and we are
eating Jan," she said at last, with the merriest
laugh she had given for weeks.
"Eating Jan?" cried the old woman, staring
at the sausage, as if for a moment she feared the
kitten had been turned into that welcome shape
by some miracle. Still laughing, Trudel told
her story, and was well rewarded for her childish
sacrifice by the look in grandmother's face as
she said with a tender kiss,--
"Thou art a carrier-dove, my darling, coming
home with good news and comfort under thy
wing. God bless thee, my brave little heart,
and grant that our siege be not a long one
before help comes to us!"
Such a happy feast! and for dessert more
kisses and praises for Trudel when the mother
came down to hear the story and to tell how
eagerly father had drank the fresh milk and
gone to sleep again. Trudel was very well
pleased with her bargain; but at night she
missed Jan's soft purr for her lullaby, and cried
herself to sleep, grieving for her lost pet, being
only a child, after all, though trying to be a
brave little woman for the sake of those she loved.
The big loaf and sausage took them nicely
through the next day; but by Tuesday only
crusts remained, and sorrel-soup, slightly
flavored with the last scrap of sausage, was all
they had to eat.
On Wednesday morning, Trudel had plaited
her long yellow braids with care, smoothed
down her one blue skirt, and put on her little
black silk cap, making ready for the day's work.
She was weak and hungry, but showed a bright
face as she took her old basket and said,--
"Now I am off to market, grandmother, to
sell the hose and get medicine and milk for
father. I shall try to pick up something for
dinner. The good neighbors often let me run
errands for them, and give me a kuchen, a bit of
cheese, or a taste of their nice coffee. I will bring
you something, and come as soon as I can."
The old woman nodded and smiled, as she
scoured the empty kettle till it shone, and
watched the little figure trudge away with the
big empty basket, and, she knew, with a still
emptier little stomach. "Coffee!" sighed the
grandmother; "one sip of the blessed drink
would put life into me. When shall I ever taste
it again?" and the poor soul sat down to her
knitting with hands that trembled from weakness.
The Platz was a busy and a noisy scene when
Trudel arrived,--for the thrifty Dutchwomen
were early afoot; and stalls, carts, baskets, and
cans were already arranged to make the most
attractive display of fruit, vegetables, fish,
cheese, butter, eggs, milk, and poultry, and the
small wares country people came to buy.
Nodding and smiling, Trudel made her way
through the bustle to the booth where old
Vrow Schmidt bought and sold the blue woollen
hose that adorn the stout legs of young and old.
"Good-morning, child! I am glad to see thee
and thy well-knit stockings, for I have orders
for three pairs, and promised thy grandmother's,
they are always so excellent," said the
rosy-faced woman, as Trudel approached.
"I have but one pair. We had no money to
buy more yarn. Father is so ill mother
cannot work; and medicines cost a deal," said
the child, with her large hungry eyes fixed on
the breakfast the old woman was about to
eat, first having made ready for the business
of the day.
"See, then, I shall give thee the yarn and
wait for the hose; I can trust thee, and shall
ask a good price for the good work. Thou
too wilt have the fever, I 'm afraid!--so pale
and thin, poor child! Here, drink from my
cup, and take a bite of bread and cheese. The
morning air makes one hungry."
Trudel eagerly accepted the "sup" and the
"bite," and felt new strength flow into her as
the warm draught and good brown bread went
down her throat.
"So many thanks! I had no breakfast. I
came to see if I could get any errands here
to-day, for I want to earn a bit if I can," she said
with a sigh of satisfaction, as she slipped half
of her generous slice and a good bit of cheese
into her basket, regretting that the coffee could
not be shared also.
As if to answer her wish, a loud cry from fat
Mother Kinkle, the fish-wife, rose at that
moment, for a thievish cur had run off with a fish
from her stall, while she gossiped with a neighbor.
Down went Trudel's basket, and away went
Trudel's wooden shoes clattering over the stones
while she raced after the dog, dodging in and
out among the stalls till she cornered the thief
under Gretchen Horn's milk-cart; for at sight
of the big dog who drew the four copper-cans,
the cur lost heart and dropped the fish and
"Well done!" said buxom Gretchen, when
Trudel caught up the rescued treasure a good
deal the worse for the dog's teeth and the dust
it had been dragged through.
All the market-women laughed as the little
girl came back proudly bearing the fish, for the
race had amused them. But Mother Kinkle
said with a sigh, when she saw the damage
done her property,--
"It is spoiled; no one will buy that torn, dirty
thing. Throw it on the muck-pile, child; your
trouble was in vain, though I thank you for it."
"Give it to me, please, if you don't want it.
We can eat it, and would be glad of it at home,"
cried Trudel, hugging the slippery fish with joy,
for she saw a dinner in it, and felt that her run
was well paid.
"Take it, then, and be off; I see Vrow von
Decken's cook coming, and you are in the
way," answered the old woman, who was not
a very amiable person, as every one knew.
"That's a fine reward to make a child for
running the breath out of her body for you,"
said Dame Troost, the handsome farm-wife who
sat close by among her fruit and vegetables,
as fresh as her cabbages, and as rosy as her
"Better it, then, and give her a feast fit for
a burgomaster. You can afford it," growled
Mother Kinkle, turning her back on the other
woman in a huff.
"That I will, for very shame at such meanness!
Here, child, take these for thy fish-stew,
and these for thy little self," said the kind soul,
throwing half a dozen potatoes and onions into
the basket, and handing Trudel a cabbage-leaf
full of cherries.
A happy girl was our little house-wife on her
way home, when the milk and medicine and
loaf of bread were bought; and a comfortable
dinner was quickly cooked and gratefully eaten
in Dort's poor house that day.
"Surely the saints must help you, child, and
open people's hearts to our need; for you
come back each day with food for us,--like
the ravens to the people in the wilderness," said
the grandmother when they sat at table.
"If they do, it is because you pray to them
so heartily, mother. But I think the sweet
ways and thin face of my Trudel do much to
win kindness, and the good God makes her
our little house-mother, while I must sit idle,"
answered Vrow Dort; and she filled the child's
platter again that she, at least, might have
"I like it!" cried Trudel, munching an onion
with her bread, while her eyes shone and a
pretty color came into her cheeks. "I feel so
old and brave now, so glad to help; and things
happen, and I keep thinking what I will do
next to get food. It's like the birds out
yonder in the hedge, trying to feed their little ones.
I fly up and down, pick and scratch, get a bit
here and a bit there, and then my dear old
birds have food to eat."
It really was very much as Trudel said, for
her small wits were getting very sharp with
these new cares; she lay awake that night
trying to plan how she should provide the next
day's food for her family.
"Where now, thou dear little mother-bird?"
asked the "Grossmutter" next morning, when
the child had washed the last dish, and was
setting away the remains of the loaf.
"To Gretti Jansen's, to see if she wants me to
water her linen, as I used to do for play. She
is lame, and it tires her to go to the spring so
often. She will like me to help her, I hope;
and I shall ask her for some food to pay me.
Oh, I am very bold now! Soon will I beg if
no other way offers." And Trudel shook her
yellow head resolutely, and went to settle the
stool at grandmother's feet, and to draw the
curtain so that it would shield the old eyes
from the summer sun.
"Heaven grant it never comes to that! It
would be very hard to bear, yet perhaps we
must if no help arrives. The doctor's bill, the
rent, the good food thy father will soon need,
will take far more than we can earn; and what
will become of us, the saints only know!"
answered the old woman, knitting briskly in
spite of her sad forebodings.
"I will do it all! I don't know how, but I
shall try; and, as you often say, 'Have faith
and hold up thy hands; God will fill them.'"
Then Trudel went away to her work, with a
stout heart under her little blue bodice; and all
that summer day she trudged to and fro along
the webs of linen spread in the green meadow,
watering them as fast as they dried, knitting
busily under a tree during the intervals.
Old Gretti was glad to have her, and at noon
called her in to share the milk-soup, with cherries
and herrings in it, and a pot of coffee,--as well
as Dutch cheese, and bread full of coriander-seed.
Though this was a feast to Trudel, one
bowl of soup and a bit of bread was all she ate;
then, with a face that was not half as "bold" as
she tried to make it, she asked if she might run
home and take the coffee to grandmother, who
longed for and needed it so much.
"Yes, indeed; there, let me fill that pewter
jug with a good hot mess for the old lady, and
take this also. I have little to give, but I
remember how good she was to me in the winter,
when my poor legs were so bad, and no one else
thought of me," said grateful Gretti, mixing more
coffee, and tucking a bit of fresh butter into half
a loaf of bread with a crusty end to cover the hole.
Away ran Trudel; and when grandmother
saw the "blessed coffee," as she called it, she
could only sip and sigh for comfort and content,
so glad was the poor old soul to taste her
favorite drink again. The mother smelled it, and
came down to take her share, while Trudel
skipped away to go on watering the linen till
sunset with a happy heart, saying to herself
while she trotted and splashed,--
"This day is well over, and I have kept my
word. Now what can I do to-morrow? Gretti
does n't want me; there is no market; I must
not beg yet, and I cannot finish the hose so soon.
"I know! I 'll get water-cresses, and sell them
from door to door. They are fresh now, and
people like them. Ah, thou dear duck, thank
thee for reminding me of them," she cried, as
she watched a mother-duck lead her brood
along the brook's edge, picking and dabbling
among the weeds to show them where to feed.
Early next morning Trudel took her basket
and went away to the meadows that lay just out
of the town, where the rich folk had their
summer houses, and fish-ponds, and gardens. These
gardens were gay now with tulips, the delight of
Dutch people; for they know best how to cultivate
them, and often make fortunes out of the
splendid and costly flowers.
When Trudel had looked long and carefully
for cresses, and found very few, she sat down to
rest, weary and disappointed, on a green bank
from which she could overlook a fine garden all
ablaze with tulips. She admired them heartily,
longed to have a bed of them her own, and
feasted her childish eyes on the brilliant colors
till they were dazzled, for the long beds of purple
and yellow, red and white blossoms were splendid
to see, and in the midst of all a mound of
dragon-tulips rose like a queen's throne, scarlet, green,
and gold all mingled on the ruffled leaves that
waved in the wind.
Suddenly it seemed as if one of the great
flowers had blown over the wall and was
hopping along the path in a very curious way! In
a minute, however, she saw that it was a gay
parrot that had escaped, and would have flown
away if its clipped wings and a broken chain on
one leg had not kept it down.
Trudel laughed to see the bird scuttle along,
jabbering to itself, and looking very mischievous
and naughty as it ran away. She was just
thinking she ought to stop it, when the garden-gate
opened, and a pretty little boy came out, calling
"Prince! Prince! Come back, you bad bird!
I never will let you off your perch again, sly rascal!"
"I will get him;" and Trudel ran down the
bank after the runaway, for the lad was small
and leaned upon a little crutch.
"Be careful! He will bite!" called the boy.
"I 'm not afraid," answered Trudel; and she
stepped on the chain, which brought the "Prince
of Orange" to a very undignified and sudden
halt. But when she tried to catch him up by
his legs, the sharp black beak gave a nip and
held tightly to her arm. It hurt her much, but
she did not let go, and carried her captive back
to its master, who thanked her, and begged her
to come in and chain up the bad bird, for he was
evidently rather afraid of it.
Glad to see more of the splendid garden,
Trudel did what he asked, and with a good deal
of fluttering, scolding, and pecking, the Prince
was again settled on his perch.
"Your arm is bleeding! Let me tie it up for
you; and here is my cake to pay you for
helping me. Mamma would have been very angry
if Prince had been lost," said the boy, as he wet
his little handkerchief in a tank of water near by,
and tied up Trudel's arm.
The tank was surrounded by pots of tulips;
and on a rustic seat lay the lad's hat and a
delicious large kuchen, covered with comfits and
sugar. The hungry girl accepted it gladly, but
only nibbled at it, remembering those at home.
The boy thought she did not like it, and being a
generous little fellow and very grateful for her
help, he looked about for something else to give
her. Seeing her eyes fixed admiringly on a
pretty red jar that held a dragon-tulip just ready
to bloom, he said pleasantly,--
"Would you like this also? All these are
mine, and I can do as I like with them. Will
you have it?"
"Oh, yes, with thanks! It is so beautiful!
I longed for one, but never thought to get it,"
cried Trudel, receiving the pot with delight.
Then she hastened toward home to show her
prize, only stopping to sell her little bunches of
cresses for a few groschen, with which she bought
a loaf and three herrings to eat with it. The
cake and the flower gave quite the air of a feast
to the poor meal, but Trudel and the two women
enjoyed it all, for the doctor said that the father
was better, and now needed only good meat and
wine to grow strong and well again.
How to get these costly things no one knew,
but trusted they would come, and all fell to work
with lighter hearts. The mother sat again at
her lace-work, for now a ray of light could be
allowed to fall on her pillow and bobbins by the
window of the sick-room. The old woman's
fingers flew as she knit at one long blue
stocking; and Trudel's little hands tugged away at
the other, while she cheered her dull task by
looking fondly at her dear tulip unfolding in the sun.
She began to knit next day as soon as the
breakfast of dry bread and water was done; but
she took her work to the doorstep and thought
busily as the needles clicked, for where could
she get money enough for meat and wine? The
pretty pot stood beside her, and the tulip showed
its gay leaves now, just ready to bloom. She
was very proud of it, and smiled and nodded
gayly when a neighbor said in passing, "A fine
flower you have there."
Soon she forgot it, however, so hard was her
little brain at work, and for a long time she sat
with her eyes fixed on her busy hands so
intently that she neither heard steps approaching,
nor saw a maid and a little girl looking over the
low fence at her. Suddenly some words in a
strange language made her look up. The child
was pointing at the tulip and talking fast in
English to the maid, who shook her head and
tried to lead her on.
She was a pretty little creature, all in white
with a gay hat, curly locks, and a great doll in
one arm, while the other held a box of bonbons.
Trudel smiled when she saw the doll; and as if
the friendly look decided her, the little girl ran
up to the door, pointed to the flower, and asked
a question in the queer tongue which Trudel
could not understand. The maid followed, and
said in Dutch, "Fräulein Maud wishes the
flower. Will you give it to her, child?"
"Oh, no, no! I love it. I will keep it, for
now Jan is gone, it is all I have!" answered
Trudel, taking the pot in her lap to guard her one treasure.
The child frowned, chattered eagerly, and
offered the box of sweets, as if used to having her
wishes gratified at once. But Trudel shook
her head, for much as she loved "sugar-drops,"
she loved the splendid flower better, like a true
Then Miss Maud offered the doll, bent on
having her own way. Trudel hesitated a
moment, for the fine lady doll in pink silk, with
a feather in her hat, and tiny shoes on her feet,
was very tempting to her childish soul. But
she felt that so dainty a thing was not for her,
and her old wooden darling, with the staring
eyes and broken nose, was dearer to her than
the delicate stranger could ever be. So she
smiled to soothe the disappointed child, but
shook her head again.
At that, the English lassie lost her temper,
stamped her foot, scolded, and began to cry,
ordering the maid to take the flower and come
away at once.
"She will have it; and she must not cry.
Here, child, will you sell it for this?" said the
maid, pulling a handful of groschen out of her
deep pocket, sure that Trudel would yield now.
But the little house-mother's quick eye saw
that the whole handful would not buy the meat
and wine, much as it looked, and for the third
time she shook her yellow head. There was a
longing look in her face, however; and the
shrewd maid saw it, guessed that money would
win the day, and diving again into her
apron-pocket, brought out a silver gulden and held
"For this, then, little miser? It is more than
the silly flower is worth; but the young fräulein
must have all she wants, so take it and let us be
done with the crying."
A struggle went on in Trudel's mind; and
for a moment she did not speak. She longed
to keep her dear tulip, her one joy, and it
seemed so hard to let it go before she had even
seen it blossom once; but then the money
would do much, and her loving little heart
yearned to give poor father all he needed.
Just then her mother's voice came down from
the open window, softly singing an old hymn to
lull the sick man to sleep. That settled the
matter for the dutiful daughter; tears rose to
her eyes, and she found it very hard to say
with a farewell caress of the blue and yellow
pot as she gave it up,--
"You may have it; but it is worth more than
a gulden, for it is a dragon-tulip, the finest we
have. Could you give a little more? my father
is very sick, and we are very poor."
The stout maid had a kind heart under her
white muslin neckerchief; and while Miss
Maud seized the flower, good Marta put
another gulden into Trudel's hand before she
hastened after her charge, who made off with
her booty, as if fearing to lose it.
Trudel watched the child with the half-opened
tulip nodding over her shoulder, as though it
sadly said "good-by" to its former mistress,
till her dim eyes could see no longer. Then
she covered her face with her apron and sobbed
very quietly, lest grandmother should hear and
be troubled. But Trudel was a brave child, and
soon the tears stopped, the blue eyes looked
gladly at the money in her hand, and presently,
when the fresh wind had cooled her cheeks,
she went in to show her treasure and cheer up
the anxious hearts with her good news.
She made light of the loss of her flower, and
still knitting, went briskly off to get the meat
and wine for father, and if the money held out,
some coffee for grandmother, some eggs and
white rolls for mother, who was weak and worn
with her long nursing.
"Surely, the dear God does help me,"
thought the pious little maid, while she trudged
back with her parcels, quite cheery again,
though no pretty kitten ran to meet her, and
no gay tulip stood full-blown in the noonday sun.
Still more happy was she over her small
sacrifices when she saw her father sip a little
of the good broth grandmother made with such
care, and saw the color come into the pale
cheeks of the dear mother after she had taken
the eggs and fine bread, with a cup of coffee
to strengthen and refresh her.
"We have enough for to-day, and for father
to-morrow; but on Sunday we must fast as well
as pray, unless the hose be done and paid for
in time," said the old woman next morning,
surveying their small store of food with an
"I will work hard, and go to Vrow Schmidt's
the minute we are done. But now I must run
and get wood, else the broth will not be ready,"
answered Trudel, clattering on her wooden
shoes in a great hurry.
"If all else fails, I too shall make my
sacrifice as well as you, my heart's darling. I
cannot knit as I once did, and if we are not done, or
Vrow Schmidt be away, I will sell my ring and
so feed the flock till Monday," said the
grandmother, lifting up one thin old hand, where
shone the wedding-ring she had worn so many years.
"Ah, no,--not that! It was so sad to see
your gold beads go, and mother's ear-rings and
father's coat and Jan and my lovely flower!
We will not sell the dear old ring. I will find
a way. Something will happen, as before; so
wait a little, and trust to me," cried Trudel,
with her arms about the grandmother, and such
a resolute nod that the rusty little black cap fell
over her nose and extinguished her.
She laughed as she righted it, and went
singing away, as if not a care lay heavy on her
young heart. But when she came to the long
dike which kept the waters of the lake from
overflowing the fields below, she walked slowly
to rest her tired legs, and to refresh her eyes
with the blue sheet of water on one side and
the still bluer flax-fields on the other,--for
they were in full bloom, and the delicate
flowers danced like fairies in the wind.
It was a lonely place, but Trudel liked it, and
went on toward the wood, turning the heel of
her stocking while she walked,--pausing now
and then to look over at the sluice-gates which
stood here and there ready to let off the water
when autumn rains made the lake rise, or in
the spring when the flax-fields were overflowed
before the seed was sown. At the last of these
she paused to gather a bunch of yellow
stone-crop growing from a niche in the strong wall
which, with earth and beams, made the dike.
As she stooped, the sound of voices in the
arch below came up to her distinctly. Few
people came that way except little girls, like
herself, to gather fagots in the wood, or truant
lads to fish in the pond. Thinking the hidden
speakers must be some of these boys, she knelt
down behind the shrubs that grew along the
banks, and listened with a smile on her lips to
hear what mischief the naughty fellows were
planning. But the smile soon changed to a
look of terror; and she crouched low behind the
bushes to catch all that was said in the echoing
"How did I think of the thing? Why, that
is the best part of the joke! Mein Herr von
Vost put it into my head himself," said a man's
gruff voice, in answer to some question. "This
is the way it was: I sat at the window of the
beer-house, and Von Vost met the burgomaster
close by and said, 'My friend, I hear that the
lower sluice-gate needs looking to. Please see
to it speedily, for an overflow now would ruin
my flax-fields, and cause many of my looms to
stand still next winter.' 'So! It shall be looked
to next week. Such a misfortune shall not
befall you, my good neighbor,' said the burgomaster;
and they parted. 'Ah, ha!' thinks I to
myself, 'here we have a fine way to revenge
ourselves on Master von Vost, who turned us
off and leaves us to starve. We have but to see
that the old gate gives way between now and
Monday, and that hard man will suffer in the
only place where he can feel,--his pocket.'"
Here the gruff voice broke into a low laugh,
and another man said slowly,--
"A good plan; but is there no danger of
being found out, Peit Stensen?"
"Not a chance of it! See here, Deitrich, a
quiet blow or two, at night when none can hear
it, will break away these rotten boards and let
the water in. The rest--it will do itself; and
by morning those great fields will be many feet
under water, and Von Vost's crop ruined. Yes,
we will stop his looms for him, and other men
besides you and I and Niklas Haas will stand
idle with starving children round them. Come,
will you lend a hand? Niklas is away looking
for work, and Hans Dort is sick, or they might
be glad to help us."
"Hans would never do it. He is sober, and
so good a weaver he will never want work when
he is well. I will be with you, Peit; but swear
not to tell it, whatever happens, for you and
I have bad names now, and it would go hard
"I 'll swear anything; but have no fear. We
will not only be revenged on the master, but get
the job of repairing; since men are scarce and
the need will be great when the flood is
discovered. See, then, how fine a plan it is! and
meet me here at twelve to-night with a shovel
and pick. Mine are already hidden in the wood
yonder. Now, come and see where we must
strike, and then slip home the other way; we
must not be seen here by any one."
There the voices stopped, and steps were
heard going deeper into the arch. Trudel, pale
with fear, rose to her feet, slipped off her sabots,
and ran away along the dike like a startled
rabbit, never pausing till she was safely round
the corner and out of sight. Then she took
breath, and tried to think what to do first. It
was of no use to go home and tell the story
there. Father was too ill to hear it or to help;
and if she told the neighbors, the secret would
soon be known everywhere and might bring
danger on them all. No, she must go at once
to Mein Herr von Vost and tell him alone,
begging him to let no one know what she had
heard, but to prevent the mischief the men
threatened, as if by accident. Then all would
be safe, and the pretty flax-fields kept from
drowning. It was a long way to the "master's,"
as he was called, because he owned the linen
factories, where all day many looms jangled,
and many men and women worked busily to fill
his warehouses and ships with piles of the fine
white cloth, famous all the world over.
But forgetting the wood, father's broth, granny's
coffee, and even the knitting which she still
held, Trudel went as fast as she could toward
the country-house, where Mein Herr von Vost
would probably be at his breakfast.
She was faint now with hunger and heat, for
the day grew hot, and the anxiety she felt made
her heart flutter while she hurried along the
dusty road till she came to the pretty house in
its gay garden, where some children were
playing. Anxious not to be seen, Trudel slipped
up the steps, and in at the open window of a
room where she saw the master and his wife
sitting at table. Both looked surprised to see a
shabby, breathless little girl enter in that
curious fashion; but something in her face told
them that she came on an important errand,
and putting down his cup, the gentleman said
"Well, girl, what is it?"
In a few words Trudel told her story, adding
with a beseeching gesture, "Dear sir, please do
not tell that I betrayed bad Peit and Deitrich.
They know father, and may do him some harm
if they discover that I told you this. We are
so poor, so unhappy now, we cannot bear any
more;" and quite overcome with the troubles
that filled her little heart, and the fatigue and
the hunger that weakened her little body,
Trudel dropped down at Von Vost's feet as if
she were dead.
When she came to herself, she was lying on a
velvet sofa and the sweet-faced lady was holding
wine to her lips, while Mein Herr von Vost
marched up and down the room with his flowered
dressing-gown waving behind him, and a
frown on his brow. Trudel sat up and said she
was quite well; but the little white face and the
hungry eyes that wandered to the breakfast-table,
told the truth, and the good frau had a
plate of food and a cup of warm milk before
her in a moment.
"Eat, my poor child, and rest a little, while
the master considers what is best to be done,
and how to reward the brave little messenger
who came so far to save his property," said the
motherly lady, fanning Trudel, who ate heartily,
hardly knowing what she ate, except that it was
very delicious after so much bread and water.
In a few moments Herr von Vost paused
before the sofa and said kindly, though his eyes
were stern and his face looked hard,--
"See, then, thus shall I arrange the affair, and
all will be well. I will myself go to see the old
gate, as if made anxious lest the burgomaster
should forget his promise. I find it in a
dangerous state, and at once set my men at work.
The rascals are disappointed of both revenge
and wages, and I can soon take care of them
in other ways, for they are drunken fellows, and
are easily clapped into prison and kept safely
there till ready to work and to stop plotting
mischief. No one shall know your part in it, my
girl; but I do not forget it. Tell your father
his loom waits for him. Meanwhile, here is
something to help while he must be idle."
Trudel's plate nearly fell out of her hands as
a great gold-piece dropped into her lap; and she
could only stammer her thanks with tears of
joy, and a mouth full of bread and butter.
"He is a kind man, but a busy one, and
people call him 'hard.' You will not find him
so hereafter, for he never forgets a favor,
nor do I. Eat well, dear child, and wait till
you are rested. I will get a basket of comforts
for the sick man. Who else needs help at home?"
So kindly did Frau von Vost look and speak
that Trudel told all her sad tale freely, for the
master had gone at once to see to the dike,
after a nod and a pat on the child's head, which
made her quite sure that he was not as hard
as people said.
When she had opened her heart to the
friendly lady, Trudel was left to rest a few
moments, and lay luxuriously on the yellow sofa
staring at the handsome things about her, and
eating pretzels till Frau von Vost returned with
the promised basket, out of which peeped the
neck of a wine-bottle, the legs of a chicken,
glimpses of grapes, and many neat parcels of
"My servant goes to market and will carry
this for you till you are near home. Go, little
Trudel; and God bless you for saving us from
a great misfortune!" said the lady; and she
kissed the happy child and led her to the back
door, where stood the little cart with an old
man to drive the fat horse, and many baskets to
be filled in town.
Such a lovely drive our Trudel had that day!
no queen in a splendid chariot ever felt prouder,
for all her cares were gone, gold was in her
pocket, food at her feet, and friends secured to
make times easier for all. No need to tell how
joyfully she was welcomed at home, nor what
praises she received when her secret was
confided to mother and grandmother, nor what a
feast was spread in the poor house that
day,--for patience, courage, and trust in God had won
the battle, the enemy had fled, and Trudel's
hard siege was over.
Chapter IX tailpiece