Not Quite Eighteen
by Susan Coolidge
NOT QUITE EIGHTEEN.
[Illustration: The fox stared at her, and she stared back at the
NOT QUITE EIGHTEEN.
BY SUSAN COOLIDGE,
AUTHOR OF WHAT KATY DID, THE NEW YEAR'S BARGAIN,
THE BARBERRY BUSH, A GUERNSEY LILY,
IN THE HIGH VALLEY, ETC.
BY ROBERTS BROTHERS.
JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.
A BIT OF
THE WOLVES OF
UNCLE AND AUNT.
MONEY, AND WHAT
BECAME OF IT.
THE PRIZE GIRL
WHAT THE PINK
TWO PAIRS OF
THE PONY THAT
KEPT THE STORE.
A BLESSING IN
A GRANTED WISH.
HOW BUNNY BROUGHT GOOD LUCK.
It was Midsummer's Day, that delightful point toward which the whole
year climbs, and from which it slips off like an ebbing wave in the
direction of the distant winter. No wonder that superstitious people in
old times gave this day to the fairies, for it is the most beautiful
day of all. The world seems full of bird-songs, sunshine, and
flower-smells then; storm and sorrow appear impossible things; the
barest and ugliest spot takes on a brief charm and, for the moment,
seems lovely and desirable.
That's a picturesque old place, said a lady on the back seat of
the big wagon in which Hiram Swift was taking his summer boarders to
They were passing a low, wide farmhouse, gray from want of paint,
with a shabby barn and sheds attached, all overarched by tall elms. The
narrow hay-field and the vegetable-patch ended in a rocky hillside,
with its steep ledges, overgrown and topped with tall pines and firs,
which made a dense green background to the old buildings.
I don't know about its being like a picter, said Hiram, dryly, as
he flicked away a fly from the shoulder of his horse, but it isn't
much by way of a farm. That bit of hay-field is about all the land
there is that's worth anything; the rest is all rock. I guess the Widow
Gale doesn't take much comfort in its bein' picturesque. She'd be glad
enough to have the land made flat, if she could.
Oh, is that the Gale farm, where the silver-mine is said to be?
Yes, marm; at least, it's the farm where the man lived that,
'cordin' to what folks say, said he'd found a silver-mine. I don't take
a great deal of stock in the story myself.
A silver-mine! That sounds interesting, said a pretty girl on the
front seat, who had been driving the horses half the way, aided and
abetted by Hiram, with whom she was a prime favorite. Tell me about
it, Mr. Swift. Is it a story, and when did it all happen?
Well, I don't know as it ever did happen, responded the farmer,
cautiously. All I know for certain is, that my father used to tell a
story that, before I was born (nigh on to sixty years ago, that must
have been), Squire Asy Allenthat used to live up to that red house on
North Street, where you bought the crockery mug, you know, Miss
Rosecome up one day in a great hurry to catch the stage, with a lump
of rock tied in his handkerchief. Old Roger Gale had found it, he said,
and they thought it was silver ore; and the Squire was a-takin' it down
to New Haven to get it analyzed. My father, he saw the rock, but he
didn't think much of it from the looks, till the Squire got back ten
days afterward and said the New Haven professor pronounced it silver,
sure enough, and a rich specimen; and any man who owned a mine of it
had his fortune made, he said. Then, of course, the township got
excited, and everybody talked silver, and there was a great to-do.
And why didn't they go to work on the mine at once? asked the
Well, you see, unfortunately, no one knew where it was, and old
Roger Gale had taken that particular day, of all others, to fall off
his hay-riggin' and break his neck, and he hadn't happened to mention
to any one before doing so where he found the rock! He was a
close-mouthed old chap, Roger was. For ten years after that, folks that
hadn't anything else to do went about hunting for the silver-mine, but
they gradooally got tired, and now it's nothin' more than an old story.
Does to amuse boarders with in the summer, concluded Mr. Swift, with a
twinkle. For my part, I don't believe there ever was a mine.
But there was the piece of ore to prove it.
Oh, that don't prove anything, because it got lost. No one knows
what became of it. An' sixty years is long enough for a story to get
I don't see why there shouldn't be silver in Beulah township,
remarked the lady on the back seat. You have all kinds of other
minerals here,soapstone and mica and emery and tourmalines and
Well, ma'am, I don't see nuther, unless, mebbe, it's the Lord's
will there shouldn't be.
It would be so interesting if the mine could be found! said the
It would be so, especially to the Gale family,that is, if
it was found on their land. The widow's a smart, capable woman, but
it's as much as she can do, turn and twist how she may, to make both
ends meet. And there's that boy of hers, a likely boy as ever you see,
and just hungry for book-l'arnin', the minister says. The chance of an
eddication would be just everything to him, and the widow can't give
It's really a romance, said the pretty girl, carelessly, the wants
and cravings of others slipping off her young sympathies easily.
Then the horses reached the top of the long hill they had been
climbing, Hiram put on the brake, and they began to grind down a hill
equally long, with a soft panorama of plumy tree-clad summits before
them, shimmering in the June sunshine. Drives in Beulah township were
apt to be rather perpendicular, however you took them.
Some one, high up on the hill behind the farmhouse, heard the clank
of the brakes, and lifted up her head to listen. It was Hester Gale,a
brown little girl, with quick dark eyes, and a mane of curly chestnut
hair, only too apt to get into tangles. She was just eight years old,
and to her the old farmstead, which the neighbors scorned as worthless,
was a sort of enchanted land, full of delights and
surprises,hiding-places which no one but herself knew, rocks and
thickets where she was sure real fairies dwelt, and cubby-houses sacred
to the use of Bunny, who was her sole playmate and companion, and the
confidant to whom she told all her plans and secrets.
Bunny was a doll,an old-fashioned doll, carved out of a solid
piece of hickory-wood, with a stern expression of face, and a perfectly
unyielding figure; but a doll whom Hester loved above all things. Her
mother and her mother's mother had played with Bunny, but this only
made her the dearer.
The two sat together between the gnarled roots of an old spruce
which grew near the edge of a steep little cliff. It was one of the
loneliest parts of the rocky hillside, and the hardest to get at.
Hester liked it better than any of her other hiding-places, because no
one but herself ever came there.
Bunny lay in her lap, and Hester was in the middle of a story, when
she stopped to listen to the wagon grinding down-hill.
So the little chicken said, 'Peep! Peep!' and started off to see
what the big yellow fox was like, she went on. That was a silly thing
for her to do, wasn't it, Bunny? because foxes aren't a bit nice to
chickens. But the little chicken didn't know any better, and she
wouldn't listen to the old hens when they told her how foolish she was.
That was wrong, because it's naughty to disdisapute your elders,
mother says; children that do are almost always sorry afterward.
Well, she hadn't gone far before she heard a rustle in the bushes
on one side. She thought it was the fox, and then she did feel
frightened, you'd better believe, and all the things she meant to say
to him went straight out of her head. But it wasn't the fox that time;
it was a teeny-weeny little striped squirrel, and he just said, 'It's a
sightly day, isn't it?' and, without waiting for an answer, ran up a
tree. So the chicken didn't mind him a bit.
Then, by and by, when she had gone a long way farther off from
home, she heard another rustle. It was just likeOh, what's that,
Hester stopped short, and I am sorry to say that Bunny never heard
the end of the chicken story, for the rustle resolved itself intowhat
do you think?
It was a fox! A real fox!
There he stood on the hillside, gazing straight at Hester, with his
yellow brush waving behind him, and his eyes looking as sharp as the
row of gleaming teeth beneath them. Foxes were rare animals in the
Beulah region. Hester had never seen one before; but she had seen the
picture of a fox in one of Roger's books, so she knew what it was.
The fox stared at her, and she stared back at the fox. Then her
heart melted with fear, like the heart of the little chicken, and she
jumped to her feet, forgetting Bunny, who fell from her lap, and rolled
unobserved over the edge of the cliff. The sudden movement startled the
fox, and he disappeared into the bushes with a wave of his yellow
brush; just how or where he went, Hester could not have told.
How sorry Roger will be that he wasn't here to see him! was her
first thought. Her second was for Bunny. She turned, and stooped to
pick up the dolland lo! Bunny was not there.
High and low she searched, beneath grass tangles, under juniper
saucers, among the stems of the thickly massed blueberries and
hardhacks, but nowhere was Bunny to be seen. She peered over the ledge,
but nothing met her eyes below but a thick growth of blackish, stunted
evergreens. This place down below had been a sort of terror to
Hester's imagination always, as an entirely unknown and unexplored
region; but in the cause of the beloved Bunny she was prepared to risk
anything, and she bravely made ready to plunge into the depths.
It was not so easy to plunge, however. The cliff was ten or twelve
feet in height where she stood, and ran for a considerable distance to
right and left without getting lower. This way and that she quested,
and at last found a crevice where it was possible to scramble down,a
steep little crevice, full of blackberry briers, which scratched her
face and tore her frock. When at last she gained the lower bank, this
further difficulty presented itself: she could not tell where she was.
The evergreen thicket nearly met over her head, the branches got into
her eyes, and buffeted and bewildered her. She could not make out the
place where she had been sitting, and no signs of Bunny could be found.
At last, breathless with exertion, tired, hot, and hopeless, she made
her way out of the thicket, and went, crying, home to her mother.
She was still crying, and refusing to be comforted, when Roger came
in from milking. He was sorry for Hester, but not so sorry as he would
have been had his mind not been full of troubles of his own. He tried
to console her with a vague promise of helping her to look for Bunny
some day when there wasn't so much to do. But this was cold comfort,
and, in the end, Hester went to bed heartbroken, to sob herself to
Mother, said Roger, after she had gone, Jim Boies is going to his
uncle's, in New Ipswich, in September, to do chores and help round a
little, and to go all winter to the academy.
The New Ipswich Academy was quite a famous school then, and to go
there was a great chance for a studious boy.
That's a bit of good luck for Jim.
Not quite so first-rate for you.
No (gloomily). I shall miss Jim. He's always been my best friend
among the boys. But what makes me mad is that he doesn't care a bit
about going. Mother, why doesn't good luck ever come to us Gales?
It was good luck for me when you came, Roger. I don't know how I
should get along without you.
I'd be worth a great deal more to you if I could get a chance at
any sort of schooling. Doesn't it seem hard, Mother? There's Squire
Dennis and Farmer Atwater, and half a dozen others in this township,
who are all ready to send their boys to college, and the boys don't
want to go! Bob Dennis says that he'd far rather do teaming in the
summer, and take the girls up to singing practice at the church, than
go to all the Harvards and Yales in the world; and I, who'd give my
head, almost, to go to college, can't! It doesn't seem half right,
No, Roger, it doesn't; not a quarter. There are a good many things
that don't seem right in this world, but I don't know who's to mend
'em. I can't. The only way is to dig along hard and do what's to be
done as well as you can, whatever it is, and make the best of your
'musts.' There's always a 'must.' I suppose rich people have them as
well as poor ones.
Rich people's boys can go to college.
Yes,and mine can't. I'd sell all we've got to send you, Roger,
since your heart is so set on it, but this poor little farm wouldn't be
half enough, even if any one wanted to buy it, which isn't likely. It's
no use talking about it, Roger; it only makes both of us feel bad.Did
you kill the 'broilers' for the hotel? she asked with a sudden change
No, not yet.
Go and do it, then, right away. You'll have to carry them down
early with the eggs. Four pairs, Roger. Chickens are the best crop we
can raise on this farm.
If we could find Great-uncle Roger's mine, we'd eat the chickens
ourselves, said Roger, as he reluctantly turned to go.
Yes, and if that apple-tree'd take to bearing gold apples, we
wouldn't have to work at all. Hurry and do your chores before dark,
Mrs. Gale was a Spartan in her methods, but, for all that, she
sighed a bitter sigh as Roger went out of the door.
He's such a smart boy, she told herself, there's nothing he
couldn't do,nothing, if he had a chance. I do call it hard. The folks
who have plenty of money to do with have dull boys; and I, who've got a
bright one, can't do anything for him! It seems as if things weren't
Hester spent all her spare time during the next week in searching
for the lost Bunny. It rained hard one day, and all the following
night; she could not sleep for fear that Bunny was getting wet, and
looked so pale in the morning that her mother forbade her going to the
Your feet were sopping when you came in yesterday, she said; and
that's the second apron you've torn. You'll just have to let Bunny go,
Hester; no two ways about it.
Then Hester moped and grieved and grew thin, and at last she fell
ill. It was low fever, the doctor said. Several days went by, and she
was no better. One noon, Roger came in from haying to find his mother
with her eyes looking very much troubled. Hester is light-headed, she
said; we must have the doctor again.
Roger went in to look at the child, who was lying in a little
bedroom off the kitchen. The small, flushed face on the pillow did not
light up at his approach. On the contrary, Hester's eyes, which were
unnaturally big and bright, looked past and beyond him.
Hessie, dear, don't you know Roger?
He said he'd find Bunny for me some day, muttered the little
voice; but he never did. Oh, I wish he would!I wish he would! I do
want her so much! Then she rambled on about foxes, and the old
spruce-tree, and the rocks,always with the refrain, I wish I had
Bunny; I want her so much!
Mother, I do believe it's that wretched old doll she's fretted
herself sick over, said Roger, going back into the kitchen. Now, I'll
tell you what! Mr. Hinsdale's going up to the town this noon, and he'll
leave word for the doctor to come; and the minute I've swallowed my
dinner, I'm going up to the hill to find Bunny. I don't believe
Hessie'll get any better till she's found.
Very well, said Mrs. Gale. I suppose the hay'll be spoiled, but
we've got to get Hessie cured at any price.
Oh, I'll find the doll. I know about where Hessie was when she lost
it. And the hay'll take no harm. I only got a quarter of the field cut,
and it's good drying weather.
Roger made haste with his dinner. His conscience pricked him as he
remembered his neglected promise and his indifference to Hester's
griefs; he felt in haste to make amends. He went straight to the old
spruce, which, he had gathered from Hester's rambling speech, was the
scene of Bunny's disappearance. It was easily found, being the oldest
and largest on the hillside.
Roger had brought a stout stick with him, and now, leaning over the
cliff edge, he tried to poke with it in the branches below, while
searching for the dolly. But the stick was not long enough, and slipped
through his fingers, disappearing suddenly and completely through the
Hallo! cried Roger. There must be a hole there of some sort.
Bunny's at the bottom of it, no doubt. Here goes to find her!
His longer legs made easy work of the steep descent which had so
puzzled his little sister. Presently he stood, waist-deep, in tangled
hemlock boughs, below the old spruce. He parted the bushes in advance,
and moved cautiously forward, step by step. He felt a cavity just
before him, but the thicket was so dense that he could see nothing.
Feeling for his pocket-knife, which luckily was a stout one, he
stood still, cutting, slashing, and breaking off the tough boughs, and
throwing them on one side. It was hard work, but after ten minutes a
space was cleared which let in a ray of light, and, with a hot, red
face and surprised eyes, Roger Gale stooped over the edge of a rocky
cavity, on the sides of which something glittered and shone. He swung
himself over the edge, and dropped into the hole, which was but a few
feet deep. His foot struck on something hard as he landed. He stooped
to pick it up, and his hand encountered a soft substance. He lifted
both objects out together.
The soft substance was a doll's woollen frock. There, indeed, was
the lost Bunny, looking no whit the worse for her adventures, and the
hard thing on which her wooden head had lain was a pickaxe,an old
iron pick, red with rust. Three letters were rudely cut on the
handle,R. P. G. They were Roger's own initials. Roger Perkins Gale.
It had been his father's name also, and that of the great-uncle after
whom they both were named.
With an excited cry, Roger stooped again, and lifted out of the hole
a lump of quartz mingled with ore. Suddenly he realized where he was
and what he had found. This was the long lost silver-mine, whose
finding and whose disappearance had for so many years been a tradition
in the township. Here it was that old Roger Gale had found his
speciment, knocked off probably with that very pick, and, covering up
all traces of his discovery, had gone sturdily off to his farm-work, to
meet his death next week on the hay-rigging, with the secret locked
within his breast. For sixty years the evergreen thicket had grown and
toughened and guarded the hidden cavity beneath its roots; and it might
easily have done so for sixty years longer, if Bunny,little wooden
Bunny, with her lack-lustre eyes and expressionless features,had not
led the way into its tangles.
Hester got well. When Roger placed the doll in her arms, she seemed
to come to herself, fondled and kissed her, and presently dropped into
a satisfied sleep, from which she awoke conscious and relieved. The
mine did not prove exactly a mine,it was not deep or wide enough
for that; but the ore in it was rich in quality, and the news of its
finding made a great stir in the neighborhood. Mrs. Gale was offered a
price for her hillside which made her what she considered a rich woman,
and she was wise enough to close with the offer at once, and neither
stand out for higher terms nor risk the chance of mining on her own
account. She and her family left the quiet little farmhouse soon after
that, and went to live in Worcester. Roger had all the schooling he
desired, and made ready for Harvard and the law-school, where he worked
hard, and laid the foundations of what has since proved a brilliant
career. You may be sure that Bunny went to Worcester also, treated and
regarded as one of the most valued members of the family. Hester took
great care of her, and so did Hester's little girl later on; and even
Mrs. Gale spoke respectfully of her always, and treated her with honor.
For was it not Bunny who broke the long spell of evil fate, and brought
good luck back to the Gale family?
A BIT OF WILFULNESS.
There was a great excitement in the Keene's pleasant home at
Wrentham, one morning, about three years ago. The servants were hard at
work, making everything neat and orderly. The children buzzed about
like active flies, for in the evening some one was coming whom none of
them had as yet seen,a new mamma, whom their father had just married.
The three older children remembered their own mamma pretty well; to
the babies, she was only a name. Janet, the eldest, recollected her
best of all, and the idea of somebody coming to take her place did not
please her at all. This was not from a sense of jealousy for the mother
who was gone, but rather from a jealousy for herself; for since Mrs.
Keene's death, three years before, Janet had done pretty much as she
liked, and the idea of control and interference aroused within her, in
advance, the spirit of resistance.
Janet's father was a busy lawyer, and had little time to give to the
study of his children's characters. He liked to come home at night,
after a hard day at his office, or in the courts, and find a nicely
arranged table and room, and a bright fire in the grate, beside which
he could read his newspaper without interruption, just stopping now and
then to say a word to the children, or have a frolic with the younger
ones before they went to bed. Old Maria, who had been nurse to all the
five in turn, managed the housekeeping; and so long as there was no
outward disturbance, Mr. Keene asked no questions.
He had no idea that Janet, in fact, ruled the family. She was only
twelve, but she had the spirit of a dictator, and none of the little
ones dared to dispute her will or to complain. In fact, there was not
often cause for complaint. When Janet was not opposed, she was both
kind and amusing. She had much sense and capacity for a child of her
years, and her brothers and sisters were not old enough to detect the
mistakes which she sometimes made.
And now a stepmother was coming to spoil all this, as Janet thought.
Her meditations, as she dusted the china and arranged the flowers, ran
something after this fashion:
She's only twenty-one, Papa said, and that's only nine years older
than I am, and nine years isn't much. I'm not going to call her
'Mamma,' anyway. I shall call her 'Jerusha,' from the very first; for
Maria said that Jessie was only a nickname, and I hate nicknames. I
know she'll want me to begin school next fall, but I don't mean to, for
she don't know anything about the schools here, and I can judge better
than she can. There, that looks nice! putting a tall spike of lilies
in a pale green vase. Now I'll dress baby and little Jim, and we shall
all be ready when they come.
It was exactly six, that loveliest hour of a lovely June day, when
the carriage stopped at the gate. Mr. Keene helped his wife out, and
looked eagerly toward the piazza, on which the five children were
Well, my dears, he cried, how do you do? Why don't you come and
kiss your new mamma?
They all came obediently, pretty little Jim and baby Alice, hand in
hand, then Harry and Mabel, and, last of all, Janet. The little ones
shyly allowed themselves to be kissed, saying nothing, but Janet, true
to her resolution, returned her stepmother's salute in a matter-of-fact
way, kissed her father, and remarked:
Do come in, Papa; Jerusha must be tired!
Mr. Keene gave an amazed look at his wife. The corners of her mouth
twitched, and Janet thought wrathfully, I do believe she is laughing
at me! But Mrs. Keene stifled the laugh, and, taking little Alice's
hand, led the way into the house.
Oh, how nice, how pretty! were her first words. Look at the
flowers, James! Did you arrange them, Janet? I suspect you did.
Yes, said Janet; I did them all.
Thank you, dear, said Mrs. Keene, and stooped to kiss her again.
It was an affectionate kiss, and Janet had to confess to herself that
this newperson was pleasant looking. She had pretty brown hair and
eyes, a warm glow of color in a pair of round cheeks, and an expression
at once sweet and sensible and decided. It was a face full of
attraction; the younger children felt it, and began to sidle up and
cuddle against the new mamma. Janet felt the attraction, too, but she
Don't squeeze Jerusha in that way, she said to Mabel; you are
creasing her jacket. Jim, come here, you are in the way.
Janet, said Mr. Keene, in a voice of displeasure, what do you
mean by calling your mother 'Jerusha'?
She isn't my real mother, explained Janet, defiantly. I don't
want to call her 'Mamma;' she's too young.
Mrs. Keene laughed,she couldn't help it.
We will settle by and by what you shall call me, she said. But,
Janet, it can't be Jerusha, for that is not my name. I was baptized
I shall call you Mrs. Keene, then, said Janet, mortified, but
persistent. Her stepmother looked pained, but she said no more.
None of the other children made any difficulty about saying Mamma
to this sweet new friend. Jessie Keene was the very woman to mother a
family of children. Bright and tender and firm all at once, she was
playmate to them as well as authority, and in a very little while they
all learned to love her dearly,all but Janet; and even she, at times,
found it hard to resist this influence, which was at the same time so
strong and so kind.
Still, she did resist, and the result was constant discomfort to
both parties. To the younger children the new mamma brought added
happiness, because they yielded to her wise and reasonable authority.
To Janet she brought only friction and resentment, because she would
So two months passed. Late in August, Mr. and Mrs Keene started on a
short journey which was to keep them away from home for two days. Just
as the carriage was driving away, Mrs. Keene suddenly said,
Oh, Janet! I forgot to say that I would rather you didn't go see
Ellen Colton while we are away, or let any of the other children.
Please tell nurse about it.
Why mustn't I? demanded Janet.
Because began her mother, but Mr. Keene broke in.
Never mind 'becauses,' Jessie; we must be off. It's enough for you,
Janet, that your mother orders it. And see that you do as she says.
It's a shame! muttered Janet, as she slowly went back to the
house. I always have gone to see Ellen whenever I liked. No one ever
stopped me before. I don't think it's a bit fair; and I wish Papa
wouldn't speak to me like that beforeher.
Gradually she worked herself into a strong fit of ill-temper. All
day long she felt a growing sense of injury, and she made up her mind
not to bear it. Next morning, in a towering state of self-will, she
marched straight down to the Coltons, resolved at least to find out the
meaning of this vexatious prohibition.
No one was on the piazza, and Janet ran up-stairs to Ellen's room,
expecting to find her studying her lessons.
No; Ellen was in the bed, fast asleep. Janet took a story-book, and
sat down beside her. She'll be surprised when she wakes up, she
The book proved interesting, and Janet read on for nearly half an
hour before Mrs. Colton came in with a cup and spoon in her hand. She
gave a scream when she saw Janet.
Mercy! she cried, what are you doing here? Didn't your ma tell
you? Ellen's got scarlet-fever.
No, she didn't tell me that. She only said I mustn't come
And why did you come?
Somehow Janet found it hard to explain, even to herself, why she had
been so determined not to obey.
Very sorrowfully she walked homeward. She had sense enough to know
how dreadful might be the result of her disobedience, and she felt
humble and wretched. Oh, if only I hadn't! was the language of her
The little ones had gone out to play. Janet hurried to her own room,
and locked the door.
I won't see any of them till Papa comes, she thought. Then
perhaps they won't catch it from me.
She watched from the window till Maria came out to hang something on
the clothesline, and called to her.
I'm not coming down to dinner, she said. Will you please bring me
some, and leave it by my door? No, I'm not ill, but there are reasons.
I'd rather not tell anybody about them but Mamma.
Sakes alive! said old Maria to herself, she called missus
'Mamma.' The skies must be going to fall.
Mrs. Keene's surprise may be imagined at finding Janet thus, in a
state of voluntary quarantine.
I am so sorry, she said, when she had listened to her confession.
Most sorry of all for you, my child, because you may have to bear the
worst penalty. But it was brave and thoughtful in you to shut yourself
up to spare the little ones, dear Janet.
Oh, Mamma! cried Janet, bursting into tears. How kind you are not
to scold me! I have been so horrid to you always. All the pride and
hardness were melted out of her now, and for the first time she clung
to her stepmother with a sense of protection and comfort.
Janet said afterwards, that the fortnight which she spent in her
room, waiting to know if she had caught the fever, was one of the
nicest times she ever had. The children and the servants, and even
Papa, kept away from her, but Mrs. Keene came as often and stayed as
long as she could; and, thrown thus upon her sole companionship, Janet
found out the worth of this dear, kind stepmother. She did not
have scarlet-fever, and at the end of three weeks was allowed to go
back to her old ways, but with a different spirit.
I can't think why I didn't love you sooner, she told Mamma once.
I think I know, replied Mrs. Keene, smiling. That stiff little
will was in the way. You willed not to like me, and it was easy to obey
your will; but now you will to love me, and loving is as easy as
THE WOLVES OF ST. GERVAS.
There never seemed a place more in need of something to make it
merry than was the little Swiss hamlet of St. Gervas toward the end of
March, some years since.
The winter had been the hardest ever known in the Bernese Oberland.
Ever since November the snow had fallen steadily, with few
intermissions, and the fierce winds from the Breithorn and the St.
Theodule Pass had blown day and night, and the drifts deepened in the
valleys, and the icicles on the eaves of the chalets grown thicker and
longer. The old wives had quoted comforting saws about a white
Michaelmas making a brown Easter; but Easter was at hand now, and
there were no signs of relenting yet.
Week after week the strong men had sallied forth with shovels and
pickaxes to dig out the half-buried dwellings, and to open the paths
between them, which had grown so deep that they seemed more like
trenches than footways.
Month after month the intercourse between neighbors had become more
difficult and meetings less frequent. People looked over the white
wastes at each other, the children ran to the doors and shouted
messages across the snow, but no one was brave enough to face the cold
and the drifts.
Even the village inn was deserted. Occasionally some hardy wayfarer
came by and stopped for a mug of beer and to tell Dame Ursel, the
landlady, how deep the snows were, how black clouds lay to the north,
betokening another fall, and that the shoulders and flanks of the
Matterhorn were whiter than man had ever seen them before. Then he
would struggle on his way, and perhaps two or three days would pass
before another guest crossed the threshold.
It was a sad change for the Kröne, whose big sanded kitchen was
usually crowded with jolly peasants, and full of laughter and jest, the
clinking of glasses, and the smoke from long pipes. Dame Ursel felt it
But such jolly meetings were clearly impossible now. The weather was
too hard. Women could not easily make their way through the snow, and
they dared not let the children play even close to the doors; for as
the wind blew strongly down from the sheltering forest on the hill
above, which was the protection of St. Gervas from landslides and
avalanches, shrill yelping cries would ever and anon be heard, which
sounded very near. The mothers listened with a shudder, for it was
known that the wolves, driven by hunger, had ventured nearer to the
hamlet than they had ever before done, and were there just above on the
hillside, waiting to make a prey of anything not strong enough to
protect itself against them.
Three pigs have they carried off since Christmas, said Mère Kronk,
and one of those the pig of a widow! Two sheep and a calf have they
also taken; and only night before last they all but got at the
Alleene's cow. Matters have come to a pass indeed in St. Gervas, if
cows are to be devoured in our very midst! Toinette and Pertal, come in
at once! Thou must not venture even so far as the doorstep unless thy
father be along, and he with his rifle over his shoulder, if he wants
me to sleep of nights.
Oh, dear! sighed little Toinette for the hundredth time. How I
wish the dear summer would come! Then the wolves would go away, and we
could run about as we used, and Gretchen Slaut and I go to the Alp for
berries. It seems as if it had been winter forever and ever. I haven't
seen Gretchen or little Marie for two whole weeks. Their mother,
too, is fearful of the wolves.
All the mothers in St. Gervas were fearful of the wolves.
The little hamlet was, as it were, in a state of siege. Winter, the
fierce foe, was the besieger. Month by month he had drawn his lines
nearer, and made them stronger; the only hope was in the rescue which
spring might bring. Like a beleaguered garrison, whose hopes and
provisions are running low, the villagers looked out with eager eyes
for the signs of coming help, and still the snows fell, and the help
did not come.
How fared it meanwhile in the forest slopes above?
It is not a sin for a wolf to be hungry, any more than it is for a
man; and the wolves of St. Gervas were ravenous indeed. All their
customary supplies were cut off. The leverets and marmots, and other
small animals on which they were accustomed to prey, had been driven by
the cold into the recesses of their hidden holes, from which they did
not venture out. There was no herbage to tempt the rabbits forth, no
tender birch growths for the strong gray hares.
No doubt the wolves talked the situation over in their wolfish
language, realized that it was a desperate one, and planned the daring
forays which resulted in the disappearance of the pigs and sheep and
the attack on the Alleene's cow. The animals killed all belonged to
outlying houses a little further from the village than the rest; but
the wolves had grown bold with impunity, and, as Mère Kronk said, there
was no knowing at what moment they might make a dash at the centre of
I fear they would have enjoyed a fat little boy or girl if they
could have come across one astray on the hillside, near their haunts,
very much. But no such luck befell them. The mothers of St. Gervas were
too wary for that, and no child went out after dark, or ventured more
than a few yards from the open house-door, even at high noon.
Something must be done, declared Johann Vecht, the bailiff. We
are growing sickly and timorous. My wife hasn't smiled for a month. She
talks of nothing but snow and wolves, and it is making the children
fearful. My Annerle cried out in her sleep last night that she was
being devoured, and little Kasper woke up and cried too. Something must
Something must indeed be done! repeated Solomon, the forester. We
are letting the winter get the better of us, and losing heart and
courage. We must make an effort to get together in the old neighborly
way; that's what we want.
This conversation took place at the Kröne, and here the landlady,
who was tired of empty kitchen and scant custom, put in her word:
You are right, neighbors. What we need is to get together, and
feast and make merry, forgetting the hard times. Make your plans, and
trust me to carry them out to the letter. Is it a feast that you decide
upon? I will cook it. Is it a musiker fest? My Carl, there, can
play the zither with any other, no matter whom it be, and can sing.
Himmel! how he can sing! Command me! I will work my fingers to the
bone rather than you shall not be satisfied.
Aha, the sun! cried Solomon; for as the landlady spoke, a pale
yellow ray shot through the pane and streamed over the floor. That is
a good omen. Dame Ursel, thou art right. A jolly merrymaking is what we
all want. We will have one, and thou shalt cook the supper according to
Several neighbors had entered the inn kitchen since the talk began,
so that quite a company had collected,more than had got together
since the mass on Christmas Day. All were feeling cheered by the sight
of the sunshine; it seemed a happy moment to propose the merrymaking.
So it was decided then and there that a supper should be held that
day week at the Kröne, men and women both to be invited,all, in fact,
who could pay and wished to come. It seemed likely that most of the
inhabitants of St. Gervas would be present, such enthusiasm did the
plan awake in young and old. The week's delay would allow time to send
to the villagers lower down in the valley for a reinforcement of
tobacco, for the supply of that essential article was running low, and
what was a feast without tobacco?
We shall have a quarter of mutton, declared the landlady. Neils
Austerman is to kill next Monday, and I will send at once to bespeak
the hind-quarter. That will insure a magnificent roast. Three fat geese
have I also, fit for the spit, and four hens. Oh, I assure you, my
masters, that there shall be no lack on my part! My Fritz shall get a
large mess of eels from the Lake. He fishes through the ice, as thou
knowest, and is lucky; the creatures always take his hook. Fried eels
are excellent eating! You will want a plenty of them. Three months
maigre is good preparation for a feast. Wine and beer we have in
plenty in the cellar, and the cheese I shall cut is as a cartwheel for
bigness. Bring you the appetites, my masters, and I will engage that
the supply is sufficient.
The landlady rubbed her hands as she spoke, with an air of joyful
My mouth waters already with thy list, declared Kronk. I must
hasten home and tell my dame of the plan. It will raise her spirits,
poor soul, and she is sadly in need of cheering.
The next week seemed shorter than any week had seemed since
Michaelmas. True, the weather was no better. The brief sunshine had
been followed by a wild snowstorm, and the wind was still blowing
But now there was something to talk and think about besides weather.
Everybody was full of the forthcoming feast. Morning after morning
Fritz of the Kröne could be seen sitting beside his fishing-holes on
the frozen lake, patiently letting down his lines, and later, climbing
the hill, his basket laden with brown and wriggling eels. Everybody
crowded to the windows to watch him,the catch was a matter of public
Three hardy men on snow-shoes, with guns over their shoulders, had
ventured down to St. Nicklaus, and returned, bringing the wished-for
tobacco and word that the lower valleys were no better off than the
upper, that everything was buried in snow, and no one had got in from
the Rhone valley for three weeks or more.
Anxiously was the weather watched as the day of the feast drew near;
and when the morning dawned, every one gave a sigh of relief that it
did not snow. It was gray and threatening, but the wind had veered, and
blew from the southwest. It was not nearly so cold, and a change seemed
The wolves of St. Gervas were quite as well aware as the inhabitants
that something unusual was going forward.
From their covert in the sheltering wood they watched the stir and
excitement, the running to and fro, the columns of smoke which streamed
upward from the chimneys of the inn. As the afternoon drew on, strange
savory smells were wafted upward by the strong-blowing wind,smells of
frying and roasting, and hissing fat.
Oh, how it smells! How good it does smell! said one wolf. He
snuffed the wind greedily, then threw back his head and gave vent to a
The other wolves joined in the howl.
What can it be? Oh, how hungry it makes me! cried one of the
younger ones. O-w-w-w!
What a dreadful noise those creatures are making up there,
remarked Frau Kronk as, under the protection of her stalwart husband,
she hurried her children along the snow path toward the Kröne. They
sound so hungry! I shall not feel really safe till we are all at home
again, with the door fast barred.
But she forgot her fears when the door of the inn was thrown
hospitably open as they drew near, and the merry scene inside revealed
The big sanded kitchen had been dressed with fir boughs, and was
brightly lighted with many candles. At the great table in the midst sat
rows of men and women, clad in their Sunday best. The men were smoking
long pipes, tall mugs of beer stood before everybody, and a buzz of
talk and laughter filled the place.
Beyond, in the wide chimney, blazed a glorious fire, and about and
over it the supper could be seen cooking. The quarter of mutton, done
to a turn, hung on its spit, and on either side of it sputtered the
geese and the fat hens, brown and savory, and smelling delicious. Over
the fire on iron hooks hung a great kettle of potatoes and another of
On one side of the hearth knelt Gretel, the landlord's daughter,
grinding coffee, while on the other her brother Fritz brandished an
immense frying-pan heaped with sizzling eels, which sent out the
loudest smells of all.
The air of the room was thick with the steam of the fry mingled with
the smoke of the pipes. A fastidious person might have objected to it
as hard to breathe, but the natives of St. Gervas were not fastidious,
and found no fault whatever with the smells and the smoke which, to
them, represented conviviality and good cheer. Even the dogs under the
table were rejoicing in it, and sending looks of expectation toward the
Welcome, welcome! cried the jolly company as the Kronks appeared.
Last to come is as well off as first, if a seat remains, and the
supper is still uneaten. Sit thee down, Dame, while the young ones join
the other children in the little kitchen. Supper is all but ready, and
a good one too, as all noses testify. Those eels smell rarely. It is
but to fetch the wine now, and then fall to, eh, Landlady?
Nor shall the wine be long lacking! cried Dame Ursel, snatching up
a big brown pitcher. Sit thee down, Frau Kronk. That place beside thy
gossip Barbe was saved for thee. 'Tis but to go to the cellar and
return, and all will be ready. Stir the eels once more, Fritz; and
thou, Gretchen, set the coffee-pot on the coals. I shall be back in the
twinkling of an eye.
There was a little hungry pause. From the smaller kitchen, behind,
the children's laughter could be heard.
It is good to be in company again, said Frau Kronk, sinking into
her seat with a sigh of pleasure.
Yes, so we thought,we who got up the feast, responded Solomon,
the forester. 'Neighbors,' says I, 'we are all getting out of spirits
with so much cold and snow, and we must rouse ourselves and do
something.' 'Yes,' says they, 'but what?' 'Nothing can be plainer,'
says I, 'we must'Himmel! what is that?
What was it, indeed?
For even as Solomon spoke, the heavy door of the kitchen burst open,
letting in a whirl of cold wind and sleet, and letting in something
else as well.
For out of the darkness, as if blown by the wind, a troop of dark
swift shapes darted in.
They were the wolves of St. Gervas, who, made bold by hunger, and
attracted and led on by the strong fragrance of the feast, had
forgotten their usual cowardice, and, stealing from the mountain-side
and through the deserted streets of the hamlet, had made a dash at the
There were not less than twenty of them; there seemed to be a
As if acting by a preconcerted plan, they made a rush at the
fireplace. The guests sat petrified round the table, with their dogs
cowering at their feet, and no one stirred or moved, while the biggest
wolf, who seemed the leader of the band, tore the mutton from the spit,
while the next in size made a grab at the fat geese and the fowls, and
the rest seized upon the eels, hissing hot as they were, in the pan.
Gretchen and Fritz sat in their respective corners of the hearth,
paralyzed with fright at the near, snapping jaws and the fierce red
eyes which glared at them.
Then, overturning the cabbage-pot as they went, the whole pack
whirled, and sped out again into the night, which seemed to swallow
them up all in a moment.
And still the guests sat as if turned to stone, their eyes fixed
upon the door, through which the flakes of the snow-squall were rapidly
drifting; and no one had recovered voice to utter a word, when Dame
Ursel, rosy and beaming, came up from the cellar with her brimming
Why is the door open? she demanded. Then her eyes went over to the
fireplace, where but a moment before the supper had been. Had been; for
not an eatable article remained except the potatoes and the cabbages
and cabbage water on the hearth. From far without rang back a long howl
which had in it a note of triumph.
This was the end of the merrymaking. The guests were too startled
and terrified to remain for another supper, even had there been time to
cook one. Potatoes, black bread, and beer remained, and with these the
braver of the guests consoled themselves, while the more timorous
hurried home, well protected with guns, to barricade their doors, and
rejoice that it was their intended feast and not themselves which was
being discussed at that moment by the hungry denizens of the forest
There was a great furbishing up of bolts and locks next day, and a
fitting of stout bars to doors which had hitherto done very well
without such safeguards; but it was a long time before any inhabitant
of St. Gervas felt it safe to go from home alone, or without a rifle
over his shoulder.
So the wolves had the best of the merrymaking, and the villagers
decidedly the worst. Still, the wolves were not altogether to be
congratulated; for, stung by their disappointment and by the unmerciful
laughter and ridicule of the other villages, the men of St. Gervas
organized a great wolf-hunt later in the spring, and killed such a
number that to hear a wolf howl has become a rare thing in that part of
Ha! ha! my fine fellow, you are the one that made off with our
mutton so fast, said the stout forester, as he stripped the skin from
the largest of the slain. Your days for mutton are over, my friend. It
will be one while before you and your thievish pack come down again to
interrupt Christian folk at their supper!
But, in spite of Solomon's bold words, the tale of the frustrated
feast has passed into a proverb; and to-day in the neighboring chalets
and hamlets you may hear people say, Don't count on your mutton till
it's in your mouth, or it may fare with you as with the merry-makers at
THREE LITTLE CANDLES.
The winter dusk was settling down upon the old farmhouse where three
generations of Marshes had already lived and died. It stood on a gentle
rise of ground above the Kittery sands,a low, wide, rambling
structure, outgrowth of the gradual years since great-grandfather
Marsh, in the early days of the colony, had built the first log-house,
and so laid the foundation of the settlement.
This log-house still existed. It served as a lean-to for the larger
building, and held the buttery, the out-kitchen for rougher work, and
the woodshed. Moss and lichens clustered thickly between the old logs,
to which time had communicated a rich brown tint; a mat of luxuriant
hop-vine clothed the porch, and sent fantastic garlands up to the
ridgepole. The small heavily-puttied panes in the windows had taken on
that strange iridescence which comes to glass with the lapse of time,
and glowed, when the light touched them at a certain angle, with odd
gleams of red, opal, and green-blue.
On one of the central panes was an odd blur or cloud. Cynthia Marsh
liked to play that it was a face,the face of a girl who used to
crawl out of that window in the early days of the house, but had long
since grown up and passed away. It was rather a ghostly playmate, but
Cynthia enjoyed her.
This same imaginative little Cynthia was sitting with her brother
and sister in the new kitchen, which yet was a pretty old one, and
had rafters overhead, and bunches of herbs and strings of dried apples
tied to them. It was still the days of pot-hooks and trammels, and a
kettle of bubbling mush hung on the crane over the fire, which smelt
very good. Every now and then Hepzibah, the old servant, would come and
give it a stir, plunging her long spoon to the very bottom of the pot.
It was the Children's Hour, though no Longfellow had as yet given the
pretty name to that delightful time between daylight and dark, when the
toils of the day are over, and even grown people can fold their busy
hands and rest and talk and love each other, with no sense of wasted
time to spoil their pleasure.
I say, began Reuben, who, if he had lived to-day, would have put
on his cards Reuben Marsh, 4th, what do you think? We're going to
have our little candles to-night. Aunt Doris said that mother said so.
Isn't that famous!
Are we really? cried Cynthia, clasping her hands. How glad I am!
It's more than a year since we had any little candles, and though I've
tried to be good, I was so afraid when you broke the oil-lamp, the
other day, that it would put them off. I do love them so!
How many candles may we have? asked little Eunice.
Oh, there are only three,one for each of us. Mother gave the rest
away, you know. Have you made up any story yet, Eunice?
I did make one, but I've forgotten part of it. It was a great while
ago, when I thought we were surely going to get the candles, and then
Reuben had that quarrel with Friend Amos's son, and mother would not
let us have them. She said a boy who gave place to wrath did not
deserve a little candle.
I know, said Reuben, penitently. But that was a great while ago,
and I've not given place to wrath since. You must begin and think of
your story very hard, Eunice, or the candle will burn out while you are
These little candles, for the amusement of children, were an
ancient custom in New England, long practised in the Marsh family. When
the great annual candle-dipping took place, and the carefully saved
tallow, with its due admixture of water and bayberry wax for hardness,
was made hot in the kettle, and the wicks, previously steeped in alum,
were tied in bunches so that no two should touch each other, and dipped
and dried, and dipped again, at the end of each bundle was hung two or
three tiny candles, much smaller than the rest. These were rewards for
the children when they should earn them by being unusually good. They
were lit at bedtime, and, by immemorial law, so long as the candles
burned, the children might tell each other ghost or fairy stories,
which at other times were discouraged, as having a bad effect on the
mind. This privilege was greatly valued, and the advent of the little
candles made a sort of holiday, when holidays were few and far between.
I suppose Reuben will have his candle first, as he is the oldest,
Mother said last year that we should have them all three on the
same night, replied Cynthia. She said she would rather that we lay
awake till half-past nine for once, than till half-past eight for three
times. It's much nicer, I think. It's like having plenty to eat at one
dinner, instead of half-enough several days running. Eunice, you'd
better burn your candle first, I think, because you get sleepy a great
deal sooner than Reuby or I do. You needn't light it till after you're
in bed, you know, and that will make it last longer. When it's done,
I'll hurry and go to bed too, and then we'll light mine; and Reuben can
do the same, and if he leaves his door open, we shall hear his story
perfectly well. Oh, what fun it will be! I wish there were ever and
ever so many little candles,a hundred, at the very least!
Hepsy, ain't supper nearly ready? We're in such a hurry to-night!
Why, what are you in a hurry about? demanded Hepsy, giving a last
stir to the mush, which had grown deliciously thick.
We want to go to bed early.
That's a queer reason! You're not so sharp set after bed, as a
general thing. Well, the mush is done. Reuby, ring the bell at the shed
door, and as soon as the men come in, we'll be ready.
It was a good supper. The generous heat of the great fireplace in
the Marsh kitchen seemed to communicate a special savor of its own to
everything that was cooked before it, as if the noble hickory logs lent
a forest flavor to the food. The brown bread and beans and the squash
pies from the deep brick oven were excellent; and the pumpkin sweets,
from the same charmed receptacle, had come out a deep rich red color,
jellied with juice to their cores. Nothing could have improved them,
unless it were the thick yellow cream which Mrs. Marsh poured over each
as she passed it. The children ate as only hearty children can eat, but
the recollection of the little candles was all the time in their minds,
and the moment that Reuben had finished his third apple he began to
Mayn't we go to bed now? he asked.
Not till father has returned thanks, said his mother, rebukingly.
You are glad enough to take the gifts of the Lord, Reuben. You should
be equally ready to pay back the poor tribute of a decent gratitude.
Reuben sat abashed while Mr. Marsh uttered the customary words,
which was rather a short prayer than a long grace. The boy did not dare
to again allude to the candles, but stood looking sorry and shamefaced,
till his mother, laying her hand indulgently on his shoulder, slipped
the little candle in his fingers.
Thee didn't mean it, dear, I know, she whispered. It's natural
enough that thee shouldst be impatient. Now take thy candle, and be
off. Cynthia, Eunice, here are the other two, and remember, all of you,
that not a word must be told of the stories when once the candles burn
out. This is the test of obedience. Be good children, and I'll come up
later to see that all is safe.
Mrs. Marsh was of Quaker stock, but she only reverted to the once
familiar thee and thou at times when she felt
particularly kind and tender. The children liked to have her do so. It
meant that mother loved them more than usual.
The bedrooms over the kitchen, in which the children slept, were
very plain, with painted floors and scant furniture; but they were used
to them, and missed nothing. The moon was shining, so that little
Eunice found no difficulty in undressing without a light. As soon as
she was in bed, she called to the others, who were waiting in Reuben's
room, I'm all ready!
A queer clicking noise followed. It was made by Reuben's striking
the flint of the tinder-box. In another moment the first of the little
candles was lighted. They fetched it in; and the others sat on the foot
of the bed while Eunice, raised on her pillow, with red, excited
I've remembered all about my story, and this is it: Once there was
a Fairy. He was not a bad fairy, but a very good one. One day he broke
his wing, and the Fairy King said he mustn't come to court any more
till he got it mended. This was very hard, because glue and things like
that don't stick to Fairies' wings, you know.
Couldn't he have tied it up and boiled it in milk? asked Cynthia,
who had once seen a saucer so treated, with good effect.
Why, Cynthia Marsh! Do you suppose Fairies like to have their wings
boiled? I never! Of course they don't! Well, the poor Fairy did not
know what to do. He hopped away, for he could not fly, and pretty soon
he met an old woman.
'Goody,' said he, 'can you tell me what will mend a Fairy's broken
'Is it your wing that is broken?' asked the old woman.
'Yes,' said the Fairy, speaking very sadly.
'There is only one thing,' said the old woman. 'If you can find a
girl who has never said a cross word in her life, and she will put the
pieces together, and hold them tight, and say, Ram shackla alla
balla ba, three times, it will mend in a minute.'
So the Fairy thanked her, and went his way, dragging the poor wing
behind him. By and by he came to a wood, and there in front of a little
house was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. Her eyes were as blue
as, as blue asas the edges of mother's company saucers! And her hair,
which was the color of gold, curled down to her feet.
'A girl with hair and eyes like that couldn't say a cross word to
save her life,' thought the Fairy. He was just going to speak to her.
She couldn't see him, you know, because he was indivisible
'Invisible,' you mean, interrupted Reuben.
Oh, Reuben, don't stop her! See how the tallow is running down the
side of the candle! She'll never have time to finish, put in Cynthia,
I meant 'invisible,' of course, went on Eunice, speaking fast.
Well, just then a woman came out of the house. It was the pretty
'Estella,' she said, 'I want you to go for the cows, because your
father is sick.'
'Oh, bother!' said the pretty girl. 'I don't want to! I hate going
for cows. I wish father wouldn't go and get sick!' Just think of a
girl's speaking like that to her mother! And the Fairy sighed, for he
thought, 'My wing won't get mended here,' and he hopped away.
By and by he came to a house in another wood, and there was another
girl. She wasn't pretty at all. She had short stubby brown hair like
Cynthia's, and a turn-up nose like me, and her freckles were as big as
Reuben's, but she looked nice and kind.
The Fairy didn't have much hope that a girl who was as homely as
that could mend wings. But while he was waiting, another woman came
out. It was the turned-up-nose girl's mother, and she said, 'I want you
to go for the cows to-night, because your father has broken his leg.'
And the girl smiled just as sweet, and she said, 'Yes, mother, I'll
be glad to go.'
Then the Fairy rejoiced, and he came forward and saidOh, dear!
This was not what the Fairy said, but what Eunice said; for at that
moment the little candle went out.
Well, I am glad you got as far as you did, whispered Cynthia, for
I guess the turned-up-nose girl could mend the wing. Now, Reuby, if
you'll go into your room I'll not be two minutes. And then you can
light my candle.
In less than two minutes all was ready. This time there were two
little girls in bed, and Reuben sat alone at the foot, ready to listen.
My story, began Cynthia, is about that girl in the window-pane in
the ell. Her name was Mercy Marsh, and she lived in this house.
Is it true? asked Eunice.
No, it's made up, but I'm going to make believe that it's true. She
slept in the corn chamber,it was a bedroom then,and she had that
yellow painted bedstead of Hepzibah's.
There was a hiding-place under the floor of the room. It was made
to put things in when Indians came, or the English,money and spoons,
and things like that.
One day when Mercy was spinning under the big elm, a man came
running down the road. He was a young man, and very handsome, and he
had on a sort of uniform.
'Hide me!' he cried. 'They will kill me if they catch me. Hide me,
'Who will kill you?' asked Mercy.
Then the young man told her that he had accidentally shot a man who
was out hunting with him, and that the man's brothers, who were very
bad people, had sworn to have his blood.
Then Mercy took his hand, and led him quickly up to her room, and
lifted the cover of the hiding-place, and told him to get in. And he
got in, but first he said, 'Fair maiden, if I come out alive, I shall
have somewhat to say to thee.' And Mercy blushed.
What did he mean? asked Eunice, innocently.
Oh, just love-making and nonsense! put in Reuben. Hurry up,
Cynthia! Come to the fighting. The candle's all but burned out.
There isn't going to be any fighting, returned Cynthia. Well,
Mercy pulled the bedside carpet over the cover, and she set that red
candle-stand on one corner of it and a chair on the other corner, and
went back to her spinning. She had hardly begun before there was a
rustling in the bushes, and two men with guns in their hands came out.
'Which way did he go?' they shouted.
'Who?' she said, and she looked up so quietly that they never
'Has no one gone by?' they asked her.
'No one,' she said; and you know this wasn't a lie, for the young
man did not go by. He stopped!
'There is the back door open,' she went on, 'and you are welcome to
search, if you desire it. My father is away, but he will be here soon.'
She said this because she feared the men.
So the men searched, but they found nothing, and Mercy's room
looked so neat and peaceful that they did not like to disturb it, and
just looked in at the door. And when they were gone, Mercy went up and
raised the cover, and the youth said that he loved her, and that if the
Lord willed, he
Pop! The second candle went suddenly out.
It's a shame! cried Reuben, dancing with vexation. It seems as if
the blamed things knew when we most wanted them to last!
Oh, Reuben! don't say 'blamed.'
I forgot. Well, blame-worthy, then. There's no harm in that.
We shall never know if the young man married Mercy, said little
Oh, of course he did! That's the way stories always end.
Now, Reuben, hurry to bed, and when you are all ready, light your
candle, and if you speak loud we shall hear every word.
This was Reuben's story: Once there was a Ghost. He had committed a
murder, and that was the reason he had to go alone and fly about on
cold nights in a white shirt.
He used to look in at windows and see people sitting by fires, and
envy them. And he would moan and chatter his teeth, and then they would
say that he was the wind.
Oh, Reuben! is it going to be very awful? demanded Cynthia,
Not very. Only just enough to half-scare you to death! He would put
his hand out when girls stood by the door, and they would feel as if a
whole pitcher of cold water had been poured down their backs.
Once a boy came to the door. He was the son of the murdered man.
The Ghost was afraid of him. 'Thomas!' said the Ghost.
'Who speaks?' said the boy. He couldn't have heard if he hadn't
been the son of the murdered man.
'I'm the Ghost of your father's slayer,' said the Ghost. 'Tell me
what I can do to be forgiven.'
'I don't think you can be forgiven,' said the boy. Then the Ghost
gave such a dreadful groan that the boy felt sorry for him.
'I'll tell you, then,' he said. 'Go to my father's grave, and lay
upon it a perfectly white blackberry, and a perfectly black snowdrop,
and a valuable secret, and a hair from the head of a really happy
person, and you shall be forgiven!'
So the Ghost set out to find these four things. He had to bleach
the blackberry and dye the snowdrop, and he got the hair from the head
of a little baby who happened to be born with hair and hadn't had time
to be unhappy, and the secret was about a goldmine that only the Ghost
knew about. But just as he was laying them on the grave, a cold hand
clutched The sentence ended in a three-fold shriek, for just at this
exciting juncture the last candle went out.
Children, said Mrs. Marsh, opening the door, I'm afraid you've
been frightening yourselves with your stories. That was foolish. I am
glad there are no more little candles. Now, not another word to-night.
She straightened the tossed coverlids, heard their prayers, and went
away. In a few minutes all that remained of the long-anticipated treat
were three little drops of tallow where three little candles had quite
burned out, three stories not quite told, and three children fast
UNCLE AND AUNT.
Uncle and Aunt were a very dear and rather queer old couple, who
lived in one of the small villages which dot the long indented coast of
Long Island Sound. It was four miles to the railway, so the village had
not waked up from its colonial sleep on the building of the line, as
had other villages nearer to its course, but remained the same shady,
quiet place, with never a steam-whistle nor a manufactory bell to break
Sparlings-Neck was the name of the place. No hotel had ever been
built there, so no summer visitors came to give it a fictitious air of
life for a few weeks of the year. The century-old elms waved above the
gambrel roofs of the white, green-blinded houses, and saw the same
names on doorplates and knockers that had been there when the century
began: Benjamin, Wilson, Kirkland, Benson, Reinike,there
they all were, with here and there the prefix of a distinguishing
initial, as J. L. Benson, Eleazar Wilson, or Paul Reinike. Paul
Reinike, fourth of the name who had dwelt in that house, was the
Uncle of this story.
Uncle was tall and gaunt and gray, of the traditional New England
type. He had a shrewd, dry face, with wise little wrinkles about the
corners of the eyes, and just a twinkle of fun and a quiet kindliness
in the lines of the mouth. People said the squire was a master-hand at
a bargain. And so he was; but if he got the uttermost penny out of all
legitimate business transactions, he was always ready to give that
penny, and many more, whenever deserving want knocked at his door, or a
good work to be done showed itself distinctly as needing help.
Aunt, too, was a New Englander, but of a slightly different type.
She was the squire's cousin before she became his wife; and she had the
family traits, but with a difference. She was spare, but she was also
very small, and had a distinct air of authority which made her like a
fairy godmother. She was very quiet and comfortable in her ways, but
she was full of faculty,that invaluable endowment which covers such
a multitude of capacities. Nobody's bread or pies were equal to Aunt's.
Her preserves never fermented; her cranberry always jellied; her
sponge-cake rose to heights unattained by her neighbors', and stayed
there, instead of ignominiously flopping when removed from the oven,
like the sponge-cake of inferior housekeepers. Everything in the old
home moved like clock-work. Meals were ready to a minute; the mahogany
furniture glittered like dark-red glass; the tall clock in the entry
was never a tick out of the way; and yet Aunt never appeared to be
particularly busy. To one not conversant with her methods, she gave the
impression of being generally at leisure, sitting in her rocking-chair
in the keeping-room, hemming cap-strings, and reading Emerson, for
Aunt liked to keep up with the thought of the day.
Hesse declared that either she sat up and did things after the rest
of the family had gone to bed, or else that she kept a Brownie to work
for her; but Hesse was a saucy child, and Aunt only smiled indulgently
at these sarcasms.
Hesse was the only young thing in the shabby old home; for, though
it held many handsome things, it was shabby. Even the cat was a sober
matron. The old white mare had seen almost half as many years as her
master. The very rats and mice looked gray and bearded when you caught
a glimpse of them. But Hesse was youth incarnate, and as refreshing in
the midst of the elderly stillness which surrounded her as a frolicsome
puff of wind, or a dancing ray of sunshine. She had come to live with
Uncle and Aunt when she was ten years old; she was now nearly eighteen,
and she loved the quaint house and its quainter occupants with her
Hesse's odd name, which had been her mother's, her grandmother's,
and her great-grandmother's before her, was originally borrowed from
that of the old German town whence the first Reinike had emigrated to
America. She had not spent quite all of the time at Sparlings-Neck
since her mother died. There had been two years at boarding-school,
broken by long vacations, and once she had made a visit in New York to
her mother's cousin, Mrs. De Lancey, who considered herself a sort of
joint guardian over Hesse, and was apt to send a frock or a hat, now
and then, as the fashions changed; that the child might not look
exactly like Noah, and Mrs. Noah, and the rest of the people in the
ark, she told her daughter. This visit to New York had taken place
when Hesse was about fifteen; now she was to make another. And, just as
this story opens, she and Aunt were talking over her wardrobe for the
I shall give you this China-crape shawl, said Aunt, decisively.
Hesse looked admiringly, but a little doubtfully, at the soft,
clinging fabric, rich with masses of yellow-white embroidery.
I am afraid girls don't wear shawls now, she ventured to say.
My dear, said Aunt, a handsome thing is always handsome; never
mind if it is not the last novelty, put it on, all the same. The
Reinikes can wear what they like, I hope! They certainly know better
what is proper than these oil-and-shoddy people in New York that we
read about in the newspapers. Now, here is my India shawl,unpinning
a towel, and shaking out a quantity of dried rose-leaves. I lend
you this; not give it, you understand.
[Illustration: I shall give you this China-crape shawl, said aunt,
Thank you, Aunt, dear. Hesse was secretly wondering what Cousin
Julia and the girls would say to the India shawl.
You must have a pelisse, of some sort, continued her aunt; but
perhaps your Cousin De Lancey can see to that. Though I might
have Miss Lewis for a day, and cut over that handsome camlet of mine.
It's been lying there in camphor for fifteen years, of no use to
Oh, but that would be a pity! cried Hesse, with innocent wiliness.
The girls are all wearing little short jackets now, trimmed with fur,
or something like that; it would be a pity to cut up that great cloak
to make a little bit of a wrap for me.
Fur? said her aunt, catching at the word; the very thing! How
will this do? dragging out of the camphor-chest an enormous cape,
which seemed made of tortoise-shell cats, so yellow and brown and
mottled was it. Won't this do for a trimming, or would you rather have
it as it is?
I shall have to ask Cousin Julia, replied Hesse. Oh, Aunt, dear,
don't give me any more! You really mustn't! You are robbing yourself of
everything! For Aunt was pulling out yards of yellow lace, lengths of
sash ribbon of faded colors and wonderful thickness, strange,
And here's your grandmother's wedding-gownand mine! she said;
you had better take them both. I have little occasion for dress here,
and I like you to have them, Hesse. Say no more about it, my dear.
There was never any gainsaying Aunt, so Hesse departed for New York
with her trunk full of antiquated finery, sage-green and pale-colored
silks that would almost stand alone; Mechlin lace, the color of a
spring buttercup; hair rings set with pearls, and brooches such as no
one sees, nowadays, outside of a curiosity shop. Great was the
amusement which the unpacking caused in Madison Avenue.
Yet the things are really handsome, said Mrs. De Lancey, surveying
the fur cape critically. This fur is queer and old-timey, but it will
make quite an effective trimming. As for this crape shawl, I have an
idea: you shall have an overdress made of it, Hesse. It will be lovely
with a silk slip. You may laugh, Pauline, but you will wish you had one
like it when you see Hesse in hers. It only needs a little taste in
adapting, and fortunately these quaint old things are just coming into
Pauline, a pretty girl,modern to her fingertipsheld up a square
brooch, on which, under pink glass, shone a complication of initials in
gold, the whole set in a narrow twisted rim of pearls and garnets, and
How do you propose to 'adapt' this, Mamma?
Oh, cried Hesse, I wouldn't have that 'adapted' for the world! It
must stay just as it is. It belonged to my grandmother, and it has a
love-story connected with it.
A love-story! Oh, tell it to us! said Grace, the second of the De
Why, explained Hesse; you see, my grandmother was once engaged to
a man named John Sherwood. He was a 'beautiful young man,' Aunt says;
but very soon after they were engaged, he fell ill with consumption,
and had to go to Madeira. He gave Grandmamma that pin before he sailed.
See, there are his initials, 'J. S.,' and hers, 'H. L. R.,' for Hesse
Lee Reinike, you know. He gave her a copy of 'Thomas à Kempis' besides,
with 'The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee
and me,' written on the title-page. I have the book, too; Uncle gave it
to me for my own.
And did he ever come back? asked Pauline.
No, answered Hesse. He died in Madeira, and was buried there; and
quite a long time afterward, Grandmamma married my grandfather. I'm so
fond of that queer old brooch, I like to wear it sometimes.
How does it look? demanded Pauline.
You shall see for yourself, for I'll wear it to-night, said Hesse.
And when Hesse came down to dinner with the quaint ornament shining
against her white neck on a bit of black velvet ribbon, even Pauline
owned that the effect was not bad,queer, of course, and unlike other
people's things, but certainly not bad.
Mrs. De Lancey had a quick eye for character, and she noted with
satisfaction that her young cousin was neither vexed at, nor affected
by, her cousins' criticisms on her outfit. Hesse saw for herself that
her things were unusual, and not in the prevailing style, but she knew
them to be handsome of their kind, and she loved them as a part of her
old home. There was, too, in her blood a little of the family pride
which had made Aunt say, The Reinikes know what is proper, I hope. So
she wore her odd fur and made-over silks and the old laces with no
sense of being ill-dressed, and that very fact carried it off, and
made her seem well dressed. Cousin Julia saw that her wardrobe was
sufficiently modernized not to look absurd, or attract too much
attention, and there was something in Hesse's face and figure which
suited the character of her clothes. People took notice of this or
that, now and again,said it was pretty, and where could they get such
a thing?and, flattery of flatteries, some of the girls copied her
Estelle Morgan says, if you don't mind, she means to have a
ball-dress exactly like that blue one of yours, Pauline told her one
Oh, how funny! Aunt's wedding-gown made up with surah! cried
Hesse. Do you remember how you laughed at the idea, Polly, and said it
would be horrid?
Yes, and I did think so, said Polly; but somehow it looks very
nice on you. When it is hanging up in the closet, I don't care much for
Well, luckily, no one need look at it when it is hanging up in the
closet, retorted Hesse, laughing.
Her freshness, her sweet temper, and bright capacity for enjoyment
had speedily made Hesse a success among the young people of her
cousins' set. Girls liked her, and ran after her as a social favorite;
and she had flowers and german favors and flatteries enough to spoil
her, had she been spoilable. But she kept a steady head through all
these distractions, and never forgot, however busy she might be, to
send off the long journal-letter, which was the chief weekly event to
Uncle and Aunt.
Three months had been the time fixed for Hesse's stay in New York,
but, without her knowledge, Mrs. De Lancey had written to beg for a
little extension. Gayeties thickened as Lent drew near, and there was
one special fancy dress ball, at Mrs. Shuttleworth's, about which Hesse
had heard a great deal, and which she had secretly regretted to lose.
She was, therefore, greatly delighted at a letter from Aunt, giving her
leave to stay a fortnight longer.
Uncle will come for you on Shrove-Tuesday, wrote her Aunt. He has
some business to attend to, so he will stay over till Thursday, and you
can take your pleasure till the last possible moment.
How lovely! cried Hesse. How good of you to write, Cousin Julia,
and I am so pleased to go to Mrs. Shuttleworth's ball!
What will you wear? asked Pauline.
Oh, I haven't thought of that, yet. I must invent something, for I
don't wish to buy another dress, I have had so many things already.
Now, Hesse, you can't invent anything. It's impossible to make a
fancy dress out of the ragbag, said Pauline, whose ideas were all of
an expensive kind.
We shall see, said Hesse. I think I shall keep my costume as a
surprise,except from you, Cousin Julia. I shall want you to help me,
but none of the others shall know anything about it till I come
This was a politic move on the part of Hesse. She was resolved to
spend no money, for she knew that her winter had cost more than Uncle
had expected, and more than it might be convenient for him to spare;
yet she wished to avert discussion and remonstrance, and at the same
time to prevent Mrs. De Lancey from giving her a new dress, which was
very often that lady's easy way of helping Hesse out of her toilet
difficulties. So a little seamstress was procured, and Cousin Julia
taken into counsel. Hesse kept her door carefully locked for a day or
two; and when, on the evening of the party, she came down attired as
My great-grandmother, in a short-waisted, straight-skirted white
satin; with a big ante-revolutionary hat tied under her dimpled chin; a
fichu of mull, embroidered in colored silks, knotted across her breast;
long white silk mittens, and a reticule of pearl beads hanging from her
girdle,even Pauline could find no fault. The costume was as becoming
as it was queer; and all the girls told Hesse that she had never looked
so well in her life.
Eight or ten particular friends of Pauline and Grace had arranged to
meet at the De Lanceys', and all start together for the ball. The room
was quite full of gay figures as My great-grandmother came down; it
was one of those little moments of triumph which girls prize. The
door-bell rang as she slowly turned before the throng, to exhibit the
back of the wonderful gored and plaited skirt. There was a little
colloquy in the hall, the butler opened the door, and in walked a
figure which looked singularly out of place among the pretty,
fantastic, girlish forms,a tall, spare, elderly figure, in a coat of
old-fashioned cut. A carpet-bag was in his hand. He was no other than
Uncle, come a day before he was expected.
His entrance made a little pause.
What an extraordinary-looking person! whispered Maud Ashurst to
Pauline, who colored, hesitated, and did not, for a moment, know what
to do. Hesse, standing with her back to the door, had seen nothing;
but, struck by the silence, she turned. A meaner nature than hers might
have shared Pauline's momentary embarrassment, but there was not a mean
fibre in the whole of Hesse's frank, generous being.
Uncle! dear Uncle! she cried; and, running forward, she threw her
arms around the lean old neck, and gave him half a dozen of her warmest
It is my uncle, she explained to the others. We didn't expect him
till to-morrow; and isn't it too delightful that he should come in time
to see us all in our dresses!
Then she drew him this way and that, introducing him to all her
particular friends, chattering, dimpling, laughing with such evident
enjoyment, such an assured sense that it was the pleasantest thing
possible to have her uncle there, that every one else began to share
it. The other girls, who, with a little encouragement, a little reserve
and annoyed embarrassment on the part of Hesse, would have voted Uncle
a countrified old quiz, and, while keeping up the outward forms of
civility, would have despised him in their hearts, infected by Hesse's
sweet happiness, began to talk to him with the wish to please, and
presently to discover how pleasant his face was, and how shrewd and
droll his ideas and comments; and it ended by all pronouncing him an
old dear,so true it is that genuine and unaffected love and respect
carry weight with them for all the rest of the world.
Uncle was immensely amused by the costumes. He recalled the fancy
balls of his youth, and gave the party some ideas on dress which had
never occurred to any of them before. He could not at all understand
the principle of selection on which the different girls had chosen
their various characters.
That gypsy queen looked as if she ought to be teaching a
Sunday-school, he told Hesse afterward. Little Red Riding Hood was
too big for her wolf; and as for that scampish little nun of yours, I
don't believe the stoutest convent ever built could hold her in for
half a day.
Come with us to Mrs. Shuttleworth's. It will be a pretty scene, and
something for you to tell Cousin Marianne about when you go back,
urged Mrs. De Lancey.
Oh, do, do! chimed in Hesse. It will be twice as much fun if you
are there, Uncle!
But Uncle was tired by his journey, and would not consent; and I am
afraid that Pauline and Grace were a little relieved by his decision.
False shame and the fear of people are powerful influences.
Three days later, Hesse's long, delightful visit ended, and she was
speeding home under Uncle's care.
You must write and invite some of those fine young folk to come up
to see you in June, he told her.
That will be delightful, said Hesse. But when she came to think
about it later, she was not so sure about its being delightful.
There is nothing like a long absence from home to open one's eyes to
the real aspect of familiar things. The Sparlings-Neck house looked
wofully plain and old-fashioned, even to Hesse, when contrasted with
the elegance of Madison Avenue; how much more so, she reflected, would
it look to the girls!
She thought of Uncle's after-dinner pipe; of the queer little
chamber, opening from the dining-room, where he and Aunt chose to
sleep; of the green-painted woodwork of the spare bedrooms, and the
blue paper-shades, tied up with a cord, which Aunt clung to because
they were in fashion when she was a girl; and for a few foolish moments
she felt that she would rather not have her friends come at all, than
have them come to see all this, and perhaps make fun of it. Only for a
few moments; then her more generous nature asserted itself with a
How mean of me to even think of such a thing! she told herself,
indignantly,to feel ashamed to have people know what my own home is
like, and Uncle and Aunt, who are so good to me! Hesse Reinike, I
should like to hire some one to give you a good whipping! The girls
shall come, and I'll make the old house look just as sweet as I
can, and they shall like it, and have a beautiful time from the moment
they come till they go away, if I can possibly give it to them.
To punish herself for what she considered an unworthy feeling, she
resolved not to ask Aunt to let her change the blue paper-shades for
white curtains, but to have everything exactly as it usually was. But
Aunt had her own ideas and her pride of housekeeping to consider. As
the time of the visit drew near, laundering and bleaching seemed to be
constantly going on, and Jane, the old housemaid, was kept busy tacking
dimity valances and fringed hangings on the substantial four-post
bedsteads, and arranging fresh muslin covers over the toilet-tables.
Treasures unknown to Hesse were drawn out of their receptacles,bits
of old embroidery, tamboured tablecloths and crazy quilts, vases and
bow-pots of pretty old china for the bureaus and chimney-pieces. Hesse
took a long drive to the woods, and brought back great masses of ferns,
pink azalea, and wild laurel. All the neighbors' gardens were laid
under contribution. When all was in order, with ginger-jars full of
cool white daisies and golden buttercups standing on the shining
mahogany tables, bunches of blue lupines on the mantel, the
looking-glasses wreathed with traveller's joy, a great bowl full of
early roses and quantities of lilies-of-the-valley, the old house
looked cosey enough and smelt sweet enough to satisfy the most
Hesse drove over with Uncle to the station to meet her guests. They
took the big carryall, which, with squeezing, would hold seven; and a
wagon followed for the luggage. There were five girls coming; for,
besides Pauline and Grace, Hesse had invited Georgie Berrian, Maud
Ashurst, and Ella Waring, who were the three special favorites among
her New York friends.
The five flocked out of the train, looking so dainty and stylish
that they made the old carryall seem shabbier than ever by contrast.
Maud Ashurst cast one surprised look at it and at the old white
mare,she had never seen just such a carriage before; but the quality
of the equipage was soon forgotten, as Uncle twitched the reins, and
they started down the long lane-like road which led to Sparlings-Neck
and was Hesse's particular delight.
The station and the dusty railroad were forgotten almost
immediately,lost in the sense of complete country freshness. On
either hand rose tangled banks of laurel and barberries, sweet-ferns
and budding grapevines, overarched by tall trees, and sending out
delicious odors; while mingling with and blending all came, borne on a
shoreward wind, the strong salt fragrance of the sea.
What is it? What can it be? I never smelt anything like it! cried
the girls from the city.
Now, girls, cried Hesse, turning her bright face around from the
driver's seat, this is real, absolute country, you know,none of the
make-believes which you get at Newport or up the Hudson. Everything we
have is just as queer and old-fashioned as it can be. You won't be
asked to a single party while you are here, and there isn't the ghost
of a young man in the neighborhood. Well, yes, there may be a ghost,
but there is no young man. You must just make up your minds, all of
you, to a dull time, and then you'll find that it's lovely.
It's sure to be lovely wherever you are, you dear thing! declared
Ella Waring, with a little rapturous squeeze.
I fancy that, just at first, the city girls did think the place very
queer. None of them had ever seen just such an old house as the
Reinikes' before. The white wainscots with their toothed mouldings
matched by the cornices above, the droll little cupboards in the walls,
the fire-boards pasted with gay pictures, the queer closets and
clothes-presses occurring just where no one would naturally have looked
for them, and having, each and all, an odd shut-up odor, as of by-gone
days,all seemed very strange to them. But the flowers and the green
elms and Hesse's warm welcome were delightful; so were Aunt's waffles
and wonderful tarts, the strawberries smothered in country cream, and
the cove oysters and clams which came in, deliciously stewed, for tea;
and they soon pronounced the visit a lark, and Sparlings-Neck a
There were long drives in the woods, picnics in the pine groves,
bathing-parties on the beach, morning sittings under the trees with an
interesting book; and when a northeaster came, and brought with it what
seemed a brief return of winter, there was a crackling fire, a
candy-pull, and a charming evening spent in sitting on the floor
telling ghost-stories, with the room only lighted by the fitfully
blazing wood, and with cold creeps running down their backs!
Altogether, the fortnight was a complete success, and every one saw its
end with reluctance.
I wish we were going to stay all summer! said Georgie Berrian.
Newport will seem stiff and tiresome after this.
I never had so good a time,never! declared Ella. And, Hesse, I
do think your aunt and uncle are the dearest old people I ever saw!
That pleased Hesse most of all. But what pleased her still more was
when, after the guests were gone, and the house restored to its old
order, and the regular home life begun again, Uncle put his arm around
her, and gave her a kiss,not a bedtime kiss, or one called for by any
special occasion, but an extra kiss, all of his own accord.
A dear child, he said; not a bit ashamed of the old folks, was
she? I liked that, Hesse.
Ashamed of you and Aunt? I should think not! answered Hesse, with
Uncle gave a dry little chuckle.
Well, well, he said, some girls would have been; you
weren't,that's all the difference. You're a good child, Hesse.
THE CORN-BALL MONEY, AND WHAT BECAME
Dotty and Dimple were two little sisters, who looked so much alike
that most people took them for twins. They both had round faces, blue
eyes, straight brown hair, cut short in the neck, and cheeks as firm
and pink as fall apples; and, though Dotty was eleven months the
oldest, Dimple was the taller by half an inch, so that altogether it
was very confusing.
I don't believe any twins could love each other better than did
these little girls. Nobody ever heard them utter a quarrelsome word
from the time they waked in the morning, and began to chatter and
giggle in bed like two little squirrels, to the moment when they fell
asleep at night, with arms tight clasped round each other's necks. They
liked the same things, did the same things, and played together all day
long without being tired. Their father's farm was two miles from the
nearest neighbor, and three from the schoolhouse; so they didn't go to
school, and no little boys and girls ever came to see them.
Should you think it would be lonely to live so? Dotty and Dimple
didn't. They had each other for playmates, and all outdoors to play in,
and that was enough.
The farm was a wild, beautiful spot. A river ran round two sides of
it; and quite near the house it met with an accident, as Dotty said;
that is, it tumbled over some high rocks in a waterfall, and then,
picking itself up, took another jump, and landed, all white and
foaming, in a deep wooded glen.
The water where it fell was dazzling with rainbows, like
soap-bubbles; and the pool at the bottom had the color of a green
emerald, only that all over the top little flakes of sparkling spray
swam and glittered in the sun. Altogether it was a wonderful place, and
the children were never tired of watching the cascade or hearing the
rush and roar of its leap.
All summer long city people, boarding in the village, six miles off,
would drive over to see the fall. This was very interesting, indeed!
Carryalls and big wagons would stop at the gate, and ladies get out,
with pretty round hats and parasols; and gentlemen, carrying canes; and
dear little children, in flounced and braided frocks. And they would
all come trooping up close by the house, on their way to see the view.
Sometimes, but not often, one would stop to get a drink of water or ask
the way. Dotty and Dimple liked very much to have them come. They would
hide, and peep out at the strangers, and make up all kinds of stories
about them; but they were too shy to come forward or let themselves be
seen. So the people from the city never guessed what bright eyes were
looking at them from behind the door or on the other side of the
bushes. But all the same, it was great fun for the children to have
them come, and they were always pleased when wheels were heard and
wagons drove up to the gate.
It was early last summer that a droll idea popped into Dotty's head.
It all came from a man who, walking past, and stopping to see the fall,
sat down a while to rest, and said to the farmer:
I should think you'd charge people something for looking at that
ere place, stranger.
No, replied Dotty's father. I don't calculate on asking folks
nothing for the use of their eyes.
Well, said the man, getting up to go, you might as well. It's
what folks is doing all over the country. If 't was mine, I'd fix up a
lunch or something, and fetch 'em that way.
But the farmer only laughed. That night, when Dotty and Dimple were
in bed, they began to whisper to each other about the man.
Wasn't it funny, giggled Dimple, his telling Pa to fix a lunch?
Yes, said Dotty. But I'll tell you what, Dimple! when he said
that, I had such a nice plan come into my head. You know you and me can
make real nice corn-balls.
'Course we can.
Well, let's get Pa, or else Zach, to make us a little table,out
of boards, you know; and let's put it on the bank, close to the place
where folks go to see the fall; and every day let's pop a lot of corn,
and make some balls, and set them on the table for the folks to eat.
Don't you think that would be nice?
I'm afraid Mother wouldn't let us have so much molasses, said the
Oh, but don't you see I mean to have the folks pay for 'em!
We'll put a paper on the table, with 'two cents apiece,' or something
like that, on it. And then they'll put the money on the table, and when
they're gone away we'll go and fetch it. Won't that be fun? Perhaps
there'd be a great, great deal,most as much as a dollar!
Oh, no, cried Dimple, not so much as that! But we might
get a greenback. How much is a greenback, Dot?
Oh, I don't know, replied Dotty. A good deal, I know, but I guess
it isn't so much as a dollar.
The little sisters could hardly sleep that night, they were so
excited over their plan. Next morning they were up with the birds; and
before breakfast Mother, Father, and Zach, the hired man, had heard all
about the wonderful scheme.
Mother said she didn't mind letting them try; and Zach, who was very
fond of the children, promised to make the table the very first thing
after the big field was ploughed. And so he did; and a very nice table
it was, with four legs and a good stout top. Dotty and Dimple laughed
with pleasure when they saw it.
Zach set it on the bank just at the place where the people stood to
look at the view; and he drove a stake at each corner; and found some
old sheeting, and made a sort of tent over the table, so that the sun
should not shine under and melt the corn-balls. When it was all
arranged, and the table set out, with the corn-balls on one plate and
maple-sugar cakes on another, it looked very tempting, and the children
were extremely proud of it. Dotty cut a sheet of paper, and printed
upon it the following notice:
Corn bals 2 sents apece.
Sugar 1 sent apece.
Plese help yure selfs and put the munney
on the table.
This was pinned to the tent, right over the table.
The first day four people came to visit the waterfall; and when the
children ran down to look, after they had driven away, half the
provisions were gone, and there on the table lay four shining five-cent
pieces! The next day was not so good; they only made four cents. And so
it went on all summer. Some days a good many people would come, and a
good many pennies be left on the table; and other days nobody would
come, and the wasps would eat the maple-sugar, and fly away without
paying anything at all. But little by little the tin box in Mother's
drawer got heavier and heavier, until at last, early in October, Dotty
declared that she was tired of making corn-balls, and she guessed the
city-folks were all gone home; and now wouldn't Mother please to count
the money, and see how much they had got?
So Mother emptied the tin box into her lap, with a great jingle of
pennies and rustling of fractional currency. And how much do you think
there was? Three dollars and seventy-eight cents! The seventy-eight
cents Mother said would just about pay for the molasses; so there were
three dollars all their own,for Dotty and Dimple to spend as they
You should have seen them dance about the kitchen! Three dollars!
Why, it was a fortune! It would buy everything in the world! They had
fifty plans, at least, for spending it; and sat up so late talking them
over, and had such red cheeks and excited eyes, that Mother said she
was afraid they wouldn't sleep one wink all night. But, bless you! they
did, and were as bright as buttons in the morning.
For a week there was nothing talked about but the wonderful three
dollars. And then one evening Father, who had been over to the village,
came home with a very grave face, and, drawing a newspaper from his
pocket, read them all about the great fire in Chicago.
He read how the flames, spreading like wind, swept from one house to
another, and how people had just time to run out of their homes,
leaving everything to burn; how women, with babies in their arms, and
frightened children crouched all that dreadful night out on the cold,
wet prairie, without food or clothes or shelter; how little boys and
girls ran through the burning streets, crying for the parents whom they
could not find; how everybody had lost everything.
Oh, said Dimple, almost crying, as she listened to the piteous
story, how dreadful those little girls must feel! And I suppose all
their dollies are burned up too. I wouldn't have Nancy burned in a fire
for anything! and, picking up an old doll, of whom she was very fond,
she hugged her with unspeakable affection.
That night there was another long, mysterious confabulation in the
children's bed; and, coming down in the morning, hand in hand, Dotty
and Dimple announced that they had made up their minds what to do with
the corn-ball money.
We're going to send it to the Sicago, said Dimple, to those poor
little girls whose dollies are all burned up!
How will you send it? asked their Mother.
In a letter, said Dotty. And please, Pa, write on the outside:
'From Dotty and Dimple, to buy some dollies for the little girls whose
dollies were burned up in the fire.'
So their father put the money into an envelope, and wrote on the
outside just what Dotty said. And, when he had got through, he put his
hands in his pockets and walked out of the room. The children wondered
what made his face so red, and when they turned round, there was Mother
with tears in her eyes.
Why, what's the matter? cried they. But their Mother only put her
arms round them and kissed them very hard. And she whispered to
herself: Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
THE PRIZE GIRL OF THE HARNESSING
It was the day before Thanksgiving, but the warmth of a late Indian
summer lay over the world, and tempered the autumn chill into mildness
more like early October than late November. Elsie Thayer, driving her
village cart rapidly through the Long Woods, caught herself vaguely
wondering why the grass was not greener, and what should set the leaves
to tumbling off the trees in such an unsummer-like fashion,then
smiled at herself for being so forgetful.
The cart was packed full; for, besides Elsie herself, it held a bag
of sweet potatoes, a sizable bundle or two, and a large market-basket,
from which protruded the unmistakable legs of a turkey, not to mention
a choice smaller basket covered with a napkin. All these were going to
the little farmstead in which dwelt Mrs. Ann Sparrow, Elsie's nurse in
childhood, and the most faithful and kindly of friends ever since.
Elsie always made sure that Nursey had a good Thanksgiving dinner,
and generally carried it herself.
The day was so delightful that it seemed almost a pity that the pony
should trot so fast. One would willingly have gone slowly, tasting drop
by drop, as it were, the lovely sunshine filtering through the yellow
beech boughs, the unexpected warmth, and the balmy spice of the air,
which had in it a tinge of smoky haze. But the day before Thanksgiving
is sure to be a busy one with New England folk; Elsie had other tasks
awaiting her, and she knew that Nursey would not be content with a
Hurry up, little Jack! she said. You shall have a long rest
presently, if you are a good boy, and some nice fresh grass,if I can
find any; anyway, a little drink of water. So make haste.
Jack made haste. The yellow wheels of the cart spun in and out of
the shadow like circles of gleaming sun. When the two miles were
achieved, and the little clearing came into view, Elsie slackened her
pace: she wanted to take Nursey by surprise. Driving straight to a
small open shed, she deftly unharnessed the pony, tied him with a
liberal allowance of halter, hung up the harness, and wheeled the cart
away from his heels, all with the ease which is born of practice. She
then gathered a lapful of brown but still nourishing grasses for Jack,
and was about to lift the parcels from the wagon when she was espied by
Out she came, hurrying and flushed with pleasure,the dearest old
woman, with pink, wrinkled cheeks like a perfectly baked apple, and a
voice which still retained its pleasant English tones, after sixty long
years in America.
Well, Missy, dear, so it's you. I made sure you'd come, and had
been watching all the morning; but somehow I missed you when you drove
up, and it was just by haccident like, that I looked out of window and
see you in the shed. You're looking well, Missy. That school hasn't
hurt you a bit. Just the same nice color in your cheeks as ever. I was
that troubled when I heard you wa'n't coming home last summer, for I
thought maybe you was ill; but your mother she said 'twas all right,
and just for your pleasure, and I see it was so. Why,her voice
changing to consternation,if you haven't unharnessed the horse! Now,
Missy, how came you to do that? You forgot there wasn't no one about
but me. Who's to put him in for you, I wonder?
Oh, I don't want any one. I can harness the pony myself.
Oh, Missy, dear, you mustn't do that! I couldn't let you. It's real
hard to harness a horse. You'd make some mistake, and then there'd be a
Nonsense, Nursey! I've harnessed Jack once this morning already;
it's just as easy to do it twice. I'm a member of a Harnessing Class,
I'd have you to know; and, what's more, I took the prize!
Now, Missy, dear, whatever do you mean by that? Young ladies learn
to harness! I never heard of such a thing in my life! In my young time,
in England, they learned globes and langwidges, and, it might be, to
paint in oils and such, and make nice things in chenille.
I'll tell you all about it, but first let us carry these things up
to the house. Here's your Thanksgiving turkey, Nursey,with Mother's
love. Papa sent you the sweet potatoes and the cranberries; and the
oranges and figs and the pumpkin pie are from me. I made the pie
myself. That's another of the useful things that I learned to do at my
The master is very kind, Missy; and so is your mother; and I'm
thankful to you all. But that's a queer school of yours, it seems to
me. For my part, I never heard of young ladies learning such things as
cooking and harnessing at boarding-schools.
Oh, we learn arts and languages, too,that part of our education
isn't neglected. Now, Nursey, we'll put these things in your buttery,
and you shall give me a glass of nice cold milk; and while I drink it
I'll tell you about Rosemary Hall,that's the name of the school, you
know; and it's the dearest, nicest place you can think of.
Very likely, Miss Elsie, in an unconvinced tone; but still I
don't see any reason why they should set you to making pies and
Oh, that's just at odd times, by way of fun and pleasure; it isn't
lessons, you know. You see, Mrs. Thanetthat's a rich lady who lives
close by, and is a sort of fairy godmother to us girlshas a great
notion about practical education. It was she who got up the Harnessing
Class and the Model Kitchen. It's the dearest little place you ever
saw, Nursey, with a perfect stove, and shelves, and hooks for
everything; and such bright tins, and the prettiest of old-fashioned
crockery! It's just like a picture. We girls were always squabbling
over whose turn should come first. You can't think how much I learned
there, Nursey! I learned to make a pie, and clear out a grate, and
scour saucepans, and, counting on her fingers, to make bread, rolls,
minute-biscuit, coffee,delicious coffee, Nursey!good soup, creamed
oysters, and pumpkin-pies and apple-pies! Just wait, and you shall
She jumped up, ran into the buttery, and soon returned, carrying a
triangle of pie on a plate.
It isn't Thanksgiving yet, I know; but there is no law against
eating pumpkin-pie the day before, so please, Nursey, taste this and
see if you don't call it good. Papa says it makes him think of his
mother's pies, when he was a little boy.
Indeed, and it is good, Missy, dear; and I won't deny but cooking
may be well for you to know; but for that otherthe harnessing class,
as you call it,I don't see the sense of that at all, Missy.
Oh, Nursey, indeed there is a great deal of sense in it. Mrs.
Thanet says it might easily happen, in the country especially,if any
one was hurt or taken very ill, you know,that life might depend upon
a girl's knowing how to harness. She had a man teach us, and we
practised and practised, and at the end of the term there was an
exhibition, with a prize for the girl who could harness and unharness
quickest, and I won it! See, here it is!
She held out a slim brown hand, and displayed a narrow gold bangle,
on which was engraved in minute letters, What is worth doing at all,
is worth doing well.
Isn't it pretty? she asked.
Yes, doubtfully. The bracelet is pretty enough, Missy; but I
can't quite like what it stands for. It don't seem ladylike for you to
be knowing about harnesses and such things.
Oh, Nursey, dear, what nonsense!
There were things to be done after she got home, but Elsie could not
hurry her visit. Jack consumed his grass heap, and then stood sleepily
blinking at the flies for a long hour before his young mistress jumped
Now, I must go! she cried. Come out and see me harness up,
It was swiftly and skilfully done, but still Nurse Sparrow shook her
I don't like it! she insisted. 'A horse shall be a vain thing for
safety'that's in Holy Writ.
You are an obstinate old dear, said Elsie, good-humoredly. Wait
till you're ill some day, and I go for the doctor. Then you'll
realize the advantage of practical education. What a queer smell of
smoke there is, Nursey! gathering up her reins.
Yes; the woods has been on fire for quite a spell, back on the
other side of Bald Top. You can smell the smoke most of the time. Seems
to me it's stronger than usual, to-day.
You don't think there is any danger of its coming this way, do
Oh, no! contentedly. I don't suppose it could come so far as
But why not? thought Elsie to herself, as she drove rapidly back.
If the wind were right for it, why shouldn't it come this way? Fires
travel much farther than that on the prairies,and they go very fast,
too. I never did like having Nursey all alone by herself on that farm.
She reached home, to find things in unexpected confusion. Her father
had been called away for the night by a telegram, and her motheron
this, of all dayshad gone to bed, disabled with a bad headache. There
was much to be done, and Elsie flung herself into the breach, and did
it, too busy to think again of Nurse Sparrow and the fire, until,
toward nightfall, she noted that the wind had changed, and was blowing
straight from Bald Top, bringing with it an increase of smoke.
She ran out to consult the hired man before he went home for the
night, and to ask if he thought there was any danger of the fire
reaching the Long Woods. He guessed not.
These fires get going quite often on to the other side of Bald Top,
but there ain't none of 'em come over this way, and 'tain't likely they
ever will. I guess Mis' Sparrow's safe enough. You needn't worry, Miss
In spite of this comforting assurance, Elsie did worry. She looked
out of her west window the last thing before going to bed; and when, at
two in the morning, she woke with a sudden start, her first impulse was
to run to the window again. Then she gave an exclamation, and her heart
stood still with fear; for the southern slopes of Bald Top were ringed
with flames which gleamed dim and lurid through the smoke, and showers
of sparks, thrown high in air, showed that the edges of the woods
beyond Nursey's farm were already burning.
She'll be frightened to death, thought Elsie. Oh, poor dear, and
no one to help her!
What should she do? To go after the man and waken him meant a long
delay. He was a heavy sleeper, and his house was a quarter of a mile
distant. But there was Jack in the stable, and the stable key was in
the hall below. As she dressed, she decided.
How glad I am that I can do this! she thought, as she flung the
harness over the pony's back, strapped, buckled, adjusted,doing all
with a speed which yet left nothing undone and slighted nothing. Not
even on the day when she took the prize had she put her horse in so
quickly. She ran back at the last moment for two warm rugs. Deftly
guiding Jack over the grass, that his hoofs should make no noise, she
gained the road, and, quickening him to his fastest pace, drove
fearlessly into the dark woods.
They were not so dark as she had feared they would be, for the light
of a late, low-hung moon penetrated the trees, with perhaps some
reflections from the far-away fire, so that she easily made out the
turns and windings of the track. The light grew stronger as she
advanced. The main fire was still far distant, but before she reached
Nurse's little clearing, she even drove by one place where the woods
She had expected to find Mrs. Sparrow in an agitation of terror;
but, behold! she was in her bed, sound asleep. Happily, it was easy to
get at her. Nursey's theory was that, if anybody thought it would pay
him to sit up at night and rob an old woman, he'd do it anyway, and
needn't have the trouble of getting in at the window; and on the
strength of this philosophical utterance, she went to bed with the door
on the latch.
She took Elsie for a dream, at first.
I'm just a-dreaming. I ain't a-going to wake up; you needn't think
it, she muttered sleepily.
But when Elsie at last shook her into consciousness, and pointed at
the fiery glow on the horizon, her terror matched her previous
Oh, dear, dear! she wailed, as with trembling, suddenly stiff
fingers she put on her clothes. I'm a-going to be burned out! It's
hard, at my time of life, just when I had got things tidy and
comfortable. I was a-thinking of sending over for my niece to the Isle
of Dogs, and getting her to come and stay with me, I was indeed, Missy.
But there won't be any use in that now.
Perhaps the fire won't come so far as this, after all, said the
Oh, yes, it will! It's 'most here now.
Well, whether it does or not, I'm going to carry you home with me,
where you will be safe. Now, Nursey, tell me which of your things you
care most for, that we can take with us,small things, I mean. Of
course we can't carry tables and beds in my little cart.
The selection proved difficult. Nurse's affections clung to a tall
eight-day clock, and were hard to be detached. She also felt strongly
that it was a clear flying in the face of Providence not to save
Sparrow's chair, a solid structure of cherry, with rockers weighing
many pounds, and quite as wide as the wagon. Elsie coaxed and
remonstrated, and at last got Nursey into the seat, with the cat and a
bundle of her best clothes in her lap, her tea-spoons in her pocket, a
basket of specially beloved baking-tins under the seat, and a favorite
feather-bed at the back, among whose billowy folds were tucked away an
assortment of treasures, ending with the Thanksgiving goodies which had
been brought over that morning.
I can't leave that turkey behind, Missy, dearI really can't!
pleaded Nursey. I've been thinking of him, and anticipating how good
he was going to be, all day; and I haven't had but one taste of your
pie. They're so little, they'll go in anywhere.
The fire seemed startlingly near now, and the western sky was all
aflame, while over against it, in the east, burned the first yellow
beams of dawn. People were astir by this time, and men on foot and
horseback were hurrying toward the burning woods. They stared curiously
at the oddly laden cart.
Why, you didn't ever come over for me all alone! cried Nurse
Sparrow, rousing suddenly to a sense of the situation. I've be'n that
flustered that I never took thought of how you got across, or anything
about it. Where was your Pa, Missy,and Hiram?
Oh, you blessed child; and if you hadn't come, I'd have been burned
in my bed, as like as not! cried the old woman, quite overpowered.
Well, well! little did I think, when you was a baby, and I a-tending
you, that the day was to come when you were to run yourself into danger
for the sake of saving my poor old life!
I don't see that there has been any particular danger for me to
run, so far; and as for saving your life, Nursey, it would very likely
have saved itself if I hadn't come near you. See, the wind has changed;
it is blowing from the north now. Perhaps the fire won't reach your
house, after all. But, anyway, I am glad you are here and not there. We
cannot be too careful of such a dear old Nursey as you are. And one
thing, I think, you'll confess,Elsie's tone was a little
mischievous,and that is, that harnessing classes have their uses. If
I hadn't known how to put Jack in the cart, I might at this moment be
hammering on the door of that stupid Hiram (who, you know, sleeps like
a log) trying to wake him, and you on the clearing alone, scared to
death. Now, Nursey, own up: Mrs. Thanet wasn't so far wrong, now was
Indeed, no, Missy. It'd be very ungrateful for me to be saying
that. The lady judged wiser than I did.
Very well, then, cried Elsie, joyously. If only your house isn't
burned up, I shall be glad the fire happened; for it's such a triumph
for Mrs. Thanet, and she'll be so pleased!
Nursey's house did not burn down. The change of wind came just in
time to save it; and, after eating her own Thanksgiving turkey in her
old home, and being petted and made much of for a few days, she went
back, none the worse for her adventure, to find her goods and chattels
in their usual places, and all safe.
And Mrs. Thanet was pleased. She sent Elsie a pretty locket,
with the date of the fire engraved upon it, and wrote that she gloried
in her as the Vindicator of a Principle, which fine words made Elsie
laugh; but she enjoyed being praised all the same.
A dusty workshop, dark except where one broad ray of light streamed
through a broken shutter, a row of mysterious objects, with a tiny tin
funnel fitted into the front of each, and a cloth over their tops, odd
designs in wood and brass hanging on the wall, a carpenter's bench, a
small furnace, a general strew of shavings, iron scrape, and odds and
ends, and a little girl sitting on the floor, crying. It does not sound
much like the beginning of a story, does it? And no one would have been
more surprised than Amy Carpenter herself if any one had come as she
sat there crying, and told her that a story was begun, and she was in
Yet that is the way in which stories in real life often do begin.
Dust, dulness, every-day things about one, tears, temper; and out of
these unpromising materials Fate weaves a happening for us. She does
not wait till skies are blue and suns shine, till the room is dusted,
and we are all ready, but chooses such time as pleases her, and
Amy was in as evil a temper as little girls of ten are often visited
with. Things had gone very wrong with her that day. It began with a
great disappointment. All Miss Gray's class at school was going on a
picnic. Amy had expected to go too, and at the last moment her mother
had kept her at home.
I'm real sorry about it, Mrs. Carpenter had said, but you see how
it is. Baby's right fretty with his teeth, and your father's that
worried about his machine that I'm afraid he'll be down sick. If we
can't keep Baby quiet, father can't eat, and if he don't eat he won't
sleep, and if he can't sleep he can't work, and then I don't see what
will become of us. I've all that sewing to finish for Mrs. Judge
Peters, and she's going away Monday; and if she don't have it in time,
she'll be put out, and, as like as not, give her work to some one else.
Now, don't cry, Amy. I'm right sorry to disappoint you, but all of us
must take our turn in giving up things. I'm sure I take mine, with a
little patient sigh.
Father's sure that this new machine of his is going to make our
fortune, she went on, after an interval of busy stitching. But I
don't know. He said just the same about the alarm-clock, and the
Imferno Reaper and Binder, and that thing-a-my-jig for opening cans,
and the self-registering Savings Bank, and the Minute Egg-Beater, and
the Tuck Measurer, and none of them came to anything in the end.
Perhaps it'll be the same with this. Another sigh, a little deeper
than the last.
Some little girls might have been touched with the tired,
discouraged voice and look, but Amy was a stormy child, with a hot
temper and a very strong will. So instead of being sorry and helpful,
she went on crying and complaining, till her mother spoke sharply, and
then subsided into sulky silence. Baby woke, and she had to take him
up, but she did it unwillingly, and her unhappy mood seemed to
communicate itself to him, as moods will. He wriggled and twisted in
her arms, and presently began to whimper. Amy hushed and patted. She
set him on his feet, she turned him over on his face, nothing pleased
him. The whimper increased to a roar.
Dear! dear! cried poor Mrs. Carpenter, stopping her machine in the
middle of a long seam. What is the matter? I never did see anybody so
unhandy with a baby as you are. Here I am in such a hurry, and you
don't try to amuse him worth a cent. I'm really ashamed of you, Amy
Amy's back and arms ached; she felt that this speech was cruelly
unjust. What she did not see was that it was her own temper which was
repeated in her little brother. Like all babies, he knew instinctively
the difference between loving tendance and that which is bestowed from
a cold sense of duty, and he resented the latter with all his might.
Do walk up and down and sing to him, said Mrs. Carpenter, who
hated to have her child unhappy, but still more to leave her
sewing,sing something cheerful. Perhaps he'll go to sleep if you
So Amy, feeling very cross and injured, had to walk the heavy baby
up and down, and sing Rock me to sleep, Mother, which was the only
cheerful song she could think of. It quieted the baby for a while,
then, just as his eyelids were drooping, a fresh attack of fretting
seized upon him, and he began to cry; Amy was so vexed that she gave
him a furtive slap. It was a very little slap, but her mother saw it.
You naughty, bad girl! she cried, jumping up; so that's the way
you treat your little brother, is it? Slapping him on the sly! No
wonder he doesn't like you, and won't go to sleep! She snatched the
child away, and gave Amy a smart box on the ear. Mrs. Carpenter, though
a good woman, had a quick temper of her own.
You can go up-stairs now, she said in a stern, exasperated tone.
I don't want you any more this afternoon. If you were a good girl, you
might have been a real comfort to me this hard day, but as it is, I'd
rather have your room than your company.
Frightened and angry both, Amy rushed up-stairs, and into her
father's workshop, the door of which stood open. He had just gone out,
and the confusion and dreariness of the place seemed inviting to her at
the moment. Flinging the door to with a great bang, she threw herself
on the floor, and gave vent to her pent-up emotions.
It's unjust! she sobbed, speaking louder than usual, as people do
who are in a passion. Mamma is as mean as she can be! Scolding me
because that old baby wouldn't go to sleep! I hate everybody! I wish I
was dead! I wish everybody else was dead!
These were dreadful words for a little girl to use. Even in her
anger, Amy would have been startled and ashamed at the idea of any
one's ever hearing them.
But Amy had a listener, though she little suspected it, and, what
was worse, a listener who was recording every word that she uttered!
The new machine of which Mrs. Carpenter had spoken was really a
very clever and ingenious one. It was the adaptation of the
phonographic principle to the person of a doll. Mr. Carpenter had
succeeded in interesting somebody with capital in his project, and the
dolls were at that moment being manufactured for the apparatus, the
construction of which he kept in his own hands. This apparatus was held
in small cylinders, just large enough to fit into the body of a doll
and contain, each, a few sentences, which the doll would seem to speak
when set in an upright position.
These cylinders were just ready, and standing in a row waiting to
receive their charges, which were to be put into them through the tin
funnels fitted for the purpose. Amy, as she sat on the floor, was
exactly opposite one of these funnels, and all her angry words passed
into, and became a part of, the mechanism of the doll. After this, no
matter how many pretty words might be uttered softly into that
cylinder, none of them could make any impression; the doll was full. It
could hold no more.
But no one knew that the doll was full. Amy, her fit of passion
over, fell asleep on the floor, and when her father's step sounded
below, waked in a calmer mood. She was sorry that she had been so
naughty, and tried to make up for it by being more helpful and patient
in the evening and next day. Her mother easily forgave her, and she did
not find it hard to forgive herself, and soon forgot the event of that
unhappy afternoon. Mr. Carpenter sat down in front of his cylinders
that night, and filled them all, as he supposed, with nice little
sentences to please and surprise small doll owners, such as Good
morning, Mamma. Shall I put on my pink or my olive frock this morning?
or Good-night, Mamma. I'm so sleepy! or bits of nursery rhymes,Bo
Peep or Jack and Jill or Little Boy Blue. Then, when the phonographs
were filled, the machinery went away to be put in the dolls, and Mr.
Carpenter began on a fresh set.
Mrs. Carpenter, meanwhile, had finished her big job of sewing, so
she felt less hurried, and had more time for the baby. The weather was
beautiful, things went well at school, and altogether life seemed
pleasant to Amy, and she found it easy to be kind and good-natured.
This agreeable state of things lasted through the autumn. The
Dolliphone, as Mr. Carpenter had christened his invention, proved a
hit. Orders poured in from all over the United States, and from England
and France, and the manufactory was taxed to its utmost extent. At last
one of Mr. Carpenter's inventions had turned out a success, and his
spirits rose high.
We've fetched it this time, Mother, he told his wife. The stock's
going up like all possessed, and the dolls are going out as fast as we
can get them ready. Why, we've had orders from as far off as Australia!
China'll come next, I suppose, or the Cannibal Islands. There's no end
to the money that's in it.
I'm glad, Robert, I'm sure, returned Mrs. Carpenter; but don't
count too much upon it all. I've thought a heap of that self-acting
churn, you remember.
Pshaw! the churn never did amount to shucks anyhow, said her
husband, who had the true inventor's faculty for forgetting the
mischances of the past in the contemplation of the hopes of the future.
It was just a little dud to make folks open their eyes, any way. This
Dolliphone is different. It's bound to sell like wild-fire, once it
gets to going. We'll be rich folks before we know it, Mother.
That'll be nice, said Mrs. Carpenter, with a dry, unbelieving
cough. She did not mean to be as discouraging as she sounded, but a
woman can scarcely be the wife of an unsuccessful genius for fifteen
years, and see the family earnings vanish down the throat of one
invention after another, without becoming outwardly, as well as
Now, don't be a wet blanket, Mother, said Mr. Carpenter,
good-humoredly. We've had some upsets in our calculation, I confess,
but this time it's all coming out right, as you'll see. And I wanted to
ask you about something, and that is what you'd think of Amy's having
one of the dolls for her Christmas? Don't you think it'd please her?
Why, of course; but do you think you can afford it, Robert? The
dolls are five dollars, aren't they?
Yes, to customers they are, but I shouldn't have to pay anything
like that, of course. I can have one for cost price, say a dollar
seventy-five; so if you think the child would like it, we'll fix it
Well, I should be glad to have Amy get one, said Mrs. Carpenter,
brightening up. And it seems only right that she should, when you
invented it and all. She's been pretty good these last weeks, and
she'll be mightily tickled.
So it was settled, but the pile of orders to be filled was so
incessant that it was not till Christmas Eve that Mr. Carpenter could
get hold of a doll for his own use, and no time was left in which to
dress it. That was no matter, Mrs. Carpenter declared; Amy would like
to make the clothes herself, and it would be good practice in sewing.
She hunted up some pieces of cambric and flannel and scraps of ribbon
for the purpose, and when Amy woke on Christmas morning, there by her
side lay the big, beautiful creature, with flaxen hair, long-lashed
blue eyes, and a dimple in her pink chin. Beside her was a parcel
containing the materials for her clothes and a new spool of thread, and
on the doll's arm was pinned a paper with this inscription:
For Amy, with a Merry Christmas from Father and Mother.
Her name is Dolly Phone.
Amy's only doll up to this time had been a rag one, manufactured by
her mother, and you can imagine her delight. She hugged Dolly Phone to
her heart, kissed her twenty times over, and examined all her beauties
in detail,her lovely bang, her hands, and her little feet, which had
brown kid shoes sewed on them, and the smile on her lips, which showed
two tiny white teeth. She stood her up on the quilt to see how tall she
was, and as she did so, wonder of wonders, out of these smiling red
lips came a voice, sharp and high-pitched, as if a canary-bird or a
Jew's-harp were suddenly endowed with speech, and began to talk to her!
What did the voice say? Not Good-morning, Mamma, or I'm so
sleepy! or Mistress Mary quite contrary, or Twinkle, twinkle,
little star,none of these things. Her sister dolls might have said
these things; what Dolly Phone said, speaking fast and excitedly,
It's unjust! Mamma is as mean as she can be! Scolding me because
that old baby wouldn't go to sleep! I hate everybody! I wish I was
dead! I wish everybody else was dead! And then, in a different tone, a
good deal deeper, Good-morning, ma-m and there the voice stopped
Amy had listened to this remarkable address with astonishment. That
her beautiful new baby could speak, was delightful, but what horrible
things she said!
How queerly you talk, darling! she cried, snatching the doll into
her arms again. What is the matter? Why do you speak so to me? Are you
alive, or only making believe? I'm not mean; what makes you say I am?
And, oh! why do you wish you were dead?
Dolly stared full in her face with an unwinking smile. She looked
perfectly good-natured. Amy began to think that she was dreaming, or
that the whole thing was some queer trick.
There, there, dear! she cried, patting the doll's back, we won't
say any more about it. You love me now, I know you do!
Then, very gently and cautiously, she set Dolly on her feet again.
Perhaps she'll say something nice this time, she thought hopefully.
Alas! the rosy lips only uttered the self-same words.
MeanunjustI hate everybodyI wish everybody was dead, in sharp,
unpitying sequence. Worst of all, the phrases began to have a familiar
sound to Amy's ear. She felt her cheeks burn with a sudden red.
Why, she thought, that was what I said in the workshop the day I
was so cross. How could the doll know? Oh, dear! she's so lovely and so
beautiful, but if she keeps on talking like this, what shall I do?
Deep in her heart struggled an uneasy fear. Mother would hear the
doll! Mother might suspect what it meant! At all hazards, Dolly must be
kept from talking while mother was by.
She was so quiet and subdued when she went downstairs to breakfast,
with the doll in her arms, that her father and mother could not
understand it. They had looked forward to seeing her boisterously
joyful. She kissed them, and thanked them, and tried to seem like her
usual self, but mothers' eyes are sharp, and Mrs. Carpenter detected
the look of trouble.
What's the matter, dear? she whispered. Don't you feel well?
Oh, yes! very well. Nothing's the matter. Amy whispered back,
keeping the terrible Dolly sedulously prone, as she spoke.
Come, Amy, let's see your new baby, said Mr. Carpenter. She's a
beauty, ain't she? Half of her was made in this house, did you know
that? Set her up, and let's hear her talk.
She's asleep now, faltered Amy. But she's been talking up-stairs.
She talks very nicely, Papa. She's tired now, truly she is.
Nonsense! she isn't the kind that gets tired. Her tongue won't ache
if she runs on all day; she's like some little girls in that. Stand her
up, Amy, I want to hear her. I've never seen one of 'em out of the shop
before. She looks wonderfully alive, doesn't she, Mother?
But Amy still hesitated. Her manner was so strange that her father
grew impatient at last, and, reaching out, took the doll from her, and
set it sharply on the table. The little button on the sole of the foot
set the curious instrument within in motion. As prepared phrases were
rolled off in shrill succession, Mr. Carpenter leaned forward to
listen. When the sounds ended, he raised his head with a look of
Whywhywhat is the creature at? he exclaimed. That isn't what
I put into her. 'I Wish I was dead! Wish everybody else was dead!' I
can't understand it at all. I charged all the dolls myself, and there
wasn't a word like that in the whole batch. If the others have gone
wrong like this, it's all up with our profits.
He looked so troubled and down-hearted that Amy could bear it no
It's all my fault! she cried, bursting into tears. Somehow it's
all my fault, though I can't tell how, for it was I who said those
things. I said those very things, Papa, in your workshop one day when I
was in a temper. Don't you recollect the day, Mother,the day when I
didn't go to the picnic, and Baby wouldn't go to sleep, and I slapped
him, and you boxed my ears? I went up-stairs, and I was crying, and I
said,yes, I think I said every word of those things, though I forgot
all about them till Dolly said them to me this morning, and how she
could possibly know, I can't imagine.
But I can imagine, said her father. Where did you sit that day,
On the floor, by the door.
Was there a row of things close by, with tin funnels stuck in them
and a cloth over the top?
I think there was. I recollect the funnels.
Then that's all right! exclaimed Mr. Carpenter, his face clearing
up. Those were the phonographs, Mother, and, don't you see, she must
have been exactly opposite one of the funnels, and her voice went in
and filled it. It's the best kind of good luck that that cylinder
happened to be put into her doll. If all that bad language had gone to
anybody else, there would have been the mischief to pay. Folks would
have been writing to the papers, as like as not, or the ministers
preaching against the dolls as a bad influence. It would have ruined
the whole concern, and all your fault, Amy.
Oh, Papa, how dreadful! how perfectly dreadful! was all Amy could
say, but she sobbed so wildly that her father's anger melted.
There, don't cry, he said more kindly; we won't be too hard on
you on Christmas Day. Wipe your eyes, and we'll try to think no more
about it, especially as the spoiled doll has fallen to your own share,
and no real harm is done.
In his relief Mr. Carpenter was disposed to pass lightly over the
matter. Not so his wife. She took a more serious view of it.
You see, Amy, she said that night when they chanced to be alone,
you see how a hasty word sticks and lasts. You never supposed that day
that the things you said would ever come back to you again, but here
Yesbecause of the doll,of her inside, I mean. It heard.
But if the doll hadn't heard, some one would have heard all the
Do you mean God? asked Amy, in an awe-struck voice.
Yes. He hears every word that we say, the minister tells us, and
writes them all down in a book. If it frightened you to have the doll
repeat the words you had forgotten, think how much more it will
frighten you, and all of us, when that book is opened and all the wrong
things we have ever said are read out for the whole world to hear.
Mrs. Carpenter did not often speak so solemnly, and it made a great
impression on Amy's mind. She still plays with Dolly Phone, and loves
her, in a way, but it is a love which is mingled with fear. The doll is
like a reproach of conscience to her. That is not pleasant, so she is
kept flat on her back most of the time. Only, now and then, when Amy
has been cross and said a sharp word, and is sorry for it, she solemnly
takes Dolly, sets her on her feet, and, as a penance, makes herself
listen to all the hateful string of phrases which form her stock of
It's horrid, but it's good for me, she tells the baby, who listens
with a look of fascinated wonder. I shall have to keep her, and let
her talk that way, till I'm such a good girl that there isn't any
danger of my ever being naughty again. And that must be for a long,
long time yet, she concludes with a sigh.
A NURSERY TYRANT.
It was such a pleasant old nursery that it seemed impossible that
anything disagreeable should enter into it. The three southern windows
stood open in all pleasant weather, letting in cheerful sun and air.
For cold days there was a generous grate, full of blazing coals, and
guarded by a high fender of green-painted wire. There were little
cupboards set in the deep sides of the chimney. The two on the left
were Barbara's and Eunice's; the two to the right, Reggy's and Roger's.
Here they kept their own particular treasures under lock and key; while
little May, the left-over one, was accommodated with two shelves inside
the closet where they all hung their hats and coats.
No one slept in this nursery, but all the Erskine children spent a
good part of the daytime in it. Here they studied their lessons, and
played when it was too stormy to go out; there the little ones were
dressed and undressed, and all five took their suppers there every
night. They liked it better than any other room in the house, partly, I
suppose, because they lived so much in it.
Barbara was the eldest of the brood. It would have shocked her very
much, had she guessed that any one was ever going to speak of her as a
tyrant. Her idea of a tyrant was a lofty personage with a crown on
his head, like Xerxes, or King John, or the Emperor Nero. She had not
gotten far enough in life or history to know that the same thing can be
done in a small house that is done on a throne; and that tyranny is
tyranny even when it is not bridging the Dardanelles, or flinging
Christians to the wild beasts, or refusing to sign Magna Charta. In
short, that the principle of a thing is its real life, and makes it the
same, whether its extent or opportunities be more or less.
This particular tyrant was a bright, active, self-willed little girl
of eleven, with a pair of brown eyes, a mop of curly brown hair, pink
cheeks, and a mouth which was so rosy and smiled so often that people
forgot to notice the resolute little chin beneath it. She was very
good-humored when everybody minded her, warm-hearted, generous, full of
plans and fancies, and anxious to make everybody happy in her own way.
She also cared a good deal about being liked and admired, as
self-willed people often do; and whenever she fancied that the children
loved Eunice better than herself (which was the case), she was grieved,
and felt that it was unfair. For I do a great deal more to please them
than Eunie does, she would say to herself, forgetting that not what we
do, but what we are, it is which makes us beloved or otherwise.
But though the younger ones loved Eunice best, they were much more
apt to do as Barbara wished, partly because it was easier than to
oppose her, and partly because she and her many ideas and projects
interested them. They never knew what was coming next; and they seldom
dared to make up their minds about anything, or form any wishes of
their own, till they knew what their despot had decided upon. Eunice
was gentle and yielding, Mary almost a baby; but the boys, as they grew
older, occasionally showed signs of rebellion, and though Barbara put
these down with an iron hand, they were likely to come again with fresh
The fifteenth of May was always a festival in the Erskine household.
Mamma's May Day, the children called it, because not only was it
their mother's birthday, but it also took the place of the regular May
Day, which was apt to be too cold or windy for celebration. The
children were allowed to choose their own treat, and they always chose
a picnic and a May crowning. Barbara was invariably queen, as a matter
of course, and she made a very good one, and expended much time and
ingenuity in inventing something new each year to make the holiday
different from what it had ever been before. She always kept her plans
secret till the last moment, to enhance the pleasure of the surprise.
It never occurred to any one, least of all to Barbara herself, that
there could be rotation in office, or that any one else should be
chosen as queen. Still, changes of dynasty will come to families as
well as to kingdoms; and Queen Barbara found this out.
Eunie, I want you to do something, she said, one afternoon in late
April, producing two long pieces of stiff white tarlatan; please sew
this up there and there, and hem it there,not nice
sewing, you know, but big stitches.
What is it for? asked Eunie, obediently receiving the tarlatan,
and putting on her thimble.
Ah, that is a secret, replied Barbara. You'll know by and by.
Can't you tell me now?
No, not till Mother's May Day. I'll tell you then.
Oh, Barbie, cried Eunice, dropping the tarlatan, I wanted to
speak to you before you began anything. The children want little Mary
to be the queen this year.
Mary! Why? I've always been queen. What do they want to change for?
Mary wouldn't know how to do it, and I've such a nice plan for this
Your plans always are nice, said the peace-loving Eunice; but,
Barbie, really and truly, we do all want to have Mary this time. She's
so cunning and pretty, and you've always been queen, you know. It was
the boys thought of it first, and they want her ever so much. Do let
her, just for once.
Why, Eunice, I wouldn't have believed you could be so unkind! said
Barbara, in an aggrieved tone. It's not a bit fair to turn me out,
when I've always worked so hard at the May Day, and done everything, while the rest of you just sat by and enjoyed yourselves, and had all
the fun and none of the trouble.
But the boys think the trouble is half the fun, persisted Eunice.
They would rather take it than not. Don't you think it would be nice
to be a maid of honor, just for once?persuasively.
No, indeed, I don't! retorted Barbara, passionately. Be maid of
honor, and have that baby of a Mary, queen! You must be crazy, Eunice
Erskine. I'll be queen or nothing, you can tell the boys; and if I
backed out, and didn't help, I guess you'd all be sorry enough. So
saying, Barbara marched off, with her chin in the air. She was not
really much afraid that her usually obedient subjects would resist her
authority; but she had found that this injured way of speaking
impressed the children, and helped her to carry her points.
So she was surprised enough, when that evening, at supper, she
noticed a constraint of manner among the rest of the party. The
children looked sober. Reggy whispered to Eunice, Roger kicked Reggy,
and at last burst out with, Now, see here, Barbie Erskine, we want to
tell you something. We're going to have Baby for queen this time, and
not you, and that's all there is about it.
Roger, said the indignant Barbara, how dare you speak so? You're
not going to have anything of the kind unless I say you may.
Yes, we are. Mamma says we ought to take turns, and we never have.
Nobody has ever had a turn except you, and you keep having yours all
the time. We don't want the same queen always, and this year we've
Roger Erskine! cried Barbara, hotly. You're the rudest boy that
ever was! Then she turned to the others. Now listen to me, she said.
I've made all my plans for this year, and they're perfectly lovely. I
won't tell you what they are, exactly, because it would spoil the
surprise, but there's going to be an angel! An angelwith wings! What
do you think of that? You'd be sorry if I gave it up, wouldn't you?
Well, if one more word is said about Mary's being queen, I will give it
up, and I won't help you a bit. Now you can choose.
Her tone was awfully solemn, but the children did not give way. Even
the hint about the angel produced no effect. Eunice began, I'm sure,
Barbie but Reggy stopped her with, Shut up, Eunice! Everybody in
favor of Mary for queen, can hold up their hands, he called out.
Six hands went up. Eunice raised hers in a deprecating way, but she
raised it. It's a vote, cried Roger. Barbara glared at them all with
helpless wrath; then she said, in a choked voice, Oh, well! have your
old picnic, then. I sha'n't come to it, and ran out of the room,
leaving her refractory subjects almost frightened at their own success.
Two unhappy weeks followed. True to her threat, Barbara refused to
take any share in the holiday preparations. She sat about in corners,
sulky and unhappy, while the others worked, or tried to work. Sooth to
say, they missed her help very much, and did badly enough without her,
but they would not let her know this. The boys whistled as they drove
nails, and sounded very contented and happy.
Presently Fate sent them a new ally. Aunt Kate, the young aunt whom
the children liked best of all their relations, came on a visit, and,
finding so much going on, bestirred herself to help. She was not long
in missing Barbara, and she easily guessed out the position of affairs,
though the children made no explanations.
One afternoon, leaving the others hard at work, she went in search
of Barbara, who had hidden herself away with a book, in the shrubbery.
Why are you all alone? she asked, sitting down beside her.
I don't know where the others are, said Barbara, moodily.
They are tying wreaths to dress the tent to-morrow. Don't you want
to go and help them?
No, they don't want me! Oh, Aunt Kate! with a sudden burst of
confidence, they have treated me so! You can't think how they have
Why, what have they done?
I've always been queen on mother's May Day,always. And this year
I meant to be again. And I had such a nice plan for the coronation, and
then they all chose Mary.
They insisted on having Mary for queen, though I told them I
wouldn't help if they did, repeated Barbara.
Well? That's all. What do you mean, Aunty?
I was waiting to hear you tell the real grievance. That the
children should want Mary for queen, when you have been one so many
times, doesn't seem to be a reason.
Barbara was too much surprised to speak.
Yes, my dear, I mean it, persisted her aunt. Now let us talk this
over. Why should you always be queen on Mamma's birthday? Who gave you
the right, I mean?
The children liked to have me, faltered Barbara.
Precisely. But this year they liked to have Mary.
But I worked so hard, Aunty. You can't think how I worked. I did
everything; and sometimes I got dreadfully tired.
Was that to please the others?
Or would they rather have helped in the work, and did you keep it
to yourself because you liked to do it alone? asked Aunt Kate, with a
smile. Now, my Barbie, listen to me. You have led always because you
liked to lead, and the others submitted to you. But no one can govern
forever. The rest are growing up; they have their own rights and their
own opinions. You cannot go on always ruling them as you did when they
were little. Do you want to be a good, useful older sister, loved and
trusted, or to have Eunice slip into your place, and be the real elder
sister, while you gradually become a cipher in the family?
Barbara began to cry.
Dear child, said Aunty Kate, kissing her, now is your chance.
Influence, not authority, should be a sister's weapon. If you want to
lead the children, you must do it with a smile, not a pout.
The children were surprised enough that evening when Barbara came up
to offer to help tie wreaths. Her eyes looked as if she had been
crying, but she was very kind and nice all that night and next day. She
was maid of honor to little Queen Mary, after all. Eunice gave her a
rapturous kiss afterward, and said, Oh, Barbie, how dear you
are! and, somehow, Barbara forgot to feel badly about not being queen.
Some defeats are better than victories.
WHAT THE PINK FLAMINGO DID.
The great pink flamingo roused from his resting-place among the
sedges when the noise began. At first he only stirred sleepily, and
wondered, half awake, at the unusual sounds; but as they increased,
curiosity began to trouble him. Party after party in launches or
bright-hued gondolas glided past, all gay and chattering, and full of
excitement about something, he did not know what. It was the first
night on which the buildings and grounds of the Chicago Fair were
illuminated, and the flamingo could not tell what to make of it, any
more than could the herons and swans, the Muscovy ducks, the cranes, or
any other of the winged creatures which had learned to make themselves
at home on the banks of the lagoons.
The pink flamingo's name was Coco. He had been raised on the shore
of the St. Johns River, in Florida, as the pet and protégé of
Cecil Schott, a boy who had taught him many tricks,to catch fish and
fetch them out in his mouth, as a retriever fetches a bird, to eat
caramels, to dive after objects thrown into the water and bring them up
in his beak:after Cecil himself even, so long as he was small enough
to be counted as an object. Often and often had Coco plunged into the
deep river, following the downward sweep of his little master, and
seized him by the arm or foot before he was anywhere near the bottom.
He would eat from Cecil's hand, also, and stand by his side, folding
one wide wing across the boy's shoulder, as though it were an arm.
Cecil was growing up now, and had been sent to school; so when Mr.
Schott heard that the Chicago directors were making a collection of
birds for the Fair Grounds, he offered Coco, whose fearlessness and
familiarity with human beings seemed peculiarly to adapt him for a
When the fifth electrical launch had sped past the sedges, and
strange, hovering lights began to burn in the sky, and ring the domes
and roofs in the distance toward the south, Coco could endure it no
longer, and, betaking himself to the water, started on a tour of
investigation. He looked very big in the dim light of the upper
waterways,almost as big as the smaller of the gondolas. The people in
the boats exclaimed with astonishment as he passed them, his broad
wings raised above him, like rose-colored sails, and his stout legs
beating the water into foam behind, like a propeller.
At first his course lay amid soft shadows. The upper part of the
Fair Grounds was not illuminated, and only a bird's keen vision could
have made out accustomed objects. But the flamingo had no difficulty in
seeing. He knew exactly where to look for the nest of the female swan
on the wooded island. He could even make out her dim white shape in the
gloom, and hear the disturbed flutter of her wings. There was the
plantation of white hyacinths, and there the outline of the shabby old
Prairie Schooner, into which he had more than once poked his
inquisitive head. There stood the Log Cabin, and beyond, the
twinkling lanterns of the Japanese Tea Garden. The pink flamingo
recognized them all. Under one graceful bridge after another, past one
enormous beautiful building after another, he swept, following the
curves and turnings of the waterways, startled here and there by
unaccustomed lights and the sounds of a hurrying crowd, till at last,
with one bold sweep, he glided under the last arch and out into the
broad basin of the Court of Honor.
He had been there before. Catch the pink flamingo leaving any part
of the Fair Grounds unexplored! He was not that sort of bird. He had
even been there in the evening, when the moon shone clearly on the
water, with only a point of light here and there on the surrounding
shores, and no sounds to break the stillness but the plash of waves
washing in from the lake, and the low talk of little groups of
late-stayers, sitting on the steps before the Liberal Arts Building,
looking across to the fountain and the dim row of sculptured forms on
the summit of the Peristyle. But now all was different. The gilded dome
of the Administration Building was ringed with lines of fire. The
façade of the Agricultural blazed with lights, which shone on the
bas-reliefs and sculptures, on the winged Diana above, and the great
bulls which guard the approach to the boat-landing. Every figure which
topped the long double lines of the Peristyle stood out distinctly
against the transparent sky; the gilding of the broad arch toward the
lake glowed ruddy in the light, and so did the majestic figure of the
Republic, its noble outline reflected in the shimmering waters beneath.
The great fountain opposite caught the blaze, and sent its smooth
shoots over the basin edges with a white phosphorescent radiance. Then
a wide beam from a search-light swept across, and seemed to turn the
figures into life; made the form of the Discoverer and the beautiful
figures of the rowing women on either side, throb and pulsate,
fluctuating with the fluctuating ray, till they seemed to bend and
move. On either side, the electrical fountains lifted high in air great
sheaves of iridescent colors, scarlet, green, and blue, like a flag of
upheaving jewels, while the faces of the immense throng along the
esplanades and on the dome of the Administration Building changed from
gloom to glory and back again to gloom as the dancing ray wandered to
It was a scene from fairyland; but it did not altogether please
Coco, who, startled and affrighted, made a dive, and disappeared under
water by way of a relief to his feelings. Then he came up again, and,
growing by degrees accustomed to these novel splendors, he recovered
confidence, and began to look about him.
Oh, what a beautiful bird! he heard some one say; and though he
did not understand the words, he knew well enough that he was being
admired, and thereupon proceeded to make himself a part of the show. He
splashed, dived, extended his wide wings, curved his long neck, and
generally exhibited himself to the best of his ability, all the time
maintaining an absent-minded air, as if he were not aware that any one
else was present. Coco was very conceited for a bird.
Meanwhile, at about the same moment in which the pink flamingo was
roused from his slumbers, a small Turkish boy named Hassan awoke from
his, in the retirement of the Midway Plaisance. He had not been at all
a good little Turk since he came to America, his parents thought.
Something in the air of freedom had apparently demoralized him. It
might be that domestic discipline had been relaxed since their arrival,
for there had been much to do in getting the Turkish Bazaar and the
Mosque and the Village ready; but certain it is that Hassan had been
naughtier and given more trouble during the past ten weeks than in all
the previous years of his short life. Once, in a great rain-storm, he
had actually run away, slipping past the guard at the gate, and tearing
wildly down the street. Where he was going, he did not know or care;
all he wanted was to run. How far he might have gone, or what would
have become of him in the end, no one can say, had his father not
caught a glimpse of the small fleeting figure.
Beard of the Prophet! ejaculated the scandalized Mustapha. That
son of Sheitan, the enemy of true believers, will be run over by the
horses of the infidel if I do not overtake him speedily.
He tucked up his blue robe, which almost touched the muddy ground,
it was so long, revealing, as he did so, yellow boots topped with
American socks, and, above these, a pair of green drawers, and started
in pursuit. Alas! the guard at the turnstile stopped him, and demanded
his pass. In vain Mustapha remonstrated, and explained, in fluent
Turkish, that his sole object was to capture his evil child, who had
escaped from home. The guard did not understand the language of Turkey,
and persisted, explaining, in the tongue of Chicago, that he was acting
under orders, and that no foreigner could go in or out without proper
Permit! Permit! Pass! Pass! You must show your pass! cried the
guard. Backsheesh, you know.
It was his sole Turkish word. He had learned it since the Fair
opened from hearing it so often.
You bet! responded Mustapha. It was his sole English word. The
Prophet visit you with a murrain and total baldness! he continued, in
his own vernacular. Then, seeing that Hassan, who was having a most
enjoyable time, was nearing a corner and about to disappear, he uttered
a wild shout of despair, and, thrusting the guard aside, darted through
the gate and after the child. His long petticoat waggled in the wind,
and blew behind him like a wet umbrella broken loose. The guard was so
convulsed with laughter that he could only stand still and hold his
sides. Two chairmen, who had trundled two ladies down the Plaisance to
the gate, were as much convulsed as he. Little Hassan ran for all he
was worth. His gown of drab cotton, as long, in proportion, as his
father's, switched and fluttered as he flew along. But longer legs
always have the advantage over shorter ones in a race. The pursuer
gained on the pursued. When Hassan saw that there was no hope, and he
was bound to be overtaken, he just flung himself down in a mud-puddle
and kicked and screamed. His exasperated parent pulled him up, and,
with a shake, set him on his feet. Hassan made his legs limp, and
refused to walk; so Mustapha tucked him under his arm, and strode back
toward the Plaisance. The guard was still too doubled up with laughter
for speech, so he let him pass unscolded. Once safely inside, Mustapha
shifted his wet and dirty little burden on to its feet, whirled aside
the drab skirt, and, with trenchant slaps, administered a brief but
effectual American spanking. He then conducted Hassan to his veiled
mother in her retirement, and intimated his pleasure that he should be
made to undergo a further penance.
It was this same naughty little Turk who woke up at the same time
with the pink flamingo. He heard music and shouts, and saw the same
strange glow toward the southward which had startled the bird from its
rest. His father and mother had joined the motley throng of foreign
folk of all nationalities, garbs, and shades of complexion,Arabs,
Javanese, Alaskans, Eskimos, South Sea Islanders, Cossacks, American
Indians, and East Indians, Chinese, and Dahomyans,who had flocked out
of the Plaisance to see the spectacle. No one was left behind but the
sleeping children, and here was Hassan, no longer asleep, but very wide
[Illustration: Down the esplanade sped the little figure.PAGE
No time did he lose in hesitation; he knew in a moment what he
wanted to do. His queer little clothes were close at hand,the drab
gown, still mud-stained from his run, the yellow slippers, the small
fez for his head. Into them he skipped, and, stepping out of the door,
he ran down the Plaisance, keeping on the shaded side as far as might
be, for fear of being stopped. He need not have been afraid; there was
no one to stop him. The great Woman's Building came in sight, with the
outlines of the still larger Horticultural beyond. Down the esplanade
sped the little figure. The light grew more brilliant with every turn;
more and more people passed him, but all were pressing southward. And
in a crowd like this, nobody had time to notice the advent of such a
very small Turk among them. Hot and breathless after his long run,
Hassan at last emerged, as the pink flamingo had done, on the Court of
Here his smallness proved an advantage to him, for he could crowd
himself into minute spaces in the living mass where a grown person
could not go, squeeze between people's legs, and wriggle and twist, all
the time pressing steadily forward, till at last he gained the parapet,
and, climbing up, seated himself comfortably on the top. Then his eyes
and mouth opened simultaneously into an Ahi! of wonder, for close
before him was one of the electrical fountains, shooting blue and
crimson fires, and a little beyond shone the pulsating radiance of the
dazzling forms grouped above the Discoverer, the rearing horses, the
winged shape in the bow of the boat. Never before had anything so
wonderful been seen by our little Turk. The great basin twinkled with
reflected lights, like a starry sky set upside down; overhead the
statues glittered; a round silver moon hung above, and broad rays, like
her own beams intensified and set into motion, wandered to and fro from
the search-light opposite, darting now on a splendid façade, now on a
towering dome, again on a bridge packed with people, whose expectant
faces were all turned skyward, and, finally, on a great pink bird which
was wheeling and turning in the water.
There was a sudden small splash.
Oh, oh! shrieked a child's voice, in tones of distress, my
dolly's fallen in! Mamma, Mamma, that was my dolly that fell in. She'll
be all drowned! Oh, my dolly! Then the voice changed to one of
amazement and joy: Oh, Mamma, see that bird! He has got her!
Coco had spied the doll as it fell, and, true to his early training,
dived after it as a matter of course, and came up with the doll in his
Oh, you good birdie! you dear birdie! cried the little one,
stretching her arms over the parapet. Let me have Dolly again, please,
Coco understood only Flamingo, and had no idea what the little girl
was saying; but as a nibble or two had showed that the doll was not
edible, he made no resistance when a gentleman reached over from the
edge of a gondola and took it from his beak. It was handed back to its
little owner amid a great clapping and laughing, and Coco was given an
Albert biscuit instead, which he liked much better, and speedily
disposed of. He knew that the applause was meant for him, and, puffed
up with pride, sailed vain-gloriously to and fro, waiting another
chance to distinguish himself.
It came! There was another and much louder splash as a small
red-capped figure toppled over into the water. It was Hassan, who,
leaning over to watch the wonderful bird, had lost his balance.
No one laughed this time, and there was a general cry of Oh, it was
a child! A child has fallen in! Save him, some one! People shouted for
a boat; men pulled off their coats, making ready for a plunge; women
began to cry; then, all at once, there was a general exclamation of
astonishment and admiration.
The bird has got him cried a hundred voices.
It was again Coco! To dive after Hassan, to seize the drab skirt in
his beak, and bring the child again to the surface of the water, was an
easy feat to him; but to the excited multitudes upon the banks it
seemed well-nigh a miracle.
Never saw such a thing in my life! declared a man on the bridge.
Don't tell me that bird hasn't an intellect. No, sir! There ain't a
man here could have done that better, nor so well as that there
pelican. He is smart enough to vote, he is!
Too smart, remarked his next neighbor. He'd never stick to the
regular ticket; he'd have a mind of his own. That ain't the sort we
want over here. We want voters that don't have independent ideas, but
just do as the boss tells 'em.
That's pretty true, I reckon, replied the first man.
Meanwhile, Hassan was safe on shore. It had been for only one moment
that the flamingo had needed to support his burden; then it was lifted
from him by a man in a boat, who took time to tell him that he was a
first-rate fellow, a famous fellow, and ought to have a medal from the
He shall have one! declared an enthusiastic lady in the
crowd. I will see to it myself. And the next morning she bought a
souvenir half-dollar, had For a Brave Bird engraved upon it, and a
hole bored in its rim, through which she ran a pink ribbon. This she
carried over to the Wooded Island, and, with the assistance of two
Columbian guards, captured Coco, and tied the ribbon firmly round his
neck. He resisted strenuously, and spent much time in trying to peck
the decoration off; but as time went on, and he became accustomed to
it, and found that wherever he went it made him conspicuous, and that
the other birds envied him the notice he attracted, he rather learned
to like his medal; and he wore it to the very end of the Columbian
Meanwhile, as Fate willed it, the dripping Hassan was handed ashore
precisely at that point of the esplanade where stood his father and
mother! They had not seen the accident, nor understood that it was a
boy who had fallen in and been rescued by a bird; so when a wet little
object was set to drip almost at their feet, and they recognized in it
their own offspring, whom they supposed to be safely asleep at home, it
will be easily imagined that their wrath and astonishment knew no
Ahi! child of sin, contaminated by the unbeliever, is it indeed
thou? cried the irate Mustapha. What djinnee, what imp of Eblis hath
brought thee here?
He hath been in the water, Allah preserve us! cried the more
tender-hearted mother. He might have been drowned.
In the water! Nay, then; wherefore is he not in bed where we left
him? We will see if this imp of evil be not taught to avoid the water
in the future. On my head be it if he is not, Inshallah!
So the weeping Hassan was led home by his family, his garments
leaving a trail of drip on the concrete all the way up the long
distance; and in the seclusion of the temporary harem he was caused to
see the error of his way.
Thou shalt be made to remember, declared his irate parent in the
pauses of discipline. I will not have thee as the sons of these
infidels who despise correction, saying 'I will' and 'I will not,' and
are as a blemish and a darkening to the faces of their parents. The
Prophet rebuke me if I do! Inshallah!
But Coco, when the lights were put out and the great crowd streamed
away, leaving the Fair Grounds to silence and loneliness, and the
lagoons became again a soft land of shadows broken by reaches of
moonlight, sailed back to his perch among the sedges with a calm and
satisfied mind. He had a right to be pleased with himself. Had he not
saved two people, one very small and hard, and the other very big and
soft? Nothing whispered of that dreadful half-dollar which was coming
on the morrow to vex his spirit. No one said to him Inshallah.
He tucked his head under his wing and went to sleep, a peaceful and
contented flamingo; and the moral is, Be virtuous and you will be
TWO PAIRS OF EYES.
Did it ever occur to you what a difference there is in the way in
which people use their eyes? I do not mean that some people squint, and
some do not; that some have short sight, and some long sight. These are
accidental differences; and the people who cannot see far, sometimes
see more, and more truly, than do other people whose vision is as keen
as the eagle's. No, the difference between people's eyes lies in the
power and the habit of observation.
Did you ever hear of the famous conjurer Robert Houdin, whose
wonderful tricks and feats of magic were the astonishment of Europe a
few years ago? He tells us, in his autobiography, that to see
everything at a glance, while seeming to see nothing, is the first
requisite in the education of a magician, and that the faculty of
noticing rapidly and exactly can be trained like any other faculty.
When he was fitting his little son to follow the same profession, he
used to take him past a shop-window, at a quick walk, and then ask him
how many objects in the window he could remember and describe. At
first, the child could only recollect three or four; but gradually he
rose to ten, twelve, twenty, and, in the end, his eyes would note, and
his memory retain, not less than forty articles, all caught in the few
seconds which it took to pass the window at a rapid walk.
It is so more or less with us all. Few things are more surprising
than the distinct picture which one mind will bring away from a place,
and the vague and blurred one which another mind will bring.
Observation is one of the valuable faculties, and the lack of it a
fault which people have to pay for, in various ways, all their lives.
There were once two peasant boys in France, whose names were Jean
and Louis Cardilliac. They were cousins; their mothers were both
widows, and they lived close to each other in a little village, near a
great forest. They also looked much alike. Both had dark, closely
shaven hair, olive skins, and large, black eyes; but in spite of all
their resemblances, Jean was always spoken of as lucky, and Louis as
unlucky, for reasons which you will shortly see.
If the two boys were out together, in the forest or the fields, they
walked along quite differently. Louis dawdled in a sort of
loose-jointed trot, with his eyes fixed on whatever happened to be in
his hand,a sling, perhaps, or a stick, or one of those snappers with
which birds are scared away from fruit. If it were the stick, he
cracked it as he went, or he snapped the snapper, and he whistled, as
he did so, in an absent-minded way. Jean's black eyes, on the contrary,
were always on the alert, and making discoveries. While Louis stared
and puckered his lips up over the snapper or the sling, Jean would
note, unconsciously but truly, the form of the clouds, the look of the
sky in the rainy west, the wedge-shaped procession of the ducks through
the air, and the way in which they used their wings, the bird-calls in
the hedge. He was quick to mark a strange leaf, or an unaccustomed
fungus by the path, or any small article which had been dropped by the
way. Once, he picked up a five-franc piece; once, a silver pencil-case
which belonged to the curé, who was glad to get it again, and
gave Jean ten sous by way of reward. Louis would have liked ten sous
very much, but somehow he never found any pencil-cases; and it seemed
hard and unjust when his mother upbraided him for the fact, which, to
his thinking, was rather his misfortune than his fault.
How can I help it? he asked. The saints are kind to Jean, and
they are not kind to me,voilà tout!
The saints help those who help themselves, retorted his mother.
Thou art a look-in-the-air. Jean keeps his eyes open, he has wit, and
But such reproaches did not help Louis, or teach him anything. Habit
is so strong.
There! cried his mother one day, when he came in to supper. Thy
cousinthy lucky cousinhas again been lucky. He has found a
truffle-bed, and thy aunt has sold the truffles to the man from Paris
for a hundred francs. A hundred francs! It will be long before thy
stupid fingers can earn the half of that!
Where did Jean find the bed? asked Louis.
In the oak copse near the brook, where thou mightest have found
them as easily as he, retorted his mother. He was walking along with
Daudot, the wood cutter's dogwhose mother was a truffle-hunterand
Daudot began to point and scratch; and Jean suspected something, got a
spade, dug, and crack! a hundred francs! Ah, his mother is to be
The oak copse! Near the brook! exclaimed Louis, too much excited
to note the reproach which concluded the sentence. Why, I was there
but the other day with Daudot, and I remember now, he scratched and
whined a great deal, and tore at the ground. I didn't think anything
about it at the time.
Oh, thou little imbecilethou stupid! cried his mother, angrily.
There were the truffles, and the first chance was for thee. Didn't
think anything about it! Thou never dost think, thou never wilt. Out of
my sight, and do not let me see thee again till bedtime.
Supperless and disconsolate poor Louis slunk away. He called Daudot,
and went to the oak copse, resolved that if he saw any sign of
excitement on the part of the dog, to fetch a spade and instantly begin
to dig. But Daudot trotted along quietly, as if there were not a
truffle left in France, and the walk was fruitless.
If I had only, became a favorite sentence with Louis, as time went
on. If I had only noticed this. If I had only stopped then. But
such phrases are apt to come into the mind after something has been
missed by not noticing or not stopping, so they do little good to
Did it ever occur to you that what people call lucky chances,
though they seem to come suddenly, are in reality prepared for by a
long unconscious process of making ready on the part of those who
profit by them? Such a chance came at last to both Jean and Louis,to
Louis no less than to Jean; but one was prepared for it, and the other
Professor Sylvestre, a famous naturalist from Toulouse, came to the
forest village where the two boys lived, one summer. He wanted a boy to
guide him about the country, carry his plant-cases and herbals, and
help in his search after rare flowers and birds, and he asked Madame
Collot, the landlady of the inn, to recommend one. She named Jean and
Louis; they were both good boys, she said.
So the professor sent for them to come and talk with him.
Do you know the forest well, and the paths? he asked.
Yes, both of them knew the forest very well.
Are there any woodpeckers of such and such a species? he asked
next. Have you the large lunar moth here? Can you tell me where to
look for Campanila rhomboidalis? and he rapidly described the
Louis shook his head. He knew nothing of any of these things. But
Jean at once waked up with interest. He knew a great deal about
woodpeckers,not in a scientific way, but with the knowledge of one
who has watched and studied bird habits. He had quite a collection of
lunar and other moths of his own, and though he did not recognize the
rare Campanila by its botanical title, he did as soon as the
professor described the peculiarities of the leaf and blossom. So M.
Sylvestre engaged him to be his guide so long as he stayed in the
region, and agreed to pay him ten francs a week. And Mother Cardilliac
wrung her hands, and exclaimed more piteously than ever over her boy's
ill luck and his cousin's superior good fortune.
One can never tell how a chance may develop. Professor Sylvestre
was well off, and kind of heart. He had no children of his own, and he
was devoted, above all other things, to the interest of science. He saw
the making of a first-rate naturalist in Jean Cardilliac, with his
quick eyes, his close observation, his real interest in finding out and
making sure. He grew to an interest in and liking for the boy, which
ripened, as the time drew near for him to return to his university,
into an offer to take Jean with him, and provide for his education, on
the condition that Jean, in return, should render him a certain amount
of assistance during his out-of-school hours. It was, in effect, a kind
of adoption, which might lead to almost anything; and Jean's mother was
justified in declaring, as she did, that his fortune was made.
And for thee, thou canst stay at home, and dig potatoes for the
rest of thy sorry life, lamented the mother of Louis. Well, let
people say what they will, this is an unjust world; and, what is worse,
the saints look on, and do nothing to prevent it. Heaven forgive me if
it is blasphemous to speak so, but I cannot help it!
But it was neither luck nor injustice. It was merely the
difference between eyes and no eyes,a difference which will always
exist and always tell.
THE PONY THAT KEPT THE STORE.
It was a shabby old store, built where two cross-roads and a lane
met at the foot of a low hill, and left between them a small triangular
space fringed with grass. On the hill stood a summer hotel, full of
boarders from the neighboring city; for the place was cool and airy,
and a wide expanse of sea and rocky islands, edged with beaches and
wooded points, stretched away from the hill's foot.
In years gone by, the shabby old store had driven quite a
flourishing trade during the months of the year when the hotel was
open. The boarders went there for their ink and tacks; their
sewing-silk and shoe-buttons; for the orange marmalade and potted ham
which they carried on picnics; for the liquid blacking, which saved the
boot-boy at the hotel so much labor; the letter-paper, on which they
wrote to their friends what a good time they were having; and all the
thousand and one things of which people who have little to do with
their time and money fancy themselves in want. But a year before the
time at which the events I am about to relate took place, the owner of
the store built himself a new and better one at a place a mile further
on, where there was a still larger hotel and a group of cottages, and
removed thither with his belongings. The old building had stood empty
for some months, and at last was hired for a queer use,namely, to
serve as stable for a very small Shetland pony, not much larger than a
calf, or an extra large Newfoundland dog.
Cloud was the pony's name. He belonged to Ned Cabot, who was nine
years old, and was not only his pony, but his intimate friend as well.
Ned loved him only the better for a terrible accident which had
befallen Cloud a few months before.
The Cabots, who had been living on Lake Superior for a while, came
back to the East with all their goods and chattels, and among the rest,
their horses. It had been a question as to how little Cloud should
travel; and at last a box was built which could be set in a
freight-car, and in which, it was hoped, he would make the journey in
safety. But accidents sometimes happen even when the utmost care is
taken, and, sad to relate, Cloud arrived in Boston with his tiny
Horses' legs are hard to mend, you know; and generally when one
breaks, it is thought the easiest and cheapest way out of the trouble
to shoot the poor animal at once, and buy another to take his place.
But the bare mention of such a thing threw Ned into such paroxysms of
grief, and he sobbed so dreadfully, that all his family made haste to
assure him that under no circumstances should Cloud be shot. Instead,
he was sent to a hospital,not the Massachusetts General, I think, but
something almost as superior in its line, where animals are treated,
and there the surgeons slung him up, and put his leg into plaster,
exactly as if he had been a human being. Had he been a large, heavy
horse, I suppose they could hardly have done this; but being a little
light pony, it was possible. And the result was that the poor fellow
got well, and was not lamed in the least, which made his little master
very happy. He loved Cloud all the more for this great escape, and
Cloud fully returned Ned's affection. He was a rather over-indulged and
overfed pony; but with Ned, he was always a pattern of gentleness and
propriety. Ned could lie flat on his back and read story books by the
hour without the least fear that Cloud would jump or shy or shake him
off. Far from it! Cloud would graze quietly up and down, taking pains
not to disturb the reading, only turning his head now and then to see
if Ned was comfortable, and when he found him so, giving a little
satisfied whinny, which seemed to say, Here we are, and what a time we
are having! Surely, no pony could be expected to do better than that.
So now little Cloud, with his foreleg quite mended and as strong as
ever, was the sole occupant of the roomy old country store. A little
stall had been partitioned off for him in a corner where there was a
window, out of which he could see the buckboards and cut-unders drive
by, and the daisies and long grass on the opposite slope blowing in the
fresh sea wind. Horses have curiosity, and like to look out of the
window and watch what is going on as well as people do.
There were things inside the store that were worth looking at as
well as things outside. When Mr. Harrison, the storekeeper, moved away,
he carried off most of his belongings, but a few articles he left
behind, I suppose because he did not consider them worth taking away.
There were two blue painted counters and some rough hanging shelves, a
set of rusty old scales and weights, a row of glass jars with a little
dab of something at the bottom of each,rice, brown sugar,
cream-of-tartar, cracker crumbs, and fragments of ginger-snaps. There
was also a bottle half full of fermented olives, a paper parcel of
musty corn flour, and, greatest of all, a big triangle of cheese, blue
with mould, in a round red wooden box with wire sides, like an enormous
mouse-trap. It was quite a stock-in-trade for a pony, and Cloud had so
much the air of being in possession, that the smallest of the children
at the hotel always spoke of the place as his store. I want to go down
to Cloud's store, they would say to their nurses.
Ned and his sister Constance took a great deal of the care of the
pony on themselves. A freckled little country lad named Dick had been
engaged to feed and clean him; but he so often ran away from his work
that the children were never easy in their minds for fear lest Cloud
had been forgotten and was left supperless or with no bed to lie upon.
Almost always, and especially on Sunday nights, when he of the freckles
was most apt to absent himself, they would coax their mother to let
them run down the last thing and make sure that all was right. If it
were not, Ned would turn to, and Constance also, to feed and bed the
pony; they were both strong and sturdy, and could do the work very
well, only Constance always wanted to braid his mane to make it kink,
and Ned would never let her; so they sometimes ended with quarrelling.
One day in August it happened that Ned's father and mother, his big
brother, his two sisters, and, in fact, most of the grown people in the
hotel, went off on a picnic to White Gull Island, which was about seven
miles out to sea. They started at ten in the morning, with a good
breeze, and a load of very attractive-looking lunch-baskets; but at
noon the wind died down, and did not spring up again, and when Ned's
bedtime came, they had still not returned. Their big sail could be seen
far out beyond the islands. They were rowing the boat, Mr. Gale, the
hotel-keeper, said; but unless the wind came up, he did not think they
would be in much before midnight.
Ned had not gone with the others. He had hurt his foot a day or two
before, and his mother thought climbing rocks would be bad for it. He
had cried a little when Constance and the rest sailed away, but had
soon been consoled. Mrs. Cabot had arranged a series of treats for him,
a row with Nurse, a sea-bath, a new story-book, and had asked a little
boy he liked to come over from the other hotel and spend the afternoon
on the beach. There had been the surprise of a box of candy and two big
peaches. Altogether, the day had gone happily, and it was not till
Nurse had put Ned to bed and gone off to a praise meeting in the
Methodist chapel, that it occurred to him to feel lonely.
He lay looking out at sea, which was lit by the biggest and whitest
moon ever seen. Far away he could catch the shimmer of the idle sail,
which seemed scarcely nearer than it had done at supper-time.
I wish Mamma were here to kiss me for good-night, reflected Ned,
rather dismally. I don't feel sleepy a bit, and it isn't nice to have
them all gone.
From the foot of the hill came a sound of small hoofs stamping
impatiently. Then a complaining whinny was heard. Ned sat up in bed.
Something was wrong with Cloud, he was sure.
It's that bad Dick. He's gone off and forgotten to give Cloud any
supper, thought Ned. Then he called Mary! Ma-ry! several times,
before he remembered that Mary was gone to the praise meeting.
I don't care! he said aloud. I'm not going to let my Cloudy
starve for anybody.
So he scrambled out of bed, found his shoes, and hastily put on some
of the clothes which Mary had just taken off and folded up. There was
no one on the piazza to note the little figure as it sped down the
slope. Everybody was off enjoying the moonlight in some way or other.
It was, indeed, as Ned had suspected. Dick of the freckles had gone
fishing and forgotten Cloud altogether. The moon shone full through the
eastern windows of the store, making it almost as light as day, and Ned
had no trouble in finding the hay and the water-pail. He watched the
pony as he hungrily champed and chewed the sweet-smelling heap and
sucked up the water, then he brushed out his stall, and scattered
straw, and then sat down for a minute, as he told himself, to rest
and watch Cloud go to sleep. It was very pleasant in the old store, he
Presently Cloud lay down on the straw too, and cuddled close up to
Ned, who patted and stroked him. Ned thought he was asleep, he lay so
still. But after a little while Cloud stirred and got up, first on his
forelegs and then altogether. He stood a moment watching Ned, who
pretended to be sleeping, then he opened the slatted door of his stall,
moved gently across the floor and went in behind the old blue counter.
What is he going to do? thought Ned. I never saw anything
so funny. Constance will never believe when I tell her about it.
What Cloud did was to take one of the glass jars from the shelf in
his teeth, and set it on the counter. It was the one which held the
gingersnap crumbs. Cloud lifted off the lid. Just then a clatter of
hoofs was heard outside, and another horse came in. Ned knew the horse
in a minute. It was the yellow one which Mr. Gale drove in his
The yellow horse trotted up to the counter, and he and Cloud talked
together for a few minutes. It was in pony language, and Ned could not
understand what they said; but it had to do with the gingersnaps,
apparently, for Cloud poured part of them out on the counter, and the
buckboard horse greedily licked them up. Then he gave Cloud something
by way of payment. Ned could not see what, but it seemed to be a nail
out of his hind shoe, and then tiptoed out of the store and across the
road to the field where the horses grazed, while Cloud opened a drawer
at the back of the counter and threw in the nail, if it was one. It
sounded like a nail.
He had scarcely done so when more hoofs sounded, and two other
horses came in. Horse one was the bay which went with the yellow in the
buckboard, the other Mr. Gale's sorrel colt, which he allowed no one to
drive except himself. Cloud seemed very glad to see them. And such a
lively chorus went on across the counter of whinnies and snorts and
splutters, accompanied with such emphatic stamps, that Ned shrank into
a dark corner, and did not dare to laugh aloud, though he longed to as
he peeped between the bars.
The sorrel colt seemed to want a great many things. He evidently had
the shopping instinct. Cloud lifted down all the jars, one by one, and
the colt sampled their contents. The cream-of-tartar he did not like at
all; but he ate all the brown sugar and the cracker crumbs, tasted an
olive and let it drop with a disgusted neigh, and lastly took a bite of
the mouldy cheese in the red trap, and expressed his opinion of it by
what seemed to be a swear-word. Then he and the bay-horse and Cloud
went to the end of the store where a rusty old stove without any pipe
stood, sat down on their haunches before it, put their forelegs on its
top, and began, as it seemed, to discuss politics; at least, it sounded
wonderfully like the conversation that had gone on in that very corner
in Mr. Harrison's day, when the farmers collected to predict the defeat
of the candidate on the other side, whoever he might be.
They talked so long that Ned grew very sleepy, and lay down again on
the straw. He felt that he ought to go home and to bed, but he did not
quite dare. The strange horses might take offence at his being there,
he thought; still, he had a comfortable feeling that as Cloud's friend
they would not do him any real harm. Even when, as it seemed, one of
them came into the stall, took hold of his shoulder, and began to shake
him violently, he was not really frightened.
Don't! he said sleepily. I won't tell anybody. Cloud knows me.
I'm a friend of his.
Ned! wake up! Ned! wake up! said some one. Was it the red horse?
No, it was his father. And there was Mamma on the other side of him.
And there was Cloud lying on the straw close by, pretending to be
asleep, but with one eye half open!
Wake up! said Papa; here it is, after eleven o'clock, and Mamma
half frightened to death at getting home and not finding you in your
bed. How did you come down here, sir?
Cloud was crying for his supper, and I came down to feed him,
explained Ned. And then I stayed to watch him keep store. Oh, it was
so funny, Mamma! The other horses came and bought things, and Cloud was
just like a real storekeeper, and sold crackers to them, and sugar, and
took the moneyno, it was nails, I think.
My dear, you have been dreaming, said Mrs. Cabot. Don't let him
talk any more, John. He is all excited now, and won't sleep if you do.
So, though Ned loudly protested that he had not been asleep at all,
and so could not have dreamed, he was put to bed at once, and no one
would listen to him. And next day it was just as bad, for all of them,
Constance as well as the rest, insisted that Ned had fallen asleep in
the pony's stall and dreamed the whole thing. Even when he opened the
drawer at the back of the counter and showed them the shoe-nail that
Cloud had dropped in, they would not believe. There was nothing
remarkable in there being a nail there, they said; all sorts of things
were put in the drawers of country stores.
But Ned and Cloud knew very well that it was not a dream.
PINK AND SCARLET.
It's the most perfect beauty that ever was!
Pshaw! you always say that. It's not a bit prettier than Mary's.
Yes, it is.
No, indeed, it isn't.
The subject of dispute was a parasol,a dark blue one, trimmed with
fringe, and with an ivory handle. The two little girls who were
discussing it were Alice Hoare and her sister Madge. It was Madge's
birthday, and the parasol was one of her presents.
The dispute continued.
I wish you wouldn't always say that your things are better than any
one else's, said Alice. It's ex-exaspering to talk like that, and
Mamma said when we exasperated it was almost as bad as telling lies.
She didn't say exasperate. That wasn't the word at all; and this
is the sweetest, dearest, most perfectly beautiful parasol in the
world, a great deal prettier than your green one.
Yes, so it is, confessed candid Alice. Mine is quite old now.
This is younger, and, besides, the top of mine is broken off. But yours
isn't really any prettier than Mary's.
It is too! It's a great deal more beautiful and a great deal more
What is that which is so fascinating? asked their sister Mary,
coming into the room. The new parasol? My! that is strong language to
use about a parasol. It should at least be an umbrella, I think. See,
Madge, here is another birthday gift.
It was a gilt cage, with a pair of Java sparrows. Oh, lovely!
delicious! cried Madge, jumping up and down. I think this is the best
birthday that ever was! Are they from you, Mary, darling? Thank you
ever so much! They are the most perfectly beautiful things I ever saw.
The parasol was the most beautiful just now, observed Alice.
Oh, these are much beautifuller than that, because they are alive,
replied Madge, giving her oldest sister a rapturous squeeze.
I wish you'd make me a birthday present in return, said Mary. I
wish you'd drop that bad habit of exaggerating everything you like, and
everything you don't like. All your 'bads' are 'dreadfuls,'all your
pinks are scarlets.
I don't know what you mean, said Madge, puzzled and offended.
It's only what Mamma has often spoken to you about, dear Madgie. It
is saying more than is quite true, and more than you quite feel. I am
sure you don't mean to be false, but people who are not used to you
might think you so.
It's because I like things so much.
No, for when you don't like them, it's just as bad. I have heard
you say fifty times, at least, 'It is the horridest thing I ever saw,'
and you know there couldn't be fifty 'horridest' things.
But you all know what I mean.
Well, we can guess, but you ought to be more exact. And, besides,
Papa says if we use up all our strong words about little every-day
things, we sha'n't have any to use when we are talking about really
great things. If you call a heavy muffin 'awful,' what are you going to
say about an earthquake or tornado?
We don't have any earthquakes in Groton, and I don't ever mean to
go to places where they do, retorted Madge, triumphantly.
Madge, how bad you are! cried little Alice. You ought to promise
Mary right away, because it's your birthday.
Well, I'll try, said Madge. But she did not make the promise with
much heart, and she soon forgot all about it. It seemed to her that
Mary was making a great fuss about a small thing.
Are there any small things? Sometimes I am inclined to doubt it. A
fever-germ can only be seen under the microscope, but think what a
terrible work it can do. The avalanche, in its beginning, is only a few
moving particles of snow; the tiny spring feeds the brook, which in
turn feeds the river; the little evil, unchecked, grows into the habit
which masters the strongest man. All great things begin in small
things; and these small things which are to become we know not what,
should be important in our eyes.
Madge Hoare meant to be a truthful child; but little by little, and
day by day, her perception of what truth really is, was being worn away
by the habit of exaggeration.
Perfectly beautiful, perfectly horrible, perfectly dreadful,
perfectly fascinating, such were the mild terms which she daily used
to describe the most ordinary things,apples, rice puddings,
arithmetic lessons, gingham dresses, and, as we have seen, blue
parasols! And the habit grew upon her, as habits will. When she needed
stronger language than usual, things had to be horrider than horrid,
and beautifuller than beautiful. And the worst of it was, that she
was all the time half conscious of her own insincerity, and that, to
use Mary's favorite figure, she meant pink, but she said
The family fell so into the habit of making mental allowances and
deductions for all Madge's statements that sometimes they fell into the
habit of not believing enough. It is only Madge! they would say, and
so dismiss the subject from their minds. This careless disbelief vexed
and hurt Madge very often, but it did not hurt enough to cure her. One
day, however, it did lead to something which she could not help
It was warm weather still, although September, and Ernest, the
little baby brother, whom Madge loved best of all the children, was
playing one morning in the yard by himself. Madge was studying an
awful arithmetic lesson upstairs at the window. She could not see
Ernest, who was making a sand-pie directly beneath her; but she did see
an old woman peer over the fence, open the gate, and steal into the
What a horrid-looking old woman! thought Madge. The multiple of
sixteen added toOh, bother! what an awful sum this is! She forgot
the old woman for a few moments, then she again saw her going out of
the yard, and carrying under her cloak what seemed to be a large
bundle. The odd thing was, that the bundle seemed to have legs, and to
kick; or was it the wind blowing the old woman's cloak about?
Madge watched the old woman out of sight with a puzzled and
half-frightened feeling. Could she have stolen anything? she asked
herself; and at last she ran downstairs to see. Nothing seemed missing
from the hall, only Ernie's straw hat lay in the middle of the gravel
Mamma! cried Madge, bursting into the library where her mother was
talking to a visitor. There has been the most perfectly horrible old
woman in our yard that I ever saw. She was so awful-looking that I was
afraid she had been stealing something. Did you see her, Mamma?
My dear, all old women are awful in your eyes, said Mrs. Hoare,
calmly. This was old Mrs. Shephard, I presume. I told her to come for
a bundle of washing. Run away now, Madge, I am busy.
Madge went, but she still did not feel satisfied. The more she
thought about the old woman, the more she was sure that it was not old
Mrs. Shephard. She went with her fears to Mary.
She was just like a gypsy, she explained, or a horrible old
witch. Her hair stuck out so, and she had the awfullest face! I am
almost sure she stole something, and carried it away under her shawl,
Nonsense! said Mary, who was drawing, and not inclined to disturb
herself for one of Madge's cock-and-bull stories. It was only one of
Mamma's old goodies, you may be sure. Don't you recollect what a fright
you gave us about the robber, who turned out to be a man selling
apples; and that other time, when you were certain there was a bear in
the garden, and it was nothing but Mr. Price's big Newfoundland?
But this was quite different; it really was. This old woman was
Your old women always are, replied Mary, unconcernedly, going on
with her sketch.
No one would attend to Madge's story, no one sympathized with her
alarm. She was like the boy who cried Wolf! so often that, when the
real wolf came, no one heeded his cries. But the family roused from
their indifference, when, an hour later, Nurse came to ask where Master
Ernie could be, and search revealed the fact that he was nowhere about
the premises. Madge and her old woman were treated with greater respect
then. Papa set off for the constable, and Jim drove rapidly in the
direction which the old woman was taking when last seen. Poor Mrs.
Hoare was terribly anxious and distressed.
I blame myself for not attending at once to what Madge said, she
told Mary. But the fact is that she exaggerates so constantly that I
have fallen into the habit of only half listening to her. If it had
been Alice, it would have been quite different.
Madge overheard Mamma say this, and she crept away to her own room,
and cried as if her heart would break.
If Ernie is never found, it will all be my fault, she thought.
Nobody believes a word that I say. But they would have believed if
Alice had said it, and Mary would have run after that wicked old woman,
and got dear baby away from her. Oh dear, how miserable I am!
Madge never forgot that long afternoon and that wretched night.
Mamma did not go to bed at all, and none of them slept much. It was not
till ten o'clock the next morning that Papa and Jim came back,
bringingoh, joy!little Ernie with them, his pretty hair all tangled
and his rosy cheeks glazed with crying, but otherwise unhurt. He had
been found nearly ten miles away, locked in a miserable cottage by the
old woman, who had taken off his nice clothes and dressed him in a
ragged frock. She had left him there while she went out to beg, or
perhaps to make arrangements for carrying him farther out of reach; but
she had given him some bread and milk for supper and breakfast, and the
little fellow was not much the worse for his adventure; and after a
bath and a re-dressing, and after being nearly kissed to death by the
whole family, he went to sleep in his own crib very comfortably.
Papa, said Madge that night, I never mean to exaggerate any more
as long as I live. I mean to say exactly what I think, only not so
much, so that you shall all have confidence in me. And then, next time
baby is stolen, you will all believe what I say.
I hope there will never be any 'next time,' observed her mother;
but I shall have to be glad of what happened this time, if it really
cures you of such a bad habit, my little Madge.
What is presence of mind, any way? demanded little Dolly Ware, as
she sat, surrounded by her family, watching the sunset.
The sunset hour is best of all the twenty-four in Nantucket. At no
other time is the sea so blue and silvery, or the streaks of purple and
pale green which mark the place of the sand-spits and shallows that
underlie the island waters so defined, or of such charming colors. The
wind blows across softly from the south shore, and brings with it
scents of heath and thyme, caught from the high upland moors above the
town. The sun dips down, and sends a flash of glory to the zenith; and
small pink clouds curl up about the rising moon, fondle her, as it
were, and seem to love her. It is a delightful moment, and all
Nantucket dwellers learn to watch for it.
It was the custom of the Ware family, as soon as they had despatched
their supper,a very hearty supper, suited to young appetites
sharpened by sea air;of chowder, or hot lobster, or a newly caught
blue-fish, with piles of brown bread and butter, and unlimited
milk,to rush out en masse to the piazza of their little
cottage, and attend to the sunset, as though it were a family affair.
It was the hour when jokes were cracked and questions asked, and when
Mamma, who was apt to be pretty busy during the daytime, had leisure to
Dolly was youngest of the family,a thin, wiry child, tall for her
years, with a brown bang lying like a thatch over a pair of bright
inquisitive eyes, and a thick pig-tail braided down her back. Phyllis,
the next in age, was short and fat; then came Harry, then Erma, just
sixteen (named after a German great-grandmother), and, last of all,
Jack, tallest and jolliest of the group, who had just passed his
preliminaries, and would enter college next year. Mrs. Ware might be
excused for the little air of motherly pride with which she gazed at
her five. They were fine children, all of them,frank, affectionate,
generous, with bright minds and healthy bodies.
Presence of mind sometimes means absence of body, remarked Jack,
in answer to Dolly's question.
I was speaking to Mamma, said Dolly, with dignity. I wasn't
I am aware of the fact, but I overlooked the formality, for once.
What makes you want to know, midget?
There was a story in the paper about a girl who hid the kerosene
can when the new cook came, and it said she showed true presence of
mind, replied Dolly.
Oh, that was only fun! It didn't mean anything.
Isn't there any such thing, then?
Why, of course there is. Picking up a shell just before it bursts
in a hospital tent, and throwing it out of the door, is presence of
Yes, and tying a string round the right place on your leg when
you've cut an artery, added Harry, eagerly.
Swallowing a quart of whiskey when a rattlesnake bites you,
Saving the silver, instead of the waste-paper basket, when the
house is on fire, put in Erma.
Dolly looked from one to the other.
What funny things! she cried. I don't believe you know anything
about it. Mamma, tell me what it really means.
I think, said Mrs. Ware, in those gentle tones to which her
children always listened, that presence of mind means keeping cool,
and having your wits about you, at critical moments. Our mindsour
reasoning faculties, that isare apt to be stunned or shocked when we
are suddenly frightened or excited; they leave us, and go away, as it
were, and it is only afterward that we pick ourselves up, and realize
what we ought to have done. To act coolly and sensibly in the face of
danger is a fine thing, and one to be proud of.
Should you be proud of me if I showed presence of mind? asked
Dolly, leaning her arms on her mother's lap.
Very proud, replied Mrs. Ware, smiling as she stroked the brown
head,very proud, indeed.
I mean to do it, said Dolly, in a firm tone.
There was a general laugh.
How will you go to work? asked Jack. Shall I step down to
Hussey's, and get a shell for you to practise on?
She'll be setting the house on fire some night, to show what she
can do, added Harry, teasingly.
I shall do no such thing, protested Dolly, indignantly. How
foolish you are! You don't understand a bit! I don't want to make
things happen; but, if they do happen, I shall try to keep cool and
have my wits about me, and perhaps I shall.
It would be lovely to be brave and do heroic things, remarked
You could at least be brave enough to use your common sense, said
her mother. Yours is a very good resolution, Dolly dear, and I hope
you'll keep to it.
I will, said Dolly, and marched undauntedly off to bed. Later, she
found herself repeating, as if it were a lesson to be learned,
Presence of mind means keeping cool, and having your wits about you;
and she said it over and over every morning and evening after that, as
she braided her hair. Phyllis overheard, and laughed at her a little;
but Dolly didn't mind being laughed at, and kept on rehearsing her
sentence all the same.
It is not given to all of us to test ourselves, and discover by
actual experiment just how much a mental resolution has done for us.
Dolly, however, was to have the chance. The bathing-beach at Nantucket
is a particularly safe one, and the water through the summer months
most warm and delicious. All the children who lived on the sandy bluff
known as The Cliff were in the habit of bathing; and the daily dip
taken in company was the chief event of the day, in their opinion. The
little Wares all swam like ducks; and no one thought of being nervous
or apprehensive if Harry struck out boldly for the jetty, or if Erma
and Phyllis were seen side by side at a point far beyond the depth of
either of them, or little Dolly took a header into deep water off an
It happened, about two months after the talk on the piazza, that
Dolly was bathing with Kitty Allen, a small neighbor of her own age.
Kitty had just been learning to swim, and was very proud of her new
accomplishment; but she was by no means so sure of herself or so much
at home in the water as Dolly, who had learned three years before, and
The two children had swam out for quite a distance; then, as they
turned to go back, Kitty suddenly realized her distance from the shore,
and was seized with immediate and paralyzing terror.
Oh, oh! she gasped. How far out we are! We shall never get back
in the world! We shall be drowned! Dolly Ware, we shall certainly be
She made a vain clutch at Dolly, and, with a wild scream, went down,
Dolly dived after her, only to be met by Kitty coming up to the
surface again, and frantically reaching out, as drowning persons do,
for something to hold by. The first thing she touched was Dolly's large
pig-tail, and, grasping that tight, she sank again, dragging Dolly down
with her, backward.
It was really a hazardous moment. Many a good swimmer has lost his
life under similar circumstances. Nothing is more dangerous than to be
caught and held by a person who cannot swim, or who is too much
disabled by fear to use his powers.
And now it was that Dolly's carefully conned lesson about presence
of mind came to her aid. Keep cool; have your wits about you, rang
through her ears, as, held in Kitty's desperate grasp, she was dragged
down, down into the sea. A clear sense of what she ought to do flashed
across her mind. She must escape from Kitty and hold her up, but not
give Kitty any chance to drag her down again. As they rose, she pulled
her hair away with a sudden motion, and seized Kitty by the collar of
her bathing-dress, behind.
Float, and I'll hold you up, she gasped. If you try to catch hold
of me again, I'll just swim off, and leave you, and then you will
be drowned, Kitty Allen.
Kitty was too far gone to make any very serious struggle. Then
Dolly, striking out strongly, and pushing Kitty before her, sent one
wild cry for help toward the beach.
The cry was heard. It seemed to Dolly a terribly long time before
any answer came, but it was in reality less than five minutes before a
boat was pushed into the water. Dolly saw it rowing toward her, and
held on bravely. Be cool; have your wits about you, she said to
herself. And she kept firm grasp of her mind, and would not let the
fright, of whose existence she was conscious, get possession of her.
Oh, how welcome was the dash of the oars close at hand, how gladly
she relinquished Kitty to the strong arms that lifted her into the
boat! But when the men would have helped her in too, she refused.
No, thank you; I'll swim! she said. It seemed nothing to get
herself to shore, now that the responsibility of Kitty and Kitty's
weight were taken from her. She swam pluckily along, the boat keeping
near, lest her strength should give out, and reached the beach just as
Jack, that moment aware of the situation, was dashing into the water
after her. She was very pale, but declared herself not tired at all,
and she dressed and marched sturdily up the cliff, refusing all
There was quite a little stir among the summer colony over the
adventure, and Mrs. Ware had many compliments paid her for her child's
behavior. Mr. Allen came over, and had much to say about the
extraordinary presence of mind which Dolly had shown.
It was really remarkable, he said. If she had fought with Kitty,
or if she had tried to swim ashore and had not called for assistance,
they might easily have both been drowned. It is extraordinary that a
child of that age should keep her head, and show such coolness and
It wasn't remarkable at all, Dolly declared, as soon as he was
gone. It was just because you said that on the piazza that night.
Why, Mamma, surely you haven't forgotten. It was that about
presence of mind, you know. I taught it to myself, and have said it
over and over ever since,'Keep cool; have your wits about you.' I
said it in the water when Kitty was pulling me under.
Did you, really?
Indeed, I did. And then I seemed to know what to do.
Well, it was a good lesson, said Mrs. Ware, with glistening eyes.
I am glad and thankful that you learned it when you did, Dolly.
Are you proud of me? demanded Dolly.
Yes, I am proud of you.
This capped the climax of Dolly's contentment. Mamma was proud of
her; she was quite satisfied.
A BLESSING IN DISGUISE.
It was a dark day for Patty Flint when her father, with that curt
severity of manner which men are apt to assume to mask an inward
awkwardness, announced to her his intention of marrying for the second
Tell the others after I am gone out, he concluded.
But, Papa, do explain a little more to me before you go, protested
Patty. Who is this Miss Maskelyne? What kind of a person is she? Must
we call her mother?
Wellwe'll leave that to be settled later on. Miss Maskelyne is
aawell, a very nice person indeed, Patty. She'll make us all very
We always have been comfortable, I'm sure, said Patty, in an
Dr. Flint instinctively cast a look around the room. It was
comfortable, certainly, so far as neatness and sufficient furniture and
a hot fire in an air-tight stove can make a room comfortable. There was
a distinct lack of anything to complain of, yet something seemed to him
lacking. What was it? His thoughts involuntarily flew to a room which
he had quitted only the day before, no larger, no sunnier, not so well
furnished, and which yet, to his mind, seemed full of a refinement and
homelikeness which he missed in his own, though, man-like, he could
have in no wise explained what went to produce it.
His rather stern face relaxed with a half-smile; his eyes seemed to
seek out a picture far away. But Patty was watching him,an observant,
decidedly aggrieved Patty, who had done her best for him since her
mother died, and a good best too, her age considered, and who was not
inexcusable in disliking to be supplanted by a stranger. Poor Patty!
But even for Patty's sake it was better so, the father reflected,
looking at the prim, opinionated little figure before him, and noting
how all the childishness and girlishness seemed to have faded out of it
during three years of responsibility. She certainly had managed
wonderfully for a child of fifteen, and his voice was very kind as he
said, Yes, my dear, so we have. You've been a good girl, Patty, and
done your best for us all; but you're young to have so much care, and
when the new mother comes, she will relieve you of it, and leave you
free to occupy and amuse yourself as other girls of your age do.
He kissed Patty as he finished speaking. Kisses were not such
every-day matters in the Flint family as to be unimportant, and Patty,
with all her vexation, could not but be gratified. Then he hurried
away, and, after watching till his gig turned the corner, she went
slowly upstairs to the room where the children were learning their
There were three besides herself,Susy and Agnes, aged respectively
twelve and ten; and Hal, the only boy, who was not quite seven. This
hour of study in the middle of Saturday morning was deeply resented by
them all; but Patty's rules were like the laws of the Medes and
Persians, which alter not, and they dared not resist. They had solaced
the tedium of the occasion by a contraband game of checkers during her
absence, but had pushed the board under the flounce of the sofa when
they heard her steps, and flown back to their tasks. Over-discipline
often leads to little shuffles and deceptions like this, and Patty, who
loved authority for authority's sake, was not always wise in enforcing
When you have got through with your lessons, I have something to
tell you, was her beginning.
It was an indiscreet one; for of course the children at once
protested that they were through! How could they be expected to
interest themselves in the whole duty of man, with a secret obviously
in the air.
Very well, then, said Patty, indulgently,for she was dying to
tell her news,Papa has just asked me to say to you that he
isisgoing to be married to a lady in New Bedford.
Married! cried Agnes, with wide-open eyes. How funny! I thought
only people who are young got married. Can we go to the wedding, do you
Oh, perhaps we shall be bridesmaids! I'd like that, added Susy.
And have black cake in little white boxes, just as many as we want.
Goody! put in Hal.
Oh, children, how can you talk so? cried Patty, all her
half-formed resolutions of keeping silence and not letting the others
know how she felt about it flying to the winds. Do you really want a
stepmother to come in and scold and interfere and spoil all our
comfort? Do you want some one else to tell you what to do, and make you
mind, instead of me? You're too little to know about such things, but I
know what stepmothers are. I read about them in a book once, and
they're dreadful creatures, and always hate the children, and try to
make their Papas hate them too. It will be awful to have one, I think.
Patty was absolutely crying as she finished this outburst; and,
emotion being contagious, the little ones began to cry also.
Why does Papa want to marry her, if she's so horrid? sobbed Agnes.
I'll never love her! declared Susy.
And I'll set my wooden dog on her! added Hal.
Oh, Hal, protested Patty, alarmed at the effect of her own
injudicious explosion, don't talk like that! We mustn't be rude to
her. Papa wouldn't like it. Of course, we needn't love her, or tell her
things, or call her 'mother,' but we must be polite to her.
I don't know what you mean exactly, but I'm not going to be it,
anyway, said Agnes.
And, indeed, Patty's notion of a politeness which was to include
neither liking nor confidence nor respect was rather a difficult
one to comprehend.
None of the children went to the wedding, which was a very quiet
one. Patty declared that she was glad; but in her heart I think she
regretted the loss of the excitement, and the opportunity for
criticism. A big loaf of thickly frosted sponge cake arrived for the
children, with some bon-bons, and a kind little note from the bride;
and these offerings might easily have placated the younger ones, had
not Patty diligently fanned the embers of discontent and kept them from
And all the time she had no idea that she was doing wrong. She felt
ill-treated and injured, and her imagination played all sorts of
unhappy tricks. She made pictures of the future, in which she saw
herself neglected and unloved, her little sisters and brother
ill-treated, her father estranged, and the household under the rule of
an enemy, unscrupulous, selfish, and cruel. Over these purely imaginary
pictures she shed many needless tears.
But there's one thing, she told herself,it can't last always.
When girls are eighteen, they come of age, and can go away if they
like; and I shall go away! And I shall take the children with
me. Papa won't care for any of us by that time; so he will not object.
So with this league, offensive and defensive, formed against her,
the new Mrs. Flint came home. Mary the cook and Ann the housemaid
joined in it to a degree.
To be sure, it's provoking enough that Miss Patty can be when she's
a mind, observed Mary; a-laying down the law, and ordering me about,
when she knows no more than the babe unborn how things should be done!
Still, I'd rather keep on wid her than be thrying my hand at a
stranger. This'll prove a hard missis, mark my word for it, Ann! See
how the children is set against her from the first! That's a sign.
Everything was neat and in order on the afternoon when Dr. and Mrs.
Flint were expected. Patty had worked hard to produce this result. She
shall see that I know how to keep house, she said to herself. All the
rooms had received thorough sweeping, all the rugs had been beaten and
the curtains shaken out, the chairs had their backs exactly to the
wall, and every book on the centre table lay precisely at right angles
with a second book underneath it. Patty's ideas of decoration had not
got beyond a stiff neatness. She had yet to learn how charming an easy
disorder can be made.
The children, in immaculate white aprons, waited with her in the
parlor. They did not run out into the hall when the carriage stopped.
The malcontent Ann opened the door in silence.
Where are the children? were the first words that Patty heard her
The voice was sweet and bright, with a sort of assured tone in it,
as of one used always to a welcome. She did not wait for the Doctor,
but walked into the room by herself, a tall, slender, graceful woman,
with a face full of brilliant meanings, of tenderness, sense, and fun.
One look out of her brown eyes did much toward the undoing of Patty's
work of prejudice with the little ones.
Patty, dear child, where are you? she said. And she kissed her
warmly, not seeming to notice the averted eyes and the unresponding
lips. Then she turned to the little ones, and somehow, by what magic
they could not tell, in a very few minutes they had forgotten to be
afraid of her, forgotten that she was a stranger and a stepmother, and
had begun to talk to her freely and at their ease. Dr. Flint's face
brightened as he saw the group.
Getting acquainted with the new mamma? he said. That's right.
But this was a mistake. It reminded the children that she was new,
and they drew back again into shyness. His wife gave him a rapid,
humorous look of warning.
It always takes a little while for people to get acquainted, she
said; but these 'people' and I do not mean to wait long.
She smiled as she spoke, and the children felt the fascination of
her manner; only Patty held aloof.
The next few weeks went unhappily enough with her. She had to see
her adherents desert her, one by one; to know that Mary and Ann chanted
the praises of the new housekeeper to all their friends; to watch the
little girls' growing fondness for the stranger; to notice that little
Hal petted and fondled her as he had never done his rather rigorous
elder sister; and that her father looked younger and brighter and more
content than she had ever seen him look before. She had also to witness
the gradual demolishment of the stiff household arrangements which she
had inherited traditionally from her mother, and sedulously observed
and kept up.
The new Mrs. Flint was a born homemaker. The little instinctive
touches which she administered here and there presently changed the
whole aspect of things. The chairs walked away from the walls; the sofa
was wheeled into the best position for the light; plants, which Patty
had eschewed as making trouble and slop, blossomed everywhere. Books
were strewed, as Patty in her secret thought expressed it, in all
directions; fresh flowers filled the vases; the blinds were thrown back
for the sunshine to stream in. The climax seemed to come when Mrs.
Flint turned out the air-tight stove, opened the disused fireplace,
routed a pair of andirons from the attic, and set up a wood fire.
It will snap all over the room. The ashes will dirty everything.
The children will set fire to their aprons, and burn up! objected
There's a big wire fireguard coming to make the children safe,
replied her stepmother, easily. As for the snapping and the dirt,
that's all fancy, Patty. I've lived with a wood fire all my life, and
it's no trouble at all, if properly managed. I'm sure you'll like it,
dear, when you are used to it.
And the worst was that Patty did like it. It was so with many
of the new arrangements. She opposed them violently at first in her
heart, not saying much,for Mrs. Flint, with all her brightness and
affectionate sweetness, had an air of experience and authority about
her which it was not easy to dispute,and later ended by confessing to
herself that they were improvements. A gradual thaw was taking place in
her frozen little nature. She fought against it; but as well might a
winter-sealed pond resist the sweet influences of spring.
Against her will, almost without her knowledge, she was receiving
the impress of a character wider and sweeter and riper than her own.
Insensibly, an admiration of her stepmother grew upon her. She saw her
courted by strangers for her beauty and grace; she saw her become a
sort of queen among the young people of the town; but she also sawshe
could not help seeingthat no tinge of vanity ever marred her
reception of this regard, and that no duty was ever left undone, no
kindness ever neglected, because of the pressure of the pleasantness of
life. And thenfor a girl cannot but enjoy being made the most ofshe
gradually realized that Mrs. Flint, in spite of coldness and
discouragement, cared for her rights, protected her pleasures, was
ready to take pains that Patty should have her share and her chance,
should be and appear at her best. It was something she had missed
always,the supervision and loving watchfulness of a mother. Now it
was hers; and, though she fought against the conviction, it was sent to
In less than a year Patty had yielded unconditionally to the new
régime. She was a generous child at heart, and, her opposition once
conquered, she became fonder of her stepmother than all the rest put
together. Simply and thoroughly she gave herself up to be re-moulded
into a new pattern. Her standards changed; her narrow world of motives
and ideas expanded and enlarged, till from its confines she saw the
illimitable width of the whole universe. Sunshine lightened all her
dark places, and set her dormant capacities to growing. Such is the
result, at times, of one gracious, informing nature upon others.
Before her eighteenth birthday, the date which she had set in her
first ignorant revolt of soul for escape from an imaginary tyranny, the
stepmother she had so dreaded was become her best and most intimate
friend. It was on that very day that she made for the first time a full
confession of her foolishness.
What a goose!what a silly, bad thing I was! she said. I hated
the idea of you, Mamma. I said I never would like you, whatever you
did; and then I just went and fell in love with you!
You hid the hatred tolerably well, but I am happy to say that you
don't hide the love, said Mrs. Flint, with a smile.
Hide it? I don't want to! I wonder what did make me behave so? Oh,
I know,it was that absurd book! I wish people wouldn't write such
things, Mamma. When I'm quite grown up I mean to write a book myself,
and just tell everybody how different it really is, and that the
nicest, dearest, best things in the world, and the greatest blessings,
Blessings in disguise, said Mrs. Flint. Well, Patty, I am afraid
I was pretty thoroughly disguised in the beginning; but if you consider
me a blessing now, it's all right.
Oh, it's all just as right as it can be! said Patty, fervently.
A GRANTED WISH.
This is a story about princesses and beggar-girls, hovels and
palaces, sweet things and sad things, fullness and scarcity. It is a
simple story enough, and mostly true. And as it touches so many and
such different extremes of human condition and human experience, it
ought by good rights to interest almost everybody; don't you think so?
Effie Wallis's great wish was to have a doll of her own. This was
not a very unreasonable wish for any little girl to feel, one would
think, yet there seemed as little likelihood of its being granted as
that the moon should come down out of the sky and offer itself to her
as a plaything; for Effie and her parents belonged to the very poorest
of the London poor, and how deep a poverty that is, only London knows.
We have poor people enough, and sin and suffering enough in our own
large cities, but I don't think the poorest of them are quite so badly
off as London's worst. Effie and her father and mother and her little
sister and her three brothers all lived in a single cellar-like room,
in the most squalid quarter of St. Giles. There was almost no furniture
in the room; in winter it was often fireless, in summer hot always, and
full of evil smells. Food was scanty, and sometimes wanting altogether,
for gin cost less than bread, and Effie's father was continuously
drunk, her mother not infrequently so. It was a miserable home and a
wretched family. The parents fought, the children cried and quarrelled,
and the parents beat them. As the boys grew bigger, they made haste to
escape into the streets, where all manner of evil was taught them.
Jack, the eldest, who was but just twelve, had twice been arrested, and
sentenced to a term of imprisonment for picking pockets. They were
growing up to be little thieves, young ruffians, and what chance for
better things was there in the squalid cellar and the comfortless life,
and how little chance of a doll for Effie, you will easily see. Poor
doll-less Effie! She was only six years old, and really a sweet little
child. The grime on her cheeks did not reach to her heart, which was as
simple and ignorant and innocent as that of white-clad children, whose
mothers kiss them, and whose faces are washed every day.
In all her life Effie had only seen one doll. It was a battered
object, with one leg gone, and only half a nose, but, to Effie's eyes,
it was a beauty and a treasure. This doll was the property of a little
girl to whom Effie had never dared to speak, she seemed to her so happy
and privileged, so far above herself, as she strutted up and down the
alley with other children, bearing the one-legged doll in her arms. It
was not the alley in which the Wallises lived, but a somewhat wider one
into which that opened. One of Effie's few pleasures was to creep away
when she could, and, crouched behind a post at the alley's foot, watch
the children playing there. No one thought of or noticed her. Once,
when the owner of the doll threw her on the ground for a moment and ran
away, Effie ventured to steal out and touch the wonderful creature with
her finger. It was only a touch, for the other children soon returned,
and Effie fled back to her hiding-place; but she never forgot it. Oh,
if only she could have a doll like that for her own, what happiness it
would be, she thought; but she never dared to mention the doll to her
mother, or to put the wish into words.
If any one had come in just then and told Effie that one day she was
to own a doll far more beautiful than the shabby treasure she so
coveted, and that the person to give it her would be the future Queen
of England,why, first it would have been needful to explain to her
what the words meant, and then she certainly wouldn't have believed
them. What a wide, wide distance there seemed from the wretched alley
where the little, half-clad child crouched behind the post, to the
sunny palace where the fair princess, England's darling, sat surrounded
by her bright-faced children,a distance too wide to bridge, as it
would appear; yet it was bridged, and there was a half-way point where
both could meet, as you will see. That half-way point was called The
Great Ormond Street Child's Hospital.
For one day a very sad thing happened to Effie. Sent by her mother
to buy a quartern of gin, she was coming back with the jug in her hand,
when a half-tipsy man, reeling against her, threw her down just where a
flight of steps led to a lower street. She was picked up and carried
home, where for some days she lay in great pain, before a kind woman
who went about to read the Bible to the poor, found her out, and sent
the dispensary doctor to see her. He shook his head gravely after he
had examined her, and said her leg was badly broken, and ought to have
been seen to long before, and that there was no use trying to cure her
there, and she must be carried to the hospital. Mrs. Wallis made a
great outcry over this, for mothers are mothers, even when they are
poor and drunken and ignorant, and do not like to have their children
taken away from them; but in the end the doctor prevailed.
Effie hardly knew when they moved her, for the doctor had given her
something which made her sleep heavily and long. It was like a dream
when she at last opened her eyes, and found herself in a place which
she had never seen before,a long, wide, airy room, with a double row
of narrow, white beds like the one in which she herself was, and in
most of the beds sick children lying. Bright colored pictures and texts
painted gaily in red and blue hung on the walls above the beds; some of
the counterpanes had pretty verses printed on them. Effie could not
read, but she liked to look at the texts, they were so bright. There
were flowers in pots and jars on the window-sills, and on some of the
little tables that stood beside the beds, and tiny chairs with rockers,
in which pale little boys and girls sat swinging to and fro. A great
many of them were playing with toys, and they all looked happy. An air
of fresh, cheerful neatness was over all the place, and altogether it
was so pleasant that for a long time Effie lay staring about her, and
speaking not a word. At last, in a faint little voice, she half
whispered, Where is this?
Faint as was the voice, some one heard it, and came at once to the
bedside. This somebody was a nice, sweet-faced, motherly looking woman,
dressed in the uniform of Miss Nightingale's nurses. She smiled so
kindly at Effie that Effie smiled feebly back.
Where is this? she asked again.
This is a nice place where they take care of little children who
are ill, and make them well again, answered the nurse, brightly.
Do you live here? said Effie, after a pause, during which her
large eyes seemed to grow larger.
Yes. My name is Nurse Johnstone, and I am your nurse. You've
had a long sleep, haven't you, dear? Now you've waked up, would you
like some nice milk to drink?
Y-es, replied Effie, doubtfully. But when the milk came, she liked
it very much, it was so cool and rich and sweet. It was brought in a
little blue cup, and Effie drank it through a glass tube, because she
must not lift her head. There was a bit of white bread to eat besides,
but Effie did not care for that. She was drowsy still, and fell asleep
as soon as the last mouthful of milk was swallowed.
When she next waked, Nurse Johnstone was there again, with such a
good little cupful of hot broth for Effie to eat, and another slice of
bread. Effie's head was clearer now, and she felt much more like
talking and questioning. The ward was dark and still, only a shaded
lamp here and there showed the little ones asleep in their cots.
This is a nice place I think, said Effie, as she slowly sipped the
I'm glad you like it, said the nurse, almost all children do.
I like you, too, said Effie, with a contented sigh, and that, pointing to the broth. She had not once asked after her mother; the
nurse noticed, and she drew her own inferences.
Now, she said, after she had smoothed the bed clothes and Effie's
hair, and given the pillow a touch or two to make it easier, now, it
would be nice if you would say one little Bible verse for me, and then
go to sleep again.
A verse? said Effie.
Yes, a little Bible verse.
Bible? repeated Effie, in a puzzled tone.
Yes, dear,a Bible verse. Don't you know one?
But you've seen a Bible, surely.
Effie shook her head. I don't know what you mean, she said.
Why, you poor lamb, cried Nurse Johnstone, I do believe you
haven't! Well, and in a Christian country, too! If that ain't too bad.
I'll tell you a verse this minute, you poor little thing, and to-morrow
we'll see if you can't learn it. Then, very slowly and reverently, she
repeated, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them
not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven. Twice she repeated the
text, Effie listening attentively to the strange, beautiful words; then
she kissed her for good-night, and moved away. Effie lay awake awhile
saying the verse over to herself. She had a good memory, and when she
waked next morning she found that she was able to say it quite
That happened to be a Thursday, and Thursday was always a special
day in Great Ormond Street, because it was that on which the Princess
of Wales made her weekly visit to the hospital. Effie had never heard
of a princess, and had no idea what all the happy bustle meant, as
nurses and patients made ready for the coming guest. Nothing could be
cleaner than the ward in its every-day condition, but all little
possible touches were given to make it look its very best. Fresh
flowers were put into the jars, the little ones able to sit up, were
made very neat, each white bed was duly smoothed, and every face had a
look as though something pleasant was going to happen. Children easily
catch the contagion of cheerfulness, and Effie was insensibly cheered
by seeing other people so. She lay on her pillow, observing everything,
and faintly smiling, when the door opened, and in came a slender,
beautiful lady, wrapped in soft silks and laces, with two or three
children beside her. All the nurses began to courtesy, and the children
to dimple and twinkle at the sight of her. She walked straight to the
middle of the ward, then, lifting something up that all might see it,
she said in a clear sweet voice: Isn't there some one of these little
girls who can say a pretty Bible verse for me? If there is, she shall
What do you think this was? No other than a doll! A large,
beautiful creature of wax, with curly brown hair, blue eyes which could
open and shut, the reddest lips and pinkest cheeks ever seen, and a
place, somewhere about her middle, which, when pinched, made her utter
a squeaky sound like Mama. This delightful doll had on a pretty blue
dress with a scarlet sash, and a pair of brown kid boots with real
buttons. She wore a little blue hat on top of her curly head, and
sported an actual pocket-handkerchief, three inches square, or so, on
which was written her name, Dolly Varden. All the little ones stared
at her with dazzled eyes, but for a moment no one spoke. I suppose they
really were too surprised to speak, till suddenly a little hand went
up, and a small voice was heard from the far corner. The voice came
from Effie, too, and it was Effie herself who spoke.
I can say a verse, said the small voice.
Can you? That is nice. Say it, then, said the princess, turning
Then the small, piping voice repeated, very slowly and distinctly,
this text: Suffer the little children to come untoNurse Johnstone
and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven!
What a laugh rang through the ward then! The nurses laughed, the
little ones laughed too, though they did not distinctly understand at
what. Nurse Johnstone cried as well as laughed, and the princess was
almost as bad, for her eyes were dewy, though a smile was on her sweet
lips as she stepped forward and laid the doll in Effie's hands. Nurse
Johnstone eagerly explained: I said 'Come unto Me,' and she thought it
meant me, poor little lamb, and it's a shame there should be
such ignorance in a Christian land! All this time Effie was hugging
her dolly in a silent rapture. Her wish was granted, and wasn't it
strange that it should have been granted just so?
[Illustration: She stepped forward and laid the doll in Effie's
Do you want to know more about little Effie? There isn't much more
to tell. All the kindness and care which she received in Great Ormond
Street could not make her well again. She had no constitution, the
doctors said, and no strength. She lived a good many weeks, however,
and they were the happiest weeks of her life, I think. Dolly Varden was
always beside her, and Dolly was clasped tight in her arms when she
finally fell asleep to waken up no more. Nurse Johnstone, who had
learned to love the little girl dearly, wanted to lay the doll in the
small coffin; but the other nurses said it would be a pity to do so.
There are so few dolls and so many children in the world, you know; so
in the end Dolly Varden was given to another little sick girl, who took
as much pleasure in her as Effie had done.
So Effie's wish was granted, though only for a little while. It is
very often so with wishes which we make in this world. But I am very
sure that Effie doesn't miss the dolly or anything else in the happy
world to which she has gone, and that the wishes granted there are
granted fully and forever, and more freely and abundantly than we who
stay behind can even guess.