Little Cousin Ranna by Mrs. Lucy Morse
"Will and Almida Handly were rather sorry when they learned that their
little cousin Marianne Joy was coming to make them a long visit.
"She won't know a bumble-bee from a butternut," said Will. "City
children don't know anything, and she'll be awfully in the way. Won't
she tag after you and me, though, Almy?"
"Oh dear!" said Almy, in a complaining tone; "we'll have to keep her
every speck of washing and baking days."
"I wish they'd leave her where she belongs," said Will.
The children were silent awhile, and then Almy heaved a sigh, and said:
"I s'pose that's just the trouble, Will. If her mother has—has died,
where does she belong? Where would you and I—"
"I know it," exclaimed Will, gruffly. "Come on, if you want me to help
fix up your old baby-house for her."
The day after Marianne came the children's feelings were altered.
Walking down the lane all together, the little cousin was dazzled by
buttercups, and ran hither and thither gathering them in such wild
delight that she came upon Dowsabell, the cow, unexpectedly. Dowsy only
raised her sleepy nose from the grass to sniff at the buttercups, but
Marianne dropped the whole bunch, with a cry of terror, and ran like
the wind to Will for protection. She flung herself upon him with such a
pretty confidence that Will took her right into his big boyish heart,
and wished on the spot that Dowsy was a raging lion, or, to say the
least, Neighbor Stethaway's cross bull.
"After all," he confided to Almida, "she's only a poor city child: what
can you expect? I don't mind seeing to her."
"Laws, no," said Almida, with a matronly air. "And if her father's gone
to Europe, and every day is baking, or washing, or mending, or
something, who is there besides you and me for her to look to, I'd like
to know? Only you needn't think you're going to have more than just your
own half of the care-taking, Will Handly."
The mother looked on in silence, and understood perfectly the very
things which her children thought she had not noticed.
"At first I was troubled lest Will and Almy wouldn't notice the child,"
she said, one afternoon, to Mrs. Stethaway, as they watched the three
children crossing the opposite field. "Next I thought they would
tyrannize over her, and that Will would tease her to death."
"And now," said Mrs. Stethaway, "it looks as if they would neglect
everything just to follow her bidding. What are you going to do about
"Well," said Mrs. Handly, smiling after the children as they disappeared
among the daisies, "it isn't always that old folks know the best turn to
take. I'm going to see what the little one's course will be. It seems
very much as if my own two children were in the way of getting some
lessons in gentleness and self-forgetfulness from the poor little
motherless child, which I don't know so well as she does how to teach
The children went through the field, the orchard, and over the bars into
the lane, through which Ria Bell was just driving the cows.
"Quick! quick! Oh! oh!" screamed Marianne, as soon as she saw the cows.
"Not that way; you're running right into the face of the enemy, Ranna,"
said Will, laughing, and taking hold of her as she was trying to climb
But Ranna struggled, crying, "Get me over! get me over! I ain't 'fraid
of tows; it's the birds;" and was so excited that Will on one side and
Almida on the other lifted her into the lane as quickly as possible.
"Oh, goodness!" screamed Almy, as Ranna made a dive, right under
Dowsabell's very nose, toward a little mound of leaves. Crouching down
and spreading her arms over it, she looked up at Dowsy so savagely that
Will exclaimed, much amused: "Thunder and lightning! what has poor Dowsy
done? I thought you were afraid of her, Ranna, and now you look ready to
take her by the horns, and are frightened at two poor little robins
"No, I ain't. Nor I won't mind Teazle even if he is going to bite
my—my—my head off," cried Ranna, pale with fright, as the dog ran his
nose into her face.
Will called Teazle away, while he and Almy tried very hard not to laugh.
"What have you got under the leaves?" asked Will, while Almy stooped
over Ranna, and said, tenderly,
"Show us your treasure, darling, and we won't tell Teazle, nor Dowsy,
nor anybody a word about it."
THE FALLEN NEST.—Drawn by S. G. McCutcheon.
Ranna sat up, brushed away the leaves, and took from under them a pretty
little nest full of young robins. "They're my own baby birds, and I
thought Dowsy would step on them," she said. "I found them just before I
ran to bring you, only the nest was in a great, ugly, dark bush, where
the poor little birdies couldn't feel any sun shinin', and I brung them
here, and tovered them with leaves, so the chittens wouldn't frighten
them while I was gone. What are those big birds flying round me for?
Tover my birdies up again; they are crying 'cause they are frightened."
"Hi! ho! hum! Harry!" exclaimed Will. "Those two birds are the excited
and anxious parents of your baby birdies, Ranna, and they feel just
about as comfortable as your father and mother would feel if a great
giant—" But Will remembered suddenly that poor little Ranna had no
mother, and, blushing fiery red, said: "I'm a good-for-nothing old
blunderbuss. You tell her, Almy; it's girl's talk, anyway."
Almy, with her arms around her little cousin, explained the situation.
Ranna eagerly pointed out the exact spot from which she had taken the
nest, and when Will had carefully restored it, watched with great
delight the old birds return to it.
"I'll never touch another nest in my life," she said; and holding one
arm tight around Almy's neck, she beckoned to Will with the other.
Putting it around him, she drew his head close down to Almy's, and
whispered: "I don't think you're a bundlefuss, Will. I think you and
Almy know just as well how to take care of little birds when their papas
and mammas can't find them, as you do of little girls when their mammas
is—is—is lost. And I'm going to tell all the children in the world
that when they lose their mammas, the best thing they can do is to find
my cousin Will and my cousin Almy."