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How the Geese Saved the Baby by Mrs L. G. Morse

 

John Evans was raking hay in a field on the south side of his cottage, while his wife was in the dairy printing butter for market. Little Elsy, their two-year-old baby, was playing with blocks on the sitting-room floor, and old Robin Hood, the dog, was asleep on the grass close by the door that opened on the lawn.

The sky was almost cloudless, and the sun blazed warm in the fields.

"Just the weather to make the corn grow," said John Evans, resting a quarter of a minute, and looking contentedly over the wall at his flourishing corn blades, already two good inches at least above those of his rich neighbor, Mr. Haverly.

"Elsy is safe," said Barbara, the trim little house-maid. "I might as well knead up the bread." And she whisked through the sitting-room so fast, and with so little noise, that Elsy only looked up to see if a bird had flown in over the low half-door.

Tired of her blocks at last, Elsy went and tugged at the door, and made the latch rattle. Robin opened one eye—the one toward the house—and half-cocked an ear. But Elsy kept up the rattle long enough for him to get used to it, and drawing his tail closer under his nose, he ceased paying any attention to the child. He knew she was behind the door. He had done his full duty by standing on his hind-legs against it, and looking to see what she was about before he settled himself for his nap. She rattled the latch every day, but she had never been able to lift it—he needn't have that on his mind. So, by-and-by, when the crown of her little white head showed itself above the door, Robin was dozing away, more sleepy than ever.

She had pushed her block-box close to the sill, and stepped on it to take another view of the latch. For Elsy was enterprising, and had no more idea than have other two-year-old babies of remaining in ignorance of any new and untried danger. Of course she succeeded at last, and so easily that she pushed the door open and let herself backward down the steps without waking the dog.

The oldest mother goose in the barn-yard was as energetic as Elsy. She quacked about among her neighbors until she collected the whole flock, and then matronized them down to the big shallow pond in front of the house. They pottered a good deal on the way among mud-puddles, for there had been a shower the night before.

Dame Evans pottered too in the dairy, but that was because pretty Miss Ruth Haverly called to bespeak some of the butter before it should be sent to market, and was trying her hands at the printing. Very soft white hands they were, and Mrs. Evans enjoyed watching them.

"There," she said, "that one is a beauty!" as Ruth turned one of the yellow balls into a dish. But she never would have allowed anybody else to meddle so with her butter. A spot on the dairy shelf would have been as great a crime as a speck on the snow-white kerchief crossed on her bosom. But no thought would she have taken of the butter, nor even of dainty Miss Ruth, had she known what Elsy was doing. Nor would Barbara have cared so much about the bread. She was singing, and did not hear Elsy fumbling with the door-latch.

But the child had trotted by Robin Hood, down the long path, all the way to the river, and was so pleased at the feat that she laughed aloud. It was the first chance she had ever had to get alone to the river. Somebody had always been on hand to pull her away just in time to save her feet from touching the water. Now they touched it in comfort, and little cool ripples washed over the toes of her stockings—she had pulled her shoes off long ago in the house. She ran up and down the edge of the water a few times, and then began picking up sticks and stray leaves to throw into it. Higher and higher her spirits rose with the sport. If it had not been for Barbara's song, Robin would surely have heard Elsy shout. But Robin was lazy in his old age, and was actually snoring. Elsy spied a pretty goose-feather, and gave it a toss. The breeze carried it farther out on the water than the small maid intended. But she was fearless, and catching at some cat-tails growing on the bank, she waded in after her feather.

THE RESCUE.—Drawn by H. P. Share. THE RESCUE.—Drawn by H. P. Share.

She stumbled over the uneven bottom, and the stones hurt her soft little feet. Down she went, head and all under water, just as the geese came, ready at last for their swim. When they saw Elsy splashing about, they thought she was trespassing. Or perhaps they understood perfectly well that the river, although safe for them, was a dangerous place for the innocent baby. Who knows? Certain it was that as Elsy went down under the water, the geese flapped their wings, and made a tremendous racket. They made such a noise as never had been heard in the place before. They wakened old Robin at last, and brought him quick as a flash to his post of duty. Oh, he could make noise enough then, to be sure! He could tear round the house like a hurricane, dash down the path and into the water, seize little Elsy's dress, and hold her head above the surface until her father came to the rescue, plunged into the river, and in another minute had borne his darling safely to land. Her bright eyes were closed, and her form lay quite senseless against her father's bosom, while Robin looked up to be sure she was safe, and Barbara ran terrified from the house, her singing silenced at last.

But Elsy opened her eyes again before long. Joy greeted the little life saved, and the mother half smothered old Robin with kisses, in spite of his dripping coat, which utterly ruined her kerchief.

John Evans and his good dame would never have cheated a mouse of its due, yet they petted and honored old Robin as long as he lived, and told children and grandchildren hundreds of times how it was he saved Elsy, when, as sure as anything, the whole credit was due to the geese.