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The May Queen by Unknown

 

"Mother," said Frederick Stanley, "is it not wrong to treat servants unkindly?"

"What makes you ask that question?" answered his Mother. "What can have put that into your head?"

"Nothing—I don't know," replied he, looking at his sister Kate, who was sitting near him, working a pair of slippers.

Mrs. Stanley saw that there was something on their mind, so she laid down her book, and tried to draw it out. She began,—

"What is the reason that your little Scottish friend Jessie has not been here lately? I thought that you, Kate, could not take a walk with any  pleasure without her, and Fred has become quite a beau since her arrival. I am afraid you have done or said something to offend her."

"Fred," said Kate,—who was two years younger than her brother, and much smaller, and had a great respect for him,—"Fred, do you tell Mother."

Fred gave his trousers a little pull, shook the hair away from his face, half laughed, and did not speak a word; but Kate, like a real little woman, could not keep the secret a moment longer.

"We have had a quarrel, Mother; that's all."

"'A quarrel! that's all!'" said her Mother. "That's a great deal too much; but what did you find to quarrel about?"

"Why, Mother," answered Fred, getting over his bashfulness, now that the secret was out, "it was all about treating servants with kindness."

 "Well done!" exclaimed his Mother. "Let us hear what you had to say upon the subject."

"I said it was a shame to abuse those who were poorer than we were; that in God's eyes all were equal. I could not bear to hear Jessie say that she had her own servant at home, and when this servant did anything to displease her, she would pinch and slap her. I told her she was a downright wicked girl!"

"Oh, shocking! shocking!" said Mrs. Stanley. "And, my sweet little Kate, did you too stand up for kindness to servants?"

"I did all I could, dear Mother," she replied, "but Fred did the most."

"Well, tell me, what else did you say?"

"I told her," said Fred, hesitating a little, "that here we said, 'if you please,' and 'thank you,' when a servant did anything for us, and that she had better go back to Scotland, and not stay another day in a place where she was deprived of the pleasure of pinching people."

 "Oh, Frederick! Frederick! how could a boy of your politeness be so rude to a young lady? That was a great mistake."

Frederick looked mortified, and Kate hung her head. "But what happened after that?" asked Mrs. Stanley.

"Oh, she was so angry that she went away, and we have not seen her since. I am very sorry; but it can't be helped now."

"No," said Kate, "we can't help it now."

"But, my dear children," said their Mother, "I think you owe Jessie an apology."

"I have no objection," said Fred, after reflecting a moment, "if you think I have been so very impolite; but it will do no good."

"Well," said Mrs. Stanley, "it must be done. Perhaps I can assist you in making up the quarrel. Next Thursday, you know, is the first of May. You shall have a little party, and Jessie shall be Queen of May. That will be certain to please her."

 "Jessie! Queen!" exclaimed Kate. "She will not, Mother. Jessie will not come; I am sure she will not come. I do not believe she will ever speak to us again."

"I tell you she will come," said her Mother; "and she will be Queen. I will manage it for you."

"Ah, well, Mother," said Fred, looking at his sister, "you don't know Jessie as well as we do. She won't forgive us so easily."

Company now came in, and the children went to their studies. In the afternoon Mrs. Stanley sent a polite invitation to Jessie and her parents to pass the next Thursday evening at her house; and as they were sitting at the tea-table, the answer was returned.

"There," said Mrs. Stanley, "one point is gained; they will all come."

"They may come," said Frederick, "but she won't be civil to us, I know."

The next day was spent in preparing the  crown, throne, and flowers, &c., and Frederick set himself to work to learn by heart some lines his Mother had written for the occasion.

Thursday evening arrived, and the children, though afraid of Jessie's cold looks, were in good spirits. Kate came into the parlour, and found Fred before a large glass, making his speech, and practising the most graceful bows and gestures.

"Goodness!" she exclaimed, "how light and beautiful the room looks! Oh, Fred, I hope we shall have a pleasant time."

The arrival of the company now interrupted them, and when nearly all had come, Mrs. Stanley told her plan with regard to Jessie; and this important matter was just settled, when that young lady and her parents entered.

Jessie, not knowing the honour awaiting her, was very stiff and grave in her salutations. Her large dark eyes were turned away from Fred and  Kate, yet an expression about her pretty mouth seemed to say,—

"I am not so very angry as you think."

"She looks like a Queen, does not she?" whispered Fred to his sister.

"She is stiff enough, at any rate," said Kate.

"I wonder whom she will choose for her King?" said Fred.

"I am sure I don't know," answered Kate, looking round. "I suppose the biggest boy."

"Dear me!" said Fred, "I forget that I must go out until it is time for the Address;" and he left the room, to wait his Mother's signal.

Refreshments were now handed round the room, and many a sly glance was cast upon the unconscious Jessie, who was still looking very grave, and almost cross, till, at a hint from his Mother, Fred made his appearance, and with  blushing face, but firm voice, pronounced the following lines:

"O valiant knights, and ladies fair!
I'm very glad to see you here;
Your happy looks and eyes so bright,
Have quite inspired me to-night.
Though I'm unused to courtly ways,
My choice from you will meet with praise.
Our English land, so brave and free,
Where waves the flag of liberty,
Can yet, while all our hearts approve,
The Scottish stranger fondly love.
(No looks of grave distrust are seen,)
Fair Jessie! I proclaim you Queen!
And kneeling lowly at your feet,
To be your knight I do entreat.
Now deign to say, what happy one
Amongst us all shall share your throne?"

Fred rose from his knees, and awaited Jessie's reply.

Her anger was all gone, but she was so surprised that she looked down, and did not say a word.

 "Well," thought Fred, "I knew she would act so. I suppose everybody is laughing at me."

"Jessie," said her Mother, "speak quickly. Whom will you have for King?"

Jessie blushed, and smiled, and whispered in a soft little voice, "Frederick."

Astonished and delighted by this kindness, Fred again knelt down, then rising, he took her little white hand, and led her in triumph, followed by all the company, to the next room, where a splendid throne had been erected. A beautiful crown of flowers was placed on Jessie's head, and gave new beauty to her soft and curling brown hair. Frederick also had a handsome crown. Sceptres were placed in their hands, and then they arranged their court. Kate was made a Duchess, at which she grew quite dignified; there were plenty of Earls and Countesses, and the sweet little maids of honour and the pages stood behind the throne.

They then formed a procession, to return to  the parlour, and in an instant a march burst forth from a band of music which had been concealed for the purpose.

At this unexpected event, his Majesty jumped so high that his crown tumbled off, and the Queen was in such a delightful agitation that she could not confine her steps to a walk, and so the King and the Queen, and the Duchess, and all the maids of honour and pages, ran helter-skelter, as fast as they could, and took places for dancing.

Never were merrier hearts or brighter eyes than now leaped and shone in that little party. The Queen was the gayest of all, and the King was nearly out of his wits with joy, to find himself and Jessie once more friends. Little Kate got so tired of being a Duchess that she skipped about like a little fairy; and all the lords and ladies, and maids of honour and pages, were so merry and so full of innocent fun, that they looked a great deal more like little children.  And so the happy evening concluded, to the satisfaction of all.

The next morning, Mrs. Stanley asked her children if they had had a pleasant party.

"Oh, yes!" they both answered; "it was perfectly delightful; and Jessie was as pleasant as she could be, and seemed to have forgotten all about the quarrel."