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Title: Dreamland
Author: Lippmann, Julie Mathilde, 1864-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dreamland" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



DREAMLAND

by

JULIE M. LIPPMANN

Author of "Miss Wildfire," "Dorothy Day," etc.

The Penn Publishing Company
Philadelphia

MCMXIV



TO

LULU AND MARIE.



  CONTENTS.

  THE WAKING SOUL
  BETTY'S BY-AND-BY
  THE WHITE ANGEL
  IN THE PIED PIPER'S MOUNTAIN
  MARJORIE'S MIRACLE
  WHAT HAPPENED TO LIONEL
  MARIE AND THE MEADOW-BROOK
  NINA'S CHRISTMAS GIFTS



DREAMLAND.

THE WAKING SOUL

Larry lay under the trees upon the soft, green grass, with his hat
tilted far forward over his eyes and his grimy hands clasped together
beneath his head, wishing with all his might first one thing and then
another, but always that it was not so warm.

When the children had gone to school in the morning, they had seen
Larry's figure, as they passed along the street, stretched out
full-length beneath the trees near the gutter curbstone; and when they
returned, there he was still.  They looked at him with curiosity; and
some of the boys even paused beside him and bent over to see if he were
sunstruck.  He let them talk about him and discuss him and wonder at
him as they would, never stirring, and scarcely daring to breathe, lest
they be induced to stay and question him.  He wanted to be alone.  He
wanted to lie lazily under the trees, and watch the sunbeams as they
flirted with the leaves, and hear the birds gossip with one another,
and feel the breeze as it touched his hot temples and soothed him with
its soft caresses.

Across the street, upon some one's fence-rail, climbed a honeysuckle
vine; and every now and then Larry caught a whiff of a faint perfume as
the breeze flitted by.  He wished the breeze would carry heavier loads
of it and come oftener.  It was tantalizing to get just one breath and
no more in this way.

But then, that was always the case with Larry; he seemed to get a hint
of so many things, and no more than that of any.  Often when he was
lying as he was now, under green trees, beneath blue skies, he would
see the most beautiful pictures before his eyes.  Sometimes they were
the clouds that drew them for him, and sometimes the trees.  He would,
perhaps, be feeling particularly forlorn and tired, and would fling
himself down to rest, and then in a moment--just for all the world as
though the skies were sorry for him and wanted to help him forget his
troubles--he would see the white drifts overhead shift and change, and
there would be the vision of a magnificent man larger and more
beautiful than any mortal; and then Larry would hold his breath in
ecstasy, while the man's face grew graver and darker, and his strong
arm seemed to lift and beckon to something from afar, and then from out
a great stack of clouds would break one milk-white one which, when
Larry looked closer, would prove to be a colossal steed; and in an
instant, in the most remarkable way, the form of the man would be
mounted upon the back of the courser and then would be speeding off
toward the west.  And then Larry would lose sight of them, just at the
very moment when he would have given worlds to see more; for by this
time the skies would have grown black, perhaps, and down would come the
rain in perfect torrents, sending Larry to his feet and scuttling off
into somebody's area-way for shelter.  And there he would crouch and
think about his vision, fancying to himself his great warrior doing
battle with the sea; the sea lashing up its wave-horses till they rose
high upon their haunches, their gray backs curving outward, their foamy
manes a-quiver, their white forelegs madly pawing the air, till with a
wild whinny they would plunge headlong upon the beach, to be pierced by
the thousand rain-arrows the cloud-god sent swirling down from above,
and sink backward faint and trembling to be overtaken and trampled out
of sight by the next frenzied column behind.

Oh! it sent Larry's blood tingling through his veins to see it all so
plainly; and he did not feel the chill of his wet rags about him, nor
the clutch of hunger in his poor, empty stomach, when the Spirit of the
Storm rode out, before his very eyes, to wage his mighty war.  And then
at other times it would all be quite different, and he would see the
figures of beautiful maidens in gossamer garments, and they would seem
to be at play, flinging flecks of sunlight this way and that, or
winding and unwinding their flaky veils to fling them saucily across
the face of the sun.

But none of these wondrous visions lasted.  They remained long enough
to wake in Larry's heart a great longing for more, and then they would
disappear and he would be all the lonelier for the lack of them.  That
was the greatest of his discouragements.  What would he care for heat
or cold or hunger or thirst if he could only capture these fleeting
pictures once for all, so that he could always gaze at them and dream
over them and make them his forever!

That was one of the things for which Larry was wishing as he lay under
the trees that summer day.  He was thinking: "If there was _only_ some
way of getting them down from there!  It seems to me I 'd do anything
in the world to be able to get them down from there.  I--."

"No, you would n't," said a low voice next his ear,--"no, you would
n't.  You 'd lie here and wish and wonder all day long, but you would
n't take the first step to bring your pictures down from heaven."

For a moment Larry was so mightily surprised that he found himself
quite at a loss for words, for there was no one near to be seen who
could possibly have addressed him; but presently he gained voice to
say,--

"Oh, I know I could n't get 'em o' course.  Folks can't reach up and
bring clouds down out o' de sky."

"I did n't say anything about clouds nor about the sky," returned the
voice.  "I was speaking about pictures and heaven.  Folks can reach up
and bring pictures down out of heaven.  It's done every day.  Geniuses
do it."

"Who is geniuses?" asked untaught Larry.

"People who can get near enough heaven to catch glimpses of its
wonderful beauty and paint it on canvas or carve it in marble for the
world to see, or who hear snatches of its music and set them upon paper
for the world to hear; and they are called artists and sculptors and
composers and poets."

"What takes 'em up to heaven?" queried Larry.

"Inspiration," answered the voice.

"I don't know o' that.  I never seen it," the boy returned.  "Is it
death?"

"No; it is life.  But you would n't understand if I could explain it,
which I cannot.  No one understands it.  But it is there just the same.
You have it, but you do not know how to use it yet.  You never will
unless you do something besides lie beneath the trees and dream.  Why
can't you do something?"

"Oh, I'm tired with all the things I 'm not doin'!" said Larry, in his
petulant, whimsical way.

For a little the voice was silent, and Larry was beginning to fear it
had fled and deserted him like all the rest; when it spoke again, in
its low-toned murmur, like the breath of a breeze, and said,--

"It is cruel to make a good wish and then leave it to wander about the
world weak and struggling; always trying to be fulfilled and never
succeeding because it is not given strength enough.  It makes a
nameless want in the world, and people's hearts ache for it and long to
be satisfied.  They somehow feel there is somewhere a blessing that
might be blesseder, a beauty that should be more beautiful.  It is then
that the little unfledged wish is near, and they feel its longing to be
made complete,--to be given wings and power to rise to heaven.  Yes;
one ought not to make a good wish and let it go,--not to perish (for
nothing is lost in this world), but to be unfulfilled forever.  One
ought to strengthen it day by day until it changes from a wish to an
endeavor, and then day by day from an endeavor to an achievement, and
then the world is better for it and glad of it, and its record goes
above.  If all the people who wish to do wonderful things did them, how
blessed it would be!  If all the people who wish to be good were good,
ah, then there would be no more disappointment nor tears nor heartache
in the world!"

Larry pondered an instant after the voice had ceased, and then said
slowly: "I _kind_ o' think I know what you mean.  You think I 'd ought
to be workin'.  But what could I do?   There ain't nothin' I could be
doin'."

"Did n't I hear you complaining of me a little while ago, because I did
not carry heavy enough loads of honeysuckle scent and did not come
often enough?  I carried all I was able to bear, for I am not very
strong nowadays, and I came as often as I could.  In fact, I did my
best the first thing that came to hand.  I want you to do the same.
That is duty.  I don't bear malice toward you because you were
dissatisfied with me.  You did not know.  If you tried the best you
could and people complained, you ought not to let their discontent
discourage you.  I brought you a whiff of perfume; you can bring some
one a sincere effort.  By and by, when I am stronger and can blow good
gales and send the great ships safely into port and waft to land the
fragrant smell of their spicy cargo, you may be doing some greater work
and giving the world something it has been waiting for."

"The world don't wait for things," said Larry.  "It goes right on; it
does n't care.  I 'm hungry and ragged, and I have n't no place to
sleep; but the world ain't a-waitin' fer me ter get things ter eat, ner
clo'es to me back, ner a soft bed.  It ain't a-waiting fer nothin', as
I can see."

"It does not stand still," replied the voice; "but it is waiting,
nevertheless.  If you are expecting a dear, dear person--your mother,
for instance--"

"I ain't got no mother," interrupted Larry, with a sorrowful sigh; "she
died."

"Well, then--your sister," suggested the voice.

"I ain't got no sister.  I ain't got nobody.  I 'm all by meself,"
insisted the boy.

"Then suppose, for years and years you have been dreaming of a friend
who is to fill your world with beauty as no one else could do,--who
among all others in the world will be the only one who could show you
how fair life is.  While you would not stand still and do nothing what
time you were watching for her coming, you would be always waiting for
her, and when she was there you would be glad.  That is how the world
feels about its geniuses,--those whom it needs to make it more
wonderful and great.  It is waiting for you.  Don't disappoint it.  It
would make you sad unto death if the friend of whom you had dreamed
should not come at last, would it not?"

Larry nodded his head in assent.  "Does it always know 'em?" he asked.
"I mean does the world always be sure when the person comes, it 's the
one it dreamed of?  Mebbe I'd be dreamin' of some one who was
beautiful, and mebbe the real one would n't look like what I thought,
and I 'd let her go by."

"Ah, little Lawrence, the world has failed so too.  It has let its
beloved ones go by; and then, when it was too late, it has called after
them in pleading to return.  They never come back, but the world keeps
repeating their names forever.  That is its punishment and their fame."

"What does it need me for?" asked Larry.

"It needs you to paint for it the pictures you see amid the clouds and
on the earth."

"Can't they see 'em?" queried the boy.

"No, not as you can.  Their sight is not clear enough.  God wants them
to know of it, and so He sends them you to make it plain to them.  It
is as though you went to a foreign country where the people's speech
was strange to you.  You could not know their meaning unless some one
who understood their language and yours translated it for you.  He
would be the only one who could make their meaning clear to you.  He
would be an interpreter."

"How am I to get that thing you spoke about that 'd take me up to
heaven, so's I could bring down the beautiful things I see?" inquired
Larry.  "Where is it?"

"Inspiration?" asked the voice.  "That is everywhere,--all about you,
within and without you.  You have only to pray to be given sight clear
enough to see it and power to use it.  But now I must leave you.  I
have given you my message; give the world yours.  Good-by, Lawrence,
good-by;" and the voice had ceased.

Larry stretched out his hands and cried, "Come back, oh, come back!"

But the echo of his own words was all he heard in response.  He lay
quite motionless and still for some time after that, thinking about all
the voice had said to him, and when finally he pushed his hat back from
before his eyes, he saw the starlit sky smiling down upon him
benignantly.  And then, from behind a dark cloud he saw the radiant
moon appear, and it seemed to him like the most beautiful woman's face
he could imagine, peering out from the shadow of her own dusky hair to
welcome the night.

He got upon his feet as well as he could, for he was very stiff with
lying so long, and stumbled on toward some dark nook or cranny where he
could huddle unseen until the morning; his head full of plans for the
morrow, and his heart beating high with courage and hope.

He would dream no more, but labor.  He would work at the first thing
that came to hand, and then, perhaps, that wonderful thing which the
voice had called inspiration would come to him, and he would be able to
mount to heaven on it and bring down to earth some of the glorious
things he saw.  He thought inspiration must be some sort of a magical
ladder, that was invisible to all but those given special sight to see
and power to use it.  If he ever caught a glimpse of it he intended to
take hold at once and climb straight up to the blessed regions above;
and dreaming of all he would see there, he fell asleep.

In the morning he was awake bright and early, and stretching himself
with a long-drawn yawn, set out to find some way of procuring for
himself a breakfast.  First at one shop-door and then at another he
stopped, popping in his shaggy head and asking the man inside, "Give me
a job, Mister?" and being in reply promptly invited to "clear out!"

But it took more than this to discourage Larry, heartened as he was by
the remembrance of his visions of the day before; and on and on he
went, until, at last, in answer to his question--and just as he was
about to withdraw his head from the door of the express-office into
which he had popped it a moment before--he was bidden to say what it
was he could do.  Almost too surprised at the change in greeting to be
able to reply, he stumbled back into the place and stood a moment in
rather stupid silence before his questioner.

"Well, ain't yer got no tongue in yer head, young feller?  Seemed ter
have a minute ago.  Ef yer can't speak up no better 'n this, yer ain't
the boy fer us."

But by this time Larry had recovered himself sufficiently to blurt out:
"I kin lift an' haul an' run errants an' do all sorts o' work about the
place.  Won't ye try me, Mister?  Lemme carry out that box ter show ye
how strong I am;" and suiting the action to the words, he shouldered a
heavy packing-case and was out upon the sidewalk and depositing it upon
a wagon, already piled with trunks and luggage, before the man had time
to reply.

When he returned to the door-step he was greeted with the grateful
intelligence that he might stay a bit and see how he got along as an
errand-boy if he liked; and, of course, _liking_, he started in at once
upon his new office.

That was the beginning.  It gave him occupation and, food, but scarcely
more than that at first.  He had no time for dreaming now, but often
when he had a brief moment to himself would take out of his pocket the
piece of chalk with which he marked the trunks he carried, and sketch
with it upon some rough box-lid or other the picture of a face or form
which he saw in his fancy; so that after a time he was known among the
men as "the artist feller," and grew to have quite a little reputation
among them.

How the rest came about even Larry himself found it hard to tell.  But
by and by he was drawing with pencil and pen, and selling his sketches
for what he could get, buying now a brush and then some paints with the
scanty proceeds, and working upon his bits of canvas with all the ardor
of a Raphael himself.


A man sat before an easel in a crowded studio one day, give the last
touch to a painting that stood before him.  It pictured the figure of a
lad, ragged and forlorn, lying asleep beneath some sheltering trees.
At first that seems all there was to be seen upon the canvas; but if
one looked closer one was able to discover another figure amid the
vaporous, soft glooms of the place.  It grew ever more distinct, until
one had no difficulty in distinguishing the form of a maiden, fair and
frail as a dream.  She was bending over the slumbering body of the boy,
as if to arouse him to life by the whispered words she was breathing
against his cheek.

The artist scrawled his signature in the corner of his completed work
and set the canvas in its frame, and then stood before it, scrutinizing
it closely.

"'The Waking Soul!'--I wonder if that is a good name for it?" murmured
he to himself.  And then, after a moment, he said to the pictured lad,--

"Well, Larry, little fellow, the dream's come true; and here we are,
you and I,--you, Larry, and I, Lawrence,--with the 'wish grown strong
to an endeavor, and the endeavor to an achievement.'  Are you glad,
Boy?"



BETTY'S BY-AND-BY.

  "'One, two, three!
  The humble-bee!
  The rooster crows,
  And away she goes!'"


And down from the low railing of the piazza jumped Betty into the soft
heap of new-mown grass that seemed to have been especially placed where
it could tempt her and make her forget--or, at least, "not
remember"--that she was wanted indoors to help amuse the baby for an
hour.

It was a hot summer day, and Betty had been running and jumping and
skipping and prancing all the morning, so she was now rather tired; and
after she had jumped from the piazza-rail into the heap of grass she
did not hop up nimbly at once, but lay quite still, burying her face in
the sweet-smelling hay and fragrant clover, feeling very comfortable
and contented.

"Betty!  Betty!"

"Oh dear!" thought the little maid, diving still deeper into the light
grass, "there's Olga calling me to take care of Roger while she gets
his bread and milk ready.  I don't see why she can't wait a minute till
I rest.  It's too hot now.  Baby can do without his dinner for a
minute, I should think,--just a minute or so.  He won't mind.  He 's
glad to wait if only you give him Mamma's chain and don't take away her
watch.  Ye-es, Olga,--I 'll come--by and by."

A big velvety humble-bee came, boom! against Betty's head, and got
tangled in her hair.  He shook himself free and went reeling on his way
in quite a drunken fashion, thinking probably that was a very
disagreeable variety of dandelion he had stumbled across,--quite too
large and fluffy for comfort, though it was such a pretty yellow.

Betty lazily raised her head and peered after him.  "I wonder where
you're going," she said, half aloud.

The humble-bee veered about and came bouncing back in her direction
again, and when he reached the little grass-heap in which she lay,
stopped so suddenly that he went careering over in the most ridiculous
fashion possible, and Betty laughed aloud.  But to her amazement the
humble-bee righted himself in no time at all, and then remarked in
quite a dignified manner and with some asperity,--

"If I were a little girl with gilt hair and were n't doing what I
ought, and if I had wondered where a body was going and the body had
come back expressly to tell me, I think I 'd have the politeness not to
laugh if the body happened to lose his balance and fall,--especially
when the body was going to get up in less time than it would take me to
wink,--I being only a little girl, and he being a most respected member
of the Busy-bee Society.  However, I suppose one must make allowances
for the way in which children are brought up nowadays.  When I was a
little--"

"Now, _please_ don't say, 'When I was a little girl,'--for you never
were a little girl, you know," interrupted Betty, not intending to be
saucy, but feeling rather provoked that a mere humble-bee should
undertake to rebuke her.  "Mamma always says, 'When I was a little
girl,' and so does Aunt Louie, and so does everybody; and I 'm tired of
hearing about it, so there!"

The humble-bee gave his gorgeous waistcoat a pull which settled it more
smoothly over his stout person, and remarked shortly,--

"In the first place, I was n't going to say, 'When I was a little
girl.'  I was going to say, 'When I was a little _leaner_,' but you
snapped me up so.  However, it's true, isn't it?  Everybody was a
little girl once, were n't she?--was n't they?--hem!--confusing weather
for talking, very!  And what is true one ought to be glad to hear, eh?"

"But it is n't true that everybody was once a little girl; some were
little boys.  There!"

"Do you know," whispered the humble-bee, in a very impressive
undertone, as if it were a secret that he did not wish any one else to
hear, "that you are a very re-mark-a-ble young person to have been able
to remind me, at a moment's notice, that some were little boys?
Why-ee!"

Betty was a trifle uncomfortable.  She had a vague idea the humble-bee
was making sport of her.  The next moment she was sure of it; for he
burst into a deep laugh, and shook so from side to side that she
thought he would surely topple off the wisp of hay on which he was
sitting.

"I think you 're real mean," said Betty, as he slowly recovered
himself; "I don't like folks to laugh at me, now!"

"I 'm not laughing at you _now_," explained the humble-bee, gravely; "I
was laughing at you _then_.  Do you object to that?"

Betty disdained to reply, and began to pull a dry clover-blossom to
pieces.

"Tut, tut, child!  Don't be so touchy!  A body can laugh, can't he, and
no harm done?  You 'd better be good-tempered and jolly, and then I 'll
tell you where I 'm going,--which, I believe, was what you wished to
know in the first place, was n't it?"

Betty nodded her head, but did not speak.

"Oho!" said the humble-bee, rising and preparing to take his departure.
And now Betty discovered, on seeing him more closely, that he was not a
humble-bee at all, but just a very corpulent old gentleman dressed in
quite an antique fashion, with black knee-breeches, black silk
stockings, black patent-leather pumps with large buckles, a most
elaborate black velvet waistcoat with yellow and orange stripes across,
and a coat of black velvet to correspond with the breeches; while in
his hand he carried a very elegant three-cornered hat, which, out of
respect to her, he had removed from his head at the first moment of
their meeting.  "So we are sulky?" he went on.  "Dear, dear!  That is a
very disagreeable condition to allow one's self to relapse into.  H'm,
h'm! very unpleasant, very!  Under the circumstances I think I 'd
better be going; for if you 'll believe me, I 'm pressed for time, and
have none to waste, and only came back to converse with you because you
addressed a civil question to me, which, being a gentleman, I was bound
to answer.  Good--"

He would have said "by;" but Betty sprang to her feet and cried:
"Please don't leave me.  I 'll be good and pleasant, only please don't
go.  _Please_ tell me where you 're going, and if--if you would be so
good, I 'd like ever and ever so much to go along.  Don't--do--may I?"

The little gentleman looked her over from head to foot, and then
replied in a hesitating sort of way: "You may not be aware of it, but
you are extremely incautious.  What would you do if I were to whisk you
off and never bring you back, eh?"

"You don't look like a kidnapper, sir," said Betty, respectfully.

"A what?" inquired the little gentleman.

"A kidnapper," repeated Betty.

"What's that?" questioned her companion.

"Oh, a person who steals little children.  Don't you know?"

"But why _kidnapper_?" insisted the little old man.

"I suppose because he naps kids.  My uncle Will calls Roger and me
'kids.'  It is n't very nice of him, is it?" she asked, glad to air her
grievance.

"Child-stealer would be more to the point, I think, or
infant-abductor," remarked the old gentleman, who saw, perhaps, how
anxious Betty was for sympathy, and was determined not to give her
another opportunity of considering herself injured.

He seemed to be very busy considering the subject for a second or so,
and then he said suddenly: "But if you want to go, why, come along, for
I must be off.  But don't make a practice of it, mind, when you get
back."

"You have n't told me where yet," suggested Betty.

"True; so I have n't," said the old gentleman, setting his
three-cornered hat firmly on his head and settling the fine laces at
his wrists.  "It's to By-and-by.  And now, if you 're ready, off we go!"

He took Betty's hand, and she suddenly found herself moving through the
air in a most remarkable manner,--not touching the ground with her
feet, but seeming to skim along quite easily and with no effort at all.

"If you please, Mr.--"  She paused because she suddenly remembered that
she did not know the name of the gentleman who was conducting her on so
delightful a journey.

"Bombus," said he, cheerfully,--"B. Bombus, Esq., of Clovertop Manse,
Honeywell."

"But you 're not a minister, are you?" inquired Betty.

"No; why?" returned the gentleman, quickly.

"Because you said 'Manse.'  A manse is a minister's house, is n't it?"
asked Betty.

"No, not always," Bombus replied.  "But I call my place Clovertop Manse
because it belongs to me and not to my wife, do you see?  I call it
Manse because it _is_ a man's.  It is perfectly plain.  If it was a
woman's, I 'd say so."

"Well, I don't think you 're much of a _humble_-bee--" began Betty, and
then caught herself up short and stopped.

Mr. Bombus gave her a severe look from under his three-cornered hat,
but did not reply at once, and they advanced on their way for some
little time in silence.  Then the gentleman said:

"I 've been thinking of what you said about my not being a humble-bee.
Of course I am not a humble-bee, but you seemed to lay considerable
stress on the first part of the word, as if you had a special meaning.
Explain!"

Poor Betty blushed very red with shame and confusion; but the gentleman
had a commanding way with him and she dared not disobey.

"I only meant, sir," she stammered,--"I only meant--I--did n't think
you were very humble, because you seemed very proud about the place
being yours.  I thought you were 'stuck up,' as my brother says."

"Stuck up?  Where?" queried Mr. Bombus, anxiously.  "Pray don't make
such unpleasant insinuations.   They quite set my heart to throbbing.
I knew--I mean I saw a humble-bee once," he remarked impressively, "and
would you believe it, a little boy caught him and impaled him on a pin.
It was horrible.  He died in the most dreadful agony,--the bee, not the
boy,--and then the boy secured him to the wall; made him fast there.
So he was stuck up.  You surely can't mean--"

"Oh, no, indeed!  I meant only proud," replied Betty, contritely; for
Mr. Bombus's face had really grown pale with horror at the remembrance
of the bee's awful fate, and she was very sorry she had occasioned him
such discomfort.

"Then why did n't you say only 'proud'?"  asked her companion, sharply.
"You said 'proud,' and then added 'stuck up.'"

Betty thought it was about time to change the subject, so she observed
quietly that By-and-by seemed a long way off.

"Of course it is a long way off," replied her companion.  "Don't you
wish it to be a long way off?"

Betty hesitated.  "Well, I don't think I ever wished much about it.
Can you tell me how many miles it is from some place I know about?  You
see, Mr. Bombus, I am pretty sure it is n't in the geography.  At
least, I don't remember that I ever saw it on the map.  Could n't you
tell me where it is?"

Mr. Bombus considered a moment, And then asked, "Do you know where Now
is?"

Betty thought a minute, and then replied, "I suppose it is Here, sir."

"Right!" assented the old gentleman, promptly.  "Now, if you had said
There, it would have been wrong; for Then is There.  You see, this is
the way:  When we have lived in Now until it is all used up, it changes
into Then, and, instead of being Here, is There.  I hope it's plain to
you.  Well, you asked me where By-and-by was.  That 's the very thing
about it: it never was, not even _is_; it's always _going to be_, and
it's generally a rather long way from Now; so, if you know where Now
is, you can make your own calculations as to the distance of By-and-by."

"But I don't know anything about calculating distances,"  said Betty,
dolefully.

"It does n't matter," remarked Mr. Bombus; "for even if you did you
could n't apply it in this case.  But we 're getting on in our journey.
Yes, indeed, we seem to be really getting on."

"Why, I should hope so!" returned Betty.  "It seems to me I never flew
so fast in all my life before and for such a long time.  If we were n't
getting on, I think I should be discouraged.  We seem to be almost
running a race, we go so quickly."

"We are running a race," observed Mr. Bombus.

Betty opened her eyes wide and said: "Why, _I_ did n't know it.  When
did we begin?"

"When we started, Child.  Pray, don't be stupid!" replied her friend, a
little severely.

"But with whom are we running it?" queried Betty.

"With Time," whispered Mr. Bombus, confidentially.  "One always has to
beat him before one can get to By-and-by.  And then it depends on one's
self whether one likes it or not after one gets there."

But even as he spoke Betty seemed to feel herself hurried along more
rapidly than ever, as if she were making a final effort to outstrip
some one; and then she was brought to so sudden a standstill that she
had to do her best to keep from falling forward, and was still quite
dizzy with her effort when she heard a panting voice say, "That last
rush quite took away my breath!" and found herself being addressed by
Mr. Bombus, who was very red in the face and gasping rather painfully,
and whom she had, for the moment, forgotten.

Betty said: "My, Mr. Bombus, how warm you are!  Sit right down on the
grass and cool off before we go any farther, please."

"Oh, dear, no!" objected her companion.  "That would be terribly
imprudent, with these cold autumn winds blowing so; and winter just
over there.  I 'd catch my death, Child."

"Why, I 'm sure," replied Betty, "I don't know what you mean.  It's as
summer as it can be.  It's a hot August day, and if you can't sit
outdoors in August, I 'd like to know when you can."

"Allow me to inform you, my dear child, that it isn't August at all;
and if you had half an eye you 'd see it, let alone feel it.  Do these
leaves look as if it were August?" and he pointed to a clump of trees
whose foliage shone red and yellow in the sunlight.

Betty started.  "Good gracious!" she exclaimed.  "How came they to
change so early?"

"It _is n't_ early," explained Mr. Bombus.  "It's the last of
October,--even later,--and keeps getting more so every minute."

"But," insisted Betty, "it was August when I first saw you, a few hours
ago, and--"

"Yes, _then_ it was August," assented Mr. Bombus; "but we 've got
beyond that.  We 're in By-and-by.  Did n't you hear your mother say it
would be October by and by, and it _is_ October.  Time is jogging on,
back there in the world; but we beat him, you see, and are safe and
sound--far ahead of him--in By-and-by.  Things are being done here that
are always _going_ to be done behind there.  It's great fun."

But at these words Betty's face grew very grave, and a sudden thought
struck her that was anything but "great fun."  Would she be set to
doing all the things she had promised to do "by and by"?

"I 'm afraid so," said Mr. Bombus, replying to her question though she
had only _thought_ it.  "I told you it depended on one's self if one
were going to like By-and-by or not.  Evidently you 're _not_.  Oh!
going so soon?  You must have been a lazy little girl to be set about
settling your account as quick as this.  See you later!  Good--"

But again he was not permitted to say "by," for before he could fairly
get the word out, Betty was whisked away, and Mr. Bombus stood solitary
and alone under a bare maple-tree, chuckling to himself in an amused
fashion and, it must be confessed, in a spiteful.

"It 'll be a good lesson for her.  She deserves it," he said to
himself; and Betty seemed to hear him, though she was by this time far
away.

Poor child! she did not know where she was going nor what would take
place next, and was pretty well frightened at feeling herself powerless
to do anything against the unknown force that was driving her on.

But even while she was wondering she ceased to wonder; and what was
going to happen had happened, and she found herself standing in an
enormous hall that was filled with countless children, of all ages and
nationalities,--and some who were not children at all,--every one of
whom was hurrying to and fro and in and out, while all the time a voice
from somewhere was calling out names and dates in such rapid succession
that Betty was fairly deafened with the sound.  There was a continual
stir in the assembly, and people were appearing and reappearing
constantly in the most perplexing manner, so that it made one quite
dizzy to look on.  But Betty was not permitted to look long, for in the
midst of the haranguing of the dreadful voice she seemed to distinguish
something that sounded strangely familiar.

"Betty Bleecker," it called, "began her account here when she was five
years old by the World calculation.  Therefore she has the undone
duties of seven years--World count--to perform.  Let her set about
paying off her debt at once, and stop only when the account is
squared;" whereupon Betty was again whisked off, and had not even time
to guess where, before she found herself in a place that reminded her
strangely of home and yet was not home at all.  Then a wearisome round
of tasks began.

She picked up pins, she opened doors, she shut windows, she raised
shades, she closed shutters, she ran errands, she delivered messages,
she practised scales, she studied lessons, she set her doll-house in
order and replaced her toys, she washed her face and brushed her hair,
she picked currants and stoned raisins, she hung up her skipping-rope
and fastened her sash; and so she went on from one thing to another
until she was almost ready to cry with weariness and fatigue.  Half the
things she did she had forgotten she had ever promised to do.  But she
had sent them into By-and-by, and here they were to be done, and do
them she must.  On and on she went, until after a while the tasks she
had to perform began to gain a more familiar look, and she recognized
them as being unkept promises of quite a recent date.  She dusted her
room, she darned her stockings, she mended her apron, she fed her bird,
she wrote a letter, she read her Bible; and at last, after an endless
space and when tears of real anguish were coursing down her cheeks, she
found herself amusing the baby, and discovered that she had come to the
last of her long line of duties and was cancelling her debt to
By-and-by.

As soon as all was finished she felt herself being hurried, still
sobbing and crying, back to the place from which she had started, and
on entering heard the same voice she had listened to before, say,--

"Betty Bleecker's account is squared.  Let a receipted bill be given
her; advise her to run up no more accounts, and send her home."

At these words Betty wept afresh, but not now from sorrow, but from
gladness at the thought of returning home.  And before she could even
realize it, she was standing beside Mr. Bombus again, with something in
her hand which she clutched tightly and which proved to be a signed
receipt for her debt to By-and-by.  Then she heard her companion say,--

"Like to look about a bit before you leave?  By-and-by's a busy place;
don't you think so?"

And Betty replied promptly, "Oh, no, sir--yes, sir--not at all, sir--if
you please, sir;" quite too frantic at the thought of having to go
back, even for a moment, to answer the questions.

But all the while she was very angry with Mr. Bombus for bringing her
there, quite forgetting she had pleaded with him to do so; and his
smiling at her in that very superior fashion provoked her sadly, and
she began upbraiding him, between her sobs and tears, for his
unkindness and severity.

"It would only have been harder in the end," replied her companion,
calmly.  "Now you 've paid them and can take care not to run up any
more debts; for, mark my words, you 'll have to square your account
every time, and the longer it runs the worse it will be.  Nothing in
the world, in the way of responsibility, ever goes scot-free.  You have
to pay in one way or another for everything you do or leave undone, and
the sooner you know it the better."

Betty was sobbing harder than ever, and when she thought she caught a
triumphant gleam in Mr. Bombus's eyes and heard him humming in an
aggravating undertone, "In the Sweet By-and-by," she could restrain
herself no longer, but raised her hand and struck him a sounding blow.
Instantly she was most deeply repentant, and would have begged his
pardon; but as she turned to address him, his cocked hat flew off, his
legs doubled up under him, his eyes rolled madly, and then with a
fierce glare at her he roared in a voice of thunder: "BET-TY!"

And there she was in the soft grass-heap, sobbing with fright and
clutching tightly in her hand a fistful of straw; while yonder in the
wistaria-vine a humble-bee was settling, and a voice from the house was
heard calling her name:

"Betty!  BET-TY!"



THE WHITE ANGEL

Once upon a time there lived in a far country a man and his wife, and
they were very poor.  Every morning the man went his way into the
forest, and there he chopped wood until the sky in the west flushed
crimson because of the joy it felt at having the great sun pass that
way; and when the last rim of the red ball disappeared behind the line
of the hills, the man would shoulder his ax and trudge wearily home.

In the mean time the wife went about in the little hut, making it clean
and neat, and perhaps singing as she worked,--for she was a cheery soul.

Well, one day--perhaps it was because she was very tired and worn; I do
not know--but one day she sat down by the door of her hut, and was just
about to begin sewing on some rough piece of hempen cloth she had in
her lap, when, lo! she fell asleep.

Now, this was very strange indeed, and even in her dream she seemed to
wonder at herself and say: "I have never slept in the daytime before.
What can it mean?  What will Hans think of me if he should come home
and find me napping in the doorway and his supper not ready for him,
nor the table spread?"

But by and by she ceased to wonder at all, and just sat leaning against
the door-frame, breathing softly, like a little child that is dreaming
sweet dreams.

But presently the trees of the forest began to bow their heads, and the
wind chanted low and sweet, as though in praise; the sun shot a golden
beam along the foot-path, and made it glitter and shine, and then a
wonderful silence seemed to fall on the place, and before her stood an
angel, white-robed and beautiful.  He said no word, but stretched out
his arms to her and would have taken her to his heart, but that she
cried out with a great fear,--

"Ah, no! not yet; I cannot go yet.  I am young, and life is sweet.  I
cannot give it up.  Do not take me yet!" and she fell at his feet.

The angel smiled sadly and said: "Be it so, then.  I will not take, I
will give.  But bemoan thou not thy choice when the life thou deemest
so sweet seems but bitter, and thy load more heavy than thou canst
bear.  I will come once again;" and smiling down upon her, he was gone.

With a great cry she rose; for the light that shone all about the angel
seemed to make many things clear to her, and she would have been glad
to do his will, but it was now too late.

The tree-tops were motionless again, the wind had ceased its chanting,
the sun had withdrawn its wondrous light, and along the worn little
foot-path came Hans with his ax upon his shoulder.  She said nothing to
him about her dream, for she was afraid; but she got his supper for
him, and when the stars had slipped out from behind the spare clouds,
he had dropped to sleep and left her to lie awake gazing at them
silently until each one seemed to smile at her with the smile of an
angel, and then it was morning, and she had slept, after all, and the
sun was shining.

After that Christina was always busy preparing for the gift the angel
had promised her, and she sang gayly from morning till night, and was
very glad.

So the months rolled along, and the memory of her dream had almost
faded from Christina's mind.  Then one day a strange sound was heard in
the little hut,--the sound of a baby's crying.  Hans heard it as he
came along, and it made his eyes shine with gladness.  He hastened his
steps, and smiled to himself as he thought of his joy in having a
little child to fondle and caress.

But at the door he paused, for he heard another sound besides that of
the baby's voice.  It was Christina's, and she was weeping bitterly.

In a moment he was beside her, and then he knew.  There he lay,--their
little son.  The angel's gift,--a wee cripple.  Not a bone in all his
little body was straight and firm.  Only his eyes were strangely
beautiful, and now they were filled with tears.

"It were better he had died, and thou, also, Christina," sobbed Hans.
"It were better we had all three died before this sorrow was brought
upon us."  But Christina only wept.

So the years went by, and the baby lived and grew.  It was always in
pain, but it seldom cried; and Christina could not be impatient when
she saw how uncomplaining the little child was.

When he was old enough she told him what she never told any one
before,--the story of the angel; and his eyes were more beautiful than
ever when she wept because she could not suffer it all alone, but must
see him suffer too.  And while Hans scarcely noticed the boy, Christina
spent all her time thinking of him and teaching him, and together they
prayed to the white angel to bless them.

But as the years went on many men came to the forest and felled the
trees, not with axes but with huge saws; and so Hans was turned away,
for no one wanted a wood-chopper now.  And so they were in great
trouble; and Hans grew rough and ill-tempered, and did not try to use
the saw, nor would he ask the men to let him work.  He would only stand
idly by, and often Christina thought the blessings she prayed for were
turned to curses; but she never told the child her sorrow, and still
they prayed on to the white angel to bless them.  When Christina saw
Hans would really do no work, she said no more, but sewed and spun for
the men about who had no wives, and in this way she earned enough to
buy food and wood.  It was very little she could earn, and she often
grew impatient at the sight of Hans smoking idly in the doorway; but
when she said a hasty word the boy's eyes seemed to grow big with a
deep trouble, and she would check herself and work on in silence.  But
the more she worked, the idler grew Hans and the more ill-tempered; and
he would laugh when he heard them pray to the angel to bless them.
Instead of blessings new sorrow seemed to be born every day; for Hans
was injured by a falling tree, and was brought home with both his legs
crushed, and laid helpless and moaning on the rough bed.

These were weary days for Christina; but she did not rebel, even when
Hans swore at her and the child, and made the place hideous with his
oaths.

"You brought us all these troubles, you wretched boy!" he would say.
"Don't talk to _me_ of patience.  Why don't you pray to your angel for
curses, and then we may have some good luck again?  As it is, you might
as well pray to the Devil himself."

But the child only drew Christina's head closer to his poor little
misshapen breast, and whispered to her, "It is not so, is it, little
mother?"

And she always answered: "No, dear heart.  They are indeed blessings if
we will only recognize them.  It we prayed only for happiness, we might
think the white angel heard us not; but we pray for blessings, and so
he sends us what we pray for, and what he sends is best."

Then again the boy's eyes shone with a great light, and there seemed a
radiance about his head; but Christina was kissing his shapeless little
hands and did not see.

One day Christina was returning with a fresh bundle of work in her
arms, when, just as she came in sight of the hut, she saw a pillar of
smoke rise black and awful to the sky from the rude roof of the place.

In a moment she felt a horrible fear for Hans and the child.  Neither
of them could move; and must they lie helpless and forsaken in the face
of such a fearful death?  She ran as though her feet were winged.
Nearer and nearer she came, and now she saw the flames rise and lick
the smoky column with great lapping tongues of fire.

Nearer and nearer she came, and the crowd of men about the hut stood
stricken and dared not venture in.

"It is of no use," they screamed.  "We did not know soon enough, and
now it is too late; we should smother if we tried to save them."

But she tore her way through the crowd and flung herself into the
burning place.

Hans, writhing and screaming, had managed to drag himself near the
door; and thinking, "The child is more fit for heaven, I will save Hans
first," she lifted him in her arms and carried him outside.  It was as
though some great strength had been given her, for she carried him as
if he had been a little child.  Then into the hut she went once more,
and to the bed of the child.  But now the flames were licking her feet,
and the smoke blinded her.  She groped her way to the bed and felt for
the boy, but he was not in his accustomed place; and she was about to
fling herself upon the little couch in despair, when a great light
filled the place,--not the red light of the flames, but a clear white
flood such as she had only seen once before.

There stood the white angel, radiant, glorious; and looking up she saw
him smiling down at her with the eyes of the boy.

"I am come again," he said.  "When you would not give me your life, I
gave you mine, and it was spent in pain and torture.  Now that you
would gladly give yours to spare me, you are to taste the sweetest of
all blessings.  The lesson is over; it is done."  And he took her in
his arms and she was filled with a great joy, for she knew the angel
had answered all her prayers.  She remembered the words: "He that
findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake
shall find it."

The men outside waited in vain for Christina, and when she did not come
they shook their heads and some of them wept.  They did not know.



IN THE PIED PIPER'S MOUNTAIN.

It was a great honor, let me tell you; and Doris, as she sat by the
window studying, could not help thinking of it and feeling just a wee
bit important.

"It is n't as if I were the oldest girl," said she to herself.  "No,
indeed; I 'm younger than most of them, and yet when it came to
choosing who should speak, and we were each given a chance to vote, I
had the most ballots.  Miss Smith told me I could recite anything I
chose, but to be sure it was 'good,' and that it was not 'beyond me.'
Well, this is n't 'beyond me.' I guess;" and she began:--

  "Hamelin Town 's in Brunswick,
    By famous Hanover City;
  The river Weser, deep and wide,
  Washes its walls on the southern side,--
  A pleasanter spot you never spied.
    But, when begins my ditty,
  Almost five hundred years ago,
  To see the townfolk suffer so
    With vermin was a pity."

For she had chosen Browning's "Pied Piper of Hamelin."  That was surely
"good;" and if it was long, why, it was "so interesting."  As she went
along she could almost see the rats as they "fought the dogs and killed
the cats."  She could almost see the great Mayor tremble as the people
flocked to him and threatened to "send him packing" if he did n't find
some means to rid them of those awful rats.  She could almost hear the
Pied Piper's voice as he offered to clear the town of the pests; and it
seemed to her she could hear the music of his pipe as he stepped into
the street and began to play, while the rats from every hole and cranny
followed him to the very banks of the Weser, where they were drowned in
the rolling tide.

It seemed awful that after promising the Piper those fifty thousand
guilders, the Mayor should break his word; and it certainly was
terrible, when the Piper found he had been duped, that he should again
begin to pipe, and that the children--yes, every one in Hamelin
Town--should follow him just as the rats had done, and that by and by
he should lead them to the mountain-side, that it should open, and
that, lo! after they had all passed in, it should close again, leaving
only one little lame boy outside, weeping bitterly because he had not
been able to walk fast enough to keep up with the merry crowd.  It was
all so distinct and plain.

She wondered where the children went after the hill-side shut them in.
She wondered what they saw.  She thought the Piper's music must have
been very odd indeed to charm them so.  She could almost hear--  _What
was that_?  She gave a start; for sure as you live, she heard the sound
of a fife piping shrill and loud round the corner.  She flung down the
book and ran into the street.  The air was cold and sharp and made her
shiver, but she did not stop to think of that; she was listening to
that Piper who was coming around the side of the house,--nearer and
nearer.  She meant to follow him, whoever he was.  There!  How the wind
whistled and the leaves scurried!

Wind!  Leaves!  Why, it was the Pied Piper himself with his puffed
cheeks and tattered coat; and before him ran the host of children,
dancing, as they went, to the tune of the Piper's fife.

Away--away--

With a bound Doris left the door-step and followed after, running and
fluttering, skipping and skurrying, sometimes like a little girl and
sometimes like a big leaf,--she had n't time to ask herself which she
really was; for all the while she was listening to that wonderful fife
as it whistled and wailed, shrieked and sighed, and seemed to coax them
on all the while.

She followed blindly after the rest of the whirling crowd.

Away they went, always more and more,--away they went, clear out of
town and into the bare country,--away they went; and the Piper behind
them made his fife-notes shriller and louder, so that all could hear,
and they seemed to be carried along in spite of themselves.

It was like a race in a dream.  Their feet seemed not to touch the
ground.  The leaves rustled--no, the children chattered as they
fluttered--no, hurried along.  Doris could catch little sentences here
and there; but they seemed to be in a strange tongue, and she did not
understand.  But by and by she grew very familiar with the sounds, and,
strangely enough, she found she could make out the meaning of the queer
words.

"It 's German," she thought; "I know they're talking German;" and so
she listened very attentively.

"Sie ist eine Fremde," she heard one say to another; "sie gehoert nicht
zu uns,"--which she immediately knew meant: "She is a stranger; she
doesn't belong to us."

"Nein," replied the other; "aber sie scheint gut und brav zu sein."  At
which Doris smiled; she liked to be thought "good and sweet."

On and on they went; and after a time things began to have a very
foreign look, and this startled Doris considerably.

"We can't have crossed the ocean," she thought.  But when she asked her
nearest neighbor where they were and whether they had crossed the
Atlantic, he smiled and said,--

"Ja, gewiss; wir sind in Deutschland.  Wir gehen, schon, nach
Hamelin,"--which rather puzzled Doris; for she found they had crossed
the sea and were in Germany and going to Hamelin.

"It must be the Piper's wonderful way," she thought.

But she did not feel at all homesick nor tired nor afraid; for the
Piper's fife seemed to keep them all in excellent spirits, and she
found herself wondering what she would do when they came to the fabled
hill-side,--for she never doubted they would go there.  On they went,
faster and faster, the Piper behind them playing all the while.

She saw the broad river; and all the children shouted, "Die Weser."

One little flaxen-haired girl told her they were nearing Hamelin.

"It used to have a big wall around it, with twenty towers and a large
fort; but that was all blown up by the French, years and years ago,"
she explained.

"But it has a chain-bridge," she remarked proudly,--"a chain-bridge
that stretches quite across the Weser."

Doris was just about to say: "Why, that's nothing!  We have a huge
suspension bridge in New York;" but the words seemed to twist
themselves into a different form, and the memory of home to melt away,
and she found herself murmuring, "Ach, so?" quite like the rest of the
little Teutons.

But at length the fife ceased playing, and the children stopped.

There they were in quaint old Hamelin, with its odd wooden houses, and
its old Munster that was all falling to ruin, and its rosy-cheeked
children, who did not seem to notice the new-comers at all.

"We must be invisible," thought Doris; and indeed they were.

Then the Pied Piper came forward and beckoned them on, and softly they
followed him to the very hill-side, that opened, as Doris knew it
would, and they found themselves in a vast hall.  A low rumbling
startled Doris for a moment, but then she knew it was only the
hill-side closing upon them.  She seemed to hear a faint cry as the
last sound died, away, and was tempted to run back, for she feared some
child had been hurt; but her companion said,--

"It can't be helped, dear; he _always_ gets left outside, and then he
weeps.  You see he is lame, and he cannot keep up with us."

So Doris knew it was the self-same little lad of whom Browning had
written in his story of the Piper.

What a chattering there was, to be sure; and what a crowd was gathered
about the Piper at the farther end of the hall!  Every once in a while
all the children would laugh so loudly that the very ceiling shook.  It
was such a merry throng.

"Tell me," said Doris to her little neighbor,--"tell me, are you always
so gay here?  Do you never quarrel?  and have you really lived in this
hillside all this long, long time,--ever since the Piper first came to
Hamelin five hundred years ago?"

"Ja, wohl," replied the girl, nodding her flaxen head.  "We are always
so happy; we never quarrel; therefore we are ever young, and what thou
callest five hundred years are as nothing to us.  Ah! we are well cared
for here, and the Piper teaches us, and we him; and we play and frolic
and sometimes travel, 'und so geht's.'"

"But what can you teach _him_?" asked Doris, wondering.

"Ah! many things.  We teach him to tune his fife to the sounds of our
laughter, so that when he travels he may pipe new songs.  Ah! thou
foolish one, thou thoughtest him the _wind_.  And we teach him to be as
a little child, and then he keeps young always, and his heart is warm
and glad.  And we teach him--  But thou shalt see;" and she nodded
again, and smiled into Doris's wondering eyes.

The hall they were in was long and wide, and hung all about the walls
were the most beautiful pictures, that seemed to shift and change every
moment into something more strange and lovely.  And as Doris looked she
seemed to know what the pictures were,--and they were only reflections
of the children's pure souls that shone out of their eyes.

"How beautiful!" she thought.

But the Piper was singing to them now; and as she drew nearer him she
saw he had two little tots in his arms, and was putting them to sleep
on his breast.

So the children were still while the Piper sang his lullaby, and
presently the two little ones began to nod; and the Piper did not move,
but held them to his kind heart until they were fast asleep.  Then he
rose and carried them away and laid them down somewhere.  Doris could
not see where, but it must have been far enough away to be out of the
sound of their voices; for when he came back he did not lower his
tones, but spoke up quite naturally and laughed gayly as he said,--

"Well, what now, Children?  Shall we show the new friend our
manufactory?"

And they were all so anxious to do whatever he proposed that in a
moment they had formed quite a bodyguard about the Pied Piper, and were
following and leading him down the vast hall.

"What is the manufactory?" asked Doris of a boy who happened to be
beside her.

"Wait and thou shalt see!" he replied.  "We always are patient until
the Herr Piper is ready to tell us what he wishes; then we listen and
attend."

Doris would have felt that the boy was snubbing her if his eyes had not
been so kind and his voice so sweet.  As it was she took it all
pleasantly, and determined to ask no more questions, but to content
herself with as much information as the Piper was willing to bestow
upon her.

But now they had passed out of the first great hall and into another
that seemed even more vast.  At first it seemed quite empty to Doris,
but as soon as her eyes grew accustomed to the strange light, she saw
its walls were flanked by any number of wee spinning-wheels; and above
them on shelves lay stacks of something that looked like golden flax,
and shimmered and glittered in a wonderful way.  The floor was carpeted
with something very soft and of a tender, fresh green, and Doris's feet
seemed to sink into it at every step; and then a sweet perfume seemed
to rise up like that one smells on an early spring-day when one goes
into the country and is the first to lay foot on the fresh young grass.
The ceiling was so high that at first Doris thought it was no ceiling
at all, but just the sky itself, and it was a deep, clear blue.

"This is our Spring-room, little Doris," explained the Piper.  "Now,
Children!"

And at these words they broke away from him, leaving only Doris by his
side; and each group began a different task.  One new to the stacks of
gold and separated them into long, heavy skeins; while another spun the
threads back and forth till they sparkled and danced and seemed to turn
into sunbeams that at length broke away and glanced into the blue
above, where they played about just as the sunlight does on a bright
spring-day.  Others, again, knelt down upon the soft carpet, and seemed
to be whispering something very sweet to some one or something hidden
below; and before very long up sprang long, tender shoots, and then
thin buds appeared, and by and by the buds swelled and burst, and then
where every bud had been was a flower.  And all this time there had
been a sound as of falling drops that seemed to be keeping time to a
soft little melody the children were crooning.

The Piper, looking at Doris's wondering face, said, smiling: "Thou dost
not comprehend, dear heart?  Well, I will explain.  As I said, this is
our Spring-room, and in it all the sunshine and flowers and clouds and
rain are made that go to make up a spring day.  They," he said,
pointing to the first group, "are separating the golden skeins so that
they can be spun into sunbeams.  It takes great patience before they
are completely finished; and if one of the spinners should sigh while
weaving, it would ruin the beam and make it dull and heavy.  So, you
see, the sunbeam-children must be very light-hearted.  Then those
others are coaxing the flowers to spring up and bud.  After they are
all well above ground the flower-children hide a secret in the heart of
each blossom, and a very beautiful secret it is, and so wonderful that
very few ever succeed in finding it out.  But it is worth searching
for, and one or two world-people have really discovered it.  Thou mayst
guess what a difficult task is that of my flower-children; for at first
the flowers are drowsy and would prefer to slumber yet awhile; and my
children must whisper to them such beautiful thoughts that they forget
everything else and spring up to hear more.  The singing thou nearest
is the lullaby the rain-children are singing to the drops.  Thou
knowest that the clouds are the rain-cradles, and when my children sing
slumber songs and rock the clouds gently to and fro, the drops grow
sleepy and forget to fall.  But sometimes they are too restless to
remain in their beds, and then they fall to earth; and if we could wait
so long we might hear the children teach them their patter-song.  But
we have much else to see, and must go forward.  Now, Children!"

At this there was a slight commotion while the deft hands put aside
their tasks; but it was over in a moment, and the Piper once more in
the midst of the merry crowd, who laughed gayly and chattered like
magpies, while Doris looked her admiration and delight, and the Piper
smiled approvingly.

"The next is the Summer-room," he said, as they wandered on.  "Thou
seest we are never idle.  The world is so large, there is always plenty
to do; and what would become of it if it were not for the children?
They are the ones who make the world bright, little Doris; and so
everything depends upon their keeping their hearts glad; and one 's
heart cannot be glad if one's soul is not beautiful.  Thou thoughtest
not so much depended upon the children, didst thou, dear heart?"

Oh, the wonders of that Summer-room!  The perfect chorus that rose as
the fresh young voices taught the birds to sing; the beauty of the
rainbows, the glory of the sunsets.  It was all so wonderful that Doris
scarcely knew how to show her appreciation of it all.

The Autumn-room was scarcely less bewildering, and the Winter-room was
so dazzling that Doris shut up her eyes for very wonder.

In the Autumn-room all the little musicians set about transposing the
melody of the bird-songs from the major to the minor key, and they
taught the Piper to bring his fifing into harmony with their voices.
The small artists began changing the sky-coloring, and brought about
such wonderful effects that it was marvellous to see, and Doris could
scarcely realize at all that such wonders could be.

After they had shown her the Winter-room and had seen her amazement at
the glory of the snow-crystals and the mysterious way in which the
rainbow colors were hidden in the ice, the Piper nodded his head, and
they all turned back and began to retrace their steps.

"I suppose thou didst wonder where we had been when thou didst join us,
little friend," said the Piper.  "I will tell thee.  In the spring we
all set out on our travels; for my children must see and learn, besides
showing and teaching others.  So in the spring we leave this place and
go into the world.  Then I go wandering about with my fife north and
south, east and west, and the people think me the wind.  But my dear
children could not bear such fatigue; so they take up their abode in
the trees, and remain there guiding the seasons and seeing that all is
well; whispering to me as I pass and to one another, and singing softly
to the stars and the clouds, and then every one mistakes and thinks
them simply rustling leaves.  Then, when I have finished my journeying,
I give them a sign, and they dress themselves in gala-costume,--for joy
at the thought of coming home,--and when every one is gay in red,
purple, and yellow, they all slip down from the trees and away we go.
People have great theories about the changing of the foliage, but it is
a simple matter; as I tell you, it is only that my children are getting
ready to go home.

"During the winter we leave the world to sleep, for it grows very weary
and needs rest.  My children arrange its snow-coverlets for it, and
then it slumbers, and the moon and stars keep watch.  So now thou
knowest all, little maid, and thou canst be one of us, and make the
world bright and glorious if thou wilt.  It only needs a beautiful
soul, dear Doris; then one remains ever young, and can work many
wonders."

"Oh, I will, I will!" cried Doris, instantly.

"But," said the Piper, "it takes such long experience.  Thou seest my
children had long years of it; and until thou canst make life bright
within, thou couldst not venture without.  But if thou wilt try, and be
content to work in patience,--there are many children who are doing
this--"

"Oh, I will, I will!" said Doris, again.

Then the children laughed more happily than ever, and the Piper raised
his fife to his lips and blew a loud, glad note.

What was this?  The children had disappeared, the Piper was gone, and
Doris sat by the window, and her book had dropped to the floor.  She
rubbed her eyes.

"It was a dream," she said.  "It is the Piper's wonderful way; he has
left me here to work and wait, so that I may make the world beautiful
at last."  And she smiled and clapped her hands as the wind swept round
the corner.



MARJORIE'S MIRACLE.

"Shall we have to wait until all these folks have been taken?" asked
Marjorie, looking from the crowd of people who thronged the fashionable
photograph-gallery to her mother, who was threading her way slowly
through the press to the cashier's desk.

"Yes, dear, I 'm afraid so.  But we must be patient and not fret, else
we shall not get a pleasant picture; and that would never do."

While she paid the clerk for the photographs and made her arrangements
with him as to the desired size and style, Marjorie busied herself with
looking around and scanning the different faces she saw.

"There!" she thought; "what for, do you s'pose, have I got to wait for
that baby to have its picture taken?  Nothing but an ugly mite of a
thing, anyway!  I should n't guess it was more than a day old, from the
way it wiggles its eyes about.  I wonder if its mother thinks it's a
nice baby?  Anyhow, I should think I might have my picture taken first.
And that hump-backed boy!  Guess I have a right to go in before him!
He 's not pretty one bit.  What a lovely frock that young lady has
on,--all fluffy and white, with lace and things!  She keeps looking in
the glass all the time, so I guess she knows she 's pretty.  When I am
a young lady I 'll be prettier than she is, though, for my hair is
goldener than hers, and my eyes are brown, and hers are nothing, but
plain blue.  I heard a gentleman say the other day I had 'a rare style
of beauty,' he did n't know I heard (he was talking to Mamma, and he
thought I had gone away, but I had n't).  I 'm glad I have 'a rare
style of beauty,' and I 'm glad my father 's rich, so I can have lovely
clothes and--  Seems to me any one ought to see that I 'm prettier than
that old lady over there; she 's all bent over and wrinkled, and when
she talks her voice is all kind of trembly, and her eyes are as dim--
But she 'll go in before me just the same, and I 'll get tireder and
tireder, until I--  Mamma, won't you come over to that sofa, and put
your arm around me so I can rest?  I 'm as sleepy as I can be; and by
the time all these folks get done being _taken_, I 'll be dead, I
s'pose.  _Do_ come!"

Her mother permitted herself to be led to the opposite side of the
room, where a large lounge stood, and seating herself upon it, took her
little daughter within the circle of her arm; whereupon Marjorie
commenced complaining of the injustice of these "homely" people being
given the advantage over her pretty self.

"Oh, Marjorie, Marjorie!" whispered her mother, "what a very foolish
little girl you are!  I think it would take a miracle to make you see
aright.  Don't you know that that dear baby is very, very sick, and
that probably its sad little mother has brought it here to have its
picture taken, so that if it should be called away from her, she might
have something to gaze at that looked like her precious little one?
And that poor crippled boy!  He has a lovely face, with its large,
patient eyes and sensitive mouth.  How much better he is to look at
than that young woman you admire so much, whose beauty does not come
from her soul at all, and will disappear as soon as her rosy cheeks
fade and her hair grows gray!  Now, that sweet old lady over there is
just a picture of goodness; and her dear old eyes have a look of love
in them that is more beautiful than any shimmer or shine you could show
me in those of your friend Miss Peacock."

"Why do you call her 'Miss Peacock'?  You don't know her, do you?"
queried Marjorie.

"No, I don't know her in one sense, but in another I do.  She is vain
and proud, and the reason I called her Miss Peacock was because of the
way in which she struts back and forth before that pier-glass,--just
like the silly bird itself.  But I should not have called her names.
It was not a kind thing to do, even though she _is_ so foolish; and I
beg her pardon and yours, little daughter."

Marjorie did not ask why her mother apologized to her.  She had a dim
sort of an idea that it was because she had set her an example that she
would be sorry to have her follow.  Instead, she inquired suddenly,--

"How do they take pictures, Mamma?  I mean, what does the man do, when
he goes behind that queer machine thing and sticks his head under the
cloth, and then after a while claps in something that looks like my
tracing-slate and then pops it out again?  What makes the picture?"

"The sun makes the picture.  It is so strong and clear that though it
is such a long distance away it shines down upon the object that is to
be photographed and reflects its image through a lens in the camera
upon a plate which is _sensitized_ (that is, coated with a sort of
gelatine that is so sensitive that it holds the impression cast upon it
until by the aid of certain acids and processes it can be made
permanent, that is, lasting).  I am afraid I have not succeeded in
explaining so you understand very clearly; have I, Sweetheart?"

Marjorie nodded her head.  "Ye-es," she replied listlessly.  "I guess I
know now.  You said--the sun--did--it; the sun took our pictures.  It's
very strange--to think--the sun--does--it."


"Come, Marjorie!  Want to go travelling?" asked a voice.

"No, thank you; not just now," replied Marjorie, slowly.  "I am going
to have my photograph taken in a little while,--just as soon as all
these stupid folks get theirs done.  I should n't have time to go
anywhere hardly; and besides it 'd tire me, and I want to look all
fresh and neat, so the picture will be pretty."

"But suppose we promised, honor bright--"

"Begging your pardon," broke in another voice, "that's understood in
any case,--a foregone conclusion, you know.  Our honor would _have_ to
be bright."

"Suppose we promised faithfully," continued the first voice, pretending
not to notice the interruption, "to bring you back in time to go in
when your turn comes, would n't you rather take a journey with us and
see any number of wonderful things than just to sit here leaning
against your mother's arm and watching these people that you think so
'stupid'?"

"Of course," assented Marjorie, at once.  "It 's awful tiresome,--this;
it makes me feel just as sleepy as can be.  But what 's the use of
talking?  I can't leave here or I 'd lose my chance, and besides Mamma
never lets me go out with strangers."

"We 're not strangers," asserted the voice, calmly; "we are as familiar
to you as your shadow,--in fact, more so, come to think of it.  You
have always known us, and so has your mother.  She 'd trust you to us,
never fear!  Will you come?"

Marjorie considered a moment, and then said: "Well, if you're perfectly
sure you 'll take care of me, and that you 'll bring me back in time, I
guess I will."

No sooner had she spoken than she felt herself raised from her place
and borne away out of the crowded room in which she was,--out, out into
the world, as free as the air itself, and being carried along as though
she were a piece of light thistle-down on the back of a summer breeze.

That she was travelling very fast, she could see by the way in which
she out-stripped the clouds hurrying noiselessly across the sky.  One
thing she knew,--whatever progress she was making was due, not to
herself (for she was making absolutely no effort at all, seeming to be
merely reclining at ease), but was the result of some other exertion
than her own.  She was not frightened in the least, but, as she grew
accustomed to the peculiar mode of locomotion, became more and more
curious to discover the source of it.

She looked about her, but nothing was visible save the azure sky above
her and the green earth beneath.  She seemed to be quite alone.  The
sense of her solitude began to fill her with a deep awe, and she grew
strangely uneasy: as she thought of herself, a frail little girl, amid
the vastness of the big world.

How weak and helpless she was,--scarcely more important than one of the
wild-flowers she had used to tread on when she was n't being hurried
through space by the means of--she knew not what.  To be sure, she was
pretty; but then they had been pretty too, and she had stepped on them,
and they had died, and she had gone away and no one had ever known.

"Oh, dear!" she thought, "it would be the easiest thing in the world
for me to be killed (even if I _am_ pretty), and no one would know it
at all.  I wonder what is going to happen?  I wish I had n't come."

"Don't be afraid!" said the familiar voice, suddenly.  "We promised to
take care of you.  We are truth itself.  Don't be afraid!"

"But I _am_ afraid," insisted Marjorie, in a petulant way, "and I 'm
getting afraider every minute.  I don't know where I 'm going, nor how
I 'm being taken there, and I don't like it one bit.  Who are you,
anyway?"

For a moment she received no reply; but then the voice said: "Hush!
don't speak so irreverently.  You are talking to the emissaries of a
great sovereign,--his Majesty the Sun."

"Is _he_ carrying me along?" inquired Marjorie presently, with deep
respect.

"Oh, dear, no," responded the voice; "we are doing that.  We are his
vassals,--you call us beams.  He never condescends to leave his
place,--he could not; if he were to desert his throne for the smallest
fraction of a second, one could not imagine the amount of disaster that
would ensue.  But we do his bidding, and hasten north and south and
east and west, just as he commands.  It is a very magnificent thing to
be a king--"

"Of course," interrupted Marjorie; "one can wear such elegant clothes,
that shine and sparkle like everything with gold and jewels, and have
lots of servants and--"

"No, no," corrected the beam, warmly.  "Where did you get such a wrong
idea of things?  That is not at all where the splendor of being a king
exists.  It does not lie in the mere fact of one 's being born to a
title and able to command.  That would be very little if that were all.
It is not in the gold and jewels and precious stuffs that go to adorn a
king that his grandeur lies, but in the things which these things
represent.  We give a king the rarest and the most costly, because it
is fitting that the king should have the best,--that he is worthy of
the best; that only the best will serve one who is so great and
glorious.  They mean nothing in themselves; they only describe his
greatness.  The things that one sees are not of importance; it is the
things that they are put there to represent.  Do you understand?  I
don't believe you do.  I 'll try to make it more clear to you, like a
true sunbeam.  Look at one of your earth-kings, for instance.  He is
nothing but a man just like the rest of you; but what makes him great
is that he is supposed to have more truth, more wisdom, more justice
and power.  If he has not these things, then he would better never have
been a king; for that only places him where every one can see how
unworthy he is,--makes his lacks only more conspicuous.  Your word
_king_ comes from another word, _könning_; which comes from still
another word, _canning_, that means _ableman_.  If he is not really an
ableman, it were better he had never worn ermine.  And there, too;
ermine is only a fur, you know.  It is nothing in itself but fur; but
you have come to think of it as an emblem of royalty because kings use
it.  So you see, Marjorie, a thing is not of any worth really except as
it represents something that is great and noble, something _true_."

Marjorie was very silent for a little; she was trying to understand
what the sunbeam meant, and found it rather difficult.  After a while
she gave it up and said,--

"Will you tell me how you are carrying me, and where we are going, and
all about it?"

"Certainly,"  replied  the  beam, brightly.  "You are in a sort of
hammock made out of threads of sunshine.  We sunbeams can weave one in
less than no time, and it is no trouble at all to swing a little mortal
like you way out into the clearness and the light, so that a bit of it
can make its way into your dark little soul, and make you not quite so
blind as you were."

"Why, I 'm not blind at all," said Marjorie, with a surprised pout.  "I
can see as well as anything.  Did you think I couldn't?"

"I _know_ you can't," replied the beam, calmly.  "That is, you can't
see any farther than the outside part of things, and that is almost
worse than seeing none of them at all.  But here we are nearing the
court of the king.  Now don't expect to see _him_, for that is
impossible.  He is altogether too radiant for you; your eyes could not
bear so much glory.  It would be just as if you took one of your own
little moles or bats (creatures that are used to the dark) and put them
in the full glare of a noonday sun.  The sun would be there, but they
could not see it, because their eyes would be too weak and dim.  Even
yourself,--have n't you often tried to look the sun full in the face?
Yes; and you have had to give it up and turn your face away because it
hurt your eyes.  Well, his Majesty only lets the world have a glimpse
of his glory.  But here we are at our journey's end."

With these words Marjorie felt herself brought to a gentle halt, and
found herself in a place most wondrously clear and light and high, from
which she could look off,--far, far across and over and down to where
something that looked like a dim ball was whirling rapidly.

"That is your earth," whispered the sunbeam in her ear,--"the earth
that you have just left."

Marjorie was so astounded that for a time she was unable to say a word.
Then she managed to falter out: "But it always looked so big and
bright, and now it is nothing but a horrid dark speck--"

"That is just it, Marjorie,--just what I said.  When you look at the
world simply as a planet, it is small and dark enough, not nearly so
large as some of the others you see about you; but when you look at it
as a place on which God has put his people to be good and noble, to
work out a beautiful purpose, then--  But wait a moment."

Marjorie felt a strange thrill pass through her; across her eyes swept
something that felt like a caressing hand, and when she looked again
everything was changed, and she seemed gazing at a wonderful sort of
panorama that shifted and changed every moment, showing more lovely
impressions each instant.

"What is it?" she gasped, scarcely able to speak for delight and
breathless with amazement.

"Only pictures of your world as it really is.  Pictures taken by his
Highness the Sun, who does not stop at the mere outer form of things,
but reveals the true inwardness of them,--what they are actually.  He
does not stop with the likeness of the surface of things; he makes
portraits of their hearts as well, and he always gets exact
likenesses,--he never fails."

Marjorie felt a sudden fear steal over her at these words; she did not
precisely know why, but she had a dim sort of feeling that if the sun
took photographs of more than the outside of things (of the hearts as
well), some of the pictures he got might not be so pretty, perhaps.
But she said nothing, and watched the scroll as it unrolled before her
with a great thrill of wonderment.

With her new vision the world was more beautiful than anything she had
ever imagined.  She could see everything upon its surface, even to the
tiniest flower; but nothing was as it had seemed to her when she had
been one of its inhabitants herself.  Each blade of grass, each tree
and rock and brook, was something more than a mere blade or tree or
rock or brook,--something so much more strange and beautiful that it
almost made her tremble with ecstasy to see.

"Now you can see," said the voice; "before you were blind.  Now you
understand what I meant when I said the objects one sees are of
themselves nothing; it is what they represent that is grand and
glorious and beautiful.  A flower is lovely, but it is not half so
lovely as the thing it suggests--but I can't expect you to understand
_that_.  Even when you were blind you used to love the ocean.  Now that
you can see, do you know why?  It is because it is an emblem of God's
love, deep and mighty and strong and beautiful beyond words.  And so
with the mountains, and so with the smallest weed that grows.  But we
must look at other things before you go back--"

"Oh, dear!" faltered Marjorie, "when I go back shall I be blind again?
How does one see clear when one goes back?"

"Through truth," answered the beam, briefly.

But just then Marjorie found herself looking at some new sights.  "What
are these?" she whispered tremblingly.

"The _proofs_ of some pictures you will remember to have half seen,"
replied the beam.

And sure enough! with a start of amaze and wonder she saw before her
eyes the people who had sat in the crowded gallery with her before she
had left it to journey here with her sunbeam guide; but, oh! with such
a difference.

The baby she had thought so ugly was in reality a white-winged angel,
mild-eyed and pitying; while the hump-backed boy represented a patience
so tender that it beautified everything upon which it shone.  She
thought she recognized in one of the pictures a frock of filmy lace
that she remembered to have seen before; but the form it encased was
strange to her, so ill-shapen and unlovely it looked; while the face
was so repulsive that she shrank from it with horror.

"Is that what I thought was the pretty girl?" she murmured tremulously.

"Yes," replied the beam, simply.

The next portrait was that of the silver-haired old lady whom Marjorie
had thought so crooked and bowed.  She saw now why her shoulders were
bent.  It was because of the mass of memories she carried,--memories
gathered through a long and useful life.  Her silver hair made a halo
about her head.

"The next is yours," breathed the voice at her side, softly.  "Will you
look?"

Marjorie gave a quick start, and her voice quivered sadly as she
cried,--

"Oh, blessed sunbeam, don't force me to see it!  Let me go back and try
to be better before I see my likeness.  I am afraid now.  The outside
prettiness is n't anything, unless one's spirit is lovely too; and I--I
could not look, for I know--I know how hateful mine would be.  I have
learned about it now, and it's like a book; if the story the book tells
is not beautiful, the pictures won't be good to see.  I have learned
about it now, and I know better than I did.  May I--oh, may I try
again?"

She waited in an agony of suspense for the answer; and when it came,
and the voice said gently, "It is your turn next," she cried aloud,--

"Not yet, oh, not yet!  Let me wait.  Let me try again."


And there she was, with her cheeks all flushed and tear-stained, her
hair in loose, damp curls about her temples, and her frock all rumpled
and crushed in her mother's arms; and her mother was saying,--

"Bad dreams, sweetheart?  You have had a fine, long nap; but it is your
turn next, and I have had to wake you.  Come, dear!  Now we must see if
we cannot get a good likeness of you,--just as you really are."



WHAT HAPPENED TO LIONEL.

It is not to be supposed that such things happen every day.  If they
were to happen every day, one would get so familiar with them that they
would not seem at all extraordinary; and if there were no extraordinary
things in the world, how very dull one would be, to be sure!  As it
is--  But to go back.

The beggar had stood before the area-gate for a long time, and no one
had paid the slightest attention to him.  He was an old man with long
gray hair, and a faded, ragged coat, whose tatters fluttered madly to
and fro every time the wind blew.  He was very tall and gaunt, and his
back was bent.  On his head was a big slouched hat, whose brim fell
forward over his eyes and almost hid them entirely in its shadow.  He
carried a basket upon one arm, and a cane with a crook for a handle
hung upon the other.  He seemed very patient, for he was waiting,
unmurmuringly, for some one to come in answer to the ring he had given
the area-bell some fifteen minutes before.  No one came, and he
appeared to be considering whether to ring again or go away, when
Lionel skipped nimbly from his chair by the drawing-room window,
slipped noiselessly down the basement stairs, and opened the area-door
just in time to prevent the beggar from taking his departure.

"What do you want, sir?" inquired Lionel, politely, through the tall
iron gate.

The beggar turned around at the sound of the child's voice, and replied:

"I have come to beg--"

"Oh, yes, I know," cried Lionel, hurriedly (he was afraid some one
might come, and then he would be snatched unceremoniously away from the
open door, and the beggar sent smartly about his business by one of the
pert-tongued maids); "but is it for cold victuals or money?"

The beggar looked down at the little lad, and a smile, half of pity,
half of amusement, lit up his grave features for a moment.  "I have
come to beg," he said slowly, "that you will receive from me, not that
you will give to me."

Lionel's eyes widened with amazement.  "That I will receive from you?"
he repeated slowly.  "Then you are n't a beggar at all?"

"Most assuredly I am," responded the old man, promptly.  "Do I not beg
of you?  What is a beggar?  'One who begs or entreats earnestly or with
humility; a petitioner.'  That is how your dictionary has it.  It does
n't say for what he begs or entreats.  Where I come from things are so
different,--there it is a mark of distinction, I can assure you, to be
a beggar.  One must have lived such a long life of poverty and
self-sacrifice before one is permitted to beg--to beg others to receive
one's benefits.  Ah, yes, there it is so different!"

"Yes, it must be," assented Lionel.  "Here beggars are just persons who
go about and ask for cold bits or pennies; and we don't think much of
them at all."

"That is because they are not the right kind of almsfolk, nor you the
right kind of almoners," responded the beggar; and then he repeated:
"Ah, yes, there it is so different!"

"Where?" inquired Lionel.  "Won't you tell me about it?"

"Dear child," replied the beggar, gently, "it can't be described.  It
must be seen to be appreciated.  If you once entered into that estate,
you would never wish to return to this."

"Is it as nice as all that?" questioned Lionel, eagerly.  "Guess I 'll
go, then.  Will you take me ?" he asked.

The beggar smiled down at him kindly.  "I can't take you, dear boy," he
said.  "I have to travel on.  But I can set you on the road, and you
will reach there in safety if you follow my directions."

Lionel waited breathlessly for the beggar to continue; but the man
almost seemed to have forgotten his existence, for he was gazing
dreamily over his head into the darkness of the hallway, apparently
seeing nothing but what was in his own mind's eye.

"Well?" asked Lionel, a little impatiently.  "You were going to give me
the directions, you know."

"Oh, yes!" returned the beggar, with a slight start.  "Well, the
directions are: _Always turn to the right_!"

Lionel considered a moment, and then he said: "But if I always turn to
the right I should n't get anywhere at all.  I 'd be only going round
and round."

"No, no!" replied the beggar, hastily; "you must always go _square_,
you know.  And you 'll find you 'll get along beautifully if you always
keep to the right."

"But s'pose," suggested Lionel, "I come to a place where the road is to
the left,--some of the roads might be not to the right,--some might go
quite the other way."

"Yes," assented the beggar, wistfully.  "They _all_ go the other
way,--that is, they _seem_ to go the other way.  But when they seem to
go to the wrong and you don't see any that go to the right, just keep
as near to the right as you can, and by and by you 'll see one and it
will be lovely.  But if you turn down to the wrong, you run a chance of
losing your way entirely.  It is always so much harder to go back."

"But are those all the directions you are going to give me?" inquired
Lionel, with a doubtful glance.

"They are sufficient," replied the beggar.  "You 'll find them
sufficient;" and before Lionel could say another word the beggar had
vanished from before his very eyes.  He had not slipped away, nor slunk
away, nor walked away, nor sped away,--he had simply vanished; and
Lionel was left alone behind the grated door of the area-way gazing out
upon a vacant space of pavement where, an instant before, the beggar
had stood.  The little boy rubbed his eyes and looked again.  No, the
beggar was gone, in very truth, and had left not so much as a rag
behind him.  But, look! what was that?  Something lay upon the stone
step just outside the gate, and it gleamed brightly from out its dusky
corner.  Lionel reached up and unlatched the heavy fastening.  The
great gate swung slowly in, and Lionel stepped briskly out.  He bent
down and grasped the shining object; it proved to be a little rule, and
it was made of solid gold.  He clasped it to his bosom.

"How beautiful!" he murmured.  "Now I can measure things and carve them
with my jack-knife, and they 'll be just exactly right.  Before they
have n't been quite straight, and when I 'd try to put the parts
together they wouldn't fit; but now--"

And then suddenly the thought flashed across his mind: "Perhaps it
belongs to the beggar and he might want it;" and without a moment's
thought to his bare head, he passed quickly through the gateway and out
into the street.

"It's such a beautiful rule," he thought, as he flew along.  "I never
saw such a darling.  If it were mine, how I should hate to lose it!  I
must certainly find him and give it back to him; for I know he must
feel just as I should if it were mine."

It never entered into his head to keep the thing; his one idea seemed
to be to find the beggar and return to him his property.  But before
very long his breath began to come in gasps, and he found himself
panting painfully and unable to run any farther.  He paused and leaned
against the huge newel-post at the foot of some one's outer steps.  His
cheeks were aglow, his eyes flashing, his thick curls rough and
tumbled, and his bang in fine disorder.  The deep embroidered cuffs and
collar upon his blouse were crushed and rumpled; his little Zouave
jacket was wind-blown and dusty, and his pumps splashed with mud from
the gutter-puddles through which he had run.  At home they would have
said he "looked like distress;" but here, leaning wearily against the
post, he was a most picturesque little figure.

Suddenly he felt a light touch upon his head, and then his bang was
brushed back from his temples as though by the stroke of some kindly
hand.  He looked up, and there beside him stood the oddest-looking
figure he had ever seen.

The stranger was clad from head to foot in a suit of silver gray.  Upon
his head he wore a peaked cap, upon his feet were the longest and most
pointed of buskins; his doublet and hose were silver gray, and over his
shoulders hung a mantle about which was a jagged border made after the
most fantastic design, which shone and glittered like ice in sunlight.
About his hips was a narrow girdle from which hung a sheathed dagger
whose hilt was richly studded with clear, white crystals that looked to
Lionel like the purest of diamonds.

Lionel felt that when he spoke it would probably be after some
old-century fashion which he could scarcely understand; but there he
was mistaken, for when the stranger addressed him, it was in the most
modern manner and with great kindliness.

"Well, my son," he said cheerily, "tired out?  I saw you run.  You have
a fine pair of heels.  They have good speed in them."

"I wanted to catch up with someone,--an old beggar-man who lost
something in our area-way.  I wanted to return it to him," explained
Lionel, breathlessly.

The stranger gazed down at him more kindly than ever.  "So?  But one
can't expect to catch up with folks when one gets _winded_ and has to
stop every now and then for breath.  Better try my mode."

"Please, sir, what is your mode?" inquired Lionel, with  his  politest
manner.

"To begin with," explained his companion, "I have to accomplish the
most astonishing feats in the manner of speed.  Literally I have to
travel so fast that I am in two places at once.  You will the better
believe me when I tell you who I am,--Jack Frost, at your service, sir.
Now, by what means do you think I manage it ?"

"I 'm sure I don't know.  I should like immensely to find out," Lionel
returned.

"How do you get to places yourself?" inquired Jack Frost.  "Do you
always run?"

"Oh, no, indeed.  I almost always ride on my bicycle.  Then I can _go_
like anything, 'specially down _coasts_.  Upgrades are kind of hard
sometimes, but not so very.  Oh, I can go quick enough when I have my
bicycle."

"Now then," broke in Jack Frost, "you use a bicycle,--that is, a
machine having two wheels.  Now _I_ use a something having but one
wheel; consequently it goes twice as fast,--oh! much more than twice as
fast."

"One wheel?"  repeated  Lionel, thoughtfully; "seems to me I never
heard of that kind of an one."

"Suppose you guess," proposed Jack Frost.  "I 'll put it in the form of
a conundrum: If a thing having two wheels is called a _bi_cycle, what
would a thing having but one be called?"

"Oh, that's an old one.  I 've heard that before, and the answer is, a
wheelbarrow, you know."

Jack Frost shook his head, "I see I shall have to tell you," he said.
"If a thing having two wheels is called a _bi_cycle, a thing having but
one would naturally be an _i_cicle.  Of course you might have known I
should use an icicle."

"But oh, Mr. Frost," objected Lionel, "I never saw an icicle with a
wheel in my life, and I never saw one go either."

"That's because you have n't seen me on one; and even if you had seen
me on one, you wouldn't have known it,--we travel so fast.  Did you
ever notice that when things are going at the very rapidest rate
possible, they seem to be standing perfectly still?  That's the way
with icicles.  They have tremendous speed in them.  They go so fast you
can't realize it, and then when they are slowing up they don't do it
with a clumsy jerk as bicycles do; they just gradually melt out of
sight."

"Yes, I 've seen them do that.  I 've seen them go that way," admitted
Lionel.  "But will you take me to the beggar?  I'm 'fraid I sha'n't be
able to give him his rule if I don't hurry up."

"But do you know in what direction he went?" asked Jack Frost.  "If one
wants to catch up with any one, one needs to have _some_ idea of the
direction he took.  It's quite a _desideratum_,--when you get home,
look that up."

Then Lionel felt deeply mortified.  "What a silly I was!" he said.
"Perhaps I was going just the opposite way from the one he went.  Oh,
dear! how can I ever give him back his rule?  It is such a beauty.  If
it had been mine, I 'd just hate to lose it."

"Let us examine it," suggested Jack Frost, "and see if there is any
sign upon it that would help to discover its owner;" and without a
moment's doubt or hesitation Lionel drew it from his pocket and held it
up for Jack Frost to see.

Then for a little space they both gazed at it carefully; Jack Frost
bending down his tall head to get a nearer view of it, and Lionel
standing upon the tips of his toes to accomplish the same purpose.

"Oh, see, see!" cried the boy, joyously.  "It says, 'LIONEL,--HIS RULE
FOR LIFE.'  That means I can keep it for always, does n't it?  Forever
'n' ever."

"It means," explained Jack Frosty gravely, "that you can keep it,--yes.
But it means you are to measure your life with it.  You are always to
use it in everything you do.  Then you 'll be _true_, and whatever you
do will be _straight_ and _square_."

"Why, that's what he said himself.  He said I must always 'go square.'
That was when he was giving me directions how to reach the beautiful
place he came from.  He called it an estate; and he said if I ever got
there I 'd never want to come away.  As long as I 'm on the way I guess
I 'll try to find that place.  Will you take me?"

"I 'm afraid," replied Jack Frost, with a very kindly seriousness,--"I
'm afraid one must depend on one's self in order to reach that place.
But I 'll tell you what I will do; I 'll stay with you for a bit, and,
perhaps, having company will hearten you, so if you happen to come
across any specially bad places just at first, you won't be
discouraged.  And I want to tell you that if you are ever in doubt as
to the way and no one is there to give you advice, just set yourself to
work and use your rule and you 'll come out right.  Now don't forget!"
and with these words he vanished.

"Why, I thought he was going to stay with me," murmured Lionel,
despondently.  "He was so jolly, and I liked him so much.  He said he
wouldn't leave me just yet--"

"Nor have I," rejoined the hearty voice close by his ear.  "But I can't
neglect my business, you know; and at this moment I 'm here and 'way
off in Alaska too.  Stiff work, is n't it?"

But in spite of this Lionel heard him whistling cheerily beside him.

The boy trudged on, and every once in a while he and his invisible
comrade would converse together in the most friendly manner possible,
and Lionel did indeed feel encouraged by the knowledge of Jack Frost's
companionship.  But by and by, after quite a long time, Lionel noticed
that when he addressed his unseen fellow-traveller the voice that came
to him in reply seemed rather far away and distant, and later became
lost to him altogether.

Then he knew that Jack Frost had left him for a season, and he felt
quite lonely and deserted and was about to drop a tear or two of
regret, when all at once, at his very feet, opened a new way which he
had not noticed before.  It looked bright and inviting, and wound along
in the most picturesque fashion, instead of lying straight and level
before him, as did the road from which it branched.

He was just about to turn down this fascinating side-path, and was in
the very act of complaining about his loneliness and bemoaning it
aloud, when he happened to notice that the sky looked a little
overcast; the air had grown heavy and still, and a strange, sad hush
brooded over everything; while the bare branches upon the trees
appeared to droop, and the one or two birds that had perched upon them
uttered low, plaintive little sounds that were disheartening to hear.

Lionel was struck with so great an awe that he entirely forgot himself
and his sorrow; and in that one moment the skies seemed to brighten,
the air to lighten, and the trees and birds had grown songful again.

"What does it mean?" he asked himself anxiously; and then, all at once,
he bethought himself of Jack Frost's advice in case he ever was in
doubt as to the course he was to take, and in a twinkling had whipped
out his rule and was down on his knees applying it in good earnest.
Then how glad he was that he had not turned into the inviting by-path,
for his little rule showed how crooked and wrong it was,--whole yards
and yards away from the right; and he knew he must have met with some
mishap, or at the very least have wasted any amount of precious time
trying to retrace his steps and regain the place upon which he now
stood.

He was so relieved to think he had been saved from making such a sad
mistake that he began to whistle merrily, and in an instant the whole
world about him was bright of hue and joyous again, and looking, he
saw, to his amazement, that the bare branches were abud.

"It's spring," he cried happily, and leaped along his way toward the
right.  In a flash the tempting little by-path had curled up like a
scroll and disappeared from view; and then Lionel knew that it had not
been real at all, but only imaginary, and he was more grateful than
ever that he had not followed its lead.

"Now, you good little rule," said he, addressing the shining object in
his hand, "I 'll put you in my breast-pocket and keep you safe and warm
next to my heart.  Then you 'll be ready if I want you again."  And he
was just about to thrust it in his bosom, when his eyes were caught by
something unusual upon its surface, and on examining it very closely he
saw, in exquisitely chased characters, the words,--

  Nor sigh nor weep o'er thine own ills;
  Such plaining earth with mourning fills.
  Forget thyself, and thou shalt see
  Thyself remembered blessedly.

For some time after he had read the lines he was plunged in thought.
They seemed to teach him a lesson that it took him some little time to
learn.

"I don't know why it should make the world sad if one complains," he
mused.  "But I s'pose it does.  I s'pose one has n't any right to make
things unpleasant for other people by crying about things.  One ought
to be brave and not bother folks with one's troubles.  Well, I 'll try
not to do so any more, because if it's going to make things so
unpleasant it can't be right."

And this last word seemed to link in his mind his escape from the
complaint of his loneliness and the by-path down which he did not turn;
and he was so long trying to unravel the mystery of the connection that
before he knew it he had almost stumbled into quite a bog, and there,
in front of him, sat a wee child,--just where two roads met,--and he
had well-nigh run over her in his carelessness.

"Oh, bother!" said he,--for he was irritated at the thought of having
only so narrowly escaped doing himself serious damage,--"what do you
get in a fellow's way for?  You--"  But the poor little mite gazed up
at him so sadly, and wept so piteously at his hasty words that he
paused suddenly and did not go on.

He looked down the two paths.  The one was wide and curving, the other
narrow and straight; the one was bordered with rich foliage, the other
was bare and sandy.  He might have run lightly along the one, he would
have to toil wearisomely along the other.  What wonder that his foot
was turning in the direction of the first!  But a queer pricking in his
bosom and the child's cry stopped him.

He slowly drew forth his rule and began to measure, while the little
one sobbed,--

"I 'm so told I tan't walt any more.  My foots are all tired out, and I
want sumpin to eat;" and there he found himself just on the verge of
making a fearful blunder.  He got up from his knees and turning to the
tiny maid, said kindly,--

"There, there! don't cry, dear!  We 'll fix you all right;" and he
stripped off his jacket and wrapped it about her, taking her in his
arms, and trudging on with his burden along the more difficult way.
But it was the right one, and he knew it; and so his heart was light,
and he did not have time to think of his own weariness; for all the
time he was trying to comfort his forlorn little companion.  And so
well he succeeded that in no time at all she was asleep on his
shoulder.  Then he sat down by the roadside, and holding her still in
his arms, began to think.

"There I was a little while ago complaining--no, not quite complaining,
but _almost_--because I hadn't anybody to keep me company.  Now I 've
got somebody with a vengeance.  She's awful heavy.  But, oh, dear! what
a narrow escape I had!  I might have run into that bog, and that would
have been a 'pretty how d 'ye do,' as Sarah says.  I was so busy
thinking I forgot everything, and ran almost over little Sissy; and
that shows, I s'pose, how without meaning it one can hurt somebody if
one does n't look out."

And then, very carefully, so as not to wake his sleeping charge, he
slipped his hand into his pocket and drew out his rule again.

"What a good friend you are!" he said to it.  "I really think you 're
better than any sword or poniard a body could have.  You 've saved me
from danger twice now, and--"  But here he stared at it in dumb
surprise, for even as he looked he saw appear upon its polished surface
the words,--

  Deep is the bog in which they sink
  Who ne'er on others' sorrow think;
  Deeper the joy in which they rest
  Who 've served the weary and distressed.

And, sure enough, he felt so happy he could have sung aloud in spite of
his weariness and fatigue.

But I could not begin to tell you of all his experiences, nor how
unfailingly his little rule helped him to meet them successfully.

He thought a great deal about it and its magical power; but once or
twice he did get to wondering why it should point to the straight path
when the winding one was so much the prettier to see.

"Are the right ways always the ones we should n't take if we had our
own way?" he thought.  "Why is it that the right one always seems not
so pretty as the other?  Seems to me some one told me once that the
curved lines were 'the lines of beauty.'"  But before he had time
fairly to consider the subject, his rule, which he happened to be
holding in his hand, showed him this little verse,--

  "Straight is the line of duty,
  Curved is the line of beauty;
  Follow th' one and thou shalt see
  The other ever following thee."

And this was always the way.  Whenever Lionel was puzzled about
anything, his rule always made it clear to him.  And by and by, after
he had met with all sorts of adventures, he began to wonder whether he
was ever going to see the beggar again or reach his wonderful estate.

It was on a very beautiful day that he wondered this, and he was more
than a little happy because he had just been applying his rule to
unusually good effect, when, lo! there beside him stood the subject of
his thoughts.  But oh! how changed he was!

Every rag upon him glowed and shimmered with a wondrous lustre, and the
staff he carried blazed with light, while the basket upon his arm
overflowed with the most beautiful blessings.

"I thought," said the new-comer, "that I might risk giving you this
encouragement.  It will not make you content to go no farther on _now_.
It will make you long to strive for greater good ahead.  You will not
reach it until you have travelled a lifetime; but you will not despair,
for you are being so blessed.  I have been permitted to give you a
great gift.  It is for that I was begging you that day.  See, what a
privilege it is to be able to beg so--"

"Oh, yes," cried Lionel; "you were going to beg me to accept the little
rule, were n't you?  And you left it for me when you disappeared, and
it is a beauty, and it is gold, and it does strange, wonderful things
for me, and--and--"  In his enthusiasm he drew it from his breast and
held it up, when, lo! it curved about his hand until it formed a
perfect, beautiful circle.  From its shining rim shot up points of
radiance, and it was no more a simple little rule, but a golden crown
fit for a king to wear.

Lionel gazed at it in mute wonderment, and the beggar put out his hand
and touched it lovingly.

"When your journey is done you shall wear it, lad," he said; and then
Lionel closed his eyes for very ecstasy, and then--

But when extraordinary things are just on the point of getting _too_
extraordinary, they are sure to meet with some sort of an interruption,
and after that they are quite ordinary and every-day again.  So when
Lionel opened his eyes there he was curled up in the chair by the
drawing-room window, and it had grown very dark and must have been
late, for one of the maids was tripping softly about the room, lighting
the lamps and singing as she did it.



MARIE AND THE MEADOW-BROOK.

A little maid sat sadly weeping while the sunbeams played merrily at
hide-and-seek with the shadows that the great oak branches cast on the
ground; while the warm summer wind sang softly to itself as it passed,
and the blue sky had not even a white cloud with which to hide the sad
sight from its eyes.

"Why do you weep?" asked the oak-tree; but Marie did not hear it, and
her tears tell faster than ever.

"Why are you so sad?" questioned the sunbeams; and they came to her
gently and tried to peep into her eyes.

But she only got up and sat farther away in the shadow, and they could
do nothing to comfort her.  So they danced awhile on the door-step; and
then the sun called them away, for it was growing late.

And still the little maid sat weeping; and if she had not fallen asleep
from very weariness, who knows what the sad consequences might not have
been?

"How warm it is!" murmured the dandelions in the meadow.  "Our heads
are quite heavy, and our feet are hot.  If it was not our duty to stand
up, we would like nothing better than to sink down in the shade and go
to sleep; but we must attend to our task and keep awake."

"What can you have, you wee things, to keep you busy?" asked the tall
milkweed that grew near the fence-rails; and the mullein-stalk beside
it echoed,--

"What, indeed?"

"Now, one can understand one so tall as I having to stand upright and
do my duty; but you,--why, you are no taller than one of my green pods
that I am filling with floss--"

"And not half so tall as one of my leaves that I must line with
velvet," interrupted the mullein-stalk again.

The dandelions looked grieved for a moment, but answered brightly:
"Why, don't you know?  It must be because you live so far away--there
by the fence--that you don't know we are here to pin the grass down
until it grows old enough to know it must not wander off like the
crickets, or to blow away like the floss in your own pods.  Young grass
is very foolish,--I think I heard the farmer call it green the other
day, but we don't like the expression ourselves,--and it would be apt
to do flighty things if we did n't pin it down where it belongs.  When
we have taught it its lesson, we can go to sleep.  We always stay until
the last minute, and then we slip on our white nightcaps,--so fluffy
and light and soft they are,--and lo! some day we are gone, no one
knows where but the wind; and he carries us off in his arms, for we are
too tired to walk; and then we rest until the next year, when we are
bright and early at our task again."

Then the milkweed and the mullein-stalk bowed very gravely and
respectfully to the little dandelions, and said,--

"Yes, we see.  Even such wee things as you have your duties, and we are
sorry you are so weary."

So the milkweed whispered to the breeze that the dandelions were too
warm, and begged it to help them; but the breeze murmured very gently,--

"I don't know what is the matter with me, dear milkweed, but I am so
faint, so faint, I think I shall die."

And sure enough, the next day the little breeze had died, and then they
knew how they missed him, even though he had been so weak for the last
few days; for the sun glared down fiercely, and the meadow thought it
was angry, and was so frightened it grew feverish and parched with very
dread.

"We wish our parasols were larger," sighed the toadstools; "but they
are so small that, try as we may, we cannot get them to cast a large
shadow, and now the breeze has died we have no messenger.  If only one
knew how to get word to the clouds!"

But the clouds had done such steady duty through the spring that they
thought they were entitled to a holiday, and had gone to the
mountain-tops, where they were resting calmly, feeling very grand among
such an assembly of crowned heads.

Meanwhile the meadow grew browner and browner, and its pretty dress was
being scorched so that by and by no one would have recognized it for
the gay thing it had been a week ago.  And still the sun glared angrily
down, and the little breeze was dead.

Then the grasses laid down their tiny spears, and the dandelions bent
their heads, and the locusts and the crickets and the grasshoppers
called feebly,--

"Oh, little brook, cannot you get out of your bed and come this way?"

"Our hearts are broken," cried the daisies.

"We shall die," wailed the ragged-sailors.  Then they all waited for
the brook to reply; but she was silent, and call as they would they
could get no answer.

"Hush!" whispered the springs.  "Her bed is empty.  Have n't you
noticed how little she sang lately?  The weeds must have fallen asleep
and she has run away.  You know they always hindered her."

They did not tell that they were too weak to feed the brook; so it had
dried away.  And still the sun glared down, and the little breeze was
dead, and the brook had disappeared; while there on the door-step sat
Marie weeping big tears,--for the little maid was always sad, and come
when you would, there was Marie with her dark eyes filled and brimming
over with the shining drops.

The beeches beckoned her from the garden; she saw them do it.  Their
long branches waved to her to come, like inviting arms; and still
weeping, she stole quietly away.

"Come," whispered the gnarled apple-trees down in the orchard; and she
threaded her way sadly among the trunks, while her tears fell splash,
splash, on her white pinafore.

"Here!" gasped the meadow-grass; and she followed on, sobbing softly to
herself, as she sat down where, days ago, the brook had merrily sung.

"Why do you grieve?" asked the pebbles; and she heard them and
answered,--

"Because I am so sad.  Things are never as I want them, and so I cry.
I am made to obey, and then, when the stars come out and I wish to stay
up, I am sent to bed; and the next morning, when I am so sleepy I can
hardly open my eyes, I am made to get up.  Oh, this is a very sad
world!"  And she wept afresh.

Then the flowers and the grasses and the pebbles, seeing her tears, all
said at once: "Would you like to stay here with us?  Then you could
stay awake all night and gaze at the stars, and in the morning you need
not get up.  You may lie in the brook's empty bed, and you need never
obey your parents any more."

Marie was silent a moment, and then a hundred small voices said, "Do,
oh, do!"  And her tears fell faster and more fast, and larger and
larger, for she felt more abused than ever now the meadow had shown her
sympathy, as she thought.  She kept dropping tears so quickly that by
and by even her sobbing could scarcely be heard for the splash, splash,
of the many drops that were falling on the white pebbles in the brook's
bed.

How they fell!  The brown eyes grew dim, and Marie could not see.  She
felt tiny hands pulling her down--down; and in a moment she had ceased
to be a little girl and had become a brook, while her weeping was the
murmur of little waves as they plashed against the stones.

Yes, it was true!

She need never go to sleep when the stars came out; she need never get
out of her bed in the morning,--how could she when the strong weeds
hindered her,--and how could a brook obey when people spoke?

And meanwhile the meadow grew gay again, for the brook cooled its
fever; and by and by the dandelions tied on their large, fluffy
nightcaps and disappeared, and the sun ceased to glare--for Marie was
gone from the door-step with her weeping, and he need not look down on
the ungrateful little maid who ought to have been so happy.  The clouds
came back; and when they heard how the meadow had suffered they wept
for sympathy, and the underground springs grew strong, until one day
there was a great commotion in the meadow.

A little bird had told the whole story of Marie's woe to the breeze,
and he rose and sighed aloud; the trees tossed their arms about,
because it was so wicked in a little girl to be ungrateful.  The
crickets said, "Tut, tut!" in a very snappy way; and at last the great
wind rose, and whipped the poor brook until it grew quite white with
foam and fear.

Then Marie knew how naughty she had been, and she made no complaint at
her punishment.  In fact, she bore it so meekly that after the wind had
quieted down and the stormy flurry was over, she began to sing her
quiet little song again, although she was very tired of it by this
time, and was so meek and patient that all the meadow whispered:

"Good little thing now,--good little thing!" and then they told her how
everything in the world, no matter how small it is, has a duty to
perform, and should do its task cheerfully and gladly, and not weep and
complain when it thinks matters are not going in the right way, but try
to keep on with its task and relief will come.

Marie listened like an obedient little brook as she was, and was just
going to float another merry little bubble to the little reeds below
when she heard a voice say, "Give me my bed; I want it," and lo! there
was the real brook come back.  She pushed Marie aside and hurt her,
though she seemed so gentle.

Marie tried to rise, but it was difficult; her limbs were stiff lying
all this time in the meadow, her eyes were weary gazing at the sky, and
her voice hoarse with the song she had been forced to sing.

She tried again, and this time she succeeded; and behold! there she was
on the door-step, and the sun was going down.



NINA'S CHRISTMAS GIFTS.

Hark!  What was that?

Nina stood still in the wintry blast and listened.  The wind rushed
upon her wildly, and dragged her tattered skirt this way and that, and
fleered at her, and whistled at her; and when she paid not the
slightest attention to his cruel treatment of her, fled tumultuously
down the street.

It was a wretched, shivering little figure that he left behind him,--a
small girl, with coal-black hair escaping from the folds of a bright
kerchief that was tied about it; with immense dark eyes, that seemed to
light up her poor, pinched face and make it beautiful; with tattered
dress and torn shoes, and with something clutched tightly beneath her
arm,--something that she tried unsuccessfully to shield from the
weather beneath her wretched rag of a shawl, that was so insufficient
to shield even her.  She was listening intently to the sounds of an
organ that came pealing forth into the dusk from within the enormous
church before whose doors she was standing.

Louder, fuller swelled the majestic cords, and then--Nina strained her
ears to listen--and then the sweetest, tenderest voice imaginable
seemed to be singing to her of all the most beautiful things of which
she had ever dreamed.  It drew her toward it by the influence of its
plaintiveness; and first one step and then another she took in its
direction until she was within the huge doors, and found herself
standing upon a white marble floor, with wonderful paintings on the
lofty ceiling above her head, and a sense of delicious warmth all about
her.  But, alas! where was the singer?  The thrilling notes were still
falling upon her ear with caressing sweetness; but they seemed to come
from beyond,--from far beyond.

Before her she saw more doors.  Perhaps if she slipped through these
she might come in sight of the owner of the voice.

"It is the Santa Maria," murmured Nina to her heart.  "And she is
singing to the Bambinetto,--to the Santissimo Bambino.  Ah, yes, it
must be the Santa Maria, for who else could have a voice like that,--so
sweet and soft, yet so heavenly clear and pure?"

No one she had ever heard could sing like that.  Not Luisa who sang for
pennies on the street, nor Guilia, nor Edwiga, nor yet Filomena
herself, who was so proud of her voice and who carolled lustily all day
long.  No, no, it must be the Santa Maria.

Telemacho (Telemacho was a neighbor who played upon the harp and
sometimes let Nina go with him on his tramps, to sing and play upon her
fiddle, but oftener forced her to go alone,--they earned more so, he
said) had often told her about the Santa Maria and the Gesù Bambino.
Oh, it was a beautiful story, and--ah! ah! _of course_ it was the Santa
Maria.  Was not this the Festa del Gesù Bambino?  To be sure, it was,
and she had forgotten.  No wonder the Santa Maria was singing to the
Bambinetto.  To-morrow would be his birthday, his _festa_.

She would go to the blessed _Madre_ and say,--

"Ah, _Madre mia_, I heard thee singing to the Bambino, and it was so
sweet, _so_ sweet, I could not help but follow, I _love_ it so."

She stepped softly to the heavy doors, and with her whole weight
bracing against one, pushed it softly open and passed through.  Ah! but
it was beautiful here.

Far, far above her head shone out dimly a hundred sparks of light like
twinkling stars.  And everywhere hung garlands of green, sweet-smelling
garlands of green, that filled the place with their spicy fragrance.
And no one need grow weary here for lack of resting-place.  Why, it was
quite filled with seats, soft-cushioned and comfortable.  Nina stole
into one of the pews and sat down.  She was very tired,--very, very
tired.

From her dim corner she peeped forth timidly, scarcely daring to raise
her eyes lest the vision of the radiant Madonna should burst upon her
view all too suddenly.  But when at last she really gazed aloft to the
point from which the tremulous voice sprung, no glorified figure met
her view.  She still heard the melting, thrilling tones, but, alas! the
blessed singer--the Santa Maria--was invisible.  All she could
distinguish in the half-gloom of the place was the form of a man seated
in the lofty gallery overhead.  He was sitting before some kind of
instrument, and his fingers slipping over the keys were bringing forth
the most wonderful sounds.  Ah, yes!  Nina knew what music one could
make with one's fingers.  Did not Telemacho play upon the harp?  Did
not she herself accompany her own singing upon her fiddle,--her darling
fiddle, which she clasped lovingly beneath her arm and bravely tried to
shield from the weather?  But surely, surely he could not be _playing_
that voice!  Oh, no! it was the Santa Maria, and she was up in heaven
out of sight.  It was only the sound of her singing that had come to
earth.  Poor little Nina!  She was so often disappointed that it was
not very hard to miss another joy.  She must comfort herself by finding
a reason for it.  If there was a reason, it was not so hard.  Nina had
to think of a great many reasons.  But nevertheless she could not
control one little sigh of regret.  She would so much have liked to see
the Santa Maria.  If she _had_ seen her, she thought she would have
asked her to give her a Christmas gift,--something she could always
keep, something that no one could take from her and that would never
spoil nor break.  One had need of just such an indestructible
possession if one lived in the "Italian Quarter."  Things got sadly
broken there.  And--and--there were so few, so very few gifts.  But it
was warm and dim and sweet in here,--a right good place in which to
rest when one was tired.  She bent her head and leaned it against the
wooden back of the seat, and her eyes wandered first to one interesting
object and then to another,--to the tall windows, each of which was a
most beautiful picture, and all made of wonderfully colored glass; to
the frescoed walls garlanded with green and at last to the organ-loft
itself, in which was the solitary figure of the musician, seated before
that strange, many-keyed instrument of his, practising his Christmas
music.

He had lit the gas-jets at either side of the key-board, and they threw
quite a light upon him as he played, and upon the huge organ-pipes
above his head.  Nina thought she had never seen anything as beautiful
as were their illuminated surfaces.  She did not know what they were,
but that did not matter.  She thought they looked very much like
exceedingly pointed slippers set upright upon their toes.  She fancied
they were slippers belonging to the glorious angels who, Telemacho
said, always came to earth at Christmas-tide to sing heavenly anthems
for the Festa del Gesù Bambino, and to distribute blessings to those
who were worthy.

Perhaps they had trod upon the ice outside, and had wet the soles of
their slippers, so that they had been forced to set them up on end to
dry.  She had no doubt they would be gone in the morning.

The tremulous voice had ceased some time ago, and now the organ was
sending forth deep, heavy chords that made the air thrill and vibrate.
The pew in which Nina sat quite shook with the sounds, and she shrank
away from the wooden back, and cuddled down upon the cushion in the
seat, feeling very mysterious and awestruck, but withal quite warm and
happily expectant.

"Ah, ah!" she thought, "they are coming,--the angels are coming.  That
is why the seat trembles so.  There are so many of them that though
they step very lightly it shakes the ground.  He, up there, is playing
their march music for them.  Oh, I know!  I know!  I have seen the
soldiers in the streets; and when they came one could feel the ground
tremble, and they had music, too,--they kept step to it.  I 'll lie
very still and not move, and maybe I can even get a glimpse of the Gesù
Bambino himself, and if I should--ah! _if_ I should, then I know I 'd
never be tired nor cold nor sad-hearted any more."

Nina started suddenly to her feet.  The place was filled with a soft,
white radiance.  Faintly, as though from a distance, came the sounds of
delicious music, and a rare fragrance was in all the air.  What was it?
Oh, what was it?  She felt her heart beat louder and faster, and she
thought she must cry out for very pain of its throbbing.  But she made
no sound, only waited and watched in breathless wonder and anticipation.

The light about her grew clearer and more lustrous; the faint strains
of melody more glorious, and the perfumed air sweeter still; and lo!
the whole place was thronged with white-winged spirits, clad all in
garments so pure and spotless that they glistered at every turn.  Each
seemed to have in charge some precious treasure which she clasped
lovingly to her breast, and all were so beautiful and tender-eyed that
Nina could not be afraid.  The dazzling forms flitted to and fro like
filmy clouds; and as one passed very near her, Nina stretched out her
hand to grasp her floating robe.  But though she scarcely touched it,
it was enough to make the delicate fabric sag and droop as if some
strange weight had suddenly been attached to it.  Its wearer paused in
her flight, and glanced down at her garment anxiously, and then for an
instant appeared to be trying to remember something.  In her eyes there
grew a troubled look, but she shook her head and murmured,--

"Alas!  What have I done?  What can I have done?  I can think of no way
in which I have let the world touch me, and yet I must have, for my
robe is weighted, and--"  But here she suddenly espied Nina.

"Ah!" she cried, her deep eyes clearing, "it was you, then, little
mortal.  For a moment I was struck with fear.  You see if a bit of the
world attaches to our garments it makes them heavy and weighs them
down, and it is a long time ere they regain their lightness.  Such a
mishap seldom occurs, for generally we are only too glad to keep our
minds on perfect things.  But once in a long, long while we may give a
thought to earth, and then it always hangs upon us like a clog; and if
we did not immediately try to shake it off, we should soon be quite
unable to rid ourselves of it, and it would grow and grow, and by and
by we should have lost the power to rise above the earth, and should
have to be poor worldlings like the rest; and, on the other hand, if
the worldlings would only throw off all the earth-thoughts that weigh
them down, they would become lighter and more spotless, and at last be
one of us.  But if it was you who touched my robe and if I can help
you, I am not afraid.  What do you wish, little one?"

For a moment Nina could find no voice in which to reply; but by and by
she gained courage to falter out,--

"I came in here because I heard most beautiful music, and I thought it
might be the Santa Maria singing to the Bambinetto, since it is his
birthday--or will be to-morrow; and I thought--I did not mean to do
wrong, but I thought maybe if I could see the Gesù Santissimo once,
only once, I should never be tired nor cold nor sad-hearted any more.
They say on the Festa del Gesù Bambino one gets most beautiful gifts.
I have never got any gifts; but perhaps he might give me one if I
promised to be very good and to take most excellent care of it and
never to lose it."

By this time the whole company of spirits, seeing their sister in
conversation with a little mortal, had crowded eagerly about; and as
Nina finished her sentence they all cried out in the sweetest, most
musical chorus imaginable,--

"She wants a gift,--the earth-child wants a gift; and she promises to
be very good, and to take excellent care of it and never lose it.  The
little one shall have a gift."

But most gently they were silenced by a nod from the spirit to whom
Nina had first spoken.

"Dear child," she said, "we are the Christmas spirits,--Peace, Love,
Hope, Good-will, and all the rest.  We come from above, and we are
laden with good gifts for mankind.  To whomever is willing to receive
we give; but, alas! so few care for what we bring.  They misuse it or
lose it; and that makes us very sad, for each gift we carry is most
good and perfect."

"Oh! how can they?" cried Nina.  "I would be so careful of mine, dear
spirits.  I would lock it away, and--"

But here the spirit interrupted her with a pitying smile and the
words,--

"But you should never do that, dear one.  If one shuts away one's gifts
and does not let others profit by them, that is ill too.  One must make
the best of them, share them with the world always, and remember whence
they come."

"Will you show me some of your gifts?" asked Nina, timidly.

The spirit drew nearer and took from her bosom a glittering gem.  It
was clear and flawless, and though it was white a thousand sparks of
flame broke from its heart, and flashed their different hues to every
side.  As Nina looked, wrapped in admiration, she felt her heart grow
big, and she felt a great longing to do some one a kindness,--to do
good to some one, no matter to whom.

The spirits gazed at her kindling eyes.

"There!" they cried in joyous unison, "Love has already given you her
gift.  The way you must use it is always to put in everything you do.
It will never grow less, but will always grow more if you do as we say.
And it is the same with Hope and Peace and Good-will and all the rest.
If all to whom we give our gifts should use them aright, the world
would hold a festival all the year."

And at this all the blessed throng closed about her, and loaded her
down with their offerings, until she was quite overcome with gratitude
and emotion.

"All we ask is that you use them well," they repeated with one accord.
"Let nothing injure them, for some day you will be called to account
for them all, you know.  And now you are to have a special gift,--one
by which you can gain world-praise and world-glory.  And oh! be careful
of it, dear; it will gain for you great good if you do not abuse it,
and you need never be tired nor cold nor sad-hearted any more--"

"But I have no place to keep all these things," cried Nina.  "I have no
home.  I live anywhere.  I am only a poor little Italian singing-girl.
I--"

"Keep them in your heart," answered the spirits, softly; and then one
of them bent over and kissed her upon the lips.

"Ah, _gracia_, _gracia_,--thanks, thanks!" she cried; but even as she
spoke she sank back in dismay, for everything about her was dark and
still, and for a moment she did not know where she was.  Then groping
blindly about in the shadow, she felt the wooden back of the pew in
which she sat, and then she remembered.

But the gifts,--the spirits' Christmas gifts to her.  Where were they?
For a long time she searched, stretching out her hand and passing it
over cushion, bench, and floor; but all in vain.  No heavenly object
met her grasp, and at last she gave a poor little moan of
disappointment and sorrow,--

"It was only a dream after all,--only a dream."

But now through the tall windows stole a faint streak of light.  It
grew ever stronger, and by its aid Nina made her way to the doors, in
order to escape from the church in which she had slept away the night.
But alas! they were closed and fastened tight.  She could not get out.
She wandered to and fro through the silent aisles, growing quite
familiar with the dusky place and feeling not at all afraid.  She
thought over her dream, and recalled the fact that it was Christmas
Day,--the Festa del Gesù Bambino.

"It was a dream," she mused; "but it was a beautiful one!  Perhaps the
spirits gave it to me for my Christmas gift.  Perhaps the Gesù bade
them give it me for my Christmas gift;" and just as a glorious burst of
sunshine struck through the illuminated windows, she took up her little
fiddle, raised her bow and her voice at the same time, and sang out in
worshipful gratitude,--

  "Mira, cuor mio durissimo,
    Il bel Bambin Gesù,
  Che in quel presepe asprissimo,
    Or lo fai nascer tu!"

She did not hear a distant door open, nor did she see through it the
man who had unconsciously lured her into the church the evening before
by the power of his playing.  No; she was conscious of nothing but her
singing and the sweet, long notes she was drawing with her bow from the
strings of her beloved violin.

But she did hear, after she had finished, a low exclamation, and then
she did see that same man hastening toward her with outstretched hands.

"Child, child," he cried, "how came you here!  And such a voice! _such_
a voice!  Why, it is a gift from Heaven!"

And amid all the excitement that followed,--the excitement of telling
who she was and hearing that she was to be taken care of and given a
home and trained to sing,--that, in fact, she was never to be tired nor
cold nor sad-hearted any more,--she had time to think,--

"Ah! _now_ I know.  It was not a dream; it was the truth.  I have all
my gifts in my heart for safe keeping.  And my voice--hear! the
player-man says it is a gift from Heaven.  And oh, I will always use it
with love and good-will, as the spirits bade me.  They said it every
one did so it would be a _festa_ all the year."





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