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Title: Lily Norris' Enemy
Author: Mathews, Joanna H. (Joanna Hooe), 1849-1901
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 "Lily Norris' Enemy" ***

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(This file was produced from images generously made


_LITTLE SUNBEAMS._



III.

LILY NORRIS' ENEMY.



By the same Author.


I.

LITTLE SUNBEAMS.

     1. BELLE POWERS' LOCKET      1.00
     2. DORA'S MOTTO              1.00
     3. LILY NORRIS' ENEMY        1.00
     4. JESSIE'S PARROT           1.00
     5. MAMIE'S WATCHWORD         1.00


II.

THE BESSIE BOOKS.

     _Six vols. in a neat box._ $7.50.

The volumes also sold separately; viz.: Bessie at the Seaside; City,
Friends; Mountains; School; Travels, at $1.25 each.

"Really, it makes the heart younger, warmer, better, to bathe it afresh
in such familiar, natural scenes, where benevolence of most practical
and blessed utility is seen developing itself, from first to last, in
such delightful symmetry and completeness as may, and we hope will,
secure many imitators."--_Watchman and Reflector._


III.

THE FLOWERETS.

     A SERIES OF STORIES ON THE COMMANDMENTS.

     _Six vols. in a neat box._ $3.60.

The vols. can also be had separately; viz.: 1. Violet's Idol; 2.
Daisy's Work; 3. Rose's Temptation; 4. Lily's Lesson; 5. Hyacinthe and
her Brothers; 6. Pinkie and the Rabbits, at 60 cents each.

"The child-world we are here introduced to is delightfully real. The
children talk and act so naturally that we feel real live children must
have sat for their portraits."--_Baltimore Christian Advocate._



[Illustration: Lily Norris.     Frontis.]



  LILY NORRIS' ENEMY.


  "WHATSOEVER THY HAND FINDETH TO DO, DO IT
  WITH THY MIGHT."



  BY

  JOANNA H. MATHEWS,

  AUTHOR OF THE "BESSIE BOOKS" AND THE "FLOWERETS."



  NEW YORK:
  ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,
  530 BROADWAY.
  1883.



  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by

  ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,

  In the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.



  CAMBRIDGE:
  PRESS OF JOHN WILSON AND SON.



  DEDICATED

  TO

  "AUNT JOSIE'S DAISY,"

  THE SWEETEST LITTLE "SUNBEAM" THAT EVER BRIGHTENED
  THE CLOUDS OF A DARK AND SORROWFUL WINTER.



  CONTENTS.


  CHAP.                                    PAGE

     I. THE "QUAKER LADY"                     9

    II. A MONKEY, A PUPPY, AND A BEGGAR      27

   III. THE SILVER INKSTAND                  48

    IV. LILY'S PROVERB PICTURE               69

     V. PROMISING                            84

    VI. BUT NOT PERFORMING                  100

   VII. WHAT CAME OF THAT                   120

  VIII. A LITTLE FABLE                      142

    IX. SATURDAY MORNING'S WORK             156

     X. SATURDAY AFTERNOON'S PLAY           177

    XI. A SAD ACCIDENT                      198

   XII. LILY'S NEW RESOLVE                  220



[Illustration]



LILY NORRIS' ENEMY



I.

_THE "QUAKER LADY."_


"If Lily Norris isn't just the most provoking child that ever lived!"
said Maggie Bradford, indignantly.

"Yes, I b'lieve she just is," assented Bessie.

"Why," said Mrs. Rush, who was that day making a visit to Maggie's and
Bessie's mamma, "how is this? Lily the most provoking child that ever
lived! I thought Lily was one of your best friends, and that you were
so fond of her."

"Yes, Aunt May, so we are," said Maggie. "We're very fond of Lily
indeed; she's one of our dearly beloveds, and we like to have her with
us; but for all that, she's very trying to our patience."

"Yes," sighed Bessie, "I think she's tryinger than any child we know;
and yet she's hardly ever naughty,--really naughty, I mean."

"How does she try you?" asked Mrs. Rush, though she believed she could
herself have answered as to the cause of complaint.

"She puts off so," said Bessie. "Aunt May, I think she's the greatest
put-offer we ever saw; and sometimes it makes things so hard to bear.
We try not to be provoked 'cause we love her so; but sometimes we can't
help being a little. I b'lieve it troubles people as much as if she was
real naughty in some way."

"Yes, procrastination is a very troublesome fault," said Mrs. Rush.

"Not a _fault_, is it, Aunt May?" asked Maggie. "I thought it was only
a habit of Lily's."

"And Lily is a pretty good child," said Belle Powers. "She is
mischievous, and makes us laugh in school sometimes; but I b'lieve that
is about all the naughty things she does, and I think that is a pretty
good account for one child."

"Putting off is not being naughty, is it, Aunt May?" pleaded Bessie,
unwilling, even amid her vexation, to have one of her favorite
playmates thus blamed.

"Well, darling," answered Mrs. Rush, "I fear that procrastination and a
want of punctuality must be considered as rather serious faults. I see
you are vexed and troubled now; why, I cannot tell, more than that Lily
has caused it in some way; and I think that any habit which needlessly
tries and irritates other people can be called nothing less than a
fault, and a bad one, too. What is the matter now?"

"Why," said Bessie, "you see we are all going to the party at Miss
Ashton's this afternoon, and Lily was to be here at four o'clock to go
with us; and when grandmamma was going home just now, she said she
would take us all around in her carriage; but Lily was not here, and
we did not like to go without her, and grandmamma could not wait. But
grandmamma said the carriage should come back for us, and it has; and
mamma says it is twenty minutes past four, and there Lily has not come
yet, and we don't know what to do, and we can't help being provoked."

"It is just good enough for her to go, and leave her to come after by
herself," said Belle, with a pout.

"But you see that would not be so very polite," said Bessie; "and we
have to be _that_ even if we are pretty provoked."

"I should think people might be punctual when they're going to a party,
anyway," said Maggie, impatiently. "The idea of being so wasteful of a
party! I never heard of such foolishness! I should think that people
who couldn't be punctual at parties, and go just as soon as they are
invited, didn't deserve to go at all."

"I should think her mother would send her in time," said Mabel Walton,
Belle's cousin.

"Well, I suppose she would," said Maggie; "but you know she has gone
away just now, and there's no one at home to make Lily think about the
time. Mrs. Norris doesn't have such a bad habit herself, and she don't
like Lily to have it either. She is always talking to her about it."

"What are you going to do, Maggie?" asked Bessie, as she saw her sister
take up a pencil and a bit of paper, and carry them to Mrs. Rush.

"I am going to ask Aunt May to do a sum for me," said Maggie. "Aunt
May, will you please do the sum of four times twenty minutes, and tell
me how much it is?"

"I do not want the paper, Maggie," said Mrs. Rush, smiling as she saw
what Maggie would be at. "Four times twenty minutes are eighty minutes,
or one hour and twenty minutes."

"Why do you want to know that?" asked Belle.

"I'm going to tell Lily a story when she comes, and let her take lesson
by it for herself," said Maggie, rather severely; the severity being
intended, however, for the delinquent Lily, and not for Belle.

"Children," said Mrs. Bradford, coming into the room just at this
moment, "I do not want you to keep the carriage waiting. Since Lily is
not here you must go without her. It is long after the time fixed."

"Oh yes, mamma, we know that; I should think we might," said Maggie,
with a sigh of despair.

"There's the door-bell now," said Bessie, who was more patient under
her afflictions than the other children. "Maybe that is Lily."

So it proved; and a moment later Lily was shown into the room, followed
by her nurse. A chorus of exclamations and reproaches greeted the
little new-comer; but she took them all with her usual careless
good-nature, though she did look half ashamed, too. Maggie, alone,
mindful of the arrow she held in reserve, had nothing to say beyond a
word or two of welcome.

"Yes, just what I was saying to Miss Lily, that the young ladies would
be disappointed to be kept waiting, ma'am," said the nurse, speaking to
Mrs. Bradford; "and I came in to beg you'd not think it was my fault.
I was at Miss Lily a half-hour before I could coax her to come and be
dressed; and I knew she'd be late and vex them."

"Oh, never mind. You can go now," said Lily, carelessly. "We'll be time
enough."

"Come, let us go now," said Maggie, with an expression which showed
that she by no means agreed with Lily that it was "time enough;" and
good-by being said to mamma and Mrs. Rush, she led the way from the
room, followed by the rest of the young party, who were soon seated
snugly in the carriage.

"Lily," said Maggie, as soon as they had fairly started, "I have a
story to tell you about punctuality."

"Pooh! I don't want to hear about your old punctuality," said Lily.
"Everybody just bothers me 'most to death about being punctual. Tom has
been making a fuss about it just now."

"But it is a story,--one of Maggie's stories," said Belle, who thought
it quite incredible that any one should decline an opportunity of
hearing one of those interesting and valuable narratives.

"Let's hear it then," said Lily.

"It is not a story of my own making up," said Maggie, with the
solemnity which befitted a teacher of moral lessons; "but it is very
interesting, and may do some good, if people choose to let it. But as
there are 'none so deaf as those who won't hear,' so I suppose there
are none so hard to teach as those who won't be taught."

"But what is the story?" asked Belle.

"The story is this," answered Maggie. "Once thirteen ladies went to a
meeting, or ought to go to a meeting. Well, twelve of them came at
the right time to the house of a very wise old Quaker lady, where the
meeting was; but the thirteenth lady did not come for a quarter of an
hour after she ought to. So the other ladies were as tired as they
could be, 'cause they couldn't begin to do what they had to do without
her--but I would have if I'd been there--and some of them yawned--which
wasn't polite for them to do, but they could hardly help it--and some
went to sleep, and some had headaches, and one who was sitting in a
breeze from the window, where she didn't like to sit, took cold, and
had a sore throat and a toothache, and she had to go and have her tooth
out; which was all the fault of the unpunctual lady, and I should think
she'd be very much ashamed of herself."

"So should I," said Mabel, as Maggie paused to take breath.

"What's the rest of the story?" asked Bessie, impatient of delay in
such a thrilling tale.

"Well, when she came in," continued Maggie, giving point to her story
by the look she fixed upon Lily,--"when she came in, after doing such a
lot of mischief, she didn't seem to think it was any great harm after
all; but she just said, 'Ladies, I am sorry I kept you waiting, but it
is only a quarter of an hour.' Then the wise old Quaker lady stood up
and looked very severe at her, and she said, 'Friend, thee'--thee is
the way Quakers say you--'Friend, thee has wasted three hours of time
that did not belong to thee. Here are twelve of us, and a quarter of an
hour for each makes three hours, and you--thee, I mean--had no right
to do it, and thee ought to be ashamed of yourself.' And the lady was
ashamed of herself, 'cause it made her feel horridly to be talked to
that way before so many people; and she never did so again, which was
a great blessing to every one who knew her, because she made herself a
great inconvenience."

And here Maggie closed her story, which she had one day lately found in
some book or paper, and had brought it up on this occasion for Lily's
benefit, adding to it sundry embellishments of her own, which, as she
thought, made it more telling and serviceable.

"But," said Lily, who took the moral to herself as it was intended she
should do, "but we're not a meeting, and you're not a Quaker lady,
Maggie. It's only a party."

"_Only_ a party!" echoed Maggie, in an aggrieved tone, which told that
this was adding insult to injury; "she says, 'Only a party'! Now,
Lily, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I just want to tell you
something."

And Maggie held up the bit of paper on which she had taken the pains to
note down the sum Mrs. Rush had done for her, lest she should forget
the number of minutes.

"You kept us waiting more than twenty minutes, Lily. Miss Ashton
invited us at four, and you did not come till twenty minutes after; and
there are four of us besides yourself, so there's one whole hour, and
forty minutes,--which is 'most three-quarters of an hour,--one whole
hour and forty minutes of party wasted, and only twenty minutes of it
was your own."

"And I'm sure it's a great deal harder to have a party wasted than it
is a meeting," said Belle.

"I never thought about it," said Lily, by no means offended, but
considerably astonished at the way in which her short-comings were
brought home to her. "I never thought of that, and I'm real sorry. I'll
never do it again."

"Did the lady with the toothache ever tell the late lady she made her
have it?" asked Bessie.

"Well, I'm not very sure," said Maggie, not willing to confess to total
ignorance on this subject; "but I think she did."

"Then she wasn't very kind," said Bessie. "It would have been kinder
if she hadn't spoken about it. She had lesson enough. I think that old
Quaker lady was pretty cross, and I'm glad she's not my grandmamma."

"Maggie," said Lily, as the carriage drew up at Miss Ashton's door,
"couldn't you make me a proverb picture about putting off? I would
like one ever so much."

For Lily took great delight in these same "proverb pictures," and was
very glad to receive one even when it held up her own failings to
reproof.

"Is there any proverb about putting off?" asked Belle.

"Yes, to be sure," said Lily. "There's 'Sufficient unto the day is the
evil thereof.'"

"Um--I don't know," said Maggie, doubtful if this adage were quite
applicable to the case in question. "I don't think that will do; but if
we can't find one, we'll make one, and draw you a proverb picture about
it. I'll ask mamma if she knows of any that will do."

"And make it for me very soon, will you?" said Lily, jumping from the
carriage with the assistance of Mrs. Ashton's maid, who had come to
take them out. "I'll try to have it do me some good."

This was encouraging, and Maggie's imagination was at once put to work;
but not to much purpose for this evening, since as yet she knew of no
proverb that would answer for the object she had in view.

Our young party was greeted with a chorus of welcome, not only from
Mrs. and Miss Ashton, but also from the other little girls who had
all arrived before them; for children are generally punctual to such
engagements, whatever their elders may be. Indeed, they usually prefer
to be before, rather than after the time.

"How late you came!"

"What kept you?"

"It's more than half-past four!"

"We've been here ever so long."

"We've been waiting for you"--and such like exclamations met them on
all sides.

"It's my fault," said Lily. "I was not ready in time, and kept them
waiting."

"O Lily!" said Carrie Ransom. "You always do keep people waiting."

"Well, I can't help it," said Lily.

"Yes, you can," said Gracie Howard; "at least, you could if you would
do things in time; but you never will."

"I'll grow out of it when I'm bigger," said Lily. "People 'most always
cure up their faults before they're grown up."

"Not if they don't take pains with them when they're little," said
Bessie, solemnly. "Lily, if you keep on per-cas-ter-nating now, maybe
you won't be able to help it when you're grown up, and then people will
be provoked with you."

"Were you much provoked with me to-day?" asked Lily.

"Um-m, pretty," said Bessie; "but we're quite over it now."

"Well, I don't care much then," was Lily's thought; but she said aloud,
"I don't think it can do much harm when we're little. You see we're all
here now. But I will begin pretty soon to correct myself of it."

"She had better begin to-day," thought Bessie; but no more was said on
the subject, and they were all soon engaged in a merry game of play.

The party passed off pleasantly, so pleasantly that Maggie found more
and more cause for regret that she and her own particular friends had
been unjustly defrauded, as she considered it, of so large a portion
of it; but she was too forgiving and good-natured to reproach Lily any
farther, especially as Bessie privately confided to her that she did
not like "that severe old Quaker lady one bit, and am very glad that
she is not one of my friends."

Maggie thought that perhaps she had been rather severe herself, and
took pains to be especially agreeable to Lily for the rest of the day.

But perhaps this ready forgetfulness of their vexation was not the
best thing for heedless, light-hearted Lily. At first she had felt a
little self-reproachful, but when she saw the other children forget
their momentary displeasure, she thought her own troublesome want of
punctuality did not matter much after all; they were all glad and happy
now, and some of these days she would try to break herself of this bad
habit.

Ah! you see, that was Lily's way; it was always "one of these days,"
"some other time," "by and by;" and here lay the root of the trouble
which proved so vexatious to those about her, and very often to herself.

"Mamma," said Maggie, as soon as they reached home, "do you know of any
proverb that would be a good correction of the habit of putting off,
and never being ready in time?"

Mrs. Bradford laughed.

"Yes, I think I do, Maggie. What do you want to do with it?"

"To make a proverb picture for Lily, mamma; she wants us to. She likes
our proverb pictures very much, and never is provoked when we give her
one. And I think I shall write her a piece of poetry about it too. What
is the proverb, mamma?"

"I will tell you in the morning, dear."

"Why not to-night, mamma?"

"Because I want you to go to sleep now, Maggie. If I tell you a proverb
to-night, you will lie awake, turning it over in your mind, and making
verses and pictures for it; and I do not wish you to do that. Wait till
morning, dear."

Maggie submitted, like the docile and obedient little girl she was,
though she was disappointed; for as mamma knew, she would have liked
to spend part of her proper sleeping time in composing verses, and
inventing pictures for Lily's benefit.

"Shall you make the poetry a divine song, or a moral poem?" asked
Bessie, who took the greatest possible interest and pride in Maggie's
poetical attempts.

"I think I'll mix the two," said Maggie, after a little deliberation.
"It might be better, because Lily don't care much to read things that
are _very_ pious; but she needs them a little. Yes, I'll do that."

And now, according to mamma's orders, they ceased talking; and Maggie,
obeying not only the letter, but the spirit of her mother's command,
tried to put from her all thought of the lesson she was to teach Lily,
and both she and Bessie were soon fast asleep.



[Illustration]



II.

_A MONKEY, A PUPPY, AND A BEGGAR._


"Lily!"

"Yes, mamma!"

"Can I trust you to do something for me?"

"Yes, indeed, mamma! you know I like to help you."

"I want it done immediately, dear."

"Oh, yes, mamma, I'm ready. I'll do it right away."

Mrs. Norris sat at the library table, writing. As she said the last
words she hastily folded the note she had just finished, and slipped it
into its envelope; then, as she put the address upon it, she said,--

"I have an appointment to keep, Lily; and there is Mrs. Bradford now, I
believe. I am going with her, and I would like you to lay these papers
smoothly in my writing-case, those others in this box,--you know where
they belong,--and to put my silver inkstand carefully in the secretary.
There, I have closed it, so you cannot spill the ink. Will you be a
helpful little girl, and see to that for me, my daughter?"

"Yes, indeed, mamma," said Lily again. "I'm glad you let me do it for
you. I'll be very careful with the inkstand."

"And at once, remember, dear," said Mrs. Norris, rising from her chair.
"I do not wish the inkstand left here on the table, or the paper to lie
scattered about. It will be a great help to mamma if you do it nicely.
Ah! good afternoon, Mrs. Bradford," as that lady was shown into the
room. "I am all ready, and will not detain you. I had just received a
note which needed an immediate answer, before I left home; but it is
finished, and I shall trust Lily to put by my writing materials for
me."

Lily looked up at Mrs. Bradford, rather proud of being trusted by her
mother; and the lady smiled as she stooped to kiss her.

"Lily likes to help mamma as well as Maggie and Bessie do, I see," she
said.

"Yes: and she can often be of great assistance when she is prompt and
punctual," said Mrs. Norris, drawing on her gloves.

"Are Maggie and Bessie well, Mrs. Bradford?" asked Lily.

"Yes, dear; and they wished me to ask you to come and see them very
soon. I do not know when they want you to come, for they have some
plans to arrange with their Aunt Annie, but they will let you know.
They are drawing some pictures for you, I believe, and want to explain
it to you."

"Oh, yes," said Lily; "they promised me a proverb picture, and their
proverb pictures are so interesting. I should think any one might be
glad to have them."

"They certainly seem to give great satisfaction, both to themselves,
and to those whom they are intended to benefit," said Mrs. Bradford,
laughing. "Good-by, Lily. The children will see you soon. I gave them
leave to ask you when they pleased; and you must come early, whenever
that may be."

"Thank you, ma'am," said Lily. "I'll come just as soon as mamma will
let me."

She followed her mother and Mrs. Bradford to the front door, where the
former turned, and said a little uneasily,--

"Lily, attend to the inkstand at once, my darling."

"I am going to, mamma," answered the little girl, meaning what she said
at the moment, though she afterwards came so far short of it, as you
shall see.

As the door closed after the two ladies, Lily caught the notes of a
hand-organ in the street; and running back to the library, she went to
the window to look out for the strolling musician who carried it.

She had not forgotten her mother's orders, or the help she had promised
to be to her; and as she passed by the table on her way to the window,
the scattered papers and the silver inkstand caught her eye, and
reminded her of her promise.

But she did not pause.

"Just a moment; I'll put them away in one moment," she said to herself.
"I'll just look and see if that organ man is coming here; 'cause I
have some pennies in my pocket, and I'll give him some. Oh, yes! there
he is, and he has a monkey. I like monkey organ men the best, 'cause
the monkeys are so funny. What a funny fellow! Why, he's 'most the
cunningest monkey I ever saw;" and Lily had quite forgotten her promise.

She was in great glee over the monkey, who certainly was a droll,
though a very ugly little beast, as monkeys generally are; and she
amused herself with him for some time, as he climbed the balcony
railings, stoop, and blinds, hopped up and down the broad stone steps,
and every now and then came close to the window where she stood, and
mouthed and jabbered away at her. Amused though she was, she was glad
that the glass was between her and the grinning creature; and she
always took the opportunity of his little excursions to open the window
and quickly thrust out the pennies, for which he immediately sprang
down, and taking them up in his paw hurried with them to his master.
Lily treated him also to a cake, which he greedily nibbled; and then,
seeing that the poor creature lapped his tongue upon a damp spot on the
stone pavement, where a little water had been spilled, as though he
were thirsty, she called a servant to bring a cup of water, and gave
him a drink.

Finding that she thus provided entertainment for man and beast, and
that he was reaping quite a harvest, the organ-grinder stayed for some
time; and all the while, the inkstand remained unheeded on the table.
Not quite forgotten, either; for every now and then the recollection
of it would come to her; but Lily kept saying to herself, "In one
minute; I'm going in just one minute."

But the one minute multiplied itself into twenty before the man moved
off with his organ and his monkey, and Lily felt at leisure to attend
to her mother's wishes.

But it seemed after all that the time had not yet come.

"Miss Lily," said a servant man, putting his head in at the library
door, "is Master Tom at home?"

"No, I b'lieve not; I think he didn't come from school yet," answered
Lily, with her hand on the inkstand.

"I'd like to know what time he'll be in," said the man, lingering,
"for my brother is below with the puppies Master Tom wanted to see.
There's a gentleman wants to buy both; but seeing Master Tom had spoken
about one if it suited, he thought it was only fair to bring them here
first, and let him make up his mind. But the gentleman must know this
afternoon. Wouldn't you like to see 'em, Miss Lily? They're such
pretty little dogs."

"Yes, indeed I would," answered the child; and she followed the man
to the basement hall, where his brother waited with the puppies,--not
without another thought of her still unperformed duty; but again she
contented herself with the excuse, "I shan't be half a minute, and the
inkstand is shut up. It can't spill the ink."

Alas, alas! it was long before the recollection of it again crossed
Lily's mind.

If she had found the monkey bewitching, what did she find the little
dogs,--playful, pretty creatures, which seemed delighted with a
playmate frolicsome and mischievous as themselves?

Then her brother Tom came in; and, hearing that the dogs were there for
his approval, came down to look at them and decide which he would have.

Of course Lily must stay and help him to make his choice; and now that
vexatious little feeling that there was something wrong, some duty
unfulfilled, had altogether passed away. Lily was quite at her ease by
this time.

The matter was at last settled; the dog chosen, the man paid and sent
away, leaving the selected puppy in a very low and melancholy state of
mind at the parting. He whined and cried piteously, first scratching
and barking at the door where his former owner and his puppy brother
had passed out; and at last, after refusing to be comforted by all the
petting that was lavished upon him, retiring into private life behind
the kitchen coal-scuttle, and resolutely declining to be coaxed out.

"Never mind," said Tom, "he'll be all right by and by, Lily. Wait till
he's hungry, and he'll come out and be glad enough to make friends. Now
I am going to buy a house for him. I saw some pretty little dog-houses
down at Bruner's this morning, and I'll go look at them, and see if
they'll answer."

"Oh, Tom! could I go with you?" asked Lily.

"Yes, if you like," said Tom; "I'll be glad to have you; only make
haste to be dressed, Lily. Will you go to Nora _at once_?"

"Yes, yes," said Lily, clapping her hands; and away she flew to beg her
nurse to make her ready as soon as possible.

Nothing presenting itself just then to take up her attention, or which
looked more attractive than the promised walk with Tom, she made no
delay, but obeyed his direction to go and be dressed _at once_.

How many boys do you think would have consented as readily, cheerfully,
and kindly as Tom Norris did to such a request from a little sister?
But that was Tom's way. When he granted a favor or bestowed a kindness,
it was done in a manner which made it seem as if it were a pleasure
to himself. And if he were obliged to refuse Lily any thing that she
asked, she never grumbled nor fretted, because she knew well that Tom
would grant it if he could, or if it were best for her to have it. Tom
never said he couldn't be "bothered with girls," or "catch me doing
it," or ran off with some other contemptuous or unkind speech, such as
boys too often use toward their little sisters. Tom was a true man, and
a true gentleman, kindly and courteous in his manner and words toward
all women and children, but especially to his mother and little sister:
free, fearless, and generous; daring to do and to speak the right; yet
so bright, so gay, so manly that not one among his companions ever
thought of calling him a "Miss Nancy," a "muff," or other like names.

No, indeed! and was not Tom Norris the king of Mr. Peters' school, the
judge in all disputes, the one to settle all difficulties, to "help a
fellow out of a scrape"?

Nora would as soon have thought of questioning her own care and wisdom
for Lily as she would that of "Master Tom."

"Miss Lily's all right, ma'am, she's with Master Tom," would be answer
enough when there was any inquiry about the little girl; and it was
quite satisfactory to mother or nurse to know that she was with her
brother. No fear that Lily would come to harm or fall into mischief
with Tom to guard and guide her.

So she made no objection when Lily came running to her and begged to be
dressed to go out with Tom; and she soon had her ready.

As the little girl went downstairs to join her brother, he stood in the
hall below, putting on his overcoat.

"Lily," he said, when he saw her, "did you tell Nora to sew on these
two buttons?"

"Oh, Tom!" cried Lily, clasping her hands together, and looking ashamed
and troubled, as she well might.

"You told me, Lily," said Tom, "when I wanted to ask mamma to give the
order, that you would be sure to attend to it, and that you would go
right away and tell Nora. Now you must wait till I go up and have it
done. You put it off, I suppose, and so forgot it."

Yes, that was just it; more procrastination, and so forgetfulness.

Tom did not speak angrily, but his voice was grave, and Lily saw that
he was vexed.

"I'm so sorry," she said to herself, as she opened the front door, and
stood waiting for her brother upon the stoop. "I did mean to remember
and tell Nora right away, and I only just stopped to listen to mamma's
musical box for a moment, and so I went and forgot. It is too mean I do
forget so quick."

What was the reason Lily forgot so quickly and so often?

Because she allowed other things to take her time and her attention
from the duty she should first attend to.

"Please, dear little lady, to help a poor woman."

Lily started, and looked around. She had not seen the woman coming, and
she now was half way up the steps, almost at her elbow.

"Please, little lady," the woman began again; "I've a little girl at
home no bigger nor yourself, and five more of 'em, and not a mouthful
to eat have they had these twenty-four hours. A little money to buy
bread for 'em, and bless your beautiful face."

"Oh, dear! I'm so sorry," said Lily; not moved by the woman's flattery,
but by the vision of the six children no larger than herself, who were
starving. "I think mamma would give you lots of things if she were
home, but she is not; or papa either. Couldn't you come again?"

"And I might go home to find them dying or dead," whined the old woman,
coming nearer, and trying to peer within the half open door. "You
couldn't give a poor mother a loaf of bread, or a few pennies, little
lady? I'm not a beggar at all; I'd be ashamed to beg, but I thought if
I could get a lift this once, I'd work it out some day. I never begged
in my life; but there's the children starving, and me with a broken
arm."

Lily, who was a charitable and generous child, felt her sympathy
strongly roused, and remembering the store in her money-box upstairs,
she said,--

"Oh, yes! I have money of my own, and I'll give you some. But it's way
upstairs, so you'll have to wait a minute till I bring it. And I'll
see if I can have a loaf of bread for you too."

The woman was about to follow her into the house; but Lily,
recollecting certain charges she had heard given to the servants, and
also a sad and mortifying thing which had once happened to Maggie
Bradford, would not suffer her to enter. But, not wishing to hurt the
woman's feelings, she said,--

"I think you'd better wait outside. Mamma don't like to have strange
people come in when there's no one about; and the servants are all
downstairs 'cept Nora, and she's up. I'll be back in a minute;" and,
with an encouraging nod to the woman, away she flew on her errand of
kindness.

Poor Lily! in the midst of her intended prudence, she had been most
imprudent; for she left the door partially open, not wishing to seem
too inhospitable, and never dreaming the woman would disregard her
order, and take advantage of her absence.

She ran into the nursery and found her money-box, taking from it
twenty-five cents. Tom was speaking to Nora, who was still busy with
his coat, and Lily did not interrupt him. But presently he turned to
her.

"Going to do some shopping too, Lily?" he asked, as he saw what she was
doing.

"No," said Lily, "this is for a poor woman downstairs. Don't you want
to give her something too, Tom? And do you think mamma would let me
give her a loaf of bread? She's not a common beggar: she says she's
not; and she has six children, all starving, just about as big as me."

"Miss Lily," said Nora, starting up, "now what have you done with her?
Where is she?"

"Oh, you needn't be afraid, Nora," answered Lily. "I was very careful,
and told her to stay outside, on the stoop, 'cause I remembered how
Maggie let a man come in the house, and how he stole her papa's new
overcoat while she went upstairs. I took very good care of her, and
told her she couldn't come in, 'cause every one was upstairs or
downstairs. Shall you give her some money? and can I have the bread,
Tom?"

"Wait till I come down and see the woman," said Tom, who knew that
Lily's sympathies were too apt to run away with her judgment.

Lily waited with what patience she might for a moment or two; but it
seemed to her that Nora's fingers moved very slowly.

"Tom," she said presently, "couldn't you come and see the woman while
Nora finishes the coat? You know those children must be growing
starveder and starveder every minute."

Tom laughed, but consented; and, taking her hand, was about to lead her
from the room, when Nora stopped her.

"Miss Lily," she said, "you took away my large scissors this morning,
and I need them to cut out some work. Will you bring them to me before
you go down again?"

"You find them, please, Nora," answered Lily. "They're somewhere in my
baby-house."

"Your mamma forbid it," said Nora. "She told me when you took a thing
that way and kept it, I was to make you bring it back, and not go and
hunt it up for you."

"Just this once," pleaded Lily.

Nora shook her head, though she would herself willingly have humored
the child.

"Your mamma was here, you know, when you took the scissors," she said,
"and she told me if you did not bring them back as you promised, I was
to send you for them. She said you are getting too much in the way of
thinking that I am to hunt up all the things you don't put back in
their places, and to see to every thing you put off and leave undone.
You must bring me the scissors before you go, dear."

"While you find them I'll go down and talk to your woman with the
half-dozen children all just of your size," said Tom, who evidently had
his doubts on the subject of Lily's _protégée_; "and if she seems all
right you shall give her some food; but we won't give her money till
we know more about her. That is mamma's rule, you know. Nora, please
bring me the coat when it is done."

And Tom went away, leaving Lily to follow when she had found the
scissors.

It took her some three or four minutes to do this; for she had left
them among a heap of bits of silk and ribbon with which she had been
playing that morning, and neglecting to take the scissors back to Nora
when she had finished with them, as she had promised to do, she had
forgotten them altogether, and could not find them at once.

The coat was ready when she went back to Nora, and the nurse followed
her downstairs with it.

"Your bird had flown when I came down, Lil," said Tom, when he saw her.

"Who, the woman? Had she gone away?" asked Lily.

"Yes, she had gone; no sign of her. But didn't you say you had shut her
out?"

"I told her to stay out, 'cause there was no one about in this part
of the house to take care of her," answered Lily, with an air of
confident wisdom and prudence.

"And did you not shut the door?" asked Tom.

"Not so very tight," said Lily. "I left it a little scrap open, for
fear her feelings would be hurt, and maybe she might think I wasn't
coming back to her."

"Oh, wise Lily!" said Tom, laughing, as he put on his overcoat; "you
left the door standing open, and told her there was no one in this part
of the house! Next time, little woman, close the door."

"Did she come in?" asked Lily. "I told her she must not."

"No, I believe not," answered Tom; "and as it is there is no harm done,
for I've looked round, and there's nothing touched. The hats and coats
are all right, and every thing else seems to be safe. You've had better
luck or a better beggar than poor Maggie; but next time, puss, don't
you leave any one the chance to walk in when the coast is clear."

"You're sure there's nothing taken, and that she's not in the house,
Master Tom?" said prudent Nora.

"Yes, I believe it's all safe," said Tom; "but you'd better call Robert
up, and tell him to make a thorough search. Come, Lily, we'll be off
now."

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



III.

_THE SILVER INKSTAND._


"Lily," said Tom, as they went down the street together, "don't you see
what a lot of trouble your habit of putting off makes for yourself and
every one about you?"

"Yes, I should think I did," answered Lily, with energy. "I'm
dreadfully sorry about your coat, Tom; I really am, dreadfully."

Apparently her remorse did not affect her spirits much, for, as she
spoke, she went skipping along, swinging her brother's hand back and
forth, and smiling and nodding with glee.

"I was not speaking for myself so much, or caring about my coat just
then," said Tom. "That does not matter now; but this is such a bad
habit of yours, Lily, and it is growing worse and worse."

"Oh, but I'm going to begin to cure myself very soon," said Lily.
"Maggie and Bessie are going to make me a proverb picture, and Belle is
going to help them; and as soon as I have it I will improve myself by
it. Tom, why don't the boys in your school make proverb pictures for
each other? I should think they would. Proverb pictures are so very
interesting, and so improving too, Tom."

"I dare say, when one is willing to be improved," said Tom; "but I do
not think our boys would care much about them. They are rather too
large for that."

"Dear me! I should think the older people are the better they'd like
them," said Lily; "'cause they can make them better when they've
learned to draw. I can't make them very fit to be seen yet; but when
I'm grown up and can draw nicely, I'll make a whole lot; and when I go
to make visits, or my acquaintances come to see me, and I see they have
faults or bad habits, I'll just give them a proverb picture to help
them to correct themselves."

"If you don't change your mind in the mean time," said Tom, merrily. "I
don't think you'll be overrun with visitors if you entertain them in
that fashion, Lily. But," becoming grave again, "I want you to listen
to me, and seriously, too. You see what trouble this putting off and
never being ready in time makes for yourself; and you can't help seeing
also how it provokes other people, and good reason, too. For you know,
Lily, you have no _right_ to make such inconvenience for other people."

"Ho!" said Lily. "I see, Tom, you're like Maggie's old Quaker lady,
cross old thing! I don't mean you're cross, not one bit; only you
think, like her, that somebody has no right to take up other people's
time by making them wait."

"What Quaker lady?" asked Tom.

Lily repeated Maggie's story, almost word for word, as she had told
it. Tom was very much amused, but he did not let Lily see that; for it
was hard to make her talk seriously on any subject, and he did not wish
to have her see him laugh just now.

"Yes," he said, with all the gravity he could muster, "I am much of the
opinion of that old lady. I do not think that any one has the right to
waste the time of other people, by keeping them waiting, when it can be
avoided; or by failing to do that which they are expected, or perhaps
have promised, to do. I know a lady--"

"What's her name?" questioned Lily.

"Never mind her name. I know a lady who is never ready at the time
for which she makes an engagement, and who in this way makes herself
a nuisance to all who are obliged to have any business with her; who
always comes into church when the service is half over; who is late at
every meal, either in her own house, or other people's--"

"Yes," said Lily; "and don't you remember, Tom, how mad papa was that
time she came to dinner at our house when Mr. Francis was there; and
he and papa had a very important engagement, and she kept the dinner
waiting so long that they could not get to their engagement in time;
and wasn't papa mad?"

"Not mad exactly," said Tom, "but he was very much vexed, and with
reason; but I see you know whom I mean, Lily."

"Oh, yes, very well indeed; you mean Miss Lee. She's just too provoking
for any thing; but then I never mean to be like her. Pretty soon I'm
going to begin to correct myself of putting off, and not being ready in
time."

"But why don't you begin now, right off?" said Tom.

"Would you?" asked Lily, doubtfully. "I thought I'd wait till I had the
proverb picture."

"Yes, begin to-day, this very minute," said Tom.

"There's nothing for me to put off just now," said Lily.

"I mean make up your mind; take a resolution you will begin at once,"
said Tom. "You see, Lily, it is the same in every thing. You always
think, 'it is time enough,' or 'another time will do;' and so the thing
is left undone, or you make some trouble. You are a real generous,
obliging little girl, but you could be far more helpful if you had not
this bad habit. Mamma often asks you to do some little thing for her;
but if she trusts to you, ten to one--"

Lily stopped short where she stood, with a face of the blankest dismay,
and interrupted her brother in a distressed voice.

"Oh, Tom!" she said. "I did do _such_ a thing! Mamma did trust me, and
I've done such a thing, and never did it."

"What is it? What have you done, and what haven't you done?" asked Tom,
rather at a loss to understand her, as you may imagine he would be.

"Mamma was just going out with Mrs. Bradford, when a note came she had
to answer before she went," said Lily; "and she was in a great hurry,
and so she told me to be a help to her, and put away all her writing
things very carefully. And I said I would, and she trusted me, and told
me to do it right away, and--and--oh, Tom!"

"And you did not do it," said Tom, gravely. "You did not do it at once,
but put it off, and so left it undone."

"Yes," answered Lily, her eyes filling, and her voice shaking. "I never
did it, and I should think I _was_ provoking. I should think the whole
world might be provoked with me. Tom, I ought to go back; but you
oughtn't to be kept for me any longer. You can take me to our house,
and just leave me; and I'll go right in, and put away mamma's things,
and stay at home for a punishment to myself, and to make me see how
troublesome putting off is."

"Mamma's things are all put away, Lily," said Tom.

"Who did it? You?" asked Lily, recovering her spirits a little.

"Yes. I did not know you had promised to do it, or I should have spoken
to you about it; but when I was looking round to see if that beggar
woman had been at any mischief, I saw mamma's writing things lying
about over the table, and her desk open; so I just put every thing
away, and locked the desk. It is all right now," added Tom, believing
it was as he said. "But how came you to forget mamma's orders, Lily?"

"It was all the fault of that old monkey," said Lily, as her brother
led her on. "Horrid thing! I wish he'd stayed away, and that I hadn't
looked at him, or given him cakes or pennies or any thing. His frock
was awfully dirty too," she added, forgetting all the amusement the
monkey had afforded her, and now only disposed to regard him as the
cause of her neglect of her mother's wishes.

"I should not blame the poor monkey if I were you," said Tom. "How was
it? You went to look at the monkey in place of attending to mamma's
orders, and so forgot all about them?"

"Yes," said Lily. "I meant to look at him for only one minute, and
then to put away the things just as mamma told me, but he was so
funny I forgot; and then the puppies came; and that's the way I never
remembered them at all."

"Well, you see," said Tom, "you should have put away mamma's things at
once, and then gone to look at the monkey. And it was your own fault,
not the monkey's, Lily. He did not ask you to come and look at him; it
was your own choice."

"Yes," answered Lily, rather meekly for her.

"Now can't you see it is better for you to begin at once?" said Tom.
"Don't let Procrastination hinder you here, Lil. The old fellow don't
want himself put down, and will trump up all manner of excuses to keep
his hold on you. But you root him up just as quick as you can. Begin
this very day; and the next time you have any thing to do, don't listen
to one of his fine speeches."

"Yes, so I will, I b'lieve," said Lily. "I won't wait for the proverb
picture, but just begin to-day. I wish there would come something I
want to put off, and I wouldn't put it off, but just do it very quick
indeed."

Poor Lily! She was to learn more that day of the evils of
procrastination in her own case.

Tom thought he had said enough to her now; and they went on together to
the store where he wished to buy his dog-house. Here they chose one,
and here also they purchased a collar for the puppy, Tom allowing Lily
to pick out a red one, although he would himself have preferred blue.
Was he not a kind brother?

As they were on their way home, they met Maggie and Bessie Bradford,
with their Aunt Annie.

Lily rushed forward, letting go her hold on her brother's hand; and
Maggie ran to meet her, almost as eager as she was.

"Is my proverb picture nearly ready?" asked Lily.

"Yes, quite," answered Maggie; "and we want you to come to our house,
so we can explain it to you. We've just been to your house to ask you,
but you were out, or else you could have come to take tea with us,
if your mamma had said so. I wonder if she wouldn't just as lief you
should come now. Can't Lily come with us, Tom?"

Tom had now come up to the little girls, and so had Miss Annie Stanton
and Bessie; and, after taking off his hat to the young lady, he
answered,--

"I think not to-night, Maggie. At least I do not like to take it upon
myself to give her leave; for she had a bad sore throat yesterday, and
I do not think mamma would like to have her out in the evening air."

Lily looked as if she were about to cry, and Maggie and Bessie also
looked disappointed.

"Never mind," said Bessie, cheering up in one moment; "it will be just
as good if you come to-morrow and spend the day. Mamma said we could
ask you to do that if you could not come this afternoon; and we will
have you a longer time, Lily."

"That's putting off, though," said Lily, with a pout, "and I've just
made up my mind not to do it."

Tom laughed, and so did Miss Annie, both somewhat amused at Lily's
haste to practise the new virtue as soon as it fell in with her own
wishes; but Maggie and Bessie thought this a very sensible view of the
matter.

"But one may put off a thing when it comes in the way of a duty, or of
another thing which should be attended to first," said Annie Stanton.
"When mamma's wishes and your pleasure come in the way of one another,
which should you put first?"

"Why, what mamma wishes, Miss Annie. I should think I would do what
mamma wants first. Anyway I _ought_ to _would_" added Lily, thinking of
her shortcomings of that very day.

"Then you see you may put off coming to Maggie and Bessie till
to-morrow, since your mamma does not wish you to be out at night,"
said Miss Stanton; and with this agreement, the little friends parted.

"I see," said Lily, demurely, but with a gleam of mischief in her
eye,--"I see people don't think it is as much harm to put off things
you want to do as it is to put off what you don't want to do."

"Well," said Tom, smiling, "you see that is where it is, Lil. We are
so apt to think it will do to put off what we do not care to do very
much,--any little duty or task; but if it is some pleasure, we are
generally ready enough to do it at once."

"Maggie thinks I put off pleasures too," said Lily. "She was real
provoked with me 'cause I kept them waiting to go to the party the
other day."

"Do you like other people to keep you waiting, Lily?"

"No, indeed, I don't," said Lily.

"Then ought you not to be careful how you do it to others?"

"Yes, I know, Tom, and I don't _mean_ to do it; but somehow I do. But
now you see if I do not improve myself a good deal of this habit," said
Lily, confidently, yet carelessly; for it was plainly to be seen that
she thought this vexatious fault of but little consequence.

Lily had meant to confess to her mother how neglectful she had been of
her wishes; but when she and Tom reached home, they found with Mrs.
Norris a lady who had been invited to dinner. So Lily thought she would
postpone her confession until by and by, and not draw upon herself her
mother's grave and reproachful look in the presence of company.

I do not know that she was to blame for this. Few little girls but
would have done the same, I think; and Lily had no idea that any
mischief or loss had come from her procrastination.

Dinner was over, Tom gone upstairs to prepare his lessons for
to-morrow, and Lily, in her favorite evening seat,--that is, perched
upon the arm of her father's chair while he read his paper,--was
happily playing with some paper dolls, while mamma and her friend
sat opposite, talking, when a person came with a message requiring an
immediate answer.

Mrs. Norris went to her secretary and wrote the note, using for the
purpose an ordinary inkstand which belonged there; and then said
approvingly to Lily,--

"My pet, how nicely you put away mamma's writing things; all the papers
in their proper places and order. Pretty well done for such a little
girl."

"Mamma," said Lily, wishing that she need not speak before Miss
Hamilton, but too honest to take credit which was not her just
due,--"Mamma, I did not put them away; it was Tom. I--I--forgot, mamma.
I waited to look at a monkey before I put them away, and then the puppy
came, and Tom took me out; and I forgot all about your things, and how
I had promised, and never remembered till we were out in the street;
and then Tom told me he had put them away, but he didn't know you had
told me to do it."

It was all out now; and Lily, as she glanced at Miss Hamilton, felt
as if she could not be thankful enough to that lady for seeming so
absorbed in the photograph album she was turning over.

Mrs. Norris uttered no word of reproach; but, as she looked within the
well-ordered secretary, she said,--

"Where did Tom put the silver inkstand? I do not see it."

"I don't know, mamma," answered Lily. "Is it not there? Tom said he
came in here and saw your things lying on the table, and he thought you
must have forgotten them, so he put them all away. Shall I go and ask
him what he did with the inkstand?"

"No," said her mother, "I do not wish to disturb him at his lessons. I
will look further."

But further search proved vain, though Mrs. Norris looked, not only
through each nook and partition of the secretary, but also all over the
room. Still she was not at all disturbed at the non-appearance of the
inkstand.

"Send up and ask Tom, my dear," said Mr. Norris.

"Oh, it is not necessary," said his wife. "He may have put it in some
unusual place. If he took care of it, it is quite safe. He will be down
presently, and I do not care to interrupt him."

"See what it is to have a good character, Lily," said her father,
passing his arm about the little figure on the arm of his chair, and
smiling into the rosy mischievous face before him. "How long before
mamma will be able to put such trust in you, do you think?"

"Oh, very soon, papa; you'll see," said Lily, confident in the strength
of her newly formed resolution.

It was not long before Tom made good his mother's words by appearing,
his lessons all ready for the next day, for it happened that he had not
had much to do that evening; and Mrs. Norris immediately asked him,--

"What did you do with my silver inkstand, my boy?"

"I did not have it, mamma," was the answer.

"But you put it away this afternoon, did you not?"

"No," answered Tom, wonderingly, but positively.

"Why, yes, Tom," said Lily, "you told me you had put away all mamma's
things that she left on the table."

"But there was no inkstand there," said Tom. "I remember noticing that,
because I said to myself, 'Mamma has taken time to put by her ink;' and
I supposed you had feared it would be spilled, mamma. There was no
inkstand upon the table, I am sure."

"Did you move the inkstand at all, Lily?" asked Mrs. Norris.

"No, mamma, I never touched it. I did not put away one single thing."

Tom helped his mother in a fresh search for the missing inkstand; but
all in vain.

Then the servant man was called, and questioned.

"I saw Miss Lily with her hand on the inkstand when I called her to
see the little dogs this afternoon, ma'am," he said, in reply to Mrs.
Norris's inquiries. "Do you remember, if you please, Miss Lily?"

"Oh, yes," said Lily. "I remember now, mamma. I did take it up to put
it away, but I set it down again when I ran after Robert to see the
puppies. I meant to come right back, but I never thought of it again."

"Master Tom," said Robert, "you were asking me had I seen a
beggar-woman about the door this afternoon. Could she have been in
here, and caught up the inkstand? If she'd just opened the library
door, and peeped in, it would have been the first thing she'd see, for
it stood right here, where Miss Lily left it."

Tom looked dismayed, and Lily still more so; for, if the inkstand were
indeed stolen, was it not all her fault? Owing to her procrastination,
to the putting off of the small service her mother had asked of her?
And so it proved; for nothing could be found of the inkstand, and it
was never heard of again. Its loss could be accounted for in no other
way than by supposing that the woman, finding the door left open, and
learning from Lily's imprudent words that there was no one about to
interfere with her, had walked in, opened the library door, and seeing
the inkstand, had snatched it up, and made off with it.

Lily's shame and grief were very great, all the more so because she
knew that this inkstand was dearly loved and valued by her mamma,
because it had been the gift of a dead sister. And seeing this, her
mother could not bear to reproach her, for it was very unusual for
Lily to take her own wrong-doing much to heart. But this was, as she
said herself, "the worst consequence I ever did in all my long life;"
and she probably felt it all the more deeply for her kind mother's
forbearance.

That she was sufficiently punished by her own remorse was plainly to be
seen; and long after she was in bed and fast asleep, her mother heard
long sobs heaving her little breast, and found her pillow all wet with
tears.

"My poor little one! I hope it may be a lasting lesson to her,"
said the mother, as she pushed back the hair from the flushed and
tear-stained face. "If it should be, I shall think it cheaply purchased
even by the loss of my much valued inkstand."

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



IV.

_LILY'S PROVERB PICTURE._


Lily was still in a very subdued and melancholy frame of mind when she
reached the Bradfords' house on the following day; and when her little
playmates inquired the cause, she made answer,--

"If mamma had given me my deservings, she would have shut me up in a
room by myself, and never let me come out in all my life, nor come to
spend the day with you any more. It's a great deal too good for such
a sinner as me, and something ought to be done to me. I don't mean to
have a nice time to-day."

This virtuous resolution was forgotten, however, before the day was
over; but at the time it much astonished her young friends, as did also
the low state of Lily's spirits.

Fresh questions followed; and Lily told her story, mingling her own
bitter self-accusations with reproaches against the supposed thief.

"For I told her she was not to come in, 'cause there was no one about
to 'tend to her," she said, as if this were an added aggravation of her
sorrows; "and I only left the door open for fear her feelings would
be hurt; but now I don't b'lieve she had any to hurt. I don't s'pose
thieves have many feelings, do you, Maggie?"

"No, I don't believe they have," answered Maggie. "I just expect their
feelings are 'lost to sight, and not to memory dear.'"

This fine sentiment, having been properly appreciated, called up the
recollection of the promised proverb picture.

"Did you find a proverb that would be a lesson for me, or did you have
to make one?" asked mournful Lily.

"Mamma told us one," said Maggie. "It is 'Procrastination is the thief
of Time.'"

"You'd better say the thief of inkstands," said Lily, ruefully. "Maggie
and Bessie and Belle, I feel 'most as if it was me who had stolen
mamma's inkstand."

The other little girls all set about consoling her; and Bessie took an
opportunity to whisper to Maggie that she thought they had better not
give Lily the proverb picture that day because it might make her feel
worse.

But this was not by any means Lily's view of the matter; and she
presently asked to be shown this joint production of her three little
friends, Maggie and Bessie and Belle.

Accordingly, the picture, or rather pictures, were brought forth, and
with them the poem which Maggie had composed to accompany them.

When the red ribbon which tied the first was taken off, and the
pictures unrolled, they proved quite a panorama; and Lily's mournful
face lighted up at the sight.

"How good of you!" she said. "It must have taken you ever so long to
draw all those pictures."

"There are four of them," said Bessie. "Belle made two, 'cause she can
draw the best, and Maggie made one, and I one; but Maggie made 'most
all the ideas. I think they're so very plain you can make them out for
yourself, Lily, but we'll 'splain them to you if you like."

"I'll see how much I can find out, and you can tell me the rest," said
Lily, setting herself at once to the study of the drawings.

"What's the reading on this one?" she asked.
"P-r-o-pro-c-r-a-s-cras--Oh! I s'pose this is 'Procrastination is the
thief of Time.'"

"Yes," said Maggie.

"And this is a skeleton," said Lily, "a skeleton with a goblet in one
hand, and a--and a"--Lily hesitated, wishing to be sure to hit the
right nail on the head--"and a--I'm not quite sure if it's a feather
dust-brush, or a coachman's whip."

"Oh!" exclaimed Belle, indignant.

"Why, Lily!" said Bessie, "that's Time with his hour-glass and scythe,
and Belle drew that picture, and we think it's the very best one of
all."

"I'm sorry," said Lily, rather ashamed of not having at once recognized
the articles in question.

"You know in the pictures Time is always a very thin old man," said
Bessie, "so we had to make him so to have it real; and Maggie told
Belle she'd better make him as thin as she could, 'cause that horrid
thief Procrastination bothers him so he hardly has any flesh on his
bones. This is a kind of allegory picture, you see, Lily."

"Yes, I understand. And this rather beggar-looking child--" Lily
hesitated again, unwilling to run the risk of making any more such
uncomplimentary mistakes. "I think you'd better tell me about it. I'm
'fraid I'm rather stupid this morning. I think I went crazy last night
about that inkstand, and I'm hardly recovered yet. I b'lieve that's
the reason I didn't know Time's hour-glass and scythe at first."

Never before had her little friends known Lily to speak and look with
such solemnity, and they all felt very much for her.

Maggie, however, thought it well to improve the occasion.

"I did not want to seem severe with her," she said afterward to Bessie
and Belle, "but I thought the picture might make a deeper impression if
I let her see to what a dreadful condition procrastinating people might
come."

"Yes," she said to Lily, "yes, that is Procrastination, all ragged and
dirty and starved. He never has a nice time, and he hardly ever has any
thing to eat, 'cause when people say to him, 'Procrastination, dinner
is ready,' he says, 'I think I'll eat by and by;' and then when he
comes, the dinner is all gone, and he has to go hungry: and when they
say, 'Go and get washed, and have on clean clothes,' he says, 'Another
day I will;' so he becomes all ragged, and his friends are so ashamed
of him that they just let him take care of himself. That's the way
he looks so horridly. And poor old Time hardly knows what to do with
himself for the way that troublesome fellow worries him. He doesn't
leave Time alone to do his duty one minute. Do you see these things in
Procrastination's hand?"

"Yes; what are they?" asked Lily, deeply interested.

"They are Time's purse and pocket handkerchief that Procrastination--I
think we'd better call him Pro, because it takes so long to say
Procrastination--that Pro has stolen out of his pocket; and here at his
feet are some broken hour-glasses; and now he is running after Time,
and trying to steal his last hour-glass, so that the poor old fellow
will have none left. That means, when you're not talking allegory, that
Pro steals the hours and makes you lose all your time; but he can not
catch him up, which means that when you have lost your time, you never
can catch up with it."

"Yes," said Lily, dolefully; "but I think it would be better if you
made Pro stealing inkstands. It's just what I deserve. Is that all
about that picture?"

"Yes," answered Maggie; "now we come to real life. Bessie, this is your
picture; tell Lily about it."

It is to be observed that the ragged figure which represented
Procrastination, or "Pro," was to be seen in each successive picture.
This was considered a judicious mingling of the allegorical with
reality.

"This," said Bessie, "is a little girl whose mamma said to her, 'My
dear, there is a match upon the carpet; pick it up right away.' But
Procrastination"--Bessie would not on any account have shortened her
words, especially on such a grave occasion--"came and whispered to her,
'By and by will do; it's time enough;' and presently her little sister
came in and picked up the match, and set herself on fire, and she was
quite burnt up before she could be put out, and she was the only
sister the put-offing child had, and she stayed unhappy all the rest of
the days of her life."

"Like me," said Lily.

"Oh, no," said Maggie, cheerfully, "you'll get over that inkstand. I
find people generally do get over things; at least, I do. Take courage
by me, Lily. I thought I never should recover having papa's coat
stolen, but you see I have; and I think I'm about as happy as any child
could be."

"Ah! but you wasn't disobedient, and didn't put off," said Lily. "Tell
me some more."

"Perhaps we'd better not, 'cause you feel so badly," said Bessie.

"They do me good," answered Lily. "I don't think I can care for any
thing else to-day. Who made this picture?"

"I did," said Maggie, "and this is the story of it. This is fable or
allegory too;" and, unrolling another sheet of paper, Maggie read aloud
her famous poem, which had been pronounced a great success by both
Bessie and Belle. Her picture consisted of a series of small drawings,
which explained themselves as she read the verses.

     "There's a bad little fellow,
     His name it is Pro-
     Cras-tin-a-_ti_-_on_;
     And to you I will show
     How he robs and he steals
     And he plagues Father Time.
     I'll tell you all this,
     And I'll tell you in rhyme.

     When to school he is sent,
     He most slowly doth go,
     For he stops first to play,
     Then to look at some show;
     By the hour he is there,
     Why! the school is 'most out.
     That's one way he robs Time,
     This sad putting-off lout.

     When his mother doth say,
     'Go this errand for me,'
     He will say, 'By and by;'
     'Pretty soon;' 'I will see;'
     Till at last 'tis too late,
     Or his mother must go.
     'Tis a base, heartless crime,
     For a child to do so.

     But there's worse yet to tell,
     For to church he goes late;
     And he reaches God's house
     In a sad, dirty state;
     For he never is dressed,
     And he never is clean.
     That 'tis all putting off,
     Is quite plain to be seen.

     He ne'er has a book,
     Or a toy, or a pet,
     For to put them away
     He doth always forget;
     So they're broken or lost,
     Or most shamefully torn;
     And he's nothing to do,
     Which is very forlorn.

     Take heed now, ye children,
     And list to my tale;
     What e'er you've to do,
     Do at once, without fail;
     For if you'd be happy,
     And useful, and gay,
     Don't put off till to-morrow
     The work of to-day.

     Remember, 'tis minutes
     That make up the hours;
     As the small, tiny seeds
     Bring the beautiful flowers.
     Don't procrastinate then,
     O ye daughters of earth!
     For woman's but grass
     From the day of her birth."

In the ears of the little listeners this was a perfect gem of poetry,
far beyond any thing Maggie had ever written before, whether it were
"divine song," or "moral poem." The concluding lines were considered
particularly fine, and, indeed, had been added on account of their
striking effect.

Bessie and Belle had heard it before, but they listened with rapt
attention, and Lily was very much impressed. The third verse she
felt particularly adapted to her case, though Maggie had intended no
home thrust when she wrote it. But, to Lily's mind, it just suited
the affair of the inkstand; and when Maggie finished reading, she
exclaimed,--

"I should think I _was_ a base, heartless crime!"

The children all hastened to console her, and to assure her that they
thought she would not fail to improve, now that she saw her fault so
plainly.

"I didn't mean that the child in the poem was really you," said Maggie.
"That's the reason I made Pro a boy instead of a girl. I only wanted
to show you what people might come to who procrastinated all the time,
and never were punctual."

Maggie's drawing, as you have heard, was divided up into a number of
smaller pictures, each one suited to a particular verse of the poem;
and they explained themselves to one who had read or heard the latter.

The fourth and last picture had been drawn by Belle, the chief artist
among the little party.

This also represented Father Time, who had now grown fat and
flourishing, which was somewhat singular under the circumstances. He
was accompanied by another burly figure, and both were armed with many
lashes and whips with which they chased "Pro," now himself reduced to a
skeleton state, and vainly endeavoring to escape from his tormentors.

"This," said Belle, "is my drawing, but it is Maggie's idea, and Bessie
and I think it is pretty grand. Here is that naughty Pro, and he has
lost every thing and every one he had in the world, all through his
own putting off; and here," pointing to little dots and round _o_'s
with which the page was covered, "here are the hours and minutes flying
away from him too. The largest ones are the hours; the little ones, the
minutes. And here are Father Time and Remorse coming after him with
their--their--What kind of whips do they have, Maggie?"

"_Scorpion_ whips," answered Maggie. "It was a very convenient thing
that I happened to read the other day about the 'scorpion whip of
Remorse,' and it just gave me the idea for this picture. It means that
when we feel very badly about something we know we deserve, it is just
as bad as the stings of scorpions and bugs and other horrid things. And
I thought we'd make believe Remorse had two scorpion whips, and lent
one to Time to chase Procrastination with."

"Here's the ocean," said Belle, directing Lily's attention to where
high, curling waves were supposed to be leaping and dashing upward,
"and Pro was running away so fast from those dreadful scorpion whips
that he never saw it, but ran right into the water, and was drowned;
and that was the end of _him_."

Belle's tone was very triumphant when she uttered the last word, as
though she were glad to have thus disposed of a troublesome customer.

"I'm sure," said Lily, with an air of melancholy satisfaction, "I'm
sure I'm very much obliged to you all for taking so much trouble to
improve me; and I don't see how I can help being better now."

"Then that's all we ask," said Maggie, "and we shan't regret any
trouble we took. Now let's go and play."

If the other children had had any fears that Lily's remorse and the
"lesson" they had given her would interfere with her enjoyment of the
day, such fears were soon put to flight; for in ten minutes she was
as merry and roguish as ever, and quite disposed to join in all the
entertainment provided for her.



[Illustration]



V.

_PROMISING._


"How many of my little girls would like to help in a good work?" asked
Miss Ashton, some two or three days after this.

Ten little hands went up. Ten? Nay, I think there were thirteen or
fourteen; for some of the children were not content with holding up
one, but raised both in their zeal to show Miss Ashton they were ready
to do what she asked.

Miss Ashton went on to explain.

"I think you will all remember," she said, "the lame soldier who was
run over and killed on the corner of this street?"

There was a murmur of assenting voices, and little Belle added,--

"Papa said it was a very generous thing for you and Mrs. Ashton to take
care of his three children, Miss Ashton; and I think so too."

Miss Ashton smiled at her, and continued,--

"But we could not take care of them always, dear Belle, and through the
kindness of some friends we have found a pleasant home in the country
for them. It is necessary that they should be comfortably fitted out
before we send them there, however, and my uncle says that he will
provide all the materials that the school will make up. The young
ladies in my mother's room say they will make all the dresses and more
difficult garments, and leave the simple and easier ones for you, if
you choose to help. But before you make any promises, I wish you to ask
your parents' permission, and also to make up your minds to have the
garment you take finished by the end of two weeks, when the children
are to leave for their new home. You nearly all sew well enough to do
the easy work upon these little skirts and aprons, and I think your
friends at home will give you what help you may need."

"But, Miss Ashton," said little Belle, with woe-begone voice and look,
"I can hardly sew at all. Aunt Margaret has just begun to teach me, and
she says I _do_ take pains, but I b'lieve I do it pretty badly yet."

"And I don't know how to sew," said her cousin, Mabel Walton, who now
was sorry that she had always obstinately refused to learn how to use a
needle.

"I think we can find some easy thing for you both to do," said Miss
Ashton, kindly. "But remember, dear children, what you promise, you
must perform. If you undertake this work, you must have it finished at
the end of the time I have named,--two weeks. I do not _ask_ you to do
it, for the older girls are willing to do all the work; but I thought
it might be a pleasure to you to help."

"Oh, yes! indeed it will, Miss Ashton," said Lily, "and I'd like to
have two clothes to make. Mamma says I can sew pretty well fur such a
little girl, and Nora will show me how."

"One garment will be enough for you, Lily," said Miss Ashton; "if you
finish that in time, it is all we shall need."

"You need not be afraid I won't have it done in time, Miss Ashton,"
said Lily. "I don't put off any more, nor be unpunctual either. I've
been early at school every morning this week,"--this was Tuesday,--"and
mamma said I was beginning to improve. I couldn't help it very well, I
had such a horrid lesson about an old beggar-woman who was nothing but
a thief; and then Maggie and Bessie and Belle made me lovely proverb
pictures about the consequences of procrastination, and Maggie wrote a
splendid poem, so I ought to learn better with all that."

"I think so," said Miss Ashton; "but, by the way, I wonder if Maggie
and Bessie would not like to join us in this work. They always take
such an interest in all that goes on among us here that perhaps they
would be pleased if we offered to let them help."

"Yes, I know they would," cried Belle, always ready to speak in praise
of her beloved little playmates. "I know they would. Maggie and Bessie
are very full of good works; and they always like to do what we do, if
they can, too."

"Very well," said Miss Ashton. "You can ask them when you see them,
Belle; and if they would like to help us, tell them to come in
to-morrow, at the close of school. You can all bring me word then if
your parents are willing for you to undertake this work, and I will
give each one a piece to take home."

The next morning each little girl brought word that she had received
permission to take home and make such a garment as Miss Ashton should
see fit to give her; and they had all been promised help and teaching
by their mammas or other friends.

The curiosity and interest of the class having been much excited by
Lily's glowing account of the "proverb picture" and poem furnished her
by Maggie, Bessie, and Belle, she had been persuaded to bring them
with her; and being punctual for the third morning, she exhibited them
before school was opened, to the great satisfaction and delight of the
other children. They were also displayed to Miss Ashton.

"Maggie is quite a Murphy, isn't she, Miss Ashton?" said Lily.

"A what, dear?" asked the young lady, much puzzled.

"A Murphy--a M-m-ur-phy," said Lily, putting severe and long emphasis
on the word, as she saw that her teacher did not yet understand. "Don't
you know what a Murphy is, Miss Ashton? It means some one very wise and
good, who teaches right things."

"Oh!" said Miss Ashton, smiling, as light broke in upon her; "you mean
a Mentor, do you not, Lily?"

"Oh, yes, that's it," said Lily; "but I thought it was Murphy. But I
think Murphy is just as pretty a name as Mentor."

"But people would understand your meaning better if you put the right
name, Lily," said Miss Ashton, as she rang the bell for silence.

Maggie and Bessie had told Belle that they would be very glad to
join in the work of making clothes for the poor little orphans; and
accordingly, when school was over and word was brought that they were
below, she was sent to bring them up to the school-room. Places were
soon found for them among their former school-mates, who were all
delighted to see them; and, as Bessie said, "it seemed quite as if they
were all young again."

Then Miss Ashton had a large basket of work brought in, and took from
it a number of little garments cut out, but not made, which she laid
upon the table before her.

"I have six skirts and six aprons here," she said, "and three calico
bags, which our little orphans must have to hold their lesson-books. I
think we had better give the bags to those who are the youngest, or the
least accustomed to sewing,--Bessie, Belle, and Mabel. Then the rest
may choose, so far as you can, whether you will take a petticoat or
an apron; but as there is more work upon the petticoats than upon the
aprons, I shall think it wiser for those who are not very industrious
and persevering to take the latter, so that they may be sure to finish
their work. Or perhaps the older ones, Nellie, Maggie, Grace, and Dora,
might take the skirts, and let the other five take aprons. As I said
yesterday, the young ladies in the other room will finish whatever you
leave."

All were satisfied with this arrangement but two.

"Miss Ashton," said Nellie Ransom, in rather a hesitating voice, as
though she thought she might be drawing upon herself the disapproval of
her classmates,--"Miss Ashton, I think perhaps I had better only take
an apron. I do not sew very fast, and I might not have a skirt done
in time; and I would rather take the apron, so that I may be sure to
finish it."

"Pooh!" said Lily, "I should think any one might have a petticoat
done in two weeks! No, not pooh, either, Nellie, I forgot that was
not courteous; but then I should think you'd have plenty of time to
make the skirt, and I'm going to take one 'stead of the apron, if Miss
Ashton will let me."

"I will let you," said her teacher. "I told you you should take what
you pleased; but, Lily, I think Nellie is a wise little girl not to
undertake more than she feels _sure_ she can do, and you would do well
to follow her example. You do not like steady work, you know, Lily, and
I should not wish the petticoat to be brought back to me half finished."

"Oh, I'd never do that!" exclaimed Lily. "I see, Miss Ashton, you
think it _probalal_ that Nellie and I will be the hare and the
tortoise,--Nellie the tortoise and I the hare; but we'll be two
tortoises, won't we, Nellie? And please let me have the petticoat,
Miss Ashton. I'll be sure, oh, _sure_ to have it finished!"

Miss Ashton did as she was asked, and handed Lily the skirt; but she
looked as if she were not quite so sure that Lily would perform all she
promised; and though she smiled as she gave the parcel to the little
girl, she shook her head doubtfully, and said,--

"Be careful, Lily, and do not put off till to morrow the task you
should do to-day."

"No, ma'am," answered Lily, confidently, "I am quite cured of that.
I wish you'd let me have two just to see how soon I will have them
finished."

"If you finish the petticoat at the end of ten days, you shall have
some other thing to make," said Miss Ashton, rather gravely. "Nellie,
my dear, here is your apron."

The work was very neatly cut out and basted; prepared so that the
little girls might not find it difficult to do, or give more trouble
than was actually necessary to their friends at home; and each one
opened her parcel and examined it with great satisfaction after they
were dismissed.

"I expect Nellie's will be sewed the best, 'cause she takes so much
pains with every thing she does," said Bessie. "Hers and Dora's will
be, for Dora is industrious too, and has a great deal of perseverance."

"I think mine will be the best," said Gracie, "for I sew very nicely.
Mrs. Bradish told mamma she never saw a child of my age sew so neatly."

"Proudy!" said Lily, "you always think you do every thing better than
anybody else; and you always go and tell when any one makes you a
compliment. Gracie, you do grow conceiteder and conceiteder every day.
Pretty soon, we won't be able to stand you at all."

"Why, Lily!" said Belle, "you're a dreadful anti-politer this morning."

"I don't care," said Lily; "Gracie does make me so mad. Yes, I do care
about being called an anti-politer too," she added on second thoughts;
"but, Gracie, I don't believe your work will be the best. I think like
Bessie, that Nellie's will be, 'cause she sews so nicely; and so does
Maggie."

"Anyhow mine will be done, and yours won't, I know," retorted Gracie,
who always resented very strongly the idea that any other child
could do as well or better than herself. "You always put off and
procrastinate, so that you never have any thing ready at the right
time."

"Well, I'm not going to do so any more," said Lily; "and, anyhow, I'd
rather be Pro than Proudy. It's very, very naughty to be proud, and
it's only a--a--well, an inconvenient habit to procrastinate. And I'm
pretty well cured of it now. Don't you be afraid my petticoat won't be
done; and don't let's be cross about it any more, Gracie."

Peace was restored by her last words; but here were Lily's snares and
stumbling-blocks. Firstly, that she had too much confidence in her
own strength, and was too sure that she could cure herself of this
troublesome habit if she only chose to do so; secondly, that she
hardly looked upon it as a fault at all, and did not think it of much
consequence, except just at the moment when it had brought some great
annoyance upon herself or others.

Lily was gay, light-hearted, and sweet-tempered, and trouble or
disappointment seldom oppressed her spirits long,--all good things and
great blessings in their proper times and places; but she sometimes let
this run into carelessness, and was often disposed to make too light of
her faults and their consequences. She certainly had warning and help
enough in this case, if that were all she needed.

She, Maggie and Bessie, Belle and Mabel all took the same way homeward;
and just before they parted, Maggie said,--

"I have an idea! Would it not be a good plan for us five to have a
little sewing meeting at our house for these clothes, if mamma has no
objections? And it will seem to help us along, and not let it be so
stupid; for I do hate to sew."

The other children agreed that it would be a capital arrangement; and
Maggie, turning to Bessie, asked if she thought mamma would be willing.

"For we better not make too many plans about it till we know what mamma
would say," said Maggie, "or we might 'live in hope only to die in
despair.'"

Bessie thought mamma would be quite willing, but agreed with Maggie
that it would be better not to build up too many arrangements on this
till they knew what she had to say.

"I would like to have asked all the class," said Maggie, "but I do not
think mamma wants a great many children about now; because grandmamma's
house is being painted, and she and Aunt Annie and Uncle Ruthven and
Aunt Bessie are all staying with us, and it makes a pretty large
family,--a lovely large one," she added, with a nod of satisfaction in
the present size of the household.

"We'll ask mamma if we can have a meeting once a week till our things
are all finished," said Bessie; "and we can sew on them between times,
and show each other how much we have done. And it may be a little help
to you in not putting off, Lily," she said, rather anxiously. "I would
be so sorry if your petticoat was not finished."

"Oh, never fear," said Lily; "you are all so afraid about me; and I
tell you, I'm not going to put off any more."

"I am sorry, my daughter, that you took the petticoat instead of the
apron," said Mrs. Norris, when Lily reached home and told her story
of the morning's business. "There would have been more hope of your
finishing the apron, with your unsteady ways about work and duties."

"It is not a duty for me to make this, is it, mamma?" asked Lily,
unrolling the parcel and holding up the skirt.

"Yes, it is a duty for you to do that which you have promised to do, is
it not?"

"Yes, mamma; but I need not have promised if I did not choose."

"No, you need not; but now that you have undertaken it of your own
free will, that makes it all the more a duty for you to finish it in
time. Will you sew on it a little while this afternoon, after you have
had your lunch?"

"No, mamma, I think not," said Lily. "Maggie and Bessie are going to
ask their mamma if they can have us for a sewing meeting at their
house, and I'll wait and see what they say. It will be fun."

Mrs. Norris sighed as Lily gleefully rolled up her work and tossed it
upon the table. This was not a very good beginning.

"Put it away in the large work-box, dear," she said.

"Presently, mamma; I'm just going to tell Nora about it."

"No, Lily, put it away at once. And remember, my darling, that I shall
not allow Nora to finish it for you if you fall behindhand through your
own fault."

"Oh, no, mamma," said Lily, as she obeyed her mother's order; "but I
would have put it away in a minute or two."



[Illustration]

VI.

_BUT NOT PERFORMING._


You will readily believe that Lily's "by and by" was long in coming, as
it had often been before; and this although her mamma and nurse both
invited her more than once to come and begin her petticoat.

The evening brought a note from Maggie Bradford, which was as follows:--

  "DEAR LILY,--Mamma says we may have the sewing meeting, and Aunt Annie
  says she will take care of it up in her room, which is very kind of
  her; do you not think so? When Baby Annie heard us talking about it,
  she said, "Me too;" and we told her she should come if she would be
  good. Mamma says she is afraid she will be a disturbance, but she
  is so cunning that Bessie and I could not bear to tell her no; and
  we will be very industrious, even if baby is funny. We make you a
  life-member of our society for two weeks, till we have the clothes all
  finished; and we will have a meeting every Thursday afternoon. Come at
  three o'clock; and Aunt Annie will tell us stories or read to us till
  four, while we sew, and then we will put away our work and play.

     "Yours respectfully and affectionately,

     "MAGGIE STANTON BRADFORD.

 "P. S. Bessie says of course you'd never think of such a thing as
 bringing 'Pro' to the meeting. We wouldn't believe it of you; but if
 you did, we should 'speed the parting guest,' which means to turn him
 out as quick as you can."

"Maggie knows so many proverbs and wise speeches, and always knows how
to make a good use of them," said Lily, when Tom finished reading this
epistle to her, she having been in too much haste to try to spell it
out for herself. "Now, Tom, what are you laughing at?"

"Why, I'm sure that is a good joke of Maggie's, and well worth being
amused at," said Tom.

"Oh, yes," said Lily, "she is very smart, and very funny too. I'm so
glad we are going to have the sewing meeting; and, indeed, I don't take
'Pro' with me."

"I am afraid he has paid us a visit this afternoon, Lily," said Mrs.
Norris.

"Why, no, dear mamma; at least, I only thought I would wait till I
heard what we were going to do at the meeting, and not begin before
them. It is nicer to begin all together."

"And I think you will find that all the other children have commenced
their work to-day," said Mrs. Norris. "But we shall see."

Lily's mamma was nearly as well pleased as her little daughter at the
arrangement she had made with the Bradford children, for she hoped that
their example, and the wish to keep pace with them, might help Lily to
conquer her besetting fault in this instance at least; and that shame
might keep her from falling behindhand with her work from week to week.

The sewing meeting being a novelty, and Lily very anxious to "see what
it would be like," she was willing to be made ready in good time the
next day; and actually arrived at the Bradfords' house eight minutes
before three o'clock, which she, as well as the other children, took to
be a decided sign of improvement in the punctuality line.

Belle was there, but not Mabel, for the latter had taken a very bad
cold, and could not come out.

The little girls were soon all settled in Aunt Annie's room, each with
her work; but Lily was rather dismayed, and quite ashamed, to find
her mother's words proved true, and that each one of the other three
children had not only commenced her work, but had completed quite a
good piece upon it. Why, there was a whole seam and part of another
done upon Maggie's petticoat; and she had not yet set the first stitch
in hers!

"Why! haven't you done any on yours yet?" asked Bessie, in amazement.
"Why didn't you begin it, Lily?"

"I thought to-day would be time enough," said Lily, rather sheepishly.
"I'm sorry now I didn't begin it."

"But it's too late to be sorry now," said Bessie, gravely shaking her
head. "Procrastination has been robbing Time again, Lily."

"Never mind, I'll sew very fast to-day," was Lily's answer.

As soon as she had the little girls all busy at their work, Aunt Annie
took up a book, and prepared to read a story to them.

But scarcely had she commenced when the door, which stood ajar, was
pushed open; and "Tootins" walked in, with an air which seemed to say
she was quite sure of her welcome.

And who was "Tootins"? you will say. A kitten?

Well, I believe she was a kind of two-footed kitten; at least, she was
as full of play and frolic and merry ways as any four-footed little
puss that ever called old cat mother. As fond of being cuddled and
petted now and then, too.

"Tootins" was the dearest, cunningest, most fascinating little
two-year-old bit of mischief that ever found out she had ten fingers,
and the number of uses they could be put to.

A mischief! I should think she was! Such restless, busy little
fingers! "Mademoiselle Touche-à-tout" Uncle Ruthven named her. Such an
inquisitive little mind! Such never-tiring, pattering little feet! Such
a sweet voice, and such a crooked, cunning tongue!

When you saw her, you wanted to catch her up, and pet and hug her,
she was so fair and round and dimpled; but that did not always suit
Miss "Tootins." She thought her two small feet were made to be used,
and she did not choose that they should be deprived of any of their
privileges, except by her own free will. So she generally struggled to
be put down again; and, dear me! how sorry you were to let her go!

But sometimes, as I have said, she wanted to be cuddled and petted; and
then she would nestle to you, so dear and sweet, with her sunny head
upon your arm, her great starry eyes fastened upon your face, while
you talked baby-talk to her, or told her simple verses and stories.
Understand you, do you ask? Indeed, she understood every thing you
said; more than you could have believed possible.

Pure pink and white skin; eyes blue as heaven; golden hair; yes, real
golden hair, for when the sunlight fell upon her curls, they looked
like threads of burning gold; shoulders and hands and arms that looked
as if they were only made to be kissed; a gurgling, rippling laugh; and
oh, such cunning, wheedling ways! That is our "Tootins;" otherwise,
Baby Annie. _Our_ "Tootins," did I say? Well, I suppose I must call
her Mrs. Bradford's "Tootins;" but then, you see, I have drawn her
picture from life, and, having before my eyes just such a pet and
darling of my own, it came very natural to say "our Tootins."

But how did she come by such a funny name? you will ask again.

Well, that was a name her little brother Frankie had given her when
she was a tiny baby; no one knew why he did it, but he did, and he
always called her by it; and of late, if any one called her by any
other name, he always pretended he did not know of whom they spoke. And
so "Tootins" had come to be a sort of twin pet name with "Baby," and
little Annie was called as much by one as by the other.

As I have said, she came in as if quite assured of her welcome, for
Baby Annie was accustomed to have her society courted, and rather
imagined she was conferring a favor when she bestowed it upon her
friends. Moreover, she had been promised that she should join
the others on this occasion, why or with what purpose she did not
understand; but she knew that her sisters had talked of Belle and Lily
coming. She was fond of Belle and Lily, and had demanded a share in
their company, and here they were now. This she knew very well, and
so she came in, followed by old nurse, who had her own doubts as to
whether baby would be considered a serviceable member of the sewing
circle.

But "Tootins'" expectations proved well-founded, for she was greeted
with exclamations of pleasure; and after submitting to the necessary
amount of hugging and kissing, she was accommodated with a bench at
Aunt Annie's feet, and mammy told that she might leave her.

But was it really possible that any one thought baby was going to sit
still on that footstool? If so, she soon undeceived them; and the busy
little fingers were, as usual, searching about for what mischief they
could find to do.

First, she overturned Maggie's workbox, and having contrived, during
the picking up of the contents, secretly to possess herself of the
eyelet-piercer, was presently discovered boring holes in her own tiny
shoe. The next thing which took her fancy was a small vase of flowers,
which being within her reach was dragged over, the water spilled
upon the floor and the flowers scattered, before Aunt Annie could
prevent it. Happily, the vase was not broken, for which Miss Baby took
great credit to herself, declaring over and over again that she was
"dood,"--little Pharisee that she was.

By the time that this disturbance was over, order restored, and the
members of the sewing society settled once more in their places,
baby had retired into privacy behind the window curtain; and, being
suspiciously quiet, Aunt Annie thought proper to inquire into her
occupation, when she was discovered industriously taking pins from a
pin-cushion, and sticking them into the carpet.

"Oh, what a mischievous, naughty little girl!" said Aunt Annie. "Shall
I call mammy to take you away?"

"No, 'deed, Nan," was the answer; "Nan" being baby's name for Aunt
Annie.

"Will you be good and quiet then?"

"'Es 'deed," said baby, resigning the pin-cushion into Aunt Annie's
hands, and trotting off in search of fresh pastures.

A large trunk was in the room, the lid standing open; and Miss Stanton
had already called baby three or four times from its dangerous
neighborhood. But the straps which kept the lid from falling back
seemed to have a peculiar attraction for the little one; and once more
she went over to the corner where it was placed, and, taking hold of
one of these straps, would in another moment have crushed both tiny
hands by pulling the whole weight of the lid upon them, had not Maggie
sprung up and caught it just in time.

"You had better call nurse to take her away, Maggie; she is too
troublesome, and we shall accomplish nothing while she is here," said
her aunt, now really vexed. But when she heard this, Baby Annie put up
such a grieved lip and looked so piteous that the other children all
pleaded for her; and Miss Stanton said she would try her once more.

[Illustration: Lily Norris.     p. 110.]

"Shall Aunt Annie tell you a pretty story?" she asked, seating the
little mischief in the corner of the sofa, where she would be out of
harm's way so long as she could be persuaded to remain there.

Baby assented eagerly, for she always liked a story; and Aunt Annie
began, the little one listening intently, with hands quietly folded in
her lap, and her great blue eyes fixed on her aunt's face.

"Once there was a little girl, and she was a very good little girl, and
always did as she was told. When her auntie said, 'You must be still,'
she was as quiet as a little mouse, and made no noise. When her mamma
said, 'Come here,' she always came; and when her nursey said, 'Do not
touch that thing,' she never touched it. She did not take the pins,
because she knew it was naughty, and that mamma would say, 'No, no;'
and she did not pull at the flowers, because she knew her auntie would
say, 'Let them alone;' and she did not touch Maggie's workbox, because
she knew she was not to have it. And oh, dear me! why, she never would
do such a naughty thing as to touch the trunk, because she knew it
would hurt her little fingers, oh, so badly! and then she would have to
cry. So every one loved this baby, and said, 'What a good little girl!
Come here, good little girl;' and gave her pretty flowers of her own,
and let her stay in the room, and did not send her away to the nursery."

Here Aunt Annie paused, to see what effect her moral tale was making
on the small listener for whose benefit it was intended. Baby was
intensely interested, and when Aunt Annie ceased speaking, gravely
ejaculated the one syllable, "More."

The other children, who thought this extremely funny, were trying to
hide their smiles that they might not spoil the lesson the story was
intended to convey.

"Then there was another little girl," continued Aunt Annie, "such a
naughty little girl, who would not mind what was said to her. When
her mamma said, 'Don't go to the head of the stairs when the gate is
open,' she would not mind, but she did go; and she fell down stairs,
and bumped her poor little head. And she took the piercer, and made
holes in her new shoes; and mamma said, 'Oh, the naughty baby! She must
sit on the bed with no shoes on because she did such a bad thing.' And
she took the scissors and cut her little fingers, and they hurt her so
badly, and bled. And the pins too, and she put them in the carpet where
they pricked grandmamma's feet; and grandmamma said, 'That naughty,
naughty baby!' And what do you think happened to her one day? She would
touch the trunk when her auntie said, 'Come away;' and the lid fell
down, and cut off all the poor little fingers, and the little girl had
no more fingers to play with, or to love mamma with, or to look at the
pretty picture-books with. Oh, poor little girl! that was because she
would not be good."

Nothing could outdo the intense gravity of the little one's face and
demeanor as she listened to this thrilling tale, and drank in each
word. It was certainly making a great impression, Aunt Annie thought.

"Now," she said, thinking to strengthen and give point to this, "who
was the good little girl who always did as she was told?"

"Tootins," said the baby, with an air of supreme self-satisfaction, and
conscious virtue, which set all the other children giggling.

"And who," asked Aunt Annie, trying to command her own face, as she put
the second question, "was the naughty little girl who did all those bad
things, and was so much hurt?"

"Na-a-an!" shouted baby, changing her air of delighted self-approbation
to one of stern reproof and bitter indignation against her would-be
teacher.

To describe the peals of gleeful laughter which followed this sudden
turning of the tables would be impossible. Roguish Lily went capering
and whirling about the room in an ecstasy of fun and enjoyment at this
capital hit; and all thought it the most excellent joke they had heard
this long time. It would have been impossible to help joining in their
merry peals of laughter, even had not Aunt Annie herself been heartily
amused at the little rogue's cuteness; and baby, finding she had said a
good thing, joined her own rippling laugh to the general merriment, to
which she further added by now saying, "Oh, dear! me so funny."

The laughter and merry voices brought mamma to see what the great joke
could be; and Miss Baby now thought proper to deprive them of her
society, slipping down from her nest on the sofa, and running to her
mother with,--

"Me better do wis my mamma."

"Tootins" always considered she had "better" do whatever she wished to
do.

And now perhaps you will say, What has all this long story about
"Tootins" to do with Lily and procrastination?

Why, just this; that from the moment the baby had entered the room,
Lily's attention had been entirely diverted from her sewing. In vain
did that faithful little monitor, Bessie, endeavor by hints and signs,
and softly whispered words, to persuade her to keep on with the work
already so far behindhand. For to all her entreaties, Lily only
answered, "There's time enough," or, "I'm going to do it in a minute,"
and so forth; while she watched the baby, and was rather disposed to
encourage her in her mischief. And when Miss Stanton put little Annie
up on the sofa, and began to tell her the story, Lily dropped her
sewing upon the floor, and, leaving her seat, hung over the arm of the
couch, listening and idling away her time. The other children were
amused, too, at Annie's pranks, especially at this last one, but they
kept on sewing industriously; even little Belle, who was unaccustomed
to it, laboriously and with much painstaking, setting in stitch after
stitch.

But even this good example had no effect on Lily; and seeing this, Aunt
Annie was not sorry when "the little hindering thing" declared she had
"better do wis" her mother. Mrs. Bradford thought so too; and carried
away the cunning but provoking monkey.

"O Lily!" said Maggie, reproachfully, "I thought you were not going to
bring Pro with you."

"Well, I didn't," said Lily. "I'm sure I've been sewing; at least, I've
sewed some; and I was just looking at Annie for a moment."

"For a good many moments, Lily," said Miss Stanton; "and even when you
had your work in your hand, you put in the stitches very slowly and
carelessly. See there, Lily," taking up the end of the seam on which
Lily was now working in great haste, in order to make up for lost
time, "what long, uneven stitches, my dear child."

"Oh, they'll do, Miss Annie," said Lily. "I'll do the rest better; but
I must have this seam done to-day."

Miss Stanton looked grave, and shook her head, and it was not a usual
thing for gay, merry Annie Stanton to look serious; and Lily saw that
she, like other people, did not think so lightly of this habit which
she considered of so little consequence.

For, as you will have perceived, Lily had already forgotten the sad
lesson she had received in the matter of the silver inkstand; and
Maggie, Bessie, and Belle afterwards acknowledged to one another that
their proverb picture had quite failed to produce the good effect they
had hoped for.

"Let's keep the sewing meeting in a little longer," she said, when the
hour was over, and the other children were preparing to put by their
work, which had made good progress during that time.

"No," said Miss Annie, "an hour's steady work is enough for any little
girl, and the others are tired. They have done enough for to-day."

"I think I'll do a little more," said Lily, who felt ashamed as she
compared her own work with that of her young companions, and saw how
much more they had accomplished.

"As you please," said Miss Stanton; "but I cannot attend to you longer,
Lily. I am going out to dinner, and must dress now. I hope you will do
better before next Thursday."

Lily went away with the others, intending to sew while they played,
at least, for a while; but, as you may believe, when she saw them all
engaged with their dolls, Procrastination came and put her virtuous
resolution to flight, whispering that she could make up for lost time
to-morrow; and, as usual, he had his way, and the petticoat was soon
altogether forgotten.



[Illustration]

VII.

_WHAT CAME OF THAT._


"Lily, darling," said Mrs. Norris, on Saturday morning, "let me see how
the little orphan's petticoat is coming on."

Lily went, rather sheepishly it must be confessed, and brought the
skirt to her mother.

"Is this all you have done?--this little piece of a seam?" said Mrs.
Norris. "And so badly too. Why, my child! what have you been thinking
of? You can sew far better than this."

Lily fidgeted, and hung her head.

"Did you not all sew yesterday, when you were at Mrs. Bradford's?"
asked her mamma, examining the work still more closely.

"Yes, mamma," murmured Lily.

"And did you not say Miss Annie showed you how it was to be done?"

"Yes, mamma."

"How is it, then, that you have done so very little, and that little so
badly?"

"Why, you see, mamma," said Lily, hesitatingly, "I did not have much
sewed, only a few stitches, and I wanted to catch up with the others;
and so--and so--so the stitches wouldn't come very nice."

"And why did you not have as much accomplished as the other children?
This is a very poor hour's work, dear."

"Yes, mamma; but Baby Annie was so funny, and I couldn't help looking
at her, and I thought I would have time enough. It was such a horridly
short hour; it was gone before I had time to do much."

"Ah, Lily," said Mrs. Norris, "it is the same old story, I fear.
Procrastination, and want of attention to the duty of the time, and
perhaps a little idleness and heedlessness added to them. These last
two are great helpers to procrastination, Lily; or perhaps I should
say, procrastination is a great helper to the sad fault of idleness.
It is so very easy, when we do not feel industrious, to believe that
another time will answer as well for the duty or work we should do
now. So the duty is put off; and then, when shame or need calls us to
the neglected task, it is hurried through heedlessly, and it may be so
badly that it is quite useless, or must be done over again, as this
must, my child."

"Mamma!" exclaimed Lily, in a tone in which there was displeasure as
well as distress.

"Yes, indeed, my daughter. I cannot allow this to be returned to Miss
Ashton with such work upon it. You are but a little girl, and no one
would expect to see such neat sewing come from your hands as from those
of an older person; but I should be ashamed to have it thought that my
Lily cannot do better than this."

"Then I'll never have the petticoat done at all," said Lily, her eyes
filling with tears. "It is 'most a week now since Miss Ashton gave them
to us, and if I have to take that out it will be all to do from the
beginning, and Maggie and Bessie and Belle have ever so much done on
theirs, and I shan't have one stitch done on mine."

Mrs. Norris looked grieved at the rebellious tone.

"Whose fault is it, Lily?" she asked sorrowfully.

Lily hesitated for a moment; then, for the first time in her life,
temper had the better of her love and reverence for her mother, and she
answered passionately,--

"_Yours_, if you make me pull that out!"

For a moment, surprise held Mrs. Norris silent and motionless. Never
before had Lily spoken so to her; never before had she been other than
her loving, docile little child, not always strictly obedient it might
be, but that was not so much from wilfulness as from that sad habit of
putting off,--of not obeying at once.

Then the surprise died out, and left only pain and grief; and while
Lily was wondering what mamma would do, could do, after such a dreadful
thing as that (for the very utterance of the words had sobered her, and
calmed down her temper), Mrs. Norris rose, and laying down the skirt,
without one word, without one look at her naughty little child, slowly
and sorrowfully left the room.

Lily stood still one moment, herself almost breathless with surprise
and dismay at what she had done. Had she really said such dreadful
words to mamma? and could mamma ever, ever forgive them? Her own dear,
loving, indulgent mamma to hear such words from the lips of her own,
only little daughter. What would papa say, what would Tom say, when
they should know it? what would Maggie and Bessie say? For when mamma
treated her as she deserved to be treated from this time forth, they
would surely know that something was wrong, and must learn what she
had done. And, oh! how angry God must be with her!

Some little boys and girls, who are in the habit of saying unkind and
disrespectful things to their mothers,--and, alas! there are too many
such,--may wonder at our Lily's distress and remorse; but Lily was not
accustomed to behave in this way to her mother; as you have heard, it
was the first time in her life that she had done so, and now she was
fairly frightened when she remembered how she had let passion master
her.

And what had brought this about?

Lily did not think of it just then, in all the tumult of feeling which
swelled her little heart; but had it not all arisen from the sad habit
of procrastination, of which she thought so lightly?

She felt as if she dared not run after her mother, and ask her
forgiveness. True, mamma always was ready to forgive her when she was
penitent after any naughtiness; but then--oh! she had never, never
done any thing like this before--and Lily threw herself down upon the
rug in a paroxysm of tears and sobs.

By and by the door was opened, and Tom came in. He stood still for a
moment in surprise at the state in which he found his little sister,
then came forward.

"My pet, what is it? What is the matter?" he said, stooping over her,
and trying to raise her. But Lily resisted; and so Tom sat down on the
floor beside her. A fresh burst of sobs came from Lily.

"What is it, dear?" asked Tom again. "Shall I call mamma?"

"Oh, no, no!" sobbed Lily. "She wouldn't c-c-come if you did. She'll
never want to come near m-me a-a-gain."

"Why? What is wrong?" asked Tom, whose fears that Lily was ill or had
hurt herself were now removed; for he saw that it was not bodily but
mental trouble which ailed her.

"Oh! I've done the most horrid, the most dreadful thing, Tom,"
confessed Lily, still hardly able to speak for the fast-coming tears
and sobs. "Oh! I spoke so wickedly to mamma; to my own dear, precious,
darling mamma. It was 'most worse than the inkstand, oh, it was, it
was! I'm so bad, oh, such a bad child!"

"Are you willing to tell me about it?" asked Tom, soothingly.

Lily raised her head, and threw it upon her brother's knee, allowing
him to wipe away her tears; although, as she told her story, they
flowed as fast as he dried them.

"Lily," said Tom, hoping that this might prove a good lesson to
her,--ah! how often had Lily's friends vainly hoped that the trouble
she brought upon herself might prove of service to her,--"Lily, how was
it that your work was so very badly done?"

And Lily made a fresh confession, Tom gently leading her back to what
he truly suspected to be the first cause of all this difficulty.

"Lily, dear," he said, "I am sure I do not want to seem to find fault
with you, or to reproach you when you are feeling so badly; but I would
like you to see how all this has come about. You think it such a small
fault, such a very little thing, to put off your duties, and even your
pleasures, if it happens to suit the convenience of the moment. As to
pleasures, I suppose that does not matter much, so long as we do not
let our want of punctuality interfere with the pleasure of others;
but although it may not be what we call a great sin in itself, just
see into what sin and sorrow procrastination may lead us. One little
duty neglected or put off may interfere with another; or, as you have
done, we may have to hurry through with it in such a manner as to
leave it worse than if we had not tried to do it at all. And so we are
disappointed and vexed, and perhaps we grow cross and ill-tempered, or
fly into a passion, and do some very wrong or unkind thing."

"Yes; or behave worse than any child that ever lived, to our darling,
lovely, precious mammas, just like me," broke forth poor, penitent
Lily.

"Yes," said Tom, gravely, but kindly, "you see to what it has led
you,--disrespect and impertinence to dear mamma. Is not this enough,
Lil darling, to show you how much pain and trouble may come from this
habit, and why you ought to try to break yourself of it? It is not only
the inconvenience which _must_ come from it, but the wrong which _may_
grow from it, which should teach us to try and keep it from gaining a
hold upon us. Do you see, Lil?"

"I should think I did," said Lily, dolefully, though she now sat
upright, but with a most rueful and despairing countenance. "I should
think it had made me bad enough to see what it can do. But, Tom,"--with
an admiring look at her brother from the midst of her gloom and
distress,--"but, Tom, what a wise boy you are! You talk as if you were
grown up; quite as if you were a minister; only I understand all you
say, and I don't understand all ministers say."

"No, I suppose not," said Tom, speaking more gayly; "but we will not
have any more preaching just now, only--I would like to tell you a
story, Lily. Shall I?"

"Yes, indeed, please do," answered Lily, brightening a little at the
prospect.

"It is a very sad story, but I thought it would just fit here," said
her brother.

"I'm not in a state of mind for a pleasant story," said Lily, who had
lately fallen into the way of using long words, and "grown-up" phrases,
after the example of her little friends, Maggie and Bessie.

"No, I suppose not," said Tom, suppressing all inclination to smile.
"Well, you know Will Sturges, Lily?"

"Oh, yes, that very sorry-looking boy, whose father is dead, you told
me," said Lily. "Tom, it always makes _me_ feel sorry to see him. He
hardly ever smiles, or looks happy. You know mamma told you to ask him
here often, and see if you could not brighten him up; but he don't seem
to brighten up at all. Bessie said he looked 'as if he had a weight on
his mind' all the time."

"Ah! that is just it," said Tom. "He has a terrible weight on his mind;
a grief that is there night and day. He thinks it is through his fault
that his father was killed; and I suppose that it is so. At least it
was brought about by a small neglect of his,--procrastination, or
putting off, Lily."

"Did he ever put off?" asked the little girl, opening great eyes of
wonder. "Why, he always seems so very punctual, so very ready just when
he ought to be."

"Yes," said Tom, "but he was not always so, dear. Never was a more
unpunctual, a more dilatory boy than Will Sturges used to be. Poor dear
fellow! he has learned better by such a sad lesson. I hope my little
sister may never have the like."

"I'm sure," said Lily, "I don't know who has had a sad lesson, if I
have not."

"Ah! but, Lily," said her brother, "you have yet the time and chance
to show you are sorry, and want to try to do better--if you really do
repent--and to gain forgiveness from the one you have injured,--dear
mamma; but poor Will, he never had the chance to make up for his
neglect of his duty."

"Tell me," begged Lily, all curiosity and interest.

"Well," said Tom, "Will Sturges used to be, as he is now, about the
brightest and quickest boy in our class."

Lily shook her head doubtfully at this; it was all Tom's modesty, she
thought, and more than she could conveniently believe. Tom understood
her, but continued his story without interruption.

"But, for all that, he never was at the head of his class, nor even
took a very high standing in it; for never was such a boy for being
behindhand as Will Sturges. Every thing that could be put off was
put off, and he never seemed to like to attend to any duty or task
at the proper moment. It was not laziness either, for he would leave
some small task which should have been done at once, perhaps to take
up one that was far harder, but which might well have waited till he
had finished the first. He never could be persuaded to attend to his
regular lessons _first_, but would let himself be led away from them,
not always by play or pleasure, but often to take up some book which
there was no need for him to study, always believing and saying that
there was 'time enough'--'no hurry'--'by and by he would do it,' and so
forth; until, as you may suppose, his lessons were left until the last
moment, when they would be scrambled through, and Will just contrived
to keep himself from disgrace. It was so with every thing; he never
was ready in time for either work or pleasure. If he were going on a
journey, or any excursion, ten to one but he was left behind by being
too late for the boat or train; all his own fault too, for his father
and mother used to take pains enough to have him ready in time. When
Mr. Peters took the school on a picnic or frolic, it was always a part
of the entertainment to see Will come tearing down the dock, or by
the side of the cars just at the last moment, often _after_ the last
moment, and when it was too late. No boy in school had so many tardy
marks; none lost so many books, papers, and pencils, because he always
thought it was time enough to put them in their places by and by. No
lesson did him any good, no disappointment or inconvenience he brought
upon himself seemed to cure him; until at last the sad thing happened
of which I am going to tell you.

"One afternoon his father said to him, 'Will, if you are going out,
I wish these papers posted at the station. Take them with you, and
attend to them at once, my son, before you go upon your own errand.
They must go to grandfather by to-night's train. Can I depend upon you
for once?' 'Yes, indeed, you may, sir,' promised Will, meaning what
he said too; and when he left the house, he intended to go directly
to the post-office station. But he had not gone far when he met a
friend; and this boy begged him to go home with him, and see a fine
new dog he had just bought. Will hesitated, looked at his watch, and
found that there were still nearly two hours before the next mail would
leave the station, that mail by which the papers must go if they were
to reach the evening train. 'There'll be plenty of time, and all papa
cared for was that they should reach the station before the mail left
it,' he said to himself; and he went with his friend. He stayed with
him more than an hour; then he said good-by, having, as he promised
himself, more than time enough to reach the post, and mail his papers.
But, just as he was about leaving the house, a little brother of his
friend fell downstairs, hurting himself very badly; and, in the hurry
and distress of the moment, he was begged to run for the doctor. He
forgot his papers--indeed, how could one refuse such an errand at such
a time?--and ran for the doctor, who lived far off, and in quite a
different direction from the station. This last was not his fault, and
if he had obeyed his father at once all would have been right; but,
what with one thing and another, he was too late, and the mail had
left. He tried all he could to send the papers by that evening train,
but it was useless, for he could find no one to take charge of them,
and he knew it would not do to trust them to chance hands. So he could
do nothing but take them home again, which he did, and confessed his
fault. His father looked very grave; but, as poor Will has often told
me, did not scold him, only saying, 'Then I shall probably have to
leave town myself to-morrow, and it will be a great inconvenience to
me. I fear, my boy, that you will never learn the value of punctuality
and the evil of procrastination until they are taught you by some
severe lesson.' Poor, dear old Will! what a lesson that was to be!
Well, his father was telegraphed the next day to come himself, since
the papers had not arrived; and he left his home, Lily, never to come
back. The train by which he went met with a fearful accident, and
Mr. Sturges was killed in an instant. And from that day Will has been
the sad, melancholy fellow you see him; for he blames himself for his
father's death, and says but for him he would have remained at home,
and so been safe. And, Lily, we must see that it is so, and that, if
Will had not put off the duty he should have attended to, all this
would probably never have taken place. If you could hear him talk about
it!"

Lily drew a long sigh, partly from pity for Will Sturges, partly from
dread of what sorrows might come to herself if she were not cured of
this sad fault, then said,--

"But, after all, Tom, he was not so bad to his father as I was to
mamma, for he did not mean to be naughty, and I'm afraid I did. Do you
know, I was in a real passion, a _passionate_ passion, with mamma. O,
Tom! what shall I do?"

"What ought you to do first?" asked Tom.

"Go and ask mamma to forgive me; but how can she, Tom?" asked Lily,
sobbing again.

"Mamma would forgive any thing, if she thought you were truly sorry,"
said her brother.

"I'm sure I am," answered the little girl. "If she could see in my
heart, she would know it very well."

"You can show her what is in your heart, dear, by letting her see that
you are really trying to break yourself of the troublesome fault which
has led you to behave so to her."

Lily threw her arms around her brother's neck, and kissed him; the
next moment she was gone in search of her mamma. When she reached her,
she could find no words, none but a piteous "O mamma!" But her voice
and her face spoke for her; and in another moment she was clinging
fast around her mother's neck, her dear, kind arms about her, her kiss
of forgiveness on the little head which buried itself in shame and
contrition upon her shoulder.

But, though Lily was forgiven, she could not recover her spirits all
that day, a thing very unusual with her; but then, as she said, she had
"never been so wickedly naughty before," and she felt as if she could
not do enough to make up to her mother for her offence.

She was rather droll, too, as she was apt to be, when by any means she
fell into low spirits.

When her papa came home, she did not go to meet him with her usual
light and dancing step; and he missed that, and the joyous face with
which she was accustomed to greet him.

"Why," he said, "what ails my little sunbeam to-day?" for Mr. Norris
had heard of Belle's idea about the sunbeams in the family, and he
delighted to call his Lily so.

"I'm not a sunbeam to-day, papa," said Lily.

"You're not a little cloud, I hope," said papa.

"Oh, no!" answered Lily, mournfully, "not even so good as a cloud.
I've been so very, very naughty that I believe I'm a--a"--Lily was
racking her imagination for a comparison that should seem severe enough
enough--"I've been quite a January thaw, papa."

Mr. Norris opened the door of the coat closet, and hastily put his head
therein, taking a remarkably long time to hang up his hat, Lily thought.

Now you must know that a January thaw was Lily's idea of all that was
most disagreeable in the weather. For, the last winter, she had had a
severe attack of diphtheria; and just as she was well enough to go out,
a long spell of damp, foggy days set in, keeping her a prisoner for
some weeks longer, and depriving her of many little pleasures on which
she had set her heart.

"She must not go outside of the door until this January thaw is over,"
the doctor said several times; and Lily had come to look upon this as
the very worst specimen of weather.

"Don't you scorn me, papa?" she asked, when she had made her confession
to him.

"No, I do not scorn you by any means, Lily," he answered; "and I am
glad to see that you do really feel your fault, for it gives me hope
that you may try to correct it with more earnestness than you have yet
done."

And then he talked to her for some time longer, setting before her very
plainly all the trouble and inconvenience, yes, and sin too, which
might come from indulgence in this habit of procrastination.

Certainly our Lily did not want for teachers, both wise and kind; for
her friends, young and old, seemed all to have set themselves to give
her help in the right way, if she would but heed them.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



VIII.

_A LITTLE TALK._


It did really seem now that Lily was taking herself to task in earnest,
and it was surprising to see how much she improved during the next
few days. There was no more dilly-dallying with any little duty or
task she had to perform; if her mother or any other person asked some
small service from her, she ran promptly and at once; when Nora called
her to make ready for school or her walk, there was no more stopping
"only to do this," or "just to look at that." She was not once tardy
at school; not once late at meals, a thing which her father disliked
extremely, but to which Lily had until now paid but little heed. Play
and nonsense were given up at school, save at the proper times, and
she came to her classes with her lessons correctly prepared; for, when
Lily failed here, it was not from stupidity, or want of quickness,
but simply from idleness, or her habit of saying "there's time enough
still."

The little petticoat, too, was progressing nicely, with a prospect of
being finished in time after all; for Lily had begged her mamma to
divide it off into certain portions, so much to be done on each day,
that she might know her appointed task, and so be sure to have it
completed. And she persevered, though the little unaccustomed fingers
did grow rather tired every day before they were through with the
allotted portion of seam or hem; for, having been so idle, or rather
procrastinating, she found it hard to make up for lost time. Now she
regretted that she had not taken the advice of her mother and teacher,
and chosen one of the little aprons, instead of the petticoat.

Nora could not bear to see her plodding away over it, and more than
once begged Mrs. Norris to let her help Lily, or "give her a lift," as
she called it.

But Mrs. Norris refused, for she had told Lily that she would not allow
this; and much as she would have liked to relieve her little girl, she
did not think it best, and hoped that the burden she had brought upon
herself might be of service to her.

However, when the next Thursday came, and Lily was to go to the second
"sewing meeting," she was very glad that she had so much done on her
petticoat.

"For I would be too ashamed to go to-day if I had not done better than
I did last week, mamma," she said. "And two or three of the children
in our class have finished their work already; and here is old me with
mine not quite half done."

Lily was very "scornful," as she would have called it, of herself in
these days, and rather delighted in heaping uncomplimentary names and
reproaches upon her own head.

When she reached Mrs. Bradford's house at the appointed time, she was
rather dismayed to find that, in spite of her industry of the last few
days, the other children had accomplished much more than she had done.
Maggie's skirt was so near completion that she had but a little piece
of the hem to do; and she had only left this, in order that she might,
as she said keep company with the rest in the sewing meeting. And
Maggie had made a button-hole! Yes, actually made a button-hole! It was
her first attempt, but still it was tolerably well done. It had cost
her a good deal of trouble too, and even some few tears; but she had
persevered, and now was glad that she had done so.

"Patience and Perseverance conquer all things, you know," she said to
Lily, when Bessie, with some pardonable pride in her sister's success,
displayed this triumph of art; "but I really thought that button-hole
must conquer me, only I wouldn't let it, if I did cry a little about
it."

Bessie, too, had nearly finished her bag; and though Belle was rather
behind the others, she had a fair prospect of being quite through with
her task in time.

They all encouraged Lily, and told her she might still finish her
petticoat by the appointed day, if she would but continue to do as well
as she was now doing.

The sewing meeting passed off this day without hindrance; for Baby
Annie was not admitted; and there was nothing else especially to
take off Lily's attention from the task in hand. Aunt Annie read
an interesting story, it was true, but all the little girls sewed
industriously as they listened; and at the end of the hour Maggie's
petticoat and Bessie's bag were completed, while those of Belle and
Lily had made fair progress.

"I have only three more days," said the latter, "for you know we have
to give in the things on Tuesday, and this is Thursday."

Lily's tone was rather hopeless.

"I think you might finish your skirt in two days, Lily," said Miss
Stanton. "Two hours' steady work such as you have given to it to-day
would be quite time enough. If I were you I should sew one hour
to-morrow, and one on Saturday, so that you may have little or nothing
for your last day, Monday."

"Why wouldn't it do just as well to keep some for Monday?" asked Lily,
folding up her work.

"Only that if you could finish it in the next two days it would be
better," answered Miss Annie, "because something might happen to
prevent you from doing so at the last moment."

"Don't have any more putting-off fits, Lily," said Maggie. "Don't you
find 'distance lends enchantment to the view' of Pro? What are you
laughing at, Aunt Annie? There is such a proverb, for I read it this
very morning, only I didn't think I should have a good chance to use it
so soon. I'll show it to you, so you need not think I made it up."

"Yes, I know," said Annie, catching the rosy, eager face between her
two hands, and lovingly kissing either dimpled cheek. "It is an old,
old proverb, and one very well known, dear Maggie; and let us hope that
Procrastination may indeed look so much better at a distance than near
at hand that Lily may keep it there, and not let it come near her."

"Aunt Annie," said Bessie, "you must be a very laughable person, for so
often you laugh at things that we don't think funny at all."

"That is true," answered Aunt Annie, whose eyes were brimming with
mischief, while she laughed more merrily than ever.

"Well," said Lily, "I did not quite understand what Maggie meant till
Miss Annie said that, but I do know now; and, indeed, I do think Pro is
better far off than close by. I'm sure I am a great deal better anyway,
and I shall never let him come near me again."

Bessie stood looking gravely at her as she spoke.

"I see you don't quite trust me, Bessie," said Lily, "but you'll see.
If you only knew all that I know, you'd learn what good reason I have
for believing I shall never procrastinate again; but I'd rather not
tell you what it is."

For Lily did really shrink from letting her little playmates know of
her sad behavior to her dear mother, although she could not refrain
from alluding to it in this mysterious manner.

"You know you're all coming to my house to spend the day with me on
Saturday," she continued; "and before you come, I shall have the
petticoat all finished, and will show it to you."

Lily kept faithfully to her resolution upon the next day, sewing
industriously for a full hour, and then putting by her work with the
consciousness that she had accomplished all that could be expected of
her for that day. Perhaps she had been further encouraged to do so
by hearing most of her young schoolmates say that morning that their
little garments were quite finished, and ready to be handed in to Miss
Ashton on Tuesday. Even Mabel Walton, although she had been quite ill
with a bad cold, had completed her bag; and little Belle hoped and
expected to put the last stitches in her's on that afternoon.

"Is your apron done, Nellie?" asked Lily of Nellie Ransom.

"Not quite," answered Nellie, "and I shall not finish it before
to-morrow, for my two little cousins are in town to-day, and I must
give up this afternoon to them. I am glad that I took the apron instead
of the petticoat, for I am sure I should not have had time to make the
last."

"You could have tried," said Gracie. "I'm sure a petticoat is not so
much to make. Mine was all done on Saturday evening, and I did not
have any help or showing either. Mamma is away, and I wouldn't let my
nurse help me, but did it every bit myself. But then every one says I'm
uncommonly handy with my needle;" and Gracie gave her head the toss
which always excited the displeasure of her schoolmates.

"Well," said Nellie, coloring and hesitating a little, "I felt pretty
sure that I could not make the petticoat in time, and I thought it was
better to take that which I knew I could do; and now you see I should
feel badly if I could not bring in my work when the rest do."

"Yes, and you were very right," said Belle. "I told Aunt Margaret about
you, and she said you were a wise, prudent little girl."

"I wouldn't be such a slow poke as Nellie, would you?" whispered Gracie
to Lily, when Nellie had moved away a little.

"I s'pose I'd be as I was made, and I s'pose you'd be as you were
made," said Lily, loftily, for her "scorn," as she would have called
it, was always excited by Gracie's attempts to exalt herself above her
companions and schoolmates, and it rather delighted her to put Gracie
down.

This was difficult, however. Gracie's self-sufficiency was so great
that only a very hard blow could overthrow it, even for a moment; and
Lily was too much afraid of being considered an anti-politer to speak
her mind as plainly as she might otherwise have done.

So Gracie was not at all rebuffed by the answer she received; and,
so far from taking it as the reproof Lily intended it to be, only
replied,--

"Yes, of course; but I'm very glad I was made smarter than Nellie. Why,
sometimes I can learn three lessons while she is learning one, she is
so slow and stupid!"

"She is _not_ stupid," retorted Lily, forgetting her determination to
"be courteous" in her indignation; and, indeed, Gracie often made it
difficult for those about her to keep to this resolution. "She is _not_
stupid, and if she is a little bit slow about learning, she always
knows her lessons perfectly, and never misses; no, never. You know
she's been head of the spelling class for most a year; you know it,
Gracie, and Miss Ashton says she is one of her very best scholars. And
the whole world knows"--Lily was waxing energetic in her defence, and
more earnest to be emphatic than strictly according to facts--"the
whole world knows that she writes the best compositions in our class
since Maggie Bradford left."

"Pooh! I never thought Maggie's compositions were so very great," said
Gracie.

"That shows you're no judge, and have very little common sense,"
said Lily severely. "I'm sure no one could write better poetry than
that poem she wrote for me, and you might be proud if you could make
such lovely verses. But I don't want to quarrel with you, Gracie, so
we'd better not talk any more about it, 'cause I do feel like saying
something not courteous to you."

Gracie in her turn would have liked to say something that was not very
pleasant, but she felt that she could not well do so when Lily declared
her intention of not quarrelling, and retired in such a graceful manner
from the threatened dispute. Still she did feel that somehow Lily had
had the best of it, and had rather taken her down, as she was apt to do
when Gracie displayed her vanity and self-conceit.

Moreover, clever and bright though she might be at her lessons, Gracie
was not very quick at words; and she often felt that Lily had the
advantage of her in their too frequent little disputes. And now while
she was hesitating as to whether she should make a sharp answer, and
what that answer should be, Miss Ashton came in and rang the bell;
so that the opportunity, or I should say temptation, for further
contention was at an end.

"I hope," said Miss Ashton, when the time came for dismissing school,
"I hope that not one of my little girls will fail me on Tuesday. I
should be very much disappointed, and mortified too, if I did not
receive each garment quite finished and ready for use. Some of you I
know are already through with the work which you have undertaken; and
after what I have said, I believe and hope there is no one who will be
willing to bring hers unfinished."

Her eye rested on Lily as she spoke. Perhaps she was hardly conscious
that it was so, but she almost involuntarily turned to her as the one
who was most likely to fail; and, however that might be, the little
girl felt herself called upon to answer, not only for herself, but for
the whole class.

"We'll be very sure to be ready, Miss Ashton," she said; "and I will
too. I see you are afraid of me, but you need not be, for I b'lieve I'm
quite cured now of putting off."

Miss Ashton smiled, but it was rather a doubtful smile, for she feared
that Lily was too confident of herself, and the strength of her own
resolutions.

So, as I have said, all this made Lily feel very industrious and prompt
that day; and as soon as she was at liberty for the work, she set to
her task at once, and accomplished it without delay.

But notwithstanding this, the day did not pass by without a fall into
the old bad habit, as you shall learn.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



IX.

_SATURDAY MORNING'S WORK._


Saturday came, a bright and beautiful day, as Lily rejoiced to see when
she ran to the window and peeped out as soon as she was out of her
little bed.

For she was to have quite a party of children to spend the day with
her, and she had been very anxious that the weather should be pleasant.

Maggie and Bessie, Belle and Mabel, and Nellie and Carrie Ransom were
all coming, and they expected to have a great frolic. All Lily's
playmates were fond of visiting her, not only because they loved her,
and her home was a pleasant one, but also because there was such a
grand play-room in Mr. Norris' house.

This was a great open attic hall or gallery. The house was a large one,
and this open space ran across the whole width of it, the attic rooms
being at either end, and a staircase coming up at the side. But this
was shut in by a door at the foot of the flight, so that it was quite
secluded, and considered rather an advantage, as it afforded a kind of
retiring room. There were large bins ranged on the opposite side from
the stairs, which had once been used to hold coal and wood; but they
were empty now, and the top of the lids afforded capital seats for the
spectators who witnessed certain performances which frequently took
place in the open arena. Never was there such a famous garret, or one
which had seen greater sport and fun.

Here the children could make as much noise as they pleased without fear
of disturbing older people; here there was plenty of space for playing
"tag," "hunt the slipper," "chairs," or any other frolicsome game;
here they acted proverbs, charades, and so forth. These last were now
their favorite amusements, and Mr. Norris' attic was considered the
best place for their performance.

For, added to these other advantages, there was also a room devoted to
the storing of all manner of odds and ends which were not in general
use, and were stored there to be out of the way; and with certain of
these articles the children were allowed to do as they pleased, and
to make them serviceable in their games and plays. Among them were
two or three old trunks full of old party dresses and ribbons; and
any little girl can imagine what delightful means these afforded for
"dressing up." There were flags, too, of various sizes and conditions,
old-fashioned curtain fixtures, and even a tent of striped red and
white canvas. All these Lily and her playmates were allowed to convert
to their own uses, so long as they destroyed nothing; and many an hour
did patient Nora, ever devoted to the pleasure of her nursling, spend
in putting them to rights after they had been thoroughly rummaged and
scattered abroad.

Chief among the treasures in the attic was an old rocking-horse which
had belonged to Tom; at least he had once been a rocking-horse, but
he had now not only lost his rockers, but also his hind legs. Strange
to say, however, this did not at all interfere with his usefulness;
perhaps it rather added to it, for when he was supposed to fill his
original character, namely, that of a horse, he was accommodated with
two imaginary limbs in the place of the missing members, and he never
complained that they did not answer the purpose quite as well.

The number of uses to which he was put, and the characters he was
supposed to represent, would be impossible to tell. Sometimes he was a
prince, and sometimes a beggar or a robber; sometimes a servant, and
sometimes a lover or husband; sometimes a little boy, at others a cross
old man; again he was converted into an elephant by having the end of
a curved iron pipe thrust into his mouth, or into a camel by a pillow
upon his back; at times, a fierce wild beast, growling and raging; at
others, the meekest of sheep or cows, mild and gentle in all respects.
At one time he spoke in a squeaking but plaintive voice; at another in
what was supposed to be a deep, roaring bass.

I forgot to say that he had lost his tail as well as his legs; and
his beauty was farther increased by the fact that Maggie and Lily,
finding his ears inconvenient for the proper fitting of crowns, caps,
wreaths, and other decorations, had cropped them close to his head. He
had also been shorn of his hair in various places, which gave him a
mangy and distressed appearance; so that, save in the eyes of his most
intimate and attached friends, he was not a horse of very fine personal
appearance.

This gallant and accommodating steed rejoiced in the name of Sir Percy
Hotspur; but this was laid aside when convenience demanded it, and he
obligingly answered to the name of the moment.

Dear to the hearts of Lily and her young friends was Sir Percy Hotspur;
and he was always tenderly cared for after he was through with his
performances, being left to repose in the intervals in a corner of the
attic, with his head upon an old sofa pillow, and carefully covered
with a disused carriage robe.

What a long history of an old rocking-horse, you may say, and so it is;
but, you see, Sir Percy Hotspur played a very important part in Lily's
life, and she was deeply attached to him, and as this is her story,
whatever concerned her deserves our attention.

With so many attractions, you may believe that an invitation to Lily's
house was always considered desirable, and eagerly accepted.

Never, I think, were four little girls who found more enjoyment in
their small lives and in one another, than our Maggie and Bessie,
Belle and Lily. They were so much together that whatever interested
one interested all the others, and any pleasure was increased if they
could all share it together.

But we must go to the history of this Saturday.

"Lily," said Mrs. Norris, as the family left the breakfast table, "it
is nine o'clock now; and if I were you, I would finish that little
petticoat at once. I think you can do it in an hour, and then it will
be off your mind and conscience; and after you have practised for half
an hour, you can enjoy yourself for the rest of the day as you please."

"I don't believe the children will come before twelve o'clock, do you,
mamma?" asked Lily.

"No, probably not."

"Then I have three hours," said Lily. "That is lots of time, and I
shall be sure to have it done, even if I don't begin right away."

"Take care, Lily," said her mother, lifting a warning finger, and
shaking her head with a smile which told the little girl what that
warning meant.

"Don't be afraid, mamma," she answered "I'll be sure to do it this
morning; and even if I did not quite finish it, I have Monday too."

Again Mrs. Norris shook her head, and this time without the smile;
for she plainly saw that Lily was in one of her careless, putting off
moods, and she feared the work would suffer.

"I am going right away, mamma," said Lily, as she saw how grave her
mother looked; and away she danced, singing as she went.

But as she ran through the hall, she met her brother Tom with his
puppy, which he was going to take for a walk. Lily never saw the little
dog without stopping to have a romp with him, and the playful little
fellow was growing fond of her already, and was always eager for the
frolic with which she indulged him.

He sprang upon her now, whining and crying with pleasure at seeing her,
and Lily stopped, of course, to pet him, and then began racing up and
down through the hall; while Tom good-naturedly waited, and stood by,
laughing at the antics of the two frolicsome young things. Gay and
careless as the puppy himself, Lily had no more thought for the task
awaiting her.

I do not know that she should be very much blamed for this; but few
little girls who would not have done the same, and Lily knew that there
was much more than time enough for the completion of the petticoat. But
I want to show you how the moments, yes, and the hours too, slipped
away; how little bits of idling and procrastination stole away the time
before she was aware, and in the end brought her into sad trouble.

A quarter of an hour went by in Lily's frolic with the puppy, until at
last Tom said he must go.

"I would take you with me, Lil," he said, "only that I know mamma
wishes you to do your work."

"Yes," said Lily reluctantly; and but for very shame she would have
begged to put off her work and accompany him.

Tom and his dog were gone, and Lily sauntered towards the sitting-room.

"I don't feel a bit like sewing now," she said to herself. "I could
have gone with Tom, and been back time enough to finish my petticoat.
Every one is so particular about my putting-off, and they never want me
to do any thing _I_ want to. But I s'pose I'll have to finish the old
thing now."

Lily, you see, was allowing temptation to creep in. She did not still
its first whisperings, but suffered them to make her feel discontented
and fretful.

She had stopped at the foot of the staircase, and with both hands
clasped about the newel-post, was swaying herself back and forth, when
Nora spoke to her from the head of the stairs.

"Miss Lily," she said, by way of a gentle reminder, "do you need any
help with your work?"

"No, I b'lieve not," answered the little girl. "If I do, I'll come to
you. I was just thinking where I'd go to sew."

"Will you come to the nursery? It is all put in order," asked Nora,
anxious to carry her point, and seeing from Lily's manner that her old
enemy was busy with her.

"I'll see presently," said Lily. "I'm just going to the little parlor
to look for my petticoat. I forget what I did with it yesterday when I
had done sewing."

And, leaving her hold of the banisters, she crossed the hall. But as
she passed the open door of the drawing-room, the piano caught her eye,
and turned her thoughts into another channel.

"I think I'll go and practise first," she said. "It's all the same
thing, and I can do the petticoat afterwards. I have just the same
time."

This was true enough, but Lily was not wise, for she liked to practise,
and she did not like to sew; and it would have been better for her to
have done with the least pleasant duty first.

She placed herself at the piano, and, I must do her the justice to say,
practised steadily for half an hour.

"It is ten minutes of ten," she said, looking at the clock. "Oh,
there's lots of time yet; I can stay here a little longer. I'm going to
practise this new piece some more."

This new piece was one Miss Ashton had given her the day before, so
that she had had but one lesson on it; and it had all the charm of
novelty to her, besides being, as she thought, the prettiest piece she
had ever played.

"I'll astonish Miss Ashton by letting her see how well I have learned
it," she said to herself; and she remained at the piano, playing over
and over again the lively little waltz, until her mother's voice at the
door recalled her to her neglected duty.

"Lily," it said, "you have been practising more than half an hour,
dear."

"Yes, mamma," said Lily, glancing over at the clock again; "more than
three quarters; but my new music is so very pretty, and I want Miss
Ashton to be quite surprised with my knowing it so well."

"I am afraid Miss Ashton may have a less agreeable surprise if you do
not take care, my darling," said Mrs. Norris gravely.

"Oh, you mean about the petticoat, mamma; but there's lots and lots
of time. I b'lieve Pro has had hold of me this morning," said Lily,
jumping down from the piano stool, "and I'll come right away; but you
see I was so very sure about having time enough to-day, mamma, that
it did not make so much difference. There's a good deal of time yet
to-day, and I have Monday too."

"Put away your music, Lily," said her mother; and she stood waiting
while Lily laid in its place the music she would have left scattered
over the piano. Perhaps Mrs. Norris thought it just as well not to lose
sight again of her heedless little daughter until she had her settled
at her work.

"Bring your work-box to my room," said Mrs. Norris. "I have something
to do there, and we will have a nice, cosey time."

Lily ran for the box, and was back with it in a moment, for as she went
she said to herself,--

"I b'lieve I've let Pro steal a good many little thefts already this
morning; now I'll just send him off right away. I have plenty of time
yet, but now I really must make haste."

Lily's work-box was of rather formidable dimensions; indeed, some
people thought it but one stage removed from a small trunk. It had
been presented to her by an old lady with whom she was a great pet,
and although it was extremely inconvenient in regard to size and
weight, it was very handsomely fitted up with mother-of-pearl and
silver, and contained every implement which could be needed by the most
accomplished needle-woman. Upon the lid was a silver plate, with "For
an industrious little girl" engraved upon it.

Now as we know, our Lily was by no means an industrious little girl;
nevertheless she took great pride and delight in this "ark," as
Tom privately called it; and, although she had two or three other
work-boxes and baskets much more suitable and convenient in point of
size, she made use of this one whenever she could do so.

"It held so much," she said, and indeed it did; and here the petticoat
had reposed in the intervals when she was not busy with it; that is,
when Lily had put it away in a proper manner.

She followed her mother with this ponderous treasure clasped in both
arms; and, when she reached mamma's room, brought her little chair, and
opened the box.

"Why," she said, when she had removed the upper tray which held all the
dainty implements, and looked into the empty space beneath, "why, where
is my petticoat? Somebody has gone and taken it out. Mamma, did you
take it?"

"No, dear, I have not touched it," said Mrs. Norris. "Did you put it
away yesterday?"

"Yes, mamma, you know I always put it in here. I'll ask Nora;" and
away ran Lily to the nursery.

"Nora, did you take my orphan petticoat out of my work-box?" she asked.

"No, indeed, dear; and why would I touch it, unless you wanted some
help with it?" answered Nora.

Back went Lily to her mamma's room, troubled and indignant.

"Mamma, some one has taken it. I never knew any thing so mean. Nora
don't know any thing about it."

"Who would take it, Lily? I certainly did not, and you say Nora did
not. Papa or Tom could have no reason for touching it. I will tell you
what I think."

"What mamma?" asked Lily, anxiously.

"That you could not have put it away yesterday when you stopped sewing
upon it. Think a moment, my daughter; can you distinctly recollect
putting it away in your box?"

Lily stood considering one moment; then dismay and shame gradually
overspread her face.

"No, mamma, I just believe I did not. When I was going to put away my
petticoat in the box, I heard papa come in, and I wanted to know why
he had come home so early; so I thought I would just wait one moment,
and put it away when I had asked him, and I dropped it on the floor and
ran to papa. And you know he had come to take us to see those pictures,
and I never thought another thing about the petticoat. I quite forgot
I had not put it away when I told you I had. I will go and look in the
sitting-room where I was sewing yesterday."

But her search proved fruitless, although she certainly did look
thoroughly through every part of the room. Nora was called, and took
her part, but all in vain; and at last mamma came. Mrs. Norris rather
felt that she should let Lily be at all the trouble of finding the
petticoat for herself; but the child seemed so grieved that she could
not bear to punish her in that way. But mamma was not more successful
than her little daughter and the nurse had been, although in the end
every servant was questioned, and every room searched.

"It is very strange. Are you quite sure you have not seen it, Hannah?"
asked Mrs. Norris of her chambermaid, a rather dull girl, who had been
but a short time in the house. "Have you seen nothing of the kind lying
about in the sitting-room, or did you not touch Miss Lily's box?"

"Miss Lily's harnsum box, is it, ma'am? Sure, and I did see that a
sittin' on the floor, where I thought you'd not be plased to see it at
all at all, so I just lifted it to the table where I seen it sittin'
before; but ne'er a thing I seen beside it. It wouldn't be Miss Lily's
work what I found the puppy a pullin' round the ary, ma'am,--the
mischavous baste that he is, my heart's most broke with him,--an' I
didn't take heed what it was, but seein' it that dirty, I just put it
in the basket with the siled clothes."

Away went Lily, Nora after her; and, sure enough, the latter soon
fished out the unfortunate little petticoat from the soiled-clothes
basket. Now, indeed, Lily was distressed, and cried bitterly, for
the thing was in no state to be touched until it had been washed. It
was easy to imagine how it had happened. The puppy, who was growing
very mischievous, and who, like many another young thing, was fond of
a forbidden plaything, had probably found the petticoat lying where
Lily had heedlessly dropped it upon the floor; and, watching his
opportunity, had dragged it from the room, down stairs, and out into
the back area, where Hannah had rescued it, happily before it was torn
and chewed to bits, but not before it was sadly blackened and soiled.

"Now don't you cry, honey Miss Lily, and I'll just wash it right out
for you, and have it back as clane as a new pin," said the good-natured
Hannah. "If I'd known it yesterday, sure I'd a done it then; but niver
a wurd did I think of its bein' your work, and it in that state. Och,
what a crathur it is, that botherin' little baste!" she added, as she
went off with the melancholy looking petticoat in her hand.

[Illustration: Lily Norris.     p. 174.]

"Will she have it washed and dried and ironed in time for me to finish
it before the children come, mamma?" asked the sobbing Lily, burying
her head in her mother's lap.

"I am afraid not, dear," answered her mother, with a tender, pitying
touch upon the thoughtless little head which brought so much trouble
upon itself, "so much time has been lost in hunting for your work, and
it is now nearly eleven o'clock."

"If I'd only gone to my sewing at first as you advised me, then I'd
have found out sooner what that horrid little old hateful puppy had
done, and Hannah might have washed the petticoat for me in time,"
moaned Lily. "I wish Tom never had the puppy."

"I do not think we must blame the puppy, my darling," said her mamma.
"He only acted according to his nature; and he found the skirt, you
know, where it should not have been."

"Yes," said Lily, "poor little cunning fellow; it wasn't his fault.
It was all horrid old me, with my putting off that I never shall cure
myself of; no, never, never. It is too mean that I cannot finish that
tiresome petticoat this morning."

"Happily, dear, the consequences of your fault are not yet without
remedy, and you may still make up for lost time, unless something
should happen which we do not foresee; but you have only this one more
chance, Lily. Take care that you do not neglect it, or be tempted to
procrastinate again."

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER X.

_SATURDAY AFTERNOON'S PLAY._


Mrs. Norris was right; for although Hannah did her best, she found it
impossible to have the petticoat dry enough to iron so that Lily might
have some time to sew upon it before her young friends arrived.

As soon as she had at all recovered her spirits, the little girl
relieved her mind in some degree by making frequent rushes to the head
of the back stairs to see if Hannah were coming with the petticoat; and
once she persuaded her mother to let her go to the laundry that she
might "be encouraged by seeing how much Hannah had done."

But she did not receive much encouragement from the sight of the still
dripping garment, which Hannah had hung before the fire that it might
dry the more quickly. Hannah took a cheerful view of the subject,
saying she would have it ready very soon, and there was "lots of
time afore Tuesday mornin'." But Lily was at last learning the folly
of believing in "lots of time" to come; and she shook her head in a
melancholy manner, and bade Hannah "take a lesson of her misfortunes,
and never procrastinate."

She returned to the nursery in a very low state of mind, when Nora told
her she would dress her at once if she chose, so that if she had any
time to spare she might employ it on the skirt when it was dry.

Lily gratefully accepted the offer, but it proved of no use as far as
the petticoat was concerned, for she had bade her little friends to "be
sure and come by twelve o'clock," and her mamma having seconded the
invitation, they had been allowed to do so; and soon after twelve,
Maggie, Bessie, Belle, and Mabel arrived, just as Hannah brought up the
petticoat, fairly smoking from her hot irons, and five minutes after,
the rest of the young party made their appearance.

The clouds passed from Lily's face and mind at the sight of all these
"sunbeams," and, consoling herself with the recollection that after all
she still had Monday afternoon, she was presently as merry and full of
spirits as usual.

Happily not one of the other children thought of asking her if the
petticoat were finished, so that she was spared the mortification of
confessing that it was not.

It was proposed that they should all amuse themselves downstairs until
the early dinner, which had been ordered for them at one o'clock; after
which they would go to the grand play-room in the attic, Maggie having
provided herself with some fresh proverbs and charades, which they were
to play.

"Harry and Fred are coming over this afternoon, and we want to make a
ship in the lumber-room. You won't mind, will you?" asked Tom, who was
taking his lunch at the little girls' dinner.

Doubtful looks were exchanged between some of them. Maggie's looks were
not at all doubtful; her face was one of blank dismay at the proposal.
Playing charades and proverbs was all very well when there were only
those of her own age to look on; doing it before these big boys was
quite another thing.

"Not if you don't like it, Maggie," said Tom, noticing her annoyance;
"but we wouldn't disturb you, and anyhow I am sure you need not
mind having us see you. We'll be busy at the carpenter's bench and
tool-chest, and you need not heed us if we do see."

"I'm--I'm afraid you'll--you'll laugh at us," hesitated Maggie,
coloring.

"If we laugh, it will be with you, not at you," said Tom. "But never
mind; if you don't like it, we'll keep out of your way."

Then Maggie felt self-reproached, and, like the generous little girl
she was, determined that her bashfulness should not get the upper hand
of her readiness to oblige.

"I don't mind it so very much," she said; "at least I'll try not to,
and you can come if the others say so. I suppose you won't take notice
of us if you are building a ship, would you, Tom?" she added wistfully.

"No one shall disturb or trouble you in any way, you may believe that,"
said Tom; and Maggie knew that he would keep his word, and so declared
her willingness that the boys should share the privileges of the
lumber-room.

Away to the attic scampered the seven pairs of little feet the moment
dinner was over; and Nora, following, opened the trunks for them, then
left them to their own devices. That is to say, she brought her sewing,
and went to sit in one of the rooms which opened out of the great
gallery, where she might be within call if the children needed her,
and at hand to keep them from mischief. That she provided for her own
amusement by leaving the door so that she could see and hear, none of
them, not even shy Maggie, noticed or cared.

Maggie of course was always chief spirit and prime manager of these
entertainments; and she now divided the party, taking Belle and Nellie
with herself as performers in the first charade, and assigning the part
of spectators to Bessie, Lily, Carrie, and Mabel.

The audience speedily accommodated themselves and their children--that
is their dolls--with seats upon the top of the bins, scrambling thereto
by the help of chairs, and amusing themselves with lively conversation
while waiting.

Maggie and Nellie brought forth from the store-room a small table and
three chairs, which were suitably placed; Sir Percy was brought from
his place of repose and laid upon the floor beside them; after which
the young ladies retired again into privacy.

"The charade has begun, and Sir Percy is a great big dog this time,"
said Maggie, suddenly popping out her head once more, and then
withdrawing it.

After some moments she reappeared, this time gorgeously arrayed in a
flowing train, formed of an old red table-cloth, bordered with gold,
a wreath of artificial flowers on her head, ribbons of all colors
pinned and tied about her, and an enormous fan in her hand, with which
she fanned herself affectedly, mincing and prinking as she walked to
a chair, where she seated herself, taking good care to keep her face
turned from Sir Percy, whom she pretended not to observe. The audience
were spell-bound with interest and the wish to guess the word.

"Tell your mistress--er--that er--Madam Jones--er--is here--er,"
drawled the lady, addressing an imaginary servant, closing her eyes as
if quite exhausted, and putting on all the airs and graces conceivable.

Presently entered the hostess, attired with similar magnificence,
but with rather a bluff and off-hand manner, which contrasted very
strikingly with that of her visitor. Meanwhile, from behind the door
of the store-room came a piteous mewing, which soon attracted the
attention of the second lady, who peered about her in great surprise,
and exclaimed,--

"That must be a cat mewing, and I never allow a cat in my house, never!"

"Oh--er," drawled Mrs. Jones, "it is only my sweet pussy, my lovely
_pet_, my only donly _pet_; such a dear _pet_, oh, such! Wouldn't you
like to see her, Mrs. Smith?"

"No, oh, no!" cries Mrs. Smith, lifting up her hands in horror; "I hate
cats, and so does my lovely _pet_, Bombastes Furioso. Here, Bomby,
Bomby, Bomby, come and speak to Mrs. Jones, my darling pet."

Upon which Mrs. Jones affected to see for the first time the great dog
Bombastes Furioso, and to be filled with alarm at the sight.

"Don't call him, pr-r-r-ay, don't!" she cried. "Is it possible that
you like canine dogs, Mrs. Smith? How can you have such a pet? Here,
kitty, kitty, kitty!"

Hereupon entered Belle on all fours, covered with a white flossy mat
which had been brought up from the hall for the purpose, and ran mewing
about her mistress.

"I'd rather like canine dogs than canine cats," wrathfully cries Mrs.
Smith; "and, ma'am, I tell you I won't have cats in my house! S'cat,
s'cat, s'cat!"

"Ma'am," cries Mrs. Jones, indignantly, "if you turn out my _pet_, you
turn out me, and I'll never visit you again, ma'am, nor be acquainted
with you any more. I cut you, ma'am, I cut you!"

"And I cut you, ma'am. Bringing cats in my house, indeed! Here,
Bombastes Furioso, s-s-s-s!" and the indignant and inhospitable Mrs.
Smith tried to urge her dog to seize Mrs. Jones' kitty. Bombastes,
however, being a dog of a lazy turn of mind, contented himself with
deep, hoarse growls whenever Mrs. Jones was speaking. He was silent
when it was necessary for his mistress to speak; and Mrs. Smith found
herself obliged to drag her lumbering pet onwards by his two remaining
hoofs--I beg his pardon, I should have said paws.

This was the sole objection to the accommodating Sir Percy, that he was
so unwieldy and cumbersome to move when circumstances required that he
should do so. This being the case, Mrs. Jones, whose airs and graces
were all put to flight by this attack upon her, had time to scuttle off
with her pet before Bombastes Furioso had advanced more than a step or
two.

This was greeted with shouts of laughter, in which the performers
themselves joined as they disappeared; and after the applause had
subsided, the four heads on the top of the bins set themselves to guess
the word.

"I think it's affected lady," said Carrie.

"I don't. I think it is cat or dog," said Lily. "You know this is only
the first syllable, Carrie, so it couldn't be affected lady."

"Oh, to be sure," said Carrie. "Bessie, what do you think it is?"

"I think it is pet," said Bessie. "Did you not hear how often they said
'pet'? 'Pet' dog and 'pet' cat?"

"Yes, so they did," said Lily. "Bessie, you are right. Oh, isn't it
fun?"

The performers were not long in making their preparations for the
next syllable; and the only change in the outward arrangements was
that various bottles, a saw, some chisels, awls, and other tools were
brought out, and placed upon the table.

"These are doctors' instruments," Maggie explained before retiring.

Presently she reappeared, buttoned up in an overcoat which reached
to her feet, a man's hat coming down over her eyes, a cane in her
hand, and bustled round among the bottles. From this occupation the
doctor was roused by a knock at the door, and there entered two other
overcoated figures, limping and groaning in a distressful manner.

"We've been in a railroad accident, and all our bones are broken,
doctor," piped one of the sufferers.

The unfeeling surgeon hustled them each into a chair, and with great
roughness proceeded to wrap and bandage, tying a great many knots with
much unnecessary vigor, accompanied with shrieks and groans from his
patients.

"Ow--ow--ow, doctor," cried one of them, as the doctor pulled hard upon
a knot in the handkerchief he was tying on a broken arm, "you do hurt
more than any doctor I ever knew. You _tie_ so hard."

"Well," growled the doctor, "when you come to me with two broken arms,
and two broken legs, and a broken back, and your eyes put out, and your
head smashed up, do you expect to be mended without being hurt? Here,
let me _tie_ your head."

The patients, being well _tied_ up, at last departed, followed by the
doctor; and the audience unanimously agreed that _tie_ was the second
syllable.

"Pet--tie," said Bessie. "I just b'lieve it's petticoat."

"So it is," said Carrie; while Lily, recalled to the recollection of
her unfortunate petticoat, was struck dumb by what she considered a
remarkable coincidence.

The performance of the third syllable was not quite as interesting
as the other two had been, the _coats_ which had been worn by the
doctor and his patients being brought out and beaten with sticks with
a great bustle and fuss, but without a single spoken word. After this
it scarcely needed the performance of the whole word to establish the
fact that it was petticoat; but, the chairs and table being removed, it
was gone through with by three young ladies, very much dressed, taking
a walk on a muddy day, and greatly disturbed for the fate of their
petticoats, as they splashed and waded through imaginary pools and
puddles.

"Petticoat! Petticoat! Petticoat!" resounded from the top of the bins,
accompanied by violent clapping and stamping, and other tokens of the
pleasure which had been afforded by the representation.

And now the audience came down from their perch, and resigned it to the
late performers, with whom they were to change parts; at least, Belle
and Nellie were to do so, for Maggie was, as I have said, the moving
spirit, and all the others played under her orders. She was the most
ingenious in choosing and arranging the words, and it was believed that
no charade went off well unless she took part in it.

This arrangement only left two spectators, it is true; but Maggie said
she needed all the others, and no objection was made.

The chairs and table were now brought back to their old places. After
the necessary dressing up had been done, Bessie appeared with a
handkerchief tied over her sunny curls, a white apron coming down to
her feet, and followed by Carrie as a servant, bearing dishes. These--a
doll's dinner set--were arranged upon the table with much noise and
rattle, the little landlady bustling about, and calling upon her maid
to make haste.

"For I keep a very good _inn_, servant," she said; "but when some
people come to _inns_, they make a great fuss, and give a great deal
of trouble; and I heard of a gentleman who is coming to my _inn_, and
he is very cross, and a great scolder, so I don't want to give him any
reason to complain, and we must have every thing very nice in my _inn_."

"Yes, ma'am, we'll have the _inn_ very fine for him," answered the maid.

The fears of the landlady were not unfounded, as it proved; for
presently appeared Sir Percy in the character of a cross old gentleman,
supported and dragged along with much difficulty by his wife and
daughters. He was attired in a man's hat and great-coat, the sleeves
of the latter coming down some distance below his--h'm--hands; but
this was a convenience, as they could be flapped about in wild
gesticulation, as he stormed and scolded at the _in_conveniences of
the _inn_. A more ill-tempered old gentleman was never seen; and a
hard time did his attendants have of it. He laid about him in the most
ferocious manner, and was not to be pacified by all the attentions
that were lavished upon him; until the little landlady declared that
"if that old gentleman was going to stay a great while in her _inn_,
she would not keep an _inn_ any longer."

"Inn, inn," was called, not only from the bins, but also from the
other side of the room, as the old man was at last carried away, still
growling, and wildly slapping the air with his coat-cuffs.

The children turned, and Sir Percy tumbled heavily to the floor, as
Maggie loosened her hold of him, struck dumb by the sight of three
pairs of eyes peering above the side of the staircase.

"Now, that's too bad," cried Lily. "You boys can just go 'way. You'll
laugh at us."

"Indeed, we won't," said Tom. "We came up just a few moments ago, and
we thought we wouldn't interrupt you by passing through, but wait until
you had finished, and that was capitally done. But I'm afraid you'll
hurt yourselves with Sir Percy. He is too heavy for you to lug about,
and Maggie's toes barely escaped just now."

"O Tom!" said Lily; "why, half the fun would be spoiled if we didn't
have Sir Percy."

"Well, be careful then," said Tom, as he passed on with Harry into the
store-room.

But Fred lingered.

"I say, Midge," he said, "let a fellow stay and see the rest of your
charade, will you? It's jolly."

Maggie looked blank, but all she said was, "O Fred!"

"No, you can't," said Lily, unmindful of the duties of hospitality in
her own attic; "you just can't, 'cause you'll laugh, and make fun of
us."

"Now come on, Fred, and let them alone," called Tom from within the
room. "I promised them they should not be teased if we came up here."

"I'm not going to tease them," said Fred. "I want to see the charade,
really and truly. The little chaps do it first-rate, and I like it.
Let me stay, girls."

Maggie and Bessie, especially the latter, had strong objections to
being called "chaps," but Fred never could remember that. However, they
passed it by; and Fred won a rather reluctant consent to his remaining
as a spectator. He was put upon his good behavior, and with a run and a
jump speedily landed himself beside Belle and Carrie, where he kept his
word, and conducted himself as a well-behaved spectator should do.

The next syllable presented a lady writing, her maid sewing. In rushes
a gardener, tree in hand, represented by a large feather dust-brush;
and with much Irish brogue and great excitement, accuses the lady's son
of cutting down a young peach-tree. Son denies, and is believed by his
mother, who sternly tells the gardener that her son has never told a
lie, and whatever he says is "_true_, _true_, _true_."

Gardener declares that "indade, an' he is thrue; an' if the missis will
but make Master George Washington hould up the hand that's behint him,
she'll see the hatchet he did it with."

Mother demands the hatchet, son rebels, still keeping his hand behind
him, but mother, chasing round and round, presently discovers it;
whereupon she clasps her hands frantically, cries she thought he was
_true_, falls fainting to the ground, and is carried off by son,
gardener, and maid.

This new version of an old and familiar story was received with
tremendous applause, to which Fred's boots added not a little.

Next appeared Sir Percy once more, this time without any outward
adornments. He was laid upon the floor, and in his mouth was thrust
a pointed stick, bearing a paper, on which was written in Maggie's
largest, roundest hand, these words:--

"This is a disagreeable smelling dead cat."

About and around the dead cat walked five young ladies, uttering
exclamations of disgust, wondering where the smell could come from,
but strangely blind to the offensive animal which lay before them.

"Ow! how horrid!" cried one.

"Ugh! disgusting!" exclaimed another.

"What an awful smell!" said the third.

"Ugh! it's that dead cat!" said the fourth. "Let's _shun_ it, let's
_shun_ it!"

And with loud cries of "_Shun_ it, _shun_ it," the five young ladies
scamper into the store-room, from which the sound of smothered laughter
had now and then mingled with the public applause without.

It was not difficult now to guess the word; nevertheless the whole
charade must be played out before it was even hinted at to the
performers.

"In-tru-sion," was carried out by two of the aforesaid young ladies,
who rang violently at a front-door bell, and were denied admittance by
a dainty, little sunny-haired maid, who declared that her mistress was
very much engaged.

The visitors persisted in their desire to see her, and forced their
way in, to be fiercely attacked by the indignant lady of the mansion,
who was engaged with her lover, Sir Percy, and who sternly demanded,
"Whence this _intrusion_?"

"No intrusion at all, ma'am," says one of the visitors.

"Yes, _intrusion_, ma'am," replies the hostess; and contradiction
followed free and fast, until stopped by the shouts of "Intrusion!
Intrusion!" from the reserved seats.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

XI.

_A SAD ACCIDENT._


"That's capital!" exclaimed Fred. "Give us another, Midge, will you?"

Fred had conducted himself with such becoming propriety, and his
applause had been so hearty, that Maggie felt not only quite reconciled
to his presence, but also ready to indulge him; and she answered,--

"Yes, I have one more, and it is to be instructive as well as amusing,
Fred, because it is an historical charade."

"Go ahead!" said Fred, scrambling back into his seat, which he had left
to help carry Sir Percy into retirement.

The preparations for the first syllable of the historical charade were
very imposing. Two chairs were placed face to face; upon these was
mounted the table, turned upside down, with its legs in the air; to one
of the legs was tied a large feather dust-brush,--the whole arrangement
supposed to represent an oak-tree, as Maggie explained.

Maggie, Nellie, Lily, and Belle were the performers on this occasion;
and in due time they all entered, escorting Sir Percy, now in the
character of King Charles, in full kingly costume, the red table-cloth
doing duty for his robes, and a crown, a "real crown" of tinsel paper
adorning his majesty's brows. He was held with some difficulty upon his
horse,--another chair turned down for the purpose,--and again Tom's
warning voice came from the store-room.

"You'd better look out with that old hobby. You'll hurt yourselves some
time, lugging him about that fashion."

But the suggestion was treated with disdain.

An old hobby indeed! King Charles an "old hobby"!

The horse--that is, the chair horse--paused beneath the tree, and then,
relieved of his burden, galloped off, led by Belle; while the other
three prepared to hoist his cumbersome majesty into the tree, he not
being agile enough to perform that office for himself.

Maggie had proposed that two of the children should be his enemies
in pursuit; but no one was willing to take that character. Staunch
little royalists they were, every one, and not to be reckoned among the
persecutors of the unfortunate king. So this little diversion from the
true historical facts had been permitted to suit the occasion, all the
more readily as it was feared that it would take the united strength of
the whole four to raise him to the necessary height. Still Maggie had
not been quite satisfied with such a very great departure from reality;
and, hearing the difficulty as they worked at the carpenter's bench,
Tom and Harry had good-naturedly offered to take upon themselves the
obnoxious part of the king's enemies, and as soon as he was safely
hidden in the tree to rush forth in search of him, and feign total
unconsciousness as they passed beneath his place of shelter.

This being settled, and Belle, having disposed of her horse, and
returned to give a hand to the lifting process, the royal fugitive was,
by the united exertions of his four devoted adherents, raised to his
hiding-place. But he proved too heavy for the slight construction; and
feather duster, chair, and table toppled over together, carrying King
Charles with them.

Maggie and Lily held fast, one on either side, but the other two had
left their hold. Fred, seeing the danger, sprang like a shot from his
seat, and his hand but just touched the old hobby-horse as it rolled
over, not soon enough to prevent its fall, but in time to turn the
heavy thing a little aside. It fell, carrying Lily back with it; and
the two came together to the floor, jarring the whole house. Tom and
Harry rushed out, not, alas! in the play in which they had offered to
join, but in sad and alarmed earnest; and Nora flew from her work.

Tom had Lily in his arms in an instant, but the poor little girl was
a sorry sight. Sir Percy's head had struck against hers as they fell
together, and blood was already streaming from an ugly wound just above
her temple. But for Fred's timely touch, which turned the weight of
the hobby-horse a little to one side, the child's head must have been
crushed, and she killed.

Oh, was not Maggie thankful that she had allowed her good-nature to
triumph over her fear of being laughed at, and had consented to let
Fred join in their fun!

Ah! the fun and frolic were changed now,--changed to distress and
alarm. Lily lay half stunned, gasping and death-like, while the cries
and shrieks of the other children rang through the house, and speedily
brought her mother to the spot.

It was indeed a sad ending to the merry afternoon, and for a few
moments the children could scarcely believe that Lily was not killed,
or at least dying, so white and quiet did she lie. Never did piteous
cry carry more relief to a mother's heart than that which at last broke
from the pale, trembling lips; for Mrs. Norris too had feared that her
darling was dangerously, if not fatally injured. It must have been so
indeed but for the care of the kind Father who had watched over her,
and sent Fred's timely help to turn aside a portion of the threatening
danger.

"Go for the doctor," said Mrs. Norris.

But Fred, with a thoughtfulness which he sometimes showed, had already
asked Tom if he should not do this, and had started off with his
direction.

The grass never grew beneath Fred's nimble feet at any time; and now,
when he believed there was need for speed, he almost flew over the
ground, and, happily finding the doctor at home, brought him back with
him at once.

Lily had been carried downstairs and laid upon her little bed, where
her mother was doing for her all that she could, though that was not
much, until the doctor came.

A group of frightened and distressed little faces met the good old
physician's eye as he passed through the hall. He spoke a few cheering
words as he went by, but as he did not yet know how much Lily was
hurt, he did not put much heart into his young hearers. Still it was a
comfort to know that he had come, and it always did one good to see Dr.
Banks' kind, helpful face.

Before the doctor arrived, Lily had opened her eyes, and smiled at her
mother with a bewildered look; but when she saw the blood which was
streaming from the wound in her head, she was frightened, and began to
cry again.

But the dear old doctor soon quieted her fears, and those of her
anxious mother; and the good news presently spread through the house
that he did not think her dangerously hurt. There was a deep, ugly cut
on her head just above the temple, it was true, and her eye was already
swelling and blackening; but he had no fears that her injuries were
serious, and with some care and quiet she would soon be well again.

But Lily had had a very merciful escape, and Maggie could not be
sufficiently glad and thankful that she had been kind and obliging, and
allowed Fred "to come to the charades," when she heard every one saying
that but for the thrust from his hand which had turned aside the weight
of the old hobby-horse, the heavy thing must have crushed the dear
little head of her young playmate.

"It was quite a mountain of mercy out of a mole-hill of kindness,"
quaintly said dear Maggie, as she wiped from her eyes the tears of joy
and gratitude.

Hearing that Lily must be kept quiet, the thoughtful Harry carried away
his sisters, and all the other little visitors, as soon as they were
assured that there was no cause for alarm, and saw them all safely to
their separate homes.

Lily lay patient and gentle under the doctor's handling, as he felt
the poor little bruised head, and tenderly cut away the hair from the
wound, and bound it up; but every now and then she put up her hand,
with a piteous, anxious expression, to the eye which was swelling and
closing so fast.

"Does it pain you so, darling?" her mother would ask.

"Not so very much, mamma," she would answer, "but"--and here her words
always came to an end.

But when the doctor was through, and the aching head laid carefully on
a soft pillow, the trouble that was weighing on her mind broke forth.

"Doctor," she asked wistfully, "is my eye going out?"

"Going out? No, indeed," answered the doctor, cheerily. "I rather think
it is going in, my Lily-bud. It is shutting up pretty tight now, it
is true; but we'll take the swelling down in a day or two, and it will
soon be as useful and bright as ever."

"By Monday, Doctor?" questioned Lily, anxiously.

"Ho, no, indeed, my little woman! You will not have much use of this
peeper for a week or ten days to come. Even if you could see out of it,
you must keep quite quiet, lie here on the bed or on the sofa, and be
petted and nursed for a few days, or this little head may give you some
trouble."

Lily looked as if something was giving her a good deal of trouble now;
for as the doctor spoke, her face grew longer and longer, and now she
burst into tears again, as she sobbed out,--

"My petticoat! O mamma, my orphan petticoat!"

"Hallo!" said the doctor, "what is that, I should like to know? I have
heard of a good many kinds of petticoats, but I never heard of an
orphan petticoat before. But this will not do, my child. You _must_
lie down and keep quiet."

"Do not trouble yourself about the petticoat now, darling," said her
mother, gently laying her back upon the pillow, from which she had
started up in her distress, "I will arrange that."

"But, mamma," said Lily, piteously, "you know you said--you said that
you could not let Nora finish it for me, and--and--oh, dear!--you
couldn't break your word, you know, and my orphan child won't have any
petticoat, and it was all my old Pro, and so what can I do? Oh, if I
only didn't have Pro! I b'lieve he's my worst enemy."

"What is all this about petticoats and pro's, Mrs. Norris?" said
the doctor. "Put her mind at rest if you can, or we shall be having
headache and fever."

"Lily, darling," said her mother, "you must set your mind at rest about
the petticoat. You certainly cannot finish it now; but I shall not let
the little orphan suffer. By and by I will see what is best to do, but
now you must talk and think no more about it. Mamma will arrange it all
for you, and you will make yourself worse if you fret."

"Dear mamma," said Lily, "I should think you would want to arrange not
to have such a bothering little thing as me for your own little girl;
only I don't s'pose you do. I b'lieve mammas generally don't."

"Hush, hush, my darling," said her mother, whose own heart was swelling
with gratitude that a Higher Hand had "arranged" that her dear "little
bothering thing," as Lily called herself, was not to be taken from her,
but that she was still spared to be the joy of all who loved her, the
"sunbeam" of the home that would have seemed so dark without her.

Lily obeyed the soothing touch of her mother's hand, and, confident
that she would find some way to help her out of her trouble, said
no more of the unfinished task. But it was upon her mind for all
that, as was proved when the evening wore away, and the fever and
light-headedness the doctor had feared came on. A very slight illness
was enough to make Lily light-headed, and the blow she had received was
by no means a slight one. So it was not strange that it should have
that effect. And she talked pretty wildly about petticoats and puppies,
work-boxes and rocking-horses, and had many bitter words for her enemy
Pro; and all her mother could say would not soothe her.

But at last she grew more quiet, and the poor little bruised head
ceased to wander, and she fell asleep; and when she awoke in the
morning, her mind was as bright and clear as ever.

But her face was sadly disfigured, and one eye was quite closed up, so
that it was plainly to be seen that Lily would not have much use of
it for some days to come. All this would pass away in time, however;
swelling and discoloration would disappear by and by; and, happily, the
cut upon her head came where the scar would be hidden by her hair.

Somewhat to Mrs. Norris' surprise, Lily said no word of the petticoat
all the next day; but she was very glad that it was so, and took pains
to avoid any thing that might turn her thoughts that way. Lily did
think of it, however, although she said nothing; and she could not but
wonder now and then how her mother would contrive to help her without
breaking her word. But she felt languid and ill, and it was a trouble
to talk, so she let it go for the present, believing as usual that it
would come right somehow.

But on Monday morning, when Nora was dressing her, the nurse said,--

"Miss Lily, darling, I am just going to ask your mamma to let me finish
your petticoat for you. I think she'll excuse you this once, since you
cannot do it for yourself."

"No," said Lily earnestly, "you must not ask mamma, Nora, 'cause it
would only give her the uncomfortableness of saying no. She told me
she would not let the little orphan suffer for my fault, and she will
find a way to make it right, though I don't know what it is, and
I am too ashamed to ask her. But you know she said very surely and
pos-i-tive-ly, Nora, that she would not let you finish it, if it was
not done through my putting off; and that was the reason it was not
done on Saturday morning, as it ought to have been. I know I cannot do
it now myself, but I could have done it before; and mamma can not break
her word."

Lily concluded with a sigh, for she really did not know what plan her
mother could have for helping her, and she was very anxious, though, as
she said, too much ashamed to ask any more.

But it so happened that Mrs. Norris overheard this conversation, and
she was thankful to find how strong in her Lily was that sense of truth
which would not allow her to believe for one moment that mamma could go
back from her word under any circumstances. It was rather remarkable
that with all her heedlessness and volatile spirits, Lily was so
strictly truthful and upright, for they never betrayed her into an
equivocation, as carelessness and want of thought are too apt to do.

The morning was not far gone before Lily's mind was set at rest on the
subject of her petticoat, for her mamma came to sit beside her, and
brought her work with her.

And what was her work?

Lily noticed it in a moment; a petticoat for a child,--not of such
muslin as her own skirts, but coarser and stronger, just such as her
"orphan petticoat" was made of.

"Mamma?" she said, with her eyes fixed upon the strips of muslin in her
mother's hand.

"Yes, dear," said her mother, "you know I said the little orphan must
not suffer through you, and I told you Nora could not finish your
petticoat, and send it as your work, if you did not do it yourself; so
I shall make this one, and send it to Miss Ashton in the place of the
other."

"And tell Miss Ashton, mamma?"

"Well, yes, dear, I must. Do you not think so?"

"Yes, mamma, and I s'pose the girls must know. Even if she don't tell
them, I think I ought to when I go back to school. They ought not to
think I was industrious and good like the rest when I just put off and
put off until this sad accident came, and then I really couldn't do
it;" and here a great tear rolled down Lily's cheek.

"My darling," said her mother, dropping her work, and bending over to
kiss the sorrowful little face, "mamma cannot bear to see you mortified
and grieved, but she does want this to be a lesson to you, and to save
you from future trouble and loss."

"Yes, mamma, I know," answered Lily, "and it serves me quite right; but
it does make me feel very badly to know that all the other children can
feel that the little orphans are having some good of their kindness,
and they do not have one bit of mine."

Mrs. Norris hesitated before she spoke again. She felt as if she could
not bear to have her poor child so hardly punished now when she was
suffering, and had just escaped such a great danger. She could not let
Nora finish the petticoat, but why not finish it herself, she thought,
as well as make another, and send it to Miss Ashton with a message from
Lily that she had not done the whole of it herself?

Just then came a knock at the door, and, being bidden to enter, Robert
brought a note for Miss Lily, saying the messenger waited for an answer.

"It is Maggie's writing, I think," said Mrs. Norris.

Lily raised herself, and held out her hand.

"You cannot read it for yourself, dear. Shall I do it?" asked her
mother.

Lily assented, and, opening the note, Mrs. Norris read as follows:--

  "DEAR LILY,--We are so sorry for you, all of us, but we are so very
  happy you were not killed by Sir Percy Hotspur, who is very nice to
  play with, but not nice to fall underneath, and we are glad you are
  not such a victim as that. But, Lily, dear, we do not know, Bessie
  and I, if you have finished your petticoat for the orphan child. We
  did not ask you on Saturday because we thought if it was not done you
  wouldn't like to say so, but we thought perhaps the reason you did
  not speak about it was because a 'burnt child dreads the fire,' which
  means people don't like things that bring them into trouble, or to
  speak about them. So we thought it was quite probable that it was not
  done, and we know you cannot finish it now, for yesterday we met Dr.
  Banks when we were coming from church, and he said you could not go to
  school, or use your poor hurt eye for a good many days. So, dear, if
  you would let me finish it for you, I would be very glad, and Bessie
  will too, and you can send it to me by Patrick. And you need not think
  I will have to do it all in my play-time, for mamma says I can do it
  in my sewing-lesson to-day, which is half an hour, and if there is
  any more, I'd just as lieve do it afterwards, and the heart which
  would not do that is not worthy of a friend, but ought to be like a
  man we read about the other day who lived in a tub and was cross to
  everybody. And do you believe, people called him a wise man!!! Which
  shows they must have been very stupid people in those days to call
  such an old cross-patch wise, and I'm glad I was never acquainted with
  him for I would not consider him fit to know.

  "So ask your mamma to send me the petticoat if it is not done, that
  my true friendship may have the pleasure of finishing it. From your
  esteemed friend,

     "MAGGIE STANTON BRADFORD.

  "P.S. If a pretty bad button-hole would be any relief to your feelings
  instead of strings, I would just as lieve make one, but it don't look
  very nice."

To have seen Lily's eyes--or rather her eye, for you know there was
only one to be seen--as her mother finished reading this letter to her!
to have seen the pleading of her poor little face!

"Well, dear," said her mother, smiling back in answer to the unspoken
question that was written in every line of her Lily's countenance.
"Well, dear, shall we accept Maggie's offer?"

"Oh, mamma! if you think I might," cried Lily.

"Yes," said her mother, "since dear Maggie is so good as to offer,
and give up her time to you, perhaps I will let you accept. But, my
darling, I do not want you to forget that here again the consequences
of your habit of procrastinating are falling on another. Maggie is
doing the work which should have been done by you, and although, I am
sure she does it willingly, and with all her heart, dear little friend
that she is, still you must own that it is hard she should have her own
share, and part of yours too."

"Yes, mamma," answered Lily, penitently, "and I know I don't deserve to
have any of the work I have done go to the orphan that has no father or
mother, and I am very thankful to darling Maggie. And, mamma, I think
I ought to ask you to write a note to Miss Ashton, and let her tell
the other children that I did not do the whole of the petticoat, or it
would not be quite fair. 'Specially, mamma, 'cause some of them said I
wouldn't have my petticoat done, and I _scorned_ what they said, and
was very sure of myself. So it would be more true, I think, to tell
them how it was."

"Yes, darling," said her mother, glad that her little girl was so
truthful, and unwilling to take any credit that was not rightly her
own; and then she kissed her, and, bringing the unfortunate petticoat,
rolled it up, and sent it away to the dear little sunbeam who was so
ready to shed light and comfort wherever she had the power to do so.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

XII.

_LILY'S NEW RESOLVE._


There was a good deal of bustle and excitement, as you may imagine, on
Tuesday morning, when Miss Ashton's little scholars came, each with her
respective parcel.

Poor Lily of course was not there; it would be many a day yet before
she was able to come to school, but all the others were in their
places, and very anxious for the lessons to be over. Nor were Maggie
and Bessie there during school-hours; but they were to come afterwards,
and bring the little garments they had made.

"Let's see who finished her work first," said Gracie. "Dora, when did
you finish yours?"

"Saturday morning," answered Dora.

"Pooh!" said Gracie, "how long you were. Nellie, when was yours done?"

"Last night," answered Nellie; "and I was very glad I had not taken a
petticoat, for I could not have finished it."

Gracie only looked her contempt, but she did that so plainly that
it might have placed her in the ranks of the anti-politers quite as
readily as rude and scornful words could have done. Nellie felt it,
colored, and looked hurt.

"Belle, when did you finish yours?"

"I _perfer_ not to tell you," answered Belle, with magnificence.

"Why?" asked Gracie.

"If your guilty conscience don't tell you, it's no use for me to speak
about it," replied Belle, with well-deserved severity, supposed to be
kept within the bounds of courteousness.

Gracie gave her head a little toss, as much as to say that Belle's
opinion was quite beneath her notice; but that her "guilty conscience"
did accuse her was to be seen from the fact that she questioned no more
of her classmates, but said conceitedly,--

"I finished my petticoat the very Saturday after I took it;" and then
looked about her for the applause which no one had the mind to offer.

It was strange that the frequency of the disappointments of this nature
which she received did not teach Gracie that those who sought the most
eagerly for food for their own vanity were not the most apt to receive
it; but her insatiable self-conceit needed some severe teaching before
it would lose its hold of her, and such slight blows as these were
without much effect on the still increasing evil.

"I am sure I could easily have made two if I had chosen," continued
Gracie. "It is nothing so very great to make a petticoat in a week."

"I don't know," said Nellie, who seldom bore malice, "I think it is
pretty well for little girls to make one in two weeks. I am slow, I
know, but as Lily said,--poor dear Lily,--I am a steady tortoise after
all, and have done my task in time."

"Is Lily's petticoat finished?" asked Mabel. "Does any one know?"

No, no one knew; but more than one thought it quite likely that Lily
would be behindhand. They knew her ways well. But, before they had time
for much more conversation on the subject, Miss Ashton came in, and the
business of the day began.

Twelve o'clock came, bringing with it Maggie and Bessie, who also
brought each the little garment she had completed; and, school being at
an end, the children gathered about Miss Ashton to have her verdict on
their work.

Belle's bag was the first to be examined, and Miss Ashton pronounced
it very well done for a little girl who was but just learning to sew.
There were some long and crooked stitches, it is true; but they were
tight and close, and showed that she had taken great pains. So did
Bessie's; and Mabel's also was considered a success. Carrie Ransom's
did not show quite as much care, but it would pass. So much for the
bags made by the four lesser children; and now Miss Ashton turned to
the petticoats.

"I have here a note from Lily," she said, "which I shall read first.
She sent it to me this morning, with her work, and a request that I
would tell you what it contained."

"Oh," said Gracie, "I suppose she has not finished her petticoat. She
never does things when she ought to, and she is always behindhand. I
finished my petticoat on the first Saturday, Miss Ashton."

Now, would you not have thought that Gracie disliked Lily, and was glad
to have the chance of showing up her faults? But it was not really so;
for if you had asked Gracie, she would have told you that she was fond
of Lily, and thought her on the whole a very good little girl. But
Gracie's habit of comparing herself with others to their disadvantage
gave her, not only the appearance of great conceit, but also of
constant fault-finding with her companions.

Miss Ashton took no notice of her speech, but opened the envelope, and
took out the note, which Mrs. Norris had written at Lily's dictation.

"Miss Ashton," repeated Gracie, "I finished my petticoat Saturday
before last, every stitch of it."

"Very well," said Miss Ashton, coolly, and without farther attention,
read aloud:--

  "DEAR MISS ASHTON,--I think I ought to tell you that I did not do all
  my petticoat myself, and it was not all because of my hurting myself,
  but because I did not do it in good time, but put off until I had left
  a good task for the last day, when my eye was so hurt I could not
  sew. But dear Maggie had her's all done, and so she had time for a
  kindness, and she finished mine; but I thought I ought to do myself
  the mortification of telling you about it, for fear you and the other
  children should give me praise I did not deserve.

  "And now I am very sorry I was so sure of myself to be so certain I
  would not fall into my bad habit again, which I find is not cured, as
  I said it was; but I have to try very hard yet. And I know the other
  children will think I thought myself very great, and I am ashamed
  of it, and of my procrastination too, dear Miss Ashton, which you
  told me would give me great trouble, and mamma too, and I see it. So
  please excuse me, and my eye and my head are better, thank you; but
  the doctor says I cannot use my eye for a good many days, and my head
  aches some yet.

  "Please give my love to all the children, and tell them to come and
  see me.

     "From your affectionate little scholar,

     "LILY NORRIS."

If Lily's schoolmates did imagine that she thought herself "great," not
one of them said so; and the reading of her letter was followed by many
expressions of affection and sympathy, mingled with admiration for her
straightforward honesty, which would not let her receive credit which
was not her due.

However, when Miss Ashton unfolded the petticoat sent by Lily, and
examined the sewing, it was found that, wanting though she might have
been in punctuality and industry, Lily certainly deserved praise for
the manner in which her work was done. It was extremely neat and even
for such a little girl; and both her own share, and that completed by
Maggie Bradford received much approbation from Miss Ashton.

Maggie's petticoat merited a like meed of compliment, and Nellie
Ransom's apron, which came next, was pronounced remarkably well done.

"Why, Nellie, my dear," said Miss Ashton, looking with surprise at the
neatly laid gathers, even hems, and regular stitches, "is it possible
that you did this all yourself?"

"Yes, ma'am," answered steady, painstaking Nellie, who, although she
was perhaps less quick than any of her schoolmates, was seldom or
never behind the rest, for the reason that she was so industrious and
earnest,--"yes, ma'am. An apron was not very much for me to do, but I
wanted to be sure and have it nicely done."

"And, indeed, you have," said Miss Ashton, still examining the apron
with pleasure. "I must give you the credit, Nellie, of saying that I
never saw a piece of work better done by any child of your age. I do
not know that I would have done it as well myself."

"Mamma takes great pains to teach me to sew nicely," said Nellie,
dimpling and flushing with pleasure at her teacher's praise.

"And you must have taken great pains to learn, my dear," said Miss
Ashton, laying her hand on that of the modest little girl.

Two or three others received their share of praise, some more, some
less, according to their merits, though all were fairly done; and then
Miss Ashton came to Gracie's petticoat.

That it gave her far less satisfaction than the rest of the little
garments had done, was plainly to be seen by her countenance, as she
examined it.

"Why, Gracie, my dear," she said, "is it possible that you can sew no
better than this? No, it is not; for I have seen your work before, and
know that you can do better if you choose. Why, Gracie, the stitches
are not half as neat as those of the very little girls, and this band
will not hold at all. It is impossible for me to give in such work as
this. See here;" and as she drew the stitches slightly apart, with not
half the strain that would come upon them in the wearing, they parted
and ripped, showing with what extreme carelessness the work had been
done.

I do not think Miss Ashton would have said as much to any other one of
her little scholars; but she thought that this mortification and blow
to her self-conceit would do Gracie no harm.

"My dear," she continued, "you have not taken time enough to do your
work properly. Another time, better less haste and more care, Gracie. I
shall have to take out almost the whole of this, and do it over myself,
for I should be ashamed that our little orphans should have the example
of such work. Your mother was away, I know, so that you could not go to
her for help; but could you not ask some other person to show you how
it should be done?"

"I should think I might know how to make a petticoat," said Gracie,
rather saucily.

"It seems you do not," replied Miss Ashton, gravely. "As I must do
this over, you cannot expect that it should be given in as your work,
Gracie."

Gracie tossed her head, and looked very angry, muttering, she "did not
care," then burst into tears, saying it was "too bad," and "real mean,"
and she knew "it was just as good as the rest, only Miss Ashton never
would think she did any thing fit to be seen," and altogether allowed
her temper and wounded vanity so far to get the better of her that Miss
Ashton bade her leave the room.

I am glad to say, however, that a few moments' solitude and reflection
in the cloak-room brought her to her right senses; and before she went
home, she returned to her teacher, and begged her pardon for the temper
and disrespect she had shown.

"But my work was finished long before any of the other children's,
Miss Ashton," she said once more, after the lady had assured her she
was forgiven, giving her at the same time a gentle, and, alas! too
oft-repeated warning against the hold her besetting sin was gaining on
her temper and character.

Miss Ashton shook her head.

"But it is all thrown away, and worse than thrown away, Gracie," she
said, "for it will need more time for me to take it to pieces and do
it over again than it would have taken to make it myself at once.
I can give you no credit, my child, for striving to outstrip your
schoolmates, merely that you might have the pleasure of saying that you
had done so. You are severe with Lily for her want of punctuality and
promptness; but too great haste, especially when it springs from a bad
motive, is perhaps as bad. And, Gracie, Lily sees and acknowledges her
fault, while you will not."

Gracie hung her head, but she was none the more convinced; and, in
spite of her confession, went home, thinking herself hardly used, and
Miss Ashton very unjust.

With the exception of Gracie, there was not one of the little
work-women whose sewing was not at least passable, and her garment
tolerably well made; and they were dismissed, well satisfied with the
praise they received, and the knowledge that their own self-denial and
effort had helped those who were in need.

Mrs. Norris had begged that Maggie and Bessie would come and see Lily
that afternoon, as she was now well enough to receive them, and tell
her all that had taken place in the morning; and accordingly they
presented themselves in Lily's room, bringing with them their dolls.

"My dollies haven't had their dresses changed since Saturday, before I
was hurt," said Lily, at the sight of the last-mentioned young ladies.
"Will you dress them for me while you tell me about this morning?"

Dolls and dolls' clothes were brought forth, Lily possessing a
multitude of both; and the two little sisters fell to dressing the
neglected children of an invalid mamma.

"It wasn't putting off this time," said Lily, apologetically, "for I
really did seem to be so tired every time I tried to do any thing, even
play, that mamma told me I had better lie still."

"Yes, we know," said Bessie, "and even if it was procrastination, dolls
don't really suffer, so I s'pose it's not much harm to put off doing
things for them. It don't hurt," she added thoughtfully, as she drew a
comb about three inches long through the flowing locks of the waxen
Georgianna upon her lap,--"it don't hurt to put off play and pleasure,
I believe, but only duties, and things that will do good to others."

"Yes," said Lily, rather ruefully, as if she wished that pleasures and
duties might alike fall under the same head, "so I find most people
think. The trouble of it, and what makes it so hard is, that when a
duty and a pleasure both come at once, it 'most always seems right to
take the duty first; and I like pleasure so much better than duty that
I expect that's the reason I procrastinate so often."

"I believe that's the case with most people," said Maggie, putting on
her wisdom cap to suit the solemnity of the conversation. "I find the
human race generally like pleasure better than duty, 'specially if the
duty is very disagreeable, and the pleasure is very nice."

"That's the way with me, anyhow," said Lily, with a sigh, as she lay
back upon her sofa pillows once more. "And sometimes, even when the
duty is not very disagreeable, I feel like putting it off, just because
I know I ought to do it, I believe. That petticoat was not so very
horrid to do, and yet I let every thing put me away from doing it, till
at last you know the consequence."

"Miss Ashton praised your petticoat very much, anyhow," said Maggie.
"She said you had done the most of it, and it was all _well_ done."

"She praised Maggie's part too," said Bessie, unwilling that her
sister should not receive her full share of credit, "and she said the
button-hole was even better than that on Maggie's own petticoat."

"Practice makes perfect, you know," said Maggie. "Miss Ashton said not
one piece of work was better made than that petticoat, except Nellie's
apron, and that was the best of all. Miss Ashton seemed quite surprised
at it, it was so very nice. And I don't mean to tell tales about
Gracie, but you would hear about it, I suppose, when you go back to
school, so we may as well tell you, 'cause you want to know about every
thing."

And between them, first one taking up the tale, and then the other,
Lily had soon heard a full and particular account of all the
occurrences of the morning.

"And did not any one say hateful things about me when Miss Ashton read
my letter, and they knew I had not done what I was so sure I would do?"
asked Lily.

"No indeed," said Bessie. "We wouldn't have listened to them if they
had wanted to; but then no one would say an unkind thing about you when
you were so honest and true, Lily. They were only sorry for you, and
didn't seem to think you were naughty one bit."

"But I was," said Lily, "and I'm never going to boast myself again, for
I do feel too ashamed when I think how sure I was that I would do so
much. I don't believe I ever will cure myself of procrastination, do
you?"

"Why, yes," answered Bessie, "if you try enough."

"I'm sure I did try," said Lily, "but it was no use. If I did not
forget so easily, I think I would not have so much trouble from
procrastination; but, you see, sometimes I leave a thing just for one
moment, at least I mean to come back in a moment, and then I never
think any thing more about it. That was the way the puppy found my
petticoat lying on the floor, and dragged it about till it had to be
washed before I could sew on it, and then it was too late."

"I used to be just as careless as that," said Maggie; "and though mamma
says I have improved a great deal, and am pretty neat and careful now,
yet I find it hard work still, and I have to make a rule for myself not
to leave a thing one moment after I know I ought to do it, or else I am
almost sure to forget. I don't always keep that rule yet," she added,
rather remorsefully, "but it helps me, and makes me better than I used
to be."

"Is that what cured you of carelessness? for I don't think you are much
careless now," said Lily.

"Yes," said Maggie, slowly, "that--and--and"--here she fell into a
sudden fit of bashfulness at her own confession, and Bessie had to help
her out of it.

"Partly that, and partly because she asked Jesus to help her," said
the little sister. "And He did, 'cause He always does if we really and
truly ask Him. Did you ever ask Him to help you, Lily?"

"What, about putting off?" said Lily. "Why, no, I never thought much
about it--and--besides--it seems such a queer thing to pray about, and
to ask Jesus to help you in. It is not a sin, you know. It does make
me sin sometimes," she added, thoughtfully, as she recalled various
naughtinesses into which her sad habit had led her. "Oh, if you knew
something it had made me do, you would think I was too horrid!" She was
thinking of the way in which she had spoken to her mother but a few
days since.

"Well, then," said Bessie, tenderly, "isn't that a reason for asking
Him? I don't b'lieve Jesus thinks any thing is no matter if it makes us
do something that is wrong, and I don't b'lieve He thinks even a bad
habit is a little thing, and I'm sure He'll help you if you only ask
Him."

"Sometimes when I was praying, I have thought maybe I had better ask
Jesus not to let me put off," said Lily, "but I did not think _much_
about it, and it hardly seemed worth while, and I generally thought I
could do it some other time."

Lily said these last words in rather a shamefaced manner, as if she
were mortified to recollect and confess that she had allowed her
failing to come even between her and the Great Helper.

"But you will ask Him now, won't you?" asked Bessie anxiously.

"Yes, I will," said Lily earnestly, and as if she really meant it; and
I am glad to say that she kept her resolution, and "put off" no longer
asking the help which could not, and would not fail her. And receiving
what she sought, as all shall do who seek it in truth, and in the right
spirit, and continuing also to strive with the temptation of the moment
which bids her postpone the duty before her, our Lily is gaining the
victory over the enemy which brought her into so much trouble, and had
more than once led her so far astray.

[Illustration]

     Cambridge: Press of John Wilson and Son.



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Otherwise, the author's
original spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been left intact.





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