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Title: Nellie's Housekeeping - Little Sunbeams Series
Author: Mathews, Joanna H. (Joanna Hooe)
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 "Nellie's Housekeeping - Little Sunbeams Series" ***

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_LITTLE SUNBEAMS._


VI.

NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING.



By the Author of this Volume.


I.

LITTLE SUNBEAMS.

  By JOANNA H. MATHEWS, Author of the "Bessie Books."
   6 vols. In a box                             $6.00

_Or, separately_:--

      I. BELLE POWERS' LOCKET. 16mo      1.00
     II. DORA'S MOTTO. 16mo              1.00
    III. LILY NORRIS' ENEMY              1.00
     IV. JESSIE'S PARROT                 1.00
      V. MAMIE'S WATCHWORD               1.00
     VI. NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING           1.00


II.

THE FLOWERETS.

  A series of Stories on the Commandments. 6 vols. In a box    $3.60


    "Under the general head of 'Flowerets,' this charming
    author has grouped six little volumes, being a series
    of stories on the Commandments. 'Our folks' are in love
    with them, and have made off with them all before we
    could get the first reading."--_Our Monthly._


III.

THE BESSIE BOOKS.

    6 vols. In a box      $7.50

    "We can wish our young readers no greater pleasure than
    an acquaintance with dear, cute little Bessie and her
    companions, old and young, brute and human."--_American
    Presbyterian._


    ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,
    _New York_



NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING.


    "Be good, sweet child, and let who will be clever:
       Do noble things, not dream them, all day long;
     So shalt thou make life, death, and that vast for ever.
       One grand, sweet song."--KINGSLEY.

    BY
    JOANNA H. MATHEWS,
    AUTHOR OF THE "BESSIE BOOKS" AND THE "FLOWERETS."


    NEW YORK:
    ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,
    530 BROADWAY.
    1882.



    Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by
    ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,
    In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.



CONTENTS.


                                        PAGE
       I. HARD AT WORK                    7
      II. A TALK WITH PAPA               25
     III. NELLIE A HOUSEKEEPER           50
      IV. A COURTSHIP                    70
       V. WHITE MICE                     94
      VI. THE GRAY MICE                 113
     VII. THE BLACK CAT                 136
    VIII. DAISY'S SACRIFICE             157
      IX. MAKING GINGER-CAKES           181
       X. FRESH TROUBLES                204
      XI. A NIGHT OF IT                 224
     XII. AN ALARM                      236
    XIII. LAST OF THE SUNBEAMS          245



[Illustration]



NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING.



I.

_HARD AT WORK._


"NELLIE, will you come down to the beach now?"

"No!" with as much shortness and sharpness as the little word of two
letters could well convey.

"Why not?"

"Oh! because I can't. Don't bother me."

And, laying down the pencil with which she had been writing, Nellie
Ransom pushed back the hair from her flushed, heated face, drew a long,
weary sigh, took up the Bible which lay at her elbow, and, turning
over the leaf, ran her finger slowly and carefully down the page before
her.

Carrie stood with one elbow upon the corner of the table at which her
sister sat, her chin resting in her palm as she discontentedly watched
Nellie, while with the other hand she swung back and forth by one
string the broad straw hat she was accustomed to wear when playing out
of doors.

"I think you might," she said presently. "Mamma says I can't go if you
don't, and I want to go so."

"I can't help it," said Nellie, still without taking her eyes from her
Bible. "I wish you'd stop shaking the table so."

"How soon will you come?" persisted Carrie, taking her elbow from the
table.

"When I'm ready, and not before," snapped Nellie. "I wish you'd let me
alone."

Carrie began to cry.

"It's too bad," she whimpered. "Mamma says, if I go at all, I must go
early, so as to be back before sundown, 'cause my cold is so bad.
There won't be any time for me to play."

Nellie made no answer, but, having found what she wanted in her Bible,
began to write again, copying from the page of the Holy Book before her.

Presently Carrie, forgetting her caution, tossed down her hat, and
pettishly plumped both elbows upon the table, muttering,--

"I think you're real mean."

"Stop shaking the table, or I won't go at all," said Nellie, in a loud,
irritable tone. "Ask mamma to let Ruth take you."

"She can't spare Ruth, she says. The baby is fretful, and she don't
feel well enough to take care of it herself; and I think you might
go with me. I haven't been to the beach for four days, because I was
sick," pleaded Carrie, wiping the tears from her eyes.

"Well, I'm too busy to go now. You'll have to wait until I'm ready,"
said Nellie. "I'll come by and by."

"By and by will leave hardly any time," said Carrie, with a wistful
glance out upon the lawn, where the shadows were already growing long.

No answer; only the rustle of Nellie's sheet of paper as she turned it
over.

Carrie wandered restlessly about the room for a moment or two; then,
coming back to the table, began idly to turn over some loose papers
which lay at Nellie's right hand.

Nellie snatched them from her.

"Now, look here," she said, "if you don't go away and let me and my
things alone, I won't go to the beach at all. You hinder me all the
time, and I won't be so bothered."

"Cross, hateful thing!" said Carrie, passionately. "I don't b'lieve you
mean to go at all. I wish I had a better sister than you."

Nellie turned once more to the Bible, but deigned no answer to this
outburst.

Carrie looked back from the door, which she had reached on her way from
the room, and said in a tone one shade less furious than her last,--

"You're always poking over your Bible now, but it don't seem to teach
you to be kind. You grow crosser and crosser every day; and you're not
one bit like you used to be."

"Carrie!" called Mrs. Ransom's gentle voice from the next room; and
Carrie vanished, leaving Nellie, as she had said she wished to be,
alone.

Did her work go smoothly after that?

Not very, at least for a few moments. Perhaps mamma had heard all that
had passed, and Nellie did not feel quite satisfied that she should
have done so. What had she said to Carrie? She could hardly recollect
herself, so divided had been her attention between her little sister
and the task before her; but she was quite certain that she had been
"cross," and spoken to Carrie in an unkind manner, apart from her
refusal to accompany the child, who, she well knew, had been confined
to the house for the last few days, and deprived of her usual play and
exercise in the open air.

But then Carrie might just as well have waited patiently a few
moments till she was ready to go, and not bothered her so. She would
go presently when she had looked out three--well, no--five--six more
verses, and written them out; and once more she took up the Bible.

But the words before her eyes mingled themselves with those which were
sounding in her ears.

"Not like she used to be! Crosser and crosser every day!"

Ah! none knew this better than Nellie herself, and yet she strove, or
thought she did, against the growing evil.

Well, there was no use thinking about it now. She would finish the task
she had set herself, call Carrie, make it up with her, and go to the
beach.

And once more she was absorbed in her work, in spite of aching head
and burning cheeks,--so absorbed that she did not heed how time was
passing, did not heed that the six verses had grown into ten, until, as
she was searching for the eleventh, the last golden rays of the sun
fell across her paper, and, looking up quickly, she saw that he was
just sinking in the far west. Too late for Carrie to go out now! The
poor child had lost her afternoon stroll. Oh, she was so sorry! How
could she forget?

Hastily shutting the Bible and pushing it from her, she gathered up her
papers, thrust them into her writing-desk, and turned the key, ran into
the hall for her hat, and went in search of Carrie.

Where was she? She had not heard the child's voice since she left her
in such a temper, nor had she heard Daisy's. Probably the two little
sisters had found some other way of amusing themselves, and Carrie
would have forgotten her disappointment. Well, she would be sure to
give her a good play on the beach to-morrow.

Where could the children be? For, as Nellie thought this to herself,
she was looking in all the places where they were usually to be found,
but they were nowhere to be seen. She called in vain about house and
garden; no childish voice answered.

"I suppose Carrie is provoked with me, and won't speak to me, and won't
let Daisy," she said to herself. "Well, I'm sure I don't care."

But she did care, though she would not acknowledge it to herself;
and she sat down upon the upper step of the porch, and watched the
last rosy sunset tints fading out of the soft clouds overhead, with
a restless, discontented feeling at her heart. The stillness and
the beauty of the scene did not seem to bring peace and rest to her
troubled little soul.

And why was it troubled?

Because for days past--nay, for weeks past--Nellie had been conscious
of an increasing ill-humor and irritability,--"crosser and crosser
every day,"--yes, that was it; but why was it? She did not know, she
could not help it; she was sure she tried hard enough; and every night
and morning, when she said her prayers and asked not to be "led into
temptation," she always thought particularly of the temptation to be
cross, for that seemed what she had to struggle with in these days.

That, and one other thing.

Nellie tried to put that other ugly failing out of sight, would not
believe that she was guilty of it; and yet it would come before her
sometimes, as it did now; and as she thought of little kindnesses,
even little duties unperformed and neglected, she wondered if she were
really growing selfish.

She should so hate to be selfish.

And yet--and yet--people were always asking her to do favors at such
inconvenient times, when she was so busy; and somehow she was always
busy now. There was so much she wanted to do; so much to accomplish
this summer, before she returned to the city and to school; and she did
not like to be interrupted when she was reading or studying. It was so
hard to put her mind to it again, and she was sure it was right to try
to improve herself all she could.

The click of the gate-latch roused her from her troublesome thoughts;
and, looking around, she saw her mother crossing the lawn, Carrie
holding her hand and walking quietly by her side, Daisy jumping and
skipping before them.

Daisy was always skipping and jumping. What a happy, merry little thing
she was! never still one moment, except when she was asleep, and not
always so very still then, little roll-about that she was!

But where had they all been?

The toys the children had with them soon answered this question, for
Daisy was pulling a wagon which had been filled with stones and shells.
The most part of these, however, lay scattered here and there along the
way home; for Daisy's prancings and caperings--she was supposed to be a
pony just now--had jolted them out of the wagon and shed them broadcast
on the path.

Still the few that were left at the bottom of the wagon told whence
they had come; and the tiny spade and pail full of shells which Carrie
held told the same story.

But how tired and languid mamma looked! how wearily she walked across
the lawn!

Nellie ran down to meet her.

"Why, mamma!" she exclaimed. "Have you been down to the beach?"

"Yes, Nellie."

"But, mamma, you look so tired. Didn't you know that was too long a
walk for you?"

Nellie, a child grave and wise for her years, always, or almost always,
showed a tender, thoughtful care for her mother; and it was sometimes
really droll to see how she checked or advised her against any
imprudence, even gently reproved, as in the present case, when the deed
was done.

"You ought not to do it, mamma, you really ought not."

"I had promised Carrie that she should go this afternoon," said Mrs.
Ransom, "and I could not bear that she should be disappointed after
being shut up in the house for four days."

"Mamma," said Carrie, "I'm sure I'd rather have stayed home than had
you make yourself too tired. I didn't know it was too far for you. I
really didn't. Oh, I'm so sorry you said you'd take me! Will it make
you ill again?"

"No, dear. I think not. I do not believe it will hurt me, though I do
feel rather tired," said Mrs. Ransom, smiling cheerfully down into the
little troubled face which looked up so penitently into her own.

Self-reproached, humbled and repentant, Nellie could find no words to
say what she would, or rather the choking feeling in her throat stifled
her voice; and she could only walk silently by her mother's side until
they reached the piazza, where Mrs. Ransom sank wearily into a chair,
giving her hat and parasol into the hands of the eager little Carrie,
who seemed to feel as if she could not do enough to make her mother
comfortable after the sacrifice she had made for her; and Daisy, who
always thought she must do what Carrie did, followed her example.

Carrie brought a footstool, Daisy immediately ran for another, and
nothing would do but mamma must put one foot on each. Carrie brought
a cushion to put behind her, and Daisy, vanishing into the library,
presently reappeared, rolling along with a sofa pillow in each hand,
and was quite grieved when she found that mamma could not well make
use of all three. Then Carrie bringing a fan, and fanning mamma, Daisy
must do the same, and scratched mamma's nose, and banged her head, and
thumped her cheek with the enormous Japanese affair which would alone
serve her purpose; to all of which mamma submitted with the meekest
resignation, only kissing the dear little, blundering nurse, whenever
such mishaps occurred, and saying,--

"Not quite so hard, darling."

And meanwhile Nellie, with that horrid lump in her throat, could do
nothing but stand leaning against the piazza railing, wishing--oh, so
much!--that she had gone with Carrie when she asked her, and so spared
mamma all this fatigue. Mamma had uttered no word of reproach; she knew
that none was needed just now, although she feared that under the same
temptation Nellie would do the same thing again.

But what greater reproach could there be than that pale face and
languid voice, and the knowledge that but for her selfishness--yes,
selfishness, Nellie could not shut her eyes to it--mamma need not have
gone to the beach.

And she knew that it was necessary and right that her mother should
be shielded from all possible fatigue, trouble, and anxiety; she knew
that they had all come to Newport this summer because the doctor had
recommended that air as best for her, and that papa had taken this
small but pretty cottage at a rather inconvenient expense, so that she
might be quite comfortable, have all her family about her, and gain
all the benefit possible. Every one was so anxious and careful about
her, as there was need to be; and she had improved so much the last
fortnight in this lovely air, and under such loving care.

And now! She had been the first one to cause her any fatigue or
risk,--she who had meant to be such a good and thoughtful young nurse.

To be sure, she had never dreamed that mamma would take Carrie to the
beach, but still it was all her fault. Oh dear! oh dear!

Carrie and Daisy chattered away to one another and to their mother,
while the latter sat silently resting in her easy-chair, thinking more
of Nellie than of them, thinking anxiously too.

Suddenly a choking sob broke in upon the children's prattle,--a sob
that would have its way, half stifled though it was.

"Nellie, dear!" said Mrs. Ransom. "Come here, my child,"--as Nellie
turned to run away.

Nellie came with her hands over her face.

"Don't feel so badly, dear. I am not so very tired, and I do not think
it will hurt me," said Mrs. Ransom. "I thought I was stronger than it
seems I am; but another time we will both be more careful, hey?"

And she drew away Nellie's hand, and tenderly kissed her hot, wet cheek.

Nellie went down upon one of the pair of stools occupied by her
mother's feet, somewhat to Daisy's disgust, who only forgave her by
reason of the distress she saw her in, and buried her face on her knee.

She was never a child of many words, and just now they failed her
altogether; but her mother needed none.

"What did Nellie do? Did she hurt herself?" asked the wondering Daisy.

"No," said Carrie. "She hasn't hurt herself, but she"--Carrie's
explanations were not apt to prove balm to a wounded spirit, and her
mother checked her by uplifted finger and a warning shake of her head,
taking up the word herself.

"No," she said to Daisy. "Nellie is troubled about something, but we
won't talk about it now."

"Yes, we'll never mind, won't we?" said Daisy. "But I'll fan her to
make her feel better."

And, suiting the action to the word, she slipped down from her perch
beside her mother, and began to labor vigorously about Nellie's head
and shoulders with her ponderous instrument.

Somehow this struck Nellie as funny, and even in the midst of her
penitent distress she was obliged to give a low laugh; a nervous little
laugh it was, too, as her mother noticed.

"She's 'most better now," said Daisy, in a loud whisper, and with a
confidential nod at mamma. "I fought I'd cure her up. This is a very
nice fan when people don't feel well, or feel sorry," she added, as she
paused for a moment, with an admiring look at the article in question;
"it makes such a lot of wind."

And she returned desperately to her work, bringing down the fan with a
whack on Nellie's head, and then apologizing with--

"Oh! I didn't mean to give you that little tap, Nellie; it will waggle
about so in my hands."

Nellie laughed again, she really could not help it, though she felt
ashamed of herself for doing so; and now she raised her head, wiped
her eyes, and smiled at Daisy; the little one fully believing that her
attentions had brought about this pleasing result.

Perhaps they had.

But although cheerfulness was for the time restored, poor Nellie's
troubles had not yet come to an end for that evening.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



II.

_A TALK WITH PAPA._


MR. RANSOM had said that the family were not to wait tea for him, as he
might be late; but they were scarcely seated at the table when he came
in and took his place with them.

"Elinor," he said immediately, looking across the table at his wife, "I
met Mr. Bradford, and he told me he had seen you down on the beach with
the children. I told him he must be mistaken, as you were not fit for
such a walk, but he insisted he was right. It is not possible you were
so imprudent, is it?"

"Well, yes, if you will call it imprudence," answered Mrs. Ransom,
smiling. "I do not feel that it has hurt me."

"Your face tells whether it has hurt you or no," said her husband in a
vexed tone; "you look quite tired out: how could you do so?"

"I wanted Carrie to have the walk, and I felt more able to go with
her than to spare the nurse and take care of baby myself," answered
Mrs. Ransom, trying to check farther questioning by a side glance at
Nellie's downcast face.

But Mr. Ransom did not understand, or did not heed the look she gave
him.

"And where was our steady little woman, Nellie?" he said. "I thought
she was to be trusted to take care of the other children at any time or
in any place."

"And so she is," said Mrs. Ransom, willing, if possible, to spare
Nellie any farther mortification, "but she was occupied this afternoon."

"That's nonsense," exclaimed Mr. Ransom, with another vexed look at
his wife's pale face; "Nellie could have had nothing to do of such
importance that it must hinder her from helping you. Why did you not
send her?"

"Papa," murmured poor Nellie, "I--mamma--I--please--it was all my
fault. I--I was cross to Carrie. Please don't blame mamma."

Nellie's humble, honest confession did not much mollify her father, who
was a quick-tempered man, rather apt to be sharp with his children if
any thing went wrong; but another pleading look from his wife checked
any very severe reproof, and in answer to her "I really think the walk
did not hurt me," he contented himself with saying shortly, "I don't
agree with you," and let the matter drop.

No sooner was Nellie released from the tea-table than she was busy
again over her Bible and the slips of paper, quite lost to every thing
else around her. The children chattered away without disturbing her;
and she did not even notice that papa and mamma, as they talked in low
tones on the other side of the room, were looking at her in a manner
which would have made it plain to an observer that she was the subject
of their conversation.

By and by Daisy came to kiss her for good-night. She raised her
head slightly, and turned her cheek to her little sister, answering
pleasantly enough, but with an absent air, showing plainly that her
thoughts were busy with something else.

Daisy held strong and natural objections to this not over-civil mode of
receiving her caress, and, drawing back her rosy lips from the upraised
cheek, said,--

"No, I shan't kiss you that way. I want your mouf; it's not polite to
stick up a cheek."

An expression of impatience flitted over Nellie's face; but it was gone
in an instant, and, dropping her pencil, she put both arms about Daisy,
and gave her a hearty and affectionate kiss upon her puckered little
mouth.

Daisy was satisfied, and ran off, but, pausing as she reached the door,
she looked back at her sister and said,--

"You're an awful busy girl these days, Nellie; the play is all gone out
of you."

Nellie smiled faintly, hardly heeding the words; but other eyes which
were watching her thought also that she did indeed look as if "all
the play had gone out" of her. She returned to her work as Daisy left
her side, but even as she did so she drew herself up with a sigh, and
passed her hand wearily across her forehead.

"It is time a stop was put to this," whispered her father, and mamma
assented with a rather melancholy nod of her head.

Not two minutes had passed when Daisy's little feet were heard
pattering down the stairs again, and her glowing face appeared in the
open door.

"Ruth says she can't put baby down to put me to bed," she proclaimed
with an unmistakable air of satisfaction in the circumstances which
made it necessary for mother or sister to perform that office for her.
"Who wants to do it?" she added, looking from one to the other.

Mrs. Ransom looked over at Nellie, as if expecting she would offer to
go with Daisy; but the little girl paid no attention, did not even seem
to hear the child.

Mrs. Ransom rose and held out her hand to Daisy.

"Nellie," said Mr. Ransom sharply, "are you going to let your mother go
upstairs with Daisy?"

Nellie started, and looked up confusedly.

"Oh! I didn't know. Do you want me to, mamma? Couldn't Ruth put her to
bed?" she said, showing that she had, indeed, not heard one word of
what had passed.

"Ruth cannot leave the baby," said her mother; "but I do not want you
to go unwillingly, Nellie. I would rather do it myself."

"I am quite willing, mamma," and the tone of her voice showed no want
of readiness. "I did not know you were going. Come, Daisy, dear."

But she could not refrain from a backward, longing look at her book
and papers as she left the room.

She was not unkind or cross to her little sister while she was with
her; far from it. She undressed her carefully and tenderly,--with
rather more haste than Daisy thought well, perhaps, but doing for her
all that was needful; and, if she were more silent than usual, that did
not trouble Daisy, _she_ could talk enough for both.

But her thoughts were occupied with something quite different from
the duty she had before her; she forgot one or two little things, and
would even have hurried Daisy into bed without hearing her say her
prayers, but for the child's astonished reminder. This done, and Daisy
laid snugly in her crib, she kissed her once more, and gladly escaped
downstairs. Daisy was never afraid to be left alone; besides, there was
the nurse just in the next room.

"Are you going back to that horrid writing?" asked Carrie, as Nellie
took her seat at the table again.

"I am going back to my writing," answered Nellie, dryly.

Carrie looked, as she felt, disgusted. Papa and mamma had gone out on
the piazza; but mamma would not let her be in the evening air, and she
wanted amusement within; and here was Nellie going back to that "horrid
writing," which had occupied her so much for the last three days.

Nellie had plainly neither time nor thought to bestow upon her; and she
wandered restlessly and discontentedly about the room, fretting for
"something to do."

But a few minutes had passed when a loud thump sounded overhead; and a
shriek followed, which rang through the house. There was no mistaking
the cause: Daisy had fallen out of bed, as Daisy was apt to do unless
she were carefully guarded against it; and the catastrophe was one
of such frequent occurrence, and Daisy so seldom received injury
therefrom, that none of the family were much alarmed, save her mother.

Mrs. Ransom ran upstairs, followed quickly by Nellie and Carrie, and
more slowly by her husband, who hoped and believed that Daisy had had
her usual good fortune, and accomplished her gymnastics without severe
injury to herself.

It proved otherwise this time, however; for, although not seriously
hurt, Daisy had a great bump on her forehead, which was fast swelling
and turning black, and a scratch upon her arm; and she was disposed to
make much of her wounds and bruises, and to consider herself a greatly
afflicted martyr.

How did it happen? Daisy should have been fastened in her little bed,
so that she could not fall out.

"Nellie," said Mrs. Ransom, as she held the sobbing child upon her lap
and bathed the aching little head with warm water and arnica,--"Nellie,
did you fasten up the side of the crib after you had put Daisy in bed?"

"No, mamma, I don't believe I did," said conscience-stricken Nellie. "I
don't quite remember, but I am afraid I did not."

"And why didn't you? You know she always rolls out, if it is not done,"
said her mother.

"I--I suppose I did not remember, mamma. I was thinking about something
else; and I was in such a hurry to go downstairs again. I am so sorry!"

And she laid her hand penitently on that of Daisy, who was regarding
her with an injured air, as one who was the cause of her misfortunes.

"Yes, I am afraid that was it, Nellie," said Mrs. Ransom. "Your mind
was so taken up with something else that you could not give proper
attention to your little sister. I am sorry I did not come myself to
put her to bed."

It was the second time that day that Nellie might have been helpful to
her mother, but she had only brought trouble upon her.

She stood silent and mortified.

Mr. Ransom took Daisy from her mother and laid her back in her crib,
taking care that she was perfectly secured this time; then went
downstairs. But Daisy was not to be consoled, unless mamma sat beside
her and held her hand till she went to sleep; so Mrs. Ransom remained
with her, dismissing Carrie also to bed.

Nellie assisted her to undress, making very sure that nothing was
forgotten this time, and then returned to see if her mother was ready
to go downstairs. But Daisy was most persistently wide awake; her fall
had roused her from her first sleep very thoroughly; and she found it
so pleasant to have mamma sitting there beside her that she had no mind
to let herself float off to the land of dreams, but kept constantly
exciting herself with such remarks as--

"Mamma, the's a lot of tadpoles in the little pond."--"Mamma, the's
lots of niggers in Newport; oh! I forgot, you told me not to say
niggers; I mean colored, black people."--"Mamma, when I'm big I'll
buy you a gold satin dress." Or suddenly rousing just as her mother
thought she was dropping off to sleep, and putting the startling
question, "Mamma, if I was a bear, would you be my mamma?" and mamma
unhappily replying "No," she immediately set up a dismal howl, which
took some time to quiet.

Finding this to be the state of affairs, and warned by her mother's
uplifted finger not to come in the room, Nellie went downstairs again,
meaning to return to her former occupation. But, to her surprise, the
Bible, which she remembered leaving open, was closed and laid aside,
her papers all gone.

"Why," she said, "who has meddled with my things, I wonder?"

"I put them all away, Nellie," said her father.

"I am going to write more, papa."

"Not to-night. Put on your hat and come out with me for a little walk,"
said Mr. Ransom.

Nellie might have felt vexed at this decided interference with her
work; but the pleasure of a moonlight walk with papa quite made up for
it, and she was speedily ready, and her hand in his.

Mr. Ransom led her down upon the beach, Nellie half expecting all the
time some reproof for the neglect which had caused so much trouble; but
her father uttered none, talking cheerfully and pleasantly on other
subjects.

It was a beautiful evening. The gentle waves, shimmering and glancing
in the moonlight, broke softly on the beach with a soothing, sleepy
sound; and the cool salt breeze which swept over them came pleasantly
to Nellie's flushed, hot cheeks and throbbing head. She and her father
had the beach pretty much to themselves at this hour; and, finding a
broad, flat stone which offered a good resting-place, they sat down
upon it, and watched the waves as they curled and rippled playfully
upon the white sands.

"Now," thought Nellie, when they were seated side by side,--"now,
surely, papa is going to find fault with me; and no wonder if he does.
Twice to-day I've made such trouble for mamma, when I never meant to do
a thing! I don't see what ailed me to-day. It has been a horrid day,
and every thing has gone wrong."

And Nellie really did not know, or perhaps I should say had not
considered, what it was that had made every thing go wrong with her for
the greater part of the day.

But no; again she was pleasantly disappointed. Papa talked on as
before, and called her attention to the white sails of a ship gleaming
far off in the silver moonlight, and told her an interesting story of a
shipwreck he had once witnessed on this coast.

As they were on their way home, however, and when they had nearly
reached the house, Mr. Ransom said,--

"Nellie, what is this you are so busy with, my daughter?"

"What, my writing do you mean, papa?" asked Nellie, looking up at him.

"Yes, some Bible lesson, is it not?"

"Not just a lesson, papa," answered Nellie. "Miss Ashton gave us three
or four subjects to study over a little this summer, if we chose, and
to find as many texts about as we could; but it is not a lesson, for we
need not do it unless we like, and have plenty of time."

"Then it is not a task she set you?" said Mr. Ransom.

"Oh, no, papa! not at all. She said she thought it would be a good plan
for us to read a little history every day, or to take any other lesson
our mammas liked, but she did not even first speak of this of herself;
for Gracie Howard asked her to give us some subjects to hunt up texts
about, and then Miss Ashton said it would be a good plan for us to
spend a little time at that if we liked, and she gave us four subjects.
She said it would help to make us familiar with the Bible."

"Yes," said Mr. Ransom musingly, and as if he had not heeded, if indeed
he had heard, the last sentence of her speech.

"And I have such a long list, papa," continued Nellie, "that is, on
the first subject; and on the second I have a good many, too, but I am
not through with that. I had very few the day before yesterday; but
then, you know, Maggie Bradford came to see me, and she is doing it,
too, and she had so many more than I had that I felt quite ashamed.
Then the same afternoon I had a letter from Gracie Howard, and she told
me she had more than a hundred on the first, and nearly a hundred on
the second; so I felt I must hurry up, or maybe all the others would be
ahead of me. I've been busy all day to-day finding texts, and copying
them."

"Is that all you have done to-day?" asked Mr. Ransom.

Nellie cannot gather from his tone whether he approves or not; but
it seems to her quite impossible that he should not consider her
occupation most praiseworthy.

"Oh, no, papa!" she answered. "I have done several things besides. I
read nearly twenty pages of my history twice over, and learned every
one of the dates; then I studied a page of Speller and Definer, and a
lesson in my French Phrase-book, and did four sums, and said '7 times'
and '9 times' in the multiplication table, each four times over. 7's
and 9's are the hardest to remember, so I say those the oftenest. I did
all those lessons and half an hour's sewing before I went to my texts;
but I've been busy with those almost ever since."

"And you have had no walk, no play, all day?" questioned Mr. Ransom.

Nellie was not satisfied with her father's tone now; it did not by any
means express approbation.

"I have not played any, papa, but I had some exercise; for all the time
I was learning my French phrases, I was rolling the baby's wagon around
the gravel walk."

"And it was pretty much the same thing yesterday, was it not?" said Mr.
Ransom.

"Well, yes, papa," rather faintly.

"Nellie," said her father, "did you ever hear the old couplet, 'All
work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'?"

"Yes, papa," answered Nellie, half laughing, half reluctantly, as she
began to fear that her father intended to interfere with her plans for
study. "But am I 'a dull boy'?"

"Neither 'dull' nor a 'boy,'" answered her father, playfully shaking
the little hand in his. "But I fear there is danger of the former,
Nellie, if you go on taking so much 'work' and no 'play.' Miss Ashton
did not desire all this, if I understand you, my dear."

"Oh, no, papa! I was just doing it of myself. Miss Ashton only said,
if our papas and mammas did not object, she thought it would be wiser
for us to have a little lesson or reading every day. But you see,
papa"--Nellie hesitated, and then came to a full stop.

"Well?" said her father, encouragingly.

"Papa, I seem to be so far behind all the girls of my age in our class.
It makes me feel ashamed, and as if I must do all I could to catch up
with them."

"I do not know," said Mr. Ransom. "It seems to me that a little girl
who keeps the head of her spelling, history, and geography classes for
at least a fair share of the time, and who has taken more than one
prize for composition and steady, orderly conduct, has no need to feel
ashamed before her school-fellows."

"Well, no, papa--but--but--somehow I am not so quick as the others. I
generally know my lessons, and do keep my place in the classes about as
well as any one; but it takes me a great deal longer than it does most
of the others. Gracie Howard can learn in half the time that I can; so
can Laura Middleton, Maggie Bradford, and 'most all the girls as old as
I am, whom I know."

"And probably they know them and remember them no better than my
Nellie," said her father.

Mr. Ransom was not afraid of making his little daughter conceited or
careless by over-praise; she had not sufficient confidence in herself
or her own powers, and needed all the encouragement that could be given
to her. Too much humility, rather than too little, was Nellie's snare.

"Yes, papa," she answered. "I suppose I do _remember_ as well as any of
the rest, and I seldom miss in my lessons; but I don't see why it is
that often when Miss Ashton asks us some question about a lesson that
has gone before, or about something that I know quite well, the words
do not seem to come to me very quick, and one of the others will answer
before I can. Miss Ashton is very good about that, papa, and sometimes
it seems as if she knew I was going to answer; for she will say,
'Nellie, you know that, do you not, my dear?' and make the others wait
till I can speak. But, papa, even then it makes me feel horridly, for
it seems as if I was stupid not to be quick as the others, and I can't
bear to have them waiting for me to find my words. So I want to study
all I can, even out of school and in vacation."

Nellie's voice shook, and her father saw in the moonlight that the eyes
she raised to him were full of tears.

"And you think that all this extra study is going to help you, my
little girl?" he said.

"Why, yes, I thought it would, papa. I want to learn a great deal, for,
oh, I would so like to be quick and clever, to study as fast and answer
as well as Maggie, Gracie, or Lily! Please don't think I am vexed if
the other children go above me in my classes, or that I am jealous,
papa; I don't mean to be, but I would like to be very wise, and to know
a great deal."

"I certainly shall not think you are envious of your schoolmates and
playfellows, my daughter, however far they may outstrip you, and papa
can feel for you in your want of readiness and quickness of speech, for
he is troubled sometimes in the same way himself; but, Nellie, this
is a misfortune rather than a fault, and, though you would do well to
correct it as far as you can, I do not know that you are taking the
right way; and I am sure, my dear, that you have plainer and nearer
duties just now."

"You say that, papa, because I was disobliging to Carrie this
afternoon, and careless with dear little Daisy to-night, and I know it
serves me right; but do you think it is not a very great duty for me to
improve myself all I can?"

"Certainly, Nellie, I think it your duty to make the most of your
advantages, and that you should try to improve yourself as much as you
can at proper times and in proper places; but I do not think it wise or
right that my little girl should spend the time that she needs for rest
or play in what is to her hard work and study. My child, you are doing
now four times as much as you should do, while at the same time you are
forgetting or neglecting the little every-day duties that fall to you.
Is it not so?"

"I dare say you think so, papa, after to-day," answered Nellie, with
quivering voice; "but I can try not to let myself be so taken up again
with my lessons, and then there will be no harm in it, will there?"

"Have you felt very well, quite like yourself, during the last few
days, Nellie?"

"Well, no, sir," said Nellie, reluctantly. "Not quite. I feel rather
tired every morning when I wake up, and my head aches a good deal 'most
all the time. And--and--I _don't_ feel quite like myself, for I feel
cross and hateful, and I don't think I usually am very cross, papa."

"And the harder you work, the worse you feel; is it not so?"

"Well, I don't know, papa; but you do not think study makes my head
ache, or makes me cross, do you?"

"Certainly I do, dear; too much study, too much work, which may make
Nell a dull girl, if she does not take care. Your little mind has
become over-tired, Nellie; so has your little body; and health and even
temper must suffer."

"I'll try not to be cross or careless again, papa," said Nellie,
humbly. "And there is no need for me to play if I do not choose, is
there?"

"Who gave you your health and good spirits, Nellie?"

"Why, God, papa!"

"And do you think it right, then, for you to do any thing which
destroys or injures either?"

"No, papa," more slowly still, as she saw his meaning.

They had been standing for the last few moments at the foot of the
piazza steps, where mamma sat awaiting them; and now, stooping to kiss
his thoughtful, sensible little daughter, Mr. Ransom said,--

"We have had talk enough for to-night, Nellie; and it is past your
bed-time. Think over what we have said, and to-morrow I will talk
to you again. Put texts and lessons quite out of your head for the
present, and go to sleep as soon as you can. Good-night, my child."

Nellie bade him good-night, and, kissing her mother also, obeyed, going
quietly and thoughtfully upstairs. That was nothing new for Nellie; but
her mother's anxious ear did not fail to notice that, spite of the walk
and talk with papa, her foot had not its usual spring and lightness.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



III.

_NELLIE A HOUSEKEEPER._


MR. RANSOM acted wisely in leaving what he had said to work its own
effect on his little girl. Nellie was such a sensible, thoughtful
child--almost too thoughtful and quiet for her years--that she was
sure to think it all over, to consider what was right, and, when
she had decided that, to resolve to do what she believed to be her
duty. She was honest with herself too, not making excuses for her own
shortcomings when she saw them, or trying to believe that what she
wished was the right thing to do because she wished it. If she saw
clearly that it was wrong, wrong for _her_, a temptation and a snare,
though it might be right in other circumstances, she would be sure to
put it from her, hard as it might be.

And her father thought that it would be easier for her to resolve of
her own accord to give up some of the tasks on which her heart was set
than it would be to do so at his command. It is generally pleasanter to
believe that we are guided by our own will and resolution than by that
of another.

Mr. Ransom was right. Nellie did indeed think over in all seriousness
the conversation she had had with her father; even more, she went
back in her own mind over past weeks and months, and acknowledged to
herself that for some time she had found every thing but study irksome
and troublesome to her, that lately even this had lost its pleasure,
though she would persevere and felt irritated and troubled at the
least interruption to the tasks she set herself. She was forced to see
that she did not feel "like herself" either in mind or body; that
after hours of study her head ached and throbbed, she was weary and
cross, finding every thing a burden, and having no wish or energy for
play or exercise. It had been especially so for the last two or three
days, ever since she had worked so hard over her "Bible subjects;" and
honestly, though unwillingly, with many tears, Nellie made up her mind
to do what she saw to be right, and give up at least a portion of the
tasks she had undertaken.

"For I do see I'm growing cross and hateful," she said to herself. "I
can't bear to have the children come and ask me to play, or to do any
little favor for them, and I don't like it very much whenever mamma
wants me to help her. I know I _felt_ provoked when she asked me to
roll the baby's wagon this morning, though I don't think I let her see
it. I believe I don't feel so happy or so good, or even so well, as
I used to do, and I don't know--I'm afraid it is so much reading and
studying makes it so. I think I'll have to make up my mind not to know
as much, or to be so quick and clever as Maggie, and Gracie, and some
of the others."

But this was a hard resolve for Nellie, and she fell to sleep in no
happy frame of mind.

She slept later than usual the next morning, for her mother,
remembering how dull and languid she had seemed, would not let her
be awakened; and Mrs. Ransom and the children were just finishing
breakfast when she came downstairs.

"Why, where's papa?" asked Nellie, seeing his place was vacant.

"A telegram came this morning which called him to town very
unexpectedly," said her mother. "He went in and kissed you as you lay
asleep, and left his love and good-by for you, and told me to tell you
he hoped to see his own old Nellie back when he comes home in a week's
time."

Nellie knew what that meant, but she was sorry that papa had
gone,--sorry, not only that he should have been obliged to leave home
sooner than he had expected, but also that she could not now talk more
with him on the matter of her studies.

However, there was her dear mother: she would listen to her, and give
her all the advice and help she needed.

The children asked permission to leave the table, which was granted;
but Mrs. Ransom herself sat still while Nellie took her breakfast,
talking cheerily to her, and trying to tempt her very indifferent
appetite by offering a little bit of this or that.

"Nellie," said her mother, when they were alone, "I was thinking of
asking you how you would like to be my little housekeeper."

"Your housekeeper, mamma!" echoed Nellie, pausing in the act of
buttering her biscuit, and looking at her mother with surprise.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Ransom, "or rather suppose we should be
housekeeper together, you being feet and hands, and I being the head.
Is that a fair division, think you?"

Nellie colored and laughed.

"Why, yes; but do you think I could, mamma?"

"I think there are a hundred little things you might do if you would
like," said her mother. "I'll give you the keys, and you may make
the store-room and sideboard your especial charge, keeping them in
perfect order, giving out what is needed, seeing that the sugar-bowls,
tea-caddy, cracker-basket, and so forth, are kept full, taking my
orders to the cook, and other little things which will be a great help
to me, and which will give you some useful lessons. What do you say?"

"Why, I'd like it ever so much, mamma, but"--

"Well, but what?" said Mrs. Ransom, as Nellie hesitated.

"Mamma, I think I'm rather stupid about such things, and I might make
you trouble sometimes."

"Not _stupid_, Nellie; and, if you are willing to learn, I shall be
willing to put up with a little trouble now and then, and to excuse
mistakes. If you undertake it, I believe you will be faithful and
painstaking, as you are about every thing, and that you can really be a
great help to me. Will you try it for a week, and see how you like it?
By the time that papa comes home again, you will be accustomed to it,
and he will not be apt to suffer from the little slips you may make at
first."

"Yes, indeed, mamma; and, if you are not tired of such a funny
housekeeper as I shall make, I don't think I shall be tired of doing
it. Mamma, _do_ you think I could learn to make some cake? those
ginger-snaps papa likes?"

"I do not doubt it," said Mrs. Ransom, smiling back into the face that
was eager and bright enough now.

"Mamma," said Nellie, "did papa tell you what we were talking about
last evening while we were out walking?"

"Yes, dear, he did; and he said he thought our Nellie had sense enough
to see what she ought to do, and courage and strength of mind enough to
make any sacrifice she felt to be right."

"Courage, mamma?"

"Yes, dear, it often needs much courage--what is called moral
courage--to resolve to do what we feel to be a duty, especially if it
calls for any sacrifice of our pride or vanity, or of the desire to
appear well in the eyes of others."

Nellie knew that she was thinking of such a sacrifice, and it was
rather a consolation to have mamma speaking of it in this way.

"Moral courage" sounded very fine.

But she sat silent, slowly eating her omelet and biscuit, and feeling
that she had not quite made up her mind how far the sacrifice must go,
or how much of her work she should decide to give up. But one thing she
had fully resolved,--that her studies should no longer interfere with
what papa called "nearer and plainer duties," or cause needless injury
to her health and temper. She would help mamma, play with the children,
walk and run as other little girls of her age did, and try hard to put
from her all rebellious and impatient feelings at not being quite so
clever as some among her schoolmates.

"Mamma," she said, after another pause, during which she had finished
her breakfast,--"mamma, how much do you think it would be wise for me
to study every day?"

"Well," said Mrs. Ransom slowly, and as if she knew that she was about
to give advice that would not be quite agreeable, "if you wish to know
what I think _wisest_, I should say give up study altogether for at
least a fortnight."

"For a whole fortnight, two weeks, mamma?" echoed Nellie, in dismay.
She had expected that her mother would say she might well study two
hours a day, hoped for three, wished that it might be four, and had
resolved to be content with the allowance proposed; but to give up her
books altogether for two weeks! "It seems such a waste of time for such
a great girl as me, mamma," she added.

"Well, my great girl of ten years, suppose we say one week then," said
Mrs. Ransom playfully. "Keep on with your practising as usual, and with
your half-hour of sewing these with your new housekeeping duties will
take up a good part of the morning without much 'waste of time,' I
think; the rest of the day I would give entirely to play and amusement.
If at the end of a week we do not find that you are feeling better and
happier"--

"And not so cross," put in Nellie, with rather a shamefaced smile.

Her mother smiled, too, and took up her speech. "Then we will agree
that my plan was not needful, and that all this constant poring over
books does not hurt your health, your temper, or your mind."

"Yes, mamma," said Nellie, with a sigh she could not suppress, though
she did try to speak cheerfully. Then she added, "O mamma, I should so
like to be a very clever, bright girl, and to know a great deal!"

"A very good thing, Nellie, but not the first of all things, my
daughter," said Mrs. Ransom, putting her arm about the waist of her
little girl, who had risen and come over to her side.

"No, mamma," said Nellie softly, "and you think I have made it the
first of all things lately, do you not?"

Before Mrs. Ransom could answer, sounds of woe came from the piazza
without, Daisy's voice raised in trouble once more.

Tears and smiles both lay near the surface with Daisy, and had their
way by turns. One moment she would be in the depth of despair, the next
dimpling all over with laughter and frolic; so that Nellie did not fear
any very serious disaster when she ran to see what the matter was.

The great misery of Daisy's life was this,--that people were always
taking her for a boy, a mistake which she considered both unnatural and
insulting, and which she always resented with all her little might.

Nellie found her sitting at the head of the piazza steps, crying
aloud, with her straw hat pressed over her face by both hands.

"What's the matter, Daisy?" asked her sister.

"Oh! such a wicked butcher-man came to my house," answered Daisy, in
smothered tones from beneath her hat.

"What did he do? What makes him wicked?" asked Nellie.

"He sweared at me," moaned Daisy; "oh! he sweared dreadful at me."

"Did he?" said Nellie, much shocked.

"Yes," said Daisy, removing the hat so far that she was able to peep
out with one eye at her sister, "he did. He called me 'Bub,' and I'm
not a bub, now."

Nellie was far from wishing to wound Daisy's feelings afresh; but this
mild specimen of _swearing_ struck her as so intensely funny that she
could not keep back a peal of laughter,--a peal so merry and hearty
that it rejoiced her mother's heart, who had not heard Nellie laugh
like that for several weeks.

Daisy's tears redoubled at this. She had expected sympathy and
indignation from Nellie, and here she was actually laughing.

"You oughtn't to laugh," she said resentfully; "it is very naughty to
swear bad names at little girls, and I shan't eat the meat that bad
butcher-man brought."

Nellie sat down beside the insulted little one, and, smothering her
laughter, said coaxingly,--

"I wouldn't mind that, Daisy. Here, dry your eyes."

"Yes, you would," sobbed Daisy, taking down the hat, but rejecting the
pocket handkerchief her sister offered; "I have a potterhancher of my
own in my pottet;" and she pulled out the ten-inch square article in
question, and mournfully obeyed Nellie's directions.

"He called me a fellow too, and he ought to see I don't wear boys'
clothes," she added.

"How did he come to be talking to you?" asked Nellie, trying to keep a
grave face. "What were you doing?"

"I was very good and nice, just sitting on the grass, and making a
wreaf of some clovers Carrie gave me," explained Daisy, piteously, "and
he brought the meat in, and said, 'Good-morning, bub; you're a nice
little fellow!' and I'm not, now."

"Here he comes again," said Nellie, as a jolly, good-natured-looking
butcher's boy came around from the other side of the house.

"I shan't let him see me," cried Daisy, and, scrambling to her feet,
she rushed into the house before the disturber of her peace came near
her again.

A moment later Nellie heard her rippling laugh over some trifle which
had taken her attention, and she knew that the April shower was over,
and sunshine restored.

This little incident had so diverted Nellie's thoughts, and amused her
so much, that for the time she forgot the subject of the conversation
with her mother, which had been so abruptly broken off; and when she
returned to her, she laughed merrily again as she related the cause of
Daisy's trouble, and her indignation at having been taken for a boy.

Mrs. Ransom did not return to it. She thought that enough had been
said, and she agreed with her husband in thinking that Nellie would
feel a certain satisfaction in believing she exercised her own will and
judgment in the matter.

"Here are the keys, dear," she said, when she and Nellie had laughed
over Daisy's tribulations; "and it is time Catherine had her orders for
the day. Go first to the kitchen and tell her"--and here Mrs. Ransom
gave Nellie the necessary directions, which she in her turn was to
repeat to the cook. Then she was to ask the woman what was needed from
the store-room, and to give out such things.

"What's Nellie going to do?" asked Carrie, who had come in, and stood
listening while her mother gave Nellie her directions.

"I'm going to be mamma's housekeeper," said Nellie, feeling at least a
head taller with the importance of all this responsibility.

"Oh!" said Carrie, looking at her with admiration, and quite as much
impressed as she was expected to be.

"You can come with me, and see me, if you want to," said Nellie.

"And can I help her, mamma?" asked Carrie.

"Yes, if Nellie is willing, and can find any thing for you to do,"
answered Mrs. Ransom.

Thoroughly interested now in her new undertaking, Nellie had for the
time quite forgotten lessons, "Bible subjects," and other tasks, till
Carrie said,--

"What are you going to do, Nellie, when you have finished keeping
house?"

"I think it will take me a good while to do all the housekeeping,"
replied Nellie. "When that is finished, I will see. Oh! I'll go down to
the beach with you, Carrie, if mamma says we may."

Carrie looked very much pleased.

"Then you're not going back to that old Bible lesson this morning?" she
asked.

"Why, Carrie! what a way to speak of the Bible!"

"Oh!" said Carrie, rather abashed, "but I didn't mean the Bible was
old, Nellie; only the long, long lessons you have been studying out of
it are so tiresome, and make you so busy."

Nellie understood by this how much Carrie had missed her company since
she had been so taken up with her self-chosen task; and again she felt
that she had been rather selfish in letting it occupy so much of her
time.

Here Daisy met them, and, asking where they were going, was told
of Nellie's new dignity. Of course she wanted to "help" too; and,
permission being given, she marched first into the kitchen, and
informed the cook,--

"Me and Carrie and Nellie are going to keep the house."

Nellie gave her orders with great correctness, Daisy repeating them
after her, in order that the cook might be sure to make no mistake,
except when Nellie told what was to be done with the meat, when she
declared she should not "talk about the meat that wicked butcher
brought," and turned her back upon it with an air of offended dignity.

Her resolution held good throughout the day, for at dinner she
positively refused to eat of either the meat or poultry brought by
the "swearing butcher-man," and even held out against the charms of a
chicken's wish-bone which mamma offered.

Next to the store-room, where the two younger children looked on
with admiring approbation, while Nellie gave out to the cook such
articles as were needed for the day, and then saw that tea-canisters,
sugar-bowls, cake-basket, &c., were all in proper order. The filling of
the cake-basket and sugar-bowls was a particularly interesting process,
especially when Nellie, following mamma's daily practice, bestowed
"just one lump of sugar" on each of her little sisters, taking care
to select the largest, and then sweetening her own labors with a like
chosen morsel.

It was great fun also to ladle out rice, break the long sticks of
macaroni, and, best of all, to weigh out the pound of raisins required
for the pudding.

Daisy, however, permitted herself some liberties under the new reign
which she would not have ventured upon under her mother's rule; and,
not considering herself obliged to obey Nellie, was decoyed away
by the cook under the pretence of shelling peas for dinner. Having
opened about five pods, little white teeth as well as her ten fingers
assisting at the operation, and letting about every other pea roll
away, she concluded that she was tired of helping Catherine, and went
back to Nellie, who was fortunately by this time quite through with her
arrangements in the store-room.

"Mamma," said Nellie, when she had returned to her mother and reported
how successfully she had fulfilled all her orders,--"mamma, I do not
think the store-room is in very good order."

"I know it is not, dear," replied Mrs. Ransom, "and I have been
wishing to have it properly arranged, but have not really felt able to
attend to it."

"Couldn't I do it, mamma?" asked Nellie, full of zeal in her new
character.

"It would be rather hard work for you; but some day next week we will
go there together and overlook things; after which I will have it
dusted and scrubbed, and then you shall arrange it as you please. The
people who hired this house before we had it were not as neat as my
Nellie, I fear. But I am thankful to find that there are no mice about;
I have not heard one since we have been here."

Mrs. Ransom's dread of a mouse was a matter of great wonder to her
children, who could not imagine how she could be so afraid of such
"cunning little things;" and, although she really did try to control
it, it had the mastery over her whenever she saw or heard one, and was
a source of great and constant discomfort to her.



[Illustration]



IV.

_A COURTSHIP._


"WILL you come to the beach now, Nellie?" said Carrie.

"Yes, if mamma has nothing more for me to do," said Nellie; and mamma
telling her that there was nothing at present, they were soon ready and
on their way; Daisy also being allowed to accompany them on promise of
being very, very good and obedient to Nellie.

Nellie, wise, steady little woman that she was, was always to be
trusted to take care of the other children, and to keep them out of
mischief, so long as she gave her mind to it; and her mother had no
fear that it would be otherwise now, after the lesson of last night.
Poor Nellie! the sight of that black bump on Daisy's forehead was
sufficient reminder in itself, even had she not formed such good
resolutions. _She_ felt it, I believe, more than Daisy did.

An unexpected pleasure awaited Nellie and Carrie when they reached the
beach, for there they met, not only the little Bradfords, whom they now
saw frequently, but also Lily Norris and Belle Powers, who had come to
pass the day with their friends, Maggie and Bessie.

Daisy and Frankie Bradford, who were great cronies and allies, were
soon busily engaged in making sand-pies, and conveying them in their
little wagons to imaginary customers who were supposed to live upon the
rocks.

Nellie had brought her doll with her. This was a doll extraordinary,
a doll well known and far famed. It had been presented to Nellie by
old Mrs. Howard, as a reward for her kind and generous behavior to her
little grand-daughter Gracie, at a time when the latter had fallen
into trouble and disgrace at school. To the young residents of Newport,
the chief claim to distinction of the Ransom family lay in the fact
that in their midst resided this wonderful creation of art. Mr. and
Mrs. Ransom enjoyed the glorious privilege of being "the father and
mother of the girl that has the doll." Nellie herself was considered
the most enviable of mortals, while her brothers and sisters shared
a kind of reflected glory. To meet Nellie when she had her treasure
out for an airing was an event in the day; and frantic rushes were
made to windows or down to gates and palings when the announcement was
made,--"The doll is coming!"

It was impossible that Nellie should not be gratified by all this
flattering homage to her darling, and she received such tributes with a
proud but still generous satisfaction, for she would always take pains
to walk slowly when she saw some eager eye fastened upon the doll,
or carry it so as to afford the best view of all the beauties of its
toilet; and, choice and careful as she was of it, she was always ready
when she met any of her young friends to allow them to take and nurse
it for a while.

Of late, however, even this doll had been neglected and put aside in
the press of work which Nellie had laid upon herself; and this was the
first time in several days that she had appeared in public. So Nellie
was eagerly welcomed, partly on her own account, partly on that of her
daughter; and after the latter had been duly admired, and ah'ed and
oh'ed over to the heart's content of her mamma and the spectators,
she was intrusted to Belle's tender care for a while, Lily having the
promise of being allowed to take her afterwards.

Nellie was never a child who cared much for romping play or frolic;
quiet games and amusements suited her much better; therefore her
playmates were rather surprised when, having seen her doll safe in
Belle's keeping, she proposed a race down the length of the beach, to
see who could first reach a given rock she pointed out. For Nellie,
like many another little child--ay, and grown person too--when they
mean to turn over a new leaf, was now disposed to run into the opposite
extreme, and to strive to make up for lost time by taking an amount of
play and exercise to which she was not accustomed at any time.

Maggie and Lily readily agreed to her proposal, though they were rather
surprised at it, as coming from her; but Bessie declined, not being
fond of a romp, and Carrie, too, chose to stay with Bessie and Belle.

Nellie, however, soon found that strength and breath gave way,
unaccustomed as she had been for weeks past to a proper amount of
exercise; and she was forced to sit down upon a stone and watch Lily
and Maggie as they sped onwards towards the goal.

They flew like the wind, and it was hard to tell which was there the
first, for they fairly ran against one another as they reached it,
and, laughing and breathless, turned to look back for Nellie, who
smilingly nodded to them from the distance.

Meanwhile Bessie, Belle, and Carrie were amusing themselves more
quietly.

"Do you think your mamma would let you come to our house this
afternoon?" said Bessie to Carrie. "Mamma said we might ask you."

"Oh, yes! I'm sure she would. She quite approves of your family,"
answered Carrie.

"I should think she might," said Belle.

"Mamma thought we'd all like to have a good play together," said
Bessie. "And, besides, we have some new things to show you, Carrie. We
have some white mice that Willie Richards gave us; and they are just as
tame, as tame."

"Oh! they're too cunning for any thing," said Belle. "They hide in your
pocket, or up your sleeve, or in your bosom if you'll let them, and eat
out of your fingers, and are not one bit afraid."

"How did you tame them so?" asked Carrie, who was extremely fond of
dumb pets of all kinds.

"We did not do it," said Bessie. "Willie Richards did it before he sent
them to us; but white mice can be tamed very easily. Harry says so."

"Gray mice can be tamed too," said Belle.

"Why, no!" said Carrie. "They always scamper away from you as fast as
they can go."

"Not always," said Belle, with the air of one who had good authority
for her statement. "Not always, do they, Bessie? For there's a little
mouse lives in our parlor at the hotel in New York, and he's just as
tame as he can be, and he comes out every evening to be fed."

"And do you feed him?" asked Carrie.

"Yes," said Belle. "Every evening I bring a piece of bread or cracker
or cake from the dinner table for him, and when papa and I come in the
parlor he is always on the hearth waiting for us. Then papa sits down
by the table, and the mousey runs up his leg and jumps on the table,
and then he takes the crumbs I put down for him. Oh, he's so cunning,
and his eyes are so bright! And he even lets me smooth his fur with my
finger."

"How did you make him so tame?" asked Carrie.

Belle colored and hesitated, looking down upon the doll in her arms,
and seeming as if she would much rather not tell the story; but Carrie,
who was not very quick to see where another's feelings were concerned,
repeated her question.

"Well," said Belle, slowly at first, and then, as she became interested
in her own story, with more ease, "he used to run about the room, but
was not one bit tame, and papa told the waiter to set a trap for him.
And the man did; and one morning when we went in the room the little
mouse was caught. And he looked so cunning and so funny, peeping
through the bars of the trap, that I felt very sorry about him; and,
when the man was going to take him away to drown him, I cried very
hard, and begged papa to let me keep him in the trap. And because I
felt so badly papa said I might, but I must feed him, so he would not
starve; and he very 'spressly told me I must not lift the door of the
trap, for fear the mouse would run out. Papa thought I would soon grow
tired of him,--he said so afterwards; but I did not, and I grew very
attached to that mouse, and he to me. But--but"--Belle's voice faltered
again, and she looked ashamed--"but I disobeyed my papa, and one day I
opened the door of the trap a te-en-y little bit, just a very little
bit; but the mouse ran out just as quick, as quick, and scampered away
to the fireplace where his hole was."

"Did your papa scold you?" asked Carrie, as Belle paused to take breath.

"No," answered Belle, remorsefully, "he didn't _scold_ me, but he
looked very sorry when I told him. He always looks sorry at me when I
am not good, but he never scolds me, and that makes me feel worse than
if he was ever so cross to me."

"Well, what about the mouse?" asked Carrie.

"That very evening I was sitting on papa's knee, talking to him,"
continued Belle, "and what do you think? why, the first thing I saw was
the mouse on the hearth looking right at me. I had a maccaroon, and
papa crumbled a little bit of it on the floor, and the mouse came and
eat it. Then he played about a little while; we kept very still, and at
last he ran away. But the next night, and every night after that, he
came; and at last one evening, first thing we knew, he jumped on papa's
foot and ran up his leg; and now every evening he does that, and sits
on the table till I feed him."

"How cunning!" said Carrie. "I wish I had one; but I'd rather have a
white mouse."

"The white mice are prettier, but then they are stupider than Belle's
mouse," said Bessie. "They don't do much but eat and go to sleep. I
don't think they are so very interesting."

"There's Daisy crying again," said Carrie. "Daisy, what's the matter
now?" raising her voice.

Daisy only cried the louder, and the three children ran forward to
where she sat upon the sand, the picture of woe; while Frankie,
busily engaged in piling sand pies into his wagon, remained sublimely
indifferent to her distress. Nellie, Maggie, and Lily came running back
also to see what was the matter.

"What _are_ you crying for, Daisy?" asked Nellie. "Frankie, do you know
what is the matter with her?"

"He told me he'd marry me if I let him mix the pies," sobbed the
distressed Daisy; "and now he won't."

"Now, Daisy, you ought to be ashamed to say that," cried Frankie,
stopping short with a pie in each hand, and looking with a much
aggrieved air at his little playmate. "Yes, I did promise to marry her
if she'd let me make the pies," he continued, turning to Nellie, "and
so I will; but I promised three other girls before her, and so I told
her she'd have to wait till they were all dead, and she wouldn't have
patience, but just went and cried about it. I can't help it if so many
girls want to marry me," added the young sultan, tenderly laying his
sand pies in the wagon.

Daisy had ceased her cries to listen to Frankie's statement of the
case; but her spirits were so depressed at once more hearing this
indefinite postponement of her matrimonial prospects that she broke
forth into a fresh wail of despair.

"Oh, Daisy!" said Nellie, "what shall we do with you: you're growing to
be a real cry-baby."

"Yes," said Master Frankie, seeing his way at once to a peaceful
solution of his difficulties. "And I shall never, never marry a
cry-baby. You'd better hurry up and be good, Daisy."

At this terrible threat, Daisy's shrieks subsided into broken sobs;
and Frankie, touched by the extreme desolation of her whole aspect,
farther consoled her, by telling her if she would dry her eyes and be
good, he would let her "make two mixes, and marry her besides." At
which condescension on the part of her chosen lord and master, Daisy
was in another instant beaming with smiles, and thrusting her dimpled
hands into the wet sand; and the older children left her and Frankie to
their play.

All but Bessie, that is, who lingered behind to give her brother a
little moral lecture.

For Bessie's sense of justice had been shocked by Frankie's
arrangements, and the hard bargain he had driven with the devoted
Daisy, who upon all occasions submitted herself to his whims, and
let him rule her with a rod of iron. Moreover, Bessie considered his
gallantry very much at fault, and thought it quite necessary to speak
her mind on the subject.

"Frankie," she said with gravity, "you are selfish to Daisy, I think.
You ought to let her make half the pies."

"I'm letting her do two mixes," said Frankie; "and, besides, she said I
needn't let her do any if I'd marry her. That's fair."

"No, it's not. It's not fair, nor polite either," said Bessie,
reprovingly. "You oughtn't to make it a compliment for you to marry
Daisy. It is a compliment to you."

This was a new view of the subject to Frankie, and, as he stood gazing
at Daisy and considering it, Bessie added,--

"Anyhow, you ought to let her do half. You're not good to be so
selfish."

Daisy meanwhile had been balancing in her own mind the comparative
advantages of the present and the future good, and came to the
conclusion that she had made a foolish choice, and that the mixing of
sand pies was more to be desired than the promise, whose fulfilment
seemed so far distant; and now, with a deprecating look at Frankie, she
made known this change in her sentiments.

"I b'lieve I'd rafer mix half the mud than be your wife, Frankie," she
said. "I'll just 'scuse myself and do the pies."

"Oh! I'll let you do half," said Frankie, encouragingly, "and marry you
too, Daisy. I really will."

But Daisy, before whom Bessie's words had also placed the matter in a
new light, now felt the advantage of her position, and was disposed
to make the most of it, as she found Frankie inclined to become more
yielding.

"I'll see about marrying you," she said coquettishly, "but I _will_ do
half the pies."

"Yes, yes, you shall," replied Frankie, now extremely desirous to
secure the prize the moment there seemed to be a possibility of its
slipping through his fingers; "and you'll really marry me, won't you,
Daisy?"

"Maybe so," said Daisy, a little victorious, as was only natural, at
finding the tables thus turned.

"Ah! not maybe, Daisy. Say you truly will, dear Daisy, darling Daisy.
You shall mix all the pies, Daisy, and I'll be your horse, too."

"I'll tell you anofer time," said Daisy, much enjoying the new position
of affairs.

"Ah! no, Daisy," pleaded the now humble suitor: "if you'll promise now,
I'll--I'll--Daisy, I'll give you my white mice."

Daisy plumped herself down upon the sand, and gazed at Frankie,
astounded at the magnitude of this offer, in return for the promise
which, in her secret soul, she was longing to give.

"Maybe your mamma won't let you give 'em away," she said at length; and
then, with relenting in her generous little heart, she added, "and I
wouldn't like to take 'em from you, Frankie: it's too much."

"Yes, yes, mamma would let me," said Frankie, eagerly. "Bessie has a
pair, and Maggie a pair, and I a pair; and mamma said that was too
many, and she won't mind one bit if I give you mine. And I don't care
for them at all, Daisy, they're such stupid things. I'd just as lieve
give them to you."

"Well," said Daisy, shaking her curls at him, "then I'll promise; and I
only want to mix half the pies, Frankie, I wouldn't do 'em all, oh! not
for any thing."

This amicable agreement being sealed with a kiss, and peace thoroughly
restored, Bessie left the two little ones to their "mixes," and went
back to the others, whom she entertained with an account of Frankie's
complete defeat and submission. They rather rejoiced at it, for the way
in which Frankie usually lorded it over the submissive Daisy did not at
all agree with their ideas of propriety.

"But do you think Frankie really means to give the white mice to
Daisy?" asked Nellie.

"Why, yes," answered Bessie, "he _promised_, you know."

"But," said Nellie, doubtfully, "I do not think mamma would like Daisy
to have them."

"Oh! she needn't mind," said Maggie. "Our mamma did say she was sorry
Willie Richards had sent three pair; and Frankie has not really cared
for his since the first day. They're too quiet for him. Daisy might
just as well have them."

"But I don't know if mamma would care to have them in the house," said
Nellie. "She is so afraid of mice."

"What, a grown-up lady afraid of white mice!" said Lily.

"Well, she's afraid of _real_ mice," said Nellie, "and I'm not sure she
wouldn't be of white ones."

"Pooh! I don't believe she would be," said Carrie. "I wish we could
have them."

"I shouldn't think your mother would mind _white_ mice," said Belle:
"you can ask her."

"You're all to come to our house this afternoon, you know," said
Maggie, "and then you can see them; and bring Daisy too, Nellie: we
want her."

After a little more talk and play, the children separated, Nellie going
home with her sisters, and promising to come over to Mrs. Bradford's
house as early in the afternoon as possible.

"What makes you go home so soon?" asked Carrie, supposing that it was
those "horrid lessons" which took Nellie away.

"I thought mamma might have something else she wanted me to do," said
Nellie, "and we have been down on the beach a good while."

"What makes you do the housekeeping," asked Carrie,--"just to help
mamma, or because you like to?"

"Mamma asked me to do it to help her," said Nellie, without a thought
of her mother's real object in proposing the plan, "but I do like to do
it, it is real fun."

"I'd like to do something to help mamma," said Carrie.

"Me too," put in Daisy.

"I think you both could do something to help her, if you chose," said
Nellie, with a little hesitation; for she was a modest, rather shy
child, who never thought it her place to correct or give advice even to
her own brothers and sisters.

"How can I?" asked Carrie, and,--

"How could I?" mimicked Daisy, looking up at her sister as she trotted
along by her side.

"Well," said Nellie, "I think you, Carrie, could be more obedient to
mamma."

"I'm sure I do mind mamma," said Carrie, indignantly. "I never do any
thing she tells me not to."

"No," said Nellie, "you never do the things she tells you you
must _not_ do, and you generally do what she says you _must_ do;
but--but--perhaps you won't like me to say it, Carrie, but sometimes
you do things which mamma has not forbidden, but which we both feel
pretty sure she would not like; and then, when she knows it, it makes
trouble for her."

Carrie pouted a little, she could not deny Nellie's accusation, but
still she was not pleased.

"Pooh!" she said, "I don't mean that. I mean I want to do some very
great help for her, something it would be nice to say I had done."

"You're not large enough for that yet," said Nellie, "and I don't
believe you could help her more than by being good all the time."

"Then why don't you be good all the time?" said Carrie, not at all
pleased. "I shouldn't think it was a great help to mamma to let Daisy
fall out of bed."

Nellie colored, but made no reply.

Not so Daisy, who at once took up arms in Nellie's defence. Seizing
upon her hand, and holding it caressingly to her cheek, she said to
Carrie,--

"Now don't you make my Nellie feel bad about it. That falling out of
bed wasn't any thing much; and my bump feels, oh! 'most well this
morning. I b'lieve it feels better'n it did before I bumped it. Nellie,
what could I do to help mamma?"

"If you tried not to cry so often, Daisy, darling, it would help mamma.
It worries her when you cry, and sometimes you cry for such very little
things."

"Does she think a bear is eating me up when she hears me cry and can't
see me?" asked Daisy, whose mind was greatly interested in these
quadrupeds.

"No," said Nellie, "'cause she knows there are no bears here to eat
little girls; but it troubles her to hear you cry. Besides, you are
growing too big to cry so much, and you don't want people to call you a
cry-baby, do you?"

"No, I don't," answered Daisy, emphatically, "'cause then Frankie won't
marry me. And I don't want to t'ouble mamma, Nellie. But how can I help
crying when I hurt myse'f?"

"Oh! you can cry when you hurt yourself," said Nellie, "but try not to
cry for very little things; and we'll all see what we can do to help
her. I believe I have been selfish in reading and studying all the time
lately, and not thinking much about other people, especially mamma,
so I will give up my books for a while, and try to help her about the
house; and Daisy will try not to cry so much; and--and Carrie will be
careful not to do the things mamma would not like her to do; will you
not, Carrie?"

Carrie made no answer; she was not mollified by Nellie's taking blame
to herself for her own short-comings, but only resented the gentle
reproof she had herself received. Perhaps one reason was that she felt
she deserved it.

But pet Daisy took hers in good part.

"I will," she said, clapping her hands, and looking as if tears were
always the farthest thing possible from her bright face, "I will try.
I won't cry a bit if I can help it, but just laugh, and be good all
the time, unless I hurt myse'f, oh! very, very much, indeed. Nellie,"
pausing in her capers with an air of deep consideration,--"but, Nellie,
if somebody cut off my nose, I ought to cry, oughtn't I?"

"Oh, yes! certainly," laughed Nellie.

"And if a bear _did_ come, I could sc'eam very loud, couldn't I?"

"Yes, whenever that bear of yours comes, you can cry as loud as you
please," answered Nellie.

"Oh! he's not mine," said Daisy. "He's a black man's, I b'lieve. I
'spect he's an old black Injin man's. There's mamma on the piazza, an'
there's two ladies come to see her."

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



V.

_WHITE MICE._


THE ladies with mamma proved to be two aunts who had come to pass a
part of the day with her.

They had brought pretty gifts for each one of the children: a series
of books for Nellie,--for they knew her tastes; a wax doll for Carrie;
and a doll's tea-set for Daisy. So it was no wonder if the white mice
were for the time forgotten in the children's delight over their new
treasures.

Carrie's doll was the handsomest one she had ever owned; not by any
means equal to Nellie's nonpareil, it is true, but she was more than
contented with it.

Nellie was equally pleased with her books; but after looking at the
pictures, and seeing "how very interesting" the series looked, she
resolutely put them away, and devoted herself to the entertainment of
her aunts, believing that as "mamma's housekeeper" a part of this duty
devolved upon her. Moreover, she found that her "help" was needed by
her mother in certain little preparations for this unexpected company.
Perhaps in her new zeal she did more than was needful, and might have
left some things to the servants; but her mother was so glad to see her
occupied and content without her beloved study books, that she put no
check upon her.

Carrie, too, being very anxious to carry out her new resolution of
making herself of use to mamma, was very busy, and more than once had
her fingers where they were not wanted. She ended her performances by a
mistake which alarmed her very much, believing as she did that she had
done great mischief.

The grocery-man having brought several articles from the store at a
time when it was not convenient for the cook to attend to them at once,
they had been left standing upon the kitchen porch. Such as were to go
to the store-room were by Nellie's direction now carried there; but
there were others which were to be left under the cook's care, among
them some rock-salt and some saltpetre.

Carrie being, as I have said, seized with the desire of making herself
useful, went peering from one to another of these things. Seeing the
salt in one bucket, and the saltpetre in another, neither of the
vessels being full, and not knowing there was any difference between
them, she thought the one pail would hold both, and forthwith emptied
the one into the other.

"An' whatever have ye been about then, Miss Carrie?" she heard the next
instant from Catherine the cook, and the woman stood beside her with
uplifted hands, looking from the empty bucket to the full one. "If she
ain't been and emptied all the salt-pater into me rock-salt," she
cried to one of the other servants who was near.

"Oh my! and saltpetre explodes and goes off sometimes, when it is put
with other things," called Nellie, who had heard from the store-room.
"Children, come away from it; it might be dangerous."

Away went Carrie, frightened half out of her senses, and, rushing into
the room where her mother sat with her aunts, cried in a tone of great
distress,--

"Oh! mamma, mamma, I've put all the Peter salt into the other salt, and
Nellie thinks we'll blow up."

The smile with which her mother and the other ladies heard this
alarming announcement somewhat reassured her, and she soon learned that
she had done no such very great harm; but, her brothers Johnny and Bob
hearing the story, it was long before she heard the last of the "Peter
salt."

With so much else to think about, it is not very surprising that the
little girls should forget the white mice; and, even up to the time
of their leaving home to go to Mrs. Bradford's house, Nellie did not
remember to ask her mother if she would object to them.

Daisy, mindful of the advantage she had gained in the morning, and very
much enjoying the position of affairs, was extremely coy and coquettish
with Frankie this afternoon; while he, anxious to return to his old
standpoint with her, would have given her every thing she fancied, and
courted her favor by every means in his power. So you may be sure that
he repeated his offer of the white mice, for which he really did not
care much, so that it was no great act of generosity to give them up to
his young lady-love.

"They're my own, my very own," said the delighted child, showing her
prize to Nellie, and the others. "Frankie says so. Just see this one
run up my arm, and the ofer one is way down in my pottet. Oh! they're
so cunning, and my very own. There comes that one out of my pottet."

Daisy was too much absorbed with her mice to notice the grave, doubtful
face with which Nellie heard her, and watched the tame little creatures
as they ran over her hands and arms, and up to her shoulder. Nellie
could not bear to damp her little sister's pleasure, but she feared
that her mother would be nervous and troubled by their presence.

"Did you ask your mamma if Daisy could have them?" asked Maggie,
noticing the expression of her face, and guessing the cause.

"No, I quite forgot it," answered Nellie; "and I can't bear to
disappoint the dear little thing; and yet--and yet--I am 'most sure
mamma will not like to have them about."

"I don't believe she'd mind," said Bessie. "Our Aunt Annie is
dreadfully afraid of real mice, but she don't mind those white ones a
bit."

"Suppose you take them home with you, and see what your mamma says,"
suggested Maggie. "If she will not let Daisy keep them, then you could
bring them back to-morrow; but I feel 'most sure she will not be
willing to disappoint Daisy. Just see how delighted she looks, Nellie."

"Or if your mamma won't let Daisy keep them, Johnny could bring them
back to-night," said Bessie.

Nellie was still doubtful; but it was quite true that she herself could
not bear to check Daisy's delight by even a hint that their mother
would not admire or tolerate the white mice; and, though against her
better judgment, she resolved to let the child carry them home, and
then act as circumstances, or rather mamma's wishes, dictated. It
would have been better to have told Daisy at once, Nellie knew that;
but she always shrank from inflicting pain, or saying that which was
disagreeable to another; and, besides, she had a faint hope that her
mother might not so much mind the _white_ mice. Miss Annie Stanton's
example was an encouraging one in this matter.

So after an afternoon pleasantly spent in play, during which Daisy
could scarcely be persuaded to part from her new pets for a single
moment, the Ransom children said good-by to their young friends, and
turned their faces homeward.

Daisy walked sedately along by Nellie's side, not skipping and jumping
as was her wont, lest she should disturb the precious white mice, one
of which lay curled in her "pottet," the other in a box also given to
her by Frankie, which she held tenderly clasped with both hands to her
breast. The child's face was radiant as she talked of her treasures,
and every now and then peeped within the box where one of them lay; and
Nellie, watching and listening to her, was ready to believe that mamma
could not and would not have any fear of the pretty little things.

Still!

She, Nellie, had intended to be the first to speak to her mother of
the white mice, and to tell Daisy to keep them out of sight till
mamma should hear of them, and her permission be gained to bring them
into the house. She was just about to speak to Daisy as they entered
the gate, when her attention was called for the moment by Johnny,
who begged her to help him unravel a knot in his fish-line, knowing
well--impetuous fellow!--that her patient fingers were better at that
than his own stronger but less careful ones.

All that needed patience and gentleness it seemed natural to bring to
steady, painstaking Nellie.

But just at the moment that she was engaged with Johnny's line, and
when she had for the time forgotten Daisy and the white mice, the
little one spied her mother coming out upon the piazza; and, anxious to
display her prize, she scampered away over the lawn as fast as her feet
could carry her, Carrie following.

"Mamma, mamma!" cried Daisy as she reached her mother's side, "dear
mamma, just see what Frankie Bradford gave me. All for my own, my very
own, to keep for ever, an' ever, an' ever, he said so."

And, plunging her hand into her pocket, she brought forth one mouse and
laid it in triumph on her mother's lap; then, opening the box, thrust
the other beneath her very eyes, her own chubby face fairly brimming
over with dimples and smiles.

Mrs. Ransom turned a shade paler, shrank back a little, then with a
forced smile said,--

"Yes, darling, very pretty. I dare say you are very much pleased; but
suppose you put this little fellow in the box with his brother. It is a
better place for him than mamma's lap."

"Oh, no! mamma, he'd just as lieve stay in your lap," said Daisy.
"He's not a bit af'aid of you. He likes peoples. See, he'll run right
up your arm;" and, taking the mouse up, she would have laid it upon
her mother's hand, had not Mrs. Ransom drawn back with an unmistakable
shudder and expression of disgust which struck even the unconscious
Daisy.

"Don't, darling, don't," she said hurriedly, but gently, unwilling
to wound her little girl, or to give her any dread of the harmless
creatures, but still feeling that she _could not_ bear them near her.
"Take them away, my pet: you know mamma does not like mice."

"They're not _weally_ mice, mamma," said the little one, opening great
astonished eyes at her mother, but at the same time obeying her words
and drawing farther away with her mice,--"they're only white ones, not
_weally_ ones."

"Yes, darling," said her mother, trying to control her disgust for the
child's sake, "but mamma does not like any mice. Suppose you put them
away."

Just at this moment Nellie ran up the piazza steps.

"O mamma!" she said, seeing the expression of her mother's face, "I
meant to tell you about the white mice before Daisy brought them
near you or showed them to you, but she was too quick for me. Daisy,
darling, take them away; you see mamma does not like them, and you
must take them back to Frankie Bradford."

To have seen Daisy's face!

She could not believe it possible that any one should really have a
fear or dislike to "such cunning little things" as her white mice, and
she stood looking from mother to sister, dismay, disappointment, and
wonder mingling in her expression.

Poor little Daisy!

Nellie hastily explained to her mother, telling her how she had been
detained by Johnny, and that she had not intended to allow her to see
the mice until she had learned whether or no they would annoy her; and
ending by saying that she was sure Daisy would be a good girl and carry
them back to Frankie.

Nellie herself, Mrs. Ransom and Carrie, all expected to hear Daisy
break into one of her dismal wails at this proposal; but, to their
surprise, this did not follow.

True, the little face worked sadly, and Daisy winked her eyes very
hard, trying to keep back the gathering tears, while her bosom, to
which she held the mice tightly clasped, rose and fell with the sobs
she struggled to suppress.

"Mamma," she at last gasped rather than said,--"mamma, I'm trying very
hard: I _am_ trying not to be a cry-baby any more, 'cause Nellie said
that was a good way to be a help to you; but, mamma, oh! I do 'most
_have_ to be a cry-baby if you don't love my mice, 'cause I do love 'em
so."

"My precious lambie!" said the mother; and, forgetting her own aversion
to Daisy's pets in her sympathy for the child, she held out her arms to
her, and gathered her, mice and all, within their loving clasp.

Thoughtful Nellie in another instant had taken the mice from Daisy's
hold, and shutting both within the box laid it on a chair at a distance.

"Mamma," sobbed Daisy, hiding her little pitiful face on her mother's
bosom, "I will take 'em back to Frankie. I didn't know you would
degust 'em so, and I'm sorry I bringed 'em home for you to see. And,
mamma, I wouldn't be a cry-baby, 'deed I wouldn't, if I could help it."

"You can cry a little if you want to, and no one shall call you a
cry-baby, my pet," said her mother, "and"--Mrs. Ransom hesitated; then
after a little struggle with herself, went on--"and you shall keep the
mice, darling. Perhaps we can find a place for them where mamma will
not see them."

Daisy raised her head, showing flushed cheeks and tearful eyes, and a
still quivering lip, although smiles and dimples were already mingling
themselves with these signs of distress, at this crumb of comfort.

Never was such an April face and temper as Daisy Ransom's.

"I'll tell you, mamma," said Johnny, coming to the rescue, "Bob and I
can make a cubby hole for them down in the garden-house, and they can
live there, where they need never bother you. Daisy can go and play
with them there when she wants them. Will that do, Daisy?"

Do? One would have thought so to see Daisy's delight. She was beaming
and dimpling all over now.

"Oh! you dear, darling, loving Johnny," she exclaimed, clapping her
hands; then turning to her mother, and softly touching her cheek, she
asked in the most insinuating little way,--

"Mamma, dear, would they trouble you down in the garden-house? If they
would, I'll do wifout 'em."

Who could resist her sweet coaxing way.

Not her mother, certainly, who, once more kissing the little eager,
upturned face, assured her that she might keep the white mice, and have
them down in the garden-house.

"There's an old bird-cage upstairs in the attic," said Nellie, "why
wouldn't that do for a house for them?"

"Just the thing. I'll bring it," said Johnny, and away he went
upstairs, three steps at once, and returning in less time than would
have seemed possible, with the old, disused bird-cage.

"It is rather the worse for wear," he said, turning it around, and
viewing it disparagingly, "but we'll make it do. I'll cobble it up; and
it will hold the mice anyhow, Daisy."

To Daisy it seemed a palace for her mice. Every thing was _couleur de
rose_ to her now that she was to be allowed to keep her new pets, and
that, as she believed, without any annoyance to mamma.

Johnny and Bob were very kind too. They went to work at once; the
former straightening the bent bars of the cage, the latter finding a
cup and a small tin box for the food and drink of the white mice.

Daisy was enchanted, and stood by with radiant face till she saw her
pets lodged safely within their new house, when she was even satisfied
to have the boys carry them to the garden-house, and to stay behind
herself; mamma telling her that it was too late for her to go out
again.

Never was happier child than Daisy when she laid her little head on her
pillow that night.

"What a nice day this has been!" said Carrie, as the four elder
children sat with their mother upon the piazza, after Daisy had gone to
rest.

"What's made it so wonderfully nice?" asked Johnny.

"Well, I don't know," said Carrie. "I've had a very pleasant time
somehow, and I believe it's 'cause Nellie has been with me 'most all
day, and been so nice. Why, Nellie, you haven't studied one bit to-day."

"Why, no," exclaimed Nellie. "I declare I forgot all about my
practising and sewing, and every thing. I never thought of my books,
I've been so busy. Why didn't you remind me of the practising and
sewing, mamma?"

Her mother smiled.

"I thought it just as well to let you take the whole day for other
things, Nellie," she said: "a whole holiday from books and work will
not hurt you. You _have_ managed to live and be happy through it, have
you not?"

"Why, yes," answered Nellie, astonished at herself, as she recollected
how completely lessons, sewing, and practising had slipped from her
mind; "and it has been a very nice day, as Carrie says. A great deal
pleasanter than yesterday," she added, as she contrasted her feelings
of last night with those of to-night.

There could be no doubt of it. She felt more like herself, better and
happier to-night, than she had done, not only yesterday, but for many
days previous; and here was fresh proof, if her sensible little mind
had needed it, that her father and mother were right, and that "all
work and no play" were fast taking ill effect on both mind and body.

Now it will not do for little girls who are inclined to be idle and
negligent in their studies to find encouragement for their laziness
in Nellie's example, or to think that what was good for her must be
good for them. Nellie was a child who, as you have seen, erred on the
other side, not only from real love for her books, but also from the
desire to learn as much and as fast as her quicker and more clever
schoolmates; but this is a fault with which but few children can be
reproached, and I should be sorry to have my story furnish any one with
an excuse for idleness or neglect of duty.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



VI.

_THE GRAY MICE._


DURING the next few days Daisy, and not Daisy only, but also the other
children, found great pleasure and satisfaction in the white mice. They
were all very careful not to take them near the house where they might
trouble their mother, and Daisy was so particular about this, and so
grateful to mamma for allowing her to keep them, that whenever she saw
her go out in the garden, or even on the piazza which faced that way,
she would rush to the garden-house, put the cage containing her mice in
a corner behind a bench, throw over that a piece of old cocoa matting
with half a dozen garden-tools piled on top, and then come out in a
state of great excitement, shutting the door behind her, and holding
it fast with both hands till mamma was out of sight. One might have
thought, to see her, that some fierce dog or wild animal was behind
that door, able to unlatch it for itself, and eager to make a fierce
attack on her mother. As for taking them near the house, or letting
them annoy mamma in any way, that Daisy would not have thought of; and
she was so good that when a rainy day came, and she could not go out to
the garden-house, she never whimpered or fretted at all, but cheerfully
submitted to have her pets cared for by the boys.

After that first day of her new experiment, Nellie did not altogether
discard her lessons. Her half-hour of sewing, another of reading
history, and an hour's practising, mamma thought might as well be
kept up; but she no longer devoted herself to her books and writing
as she had done: indeed, this would have been quite impossible if
she properly fulfilled her new and pleasant duties as mamma's little
housekeeper. There seemed so much to be done; and Nellie was quite
amazed to find what a help she could be, and how interested she felt in
having things in nice order.

One morning, Mrs. Ransom said she would have the store-room cleaned,
and put in thorough order. But first various drawers, bins, boxes, and
other receptacles must be looked over; and this Nellie could do, with
Catherine to assist her, and move such articles as were too heavy or
cumbersome for her. Mrs. Ransom went herself to the store-room, and
gave both Nellie and the cook some general orders, but she was feeling
more than usually languid that day, and soon tired of the bustle; so
she returned to the library, telling Nellie to send to her if she was
in any difficulty, or at any loss to know what to do. Nellie determined
that mamma should be troubled as little as possible, and, with a
pleasant sense of responsibility and happiness, set about her task.

Catherine humored her as much as possible; for Nellie, with her
pleasant, gentle ways, was a favorite with all her inferiors, and every
servant in the house was ready to oblige her, or do her bidding.

Carrie and Daisy were very busy too, of course, and trotted many times
between kitchen, pantry, and store-room, carrying articles that were to
be thrown away or put in other places.

"There now, Miss Nellie, I think you can get along without me for a
bit," said Catherine, at last. "I have my bread to see to, and you
could be overhauling all these boxes and pots the while, and setting by
what you're sure Mrs. Ransom will want emptied. If ever I see sech an
untidy set as must have had this house afore us, and a shame to them it
is to be laving things this way, and they calling themselves ladies and
gentlemen."

And, with her arms full of "rubbish," away walked the good-natured
Irishwoman, whose tidy soul was, as she had said, sorely vexed by the
slovenly way in which the house had been left by those who had lived in
it before Mrs. Ransom's family.

"Here, Daisy," said Nellie, who thought it necessary to find incessant
occupation for the busy little fingers of her smallest "helper" lest
they should find it for themselves,--"here, Daisy dear, you may sort
those corks. Pick out all the large ones and put them in this jar, and
put the small ones in this. That will be a great help."

"I'd rafer help fissing sugar," said Daisy, raising herself on tiptoe
with one hand on the edge of the sugar-barrel, and peeping longingly
within its depths.

"Yes, I dare say you would," laughed Nellie, "but then the sugar is to
stay where it is. But I'll tell you, Daisy. Run and ask mamma if I may
give you the largest lump of sugar I can find when the corks are done."

Away scampered Daisy, and did not return for some minutes, her
attention being attracted on the way with something else than her
errand, for one thing at a time was not Daisy's motto.

Having at once eased her own mind on the subject of the sugar by
receiving mamma's permission to have "the largest lump that Nellie
could find," she thought that both sugar and corks would keep till
it suited her convenience to return to the store-room, and, seeing a
large parcel lying upon the hall-table, she was seized with a thirst
for information respecting its contents. She walked round and round it,
inspecting it on every side; then ran back to her mother.

"Mamma," she said, "there's oh! _such_ a big bundle on the hall-table."

"Yes, I know it," said mamma.

"And with writing on it," said Daisy. "I fink the writing says, Miss
Daisy Ransom, with somebody's respects."

"No," said her mother, smiling: "it says John Ransom, Esq."

"Is that our Johnny?" asked Daisy.

"No, it means papa," answered her mother.

"Are you going to open it, mamma. Papa is away."

"No, we'll leave it till papa returns. He will be here to-morrow
evening."

"I don't fink it's a good plan to wait. It makes people tired," said
Daisy, plaintively.

"But it is right to wait when papa did not tell us to open it," said
Mrs. Ransom. "Little girls must not be too curious."

"Is it kurous to make a little hole in the paper and peek in?" asked
Daisy, after a moment or two of deep reflection.

"Yes, curious and very naughty," said Mrs. Ransom. "That would be
meddlesome. Ask Nellie to tell you a story she knows about a meddlesome
girl."

Daisy obeyed, but with less alacrity than usual, lingering for three or
four moments longer about the parcel; although, with the fear of being
thought "curious and meddlesome," she did not venture to touch it. At
last with a long sigh she departed.

Meanwhile Nellie and Carrie were opening the various boxes, jars, &c.,
and inquiring into their contents.

"I wonder what's in this," said Nellie, who was standing on a chair,
and reaching down things from a shelf. "I thought I heard something
rustle in it. There it is again. Why! I wonder if there's any thing
alive in it," and she looked with some trepidation at a wooden box
which stood on the shelf before her. The lid was not shut down quite
tight, and again as she looked at it came that rustle from within.

Nellie took up the box rather gingerly; raised the lid a little, just
enough to peep within; then, with an exclamation, quickly closed it
again.

"Why! what is it?" asked Carrie, gazing up at her.

"There are mice in it, and one almost jumped out," answered Nellie,
crimson with the little start and excitement, although she was not in
the least afraid of mice. "I'm not quite sure, I had such a little
peep; but I think there's a big one, and some little tiny ones."

"How do you suppose they got in?" asked Carrie.

"I expect the cover has been left partly open, and then they have
gnawed a place large enough to pass in," said Nellie, turning the box
around in her hand. "See here," and she showed Carrie where the lid was
gnawed away.

"What shall we do with them?" asked Carrie.

"I don't know," said Nellie, "they'll have to be killed, I s'pose. They
must be put out of the way before mamma knows any thing about them, and
I think it is best not to tell her, Carrie. It would only trouble her
to know there had been any about the house."

"Oh! it's too bad," said Carrie. "Must they be killed?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so," said Nellie. "I am sorry too: they are such
cunning little things."

"Why couldn't we keep them, and take them down to the garden-house
where Daisy's white mice are?" asked Carrie.

"Oh, no!" answered Nellie: "it would never do, Carrie. I do not
believe they would stay there, and they might come back to the house,
and perhaps frighten mamma. They must be killed. Just take the box
to Catherine before Daisy comes back: she might let it out to mamma
without meaning to."

"What will Catherine do with them?" said Carrie, taking the box from
her sister's hand, and lingering with it.

"I don't know. Drown them, I suppose. I don't like to think about it,
but it can't be helped. Besides, mice _have_ to be killed, you know,
they are so mischievous. Tell Catherine not to speak about them before
mamma."

Carrie passed slowly out of the store-room, feeling very unwilling to
have the mice killed; not only from pity for the poor little creatures,
but also because she had a strong desire to keep them as pets.

Daisy had her white mice, and was allowed to keep them: why should she
not have these little animals, so long as they were kept out of mamma's
way? Belle Powers had her tame mouse: why could not she tame these as
well? And rebellious thoughts and wishes began to rise in Carrie's
breast as she lingered half way between the store-room and the kitchen,
unable, or rather unwilling, to make up her mind to do as Nellie had
told her, and carry the box to Catherine.

"I don't see why mamma need be so afraid of a harmless, cunning
little mouse," she said to herself. "I know grandmamma said she was
frightened into convulsions once, when she was a little girl, by a bad
servant-girl putting one down her back; but I should think she'd had
plenty of time to grow out of being afraid of them, now she's grown
up; and if she don't know it, I don't see why I can't keep them in
the garden-house, or--or--somewhere else. 'Cause I s'pose if I did
take them to the garden-house, there would be a fuss about it; and
the other children would say I ought not to keep them, and maybe tell
mamma. It's a shame to kill the dear, pretty little things. Belle
Powers' papa just lets her have every thing she wants. I wish my papa
and mamma did. And Daisy has her own way too, 'most always; and it's
not fair. I'm older than she is. If she can have white mice, I don't
see why I can't have gray ones. One isn't any more harm than the
other. Besides, I don't have to mind Nellie. She needn't be telling
me I _must_ take the mice to Catherine. She thinks herself so great
ever since she's been mamma's housekeeper; but I'm not going to
mind her when I don't choose to. I shan't let them be drowned now;
and--and--I've just a good mind."

Turning hastily about, Carrie ran down a short side entry which led to
a dark closet where Catherine kept wood for daily use; thrust the box
in a far corner; and then, with fast beating heart, returned to the
store-room.

"How long you stayed!" said Nellie. "I began to be afraid you were
waiting to see Catherine drown the mice, and yet I didn't think you
could bear to."

"No, I didn't," said Carrie, in a low tone, glad that Nellie had not
said any thing that would have forced her either to confess, or to tell
a deliberate falsehood. She persuaded herself that she was not acting
untruthfully now, but she could not make her voice as steady as usual.

Nellie did not notice it. She was just then absorbed in trying to
extract a small jar from one but little larger, into which it had been
thrust. Succeeding in her endeavors, she took up again the low song
which her words to Carrie had interrupted.

"I wish Nellie would stop that everlasting singing," said Carrie to
herself, feeling irritable and out of humor with every one and every
thing. "I've a good mind not to help her any more."

She had been pleasant, happy, and interested in her work, but a few
moments since. Can you tell what had made such a change in so short a
time?

"Daisy has forgotten about her corks and sugar, I think," said Nellie
presently, interrupting herself again in her song. "Oh, no! here she
comes;" then, as Daisy's little feet pattered into the store-room, "Did
you forget the corks, pet?"

"No, and mamma says I can have the biggest lump of sugar, Nellie; and
there's a very big bundle on the hall-table, but it's papa's."

"Is it?" said Nellie.

"Yes," answered the little one, settling herself to the task of sorting
the corks, "but I wasn't kurous or messeltome."

"Wasn't what?" asked Nellie.

"Messeltome. Mamma said to touch what wasn't ours, or to peek, was
messeltome; but I didn't do it. Tell me about that messeltome girl,
Nellie. Mamma said you would."

"Very well," said Nellie, understanding Daisy's definition.

"Tell it a long, long story,--tell me till your tongue is tired, will
you?" pleaded Daisy, for whom no story could ever be too long.

"I'll see," said Nellie; and she began her tale, but had made but
little headway in it when a servant came and told Daisy that Master
Frankie Bradford was waiting to see her.

"What shall I do?" said Daisy, in a state of painful indecision between
the conflicting claims of business and society. "The torks are not
done, and I didn't have my sugar."

"You can take the corks with you, and the sugar too: perhaps Frankie
would like to help you," said Nellie, dismounting from her perch, and
fishing out the largest lump from the sugar-barrel. "There, I suppose
you will want a lump for Frankie too."

"No," said Daisy, "mamma said only one lump. If Frankie does half the
torks he shall have half my sugar;" and away she ran, carrying corks
and sugar with her.

"What a dear, honest little thing Daisy is!" said Nellie, when she was
gone. "I don't believe she could be tempted to do the least thing she
thought mamma would not like, or take any thing she thought was not
quite fair. And she's so sweet and thoughtful about mamma. Just see how
much pains she's taken not to cry for little things since I told her it
troubled her."

Carrie turned away her face, feeling more uncomfortable than ever,
bitterly reproached by Nellie's unconscious words, no less than by the
uprightness and loving dutifulness of her almost baby sister.

Daisy found Frankie in the library with her mother. Mrs. Bradford had
sent her nursery maid to ask if Mrs. Ransom would drive with her in the
afternoon, and Frankie had decided to accompany her.

"Mamma said I could stay and play with Daisy, if you asked me," was the
young gentleman's first remark, after he had greeted Mrs. Ransom.

"Oh!" said Jane, the maid, much mortified, "Master Frankie, I'm
ashamed of you. Mrs. Bradford never expected he'd do that, ma'am."

"No, I suppose not," said Mrs. Ransom, smiling; "but Daisy will be very
glad to have you stay, and so shall I."

Daisy was called, as you have heard, and made her appearance in great
glee, delighted to see Frankie, and at once inviting him to share her
labors, and their reward.

The sugar had its attractions, but Frankie privately regarded the
cork business with disdain. Having come, however, with the intention
of making himself especially agreeable to Daisy, he did not refuse to
enter into partnership; and they were soon seated on the upper step of
the piazza, and busily at work.

"Frankie," said Daisy presently, luxuriating in thus having him all to
herself, and in this condescending mood, "would you rafer go to heaven,
or stay here and sort torks?"

"Well, I don't know as I care much about either," answered Frankie.
"I'd rather dig clams. But, then, I'd want you to dig them with me,
Daisy," he added, sentimentally.

The proposal was alluring certainly, but it had its objections in
Daisy's eyes; and she said, in a corresponding tone,--

"I b'lieve I couldn't. They might think I was a boy if I digged clams.
But, Frankie, if I went to heaven wifout you, would you cry?"

"No," answered Frankie, indignantly, "men don't cry about things like
that. Maybe I wouldn't laugh much that day, but I would not cry."

Daisy was silent for a moment, then suddenly put one of those startling
questions for which she was famous.

"Frankie, if I went in to bafe, and Jonah's whale came and swallowed me
up, how could God get my soul out of him?"

Frankie considered for a little; then not seeing his way clear to a
satisfactory answer, and unwilling to confess ignorance on any point,
he said gravely and reprovingly,--

"That's not a proper question for you to ask, Daisy."

Daisy looked abashed, and said,--

"I didn't mean to ask improper kestions."

"No, I don't s'pose you did, so I thought I'd better tell you," said
Frankie. "We'll talk about something else."

"They're all done," said Daisy, meaning the corks, "now we'll eat the
sugar."

But the dividing of the sugar proved a difficult matter; for the lump
was large and thick, and resisted the efforts of both pairs of little
hands.

"I'll crack it with this stone," said Frankie; and, suiting the action
to the word, he laid it upon the step and gave it a blow with the stone.

One part of the much prized morsel remained in very good condition,
but the rest suffered severely under this violent treatment, and was
reduced very nearly to powder.

"Just see what this horrid old stone did!" said Frankie, looking at his
work in much disgust.

"Never mind," said Daisy, "you can have the whole piece, and I'll eat
the mashed."

The swain made a feeble resistance to this generous offer, feeling in
duty bound to do so; but Daisy insisted, and he was so moved by the
magnitude of her self-sacrifice that he said,--

"Daisy, I shall make those other girls wait till you're dead, and marry
you first, 'cause you're the best of all the lot."

Here Carrie joined them, for she had soon quitted Nellie, telling her
that she was tired; but the true reason was that she feared her sister
might say something that would force her to confess that she had not
obeyed orders about the mice.

But, wherever she went, it seemed somehow as if things would be said to
make her feel self-reproached and uncomfortable.

"Oh! but you're a help, Miss Carrie, and your mother'll be proud to see
the forethought of you and Miss Nellie," said Catherine, when Carrie
brought out her last load to the kitchen.

"What dear, helpful little girls I have!" said mamma, with a loving
smile, as Carrie paused for a moment at the open door of the library,
not feeling as if she could pass it without seeming to notice her
mother, and yet ashamed and afraid to go in. "It almost helps me to
feel stronger to see you all so considerate and anxious to do all you
can for me."

Carrie smiled faintly in reply; then passed out upon the piazza. She
would be safe with Daisy and Frankie, she thought, from speeches that
would make her feel guilty and uncomfortable.

But no.

"What shall we do now?" asked Daisy, when the last crumb of sugar had
been disposed of.

"Where are the white mice? Let's play with them a little while," said
Frankie.

"Down in the garden-house," answered Daisy.

"What a funny place to keep them!" said Frankie. "Let's go and bring
them up here."

"Oh, no! we mustn't," said Daisy: "we can go and play wif 'em; but they
can't come here, 'cause mamma don't like 'em."

"We won't take them in the house, Daisy, only out here on the piazza."

"No, no," said Daisy, decidedly, "not out of the garden-house. Mamma
might see 'em, and they would make her feel, oh! dreffully! I should
fink we _wouldn't_ do any fing mamma don't like, would we, Carrie?" she
added, lifting her great, innocent eyes to her sister's face.

Carrie turned quickly away without an answer, and was glad when the
next moment the two little things ran hand in hand down the path which
led to the garden-house.

Carrie was not happy,--no, indeed, how could she be? A great many
uncomfortable feelings were in her young breast just then. Jealousy
of her little sister, whom she chose to consider more petted and
indulged than herself; envy even of her motherless little playmate,
Belle Powers; irritation which she dared not show against Nellie, for
bidding her take the mice to Catherine; fear that her secret would be
discovered, and the doubt what she was to do with the mice now that she
had them: all were making her very restless and miserable.

What though she did persuade herself that Nellie had no _right_ to give
her orders; what though mamma had never forbidden her to have the mice;
what though she did believe she could keep them safely hidden in some
place where they need never trouble her mother,--was she any the less
guilty and disobedient? And where should that place be that she was to
hide them, not only from mamma, but from every one else?

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



VII.

_THE BLACK CAT._


"NELLIE, dear," said Mrs. Ransom's gentle voice at the store-room door.

"Yes, mamma," answered Nellie, from the top of a row of drawers where
she had climbed to reach some jars from a shelf above her head.

"I think you have worked long enough, my daughter; and I do not wish
you to take down those jars. Hannah is at leisure now, and she may come
and attend to the rest of the things."

"Oh! but mamma," pleaded Nellie, "if you would just let me do it all
myself. It would be so nice to tell papa that I cleared out the
store-room entirely, except the very heavy things; and Hannah might be
doing something else that would be a help to you."

"It would be no help to me to have you make yourself ill, dear; and
papa would not think it at all nice to come home and find you tired and
overworked. And it is dangerous for you to be reaching up so high. I
had rather you would leave the rest to the servants."

Nellie was very sorry to stop; and for a moment she felt a little
vexed. But it was only a fleeting cloud that passed over her face, and
almost before her mother could mark it, it was gone. If she wanted
to be a real help to mamma, she must do as mamma wished, even though
it did not seem just the best thing to herself. It would have been
delightful, she would have been proud to tell papa she had done as much
in the store-room as mamma herself could have done if she had been well
and strong; but it would not prove a real service if she troubled her
mother, or made her feel anxious. Nellie did not herself think that she
ran any danger of injury; but since mamma did, there was but one thing
that was right to do.

"Very well, mamma," she said cheerfully, "I'll come down," and taking
the hand her mother offered for her assistance, she descended from her
perch.

Still it was with a little sigh that she left her task, as she thought,
incomplete, and Mrs. Ransom could not help seeing that it was a
disappointment to her.

"You look warm and tired now, dearie," she said, pushing back the hair
caressingly from her little daughter's flushed face, "go upstairs and
be washed and dressed. Then if there is nothing else you prefer to do I
should very much enjoy hearing you read from one of your new books. I
feel tired, and should like to lie on the sofa and listen to you."

Nellie brightened immediately, inwardly as well as outwardly. She could
be useful to mamma still, if she must leave the store-room; and she
ran away to remove the traces of her late toil, and make herself neat
and nice.

She was in her own room, washing her face, when she heard a short,
quick step running along the hall. She thought it was Carrie's, and
called aloud, meaning to tell her she was going to read to her mother,
and to ask if she would like to hear the story.

"Carrie!" she called from out of the folds of the towel where she had
just buried her face.

No answer; but the step paused for a moment, then ran on.

"Carrie!" this time louder and clearer, for her voice was no longer
smothered in the towel.

Still no answer; but Nellie heard the door at the foot of the garret
steps softly closed.

"Why! how queer," she said to herself, "what can Carrie be going up to
the garret all alone for? I don't believe it was Carrie, it must have
been Johnny going up to his printing-press or something."

For Johnny was the only one of the family who much frequented the
garret, he having a printing-press, carpenter's tools and other
possessions up there.

Nellie did what she could for herself; then went into the nursery to
have her dress fastened, and sash tied.

"Would you stop a minute and mind baby while I call Carrie to be
dressed?" said the nurse; "I might as well do it now, for there's Daisy
to be dressed afterwards, and I suppose they'll both have to be hunted
up."

"Daisy is playing somewhere with Frankie Bradford," said Nellie; "but I
thought I heard Carrie go up to the garret a few moments ago. But I'm
not sure."

"I thought I heard her run along the entry, too," said the nurse.

She went to the foot of the garret-stairs, and opening the door, called
Carrie three or four times. But no answer came, and closing the door
again, she went away downstairs to look for her.

Baby was just beginning to take notice, and as it lay in the cradle,
followed with its eyes the bright-colored worsted ball which Nellie
dangled in front of them, cooing softly in reply to the gentle, playful
tones of its sister's voice, as she talked "baby" to it.

But this did not prevent Nellie from presently hearing again the
closing of the garret door, closed very softly as by a hand which did
not wish that the sound should be heard. Nellie was a little startled,
and it was in a tone of some trepidation that she called again.

"Johnny! Carrie! who is that? Do speak."

A step along the hall, and Carrie appeared at the open door of the
nursery.

"Where did you come from? was that you went upstairs?" questioned
Nellie, looking with surprise at Carrie's crimson, rather troubled face.

"Yes, I went upstairs," answered Carrie.

"And didn't you hear Ruth calling you?" asked Nellie.

"I'm not going to be screeched all over the house by the servants. I
should think I was big enough to go where I chose," muttered Carrie,
turning away.

"You needn't go away. Ruth wants to dress you," said Nellie. "She'll
just bring you back. Just see how cunning the baby is," for she saw
Carrie was out of humor, and would have tried to soothe and interest
her.

"I want Daisy to be dressed first," said Carrie, who was evidently
anxious to be away. "I'm going to see if she can't."

"Daisy is with Frankie, and mamma won't make her come," said Nellie. "I
wouldn't bother mamma about it, Carrie, she's lying down."

"Oh, yes, Daisy always has to have every thing _she_ wants," said
Carrie, coming reluctantly into the room, but keeping away on the other
side, "and I shan't have _you_ telling me all the time what to do and
what not to do. I haven't got to mind you."

The parti-colored ball remained motionless in Nellie's fingers, as she
gazed in surprise at her sister, who walking to the window, planted
her elbow on the sill, and her chin in her hand; the very picture of a
sulky, ill-humored child.

Nellie could not think what she meant by her ugly speech. She had
spoken very gently to Carrie, and without any undue authority, either
of tone or manner, meaning only to suggest, not to command. But perhaps
Carrie thought she had taken too much upon herself in the store-room.
That was unreasonable, for she had come there of her own accord,
begging that she might be allowed to help, and seeming quite ready to
put herself under Nellie's orders. Yes, that must be it, and Nellie
herself felt a little resentment at her sister's behavior.

But it was not Nellie's way to speak when she was angry; she waited
till she could do so without temper, and then said gently.

"But, Carrie, dear, you know some one had to--" give orders she
was about to say, but wise little woman that she was, changed the
obnoxious word--"had to say what was to be done, and mamma put me in
charge there 'cause I am her housekeeper now. I had to tell you what to
do with every thing."

Nellie could not help--what little girl could have helped?--a slight
consciousness of authority and satisfaction in her position as mamma's
right hand woman; but Carrie did not notice that so much as her words,
which brought fresh cause for uneasiness to her guilty conscience. What
"things" did Nellie mean? The mice?

"Is Johnny upstairs?" asked Nellie, receiving no answer to her last
speech, but still wishing to make peace.

"I should think you'd know he hadn't come home from school," snapped
Carrie.

"I forgot; I really don't know at all what time it is," said Nellie.
"What were you doing upstairs then?"

"Let me be," was the answer Carrie gave to this; and Nellie was silent,
feeling, indeed, that in such a mood she was best let alone.

Little she guessed of the cause of all this ill-temper, however.

For what had Carrie been doing upstairs? Can you imagine?

Watching her opportunity when she thought no one was observing her, she
had run to the wood-closet, seized the box containing the mice; and had
actually been naughty enough to bring it upstairs, carry it away to the
garret, and there hide it behind some old furniture.

But now what was she to do with the mice? How was she to tame them, now
that she had them? What pleasure or good could they be to her?

How she wished that she had done as Nellie told her, and taken the box
at once to Catherine. Now she was afraid to do it.

And yet she tried to persuade herself that there was no reason she
should not have the mice as long as she kept them out of mamma's way;
that she had as much right to decide what was to be done with them as
Nellie; that it was not fair that Daisy should keep her pets any more
than herself.

But why, if all this were true, did Carrie fear to betray her secret;
why was she so guilty and miserable?

Presently Ruth returned, rather incensed at finding Carrie in the
nursery, and at having had "so much trouble for nothing."

Neither nurse nor child being in a very good humor, the process of
dressing Carrie was not likely to be a very pleasant one; and seeing
this, and that baby was growing restless, Nellie thought she had better
wait till it was accomplished.

There was need for the children to be helpful and obliging in Mrs.
Ransom's nursery. Pour little girls, one a young infant, who all
required more or less care, to say nothing of the occasional calls of
their brothers, gave enough to do; and as their now invalid mother was
able to assist but little, it was necessary that the older ones should
learn to help themselves and one another.

Daisy, in spite of the floods of tears which had been so frequent
until within the last few days since she had taken so much pains
to check them, was, as Ruth said, "the blessedest child to have to
do with," giving no trouble beyond what her tender age required;
patient, obliging, and winsome. Nellie was generally ready to give any
assistance that was needed, to tend baby awhile, put Daisy to bed, or
any other little office not too hard for her; and few little girls of
her age do as much for themselves as she was accustomed to do. And
since she had resolved to give all the help she could to mamma, she did
all this pleasantly and cheerfully; often, as in the present case, not
waiting to be asked, but taking up the small duty of her own free will.

"She's the wisest head of her age ever I saw, has Miss Nellie," the
admiring nurse would say to Mrs. Ransom, when some little thoughtful
act had lightened her labors, or put aside the necessity of calling
upon her feeble mistress.

But poor Carrie had neither Nellie's gentle consideration, nor Daisy's
sunny temper, and when, as now, she was not in a good humor, she was a
sore trial to the nurse; and seeing that there was every probability
of a stormy time, Nellie decided to stay and amuse the baby till Ruth
should be at leisure to take it. Mamma would rather wait for her than
to be called upstairs by baby's cries.

It was as she had feared. In three minutes a battle royal was raging
between Carrie and the nurse.

It did not call Mrs. Ransom up to the nursery, as Nellie feared it
would; but it brought her to the foot of the stairs, whence she called
to Carrie in a tone of more sadness than severity; and Carrie did look
and feel ashamed, when Ruth remarked,--

"See there now, how you're worrying your mother. Daisy wouldn't do
that."

But although she now submitted to be dressed, it was still with pouting
looks, and much pettish twisting and wriggling, making Ruth's task
no light one, and taking far more time than it would have done if
Carrie had been patient and amiable. But how could she be patient and
good-humored with that uncomfortable secret weighing on her mind?

Presently, Daisy came running up to the nursery.

"Where's Frankie?" asked Nellie, seeing that she was alone.

"Gone home. Jane came for him," answered Daisy, "and mamma told Jane
to ask Maggie's and Bessie's mamma to let them come and play with you
this afternoon; and Frankie said he'd just as lieve come back too; and
mamma said he could. But, O Nellie! what do you fink? a great big,
ugly, black cat came in the garden-house, and she was so saucy she was
looking at my white mice."

"Was she? Oh, dear!" said Nellie. "Is she there now, Daisy?"

"No, no," said Daisy, "we wouldn't let her stay. Frankie shu'ed her way
far off, and chased her wif a stick, and she put up her back at him,
and was mad at him; but he wasn't 'f'aid of her, not a bit. Nellie, do
black cats eat white mice?"

"I don't know," said Nellie looking uneasy. "Do they, Ruth?"

"You may trust any cat to do that, if she gets the chance," said Ruth.
"Daisy, my pet, did you shut the door of the garden-house after you?"

"Yes, always I shut it, 'fear mamma might some way see the mice,"
answered Daisy. "But the black cat's gone quite, quite away, Nellie."

"She might come back if she has seen the mice, and try to come at
them," said Nellie in a low tone to the nurse.

"It is what I was thinking," said Ruth.

"I'm going to take baby out for a bit when I have these two dressed,
and I'll just walk down that way and see that all's right. It would
just break that lamb's heart if aught happened to her mice. I'll get
along nicely now if you want to go, Miss Nellie. Daisy's no trouble."

Baby delighted in Daisy as a playmate, and was now crowing in the most
satisfied manner as she danced back and forth before her; clapping
her hands and exclaiming, "Jackins and forwis, jackins and forwis."
The interpretation of these mysterious words being, "backwards and
forwards."

Nellie went downstairs, and explained to her mother why she had
delayed, without making any complaint of Carrie. She told her also of
the black cat, and said she felt uneasy about Daisy's white mice, and
thought she would go and see that the creature had not returned.

Mrs. Ransom herself was disturbed when she heard of the unwelcome
intruder upon the premises, for she, too, feared danger to Daisy's pets.

Her anxiety and Nellie's proved too well founded; for when the latter
reached the garden-house, she discovered the black cat forcing her
way under the door, there being quite an open space between that
and the ground, as the little building was old and somewhat out of
repair. Nellie drove the cat away once more, and put a board against
the aperture; but she could not but feel that Daisy's pets were in
much danger, and she could not bear to think of her distress if such a
terrible fate befel them.

"I think the mice had better be brought up to the house, Nellie," said
Mrs. Ransom, when Nellie returned and made her report.

Carrie heard, for she had come downstairs, meanwhile, and fresh
jealousy of Daisy took possession of her.

"Mamma don't care if Daisy has _her_ mice in the house," she said to
herself, "so I might just as well have mine upstairs. One is no worse
than the other."

Carrie was doing her best to drown her remorseful feelings, and to
persuade herself that she was doing nothing wrong and undutiful, trying
rather to feel injured and martyr-like; but it was up-hill work with
her own conscience. For although she was a little apt to be jealous
of the other children, and fretful at times, she was very seldom
disobedient or regardless of her mother's wishes, and she had not
had one easy moment since she had hidden the mice. But for all that,
she was determined to think herself hardly used, and Daisy preferred
to herself. And it seemed to her as if Nellie must know and meant to
reproach her, when she said in answer to her mother's last words,--

"Oh, no, mamma! it would never do to have the mice brought into the
house, and you made uncomfortable. I am sure Daisy would never wish to
do that, no matter what became of the white mice."

"But I can't have the poor creatures destroyed by that cat," said Mrs.
Ransom, uneasily.

"No," said Nellie, "but perhaps we could--" she hesitated, not knowing
what plan to advise.

"As soon as the boys come home we will see if they can find any way to
make the garden-house secure," said her mother.

Ten minutes later, when Nellie had settled down to her reading, but
with thoughts which would wander away to the garden-house, white mice
and black cat, the boys came in from school, and were speedily made
acquainted with the facts of the case.

This was nuts for Johnny and Bob; and true to that aversion with which
every well regulated boy-mind must regard all animals of her species,
away they rushed in search of the black cat, intending to take the
direst vengeance upon her, if they caught her again threatening Daisy's
darlings.

And there she was once more, this time forcing her way beneath the wall
of the slight structure, which, never very strong even in its best
days, was now fast tumbling into decay, and presented many an aperture
and crack passable to cats, or other small animals.

She saw the boys, however, before they could catch her; and, either
knowing that she was trespassing, or instinctively aware of what would
befall her if she fell into their hands, she fled before them, and was
presently out of their reach.

Bob and Johnny soon came to the conclusion that the garden-house was
no longer a safe shelter for the white mice. Although it did present a
pretty appearance from the outside, covered as it was with flowering
vines, it was so thoroughly ruinous that they found it would take at
least two or three days to make it at all secure against a determined
and greedy pussy. They might watch and keep her away in the daytime;
but what was to be done at night?

No, Daisy's pets could no longer be left there, if they were to be
saved from pussy's clutches.

The boys went back to the house and reported; asking their mother what
they should do, for there seemed to be no other proper or convenient
place for the white mice.

"I'll think about it," said Mrs. Ransom, who was trying to make up her
mind to allow the mice to be brought into the house, "and will tell
you what to do after dinner. Will they be safe till then, do you think?"

"Yes, mamma," answered Johnny, "for we set Rover to watch there, and
he'll see after that old beast if she comes around again, but we can't
keep him there all day, and she's sure to do it some time, if we leave
the mice there."

"Don't trouble Daisy about it," said Mrs. Ransom, "there is no need to
tell her just now."

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



VIII.

_DAISY'S SACRIFICE._


ROVER had to be released by and by after dinner, of course, but it did
not seem to matter so much by that time, for Daisy went to her pets,
and the cat would not dare to come near them so long as she was there.

So every one believed; but this proved to be a mistake, for puss was
more persistent and daring than any one would have thought possible.

"Johnny," said Mrs. Ransom, when Daisy had gone, "could you not arrange
some place up in the garret where Daisy could keep her mice and they
need not come in my way?"

"It is just what I was thinking of, mamma," said Johnny; "you need
never know they were there."

"There now," said Carrie to herself, "so it is no harm at all for me to
have my mice up there. I shall just keep them."

For repentant resolutions of giving up her hidden prize, and disposing
of it in some way without betraying herself, were flitting through
Carrie's mind; but now she put them from her again.

"First, we'll see if we cannot knock up some sort of a support to hold
a hook in the garden-house," said Johnny, "and then we'll hang the cage
upon that. The roof is so old and broken it will not hold; but we may
put something in the wall to keep the cage out of the cat's reach, and
we'll try it before we bring them in the house, mamma."

Daisy fed her mice, as she generally did at this time of the day,--the
little creatures nibbled their food right out of her hand--played with
and fondled them, talking to them the while in a coaxing, crooning
voice of all her affairs, unconscious of the cruel, greedy eyes which
were watching her every motion and those of her pets.

For Rover having gone, puss had made the most of her opportunities, and
came creeping slowly and stealthily beneath bushes and behind walls,
till she reached the garden-house once more; and climbing to the roof
sat watching the little child and her playthings through a hole in the
thatch.

And, by and by, this naughty _bête noir_ thought her chance had come.

"Now, you ducky darlin's," said Daisy, "I b'lieve it's time for Frankie
to come back to my house and play wif me. So you must go in your cage
while I go and see, and we'll come back and play here where you can see
us. No, you needn't want to go into the house wif me. Mamma don't like
you, which is a great, great pity; but she can't help it."

The mice seemed strangely reluctant to go back in their cage, whether
it was that they only scented their watchful enemy, or that they had
caught a glimpse of the glittering eyes looking down upon them; for
one, with a squeak of terror, fled into the depths of Daisy's pocket,
and the other would have followed had she not caught him in her hand
and stopped him.

"No, no," she said, "you'll have to go into your cage, Dot, and you
too, Ditto. Peoples have to do what they don't want to sometimes, and
so do mouses. I've found that out," and Daisy shook her head with the
air of one who has made a novel and important discovery.

She put the mice into the cage, where they speedily hid themselves
beneath their bed, shut and fastened the door and set it upon the
floor, believing that she would return in a moment with Frankie and let
them out again.

Then she ran away to the house, where, as she had expected, she found
Frankie who had just arrived with his sisters, Maggie and Bessie. They
had not cared to wait till their mother came to take Mrs. Ransom to
drive, but had begged and received permission to walk over that they
might have the longer afternoon for their visit.

Daisy and Frankie were off together immediately, and the four elder
children were settling the question of "what shall we do first?" when
the whole household were startled by a succession of fearful shrieks
from Daisy, accompanied by shouts of defiance and threats from Frankie.
The sounds came from the garden-house; and Daisy's cry was not the
dismal, low wail she set up at times over some minor trouble, but an
unmistakable scream of terror and pain.

Away ran every one to see what was the matter; mother, brothers and
sisters, guests and servants; even Ruth, baby in arms, tearing down the
stairs to follow the rest.

The garden-house reached, the trouble proved not as serious as might
have been feared; but quite enough so to warrant all the uproar from
the two distressed little ones.

There crouched Daisy in an ecstasy of terror, bending over her
white mice, which she held cuddled up in her lap; never ceasing her
screams and calls for help, while Frankie brandishing a hoe stood
boldly between her and the black cat, which with glaring eyes, back
erect, stood spitting and growling at the two children, determined no
longer to be balked of her prey. For this was no tame puss accustomed
to be fed, and having a comfortable home; but a wild, stray cat,
half-starved, and now quite furious at seeing her intended prize once
more rescued.

Not fairly rescued, if she could help it. Long waiting for the dainty
meal and many disappointments had made her desperate; and more than
once she had nearly sprung past the brave little Frankie, who, resolute
as the brute herself, fairly stood his ground, and faced her at every
turn, calling aloud,--

"Hi! you there! you'd better be off with yourself. Now, you; you'll
catch it! I'll give it to you! I'll hoe you if you don't look out! You
want to be hoed, do you? I won't let her get them, Daisy. Run, Daisy,
run!"

But Daisy was past running; terror had taken all power from her save
that of shielding her pets, as she best could, against her bosom, and
shrieking aloud for help.

It was well that help was so close at hand, or the situation of the two
little ones might indeed have become dangerous; but at the sight of so
many flocking to the rescue, the cat turned and fled, pursued by the
boys with stones and sticks,--and who could blame them in such a case
as this?--but escaped without much hurt from the missiles which they
threw with better will than aim.

The story was soon told: how, coming to the garden-house and pushing
open the door, the first thing that presented itself to the eyes of
Daisy and Frankie was the black cat, with one paw actually in the
cage, the mice squeaking in terror, and shrinking from the cruel claws
outstretched for their destruction; how Frankie had snatched the cage
away, and the mice had immediately fled to the protection of Daisy's
bosom, whence the cat had once tried to tear them.

How the brave little knight had fought her off, and then tried to stand
between his tiny lady-love and farther harm, the new-comers had seen
for themselves; how devotedly Daisy herself had clung to her darlings,
and how furious their enemy had been, was testified by the poor little
woman's torn and scratched arm, bleeding from the adversary's claws,
and the bent and twisted bars of the cage.

It was plainly to be seen that the garden-house was no longer a safe
place for the white mice, not even until such time as the boys could
arrange some contrivance for hanging up the cage; and now Mrs. Ransom
almost forgot her dread of them in her sympathy over her poor little
girl's distress and bleeding arms.

Poor little dimpled white arms! even now they would not relax their
sheltering hold of the white mice, but held them firmly clasped.

Daisy was speedily carried to the house, and once more seated, white
mice and all, on her mother's lap, while her scratches were bathed and
bound up.

"A wag on it" was Daisy's sovereign remedy for every thing in the shape
of a wound or bruise.

"Let me put your mice away, darling," said Nellie, ever mindful of her
mother's antipathy.

"Oh, no! don't take 'em out. Mamma might see 'em, and she can't bear
'em," sobbed Daisy, holding the little skirt tighter than ever. "And
oh, dear! I b'lieve I'll have to give 'em back to Frankie, 'cause I
can't let 'em live in the garden-house for that black old dreadful cat
to eat them up, and I s'pose mamma wouldn't want _me_ to live there all
the time, even with some one to take care of me."

No, indeed, mamma thought not, as she folded the darling closer in her
arms, and bade her cry no more; for her white mice should come into the
house, and the boys should arrange a place for them where they would
be quite safe from black cats and other enemies.

To see the change in Daisy's face!

"Mamma! don't you mind? don't you weally mind? Won't they trouble you?"

It was not possible for Mrs. Ransom to say that she would not be
annoyed by the presence of the white mice in the house, even though
they might never come under her own eye; and, although for Daisy's sake
she put aside her own feelings, the loving heart of the little one
detected the slight reluctance with which she spoke.

"Mamma couldn't have your white mice destroyed, darling," she answered;
"and if Daisy is so careful for mamma, mamma must be careful for Daisy.
So let the mice come Suppose you let Nellie take them now."

Opening her skirt, Daisy revealed the mice, still trembling and
quivering with their fright; and, seeking to hide themselves, the one
made for the bosom of her dress, the other unluckily ran over mamma's
lap looking for some place of refuge. Johnny's hand was over him in an
instant, but not before his mother had grown white to the lips, and in
spite of a strong effort she could not control a shudder of disgust.
This did not escape Daisy.

"Better put 'em away, quick, 'way far off, Johnny," she said in a
pitiful little voice, and resigning the other mouse to his care; and
Johnny carried both away.

Daisy was used to petting; but in consequence of her misfortunes, and
the honorable wounds she had received in the skirmish, she was so
overwhelmed with attentions and caresses, not only from her own family,
but also from Maggie and Bessie, that she was presently consoled, and
beguiled from mamma's lap to the piazza, where she was seated in state
among her admirers, and continued to be made much of.

Frankie also came in for a share of the honors he had so fairly won
by his heroic defence of his little lady-love and her property; but
he presently concluded he had had enough of them, and would like
to go upstairs with the older boys and watch them at their work. He
would fain have persuaded Daisy to go with him, but she still remained
mournful and subdued, and preferred to stay with the little girls and
be petted.

For there was a great weight on Daisy's little mind, and a great
purpose working there,--a purpose which required much resolution and
much self-sacrifice; and it was hard to bring her courage to the point.
She had small thought for what the other children were saying, as she
sat nestled close to Nellie's side, with her sister's arm about her,
and one of Bessie's hands clasped in her own.

Carrie's thoughts were not more easy than Daisy's, and they were far
less innocent. She was in an agony lest the boys, who were now in the
garret, should discover her secret. And there was Frankie with them!
Frankie, who had a faculty for finding that which he was not intended
to find, for seeing that which he was not intended to see, for hearing
that which he was not intended to hear; who, full of mischief and
curiosity, went poking and prying everywhere, and whose bright eyes and
busy fingers would, she feared, be sure to fasten themselves upon the
hidden box. But she dared not follow the boys upstairs, for it would
seem strange if she left Maggie and Bessie, and her doing so might
excite questions.

Oh that she had never touched the mice, or had at once obeyed Nellie's
directions respecting them, which Carrie's conscience told her now, as
it had at the time, was the same as if her mother had given them!

"Nellie and Carrie," said Maggie, "what do you think we are doing,
Bessie and I?"

"We don't know. What?" said Nellie.

"Guess," answered Maggie.

"Oh! I'm not good at guessing," said Nellie, smiling. "I never guessed
any thing or answered a conundrum in my life, except some of Daisy's;"
and she drew her arm closer about the pensive little mortal at her
side.

Daisy's conundrums were many and various, some so very transparent
that she might as well have given the answer with the question, others
so extremely bewildering that Oedipus himself could scarcely have
unravelled their meaning; and it was in these last that she gloried,
always feeling rather aggrieved if any one gave the right answer.

"She gave a conundrum last night that none of us could guess,"
continued Nellie, wishing to amuse and interest her little sister. "See
if Maggie and Bessie can guess it now, Daisy."

Daisy aroused a little from her melancholy, and said in a plaintive
voice,--

"Why don't a pig wif a ni'gown on him want to go to the kitchen fire?"

Maggie and Bessie gave up at once, knowing that this would be Daisy's
preference; besides being really quite at a loss to understand why
a pig in such unusual attire should shun that particular spot, "the
kitchen fire."

"Because he's af'aid he'll burn his ni'gown," said Daisy, when she was
called upon for the answer, which Maggie and Bessie pronounced "very
good;" and, being encouraged by her success, the pitiful little damsel
put forth another conundrum, having reference to the subject which was
weighing so heavily on her mind.

"Here's anofer one," she said: "Why don't white mice like to live in
the garden-house?"

"Because they are afraid the black cat will eat them," said Carrie,
less mindful of her sister's prejudices than Maggie and Bessie had been.

"Now, why did you guess it so soon?" said the affronted Daisy; and this
proving the drop too much in the already overflowing cup, her head went
down in Nellie's lap, and she resigned herself to tears once more.

None of the other children dreamed of the chief trouble which was
weighing on her little heart; but her misfortunes of the afternoon
were considered so serious that no one thought it at all strange that
she should be in a melancholy state of mind. Still, silent sympathy,
at present, seemed the best to Nellie, and she contented herself with
softly caressing the bent head, and checked the others with uplifted
finger when they would have cheered Daisy with spoken words.

"Talk about something else," she spelled out in the sign alphabet, and
then asked aloud,--

"What is it you and Bessie are doing, Maggie?"

"Making such lovely Christmas presents for mamma," answered Maggie.

"What! already?" said Carrie.

"Yes," said Maggie, "because it will take us so long to work it, and we
have lots besides to do. And then some dreadful accident might happen
to us to prevent our finishing it, you know, like Sir Percy nearly
putting out Lily Norris' eye; so it's best to take time by the forelock
at once, even if it is only July."

"What are you making?" asked Nellie.

"A pair of brackets, the loveliest things," answered Maggie, with
emphasis. "Bessie is filling up one, and I the other."

"And we are going to have them made up ourselves, quite ourselves, out
of our own money," said Bessie. "Nellie, why wouldn't you like to make
something for your mamma of your own work? You can do worsted work so
very nicely."

"I would like to very much," said Nellie. "And I have some money of my
own that I could use."

"I shall do it too," said Carrie.

"If you would like to do the same thing that we are doing," said
Maggie, "Mrs. Finkenstadt has another pair of brackets nearly like
ours, and at the same price. They are very pretty."

"But I'm afraid"--began Nellie, then paused.

"Not that you don't know how," said Maggie; "why, Nellie, every one
knows you work better than any of us."

"I was thinking if I would have time enough," said Nellie, "now that I
am mamma's housekeeper. It takes up a good deal of time; and then--and
then"--

"Oh! it's your old books," said Carrie. "I should think you might be
willing to give them up to make something pretty for mamma. If you
didn't study so much more than any of the other girls, you could do it
very well. I think you might make one; for then I could do the other,
if you would show me how."

"I'll show you how and help you all I can," said Nellie, "but I do not
think I shall try to do one myself. And it's not because of my studies,
Carrie, but for another reason that I'd rather not tell."

"Mamma would just as lief let you give up being her housekeeper if you
want to do something else for her," said Carrie.

"I don't want her to," answered Nellie, "for--I do believe I am of use
to mamma, and I would not like to put that off for something that is
not necessary. Besides, I have still another reason."

"I'm sure I think it seems a great deal more to make a lovely Christmas
present for mamma than to do housekeeping for her. I believe she'd
rather," said Carrie.

"I don't believe so," answered Nellie.

"And, Carrie," said Maggie, "very often in this world we have to put
up with appearances being deceitful, and with knowing not only that
'all is not gold that glitters,' but also that some very true gold does
not glitter at all; and Nellie's private reason may be very true gold,
indeed, without our seeing it glitter. Besides, mamma says Nellie is
one of the most sensible little girls she ever saw; and I believe she
is a case of 'old head on young shoulders,' so we may as well think
that she is wise and right until we know differently."

Maggie's fine speech, overflowing as it was with proverbs, silenced
Carrie, as her wise sayings did usually silence her companions, who did
not command such a flow of ideas and language; and Nellie gave her a
grateful look.

"Here's mamma in the carriage to take out your mamma," said Bessie; and
the attention of the children was for the moment diverted from their
own affairs.

"Will you go and drive too, Daisy?" said Mrs. Bradford.

"No, fank you, ma'am," answered Daisy, much to the astonishment of
the other children, as she raised her woe-begone little face from its
resting-place. For Daisy was generally very ready for a drive, or for
an outing of any kind.

But now to all their persuasions, to all their expressions of surprise,
she remained perfectly immovable, only blinking her eyes very hard,
pursing up her rosy lips, and shaking her head, in the most deplorable
manner possible.

But the cause of this came out when Mrs. Bradford and Mrs. Ransom had
gone; for as the carriage drove away the boys came running downstairs
and out upon the piazza.

"Now your white mice will be all safe, Daisy," said Frankie; "me and
Johnny and Bob have made the first-ratest place for them up in the
garret. I'd like to see that old cat finding them up there. Come and
see how nice it is."

"It's no matter about it," said Daisy. "You're all very good, and I'm
very obliged to you; but I wouldn't feel to keep my mice up in the
garret."

"What are you going to do with them then?" asked Johnny.

"I couldn't have 'em in the house when mamma feels so about it," said
Daisy, choking back a sob, and trying to be very brave.

"She said you could," said Bob.

"Yes, I know she did," answered Daisy; "but she don't like it, I know
she don't, and so I'm going to give 'em back to Frankie."

"But, Daisy"--began Johnny.

"No, no," said Daisy, putting out a little hand to stop him, "don't
speak to me about it, Johnny, 'cause I do feel so very bad, then maybe
I wouldn't; and I should fink a little girl who wouldn't rafer please
her mamma than to have white mice must be the naughtiest little girl
in the world."

"You dear little thing!" exclaimed Maggie.

"I don't believe mamma would care at all so long as she never saw
them," said Bob; "do you, Nellie?"

Nellie hesitated.

"I do think she would _care_," she answered reluctantly, for Daisy's
wistful eyes were raised to her face, as if hoping for an encouraging
answer; "but she has made up her mind to bear it for Daisy's sake."

"But I don't want her to do any more sake for me," sighed Daisy. "I'd
better do sake for her, I should fink; and please don't speak any more
about it, children. I'd like to have 'em to play wif down here till
mamma comes home; and then I'll give 'em back to Frankie for ever an'
ever an' ever. That was why I wouldn't go and drive, so I could say
good by to 'em."

Nellie did not oppose her self-sacrificing resolution, hard as she knew
it was for the child; for she was sure that her mamma would never feel
easy while the creatures were in the house, and she was sure also that
in some way she would make it up to Daisy.

Not that Daisy had any such idea. No, in giving up her mice she did it
without any thought of payment, only to save mamma from annoyance and
discomfort, a great and generous sacrifice for such a little child;
for Daisy was but five years old, you must remember; and this showed
thought and consideration worthy of a much older person. But then
Daisy always had been remarkable for her tender, clinging love for her
mother, and her earnest desire to please her in all things.

It struck all the other children; and they overwhelmed her with
caresses and expressions of admiration and affection; even bluff Bob,
who seldom condescended to bestow much flattering notice upon his
sisters, declaring,--

"Well, you are a little brick, Daisy."

It was pleasant to be so petted and admired, for Daisy dearly loved
praise, and in all this she found consolation, and began to put on
little airs and graces befitting a heroine.

Dear little lamb! who would quarrel with her if she did?

How hard it went with her might be seen by the working of the sweet
face, the pitiful pressure of the tiny hands one against the other, the
swimming eyes and choking voice.

It was too much for Carrie.

The contrast between her own conduct and that of her little sister was
more than her uneasy conscience could bear; secret remorse and shame
overwhelmed her, and with a quick resolve to be "as good as Daisy," and
sacrifice her own wishes to her mother's prejudices, she slipped away
from the other children, and ran upstairs, determined to put the gray
mice out of the way.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



IX.

_MAKING GINGER-CAKES._


BUT how?

Ah! there it was. That which would have been easy and simple enough in
the beginning, had she but done as she should, and taken the mice at
once to the cook, was now a great trouble and difficulty.

For if she took them to Catherine now, the cook would ask where she had
found them, and put other questions which she would not wish to answer;
for that would involve a confession she had no mind to make, penitent
though she was, or thought herself.

And how was she to put the mice out of the way herself? She could not
tell what to do with them. Should she carry the box off somewhere, away
to the woods or down on the shore, and let the mice out there?

But then again, if she did this, she must leave the other children,
her little guests Maggie and Bessie, too; and this would excite wonder
and curiosity; more than that, she was not allowed to go out of their
own grounds alone. She might perhaps hide them in the garden-house
if she could but contrive to escape the eyes of her companions for a
few moments, but no, the black cat might return in search of Daisy's
pets, and her own fall victims to the creature. No, that plan would
never answer; but what should she do? Oh! if she only had known
beforehand what trouble and unhappiness her momentary disobedience and
deceit would bring upon her, she would never, never have yielded to
temptation, and hidden the mice. Why had she not taken time to think
about all this?

Ah, Carrie, there it is. If we only knew beforehand, if we only could
foresee the consequences of our wrong-doing, the misery and punishment
we shall bring upon ourselves, perhaps upon others, how careful
it would make us to avoid the sin! But the pleasure comes first,
the punishment after, when it is too late; and nothing is left but
repentance and regret.

Carrie had run up to the garret once more, hastily taken the box from
its hiding-place, and brought it down to the room next her mother's,
which she and Nellie shared. There she stood now, a most unhappy little
girl, as such thoughts as these chased one another through her mind,
trying to think of some plan for ridding herself of the mice, but
obliged to reject first one and then another.

What was she to do?

She was in dread this very moment lest the other children should come
upstairs and find her there with her dreadful secret; yes, it was
dreadful to Carrie now; and she felt almost angry at the innocent
little mice.

You have all heard of the unhappy man who was very anxious to have an
elephant, and at last won one in a raffle; but the moment it was his
own he did not know what to do with it, and would have been glad to
have some one take it off his hands. Those mice were as bad as so many
elephants to poor Carrie, and oh, how she wished that she had never
seen them! _Seen_ them! She had not even done that! Only _heard_ them
as they rustled in their prison-house; not very satisfactory payment
certainly for all the pain and trouble she had gone through ever since
she had taken them. The man at least could _see_ his elephant, but her
mice she had only _heard_.

And what a rustling and scratching and gnawing they were making now
within the box which stood on the table before her, where she regarded
it with puzzled, troubled face, wishing it and its occupants a thousand
miles away!

There was a little hole near the bottom of the box: had the mice
gnawed it, trying to make their escape? And how had they come in the
box, and how many were there? What a noise they made!

Forgetting her anxieties for one moment, Carrie took up the box
again, put her eye to the hole, and tried to peep within. But it was
useless, she could see nothing; and now the mice, frightened by her
movements, were as quiet,--well, as quiet as only mice can be under
such circumstances.

Carrie thought she would open the lid of the box a little and peep
within, just a very little bit, not far enough for the mice to escape,
but so she could see how many were there, and what they looked like.
Mice were such dear little things!

No sooner said than done. She raised the lid, cautiously and very
slightly at first, then a little farther, when, quick as thought, a
mouse sprang through the opening, and in a second of time was gone.

Carrie gave a start as sudden; the box fell from her hands, the
cover rolled off, and there were four or five little mice tearing
wildly about the room, seeking each one for a hiding-place, but rather
bewildered by finding themselves so abruptly turned out from their old
home, and scattered abroad upon the wide world.

But perhaps you would like to hear how the mice had come to be in the
box, and I will let you know. The mice never told _me_; but I know for
all that, and this was the way.

Mother Nibble, having strayed into the house one day, made her way
into the store-room, and there found this box with the lid partly
open, a fine stock of chocolate and barley within, and plenty of
soft, tender paper; and made up her mind that here would be a quiet,
well-provisioned house in which to bring up her young family.

And here they had remained undisturbed until that very morning, when
Nellie, putting her store-room to rights, had chanced to discover them,
and, closing them down in sudden imprisonment, had sent them to a fate
from which Carrie's naughtiness had saved them.

And they had escaped now, every one of them, and were scampering here
and there before Carrie's startled eyes.

Another moment, and they were gone, hidden safely away in nooks and
crannies such as only mice could find.

But they were out at large. Here in this very room next to mamma's;
even worse, Carrie had seen one run through the open door into mamma's
own bedroom! What was she to do? Suppose her mother should see him,
find him anywhere, even hear him scratching and nibbling on her own
premises! She had seen enough of her mother's nervous terror of a
mouse, strange, even needless it might seem to herself; but she knew
too well what a torment it was; and now!

She felt as though it was rather hard that the mice should have
escaped, and here in this very place, just at the moment when she had
been going to sacrifice her own pleasure to her mother's comfort, and
to be "as good as Daisy."

Ah! but, Carrie, there was a great difference between you and Daisy.
Your little sister had never yielded to temptation, had put aside her
own wishes at once for the sake of her mother's feelings,--put them
aside as a matter of course, and without a thought that it could or
should be otherwise.

Dear, unselfish little Daisy!

But it would not do for her to stand here, idly gazing about her. There
were the other children expecting her, perhaps looking for her; she
heard their voices even now in the hall below.

Hastily gathering up the scattered fragments of paper, tin-foil, and
crumbs of chocolate and barley which had fallen to the floor, she
collected them within the box, put the cover upon that, opened a drawer
belonging especially to herself, and thrust all beneath some other
things. Some other time, she thought, she would throw the box away;
for the present it was safe there.

This done, she ran downstairs and rejoined her sisters and brothers
and young friends, who were all still so occupied with Daisy and her
pathetic sorrow over the parting from the white mice, that they had
scarcely noticed Carrie's absence, and did not annoy her with the
questions she had dreaded.

But it was a miserable afternoon to Carrie. She felt that repentance
had come too late, and that now at any time her mother might encounter
a mouse. She was not sorry when it came to an end, and Mrs. Bradford,
returning with Mrs. Ransom from their drive, took away her own little
flock with her; Frankie carrying the white mice, which he assured Daisy
he was "only keeping" for her till he and she were married, when he
would "build her a gold house for them;" and that they were just as
much hers if they did live in his house.

Daisy watched the departure of her pets with the most pitiful of
little faces, striving with all her might to smile and look cheerful,
but failing distressingly. Mrs. Ransom hardly understood what it was
all about till Mrs. Bradford's carriage had gone, the white mice with
it; but, when she did, she overwhelmed her unselfish little darling
with so many thanks and caresses that Daisy felt repaid for her
sacrifice.

Nellie wondered what it could be that made Carrie continue so out of
spirits and almost fretful all the evening; but, having been repulsed
once or twice when she would have attempted to give sympathy or ask
questions, she found it best to let Carrie alone, even when she heard
her crying quietly to herself after they had both gone to rest, and her
sister believed her to be asleep.

But when the next morning came, and nothing had yet been seen or heard,
so far as she knew, of the escaped prisoners, Carrie's spirits rose
once more, and she believed that she should have no farther trouble
from them.

Papa was expected home upon the evening of this day, and Nellie was to
be allowed to try her hand upon his favorite ginger-cakes. Nellie had
something of a turn for cooking, and was always so careful about rules
and proportions, steady little woman that she was, that mamma was not
much afraid that she would fail, especially with good-natured Catherine
to keep an eye upon her.

Of course the making of the ginger-cakes was a very important business,
the grand event of the day to Nellie, Carrie, and Daisy; for the two
last must have a hand in them, and "help" Nellie in her operations.
More than this, they were to be allowed to roll out some "teenty
taunty" cakes for their own eating and that of their dolls. They
would have had Nellie go to her cake-making the first thing in the
morning, and leave all else till this was accomplished; but that was
not Nellie's way. "Duty before pleasure" was generally her motto; and
of late she had kept it steadily before her, and tried also to be very
sure which was the _duty_ and which the _pleasure_, feeling that she
had too often mistaken the one for the other.

But at last all the regular small housekeeping tasks were done, and,
with a pleasant consciousness of duty fulfilled, Nellie signified to
the other children that she was ready to begin her cookery.

Catherine had every thing ready for her; and Nellie with a long apron
tied about her neck and covering all her dress, her sleeves rolled
up to her shoulders, and her receipt-book lying open beside her, was
soon deep in the mysteries of mixing, while Carrie stood on the other
side of the table, sifting sugar; and Daisy, mounted on a chair beside
Nellie, ladled spoonful after spoonful of flour into the stone bowl
wherein Nellie was stirring her mixture. Nor did she spill more than a
quarter of each spoonful on the way, which, on the whole, is saying a
good deal.

Daisy's face was radiant, and her troubles of yesterday were for the
time quite forgotten in the interest of her occupation.

"Carrie," said Nellie presently, trying to be mysterious, so that Daisy
might not know she was the subject of remark, "Carrie, don't you think
a certain person of our acquaintance has pretty well recovered?"

"Yes," answered Carrie, "you mean the youngest person in the
k-i-c-h-u-n, don't you? Oh! quite recovered."

But Daisy was too quick for them, and, immediately understanding
that she was the individual alluded to, thought herself called upon
to return to the mournful demeanor which she considered proper under
her bereavement, and, banishing the smiles from her face, she said,
dolefully,--

"You mean me! I know you mean me; and I'm not recoveryed at all, not
one bit."

"But I would if I were you," said Nellie. "When we do a kind thing for
any one, like your giving up your mice for mamma, it is better not to
let them see we feel very badly about it. That is, if we can help it;
and I think you could feel a little glad and happy now if you chose:
couldn't you?"

"Well, I don't know, I b'ieve not," answered Daisy, closing her eyes
with an expression of the most hopeless resignation. "There now!"
continued this unappreciated little mortal, opening them again, "just
look how that old flour went and spilled itself! There's only a little
speck left in the spoon!"

"Because you didn't look what you were doing," said Nellie, laughing;
"better keep your eyes open, Daisy, when you are carrying flour."

"I fink I could recovery a little if I only knew what was in that big
parcel," said Daisy, taking up another spoonful of flour, this time
with her eyes open.

"What parcel?" asked Carrie.

"That large parcel that came home yesterday," said Daisy. "It is for
papa, so mamma said it wasn't right for me to peek; and now it's in the
hall-closet where I can't even see the outside of it. I asked mamma if
I couldn't just open the closet door and look at it, but she told me
I'd better not, 'cause, if I did, it might be a temp-ta-tion," repeated
Daisy with a justifiable pride in the long word and her correct
pronunciation of it.

"Yes, I know," said Nellie, turning to kiss the chubby, befloured
little face at her side. "I know, darling; and you were a wise girl to
keep away; you've been very good yesterday and to-day. Don't put in any
more flour till I come back. I am going into the store-room for another
paper of ginger."

"Carrie," said Daisy, when Nellie had gone, "did you ever have a
temp-ta-tion?"

Carrie did not like this question; innocently as her little sister put
it, it brought back to her too plainly that yielding to temptation of
which she had so lately been guilty.

"Of course, child," she answered pettishly, "everybody does."

"Did it make you do somefing naughty?" was Daisy's still more unwelcome
question.

"Mind your own business," snapped Carrie. "Daisy, I never did see a
child who talked so much."

Daisy ventured no further remark, but stood gravely regarding Carrie
with reproving displeasure till Nellie returned, when she turned to her
and said,--

"Nellie, isn't it more politer to say, 'Please wait and talk a little
more anofer time,' than to say, 'Mind your own business, you talk too
much!'"

"I should think it was. O Daisy, what a funny child you are!" said
Nellie, much amused, and without the least suspicion that Carrie was
the offender in question. "Who has been so rude to you, darling?"

"Never mind," said Daisy. "Carrie, I won't tell tales 'bout you, if you
was rude to me,--oh, so rude!"

Nellie laughed merrily again over Daisy's fancied concealment of
Carrie's sins against her.

"I don't see what there is to laugh about," said Carrie, angrily. "You
think Daisy is so smart."

Nellie was grave in a moment, wondering, as she had had occasion to do
many times during the last twenty-four hours, what could make Carrie so
cross and ready to take offence.

"Any more flour, Nellie?" asked Daisy.

"No more now," answered her sister. "Catherine, the receipt don't _say_
cinnamon, but papa likes it so much, I think I will put some in. It
can't do any harm, can it?"

"Not at all; I'm thinking it would be an improvement myself, Miss
Nellie," answered the cook. "But then I've not a pinch of powdered
cinnamon. I used the last yesterday for the rusks."

"There's some in the dining-room," said Nellie. "Daisy, dear, you can
do that. Go to the sideboard, open the right-hand door, and bring
sister the spice-box you will see on the first shelf. Bring it very
carefully."

"Yes, I know it," said Daisy, scrambling down from her chair, and
feeling rather important in her errand. "Cafarine, don't I help a whole
lot?"

"Oh! a wonderful lot! I never saw a darlin' that made herself so
useful;" and with these words of praise sounding in her ears, Daisy
went off happy.

In two minutes she was back again, breathless, with wide-open eyes, the
crimson deepening in her cheeks, but with the spice-box safely in her
clasp.

"Nellie! and Carrie! and Cafarine! all of yous! what do you fink?" she
cried. "Oh! such a fing!"

"What is the matter?" said all three at once.

"A mouse! a weally mouse in the dinin'-room. Not a white mouse, but
a nigger mouse,--oh! I forgot again,--I mean a colored person mouse,
right in the dinin'-room! What will mamma say?"

"Oh! you must be mistaken, Daisy," said Nellie, while Carrie heard the
words of her youngest sister with a sinking heart.

"No, I'm not, I'm not," persisted Daisy. "It was just as weally a mouse
as it could be. He was under the sideboard, and he ran out and under
the sofa."

"Oh dear!" said Nellie, in dismay at the news. "Catherine, there must
be mice in this house. A good many too."

"Well, no, miss, I think not," said the cook. "This is the first one"--

Down went the bowl into which Carrie was sifting her sugar, not
purposely, though she was only too thankful for the diversion it
afforded, but because she had given a violent start and knocked the
bowl with her elbow in her alarm at Catherine's words. How nearly her
secret had been discovered! But now it was safe at least for the time,
for the bowl was broken, the sugar scattered over the floor, and it was
some moments before order was restored; by which time Nellie was intent
upon cutting out her cakes, marking them with the "jigging iron," and
laying them in the bake-pans, so that she had no thought for mice,
white or gray.

Declaring herself "tired of helping," and feeling that her labors had
brought no very satisfactory result to herself or others, Carrie left
the kitchen and wandered into the dining-room, possibly to see if she
could spy the mouse Daisy had discovered. But no, there was no mouse
there, at least she could find none; and she began to hope that, after
all, the little one had been mistaken.

Oh dear! how wretched and unhappy she felt! She began to think she
would feel better if she went and told mamma, making honest confession
of what she had done, and begging her forgiveness.

Just then Daisy came into the room, and began peeping around in every
corner and under each article of furniture.

"You needn't be looking for that mouse," said Carrie, "he's gone; and,
any way, I don't believe there was any mouse there."

"There was, oh! there was," cried Daisy. "I saw him wif my own eyes
running fast, fast. But, Carrie, Nellie says we'd better not speak
about it 'fore mamma, 'cause it would trouble her."

"I don't believe it. You just thought you saw him," persisted Carrie.

"Now you've said a great many bad fings to me, but that's the baddest
one of all, and I shall leave you alone wif your own se'f," said the
offended Daisy, and walked away with her head held high.

Now it might almost have been imagined that Daisy knew that Carrie's
"own se'f" was no very pleasant company just at this time, and that she
wished to punish her by leaving her "alone wif" it; and, innocent as
she was of any such intention, she certainly had her revenge.

Carrie's own thoughts were not agreeable companions; even less so now
than they had been before Daisy came in, for her half-formed resolution
of telling all to her mother seemed less difficult than it had done
before her little sister had said that Nellie thought it best not to
speak of the mouse to mamma. If mamma was not to hear of one mouse,
it would not do to tell her that several were running at large about
the house; and Carrie could not help feeling and believing that this
was one of the escaped captives. Mice could come downstairs, that she
knew; for once, when she and Nellie had been spending the day with Lily
Norris, they had seen a little mouse hopping down from stair to stair,
and had stood motionless and silent, watching till he reached the
bottom of the flight, when his quick, bright eyes caught sight of them,
and he scampered away in a fright.

And now that it was forbidden, she was seized with a strong desire
to relieve her mind by a full confession to mamma. Then at least she
would be free from the burden of carrying about with her such a guilty
_secret_.

"Oh dear! oh dear!" she said to herself, "whenever I've done anything
naughty before, I could always go and tell mamma, and then she forgave
me, and I felt better; but now it seems as if I did not dare to tell
her this. I'd dare for myself, even if she was very much displeased and
punished me; but I suppose I mustn't dare for her. It is _too_ hard."

Ah, Carrie! so, sooner or later, we always find the way of
transgression; and oftentimes the sharpest thorns in the road are those
which we have planted with our own hands, not knowing that they will
wound our feet, and hold us back when we would retrace our steps.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



X.

_FRESH TROUBLES._


THE ginger-cakes were a great success. It is true that one's tongue was
bitten, now and then, by a lump of ginger or other spice, not quite as
thoroughly mixed in by Nellie's unaccustomed fingers as it might have
been by those which were stronger and more used to such business; but
who minded such trifles as that, or would refuse to give the little
workwoman the meed of praise she so richly deserved?

Not her papa certainly, who found no fault whatever, and eat enough of
the ginger-cakes to satisfy even his Nellie.

Not even Daisy, who met with such a misfortune as that spoken of above,
while at the tea-table, and who was perceived first by Nellie holding
her tongue with one thumb and finger, while in the other hand she
held out the ginger-cake, regarding it with a puzzled and disturbed
expression.

"What's the matter, Daisy?" asked Nellie.

"Somefing stinged my tongue. I b'ieve it was a bee, and I eat him
up," said Daisy, the ever ready tears starting to her eyes. They were
excusable under the circumstances certainly.

"It has been a little bit of ginger," said Mrs. Ransom, who had
suffered in a similar manner, but in silence. "Take some milk, my
darling."

"O Daisy, I'm so sorry! I suppose I haven't mixed it well," said
Nellie, looking horrified.

Daisy obeyed her mother's command, which brought relief to her smarting
tongue, and then, turning to Nellie with a most benignant smile,
said,--

"You needn't mind, Nellie. I'd just as lieve have my tongue bited for
your ginger-cakes. Papa," she added, turning to her father, "I s'pose
you're going to be busy after tea, ar'n't you?"

"No, papa has nothing to do but to rest himself this evening," answered
Mr. Ransom.

"Oh dear!" sighed Daisy, taking her tongue between thumb and finger
again.

"Do you want papa to be busy?" asked Mr. Ransom.

"I fought you would be," said Daisy, who found it extremely
inconvenient not to be able to pet the injured member and to talk at
the same moment. "I s'posed you'd have to undo that big parcel that's
in the hall closet; and I fought my tongue would feel a good deal
better to know what's inside of it."

"Oh! that is it, is it?" said Mr. Ransom. "Well, yes, I believe I
_have_ that little business to attend to, so your tongue may get well
right away, Daisy."

Having finished his tea, Mr. Ransom now rose and went out into
the hall, returning with the great parcel which had so excited the
curiosity of his little daughter. This he put down upon the floor
beside his chair, went out once more, and came back again with two
smaller parcels. These he put upon the table, and took his seat before
all three.

Daisy's excitement hardly knew bounds now, especially when there came
from within one of the smaller parcels a little rustle, as though
something alive was inside. Still, her attention was principally taken
up with the "biggest one of all;" and, to her great delight, this was
the first papa opened.

Paper and string removed, two bird-cages, _empty_ cages, presented
themselves to the eyes of the children. What could they be for?

"Papa," said Daisy, "you _couldn't_ be going to catch the little
birdies out the trees, and put them in there, could you?"

"Wait a moment," said her father, taking up the parcel whence the
rustling had come.

This, opened, revealed another bird-cage, this a tiny wooden one, but
oh! delight! containing two beautiful canaries. They looked rather
uncomfortable and astonished, it is true, and as if they might be
thoroughly tired of their narrow quarters, from which Mr. Ransom now
speedily released them, putting one bird in each large cage, which was
soon furnished with fresh seed and water, sugar, and all that birds
love.

"What little beauties! Who are they for, papa?" asked Carrie.

"For little girls who have been helpful and kind to mamma during the
past week," said Mr. Ransom, smiling. "I sent up the cages by express,
but brought on the birds myself. Poor little fellows! they are glad to
have reached their journey's end, I think."

"But there's only two, and there are fee girls," said Daisy,--"one,
two, fee girls," pointing by turns to her sisters and herself, "and
one, two birds. That's not enough, papa."

"Papa thought his Daisy too young to have the care of a bird yet,"
said Mr. Ransom, "but here is what he brought for her; for mamma wrote
to him what a good girl she was, and what pains she was taking to cure
herself of that foolish habit of crying for trifles."

And, unwrapping the last parcel, Mr. Ransom disclosed a box containing
a pretty little dinner-set. At another time Daisy would have been
delighted; but what was a dinner-set to a bird?

She stood looking from one to the other without the slightest
expression of pleasure or satisfaction in her own pretty gift.

"Don't you like it, Daisy?" asked her father.

"Papa, I--I--I would if I could, but--but the birdies are 'live, and
the dinner-set is dead; but I wouldn't cry about it, would I, mamma?"

With which she ran to her mother, and buried her face in her lap. Poor
little woman! it was almost touching to see how hard she struggled
with her too ready tears, which had been so long accustomed to have
their way upon small occasion. There was no mistaking the good-will
and resolution with which she was striving to cure herself of a rather
vexatious and foolish habit; but it was such hard work as can only be
imagined by little girls who have been troubled with a similar failing.

Mamma's praises and caresses helped her to conquer it this time again,
though it was a harder trial than usual, and she altogether declined to
look at the dinner-set, or to take any comfort therein.

"Papa," said Nellie to her father in a low tone, as she and Carrie
stood beside him, their attention divided between the birds and Daisy,
"papa, if you will buy Daisy a bird, I will take care of it for her. I
suppose she is too little to do it herself; but she likes pets so much,
and she was so very sweet and unselfish about her white mice, that I
think she deserves a reward."

Mr. Ransom had not heard the story of the white mice; but he now made
inquiries which Nellie soon answered, Daisy's sacrifice losing nothing
of its merit in her telling; while Carrie, feeling more and more
uncomfortable, but neither caring nor daring to run out of hearing,
and so excite questions, stood idly rubbing her finger over the bars
of her bird's cage. The contrast between her own conduct and that of
her almost baby sister was making itself felt more and more to her own
heart and conscience. If Daisy deserved a bird because she had been
loving and considerate for mamma, surely she did not deserve the same.
How she hoped that papa would give Daisy one!

But no; papa plainly showed that he had no such intention, for when
Nellie concluded with these words,--

"Don't you think you will give Daisy a bird of her own, papa?" he
answered,--

"I think not at present, Nellie. I have spent as much as I can afford
at this time on trifles, and Daisy must wait for her bird till
Christmas, or some other holiday. But she is a darling, blessed,
little child, with a heart full of loving, generous feeling, and I do
not think the less of her sacrifice because I do not find it best to
give her a bird just now. I shall try to give her some other pleasure
which may make up to her for the loss of her white mice."

But it did not seem to Nellie or Carrie, any more than it did to Daisy
herself, that any thing could do this so well as a canary-bird; and,
although they knew that it was of no use to try and persuade papa to
change his mind when he had once resolved upon a thing, they felt as if
they could hardly let the matter drop here.

Daisy had heard nothing of all this, for she was cuddled up in her
mother's lap on the other side of the room, where mamma had taken her
away from birds and dinner-set, till she should be petted and comforted
into happiness once more.

And now papa left the other children, and, going over to mamma and
Daisy, sat down beside them, and gave his share of praise to his
little daughter, not only for the giving up of the white mice, but also
for that other matter concerning the tears, which she was so bravely
learning to control, with the idea of "helping mamma."

So at last a calm, though mournful resignation returned to the bosom of
the little one, and she was farther consoled by mamma insisting upon
putting her to bed herself, a treat which Daisy had not enjoyed since
Nellie had taken up the character of mamma's housekeeper; for, when
Ruth could not leave baby, Nellie now always considered this a part of
her duty.

Still Daisy could not refrain from saying, as her mother led her from
the room,--

"Mamma, I fink I never heard of a little girl who had so many _sorrys_
as me; did you?"

When Mrs. Ransom came downstairs, however, she reported Daisy as
restored to a more cheerful frame of spirits, and as singing herself
to sleep with her own version of the popular melody of "One little, two
little, three little nigger boys,"--namely, "One little, two little,
fee little _colored person_ boys;" so careful was she in all things
to heed mamma's wishes, and not at all disturbed by the fact that the
words of her rhyme did not exactly fit the tune. It was all the same to
Daisy. Rules of music and measure were nothing to her, so long as her
conscience was at rest.

The family had all gone out upon the piazza. The father and mother sat
a little apart, talking; the boys were amusing themselves with old
Rover upon the lower step; while Nellie and Carrie were seated above at
the head of the flight.

"What makes you so quiet, Carrie?" asked Nellie.

"I don't know," answered Carrie, though she said "don't know" more from
that way we all have of saying it at times when we are not prepared
with an answer, than from an intention to speak an untruth. Then,
after another silence of a moment or two, she spoke again,--

"Nellie, why won't you make one of those brackets for mamma?"

"For the reason I told you. Because I don't think I shall have time. I
think I'd better take my money to buy her some other Christmas present
all ready made. Mamma will like it just as well if she sees I try to
help and please her in the mean time," said sensible Nellie.

"But you could give her something a great deal prettier if you made it
yourself," said Carrie.

"I know it," answered Nellie, quietly; "but I cannot do it, and have
any play-time, and mamma says she does not wish me to be busy all the
time."

"Pshaw!" said Carrie, whose mind was quite set upon the pair of
brackets to be worked by herself and her sister, "your housekeeping
don't take you so long, and you never study so _very_ much now, so you
have a good deal of time, and I should think you might be willing to
use some of it to make a pretty thing for mamma. You think yourself so
great with the housekeeping."

"I have some other work I want to do," said Nellie. "I would do it if I
could, but I cannot, Carrie."

"That's real selfish," said Carrie. "You'd rather do something for
yourself than please mamma."

Nellie made no answer. If our quiet, gentle "little sunbeam" could not
disperse the clouds of Carrie's ill-temper, she would at least not make
them darker and heavier by an angry retort or provoking sneer. Carrie
was very unjust and unreasonable, it was true; but Nellie knew that
she would feel ashamed and sorry far sooner, if she were let alone,
than she would if she were answered back. And Nellie felt that it was
not so long since she herself had been "cross" and fretful at trifles.
She believed, too, that "something ailed Carrie," making her unusually
captious and irritable at this time. It was not over-study certainly:
Carrie was not likely to be at fault in that; but Nellie could not help
thinking either that she was not well, or that some trouble was on her
mind. What that was, of course, she had not the slightest suspicion.

"After all, Nellie don't think so very much about pleasing mamma," said
Carrie to herself, with rather a feeling of satisfaction in the thought.

It was not pleasant to feel that, while both her sisters were trying so
hard to be useful and good to mamma, that she alone had done that which
was likely to bring annoyance and trouble upon her.

There is an old adage that "misery loves company." I am not so sure
about that, for I do not see what comfort there can be in knowing that
others are unhappy; but I fear that sin often "loves company," and that
there is a certain satisfaction in being able to feel that some other
person is as naughty as ourselves. _Then_ we need not draw comparisons
to our own disadvantage.

Such was Carrie's state of mind just now; and there is no denying that
she was somewhat pleased to believe that Nellie was seeking her own
happiness rather than mamma's.

But still she did not feel that she could so easily give up the idea of
the pair of brackets. To make mamma such a grand present as that seemed
in some sort a kind of amends for her past undutifulness, and she could
not bear that she and Nellie should fall behind Maggie and Bessie in a
Christmas present to their mother.

So she went on to urge Nellie farther, but in a pleasanter tone.

"I think it would be perfectly splendid to give mamma such a lovely
present," she said, "and it would be so nice to tell all the girls in
school that we are going to do it. Don't you think it would?"

"I don't care about telling the girls," answered Nellie, "but I would
be very glad to make such a lovely thing for mamma."

"And you will do it then?"

"No," said Nellie, reluctantly, but decidedly: "I tell you I cannot,
Carrie. I have something else to do, and I know mamma would not wish me
to take any more work. Don't ask me any more."

"What are you going to do?" asked Carrie.

"I'll tell you another time," said Nellie, lowering her voice still
more. "I don't want mamma to hear. Please don't talk about it."

Carrie pouted again, and, to one or two proposals from Nellie that
they should amuse themselves with some game, returned short and sullen
refusals. Presently she rose, and, going to her father and mother, bade
them good-night.

"What! so early, dear?" said her mother in surprise, for it was
something very unusual for Carrie to wish to go to rest before her
ordinary bed-time.

"Yes'm," said Carrie: "I've nothing to do, and it's so stupid; and
Nellie's cross and won't talk to me."

O Carrie, Carrie!

"I am afraid it is Carrie who is a little cross and fretful," said Mrs.
Ransom, who had noticed that this had been Carrie's condition all day.
"Well, perhaps bed is the best place for you. Try to sleep it off, and
be pleasant and good-natured in the morning."

"Everybody seems to think Nellie and Daisy are quite perfect," murmured
Carrie to herself, as she sauntered slowly through the hall and up
the stairs. "No one ever says they do any thing wrong; but always say
I am cross, and every thing else that is horrid. I've a good mind--I
mean I'd just like to go 'way far off in a steamboat or the cars or
something, and stay for a great many years, and then how sorry they'd
be when they'd lost me, and didn't know where I was. They'd be glad
enough when I came back; and wouldn't they wish they'd never been cross
to me!"

Drawing such solace as she could from thoughts like these, after the
manner of too many little children when they have been cross and
discontented, and brought trouble upon themselves, she went on to the
nursery.

"I want my clothes unfastened," she said imperiously to Ruth, who
held the ever-wakeful baby across her knees, having just succeeded in
hushing it to sleep.

Ruth would probably at another time have declined the service demanded
from her, until Carrie spoke in a more civil way; but now she preferred
submission to having the baby roused, which would be the probable
result of any contention between Carrie and herself. So she did as she
was _ordered_ without answering, and thereby secured the quiet she
desired. At least so she thought, as Carrie stood perfectly silent till
the task was nearly completed. But Ruth had reckoned without her host.

Carrie had fully expected that Ruth would reprove her for her
disagreeable way of speaking, perhaps even refuse to do what she
wanted; and she felt ashamed and rather subdued as she stood quietly
before the nurse while she unfastened sash, buttons, and strings. She
had resolved that she would give no more trouble to-night, would not
make any noise that could disturb baby, and was even trying to make up
her mind to tell Ruth she was sorry that she had been so troublesome
and rebellious all day, when she saw--what?

There, secure in the silence of the quiet nursery, was a little mouse
darting here and there, seeking, probably, for what he might find in
the shape of food.

Carrie gave a start, a start as violent as though she herself had been
afraid of the harmless little animals her mother held in such nervous
dread, causing Ruth to start also in involuntary sympathy, and thus
waking the baby upon her lap.

Ruth scolded Carrie, of course: she was more apt to blame her than
she was either of the other children, and to believe that she did a
vexatious thing "on purpose." Probably this was Carrie's own fault,
because she really gave more trouble than her sisters; but it was none
the pleasanter, and perhaps there was some truth in her oft repeated
complaint that she had "a hard time in the nursery."

Be that as it may, Ruth's harsh words were the last drop in Carrie's
brimming cup; and, wrenching herself out of the nurse's hands, she
declared she would finish undressing herself, and ran away to her own
room.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



XI.

_A NIGHT OF IT._


SCARCELY was she there when she repented that she had come, until she
found out what became of the mouse; but she was too much offended with
Ruth to go back, and with some difficulty succeeded in taking off the
rest of her clothes without help, tears slowly dropping from her eyes
the while.

Poor Carrie! how miserable she did feel; and to her troubled little
mind there was no way out of her difficulties.

She would have confessed all, if there had seemed to be any one to
confess to; but, remembering Nellie's charge to Daisy and herself that
morning, it did not seem wise or right to tell mamma that there were
mice in the house when she might possibly escape the knowledge; she
was afraid to tell her father, for all Mr. Ransom's children stood a
good deal in awe of him; and she did not feel as if there would be much
satisfaction or relief in telling Nellie. Nellie could not know how to
advise her or tell her what to do. And yet--perhaps she could. Nellie
was such a wise, thoughtful, well-judging little girl.

Perhaps Carrie would not have put her thoughts into just such words;
but this was the feeling in her heart at this moment, and it was no
more than justice to Nellie. She knew she could depend on Nellie's
sympathy, however much shocked her sister might be at her naughtiness,
and she half believed that she could help her. How she wished now that
she had not been so pettish and disagreeable to her!

"Nellie wasn't cross at all, it was old me that was cross and hateful
and horrid; and I have been ever since I took the mice," she said to
herself, the tears rolling over her cheeks. "I wish she'd come up, and
I'd tell her I'm sorry; and if she asks me what's the matter, I b'lieve
I've a good mind to tell her. Oh dear! I wish I'd never seen those
mice. S'pose that one should run out of the nursery into mamma's room.
I wish the door was shut between her room and the nursery."

Then when she knelt down to say her prayers, and came to the words of
our Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation," she remembered how
Daisy had asked her what she would do if she "had a temptation;" and
she buried her face in the bed-clothes as if she wished to shut out the
remorseful recollection of how she had acted yesterday in that moment
of temptation; and more and more bitter became her self-reproaches as
she thought how sweetly Daisy had acted in the matter of the white
mice. Yes: Daisy had shown true love and tenderness for her mother; but
how far had she been from doing the same?

Perhaps never in all her little life had Carrie sent heavenward as true
and sincere a prayer as that she added to-night to her usual petitions:
"And lead me out of this temptation, and show me what to do, O God!"

Then when she was, with considerable trouble to herself, all ready for
bed, she lay down, but not without another anxious glance at the door
between her mother's room and the nursery. If she could but have that
door closed!

Having soothed the baby to sleep once more, Ruth brought her into her
mother's room, and put her into the cradle. This done, she passed on
into Carrie's room to see that all was right there, and the little
girl safely in bed. She did not speak,--perhaps she thought Carrie was
already asleep,--but moved quietly around, picking up the articles of
dress which her little charge had left strewn about, arranging the
windows and doors properly, and turning down the light.

Then she went away.

And now to have the door closed between her mother's room and the
closet which led into the nursery became the great desire of Carrie's
mind as she lay in her little bed,--closed so that the mouse should not
find its way through.

She did not dream that mousie had done that already, and hoped to be
able to close the door this way without attracting Ruth's attention.
Slipping from her bed, she went softly, so that Ruth might not hear
her, over her own floor, and through her mother's room to the closet
door, and stretching out her hand was about to push it to, when Ruth
caught sight of her through the closet door.

"What's the matter, child? What do you want?" she asked in much
surprise, coming forward.

"I want this door shut, and I'm going to have it, too," said Carrie,
preparing for battle at once, for she saw that Ruth would object.

"Well, what whim has taken you now?" said Ruth, pushing back the door.
"Indeed, and you can't have it shut till your mother comes up. How
would I hear the baby if it cries?"

Carrie persisted in her purpose. Ruth would have been firm, but finding
the child would not yield, and fearing to wake the baby once more if an
uproar were raised, she let her take her way, and immediately went down
with a complaint to Mrs. Ransom.

Papa heard as well as mamma, and took the matter into his own hands;
and scarcely had Carrie climbed into bed again, glorying, partly in
having attained her purpose, partly in the supposed victory over Ruth,
when papa appeared, and, with a few stern words to the wilful little
girl, set it open again, forbidding her to touch it, and leaving her in
a more unhappy state of mind than ever.

She lay there and cried till Nellie came up; Johnny accompanying her,
and each carrying a bird. No hooks were in readiness for hanging the
cages; and it was decided that, for to-night, they should be placed
upon chairs, Nellie's bird by her side of the bed, Carrie's by hers.

Carrie, whose heart and conscience were so uneasy, was very wakeful;
and, long after Nellie was asleep, she lay tossing restlessly from side
to side. Even after mamma came up to her room, she could not go to
sleep for a long while.

In the night, far into the night it seemed to her that it must be, she
was wakened by a sound at her side,--a rustling, scratching sound.

What could it be? Carrie was not so foolish as to be afraid of the
dark, indeed she was rather a brave child; but now she felt as if she
would have given any thing to have had a light in the room, to see what
made that strange sound.

She bore it as long as she could, then woke Nellie.

"What can it be, Nellie?" she whispered, as Nellie listened.

"I don't know: I'm afraid there's somebody here," said Nellie, in the
same tone, but very much alarmed.

"What shall we do?" said Carrie, clinging to her sister.

"'Thou shalt not steal,' 'Thou God seest me,' 'The way of transgressors
is hard,' if you are a robber," said Nellie, raising her voice as she
addressed the supposed intruder with all the Scripture texts she could
muster for the occasion, and which might be imagined to influence him.

No answer, but the rustling ceased for a moment, then began again; and
it was more than the children could bear.

"Papa! papa!" shrieked Nellie, "there's some one in our room! Please
come, do come, papa!" And Carrie joined her cries to her sister's.

Papa heard, and came; and so did mamma, very much startled.

"There's a noise, a robber, here, by my bed!" exclaimed Carrie all in a
flutter, though the noise had again ceased. Papa struck a light, there
was a faint rustle, a sound of some small body jumping or falling from
a height, and Mr. Ransom exclaimed,--

"A mouse! Nothing but a mouse in the bird's cage!"

If there had been a veritable robber there, doubtless Mrs. Ransom would
have stayed to confront him, and defend her children; but at the sound
of "a mouse," a harmless little mouse, she turned about, and ran back
to her own room, closing the door in no small haste. If the children
had not felt too much sympathy for her, they could have laughed to see
how she rushed away.

But Carrie did not feel like laughing, you may be sure, relieved though
she might have been to find that it was nothing worse than a mouse that
had caused her own and Nellie's alarm. I do not know but that she would
almost have preferred the "robber," or some wild monster, now that papa
was there to defend them, to the pretty, innocent little creature which
had been the real cause of the disturbance.

Mr. Ransom hunted about for the mouse, but all in vain: he had hidden
himself somewhere quite safely and was not to be found. The bird-cages
were put upon the mantel-piece where he could not reach them again,
for mousie had found the bird-seed an excellent supper, and Mr. Ransom
thought he might return to his repast.

Return he did in search of it, as soon as papa had gone and the room
was quiet once more; but this time the children knew what it was, and
although, when he found his supper placed beyond his reach, he made
considerable disturbance, they were not frightened. But they found it
impossible to sleep, such a noise did he make, tearing about over the
straw matting which covered the floor, nibbling now at this, now at
that, and altogether making himself as much of a nuisance as only a
mouse in one's bed-room at night can do.

At last he was quiet, and the two weary children were just sinking off
to sleep, when Nellie started up with,--

"Carrie! I do believe that mouse is in the bed!"

This was too much, not to be borne by any one, however much they might
like mice; and both Nellie and Carrie were speedily out of bed, the
former hastily turning up the light which papa had left burning for
their comfort.

Carrie was about to run to the door and call papa to come, but Nellie
stopped her.

"Don't, Carrie," she said: "it will just frighten mamma again. Let's
see if we can't find him. I'm not afraid of him, are you? Only, I don't
like to have him in the bed."

Rather enjoying the fun, Nellie pulled off the covers and pillows, and
even, exerting all her little strength, contrived to turn up one end of
the mattress; but this, even with Carrie's help, she found hard work,
and, nothing being discovered of the little nuisance, they were content
to believe that Nellie had been mistaken, to put on the bed-clothes as
well as they could, and lie down again.

But Carrie did not enjoy all this, if Nellie did. At another time
she, too, might have thought that it was "fun" to have such a good
and sufficient excuse for being up and busy when the clock was
striking--could it be?--yes, it was twelve o'clock, midnight! and she
and Nellie frisking there about the room, as wide awake as if it were
noon.

But there was a weight on Carrie's mind, she felt too guilty to enjoy
the novelty, and she was almost vexed at Nellie's glee over it. Oh
dear! how she did wish that she had never seen the mice, that "such
things as mice had never been made."

And when at last she fell into a troubled slumber, for they heard
nothing more of mousie, it was not the calm, peaceful sleep of her
sister who lay beside her, but filled with uncomfortable dreams, and
many a start and moan.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



XII.

_AN ALARM._


NOR did she feel lighter-hearted in the morning, especially when Nellie
began to lament the too plain fact that there must be a good many mice
in the house, and that they seemed to have come so suddenly. First
discovered but two days ago in the store-room, and never seen or heard
before since the family had occupied this house, they now appeared to
be running wild, all over. It was very singular, certainly.

So thought Nellie, adding that mamma would now "have no peace of her
life," so long as the mice were free, and she should ask papa to buy a
lot of mouse-traps and set them in every room.

Carrie knew only too well how this had come about; but now that mamma
did know that there were mice in the house, she did not feel as if she
could confess that it was through her fault that they had been brought
upstairs. It seemed so horribly unkind, such a dreadful thing to have
done to mamma now.

So, although she was not cross and fretful as she had been last night,
she went about listlessly, and with a subdued and melancholy manner
that was worthy of Daisy herself when she was at the very lowest depths
of despondency, but with far better reason than Daisy usually had.

Even when Ruth, who felt a little grudge against her for her naughty
conduct of the last few days, snubbed her and pulled her about rather
more than was necessary when she was dressing her, Carrie bore it
meekly, not having spirit to answer back, and so softening the nurse by
her silent submission that she gave her a kindly pat on the shoulder,
saying that she saw she was "tired of being naughty and was going to be
good to-day." Which small encouragement Carrie received as she left the
nursery with as great a want of interest or animation as she had shown
for every thing that morning; and Ruth, shaking her head, privately
confided to baby her opinion that that child was "going to be sick, or
she never in the world would be so good."

When Mr. Ransom came down to breakfast, he said that Mamma would not
be down right away; but sent word that Nellie might "pour out" for her
this morning. She had had a restless, wakeful night, having been made
nervous and uncomfortable by the knowledge that a mouse was around, and
could not compose herself to sleep after the little excitement in the
children's room.

Were Carrie's troubles never coming to an end?

"Pouring out" was not new to Nellie, for she had made tea and coffee
for her father and brothers many a morning before when mamma was not
well enough to come downstairs; but still it was an important business,
and one to which she felt obliged to bend every energy, till all
were served according to their liking. Then she felt at leisure for
conversation, and for observing what was going on about the table.

"Are you not going to eat your breakfast, Carrie?" she asked, seeing
that her sister sat idly playing with her spoon, as if she had no
appetite.

"I'm not hungry," answered Carrie, not altogether pleased at having
notice drawn upon her.

"Did the mouse frighten your appetite away, Carrie?" asked Mr. Ransom,
looking at her.

"No, papa,--I--I think not. I'm not afraid of mice," said Carrie.

"But he frightened us very much before we knew what it was," said
Nellie; "and afterwards we thought he was in the bed, papa."

"What was it? Tell us all about it," said Johnny. "A mouse! Won't mamma
be in a taking, though?"

"Poor mamma!" said Nellie; and then she related the whole story,
seeming to think her own experience and Carrie's rather a good joke,
though she was sadly troubled about mamma's nervousness over the matter.

"That's worse than white mice," said Daisy, who had listened with wide
open eyes, in such intense interest that she quite forgot to eat her
breakfast.

"But that's awful for mamma," said Bob. "What will she do?"

"It is a great pity," said Mr. Ransom. "I had hoped mamma would not be
troubled in that way."

"They seem to be appearing all over the house at once," said Nellie,
"and only since day before yesterday when I found the first in the
store-room."

"Did you find one in the store-room too?" asked Johnny.

"Ever so many in a box; but Catherine killed them," said Nellie, never
doubting, of course, that she was stating the truth.

Carrie raised her downcast eyes in terror; but, to her relief, the
servant in waiting had left the breakfast-room for one moment, and
there was no contradiction of Nellie's words.

"Why, Cad?" said Johnny, "what ails you? you seem to take the mouse
almost as hard as mamma would. You needn't be afraid for your bird, if
that's it; for he was only after the seed."

Mr. Ransom looked at Carrie again.

"Don't be troubled, little daughter," he said. "Johnny is right: the
mice will not hurt your birds. But you are quite upset with being so
disturbed last night, are you not? Come here to papa."

Dreading questions which she would not care to answer, and wishing that
she could creep under the table, run out of the room, or hide herself
anywhere, Carrie was about to obey; but, before she could rise from her
chair, there was heard a commotion overhead, a smothered scream in
Mrs. Ransom's voice, a running and scuffling, and then Ruth calling to
her master to "come quick."

Mr. Ransom sprang from his chair, and rushed upstairs, followed by
every one of his boys and girls, fearing they knew not what, save that
something dreadful had happened.

Something dreadful, indeed, all the children thought, when, running
into mamma's room, she was seen, pale, with closed eyes and quite
senseless, lying back in the arms of Ruth; while the baby, resenting
being placed suddenly face downwards upon the bed, was shrieking with
all its little might.

The younger children, not unnaturally, thought that she was dead, and
were terrified half out of their senses; but Nellie had seen mamma in
a fainting fit before, and, though frightened, knew that she would
be better by and by. So she gave the best help she could by taking
up the screaming baby and hushing its cries, and encouraging her
sisters--although her own lips were trembling and eyes filling with
tears--with hopeful words.

"What happened? What caused this?" asked Mr. Ransom, when he had laid
his wife upon the couch, and was engaged with the assistance of the
servant women in restoring her.

"Indeed, sir, and it was just a mouse, nasty thing!" said Ruth. "I came
in with the baby to ask Mrs. Ransom for some ribbon for its sleeves,
and she went to the bureau drawer for them, and as she opened it what
did a mouse do but jump right out on her. 'Twas enough to scare a body
that wasn't afraid of mice; but, for her, it's no wonder it's half
killed her, poor dear! We're just getting overrun with mice. There!
she's coming to now. That's all right, dear lady!"

Carrie heard, saw mamma's eyes slowly unclosing and looking up at papa;
but oh! how white and very ill she looked still. She heard and ran,
anxious to shut out sight and hearing,--ran out of the room upstairs
to the garret, and, squeezing herself behind the old furniture in the
place where she had hidden the mice, sobbed and cried as if her heart
would break.

What if mamma was not dead, as she had thought at first: she might be
dying still, must be very ill to look like that, and she had done it.
It was all her fault.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



XIII.

_AND LAST OF THE SUNBEAMS._


HOW long she stayed there she did not know, now crying, now ceasing,
and crouched there in a kind of dumb remorse and misery which would
have been a severe punishment for even a worse fault than that of which
she had been guilty. She wanted to come out and learn what was going
on downstairs, and yet she did not dare to: she felt as if she could
not bear to see that look upon mamma's face again. Then she would shed
more bitter tears. She imagined and wondered over many things. If mamma
died and went to heaven, would she know what she had done, and be so
grieved and displeased at her unkindness that she would love her no
longer? Were people in heaven ever troubled about the naughty things
their loved ones did or had done upon the earth?

So she sat all in a heap, behind the old chairs and tables, perplexing
her poor little brain, and racking her heart with all kind of imaginary
consequences to this morning's occurrence. By and by she heard the
servants calling her, but would not answer; then her father's voice,
but now she believed that he must know all; "it had come out in some
way," and she was afraid to face him and did not stir. Ruth opened the
door at the foot of the garret stairs and called her name, even came up
and looked about the open space, but did not see Carrie crouched in her
far corner, and the little girl never stirred till she was gone.

Next she heard Nellie calling her from the garden below, her voice
troubled and anxious.

"Carrie," she said, "Carrie, dear! where are you? Do answer if you can
hear me. Mamma is growing so troubled because we can't find you."

Here was a scrap of comfort. Mamma was at least alive enough to inquire
for, and be anxious about her. She crept to the window and looked down
to where Nellie stood, calling still, and turning her eyes in every
direction.

"Here I am, Nellie, I'll come down," she answered, ran down the stairs,
opened the door, and then, her courage failing her once more, stood
still and peeped out.

Papa stood at the door of mamma's room, and saw her at once. A pale,
tear-stained, miserable little face it was that met his eye, and
stirred his pity.

"My poor little woman!" he said, holding out his hand to her: "why, how
woe-begone you look. Have you been hiding because you were frightened
about mamma? That was not worth while, and mamma has been asking for
you, and every one looking for you this ever so long. Come and see
mamma, she is better now, and looks like herself again."

Carrie came forward, still with hesitating steps and hanging head; and
her father, taking her hand, led her into mamma's room.

Mrs. Ransom lay upon the sofa, looking very white still, but with a
smile upon her lips, and her eyes bright and life-like as usual; and
the timid glance which Carrie gave to her mother's face reassured her
very much.

Still she felt so guilty and conscious, such a longing to confess all,
and yet so ashamed and afraid to do it, that her manner remained as
confused and downcast as ever.

Nellie stood behind her mother, leaning over the head of the couch,
and looking troubled and anxious, but her face brightened when she saw
Carrie.

Daisy, with the most solemn of faces, was seated in a little chair
at mamma's feet, gazing silently at the pages of "Baxter's Saint's
Rest," held upside down. Not one word could Daisy read, she barely
knew her letters; but she had found Baxter in the little rack which
held mamma's books of devotional reading, her "prayers books," Daisy
called them; and believing any work she found there must be suitable
to the day, and the state of mind she considered it proper to maintain
while mamma was ill, she had possessed herself of it, and was now fully
persuaded that she was deriving great benefit from the contents thereof.

"So you ran away from mamma," said Mrs. Ransom, caressing Carrie's hand
as she buried her face in the sofa-pillows beside her mother's. "Did
she frighten you so? What a poor foolish mamma it is to be so startled
at such a harmless little thing as a mouse, is it not, dearie? I hope I
should not have been quite so foolish if I had been well and strong. My
poor Carrie!"

Worse and worse! Here was mamma blaming herself and pitying her! She
could say nothing, only nestle closer to her mother, and try to keep
back the sobs which were struggling to find way.

Mrs. Ransom was quite well again by afternoon, and able to join the
family at the dinner-table; but although the spirits of the other
children rose with her recovery, Carrie still continued dull and
dispirited.

She accompanied her father and Nellie to church in the afternoon.
Happening to turn his eyes towards her during the service, Mr. Ransom
saw her leaning her head listlessly against the back of the pew, while
her lips were quivering and tears slowly coursing one another down
her cheeks. He wondered what could cause it. There was nothing in the
sermon to touch her feelings, indeed she probably did not understand
one word of it. He drew her towards him, and passing his arm about her
let her rest her head against his shoulder where she cried quietly for
a few moments, and then, as if this had relieved her, dried her eyes
and sat up.

Carrie had taken a resolution, and the very taking of it had done her
good, and made her feel less guilty and unhappy. Papa was so kind and
good that she began to think that after all perhaps it would not be so
very hard to tell him all, and confess how naughty she had been. Even
if he punished her very much, the punishment could not be worse to bear
than this, she thought. She would tell him as soon as they reached
home, and she could find an opportunity to talk to him alone.

But alas for poor Carrie's hopes of unburdening her mind at once! On
the way home from church a gentleman joined her father and went to the
house with him, came in, stayed to tea, and actually remained all the
evening, even long after her bedtime and Nellie's.

Nor was this the last drop in Carrie's cup.

Daisy met them at the gate when they returned from church, brimming
over with excitement, which was speedily taken down when the strange
gentleman, laying his hand on her little round head, turned to her
father and said,--

"Your youngest son, Mr. Ransom?"

"My daughter,--another little daughter," said Mr. Ransom, quickly,
knowing Daisy's sensitiveness on this point; but the wound was given
past recall, and the stranger was henceforth looked upon as a man
capable of breaking any and every commandment among the ten.

"I s'pect that man never ermembers the Sabbaf day to keep it holy;
and I don't b'lieve he ever says his p'ayers," said Daisy, severely,
regarding him with an air of great offence as he walked on with her
father to the house.

"I think he does. I believe he's a very nice gentleman," said Nellie,
much amused.

"No, I fink not," said Daisy, decidedly. "I b'ieve he slaps his wife
fee times ev'y day. He has the look of it."

Nellie laughed outright.

"He hasn't any wife," she said.

"He'd do it if he had one then," persisted Daisy, who, in general the
most forgiving and soft-hearted of little mortals, could not overlook
the offence of the visitor, "'cause he calls people sons. Augh! People
that slap their wives so much that they kill 'em have to be took to
prison," she added reflectively, and as if she found some consolation
in the thought. "Hannah told me so. She knew a man that was."

"Hannah had no business to tell you such stories as that," said Nellie.
"Mamma wouldn't like it at all, Daisy."

"Then I'll tell her she mustn't do it," said Daisy; "but, Nellie, do
people that kill mice have to be took to prison?"

"No," said Nellie, "mice are very troublesome and mischievous, so it is
not wrong to kill them. But it would be very wicked to tease them or
hurt them more than we can help."

"I'm glad of that," said Daisy, "'cause I wouldn't like you and Carrie
to go to prison."

"No, I should think not," said Nellie, "but Carrie and I did not kill a
mouse."

"Oh, yes! you did," said Daisy, "least you squeezed him up in the bed
so he had to kill hisse'f afterwards."

"O Daisy!" said Nellie.

"It's the truf," answered Daisy, as one who knows. "Hannah found him
'most dead in your bed this morning, 'tween the mattresses, and she
said you must have put him there last night, but you didn't know it,
and afterwards he killed hisse'f about it. I saw him when he was dead,
and going to be frowed away."

Nellie shuddered, the thought was very painful to her that the mouse
should have come to his death in such a way; but Carrie felt worse
still, and turning round and resting her arm upon the back of a rustic
chair which stood beneath a tree, she laid her head upon it, and cried
as she had done in the morning when she was hiding in the garret.
Nellie comforted her as well as she could, but Carrie was hard to
be consoled; and felt as if she was never to hear the last of those
unlucky mice, and the consequences of her own naughtiness.

Mr. Ransom sat up late that night, long after his visitor had left,
and the family gone to rest. All his little children he supposed to
be long since fast asleep; and he was just preparing to turn out the
lights and go upstairs himself, when a slight sound in the hall without
attracted his attention. The patter of small bare feet it sounded like,
and the patter of small bare feet it was, as he was assured a moment
later when a little white-clad figure presented itself at the open
door, and looked wistfully at him with pitiful, beseeching eyes.

"Carrie! my child! are you ill? What is wrong?" he asked in much
surprise.

"No, papa, not ill, but,--but"--Tears choked her voice, the little feet
ran over the floor, and she had clambered upon his knee, and with her
face hidden in his bosom sobbed out her confession.

"I've been awake so long, papa," she said, "and I thought I never could
go to sleep till I had told you, and I could not wait till morning, so
I came out of my bed down here to find you. Oh! please forgive me, and
do you think mamma can ever forgive me for being so cruel to her, and
trying to think it was all nonsense about her being so afraid of mice?
And then to think that poor little mouse was killed just for me! Nellie
and I never knew he was there when we turned the bed over, but he
wouldn't have been in our room if I had not brought the mice upstairs;
and now Ruth says she don't know when we'll be rid of them, and mamma
will be troubled and frightened with them for ever so long. And Nellie
and Daisy have been real helps to mamma, and I talked so much about
helping her too, but I've only been a bother and trouble to her, and
never did a thing for her after all."

All this, and much more, the sorrowful little penitent poured into her
father's ear.

Mr. Ransom had no mind to punish or scold her: he saw that she was
already sufficiently punished by the remorse and anxiety she had
brought upon herself, and he thought that this was likely to prove
a lasting lesson to her. Besides, the thing was quite a new offence
of its kind; for Carrie was generally not only obedient, but also
regardful of what she believed to be her mother's wishes, whether
expressed or not; and he did not desire to be hard with her now that
she saw her fault so plainly, and was in such a humble, repentant frame
of mind.

So although he talked seriously to her, he did so very kindly and
quietly,--poor Carrie thought she had never known her father so
kind,--nor did he talk very long that night, but soon carried her up
to bed in his arms, quite soothed and comforted; and so great was the
relief of the confession, that the poor little weary head was scarcely
on the pillow before she was fast asleep.

No sooner were she and Nellie awake in the morning than she told her
sister the whole story, feeling that she could no longer keep the
secret from her, but making her promise not to tell the boys, lest they
should tease her, which Carrie felt she could not bear.

The hardest of all was yet to come, the confession to her dear, gentle,
tender mother. Mamma would look so surprised and grieved, would be so
shocked to think she could be so cruelly thoughtless.

But it was gone through with bravely, not very steadily it is true, for
Carrie's voice failed her more than once, but she did not attempt to
hide or excuse any thing.

And oh! how much lighter her heart was when it was over, and mamma knew
the worst.

Perhaps Mrs. Ransom was not as much surprised as Carrie had expected
she would be: it may be that she was prepared to hear the story which
Carrie had believed would shock and distress her so much; and the
readiness with which she granted her forgiveness but made her little
daughter feel all the more repentant for having been so heedless of her
comfort.

It was a healing repentance now, though, with the sting and bitterness
gone from it; and Carrie felt as if she should never be fretful and
cross again; no, not even with Ruth She would try to be so helpful,
so considerate and good now, she thought; but she would make no "fuss"
about it, or talk as though she meant to do such very fine things, only
to fail after all perhaps.

Nellie and Daisy had said and promised far less than she had done, but
their actions had spoken for them.

"What is that you are doing, Nellie?" she asked, when all the little
housekeeping tasks accomplished, her reading and practising finished,
Nellie brought her workbox and sat down to sew. "Why! those are the
slippers mamma was going to work for Johnny, are they not?"

"Yes," said Nellie.

"And are you going to help her with them?"

"I am going to work them all," answered Nellie. "Mamma began them, but
she found it tired her eyes, and she was anxious that Johnny should not
be disappointed, so I told her I would work them."

Carrie sat a moment silent.

"And I suppose," she said at length, "that that was the reason you said
you would not have time to make the bracket for mamma?"

"Yes," said Nellie, quietly.

"O Nellie!" said Carrie, "how much better you are than I am. You are a
real, true help to mamma: you think of and you do what is really useful
to her, but you don't talk about doing such great things. And Daisy,
too; when I think about her giving up her white mice that she really
had a right to keep, 'cause mamma said she could, I do feel too ashamed
and mean for any thing. Nellie,"--after another little thoughtful
pause,--"do you think a good way to show mamma how sorry I am would be
to spend all my saved-up money for mouse-traps?"

"Well, no, I don't," said Nellie. "I do not think that would do any
good, for papa has bought several this morning; and there is one set
in every room in the house, so that we hope the mice will soon all be
caught."

"Then what can I do to show mamma how sorry I am?" asked Carrie.

"I think mamma knows it already, dear; and the best way is just to be
careful to think about what she would like, and then to be very sure
to do it;--and--and I think one good way would be not to quarrel with
Ruth, and not to make trouble in the nursery."

"Ruth is so hateful," murmured Carrie.

"I don't think Ruth would be cross to you if you would be a little more
patient and good in the nursery," said Nellie. "You know, Carrie, dear,
how often poor mamma has to go to the nursery to make peace, or to take
the baby, because you will not wait for what you want, or will not
stand quiet to be dressed, or something like that."

"Yes," owned Carrie, half reluctantly, "and Ruth never does be cross
to you or Daisy; and when I am good she is pretty decent. But, Nellie,
such things as that do not seem like a real help."

"But they _are_ the best help: mamma says so, and I've found it out
for myself, Carrie," said Nellie.

"Nellie, would you ever have believed that I could do such a thing as
to keep those mice?"

"I was surprised when you told me," answered her sister, "but I was
just thinking, Carrie, that it was really not so very much worse than
the way I behaved while I was studying so much and tiring myself out
over those 'Bible subjects.' I think I was horrid to mamma and to all
of you then."

"Yes, you were," said tactless Carrie.

"I was thinking so much more about being wise and knowing a great deal
than about being good and a help to mamma," continued Nellie, not
offended, though she had winced a little at Carrie's plain speaking,
"that it seems to me now that I was almost as naughty as--as"--

"As I was to keep the mice?" said Carrie.

"Yes, as you were to keep the mice. I don't think I thought any more
about mamma than you did, and I know several times I made a good deal
of trouble for her which might have been helped if I had been more
careful."

"You've quite given up your Bible subjects, haven't you?" asked Carrie.

"Yes, I made up my mind to be contented with those I had. They would
show Miss Ashton I had thought of what she said, but I know she would
think it was right for me to leave them. I've made up my mind too,
Carrie, not to be so very anxious about my books and studies."

Here Daisy came running up to them.

"Nellie, what'll make me grow very fast?"

"I don't know," said Nellie: "what do you want to grow very fast for?"

"So I can have a birdie," said Daisy. "Papa said I was too little now,
least he said he would give me one when I was bigger. If I was to plant
myse'f and then pour water on my foots like they do on the flowers'
foots, then wouldn't I grow pretty fast?"

"No," said Nellie, "you'd only be all wet and muddy, and then you'd be
sick."

Daisy sighed.

"Oh, I do want a birdie so," she said. "I'd love my birdie more'n my
white mice; oh! a great deal more. Nellie, if I was a birdie, or a
white mouse, would you love me the most?"

"I'd love you whatever you were," said Nellie, turning to kiss the
sweet, dimpled cheek beside her: "I couldn't help it."

"If I was an ugly bug crawling about, would you love me?" questioned
Daisy.

Nellie laughed.

"Yes, I'd try to," she answered.

"Nellie, if I was that ugly bug crawling about, would you smash me?"

"Not if you were not doing any harm," said Nellie. "That would be
cruel."

"I'm glad," said Daisy, with unmistakable signs of relief in the
assurance. "I wouldn't like my sister to smash me even if I was a bug.
Nellie, mamma said God sometimes made people sorry 'cause He thought
it was good for 'em to make 'em better: does He send bugs and spiders
'cause it is good for 'em too, and birdies just to make 'em glad?"

Daisy's questions were sometimes quite beyond Nellie's powers of
answering: indeed they often puzzled older and wiser people. But she
tried to explain to her little sister that even bugs and spiders were
made for some good purpose; and after this Daisy looked with more
respect upon those obnoxious creatures, and was even upon one occasion
heard to say,--

"Good, little, very ugly spider, maybe God has some work for you to do,
so I won't smash you, but let you do it."

While Nellie was talking to Daisy, Carrie rose and went in search of
her father. She found him in the library.

"Papa," she said, going close to him, "I think I ought to ask you to
give my bird to Daisy. She deserves it a great deal more than I do for
giving up her white mice, and I do not think I ought to have it. Nellie
will take care of it for her, and she does want a bird so much."

Mr. Ransom lifted her upon his knee.

"You really think this, Carrie? You really wish that Daisy should have
your bird?"

"Yes, papa, it really seems the most right for her to have it. I
thought so ever since you brought the birds home and she wanted one so
much, but I felt as if I could not tell you to give her mine; but now I
think I would feel better if you let her have it instead of me."

"Do as you please, my dear child," said her father, kissing her. "Daisy
certainly does deserve a reward for her self-sacrifice."

To describe Daisy's delight when Carrie took her up stairs, and leading
her up to the bird said that it was hers, would be quite impossible.

"Are you sure you don't mind, Carrie? Would you just as lieve I'd
have him, for my own?" she exclaimed. "Oh! I am so glad, so glad!
When I have a camel wif two humps on his back, I'll give him to you,
Carrie,--I really will."

The bird was henceforth called Daisy's, but I believe that he afforded
quite as much satisfaction to the former little owner as he did to the
present one; for she had the care of him as much as if she had kept him
for her own; and it was thought best that he should still hang in her
room so that he might not be separated from Nellie's bird.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now good-by to my "Little Sunbeams." If they have shed light in any
shady places, brightened any youthful eyes, or cheered any innocent
hearts; if they have poured even the faintest ray upon the safe and
narrow path which leadeth upward to Eternal Light,--the recompense is
great; and may the blessing of the Master go with them, and prosper
them, it may be, for His glory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation errors repaired.

Page 17, "Neilie" changed to "Nellie" (Nellie ran down to meet)

Page 64, "reponsibility" changed to "responsibility" (of all this
responsibility)

Page 74, "oppsite" changed to "opposite" (into the opposite)





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